Hands off the Botanical Garden Squat


On the occasion of the announcement by the Municipality of Petroupoli of a contest for contractors for “ERECTION OF NEW TOWN HALL BUILDINGS WITHIN THE OUTLINE OF THE FORMER BOTANICAL GARDEN”, we have to say the following:

The cheese is the City Hall in the Botanical Garden and the mousetrap is the fall of the grove of Ag. Dimitriou, its declassification and then its shredding.

When the decision to build a Town Hall on the site of the Botanical Garden was made public, we knew that this decision was purely IDEOLOGICAL. The exclusive goal was and is the seizure of the Botanical Garden. The bearer of this decision is the party executive of New Democracy and permanent candidate of the right wing in the Municipality of Petroupoli, Th. Skalistiras. This guy has been speculating for years to push every free public and social space in Petroupoli to the vice of profiteering and privatisation. In other words, to cut it into pieces and deliver a dead, right-wing city. Of course, he wouldn’t be able to achieve his goals by addressing society itself but he would have to rely on the force of the state and repression. He finally found the opportunities he was seeking to reach his antisocial goals. The first opportunity was the municipality elections and his collaboration with the political opportunist Vlachos during which the right-wing party took for the first time command of the municipality. The second is the rise to power of New democracy, the party of repression, wire tapping and corruption. Through the mechanism of the party and the cooperation with the environmental hazard Hatzidakis, they managed to pass in the Parliament, within the framework of the environmental bill (Article 132), a decision for a construction of the Town Hall in the Botanical Garden.

They had tried to pass several laws in order to legitimize this environmental crime and since the Botanical Garden is characterised as a forest they enacted continuous declassifications of forest areas to reach the forest (grove) of the squat. So as long as these people who adore authority and hate the environment are in power, the next declassification will concern the grove itself which undoubtedly, sooner or later, will be offered to speculators and greedy investors.

The occupied BOTANICAL GARDEN in its 13th year of existence continues to address society, managing that way to produce political, cultural and social work very visible and acknowledged, through self-organization, solidarity and dignity and away from the gray zones of parties or financial interests.

The enemies of the public space and the commons, are preparing to attack Botanical Garden. They want a society dissolved and individualized in the mire of mediocrity and resignation so they can float by controlling and imposing through authority and commands.

We appeal to every thinking person, to everyone who wants to take life into their own hands, to join us in preventing the destruction of nature and society.

– Hands off the Botanical Garden. Hands off the squats

– Let’s fight with all means for a free and social public space

– Resistance now

– EKX Botanical garden of Petroupoli

Raoul Vaneigem: The State is Nothing – Let’s Be Everything

Raoul Vaneigem

An essay written by Raoul Vaneigem for the Greek antiauthoritarian movement during his participation in Thessaloniki’s Direct Democracy Fest in 2010.

It’s not by chance that Greece, where the idea of democracy was born, has become the first to blaze a trail in the battle that must be waged against the democratic corruption that everywhere is heightening the pressure applied by the multinationals and financial mafias. In Greece, we have seen the demonstration of a resistance that contrasts sharply with the lethargy of the European proletariat, which for decades now has lain dormant, anesthetized in the grip of consumerism and by impostures of emancipation.

Allow me to recall a few banalities. Consumerism has generalized a supermarket democracy where citizens have the greatest possible freedom of choice on the express condition that they pay the price for it on their way out.

The old political ideologies have lost their substance and have become little more than the advertising brochures that the elected officials use to increase their audience and their power. Politics, whether it calls itself left or right, is no longer any more than a pandering patronage relationship where the elected officials look out for their own interests instead of those of the citizens they’re supposed to represent.

And once again Greece has found itself in a good position to restore the original meaning to the word “politics”: the art of governing the city.

The second banality is that the world’s States have lost the privilege they arrogated to themselves of managing the public good. Of course, the traditional state has always taken tribute from citizens by force with taxes and duties; but in compensation, then, they ensured the proper operation of public services, teaching, healthcare, mail, transportation, unemployment benefits, and pensions… Now the world’s States are no more than the servants of the bankers and the multinational corporations. Now the latter have had to face that the bubble formed by the insane amounts of money invested in financial speculation instead of in the development of priority industries and socially useful sectors is doomed to pop, with a financial crash. We have fallen prey to the managers of this bankruptcy, who are greedily scraping out the last short-term profits by super-exploiting the citizens, who are invited to fill the bottomless gap of a deficit created by bank embezzlement, at the price of an ever more precarious life.

Not only is the State no longer able to fulfill its obligations under the social contract, it is eating away at the budgets for public services, scrapping everything that guaranteed even its own survival, rather than simply letting everyone live a real life. And they’re doing it in the name of that gigantic swindle baptized as “the public debt.”

The State has only one function left: police repression.

Its only safeguard is the spread of fear and despair. And it ensures that spread rather effectively by lending weight to an apocalyptic way of seeing the world. It spreads the rumor that tomorrow will be worse than today. According to the state, good behavior means consumerism – hurry and spend, before you go bankrupt; try to profit off everything that can be made profitable; even if it means sacrificing your very existence and the whole planet itself to keep the generalized rip-off going.

Nihilism is the true philosophy of business. When money is all that matters, all values disappear except commodity value. We have watched as consumerism has undermined all the supposedly eternal “truths” of the past: paternal authority, patriarchal power, religions, ideologies, the prestige of the army and police, respect for bosses, the sanctity of sacrifice, the virtue of hard work, scorn for women, children, and nature… But at the same time it has killed consciousness, which today we must lead back from the dead, using as our guide the truly human values that have so many times been at the heart of riots, revolts and revolutions.

We know that a new alliance is now being formed with what nature offers us free of charge, an alliance that will put an end to the covetous exploitation of the earth and of human beings. It will be up to us to rescue from the aggressive grip of capitalism seeking new profits, these free energies that it’s trying to make us pay such high prices for. In this sense, our era, which is currently being disrupted not by an economic crisis but by a crisis of the economy of exploitation, is also the right moment for people to become truly human beings. And becoming human means refusing to be a slave to work and power, and affirming our right to create our own destiny and situations that favor the wellbeing of all.

The course of events currently unfolding may risk accentuating the urgency with which several questions are now being posed. I will refrain from supplying any answers, since to do so outside of the practical conditions and communities where those questions will be raised would be all too abstract – and abstraction, as a kind of thinking cut off from real life, always only gives rise to the old monsters of power. I am content to merely cast some light on those questions.

  1. What are we willing to do to compensate for the failure of a State that not only no longer serves the citizens, but sucks their blood to feed the octopus of international banking?

We are up against forces of inertia. Family, social, political, economic, religious, and ideological traditions have from one generation to the next constantly perpetuated the voluntary servitude that La Boétie denounced long ago. On the other hand, we can try to make the most of the shock caused by the collapse of the system and the disintegration of the State, and make good use of the temptation to look beyond the small-minded limitations of the commodity. A reversal of perspective is to be expected. Beyond the eventual pillage of supermarkets that the accelerated pauperization now underway will probably give rise to, lots of consumers threatened by exclusion won’t fail to notice that survival is not life, that it’s not worth it to trade off an existence where the discovery of the energies and goods lavished upon us by nature harmonizes with the attractions of desire for an accumulation of adulterated, useless products. That life is here, now, and that it only asks to be built and propagated, in the hands of the vast majority of people.

Let us cease feeling sorry for ourselves about the failed attempts at emancipation which punctuate our history, not so as to instead celebrate our occasional successes – since after all, the very notion of “success and defeat” has a bad stench of commodity limitations, tactics and strategy, and predatory competition about it – but rather so as to give thrust to experiences which, emerging in joy and audacity, are waiting for us to pursue them by implementing a project of self-organization, and assemblies operating in direct democracy.

The Zapatista collectives in Chiapas are perhaps the only groups today that are truly applying direct democracy.

Communizing the land gets rid of the conflicts associated with its private appropriation right away. Everyone has the right to participate in the assemblies, to speak up, and to tell what their choice is, even children. There are no majority-elected representatives in the proper sense. Individuals showing an interest in certain areas (teaching, healthcare, mechanical work, coffee, organizing festivals, organic agriculture styles, external relations, etc.) are simply offered the opportunity to become officials for the collective for a limited period of time. They then enter a “good governance council” and regularly report on their task, for the duration of their mandate. The women, who at first were skeptical, because of the patriarchal customs of the Mayan people, now have a paramount role in the “good governance councils.” The Zapatistas have a slogan that defines their intent to establish a more human society, which emphasizes the need for constant vigilance: “we are not an example, but an experiment”.

  1. Money is not only becoming more and more devalued, it is on its way toward disappearing. During the Spanish revolution, the communities of Andalusia, Aragon, and Catalonia established a distribution system that made no use of any currency (though some others did continue to use the peseta, and others invented new currencies of their own, all of them worked quite well together). Today, it is up to us to study ways of replacing relationships of exploitation, where the commercial trade in things determines the commercial trading of people, with human relationships based on gift rather than exchange.

We have become slaves to economic operations, the establishment of which signed the birth certificate of commodity civilization, altering individual and social behaviors, and setting up a permanent merging of comfort and denaturing, progress and regression, human aspirations and barbarism.

Certainly, the concrete and virtual mode of finance today still constitutes a coherent system – an absurd coherence, of course, but one which is able to go on governing people’s behaviors. On the other hand, think what might happen because of this when the financial crash strips money of its value and utility!

Those who refuse to allow it to tyrannize their everyday lives will doubtless welcome its disappearance as a kind of liberation. The fetishism of money, however, is so deeply anchored in our morals that many people, still subjugated under its thousand year old yoke, will come up against an erratic emotional confusion, where the law of the social jungle reigns, where blind violence in search of scapegoats and the struggle of all against all rage on.

We mustn’t neglect the tentacles of the octopus, cornered in its last entrenchments, because the collapse of money doesn’t imply the end of predation, power and the appropriation of things and beings. When chaos, so profitable to the state and mafia organizations, is exacerbated, it propagates a virus of self-destruction, with which resurgent nationalisms, genocidal eruptions, religious confrontations, and resurgences of the fascist, bolshevik or fundamentalist plague can poison minds if the sensitive intelligence of living beings doesn’t put the question of happiness and the joy of life back at the focus of our concerns.

There has always existed a kind of fascination with abjectness that after some preliminary hesitation begins to cut its secret path and expects that by winning over all the layers of the population it will guarantee impunity and legitimacy for a banalized barbarism (the rise of Nazism in Germany showed quite well how an abstract humanism can eventually transform into an explosion of total savagery).

On the other hand, the inhumanity of the past doesn’t have to obscure the memory of what was most radical about the great movements of emancipation: the desire to liberate alienated man and give rise in him to the true humanity that reemerges in every generation.

The society to come has no choice but to recover and develop history’s projects of self-organization, which, from the Paris Commune to the anarchist collectives of revolutionary Spain, rooted their quest for harmony in the autonomy of individuals, with the happiness of all standing in solidarity with the happiness of each.

  1. The bankruptcy of the State will force local communities to organize for the public good in a manner better adapted to the vital interests of individuals. It would be an illusion to think that it will be possible without conflict to liberate territories from the grip of the commodity and set up zones where human rights will eradicate the rights of commerce and profit. How can we protect the enclaves of free sharing we will attempt to establish within a sectioned off, policed world, controlled by a universal system of predation and greed?

From this perspective, a question that was raised by a Persian friend of mine seems particularly significant. In light of the repressive violence of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran, he brought up the problems encountered by an opposition that simultaneously came to be aware of its strength in numbers and its tragic powerlessness in the face of the brutal attacks carried out by the army, the police, and the “revolutionary guards,” those gangs of paramilitary thugs whose religious power legitimates their violent acts. The thoughts that follow were written on his request.


“If you can run a marathon, you can surely walk a block” [qui peut le plus peut le moins] is a pertinent principle for the kind of thinking that demands that action be taken, whether violent or non-violent, to resist repression by a State, party, class, mafia organization, religion, or ideology wherever it impedes the freedom of existence and expression of individuals. By examining the problem where that repression is at its most ferocious, at its most pitiless, we can draw the consequences for countries whose democratic formalism limits the excesses of their barbarism. Oppressive conditions obviously differ greatly among countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, France, Italy, Russia, China, the USA, or Colombia…

To look at this issue while keeping in mind the examples of Iran, North Korea or Burma seems to me conducive to responses that would be appropriate for other countries less accustomed to the use of savagery.

Up to today, we have been faced with two alternatives: either those who made a decision to put an end to repressive violence ended up on the enemy turf and set themselves up in its place, by using against their enemies a violence that is of the same nature but in the opposite direction – or the opposition to tyranny has taken recourse to passive resistance, based on the pacifism preached by Gandhi with such unquestionable success.

Nevertheless, though Gandhism did triumph over English occupation, it was dealing with an adversary which, pitiless as it may have been, was caught off guard and saw its ability to react paralyzed by its own philanthropic formalism, residual ethics and its deontology of war, all of which tended to condemn the massacre of a hostile but unarmed population.

In spite of its hypocrisy, a kind of military fair-play felt the pinch of the tactical decision that had been made to nip the rebel movement in the bud with no delay. It is well known that lord Mountbatten’s diplomatic wisdom did not entirely fail to lend support to the victory of popular demands. But when Gandhism was used to attack power structures with less ethical concerns, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa, it proved inoperative. The Burmese junta, likewise, didn’t hesitate to machine-gun down peacefully demonstrating opposition crowds. Iran follows a similar logic of repression.

What response is proposed by guerrilla war? Every time it has won, it’s been for the worse. An armed triumph always leads to a bitter human defeat.

The fundamental error of armed struggle is to give priority to military objectives rather than to the creation of a better life for all. To advance into the enemy’s terrain to destroy it is to betray the will to live for the will to power. The communards got hold of some cannons, but they neglected the money in the Bank of France and the use that they could have made of it, so they ended up trumped by the troops from Versailles. It’s well known how militarized bolshevism crushed the first soviets, the Kronstadt sailors, the makhnovists, and, later, the Spanish anarchist collectives, all in the name of revolution. Relatively speaking, it was the same so-called communist party and the Stalinist spirit that ended up hollowing out the substance from the May 1968 movement (and this isn’t about guerrilla fighting, but about the depressing persistence of the idea of power, which ended up perverting the insurrectional upsurge).

Does anyone still need to be reminded that wherever guerrilla war has triumphed – whether in Mao’s China, Vietnam, Cambodia, or in Cuba – armed ideology has ended up constituting the ideological armies that have crushed freedom while claiming to be fighting for it? The repugnant slogan “power grows from the barrel of a gun” targets first of all those who resist all forms of authority. It has had fewer victims among counter-revolutionaries than among actual revolutionaries, enemies of tyranny.

