Void Network publish five short texts from leaflets distributed in different parts of France during demonstrations, blockades and strike mobilizations against the restructuring of the pension law in 2023. We believe that these documents of modern direct theory express the spirit of not only a struggle taking place in France but of a revolution that is coming all over the world.
We fight against those who mock us. Let’s not wait for retirement to free ourselves from work and capital. Find a way to meet each other!
Hey bastard, this is war! [ASAP Revolution]
This leaflet was distributed during the demonstration of March 7, 2023, during the movement against pensions.
Source in French: https://asaprevolution.net/index.php/2023/03/09/foire-cest-la-guerre/
The bourgeois are playing at war. Behind it there are proles who are sent to the front. There they kill each other for one year and it doesn’t seem it will stop. The ensuing degradation of the proletarians’ lives all over the world is distressing. They can cut off the electricity in England or here, but the poorest people are already going without because they can’t pay. In the Horn of Africa, famines and recessions will continue and worsen, along with the increase in the cost of basic necessities. Half of the wheat imported from the African continent comes from the Ukraine and Russia.
No sign of peace, yes I know
Everybody is aware of the trick. We don’t count any more deserters and burnings of Russian and Ukrainian recruiting stations. Proletarians, drowned in the propaganda of the warring state, organize themselves and fight for their common interests, i.e. against those of the local bourgeoisie. In Italy at the beginning of the war the dockers have blocked the ships supposed to deliver weapons to Ukraine. In Belarus, sabotage was committed on railway lines supposed to bring soldiers to the front.
I don’t say please give the money
We are sent to work, it is the war economy, we tighten our belts, life is always too expensive. Behind it, the bourgeois in power find the money to remilitarize the countries (473 billion in France!), propagate nationalist ideas and prepare us for war. These are hard times and they are going to get worse. The peace they are trying to bring us is not a viable solution. It would only be a return to the normality of our exploitation.
I should triple my paychecks
The effects of the war economy are felt everywhere and force the proletarians to react. In England people can no longer pay the bills. The “Don’t pay” movement spreads despite the limiting presence of the unions. If the idea becomes widespread it could hurt the capitalists. In France, the state is cushioning this energy crisis for the moment but it is attacking on other fronts. Our salaries continue to decrease while we work more and more (retirement, unemployment…) and prices of everything increase.
While countering those who are fooling us
We go sick of democratic demands and alliances of circumstances. Whether they are carried by the institutional left or by its most radical wing. To believe in any possibility of improving our situation by marching behind those who negotiate their surrender is a dead end. They will do their job as always: sell off the conditions of our exploitation and send us back to work when the ball is over. We will not repeat the mistakes of past struggles, it’s dead! Everywhere we hear that people have fought and won the retirement at sixty years. But if we continue to work like this, we won’t look so good at sixty. The truth is that some people fought for much more and lost. We don’t forget them and we won’t be satisfied with these struggles by proxy.
Whatever it takes, we’ll leave the shit behind
Don’t think that the forced march of capital is going on like this, without any response. Everywhere proletarians raise their heads, find each other, and plan to fight together, for their direct interests. In Iran they shout “death to the Shah”, the ruptures between the local bourgeoisies and the populations are intense and bloody, but the struggle pays off and the idea of freedom and emancipation is reinforced. Because we realize that it is us who produce everything, who carry everything, who store everything, who prepare everything. The production line extends to the international level and we make up all the links in the chain that make the bourgeois go richer while selling their junk. And by the way, every time we stop working it hurts. As soon as we can, we slow down the pace, we sabotage, we help ourselves. It’s in this desire to do as little as possible that we find ourselves, we realize that have enough, that we won’t last long like this. And when the conflicts get worse, we say to ourselves that we could, together, block everything. What is the final outcome of this situation? The scavengers of capital make us dream of a settled, stable and comfortable life. Many people don’t believe it. Everywhere the proles only work without ever being able to enjoy any favorable status. We can’t live in France on a minimum wage, or at least we have a shitty life, and it’s not Mélenchon, Boyard or any other social-democrat asshole who is going to help us. Because yes, whether you’re an assembly-line worker or a 35-hour worker stuck at a desk, you’re out of money. Even those who considered themselves privileged tend to join the loser brigade.
“Stop telling me that everything is fine, there are grandmas in fluorescent vests rioting”
In France in 2023 many workers followed the call to strike, even in “private” companies where there had never been any strike before. Some found themselves in the street for the first time. This must have caused a stir in the calm of the workplace. We could finally find the strength to talk about our working conditions with our colleagues, to impose to our bosses that we won’t come to work this day, or to have a pretext to ask for money. Finally frustrated that day after day we have to go back to work as if nothing had happened.
