Sometimes secondhand books can come into our possession in ways that make it quite clear they need us to read them.
Such was the case with Le fascisme italien by Pierre Milza and Serge Berstein, (1) which reached me by means of a random sequence of events including a friend moving flat, an unexpected traffic jam and a small public park on the outskirts of Paris.
It did not disappoint and, as I am about to explain in more detail, helped me to see a number of crucial issues more clearly.
Firstly, it confirmed that, despite constant claims to the contrary, fascism was not at all anti-capitalist, but extremely pro-capitalist.
Secondly, it presented interesting parallels with the Coronavirus-linked totalitarian mindset so dominant in 2020, which I am calling ‘newnormalism’.
Thirdly, it sparked some wider reflection on my part about the participation of most of the left in this 21st century authoritarianism and how that relates to my own anti-fascist position.
FASCISM AND CAPITALISM
It is well known, I think, that Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator, began his political career on the left and, when he started building a movement immediately after the First World War, the initial programme that attracted support was left-wing, with anarchist influences.
However, as Milza and Berstein make abundantly clear, this prototype fascism was quickly and drastically ditched as Mussolini realised the only way he was going to gain the power he craved was with the support of capitalists and big landowners.
Much much later, at the end of the Second World War, in a desperate last-ditch attempt to rally the Italian people behind them in the face of defeat, the hardcore fascist Saló republic rediscovered their socialist side, but it was all hopelessly too late.
Having lived through the fascist ventennio (20 years), the population were not going to fall for any more redwashing attempts or superficial anti-bourgeois posturing. They had seen clearly that fascism in power defended the interests of Capital, rather than the people.
The authors trace this story back to 1910, when the Italian Nationalist Association was founded with “the support of certain business circles, in particular that of heavy industry”, (2) who had a very obvious direct vested interest in promoting the nationalist call for Italian participation in the approaching war in Europe.
It was Mussolini’s sudden support for Italy going to war (on the Allied side), that led to him being thrown out of the socialist party, the PSI, splitting from others on the left. This left him ideally placed to benefit from capitalist funding, though it is not clear whether his conversion to the war cause was actually motivated by this consideration.
It is known that Mussolini received money from the French government and from pro-war businessmen like Filippo Naldi.
The first fascist general assembly in 1919 took place in a hall in Milan lent by a group of wealthy capitalists.
Funds started to roll in from business, banks and big landowners
Fascism benefited greatly from the ruling classes’ fear of a Bolshevik-style revolution in Italy, with post-war waves of strikes and a rural movement which reclaimed land from rich property owners.
Explain the authors: “The fear born in the world of the country landowners as a result of the land occupation movement greatly outlived the phenomenon itself and helped pushed them into the arms of fascism, through fear of a challenge to property rights”. (3)
Business organisations such as Confagricoltura and Confindustria were set up to defend capitalism. Fascism was happy to win favour by providing them with foot soldiers, squadristi, who physically attacked trade unionists and leftists in a wave of “preventative counter-revolution”. (4)
This, say Milza and Berstein, represented fascism’s big break and funds started to roll in from business, banks and big landowners.
Moreover, the fascists started receiving the support of local authorities, the army and the police in their fight against leftist ‘subversion’. They were the system’s emergency weapon against the threat of revolution.
“Prefects, magistrates and officers of the Carabinieri, let the fascists carry on and assure them of impunity. The moment that the State started to crumble, the bourgeoisie, so frightened by the popular uprising of 1919-20, lent their support to fascism’s reactionary violence”. (5)
In November 1920, for instance, violent fascist squads descended on Bologna, where the radical left had gained control of the local council. There were nine deaths and more than 100 injuries.
Elsewhere, in the next couple of years, they smashed up trade union and co-operative HQs and attacked working-class districts, wielding clubs and revolvers to force strikers back to work.
By now the fascists had stopped pretending to be left-wing and were openly singing the praises of capitalism and economic liberalism. (6)
Fascist economic policies were all in the interests of the ruling class.
“Mussolini himself set before the future party a manfesto which no longer owed anything to the leftist tendencies of 1919. In the economic realm it was absolute liberalism, with the State indulging in no intervention or nationalisation, or any fiscal measures deemed ‘populist’. On the political and social side, a strong State was to be created, capable of imposing the ban on strikes in the public sector”. (7)
This was authoritarian capitalism, meant to please “the big money interests from whom Mussolini was now seeking political and financial backing”. (8)
As the future dictator said himself: “We are liberal economically, but we will never be so politically”. (9) This was a question of sacrificing political liberalism in the interests of economic liberalism, aka capitalism. (10) (For more on the little-appreciated similarities between fascism and liberalism, see this article on the orgrad website)
Once the fascists were in power, the clamp-down on opposition was ruthless. Strikes were banned and workers found themselves defenceless against their bosses.
Fascist economic policies were all in the interests of the ruling class. When finance minister Alberto De Stefani reformed the tax system in 1923 this “was above all to the profit of the rich”. (11)
He offered tax breaks for foreign investors, did away with the “red tape” of bodies controlling food prices and rents, ended state funding for co-operatives and halted land reforms which threatened the interests of rich landowners.
After 1925, in the face of economic crisis, the pure economic liberalism of the Manchester School went out of the window, in favour of state intervention.
But this was intervention in the interests of business and Capital, not in the interests of the Italian people whom fascism mendaciously claimed to represent!
‘Development’ was at the forefront of fascist plans, as is the case with all industrial capitalists. More land was cultivated and an infrastructure of roads, new towns and industrial estates was built.
“A vast programme of public works was undertaken, carried out by private firms, who were offered lucrative contracts by the State. Electrification of the rail system began, with the construction of tunnels on the Rome-Naples and Bologna-Florence lines. A massive roadbuilding programme was entrusted to ANAS (Azienda Nazionale Autonoma delle Strade), created in 1928, which oversaw the showcase construction of big toll motorways, the first in Europe”. (12)
This was nothing other than a bailing-out of the capitalist economy by the pro-business fascist state, for which the cost would ultimately have to be borne by the public.
Ring any bells in 2020?
Banks were also treated to fascist largesse, notably BCI, saved by the Italian state with a massive influx of money.
