During the last week this mysterious message made its way across the internet:
SEMIOTEXT(E) Book Launch: The Coming Insurrection by the Invisible Committee
“Two centuries of capitalism and market nihilism have brought us to the most extreme alienations—from ourselves, from others, from worlds. The fiction of the individual has decomposed with the same speed that it once became real. Children of the metropolis, we offer this wager: that it’s in the most profound deprivation of existence—perpetually stifled, perpetually conjured away—that the possibility of communism resides.”
—The Coming Insurrection, Introduction to the English edition
THE COMING INSURRECTION has been labeled a “manual for terrorism” by the French government, who recently arrested its alleged authors. Philosopher Giorgio Agamben has called the book “one of the most intelligent works of our time” and numerous commentators have seen it as a heir to the legacy of situationist Guy Debord. Meanwhile, bootleg translations have circulated around the world and passages from the book appeared on the walls of Athens during last December’s uprising.
Anonymously written in the wake of the riots that erupted throughout the Paris suburbs in the fall of 2005, THE COMING INSURRECTION articulates a rejection of the official Left and its reformist agenda, aligning itself instead with the growing number of those—in France, in the United States, and elsewhere—who refuse the idea that theory, politics, and life are separate realms.
Please join us for the official book launch, including discussion of the text as well as content-appropriate activities, on Sunday, June 14 at 5pm on the fourth floor of Union Square Barnes and Noble.
I arrived at the fourth floor of Barnes and Nobles right on time. The auditorium-style meeting area was already mostly filled with those in-the-know along with a few dozen confused onlookers who sensed something was up, many of them Barnes and Nobles employees. As if scripted, a manager appeared on the scene promptly at 5, saying “Listen, I don’t know why you’re all here, but there’s no event here today. There’s the Joe Scarborough reading here tomorrow, so you’re welcome to come back then…” He was cut off by an unidentified individual taking the stage with the energy and confidence of a motivational speaker, saying “We’re sorry the Invisible Committee couldn’t make it today, but is everyone still interested in a reading and discussion of The Coming Insurrection?” The crowd emphatically clapped and cheered and the man continued to read the first chapter of the book, “I AM WHAT I AM” a discussion of the marketing of identity via corporate advertising. Soon a large security guard made his way to the stage and grabbed the the man mid-sentence. Emphatic boos from the crowd and physical intervention from a few concerned on-lookers forced the guard away and the reading continued for ten solid minutes, eventually degenerating into a profanity-filled rant about the misery of work and the banal New York art scene. Uniformed NYPD (apparently on Barnes and Noble’s payroll?) eventually put an end to the disruption, threatening the speaker with arrest. After short deliberation, it was announced the reading would move to Union Square park. As the 50-strong crowd filtered out in a surprisingly calm manner, several attendees fell back and used the diversion to fill their bags with whatever books they pleased.
Instead of proceeding directly to the park, the crowd moved next door to high-brand make-up outlet Sephora, where they were able to use their bodies to keep security away while the book was passed around for anyone to read aloud, others helping themselves to free samples of bronzer and eyeliner. After a few minutes the employees’ pleas for the mob to leave were honored as we took to the streets again, this time walking towards the nearest Starbucks–already on the alert for rowdy interventionist protests due to its long-running suppression of IWW union activity there. Cops arrived almost immediately; one person received a summons for disorderly conduct for reading atop a table. The group, which had dwindled after the appearance of about a dozen police, resigned themselves to reading, talking, and taunting the police from the park as they had previously decided.
The Coming Insurrection is the first official U.S. publication of the Invisible Committee’s collection of propaganda centered around the reclamation of “communism” as a tactic for global insurrection. The text gained international attention following the arrest of the Tarnac 9, accused of taking part in the strike-related sabotage of railways in France. The Coming Insurrection was used as evidence that this group, allegedly involved in its publication, espoused terrorist tactics. The book was labeled a “manual for terrorism.”
There is much discussion of tactics in The Coming Insurrection, but nothing so incendiary as how to brew a molly. Instead, the book urges the formation of hundreds of communes based on the principle of friendship (“All affinity is affinity within a common truth”), forming in “every factory, every street, every village, every school” and the “multiplication” of these communes. Quick to point out its base differences from the organized left, the Invisible Committee has revived the slogan of the Russian Revolution: “All Power to the Communes,” which was briefly chanted in Sephora.
The text’s reappropriation of communism culminates in a total break from Marxism, even finding itself tracking contemporary anti-civilization arguments, attacking ecological concerns as following the logic of capitalism: “They hired our parents to destroy the world, and now they’d like to put us to work rebuilding it—to add insult to injury—at a profit.” The chapter triumphantly concludes: “As long as there is Man and Environment the police will be there between them.”
It should be noted that the newer translation is far more eloquent and the Semiotext(e) edition itself is academic-looking, quite attractive, and will fit right in your pocket. You can buy it for $12.95 from MIT press’ website.