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Why this piece? Why this scattered scope of linking concepts? Why any essay at all? Is it another rancorous rapture from a sad eyed liberal whining over the loss of state sanctioned rights or some lack in peaceful protests? Or yet another tirade from fringe seeking far-right isolates who consistently confuse their rhetoric and tactics as something other than counterrevolutionary and niche? The aim here is to circumvent both of these camps of depoliticization and partied lifestyle-ism. We find Fred Moten and Giorgio Agamben to be extremely referential in this uprising. We seek to find a pathway through, with a myriad of thinkers and works, to better connect our positionality to that of a generalized insurgency of fragments. We aim to initiate and build a new cartography of the fragment: understanding that our maps and relations cannot cover everything. Nor do we wish them to. The social, in addition to capital, is one of our largest obstacles to overcome in this process towards the open. The stunted and divisive rhetorical dance of COVID-19’s ‘mask or no mask’ speaks to this terrain of socialized war. Under this socioeconomic hold, individuals recalculate as policing bodies aimed towards restoration and stabilization. We must be clear; we have no answers and find ourselves just as confused as the rest. Plainly put, those who claim to have answers are liars. The social, more so than not, is an unnamable. Yet, we aspire to understand our relation to the social to deactivate it and also to this uprising in the hopes of seeing it become something larger in scale and intensity. Over the last few months we have scribbled notes down on book linings, on invoices from work, on discarded trash blowing in the wind, on our flesh, on the tongues of lovers and on late-night computer screens to construct this piece. This is the first installment of this collection of fragmented notes. Why fragmented notes? Because we don’t proclaim this to be a complete program to follow. It’s a fragmented sketch of a map, antithetical in form to Borges’ map in “On the Exactitude of Science.” All the while holding true to the fact that ideas of wholeness and oneness are fictions of the state, Empire. From this we point ourselves towards the creative work of constructing a cartography of incompleteness. We hope this loose map of notes opens connective pathways to thoughts and possible lines of flight out of this hell. In the cleansing elements of destruction and regeneration, in fire and water, we greet you, friends.
On Understanding Capitalism’s Control Within History & Civil Society
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” – Assata Shakur
1. Capital’s Socialization of Enclosure
“Myth is the threshold of history.” – Saidiya V. Hartman
There is a deep and insidious horror that dominates narratives in the west around civil society and history. A fiction in its very core. A lie that over time, becomes widely accepted and reified as truth. The cozen capitalistic contract that there is only one chronicle of this late capitalist epoch situates the subject within an arena of hostility and aimed negation. A logic that hopes to affirm the one can control and dominate the multiplicity. This methodology of domination bleeds and pulses outward from institutions to be incorporated by the citizen as a corporeal language of self-restriction and invalidation. We see this play out to gross effect in our personal relationships: the family mimicking the state, the corporation mimicking the prison, and the citizen mimicking the cop. This process, which it is always in and aiming to maintain as such, strips autonomy from the subject by dismissing their form as anything other than a product of capitalist relations. In time and through historical signifiers of only telling the colonizer’s tale, a program of codification becomes generalized and widely circulated. A social and political process of deactivation which aims at encumbering bodies by blocking their collective potentiality of connecting and rising together. By occluding the connection to each other as autonomous and diverging subjects; the state, capitalism and civil society create a triangulated arena of capture. This triangulation of control operates as a weaponized fiction of total enclosure. The triangulated fabric aims to be the form.
In 1900, Rosa Luxemberg wrote in Reform or Revolution, about the inherent triangular connectivity between the state, capital, and the social: “The State became capitalist with the political victory of the bourgeoisie. Capitalist development modifies essentially the nature of the State, widening its sphere of action, constantly imposing on its new functions (especially those affecting economic life), making more and more necessary its intervention and control in society. In this sense, capitalist development prepares little by little the future fusion of the State to society. It prepares, so to say, the return of the function of the state to society” (Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution, p. 25). In almost prophetic clarity, Luxemburg forecasted to coming triad of domination that we, 120 years later, are so embroiled within.
Though, we have called it a triangulation of control, we see capital as the engine that drives and shapes the logic of these arenas of domination. It is capitalism that feeds politics and the social’s hyper bourgeois need for constant consumption. Like the sex addict that is always chasing the little death, capitalism wants you to expend all your energy satisfying the needs it programmed into you. Capitalism’s hope for totality, however, can only speak in partitions and camps of separation. An ever-growing expanse that seeks to capture its inhabitants in the boundaries of circulation and production. These boundaries of restriction exist on micro and macro levels: in the self and societal sense. “We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure—prison, hospital, factory, school, family” (Deleuze, Postscripts on the Societies of Control, p.1-2). From the prison, to the school, to the body back to family, we see the forms capitalist enclosure aims to create.
As Gilles Deleuze illuminates, crisis transpires from the historical fact that arenas of total enclosurecannot conclude what they set out to do – include the whole of life in capitalist domination. An organic fact of life that also happens to be a political revitalization of an anti-capitalist dictum by Karl Marx. Capitalism’s efforts of enclosure are kneecapped by its structural inability of completely incorporating the rebellious and deactivating ontologies of anti-capitalists. This deactivation inherently speaks to a negative dialectic of the inclusion-exclusion dichotomy. By being in resistance, humans prove they cannot be captured completely. The social, as an assemblage of also statist logic, tirelessly and incessantly attempts to a create a generalized captivity of sameness.
Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, in their essay Politics Surrounded, elucidate the phenomena of enclosure and capture as it relates to the capitalism’s politics of colonialism. Moten and Harney’s use of enclosure may be helpful in demonstrating how the social relations of capitalism correspond to the body, both in an individualized and collectivized sense. By attempting to enclose its subject, capitalism as a political economy aims to present a false reality as a closed set of options to the subject’s experience of civil society and its economic equivalent.
Within this form of governing, hides the rhetoric of ‘total enclosure’ or subsumption as others have so problematically posited. If total enclosure or capture were possible, then capacities of rebellious thought and action fundamentally could not occur. Subsumption means a totalization of control on the mind and body of the subject within an organized area of applied domination. This ‘total subsumption’ method, though understandable as a rhetorical tool, seems to be more of a hyperbolic display of strategic sensationalism on the level of radical theory than materially indicative of our identifiable constraints.
Furthering this point, Moten and Harney wrote, “The self-defense of the revolution is confronted not only by the brutalities but also by the false image of enclosure. The hard materiality of the universal convinces us that we are surrounded, that we must take possession of ourselves, correct ourselves, remain in the emergency, on a permanent footing, settled, determined, protecting nothing but an illusory right to what we do not have, which the settler takes for and as the commons” (Harney & Moten, Politics Surrounded, p.18). With this passage, Moten and Harney demonstrate the line of thinking that falsely implies we have become totally enclosed by the rights and laws of the colonizer. It feels important to highlight the pitfalls of thinking we have been totally subsumed. If only to deactivate the defeatist trenches of nihilism and that of pursing change though exclusively legal avenues.
Moten and Harney seem to be also unveiling an inherent and endless practice of the settler’s assumed permanence by way of colonialism. It would seem, that the logic of positing a total subsumption may stem from a viewpoint of the world that something can exist as fundamentally unmovable and constant, completely enclosed to the porous and fluid reality of life. This stagnate line of thinking seems to be a reapplication of the logic used by colonizers and settlers to justify their right to settle and manage land that was not theirs – a loose use of the Christian ideals of divinity, god’s will and the eternal expansion of kingdom of heaven. Congealed and settled in a state sanctioned comfort, the colonizer reminds the world of his importance. Despite the colonizer’s desire to proclaim otherwise, autonomous fragments break the possibility of a total enclosure as one. We are fluidity. Following the dictum found on ruins left in the uprising’s wake: “Be Water. Spread Fire.”
One of the biggest lies capitalism spun, is that one is supposed to believe the social whole is held together by consent and connection and not fracture and coercion. An observation of our social terrain proves the latter, clearly, is the truth of the matter. Socialization is a method of displacement and assimilation. The nation-state cultivates a program of social repression that, once initiated, forever aims at rectifying the inherent antagonistic cracks that stretch like thoroughfares of escape across its faceless terrain. The social machine seeks to enact total dictatorship over the collective self of its divergent autonomy-seeking individuals through assimilation and neutralization. The social depoliticizes the subject and the state enforces this capitalist depoliticization of the citizens of capital. Thus, state and capital create and affirm societies of control within their function to further maintain a pursued logic of total control.
Societies of control cannot cover the entirety of what they set out to dominate. Cracks, breaks, blocks, and ruptures structurally ensue as outcomes of trying to manage all of the unmanageable points of contestation. The control system fractures our points of relation from one another and pushes us into spaces of hopelessness. They say, “Only the social machine of capital can drive us home to ‘happiness.’” In response, however, the rebel proclaims, “The police in their many iterations, ensure all are subjects to this particular language of domination. It is thus, according to the same old story, that the police produced public space as a space that it has taken control of; that is how the language of the State came to be applied to almost every social activity, how it became the language of the social par excellence” (Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War, p. 32).
2.History, Messianic Time & The Revolutionary Poetics of Memory
“There were societies without the social, just as there were societies without history.”
– Jean Baudrillard
We confess. We find poetry to have a particularly destructive relation to history and language. An excerpt from a William Blake poem indicates this deactivating power by showing how history is connected to the current moment, but not through a linear course of time. That time, or rather our experience of it, maybe operates as a circular path than an exclusively linear one. Blake shows us, that the endless deaths at the hands of a progressive history return like a torrent of fiery vengeful comets to haunt the political heads and their historical legacy of forgetting:
|`O what have kings to answer for|
|Before that awful throne;|
|When thousand deaths for vengeance cry,|
|And ghosts accusing groan!|
Like blazing comets in the sky
That shake the stars of light,
Which drop like fruit unto the earth
Thro’ the fierce burning night
(Blake, Selected Poems, p. 18).
Blake demonstrates the present is not separate from the past. The innate circular component of time delineates it from a clear chronological order. A capitalist history of time, however, tells us tales in successive order of how time passes linearly: past separate from present separate from future. In the face of this narrative, Giorgio Agamben wrote, “the only place the past can live is in the present.” Thus, the horrors of the past are repeated daily as a singularizing stranglehold on the narrative of history and the recreation of the current moment as a continuation of historical time. This means, the past circles into the present as a reproduction of what has occurred and continues to occur.
