MANY ROLES ARE PLAYED,
AUTHENTICITY IS CONDEMNED
This article is translated from the periodical ‘Machete’,
number 1, January 2008.
…all jokes are fair
Sand. It blurs our vision and takes us into a fantasy world where everything seems to be alive yet nothing is real. We get lost in a rapid alternation of strangely vivid and alluring images, and are drawn along by their hypnotic power. What is the story we are about to tell if not a story of ghosts, shadows mistaken for preys, and deformed mirrors regarded as spectacles of truth? And it has been like that from the beginning.
We are thinking about neo liberalism, which the good souls of the left are shooting their arrows at. Instead of criticising the whole social organisation that reduces human beings to goods and puts life and the universe at the mercy of the economy, they are complaining about this detail of its politics and have ended up in struggling for a local and possibly more human capitalism. As if all one wanted was to consume goods produced closer to home.
And what about the summits of the leaders of the world? Media-orchestrated appointments where nothing concrete is established, as decisions that have been made elsewhere are merely formalised and made public. With these big encounters ‘our representatives’ want to demonstrate that there is no such thing as pre-arranged politics, no centre of directives, and that all the possibilities are always open: you just have to wait in your queue, then come forward and discuss things in a civilized manner. But it has been well known for a long time that it is not a question of if, but only of when and how.
The same evanescence also afflicts counter-summits in all their manifestations. This amusing militant activism engages all the political rackets who follow government leaders and their ministries as a dog follows its owner, trying to attract the latter’s attention in every possible way. As if dominion were not the expression of social relationships and depended on the will of a bunch of State representatives upon which certain pressure must be exercised. As if it were sufficient to sit at that table, or to put the right report on it, to end exploitation and the senselessness of human existence.
The magic lantern showing all these images in their flashy inconsistency was be found in Italy a few years ago on the occasion of the G8. As the plot seemed taken for granted, not much was expected. But…. by dint of representing, simulating and demonising the latter, revolt broke out for real in the streets of Genoa that Friday of July 20 2001. A furious revolt that was able to resist repression lasted for hours but surrendered beneath the blows of media chatter, sociological comment, militant distinctions and police and judicial inquisition. It is now buried under a mountain of sand. It is time we started to clean it out of our eyes.
The meeting of the powerful of the world and their pseudo-opponents was to take place in Italy this time. Everything was to proceed to perfection, nothing had been left to chance. The press emphasized the belligerent proclamations of the curtain-raising dissenters along with the possible threat of ‘international terrorism’. Even if nobody believed the self-proclaimed people’s tribune Casarini, whose pseudo-guerrilla rhetoric provoked tears of laughter rather than shudders of fear, even if nobody believed in incursions of Arab kamikazes… the atmosphere had become hot. The government confronted the situation by adopting martial measures. In the Italy of Berlusconi, Fini and Bossi the city of Genoa underwent a militarisation such as had never been seen before. All kinds of armed forces of the State had come to patrol the city. Blockades had been set up, body-bags had been provided for the dead, marksmen had been stationed on the roofs, scuba divers in the sea. A real torture centre for prisoners had been set in Bolzaneto, whose management had been committed to the gentlemen of the prison special antiriot squads. The task of guaranteeing public order was mainly delegated to the carabinieri, which on that occasion formed the CCIR (resolute intervention squads), made up of soldiers headed by officials of the elite military body ‘Tuscania’, already active in warfare missions abroad; but the police also distinguished themselves in repressive tasks. The State was not only ready to face protests but also and mainly to wage war. It was not a question of controlling demonstrators but of completely getting rid of enemies. It was in Genoa that the Italian State experimented the same military logic that characterizes international missions in a systematic, explicit and widespread way for the first time. This shows how, in a world unified by the religion of money, the difference between external and internal enemies is disappearing. After all, if a war is considered to be a police operation, a police operation can be well considered a war.
The battlefield is individuated around the ‘red zone’. It is here, under the gates and fences erected in defence of the site of the summit that the assaults of the demonstrators are expected. It is here that the little leaders of media-directed dissent have gathered their camel-troops. It is also here that the guard-dogs of dominion are concentrated in order to ward off the pressure of the unhappy subjects who have come to beg their non-existent rights. Everything seems ready. A multitude of respectful citizens shouting their reasons, the forces of order employed to stop them, the skirmish decided in advanced to exorcise the spectre of real clashes, the journalists from all over the world, the final applause so that everything, summit and counter-summit, ends quietly. Nothing of this is to happen.
