Everything Is True And Nothing Is Permitted!
The Terror Network
Today’s publicity machine is gorged on its own falsehoods. Like a drunken
gambler, each successful distortion and spectacular event only spurs it
to greater absurdity. Beginning in the last summers of the 90’s, the media
showed us some large explosions with only the barest rational explanation
and with numerous people dying in them. The 747 that exploded over the
Atlantic in the summer of 96 was only the start of this drama. The bombing
of the American embassies in Africa a murderous preamble. You could almost
draw a line of increasing provocation from the Waco massacre to the bombing
of Kosova. And undeclared war on Iraq still continues.
These spectacles are ironically intended to show that this world does
not intend to change. “Terrorists today do not have to announce their aims
or even their existence to achieve their goals” babbles one illustrious
expert quoted in all the papers. “How do you fight a terrorist who has
no demands?” responds last year’s movie poster. Obviously whoever is producing
the various explosions must feel well served by the publicity machine since
they have not issued any correction to the media’s story.
This terrorism is at the vanguard of the unexplainable and unmentionable.
Whenever there has been a stop to the explosions, it has only been to focus
attention on equally absurd trials around accused bombers. But the trial
of Timothy McVeigh and the Lockerbie bombing trial somehow neither showed
the logistical support nor the larger motives for whatever horror was on
The most advanced tendencies of this society are writ large in this
terrorism – especially the advanced state of decay of human relations.
We can see how the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building and the American
Embassies in Africa shared tremendous structural similarities. In Nairobi,
Kenya, massive numbers of bystanders were butchered without a single serious
US government decision-maker being touched and it is worth noting that
one of the confessed Kenya bombers is a former Marine sergeant now has
taken partial credit. In Oklahoma, all ATF officials were absent on the
day of the bombing. And the retaliation attack after the African bombing
was rehearsal for the further punishment bombing against Iraq and Serbia.
All official explanations of the current terror system trail off into
indecipherable fine-print. If a supposed terrorist is caught, as in the
Oklahoma City bombing, their trial is first postponed into the dim and
unmentionable future and is then based on off-hand comments made to neighbors.
Their execution seals all further information available on the subject.
And naturally, having some idea of its own final direction, one imagines
that this system instinctively projects the urge to absolute, irrational
destruction onto its opponents. Thus the definition of terrorism today
is elastic enough to allow the window breaking of “Eugene Anarchists” to
qualify while excluding the murderous rampages of the LAPD Rampart Division.
Dictators and “freedom fighters” are conjured into the public spot-light
one month only to vanish within another couple months. The thugs of the
Kosovo Liberation Front being only the latest in a series of “good guys”
who are naturally interchangeable with the “bad guys” of other such gangs.
If reality today is different from Wag The Dog, it is primarily in
terms of things being more boring and incompetent. Each ruler has so much
in common with each other ruler that elaborate stunts aren’t necessary
except against the peasants. Hollywood tricks are unnecessary because Washington
has always been Hollywood anyway.
Like any of the big lies of capitalism, the absurdity of exploding
buildings and airplanes, of wars appearing and disappearing out of nowhere,
serves to justify the absurdity of the entire enterprise of this life.
This world wants to be judged not on its qualities but on its enemies (to
paraphrase Guy Debord). The system of the big lie is the model for any
large industrial project today (see “The Realm Of Quality”).
The fake wars – the war on drugs, on AIDS, on crime, on terrorism –
these wars reinforce the true wars that happen from time to time, in Kosovo,
Iraq, or some other concealed location.
American terrorism follows the same recipe as the terrorism secretly
organized by the French or Italian states. The only addition of the American
state has been to locate the nexus of terrorist aspirations within some
ill-specified Middle-Eastern nation – but recently even this has changed.
In “Operation Gladio”, a program whose existence was publicly admitted
by the Italian state a few years ago, the Italian secret services, with
NATO and the CIA organized “left-wing and right-wing terrorism” to distract
awareness from growing social unrest centered in series of wildcat strikes.
By casting any dissent as utterly barbaric, France and Italy achieved
an otherwise unattainable nirvana of cooperation from the population. Now
it is natural that the level of cooperation will now used to sell anything
– terrorist threat breakfast cereal.
