Se encuentra usted aquí

Reality of revolt, reasons of utopia

Versión para impresiónVersión para impresiónVersión PDFVersión PDF

There is no party without any surprise guest, although the former is a pantomime and the second one that an undesirable that nobody is waiting for because everyone is afraid. The Spanish transition would not be an exception, and so it was as the post-Franco intrigue was impaired by a new cycle of proletarian struggles known as working class autonomy, organized in assemblies with recallable delegates and concrete demands responding to real problems, and which in themselves, often escaped from the factory and the economy to spread to the neighborhood and disturb life. These features, and the spontaneity with which they manifest themselves explain the almost revolutionary power of the worker's autonomy in the context of that “second assault of the proletariat” which showed it cards in Paris, Portugal and Italy, as it did in Vitoria or in the port of Barcelona. That such an assault was given in a second even larger existential context, the so-called counter culture that explored new ways of life through drugs, sexuality, music or travel, justified without doubt that many of their players spoke of “living utopia”, even if it may seem today that that lifestyle was more a preview of the current social and individual breakdown than its challenging.

In any case, unfairly or not, this reflection on the bitter fate that time has in store for emancipative movements helps us to gauge not only that our time is no longer the same as in the case of working class autonomy, but has converted itself into its dark side. Indeed, the economic and technological changes that capitalism has experienced for over 30 years, with the automation, tertiarization and the outsourcing of many industries to the Third World, has led to the immediate consequence that we cannot speak seriously about the working class in a workerist sense when it only constitutes 20 or 30% of the employed population in Western countries. It is true that, in order to compensate, society as a whole has reached the deepest proletarianized depths of wage labor, and the situation of many “white collars” of the tertiary sector is not much better than traditional workers' of the large factory, but this transfer of cannon food from one sector to another has not been accompanied by the consolidation of working class consciousness, or the rebuilding of a new one more adapted to these confused times. Without discussing what is being meant by class and by conscience, it is clear that the standardization of customs through the media and mass consumption, the viral spreading of the ideology of the middle class to which all claim to belong, the calculated ravages of urban development, the fascination with the poisoned but dazzling apples of technology ... have formed an indefinite social magma in which the class actually degenerate into mass, and the individual into a pale reflection of the screen, with barely any critical awareness, will or own desires. This clinical frame may be exaggerated and would admit some nuances and other interpretations, but one must accept that these spiritual and mental disasters do exist, even if only to combat their existence on behalf of other instances equally real, with some chance of success .

On the other hand, perhaps the same revolutionary project has lost its time: the rapid process of accelerated extinction of the material and biological basis of life, ravaged by pollution, the chemical or transgenetic poisons, makes an after capitalism increasingly unlikely, unless it is a worse one. And even if it arrived on time, as we believe (and need to believe) that it still will, it would come with empty hands and without route maps in the pack, because the great messianic hope has broken down that confided that the morning following the Great Evening would implicate the reappropriation of the capitalist production system by those who did operated it and created its wealth, so that it would be a happy child's play to create a happy world in which material scarcity would be abolished together with exploitation and injustice. But today we know that such a plan of action, however tempting it may be, is neither possible nor indeed adequate. No, a free society cannot retrieve the capitalist techno-industrial fabric, or very little of it, because it is not affordable nor feasible from the point of view of natural resources (especially energy) and the least ecological balance, because it is not necessary since it largely corresponds to false needs, and because it is not desirable neither, without needing to decide now whether some of the technology could be part of the rebuilding of a new production model to live up to human beings.

We found a similar clean table if we turn to those faculties by which some revolutionary movements have bet so much, imagination, creativity, desire, spontaneity, poetry in short, understanding it not as a literary discipline but as a poetry by other means that is being experienced directly in everyday life. These instances, twigs and roots of radical subjectivity that is able to rebel regardless of its economic situation, and that forms a bastion of freedom of the individual, are being rolled over by an economy transformed in a factory of bad dreams. Indeed, the mediatic massage of immaterial TV unreality, logical extension of the foundational fantasy of material goods, tends to destroy our inner world and the delicate and the subtle relationships that it has with the outside, strengthening both. On the other hand, the most irreducible desires, the darkest areas of the unconscious that are not being affected, or not entirely by the black tide of the spectacle, become biological reserves of the imaginary, scrutinized, categorized and exploited by the economy looking for new clients. This dual process is also a disaster because it creates a very real sense of absolute and suffocating confinement to the point of producing the paradox that in a social order that is synonymous with programmed nightmare, the person who dares to dream and desire, to continue dreaming and desiring the impossible and the absolute, because the absolute and the impossible do exist, will be accused of being an agent of domination or of useful idiot. And yet, “capitalism lacks dreams, utopia, hope. ... and without dreams there is no revolt” (1), in other words, without dreams there is no revolt than can grow and mature into revolution.

It is true that the mortal danger that hangs over the imagination and sensibility touches the nature of the human being as a whole, which has led to the analysis that asserts, with good reason, that the total dispossession (although we do not believe all of it) of the individual, has resulted from an almost apocalyptic vision that says that it is not just a mass of exploited without class consciousness that has been has (mis)born, but a flock of subhuman never seen before in the History of Infamy. Children and grandchildren of technical indoctrination, lacking rationality, sensibility and will, with a tragic lack of knowledge, skills and practical learning as what they have been taught is either worthless or harmful or both at once, in short with a character corrupted by hedonism, laziness, drugs, the bottle, the wave of pornography that has already invaded us and this strange bait of happiness that is being thrown by the market. Well, besides the fact that we do not know where they those lucky lazy people hide in a country where working hours turn back to the old and good and virtuous habits of the nineteenth century while the month of paid vacation takes leave of his fans without saying a word, the problem of establishing a so categorical balance sheet over such a mob of “insignificant and degraded subjects” lies in subsequently considering it as an accomplice of power and of its encroachments, since it ultimately supports it and deserves everything that happens to it. As a logical conclusion, the social revolts and outbursts that can spread here and there are completely negligible, as they are either moderate and / or corporatist ones and speak the language of reformism or of power, or are nihilist ones and speak the language of the decomposition of power, or are directly absurd and guilty ... of speaking the language of power turned mad. In any case, they never are of interest, not as revolutionary upheavals but as mere moments of struggle or conflict, and are always counterproductive because they support the order they pretend to contest.

