1. The Subsistence Society
Translated by Paul Sharkey
1. HAVEN'T YOU EVER, just once, felt like turning up late for work or felt like slipping away from work early? In that case, you have realized that:
a) Time spent working is time doubly lost because it is time doubly wasted as time which might more agreeably be spent making love, or day-dreaming, on pleasure or on one's hobbies: time which one would otherwise be free to spend however one wished; as time wearing us down physically and nervously.
b) Time spent working eats up the bulk of one's life, because it shapes one's so-called "free" time as well, time spent sleeping, moving about, eating, or on diversions. Thus it makes itself felt in every part of the daily lives of each one of us and reduces our daily lives into series of moments and places which have the same empty repetition and the same growing absence of real living in common.
c) Time spent fulfilling an obligation to work is a commodity. Wherever there is commodity there is, unfailingly, obligatory labor and nearly every activity comes, little by little. to resemble obligatory labor: we produce, consume, eat and sleep for an employer, or a leader, or a State, or for the system of universal commodity.
d) The less work, the more life.
So you see, you are already fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society which would guarantee each one of us the right to dispose of one's own time and space: and to build for ourselves each day the life we would choose.
2. Haven't you ever, just once, felt the desire never to work again, without having others work for you, that is? In that case, you have come to realize that:
a) Even if obligatory work has as its goal only the production of useful things such as clothes, food, tools, comforts and so on, it would be every bit as oppressive, because: the worker would still be robbed of the fruits of his labor and subjected to the same laws governing the pursuit of profit and power; the worker would still have to spend ten times as long at work as would require an attractive organization of creativity to place one hundred times the product at everybody's disposal.
b) In the commodity system which dominates everywhere, the aim of obligatory work is not, as they would have us believe, to produce goods which are useful and palatable to everybody, but rather just to churn out commodities, regardless of whether they might be useful or useless pollutants. Commodities have no purpose other than to sustain the profits and power of the ruling class. Under such a system, everybody works to no end and becomes aware of this.
c) By accumulating and replacing commodities, obligatory work merely boosts the power of bosses, bureaucrats, leaders and ideologies So it becomes the object of the workers' disgust. Every stoppage in work is a way of becoming ourselves again and defying those who prevent us from being ourselves.
d) Obligatory work produces only commodities. Every commodity is inseparable from the he which it stands for. So, obligatory work churns out lies, produces a world of lying representations, a topsy-turvy world where the image takes the place of reality. In this spectacular, commodity system, obligatory work produces two important lies concerning itself: the first lie is that work is useful and necessary and that it is in everyone's interest to do so; the second lie is the make believe story that workers are incapable of shrugging off wage slavery and work, and that they cannot build a radically new society, one based on attractive, collective creativity and universal self-management.
So you see, you are already fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society where an end to obligatory work will be replaced by a collective creativity regulated by the wishes of each individual, and by the free distribution of the goods necessary for our everyday needs. The end of forced work means the end of the system where profit, hierarchical power and universal lies reign supreme. It signifies the end of the spectacular commodity system and opens the doors to an overall re-examination of priorities. The pursuit of money and of morsels of power will give way to the quest for a harmonization of enthusiasms which will, at last, be released and given recognition.
3. Has it ever happened that, outside your place of work, you have felt the same distaste and weariness as you do inside the factory'? In that case, you have come to understand that:
a) The factory is all around us. It is the morning, the train, the car, the ravaged countryside, the machine, the bosses, the chief, the house, the newspapers, the family, the trade union, the street, one's purchases, pictures, one's pay, the television, one's language, one's holidays, school, housework, boredom, prison, the hospital and the night. It is the time and space of our everyday subsistence. It is the becoming accustomed to repetitive moves and suppressed emotions, emotions sampled through the proxy of intermediary images.
b) Every activity reduced to mere existence is obligatory work: and all obligatory work transforms the product and the producer into objects of mere existence, into commodities themselves.
c) Rejection of the universal factory is everywhere, since sabotage and re-appropriation are everywhere among the proletariat, allowing them still to derive some morsel of pleasure from idleness, or from love-making, or socializing or chatting or eating, drinking, dreaming or preparing to revolutionize everyday life by neglecting none of the delights of being not quite totally alienated.
So you see, you are fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society where feelings will be all, and boredom and work, nothing. Mere survival has so far prevented us from really living. We must now stand the world on its head and value those glimpses of authentic living which are fated to be covered up and distorted in the system of the commodity and the spectacle; these moments of real contentment, of boundless pleasure and passion.
4. Haven't you ever thought about using your machine to turn out some instrument for use outside the factory? In that case you have realized that:
a) The machine produces contrary effects according to whether it is employed for the benefit of the employer and the State or whether it is put to use by the worker for his own immediate benefit.
b) The principle of misappropriation consists of employing against the enemy those very techniques and weapons which he usually employs against us.
c) The opposite of obligatory work is the creativity of the individual or group. Proletarians aspire to create their own living conditions so that they may thereby cease to be proletarians. Outside of a handful of rare revolutionary outbursts, this pent-up creativity has thus far remained hidden (using the boss's machinery, doing odd jobs, experimentation, and the quest for new emotions and sensations).
d) The passion to create seeks to be all. Implying as it does the demolition of the commodity system and the reconstruction of our everyday lives, this passion to create embraces all our passions. The misappropriation of techniques so that creativity may enjoy all their benefits for all is, consequently, the only way to have an end of work and the omnipresence of compartmentalization (into manual/intellectual, work/recreation, theory/practice, individual/society, being/appearance).
So you see, consciously or otherwise you are already fighting for a society in which the warehouses and distribution outlets, the factories and technology itself will be the property of the striking shop floor and then of all individuals grouped in self-managing units.