Any objection to the terror which justifies the organization of things
today has retreated into the substratum of the unmentionable. This
is the same place where our awareness of the poverty of life lies today.
The misery of daily life has the same hidden quality as a sexual taboo.
The Spectacles’ Fragile Perfection
From where does today’s terrorism flow? Terrorism is an integral product
of this world’s fragile perfection. What does a “faceless terrorist,” an
efficient manager of a far Eastern Internet startup, the Congo’s utterly
corrupt Mobutu or a touchy-feely leader of a12- step program have in common?
They each fully take part in the senseless sensibility and sensible
senselessness that is the modern order. Mobuto organized the corrupt, senseless
pillaging of an entire country for the immediate goal of money. A more
modern manager makes money more sensibly but sees that money vanish within
the higher senselessness of international currency and stock speculation.
Certainly, every manager today agrees that the stock market must be maintained.
Beyond this, every manager today takes an active part in the free-market
of lies. The glory and purpose of this market is to assure that each lie
supports both the stock market and every other lie.
All institutions come closer to merging into generic bureaucracy. Today
the Bush administration uses “PC” race quotas to fill cabinet posts while
promising further ruthless attacks on the poor.
These generic bureaucrats flow in the stream of images that we are
calling the spectacle. They each turn the wheel of publicity with a reasonable
faith that the whole ball of lies will turn around and give them profits
on each of their turfs.
The unity of the spectacle and the world market occurs at the point
of circulation. Each moment where life is falsified by someone selling
their life to buy back their survival is a moment that is turned to the
advantage of today’s rulers. Today’s advertising often boils down to the
question “would you rather die of boredom or starvation?”. The giant and
deadly lies of today – terrorism, the drug-war, AIDS, and national
liberation – all rest on a series of seemingly harmless falsifications.
Each moment that taste is controlled by advertising, thought is moved by
mediocrity, and each moment a bored person toils to bring Diamond Jim profits,
is a moment where a person’s intentions are turned against them.
For the owners, the quite-reasonable principle is that once people
accept an over-all absurd organization of life, they will just as easily
accept the absurd scams sold by each particular entrepreneur. And vice-versa.
One of the principles of Norbert Wiener’s old cybernetics is that every
chunk of information is equal to every other chunk of information.
While nearly forgotten within the modern babble of “computer science,”
this principle is more and more put into practice by the operation of the
Within spectacular circulation, any piece of official nonsense has
the same legitimacy as any other words produced by experts. Moreover, the
primary activity of the vast mass of generic bureaucrats is the simple
rewriting and fusion of existing documents into further new documents having
neither more interest nor more information. College textbooks recycle news
stories which recycle scientists press conferences and government press
releases. News article cobble together corporate press releases written
by scientists paid to make the companies look good. Experiments based on
twins share equal space in Time with the empty homilies of Dear Abby clones.
In one particular absurd incident, former US Cabinet official Pierre
Salinger certainly looked silly for having picked-up an Internet document
of uncertain origin and then claimed that it proved the downing of flight
800 was a US military conspiracy. But what does it really mean that Pierre
Salinger’s “secret document” had been on the Internet for months? Only
that NBC feeds more selectively from the trough of press releases than
do Internet sources.
The rise of the Internet thus has only automated the existing spectacular
packet-switching system. The net allows the automatic flow of a mishmash
of rumor, observation, statistics, innuendo, and half-truth. This reduces
the money paid to scientists, journalists and government workers for producing
But the Internet is not necessarily the most sophisticated version
of spectacular “spin-doctoring.” The old media forms are quite happy to
look more reasonable by denouncing this less sophisticated form of rehashing
Provocation And Crisis
Crisis as a permanent institution was well illustrated when the four-year
long stage-managed Starr investigation – then known as the “Whitewater
Crisis” – itself had a crisis. A few years before the end, Kenneth
Starr actually got tired of the job and announced his retirement to a comfy
college presidency. But enough pressure was then exerted on Starr to allow
this institution to weather its own temporary crisis and go on to its seamy,
Managed crisis is the alchemy that this entire system is set on brewing
today. It is a two-edged sword that is wielded more and more often. The
basic rule is “crisis control always becomes normal control.” Indeed, this
is the most reliable motor of change today.