Ironies aside, the resulting picture is dark and allergic to nuance but unfortunately plausible, given the current climate of impudent scandal of triumphant capital in relation to the unprecedented servitude of work. Leaving aside whether the crisis is a settling of accounts among international capitalists, or a settling of scores between the Capitalist International and labor blackmailed to accept further cuts in their rights and living standards while the bar is free and well served for the financial sector, whether systemic or even terminal, or severe but temporary ... the truth is that, as observed by Etcétera, “the paralysis with whom the situation is being faced by those who have already begun to suffer the immediate consequences of collapse of the capitalist economy” surprises (2). But it doesn't matter what radical criticism says, the official journalists take upon to spread the good news, mocking the anti-globalization movement that is deflating when it is being most needed (3), or predicting that the “fall of welfare” will be received with resignation as the ’mileurist’ is one that “has stopped having an age, earns a thousand Euros, is not saving, lives a day at a time of sporadic jobs or subsidies and, despite everything, does not rebel” (4). It is fear, and the conviction of the defeat, and individual and collective impotence, and the uncertainties and threats of overflowing population and ecological collapse that escape the understanding and the capacity of reaction from the side of men and women who are alone, it is this absence of resistance and even more options, it is the conviction to be living a civilizatory and even cosmic end of regime, which has generated the obsessive idea and the collective myth of doomsday that seeps from every depressed and zombified pore of popular culture, the terrible but avenging Apocalypse that certain revolutionaries are lacking and are sadly craving for.

*     *     *

Before this desolating picture, those who make up their minds to resist and, if possible, lay the foundations for a world liberated from the economy look at each other and ask themselves the old questions. In addition to using the convenient expedient of blaming the people, one should perhaps consider the personal shortcomings of those of us who participate, together with the others by the way, in the social struggle against domination. To begin with, and as stated already in 1948 in a as desperate and ominous situation or more than today, “that end of the world is not ours” (5). It is not, first because there is no reason to hurry, since capitalism has shown enough survival instinct to already take it for dead, although it has stuck in his chest stakes so sharp as the oil depletion. Second, because nothing guarantees that its collapse would open the revolutionary door to a free society, being much more likely that the domination would impose, blowing the whistle, a new form of oppression, probably under the guise of “environmentalism” or “climate emergency”, and supported by the imperatives of austerity, work and material shortages, for the oppressed of course, in the context of a new ideology, where, who knows, the power would return to the critical discourse that insists on the virtues of sacrifice , of effort and dignified poverty, just as it did when defending the passions and pleasure. Thirdly, and this is what matters most now, because the metaphysics of the catastrophe that ensures that only it is capable of moving us, breaking suspended hibernation and forcing us the hard way to act and get the best out of us because there is no other way, even it is to a large extent true as a many specific cases show, it is basically abominable because it says very little and very bad about the concept of human being that we have and about the world that we desire, even if it is only so the first one is being revealed and the second one being activated. This politics of the worst, which comes to envy the plight of the Serbs bombed by NATO or the Haitians killed by the earthquake because it is so that they “rediscover the values of solidarity and the traditional techniques and knowledge”, it is even more grotesque when it is being compared with the confidence that other revolutionaries, more generous and more certain of the validity and strength of their ideas, put in people who apparently also were anodyne and gray, as these seamstresses and those shop-assistants crushed by routine whom Kropotkin viewed as becoming fairies of spontaneity and wizards of improvisation. Therefore, if the revolution has to come from such a misanthrope catastrophism, we'll have to say that neither this revolution is ours. That we prefer to conclude that “given the potentially cataclysmic state of the crisis of the world, we proudly declare our revolutionary optimism and defiantly put all our hopes in poetry and the marvelous.” (6) We accept that this optimism is also an act of faith without hope because it assumed the organization of revolutionary pessimism that is now essential, but not and never a simple voluntarist illusion because it has a reality on which to lean, and reasons that feed it.

On the other hand, we should wonder whether this scenario is so unprecedented, if not crushed masses have existed before that still had springs to rise from its own putrefaction, as in the case of the British working class crushed and degraded by the evil clip of the false charity of the old Speenhamland system and the rapacity of the new labor market, reduced to less than zero according to Polanyi but with enough guts to show “that there were still individuals within the people able to dream their own dreams and lived up to the circumstances in a society that had lost its human form”(7). Secondly, we should ask ourselves, in the case that indeed everything is broken down without attenuating means, how it is possible, of what stuff are made, from where have then come the critics and revolutionaries and those who say that they resist capitalism when it is supposed that we all live (and some even have been born) after the sinking and have been subjected to the same radioactive effects of the techno-industrial fitting-out. Perhaps we would have to admit, or at least consider as a working hypothesis, that the dispossession and dehumanization of the mass and of the individual that (mis)forms it, yes, but only as a process in progress that has not yet ended, in such a way that the oceanic contempt for human quality and the ultimate capacity of material autonomy of the “citizens” has an unexpected and harmful contraindication, namely that it strangely coincides with the nihilistic psychological and emotional impairment of the person that promotes power, that self-depreciation of contemporary man that reduces him to the state of invalidity dreamed by the economy in which it is impossible to solve the least basic needs without resorting to the market and wage labor. Here the radical critique cannot comply with the gained ground, and while it is still verifying and fustigating “the double dispossession of the individuals” who accept ”the existing situation” and have lost “the material basis which would allowed a radical change towards forms organization different from today's”(8), one should ask and ask oneself, and investigate experimentally if needed, if ,in spite of everything, it is so true and so sure that people do not retain any skill, any knowledge, any useful capacity in their work and in some of their hobbies and in that so often colonized leisure time, if all this could not be used in another context, including and especially in emergency contexts, to manage and get out of it with certain guarantees both of autonomous action and of success. We know what they want us to believe: that no, that outside the tutelage of the State and the mediation of money there is no possible salvation but infinite terror. And yet, experiences such as the spontaneous popular reaction to the Prestige oil disaster, or the improvised mutual aid by anonymous and common people in flooded New Orleans while the mute paralyzed government and capital fled terrified (9), should deny the curse, or help reconsidering it in its right proportions.

In this sense, the apathy of the population is to a large extent undoubtedly a unfortunately real fact, but concluding that it is always like that would be like painting a portrait of the general submission that, like Dorian Gray's, only succeed in reflecting the horrific scars of servility and unconsciousness, and never the beauty of the defiant gesture that we sometimes allow ourselves, or of the living asserting itself despite everything and against everything. Because, unless we believe the lies of ideology, capitalism continues to generate contradictions so evident that it is unnecessary to discuss whether there still exist inequality, because class-conscious or not, the class struggle continues, even with different names and with other means, some, indeed, as undesirable and heartbreaking as the suicides of employees of France Telecom, terrible waste of rage and anger, failure, despair that interpellates us all. But there are times when something, an imperialist war, or an environmental disaster, or an intolerably cynical humiliation from the government of the day, or just any emotional and affective castration that yesterday seemed minor and that power (and perhaps ourselves) assumed to be without importance, becomes the straw that breaks the glass, causing the outbreak of the conflict. For there is life beyond that usual role of enthusiastic citizen and gullible consumer whose plotinian emanation, commodity fetishism and the myth of the machine at all times penetrate all aspects of the human being, from the absolute center of the sheer alienation of wage labor that produces useless things to the most insignificant daily habit or distraction. However, this penetration that causes so many damage, doesn't fill it all and at all times, which explains the sudden mood swings that sometimes (rarely) occur in the domesticated population (but not always or fully), and the wells of black rage and the underground springs of real life (or its nostalgia) that feed them, these always insufficient, always necessary atavistic reserves.

