You are on page 1of 194

2013

LBC Books
Review
Little Black Cart
Review
2013
iii
Introduction 1
Its Core is the Negation 8
Alejandro de Acosta
Anarchy, a journal of desire armed #72
A Critique of Critique 30
anonymous
Attentat, #1
XIV 38
Institute of Experimental Freedom
Between Predicates, War
My Life in the Gulag 46
Ron Sakolsky
Creating Anarchy
Deserting Empire, Deserting Humanism 62
Alden Wood
The Cultural Logic of Insurrection
Noam on the Nod 88
Bob Black
Defacing the Currency
Why Do Something Rather than Nothing? 102
Guillaume Paoli
Demotivational Training
Conscious Domination, Unconscious Ideology: 118
knowledge as power
Enrico Manicardi
Free from Civilization
iv
Infuencing Machines, Intuition Pumps, 130
Paranoia & The Poisonous Cobra of Surrealism
Penelope Rosemont
Fifth Estate #390
Polyamory and Power
Andrew Williams Smith ne Sunfrog Bonobo
A Response on Polyamory
David Watson
Fifth Estate #389
Excerpts 148
Sherif Xenoph Ibn El
I Want to be a Suicide Bomber
Forbidden Defense Speech 160
Ravachol
Illegalist Trial Statements
Beyond Property Destruction 168
Tom Nomad
The Masters Tools
Introduction
1
In this, our inaugural issue, we present an editorial exploration
into the themes and contexts of some of our 2013 publications.
What is we? Funny that you would ask; the answer is more
complex than it seems at frst glance. We are the constellation
of projects under the umbrella of Little Black Cart, which
incubates, creates, produces, and distributes speculative,
critical, and engaged anarchist thinking and ideas. We use
diferent names to refect the diferent editorial orientations
and biases of our work. LBC Books is the name of our parent
imprint but we have published books, just this year, under
Ardent Press, Repartee, Pistols Drawn, Green Anarchy, IEF
(the Institute for Experimental Freedom), and CAL Press.
In addition to a constellation of editorial voices, LBC
actively considers how to share these voices so that they can
be best heard. The mass model of content distribution has
failed anarchist ideas in several subtle and obvious ways. The
best-selling anarchist book of the past ten years (Chomsky on
Anarchism) sold less than 100,000, and has primarily reached
an audience at all because of the notoriety of the author
generally rather than any particular innovations in anarchist
thinking
1
. Even without bestsellers, the infection of anarchist
ideas has spread throughout the political left, the jaded
hipsterteriot, and even the libertarian technocracy, just not
in name.
Anarchists have had to make do with the fact that even
as we succeed we rarely get credit for it, while we always get
the blame for our failures and lack of success.
As a publisher in this family of ideas we measure our
own success partly by our own continued interest in our
broad project, and on whether these ideas merit discussion
and further research. This is a modest goal, perhaps, making
1 We published a lengthy critique of this book in particular in Bob Backs
Defacing the Currency, titled Chomsky on the Nod.
2
it achievable in a way that material success is not. It's can
be enough to see ourselves and our friends as tinkerers in a
workshop, perfecting an apparatus that awaits the right power
source to set it in motion. We fnd it matters much less what
things are named, what color the paint is, or how fast things
move, than conversations about what could be in a thousand
diferent permutations, in the experiential world rather than
the theoretical one.
We published our frst book in 2007. During our frst
fve years we were mostly grappling with the challenge
of the process of publishing and were stunned by the cost
of printing books (compared to the return). This required
a grudging acceptance that our political rivalspart of
the context we were responding toweren't the horrible
monsters they had seemed to be. Building a venue for
extreme, (ir)responsible, developed content, it turns out, is
very hard work. Our particular challenge has been to fnd
the engaged participants that we demand without forcing
ourselves into a kind of indentured servitude to be able to
aford the cost.
The conclusion we came to in response to this problem
was to make small runs of books without the high expense
of Print On Demand (POD) publishing. Coupled with
our deep appreciation of the artistry of anarchist printing
projects of the past (and Eberhardt Press today) we decided
to invest human and material resources in a print shop. This,
in addition to the resources we already had for content
procurement, copyediting, and design. Couple this with our
distribution set up and we were ready to publish anarchist
ideas more frequently than before.
Two years later, we have published twenty-four new
titles and helped produce another couple dozen projects
(including a North American production of the bulk of
Elephant Editions titles, titles from Pallaksch Press, bound
pamphlets like Copout and Desert, The Anvil Review, and more).
3
If the goal was to produce engaged, interesting, anarchist
material than it's conservative to say that we have succeeded.
If our goal was to shape the minds of a new generation of
antiauthoritarians then our project hasn't succeeded. This is
the work we have ahead of us.
A goal for this Review is to make content available for
free that would otherwise be inaccessible (aka cost-greater-
than-zero) package. We will summarize the thinking behind
each of our primary publications this year and share our
broad thoughts about why other items distributed by Little
Black Cart deserve reprint and specifc acknowledgment.
The content triangle
We're not the frst anarchist publisher and we will not
be the last. One advantage that we have had is living in the
shadow of AK Press, both physically and temporally. Before
them, the most prolifc anarchist publishers produced a half-
dozen books over years and years of labor to a small insular
audience of like-minded people. Cienfuegos, Rebel, Black
Rose, Black & Red, and Left Bank only produced a few titles
each and their scope was limited compared to the broad and
prolifc output of AK.
That said, obviously we felt as though anarchist ideas were
not being particularly well represented by the publishing of
AK. Perhaps we were wrong, and there was a cart and horse
problem that we were not able to see ourselves in. Today
it seems fair to say that AK has had a politically-oriented
content triangle that has represented their areas of interest.
One vertex is traditional red anarchism. The best of this
material looks like the excellent reprint of The Blast
2
which
is a scene-chewing, smoke-spewing, monstrous vision of
what a working class led movement could have looked like.
2 In my opinion the best title AK has ever published.
4
The worst is somewhere between the boring historicism
of Black Flame and the sectarianism of Social Anarchism vs
Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm. Another vertex is
the family of ideas around the anti-globalization movement.
None of these specifc titles stand out for me as I fip through
the AK catalog. I recognize that there's an audience for them,
I know that I'm not that audience, and mostly I see that
audience as actively working for representation, politics
3
, and
responsibility. Probably the third and fnal vertex is history.
Clearly this has a large overlap with the frst vertex but is
often published for its own sake. The work of Paul Avrich,
reprints of Kropotkin, Proudhon, Malatesta, and Magn all
fall under this category.
For many years I lamented what this content triangle
said about the vitality of anarchist ideas, especially in the 21st
century, and then I did something about it.
It is perhaps too early for a foundaiton to conceptually
replace the stakes we have put down, but we can at least
name the stakes. Broadly stated we consider the origin of
many of our ideas to come from the chaos of the late 60s.
France in May 1968 in particular but the civil rights and
antiwar movements in the US also. The category of posts-68
is an area of interest with titles like Treatise on Etiquette for
the Younger Generations (aka The Revolution of Everyday Life),
Demotivational Training, Theory of Bloom, Whitherburo, and
even bolo'bolo all having their roots there. A second stake
would be the broad category of green anarchism. Now more
than ever the need for specifcally ecologicaly-oriented
antiauthoritarian political perspective is needed and is absent.
Titles like Uncivilized, Free From Civilization, and Desert have
3 Politics, like most of the loaded words we use, has a dual meaning. Pol-
itics can be understood innocuously, as a kind of engagement with your own
life that recognizes the extent to which we are in control and not in control
of it. Not so innocently, politics is also a word for the management of other
peoples lives, usually with their own interest in mind at least rhetorically,
and as if we know what that is.
5
been our contributions to this perspective so far, and much
more needs to be done. The third stake is antipolitics, which
can look like the insurrectionary nihilism of Novatore, the
egoism of Stirner's Critics, the (anti) identity politics of Bash
Back! in Queer Ultraviolence, or the particular kind of
theory explored in Attentat.
So our structure is not completely a shelter from storms,
from hostile ideas or the demand for a plan to change the
world
TM
but perhaps it is enough to shade us from the harsh
reality of a world without idealistic dreams of utopia or even
dreams of a pension. We publish a perspective unclouded
with leftist naivete, one that is ferce in questions but tentative
about answers.
2013 in review
2013 was the year after the year when The Occupy
Movement
TM
was over. In the cycles of excitement and
decline that radicals experience, this is the time of hopelessness
and sadness. For example, hardly any of our peers are talking
about big, social, projects. Instead many are returning to
school, recovering from too much drink, or just taking some
time time for themselves.
As the year draws to a close, however, we are hearing the
frst whispers of some new commitments to sociability for
2014. A mysterious multi-group project to purchase space
in Oakland, a failed semi-public assembly of anarchists, and
the beginnings of a struggle against creeping corporatization
and gentrifcation (involving a coalition of communists
4
and
anarchists), all promise that the radical cycle of inspiration
and disappointment keeps on turning.
From a publishing perspective we didn't come away
from 2013 with a clear hit. We did accomplish a fair portrayal
4 Communists, unlike Communists of the statist variety, are usually seen as
the allies, or at the very least fellow travelers, of anarchists in Bay Area.
6
of the perspectives we wanted to publish and started many
of the conversations we had hoped to be part of, but the
audience for our project didn't respond with a hearty hallo!
to our eforts. Both Attentat (May 2013) and Demotivational
Training (November 2013), for example, are especially rich
titles that have yet to fnd an audience.
There were titles that we didn't have the room to include
in this review, notably Impasses, an exemplary publication
produced by an anarchist reading group in Austin, TX; the
frst English translation of Stirner's Critics (translated by the
remarkable Wolf Landstreicher), and On the Run, stories
from folks underground, to name but a few.
2014 looks like it will be more similar to 2013 than
to 2011. Filled with more building than destroying, more
planting than harvesting, and (from a publishing perspective)
a series of big, open questions. We know that we will be
revisiting older texts, ideas, and histories from Russia, Italy,
Germany, and France. We know that we will be publishing
in more formats than just books this year (including at least
two magazines, a half a dozen journals, and more ebooks) as
well as audio (LBC Audio books are being developed along
with a monthly podcast) and video projects. (We attempted
this branching out in 2013, but didn't get there.)
We also plan on at least one US tour, probably on the
East Coast, later in 2014.
7
Its Core is
the Negation
Alejandro
de
Acosta
Anarchy:
A Journal of Desire Armed (#74)
(Winter 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Anarchy-A-Journal-Of-Desire-
Armed-74.html
Those of you who pay attention to such things already know
that the origin story of LBC has roots in AJODA. Before LBC
existed, several of us were involved in the AJODA editorial
collective and from the beginning, we were motivated to
create a radical distro to help get the magazine in to the
world. Our relationship to the magazine continues to be
friendly, we share content, authors, and a critical outlook
informed by the late 60s.
AJODAs contribution to this Review is by Alejandro
de Acosta, who is also a third of the LBC editorial group.
Alejandro brings both playfulness and an intense attentiveness
to everything he writes. Here he reviews After Post-Anarchism
by Duane Rousselle, which uses the works of Georges Bataille
to reach past post-anarchism. Politics, ethics, and morality are
the terrain of this efort.
At the heart of this discussion is a strong distinction
between the ecumenical plurality of postmodernism (no
meta-narratives, a thousand smaller narratives instead) and
the hostility of the nihilist position. Both of these authors do
a better job of digging into these distinctions and nuances
than I do, so here is your opportunity to beneft from that.
11
its core is the negation
1
I have always considered my inclination to anarchy to be
irreducible to a politics. Anarchist commitments run deeper.
They are more intimate, concerning supposedly personal
or private matters; but they also overfow the instrumen-
tal realm of getting things done. Over time, I have shifted
from thinking that anarchist commitments are more than
a politics to thinking that they are something other than
a politics. I continue to return to this latter formulation. It
requires thinking things through, not just picking a team;
it is more difcult to articulate and it is more troubling to
our inherited common sense.
1
I do not think I am alone in
this. It has occurred to some of us to register this feeling of
otherness by calling our anarchist commitments an ethics.
It has also occurred to some of us to call these commit-
ments anti-political. I think these formulations are, for many
of us, implicitly interlinked, though hardly interchangeable.
What concerns me here in the main is the challenge of what
it could mean to live out our commitments as an ethics
though I think the relevance of this thinking to anti-politics
will be clarifed as well.
I intentionally write ethics, and not morality: as I see
it, ethics concerns the fourishing of life, the refnement of
desirable ways of life, happy lives. Tiqqun put it well:
When we use the term ethical were never referring
to a set of precepts capable of formulation, of rules to
observe, of codes to establish. Coming from us, the
word ethical designates everything having to do with
forms-of-life. ... No formal ethics is possible. There is
only the interplay of forms-of-life among themselves,
1 Il senso pi comune non il pi vero, wrote the heretic Giordano
Bruno: The most common sense is not the truest. The type of
thinking I invoke here takes its distance from what the Mass regards
as common sense.
12
and the protocols of experimentation that guide them
locally.
2

Many of us have been able to reject morality as a form
of social control, as the stultifying pressure of the Mass on us,
as imposed or self-imposed limitation on what we do and
what we are capable of doing. Much the same could be said
for any ethical universalism which, though emphasizing ways
of life and not moral codes or injunctions, tends to homog-
enize ways of life in the name of a shared good; it does so
by surreptitiously presupposing that good and treating it as
a natural fact or self-evident transcultural reality. In short, it
rejects transcendent morality only to re-introduce it imma-
nently. Our rejection of this single Good went often enough
in the direction of pluralism: the story went that there were
many Goods, many valid or desirable forms of life. This
seemed obvious enough, even intuitive, to many of us. The
story went well with anarchist principles of decentralization
and voluntary association, and resonated with many in the
years when anti-globalization rhetoric emphasized Multicul-
turalism as a practice of resistance and The Local as the site of
its practice. It also made sense, or at least was useful, insofar as
it was an efcient way to communicate an anarchist perspec-
tive to non-anarchists, especially to potential anarchists.
So here we have two diferent approaches to ethics.
One tries to secure access and orientation to a single four-
ishing form, the criterion being that it be understandable by
all: the Good unifes. The other approach claims that there
are many such forms, and this plurality itself is the criterion:
the Good distributes itself into Goods. Always suspicious of
universalizing claims, for many years I sided (more or less
comfortably) with the latter, participating in a game of add-
2 Theory of Bloom, LBC Books version, 144. These phrases condense
an entire trajectory of writing on ethics that encompasses Deleuze,
Agamben, and Badiou, beginning, naturally, with Spinoza and
Nietzsche.
13
its core is the negation
ing -s to the end of words like people, culture, gender, and so
on. Though I was never too concerned to recruit, so that the
benefts of communicability were irrelevant to me, this game
nevertheless seemed linked to an afrmative gesture, afrma-
tive specifcally of diference and plurality in the political
sphere. There was always the question of recuperation, i.e.
that governmental and other institutions so easily incorpo-
rated such pluralism into their functioning as its liberal pole
(the conservative pole, which was always present implicitly at
least, had to do with norms of governance or rule-following
generally). For example, these days university administrations
trumpet Multiculturalism louder than anyone else, and Lo-
cally Sourced is a hot marketing term. This troubled those
of us who took this side, but we countered by emphasizing
what could be called raw plurality as opposed to the mas-
ticated, digested, and regurgitated version we got from ad-
ministrators and mouthpieces of all sorts. Choosing pluralism,
eagerly or grudgingly, we might have ended up as uneasy
relativists; or we might have been working hard to expand
the frontiers of liberalism and democracy, there where the
word radical fnds its most docile partners...
3
I have come to realize, after what I now recognize to
be good deal of confusion, if not unconscious hedging, that
even as I labored on the limits of pluralism, my thinking was
incongruous with that position. My writing and conversa-
tions repeatedly gestured in the direction of another position,
irreducible to universalism and ever more desperate attempts
3 It is also fair to say that, since pluralism is such a key aspect of lib-
eralism, many anarchists simply cling to a kind of radicalized liberal-
ism as their ethics, and their politics, not because of any gaps in their
thinking, but because they actually are radical liberals. The problem,
of course, is either that they do not recognize it, or that they will not
admit it. At least Chomsky, in the 1970 lecture Government in the
Future, admitted as much, advocating a confuence of radical Marx-
ism and anarchism as the proper and natural extension of classical
liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society.
14
at pluralism. It is a nihilism that denies the validity of the sin-
gular Good at the heart of universalism, as well as the distinct
senses of the Good at the heart of pluralism. For nihilists,
the only ethical gesture is negative: a rejection of the claims
to authority of universalism and pluralism. For us, all such
claims are empty, groundless, ultimately meaningless. And
this is what was really at stake in distinguishing ethics and
morality. My idea of a happy life is not something I reason
my way to, or choose, but rather something that manifests
senselessly... but I can use my reasoning (my judgment, even!)
to help in pushing back, reducing, destroying everything that
blocks my way of life.
This report on what must be not only my own trajec-
tory, but also part of the history of the last twenty-fve years
(more or less for some others) is due in part to some crucial
pages in Duane Rousselles After Post-Anarchism that consoli-
dated this thought of nihilism for me. Rousselle argues that
the nihilist position I have just described has always been the
ethical core of anarchism, and that we are now in a moment
where this may fnally be recognized.

2
I want to respond to After Post-Anarchism because it contains
that signifcant provocation. Unfortunately, for most of its
readers, this book cannot but be an exotic object. To what-
ever degree it discusses familiar ideas or even lived situations,
it does so through arcane routes. Yes, it is difcult reading;
but it is not by engaging with what is most difcult in it that
readers will happen upon the few remarkable insights that it
contains. Rousselles writing is difcult because of the den-
sity of his references and because of an unfortunate penchant
for wordiness and digression. Although I would be the last to
say that every idea articulated in theoretical or abstract terms
can also be phrased in ordinary, so-called accessible language,
I suspect that much of what I fnd valuable in After Post-
15
its core is the negation
Anarchism can indeed be restated otherwise. I intend to do
so here. As I noted, this aspect of After Post-Anarchism struck
me as an unusually clear formulation of thoughts I had been
struggling to express for years (among other places, in the
pages of this magazine). So, instead of a broader critique of
post-anarchism (which Rousselle has a knack for folding
back into a plea for its relevance) I will limit myself to some
brief remarks about his misprision of the respective roles of
theory and practice.
4
Post-anarchism receives numerous formulations in this
book, but really only two defnitions. The frst is simply that
it is a discursive strategy (31): not so much a theory as the
outcome of ongoing discussions and debates in a theoretical
space where anarchism, post-structuralism, and new social
movements (as theorized by their participants and outsiders)
intersect. In this respect I could make many objections or
clarifcations, but I will simply note that for such investiga-
tions to proceed as Rousselle intends, anarchism (as classical
anarchism, 4 and passim) must be interpreted as anarchist
philosophy, sometimes traditional anarchist philosophy
(39 and passim).
5
The second defnition, which follows from
the frst but is more provocative, is that post-anarchism is
4 I do not intend to attack what is all too easy to criticize in a book
framed as an intervention into post-anarchism, a topic that I am
not concerned with, and which I am sure is less than popular with
the readership of AJODA. I happily leave the task of settling the
accounts of this book with the proponents and opponents of post-
anarchism to those who fnd it worthwhile. I similarly leave to one
side the discussion of the relation of Georges Batailles ideas to ethi-
cal nihilism in the books fnal chapter.
5 Rousselle only makes occasional references to classical anar-
chists other than Kropotkin, who is his major case study. I take it this
is because Kropotkin is thought of as the most explicitly ethical of
the original anarchists, and also because he has been the object of
sustained attention among post-anarchists.
16
simply anarchism folded back onto itself (136). For Rous-
selle this means an anarchic questioning of the ethical basis
of anarchism, a search for the anarchy in anarchism; he later
specifes his own version of this folding in terms of the dis-
tinction between manifest and latent contents of statements.
Here I can underline both the weakness and the
promise of Rousselles approach. Whatever the silliness of the
term post-anarchism, I think the second defnitions project
of questioning, of folding back refexively, is of interest to
any anarchist who does not take their position on questions
of morality and ethics (or anything else, for that matter) for
granted. When he is pursuing this sort of questioning, Rous-
selle is at his strongest. When he is treating the anarchist tra-
dition interchangeably as a series of historical fgures, events,
practices, etc. and as the discursive or conceptual framing
that can be abstracted from them (anarchist philosophy),
he is at his weakest. He repeatedly falls into the intellectu-
alist trap of describing actions as the result of pre-existing
theoretical attitudes. Can we at least provisionally admit,
he asks rhetorically, that anarchism is not a tradition of ca-
nonical thinkers but one of canonical practices based on a
canonical selection of ethical premises? (129). Freeing him-
self from the idea of an anarchist movement set into motion
by a bearded mans intellect, he remains on the side of the
intellect by presupposing of a pre-existing set of premises on
which practices are based and from which they derive their
status as canonical.
One more critical remark about the weakness in this
approach. Rousselle describes post-anarchism in a third way,
and this one is not so much a defnition as an illustration. He
writes that post-anarchism is the new paradigm (126) of
anarchist thought: The paradigm shift... that made its way
into the anarchist discourse, as post-anarchism, allowed for
the realization and elucidation of the ethical component of
traditional anarchist philosophy (129). He is so zealous in
17
its core is the negation
his promotion of this term that several times in his book he
annexes authors who explicitly reject the term, such as Uri
Gordon and Gabriel Kuhn, to the cause. This all seems to me
to be in bad taste. There is also a more profound problem at
stake: paradigm shifts do not happen because one says they
do. The declarative, performative wishes evidenced whenever
Rousselle uses the language of advancement or progress, as
though what was at stake here was a science, tell us much
about his intentions, but always fall fat in terms of convinc-
ingness. Even if there is a paradigm shift at work in anar-
chist theory (or practice!), there is no reason to consider the
shift as an improvement. We are probably just catching up to
an increasingly complex, chaotic, and uncontrollable world.
So I fault him for misunderstanding what a paradigm shift
is, for wildly exaggerating the overall importance of post-
anarchism, and for framing anarchism too abstractly as an
inchoate philosophy. Nevertheless, returning to my principal
reasons for writing this essay, I will now praise Rousselle, for
some of what he writes about ethics.
3
Early in After Post-Anarchism Rousselle states that, answer-
ing what he calls the question of place (roughly, on what
grounds do you make an ethical claim?) there are three types
of responses. There are universalist theories, which state that
there is a shared objective essence that grounds all normative
principles irrespective of the stated values of independently
situated subjects or social groups (41). This would include
most religiously grounded moralities, as well as appeals to
human nature. Most such theories are absolutist, but they
need not all be so; utilitarianism is an example of a nor-
mative theory that proposes that the correct solution is the
one that provides the greatest good to the majority of the
population. The second set of theories, which corresponds
to what I called pluralism in the opening section, is what
18
Rousselle refers to as ethical relativism. Relativists believe
that social groups do indeed difer in their respective ethical
value systems and that each respective system constitutes a
place of ethical discourse(43). That is, there are diferent
systems (of belief, culture, custom, etc.) that may ground
morals. Again, there is an interesting subset, a limit-case: At
the limit of relativist ethics is the belief that the unique sub-
ject is the place from which ethical principles are thought to
arise(43). This corresponds to most types of individualism.
The provocation I am underlining in Rousselles
book is that, rather than try once more to save pluralism by
pushing it farther into a parodic relativism, he pursues what
he calls ethical nihilism. His frst stab at a defnition runs:
ethical nihilism is the belief that ethical truths, if they can be
said to exist at all, derive from the paradoxical non-place
within the heart of any place (43). That is, nihilism denies
the ground, or at least the grounding or claim to ground-
ing, in ethical universalism and pluralism. Nihilists seek to
discredit and/or interrupt all universalist and relativist re-
sponses to the question of place [...] nihilists are critics of
all that currently exists and they raise this critique against
all such one-sided foundations and systems (4445). Obvi-
ously, this completes the triplicity with which I began this
essay.
It is from this triplicity that Rousselle develops his
analysis of ethics in relation to anarchism. Rather than argue
about existing moral codes or ethical paths, Rousselle sug-
gests that another position has so far remained largely undis-
cussed: the nihilist one that rejects the authority or norma-
tivity of such argumentation. He states that post-anarchists,
so far, have approached classical anarchism as a universalism
(generally based on human nature) and sought to redistribute
its ethical impetus in the direction of relativism. What Rous-
selle seeks to do, by contrast, is to make explicit the implicit
core of classical anarchism; and that core, according to him, is
19
its core is the negation
ultimately nihilist. One must therefore seek to remain con-
sistent with the latent force rather than the manifest struc-
ture of anarchist ethics, for there is a negativity that is at the
very core of the anarchist tradition (9899). Centering his
discussion on Kropotkin, Rousselle claims that while Kro-
potkins manifest ethics was clearly universalist (grounded on
an appeal to human nature), his latent ethics was nihilist. If
it can be demonstrated that Kropotkins system of mutual
aid also called for the restriction of the free movement of
the individual then it can also be argued that his work, like
much of traditional anarchist philosophy, was always at war
with itself (146).
6
The ethical nihilism is revealed by chip-
ping away at the manifest content of the old saws, serially
revealing the conficts they conceal, the latent content that
was always implied in them:
Anarchists are against the State and Church
implies
6 Rousselle frames this claim as a claim about theory, and the condi-
tions under which theories are formulated. He does not frame this
as a historical argument, although the idea of conditions obviously
implies theory. For example, he references in passing the shared
approach of the Russian Nihilists and Kropotkin in a discussion of an
article by John Slatter: Slatter took Kropotkin at his word when he
argued that [anarchists must] bend the knee to no authority what-
soever, however respected [...] accept no principle so long as it is
unestablished by reason (Kropotkin as quoted in Slatter, 261). Here,
however, Kropotkins rationalism was maintained but only to reveal
a useful parallel: The appeal to reason rather than to tradition or
custom in moral matters is one made earlier in Russian intellectual
history by the so-called nihilists (ibid.). Like Kropotkin, the Rus-
sian nihilists (or The New People, as they were called) adopted a
rationalist/positivist discourse as a way to achieve a distance from
the authority of the church and consequently from metaphysical phi-
losophies. The meta-ethics of Kropotkins work thus reveals, not
mutual aid, but a tireless negativity akin to the spirit of the Russian
nihilists: [the anarchist must] fght against existing society with its
upside-down morality and look forward to the day when it would be
no more (Kropotkin as cited by Slatter, ibid) (146147).
20
Anarchists are against the structures of representation
and power at work in the State and Church
implies
Anarchists are against any other structures of represen-
tation and power analogous to those at work in the State and
Church
implies
Anarchists are against any structure of representation
and power
implies
Anarchists are against all authority, all representation
implies
Anarchists are against
7
Now, most anarchists will drop of at some point in
the chain of implication, judging it to have gone too far past
what they regard as common sense. (Our enemies might be
less inclined to think they have gone too far.) What does this
mean? Roughly speaking, that under analysis the initial em-
phases on opposition to state or religious authority give way
to an unbounded hostility to all authority; that the opposition
to political representation opens onto being against all repre-
sentation; and that the critique of the unfoundedness of exist-
ing moral codes concludes in a sense of the ungroundedness
of all morality. And they do so in two senses: historically, as the
overall tendency of anarchism has sufcient time to develop
(that it will be repressed and denied by its adherents as well
as enemies is not evidence against this); and psychologically
or subjectively, since this overall tendency is also an intimate
7 This is my way of rewriting the contrast between manifest and
latent content that Rousselle derives from Freud. Rousselles way
of explicating this has but two statements, one showing the latent
content of the other through elimination. Mine has more to do with
pushing a thought to its limit. They converge in that, for this to hap-
pen, thinking has to engage with the unthought:
21
its core is the negation
matter in the life of individuals, part of the unconscious of its
frst and present proponents (and so analogous claims about
repression by adherents and enemies most certainly apply).
8
Rousselle suggests that, although most post-anarchists
thought they were improving upon anarchism or develop-
ing its intuitions, they were in fact rendering it more docile,
because more akin to liberal ideals; he, on the other hand,
has revealed its nihilist core, its true and original inclination
to anarchy. The problem now becomes: when anarchists dis-
avow this nihilist core, opting for some version of relativism
(or universalism!), how do we answer them? For the same
reasons that I do not take Kropotkins or Bakunins manifest
ideas as my guides, I do not take what analysis might reveal
as their latent content as my guide. And if I do not fnd this
kind of argumentation compelling, why would I use it on
another? This is where Rousselles intellectualist assumptions
undercut the force of his claims. I do think, however, that
the ethical nihilist position is at the core of most anarchist
discourse and practice, as its latent content. That is, I think
he is basically right, not specifcally about so-called classical an-
archism, but, proximately and for the most part, about anarchists.
Rousselles psychoanalytically inspired method of reading
texts should be transformed into a rhetoric, or rather a coun-
8 This is obviously where one should reiterate the argument made
by Shawn Wilbur and Jesse Cohn against the frst wave of post-
anarchists: they had built their collective case on a caricaturesque
reduction of historical anarchists in their reconstruction of classi-
cal anarchism. Many egoists, for example, explicitly stated what
Rousselle claims can only be grasped as a latent content (i.e. what
appears only when explicit statements are analyzed). The best one
can say about Rousselles analysis in this regard is that it destabi-
lizes what many consider to be the center and the margins of the
anarchist tradition, or canon. But it does leave one wondering why
he discusses Kropotkin at such length instead of Stirner or Novatore,
for example, who are referenced only in passing. Is there something
at stake for him in emphasizing ethical nihilism as a latent content as
opposed to a manifest one?
22
ter-rhetoric, that can intervene in the present more directly.
What he does with old texts, others might be able to do with
people, groups, and contemporary texts. But how and when
to use this counter-rhetoric? The least I can say is that I am
not in the business of convincing anyone about what they
really think. I may well keep my analysis to myself, or state
it in resignation of being misunderstood; or I may use it to
attack. Whatever the case, the nihilist position will be known
in that it exposes the diferend between itself and the others,
and between the others and themselves.
This is consistent with the basic formulation of nihil-
ism as a negative ethics. Actions taken in its name are always
provisional: to reiterate from Theory of Bloom, all we have and
all we know is the interplay of forms-of-life and the pro-
tocols of experimentation that guide them. No one knows
what the world would be like if it were populated with ni-
hilists alone! Following the previously cited sentence on the
negativity at the core of the tradition, Rousselle cites one of
his sources, the moral philosopher J.L. Mackie:
[W]hat I have called moral scepticism is a negative doc-
trine, not a positive one: it says what there isnt, not
what there is. It says that there do not exist entities or
relations of a certain kind, objective values or require-
ments, which many people have believed to exist. If
[this] position is to be at all plausible, [it] must give
some account of how other people have fallen into
what [it] regards as an error, and this account will have
to include some positive suggestions about how values
fail to be objective, about what has been mistaken for,
or has led to false beliefs about, objective values. But
this will be a development of [the] theory, not its core:
its core is the negation. (99)
In my language, the negation corresponds to ethics as
a way of life; the account of error, to what I call a counter-
rhetoric. I praise Rousselle, then, because he contributed to
23
its core is the negation
a defense of what is negative in anarchism, while also hinting
at a defense of negativity as such. He makes space for us to
read passages such as the one by Mackie, above, creatively,
ofering them to us as lessonslogical lessons about what
anarchy means. Its core is the negation.
4
Such logical lessons are useful, arguably necessary, if we want
to discard hope at this juncture and think with more sobri-
ety. Most of the thinking from this perspective remains to be
done. It concerns the conjunctions and disjunctions between
several senses of nihilism. First, there are those most familiar
in the milieu as positions: nihilist anarchy and nihilist com-
munism. Second, there is nihilism as a theoretical concern
in other writers, from Jacobi to Baudrillard. Lastly, there is
the diagnostic sense of nihilism inherited from Nietzsche. Ar-
ticulating these with the ethical nihilism Rousselle discovers/
invents at the core of anarchism will be a complicated task,
so I will limit myself here to an enumeration of provisional
consequences stemming from what I have written so far. I
ofer these consequences as a relay from After Post-Anarchisms
provocations to the thinking that remains to be done: to make
it possible, to prepare it as best I know how. The frst two
consequences suggest how we might deploy the triplicity to
understand and critique contemporary anarchist approaches.
The latter two concern the broader relevance and context for
ethical nihilism, setting out from the anarchist context.
The frst consequence is that it is now clear that many
contemporary anarchists confusedly combine ethical universalism
with ethical pluralism; and ethical universalism with ethical nihil-
ism. In a society like ours, one whose ideal is supposedly
liberal democracy, we should expect pluralist language to be
the most likely one in which radicals will ofer their analysis
and proposals. Community organizing, consciousness-raising,
and so on, have obvious links to liberalism and are at best its
24
radical forms. As a result, moralistic typesthose who publi-
cally advocate a renewal of society, an improvement of gov-
ernment and management (as self-government, self-manage-
ment), suggesting pluralist approachesare likely to refuse to
discuss or make explicit the universalist core of their thought.
Others might advocate the same practices, while privately
sensing or even admitting the hollowness of the values they
defend. (One disingenuous result of these private/public
conficts is the unrestrained impulse to act no matter what,
as though action can never be damaging or compromised,
coupled with claims that it is all an experiment, that we are
learning as we go, and so on.) This ofers a new perspective
on the emergence and signifcance of second-wave anarchy
9