Crisis is critical for today’s system of apolitical politics. When
all activities are organized around the current panic, any talk of the
larger situation must be abandoned. In America only snatches of right-wing
rhetoric survive to constitute America’s “political dialogue”.
For example, whether the Afghan groups currently blamed for the bombings
of the US Embassies in Africa are now rogue or merely seem rogue, is irrelevant
for the general circulation of panic and control. These armed groups were
initially setup by the CIA in its effort to attack Russian influence in
Afghanistan. While this information was openly stated in the US press at
that time, through the spectacle’s mix-master memory, such information
can now be treated as dubious and subversive.
The paradigm of terror has taught today’s managers the secret of being
“proactive.” It is not merely the broadcast media that has become a “seamless
stream of images.” Real events merge into the theater of crisis which is
also the theater of total submission to inscrutable necessity – this is
the “propaganda by the deed” of the forces of order.
Terrorists are one of the natural carriers of pure crisis. Like Nazis
and child molesters, they constitute a reason to abandon all reason – a
hot button that must be pressed at an ever quickening pace.
And the terrorist cell itself is the distillation of panic, irrationalism
and sexual repression. So the evolution of terrorism from Marxist-Leninist
to Christian and Moslem merely follows the general movement of the managed
repression of urges.
Just as terrorist tactics are the ideal justification of state power,
the terrorist cell is the ideal method of generic state organization. The
terrorist cell can be infiltrated much more easily than it can be smashed.
So police have naturally learned the methods of utilizing the action demanded
by a group for their own purposes.
The terrorist cell moreover is the most modern addition to bureaucratic
society. Terrorism is more than just a product of the bureaucracy. It is
an ideal form of the most advanced bureaucracy.
The state wishes to impart the Frankensteinian autonomy of the terrorist
cell to all of its parts. The “Year 2000 problem” was treated as a world-wide
fire drill, demonstrating capitalism’s preparations for any hypothetical
collapse. In the US, each institution is expected to achieve some short
term autonomy, demonstrating capitalism’s superior preparation for abstract
crisis (still, this doesn’t prove capital’s ability to confront a mobilized
And so what exactly do we mean by bureaucracy? Schools, offices, factories,
courts and prisons are today more and more interchangeable social factories
– different variations on the human machine. Max Weber documented the progression
of bureaucracy as the automation of authority. All those qualities of authority
which might have been invested in either tradition or individual personalities
can be invested in the possessor of the role of boss, manager and so-on.
The cloth of authority makes the man.
Bureaucracy itself is the natural corollary of wage labor. The buying
and selling of human labor power implies that a society’s rulers must have
the means to process people like cogs and process people into cogs.
Just as much as this society is fully capitalist, it is fully bureaucratic.
Everyday, we see instances where just the sweep of a pen gives someone
qualities of power and desirability that people none the less think of
Everything is for sale and those in power are interchangeable bureaucrats.
The bureaucrat’s power comes from the entire power machine rather than
any extraordinary ability they might have. Movie stars claims of unique
personalities or powerful presence are so many publicity stunts and well
Bureaucracy is certainly an old story (and has been for at least a
hundred years). But all of the dispersed resistance to modern life has
served as proof that bureaucracy by itself has neither been able to stop
rebellion nor fully control its crises. From the sixties to the nineties
longer or shorter explosions of spontaneous mass power have wracked this
As a leftist outfit operating in the harshest possible condition, the Peruvian
Maoist group “Sendero Luminoso” had to discover new methods of organizing
what is essentially progressive capitalism against the massively corrupt
forces of backward Peruvian Latifundian capitalism.
The drug trade has provided a large enough base of semi-prosperous
peasants for Sendero (which itself, per se, does not deal drugs). Faced
with the Peruvian and American states working in concert with the drug
“selling” cartels, Sendero has protected the capitalist economic interests
of the drug growing peasants through innovative “parallel” forms of organization.
At it’s height, Sendero controlled a sizeable portion of the Peruvian
countryside on both a village-by-village basis and in their own armed camps.
