The Autumn of the Uprisings (1)


23 Okt , 2019  

“To abstain from violence against the violent is to become their accomplice. We do not have the choice between innocence and violence, but only between different forms of violence … Violence is the starting point common to all regimes. If one condemns all violence, one places oneself outside the realm of justice and injustice, one condemns the world and humanity – a hypocritical curse, for he who pronounces it, since he has already lived, has already accepted the rule of the game.” Merleau-Ponty. Humanism and terror.

Often enough, the uprising is merely associated with violence; it is merely described as the armed arm of the strike or simply as illegitimate. Accordingly, the strike is regarded as pacifist and its operations always remain anchored in the legal framework. The equation of riots with violence is an important discursive instrument for depriving the uprising of its political explosive power and defaming it as amoral and unclean. This equation, as practised by both the old left and the conservatives, ignores everyday and systemic violence, which is a condition of life for a large part of the world’s population. The vision of a peaceful system, in which violence breaks in only in exceptional cases, is an imagination of those who can afford it, that is, the elites of capital and the middle classes. For others, violence is the norm. The rhetoric of purely violent uprisings is a means of exclusion that is directed not so much against violence as against certain population groups.

Usually the insurrection is understood in the context of deprivation, violence, deprivation and deficit, while in itself it is a very real indication of the experience of surplus – surplus danger, surplus instruments and surplus effects. The most important surplus is the population itself: The moment when the riot bursts the police management of the situation and decouples itself from the regularity of everyday life. This kind of insurgent surplus production always remains related to socio-economic transformations of capital that respond to or constitute crises. All this shows the riot – amoral, transgressing and transgressing – as a necessary form of resistance and a struggle that refuses communication and is in a zone of invisibility.

The riot is in a certain relation to the strike: the strike is a collective action that a) revolves around the price of labour and better working conditions, b) in which the workers are purely in the position of the worker, and c) takes place in the context of capitalist production, while the riot a) includes the struggle for prices and the availability or theft of goods, b) expropriates its participants, and c) takes place in the context of circulation. The collective resistances remain linked to the transformations of the economy of capital; thus the collective action since the 1960s refers to the decline of industrial production in the USA and, in the global context, to the shift of capital into the sphere of circulation. Clover sums it up: Uprising and strike are collective embodiments of circulation and production at the border.

For the modern Riot, which began around 1960 and was accompanied by the decline of the big strikes, further conditions and structures are added that are related to the technical and social transformations of capital at the end of Fordism. The riot is part of the global circulation struggles, that is, it takes place in the sphere of circulation, which must be understood as a social organization sui generis. It encompasses a whole range of activities such as sabotage (debt strikes), interruptions, theft, disturbances and squatting. On the other hand, the pathologization of the riots, as practiced by the old left in particular, reduces the riot entirely to the use of force. On the other hand, it is important to note that today large parts of the global proletariat, which includes the precariat, the surplus population and parts of the lumpen proletariat, are simply forced to fight in circulation.

From 1973, Joshua Clover sees the decisively new mode of capital in circulation, financialization and the deindustrialization that accompanies it. In this context, the relations between the historical new formation of capital and the collective struggles lived must also be established in order to take into account the synchronous connection of the strike to production and the riots to circulation, taking into account the diachrony between the respective phases.

Circulation must not be confined to the realization of goods and consumption.

Joshua Clover sees from 1973 the decisively new mode of capital in the Circulature When capital has the capacity to move in an excessive, growth-oriented and spiral-shaped movement (the circle is a special case of the logarithmic spiral, namely a spiral, whose growth is zero) as an end in itself – the starting point here is the end point and vice versa – then it dominates the production sphere as a sui generis monetary process in order to integrate it into the primary “monetary circulation and distribution” of G-W-G’. Production, distribution (the distribution of profits) and circulation are therefore, in terms of their integration (both structurally and temporarily), to be regarded absolutely as parts of the monetary economy of capital and its metamorphoses, as its phases, aspects and moments.