If there is an example of atavistic reserve, that would be the unconscious mental jungle where multiform imagination is ambushed, and it goes without saying that even there, and how, the bulldozers of the spectacle have arrived. But neither is the destruction total, and all our desires and emotions haven't yet been transformed into mere clones of their images, as there are gray areas irreducible and suffocating in which the beast cannot enter, especially those where the blinding experience of death manifests itself. Yet this is not enough for us nor pleases us, and from the forest we want to go and conquer both countryside and cities, because there is a war for the social imaginary and the reappropriation of the powers of the spirit that reverberates in others, and especially the battle that is being held for the reconstitution of the idea of community. And precisely this and other struggles lead us back to the starting point: that the problem of worker and non worker autonomy lies on the need to stand not only against the Party, the Union and the democratic farce, but against the present organization of existence as a whole: the reconquest, among other things, of autonomy in terms of the practical means of material subsistence outside capitalism, on the level of political action that needs to rediscover the possibility and even the legitimacy of the conflict, of the use of force and mass violence, and yes, on the level of creative autonomy that has so much to do with mentality and collective myths. For this effort we count on the reality of the revolt, and the reasons for utopia.

*     *     *

To begin, we confess without shame that we are supporters of revolt for revolt's sake, even of the seemingly most irrational ones (and all are in the eyes of rational power), although we must say not all. But in a social context where all minimally angry protest, where any conflict that breaks a single plate, all gesture of real rebellion is not only illegal but has been internalized as inconceivable, so that violence, as has happened in the case of France Telecom, can in any case only be turned against oneself, revolt has a first virtue, which is to exist, and a second teaching one, as the “practice of disobedience” and the experience of one's own strength often unleash unexpected consequences and give gratifications that affect the rest of life social (10). But far from being content with this, revolt often puts momentous but confused issues on the table that plague our time, and that challenge (in part) the anemia in which we are submerged. Some examples, different but not distant in spirit, are sufficient to attest to that.

The equivocal but very significant event that shook Alcorcón, a former industrial town on the outskirts of Madrid, might be remembered. In January 2007, a banal fight caused a dubious revolt of youth against alleged latin-kings, which resulted in a clash with the riot police that did not lack the support of the neighborhood to the rebels. The first readings about the event were inevitably negative as it was interpreted as another sign of the breakdown of the old working class neighborhoods, or as an alarming example of fascist infiltration, and in fact both the symptom and the danger exist and are very real. And yet, its participants reacted passionately explaining that they had risen against what they perceived as a threat of mafia feudalization of a neighborhood that still had “identity ties deeply linked to a diffuse working-class neighborhood collective imaginary, a class identity that has its shortcomings, which still doesn't establish strong bonds of daily solidarity, but which nevertheless at specific times succeeds in rising above everyday social atomization and bursts forth with a force capable of breaking out a crowd of youths and grown ups that test the game of cat and mouse with the police” (11). Is this a delusion or does it contain some grain of truth, or is there some truth hidden in the delusion? Perhaps there are still signs of life behind the curtain or maybe it hasn't fallen totally, and it isn't impossible that those who live there are able to provide affection and complicity with their streets and with their peers, even if only because they were the stage of their childhood and love, the only homelands. But even presuming that no, that every place is already a non-place and its inhabitants zombies or robots, the explanations of the youths from Alcorcón and the worried comments of many other who saw themselves in them point to something that should not be neglected: that talking about “working-class neighborhood”, of “clearly leftist and fighting people”, perhaps it was being spoken through the mythical mouth of what could have been but didn't happen, but by doing so it was also being wished to revive it, as it is a principle of resistance on the level of consciousness and of the imaginary. And these must have some connection with practical action when domination seeks above all to stifle that memory and that myth, as it was in the name of that more or less real and more or less mythical neighborhood that it was worth going out to face the mafias, the fascists and the police.

If there is a prime example of a non-place abandoned to its fate, this is undoubtedly the French banlieue, and it is there a formidable revolt broke out in the fall of 2005 that had all the elements to make people dislike it. It is so that it was led by these young barbarians who emanate the unmistakable smell of lynching mob as a result of the selfishness and violence of the system, congenital idiots who cannot think nor talk, drug addicts, rappers and sexists, and on top (or as a logical consequence of the previous), puppets manipulated by Sarkozy, because nobody leaves as well known without the permission of the competent authority that cooks up in the shadow each and every one of the emotions of the populace… Unfortunately some banlieusards respond strictly to this robot-portrait, and murky events as the assaults on young anti-CPE demonstrators in 2006 only add more confusion. And yet not all are so (12), nor are they so in every moment of their life, especially those who can free themselves from their misery through direct confrontation with the power that creates it. Maybe that is the reason why the revolt was so important: because it demonstrated that there are still people who do not tolerate nor suffer wrongs with impunity, that they burst sooner or later for the simple reason that they are alive, and that silence and meekness is worse, much, much worse than the devastation of the riots. Of course, the revolt had flaws and contradictions, but also features of insight and awareness, such as the negativity so blithely dismissed as “nihilistic” when it most of the time is healthy disillusion and refusal to negotiate, something that anyone could have understood if one had deigned to read seriously what the rebels themselves explained (13). On this point and other similar ones, one can read (or reread) The bad times will burn [declaration of the Madrid surrealist Group) which like one of its conclusion could help to close this brief reflection on the meaning of the banlieusarde revolt: “We will not fall into the adulation and the temptation to say that these words and actions constitute the only possible revolutionary program. Quite the contrary, it may be the most wrong, precisely because it is the most radical. But the fact is that today's social war is such: ugly, vulgar, equivocal, convulsive and episodic, burdened by thousand adulterations of the abject spirit of our times, and surely doomed to fail again and again. However (...) it is the social war that we have to cope with in the worst of all possible worlds because it is the one that gives and will give us the fewest options regarding its hypothetic overcoming”.

But to defend revolt because it shows that the resistance continues is not and could never be enough for us. Salvation through riot is as improbable as the one that would descend from heaven, and if rebellion, being necessary and even essential, ever goes beyond that, it ends freezing in a finally sterile mechanical ritual. We might recall here that abject definition of the ’mileurist’ who “earns a thousand Euros, don't save, lives day by day of odd jobs or subsidies and, despite everything, does not rebel”, and reflect on something that a quick lecture leaves unnoticed: that in this article written in May 2009, the astute journalist didn't say one single word about the Greek revolt of Christmas that year, despite the Homeric proportions that it reached and the fear that it spread among the political offices and the economic and mediatic laboratories... or precisely because of that. It is that the triumph of capitalism is primarily the triumph of the myth of his invulnerability, and thus are revolts being silenced, using the official version that makes them incomprehensible with the argument of irrationality, as is it discourages, obstructs and even prevents the efforts of those who dare to pick up the reins of their lives outside the economy, bureaucratizing the self-construction of dwellings or prohibiting the planting and the exchange of unregistered seeds. But we must go further and acknowledge that the crisis of the economy of revolutionary desire follows and even precedes the economic crisis, and Greece is also the best example.

