The protests against the G-20 summit in Hamburg in the summer of 2017 culminated in a micro-insurgency in the Schanzenviertel. For the first time in a long time, a social antagonism was ignited in Germany for a brief moment, the severity of which nobody had expected. The uprisings that have been taking place worldwide since the 1970s – following the student movement – are by no means voluntaristic actions, but their structural significance possesses historical conditions that are jointly responsible for the forms of the uprisings, even though each individual event retains its contingency.
We will try to illustrate this by reading Joshua Clover’s book Riot.Strike.Riot. Clover’s text is an impressive Marxist analysis of the genealogy of the early and post-industrial insurgency and of the political and socio-economic conditions that repeatedly lead to struggles of the proletariat and the subalterns, bearing in mind from the outset that Clover’s analysis focuses on the leading capitalist industrial nations, in particular the U.S. For Clover, Marxist theory is inherent in class struggles, but often enough they precede them. Theoretically, Clover conceives of the uprising as lived experience and confrontation, much like the French philosopher François Laruelle (Laruelle usually uses the concept of the real instead of lived experience), rather than the interpretation, analysis or description of a thing, movement or object. The uprising as a real event stands for transcendence ~ x, for an outside in which a new relation is invented between the world and lived experience, even more so, for an outside that escapes the world. Although the insurrection can serve as a speaker for a discourse and one can debate it almost endlessly, it should never be regarded as the object of a political narrative appropriating it.
The Uprising and Circulation (of Capital)
For Clover, the primary insurrection (in his study he ideally draws the line insurrection-strike-primary insurrection) cannot be imagined without the economic and political transformations of global capital since the 1970s. A first thesis is that the uprisings that have taken place since that time are constitutive parts of the global circulation struggles against capital and its states, that is, they take place mainly in circulation, which must be understood as an important constituent of capital on the one hand and as a social dispositive sui generis on the other.
On a purely empirical level, the circulation of capital comprises the various service sectors, commercial enterprises such as Walmart, Aldi or McDonald’s as well as the enterprises and institutions of the international financial system. At the conceptual level, it should be noted that capital already ties the production process to (monetary) circulation, i.e. production itself is to be understood as a part of the circulation of capital, the general form of which can be described in the following formula: G-W-P-W’-G’.
If the capital (the subject position here is purely virtual, i. e. the capital is a relation) has the capacity to set itself as an end in itself 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) – the starting point here is the end point and vice versa – then it dominates the production sphere sui generis as a monetary process in order to integrate it precisely into the primary “monetary circulation and distribution” G-W-G’. Production, distribution (the distribution of profits) and circulation are therefore, in terms of their integration (both structurally and temporarily), to be understood absolutely as parts of the monetary economy of capital and its metamorphoses, as their phases, aspects and moments.
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 enterprises, which in turn are presupposed by the total capital, which is actualized through the real competition of the individual capitals, which for Marx is definitely not a ballet, but a war. Financial capital constantly modulates the competition of all companies and rekindles it – it is therefore an integral part of the capital economy and not a cancer that a doctor can remove to restore the health of the capital body.
Today’s high-tech and globally networked infrastructures would not be possible without the existence of logistics companies. Logistics today runs linearly around the globe and, like capital, it processes in spirals and cybernetic feedback loops whose non-linearity and vectoriality runs differentially, a-linearly – these are lines that spread in all directions depending on their effectiveness and geography. In this process, capital tends increasingly in real and virtual terms towards an economy of logistical and virtual space, shaped by series of intra-capitalist and inter-state competition struggles. The financialized global shipment, logistics and containerization signalize this infrastructural change, with just-in-time production indicating the methodical and temporal capital aspect of the same change. The triumph of logistics begins with containerization, which has been integrated into global value chains since the 1970s in order to build, accelerate and make them more effective. It is therefore no coincidence that the blockades in the port of Oakland were among the more radical actions of the Occupy movement. If capital is increasingly in the sphere of circulation in order to reduce costs through credit, technological acceleration of transport and logistics, i.e. to shorten the turnaround times of capital as a whole, then the struggles in these areas will also become more and more important for capital and the states. But we should not only think here of the barricades, blockades and struggles in the streets, but also of collective forms of resistance in other areas of society, such as debt strikes or the hacking of algorithms.
The Surplus Population
While the accumulation of capital at the beginning of the 20th century brought with it a shift of the working population from agriculture to industry, at the end of the 20th century it led to a far-reaching transfer of capital from the industrial production sectors to the financial, service and information sectors and at the same time resulted in increased unemployment in the industrial centres. At this point, one should recall Marx’s law of capitalist accumulation, which states that, depending on the cyclical cycles of capital accumulation, both an industrial reserve army and a surplus population develop at the margins or outside the official labour markets, with both groups being either socially subsidised or employed at low wages, or trying somehow to secure their reproduction through slave labour, part-time jobs and illegal activities. The important membrane here is that between the industrial reserve army (as part of the official labour market) and the surplus population, which is outside the official labour market and pushed into informational, semi-legal or illegal economies worldwide. The global proletariat today includes not only the wage-dependent working class with relatively high wages (core workers) in the Western countries, which is still covered by collective bargaining, but also the precariat and a surplus population of well over one billion, which remains banned from any access to the official labour markets and which must reproduce itself in informal and non-capitalist economies or vegetates there, i.e. exists as accumulated corpse-likeness. It is these totally dispossessed, the masses of unemployed, the day labourers and the Asian and African migrant workers networked under proto-industrial conditions, the post-colonial army of slaves, the old and sick, but also the superfluous boys, who are trained by an educational system that concentrates above all on the everyday evaluation of everyone by everyone for jobs that will not exist in the future – all in all the global lumpen proletariat, which stands below the official work system. Today, the surplus population is vegetating on the fine line between survival and total liquidation.