In Capital Vol. 2, Marx proceeds from three cycles of industrial capital: Money capital, productive capital and commodity capital, whereby the cycle of money capital G – W … P … W’ – G’ structures, represents and integrates the three circulatory movements, more precisely the three spiral movements of capital, as it also implies disturbances within the cycles, insofar as it itself functions as a shifting center. (MEW 24: 31ff.) This formula of capital circulation is the primary mechanism of the capital economy, which constantly accompanies and includes the production of goods as production-for-profit and as production-for-circulation. Although also money capital here is merely a moment of passage of the process of reproduction of capital, as Marx notes (MEW 25: 406), but once capitalization is set as formation of fictitious capital, i.e. for Marx the most developed form of capital, then in relation to it any qualitative differences of the industrial and commercial individual capitals, their production processes and their goods are erased. Marx writes: “…And all capital is money capital in its expression of value”. (ibid.: 406) Foreign or own money capital is the motor for industrial enterprises that buy goods (means of production, buildings, energy, raw materials, software, etc.) and rent labor, so that products enriched with added value can be produced and also realized. Machinery, energy, products or production processes are not capital in themselves. Marx has shown that the formula G-W-G’ is the decisive expression of all economic relations appropriate to capital and this naturally includes the production of goods, which now functions as a purely functional process, a process for producing profit. Capital ever ties the production process to its monetary metamorphoses and (monetary) circulation, i. e. production is to be understood as a phase or moment of the circulation of capital, the general form of which can be described in the following formula: G-W-P-W’-G’.

If the principle of capital is the engine of the breathing monster called total capital, then the financial system is its central nervous system. The financial system executes the competition, the coordination and the regulation of the individual capital, which in turn is presupposed by the a priori of total capital, which is actualized through the real competition of the individual capital, which for Marx is definitely not a ballet but a war. Financial capital constantly modulates the competition of all enterprises and rekindles it – it is thus an integral part of the capital economy, not a cancer that a doctor removes in order to restore the health of the capital body.1 Under these conditions, monetary circulation dominates production, but remains stes in relation to it.1

Globalization or financialization is integrated into the spatial and temporal strategies of capital, whereby the shift of money capital towards circulation tends to collapse the production of value. The triumph of logistics and containerization – part of both the valorization and the realization of value – and the acceleration of capital turnover times since the 1970s have been accompanied by the decline of industrial production in developed countries – finance and new technologies have not, however, been able to stop the stagnation of profit rates in the industrial sector, although they have repeatedly contributed to cost reductions in individual companies. The corresponding overproduction of goods, capital and labour is a production of nonproduction that goes hand in hand with the production of a new surplus population. At this point one should again refer to Marx’s law of capitalist accumulation, according to which the industrial reserve army and the surplus population move at the margins of the official labor market, where they are paid low wages, with slave labor, part-time jobs and illegal activities to somehow secure their reproduction. The surplus population is constantly exposed to racist attacks regarding the wage differences between whites and blacks, the segregation of the labour market and the exclusion of the population in the slums of the metropolises. The surplus population is part of the current riots, a surplus rebellion characterized by resistance to racism. The illegality of the Riots is the illegality of the racialized body.

The global population, whose conditions of reproduction are characterized by the shift of capital from production to circulation, remains part of a consumer society in the metropolises (in the sense of the Baudrillard), but the exclusion from the wage labour exchange and the associated production of a surplus population today put the riot on the agenda at all times, an insurrection that must be understood in the last instance as a struggle in the sphere of circulation.

This new proletariat, which comprises the surplus population and parts that have similarities with Guy Standing’s precariat (as class), is today confronted in its struggles directly with the state and the police (in the early uprisings of the 17th century, the economy was close and the state far away). While today production is areosolized and globally fragmented, money capital circulates invisibly across the globe in real time and goods are channelled through global logistics chains, the standing army of the state, the police (now highly militarized in the context of the “fight against drugs and terror”), is always on the ground. The local uprising, even if it may have economic reasons, must therefore inevitably be directed against the police. Nevertheless, the relationship of the riots to socio-economic conditions remains the same, plundering and other forms of action are to be understood as an answer, indeed as an invalidation of the logic of the market. If the uprising brings into play the question of economic reproduction, it does so as its negation, as the inversion of a workers’ power that aims to participate in the economic surplus, but is now completely on the defensive, insofar as the preservation of workers’ reproduction goes hand in hand with the stabilization of the success of one’s own enterprises.

