The New Insurrectional Thinking

Put on sale in March 2007 by the publishing house La Fabrique and with over 27,000 copies already sold, "L’insurrection qui vient" ["The Coming Insurrection"] (7 Euros), authored by the mysterious "Invisible Committee," is poised to become a real best seller. Its popularity also owes much to the active complicity of the government which has taken this invitation to "block everything" and to "form communes" by a possible "take-up of arms" quite seriously.

Considered by the police as a piece of evidence against the alleged saboteurs of the TGV overhead wires, "L’insurrection qui vient" is much more than a manual for juvenile civil disobedience. Far from the snow job by poseurs that some commentators have depicted, the work takes the form of a simultaneously dangerous and coherent synopsis of the decay of an empty era. For many readers, this little green book seems to be the insurrectional manifesto, the revolutionary breviary of certain disillusioned youth.


This "imaginary collective" considers that a specter haunts the French Republic: that of the November 2005 riots, the fires of which "continue to throw their shadow over all consciousness, over everyone’s conscience." But the "unheard-of" aspect of those events does not reside in the confrontation between the center and the periphery, the City and the suburbs, the police and neighborhood youth.


The novelty, the authors assert, consists in the total absence of message, leader or demand on the part of the insurgents. Thus have the suburban rioters, according to the authors, set the tone for any new guerilla action. Since "the present has no exit," it’s useless to seek empty social compromises. Since the catastrophe "has already taken place," it’s impossible to further an ecumenical ecology that supplies capitalism with its most perfect ideological legitimization. Since everything must be made spectacle, traceable, legible, one might as well become "invisible."


This strategic upheaval is a political turning point. Most alternative movements have sought to attract the attention of newspapers, even though that risked their transformation by the media into official trouble-makers. So it’s not only against all union and militant bureaucracies, but also against all coordinated movements that "reproduce so many governments in miniature," that the "Invisible Committee" pits its anonymity, its permanent dissolution. This fraction that assumes the form of a little army of shadows takes aim at all the glories of subsidized subversion and other TV children with out-sized egos: "Seeing the maws of those who are somebody in this society may help you to understand the joy of being nobody in it." Thus, to be "socially nothing" paradoxically constitutes "the condition for maximum freedom of action."


The sudden media coverage of Julien Coupat, whom the police and the prosecutors’ office consider the alleged ringleader of this "imaginary collective" and sometimes stage as a replica of Guy Debord (1931-1994), founder of the Situationist Internationale, will undoubtedly alter the group’s strategy. Nonetheless, the surfacing of the cutting edge of Julien Coupat’s radical remarks – Coupat, who along with his friends has been subjected to a legal-police relentlessness – dispatches a certain kind of leftism to its obsolescence. Thus, in the eyes of Julien Coupat, "the extreme left à la Besancenot" offers nothing but "Soviet grayness barely retouched by Photoshop" (in May 26′s Le Monde). As though suddenly Trotsky’s made-over children, Che nostalgics, Fidel Castro aficionados were sent back to their not-only-authoritarian, but also counter-revolutionary, references.


What returns with "L’insurrection qui vient," a corrosive essay for which Eric Hazan, director of publisher La Fabrique, has been abusively interrogated, is a social criticism that until now had been reduced to its cultural dimension. People frequently remember a single image only from Guy Debord, one of the "Invisible Committee’s" main sources of inspiration: that of the gang leader who becomes a master in the art of misappropriating American comics intended to feed the results of contemporary art galleries. So they forget that the author of "La Société du spectacle" ["Society of the Spectacle"] (1967) bet among other things on the advent of new workers’ councils, along the lines of those in Barcelona in 1936-1937 or Budapest in 1956.


The movement Julien Coupat has emerged from – in spite of all the efforts to erase the trails of that heritage – from the anti-industrial criticism of Jaime Semprun, founder of the publisher, Encyclopédie des nuisances, to writer Annie Le Brun’s critique of techie rationality – applies itself to conducting a radical and coherent critique of the present. If this "Invisible Committee" was seeking to renew the voluntary opacity, theoretical preciousness, rhetoric of excess and apology for violent action that were especially present in the first issues of the review Tiqqun (see Le Monde’s June 28-29 edition), which was one of its branches, then it would risk adding to the general disorientation.


But perhaps that wouldn’t entirely displease this little party of subversive defection.




Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.

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