Autonomia: uma ideia radical

Autonomy: an idea whose time has come, é um dos textos mais interessantes que li nos últimos tempos. Publicado há algumas semanas atrás por Jerome Roos na revista ROAR, nele se tenta demonstrar que as características dos movimentos insurreicionais, que têm aparecido em diferentes partes do mundo, sugerem que os pressupostos da Autonomia estão hoje mais difundidos do que nunca. O que poderá permitir a emergência, a breve prazo, dum movimento global capaz de iniciar uma reconfiguração radical do modo como nos relacionamos colectivamente.

Alguns extractos que gostaria de salientar:

  "(...) Here, we need to make an important distinction that radically alters the basis of our analysis about relevant forms of revolutionary organization under conditions of global capitalism. It is commonplace to claim that politics is ultimately about power. When politics is seen in this way, the refusal of today’s movements to get bogged down in representative politics is indicative of a failure to recognize the social reality of extant power relations and skewed power structures. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it conflates two concepts that are closely connected but nevertheless crucially distinct. In a word, we need to take our political economy seriously and distinguish politics from power. Zygmunt Bauman (2013) notes that politics is about deciding what is to be done, while power is about the ability to actually do it. In that respect, the nation state and liberal democracy are full of politics but devoid of power.

In the analysis of structural power that forms the theoretical backbone of my own PhD research and social activism, the nation state can no longer be considered a valid or effective basis for transformative political action (see: Roos 2013a). The global legitimation crisis of representative institutions is precisely an outcome of the realization among disaffected voters that elected representatives have ceased to represent their interests, and that this is a problem not of the representatives themselves but of the system as such. What people everywhere are starting to recognize is that voting is pointless if elected representatives do not have the power — or the collective will — to put into practice the promises they make in the lead-up to elections, even if these are free and fair. What people are starting to realize, in other words, is that power has been divorced from politics, leaving the politics behind in a hopelessly vacuous rhetorical universe.

So rather than ignoring the question of power, the Real Democracy Movement actually exposes it for what it really is: it reveals the emperor of democratic capitalism to be naked. As Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN put in, “in the cabaret of globalization, the state shows itself as a table dancer that strips off everything until it is left with only the minimum indispensable garments: the repressive force,” (Marcos 2004). All around us, we can see the meaningless garments of representative democracy lying abandoned on the ground — the parliaments, the voting booths, the campaign posters — but the emperor who used to wear them has long since migrated elsewhere. From time to time, the state still dresses itself up in the destructive boredom of the aforementioned “free and fair” elections, but the imperial power that once allowed it to translate their outcome into meaningful political action has all but evaporated into a de-territorial realm of diffuse capitalist sovereignty (Hardt and Negri 2000). This is the essence of politics without power, and the movements of 2011 are merely the latest and most concerted attempt on the part of the general population to point this out.


It is therefore not that today’s movements are refusing to confront the difficult concept of power, but precisely the opposite. More and more people around the world are beginning to recognize that the democratic capitalist state plays a critical role in stabilizing the diffuse global system of capitalist power relations, and that the parties of the left in turn play a critical role in stabilizing the authority and legitimacy of the capitalist state. As John Holloway put it in a recent interview with ROAR, “one thing that has become clear in the crisis to more and more people is the distance of the state from society, and the degree to which the state is integrated into the movement of money, so that the state even loses the appearance of being pulled in two directions,” (cited in Roos 2013b). Whereas the temporary fixes of Keynesian demand management in the post-war years and cheap credit in the last three decades may have led voters to believe that the state did care about ordinary people, such illusions have all but disappeared in the present conjuncture of widespread capitalist crisis: not just in the eurozone but everywhere.


Whatever happened to the idea of socialism as the social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy? It is now clear that all state-oriented forms of revolutionary theory and practice have long since retreated into a defeatist reformism. This is not simply a sectarian jab at the institutional left: the leading radicals themselves recognize it. Speaking at the Subversive Festival in Zagreb this year, Richard Seymour — author of the blog Lenin’s Tomb — admitted that “in practical terms we are all reformists now.” As a result, radical thinkers generally end up supporting political parties whose final policies will be all but radical. In fact, with enough time spent in power, their principal function inevitably becomes the stabilization of the liberal democratic state that anchors the social relations of the global capitalist order. In the process, the cycle of deception that Castoriadis identified – really a cycle of collective self-delusion — continues unabated.