5. Haven't you ever deliberately destroyed products still on the production line or already in storage? In that case, you have understood that:
a) The struggle of the workers against commodity is the real point of departure for revolution. It brings out clearly the joy of being oneself and of enjoying everything and shows how these can only be achieved by the utter destruction of that which destroys us.
b) Commodity is the heart of a heartless world: it is the strength but also the weakness of hierarchical authority, the State and its bureaucracy. The personal liberty and happiness of all requires not only that we strike out against it but that we annihilate it utterly once and for all (for instance, the mere sabotaging of products will not be enough since the premature release of obsolescent products on to the market is, in the last analysis, a help to private and State capitalism as in USSR, Cuba, China in stepping up the rate of purchase and the replenishment of ideologies; thus it improves the accumulation of commodities and the reinforcement of their representatives and of the social attitudes they thrust upon us).
c) To the extent that sabotage is one way of holding up work, it has the merit of saving our energies and of encouraging us to down tools.
d) Inadequate though it may be, the sabotaging of finished products is a healthy reaction. It speaks of the workers' distaste for commodity and says something about the role of the worker i.e. about the attitude bound up with beliefs in the necessity of work, taking pride in one 5 work and other claptrap thrust upon the worker by the ruling society.
e) Refusal of the role of the worker goes hand in hand with the rejection of work and commodity itself. There is every chance that it may explode into a rejection of all roles and all modes of behavior which would make the individual act, not in accordance with his urges and inclinations, but in accordance with images (be they good or bad) imposed upon him, images which are part of the lie by means of which commodity expresses itself. What chance has that part of you that is still, truly you when all day long you have been playing roles like the role of the paterfamilias, husband, worker, motorist, militant, TV viewer, consumer...?
So you see, consciously or otherwise, you are already fighting for a society where compartmentalization will disappear as work itself disappears: when the individual may at last be completely true to himself because he will no longer be churning out the commodity and its lie (that topsy turvy world where the reflected image is more important than the authentic).
6. Whilst sabotaging production, hasn't it ever occurred to you what fun it might be to sabotage the weapons of repression (such as the bureaucratic machine, the cops, the quality control people, the information services or the town planners)? In that case, you have come to realize that:
a) The commodity system is proficient at recuperating partial sabotage for the advantage of the system. Sabotage confined to the sabotage of products does not destroy the commodity system, for the poor quality thereby brought about merely adds to the premature obsolescence perfected by the employers as a means of forcing the rapid and regular replacement of purchases. Furthermore, sabotage, like any act of terrorism, breathes new life into the spectacle's stock of images by offering the indispensable negative images (such as the hateful saboteur, the ghastly arsonist preying on warehouses...).
b) What allows a product to be turned into a commodity and the insinuation of the commodity process into every aspect of social activity is obligatory work and those forces which protect and maintain it: the State, the unions, the parties, the bureaucracy, the spectacle, i.e. the whole arsenal of representatives which are in the service of the commodity system and the commodities themselves (ideologies, culture, roles, or even the prevailing vocabulary).
c) Consequently, the destruction of commodity by means of the ending of obligatory work is inseparable from the liquidation of the State, of hierarchy, constraint, the commendation of sacrifice, and the lies and of those who organize the universal commodity system. As long as sabotage fails to direct its attacks simultaneously against the production of commodities and against those who protect it, it will remain partial and ineffective; it becomes that terrorism which is the despair of revolution and the self-destructive fatalism of subsistence society.
d) Anything which cannot be turned to the advantage of revolutionaries must be destroyed through sabotage. Anything that impedes such redirection deserves to be destroyed.
So you see, consciously or otherwise, you are already fighting for a society from which the State and all manner of hierarchical power will have been eliminated, a society that will give way to self-managing assemblies that will control the forces of production as well as all wealth for free distribution which will put an end to any danger of reconstruction of the commodity system.
7. Haven't you ever felt like giving up reading the newspapers and putting your foot through the television? In that case, you have come to appreciate that:
a) The press, radio and television are the crassest vehicles for the lie. Not only do they push real problems (such as "How can we live better?", a question asked in concrete terms every single day) further into the background, but they also induce each private individual to identify with ready made images and to put himself, abstractly, in the shoes of a head of State or a film star, or a murderer or a victim: in short, they induce him to react to life as if he were someone whom he is not. The images which rule us mark the success of that which is not ourselves, which haunts us out of ourselves; of that which transforms us into objects to be categorized, labeled and hierarchized in keeping with the usages of the general commodity system.
b) There is a vocabulary at the disposal of hierarchical power. It is to be found not only in the information services and in advertising, in ready-made ideas and habits and conditioned behavior, but also in any expression which does not pave the way for the revolution of everyday life, every expression which fails to serve our pleasures.
c) Every moment one works for the commodity system (i.e. most of one's time), imposes on us its representatives and images, it's meanings and vocabulary. This battery of ideas, identifications and modes of behavior dictated by the need to accumulate and to replace the commodity over and over again, makes the SPECTACLE in which everyone plays a part he really fails to live and lives falsely that which he is not. That is why role-playing is living the lie, and mere existence a sickness without end.
d) The spectacle (ideologies, culture, art, roles, images, representations, commodity-words) embraces all those aspects of social behavior by means of which men enter the commodity system and, by becoming subsistence objects, (commodities) conspire against themselves, renouncing the pleasure of really living for themselves and freely constructing their everyday lives for themselves.
e) We subsist amid a forest of images with which we are driven to identify. We act less and less for ourselves and more and more as puppets of abstractions that direct us according to the laws of the commodity system (i.e. profit and power).
f) Roles and ideologies may be favorable to, or hostile towards the ruling system. It makes no difference since they are part of the spectacle, part of the ruling system in either case. Only that which destroys commodity and its spectacle is revolutionary.