In the 1990s Gilles Deleuze had already spoken far-sightedly about universally indebted people, but against any ontologization of debt he quickly added that for the control powers the danger of insurrections would grow again and again – the indebted and the excluded were one. They are the same global surplus, with the indebted as borrowers still having an important economic function for financial capital, while the surplus population vegetates for the most part for capital without any function as human waste in the slums of the metropolises. Today, capital must always find new agents capable of indebtedness, students, homeowners and part-time workers, but without the surplus population on a global scale. even in the beginning. Marx speaks of capital accumulation as a condition that multiplies the proletariat. If the uprising is not only a collective action, but a kind of class struggle, then the surplus population in it must also possess a mediating and explanatory force; it is to be understood as a constitutive part of the global proletariat, whose historical task consists in the negation of capital. For the more the better-off and tariff-secured sections of the working class in the Western metropolises have to affirm capital in order to be able to reproduce themselves at a relatively pleasant economic and social level, the more massive the political significance of a proletariat that is expanding worldwide and that to a large extent no longer has access to traditional forms of reproduction becomes. According to Clover, we are in the midst of a long-lasting exodus of the dispossessed from all corners of the globe to the Western world, driven by increasing geopolitical volatility, wars and the inability of capital to adequately absorb the labor force in the states of the Global South – a diaspora inseparable from the expanding superfluidity of a simultaneously decommissioned Surplus population.
The Uprising and the Surplus
Every theory of insurrection is always also a theory of crisis, that of an entire economy, but also that of a community or city, that of an hour or that of days. The first important relation between insurrection and crisis surprisingly constitutes Clover in the concept of surplus, whereas the insurrection is usually understood in the context of deprivation, lack and deficit, whereas for Clover it indicates precisely the experience of surplus lived in itself, such as the risk of surplus, surplus instruments and surplus effects. The most important surplus is the actively negating, the resistive population in the breaking moments of mass mobilization, which condense into an event in which the insurrection bursts the police management of a concrete situation and at the same time radically decouples itself from everyday life. This kind of insurgent surplus production, however, always remains confronted with the conditions of socio-economic processes and transformations that respond to crises or constitute them in the first place. All this in no way indicates the uprising as a purely contingent, but also as a necessary form of political struggle. In view of the existence of a huge surplus population and the insurgent politics of the surplus, Clover comes to a first conclusion: the uprising is the modality through which the surplus is lived. Primary circulation today is primary insurrection, which is surplus life itself – however short-term; the latter is the subject of politics and thus the object of state violence. The violence of the police itself now becomes part of the uprising or, to put it another way, the flashing coalition of the insurgent surplus exists in an economy of state violence.
In this context, the insurrection is the political sign of a historical situation that sets itself absolute. And this not because of the insurrection’s somehow wild nature, but because of the deterritorializing situation in which it finds itself and which it produces itself, an intensity which makes change possible first and foremost and which has neither a logical origin nor a comprehensively formulated goal, but is entirely due to the outside of the conflicts. Thus the primary insurrection makes no demands whatsoever, but establishes the civil war, concludes Clover in unison with Tiqqun. On the one hand, the insurrection must set itself absolute in order to invent new social affects beyond wage labor, capital circulation, and suffocating and disciplining public spaces, as well as a movement toward the Commune that cannot be separated from civil war; on the other hand, it is constantly confronted with police violence that attempts to block such an absolute setting.
The French Marxist Henri Lefebvre, in his comprehensive studies of everyday life, recognized early on that the purely affirmative reference of the struggles to the everyday life of the population is too fleeting and at the same time too cumbersome to be a field of activities directed against the rules, institutions and everyday ways of working and consuming, to strengthen in the long run, while today, it must be added, even the gaps, times and spaces that fall out of capitalisation and functional consumption are constantly absorbed by the digital media and their large corporations, and at the same time structured in the sense of a comprehensive financialisation of lifestyles and ways of existence structured or even completely eliminated. The decisive factor in the 24/7 metrics of everyday life today is not so much the standardization and homogenization of lifestyles as the consolidation of a redundancy of un-time, in which there is no longer any opportunity to shop, not to consume, not to work or not to retrieve data and in particular, however precarious or socially dependent, not to act as a subject at risk. The neoliberal subject, so motivated and panic-stricken, is supposed to exploit nothing more than itself and occasionally stare into a coma, while at the same time remaining tied up in the comprehensive quantification and control mechanisms of the state and private institutions that perpetuate its superfluity. Today, algorithmic governance is ubiquitous, invisible and materialized in decentralized networks; power is part of an interactive environment in which we live.
Nevertheless, the uprising must still be understood as a spontaneous articulation against the intolerable structures of everyday life, what Lefebvre calls a challenge that demands the absolute rejection of the everyday, the suspected and experienced humiliations, and this challenge is therefore for him a movement of the subalterns born in the negative and in negation, a subtraction, an interruption of the political legitimacy of the state and its institutions and of the hegemonic forms of communication that permeate all areas of the social today; The challenge refers to the improbable. One would now have to examine the interplay of negation and surplus in the context of the insurrection more closely, which, however, we cannot do within the framework of this contribution.
For Lefebvre, the uprisings are always also struggles for the control of passages through space; today, they are organized around buildings, arcades, streets, and squares. It is the short-term non-institutionalized urban spaces that, in the moments of the uprising, point to the political emptiness of the spaces of the state apparatuses. So there is something genuinely urban in the uprisings, something architectural, not to say space-opening. The struggle here is something exposed to open space by inventing new guerrilla strategies of “back and forth”, which prove to be a disappearance and at the same time the “absence of this absence”. The barricade, one of the important instruments of the uprising, had the function in Paris during the struggles of the Commune in 1871, among other things, of sealing off the neighborhoods against the hostile attacks of the police, until the broad boulevards and industrial growth, including the equipment of the security forces, put an end to this instrument.
Lefebvre understands the spontaneity that occurs and works strangely continuously in the uprising as an event or as the movement of the movement that resists and escapes the hardened and institutional nature of the apparatuses; it is constitutive of the resistance and consequently spontaneity is the enemy of power. The event here is a surface on which the performance of the struggles moves. Following this, Gilles Deleuze can write: “The battle is not an example of an event among others, but the event in its essence”. Leninist orthodoxy resolutely contradicts such a statement: There spontaneism is rejected not only because it is characterized by a lack of organization, but also because it is supposedly in direct opposition to the work of the proletariat, which is understood as genuinely productive. In the Leninist concept of the proletarian vanguard party, the spontaneous insurrection has no place; rather, it is denounced as a purely apolitical, spasmodic, and anarchist-inspired chaotic interruption, a pure disorder that must be decisively rejected by the Marxist-Leninist party, which has only a mature and scientifically founded historical method, unless it organizes and directs it. In this context, insurrection and strike are then understood as irreconcilable antipodes.
Indeed, the insurrection does not seem to receive or affirm anything, perhaps a shared antagonism, a shared misery and a shared negation. In the sense of a fusing group (Sartre), which is always a group of the city, the uprising does not last longer than the actions of the rebels that constitute it, whereby these actions must take place in a certain temporality, the speed and duration of which in turn depend on the historical situation. Action and merging group are the practice of the participants, whose moments are fleeting and precarious, and yet the merging group insists with its actions on the problem of how to give the insurrection a certain duration.
