When the gods dance...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reflections on a Revolution

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 04:08 PM PST
Post image for Grillo’s Five Star Movement has defended the system

According to the Wu Ming collective, the electoral success of Grillo’s web-based Five Star Movement just covers up the vacuum of Italian social movements.

Editor’s note: In what amounts to a massive shock for the Italian and European elite, the anti-establishment Movimento Cinque Stelle led by populist comedian Beppe Grillo won nearly a quarter of all votes in this week’s Italian elections. In this article, the Bologna-based writers’ collective Wu Ming responds to the mainstream media’s interpretation of Grillo’s electoral success as a ‘radical repudiation of austerity’, and argues that Grillo is in fact instrumental in protecting the Italian status quo.

By the Wu Ming Collective. Translated from Italian by Tamara van der Putten.

Now that the Five Star Movement (M5S) has achieved its unprecedented success in the Italian elections, we believe it is no longer possible to avoid examining the political vacuum that Grillo and Casaleggio’s movement represents. The M5S fills the absence of radical movements in Italy. M5S occupies an empty space in the political system… in order to keep it empty.

Despite its radical appearance and its revolutionary rhetoric, we believe that in recent years the M5S has been an efficient defender of the current status quo, a force that has served as a ‘cap’ and has ultimately been used to stabilize the system. This statement is counter-intuitive and at a superficial glance it even sounds absurd, especially if one focuses exclusively on Italy. How can Grillo be a stabilizing factor? He who wants to ‘sweep away the old political system’? He who is commonly known to be the greatest factor in making Italy ungovernable?

Yet, we believe that Grillo has ensured the maintenance of the system, willingly or not.
Over the past three years, while several Mediterranean countries and the West have witnessed the unequivocal expansion of anti-austerity and anti-capitalist movements, nothing comparable has taken place in Italy. There have been some important struggles, but these only lasted a short while and remained confined within restricted territories. There have been small fires but no major spark ignited the prairie, as has occurred elsewhere. No indignados for us; no #Occupy, no ‘spring’ of any kind, no ‘Je lutte des classes’ against pension reforms.

We did not have a Tahrir Square, a Puerta del Sol, or a Syntagma Square. We have not fought the way others have fought — and in some cases are still fighting — elsewhere. Why is that?

There are several reasons for this, but today we will only hypothesize one of them. Perhaps it is not the main factor, but we believe it holds some relevance.

In Italy, a large share of the ‘indignation’ was intercepted and organized by Grillo and Casaleggio — two wealthy baby-boomers from the entertainment and marketing industries — who created a political franchise/company with its own copyrights and trademarks. Their ‘movement’ is strictly controlled and mobilized by a hierarchy that picks up and repeats claims and slogans of social movements, but actually blends it with apologies of ‘healthy’ capitalism and with a superficial discourse focusing on the honesty of the politician and the public administrator. Liberal and anti-liberal, centralist and federalist, libertarian and conservative proposals all co-exist to create a confusing program: a ‘one-size-fits-all’ program that is typical of any political ‘diversion’.

Think about it: the M5S separates the world between ‘us’ and ‘them’ in a completely different way from other radical movements mentioned above.

When #Occupy proposed the separation between the 1% and the 99%, it referred to the distribution of wealth, deeply reflecting the problem of social inequality: the 1% are the multi-millionaires. Had they known Grillo, the #Occupy supporters would have included him in there. In Italy, Grillo is part of the 1%.

When the Spanish protestors take up the cry of the Argentine cacerolazos, ‘Que se vayan todos!’, they do not simply refer to the ‘political caste’, nor do they aim to replace them. They are calling for self-organization and the autonomous re-organization of society. Let’s try to do as much as possible without them, create new alternatives in neighborhoods, workplaces and universities. None of their new forms resembles the technological, fetishistic compromises of Grillo’s movement, such as the petty rhetoric of the online ‘parliamentary elections’. Their practices are radical, they entail organizing communities in order to protect them, by physically preventing evictions and foreclosures, for instance.

The Spaniards would also include Grillo and Casaleggio among those who ‘have to go’. A movement led by a multi-millionaire and a PR consultant would be simply inconceivable. They would probably also include Pizzarotti – the same M5S representative who has led the austerity policies in Parma for a few months now, and who is belying his bombastic electoral promises, one after another.