As if nothing had happened because the movement seems to be limited to symbolic actions, principled demonstrations where we march as if we were going to vote. This “movement” is light years away from the atmosphere that could be felt during the first months of the Yellow Vests. The thousands of calls for blockades spread anarchically on the networks, which could result in a picket of four or a barricading of transport routes for a whole night and more, are far away. The movement was made up of a lot of workers from different backgrounds, who complemented each other so well when it came to blocking an entire city center or setting fire to tolls and barracks.
There, we refused to be represented by bourgeois and other small businessmen. We fired the vultures who made us work for them. So, the objectives of the movement were not locked up in sectorial claims, dictated by the professionals of the struggle, but multiple and varied, and envisaged by the people in struggle.
In this pre-covid period, several uprisings started from very close triggers, whether it was an increase of gasoline price in France and Iran, a new tax on the WhatsApp app in Lebanon, an increase of the metro ticket in Chile. These are changes that have repercussions on the lives of the proletariat and that are part of a whole deterioration of living conditions. These revolts raise the deepest pains of the society; these movements have a proletarian base that is ready to do anything to get everything for everyone. The repercussions of all these uprisings throughout the world are enormous. In this intense period where the class struggle responds, influences and strengthens internationally, we must fight for the interests of our class in all corners of the world.
From now on we want to fight with other workers to break the divisions produced by capitalism and transform our relations. We want the struggles inside of the companies to contaminate all dimensions of life under capital.
It is the whole society what is in putrefaction and what ravages the living, the perspective of a total upheaval by the proletariat must be seriously considered.
By the different forms that the organization of the proles against the capital can take, both at work and in our living conditions.
The situation can only improve by generalizing the struggle against the bourgeoisies and their states, against capital and its exploitation.
Revolution is not an idea, a belief, but a necessity.
English translation: The Friends Of The Class War
Making movement [Assemblée Action Autonome]
Source in French: https://twitter.com/ClasseCollectif/status/1622243107356958722/
For many of us it is hard to go on strike. Because of the end of the month, because of the employer’s repression, because of the precariousness… And you still need to have a job! But we saw it with the yellow vest movement: the demonstration is a space where we retreated when the power managed to clear out our points of blockades and organizations.
To go on the offensive again, to wrest some time for the struggle, to build a real movement, it is necessary to attack the production and distribution of goods. From the outside, by blockades, as well as from the inside, by strike, but also by sabotage. So, let’s slow down the work. Let’s apply all mandatory procedures, do the minimum and leave as soon as possible. Let’s sabotage the work. Let’s steal everything we can, let’s target what can bring work to a halt. Let’s stop working. Let’s get sick, let’s increase absenteeism…
There are plenty of examples. In many workplaces, this is a part of our daily arsenal of resistance. The question is to get together, to generalize these practices, to make them a subject of conversation between colleagues: let’s build a movement that attacks this work that they want to impose on us to death.
Fed up with work
We are not going to talk about retirement age here. If work didn’t kill us before, if it didn’t leave us in pieces, physically and psychologically, if it was a free and fulfilling activity, we wouldn’t even be talking about retirement. The problem is work, and there are millions of us who think so. Moreover, those who disagree are often the same ones who want us to work more.
What makes the struggle harmless is its individualization. The citizens’ strike, which only serves to go to the demonstration, which does not block the production, it does not work. Whether we are working or unemployed, retired, at university… we need to form a mass, to block, to disengage the other companies, to spread like wildfire.
Let’s defend ourselves
Don’t be afraid, we are together! This is a slogan that comes from the current uprising in Iran. Here too, it is by standing together that we can overcome fear. This means solidarity in the struggle. Let’s not be intimidated, we are on the move, if the boss threatens, he can find a blockade in front of his company the next day.
The autonomous assembly of struggle is a tool for an offensive, revolutionary movement. If you recognize yourself in the perspectives we have outlined, join us!
Autonomous Action Assembly, info & meeting on Telegram.
Look for the channel @tsunamitoulouse
English translation: The Friends Of The Class War
Let’s take action together and now! [Enraged Seagull]
– Macron will not give up! He is currently hiding behind institutional legitimacy, and it is quite normal in the class war they wage against us! Those who claim that a democratic state must hear the voice of the people are wrong and are wasting their time. Of course, in a democratic state the expression of subaltern interests is allowed, it is even revered: the right to vote, the right to strike, the right to demonstrate… but this legislative machinery is configured in such a way that the fundamental interests of the ruling class never have to suffer. As long as the bourgeoisie finds something to compromise with its subordinate classes, it becomes the most amiable of mistresses. If it finds its projects in difficulty, it changes its mind. For this purpose, it has at its disposal an arsenal of appropriate laws and, if necessary, the truncheon, the courts and the prison. For example, the CRS recently took over the campuses of the University of Strasbourg and the EHESS in Paris to round up and detain mobilized students. And this is only the beginning…
Let’s stop the production machine!
