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I. “Only collective existence exists; only social existence exists. It is ridiculous to claim that Hell is the other. The other, as reality itself, can be a source of hinders, but it is also a source of possibility” K. Kastoriadis
“Real wealth is the development of the social individual”
The existential insurrection, that is, the insurrectionary experience of “here and now”, doubtless is an essential part of the collective anti-authoritarian revolutionary project and we should not underestimate it: it re-connects visionary elements of the social revolution with current practical activities within existing social relations as well as it does not relegate action (as a theory-action unity) to a dark and undefined future. We are not expecting a beautiful Great Night that the sky will rain revolution. Instead, we activate our dynamics today and not in an undefined time of “mature and objective conditions” that detour in a metaphysical way from the subjective factor. Besides, in the current historical context, the objective conditions are over-mature, in contrast to the weak conscience of the subjective factor. At the same time, the insidious role of mainstream Left alongside our own inefficiency has played a major role to the current contradiction: on the one hand a class war at its peak, on the other hand a weak revolutionary movement.
The insurrectionary experience, along with the revolutionary memory and the goal of a future classless society, constitute the three materials that link the past, the present and the future of the Revolution. However, the disproportionate centralization of each project causes distortions and destabilizes the unified space-time continuum. So, the insurrectionary experience does not constitute a panacea. The practical revolutionary activity contains the insurrectionary experience as a component element, but it exceeds it. The same concerns the currying of material violence. Both the insurrectionary experience and emancipatory violence are subsets of the multifarious antiauthoritarian project but they are not identical with it.
When our actions have been cut off from the surrounding social reality and social relations, then they constitute peculiar (armed or unarmed, violent or peaceful) “freedom islands”, “freedom shelters” in an enslaved world. The function of these “shelters” devilishly reminds us of Marx’s description of religion: the heart of a heartless world! Ultimately, the experience as an insurrectionary Spectacle becomes the anarchists’ opium!! To avoid degenerating our existential rebellion into a plain insurrectionary Spectacle, we must necessarily link it to class struggle’s and social antagonism’s real world. We should neither split the insurrectionary experience from its social content, nor the existential rebellion from the communist content of anarchy (or the anarchist content of communism …)
The revolution is a complicated and complex socio-historical evolutionary process and we should not mutilate it by arbitrarily chopping the personal from the social or slicing the time-space continuum. The revolution says something more than the necessary (but limited to its own) “right now”: it says “I was, I am and I would be” (according to the well-known expression of Rosa Luxemburg). In addition, the revolution does not stop the personal rebellion: submerged in the atomic and molecular, not in order to be drown there forever, but to emerge in society. We should recover again the notion of historicity and sociality of our existence, which has taken a huge blown from the simplistic ???? who ruled ideologically the anarchist movement the last years. The contradiction between the short biological lif of the humans, who needs to realize his dreams “right now”, and the tedious and long historical process of social change, which exceeds the atomic time, cannot be solved by individualizing the insurrectionary experience and locating it on the throne of the Absolute.
Experiential fetishism turns the experience into a political empty corpse. We need to digest the individual and historical time contradiction, the great depth of historical changes that we, as individuals, do not perhaps experience directly (or at least so we think…), constituting our own practical activity, our very own personal experience, as part of the historical movement and not as a “freedom island” (confessed or not)
Reversing the alienation process of our lives cannot be realized by material violence, but through it and beyond it. The rebellious experience is not an end in itself, but a medium for the construction of human social relations based on solidarity (anarchist and communist relations). The revolution is not identical to our personalities but a way to go beyond our personalities, or as put it by Victor Hugo: it is the victory of humanity over the human. This naturally is an offspring of a long and evolutionary process that presupposes the end of the authoritative/class society, something that perhaps we will never experience as individuals. We can, however, visualize communism’s traces and create the prefiguration of a classless/anti-authoritative society, by unfolding our practical action (1), through our own contradictions. Not, of course, as a “freedom island”, but as an island of resistance to modern barbarism.
Material violence is not an end in itself; we are not violent people by nature. It is a revolutionary methodology that leads to a social organization where violence is unnecessary. It is emancipatory violence, violence that points to its own abolition. Therefore, within the complex and dialectic process of the counter-alienation of our lives (that is, a socio-historical process and not solely an individual-molecular), revolutionaries employ violence’s conscious self-alienation: they do time in prison because they love freedom, they die because they love life. Terry Eagleton mentions: “What is important is life’s fullness. But to work in any way for an abundant life often implies suspending or abandoning some of the good things that define this way of existence […] The problem is that in order to make this specific way of existence accessible to all, the partisan fighter must temporary abstain from this sort of pleasures. In this way, the partisan in question becomes what the New Testament describes as “eunuch for the kingdom”. It would make a major mistake to understand this ascetic behavior of necessity as an icon of the good life itself. Seldom constitute the revolutionaries an optimal icon of the society for which they fight for”. (2)
This conscious self-alienation coexists with the movement as a prefiguration of the classless society of solidarity, a contradictory dialectical unity, which reflects the double duty of Revolution: Destruction and Creation (in an evolutionarily target rather than as separate steps). Thus, existential rebellion is better projected through imaginative-creative activities, through the poetry of human social relations. Material violence represents necessity and it is a tool, not the substance of our rebellion: it is the conscious self-alienation that counter-alienates our lives. Α metaphysical pacifist would be confused of this internal contradiction of the Revolution, however in real life nothing is “pure”. Contradictions create movement (the historical movement as well): let us not forget that from the erotic union between Mars (the god of war) and Aphrodite (the goddess of love) their daughter was born, who was named Harmony!
