Radical media, politics and culture.

Pont St. Martin Parigi, "The Undesireables"

"The Undesireables"

Pont St. Martin Parigi

There are ever increasing numbers of undesirables in
the world. There are too many men and women for whom
this society has not provided any role except that of
croaking in order to make everyone else function. Dead
to the world or to themselves: this is the only way
society wants them.Jobless, they serve to goad anyone who has a job to
whatever humiliations in order to tightly hold on to
it. Isolated, they serve to make those who are
recognized as citizens believe they have a real life
in common (between the stamped documents of authority
and the market benches). Immigrants, they serve to
give the illusion of having roots to anyone who?being
proletarian with no offspring left at home?is despised
by his own children and left only with her nothingness
in the workplace, in the subway and in front of the
television. Undocumented, they serve to remind us that
wage slavery is not the worst thing?there is forced
labor and fear of control that tightens at every
patrol. Expelled, they serve to blackmail all the
economic refugees of capitalist genocide with the fear
of a journey toward misery without return. Prisoners,
they serve to threaten all those who no longer want to
resign themselves to this miserable existence with the
specter of punishment. Extradited as enemies of the
state, they serve to make it understood that in the
International of power and of exploitation there is no
space for the bad example of revolt.

Poor, isolated, everywhere strangers, prisoners,
outlaws, bandits: the conditions of these undesirables
are increasingly common. Thus, the struggle can make
itself common, on the basis of the refusal of a life
that is becoming more precarious and artificial every
day. Citizen or foreigner, innocent or guilty,
undocumented or regularized: the distinctions of state
codes don't pertain to us. Why would solidarity have
to accept these social boundaries when the poor are
continually tossed from one to the other?

Our solidarity is not with the misery, but with the
vigor with which men and women do not put up with it.

The Dream From a Parchment

Beneath the riverbed where history flows, a dream
seems to have withstood the wear and tear of time and
the implacable succession of generations. Look at the
yellow parchment of this renaissance codex; look at
these woodprints on the page that takes us back to the
youth of a millennium that has scarcely ended. See the
asses riding the cardinals and the usual starvelings
joyously drowning in food, see the crowns trampled,
see the end of the world ? or better still ? the world
turned upside-down. Here is the dream then laid bare,
the dream that speaks from an engraving made five
hundred years ago: to destroy the world in order to
grasp it, to steal it from god in order to make it
ours and at last shape it with our own hands. The
epochs have given it clothes of ever-changing styles.
It was dressed as a peasant during the medieval
insurrections and as a blouson noir* during May 1968
in France, as an Italian worker during the factory
occupations and as an English weaver during the times
when the first industrial looms were being destroyed
with hammer blows. The wish to turn the world upside
down has resurfaced every time that the exploited have
known how to gather the threads that tie them
together, threads that are broken in every epoch and
retied through different forms of exploitation.
Indeed, these forms are what in some way "organize"
the exploited: they are centered at different times in
the factories or in the living quarters, in the urban
ghettoes or in front of the employment office,
imposing the confrontation with similar living
conditions and similar problems. Let?s stop a moment
to unearth our deepest memories and summon stories of
our fathers. The factory in the haze or the sweat in
the fields burnt by the sun, the torment of a colonial
occupation that robs you of the fruits of the earth or
the increasingly frantic rhythm of a haste that in
whatever "communist" state promises a tomorrow that
never comes to liberate you from exploitation. With
each of these images from our past we can associate
the different ways of standing together that the
exploited used and, thus, the concrete bases of the
various struggles that have striven to turn the world
upside down and do away with exploitation.