Walter Benjamin spoke of this circular phenomenon of time as the potentiality for a redemptive history. Redemptive, or better yet restorative, by illuminating the revolutionary potential of a messianic time of not forgetting the past struggles for liberation, through two fundamental concepts: “…remembrance (Eingedenken) and messianic redemption (Erloesung). The two are essential to a new ‘concept of history.’” Agamben also wrote about messianic time, “In this chronological historical time, the messianic event inscribes another kairological time, in which every instant holds itself in direct relation with the end, has experience of a “time of the end,” that is, however, also a new beginning.” Messianic time is the understanding that there is no garden to return to, no utopia waiting for us at the whatever end of this total break. Rather, messianic time necessitates a qualitative relation our struggles take to breaking capitalist time and the potentiality that break initiates.
Turning to another poem, from the late 17th century Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, called A Weathered Skeleton. The concreted poetic quality of these lines demonstrates the ongoing conflict of history and memory. The weathered skeleton standing in as a metaphor for history and our relation to it in the present, much like the kings. History haunts our present with a memory of horror. The task is on us to run and forget it or face, accept and aim to change it. Basho understood this historical haunting of the present in the late 1600’s:
In windy fields of memory,
Piercing like a knife.
Memory is the engine of an inoperative becoming by acknowledging, much to the same affect this uprising is not only about cops, that contemporary time is not idiosyncratically isolated from the rest of history. Memories in fact, create a larger tapestry that constitutes the fabric of continued experience in western civilization. Memory equips the subject with the capacity of recognition as a conduit to a revolutionary restoration. Remembering the pain is key, remembering that war is personal. Memory operates within a blinking potential of simultaneously witnessing and identifying. As a witness to the ongoing horror of this civilization, we must accept our relationship to the age-old endlessness of capitalist atrocities, by first remembering. Or yet better still, closer to what Benjamin said, “the work of memory collapses time” and initiates a messianic restoration of the subaltern and forgotten subjects of capitalist time through the beginning of a generalized application of the mantra – no one is free until we are all free. This is not a call for an ill-guided pro-humanist utopia. Rather, in our eyes, a materialist response to the yolk of the ever-expanding operation of capitalist domination and colonial subjugation.
A friend from Minneapolis once said, “poetry is pure language, the dwelling place of being and language.” Poetry, as a practice and a tool, can aid in deactivating the inherent limits and unilateral function of language. Poetry breaks language’s omnipresence by violating its coding. The rebel poet profanes meaning by misappropriating words. Like the child who uses a set of car keys as a rocket ship so too does the poet use poetry as means to imagine a new syntax and arena of usage for communication and relation. Language, like history, has been forced onto us as broken systems of empty and unilateral signifiers. They both function as apparatuses of entanglement, that obfuscate one’s relationship to a potential outside from their wide scale application. We are trapped together in the cages of western language and history. The coming rebels need to break this form of capitalist time and ignite new ways of thinking, being and relating by becoming truly anti-capitalist. Poetry understands in practice the form that the segmented block takes in relation to capitalist flow and reification. As the late and superbly brilliant comrade, Nanni Balestrini wrote, “[We] explore the artificial possibilities of the voice to reach the extreme boundaries of the song.” Our song, which we practice singing in the shadows of capitalist domination, is the ballad of fragmented and generalized revolt. Memory functions as a conduit to this revolt. Memories, like fragmented shards of glass, shine back the image of time from incomplete recollections. Memories are the true house of the fragment, as the same can be said of intellect. Our memories and understanding of our lives will always be truncated to the totality and immensity of all that is life.
3. Sketches of the Fragment
“Only a fragment carries the mark of authenticity.” – Bertolt Brecht
In the hope of pointing out an acknowledged contradiction in our work, we must admit an oxymoron has presented itself. We feel inclined to take a moment to clarify our point a bit further by doing a small amount of untangling. This essay attempts to illuminate the social conditions of capitalism to prioritize the need for disparate rebels across this broken nation, to connect, come together and desert the system, destitute it by fleeing and fighting it. To fundamentally consider what it takes to generate an anti-social metaphysics. In the one-day hope of getting the chance to build a new form of autonomously organized life.
This is a very different call than the lasting consequence of sociality proclaiming we are all in this together. The capitalist hegemony wants to stay as such. And in order for it to do that, the machine must manufacture a narrative of togetherness by recuperating acceptable forms of resistance into its whole. Plainly, we do not want sameness, oneness, a whole. Rather, we seek difference, fragments, multiplicity and free association. We must break this dumb system of sameness, repetition and orders through decentralization, in the hope of building a collective acceptance of diverging ways of being. Rather than wasting time and energy vainly and guiltily stitching Humpty Dumpty back together.
Fragments are a spanning archipelago of islands configured of rebellious and autonomous communities, which by proxy and affinity will activate desire in a collectivization or not. Difference is not a threat that requires the need to police each other into a position of sameness. Difference is a tactical strength. We can apply discordant anti-capitalist affinities as a generalized beacon of hatred towards capitalism and all of its arrangements of control. All the while, linking and holding the truth of fragmentation as an organizational tactic of non-hierarchical and anti-capitalist communities. Only to de-link when the time feels right, we have no need to recreate a static position in our gestures toward anti-state ontologies. This is the poetry of diffuse decentralized warfare. The fragment is the anti-hegemonic outcome of living antisocially.
The fragment in grammar is an incomplete sentence. One that does not fit into the accepted rules of language as a system. The fragment in literature, as we see with the work of Walter Benjamin’s aphorisms, functions as a concreted lyrical puzzle. One in which has no answer or completeness to it other than it opens a line of thought to new ways of experiencing and thinking about the world. The fragment is the understanding that one cannot enclose all. It operates as a consistent break to the logic of authoritarianism and hegemony. The films of Robert Bresson visualize this reality, a cinematic blocking of solely hands, feet, shoulders. Even the body, in Bresson’s films, is partitioned into segments. The fragment generalizes in the form of multiplicity and difference. Segmentation as a preventative and defensive logic to totality. The thing that holds the fragment together is the sharing of a common enemy. This is not a new unity; it is a segmented rhizome.
The social machine cannot compensate for nor correct the cracks and contestations of anti-social antagonisms, which, make no mistake, the triangle of control has created. Antagonisms birth, grow and undulate in the attempted unification of difference to assimilated sameness. The social machine of capitalism is disempowered by multiplicity and by the ungovernable quality of the undercommons which are, in their truest forms, the fragment. It is disempowered by the recognition and action of humans building power and structure that does not include capitalist coding. These two attributes of anti-capitalist resistance are helpful to an understanding of application and a larger method of shared revolt, through difference as a shared affinity within divergent becoming. This dance of ruptured difference is also known as improvisation. Improvisation is the dance of meshing fluidity with a fragmentality: to improvise is to be present in the moment as a selfless conduit to the greater necessity of gesturing true autonomy. Like the fragment, improvisation breaks the method of a programmed response. Improvisation is the poetry of the urban insurgent. Within this spaciousness and ontological shift towards incompleteness, we find the organic relationship of the individual to their environment and relations. It is the fascist mentality that aims to cover all with control, that aims for completeness. Yet it is only the appearance of completeness that we see simulating upon the surface, underneath is the ungovernable undercommons of insurgent potential. The fragment is a delinking link that structures the subject towards a new cartography of spaciousness, incompleteness and connection. Pascal points this out a few hundred years ago, “A town or countryside at a distance is a town, a countryside; but as one approaches, those are houses, trees, tiles, leaves, grasses, ants, ants’ legs, to infinity.” In the face of this neoliberal cybernetic nightmare, the fragment can orient us to openings that are new planes of becoming which aims to eclipse homogeneity and oneness.
On Pro-Social Solidifications & Anti-Social Fragments
“Improvisation is how we make nothing out of something.” – Fred Moten
1.Understanding Pro-Social Solidifications
“The social exists to take care of the useless consumption of remainders so that individuals can be assigned to the useful management of their lives.” – Jean Baudrillard
Pro-social solidifications operate in hidden and explicit ways: micro and macro, material and psychological. The condensing of the social mass mimics that of state crafting – static positions reinforced by the dead weight of motionless mass. Density encumbers movement as the social mass includes ever more bodies into its arena of suspension and accumulation. The true core of the social is a center of gravitational neutralization, sheer compaction. “The [social] mass is not a place of negativity or explosion; it is a place of absorption and implosion.” Implosive tendencies that generate a gravitational pull towards its social center of assimilation. We see the ramifications of this take shape in the individualized body and in that of the larger societal consciousness. Simultaneously transpiring as a condensing in and expanding out within the subject-masses relationship. A mirroring which functions to displace difference with replication and obfuscate individualized autonomy with capitalist codification. Through a complex network of apparatuses, the social machine generates a hostility towards divergent becoming. This is how pro-social positions are installed into our relations. The social neutralization occurs on such deep and physiological levels that humans began to sacrifice themselves to save the triad of machines that aim to enclose them. Fear takes hold when genuine change threatens the triad of control. This uncertainty generates in the citizen an unbearable and nameable panic that what is will no longer be. The fear causes the subject to lash out, in the name of statehood and pro-social positions of returning chaos back to order. All under the spell of the socializing mechanisms of capitalist production.
Ironically, an inherent contradiction to the social machine’s attempts at total inclusion is that capitalist accumulation is built off disparity and exclusion. Civil society attempts to convince us that we have a similar experience of this nation’s political economy, that we all have equal opportunities. The American Dream demonstrates the hypocrisy of this farce, a dark joke that is predicated off of embedded privilege and financial access.
