from Contra Info, translated by Anarchist News
Part 2 of: Interview: Gustavo Rodríguez Pt.1
Received on 11/05/2020.
C.I. Tell us, what repercussions have your contributions had in the anarchist galaxy, and how do you see the reception and/or rejection –depending on the sectors– of your reflections, particularly about the participation of anarchist individuals and groups in popular movements and intermediate level struggles, as you express in the trilogy, Letters to a Chilean, about the current situation (I, II, III), synchronized with the social conflicts in that region (which begun on October 18, 2019 and lasted up until right before the Covid-19 lockdown). ¿Do you believe our participation is important in popular movements and in the development of intermediate level struggles?
G.R. I’m unaware if my contributions have had any type of “repercussion” in the anarchist galaxy so I would be lying if I commented about the possible reception or rejection of those reflections. It’s undeniable that my reflections circulate and are diffused, which could suggest the existence of a very small “circle of receptors” but it’s impossible to know the degree of acceptance or rejection that they find. The truth is that I’m not interested in persuading anyone. Within the theoretical limitations and from my own autodidact and anti-disciplinary formation, I’ve tried to express some reflections, to open up questions. That is to say, I abstain from giving answers. I highlight our lacks and weaknesses, in order to stimulate reflections by all our comrades in affinity. But when I insist on inciting “reflection”, I don’t refer to deepening our self-absorbed rumination, nor surrendering to abstract meditation, nor adding new pages to philosophy, nor anything of that sort. It’s about “seeing”. That is to say, opening our eyes and looking at what surrounds us. Something that the human animal has stopped doing for a long time now in their obsession with distancing themselves from other animals in search of a “purpose of life”; what has lead to creating in the collective subconscious (with all the fascist implications of the Jungian term) the “happy world” of the Emerald City –the magical land of Wizard of Oz(1)– and making mandatory the use of green-tinted glasses, so that the deluded think that everything that surrounds them is emeralds .
That’s why when I affirm the necessity of seeing, I do so also from the visual angle of multiple planes, adding the necessary color and lighting. If the feminists of the end of the previous century exhorted us to see reality with “purple glasses” (Gemma Lienas); as anarchists in turn it’s up to us to SEE with an optometrist’s lenses.That is to say, constantly changing the lens gradation – just like non-human animals do – and, why not, constantly alternating the color of the filters and even contracting or expanding the iris, until we recover the night vision we’ve lost. Only then will we be able to recognize the expiration of the prevalent models of struggle, and the urgency of a new anarchic paradigm that facilitates the action of the lone wolves and informal insurrectional anarchist minorities.
To give answers or “give a party line” –like marxians called the vertical imposition of alignments– does not only require a superlative vanity, but the total abandonment of our most elementary theoretical and practical foundations.To paraphrase Nietzsche: “leading is as odious to me as following”.
Concerning the question about the participation of anarchists in the so-called “popular movements,” I’ve been expressing my perspective for about twenty years now and it has been recorded in different moments, showing evidence of the radical evolution of the anarchic struggle. If we re-read some of my contributions from the decades of 1980 and 1990, we will find a certain “critical optimism” that gave the benefit of the doubt to these “movementist” strategies that – broadly speaking – took shape around the Mexican Neo-Zapatismo towards the middle of the last decade of the previous century and, a bit later, around the “alter-globalization” and “anti-globalization” discourse, reaching its climax in The Battle of Seattle. Not to forget the subsequent movementist outbreaks (that some like to lump together), like the Argentine uprising of December 2001 and, the Bolivian one of October 2003, and even the continuation of the development of the struggle of “the landless” in Brazil.
In reality, around that time, we were witnessing the death rattle of the so-called “proletarian movement”. In such a way, the absence of the historical mission of the proletariat was confirmed and the revolutionary subject “destined to drive Humanity to communism” was fading away.
Facing the unraveling of the communist parties and the mutilation of the budget of guerrilla structures –consequence of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of “truly existing” communism – the remnants of all that workerist/populist rhetoric (now taking refuge in the so-called “social organizations”), along with unions and hyper- activists of various stripes, would put on display their last strident tantrum at the start of the millennium, not for the sake of the definitive destruction of capitalism, but for its renewal, dragging voluntary servitude towards the defense of work and the consolidation of populist governments in the name of “Another world is possible”. That’s to say, “Another capitalism is possible”.
Not the alter-globalization movement of movements (Seattle, Washington, Prague, Quebec, Genoa, Barcelona, Thessaloniki, Warsaw), nor Mexican Neo-Zapatism, nor the Brazilian movement of “the landless”, nor the Argentine (2001) and Bolivian (2003) revolts; none of these had even the most minimal anarchic motive nor did they throw themselves into the destruction of domination. Despite that, due to the absence of a paradigm, all these stunts were susceptible to a mistaken anarchist reading, which motivated countless comrades, myself included, to get involved in an ersatz struggle (some even gave their lives) that reaffirmed in practice the alienation of work and consolidated the tripolar hyper-capitalist world that we suffer today.
