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Slovenia: Against Criminalization, Aestheticization and Nationalization of Uprising!

Image: Slovenia uprising

The statement below reflects the opinions of the author, a representative of the Occupy Ljubljana movement. We at Occupy Wall Street don't feel in a position to judge what forms other liberation struggles should take, we only know that ours is nonviolent and according to principles of solidarity will remain so.

What has been most evident during the ferment of the uprising, defined by multiplicity, heterogeneity, and non-hierarchical structure, are the attempts of instrumentalizing, taking control of and directing the uprising, which are all interrelated. On the one hand, there have been several patronizing appeals for “nonviolent protests”, for “peaceful and dignified demonstrations” and for a “cultivated uprising”. On the other hand, we are witnessing calls for an early unification of the uprisers’ demands, in some cases even for a formation of a party and an incursion into the parliament. Besides this the uprising is all too often reduced to the question of Slovenia and of the Slovenian nation and thus its emancipatory potential is numbed. These tendencies come from some intellectuals, cultural workers, artists, representatives of the civil society and the media, who consider themselves supporters of the uprising, yet they typically want to define it, direct it and channel its course. With such supporters, who have completely internalized the prohibition against any kind of real, radical, political resistance, we essentially need no opponents. There are at least three things that need to be clarified at this point.

Firstly, with each call for non-violence we should be aware that non-violence does not exist. Violence is the integral part of society’s antagonism. The state is founded on violence – systemic, structural, objective violence – which it needs to unify this variety, multiplicity, heterogeneity of voices, identities, relations into a homogenic, citizenly, national – constructed and thus imaginary! – community. Systemic, structural, objective violence is thus an attribute of the social conditions of global capitalism and manifests itself in the automatic violent creation of the excluded and dispensable individuals, from the homeless, the immigrants, the homosexuals, the minorities, the women, the physically and mentally disabled, the minors, the representatives of subcultures, the poor, the unemployed, the structurally unemployable or precarious workers. The dominant system supports the creation, preservation and reproduction of a global dominion, in which people are valued only as cheap labour force – i.e. commodities. It does that through a structural production and preservation of inequality, exploitation and control and is therefore maintained by violence.

Subjective violence, usually manifested in some kind of “outburst”, “excess”, “deviation” from the “normal state”, is merely a consequence of the state violence (systemic, structural, objective violence), which invisibly maintains this “normal” state (through ideological and repressive apparatuses). Actually, only subjective violence makes the state violence visible, exposes it in all its brutality. In both cases we are dealing with violence though, yet state violence is completely normalized and legalized, while any form of subjective violence or any more radical gesture of response is criminalized and brutally sanctioned.

This is exactly what we are witnessing during the process of the uprising where the uprisers (some even under age), who have been deprived of their future and dignity by the exploitative policy of “belt tightening”, end up in prison, are the subjected of criminal charges, tapping, are being followed and intimidated, while the criminals, the tycoons and speculators, as well as professional politicians suspected of criminal acts of corruption, nepotism and abuse of office are not merely at large, but are also in charge of high positions with which they buy their social reputation. This is why we have to understand that subjective and state violence are two variants of violence which differ in quality, the former aiming at a (radical) change of the existing state, and the latter at preserving the status quo. Dreams of a revolution without violence are dreams of a “revolution without revolution” (Robespierre). On the other hand, the role of state violence is exactly the opposite: violence, whose aim is to prevent real change – something spectacular should happen all the time so that nothing happens really (Žižek). Non-violence, which is supposed to be the empty ideal of the “democratic” civilization, therefore does not exist. Let us not forget this as we arise against excessive violence in its multiple forms. This means that each smashed window of the parliament, each thrown granite cube and each attempt of moving the police fence should make us wonder first and foremost about the reasons for these actions, instead of moralizing about vandalism. By criminalizing such actions a priori, the attention shifts away dangerously from the real problems: the aggressive disintegration of the common good, the total devastation of the welfare state and the insistent trampling on the values of solidarity. The fact that people in the streets are angry, enraged and furious is therefore not the cause, but exactly the consequence of completely misunderstanding the process of governance where all the forms of real political participation have failed completely.

