translated by deep l.
you can order the book (in german) Joshua Clover Riot.Strike.Riot here
The protests against the G-20 summit in Hamburg in the summer of 2017 culminated in a micro-riot in the Schanzenviertel.1 For the first time in a long time, a social antagonism flared up in Germany for a brief moment, the intensity of which no one had expected. The uprisings that have taken place worldwide since the 1970s – following the student movement – are by no means voluntaristic actions, but in their structural significance they possess historical conditions that are partly responsible for the forms of the uprisings, although each individual event retains its contingency.
We will try to illustrate this primarily by reading Joshua Clover’s book Riot.Strike.Riot2. Clover’s text is an impressive Marxist analysis of the genealogy of early and post-industrial insurgency and of the political and socio-economic conditions that repeatedly lead to struggles of the proletariat and the subaltern, bearing in mind from the outset that Clover’s analysis focuses on the leading capitalist industrialised nations, in particular the USA. In this, for Clover, Marxist theory is immanent to class struggles, but often enough these also precede the theory. The insurrection is theoretically conceived by Clover in much the same way as by the French philosopher François Laruelle as lived experience and confrontation (Laruelle usually uses the concept of the real in place of lived experience) rather than as the interpretation, analysis or descriptive of a thing, a movement or an object. The insurrection as a real event stands for transcendence ~ x, for an outside in which a new relation between the world and lived experience is invented, indeed much more, for an outside that escapes the world. The insurrection can serve as a referent for discourse and one can debate it almost endlessly, but it should never be the object of a political narrative that appropriates it.
The insurrection and the circulation (of capital)
For Clover, the primary insurrection (he ideally draws the line insurrection-strike-primary insurrection in his study) cannot be thought of without the economic and political transformations of global capital since the 1970s.3 A first thesis is that the uprisings that have taken place since that time are a constitutive part of the global circulation struggles against capital and its states, that is, they take place mainly in circulation, which must be understood firstly as an important constituent of capital and secondly as a social dispositif sui generis.
On a purely empirical level, the circulation of capital includes 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. On a conceptual level, it is important to note 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 written down in the following formula: G-W-P-W’-G’.
If capital (the subject position here is purely virtual, i. e. capital is a relation) has the capacity to set itself as an end in itself in an excessive, growth-oriented and spiral movement (the circle is a special case of the logarithmic spiral, namely a spiral whose growth is zero) – the starting point is here the end point and vice versa – then it comprehensively dominates the sphere of production as a sui generis monetary process in order to integrate it precisely into the primary “monetary circulation and distribution” G-W-G’.4 Production, distribution (the distribution of profits) and circulation are thus, in terms of their integration (both structural and temporary), necessarily to be understood as parts of the monetary economy of capital and its metamorphoses, as its phases, aspects and moments.5
If the capital principle 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 enterprises, which in turn are presupposed by total capital, which updates itself through the real competition of individual capitals, which for Marx is always not a ballet but a war. Financial capital constantly modulates the competition of all enterprises and reignites it – it is therefore an integral part of the capital economy and not a cancer that a doctor can remove in order to help the capital body back to health.
Today’s highly technical and globally networked infrastructures are unthinkable without the existence of logistics companies. Logistics today runs in lines around the globe and like capital, it processes in spirals and cybernetic feedback loops whose non-linearity and vectoriality is differential, a-linear – they are lines that spread out in all directions depending on effectiveness and geography. In this process, capital in real and virtual terms tends increasingly towards an economy of logistical and virtual space, shaped by series of intra-capitalist and inter-state competitive struggles. Financialised global shipping, logistics and containerisation signal this infrastructural change, with just-in-time production indicating the methodological and temporal capital aspect of the same change. The triumph of logistics began with containerisation, which has been integrated into global value chains since the 1970s in order to build them up, speed them up and make them more effective. Accordingly, it is also no coincidence that the blockades at 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, the technological acceleration of transport and with the help of logistics, i.e. to shorten the turnover times of capital as a whole, then the struggles in these areas also become increasingly important for capital and the states. But think here not only 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 entailed a shift of the working population from agriculture to industry, at the end of the 20th century it led to the widespread transfer of capital from the industrial production sectors to the financial, service and information sectors, and at the same time entailed increased unemployment in the industrial centres. At this point, we should return to Marx’s law of capitalist accumulation6 which states that, depending on the conjunctural cycles of capital accumulation, both an industrial reserve army and a surplus population develop on the margins or outside the official labour markets, with both populations either being socially subsidised or employed at low wages, or somehow trying to secure their reproduction with slave labour, part-time jobs and illegal activities.7 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 workforce) in Western countries, which is still protected by collective agreements, but also the precariat and a surplus population of well over a billion people who are denied any access to the official labour markets and who have to reproduce themselves in informal and non-capitalist economies or vegetate, i.e. exist as accumulated corpses. It is these totally dispossessed, the masses of unemployed, the day labourers and the Asian and African migrant workers exploited under proto-industrial conditions, the post-colonial army of slaves, the old and the sick, but also the superfluous young, who are trained for jobs that will not even exist in the future by an education system that focuses above all on the everyday evaluation of everyone by everyone – all in all, the global lumpenproletariat that stands below the official labour system. The surplus population today vegetates on the fine line between survival and total liquidation.8
Gilles Deleuze already spoke far ahead in the 1990s of the universally indebted human being, but was quick to add, against any ontologisation of indebtedness, that for the powers of control the danger of revolts always arose – the indebted and the excluded were one.9 They are the same global surplus, whereby the indebted as borrowers still have an important economic function for financial capital, while the surplus population largely vegetates functionlessly for capital as human waste in the slums of the metropolises.10 Capital today must always find new agents capable of indebtedness, students, homeowners and part-time workers, without, however, being able to reduce the surplus population on a global scale even rudimentarily. Marx speaks of capital accumulation as a condition that multiplies the proletariat. If the insurrection is not only a collective action, but a kind of class struggle, then the surplus population must also have a mediating and explanatory power in this; 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-protected sections of the working class in the Western metropolises have to affirm capital in order to still be able to reproduce themselves on a relatively comfortable economic and social level, the more massively the political signification of a globally expanding proletariat is revealed at the same time, large parts of which can no longer find access to the traditional forms of reproduction. According to Clover, we are in the midst of a long-running exodus of the dispossessed from all corners of the globe to the Western world,11 driven by increasing geopolitical volatility, wars and the inability of capital to adequately absorb the labour force in the states of the Global South – a diaspora inseparable from the expanding superfluidity of a simultaneously immobilised surplus population.
