Letter from an Anonymous Friend
Some passing thoughts on the Berkeley and Santa Cruz occupations, from someone who was there briefly
It is no great secret that the terminal crisis of capitalism is before our eyes: the welfare state, the bitter product of two world wars, the child of Hitler and Noske, wherein a certain social safety net was provided for a measure of social peace, is in the process of being forcibly liquidated by the exigencies of an incresingly bankrupt social system. This much is evident to all those who have a basic thinking capacity. And thus, those who are protesting for a defense of this transient historical form will find nothing here of value, nor even anything here addressed to them. Such people can protest all day for a return to the glory days they imagine, but since these halcyon times never existed anyways, one can see they will certainly have no success now. Rather we address ourselves to those who believe in any fashion in the “terminus of student life”; but not of course to open something so worthless as a literary polemic or discussion, nor to presume to give prescriptions or orders — all we do here is attempt a “generalization of insinuation.” For, to be right means nothing, what is important is acting in consequence.
The movement has already become acquainted with its enemies: the unionist, student politician type being only the most insidious and veiled. In this we have had to re-learn one of the primary lessons of the Movement of 77: the actual complicity of all unions and parties, however radical sounding, with the cops. At Berkeley, this special type of policing seems far more prevalent than at Santa Cruz, along with the historical baggage of Savio and the Black Panthers weighing like a nightmare on this current generation, not to mention the tired front-group appeals to some sort of radicality concerning Obama, which is about as sad and deluded as one could get. Whereas at SC, these safety valves were less firmly in place, and the flimsy protection of last resort for American capitalism, that is to say the pathetic ideological detritus of Crimethinc, was more in evidence. At SC, the occupation of Kerr Hall marked a high point of initiative and offensive, as the protestors left their original building and took another. This perhaps shows the opportunities afforded by the “repressive tolerance” of the SC administration. Yet after a while even this was not enough — in truth, what was important was not so much the building taken, but the audacity of the participants. This energy was lost throughout the following time, as the occupation tried to sit still while the police sent informants and surveyed the area, readying a response. Meantime, a list of responsible, and because of that, totally boring and irrelevent demands were made. It must be said that these demands were far less reasonable than others that might be made, or even better, as happened previously, there could be a breaking with the logic of demands itself. For the demands, to our knowledge, were not fulfilled in any serious way, nor could they be by a terminally ill capitalism on life support — rather there was a recognition of force, and the peasant ferocity of the police quickly gave way to a leniency when a crowd was present (at all occupations, from what one can gather, but especially in the case of SC and Berkely). Thus far, no one has deigned to say what is explosive, or perhaps implosive, in the US situation — the knavery of the police (smashing that girl’s hand, rubber bullets, numerous instances of wanton brutality, etc.) is rather the product of a deep fear among the US elite: their army is twice defeated, collapsing from a morale and logistical perspective; the country is essentially bankrupt; the inequality, notable even for the sociologists, continues to grow. These times are revolutionary, it must be said, even if the people are not yet.
What must change this is willfulness. At SC, certain proposals were insinuated as to the hosting of a love-in, or auto-reducing, to open lines of supplies and communications. An interruption of the “business operations of the University” is only the beginning; far more important is to elaborate new forms-of-life to replace the old world. Against this, one excuses onself from acting with the old Situationist shuffle step of not wanting to be an avant-garde. But if not us, who, and if not now, when are we to taste the delights of communism? We must be honest here: if a radical nucleus allows pitiful demands to be made, for fear of being too radical, then they only allow themselves to become pitiful. At the end of the SC occupation, a clever choice was made to withdraw from Kerr Hall without arrests. But this is also because there was nothing worth getting arrested for, let alone dying for. And to think of the splendor of Exarcheia, and how Alexandros was killed there, and the comrades there fight the cops, fascists and state-controlled armed struggle groups every day and face a biopolitical democracy that has revealed the Nazism in its heart — no, no, there has been far too much shallow triumphalism thus far from the unions and bureaucrats, pleased to have stirred out of their sickbed for a breif while; we must be honest, film screenings commemorating what has happened thus far must be discarded, true revolutionaries can not be satisfied with what has thus far transpired, even indulgently — as if, should we wait long enough without acting radical, revolutionary things will happen on their own. It is time we leave the beautiful soul of the post-1972 Situationism that does nothing but criticize behind, in order to direct and succour the unthinking consciousness that tries to act. Communism can not be talked about, it must be really lived. This is the historic task, at once simple and complicated, of this, the final moment of world-spirit. The prisoners of Plato’s cave must be led into the sunshine of the revolution, not bantered with in the darkness of capitalism.