When Sendero took control of a village, they created two things. One thing
was a visible government apparatus – a mayor, vice-mayor, village council,
etc. The other thing was a secret committee which directed the actions
of everyone in the open government – few in the village were allowed to
know the identity of this committee, but its decisions were backed by the
threat of other Sendero forces in camps in the hills.
This parallel system made it hard for government forces from Lima to
root-out Sendero control from villages. This system is also an ideal, simplified
picture of the most modern form of bureaucracy, which could well be called
Classical bureaucracy is based on a strict hierarchy. Postmodern bureaucracy
is based on small teams from above organizing appearances and terrorizing
the standard order. But this swirl is generated to increase production
and decrease dissent. Order and chaos flow into each other for the benefit
of order. The elite further fortify themselves by using invisible agents
as catalysts for those changes they desire. At the same time, survival
is no longer guaranteed nor is the meaning of any order certain. The reformers,
the intelligence services, the media, and the outside investors each appear
suddenly to provide a sudden extra meaning to something that previously
Spectacular diseases, energy shortages, social welfare cuts, sudden
wars, depressions or company takeovers are described as if they are acts
of nature. Naturally, while many of these involve capitalism’s absurd production
system, capital also amplifies a general chaos within people’s efforts
to order their lives.
To give one rough example, the original meaning of the Social Security
fund was that it would be safe. This original safety meant the government
had the obligation to make the fund safe. But now safety means Social Security
having enough for everyone in fifty years. So this means that this fund
must be gambled on the stock market to earn enough for everyone. But, of
course this whole line of reasoning is simply a shell game around various
funds controlled by the government.
But this “multiplicity of meanings” only demands a greater conservatism.
Each worker is coached to serve many masters. Each of us is expected to
hold many jobs and plan and pay now for all future stages in our submission
to the order of exchange. TV news tells college or high school students
to consider themselves already workers, home owners, parents, retirees
and invalids. Each point of escape is sealed off. Pay now for career training,
health insurance, auto insurance and retirement and burial costs – soon
it will be required (but this insurance still won’t guarantee protection
Reform is constant now that no part of the system can be questioned
(“The good news is that you can find out about electrical rate reform here!”).
The form of the postmodern bureaucracy is the vacant center. When a real
power is willing to manipulate the direction of panic, incompetence, and
ignorance, this power must remain obscure. Not only does power today remain
hidden, its immediate agenda remains just as much hidden.
The modern corporation is a fusion of the corporation of the 50’s and
the Manson family. The “cults” of the 70’s and beyond were an expression
of the moment when the liberated fragments of human existence could be
resold back to the highest bidder.
A fragmented self – a total commitment to lies, to absurdity or to
cruelty – is the most valuable quality of a manager today. The highest
points the spectacle engenders are moments when it engenders a passionate
commitment to an acronym, a product or a TV show.
The movement of life into the obscurity of bureaucratic speech is an
expression of the capitalization of confusion and schizophrenia. The marketing
of fragments of human existence is a natural conclusion to the marketing
of everything needed to live.
The flip side of this is that human existence is always at play in
all of these possibilities. The Internet is full of the strange schemes
of uprooted individuals. These schemes have the same ambiguous quality
of weapon or illusion that every contested arena has today.
The Eyes of Mordor
In Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings, the Dark Lord possesses unassailable power
but can only direct that power to the point which attracts his attention.
Power today approaches this level of fragile omnipotence.
The success of a hacker like Kevin Poulsen or Kevin Mitnick is based
on the absolute apathy that permeates all levels of this society. Mitnick
was known for stealing secrets merely by finding the right person and impersonating
someone who deserved information. As the order of things becomes more impersonal,
the average person feels less and less real desire to enforce society’s
rules. Even mid-level bureaucrats sleep-walk through their jobs. And sleep-walkers
are not good gate keepers.
While the powers-that-be try to counter this with an ever-accelerating
array of direct policing and suppression of knowledge, this still leaves
an incredible realm of possibilities in between the visible categories
of this society.
