Saturday, July 07, 2012


It is Theoretical Weekend at Scission...again.  Today's work by a guy commonly known as Bifo is something I have yet to read.  Bifo can be a little weird, so without having read the writing below it is hard for me to vouch for it.  In any event, it does look interesting if you happen to be into stuff like this.  I am, so you get stuck with it. The following was taken from Multitudes.

Born in 1949, Franco Berardi Bifo is a writer, media-theorist, and media-activist. He founded the magazine A/traverso (1975–81) and was part of the staff of Radio Alice, the first free pirate radio station in Italy (1976–78). Involved in the political movement of Autonomia in Italy during the 1970s, he fled to Paris, where he worked with Félix Guattari in the field of schizoanalysis. Bifo published the books After the future (2011), The Soul at Work (2010), Felix (2001), Cibernauti (1994), Mutazione e Cyberpunk(1993) and contributed to the magazines Semiotext(e)Chimères,Metropoli, and Musica 80. He is currently teaching Media Aesthetics at the European School for Social Imagination, in San Marino.

"What is the Meaning of Autonomy Today ? Subjectivation, Social Composition, Refusal of Work"

Mise en ligne le dimanche 18 janvier 2004
I do not intend to make an historical recapitulation of the movement called autonomy, but I want to understand its peculiarity through an overview of some concepts like "refusal of work", and "class composition". Journalists often use the word "operaismo" to define a political and philosophical movement which surfaced in Italy during the 60s. I absolutely dislike this term, because it reduces the complexity of the social reality to the mere datum of the centrality of the industrial workers in the social dynamics of late modernity.
The origin of this philosophical and political movement can be identified in the works of Mario Tronti, Romano Alquati, Raniero Panzieri, Toni Negri, and its central focus can be seen in the emancipation from the Hegelian concept of subject.
In the place of the historical subject inherited from the Hegelian legacy, we should speak of the process of subjectivation. Subjectivation takes the conceptual place of subject. This conceptual move is very close to the contemporary modification of the philosophical landscape that was promoted by French post-structuralism. Subjectivation in the place of subject. That means that we should not focus on the identity, but on the process of becoming. This also means that the concept of social class is not to be seen as an ontological concept, but rather as a vectorial concept.
In the framework of autonomous thought the concept of social class is redefined as an investment of social desire, and that means culture, sexuality, refusal of work. In the 60s and in the 70s the thinkers who wrote in magazines like Classe operaia, and Potere operaio did not speak of social investments of desire : they spoke in a much more Leninist way. But their philosophical gesture produced an important change in the philosophical landscape, from the centrality of the worker identity to the decentralisation of the process of subjectivation.
Félix Guattari, who met the operaismo after 77 and was met by the autonomous thinkers after 77, has always emphasized the idea that we should not talk of subject, but of "processus de subjectivation". From this perspective we can understand what the expression refusal of work means.
Refusal of work does not mean so much the obvious fact that workers do not like to be exploited, but something more. It means that the capitalist restructuring, the technological change, and the general transformation of social institutions are produced by the daily action of withdrawal from exploitation, of rejection of the obligation to produce surplus value, and to increase the value of capital, reducing the value of life. I do not like the term "operaismo", because of the implicit reduction to a narrow social reference (the workers, "operai" in Italian), and I would prefer to use the word "compositionism". The concept of social composition, or "class composition" (widely used by the group of thinkers we are talking about) has much more to do with chemistry than with the history of society.
I like this idea that the place where the social phenomenon happens is not the solid, rocky historical territory of Hegelian descent, but is a chemical environment where culture, sexuality, disease, and desire fight and meet and mix and continuously change the landscape. If we use the concept of composition, we can better understand what happened in Italy in the 70s, and we can better understand what autonomy means : not the constitution of a subject, not the strong identification of human beings with a social destiny, but the continuous change of social relationships, sexual identification and disidentification, and refusal of work. Refusal of work is actually generated by the complexity of social investments of desire.