Note the authors: “There was neither socialisation nor nationalisation. The State became capitalist; it guaranteed the property of most of the shareholders and their future dividends. The only socialisation was that of the losses, assumed by the public purse”. (13)
In 1931, Mussolini even set up a body, L’Istituto mobiliare italiano, with the role of helping businesses in financial trouble, declaring that this was “a means of energetically driving the Italian economy towards its corporative phase, which is to say a system which fundamentally respects private property and initiative, but ties them tightly to the State, which alone can protect, control and nourish them”. (14)
But the emphasis was very much on the big businesses and financiers allied with the fascist regime. Economic crisis saw numerous small and medium-sized firms go to the wall or gobbled up by big companies, as the fascist state aided this concentration of wealth into ever-fewer hands. (15)
“As for the working classes,” add Milza and Berstein, “they paid the price for this alliance, with unemployment, reduced wages and higher cost of living”. (16)
Fascist corporatism, with its officially-approved phoney trade unions, was supposed to bring together workers and bosses in the interests of the nation, but did nothing of the sort: “It allowed big industry and financial groups to use the State’s arbitration and power of coercion to reinforce their positions and impose their law on their employees”. (17)
“Far from being destroyed by fascism as the first proto-fascist manifesto suggested, Italian capitalism found in it a defender which managed to save it from revolution or collapse and went on to reinforce its structures and its means of action”. (18)
It was not for nothing that the bankers of J.P. Morgan boosted the fascist regime with a $100m loan between 1925 and 1927 (19) or that Winston Churchill praised, during a 1927 visit, Mussolini’s success in defending Italy from what he termed international subversion. He meant the radical left. (20)
FASCISM AND NEWNORMALISM
Already, in the above account of Milza and Berstein’s work, there are some striking parallels with society a hundred years after the fascists seized power in Italy, in particular regarding the way in which a pro-capitalist regime will use the power of the State not to control big business, but to rescue it from collapse, defend its wealth and impose its interests on the people.
But the similarities become still more alarming when we consider the ideological framing of the fascist mission.
Everything was to be “new” under fascism. A new creed for a new Italian people in a new Italy. The old days were gone for good and nothing would ever be the same again. Mussolini’s dictatorship was the New Normal.
The regime tried to change the date to symbolise this complete rupture, insisting that party members stopped thinking in terms of the 1920s or 1930s and instead spoke of Year 8 or 10 of the fascist New Order. (21)
It also tried to abolish handshakes – not because they might spread disease but because they represented the decadent old world that had been left behind. Socially-distanced fascist salutes were preferred. (22)
It hoped that a fascist future would be carried forward by a new brainwashed generation, building a cult of youth and a structure of youth organisations which aimed to foster “obedience and fanatical attachment to the regime”. (23)
Fascism differed from other pro-capitalist and authoritarian regimes in that it aimed to reshape, to reinvent, everything about society.
Milza and Berstein stress “its totalitarian character, in other words the way in which it tried to direct and control every aspect of every individual’s activity and thinking”. (24)
These early 20th century fascists, like the newnormalists today, were obsessed with “remodelling the social body and transforming it radically”. (25)
Mussolini dreamed of “the fascisisation of the spirit, complete transformation of society and the creation of a new man… with a radically new conception of the world”. (26)
It is when we look at what this new fascist existence would actually involve that we can begin to understand the agenda behind this early experiment in behavioural change.
Explain the authors: “It was about reducing all Italians to the same model, that of the fascist man. This ‘new’ man was not to be defined by ideas, actions, faith or social utility but by a ‘style’, the fascist custom, taken straight from futurist raptures. Speed, dynamism, efficiency and decisiveness were its main components”. (27)
Futurism, one of the great inspirations for Italian fascism, was the ideology of industrialism, of the man-machine, of the surrender of all that was human and natural to the giant cogs and turbines of technological progress.
One of the great successes of the fascist period in Italy was the acceleration of the working rhythm
20th century industrial capitalism needed a new kind of human being – a regimented, automated human being – to fit in with its brave new world and the unimaginable profits and power that could roll off its factory conveyor belts.
Inconveniently, actual human beings – reactionaries, oldthinkers, enemies of progress – did not seem to want to remould themselves to suit the requirements of capitalist machinery, so compulsion was required.
“Only a strong power could impose on the masses the sacrifices necessary for the accumulation of capital”, (28) note Milza and Berstein and, indeed, one of the great successes of the fascist period in Italy was “the acceleration of the working rhythm”. (29)
Mussolini wanted to “modernise” Italians in the way that Margaret Thatcher modernised British people in the 1980s or in which Emmanuel Macron has been trying to modernise the French with his own brand of neoliberal authoritarianism.
And today there is a global attempt to modernise us all in order to suit the requirements of 21st century capitalism and its nightmarish Fourth Industrial Repression.
We are to be reduced to fearful, isolated, obedient and dependent cattle owned and exploited by a ruthless and truthless financial elite.
Once again, we have not been shuffling fast enough towards the abyss on our own, so “strong power” has been activated, on the back of the Coronavirus hysteria, to shove us deeper into the jaws of the life-consuming industrial beast.
The propagandistic language, hysterical mass brainwashing and police-state coercion used by the newnormalists for their “Great Reset” are straight out of Mussolini’s hundred-year-old handbook.
NEWNORMALISM AND THE LEFT
There is at least one significant difference between the fascist period and today’s newnormalism and that concerns the left.
As we have seen, Mussolini came to power on the back of attacking the left, earning him the gratitude of a ruling class scared by the prospect of revolution. Once in power, he did all he could to destroy it, with most left-wing radicals fleeing Italy or ending up in jail.
Indeed, my reading Milza and Berstein’s book led to a conversation with a woman whose grandfather, a left-wing activist in Italy, had been forced to escape the fascist regime and settle in France.
How can it be that the left – theoretically anti-capitalist and anti-fascist – finds itself marching in step with totalitarian capitalist newnormalism?
Today, however, there is a resounding silence from most of the left in the face of the newnormalist totalitarian coup.
Many of them, even some self-described anarchists, are enthusiastic supporters of the fascistic “lockdown” and compulsory mask-wearing. They regard support for the system and its framing of reality as socially responsible and therefore “left-wing”. Anyone who challenges the system is irresponsible and therefore “right-wing”.
How on earth has this happened? How can it be that the left – theoretically anti-capitalist and anti-fascist – finds itself marching in step with totalitarian capitalist newnormalism?
Putting aside the possible factors of sheer gullibility and deceitful bad faith, I can see two reasons for this total ethical and ideological collapse.
The first is the way that much left-wing thinking has drifted away from direct opposition to capitalism. The beginning of this was, I think, the failure to understand that industrialism is nothing other than capitalism and that technological progress is not the same thing as social or human progress.