Modern social machinery is hated consciously or unconsciously by such
a large percentage of people that it can only be protected by systems of
counter-attack, whirlpools of fear and manipulation. Indeed, the hacker
plays a similar role to the terrorist – decoy, enemy, cat’s paw and excuse.
The imperfection of this control is generally tolerable, often desirable,
to the system. At best, today’s absurdity functions through a self-justifying
randomness: don’t be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Altogether,
this randomness works as a scheme implicating each person in both crime
and enforcement at different levels. Thus chaos is ever-present but absolute
refusal only appears at special times.
It has been documented how in the 80’s, the Los Angeles court system
explicitly cultivated a group of criminals who were permitted to literally
get away with murder, specifically so that they would always be on the
court’s leash. This group of felons was always available to come up with
testimony damaging to the cases of those targeted by the police. (we say
“documented” because the court system on a larger, more “fair” level is
just as much a snitch factory – with the more explicit “quid pro quos”
just being a natural temptation).
Through computers, the law is gaining more and more resources to place
folks within the realm of judicial control. But this is not a linear increase
in repression. The spectacle classifies more and more parts of social life
within the illegal sector.
Much of adolescent social life revolves around illegal drugs. Most
suburban social life happens in indoor malls which explicitly do not grant
the “right” to free expression or free association. Here everything is
illegal once the owners of the space tell you to stop.
The randomness and the game of control is encapsulated in the good
cop/bad cop dialogue that permeates every part of this society. The constant
presence of soft cop social workers in the lives of adolescents can be
seen in the fusion of hip phrases and clinical vocabularies.
While the liberals and the left are no match for the right as a social
force in America, both left and right have made important contributions
to today’s ideology of repression – the left appearing to demand more social
workers while right demands more police.
Feminists have joined with right wing ideologists to use genetic testing
as a way of forcing fathers to pay for a mother’s welfare. And both right
and left have pushed an ideology of enforced community as the answer to
modern society’s alienation. “Weed and seed” = “stick and carrot.”
In the conservative, “bad cop” version of reality, all those who are
convicted of the smallest crimes are tortured in prison – but that would
leave too few workers to keep society going. The law has sufficient records
to place a good percentage of the entire population in jail. In the liberal,
“good cop” version of reality, each person would be rehabilitated from
each of their sins by their own social worker (more radical liberals even
go to length of demonstrating for each person’s right to rehabilitation
– which is also protecting rehabilitation jobs).
These lies fuse to create the (real) racket version of reality. The
uncertainty of each person’s position is used to intimidate them into a
submission to every scheme of this society. “Legal limbo” is very calculated.
Everyone winds-up subject to many flavors of threat, harassment and conformity.
The courts cry crocodile tears about “inefficiency,” yet this serves
the powers-that-be perfectly, more perfectly even through it having come
about by accident. The “break-up of the American family” is often blamed
for the present judicial invasion of daily life. While we want no part
of the nuclear family, we know the police state takes part in the break-down
of human rapport even more so than the nuclear family.
What really happens is that just the need to survive puts a large number
of people in “legal limbo.” This limbo ranges from being in jail, to being
on the streets but always subject to arrest to being out but always needing
to “watch your back,” to being on the street and force-administered “mind
Moreover, when a person is in this limbo, one duty they have is as
cat’s-paws to lure more people into the rackets. Each DUI convict is strongly
pressured to join the ideology of Alcoholic Anonymous – and thus to pull
more “users” in with them. Homeless people who “get off the street” by
gaining employment within the homeless service provider apparatus need
to mouth the recovery jargon derived from AA. Each convict is pushed to
testify against another to lessen their sentence. And the lyme disease
hypochondriac feels pressure to evangelize more victims.
Obscurity As Method And Caste
Obscurity is the leading edge of capitalism. The churning of social life
becomes the organization of conformity through accelerating lies and accelerating
Obscurity as a system is spread equally through every layer of society,
from corporations which hide their hierarchy from their own minions to
an ambiguous, all-encompassing illegality that those on the bottom use
This is the spectacle’s most modern form, which is reproduced in all
systems of administration. Behind whatever tawdry story is coming from
the White House, the Senate or the papers in a given week, confusion and
incompetence as methods are visible as the marching orders.