An Unrecognizable Planet


If we read the history of the past thirty years
carefully, we can single out a line of development, a
series of modifications that have shaken the planet
up. This new situation is commonly called
"globalization". It is not a matter of an event that
is definitively accomplished, but of changes that are
still in course?with different rhythms and
peculiarities for every single country?and that leave
us the space to advance a few predictions. First,
however, let?s immediately avoid a commonplace about
"globalization". The tendency of capitalism to seek
out markets to conquer and a work force at the lowest
cost on a planetary scale has always been present; it
is certainly not an innovation. The tools for doing
this have changed; thanks to the development of
technology, capital can realize this tendency with
rhythms and consequences unthinkable up until a few
years ago. Therefore there is no point of rupture
between the old capitalism and the modern form, nor
has there ever been a "good" capitalism developed on a
prevailingly national basis to which we could
return?as so many adversaries of neoliberalism
believe. From 1973, ?the year that conventionally marks
the beginning of the "information age"?up to now,
capital has not changed its nature in the least; it
has not become more "vicious". It is simply better
armed, more capable of rendering the planet
unrecognizable. For convenience, we will attempt to
examine this process through the processes that have
happened in three geographical areas: the former
colonial countries, the countries of eastern Europe
that have barely ceased to be so-called communist
regimes and those of the west.


The Unwanted Children of Capital


As is well known, the old colonies did not cut off
relations with the colonizers at all when they gained
their independence. Rather, in most cases, after
difficult beginnings, they modernized them. If the
primary aim of the old colonial exploitation was to
corner raw materials at low cost that could then be
worked in the west, from a certain time forward entire
stages of production came to be set up in poorer
countries, capitalizing on the extremely low labor
costs. So low as to cover the expenses of transport of
the raw materials, machinery and finished products as
well as the costs of financing the local regimes that
are responsible for public order and the regulation of
production. For many years, western capital has
invaded these lands, deeply changing their social
fabric. The old peasant structures have been
destroyed, community relations cut off, women
proletarianized in order to make space for
industrialization. Just as in Europe in the 19th
century, an immense quantity of labor power that was
torn from the land has found itself wandering the
shantytowns in search of work. In spite of its
immensity, this situation was able to achieve a
stability of its own for as long as the manufacturing
industries could absorb a consistent part of this
labor power. But at a certain point, these industries
began to close one by one. Something had changed to
the north: the western labor force was competitive
with those in the southern part of the world again. So
many industries closed, but these new proletarians
remain, so many of no use to the world economy.

To the east, the situation is no better. The so-called
communist regimes have left a desert behind them. The
productive apparati?enormous and obsolete?have
remained as an inheritance to the old local
bureaucrats and to western capital. Thus, the children
and grandchildren of those exploited by the regime?who
had to suffer the Sunday sermons about "cooks in
power" and proletarian internationalism?have found
themselves unemployed. As we know, all industrial
restructuring requires dismissal. Just as they did in
the former colonies, the western countries have
trimmed back the zones of economic and political
influence in the territories of the deceased Warsaw
Pact by transferring those parts of production which
consume the greatest amount of labor power to them.
But it is a drop in the sea and the mass of the poor
who have been made useless to the masters remains
enormous. The International Monetary Fund and the
World Bank have thought to accelerate this process in
a decisive manner in the east as they did in the south
through the blackmail of debts.

It is this which causes the long march of these
unwanted children of capital, these undesirables, to
depart from the south and the east. But those who
remain at home are no better off. The social upheavals
provoked by such great and sudden changes are often
channeled into ethnic and religious discourses?new and
increasingly bloody wars are just around the corner.
For those who choose the path of emigration as well as
for those who remain behind, the only certainty is
misery and dispossession. Every regret is vain.