– We were two million in the street on January 19th! enthuse some. We were numerous, it is true. But until proven otherwise, Capital feeds neither on ballots in the assembly, nor on walking, it feeds exclusively on exploited and dominated work, in this case ours! And its hunger is insatiable, as the latest government attacks on unemployment insurance and pensions show. To make Macron and the bourgeoisie bend, unfortunately, it will not be enough for us to march in large numbers in the streets of Paris or other cities. To achieve this, we must first deprive them of work, of goods and therefore of profit. The strike is the first weapon we have. The strike must therefore extend to all sectors of production and services, without exception. But to be effective, it must directly stop the accumulation of capital by disorganizing daily life in all its material and practical aspects: time, traffic, transport, communication… The strike must become again the moment of rupture where we, the producers, wrest power from the bourgeoisie and its politicians by taking back the control of our lives. The strike must become again the particular time where the balance of power is reversed, where we contest their (il)legitimacy, demonstrating by deeds that We are everything! and they are nothing! The game is starting and it is open!
Let’s not wait for retirement to free ourselves from work and capital!
– We all feel it, in spite of its wavering, this mobilization contains something more than a simple refusal of a governmental project. Something is happening now, to which we still have to give form and content… It could be the fact that the women and men of our class finally have begun to stop accepting, to stop backing down. And this is what worries the power… With all the limits that have characterized it, the Yellow Vests movement has torn for a while the veil that hides the reality of the class relations structuring this society. By claiming through action to be able to live with dignity and decide at the base, this dynamic resurrected the fundamentals of a workers’ movement that had become amnesiac and bedridden. If, as we hope, the struggle that is beginning sounds the awakening of our camp, then it must seize this relay and bring the task to a conclusion, as far as possible.
– With “retirement”, it is in fact the central question of work that is being asked. Not work in its anthropological sense, but salaried work, exploited work, dominated work and of course the meaning, or rather the nonsense that it covers under the dictatorship of capital. To fill the fridge, millions of us are forced to sell ourselves every day to a boss, whether he is small, big, private or public, nice or scum, sometimes unknown… We endure the arrogance of inept, coward and vicious little managers. We submit to the imperatives of projects, objectives, surveys, statistics… and for what purpose? For the sole purpose of increasing the material power and wealth of the members of one and the same social class. The bourgeoisie has done its time, it steals ours on top of the rest! Let’s not wait any longer, each of us in turn, for a hypothetical retirement to escape from its clutches! Let’s take action all together and right now!
We are nothing… Let’s be everything!
Boulogne sur mer, 29/01/2023
English translation: The Friends Of The Class War
It will be him or… Us! [Enraged Seagull]
Source in French: https://lamouetteenragee.noblogs.org/post/2023/01/15/3136/
To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself. Karl Marx
Macron is an authoritarian, infantile and violent nature, a person that cannot stand they you resist to him. From the height of his omnipotence and in the face of Those who are nothing, he has demonstrated in the past what he is capable of. A few months ago, his Minister of the Interior launched a call for tenders worth 38 million euros to renew stocks of grenades and “cover the needs of the next four years”… In December, the French State’s justice system acquitted the policeman who punctured an eye of an ordinary demonstrator during the movement against the Labor Law. We already know what to expect. Moreover, Macron considers the “pension file” to be a key element of his second term in office, which, like the previous one, will be devoted to serving the rich and powerful. We might as well say that he intends to conduct the affair with a vengeance! Unless…
It is the social war
Let’s not get lost in superfluous exegesis. Since the beginning, the “pension reform” is nothing but a brigandage covered by a camarilla of politicians of the right and the left. Our pension is neither a contribution for a fulfilled service, nor the deferred counterpart of contributions, the pension is our prolonged salary calculated from a reference amount. Under the regime of capitalist accumulation and wage slavery, targeting pensions, or unemployment benefits, amounts for capital to increase the level of exploitation of labor both relatively and absolutely. A real racketeering, as some say, which nevertheless takes a particular turn. It is at this precise moment of our existence, when our bodies have become vulnerable and our health largely damaged by years of exploitation, that Macron and his coterie intend to strike us an additional blow. The ultimate, before pouring us into the pit…
To smash them in order not to be smashed anymore!