Neither do we want, on the other hand, any more of what happened in Frankenhausen, where in 1535 the German peasants in revolt abstained from any resistance and let themselves be massacred by the princes’ army, counting on God’s help; they had forgotten the words of Bussy-Rabutin, who said that “God always marches on the side of the biggest batallions.” And for a more recent example: On December 22, 1997, forty-five people, mostly women and children, were massacred in Acteal, a small town in Mexico, by Indian paramilitaries, in a church where they were praying. They were part of the Abejas (Bees) movement, a group of pacifist Christians who, while closely associated with the Zapatistas, demanded absolute nonviolence. The reason behind this cruelty was that the Abejas had set up in land coveted by other Indians, members of that party of corruption called the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Aside from the disgust that such atrocities cause, can we really protest against the torturers without also incriminating the Christian inclination towards martyrdom and renunciation, which gives the cowardly such a thrill and gives the weakest such arrogant cruelty? The worst coward knows that there’s no risk at all when his victims refuse to defend themselves, and even stretch their necks out toward the knife.

We will need to be more attentive to those aspects of our behavior that serve as an invitation and incite them to attack, because – even without being aware of it – we have all too often opened the door for the enemy.

How do our adversaries achieve their goals? Most often by instilling in us the absurd belief that they are all-powerful. They stimulate the fear reflex that builds up belief in the invincibility of the old world, while in fact it is crumbling everywhere. The disastrous effects of such dogma give rise not only to resignation and fatalism among the masses, but also cause the desperate courage that drives people to mount attacks with the feeling that they’re going to their death in a battle as glorious as it is vain.

But what can those attacks do against the whole repressive arsenal, whose sophistication seems to suggest its ability to mount lightning-fast and unstoppable counterattacks? Omnipresent technological surveillance couldn’t prevent the destruction of those towers in New York by rough and ready homemade means. Likewise, long ago, the “invincible” Maginot Line was made to look ridiculous by a German offensive that quite simply ignored it.

If the surveillance networks have such yawning gaps in the struggle against permanently threatening destructive forces, how will they be effective against actions that do not aim to annihilate them but instead intend only to create a radically different society that would render obsolete and pathetic the gussied-up specter of Kalashnikovs and nuclear missiles?

The question remains: what do we do if we want to refuse to be defenseless against the guns of oppression and at the same time refuse to use against the dominant powers the same weapons it uses against us?

The discussion is open. I have no peremptory response to propose. I only wish to clarify the debate by making a few remarks.

The best safeguard is to not enter into the terrain where the enemy expects and awaits us. It knows all the most miniscule nooks and crannies of the territory delimited by the commodity and by the behavioral habits that it imposes (predation, competition, authoritarianism, fear, guilt, money-fetishism, greed, pandering). On the other hand, however, it knows nothing about life and its innumerable creative resources.

A preliminary precaution, then, would be to eradicate from our groups and assemblies all forms and traces of power and authoritarian organization. The practice of individual autonomy is a prerequisite for cooperative self-organization. This is what the VOCAL movement in Oaxaca is working on setting up, with its rank and file assemblies at the base transmitting its decisions to its delegates, rejecting all intrusion by parties, unions, political factions, and pandering demagogues.

True coherence can only emerge based on a project of individual and social life. The future will belong to local communities capable of thinking globally, i.e., to those that rely on their radical approach and their broad distribution to lay the foundations for an International Union of the Human Race. This is the only way to avoid the traps of communitarianism, that product of State Jacobinism.

The neighborhood committees idea that took hold in Oaxaca, deserves an examination as a possible path. Mexico is not Iran; far from it, but it lacks the conditions we have in Europe. In Oaxaca, the paramilitaries kill people with the blessing of a despotic governor. He needs spokespeople, in whom he can find the germs of corruption inherent in power, whatever they may be. He needs parties, unions, factions. He finds them easily. And with them he feels like he’s on familiar terrain again, and can crush them or negotiate with them, as the case may be.

On the other hand, neighborhood committees, in grasping things and beings by the roots, have no agenda other than to defend the interests of the local population; thus what is undertaken in the interest of a few is also beneficial to the many (such is, again, the principle that the local is inseparable from the global). The neighborhood committees are not an armed threat; so they’re not a danger that power can identify. They constitute a poorly identified terrain, dealing with things like food, water and energy supplies. A kind of solidarity develops from that which, operating around apparently anodyne themes, makes mentalities change and opens them up to consciousness and inventiveness. And so the practice of equality between men and women, of the right to happiness, of improving everyday life and the environment, start to lose their abstract character and modify behavior. Treating the questions raised by everyday life as the first priority gradually renders obsolete the problems traditionally harped on by ideologues, religions, and the old politics – the politics of the old world. And so we come back to the traditional meaning of the word “politics”: the art of managing the city, improving the social and psychological space where a population aspires to live according to its desires.

We have everything to gain by attacking the system and not the men that have become simultaneously its managers and its slaves. Giving in to the emotional plague, to revenge, to pressure-releasing explosions, means participating in the blind violence and chaos that the State and its repressive bodies need to go on existing. I don’t underestimate the furious relief that a mob gets out of burning down a bank or pillaging a supermarket. But we know that transgression is actually just a kind of homage to interdiction; it supplies safety valves for oppression – it does not really destroy it, it just restores it. Oppression needs blind revolts.

On the other hand, I can’t see any more effective ways of promoting the destruction of the commodity system than propagating the notion and practice of freeness (this is timidly sketched out here and there already with the sabotage of parking meters, to the great displeasure of the corporations trying to rob us of our space and our time).

Are we so unimaginative, so uncreative, that we can’t eradicate the constraints on us by the state and private lobbying racket? What recourse would they really have against a great collective movement that could simply declare free public transit, refuse to pay taxes and fines to the Robber Baron State, and could instead invest them for the benefit of all by providing regional areas with renewable energy equipment, and restoring the quality of healthcare, teaching, food, and environmental stewardship? Wouldn’t a self-organized society need to be based on a restoration of a true politics of proximity? Instead of all these train, bus, and metro worker strikes, which block citizens from circulating, why not run them for free? That would kill four birds with one stone: it would damage the transport companies’ profitability, reduce the profits of the oil lobbies, break the bureaucratic control over the unions, and above all it would bring about massive support and solidarity from users.

We are submerged in false problems that hide the real ones. Political views – which can always be manipulated – in fact themselves manipulate what should be the basis for individual activity: the random whim of everyday desires, what experiences they urge us into, and their means of smashing whatever shackles them. What good are all the political speeches that avoid discussing the crisis that we must get out of by not turning away from it, compared to the despair of having to go to work all the time, having to become bored of consuming products, to give up our passions, to simply possess more and more, losing all the joys of simple Being to the benefit of Having, which is slated to collapse anyway?

Together with its variants of imposed emancipation (liberalism, socialism, communism), the consumerism and clientelism of the so-called democratic regimes have shrink-wrapped the class consciousness that once won social gains from capitalism. We’ve been dragged through blood and mud by abstract ideas. The people’s Cause has fallen atop them and broken their back.

Returning to the base, the rank and file – that’s the only radical approach. It eliminates the false issue mongering that feeds emotional chaos to the detriment of consciousness-raising. In this regard, the “Islamic veil debate” shows the workings of the spectacular function that recuperates and falsifies our right to an authentic life. The polemic, where justifications and curses, puritanism and laxity, oppression and freedom, interdiction and transgression are bandied back and forth, conceals a lived reality: the conditions imposed on women. The spectacle gives us a whole slew of bread and circuses with endless debates about a little trinket: symbol of voluntary servitude; deliberate provocation; folkloric manifestation; community membership; religious choice; reaction against the scorn of women shown in advertising; the erotic innuendo of hidden charms; alliance between flirting and propriety; expression of a certain sacredness; a convenient way of preventing sexual harassment by males authorized by the patriarchal tradition to get their rocks off with the drooling stares of frustration.

But the real battle is not there – it is at the base, in the joint emancipation of men and women together; it is in the refusal of apartheid, of exclusion, of misogynistic and homophobic behavior. Enough false debates, enough ideologies! In my book “Nothing is sacred, everything can be said,” I defended the principle: tolerance for all ideas, intolerance for all barbaric acts. Our only criteria must be human progress, generous behavior, the enrichment of everyday existence.

The right to Life guarantees our legitimacy.

Power plays on people’s emotions. The irrational fear it spreads everywhere is a source of blind violence that it excels in profiting from. The advantage that local communities who want to decide their own fate have is that by giving priority to the construction of an authentically human life, their practice implies the transcendence of raw emotion and awakens poetic consciousness.

In the same way as boycotts of adulterated products from the petrochemical and agricultural mafias become inoperative without access to quality food, the will to do away with consumerism, where Having supplants Being, will not follow ethical injunction so much as it will the attraction of a free life.

Taking up the enemy’s arms means foreseeable defeat; but the opposite approach just as surely leads to another kind of obvious fact: the more the feeling that life and human solidarity are the only possible leavening for an existence worthy of the name, the more malaise and uncertainty will undermine the determination and fanaticism that drive the mercenaries of the party of corruption and death.

There are many people who have talked about the uncertainty gnawing at a growing number of authorized killers, whether it’s the Iranian “revolutionary guard,” the thugs recruited by Hamas, the Israeli soldiers whose barbarism has been denounced in the Gaza Strip, the assassins in north and South Sudan, Somali looters, etc. This observation is not a tactical argument, and doesn’t fall within any kind of military perspective from which to insinuate, a bit facilely, perhaps, that the enemy is digging its own grave. It’s just about a probability: that we’re seeing an approaching financial crash that will destroy all currency, and in the same way there is a devaluation threatening the suicidal determination that the bureaucrats of crime, the mafias of profitable barbarism, are counting on to sign up more troops (i.e., as the old religious or ideological pretexts lose credibility and the fanatics start to doubt that they’re backed by some murderous God).

It is in this sense that I throw in my lot with the proliferation of a life reaction capable of fertilizing the territories desertified and sterilized by the economy of exploitation and its Mafioso bureaucracy. Our rich creativity has it in itself to discover the secret of organizing spaces and times in social and individual life at last liberated from commodity oppression. Only poetry can escape the steely gaze of power. Only the passion for life can drive back death.


  1. The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) is comprised of some thousands of fighters in the Mexican jungle. The women proposed and obtained, in direct democracy assemblies, that it not intervene offensively and instead limit itself to playing a defensive role. However, when paramilitary groups threatened the Zapatista villages, the EZLN kept out of it; instead, the “councils of good government” set up a human ring around the village, formed of hundreds of partisans and sympathizers, who flooded in from everywhere. The journalists and television cameramen covered the event, making use of the spectacle to get the whole world informed about what was happening. That was enough to repel the aggressors.
  2. In a story from India, the villagers went to complain to a wise man about the cruelty of a giant snake that was biting and killing them. The whistling sound it made as it approached was enough to spread terror throughout the village. The wise man went and found the snake and managed to convince it to leave the villagers in peace. But then, the villagers immediately set about mocking the snake, who had become peaceful, making fun of his weakness, and gaily provoking him; weary of their scorn, the snake slithered over to see the wise man and confessed his confusion: how am I supposed to react to this? The wise man thought about it, and said “I told you not to bite them, but no one said you couldn’t whistle at them anymore.”


Comrades – I have never despaired of seeing the self-organization revolution as a revolution of everyday life. Now less than ever.

I am fully convinced that by taking to the barricades of resistance and self-defense, the living forces of the whole world are awakening from a long sleep. Their irresistible, peaceful offensive will knock down any obstacle set up against the immense desire to live that nourishes the innumerable beings born and reborn every day. The creative violence of a new world’s growing pains will supplant the destructive violence of the suicidal old world.

Until today, we have been little more than hybrid beings, half-human, half-wild beasts. Our societies have been vast warehouses, where people, reduced to commodity status and considered equally precious and vile, are treated as universally interchangeable and beaten into submission. We are now inaugurating the new era, where Mankind will face up to its destiny as a creator and a thinker, becoming something, it has never been before: fully human beings.

I am not asking for anything impossible. I’m not asking for anything, in fact. I have no need for hope or despair. I only wish to see the concrete realization, in your hands and in the hands of the people of the whole world, of an International Union of the Human Race, which will bury in the past today’s moribund commodity civilization and the Party of Death frantically trying to keep it up on its last legs.

A Coffee with Kristin Ross: On the continuations of May ’68 (pdf)

A Coffee with Kristin Ross: On the continuations of May ‘68, Political journal Babylonia, Athens, June 2019.

The brochure of Babylonia “A Coffee with Kristin Ross: On the continuations of May ‘68” is now available for download in English. It contains the dialogue between Babylonia’s editorial team and Ross, during B-Fest 7 2018, on democracy, social movements, social change, what remains alive from May ‘68 and much more. Originally published in Greek in December 2018.

We met Kristin Ross in the morning of 27 May 2018 for a Sunday coffee at the historic center of Athens. The previous night she had given her keynote speech entitled “May ’68 & its continuation”, at the international antiauthoritarian festival B-Fest 7. Her talk raised our interest in the questions and cracks that were opened worldwide by the May events, and thus we decided on the following day to recreate the space and time for the continuation of this exchange.

During our dialogue with Kristin Ross, which is being presented below, we speak about the continuations of May ’68 and the future of real democracy. She detects the pieces of what remains alive from the ’68 beyond the official constructs of memory and commemorations. Which are the invisible aspects of the period and when they become socially visible? Which is the democratic thread that can connect the Paris Commune of 1871, May ’68 and the contemporary movements like zad and the squares? How could all of them be situated in the criticism towards the bureaucratic fragmentation of everyday life, with the aim of emancipation? These are some of the questions we explored together with Ross.

[gview file="https://www.babylonia.gr/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/kristin-ross.pdf"]

Ideology and the Saturation of Time and Space

Yavor Tarinski

“Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live”
Albert Einstein[1]

One of the first political groups that initiated a more complex critique on ideology was the Situationist International. They defined it as a doctrine of interpretation of existing facts[2], i.e. certain type of analysis, developed in specific politico-historic context, that have internalized the latter’s temporal and spatial characteristics completely. In this way ideologies are meant to present every other contextual reality (no matter how different) in the light of their initial environment.

Thus cultural and racial superiority (based on pseudo-scientific theories from the past) remains as relevant as ever for heavily ideologized fascist trends, despite the immense scientific body of proofs that disband their theories. The industrial proletarian worker (of the 18th and 19th century industrial Western Europe) remains the main actor for genuine social change for many of the first-world leftists, despite the fact that their societies have long entered into a post-industrialist era of service-oriented economies. Space and time are thus being saturated by ideology, which prevents the recognition of alterations in temporality and spatiality.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in his work Dawn of Day, notes the similarities between Christianity and the radical ideologies of his period, regarding their attitude towards time[3]. According to him many on the Left, just like priests, preach among the oppressed for a future without oppressors. But like the mythical for Christians “day of judgment”, socialist and other “revolutionary” utopias are eternally delayed. Nietzsche concludes that these ideologies ask you to be prepared and nothing more, waiting for something external, but otherwise you continue to live in the same way as you had lived before.

In similar manner, the situationists proclaimed ideologies to have long been dead[4], since their effect saturates time and space, lacking essentially any vibrancy. The Situationist International maintained a philosophical opposition to every ideology, because it serves to sterilize everyday life. For them, ideologies are the despotism of a social fragment imposing itself as pseudo-knowledge of a frozen totality, as a totalitarian worldview.

Every ideology, regardless of its philosophical base, tends, like everything else in capitalist society, to rigidify, become fetishised and turn into one more thing to be passively consumed.