Up Until the Day Before Yesterday


Meanwhile, what has happened in the west? Though less
brutal, the changes have been parallel to those in the
rest of the world. The huge industrial plants? which
employed a consistent portion of the poor and
determined the appearance of the city, and thus the
mentality and the way of living and rebelling of the
exploited, for many years ?have disappeared, in part
because they were transferred into poorer countries as
we have seen, and in part because it has been possible
to split them up and to distribute them differently
throughout the territory. Through the development of
technology, the productive processes have not only
been automated, but also rendered more flexible, more
amenable to the intrinsic chaos of the market. At one
time, capital had need of exploited depositories of
knowledge and manual skills necessary for managing a
segment of the productive process more or less
automatically?that is to say, it needed the exploited
who spent their whole life in the same factory making
the same thing. This is no longer true. The skills
required are increasingly low and interchangeable.
There is no longer an accumulation of knowledge. One
job is equal to another. The old myth of the "regular
position" is replaced by the ideology of flexibility,
which is to say, of precariousness and of the erosion
of all guarantees: it is necessary to know how to
adapt oneself to everything, even to weekly contracts,
the underground economy or definitive expulsion from
the productive context. These changes are common to
the entire west, but have been so fast and so extreme
in some areas as to render the total cost of labor
competitive with that of the south and east of the
world. This is how they have realized, on the one
hand, that return of capital that has destabilized the
economies of the poorer countries?leading to wars and
mass migrations?and, on the other hand, the worsening
of the material conditions of life for the western


The Revolt to Come


It is clear that, however violent, the change in the
west is mitigated in part by the remains of the old
welfare state and, above all, by the fact that a good
part of the western precarious are children of the old
proletarians and therefore benefit indirectly from the
old guarantees through their families. However, the
passing of one generation will be sufficient for
making precariousness the most widespread social
condition. Thus we, the children of the industrial
world, will find ourselves to be increasingly useless,
in the same position, in fact, as the crowds of
undesirables that landed on our shores. With the
passing of years and the stabilization of this
situation all those movements that try to give support
to circumscribed portions of the exploited
(immigrants, unemployed, precarious, etc.) from the
outside will lose meaning. The conditions of
exploitation will be similar for all, thus opening the
door to truly common struggles wide. Here at last the
thread is discovered that unites us all, the exploited
of a thousand lands, heirs of such different
histories: capital itself has reunited the lost
communities of the human species in misery. The life
that is sketched out for us on the horizon will be
lived commonly under the mark of precariousness.
Carefully prepared by the development of exploitation,
here are the modern material bases for the ancient
dreams of freedom, here is the site of the coming

Before a New Great Wall of China

The upheavals that have rendered the planet so
unrecognizable show a constant: capital follows a
two-fold movement. On the one hand, it dismembers
every social tissue that puts up resistance to its
expansion; on the other hand, it reconstructs
relations between individuals according to its
requirements. Every economic transformation is always
a social transformation as well, since the way in
which men and women are exploited modifies their way
of standing together and therefore of rebelling. In
this sense, profit and social control are two aims of
one project of domination.

