The whole critique of finance capitalism cuts a pale figure next to a shattered bank window tagged with "Here. These are your premiums!"
--The Invisible Committee
They thought of gestures and talked of rebellion.
The word is a gesture--and its meaning, a world.
Cost-benefit analyses are for corporations. They are for those bent on calculating their profits item by item by item. They are not for people celebrating their being together one by one by one.
Riots are exuberant demonstrations in celebration of community, and celebrations have nothing to do with counting costs or reckoning profits and losses. Whoever must count costs and keep a balance sheet has no idea how to celebrate. By performing his calculations, he excludes himself from the common party.
As celebrations, riots are not "for" anything beyond their own happening, their own taking place. Celebrations as such do not serve ulterior purposes, or yield profits that might be either calculated in advance or reckoned up after the fact. It is one thing to celebrate, and another to do business as usual.
As chipmunks are for chipmunking, celebrations are for celebrating--and riots are for rioting.
* * *
Don't forget that those who wage war on chaos will be defeated, as chaos feeds on war.
--Franco "Biffo" Berardi
The riot is desirable as a moment of truth. It is a momentary suspension of the confusion.
--The Invisible Committee
The epigraph above by The Invisible Committee comes from their book Now.* That text was written in appreciative response to the "Nuit debout" ("Upright Night") popular assemblies in spring 2016, in protest against the curtailments of the rights of labor then being proposed by the French government of Emmanuel Macron.
Earlier in the same paragraph from which I have drawn that epigraph, the anonymous author/s of Now make the crucial observation that "one has to credit riots with the paradoxical virtue of freeing us from hell”—that very hell, we might note, that the Italian activist and media theorist Franco"Biffo" Berardi addresses in the first epigraph above. "The organized riot," the text of Now goes on to say, "is capable of producing what this society cannot create: lively and irreversible bond." Thus, as The Invisible Committee experiences and describes it, to participate in a riot is to leave Berardi's hell.
That hell is the hell of indecision.
Our current global consumer society depends upon indecision, and therefore does everything it can to feed indecision. A good consumer is precisely someone who can never make a decision, but always waffles back and forth between such pseudo-options as whether to buy a Buick or a Lexus--and then worries about whether one made the right choice after buying either the one or the other: Maybe one should have bought both, or upgraded to a Mercedes (or whatever other flavor of car might be their upgrade of choice), or downgraded to a Volkswagen. As if it mattered.
Taking up the bonds of genuine community, as The Invisible Committee sees and says one does by participating in a riot, means coming to a decision at last, and thereby leaving the limbo (to upgrade a notch from Berardi's hell) of indecision upon which consumer society feeds, and that such a society compulsively feeds in turn. "Those who dwell on images of violence," the passage from Now continues, "miss everything that's involved in the fact of taking the risk together of breaking, or tagging, of confronting the cops. One never comes out of one's first riot unchanged."
To take part in a riot, by that analysis, is finally to assume risk, instead of doing all one can to avoid it. One always takes a risk when one makes a decision; the greater the decision, the greater the risk. After all, if there is no risk involved, then there is really no decision required. One just pays one's money, and takes one's choice, as the old saying goes. Just flip a coin—if you can make up your mind about which side will stand for which.
"It's this positivity of the riot," this decision and risk involved in participating in it, "that the spectators prefer not to see and that frightens them more deeply than the damage, the charges and counter-charges" that accompany the riot, continues The Invisible Committee. "In the riot there is a production and affirmation of friendships, a focused configuration of the world, clear possibilities of action, means close at hand."
* * *
The word resist derives eventually from Latin resistere, "to make a stand against, to oppose, to withstand." That Latin word, in turn, consists of re-, here used in the sense of "against," plus sistere, "to take a stand, stand firm."
The once widely read and influential early twentieth-century German philosopher Max Scheler defined the very notion of reality in terms of such "resistance," such standing firm against what comes in contact with it. As Scheler saw it, we know we are in contact with reality, rather than lost in some illusion, when we experience such resistance, such push-back in effect, from what we chance across and come into contact with.
In resisting the pressures that governments and their tools such as the police exert upon us, we, the people, live out our own reality. We affirm ourselves in our very reality, our being just who we truly are, in manifesting such resistance.
Resistance opposes. It withstands what tries to subject it--to cast it down and beneath what exerts force upon that which resists and, in resisting, affirms its own irreducible reality. In its essence, therefore, resistance is nothing "negative," nor is it in the least "reactive." It is spontaneous and original. The power to resist is the power, the capacity, to withstand oppression and endure throughout and after all efforts to oppress.
Resistance is not "for" anything beyond itself. Rather, it is a pure riot of the real.
*South Passadena, CA: Semiotext(e), 2017 (translated by Robert Hurley)