Secondly, with each new call for a unification of the uprisers into a political party, it must be repeated time and time again that the most emphasized message of the uprisers is: “Nobody represents us!” This does not only represent a demand for the resignation of the whole political elite – both “right” and “left”! -, but it also means a radical problematization of the question of representation and a demand for new, truly inclusive forms of political participation. And it is not surprising that this is what neither the “right” nor the “left” want to hear. The appeals for the formation of a political party represent a banal attempt to use the uprising as an instrument in the direction of undermining the “right” and reducing the uprising potential to the promotion of the interests of the “left”, which is disrespectful to the uprising and its truly political potential. So long as there is an (apparent) battle between parliamentary “left” and “right”, the political elite feels strong and safe, so it opposes united and unconditionally the emancipatory potential of the uprising with its call for radical structural political changes beyond the “left” and the “right”. The uprising poses the question about the crisis of the dominant understanding of the concept of democracy as parliamentary, representative, delegational politics. “Democraticness” as the opposition of “totalitarianism” has become some kind of universal marker of a successful functioning of the state. The triumph of democracy is presented as the triumph of the system of (state, trans-state and parastate) institutions which materialize the sovereignty of the people, and as a practice of the political that ensures the political form of justice and the economic form of production of wealth. Yet this democracy is not conceived as the rule of the demos, that is the people, or exactly as an absence of any kind of governance. On the contrary, this democracy is understood as a form of the state, as a condition of the society and appears under several names: as liberal, parliamentary, representative democracy. The model of democracy understood in such terms exposes the fundamental problem. In such a constellation, political plurality and multiplicity are perceived as many “left-wing” and “right-wing” political parties which are supposed to “represent” the various interests of the people, political participation is reduced to the elections as the “feast of democracy” (that enacts the rule of counting), political equality is supposed to be guaranteed by the jurisprudence, while the combination of all this is supposed to be run by economic interests and competitivity. What we are really dealing with is the phenomenon of capitalo-parliamentarism or the “all-too-objectivist suture of market economy and election ritual” (Badiou), where there is no essential difference between “left-wing” and “right-wing” political parties, which are as such the delegates of the capital and not of the people or of basic equality. In this parliamentary fetishism that substitutes democracy, plural opinions are homogenized, any kind of multiplicity is unified and classified in a pragmatic and utilitarian manner, while the well-being of the common is subjected to the lucrative and technocratic interests of the political elites. What disappears in such a situation of matching without remainders between the forms of state and the state of social relations is precisely the demos; the phenomenon of the people as the basis of democracy, as the principle of ruling in the name of the people, only without them, is dissolved. This actually means the disappearance of politics itself, where people are reduced to voters or in other words buyers of a party’s programme, and it means further distancing from the emancipatory process of the uprising in which people have begun to take their own wishes and needs seriously and destroyed the chains of alienation which is the very basis of capitalist (re)production. By stressing the principles of self-organization, non-representation and non-hierarchicalness and exposing their bodies in the streets and squares, the uprisers remind us that the basis of each politics must be the well-being of the people and not the interests of capital. So the demand of the uprisers is not a political party “of their own” but a radical change in the understanding of political participation. The attempt to aestheticize the truly political demands of the uprisers represents a banal attempt to usurp its emancipatory potential and reduce this potential to the antipolitical interests of partitocracy, where politics is intended merely as a means towards achieving certain pragmatic goals and is preserved through the constant creation and reproduction of inequality.

