Focusing In

by The Invisible Committee, 2009.
Translated from the original French, Mise Au Point

Everyone’s in agreement. It’s gonna blow. In the Assembly halls, like yesterday in the cafe, we’ve come to the conclusion together, gravely or gallantly. We took pleasure in calculating the risks. Already we’re figuring out in detail the preventive operations we can carry out to divide up the national territory. The new year festivities have taken a decisive turn here. “This is the last year we’ll have oysters!” To keep the big bash from being totally eclipsed by the traditional disorder, they needed 36000 cops and 16 helicopters, dispatched by Alliot-Marie, who tremblingly scanned everywhere during the high-schoolers’ demos in December for the slightest sign of contamination by the Greeks. Underneath all the reassuring commentary, we’re hearing ever more clearly the noise made by preparations for open war. No one can be unaware anymore of its clearly declared, cold, pragmatic beginnings, which are no longer even trying to present themselves as a pacification operation.

The journals conscientiously list off the causes of this sudden disquiet. There’s the crisis, of course, with its explosive unemployment levels, its fate of hopelessness and social planning, its Kerviel and Madoff scandals. Then there’s the bankruptcy of the school system, which can no longer manage to produce workers or even just calibrate the citizenry; not even when working on middle class kids. There’s the malaise, one might say, of a youth that no political representation can correspond to, only good for being sold a thousand cars to ram into people with instead of getting the free bikes we’d like to give away to them.

All these disturbing subjects should however not appear insurmountable in this era where the dominant mode of government consists precisely in the management of crisis situations. Unless you consider that what power is confronting here is not really just another crisis, nor just a succession of chronic problems and more or less unexpected malfunctions. Indeed, it is rather a singular peril: that a form of conflict is coming about, and positions being taken up, that are no longer manageable.


Those people that everywhere are that peril, have to start asking themselves some questions, questions less pointless than those of the causes, than those involving the probabilities for movements and confrontations that indeed will take place one way or another. Whence the following text. How will the Greek chaos resonate in the French situation? An uprising here couldn’t be thought of as a simple transposing of what’s happened down there. The global civil war still has its local specificities, and a situation of generalized rioting would set off a different grade of explosion were it to happen in France.

The Greek rioters were dealing with a weak State, while having a high degree of popularity going for them too. We must not forget that it was against the regime of the colonels that democracy was rebuilt there, only 30 years ago, through the practice of political violence. That violence, the memory of which is not so far gone, still seems to be obvious for the majority of the Greek people. Even the local socialist party big shots there used to play with molotov cocktails in their youth. On the other hand, classic politics has variants that are perfectly capable of accommodating these practices and propagating their ideological stupidities to the point of rioting too. But the battle of Greece didn’t get decided and finished off in the streets – though the police were visibly outflanked there – its neutralization was played out elsewhere. Nothing’s more exhausting, and nothing is in effect more fatal, than this classic politics, with its dried up rituals, its unthinking thought, and its closed little world.

Here in France, the most exalted of our socialist bureaucrats were never really anything but austere debate-filibusterers, responsible little wet-blankets. Here, rather, all things compete to annihilate the slightest bit of political intensity. That allows them to still go on counterposing the citizen and the window-smasher. And to go on dipping into their endless well of artificial opposites: road-users versus strikers, strike-breakers versus hostage-takers, upright citizens versus rascals. An almost linguistic operation, this, which goes hand in hand with quasi-military measures. The riots of November 2005 and, in a different context, the social movements of Autumn 2007 have given a few examples of the procedure. The image of the allied students of Nanterre, applauding the expulsion of their fellow students by the cops with cries of “Go, boys in blue, go!” only gives a slight glimpse of what the future holds in store for us.

It goes without saying that the French people’s attachment to the State – guarantor of universal values, last hold-out against disaster – is pathological and that it’s going to be complicated to rid ourselves of it. Above all it’s a fiction that can’t last any longer. Our governing class itself thinks of it as a useless encumbrance more and more each day, since they at least have taken up the conflict militarily. They’ve lost all their complexes about just sending anti-terrorist units out to get the suburban rioters in line, or to liberate a sorting center that’s been taken over by its wage slaves. To the extent that the Welfare State is cracking, the raw confrontation between those who desire Order and those who don’t want any more of it is seeing the light of day. Everything that French politics had managed to keep deactivated is now getting set off. It will never recover from what it’s repressed. And we can count on the coming movement to find the nihilist spirit necessary in the advanced state of decomposition society’s in. And it won’t fail to bring it to a whole new level.