The left has therefore evolved within the framework of industrial capitalism, essentially accepting its basic premises. As a result, the left often has nothing more to propose than a reform of capitalism, or its relabelling.
Increasingly it has been sidetracked into defending the right of various minorities to be fully accepted within capitalist society.
Nothing wrong with that in itself, but it does not tackle the central injustice of the full-spectrum rule of a tiny elite class and the ways in which this central injustice is hidden from view and excluded from the realm of political discussion. Indeed, it helps to hide it still further from view.
Neither does it challenge the domination of industrialism and often reinforces its myth of technological “progress”.
The second reason concerns human nature. It has become widely accepted on the left that there is no innate human nature, that our minds are born as blank slates and, like machines, we are “programmed” by family and society to become who we are.
In fact, this misunderstanding arises from the broader failure to understand that human beings are part of nature, which is a planet-sized collective organism (see Nature, Essence and Anarchy).
Denying the existence of human nature effectively involves denying us all our primary freedom – to be who we are.
It automatically justifies outside imposition on each individual, and indeed community, in order to ensure that we are all “programmed” the right way.
This attitude can begin with a relatively harmless over-emphasis on formal top-down education (rather than allowing people to discover and think for themselves), but ends up with an insistence on controlling and policing every aspect of everyone’s lives.
Both these factors in fact stem from the contamination of left-wing thinking by liberal ideas. Liberalism is, of course, the philosophy of capitalism. Economic liberalism was, as we have seen, a central pillar of historic fascism.
So it should come as no surprise that a strong liberal influence on left-wing thinking should result in it siding with the capitalist fascism of newnormalism.
Left-liberals have taken on board the ruling class’s elitist belief that the mass of people are incapable of thinking or acting properly without strict supervision and training.
Total freedom, for them as for our rulers, is thus a frightening concept, one which has to be permanently penned in with qualifications and restrictions.
The mainstay of this current of thinking, to which I associate myself, is that human (and animal) nature is innately co-operative and that it is only the domination and exploitation imposed on us for many centuries that has forced people into an unhealthy condition of narrow individual selfishness combined with pathological dependence on authority.
For real anarchists, the smashing of the chains of tyranny would release humankind to live in the way it was always meant to live, to fulfil its true potential.
The idea is that human society would arise organically from human nature, and our belonging to the Earth, that we would create a society that suits who we are.
The opposite point of view says that there is no innate tendency towards mutual aid and social co-operation, indeed no innate tendency towards anything at all.
It says that human nature is entirely malleable and should therefore be forced to adapt to whatever way of living is deeemed necessary by those in charge of society.
For Victorian industrialists in England and 20th century fascists in Italy, this meant forcing complex and multi-dimensional human beings into the square hole of industrial servitude.
For today’s big business transhumanists and newnormalists, this means forcing living human beings to adapt to the demands of their sinsister and dehumanised “smart” totalitarian world.
From my point of view, a very clear divide has opened up here. On one side of this are those of us who are motivated by a love of life, of people and of nature and who seek to bring about a future in which all of this can thrive.
On the other side are those who are motivated by the vision of a certain future system, the end result perhaps of hundreds of years of industrial so-called progress, and who see life, people and nature and subservient to that.
If human nature doesn’t fit with their system and their way of thinking, that human nature has to be changed by what every means necessary.
To me, this mindset is extremely noxious. It is a kind of sterile hygienism, an attitude which regards everything “bio” as a hazard, anything natural as dangerous and imperfect, in contrast to the artificial symmetry and cleanliness of its machine-based futuristic dream.
I have previously labelled this ideology “vitaphobic“, meaning that it amounts to nothing less than a hatred of life itself.
It comes as no surprise to realise that historical fascism was part of this vitaphobic trend. It is harder to accept that the same is also true of much of the contemporary left, including groups and people I was, until recently, happy to work with.
I am every bit as much opposed to vitaphobic newnormalist leftists as I am to fascists
These kind of leftists invariably and inevitably feel the need to dismiss anyone who does not entirely share their dogma as being “right-wing” or “fascist”.
But, in fact, here my opposition to their vitaphibic ideology comes from the very same place as my opposition to fascist vitaphobia.
This does not mean that they are themselves “fascists”, which was a specific historical phenomenon, but that, in 2020, they have aligned themselves with a life-hating ideological trend of which historical fascism was also part.
This is why I am every bit as much opposed to vitaphobic newnormalist leftists as I am to fascists and consider their ideology equally dangerous to the future of humankind and our Mother Earth.
1. Pierre Milza and Serge Berstein, Le fascisme italien 1919-1945 (Paris: Editions de Seuil, 1980). All subsequent notes refer to this work.
2. p. 30.
3. p. 68.
4. p. 71.
5. p. 110.
6. p. 104.
7. pp. 110-11.
8. p. 111.
9. Benito Mussolini, cit. p. 113.
10. p. 119.
11. p. 223.
12. p. 232.
13. p. 245.
14. Mussolini, cit. p. 246.
15. p. 247.
16. p. 248.
17. p. 283.
18. p. 276.
19. p 228.
20. p. 316.
21. p. 194.
23. p. 203.
24. p. 198.
25. p. 275.
26. p. 198.
27. p. 212.
28. p 414.
29. p. 283.
We are sharing, with many thanks to the author, this English translation of an important article written in April 2020.
The conversion of the Western representative democracies to a completely new form of despotism has, on account of the virus, assumed the juridical features of a force majeure (in jurisprudence, as is well known, force majeure is a case of exonerated responsibility). And so the new virus is at the same time both a catalyst for the event and a distraction for the masses through fear. (1)
For all the hypotheses I have put forth, since my book On Terrorism and the State (1979), regarding the manner in which this conversion (ineluctable, in my eyes) from formal democracy to despotism would be made, I must confess that I never imagined it would happen on the pretense of a virus. But the ways of the Lord are truly infinite. As are those of Hegel’s cunning of reason.
The sole reference, it can truly be said, as prophetic as it is disturbing, is one I found in an article by Jacques Attali, former boss of EBRD [European Bank for Reconstruction and Development], written for L’Express during the epidemic of 2009: (2)
If the epidemic becomes a little more serious, which is possible, since it is transmittable by humans, it will have truly planetary consequences, both economic (the models suggest a loss of three trillion dollars, that is a 5% drop in global GDP) and political (due to risks of contagion). It would therefore be necessary to establish a global police force, a global stockpile, and therefore a global fiscal policy. We would then—much sooner than economic reasons alone would have allowed—come to establish the basis for an actual global government.