Our point here, by talking about the inclusive-exclusive dichotomy, is not to get caught in the trappings of identity politics, which seems to view complex humans as only singular codifiable identities. In addition to illuminating the inherent cracks baked into this system, we aim to get rid of our socialized idea of ourselves. To put it in the words of the French feminist and conceptual artist, Claire Fontaine, “Thinking against ourselves will mean thinking against our identity and our effort to preserve it, it will mean stopping believing in the necessity of identifying ourselves with the place we occupy.” From this viewpoint, the foundation of identity politics seems potentially comparable, yet again, to that of the colonizer’s relationship to the world. Both identity politics and the framework of colonization seem to occupy an arena, within a border, of identity and practice that encloses self as an impermeable form of oneness and permanence. Perceived totality and an attempt at a complete oneness seem to mirror each other in varying materializations. The socialized identities of capitalism’s social machine view self not as production of commodification but as a desire to be included into the horror show that is global capitalism. The barrier of conditioned self is another wall to overcome to become openly anti-capitalist. Accenting this point, Wendy Trevino writes:
“-A border, like race, is a cruel fiction
Maintained by constant policing, violence
Always threatening a new map. It takes
Time, lot’s people’s time, to organize,
The world this way. & violence. It takes more
Violence. Violence no one can confuse for
Anything but violence. So much violence
Changes relationships, births a people
They can reason with. These people are not
Us. They underestimate the violence-”
(Trevino, Brazilian is Not a Race, p. 16).
Achille Mbembe expounds on this point in his book Critique of Black Reason, “By reducing the body and the living being to matters of appearance, skin, and color, by granting skin and color the status of fiction based on biology, the Euro-American world in particular has made Blackness and race two sides of the same coin, two sides of a codified madness. Race, operating over the past centuries as a foundational category that is at once material and phantasmic, has been at the root of catastrophe, the cause of extraordinary psychic devastation and of innumerable crimes and massacres (p. 2).” And again a few pages later, “The expansion of the European spatial horizon, then, went hand in hand with a division and shrinking of the historical and cultural imagination and, in certain cases, a relative closing of the mind. In sum, once genders, species, and races were identified and classified, nothing remained but to enumerate the differences between them (Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason, p. 17).” Socialized identities orient their form to the structure they internalized from their socialization. These abstractions, as Mbembe and Trevino demonstrate, are simultaneously us and not us at the same time. We need to abandon this system and its distributed identities by demonstrating it was never built off of an inclusive justice, off of a generalized horizontalism: that we want something else in form and practice.
The self, like the social, is not something that needs to be saved and maintained. They, in their fundamental form, need to be overcome.
Confusion is the generalized language of the social. Social media indicates this truth. It operates as a vapid low-level communication that oscillates between the disparity of rarely-real connection and mostly simulated connection. The complexity of trying to untangle these imbedded levels of communication aid in exponentially magnifying a generalized and societally manufactured confusion. The simulated feeling of closeness and intimacy is created within framework of social media. When in actuality it is a massive cyberspace that separates the two communicators. What does this confusion and socialized separation do to the subject who has no hardened political or ethical beliefs or base of friends to connect their autonomy to? How do we, collectively and individually, deactivate this confusion in our attempts at finding other rebel communities? The approach folks take in answering this riddle will say more about one’s desire for generalized rebellion than these written words ever could.
2.Cybernetics & the Social
“Cybernetics is the continued colonization of ever-increasing new space. In this case, the digital as a form of socialized control.” -Robert Hurley
The pro-social position builds and reaffirms its form, within capitalism, by subjecting the masses to a morphing and always condensing system of progressive technological control. A counterrevolutionary process that over time programs behavior, action, thought and beliefs into a coded way of life. This program is corporeally transposed onto the citizen as forms of relationships. Others have called this system of social control, which originated in the post WWII United States boom, that utilizes technology as a tool to minimize deviation in the human subject, cybernetics. Some friends put it as, “Cybernetic capitalism thus couples a socialization of the economy with a rise of the ‘responsibility principle.’ It produces the individual as a ‘risky individual’ who self neutralizes their potential for the destruction of order. In this way, it is a matter of generalizing automatic control, an arrangement that favors the proliferation of apparatuses” (Tiqqun, The Cybernetic Hypothesis, p. 76-77).
The endgame of cybernetic capitalism is to reduce deviation and difference in its subjects. “Cybernetics is the police thought of Empire, entirely driven, historically and metaphysically, by an offensive conception of politics. I call the social production of society its techniques of totalization. With cybernetics, production of singular subjectivities and production of collective totalities mesh together to replicate History in the form of a false movement of evolution. It creates the fantasy of a Same that always manages to integrate the Other” (Tiqqun, The Cybernetic Hypothesis, p. 31). This program of social coding becomes the ideal of a society that aims to ‘stabilize’ itself through sameness, through networked mechanisms of social control and neutralization.
Social production has become algorithmic in its automated process of calculable and coded outputs. It has no longer a head, if it did ever. But rather, an environment of hostility. The regal authority is transposed by the biopolitical fabric of tissued domination. Machinic in its operations, cybernetics understands hierarchies are choke points to flow. Cybernetic capitalism is not threatened by rhetoric of horizontalism or decentralization. This is not to say these forms of human organization are not important as much as our enemy is learning in real time how to incorporate our efforts and dreams for a better world into its structure. In a cybernetic future, universal basic income will not be a threat but an extension of ‘good governing’ to keep the masses under the boot of the state and capital. It is precisely this process of managing a confluence of growing hostilities through increased stabilization.
Cybernetic capitalism is a progressive engine of recuperation and social pacification. A spanning network which aims to maximize flow by managing choke points and breaks in the line. From this understanding, it becomes clear that it is through a rhythm of disconnection that we consider the task of breaking the cybernetic circuit: burning precincts, cop cars and Auto Zones are gestures of this rhythmed disconnection. These gestures, however, are not the only form disconnection takes. These acts function as insurrectionary gestures of the fragment – acts of the irreconcilables that break a socialized capitalist coding of domination. It seems the fragment might be a key to understanding an anti-cybernetic praxis that operates as an intensification of discordant and diverse modalities.
Pro-social hysteria promotes a logic that humans cannot, in any way, compromise the social fabric. The subject is held to a socializing requirement – do not stray too far from the flock or you will suffer the consequences. This is indicated in the programed desire of cybernetics by reducing deviation and delinquency within the citizens of capital to a binary of 1 or 0, male or female, blue or red, etc. Years of being forced to live under the binary and police control teaches us also how to police ourselves and others. We query, what good is a pro-social position, if the social it aims to save is corrupted by capitalist barbarities of sexism, racism, and authoritarianism?
In Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World (2007), he travels to and documents the wild terrain and life of Antarctica. Herzog interviews a penguin researcher and in his oddly beguiling manner, asks him if penguins ever “go crazy” in a desire to not live in colonies anymore. The researcher tells a repeating phenomenon he witnessed where a series of lone penguins leave the colony and walk knowingly into the heart of the Antarctic continent. This desertion of the colony and their seaside residence seals a certain fate for the aquatic bird. They walk into their death. The internet has dubbed these birds, the nihilist penguins. We do not claim to know why or for what reason the birds flee. All the same, the actions of these birds seem to speak to an inherent desire that dominates the organic fabric of life. It is just within our unbridled curiosity that we query, how do anti-social elements exist in the animal world? In addition, how does the human break its own forced contract with civil society and capitalism? How does the human block the control circuit of cybernetic capitalism? These lone penguins metaphorically become beacons of one’s relation to a large dominating whole. Like the penguin deserts her colony, we need to desert capital, desert the social, desert this political nightmare to activate a proliferation of the fragments.
In a way, cybernetic capitalism seems to be a further understanding, from the colonizer’s framework, that even the digital realm needs to be colonized. Only to be recirculated as a mediatized practice of using digital information to dominate bodies. There is nothing to salvage with the social or within the innate and expanding logic of an economic system that needs to marketize our bodies and struggles, recuperate them as sales and net growth to carry on. By allowing capitalism to reappropriate our struggles and images of revolt, we unintentionally present radical positions as opportunities for a new level of capture for capitalist markets. Capitalism aims to assimilate radical politics into its neutralizing center. Its social mass turns radical images and gestures into a cooption that repurposes them against us as consumable identities. This is how capitalism recuperates and marketizes radical politics as commodified and safe identities: controlled and programmed dissidence. Cybernetic capitalism is the neoliberal project of regulating the flow and intensity of bodies in their socialized relation to producing and consuming. How do we make our actions, bodies and friendships truly anti-capitalist? How do we use multiplicity as a gesture of the undercommons to deactivate our relationship to the social power of this political economy? And within that, how do we understand the irreconcilable multiplicity as a tool of insurrection against the socially recuperative machine of cybernetic capitalism?
3.Becoming Anti-Social: Form-of-Life & Irreconcilable Multiplicity
“Multiplicity must not designate a combination of the many and the one, but rather an organization belonging to the many as such, which has no need whatsoever of unity in order to form a system. The one and the many are concepts of the understanding which make up the overly loose mesh of a distorted dialectic which proceeds by opposition.” – Gilles Deleuze
Unfortunately to this point, due to our lack of imaginative thinking, the dichotomy, false notion of an exclusive binary, has infiltrated this piece to a point of necessary clarification. What a better place to name this conditioned phenomenon than within the deployment of multiplicity. In the western context, the binary is a coded way of thinking passed on to us from the relics and remnants of Christianity: male – female, good – evil, heaven – hell, so on. We have, rather lazily arguably, deployed a binary approach to introducing and clarifying our points. In maybe an overly didactic usage, we position our intended revolutionary concept against the current politico-economic one: pro-social/anti-social, capitalist/anti-capitalist, social/multiplicity, etc. The point is life is far too diverse to be simplified into two opposing categories as the nonsense of the United States political system so horribly demonstrates. We are trying to offer a potentially easier route into some of these concepts but by taking this explaining route, we are limited the complexity of what we are saying to the moronic rhetoric of capitalist coding. For this lack of expansiveness, we humbly apologize. Multiplicity, however, is a current of thought and action that destroys the binary through a divergent proliferation of the many. The binary needs to be put to bed and with it the truncated line of thinking that puts life into two codified positions: 1 or 0.
What do we mean by form–of–life? Well, this certainly is not our term. Tiqqun via Giorgio Agamben have done much to elucidate the hidden autonomous method of an undiscovered self that waits in the corners of codified and socialized methods of actualizing who we think we are versus who or how we desire to be. This thinking is attuned to Guy Debord’s notion of how the subject relates to what he calls the Society of the Spectacle: “The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images. The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as society itself, as a part of society, and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is ostensibly the focal point of all vision and all consciousness: but due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is in reality the domain of delusion and false consciousness: the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of universal separation.” The social imprints a way of thinking and being onto the subject that can become and confused with a form of self-realization.
