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John HollowayLife Despite Capitalism - Workshops

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Notes from the Life Despite Capitalism workshop "Powers" - 16/10/04 – 4.30 pm - 6.30 pm


john holloway: I will start for a few minutes with the basic distinction of the two types of power;

I wasn't able to be in the discussions before the break and missed much of this mornings debate

interjection - the problem is how we create the commons

response - we have to undertsand they have been taken away and we have to understad this

how do we creat comons when we are working with grups relating traditionally to power structures

something practical on creating movements and fighting hierechy

also to discuss how horizontal are our horizontal organoisations

JH; we use the word power i common language in a antagnostic sense. the fact that we have one word obscures this antagonism and reproduced power as antagonsim. on one side we talk about power as our capacity to do. in this sense it is important to recognise that power is social - I can not understand a doing that is not doing with others. the power to do, to be active, to change things, is a social power, tyhe process by which we come toogther to do things. there is a social flow of doing - the doing of one person flows into the doing of another with no break

in capitalism this social flow is broken - capitalism is the sepeartion of the process of hte done from the ding. In captialism what is done is claimed by the capitalist, approprasites what has been done, surplus value.

This allows the capitalist to command the power of doing; power to do becomes power over people. this power over is a movement of fragmentation, of separating from you what you have done, and a separtion of doing from thinking, between doors....

all this gets lots if we think in terms of taking power. we lose sight of the fact that the power of capital and of the state has a ogic that seperates and divides. contructing commons means recuperating social ppower. I prefer to talk of our power not as being a coounter-ppower but as an anti-power, otherwise we see it as a mirror image of power.

our power can not be taken but only constructed. to talk of taking power means reproducing their forms of organisation and understading.

one way of thinking of this is in temrs of movement. if we think of their power as a movement of seperation, oour movement is a moevemtn against that. of course there are ways we are forced to engage with capitalist forms and forms of state, we mst see

interjection - if we rae going to talk of types of power..... I'm uncomfortable wiit the definition of the sepeartion between power over and ppower to do. I aree with the conclusion that we are not to take back power but I don't think we can avoid power relations altogether, jauat reduce power relations.

instaed of thinking that one way of working avoids power relations, that one way of living is outside power, we have power relations wehther we like it or not and reproduce this whether we choose to or not. we reproduce power everyday and we should not pretend we care going to get rid of it - we can reduce domination.

JH: I'm not saying we are pure and we are powerless here.

I want to say that under capital we must start thinking in terms of power to do, and to change the world socially. this power to do exists in a capitalist form in a verttical form but it also exists as rebellion against this power over. this rebeion reproduces power over but it is neccesary to distinguish so that we can resist this reproduction. otherwise we think we can do nothing about it.

Steve: found your book interesting but the disticntion you're making is missing something. it seems that power to is production annd pwower over is the state, which corresponds to politics bad, production good. the real problem comes within production. You wrote an article in What is to be done, saying maybe we don't need to hit capital or the stae on the nose, we can go round it. iit gives the impression that we can just do things differently and things will be OK?

There are real power structures like the SAS that don't depend on what we do

JH: its important to emphasise doing because if want to think of changing the world we must think of ourselves as doers. Doing for me is everything, not a distinction between politics and economics - this distincion is part of the process of power ovcer, of the seperation. To creat the commons we gmust go beyond this sepearation. I do not mean to make things seem to easy but we need to have a sense that it is possible. over the last 20 years many have given up the idea that it is possible to change socialety. we have to go back tomopening up the vision. If we see that capiatalism is produced by us the question of revolution is simply how do we stop making capitaluim. this is not easy but thinking of abolishing capiytalism is terrifying, this way we start from our sense of power instead. It is not simple, but we must think of it this way round to open up possibilities and space.

contirbution in French: dominatin and power need to be distinguished. domination is different from power - power from above can be dominating or not, it is an integrating phenomenon which both parties participate in. eg male domination goes through all our structure, eg a woman had to leave the room just now due to lack of child care.

bloke: when i see my friends who are squattng they argue about doing the washing up. for me the question is when we fight capitalism how do we do it? We bneed to advcance to practicla things. if we look at the anti-capitalist movement it is not anti-capitalist, there are people who only attack large corporations, whose critique is anti-semitic. to me most of us tend to understand that we need either the state or the masrket, we need to redisciver the history of comons, of struggle and of squatting but it is oo abstract.

another bloke: we don't only biuld capitaliam we reproduce it. there is a lot of racism, hierarchy, coming from capitalist relations of domination. this is shown n the room here with the under-representation of women and people of colour. I have power as a white straiht man. I have power to do, but I must chose how I do so,

JH: you said most of the so-called anti-capitalist movement is not. I disagree. the point about the discussion of power is that power penetrates. we cotain contradictions.

response: even our dreams are poisoned by capiatalism. marx said doubt everything. we need to criticise those who think getting rid of large corporations will make things OK.

another bloke. we should not refer to b writers people don't know without explaining.

another bloke: when we say there is state or capitalist power and we want to build commons, if we become succesful they will attack us. how do we fight without using weapons. ??

another: i want to emphasize one word. we take like there is some revolutionary subject. in my experience there are poer relaitons within our movement, the revolutionary subject. John's dstinction is useful. we must be sensible in our groups of power over -the we is not sure. in germany nobody joins parties any more, people go to demos on their own. we must magnify the we. what is the relationship betwene the avant-gard, the left andthe others?