In order for real life activity to continually experiment and correct itself, i.e. to remain vibrant, it must not be ideologized, otherwise it will only have an illusory character that pushes the past and present into a cycle of déjà vu, making the notion of future meaningless. In other words, ideology tends to sterilize the present, subordinating it to the past, while excluding the future. This illusory character is evident from Guy Debord’s magnum opus The Society of the Spectacle, where he argues that ideology is being legitimated in modern society by universal abstraction and by the effective dictatorship of illusion.[5]

Levels of Ideology

There are several levels on which ideology affects social and collective perceptions of space and time. According to the analysis of Cornelius Castoriadis, developed in his critique of Marxism, we can detect two such levels: of the established power and of the political sect. In both of them he detects problems that arise when one tries to gauge real activities after the mythical standards of a certain ideology:

  1. When ideology serves as the official dogma of an established power in a country, it is a tool for this authority to conceal reality and to justify its policies, no matter what its actions are. Socialist states from the past, for example, claimed that they strive towards social equality and classless society, while simultaneously creating an all-powerful class of party functionaries and strengthening the authority of the already existing state bureaucracy. Signs and symbols were placed around public spaces, as a reference to supposedly ongoing Revolution, at a time when authoritarian counterrevolution was actually raging, with temporality and spatiality having been saturated artificially by the socialist ideology of the state.
    The same is happening today with the capitalist system. Its ideological veil presents it as the kingdom of diversity, individuality and freedom, while in practice we witness uniformity on a global scale and the merger of state and private sector. Ideological phrases such as “global village”[6] (neoliberal globalization) and “end of history” (Fukuyama) indicate, in the former case, that all space has become known to us and there is nothing new to be discovered since all has come under the same order, while the latter refers to the inalterable temporal character of the current situation.
  2. Ideology, as the doctrine of a multitude of political sects, is the self-evident, self-justifying reason for small groups to act in a certain way. By abiding to a certain ideological purity, such sectarian collectivities voluntarily abdicate from public affairs, as a result of the conception of space and time they have adopted. Their temporality and spatiality has been saturated by their ideology, and new developments in society are being faced with hostility as they appear foreign to their non-contextual analysis. Due to this, groups that claim to be fighting for social emancipation disconnect their political activity from the ongoing social processes, entrapping themselves instead in a past-without-a-future, thus ceasing to be essentially revolutionary. The attempts to gauge real activities after the mythical standards of a certain ideology most often leads to political inaction.

Direct democracy versus Ideology

French philosopher Claude Lefort argues that [w]hile ideology emerges from within the social order, ideology dissimulates and conceals the conflicts that ensue from the internal divisions of the social. The discourse on the social can maintain its position of being external to its object only by presenting itself as the guarantor of the rule which attests, by its very existence, to the embodiment of the idea in the social relation.[7]

Direct democracy on the other hand, as a non-hierarchical project that is antithetic to the oligarchic order of political representation, breaks with the symbolic closure that is typical of modern ideologies (which seek to incarnate rationality and appear to be immanent in the social order) and pre-modern religions (that present the social order as deriving from some extra-social source, or as german-american historian Ernst Kantorowicz puts it – monarchies were the embodiment of two orders of reality: the transcendent (or divine) and the immanent, that is, the king ‘gave society a social body[8]).

Direct democracy is a political form that creates public space and time, since it allows for constant interrogation and self-instituting to take place. Instead of concealing internal clashes within society, as ideologies do, direct democracy is based on what Jacques Ranciere calls dissensus – an activity that cuts across forms of cultural and identity belonging and hierarchies between discourses and genres, working to introduce new subjects and heterogeneous objects into the field of perception.[9] This does not mean that such democratic project is nihilistic or institutionless; on the contrary, it is essentially the constant self-institution of society itself which allows to wide deliberation and exchange of ideas and opinions to be constantly taking place.

In other words, direct democracy is the creation of a different relation of society with its past, present and future, a new relation with its traditions based on critical reflection and re-creation, and, as Castoriadis suggests, the emergence of a dimension where the collectivity can inspect its own past as the result of its own actions, and where an indeterminate future opens up as domain for its activities. [10] It creates a new public space of social deliberation and political decision-making, where power belongs to all, while also establishes a temporality that is grounded in the present, but also directed at the collective creation of the future, without metaphysical reassurances of a religious or ideological eternity.

Direct democracy is incompatible with ideology, since the social order and the conflicts that may emerge from the grassroots of society are interlinked. There is not a separated source of power that can conceal itself. This is due to the democratic contradiction observed by Lefort, according to which democracy is the power of the people and the ‘power of nobody’, because power cannot be identical or ‘consubstantial’ with a particular individual or group.[11]


Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard has said that:

A revolutionary age is an age of action; ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere. In the present age a rebellion is, of all things, the most unthinkable. Such an expression of strength would seem ridiculous to the calculating intelligence of our times. On the other hand a political virtuoso might bring off a feat almost as remarkable. He might write a manifesto suggesting a general assembly at which people should decide upon a rebellion, and it would be so carefully worded that even the censor would let it pass. At the meeting itself he would be able to create the impression that his audience had rebelled, after which they would all go quietly home–having spent a very pleasant evening.[12]

His words are, more than ever, abreast with our times. Populist ideologies have created the illusion for whole nations that they are rebelling through their vote for far-right or far-left parties and leaders: from Trump in the USA, through Victor Orban in Hungary, until the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in Greece. Such new governments dress the old normality in certain ideological mantle, leading in turn to increased popular cynicism. Unfortunately, among the enemies of the current capitalist nation-states there is still the tendency of embracing ideologies. The groups they form tend to prefer to relive historical events instead of daring to attempt to alter the future and rethink the past.

For the renewal of a truly revolutionary project, there is the need to rethink our perception of time and space: to not be afraid to live in the present and participate in the formation of the future, but also drawing on the lessons from (and rethinking) the past. For this reason the project of direct democracy appears to be truly revolutionary, unlike the pseudo post-ideological discourse of neoliberalism, which still draws heavily on ideological concealment of boiling social conflicts. Only by incorporating the project of direct democracy into our struggles and visions we can go beyond the current saturation of time and space.


[1] Aylesa Foresee: Albert Einstein: Theoretical Physicist (New York: Macmillan, 1963) p81

[2] Situationist International: Internationale Situationniste #1, Knabb, p45

[3] Shahin: Nietzsche and Anarchy: Psychology for Free Spirits, Ontology for Social War (Croatia: Elephant Editions/Active Distribution, 2016) p67

[4] https://libcom.org/library/internationale-situationiste-8-article-6

[5] Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle (Canberra: Treason Press, 2002) p55

[6] https://pdgc2015a.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/globalisation-is-the-world-becoming-a-global-village-2/

[7] Vrasidas Karalis: Cornelius Castoriadis and Radical Democracy (Leiden: Brill, 2014) pp208-209

[8] Ernst Kantorowicz: The King’s Two Bodies: A Study of Medieval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957)

[9] Jacques Rancière: The Thinking of Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, (London: Continuum, 2011) p.2

[10] Cornelius Castoriadis: The Castoriadis Reader (D.A.Curtis, Ed., Oxford: Blackwell, 1997) p.281

[11] Claude Lefort: The Political Form of Modernity (Oxford: Mit Press Ltd, 1986) p.279

[12] Søren Kierkegaard: The Present Age (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962) p.2

A Conversation between Sergio Benvenuto & Cornelius Castoriadis: Autonomy, Politics, Psychoanalysis

This conversation took place in Castoriadis’ apartment in Paris, on May 7, 1994. It was registered and filmed for the Multi-Media Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences of the RAI – Radiotelevisione Italiana. First published in European Journal of Psychoanalysis, No 6, Winter 1998. Translated from the French by Joan Tambureno.


Benvenuto: You are a philosopher of politics, but you are also a practicing psychoanalyst. Does your profession of analysis have an influence on your philosophical concepts?

Castoriadis: There is a very strong bond between my concept of psychoanalysis and my concept of politics. The aim of both is human autonomy, albeit via different processes. Politics aims at freeing the human being, making it possible for him to accede to his own autonomy through collective action. The prevailing concept during the 18th and 19th centuries (including that of Marx), according to which the object of politics was happiness, is a mistaken, even catastrophic, one. The object of politics is freedom. And politics is collective‑conscious and considered‑action, aimed at transforming institutions into institutions of freedom and autonomy.

Benvenuto: The American Declaration of Independence does not proclaim that the aim of the state is happiness, but it ensures everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness. That individual quest for happiness has gradually been identified in America with the criteria of ‘problem solving’. However, does the quest for happiness for every man not imply also the autonomy of every man? The idea that society must permit everyone to search for his own happiness implies a certain liberal concept of autonomy. Is it in that American sense that you intend ‘autonomy’?

Castoriadis: No, not in the American sense. The American Declaration states, “We believe that all men are created free and equal for the pursuit of happiness”. But I do not believe that God created all human beings free and equal.

In the first place, God created nothing at all because he does not exist. Secondly, since human beings came into existence, they have practically never been free and equal. Therefore, it is necessary that they act in order to become free and equal. And once they have become free and equal, there will doubtlessly be demands regarding the Common Good, and that is the contrary of the liberal concept according to which each and everyone must pursue his individual happiness which would imply, at the same time, the maximum happiness for all. There are certain kinds of social services which are not exclusively directed to the interests of individual happiness and which are the object of political action‑for example, museums, or roads‑and all the same it is in the interest of my own autonomy that others are autonomous.

However, if society interferes with my happiness, the result is totalitarianism. In that case, society will tell me: “it is the opinion of the majority that you should not buy records of Bach’s music, but those of Madonna. That is the will of the majority, and so much for your happiness!” I believe that happiness can and must be pursued by each individual on his own. It is up to each individual either to know or not know what his own happiness is made of. At certain moments, he will find it here and at others elsewhere.

The very notion of happiness is a fairly complex one, both psychologically and philosophically.

However, the object of politics is freedom and autonomy, and that will only be possible within an institutional, collective framework, which permits freedom and autonomy. The object of psychoanalysis is the same. And there is the response to the question as to the fin of psychoanalysis (to which Freud returned often), in the two senses of the word fin (aim/end): the termination in time and the objective of the analysis. It is the aim of analysis that the individual become as autonomous as possible.

This does not mean autonomous in the Kantian sense, that is to say complying with moral dictates, established in the same way, once and for all. The truly autonomous individual is one who has transformed his relationship with his unconscious to such a point that he can ‑ to the extent that it is possible in the human universe ‑ know his own desires and at the same time succeed in mastering the acting out of those desires. Being autonomous does not imply, for example, that I am moral because I do not covet my neighbor’s wife. I have not mastered this desire for my neighbor’s wife, besides which each one of us began life desiring the wife of a fellow human being, since each desired his own mother. If one has not begun life thus, one is not a human being but a monster.

However, it is quite another thing to put that desire into action. Individuals of fifty or sixty can still have incestuous dreams, which proves that that desire remains. An individual who at least once a year has not wished the death of someone because that someone has in some way wronged him is a seriously pathological individual. This does not mean that he must necessarily kill that person, but it is necessary to realize that “in that moment I was so furious with that person that if I could have made him disappear from the face of the earth, I would have. But then, I wouldn’t have, even if I could”. That is what I call autonomy.

Benvenuto: You speak of autonomy. Other analysts who, like you, tend towards the Left prefer to speak of psychoanalysis as an instrument for emancipation. Is this the same thing?

Castoriadis: It is; however, autonomy is more precise. Psychoanalysis cannot be an instrument for social emancipation, it cannot free us from our money-dominated society or the immense power wielded by the state. Psychoanalysis does not have the capacity to make revolutionaries of patients, but it can help them to overcome their inhibitions, rendering them more lucid, more active citizens.

However, the problem of psychoanalysis is the relationship of the patient to himself. There is Freud’s famous comment in the New Lectures on Psychoanalysis: “Wo es war, soll ich werden”, “where it has been, I must become”, that is to say, substitute the It (or Id) with the I. That phrase is more than ambiguous, even if its ambiguity is removed by what follows in the paragraph: that is an effort of drying out, similar to the Dutch efforts to drain the sea of the Zuyderzee. The intent of psychoanalysis is not to drain the unconscious; that would be an absurd, as well as impossible, undertaking. What it does intend is to attempt to transform the relationship of the I instance, of the subject more or less conscious, more or less reflected, with his drives, his unconscious. The definition of autonomy on the individual plane is: knowing what one desires, knowing what one would really like to do and why, and knowing what one knows and what one does not.

Benvenuto: Today a sort of official ideology of autonomy prevails. It is enough to look, for example, at the advertisements in the media to realize that there is an ideological sale of a pagan song to happiness pursued by autonomous men and women. Isn’t your ideal of autonomy close to the ideas dominant today? You wrote that Marx was anti-capitalist, but that in reality he shared the same prejudices and the same assumptions of the capitalist society. You could be accused of the same thing, because you propose as an alternative an ideal which is today altogether dominant, even banal.

Castoriadis: There is clearly, on the part of contemporary society, an extraordinary force of assimilation and recuperation. However, I began speaking of creation, the imaginary and autonomy approximately thirty years ago. At that time, it was anything but an advertisement slogan. Gradually, the ad-men appropriated my words because they became the ideas of May ’68. However, the mystification of these ad-men becomes apparent when they speak of creativity. “If you really want to be creative, come and work for IBM” ‑ that is a publicity slogan. But at IBM, you are neither more or less creative than you are elsewhere. The creativity I speak of is of human beings who must be freed, which is quite a different thing.

In France, one does not speak so much of autonomy as of individualism. Now, individualism as it is referred to in publicity, in the official ideologies, or in politics, has nothing to do with what I call the autonomy of the individual.

In the first place, individualism is: “I do what I wish”, while autonomy is: “I do what I believe it is right to do, after reflecting; I do not deprive myself of doing what pleases me, but I do not do something simply because it pleases me”.

In a society in which each one does what he pleases, there will be murder and rape. And then, that publicity and ideology are deceptive, because the alleged individualism, the narcissism with which we are inundated, is a pseudo-individualism. The current form of individualism is that at 8:30, every evening in every French household the same dials are tuned to receive the same television programs, which propagate the same rubbish. Forty million individuals, as though obeying a military command, do the same thing, and that is called individualism! By “individual” I intend someone who attempts to become autonomous, who is conscious of the fact that, as a human being, he is absolutely unique and attempts to develop his singularity in a reflected way. Consequently, there is no relationship between the ideology of publicity and what I have said.

Benvenuto: Apparently, your idea of the aim (fin) of psychoanalysis is virtually opposite to the one proposed by Lacan. He strongly criticized the idea that that aim was to create an autonomous ego, calling that theory an “American ideology”. Do you consider Lacan’s criticism to be fair?