generally, including post-Left anarchy, green/anti-civilization
anarchy, and, I suppose, post-anarchism as well, all of which
might now be seen as attempts to analyze and reveal these
contradictions, to make explicit the ways in which anarchist
discourse was always at war with itself.
The second consequence complements the frst: anoth-
er set of anarchists confuses ethical pluralism with ethical nihilism.
Here merely stating the ethical nihilist position coherently
has efects. In this respect I think of those who might have
overcome the liberal value-set in politics, advocating destruc-
tion of the existent, but continue to drift back to pluralist/
relativist perspectives in everyday life and problem-solving
due to a lack of imagination. This probably results from un-
consciously positing a pluralist society as what comes after a
destructive moment, while not consciously framing destruc-
tive action as having any particular goal beyond destruction
9 For those not familiar with it, this term was introduced by John
Moore to refer to anarchist theory and practice after the Situationist
International. It might be considered telling that Moore ofered the
term in a review of a foundational post-anarchist book by Todd May.
The review was originally published in Anarchist Studies, but I know it
from a zine called Second Wave Anarchy.
25
its core is the negation
of the existent. I should add here that it would be hasty to
collapse the ethical nihilist position into any one practice or
set of practices. Destructive practices, partial or absolute, do
not follow mechanically from negation. Destruction is not
the practical application of a negative theory. I am certainly
not saying that destruction is not worthwhile as a practice
or set of practices; but I am saying that nihilists by defni-
tion reject the overidentifcation of any practice with their
negation of existing moralities and normative approaches to
ethics. It is my sense that, once the nihilist position exists as
something other than a caricature, the other positions will be
increasingly undermined from within and without.
The third consequence is that ethical nihilism is more
than a theory. It is a way of living and thinking, a form-of-life
in which the two are not separate. That Rousselle discusses it
only as a theory leaves it to the rest of us to elaborate what
else it is, what it looks like, as some say, or how it is practiced.
It is my sense that he was able to write this book because of
events and situations in his life, in the milieu, in other places.
So when I invoke the practical aspect of nihilism, having
already said that it cannot be reduced to any practice or set
of practices, I mean two things. First, that I mean to under-
line the unusual tone of all the practices of those that accept
some version of the perspective that there is no Outside (to
capitalism, civilization, or the existent), or that are profoundly
skeptical about any proposed measures to get Outside. Sec-
ond, that to speak of practices related to ethical nihilism con-
tinues to make it seem like a theory that endorses or suggests
a course of action, while its interest is precisely that it may
not do so. Monsieur Duponts phrase Do Nothing is relevant
here: Do Nothing... was and remains a provocation. [...] Do
Nothing is an immediate refection of Do Something and its
moral apparatus.
10
From weird practices to doing nothing:
this is precisely the enigmatic space where anti-politics con-
10 Nihilist Communism, 198.
26
verges with ethics. Yes, there is a gap, perhaps a colossal gap,
between the implosion-moment of societies like ours and
the eternal meaninglessness of value claims and moral codes.
Anti-politics might be said only to address the former, while
ethical nihilism ultimately invokes the latter. But anti-politics
may also reveal ethical nihilism; our willful action may ac-
celerate the ex- or implosion of the world to reveal more of
the meaninglessness it has been designed to conceal.
The fourth consequence is that nihilism is also a condi-
tion. It is not merely those who make it their business to
think and act in the world that are living with nihilism. The
force of ethical nihilism is not so much in being a position
one advocates as in its undermining of others claims to cer-
tainty. If we are able to do this sometimes it is because there
are many others who, in a rapidly decomposing society, more
or less consciously grasp the hollowness in every code of ac-
tion. Take this passage from Heidegger as an illustration:
The realm for the essence and event of nihilism is meta-
physics itself, always assuming that by metaphysics we
are not thinking of a doctrine or only of a specialized
discipline of philosophy but of the fundamental struc-
ture of beings in their entirety ... Metaphysics is the
space of history in which it becomes destiny for the
supersensory world, ideas, God, moral law, the authority
of reason, progress, the happiness of the greatest num-
ber, culture, and civilization to forfeit their constructive
power and to become void.
11

Dare I add here that something of this condition was
also gestured toward in a few precious texts on postmod-
ernism, texts which raised tremendous questions about their
present, and by extension ours, only to be buried in an ava-
lanche of increasingly unimaginative discussions, as if to sys-
11 Nietzsches word: God is Dead, in Of the Beaten Track, 165.
27
its core is the negation
tematically shut down the possibility of such questioning?
What these four consequences add up to is perhaps
something on the order of a paradigm shift that some of us
are perhaps dimly beginning to perceive. Or perhaps it is
much bigger and more terrifying than a paradigm shift could
ever be. Rousselle overestimates the importance and central-
ity of post-anarchism to anarchist theory (and, needless to say,
various milieus), and his claim that his theorizing After Post-
Anarchism consolidates the shift from pluralist/relativist post-
anarchism, with its reformist and radical liberal tendencies,
and a fully nihilist theory expressing the latent destructive
content of anarchism, is misplaced. But increasing emphasis
on nihilist ideas, and the increasing prevalence of what could
be called nihilist measures, is a condition that involves us all
to some degree. And we have tried to think it through and
respond. The call for an end to government instead of a bet-
ter, more democratic, more egalitarian form of government
is ancient. The call for the abolition of work instead of just,
fair, or dignifed work is decades old, at least. How many of
us no longer criticize competition so as to contrast it with
cooperation, but because the victory it ofers is laughably
meaningless? How many of us have more or less explicitly
shifted from advocating a plurality of genders to pondering
the conditions for the abolition of gender as such? What to
make of the increasing opposition to programmatism
12
and
demands in moments of confrontation and occupation?
I intuit two things here: that pluralism seems to con-
12 A useful term I borrow from Thorie Communiste. As they defne
it: a theory and practice of class struggle in which the proletariat
fnds, in its drive toward liberation, the fundamental elements of
a future social organisation which become the programme to be
realised. This revolution is thus the afrmation of the proletariat,
whether as a dictatorship of the proletariat, workers councils, the
liberation of work, a period of transition, the withering of the state,
generalised self-management, or a society of associated produc-
ers. Much Ado About Nothing, in Endnotes 1, 155.
28
tinually reveal its relativist core more and more often, and
that the revelation of the relativist core will make it increas-
ingly easier for the nihilist position to be stated, with all of
its disruptive efects. Conversely, as I have suggested, merely
stating the nihilist position coherently has efects. I propose that
those interested make it their business to deploy the triplic-
ity. To which I will immediately add: there will be stupid and
parodic versions of this moment. For some of us this moment will
be lived entirely as parody and stupidity. But there will also be,
for some, an opportunity to refne what our anarchism has
always meant, not as the direction history or society is going
in, not as the truth of a tradition, or as an ideal of any sort,
but as that which breaks from such orientations in the most
absolute sense: the negating prefxes a-, an-, anti-... anti-poli-
tics as a provisional orientation, branching out into countless
refusals.
13
Our ethics emerges and gives itself to thought only
where breaks and refusals clear a sufcient space. We know
almost nothing about such spaces, so our ethics might also
be defned as the provisional disorientation with which we
approach our ways of living, the interminable and necessary
skepticism that characterizes our thinkings motion.
13 Speaking for myself, I underestimated the negative in the politi-
cal sphere, the power of negativity (the attitude towards world, so-
ciety, spectacle, whatever sets itself up as the All). My temperament
led me to emphasize ethical questions about how to live a life of joy,
about the places of afrmation (individualism/egoism, the aesthetic
sensibility that never lies). I do think one can afrm ones own life,
afrm the nothing in it, so to speak, as one resists. Until I realized
this, I drifted near this space, but never really knew it. I remained
confused about the negative, about the efectiveness of the prefxes
a-, an-, anti-
The Critique
of Critique
anon
Attentat #1
(May 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Attentat.html
Attentat is the frst of a series of journals that will come out
via LBC every other month, starting now and continuing
through 2014.
This Review is the second.
What distinguishes a journal from a magazine, a blog,
or a book? The simplest answer is that a journal has a strong
editorial vision and is curated to refect that vision, often for
a specifc body of people. (Magazines usually refect a more
mass market approach and often refected in a style rather
than a position.) A blogor a book for that matterusually
features a single voice which sometimes means the content
sufers from lack of a chorus.
Attentat is a journal of the Nihilist Anarchist position, and
refects the difculty of defning exactly what that position
entails.
Or perhaps the challenge of holding a position is a
consequence of our times.
On the one hand its easier than ever to draw fner and
fner distinctions between people who, and perspectives
that, are nearly identical. There is an audience for everything
and disagreeing is the easiest thing to do (especially when
daily life is so disagreeable). On the other hand anarchism
has become too broad of a political philosophy. There are
sincere people who argue for the appropriateness of a variety
of quasi- and nongovernmental agencies or of one local
policy versus another while calling themselves anarchists.
If an anarchist is an ethical preference against the state and
capitalism, it should go without saying that there is a large
feld of inquiry undiscovered. Attentat attempts one end of
this project.
33
a critique of critique
I
A critique of critique has a few tasks to perform. It
must categorize the several types of critique and speak
to the aspects of each type it is concerned with. It must
pick sides in both an historical and a metaphysical proj-
ect. Finally it has to justify itself outside of the rarifed
terms it alludes to. Is it fsh or fowl, position or region,
open or closed?
II
Critique as careerwhether professional or ideologi-
calis our primary target, but we hope for collateral
damage also. Critique is not the same thing as thinking,
no matter what the specialists tell you.
III
There is a rich tradition of critique in the Western
metaphysical universe. In this tradition each new gen-
eration treats as an important part of its coming of age
not only their allegedly full comprehension of the past
(of the context, knowledge, and mistakes of past genera-
tions), but a kind of destruction of what came before.
Not that it really destroys the pastor is it even intended
to, really. The idea that domain mastery includes an ap-
praisal and negotiation of the domain itself, is tied into
most felds of knowledge.
This critique allows the space for young turks to
do what they will do, which is rebel against orthodoxy
and against the past, while digging out enough space
so they can call something their own, somewhere they
will be buried later: a place they can take ownership of,
with their fresh and new
tm
insights.
34
IV
What begins as rejection (or even revulsion) becomes
articulated as critique, rationalized as debate, and even-
tually, if it is a qualifed insight, part of the knowledge
domain itself. While the hard sciences valorize this pro-
cess (calling it the scientifc method and implying that
this process is central to rigorous domain expansion),
the academy as a whole thrives on each new genera-
tion coming forward, hat in hand, begging for a por-
tion of the resources and patience of the University in
exchange for the energy and exuberance of their youth.
In exchange for recognition, all that each generation of
empiricists and critics sacrifce is their capacity for life/
thought outside of this recognition.
V
The managers of this process arent fools. They are
political creatures forged into shape by circumstance,
privilege, and disposition. They recognize hostility from
a far distance and have a thousand techniques to defect
it, block it, dis-possess it, and ultimately turn it into its
opposite. Dialectics is a worthy foe in this regard; it is
battle tested. Moreover the myth that between here
and tomorrow is the hard work of people like you and
meof our progressive mission, and new & improved
ideasis a trap. It traps us into serving those who proft
from all of this work, it traps us into believing in the
work itself, it traps us in a bind of others designs.
VI
For the hobbyist critic all of this might sound like a
little much. One of the advantages of not getting paid is
not being answerable to the paymaster. The great thing
35
a critique of critique
about being irrelevant, because ones project is so small,
is that one cant be accused of being domineering or
oppressive.
Out here, in the wilderness, our critical faculties
are more likely to be seen as under- rather than over-
utilized. A critical reading of material is synonymous
with reading material deeply, intentionally, closely. This
world seems to have lost the capacity to read at all,
therefore a call against critical reading doesnt seem to
make sense. This world seems to have lost the capacity
to think, so a call against critique, especially in so far as
it is a call against the false opposition of anti-, will be
accused of being a call against thinking. But critique is
not synonymous with thinking.
VII
At best, critique is a form of wishful discussion posing
as thinking. The fact that our culture fears discussion
and instead materializes thinking by way of commodity
is demonstrative. Not that critique is an efective form
of engagement-thinking, but that on the one hand you
have the world of thingism and on the other a shadow
world that no longer seeks the light.
At worst, critique is a form of the worst kind
of self-congratulatory bloviation. One does not need
to know who Agamben is to understand our state of
perpetual emergency, who the Situationists are to un-
derstand modern alienation, or who Marx is to know
that we have been truly hoodwinked by the confusion
between economics and human relations. This is a par-
ticular problem with para-criticism where the quality of
an analysis is often confused with the facility to manage
knowledge domains rather than to engage in thinking
36
with sensitivity and severity.
But its worse than this. At some point the capacity
to stand outside of the things we love and hate, to take
on observer as a perpetual role, becomes a position
itself. To foat ethereally above the fray of mere humans,
of takers of positions, becomes an identity, maintaining
the borders of the negative position as aggressively as
the positive positions it alleges to counter.
Criticism would like to see itself as the opposite
of ideology and a negator of the existent; it is in fact a
tool of ideology and an agent of discipline against clear
positions. Postmodernism, in particular, has a structural
bias towards mobility. The mobile (or transitory) nature
of political or philosophical positions, careers, or friends
means that it is now the very act of standing still that is
considered the impossible (or nave) position. The critic
is the realist who makes everything else seem absurd.
VIII
Perhaps criticism is merely an amateur form of philoso-
phy, often done by professionals. A search for Truth that
cloaks its irrelevance by speaking of more topical mat-
ters. Perhaps it is the codependent activity of a popula-
tion addicted to theory and to the desire to make that
addiction be seen as relevant to life in general. But its a
confusion.
Criticism is not thinking. Its not the only way
to evaluate the world. It is not critical of itself. It is a
particular metaphysical project: perhaps a Hegelian one,
possibly one that has been thrust out of the earth by
Plato & Socrates. Either way, we arent compelled to
obey it nor forced to rest atop it.
37
a critique of critique
IX
The critique of critique is the gap between what we
need and what we can get. If criticism is the razors edge
cutting through what remains of our uncivilized selves
then its criticism could very well be the simple act of
putting the knife down. Standing still, yes, but also the
act of recognizing that those people running around
with knives in their hands, may be a danger to them-
selves and the rest of us.
The critic will of course fnd faws in this argu-
ment. The terminology around criticism is perhaps not
tied together neatly enough. Perhaps <<name of 20
th