The riot is the negation of this trap into which the workers have fallen. According to Clove, the riot is a privileged tactic that stands for the struggles in the sphere of circulation, the uprising, the blockade, the occupation, and finally, on the horizon, the commune.

If the everyday life of a part of the world’s population increasingly takes place in circulation or in the informal economies, then this part itself becomes a surplus and is confronted with the conditions of its reproduction directly on the market beyond the wage labor relationship, and in this situation any unauthorized accumulation of a group on the corner, on a public square and in the street can be understood as a potential riot. In stark contrast to the strike, it is difficult to determine when the riot starts or ends. On the one hand it is a particular event, on the other the holographic miniature of a complete situation, a world picture. While the early Riot was hardly confronted with the police and the armed state (it took place in economic space), this has changed with the post-industrial Riot. On the one hand he finds himself confronted with the ensemble of goods in the local supermarkets, on the other he discovers, when it comes to setting prices for goods, that the capital economy today has a largely invisible planetary logistics and a financial industry that can hardly be grasped. Only the police can be spotted at every corner. The difference between the early and the post-industrial uprising, both of which take place in the sphere of circulation, seems at first to concern the struggle at the marketplace and the struggle against the state. However, the riots in Harlem and Watts in the 1960s showed that the blacks were particularly affected by the economic recession and were exposed to double confrontation with the state and capital. In this context, Guy Debord does not see the looting as a hyperbolic realization of the consumer ideology, but as the infiltration of the commodity as such, which is directly confronted with the state, the police and the armed units. The police now quite obviously stand for the economy, the violence of the commodity becomes meat.

Riots are always also struggles for the control of space and the passageways through space; they are organized around the buildings, passages and squares, they condense the accumulations of the masses on the streets. There is something urban in the insurrection something architectural, not to say spatial. The barricade, one of the important instruments of the uprising, had its origin in the isolation of neighborhoods from hostile attacks, until the broad boulevards and industrial growth put an end to this instrument.

For Joshua Clover, the logic of production processes temporally, while the logic of circulation is spatially anchored. With regard to production, he speaks of the valorization of the value qua socially necessary abstract working time, of the strike as a temporal struggle for the length of working time and for its price. Circulation is characterized by the realization of added value as profit. Spatialization concerns transport, communication and logistics. When Marx speaks of the destruction of space by time, this has often been interpreted as an increasing irrelevance of the relation of capital to the spatial. With David Harvey, on the other hand, we can assume a growing importance of space for capital and its cycles. At the same time, circulation becomes a condition of production, whereby by no means a dominance of the struggles in circulation over those in production is demanded. But when capital increasingly finds itself in the financial cycles and the spatialized circulation, in which transport costs have to be reduced and the turnaround times for more and more goods have to be accelerated, then the struggles in this sphere also become central for capital. The presence of capital today is also a time of logistical space as a series of intra-capitalist and inter-state competitions. The financialized global shippment and containerization signalize this change, while the just-in-time production that has taken place since the 1970s indicates the methodological aspect of the same change. At the same time, the relationship of labor to capital accumulation has changed in developed countries, and therefore collective actions such as strikes alone can no longer unfold. A new class politics is confronted with the socio-economic transformations of capital. At the same time, it can only be a struggle against the existence of capital itself, and not against a new empowerment for labor. Capital and labor are today in close collaboration in the developed imperialist countries in order to preserve the self-reproduction of capital and to secure the drawing of labor along the obligations of the enterprises. The workers today must affirm their own exploitation to ensure their reproduction. Work has ceased to be the antithesis to capital. Traditional Marxism, which presses productive labor as the transhistoric force of the social constitution, has finally shot its powder. The struggle for wages remains justified, but it always legitimizes capital.