Form-of-life can be understood then as a metaphysical break with triad coding to uncovering our sense of self. It is the process of dropping one’s social manufactured identity to pick up the autonomous learning of our otherwise unknowable desires. They are unknown because we have not been given the time or space to uncover them and share in them with one another; that is outside the pulsing moments of being in difference together. Revolt, as an example, can function as an articulation of difference. “When, at a certain time and place, two bodies affected by the same form-of-life meet, they experience an objective pact, which precedes any decision. They experience community.” Form-of-life is a plateau of shared becoming that gestures autonomous desire as difference. As a recognition that multiplicity is a complex and decoded method of destitution to capitalist thinking of the one-self and expression of that one-self-sociality. Especially when those multiplicities understand the partisan positionality of becoming simultaneously divergent and irreconcilable to the triangle of control.
The natural world is ruled by the fact of difference. Rich ecosystems demonstrate this truth with an abundant diversity of life. Smokey Mountain National Park, which sits on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, recently documented 20,000 different types of species of plants, animals and other organisms. The park is a little over 200,000 hectares and is one of the largest intact forest ecosystems in the southern Appalachian Mountains and in the overall United States. Wealth, in healthy ecosystems, is measured not by homogeneity and sameness but by difference and variance. A desired sameness speaks to the need to reduce and control via that applied uniformity. The state loves uniformity, it boils complexity down to coded programs of 1 or 0. “The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information or rejects it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become “dividuals,” and masses, samples, data, markets, or “banks.” The problem with this is, as we have stated earlier, no program of control can govern the uncontrollable elements of a being actualizing their difference. Form-of-life is “a life that never can be separated from its form, a life in which it is never possible to isolate something such as naked life.” A form-of-life is incompatible with that of a capitalist ontology. This incompatibility, through time and positionality, generates in the subject an irreconcilable relation to that of the capitalist hostility they exist within. It is here we find the seed of our name, Unvereinbar. Unvereinbar means in German to be incompatible, irreconcilable, inconsistent and contradictory. This lovely German adjective describes our relationship to the triangle of control. We are irreconcilably against it. Until it breaks and burns, we hold our position as such. We aspire to be inconsistent to the applied logic of capitalism.
An inappropriable quality permeates the landscape and that of the body, by making them forms-of-lifethat are forever void of ownership. We cannot own our body to the same fact we cannot own the land.This is our fated problem. That hierarchy demands ownership and that capitalism prospers within a hierarchical system. Maurizio Lazzarato said that neoliberalism is a form of fascism. That capitalism and fascism are searching for a future that links in an economic totalitarianism. The form and style capitalism seem to take varies in different areas. How Sweden’s form of economic domination differs greatly from that of the United States or China. Either way, an international rise in fascism has returned to the heart of class warfare. Fascism aims to divide by sowing fear and restraint into the masses. The social thrives in the fascist’s world. Fortunately, we have an ancient truth on our side: Omnia sunt communia. All is in common – via multiplicity. What is a multiplicity? We turn to the radical French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari for a moment, “Like a sand dune, a multiplicity is in constant flux, though it attains some consistency for a short or long duration. A multiplicity has porous boundaries and is defined provisionally by its variations and dimensions.” Deleuze and Guattari re-envision multiplicities through many concepts of Western political thought: such as race, class, gender, language, state, society and the self. Multiplicity is a way to understand difference and nuance within being by positioning it as a shared sense of being in revolt and organizing life. Thus, we witness decentralized networks of multiplicities as an anti – fascist and anti – capitalist response. Multiplicity disempowers the logic of the social by actualizing autonomous difference in the face of a conditioning hegemonic whole.
In Cannibal Metaphysics, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro explores Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of multiplicities. Departing from an anthropological position, Viveiros de Castro continues the work of Pierre Clastres, who was a French anthropologist and had a significant impact on the two’s formulation of their concept of nomadology. Viverios de Castro writes about how the concept of multiplicity is, among many other things, a tool to imagine a way of experiencing a post-dualism world. The multiplicity is a violation of the hegemonic hold that binary thinking has on western thought. At this intersection, multiplicity becomes a meta-concept where it functions not only as a way to relate to the world but also a line of thinking and imagining of that desired world: a reflexivity within a concept and a practice. Viveiros de Castro goes on to write, “Multiplicity is the mode of existence of pure intensive difference – irreducible inequality that forms the condition of the world (p. 109).” We can’t be the same. But we can relate through our desire to change these circumstances and admit the life we live under capitalism is inconsistent to the life we desire to have. Multiplicity alone, however, feels partially flat to the expanding circumference of cybernetic capitalism’s recuperative capacities. Tiqqun, in Cybernetic Hypothesis, add an intensifying qualifier to the concept multiplicities and its relation to revolt: “The invisible revolt, the “world cup” that Trocchi spoke of, relies instead on potential [puissance]. It is invisible because it is unforeseeable in the eyes of the imperial system. Amplified, fluctuations as opposed to the imperial apparatuses never aggregate. They are heterogenous as desires are and will never be able to form any closed totality, not even a multitude whose name is only a ploy if it doesn’t designate the irreconcilable multiplicity of forms-of-life (p. 131).”
Irreconcilable multiplicity is the anti-social form of relation that the insurgent must take seriously. Decentralized and linked through free will and affinity, an irreconcilable multiplicity of war machines grows within the cracks of this crumbling nightmare, Unvereinbar because we no longer seek conciliation with our situation. The irreconcilable multiplicity displaces the singular engine of revolt. The narcissistic vanguards who tell us they have answers to an unanswerable question. Diffuse, differentiated and decentralized is how the irreconcilable multiplicity finds form in the organic linking of forms-of-life.The coming multiplicity positions it’s plurality in the incompatibility of its autonomous relation to that of the triangle of control. The irreconcilable multiplicity finds a nomadic sense of place in the undercommons.
4. The Undercommons, Fugitivity & the Generalizing of Antagonisms
“We have to accept that our struggle is essentially criminal, since in this world everything has become criminalizable.” – The Invisible Committee
Moten says, “[the undercommons] is best understood as a life that we lead and build outside of or underneath the general accepted legitimate sort of zones of normal political economic activity. So, it’s underneath in a certain way the activities of the state and it is underneath the activities of capital. And when I say underneath, I mean that it is both underground and in relation to those realms. But it also operates underneath them in so far as it is in the shadow of those zones of activity. And it is moving in a kind of fugitive way in relation to those activities. It’s everything we do; I would say when we are trying our best to live out from under the oppressive structures of the state and capital. It is those moments that we exist in flight from and at the same time in a fight with, the normal activities and structures of the state and capital.” Moten’s depiction of what the undercommons is aids us in understanding that it is simultaneously a generalized fugitivity and multiplicity of diverse collectivity. The way of being, more than a localized space or place, positions itself against modes of domination. And it is within that positioning that the undercommons becomes active and generalized as a wall-less arena that encourages sharing in one’s autonomous fight against capitalist domination. The undercommons is not a static place but a relationship oriented by passion and desire, to destroy and create a new freer form of living and fighting.
In Khalik Allah’s powerful documentary film, Black Mother (2018), he maps the ways rebellious lives take shape in Jamaica. In relation to the lingering and intersecting impact of colonialism, slavery and the diverging spiritualisms of Christianity, Rastafarianism, and revolutionary black consciousness. In the film, the word maroon is ruminated upon and illuminated as a form of fugitive resistance in Jamaica. A short etymology of the word maroon shows that it is both a verb, “put ashore on a desolate island or coast and to be lost in a wild” and a noun, “a fugitive black slave living in the wilder parts of Dutch Guyana or Jamaica and other West Indies.” Thought to have come from the Spanish word cimmaron, “wild, untamed, unruly, fugitive.” In the case of a Cuban black cimmaron, “a fugitive black slave.” The maroons in Jamaica cannot be simplified to just a radical byproduct of slavery. Rather, not only did they flee slavery but also went to build and establish a collective power through an actualizing of their autonomy and eventual sovereignty as a generalized form of power. A power which seems to be strongest, at least from examples through time, when it is not state crafting a new whatever nationalism. But when the subject understands they can destitute the infrastructure of a system by deserting and fleeing it.
Thousands of miles north and in a totally different country, hundreds of maroons fled slavery and sought refuge and freedom in the sinking tangled land between Virginia and North Carolina known as the Great Dismal Swamp. Runaway slaves, in this seemingly inhabitable land, inhabited a fugitivity that spoke to evasion, crime, and freedom. The maroons of Jamaica and the eastern United States identified a form-of-life in relation to colonialism and its apparatuses of social death and capture. Jared Sexton, who along with Saidiya Hartman and Frank Wilderson collectively helped reawaken this concept of social death via Orlando Patterson, writes more concretely about the phenomenology of social death and its particular relation to blackness. In Sexton’s striking essay The Social Life of Social Death: On Afro-Pessismism and Black Optimism, he resurfaces Patterson’s point that slavery is actually a form of ongoing social death: “In fact, social death might be thought of as another name for slavery and an attempt to think about what it comprises, and social life, then, another name for freedom and an attempt to think about what it entails. Though slavery is an ancient institution with provenance in nearly every major form of human society, we are concerned here with the more specific emergence of freedom—as economic value, political category, legal right, cultural practice, lived experience.” It is important to emphasize what Sexton writes about later in the piece: “that what is most stunning is the fact that the concept of social death cannot be generalized. It is indexed to slavery and it does not travel.” Stemming from an ontology of slavery, social death in the western context takes a form that is particular to one’s debasement as a black person in relation to that racist civilization. Predicated off of the exclusion-inclusion dichotomy and fully actualized through the removal of one’s humanity in relation to a whole, we see social death share an interesting and accenting adjacency to Agamben’s concept of bare life. Social death is a living with the exclusion from a civilization and humanity.