In the group that fuses adequately to the uprising, seriality and alterity that are peculiar to each sluggish or, as Sartre says, inert group are dissolved; for Sartre, the fusing group is its own common reality and, at the same time, the mediation between the self and each other as the third party. All members of the group are the third, each member of the group totalizing the reciprocity of the others, thus functioning through the group as the third and only thus can others be understood as equals, while the relationships of seriality continue to burden and impair the resistive forms of action and the merging group and its axiom of equality. Here equality is what really happens in the fire of the event, insofar as the participants of the merging group succeed with their actions in making holes in the state and social order or in appearing in their gaps.
The global proletariat, which includes the surplus population vegetating in the slums of the metropolises, is today, when rebelling on the streets, directly confronted with the state and the police (in the early uprisings of the 17th century, the economy was close and the state far away). While the capitalist production lines have become more and more branched, huge quantities of goods are smuggled through long global transport routes and even the basic foodstuffs are imported from other continents in the western metropolises, whereby the global export of goods, not to mention the export of capital, remains largely invisible, the standing army of the state, the police, which is now highly militarized, allegedly exclusively because of the fight against drugs and terrorism, is always present on the streets, especially in the so-called problem zones of the metropolises. The police can be seen by the insurgents on every corner. Well-trained and militarized task forces, conditioned for the use of force like the workers for assembly line work, today dominate the public space during demonstrations to such an extent that every political dissent articulated in the streets possesses from the outset only the character of the tolerated and at the same time the eliminable at any time – and thus almost the definition of absurdity. As Clover shows in his study of the historical relations between uprisings and strikes, modern uprisings nevertheless enable an important mode of struggle that is directly directed against the police, the state and capital. Moreover, insurrections are not an exclusively spontaneous and short-lived expression of dissatisfaction, but, to put it in Stuart Hall’s words, a mode through which the class struggle is lived. And, as the events in Hamburg have again shown, they refer to the urgency of the blockades, insofar as the global value chains and the logistic networks are dependent on the regular and punctual transport of goods around the clock.
The Early Uprising
Clover bases his theory of insurrection on the explicit reference to Marxian value and crisis theory and along the analysis of the dynamics of capital accumulation on a global scale, but also along the study of local business cycles and finally the theory of long waves. The crucial economic issue to be examined by the theory of the early uprising is the onset of industrialization in Europe in the 17th century, while for the contemporary or, as Clover says, the primary uprising, the period of deindustrialization that has lasted since the 1970s is extremely relevant in some areas of Western countries. The early local markets precede the historical assertion of capital and later, at a completely different qualitative level, remain an integral part of the value-added production of capital (this concerns the transition from insurrection to strike). While the early uprising, mostly associated with a violent disturbance of social peace, lawless extravagance and chaotic noise, gradually fell into oblivion with the development of capitalism, the strike, which took its explicit form between 1790 and 1842, nevertheless picked up certain forms of action of the early uprising, but was also in opposition to it. At certain time intervals, insurrection and strike coexisted, for example around 1968, until the crisis in 1973 led to a re-composition of the class, to the transformation of the global division of labor, and to an extreme weakening of the political possibilities of militant labor organizations, and thus to the declining relevance of the strike. Although the long historical phases are not the exclusive ones, they are not the only ones.
which means that all municipal values that still belong to the local markets are subsumed under the profit motives of capital. The rural poor now become landless proletarians who depend on wage labour or are part of the industrial reserve army. In the struggles of the workers, including those of the Luddites, a wage is demanded that should at least make survival possible, they oppose unemployment and demand the right to form trade unions. The Luddites cannot easily be described as machine wreckers, inasmuch as in their struggles they usually leave the machines that do not replace workers intact. Clover writes that in this context the strike must be understood as a social struggle that refers to maintaining employment, higher wages and better working conditions and rights, while the so-called machine storm marks the transition from insurrection to strike. There was a short phase of transition in which food-riots and factory struggles met, that is, fluid transitions took place in the various battlefields (from the marketplace to the workplace) and from the struggle for the price of goods to the struggle for the price of labor, as the pivot of reproduction.
The strike is the dominant tactic of the workers or the central form of social and economic antagonism in the heyday of industrial capital; it also allows a glimpse of the uprising (and vice versa) and always remains related to the metamorphoses and transformations of capital. It is a struggle for the level of wages or the price of labor and for securing employment, led by workers in their function as workers in production. The narrow definition of the strike, as carried by the official workers’ movement, also characterizes it as an orderly, legalist and disciplined action that takes place in front of the factory and, ultimately, as a temporary refusal. However, the textile workers’ strikes in Lyon in 1831, for example, show that they could go hand in hand with barricade fights and guerrilla actions. But most historians deny that the strike could have any connection with the uprisings and put both in clear opposition to each other. After all, it was the trade unions that in 1839 attempted to limit the disciplined strike of the glass workers in Belgium against the smashing of glass panes by renegade workers – the strike is exactly what the uprising is not. This construction of an insurmountable opposition between insurrection and strike, however, refers only to the mode of certain actions, without even examining the social, economic and political content of the struggles and the environment of the forms of struggle. Moreover, the social content of strike and insurrection cannot be reduced to the collective will, faith and affects of the participants. Clover sees the strike as double-folded, on the one hand as a confrontation with capital around the price of labour, on the other hand the strike has a social explosive power in itself. Nevertheless, it takes place more strongly in the boom phases of capital accumulation and becomes central to the workers’ movement when the workers’ reproduction becomes entirely dependent on wages, which, despite the increase in consumer credit, remain the most important part of the workers’ reproduction to this day.
In this context, one of Walter Benjamin’s statements is that the technological conditions of production, its progress and success, are always related to the transparency of social content. Industrial production, progress and transparent and maintained glass architecture – they stand for the world of strike. The ideology of the “good strike” holds firmly to the idea of transparency (think of the Black Block, the Invisible Committee and the idea of the imperceptibility of political action) as well as to the belief that by perceiving the surface one can look directly at the cause of social conflicts. The strike becomes a strike here by being explicitly formalized by the official workers’ movement against the uprising. It is the order itself, the unbroken window pane. Accordingly, the insurrection, which is now in direct opposition, must also find its content in form. But this remains paradoxical because its form is the disorder that now becomes its content. The uprising thus wants nothing more than itself, its luminous opacity. Shine and shards of the broken glass.
