Towards the European Insurrection by Franco Berardi

Europe will be the product of your mind

Spring 2011 : the European Union is on the brink of the catastrophe, as Neoliberal dogmatism is imposing the diktat of the financial class upon the interests of society.

Let’s look back, before we try to understand what has to be done.

In the year 1933 in his Discours à la nation européenne, Julien Benda wrote the following words :

«Vous ferez l’Europe par ce que vous direz, non par ce que vous serez. L’Europe sera un produit de votre esprit, de la volonté de votre esprit, non un produit de votre être. Et si vous me répondez que vous ne croyez pas à l’autonomie de l’esprit, que votre esprit ne peut être autre chose qu’un aspect de votre être, alors je vous déclare que vous ne ferez jamais l’Europe. Car il n’y a pas d’Être européen. »

Benda says that there is no European identity. No ethnic identity, no religious identity, no national identity. This is the strenght and the beauty of the European project.  Europe can only be the product of our mind.

I would say also: a product of our imagination. And the problem of Europe nowadays is exactly here : the European leading class, and also the European intellighentzia, if something like this still exists, has lost any vision, any imagination of the future, and is only able to reassess the old failed dogmas of capitalist accumulation and of mandatory economic growth and financial profit. This is clearly leading European society to the catastrophe.

What has been Europe in the past century ? As Benda predicted, it has been the product of a vision.

In 1945 Europe was the vision of a political construction overcoming the philosophical opposition of Enlightenment and Romantik, the opposition of Universal Reason and cultural identity. It was the vision and the dream of a word of peace, the dream of a post-national process. This was the strenght and the attraction of the European idea.

Then, in the ‘70s and in the ’80 Europe was the project of overcoming the opposition between East and West, between socialism and democratic values. It was also the expectation of prosperity for everybody. The upheaval of 1989 and the following unification was the fullfillment of this European dream.

Prosperity has been the common ground of identification for old and new European citizens. But when the decline of the Western dominance on the world economy started to jeopardize European prosperity, what happened of the European political expectations ? Europe, once viewed as a symbol of hope and an object of desire, suddendly has turned a symbol of economic oppression and the harbinger of impoverishment.

In an article published by the New York Times in 2010 when the European crisis started to be perceived in all its seriousness, Roger Cohen wrote some far sighted words. What is more frightening in the current European situation, he said, is not the danger of a financial collapse, but the absence of a vision in the words of the European leaders. What they are only able to repeat is that the Maastricht criteria have to be honoured, and the debts have to be paid and the banks have to be protected, at the expenses of salaries and pensions and public education.

Vision or governance

Where is creative thought in nowadays European space ? Where the thinkers, the poets, the creators who may produce the vision and the imagination that according to Julien Benda is the vital prerequisite of Europe ?

European thinkers are an extinct species.  Conformity and dogmatism are the prevailing features of the public discourse. In the ‘70s French philosophy was able to prefigure the evolution of Neoliberal capitalism and the establishment of biopolitical control on social life. But the last generation, the generation of former Stalino-maoist turned apologists of market democracy, is incapable of creative thought. It’s a generation of journalists at best, of repentants and cynicist at worst – not philosophers, not thinkers, not creators.

Europe needs thought, not subservient dogmatism. But creative thought seems something of the past.

Jurgen Habermas has been able some years ago to give a contribution which was based on the generous idea that communication is a space of open dialogue and a force for democracy. But the Italian experience of the last three decades has abundantly proved the contrary.

Niklas Luhmann has been able to conceptualize the present form of the European reality, as he has revealed in a realistic way that democratic government has been replaced by technocracy and governance., What is the meaning of this world, that is often used as an exoteric keyword, cherished and emphasized, but not explained ? I would define governance as power based on information without meaning.

Governance is the keyword of the European construction.

Pure functionality without conscious intentionality.  Automation of thought and will.

Embedding of abstract connections in the relation between living organisms.

Technical subjection of choices to the logic concatenation.

Europe is a perfectly postmodern construction in which power is embodied by techno-linguistic devices of interconnection and interoperationality.

The European entity has been conceived since its beginning as possibility of overcoming passions: nationalist, ideological, cultural passion, dangerous marks of belonging. This has been the positive contribution of Europe to the evolution of political history, but in this empty space of identity has been filled by the absolutism of the Economic Dogma.

Governance is the replacement of democracy and political will with a system of automatic technicalities forcing reality into an unquestionable logic-framework  Financial stability, competition, labor cost reduction, increase of productivity: the systemic architecture of the E.U. rule is based on these dogmatic foundations that cannot be challenged or discussed, because they are embedded in the functioning of technical sub-systems of management. No enunciation or action is operational if it is not complying with the embedded rules of techno-linguistic dispositifs of daily exchange.

So far nobody has questioned this dogmatic construction and the ideology of governance, as prosperity was replacing democracy. But now the situation seems dangerously inclining towards the breakdown, and if Europe falls down the doors of violence and of national populism are wide open.

As Europe is not a democracy, and the decisions are never taken by a democratically elected organism, what can happen in the coming months and years ? European Parliament is just a symbolic place, that has no influence on the Central Bank, which is the real decider (better, the mere interpreter of monetarist rules that are embedded in the financial governance machine). Therefore the only way to stop the race towards the abyss is insurrection. Only European insurrection can dispel the fogs and miasmas of recession, violence, impoverishment, and fascism, and open a new story, which is within our reach.

The new story is based on unleashing the potency of the general intellect, the potencies of research, technical innovation, scientific creation. Basic income, redistribution of wealth, expropriation of the properties hoarded by financial corporations.

At this point I think that we should redress a certain idealism and voluntarism that may be detected in the Julian Benda’s words, when he says that Europe will only be the product of the mind. Now we know that mind is not something that belongs to the isolated individual, something that acts in a purely abstract space. Mind is the network of cognitive labor: general intellect, core of social production.

Intellectual labor is under aggression, and financial capitalism is trying to disactivate the force of millions and millions of cognitarians who are the true resource of Europe. European people are marching towards the insurrection. Only who is obscured by dogmatism is unable to see this. What has happened in London and Rome in december 2010, what has happened in Spain in May 2011, what is happening every day in Athens is only the beginning of an expanding wave, that will necessarily radicalize.

Our task is not to organize insurrectiom. Insurrection is in the things.

Our task is to arouse the consciousness of precarious cognitarians, to organize their political collaboration, to make possible the autonomy of their activity outside the market rules.

For this we need to mobilise resources: money, spaces, technical tools.

Insurrection is the process that will give to the precarious cognitariat what we need.


originally published on Franco Berardi’s Facebook page