So what is to be done? Rather than reproducing the capitalist state through our continued participation within it, the task of the revolutionary is to destroy it. On a theoretical level, the institutional left would agree with such a lofty abstract goal. But on a practical level, it contradicts itself by continuously trying to seize it, be it through revolutionary or through electoral means — only to be repelled time and again in its objectives of establishing socialism by the exigencies of the market place: from Morales’ Movement for Socialism embracing “Andean- Amazonian capitalism” and cracking down on grassroots movements to expedite large-scale resource extraction in Bolivia, to the Sandinistas of Nicaragua repaying Somoza’s odious debts and selling their land for a nickel and a dime to the Chinese; and from the multi-billionaire Princeling descendants of Mao’s Cultural Revolution to the Revolutionary Family of neoliberal technocrats in Mexico — not a single revolutionary party that successfully seized state power managed to actually wield that power to bring about anything other than capitalism.

To stay true to its revolutionary roots, the radical left now needs to recognize that the struggle against capitalism can only succeed if it starts from the basis of radical autonomy from the capitalist state. Protesting alone is clearly not enough: at this point, the most it can achieve is to scare the government into mild reforms, not much more. Similarly, occupying a square or park for a few weeks or a few months or so is not enough either. Both are a start, however, as they can serve to pry open the suffocating ideological straitjacket of neoliberalism – above all its mantra that “there is no alternative” – swiftly activating and rapidly expanding the radical imagination of the masses. Large-scale protests, or the refusal to obey the logic of submission, cannot overthrow capitalism as such; but they can radicalize a generation of participants on the spot by revealing the framework of institutionalized violence upon which the allegedly democratic capitalist state ultimately rests. Similarly, a handful of neighborhood assemblies in a park cannot bring about a truly free and genuinely democratic society, but it can serve as a crucial lesson in democracy to those who participate in them, helping to expand revolutionary consciousness and develop new prefigurative forms of direct democratic praxis.

In the long-term, however, lasting forms of self-organization will need to be devised that can both replace the powerless politics of the nation state and destroy the structural power base of global capital. Here we need to make another crucial distinction between two forms of power. John Holloway (2002; 2010) speaks of the meaning of revolution as ‘the end of power-over and the unleashing of power-to’, in other words: the end of domination and the unleashing of autonomy. At its most elementary level, the revolution must have as its goal the elimination of all power structures that allow the few to exert power over the many, in particular the power of capital to undermine the most basic human needs – which would immediately free the people to become fully autonomous (i.e., rule their own destiny) and do whatever they need or want to do to live a materially and spiritually fulfilling life. While the Real Democracy Movement shares that overall objective, we should be careful not to be naïve here: the total abolition of power-over, while forever the objective of genuine revolutionary action, is simply impossible.

In fact, there will always be power-over, even if it develops in the form of virtual hierarchies within nominally horizontal organizations; what Jo Freedman referred to as the tyranny of structurelessness (1972). This implies that the struggle to unleash the self-rule of the autonomous human being and establish an autonomous society is by its very definition always an endless one, involving a continuous fight against the corruption of its own principles and the concentration of power-over in the hands of the few — a danger that forever lurks around the corner. This, then, should be the real meaning of ‘permanent revolution’: a recognition by the masses that in an ideal world all forms of domination would be dissolved, even if in the real world human nature will forever be plagued by imperfections and social interaction will to some extent always know a greater or lesser degree of conflict — and therefore a recognition that the struggle will be endless or it will not be at all. As a Subcomandante Marcos quote on a wall in Chiapas puts it, “the struggle is like a circle: you can start anywhere, but it never ends.” In this permanent revolution, there is no End of History and there will never be 1,000 years of peace.


Society, in other words, resembles a layer cake made up of different historical residues with associated forms of social relations and associated practices. It contains the hierarchical social relations of domination that it inherited from feudalism; it is continuously expanding the diffuse and atomizing social relations produced by the totalizing nature of capitalist development; and even though we cannot identify any clear Event that ever established socialism, our society still and already rests upon what Graeber calls the bedrock of “baseline communism”, which for him constitutes the “ground of all human social life”. Moreover, all three of these layers will continue to coexist in a revolutionary society, even if there will be a radical rearrangement of their relative importance and a fundamental restructuring of the different spheres of human interaction. While baseline communism is now mostly limited to the private sphere of the oikos, or individual household, the public sphere of the agora is being increasingly privatized and usurped into the commodified realm of capitalist relations. Meanwhile, as the violent police crackdown on mostly peaceful protesters in Syntagma, Zuccotti, Taksim, and countless other squares around the world has amply demonstrated, the state continues to use its hierarchical powers of domination to keep the masses from trying to re- appropriate the agora as part of the commons. One of the first objects of the revolution is therefore not to ‘reclaim’ the capitalist state – whose DNA is thoroughly imprinted with its structural dependence on capital – but rather to reclaim the agora from the imperial expansion of the shopping mall, re-appropriating it as a public space for truly democratic deliberation.