To sum up: it is wrong to say that we experience “anarchy here and now” through revolutionary violence. Unfortunately, we do not attack first, but we are exposed to attacks from the authoritarian/class society from the moment we are born and at every period of our live. Our violence is a minor response to the violence we are exposed to, it is our counter attack. It is also something more than mere reflexive counterattack: it is the necessary step that we take in order to experience the emergence of the highest human creativity, which the ancient Greeks entitled Poetry. The poetry of the human social interaction is the “anarchy right now”, the revolution for now and forever. The existential revolt, namely the insurrectionary experience in present tense, constitutes the necessary conditions for the revolution, but it is not enough. Anarchy does not mean a “modern lifestyle”. That would be a false consciousness that unwillingly takes part in the ideological normalization of the current status.
“Here and now” is not enough, since the past, the present and the future coexist in a historic dialectic unity: “The past does not die. It is not even past”, claims Faulkner, whereas Empirikos adds: “We all exist in our future”. We cannot jump over our shadow and live “anarchy here and now” within this framework of authoritative social relations. Instead of letting this conclusion disappoint us however, we need to motivate ourselves in order to regain a historic perception: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour”, wrote William Blake. The revolution is a matter of centuries! Patience…
ΙΙ. “The revolution may be unattractive to some/but it is the only certain and just way/to remove the dirt from the people”
“The world exists only when you share it”
We don’t have to wait for the revolution to begin. It has already started for centuries. And it is here. And it will complete its work (destruction and creation) only if it succeeds in establishing Anarchist Communism on the ruins of the class/hierarchical society (the society of total individualism and not its phony caricature), when the society of individuals is replaced by the society of total free personalities. Society and individuals are de-alienated simultaneously and not separately. They are emancipated with the help of each other.
In an accomplished anarcho-communism, the individual ceases to be a unit separated from society and nature. S/he is harmonized with them, since the full development of a personality is a prerequisite for a complete development of all, and nature is not considered an external human element, as the individual ceases to be a separated arithmetic unit (unnatural citizen) and s/he becomes by nature Human. This image is by all means an ideal; however we should not forget that the utopia is not just an exercise on paper, but a “workshop for producing the future” (3)
The revolution, therefore, is not something that WILL arise in an undetermined future. It is something that has already begun, it is happening, it was happening before us, and it will continue after us. Communism is a potential condition for humanity, it lives and breathes among us as a latent social situation, as a fetus not born yet, but it EXISTS. It is in the hands of the oppressed to realize this potential and in our hands to (re)socialize the revolutionary idea, making the material power, thus, a socio-historical movement. We should contribute in overcoming the social stagnation that Octavio Paz called “historical pause”.
Αnarchist communism does not constitute Fukuyama’s End of history or Aristotle’s’ Excellent Perfect. It is the means to rehumanize the Homo Economicus, the anthropologically degenerated sort produced by capitalism. This is why Marx defined communism not as the end, but as the beginning of the human history (4). Moreover, it signifies the end of Delegation, the return of responsibility and the start of an emancipated society that consists of emancipated individuals. Because, it is not enough with socializing the means of production but it is also a necessary precondition to socialize the decision-making (direct democracy): the power that belongs to everyone, does not belong to anyone! In this way, the emergence of privileges that create new kinds of fragmentation is blocked, not in terms of production any longer, but in terms of practicing differentiated power. Anarchist communism, thus, does not only imply the end of Homo Economicus but also the end of Homo Apoloticus.
Communism does not per definition mean human happiness. It is the precondition, the material and intellectual underground of freedom and happiness. Following Lukács: “Someone is racking his brain over a complex scientific problem, but during his work he contracts an unrelenting toothache. Clearly, in most cases he would be unable to remain in the stream of his thought and work until the immediate pain is relieved. The annihilation of capitalism […] means the healing of all toothaches for the whole of humanity” (5).