Even in the mode of the general strike, the traditional workers’ movement will attribute a disciplined and disciplining organizational form to the strike.
But especially for the present uprising, the mentioned second long phase describes the temporal terrain in which, on the one hand, the uprising is present and, on the other hand, the logic of capital becomes visible in its catastrophic autumn. For Clover, the new forms of the uprising respond to the global transformations of capital and thus always also to objective conditions.
Let us summarize briefly at this point: The early uprising has its primary place at the market square or at the port, the strike has its place in front of the factory of industrial capitalism and the present uprising occupies squares and blocks streets. Today’s uprisings in the metropolises do not take place in front of the granaries, but in direct confrontation with the police on the streets. Paradigmatic for this are the riots lasting several days in Los Angeles in 1992, when the mistreatment of Rodney King by the police was recorded by passers-by and quickly spread by the media. The current uprisings in the USA are always formulated against the discourse of racism and refer less to the economy than to the state as the direct opponent.
In his important study The Making of the English Working Class, British historian E.P. Thompson examined the political economy of the early uprisings in more detail. In his historical studies, Thompson rather emphasizes the practical aspects of the insurgency, more precisely the life-supporting practices directed against food price increases and including blockades, seizures, and violence of subalterns against traders and carriers. Thus, for the early uprisings, it was hunger and political emotions that brought about the uprising, especially in the marketplace, which played a vital role here. Between 1740 and 1820, the so-called food riots developed into a paradigmatic form of social conflict in the core European countries. From the outset, the uprising thus turned into a struggle in the sphere of circulation. The period in which the industrial transformation of agriculture had begun and industrialisation in the cities had not yet taken hold was the decisive historical passage that Clover described as the “golden age of insurrection”. The bloom of the early uprisings, however, already contained the seeds of its decline. England was the historic place where the transition from uprising to strike took place. Clover refers here to the studies by Robert Brenner and Ellen Meiksin Wood that capitalism’s development was based on the transformation of class relations in the countryside.
While in the early phases of the uprisings the price increases for the food offered at local markets were the problem for the population that directly affected their survival, it was later the wages (a price themselves) that determined their conditions of reproduction for the factory workers. The uprising is the backdrop through which the markets struggled to set prices, while strikes in front of the factories fought for wage levels. The actions in the uprising include the entire social reproduction of the subalterns, while the workers in the strikes, within a historically singular and common collectivity, assume the role of both consumer and producer, which is absolutely necessary to reproduce the class. The social reproduction of the workers is a double-edged sword: on the one hand it includes those who rent out their labor and have to take care of their reproduction in this form, on the other hand it is related to the realization of the goods in circulation, where they meet the worker as consumer. It is one and the same process that is viewed from two perspectives. Reproductive work also includes not only wage labour, but also unpaid work by women, which takes place in the homes, in care and also in the marketplaces.
According to Clover, the transition from uprising to strike is related to the transformations in the structure of capital and capital accumulation or correlates with the transition from an economic mode in which profit is generated in the market to a mode of industrial value-added production by the self-moving capital in production. The strike as a form of action emerges in the new world of capitalist production, initially driven by seafarers meeting urban craftsmen and traders to fight together for higher wages. Once the wage labor relationship has been comprehensively introduced, the proto-capitalist market loses its central social significance and becomes part of the self-regulating capital, with all of its social and economic consequences being lost.
The “antipathism” is a form of ordered confrontation against capital (and not against the state), while the alleged disorder and chaos of anarchist-inspired actions in the uprising, which are always accused of meaningless spontaneity, mutate into objects of antipathy. Spontaneity here appears merely as a slave to the (natural) stimulus, whereby one could point out in a broader sense that Kant has certainly described the transcendental unity of apperception, the fact that I myself become aware of my own experiences, as a spontaneous act that is not exercised naturally, but freely and willingly. Even tactics that arise spontaneously must, on the one hand, reckon with an already given order of space and time and, on the other hand, try to cleverly exploit their respective gaps, imponderables and inconsistencies.
In Leninist orthodoxy, the spontaneity of the insurgents is rejected not only because it is allegedly characterized by a lack of consciousness and organization, but also because it stands in direct opposition to the work (set productive by capital!) and thus to the proletariat. Leninism explicitly formulates the concept of traditional Marxism, according to which the capitalist economy exploits on the one hand the labor force that must be sold, and on the other hand the – naturalized – labor force represents at the same time the fundamental human potential for the generation of the general social wealth in every social formation. The worker is thus not only seen as a productive force exploited quantitatively by the capital economy, but at the same time metaphysically overcoded as the sole producer of social wealth. Traditional Marxism-Leninism thus tells the worker that he is exploited and alienated through the sale of his labor, thus preventing the much more radical hypothesis that he is “alienated” as a labor force in itself, that is, as a force that creates value through its labor is already questionable.
After the end of the Second World War there was a period of stagnation in the militant struggles of the workers’ movement, which ended in the 1960s with a sudden interruption in which, due to the student movement, the New Left and the radical workers’ struggles, something new appeared on the horizon, although there were still elements of continuity in the old struggles. The labour movement in general is not to be equated with organised labour struggles, but from the end of the 18th century it was a mode of organisation, an apparatus and an urban machine which held the workers together at their workplaces and in their neighbourhoods. In so far as the labor movement succeeded, it always referred to an affirmative class identity, with the activists of the labor parties and trade unions persuading the workers to suspend their interests as isolated sellers of their labor force in a competitively organized labor market and instead act as a collective project, a movement. The workers movement also embodied a certain idea of how capitalism could be replaced, thus opening up a communist horizon that enabled a positive dynamic of class struggle but also showed its limits. The workers were to build a new world with their own hands, a world in which they would expand as the only social group, while all other groups, including the bourgeoisie, would dwindle. The workers were not only the majority of the population, they also became, in the form of the collective worker, a compact mass drilled in the factories in concert with the machines. They would nevertheless have been the only ones able to manage the new world according to their own logic, following neither a hierarchy of command takers or lenders nor the irrationality of market fluctuations, but rather setting up a finely graduated division of labor themselves. The labor movement also realized the truth of history in qualitative terms. These visions motivated the workers’ struggles, especially between 1873 and 1921, and partly explain the exponential growth of the movement.
