lundi 14 novembre 2011

Fragments for the Resumption of Hostilities

How many more times will we have to mourn what would have been possible? Write the post-mortem critique, record the failure?
We start from the distance we experience towards a Strike that is as much planned as it is postponed. In front of this general student Strike, of which we’ve been hearing about for more than two years, we must think the orientations that would permit us not to lose ourselves in it, not to repeat the dress rehearsal. We are lacking a map, both to find how to flee and to play our pieces in it. Too long we have done without strategic thought, to the benefit of the circular rehashing of our networks and anecdotes. Still to be done is an exposition of the ongoing, inseparable from the taking of a risk, a bringing into play. For what is at stake is not to keep far from the orchestrations of protest, and hold them in our critical gunpoint, but rather the necessity of a composition: to compose with them as much as against them. The question is to know how to play out of tune, to bring dissonance whatever the score. How to make our part spark another partition. This text, rather than a program, intends to be a premise.
“Towards a general mobilization”
The actuality of this world is an enterprise of availabilitization, functionalization, of raw energy extraction and of instantiation. Against this total mobilization, the essence of strike can only be of demobilization, in the direction of rendering-inoperative, of deactivating the devices of production and administration of “life”. We are proposed the Strike as an enterprise which conceals the striking itself, as a movement of offensive withdrawal.
The general student Strike is a cover of the labor movement, a revival of its defeat. Moreover, it is a revival of its defeat only, as it was performed on three planes: 1) the fetishization of an essential identity (worker, student) as ground and goal of the movement; 2) the infantile need of recognition by the State, and the legalization of its “gains”; 3) the magical thought of an utopian solution to solve social conflict, obvious in its democratic procedures..
This Strike appears to us as a grotesque screenplay, a simulation. It hammers its hollow rhetoric which it no longer believes in, it imagines a mass movement and a student condition, it seeks to get arrested only to be “indignant”, etc. But people do feel its decrepitation as much as its manipulative nature. Its leaders are always already refractory to the strike they pretend to organize. At 25 they vanish in union consultant jobs, as subsidized managers of misery, because, “ya know”, “you have to work to make a living”.
Yet, all the same, in the moment of strike persists an effervescence, a joy, an exaltation we cannot reduce to a simple spectacle of protest. The launching of a Strike, as pathetic and petty it may be, bears something that escapes its simulation. Something happens, something which passes along beings, and makes them stand together against the so-called order of things. It is saying that the Strike captures, that it works by capturing this potency. All its energies are provided by the capturing of a striking. It is in the moment of the strike that a certain density of refusal and an historical temporality come to meet.
The Strike captures the strike in us, and claims it has brought it forth. Just like “society” claims its fatherhood. As head of orchestra, it ensures that the notes come out at the right moment, that they harmonize without dissent, on the horizon of the final gong after which the play is done for. While it assigns each singularity to its instrument, its proper moment, it also gives each of them a place, in a benevolent embrace. The Strike is the fact of a scene: this hazy association of student militants. It is not sufficient to critique this scene, to objectify it or typologize it, because inevitably it inhabits us as much as we inhabit it. Instead we aim to perceive the concrete mechanisms that operate it, and that it operates. Hence the importance of drawing the portrait of the situation we are brought to, in order to trace its constituent apparatuses of capture. It is not a question of opposing forms, but of composing forces.
Apparatuses of capture
Apparatuses work as couples, proposing a forged dichotomy where one must elect a preference, by which he chooses predicates as grounds for his praxis. This identity is known to procure a certain pleasure; due to its relation with the possibility of really taking a stand, to which it is but an abusive hijacking, an illusory representation. We must understand these couples as tendencies, manners of being transversal to existential strategies, while they are most often embodied in individuals or collectives.
Direct democracy / representative democracy
The General Assembly holds the traditional power of triggering the Strike, therefore to delimitate its beginning and its end.  Trying to instrumentalize this power could appear as a strategy against mass apolitism, but the proper of the democratic swamp is precisely to absorb all conflictuality (war) into the rule of 50+1. From instrument it becomes the norm to which all politics must ultimately be measured.
The radical-democratic posture takes roots in this logic where the political line is reduced to an extensive democratization.  It aims the arbitrary power of the representatives as the sole obstacle to the general will, always reasonable if not corrupted. In their perspective, to err is human to the point where humanity is the only enemy of good. Then, increasing the legitimate nature of democratic structures, in avoiding sheer machiavelism, demands to center all effort on the mediations alone, until their clockwork warrants against any arbitrary power. Until it is will itself, as the human element, that appears as its principal enemy. We then find ourselves in front of a mere cybernetism.
