T HE DEST ITUENT POWER (thirteen theses + 1) by Grisha
The destituent power is the political act of rejection of the supreme violence, capable of interrupting the natural course of things. It is not a political program nor an exercise of philosophy. It is a conceptual repercussion: it reflects the reality of our present condition.
1. The destituent power exposes an ontological dimension. Its manifestation derives from the Nothing, from an absolute absence of rationale. â€œI do not know, but I do know that the void, the time, the magnitude, the becoming, the future, the time to come, the being, the not-being, the Self, the not-Self, are nothing to me; but there is one thing which is something, only one thing which is something, and that I feel wants to COME OUT: the presence of my bodily pain, this menacing, never ceasing presence of my body; so strong that I am beset with questions that I deny all questions, there is a point where I am forced to say no, NO then to the denial; and this point is when I am oppressed, when I am pressed and I am milked until the nourishment flows out
of me, my nourishment and its milk, what is left? That I am suffocating; and I do not know if it is an action but oppressing me with all these questions until absence and annihilation of the question I was oppressed so much that the idea of the body and being a body was suffocated in me, and it is then that I felt the obscene and I farted through insanity and excess and rebellion against my suffocating. Because even my body was pressed straight through my body and it is then that I burnt everything so that my body will not be touched ever again” (Antonin Artaud). 2. The destituent power sees a political greatness in who is usually excluded from politics. In who acts and works on the thresholds of exclusion conceived and managed by the law. In who does not care about the dialectic of recognition. In who, showing this distance, takes himself away from every seizure of power and, exactly for this reason, has an unknown political power. “It wanders around our alleys, day and night, with good and bad weather; it has no face, no name. If I could designate it with the same smoke that Palazzeschi used for Perelà, I would give it a face, a body: our ghost, instead, is neither shadow nor abstraction, it is something that at the same time is not. However, I have to say that in our country the Nothing is never just the nothing; it is always the negation of a negative event, a nonillness, that is, a non-death, a non-hunger, a non-misery, a non-calamity, and so on endlessly. In this Reign, eternally waiting for the worst, the image of Nobody elevates sovereign” (Carlo Bernari).
3. The destituent power arises at the moment when the event takes place . At times that are unpredictable, it puts the order of history on hold and opens up a “not yet” politics. Its nature is vivid and ghostly. The event is the impossible: it can be neither foreseen nor pre-understood. May ’68 proved that explosive communication could indeed assert itself (beyond the usual forms of assertion), in terms of an openness allowing anyone, regardless of differences in social class, age, gender or education, to bond to strangers as if to somebody already loved – the familiar unknown. And this could happen without planning or plotting, in the suddenness of a happy encounter, like a celebration subverting all the social forms admitted or awaited. “Without planning”: this was the feature – distressing and blissful at the same time – of a kind of society like no other, comprehensible, due to neither subsistence nor settlement, not even via the several “committees” set up to feign a disorderly order and an undefined expertise. Unlike “traditional revolutions”, May ’68 was not just about seizing power in order to replace it with another one, or storming the Bastille, the Winter Palace, the Élysée Palace and the National Assembly – all unimportant targets. Nor was it about overthrowing the old. It was indeed about making being-together possible, beyond any mere utilitarism, and thus recognising equality and dignity in all people joined together in brotherhood by acknowledging their freedom of speech. Each one had something to say, sometimes something to write (on walls); but what was this “something”? Well, this appeared as totally irrelevant. The act of saying was more important than the thing said. Poetry was a daily routine. The “spontaneous” communication – in the sense that it seemed unbridled – was nothing but self-communication, transparent and immanent despite the struggles, the debates and the controversies, giving more voice to the near-pure esprit than to the calculating intelligence (in all cases, without contempt, hauteur or baseness). Therefore it seemed as though, once the authority was overthrown (or rather neglected), a new experience of communism, which no ideology was capable of recovering or claiming, was likely to arise. What emerged was not a virtuous attempt at carrying out reforms, but a presence instead, innocent and therefore supremely unusual, eluding the analyses of men of power and thus denigrated by them with sociologically typical expressions such as “masqueraded”, suggesting a carnivalesque repetition of their own bewilderment, caused by the awareness of a command no longer able to command, not even itself, and lost in contemplation, yet without seeing it, of its own inexplicable fall. What also emerged, apart from this innocent presence, this “common presence” (René Char), which ignored its own limits, were both a politics against exclusion and the awareness of being – as it was indeed – the universal “here and now”. The main challenge was with the impossible which, as it was not supported by specific political wills, was however at the mercy of any unexpected and sudden action from formal institutions against which reactions were self-prohibited. It was precisely this lack of reaction (Nietzsche may seem to have inspired it) that left room for the development of the opposite demonstration – an occurrence which could have been easily avoided or fought against. Everything was accepted. The impossibility of both recognizing an enemy and of taking into account a specific form of opposition on the one hand did enliven, but on the other hand was falling into dissolution, although nothing needed dissolving, since the event had actually taken place. The event? And had it taken place?” (Maurice Blanchot).