Thirdly, the all-Slovenian uprising has never been the Slovenian uprising. Those who interpret the uprising in an exclusively national context, as a desire to preserve the Slovenian national identity, as a question of patriotism or statehood, have missed its essence due to their conservatism. The demands of the uprising are universal political demands: radical equality, good living and obedient governance. Such demands go far beyond the national – and any particular, identitary, communitary – frame, since they apply to everybody or rather whoever, they touch upon virtually anybody. The multiple and various singular demands of the uprising are crossed by the very universal, emancipatory demand for equality, which envelopes everybody or rather whoever and does not refer to any (individual or group) more in particular than to anybody else, or rather contains the ability to be referred to everybody without exception, without remainder. The uprisers know that Slovenia is not an isolated island and that under the conditions of global capitalism – privatization of the commons, people reduced to commodities i.e. workforce, disintegration of everything that doesn’t make profit – uprisings have been happening all over Europe and all over the world from Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia… through Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy… to the USA, Mexico and South America… All these uprisings (including the all-Slovene one) go beyond the national; they are distinguished by exceptionally evident transnationality, transversality and solidarity.

This is a global struggle between those who are violently excluded from the political space and those who have violently usurped this space. If anything, then this is an uprising against capitalism as a way of forming a society and against the political elites which enable and perform it. The attempts at nationalizing the uprising demonstrated through (apparently harmless) cultural, artistic, civil society events and addresses that wish to consolidate Slovenian culture, history and tradition, represent dangerous tendencies which may lead into identity exclusion and populism. The reduction of its universality and its political character to the context of nation, culture and statehood – which is always based on the constitution of a closed identity, formed by the exclusion of the Other (non-citizen, foreigner, migrant) –, is a favour to those who wish to use the uprising for their needs, to control it and to limit it. The increasing influence of fascist, neo-nazi and nationalist (patriotic) parties, movements and initiatives in Europe and across the world, which strengthen their position precisely through populist proclamations of the importance of one specific identity – nation, language, culture – distinctly shows this. The normalization of the perception of fascist, neo-nazi and nationalist (patriotic) tendencies has become frightening during the last years. The uprising represents a struggle against such tendencies, yet it does not reduce this struggle to humanitarian problems of intolerance, discrimination, disrespect of the state of law, but structures it as a fight against the inexistence of the true politics, that is equality. So the all-Slovenian uprising is not about the struggle of a nation and of a culture, it’s a class struggle, the anti-capitalist and anti-fascist struggle of each or any nation and each or any culture. The emancipatory struggle does not bring together nations and cultures in their identity; the repressed, the exploited, the suffering part of every nation and every culture come together in the shared struggle (Žižek).

Let us stop pretending. People are in the streets because they are angry, robbed and indignant, not because they are Slovene or because they want to become professional politicians or vote for a new political party or because they want to cram around a centralized stage in freezing cold to listen to the messages that come from it in the form of one-way monologue.

Besides, they understand very well that their well-being is not being threatened by foreigners, the others or those different, but by the ideology of global capitalism represented by the political elite, the “left” as well as the “right”. They participate in the uprisings because they have discovered their power, the power of political thinking and acting. Since they have understood that in its essence politics can not be represented – it can only be realized, checked and practiced, since true politics as a living idea of radical equality is in its essence non-representative –, they demand a radical transformation of the understanding of politics. Since they perceive politics as the building of the power of those who are no more entitled to govern than to be governed; their belief in the power of everybody leads them in the active creation of new, inclusive, beyond-parliamentary forms of political participation, which are beyond the concept of governance and division of power. The uprising has revealed the scandalous side of politics demonstrated in the absence of any kind of governance, as a creation of an an arche situation. And the scandalous side of democracy, where people have taken seriously their role (the people’s rule). This is what all those who only wish to rule fear the most. Both, professional politicians (“left” and “right”), as well as professional revolutionaries or representatives of the civil society who understand the protests just as an ascent to power. The attempts to depoliticize the uprising and deny it of its emancipatory potential, which is demonstrated in the constant discovery of the possibility of the impossible, in the constant moving of the boundaries of the possible or not yet possible, will always be seen as problematic. The declaration of the possibility of emancipatory politics and radical equality thus remains the main objective and purpose of the uprising, especially in view of the fact that, historically speaking, all rights were attained and not granted.

Originally published in presencecounts.wordpress.com.

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