HOW IS IT TO BE DONE?
(a text written to be distributed in Italy in spring 2001.)
Don’t know what I want
but I know how to get it.
-Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK
TWENTY YEARS. Twenty years of counter-revolution. Of preventive counter-revolution.
Twenty years of sleep surrounded by fences, populated by security guards. Twenty years of the sleep of bodies, under a curfew.
Twenty years. The past does not pass away. Because the war continues. Branches out. Drags on.
With a global networking of local apparatuses. With an unprecedented calibration of subjectivities. Under a new surface of peace.
An armed peace
specifically fabricated to cover up the development of an imperceptible
Twenty years ago, there was punk, the 77 movement, areas of Autonomy,
the metropolitan Indians and diffuse guerrilla warfare.
Suddenly there appeared,
as if borne from some underground region of civilization,
a whole counter-world of subjectivities
that no longer wanted to consume, that no longer wanted to produce,
that no longer even wanted to be subjectivities.
The revolution was molecular, just as much as the counter-revolution was.
PEOPLE went on the offensive to establish,
and then permanently installed,
a complex machine to neutralize everything with any intensity to it. A machine to defuse anything that might explode.
All risky dividuals, all restless bodies, all the autonomous human aggregations.
Then came twenty years of idiocy, vulgarity, isolation and desolation.
How is it to be done?
Standing up. Lifting up your head. Whether by choice or out of necessity. It hardly matters much anymore, really.
Looking at each other in the eyes, and telling ourselves we’re going to give it another try. And letting everyone know, as soon as possible:
We are starting again.
Passive resistance, inner exile, conflict by self-extraction, survival – all that’s finished. We’re starting again. After twenty years, we’ve had plenty time to see. We’ve understood. Demokracy for all; the “war on terror”; State massacres; the restructuring of capitalism and its Grand Project of purging society,
by making jobs precarious,
We’ve seen and we’ve understood. The methods and the goals. The fate that PEOPLE have laid out for us. The fate PEOPLE deny us. The state of exception. The laws that put the police, the administration, and the judicial authorities above the law. Judicialization, psychiatrization, medicalization of everything that doesn’t fit the mold. Of everything that escapes.
We’ve seen, we’ve understood. The methods and the goals.
When power establishes its own legitimacy in real time,
when its violence becomes preventive
and when it’s considered in its right to act on its so-called "right to intervene,"
then it is useless to be right.
To be right and against it.
One has to be stronger, or more cunning. That is
why we are starting again.
Starting again never means starting something again. Nor does it mean picking up where we left off. When you start again it’s always something different. And it’s always unprecedented. Because it’s not the past pushing us to do it, but what in the past
And because it’s ourselves, then, that we’re starting up again.
Starting again means: getting out of this suspended animation. Restoring contact with what we’re becoming.
from where we are,
For instance there are certain rackets
that PEOPLE won’t be able to trick us with anymore.
The con that there’s a "society." To be transformed. To be destroyed. To be improved.
The con that there’s a social contract. Which some people break while others pretend to "restore" it.
PEOPLE won’t pull the wool over our eyes anymore with these tricks.
You’d have to be some kind of a militant of the global middle-class,
You’d really have to be a citizen
to fail to see that
no longer exists.
It has imploded. And it’s only just another argument in defense of the terror of those who claim to
“Society” has gone missing.
Everything social has become foreign to us.
We consider ourselves absolutely free of any
obligation, prerogative, belonging.
is the name that the Irreparable has often been given
among those who also wanted to turn it into
Anyone that doesn’t bite this bait will have to
away from the shared logic
of the Empire and its contestation,
away from protest through mobilization,
away from their shared relationship with time,
which is one of urgency.
Starting again means: inhabiting this gap. Assuming capitalist schizophrenia in the sense of a growing capacity for desubjectivation.
Deserting and keeping their weapons.
Escaping, without being noticed.
Starting again means: inciting to social secession, opacity, entering into
draining off, today, from this or that imperial production-consumption network the resources it needs to live and to fight, in order that at the right moment
we can sink the ship.
We’re talking about a new war,
a new partisan war. Without any battlefronts or uniforms, without armies or decisive battles.
A war the hotbeds of which spread out from the flows of commodities, but remain connected to them.
We're talking about a war that is latent. A war that has plenty of time.
A war of positions.
A war waged right where we are.
In the name of no one.
In the name of our own existence,
which has no name.
Making this slight shift.
No longer fearing our times.
"Not to fear one's time is a matter of space."