Today, however, we are confronted with the absence of those institutionalized forms of collectivity that formed the backbone of the labor movement. Today, the labour movements are reduced entirely to the politics of the trade unions, which at best still want to manage stable employment, to social democratic parties, which implement the austerity policy if the conservative parties do not succeed, and to some anarchist and communist sects, which are vainly based on their historic opportunity. The workers’ movement is no longer a political force with the potential to change the world, because the coordinates of the struggles have changed. Therefore, there is no reason to simply repeat the constitutive modes and features of the old organized struggles today, since the modern working class is also completely caught in the wage-goods nexus. Capital and labor are today in close and disastrous collaboration in Western countries to secure labor draws along corporate liabilities and ultimately maintain the self-reproduction of capital. In order to ensure their reproduction, the workers must now affirm their own exploitation. Thus the working class has finally ceased to be the antithesis to capital. Traditional Marxism-Leninism, which regards productive labor as a transhistorical force of the social constitution, has finally shot its powder. The struggle for wages remains justified, but now it always legitimizes the existence of capital.
The Masses and the Political: Masses, Classes, Mob, Multitude
The meaning of metamorphoses and antagonisms, the meaning of the political. As this cannot be separated from the question of the many, the re-composition of the class body, which is constantly transformed in relation to the material basis. In this context, insurrection and strike are not singular events, but part and form of the many who are neighboring them. In contrast to the strike, the uprising today, although it remains bound to certain reproduction necessities, can only be political because the surplus population participating in it is fundamentally prevented from participating in the social wealth. The capitalist states have long since replaced Keynesian economic policy and social peace policy with austerity policy and direct police confrontation, especially against the Surplus population, with the violent appearance of the police, which today dominates airports and other places of transit, and its militarization becoming part of everyday life. Police and insurrection are therefore interdependent. The uprising has a necessary correlation with the current structure of the state (and the economy), it is characterized by the object – those who are excluded from any increase in productivity, are at the forefront of the uprising.
At this point Clover can be summed up: The strike is a collective action a) aimed at increasing the price of labour, shortening working hours and improving working conditions, in which b) the worker is purely in the position of the worker and c) takes place in the inclusive context of capitalist production. Whereas the insurrection a) involves the struggle for price fixing in the markets or the theft of goods, b) whose participants are completely expropriated and also disenfranchised, and c) takes place in the context of circulation. In order to analyze the current insurrection, it is necessary, first, to precisely define the insurrection and the strike, second, to justify the return of the insurrection since the 1970s, and third, to analyze the relationship between the constitution of the (future) insurrections and the logics of the global transformations of capital. The primary insurrection, which began around 1960 and was accompanied by the decline of the great strikes, thus encounters new conditions, logics and structures related to the technical, economic and social transformations of capital. And a new class politics of the left today thus finds itself confronted with diverse socio-economic transformations of capital on a global scale.
The Primary Uprising
For Clover, the (historical) line “insurrection strike insurrection” is less the result of theory than the designation of a form. The transition from early insurrection to strike is historically and logically linked to industrialization in the 19th century, while the passage from strike to primary insurrection correlates to the rise and later slow decline of US hegemony in the second half of the 20th century. Clover refers here to the three major historical divisions of Giovanni Arrighi: mercantilism, industrialization, and financialization. For Clover, the historical periodization “insurrection – strike – primary insurrection” also maps the logical line “circulation – production – circulation (of capital)”. While Clover sets the period from 1784 to 1973 for the period of productive industrial capital, he sees the decisive characteristics of capital circulation for the period thereafter.
Then the decisive characteristics of the capital movement in circulation, in financialization and in the accompanying deindustrialization, at least in the Western industrialized countries. Following the historian Ferdinand Braudel, Joshua Clover says that in 1973 there was a time – think of the series of oil shocks, the final collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the final withdrawal of the USA from Vietnam – when a new phase of economic crisis development in global capitalism unfolded beyond a cyclical cycle began. In the context of Braudel and Arrighi’s economic cycle theories, Clover conceives 1973 as a metonym that stands for economic changes that extend far beyond the transformational capacity of a decade. The decline in growth and profit rates that began in 1973 represents a phase of decline in industrial capital in Western countries, while at the same time money capital flows flow more strongly than ever into the financial sectors, where higher profit rates can be expected and realized.
The looting, the barricade and, finally, the entire destructive arsenal of insurgent actions must always be understood as an implicit response to the logics of capitalization and the state. The tactics, means and methods of today’s insurrections include, in particular, blockades and barricades that question the state’s monopoly on the use of force and police control of public space, looting that at least hint at a redistribution of general wealth (in the 1970s such actions were still called “proletarian purchasing” in Italy), and property damage that symbolizes a specific form of property critique. If the uprisings do not refer to an explicit strategy either, they certainly bring into play a political articulation, as radical negation – and partly also as inversion of the workers’ power; it should be borne in mind here that the workers in Fordism were still successful, at least in the wage struggles, but today are completely on the defensive even in these as a class, insofar as the preservation of the reproduction of the workers often goes hand in hand with the moral support and thus the stabilization of the successes of the companies in which they are currently employed.
In most cases, therefore, the uprisings have no explicit demands, but are (apparently) pervaded purely by the negative language of vandalism, destruction and chaos. Yet the uprisings do not lack political determination. At this point Clover speaks of the overdetermination of the insurrection through historical transformations, which make more than a reconstruction of class antagonism, that is, in particular today the reshaping of the struggles in circulation necessary. The new uprisings in the circulation do not necessarily have to be carried by workers, because in principle every political group can liberate a marketplace, block a street or occupy a port.
It is also essential to recognize that from the middle of the 20th century onwards capital established new technological relations between networks, communication industries and infrastructures in enormous shock waves, which finally became dominant around the year 2000. In this context, the blockage of transport and the interruption of circulation cycles at various levels of the system express the collective desire to bring it to a complete standstill. The transition from the Occupy to the Blockupy movement marks the replacement of the politics of occupying places by the politics of blockades, namely the blockades of goods flows and infrastructures. All too often, however, individual actions are still blocked exactly where the opponent expects or even wants them to be, and at the same time the emphasis is not on disrupting the infrastructure itself, but on symbolic actions, bearing in mind that the functioning of infrastructures today is inextricably linked to the rhizomes and abstractions of financial capital. We must therefore ask the inevitable question: How do we block abstraction today? As Alexander Galloway suspected, today both financialization and cybernetics, with which digital technology is focused on the input/output relation (black box) and the interface, should be opposed by a (non)Black Block policy that focuses on the issue of the appearance and disappearance of actions and combat groups in the digital media as well as outside. The politicization of the problems of presence and absence requires a very special rhythmology, which can be seen as a mere act of action.