This twilight world meshes perfectly with bureaucracy and capitalism
because the “ideal” of equal protection is kept. Every dollar of a bribe
is approximately equal to every other dollar.
The world of police records, credit records and security systems is
a caste system by default, by a “happy accident.” In theory, someone without
much money, without insurance, credit, a driver’s license and so forth
could function without breaking the law. But in reality, they can’t. The
chaos of capitalism makes it both impossible and absurd for the majority
to do so.
In Philadelphia, in early 1996, Miss Veronica Jones was arrested in open
court in retaliation for her refusal to put forward the prosecution’s version
of its case against the well-known framed leftist journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Jones was arrested on an “open warrant.” It seems that she had been
charged with writing bad checks two years previously in New Jersey. However,
the judicial machinery had made no particular effort to find her up until
the point of Abu Jamal’s hearing.
This situation is the situation of many, many poor people and people
of color. From warrants to parole violations, court-ordered 12-step programs,
restraining orders, Child Protective Services regulations, psychiatric
interventions, and welfare regulations, there are an uncountable number
of control systems arrayed around the lives of the poor.
Modern bureaucratic society has enough absurd complexity that a large
percentage of people have a certain number of various “strikes” against
them. But class, race and the strategies of capital’s bureaucrats together
determine whether these strikes will be fatal or ignored.
An “open warrant” can sit for year if a person does not attract the
attention of the authorities. It is only one part of the obscure judicial
bureaucracy that many people can thankfully ignore only as long as they
either fail to attract the attention of authorities or if they kiss the
asses of said authorities.
We can see how the expansion of the present order makes repression the
only real new product. The world of judicial repression also creates a
new terrain of struggle, one in which our side is still fighting for its
voice. Certainly the attack on the justice system had much expression in
the LA riots.
Another example is “People’s Park” in Berkeley, California. People’s
Park is a hang-out of the unemployed, social drop-outs and low level drug
dealers. This group is at the center of an entire social vortex. This low-level
drug economy is the center of the unsaid, the accumulation of outlawed
activity everywhere in this society.
Telegraph Ave., in that same area, is patrolled by uniformed police,
under-cover police, roving “mental health counselors” and assorted other
obscure human relations professionals. This repression laboratory points
to a future where the normal citizen will at the same time have a job,
be in school, and be under some kind of judicial sentence.
This less controlled area of Berkeley allows experiments where the
role of cop, merchant and social worker grow closer together. And repression
is sold directly: the police herd a noticeable number of the disturbed
onto Telegraph Ave. to convince people how a firm hand is needed against
these same disturbed.
The aura of Telegraph is “the weird”, that which is different from
“the real world.” But each part of this world: factory, office, mall and
bohemian hang-out, feeds off of the other. Telegraph is one of the main
outlets for social contact for working and middle-class people for a twenty
or fifty mile radius. It’s the absolute zero of social interaction generally
that makes Telegraph critical as a zone of social interaction and as a
zone of managed contestation.
The hierarchy of social privilege enforced by the judicial system is
the defining quality of the present real world. In People’s Park, the regular
police patrols stop various individuals whose terms of probation allow
them to be searched arbitrarily or whose terms of probation prevent them
from going to People’s Park at all. This is similar to the order of Serbia,
Bosnia or Kosova, where the police both make sure that different groups
fight each other and make sure that everyone has different rights assigned
As the arbitrary power of the police/social service sector expands,
those at both the top and the bottom of society have more ways and more
incentive to break the law. And this allows the authorities to exercise
wider arbitrary power over those who can be justly arrested for their violations.
This power is naturally unleashed whenever the planners issue a new
order: In the summer of 91, when the University Of California was installing
a volley ball court in People’s Park, police arrested several people for
breaking the rules during a ball game. (Breaking the rules of the volley
ball game disrupted the intentions of the civic planners. At that time,
they planned to improve the quality of the park by expelling homeless people
and attracting athletic yuppies. Later, these same volleyball courts were
removed due to their failure as a tool of social reconstruction).
In earlier issues of this zine, we talked often of the symbiotic relationship
between suburb and city for constructing shopping-mall social peace.