The riot seems to receive nothing or affirm nothing, perhaps a shared antagonism, a shared misery and a shared negation. Often it does not even have the positive language of a program or a demand, but only the negative language of vandalism, destruction and the aimless. Yet he does not lack determination. Clover speaks of the overdetermination of the Riots through historical transformations that make antagonism, especially the struggles in circulation, necessary. The social surplus, which still accompanied the accumulation of capital in Fordism, has disappeared, and with it the possibilities of capital and the state to guarantee social and economic improvements for wage earners. Capital and labor are increasingly migrating into circulation, while the surplus population is in the informal economy. The new uprisings in the circulation do not necessarily have to be carried by workers, because in principle anyone can liberate a marketplace, close a street or occupy a port. The insurgents may be workers, but they do not function as workers in the riot, for the participants here are not unified by their jobs, but in their function as dispossessors.

In the context of Riots, the concept of contagion is often used; the Invisible Committee, on the other hand, speaks somewhat too idealistically of the resonance of revolutionary movements. In any case, the Riots live off the surplus population as the basis of their own expansion. From the point of view of the Riots themselves, however, it is not only about the participants, their collective actions and visions, but also about synthesizing the crisis, the surplus population and the race. It is the fallow capacities as side effects of the crises, the surplus, so to speak, of the production of non-production, who’s being targeted in the riot. The relative surplus population here is an integral part of the insurgency (as a result of the growing organic composition of capital and the continuation of primitive accumulation in the immanent movement of capital). The most important membrane may lie between the industrial reserve army (part of the labour market) and the surplus population, which is outside the official labour market. Today, the surplus population is pushed into informational, semi-legal or illegal economies. In this context, informationalization can be understood as a way of structuring economic activities.

Deleuze spoke in this context of the indebted person, but added against the ontology of indebtedness that for the control powers the danger of insurrection is growing again and again – the indebted and the excluded are one. They are the same global surplus. Capital today must always find new agents capable of indebtedness, students, homeowners and part-time workers. Even Marx spoke of capital accumulation as a condition multiplied by the proletariat. If the uprising is not only a collective action, but a kind of class struggle, and the processes of racialization are an important part of the new uprisings, then the surplus population must have a mediating and explanatory force; it must be understood as part of the proletariat, whose constitutive function is the negation of capital. The more the working class has to affirm capital in order to survive, the more we are confronted with the political significance of an expanding proletariat that has no access to traditional forms of reproduction.

The problem of proletarian reproduction now lies beyond the wage, but even the marketplace that characterized the early uprisings can no longer guarantee reproduction. The relative separation of production from circulation and the permanent presence of the police in space demonstrate the absence of previous possibilities. The recomposition of the class and the abstractions of the economy are the same here. Circulation is the value in the movement to its realization; circulation is at the same time a regime of social organization within capital. In this sense, the uprising is the sign of a situation that sets itself absolute. And this not because of the wild nature of the insurrection, but because of the unfolding deterritorializing situation in which it finds itself. The insurrection is not a demand, but a civil war, concludes Clover in unison with Tiqqun.

On the one hand, the riot has to sit down absolutely in order to achieve reproduction beyond wages and the marketplace and to find access to the commune, which cannot be separated from the civil war; on the other hand, he is constantly confronted with the police violence that tries to block such an absolute settlement. Just as the port and the factory were places of early insurrection and strike, today the squares and the streets are places of insurrection.

Clover writes: “The uprising, the blockade, the barricade, the occupation. This is what we will see in the next five, fifteen, forty years.” On the one hand the occupations refer to the struggles in the marketplaces of the early uprising (and their economic demands), on the other hand they demonstrate the impossibility of a return to these early struggles. The place contested today is directly related to politics, and this seems to Clover to be the transcendental problem of 2011. The population of the current uprisings receives its historical function not through an idea (Badiou) or through the deadly fluctuations of food prices, but through an underlying socio-economic structure, a material reorganization of global capital.