A revolutionary movement doesn’t spread by contamination, but by resonance. Something that builds up in one place resounds with the shock-wave emitted by something that builds up in another. The resounding body resounds in its own way. An insurrection is not like the spread of a plague or a forest fire – a linear process spreading out from nearby place to nearby place, starting from an initial spark. Rather it is something that takes form like music, and its burning hearths manage to impose the rhythm of their own vibration, even if dispersed through time and space. And to grow ever more vast. To the point where a return to normalcy is no longer desirable, or even conceivable.

When we talk about Empire, we’re talking about the devices of power that preventively and surgically hold captive all the revolutionary possibilities of a situation. In that sense, Empire is not a particular enemy, facing us. Rather it is a rhythm that imposes itself, a way to make reality proceed normally and drain out. It is thus less a new world order and more its sad, plodding, and militaristic draining away.

What we hear from the insurgents is the sketching out of a completely different composition, a completely different piece of the real, seeking out its harmonies, from Greece to the French suburbs.


It is now common knowledge that crisis situations are just so many chances for domination to restructure itself. And so Sarkozy can announce that the financial crisis corresponds to the “end of a world,” and that the year 2009 will see France entering a new era, without looking too much like a liar. This fraud of an economic crisis would really be a novelty then. The occasion for a beautiful storytelling hour where we all get together and fight inequality while simultaneously combatting global warming. All this, you must admit, is a little hard for our generation to accept, since we were born in crisis and have only ever known crisis – economic, financial, social, ecological. They won’t pull the same crisis trick on us again with their “we’ll have to start from scratch” and “we’ll just have to tighten our belts for a while.” To tell the truth, when we hear the disastrous unemployment statistics it doesn’t really provoke any emotional reaction at all from us. Crisis is a way of governing people. When this world seems only able to hold itself together anymore by infinitely managing its own crushing defeat. They’d like to see us get behind the State, get mobilized, motivated, get in solidarity with an improbable makeshift patch-up of society. It’s just that we’re so totally disgusted by the idea of joining up with that mobilization that we just might end up deciding instead to finally put an end to capitalism itself.

What is at war here is not just a couple of the many-varied ways of managing society. Instead, irreducibly and irreconcilably at war here are different ideas of happiness and their worlds. Power knows that, and so do we. The militant remnants that see us – ever more numerous, ever less identifiable – are pulling out their hair trying to get us to fit ourselves back into the little boxes they’ve set out in their little heads. And still they stretch out their arms to us, all the better to throttle us with; with their defeats, their paralysis, their weak uncertainties. From elections to “transition periods,” they’ll never be anything but precisely that which distances us more and more from the possibility of communism. Luckily, no one’s going to be putting up with any betrayals or deceptions for much longer.

The past has given us far too many wrong answers for us not to know now that it was the questions themselves that were wrong.

So we won’t have to CHOOSE:

The fetishism of spontaneity OR Control by the Organization
The DIY of militant networks OR The billy-clubs of hierarchy
Acting out of desperation right now OR Acting out of desperation later
putting into parentheses what must be lived and experienced here and now in the name of a paradise that as it moves further and further away into perspective seems more and more to resemble a hell OR chewing on the old corpses, convinced that planting carrots might be enough to get us out of this nightmare.

Too many choices.

Organizations are an obstacle in the way of the act of organizing.
In fact, there is no gap between what we are, what we do, and what we’re becoming. Organizations – whether political or union, fascist or anarchist – always start off by making practical separations between these aspects of existence. Then they go on having a good time playing at showing off their stupid formalism as the only possible remedy for that separation. To organize doesn’t mean to give structure to powerlessness. It is above all to form solid bonds, bonds that aren’t neutral, but indeed have a specific direction, terribly so. The degree of organization is measured by the intensity of their shared nature, both material and spiritual.

So, already, “organize materially to subsist, organize materially to attack.” Everywhere a new idea of communism is being elaborated. In the shadows of the bars, in the print-shops, in squats, stairwells, farms or sports gyms, offensive complicities can be born; complicities wherein the world suddenly takes a turn for the more urgent. These valuable connivances must not be denied the means they require for the deployment of all their strength.

And therein lies the truly revolutionary possibility of our era. The ever more frequent skirmishes are formidable because every time they take place they’re the occasion for complicities of this sort, sometimes ephemeral, but sometimes just as steadfast as can be. There will surely be a kind of process of accumulation going on there. When thousands of young people hold in their hearts the urge to desert and sabotage this world, you’d have to be as stupid as a cop to go looking around for a financing cell, or a leader, or a careless mistake.