Castoriadis: Partially so. For, in it there were two potential‑perhaps even real‑deviations. The first was the absolute over-estimation of the Ego and consciousness. Freud’s expression, “where It was, I must become”, should be completed by the symmetrical: “there where I am, the It must be able to appear”. We must succeed in making our desires speak. Letting them pass into reality, allowing them to be translated into action, is obviously quite another thing. Therefore, it is necessary to let drives rise; it is necessary to know even the most bizarre, monstrous, and abject drives which could appear in our everyday, conscious life. On the other hand, the autonomous Ego referred to by certain Americans was in fact the socially constructed individual: the Ego was constructed by society; that is, an individual knew that he had to work to live and that if he opposed his boss it was because he had not resolved his Oedipus complex. There have been job application questionnaires in American companies in which, if the candidate responds to the question “when you where a child, did you love your mother or your father more?” by “I loved my mother more”, he earns a negative point. Because, clearly, if he opposed his father, he could be a potential troublemaker in the company. That is an ideological utilization of psychoanalysis for the purpose of adaptation.

In 1940, when there were 15 million unemployed in the United States, an article appeared in the International Journal for Psychoanalysis by American psychoanalysts interpreting the psychoanalytical roots of unemployment: one is unemployed because of an unconscious desire to be unemployed. This is an aberration, as well as idiotic, since unemployment is clearly an economy-related phenomenon.

However, Lacan’s criticism of that tendency was somewhat in bad faith. In the first place, because he chose an easy target, in the second place because he wished to propose an ideology of desire. Now, that Lacanian ideology of desire is monstrous, because desire is murder, incest and rape. For Lacan, there is the Law, but that Law ‑ as he is incapable of putting it in a social-historical context ‑ perhaps could be any law. There was law at Auschwitz; there was law in the Gulag; and there is law in Iran today.

Benvenuto: But Lacan spoke of symbolic law, constituted by language, and with a universal structure. It is not a question of just any law, imposed by any regime.

Castoriadis: Of course, with language we can say anything we please. But what exactly does he mean by symbolic law? The word “symbolic” for Lacan is a skeleton key, a word to conceal the fact that one is speaking of the institution and the instituted. However, in saying that it is symbolic, what he wants is to endow the institution and the instituted with a pseudo-transcendental dimension, as Kant would say. But the symbolic is quite another thing. Language belongs to the symbolic, in the sense that all signs are symbols of a referent, or that there are symbols of another order. But we must put an end to that Lacanian mystification of the symbolic.

There is no “symbolic” as independent domain; there is a symbolic as part and function of the imaginary. Otherwise, there are institutions, and there is a question of the validity of the institutions. However, the question is not symbolic. Is then the institution valid by right? It will always be valid de facto, as long as it is sanctioned. But it was valid de facto at Auschwitz and is so also in Iran today. Is it valid by right? Now, there is nothing in the concept of Lacan to lead us to make a distinction between the law of Auschwitz and the law of ancient Athens, or the present laws in the United States. Thus, the famous expression of Lacan to the effect that the master relinquishes nothing of his desire. Now, it is the master who knows what his desire is, and if his desire is like the desire of Lacan ‑ i.e., to transform his followers into slaves ‑ then his desire is realized. But that is basically opposed to the scope of psychoanalysis, which is not that the desire of the master, or of everyone, be realized ‑ particularly if one is aware of what desire implies in psychoanalysis ‑ because that would be incompatible with real, social life. And I do not intend here the actual American society, but also the most ideal society conceivable. So, Lacan comes back to the most utopian aspects of the ideology of the young Marx and the Anarchists, although he would have laughed sarcastically at the consideration of these ideologies. The young Marx and the Anarchists conceived of a society in which there would be neither law nor institution.

Benvenuto: That accusation directed at Lacan as anarchist surprises me. His left-wing critics usually accused him of being repressive, due to his insistence on Law and castration. For Lacan remaining faithful to one’s desire means castration, i.e., renouncing the putting into action of one’s own fantasies.

Castoriadis: Not so, because the assumption of castration in Lacan is extremely ambiguous. It is the renouncing of desire directed at the mother, but that is the condition of realizing desire. For Lacan, there is neurosis because the individual has not succeeded in assuming his castration, and if he does assume it, then his desire is liberated, with the exception that he obviously no longer directs it towards the mother but towards other women.

Benvenuto: But for Lacan, assuming one’s own desire does not imply enjoying that which one demands in reality. He makes a distinction between desire, demand and enjoyment which occurs in reality.

Castoriadis: All this is very ambiguous. Lacan is, theoretically, all that which is most banal, most suspect, similar to one of those Parisian vogues which appear and then disappear after five, ten, twenty years.
But coming back to the history of psychoanalysis, the particular problem of the human being is to succeed in creating a relationship with the unconscious which is not simply a repression of the unconscious, or its suppression according to a given social dictate and, in particular, the social heteronomy. Here we have once more a point at which psychoanalysis and politics meet. To what extent might I call the social law also my law and not a law which has been imposed on me in a heteronomous fashion? It is my law only if I have been concretely active in the formation of the law. Only in these conditions can I be truly autonomous, given the fact that I am obliged to live in a society which has laws. Thus, we have a second point of conjunction between the sense of autonomy in psychoanalysis and the sense of autonomy in politics.

Benvenuto: The left-wing culture has often criticized analysis as a practice particular to a bourgeois society, because it is essentially based on a private contract of sorts. Above all, during the 1960s and 1970s, a certain sector of the left proposed substituting psychoanalysis with a social treatment of personal problems, reducing psychopathological disturbances to social alienation. What is your opinion of this left-wing, Marxist criticism of the psychoanalytical ethic?

Castoriadis: That was a radical leftist exaggeration of the 1960s and 70s, which found motivation in certain aspects of establishment psychoanalysis. Every psychoanalytical process necessarily involves two persons: an analysand and an analyst. There cannot be a transference and a working through of the transference outside this relationship between analysand and analyst. There is, however, an aspect which is extremely difficult to resolve and to which no one has yet provided a solution: the financial aspect. On the one hand, the psychoanalyst has to make a living. On the other, as experience proves, even for the analysand an unpaid analysis is not psychically tolerable (because the debt he contracts with the analyst is enormous), and it will inevitably be ineffectual since the analysand can prattle on interminably, because the time of the session costs him nothing.

There is in any event a problem: the enormous inequality of the distribution of wealth in today’s society places psychoanalysis out of the reach of most of those who need it, unless they are reimbursed by the National Health System. This could be resolved effectively only within the framework of a general social transformation.

Benvenuto: What then are your practical, political suggestions for countering the classic criticism against analysts: that they only treat the idle rich, and usually too few patients in ratio to the average population?

Castoriadis: This is not necessarily true. Of the dozens of patients I have treated up to the present, practically none have been rich. Some have made enormous sacrifices in order to go into analysis. I adapt my fee to the patient’s economic possibilities. There are also those who cannot pay anything. But practically no one has come to me for analysis in order to be able to say at a fancy dinner party “I am in analysis”.

The financial question is however a real problem, and it would be good to attempt to eliminate this great inequality of income in today’s society. However, from a theoretical point of view, we cannot remain blocked at the Freudian theory as it was formulated initially. Freud was an incomparable genius, and to him goes the credit for a wealth of ideas. But there is a blind point in Freud: the imagination.
There is a considerable paradox in Freud’s works, in that everything recounted by him is formations of the radical imagination of the subject, of fantasies. However Freud, who was formed in the Positivist spirit of the 19th century, as a student of Brücke in Vienna, neither sees, nor wants to see, these formations. For this reason, initially, for some time he believed in the reality of the scenes of infantile seduction his hysterical patients described. He believed that the subject was ill because of something which had created trauma.

Benvenuto: For more or less the past ten years, there has been in the US the tendency to return to Freud’s initial belief in the real seduction on the part of adults.

Castoriadis: These are political idiocies created by the politically correct vogue. The patient, when he says that his mother, father, nurse or neighbor seduced him when he was a child, is always necessarily right. But that is not the problem, because the basic response is that for any traumatic event, the event is real in that it is an event, while it is imaginary in that it is traumatic. There can be no trauma if the imagination of the subject does not give a certain meaning to what has occurred, and that meaning is not politically correct but is the meaning given to the fantasy of the subject and his radical imagination. Now, Freud does not want to acknowledge that basic concept.

Currently, in the US, there is the attempt to go back in time. It is touching and funny to see that during the analysis of the Wolf Man, Freud long believed in the reality of the primitive scene which the Wolf Man described to him‑that is, the fact that he saw his parents making love from behind; and that it was not until the end of the analysis that he said‑in a footnote‑that perhaps, in a final analysis, the primitive scene was only the patient’s fantasy. However, the matter is of little importance. Freud did not account for the role played by the imagination in what he called fantasmatisation. He attempted to attribute philogenetic origins to these fantasies, and he attempted to find them in the initial myth of Totem and Taboo, which is absurd.

To explain the origin of society, Freud created a myth.

At the outset, he posed the problem of the origin of society as simply negative‑that is, the problem of the origin of the two major interdictions: that of incest and that of intra-tribal murder. Not murder in principle, because nowhere is murder forbidden in principle; if you kill the enemies of Italy or France, you have done well and are decorated‑but one must not kill within. You can kill within only if you are an executioner, or a policeman on duty. Freud did not see that the problem of the origin of society is not exclusively the problem of the creation of two interdictions. It is the problem of the creation of positive institutions: the creation of language, norms of behavior, religions, meanings, and so on. Freud’s myth explains the creation of the two major prohibitions during the course of history of the primitive horde, where a father had all the women and castrated or drove out his sons in order to continue to reign over his harem. One day, the brothers killed the father and divided the women of the tribe. Then the brothers concluded a pact stipulating that on no one would attempt to take the woman of another or to commit murder. And so they portrayed their father as the tribe’s totem animal. And every year they would prepare a sacrificial meal, during which an animal was sacrificed and eaten, thus repeating symbolically‑in the true sense of the term‑the murder of the father.

From an anthropological point of view, this myth does not hold, although it is a very significant mythical construction not only because of the fashion in which Freud and the thought of his time functioned, but also from the psychoanalytical point of view, in that it is in fact an Oedipus complex‑the tendency to murder the father and eliminate brothers/rivals. But all this was already known through psychoanalysis without the myth of Totem and Taboo. The myth represents that which it should explain, because it represents the brothers’ capacity for socialization on the day they joined forces to kill their father. That is already a social action, which presupposes the existence of language. Therefore, to explain the origin of society, Freud presupposes that society is already there, that is, that the brothers could converse among themselves, conspire and maintain a secret. Animals have never been seen to conspire.

However, because Freud totally dismisses the creative role of the radical imagination, of the fantasmatization, he is something of a reductionist or determinist; he tends to always attempt to find the connection of causes and effects in the subject’s psychic life, which created in that subject that symptom, neurosis or particular evolution.

This is carried to the extreme in stories such as A Childhood Memory of Leonardo da Vinci, in which he attempts to explain one of Leonardo’s paintings and his creative life on the basis of a childhood incident, which is here also supposed as mythical, and which, even supposing it all held together, fails to explain the painting of Leonardo, why that painting is great, or why we experience pleasure in looking at it. Also when it is a question of explaining the evolution of a singular subject‑demonstrating the reasons for a certain neurosis and not another‑Freud finally admits that it is impossible to know, and he calls it “the choice of the neurosis”. An individual chooses his neurosis, and by two or three years of age she has already embarked upon the road to obsession rather than, say, hysteria.

Benvenuto: But is not the expression “choice of neurosis” contradictory to you assume to be his determinism? Because, evidently, to speak of choice is in itself to repudiate determinism, and consequently to admit that there is no relation of cause and effect between the history of a person and his psychopathology.

Castoriadis: That is what I said. Freud inevitably attempts to find a connection between cause and effect. For example, in the Rat Man’s Analysis or in the Wolf Man’s Analysis, he says that a certain symptom exists because a given thing has occurred at a given moment.

However, in the first place, he does not see that the thing which has occurred at that moment has played this role only because the patient attributed to it that fantastic meaning. And secondly, Freud does not explain that which has occurred, and is consequently forced in the end to say that there is a choice of neurosis that he cannot explain.

He often refers to constitutional factors, but constitutional factors are like histories (heredity) in old medicine, or the soporific virtues of opium, as Molière said. Saying that there are constitutional factors does not constitute an answer. Here, once more one must be fair: when Freud spoke of constitutional factors he was not completely mistaken; for example, with infants, from the outset there is a considerable difference in their tolerance of frustration. Some infants, given the breast or the baby’s bottle, remain calm for six hours until they are once more hungry, while others very quickly begin to cry, scream, demand the breast or the bottle, or do not accept the mother’s going away. Then, constitution implies something innate. However, any effort at psychoanalytical determinism fails.

Freud said the same thing in the texts of 1936-30, as regards female homosexuality, when he stated that a girl, during adolescence, has three alternative ways. She can become a woman who loves men and who wishes to have children, she can become a dried-up old maid who detests sex and anything related to it, or she can become a tomboy in whom, even if it remains latent, there will be a tendency towards homosexuality. Why does she choose one alternative rather than another? One could point to factors which have led to a given choice or inclination, but ultimately it can never be determined.

Benvenuto: Are not the problems Freud poses on “choice” of neuroses or ways of being a woman tied to problems inherent in all historical reconstitution, since a historian reconstitutes processes over time? There has always been this oscillation between determinism and in-determinism in historical reconstructions.

Castoriadis: Yes. It is precisely for that reason that determinist and scientist reductionism is false; one can never demonstrate the totality of necessary and sufficient conditions. That does not necessarily mean that there is an absence of any form of determinism; there are certain connections of cause and effect, but not always and not essentially. It is a question of domains.

Benvenuto: But in analytical treatment, does one act on the causes or something else?

Castoriadis: That is the most important and the most difficult question. Psychoanalysis attempts to transform the way the patient sees his world. In the first place, it attempts to make him see his world of fantasies. That is, it attempts to make him understand that the way in which he sees the world is a way which, for the most part, depends on his own psychic constructions and fantasies. Secondly, it attempts to lead him to an adequate relationship with his fantastic constructions. If you are dealing, for example, with someone who is on the paranoiac side, first of all he must be made to understand‑not by logical persuasion, but through the analytical work‑that it is not true that everyone wants to persecute him, but that, essentially, his view is his own fantasmatization, and that one might even say that when he actually does encounter persons really intent on persecuting him, it is he who has chosen them.

He chooses the woman who will persecute him.

I have chosen an extreme example, because with a delirious paranoiac there is practically nothing to be done; it is necessary to take a borderline case. However, it is more convincing than when you take a neurotic and attempt to lead him to overcome that way of fantasmatization. There are other cases where it is a question of leading the patient to live more or less peacefully and reasonably with his fantasy world, as well with his new fantastic productions. The way in which that occurs is also one of the mysteries of analysis. Freud never succeeded in explaining why a real interpretation has an effect. And I cannot explain why a true interpretation at times produces an effect and at other times produces none. A dyed-in-the-wool analyst will tell you: “if an interpretation does not produce any effect, this is because it is not true”. That is not exact.

Benvenuto: Apropos of the effects of analysis, in recent years there has been considerable criticism by a certain epistemology of the validity, the scientific truthfulness, of psychoanalysis. For example, Popper, Grünbaum and Eysenck have criticized the scientific plausibility of psychoanalysis. Grünbaum in particular has said that analysis sometimes simply creates placebo effects. What is your opinion of these criticisms which consider the effects of analysis as being no different than the effects of magic cures? Because, at times, a magician can also cure.