We will not insist on the moral legitimacy of the insurrection provoked by the police murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, neither on its depth (occupations of public buildings, mass meetings, free dialogue and unprecedented union among strangers), especially when we witness it challenging resurgence and who knows what else. But – and I apologize for speaking so on the spot that I'll surely will have burned my hands when this text is being published, having dared to make irremediably premature judgments – it seems that the revolt never attempted to take the huge step of seizing the means of production, transportation and communication to meet the daily needs even in a precarious and necessarily imperfect way, even if only for one day, even if only in a single neighborhood. Of course this step is the most difficult one and had been immediately repressed by the army, but the fact is that wasn't taken, and perhaps this is what explains the lack of international contagion of the revolt, and even the relative apathy with which the Greek population for several months has received the utmost old style adjustment plans of the IMF, so surprising after the volcano of last year. Now the crater appears to be revived, and in fact the lava never dried although the intensity of the eruption decreased, but apart from the fact that these new black shoots are giving rise to new far-reaching questions (for this revolt and for the one that we wish will explode into a future that is now) that only time will answer (14), it would be appropriate to question oneself about these dips. Of course, when the bureaucrat in turn experiences an ideological lapses and admits that the collapse of the Greek economy had been cooked on low fire so that the sacrifices would fall like ripe fruit “without having to impose them hastily” because “the people would not have accepted them earlier; one needed to be careful not to have a revolution breaking out” (15), is easy to suspect that the revolutionary gymnastics of revolt was provoked in order to exhaust the most combative sectors of the population and scare the rest before applying your horse cure. And yet, maybe this time might be the contrary, that it was the lack of practical alternatives and the mere exercise of violence of resistance that have shown, much to its regret, that capitalism indeed will not be reshaped but it will neither be replaced, and that no choice remains but to resign or retrench (and it is already much) in a rearguard combat in order to save as much furniture as possible. Because people do have something more to lose than their chains, if only because the survival instinct is stubborn, and need more than anger to go out and run any risk; it need, to start with, everything, that is, a transformation project that apart from libertarian, reasonable, realistic, non-ideological, etc, indeed drives to dream. As confirmed by a protagonist reflecting upon the depletion of the purely destructive phase of the revolt, “there is little possibility to extend the creative phase (...) there is no project and it is something that I always appreciated as positive, but if there is no project, something should be invented” (16), and it is that something we are talking about when we say the word utopia.

*     *     *

Utopia? To start with so that bureaucrats don't worry, we agree with the Grupo Salvaje that “it isn't about any abstract utopia neither to propose a closed ideological agenda, but to open a debate that has already been delayed too long on what want for the post-capitalist future and what means, possibilities and expectations we have to reach it.” This view is expressed in one of the best texts on the Greek revolt, “The Return of Prometheus”, in which some of its shortcomings in relation to this “(huge) jump towards a life that surpasses and bury capitalism and the State” are being listed. But the sad thing is that these limits are self imposed. It is enough for this issue to be discussed in any debate for the allergy against utopia to break out, including the mere outline of a different society, may it be the badly reputed traditional utopian socialism, the refusal to fall into the ideology, or the disappointment of the utopias of the past turned into hell or recuperated by totalitarian domination. All this may be true, but no less so is the paradox of capitalism, although badly wounded, continuing to present itself as the only possible reality, and worse, as the only horizon of future that remains to this species and the planet that supports it. The current inability to develop non-utopian worlds does not demonstrates the failure of utopia but the triumph of the capitalist one, just as the general inability to reason is not the proof that reason is unnecessary, but the fact that economy does not need it. In this regard, we dare say that this castrating self-censorship may be understandable as prudent, but that taken to extremes and consecrated in dogma of thought it is an error, mental inertia, even counterrevolutionary.

But to defend utopia doesn't mean to ignore one's enemies, or to refuse to accept what is reasonable in their criticism which despite being legion, and not showing signs of moderating its geometric growth, can be summarized in three main arguments: utopia is the original sin of pushing the limits of human nature by relying on technology in order to realize its science fiction fantasies, it promises a perfect and impossible happiness that would soften and pervert man, and it is synonymous with mystical passivity and harmless. Because of all this, utopia has ended, whether one likes it or not, working for domination, paving the way for it, justifying its delusions and advertising its novelties. Indeed, “in old as well as in new utopias, the human as such, is being excluded: greed for happiness eliminates it” because they “are not possible, but above all are not desirable because they present the human being as it isn't and as it couldn't and shouldn't be”. Besides, “utopia, the revolutionary myth, the promise of happiness, belong only to the illusory, to the imaginary; even more, in the imagination and the illusion of the Rulers”. Therefore Utopia should be denounced “as a poisoned ointment with which the rich and powerful heal the wounds of their victims of obedience and of their victims of work.” Utopia, in short, “belongs from now on to domination” (17).

Since the general condemnation of the utopias of the past pretends to delegitimize any utopian desire in present days, the first thing that should be done is to specify which utopia is being attacked and how it manifested itself in time and space, what its impact and influence has been within the workers and other revolutionaries, if it was fought, ignored, or recuperated, and what is alive and what is dead in it, instead of creating an abstract and ahistorical pushing ball stuffed with prejudice. Resorting to a picturesque interpretation of a passage in the Odyssey as does Pedro García Olivo taking shelter behind some famous names may be a suggestive literary game or not, but moving from the metaphor to the proof by submitting his lucubrations on the singing ability of the sirens as a final demonstration, contribute absolutely nothing neither to the reflection about utopia, nor to its relations with myth and ideology, a topic of great interest and therefore particularly complex. To liquidate the extremely rich utopian tradition with some passing and insubstantial mentions of Moro, Campanella, of the 19th century machinist “paleo-utopias” and of the “childlike and ’vilificantes’ utopias” of the 60's of the last century as does Felix Rodriguez, confusing in the most sultry way utopian thinking with citizenship reformism in order to furtively paste his own (otherwise estimable) utopia with another name, is playing with marked cards to always win every hand. For all this, we say to begin with, and only to begin with, in order to narrow the discussion, that it is essential to discard the reduction of utopia as a simple literary genre as worthless (18); we leave aside the etymological and philosophical disquisition on the word utopia, as well as their similarities and differences with dystopia and ucronia, aspects of great interest but secondary to the issue concerned here (19); that the classical utopias of More and Campanella neither are our references, even if they also have inspirational power and a larger historical influence than what is believed, that, finally, the utopias that deserve our respect are those who wished and were able to be part of the theoretical debates and the concrete struggles of the era in which they arose, such as the millennarists of the Middle Ages and of the fifteenth century, or especially (and I will focus on them for practical reasons) the various currents of utopian socialism, the libertarian utopias and the movements which in the twentieth century took up the legacy of the romantic protest, the protest, setting poetry in the heart of their concerns and demands. It is from a reflection on the real lights and shadows of their thought and action, and not on a pour la cause conveniently distorted image, that one can try, and I say try, answer their criticisms.