In this sense, we have to recognize that a revolutionary society is already in- the-making as we speak — whether it be through the production and distribution of free open- source software or through the occupation of bankrupt factories and the resumption of production under workers’ control; whether it be through the formation of direct democratic rural communes and urban neighborhood assemblies, or through the creation of cooperatively- run alternative media collectives and open-source academic journals — everywhere around us signs are beginning to emerge that this world is already pregnant with a new one.

Instead, we should see the Egyptian revolution, and the global revolutionary wave of 2011-’13 more generally, as a surface manifestation of a much deeper tidal shift — a sea change — in the vast currents of human history. Today’s wave of struggles may not yet have produced any directly visible outcomes and may end up being remembered as another “ephemeral” and ultimately “unsuccessful” 1848 or 1968; but the historical significance of the dramatic events that have unfolded during this most recent phase of struggle should always be situated in the context of a protracted historical process. This process, in turn, is animated by a radical political project that — despite its countless detours, setbacks and contradictions — forever inclines towards the establishment of real democracy and a radically egalitarian autonomous society in which the people freely and collectively manage their own affairs, control their own production, and rule their own destiny: a process whose outcome is never pre-determined but always-already in-the- making. To say that the Egyptian revolution has “come to an end” or that Occupy has “failed” to bring about any change is utterly meaningless in this respect.


In this sense, the insurrectionary event has impacts that are far more diffuse and invisible — but nevertheless just as concrete and real — than any armchair socialist or conservative critic could ever understand. They have the power to transform consciousness and permanently alter the individual’s and the multitude’s attitude towards society; but they also have the power to transform the material practices that undergird the dominant forms of capitalist sociality, thereby helping to disseminate alternative forms of social organization like the assembly, the worker-run cooperative and the commune — all of which may one day come to form the organizational bedrock of the autonomous society. Here, Castoriadis (1964) was once again correct to note that insurrections, even if they fail to visibly bring about any immediate changes in the material constitution of society, are still a crucial component of the revolutionary process because they contribute towards theideologicalmaturationof the revolutionary subject, as well as the flourishing of alternative practices and their early development into new forms of organization that may one day come to supplant the institutions of the capitalist state.


But much more than the power of swarm intelligence alone, Mason argues that “the networked protest has a better chance of achieving its basic goals because it is congruent with the economic and technological conditions of modern society.” More specifically, while the global uprisings can by no means be pinned down to one specific generation, there is no denying that the millennial generation of 20-somethings that is animating today’s struggles grew up under radically different socio-economic and technological conditions from their parents. The era of the printing press and TV — with their centralized, hierarchical and unidirectional forms of communication — has come to an end. The era of Web 2.0 — resting upon loose but interactive communities of autonomous networked individuals whose mutual relationships are defined by the sharing of information — has only just begun. Of course, it is a cliché to note that the Facebook and Twitter revolutions are ultimately based on capitalist technologies; or to argue, as Malcolm Gladwell (2010) has, that the soft-ties of the web will never allow for action to be sustained over time. But neither of this seems relevant in the wake of 2011. The fact is that Facebook and Twitter did help protesters organize and even allowed activists to connect and develop strong ties that would otherwise never have developed. Besides, as Marx himself importantly recognized, the revolution cannot retreat into primitivism: to succeed, it must build on the most advanced capitalist technologies available. After all, this capitalist world is all we have — and one day it will be us who inherit its technologies, whether we like it or not.


These concrete examples, while each is clearly specific to its own highly particular context, teach us at least one important lesson: the establishment of real democracy will require a radical decentralization of political power towards the communities in which ordinary people live and work. In fact, it will require the destruction of any form of power-over that does not arise from the bottom-up. Still, in a profoundly interconnect world, pure decentralization alone is not enough: to administer extensive territories, large populations and complex organizations, it must be accompanied by forms of democratic intermediation between the different decentralized nodes. This is the function of the federated councils that we just highlighted from the Paris Commune and Revolutionary Barcelona to contemporary Chiapas. These types of councils are administered by rotating delegates, not elected representatives, who continue to live and work inside their own communities and who can be recalled by their communities at any time. Theyare not legislative bodies but purely administrative ones, and their proposals always remain voluntary. All legislative power continues to reside within the communes and/or assemblies.

