John Holloway: Of Despair and Hope

May 2, 2012



To the misfits of the world, to all of us who do not conform to the closing of humanity: Now, more than ever, the world looks two ways at once. One face looks towards a dark, depressing world. A world of closing doors. A closing of lives, of possibilities, of hopes. These are times of austerity. You must learn to live with reality. You must obey if you want to survive, give up your dreams. Do not expect to live by doing what you like. You will be lucky to find a job at all. Perhaps you can study, but only if your parents have money. And, even then, do not think that you can study something critical. Criticism has fled from the universities and so much the better.
What is the point of criticising when we all know that the world is set in its course?
There is no alternative, just the reality of the rule of money, so forget your dreams. Obey, work hard in whatever scrap of employment you can find, or else look forward to a life of hunting through garbage cans, because there will be no welfare state to protect you. Look, look at Greece and be warned! That is the impoverishment you can expect, that is what will happen to you if you do not submit, that is the punishment meted out in this school of life to naughty children, to those who hope too much, to those who want too much. This lesson of despair was learnt very well, too well, by Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in Sintagma Square in the centre of Athens just a few weeks ago.
A 77-year old ex-pharmacist whose pension was wiped out by the austerity measures imposed by the governments of Europe, he said “I can find no other solution than to put an end to my life before I start sifting through garbage cans for my food.” This is the meaning of austerity. This is what the governments of Europe and the world are trying to impose on the people – all the governments, all of them alike the servants of money, whether they speak from apparent positions of power, like the German government or whether they are the simple functionaries of the international bank system, like Papademos or Monti. The austerity measures do not just impose poverty, they cut the wings of hope. That is the direction the world is heading in, but is that all there is? Is there no way we can turn the world around? Does the world not have another face, one that looks in a different direction? The death of Dimitris Christoulas faces in two directions: it is a despair, but also a refusal to accept despair. In his suicide note he writes “I believe that young people with no future will one day take up arms and hang this country’s traitors upside down in Syntagma Square just as the Italians hanged Mussolini in 1945.” Hope glows in the very depths of despair.
The basis of that hope is a simple No. No, we will not accept.
No, we will not accept what you are trying to do to us. No, we will not accept your austerity. No we will not accept the discipline of money, no we will not accept the killing of hope. No, we will not accept the obscene inequalities of this world we live in, no we will not accept a society that is hurtling us towards our own destruction. And no, we will not suggest alternative policies. We do not want to solve your problems because the only solution to the problems of capital is our defeat, the future of capitalism is the death of humanity. Even if capital solves this crisis, the next one will not be far away, even more destructive. We will not obey you, politicians-bankers, because you are the dead past, we are the possible future. The only possible future. That is our hope: we are the only possible future. But our possible future is no more than a possibility. Its realisation depends on our being able to turn the world around.
How do we turn the world around? Dimitris Christoulas speaks of young people taking up arms and hanging the politicians from the lampposts. That idea grows more attractive by the day, and the politicians of the world know that it is not just fantasy: that is why in Greece they are afraid to go out in the streets, that is why in all the world they are giving more and more arms and powers to the police. Yet, however attractive the idea, it is not by arms that we can turn the world around and create something new. Our rage is of a different kind. Rage and love. Refuse and create. That is the only way we can turn the world around. Love walks hand in hand with rage, creation springs from refusal. We are the fury of a new world pushing through the foul obscenity of the old. Our fury is not the fury of arms – guns are their weapon, not ours. Our fury is the fury of refusal, of stifled creation, of indignation. Who are these people, the politicians and bankers who think they can treat us like objects, who think they can destroy the world and smile as they do it?
They are no more than the servants of money, the vile and vicious defenders of a dying system. How dare they try to take our lives away from us, how dare they treat us like that? We refuse. We roar a massive NO that resounds through the world, but our refusal means little unless it is supported by an alternative creation. Our No to the old world will not hold unless we create a new world here and now. The anger of our refusal spills over into new creations. Representative democracy has failed and we build a real democracy in our squares, our meetings, our protests.
Capital fails to provide the basics of life and we form networks of mutual support. Money destroys, and we say “No, we shall create a different logic and a different way of coming together”, and so we proclaim “no home without electricity” and organise the reconnection of the electricity supply whenever it is cut off. Debt-collectors come to take away our homes and we organise mass protests to stop them. People go hungry and we create community gardens. The drive for profit massacres human and non-human life and we create new relations, new ways of doing things. Capital pushes us off the streets and out of the squares and we occupy.
All of this is inadequate, all is experimental, but that is the way to go, that is the other face of the present world, that is the new world of mutual recognition struggling to be born. Perhaps we cannot yet change the whole world to be as we want it, but we can create and we are creating it here and here and here and here and now, we are creating cracks in the system and these cracks will grow and spread and multiply and flow together.
We will not accept the closing of the night on humanity. We can and will stop it, we shall turn the world around.

Written by John Holloway for May 1st 2012 General Strike pamphlets
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