When the geography of outlying areas has been altered, the context
of Berkeley and of any “college town” also changes. The semi-official permission
given for weirdness justifies the highly sophisticate repression that constitutes
The police more and more hold the electrodes for these experiments.
The churning quality of the modern urban area softens people up for repression.
Certainly, the authorities tolerate the various milieus partly because
they have to and partly because these milieus serve as something of a laboratory
to see how well the control systems work. The informal milieu is at the
knife’s edge of the possibilities of world change. Certainly, the fact
that critical people are getting together by itself guarantees nothing.
This group must decide to act.
On one hand, capital’s world is incredibly fragile. The LA riots showed
how much this dreary world is held together only by people’s inability
to simultaneously think of an alternative. On the other hand, this informal
opposition must systematically oppose the system, otherwise it merely winds
up as an experiment in discovery what and how much is tolerable: “direct
democracy”, “self expression,” or “community empowerment” have all be given
a part within capital’s final frontier; the self-policing society.
An encounter during a “TV smash” is instructive. Several park regulars,
mostly white, are loading television onto the stage in People’s Park. They
are accosted by a black, City-of-Berkeley-paid “caretaker.” He claims to
have a mandate for authority from the city and “the activists” and mentions
the name of a long-time activist. He especially notes that while the university
“is bad,” the city has been working with the activists and “now everyone
is together on this.”
The various folks there wind up confused and paralyzed by this little
speech until a certain communist militant asks the caretaker what he will
do if his authority is broken. He mentions calling the police and thus
is exposed for what interests he really serves. It should be noted that
this fellow’s speech had the quality of a bit of freeze-dried ideology
dreamed up by a committee and most-likely dished at a “park sensitivity”
workshop given for Berkeley City social workers (social cops). It should
noted that the activist mentioned by the caretaker had no connection with
these Berkeley City schemes: her name was merely picked out as part of
the illusion of participation.
Since we live in the world of conspiracy/anti-conspiracy theory, we
should note that within this scenario, there is no absolute difference
between the open activities of social service agencies and the hidden,
“conspiratorial” activities of the police. The supposedly benign activities
of the social service agency essentially involve the perspective of treating
a group of people as patients to be cured of their ills – “mainstreaming,”
giving people “the choice to enter normal life” (as if this society ever
offers any other choice). The difference between a paid agency representative
and the cop who secretly attends a meeting is then only a matter of degrees
and public relations. This social worker is just as likely to take any
communication as a tool to be used for control.
Note here that various freeze-dried ideologies are fragile and can
disintegrate when challenged in even a small way. This incoherence
within this society means there are often situations where a single challenge
can become widespread mayhem.
It is useful to trace the smallest breaks in the world exchange system.
But the actual level of working class combativity is often invisible in
similarly organized spectacular pseudo-events. The many apparent conflicts
you see are certainly important but what they mean for any more fundamental
challenge to this system must be balanced against the continuing of capital’s
normal life. Each point where a person submits to work, school or mall
life is a real if invisible event. And many people fight invisibly against
the order of things as well. Class struggle is constant because people
constantly resist work and commodities. But to become a movement, this
resistance must gain coherence.
When we actually see explosions of real activity, it often has little
to do with the usual headline. It means many invisible refusals have come
together. Just as much, explositions do not follow any fixed pattern. Rather
than being gradually building movements, most threats to the present system
have come from sudden explositions of hope and anger (May 68 in France,
the LA riots, the unknown revolution in Kurdistan, the riots in the US
after the assasination of Martin Luther King, and more that are less known).
Even a more definable movement like the Seatle 2000 WTO protests had
their impact because of the unexpected factors involved – the black bloc
and especially the impoverished youths who joined the black bloc looting.
And the movement of assaulting large gatherings of capitalists just as
much is likely to dwindle if it allow itself to fight in playing field
that is set by capital.
If the world stock market is finally falling after ten years of artificial
growth, does this mean a period of explosions like the 89-92 recession
is on the horizon? If world capital is paralyzed just as it must deal with
the results of global warming, does that mean that we are reaching the
end of cycles of capital? We can’t tell but predicting isn’t our main job.
Acting to further counter-tendencies is.