Paul Harrison (2018)
“La tay pour seul à part
Pour les croyants, les vaillants
Qui ont peu de culture, immatures
Élevés au riz, au couscous, aux coups de ceinture
A la classe ouvrière
Les darons éboueurs
Daronnes qui taffent dans les travaux sanitaires
Dans la douleur
Pour les pucelles”
[“Tay for only a part
For the believers, the brave,
Who have a little culture, imatures
Raised on rice, on couscous, on hits with the belt
In the open class
The cleaner fathers
Fathers who work in cleaning jobs
For their children.”]
– Rohff, Pour Ceux, Mafia K’1 Fry.
Are we still waiting for what was anonymously named The Coming Insurrection? It is a remarkable thing a text that simultaneously solicits an anarchist roar of laughter and a nuanced but potent philosophical reading of that which would continue the concept of the commune. A political phenomenon which in itself has a uniquely French flavour as the ‘red virgin of Montmartre’ Louise Michel demonstrated at her unjust trial, ‘I have the honor of being one of the instigators of the commune – which by the way had nothing – nothing, as is well known – to do with murder or arson.’ Michel’s words resonate today because the frequency with which states commit violence against citizens has increasingly become hypernormalised. Both, this symbol of feminine anarchism and members of the modern collective the Invisible Committee did not pay the ultimate price for exercising their political rights unlike some of Clémence’s Communard colleagues of the Paris Commune who were put to death. Nevertheless, in 2005 after the unnecessary death of two children was the catalyst for the city to be ablaze once again. It was in the aftermath of the “re-civilisation” of Paris that The Invisible Committee grew as a distant relative of the journal Tiqqun.
A name that is a modern appropriation of the hebrew Tikkun Olam (תיקון עולם) meaning ‘repair of the world’ or ‘construction for eternity’, but wikipedia suggests ‘social justice’. Putting aside wikipedia’s contribution the two prior translations remind us that the legacy of this journal and of a monsieur Coupat’s imprisonment is the radical anonymity of a contemporary re-engagement and political engendering of the concept of the commune. Initially the question of this essay was different, but this was altered to pursue an analysis of what one believes is explicitly put at stake in the text. One will begin from what is an insurrection for the committee, and then offer a reading that seeks to show that when it comes to revolution language is the animating force.
Marxian or … Anarchist or…, or Marxian and Anarchist Circuits?
Why circuits and not circles? The circles of this anarchist publication hide the books truly revolutionary content by offering a written aesthetic that produces images of continuation that run against the texts anarchist aims: to show the ‘commune’ as the only option for radical change. One feels that circuits/circuitry would be a better fit because it is my argument that this small publication’s insurrectionist agenda (armed rebellion against authority) fails to consider how much more violent language as the kernel of technology could be. One could even claim that the insurrection was never on the horizon it has always been present and its processes need processing.
An insurrectionary upswing perhaps means no more than a multiplication of
communes, their connections to each other, and their articulation. In the course of
events, either the communes will melt into entities of a larger scale, or they will break
up into fractions. Between a band of brothers and sisters tied together “in life and
in death,” and the meeting of a multiplicity of groups, committees, gangs, to organize
supplies and self defense in a neighborhood, or even in a whole region in revolt,
there is only a difference of scale; they are all communes.’
It is through the articulation of this communal spectrum that constitutes the truly emancipatory frequency of technology a trojan horse for new language. Of course not everyone is so optimistic; in author Ian McKay’s review he believes this insurrection to be satirical, but McKay both misses the deep potentials of this text by asserting that socialism needs more misery for it to be desirable. To McKay’s overcritical stance one will show the validity of my conclusion: The Coming Insurrection is a call to resolve the antagonisms that have plagued the youth of today by developing a radical new concept of resistance to the obvious illegitimacy of traditional forms of power whether these be the state or family. Uniquely, this text re-ignites the fractured relations between anarchism and marxism by allowing the reader to see future struggles as an insurrection that is a language capable of disrupting and appropriating technology to proliferate community against the isolating mandate of capitalism.
The weakness of the committee’s invisibility is that it fails to recognise the Marxism within its Anarchism. A problem that is not entirely new it was Marx who first caused the unhelpful split and entrenched different aims. However this uncapitalised political scripture puts forward a unification seemingly lost in the intellectual ineptness of yesteryear. This relation has existed throughout the entire history of Left wing thinking the Anarchists and Marxists have always been conjunctive. One finds this not only philosophically stimulating but also peculiar how historically the two have been moving in parallel, yet their language remains technocratic. Both revolutionary stances continue disjunctively when the commune’s language is always an ‘and’ it has to say ‘we are’, and ‘we are not (the government)’. But, this just describes the contemporary revolutionary’s predicament. In Tiqqun’s own words they summarise the political desire at stake, but fail to provide evidence for the future social circuitry. That is why the powers that be were so spooked.
