Review of The Coming Insurrection
July 5, 2011 § 3 Comments
The Invisible Committee. The Coming Insurrection.Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009.
Proclaiming the entrance of civilization into “an era whose predominant mode of government is precisely the management of crises,” the opening paragraphs of The Coming Insurrection read like that of a postmodern manifesto. Written anonymously by members of “The Invisible Committee” the small book is published by Semiotext(e), the company who brought the works of Jean Baudrillard (Simulations) and Paul Virilio (Pure War) to the West. Anonymously translated from the French publication by Editions de la Fabrique (2007), this manifesto for nothing less than revolutionary action serves as a polemic against the contemporary malaise of capitalist realism.
The original French work, curiously enough, is a central text in the Tarnac 9 trials in France(2008) in which nine individuals were charged with conspiring to destroy overhead lines of the French rail network. Connected to these individuals is a group known as “Tiqqun” whose Introduction to Civil War has recently been published by Semiotext(e). Tiqqun, like The Invisible Committee, attributes collective authorship to their own texts dating back to the short-lived journal Tiqqun which dissolved in 2001.
Divided into seven “circles” (on identity, entertainment, work, security, possessions, environment, and civilization) and four additional chapters, The Coming Insurrection speaks to the exclaimation: “all power to the communes,” drawing upon the concept of ‘the coming community’ of Giorgio Agamben. Aside from a few troubling passages expressing violent attitudes towards authority figures in France, the work is an inspiring read that sheds light upon certain problems with contemporary society (particularly that of French governance and policing). The contemporary French thinker Alain Badiou writes with disgust about the harassment of his son by French Police in his work Polemics (Verso, 2006). As if to follow The Invisible Committee expresses similar attitudes, labeling the misuse of police forces (gendarmerie) by the government as being wrought with a ‘cold pragmatism’.
While now considered to be a primary text in many anarchist circles The Coming Insurrection should be treated far more seriously for its imperative to critique capitalist realism of which they write prophetically: “A day will come when this capital and its horrible concretion of power will lie in majestic ruins”. The use of the imperative, prophetic, narrative, and polemical voices abounds in the prose of The Coming Insurrection; tones since lost in the sea of pulp politics and the rigidity of so-called ‘serious analysis’. At the risk of reducing the work to its form, it could be said that as a piece of writing alone it is an excellent example of how to go about writing a political text. References are also made to the work of both Alain Badiou (Being and Event, Logics of Worlds) and also Giorgio Agamben (The Coming Community), two political philosophers who express similar anticapitalist convictions.
To find the contemporary political import of The Coming Insurrection and its illicit authorship, we need only look to the 2009 article by the philosopher Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths) who asks us to distinguish between the category of sabotage and the category of terrorism (the latter of which the Tarnac 9 have been accused). In his article for The Guardian, entitled “Criminalising Dissent,” Toscano writes:
“To consider the Tarnac case is to be faced with a pattern for the criminalisation of dissent which is becoming ever more general, and which is likely to intensify as Europe (witness the recent events in Greece) is confronted with forms of social conflict which challenge the viability of the socio-economic order.”
On this note and in closing, one might look to recent events in Tunisia, Cairo, Bahrain, and Libyaand ask, “what would it mean to criminalize dissent in these places?” These Arab uprisings point to a dissatisfaction with dictatorship and oligarchy. What would it mean, inversely, to think upon resistance arising from a dissatisfaction with hyper-capitalism and corporate government? (Alain Badiou’s recent article in Le Monde comes to mind). The Coming Insurrection, prescriptively speaking, encourages the populace to question the Western logic of capitalist realism and liberal democracy and centers upon a call to “enter into the logic of insurrection,” a logic which opposes the contemporary hegemony of reason, materialism, and disenchantment. I would hope, in the spirit of resistance and the tradition that comes with it, that we could take The Invisible Committee seriously and enter into critical reflection upon revolutionary consciousness without the cynicism and skepticism that pervades the typical discourse on these subjects in the West.