A Bedouin Anytime! A Citizen Never[1]

Having by our late labours and hazards made it appear to the world at how high a rate we value our just freedom (…) we do now hold our selves bound in mutual duty to each other, to take the best care we can for the future, to avoid the danger of returning into a slavish condition – Levellers, An Agreement of the People, 1647

Let’s look beyond the tear gas, the baton sticks and the riot police vans: The operation being conducted by the bosses since December 6th doesn’t comprise a mere combination of repression and propaganda; rather, it is the application of a series of methods aiming to re-negotiate social peace and consensus.

From the communist party (KKE), which views the revolted people as puppets of SYRIZA (the euro-left parliamentary party – transl.) and of C.I.A., all the way to socialist party politicians moaning that Athens resembles a city of the Eastern Block, what with its streets empty from consumers. From the archbishop of Thessaloniki, who begs his flock to go shopping and the city’s international exposition offering free parking to christmas shoppers, they all hold a common target: The return to the normality of democracy and consumption. Thus the day after the revolt, which happens to coincide with a dead consumer feast such as Christmas, is accompanied by the demand that this must celebrated at all cost: not only in order for some tills to fill up but in order for us all to return to our graves. The day after holds the demand of the living dead that nothing disturbs their eternal sleep no more. It holds a moratorium legitimising the emptiness of their spectacle-driven world, a world of quiet and peaceful life. And the generals of this war hold no weapon that is more lethal than the appeal to that absolute, timeless idea: democracy.

The word-for-democracy, developing as it does ever more densely from the side of the demagogues of calmness, aims at the social imaginary – the collective field of structuring of desires and fears. It aims, in other words, at the field where procedures invisibly take place that can secure or threaten order and its truth. Everyone knew, well before the assassination of Alexis, that the oligarchy of capital had given up on trying even to seem democratic, even by bourgeois terms: economic scandals, blatant incidents of police violence, monstrous laws. Yet this fact is not, neither here nor anywhere else, what might worry the bosses. This is precisely because the constant reproduction of the establishment under such terms (“is it democratic enough? Is it really democratic?”) reproduces the capitalist oligarchy that builds around it a wall of scandals, remorses, resignations, demands and reforms – preventing, in this way, the questioning of (not the democratic qualities of the regime but) democracy as a system of social organising. Hence bosses can still appeal to this higher value today, this axiomatic mechanism of the political, in order to bring us back to normality, consensus, compromise. In order to assimilate the general spontaneous rage in the sphere of mediation before this rage can organise itself into a revolutionary potential which would swoop all and any intermediaries and peaceful democrats – bringing along a new form of organising: the commune.

Amidst this ludicrous climate of shallow analyses the salaried officials of the psychological warfare point at the revolted, howling: “That’s not democratic, that ignores the rules under which our democracy functions”. We cannot help but momentarily stand speechless in the face of what we would until recently have considered impossible. Even if having the intention to deceive, the bosses of this country have said something true: We despise democracy more than anything else in this decadent world. For what is democracy other than a system of discriminations and coercions in the service of property and privacy? And what are its rules, other than rules of negotiation of the right to own – the invisible rules of alienation? Freedom, rights equality, egalitarianism: all these dead ideological masks together cannot cover their mission: the generalisation and preservation of the social as an economic sphere, as a sphere where not only what you have produced but also what you are and what you can do are already alienated. The bourgeois, with a voice trembling from piety, promise: rights, justice, equality. And the revolted hear: repression, exploitation, looting. Democracy is the political system where everyone is equal in front of the guillotine of the spectacle-product. The only problem that concerned democrats, from Cromwell to Montesquieu, is what form of property is sufficient in order for someone to be recognised as a citizen, what kind of rights and obligations guarantee that they will never understand themselves as something beyond a private citizen. Everything else is no more than adjusting details of a regime in the service of capital.

Our despise for democracy does not derive from some sort of idealism but rather, from our very material animosity for a social entity where value and organising are centered around the product and the spectacle. The revolt was by definition also a revolt against property and alienation. Anyone that didn’t hide behind the curtains of their privacy, anyone who was out on the streets, knows it only too well: Shops were looted not for computers, clothes or furniture to be resold but for the joy of destructing what alienates us: the spectacle of the product. Anyone who doesn’t understand why someone delights in the sight of a destructed product is a merchant or a cop. The fires that warmed the bodies of the revolted in these long December nights were full of the liberated products of our toil, from the disarmed symbols of what used to be an almighty fantasy. We simply took what belonged to us and we threw it to the fire together with all its co-expressions. The grand potlatch of the past few days was also a revolt of desire against the imposed rule of scarcity. A revolt of the gift against the sovereignty of money. A revolt of the anarchy of use value against the democracy of exchange value. A revolt of spontaneous collective freedom against rationalised individual coercion.

 


Notes:

[1]: This text was one of the last to come out of an initiative from the occupied Athens University of Economics and Business. The occupation is no more, yet two new public buildings have been occupied in Athens in the last few days only: Another university property is now temporarily liberated (more about this later) while the headquarters of I.S.A.P. (the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway) are also occupied as a response to the murderous attack against Konstantina Kuneva. Konstantina, a migrant cleaner at one of I.S.A.P.’s subcontracting companies and a militant union organiser, was attacked on 23/12/2008: sulfuric acid was thrown at her face as she was returning home from work. She is now in intensive care suffering serious visual and respiratory system problems.

Translator’s note: this text goes out to the good people of Gaza. We have them in our hearts and minds and they remind us, in the most horrific of ways, that we have a million reasons to revolt and not a single one to sit back, to be complacent, to return to their murderous normality. Occupied London Blog, 29 December 2008.

 


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