The first one is the most correct one. Indeed, both the utopian socialists (especially Saint-Simon, Bellamy and Owen, although the latter retracted himself later on) and the Situationist International have an excessive and naive confidence in the liberating possibilities of the machine, which we cannot share anymore today. No, neither the Hacienda nor the New Babylon can or should be built but this does not exactly means a return to pure and simple medieval life, but apart from the fact that this technophile illusion was common to other scientific and rationalist families of the labor movement, there are also utopians and utopian experiments that distance themselves from machinism and that do not allow to outline such a simplistic amalgam between utopia and industrial society. The example of William Morris and his News from Nowhere should be sobering enough, unless the little sin of proposing some technical ingenuity to transport heavy objects is mortal rather than venial... But it is so that Fourier himself had great skepticism regarding “progress”, betting that an agricultural economy and society would prevail in the phalanstery, believing that farm- and seasonal work, through some technical retouch here and there and many erotic games, are the most enjoyable and rewarding for man. On the other hand, that champion of luxury, who has so often been presented as a precursor of consumer society, admitted with a shrug that certain products such as matches and metals would not be manufactured or would be scarce if the work required to obtain them wasn't exciting enough, so that the bulimic materialism of the civilized, based on possession of unnecessary things that are forgotten the day after buying them to sigh for new ones in a vicious circle of anxiety, dissatisfaction and sadness, is in the Fourierist approach diametrically opposed to requiring creative products of high quality and very durable (20).

The second criticism claims that the aberrant utopia is the shortest path to ontological and moral perdition of humanity by promising such absurd things as happiness, which as everyone knows is not made for man, or man for it. Apart from the fact that we will not enter into a discussion whether they have always existed or not, “Images of Desire”, “dream worlds”, “not-yet” messianic myths, Golden Ages, Cockaigne, Lands of Milk and Honey, Caramel Mountains, etc. that articulate the universal and timeless longing for a life at last freed from material shortages and the sentence to work, apart from the fact that there are also very strict utopians who like Cabet prescribed hard work and no tobacco, alcohol or extramarital relationships (and let us clarify that neither these utopias are ours), one should take extra care when postulating a narrow definition of human nature that rejects the part that we don't like, whatever it might be. Pleasure, desire, happiness ... are as human as sacrifice, altruism, solidarity or coexistence, furthermore, sacrifice and effort are alienation if not aimed at fulfilling the desire for happiness, and that desire is chimera and frustration if one doesn't understand that it never will be realized completely, and that it must agree live with sacrifice and effort in order to be realized up to whatever point. On the other hand, what is human nature? Is it immutable, or does it changes through history revealing new desires and needs, legitimate or illegitimate? To propose impossible dreams maybe implies to share even if only partially the hateful progressive ideology of permanent change, but to anchor ourselves in psychology and the expectancies of life of this or that epoch, refusing to even consider that new desires and new attitudes could appear, means to let oneself be imbued, even if only partially, by the no less odious myths and ideologies that defended the order of things because it always has been so and because God wanted it; nothing more natural, in fact, that the manifest inferiority of the black race in relation to the white one, of women in relation to men, of the worker in relation to the bourgeois, of the indigenous in relation to the colonizer... and today of life in relation to goods. Blinded by a justified but pathological (and very little dialectical) hatred of anything that smells Enlightenment and revolution, understood as a break of natural teleology – have we forgotten that all these outrageous frauds have the common sense of custom, the tradition sanctioned by the Church tradition and by the wisdom of the classics on their side? That demanding its abolition was also utopian, blasphemous and unnatural? Were Burke and Bonald totally right that it is impossible for man to modify even the smallest aspect of reality even if hateful, and that the slow passing of the centuries would? Are we swallowing with that and still calling ourselves anarchists? What are we talking about?

On the other hand, it is time leave other no less pernicious stupidities aside, such as the undocumented rant accusing the utopians of lack of spirituality, thus proposing a defeated and helpless man, the toy of easy pleasure and comfort, a cynical individualist. Hadn’t we agreed that one of the major flaws of the dream was that it relied too much on moral values, rather than the cold economic and social laws? And indeed, yes, Fourier dreamed of interstellar epics and believed in God because essentially he had to be smiling and approve the passions and pleasures that he had created; the young Saint-Simonian of Enfantin Prosper founded a church, and the atheist Owen was concerned above all with regenerating the character of the workers annihilated by the great transformation. It is good that we do not like these theories and that they seem futile or extravagant to us (and the saint-simonian industrial and scientific religion is it to a large extent), but it is enough to take a quick glance at his ideas to see that it is a high and generous moral and ethical sense that guides them, although fortunately, as in Fourier, it is not always the Christian moral. The same applies to work, praised by all of them as a necessary foundation of society and desirable in itself, provided that it was not being paid, would produce useful as well as beautiful things, would be made by all instead of being parasitized by the leeches of capital, would have substantially cut hours, and, finally, would be made attractive. Although the methods to realize it vary according to each author, all agree on taking work (and the economic sphere in general) as a social activity not separated from other activities and experiences, rather than pure production expedient whose only goal is profit, and it is so that these utopias are precisely not unaware of the joy of coexistence, cooperation and friendship. Did not all of them subscribed to Leroux's diatribe against the dissociation that property and competition had introduced in humanity breaking its solidarity? Wasn't a communitarian life being formed in the phalanstery, in the Icarian colony and in Owen's social nuclei? Didn't the saint-simonians in their retreat of Ménilmontant come to invent a vest that could only be fastened from the back to symbolize the essential mutual support among brothers? They loved so much the pleasure of living among peers that they couldn't wait for the revolution, and so devoted themselves to the founding of experimental communes which, like almost everything else, failed. But certainly not for lack of a collective sense they had too much of it (21). Of course, the ultimate goal of all their proposals was to achieve happiness, but when they are criticized, as is being done by a reviled Vaneigem for being based on the desire for abundance, leisure and pleasure as vital motives, it is being forgotten that for them happiness and enjoyment are not synonymous with empty hedonism but with spiritual perfection (22), and that their point of departure was a full man capable of everything, who expresses his creative potential in the various spheres of life, who is always master of himself, who uses leisure to cultivate himself in all fields of knowledge, who is dedicated to the community because the satisfaction of desires and the fulfillment of the situations depend of others, who, in short, is the exact opposite of the passive, apathetic, specialized, TV-viewing and isolated citizen who would not be his triumph, but his inverted reflection (23).