Castoriadis: But how does he do it? Mr. Grünbaum, Mr. Popper, and even Mr. Lévi-Strauss have no explanation for that. Lévi-Strauss says that psychoanalysts are the shamans of modern times, and shamans the psychoanalysts of primitive societies. But why experiences in double blind (1)? Why is there a placebo effect? Because there is suggestion. But why is there suggestion? Psychoanalysis responds that all suggestion is the result of transference. The patient to whom the physician gives a medicine is very likely to believe that that medicine will be beneficial, and for that reason there is a placebo effect and that faith can produce effects on the psyche. Secondly, it is for that reason that one makes experiments in double blind, and to say that the fact that someone goes to a psychoanalyst three times a week and that that is beneficial due to a placebo effect, is saying nothing at all. Why is there a placebo effect?

Benvenuto: Yes, but you say that epistemology and analysis both admit the existence of suggestion. I cannot believe that any analyst would be content to admit that the effects that he produces are due to suggestion, even if suggestion is explained in a psychoanalytic way.

Castoriadis: Psychoanalysis can explain suggestion, but suggestion cannot explain psychoanalysis. Because psychoanalysis is essentially‑I do not say exclusively‑the work of the analysand himself. These philosophers, perhaps because they often live in America, have in mind a psychoanalyst who says to the patient: “If you think that, it is because your mother did that”. However, other psychoanalysts worthy of the name would never say anything of the kind. Now, one has more sophisticated forms: one says that the patient who knows what the analyst thinks attempts to say to him that he knows what the analyst will think, and so on. But if one is experienced in analysis, nothing of the sort holds. It is a question of authority, but in the end I have an experience which Grünbaum has not. If one wishes to, one believes me, and if one wishes to, one does not. One sees how a patient changes in the course of a treatment, and one sees that he resists. How Mr. Grünbaum can explain why a resistance at a certain point gives way? Why does a patient for two years make no progress and then suddenly something moves and he shifts to another speed?

All these criticisms, beginning with Popper, compare psychoanalysis to an idea of science identified with positive sciences [sciences positives]. But anyone who expects psychoanalysis to be a positive science is a fool. Popper struggles against that fool. By Popper’s own reasoning, one could say that there exists no history, because there is no possibility of falsifying in history. That is possible only as regards concrete facts. If someone says “there is no Parthenon in Athens”, there is a falsifiable aspect of that thing because one can take him to Athens and show him the Parthenon. But if someone says, as Burckhardt did, that for the ancient Greeks the athletic element‑that is, competition and the struggle against the opponent‑was very important, that is an interpretation and not refutable in Popper’s sense. Popper, with his would-be criterion, says that there are positive sciences in which there is experience, measure, etc., and all the rest is literature. That may be so, but this literature is more important, perhaps, than the positive sciences.

History, society, the psyche, our lives, are at least as important as molecules and atoms.


(1) A “double-blind” experiment in medicine is when some patients in a control group are given actual medicine, while others receive a placebo, but without either the doctor or the patients knowing who has been given which. [Note of the editor].

Nation-State, Nationalism and the Need for Roots

Yavor Tarinski

The State is a cold concern which cannot inspire love, 
but itself kills, suppresses everything that might be loved; 
so one is forced to love it, because there is nothing else.
That is the moral torment to which all of us today are exposed.

Simone Weil[1]

The influence nationalism has today can be attributed to the sense of uprootedness people experience in the contemporary neoliberal globalization. The human need for feeling part of a community within familiar territorial and temporal environment remains heavily neglected by the dominant heteronomous paradigm of individualism and exploitation.

Rootedness appears as one of the most important, but overlooked, human needs. People are rooted when they, not only feel protected by, but actively and organically participate in the life of their community, preserving in this way alive certain traits of the past and expectations for the future. When brought to life, every human being is connected to a certain place of birth, cultural traditions and social environment. As Simone Weil writes: Every human being needs to have multiple roots. It is necessary for him to draw well-nigh the whole of his moral, intellectual and spiritual life by way of the environment of which he forms a natural part.[2]

In the current state of uprootedness, however, The Nation-State, and eventually nationalism, appears as the last remnant of human collectivity related to actual geographical territory and historicity amidst digitalized global flows of authority and capital.

The contemporary pseudo-rational paradigm that places consumption and individual success as the main target of life has come to degrade all social links and bonding imaginary significations. As Castoriadis explains in his article The Crisis of Modern Society, these processes have come to produce a crisis of insignificance in the so-called developed liberal societies that is slowly spreading to all their satellites in the developing world[3]. In this crisis social bonds are being diminished even on family level and the only entity that remains to provide any sort of identity, both on social and individual level, which links the future, the present and the past, appears to be the Nation-State.

The reality, however, is much different. There has been, and to some extent there still are, many other levels of human collectivities related to common ground on much smaller, decentralized and humane scale like the municipality, the city, the town, the village, the province etc. The nation or in other words – the State – has come to replace all of these, homogenizing the various cultures and traditions within its borders in its effort at establishing its authority as the only legitimate one. Thus the national identity has come to replace or dominate every other bond of attachment. As philosopher Simone Weil suggests: [m]an has placed his most valuable possession in the world of temporal affairs, namely, his continuity in time, beyond the limits set by human existence in either direction, entirely in the hands of the State.[4]

The Emergence of Nation-State

Nations are a recent invention, if we take into account the time span it occupies within the whole human history. It is tightly related to the logic of etatism and the emergence of the Nation-State. But before its domination over social imaginary, people’s continuity in space and time was expressed, for example, through their shared experiences in medieval cities and towns. There was still a sense of belonging, but it was of a more fluid nature; without being exclusively set within strict territorial borders, specific language or narrow cultural traits.

What did not exist prior to the emergence of the Nation-State was that permanent, strictly-defined patriotic devotion, on a mass scale, to a single object. Feelings of belonging and loyalty were much more diffusive and dispersed, constantly varying according to shared similarities and changing threats. Their character used to be far more complicated as they varied between interconnected groups and territories: belonging to certain professional guild, town, region, community, leader, religion or philosophical tendency. There was not one single extra-social national identity above all other intra-social interactions.

All this has changed with the emergence of Nation-States.

By shifting the role of sovereign from the vibrant public life to the lifeless bureaucratic body of the state, nationalism (as the absolute internalization of national identity by society) attempts at summing the total of people who recognize the authority of one and the same statist formation. Thus, as Weil suggests, when one talks about national sovereignty, he really means the sovereignty of certain Nation-State.[5] In statecraft, i.e. the art of making statist politics, the authority does not lay in the collective disposal of the people but it is being absorbed completely by the inhumane, merciless and bureaucratic etatist mechanism.

The latter’s complete hold on power, exercised through constant policing of everyday life, provokes on the one hand, popular feelings of mistrust, hatred and fear, while on the other, the national element demands absolute devotion and sacrifice to the very same structure, strengthening its total domination on material and cognitive level. These seemingly paradoxical characteristics complement logically each other. Total concentration of power in the hands of one extra-social bureaucratic entity requires for it to appear before its subjects as an absolute value, as a loveless idolatry, to which Weil adds the rhetoric question – what could be more monstrous, more heartrending.[6]

Unlike absolute monarchies of the past, in which the kings were being presented as direct descendants of God, modern nation-states present themselves as desacralized. But they are still embedded in a metaphysical imaginary: one that is not related to religion or God, but on hobbesian fears of the people and weberian bureaucratic rationalism. 

State is not a sacral idol, but a material object which serves “self-evident”, nationally determined purpose, that must be forced above everything else. It allocates, as Kurdish revolutionary Abdullah Ocalan suggests, a number of attributes whose task is to replace older religiously rooted attributes like: nation, fatherland, national flag, national anthem and many others.[7] The notion of national unity comes to reminiscent and goes even further than religious concepts such as the “Unity with God”. It becomes divine in an absolute manner.

In order to achieve this total absorption of all social life, it strives at systematically destroying all organized and spontaneous forms of public interaction, so as to remain the only link between the past and the present, as well as the only social and individual signification. This antagonism between State and society, that takes the form of the former’s efforts to constantly degrade public space and time, has low but ceaseless intensity. This process is invisible for the social conscience, because of the cautiousness that is required for the statecraft to not lose its supremacy that nationalism provides. The outcome of this national bureaucratization of everyday life is the infliction of traits of servility, passivity and conformity into people’s imaginary, so as to make social interaction beyond Nation-State hardly imaginable.

Nation-State and Borders

The dynamics of State and nationalism enclose those that are situated within their frontiers, both on territorial and temporal level. On the one hand it encloses through its territorial borders, while on the other, through the subordination of people’s imaginaries to patriotic identities. Thus the social flow of ideas through space and time is being obstructed. These national compartments restrain human creativity, and although not dulling it completely, they still seriously limit it’s potentials by placing on its way border check ups, bureaucratic formalities, patriotic dogmas and national antagonisms. Simone Weil suggests that a closer examination of history will reveal the striking difference between flow of ideas and cultures in pre-national periods and the modern age of statecraft and capitalism.[8] Without romanticizing the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, one can see in those periods the fluid, creative, curious relationship inhabitants of cities and regions from different cultural and territorial backgrounds had with each other, as well as with their history, present and future.

Today on the contrary, when (while) we are supposedly connected globally with each other, and the planet has become, as the popular saying goes, one “giant village”, we see more suspicion to the foreign, more fear from the unknown, than our access to knowledge, science and technology should suggest. One of the main reasons for this is the deepening enclosure of public space and time by statecraft and nationalism. Similar processes have been observed by other thinkers like David Graeber, who in his book The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joy of Bureaucracy[9] observed the unfulfilled promises of the highly scientific, technological age we have already entered. These failed expectations he attributes to the civilizational shift from the real to the simulational, which is a direct result of the capitalist and bureaucratic dynamics that have uprooted our societies from organic experience of and intervention with public space and time.

The National Sense of Injustice and Loyalty

In the national context of statecraft, every notion of justice is being expropriated by and submitted to the expansionist nature of the State. As being an entity aimed at concentrating authority, it is always in antagonistic relationship with other similar formations, as well as with social uprisings for power redistribution. States always present themselves to be in position of injustice regarding their national mission for complete domination.

According to Hannah Arendt: tribal nationalism [patriotism] always insists that its own people are surrounded by ‘a world of enemies’ – ‘one against all’ – and that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others.[10]

Justice loses its meaning and from a matter of public deliberation it is being absorbed by the patriotic discourse. It is being turned into a tool through which the Nation-State processes and condemns its opponents on geopolitical and on inner/structural level (as national threat and as national traitors, respectively). This inflicted sense of national injustice is used to fill the gap left by the uprooted imaginary significations that relate people and their communities to actual territorial environments and vibrant cultures. It attempts at turning acts, done in the name of homeland, into struggle against universal injustice.

But since this feeling of national injustice is of simulative rather than of organic character, it often leads to extreme attitudes like xenophobia, racism, discrimination etc. Thus it comes as no surprise when Weil concludes that fascism is always intimately connected with a certain variety of patriotic feeling.[11]

By breaking all organic bonds of public life and replacing them with patriotic justice, the state becomes the only entity to which one can pledge loyalty. In such way monstrosities that are being conducted by national bureaucracies are being often adopted by the common folk as just. As radical geographer David Harvey explains, national identity is the primary means by which the state acquires legitimacy and consent for its actions.[12]

This is the reason why people willingly engage in wars that will cost them much, if not even their lives, while empowering, without to place in danger, their rulers, which have provoked the conflict in the first place. It is because of this imaginary signification of national loyalty against the ultimate injustice that has led societies to massacre each other. It is also most certainly the engine of the current rise of xenophobia and racism among people in the developed countries. Nationalism leads them to view themselves as victims of those that seek refuge from the rubbles of the Third World, neglecting the fact that it was the pillage and exploited conducted by their own nations that have provoked these current migratory waves.

Reproduction of Hierarchies

The sense of uprootedness slowly penetrates the social imaginary. The long tentacles of the dominant bureaucratic mechanisms embed themselves within the everyday life of people, making it almost impossible to not view everything in terms of nations, states and capitalist relations. Thus the current heteronomous worldview is often being recreated by those who rebel against it. Social mobilizations that rise against authoritarian regimes or exploitative/parasitic capitalist systems tend to slowly replace the initial democratic traits with erection of hierarchies and leadership cults that mimic the patriotic loyalty to the Nation-State. This is especially true for, but unfortunately not limited to, movements that strive at achieving social change on representational level since, as Max Weber correctly concludes, no party, whatever its program, can assume the effective direction of the state without becoming national.[13]

By being uprooted from their physical and temporal environment, with only the lifeless bureaucratic machinery of the State as a linkage between the human being and the world, people are compelled to embrace leaders, whose role resembles that of the statist Leviathan. We can see this logic in pop culture, and particularly in cinema, where manufactured stars play characters that resemble contemporary popular perceptions of the state:  either the flawless superheroes and top agents from the Cold War era, or the cynical and vulgar, but effective, antiheroes that have sprang during the ongoing crisis of political representation.

Thus uprootedness breeds further uprootedness, or better yet – it expands itself, constantly securing the continuation of dominating bureaucratic organisms and power relations. The dangers of these processes have been examined by thinkers like Hannah Arendt, for whom the loyalty to religious or national groups and identities always leads to the abdication of individual thought.[14] But we are not doomed to remain uprooted and thus easily controlled and manipulated. Possibilities for rooting can be found all around us that lay beyond the ideological mystifications of the contemporary heteronomous system.

Putting Down Roots

Putting down roots means restoring the sense of belonging that one feels towards his social and cultural environment, through shared responsibility. There is the need to make, as Andre Gorz suggests, “one’s territory” livable again.[15] People should be linked to their cities, towns and villages, through grassroots direct participation in their management and shape them according to actual social needs in the constantly changing world, instead of following predetermined and sterile bureaucratic planning. As Gorz puts it, [t]he neighborhood or community must once again become a microcosm shaped by and for all human activities, where people can work, live, relax, learn, communicate, and knock about, and which they manage together as the place of their life in common.[16] Democratic confederations, instead of Nation-States, can ultimately coordinate the activities of such emancipated and rooted communities, allowing them to reclaim their public space and time from the nationalist supremacy.

This requires for the constant creative activity of the public to once again be irritated. The Ancient Greek notion of Astynomos Orgè[17], i.e. the passion for institution-making, must become vital social and individual signification that gives meaning to life, so as to allow for the responsible participation to replace the irresponsible consumption propagated by capitalism.

Such rooting cannot be “ordered” from above by “artificial” (i.e. extra-social) structures like electoral parties or powerful leaders, for reasons that we already explored above. Instead they should be guided by democratic organizations that emerge in ecological manner in the midst of everyday life by day-to-day necessities. Germs of such organizational type already exist on embryonic level in our contemporary surroundings in the form of neighborhood assemblies during urban insurrections, markets without intermediates during economic crises, and even the regular meetings between neighbors that live in the same condominium. Political activists and organized groups should encourage and nurture the political element in such occurrences and spontaneous social movements, since politics is what allows societies to reclaim their space and determine their temporality.