In this view autonomy means that social life does not depend only on the disciplinary regulation imposed by economic power, but also depends on the internal displacement, shiftings, settlings and dissolutions that are the process of the self-composition of living society. Struggle, withdrawal, alienation, sabotage, lines of flight from the capitalist system of domination.
Autonomy is the independence of social time from the temporality of capitalism.
This is the meaning of the expression refusal of work. Refusal of work means quite simply:I don‚t want to go to work because I prefer to sleep. But this laziness is the source of intelligence, of technology, of progress. Autonomy is the self-regulation of the social body in its independence and in its interaction with the disciplinary norm.
Autonomy and Deregulation
There is another side of autonomy, which has been scarcely recognized so far. The process of the autonomisation of workers from their disciplinary role has provoked a social earthquake which triggered capitalist deregulation. The deregulation that entered the world scene in the Thatcher-Reagan era, can be seen as the capitalist response to the autonomisation from the disciplinary order of labour. Workers demanded freedom from capitalist regulation, then capital did the same thing, but in a reversed way. Freedom from state regulation has become economic despotism over the social fabric. Workers demanded freedom from the life-time prison of the industrial factory. Deregulation responded with the flexibilisation and the fractalisation of labour. The autonomy movement in the 70s triggered a dangerous process, a process which evolved from the social refusal of capitalist disciplinary rule to capitalist revenge, which took the shape of deregulation, freedom of the enterprise from the state, destruction of social protections, downsizing and externalisation of production, cutback of social spending, de-taxation, and finally flexibilisation.
The movement of autonomisation did, in fact, trigger the destabilisation of the social framework resulting from a century of pressure on the part of the unions and of state regulation. Was it a terrible mistake that we made ? Should we repent the actions of sabotage and dissent, of autonomy, of refusal of work which seem to have provoked capitalist deregulation ?
Absolutely not.
The movement of autonomy actually forestalled the capitalist move, but the process of deregulation was inscribed in the coming capitalist post-industrial development and was naturally implied in the technological restructuring and in the globalisation of production.
There is a narrow relationship between refusal of work, informatisation of the factories, downsizing, outsourcing of jobs, and the flexibilisation of labour. But this relationship is much more complex than a cause-and-effect chain. The process of deregulation was inscribed in the development of new technologies allowing capitalist corporations to unleash a process of globalisation.
A similar process happened in the media-field, during the same period.
Think about the free radio stations in the 70s. In Italy at that time there was a state-owned monopoly, and free broadcasting was forbidden. In 1975-76 a group of media activists began to create small free radio stations like Radio Alice in Bologna. The traditional left (the Italian Communist party and so on) denounced those mediactivists, warning about the danger of weakening the public media system, and opening the door to privately owned media. Should we think today that those people of the traditional statist left were right ? I don’t think so, I think they were wrong at that time, because the end of the state-owned monopoly was inevitable, and freedom of expression is better than centralized media. The traditional statist left was a conservative force, doomed to defeat as they desperately tried to preserve an old framework which could no longer last in the new technological and cultural situation of the post-industrial transition.
We could say much the same about the end of the Soviet Empire and of so- called "real-socialism".
Everybody knows that Russian people were probably living better twenty years ago than today, and the pretended democratisation of Russian society has so far mostly been the destruction of social protections, and the unleashing of a social nightmare of aggressive competition, violence, and economic corruption. But the dissolution of the socialist regime was inevitable, because that order was blocking the dynamic of the social investment of desire, and because the totalitarian regime was obtruding cultural innovation. The dissolution of the communist regimes was inscribed in the social composition of collective intelligence, in the imagination created by the new global media, and in the collective investment of desire. This is why the democratic intelligentsia, and dissident cultural forces took part in the struggle against the socialist regime, although they knew that capitalism was not paradise. Now deregulation is savaging the former soviet society, and people are experiencing exploitation and misery and humiliation at a point never reached before, but this transition was inevitable and in a sense it has to be seen as a progressive change. Deregulation does not mean only the emancipation of private enterprise from state regulation and a reduction of public spending and social protection. It also means an increasing flexibilisation of labour.