The pandemic was thus already envisioned: how many simulations were run by the major insurance companies! And by the protective services of the states. Just few days ago former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown again returned to the need for global government: “Gordon Brown has urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the twin medical and economic crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.” (3)
One hardly need add that such an opportunity can be either seized or created; it makes little difference in the end. Once the intention is there and the strategy is drawn up, all one needs is a pretext and to act accordingly. Among heads of state no one was caught off guard, or only right at the start, by foolishness of some sort or other. From Giuseppe Conte to Orban, from Johnson to Trump, etc., as crude as they are, all these politicians quickly realized what the virus was authorizing them to do with the old constitutions, laws, and rules. The state would of necessity pardon any illegality.
Once terrorism, which (one will agree) had been somewhat overly abused, had used up most of its potential, so well deployed for the first fifteen years of the new century, the moment had come to move on to the next phase, as I announced in 2011 in my text From Terrorism to Despotism.
Moreover, the counterinsurgency approach adopted immediately and everywhere in what is improperly called the “war on the virus” confirms the intentions underlying “humanitarian” operations in this war, which is being fought not against the virus, but against the rules, rights, guarantees, institutions, and peoples of the old world. I am speaking here of the world and institutions that have been established ever since the French Revolution and are now disappearing before our very eyes in the span of a few months, just as quickly in fact as the Soviet Union disappeared. The epidemic will end, but not the measures, possibilities, and consequences it has unleashed, which we are now only beginning to experience. These are the birth pangs of a new world.
We are witnessing the decomposition and end of a world and a civilization, that of bourgeois democracy with its parliaments, its rights and powers and counter-powers. These are now completely useless, since laws and coercive measures are dictated by the executive branch without being immediately ratified by parliaments, where judicial power, and thus the power of free opinion, loses all semblance of independence and hence its function as counterbalance.
Peoples are thus brusquely and traumatically conditioned (as Machiavelli established: “injuries should be inflicted all at once, that they be less savored.”). The citizen having long ago disappeared in favor of the consumer, the latter now finds himself reduced to the role of simple patient, over whom one has the power of life and death, upon whom one can administer any kind of treatment or withhold it, depending on age (productive or unproductive) or any other criterion, arbitrarily decided and without the right of appeal, at the discretion of the caregiver or of others. Once imprisoned at home or in the hospital, what can he do about coercion, abuse, arbitrariness?
The Constitutional Charter has been suspended, in Italy for example, without raising the slightest objection, not even from the supposed “guarantor” of its institutions, President Mattarella. Having become mere monads, anonymous and isolated, subjects no longer have any “equality” to claim or rights to assert. Law itself will no longer be normative, but is already becoming discretionary, like life and death. We have seen that, on the pretext of the coronavirus, 13 or 14 prisoners can be killed with impunity and at the drop of a hat in Italy without so much as their names being given, or their crimes, or the circumstances, and no one seems to care. They are doing an even better job than the Germans at Stammheim Prison. They should admire us, at least for our crimes!
The only thing people talk about any more is money. And a state like Italy is reduced to begging the necessary capital for the transition from democratic to despotic forms at the hands of the sinister and illegitimate Eurogroup 16. The same Eurogroup that in 2015 ferociously wanted to expropriate the entire public patrimony of Greece, including the Parthenon, and transfer it to a fund situated in Luxembourg under German control. Even Der Spiegel described the Eurogroup diktats as “a catalog of atrocities” for the humiliation of Greece, and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in The Telegraph that, if you wanted to assign a date to the end of the European project, this was it. So behold, the deed is done. All that remains is the Euro, and even that is highly provisional.
Neo-liberalism has had nothing to do with antiquated class struggles, it does not even remember them, thinks it has expunged them from the dictionary itself. It believes itself to be all-powerful, which does not mean that it is not afraid of them, since it knows very well what it is preparing to inflict on the people. It is obvious that people will soon be hungry, obvious that there will be mobs of unemployed, obvious that people working under the table (4 million in Italy) will have no support at all. And those whose work is tenuous, who have nothing to lose, will start to engage in struggle and sabotage. This explains why the strategy in response to the pandemic has above all been a strategy of preventive counterinsurgency. We will see some nice examples of that in America. The FEMA camps will soon be full.
There are thus at least two powerful reasons to impose the new despotism in the West: one is to contend with the domestic subversion it provokes and expects; the other is to prepare for foreign war with a designated enemy, which is the oldest form of despotism in history. Nothing new has been learned on that score since The Book of Lord Shang (Fourth century B.C.)—a book all strategists of the Occident should hasten to read with the greatest attention. If they have decided to attack Chinese despotism, they should begin by proving they are better on its own terrain, that is to say more effective, less costly, and better performing. In short, a superior form of despotism. But that remains to be proven.
Thanks to the virus, the fragility of our world appears in the full light of day. The game now being played is infinitely more dangerous than the virus and will cause far more deaths. Yet contemporaries seem not to be afraid of anything but the virus …
It would seem that the present age has been given the task of contradicting what Hegel said apropos the history of philosophy: “World history is the progress of the consciousness of freedom.” But freedom itself exists only insofar is it is in conflict with its opposite—he adds. Where is it today? While in France and Italy people denounce those who do not obey?
If a mere microbe sufficed to plunge our world into obedience to the most repugnant of all despotisms, this can only mean that our world was already so ready for this despotism that a mere microbe sufficed.
Historians will call the time that is now beginning the age of Occidental Despotism.
We all know that money is what makes this commercial world go round.
The cult of money has swept away the traditional ethical codes of humankind and become the sole indicator of “value”.
If something makes money, it is good. If it doesn’t, it is useless. If someone accumulates money, by whatever means, they are “successful”. If they don’t, they are a “failure”.
But we also all know that money is not real. It consists of nothing more than pieces of paper, or electronic figures, which are universally agreed to represent something.
For most of us, money is the whip that keeps us in line. Because we need it in order to survive, we are forced to spend the best decades of our lives working for money.
Most work does not directly give us what we need or want. It is merely a means to another means, a way of earning money so we can buy various goods and services.
The vast majority of people use money to pay for food and drink, shelter, clothing, leisure activities and whatever little luxuries are affordable in the part of the world in which they live.
What about the really “successful” people, though, the people who have accumulated unimaginably vast amounts of money, at the expense of the rest of us? What does money do for them?
It provides them with their lavish lifestyles of course – all their mansions and private jets and designer clothes and furniture and cars and plastic surgery. Money can buy people too, whether to work for their interests, massage their egos or satisfy their sexual desires.