The insurgency and the surplus
Any theory of insurgency 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. Surprisingly, Clover identifies the first important relation between insurgency and crisis in the concept of surplus,12 whereas insurgency 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 surplus danger, surplus instruments and surplus effects.13 The most important surplus is the actively negating, the resisting population in the erupting moments of mass mobilisation, which condense into an event in which the insurrection explodes the police management of a concrete situation and at the same time radically decouples itself from everyday life. This kind of insurrectionary 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 indicates insurgency not at all as a purely contingent, but also as a necessary form of political struggle. Given the existence of a huge surplus population and the insurrectionary politics of the surplus, Clover arrives at a first conclusion: insurrection is the modality through which the surplus is lived.14 Primary circulation is now 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 now itself becomes part of the insurgency or, to put it another way, the flashing coalition of the insurgent surplus exists in an economy of state violence.
In this context, the insurgency is the political sign of a historical situation that becomes absolute. And this is not because of a somehow wild nature of the insurgency, but because of a multiply unfolding deterritorialising situation in which it finds itself and which it itself produces, an intensity which makes change possible in the first place and which has neither a logical origin nor a comprehensively formulated goal, but owes itself entirely to the outside of the conflicts.15 Thus the primary insurrection makes no demands at all, but rather establishes civil war, concludes Clover in unison with Tiqqun.16 On the one hand, the insurrection must make itself absolute in order to invent new social affects beyond wage labour, capital circulation, and stifling and disciplining public spaces, as well as a movement towards the Commune that is inseparable from civil war; on the other hand, it is constantly confronted with the police violence that seeks to block such an absolutisation.17
The French Marxist Henri Lefebvre, in his comprehensive studies of everyday life,18 recognised early on that the purely affirmative reference of struggles to the everyday life of the population is too ephemeral and at the same time too cumbersome to strengthen in the long term the field of activities directed against the rules, institutions and everyday modes of work and consumption, Today, it is important to add, even the gaps, times and spaces that fall outside of capitalisation and functional consumption are constantly absorbed by the digital media and their large corporations and at the same time structured or even completely eliminated in the sense of a comprehensive financialisation of ways of life and existence. The decisive aspect of the 24/7 metric of everyday life today lies less in the standardisation and homogenisation of ways of life than in the consolidation of a redundancy of un-time, in which there is no longer any opportunity not to shop, not to consume, not to work or not to retrieve data and, in particular, not to act as a subject of risk, however precarious or socially disconnected.19 The thus motivated, the panic-stricken neoliberal subject is supposed to do nothing but exploit itself and occasionally still stare into a coma, while at the same time remaining locked into comprehensive quantification and control mechanisms of the state and private institutions that perpetuate its superfluousness. Yet algorithmic governance is now ubiquitous, invisible and materialised in decentralised networks; power is part of an interactive environment in which we live.
Nevertheless, the uprising must still also be understood as a spontaneous articulation against the intolerable structurings of everyday life, what Lefebvre calls contestation, which calls for the absolute rejection of the everyday, the imagined and experienced humiliations, and this contestation is therefore for him a movement of the subaltern 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 today permeate all areas of the social; the contestation points to the improbable. One would now have to examine more closely the interplay of negation and surplus in the context of the insurrection, but this is something we cannot do within the framework of this contribution.
For Lefebvre, insurrections are always also struggles for the control of passages through space; they are now organised around buildings, passages, streets and squares. It is the short-term non-institutionalised urban spaces that, in the moments of insurrection, point to the political emptiness of the spaces of the state apparatuses.20 There is thus something genuinely urban in the insurrections, something architectural, not to say something that opens up space.21 The struggle here is something that is exposed to open space, inventing new guerrilla strategies of “back and forth” that turn out to be a disappearance and at the same time the “absence of this absence”. The barricade, one of the important instruments of insurrection, had the function in Paris during the struggles of the Commune in 1871, among other things, of sealing off neighbourhoods against the hostile attacks of the police, until the wide boulevards and industrial growth, including the equipment of the security forces, put an end to this instrument for the time being.
Lefebvre understands spontaneity, which appears and works in the uprising in a strangely continuous way, as an event or as that movens of the movement that resists and escapes the hardened and institutional of the apparatuses; it is constitutive of resistance and consequently spontaneity is the enemy of power. The event here is a surface on which the performance of struggles moves. Following this, Gilles Deleuze can write: “The battle is not an event example among others, but the event in its essence. “22 Such a statement is strongly contradicted by Leninist orthodoxy: There, spontaneism is rejected not only because it is characterised by a lack of organisation, but also because it is allegedly in direct opposition to the genuinely productive labour of the proletariat. In the Leninist concept of the proletarian vanguard party, then, spontaneous insurrection has no place; rather, it is denounced as a purely apolitical, spasmodic and anarchist-inspired chaotic disruption, a pure disorder that must be decisively rejected by the Marxist-Leninist party, which alone possesses a mature and scientifically grounded historical method, unless it organises and directs it. In this context, then, insurrection and strike are grasped as incompatible antipodes.