So you see, you have had enough of organized lies and inverted reality; enough of the dumb shows that ape real life only to impoverish it. And already, consciously or otherwise, you are fighting for a society where the right to communicate, really communicate, will belong to everyone and where each individual will have access to information on things which concern him, thanks to the free availability of technology (printshops, telecommunications) and where the elaboration of an engaging lifestyle will eradicate the need to have a role and to place greater store by appearance than by what is genuinely lived.
8. Haven't you ever had the disagreeable sensation that, aside from a few odd moments, you do not really belong to yourself and are becoming alienated from your real self? In that case you have grasped that:
a) Through every one of our movements (which are mechanical and repetitive and devoid of connection with one another) time is being broken up and, morsel by morsel, is stealing us away from our own selves. It is by working, and through our being obliged to labor for the reproduction and accumulation of commodities, that such stolen moments proliferate and are amassed.
b) Today, aging is nothing but the expansion of wasted time, time during which life slips away. That is why there are no longer any young or old people, only individuals with a greater or lesser liveliness about them. Our enemies are those who believe (and make believe) that universal change is impossible. The dead are those who govern us. The dead are those of us who let themselves be governed.
c) We labor and eat, read and sleep, consume and take our leisure, absorb our culture and receive attention, and so we live out our bleak existence, much like potted plants. We subsist despite all that urges us to really live. We survive for a totalitarian, an inhuman system (a religion of things and images) which sucks us in on almost every side and almost always in order to boost the profits and crumbling power of the bourgeois bureaucratic class.
d) Unless we suddenly become ourselves again, unless we are seized by the urge to live life to the full, we merely help the commodity system to survive. Instead of being lived by proxy through intermediary images, moments of real living and boundless pleasure allied to the repudiation of whatsoever obstructs or falsifies them, are blows against the commodity-spectacle system. We have only to marshal these blows in a more coherent fashion to extend, multiply and redouble their impact.
e) Through the passionate creation of conditions favorable to the growth of our passions, we wish to destroy that which is destroying us. Revolution is the passion that licenses every other passion. Passion without revolution is only the ruination of pleasure.
So you see, you have had enough of squandering your life away amid constraints. And already you are, consciously or not, fighting for a society whose basis will no longer be the pursuit of profit, but rather the search for and harmonization of the lust for life.
9. Haven't you ever felt the urge to burn some distribution factory i.e.. supermarket, giant store or warehouse) to the ground? In that case, you have caught on that:
a) The real pollution is the pollution by universal commodity intruding into every area of life. Every commodity on the supermarket shelf is a cynical hymn to the wage-slave oppression of the lie which places it on sale, and of the barter system of the boss and the cop whose function it is to protect that lie.
b) The display of commodities is part and parcel of a bleak existence and a glorification of its impoverishment: a paean to life squandered in hours of obligatory work; the sacrifices we give our assent to so that we can purchase shit junk food, gadgets, cars-coffins, accommodation cages, and items with built-in planned obsolescence); inhibitions; pleasure/anxieties; the derisory images offered in exchange for an absence of real life and purchased by compensation.
c) Arson against a large store is only a terrorist act. Indeed, since the commodity is designed to be destroyed and replaced, arson does not destroy the commodity system but conspires with it with just an excess of brutality. Now it is not a question of whether commodity destroys us in destroying itself. The commodity has to be destroyed utterly if we are to build universal self-management.
So you see, you have had it with settings of ennui and voyeurism. And with a world where what one sees prevents one from living And where that which prevents one from living presents itself as an abstract caricature of life. And, consciously or otherwise, you are already fighting for a society where the true eradication of commodity will be achieved through free usufruct of products created once obligatory work has ceased. Instead of the work that proscribes abundance and produces only a distorted reflection of it, we want abundance that will encourage creativity and passions.
10. Haven't you ever felt like pinching something or other from the factory or store for the simple reason that you had a hand in its production, or for the (even better) reason that you need it or want it? In that case you have come to realize that.
a) There is no theft in repossessing one's handiwork. The only thieves are those who serve the commodity system and the henchmen of the State: bosses, bureaucrats, police, magistrates, sociologists, town planners, ideologues. It is because of our tardiness in condemning them to vanish from the scene in practical terms, that they still dare to use the law to condemn a worker who takes something from a factory or a shop for which he has a need.
b) An industrial or agricultural product serves no purpose unless it is freely available to satisfy each individual. It is a sin against the right to enjoyment to turn it into a commodity, an element of barter, a piece of the spectacle.
c) What is required if an object is to be removed from the commodity process and kept from returning to that process, is obviously that it should not be re-sold, nor appropriated for individual use, nor exchanged for a mess of money or power, (stealing so as to play the underworld big-shot and thus to have a role is merely to reproduce the spectacle-commodity process, with or without the permission of the State).
d) What is required if an object, or even an attitude, is not to be absorbed into the commodity process is that that object or attitude should be deployed against the process, and turned against commodity seized in full flight (the flight which converts a product into a commodity leaps from the specific object to its abstract representation and that abstract representation in turn takes on concrete shape in a variety of conditional social posturings i.e. in roles).
e) The complete destruction of commodity can only be encompassed through the collective seizure of industrial and agricultural goods to the advantage of universal self-management, and only universal self-management.
So you see, you have had your fill of submission to money and to roles as a means of earning, in exchange, the good you need for a semblance of life at least. And, consciously or otherwise, you are already fighting for a society where 'no charge' and gift are the only possible social relationships.