4. The destituent power happens everywhere in space. It happens wherever generic individuals collectively avoid and de-structure the apparatus of seizing and controlling power. Although the geography of place can still stir up forms of destituent struggle, only rejection can turn space into a place of liberation. Destituent power arises in the unstable thresholds of the contemporary world: suburbia, slums, outskirts, streets, administrative bodies, in the suspension of factories and in the silence of call centres. “You can love a city, you can recognise its houses and streets in your most distant and precious memories; but you can really feel it as your own only at the hour of uprising: your own, as it belongs to you and to “others” at the same time; your own, as it is the battlefield that you have chosen and that the collectivity has chosen too; your own, as it is circumscribed space where historical time is suspended and each action has its own value, in its most immediate consequences. You can take possession of a city more by escaping or approaching when power alternates than by playing in its streets like a child or taking a girl out for a walk when you grow up. At the hour of uprising, in the city you are never alone» (Furio Jesi). 5. The destituent power is extraneous to the logic of subject and identity. It is the capacity to acknowledge that the only political subjectivity that measures up with our time is the one that revokes itself. Consciousless and impossible to represent, it is the generic singularity. It is the destituent singularity that becomes such, the very moment it originates, along the others, in the struggle. “The representative-creative Self considered in its steadfastness, and in its centric fixity, which is intrinsic of the dibble it is, shrouded in a stolid and inert time, pouring light into darkness like a reflector of the fears of the night, is to me a moth-eaten idol. However, this puppet of Ptolemaic credulity has nothing in common with my identity of the wounded, bewildered, poor, ‘dissociated noetic’. Around me, around us, the fluttering of the mortiferous events, the pain, the torpid torture of the years. The concept of will is abolished, in the stagnant impossible. The ocean of stupidity” (Carlo Emilio Gadda). 6. The destituent power rejects the modern idea according to which politics is just State and police. On the contrary, it thinks the power beyond every form of government and political theology. Its destituent dimension has nothing to do with passivity; it rather determines its own power in the action and in the political decision. In other words, it denies every productive activity depending on the capital. The savage strike as suspension of the dominion of what it is. “-Good morning, boss. -We are in a disastrous situation. -Really? Sit down, please! -I think we are in disrepair. -It’s terrible. -In Milan, the most elementary government’s function does no longer exist. -I see. -Nothing, nothing, really nothing looks like a government.
