The following quotations are from:
The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends
“1. An Egyptian writer, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, wrote in the now-distant days of the first Tahrir square: ‘The people I saw on Tahrir Square were new Egyptians, having nothing in common with the Egyptians I was used to dealing with every day. It was as if the revolution had created Egyptians in a higher form… as if the revolution had not only rid Egyptians of their fear but also cured them of their social defects… Tahrir Square became like the Paris Commune. The authority of the regime collapsed and the authority of the people took its place. Committees were formed everywhere, committees to clean the square and committees to set up lavatories and washrooms. Volunteer doctors set up a field hospital.’ In Oakland, the Occupy movement held Oscar Grant Plaza as the ‘Oakland Commune.’ In Istanbul, no better name could be found, already in the first days, than the ‘Taksim Commune’ for what was coming into existence there. A way of saying that revolution was not something that Taksim might lead to one day, but its existence in actuality, its ebullient immanence, here and now. In September, 2012, a poor Nile Delta village, Tahsin, 3,000 inhabitants, declared its independence from the Egyptian state. ‘We will no longer pay tases. We will no longer pay for schools. We’ll operate our own schools. We’ll collect our garbage and maintain our roads ourselves. And if an employee of the state sets foot in the village for any other purpose than to help us, we’ll throw him out,’ they said. In the high mountains of Oaxaca, at the beginning of the 1980’s, Indians trying to formulate what was distinctive about their form of life arrived at the notion of ‘communality.’ For these Indians, living communally is both what sums up their traditional basis and what they oppose to capitalism, with an ‘ethical reconstruction of the peoples’ in view. In recent years, we’ve even seen the PKK convert to the libertarian communalism of Murray Bookchin, and project themselves into a federation of communes instead of the construction of a Kurdish state.
Not only is the commune not dead, it is coming back. And it’s not returning by chance. It’s returning at the very moment the state and the bourgeoisie are fading as historical forces. Now, it was precisely the emergence of the state and the bourgeoisie that put an end to the movement of communalist revolt that shook France from the 11th to the 13th century. The commune, then, is no the chartered town, it’s not a collectivity endowed with institutions of self-government. While it can happen that the commune is recognized by this or that authority, generally after battles are fought, it doesn’t need that in order to exist. It doesn’t always even have a charter, and when there is one, it is quite rare for the latter to stipulate any political or administrative structure. It can have a mayor, or not. What constitutes the commune is the mutual oath sworn by the inhabitants of a city, a town, or a rural area to stand together as a body. In the chaos of 11th century France, the commune involved pledging assistance to one another, committing to look out for each other and defend each other against any oppressor. It was literally a conjuration, and such conjurations would have remained an honorable thing if royal jurists had not set about in the following centuries linking them to the idea of conspiracy as a way of getting rid of them. A forgotten historian puts it in a nutshell: ‘Without association through oath there would have been no commune, and that association was sufficient for there to be a commune. Commune had exactly the same meaning as common oath.’ So a commune was a pact to face the world together. It meant relying on one’s own shared powers as the source of one’s freedom. What was aimed for in this case was not an entity; it was a qualitative bond, and a way of being in the world. A pact, then, that couldn’t help but implode with the bourgeoisie’s monopolization of all the offices and all the wealth, and with the deployment of state hegemony. It was this long-lost, originary, medieval meaning of commune that was somehow rediscovered by the federalist faction of the Paris Commune in 1871. And it’s this same meaning that reemerges periodically since that time, from the movement of soviet communes—which was the forgotten spearhead of the Bolshevik revolution till the Stalinist bureaucracy decided to liquidate it—to Huey P. Newton’s ‘revolutionary intercommunalism’ by way of the Kwangju Commune of 1980 in South Korea. Declaring the Commune is always to knock historical time off its hingers, to punch a hole in the hopeless continuum of submissions, the senseless succession of days, the dreary struggle of each one to go on living. Declaring the Commune is agreeing to bond with others, where nothing will be like it was before…
Gustav Landauer wrote: ‘In the communal life of men there is only one structure appropriate to the space: the commune and the confederation of communes. The borders of the commune make good sense (which naturally excludes disproportion, but not unreason or awkwardness in isolated cases): they delimit a place that ends where it ends.’ That a political reality can be essentially spatial presents something of a challenge to the modern understanding. First, because we’ve been accustomed to think of politics as that abstract dimension where positions and discourses are distributed, from left to right. Second, because we inherit from modernity a conception of space as an empty, uniform, and measurable expanse where objects, creatures, or landscapes occupy their place. But the sensible world does not present itself to us in that way. Space is not neutral. Things and beings don’t occupy a geometric position, but affect it and are affected by it. Places are irreducibly loaded—with stories, impressions, emotions. A commune engages the world from its own place. Neither an administrative entity nor a simple geometric unit of space, it expresses rather a certain degree of shared experience inscribed territorially. In this way, it adds a depth to the territory which no survey agency can ever represent on any of its maps. By its very existence, it disrupts the reasoned gridding of space, it condemns any vague attempt at ‘territorial planning’ to failure.
The territory of the commune is physical because it is existential. Whereas the forces of occupation conceive of space as a continuous network of clusters to which different branding operations lend the appearance of diversity, the commune regards itself first of all as a concrete, situated rupture with the overall order of the world. The commune inhabits its territory—that is, it shapes it just as much as the territory offers it a dwelling place and a shelter. It forms the necessary ties there, it thrives on its memory, it finds a meaning, a language, in the land. In Mexico, an Indian anthropologist, one of those defending the ‘communality’ as the guiding principle of their politics, says in reference to the Ayuujk communes: ‘The community is described as something physical, with the words ‘najx’ and ‘kajp’ (‘najx,’ the land, and ‘kajp,’ the people). ‘Najx,’ the land, makes possible the existence of ‘kajp,’ the people, but the people, ‘kajp,’ give meaning to the land, ‘najx.’ An intensely inhabited territory ends up becoming an affirmation in itself.” 197-202
“The need to autonomize from infrastructures of power is not due to an ageless aspiration to autarky, but has to do with the political freedom that is won in that way. The commune is not preoccupied with its self-definition: what it means to show by materializing is not its identity, not the idea it has of itself, but the idea it has of life.” 204
“So the paradox facing the commune is the following: it must at the same time succeed in giving some consistency to a territorial reality at odds with the ‘general order,’ and it must give rise to, establish links between, local consistencies.” 205