The Red Brigade and the Recuperation of Autonomia

ImageThe following is an excerpt from Tiqqun’s This is Not a Program wherein they describe the tension between the two leading manifestations of struggle that played central roles during the Italian Autonomist movement of the 1970s: that of structured, hierarchical resistance driven by the ideology of classical politics, and the informal post-leftist forms of struggle. This is relevant to our aim of identifying the limitations of classical politics and the role they play in recuperating the efforts of subversive momentum and reversing the elements of active cultural dissolution in the past. Any form of resistance wishing to prevent the reproduction of domination would benefit from avoiding the pitfalls of organizational methods that replicate the functions of the State. 

In 1970s Italy two subversive strategies coexisted: that of militant organizations and that of Autonomia. This is an oversimplification. It is obvious, for exam­ple, that in the sole case of the BR [Red Brigade], one can distinguish between the “first BR,” those of Curcio and Franceschini-who were “invisible to power, but present for the movement”; who were implanted in factories where they kept the loudmouth bosses quiet, kneecapped scabs, burned cars, kidnapped managers; who only wanted to be, in their words, “the highest point of the movement” -and those of Moretti, more distinctly Stalinist, who went com­pletely, professionally, underground, and who, having become invisible to the movement as much as to themselves, launched an “attack on the heart of the state” on the abstract stage of classical politics and ended up just as cut off from any ethical reality. It would therefore be possible to argue that the most famous of the BR’s actions, Moro’s kidnapping, his incarceration in a “prison of the people,” where he was judged by a “proletarian court,” so perfectly imi­tated the procedures of the state not to be, already, the exploit of a degenerate militarized BR, which was no longer what it once was, no longer looked any­ thing like the first BR. Continue reading

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The Wasting Marrow of the Social

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The following excerpts from Jean Baudrillard’s The Implosion of Meaning in the Media and the Implosion of the Social in the Masses effectively problematize one of the most abiding mainstays of progressive thought:  the idea of the social.  It is a foregone conclusion for radicals that socialization of the individual and of the means of production is a desirable end for their programs.  Here, Baudrillard shares a number of insights with which advocates for social justice, political correctitude, and accountability processes must reckon, challenging the purveyors of all manner of re-education and re-socialization– hard and soft, revolutionary or reformist– to explore the manifold meanings and conflicting resonances of their efforts.  This quotation illuminates a corollary or adjunct not only to Debord’s idea of pseudo-community and Foucault’s bio-power, but also to Paul Shepard’s idea of a genuine human impulse sublimated to the pathological projects of civilization.  The upshot is a vast implication for primal anarchy:  the production of a spurious meaning, premised upon the destruction of the symbolic structures of earlier societies, as well as the references to the death trap of publicity and the vampiric effect of information dissemination, all have their roots in the interruption of a satisfactory human ecology– relationships of a human scale ensconced, not in technological mediation, but in reciprocity with a living landbase.

Socialization is measured everywhere by the degree of exposure to mediated messages, hence underexposure to the media is believed to make for a de-socialized or virtually a-social individual.  Information is everywhere supposed to produce an accelerated circulation of meaning, which appreciates in value as a result, just as capital appreciates as a result of accelerated turnover. Information is presented as being generative of communication, and in spite of the extravagant waste involved, the consensus is that over all a residue of meaning persists, which redistributes itself among the interstices of the social fabric, just as, according to the consensus, material production, in spite of its dysfunctions and irrationality, results, nonetheless, in increased wealth and a more highly developed society.  We all pander to this myth, the alpha and omega of our modernity, without which the credibility of our social organization would collapse.  The fact is, however, that it is already collapsing, and for this very reason, because whereas we believe that information produces meaning, communication, and the “social,” it is exactly the opposite which obtains.

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The Ancient Origins of Biopower, Part III: Domestication

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Biopower, the Subject & the Apparatus

The idea of Biopower is a Foucauldian concept defined simply as the practice of nation-states and their regulation of their subjects through “an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations.” The science of Biopower, by extension, is known as biopolitics. Foucault elaborates:

…By this I mean a number of phenomena that seem to me to be quite significant, namely, the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy, of a general strategy of power, or, in other words, how, starting from the 18th century, modern Western societies took on board the fundamental biological fact that human beings are a species. This is what I have called biopower.

Biopolitics is thus more simply a science of controlling and managing populations of people using the knowledge of their biological needs and impulses. The focus here is the manipulation of our sensual experience of everyday life, the effective recuperation of an entire species from their era and displaced into an increasingly technocentric and inversed society. One example would be the transition from fascist control to democratic control. Implementing the tools of voting, representation, and state- funded aid to further pacify citizens and implement them within the process of control. Labor unions and other progressive reforms in modern mass society could even be within the interests of power, creating a more passive population, blurring the lines of responsibility for the traumas inflicted by the culture as a whole. The population then feels invested in the flow of capital, even identifying with the their productivity. The idea that a job is not something one does simply to survive, but that one is encouraged to pursue a job that blends leisure with labor, therefore paid hours and unpaid hours are all spent toward the same ends, is another aspect of Biopower. This is, of course, a controversial idea. To imply that today’s social democracy is a refinement of yesterday’s national fascism would be a tragic and impossible truth for many. Continue reading

Community: An Elusive Term

ImageEveryone knows the terrible communities, whether because they’ve spent some time in them or because they’re still there. Or simply because they’re still stronger than the others, and so some of us have still partly remained in them – while at the same time being outside of them. The family, the school, work, prison – these are the classical faces of this contemporary form of hell, but they are the least interesting because they belong to a bygone depiction of commodity evolution, and are at present merely surviving on.

-Tiqqun, Theses on the Terrible Community

The idea of the community is reflective of an ancient form of social life, one that is intrinsically required by our being as much as sources of nutrition are required by our bodies. While this sociality is experientially significant for human psychological development, it would be a naive assumption to think that the remnants of that sociality found in the modern world have any redeemability to us. Inversely, it may be another false promise holding us captive, tricking our sense of togetherness by channeling those needs into modes of productivity and social domestication.  Continue reading