Since 2006, the reservoir of uprisings has been growing out of young people, on the one hand, who are barred from entering the economy, and on the other hand, out of a surplus population and the state crisis management that opposes it. The organization of the camp, as seen in the Occupy movement in Oakland, is both the strength and weakness of the movement in terms of militancy and the class composition of the excluded and closed. Here too, the problem of the relationship between the abduction of refugee camps and activism in the political camps plays a certain role, and the context between the political camp and its socio-economic conditions must not be overlooked. The dominant discourse of Occupy – we are the 99% – and we are thus entitled to a corresponding share of social wealth and class power, was not in the in a position to represent those who have long lived beyond the promises of institutions and redistributive politics. On the other hand, a connection must be established between the camps of the surplus population and the political groupings that act antistatically, precisely because the production of non-production and worldwide political volatility persist.

In this context, the blockade of transport and the interruption of circulation expresses the desire to bring everything to a standstill. There are further signals of the new Riots to be reported: a tendency towards populism, which is looking for sympathies in the media and among the population, a pacifism, which pleads for a respectable policy. The unrestrained insurrection is coded as if it were the demand itself, although the existing order could recognize it if it only understood it. The other impulse finds in the insurrection something that comes before or after communication, a practice that may consist in looting, control of space, or erosion of police violence to demonstrate the exclusion of insurgents. The success of the former, the discursive strategy, which is always close to the civil rights movement, today seems more than doubtful in view of the socio-economic conditions of capital. The frenzy of the uprising that opposes it is undoubtedly an indicator of the social pressure exerted on the surplus population in the context of the growing police violence. Finally, in the struggles, one has to look at the commune that appears as a horizon, as a social relation, a political form, and as an event, or better said, as a tactic of social reproduction, or as a practice that requires a corresponding theory.

Early capitalist production - both in its abstract form and as a historical formation - implies activities that are initially carried out by producers who have no ownership of the means of production and no control over their labor force. In the same historical epoch, for example, a farmer could rent land from the feudal aristocracy and borrow money to buy seeds, but he only took out a loan if he assumed that the future harvest could serve as security for the debts incurred. The future crop was thus a potential pledge even before it was transformed into a commodity on the market. So with the production of a consumer product, two financial products - debt and security - were created at the same time. When in later historical phases capitalists finally appropriated the means of production, they fungused as a means to preserve and accumulate the added value generated by the workers in previous periods of time. However, the functioning of production goods was not only to act as a means of producing added value, but they also embodied financial assets that served as security for the assumption of future debts and thus as material for the creation of new financial products.

The fact that financial products are not only instruments of circulation, but also provide means for the accumulation of real wealth, is the problem that Marx at least raises here. Today it must be shown further what role financial capital and financial markets play for capitalist reproduction, first and foremost for the ongoing reproduction of commodity markets. Today, capital is a system whose accumulated real wealth depends entirely on the provision and organisation of liquidity by the financial system and its financial markets, where the price sums of financial assets can rise in a certain independence from the output of commodities and far beyond their growth rates. Capitalist production must ever be financed, and the fact that asset markets grow faster than the material output of industrial production is a logical consequence of capitalization, but at the same time always tied to certain historical conditions.

