I’ve been reading The Coming Insurrection, by the Invisible Committee (also recently finished This is not a program and theory of the young-girl, by Tiqqun. They are all out on Semiotexte. I really wanted this stuff to help me, give me some kind of flotation device to grab on to, some good and original ideas to inspire me, and unfortunately, it seemed like whenever I grabbed onto something, some kind of problem arose, something was bothering me. Here’s the thing. There is a tendency of young leftist radicals in the social democracies of wealthy western European countries to talk about squatting, stealing from stores, and living off of government benefits either legitimately come by (guaranteed minimum income) or through fraud (reporting false dependents, claiming disability payments when one is strong and healthy) in a sort of breezy entitled tone that’s a little difficult to swallow if you are aware of how rare and precious, and from the perspective of most of the world completely insane it is that such resources actually exist and that it is possible for a healthy strong 20-something year old person to refuse to work on principle (because it’s so demeaning, it kills the spirit), and continue to live very comfortably by drawing on the fruit of the labor of others. Are these people aware that arguably the number one cause of radicalization of young people in the poorest parts of Africa and the middle east, the main factor that drives young men in particular to join groups like ISIS and Boko Haram and convoy over ever-expanding territories plundering and destroying villages and raping and slaughtering people not unlike their own families is unemployment? Simply the fact that they don’t have any work to do, any way of earning a living that would allow them to marry, establish a home, have children in a normal, humane way?
The young French radicals of the Invisible Committee are suggesting that one should take cues from the Paris commune of 1871 and torch city hall. They have ideas on how the barricades should be built this time (the staircases from rez-de-chaussée to premier étage of the buildings should be ripped out entirely, to give an advantage to the armed insurgents, the windows boarded over with only spaces left, as in a fortress, for the ends of their guns to emerge). They encourage destruction of the real and cybernetic infrastructure of Western Europe. I want to know if they have any awareness of how much random horrible loss of life and how much grinding poverty is endured in parts of the world that have never had any of this infrastructure (largely because they were colonized, in the case of Africa, largely by France, which became very wealthy on the natural resources stolen from its illegally occupied lands and made itself into the abundant well-structured, secure cradle it is). How can you suggest destroying what you have if you know how many others in the world would do anything to have it? If you destroy something, you cannot share it. Equity is not a level of a videogame where you choose 5 weapons and an avatar at the beginning.
The Invisible committee wants to establish communes, which they distinguish from Milieux- stay away from the activist Milieu, they don’t do anything. But the communes, the communes are going to really do something (because they’re called “communes”? Again, what’s with the 1871 and/or Bolshevik nostalgia in the European left? We have some solid information on how that worked out). Which brings us back to the refusal to work. The only really useful suggestion I could find in this book is pretty old-hat by now (ask anyone putzing around a community garden in any American city or town): try to participate in exchanges of goods and resources at a local level and under-the-table as much as you can. If possible barter so you can keep currency and the state out of your business entirely. Learn how to grow your own food, raise poultry and livestock, and fish. Pickle, preserve, smoke, salt, can, and dry food. collect rainwater, build hydroponic systems, locate the sources of potable water within walking distance of your home. learn homeopathic cures for illnesses and how to set a broken bone. Get yourself some solar panels. Prepare to, if necessary, go off the grid.
Which brings me to the “tax” bill that the Republican Congress seems to currently be very close to ramming into law. I believe it really does represent a new low (pretty amazing that that continues to be possible) for this country. The bill will cut billions from Medicare, defund Obamacare and get rid of the ACA mandate, which will functionally kill the ACA within 2 years if it stands- and send whole health and health-related sectors of the economy into death spirals. We will be back to 20 million+ without health insurance which for most people translates to “without health care”. We already have staggering rates of infant and maternal mortality in this country (akin to what is seen in the quote unquote third world, which just to be clear is that same part of the world without employment or infrastructure due to decades of Colonial occupation and wealth extraction). These disastrous health outcomes are of course far higher in immigrant communities and black communities due to the White Supremacist ideology the American State was built on and the systemic racial injustice it sustains its programs with. Starting with Ronald Reagan (yes, we’ve seen this movie before, folks), they defunded education- remember when urban public schools had art and music classes and reasonable class sizes, and printer paper, and toilet paper? Yeah, me neither (born in ’81), but apparently before Reagan that was a thing. They defunded state subsidized residential hospitals for those suffering from chronic mental illness- guess what? in New York City alone, between 1983 and 2017 the number of homeless individuals seeking a shelter bed on any given night has gone from around 10,000 to more than 60,000. Many of those who have become homeless and drug-addicted in the past 50 years are people with serious mental health issues who are self medicating with street drugs and barely surviving outside. In the past, they would have been cared for in State subsidized hospitals. Also, speaking of infrastructure, the infrastructure from coast to coast in this country is crumbling and the federal government is choosing not to spend our tax dollars to repair it. Puerto Rico still has a minor fraction of the power and clean drinking water and food and medical aid it needs. It still isn’t safe to drink the water in Flint, Michigan. There’s already been an oil spill from the pipeline they Jammed through Sioux country in Standing Rock SD. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t know about France, but here in the U.S we are already close to living in a third world country. We don’t need to blow anything up, because it’s already imploding. I’m actually looking forward to the day when, like slum-dwellers the world over, we can openly acknowledge that we are ruled by a deeply corrupt and greedy wealthy elite, That our “democracy” is a sham, and strike the bargain with them that slum-dwellers the world over strike with mafia regimes: We won’t ask you for anything, just leave us alone- leave us to our backyard vegetable patches and our home-made alcohol, leave us to our chickens and goats and our black market economy and our bit of electricity tapped from your grid. build a wall between yourselves and us. We won’t pay you any taxes, and we won’t complain that there are no state-funded schools for our children to go to- we’ll educate them ourselves. We won’t look at you, and you won’t have to look at us. All we ask is that you leave us the fuck alone to scrape what life we can from the dirt and the trees. Just that. No guaranteed minimum income, no universal healthcare. The babies will be born into the hands of sliding-scale or barter-friendly midwives and may or may not live and the mothers may or may not live. Our friends and relatives will sometimes die for fucked up, seemingly preventable reasons. We won’t squat your empty houses, we just ask the right to exist and build a rudimentary shelter out of scavenged materials that won’t be bulldozed after a couple weeks or months. I would like to ask the Invisible Committee why they can’t see that the best possible future for us is just the right to live, unbothered and untaxed, in a slum?
Is that revolutionary enough for them?