An example of such rooting can be observed in the Paris Commune and how this was indicated by certain changes in the language. By taking direct control of their city, Parisians’ reclamation of public space and time could be observed through the replacement of the terms mesdames and messieurs (ladies and gentlemen) by citoyen and citoyenne (female and male for citizen). As Kristin Ross observes, the former formula, used mainly by the French bourgeoisie, indicated the saturated time of Nation.[18] It confirmed and inscribed the existing then social divisions (i.e. the superiority of the bourgeoisie over the working class) and the continuation of a certain politico-historical tradition of statecraft and hierarchical stratification.

The introduction of citoyen and citoyenne by the communards, according to Ross, indicated a break with the national belonging. Instead we can suggest that it addressed revolutionary withdrawal from the artificial/extra-social national collectivity and heading toward popular rooting in another politico-historical tradition, dating back to the emergence of the Athenian Polis. It indicated new politicized relationship that people obtained with their surrounding and temporality and the way they linked themselves to their city and history: On the one hand, they began viewing themselves as stewards of their city, managing it collectively; on the other, they began conceiving of history as creation, in which they take an active part. Citoyen and citoyenne was not a reference to a certain social strata, part of national entity, but an expression of equality and shared passion for political participation in public affairs. We could only imagine how this new democratic culture could have developed in the long run if the Commune was not brutally suppressed by the French army after only three months of existence.


Today we see how our society of uprooted people willingly embraces narratives like nationalism that provoke hatred and fear, which ultimately leads to social degradation and cannibalism. The pseudo-dilemma before the modern individual is either to stick up with the Big Brother, i.e. the Nation-State, which to offer him a sense of belonging, or to become a kind of neoliberal “space cowboy” that wonders the world on his own in search of things and experiences to consume without any sense of self-limitation or ethical boundaries. But both these options strengthen each other and create a vicious cycle.

What seems to be hidden from the “naked” eye is the third option of rooting people through the recreation of public space and political time on the basis of direct democratic self-emancipation. This means detaching history from the sterilization of the Nation-State and linking it instead to the organic experience of life in our cities, towns and villages. Historic facts should not be distilled by the means of statecraft but by the imaginary context of each epoch and society, allowing communities to determine their temporality. This would also mean that the spaces we inhabit become truly public, i.e. controlled and managed directly by those that inhabit and depend on them, and not by bureaucrats or capitalist markets.

This approach will not solve all our problems, neither will put an end to history, but it will get us closer to the paradigm of social and individual autonomy, which in its essence can provide people with the freedom to determine their past, present and future. The historic popular efforts at self-emancipation have shown the potential of such paradigm shift, offering us germs for us to use in our efforts today. It is in our hands to determine how our societies will move on.


[1] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p111

[2] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p40

[3] Cornelius Castoriadis: Political and Social Writings: Volume 3 (London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), pp106-117

[4] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p97

[5] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p124

[6] Op. Cit. 4

[7] https://libcom.org/library/nation-state-not-solution-rather-problem

[8] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p119

[9] David Graeber: The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joy of Bureaucracy (London: Melville House 2015)

[10] Hannah Arendt: Origins of Totalitarianism (London: Harvest Book, 1973), p227

[11] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p143

[12] Network for an Alternative Quest: Challenging Capitalist Modernity II (Neuss: Mezopotamya Publishing House 2015), p51

[13] Max Weber: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p106

[14] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/254461/hannah-arendt-and-gershom-scholem

[15] Andre Gorz: “The Social Ideology of the Motorcar” in Le Sauvage, September-October (1973)

[16] Op. Cit. 15

[17] https://www.athene.antenna.nl/ARCHIEF/NR01-Athene/02-Probl.-e.html

[18] Kristin Ross: “Citoyennes et citoyens!” in Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune (New York: Verso, 2015)

Notes and Premonitions of a Coming Storm | Athens Log

Victor Stransky*

Wednesday September 19, 2018 –
Koukaki, Athens, Greece
@ 14:45

I was awoken by the alarming dark of comrade Andonis’ living room, I have become accustomed to the past few days since arriving in my beloved Athens. There hasn’t been a day when my utter exhaustion hasn’t sedated me, leaving me comatose until early afternoon. The cool darkness of his apartment with its closed shutters recall the peculiar sensation of a bunker, or of the primordial serenity of the womb, or perhaps even the vacuum of quantized space.

The shower — now a dreary ritual, the jerk-off — a profane machination, the cigarette –an unpleasant yet irresistible indulgence. Clothes and shoes on, wallet, phone, keys and cigarettes. Lock the door down the stairs, onto the street and turn right towards Attiki metro station.

The sun was shining and the balmy heat of the city stuck into my skin while the rumba and cumbiaesque flow of the city remind me of a place I have never been to, of a song I have never heard before, but which I somehow knew intimately. I wove a hesitant path through the small, indistinguishable side streets, clinging to the shade like a lizard to a rock, crossed the train tracks much as I had done that now distant Sunday morning when I had arrived and had proceeded to find a party in Kerameikos, only today with the intent of finally visiting the old town of Athens.

On the surface level around the station, there was no obvious multitude of people, but upon entering the caverns below, I was abruptly awash in a river of motion and excited particles – a hive, a collective mind, channeled the form and function of the urban landscape. The train was on the platform and the doors closed just as I shot in.

The train sped down the tracks, through the underground tube, until we eventually reached my destination and I got off at FIX station, where I was immediately engulfed in an urban landscape decidedly different from the ones I had grown accustomed to during my short stay in Athens. Yet it was disturbingly familiar. One could quickly absorb the subtle marks of the neighborhood – the nicely paved streets, the well-kept sidewalks, the trendy cafés, restaurants and knick-knack stores lined on the ground floor, nestled among tall trees and fine greenery abounding. I, of course, being as addicted to coffee and cigarettes as I am, searched in vain for a good 10 minutes before I could find a place with reasonably priced tiropita and coffee.

As I walked about the neighborhood my mind was quietly searching for people who were different from me in appearance, whereas in the other parts of the city I had been, the presence of different people and cultures was a staunch fact of life. That is not to say that there aren’t people on the streets in this neighborhood. It seems to me that those I have seen dress similarly, have a similar anxious or arrogant air about them as they walk or talk and have the same skin color as me. What’s more, my eyes have yet to catch the graffiti or the political posters upon the walls and façades of buildings. Instead, at each turn I am greeted by clean, sterile and recently renovated plaster, brick and cement – nice and pristine like the streets which lock them geometrically, which are obviously cleaned regularly by the municipal cleaning service.

Should all this mean that people in this neighborhood are happy and taken care of? Or that all is suddenly well with the world and that there are no more grievances among people?

I seriously doubt it.

There is another public ‘service’ which caught my attention very quickly, catching me quite off guard in fact, seeing how I had become happily accustomed to its utter absence. As I sit on this glitzy IKEA stool, consuming my over-priced coffee and pastry which I purchased from two markedly unfriendly workers (or perhaps they were the owners?) and as I write this cute little diary entry, there are not 1, not 2, but 3 police patrol cars parked on the street and sidewalk to my immediate right, only a few meters away.


Hill of Diateichisma, ancient Athens

I left the café on Koukaki heading towards the Acropolis museum, planning to pass through the old quarter, circle around the citadel and find my way to the Pnyx, from where I would go on my way back to our beloved Exarchia.

A little way down up the road, the elite neighborhood of Koukaki gave way to the bustle of the touristic foothills of the Acropolis with its impressive southeastern fortification towering above the modern city and a huge Greek flag raised to the heavens from its bastion. Now the urban design was even more refined and maintained. The tramline and cobblestone streets, the marble, granite and limestone, white façades and the expensive souvenir shops, restaurants and cafés became ever more chic and bourgeois with each passing step and the human currents became more mixed, now with faces and voices from all corners of the world – most dressed crisply and smart, while others, those working cleaning the streets, cooking in the kitchens, minding the stalls, begging for money and so forth had an air that was in particularly stark contrast with the transient guests who flowed through the streets of the capital of the Greeks, whom on their part can be seen chatting idly, going about their daily routines, well at ease in their urban domain.

The fine esplanade then gave way to the tight alleyways of an old merchant quarter, with one- or two-story buildings whose parterres brimmed with the commercial activity of luxury souvenirs dealers, gold jewelers, cosmetics dealers and fine restauranteurs. Faces of every color and voices of every continent can be seen and heard as one meanders about the channeled veins of this human organism – the neighborhood, all the while appearing eerily similar, despite a deceptive diversity. The style, the accessories, the contrived manner, the content of their conversations, the anxious walk, the uneasy glance over the shoulder all paint a picture of a people who to my mind seem ubiquitously out-of-place.

I eventually wound up at the Roman forum, whose ruins were less than spectacular, as I have come to recognize is the case for most of those found in the ancient city of King Thyssius, mere shadows of their former glory. Walking through shoddy enclosures, archeological digs and along dirt paths in the archeological park reserve, I couldn’t help but wonder at the fleeting nature of all things, just as many before me have surely contemplated, without finding much comfort.

The stone columns and foundations strewn about the sloping hillside, I feel, stare remorselessly into my soul, intent on reminding all mortal fools such as myself of the violent and unyielding passage of time, that lays waste to and renders even the greatest of cities unrecognizable. As one goes through the trees, up and down the hills, one catches glimpses of stone temples and pine and olive woods, all to the spectacular backdrop of today’s sprawling metropolis, in all of its arrogant and unapologetic modernity, stretching as far as the mountains and the sea will allow.

I now sit on a stone bench atop a terrace outcrop of the Hill of Diateichisma with a daunting frontal view of the Acropolis as the sky makes its slow descent into the Western horizon. I will now make my way to the Pnyx, as I have resolved to confront a certain Socrates. There are questions I burn to know the answers to.

I fear our time and space to maneuver may be running out.


The Hill of the Pnyx, ancient Athens

I now sit upon the stone incline of the Pnyx, the hill where Athenian democracy’s experiment ran its course during its tumultuous first years in the time of Socrates. I find it fitting that I myself should be atop this rocky hill, pondering similar questions as the ancients might have. There was an infamous moment in history when the demos, despite its exclusion of women, slaves and migrants – the vast majority of the poor citizenry, managed to seize power from the autocrats, the oligarchs and the aristocrats of old and establish a new order – an order and an idea which would change the course of human history.

I do not mean to fetishize or glorify the achievements of antiquity or ages past but I have lately been unable to shake off a feeling of despair that has drowned me, my comrades and the movement at large, I feel. Athens was a democracy for a time, yet Athens was also an empire at this time, too – an empire of the mind, of the ship, of the merchant and of the sword. It was an empire of brutal patriarchy, of despicable slavery and exploitation, of exclusion and conquest, of divide et imperia, and it was run democratically no less. The Acropolis at which I now gaze for the final time before my departure bears testimony to this legacy of contradiction, of harmony and antagonism.

What are we to do today, in my time, in the age of global corporate capitalism? What are we to do in an age of empire and oligarchy? What are we to do in an age of reckless, human abandon and environmental catastrophe? What are we to do to not only prevent our impending doom but to push towards a promising project of peace, prosperity, brotherhood, equality, discovery, sustainability and abundance? How may we topple the gods, our lords and masters and seize power from tyrants and oligarchs just as the people of Athens did nearly two and a half millennia ago? Will we, the people of the human race, succeed in changing the course of history? Will we succeed in bringing about a new age or will we succumb to darkness, violence, death, cruelty, stupidity, all-consuming wrath, waste and self-destruction? ‘What are we to do?’, I have asked, every day for as long as I can remember now.

And if we are to achieve a new, radical, local, regional and international democracy, what is to become of it? Will we once again succumb to the folly of empire building? Or to the despicable tragedy and waste that is human warfare? Will we succumb to the idiocy of the ill-informed, superstitious and vengeful mob, such as the one which unjustly sentenced the greatest mind of Athens to his death?

O, Socrates, how much you must know of the folly of human existence! How little must we have changed over the many thousands of years! Behold! See through my eyes how different the world is and how very little has changed! I gaze upon the time-ravaged ruins of your city and I gaze up at the same Moon in the clear September sky as you surely once did!

It is 19:00 and the church bells once again ring through the city, casting a lulling spell upon my restless mind.


Bar Karagiozis, Exarcheia, Athens

A chilly breeze swept the Pnyx as the light began to fade and flushed the mountains, the valley and the sprawling city with rose and pastel tones. My flight down the hill from the ancient gathering place brought me further and further into the old town, with ever more merchant stalls and restaurants lining the sloping gradient of the cobblestone road.

The road eventually brought me Thyseio station, an unassumingly small, surface level train station. It was there that the tracks run between the wooded archeological complex and the urbanized central city districts on their way to Monastiraki and the pulsating heart of modern Athens. Nothing but overpriced restaurants, tacky or trendy, lined the ground floors of the low buildings along the train tracks and the tourists stumbled along, verbally prodded from time to time by zealous maître-d’s. They coaxed us to come sit in their establishment, much as any rancher would try to corral his unruly cattle after a day’s grazing, while dozens of sly cats lie about, perched idly like spirit world sentinels upon marble columns and epitaphs, almost as if preying patiently upon the tourists as well.

It didn’t take long before this rolling, open-air shopping mall of a street lead to Monastiraki square and what’s left of Hadrian’s majestic library jutted out from below us behind a wrought iron fence. This glorious building gave way to the left to an open plaza, blazing with the harmonious chaos of an ant colony.

It was the third time in my life I had found myself in that boiling cauldron of a public square and I couldn’t help but remember my previous visit, as well as the precarious and protracted personal and mental breakdown I had been going through at the time. I was swept with the urge to go down the road to the left and end up around the gay bars in Kerameikos. I managed to keep course and sail straight through the stormy urban nexus and then I caught a southerly wind up the forbidding and dark avenue that led up to Omonoia Square. My ultimate destination being the anarchist stronghold of Exarcheia, which I had come to call home for the past days and nights.

I met with comrade Ioanna and Andonis at one of the neighborhood cooperative bars and I was greeted with the usual warmth, casual gossip and political chit-chat that I’ve grown so fond of. We also talked about what had happened to comrade Yavor in the train after yesterday’s demonstration, still somewhat flabbergasted at the idiocy of overly-eager Antifa youngsters to get into trouble and use violence against their enemies, even at the expense of mistaking a fellow comrade for a right-wing provocateur.

I cannot help but be overwhelmed with conflicting thoughts and feelings these past few months, as the daily drudgery of life and the complexities of revolutionary struggle under capitalist society have been ever more prone to taking their toll on my mortal body. I think again of Socrates, of those that came before him, of those that came after him. I think of the revolutions and the bloodshed and of the brutal repression of the State, of Capital, the barbaric tendencies of our societies. At the same time, I think of the noble and courageous struggles of everyday people through the ages, striving for life, freedom, equality and in pursuit of a fleeting happiness in a tomorrow that may never come.

Yesterday, as our large and diverse group spent our final night together at the bar, I couldn’t help but stare out at nowhere in particular as my comrades danced frenetically around me, the music blasting favorite songs from times gone by, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the future of Exarcheia neighborhood with all its problems and promising prospects. Will the enemies of revolution ultimately succeed once again in destroying any hope for an alternative to this slow, rolling, dystopian nightmare we are living in, or will we ourselves succumb to the dark abyss by virtue of our spectacular and all-too-human imperfections? What will become of all the people and places I have come to know and love and what is our place in these times of historic importance? What decisions, what actions, what sacrifices and what bloody price must we pay on the day of reckoning?