Indeed, insurrection seems to preserve or affirm nothing, perhaps a divided antagonism, a divided misery and a divided negation. In the sense of a fusing group (Sartre), which is always a group of the city, the insurrection lasts no longer than the actions of the rebels that constitute it, whereby these must proceed in a certain temporality, the speed and duration of which in turn remain dependent on the historical situation.23 Action and the fusing group are the practice of the participants, the moments of which are fleeting and precarious, and yet the fusing group insists with its actions on the problem of how to give the insurrection a certain duration without falling back into the hardened segments of a cadre organisation. In the fusing group adequate to the insurrection, seriality and alterity, inherent in any inert or, as Sartre says, inert group,24 are dissolved; the fusing group is, for Sartre, its own common reality and at the same time the mediation between the self and every other as the third. All members of the group are the third, each member of the group, totalising the reciprocity of the others, thus functions as the third by means of the group and only in this way can others be conceived as equals, while yet the relations of seriality continue to burden and affect the resistant forms of action and the fusing group and its axiom of equality.25 Equality here is what actually happens in the fire of the event, insofar as the participants of the fusing group succeed in punching holes in the state and social order with their actions or in emerging in its gaps.
The global proletariat, which comprises the surplus population vegetating in the slums of the metropolises, is today directly confronted with the state and the police when it rebels in the streets (in the early uprisings of the 17th century, the economy was close and the state far away). While the capitalist lines of production have become more and more branched out, huge quantities of goods are channeled through long global transport routes, and in the western metropolises even the basic foodstuffs are imported from other continents, leaving the global export of goods, not to mention the export of capital, largely invisible, the standing army of the state, the police, now highly militarised, ostensibly solely for the anti-drug and anti-terrorist war, is always present on the streets, especially in the so-called problem zones of the metropolises. The police can be spotted by the insurgents at every corner. Well-trained and militarised task forces, conditioned to use violence like workers are conditioned to assembly line work, now dominate public space at demonstrations to such an extent that any political dissent articulated in the streets has from the outset merely the character of the tolerated and at the same time of the eliminable at any time – and thus almost the destiny of absurdity. Nevertheless, as Clover shows in his study of the historical relations between insurrections and strikes, modern insurrections enable an important mode of struggle that is directly directed against the police, the state and capital.26 Insurrections, moreover, are not an exclusively spontaneous and short-lived expression of discontent, but are more broadly, to put it in the words of Stuart Hall, a mode through which the class struggle is lived. And, as the events in Hamburg have shown again, they point to the urgency of blockades insofar as global value chains and logistical networks depend on the regular and timely transport of goods around the clock.
The early uprising
Clover grounds his theory of insurgency with explicit reference to Marx’s theory of value and crisis, as well as along the analysis of the dynamics of the accumulation of capital on a global scale, but also along the study of local business cycles and finally the theory of long waves.27 The crucial economic fact that the theory of early insurgency has to study is the industrialisation in Europe that started in the 17th century, while for the contemporary or, as Clover says, the primary insurgency, the phase of deindustrialisation in some areas of the Western countries that has been going on since the 1970s is extremely relevant. The early local markets precede the historical imposition of capital and later remain an integral part of the surplus value production of capital, albeit at a completely altered qualitative level (this concerns the transition from insurrection to strike). While the early insurrection, usually associated with a violent disturbance of social peace, a lawless extravagance and chaotic frenzy, was gradually forgotten with the development of capitalism, the strike, which took its explicit form in the years 1790 to 1842, nevertheless took up certain forms of action of the early insurrection, but also stood in opposition to it. In certain temporal intervals, insurrection and strike coexisted, for example around the year 1968, until the crisis in 1973 led to a re-composition of the class, the transformation of the global division of labour and an extreme weakening of the political possibilities of militant workers’ organisations and thus to the declining relevance of the strike, which, however, already heralded a new age of insurrection. Although the long historical phases are not the exclusive defining moments for insurrection, it is precisely for the present insurrection that the aforementioned second long phase designates the temporal terrain in which, on the one hand, the insurrection is present and, on the other, the logic of capital becomes visible in its catastrophic autumn. For Clover, the new forms of insurrection respond to the global transformations of capital and thus always to objective conditions.28
Let us briefly summarise at this point: The early insurrection has its primary place in the marketplace or at the port, the strike has its place in front of the factory of industrial capitalism, and the contemporary insurrection 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 of this are the uprisings in Los Angeles in 1992, which lasted several days, when the mistreatment of Rodney King by the police was recorded by passers-by and quickly disseminated through the media.29 Contemporary uprisings in the USA always formulate themselves against the discourse of racism and refer less to the economy than to the state as the direct opponent.30
The British historian E.P. Thompson, in his important study The Making of the English Working Class, has examined the political economy of the early revolts in more detail.31 He emphasises in his historical research rather the practical aspects of revolt, more precisely the life-supporting practices directed against price increases of food and involving blockades, seizures and violence by the subalterns against traders and transporters. Thus, for the early revolts, it was hunger and political emotions that gave rise to the revolt, especially in the marketplace, which played an essential role here. Between 1740 and 1820, the so-called food riots in the European heartlands developed into the paradigmatic form of social conflict.32 From the beginning, revolt thus became 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, this was the incisive historical passage that Clover calls the “golden age of insurrection”. However, the flowering of the early revolts already contained the seeds of their decline. England was the historical place where the transition from insurrection to strike took place. Clover refers here to the studies of Robert Brenner and Ellen Meiksins Wood, according to which the development of capitalism started from the transformation of class relations in the countryside.33
If in the early phases of the revolts the price increases for food offered at the local markets were the problem for the population that directly affected their survival, for the factory workers it was later the wages (themselves a price) that determined their conditions of reproduction. The insurrection is the backdrop through which price-fixing was struggled for in the markets, while in strikes the level of wages is fought for in front of the factories.34 In the insurrection, the actions include the entire social reproduction of the subalterns, while in the strikes the workers take on the role of both consumer and producer within a historically singular and common collectivity, which is absolutely necessary to reproduce the class. The social reproduction of workers is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it includes those who rent out their labour power and have to take care of their reproduction in this form; on the other hand, it is related to the realisation of commodities in circulation, where they encounter the worker as consumer. This is one and the same process seen from two perspectives. Moreover, reproductive labour includes not only wage labour, but also women’s unpaid labour, which takes place in the home, in care and also in the marketplaces.