We will win against this government only if we manage, as it was the case with the Yellow Vests movement, to thwart its plans, to make us unpredictable and to inspire fear. For this, we must learn from the latest struggles on the terrain of class war. A strike is of course the indispensable weapon. The strike must immediately take root in strategic sectors like energy, transport and communications. It must allow us to quickly occupy a position of strength, but this scenario alone will not be sufficient or satisfactory. And beware, time is running out!
In December, the strike of SNCF controllers, which had a 90% majority and was controlled by the rank and files, immediately put the company’s management under pressure and made the Minister of Transport panicking. Dazed, Clément Beaune denounced the movement as being “outside the social dialogue”. For once, a truth was coming out of the mouth of a politician. Only a dynamic of this nature, massive, impelled and controlled by a determined base and escaping the maneuvers of the apparatuses will allow to thwart the attempts of division which will bloom quickly. The state fears nothing but what is foreign to it in every respect!
Destroy capitalism by social revolution!
Let’s not fool ourselves, if at present the opposition to Macron is so strong, it is not because he would be a worse puppet than his predecessors, it is only because his measure crystallizes in it all the suffering that millions of us experience every day, in the factory, in the office, on the building sites, in the health services, etc. This suffering is that of the capitalist social relationship, that of a relationship of exploitation and domination that has nothing to offer but mass anesthesia with Prozac and Netflix series, the hatred of each one against all, the generalized surveillance and the propagation of war… Capitalism and its deadly work lead us from catastrophe to catastrophe towards the abyss. So even if we win against Macron and we must win, it will only be a step towards the vital reconstruction of a collective and international dynamic that puts the question of our social emancipation back at the heart of the issues before us.
We are nothing… Let us be everything!
English translation: The Friends Of The Class War
Everything is too expensive! We are right to strike! [A$AP Revolution]
Source in French: https://twitter.com/asap_revolution/status/1617507678364000257/
In Iran, China, Peru and Greece, proles are revolting and organizing against capital and the state, while here we’re back to normal. To compensate the slowdown of production during the pandemic and to try to contain the latent crisis of capitalism, the bourgeoisie adjust an already seized machine. Elsewhere proles kill each other for the bourgeoisie, we tighten our belts, the sleeve is millimeter tight.
Here we experience a destruction of the unemployment system to put workers in competition, increase of the working time, hardening of the exploitation of the immigrant labor, forced work of the social benefits recipients (RSA). Our wages are decreasing: less money, more working time.
Everything is too expensive!
The pension reform is only a comma on the whole of the attacks which are carried out against the proletariat, it is the whole labor market which is restructured with the well admitted goal of the capitalists to make more money on our back. To this is added the galloping inflation which is deteriorating our living conditions, forcing us to go and steal in the stores and not to pay our bills, even if it means being prosecuted.
We are right to strike
In the companies many people are ready to get organized. The unions are either absent, or in negotiation, or on the side of the bosses! The union leaderships are calling for demonstrations and general strikes, a long-outdated strategy. It is not by counting the demonstrators on a few days of mobilization that we build an offensive struggle!
A strike cannot be decreed, it must be organized! Let’s meet: in each company and each sector, workers are trying strategies to block production, we have much to gain by sharing and multiplying them.
It is by coordinating ourselves that we will be able to build a massive and wildcat strike
We can’t go on like this, for too long now we’ve been making their shitty economy work, for too long the goods have been circulating under our noses, for too long we’ve been breaking our backs at work. It is against the capitalist state and our exploitation that we must organize and for its destruction! It’s no coincidence that in the last ten years movements have been breaking out everywhere; they are evidence of a collective outburst of the proletariat who can’t stand being exploited like dogs.
We’ll have to take back the street and clean it up if we want to hold it. Yeah, we’ll need more than one fire to last the winter!
English translation: The Friends Of The Class War
For an unlimited and expropriating general strike [Anonymous]
We must think in the long term. To get out of the ritual of the only demonstration and to impose a consequent balance of power able not only to make the bourgeoisie back down on the counter-reform of pensions (etc.), but to install a revolutionary climate. We must block the economy, its flow, its places of production and distribution. We must go beyond the trade union frameworks, which have become managers in the service of the bourgeoisie. Otherwise, we condemn ourselves to a return to normality, in other words to our exploitation. Let’s be clear: what has an effect is not the demonstration alone. We march from point A to point B and we go back home. The Saturday demonstrations of the GJ’s [Yellow vests] have shown this.
What has an effect is the blocking of the economy.
On the one hand, it allows us to organize ourselves to block. On the other hand, it gives the opportunity to formulate collectively a project of a radical progressive and exciting change of society.