Since then, and in spite of the strong expectations it generated, the movementist degeneration continued at a fast pace until ending up trapped in the reformist strategies of postmodern Leninism that bets on gatopardismo and the reform of the system. Just like it’s happening in Chile in this moment, or here in North Amerikkka, to name a pair of concrete examples of the so-called leftist opposition in the world.
And well, about the so-called “intermediate struggles” and the anarchist participation in these specific events, I could only corroborate everything I’ve just said. In my opinion, that we continue to speak in these terms is once again proof of the absence of an anarchist paradigm in the 21st Century. We mustn’t forget that the theoretical development of all those concepts -“intermediate struggles”, “autonomous base nuclei”,“generalized insurrection”, etc.–, responded directly to the needs of an epoch and certainly, our comrade Alfredo Bonanno was the best exponent of that resounding response in that concrete historical moment.
Alfredo knew how to systematize, like few comrades can, our long list of failures and with practice as the starting point, he committed not just to promoting the definite rupture with all the anarcho-syndicalist distortions and with synthesis federationalism, but also to theorizing anarchist insurrection in the last third of the previous century, gifting us veritable jewels that allowed us to understand the struggle in that particular context. Yet all those valuable contributions now only help us understand the past and trace new trajectories that correspond to our time. To speak of “intermediate struggles” presupposes the hypothetical arrival of a great “final struggle” and the secular faith in a “generalized insurrection” –an increasingly chimerical scenario– that would put an end to domination, initiating a new period in the history of Humanity. Today–with the arrival of the 4th and 5th Industrial Revolution and the consolidation of technological hyper-capitalism in a tripolar world–demands the definitive desertion of the utopian vision and the categorical rupture with the millennarian syndrome of the imminent catastrophe and the subsequent paradise, and pushes us to discern spaces for anarchic intervention, developing the permanent insurrection parting from informality and the extension of illegalism.
C.I. What conditions do you think the new normality imposes on us, reconfigured for the control of society and the use of the Covid-19 pandemic to keep us on a sort of house arrest, a new normality in which State powers reinvent themselves and make the best of the situation to let loose the army and the police on the streets to repress and surveil, inciting voluntary submission and the social worship of those who govern and those who wear uniforms, presenting them as protectors of health; yet, the only ones that increase their profits are the multinationals of the pharmaceutical industry, the owners of agro-industrial corporations, and the hierarchs of the States that are allied to this devastating strategy, while the excluded die from lack of access to the healthcare systems, or their health quickly deteriorates due to bad nutrition and the fear that confinement produces.
G.R. Other comrades have already ventured to answer this question. Yet, I could comment what I perceive, without wanting to consult with the Oracle of Delphos, but instead taking into account the current scenario; that’s to say, the accelerated changes that we’re living — exacerbated by the new technologies — the enormous increase in alienation, the extension of citizenism, and the different strategies that the remasterized States have implemented due these particular conditions.
No doubt that the system of domination is transforming, and that this event demands the imposition of a change of reality.The deliberate manipulation of human emotions that accompanies the communication strategy with respect to the pandemic is also not a mere coincidence. We’re assisting a convergence of digital, biological, and physical technologies that drive the establishment of a hyper-technological capitalism without boundaries. And I want to insist in its development “without boundaries” because, unless we live in one of those “uncontacted communities” in the most interior of the Amazon, in Papua, or some of those scarce territorial remnants of India and Indonesia, what’s true is that in the immense majority of aboriginal communities, technological contamination is a done deal in spite of supposed “cultural resistance”. And I don’t refer to the use of certain techniques that some may qualify as innocuous, but instead to the use of chemical fertilizers, of transgenic seeds, and the socialization of new technologies (cellphones and Internet).
In that sense, hyper-technological capitalism is being consummated in all the corners of the Planet. We’re saying good bye to the world as we know it. Cyber-Leviathan is before us. In the middle of a “sanitary emergency”, a new, much more authoritarian paradigm of domination is making its way, it’s reconfiguring capitalist management in the hands of new technologies. Its development is irreversible. Of course, it’s clear that the hegemonic imposition of this new paradigm will be carried out gradually, although every day the unemployment in the manufacturing sector and the accelerated segregation of technologically “unproductive” people will be more evident. Nevertheless, this juncture will not be favorable for the development of future rebellions (like some comrades hasten to foresee). On the contrary, the new Nation-State will take care of these “burdens” by increasing their handouts. Each day the proposals in that line are more frequent (“Universal Basic Income”, “social salary”, “food allowance”, etc), ensuring the continuity of consumption in all the strata, stimulating demand and the participationist illusion, in the promiscuity of multiple forms of regime, with their particular democratic interpretations (liberal representative, centrist, direct, theocratic, etc.).