The institutions do not really want to avoid clashes but want to give an unforgettable lesson to the ungrateful consumers of western welfare. A part of the movement, however, prefer to be protagonists of an explicit rebellion against so-called Masters of the World rather than spectators or walk-on parts in a show set for the media. So the rebels do not show up in the ‘red zone’, they prefer to desert the virtual clashes decided in advance with the institutions and engage in a real clash without mediation. Hundreds of enemies of this world, very different each one from the other, without leaders, heads or tails, decide to desert the appointment with the politicians and honour that of the darkness of their desires. Even if they are in the city on the day decided by the institutional agenda, they go where they are not expected to go. Instead of hurling themselves head-on at the heart of dominion they prefer to move elsewhere, knowing that dominion does not have a heart but is everywhere. The physical places where the cult of money is celebrated, where the stench of goods can be felt, where the lies of commerce can be heard – and not the mere ‘symbols’ of capitalism used as pretexts by leftist adulaters of the existent – will undergo the practical critique of action: banks are attacked, supermarkets are looted, finance companies are assaulted.
As time passes and the revolt spreads, the flux of rebels (joined by passers-by and curious onlookers) transforms its composition by modifying the surrounding environment. Nothing remains as it was before. Cars are now toys to be played with and barricades hold back the police. Sirens are silenced, electronic eyes are blinded. Journalists are kept away. Looting transforms goods for the few into a free-for-all. Walls lose their menacing greyness through colourful slogans. Roads, yards and buildings become arsenals. Town planning melts in the fire of revolt. In all these actions, rebels find authentic wellbeing, not that contemplated in abstract or exchanged for the humiliation of work. They clash many times with police, but on many other occasions they know how to avoid them. As always happens when the existent errupts, euphoria spreads and common sense flees. Soon the impossible becomes possible: the Marassi prison, which had been emptied to make room for arrested people, is attacked. The same happens to a carabinieri barracks. For their part, the men in uniform display all the violence they are capable of.
Those who accuse the black-dressed rebels of having stirred repression should recognize that from the beginning police attack was indiscriminate and hit everybody, especially the pacifist demonstrators. This means that the actions of police and carabinieri had been prepared and organized in advance as a preventive measure against everybody. It was not the result of excess of zeal or nervousness on the part of the forces of order, or of their lack of experience; on the contrary it was the real face of State terrorism that hurled its tanks at mad speed against harmless demonstrators. Under a deluge of teargas shot even from helicopters, the street became covered in the blood of hundreds and hundreds of demonstrators. It was this that pushed the explosion of revolt. Up until that moment the rebels’ devastation had not gone beyond what had been done in similar situations, that is to say direct action carried out by some hundreds of comrades who take advantage of the situation. Exactly what was supposed to stop it, the intervention of police, ended up fomenting it. In fact, the brutality of the men in uniform led to a generalized uprising. In a short time, thousands of demonstrators who had been quiet until then, joined the rebels and started fighting the cops armed with their anger alone.
Many insubordinates deserted the ranks of the political rackets whose leaders were calling for calm, moderation and non-violence. The ideology of disobedience knew its first disobedients. Before the ferocity of repression no party can resist. Deaf to the appeals of their leaders who told them not to react, many Disobedients started fighting against the men in uniform with the help of other demonstrators who ran to defend them from the attack of police. It is exactly by individuating the common enemy when the latter attacks that rebels immediately recognize each other and break the isolation of the ‘lonely crowd’, because when the boredom and anguish of survival are broken, individuals reveal themselves, to themselves and to others. It does not matter what the specific reasons are that provoked this situation. The fact is that for a few hours of that day, July 20, 2001, there were no violent or non-violent, men or women, social democrats or anarchists, militants or common people, employed or unemployed, but there were only individuals in revolt against the guard-dogs of the existent and the life that is imposed.
The clashes against the forces of order multiply, demonstrators come from everywhere ready to hurl themselves against the cops, and it is during one of these clashes that Carlo Giuliani is executed. He is not one of the ‘black bloc’. He is not an anarchist. He is not a provocateur. He is not an infiltrator. He is simply a young man who has decided to react to the violence of the State. He is not one of the few but one of the many. It is important to clarify this aspect. In the following days all the politicians-in-career that infest the movement take their distance, accusing the rebels of being ‘provocateurs’ and ‘infiltrators’ who have intentionally sabotaged a great pacific appointment with their actions, and have made everybody lose the occasion of being heard.