-But, what should we do in this situation? -Give the power to the General Confederation of Labour. -But this is the last thing to do! -No, I think that this solution would be better than what is happening right now. It is not possible to continue like this, my darling! -By the way, you mean: let’s rise up! But, what can we do instead rising up? -The only way to avoid an uprising is to give the power to the Confederation of Labour. -And, for doing what? - The works committee or whatever they want … But in the end … there will be a order … Here industrialists say “The government is free to seize our enterprises, to build cooperatives and to do whatever it likes, but the important thing is the existence of a commanding government, a socialist government, if you prefer, but the current situation is terrible and nothing similar has ever been seen before”. (State Police’s archives). Telephone conversation between Giovanni Amendola – liberal MP – and Luigi Albertini – director of Il Corriere della Sera- about the enterprises’ occupation movement in the North of Italy. Rome, September 15, 1920, 9 AM). 7. The destituent power emerges and asserts itself in the days of tendential coexistence of production and existence, at the time when the enhancement process acquires an immaterial character. However since the sophisticated nature of global bio-power can foster, lure, determine and control the craving exuberance of existence, the relationship between production and existence does not imply an immediate social enrichment. Only if the neo-liberal means of control are rejected – namely when the political destitution of the status quo creates the conditions for learning to crave in a different way – will this relationship eventually manage to express its truly vibrant and bio-political nature. “Comrades, companions, – I deserve – Majakovskij said – a monument while alive! – It is I you cannot conceive yesterday tonight nor ever It is I that am all of you, the statue of an Italian centre forward his head between his feet, no ball One hundred miles an hour on the field, I am the breathlessness in disaffection finding in the net no adversity but a round round world already marked by none other than me before I was born. And here is done what I do not do and here is said what I did say here is rewarded that which I wanted just to tell me I am not just And here I am, dead when most I lived -
Tactic – the stars respond you cannot keep up with this running - Oh, to achieve! - Return, but tonight, if you want to return, after the match, since the white green and red beyond Montale has ended, you know why it has ended in one common midday snooze it is the exception that you believed were such: a chance to disperse the crowd your late arrival puts back into play the game of life won the other night deep down in the sea And hope, so high now cannot suffice but such that moves so musically my life. (Carmelo Bene). 8. The destituent power has the ability to break with the gregarious condition of the human. A destiny to which we are entrusted to by the liberal economic determination of social relations. This infraction is the flare-up of a ferocious, savage, unpredictable animality. The only emergence of this animality produces an irreparable rupture that does not propose itself as a possible regenerative crisis of the bio-capital. It is rather a catastrophe. It is the opening of a fault in the temporality of the world. It is a feast that infringes the ordinary gloominess of the power. However, its insurrection is no miracle. On the contrary, it is a possibility of existence. The circumstance could even seem to be paltry, but it always reveals the intolerable condition of who is constrained to be what he is. “Tenderness it welled: slow, swelling, full it throbbed. That’s the chat. Ha, give! Take! Throb, a throb, a pulsing proud erect. Words? Music? No: it’s what’s behind. Bloom looped, unlooped, noded, disnoded. Bloom. Flood of warm jamjam lickitup secretness flowed to flow in music out, in desire, dark to lick flow invading. Tipping her tepping her tapping her topping her. Tup. Pores to dilate dilating. Tup. The joy the feel the warm the. Tup. To pour o’er sluices pouring gushes. Flood, gush, flow, joygush, tupthrob. Now! Language of love.” (James Joyce). 9. The destituent power does not question violence. Violence only exists for the State. Extraneous to the friend-enemy logic, the destituent power is a force that fulfilles itself in the contingency and in the praxis where decisions about violence and non-violence are taken each and every time. “While going to Al Quds Hospital, on one of the few temerarious taxis
that zigzagging challenged the shooting gallery of the bombs, I saw in a corner a group of kids. They were dirty, their clothes were patched up. They reminded me our postwar shoe-shines. They were launching stones using slingshots, trying to reach the sky, trying to reach a distant and inapproachable enemy that shows utter disregard for their lives. An insane metaphore that photographs the absurdity of these times, of these places” (Vittorio Arrigoni). 