JH: the problem is always there. there people who ae more politically conscious, and it is a question of time and speed. the zapatista say they go at the speed of the slowest so they go together, and we should do the same.

guy from Bolivia: the capitalist economy is war economy. the indigenous economy is a peace economy. he relations to space are different . in caitalist economy time is everything space nothing. in natural produciton neither space nor time is dominant. before the spanish came organisation was horizontal, but when the spanish came there was a temporary war chief but this became permanent. In war you act as quick as possible but in peace you take time to discus everything. I agree with the question how do you maintain this natural structure of peace when you are in a war fighting a straucture of war. how do yoou fight withiut becoming a straucture of war? Once you change the structure yu can't go back.

in Geneva now there is big discussion going on among the squatters and others and some of them have decided to ignore the time element to get things right.

what has worked in history is when the weapons of the oppressors have been turned against them without using them the same way. people responding to state violence it looks like people are getting a battering but the question is to make violence illegitimate. we are seeing this now, breaking down the borders of what one state can do, talking of human rights, using the media, creative responses to make it absuird. also how we respond to advertising, the principle of subvertising is to turn it on its head and make its useless. this is subversion. using their weapons but turning them on their head. this is what gives people hope. domaiation is when poeple can't resist. ths is not happeneing now.

we haven't mentioned or problematised is horizontality. after years in activism there is not such things at least in the west where 90% of our life is vertical and we reproduce this in a hidden way. we have to think a lot to see it. I just read John's books and it is what I recognise from within the movement. Autonomous does not exist, we are all dependant. the officlal ESF gets people to pay a lot, but someone pays for LSE, middlesex, etc. and this is not recognised or problematised.

JH: it just occured to me that maybe instead of thinking of horizi=ontality we should think of anti-verticality as within a highly vetical society this is a probelm. we are searching for horizontality. just as we are anti-racist not non-racist as we live in a racist soneity but are against it. we can't be autonomous in a hierarchical sociaety but we can be against hierarchy.

we are talking about processes, not a state but something we are going towards, it is a strauggle against racism not a state of being not racist. this is not abstract, we are talking about free software and agriculrtural commons. people are doing these struggles.

we can do things because we are small and insignificant and doesn't change things. if it was on a big scale it wuld face repression, as is happening. we do not de-legitimise violence through the media as they don't talk about state violence.

in french: in geneva i met indigenous people from Suth Amercica who said that people are already doing it as it is a state of mind.

I agree we have to realise there will always be a counter-attack and the movement of the 70s was demolished. now there is a coounter-attack against the commons such as linux.... but the important thing is not the particluar battle. we will lose the battles for a long wehile. the important thing is to do things in a dfferet way, that there are thousands of people saying this is a silly way to do things

I agree, but particularly respponding to the idea that what we do is too small to have an effect. i don't start form what I want to achieve, but I can do so much but the task of resistance is to push boundaries. we don;t have control over the culture we are breaking out of. if they have to put barricades on every little thing we do we are succeding because we have made them do it - it might not be nice though.

a couple of actions came to mind - the Seattle protest makes something previously invisible identified with violence, they challenged the power through the media.

JH: we can not respond to state violence the same way as the state - it is ridiculous as we will lose and even if we won we would reproduce the same structures. we have to think of how we can deter the state from using violebnce - as the zapatistas did. and as in Bolivia, fighting not as army against army. the real defence comes from the degree of integration into the community. the real strentgh of a movement and its ability to resist state attack depends on its integration. when the police tried to close a social centre in genova the local women stopped the police as they used the social centre. which comes back to the question of commons and we have to start from saying that everyone is anti-capitalist. there is no way to live under capitalism and not be anti-capiyalist. its the only way to be human.

people say its always a process - the goal is always changing as you and the environment react on each other. we can struggle all the time against racsim but we can not define a world without racism, racsim always changes as does our struggle against it. we can not say this is our goal and we lost.

the probel with time, is not so much a problem how to fdefine how to come together with communities, we don't have time. its nice to say we should be more integrated but when war logic is imposed on us, in terms of both the police and war conditions - temporary war chiefs. we can't say stop the war, we need more time to discuss things.

this forum is called life depite capitalsm. when J talks of our creative power,our power to do. the discussion is too much about power over us, nit about our power to do. at Alexander |palace it was a different atmosphere, we have a chance hear to talk about us and our possibilities. this morning someone said power also means energy. we need to get some energy out of this discussion.

a lot of talk about state violence. there is an old chinese saying that one who fights looses. when we expose/materialise violence we've lost the chance to do something else. what do we want to do through our power to do. also where i work most people aren't interested in what we do, but some would like to read it. we don't communicate with them, we do so little. we speak a lot about inclusiveness.