Clover writes: “The uprising, the blockade, the barricade, the occupation. This is what we will see in the next five, fifteen, forty years.” Since 2006, the most important reservoirs of the uprisings have consisted of young people in particular, who are barred from entering the employment systems, but in general the surplus population, who are directly confronted day and night with the controlling state crisis management. The organisation of the camps, as seen in the Occupy movement in Oakland, was both the strength and the weakness of the movement in terms of militancy and the class composition of the excluded. The relationship between the rejection of the refugee camps and the activism of the political camps also plays a certain role here. The dominant discourse of Occupy – we are the 99% and thus entitled to a corresponding share of social wealth and class power – has not been able to represent those who have long lived beyond the promises of state institutions and redistributive social policy. On the other hand, a connection must be established between the various camps of the Surplus population and the left-wing groups that act antistatically, precisely because the production of non-production and worldwide political volatility persist in an intolerable way.
Moreover, the reformist impulses of the new uprisings must also be avoided in the future: The tendency toward populism, which desperately seeks sympathies in the mass media, and toward pacifism, which tirelessly pleads for a policy respectable to the state. The unchallenged uprising is often first correctly coded as if it were the demand itself, although it is then often continued that the existing order must finally acknowledge it if it is to understand it. The much more radical political impulse finds in the insurgency something that comes as an event before or after hegemonic communication, and this in the context of a practice that consists in plundering, autonomous control of space, or the successful erosion of police violence. The success of the former, the discursive strategy, which is often adopted by civil rights movements, seems more than doubtful today, especially in view of the socio-economic transformations of capital and the state. And the frenzy of insurrection resulting from these transformations is undoubtedly an indicator of the social pressure that permanently weighs on the surplus population in particular. Finally, in the struggles, a look must be taken at the Commune that appears on the horizon, as a social relation, as a political practice, and as an event that requires a corresponding theory. In the context of the uprising, the concept of contagion is often used, while the Invisible Committee, somewhat too idealistically, speaks of the resonance of revolutionary movements. In any case, the insurrection, which is spreading virally in part, lives on the surplus population as the basis of its own expansions. From the point of view of the insurrection itself, however, it is not only about the participants and their collective actions and visions, but also about the radically negative “processing” of crisis, surplus population and “race”. It is the fallow capacities of the subalterns as “side effects” of the crises as well as the surplus of the production of non-production that are targeted in the uprising. The insurgents may be workers, but they do not function as workers in the uprisings, because the participants of the uprisings are here unified not only through their occupations or their jobs, but especially in their function as socially disenfranchised and expropriated within the entire reproduction process in capitalism. At the same time, the insurgents remain confronted with the unbearable socio-economic conditions of capital accumulation, which is why actions such as looting and sabotage are always to be understood as short-term responses to the logics of the market. The uprising is the negation of the trap into which the workers have fallen. The uprising, Clover sums up, is thus 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.
Clover is interested not only in the historical genealogy of the uprising, but also in the (theoretical) deciphering of the political significance and potential of the uprisings. In an economically shortened sense, the early insurrection is interpreted exclusively as a spontaneous protest against the rise in food prices (think of the current actions against the IMF,
This is in a rather conditional sense, as if an increase in prices at a certain point would have to lead to rebellious reactions on the part of the population. Alain Badiou takes the politicist counter-position here, accusing the insurgents of a poor spontaneity to which Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg had already said everything necessary. At the same time, Badiou admits that the communist idea originated in the insurrection, but that it had to be given an organisational form and duration. In this respect, however, the insurrection can only ever assume a protopolitical status, which must be translated into a revolutionary conception of political action. For Badiou, however, it is not the party but the idea that sets the tone. Thus the uprising appears as an absolutely causal affair that has nothing to do with historical (social) time and the economic cycles of capital accumulation. Clover sums up at this point that both economism and the purely political abstract show each other their limits in negative terms, whereby both theoretical approaches could not grasp the uprising as a social phenomenon sui generis. And he poses the question of how one could navigate between both positions, between the insurrection as a mere revolt against hunger and the diaphanous structure of a political feeling. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the historical potency of the current uprisings is neither the sole result of an idea (Badiou) nor exclusively to be seen in the context of the fluctuations in food prices that kill the population, but is to be understood as a radical and contingent resistance against the state and the socio-economic structure of capital, as a struggle against the material reorganization of the social body.
If the strikes of the 1960s are seen as a popular and at times successful trade union tactic, the return of the insurrection appears as a strangely heroic attempt to transform the two forms of collective action into a single revolutionary process, and yet the insurrection seems to mark only the second front of a single economic antagonism. In the Western countries, the strike, as the leading tactic of the labor movement, survived during the 1960s, but in terms of frequency it is synchronized with the growth processes of capital, in fact it follows in frequency the economic cycles and the level of employment (the higher the unemployment, the lower the number of strikes). The correlation of the number of strikes with industrial expansion, the positive developments of the labour market and the high profit rates could be clearly observed in the long phase from 1830 to 1973. While in the Fordism of the 1960s one could still observe high profit rates in the industrial sectors of the Western countries and the traditional workers’ movement maintained its position in the class compromise between capital and labor, the new uprisings already became more and more visible, especially in the “long hot summers”: the historical transition from strike to uprising had begun.
The modern uprising, although it shares certain characteristics with the early uprisings, takes on completely new contours and forms of struggle in a completely different historical situation, and especially in the U.S. it has always been a struggle for the rights of blacks, originating in the civil rights movements and in direct contrast to the whiteness of the traditional labor movement. The blackness of the uprisings appears here not only as the continuity of the civil rights movement, which defends itself against state racism, but also as a movement against the specific whiteness of the strike. Detroit and Los Angeles were probably the cities where the most significant transitions from strike to contemporary primary insurrection were observed in the 1960s. On the one hand, this was due to the coexistence and confrontation of uprisings and strikes, and on the other hand to the massive racialization of the black population.
According to Clover, there is a paradox to report in this context: On the one hand the insurrection is always in confrontation with the violence of the racist state, on the other hand the identification of the insurrection with the “race” proves to be a mistake (a confusion between correlation and reason), as if the skin colour was the origin of the insurrections themselves. At the same time, the ideological definition of the insurrections proves to be spontaneous and undisciplined, a vehicle to make the racialized black subject animalistic, irrational and natural.