I feel for those that I love and cherish. I feel for the untold masses whose only crime was being born into this world. This beautiful, beautiful world, bestowed with lives so precious that the folly of human avarice only makes their loss a tragedy all the more grotesque and unbearable.

I have met people from three continents during my stay here and I feel blessed to have been able to connect with each one, from the vendors on the street, to the beggar I gave some coins to, to the many inspiring comrades and everyday people who aspire to great change and sacrifice. But perhaps what struck me most was my acquaintance yesterday with a young, handsome man from Afghanistan named Kazem. We talked during the whole ride on the fully packed and sweltering bus to Keratsini for the demonstration marking the five-year anniversary of the murder of Pablo’s Fissas by members of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party.

Kazem was one of the great number of migrant comrades attending the demonstration, who risk deportation and thus their lives by attending such marches together with their brothers and sisters from other parts of the world. I was much impressed by a similar situation at this year’s radical pride march in Madrid where a similar context can be observed. Comrade Kazem had had an utterly different life compared to my own and he has gone through so much hardship. The war, the poverty, the discrimination and racism, the hardship of crossing borders, the brutality of the State, the cruelty of society and finally the torture and humiliation of imprisonment – solely guilty for the crime of being born as he is and in his homeland. He is half a year younger than me, at the age of 22.


On the train to Thessaloniki

The train glides with a soft rumble through the heart of Athens, passing by empty platforms through deserted stations. This time around I’ve been allocated a seat in a newer coach and I hope the 11-hour trip to Sofia will be less harrowing and unpleasant than the one on the way over.

I will miss Athens and the people I have met terribly. Exarcheia is a peculiar case. I don’t think I can recall ever feeling so… comfortable, for lack of a better word, in any particular neighborhood in the world; not even in my beloved Madrid nor even in my hometown Sofia. It is truly one of the most remarkable places in the world at the moment, even with all its problematic tendencies, its troubled past and its uncertain future.

It would be beside the point to relay a list of all the occupied squats, the social centers, the migrant assistance centers, the communal garden, the anarchist bars, restaurants, shops, cafés, libraries, the assembly halls and public spaces, almost all of which are collectivized or at least run to high democratic standards. I am sure there are many stories and much data that have been dedicated to this amazing place. It is, however, the distinct feeling as one walks the streets – be it by day, or by night. It is the unique social contracts at play, known or unbeknownst to me. It is the dizzying kaleidoscope of cultural, social, ethnic and political diversity. It is the staunchness of a collective resistance so profound and it is a revolutionary fervor that permeates the air. It is the diligence and the consistency in people’s behavior, a state of constant mobilization where every word, spoken or written and every action can be rich with meaning and can be a token of the power of one’s will and the will of an entire community.

Exarcheia is a powder keg.

It is a black cat waiting to pounce on the poor fools who dare disturb the hornets’ nest and it will never go down without a bitter fight to the finish. Exarcheia is a neighborhood where the State’s repression agents such as the police do not formally or usually step foot in and it is where raids on their part have been met with riots, mass civil disobedience and militant resistance. It has been a stain on the vanity and arrogance of capitalist society and it has been a thorn in the side of the ruling class for a great many years now.

Thus, it has been subjected to the hybrid warfare of the capitalist State, where key services and infrastructure have been purposefully scaled down or outright neglected and where opportunistic drug dealers (most often undocumented migrants) find comfortable refuge from the many facets of repression they face from the State and society, bringing with their work a complex plethora of issues and social ills. Undercover cops, snitches and foreign agents abound in this revolutionary community under siege from within and from without, itself being not a fortress, but a porous ecosystem without physical barriers in the heart of central Athens, a mere stone’s throw away from Greece’s parliament, with its more-than-tarnished reputation and its even shakier political foundation. The people I had the honor to be alongside these past few days and nights, and whose names I have spared for the most part, are exceptional people.

That feeling of kinship, regardless of skin color, of ethnicity, of sex, of age, of gender, of orientation, of ability, of mind, that feeling of knowing and seeing the person in front of you and knowing what you are both about, will stay with me for the longest time, even if death should come to each of us personally, or to our comrades, or to our projects, or to the idea of a global eco-social, democratic, and anti-authoritarian revolution itself.

Should I happen to not live through a revolution or a crisis, God forbid, and I didn’t get the chance to visit Exarcheia again, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to think of it as a fraction of a glimpse into what human society could look like and how it could be organized, were it not for the fascistic exploitation of private Capital or the repression and domination of the State. Not to mention the tyranny, indentured servitude and environmental catastrophe that they imply.

What say you then, o, Socrates, patriarch of Western thought?!

What say you, who has no kind words for democracy nor for the stupidity and destructiveness of the masses, such as those who sentenced you to be murdered? What say you to the enlightened gods and emperors, to the tyrants, oligarchs and autocrats who rule this world? What say you to their faithful followers? What say you to these modern philosopher Kings of ours?

They and their children sit atop mountains of gold stacked upon mountains of corpses while rivers of blood gush down the slopes and the stench of misery and suffering drench the foul, polluted air of the entire globe! This is our day and age!

O, Socrates! What good is a life of reason if humanity should by chance make life on this planet no longer possible? What good are philosopher kings if even the greatest philosophers have led painfully imperfect, oh-so-painfully human lives?

To all of this, Socrates, I do not have the answers, nor, I think, do you. But there is, perhaps, one thing we can count on – the folly of mankind. Therefore, we must take appropriate action and we must plan accordingly.

Finished September 20, 2018
near Lamía, Greece
@ 02:09am


*Bulgarian activist, member of free social space “Fabrika Avtonomia” in Sofia

Interview with Antifascist Fans of Lazio

Questions: Yavor Tarinski

[Η συνέντευξη στα ελληνικά ΕΔΩ]

When most people hear about SS Lazio they immediately think of neo-nazis and fascists. But then there is your group -Laziale e Antifascista (LAF). Tell us few words about your group and its activity?

The group was born to destroy the stereotype that all Lazio supporters are fascists. This stereotype is a powerful propaganda tool for Roman neo-fascist groups to indoctrinate younger boys with racist and fascist ideals. They use the curve of Lazio to promote their values, to do political proselytism and business. The values of S.S. Lazio, those demonstrated with facts in history, are the opposite. For a few hundred fascists, especially thanks to the mainstream media, there have been constructed this stereotype that discredits Lazio and continues to feed the ranks of fascists, not just at the stadium, but in society.

All activities we do are meant to destroy this stereotype, to make it clear that Laziale does not mean fascist in Rome, in Italy and around the world. The number of LAF membership, in various capacities and independently, is constantly increasing. In Italy there are a hundred, mostly in Rome but also scattered throughout the country, and another hundred around the world.

Posters of LAF in support of foreign Lazio players. On the left & middle: Ogenyi Onazi (Nigeria) / On the right: Miroslav Klose (Germany)

The club has been heavily stigmatized by far-right imagery. But was that always the case?

It is so since 1987 with the advent of the Irriducibili who have conquered the curve with the help of criminal organizations. Before them, Lazio’s supporters were apolitical; there were right-wing groups, left-wing groups, mixed groups.

Lazio was founded upon egalitarian, solidarity and social values; if you studied the history of Lazio would understand that it is the opposite of a vision for a fascist life. Lazio was created in 1900 by nine Roman boys who decided to found a society of equals. This was decades before the birth of fascism. Now the misinformation makes people around the world believe that Lazio was the team of fascism when in reality Lazio was the only Roman team to oppose the attempts of the Fascist regime in 1927 to fuse all local teams into AS Roma. During World War II Jews and partisans have been hosted and hidden in the club’s structures. The colors chosen were those of Greece to symbolize and honor the Olympic Spirit: sports practice as a means of unifying of peoples. They chose the eagle as a coat of arms because it is a Roman symbol.

The largest fan group in the history of Lazio was the Eagles Supporters. They were a “mixed”, apolitical group. They dissolved when the Roman fascist parties and the criminal organizations decided to support the Irreducible to conquer the curve.

In the 70s in Rome there were the so called “Years of Lead” – a period of social and political turmoil in Italy that lasted from the late 1960s until the early 1980s, marked by a wave of both left-wing and right-wing political violence. In Stadio Olimpico there were fascist groups like the Viking, but also communist groups like Tupamaros and Commandos Aquile S.Basilio Talenti (C.A.S.T.). C.A.S.T., from the Roman districts San Basilio and Talenti, was actually the first group in Curva Nord. Others, like the anarchist Gruppo Rock existed until the early 90s. However no one had hegemony except of the Eagles who gathered many groups together.

Eagles Supporters

How is your group being accepted inside and outside the stadium?

People’s feedback has been very positive, filled with enthusiasm. We have the support of many fans from Italy to South America who understand the value of the work we are doing. Anyone who believes in a world free from prejudice and discrimination should support us beyond the football faith.

Are there other antifascist and/or non-racist groups related to Lazio today?

Inside the stadium there is not a unitary group but many groups scattered in various sectors that to date do not expose their own banners. But in the city of Rome there are thousands of anti-fascist Laziali, and our goal is to help them unite and get organized.

Gruppo Rock was one of the anti-authoritarian subgroups of the Eagles Supporters

Do you have relations with antifascist supporters of other teams from Italy and abroad?

We are not being an ultras group so we do not have “official” friendships with ultras groups, but we have many ultras friends from various teams. In Italy we have comrades from Genoa, Perugia, Juve, Empoli and Cosenza; in Europe there are St Pauli, Celtic and Marseille; while around the world we have friendships with Palmeiras, Gremio, Corinthias, CD FAS – Hinchada Del Rojo.

Recently the dominant far-right supporter groups of Lazio demanded women to stay away from the ‘sacred space’ of Curva Nord. Were there reactions against this sexist attitude?

They issued a sexist leaflet that asked to not bring women to the first 10 rows (supposedly reserved for the hardcore ultras), not in the whole Curva. The best answer was given by the thousands of women that support Lazio who, with their protests, forced the group to apologize.

Is your group or individual members collaborating with any political organizations and social movements?

We are more involved with social movements than with political parties. In Rome there are many antagonistic realities, and our initiative being a movement with autonomous and independent cells is present in many of them. There is no single thought in the LAF, nor a political ideology. There are anarchists, communists, socialists, liberals: each active in their own private life, people united by anti-fascism and passion for Lazio.

Photo of the left-wing Commandos Aquile S.Basilio Talenti (C.A.S.T.)

Can you give us a brief overview of the far-right influence in Italian football today?

The situation is alarming. Since the 70s the Italian neo-fascist parties have focused their recruitment efforts on the football stadiums. It is a political strategy that has been going on for the last 40 years. They indoctrinate young people who go to the stadium only to support their team with party-line, racist, intolerant values. Boys who do not have adequate cultural bases to defend themselves are being attracted by these values. In Italy today the ultras world has been almost totally hegemonized. Nowadays the fascists are more organized, because they are financed by neo-fascist parties that do business with organized crime.

What do you think is the potential of football for social change? Why there is such struggle for control over stadiums by both the left and the right?

It can improve things, but unfortunately can also make them worse. The stadiums convey values. Nowadays we see a nationalist drift in the curves of many European countries. For years, fascist and neo-Nazi parties and movements have been striving to occupy these spaces, throwing up their propaganda and making political proselytism. They try to change the values that sport should seek – brotherhood, equality and respect are replaced with intolerance and nationalism– in order the youth to internalize their neo-fascist, racist, homophobic positions.

Concluding words?

The situation is so hard that we have to do what we do!

Flag of the far-right Irriducibili taken by LAF

LAF stickers inside Curva Nord

LAF scarves and t-shirts

The recent close relationship with West Ham United has provoked much resentment among the far-right supporters of S.S. Lazio, because of the multiethnic character of the English team’s ultras (such as the infamous dark-skinned WHU ultras leader Cass Pennant-on the photo)

Cover photo: Demonstration by members of LAF in front of the Coliseum in Rome (March 2016)

Report on the Chemnitz Pogrom

First-hand report by a German activist

Maybe you‘ve heard of it, maybe not. This is a brief report on recent happenings in Chemnitz / Saxonia.

Chemnitz is a former industrial city of about 250.000 citizens situated in Saxony. This German state is known for its pretty right-wing state apparatuses and a strong fascist street movement (Pegida). Chemnitz, too, has a strong fascist movement and for some time it even was home to the Neonazi terror group‚ National-Socialist Underground‘ (NSU), known for having executed nine immigrants and a police officer.

There is, however, also a left-wing, antifa and anarchist scene in Chemnitz with two housing projects, an autonomous youth center, a feminist group, a local group of the anarchist union FAU and antifascist activists.

In the night of Saturday to Sunday, August 25th/26th, two groups of men got into trouble during the Chemnitz city festival. An Iraqi and a Syrian national reportedly stabbed two Russian Germans and a Cuban German, the latter, Daniel H., dying as a result of his injuries.

On Sunday morning, when the public learned of the killing, the right-wing footbal hooligan group Kaotic Chemnitz called on facebook for a protest in the streets. In the evening about 1000 right-wing hooligans, fascists, and so-called ‚concerned citizens‘ gathered and started to march through Chemnitz. Police was not able to control them at all. At some point the mob started chasing and beating up immirants.

A local fascist fringe party, Pro Chemnitz, that also has deputees in the city council, called for a march on the following day. Now antifascists from Chemnitz and neighbouring cities such as Dresden, Leipzig, Jena, Erfurt and others started to mobilise, too. On Monday evening 1000 antifascists of all stripes faced a mixture of 8000 hooligans, fascists and right-wing citizens. Police deployed only 600 officers and, hence, was not able to control the fascists. Durig and after their march several street fighting squads left the fascist rally aiming to attack the antifascists. On the way from the antifascist rally to the train station, to their cars or back home several antifascists were attacked. They got off lightly, though. Only one remained with a broken nose.

Monday was a wake-up call, not only for the radical movement but for the public, too. It was clear that something had to be done. On Thursday, Saxony‘s Minister-President Kretschmer was to join a citizens‘ dialogue in Chemnitz and fascists would organise a counter-rally and on Saturday there would be two marches, organised by Pro Chemnitz and AfD. At the end, it was agreed to call for an antifascist rally to be held in Chemnitz on Saturday.

On Monday, about 900 right-wingers held a rally against Minister-President Kretschmer, the ‚lying press‘, the ‚political establishment‘ and so forth. No specific incidents.

On Saturday, fascists and antifascists from all over Germany went to Chemnitz. 4500 fascists and 3500 antifascists were reported. Pro Chemnitz held a first march and then joined the march that was organised by the AfD as a ‚silent march‘ allegedly to commemorate the victim of the stabbing. At some point, the march could be blocked by hundreds of antifascists. After that police kettled hundreds of antifascists, keeping them for hours and checking their ID‘s. At the same time, fascist groups started attacking counter-protesters again. Several people were injured.

In some West-German cities there were big antifascist rallies. In Hamburg up to 10.000 people took to the streets, in Berlin, too. That‘s nice but it doesn‘t change the situation on the ground. Still, it shows that it‘s not just fascists conquering the streets but that we‘re witnessing some kind of polarisation.