Ergo, really living communism must be our objective. As the Kerr Hall protestors perhaps discovered when they were leaving the building, what mattered was not a building they took, certainly not the architectural concrete disaster of Kerr Hall, but what was in their hearts. A wall falling down means nothing, so long as we believe in communism, since it was never a country, or a party, but a way or relating to one another. One slogan appropriate to this revelation might be the title of the latest Tiqqun re-issue in France: Everything has failed, long live communism!
Concordantly, writing petty trash about saving and defending the university, or any other number of things, must be forgotten. Our first task must be to liberate all of our prisoners: poor Doug and so many others. And just as in the prior form of spirit, factory strikes became qualitatively more revolutionary when they posed political, international goals, so must we leave behind the sad demands of students pleading and whining for integration into a failed social system: we should rather aim to punish the wicked, to deliver a crushing riposte to the infamous scoundrels and their arrogant pretensions of this depraved time. Moreover, in Greece, the Conspiracy of the Nuclei of Fire are our prisoners too; these poor kids framed by an increasingly repressive state need to be liberated. There is another ridiculous new arrest in the Tarnac affair, coming on the heels of an intimidation arrest in Rouen, which only underlines the petty malice of the government that its frame up there has collapsed. And the 9 defendants are still prohibited from seeing one another! This is all too shameful: let us call for an unlimited human strike, since the revolutionary general strike of the working class is no longer the proper figure of spirit, respond to a 32% increase with rent strikes, mass expropriation, sabotage of classes, refusal of alienated social relations — here’s hoping we collapse the dollar and further aggravate the crisis!
This is where our movement must go in order not to be covered with infamy; at the hour when the Greeks and Austrians descend en masse on American embassies — to help us, to magnify our blows! — to allow others to pose these shit demands and to do nothing crazy with these buildings when we take them is simply ineptitude plastered over with good will. Why are not the clocks spirited away, masks given to all, monogamy annulled, electronics banned, counter-intelligence set up to ferret out spies, look outs placed around the building, sorties mounted to harass the enemy, food expropriated, and surreptitious withdrawals enacted to commence the party somewhere else? We know the Commune is not dead, it is wherever we are: “The hopes and expectations of the world up till now had pressed forward solely to this revelation, to behold what absolute Being is, and in it to find itself. The joy of beholding itself in absolute Being enters self-consciousness and seizes the whole world; for it is Spirit, it is the simple movement of those pure moments, which expresses just this: that only when absolute Being is beheld as an immediate self-consciousness is it known as Spirit.” This, one suspects, is precisely what exists in Tarnac, in Exarcheia, in millions of hearts the world over, and it is this that the dying old world hates so much. As for us, it is time to start really living what we believe.
In closing, the future of humanity will be communist, or not at all. This current movement can remain ignominiously tied to a collapsing system, its leaders, unions, daily routine, practices, and parties, or it can desert this sinking ship, and accomplish greater things than anyone can presently imagine. These are the ethical, profoundly metaphysical choices of the moment: “There is no longer a problem of the Head. There is only a problem of the body, of the act.”
So that perhaps some on the campuses will know at least one of the authors of this piece, and better understand their encounters, which may have confused them, owing to the caprices of this strange war of shadows in which we find ourselves engaged, and thus remembering may change prior opinions that were formed, this is signed,
Post-script: “In other words: the situation is excellent. This isn’t the moment to lose courage.”
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- November 30, 2009 / 11:15 pm