The reality of labour flexibility is the other side of this kind of emancipation from capitalist regulation. We should not underestimate the connection between refusal of work and the flexibilisation which ensued.
I remember that one of the strong ideas of the movement of autonomy proletarians during the 70s was the idea "precariousness is good". Job precariousness is a form of autonomy from steady regular work, lasting an entire life. In the 70s many people used to work for a few months, then to go away for a journey, then back to work for a while. This was possible in times of almost full employment and in times of egalitarian culture. This situation allowed people to work in their own interest and not in the interest of capitalists, but quite obviously this could not last forever, and the neoliberal offensive of the 80s was aimed to reverse the rapport de force. .
Deregulation and the flexibilisation of labour have been the effect and the reversal of the worker‚s autonomy. We have to know that not only for historical reasons. If we want to understand what has to be done today, in the age of fully flexibilised labour, we have to understand how the capitalist takeover of social desire could happen.
Rise and Fall of the Alliance of Cognitive Labour and Recombinant Capital
During the last decades the informatisation of machinery has played a crucial role in the flexibilisation of labour, together with the intellectualisation and immaterialisation of the most important cycles of production.
The introduction of the new electronic technologies and the informatisation of the production \ cycle, opened way to the creation of a global network of info- production, de-territorialized, de-localised, de-personalised. The subject of work can be increasingly identified with the global network of info-production.
The industrial workers had been refusing their role in the factory and gaining freedom from capitalist domination. However, this situation drove the capitalists to invest in labour-saving technologies and also to change the technical composition of the work-process, in order to expel the well organised industrial workers and to create a new organisation of labour which could be more flexible.
The intellectualisation and immaterialisaton of labour is one side of the social change in production forms. Planetary globalisation is the other face. Immaterialisation and globalisation are subsidiary and complementary. Globalisation does indeed have a material side, because industrial labour does not disappear in the post-industrial age, but migrates towards the geographic zones where it is possible to pay low wages and regulations are poorly implemented.
In the last issue of the magazine Classe operaia, in 1967, Mario Tronti wrote : the most important phenomenon of the next decades will be the development of the working class on a global planetarian scale. This intuition was not based on an analysis of the capital process of production, but rather on an understanding of the transformation in the social composition of labour. Globalisation and informatisation could be foretold as an effect of the refusal of work in the western capitalist countries.
During the last two decades of the twentieth century we have witnessed a sort of alliance between recombinant capital and cognitive work. What I call recombinant are those sections of capitalism which are not closely connected to a particular industrial application, but can be easily transferred from one place to another, from one industrial application to another, from one sector of economic activity to another and so on. The financial capital that takes the central role in politics and in the culture of the 90s may be called recombinant. The alliance of cognitive labour and financial capital has produced important cultural effects, namely the ideological identification of labour and enterprise. The workers have been induced to see themselves as self- entrepreneurs, and this was not completely false in the dotcom period, when the cognitive worker could create his own enterprise, just investing his intellectual force (an idea, a project, a formula) as an asset. This was the period that Geert Lovink defined as dotcommania (in his remarkable book Dark Fiber). What was dotcommania ? Due to mass participation in the cycle of financial investment in the 90s, a vast process of self-organization of cognitive producers got under way. Cognitive workers invested their expertise, their knowledge and their creativity, and found in the stock market the means to create enterprises. For several years, the entrepreneurial form became the point where financial capital and highly productive cognitive labour met. The libertarian and liberal ideology that dominated the (American) cyberculture of the 90s idealized the market by presenting it as a pure environment. In this environment, as natural as the struggle for the survival of the fittest that makes evolution possible, labour would find the necessary means to valorise itself and become enterprise. Once left to its own dynamic, the reticular economic system was destined to optimise economic gains for everyone, owners and workers, also because the distinction between owners and workers would become increasingly imperceptible when one enters the virtual productive cycle. This model, theorised by authors such as Kevin Kelly and transformed by Wired magazine in a sort of digital-liberal, scornful and triumphalist Weltanschauung, went bankrupt in the first couple of years of the new millennium, together with the new economy and a large part of the army of self- employed cognitive entrepreneurs who had inhabited the dotcom world. It went bankrupt because the model of a perfectly free market is a practical and theoretical lie. What neoliberalism supported in the long run was not the free market, but monopoly. While the market was idealised as a free space where knowledges, expertise and creativity meet, reality showed that the big groups of command operate in a way that is far from being libertarian, but instead introduces technological automatisms, imposing itself with the power of the media or money, and finally shamelessly robbing the mass of share holders and cognitive labour.
In the second half of the 90s a real class struggle occurred within the productive circuit of high technologies. The becoming of the web has been characterised by this struggle. The outcome of the struggle, at present, is unclear. Surely the ideology of a free and natural market turned out to be a blunder. The idea that the market works as a pure environment of equal confrontation for ideas, projects, the productive quality and the utility of services has been wiped out by the sour truth of a war that monopolies have waged against the multitude of self-employed cognitive workers and against the slightly pathetic mass of microtraders.
The struggle for survival was not won by the best and most successful, but by the one who drew his gun — the gun of violence, robbery, systematic theft, of the violation of all legal and ethical norms. The Bush-Gates alliance sanctioned the liquidation of the market, and at that point the phase of the internal struggle of the virtual class ended. One part of the virtual class entered the techno-military complex ; another part (the large majority) was expelled from the enterprise and pushed to the margins of explicit proletarization. On the cultural plane, the conditions for the formation of a social consciousness of the cognitariat are emerging, and this could be the most important phenomenon of the years to come, the only key to offer solutions to the disaster.
Dotcoms were the training laboratory for a productive model and for a market. In the end the market was conquered and suffocated by the corporations, and the army of self-employed entrepreneurs and venture microcapitalists was robbed and dissolved. Thus a new phase began : the groups that became predominant in the cycle of the net-economy forge an alliance with the dominant group of the old-economy (the Bush clan, representative of the oil and military industry), and this phase signals a blocking of the project of globalisation. Neoliberalism produced its own negation, and those who were its most enthusiastic supporters become its marginalized victims.
With the dotcom crash, cognitive labour has separated itself from capital. Digital artisans, who felt like entrepreneurs of their own labour during the 90s, are slowly realizing that they have been deceived, expropriated, and this will create the conditions for a new consciousness of cognitive workers. The latter will realise that despite having all the productive power, they have been expropriated of its fruits by a minority of ignorant speculators who are only good at handling the legal and financial aspects of the productive process. The unproductive section of the virtual class, the lawyers and the accountants, appropriate the cognitive surplus value of physicists and engineers, of chemists, writers and media operators. But they can detach themselves from the juridical and financial castle of semiocapitalism, and build a direct relation with society, with the users : then maybe the process of the autonomous self-organisation of cognitive labour will begin. This process is already under way, as the experiences of media activism and the creation of networks of solidarity from migrant labour show.
We needed to go through the dotcom purgatory, through the illusion of a fusion between labour and capitalist enterprise, and then through the hell of recession and endless war, in order to see the problem emerge in clear terms. On the one hand, the useless and obsessive system of financial accumulation and a privatisation of public knowledge, the heritage of the old industrial economy. On the other hand, productive labour increasingly inscribed in the cognitive functions of society : cognitive labour is starting to see itself as a cognitariat, building institutions of knowledge, of creation, of care, of invention and of education that are autonomous from capital.