On Monday, September 3rd, a concert ‚against the right‘ and ‚against hatred‘ and with the slogan ‚We‘re more‘ was organised in Chemnitz by different artists, some mainstream (like ‚Kraftklub‘, ‚Die Toten Hosen‘), others openly antifa (such as ‚Feine Sahne Fischfilet‘ and ‚Egotronic‘).

About 65.000 people reportedly attended the concert.

The concert didn‘t change the balance of forces on the streets, though. On Friday, September 7th, there was another march organised by Pro Chemnitz. 2000 fascists and about 1000 antifascists took to the streets. This time, no clashes were reported. As it seemts, things are calming down now.

Some notes from an anarchist perspective. On Monday, the second day of the pogrom, there were only 600 police and the fascists‘ march went totally out of control. That was not, as liberals and democrats assert, government failure. Everybody knew that thousands of fascists would flock to Chemnitz and that things would get extremely violent. It must have been a conscious decision by  some higher echelons in the police and state apparatuses to deploy way too few police and, thus, let the situation escalate.

In the pogroms of the past years it‘s been the same, in Freital / Saxony in January 2015, in Heidenau /Saxony in August 2015 and in other places, too. It seems to be the strategy of a part of Saxony‘s (and Germany‘s) state apparatus to encourage and tolerate fascist street violence and terror – as a means to combat leftists, to discipline the immigrant population, and to legitimise calls for the further buildup of the police and secret services.

On Saturday, September 1st, we‘ve seen an alliance of fascists across political divisions: right-wing football hooligans, local fascists of Pro Chemnitz, national-socialists of Dritter Weg, fascists of the party Die RECHTE, the Identitarian Movement, the right-wing populist movement Pegida, the right-wing populist party AfD. This marks a new stage in the history of the fascist movement since 2012. The fascists are growing ever stronger and the level of street violence is increasing.

Also on the antifascist side, somehow organically, a unity front has been formed, stretching from the social-democratic party SPD to autonomous antifas and anarchists. Thuringia‘s SPD, for example, sponsored busses to bring counter-protestors from Erfurt, Jena, and other cities to Chemnitz and almost all antifas, radical leftists and anarchists from those cities took those busses. There is a huge debate on how closely or if at all we should cooperate with politicians and authoritarian leftists and in the past years many of us categorically denied any cooperation. During the pogrom, however, the question was not even raised. This should give us reason for reflection.

Democratic politicans of all stripes (from the conservative CDU to the left-wing party) were quick to condemn the fascist street violence. What‘s their motive? Some of them were pretty clear about that. They‘re concerned that fascist violence might cheapen the image of Chemnitz, frighten off investors and enterpreneurs and endanger the integration of immigrants as a cheap and flexible workforce into the German economy. At the same time, there are only very few politicians to condemn state violence against immigrants, e.g. vexatious police controls or deportations, to the same extent. Furhermore, those ‚antifascists‘ felt compelled to distance themselves from left-wing and radical antifascists, lumping them together with the fascists as ‚extremists‘.

The objective of their antifascism, i.d. state antifascism, hence, is to maintain a certain equilibrium of forces in order to keep capitalist exploitation and the wielding of state authority going smoothly.

The AfD is the third strongest party in Germany. In the 2017 federal elections it won 12,5 per cent of the votes. In some states, such as Saxony, it won around 25 per cent, thus becoming the second strongest party. In Saxony, where state elections are going to be held in 2019, according to this election outcome, the only government possibly to be formed would be a coalition government of the conservative CDU and the fascist AfD. Their strategy, as laid out by AfD leader and right-wing intellectual Björn Höcke, is to transform the democratic system into an authoritarian regime. This is to be done by a national opposition made up by three fronts: the AfD as parliamentary force, the Neonazis as street movement, and, thirdly, disenchanted segments of the state apparatuses, i.d. cops, judges, state attorneys, military. This strategy is proving to be successful. The AfD is already the third strongest party.

The street violence scenes of Chemnitz showed the increasing strength of the fascist movement. And there are a lot of cops, military, judges and other state officials in the AfD оr in touch with the AfD. To give just one example of these days. In the midst of the Chemnitz events a correctional officer leaked the arrest warrant of the suspected murderer of the Daniel H. to fascists who then published it. Before leaking it, he discussed the move with around a dozen colleagues in a WhatsApp group.

Fascism, however, is not an endeavour of the new right.

We should not forget that it‘s conservative, social-democratic, green, in some states such as Berlin and Thuringia even left-wing politicians who are organising today‘s deportation regime – not the AfD. During the Chemnitz pogrom it was the Saxon police, i.d. of a state led by a conservative-social democratic government, that gave free rein to fascists and attacked anti-fascists. After the Chemnitz pogrom it was Saxony‘s Minister-President of the CDU and the head of the German intelligence service, the ‚Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution‘, who doubted and even denied that there was any mob violence against immigrants in Chemnitz – not the AfD. Even Sara Wagenknecht, a politican of Die Linke, not the AfD, who defended the right-wing mob by stating that not all protesters were fascists, that many of them were socially discontent citizens.

All in all, this is a sinister situation and many of us feel pretty concerned about the future.

Interview with Kristin Ross | May ’68: Beyond the Artificial Commemorations and Remembrances

Interview with Kristin Ross by Yavor Tarinski for Babylonia Journal.
You can find the interview in Greek here.

Kristin Ross gave an interview for Babylonia journal, analyzing the meanings and significance of May ’68. She will be among the keynote speakers at this year’s B-Fest (25th-26th-27th of May in the Fine Arts School in Athens). Ross is a professor of comparative literature at New York University and author of many books like “May ’68 and Its Afterlives”, “The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune” and “Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune”.

Yavor Tarinski: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the rebellious May ‘68, when the Parisian youth took to the streets, challenging established social hierarchies and dominant myths. What is, according to you, the relevance that this date bears for us today?

Kristin Ross: The categories you use—“Parisian youth” and even “May ‘68,”—are precisely the narrative categories that I tried to put into question and actively dismantle in my book, May ’68 and Its Afterlives. Perhaps what your question shows is the tenacity that certain tropes and images hold in organizing our vision of the recent past. I don’t perceive “youth” per se to be the political subject of ’68; I don’t see the events as occurring in the French capital; and the worldwide set of political insurrections and social turbulence to which we have given the name of “68” was certainly not limited to the month of May.

So, if what we call May ’68 bears any relevance for us today, we would have to look for it outside the parameters of your question, as I will discuss when I come to Athens:  in western France, perhaps, or on the outskirts of Tokyo; in the fruits of the unexpected meetings between very different kinds of people—workers and farmers, for instance, or French students and Algerian immigrants–and the political subjectivization sparked by those encounters; in the great “protracted wars” like the Lip or Larzac in France for example, which traversed the long 1960s (a political sequence that extends, in my view,  from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s), and which thus have a duration that far exceeds the month of May.

Y.T.: This period is seen by many as a pivotal one in the evolution of revolutionary thinking and praxis. On the one hand it shattered the idea of predetermined revolutionary subject, i.e. the working class, while on the other it challenged the privileges and leadership of “enlightened” experts (even of those that claim to hold expertise in revolution and social change), proposing instead radical forms of direct democracy. Many on the Left, however, have come to view this democratic decentralization as the ultimate reason for the revolt’s failure, since it prevented the social movements of that time from seizing state-power. You on the other hand seem to disagree with this narrative. What really made the rebellious events of May ’68 fail in their effort at radically transforming society, if you agree that they have failed?

K.R.: I am not a political theorist and try never to put myself in the position of gauging the success or failure of an insurrection or social movement. I don’t think the logic of failure/fulfillment gets us very far in our consideration of past movements, but it is a strikingly persistent logic. I’ll give you an example. A couple years ago, I had a discussion with Alain Badiou during which he insisted on the Paris Commune as an example of failure. I was tempted to ask him what, in his opinion, a successful Commune at that time would have looked like! I have always found it very difficult to know what counts as success and what has failed. There’s a saying in English: how many swallows make a summer?

The events that have preoccupied me—May ’68 and the Paris Commune–are a paradise for what I call back-seat drivers, those after-the-fact experts who second-guess the historical actors and make an inventory of their errors.  Why didn’t the Communards march on Versailles? Why weren’t they better organized militarily? Why did they waste their precious time (presuming, of course, they were aware of the imminent demise that would render their time so precious) quarreling in the Hôtel de Ville?  Why didn’t they seize the money from the bank?  Why did French workers during ’68 end their strike?

What is amazing to me is how unshakeable the desire to either teach the past a lesson or to have the past’s “failures” teach us a lesson (which comes to the same thing) can be. With Badiou I tried several ways of avoiding the pedagogical paradigm he was adopting toward the past. I spoke about how, for those who lived the Commune, a real sense of liberation and network of solidarity were achieved. I spoke of the ideas unleashed, for us now to consider, precisely by the inventive nature of the event. (Of course, both of these statements hold true for ’68 as well). And despite all that, Médiapart (the host of the discussion) still entitled the interview “The Lessons of the Commune!”

What this shows, I think is how much progressive thinking about emancipation still operates as though there were an agreed-upon blueprint of ends to be attained, and as though these ends could be precisely determined and then objectively measured as having been achieved or not achieved according to time-worn standards or to criteria drawn up in 2017.  I think people enjoy being in the position of establishing, after the fact, what was possible, impossible, too soon, too late, outmoded or unrealistic at any given moment. But what is lost when one adopts this position is any sense of the experimental dimension of politics.

In order to view the Commune or what occurred in any number of places during the ’68 years as laboratories of political invention, and to see the capacities set in motion when ordinary people work together to manage their own affairs, I had to try to completely disengage from any traces of the kind of balance-sheet logic I’ve been describing.

Y.T.: In your book “May ’68 and its Afterlives” you say that the anonymous militants that were active in the everyday neighborhood grassroots politics of May ’68, have been replaced in the “official” memory by leaders and spokesmen that appeared afterwards. A similar pattern you observe in another revolutionary moment in another book of yours – “Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune”. Why is that happening and how can the oppressed reclaim their history?

K.R.: My books were each written to intervene into specific situations. In the late 1990s I began thinking about ’68 and the way it had been remembered, debated, trivialized, and forgotten over the years.  The reason for my fascination with that question at that moment had nothing to do with a commemoration or other artificial date of remembrance.

Instead, what motivated me was the way in which the 1995 labor strikes in France, followed by anti-globalization protests in Seattle and Genoa, had awakened new manifestations of political expression in France and elsewhere and new forms of a vigorous anti-capitalism after the long dormancy of the 1980s.  It was this revitalized political momentum that led me to write my history of May’s afterlives.  The workers’ movements had dislodged a sentiment of oblivion, if not triviality, that had settled over the ’68 years, and I felt the need to try to show the way the events, what had happened concretely to a staggeringly varied array of ordinary people throughout France, had not only receded from view, but had in fact been actively “disappeared” behind walls of grand abstractions, fusty clichés and unanchored invocations. The re-emergence of the labor movement in the 90s jarred the 60s loose from all the images and phrases put into place in France and elsewhere by a confluence of forces—the media, the institution of the commemoration, and the ex-gauchistes converted to the imperatives of the market.

At that time only a few faces—I’m talking about men like Bernard Henri-Levy, Andre Glucksmann, Bernard Kouchner, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and Alain Finkelkraut—were visible, and only their voices could be heard over the French airways, recounting what was taken to be the official account of the movement.  These self-appointed and media-anointed spokesmen (we have their equivalents in the United States), all of whom could be relied upon to re-enact at the drop of a hat the renunciation of the errors of their youth, were those I called in my book the official memory functionaries.

The labor strikes of the winter of 1995 not only succeeded in forcing a government climb down over the issue of changes to the pensions of public sector workers, they also wrested control of the memory of ‘68 from the official spokespeople and reminded people what all the combined forces of oblivion, including what we can now see as a kind of Americanization of the memory of French May, had helped them to forget:  that May ’68 was the largest mass movement in modern French history, the most important strike in the history of the French labor movement, and the only “general” insurrection western, overdeveloped countries had experienced since World War II.

In any mass political movement on the left, there is always the danger of what I call “personalization” to take place—that process whereby people involved in a leaderless social movement on a massive scale allow the forces of order or the media to concentrate the task of “representing the movement” and speaking for it, in just a few central figures.  But this kind of monopolizing of the memory of an event by official spokespeople did not really occur to anywhere the same extent in the case of the Commune as it did with ‘68. After all, many Communards were dead at the end of the Bloody Week, the survivors were scattered throughout Europe and even the United States.  Despite all sorts of censorship on the part of the French government, survivors were able to publish their memoirs and accounts, mostly in Switzerland.

Historians writing in the wake of the Commune do, of course, tend to concentrate their attention on the same figures:  Louise Michel, for example, or Gustave Courbet.  In my thinking about historical processes, I find that it is always interesting to shove these kind of leading men and leading women to the back of the stage—if only to see who or what becomes visible when one does so.

Y.T.: Your work encompasses another pivotal revolutionary moment – The Paris Commune. In “The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune” you write that the Commune was not just an uprising against the acts of the Second Empire, but perhaps more than all, a revolt against deep forms of social regimentation. One patter, for example, that seems to be shared by both is the urge from the grassroots towards dismantling bureaucratically imposed social roles and identities. Can this and other parallels be drawn between these two urban revolutionary experiences?

K.R.: Yes, I believe that deep forms of social regimentation were under attack in both moments—during the Commune and during May ’68.  Artists and artisans under the Commune managed to dismantle the central hierarchy at the heart of 19th century artistic production—the hierarchy that gave “fine” artists (sculptors and painters) vast financial privilege, status, and security over decorative artists, craftspeople and artisans. And one way of looking at ’68 is as a massive crisis in functionalism—students no longer functioned as students, farmers stopped farming, and workers quit working.

There’s a nice quote from Maurice Blanchot, of all people, that sums up the situation quite accurately. The specific force of May, he wrote, derived from the fact that “in this so-called student action, students never acted as students, but as the revealers of a total crisis, as bearers of a power of rupture putting into question the regime, the State, the society.”  The same could be said about farmers at that time—they acted as farmers but as far more than farmers as well; they were thinking about their situation and the question of agriculture politically and not just sociologically.

Y.T.: In 1988 you wrote that if workers are those who are not allowed to transform the space/time allotted them, then revolution consists not in changing the juridical form that allots space/time but rather in completely transforming the nature of space/time. Such traits we saw in both May ’68 and the Paris Commune. Do you see such revolutionary potential in the contemporary age, in which political apathy, mindless consumerism and generalized cynicism seem to reign?

K.R.: May ’68 holds absolutely no interest at all for me except to the extent that it can enter into the figurability of our present and illuminate our current situation. If it doesn’t, we are right to consign it to the dust-heap. As a group of radical historians put it in the wake of ’68, “Think the past politically in order to think the present historically.”  Their message was a two-pronged attack.  First: think the present both as scandal and as something that can change. And second: history is much too important a matter to be left to historians.

Any analysis of an historical event, and especially the 1960s, conveys a judgment about the present situation. When confronted with any attempt to represent the 60s, we have to ask ourselves what is being fought for in the present, what is being defended now. These are the questions I intend to pursue in my lecture in Athens.