But most of all, and most worryingly for the rest of us, it brings them power.
Lies are another important part of their domination.
There is the lie that they “deserve” their wealth because they are somehow better than the rest of us – a total inversion of the truth since the obsessive pursuit of money speaks only of ruthless and sociopathic greed.
There is the lie that all of this is somehow normal, that it is right and proper that a tiny elite are sitting smugly at the top of a pyramid of global exploitation which sees those at the bottom condemned to lives of abject misery.
And there is the lie that this world of theirs is “democratic”, that we have the freedom to collectively determine the way we live.
Anyone who is the slightest bit awake will have noticed that today this last lie is looking hollower than ever.
With the totalitarian measures being introduced on the back of the Covid panic, it looks as if the ruling class have decided to finally ditch the pretence of “liberal democracy” and its illusion of freedom.
As Frank Zappa warned: “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater”.
I am beginning to wonder if money will be the next illusion that is ditched by the ruling class.
This is not going to happen quite yet, of course. The Covid crisis promises to be a bonanza for the richest of the rich, who will be greedily hoovering up all the wealth previously in the hands of small-scale businesses and individuals, as well as ramping up their relentless robbery of the working classes.
Not only will the ultrarich benefit from “emergency” spending by the world’s governments, but their banking branch will be happily harvesting the interest on the debts run up to pay for it all.
And of course there is all the Fourth Industrial Revolution technology in which they have invested, which will now be forced on us under the pretext of public health, and the planned monetisation of everything alive through the so-called “New Deal for Nature“.
But, as we have seen, money is just a means to an end. It is the key to the door of power and, after a few more years of what we are seeing now, the ultrarich and their vitaphobic death-cult will have all the power that they crave.
This would no longer have to be gained by buying anything, whether resources, land, infrastructure, institutions or people, because the elite would already own them.
All they would have to do is to maintain that power, by using all the totalitarian techniques of surveillance and control that are currently being rolled out at such an alarming speed.
George Orwell’sNineteen Eighty-Four merits regular re-reading and every time I do so, my eyes are opened to a new level of this extraordinarily prophetic warning.
During the torture session towards the end of the book, O’Brien asks Winston Smith why he thinks the Big Brother regime wants power.
Smith starts by telling O’Brien the lie he thinks his torturer wants to hear, that the Party is ruling people for their own good because “you believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves”.
He receives a hefty electric shock for this mistake and O’Brien puts him straight, explaining: “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power”.
He adds: “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end… The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”.
For centuries now, the ruling class have been stealing everything from us. They have thrown us off our land, destroyed our communities and our cultures, deprived us of our precious days of living by forcing us to work for their fake money just to survive. They have stolen our very sense of who we are, our connection to nature, to each other, to our own bodies.
And now, in 2020, they are trying to take this a step further. Just look at everything happening on the back of the Covid hysteria!
People are being forced to wear masks, symbolising their silent submission to authority, are told they now have to be bound in electronic chains and be injected with whatever toxic substances our rulers see fit.
We are not allowed to go outside unless Big Brother says so, not allowed to socialise with our friends, not allowed to ask any questions or express any dissent.
We are being stripped of our dignity, our freedom, our privacy, our autonomy, of everything that makes us human.
This is psychotic megalomania, deliberate humiliation, sadistic mistreatment amounting to torture, carried out on a global scale. We are being whipped and beaten and pissed upon, while our ruling class prison guards laugh in our faces.
And why? Because the ultrarich have utter contempt for us and want to lock us permanently down into a condition of cowed slavery.
That, for them, is the ultimate power-trip, the ultimate confirmation that they are “successful” and “superior” to us. The object of power is power. The object of domination is domination.
They have obviously calculated that they can get away with this, that their wealth, power and lies are now so all-conquering, and the majority of humankind so supine, gutless and malleable, that they will simply be able to trample all over us, for ever.
The fact that this anarchist was me (in my 2015 book Forms of Freedom) should hint strongly that I am not in fact advocating the me-first kind of freedom touted by capitalist libertarians.
But this is how it apparently seemed to my critics, purely because of my opposition to the global police-state lockdown of our basic freedoms imposed on the back of the coronavirus panic.
From their point of view, it was irrresponsible to complain about loss of individual freedom (sorry, “individual freedom”) when the greater good of the community, the need to protect ourselves and others from contagion, was at stake.
I disagree with this on two levels.
In the specific context of what is happening today, I do not accept that the virus is a threat that justifies the authoritarian clamp-down on our lives that has been rolled out, as I have already stated.
Therefore, the freedom of the individual is not trumped by an overriding social responsibility to accept what is basically a state of martial law.
Moreover, because the virus has been massively exaggerated as cover for a totalitarian-financial grab of power and wealth, the true social responsibility lies in the opposite direction.
From my point of view, the freedom of the individual to seek out a quiet life by just going along with all this, by keeping his or her head down, is overriden by the responsibility to speak out, to challenge the propaganda, to alert society to what is happening and to urge people to resist.
Obviously from my critics’ stance, this is not a valid argument, because they are starting from the assumption that the virus is as real and as deadly as we have been constantly told by the authorities and their media.
This, in itself, is deeply problematic. What happened to “question everything?” It is not possible to build a critique of oppression without being prepared to challenge the assumptions used to justify that oppression.
The anarchist argument about collective responsibility, when transplanted into the soil of deceit, grows upside-down.
The logic that should require people to act for the common good is reversed and serves to instead condemn those who are acting for the common good and trying to expose the fraud.
The second level of my disagreement with these critics concerns their ideological interpretation of responsibility and freedom.
Here, I find that their thinking strays a very long way from the anarchist outlook.
I did, in fact, deal with all this in Forms of Freedom. It’s now available as a free pdf on the Winter Oak site (as are all my other books) and to understand my position in more depth, I recommend having a look.
This passage on responsibility is particularly relevant:
“Part of the confusion surrounding the term responsibility arises from the manner in which it is abused to suit certain purposes. It is often conflated with the notion of conformity or obedience not to the interests of the collectivity, but to an entity which is passing itself off as representing those interests”.
By this I meant the state, of course, as I went on to explain: the entity which tells people that their responsibility to obey orders overrules their individual freedom.
I pointed out in the book that this responsibility to obey the law is never imagined as emerging from an individual’s own judgement – hence the perceived irresponsibility of ‘taking the law into your own hands’ – but is seen as required in the interests of a collective good defined from above rather than below.