The blockade makes them rightly mark out, especially if it is spread over the whole territory. Here again, the beginning of the GJ movement has shown it well.
In the end, it is the strike on the places of production and/or in front of them (the roundabouts) that is a tool that allows us to hope for a political outlet other than electoral. Because it allows us to meet physically in assembly and to build our autonomy of struggle.
It is a question of blocking everything to change everything. It is therefore necessary in this framework and from the beginning to imagine the other steps. Thwarting their reform project is, and should be, the beginning and not the end.
In the best of cases, the government will back away for now until the next time. We all know that.
But in any case, it can’t go much further if we don’t have it in mind from the start to go further. This is a matter of collective intelligence and class consciousness. We have to be aware that there are two France. One that dominates and profits and the other that toils and is exploited (this is the basic question of pensions).
Because we do not want, whatever happens with this reform, that after it was withdrawn, the return to normal. In fact…
We want a point of no return so that we can finally go beyond defensive struggles. To go on the offensive. Not to make the revolution, but to revolutionize everything!
We want, or we hope without daring to believe it, much more than that. What we want is not to give an opportunity to the union leaderships to save its face by reaping the fruits of our commitment and by attributing it to themselves and by making of us mere extras…
We want a general chaos, a beautiful escape that never ends, we want to live really and not just survive on the crumbs that they will drop to us when the social “partners” whistle the end of the playground time.
We must act as primitives, but think as strategists.
Let’s march together, bringing together all the actors of the last 15 years towards a single moment and a single objective: an unlimited and expropriating general strike.
So, at the end of the next days of mobilizations, let’s not go home.
- In Nuit debout mode, let’s sit down at the end and start a GA.
- In ZAD everywhere mode, let’s occupy, where we are, what can be occupied to benefit from an organizational backbone.
- In First job contract (CPE) mode, let’s federate in a national coordination, let’s name delegates to go to an assembly of assemblies.
- In GJ mode, because we don’t know that it’s not to be done, let’s dare to do what is never done, with a distinctive sign that unites us.
We had the yellow. I suggest a piece of red cloth around our arm (if there are better ideas…).
That way we can recognize each other and stand together.
And let’s learn from the past, anticipating the counter-attacks and, from the beginning, let’s communicate via our media so that, all of us, by imitation and collective intelligence, we respond to us.
There are many things to do: political tags, collective banquets, blockades, reappropriation of production tools…
See you soon, comrades, all of us united to get rid of those who steal our lives.
All power to the communes!
English translation: The Friends Of The Class War
Bedtime for Macronerie?
This is a translation of “La macronie, bientôt finie?”
The announcement on Thursday, March 16 that the government would use article 49.3 of the Constitution to impose its pension reform without a National Assembly vote propelled the protest movement into a new dimension. Despite fierce repression, a strange mixture of anger and joy is spreading throughout the country: spontaneous demonstrations, surprise blockades of main roads, invasions of shopping centers or railway tracks, dumping garbage in the offices of deputies, nighttime garbage fires, targeted power outages, and more. The situation has become uncontrollable and the president has no plan other than to promise that he will hold out at all costs and sink into a headlong rush of violence. The days to come will therefore be decisive: either the movement will wear out its energy—though everything indicates the opposite—or Macron’s rule will collapse. In this text, we’ll try to present a progress report, analyzing the forces involved as well as their strategies and objectives in the short and medium terms.
Alone against All
If we consider the two forces officially present, the situation is unique in that neither can permit themselves to lose. On the one hand, we have the “social movement,” which we often think has disappeared but which always returns for lack of anything better. The most optimistic see in this the necessary prelude to building a rapport de force that could pave the way for an uprising or even revolution. The most pessimistic believe that, on the contrary, it is compromised from the outset—that the channeling and ritualization of popular discontent contributes to the good management of the prevailing order and therefore to maintaining and reinforcing it.
Be that as it may—on paper, this “social movement” has everything to win: the unions are united, the demonstrations are numerous, public opinion is largely favorable to it, and although the government was elected democratically, it is very much in the minority. The stars are therefore aligned, all the lights are green; in such objectively favorable conditions, if the “social movement” loses, that means that it will never again be able to imagine or claim to win anything.
On the other side, there is Emmanuel Macron, his government, and some fanatics who believe in him. They know they are in the minority, but that is where they draw their strength from. Macron is not a president who was elected to be liked or even appreciated. He embodies the terminus of politics: his pure and perfect adherence to the economy, to efficiency, to performance. He does not see the people, life, human beings, only atoms from which to extract value. Macron is a kind of evil droid who wants the best for those he governs against their will. His idea of politics is an Excel spreadsheet: as long as the calculations are correct and the numbers come out right, he will continue to move forward at a steady pace. On the other hand, he knows that if he hesitates, trembles, or gives up, he will not be able to claim to govern anything or anyone.