11. Haven't you already taken part in pilfering from a distribution factory (i.e. supermarket, large store, discount warehouse)? In that case, you have come to understand that:
a) Individual re-appropriation of goods stolen by the State and the employer class merely feeds the commodity process, unless it becomes a collective action and leads to the total liquidation of the system (however attractive the act may be, it is not enough just to repossess goods. One must also repossess the time and space stolen from us all).
b) Pilfering is a normal response to commodity's provocations (i.e. the signs reading "Free offer" on "Free service", etc.). Like so-called criminal arson, it is only one manifestation of the system. Just as the commodity system allows for a certain percentage of thefts in large stores and factories, so it also allows for a certain proportion of shoplifting and its self-regulation will be calculated in the light of such foreseeable, programmable "mishaps". This fact is so self-evident that one of the representatives of the law, Judge Kinnard, the sole magistrate in the Liege criminal assizes, refused on 12 September 1973, to apply the legal penalty for the theft of display goods and made the following remarkable observations: "Theft of display goods from self service store is inevitable and, indeed, shoplifting is allowed for in the charges made by traders of this sort, where gaudy advertising and scientifically gauged and phased multiple temptations constitute, for the consumers, a provocation to buy well beyond either their needs, or their purse. Generally speaking, shoplifting does not denote in the perpetrator any mentality or attitude deserving of punishment under the legal code." That is jurisprudence indeed.
c) If, in the course of pilfering, the individual should seize goods as if they were his private property, the commodity would reappear and the system would be renewed (in which case, it would be better to destroy everything: we could be sure that at least 90 per cent of junk would go).
d) In the absence of an appreciation of universal self-management, pilfering is, at best, an incoherent method of distribution. It constitutes an act divorced from revolutionary conditions in which the group that creates the goods distributes them directly to its members. Thus there is the risk that, by fostering shortages and scarcity of useful products, it may sow confusion in people's minds and bring about a reversion to the mechanics of commodity distribution.
So you see, consciously or not, you are already fighting for a society where unsalaried production and free distribution of goods will be rendered possible by means of the suppression of property and the collection of producers into self-managing assemblies. In those assemblies the will of every individual can be made plain through the words of delegates under mandates that may be revoked at any time. These delegates would keep account of the amount of goods available and would match up offers to produce and create with the requests of individuals, so that, progressively and irreversibly, abundance might be achieved.
12. Is it not your intention, on the first opportunity that arises, to bawl out your boss or anyone else, who talks down to you? In that case you have grasped the fact that:
a) By becoming a boss, one ceases to be human. The boss is the packer and the package of commodity. Outside the commodity system, he has no use Like the commodities, he reproduces himself and is amassed: he is to be measured in terms of his power and his position in the scale of hierarchy. He derives his power from the power which the spectacle wields, as an economic intent and social representation, over the greater bulk of everyday life.
b) The more power is atomized and extends everywhere, the stronger it becomes and the weaker it becomes. The more bosses there are the more powerless they are. The more powerless they are and the more the bureaucratic machine operates in a vacuum, the more it imposes upon everyone the semblance of its omnipotence and the more people learn to reject servitude in all its guises.
c) Everywhere that authority exists, there is sacrifice. And vice versa. The boss and the militant are the twin stumbling blocks of revolution, the points at which it is turned on its head and becomes the very opposite of emancipation.
d) The terrorist act of standing bureaucrat and boss back to back and dispatching them both with the one bullet, fails to alter the structure by a single iota. It merely accelerates the renewal of leadership cadres. If one is to liquidate the State and all hierarchical organizations that (sooner or later) reproduce it, one must obliterate the commodity system.
e) The State is the regulator, the nerve center and protective arsenal of commodity. It strives to balance out economic contradictions, and to politically ordain society's work into rights and duties of the citizen, and to organize the ideological barrage and the repressive mechanisms which convert each individual into a lackey of the commodity system.
f) The degree of collusion between the State and commodity can be assessed at a glance by the speed with which the police (as well as the militias of the employers and of the unions) intervene the moment a wildcat strike breaks out.
So you see, already you are fighting for a society where there will be neither constraint nor sacrifice, where everyone will be his own master and live in such circumstances that he will never have to treat another man as his slave; in short, a classless society where the power delegated to councils will be wielded under the permanent scrutiny and through the wishes of every private individual.
13. Doesn't it give you a certain sense of pleasure to think how, some day soon, you will be able to treat like human beings those cops whom it will not have been necessary to kill on the spot? In that case you have come to appreciate that:
a) The cop is the guard dog of the commodity system. Where the lie of the commodity is not enough to impose order, the ruling bureaucratic class or caste sends in the cop to impose it for them.
b) Quite apart from the contempt which he stands for, the cop is despised as a hired killer, the lackey of every regime, a professional slave, a dealer in protection, the repressive clause in the economic and social contract which the State foists upon its citizens.
c) Everywhere that the State is to be found, there are cops. Everywhere that cops are to be found (starting from the stewards and marshals at opposition demonstrations) there too, is the State or its ghosts.
d) All hierarchy depends on the police.
e) Killing cops is a pastime for would-be suicides. The only way to resolve the police problem is through self-defense within the general context of liquidation of all hierarchical power.
f) Happiness is possible only when the State ceases to exist: and where the complete absence of hierarchy excludes the possibility of its re-emergence.
So you see, you have had your fill of controls and constraints, and of the cop who is a living reminder that you are nothing and the State everything, and a bellyful of the system that creates the conditions for illegal crime and legalizes the crimes of the magistrates who repress it. And already you are fighting for a harmonization of passions and interests (through the elimination of the interests of the spectacle and its economy) and for the reorganization of relations between individuals through abundant intercourse and the free diffusion of desires.
