Sunday, 1 November 2009

Book Review: The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee

Those curious about European ultra-left anti-politics might have stumbled across The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee. The text has been on the net for some time and is now published in English as a pamphlet by Semiotext(e), distributed by the academic MIT Press. Supposedly written by the Tarnac 9, a group of young commune dwellers in rural France, arrested by armed anti-terrorist police for allegedly sabotaging over-head electrical lines on the railways; (leading to serious delays of over two hours for train passengers!) The Coming Insurrection has been seen in France as a sign of a revival of far-left terrorism in the Baader Meinhof style. The pamphlet has also been taken up by the right wing commentator Glenn Beck on Fox News, as evidence of a potential violent communist take over of the US-see the hilarious clip on You Tube here. But does The Coming Insurrection live up to the hype? More importantly does it offer anything new to left wing and anarchist theory? It's certainly well-written, intelligent but without too much academic jargon, incredible forceful, painting an apocalyptic picture of both our alienated society and its collapse.

Right from the get-go I found myself sharing their sense of disengagement and anger at our political and economic culture as mapped out in the first seven chapters. (Dante's seven circles of hell) There are similarities with Guy Debord and the Situationist International of the 60's especially 'The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy' and 'On the Poverty of Student Life'-extreme but erudite attacks on our society like sneering punks with a PhD. The paragraph below is particular apt:

The sphere of political representation has come to a close. From left to right, it's the same nothingness striking the pose of an emperor or a savior, the same sales assistants adjusting their discourse according to the findings of the latest surveys. Those who still vote seem to have no other intention than to desecrate the ballot box by voting as a pure act of protest. We're beginning to suspect that it's only against voting itself that people continue to vote. Nothing we're being shown is adequate to the situation, not by far. In its very silence, the populace seems infinitely more mature than all these puppets bickering among themselves about how to govern it. The ramblings of any Belleville Chibani (arabic for old man) contain more wisdom than all the declarations of our so-called leaders. The lid on the social kettle is shut triple-tight, and the pressure inside continues to build. From out of Argentina, the specter of Que Se Vayan Todos (They All Must Go!-the chant of the 2001 Argentine rebellion) is beginning to seriously haunt the ruling class.

It's only when the anonymous authors of 'The Coming Insurrection' start to contemplate this social upheaval that I find myself getting seriously irritated. They savage all forms of organisation, even local community or citizen groups, as mimicking "the form, mores and language of miniature states." They rely on pure spontaneity and outbursts of dis-organised violence as in urban rioting (they talk a lot about the banlieues riots in France, 2005) as a method of contestation. Like the anti-civilization anarcho-primitives they embrace catastrophe and disaster, a form of left-wing survivalism, failing to realise that the breakdown of society and the frightening chaos ensuing, can lead to the victims embracing the police and the authorities or fascism and Stalinism, to bring some form of stability. The largest experiment in libertarian socialism or workers self-management was carried out in Catalonia, Spain in 1936, where anarcho-syndicalism, a form of directly democratic but highly organised, working class based anarchism held sway. Although spontaneity played a role as it always does, without the long organising period of the CNT-AIT union, the Spanish Revolution would not have survived as long as it did. There is no alternative either in the community or in the work place to organisation.

1 comment:

Garsiegel said...

Sorry to have to be pedantic, but Dante's hell (Inferno) has NINE circles. The parallel is perpendicular and unnecessary, if not deluding, since PURGATORY is what Dante describes as having SEVEN circles, and I don't believe the writers of Insurrection have any inclination to such.