After having destroyed past communities and their
forms of solidarity, capital has begun to dismantle
the social unity that it created itself through the
industrialization of the masses. This not only in
order to outflank the workers resistance that the
factory system unintentionally "organized", but also
because the capitalists experienced the necessity of
having to resort to a production process in order to
make money as a constriction. The enslavement of
science to capital and the consequent technological
transformations have allowed a new economic-social
expansion. Valorization?the transformation of life
into commodity?abolishes time and space to an ever
greater extent with the aim of freeing itself from any
fixed material basis. In this sense virtual reality
(so called cyberspace, the global cybernetic web)
represents its ideal condition. Once again the
movement is two-fold: if valorization eliminates
hostile relations in the circulation of information
capital and human resources, at the same time it
reconstructs social relations under the sign of the
virtual ( through simulacra of human relations and
electronic narcotics). All this presupposes a process
that is forming a "new human" in a position to adapt
itself to conditions of increasingly artificialized
life. From the moment in which the economy is extended
to all social relationships, incorporating the entire
living process of the human species, its ultimate
utopia could only be the pure circulation of value
that valorizes itself: money that produces money.
Correspondingly, after having extended itself to all
social space, the final frontier of capital, its last
territory of conquest, can only be its enemy par
excellence: the human body. Hence, the development of
bio-technology and of genetic engineering. Without
going into the merit of particular aspects of this war
on the living here, it is important to underscore the
fundamental role of technology. By technology, we do
not mean "the rational discourse on technique" in a
general way, nor each mechanical extension of human
capabilities. Retracing the very history of the use of
the concept, it seems more accurate to define it as
the application of the advanced techniques of
industrial production to the mass in the moment that
scientific research based itself upon the military
apparatus (the 1940?s). It?s a question of that
process which, beginning with the nuclear and
aeronautics industries and passing through research on
plastic materials, antibiotics and genetics, has
arrived at electronics, informatics and cybernetics.
The industrial applications of the most modern
techniques proceed at the same rate as the specialized
knowledge in molecular biology, chemistry, physics,
etc and the ideology of progress by which they are
justified. This process that began during World War 2
is inseparable from the power struggle between states,
the true organizers of industrial society. The
development of a knowledge and technics that are
increasingly uncontrollable builds a wall that grows
higher every day between the producer and the object
he manufactures, between the machine and her ability
to control it. This deprives the producer at the same
time of all material autonomy and of the awareness of
a possible expropriation (in order to rend the
technical and productive tools from the bosses for
their free and reciprocal use). One finds the source
of our precarious and artificial lives in this double
dispossession and not in "neoliberal injustice". If
capital has diffused itself throughout the entire
territory; if the expropriation of its specialized
techniques is impossible (since they are unusable from
a revolutionary, or even just a human, point of view):
if every productive center (the Factory) to which we
could oppose a central organization like a party or
union has disappeared with its historical subject?then
nothing remains except the proletarian weapon par
excellence: sabotage. Nothing remains except the
anonymous and generalized attack against the
structures of production, information, control and
repression. Only in this way can one stand against the
double movement of capital, obstructing the brutal
atomization of individuals and at the same time
impeding the construction of the "new human" of
cybernetics, before the social walls that will have to
accommodate it are realized.

The Name of the Assassins

From the time they first opened, a long series of
revolts has characterized life at the temporary
holding centers for undocumented immigrants.
Foreigners awaiting expulsion are enclosed in these
structures in inhuman living conditions. It is
difficult to speak of these centers without taking the
risk of falling into the pitiful chatter that is so
much in vogue among the aid organizations?more or less
governmental, it matters little?that are so expert in
the utilization of blood, particularly after so many
long lists of the dead killed during these revolts. We
are not interested in inviting you to the commotion or
the collective petitions for the closure of these
jails. The death of these foreigners stands along side
the murder of millions of others among the exploited,
men and women who are killed by wars, by work, by the
destruction of territory, by prison, or more quickly
by the bullet from a cop?s gun. We no longer believe
anyone who tells us that it?s a question of incidents
far away or of bloody abuse: it is business as usual;
all the victims of this global slaughterhouse can be
laid to the account of capital and the state. As
opposed to boorish pietism, to christian aperitifs
composed of tears, to those who would want the
immigrants out of the "gulag" as long as they remain
peaceful but in jail if guilty, to those who would
want a world more or less like this one but a bit more
"humane", to those who dream of a less bloody
capitalism or to those who exploit these episodes in
order to enlarge their revolutionary clique?in short,
as opposed to anyone who preaches solidarity in
oppression, we prefer to propose complicity in revolt.
No struggle can be separated from any other, because
each manifestation of power is deeply connected to all
the others. It is certainly important to close the
detention centers, but to demand it from the states
merely means to push them to find more efficient and
less visible forms of control and repression. Besides
understanding these centers as mere physical
structures means to hide all those arteries that
permit their existence: from the Red Cross that
co-manages them to the firms that build them to the
contractors for food supplies; all these are the
temporary detention centers; all these are the
murderers as well.