In the end, this alternative has a single object of envy. And yet, democracy owes its reality only to what it achieves to steal from the concrete conflictualities in front of which the agora – the place of publicity - poses itself as the only “legitimate” space of expression. Its operation can be summarized as the framing and juridical codification of these conflictualities. This notarization of struggle has nevertheless no more use than the translation of the infighting into the language of the enemy.
The cornerstone of radical-democratism lies in the belief that the aggregation of more or less consensual quantities automatically gives birth to a political quality, with no regards to the quality of that which is the object of share. The fixation at stake is not the prerogative of the General Assembly, but crosses every meeting hoping that a passion might bolt out of the blue of numbers. But, then again, levelling does not produce equality.
Direct democracy, representational democracy and apolitism meet in the liberal precept, placing us in front of the false debate of “who’s the most democratic”. The anti-striker accuses the General Assembly of being antidemocratic by blockading free access to their courses, while the radical-democrat will invoke the sovereignty of the same assembly to dispute the bureaucratic authority of the executives, while the same executives will rely on their elective representativeness. Regardless of their position, all agree on the terrain of their battle: the management of conflict.
Democratism means nothing outside of the conflict to which it offers a place, a form, a container. However, there is no container without constraint. Against the democratic reduction, we count on scattering the political out of its walls: to make conflict nomadic.
Thus, within these spaces devoted to conflict management, a political upbringing can bring forth democracy that transcends democratism.
Mass syndicalism / activism
Syndicalism and activism – whether affinitarian or groupuscular - oppose on a certain conception of “people”. The first considers them as its “members”, more or less conscious, whom it must frame the yearning into a program for their “own good”. Whereas the latter considers them as immediately immanent to their situation (of class or identity), which it would suffice to precipitate the confrontation to gain them to the “cause”. Their reciprocal polarization lies mainly in a difference of degree in their belief in the capacity of these “people” to understand and express their interest. The activist tendency identifies itself with the immediate expression of popular discontent, while mass organizations tend to frame it in pacifying symbolic actions.
Each will defend its action as being the most effective to achieve shared goals: obtaining concessions or radicalizing/spreading the struggle. But both target an incarnation of specific and divergent roles in their relation to the State: as the credible speaker or the credible menace. In the end, activism within the student struggle merely accomplishes the syndicalists’ “dirty job”.
One of the classical oppositions where this couple can be seen is the one between “wait-and-see” reformism and revolutionary spontaneism. As a matter of fact, the bet of many radicals in 2005 has been to sacrifice spontaneity for planning requirements. The reef of the 2007-2008 strike in UQAM has accentuated in fact the sacrificial posture of an active minority, the struggle being planned in long-term, and several years in advance. Henceforth, all student tendencies agree on the necessity of a mobilization process, a revolutionary pedagogy, prior to the epiphany of a situation of conflict. Both plump with this conception of a “mobilizable” subjectivity, the massifying posture calls on an abstract student identity while the activist posture calls on the absolute exploited or on the multiplication of identities. From corporatism to revolutionary extensivity, lies a symmetric designation of the exploited and the enemy. In both cases, the “us/them” line divides and reunifies each party, ignoring all true singularity inhabiting them.
Symbolic action / direct action
On one side and the other, violence is seized as the ultimate act, cutting through ambient passivity. However, is only considered the strict legitimacy of violence, without exploring its content neither distinguishing its exercises and forms. Such a judgement can only be drawn trough solely utilitarian criteria. For the violents, direct action is necessary as the most efficient way to reach their ends, while the pacifists think fucking clown noses, petitions and red cubes in the street are the most efficient instead. Violence remains solely a mean, whether required by a hallucinated situation of survival or prevented on account of an equally hallucinated future world, stripped from all hostility.
It follows that violence, as it comes by anyway (for both of them), sees itself cornered to justify in terms of legitimacy or of efficiency. Therefore both remain ferociously despising of the relation between life and pain, life and suffering, the capacity of feeling being the only sign of existence.
Both intend to defend society, may it be the past golden age or the future utopia. All who oppose social tissue, by going in the direction of sheer unbinding, meaning of the free nature of a destruction, remains averted in the name of the war-ending contract. The destructive character, one of the principal ethoses of striking, is faced with ostracism. Yet it is precisely that character who can declare – from the part of an other sovereignty this time – that “before being, there is politics”.
The question is not that of a possible cult of violence, but only that of seeing how it exists, and to always put back in play our relation to it.
Top capitation/ down capitation
Down-captation operates by the reconstruction of weak sociability relations based on the common idea that concrete life ferments goodness, that salvation only appears in communal and convivial proximity. It is better illustrated in the production of food, where it is presupposed that, as a natural activity - thus at the basis of social ties – it would augment the strike’s density. This pole is often the refuge of wills to escape the capture of striking by general mobilization, by seeking to create other lifestyles.
Condemned by its propensity to let itself be instrumentalized and pacified, down-captation secondarizes itself in its entrenchment to be solely the material basis of the movement.