talking about violence as a choice, you're thining within the anti-golbalisation movement, but when things get going, when movements threatene the state, when we take over factories, they choose the violence and we have no choice in it.

you can build different social relations, and if it is strong and network based, there is a chance of difference.

as with the social centre if you produce with the community when the police come the community sees them off. it is different. ther's a group in geneva talking about how do we break out of th ghetto, how to we realte to ordinary people. they did something for Evian, they organised discussions in a park in a public so people waling a dog could get involved. this was different and now they have built a yurt so they can sqaut a park a nd have the space if it is raining. there is a text on how to construct a horizontal orgainsation with ideas and games. they recpgnise that the leader is not always the one who speaks loudest.

talking of power to, people seem to talk of the movement. most of our power to takes the form of capital. only a mass social movement can chagnge this, which is very different from our small social moverments.

a big struggle at the moment is against privatisation of public services. if you explain the impotance of public services as commons you can federate a wole sector of society.

reminder we should be thinking of the question(s) to take back to the plenary.

privatisation is important but we are talking so much about struggle, maybe i am an elderly woman and a coward so i don't fightbnall the time with the police. we have to find ways to make the holes bigger. the question mayeb is, when we are not fighting on the sreet with the police, where can we find the holes. capitalsim is a network and we must break it. there are many possibilities in life to make little holes. a book from a mexican author said capitalism needs homo economicus, but we are not, we rea human beings and this already a contradiction. we do not fit in the machinery . we can do this every day. most people are living this everyday and we don;t see what they are ding against capiuatalism. in gremany now we are fihgtin against a new law, and in the east people are jusy demolishing the unemployment office in asnindividual way as they are so fed up. these are also little holes - if we can show all this......

my problem with this event is is it true that can be free life despite capitalism. John says we have to think how to stop making capitalism. if i open a social centre i need the proudcts of the labour of many others that i can't access without money - i can't avoid the break in the flux of doing. we have to do something global to really change things in a revolutionary way. we want to change things but they stop us.

JH: of course what we want is global revlution but this not going to happen in the short term. we have to think of an intertsicial revolution, in the spaces within capitalism. the only way forwrda is to try to see what spaces exist, where the holes are. this trying to turn the problem upside down. when you think in terms of holes the world starts to change. we are here because we are refusing capitalism. mayeb this evening we won't but mist uf us do a lot of the time. nearly everybody says no in some way. its a question of seeing these holes. if you look around you see many people here are not only involved on an individual level, but in groups. then you look further at the zapatistas, the piquiteros, you can the world as a map which is full of holes.

these are moments of a struggle

JH: yes the only real stuggle is the communisation of the world, an immeidate communist revolution is not thinkable, what is possible (eg cuba) is at best another hole. once we think from the refusals we are involved in we see more. otherwise we just get depressed. when we think from our NO we see how many other people and groups are saying NO. we are all involved in this and have expereince of worrying about how to do things differently. we also have to think about how to bring togethr and link these refusals, not on a fromal level, but by sharing and coming togethr at events like this... we have to turn the problem upsdie down and start from hat we're sure of which is our refusal, and that we are all involved in projects, more or less useless perhaps.

the question so far is how do we make holes in caputalism apart from throwing rocks?

also how do we take time?

is the term commons or holes so good to get the idea of total revolution out of our minds. if we say want to reclaim spaces it appears that this is enough but it is only the basis for other struggle. it seems static.

we agree our goal is to reduce power to dominate we should ask other workshops whether they had any ideas on how we increaee power to do and decrease power to dominate. concretely.

i don't think we've gone anywhere with this talk of holes. all i have got is that there are other people in the world who think similarly. if we are always resisting why hasn't capuiatlsim fallen? how can it be enough.

the interesting thing is to recognise that and work with it. it changes the situation

its very important that our strength is just to sa no to many things. it is not our task to creat alternatives. these will be realised during the struggle. our task is just to say no. maybe some people at the ESF are searching too uch for altrernatives that will not happen until when I am dead. I am a teacher in E Berlin and most of us were socialised under socialism. when there is aconference and I get angry i know I won't stop this, but colleagues say why? they like it, but say its doesn't help. I say I knwo but i want to look in the mirror and know i have opposed not swallowed it. there are many possibilities to sday no and feel better and this is a lot. maybe we could ask if our power to do is to say no rather than think of alternatives.

I don't agree that you don't change things by just saying no as you are refusing the system of making each other objects

each no is different. I'm to sure they go in the same direction but could be contradictory, and this is maybe good. How do we integrate all these NOs while respecting difference.

this expresses the limitations of this purely subjective refusal. it doesn't change anythign but makes you feel good. I've got involved in games with cops that made me feel good but were completely useless. it is not a begining. the question needs opening up. each step opens up new questions.

JH: we have to respect the centrality of the refusal and it often doesn't go beyond but sometimes it does. some Nos will be racist...... the only way to deal wiht that is through collective articulation.

the questions colelcted are:

most important, how do we continue this process - what do we do to reduce power over, specially in our organisations.


Created by: myk last modification: Saturday 16 of October, 2004 [22:40:23 UTC] by toni

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