In squats. In orgies. In riots. In the trains or villages we occupy. In search, among strangers, of a free party that is nowhere to be found. I am experiencing this slight shift. I am experiencing my own desubjectivation. I become
An ordinary singularity. (a “singular ‘anybody’”; a ”whatever-singularity”)
And a game starts to insinuate itself between my presence and the whole apparatus of qualities that are usually associated to me.
In the eyes of beings who, in my presence, want to consider me for what I am, I savor the disappointment, their disappointment, in seeing me having become so common, so perfectly accessible. It is an unexpected complicity with another person’s gestures. I feel everything that isolates me as a subject, as a body equipped with a public configuration of attributes, melt away. Bodies fray at their limits. At their limits, they become indistinguishable. Neighborhood by neighborhood, ordinary singularity ruins equivalency. And I attain a new nudity, an unclean nudity, as if I were dressed in love.
Does one ever escape alone from the prison of the Self?
In squats. In orgies. In riots. In the trains or villages we occupy. We find one another again.
We find one another again as ordinary singularities. i.e.,
not on the basis of a common belonging, but of a common presence.
our need for communism. Our need for nocturnal spaces, where we can
find each other
Beyond the tyranny of recognition. Which imposes recognition/acquaintance as a final distance between bodies. As an unavoidable separation.
Everything PEOPLE — my boyfriend, my family, my environment, my company, the state, public opinion — see me as – that’s what THEY want to hold me to.
By constantly reminding me of what I am, of my qualities, PEOPLE would like to extract me from each situation. PEOPLE would like to extort from me a faithfulness to myself that’s really just a faithfulness to my labels.
PEOPLE expect to act like a man, like an employee, like a jobless person, like a mother, like a militant or like a philosopher.
PEOPLE would like to contain the unpredictable course of what I’m becoming within the bounds of an identity.
PEOPLE want to convert me to the religion of a coherence
that THEY chose for me.
The more I am recognized, the more my gestures are trapped, internally trapped. I’m stuck in the super-tight wireframes of the new power. In the impalpable net of the new police: THE IMPERIAL POLICE OF QUALITIES.
There’s a whole network of apparatuses that I slip into, in order to "integrate myself," a network that incorporates these qualities into me.
A whole petty system of mutual processing, identification and surveillance.
A whole diffuse ban on absence.
A whole machinery of behavioral/mental control, intended to produce panopticism, transparent privatization, atomization.
And I struggle within it.
I need to become anonymous. In order to be present.
The more anonymous I am, the more present I am.
I need zones of indistinction
In order to reach the Common.
To no longer recognize myself by my name. To no longer hear in my name anything but the voice that calls it.
To give substance to how beings are, not what they are but how they are what they are. Their form of life.
I need zones of opacity where attributes,
even criminal ones, even nice ones,
don’t separate bodies anymore.
Becoming ordinary. Becoming an ordinary singularity, is not a given.
It’s always possible, but never a given.
There is a politics of ordinary singularity.
One that consists in snatching from Empire
the conditions and the resources,
even interstitial ones,
for experiencing yourself as such.
It’s a kind of politics, because it presupposes a capacity for confrontation, and a new kind of human aggregation
corresponds to it.
Politics of ordinary singularity: bringing out spaces where no act can be specifically assigned to any given body anymore.
Where bodies recover their capacity for gestures, which the clever distribution of metropolitan apparatuses — computers, cars, schools, cameras, cell-phones, gyms, hospitals, televisions, cinemas, etc. — had stolen from them.
By recognizing them.
By immobilizing them.
By making them spin their wheels impotently.
By making the head exist separately from the body.
Politics of ordinary singularity.
Becoming a singular “anybody” is more revolutionary than being somebody.
Liberating spaces liberates us a hundred times more than any "liberated space" can.
More than putting any power into action, I enjoy putting my potential into circulation.
The politics of ordinary singularity is on the offensive. In the circumstances, the moments and the places
of such anonymity,
of a momentary stop-off in a state of simplicity,
an opportunity to free from all our forms a pure adaptation to presence,
a chance to be at last
HOW IS IT TO BE DONE? Not what is to be done, but How? The question of the means. Not of goals, of objectives,
of what is to be done, strategically, in the absolute.
Instead, it's a question of what we can do, tactically, in the situation at hand,
and of the acquisition of this potential.
How is it to be done? How do we desert it all? How does that work? How do I combine my injuries and communism? How to stay at war without losing tenderness? It’s a technical issue. Not a problem. Problems are profitable.