The transition from insurrection to strike, Clover argues, is related to or correlates with the transformations in the structure of capital and capital accumulation from an economic mode in which profit is generated in the market to a mode of industrial surplus value production by self-moving capital in production.35 The strike as a form of action emerges in the new world of capitalist production, initially still driven by seamen meeting urban artisans and merchants to fight together for higher wages. Once the wage-labour relationship is comprehensively introduced, the proto-capitalist market loses its central social significance and becomes part of self-regulating capital, thus subsuming all communal values that still belong to local markets to the profit motives of capital. The rural poor now become landless proletarians dependent on wage labour or part of the industrial reserve army. The workers’ struggles, including those of the Luddites, demand a wage that will at least allow them to survive, oppose unemployment and demand the right to form trade unions.36 The Luddites cannot easily be called machine strikers in this respect, insofar as in their struggles they mostly leave the machines, which do not replace workers, intact. Clover writes that in this context, the strike must be understood as a social struggle related to the preservation of employment, to higher wages and to better working conditions and rights, while the so-called machine storming marked the transition from insurrection to strike. There was a brief period of transition where food riots and the factory struggles met, that is, there were fluid transitions in the different sites of struggle (from the marketplace to the workplace) and from the struggle over the price of goods to that over the price of labour power, as the fulcrum 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 view of insurrection (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 labour power 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, further characterises it as an orderly, legalistic and disciplined action that takes place in front of the factory and ultimately has to be considered as a temporary refusal. However, the textile workers’ strikes in Lyon in 1831, for example, show that they could well be accompanied by barricade fighting and guerrilla action.37 A large proportion of historians, however, deny that the strike could have any connection with the uprisings and place the two in clear opposition to each other. It was, after all, the trade unions that in 1839 sought to demarcate the disciplined strike of glass workers in Belgium against the smashing of glass panes by renegade workers – the strike is then exactly what the insurrection is not. However, this construction of an insurmountable opposition between insurrection and strike refers only to the mode of certain actions, without any examination of the social, economic and political content of the struggles and the environment of the forms of struggle in the first place. Moreover, the social content of strike and insurrection cannot be reduced to the collective will, beliefs and affects of the participants. Clover sees the strike in two folds, on the one hand as a confrontation with capital over the level of the price of labour power, on the other hand the strike also possesses a social explosive power in itself.38 Nevertheless, it takes place more strongly in the boom phases of capital accumulation and it becomes central to the workers’ movement when workers’ reproduction becomes entirely dependent on the wage, which in turn remains to this day, despite the growth of consumer credit, the most important part of workers’ reproduction.
In this context, it is worth pointing out a statement by Walter Benjamin according to which the technological conditions of production, its progress and success, are always in relation to the transparency of social content.39 Industrial production, progress and transparent and maintained glass architecture – they stand for the world of the strike. The ideology of the “good strike” absolutely adheres to the idea of transparency (think, in contrast, of the Black Bloc, the Invisible Committee and the idea of the imperceptibility of political action) and to the belief that one can see directly to the bottom of social conflicts through the perception of the surface. The strike here becomes strike by being explicitly formalised by the official labour movement against insurrection. It is order itself, the window pane that is not broken. Accordingly, the insurrection, now set 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 insurrection thus wants nothing more than itself, its luminous opacity. Shine and shards of broken glass.40
Even still in the mode of the general strike, the traditional workers’ movement will ascribe to the strike a disciplined and disciplining form of organisation, an orderly form of confrontation against capital (and not against the state), while the alleged disorder and chaos of the anarchist-inspired actions in the insurrection, to which pointless spontaneity is also always imputed, mutate into objects of antipathy. Spontaneity appears here merely as a slave to the (natural) stimulus, although in a broader sense one could point out that Kant did indeed refer to 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.41 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, skilfully try to exploit their respective gaps, imponderabilities and inconsistencies.
In Leninist orthodoxy, the spontaneism of the insurgents is rejected not only because it is allegedly characterised by a lack of consciousness and organisedness, but also because it stands in direct opposition to the labour that is put into production (by capital!) and thus to the proletariat. In Leninism, one finds the conception of traditional Marxism explicitly formulated, according to which the capitalist economy, on the one hand, exploits labour power, which must be sold, and on the other hand, however, labour power – naturalised – at the same time represents the fundamental human potential for the generation of general social wealth in every social formation. The worker is thus not only seen as a productive force that is exploited by the capital economy in quantitative terms, but is 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 labour power, thus preventing the much more radical hypothesis that he is “alienated” as a labour power in itself, that is, as a force that creates value through its labour, already to be questioned.42
After the end of the Second World War, there was a period of stagnation in the militant struggles of the labour movement, which ended in the 1960s with a sudden interruption in which, due to the student movement, the New Left and radical workers’ struggles, something new appeared on the horizon, although there were still elements of continuity in the old struggles. At the same time, the labour movement in general is not to be equated with organised labour struggles; rather, from the end of the 18th century onwards, this was a mode of organisation, an apparatus and an urban machine that held workers together in their workplaces and neighbourhoods. Insofar as the labour movement succeeded in this, it always referred to an affirmative class identity, with the activists of the workers’ parties and the trade unions leading workers to suspend their interests as isolated sellers of their labour power in a competitively organised labour market and to act instead as a collective project, as a movement. The workers’ movement also embodied a certain idea of how capitalism could be replaced, opening up a communist horizon that enabled a positive dynamic of class struggles, but also showed their limits. In this, the workers were to build a new world with their own hands, a world in which they would be the only social group to expand, while all other groups, including the bourgeoisie, would diminish. The workers were not only the majority of the population, they also became a compact mass in the form of the collective worker, drilled in the factories in concert with the machines. They would nevertheless have been the only ones capable of managing the new world according to their own logic, following neither a hierarchy of command receivers or givers nor the irrationality of market fluctuations, but rather installing a finely graduated division of labour themselves. Moreover, the labour movement realised the truth of history in qualitative terms. These visions motivated the workers’ struggles, especially between the years 1873 and 1921, and partly explain the exponential growth of the movement.