10. The destituent power is a political question. It opens up the chance for revolutionary politics. At the same time, it denounces all revolutions that betray themselves in order to become a cog in the wheel of government. “The whole of Berlin at night is a place for business and bustle. Everything merges together, then some drift apart. Spying is easy work, each disruption is transparent. Everyone is bent on relieving himself of his own secret, on giving his news, on collapsing during questioning. By now everyone is on each other’s heels and no-one can control the numbers they have been attributed, in dim light. Outside it is morning again, it is too bright. Numbers don’t add up there. Only some transvestites – nobody knows their shape nor how their made-up lips are sealed – will go home, to fall asleep for a while, happy, every single day» (Ingeborg Bachmann). 11. The destituent power acquires the experience from the uprisings and desertions that precedes it. Conflicts never vanish without leaving a trace. Their heritage echoes in the womb of places and bodies every time that the seizure of power is eluded. The destituent event, the creation of a world, its political innovation, embraces the invisible echo of insurrections and residues that tormented the order of history. “Indeed I live in the dark ages! A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens A hard heart. He who laughs Has not yet heard The terrible tidings. Ah, what an age it is When to speak of trees is almost a crime For it is a kind of silence about injustice! And he who walks calmly across the street, Is he not out of reach of his friends In trouble? It is true: I earn my living But, believe me, it is only an accident. Nothing that I do entitles me to eat my fill. By chance I was spared. (If my luck leaves me I am lost.) They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad you have it! But how can I eat and drink
When my food is snatched from the hungry And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty? And yet I eat and drink. I would gladly be wise. The old books tell us what wisdom is: Avoid the strife of the world Live out your little time Fearing no one Using no violence Returning good for evil -Not fulfillment of desire but forgetfulness Passes for wisdom. I can do none of this: Indeed I live in the dark ages!” (Bertold Brecht). 12. The destituent power does not tolerate the institutions that represent the interests of the contemporary capitalism and for this reason it contributes to their extinction. At the same time, it creates the necessary conditions so that new institutions faithful to the contingency and able to guarantee the unfounded nature of the generic singularity emerge. Institutions that ensure its temporary statute and protect the value of the political action as refuse. “The essence of society is not the law but rather the institution. The law, actually, is a limitation of enterprises and actions, and it focuses only on a negative aspect of society. The fault of contractual theories is that they present us a society whose essence is the law, whose only goal is to guarantee certain pre-existing natural rights, whose only origin is the contract. Thus, anything positive is taken away from the social and the social is put somewhere else, in negativity, limitation and alienation. The law cannot be, by itself, the source of obligation, because the obligation of the law presupposes utility. Society cannot guarantee pre-existing rights: if people enter society, it is exactly because they do not have pre-existing rights. Where is the fundamental difference? Utility is on the side of the institution. The institution, unlike the law, is not a limitation but rather a model of actions, a real enterprise, an invented system of positive means, a positive invention of indirect means” (Gilles Deleuze). 13. The destituent power refuses the name that imposes the global violence and the suffering of the generic singularity: the government of democracy. However, democracy is also the name of an unfounded policy without arche. For this reason, the destituent power is naturally democratic. We could call this ontology communism. “Only in communist society, when the resistance of capitalists has been completely broken, when capitalists have disappeared and classes no longer exist (i.e., there is no difference among the members of society in their relation to the social means of production), only then “the State ceases to exist” and “it becomes possible to speak of freedom”. Only then, a truly complete democracy, a democracy without any exceptions, becomes possible and will be realized. Only then, democracy itself begins to wither away due to the simple fact that, freed from capitalist slavery, from the untold horrors, savagery, absurdities and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually get accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social life that have been known for centuries
and that have been repeated for thousands of years in every commandment. People will get accustomed to observing them without violence, without coercion, without subordination and without that special apparatus for coercion called State. The expression â€œthe State withers awayâ€? is perfect as it expresses both the gradual and the spontaneous nature of the process. Only habit can, and undoubtedly will, produce such an effect; we see around us millions of times how easily people get accustomed to observing the necessary rules of life in common when there is no exploitation and when nothing causes indignation, evokes protest and uprising, and creates the need for suppression. Thus, the capitalist society offers us a democracy that is curtailed, poor and false, a democracy only for the rich, for the minority. Communism only is capable of giving a truly complete democracy, and the more complete it is, the sooner it will become unnecessary and wither away of itself (Vladimir Lenin).