Raoul Vaneigem – Terrorism or Revolution
The Anarchist Library
Title: Terrorism or Revolution
Subtitle: An Introduction to Ernest Coeurderoy
Notes: Written by Raoul Vaneigem, 1972. Translated from the French and published by Black Rose, 1975. | Author’s note (5 January 1972): the ensemble of these notes constitutes the outline of a work that will be prepared under a more appropriate form.
Source: Retrieved on May 24, 2022 from https://libcom.org.
May 1968 drew the line of demarcation "between the reformists of survival and the insurgents of the will to live." Despite the ebbing of the revolutionary tide and the return of the class struggle to the contours it followed the day before the great upheaval, nothing is quite the same, for in that moment the "party" of depassement was reborn. Now. The Social Question has ceased to be posed in terms of having. It appears now as what it had been in fact, a construction of concrete being, an emancipation, not of the citizen, but of the individual.
Survival is extending itself to all of existence. In generalizing itself under the pressure of its own inner drives, the imperialism of the commodity simplified the choices. There is nothing more urgent than quick and effective intervention against the system of survival.
The experience of May ’68 brought the political once again to class consciousness, consciousness of itself. It will either liquidate the power of the commodity and substitute generalized self-management for it, or it will survive to regret its failure.
The outcome of the confrontation to come depends on the offensive and defensive power of the revolutionary wing of the proletariat, on those who have not only consciousness but also the power of intervention: the workers at the point of production and distribution. They have in their hands the roots of a reversed world; they can destroy the economy. Now shields receiving all the blows and serving after the battle as safeguards for the new bosses, they must become the invincible army of generalized self-management.
We are experiencing the last days of culture. There is no more anti-culture, no counterculture, no parallel or underground culture. Operating under these sociological distinctions or the progressive reduction of culture to the spectacle, a spectacle which reduces the sum of the categories of real life to survival in a space-time when the commodity is not only produced, distributed and consumed but also generalized as necessity, chance, freedom, duration, and representation.
Culture then enters the economy as a luxury article available to all. Blessed with the label of intellectuality, culture is the thought of the spectacle, its separated intelligence. Formerly preoccupied with glory or posterity, today artists and thinkers punch in as skilled workers in the language factory, to be paid in tokens of prestige.
Culture becomes one of the self-regulating mechanisms of power. Incitement to the overconsumption of images and knowledge corresponds to the necessity of balancing the overproduction of ideological attitudes, of lies imposed on daily life by the dominant society. Its decline and subsequent reinforcement follows the movement of the spectacle itself. Thus it creates a propitious zone for sabotage and diversion, for direct subversive action.
At the same time as it reveals itself as a separated sphere, culture acts against it. As it issues from daily life and its creativity, the cultural work cannot be reduced purely and simply to the spectacle without revealing the trace of human practice impinging [on] it. Even as the language of power fails to fully supplant poetry, and just as life is never quite reduced to survival, so the market system fails to transform the cultural creation into a pure commodity. This check marks at the same time the place of the reversal of perspective, the point at which the creativity brought forth in the past is reinvested in the project of generalized self-management.
Dada and Surrealism erred in not associating the liberation of lifelike poetry with the revolution of everyday life. As soon as culture begins to question itself as separation, it attempts to continue itself as radical theory. But it falls backward into ideology if it fails to develop the expression of the will to live underlying it in a perspective of collective struggle. Thus culture faces two choices: to be reduced to the spectacle as a renewable and immediately reabsorbed pseudo-autonomous fragment, or negate itself by realizing itself in real life.
At the instant it rediscovers its origin, spiritual creation also reaches its end as separated activity. Those who strive to seize it at the roots of multidimensional life cannot be distinguished from those who are prepared to divert history to realize the imaginary.
Our society of survival is founded on the system of absolute exchange. Values and principles commonly admitted and universally transgressed are swept along into the infernal cycle of interchangeability. In an irregularly accelerated rotation of shitty water toward the sewer pipe, the spectacular whirlpool reunites the ensemble of praised, blamed, encouraged, permitted, condemned and judged attitudes.
The commodity system produces the objectivity of vacuity through a developing movement that sucks in all of humanity to the profit of its concrete and oppressive abstraction. Previously, we were quiescent for a boss; henceforth, we survive for an entity, a phantom. What weighs on us is no longer capital but the logic of the commodity; no longer does the power of a person or a class conscious of its predominance, nor even of a cynical caste, rule. Rather, it is a machine — whose directors, like the officers of Kafka’s penal colony, are only despicable cogs condemned to rust of hardening arteries and early senility — that runs the show.