Today, however, we are faced with the absence of those institutionalised forms of collectivity that formed the backbone of the workers’ movement. Today, the workers’ 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 austerity policies when the conservative parties fail to do so, and to a few anarchist and communist sects which wait in vain for their historic chance. The labour movement has long ceased to be 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 organised struggles today, since, moreover, the modern working class is completely caught up in the wage-commodity nexus. Capital and labour in Western countries today are in close and fatal collaboration to secure labour relations along the lines of corporate liabilities and ultimately to maintain the self-reproduction of capital. In order to be able to guarantee their reproduction, workers must now necessarily affirm their own exploitation. Thus the working class has finally ceased to be the antithesis of capital. Traditional Marxism-Leninism, which considers productive labour as a transhistorical force of social constitution, has finally shot its powder. The struggle for wages retains its justification, but it now always legitimises the mode of existence of capital.
The masses and the political: masses, classes, mobs, multitude
The sense of metamorphoses and antagonisms, the sense of the political. As this cannot be separated from the question of the many, the re-composition of the class body that is constantly transformed in relation to the material base. In this context, insurrection and strike are not singular events, but part and figure of the many that are adjacent to them. In contrast to the strike, the insurrection today, although it remains bound to certain necessities of reproduction, can only be political, since the surplus population participating in it remains fundamentally denied participation in social wealth. The capitalist states have long since replaced Keynesian economic policies and the politics of social peace with austerity policies and direct police confrontation, especially towards the surplus population, whereby the violent behaviour of the police, which today dominates airports and other places of transit, as well as their militarisation have become part of everyday life. Police and insurgency are therefore mutually dependent. The insurgency has a necessary correlation to the current structure of the state (and economy), it is characterised by the abject43 – it is those who are excluded from any gains in productivity who are at the forefront of the insurgency.
At this point, it can be summarised with Clover: The strike is a collective action that a) aims to increase the price of labour power, reduce working hours and improve working conditions, in which b) the worker is purely in the position of the worker and which c) takes place in the inclusive context of capitalist production. Whereas the insurrection a) involves the struggle to fix prices in the markets or steal commodities, b) whose participants are completely expropriated and, moreover, disenfranchised, and which c) takes place in the context of circulation.44 Now, in order to analyse the current insurrection, it is necessary, firstly, to define the insurrection and the strike precisely, secondly, to justify the return of the insurrection since the 1970s, and thirdly, to analyse the relations 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 consequently faces multiple socio-economic transformations of capital on a global scale.
The primary insurrection
For Clover, the (historical) line “insurrection-strike-insurrection” is not so much the result of theory, but the designation of a form. The passage from early insurrection to strike is historically and logically linked to industrialisation in the 19th century, while the passage from strike to primary insurrection correlates with the rise and later the slow decline of US hegemony in the second half of the 20th century. Clover refers here to Giovanni Arrighi’s three major historical divisions: mercantilism, industrialisation and financialisation.45 The historical periodisation “insurrection-strike-primary insurrection” maps for Clover at the same time the logical line “circulation-production-circulation (of capital)”. While Clover places the period 1784 to 1973 for the period of productive industrial capital, he sees the decisive characteristics of the movement of capital in circulation, in financialisation and its accompanying deindustrialisation, at least in the western industrialised countries, for the period thereafter.46 Following the historian Ferdinand Braudel, Joshua Clover thinks he sees in 1973 a point in 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 – that ushered in a new phase of economic crisis development in global capitalism unfolding beyond a business cycle.47 In the context of Braudel’s and Arrighi’s economic business cycle theories, Clover grasps the year 1973 as a metonym that stands for economic changes that extend far beyond the transformational capacity of a decade.48 The decline in growth and profit rates that began in 1973 stands for a phase of decline of industrial capital in the Western countries, while at the same time money capital flows more strongly than ever into the financial sectors, where higher profit rates can be expected and also realised.
The looting, the barricade and finally the whole destructive arsenal of insurgent actions are always to be understood as an implicit response to the logics of capitalisation and the state. The tactics, means and methods of today’s uprisings include, in particular, blockades and barricades that challenge the state’s monopoly on the use of force and the police’s control of public space, looting that at least hints at a redistribution of general wealth (in the 1970s, such actions were still called “proletarian shopping” in Italy), and property damage that symbolises a specific form of property critique. Even if the uprisings do not refer to an explicit strategy, they certainly bring a political articulation into play as a radical negation – and partly also as an inversion – of workers’ power; whereby it is important to bear in mind here that the workers in Fordism were still successful at least in the wage struggles, but today they are completely on the defensive even in these as a class, insofar as the preservation of the reproduction of the workers often also goes hand in hand with the moral support and thus the stabilisation of the successes of the companies in which they are currently employed.
Mostly, then, the uprisings do not have explicit demands, but are (seemingly) purely infused with the negative language of vandalism, destruction and chaos. But still, the riots do not lack political determination. Clover speaks at this point of the overdetermination of insurrection by historical transformations, which make more than a reconstruction of class antagonism, that is, in particular today, the reframing of struggles in circulation necessary.49 The new insurrections in circulation do not necessarily have to be carried by workers, because in principle any political group can liberate a marketplace, blockade a street or occupy a port.50
It is also essential to recognise that from the middle of the 20th century, capital established new technological relations between networks, communication industries and infrastructures in huge shock waves, which then finally became dominant around the year 2000. In this context, the blocking of traffic and the disruption of circulation circuits at various levels of the system expresses 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 squares with the politics of blockades, namely blockades of commodity flows and infrastructures. All too often, however, individual actions still block precisely where the opponent expects or even desires it, and at the same time the focus is not on disrupting the infrastructure itself, but on symbolic actions, whereby it is essential to take into account that the functioning of infrastructures is now inextricably linked to the rhizomes and abstractions of financial capital. One must therefore ask the inescapable question: How does one block an abstraction today? As Alexander Galloway has surmised, both financialisation and the cybernetics with which digital technology is focused on the input/output relation (black box) and the interface would have to be countered today by a (non)politics of black bloc that focuses on the question of the appearance and disappearance of actions and struggle groups in the digital media as well as outside. The politicisation of the problem of presence and absence requires a very specific rhythmology that cannot be grasped as mere acceleration.51
Clover writes: “The uprising, the blockade, the barricade, the occupation. This is what we will see in the next five, fifteen, forty years. “52 Since 2006, the most important reservoirs of insurgency have consisted specifically of young people who are blocked from entering the employment systems, but more generally of the surplus population, which is 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 its militancy and the class composition of the excluded. The relationship between the abjection 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 we are entitled to a corresponding share of social wealth and class power – was not able to represent those who have long lived beyond the promises of state institutions and redistributive social policies. On the other hand, a link must be established between the different camps of the surplus population and the left groups that are anti-state, precisely because the production of non-production and global political volatility persist in an intolerable manner.
