(This “A to Z” is the third part of Everything Must Go! Abolish Value, published by Little Black Cart Books, Berkeley, California, in 2015. The first two parts were written by Bruno Astarian: Crisis Activity & Communisation, and Value & its Abolition)
“Some people will find our propositions insane or naïve. We do not expect to convince everyone. If such a thing were possible, it would be very disturbing. We would rather have readers who have to rub their eyes before granting credence to our positions.”
A World Without Money: Communism, 1975
AUTONOMY BLUE COLLAR CLASS DAILY LIFE
ECOLOGY FAMILY GIOTTO HABITAT
INSURRECTION JAILBREAK KARL (MARX) LABOUR
MONEY NON-ECONOMY OBFUSCATION POLITICS QUERY
REVOLUTION SEX TIME (IS OF THE ESSENCE) UNLABELLED
VALUE WORK XENOPHILIA YESTERDAY ZOMIAS
In 2012, radical Oakland occupiers made it clear that “no permission would be asked, no demands would be made, no negotiation with the police and city administration” : nobody or no body had the power to grant them anything relevant, so there was no point in bargaining with wannabe representatives.
Participatory decision-making implies a communal capacity often called “self-empowerment”. Autonomy is inclusive. As participants share an equal stake in the creation of a different world, the most important thing in their lives becomes their relation to others, and this interdependence extends far beyond the circle of relatives and friends.
In a different time and place, some people have stressed the spontaneity of many recent Chinese strikes, demonstrations, protests, street blockades and riots. Other observers have emphasized the careful planning that takes place beforehand. Yet organization and spontaneity are two sides of the same coin. A self-initiated work-stoppage needs previous secret talks and meetings, and its continuity needs durable independent information channels (such as a mutual help hotline) and decision-making structures.
However, the ideology of autonomy is one of the up-to-date nostrums. Autonomy is acting by oneself: it says nothing about what this individual or collective self actually does. In the ebbs and flows of social battles, most occupations and strikes meet the limit of one company, one neighbourhood, one town, one city. Workplace, neighbourhood, kinship, etc., create a potential community of struggle which by its own strength alone can certainly self-manage an occupation, a strike, even community life for a while… but it is not enough to break the log jam.
How does a community of struggle create more than its struggle ? Can it go beyond rituals of social partnership ? How does solidarity not become an end in itself ? When can collective will wield its transformative power?
Unlike a book divided into chapters which gradually make their point from beginning to end, this A to Z is more like a dictionary in which each entry is to be read in relation to all the others. It is by accident that autonomy begins with the first letter of the alphabet. But it is no accident that self-activity should be a starting point. Autonomy is a necessary condition of the whole A to Z of communisation. It does not encapsulate the whole process.
Occupational Hazards. The Rise & Limitation of Occupy Oakland, CAL Press, 2012
New Strikes in China, gongchao.org
Eli Friedman, Insurgency Trap. Labor Politics in Post-socialist China, Cornell U.P., 2014
A Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy, troploin site, 2008
See INSURRECTION, CLASS, LABOUR