To make direct democracy work in a complex global society, it is self-evident that we need to move beyond the fetish of horizontalism as a pure concept and accept at least some degree of vertical integration (Harvey 2012a). This vertical integration, however, always rests upon the power base of the assemblies themselves, while the rotation of retractable delegates ensures that no new bureaucratic elite will be abstracted from the general population. David Harvey (2012b) claims that such a federated system of assemblies, councils and/or communes would still constitute a state: “if it looks like a state, feels like a state, and quacks like a state, it’s a state.” But whether you call such a federated autonomous system a state or not is a rather meaningless side issue. The anarchists do not. Castoriadis did. But they are still talking about the same thing: radical democratic self-organization from the grassroots up. It is important to remember that we are not waging a war on words here: we are waging a war against capitalism. When the capitalist state has been replaced it does not matter much what its revolutionary alternative is called — as long as it is thoroughly democratic in nature and functional in practice.


In this sense, the rejection of representative politics by the Real Democracy Movement is not an “escape” into a form of political apathy or a retreat into lifestyle politics: it is an immanent recognition of the fact that we must combine an immediate rejection of the system with the embrace of the type of organizational forms that can eventually replace it – the assembly, the syndicate, the workers’ council, the commune,you name it – while continuing to confront capital and the state head on through self-organization for insurrection.


But whether or not the project of autonomy succeeds and real democracy is ever established, one thing is now crystal clear. The era of parties is over. They are dead. Finished. Relics of a liberal polity whose content has long since evaporated into the misty realm of capitalist sovereignty. In the process, democratic elections have become a bad joke about the vanity and impotence of political representatives and their empty electoral promises. No one takes them seriously anymore. Instead of casting their votes at the polls, the youth are now hurling Molotovs at police. Athens, Rome and Constantinople burn as the masses cry out to be heard amid the deafening silence of the establishment’s contemptuous complicity in the degradation of democratic institutions. The nation state is equally finished, even though it will linger around in increasingly authoritarian form for quite some time, drawing on the cultural politics of identity and ideology to divide and pacify the multitude and keep it from realizing its true power. The left fares no better. The road to state power now lies strewn with the radical pretensions of nominally socialist parties, thrown off in dutiful worship at the altar of the marketplace, only to be picked up again by the next candidate once the seasonal cycle of electoral self-delusion restarts the same sickening and stale political marketing campaigns all over. In such times of universal deceit, only radical autonomy from the state can take the revolution forward.

5 comentários:

Anónimo disse...

Grande iniciativa do Pedro Viana em subir a parada com um texto muito oportuno e articulado. Mutação acelerada. Óptimo. O aprofundamento da democracia directa, da autonomia,é indispensável. E muito libertador. O que ressalta, de uma primeira leitura, é o lugar axial do pensamento demiúrgico de Castoriadis, dos lances fulgurantes e admiráveis da sua critica do capitalismo burocrático. Para já, saúdo a magnifica mutação do pensamento e vontade de Pedro Viana. Finalmente, abeirou-se da via consistente e libertadora. Va de retro Beppe Grillo! Salut! Niet

Pedro Viana disse...

Caro Niet,

O que Beppe Grillo desencadeou foi uma tentativa de re-apropriação cidadã do espaço público, neste caso do Parlamento Italiano. Não muito distinta na essência da ocupação duma praça. Em ambos os casos, quem neles se envolve, procura demonstrar a possibilidade do processo decisório ser radicalmente democrático. Por mais dúvidas que se possa ter sobre as intenções e processos de Beppe Grillo, foi essa a intenção da esmagadora maioria dos que se envolveram no seu movimento. A sua eventual desilusão é mais do que compensada pelas possibilidades que se revelaram para muitos, há medida que a contestação ao sistema feita por Beppe Grillo, nos termos em que foi feita, se espalhou por toda a Itália. Como o Jerome Roos salienta várias vezes, estamos inseridos num Processo, e acho que é inquestionável que Beppe Grillo acelerou-o, fazendo muito mais pessoas do que antes tinha acontecido, duvidar da legitimidade/inevitabilidade do actual sistema de representação.