Frank Wilderson describes this phenomenon in relation to blackness and slavery in an interview from June 2020, “There has to be a formation somewhere, for who have no access to natality, who is dishonored without transgression, and for whom violence is a matter of whims of others and not of one’s performance. In order for a community of free beings with families, who can be dishonored because they act “poorly” and whom violence comes to contingently. For that community, to be sane and whole, must constantly have and recreate another non-community that can’t access anything of these things.” This distinction is essential to understanding systematic violence on black people and how it cannot always be grasped by non-blacks. Despite the pro-social’s rhetoric towards a wholeness, violence is not experienced the same way by all. Assata Shakur tells us this as does James Baldwin and many other Black and Indigenous revolutionaries. Thus, we ask, what good are these notions of civilization or humanity if their entire foundations are built on exclusion and death? We are at a point where we must truly reimagine form and content.
It would also seem, Moten and Harney’s notion of the undercommons could be extended to the rebellious fugitivity of runaway slaves as an embodiment of being “in flight from and at the same time in a fight with, the normal activities and structures of the state and capital.” The fugitivity of the runaway slave is in itself an act of insurrection to the structure and totalizing fiction of capitalism, as it is also to the violent state culture of policing and white terror. As we know, the history of the police come out of the need to recapture and return runaway slaves. Social death does not totally enclose the runaway slave in the enaction of their destitution to that socially mandated position. Runaway slaves and slave uprisings, in our opinion, are truly some of the most insurgent acts in the history of western civilization.
Fugitivity and criminality are identifiers, much like terrorist and violent protestors, that aim to signify an immediate moral response to these preloaded historical identities. These signifiers are seen as the unwanted, expendable, and the other in the context of United States. According to the law of this land, both legal and social, they do not deserve protection and rights of the state and its people. There is no secret to why the state hates humans who create a line of flight from its arena of control. The criminal, like the fugitive, and like the violent protestor cannot be controlled. The policing rhetoric of the social inherently fails to code them completely.
We must also understand that at the moment we decide to take our lives into our own hands we will be seen as criminals by the triad. Criminals because it aids the whole to demonize those who intend to escape this prison, this plantation. Fugitivity is the understanding that their labels do not touch us. It is criminal, in this country, to simply be black. This would seem to be an irreconcilable position to that of this racist system. Through the undercommons, Moten and Harney give us something beautiful which aids in building a truer methodology of generalizing our antagonisms. Sharing in revolt against capitalism and colonialism. The undercommons is not about building a new hegemonic social to replace the other. It seems, to us, to be a collectivized form-of-life that shares a desire to not be dominated and yet to destroy the conditions we are operating within. The significance of the undercommons paired with irreconcilable multiplicities is that the undercommons generates a form of activation that encourages the understanding that our struggle is a shared struggle. With these two concepts, the form (irreconcilable multiplicities) and the content (the undercommons) are gestured towards an anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist struggle. For these moments of shared revolt are much larger and more frequent than we let on. They are the generalized and diffuse natural human attempts of fighting off total enclosure, in all of its insidious and hidden iterations.
On Nonviolence and Symmetrical Violence as Politics of Enclosure
“The [social] mass is only mass because its social energy has frozen it. It is a cold reservoir, capable of absorbing and neutralizing any hot energy.” – Jean Baudrillard
1. Autonomous Desire & the Limits of Popularizing Nonviolence
“You have asked me to give you a history of the motives which induced me to undertake the late insurrection, as you call it – to do so I must go back to the days of my infancy, and even before I was born.” – Nat Turner
By and large, what we do share, in our way, is a wholesale disappointment with the social world that is offered to us, with its stupid jobs, its seductive products, its vacuous glory, its empty politics, its ugly buildings, its cramped apartments, its compulsive traffic, its evil militaries, its fascist police, its soporific classrooms, its mindless computer programs, its cooperativity, its erotic gamesmanship, its thousand constraints. The programs feed off of our deep loneliness, by the human’s need to feel validated. Tectonic shifts occur all the same, desire bubbles in the quiet corners of our hearts. We all, in some way, yearn for something else. The desires cannot go truly unnoticed.
In Akira Kurosawa’s film from 1970, Dodes’ka-den (his first film in color), Kurosawa demonstrates cinematically the potential desires have as beacons toward lines of escape from our current situation or environment. The film takes place in a shantytown of Tokyo, which is located inside of a waste yard. Roku-chan, is a boy who lives in this village (Kurosawa codes him with a cognitive impairment), who is also in total love with streetcar trolleys. Roku-chan gets up early every day to tend to his trolley. His trolley, however, is completely generated by his imaginative desire to be a trolley conductor. He spends the rest of the film driving his imagined trolley across the waste yard preforming his duty as a trolley conductor saying rhythmically and methodically: dodes’ka-den (clickety clack).
Kurosawa shows us here, via Roku-chan’s desire to be a trolley conductor, the positive generative power of dreaming and desiring. When we’re able to desire, what we want, in our heart of hearts, and articulate this as position – it is a line of flight out. Roku-chan, though still in the waste yard shantytown, found a course out in imagining a new way to orient himself to that previous process of being. By desiring, he disempowers his relation to the waste yard as a poor boy and opens a plane to learn how to run an imaginary trolley across his village. Roku-chan creates a line of flight from this world by opening a pathway to a new way of living in that old world. He breaks the hold operative time has on him as a necessity of capitalist productivity. Roku-chan generates an unproductivity that is an anti-capitalist productivity. That if widened, through an intensification of scale and range his desiring-process would operate as an insurrectionary inoperativity. Our autonomous desires can be gentle lights that grow to become raging flames. This is Bataille’s language, via Lacan, of how desire both functions as a lack and an affirmation. That desire profanes the sacred through an uncovering of our own relationship to it as process. We say in relation to this that desire is fundamentally affirmative. In the affirmation of recognizing a desire, it becomes a creative conduit for the destructive character in the subject’s relation to perceived constraints.
One can’t pretend to know a clear path through this aporia; us included. Lately, getting out has meant meeting separate-together in the streets. Free action at first, then increasingly socialized. But we are actually not social beings. Aristotle actually wrote that humans are political beings, which is quite different. It means that we are conflictual. There is a point when socialization turns on the subject and on the collective affinities of free association and decentralization to become a totalizing injunction of either with us or against us. This is the partisanship of civil war and it presents itself in both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary ways. Hegemony is always the outcome of counterrevolutionary efforts. Our strategies and tactics must remain fluid, diverse, and unique: not static, rigid and hierarchal.
The civil rights movement thrived within this decentralized and complex network of diverging tactics and strategies. Thus, making it nearly impossible for the state and its arm of repression to pin down all the gestures of defiance at once. This form of revolutionary power is realized through an understanding that a diversity of tactics and tools are the only road to revolution. Charles E. Cobb Jr. illuminates this point further, in regard to a diversity of tactics within the civil rights movement, “In the 1960s, robust and organized defensive measures were an absolute necessity for any prominent black civil rights advocate who valued his or her life. These were especially strong men and women. The terror of the preceding decade had selected leaders who were willing to stand up to white terrorism, with force if necessary. A combination of economic pressure, violence, and murder had savaged the ranks of black leadership after the Supreme Court’s Brown decision. Those leaders who survived and who chose to remain and continue to risk their lives in pursuit of civil rights tended to be dogged, militant, and willing to engage in armed self-defense.”
The reformers of acceptable action tell a swarming mass of rage that violence is not the answer. That violence only creates more violence. That we must be non-violent in order to effect change. The fact is, however, that we did not create the violence of this system: this total disregard for life. We are forced to live under it and watch the horror of its everyday moves. We are asked to remain calm and wait for change every time we see another black person murdered in the streets. Or when the politicians decide to bomb some nation, all the while knowing these bombs will kill civilians and devastate infrastructure for years to come. Or further, when we watch whatever president roll back protections on the environment. Plainly put, this is violence. A socialized acceptable form of political violence. We are given the social contract to sign and swallow.
Revolutionary “Violence” as Frantz Fanon said, “is man re-creating himself” and with that, the world they live in. The pacification of revolt by policing protestors to exclusively deploy a method of non-violence is hegemonic, static and frankly needs to be put to bed. Or we need to look in the eye and accept the programmed outcome of the static inefficacy of uprisings that lack strategic complexity. We also need to learn how to appreciate our strategic difference and desire for change, as long as policing isn’t happening. In the words of Claire Fontaine, “No translation is capable of converting actions into words, for their separation is the daily tragedy of our democratic regimes. In order to approach the uncertain territory of rebellion, we must first honor the disjunction between everyone’s words, images and gestures. For the geography of these gaps houses the prospect knowledge that transforms those who hold it and renders them capable of liberty. The black bloc is you, when you stop believing in it.”
2. Symmetrical Violence & State Sanctioned Violence
“There are only two ways to fight the US: stupidly [conventionally] or asymmetrically.” – Lt. General H.R. McMaster
Violence in a white supremacist, misogynistic and class-based society can only flow one way and that is down. The structural form of this hierarchical system confirms this demand in the boss, the cop, the overseer, the principal, the president, the parent, the patriarch and the settler. The mechanized codification of being taught that one’s position and opinion supersedes another sets the metaphysical framework for one to learn that might is right in the in hands of the authoritarian. Maybe this is why fascists love brutalizing people so much – it validates their sterile fragile form of needing to control their surroundings to feel as though they have a place in the world. Despite the fact that their very materialization is a methodology based on negation and utter domination.
It is paramount to strategically understand that if we get caught in an arms race with the fascists or the state we will lose. We can’t enter into a cold war like version of warfare that’s endpoint is accumulation to the hopeful outcome of victory. Much to the same effect, we cannot get caught in a mirrored call and response to white terrorism or state sanctioned violence. If this uprising devolves into an exclusively armed conflict, we will have lost a major strategic advantage: diffuse warfare. To flavor this point with an absurdism, the scientist from Futurama, put it surprisingly accurate in an episode: “Now, now. Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything.” We lose a vitality by slipping into the nihilistic logic of symmetrical war. The goal of creating zones of opacity, as some friends have put it, remains critical to keeping the battles in our favor. A zone of opacity is an arena of diffusion and anonymity where actions and identities are concealed. The zone dissolves after the event. Saying this all another way is to say the transparency of symmetrical violence is a losing strategy. Asymmetrical methods that defy and destitute right-wing militia and military strategies become unnamable and ungovernable: a decentralized, diffuse and disproportionate hit and run campaign. Our tactics and strategies should reflect the understanding that this nightmare is held together by critical infrastructure, to choke this machine one needs to consider how to cut off its air flow. Dismantling infrastructure by blockading cities, burning ports, wrecking debt systems, psychologically attacking agents of the state, pickaxing highways and railways are far more effective tactics than outright harm onto a human body. Though we admit, at times as in the case of self-defense, this will be unavoidable. But as Hannah Arendt had said: “Armed uprisings by itself has never yet led to revolution.”