Fractalisation, Despair and Suicide
In the net economy flexibility has evolved into a form of the fractalisation of labour. Fractalisation means fragmentation of time-activity. The worker does not exist any more as a person. He is just the interchangeable producer of micro-fragments of recombinant semiosis which enters into the continuous flux of the network. Capital is no longer paying for the availability of the worker to be exploited for a long period of time, is no longer paying a salary covering the entire range of economic needs of a working person. The worker (a mere machine possessing a brain that can be used for a fragment of time) is paid for his punctual performance. The working time is fractalised and cellularised. Cells of time are on sale on the net, and the corporation can buy as many as it needs. The cell phone is the tool that best defines the relationship between the fractal worker and recombinant capital.
Cognitive labour is an ocean of microscopic fragments of time, and cellularisation is the ability to recombine fragments of time in the framework of a single semi-product. The cell phone can be seen as the assembly line of cognitive labour. This is the effect of the flexibilisation and fractalisation of labour : what used to be the autonomy and the political power of the workforce has became the total dependence of cognitive labour on the capitalist organisation of the global network. This is the central nucleus of the creation of semiocapitalism. What used to be refusal of work has became a total dependence of emotions, and thought on the flow of information. And the effect of this is a sort of nervous breakdown that strikes the global mind and provokes what we are accustomed to call the dotcom-crash.
The dotcom-crash and the crisis of financial mass-capitalism can be viewed as an effect of the collapse of the economic investment of social desire. I use the word collapse in a sense that is not metaphorical, but rather a clinical description of what is going on in the western mind. I use the word collapse in order to express a real pathological crash of the psycho-social organism. What we have seen in the period following the first signs of economic crash, in the first months of the new century, is a psychopathological phenomenon, the collapse of the global mind. I see the present economic depression as the side-effect of a psychic depression. The intense and prolonged investment of desire and of mental and libidinal energies in labour has created the psychic environment for the collapse which is now manifesting itself in the field of economic recession, in the field of military aggression and of a suicidal tendency.
The attention economy has became an important subject during the first years of the new century.
Virtual workers have less and less time for attention , they are involved in a growing number of intellectual tasks, and they have no more time to devote to their own life, to love, tenderness, and affection. They take Viagra because they have no time for sexual preliminaries. The cellularisation has produced a kind of occupation of life. The effect is a psychopathologisation of social relationships. The symptoms of it are quite evident : millions of boxes of Prozac sold every month, the epidemic of attention deficit disorders among youngsters, the diffusion of drugs like Ritalin among children in the schools, and the spreading epidemic of panic..
The scenario of the first years of the new millennium seems to be dominated by a veritable wave of psychopathic behaviour. The suicidal phenomenon is spreading well beyond the borders of Islamic fanatic martyrdom. Since WTC/911 suicide has became the crucial political act on the global political scene.
Aggressive suicide should not be seen as a mere phenomenon of despair and aggression, but has to be seen as the declaration of the end. The suicidal wave seems to suggest that humankind has run out of time, and despair has became the prevalent way of thinking about the future.
So what ? I have no answer. All we can do is what we are actually doing already : the self-organisation of cognitive work is the only way to go beyond the psychopathic present. I don‚t believe that the world can be governed by Reason. The Utopia of Enlightenment has failed. But I think that the dissemination of self-organised knowledge can create a social framework containing infinite autonomous and self-reliant worlds.
The process of creating the network is so complex that it cannot be governed by human reason. The global mind is too complex to be known and mastered by sub-segmental localised minds. We cannot know, we cannot control, we cannot govern the entire force of the global mind.
But we can master the singular process of producing a singular world of sociality. This is autonomy today.