A face-off is not a symmetry, however. What threatens the “social movement” is fatigue and resignation. The only thing that could make the president give up is the concrete risk of an uprising. Since the use of article 49.3 on Thursday, March 16, we see that the situation is changing. Now that negotiation with the authorities has become obsolete, the “social movement” is boiling over and surpassing itself. Its contours are becoming pre-insurrectional.
There remains a third, unofficial force, inertia: those who, for the moment, refuse to join the battle out of laziness, happenstance, or fear. At present, they are effectively playing for the government, but the more unstable the situation, the more they will have to take sides, whether for the movement or for the government. The great achievement of the Yellow Vests was to bring frustration and dissatisfaction out from behind the screens, getting people offline and into the streets.
The Best Retirement Is Attack1
But what is really behind this confrontation and its staging? What is it that grips the heart, inspiring courage or rage? What is at stake is the rejection of work.
Obviously, no one dares to formulate the issue this way, because as soon as we talk about work, an old trap closes on us. Its mechanism is, however, rudimentary and well known: behind the very concept of work, one has voluntarily confused two quite distinct realities. On the one hand, work as singular participation in collective life, in its richness and creativity. On the other hand, work as a particular form of individual labor in the capitalist organization of life—that is, work as pain and exploitation. If one ventures to criticize work, or even to wish for its abolition, that will usually be understood as a petit-bourgeois whim or gutter punk nihilism. If we want to eat bread, we need bakers; if we want bakers, we need bakeries; if we want bakeries, we need masons; and for the dough we put in the oven, we need farmers who sow, harvest, and so on. No one, of course, is in a position to dispute such evidence.
The problem, our problem, is that if we reject work to such an extent, if we are millions in the streets pounding the pavement to avoid being subjected to two more years of work, it is not because we are lazy or dream of joining a bridge club, but because the form that the common and collective effort has taken in this society is unbearable, humiliating, often meaningless and mutilating. If you think about it, we have never fought for retirement—always against work.
For people to recognize collectively on a grand scale that for the great majority of us, work is pain: the authorities cannot permit that idea to take hold, for it would imply the destruction of the whole social edifice, without which they would be nothing. If our common condition is that we have no power over our lives and know it, then paradoxically, everything becomes possible again. Let us note that revolutions do not necessarily need great theories and complex analyses; it is sometimes enough simply to make a tiny demand that one holds onto until the end. It would be enough, for example, to refuse to be humiliated: by a schedule, by a salary, by a manager or a task. It would be enough to have a collective movement that suspends the anguish of the calendar, the to-do-list, the agenda. It would suffice to claim the most minimal dignity for oneself, one’s family and others, and the whole system would collapse. Capitalism has never been anything other than the objective and economic organization of humiliation and pain.
A Critique of Violence
Having said that, we must recognize that in the immediate future, the social organization that we are contesting is not only held together by the blackmail for survival that it imposes on everyone. It is also held together by the violence of the police. We won’t get into the social role of the police and the reasons they behave so detestably; those have already been synthesized well enough in the text “Why All Cops Are Bastards.” What seems urgent to us is to think strategically about their violence, what it represses and stifles via terror and intimidation.
In the last few days, researchers and commentators have denounced the lack of professionalism of the police—their excesses, their arbitrariness, sometimes even their violence. Even on BFMTV [the most-watched conservative news channel in France], they were surprised that out of the 292 people arrested on Thursday, March 16 at Place de la Concorde, 283 were released from police custody without prosecution and the remaining 9 were given a simple reprimand. The problem with this kind of indignation is that, in focusing on a perceived dysfunction of the system, they prevent themselves from seeing what can only be an intentional strategy. If hundreds of BRAV-M [the Brigades de répression des actions violentes motorisées, police motorcycle units established during the Yellow Vest protests] are roaming the streets of Paris to chase down and beat up protesters, if on Friday a prefectural decree forbade any gathering anywhere in an area comprising about a quarter of the entire capital, that is because [Emmanuel] Macron, [Minister of the Interior Gérald] Darmanin, and [Paris Police Prefect Laurent] Nuñez have agreed on the method: empty the streets, shock the bodies, terrify the hearts… while waiting for it to pass.
