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2007-08-17

bojan: an answer to "no zone but one zone"

thank you for sharing ideas; i totally agree with your view that insiders (negrian) and outsiders (autonomists) fight the same battle. This distinction between inside-outside is imposed by the theory of empire/multitude. This is the only reason I accepted it as a starting point of my reasoning and tried to oppose it indicating that the struggle from the outside is possible and that it can progress very much to the benefit of the struggle in the whole. I think that the battle ground still needs to be discovered - it is not inside, nor outside but in the radical middle. To arrive at this location, all antagonistic presentation of our reality needs to be the first isolated by the act of 'exclusion of excluders by the excluded' (Castels).

Allgemeinverf├╝gung

Struggle from the inside of the system is led by clearly contradictory strategy. To collaborate in the system and work for it (with a salary paid out from state budget or market earned incomes) and simultaneously sabotage these systems from the inside is clearly a self-destructive approach. In the same way, fighting the elites on the streets with the approach that is more characteristic for the spectacle than to anti-systemic movements, such as relying on mass psychology, centralised organisation, frontal approach, media 'postproduction', etc. not only consumes in preparation of demo a lot of energy but it also injects quite a dose of frustration afterward because of limited results. Post Rostock evaluations report seems to confirm this pessimism about the existing approach from the 'inside'. There is actually increasing trend in accepting self-destructive forms of revolt. Instead of these partly or sometimes even totally self-defeating or at least self-limiting strategies, I wish to think about self-strengthening strategies of revolt that are with every action creative and do increase
capacity of the movement in the future with every 'revolutionary' act, large or small, that is made in the present. Of course, a lot of networking and sharing took place during the preparation of demo and later which increases the strength of the movement. Networking for demo is one possibility, the other is networking for production of commons, such as p2p in virtual space and 'personalised p2p' in the autonomous zones. Here I found very illuminating contribution by Michel Bauwens in his 'The Political Economy of Peer Production', where he discovers subtle connections and interdependency between market economy and p2p. Not only that official for-profit businesses try to internalise and commercialise the products of p2p but it increasingly subject to its increasing potentiality. More and more for-profit companies actively support the p2p production. But p2p also subverts existing capitalist forms and is seen by him as a third mode of production in addition to market and state alternative. By my opinion, autonomous strategy does not confirm 'exclusion of the majority of people from the wealth of the world' just the opposite. It actually results in the return to the values of world commons, community commons, p2p.

By no means, autonomist movement is supposed to neurotically destroy every institution and power - they only make it unnecessary and it (movement) is increasingly able to effectively substitute it (systems of domination). In spite of assumed autonomist identity, 'outsiders' remain partly dependent on normal and progressive functioning of the capitalism and state. But we can choose - to accept collaboration only when we are in a position to interfere with imposed equivalence standards (prices, payment conditions, copy rights) and negotiate our own conditions. This in the main part depends on our innovative and creative contributions to the communities. This kind of collaboration, that is based on autonomists' creativity for the benefit of the communities is not self-defeating, it remains radical in every act of its operation: in selection among alternative jobs, negotiating salary, working and legal conditions of participation. Hence, under certain conditions autonomy and market can go hand in hand (Every resource that is included in economic sphere and only in this sphere alone should be treated, if requested by the owner, as a form of capital and should be allowed to compete for the yield. Capitalism can be seen differently than Marx explains
- for him, capitalism is a system where capital exploits non-capital. Instead of this, capitalism could be seen as a system, in which different capitals - including social, human and nature capital compete 'against' economic capital and between each other; in practice, there can be observed strong tensions between social and human 'capital' as well as between nature and social capital. These tensions could be in principle addressed 'early' ad resolved on the spot with fair competition of these various capitals for the fair share in jointly produced value added. The World bank estimates that up to 80 percents of total national capital in western countries (if remembered correctly) is incorporated in social and human (intangible capital). I will be happy to elaborate this further at some other occasion if necessary). This explains why autonomists are able to live parallel to the ruling systems and are not primarily aimed at destroying it. Of course, as you point out, the problem is not that autonomous life-style may not be economically sustainable and rational choice; the question is why government and elite would allow for autonomist choice to become real alternative and available option for everybody. They posses power, weapons, legal system, data, they control technology, infrastructure, media, schools. What could force them to submit to the will of people who want to exit this world of greed, egoism, neurosis? The answer is, that it is not really important what they can do with all these instruments of domination, but just the opposite - what they can not do despite all the dominance.