Friday, July 06, 2012


SCISSION political prisoners friday is here with some birthdays to remember.  Let me tell you, receiving a letter or a note from the outside is something always welcomed by those inside.  

From People of Color Organize.

July POC Political Prisoner Birthdays

prison bars July POC Political Prisoner Birthdays
This month’s political prisoner birthdays. Please write about our comrades.

Gerardo Hernandez
U.S.P. Victorville
P.O. Box 5300
Adelanto, CA 92301
July 4, 1965

Gerardo Hernandez is one of the Cuban Five who are in U.S. prison, serving four life sentences and 75 years collectively, after being wrongly convicted.  The Five were falsely accused by the U.S. government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.  But the Five were involved in monitoring the actions of Miami-based right wing terrorist groups, in order to prevent terrorist attacks on their country of Cuba.

Last year I had a very inspiring series of correspondence with Gerardo after writing him to wish him a happy birthday.  He is also an amazing artist!

Ana Lucia Gelabert
Sky View Unit
P.O. Box 999
Rusk, TX 75785
July 6, 1938

Ana Lucia Glabert is a U.S. citizen of Cuban national origin.  Born in 1938 in Central Cuba, she came to the U.S. for the last time in 1961 and has been in a Texas prison since 1984, seving two life sentences, concurrent and “non-aggravated” after an incident with Houston police in which only she was injured.  Root cause of her offense was the State of Texas trying, and suceeding, to strip her of parental rights to her own three children.  To this day, Gelabert vows that if it happened all over again today, still she would fight for her children regardless of cost or consequences.  She is a prolific political comic artist.
She also writes poetry and on politics, please check out her work and write her a letter!

Gary Tyler
#84156 ASH-4
Louisiana State Penitentiary
Angola, LA 70712
July 10, 1959

On October 7, 1974 students at Destrehan High School, Louisiana, were sent home earlier than usual due to racial disturbances.  As the buses carrying black students back to their homes were leaving the school they were attacked by a group of 200 white people throwing stones and bottles at the buses. Timothy Weber was standing near the buses.  A shot was heard and he fell wounded; he died a few hours later in a hospital.

Gary Tyler was one of the black students on the bus from which the shot was allegedly fired.  This was not his regular bus but he had got into it as the situation had become increasingly dangerous.  All students were ordered to get off the bus by police and male students were thoroughly searched immediately; girl students were searched later at the police station.  The bus was searched on two different occasions for over three hours and no gun was found.  The bus was then taken to the police station along with the students.

At the police station the students were questioned and released.  One of them, Nathalie Blanks, stated that she has been seated next to Tyler and had seen him fire a gun into the crowd; she indicated to the police the exact place where she had been sitting.  It was after Blanks’ testimony that the police “found” a .45 automatic gun stuffed inside the seat, through a long, clearly visible tear in the seat.  The seat had been previously searched, shaken and turned upside down several times and nothing had been found.Gary Tyler maintains his innocence. 

Patreese Johnson
Taconic Correctional Facility
250 Harris Road
Bedford Hills, NY 10507
July 18, 1988

Patreese Johnson is one of the New Jersey 4.  On August 18, 2006, seven young African American lesbians traveled to New York City from their homes in Newark for a regular night out. When walking down the street, a man sexually propositioned one of the women. After refusing to take no for an answer, he assaulted them. The women tried to defend themselves, and a fight broke out. The women were charged with Gang Assault in the 2nd degree, a Class C Felony with a mandatory minimum of 3.5 years.

Thursday, July 05, 2012



Northern Ireland has always gotten short shift from the American left for some reason.  Maybe, it is because the American simply can't figure out where to involve themselves in a sectarian and a national conflict.  I don't know.  

I have always leaned toward the more left wing of the Republican movement, even though I an no fan of any form of nationalism.  Still, it is obvious that it is the Catholic community in the North that has been the center of oppression by a gasping British imperialism (or the little British province of the Empire) and whose cause is most righteous.

Republicanism though today seems tired and almost quaint.  It has become just another part of the status quo. Sinn Fein is as much a part of the State, phoney State or not, as anyone.  The recent handsahke between the old Provo Martin McGuiness and Queen Elizabeth was a bit much for me.  There was no reason to shake hands with the representative the local version of the Empire.    That handshake is an insult to all of those who have fought and died in the struggle against British oppression in not only the 26 Counties, but all of Ireland.  I have no idea what Sinn Fein and McGuiness were thinking.