Whether that law is good or bad is irrelevant: “The important point is that the responsibility in question is seen as something that must be accepted regardless of one’s free conscience, rather than as the result of it”.
“There is an important conflict here between fake and real responsibility, between imposed and free responsibility, between responsibility dictated from the outside and responsibility assumed from the inside of the individual.
“Ultimately, those who propose an imposed responsibility do so because they are afraid of the real responsibility which emerges from within.
“An imposed responsibility can be invoked to demand obedience to arbitrary rules constructed for the selfish interests of a minority which maintains control of stolen wealth through the violence of authority in all its forms.
“A real responsibility could well lead individuals, or communities, to challenge those arbitrary rules and the phoney morality built up around them”.
“To turn our backs on the symbiotic relationship between individual and collective interests is to turn our backs on anarchism”
Anyone who champions a duty of collective responsibility which involves suppressing individual freedom is not invoking real responsibilty, but the imposed kind.
“The individual is part of the collectivity and the collectivity is made up of individuals. They are the same living thing with the same interests at heart“.
Freedom and responsibility are two aspects of the same thing and so are the individual and the collectivity.
The collectivity needs individuals to be free, because without that freedom the social organism would be dead.
“It is important for the collectivity that individuals are free to live according to the subtlest demands of their nature, for only in that way can the collectivity also live according to the subtlest demands of its nature.
“A collectivity cannot be free unless the individuals who make it up are all free. An individual cannot be free unless they are living in a collectivity which is free, that is to say in which all individuals are free”.
To turn our backs on the symbiotic relationship between individual and collective interests is to turn our backs on anarchism.
It is, in fact, to adopt a way of thinking shared by liberalism and fascism, which are not at all the opposites which they might appear, as this article explains.
Both these systems of control (the first more subtle than the second) are based on lies. They twist the truth, even reverse the meanings of words in order to impose their own agenda, as George Orwell so perfectly showed us in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Liberalism and fascism both use a language which suggests the full participation of the population in the workings of society, which even appears to involve a kind of symbiosis like the one referred to above.
Liberals label this involvement “democracy” and have, until now at least, gone to great lengths to maintain this illusion, which is the principal justification for the legitimacy of their system.
But it’s just a sham, of course. It always has been. The game is rigged in so many ways and on so many levels.
Fascists don’t like the term “democracy” and prefer to talk about “the nation”, which is supposedly the incorporation of the collective interests of the people.
Sometimes they have even stolen the language of the social organism to give the impression that there is something natural about their system.
“They are systems which impose the control of the ruling class over the people”
But the social organism, for fascists, can never be a living entity of free individuals acting according to their own consciences, as it is for anarchists.
Their imagined organism is more like a robot, under the total control of the fascist state.
The reality behind the liberals’ fake democracy and the fascists’ fake organism is one and the same – a ruling elite which only pretends to be acting in the interests of everyone.
A contempt for the “masses”, for the “mob”, for the “great unwashed”, the “Untermensch” is shared by both systems because they are elitist and authoritarian.
They are systems which impose the control of the ruling class over the people.
From the perspective of the ruling class, the idea that we could run our own lives and our own societies without their structures of control is a dangerous one.
That is why they talk fearfully about “descending into anarchy”. Their worst nightmare is that their slaves might break free.
This is why they often depict human nature as selfish, greedy and violent – thus needing the firm hand of the liberal/fascist state to keep it under control.
This is why they sometimes prefer to say that there is no such thing as human nature at all, thus rejecting the empowering anarchist idea that we are all born with the natural capacity or tendency to live co-operatively and more or less harmoniously.
It is a primary assumption of liberalism/fascism that we cannot be trusted to make our own decisions, that we are basically irresponsible and in need of control and “protection” from our wise and benevolent leaders.
Why do they regurgitate the liberal/fascist lie that individual freedom and the collective good are incompatible?
The problem, for me, is that too many anarchists are today entirely trapped within what I called “the inherent thought-restriction of the dominant system”.
This stifling contemporary newthink completely negates the timeless human wisdom from which anarchist philosophy emerged.
It sees human beings as programmable and malleable machines. Artificiality triumphs over authenticity. Any talk of social organism is seen as reactionary or borderline fascist (a typical inversion, as noted above – see also this article).
The notion of essence is dismissed out of hand, the idea of innateness can provoke panic attacks, meaning is regarded as meaningless, nature as reactionary, ethics as a construction, quality as an illusion.
There is no truth or reality. Two plus two can equal five if it suits the liedeology.
“Any way of thinking outside this ever-narrowing framework becomes impossible in a post-natural, post-human, post-authentic intellectual climate that effectively constitutes a complete paralysis of the collective human mind”, as I wrote.
Contemporary newthink is binary, one-dimensional. It does not understand multi-dimensional thinking and cannot embrace creative paradox.
It can only ever see individual freedom and collective responsibility as opposites.
It is incapable of even hearing, let alone understanding, oldthink arguments that soar above its empty and flattened-out dogmas.
In short, people are attaching the anarchist label, and a sort of shallow parody of anarchist ideology, to something which is not anarchism at all.
This pseudo-anarchist thinking has not grown from anarchist philosophy and therefore can never be anything but a replica anarchism, a zombie anarchism which appears to be the real thing but lacks the anarchist soul.
This fake anarchism is the sworn enemy of true anarchism. By stealing the body of anarchism, it banishes real anarchism from the world.
Whenever real anarchism does emerge, this zombie anarchism points an accusatory finger at it and declares it to be dangerous.
This is anti-anarchism, upside-down anarchism, inverted anarchism.
I have been going on about all this for years. Sometimes I have wondered if it is as important as all that, whether I could not just accept some philosophical differences with comrades in the interests of working and campaigning together.
But now that anarchists are getting angry with me for believing in freedom, I can see very clearly what was worrying me all along.
Reclaiming the revolutionary wisdom of the past is the title of a new contribution to the articles page of the orgrad website. The first part of this piece is a general discussion of the relationship between radical politics and tradition. This is largely informed by an interesting critique of Guy Debord and the Situationist movement […]
The First Industrial Repression saw us thrown off the land, forced into crowded towns and cities, used as human fodder for the dark satanic mills of the new steam-powered capitalist world.
The Second Industrial Repression electrified the rule of The Machine. New generations were born who had never tasted freedom. Their lives and their thinking were increasingly dominated by the rhythms of industrial mass production.
The Third Industrial Repression heralded the arrival of computers and robots. Human beings were now expected to meekly conform to these automated norms and functions.