Moreover, the reformist tendencies of the new uprisings must also be avoided in the future: The tendency towards populism, desperately seeking sympathy in the mass media, and towards pacifism, tirelessly pleading for a policy respectable to the state. The demandless insurrection is often initially coded correctly as if it were the demand itself, although it is then often continued that the existing order must finally recognise it after all, if only it would understand it. The much more radical political impulse finds in the uprising something that comes as an event before or after hegemonic communication, and this in the context of a practice that consists in looting, autonomous control of space or the successful erosion of police power. The success of the former, the discursive strategy often adopted by the civil rights movements, seems more than doubtful today, especially in light of the socio-economic transformations of capital and the state. And the frenzy of insurrection arising from these transformations is undoubtedly an indicator of the social pressure that is permanently weighing on the surplus population in particular. Finally, in the struggles, there is a glimpse of the Commune appearing on the horizon, as a social relation, as a political practice and as an event that also requires a corresponding theory. In the context of the insurgency, the term contagion is often used; the Invisible Committee, on the other hand, speaks, somewhat too idealistically, of the resonance of revolutionary movements.53 In any case, the insurgencies, some of which spread virally, live off the surplus population as the basis of their own expansions. From the perspective of the insurgency itself, however, it is not only about the participants and their collective actions and visions, but also about the radical-negative “processing” of crisis, surplus population and “race”. It is the idle capacities of the subalterns as “concomitants” of the crises, as well as the surplus of the production of non-production, that are targeted in the insurrection. The insurgents may be workers, but they do not function as workers in the insurrections, because the participants in the insurrections are not unified here solely by their occupations or their jobs, but specifically in their function as the socially disenfranchised and dispossessed within the whole process of reproduction under capitalism. At the same time, the insurgents remain confronted with the intolerable 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 insurrection is the negation of the trap into which the workers have fallen. Insurrection, Clover sums up, is thus a privileged tactic that stands for the struggles in the sphere of circulation, the insurrection, the blockade, the occupation and finally, on the horizon, the Commune.54
Clover is interested not only in the historical genealogy of insurrection, but also in particular in (theoretically) deciphering the political signification and potential of insurrection. In an economistically truncated sense, the early uprising is interpreted exclusively as a spontaneous protest against the increase in food prices (think of this subsequently to the current actions against the IMF, which notoriously and brazenly sets the conditions for precarious food prices in the countries of the South), and this in a more conditional sense, as if an increase in prices at a certain point must lead to insurrectionary reactions by the population. The politicist counter-position is taken here by Alain Badiou, who accuses the insurgents of a pathetic spontaneism to which Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg had already said everything necessary.55 At the same time, Badiou at least concedes that the communist idea springs from the event of the insurrection, although it must be given an organisational form and duration. In this respect, however, the insurrection can only ever assume a proto-political status, which must be translated into a revolutionary conception of political action. For Badiou, however, it is not the party but the idea that makes the specifications here. Thus, insurrection appears as an absolutely acausal 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 the negative, whereby both theoretical approaches could not grasp the insurrection as a social phenomenon sui generis.56 And he poses the question of how one could still navigate between the two positions, between the insurrection as a mere revolt against hunger and the diaphanous structure of a political feeling. Nevertheless, and it is important to note this, the historical potency of the current uprisings is neither to be seen as the sole result of an idea (Badiou) nor exclusively in the context of the fluctuations in food prices that are killing the population, but it is to be understood as a radical and contingent resistance to the state and the socio-economic structure of capital, as a struggle against the material reorganisation of the social body.
If we consider the strikes of the 1960s as a popular and at times successful tactic of the trade unions, then the return of insurrection appears as a strangely heroic attempt to transform the two forms of collective action into a single revolutionary process, and yet 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 workers’ movement, still survives during the 1960s, but in terms of frequency it is synchronous with the growth processes of capital, indeed it follows in its frequency the economic business cycles and the level of employment (the higher the unemployment, the lower the number of strikes). The correlation of the number of strikes with the 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 high profit rates could still be observed in the industrial sectors of the Western countries during the Fordism of the 1960s and the traditional labour movement maintained its position in the class compromise between capital and labour, the new insurrections were already becoming more visible, especially in the “long hot summers”: the historical transition from strike to insurrection had begun.
The modern insurrection, although it shares certain characteristics with the early insurrections, takes on completely new contours and forms of struggle in a completely changed historical situation, and especially in the USA it is to this day always also a struggle for the rights of black people, which springs from the civil rights movements and is also in direct demarcation to the whiteness of the traditional labour 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.57 Detroit and Los Angeles were probably the cities in which the transitions from strike to contemporary, primary uprising could be observed most significantly in the 1960s. This involved the coexistence and confrontation of riots and strikes on the one hand, and the massive racialisation of the black population on the other.