On the one hand, we want to live communism; and on the other, to spread anarchy.´
To demonstrate the idea, the notion that future revolution will not just be anarchist it will rather take the form of what Tiqqun described; a communism (unlike its failed manifestations in west Germany, and Russia), and an anarchism that provides social security via directing violence into cultural production: music, art, poetry, etc! A reader may object and say the notion that usurping neoliberalism by cultivating a language of insurrection could not possibly offer an alternative to liberal democracy. The claim I make is derived from an observation of the behaviour of these commune lovers – remember members of this committee were charged with the intent to disrupt the functioning of transport systems – for me the same disruption can be much more effective if the vessel of its furore was a technical de-territorialised language.
Evidence for this belief comes from two fierce French thinkers who theorised about the encroaching urbanisation of reality as this phenomena came into being. Foucault, not only described clearly how language is our revolutionary tool of choice because it can come from the outside. In 1978 Foucault whilst lecturing on two of his most important interests ‘security’, and ‘discipline’ clearly expresses a physics of power, ‘It is not an ideology. First of all and above all it is a technology of power.’ Foucault in the same lecture traces the image of man in the emergence of the concept of population, and disagreements between classes and bioethics. Today the population should not dwell in safety because their sûreté is diseased and our ecology eroded. The population needs to learn how to use this physics of power (language) to reclaim the urban from its crushing processes of rent, pollution, and privatisation. Marxist Henri Lefebvre after citing Karl Marx’s insight in the Grundrisse ( 1939–41) comments:
‘If so, a definite change in the relationship between ideology and knowledge
must occur: knowledge must replace ideology. Ideology, to the extent that it
remains distinct from knowledge, is characterised by rhetoric, by metalanguage,
hence by verbiage and lucubration.’
Insurrectionist Instances Murder Idiotic Ideologies.
These words help one clearly express what insurrection was for this most radical of committees. The freezing of that which is normal (circulation of commodities) and the subsequent state’s control frees up potential for self organisation, or ‘it’s sufficient to see how social life returns in a building suddenly deprived of electricity to imagine what life could become in a city deprived of everything’. For, the Invisible Committee ‘insurrection’ is a revolutionary process that is irreversible in completely erasing authority, property, and ownership. If individuals claim this not to be the language of the commune then one must reply by stating insurrection is the code at which a new revolutionary agenda has been set. In combing Foucault’s ‘population’ and Lefebvre’s emphasis on ‘space’ one arrives at the concept of the urban.
The Invisible Committee, members of Tiqqun, and the Tarnac Nine have made a move back to the rural but one reads this as an awareness of a very interesting perspective on the political notion of representation: the less visible we are the stronger our voice will become. That is what the move away from the urban would suggest but critically speaking if the commune needs the rural or an ecology with which to develop language as a physics of power – to seize legitimate lexicons back from crippled corrupt states. In the future what will transgress or circumscribe this dichotomy is the role of technology. At the moment the internet is materially owned by America but the culture of open source mirrors these movements and processes under discussion. Tiqqun, seem ready to also reject technology because its too structured and controlling, ‘And the obvious paradox of bodies growing stiller the more their mental functions seethe, responding in real time to the fluctuations of the information flow streaming across the screen.’ Yet, technology is an unavoidable component of the looming social revolution will politics be equally revolutionary?
A question for the reader to continue, but to end on a strong statement: when trying to kill an evil ideology it is a language of Marxism and Anarchism, a language of insurrection that will succeed in emancipation. If we fail to see this political event as a linguistic marvel then we overlook the capacity for new modes of autonomy, even new freedoms. The younger generation will grow up understanding to despise inequality they will grasp what thinker Jason E. Smith articulated as the ‘myth of the punctual insurrection becoming a classicism’. Yet, this youth will seize this punctuality to make their authentic demands: safety, equal rights, social mobility, religious and sexual freedom, good health, and compassion. For if these necessities are not met by future iterations of an urbanised monetary ideology then long may future cities burn in the violent shimmer of the people’s weapon, their power of syllabification. Against that which would masquerade as guarantor of a morphine like meaning; the illegitimacy of the superstructures that have kept the potential for a revolutionary government to enact a successful ism. One in which the technology and the language of insurrection funds future rights.
Books & Texts
Foucault, M. (2007), Security, Territory, Population: Lectures At The College De France, 1977 – 78, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Lefebvre, H. (1991), The Production Of Space, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, Blackwell, Oxford UK, Cambridge, USA.
Michel, Louise. (2004) Louise Michel, edited by Nic Maclellan. Melbourne: Ocean Press.
The Invisible Committee. (2007), The Coming Insurrection, Semiotext(e) Intervention Series □ 1, L.A, California, MIT press, Cambridge, Mass. London, England.
The Invisible Committee. (2004), The Call, trans. anonymous, US Committee to Support the Tarnac 9.
Tiqqun. (2011), This Is Not a Program, Semiotext(e) Intervention Series □ 7, L.A, California, MIT press, Cambridge, Mass. London, England.
Journals & Papers
Culp, A. (2009) Insurrectionary Foucault: Tiqqun, The Coming Insurrection, and Beyond, (Rethinking Marxism Conference, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, November)
Smith, E. J. The Day After The Insurrection: On ‘First Revolutionary Measures’, Radical Philosophy 189. (January/February 2015)
McKay, I. ‘Review Of The Coming Insurrection’, in Anarchist Studies; 2011; 19, 1