Regarding the third allegation, one never knows whether it is due to ignorance or bad faith (24). As horrified witnesses of the Jacobin and white terror and of the Napoleonic butchery, it is true that the first generation of utopians rejected class struggle and revolution to address a cross-class audience whom they intended to willingly persuade of goodness of their theories, and this humanistic optimism was subsequently inherited both by their followers and by later thinkers. Hence the appeals to “peaceful democracy”, to the generous patrons, even to the parliamentary way, which is undoubtedly the most utopian part of their thinking. That having been said, it should be clear that the romantic socialists and all those who in one way or another have followed in their steps, were in no case whatsoever passive nor accomplices of power, as they didn't only came into contact with the worker milieus where they had quite a few supporters (tens of thousands and very dedicated ones in the case of Cabet), but participated with varying degrees of success in insurrections and revolutionary processes (25). But the joke is getting more bloody if we leave the strict context of romantic socialism to take a look at another movement, the anarchist one, which may be accused of many things except for being contemplative and work for the enemy. Although and as we know the relationship between anarchism and utopian thought are very conflicting, and virtually all its currents, from Proudhon to Zo d'Axa, from Bakunin and Malatesta to Maria Luisa Berneri and Diego Abad de Santillán, have refused to anticipate the future, criticizing the totalitarian, sectarian or escapist dangers of utopia as well as the certain failure expected for the isolated experiments that they attempted to realize, is no less true that an utopian wind, an utopian anarchist dream have been present since William Godwin, even among those who refuted it or were cautious towards it. Some took a step further defending without shame the role of utopia in the struggle for emancipation, others went still further formulating utopias (26), and there is one who got astray, really living them, as Giovanni Rossi, whom, not content with issuing A socialist commune, went to Brazil to submit it to the test of facts. But the legendary vicissitudes of the Cecilia colony, and with it the myriad libertarian experiments such as L'Essai and the other French milieux libres or Monte Verità and the “new communities” encouraged by Landauer also helps us in viewing the utopians’ experiences with different eyes: the New Harmony, La Reunión, the successive Icarias, the Familistery of Guise or the amazing American phalansteries such as Brook Farm that a certain Thoreau frequented, to relate them to the anarchist ones and study them all together without neither forgetting the artistic fraternities and brotherhoods such as the Red House of Morris or the Barkenhoff founded by Heinrich Vogeler in Worpswede. The issues are the same, the causes of their failure equal, the enthusiasm and criticism generated among other workers similar, as was the hostility and obstacles that the most successful ones encountered from those in power. And today, when from remote (and even opposite) radical points of the radical spectrum there is talk again of creating communes autonomous of capital and industrial society, emphasizing the need to already get out of it without isolating oneself from social war that fight it from all sides, the disinterest nor even less the contempt for those who after all don't cease to be our pioneers, our own tradition does not hold anymore (27). And wouldn't it be better to learn from the lessons of past generations rather than start from scratch?

*     *     *

In any case, we do not pretend to idealize utopia, nor to memorize and take to literally Fourier's or Quirola's words, nor forgive their theoretical and practical mistakes, on the contrary, they can and should be criticized as the rest of the revolutionary tradition to which they belong, but may they be criticized for what they were and not because of their convenient caricature. But the problem is no longer to defend the idea or the history of utopia, rather to discuss what role this has, if any, in the today's world. In this regard, we must admit without shame or pain, as has been said once, that it is better to stop and think before repeating old supposedly radical and scandalous slogans, because in reality the agitation of desire and pleasure is now almost unusable in quality of agitation, namely as a weapon of demolition launched against a repressive bourgeois morality that almost no longer exists as such, except perhaps in very specific and calculated occasions and situations. We will also accept that there is no perfect system and shouldn't be any, and that yes, there will always be problems, production maladjustments, cost and scarcity, difficult choices and unavoidable sacrifices even in the best possible organized and most convivial society. And we will reject as always any ideology disguised as an utopia, and any ideologization of utopia that fossilize it in a closed system immune to spontaneity, to the unpredictable challenges of daily conflicts, to what appears and is being invented in collective life.

Maybe because of all these reasons, being utopians is much better than just believing in utopia, in the sense that a revolutionary project, in addition to basing itself on critical reason and on the experience of real struggles should have a certain utopian dimension to avoid as much as possible the temptation of reformism, or simply the short living time of movements that originally weren't negligible (28). This would be its role, to break the ideological blockade and the fear of desire in order to unleash the stream of libertarian lava in the icy waters of realist conformism, and after that it will be the experience itself that will make its filtering and theory its reflections. Precisely this uplifting expression of the 70, “living utopia” meant that experimentation had supremacy over any dream, and indeed, in the dialectics between the desired utopia and ’the right here and now’ that goes ahead it, the second factor is and must always be the most important, what does not override the specific weight and revolutionary importance of the former. It will be said that this is what is happening with those who make their way back to the countryside or find under the asphalt the garden and the trades of the old communal city, and it is true, but what is certain is that these projects and actions neither deplete the utopian nor monopolize the formulation of a free society.

Then, has the time come to offer the world the pluperfect and irresistible surrealist utopia? No, because neither do the surrealists have it nor does the world needs it. But maybe here and there, throughout such interventions, some drizzles of the world that we wish or that at least I wish have appeared, never as inflexible magic formulas but rather constituting coordinates or evidences in order to lead the way to their objective. A world where there is space for the gift of rapture and the excess of party that are also human, which is not to say that this is mandatory nor that this would be a mere consolation for an unlivable life; where passion, pleasure and happiness are noble goals at the reach of everyone because, as Oscar Wilde said paying a high price for it, “self-realization is the main aspiration in life, and fulfilling oneself through pleasure is more beautiful than doing so through pain” (29), assuming that hedonism is a legitimate human aspiration and deserves to win glory when it dares to be a heroic hedonism that knows and accepts that enjoyment has limits and that there are dead times, is more, that as Breton underlined in Arcane 17 about a woman who was neither half-measures, pain and death and impenetrable boredom and the black holes of the mind are but “open doors to the always resurgent need to bend, to sensitize, to beautify this cruel life.”; where subjectivity and everyday life in which the former is poured let themselves being crossed by the marvelous, defeating not only the spectacle and its provision of entertainment and prefabricated emotions, but also and especially the rational and prosaic mentality that may have heard of imagination and poetry, but which fails to recognize or appreciate them and contents itself with repeating the same pattern of leisure time that it criticizes, provided that it is conveniently varnished with the alternative label of the moment and that it is developed in its own liberated ghetto (30); where wherever there are cities –the privileged settings of such poetry– only not megacities nor conurbations, there will also have to be rural life and wildlife in much larger proportions and the reintroduction of both, as far as possible, in cities that will have to return to their limits of a century ago; where work is organized following the teachings of Fourier to make it as attractive as games are, also as far as possible and admitting that hard or upsetting work cannot be suppressed completely; where a certain level of technology, freed from capitalist malformation is being admitted, reduced to the weight that the planet can support and adapted to the management capacity and autonomy of small communities, so that the threat of shortages that apparently tormented preindustrial societies wouldn't return, and so that work, attractive or not, and how immersed in social life it may be, wouldn't absorb the whole day, leaving free time, i.e. a time that is defined only beyond the realm of necessity when the imperatives of survival have been resolved, a time both full and empty which by its troubled nature raises the riddles that also decide human fate (31).

A world, in short, that encourages the realization of these desires, or at least doesn't impede them to be established on behalf of collective sacrifice and effort which also exist. This as well as other utopias may be rejected, but not the missing link of utopia, because if those who call themselves revolutionaries do not dream of the world in which they would like (and not only could) live, what are they fighting for? Or maybe it is enough to know against what?

Text drawn from an intervention with the same title at the Seminar on workers autonomy and autonomy (March-May 2010, Madrid).