century philosopher>> has already covered this terrain
with far more mastery. But it hasnt been enough. This
isnt some modifed dictum about what can be accom-
plished with the masters tools but a lament about the
role of recuperation and our role in perfecting it.
XIV
the Institute for
Experimental Freedom
Between
Predicates, War
(February 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Between-Predicates-War.html
The Institute for Experimental Freedom is best known
for its publication Politics is Not a Banana. Banana could be
understood as a journal of a (very) American Tiqqun-inspired
insurrectionary (ATI) position. It was distinguishable from
the other materials of similar stripe due to its sense of humor,
sex positivity, and design style.
Between Predicates, War is a development proposal for the
next stage of IEF activity. It builds on the anti-globalization,
mass-mobilization-orientation of the ATI perspective and
in clear language (at least comparatively) describes a new
afnity-based insurgent practice.
One of our challenges as publishers is to present
inspirational and active positions that we do not necessarily
hold as our own. We started out strong in this regard with
our frst book, species being, which was smart and thoughtful
and challenging (Earthen Cup, the books central proposal,
does not get enough play in contemporary anarchist circles).
We want to transmit the vitality and hopefulness of the IEF
position without having to temper it with our own sobriety.
Can we allow ourselves to join the drunken reverie of the
IEF without sufering a hangover the next day?
41
xiv
As insurrection becomes the common situation, time will
begin to contract. There is today increasingly less time be-
tween the normal and predictable fow of things and the in-
terruptionsnatural disaster, terrorist act, or social egression.
When there is an event, it feels as though we are living in
revolutionary times. Afterwards it feels like it was all a dream.
Crisis management as a technique of government imposes a
certain regime of urgency as a way to cope with the signs of
our era. When something happens, they are quick to docu-
ment it, explain away its content as contingencies of possibil-
ity, allow everyone to have their stupid opinion in comment
threads, and allow everyone to like or not-like it in order
to neutralize its contagious afect. The policeman's baton no
longer extends merely to the academic's pen, but also to your
ipad. Counter-insurgency means preventing the afects of an
event. While everything, even our own theoryoptimistic
or skepticalconspires against an irreversible break with the
present, the establishment of time and space attuned to the
chaos in play is paramount to the coming into being of a
real revolutionary movement. The slow time of discussions,
shared meals, and erotic gestures and friendship displaces the
urgency of false crisis, and opens up a second time where
knowledge and communication spread with incredible ve-
locity. Its like a moment that feels like a lifetime. When rooftop
discussions give way to a demonstration of thousands, fall into a riot
when the police show up, and you immediately learn how everything
you're surrounded by is a weapon, the crowd's ingeniousness fnds
some way into a closed grocery store, becomes looting and everyone
learns how their force was the real power that opened up the doors,
that fed their friends. Giving ourselves the pleasure of a slothful
insurgency also gives us the time to encounter other insur-
42
rections, other times, and other forms of life to which we
have been forcibly desensitized.
We can take time. The same friendship that flls the
content of riots and occupations is the basis for any collec-
tive operation. If we fnd no satisfaction in the mere drama of
movements and their inevitable demise, then we need not ac-
cept the false alarm of critical issues nor that of hopeful social
reconciliation through protest movements. We are in a situ-
ationa situation that can grow to become a revolutionary
situation. There are no subjects or objects, only forces at play.
Everything as it is conspires against us; we have to understand
the initial barriers of struggles as the result of the normal
functioning of orderin which we are intimately embedded.
In the US, struggles are limited by both the expansive geog-
raphy that constitutes a collapsing social fabric and the archi-
tectural reality of exclusive and private space. Zuccotti Park
was one of the most inhospitable environments for an oc-
cupation, Oscar Grant Plaza was not much better, and while
many Americans heard some murmurs about Occupy Wall
Street, many more live in a diferent world. The occupations
becoming an event, getting messy, are what causes them to
efect others beyond the immediate sphere of the event, and
beyond the comfort zone of various milieus. Active insur-
rectionary patience means giving ourselves the time to make
a world that is inhabitable. Whether or not its Zuccotti Park
or Oscar Grant Plaza, it means taking the time to get access,
by knowledge, wealth, or cunning, to real resources that feed
struggles and make them strongerthat make a return to
normality seem more absurd than the initial conspiracy to
sleep in a park together.
While our project is total, and international, the insur-
rection's growth and density depends on nothing beyond its
own resonance and capacity to interrupt the complex fows
43
xiv
of normality. When something really happens, having spaces,
known and lesser known, across the metropolitan network is
a vital contribution. Just as the workers' movement's proletar-
ian community provided for itself in the event of a strike, we
should collectively prepare and share resources, as an act of
force. We need a new strike fund now, to materially anticipate
the crisis we wantin order to act from a position of strength.
A revolutionary movement is composed of an asym-
metrical rhythm, a chopped up beat, and a droning bass line.
The rhythm creates the possibilities of encounter; the beat
(intensity) accentuates the force of the rhythm, and the dron-
ing bass line supposes a frequency. Each advance or ofensive
we set of should attempt to tie these components together,
and this happens as struggles meet and overcome new lim-
its. When we approach a port intent on blockading it, we
are approaching a new question regarding the viscosity of
the struggle. Will this given struggle fow over its political
limits and contribute to the formation of a revolutionary
movement? The ports, the food depots, the water plants, the
energy plants and refneries all pose this question. Just as all
the apparatuses at work in transporting bodies, goods, and
arms, or in mobilizing identities, desires, and afects beg a
certain question, so does every apparatus that constitutes the
infrastructure of modern civilization.
The tension of this narrative consists of joining to-
gether these elements in such a way that rhythm doesn't give
way to new subjectivities content with themselves, that the
beat or intensity doesn't give way to aesthetic fetishes of vio-
lence and negation, and that frequency doesn't give way to
confrontation without force. Every successful occupation
blockade, strike, or riotthat collectively and contagiously
requisitions an apparatus, or node of the economy, sets an
example of how insurgency grows into revolution not by the
44
mere tactic or target, but by the content of the entire operation.
How to make these things work for us, against them?, frst and
foremost assumes hostility and then enmity.
Since the Argentinian '01 economic collapse, this age
of tumult has failed to move beyond the modern locus of
power and faculty. As the Greece '08 uprising proves, it does
not sufce to merely defeat the police in the streets and dev-
astate the avenues of commerce. As the Arab Spring proves,
you can defeat the state, and government will survive. If gov-
ernment is the technological administration of life, then an
irreversible rupture can only mean seizing control of the loci
of production and distributionof the infrastructural nodes.
Moreover, it means deactivating them: rendering nuclear
power plants, oil refneries, electrical power grids inoperable
for Empire. Cutting of access to police internal communi-
cation, taking over and shutting down TV stations, redirect-
ing electrical power, and seizing the infrastructure of data
centers. Opening up all the supermarkets, and transforming
every fertile space into a place where things growcommu-
nizing everything. It means having access to the basics that
feed and nourish the insurrection, but also it means gaining
access to everything that makes us want to keep living and
keep fghting.
Spreading insurrection, building a revolutionary
movement in the most inhospitable condition the planet has
ever known, is a difcult and dangerous task. Faced with
the threats inherent to this projectthe history of counter-
insurgency, political assassinations, deportations and torture,
and the present threats of indefnite incarceration or elimina-
tion via fying dronesit is understandable why most people
opt for the security of obedient survival. Our task is to make
living possible. Penetrating deeper than the intelligence
agencies into the fractured heart of the everyday, we will
45
xiv
develop the necessary means to outmaneuver, outmode, and
disarm counter-insurgency. We will buildpiece by piece,
moment by momenta radically open ungovernable position
across rivers, mountains, oceans, identities, and languages. Of
course we will have to take time, fags will be tarnished with
blood, and we will become more terrible than the worst
nightmares of government. But in this time that we take
that we make ourswe will discover, construct, and remix
all the mundane practices we've taken for granted; we will
become enchanted with living. We will fnd deeper ways to
be loved beyond romance, and we will know death, mad-
ness, and ailment still with fear but without anxiety. Our idle
hands will be a virtue and our laborious hands will be free to
work with care and play, pleasure and crueltyto build and
destroy. There is no other way. And as soon as the frst space
is irreversibly made inhabitable for communism, as soon as a
new rhythm of anarchy takes hold, the paradigm of Man, the
Governed will come to a close, and life without predicates will
begin on earth.
My Life in
the Gulag
(from an interview with Jason
McQuinn, Modern Slavery #2)
Ron Sakolsky
Creating Anarchy
(April 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Creating-Anarchy.html
2013 was a good year both for Rons output and for our
relationship with him. He produced Oystercatcher #10, had
a very lengthy interview published in Modern Slavery #2 ,
was involved in putting on the Comox Anarchist Bookfair
in May, and republished his book Creating Anarchy with us (it
was originally published by Fifth Estate books); all this in the
frst half of the year.
Ron represents the kind of thinker that I aspire to grow
into (a kind that seems less and less possible in the era of the
Internet). He is a teacher (retired), an outcome of his formal
education, but is also a surrealist scoundrel of the thorniest
kind. His contributions, including Gone to Croatan, pirate
radio projects, art (surrealist in particular), and music have
deeply shaped todays anarchist space.
His work and his voice contrast starkly with the cold
and sectarian commenteering that grows out of keyboard
battles practiced while sitting in solitude, instead of from
conversation over drinks and over time.
This is part of the abridged version of Jason MqQuinns
interview with Ron. The full version is in Modern Slavery #2.
Here they discuss Rons career in the University and their
shared critiques and concerns about anarchists who enter the
Academy today.
49
my life in the gulag
Jason: So, Im curious then, since you probably have a fairly unusu-
al experience in academia and your setting there, do you have any
thoughts on the growing number of people who are both identifed as
anarchists and work in academia these days? Do you see any kind
of trends? Do you identify with where theyre at or do you think
theyre having a totally diferent experience? Does it afect what they
tend to write?
Ron: When I was teaching at Sangamon, though there were
radicals on the faculty, there were originally no other anarchist
professors. Later on, in the late Eighties to the late Nineties,
there was another self-identifed anarchist who taught there
named Dennis Fox, and, together, in 1995, we published a
critique of the university in Radical Teacher, entitled, From
Radical University to Handmaiden of the Corporate State.
But all the other campus lefties were either socialist femi-
nists teaching in the Womens Studies program or straight-up
Marxist academics. Many of the latter taught in the Work,
Culture and Society Program, which later became the much
blander Labor Studies Program as a result of an administra-
tive edict. They were careerists for the most part who typi-
cally saw no contradiction between their radicalism and their
professionalism, and, in some cases, even aspired to eventually
becoming administrators themselves.
I used to think that anarchists would be more resistant
to the lures of careerism. But as more anarchists have en-
tered academe, I have seen that the attraction to careerism
is very strong. I felt isolated on campus during my teaching
days, constantly paddling upstream in a sea of entrepreneur-
ial professionalism. Today anarchists in the academy are not
as alone. While many rally professional support in achieving
careerist goals, some embrace mutual aid in questioning them.
Some relish careerism, some get trapped in it, and some rebel
against it. I dont think you can make a generalization about
50
anarchists in the academy, but I think that academic careerism
is a dead end. The whole idea of academic professionalism is
based on competition for career recognition and its rewards.
What Ive noticed among some anarchist academics is that
while they might publish their anarchist thinking, it is often
only in professionally juried scholarly journals rather than in
more grassroots publications. I have a lot more respect for
those who publish in the latter or in both, and are also in-
volved in campus struggles and anarchist projects in the larger
world rather than merely being armchair revolutionaries.
However, because academics are in a relatively privileged
position, they tend not to want to bite the hand that feeds
them, particularly in a time of precarity. Consequently, even
anarchist academics are often reluctant to critique the uni-
versity of which theyre a part. I used to criticize Sangamon a
lot, and the administration hated me for it. I would not only
critique the university internally on campus, but I would or-
ganize against it outside the hallowed halls of academe. Radi-
cal students and faculty would organize together routinely in
the early days of Sangamon State to challenge administrative
authority and question the role of the university in the larger
community. If, as an anarchist, my goal was to put an end to
all bosses, it was a given to me that I might as well start close
to home with my own. How could I be silent? Nevertheless,
I have had discussions with some anarchist academics these
days who are much more cautious. I had one such strained
conversation at an elitist campus dining hall, which only al-
lows faculty and graduate students to eat and socialize there.
Undergraduates are not allowed entrance. I said, Isnt this a
bit odd in the twenty-frst century? Dont you think some-
thing should be done about this restriction? The slightly irri-
tated response was essentially something like, No. I wouldnt
want to say anything negative about, or, perish the thought,
organize against the policies of, a university that benevolently
51
my life in the gulag
allows me to espouse anarchist ideas in the classroom. What
was implied was or I might lose my privileged position.
When I frst entered academia, I had naively expected to
have a work-life that was illuminated by a variety of stimu-
lating intellectual discussions with my colleagues, but I soon
found out that what they mostly talked about amongst them-
selves in these faculty clubs were the boring details of their
professional careers. I knew that if I had been on a career
path, I would have had to make a lot of unacceptable com-
promises. One of these compromises is that in order to get
your books and publications respected you have to write in
a particular type of academic jargon. While I have no prob-
lem with calling myself an intellectual because we all have
intellectual capacities, Ive never felt comfortable identify-
ing myself with the bureaucratic title of academic. What a
horrible, limiting way of expressing your intellectuality. Im-
poverished, stilted, and miserable. If academic jargon is not
of-putting to you and if youre conversant with it, I suppose
it can be one way of exploring the complexity of things. To
me though, such typically turgid academic prose has no life
to it, no poetry. Consequently, Ive always been interested in
breaking complex ideas down into more readily understand-
able terms and looking for engaging ways to express myself
beyond the circle-jerk milieu of academia.
I think some of the most heroic people who are anarchists
in the university are also looking for ways beyond academic
jargon. The clawing professionalism of the academic environ-
ment limits the way that you express yourself, and how you
conduct yourself in the university and the world. So-called
professional objectivity is expected of you. Thats the way you
get promoted. As I said, I was in a very fortunate position. I
had tenure. I didnt have to worry about those kinds of aca-
demic constraints since promotion wasnt important to me
anyway. I published not because I had to, but because I want-
52
ed to do so. If I received an unfavorable review, for example, I
didnt freak out because I feared that it might jeopardize my
academic career and my propped-up professional authority. A
lot of people used to think I was completely insane for not
complying with those professional expectations that would
get me promotions, higher salaries, respectability, or recog-
nition, and that would allow me to avoid being considered
as the bad example at the university. (Laughs) When I was
derisively called unprofessional by my more conservative col-
leagues, I simply pointed out that I was not unprofessional,
but anti-professional. When I was dismissed as anti-intellec-
tual, I explained that I was actually anti-academic. However,
as time went on I had to be on the defensive more and more.
Increasingly under attack, I was not willing to live my life
under constant siege by sneering professional academics and
administrators who held me in contempt and wanted to fuck
me over at every turn. It was time to sever the velvet chains
of the academic gulag.
Jason: I know you went out early in retirement, or you got your
retirement with some kind of deal.
Ron: Well, the details basically are that I was on a lot of pretty
powerful peoples hit lists. They wanted to get rid of me. As
the university became more conservative, I actually had been
wanting to leave anyway. But I didnt tell them that. I told
them that I was going to die there and that they would have
to put up with me for as long as I was there. I constantly
would be a thorn in their side. There was even a bounty on
my head. One of the members of the business community in
Springfeld had said that they would make a large contribu-
tion to the university if and only if Sakolsky was gone. I knew
about this ofer because news of it had been leaked to me by
somebody who worked in one of the administrative ofces.
Well, this information is great bargaining power, right? They
53
my life in the gulag
really wanted to get rid of me. Even if they would have to pay
an exorbitant amount of loot to do so based on what I might
demand from them, it would be worth their while fnancially
because they were going to get this large contribution in the
end. Armed with this knowledge, I engineered an arrange-
ment that allowed them to be rid of me and allowed me to
retire eight years early at a full professorship. So (laughs loud-
ly!) I went from assistant professor to full professor in one fell
swoop. As I say, I was ready to leave at that point. I didnt feel
like I was letting the students down because those who were
attracted there were no longer that interested in what I was
doing anyway. The faculty members with whom I had the
most camaraderie were long gone. I was ready to head west.
Jason: An interesting story.... (Ron laughs again.) To move a little
bit beyond your particular situation then, from my perspective it
seems like the more Marxists that made it into academia the more
neutered and domesticated their Marxism became. Im wondering
if you see that as somewhat being exhibited by the newest wave of
anarchists in academia? I am struck by the lack of self-consciousness
among anarchist academics about the potential problems of even the
idea of putting anarchism in the context of academia. There doesnt
seem to be much awareness or discussion of the dangers amongst
those who are in academia and are anarchists these days from what
Ive seen. Do you have any comments on that?
Ron: Yeah, I think its crucial to have that awareness. Its a
self-awareness and an awareness of the context in which
youre operating. I dont see much evidence that many con-
temporary anarchists in the academy are seriously addressing
this matter. If they are, I fnd it disturbing that they often
tend to be a bit too sanguine about the ability of anarchist
academics, in comparison to Marxist academics, to resist the
temptations of careerism. The assumption they make is that
either intrinsically or by strategic design, anarchism trumps
54
academicism hands down. While anarchist academics might
be less prone to careerism than their Marxist counterparts,
its still a very problematic situation. Academics are taught to
problematize all kinds of things, but they often dont prob-
lematize their own privileged status as professionals amidst
the pressures and temptations of the corporate academic
environment. While they might regret the erosion of their
professional autonomy in the bureaucratic university setting,
their arguments are typically based on dismay at the loss of
their privilege to administrators rather than on a call for the
eradication of privilege itself. To me, if youre not calling into
question the professional-bureaucratic form of domination
that exists at the university itself, then to critique hierarchy
in general is kind of hypocritical. So I think theres a real
need to demystify academic professionalism.
As I alluded to earlier, one concrete issue is that people
who are academic anarchists often use a particularly jargon-
laden writing style that is only understood by other knowl-
edge-factory professionals like themselves. To not recognize
the way in which that approach reinforces privilege is ex-
tremely shortsighted. While you could say that this jargon
is a nuanced way of understanding a complicated situation,
it is also a way entrepreneurial professionals typically cre-
ate (if sometimes unconsciously) positions of privilege for
themselves within the academic marketplace. It gives them
a monopoly on a way of expression that can be exchanged
for money, status, and power in the knowledge industry. As
academia increasingly becomes corporatized, its a way of
creating an in-group of people who can function in that
world and understand that jargon, and allow their careers
to fourish within that peculiar sub-cultural setting. I un-
derstand why people take even the most odious jobs in any
industry. People have to put food on the table and put a roof
over their head in this crazy world. It causes them to do crazy
55
my life in the gulag
things. However, to just assume that the corporate university
is a place thats apart from the dominant reality, a utopian
setting where people can fully realize their radical potential,
is delusional.
Why cant more anarchist academics address the contra-
dictions embodied by the university itself, or address the cor-
poratization of the university from an anarchist perspective?
That would be really exciting. Of course, its risky in terms
of your job, your career, and all the rest. Thats something
that people in those positions have to fgure out what to do
about. If you decide that its too risky and youre not willing
to take that route, then maybe you need to reexamine your
anarchism as a practice. Im not talking about any level of pu-
rity. Im just talking about honestly acknowledging and ex-
amining the contradictions of being an anarchist in academia.
I would constantly do things that were directly opposed to
what the university wanted in terms of the way it was to be
run or its role in the community. I knew that was risky, but
I felt obligated to do so in terms of my own integrity as an
anarchist. Otherwise, how could I look myself in the mir-
ror each morning. When youre an anarchist working within
academia, you have to decide what youre going to do in that
situation. If you never recognize your own internal dilemma
as an anarchist at the university, then theorizing about anar-
chist ideas in other institutional contexts is a bit ludicrous.
The university is an interesting place to engage people
with anarchist ideas. You obviously dont have to go to college
to learn about anarchy. Its ridiculous to think so, but its one
place people do get exposed to anarchy. When I taught at the
university, I thought, Im there for those people. Obviously
though, you dont have to get a degree to be an anarchist.
(Laughs) Its important to keep that in mind and not allow
academic professionalism to distort the picture. Professional-
ism is not simply about being a pro (ie good at what you
56
do), but about preserving a vested interest in knowledge as a
commodity. In this latter sense, its kind of a racket. Its not
about sharing knowledge, but holding it within the profes-
sion, and then cashing it in for the perks that you get for be-
ing the possessor of that knowledge or of a certifed academic
degree. Not that I escaped all of the problems attached to
professional status myself, but at least I recognized them and
tried to deal with as many as I could to the best of my ability.
I am not saying that what I did was the one path to being a
politically-correct anarchist within the university. For me, it
was just about recognizing the problem and then engaging
with it as an anarchist.
Of course, times have changed and so has the university.
Many radical students and faculty who were entering the
university in the Sixties and Seventies had some hope it could
become a place where radical ideas might be entertained so
as to later be enacted in the outside world. The university
could be challenged and made to operate in a diferent way.
As a result, there were various attempts to bring that about.
These days, as the university gets more and more corporatized,
people dont expect anything of the university anymore. So,
at that level I can understand why some anarchists might not
be actively engaged in attempting to transform the university.
Theyve given up on the university in that radical transforma-
tive sense. Of course, there are those who have decided that
the university, though deeply fawed, can still be a useful place
to research radical ideas and teach them to students. For some
of these folks, acting on this realization inevitably involves
dodging administrative bullets for their scholarly and activist
transgressions, while for others it means keeping your head
down and attempting to make a secure professional career for
yourself in precarious economic times.
Its not just that the people at the university have changed
or that their politics have changed from academic Marx-
57
my life in the gulag
ism to anarchism, but that the university itself has changed
substantially. Many people today who are anarchists in the
university dont see any point to challenging the university.
Some of the most radical have defected from or deserted the
politically-engaged academic model. Its a given to them that
the university is going to be just as bureaucratic as anywhere
else in an authoritarian society, and just as beholden to state
legislatures, government grants and contracts, and corporate
deals. In saying this, Im certainly not trying to justify the
growth of apathetic careerism or to encourage people to ab-
stain from challenging university power relationships. I tend
to be the kind of person who values resistance to authority
as sort of a basic anarchist principle. Yet, I think one of the
reasons more people arent actively resisting internal univer-
sity policies and criticizing the universitys external relation-
ship with the community is that theyve given up on the
idea that the university can be saved at this point. Better to
occupy everything and demand nothing.
In 1995, I was arrested with fellow anarchist professor
Dennis Fox at the now University of Illinois at Springfeld
campus (where we both taught) for the crime of informa-
tional leafeting before a speech about to be given by one
of the legislative architects of the forced corporate restruc-
turing and union busting then underway at the university.
A trumped-up felony charge was leveled against me for re-
sisting arrest. I was threatened with the loss of my teaching
position and even with jail time. The charges never stuck,
but the chilling efect on other facultys opposition to the
universitys corporate restructuring agenda was devastating.
They were reminded that they held a privileged position and
the unwritten assumption is that if they let the university
administration do what it does, it will let them do what they
do in the classroom. Just dont create too many waves within
the university or in the community, and you might be pro-
58
moted or even get tenure. The lure of promotion and tenure
both typically function to create an internalized process of
acquiescence in which you seek to insure career advance-
ment by gradually selling pieces of your rebel soul in return
for professional and institutional rewards.
Ive often seen a reluctant acceptance of authority creep
up on radicals in academe, so that as they go through the pro-
cess of getting promoted or tenured, they change politically
without even realizing it themselves. Theyre not the same
people that they were before. They start by thinking that this
will never happen to them. On a personal level, you say to
yourself, I just want to get this tenured position so that I
can attain the academic freedom to speak my heresy freely
without fear of dismissal. But academic rewards like ten-
ure typically involve a process by which people are ground
down slowly, and the gradual extinguishing of the fames of
their radicalism is reinforced by their academic peers every
step of the way in a professionalized version of mutual ac-
quiescence. Like the frog in boiling water, they dont notice
their dilemma until its too late. However, as problematic as
the tenure process might be, today there are fewer people
who even have the opportunity to apply for tenure. Typically
college teachers are not in tenure-track positions anymore,
and so are vulnerable to more direct employer pressures for
on-the-job conformity with no union protections. Given
their precarious situation, teachers are increasingly willing to
forego tenure in order to just get a teaching job, and often
fnd themselves juggling several non-tenure track academic
positions in order to make ends meet. While tenure certainly
needs to be critiqued from a radical perspective because it is
not all that its cracked up to be, the increasing precarity of
academic wage slavery without tenure has its own debilitat-
ing problems attached to it.
59
my life in the gulag
Jason: The whole situation of having people who actually are carv-
ing out their research areas by focusing on studies of anarchism seems
kind of risky to some degree unless they do it in a way thats going to
domesticate those areas. Anything else would seem to be threatening
to the university and the larger society. So it seems that if anybodys
going to get into those areas in academia, they have to almost be will-
ing to stand up and challenge things and maybe expect to lose that job.
As a knowledge worker, either youre speaking up about anarchism or
youre not. And if you are, its threatening unless you are somehow
trying to recuperate the subversiveness of anarchy. I am wary that so
many people seem to be publicly claiming to be anarchists in academia.
I see so many graduate students who are anarchists, and yet, the things
they write rarely seem to have any radicalism to them. It seems that
their anarchism is getting watered down or is something to avoid being
open about before they have a chance to become professors. A lot of
them have the goal to go on from grad school to PhD and professorship.
Maybe a lot of them have some new conception of anarchism now so
that they dont see it as being subversive to academia or to the larger
society, but thats more of a formal philosophical radicalism.
Ron: My desire in this interview has not been to condemn
individual anarchist academics but to challenge the funda-
mental assumptions of academic professionalism from an an-
archist perspective. I am not dismissive of everybody whos
an anarchist in academia. However, if such anarchists are not
consciously recognizing the dangers involved in academic
careerism and actively confronting them, thats a big problem.
Today, university-based anarchists are joining together as
academics to form anarchist studies groups and initiatives,
research institutes and archives. They have professional asso-
ciations to protect themselves in a precarious and often hos-
tile work environment, to share relevant research pursuits
and to engage in a wide variety of networking practices.
These professional associations solidify the ability of anar-
chists to be seen as bona fde academics within a university
60
setting. They have peers, typically other anarchist academ-
ics, who review their books and verify that what they are
doing is legitimate. They have access to scholarly journals
and academic presses in which they can publish. They have
regular professional conferences. Accordingly, they can lay
claim to professional legitimacy. I see such professional as-
sociations as attempts to create a strategic beachhead within
academia. I understand the need for them at that defensive
level. The problem is that this approach to opening the gates
of academia for anarchism is largely based on the profes-
sional model. Consequently, it doesnt specifcally challenge
professionalism as an ideology or adequately address the
anarchist tensions in the relationship between professional-
ism and academia. All too often, it conveniently ignores or
downplays the role of institutionalized professionalism itself
as one of the hierarchical pillars of authoritarian society.
This excerpt is from the refectively edited and ex-
panded version of a previously unedited interview by
Jason McQuinn, editor of Modern Slavery. The full ver-
sion, A Surreal Interview With An Anarchist, is in
Modern Slavery #2 (2012).
Deserting Empire,
Deserting Humanism:
Anti-Humanist Critiques of
the Individual,
Absolute Knowledge,
Rationality, and History in
Tiqquns
Introduction to Civil War
Alden Wood
The Cultural Logic of Insurrection
(September 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/The-Cultural-Logic-of-Insurrection.html
Anarchists still use some words as large billboards to describe
complex ideas without ever fully feshing them out. Terms like
leftist, liberal, or society are ways to describe the composition
of our reality (and our sad attempts to resist it) but are also
under-theorized and weak artifces of hostility.
This is one of many reasons that people over-rely on
the French theorists, most notably Tiqqun, to articulate more
complex analyses of our time and condition. Yes, we need a
deeper and more rigorous analysis of the relationships between
ourselves, the systems of domination, and persuasion, but we
also need them to make sense in the context were in, in this
case that of North America. While we do not accept that
French philosophical concepts have to be the purview of the
Academy, its not ridiculous to say that a type of translation
has to happen for these concepts to make sense to any
audience not already inclined towards Western philosophy,
history, or radical politics.
This essay, based on Tiqquns writings, is a step in this
translation, a dethreading of the Western individual as the
base unit of human experience. While staying within the
space of Tiqqun, Foucault, and Agamben, the author uses
layman language to describe and defne ideas like biopower,
forms-of-life, and subjectivity. If this is the frst serious step
towards a translation of the conceptual space laid out by
Tiqqun, then were only two steps removed from a way to
communicate these ideas to an audience that has never heard
of this jargon.
But if Adbusters or Crimethinc (or the upcoming
Mask magazine) have demonstrated anything it is that this
translation project has never been neutral. It is both cooptation
and glorifcation, Americanization and Euro-fetishization,
fattening and focused so intently on the design portion of
conveying ideas as to seem ambivalent towards content. Now
is the time to reopen the discussion about what it means to
create slick packages of approximate political messaging.
65
deserting empire, deserting humanism
In Tiqquns Introduction to Civil War, the confuence of late-
capitalism, new power dynamics, and the crisis/disintegra-
tion of the modern state form emerge as a totalizing socio-
historical episteme of domination. Tiqqun labels this new
form of governance Empire, by which they understand the
complete politicization of all aspects of the social and para-
doxically the complete socialization of all aspects of the politi-
cal. Thus, Empire forms the conceptual basis for understand-
ing an episteme in which there is no longer any distinction
between the political and the social, the private and the public,
capitalist exchange relations and non-capitalist relations. It
fattens reality to a mere discursive network of domination
through the hyper-proliferation of apparatuses of control. Tac-
itly, Tiqquns analysis of life within Empire implicitly draws
from what I argue is an inherently anti-humanist tradition. By
relying explicitly on Foucaults work on biopower and the de-
velopment of disciplinary practices, on Nietzsches criticism of
rationality and reason, and on Walter Benjamins attack against
a progressive historicism, Tiqqun is deeply antagonistic to En-
lightenment thinking. Within Tiqquns analysis and critique
(of such humanistic tropes as the formation of the individual,
idealism, rationality/reason, and a progressive view of history)
is a deeply anti-humanist temperament that unequivocally in-
forms their politics of resistance to Empire.
Tiqqun supports its critique of the humanist notion
of the individual by analyzing how Empire, through the
use of biopower and the Spectacle (in the Debordian sense
of the term) produces subjectivitiesor, in Foucauldian
terms: the process of subjectifcation (subjectivation). This
runs counter to the Enlightenment-era humanist tradition,
which starts with the individual as the measure of experi-
encethe fundamental unit, whose ultimate aim is indi-
vidual freedom and the fullest expression of individual de-
sire. Tiqquns thinking on the formation of the individual
66
and the production of its subjectivities stems directly from
the anti-humanist tradition. Tiqqun claims that this process
of subjectifcation fnds its point of highest development
through biopower, precisely because the biopolitical pro-
cesses of producing subjectivities function by containing
each being within its Self, that is, within his body, in extracting
bare life from each form-of-life.
1
At this point, even essential
individual existenceone of the most sacred aspects of hu-
manismis immediately problematized through discursive
relationships that efectively dominate it.
The distinction between biopower and earlier forms of
power, like the sovereign in the absolutist state, is that bio-
power is a form of control which from the outset of its pro-
duction, its own immanence, precludes any individual agency,
as it can only be produced by already dominated subjects. It
is the total implication of what once was called the individual
subject within a discursive network (machine) of control. It
afrms life, keeps the body living, and in doing so fnds a more
efective means to control subjects. When a biopolitical sub-
ject chooses to implicate itself within the apparatuses that
efectively control it, domination becomes more streamlined
and easier to sustain. Foucault elaborates upon this point as he
claims that the role of this form of political biopower
is perpetually to re-inscribe this relation through a form
of unspoken warfare; to re-inscribe it in social institu-
tions, in economic inequalities, in language, in the bodies
themselves of each and every one of us.
2