There are dissident IRA elements that set off a bomb here or there, but they appear a bit schizoid to me.  I don't know exactly who they represent.  

What to do?

Well, I am no anarchist and I don't profess to agree with everything in the post below, but, hey, at least someone is thinking about something beyond the past.  The truth, after all, is that Northern Ireland's working people end up taking the brunt of everything that happens.  Much of what you will read here by the Workers Solidarity Movement makes sense to me and I am an autonomous Marxist.  Where I question the analysis is the easy way it sort of makes sort shrift of the sectarian divide that really does exist.  In theory, yes, we should leave that sort of nationalistic (and religious) nonsense behind, but that is easier said then done.

Does the handshake with the British Queen spell the demise of Republicanism as a radical alternative in Ireland?

The handshake that lasted 3.7 seconds kept the broadcast media on knife-edge as the crowning moment of the so-called peace process. However, beneath the carefully choreographed piece of political theatre is a settlement built on sand, on managing sectarianism and regulating division, rather than confronting and removing the causes of conflict in our society.

As former IRA member Tommy McKearney summed up, ‘Therein lies the real difficulty many of us have with this contrived handshake. It was merely a piece of theatre, which does nothing to address the real problems faced by the people of Northern Ireland. If anything, this type of symbolic posturing is actually harmful. It displaces and/or prevents mature and necessary debate and reflection on the unequal nature of our society and the detrimental impact of Britain’s ruling class upon the public’s wellbeing.’(1)

The media hype may have receded for now until the next showcase of ‘normality’ but the reality of living in an unequal class society where inequality is at its worst since the second world war (2), came back as a ‘monsoon’ arrived on our steps. In the face of a crumbling water and sewage system and neglect from our local political class, we were left fall back on the spirit of working class mutual aid and solidarity to tackle the devastating floods and damage to homes and communities caused by the Belfast floods.

Anarchists are opposed to the very existence of a brutal capitalist state. The archaic monarchy is a symbol of everything that is fundamentally wrong in our society. Divine right to rule is an anathema to anything progressive, especially in an era where mass poverty, unemployment and crippling debt affect large sections of the population across these islands.  The very idea that by chance of birth someone should enjoy the vast wealth and privileges of the royalty is obscene and needs to be eradicated, which is why anarchists including WSM members opposed the British Queens visit last year in the 26 counties and in the North.

Republican opposition to the Queens Visit

The decision by Sinn Fein to welcome the commander in chief of the British Army was met with the usual chorus ofbetrayal, sell-out by various elements of republicanism and st one republican rally in South Armagh last weekend Martin McGuiness was labelled a ‘jeadus.’

The reality was that for the Sinn Fein leadership further election successes in the Republic is more of a pressing concern than raising the plight of families demanding public enquires into British state terrorism, the ongoing degrading and inhuman treatment of republican prisoners in Maghaberry and the internment of Marian Price and Martin Corey.

With the exception of high profile resignations from the party, such as senior party member Angela Nelson, anyone with any illusions in Sinn Fein as a revolutionary party have long since left with just the remnants of party loyalists and careerists still clinging to the belief of Ireland United and free by 2016. Not that the scattering of ‘dissident republicanism’ can provide a real alternative to the Provisional bubble that has long ago reached its climax.

Despite fragmented and isolated protests in the city centre the queen’s diamond jubilee tour of the North passed off without major incident. In fact it was a major propaganda success story for the establishment as Elizabeth Windsor waved to over 20,000 subjects from an open top car on the steps of Stormont.

This open ceremony was in stark reality to the Queens previous visit in 1976 when the Provisional IRA promised that it would be a silver jubilee to remember. During this time, there was no waving from the steps of Stormont, as rioting erupted in nationalist areas across the North and checkpoints were set up by the IRA in the heart of West Belfast. In fact the security threat was considered so severe that Queen Elizabeth slept off shore overnight.