The social democrat mob—the same that until then had raised so much dust and noise and that believed they were the engines of history—spread slander on the rebels by reintroducing the old Stalinist tradition of the ‘witch-hunt’. This is their way to unleash their rancour against those who have decided to flee their control and have revealed the falseness of their pretended authoritativeness. It is their way to close their eyes before the failure of their political project, whose vainglorious inconsistency appeared in all its misery at the end of those days, when they tried pathetically to re-launch it. On the following day, July 21, police unrestrained by absolute certainty of impunity carried out the attack against the Diaz school, where all those who were there were massacred by ferocious cops.
In truth the rebels who fought against the forces of the old world in Genoa were numerous. Anarchists but not only. Dressed in black but not only. Foreigners but not only. The taste of freedom does not know limits, labels, uniforms or borders. And those who were so indignant at the fact that hundreds of comrades went to Genoa with the intention of stirring an uprising, by preparing themselves and avoiding the trap of the direct clash with police, should think instead of those who had stirred passions for months before and promised assaults and incursions without really intending to do it and without taking care of the possible consequences, those who lifted the white hands of non-violence as a sign of surrender and not of dignity, by contributing to sending thousands of harmless demonstrators to the massacre.
As soon as the revolt was over, journalists, specialists and experts started with their comments. The more testimonies and interpretations of what happened came forward the more its crystal clarity diminished. The lively wholeness of the revolt of Genoa has been sectioned and dismembered into many little particles. The bureaucracy of detail has swept away the immediacy of meaning.
An example for all is the inquest on the death of Carlo Giuliani. Who fired the shot? What weapon was used? From what distance? How may shots? Was the defendant really isolated from the other carabinieri? Let’s see the images again, let’s calculate the distances again, let’s read the reports again… one, two, three, to infinity until ears become deaf, eyes blind, brains exhausted and the original event is buried under the deluge of opinions. Make sure that no one ever reflects on the death of a young man executed during a demo of protest, instead make sure of where the extinguisher he was holding came from. The same process of making everything banal has been employed for all the rest, from the torture inflicted at Bolzaneto to the night raid at the Diaz school; everything has been pulverised so that it will be impossible to see anything. Of course this powerful work of mystification has been carried out in the name of Truth. The same truth that many hoped would come out in a court of law. Denounciations have rained against the butchers and torturers in uniform. Lawyers have been hired. Hundreds of videos have been collected with the intent to show what really did happen. Yes, the revolt of Genoa is the most photographed event in history. Cops on one side, media activists on the other, journalists in the middle, everybody was engaged in a mad game to immortalise the actions of others. Representation first of all, for posterity, for people to know, for someone to pay, for justice to triumph.
In spite of that, everybody knows what happened. It is engraved in indelibly in the memory and the flesh of thousands of demonstrators. And Genoa has demonstrated the absolute practical inutility of cameras and video cameras; on the contrary it has showed their dangerousness. Apart from the police, who took advantage by identifying and denouncing many rioters, a task made easier by the constant presence of people carrying cameras, and apart from journalists who have earned money for their work, who has really benefited from all the filming? What’s the point in showing the entire world the vice-chief of Digos of Genoa, Alessandro Perugini, kicking in the face of a boy immobilised on the ground by a few cops? Has he, caught red-handed, been put in the condition not to repeat his enterprise? Did a court condemn him by expelling him from the police and substituting him with a well-educated cop respectful of the Constitution? Not at all, on the contrary, with quite a macabre sense of humour the State has appointed Mr Perugini as Italian representative for an international campaign against torture. Similarly, it has promoted many of the butchers who distinguished themselves over these days.
The conviction that it is sufficient to show abuse of power in order to bring it to its knees is an ideological illusion, which should disappear like all ideologies. As direct heir of the old counter-information, modern media-activism cultivates a blind confidence more in the healing power of the image than in that of words. But both are based on the assumption that, once truth is revealed, propaganda lies will be put to silence. The poor idealists who believe in the light that defeats darkness must have been very disappointed at the news that one of the experts appointed by the judiciary has argued that a stone thrown by a demonstrator could have diverted the bullet that killed Carlo Giuliani. It is really true that one can see whatever one likes in a picture. And in a competition of pictures and chats between alternative media and the institutional, one it is useless to conceal that the latter will always win. Once and for all, cameras and video cameras are only indispensable instruments for policemen and journalists (who have the same function): no one else needs them, let alone those who want to taste revolt in person instead of immortalizing that of others (or of being immortalized as tourists of revolution who film the ‘beautiful moments of life’ in order to keep them in some dusty photo album).