In 2015, Frank Wilderson said in an interview, “I believe that the way out is a kind of violence so magnificent and so comprehensive that it scares the hell out of even radical revolutionaries.” This callasks something of the political that is beyond any experience of applied collective action. This can be a scary realization. Reversing the direction of this system-affirming flow demands a revolutionary and asymmetrical violence most of us cannot or will not accept. The truth is that open rebellion requires revolutionary violence as one of its gestures but that mustn’t be what defines it. Actualizing a revolutionary break will be defined by a primary eroticism, a contagious joy, a love of all life positioned by an understanding that no one is free until we all are free.
Ironically, this dictum for total freedom is not a shared sentiment of sociality: hierarchy and domination reign. We must remember that smashing a pane of glass, lighting a fire or looting a shitty Target are in a different category altogether. No amount of revolutionary or asymmetrical violence can compare with 400 plus years of genocide, enslavement, and organized abuse. Yet, so many tears have been shed over ruptured panes of glass and lifted sneakers. Where were these tears before positionality came rapping at the door of comfort, control and excluded excess? To be clear “Violence is what has been taken from us, and today we need to take it back.” Within the arena of insurrection, an actualization and demystification of revolutionary violence accompanies the autonomous becoming of social war.
On Strategies of Social War: Sketches Toward Mirror – Block & Destituent Power
“Go down, ol’ Hannah,
Don’t you rise, no more
Well, if you rise in the mornin’
Set this world on fire.” – Lead Belly
“We reaffirm — we are opposed to any war other than class war, other than social revolution — that any organism threatened in its security, undermined in its development, in its existence, has, more than the right, the duty to defend itself, to rein insidiousness and aggression by all means, the extremes; and we do not intend at all to evade the consequences that descend from this explicit premise.” – Luigi Galleani
In 91 – 88 BC, the Roman Republic and neighboring satellite cities were crippled by civil war. History called this civil war the Italian War and the Social War. In this period, the Italian allies of the Romans, located predominately in southern and central Italy, fought alongside the Romans in a number of armed conflicts. Due to this longstanding allegiance and aid paid to the Romans and within the desire of seeking rights and legal protection under Romans law, the allies wanted to be citizens of the Roman Republic. The allies eventually grew tired of Roman domination and lies. They pressured Rome by pursuing citizenship as the legal option to their exclusion from Roman law.
In 91 BC the Roman politician Marcus Livius Drusus attempted to solve the growing frustration of the allies by proposing a law that would grant all Italians citizenship. His proposal aroused xenophobic hatred in the Senate and Drusus was assassinated. This event became a catalyst that brought the simmering contestation of the allies into a rolling boil of generalized and diffuse insurrection. The heart of the insurrection was maintained by people who lived in the hills of central Italy.
In 90 BC, the Roman armies of the north were defeated. Only through political concessions could the Roman’s hope to break insurrection. A counterinsurgency law was strategically passed that granted Roman citizenship to all Italians who had not participated in the insurrection. This counterinsurgency tactic pacified many of the Italians who soon lost interest in further struggle against the Roman Empire. The dwindling groups of fervent insurgents were now isolated and shortly after neutralized, following the loss of major support. Rome had regained its control via an exploitation and recuperation of the allies’ desire for inclusion. The allies fought to be included. Social war is the material consequence of economic and political disparities playing out in the terrain of socialized relationship. The included-excluded dichotomy of capitalism seems to be rooted more in a foundational necessity of western civilization. If this is a fact, then the outcome of social war cannot be aimed at inclusion, for this inclusion or concession towards more rights will always be flavored by the thump of further domination from that state.
Social war – like civil war – functions beyond a unilateral authoritative application. It describes an unbecoming of the subject’s relationship to its current confines of domination. In this example, social war is meant to signify the allies going to war against the Romans in an attempt to be included into a political society – a form of class warfare with the goal of incorporation. We must go further than this, both in our understanding and application of what constitutes our social war. Reject citizenry to reject the social, this seems to be the make-up of social war.
Being anti-social is a marketable brand, that one finds now at some shitty and vapidly hip store. More than that, it is an engine of unbecoming that positions the subject to be in contestation with the social whole. Whether, their position was one of exclusion or hostility prior, our historical relation to the social is what it needs to be called, a war. Accepting this fact will equip us with an offensive to initiate ourselves as active agents within social war. We have learned to make war our home in this capitalist nightmare. Our bodies, like worn ships on a raging sea, have forgotten the feel of a windless sea. “War is really one of the names for our present, and it is not a tale of days-gone-by. It lives in bodies: it flows through institutions, traverses’ relationships between strangers and acquittances.” The social war is the home of our citizen to citizen relations, it is iterated in the implosive arena of social media and its endless policing.
The intention of becoming anti-social is to understand inclusion is not an end to domination. It is, a recuperative and counterinsurgent measure to fracture and break the intensities of a boiling insurrection or more to simply to keep citizens pacified. To say we want nothing to do with the options presented implies we want a new life. We demand the nothing their politics can offer. One tool amongst many, that we should consider deploying in the face of pro-social hegemonic desires, is the power of contradiction as a tactic to break a unified consistency. Contradiction is what creates space for fragments by deactivating the logic of capitalistic sameness and uniformity. The question of application of this tactic is a personal and place-oriented answer. This contradiction could also be seen as an improvisation.
“To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright.”
― Walter Benjamin
Joy is the act of finding one’s own autonomous relation to themselves, their desires and passions. Joy functions as a gesture against the misery that has been coded into our lives. From this individualized understanding of how the person relates to their own sense of happiness we can extrapolate, if only in a loose sense, this method to a larger collectivized desire for freedom. Freedom through a break with the existing conditions. This break is the bed rock of the political act of destitution. We desert the citadels of capital and set fire to their dominance. Our fleeing functions as combat, if we recognize withholding can operate as a block. We borrow another term from Giorgio Agamben, destituent power is the ability to deactivate, disempower, desert, and essentially destitute one’s relation with a particular form of domination.
We are passive if we are not active. The outpouring in the streets across the United States speaks to the inherent fertility and flammability of revolt, to this rebellious activity. This activity spreads as an affirmation, Minneapolis reminds Bogota who reminds Portland who reminds Minsk who reminds Chicago who reminds Hong Kong why we hate capitalism and its fascistic cops. This realization necessitates a dynamic relation and use of our bodies that exceeds capitalism’s conditioning of us as mere outputs of control. A line of flight opens in this understanding, choke the airways with blocking and desertion. The process of revolution must understand there can be no creative after without a destructive before. Destituent power recognizes that constituting and constituted power within capitalism functions as a counterrevolutionary method, the taught impulse to state craft hides in accumulation.
In the blinking potential of insurrectionary openings, a destituent power materializes as a block to capitalist coding and reproduction. Destituent power generates a scissure in the operative time of capitalism as an insurrectionary form of inoperative time. It is called inoperative because it breaks the normal flow, function and production of capitalist coding and state crafting. Destituent power aims for the return of messianic time.
In this opening, a pro-social hysteria will materialize rooted within the fear of potentially experiencing something new, unknown, and foreign to the citizen’s code of assimilated domination. The citizen will want to return to the same space of being controlled as a programmed gesture, the citizen will seek the nostalgic comfort of carrying on as not showing up and being active. This current historical phenomenon illuminates a residue of biopolitical form within the citizen as a desire to return things to how they were. Biopolitics through biopower is the form sovereignty takes on the body as an ingrained form of domination. In the social, biopower reigns as the true form of sovereignty.
This is a sketch, of a potential framework, for a methodology of destitution and disempowerment. An understanding of the citizen’s programmed desire to actualize during inoperative time, by attempting to restore what was, while simultaneously opening new iterations of restrictive control. Ruptures places time into potential revolution through connected and divergent networks of fragments, not to be mistaken as a new form of this coalescing state crafting reduction, that which is constituent power. A destituent power is opened as an irreconcilable multiplicity of decentralized and blinking clusters of combatants.
The point is that insurrection will be an anti-social affair, messianic time becomes now-time of the coming and recurring insurrections. This breaking of capitalist operativity becomes an inoperative time and tasks us with the need to understand how to deactivate politics, the economy, and the social. Destruction is the ultimate precursor to creation through that of a destituent becoming.
3. Preliminary Notes on Mirror-Block
What follows are the introductory notes to a concept we are working through. This concept, like anything honest in life, is far from complete. We welcome criticism, feedback and crosspollination. But the task of deactivating methods of control within pro-social forces is a sincere focus within this study.
“You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave.” – Billie Holiday
The social calls us to fix it. The social justice warrior heeds this call. The problem is of course, there is no fixing something that is truly unfixable. No justice in a system that has never included it as an operable outcome. And at times, it often seems that one is left with only the possibilities of harm reduction. Good things are done in the spirit of counteracting capitalistic atrocities. People’s lives are improved at a basic level. But the matter of scale is determinant to that of scope. Miraculously, Jesus fed the multitude. Not twenty or forty people—the multitude. Moreover, at the heart of this issue, woman does not live by bread or fish alone. We cannot assume we wish to repair this broken political economy. The dead weight of civil society carries us on like a virus on the wind and our bodies recreate that death as a form of relation to each other and this system. The civil is a monstrous metaphysics that hides in the open, yet we admit it is impossible to completely name. Though, the recent surfacing of an eviction and foreclosure company called Civvl speaks to the terrible truth of civil society.
Our answer, whatever it may be, must be liberated from the socializing tendencies and coercive methodologies of a system that aims only to stay operative. That genuinely subsists by policing its subjects into forms where the only acceptable methods of revolt are those that do not threaten its omnipresence. The massified logic of accepting only the legal channels for change paradoxically, is free from society itself, yet designed to hold the machine together through the fiction of a “social contract”. A Goethe quote comes to mind here: “People, if they cannot attain what is necessary, they tire themselves with that which is useless.” If we aim to truly become revolutionary, we must learn together how to generalize disregard for law, both legally and biopolitically speaking.