According to Clover, there is a paradox to report in this context: On the one hand, insurgency is always in confrontation with the violence of the racist state; on the other hand, the identification of insurgency with “race” proves to be a mistake (a confusion between correlation and reason), as if skin colour were the origin of insurgency itself.58 At the same time, the ideological definition of insurgency as spontaneistic and undisciplined proves to be a vehicle for portraying the racialised black subject as animalistic, irrational and nature-like. In this, of course, skin colour is not the cause of the uprising, but rather black people are part of the uprisings that are directed against the racialisation processes of white elites and middle classes. It is not race that makes insurrection, but insurrection that makes race, but only insofar as it is the modality of the lived class that experiences and recognises itself in insurrection as excluded, exploited and controlled. The logic of a structural surplus that characterises the new proletariat permeates the (alleged) antinomy between class and race, ultimately to radically challenge racism as a feature of the new class composition by the ruling class. In doing so, the surplus is not to be placed identically with race, nor are the two readily distinguishable. In this context, Clover quotes Stuart Hall, who speaks of race as a modality in which class is lived.59
Deindustrialisation in the US has itself a racial component: for example, unemployment among the black population in the US has remained higher than that of the white population since the 1960s and has remained so to this day. Moreover, the militant actions carried out by blacks, for example in Detroit, usually moved at a certain distance from the official labour markets; they were often struggles for better conditions of reproduction outside the sphere of production. In regions where one finds a high unemployment rate, especially among black youth, who are constantly monitored and harassed by state control instruments and apparatuses, today the state’s only answer to the existence of the surplus population seems to be prison. Thus, resistance to incarceration is also inscribed in the uprising. It is the radical response to the regime of inclusion 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 the state and law, Blackness appears here as a surplus that promises the transgression of regulation and order. “Negroes” are blackness, are riot.60 Insurrection is an instance of black life characterised by total exclusion, but at the same time it is also the surplus in the noisy atmosphere of circulation. It can only expand in its own modulation, it is a collective action through which the struggle must happen, it is a social modality. It is in this context that the black resistance movements establish their links with the anti-colonial movements, though 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 surplus rebellion.
When the everyday life of large sections of the population is increasingly played out in circulation, in the informal economies or outside the employment system, these groups tend to become abjects and are confronted with the conditions of reproduction not through wages and factory work but directly in the supermarkets and shopping malls where the necessities of life are offered, and in this situation any gathering of people on a street corner, in a public square or in the street can potentially be understood as a revolt. Quite unlike the strike, it is difficult to figure out when the riot even starts or when it 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 insurgency was less confronted with the police and the armed state (it took place in the economic spaces of the early markets), this has changed in the post-industrial insurgency. On the one hand, he finds himself confronted with an ensemble of almost unattainable goods in the department stores and local shops; on the other hand, he suspects, even when it comes to the prices of the goods, that the economy today has planetary logistics, a police-military secured transport system and a barely visible financial industry. In this context, Guy Debord sees in the looting of supermarkets not at all a hyperbolic realisation of the ideology of consumption, but the subversion of the commodity as such61 , whereby today, at the same time, with every insurrectionary action, the apparatuses of the state, the police and the armed units, immediately appear on the scene. The police now quite obviously stand for the economy, the violence of the commodity becomes flesh, according to Clover.62
Insurrection and violence
Often enough, people associate insurrection exclusively with chaos and violence, describing it as anarchist or simply illegitimate.63 Correspondingly, the strike is then seen as pacifist, whose operations always remain anchored in the legal framework. Large sections of the traditional workers’ movement, which generally rejected violence as a political means of struggle, defended and opposed the violence of insurrection with legal strikes, 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, in which many people died only because of the possibility, briefly glimpsed in the struggles, of gaining social security, housing or a more or less tolerable working life. It is important to define violence and to look back at history and see that truly groundbreaking transformations in history have never taken place without the use of violence by the insurgents. While insurgencies rarely took on revolutionary proportions, hardly any revolution began without some kind of uprising.
The general equation of insurrection with physical violence is an important discursive tool of the ruling classes, their media and elites to strip the insurrection of its political explosive power, to fix its separation from the “clean” politics of the reformist workers’ parties and to defame it as chaos and rioting. This equation obscures the systemic-structural, the everyday and the ecological violence that is the norm for the majority of the population today; the very double freedom of the wage worker – free from ownership of the means of production and free to choose to rent out his labour power – integrates latent violence into the system of wage labour, whereby the numerous forms of de-limited exploitation (land grabs, the production of cheap labour, cheap energy, cheap raw materials and cheap food, slave labour, racism and neo-colonialism, etc. ) already refer much more directly to physical relations of violence.64 The dominant discourses on violence are characterised by their denial of structural violence or de-limited exploitation, whereby the second, totalitarian aspect of these discourses is to constantly normalise structural violence via 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 would have to be examined, with which the relations of violence display themselves, sometimes more and sometimes less clearly, in order to derive from them corresponding necessities and potentials for uprisings.65
State violence has a latent and an open aspect. In order to maintain public order, the state and power can usually be content with latent violence, so that overt violence can be held in reserve.66 According to Machiavelli, anyone who constantly resorts to police or military means to secure political order is not up to the concept of absolute politics. In order to secure the economic system and the state in unstable situations or, and this is quite decisive today, since at present the political situation in Western countries cannot be understood as unstable, in order to implement the preventive logic of the security state, the police must be pushed more and more to the fore in terms of language, the visual, representation and material intervention. This works through the endless invocation, even worship and mythologisation of terrorism, with which the state organs are supposed to lend the appropriate legitimacy to an unleashed security policy prevention in advance. If the aim is to prevent the worst, then almost anything must be allowed. This kind of security policy is itself to be understood as a kind of organised crime, with which fear of terrorist attacks and generally the collective feeling of insecurity are to be permanently generated in the population. Moreover, one can be punished now for crimes that one may or may not commit in the future. A strange inscription of insecurity is taking place here in the bodies of the population, which is incidentally complementary to the programming of financialised insecurity into the brains of neoliberal subjects.