Tiqqun argues that the development of the modern state into
Empire is accompanied by a process of subjectifcation in
which
the individual produced by this process of economic
embodiment carries within him a crack. And it is out of
1 The Invisible Commitee, Introduction to Civil War, 86
2 Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings
1972-1977. 90
67
deserting empire, deserting humanism
this crack that his bare life seeps. His acts themselves are
full of cracks, broken from the inside. [] Here, instead
of forms-of-life, we fnd an overproduction branching
out in all directions, a nearly comical tree-like prolifera-
tion of subjectivities.
3

Tiqqun posits forms-of-life as a way out of the subjective no-
tion of the individual coming from the humanist tradition.
Forms-of-life necessarily take on an ethical dimension
as a way out of the ontology of the individual. Tiqqun
claims that contrary to humanist thinking, the elementary
human unity is not the bodythe individualbut the
form-of-life.
4
Thus, for Tiqquns inherently anti-humanist
approach, the argument depends on positionality (ethical in-
clinations). Tiqqun appropriates Giorgio Agambens theori-
zation of Wittgensteins initial use of this concept: a form-
of-life is that which afects a body as an ethical clinamen, a
leaning, an attraction, a taste.
5
These leanings form the
basis of forces, or ethical intensities projected as the line on
which power grows.
6
Expounding upon this point, the as-
suming of a form-of-life (as opposed to predicative identi-
ties) allows a body to follow its own outgrowth of power
the proliferation of its own forceand the conglomeration
of multiple forms-of-life pursuing their own lines of fight
become the free play Tiqqun calls civil war.
For Tiqqun, Empires fundamental impetus is the paci-
fcation of civil war: the quelling of ethical intensities. The
only response that resists this pacifcation is a further intensi-
fcation of ethical inclinations, not a proliferation of predi-
cates through subjectifcation. This, then, is a fundamental
critique of the way the individual is formed, as it implies that
the individual is nothing but a set of interconnected predi-
cates, identities, and subjectivities that are entirely mediated
3 op cit, Introduction to Civil War, 87
4 ibid, 16
5 ibid, 18
6 ibid, 20
68
by Empire and its apparatuses of control. This is fully in line
with conventional critiques of humanism, which argue that
the individual, as a fully independent and autonomous con-
struction, simply does not exist and is instead completely
mediated by the socio-linguistic/discursive felds of the con-
text the pre-subjectivated body fnds itself in. Tiqqun claims
that Empire has complicated and obfuscated forms-of-life,
and in their place fostered and afrmed (through apparatuses
like biopower) identities instead. They argue
paradoxically, in this civilization that we can no longer
claim as our own without consenting to self-liquidation,
conjuring away forms-of-life most often appears as a
desire for form.
7

Here the afrmation of that which is ones own is actually
posited as self-liquidationthus, the further one inscribes
ones self in a predicative identity the further one is removed
from ones fundamental form-of-life.
The construction of mediating forms between a
form-of-life and its individual identity is almost entirely
done at the subconscious level as almost all identity-devel-
opment is afrmativeeven when it is opposed to domi-
nant ideologies (like the identity of anti-capitalist). Be-
cause identity formation is almost always afrmative (ie the
individual willingly forms the varied components of their
own so-called unique identity) it constitutes one pole of
imperial domination through its ability to further distance a
body from its own ethical inclinations and instead construct
a human being as something grounded in its own material-
ity. This materiality is what Tiqqun calls the desire for form,
or the impetus of individuals to create themselves precisely
as individuals, singular in their autonomy and subject only
to their own desires. What complicates this superfcial posi-
tionthe belief in the autonomous construction of the in-
dividualis the counter-claim that individual desire is en-
7 ibid, 21
69
deserting empire, deserting humanism
tirely mediated by a whole set of productive forces.
Tiqqun states that the other pole of imperial domina-
tion, which works in seamless tandem with biopower, is the
Spectacle. This term, appropriated from the French Situa-
tionist Guy Debord, suggests that all social relations are me-
diated by images and representations. Thus, if individual de-
sire is a purely reactive and interpretative response to social
relations that are inherently mediated by representations,
then individual desire does not exist independent of the so-
cial feld in which it is situated. Tiqqun extrapolates upon
this subjectivated biopolitical subjects desire for form as
the search for an archetypal resemblance, an Idea of self
placed before or in front of oneself.
8
Here again, the hu-
manistic impulse is critiqued because the search for some-
thing essential about the human individual informs an inher-
ently hermeneutical approach to the false-ontology of
Empire. The desire to uncover an archetypal resemblance
of the self begins (without any critical refexivity whatsoev-
er) in the hermeneutics of recovery the idea that there is an
essential quality about the individual which can indeed be
re/un-covered.
Identity formation often assumes essentialist rhetoric,
as its own logic positions it as a project of recoveryof get-
ting to the ontological foundation of the singular individual,
what or who it really is. Tiqqun, like the anti-humanist
theorists before them, argue that to oppose this way of
thinking, a project ethically aligned purely and only against
the totality of Empire must necessarily entail the assumption
of forms-of-life, not further implication within the dis-
courses of imperial domination. They argue that
actually, to assume a form-of-life is a letting-go, an
abandonment. It is at once fall and elevation, a move-
ment and a staying-within-oneself.
9

8 ibid, 21
9 ibid, 21
70
Here the distinction between ethics and metaphysics be-
comes more apparent. Abandonment, in this theoretical
context, is the letting-go of such basic metaphysical ques-
tions as what am I? or what is the fundamental nature of
my being?
Instead, what is put forth is an ethics of becoming that re-
contextualizes all questions of being as questions only con-
cerned with how one is being. This abandonment is the
negative basis of a form-of-lifethe fall. Conversely, the
elevation within the assumption of a form-of-lifeits posi-
tive component is an afrmation of new ethical ways of being
in concert with other bodies assuming the same form-of-
life. This coming-together of commensurate forms-of-life,
ethically aligned in their opposition to all other forms-of-life
against them, is communism made immediate. Before depart-
ing from Empires production and circulation of identities
through the apparatuses of biopower and subjectifcation, we
should further explore the forms that stand as a third-party
mediator between a body and its corresponding form-of-
lifethis notion of an Idea of self placed before or in front of
oneself.
10

Against the humanist notion of idealism, Tiqqun ar-
gues that whenever something presents itself as an Idea (Pla-
tonic) which ostensibly takes the place of the form-of-life,
Empire has succeeded in pacifcation through the act of dis-
tancing a body from its form-of-life. This is reminiscent of
Platos metaphysics, whose conception of ontological reality
is rooted in deferral: the privileging of reality as subject to a
world of ideal forms, rather than reality solely as reality-itself.
In Platos Socratic dialogue, Phaedrus, the region beyond
heaven, that of ideal forms, is portrayed as follows:
The region beyond heaven has never yet been ade-
quately described in any of our earthly poets composi-
tions, nor will it ever be. But since one has to make a
10 ibid, 21
71
deserting empire, deserting humanism
courageous attempt to speak the truth, especially when
it is truth one is speaking about, here is a description.
This region is flled with true being. True being has no
colour or form; it is intangible, and visible only to intel-
ligence, the souls guide. True being is the province of
everything that counts as true knowledge. [...] In the
course of its circuit it observes justice as it really is, self-
control, knowledgenot the kind of knowledge that is
involved with change and difers according to which of
the various existing things (to use the term existence
in its everyday sense) it makes its object, but the kind of
knowledge whose object is things as they really are.
11

Plato, through Socrates, defnes true being as that which
is objective and unequivocally existent in the realm of the
ideal forms. It is a form of metaphysical posturing that dis-
misses the inherent mysticism of abstract interpretative sys-
tems (mathematics for example) and instead privileges a con-
ception of reality explicitly based on externalized absolutes.
Tiqqun charts a theoretical move in completely the
opposite direction to Platonic hypostasis. They hold to the
anti-humanist dismissal of absolutist thinkingnothing ob-
jective exists for the hermeneutic theorist to recover as es-
sential to existence. Starting from this presupposition, Tiqqun
instead argues that a form-of-life is an ethical position, not an
ontological one. As such, they evade all attempts to become
essentialized, because forms-of-life are not concrete materi-
alities in-and-of-themselves, but rather are leanings or incli-
nations. They write:
My form-of-life does not relate to what I am, but to
how, to the specifc way, I am what I am. In other words,
between a being and its qualities, there is the abyss of its
own presence and the singular experience I have of it, at
a certain place and time.
12

11 Plato. Phaedrus. 2002, 30
12 op cit, Introduction to Civil War, 23
72
Tiqqun situates a form-of-life within the abyss of its own
presence and the singular experience one has of it, so that a
form-of-life becomes immanent in a multitude of infnite
moments of the present. By situating the manifestation of a
form-of-life in the immediacy of a certain place and time
the form-of-life evades all attempts to make it qualitatively
objective or reminiscent of some sort of human essence. In
this way Tiqquns philosophical grounding is in the lineage
of Heraclitus, not of Parmenides. Through the engagement
of the free-play of forms-of-life, Tiqquns philosophy is one
of the potentiality of ruptures, breaks, fssures, and (when
made communal) insurrections.
Another of Tiqquns anti-humanist arguments is their
presentation of Empire as a totalizing afective network of
the apparatuses and power relations of domination. By
charting the modern states development to its fnal form as
Empire, Tiqqun implicitly underscores how this develop-
ment was nothing more than the continuous progress of
Enlightenment-era rationality and reason. Seen from this
perspective, Empire is the logical result of the progress of
humanistic reason. This is evident in Tiqquns critiques of
Kantian conceptions of universal reason, a part of their
multi-pronged attack against the socio-political develop-
ment of Empire. Speaking towards the erasure of hostis (en-
emy forms-of-life aligned against ones own particular form-
of-life), Tiqqun claims that
the third article of Kants Towards a Perpetual Peace,
which proposes the conditions for a fnal dissolution of
particular communities and their subsequent formal re-
integration into a Universal State, is nevertheless un-
equivocal in insisting that Cosmopolitan right shall be
limited to conditions of universal hospitality.
13

Kantian idealism fnds its contemporary manifestation in the
social shift that occurs with Empire. Instead of dissolving
13 ibid, 50
73
deserting empire, deserting humanism
particular communities in order to reintegrate their bod-
ies into the formal logic/schema of control that formed the
basis of the modern state (particularly in its absolutist and
liberal forms), Empire afrms and allows these particular
communities to exist as long as it maintains control over the
predicates and identities available to these communities. Thus,
instead of subsuming plurality to a homogenized conception
of the Universal State, Empire allows and afrms plurality in
order to construct the fction that these new imperial/bio-
political subjects are still exercising individual autonomy
another left-over from Enlightenment-era humanism.
For Tiqqun, Empire is the rational development of the
modern state into an era where the state acknowledges its
own obsolescence. They claim that the modern state, through
its various incarnations as the absolutist/sovereign state, the
liberal state, and the welfare state, has always been on a ratio-
nal progression towards its own impossibility. This impossibil-
ity is informed by the fact, as Tiqqun claims, that the modern
state attempted to politicize all aspects of the social and in so
doing ended up socializing all aspects of the political. Thus for
Tiqqun, Empire is the totalizing amalgamation of the social
and the politicaland in such a climate the state form be-
comes obsolete because there is no longer any need to keep
up the pretense that the state exists in order to make clear the
distinction between the social and the political. Every social
position or space, even those once relegated to the private
realm (matters of the home, etc), has now been politicized
and colonized by Empire. This totalization, the collapse of the
social into the political and the political into the social, stems
from a humanist logic initially arguing for universal human
essence. Under the pretense of securing humanist fundamen-
tals like liberty, justice, and autonomy, the state justifed
its own control and domination independent of the universal
essence it purported to serve.
Tiqquns critique of this logic resonates with Nietzs-
74
chean thought. In the frst essay of section thirteen of On the
Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche attacks the humanist concept
of the good, which later informs the pursuit of a universal
conception of liberty, justice, and autonomy. He argues
that, qualitatively, there is no such universal conception of
the good and, conversely, all that exists are relations of force
(which Foucault will later recast as power). These amoral
relations of force are present in Tiqquns work, in the actual-
ization of forms-of-life. They claim that
Thought [is] that which converts a form-of-life into a
force, into a sensible efectivity. In every situation there
is one line that stands out among all the others, the line
along which power grows. Thought is the capacity for
singling out and following this line. A form-of-life can
be embraced only by following this line, meaning that
all thought is strategic.
14

Tiqqun identifes Empires ability to placate and
pacify all of these lines of power and force, as the cessation
of civil war (aka the free-play of forms-of-life). This cri-
tique of the pacifcation of force is entirely Nietzschean, as
Nietzsche claims that
to demand of strength that it should not express itself
as strength, that it should not be a desire to overcome,
a desire to throw down, a desire to become master, a
thirst for enemies and resistances and triumphs, is just
as absurd as to demand of weakness that it should ex-
press itself as strength.
15

Tiqqun would argue that the Nietzschean expres-
sion of strength as outlined above is almost synonymous with
their assumption of a form-of-lifeas only the actualization
of a particular ethic can efectively produce power aligned
against eforts to pacify or sublimate it. Furthermore, Ni-
etzsches critique of the subject parallels Tiqquns own cri-
14 ibid, 20
15 Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. 1989. 45.
75
deserting empire, deserting humanism
tique of the political or economical subject. In Nietzsches
words
A quantum of force is equivalent to a quantum of drive,
will, efectmore, it is nothing other than precisely this
very driving, willing, efecting, and only owing to the
seduction of language (and of the fundamental errors of
reason that are petrifed in it) which conceives and mis-
conceives all efects as conditioned by something that
causes efects, by a subject, can it appear otherwise.
16

Here, the humanist construction of the individual subject
faces a most hostile critique. Nietzsche argues that the fallacy
that all force stems from an actor emerges from the rationality
of language, and from the laws and delineations presupposed
by its use. He argues instead that
there is no being behind doing, efecting, becoming;
the doer is merely a fction added to the deedthe
deed is everything.
17

This forms the basis of Tiqquns theorizing that a form-of-life
is an ethical posturing (the becoming of the deed), not root-
ed in individual identity or subjecthood.
While there is a great degree of confuence in Ni-
etzsche and Tiqquns critique of the subject and in their case
for an ethic of force/power, there are also points of diver-
gence. The most apparent is that the slave morality which
Nietzsche so vehemently criticizes comes almost entirely
from his doubt that language can refer to reality in any fun-
damental way; yet Tiqquns treatment of the way that bodies
are subjectivated and made to implicate themselves in pred-
icative identities looks to Empire, rather than to language, as
the root of this domination. While in hindsight this diference
comes from the obvious diference in Nietzsche and Tiqquns
socio-historical contexts, it is still a very informative diver-
gence of thought. Nietzsche claims that:
16 ibid, 45
17 ibid, 45
76
This type of man [the one who succumbs to slave mo-
rality] needs to believe in a neutral independent subject,
prompted by an instinct for self-preservation and self-
afrmation in which every lie is sanctifed. The subject
(or, to use a more popular expression, the soul) has per-
haps been believed in hitherto more frmly than any-
thing else on earth because it makes possible to the ma-
jority of mortals, the weak and oppressed of every kind,
the sublime self-deception that interprets weakness as
freedom, and their being thus-and-thus as a merit.
18

While at face value this analysis of the inherent cow-
ardice of subjecthood seems to align with Tiqquns own
qualms with the process of subjectifcationNietzsche still
believes in a fundamental essence (divorced from the sub-
ject) with the agency to fully exert its own will.
Tiqqun argues that the subjects instinct for self-
preservation and self-afrmation is merely the result of af-
fective apparatuses of domination exerting control onto
individual bodies. Self-preservation and self-afrmation,
for Tiqqun, form the basis of biopower, and in contrast to
Nietzsches view, are apparatuses that the individual body
has little power to reject or acquiesce to. The subtle difer-
ence that emerges here is a matter of causality, as Nietzsche
would argue that slave morality can simply be overcome by
a strong-willed individual (his ubermensch), whereas for
Tiqqun, operating within the totality of Empire, only the
coming together of ethical intensities as forms-of-life can
overcome the apparatuses of subjectifcation. Thus, at its
root, this is a diference between an individual notion of
actualizing force (Nietzsche) and a communal notion of
actualizing power (Tiqqun). However, clearly neither relies
on the notion of the subject.
In the preface to An Ethic of Civil War, in Introduc-
tion to Civil War, Tiqqun quotes Nietzsches Posthumous
18 ibid, 46
77
deserting empire, deserting humanism
Fragments:
New form of community, asserting itself in a warlike
manner. Otherwise the spirit grows soft. No gardens
and no sheer evasion in the face of the masses. War (but
without gunpowder!) between diferent thoughts! and
their armies!
19
Here, Tiqqun fnds the ethic of civil war in Nietzsches
thought. Whereas Nietzsche focuses on the war between
diferent thoughts, a Tiqqunist rendering would include the
war between diferent ethical intensities and forms-of-life. It
is a laying bare, a peeling away of the simulacra to expose the
inherent hostilities underlying life within Empire. Here, civ-
il war becomes the war amongst hostile forms-of-life. At all
times, the potential for such war exists, sometimes dormant,
waiting to rupture through the Spectacle in the forms of
insurrection and communization (communism made imme-
diate). Thus, the task of any militant is to further the visibil-
ity of these hostilities while concurrently fnding forms-of-
life with the same ethical predispositions and coming into
direct contact with the potential such coming-together af-
fords. Tiqqun claims that
insofar as we stay in contact with our own potentiality,
even if only in thinking through our experience, we
represent danger within the metropolises of Empire. We
are whatever enemy against which all the imperial appa-
ratuses and norms are positioned.
20

It is precisely in this potentiality to become whatever enemy
against Empire that Tiqquns theoretical trajectory is inher-
ently ahistorical.
In his Theses on the Philosophy of History, Walter
Benjamin constructs the distinction between historiography
and the ways that historical knowledge is produced and ac-
quired. In other words Benjamin creates a decisive split be-
19 op cit, Introduction to Civil War, 173
20 ibid, 175
78
tween the notion of history as one of ever-unfolding prog-
ress (Enlightenment-era historicism) and a philosophy of
history based on its own interruption and arrest from the
fow of progress.
21
This forms an ardent critique of the linear-
ity of Enlightenment-era views on history and time. Benja-
min argues that humanist historicism is informed by the
empathy that historicists have for political victors.
22
He
claims that the ascription of linearity to historical develop-
ments is merely the acknowledgment that
all rulers are the heirs of those who conquered before
them. [...] Whoever has emerged victorious participates
to this day in the triumphal procession in which the
present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate.
23

One must be positioned against this conception of history if
one aims to see a future of radical potentiality.
The future cannot be a site of radical potentiality if it
is viewed as merely the rational continuity of the present;
thus Benjamin argues that the present needs to be arrested
or interrupted to fully understand it and recontextualize
the future. The humanist historicist has succumbed to a his-
toricizing impulse that is oblivious to the realization that
there is no document of civilization which is not at the
same time a document of barbarism.
24
Here Benjamin is
most explicit in his critique of Enlightenment/humanist
historicism as essentially a view of progress that rationalizes
domination, barbarism, and ultimately fascism. He makes
this connection apparent when he claims that one reason
why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its
opponents treat it as a historical norm.
25
This conception
of history as progress can only lead to fascism, yet its experi-
21 Benjamin, Walter. Theses on the Philosophy of History.
Illuminations: Walter Benjamin Essays and Refections. Ed. Hannah Arendt. 262
22 ibid, 256
23 ibid, 356
24 ibid, 256
25 ibid, 257
79
deserting empire, deserting humanism
encethe actual understanding of its temporalityis only
diferentiated as a mere matter of perception.
Benjamin analyzes Paul Klees painting Angelus No-
vus to speak to this diference of perception. He claims that
this is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is
turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of
events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling
wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his
feet.
26

This conception of history, progress in the name of the En-
lightenment as propelled toward immanent catastrophe, is a
trope within Tiqquns own critique of history.
Tiqqun follows in the wake of Benjamins theoretical
work on history as they too argue that conceiving of history
as a chain of eventsa progression with a legitimacy stem-
ming from reasoncan only lead to the complete decima-
tion of life-itself. In an analysis that seems entirely informed
by Benjamin, Tiqqun argues that
at frst glance, Empire seems to be a parodic recollec-
tion of the entire, frozen history of a civilization. And
this impression has a certain intuitive correctness. Em-
pire is in fact civilizations last stop before it reaches the
end of its line, the fnal agony in which it sees life pass
before its eyes.
27
Empire forms the stage, based on a particular faith in Enlight-
ened reason, of statist development as it ends the sequence
beginning with the absolutist state and progressing through
the liberal and welfare states. For Tiqqun, Empire is the stage
of development that witnesses the inherent impossibility of
the modern states aims. It is the stage governing the crises that
emerge when the modern state realizes that in order to actual-
ize its goals (the complete politicization of all social felds/
realms), it must necessarily see its own coming-apart. The
26 ibid, 257
27 op cit, Introduction to Civil War, 128
80
modern state can only exist in its diference (the acknowledg-
ment that the state is made up of those segments of life which
are politicized), yet once everything becomes politicized the
delineations securing the state precisely as the state cease to
exist and so the modern state merges completely with a so-
cial-realm entirely subject to domination (ie Empire). In this
totality of developmental progress, Tiqqun introduces the ne-
cessity for moments that break from this linearity.
If anything in Tiqquns work can be called prescriptive
it is their outline of action after their much stronger analyses
of the conditions of Empire. Ruptures, breaks, and insurrec-
tion are the way out of the dominating apparatuses of Em-
pire. They claim that these (ethical) positions against Empire
are the gesture of breaking the predictable chains of events,
of liberating compressed possibilities.
28
This rhetoric of in-
terruption carries with it echoes of Benjamins conception
of messianic time. For Benjamin messianic time is the tran-
scendence of the present, which appears and interrupts the
continuity of history precisely to recontextualize the poten-
tiality of the present by resolutely looking into the past. He
claims that
the present, which, as a model of Messianic time, com-
prises the entire history of mankind in an enormous
abridgment, coincides exactly with the stature which
the history of mankind has in the universe.
29

This conception of time inverts both humanist historicism
and Marxist historical materialism, or those treatments of
time that are content in establishing a causal connection be-
tween various moments in history.
30
While Benjamins cri-
tique of humanist historicism also appears in Tiqqun, it must
be noted that a major distinction emerges between their posi-
tions about interruptions to this temporally linear progress.
28 ibid, 222
29 op cit, These on the Philosophy of History, 263
30 ibid, 263
81
deserting empire, deserting humanism
Fundamental to this divergence is an understanding of
Benjamins messianic time as rooted in stasis, a freezing of the
storm of progress. It is a Messianic cessation of happening, or
put diferently, a revolutionary chance in the fght for the op-
pressed past.
31
This cessation is inextricably linked to the past.
Through this interruption, one can divorce temporality from
its supposed existence within a causal chain. Messianic time
reveals its transcendence precisely in its ability to pause causal-
ity itselfa leftover from Enlightenment notions of progress.
Benjamin claims that
a historian who takes this as his point of departure stops
telling the sequence of events like the beads of a rosary.
Instead, he grasps the constellation which his own era
has formed with a defnite earlier one. Thus, he estab-
lishes a conception of the present as the time of the now
which is shot through with chips of Messianic time.
32

Here, the Benjaminian historian evades the logic of progress
by pausing to view the structure of the present within a dis-
cursive feld that looks to the past not as a spectrum or con-
tinuum, but rather as a sort of abridgment with the present.
Tiqquns rhetoric around ruptures and breaks in the
continuity of history has less to do with situating the present,
and more with expressing a collective potentiality that is in-
herently alter-historical. They argue that interruptions in his-
torys progress function in tandem with the introduction of
lines of rupture, alliances and discontinuities into the smooth
space of demokratic society [...]
33
These lines of rupture
and discontinuities are part of a conception of history in-
formed not merely by interruption alone as Benjamins is, but
rather by interruption coupled with the departure, exodus,
and desertion from history itself. They claim that
rather than new critiques, new cartographies are what
31 ibid, 263
32 ibid, 263
33 op cit, Introduction to Civil War, 122
82
we need. Cartographies not for Empire, but for lines of
fight out of it. [...] Tools for orientation. That dont try to
say or represent what is within diferent archipelagoes
of desertion, but show us how to meet up with them.
34

Thus, for Tiqqun it is not enough to have a cessation within
history; one must go further to positions which exist entirely
independent of its homogeneous, empty time.
35
Here his-
tory homogenizes a plurality of temporalities, and sets all
experience along the trajectory of a progressive historicism.
Tiqqun claims that
there is an ofcial history of the State in which the
State seems to be the one and only actor, in which the
advances of the state monopoly on the political are so
many battles chalked up against an enemy who is invis-
ible, imaginary, and precisely without history.
36
Through a rhetoric that removes the historical imperatives of
whatever is aligned against it, the state preemptively invali-
dates all competing claims to history.
This preemptive obfuscation efectively sublimates a
counter-history, written from the view-point of civil
war, in which the stakes of all these advancements, the
dynamics of the modern State, can be glimpsed. This
counter-history reveals a political monopoly that is
constantly threatened by the recomposition of autono-
mous worlds, of non-state collectivities.
37

Thus, for Tiqqun, unlike Benjamin, the interruptive nature of
a new philosophy of history must necessarily expose lines of
potentiality for new non-state collectivities to emerge
from the rupture of the progressive linearity of humanist or
Marxist-materialist historicisms. They prescriptively argue
that one must
become attentive to the taking-place of things, of be-
34 ibid, 216
35 op cit, Theses on the Philosophy of History, 261
36 op cit, Introduction to Civil War, 111
37 ibid, 111
83
deserting empire, deserting humanism
ings. To their event. To the obstinate and silent salience
of their own temporality beneath the planetary fatten-
ing of all temporalities by the time of urgency.
38

By recovering a temporality that emerges from a rupture
within the dominant temporalitythe crushing weight of
progressive historya form-of-life efectively abandons its
own implicated positionality within history and necessarily
comes into contact with the abyss of presence.
39