Jacques Lacan, the ironically egotistical French psychoanalyst, came up with three stages in the 1930’s and 1940’s that were intended to better illuminate the human’s relationship to their world via an exhausted psychoanalytical gaze. Despite this taking off point, Lacan gave us some extremely useful forms to assess the subject’s relationship to the larger world. The stages Lacan came up with are the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic. For us, the most interestingly of these is that of the Imaginary.
Hiding within the Imaginary stage is another stage, a process that operates as a major shift within the subject’s relation to their form of being and sense of self. This process within the Imaginary stage is called the Mirror stage. In Lacanian theory, the Mirror stage marks the moment when the infant sees its reflection in the mirror for the first time. This event signifies in the subject a recognition and identification of their self, through the witnessing of its externalized ‘whole’ form. The subject, consequently, no longer sees itself as a complex internal authenticity of being. Rather the mirror stage abstracts the infant’s sense of being by simulating an identity of a unified self through the mirroring of a larger whole. The reflection becomes a stand in to the larger homogenized feeling of witnessing a perceived physical unification.
The problem is that, unity doesn’t exist and when it does, it is the output of massive systematic coercion. A moment that aims to represent a connecting fabric. A simulation ensues, that confirms and concretizes a sense of wholeness, a manufactured idea of completeness. This reflection of the other back onto the subject’s sense of self becomes the idealized and witnessed self.
The Mirror stage works on macro and molar levels. The mirror becomes the self and the social by reflecting its image back onto the other as a totalizing process and gives the impression that our identity is whole. When in truth the inconsistencies of what has existed outside of the hegemonic neutralization of the mirroring social is that of the real and raw expression of autonomy. It is a mirroring fact that both the subject and civil society are lost to themselves when they realize their form as an identity. Identities function as a cage under the codification of the simulated and mirrored social. Lacan, for the early part of his study, designated the Mirror stage to a period of time within the infant’s life, anywhere from 6 to 18 months. By the 1950’s however, he came to regard the mirror stage as a permanent process of the subject’s relation to the external social world. That the Mirror stage embodies both the momentary and ongoing identification of a form-of-life as a citizen of civil society. Mirror stage sets a widening towards capitalist flow.
But what of block? Words often fail process in their attempt to lingualize the succession of the body from coded relation. Plainly, block is an autonomized withholding that functions literally as a blockage to flow. This flow aids in the subjectivation of the subject to that of the citizenry. Block is a method of deterritorialization. Block is the becoming of anti-social and anti-capitalist methodologies. The Mirror stage encourages a sense of flow from self to social whole, block deactivates this process of the triad. Block repositions the subject in a deactivating use of their body to that of triad domination. Block is both thought and extension.
By now, we are familiar with the lingering aftereffects of the Greek lore of Echo & Narcissus. The tragic reverberating gift of echo and the fatally self-obsessed of the latter, that of a hyper individualistic method in which capitalism has taken dearly to heart. Narcissus’s image in the pond is the Lacanian subject’s first moment in the mirror. The mythology of Narcissus, however, seems to go a bit further in that we see what happens to an individual if they become self-possessed with their identity. We are, within the Society of the Spectacle, taught to worship the self which is a microcosm of the larger other: the social. This focusing on the self recreates the self as an image of idealization. The image of the self becomes the recipient of all the glory that the social can provide, a validation within the virtual. The conditioning narrative of the self is then sold back to us as shallows stories on social and mass media. The quagmire of human communication that operates on social media is the ultimate gesture of Narcissus. Despite the warnings of Echo’s call which has been bouncing off of caves, forests and valley walls for millennia. It would seem the modern human still hopes to drown themselves in the idealized image of socialized identities.
One may say, Mirror – block is a method of insurgency, when inoperative time opens it necessitates the political subject to expose pro-social and counterrevolutionary forces and block them from proliferating. Diffuse confrontation within the arena of social relations.To quote Josep Rafanell I Orra, “There is always a remainder and this remainder is our non-adaptation. It is from social non-adaption, the refusal of identities, that revolutions aiming for an end to the destruction will still arise.” Mirror – blockunderstands the fact that civil war does not just take place in the political economy – as COINTELPRO has demonstrated to us – it operates in the social as well. Mirror-block situates a relationship to the social that exposes and blocks pro-social apparatuses that aim to push revolutionary action back into the chamber of restraint, obedience to law, and belief that the state–sanctioned options will provide us with any real answer to the problem’s capitalism has created. One may say, mirror – block is a gesture of closure and withdrawal simultaneously.
The social terrain generates challenging counterrevolutionary obstacles that radicals must identify and learn to deactivate and block. Whether this operates as a viral sensation on social media or interpersonal materializations of policing and delegitimizing the courageous efforts of folks getting at it in the streets. In Minneapolis, this took shape of morons blaming the burning of an Auto Zone in the city on outside white supremacist agitators. A collapsing discourse and dissociative relation to these events consequently ensued: no one wanted to associate with a blatant act of white terrorism. The state and media understood this fact and a generalized chorus soon followed, which was affirmed by newscasters and politicians. The phenomenological circumstances of identity politics and internet crazed social justice warriors fueled this misinformation loop. We see the true work of counterinsurgency take shape. Spread misinformation, fracture and fear amongst the social to sow seeds of passivity and hesitation back into the make-up of the desired depoliticized subject.
We have been turned toward battle. We didn’t do it—it was done by History. We are staring at a void. But from another angle, we may be able to see that it is simply what Lacan called le Réel, the Real, so that we can perhaps just as well see the void as an opening. And that is why we have been pouring joyously into the streets, with laden hearts. The two affects properly coexist. We already knew this from Rojava, and one surmises the same in what we’ve learned about George Floyd’s death and the countless other deaths by the state. Justice does not exist in this system. We will not find an end to the pain in the state’s notion of ‘justice.’ Justice is the dismantling of capitalism and the state. These ongoing murders are a fatal symptom, not an accidental happening, of a death machine that knows no end. It is hard and painful to admit, but even more horrible to ignore it.
On Destituting the Police
“A functioning police state needs no police.” – William S. Burroughs
1.State Terror & the State of Exception
“We cannot help but believe that were every law, every title deed, every court, and every police officer or soldier abolished tomorrow with one sweep, we would be better off than now.” – Lucy Parsons
The state of exception as Giorgio Agamben defines it is, “the preliminary condition for any definition of the relation that binds and at the same time abandons the living being to the law.” What this could be translated as, is the understanding that police for instance, can utilize their privileged authoritative relationship as enforcers of the law to hold themselves exempt from being subject to following those same laws. A suspension of the sacredness of the law is opened by the person(s) who have a legal and sovereign authoritative relation to the execution of that law.
The sovereign can then choose who and what to uphold or not. The police’s unrestrained acts of killing, with no legal recourse, demonstrates this fact. The state of exception then, in the legal sense, functions as a strategy of suspending law when it is convenient to maintain control and governance. Hierarchical organization allows for the opportunistic predation of fascists to misuse law and power as forms of self-perseveration and continued domination. An unfortunate and further manipulation of our lost interpersonal and relational knowledge of collective problem-solving techniques.
Vine Deloria wrote in Red Earth White Lies about how the engine of colonialism via western civilization, had long ago negated and abstracted the lived knowledge of inter-relational problem-solving techniques. Consequently, Western civilization created an internal reliance on courts, cops, and laws to be a stand in for learning how to co-inhabit space mutually and intentionally with each other. A knowledge that seems to have been lost in the efforts of colonialism. “Western civilization, by the time it reached the shores of this hemisphere, had pretty much institutionalized its beliefs and experiences. That is to say, problem-solving was already an institutional function: people purchased food grown by others, settled their conflicts in courts and legislatures and not by informal mutually agreed-upon solutions” (Deloria, Red Earth White Lies, p. 64). This process takes both an internal and external form.
“Only an affirmation has the potential for accomplishing the work of destruction.” We affirm that we do not need the police. The criminal disregard with which cops treat black people is not a freak occurrence of simple-minded rogue police. It is a fatal symptom of a political economy that has been and always will be fueled by the state-sanctioned death of the people it displaces, debases and exploits. This is the state of exception. “At each moment of its existence, the police remind the State of the violence, the banality, and the darkness of its beginnings” (Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War, p.32).
2.Concession & Reform as Tactics of Counterinsurgency
“Revolution within a modern industrial capitalist society can only mean the overthrow of all existing property relations and the destruction of all institutions that directly or indirectly support existing property relations. It must include the total suppression of all classes and individuals who endorse the present state of property relations or who stand to gain from it. Anything less than this is reform.” – George Jackson
The United States Counterinsurgency Field Manual plainly states that de-escalation is a tactic of counterinsurgency. As a matter of fact, it is preferable to conflict. As we pointed out earlier with the Italian (Social) war, by offering reform measures the state de-escalates uprisings with the capacity to come to the table. Concessions are a methodology of reform and reforms regrettably function more as counterrevolutionary measure than they do revolutionary. In the case of war, dialog and discourse are not always what we should be aiming for.
At the intersection of making reformist demands and the expectation of seeing the police-state incorporate these demands. We see the disband and defund-the-police movement, as appealing as it may seem, as a counterinsurgency stratagem for making folks in the street feel like change is coming. When the true aim of the city council members, starting in Minneapolis then spreading across the nation, seems to be more about preventing the removal of the current power structure by any means necessary than actually accepting the true need of its people: to destitute the police and capitalism. As others have argued, this nation was built off of the exclusion of a whole segment of the population. No amount of reform can mitigate the reality of this anti-life position that capitalism holds in its roots. Fred Moten said, “because we know the way this thing was already structured was based on our exclusion. That was a logical fallacy that we ever could be citizens of this place.” This statement gives us the truth of the matter. There will be no reconciliation. It must be in our overall trajectory, to not just “disband or defund the police.” Police abolition is not going to come from a law or decree. It will show up as a set of ethics and practices by people creating police abolition as a way of life.
To be fair and admit the unknown element of how general cop hatred has become, there is no clear way of knowing what will come from a national conversation around the legitimacy of genuinely disbanding the police. It is truly a terrain we’ve never experienced. A notable one at that. But the politicians offer up this conversation because they feel the weight of the true threat that stares at them from the dark: an end to their way of life, like the Roman politicians to the Italian allies. So, all of a sudden, they present radical proposals for police reform. This is not for a real change. This is to keep them in the driver seats and us underneath them, a method Trump has signified with the use of his ‘secret militarized police.’