A new phase begins, one in which ‘Grillismo’ is entering the Parliament, chosen as a last resort by millions of people who were understandably fed up with all the other political options. The only way to understand the phase that is just beginning is to understand the role of Grillo and Casaleggio in the political phase just ending. Many believe they acted as ‘arsonists’ of the system; we believe they were actually its ‘firefighters.’
Is it possible for a movement born as a diversion to become a radical force, addressing crucial problems and distinguishing ‘us’ from ‘them’ along legitimate fault lines? It could happen, but there are some prerequisites. There needs to be some Event, opening a rift or a crack (even better, cracks) inside that movement. In other words: the movement should free itself from Grillo’s grip. It has not happened so far, and is unlikely to happen in the future. It is not impossible, though. We, as always, support revolt. Even within the Five Star Movement.

Wu Ming (extended name: Wu Ming Foundation) is a pseudonym for a group of radical Italian authors formed in 2000 from a subset of the Luther Blissett community in Bologna.

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 02:50 PM PST
Post image for Stéphane Hessel, “father of indignados”, dies aged 95

French resistance hero, co-drafter of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and author of pamphlet that helped inspire a global youth uprising, dies.
Hope has always been one of the dominant forces of revolutions and insurrections, and I still retain hope as my design for the future.
Jean-Paul Sartre, in his last interview, three weeks prior to his death.
To create is to resist. To resist is to create. Those are the words with which French resistance hero and public intellectual Stéphane Hessel closed off his 2010 pamphlet, Indignez-Vous. The 32-page booklet went on to sell 4.5 million copies in 35 countries and, a year later, helped to inspire a global youth uprising, as protesters throughout world — from the Spanish indignados and the Greek aganaktismenoi on to the occupiers at Wall Street and beyond — took up his call for a “peaceful insurrection” against the inequities of global capitalism.
Writing at the noble age of 92, Hessel urged today’s youth to resist the injustices of our globalized world — the growing gap between the rich and poor, the subversion of democracy by powerful corporations, the global ecological crisis, the systematic mistreatment of immigrants, the Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people — with the same outrage and ferocity with which his generation fought Nazi tyranny. “The reasons for outrage today may be less clear than during Nazi times,” he wrote. “But look around and you will find them.”
Stéphane Hessel lived a remarkable life in more ways than one. A Jewish-born resistance fighter who was apprehended and tortured by the Gestapo and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, he not only survived the Holocaust by escaping imprisonment after swapping identity with a deceased friend, but also went on to become an influential French diplomat who would help draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Throughout his professional life, he remained fiercely critical of French and Israeli government policy.
Despite this — and unlike the young generation that took up his call for resistance — Hessel retained a firm commitment to liberal democracy, supporting François Hollande’s bid for the French presidency last year. Perhaps as a refusal to let go of the institutions which he risked his life defending, Hessel even expressed his skepticism about the indignados‘ unwillingness to get engaged in electoral politics in Spain, possibly mistaking their rejection of representative institutions for political apathy.

“Indifference,” wrote Hessel, “is the worst of attitudes.” Only through constant critical engagement with the social, economic, political and ecological injustices occurring around us can we start to alleviate some of the suffering experienced by our fellow human beings. In Indignez-Vous, Hessel deliberately refused to propose a concrete program for change, nor a detailed vision of an alternative world order. Rather, he saw within the act of resistance the seedlings of the creation of a better world. For Hessel, it all starts with a sense of outrage.
«Le motif de la résistance,» he wrote in his pamphlet, «c’est l’indignation.» Therefore, “we, veterans of the Resistance movements and the Free French Forces, we call upon the younger generations to revive, to pass on, the heritage of the Resistance and its ideas. We tell them: take over, indignez-vous! Get angry! Our political, economic and intellectual leaders and society as a whole should not stand down, nor let themselves be impressed by the present international dictatorship of the financial markets, which is threatening our peace and democracy.”

Hessel died on Tuesday at the age of 95. And while he died indignant at the state of the world in which he lived, he carried with him into his grave an immense dignity that could serve as a shining example to all of us involved in the struggle. “I am eagerly awaiting the taste of death,” he told RTL in an interview back in 2011. “Death is something to savor, and I hope to savor mine. In the meantime, given that it has not yet happened and that I’m generally getting around normally, I’m using the time to throw out some messages.”

Hessel may not have lived to see the full fruit of his life’s work, and his faith in liberal democracy may not be shared by those inspired by his call-to-action, but at least he got to experience the early stirrings of the global resistance that he so championed. It is through the legacy of those who chose to struggle that the fruits of resistance will one day ripen. May our comrade savor death like he savored the sweet taste of resistance and triumph in the face of the greatest evil the world has ever seen. A hero has died. Millions more will rise.
« Créer, c’est résister. Résister, c’est créer. »
To create is to resist. To resist is to create.

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