Marx mostly assigned the financial instruments exclusively to the sphere of circulation and analyzed their function separately from the functioning of the technologies or physical means of production, which preserve the past wealth and at the same time enable a future demand for produced goods. In the case of Marx, when it comes to value (analogous to energy and matter), there seems to be a kind of conservation principle, whereby the growth of the wealth accumulated in real terms can never be greater than the profits produced in industrial production in a given period (multiple (multiplied by the value added rate discounted by the investment rate), so that any increase in the value of physical capital or constant capital in the form of financial instruments does not even come to its attention or is considered purely fictitious wealth. For Marx, therefore, the real growth of an economy can never be greater than industrially produced profit. All this, however, can no longer apply to the financial system and its financial instruments, whose liquidity, without the assets themselves being money, implies convertibility into money at all times, whereby the assets themselves are financing means to set in motion and expand investments in the so-called real industry.
In an economically abridged sense, the riot is interpreted as a spontaneous protest against the increase in food prices - think of the actions against the IMF, which sets the conditions for food prices in the underdeveloped countries - as if an increase in prices at a certain point could or even must lead to reactions by the population. The politicist counterpart here is Alain Badiou, who accuses the insurgents of a pathetic spontaneism to which Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg have already said everything necessary. At the same time, Badiou at least admits that the communist idea originates from the event of a Riots, but that it must be given an organizational form and duration. In this respect, the riot can only ever assume a proto-political mode, which must be translated into the revolutionary conception of political action. But it is not the party, but the idea that sets the guidelines for Badiou. Thus the riot appears as an a-causal affair that is quasi outside (social) time. The purely economist and the purely political abstract cannot grasp the riot as a social phenomenon; rather, as we have stated in the first part of the text, it must be understood as a part of the global struggles for circulation against capital.

The riot is an event in the Deleuzian sense; it can therefore always only be spoken of as a riot (whatever it may be). It is usually understood in the context of a lack, although it is the collective lived experience of a surplus. Surplus Effect, Surplus Danger, Surplus Instruments, Surplus Violence. The surplus is the waste itself.

But the surplus has absolutely nothing to do with an optimistic revolt in which every critique and negativity is covered by a positivity projected into the future; one criticizes in order to produce a more solid construction of knowledge, one revolts in order to establish a more stable and comfortable way of life, one fights against capitalist reality in order to release being into full positivity. The credo is: Unless you have a convincing plan of the future, we will denounce and delegitimize your form of negativity. The optimistic revolt always comes with the slogan to do something better than do nothing. It is part of a limited economy, an infinite search for meaning.

The surplus of the riots has absolutely nothing in common with this optimism; rather, it jumps out of the pessimism, so to speak, which is itself a collective affective process of an unconditional revolt that overrides the everyday life of capitalism. The riot is the communion with death (which is more than the extinction of a certain form of social life that is that of capital), insofar as death is not the object of the riot. It is death itself that finds its voice in the riot, insofar as it relies entirely on waste.

Bataille tells us that the universe is energetic, and the fate of energy is hopeless waste. The solar energy is unilaterally lost and life appears as a short pause on this energetic path, it is a precarious stabilization and a complication of solar decay. And the production is nothing more than the management of this decay, while the waste persists as the only definite term.

The riot is a compressed moment of solar energy insofar as its surplus is waste itself. The riot for a moment focuses every value on the loss of meaning, it is an eruption and opens the possibility that the class struggle becomes excessive and generates an enthusiastic waste in which the masses themselves become fantastic.

The riot is a moment in which the masses encounter luxury, the luxury of the excessive waste of life. In this situation, it is important to combine the communist moment of the class struggle with the orgiastic moment of the Riots, its wastefulness, without the two where the masses themselves become fantastic.

The riot is a moment in which the masses encounter luxury, the luxury of the excessive waste of life. In this situation it is important to combine the communist moment of the class struggle with the orgiastic moment of the Riots, its wasteful rage, without harmonizing the two moments, indeed one must leave them in their disjunction, for only in this way does the double revolution transform into an absolute revolution.

The essential moment of the Riots is the population, which, whenever the insurgents are formed and the capacity of the police to master a situation is shattered, when the police begins to hesitate or is in retreat. At this moment, the riot is all itself and separates itself from the continuity of everyday life, characterized by the transformation of the instantaneous, explosive heterogeneous energy into a sterile labor force energy offered on the market, which is continuously homogenized. The labor force is drawn into the production of added value by capital as potential energy, updating itself as labor or as a quantitative difference between necessary labor and additional labor, so that the utility value of labor can be compared with the realization of goods in money.

For a moment, the riot not only overrides wage labor, but also consumption. In this context, looting is not a hyperbolic realization of consumer ideology, but stands for the infiltration of the commodity as such, as Guy Debord writes. But it still falls short here, because the riot, with its potential for interruption, stands for an eruptive attack on capitalization and the associated infrastructural processes.

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