Of course, the skin color is not the cause of the uprising, but the blacks are part of the uprisings, which are directed against the racialization processes of the white elites and middle classes. It is not the race that makes the uprising, but the uprising that makes the race, but only insofar as it is the modality of the lived class, which experiences and recognizes itself as excluded, exploited and controlled in the uprising. The logic of a structural surplus that characterizes the new proletariat pervades the (supposed) antinomy between class and race, ultimately radically questioning racism as a feature of the new class composition by the ruling class. The surplus is not identical to the race, nor is it easy to distinguish between the two. Clover quotes in this context Stuart Hall, who speaks of the race as a modality in which the class is lived.
Deindustrialization in the USA itself has a racist component: unemployment among the black population in the USA has remained higher than among the white population since the 1960s and to this day. Moreover, the militant actions carried out by blacks, for example in Detroit, usually moved at a certain distance from the official labor markets; they were often struggles for better conditions of reproduction outside the sphere of production. In regions where there is a high unemployment rate, especially among black youths, who are constantly monitored and harassed by state control instruments and apparatuses, the state’s only response to the existence of the Surplus population today seems to be prison. Thus the resistance against imprisonment is also inscribed in the uprising. It is the radical response to the regime of imprisonment and exclusion, to the demanded superfluidity of the labour force, to the lack of purchasing power and to state surveillance, control and violence. In relation to the economy and to the state and law, blackness here appears as a surplus that promises the transgression of regulation and order. “Negroes” are blackness, are riot. The uprising is an instance of black life characterized by total exclusion, but at the same time it is also the surplus in the intoxicating atmosphere of circulation. It can only expand in its own modulation, it is a collective action through which the struggle must pass, it is a social modality. In this context, the black resistance movements make their connections to the anti-colonial movements, whereby ultimately, and this remains crucial, it is the global class of the dangerous that is unified, not by its role as producer, but by its common relation to state violence. This is the basis of the surplus rebellion.
When the everyday life of large sections of the population increasingly takes place in circulation, in the informal economies or outside the employment system, then these groups tend to become objects and are confronted with the conditions of reproduction no longer through wages and factory work, but directly in the supermarkets and shopping malls where the essential products are offered, and in this situation potentially any accumulation of people at a street corner, in a public square or in the street can be understood as an uprising. In contrast to a strike, it is difficult to find out when the uprising starts or ends. On the one hand it is a particular event, on the other hand it is also the holographic miniature of a complete socio-economic situation, a world picture. While the early uprising was less confronted with the police and the armed state (it took place in the economic spaces of the early markets), this changed during the post-industrial uprising. On the one hand he finds himself confronted with an ensemble of almost unattainable goods in department stores and local shops; on the other hand, even when it comes to the prices of goods, he suspects that the economy today has a planetary logistics system, a police-military secured transport system and a barely visible financial industry. In this context, Guy Debord sees the looting of supermarkets by no means as a hyperbolic realization of consumer ideology, but as the infiltration of goods as such, whereby today the apparatuses of the state, the police and the armed units, appear directly on the screen in every insurgent action. The police now quite obviously stand for the economy, the violence of the commodity becomes meat, according to Clover.
Often enough, the uprising is associated exclusively with chaos and violence; it is described as anarchistic or anathema.
Accordingly, the strike is then regarded as pacifist, whose operations always remain anchored in the legal framework. Large sections of the traditional workers’ movement, which generally rejected violence as a means of political struggle, defended and set legal strikes against the violence of the uprising, overlooking the fact that even strikes, up to and including general strikes, were historically often associated with extraordinary outbreaks of violence, with open warfare against private or national military forces, whereby many people lost their lives only because of the possibility, flashing briefly in the battles, for them to obtain social security, to obtain an apartment or to be able to organise a reasonably bearable working life. On the one hand, it is important to define violence, and on the other hand one should look back into history, and one will find that truly groundbreaking transformations in history never took place without the use of violence by the insurgents. While insurrections rarely took on revolutionary proportions, hardly any revolution began without some kind of insurrection.
The general equation of insurrection and physical violence is an important discursive instrument of the ruling classes, their media and elites to deprive the insurrection of its political explosive power, to enshrine its separation from the “clean” politics of the reformist workers parties and to defame it as chaos and riot. This equation obscures the systemic-structural, everyday and ecological violence that is the norm for the majority of the population today; even the double freedom of the wage worker – free from ownership of the means of production and free to choose to rent his labor – integrates the latent violence into the system of wage labor, with the numerous forms of delimited exploitation (land seizures, the production of cheap labor, cheap energy, cheap raw materials and cheap food, slave labor, racism and neo-colonialism, etc.) being the most important of the social and economic factors.) already refer much more directly to physical relations of violence. The dominant discourses on violence are characterized by their denial of structural violence or of delimited exploitation, whereby the second, totalitarian aspect of these discourses consists in constantly normalizing structural violence through the mass media. Here, in the sense of Felix Guattari, the differential coefficients of freedom of the state, the systems of power and the economy should be examined, with which the relations of violence indicate themselves, sometimes more and sometimes less clearly, in order to derive corresponding necessities and potentials for uprisings from them.
State violence has a latent and an open aspect. In order to maintain public order, the state and power can usually be satisfied with latent violence, so that open violence can be kept in reserve. According to Machiavelli, those who constantly resort to police or military means to secure the political order are not at the level of the concept of absolute politics. In order to secure the economic system and the state in unstable situations or, and this is crucial today, since the political situation in Western countries cannot be understood as unstable at present, in order to implement the prevention logic of the security state, the police must be increasingly pushed into the foreground as far as language, the visual, representation and material intervention are concerned. This is achieved by means of the endless incantation, adoration and mythologisation of terrorism, which, on the part of the state authorities, is intended to give appropriate legitimacy to an unleashed security policy prevention in advance. If the worst is to be prevented, almost everything must be permitted. This type of security policy is itself to be understood as a type of organised crime designed to create a permanent fear of terrorist attacks and a general sense of insecurity in the population. In addition, we can now be punished for crimes that we may commit in the future, but perhaps not. A strange inscription of insecurity takes place here in the bodies of the population, which, moreover, is complementary to the programming of financialized insecurity in the brains of neoliberal subjects.