Unity in Abjectness

In 1984 by George Orwell, a book that a half a century
of totalitarianism has only confirmed, we find the
description of two completely separate cultures inside
the society: that of the functionaries of the party
and that of the proletariat (as those excluded from
the bureaucratic-socialist citadel and its ideology
are described). The functionaries have completely
different speech, attitudes, values and even
consciousness from that of the proletariat. No
communication is possible between the two classes. The
proletarians do not revolt against the party simply
because they don?t know its nature or even its
concrete localization: one cannot combat something one
does not understand or even know. The functionaries
systematically forget?a selective amnesia that Orwell
calls "doublethink"?the lies on which they base their
ideological adherence to power over time and over
human beings. The specialization (rather the
parcelization and the incessant repetition) of the
activities is entirely at the service of the dogmas of
the party, which the party presents as the infallible
knowledge of historical and social totality. To
accomplish this, it needs absolute control of the past
with the aim of governing the future.

If one changes a few names, one will see that this
class division, based on a clear cultural separation,
represents the precise tendency of the society in
which we live. Today the functionaries of the party
are the technobureaucrats of the
economic-administrative machine on which the
industrial apparatus, scientific and technological
research, and political, media and military power are
based. The Orwellian proletarians are the exploited
lightened ? by capital ? of those baleful illusions
that were the class programs. Precarious in work as in
everything else, they are dispossessed of that which
is increasingly necessary to the functioning of the
social machine: technological knowledge. Thus they are
forced into a new misery, that of one who no longer
desires a wealth she does not even understand.
Technological separation: here is the new Great Wall
of China that the exploiters have built in the name of
the struggle against the Enemy (pretending that there
is an enemy from far away, when on the contrary its
aim is the management of work.)

Today the citadel of the party is telematic
technology; its Ministry of Truth is the mass media;
its dogmas, eternal for the space of one night, all
have the sweet ring of uncertainty. From the
multinationals to the banking system, from the nuclear
industry to the military, the bases of the
technobureaucracy are two: energy and information.
Whoever controls these controls time and space.

Outside of the masses of technical workers without
qualification, there are the possessors of highly
specialized knowledge whose numbers decrease daily;
but we all share in the consequences of this knowledge
? first among them, the impoverishment of ideasand
logic. In spite of this, the aim of the
technobureaucrats and their journalists is actually to
make us feel responsible for the disaster that they
produce daily: the we that they apply to us without
reprieve is an order to unity in abjectness. They
invite us to discuss every fictitious problem, they
grant us the right to express ourselves, after having
deprived us of the means of doing so. Therefore every
ideology of democratic participation (combating
"exclusion" is the program of the left of capital) is
only complicityin the disaster. Just like in 1984,
today?s proletarians have a knowledge, memory and
language separate from that of the party; it is only
on the basis of this separation that they have the
right and the duty to participate in the social order.
The difference is that in Orwell the non-functionaries
are the only one?s to have access to a past?places,
objects, songs?not yet obliterated. And this because
they still have social bonds, even if in the shadow of
the bombs. But what remains when the party (that is
the state-capitalist system) appropriates all of
social life?

That is why in these pages on the undesirables,
technology is talked about at the same time. A
critique of technological progress that abandons the
discussion of class seems to us to be just as partial
as a critique of precariousness that does not confront
the new forms and territories of techno-scientific

The division into two worlds that is developing could
preclude all feeling for revolt: how can one desire an
other life when every trace of it has disappeared?

A Two-Headed Hydra

There are already many among the radical democrats and
the "people of the left" who attribute a purely
decorative role to the state in the decisions made
over our skins. In substance, a world hierarchy is
outlined that sees the great financial and
multinational powers at the peak and on the lower
steps the individual national states that increasingly
become mere aides, executors of final decisions. This
leads to an illusion that is having the worst
consequences. Indeed, many are trying to impose a
reformist and, in some ways, nostalgic direction on
the struggles that are developing throughout the
planet against specific aspects of "globalization":
the defense of "good" old national capitalism and,
correspondingly, the defense of the old model of state
intervention in the economy. However, nobody notices
that that the ultra-liberal theory so much in fashion
in these times and the Keynesian model in fashion
until a few years ago simply propose two different
ways of organizing exploitation.