With regards to the situation that the excluded face, motivated by the lack of access to healthcare services, I consider that that domination will not leave them “helpless” for much longer. On the contrary, the constant cuts to public spending and the increase of taxes to the productive sectors of the so-called “middle classes”, are heading towards that end. The nano-technological experiments and the advancements in the chemical industry will cheapen the production of allopathic medicines and will facilitate the clinical intervention at very low costs, which will undoubtedly widen the gap between first-rate medicine and second-rate, but this evidence will not suffice to provoke an awakening of the consciences. On the contrary, in spite of the poisoning and the mass addiction (products of allopathic medication), it will increase the effect of gratitude in the heart of voluntary servitude, facilitating (even more) the recuperation of all dissidence.
About the morbidity and mortality caused by alimentary deficiencies, and the fear of confinement that’s now being prescribed as a “sanitary measure”; the only thing I can underline is the immense responsibility that the excluded have in staying in the miserable conditions that are imposed on them by domination.
The marxian maxim that the anarcho-syndicalists and the anarcho-communists eagerly take up — sharing the same economicist vison — that “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves”, already clear since 1864, in the General Statutes of the International Workers Association, that the end of “servitude in all its forms, in all its social misery, intellectual degradation, and political dependence” necessarily passes through the self-emancipation of the workers. Keeping the appropriate distance with this workerist vision, without a doubt, the emancipatory resort can be extrapolated to the needs of the excluded.
Nevertheless, if we still dream with the self-emancipation of the excluded, it’s because we continue to be anchored to the utopian vision of 19th Century anarchism, and cling to the myth of “human progress” that the christian faith engenders in the unalterable march towards the final salvation, and/or the secular faith in that the future will always be better than the past and any present: feeding the myth of the great march of Humanity ever forward. Every day that passes, it becomes more axiomatic that Humanity does not march anywhere and that the mythical self-emancipation, in practice is reduced to the struggle for human survival; that’s to say, in a struggle against itself without beginning nor end.
Definitely, any initiative for so-called improvements in the conditions for the excluded, places us inexorably in the field of reforms and sugarcoated measures that feed the myth of human progress. That’s to say, it places us in the role of collaborator with the system of domination, working towards its reaffirmation and perpetuity.
C.I. Recently, you made reference to the advancement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Without a doubt, we’re facing an old enemy but recharged, formatted with the label of hyper-technological Capitalism, that, under the slogan of “information and development” is imposing a decadent life, dependent on technological use, of virtual tools, that facilitate surveillance and provoke the struggles to retreat to the computers, transforming the (real) permanent insurrection into a (virtual) confrontation in cyberspace. How do you consider that the anarchist insurrection should respond to this new imposition of the system? How can we position ourselves in this struggle? How do you think the new anarchist insurrection can expand in our days?
G.R. Before answering the three questions that you laid out, maybe it’s opportune to abandon some hypotheses that we took for granted and that, in our days, the bad smell of which warned us of their imminent expiration. In the first place, I consider that it’s fundamental to be aware that we’re not confronting an “old enemy but recharged” but instead a completely new one, that has had the capacity to implement an unprecedented system of domination. Once this is clear, we can disqualify from combat that “recharged anarchism” that pretended to erect itself as a subversive paradigm at the start of the century and continued to harbor hopes with regards to Revolution as a unitary-and-final event, that would end all human miseries.That “recharged” anarchism only shook off the dust it picked up along the way, lightly covering the stains of rust and the wear from erosion, with a patina (too watered down) that gave it certain a circumspect aspect, the ability to pose in the photo of the millennium; with the condition that the lens didn’t zoom in too much. In effect, that “recharged” anarchism could not stand up to a close inspection that would show its hundreds of scars, its decrepit dentures, and its anachronistic clothing.
In second place, it seems important to give context to this “decadent life” which you reference. Reflecting a bit, I’d dare to affirm that the decadence that the human animal has taken on as life, is not ultimately a product of the impositions of domination, but the other way around.That’s to say, the absolute submissiveness of the human animal — always willing to make and accept anything to ensure its survival, hanging from the cliff of handouts — was what lead to the domination of our days. Yet, parting from the premises of liberalism (and also of 19th Century anarchism), the idea of “human regeneration” was always fomented, taking for granted that Humanity had been corrupted throughout history by the State, Capital, and Church; attributing to these authoritarian and criminal institutions, the origin of all our woes. It’s not a mere coincidence that Mexican radicals, organized around the figure of Ricardo Flores Magón, named their official propaganda organ, Regeneration. Obviously, they bet on putting an end to “human degeneration” by suppressing those institutions that, without a doubt, are indisputable pillars of corruption and authority, but, that simplistic optic that identified the genetic residence of power and the origin of all subjugation and human degeneration in the so-called “Hydra of three heads”, left without explanation the undeniable presence of corruption and power throughout and across ALL human institutions, including the family and any other alternative institutions; which situates the core of the problem in the human animal.