It actually does not matter if government sees autonomist demands for autonomy as 'isolation'. It does not mean for one to isolate from the society if world of madness is once for her or him left behind. It is actually obvious, that government does not entirely understand these various anti movements and government's view is not relevant. The reason for this I try to explain in above mentioned six page Slovene text. My argument is derived from conclusion, contributed by Wallerstein who argued that the modern world-system is in structural crisis, that is not resolvable within the existing system neither is available any alternative world-system. However, there are several spheres of social life where the 'system' does not work nor it is meant to be provided by state or market - such as new commons; these all social practice can be forwarded only 'outside' of the 'system'. This already happens to be very influential approach in several existing cases worldwide, in rich and poor countries - Zapatista movement or Grameen bank can be used as example, convergence space (autonomous zones) in urban Europe are another. Hence, it is would not be sensible to refuse anti-systemic solution for different aspects of systemic crises. But there are probably even more straightforward reasons for belief that elites should accept the offer (demand for regime's total respect for permanent autonomous zones) with both hands. Elites will realise, that all other choices are much worse for them. Systemic or structural crisis in fact deepens fierce battle between elites themselves - for example between nomadic and sedentary, or metropolitan and peripheral. Sedentary and peripheral elites will recognise that they in part intersect their interests with spatially fixed autonomous zones such as clean environment and more egalitarian social conditions. The same claims Wallerstein saying that those in power will no longer be trying to preserve the existing system (doomed as
it is to self-destruction). It seems reasonable to predict that at least local elites will try to ensure that the transition leads to the construction of a new system that will somehow keep them in power - in this case not against public in general or autonomists in particular but against other (nomadic, metropolitan) elites. Social cohesion that can result from mutual respect between local elites and permanent autonomous zones can be strong argument in favour in the struggle against metropolitan and nomadic elites. The conclusion is that situating anti-systemic movement outside of the system at the end results in new social cohesion that is crucial to stand firmly against uniform and for space/community-specific conditions ignorant neo-liberalism, globalisation and technological change. Practical conclusion appears to be that claiming autonomist zones is a matter of 'political' rationality and social strategy of the radicals, not of their relative power and militancy.

'There is no way out - there is no possibility for total isolation' you wrote and I agree. It is not possible to change globalising conditions and cultural consequences of technological development, climate change, history, even passions seem to stay for many of us firmly out of our individual control. But it seems it is also increasingly becoming possible for
everybody to choose the context within which these fixed conditions are understood, accepted (or not), in this way forming differentiated discourses, and rationalities about the reality - realities. Another world is not only possible but many another worlds are already here and each forms its own 'inside' and 'outside' relations. Somebody is always inside-outside.
We need to understand these relations in a way that is good for the anti-systemic movements and self-empowering. There has never existed one social rationality alone; the first examples of entrepreneurship/capitalism can be found in antic Greece, and egalitarian communities can be traced back to the stone age. These different social realities always coexisted only as subjected to the dominant social reality. This inside-outside distinction makes possible to discuss the anti-systemic strategy in two alternatives: either to challenge dominance of one, ruling regime against all other coexisting social regimes (elites and autonomists for example or neo-liberals and Zapatistas) or to revolutionise the ruling order itself. The proposed autonomist view enables to distinguish these two alternatives in a way that achieves for the movements two contradictory goals: to increases the possibility for revolt (as it is self-empowering) as well as for collaboration with the regime (under renegotiated conditions). You point to the opposite trends in which the division of private/public
life, family/economy, affective cooperation/effective competition, work time/leisure time melts away. I can not deny this but what does it mean? Does it mean that binary oppositions degrade back into monism? Or we shall alternatively interpret these disappearing divisions in a new plural view - this melting is not driven by the rule of hegemony but by the rule of
differentiation and hybridisation. Based on old classical binary distinctions, new composites and recomposites are increasingly constructed such as simultaneously inside and outside, private and public etc. This hybrid forms appear as the main media of social change, not old pure and uniform concepts (of capital perhaps). Obviously, diverse ('pure') social
forms, including autonomous zones should exist independently before any hybrid social strategies become feasible.