It is precisely in the face of this totalitarian occupation of the future by capital and the state that resistance remains unreservedly justified. Merleau-Ponty writes: “The contingency of the future, which explains the violent acts of power, simultaneously deprives them of any legitimacy, or equally legitimises the violence of opposition. The right of opposition is completely equal to that of power. “67 For Georges Bataille, the moment of transgression, waste and cruelty comes into play at this point with counter-violence. Here, counter-violence is not simply a means, but a resource of attention for minorities, whereby the principled prohibition of violence against the population, which the state pronounces, is for Bataille a form of terror in the sense of elimination and the elimination of natural resources, which people in need and distress must make use of.68 In contrast, the state totalitarian claims violence as its own exclusive resource to maintain public order or stability of the system at all costs, while denying the very 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 you can’t call state violence violence, state violence is something else. Denial, that’s part of violence like the amen in church. It plays a big role in the military. They are trained to use violence in a controlled and civilised way(…) Therefore, in our society we can experience every day the ambiguity and hypocrisy associated with this demand for renunciation of violence and fading out of violence and denial of violence. “69
Uprising and police
Let us now briefly assess the role of the police within the capitalist state apparatus. To state it upfront, the main role of the police is not at all to help and protect citizens when they are in danger, but rather to both secure, defend and maintain the economic and political system at the national level and tend to keep those outside the official labour market and system of wage labour in illegality. As cities industrialised in the 19th century, the police possessed the task of disciplining the newly inflowing workforce. The laws they enforced were always coded by class, unless the police were simply trained to punish and harass workers and the poor anyway. In the 19th century, vagrancy in particular, and with it unemployment, were criminalised; today begging and sleeping in parks are punished, at least in part. The police act as a private army of industry in times of strikes, and alongside them private security services are emerging today, which are de facto equipped with local police power.
The tasks and actions of the police spring less from the spontaneity of social relations than from the rigidity of state functions. Benjamin writes about the role of the police: “The disgraceful thing about such an authority (…) lies in the fact that in it the separation of law-making and law-maintaining power is abolished. If the former is required to prove itself in victory, the latter is subject to the restriction that it should not set itself any new ends. Police power is emancipated from both conditions (…) Rather, the ‘right’ of the police basically designates the point at which the state (…) can no longer guarantee itself through the legal order. Therefore, ‘for the sake of security’, the police intervene in countless cases where there is no clear legal situation (…). “70 The police thus always possess a certain autonomy. Benjamin goes on to say about the violence of the police institution: “Its violence is shapeless, like its nowhere comprehensible, all-spreading ghostly appearance in the life of civilised states. And even if police may look alike everywhere in detail, it cannot be denied in the end that its spirit is less devastating where, in absolute monarchy, it represents the power of the ruler, in which legislative and executive powers are united, than in democracies, where its existence is elevated by no such relationship and thus testifies to the greatest conceivable degeneracy of violence. “71 The police constantly construct new realities with their interventions, precisely by not only sanctioning the rules that serve to normalise the population, but also by setting them themselves, at least in certain situations. The construction of social reality requires a police power that is fundamentally given in the state. The police are also inscribed with an esprit de corps, an informal rule on how they are 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 discourses of legitimacy. But it is not only about the crimes committed by the state, but especially about the everyday penetration of the population by the police. The police are the part of the state that most aggressively penetrates the community, invades the lives of the population, organises surveillance and issues prohibitions. Essential to the police is the organisation of an order of bodies that defines exactly how something can be done and said, how social being is, i.e. an order of the sayable and the visible that ensures that one particular activity is visible and another is not, that one speech is discourse and another is noise. The police are less concerned with the discipline of bodies than they are with organising the rules of how bodies appear in public, namely as a configuration of occupations and properties in spaces where these occupations and positions are distributed. The military and the police are disciplined and disciplining, symbolic and centralised institutions charged with guaranteeing this order, the army on the outside, the police on the inside, a differentiation that is being partially undone today.72
In Hamburg, the protest met directly with the executive and the police, who constantly suspended basic rights such as freedom of assembly, as well as disregarding orders of the courts and freedom of the press. In view of the police operations in Hamburg, the jurist Fritz Sack speaks of a partly “furious army that kicks and punches unprotected people lying on the ground, sprays them with gas, drives them up the wall in places where they could not flee. “73 This roughly coincides with a statement by Kroker et al. on Robocop: “Listless technique. By being stiffly erect, the Robocop is erection without discharge, a second of coming that is no coming at all. “74 It is thus also logical that the use of violence in the self-reception of the police “is not defined as the use of violence at all, but as a professional obligation and as a task that one has; that it is not experienced as violence at all, but that it is experienced as a civic duty. “75
Police operations today have a viral effect insofar as the escalation of operations creates the call for more police. The basis for their own deployment is thus created. The police strategy in Hamburg also had something of a very specific escalation, a kind of “milieu control”, that is, creating a ring, observing the riot, waiting and then entering with military units, SEK troops, and eliminating the riot.76 And it was quite obvious that everyone who was on the streets of Hamburg during the G20 summit was a potential criminal from the police’s point of view. For this reason, one should by no means follow the state’s discourse of the good versus the bad demonstrator, because in Hamburg, for the state and its police, potentially everyone belonged to the bad demonstrators.77
And a word about the Black Bloc. The Invisible Committee writes: “Let us beware, then, of seeing it as the proof finally given of our radicalism when completely blind repression descends upon us. Let us not think that they are trying to destroy us. Let’s rather start from the hypothesis that they are trying to bring us forth. To produce us as a political subject, as ‘anarchists’, as a ‘black bloc’, as ‘opponents of the system’, to separate us from the general population by giving us a political identity. “78 If young people in particular – as happened in Hamburg – defend themselves against what they suffer in the system on a daily basis in terms of subjective and structural violence, then the insurgents are indeed more than just actors of the black bloc. Perhaps it would therefore be better to say that the insurgent youths are not the Black Bloc, so that the Black Bloc remains non-identifiable. On the one hand, this subtly refers to the Black Bloc and thus dominates the media’s image politics for a moment; on the other hand, one remains in the non-perceptible. The inversion of image politics here must keep in mind the distinction between ontological non-perceptibility (the night when all cows are black) and political non-perceptibility (the night when all demonstrators look the same). With regard to the former non-perceptibility, we find ourselves disabled in the face of pure immediacy. In the latter situation, on the other hand, we find ourselves activated to take up the confrontation against the everyday staged by capital and its state apparatus of appropriation.79