Let’s repeat, one never wins “militarily” against the police. Police represent an obstacle that must be kept in check, dodged, exhausted, disorganized, or demoralized. To do away with the police is not to naïvely hope that one day they will lay down their arms and join the movement, but on the contrary, to make sure that each of their attempts to reimpose order through violence produces more disorder. Let’s remember that on the first Saturday of the Yellow Vests movement, on the Champs Elysees [a famous avenue in Paris], the crowd that felt particularly legitimate chanted “the police with us.” A few police charges and tear gas later, the most beautiful avenue in the world was transformed into a battlefield.
Learning the Lessons of Repression
That said, our strategic decision-making capacities for the street are very limited. We have no general staff, only our common sense, our numbers, and a certain inclination towards improvising. In the current configuration, we can nevertheless draw some lessons from these last weeks:
- The policing of demonstrations, which is to say, the task of keeping them within the bounds of harmlessness, is a task shared between the union leaders and the police force. A demonstration that goes as planned is a victory for the government. A demonstration that overflows the bounds prepared for it spreads anxiety to the top of the government, demoralizes the police, and brings us closer to the abolition of work. A crowd that no longer accepts the police-led route, that damages the symbols of the economy and expresses its anger joyously, is a disruption and therefore a threat.
- Until now, with the exception of March 7, all mass demonstrations have been contained by the police. The trade union processions have remained perfectly orderly and the most determined demonstrators were systematically isolated and brutally repressed. In some circumstances, a little audacity releases the energy necessary to escape from the frame; in others, it can enable the police to violently close down any possibility. It happens that when you want to break a window, you first break your nose on the edge of the frame.
- Because of their speed of movement and their extreme brutality, the BRAV-M cops are the most formidable obstacle. The confidence that they have built up over the past few years and especially in recent weeks must be undermined. If we cannot rule out the possibility that small groups will occasionally outwit them and reduce their audacity, the most effective option would be for the peaceful crowd of union members and demonstrators to no longer tolerate their presence, to stand with their hands up whenever these cops attempt to break through the demonstration, to shout at them and push them away. If their appearance in the demonstrations starts causing disorder instead of restoring order, Mr. Nunez will be forced to exile them to the Ile de la Cité [the island in the center of Paris], to cloister them in their garage on rue Chanoinesse.
- On Thursday, March 16, following the announcement of the use of article 49.3, a union demonstration announced ahead of time and more scattered calls converged on the other side of the Concorde bridge in front of the National Assembly. The primary objective of the police being to protect the representatives of the nation, theys pushed the crowd back to the south. Thanks to this maneuver, the demonstrators found themselves propelled into and dispersed throughout the tourist streets of the city center. The piles of garbage left by the garbage collectors’ strike spontaneously became bonfires, slowing down and preventing police responses. Spontaneously, in many cities around the country, burning garbage cans became the signature of the movement.
- On Friday March 17, a new call to go to the Place de la Concorde was contained. Though the demonstrators were courageous and determined, they found themselves caught in a trap, a vice, unable to regain their mobility. The prefecture did not make the same mistake as the day before. On Saturday, a third call to gather in the same square convinced the authorities to ban all gatherings in an area stretching from the Champs Élysées to the Louvre, from the Grands Boulevards to the rue de Sèvres—in other words, across about a quarter of Paris around the Presidential Palace of the Elysée and the National Assembly. Thousands of police officers stationed in the area were able to prevent the beginning of any gathering by harassing passersby. On the other side of the city, a gathering at Place d’Italie took the police deployment in stride and started a spontaneous demonstration in the opposite direction. Mobile groups were able to block the streets for several hours, setting fire to garbage cans and temporarily escaping the BRAV-M.
- The ABCs of strategy are that tactics should not clash, but should compose. The Paris prefecture has already presented its battle narrative: responsible but harmless mass demonstrations on one side, nightly riots led by radical and illegitimate fringes on the other. Anyone who has been in the streets this past week knows how much this caricature is a lie and how important it is to keep it that way. For this is their ultimate weapon: to divide the revolt into good and bad, responsible and uncontrollable. Solidarity is their worst nightmare. If the movement gains intensity, the trade union processions will end up being attacked and, consequently, defending themselves. The surprise blockades of the beltways by CGT groups [Confédération Générale du Travail, a national trade union] indicate that a part of the base is already determined to go beyond the rituals. When the police intervened in Fos-sur-Mer on Monday to enforce the prefect’s orders, the unionized workers escalated to confrontation. The more that the actions multiply, the more that the grip of the police will loosen. Gérald Darmanin mentioned that there have been more than 1200 spontaneous demonstrations over the past few days.