In contrast, top-captation seizes hold of the enunciative and directive pole of the struggle. Holding back representational, discursive and planning offices, it justifies all its treacheries and hypocrisies with the fiction of public opinion, its main interlocutor whom is, in fact, never there. It concentrates its activity on the mythical moment of the negotiation, when its voice will subsume the masses’ anger. May it fail, showing in the media will nevertheless serve as an outlet, as a “menace to the government”.
Incapable to enounce its political desires, down-captation takes refuge behind “concretion”, under the understandable pretext of withdrawal from massification. Whereas top-captation will distill the field of desire-production into a simplistic list of claims. To make the Strike understandable, transparent and speakable is the mission it has given itself.
The classical opposition between abstraction and concretion perfectly copies the role separation taking place amongst genders. The megaphone-holding-man plays a role not necessarily reserved to men, but rather incarnates the masculine domain of discourse and of classical politics. The pots-and-pans-woman instead represents a becoming-feminine which reduces itself to subalternity, even if it carries the possibility of local autonomy. The feminine function, although at the basis of the reproduction of everyday life, always remains devalued in the eyes of “real politics”. In response, down-captation turns away from political inscription. While top-captation turns down all political speech on its own syndical categories (leverage, gain, balance of power) in the name of operationality.
In the end, both forms of captation reveal themselves as modalities of mobilization, nourished by the paradigm of emergency. There is so much to do, one must respond to necessity. Need of discourse or need of concrete means that press striking from all sides. 
But this pressure finds its limite in ex-pression, when lines of crossing emerge, when circulation of speech is interrupted by leaks. It is them we must hearken, in their slips and trips. These leaks, these flights, where Saying itself is unveiled, can carry the experience of a parole opposed to communication as an operation, and pool the concrete organization of desire, irremediably irreductible to “need”. What we call striking is heterogeneous both to the weak sociability of down-captation and the strong claim of top-captation.
The Strike, the Shore
Striking is the limit as much as the source of Strike. This Strike as an enterprise, with its entrepreneurs, does not produce nothing, does not create nothing, but manages, organizes, deflects, informs, in short: mobilizes. In this sense an advanced apparatus: its mobilization is fed by what it excludes, its true center lies in its outskirts, on its shore. That’s why we couldn’t propose a purely exterior and critique posture, no more than a constructive dialogue with the Strike. To do so we must refuse both to stay in and to stay out of the Strike, and most important not to lose the essential: anonymity. Being in strike stays there by overflowing; it lives in the constant tension in between proximity and distance towards the Strike, as what challenges internal relations of power as much as what undermines relations to the outside world. Striking is the shared border between intersubjective relations and the outside world.
The source of Strike lies on its limits, on its shore. It owes its existence only to its potentially “political” nature, the essence of which reclaims its own overtaking. An intelligence of Strike can only be found in this essence of the political – conflict – where it is possible to strike at the limits of Strike itself. Striking is infinite; and the Strike-enterprise has no other intention than to stem this infinity between a beginning and an end.
If the Strike is launched and ended, it nevertheless bears something more than the momentary cessation of production : it is also a caesura, a gap, a break, a distance-to-self. Striking is a rupture cutting through communities onto subjectivites, a menace of desertion. Not only of courses, of workplaces, but also of the subject itself, towards its determinations. The striking worker ceases to be a worker, the student ceases to be a student, letting space for singularities and practices to be invented.
These practices are conflicts, these singularities are tendencies revealed by the strike. Thereby, if politics is the interruption if the normal development of things and ways to be, the strike is a moment of exposure of infrasubjective tendencies which – more than ever – confront directly. Thus striking is in itself a tendency to share, as much as communisation as tensionization : the tendency which recognizes  the conflict will never be resolved.
The moment of strike is an acceleration, and intensification and a bursting of all already striking in ourselves. Striking is the energy of the moment of strike, although its limit, for unregistrable in its temporality. Sometimes, for an instant, the Strike isn’t able to contain striking. Something happens, something unexpected, for which no place was given. For an instant, striking slips through the cracks, and brief moment of politics breaks through. During a simple assembly or a demo, something detonates from the ambient bleakness.
Striking circulates and is shared. Elaborating striking require to think the threshold of sharing that bestows its density, its potency, its radiance. That would authorise us to take hold of its own means, which are simply the means of striking used against its own institutionalization.