We know we keep saying it, but it is paramount to hold in our hearts and actions, that this death machine won’t end until capitalism and the state are rendered obsolete. This is a massive undertaking, but it has always been the ask if we truly aim to destroy this system of domination. We turn to the words of power from the revolutionary George Jackson, “Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.” The police are one of many enemies we will have to face on our road to open revolution but surely, they will not be the only one.
On Becoming the Ungovernable
“When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.” ― Frantz Fanon
“I have no home in this world.” – Woody Guthrie
Moten & Harney, in The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, discuss place and becoming in relation to civil society. Moten says in an interview towards the end of the book, “Homelessness is hard, no doubt about it. But home is harder. And it is harder on you, and it’s harder on every-god-damn-body else too. I ain’t so concerned, necessarily, about the travails of the settler. The terrible difficulties that the settler imposes upon himself are not my first concern, though in the end they are a real thing. It’s the general ‘imposition of severalty’, to use Theodore Roosevelt’s evil terms, that I’m trying to think about and undermine. He knew that possessive individualism – that the self–possessed individual, was as dangerous to Native Americans as a pox-infested blanket. Civilization, or more precisely civil society, with all its transformative hostility, was mobilized in the service of extinction, of disappearance. The shit is genocidal. Fuck a home in this world, if you think you have one.”
The naturalist, John Muir once wrote, “Sheep are ungovernable, like humans, when hungry.” We are hungry, aren’t we? Hungry for a life that no longer accepts the countless murders of black people by racist cops and a white supremacist system. Hungry for a general recognition that we are killing the planet we are living on. Hungry for a life that exists on a plane of autonomy, multiplicity and anti-capitalist connection. We are hungry for capitalism to end. Maybe hungry is the wrong word and desire the right one. The desire for an end to this nightmare and yet this bad dream won’t just go away.
It is so obvious to say it, but all the same, strategic planning is crucial to victories. Every act one takes in the street should be directed by primary and secondary goals as well as escape routes. Shield and protect each other but push the cops. They will show their true hand in time, which in some cities they already have done. They are doubling down on brutality which is only proving the point and validity of the uprising as is Trump’s SS camo-laden like goons. Fascism is on the rise in this current nightmare because like the Third Reich during the Weimar Republic, it promises a stability it cannot maintain.
State and capitalism have engineered and maintained this hostile environment that no longer supports life. The machine sustains it long enough to extract what it needs before moving on, leaving a line of death and decay stretching back across time and the environment.
2.Improvisation & Total Destroy
“We are certain that communities of joy will emerge from our struggle here and now. And for the first-time life will triumph over death.” – Alfredo M. Bonanno
Moten said, “Improvisation corresponds to the necessity of paying attention to our history: the history that we are and the history that we live. It’s what we do in the face of that history. It’s what we do when we make something out of nothing. And it becomes both the method of our survival but also the object of study for us as we try to understand our survival, improvisation is life. It’s what you do. It’s what you need to do when you get up in the morning. Because we don’t have any foresight about what’s going to happen next. We prepare ourselves as rigorously as we can, and improvisers prepare. But they prepare for the unforeseen. Because that’s what life is, the unforeseen.” Improvisation is the disrupting quality of being outside of program and structure. It is content and expression void of an immediate reifying form. Improvising is how the urban combatant handles diffuse warfare. Improvising is how one may destitute cybernetic capitalism. Improvisation is the uncalculated rhythms of being and responding in an autonomous manner. “Improvisation welcomes the threat and passes beyond it, divests it of itself, makes note of it, potentiality and risk” (Tiqqun, The Cybernetic Hypothesis, p. 154). The free thinking and wild becoming, as seen in something like the momentary transcendence of free jazz musicians from the confines of music structure, offers a metaphorical translation that aids us in deactivating the coded way cybernetics is transposed onto our bodies.
In 2000, there was an anti-IMF assembly in DC and folks from all over the world gathered to conspire and plan how they would shut the IMF down. The affinity groups stood up, talked and proposed various goals and possible strategies over the course of the meeting. Eventually, when it was the turn of some Greek anarchists to explain what they hoped to accomplish, they simply stood up and said, “We will make total destroy.” Some folks in the gathering were baffled by the succinct phrase, but the point remains.
These Greek comrades recognized the potentiality of the coming moment. Now is the time we have. Our plans must reflect this understanding of the fertility of the present. It would seem, we are only as organized and prepared as the plans and strategies we lay. No doubt, these plans and strategies are going to be different for each cluster and city. Diversity is the strength we share within the undercommons and the irreconcilable multiplicity. As is a healthy forest measured by its level of biodiversity. Our tactics, strategies and ability to confront the police it seems, should be as diverse and complex.
The ungovernable sees the route through this never-ending horror film as a trajectory of revolutionary and asymmetrical violence against the triangle of control: the state, the social and capital. Frank Wilderson said, “Without revolutionary violence, politics is always predicated on the ensemble of existing questions, and these questions are in service to reformist, not revolutionary, projects.” Convicting police will not stop police from killing; it may slow it down, but the source of their taught disregard resides in the framework of the capitalist state we are living in. In love and revolutionary struggle, let us do what finally needs to be done and make total destroy of that framework. To fade out on Moten, “Let us not make the future our project, let us improvise.”
Epilogue: The Art of Incomplete Mapmaking
The broken form is nothing in tone or style
to save. Rather break and block it
further. As cartographers of diverging maps, we seek
no return to their order or oneness in practice. This difference
offers no threat to us or within our potentiality to relate.
We understand any attempt at naming the social
is also an attempt at naming the air.
It is an environment that moves
and shifts based on its conditions and mechanisms at play.
All the same, we are living in relation to this neoliberal nightmare.
This horror show requires imagination, destruction and connection
for us to learn how to truly eclipse it.
In fragmented forms & fugitive ontologies
let us gather at the growing fires of knowing we have no home
in this capitalist world and shine on to a new dawn.
The world is bleak but the future they offer us is far
more indicative of Dante’s hellscape. Our actions can
break this hold. Can rupture the fabric of historical time,
we can be something both terrible and beautiful.
An honest answer as a form of relation,
is to build the multiplicity of the fragment,
connected through an irreconcilability.
Through the desire to not be coded in 1’s or 0’s.
Sonoran Desert, Late Summer 2020
i “The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones” (Marx & Engels, Communist Manifesto).
ii Agamben, Giorgio. Creation and Anarchy the Work of Art and Religion of Capitalism. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019.
iii Despite the apparent theological implications of this term, what Walter Benjamin was ultimately after with this concept, was an understanding of time and history that does not forget the horrors that befell the subaltern. Rather, uses those as a communizing fire of remembering, to return the altars and citadels of the progressive capitalistic present and future to its ashy organic origin.
iv Loewy, Michael. Fire Alarm Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’. London, UK: Verso, 2016.
v Kairological time is the time of events and opportunities. Kariological relates to time in a qualitative sense. It functions less in a quantitative and linear fashion. Rather in momentary bursts and in relation to opportunity.
vi Agamben, Giorgio, Creation and Anarchy the Work of Art and Religion of Capitalism. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019.
vii Inoperative time can be understood in relation to an operative time. Inoperative time, via an act of deactivation, suspends operative time’s hold on the flow and directionality of capitalist time. We can then position inoperative time as an initiation of messianic time. Inoperative time breaks the flow of capitalism by opening up terrains of unbecoming, unproductiveness, and insurrectionary gestures of refusal. An inoperative becoming of time, also functions as an understanding of the non-linear quality of time.
viii Baudrillard, Jean. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities: or, the End of the Social and Other Essays. New York, NY: Semiotext(e), 1983.
ix Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York, NY: Zone Books, 1995.
x Tiqqun. Introduction to Civil War. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2010.
xi Deleuze, Giles, Postscripts on the Society of Control. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1990.
xii Agamben, Giorgio. Means Without End, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
xiii Understanding COINTELPRO functioned as a counterrevolutionary methodology to infiltrate, fracture, confuse and ultimately aimed at delegitimizing radical movements by using the social machine as an engine of state repression. The Black Panthers were greatly impacted by this fascistic tactic of counter-information and state repression.
xiv These tools nest in the versatility of diffuse collective warfare; a wide-scale acceptance of the 5 principles of action that came out of the Hong Kong uprising or the St. Paul principles which transpired out of the Twin Cities in 2008 RNC illuminate this point. Our strategy must be diffuse, diverse and desitituent.
xv Cobb, Charles E. This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.
xvi We see this materialize in the unprecedented number of cops that have quit their jobs since the beginning of the George Floyd uprising.
xvii Wilderson, Frank B. “Blacks and the Master / Slave Relation,” in Afropessimism: An Introduction. Minneapolis: Racked & Dispatched, 2017.
xviii Tiqqun. Introduction to Civil War. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2010.
xix Fontaine, Claire. Politics is Not a Banana: The Journal of Vulgar Discourse. Canada: The Institute for Experimental Freedom, 2009.
xx We see this in the fact that police, despite all the murders, continue to move unchecked with no accountability placed upon their violent methods. They have existed outside of social and juridical law.
xxi Though we find Lacan’s concepts useful here. We must also come clean and say we do not side with Lacan’s notion that desire comes from a lack. But rather, as D & G have said, desire is a machinic process of creation. It is capitalistic process that codes us with a lack.
xxii Here is an article published in The New Inquiry that lays this event out in further detail. https://thenewinquiry.com/blog/warning/
xxiii An opening, to reference the French again, that was demonstrated by the Yellow Vest protests. When protesters were asked, “Why are you out here? What is this all about?” The protesters, more often than not, would not reply. They made no demand and in not making a demand, they prioritized the void as a political opening that the state could not close with reformist concessions.
xxiv The Invisible Committee. Now. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2017.
xxv Harney, Stefano and Moten, Fred. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wivenhoe, NY: Minor Compositions, 2013.
xxvi Moten, Fred. Interview. https://www.jazzstudiesonline.org/resource/fred-moten-odyssey-improvisation
xxvii Wilderson, Frank B. Afropessimism. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2020.