While some sections of republicanism have focused on this latest ‘sell-out,’ the handshake is a logical conclusion of a constitutional reformist path from a party that has long ago shredded any ‘revolutionary’ pretence and is now fully incorporated into the rotten status-quo.

In the words of anarchist Alexander Berkman who warned about the pitfalls of the parliamentary path nearly a century ago;

“With growing success in elections and securing political power they turn more and more conservative and content with existing conditions. Removal from the life and suffering of the working class, living in the atmosphere of the bourgeoisie . . . they have become what they call 'practical'. . . Power and position have gradually stifled their conscience and they have not the strength and honesty to swim against the current. . They have become the strongest bulwark of capitalism."

Finding themselves unable to pose a significant challenge to the visit poses questions concerning the project of Irish republicanism itself as a vehicle for radical change. Republicanism in Ireland today is in period of prolonged crisis, weakened and fractured, trapped in a vicious cycle of bitter division with little direction or strategy apart from trying to steal the limelight from the Provo’s.  Various strands of ‘dissident republicanism’ may have a marginal social base in traditional republican heartlands such as West Belfast, East Tyrone and Derry but it remains confined to one section of the community. There are no serious attempts to build unity and support across the sectarian divide , republicanism will forever remain a form of catholic nationalism that merely favours one set of rulers being replaced with another.

The unveiling of massive tricolour on foothill of Black mountain overlooking Belfast with the words Erie is our Queen (Eriu representing an ancient mythical Irish goddess, hardly republican in itself) by local republicans was a reflection of an element in catholic defenderism coming to the fore, and to some extent a clear sign of weakness to the visit in comparison to the lack of building opposition in the streets and communities.

However, the 30 strong loyalist mob needed no excuse when they attacked defenceless republicans managing the fort with machetes, knives and sticks, leaving one ex-blanket man hospitalised. Indeed, any sign of ‘disloyalty’ to the crown is not only actively discouraged but brutally repressed by the forces of loyalism.  Some drew parallels by some with the attack by armed unionists in the mid-1960s against the display of a Tricolour (which was illegal at the time) in the Lower Falls area.

Instead of using the opportunity of the Queen’s Visit to raise the anti-democratic nature of the monarchy and the hereditary class system; and actually opposing the Queen’s visit based on concrete material reasons around class issues such as cuts to housing benefit, to public services, building links with working class communities across the sectarian divide there was a retreat into the comfortable cul-da-sac of ethnic identity politics even amongst the most progressive currents of republicanism which subscribe to left or socialist republicanism.

Leading up to the Queens visit there was a state sanctioned march and rally organised under the banner of Truth and Justice not Jubilation from the Falls road to the City Hall. This attracted a couple of hundred people and not the widely exaggerated figure of over a 1000 by some quarters.  The rally was an important reminder that the hallmarks of military dictatorships across South America also occurred in our own backyard such as mass torture, erosion of civil liberties, internment and state collusion with paramilitaries.

Indeed, official British government papers from July 1972 unearthed a few weeks ago highlighted that state impunity for killings carried out by British soldiers was sanctioned at the highest level of the state. (3) The meeting was a clear slap in the face for the victims and families of British state violence, but it was the spectacle and spin of two traditions coming together in the form of the handshake that made the headlines.

As Andrew Flood has noted ‘protesting the anti-democratic parasite family is good, whether in London, Dublin or Cork. But as we approach the 100th anniversary of 1916 it also makes sense to critically examine the actual outcomes of that compromise Connolly made and to ask whether it really remains any sort of valid strategy in the fight for freedom today. Does our common interest lie with the more nationalist inclined section of the domestic capitalist class or with those in Britain who have shown that they have as little time for 'their' monarchy as we have? 90 years after partition, when pretty much no one alive today remembers it, is there really a military 'solution' to the presence of the British state in the North East? Or is it now a question of recognizing that the political solution can only be based on winning over a majority to a common struggle for freedom and socialism across but no longer limited to the island?


WORDS: Sean Matthews