Sabotage, if it can be summed most often as  leverage, call for an sharing, a communisation of power-knowledges : a detailed comprehension of the apparatus’ machinery leading to a material conscience of the impact of its dysfunction. The haunt of syndicalists,  in front of sabotage, is its explosion, its multiplication in purely anonymous, silent and “free” styles. For instance, the labor strike embeds in a certain valorization of work as human activity. Sabotage, in this context, can break this valorization and therefore the implicit contract between the boss and his employees. More profoundly, and still for the labour movement, generalized sabotage can break even the identity of producer, when it comes to incarnate the refusal of work itself, and exit the capital-work dialectic. Perhaps this is why all Marxists, and Marx the first, tend to associated generalized sabotage to a false consciousness of the class on its historical role. Sabotage must then also be understood as the interruption of the production of identity. If the point is to jam capture apparatuses, striking takes the form of all sabotage, and sabotage of the Strike at first.
Each strike has it moments of pillage, even minimal, in which we can better measure the instantaneous nature of conflictuality, the spontaneous praxis. In this frame, all pillage transcends clamings, most of all when it consist of going to get directly what we need. In the gesture of “taking in the heap” there is a lucidity on the potential baffling of vale, in gabbing without paying what we once only claimed. The image of the mass seizing merchandise without explication is the haunt of the syndicalist because it shatters irreparably with the triad of work-money-commodity.
In the moment of strike, pillage doesn’t act as a democratization of access to commodity; its gratuity lies rather in the destruction of the commodity form. This tendency can lead to the straightforward destruction of the product, as a profanation of the power of things on life. When pillage is not limited to accumulation, it restores to common use, announcing the possibility of free-use. Expend and feast are intimately ties when collective pillage gives to striking its most beautiful moments of paroxysm. Pillage also of power-knowledges which, once restored to common use and this put into circulation, increase the density of striking and undermine the concentration of power.
Blockade too is an intensity. The intensity of withdrawal, of interruption, of caesura which corresponds to the gesture together the most simple and the most essential of striking. It is its capacity to cease. What frightens in blockade is that the strategy of desertion may be doubled by the politics of staying-there. Occupation blockades circulations, it is inhabitation of spaces, spaces designed for precise and temporary purposes, which’s functionality is insured by the circulation of bodies. To occupy a room, a tv studio, or the metro, is to blockade its utilization, and necessarily to revoke legitimacy.
In general, blockades during strike justify themselves through a comprehension of economy as limited to infrastructure. For that reason they remain leverage, and the slogan “blockade economy” recovers only classical economy, limited to certain symbolical objects and subjects. But each blockade holds the promise of shortage, which rejoins the question of organization: how will we live? Which opens to the  possibility of conceiving economy in its brutal materiality, that of the management and production not only of things but of desires and affects as well. Blockade is then also the one of the normal course of affects, intensities and relationships. In that sense, all can be blockaded by anyone.
The breakage of apparatuses and the flight from captation don’t compose the essential of sabotage, pillage and blockage. Such a reductive conception masks all that is in stake here: sharing, organization, stand-taking, circulation of power-knowledges, etc. A content shown by an offensive illustration and thus doesn’t limit itself to a distance to the world, but finely threads withdrawal: a slight yet decisive shifting in our relation to the world. Far from mere apolitism, it is a way out of classical politics and of all moralisms. A meal or a demo are places of encounter where striking, its share, can densify from sabotage to pillage, from pillage to blockade. Densification which poses the question of communisation, and not of its infrastructure.
Striking, if summed to retreat, to ingovernmentality or to absence, is vowed to fail. Striking never comes alone. It implies the communisation of conditions, inclinations, and penchants. Beyond encounters permitted by the liberation of free time, communisation is experience, meaning the unveiling of a common standing in the between-us. The between-us is to think an us that is not already constituted, it is an open story. Community in not fixated on an identity, it has neither proper nor frontiers. At bottom, there is no community but a becoming community. The worst enemy of communism is its completion. For we are all uncompleted, communisation is the experience which leads us to the limits o ours subjectivities. Towards the predicates that constitute us as subjects, striking operates as desubjectification. To desubjectify is not to go towards the massified, but on the contrary to descend below the indivial, towards the trans-individual. The concern is then to put to circulation by rendering improper our names, our words, our qualities, in short: to become whatever. It is laying down the bases for ecstatic politics : an exit of self, an emergence. By communisation desires and affects circulate without becoming completely transparent or assigned to a category.
In other terms, student syndicalism exists on the mobilization of a certain figure of the student, but it is not that abstraction that is really active, but rather the possibility to circulate a wrath that will never be resolved. Striking condenses this refusal to bring it to force. At the bottom of every “enough” lies a promise of common, a sharing. After all, each time we strike, we actualize traces left behind by the strikes of the past. In this way, we answer the call of communism, this opaque ground on which the idea of strike arises. This idea runs through everyone feeling out of phase in front of the militant cadence, but who nevertheless won’t resolve to let their anger die. It is also why we won’t resort to it that we propose these few trails.

2 commentaires:

  1. this is cool, needs better translation. as an anglophone a lot of this doesn't parse, some of the words are not even real english words.