Precisely in view of this totalitarian occupation of the future by capital and state, resistance remains justified without any restrictions. Merleau-Ponty writes: “The contingency of the future, which explains the acts of violence of power, simultaneously deprives them of any legitimacy, or legitimizes the violence of the opposition as well. The Right of the
Opposition is completely equal to power.” For Georges Bataille, the moment of transgression, waste and cruelty comes into play here with counterviolence. Counterviolence is not simply a means, but a resource of attention for minorities, whereby the principle prohibition of violence for the population, which the state pronounces, is a form of terror for Bataille in the sense of eliminating and eliminating natural resources, which people in need and distress must make use of. The state, on the other hand, claims totalitarian violence as its own resource, exclusively its own, in order to maintain public order or the stability of the system under all circumstances, while refusing the population to use violence as a resource. In an interview, the criminologist Fritz Sack says: “One can no longer talk about the positive function of violence. That’s why we can’t call state violence violence violence; state violence is something else. Denial is as much a part of violence as the amen in the church. In the military this plays an important role. They are trained to use violence in a controlled and civilized way (…) That is why in our society it can be experienced daily in concrete terms what ambiguity and hypocrisy are connected with this demand for renunciation of violence and suppression and denial of violence.”
Uprising and police
Let us now briefly come to an assessment of the role of the police within the capitalist state apparatuses. To say it in advance, the most important task of the police is not to help and protect citizens when they are in danger, but rather to secure, defend and maintain the economic and political system at the national level as well as to tend to keep those outside the official labour market and the wage labour system illegally. When the cities were industrialized in the 19th century, the police had the task of disciplining the new influx of workers. The laws it implemented were always coded by class unless the police were already trained to punish and harass the workers and the poor. In the 19th century, vagabondism and unemployment in particular were criminalized; today, begging and sleeping in parks are at least partially punished. In times of strikes, the police act as a private army of industry, and private security services, de facto equipped with local police power, are also emerging today.
The tasks and actions of the police arise less from the spontaneity of social relations than from the rigidity of state functions. Benjamin writes on the role of the police: “The disgraceful thing about such an authority (…) is that it abolishes the separation of legislative and right-preserving power. So if the first is required to identify itself in victory, the second is subject to the restriction that it does not set itself any new purposes. Police violence is emancipated from both conditions (…) Rather, the ‘law’ of the police basically describes the point at which the state (…) can no longer guarantee itself through the legal system. Therefore, ‘for the sake of security’, the police intervene in countless cases where there is no clear legal situation (…)”. The police therefore always has a certain autonomy. Benjamin’s further comment on the violence of the police institute is as follows: “His violence is formless as his nowhere comprehensible, all-pervasive ghostly appearance in the life of civilized states. And if the police may see themselves in the same way everywhere in detail, it cannot be denied that their spirit is less devastating in the end, where they represent in the absolute monarchy the power of the ruler, in which legislative and executive perfection of power unites, than in democracies, where their existence is not elevated by such a relationship and thus testifies to the conceivably greatest degeneration of violence. With its interventions, the police constantly constructs new realities, precisely by not only sanctioning the rules that serve the normalization of the population, but also, at least in certain situations, setting them itself. For the construction of social reality, a police force that exists in principle in the state is required. The police are also inscribed with a corps spirit, an informal rule on how to act, especially in conflict situations. There is no doubt that the state itself constantly commits crimes, which it tries to mask and eliminate through its legitimation discourses. But it is not only the crimes committed by the state that are at stake, but in particular the daily penetration of the population by the police. The police is the part of the state that most aggressively penetrates the commune, invades the lives of the population, organizes surveillance and issues bans. Essential for the police is the organization of an order of bodies, which defines exactly how something can be done and said, how social being is, i.e. an order of the sayable and the visible, which ensures that one particular activity is visible and another it is not, that one speech is regarded as discourse and another as noise. The police are less concerned with the discipline of the bodies than with organizing the rules of how the bodies appear in public, namely as a configuration of the occupations and characteristics in spaces where these occupations and positions are distributed. The military and the police are disciplined and disciplining, symbolic and centralized institutions charged with guaranteeing this order, the army on the outside, the police on the inside, a differentiation that is being partially reversed today.
In Hamburg, the protest met directly with the executive branch and the police, which constantly suspended fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly and disregarded court orders and freedom of the press. In view of the police operations in Hamburg, the lawyer Fritz Sack speaks of a partially “angry army, kicking and boxing unprotected people lying on the ground, spraying them with gas, driving the wall up to places where they could not escape”. This roughly corresponds to a statement by Kroker on Robocop, among other things: “Listless technology. By being stiffly erect, the Robocop erection is without discharge, a second of coming that is no coming at all.” It is therefore also logical that the use of violence in the self-reception of the police “is not defined at all as the use of violence, but as a professional obligation and as a task one has; that this is not experienced as violence at all, but that it is experienced as a civic duty”.
Police operations today have a viral effect insofar as it is precisely with the escalation of operations that the call for more police is made. The basis for the own employment is created in such a way also. The police strategy in Hamburg also had something of a very specific escalation, a kind of “milieu control”, i.e. putting on a ring, observing the uprising, waiting and then penetrating with military units, SEK troops, and eliminating the uprising. And it was quite obvious that everyone who was on the streets of Hamburg during the G20 summit was a potential criminal from the point of view of the police. For this reason, one should not follow the state discourse of good versus bad demonstrators, since in Hamburg everyone was potentially a bad demonstrator for the state and its police.
And another word about the Black Block. The Invisible Committee writes: “So let’s beware of seeing it as the finite proof of our radicalism when completely blind repression befalls us. Let us not believe that people are trying to destroy us. Let us rather start from the hypothesis that one is trying to bring us forth. To produce us as a political subject, as ‘anarchists’, as ‘black bloc’, as ‘system opponents’, to detach ourselves from the general population by giving us a political identity”. If young people in particular – as happened in Hamburg – defend themselves against the subjective and structural violence they suffer every day in the system, then the insurgents are actually more than just Black Block actors. Perhaps it would therefore be better to say that the insurgent youth are not the Black Block, so that the Black Block remains unidentifiable. On the one hand, this subtly refers to the Black Block and for a moment dominates the image politics of the media; on the other hand, one remains in the imperceptible. The inversion of image politics here must keep in mind the distinction between ontological imperceptibility (the night in which all cows are black) and political imperceptibility (the night in which all demonstrators look the same). With regard to the former imperceptibility, we find ourselves deactivated in the face of pure immediacy. In the latter situation, on the other hand, we find ourselves activated to take up the confrontation with the everyday life staged by capital and its state apparatus of appropriation.