They feed experts.
Technique. Which leads us back to the question of the techniques for transmitting those techniques.
How is it to be done? The result always contradicts the goal. Because setting a goal is still a means.
What to do? Babeuf, Chernychevsky, Lenin. Classical virility demands some headache medicine, some kind of mirage, something. A means to ignore yourself for just a little longer. As a presence. As a form of life. As a being in a situation, endowed with inclinations.
Particular, determined inclinations.
What to do? Voluntarism as the ultimate nihilism. As the particular nihilism of
What to do? The answer is simple: submit once again to the logic of mobilization, to the temporality of urgency. On the pretext of rebellion. Setting down aims, words. Tending towards their fulfillment. Towards the fulfillment of words. And while we’re waiting, postpone existence. Put yourself between parentheses. Live in self-exception. Away from time. Which passes. Which does not pass. Which stops.
Until … Until the next. Goal.
What to do? In other words: it’s useless to live. Everything you have not lived, History will give back to you.
What to do? A forgetting of the self, projected out into the world.
As a forgetting of the world.
How is it to be done? The question of how. Not of what a being, a gesture, a thing is, but of how it is what it is. The question of how its labels relate to it.
And it to them.
Let it be. Let the chasm between the subject and its labels be. The abyss of presence.
A man is not "a man." A "White horse" is not "horse".
The question of how. Paying attention to how. Paying attention to the way a woman is, and is not,
a woman — it takes a lot of apparatuses to turn a being of female sex into "a woman", or a man with black skin into "a Black man."
Attention to ethical differences. To the ethical element. To the irreducibilities that run through them. What goes on between the bodies in an occupation is more interesting than the occupation itself.
How is it to be done? means that military confrontations with the Empire have to be subordinate to the intensification of the relationships inside our party. It means that politics is just a certain degree of intensity within the ethical element. That revolutionary war must not be confused with its representation: the raw moment of combat.
The question of how. Becoming attentive to the taking-place of things, of beings. To their event. To the obstinate and silent prominence of their own temporality
Beneath the planetary crushing of all temporalities
by the temporality of urgency.
The What is to be done? as a programmatic ignorance of this. As the inaugural formula of a busy disenchantment.
The What is to be done? is back. It has been back in style for a few years. Since the mid nineties even, not just since Seattle. A revival of critique pretends to confront the Empire with all the old slogans and recipes from the sixties. Except that this time, they’re faking it.
A faked innocence, indignation, good conscience and need for society. The whole gamut of social-democratic affectations has been put back into circulation. Christian affectations.
And once again there are demonstrations. Desire-killing demonstrations. Where nothing happens.
And which no longer demonstrate anything
but a collective absence.
Now and forever.
Those who feel nostalgic about Woodstock, ganja, May 68 and militancy can go to the counter-summits. PEOPLE have reconstituted the old décor, minus the possibilities. And that’s what the What is to be done? Commands us to do today: to travel to the other side of the world in order to contest
the global commodity,
Just to come back, after taking a nice big bath in unanimity and mediated separation,
And submit to the commodity locally. Back home, you've got your picture in the newspaper… All alone together!... Once upon a time …
Good old youth!
Too bad for the few living bodies lost there, looking in vain for some room for their desires.
They will return a bit more bored. A bit more hollowed out. Weakened.
From counter-summit to counter-summit, they will eventually understand. Or not.
We don’t contest the Empire about its style of management. We don’t critique the Empire.
We oppose its forces. From wherever we’re at.
To give an opinion about some alternative or other, to go where PEOPLE call us, makes no sense anymore. There is no overall alternative plan to the overall plan of Empire. Because the Empire has no overall plan. It just has an imperial management. And all management is mismanagement. Those who demand a different society would be better served to start by realizing that there is no society anymore. Maybe then they would quit being such managers-in-training themselves. Citizens. Indignant citizens.
The global order cannot be considered as the enemy. Directly.
Because global order is no place to be found. On the contrary. It is an order of non-places.
Its perfection is not that it’s global, but that it’s globally local. The global order is the warding off of any events, because it comprises a complete and authoritarian occupation of the local. The global order can only be opposed locally. By expanding opaque zones over the maps of the Empire. By progressively putting them into contact.
The coming politics. A politics of local insurrection against global management. Of presence winning out over self-absence. Winning out over a citizenist, imperial foreignness. And won by theft, fraud, crime, friendship, enmity, conspiracy.
