“A collective uprising is first of all a physical, affective, and erotic phenomenon” (5/5)

Here is the fifth and final part of my translation of Amador Fernández-Savater’s interview with Bifo. You can find the previous four parts here:

part 1

part 2

part 3

part 4


10. Between 2010 and 2013 massive movements emerged in England, Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, Greece, the United States, later in Brazil and Turkey, now in China…The characteristics of the objects of these mobilizations have been very different, as different as the political and cultural conditions of the different contexts. But you consider this series of uprisings to form part of the same wave. Why?

Bifo: I think so, because all of those mobilizations, including those produced in Arab cities, had from the beginning a same will to reactivate solidarity and the physical dimension of social communication. The rebellious workers and students intended in the first place to create disjunctive conditions directly, physically, and territorially, in order to escape their virtual alienation.

Why occupy a plaza, a street, or a territory when we know very well that no political power resides there, and that the financial system is not localized in a territorial dimension? Because the first thing that the precarious workers need is the reactivation of an affective and territorial dimension that permits them to reconstruct the emotional conditions of solidarity. It seems to me that this is the sense-making of the plazas, the encampments. A collective revolution is first of all a physical, affective, and erotic phenomenon: the experience of an affective complicity between bodies.

11. How is such a politics “organized,” through forms, institutions, etc.?

Bifo: I like to use the image of the mantra: the mantra is a harmonious collective breath, a metaphor of that which in the political dimension we call solidarity. The organization that I imagine does not pass between representative democracy, nor through a centralized organization like the Leninist party was during the 20th century. It is more akin to the rhythm of a mantra.

12. How do you evaluate the wave of movements that emerged in 2011? What potentials and limits were encountered?

Bifo: The balance is ambivalent. On one hand, we can say the movements in the squares did not slow financial exploitation, the imposition of debt, or the destruction and privatization of the commons. In that sense, we can speak of failure. But I believe that we have to value them from a broader, evolutionary point of view. These movements have revealed the affective dimension of the social. It is the necessary condition to undertake a movement of recomposition of common knowledge – scientific, technical, affective, organizational – outside of capitalist exploitation.

13. How do you think an alliance between the digital and “physical” dimensions of rebellion is possible?

Bifo: New technologies had been and continue to become tools for the development of community, although only virtually, and for the coordination of initiatives and actions at a global level. But only the physical and territorial presence can activate empathy and solidarity. At the same time, in terms of efficacy, the most successful actions in terms of sabotage of imperial domination have been actions like those of Assange and Snowden, which develop in the digital dimension. Subversive action is very effective when it develops in the digital sphere, when it infiltrates the algorithmic dimension of capitalism.

14. In Spain, various apparatuses more or less partisan arising from 15M point toward “taking political power” in its different scales (national, regional, municipal), taking advantage of a vacancy created by the radical delegitimization of the party system installed in the Spanish Transition. What role do you believe or imagine the state institutions can have in the promotion of social change that your project in the book?

Bifo: New political organizations, like Syriza or Podemos, can be very useful for the workers’ resistance, for the improvement of conditions of poverty and social disintegration. But I do not believe that they can do much against financial power, nor to favor the liberation of intellectual energies for work outside capitalist domination.

Obama’s phrase “yes, we can” was an exorcism against the impotency of politics and the will to a program. The fact that the highest global authority said “we can” is the sign what something is not working, a sentiment of impotence that politics cannot admit but is evident. Six year after his first victory, Obama has to recognize that he can not leave Bush’s “infinite war,” that he cannot stop the destruction of the environment, that he can not change the tendency toward the concentration of wealth.

We cannot, that is the truth. The time of will and politics is over. We have to redirect social energy toward a dimension that is neither representative democracy or political subversion, but the imagination of new forms of the organization of knowledge, and the creation of technical and political platform for the self-organization of collective intelligence (the principal productive force of the present).

15. I believe that, for you, politics consists of an “anthropological mutation” (as Pasolini said, although he feared it). How can one think this “anthropological mutation” outside the traditional revolutionary scheme of “New Man” that has caused so many havoc in the 20th century?

Bifo: Pasolini rightly feared the anthropological mutation produced by technological and global capitalism, and his fear had good reasons. We discover in the system of homogenization and inter-individual psychic violence that he presaged the last forty years. We have to imagine an anthropological escape from the homogenizing anthropological mutation that global capitalism imposes, but an escape distinct from that of the 20th century.

The utopias of modernity were founded on the testosterone-fueled exaltation of youth. They were violent utopias and hopes (this is a disappointing last resort, consecrated to repentance). Our power is not based in juvenile momentum any more, masculine aggressiveness, battle, victory or violent appropriation, but in the joy of cooperation and sharing. Restructuring the field of desire, changing the order of our expectations, redefining wealth, is perhaps the most of important of social transformations.

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