Of course, it cannot be denied that the actual state
of things all of our lives is determined as a function
of "global" economic necessity, but this does not mean
that politics has ceased to be harmful. To think of
the state as already being a fictitious entity or
exclusively as the regulator of exploitation and of
social conflicts is at least limited. It is a
capitalist among capitalists, and among these it
fulfills vital functions for all the others.
Nonetheless, its bureaucracy, bound but not
subordinated to the cadres of enterprise, aims above
all to reproduce its own power. The state, in
preparing the terrain for capital, develops its own at
the same time. The progressive demolition of the
barriers of time and space?the essential condition for
the new form of capitalist domination?is prearranged
by state structures that place territories, funds and
research at its disposal. The possibility of making
merchandise travel increasingly quickly, for example,
comes from the development of networks of highways,
the High Speed Railroad, the system of ports and
airports: without these structures, organized by the
state, "globalization" would not even be thinkable.
Similarly, information networks are nothing other than
a new utilization of old telephone cables: every
innovation in this sector (communications via
satellite, fiber optics, etc.) is taken care of once
again by state structures. This is how the other
fundamental necessity of the globalized economy is
satisfied, the possibility of making data and capital
travel in tiny instants. In the realm of research, of
the continuous modernization of technology, the state
plays a central role as well. From the nuclear to the
cybernetic, from the study of new materials to genetic
engineering, from electronics to telecommunications,
the development of technical power is bound to the
merger of the industrial and scientific apparatus with
that of the military.

As we all know, from time to time capital needs to
restructure itself, which is to say to change the
systems, the rhythms, the qualifications and therefore
the relations among workers. Often these changes are
so extreme (dismissal in mass, infernal rhythms,
drastic reductions in guarantees) as to put social
stability in crisis and to require forced
interventions of a political sort. Not only are the
rages against fictitious enemies (those of "different"
religions or ethnicities for example) managed in this
way, but the economy succeeds in revitalizing itself:
the militarization of labor, the orders for arms and
the lowering of wages cause the remainder of the old
industrial system to yield the maximum, while the
generalized destruction makes room for a modern
productive apparatus and for foreign investments. For
the undesirables?the restless and superfluous
exploited?the social intervention of the state becomes
more efficient: extermination.

One of the characteristics of our time is the
increasingly massive migratory flow toward the western
metropolises?briefly, the alternations between care
taking and closing borders do not have their basis in
the alleged benevolence of any government but in the
attempt to manage a situation that is increasingly
unmanageable while at the same time drawing profit
from it. On the one hand it is not possible to
hermetically seal the frontier. On the other, a small
percentage of immigrants is useful?particularly if
they are undocumented and therefore
blackmailable?because it represents a good reservoir
of cheap labor. But mass lack of documentation creates
social turbulence that is barely controllable. The
government must navigate between these necessities;
the smooth functioning of the economy depends on it.

Thus, as the world market unifies the conditions of
exploitation without eliminating competition among
capitalists, in the same way a multi-state power
exists that coordinates the projects of domination
without canceling political and military competition
between particular governments. Financial and economic
agreements, laws on the flexibility of labor, the role
of the unions, coordination of the military and the
police, the ecological management of pollution, the
repression of dissent?all this is determined at the
international level. The execution of these decisions
nevertheless belongs to each government, which has to
make itself capable of the task. The body of this
hydra is the technobureaucratic structure. The
requirements of the market are not only combined with
those of social control, but use the same "networks".
For example, banking, insurance, medical and police
systems continually exchange their data. The
omnipresence of magnetic threads brings about a
generalized record of tastes, purchases, movements,
habits. Everything under the eyes of increasingly
widespread telecameras and among cellular phones that
mimic the virtual and recorded version of human
communication that is not there. Neoliberalism or not,
the intervention of the state on the territory and in
our lives is increasingly far-reaching without being
separated from the structures of production,
distribution and reproduction of capital.

In fact, the alleged hierarchy between the power of
the multi-nationals and that of the state does not
exist, because they are equally part of the single,
inorganic power that is waging war on the autonomy of
human beings and of life on earth.