Through the elaboration of ways of living
that are also ways of fighting.
A politics of taking place.
Empire has no place. Empire is everywhere nothing is happening. It administrates absence by waving the palpable threat of police intervention everywhere.
Anybody that takes Empire as an enemy to spar with will be preventively annihilated.
To be seen now means to be crushed.
Learning how to become indistinguishable. How to melt in together. To regain a taste for anonymity,
In order to evade repression:
setting up the most favorable conditions for the confrontation.
Becoming sly. Becoming pitiless. And for that purpose
becoming just an anybody.
How is it to be done? is the question of the lost children. The ones that didn’t get told. The ones with the clumsy gestures. To whom nothing was given. Whose creaturality and wandering nature always shows through.
The coming revolt is the revolt of the lost children.
The thread of historical transmission has been broken. Even the revolutionary tradition leaves us orphaned. Especially the workers’ movement. The workers’ movement that's turned into a tool for greater integration into the Process, into the new, cybernetic Process of social valorization.
In 1978, it was in the name of the workers' movement that the Italian Communist Party, the so-called “party with the clean hands” launched its witch-hunt against Autonomy. In the name of its classist conception of the proletariat, of its mystique of society, of respect for work, utility and decency.
In the name of "democratic gains won" and the Rule of Law.
The workers' movement that survived in "operaismo."
The only existing critique of capitalism from the point of view of Total Mobilization.
A frightening, paradoxical doctrine,
that tried to save Marxist objectivism by only talking about “subjectivity” anymore.
That tried to bring denial of how to an unprecedented sophistication.
Absorbing gestures back into their results.
The skin rash of a past future.
Of what everything might have been.
Critique has become vain. Critique has become vain because it amounts to an absence. As for the ruling order, everyone is left with little doubt. We don’t need any more critical theory. We don’t need any more professors. Now critique works for domination. Even the critique of domination.
It reproduces absence. It speaks to us from where we are not. It propels us elsewhere. It consumes us. It is cowardly. And stays sheltered
as it sends us to the slaughter.
Secretly in love with its object, it continually lies to us.
Hence the short romances between proletarians and engaged intellectuals.
Those marriages of convenience where the two don’t have the same ideas about what pleasure or freedom are.
Rather than new critiques, it is new cartographies that we need.
Cartographies not of the Empire, but of the lines of flight out of it.
How is it to be done? We need maps. Not maps of what is off the map,
but navigation maps. Maritime maps. Orientation tools. That do not try to explain or represent what lies inside the different archipelagos of desertion, but tell us how to reach them. Portolan Charts.
IT’S Tuesday, September 17th, 1996, just before dawn. The ROS (Special Operational Group) coordinates the arrest of some 70 Italian anarchists over the whole peninsula. The goal is to put an end to fifteen years of fruitless investigations of the insurrectionalist anarchists. The technique is well-known: fabricate a "stool pigeon," make him denounce the existence of a vast, hierarchical subversive organization. Then, on the basis of this chimerical creation, accuse all those they want to neutralize of being part of it.
Once again they’d "drained the sea to catch the fish."
Even though they were only dealing with a tiny pond.
And a few roaches.
An "informational ROS memorandum" was leaked
Regarding this case.
It exposed their strategy.
Established on the basis of General Dalla Chiesa’s principles, the ROS is the classic example of an imperial counter-insurrection service.
It works on the population.
Where any kind of intensity has arisen, where something has happened, it plays Humanitarian Doctor [“French Doctor”] in the situation. It sets up,
On the pretense of disease prevention,
A containment zone, a cordon sanitaire, to isolate
That says enough about what it’s afraid of. But in this document, it puts it into words. What it fears is "the quagmire of political anonymity."
The Empire is scared.
The Empire is afraid that we might become ordinary anybodies.
A delimited milieu, a fighting organization -- it does not fear them. But an expansive constellation of squats, self-managed farms, collective residences, gatherings with no purpose other than to gather, radio stations, techniques, and ideas. And the whole thing linked together by an intense circulation of bodies, and of emotions between bodies. That is quite another matter.
A conspiracy of bodies. Not of critical minds, but of critical corporeities. That’s what the Empire fears. And that’s what’s coming, slowly,
with the increase of the fluxes
of social defection.
There is an opacity inherent in the contact between bodies. One that is not compatible with the imperial reign of a light that only shines on things anymore
in order to disintegrate them.
Zones of Offensive Opacity are not
to be created.
They are already there, in all relations where
bodies are truly put into play.