Miguel Serras Pereira disse...

Caro Pedro,
a crítica do "actual sistema de representação" não é unívoca: tu fá-la do ponto de vista da democracia e da participação igualitária de todos nas decisões e responsabilidades que lhes dizem respeito; outros criticam ou denunciam o sistema representativo, mas em benefício de soluções decisionistas e carismáticas, cujos efeitos seriam ainda mais liberticidas do que os do "actual sistema de representação". É preciso mergulhar, sim, mas, como dizia a Sophia, "mergulhar de olhos abertos".

Abraço libertário

miguel (sp)

Ratma Luap Naej disse...

Reconheço, de fato, a importância do texto aqui divulgado pelo Pedro.

Noves fora, não concordo em nada com a opinião do mesmo sobre o fenômeno Beppe Grillo - com efeito, e de verdade, não é essa a principal discussão a ser empreendida agora aqui (os textos de vários autores publicados no Passa Palavra sobre Beppe Grillo esclarecem o que penso sobre o assunto).

Por fim, mas agora o principal: o comentário de Miguel Serras Pereira é de fundamental importância. Não estou acusando o Pedro de otimismo ingênuo, mas o momento atual inspira muita observação, atuação criteriosa e percepção da ação cada vez mais presente e poderosa das grandes corporações. Ou seja, os governos se enfraquecem - mas os controles se refinam.

Niet disse...

Carissimo P. Viana: Como gostaria de lhe transmitir o incentivo da urgência do fazer para construir um novo mundo de liberdade e igualdade, o verdadeiro Circulo da Praxis, de que nos fala tão profundamente Castoriadis num livro decisivo e fundamental para a construção da verdadeira Autonomia politica, retomando e transformando a súmula estratégica dos trabalhos pioneiros de Pannkoek e Mattick. No que diz respeito à " pedagogia " politica do movimento Cinco Estrelas, de Beppe Grillo, tal se solda por um enorme fiasco politico e social,que contribui para tornar ainda mais dramático o processo de libertação da multitude italiana face à crise do capitalismo oligarquico transnacional. De um texto do livro acima identificado, tomo a liberdade de lho enviar,portanto. " Torna-se hoje importante afirmar fortemente que a degenerescência é uma possibilidade de toda a revolução. Escamoteando ou sonegando tal proposição, estamos a contribuir para compôr a cama de uma nova burocracia- que esta possa ser elaborada por nós próprios, isso em nada altera a questão principal.Na Polónia também, em 1956( mesmo se o movimento dos Conselhos não conseguiu conquistar o poder)assistiu-se à repetição do mesmo processo: durante uma fase revolucionária, a sociedade encontra-se num estado de incandescência, as massas vivem um estado de extraordinária actividade: manifestam a par-e-passo, concomitantemente, a vontade e a capacidade necessárias para tomar em cargo a organização da vida social. Mas as pessoas não podem passar 40 anos como se viveu durante 15 dias em Maio 68, ou durante 3 meses em Petrogrado, ou mesmo durante três anos na Rússia durante a guerra civil do princípio dos anos 20.É preciso que o conteúdo dessa explosão se institucionalize, se amarre na realidade social, nela crie limites e pontos de apoio que tornem o retorno ao passado mais dificil-( não impossível, ele nunca o é). Uma verdadeira revolução é, por definição, a constituição autónoma de orgãos de massas, que visam a conquista do poder:a Comuna, os Sovietes,os Conselhos. Isto pode tomar outro tipo de formas( milicias operárias contra um perigo de ditadura,por exemplo), mas são sempre orgãos colectivos, com as formas novas de democracia,que recusam a divisão entre representantes e representados, e onde o colectivo assegura sempre o poder de decisão. Se estes orgãos se tornarem em centros de poder, se não se deixar instalar um outro embrião de poder diferente e separado( tais como, o soviete dos comissários do Povo , ou um partido que se afirme como porta-voz do proletariado, a que se segue a identificação da classe ao partido, do partido com o comité central e este último ao bureau politico- como Lénine o sugere na " A Doença Infantil do Comunismo"); com efeito, os membros desses orgãos de massas devem quotidianamente realizar a experiência que lhes permita, quer decidam ou se furtem a elabora-la, que tal deliberação acarreta uma diferença na sua vida quotidiana ". Liberté et égalité,salut, Niet