The argumentative basis of Tiqquns short essay How
is it to be done?, included at the end of the Semiotext(e)
version of Introduction to Civil War, addresses precisely how
one engages against Empire. While a somewhat practical re-
sponse to the analysis of Empire in Introduction to Civil War, it
can also be read not only as manual for the desertion of Em-
pire but also for the desertion of humanism as well. Within
its polemic arc, How is it to be done? explicitly critiques
several control apparatuses, which it attributes primarily to
Empire, yet does not ignore the role humanism played in the
creation of these sites of domination.
The construction of the individual as autonomous
subject stems from Enlightenment thought, but as Tiqqun
argues, it witnesses its most refned form in the context of
Empire. In response to the process of subjectifcation, which
Tiqqun argues is one of Empires most prominent capabili-
ties to exert domination, desubjectifcation is a possible way
out of this logic of totalizing control. Central to their under-
standing of desubjectifcation is the notion that it must be
done communally, with partisan forms-of-life. Tiqqun writes:
The experience of my desubjectivization. I become a
whatever singularity. [...] In the eyes of a being who, be-
ing present, wants to assess me for what I am, I savor the
disappointment, his disappointment of seeing me be-
come so common, so perfectly accessible. In the gestures of
38 ibid, 211
39 ibid, 210
84
another, it is an unexpected complicity. All that isolates
me as a subject, as a body endowed with a public con-
fguration of attributes, I feel it founder. [...] Does one
ever escape alone from the prison of the Self? In a squat.
In an orgy. In a riot. In a train or an occupied village. We
meet again. We meet again as whatever singularities. That
is to say not on the basis of a common belonging, but of
a common presence. Thus is our need for communism. The
need for nocturnal spaces, where we can meet up be-
yond our predicates. Beyond the tyranny of recognition.
40

This whole trajectory of thought, outlining the move
towards desubjectifcation, runs counter to the humanist no-
tion of hermeneutically uncovering some fundamental uni-
versal human essence. It also runs counter to orthodox Marx-
ist conceptions of ascribing the revolutionary subject as a
predicative identity placed onto an entire class of individuals
as a means to foment the revolutionary moment. Instead of
adopting newer and more nuanced predicative identities,
Tiqqun advocates the abandonment of all subjectivities as
they are innately in the service of prolonging the control of
Empire. This happens through the ways that identities are
always reintegrated into discourses of domination by the ra-
tional logic inherent in the recognition of a subject as a sub-
ject (a conglomeration of all of its afective ties, identities, and
predicates). Tiqqun claims that
the more I am recognized, the more my gestures are hin-
dered, hindered from within. And here I am caught in the
ultra-tight meshwork of the new power. In the impal-
pable snares of the new police: THE IMPERIAL PO-
LICE OF QUALITIES.
41

Thus, if Empire, and by extension the humanistic impulse, is
aimed at afrming such qualities of the individual subject,
Tiqquns argument rests on the disavowal of all such qualita-
40 ibid, 204-05
41 ibid, 206
85
deserting empire, deserting humanism
tive renderings of ontology. In fact, Tiqqun seems to dismiss
the whole notion of metaphysical ontology in its entirety, as
they are much more concerned with ethical positions, in-
stead of constructions of being.
After their dismissal of the humanist project to con-
struct, valorize, and protect a universal essence, Tiqqun goes
on to challenge the whole deterministic notion of rational-
ity/reason. A subject-centered rationality arises from the de-
velopment of epistemological reason during the Enlighten-
ment, and it is this form of reason that argues that absolute
knowledge is a conceptual objective that can indeed be
worked toward (progress) with the ultimate aim of fully un-
derstanding or possessing it. Here Tiqqun again takes a dis-
tinctively anti-humanist approach. They argue that resisting
Empire requires an ethical approach informed by the how?
and not the what? of conventional politics of resistance in
the past. They argue that How to? is actually
a question of means. Not a question of goals, or objectives,
of what there is to do, strategically, in the absolute. A
question of what one can do, tactically, in a situation,
and of the acquisition of this power.
42

Thus, the absolutism so prevalent in Enlightenment theories
is problematized and inverted to reveal the need for plural,
immediate, local, and always contextual, forms of resistance.
It is the trading-in of grand theories of resistance for the ac-
knowledgement of all the potentialities present in a given
situation. In this way, through the proliferation of all poten-
tialities within all diferentiated contexts, Tiqquns anti-pro-
gram of resistance fnds its tactical strength: its ability to be-
come amorphous, opaque, and invisible.
Against Enlightenment rationalism and certainty that
deductive reasoning can bring all knowledge to light, the calls
of Tiqqun for invisibility, obfuscation, and opacity form an-
other arm of their anti-humanism. They argue that
42 ibid, 209
86
there is an opacity inherent to the contact between bod-
ies. And that is incompatible with the imperial reign of
a light that no longer illuminates things except to break
them down
43
This imperial reign of a light can extend to the critique of
humanist rationality. In the socio-historical context of Em-
pire, reason is no longer benign or impartialit is fully in-
tegrated in apparatuses of domination, as it seeks to illumi-
nate things only to break them down. This is similar to the
fascist logic behind progressive historical linearity that Benja-
min warned against.
These sites where commensurate forms-of-life fnd
each other, Tiqqun calls Zones of Ofensive Opacity. They
are delimited space[s] of political anonymity, bound to-
gether by an intense circulation of bodies and afects be-
tween bodies.
44
This is the invisible terrain created by an
ethics of civil war where forms-of-life aligned against the
totality of Empire enact an immediate communism of the
presentwhere the rupture with history manifests as a site
of insurrection. Contrary to the previous failed politics of
resistance, which ofer conceptions of alternate modes of ex-
istence to late-capitalism or Empire, Zones of Ofensive
Opacity do not have to be created.
45
This is the ahistorical
privileging of the present-moment, as Tiqqun goes on to
claim that these zones
are already there, in any kind of relation that brings
about a veritable putting into play of bodies. Whats
needed is to embrace the fact that we take part in this
opacity. And to give ourselves the means to spread it,
defend it.
46

Because Tiqqun wages its polemical attack at the level
of the individual, of absolute knowledge, of rationality, and of
43 ibid, 218
44 ibid, 218
45 ibid, 218-19
46 ibid, 219
87
deserting empire, deserting humanism
historical progress, a new ofensive logic of resistance to Em-
pire emerges in their work. The difusion of the unrecogniz-
able becomes central to the war against Empirethe spread-
ing of that which cannot be reduced to simple predicates or
identities, the proliferation of a radical uncertainty, and a col-
lective penchant or ethical inclination for the irrational. Each
of these positions stems entirely from a position vehemently
opposed to the last vestiges of humanist thinking. By explic-
itly advocating the desertion of Empire, Tiqqun advocates
the desertion of humanism.
Chomsky
on the Nod
(excerpt)
Bob Black
Defacing the Currency
(March 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Defacing-The-Currency.html
Noam Chomsky has long since stopped giving a damn
about what a specifcally anarchist audience thinks about his
opinions. But because he is seen as the leading light of the
left, one of the last luminaries of the Vietnam era, and his
editorializing still get headlines on topics from privacy to civil
liberties and the nature of state domination, he continues to
be a kind of gateway drug to antiauthoritarian thinking for
people whose frst exposure is the mainstream (or slightly left
of center) media.
Bob here demonstrates that thats the best thing you can
say about Chomskys thinking. He argues convincingly that
Chomsky is a gateway to be quickly passed through on your
way to the brighter lights of anarchist thought (Bob not least
among them). While done in the format of a book review,
this is really an overview of the entire canon of Chomskys
thought and should be judged as such. Bob is frequently at
his best when he is taking on a sacred cow, and for some
people, Chomsky is certainly that.
91 noam on the nod
Chomsky on Anarchism. By Noam Chomsky. Selected
and edited by Barry Pateman. Edinburgh, Scotland and
Oakland, California: AK Press, 2005.
Occupy. By Noam Chomsky. Brooklyn, New York:
Zuccotti Park Press, 2012.
Let me just say that I dont really
regard myself as an anarchist thinker
Noam Chomsky
1
Let me just say that I agree with him. Noam Chomsky is not
only the worlds most famous anarchist. Hes the worlds most
famous anarchist who isnt one.
Chomsky had written books, many books, for almost
50 yearson linguistics (his academic specialty) and on U.S.
foreign policy (his phobic obsession)before he or his pub-
lisher, AK Press, felt a need to publish his writings on an-
archism. The back cover blurb for Chomsky on Anarchism is
as ingenuous as it is amusing: in this food of publishing
and republishingalmost all of it, by now, from his current
publisher, AK Pressvery little gets said about what exactly
Chomsky stands for, his own personal politics, his vision for
the future.
To say, in the passive voice, that very little gets said, is
evasive. Very little gets said about Chomskys anarchism be-
cause Chomsky says very little about it. In his Preface to the
book, writing on behalf of the AK Press Collective, Charles
Weigl relates: I was a teenager [the year was around 1980]
when I frst learned that Chomsky was an anarchist. (5) This
1 Chomsky on Anarchism, 135. Hereafter, page references to this
book will appear in parentheses in the body of the text.
92
was the period when some punks took up anarchism as a
slogan (Anarchy in the U.K. and all that) and as a subcul-
tural signifer, like Mohawk haircuts. By the 1990s, Marxism
ceased to be fashionable and anarchism began to be fashion-
able. That was when Chomsky began to open up about his
anarchism to his American readers and listeners. The Chom-
sky marketed by AK Press combines the holiness of a saint
with the infallibility of a pope.
Theres a simple reason why Chomskys anarchism came
as a surprise to Weigl. Chomsky himself kept it a secret so as
not to trouble the leftists and liberals he was writing books
for, and, in full page newspaper ads, signing petitions with
(justice for East Timor! etc.). Thats why it is genuinely funny
(the only laugh in this otherwise solemn book) that Bar-
ry Pateman can say that Outside the anarchist movement,
many are completely unaware of the libertarian socialist
roots of Chomskys work. (5) Thats because he kept those
roots buried. Chomsky, whose frst linguistics book was pub-
lished in 1957, and whose frst left-wing political book was
published in 1969, has never written for an American an-
archist newspaper or magazine, although he writes for rags
with titles like International Socialist. He has given literally
thousands of speeches
2
and interviews, only one of each, so
far as I know, for anarchists.
3
But he has often written for
left-liberal and Marxist periodicals.
4
Judging from this book,
2 James McGilvray, Chomsky: Language, Mind, and Politics (Cam-
bridge, England: Polity Press, 1999), 1.
3 Noam Chomsky, Preface, Powers & Prospects (Boston, MA:
South End Press, 1996), xi.
4 Noam Chomsky is probably the most well-known American an-
archist, somewhat curious given the fact that he is liberal-leftist politi-
cally and downright reactionary in his academic specialty of linguistic
theory. John Zerzan, Who is Chomsky? in Running on Emptiness:
The Pathology of Civilization (Los Angeles, CA: Feral House 2002), 140.
Zerzan has recently written to me: He commonly appears in progres-
sive and Marxist-Leninist rags (e.g. Intl Socialist Review) but has he
93 noam on the nod
his frst and, for many years, his only pro-anarchist text was
an Introduction to Daniel Gurins Anarchism: From Theory
to Practice.
5
He publicly acknowledged that he was an anar-
chist in 1976, in an interview with the British Broadcasting
System (133-48), but this interview was not published in the
United States until 27 years later (148).
6
Chomsky on Anarchism is a book of 241 pages, from which
we can subtract six pages of gushing, adulatory Prefaces and
Introductions, so it is down to 235 pages. 91 of these pages
consist of Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship (11-100),
which was, in 1969, his debut political essay. It wasnt neces-
sary to reprint this text, even if it was worth reprinting, be-
cause Black & Red in Detroit had already done so.
7
The frst
part of this text is a bitter, well-documented denunciation of
the academic and intellectual supporters of the Vietnam War.
(29-40) This is the template for many books which Chomsky
went on to write. It has nothing to do with anarchism. The
Vietcong were not anarchists. So: 235 29 = 206 pages.
The second part of this text is a critical review of a
book about the Spanish Civil War by historian Gabriel Jack-
ever contributed to an anarchist one? Some @s I know in Istanbul
asked him for something to go into their zine, a few years ago, and he
impatiently replied, Im an activist, why dont you ask Zerzan? This
was at the Istanbul Hilton after fnally getting through all the suits to
get in a word with the old turd. He seemed greatly embarrassed to be
even seen talking to them. John Zerzan, letter to Bob Black, April 12,
2012.
5 New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970. This was a Marxist pub-
lisher.
6 Noam Chomsky, Radical Priorities, ed. C.P. Otero (expanded ed.;
Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2003), 211-24. He wrote a preface for a Yugo-
slav anarchist anthology in the Slovene language in 1986 (149-52)
which his non-Slovene readers would of course never see. The BBC
interview was publishedin Canadain 1981. Noam Chomsky, Radi-
cal Priorities, ed. Carlos P. Otero (Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Black
Rose Books, 1981), 245-261.
7 Noam Chomsky, Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship (Detroit, MI:
Black & Red, 1997).
94
son.
8
Chomsky convincingly shows, contrary to Jackson, that
there was a Spanish Revolution, not merely a Spanish Civil
War. Spanish workers and peasantsmany of them anar-
chistsinitially defeated, in some parts of Spain, the fascist
generals, and also collectivized much of industry and ag-
riculture, which they placed under self-management. It is
possiblein my opinion, and also in Chomskys opinion,
probablethat if the Soviet-supported Republican govern-
ment hadnt suppressed the social revolution, it might not
have lost the war.
However, correcting the history of the anarchist role in
the Spanish Civil War is not the same thing as writing about
anarchism, much less expounding ones own vision of an-
archism. Many historians who are not anarchists have writ-
ten about, and documented, the anarchist role in the Span-
ish revolution.
9
They were doing so before Chomskys brief,
one-time intervention, and they have done so afterwards.
Since what Chomsky says there isnt really Chomsky on
anarchismit doesnt say anything about (in Patemans lan-
guage) what he stands for, his vision for the futureI would
subtract all 91 pages of Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship,
although it was a worthy writing, in 1969so we are down
to about 135 pages.
Containing the Threat to Democracyanarchism
should be the threat to democracyis 23 more pages of
Chomskys standard denunciations of the mass media, U.S.
foreign policy, and other college professors who disagree
with him, plus Chomskys espousal of democracy, natural
rights, and even his supposedly Cartesian linguistic philos-
8 The Spanish Republic and the Civil War: 1931-1939 (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1965).
9 E.g., Burnett Bolloten, The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and
Counterrevolution (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press,
1991); Pierre Brou &Emile Tmime, The Revolution and the Civil War in
Spain, trans. Tom White (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1972).
95 noam on the nod
ophyeverything except anarchism, which isnt mentioned.
So lets subtract another 23 pages: that leaves 102 pages of
possible anarchism. The next text, Language and Freedom
(1970)16 pagesdoes not refer to anarchism. We are down
to 86 pages of possible anarchism.
Of the eleven texts in this book, fve are interviews,
which take up about 72 pages. In most of these interviews,
Chomsky isnt asked about anarchism. He is usually asked the
same questions, to which he naturally provides the same an-
swers, since he has never changed his mind about anything.
10

What little content there is in all these repetitive interviews
could, in my estimation, be condensed to about 20 or 25
pages. That would reduce the anarchism in Chomsky on An-
archism to 66-71 pages. That reduces Chomskys 35 years of
anarchist writing to enough material for a pamphlet. Im not
as prolifc a writer as Chomsky, but, I could write 70 pages
on anarchism, not in 35 years, but in 35 days. And I have, in
fact, done so.
Since Chomsky and his publisher obviously had to
scramble to fnd enough Chomsky anarchism to fll a book,
its interesting to notice one published interview which is left
out. It was conducted in 1991 by Jason McQuinn, then edi-
tor and publisher of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed. That
journal was (and is) open to unorthodox anarchisms: situa-
tionist-infuenced, queer-infuenced, egoist-infuenced, green,
sex-radical, primitivist, anti-work, insurrectionary, post-left
anarchist (myself included) and more. It was painfully obvi-
ous that Chomsky was ignorant of, or contemptuous toward,
all of thisoften bothalthough these anarchists tried hard
10 His fundamental values have remained virtually unchanged
since childhood. Robert F. Barsky, Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent
(Cambridge & London: MIT Press, 1997), 95. His political opinions too
havent basically changed since he was 12. Rai, Chomskys Politics, 8.
These authors are efusively pro-Chomsky. Rai co-authored a book
with Chomsky, War Plan Iraq.
96
to draw him into a dialog. They didnt want to believe what
an asshole Chomsky is. But actually, the arrogance and impa-
tience which Chomsky exhibited there also runs through all
the interviews that AK Press did publish. It also regularly sur-
faces in his professional polemics against recalcitrant linguists
and philosophers, but I wont be going into that.
Jason McQuinn recently provided me with a copy of the
interview, which took place in Columbia, Missouri, when
Chomsky had a speaking engagement at the university there.
It was conducted by four members of the Columbia Anarchist
League.
11
Chomsky could only be bothered to talk to these
fellow anarchists for fve minutes. McQuinn asked Chomsky
if he kept up with the contemporary American anarchist press.
Chomsky claimed to subscribe to most of it, more out of
duty than anything else I guess.
12
That doesnt sound like a
man who is interested in, or open-minded about contempo-
rary anarchism. Acting out of duty instead of acting out of
desire is inherently counter-revolutionary, but, as we shall see,
that is fundamental to Chomskys stoic anarchist vision.
This interview does, however, expose, in Chomskys of-
hand remarks, his mindless, absolutely uncritical opinion of
modern industrial civilization. Even many liberals were then,
and since, worried about aspects of modern industrial civili-
zationbut not Chomsky.
Here is Chomsky exercising his brilliant mind:
Civilization has many aspects, it doesnt mean any-
thing to be for or against it.
Well, to the extent that civilization is oppression, sure,
youre against it. But then the same is true of any
other social structure. Youre also against oppression
there.
11 Letter, Jason McQuinn to Bob Black, July 5, 2012. The published
version is no longer available.
12 Ibid., 2.
97 noam on the nod
But how can you give a criticism of civilization as
such? I mean, for example, an anarchist commu-
nity is a civilization. It has culture. It has social re-
lations. It has a lot of forms of organization. In a
civilization. In fact, if its an anarchist community it
would be very highly organized, it would have tradi-
tions... changed traditions [changed traditions? ]. It
would have creative activities. In what way isnt that
civilization?
13
It so happens that there are answers to these would-be
rhetorical questions.
Chomsky must be absolutely ignorant of the reality that
human beings lived in anarchist societies for about two mil-
lion years before the frst state arose about 6,000 years ago,
in Sumer. Some anarchist societies existed until very recent-
ly.
14
Anarchism wasnt frst attempted in practice, as Chomsky
supposes, in Ukraine in 1918 or in Catalonia in 1936. It was
the way humans lived for two million years, as also did our
primate relatives, such as apes and monkeys. Our primate an-
cestors lived in societies, and our closest primate relatives still
live in societies. Some primates now living also have culture,
if culture encompasses learning, innovation, demonstration
and imitation.
15
Chomsky might acknowledge that, but dis-
miss it, since for him, what is distinctive about humans is
language, not culture. It is claimed that some primates can
13 Ibid., 2.
14 See, e.g,, Harold Barclay, People Without Government: An An-
thropology of Anarchism (London: Kahn & Averill with Cienfuegos
Press, 1982); Pierre Clastres, Society Against the State (New York: Uri-
zen,1977); James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist
History of Upland Southeast Asia ((New Haven, CT & London: Yale
University Press, 2009); Tribes Without Rulers, ed. John Middleton &
David Tait (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958).
15 F.B.M. de Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master: Refections by a
Primatologist (New York: Basic Books, 1981).
98
be taught the rudiments of language, a possibility Chomsky
rejects, not because the evidence is insufcient (possibly it
is), but because it disproves his linguistic theory.
16
One of the
best known of these primates was named Nim Chimsky.
17
The anatomically modern humans of the last 90,000
years or so had their creative activities. There are cave
paintings in France and Spain, attributed to the Cro-Ma-
gnons, datable to maybe 40,000 years ago. There are also rock
paintings in southern Africa, which are at least 10,500 years
old, possibly 19,000-27,000 years old, which continued to
be done into the nineteenth century, by the Bushmen (now
called the San).
18
I would like to think that Chomsky would
accept these artifacts as evidence of culture, and he does,
19
but
in the interview he implies that there is no creativity outside
of civilization. He doesnt know anything about prehistoric
humans. When he cites examples of pre-technological societ-
ies, he refers to the mythology of the Old Testament!
20