And now we face the onset of the Fourth Industrial Repression (4IR), the most deathly repression of them all…
The 4IR wants to own, control and profit from everything that exists in this world.
Its Internet of Things aims to create a matrix of total connectivity, of which it is the owner.
You, your home, your family, your friends, your relationships and your activities will all belong to the 4IR.
Its technocrats regard you as nothing more than another piece of disposable fleshware, one unit among millions, just another figure on its global balance sheet of exploitation.
The 4IR will track you and always know where you are, whom you are with, what you are doing.
It demands your total obedience. You can have no values, ideals or dreams of your own, only the ones authorised by the system.
Disobedient units are unproductive units.
The 4IR will know how to spot you, if you even so much as consider stepping out of line. Its predictive policing will quickly identify you as an anti-social element, a pre-criminal, a thought criminal.
It will send out its robots and its drones to neutralise you and protect the safe functioning of the matrix.
Digital identity systems. Militarised 5G. Neuro-technological brain enhancements. Genetic editing.
Cybersecurity Macht Frei!
The 4IR will not tolerate any irresponsible words or behaviour that present a threat to health and safety, to law and order, to resilience and prosperity.
Submission. Sycophancy. Slavery. We’re all in it together, citizen!
The 4IR wants to scare us into its devouring jaws by pointing to impending disaster and claiming that nobody can save us but itself.
It shows us the misery and disease inflicted by the First, Second and Third Industrial Repressions and insists that the “solution” is a fourth dose of the same deadly industrial poison.
The intelligence of the 4IR is entirely artificial and its dead robot brain cannot smell what we smell, feel what we feel, love what we love.
It coldly ignores the timeless and vital value of people, animals, trees, plants and the whole organic reality of which these form part.
Instead it sees just raw material for its own profit.
It thirsts above all for data, endless floods of data to be collected, processed, sold and transformed into the wealth which buys its total control.
The Fourth Industrial Repression wants to replace everything true and authentic with its replicas, with a reality not so much virtual as entirely fake.
And yet its forked robotic tongue tells us that this phoney reality is in fact an “enhanced” or “augmented” one.
The 4IR wants to abolish the lives we have known. It wants to microchip us, lock us up in little cages, and force-feed us chemical food substitutes, laced with feel-good soma.
It cannot tolerate the idea that we might enjoy anything for free, such as sunshine, fresh air and the wild outdoors.
It craves a total monopoly of our experience. Cut off from the real world, from authenticity and liberty, we will have no choice but to buy and consume the poisonous ersatz reality it has carefully manufactured.
The 4IR, like all the other repressions before it, is built on our separation from one another, the destruction of our communities and the undermining of our solidarities.
“Social distancing” is the prerequisite for its seizure of complete power.
The 4IR wants us all to be on our own, online and in line.
The 4IR empties everything of meaning, particularly words. It says “sustainable” when it means ecocidal. It says “development” when it means destruction. It says “basic universal income” when it means slavery.
When the 4IR talks about “social impact investing” it really means it wants to turn human beings into lucrative investment opportunities.
Human capital. Human cattle.
When the 4IR talks about “a new deal for nature” it really means it wants to privatise the whole living world so as to make the billionaire class even richer than it already is.
When the 4IR demands “biosecurity”, it means the security of its own systems of control against the threat from biological reality. From nature, from life, from us!
The 4IR thinks it is so smart. Its glossy propaganda promises us smart mobility in a smart economy, smart living and smart governance for the smart people of tomorrow.
The smart money is on the 4IR project. The smart money of the smart-arse smart set. Smart is the new smug.
The 4IR employs huge armies of professional liars and gullible fools to spread its propaganda and scream abuse at all who dare challenge its fearmongering falsehoods.
The 4IR is a death cult which dreams of wiping out everything that is natural, everything that is wild, everything that is free.
We have added a new in-depth article to this site: Liberalism: the two-faced tyranny of wealth. This is very much a companion piece to the 2018 article Bringing down the fascist machine. Here’s the list of contents for the new analysis: 1. The rule of money 2. Liberalism as deception 3. Liberalism and fascism 4. […]
Over ten months, the Gilets Jaunes movement has managed again and again to surprise: to surprise the authorities, the police, the media, public opinion. And even the GJs themselves! Apart from determination and a burning desire for change, what has really changed the landscape of social struggle in France is the new reality of totally decentralised and autonomous actions. Blockades, occupations, demonstrations, disorder. So many possibilities that can no longer be found in the standardised world of trade unions, opposition parties, NGOs and other well-established structures.
As protests step up again after the summer of 2019, the field of possibilities seems even more vast. Much more vast than the authorities and the media are saying. But if we are to make waves again, perhaps even bigger ones, we need to think about strategies of struggle, whether that be for the demos which lie ahead or for other kinds of actions. Here are some suggestions and observations which could usefully be developed and fleshed out. Please note that these suggestions are from a clearly insurrectional, even revolutionary, perspective. Since so many GJs (and other citizens) have been calling and hoping for this for several months now, let’s dare to think about it calmly. A sort of manual for “acting like a primitive and planning like a strategist”, as recommended by the poet and resistance fighter René Char.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
This has always been the case but is becoming more and more blatantly obvious in France: it is important, even crucial, to take to the streets in pretty large numbers if we are to succeed in staging actions which actually bother the authorities. This does not mean that any huge demo is, per se, a success. The climate marches have shown us over recent months that you can have tens of thousands (or more) in the streets and still not bother the government and the economic powers. On the other hand, if you want to overwhelm an increasingly aggressive police presence, which directly engages you and is increasingly mobile (with motorbikes), you need thousands of people.
The moments that have really scared the authorities over these last months have always been when the balance of power in the streets has tipped towards the GJs because of their numbers. Even with the massive human and material resources at their disposal, the police were unable to control the anger of thousands of protesters, in different parts of town, for the duration of several hours.
The most striking example of this was surely during Acte 23 of the revolt (Ultimatum 2). Following the authorities’ impotence during the first Ultimatum of March 16, they mobilised a huge police presence to prevent any disorder. The Ultimatum page posted, at the last minute, several meet-up points. The GJs who went to these points were, unfortunately for them, met by dozens of riot cops. Nothing could be done. Except that on that same day, there were so many GJs in Paris that a big “authorised” demo got underway at Bercy. There, again, the police had seen this coming and decided to split the demo up into lots of small sections which they could control more easily. But this didn’t work because the march was so huge and determined, to the extent of breaking through several police lines to regroup.
