Friday, October 2, 2009

"The Coming Insurrection"

I recently read Semiotext(e)'s translation of "The Coming Insurrection" by the Invisible Committee. It's a revolutionary pamphlet falling under the sign of the banlieu riots in Paris in 2005, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the ongoing troubles in Greece. It was used as evidence in a sabotage trial targeting a group of people who had allegedly authored it, and it has been labelled a "manual for terrorism" by French politicians.

The book is a fascinating read. Not just because it's an urgent, honest, somewhat compelling call for DIY change, but because it's quintessentially French in its radicalness. Readers familiar with the French ultra-Left of the past half-century will notice that the language and philosophical categories of the text are a not-too-shabby pastiche of Badiou, the Situationist International, Althusser, the early Baudrillard, and Deleuze. From a purely academic standpoint, therefore, there are some challengingly rich things in the text to mull over.

On the practical side, the book is not a manual for terrorism in the strict sense, though it is certainly an urgent call for activities that would be widely condemned as terrorist. Its philosophical merits and points of interest tend to overshadow and somewhat obscure the question of how the insurection is to proceed. There are some notable tactical recommendations, but at times the reader must wonder if the vagueness of the call does not blunt its rhetorical force. Note that there exist actual manuals for insurrection. "The Coming Insurrection" is more of a revolutionary pamphlet in the classical sense.

As with most ultra-Left or post-Left anarchist literature, "The Coming Insurrection" stresses the need to organize without organizations or meeting processes; the commune, described in Badiouian terms of fidelity rather than formal terms of equality, is the basic political unit of the insurrection. The collective and its processes are abandoned; though many contemporary Leftists, activist or otherwise, will probably be curious about the book's message, in many ways it strikes at what they hold dearest.

1 comment:

Devin Zane Shaw said...

You've almost convinced me to read it. I've read bits and pieces and they haven't really caught my interest.