All we have to do is to face and assume the fact that we are part of this opacity. And furnish ourselves with means of extending it,
Everywhere that we can manage to thwart the imperial apparatuses, to ruin all the daily work of Biopower and the Spectacle and reclaim from the population a fraction of its citizens. To isolate new untorelli [plague bearers]. In this reconquered indistinction
an autonomous ethical fabric
will form spontaneously, a
plane of consistency.
Bodies aggregate. Regain their breath. Conspire.
That such zones are doomed to be crushed militarily hardly matters. What matters is, each time,
that a relatively safe escape route be set up. In order to re-aggregate elsewhere.
What was underlying the problem of What is to be done? was the myth of the general strike.
What answers the question How is it to be done? is the practice of HUMAN STRIKE. The general strike implied that exploitation was limited in time and space,
that alienation was partial, due to a recognizable, and thus beatable enemy.
Human strike is the response to an era when the limits between work and life have been fully blurred.
Where everything, consuming and surviving,
producing "subversive texts," and dealing with the most toxic effects of industrial civilization,
doing sports, making love, being a parent or on Prozac --
Everything is work.
Because Empire manages, digests, absorbs and reintegrates
Everything that’s alive.
Even "what I am," the subjectivation that I do not deny here and now,
everything is productive.
Empire has put everything to work.
Ideally, my professional profile will match my face.
Even if it isn’t smiling.
Rebels’ grimaces sell rather well, after all.
Empire, i.e., the means of production became means of control right when the opposite proved true.
Empire means that now the political moment dominates
the economic moment.
A general strike is helpless against that anymore.
What must oppose Empire is the human strike.
Which never attacks the relations of production without attacking at the same time the emotional relationships that sustain them.
Which undermines the unavowable libidinal economy,
Which restores the ethical element — the how — that’s repressed in all contact among neutralized bodies.
Human strike is the strike that, where PEOPLE would expect
this or that predictable reaction,
this or that contrite or indignant tone,
PREFERS NOT TO.
Slips out from the apparatus. Saturates it or blows it up.
Pulls itself together, preferring
Something else that does not fall within the possibilities authorized by the apparatus.
At the numbered windows of some social services office or other, at the cash register counters at some supermarket or other, in a polite conversation, during a raid by the cops,
according to the balance of power,
human strike gives consistency to the space between bodies,
pulverizes the double bind in which they are caught,
Drives them into presence.
There is a whole Luddism to be invented, a Luddism of the human gearwheels
that drive Capital.
In Italy, radical feminism was an embryonic form of human strike.
"No more mothers, women and girls; destroy the family!" was an invitation to the gesture of breaking the expected chains of events,
releasing the compressed potentialities.
It was an attack on all this doomed emotional commerce, on everyday prostitution.
It was a call to transcend the couple, as the elementary unit in the management of alienation.
It was a call to complicity.
A practice that would be untenable without circulation, without contagion.
The women’s strike implicitly incited men’s strikes, children's strikes; incited them
to empty out the factories, schools, offices and prisons,
to invent a different way to be, a different how, for each situation.
Italy in the seventies was a gigantic human strike zone.
"Autoreductions," hold-ups, squatted neighborhoods, armed demonstrations, pirate radios, countless cases of "Stockholm syndrome,"
even Moro’s famous letters from detention, towards the end, were
practices of human strike.
The Stalinists, back then, used to talk about a "diffuse irrationality"; imagine that.
There are writers too
Who were on human strike
all the time.
To collectively acquire the ability to shake up
The art of visiting, within oneself,
the most disturbing guest.
In the present war,
where Capital’s emergency reformism has to dress up like a revolutionary to
make itself heard,
where the most demokratic fights, those of the counter-summits,
take recourse to direct action,
there’s a role for us.
The role of martyrs of the demokratic order,
Which preventively strikes down every body that might strike it.
I’m supposed to let myself be immobilized in front of a computer while nuclear plants explode, while PEOPLE plays with my hormones or poison me.
I’m supposed to bust out singing victim rhetoric. Since, of course,
everyone is a victim, even the oppressors themselves.
To savor that a discreet circulation of masochism
Is giving a new enchantment to the situation.
Human strike, today, means
refusing to play the role of the victim.
Arrogating impunity to ourselves.
Making the paralyzed citizens understand
that whether or not they go to war they are at war anyway.
That when PEOPLE tell us it’s either you do this or you die, it’s always
Do this and die.
after human strike, propagate
where there is nothing but,
and where we are all