Finally, taking to the streets in large numbers is also a way to protect those who have decided to take action (and not necessarily violently, but in civil disobedience). By their presence, with their bodies, thousands of protesters, even without taking direct action themselves, can help to make a protest really effective and a problem for the authorities. This is how the “front of the demo” emerged a few years back in France. We could also take the example of the revolt in Hong Kong, where this strategy has been taken to an incredible level and where the presence of “basic” protesters is essential for the front-line protesters.
One of the major challenges for the weeks ahead is therefore to achieve turn-outs of the same massive size (or greater) than in November and December. And this is completely possible. Virtually nobody who took part in at least one act of the GJ protests has today been won over by the government. If some of them have disappeared from the streets, it’s due to weariness and/or fear (of police brutality and arrests) rather than because of any change in their opinion on the social and economic situation. Indeed, the numbers of potential resistance fighters are surely even greater than last year. GJs only have to look around themselves: who today is satisfied with Macron and his world? Who isn’t aware of the climate and social crisis? Each of us has to persuade our friends and loved ones to get out into the streets for the upcoming protests.
PLEASURE AND IMAGINATION
What is most striking about GJ demos today is their repetitive, unchanging quality. But what actually made the movement a success was its capacity to create, to be innovative with its occupations of streets and towns. New songs, new ways of mobilising, new economic blockades (eg: the Champs Elysées). It even had its own language distinct from the norms of social struggle: you can make fun of the succession of “acts” and “ultimatums”, but the GJs have created their own calendar, their own battle terrain and their own way of gathering. When they occupied the roundabouts, everyone found that peculiar. Same thing when they took over motorway toll booths. And same thing again when they decided to head into town centres every Saturday. And when the new songs came along, it was like a minor victory. The creation of a new space for self-expression, exchange and action.
Those in power have always tried to blinker the population and make it think that nothing is possible, apart from expressing your anger through elections or institutionalised struggles (trade unions, political parties, NGOs..) But the reality is very different. Life is a huge playing field. And so are towns and cities.
Nothing annoys the authorities more than people who enjoy coming together and resisting. They do all they can to make protests unpleasant, whereas they can provide the chance for meeting people, for feeling alive, for having fun… Everything they will never know in their comfortable little bourgeois lives. It is therefore important to bring joy, madness, fire and life into the streets. To smash their dream of greyness, to enjoy ourselves but also so that other citizens want to join us. So that they understand that what is happening is not just about burning cars or banks. So that the revolution has its heart not in destruction, but in encounters, complicity, exchange and constructivity.
LESS TELEPHONE, MORE SOLIDARITY
It is important to have photos and videos of what is going on in the streets, notably at the most insurrectional moments and especially when police are being violent, to bear witness to these realities which the authorities try to conceal. But today too many people have got into the habit of whipping out their phone for every burning dustbin or, worse, for the smallest police charge. These people are still part of the movement, in solidarity with it, yet they don’t realise that by filming with their phones they are quitting the ranks of protesters who are capable of actually doing something. They are physically present but can no longer take action. They become spectators. How many videos have we seen of someone being maltreated by the police where nobody is helping them, although dozens of protesters are filming what’s happening? This isn’t about passing judgement and awarding good or bad scores. Each person is free to do whatever they want, not least on a demo. And it is totally understandable to want to film a crunch moment. But you need nevertheless to analyse the phenomenon in a general way and see what it implies for the protest as a whole. And from that vantage point we have to acknowledge the problems with this tendency and be aware that it serves the interests of the authorities because it makes the protest less pro-active and less cohesive. Not forgetting that the videos are sometimes used in evidence against protesters accused of misdemeanors.
It is therefore time to put away your phone and actively take part in the next protests. This could take various forms: singing, running, graffiti, banner-making, keeping other protesters informed, suggesting actions. So many things that the brain stops doing when it sees the protest via the screen of a phone.
DIVERSITY AND RESPECT FOR PRAXIS
It is important to consider the place and degree of combative action on protests which see themselves as insurrectional. This question is highly complex and sensitive because nobody has the right to set out a precise limit to the moral rightness of combative actions. We all refuse to go along with the framing imposed by society which regards all illegal action as immoraL. It goes without saying for many of us that a Fouquet’s restaurant on fire is no worse than a boss who lays someone off to increase his profits. But this doesn’t mean that smashing or burning is necessarily appropriate for the struggle and for advancing the revolutionary cause.
While we should take care not to condemn a protester who has broken the law, we should also not veer off in the opposite direction and applaud, de facto, all acts of damage or violence. At some moments, in some places, vandalising street furniture or shops or attacking the police can turn out to be strategic mistake and play into the hands of the authorities.
Damage or violence are in no way a yardstick for assessing the success or otherwise of a protest. In either way. Offensive actions are merely tools to reach goals which are more significant than the immediate outcome of a torched car or a ransacked bank.
In a society governed by images and appearance, where the authorities rely on illusion to persuade us that they have everything under control and that there is no alternative, these offensive actions make sense when they help shatter that illusion. It works when whole areas of Paris seem to have slipped out of the authorities’ control despite the deployment of thousands of cops and troops. But to achieve this, it is necessary to create the conditions conducive to such a situation.
It must also be borne in mind that offensive action and rebellion can take very subversive forms without necessarily being violent. Thousands of people on the Paris ring road, on the tracks at a station or occupying a government building can also hurt the powerful.
So let’s refuse to label protesters as violent or non-violent. Only those who fear change have a vested interest in this totally artificial separation. This classification (stigmatisation) is merely a tool for domination. Violence is not immoral in itself. Even the history books sing the praises of resistance fighters who fought evil. Fought in its true sense. In the violent sense.
ADAPTING TO REAL TIME
In the face of the new strategies for “maintaining law and order” with highly mobile and aggressive police units, it is more than ever necessary for protesters to pay attention and adapt rapidly to situations. In Hong Kong when the police line becomes too dangerous in front of them, the protesters don’t just stay put. Very quickly, the demo moves elsewhere. It is very difficult to take decisions collectively in these situations, especially in a totally horizontal movement without leaders, but it works. And often it is better to take the decision and move rather than remain static for fear of making a mistake.
We should also bear in mind that sometimes confrontation with the cops does not make strategic sense. When the balance of power is clearly tilted in their favour, it is sometimes better to think about alternative solutions which allow protesters to continue to occupy the space, to blockade, to be on the offensive. The police are not our objective. They are the tool of the authorities which can stop us from reaching our objectives. Focusing on them can sometimes stop us from creating more beautiful and constructive moments of struggle.