14. Haven't you ever felt like flinging your pay packet into the face of the pay clerk? In that case, you have realized that:
a) The wage system reduces the individual to a bookkeeper's digit. From the capitalist point of view, a wage slave is not a man but an index of the overheads of production and a certain degree of purchasing power in terms of consumption.
b) The wage system is as much the keystone of global exploitation as alienated labor and commodity production are the keys to the spectacle-commodity system. To improve it would be to improve the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeois-bureaucratic class. One can, therefore, only do away with it entirely.
c) Wage slavery requires that we sacrifice over eight hours of our days for eight hours of work: in return we receive a sum of money which covers only a fraction of the work done. The rest is retained by the employer for his own benefit. In its turn our wage has to be exchanged for polluted, junk products, household goods sold at ten times their real value, alienating gadgets (the car that enables us to get to work and consume, pollute, destroy the countryside, and save some empty time and kill ourselves. Not to mention the dues owing to the State, to experts, and the trade union racketeers...
d) Anyone who believes that wage demands can endanger private or State capitalism is mistaken: employers award to their workers only that increase which the unions need if they are to give evidence of their continuing usefulness: and the unions demand of the employers (who can, in any case put up prices) only sums that pose no threat to a system of which they are the greatest beneficiaries but one.
So you see, you have had a bellyful of living most of your life as a function of money and of being reduced to obedience to the dictates of economics, of merely existing and not having the leisure to live life to the full. Already, consciously or otherwise, you are fighting for a reallocation of useful goods which will no longer have anything to do with the pursuit of profits and which will, instead, answer people's real needs.
15. Has it ever happened that you spat on a passing priest? Or wanted to burn down a church, chapel, mosque or synagogue? If so you have come to realize that.
a) Religion is the opium of the oppressed.
b) All that is religious calls for sacrifices. Anything or anybody (militants, for example) that calls for sacrifices to be made, is religious.
c) Religion is the universal model for falsehood, for the overthrow of the real for the benefit of the mythical world which will, once it has been stripped of its sanctity, be the spectacle of everyday life.
d) The commodity system de-sanctifies: it destroys the religious spirit and holds its gadgetry (the Popes, Korans, Bibles, and crucifixes) up to ridicule; but at the same time it is careful to retain religion as a lasting incitement, preferring the apparent over the real, suffering over pleasure, spectacle over experience, submission over freedom, the ruling system over our passions. The spectacle is the new religion and culture its critical spirit.
e) Religious symbols testify to the lasting mistrust which hierarchical regimes down through the ages have harbored towards men. Take the example of Christ alone. Leaders in the field of marketing products of divinity, the Christian churches have bowed to the pressures of the commodity system and put on a display of contortionism which will not cease until their trademark, the chameleon-like Jesus, has been discarded entirety. Son of God, son of a whore, son of the virgin, worker of miracles and maker of loaves, militant and steward, pederast and puritan accuser and accused, convict and astronaut no role is outside the range of this amazing puppet figure. He has been a hawker of suffering, waiter dispensing favors; he has been a sansculotte and socialist, a fascist and anti-fascist, a Stalinist and barbudo, a Reichian and anarchist. He has marched on every side under every flag; he has been in every self-doubt and stood at both ends of the lash, and present at most executions where he has held the hand both of the executioner and of the executioner's victim. He has his place in police-station and prison and school, brothel and barrack, department store and guerrilla-held territory. He has been used as a pendant and dipstick, as a scarecrow standing guard over the resting dead and the kneeling living; he has been used as torment and short rations: and once the hawkers of the blessed foreskins have rehabilitated sin as a commercial proposition he will serve as a dildo. Poor old Mohamed and Buddha and Confucius, sad symbols of rival firms lacking in push and imagination: Jesus outbids them on every front. Jesus Christ, superdrug and superstar, all the images of the man who sold out to God, caught up in the hard sell of the Godhead. The most accomplished symbol of man as the universal commodity is the scrotum of the great father figure staked out on 3 pins and made into an amulet.
So you see, already you are fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society in which the organization of suffering will have vanished together with its compensations and where each individual being his own master, the notion of God will have no meaning. And above all, a society where the problems of genuine experience and of passions in need of satisfaction will at last take precedence over the problems of proxy living and of passions which have to be repressed.
16. Aren't you dismayed by the systematic destruction of the countryside and urban green spaces? In that case, you have understood that:
a) Town planning is the seizure of territory by the commodity system and its police.
b) The poverty of the spectacle's decor is the decor of universal poverty.
c) Town planner = sociologist = ideologue = cop.
d) As far as the ruling system is concerned, there is no longer any such thing as countryside or nature or streets where one can stroll, only square meters from which profit can be extracted; and a surplus value of prestige through the retention of a pattern of green spaces, trees or rocks; expulsions and hierarchical reassembly of populations; police patrols of popular districts; and a habitat programmed to condition people to boredom and passivity.
e) The authorities do not even bother any longer to disguise the fact that the management of territory is primarily and directly thought out with a view to a future civil war: roads are strengthened lest tanks might need to use them; recently built towers and high-rise buildings carry cameras which enable the police in their H.Q. to keep a 24 hour watch on the streets: in modern apartment blocks, "shooting rooms" are planned for the use of elite police marksmen.
f) The way in which the ruling system construes everything turns everything into commodity. Ideology is the artificial eyes of the authorities, enabling it to see life in what is already dead, what has already been turned into a commodity.
So you see, you are already fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society in which your wish to escape the clutches of the town planners and of ideology will be realized through freedom to organize according to your preference, the space and time of your everyday life and to build your own homes and the nomads, should you wish, and to make your towns places of passion and play.