When he refers to peasantsas he did in talking (down)
to the Columbia anarchistshe told them: Peasant societ-
ies can be quite vicious and murderous and destructive, both
in their internal relations and in their relations with one
16 Chomsky, Refections on Language, 40.
17 Elizabeth Hess, Nim Chimsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human
(New York: Bantam Books, 2008).
18 David Coulson & Alec Campbell, African Rock Art: Paintings and
Engravings on Stone (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001), 6.
19 Noam Chomsky, The Place of Language in the Mind, The Sci-
ence of Mind: Interviews with James McGilvray (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2012), 70.
20 Letter, Jason McQuinn to Bob Black, 2. Even the Old Testament
tells a story about the Israelites imploring Samuel to make them a
king, which he did, but the thing displeased Samuel, which is un-
derstandable. I Sam. 8: 6 (KJV). Samuel went on to tell them what
evils they were getting themselves in for in acquiring a state like any
other state, in eloquent words which are up there with the fnest of
anarchist rhetoric.
99 noam on the nod
another.
21
And this is the guy who has cheered on every
violent Third World national liberation movement, every
leftist gang with a peasant base and Marxist intellectuals
for leadersthe Vietcong, the Khmer Rouge, the Sandini-
stas, etc. every one which has come along in the last ffty
years! He likes their peasant violence, when it is controlled
by Marxist intellectuals like himself. But that peasants should
engage in violence autonomously, in their own collective
interest and in nobody elses, well, then they are vicious, mur-
derous barbarians.
22
However, culture is not civilization, except in the Ger-
man language (Kultur). Before civilizationand afterthere
were anarchist societies of various degrees of complexity:
band societies based on hunting and gathering; tribal soci-
eties (horticultural, agricultural or pastoral); chiefdoms and
autonomous village communities (agricultural). A civiliza-
tion is basically an economically diferentiated but politi-
cally administered, urban-dominated society. Civilization is
urban-dominated society with class divisions and subject to
the state (and sooner or later blessed with add-ons such as
writing, standing armies, the subordination of women, and
hierarchic religion controlled by a priesthood). Society long
21 Interview, 2.
22 Chomsky doesnt even know what peasants are. He further lec-
tured the Columbia anarchists: For example, there were thousands
of year[s] of peasant societies before the formation of city-states,
before the invention of writing and so on. . . . There are peasant so-
cieties that go back seven or eight thousand years, to the beginnings
of agriculture. Interview, 2. By defnition, peasants are cultivators
who are subject to states. Eric R. Wolf, Peasants (Englewood Clifs,
NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 3-4, 9-10. There are no peasants independent
of civilization, just asuntil recentlythere were no civilizations
not dependent on peasants. Neolithic farmers lived in autonomous
(anarchist) village communities, in Mesopotamia and elsewhere, for
several thousand years before states and civilizations occasionally
emerged from one or more of them. Marshall D. Sahlins, Tribesmen
(Englewood Clifs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 2-3.
100
preceded civilization. Culture long preceded civilization. If
we accomplish the creation of anarchist communities, they
will be societies and they will have culture. According to
Chomsky, an anarchist community is a civilization.
23
But
it might not be a civilization.
24
To say that it will be, is to
beg the question. Anarchist societies might be better than
civilization. In fact, an anarchist civilization is by defnition
impossible: The state diferentiates civilization from tribal
society.
25
.
Whether neo-anarchist communities or societies would
be highly organized (133), which is Chomskys fond wish,
nobody knows, not even Chomsky. But an authoritarian like
him wants the anarchist society to be highly organized, just
like the existing society is, except that in the new order the
workers and other people (if any other people are tolerated)
had better attend a lot of meetings if they know whats good
for them. This is not obviously an improvement on the status
quo.
26
[excerpt ends...]
23 Letter, Jason McQuinn to Bob Black, 2.
24 Bob Black, Nightmares of Reason, and Bob Black, More Modesty
All Around, both available at theanarchistlibrary.org.
25 Sahlins, Tribesmen, 5 (emphasis added).
26 Bob Black, Debunking Democracy (Berkeley, CA: C.A.L Press, 2011),
10-11 & passim.
Why Do
Something
Rather Than
Nothing?
Guillaume Paoli
Demotivational Training
(November 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Demotivational-Training.html
Demotivational Training is an of-putting title, which is a
shame, because the book is a fantastic text for newcomers
and experienced people alike, carefully and thoughtfully
translated from the French. Every chapter has interesting
insight and ideas, all in language that is as close to jargon-free
as these jaundiced eyes can even recognize anymore.
Using techniques of modern management to critique
modern management, this text lives somewhere between
Nihilist Communism and Abolition of Work, and, I would argue,
is more readable than the former and a bit more up-to-date
than the latter.
105
why do something rather than nothing?
Motivated, motivated,
We must be motivated.
Neo-Trotskyist refrain
To get a donkey to move forward, nothing is better than the
proverbial carrot and stick. At least thats how the story goes.
Having known a few muleskinners myself, I never saw a
single one resort to this technique. But whatever the reality
may be, its a useful metaphor that, like many popular ex-
pressions, contains and condenses phenomena that are more
complex than they seem. From the outset, lets be clear that
it is a question of the carrot and the stick, and not one or the
other. Theres not an option, but rather a dialectical relation
between the two terms. No carrot without the stick, and
vice versa. The stick alone, physical punishment without the
carrot, is not enough to encourage continuous and resolute
forward progress in the animal. The beaten mule will snort,
reluctantly take a few steps, but then stop moving at the frst
opportunity. To use managerial language: stick beatings are
not efcient. In fact, the real efect of the stick is indirecta
permanent threat that can be unleashed at the least sign of
diminished efort. It is enough that the donkey realizes that
he can be hit, either because he has a painful memory of
the experience or because he sees mules around him being
hit. It gets him to move, not to reach a goal, but to avoid
pain. Specialists describe this phenomenon as a secondary
negative motivation. In the ideal situation, it shouldnt even
be necessary to hit the animal, because he has completely
internalized the threat. His interior stick will seem like
an improvement on the condition of mules. He will say:
We have nothing to complain about. Previously we were
beaten cruelly. Now our life is nicer. The philosopher Nor-
106
bert Elias called this tendency the process of the civilization of
manners. Nonetheless, all teachers are well aware that every
punishment has to be paired with the promise of a reward.
Coercion without reward wont work for long. One isnt
motivated solely by avoiding something, but by that plus at-
taining gratifcation.
Heres where the carrot comes in, as somebody dangles
it from a stick in front of the animals nose. If the psycho-
logical forces unleashed by the shaking of the stick are rela-
tively crude, those that are unleashed by the carrot are more
complex. First, the animal not only has to see the carrot, but
must see only that; so it must be arranged that all other ob-
jects disappear from his sight. To achieve this efect trainers
have, from time immemorial, used blinders. Depending on
the sophistication of the donkey, there are various types. For
example, some let in light from a specifc direction, leaving
everything else in shadow so as not to distract the donkey
from his goal. Anything that is not the carrot is either an
ideology involving absolute evil or an impractical utopia. Yet
as efective as this approach is, it is still coercive. Sometimes
a donkey will buck at this authoritarian restriction of his
visual feld. Keep in mind that the purpose of the carrot is
precisely to promote free and voluntary progress. It is easy
to see that the best way to focus the will of the animal on a
single object is to take away everything else around him so
that nothing can distract him from his desire. In the desert
there is no need for blinders. So a desert must be made.
Once you capture the donkeys attention, the real work
begins. There are two competing sets of interests: the don-
key wants to eat the carrot; the donkey trainer wants the
donkey to walk. How do we reconcile the two? The animal
has to substitute his internal motivation (hunger, desire) for
the external one (the carrot, and the path to obtain it). This
phase is called identifcation. Next, once he is hooked, he has
107
why do something rather than nothing?
to change his behavior and do what is necessary to reach
his goal. There is a greater chance of success if the subject is
convinced that he is acting freely and without any outside
infuence. This is the phase known as adaptation. It spreads
easily in mammals with a more social nature than with don-
keys, which are more solitaryso lets add a few colleagues.
For at this stage a key phenomenon comes into play. Each
individual colleague believes he has to take a step forward.
Why? Because he is convinced that all the others will take a
step as well. This is called emulation or free competition. Each
believes because he has no choice but to believe, since ev-
eryone else believeseveryone else being the sum of each
person who believes, etc. Its how a perception becomes an
incontrovertible reality.
The next phase in the process is called well-sublimated
failure. For there is clearly no question of whether the goal
can be achieved, otherwise he would stop walking and en-
joy his success and the whole thing would have been in
vain. Still, it is essential to keep the animal from thinking
that all hope of success is impossible, which would equally
compromise his forward motion. Satisfaction should appear
as deferred but never unreachable. The unsuccessful attempt
should be compensated, that is, converted into a growing
efort. This is the most delicate moment. Here specialists in
positive thinking encourage the donkeys with maxims like
this one, coined by Churchill: Success is the ability to move
from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
Once this stage is reached, the worst is over. Going for-
ward, one can count on another factor known as routine.
The animal continues along on its path at a regular pace, no
longer asking the question why. More precisely, the question
is inverted for him. He will ask himself: what reason do I
have to stop? What matters now is no longer the relevance
of the motivation that got him going, but the absence of
108
sufciently powerful alternative motivations that would lead
him to question the path he is on. Also, so long as an imperi-
ous reason doesnt draw him away from his current behavior,
he will continue working.
Lets admit it: the fact that donkeys are systematically
fooled by such a simple approach doesnt speak well for
their powers of discernment. Nevertheless, in their favor,
one should acknowledge that they dont have a donkeys
union, demanding: more carrots, fewer sticks! It is a well-
known fact that, at the end of the trail, the most deserving
donkey enjoys the juiciest carrot. That wasnt so long ago.
For the global context no longer permits that sort of gen-
erosity. Subject to brutal competition, the muleskinners are
not likely to waste expensive carrots in this manner. In order
to lower the cost of labor, they substitute colorful images of
juicy carrots, or they hire communications specialists who
try to persuade the donkeys that the pole from which noth-
ing is hanging is itself a succulent dish. Or that the stick will
transform itself into a carrot when one is beaten on the back
enough. We have to admire their eforts.
What I have outlined in broad strokes is nothing other
than the theory of motivation as it is distilled in austere trea-
tises of psychology and put into practice in expensive semi-
nars. What is a motive? It is in the most basic sense that which
leads to movement. By extension it is a reason to act. Motiva-
tion is, then, the creation and communication of motives to
get people to move in a direction that is seen as useful, or (to
speak the language of our times) to make them continuously
more fexible and mobile.
In all sectors of society today the battle over motiva-
tion is raging. The unemployed dont earn the right to exist
unless they present proof that they are constantly searching
for nonexistent jobs. During the employment interview, it
isnt so much competence that matters as the enthusiastic
109
why do something rather than nothing?
demonstration of fawless subservience. Those who still have
work can only hope to keep their position by identifying
heart and soul with the frm, letting themselves be led wher-
ever this loyalty takes them, embracing its cause for bet-
ter or (more often) for worse. And the reality of motivation
doesnt stop at the ofce door. It is also imposed on the
consumer who is required to be attentive to all the latest
products and to confrm his loyalty to the brands that have
hooked him. And on the adolescent who must be formed
perhaps we should say be formattedaccording to the de-
mands of the market, no less than on the elderly who have
to pay of their debt to a world that has had the generosity
of keeping them alive. Regardless of age, the viewer has to
make increasing amounts of brainpower available to receive
the endless stream of media bits that constitute his reality.
Once the television is of, there are still all of the artists who
want to make him move, the activists who want to mobilize
him, the time and relationships that he has to manage, and his
own image that he is forced to make more dynamic; in brief,
there is not a moment that shouldnt be under the regime
of the useful, under the categorical imperative of movement.
Nothing but carrots for such miserable donkeys!
Motivation is a central question of our epoch and it is
bound to become even more so. This is frst of all because
total commodifcation demands it. Today everything is sub-
ject to commerce: every desire, every aspiration, and every
impulse. The fagship products that dominate the market are
not just any objects supposed to perform this or that func-
tion, but rather slices of prefabricated lifestyles. And the con-
sumer must identify with them; he must make their motives
his own. Each of us has within our beings what were once
known as the passions of the soul as well as a heritage
of previous traditions (at least what is left of them). This
entire inventory must be mobilized, remodeled, packaged,
110
labeled, made exchangeable with products of equal value.
So as much at the beginning of the process, in what we still
call work, as further down, in what can be called consump-
tion (though these two moments are increasingly difcult to
distinguish), its a matter of making it so that peoples minds
are entirely occupied by this infnite task.
The second reason motivation is more crucial than ever
is that the real needs of individuals to which social institu-
tions once claimed to respond (we could mention among
others, the need for stability, the thirst for social encounters,
the pleasure of mutual recognition, the hope for a better life)
have been systematically destroyed by market colonization.
The ideals and the promises that in good and bad times were
the cause of compromise and renunciation are henceforward
labeled as archaisms that must be completely and quickly
annihilated. If people need to be constantly motivated, it is
because they are increasingly de-motivated. In the employ-
ment sector, all the indicators point to a decrease in invest-
ment on the part of workers in their jobs. This is not only
the case among precarious and poorly paid workers, but also
among middle management and top executives. In the con-
sumer sector, the major markets are seeing a growing dissat-
isfaction among customers, to an increasing extent due to a
saturation efect: the result of a decreasing interest in making
purchases more than the fabled decline in purchasing pow-
er. In the media sector, the homogenization of information
(in form as well as content) appears to be creating a global
crisis of confdence. As for the political sphere, the principle
of communicating vessels between government and opposi-
tion, according to which the decline in popularity of one
brought about an equal rise in that of the other, has gener-
ally ceased to apply in democratic nations.There is just one
ideology left and it is met with unanimous disinterest. In a
more general sense, the imperative of growth, to which
111
why do something rather than nothing?
everything else is subordinated, but whose purpose is more
and more difcult to discern, is no longer enough to justify
the sacrifces required.
To sum it up, the more the markets need motivation
from the people, the more they lack it. The more the sys-
tems technological devices appear irresistible, the weaker
their ability to solicit voluntary cooperation. At the very
moment when global capital seems to have removed all ex-
ternal obstacles that formerly slowed its development, an
internal factor threatens it: the growing dissatisfaction of its
human resources, without which the system is nothing. This
is the soft underbelly of the colossus. Contrary to what Marx
believed, in the end the limit to World Trade, Inc.
1
might
not be objective, but subjective, namely: the tendency of the
rate of motivation to fall. Of all the factors that contribute
to this state of afairs, the trafc jam plays a special role. The
story is well known. Everybody buys a car, promising indi-
vidual freedom, speed and power, only to fnd himself stuck
in trafc because other motorists, driven by the same mo-
tives, did the same thing. But it is too late to be able to do
without a car. However, suddenly a new product is released
ofering that special something, as well as freedom, to its
owner. Everyone hurries to buy it, with, of course, the same
result. In this situation it isnt really accurate to say we are
1 Everyone has a vague idea of what capitalism is. But many would have a really
hard time giving a defnition. Of course there is onethere are many, even;
nevertheless it is good to be wary of the falsities that the usage of a generic
term ends up carrying, as it will tend to close the possibility of reexamination.
The familiar is not necessarily the known. In his complete works, Marx did
not write the word capitalism one single time; he had no need to. At the
same time, it is difcult to not give a name to that which so clearly makes up
a system. Here I will use the term World Trade, Inc., not because it is more
precise, but on the contrary because it is a fgure and not a concept, which
keeps a certain allusive distance from what is signifed. I could have just as
easily said the big thingy. But World Trade, Inc. is a bit more explicit. Its
clearly something global, with a central activity that is commercial, and is also
something that is incorporated, which is to say, embodied by corporations.
112
in a trafc jam; the bitter truth is that we are the trafc jam!
To the extent that congestion extends from one end of the
market to another, the life span of each supposed motive
leading there decreases. The obvious approach is to rapidly
create new motives, but the likely result is that they will end
up creating their own motive-jam. It is not just that people
overwhelmed with temptations wont know where to turn
their attention, but the trafc jam will likely result also in
the other directionbrands trying to reach increasingly un-
available customers.
And that is not all, because getting caught in trafc jams
makes the workday longer and results in lower pay per hour.
It is logical: the more people end up being included, the less
the role of each person in creating wealth, and the more each
is an interchangeable unit. There is always someone some-
where who will do what you do for less. And so the gap
between the promised land as seen on TV and the real world
widens. The era in which we were promised that Progress
would bring not only more goods, but also less work, is over.
From now on everyone subject to the market is constantly
in a double bind: expect lower pay and consume more; be
creative and admit that there is no alternative; be loyal and
remember that you are replaceable at will; be a unique in-
dividual and submit to the needs of the team; be egotistical
and be ashamed to defend your interests; orgasm and at the
same time practice abstinence. If you obey one order, you
will disobey the other. Now you go and be motivated under
such conditions!
Many people have pointed out the crisis of motivation in
order to condemn this crisis. I believe, rather, that we should
welcome this situation as an opportunity. If you distrust the
pace at which things are changing, better to slow down. If
youre unsure of your escape route ahead, it is advised you
turn away from the carrots dangled in front of you. If capi-
113
why do something rather than nothing?
talism has as an essential precondition the motivation of its
agents, it is logical to conclude that for the opponents and
victims of its development, demotivation is a necessary stage.
When I told my circle that I planned to write this elegy,
I noted a certain disapproval, or at least a manifest lack of
comprehension in my interlocutors. I get it: as if we werent
demotivated enough as it is! As if our epoch doesnt sufer
from chronic anomie, from a dramatic absence of motives.
Isnt the problem rather that the ideals, the general objectives,
the utopias, the reasons to act that animated previous genera-
tions have disappeared from the surface of the social feld?
And certainly a long list of todays motives would look more
like a cemetery of uniforms and liveries, as Duchamp put it.
As for the Left, what happened to the strategies of rup-
ture, self-management, the power of the soviets, the tomor-
rows when anything is possible? There has been a clear de-
feat of those who thought that socialism actually existed in
some part of the world. But also the denial, based on ex-
perience, that the scientifc method could guarantee social
change. More important still, the loss of the lovely assur-
ance that history has a meaning that, even if in roundabout
ways, will lead humanity to a glorious future. And fnally, the
nagging doubt that all these prescriptive utopias may not
be practical or even desirable. And the activists who try to
revive them, without themselves really believing in them, are
chasing after wind.
But look at the right too: what has happened to the
traditional institutions and values that only a few decades
ago were seen as the indispensable pillars of order and civi-
lization? The nation, patriotism, the apostolic and Catho-
lic Church, military service, bourgeois culture, patriarchy,
2

2 There are still people valiantly fghting patriarchy, but I ask you this: where
are the patriarchs? If Freuds theory, according to which the authoritarian
father is to the individual what institutions are to the social order, were true,
114
Sunday lamb dinner with the family? They have melted like
icebergs exposed to global warming and it is clearly not our
thumbing our noses at them, as we felt compelled to do as
adolescents, that is making things worse. These notions were
already moribund then; in fact, today they are among those
species considered extinct in the wild. Now you have to
go to the zoo to see them.
As for the center, what is left of the greatest happiness
for the greatest number with its social security, guaranteed
employment, increasing free time, democratic involvement,
improved education and public health services, and retire-
ment and funeral expenses guaranteed? All the elements of
this lukewarm but certain comfort which were thought to be
the norm, are now being swept away like empty champagne
bottles after the all night party that was the golden years from
1945 to 1975. The gently sloping stairs that one gracefully
ascended one after the other now opens into a huge hole.
Some fall, some hang on. Its the nasty reality of competition.
Finally we look up into the air and fnd the intellectuals:
there are simulacra everywhere!post-modernism, post-
history, post-humanism, post-critique, anything so long as
it is post and now even post-post. Of course, this form of
elegant resignation makes us smile (we have nothing left to
hope for but a university post) but it points to a widely held
state of mind, the sense that nothing is moving forward, that
all the hands have been played, the future is past, and struggle
is impossible. If it werent the extreme right, the Islamists, the
homophobes and the smokersthat is to say, all those who
pretend to embody the pastone wonders what could still
provoke public rage today. Such an absence of hope is not
so much despair since there is an energy in despair; nor is it
inertia: on the contrary, everything must move faster and
then anarchy would have reigned for some time now! But, as one might note,
the evaporation of the severe Father has not made way for fraternity, far from
it. There are those calling for his return so that he may fnally be killed.
115
why do something rather than nothing?
faster. It is manic-depressive nihilism.
The diference between ancient society, modernism,
and post-modernism is this: the ancients knew that they
believed, the modernists believed that they knew, and the
post-modernists believe that they dont believe in anything
anymore. It is precisely this latter belief that we have to
destroy. What we need to criticize in the disabused pose
of those who have walked away from everything without
having been anywhere is not their giving up of illusions,
but that all the illusions they encourage about the world
they describe as rational are in fact flled with spells, magical
rituals and sacred carrots. For if the ancient idols have been
thrown to the bonfre of the vanities, it is in the name of a
monotheism so much more voracious that it remains the only
social force. If it is not seen, it is because it is everywhere, and
so it presents itself as the only truth, naked and undeniable.
Everything has been deconstructed, demystifed, demolished,
discredited, superseded, decomposed, cut in slices, digested,
defecated. Everything? No. Nobody touches the market. Its
taboo. It proliferates like algae that take over all the space
around it, eliminating other species. It is the religion of
World Trade, Inc. Yet just as Christianity did not completely
eliminate the pagan gods, but integrated them into its
universe in the bastardized forms of the Virgin Mary and
the saints, the monotheism of the market has not completely
destroyed the human motives that were once outside of it. It
has monopolized themin denaturing them, in reforming
them so that they conform to its endsto the point of
making them unrecognizable. To believe that motivation is
lacking in this world is to misunderstand the mutant forms
through which it expresses itself.
Is it necessary to clarify that it is not a question here of
making a cynical apology for a social system in which the
norm is a pathetic and feeble vegetative state? The absence of
116
a taste for life, the smothering of passions, is only the fipside
of the total mobilization required by World Trade, Inc., and
is its symptom. You dont treat bulimia with anorexia! No,
the objective of practicing demotivation, and this treatise is
a modest step in that direction, would be rather to divest
oneself from the apparatuses used to lead all of us donkeys to
the market, to methodically dismantle the mechanisms that
ensure that, despite everything, it works.
Some might say: thats not enough, you have to give
people reasons to fght, motivate them to seek a better world,
ofer them visions of well-being, of beauty, of justice. Not
really. I do not hold the view that this is the role of critique.
Self-limitation is required. If one opposes the way our ener-
gies are captured by the exterior force of the market, it is not
in order to prescribe in turn behaviors and goals intended to
be more desirable. We have already seen plenty of these uto-
pias that ridicule the current carrots only in order to replace
them with even more tyrannical ones. In a certain sense they
all resemble the reigning directive in Thomas Mores Utopia:
Everyone goes to bed at eight oclock and sleeps for eight
hours!
Besides, the history of the 20
th
century has thorough-
ly demonstrated that the attempts to oppose World Trade,
Inc. with models of behavior aimed to subvert it have in the
end provided it with its best weapons. Today the managers
want nothing less than to make every employee a situation-
ist, enjoining them to be spontaneous, creative, autonomous,
freewheeling, unattached, and greeting the precariousness of
their lives with open arms. Trying to outdo this would be
absurd. On the other hand, limiting the critique to the do-
main of the negative, without prescribing a specifc goal, is
to show great optimism stemming from the hypotheses (ob-
viously unproven) that most people have within them all the
energy necessary for their autonomy without there being
117
why do something rather than nothing?
the need to add any. In his time Lichtenberg wrote, Noth-
ing is more unfathomable than the system of motivation
behind our actions. One can hope that this impenetrability
can defnitively restore its rights.
The
Domination
of
Knowledge
Enrico Manicardi
Free From Civilization
(June 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Free-From-Civilization.html
I dont know much about Enrico Manicardi other than
that he traveled with John Zerzan, and spoke alongside him,
during Johns lengthy trip to Italy a decade ago. Whether
inspired by his time with John or entirely by his own
proclivities, he has produced the tome of anarcho-primitivist
thought, extensively documented and broad-ranging.
This section (The Domination of Knowledge) of the
frst chapter of the book (The Mentality of Domination),
details the development of knowledge as an abstraction and
mechanism of control, and how science, ideology, and the
inexorable growth of civilization has caused this to come to
pass.
ps: This is a book of overwhelming footnotes, which
were not included for reasons of space.
121
conscious domination, unconscious ideology
Modern natural science is the creation
of the practical will to conquest
Werner Sombart
The image of the world as a huge orderly whole, perfectly
knowable and controlled by humans, is the theoretical basis
on which civilizations dominating spirit relies. The imple-
mentation of this ideological vision has been the challenge
assigned to modern science by the ancient philosophies of
the civilized world. The progressive rhetorics celebrating the
ability of scienceand technologyto give rise to an ever
people-friendlier world originates from this absurd dream
of turning the universe into an occupied territorya place
entirely shaped by the human race and doomed to serve only
human interests.
In the world we live in it is not possible to acquire
knowledge for its own sake. Modern science originates
from the will of power, Karl Jaspers wrote (though with the
intent of criticizing this premise). Domination of nature,
ability, usefulness, knowledge as powerthese are the key-
words. Such a vision of knowledge leads of course to a very
aggressive attitude which, though concealed by an alleged
need of clarity and reliability, defnitely deviates from the
loving observation of what is investigated, since it aims at
interfering with the examined processes, instead of simply
trying to understand them. This manipulative approach is not
a communication of knowledge, but a war aimed at subju-
gationthe purpose is not understanding per se, but rather
understanding in order to forge things, to put them to ser-
vice, to make them useful. Worse still, such an approach leads
us to think that this is the only possible way to know things.
When Lvi-Strauss admitted that the natives extreme famil-
iarity with their biological environment, the passionate at-
tention which they pay to it and their precise knowledge of
122
it has often struck inquirers,

he emphasized two important
aspectsthat it is possible to approach an unknown world
without arrogance; and that arrogance makes us numb, to the
point of being amazed by any other mode of inquiry that
rejects those same aggressive premises.
The dominating perspective that shapes the way we
think is well rooted in the solid ground of civilizationa
project having at its heart the symbolic thought that ab-
stracts an ideal form of knowledge from reality, turning this
abstraction into an objective and universal model of knowl-
edge. The central position occupied in the modern world by
any ideal element of this abstract thoughtspace, time,
language, art, etcsuggests that the perspective chosen by
the civilized mentality must not be real, but rather ef-
cient and functioning. The advent of the notion and science
of numbers, ie mathematics, is perfectly inscribed in this
world view. The attempt to give an objective (and thus math-
ematical) justifcation to knowledge whose sole purpose is
to bend nature to humanitys rule fulflls the same need of
control and subjugation that had been born with the rise of
the farming/breeding system. And while this mindset was to
be fully realized only several centuries after its original ap-
pearance, this claimed objectivity in our world view has
preserved all its initial premises. The numerical rule that
served as a privileged key to a consciousness that had lost
any interest in knowledge as such, will soon become the
universal justifcation of a language which is potentially un-
questionable and which will be widely known as rational
science. Knowledge, in the civilized world, must be aimed
at controlling the universe, otherwise it can be considered
uselesspure (and pointless) contemplation.
In a quick survey of the milestones of this overpower-
ing race of knowledge turned into power, we should not
forget that in Europe, it was in archaic and classic Greece that
the way was opened to the elevation of the mathematical
123
conscious domination, unconscious ideology
system to the role of objective key for the interpretation of
the world. In fact, while a practical conscious mentality is a
fairly new stagewhich has been reached in the last fve
hundred yearsthe theories of Greek mathematiciansPy-
thagoras, Euclid, Archimedes, Apolloniusassigned to the
science of numbers, in the form of arithmetic and geome-
trythe role of keen revealer of all the things in the world,
a role which would be sidelined, however, by the advent of
Christianity. Far from denying the power of humanity over
nature (the Jewish-Christian imposition of a God assigning
to human beings a dominion over the universe openly justi-
fes the existence of a system founded on the human exploi-
tation of the world), Christianity simply introduced an au-
thority shift from human beings to God. And while this
intervention hindered the mechanistic ambitions of a sci-
ence which did not yet need to impose itself as a supreme
source of knowledge, it actually fully justifed the purposes
of this conquest. So it was that, in an environment flled with
the mindset of domination, modern science got the upper
hand. Gradually ousting God from his role of bestowing
power over the world, and putting mathematics in his place,
science could appear as a hegemonic bearer of universal wel-
farea role it has claimed ever since. Thus science estab-
lished the rules of a domination that was no longer an end in
itselfas was the rule assigned by God to humanitybut
was explicitly oriented towards a concrete purposefulfll-
ing the fantasies of the superior race.
Actually, it was only after modern scientifc thought
was established that the idea of controlling whatever exists
in order to satisfy the needs of the strongest was elevated to
a secular value and became a conscious and premeditated
attempt. Fritjof Capra noted that at the dawn of history
people lived in small, cohesive communities and experi-
enced nature in terms of organic relationships, ie respecting
as much as possible the balance among the diferent parts of
124
the world (human or non-human). When approaching their
environment, the goal of non-civilized men and women
was to understand the meaning and signifcance of things,
rather than prediction and control. They were fully im-
mersed in this holistic dimension, thus managing to grasp
every possible nuance of their sensual universe. As long as
the Earth was considered a living creature, a Mother, any
act that could potentially damage her was unthinkable: One
ds not readily slay a mother, dig into her entrails for gold
or mutilate her body, Carolyn Merchant points out, giving
voice to the world view of our primitive forebears. Filled
with this feeling of profound union with every natural ele-
ment, the sensibility of non-domesticated peoples rejected
violence toward the earth: You ask me to plow the ground.
Shall I take a knife and tear my mothers bosom?, won-
dered Smohalla, a Native American ghost-dance prophet of
the Wanapum tribe, thus summing up the reasons of ances-
tral human resistance to cultivation.