The last of your main arguments (if I grouped them correctly) that is supporting your view against the more 'optimistic' autonomist strategy are 'some disappointing experiences of alternative projects, country communes, etc.' In my view, this disappointment is more devastating factor for the empowerment of the anti-systemic movements than eventual failure of their street actions. And the opposite, strengthening of the autonomous communes probably more constructive than eventual strengthening of demo related networks. To achieve this, I totally agree, a lot needs to be changed in the operation of the zones - at least as I see them operating in Slovenia. Here, by my limited knowledge and insight, zones operate as small, heavy loaded, colourful caricatures of the outside world, only that they are less trying to impress with correctness. Their world is what they say about it - this is no difference compared to the hegemonic rule that is imposed in the 'outside' world. These zones sometimes remind more on socially hostile enclaves that see their surrounding environment as a battleground among the prey and the predator. They know that they can be in every moment taken everything away and thrown out - actualy, thrown back in. Identically, the only way autonomists can eventually get 'anything' is, in their view, by taking it away from the non-included in the zones. In a way, they sabotage the system from the outside as being inside. This is again rather confusing approach which brings no peace, cohesion, creativity to the movement and neccesarily leads to disappointment, at least. Your argument points to the possibility that autonomist approach is relevant only as much as it is able to contribute to the empowerment of the movement. Which focuses further inquiry about zones towards the questions about how to innovate more effective program and organisation. This is too extensive topic for this already inexcusably too long text, so let me only refer here to two excellent authors/papers:

Bauwens and Routledge (Paul Routledge. Convergence of Commons: Process Geographies of People's Global Action. The Commoner No.9 - Spring/Summer 2004). They show that place-specific and peer-to-peer creativity of grassroot movements can become under certain conditions self-sustaining mechanisms able to constitute itself as a strong
alternative to market and state. Bosco (2001 in Routledge) argues that the identification with particular places can be of strategic importance for the mobilisation strategies of particular resistance movements. These can contribute to the construction of strategic network ties with other movements in the same locality or in other localities. Hence the ties to
particular places can be mobile, appealing to, and mobilising, different groups in different localities.

However, locality itself is necessary, but not sufficient precondition for the empowerment of the anti-systemic movement. Permanent settlement of the autonomous zones introduces spatial attachment and domestication which are determinants of particularity, and specificity which both fixate and effectively limit the universalist and critical attitude of the anti-systemic movement. Accommodation of the movement in the autonomist zone must be counterbalanced with certain practices that effectively keep the zone open and operating as a convergence place. By participating in spaces of convergence, activists from participant movements embody their particular places of political, cultural, economic and ecological experience with common and 'commons' concerns, which lead to expanded spatiotemporal horizons of action (Reid and Taylor, 2000 in Routledge). Convergence spaces 'forge an associational politics that constitute a diverse, contested coalition of place-specific social movements, which prosecute conflict on a variety of multi-scalar terrains that include both material places and virtual spaces' (Routledge). As far as I understand two authors than a new form of autonomous zones is needed, that is more convergent, more coalition formative, producing non-excludable commons, and less materially attached and less dependent on the immediacy of place-based concerns and on the conditions of limited resources. Its vertical structure should be detailed as functionally necessary, but transparent and contestable. The main structural element in the organisation of zones would be horizontal interactions between participating members, such as cooperatives, systems of exchange (the introduction of time-based complementary currencies), p2p, the gift economy.