17. Have you ever felt the urge to make love (not as a matter of routine but with great passion) to your partner or to the first man or woman to come along, or to your daughter, or your parents, or your men and women friends, or your brothers and sisters? In that case, you have realized that:
a) We must dispense with all the necessities placed on love, whether they be taboos, conventions, ownership, constraint, jealousy, libertinage, rape and all the forms of barter which (and this is true of Scandinavianism as of prostitution) turn the art of love into a relationship between things.
b) You have had a bellyful of pleasure mingled with pain: enough of love experienced in an incomplete, deformed or less than genuine way; enough of intercourse by proxy or through intermediary images; enough of melancholy fornication; of meager orgasms; of antiseptic relationships; of passions choked and suppressed and beginning to waste the energy which they would release in a society which favored their harmonization.
c) Whether we admit it or not, we are all looking for great passion which is at once single and plural. Socially we want to create the historical conditions for a lasting passionate relationship, for a pleasure the only boundary on which is the exhaustion of possibilities, for a game where pleasure and displeasure rediscover their positive side (for instance in the inception and in the ending of a free amorous liaison).
d) Love is inseparable from individual realization, and from communication between individuals (opportunities for meetings) and from genuine and enthusiastic participation in a shared plan. It is inseparable from the struggle for universal self-management.
e) There is no pleasure that does not reveal its meaning in the revolutionary struggle: and by the same token, the revolution's only object is to experience all pleasures to their fullest and freest extent.
So you see, consciously or otherwise, you are already fighting for a society where optimum chances will be made socially available in order to encourage free changeable associations, between people attracted by the same activities or the same delights: where attractions rooted in a taste for variety and enthusiasm and play will take just as much account of agreement as disagreement and divergence.
18. Haven't you ever felt sick to your stomach each time prevailing circumstances force you to assume a role? In that case you have realized that:
a) The only complete delight lies in being what one is, in realizing oneself as a person with desires and passions. Against this, social relationships, organized like the spectacle of everyday life, force each of us to conform to a series of appearances and inauthentic modes of behavior: they urge us to identify with images, with roles.
b) Roles are the counterfeit experience of misery which compensates for the real experience of misery. Roles (the roles of leader, or subordinate, of paterfamilias or materfamilias, or good or rebellious child, of oppositionist or conformist, or ideologue, or seducer, or VIP, or theorist, or activist, or cultured pedant, etc.) all obey the law of accumulation and reproduction of images within the spectacular organization of commodity. And at the same time, they disguise and underpin the real impotence of individuals in terms of their ability to effect any real changes in their everyday lives, to make them passionate or to live them as a fabric of interwoven passions.
c) Rejection of roles comes through rejection of prevailing conditions (it is as well to remember that a role can also be a shield, such as the role of the good workers, disguising sabotage and pilfering activities).
d) It is not a question of changing roles but rather of doing away with the system which obliges one to play at something one has no wish to play at. The revolutionary struggle is the struggle for a life to be authentically lived.
So you see, consciously or otherwise, you are already fighting for the right to authenticity and for an end to the dissembling and the lies thrust upon us; a fight for the right to affirm the individuality of each and every person without being judged or condemned, but instead allowing the individual to give his desires and passions free rein, no matter how singular these may be. You are fighting for a society where truth will be the practice of every moment.
19. Don't you feel an instinctive mistrust of every thing intellectual and of every thing that inclines towards intellectualization? In that case you have realized that:
a) Along with the manual, the intellectual function is the result of the social division of labor. The intellectual function is the faculty of a master; the manual that of a slave. Both are equally to be viewed with misgivings and we shall abolish both by abolishing the division of labor and class society.
b) In the struggle of the revolutionary bourgeoisie against the feudal class and the religious spirit, culture has been a weapon of partial liberation, a weapon of demystification. When the bourgeoisie became, in turn, the ruling class, culture for a while retained its revolutionary form. Intellectuals like Fourier, Marx and Bakunin drew from the demands of the proletarians as expressed in strikes and riots, a radical theory which, if only the workers had absorbed and put it into practice, would rapidly have done away with the bourgeoisie.
c) Instead, the specialized thinkers of the proletariat (workerist intellectuals and intellectual workers) by playing at tribunes, politicians or guides of the working class, have transformed that radical theory into ideology, i.e. falsehood, into ideas in the masters' service. Socialism and the variants of Jacobinism (such as Blanquism or Bolshevism) have been the movement that proclaims the dictatorship of the bureaucrats over the proletariat, as happens with every so-called "workers' party or the trade unions or leftist organizations.
d) Intellectuals are the reserve army of the bureaucracy, whether they be workerist intellectuals or intellectual workers.
e) Culture today is the form of intellectual integration into the spectacle, the label of quality that helps all commodities to sell the initiation into the upside down world of commodity. Under cover of the pretext that it is necessary to acquire learning, culture recuperates the need for practical know-how and turns it into separated scholarship. It imposes an abstract surplus value of learning, a compensation for the emptiness of bleak daily existence, and the promotion within the bureaucracy, of experts. Because this scholarship is deliberately useless, it always ends up serving the system of the commodity-spectacle.
f) In particular, so called economic scholarship is a bureaucratic/bourgeois mystification and nothing more. It only has meaning within a capitalist organization of the economy, and how! Once capitalism is abolished, the average worker is better equipped to organize the new production than even the most learned of economists. (Without even venturing beyond reformism, the LIP workers have proven that they were capable of running their factory and dispensing with managers).
g) The rejection of intellectualization is meaningless unless it is part of a struggle to terminate the division of labor, hierarchy and the State.
h) Workerist intellectuals are bastards and skunks. As intellectuals they agree (shamefacedly or otherwise) to hold on to a leadership role. Acting out this role and glorifying the role of the worker, they perpetuate the deception of roles and the tot of the slave, a lot of which every single worker has had his fill. In choosing so they are absurd and counter-revolutionary (for the summons to sacrifice is always counter-revolutionary).
i) Workers who are proud of that fact are servile bastards. Intellectualist workers are as skunk-like as any would-be leader, relying upon the servile natures of "good workers".
j) Henceforth the clearest and simplest form of the radical theory thrown up by the proletariat's struggle for emancipation is the property of those who are most capable of implementing it, i.e. to revolutionary workers, or to all the proletarians who strive for the end of the proletariat and an end to class society. It is the property of all who do battle for the sake of universal self-management, for a society which has neither masters nor slaves.