1. Grupo Marcuse, De la miseria humana en el medio publicitario, Ed. Melusina, Barcelona 2006, p. 44.

2. “Algunas sugerencias a propósito de la crisis”, C.V., Etcétera nº 45, p. 15, 2009.

3. “Capitalism is facing the first truly global recession without any alternative discourse. The anti-globalization phenomenon managed to derail or seriously disrupt several summits a few years ago (...) but these protests have no continuity” (“Protests are decreasing before the IMF summit”, El País 09/04/1926).

4. “Goodbye, middle class, goodbye”, Ramón Muñoz, El País 31/05/1909.

5. If André Breton made this observation in “The lamp in the clock”, another surrealist, Egyptian George Henein, declared a year before that “surrealism as such refuses to rest its head on the pillow of the ruins” (“Séance tenante”, Le Surréalisme en 1947). Neither the ruins of yesterday nor those to come.

6. Editorial of the first issue of the international surrealist journal Hydrolith, 2010.

7. Karl Polanyi, La gran transformación, Ed. La Piqueta, Madrid 1989, p. 273.

8. “Comunicado sobre el incendio de Guadalajara y los incendios”, Los Amigos de Ludd, 2005.

9. Remember the mobilization of volunteers and especially the Galician fishermen and shellfish gatherers who relied on their own strength, their solidarity and a practical imagination that resulted in the invention of new improvised but effective tools. It is easy to laugh at these events as a naïve, reformist, or referring to the subsequent elections won by the PP (right wing party; transl. note), but if some of these criticisms are pertinent, it is also true that the Prestige oil disaster showed that the dispossession has not been fully accomplished, that atavistic reserves survive in man in which free initiative, practical skills and imagination are being born, in an angered context that led Fraga himself to complain about the atmosphere of “libertarian communism” that “desolated” Galicia. As for New Orleans, as two moved witnesses related, it is the workers who saved what could be saved, “the electricians who improvised connections between blocks of flats to share the little electricity that was left, the nurses who returned to start the respirators and spent hours trying to reanimate patients and to keep them alive, the porters who saved people trapped in elevators, refinery workers who forced the doors of the docks and stole the boat to rescue refugees from the rooftops of their homes” (LB and LBS, “Bloqués à Nouvelle-Orléans” Échanges nº 114, 2005), autonomous relief operation that was logically suppressed by the police and vilified by the free press. Both cases suggest that although momentary and weak, even if they occur in emergency situations, these cases do exist, and denying it could contribute to its final demise while what we should do is strengthen them, give them conscience of themselves and of their possibilities and encourage them to express themselves before the disaster and not after when it may all come too late.

10. As noted by La Felguera, “no doubt that the lady who had the determination to destroy parking meters with her own hands and in broad daylight, will now understand a little better the how and the why of so many others everyday acts proscribed under the classification of hooliganism” (Motines que hacen estallar un tren o trenes que en estallan en un motín, 2008).

11. “Who keep watch on the kids games?” Eye Maroto, February 2007,

12. It's almost mean to recall that the vast majority of those detained for the revolt of 2005 were neither criminals, nor rapists, nor lazy, nor adolescents, rather young people between 20 and 30, students (without prospects) and workers (when they can), both immigrant and through and through.

13. Although all statements of the rebels pointed to the same direction, the pamphlet “Some fighters of the revolt of 93” was undoubtedly the most eloquent: “We do not want any dialogue with the government; our parents and our families have already been too much abused after their speeches. The dialogue is definitely broken, do not think of lulling us. You will not be able to manipulate us, despite the use of magnets, and speakers that you push to appeal for calm”. An extract of this text was quoted in the November 2005 declaration The bad times will burn signed by several groups (Surrealist Group of Madrid, Felguera, Oxygen, The bad companies of Durruti and Fahrenheit 451), and the full version has been reproduced as an annexed to the 2nd edition of the best study of this revolt, ¿Chusma?, by Alessi Dell'Umbria (Ed. Pepitas de Calabaza, 2009).

14. First, why the workers and employees involved didn't participate, and then whether there is any solution of continuity or not between this revolt and the present one, if its various causes could merge (police repression in one case, economic adjustment in the other) and participants (angry youths, anxious workers), spreading to the working masses through the anarchist critique that goes beyond the economic problem and its autonomous methods (occupations, assemblies, etc).

15. Karel de Gucht, “The trade commissioner said that the Greek frauds were known”, El País 06.05.2010.

16. “Desde Grecia, reorganización”, 11-12-08,

17. Cited in order of appearance: Felix Rodrigo Mora, Crísis y utopía en el siglo XXI (maldecap Editions, 2010), Peter G ª Olivo, El mal olor de la utopía: mito, dominio y trabajo ( ) and Jaime Semprún, Diálogos sobre la culminación de los tiempos modernos (Muturreko burutakioak, 2006).

18. As Saranne Alexandrian, one of the best scholars of the so-called utopian socialists, said, these “are not novelists, but economists and reformers” (El Socialismo romántico, Ed. Laia, Barcelona 1981, pg. 18). We can only earnestly recommend this enlightening book to anyone interested in the subject.

19. Neither will we go deeper into the essence of utopia, that echo that reflects the age-old desire for a better world, projecting it into the present in conflict and the desired future, nor into the implicit and explicit denouncement that the mere proposal raises against the dominant order, breaking the sacrosanct credibility of authority, nor into the ambivalence between the utopian dreams of the masses that are not being realized, and their realization by power in the form of nightmare, already better explained by Nettlau, Mannheim, Bloch, Benjamin, Ricoeur, Löwy or Delhoysie and Lapierre.

20. If these principles are being linked to others such as the theory of rotating work that would abolish the specialization, or the decentralization of industry into these small self-sufficient communities that the phalansteries are, it isn't surprising that Walter Benjamin warned that Fourier was a deadly enemy of ecocidal developmentalism. One can of course interpret the delirious and consciously humorous) prophecies of archiarms and poles free of ice as evil advances of genetic engineering and climate change, or, as Benjamin does in one of the most devastating texts that have been written against the myth of progress, as the result of “a work that, far from exploiting nature, is capable of giving birth to the potential creatures that sleep in her womb” (Tesis de filosofía de la historia, Tesis XI, Etcétera, colección Mínimas No. 24). It's a matter of sensitivity.

21. Certain disciplinary and even totalitarians tendency of Babeuf o Cabet are well known, but even in Harmony, where nothing would be achieved by force and where the individual's desire is law, someone’s dependency of his peers to satisfy his/her passions, usually in productive activities transformed into games and parties, would eventually melt the private with the public, work with leisure (or vice versa), the phalansterian with the series of his phalansters, suppressing any unproductive space or time of privacy, of solitude and introspection, which is still worrying. Although one could argue that this is exactly what is occurring today, one will notice that it takes place isolating the individual who receives orders, works where he is allowed to, buy goods made by strangers, and lives by delegation in the least harmonious passivity.