As no truth can be extrapolated from a picture, so no justice can be expected in a sentence. Tribunals are institutions of the same State that ordered the massacres that occurred in Genoa. Why should judges condemn the men who are in their service? It is better to cover their enterprises under some judicial quibble.
Let’s get rid of the good common sense propitiatory of guarantees according to which there exists a difference between State of right and State of fact, as if these were distinct entities that must coincide to produce justice. The State invents its right and applies and modifies it as it likes best. The torturers that in Bolzaneto tore the identity cards of the arrested to pieces while shouting ‘here you do not have rights, you are nobody!’ were merely expressing the real nature of the State, of which they are the obedient and loyal servants. No assessment, counter-investigation or sentence will ever recognize these banal facts: in Genoa the State showed its true face, our security depends on our servility, those who oppose the will of the State are enemies to be eliminated. In their delirium of omnipotence and in their security hysteria, all States offer a sharp alternative: either you are loyal subjects, in which case you might be allowed to express your disagreement, low voice and with due respect, or you are terrorists to be sent to the slaughter or to jail. Crawl or die. It does not matter if you squat empty spaces or block trains and roads, if you smash shop windows or steal in order not to work, if you express your dissent or execute a State official: any action can be legitimately considered terrorist, with all that this involves. By defining terrorist whoever does not submit voluntarily, the State shows its terrorist nature.
But the judges in Genoa have gone further: they have introduced the concept of ‘psychic participation’, according to which it does not matter if you actually take part in a revolt to be a target for repression, it is sufficient to be on the spot. If you don’t want trouble not only must you avoid throwing stones or smashing windows, you must become a cop and actively check on others. Otherwise you might be incriminated as an accomplice. Respectful subject and potential cop: that is the ideal citizen of the new millennium in the fantasies of those who govern us.
Even if all this throws an alarming light on future struggles, it also contributes to eliminating once and for all a false problem that grasps the conscience of many: that concerning violence and non-violence. The State itself now declares that repression is not stirred by the mere use of violence, as maintained by the pacifist believers in an emancipating world; on the contrary, repression is also caused by the motivations that animate its opponents. What is intolerable for the State is to aspire to a radically different life and fight for it. If things stand this way, who can be above all suspicion? If it has been the State itself to put aside the question of violence, what’s the point in parading it as a line of demarcation between ‘comrades’ and ‘provocateurs’? So the use of violence remains what it has always been: an individual choice emerging from the circumstances of the moment and the attitudes of those who put it into practice. In fact, if the reasons for the destruction of this society are clear to everybody, those for its conservation or its simple tolerance are definitively less so. Who has the right to curse those who smashed windows in Genoa? Certainly not those who smashed bones, heads and teeth. Nor those who are indignant at the violated flowerbeds and regard death at work as something normal. And not even those who want to invade the ‘red zone’ of privilege starting from the ‘grey zone’ of collaborationism. If those who attack a bank are infiltrated provocateurs, what can the one who negotiates with a chief police officer in the name of everybody, who treads the boards of representation, who becomes member of parliament, who is part of the institutional machinery be called? The State will always rely on crowds of servants ready to kill and on crowds of voters ready to be killed; and today it has presented a steep bill to some comrades for their moments of freedom. But our road, the only one that can lead us to fantastic landscapes and secret encounters where everything is still possible, can’t pass either through the halls of a tribunals or TV studios. The cult of justice and that of truth will not have our attention.
And if yesterday a quite spectacular political event turned into a generalised revolt as unexpected things followed in rapid succession, this does not mean that we have to keep an eye on the agenda of power in the hope of a replica. We can’t wait for the calendar to tell us that it is carnival time, the only day when all jokes are fair, so that we can light a match in order to melt the social ice in which we are hibernating.
‘In my opinion, to put the police on trial along with the demonstrators means to give the so-called forces of order too important a role in the event; it means to cancel the importance of the actions carried out by the people who were in the street to express what they thought of this society, by confining everyone in his or her historical role of victims of an almighty power. Carlo Giuliani, as well as many other comrades of mine, died for having expressed all this with the courage and dignity that have always characterized those who do not submit to the existent. And he will not be the last as long as relationships between people are regulated by external bodies that represent a social minority. And as I’m disillusioned and I attribute the right meaning to democracy, the idea that a representative of the constituted order is put on trial for having fulfilled his duty makes me laugh, honestly. The State puts the State on trial, someone would say. There will certainly be sentences and I won’t regard them as acts of indulgence or persecution by the court towards us. In all cases, they have to be considered as attacks against those who, in one way or another, are ready to put their life at risk in order to destroy the existent in every possible way’.
One convicted for the Genoa riots