If today the world is not
an organic, living and amazing reality anymore, but a cold
mathematical mechanism to be discovered and subdued to
humanitys domination, we should thank the eforts of the
main ideologues of modern scientifc thought. Bacon, Gali-
leo and Descartes were the tireless pioneers of this endeavor.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), a pre-Enlightenment
thinker credited as the father of modern science and fore-
runner of the industrial age, though underestimating the
role of mathematics as a method of scientifc investigation,
laid the foundations of a knowledge based on the applica-
tion of the experimental method to every known discipline,
and set clear and factual goals for the study of natural phe-
nomena. For him, the task of science was to investigate na-
ture in order to know it objectively and to submit it en-
tirely to human domination. Bacon believed it possible to
use mans rational faculties to gain objective knowledge of
Gods order and by using that knowledge enlarge the
125
conscious domination, unconscious ideology
bounds of human empire to the efecting of all things pos-
sible. Using the scientifc method, Bacon argued that nature
could be forced out of her natural state and squeezed and
molded. Bacon even called nature a common little harlot
[that] we must tame, squeeze, mold and shape. In the hey-
day of the Inquisition, nature could not avoid a fate of op-
pression, and ended up serving the masters of the world. Na-
ture, Merchant writes quoting Bacon, must be bound into
service and made a slave, put in constraint and molded by
the mechanical arts. The searchers and spies of nature are to
discover her plots and secrets.
In his utopian novel New Atlantis, Bacon imagined a
technological society ruled by a scientifc elite, devoted to
experimentation and investigation of nature with the sole
purpose of establishing human domination over it. After all,
what distinguished this philosopher of science, Lord Chan-
cellor of England and champion of the king, was that, to him,
knowledge could not be reduced to mere sophisms and
theoretical quibbles and had to be practical in a modern
sense. In short, Bacon split human reason from nature, for
the frst time in history at a conscious level. He thus con-
ferred on reason the ability to subjugate nature. A nature
which in the Renaissance was still thought of as an orderly
whole (created by God), became with Francis Bacon a real-
ity that was consciously external with regard to humanity
and had to be reduced to a resource. According to Bacon,
knowledge was not a sort of awed participation in the
knowledge of what exists, but a concrete tool, necessary to
establish the uncontested power of human beings over the
world (regnum hominis, kingdom of man). So with Bacon,
knowledge ofcially stopped being knowledge and con-
sciously turned into power.
From Bacon onwards, Adorno and Horkheimer wrote,
scientifc thought, both in the West and in the East, aims to
produce neither concepts nor images, nor the joy of under-
126
standing, but method, And this development of science as
a methodology for manipulating nature, Merchant contin-
ues, soon turned into a fearsome program; Bacons follow-
ers realized even more clearly than Bacon himself the con-
nections between mechanics, the trades, middle-class
commercial interests, and the domination of nature. Hence,
the attack on nature gradually lost all hesitation, and became
the brazen expression of an acclaimed human hegemony
over the world: We can, if need be, ransack the whole
globe, the English naturalist and theologian William Der-
ham (1657-1735) declared without any reserve, penetrate
into the bowels of the earth, descend to the bottom of the
deep, travel to the farthest regions of this world, to acquire
wealth, to increase our knowledge, or even only to please
our eye and fancy.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), contemporary of Francis
Bacon, established the reign of mathematicized knowledge,
assigning to Bacons experimental methodwhich only re-
lied on inductive observationthe dogmatic force of nu-
merical science. Galileo believed that the Book of Nature
is written in the language of mathematics and can only be
read through it. More concretely, Galileo thought that the
essence of the world can only be expressed by the metric-
quantitative aspects of matter, so students attention must
only focus on these measurable aspects. Any connection
not based on these properties is simply a subjective projec-
tion which cannot possibly give us an objective description of
nature; as such, it is irrelevant to knowledge. British psychia-
trist Ronald Laing wrote about these premises in 1982,
maintaining that with Galileo out go sight, sound, taste,
touch and smell and along with them has since gone sthet-
ics and ethical sensibility, values, quality, form; all feelings,
motives, intentions, soul, conscience, spirit. Experience as
such is cast out of the realm of scientifc discourse. As early
as 1964, Mumford had described this Galilean expulsion of
127
conscious domination, unconscious ideology
subjectivity from the realm of existence as a crimea
crime identical, in reverse, to the error of the early Chris-
tian Fathers who had suppressed any interest in the natural
world in order to concentrate upon the fate of the human
soul in eternity.
So with Galileo experience was turned into experi-
ment, and only experiments qualifed experiences. So experi-
ence lost its subjective connotation and became a revelation
of certain, undisputed truths. Galileo made science a dogma.
And although the ideological disagreement with the other
absolute and monolithic holder of alleged truththe Roman
Church, with its truth revealed by Godwould never grow
into a polemic clashGalileos profound religious faith led
him to bear all the drawbacks of this challengeit was thanks
to the work of the most famous Italian astronomer that math-
ematics was elevated to an unchallenged foundation of sci-
ence, becoming its universal language. And while it would be
the Enlightenments task to launch a campaign against reli-
gion and to oust God from the altar of faith, replacing him
with Science and Progress, Galileos workwhich had turned
the system of knowledge into a practice of exactitude
made this (and not only this) endeavor possible. This way of
looking at thingswhich was already so rationalist that direct
observation of mechanical evidences assumes a primary role
in its methodological revolutionwould give way to the vi-
sion of the world as a Great Machine developed to its ex-
treme consequences by Ren Descartes.
Ren Descartes (1596-1650) built up the third intel-
lectual bulwark of the analysis that consecrated the mindset
of domination as a pillar of civilized knowledge. Descartes
simply drew the logical conclusions of his forerunners ideas.
If nature is separated from human knowledge and can be
subjected to it, and if this separation/subjection stands up to
a mathematical analysis that sustains it in terms of truth, then
nature has no signifcance in itselfit is just raw matter serv-
128
ing human beings; a thing that human knowledge can freely
reduce to its own instrument. In sum, only the human ego
is a subject, while nature is an object that can be used at
will by humanity for the accomplishment of its goals.
The well-known Cartesian axiom cogito ergo sum (I
think, therefore I am) ofcially proclaims this dissociation:
a human being, in that he is capable of picturing a reality
separate from himself (I think) is the only creature in the
world that can adorn itself with the title of subject (there-
fore I am). The rest of the world is an object, which thinking
beings can use to attain what they need. Summing this up in
Jeremy Rifkins words, Descartes stripped nature of its in-
herent aliveness, reducing the creatures to mathematical
and mechanical analogues, and even described animals as
soulless automata whose movements were little diferent
from those of the automated puppetry that danced upon the
Strasbourg clock.
Thus, the separation between Human and Nature that
civilization had brought about from its very beginning, be-
came, with modern scientifc thought, a conscious statement.
With Descartes, the path that had led civilized humanity to
afrm the ideology of human domination over a totally ob-
jectifed world was completed. The insane Cartesian proj-
ect, as Clastres called it, had clearly established roles and
hierarchies, and the world was now ready to be scientifcally
used, exploited, and shaped; it was ready to be reduced to a
ware commodity, capitalized and commercialized. In short:
the world was ready to become a modern worlda world
made of science without conscience.
Infuencing Machines,
Intuition Pumps, Paranoia
& The Poisonous Cobra of
Surrealism, Including the
Perilous Enchantments of Dreams
Penelope Rosemont
Fifth Estate #390
(Fall 2013)
Polyamory and Power:
A Confession and Critique
Andrew Williams Smith, ne
Sunfrog Bonobo
A Response on Polyamory
David Watson
Fifth Estate #389
(Spring 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/ffth-estate
Fifth Estate appears to have done the unthinkable: fgured out
a way to successfully publish a magazine in the 21st century.
Moreover they have attracted several stable young editors
who have interesting things to say and may solidify the future
of the project. Each issue has two or three gems that are often
overlooked by those of us who no longer rely on magazines
for our topical reading.
Here we reprint an essay by Penelope Rosemont on
madness that exemplifes what Fifth Estate does best; its rich
with cultural references and historical context. Additionally
we present a dialogue about polyamory, marriage, and
getting older that is especially salacious and entertaining
for anyone who lived through Fifth Estate in the 1990s. To
provide context without getting too deep is impossible but
we can just say that growing old in public is always difcult.
In mass culture it looks like Hannah Montana engaging in
the scandal of the week to become Miley Cyrus. In our little
world it looks like Sunfrog Bonobo becoming a tolerant,
married, heterosexual.
133 infuencing machines, intuition pumps, paranoia & the poisonous cobra
Madness & the Surrealist Imagination
The common denominator of the sorcerer, the poet and
the madman cannot be anything but magicthe fesh
and blood of poetry.
Benjamin Peret
Surrealists have celebrated madness as a means of ex-
ploring the possibilities of the human mind. Madness pro-
vides that window into how people put together reality; how
thoughts are often assembled in an unusual and creative way.
Surrealism has looked to madness for inspiration, for
that convulsive image that shakes up the ordinary and afects
us deeply; the insight into the way the mind functions.
Paul Garon wrote in Fate of the Obsessive Image,
prepared for the 1972 Conference on Madness convened in
Toronto, that
surrealists insist that the world be populated by abso-
lutely unfettered people who can only be described
in the language today as insane [T]he early surreal-
ists, in their cultivation of delirium, were not behaving
with romantic evasion, but with desperate lucidity in
their intrusion into the realm of cultural and mental
insubordination
Neither race nor class play much of a role in the amus-
ing new psychologies of today; they seem to think they are
beyond these or perhaps realize fundamentally that mention-
ing this elephant in the kitchen will doom their grant money
forever, so studies are kept cheerfully practical and adaptable
to advertising, to propaganda and, quite possibly, to social
control.
This does not mean that we should ignore them; any-
thing about the mind, the brain, the self, is of interest to
surrealists. Quite possibly this is linked to a comparison be-
134
tween the human brain, how it thinks and the computer; is
it thinking or what?
Surrealists and Dadaists were concerned with madness
quite early. Andre Breton, a founder of surrealism, and others
of his friends saw WWI frst hand the physical and mental
sufering involved.
Jacques Vache, Bretons best friend in the army, was a
suicide just as the war came to a close. In Nadja, Bretons
novel, he speaks of the mentally ill and the well-known
lack of frontiers between madness and non-madness. Nadja
is locked away in a mental institution though she poses no
threat to anyone and lives a poetic life.
Madness has long been associated with genius, poetic
and otherwise. From 1928 on, Breton and his friends im-
mersed themselves in the personal exploration of uncon-
scious life. Decades later, Chicago surrealist Franklin Rose-
mont wrote in about the infuences of Freuds new science
of Psychoanalysis on them, discoveries regarding infantile
sexuality, dreams, daydreaming, slips of tongue and other
chance actions (parapraxes), etc., enabled surrealists to view
the poetic problems that preoccupied them in an entirely
new light. They explored and tried to immerse themselves
in various mental states.
Today, psychology has moved for the most part to a
new phase and has re-labeled itself and repackaged itself as
Neuroscience. One no longer fnds the words id, ego, super-
ego, etc., anywhere. In their place there is subliminal, cogni-
tive illusion, identity, narrative bias, pattern recognition. The
fndings of neuroscience, bolstered by experiments, are often
quite similar to surrealist games. Frederic Bartletts whisper
game study of the 1900s is used to demonstrate that people
impose their own bias on any subject they attempt to re-
member. This game was very popular with surrealists.
Many contemporary books concern themselves with
the exploration and functioning of the mind and revelations
135 infuencing machines, intuition pumps, paranoia & the poisonous cobra
about how people make decisions and what they choose;
what they desire. Subliminal: How the Unconscious Mind
Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow and Thinking,
Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, concern themselves
with the exploration and functioning of the mind and rev-
elations about how people make decisions and what they
choose; what they think they desire.
They have just discovered the irrational, something
that is very basic to surrealism.
Mlodinow talks about the new unconscious to dis-
tinguish it from Freuds idea of repressed desires. The new
unconscious is considered normal architecture of the brain;
no deeply hidden sexual impulses here. Have you noticed
neurotics are gone but every other person has Aspergers?
This new science is quite applicable to advertising and social
conditioning.
The Infuencing Machine is a concept that goes back
to 1919, used by psychoanalyst Victor Tausk. It describes the
idea possessed by schizophrenics of being infuenced by a
diabolical machine that operates on their thoughts and in-
fuences their actions from a distance.
Today, our world is flled with such apparatuses of all
sorts: computers, movies, music, phones, i-pads, etc. This ear-
lier concept almost seems like a prophecy. Social condition-
ing begins with the foods that reward us as children and
intensifes in the schools where we learn what are socially
acceptable ideas, socially acceptable ways of acting, and espe-
cially socially acceptable goals; all very boring and mediocre.
Somehow, our toxic social system tries to make a dis-
tinction between murdering your neighbors and massacring
people in foreign countries (Movie theater, work place, and
school massacres show this doesnt seem to be working as
well as it once did.)
Fredy Perlman, in his 1969 pamphlet, The Reproduction
of Daily Life, comments with insight, that it is the everyday
136
practical activity that reproduces a social system, a specifc
social response to particular material and social conditions.
It seems that since Noam Chomskys idea of innate
syntax in linguistics, there have been studies to see what else
could appear to be innate. A most interesting one is Narra-
tive Bias, another pattern recognition.
According to popular writer David McRaney, You
make sense of life through narrativeAll your assumptions
about reality come together in a sort of cohesion engine that
runs while you are awake and reassures you that things are
going as expected.
One of his examples in his best selling You Are Not So
Smart, is the famous case of the Three Christs of Ypsilanti,
where a social psychology professor from Michigan State
University brought together three mental patients all who
thought they were Jesus Christ and who persisted in their
beliefs even after many meetings with each other.
McRaney concludes, We make sense of the world
through narrative (stories, myths). You and the three Christs
are not so diferenttheir delusions are just much easier to
see throughyou too are unaware of how unaware you are.
According to Benjamin Peret, a French surrealist, in his
wonderful, Magic, the Flesh and Blood of Poetry, says, the
sorcerer, the poet and the madman have a common denomi-
nator. But the madman, having broken of with the exterior
world, drifts on the wild ocean of his imagination and we
cannot see what he is looking at.
With a bit of insight into poetry, McRaney claims, All
brains are bards, all selves audiences to the tales of who they
are. He came to the conclusion, You might fnd it alarming
to learn that neuroscience and psychology have teamed up
over the last twenty years and used their combined powers to
reach a strange and unsettling conclusion: the self is not real,
its just a storycreated by your narrative bias.
French-Brazilian sociologist and philosopher, Michael
137 infuencing machines, intuition pumps, paranoia & the poisonous cobra
Lowy, already had a more far reaching insight when he said,
Narratives have kept whole societies together. The great my-
thologies of the ancients and moderns are stories made up to
make sense of things on a grand scale.
McRaney brings forward the idea of negation delir-
ium from Jules Cotard, a French neurologist, who in 1870
used it to describe people who were paralyzed, but denied
it. Quite applicable to a social critique in that we slave at
work but are quite convinced that we are free. Buy the most
advertised product, but are sure we chose it freely. We are
estranged from our own desires because social desires have
been implanted.
Intuition Pumps is a useful phrase coined recently
by philosopher Daniel C. Dennet to describe little stories
designed to provoke a heartfelt, table-thumping intuition
about whatever thesis is being defended. Who we are is the
stories we tell ourselves. This could be right out of Nadja,
who claimed to tell herself stories all the time.
Intuition pumps do not need to be true, they do not
need to be logical, they could be quite magical for all that,
but they must provoke the mind on some level
A well-known surrealist practice is the Paranoid-Crit-
ical method invented by Salvadore Dali in the 1930s. Devel-
oped from an idea of Andre Breton on the phantom object.
Also, surrealist artist Max Ernsts phantom images.
The Paranoid-Critical method was based on the idea
that the brain looks for patterns unceasingly. Dali described
it as a spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based
on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations
and interpretations of delirious phenomena. Sounds like the
surrealists had quite a few insights into how the brain works
that are being explored today by psychologists.
Dont conclude that since there is so much to be found
of interest in madness that it is pleasant; it is heart-braking, it
is dangerous, it devastates lives. It is, to a great extent, manu-
138
factured by our social system.
Walking down Chicago Avenue near Main street in
Evanston, Ill., I encountered a book on the sidewalk. It was
being tossed out by The Book Den, but it was unusual in
that it was over a hundred years old; a bound copy of Century
Magazine from 1888.
In very bad condition, true, but could be mined for
the gold of collage material. Opened at random to page
758, there was an article on Russia regarding the Efects of
Solitary Confnement; subheads: Breaking Character and
Delusions of the Insane Political Convicts. They werent
insane when they were sent to prison, but were totally de-
stroyed by solitary confnement. What is madness in this con-
text? Often a last and desperate attempt of the mind to make
sense of the world.
I call surrealism the poisonous cobra because it still
has the power to counter and fght this repressive civiliza-
tion. Once you have been bitten by this snake, you never see
things in the same way again. It has the power of revelation,
the perilous enchantment of dreams, and all the force of lib-
erated desire.
Penelope Rosemont met with Andre Breton and the
Paris surrealist group in 1965-66. She edited and
introduced Surrealist Women: An International
Anthology published by University of Texas Press
in 1998. Her latest book is a memoir, Dreams &
Everyday Life: Andre Breton, Surrealism, Rebel
Worker, sds & the Seven Cities of Cibola pub-
lished by Charles H. Kerr Company.
139 infuencing machines, intuition pumps, paranoia & the poisonous cobra
A Confession and Critique
by Andrew William Smith
Fifth Estate # 389, Summer, 2013
Its not news that much of modernity is all messed up about
sex. Contemporary culture fuctuates between moralistic re-
pression and hypersexual expression. Prudes use religion to
promote abstinence for unmarried heterosexuals and celi-
bacy for LGBT folks, and the more extreme libertines turn
everything erotic and beautiful into a casual commodity.
For much of the 1990s and leaking a little into the
00s, I wrote extensively for Fifth Estate on topics of sexual
freedom from the perspective of a particular kind of libertine,
a polyamorist and polysexual. These were not mere philo-
sophical treatises but refections from participation on the
freaky fringes of sexually experimenting communities.
I bought full cloth the theory that humans are natu-
rally evolved for multiple partners and free fowing libidinal
expression. Anything that denied this ideal served the forces
of repression.
I sought out bisexuals, pansexuals, heterofexibles,
swingers, polyamorists, sex workers, and more. I soon learned
that what normative society calls sexual deviance includes
variety and diversity which fuctuates freely despite the de-
tractors of such lifestyle choices.
While I respected monogamy or celibacy as a choice
that someone else might make, I couldnt fathom why they
would. Wheres the fun in that?
The poly community has many advocates, perhaps
best summed-up by the title of the book, The Ethical Slut.
But all my personal versions of sluttiness did not maintain
their own ethical standards, and my sexual shenanigans
140
caught up with me.
The speedy summary is this: Messed-up two succes-
sive long-term partnerships. Broke hearts, including my own.
Thankfully, did not contract an STD. Realized that I was
an alcoholic, drug addict, and probably a sex/porn/intimacy
addict. Quit porn, booze, drugs, and random fooling around,
all cold turkey. Got divorced and remarried and have been
practicing fdelity for the frst time and am loving it.
For whatever its worth, I ofer the readers of this pub-
lication the following confession and critique concerning
my participation in erotic subcultures. Sexual realities are all-
too-often about power. And, lack of power. The sensate and
spiritual power of erotic intimacy is all too easily misused
and abused.
To some extent, the so-called sex-positive communi-
ties, although ostensibly feminist and flled with savvy cri-
tiques of the power of repression, underestimate the, at times,
overwhelming and always mysterious power of erotic desire.
Such experimental communities of freedom, too, may pro-
vide a safe cover where predators and addicts might hang-
out undetected or undiagnosed for decades.
I base this claim on my own addiction, along with my
ethical errors concerning honesty, transparency, and erotic
coercion. That is, a so-called ethical slut is honest; I was not
always honest. An ethical slut only engages in mutually con-
sensual activities; on occasion, I learned after-the-fact that
my partners did not always perceive our interactions as en-
tirely consensual.
While psychologists and others have successfully ar-
gued that were not really wired for monogamy, the moralists
and others are more-correct-than-I-would-care-to-admit
that were not really humble, selfess, or mature enough to
handle anything but monogamy.
Some critics love to speak passionately about the
anti-female sexual repression they observe in conservative
141 infuencing machines, intuition pumps, paranoia & the poisonous cobra
religious communities where this is easily noted by seeing
women covering their entire bodies from head-to-toe. While
such countercultures, which may not appeal to but a few, op-
pose the provocative hyper-sexuality that our culture exhib-
its, its clear these traditions acknowledge the true power of
sexual desire and the deep attractiveness of the human body
to other human bodies.
The point I am trying to make here is that the hyper-
sexuality of our media culture sometimes ends up incredibly
dissatisfying and un-erotic while the modesty we perceive
as repressive in conservative culture contains an element of
deep reverence for the erotic. I am not trying to endorse or
explain the patriarchal power-structures that often go hand-
in-hand with modesty in such subcultures.
The deep wounds I experienced and caused as a sexu-
ally cavalier cad could be justifed psychologically or decon-
structed ethically from any number of angles. But they could
reveal a critique of power, too. Writing as a feminist male, I
fear that we as males in progressive or radical communities
still have much more work to do in unpacking the inherent
violence, power, and even hatred in unchecked male sexuality.
Ive come to accept that as a male there are aspects of
my biosocial reality that could be described as essentialist,
and some of the essentials of modern masculinity are in-
herently problematic, power-driven, and sexually predatory.
While I have never been macho per se, I previously allowed
my libidinal proclivities a kind of power-over-me and others
that not only fts my addictive personality but refects prob-
lems of power and lack of power in our world.
The only human power worth preserving is the shared,
social power of consensual and collective associations. Sol-
idarity, community, or power-with others, as its been de-
scribed. Experiments in extended sexual relationships often
reveal deep problems with power.
In fact, models for polyamorous open relationships
142
usually involve hierarchies, revealed in vocabularies that dis-
tinguish domestic partners or primary partners from play
partners. That is, the emotions afliated with maintaining
multiple intimate relationships are often hierarchical, even
when we have interesting arguments to justify a more hori-
zontal arrangement.
Ive heard of group marriages that claim to get past
those hierarchies, but these dont have a great legacy or track
record. Patriarchal plural marriage, such as practiced by Mor-
mons, doesnt ofer much hope for freedom or equality either.
For those who choose romantic relations, long-term
one-on-one collectives-of-two may be the enduring social
norm for good reasons. Certainly, heterosexual marriage has
a legacy of supporting male power in the social and eco-
nomic sense, but the equal partnership model has made many
gains in the last century.
In the 90s, it was fashionable for radicals to oppose
the marriage equality movement from a left-libertarian and
gender-queer perspective, but of late, it has become the civil
rights issue of our time. Like the rapper Macklemore spits,
Damn right I support it.
If some radicals still see the gay marriage movement
as a political sellout, I will let them take that up. As a person
who recently came out as heterosexual (after identifying as
bi- or poly- for years) and then got remarried, I could only
hope the same privileges aforded to my spouse and me also
be provided to our friends in the LGBT community. (Grant-
ed, the way that the marriage equality movement privileges
the Lesbian or Gay citizens over the Bisexual and Transgen-
der persons in that movement is a topic for a diferent day.)
Marriage could be seen not only as a state or reli-
gious institution but as a community one. Its perhaps when
one-on-one relationships become equal partnerships where
actual romantic and erotic equality can be explored and true
intimacy experienced; that doesnt necessarily have to be in
143 infuencing machines, intuition pumps, paranoia & the poisonous cobra
the context of marriage, but marriage may redeem its his-
torical roots in the contemporary period by its own transfor-
mation as a new kind of social norm.
Its a relatively conservative conclusion for a retired
freakand once card-carrying lifestyle anarchistlike me
to reach, but one that I am quite happy to express and ad-
vocate today.
Andrew William Smith, the writer formerly known
as Sunfrog/Sissy Sabotage/Anu Bonobo lives and
teaches happily in Middle Tennessee.
Monogamy doesn't work;
non-monogamy doesn't either.
by Walker Lane
Fifth Estate # 389, Summer, 2013
No comment can be made about the writings and ideas of
Andy Smith without frst recognizing the enormous contri-
butions he made to the Fifth Estate for almost twenty years.
During the frst years of the century he and his comrades
in Tennessee were the mainstay of this publication, and it is
easy to say, that without his stewardship during that era, this
magazine probably wouldnt exist today. Perhaps his greatest
accomplishment was our 40th anniversary edition which at
102 pages, tracing our intense history beginning in 1965, was
the largest and most colorful issue weve published. Long
thought to be out of print, we recently discovered a cache of
them and now have it available again.
Its good to get Andys refections on the wild life he
led and anyone who knew him during his years in Detroit
publishing zines, rocking at punk clubs, living communally,
working on the Fifth Estate, and taking part in the anarchist,
and peace and social justice movements, also saw a lot of
144
what he self-describes in his essay.
After a move to a polyamory commune in rural Ten-
nessee, his intensity and apparently his demons grew. As he
says, he went cold turkey, and is now happily engaged in a
conventional marriage and is a respected academic.
All said, Im not sure what his experiences tell us al-
though there is some advocacy here. On their London
Calling album, the Clash sing, You grow up and you calm
down; working for the clampdown, suggesting that youthful
exuberance gives way eventually to quieter later adulthood;
mature is what it is often referred to as.
I would be more than hypocritical suggesting that be-
ing in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is working for
the clampdown since Ive been in one for decades. However,
can you generalize about the consequences of attempts to go
beyond what is socially acceptable from ones own experience?
Another long-term Fifth Estate stafer once glumly
ofered, Monogamy doesnt work; non-monogamy doesnt
either. So, where does that leave humans, or for that matter
most species, that are polysexual by defnition of being?
With all that we overwrite on our urges for sexual ex-
pression about love, family, companionship, and what we de-
sire for a life of happiness, we are ultimately only genetically
driven to reproduce. Period. The rest takes diferent forms
depending upon the culture of a society in which we happen
to live.
No society lives without rules regarding reproduction,
i.e., who, when, even how in some cultures. Anthropolo-
gists think women devised the original structures of family
and kinship to assure the nurturing of children and reduce
confict within reproductive social units. Essentially so men
wouldnt mate with their daughters, and there was a regu-
larity of expectation in terms of relationships that excluded
sexual jealousy and competition.
With the advent of patriarchal society, whose sexual
145 infuencing machines, intuition pumps, paranoia & the poisonous cobra
rules were designed to suppress the power of women and
guarantee the sanctity of property were, by their very nature,
psychologically destructive to men as well as women. How-
ever, they left males always eager to circumvent the imposed
strictures while prohibiting women from doing so.
But, the rules were always hard to maintain. Conven-
tional patriarchal, religiously and legally enforced, restrictions
on broader desire were upended in ecstatic communities as
far back as the Middle Ages, in American intentional com-
munities in the 19th and 20th century, and most recently dur-
ing the so-called Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. And, always
by radicals as well as the cads and libertines of whom
Andy speaks.
Radicals have always correctly seen the sexual repres-
sion demanded by the state and religion as a major element in
the impediments to revolution. Radical psychologist Wilhelm
Reich and others saw the thwarting of desire as a key com-
ponent in the creation of authoritarian personalities, building
toward a mass psychology of submission, the psychoanalytic
bulwark of the state
However, as Andy relates, his wild phase of polyamory
was a personal disaster for him even though he gave it a good
try and for many years. Its hard to live outside of societys
norms and activity that does is mostly identifed with ones
youth. It is during this period that the young do activity that
normally doesnt work as well as one ages.
And, not just in sexual afairs. Living communally and
fnancially on the edge, train hopping, fghting the cops at
demos, excessive intoxication, and a host of other activities
are generally associated with young people, but maintaining
those into ones 50s or 60s usually doesnt work too well.
So, maybe Andy just grew into later adulthood, and
maybe the heartbreaks and broken relationships were more a
product of his admitted addictions than anything inherent in
polyamory. Excess in intoxicants can make any relationship
146
fail regardless of the number involved.
Polyamory and other non-conventional sexual bond-
ing forms are extremely difcult to maintain and usually are