22. As Philadelphian Constantin Pecqueur said, “at the same time as one is improving materially, one has to improve morally” (Saranne Alexandrian, op. cit, p. 248). It is amazing that it is still necessary to discuss such matters when, to give just one example, one reads which were “the general conditions necessary for human happiness” that Owen proposed in The book of the new moral world: “The will and means to continuously promote the happiness of others,” “the virtue to associate oneself to the pleasure of those to whom we are prone to with the utmost consideration and the greatest affection”, “live in a society in which the laws, the institutions and the regulations, well-ordered and established, are in full agreement with nature”... if this is decadent hedonism, may Ellul come and see it.

23. The same can be applied to the counterculture of the 60 and to the Situacionist International. The counterculture undoubtedly had many absurd and ridiculous features, and was on the knife's edge of commercial recuperation to the point of having it own head cut, but accusing it of being an agent of the capitalist decomposition is just absurd. Apart from the fact that the countercultural practices were undeniably liberating in a repressive society that massacred people in a way we may now have forget, it is enough to recall which was the party that its protagonists took before the decisive crisis of that decade, namely the Vietnam War, the Black revolt, the rejection of the consumerist and technocratic lifestyle and the anti-capitalist communal experimentation as an alternative, the revolutionary insurgency the May 1968... come on, puppets of the economy, the Diggers and the Motherfuckers? And concerning the Situationists, and despite the over-enthusiasm of Vaneigem, to concluding that the demand of pleasure as the standard of conduct has been recuperated by domination because it coincided with its own perspectives, without being totally false, is highly misleading. Because these words cannot be understood without the other part of the situationist program, the abolition of capitalism and of the spectacle. As, apparently, such trifles have found no niche in this society, and since the hedonism of the S.I., like surrealist desire, are not based on passivity, directed leisure and commodity fetishism, but on the exercise of autonomy and freedom (are they lazy and irresponsible those who tend to make revolution in order to organize themselves in workers' councils in which direct democracy would be applied?), the “hedonism” of the economy is not Vaneigem's, neither ours.

24. At least, Marx, Engels or Proudhon recognized the theoretical and practical merits of the utopians when they criticized them for fantasizing or for being conciliators, in a political polemic that sought to discredit the rival currents: the Communist Manifesto was written to respond (some say copy) to the Manifesto of Pacific Democracy of Victor Considerant published five years earlier.

25. Limiting ourselves to a few examples because the list is very long, we remember that Owen had a major role in the organization of the English trade unions and cooperatives. We remember that in the Revolution of 1848 Louis Blanc, Cabet, Leroux and Considerant had a more or less lucid and brilliant leading role, but for which they paid with exile and prison, and that in 1870 Considerant, meanwhile affiliated to the First International, returned to defend the honor of utopia taking side for the Paris Commune. We remember the work of consciousness raising of the Saint-Simonian Church, of the Societarian School and of the icarians, and how they were derided by the bourgeois press while their books were banned and their newspapers closed. We also remember the less familiar names, the Russian Fourierists of the Petrashevsky Circle who planned things as menial as a peasant uprising in the Urals, so that the Tsar rewarded them with a mock execution and a long vacation of hard labor in Siberia; the Andalusian Fourierists Rafael Guillén and Cristobal Bohorquez, friends of Joaquín Abreu who died fighting in the federalist uprising of 1869 under the command of Fermín Salvochea; the Catalan ’cabetianos’ who, as Abdon Terradas and Narcis Monturiol, joined the riot and also suffered exile and prison; Fourierist Plotinus Rhodakanaty and his Mexican friends of La Social who evolved from the peaceful Armonía to the Bakuninist revolution, planting the seeds of Magón and Zapata. We remember the young Saint-Simonian/Fourierist working women Marie-Reine Guindorf and Desirée Veret, editors of La Tribune des Femmes, Saint-Simonian Claire Démar provocatively displaying her green belt of Inconstancy, the great pariah Flora Tristán who launched the motto of worker unity, and her follower Pauline Roland, murdered by the harsh Algerian deportation by which she was punished by Napoleon III, all a thousand times mocked and persecuted and a thousand times in the front line of social and sexual revolution. We remember so many others and conclude by saying that not content of making fun of these masters there are those who also spit on their and their followers' grave.

26. Among the first, one can distinguish Gustav Landauer, Max Nettlau, Émile Armand or Angel Cappelletti, and among the latter, so little revolutionary characters as Joseph Déjacque (The Humanisphere), James Guillaume (A social commune), Louise Michel (The New World), Jean Grave (especially Free Earth, although it is difficult to separate theory from utopia in the rest of his works), Bernard Lazare (The Torch-bearers), Juan Serrano y Oteiza (Pensive!), Ricardo Mella (The New Utopia), Pierre Quirola (The American Anarchist City), Federico Urals (The Abolition of Money), Han Ryner (The Peaceful), Angelo George (Irmania) ... and we stop at the beginning of the twentieth century because we could continue until the advent of the Kingdom of Thousand Years.

27. The literature is so monumental that the lightness with which one speaks about this issue is incomprehensible. Limiting ourselves to anarchism, recommendable are the three volumes of Utopías Libertarias published by Ediciones Tuero (Luis Gómez Tovar et al, Madrid 1991), and the vast Ressources sur l'utopie, sur les utopies libertaire et les utopies anarchistes coordinated by Michel Anthony (

28. For instance V de Vivienda, which had nothing to lose but on the contrary if some wind of madness would have inspired it with claims such as de-urbanization.

29. Los procesos contra Wilde, Ed Valdemar, Madrid 1995, p. 50. As we can see that the capitalism of that time was not so eudemonistic, Wilde was sent to Reading prison to personally check how suffering builds character and work makes free.

30. Occasionally we have been asked for specific examples of those surreal desires that would lead to the “transformation of everyday life into something passionately superior”. As earlier ones, this issue of Salamandra offers such examples, may it be the “Game of the House in the Sadow” or “Enchanted Ethnography”. It is another thing if the fact that one or more persons devote themselves over a day or a year to questioning the city, looking for signs and signals that would restore the bridge between imagination and reality, turning their back to programmed entertainment, to the “debates” invented by the propaganda, to the set of platitudinous arguments  which distract attention from what is the true red thread of existence, if this passionately superior everyday life is being taken with a pragmatic shrug, with the condescending smile that follows the witticisms of the child and the madman, if it is being understood as a “hardly anti-bourgeois banality”, i.e. a waste of time. The problem, which is essential because it deals with the critique of free time and its possible solution, is then what is meant by serious activity and by taking the most of time, and what all that suggests about our mental structures shaped by centuries of repression and degradation of a poetry that, we insist again, fortunately is not at all limited to the poems of Fray Luis de León, Mikel Laboa or Paul Eluard.

31. George Bataille explains it in a much better way: “ A revolutionary world in which nothing but looking at the world of the abyss remains to be done because all the problems have already been solved may be horrifying, but, to be honest, I consider that the human being matches up to such horror, and that being separated from it gives, at the same time, the measure of his mediocrity” (La religión surrealista, Ed. Las Cuarenta, Buenos Aires 2008, pág. 61).

(Published in Salamandra #19-20, 2010-2011)