So you see, already you are fighting for a society organized in such a way that all compartmentalizations disappear, and so that diversity may grow through union in the revolutionary endeavor, and so that all the expertise penned up in the prison of culture can be restored to the practice whereby our everyday existence is enriched. So that knowledge may be everywhere that pleasure is: that passion and reason may be indissociable: that taken to its logical extremes, the elimination of the division of labor may truly weave the conditions for a harmonious society.
20. And don 't you feel the same mistrust of those who engage in politics and those who, whilst not engaging in politics themselves, have others do so on their behalf? In that case, you have grasped the fact that:
a) Traditionally, politicians are regarded as the clowns of the ideological spectacle. This allows one to mistrust them whilst persisting in voting for them. Nobody ever quite escapes them for no one ever quite escapes the spectacular organizations of the old world.
b) Politics is always raison d'etat. To do away with it, one must do away with the spectacular-commodity system and its protective organ: the State.
c) There is no such thing as revolutionary parliamentarianism, just as there is not, and never has been any such thing as a revolutionary State. The only difference between parliamentary regimes and dictatorial ones lies in the magnitude of the Lie and the truthfulness of the terror.
d) Like every ideology, and every compartmentalized activity, politics recuperates radical demands only to whittle them down and turn them into their opposites. For instance, the determination to wreak some change in life becomes, once placed in the hands of the parties and unions, a simple wage demand, a demand for more leisure and other cosmetic changes to bleak subsistence which merely aggravate the disease by making it momentarily a little more comfortable.
e) The great political ideologies (nationalism, socialism, communism) have seen their charms fade in proportion as the social behavior imposed by the imperialism of commodity has multiplied "pocket ideologies". In turn, the morsels of ideology (notions about pollution, art, comfort, education, abortion) are politicized in crude amalgamations leaning towards the right or left. All of this is only a ploy by which the individual can be diverted from the only concern he really has at heart i.e. changing his daily existence in the sense of enriching it and infecting it with passionate adventures.
f) Most of the time, everybody who sets out to fight on his own behalf winds up fighting against himself. Political action is one of the chief causes of this inversion of intentions. Only the struggle for the self-management of all in every area of our lives provides any real answer to the real wishes of each individual. That is why that struggle is neither a political nor an apolitical one, but an all-embracing social one.
So you see, you are already fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society where decision making powers are universal, where divergences between individuals and groups are thrashed out in such a way that they do not result in mutual destruction but instead complement one another to the advantage of all. There is a need for the element of play that is walled up and swallowed up by politics, to be released into an interplay of relationships between individuals and affinity groups, through the balance and harmonization of points of agreement and of difference.
21. Haven't you long since torn up your union membership card? If the answer is 'yes', you have caught on that:
a) It is wrong, this belief that you have been let down by the unions. The unions constitute an organization separate from the workers, and of necessity that organization turns into a bureaucratic authority that works against the workers whilst feigning the "spectacle" of defending them.
b) Created for the defense of the immediate interests of an over-exploited proletariat, the unions have (with the development of capitalism) become the appointed courtiers of the labor force. Their aim is not to abolish the wages system, but rather to improve it. Thus, they are the finest servants of the capitalism which, in its private or in its State form, holds sway over the entire globe.
c) The anarchist notion of a "revolutionary syndicate" is already a bureaucratic recuperation of the direct power which the workers can wield directly by coming together in council assemblies. Spawned by a repudiation of the political in the name of the social, it falls into the traps of compartmentalization and leaders (even should certain of the leaders be unwilling to behave as such).
d) The unions are a parastatist bureaucracy which complements and rounds off the power which the bourgeoisie as a class wields over the proletariat.
So you see, already you are fighting, in every wildcat strike, for a direct affirmation of the power of all against any representative arrangement that would betoken compartmentalization. We no longer want any union delegates: what we want are assemblies, where the decisions are made by everyone and applied for the benefit of all. Instead of bandying words about whether or not to resume work, we wish to pronounce upon the uses to which we are going to put our factories and ourselves. We want to translate our wishes into facts by choosing a council, every one of whose members will be subject to recall at any moment, and who would be charged with implementing the decisions made by the assembly.
22. Haven't you had enough of your wife or husband or your parents, children, household chores and family obligations? In that case you have realized that:
a) The family is the tiniest theater of social oppression, a school for lies, an apprenticeship to role playing, a conditioning of submission, and the ways of suppression, the systematic destruction of childhood creativity the family is the natural setting for crassness, and resentment and the rebellion of the marionette.
b) Family authority has continuously been swindling and been facing challenge in proportion as the commodity system undermines the power of men to the benefit of oppressive mechanisms in which men of power are mere cops. Thus the commodity system retains the family but drains it of its ancient and almost humane connotations: as a result the family only becomes the more unbearable.
c) It is within the family that all the humiliation of having been treated as objects in our subsistence society-entitles one to humiliate and reduce to the standing of mere objects those who are members of one's family.
d) The emancipation of women cannot be dissociated from that of children or that of men. And the abolition of the family goes hand in hand with the abolition of the spectacle-commodity system. Every demand which seeks to compartmentalize (women's lib., children's lib., the revolutionary gay action front) is nothing but reformism and merely prolongs oppression.
e) Commodity imperialism, which destroys the traditional family, turns the family into a theater of passivity and submission to the system (and of the contestation of it that provides the meat for mere squabbling over details).