While it’s true that classical anarchism always spilled ink and unleashed its subversive potency against school, the monastery, the army, the mad house, and the factory, pointing at these institutions as transmitters of the “principle of authority”; it naively considered that this principle could be subverted through actions, discourses and practices; being unable to detect the presence of power -be it institutionalized or not- in each human relationship, like a “strategy of domination”, in the Foucauldian sense. Nevertheless, in the heat of the Parisian spring of 1968, even with all of the important theoretical-practical contributions that were registered in the scope of that event, the same 19th century persuasion would be repeated with singular optimism. In spite of the strong criticisms foisted on the past, in practice, they gave continuity to the struggle assuming that the “strategy of domination” could also be reversible with actions, discourses and practices of opposition and resistance, assigning once again a destination point to History with the same rhetoric “inexorable evolution” and the “unstoppable progress” of Hegel, Marx and Kropotkin.That being said, I’ll try to answer these questions parting from my intuition, and we’ll have to take into account all the theoretical limitations that implies. In that line, I consider that the first question has an implicit answer. From the moment that we recognize that we’re facing “a new imposition”, we should consider new forms of responding. That’s to say, we’d have to think of new weapons, new forms of organization, new methodologies, new projects of struggles and, why not, new objectives. For that, it’s necessary to develop a new anarchic paradigm that, without renouncing our foundational elements, is capable of confronting the new enemy. To pretend that we can confront it with our old MP-28’s -as much as we polish off the rust and as much as we try to keep them greased up- that’s an illusion that invokes fleeing and or suicide.
With regards to how to position ourselves in this new struggle, it seems to me that it goes hand in hand with the previous considerations. I think that we will only be able to materialize an original and non-transferable position, reaffirming the theoretical-practical conceptions that constitute us as anarchists and strengthening our radical and unrelenting confrontation against each and every form and strategy of power, from a renewed vision of struggle, of institutions, of trends and practices of sociability and of domination as a whole; that’s to say, abandoning the old classist conceptions of history and of revolutionary change anchored in the theoretical understandings of the 19th and 20th centuries. For that, we’ll have to throw overboard -without regrets- all the notions, projects, organizations, and practices that belong to classical anarchism and therefore are excessively tied to a certain utopian millenarianism dressed up in scientism (and dialectic verbosity), that induces us to lay our hopes, or that of the coming generations, in the inexorable drive of history and the infallible march of Humanity towards “progress”.
Convinced that history doesn’t lead us anywhere predestined and that Humanity is a fiction, we’d have to accept then that the archaic image of Revolution, as a definitive assault on the heavens, is baseless in our days. But this assertion — that entails the renunciation of a past that is charged with heroism — doesn’t mean resignation at all, much less any abdication of fighting. Neither does it imply the exaltation of a sort of “anarchic pessimism” by all means innocuous. On the contrary, it enthusiastically affirms the development of a new form of struggle that is resoundingly destructive, in the face of the specific context in the terrain of the new domination that is being imposed on us and in the framework of permanent insurrection and the transgressive conquest of our present.
Tying to answer the third question, again I stand by the previous reflections. In this sense, I think that it’s possible to expand the new insurrectional anarchist breath, animating a set of practices that can only be inscribed in the potency of anti-authoritarian negativity; understood a dis-utopian negativity, that’s to say, far away from that negative utopianism that belongs to national-socialism and other political religions.Our task is to be the destruction of all that exists, persuaded that there’s no room for hope, emulating the nocturnal activity of termites. As I commented (in one of the first responses): demolishing, demolishing, and demolishing, while being aware that the insurrection is permanent. If we ever successfully devastate the current edifice of domination, we will have to set out to demolish the new structures of the nascent power, be it called “direct”, “alternative”, “popular,” or whatever.
C.I. How would you define Anarchy in one word? How would you describe it in one act? And how would you represent it in one action?
G.R. One word: negation. Conceived as the radical rejection of all that exists. One act: informality (everyone else is against it!). One action: liberation! Understood as a function of totality; that’s to say, what they call “the total reality”.
——————– (1) Baum, Lyman Frank, The Wonderful Wizard of OZ (1900), Editorial Mirlo, Madrid, 2020.