“Power Is Logistical—Let’s Block Everything”
Beyond its own violence, the effectiveness of the police also lies in its power of diversion. By determining the place, the form, and the time of confrontation, it saps the energy of the movement. If we bet on disorder and the threat it poses to the government to compel Macron to give up on extending working hours, the blockade is crucial. Indeed, no one will wait indefinitely for the general strike of a working class and a labor movement eroded by 30 years of neoliberalism; the most obvious, spontaneous, and effective political gesture is now the blocking of economic flows, the interruption of the normal flow of goods and humans.
What has been organized in Rennes for two weeks can serve as an example. Rather than confronting the police as their primary objective, the people of Rennes have set up semi-public assemblies in which blocking actions are conceived. This Monday at dawn, a call for “dead cities” saw hundreds of people spread over several points of the city come to block the main roads and the Rennes ring road. Two weeks earlier, 300 people set fire to garbage cans in the middle of the night, blocking the street of Lorient until the early morning. The challenge is never to confront the police but to take them by surprise, to become stealthy. Even from the point of view of those who only swear by numbers and are still waiting for the general strike, this multiplication of blocking points and disorder is obvious. If, after the explosion in response to use of article 49.3 last Thursday, there had only been the call [from official union leadership] to demonstrate the following Thursday, everyone would have resigned themselves to a last stand and defeat. The blockades and the diffuse disorder have inspired the courage, confidence, and impetus the movement needed to project itself beyond the deadlines determined behind the doors of the union leaders.
Occupy to Meet and Organize
The collapse of classical politics along with its parties and its disillusionment has opened the way to innovative autonomous experiments. The movement against the labor law, Nuit Debout [a movement in 2016], the Yellow Vests, les Soulèvements de la Terre [the uprisings of the earth, a recent series of environmental mobilizations using mass direct action], and many others have confirmed in recent years that not only was there nothing left to expect from representation, but that nobody wanted it anymore.
Each of these sequences would deserve a thorough analysis of its strengths and weaknesses, but we will stick to one basic fact: undoing power implies inventing new forms, and for that, in the atomization of the metropolis, we need places to meet, think, and act from. For decades, the occupation of buildings, university campuses, or other places has been part of the obvious practices of any movement. A university president who accepted the intervention of the police on his campus was immediately condemned, as it was taken for granted that the collective and participatory reappropriation of space was the minimum response to the privatization of all spaces and the policing of public space.
It is clear that today, no occupation is tolerated. If, as people have done in Rennes, one takes over an abandoned cinema to transform it into a Maison du Peuple [“house of the people”] where trade unionists, activists, and locals meet, the socialist mayor of the city evicts it within 48 hours, sending hundreds of police officers. As for the universities, their authorities shamelessly invoke the risks of disorder and the possibility of distance learning to close them administratively or send the police against their own students. On the other hand, all this underscores how important it is to have places where we can meet and organize ourselves, how much they can increase what we are capable of. In Paris, an occupation of the Bourse du Travail [labor union hall] was attempted after a boisterous assembly and a spontaneous banquet beneath the glass roof of the workers’ movement. However, it withered away in the night, due to the indecision or incomprehension of the unions and autonomous rebels. We need places to build connection and solidarity and we need connection and solidarity to hold places. The story of the chicken and the egg.
In Rennes, the movement temporarily overcame the problem: once evacuated, the participants in the Maison du Peuple met in broad daylight and continued to organize blockades as well as meetings—presumably while waiting to be sufficiently united and strong to take back a place with roof, running water, and heating. In Paris, the limits that the Nuit Debout experiment reached seem to have foreclosed the possibility of meeting outdoors. The caricature that lingers would have it that open-air discussions only produce monologues without beginning or end. However, we remember the aperitif at Valls’2 and the possibility, even from our self-centered metropolitan solitude, to make the decision at the drop of a hat to rush to the Prime Minister’s house with several thousand people. The fact that the government is so intent on leaving us without meeting points shows how urgent it is to establish them.
Towards Infinity and Beyond
As we have said, the contours of the movement are becoming pre-insurrectional. Every day, the blockades multiply, the actions intensify. Thursday will therefore be decisive. From the point of view of the reform, if the demonstrations on Thursday get out of control, Macron will be cornered. Either he will take the risk of a black Saturday3 everywhere in the country—that is to say, the Yellow-Vestification that he fears above all—or he will back down on Friday, invoking the risk of significant uncontrollable outbursts.
Everything is at stake now, and more. The left is waiting in ambush, ready to sell an electoral loophole, the illusion of a referendum, or even the construction of the 4th International—whatever it takes to call for patience and a return to normal. For the movement to endure and avoid cooptation as well as repression, it will have to confront as soon as possible the question that is central to any uprising: how to organize itself. And undoubtedly, some people are already thinking and talking about how to live communism and spread anarchy.