So you see, you are already fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society wherein everyone will have free control of himself and be independent of everyone without being subject to an oppressive system and where problems will be with harmonizing everyone's desires. A society whose number one concern will be for the elimination of household drudgery and which will leave the education of children to volunteers, beginning with the children themselves.
23. Haven't you often had the feeling that this is a topsy turvy world where people do the opposite of what they wish, pass the time away in self-destruction and venerate that which destroys them, obedient to abstractions and sacrificing their real lives to those abstractions. In that case you have realized that:
a) Alienated labor underlies every other form of alienation. It lies at the historic origins of the division of society into masters and slaves, and of all the compartmentalization that has flowed from it (religion, culture, economy, politics) and of everything that stands for destruction with a human face.
b) It is the product, social relationships, images and representations created by the producers, (in circumstances that are such that these are dispossessed and such that one finds them turning against themselves) that mask their hostility and inhumanity behind images contrary to the reality. (The master proclaiming himself the retainer of his slaves; the exploiters of the proletariat boasting that they serve the people; the images of experience palmed off as the only genuine reality, and so on).
c) The increasingly remarkable and unbearable gulf between the daily miseries of mere existence (and the lying representations we are offered), and the ambition we all share to live a real life, to live really, demonstrates more clearly each day that the battle has begun between the side of survival and decomposition and the side of life and excess. The final struggle for the classless society, today historically inevitable, is drilling the proletariat who have had enough of their slavery and who are demanding self-management for each and every one, against the commodity system and its servants, bourgeoisie and bureaucracy, both under the same protective helmet of the State.
d) The quest for happiness is the quest for authentic and undistorted experience-life without inversion and without sacrifice. Acceptance of one's real self, of oneself as a specific individual, is an advance which supposes that the commodity system has been abolished and the passions of individuals harmoniously reconciled.
So you see, we have had a bellyful of an existence dominated by the very opposite of this striving after happiness: an existence dominated by separate compartments (economy, politics, culture and every aspect of the spectacle) which absorb all our energies and prevent us from really living. We struggle for the overthrow of a topsy-turvy world, for the fruition of our wishes and heartfelt desires through social relationship in which the lust for profit and the imperatives of hierarchical power have no place.
24. Don't you find it odious and absurd to make any distinction between immigrant and home-born workers? In that case you have realized that:
a) The old adage about "proletarians having no home land" remains perfectly true and should be borne in mind constantly to ward off all the shit of nationalism and racism.
b) Similarly, it should at all times be remembered that the emancipation of the proletariat is a historic and international endeavor. Only the action of revolutionary workers of the whole world will in fact create an international of self-managing councils.
c) The ruling class and its retainers do their utmost to impose a distinction between immigrant workers and native-born workers. They delude the latter (whom they disdain as mere objects from which productivity can be squeezed) that there are those even more disdained than themselves.
d) The involvement of immigrant workers in the hardest struggles is also a blow against their own bourgeoisie which sells them, in the finest tradition of the slave-traders. In this respect also, immigrant workers along with other revolutionary workers constitute the basis of a genuine international of wholesale self-management.
So you see, you are already fighting, consciously or otherwise, for a society where differences (be they of race, sex, age, character, interests or desires) no longer constitute a barrier but rather help to harmonize for the sake of the greater pleasure and happiness of all. You are struggling for the realization of self-management of the individual or group, on an international basis; dispensing with the idiotic prejudices of nationalism, regionalism or geographic attachments.
25. Don't you feel the need to talk to someone who understands you and works to the same end as yourself (rejecting work, and controls, and commodity and rejecting the truthfulness of the lies that go to make up the spectacle? In that case you have realized that:
a) The custom of talking for the sake of talking, and of getting absorbed by false problems, and of listening to people who say one thing but do another, and of letting oneself be caught up in the usage of repetitive, everyday nonsense, is of itself, a way of preventing the individual from recognizing as his true interests, his enthusiasms and his lust for real life against the lusts for private possession as invented by commerce.
b) Every intervention which fails to usher in practical measures is just empty talk, just a way of dulling the senses. Every practical measure that does not lead to the improvement of everyone's life merely reinforces the oppression thereof. Nothing can really improve one's life unless it destroys the commodity system.
c) Each assemblage must rapidly arrive at a decision or be sabotaged.
d) Before or during strikes, the discussions must take place aimed at practical truths; the propagation of an awareness of the battle to be fought; and the arrival at definite decisions concerning the action to be taken.
e) Whatever remains only words quickly becomes ideology i.e. falsehood, like everything that is said by members of bureaucratic apparatus (parties, unions, groups specializing in the improvement of the worker livestock).
f) The finest precaution the strike assemblies could take against the false language of the ruling system, would be to proceed without delay to the election of a council of delegates whose sole commissions would be to follow the directions of the strikers, upon pain of instant dismissal and to translate those directions into practical measures without delay.
g) We no longer want fine speakers, nor orators showing off their rhetoric. Instead we want the language of deeds, specific proposals and properly elaborated plans of action of our own making. It is about time that our search for perfection should be directed not only into our words, but also into our deeds.
So you see, already you are struggling, consciously or not, for a society where words will no longer be used to dissemble but rather to give real extension to our desires, and will be the faithful spokesmen of our needs and desires.