This cannot be realized however through a murky, abstract and un-historical Good. History is constructed based on needs; revolution’s point of departure is the material conditions of existence and not super-historical ideals. The revolution is not an eternal and unchanged Idea; it is the class interests of proletarian and plebeian social groups. These are interests historically defined and not eternally given. The concept of “class interest” does not, refer of course, to a plain economic interest, that is, selling off proletarian workforce by better conditions. Proletarians’ (namely those who lack the means of production and reproduction of their material life and they experience a regime of total heteronomy) class interests stand for the demolition of class society, the self-abolition of the proletariat! Antiauthoritarian communism is our class interest and not a super-historical ideal that embraces the whole of humanity (including bosses and slaves…) (6)
The Social Revolution is not something extreme as the regime moralists have attempted to present. Extreme is capitalism and capitalist wars, “labor accidents”, Third World poverty, nature’s exploitation and catastrophe. Extreme is that a child dies of starvation every three seconds, the lack of access to water and treatable diseases. Extreme is that 30 million people die every year due to starvation, while the productive forces of our society have skyrocketed to an incredible degree. Extreme is that 40 million children have no sufficient housing, 500 million children have no access to sanitation, 400 million children have no access to drinkable water (according to UNISEF report from 2005). Extreme is that 218 million children were subject to forced labor (according to the International Labor Organization, 2009). Extreme is the drop in the life-expectancy average in Africa from 62 years to 47 in just 20 years! Extreme is that while in 2002 UN Food aimed to reduce the number of malnourished individuals from 800 million to 400, until the year 2015, starving individuals exceeded 1 billion! Extreme is that in the U.S. 1% of the population owns property greater than the poorest 40%, while 50 million of Americans live of soup kitchen. Extreme is that there are 358 plutocrats that possess equal property with 2.3 billion people! Extreme is that Capitalism is normal instead of Revolution!!
All these elements are not mere statistics. It is the arithmetic of capitalist terror. But we can also conclude that: billions of people on the planet cannot afford to think about the “existential rebellion” and the “personal insurrectionary experience”, since they are fighting for their own survival, for the simple reproduction of their biological existence. The existential rebellion is an element of the class struggle and requires a privileged background in order to occur (as it happens with us, the anarchists of the privileged western world).
Therefore, if the existential rebellion and the personal insurrectionary experience are disconnected from social antagonism, if they lose their class basis, then they will turn into shallow bohemianism and hobbyism. Thus, we have to include them in a holistic antiauthoritarian project (7), in an attempt to establish a revolutionary subversive movement. Because those who speak about an individual insurrectionary experience without simultaneously speaking about the social revolution have a corpse in their mouth. And those who speak about individualism without speaking about anti-authoritarian communism even swallow the coffin…
1. “The revolutionary movement has to be the fetus, a microcosm of the new society that comes to light constructed on the shell of the old one” John Klark (cited in the book of Giorgos Roussis: “Marx – Bakunin: for the socialist state, published in Greek by Govosti)
2. Terry Eagleton: “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate”
3. Antonis Liakos: “Apocalypse, Utopia and History: Transformations of historical consciousness “, pb Polis
4. According to Marx, the abolition of the state, private ownership and salaried employment (that is anarchist communism) is identical to regaining our living conditions, in a non-static society: “that would change through people’s free self-realization. Being free to design themselves, people would design their society and within a consciously changing society people would change themselves” (Liakos). Thus, people turn from blind forces driven actors into creators of their own history, together with other social individuals: “future international Marxist communism is the point of departure for continuous alterations of the society and individuals”. Therefore, communism is constituted as the end of pre-history and the beginning of human history, subversing the apocalyptic eschatological spirit that dominated until then the revolutionary movement.
5. Here Lukács is subject to a major “censorship” because he refers not only to the abolition of capitalism but also to the deceased “socialist reconstruction of the economy”. Rest In Peace…
6. It has to be mentioned here that in contrast to orthodox Marxism, antiauthoritarian communism goes beyond the point of departure of the class interest: it also cancels interclass (however not superclass) types of oppression (sexism, racism, nationalism, detention in schools, military camps, psychiatric clinics, ecological disaster, and so on). Interclass consciousness does not correspond to superclass struggle, since class or origin are cumulative. Not even diseases cannot be excluded from this norm: according to various studies, class background or origin play a serious aggravating role in the emergence of some types of cancer, heart diseases, mental illness and so on (see Laskos and Tsakalotos: “No Return”, published in Greek by ΚΨΜ).
7. Holistic in three meanings: a. It harmonizes the individual, the collective/molecular and the social, b. it unifies all separate projects (particularities) into a coherent set and into a common plan for organizing a historical-social revolutionary movement, and c. every mean of struggle, instead of embodying a hierarchy, serves the common aim, disregarding violent or pacifist fetishisms.
Corfu’s prison, September 2012
Published in the activist newspaper Apatris (Stateless). Number 21 April 2013