Two centuries of capitalism and commodity nihilism have ended up giving rise to the most extreme foreignness, to being foreign to yourself, to others, to the many worlds there are in this one. The individual, that old fiction, was decomposing at the same speed it was becoming real at. Children of the metropolis, we are placing our bet: that it is from the most profound dispossession of existence itself that the always silenced, always warded-off possibility of communism arises.
Definitively, what we’re at war with here is anthropology itself. With the idea itself of “Man.”
Communism, then, as presupposition and as experimentation. The sharing of a certain sensibility, and the elaboration of that sharing. The evidence of what is common, and the construction of a force. Communism as the womb, of a meticulous, audacious assault against domination. As a call and as a name, from all the worlds that are resisting imperial pacification, from all the solidarity that can’t be broken up by the reign of the commodity, from all the friendships that come to terms with the necessities of the war. COMMUNISM. We know that it’s a term that must be used with care. Not because in the great parade of words it’s not in fashion anymore. But rather because the worst of our enemies have worn it out, and continue to do so. Nonetheless, we insist. Certain words are like fields of battle, the meaning of which is part and parcel of a kind of victory, whether revolutionary or reactionary, and is necessarily torn from acute struggle.

To desert classical politics means to come to terms with the war that is going on, and is going on in the world of language as well. Or rather in the way that words, gestures, and life are tied together indissolubly. They went through a big effort to imprison a few young communist farmers who participated in the publication of The Coming Insurrection, sure, but it wasn’t because of their “thought crime,” but rather because they threatened to incarnate a way of holding together thought and action in the same existence. And that’s generally treated as unforgivable.

What these people are accused of is not their having written something, nor is it even their having materially attacked the sacrosanct flows that irrigate the metropolis. It is their having attacked those flows with all the depth of their thinking and political position. That an act was able to make sense according to another coherent concept of the world, differing from the deserted one the Empire has. Anti-terrorism claimed that it was attacking the possible formation of an “association of evildoers.” But what they were really attacking was the formation, the becoming, of the overall situation itself. The possibility that behind every grocer’s eyes some bad intentions are hidden, that behind every thought is hidden the acts that it calls up. The possibility that an idea of politics, anonymous but easily joined, disseminated everywhere and uncontrollable, that can no longer be hidden away in the little back-rooms of freedom of speech.

There’s hardly any doubt anymore that the youth, first, will savagely take power. Over the last few years, from the riots of spring 2001 in Algeria to the riots of winter 2008 in Greece, were only a succession of warnings about that. Those who thirty or forty years ago revolted against their parents’ morality won’t fail to reduce that to a new generational conflict, if not just another predictable adolescent phase.

The only future for a given “generation” is to become the prior one, following down a road that invariably leads to the cemetery.


The tradition is that everything begins with a “social movement.” Above all at the moment when the left, which is no longer just tidying up its own decomposition, is now sanctimoniously trying to remake some street credibility for itself. But it no longer has the monopoly in the streets. Just look at how during every new high-schoolers’ demonstration — like with everything else they still dare to support — there’s a massive gap that never ceases widening between their whiny demands and the movement’s level of violence and determinedness.

We have to turn that gap into a barricaded trench.

If we are still seeing “social movements” following one after another, chasing after eachother, and visibly leaving nothing behind, we’re going to have to admit that something still persists in them. A little trail of powder ties together what at every happening doesn’t allow itself to be regulated by the absurd timing imposed by the regular withdrawal of some law or right, or any other pretext. In fits and starts, and at its own rhythm, we’re seeing something like a new force taking shape. A force that won’t just wait for its time to come, but will impose it, silently.

There’s no longer any time for anticipating collapses or demonstrating their joyous possibilities. Whether they come sooner or later, we’ve got to get prepared. No one’s got to draw up plans for what will have to be an insurrection, but to bring the possibility of an uprising back to being what it never should have stopped being: the vital enthusiasm of youth, as much as popular wisdom. As long as we know how to move within it all, the absence of a general plan is not an obstacle so much as an opportunity. For insurgents it is the only space which can guarantee the essential thing: keeping the initiative. We’ve just got to incite and maintain – like one maintains a fire – a certain way of looking at it all, a certain tactical feverishness, that when the moment comes, right now even, shows itself to be a decisive and constant source of determination. Already certain questions that yesterday might have looked grotesque or obsolete are resurgent; we’ve just got to take them on, not to give them their definitive answer, but to make them live. Having asked those questions once again is not the least of the virtues of the Greek uprising:

How can a generalized riot situation become an insurrectionary situation? What is to be done once the street’s been taken over and the police have been durably defeated there? Are parliaments still worth an assault? What does it mean, practically speaking, to depose power locally? How do we make decisions? How do we subsist? HOW CAN WE FIND OURSELVES?

Paris, January 22nd, 2009.