not of long-term duration in the manner of conventional
partnerships.
But, does that tell us not to try; to take Andys experi-
ence and failures as a cautionary tale warning young [and
some older] people to only accept what we know works
monogamous marriage? But, whoa! Wait a minute; those
dont work very well either.
Andy is the second Fifth Estate stafer who has regretted
his non-conventional living arrangements. Another, who was
so regretful that he had published a book on group marriage,
Sexual Scarcity: The Marital Mistake and the Communal Alterna-
tive, that he spent a year trying to buy up every copy in exis-
tence. Unfortunately for him, its still available from Amazon,
but at fve times its original cost.
I doubt whether admonitions or warnings coming
from religionists or anarchists are going to prevent people,
particularly younger ones, from fnding ways to express their
sexuality in other-than-prescribed ways. In the 1950s, Frank
Sinatra sang, Love and marriage go together like a horse and
carriage. Not much of a recommendation.
In Nathanial Hawthorns, The Scarlet Letter, not even the
righteous Rev. Dimmesdale and Hester could hold back the
food of desire that swept over them, and which was supposed
to be rigidly constrained. If those repressed Puritans couldnt,
do we really want to counsel others, particularly radicals, to
not even make attempts at bursting sexual boundaries?
Lets afrm all forms of sexuality, including the ones
Andy and I have chosen, between consenting partners, and for
the ones who try the wildest, most anarchic, wish them the
best in their attempts.
None of us want to work for the clampdown.
Excerpts
Sherif
Xenoph Ibn El
I Want to be a
Suicide Bomber
(June 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Suicide-Bomber.html
In the last fve to ten years, anarchism has nearly abandoned
visual culture in lieu of the ferceness of a manifesto about
the gluing of locks and the smashing of windows. Our
art is in the streets or nowhere. On one level this feels
entirely appropriate: the destruction of art entails rejecting
it as separate from daily life. The way that artin the Claire
Fontaine or Banksy sense of the wordis transmitted to the
world strips it of content, massifes it, makes it pablum.
IWTBSB is visual art but its also a content-rich punch
in the face to art on its own terms. Its a declaration of war on
polite society, on the War on Terror, and even on a socially
acceptable anarchist politic. It is punk and countercultural in
exactly the way that some of us are. With quotations from
(anti)heroes of our times, juxtaposed to imagesdetourned
and otherwisethese pages will have an impact.
150
151 i want to be a suicide bomber
40 Osip Mandelstam , Tristia
152
153 i want to be a suicide bomber
64 Arthur Schopenhauer, Aphorisms
154
155 i want to be a suicide bomber
71 Tamerlan Tsarnaev
156
157 i want to be a suicide bomber
72 N. Abraham and M. Torok, The Wolfmans Magic Word
158
159 i want to be a suicide bomber
86 T.W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory
Ravachols
Forbidden
Defense
Speech
Ravachol
Illegalist Trial Statements
(November 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/Illegalist-Trial-Statements.html
There is a romance to anarchists of the past that is unavoidable.
Whether it is due to the naivete that believed that bombing
could make a diference, or to the evidence that it did indeed
make a diference, or to the courage and solidarity that
perhaps seems more apparent now than it did at the time...
it is easy to fnd inspiration in the actions of people like the
Bonnot Gang, Renzo Novatore, and Ravachol. There is
nothing more romantic than the idea that we have, along
with our friends, the power, capacity, and single-mindedness
to change the world, to do it along libertarian lines, with no
unacceptable casualties; the idea that we can feed everyone,
destroy the bad, and build the good.
Ravachol, the icon for the common understanding of
an anarchistthe notorious black-clad bomberis the
quintessential fgure of anarchist rage, romance, and the
futility of bombing away the bad. (There is just too much of
it and not enough bombs.) Printed here is his trial statement,
of which he was only allowed to read the frst few sentences
before being hauled away to his fate at the guillotine.
163 ravachols forbidden defense speech
If I speak, its not to defend myself for the acts of which Im
accused, for it is society alone which is responsible, since by
its organization it sets man in a continual struggle of one
against the other. In fact, dont we today see, in all classes and
all positions, people who desire, I wont say the death, because
that doesnt sound good, but the ill-fortune of their like, if
they can gain advantages from this. For example, doesnt a
boss hope to see a competitor die? And dont all businessmen
reciprocally hope to be the only ones to enjoy the advantages
that their occupations bring? In order to obtain employment,
doesnt the unemployed worker hope that for some reason
or another someone who does have a job will be thrown out
of his workplace. Well then, in a society where such events
occur, theres no reason to be surprised about the kind of
acts for which Im blamed, which are nothing but the logical
consequence of the struggle for existence that men carry
on who are obliged to use every means available in order
to live. And since its every man for himself, isnt he who
is in need reduced to thinking: Well, since thats the way
things are, when Im hungry I have no reason to hesitate
about using the means at my disposal, even at the risk of
causing victims! Bosses, when they fre workers, do they
worry whether or not theyre going to die of hunger? Do
those who have a surplus worry if there are those who lack
the basic necessities?
There are some who give assistance, but they are
powerless to relieve all those in need and who will either
die prematurely because of privations of various kinds, or
voluntarily by suicides of all kinds, in order to put an end to a
miserable existence and to not have to put up with the rigors
of hunger, with countless shames and humiliations, and who
are without hope of ever seeing them end. Thus there are the
Hayem and Souhain families, who killed their children so as
not to see them sufer any longer, and all the women who, in
fear of not being able to feed a child, dont hesitate to destroy
164
in their wombs the fruit of their love.
And all these things happen in the midst of an abundance
of all sorts of products. We could understand if these things
happened in a country where products are rare, where there
is famine. But in France, where abundance reigns, where
butcher shops are loaded with meat, bakeries with bread,
where clothing and shoes are piled up in stores, where there
are unoccupied lodgings! How can anyone accept that
everything is for the best in a society when the contrary can
be seen so clearly? There are many people who will feel sorry
for the victims, but wholl tell you they cant do anything
about it. Let everyone scrape by as he can! What can he who
lacks the necessities when hes working do when he loses his
job? He has only to let himself die of hunger. Then theyll
throw a few pious words on his corpse. This is what I wanted
to leave to others. I preferred to make of myself a trafcker
in contraband, a counterfeiter, a murderer and assassin. I
could have begged, but its degrading and cowardly and
even punished by your laws, which make poverty a crime. If
all those in need, instead of waiting took, wherever and by
whatever means, the self-satisfed would understand perhaps
a bit more quickly that its dangerous to want to consecrate
the existing social state, where worry is permanent and life
threatened at every moment.
We will quickly understand that the anarchists are right
when they say that in order to have moral and physical peace,
the causes that give birth to crime and criminals must be
destroyed. We wont achieve these goals in suppressing he who,
rather than die a slow death caused by the privations he had
and will have to put up with, without any hope of ever seeing
them end, prefers, if he has the least bit of energy, to violently
take that which can assure his well-being, even at the risk of
death, which would only put an end to his suferings.
So that is why I committed the acts of which I am accused,
and which are nothing but the logical consequence of the
165 ravachols forbidden defense speech
barbaric state of a society which does nothing but increase
the rigor of the laws that go after the efects, without ever
touching the causes. It is said that you must be cruel to kill
your like, but those who say this dont see that you resolve to
do this only to avoid the same fate.
In the same way you, messieurs members of the jury,
will doubtless sentence me to death, because you think it is
necessary, and that my death will be a source of satisfaction
for you who hate to see human blood fow; but when you
think it is useful to have it fow in order to ensure the security
of your existence, you hesitate no more than I do, but with
this diference: you do it without running any risk, while I,
on the other hand, acted at the risk of my very life.
Well, messieurs, there are no more criminals to judge, but
the causes of crime to destroy! In creating the articles of the
Criminal Code, the legislators forgot that they didnt attack
the causes, but only the efects, and so they dont in any way
destroy crime. In truth, the causes continuing to exist, the
efects will necessarily fow from them. There will always be
criminals, for today you destroy one, but tomorrow ten will
be born.
What, then, is needed? Destroy poverty, this seed of crime,
in assuring to all the satisfaction of their needs! How difcult
this is to realize! All that is needed is to establish society on a
new basis, where all will be held in common and where each,
producing according to his abilities and his strength, could
consume according to his needs. Then and only then will
we no longer see people like the hermit of Notre-Dame-
de-Grace and others, begging for a metal whose victims
and slaves they become! We will no longer see women give
up their charms, like a common piece of merchandise, in
exchange for this same metal that often prevents us from
recognizing whether or not afection is sincere. We will no
longer see men like Pranzini, Prado, Berland, Anastay and
others who kill in order to have this same metal. This shows
166
that the cause of all crimes is always the same, and you have
to be foolish not to see this.
Yes, I repeat it: it is society that makes criminals and
you, jury members, instead of striking you should use your
intelligence and your strength to transform society. In one fell
swoop youll suppress all crime. And your work, in attacking
causes, will be greater and more fruitful than your justice,
which belittles itself in punishing its efects.
I am nothing but an uneducated worker; but because
I have lived the life of the poor, I feel more than a rich
bourgeois the iniquity of your repressive laws. What gives
you the right to kill or lock up a man who, put on earth with
the need to live, found himself obliged to take that which he
lacks in order to feed himself?
I worked to live and to provide for my family; as long
as neither I nor my family sufered too much, I remained
what you call honest. Then work became scarce, and with
unemployment came hunger. It is only then that the great
law of nature, that imperious voice that accepts no reply, the
instinct of preservation, forced me to commit some of the
crimes and misdemeanors of which I am accused and which
I admit I am the author of.
Judge me, messieurs of the jury, but if you have
understood me, while judging me judge all the unfortunate
who poverty, combined with natural pride, made criminals,
and who wealth or ease would have made honest men.
An intelligent society would have made of them men
like any other!
Beyond
Property
Destruction
Tom Nomad
The Masters Tools
(October 2013)
http://littleblackcart.com/The-Masters-Tools.html
Much of the criticism of actions comes either from people
who have wildly diferent goals (talk more, dont do, or
do, dont talk) or from people whose feedback is do more
of the same.
This book is a diferent exercise. While operating frmly
in the terrain of action, it is both tactically and philosophically
challenging, giving tools to use the tactics of the enemy
against itself, and criteria to recognize what makes an action
successful. There is a clear-headedness to the thinking behind
this book that may make it enemies. (Muddy ideas allow the
illusion of everyone getting everything they want. Clarity
cuts through that.)
If the big vision of an anarchism of attack were possible
the next question would be who, what, where, and of
course, how. To put it diferently, if we agree to ATTACK!
then the next questions are ones of strategy. The Masters
Tools is an initial efort in this direction and because it is
such preliminary work, it has to spend a great deal of time
establishing vocabulary and baseline criticisms towards other
previously-attempted partial approaches.
171 beyond property destruction
Introduction
All politics is against the police
- Jacques Ranciere
There have been some remarkably disruptive actions of prop-
erty destruction in the last series of years. This is a welcome
shift away from the aimless people dressed in black marching
in circles, away from crowds that rely on numerical concentra-
tion in a specifc space, away from the island efect (where a
group at the front becomes isolated and boxed in because the
rest of the crowd has dispersed due to some minor police
threat). The streets of Athens, London, Pittsburgh, Santa Cruz,
Asheville, Oakland, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto
(among othersthe list grows daily) have been littered with
broken glass and barricaded with burning dumpsters (or cop
cars). But beyond the immediate appropriation by the media
spectacle and the payday for plate glass companies, something
remains lacking. From the obsession with riot porn to the
images produced to explain or call for actions, this reliance on
property destruction, both as a tactic and indicator of success,
has moved from being a tactic, to a fetish, a trap that we have
not yet been able to move away from. Maybe it is the militant
rejection of nonviolence coupled with instances of over-
whelming police force, leaving property destruction as the
simplest direct yet low risk alternative to actual confict. But
regardless, we need to move away from this tactic, this concept
of a certain tactical necessity, and beyond property destruction.
Property destruction can be remarkably disruptive, es-
pecially when theres lots of it, but it has come to exist as
some sort of abstract anarchist threat in a reactionary politics
of consequences. Every time a city announces a summit, out
go the calls to action, the grandstanding starts, the hype
builds, and the security apparatus is put in place to maintain
172
order. The script has played itself out, without apparent end
or even acknowledgement that we have been down this path
before. So, this discussion of where to go tends to fall into a
series of ridiculous dichotomies: direct action, community
organizing (as if there is a separation), or the endless violence
or nonviolence debate (as if concepts can ever speak of par-
ticular tactical terrains). In this collapse into dichotomy we
have lost the purpose of the discussion: what we are doing
and how it is, or is not, efective. In other words, in the swirl-
ing conversations about concepts and defnitions what gets
lost are tactics, action, material tactical situations. It is not as
simple as saying that property destruction is the logical sur-
passing of nonviolence. We need to look at tactics and to
remove them from the conceptualizations of politics that we
have all become so fond of.
This is far from a call for a return to mass movements or
the large-scale parades of the antiwar movement (as well
attended as they were inefective). It is about seeing beyond
this dead end of mass actions and the shattered windows
that sometimes result. In other words, these tactics are ex-
actly that; tactical deployments into space, deployments
with efects that change tactical terrains. It is not a question
of the afectivity of property destruction or how riots con-
stitute our subjectivity, or something like that; this is merely
a question of the material dynamics of confict. When we
look at these instances of concentrated property destruc-
tion, or even the isolated attack in the middle of the night,
we must see not the action itself but rather the tactical me-
dium that it exists in and as a part of. This focus on prop-
erty destruction has tended to come from two mutually
reinforcing perspectives. On the one hand, property de-
struction is spoken of afectively, as something that feels ap-
propriate to those who carry out the actions. On the other
hand, property destruction and its fetishization tend to fo-
173 beyond property destruction
cus attention on the act itself, as if any action has some in-
herent meaning outside of the terrain and medium that it
exists within.
This focus on afectivity, the idea that an action is carried
out for the afective results, exists as an attempt to isolate ac-
tions, to speak of the action in itself, while marginalizing the
action in some attempt to proliferate subjectivities. In order
for this sort of analysis to carry through, the action has to be
frst isolated as a space that generates results separate from the
dynamics that the actions exists within, and then analyzed in
relation to this afective result (and apart from any other ma-
terial results). This occurs in all attempts to generate essen-
tialist concepts of certain sorts of actions, whether in the
form of nonviolence or of fetishized property destruction.
This conceptualization of tactical actions begins with the
generation of some transcendental imperative, a concept held
as true, in which the action in itself becomes an expression.
As in all concepts of ethics, the action is reduced to a con-
ceptual object, a sort of constancy that can be applied be-
tween moments, and is then analyzed as such, in isolation
from the particularity of the dynamics that the action occurs
within and the terrain that the action generates in its efects.
In other words, what occurs, at the point of treating actions
as something with a specifed, legible, result, is that the action
becomes isolated from history (from the dynamics of confict
that construct its possibility), and then judged through some
transcendental lens, in this case the lens of abstracted afective
proft. But this isolation, in order to obtain some proft or
gain in the amount of possible subjective manifestations, is
just another form of isolating action from the context that it
is a result of and that it produces. It seems odd how much
some of this rhetoric surrounding afectivity (especially
among the more hipsterly-inclined among us), begins to re-
semble early capitalist arguments about the importance of
174
material proft: the action is isolated as carrying transcenden-
tal value, which benefts an isolated producer. Now, this does
not mean that we should reject any analysis of afectivity,
rather we need to understand the co-immanence*, the nec-
essary relation between the afective and the efective. In
other words, there are no actions that in themselves exist
purely afectively, there is always an efect, and with that ef-
fect a consequent construction of other particular moments.
Action exists as a manifestation of one of various possi-
bilities present at any moment and has efects; that is, it par-
ticipates in the construction of other possibilities. Put another
way, there is no action that is not necessarily external, that
does not project a certain existence into the world, and on
that level there is no way to separate the afective from the
efective; afective results from efects. In the fundamental
shift in the dynamics of terrain, new, inconceivable, unpre-
dictable dynamics will result, new possibilities will become
apparent, and the entire terrain is constructed in a particular
way in each moment. This occurs with any action; the efects
of any action will fundamentally rupture the dynamics that
existed before the action occurred. In other words, due to the
inherent connection between the afective and the efective,
predicting the afectivity of an action, planning afective ac-
tions, is impossibile. There is just no way to sit in a room and
determine the possible efects, the shifts in the terrain of ac-
tion that we call a world, before an action is taken. All that we
can do is conceptualize possibilities, but always in necessarily
inaccurate ways. And, because no action exists completely in-
ternally, no action is completely afective, all action implies
efect and thus a reconstruction of the entirety of the terrain
of existence in the very truth of its occurrence as something
that had not occurred before.
Nothing can exist as more or less afective, all moments
are singular as what they are, they are all moments that have
175 beyond property destruction
never occurred before and will never occur again, and as such
we cannot understand the afective as a quantity that produces
subjectivities (especially because the act of production also
necessarily has an efect, but that is a minor point here). The
afective is not a quantity; comparisons of quantity imply the
ability to compare moments which in themselves are funda-
mentally particular, and its co-immanence with the efective,
or the tactical, necessarily means frst, that all action exists as
one trajectory of afect/efect within a innumerable series of
actions (or everything that has ever occurred) and trajectories
that come into confict in the tactical medium. Also, this very
confict, this collision of trajectories, makes the future indeter-
minable and that the confict itself, the unfulflled trajectory of
afect/efect, is what constructs what we call the world. To go
back to something Patton said, following Clausewitz, no bat-
tle plan survives frst contact with the enemy. In other words,
theoretical attempts to isolate afectivity, to predict afective
consequences, may not be wrong in the absolute conceptual
sense, but it is impossible. We project the theoretical within
this smooth context devoid of actions and afect/efect, devoid
of confict, devoid of the unfulflled; but the moment any ac-
tion occurs the very context that was theorized is already ob-
solete, the theoretical and the material necessarily exist at a
division across a wide gap, an infnite distance between con-
cept and moment, as Blanchot would argue.
Now I do not want to reject the afective consequences
of direct action. Going on missions, smashing bank windows,
taking out surveillance cameras, building barricades, running
through streets, has a large afective result for a lot of people.
For some of us who grew up in places that elevated property
to the status of the sacred, destroying property is a way to
break free from that culturally imposed limit. For those of us
who grew up in places where there was very little property to
fetishize, destroying banks and fghting cops exists as an outlet
176
for the rage that we had always felt about the positions that
we had been relegated to from birth. It was a way to get over
the fear that the police had instilled in us from a very young
age when they rolled up on us, searched us, walked into our
classrooms to pull people out for questioning, beat us for mi-
nor infractions and then dropped us of without being ar-
rested (because arrest would entail explanation), the killings
in cold blood, the criminalization of our youth, the friends
locked in the dungeons of America; for us it was about fnd-
ing a catharsis, a way to fght, a way to feel powerful in a
world that constantly beat us down. But often this discourse
of afectivity tends to focus on only the positive or em-
powering aspects of property destruction and fails to deal
with the trauma, the mental afects that this has had on a lot
of us who have been in serious situations. (This has a lot to do
with the inattention that trauma gets in our community, but
that is a topic for another essay.)
This focus on afectivity is a result of and reinforces a
certain theory of isolation. To focus on the afective in action
to the exclusion of the co-immanence with the efective, is
only possible through a dual isolation, the isolation of agents
and the isolation of actions. The focus on the afective exists
within a focus on subjectivity. We all love the Situationists, but
they made this same error. While recognizing that our actions
can cause wider destabilizations, the purpose of these destabi-
lizations became about the manifestation of some subjective
desires. Now, I am not rejecting the existence of a certain
sense of the subjective, rather I argue that we need to reject
the separation of this so-called subjectivity from some form
of objectivity. In other words, we need to reject the basic er-
ror of the Enlightenment, which is the separation of the sub-
jective from the objective, the individual from the totality of
our existences, the self from history. It is an error that perme-
ates Kant and Hegel and that has crept in to this discourse of
177 beyond property destruction
afectivity. To focus on the subjective to the exclusion of ef-
fects, or of the external and tactical, is to isolate our existence
into the perpetuation of some form of the individual, to iso-
late ourselves from the very conditions and possibilities of
our existences. Not only is that the same move replicated in
all capitalist discourse (the isolated producer who owns prop-
erty, implying exclusion as well as use), it is also the genera-
tion of a subject who cannot speak, who has no context for
words, no way to make sense of things, no way to actually
experience phenomenon, all of which imply an externality.
In this isolation of agents there is also a co-immanent
isolation of actions. We tend to see single smashed windows,
or even instances of large scale property destruction, as ac-
tions in themselves, as if they have meaning in themselves.
Theory only exists as a way to make sense of the world, it
cannot actually describe moments that always exist as singular,
unrepeatable, unreplicatable. In other words, all actions are
possible due to the dynamics of everything that has ever oc-
curred, yet that totality of actions is inaccessible in a moment
and particular to that moment, while the attempt to construct
conceptual understandings of moments implies some sort of
constancy across moments. Theory is the impossible attempt
to chain moments together, to generate concepts from some
notion of a constancy of actions. It forgets that describing a
moment, all the dynamics that led to the manifestation of a
certain possibility, all the possible meanings, all the moments
that have ever occurred, is impossible from the positionality
of theory as something that occurs at a particular time and
place; the theoretical requires transcendence that in itself is
impossibile. To put it another way, acts of property destruction
in themselves are meaningless, all actions are materially mean-
ingless. Not that they do not have efects, but rather that there
is no way to theorize about the afect/efect of an action or
moment isolated from the totality of history that led to that
178
moment and there is no way to make sense of history in any
way that is not just more or less persuasive speculation.
Yet, this fetishization of property destruction as an action
in itself is the attempt to do just that. When we isolate actions
from the totality of history that led to the possibility of that
action itself in order to make sense of the action itself, we ig-
nore the relevence of the context that the action exists within,
the terrain of confict that constructs possibility, the efects
that action has in the construction of history, or the dynamics
of the the tactical medium itself. This is just a really long way
to say that we need to see beyond single actions, beyond single
windows, beyond single streets isolated by the tactical medium
that made these moments possible. In all instances of property
destruction another phenomenon is presenting itself, one that
we need to be able to see and analyze, if only speculatively.
Rather than seeing single actions outside of the dynamics that
they exist within, we need to look at tactical mediums as a
dynamic, as a confict and collision. When we look at the
burning of cop cars in Toronto, the smashing of shopping dis-
tricts in Santa Cruz and Asheville, the riots that broke out in
Pittsburgh, the property destruction around Oakland after the
verdict in the Oscar Grant case, we see one commonality. In
each of these instances, and in innumerable other sites of un-
rest globally, beyond the property destruction, beyond the tak-
ing of streets, beyond the barricades, these events were possi-
bile because of the disruption of police coverage, the disrup-
tion of the ability of police to suppress confict, to close gaps
in coverage and projection, to police as a material totality.
What we are witnessing is not the result of any one action, any
one window, but the result of a disorganization of the ability
of the cops to defne territory and situations, a break down
that is always possible if we only take a moment to analyze
police tactics through a certain lens, a lens of immediacy, of
the immediate material operations of policing itself.
179 beyond property destruction
Again, this is not a rejection of the legitimacy of property
destruction nor is this an attempt to discourage property de-
structionwhatever choices people make in actions are the
choices they make. Rather, this is a rejection of the attempt to
systematize property destruction by only focusing on this one
gap in police coverage, to only see the gap as an opportunity
to break stuf, rather than as a disruption of the very logistical
capacity of police to project through space, a disruption that
can be expanded and amplifed. In other words, when we
separate the gap from the dynamics that create these gaps we
lose the resonance amplifed by confict and destabilization
(an amplifcation that implicates the states functioning on
larger levels as well) and instead we take actions as isolated
opportunities. What many seem to have been forgotten is that
insurrection is not a fulfllment of some conceptual condi-
tions, but an immediate and material rupture in the attempt
of police to maintain operational coherence.
There has been a lot of discussion about a Plan B: aban-
doning instances of confict with the police to go elsewhere
to exploit gaps in coverage to engage in property destruction.
The concept underlying Plan B, that attacks and actions
should be occurring outside of concentrations of confict, is
sound. It is based in the necessity of the crisis in policing, the
impossibility of a totality of policing. But, rather than seeing
the gaps in police coveragethe impossibility of total polic-
ingas something that can be amplifed, Plan B takes these
gaps as the best we can do, as something to be exploited by
single actions that can be easily mediated and repaired. It
begins from the assumption that we are already defeated, that
no new possibilities are able to be generated, that the situa-
tion is totally defned, and then entrenches this notion of
defeat in our actions and the way we imagine our tactical
possibilities. Because, really, what is the importance of broken
glass, how much existential weight does a smashed ATM
180
screen carry? What we need to see is that even isolated at-
tacks, when frequent, are important to the degree that they
stretch police logistics to the breaking point, to the point of
rupture. They are not imperatives in themselves, or do they
carry some essential conceptual weight on their own. We
need to look beyond the isolation of moments imposed by
the thinking underlying Plan B. This rejection of Plan B is
not in favor of some Plan A, but an attempt to take the
thing that Plan B recognizeswhich is that there is always a
necessary gap in police coverage, that policing exists as a dy-
namic in crisisand amplify this crisis rather than accepting
it as static, something outside of our engagement, that only
opens the way for isolated actions. Until we analyze policing
as an operation in constant crisis we are doomed to minor
attacks (that even mere hours later leave almost no marks),
locked within a strategy of defeat.
Some Other Titles We Publish:
2012 and prior
Desert by anon
species being by frre Dupont
Nihilist Communism by Msr Dupont
2013
Theory of Bloom by Tiqqun
Novatore translated by Wolf Landstreicher
Uncivilized by The Green Anarchy Collective
Introductory
Anarchy 101 edited by Dot Matrix
Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos
Willful Disobedience by Wolf Landstreicher
Calling for Accomplices
LBC Books is a publishing instance of a group of people
involved in anarchist publishing for 10 years. For fve of
those years, they have been a part of Little Black Cart,
distroing anarchist and anti-political materials.
LBC Books is the next level of project for us
and for you.
Becoming an accomplice gives you a variety of benefts,
including every title we produce (at least one title a
month, sometimes two), 20% of every Little Black
Cart distro item, and a free book or tee shirt of your
choice from 2011 or earlier.
It also allows you to assist us to put out the most
interesting ideas and lives in anarchy today (and
sometimes a bit of yesterday and tomorrow).
Aid and abet us for $20 a month ($40 international).
Anarchists have had to make do with the
fact that even as we succeed we rarely get
credit for it, while we always get the blame
for our failures and lack of success.
As a publisher in this family of ideas we
measure our own success partly by our own
continued interest in our broad project, and
on whether these ideas merit discussion and
further research.
... If the goal was to produce engaged,
interesting, anarchist material than its
conservative to say that we have succeeded.
If our goal was to shape the minds of a new
generation of antiauthoritarians then our
project hasnt succeeded. This is the work
we have ahead of us.
$6