The crucial precondition for more empowering operation of autonomous zones is linked to the ability of participating (there converging) movements to form contested coalitions 'which prosecute conflict on a variety of multi-scalar terrains that include both material places and virtual spaces' (Routledge). Autonomous zones are inhabited by heterogeneous movements that face intensively coalition forming challenge not only in occasional demo networking but in their every day operation. So the last issue which I wish to address is this 'translation principle' that could uniformly explain different possible coalition relationships between anti-systemic movements. Every individual movement uses its own specific way of criticising the existing social order, as well as its own and recognisable implementation (action) tactics. This two distinctions can be used as two axes of differentiation and organisation of the existing variety of movements. Before explaining one possible translation principle, let me first evaluate what would be immediately achieved with the acceptance of the proposed approach of differentiation along two independent axes. In this way, three sorts of anti-systemic movements would be excluded from further consideration, which importantly simplifies the translation (organisation) problem. The first excluded would become groups that are based on critique that is not accompanied with action such as in post-modern self-sufficient, self-referring enclaves. The other form of revolt which is excluded relates to movements for which violence is their native and the only practicing language, that are refusing any possible translation aimed at co-existence with others. For being one-dimensional, these two sets of anti-systemic strategies are incompatible and can not (and don't want to) be translated and integrated with all other protest movements, so they should be dealt with separately. The third exclusion affects every movement, that is not sharing its 'anti' goal with the majority. If the translation is composed as anti-capitalistic and there is a movement, that declares itself for example as anti-globalist, but not as anti-capitalistic, than this translation principle exclude all non anti-capitalistic movements from the coalition forming efforts. So it is crucially important that the translation principle is composed for the widest possible variety of 'anti' strategies. I believe, that anti-globalist strategy is narrower that anti-capitalistic strategy, which is narrower than anti-systemic strategy of revolt which consequently appears as the least exclusive approach of all three. All the remaining variety of movements can than form 'a matrix of revolt' that may be applied to define critique-action specificity of all participating movements in this way obtaining possibility to distinguish movements from each other in a uniform way. Say for example that the following anti-systemic matrix of revolt is formed:

rows are representing vector of anti-systemic critiques (say, rated by their radicality), while columns represent vector of main anti-systemic implementation strategies. System can be criticised (row vector) because of its failures (say inequality), wrongness (exploitation of non-capitalists) or incapabilities (to remove systemic constraints that are imposed on individuals and communities). Activity (column) vector on the other side differs reform of the system (say progressive taxation of incomes or introducing social aid schemes), revolution of the existing system (say, socialist or ecologist revolution) or creating anti-systemic or external, autonomist zone beyond any system of domination. Every system necessarily imposes certain limits that can be sometimes legitimated, but never removed within the system. In this way, systemic solution always presupposes existence of a sphere which is external to it and is anti-systemic (obviously, matrix of revolt treats autonomous zones as internal to the anti-systemic goal). Such a composition of matrix of revolt enables every possible anti-systemic movement (except all three excluded groups) to define its location (between 9 fields of the matrix) in the formation of the anti-systemic revolt. With
this every movement not only becomes uniquely recognisable but also acquire unique collective labels and responsibilities linked to consistently following its declared specific composition of domains (critique, action). In this way and also mobility between individual fields is transparent and as such undisputed for anybody included in the matrix (which eliminates accusations for betrayal when 'sides are changed'). This essentially increases possibility for forming coalitions among individual matrix fields (movements) which are aimed at creation of commons between them. Operation of such a matrix needs in principle no special co-ordination because everybody operates separately but also in higher organic unity with others. Everybody is responsible for her/himself and operates in certain unique relation with others otherwise being contested and agonised for its inconsistency. Presently a majority of revolt would be located in a north-western spheres of the matrix (failures of the system-reform demands) while latter (10-20 years) it mobility towards south-eastern part could be foreseen (exodus from the official society to avoid incapabilities of the system).

This line of thought leads me to observe that under mentioned (translating) conditions different movements can be reorganised from loosely defined networks to matrix. In this matrix, autonomist strategy is only one of possible anti-systemic strategies. At the same time I am quite sceptical about the translation approach, because it poorly reflects the different
imperfections that take place during translation between asymmetrical groups. But this is really beyond the purpose of this reply. Please accept this writing only as a set of possible thesis for further discussion.

lpbojan

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