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Contributions to The Revolutionary Struggle, Intended To Be Discussed, Corrected, And Principally, Put Into Practice Without Delay

by Raoul Vaneigem


Chapter 2 "The ABC of Revolution"

    Prior to the wave of wildcat strikes. The practice of sabotage and readaptation by individuals is effective whenever it culminates in the unleashing of a wildcat strike.

  1. Every worker is fully entitled to adapt for his benefit the products and techniques hitherto employed to his disadvantage.

  2. Every worker is fully entitled to sabotage everything which serves to destroy him.

  3. Sabotage and adaption are the most widespread spontaneous gestures within the workers' ranks. A proper awareness of this should be propagated and the usefulness of the phenomena stressed so that it can be multiplied, perfected and given a fuller coherence.

  4. In 1972, a report submitted by officials of the Commissariat for the protection of the State and the respecting of the constitution and by security chiefs in industry, in West Germany listed the following acts of economic sabotage: In a tyre factory, the solutions employed in their manufacture were, by various means and on various occasions interfered with.
    - In a steelworks, the men shut off gas delivery valves, causing the blast furnace to cool down and hence, loss of production amounting to several million marks.
    - A firm manufacturing television tubes received several returned products and realised that the glass had been stained by the addition of chemicals.
    - A cellar housing machinery of high value was flooded when a water conduit was cut through.
    - Persons unknown stole some perforated cards from a depot run by computers thereby holding up all work for a four day period. Such examples, made public through a German magazine, give some idea of the inventiveness of the individual when he applies himself to sabotage.

  5. Sabotage enthuses one more than hobbies, gardening or bridge. With diligent preparation, there is every likelihood that it will bring us to a point where we can unleash a wildcat strike, factory occupation, reconversion of the factory for the benefit of all, and so it affords each of us a little more control over our own lives each day. A tradition of long standing among workers, it allows us to let off some steam by wreaking some petty vengeance as well as securing us a little rest whilst we wait for repairs to be done. Hitherto, it has only rarely gone beyond the level of dabbling. Everybody is aware that...
    - It takes only a hammer or an iron bar to destroy a computer, a prototype, precision instruments, time-clocks, and the robots which control and ordain the pace of production. A heat source held close to the sensor plate will trigger the sprinkler systems in the ceilings of department stores and storage areas.
    - A sprinkling of iron fillings in the carburettor, or sugar in the petrol tank or ammonium sulphate in the gearbox will put the car of a cop, boss, scab or trade union chief out of commission.
    - Distribution of the telephone numbers of statists and of their car licence numbers can serve as an aid to dissuasion and demoralisation. But we really must try to move beyond the stage of mere dabbling.

  6. The more complicated the commodity system becomes, the simpler the means that suffice to destroy it.

  7. Terrorism is the recuperation of sabotage, its ideology and its separated image. Useful though it may be to destroy the cash registers of a supermarket the moment a wildcat strike is begun, or to give the cash they contain to the strikers, or to organise wildcat distribution of products and to explain what generalised self-management would be like, this would all be pointless unless linked with the operation of readapting the machinery.

  8. The positive contribution of sabotage is that, being so used to knowing better than their bosses the errors made in the course of production in the pursuit of profit; the workers are equally capable of aggravating these errors or of correcting them once it becomes a matter of turning the machinery to their own advantage. The Lip experiment (recuperated from the beginning because of its failure to make a radical break with the commodity system) has at least underlined the evidence that the workers alone are equipped to wreak a definite change in the world. (The Lip workers have demonstrated the extent to which they have not succeeded in going far enough. Handicapped by the parasitic nature of their industry, they acted partly for the best in running their factory for themselves, seizing stocks and organising a wildcat pay arrangement. But, in retaining union leaders, and reducing their movement to a simple advocacy of the "right to work", and allowing the worst enemies of the revolution to applaud the spectacle of their strike, they surrendered their autonomy and denied the movement any chance of expansion, and ushered in no real historic change). In the current state of the forces of production, we are capable of anything and nothing may lastingly resist our becoming fully aware of that fact.

  9. Subject to every sort of alienation, the workers have this advantage over the rest of the proletariat... that they have in their hands the source of every alienation thrust upon them i.e. the commodity process. Because the only power they have is the power to destroy utterly that which destroys them, they also hold the key to the global solution of the problems of harmonisation, and readaptation of the economy to the organisation of new human relations with their roots in gratuitousness.

  10. Sabotage is par excellence anti-work, anti-militancy and anti-sacrifice. Each of us can pave the way for it by the simultaneous pursuit of his own enjoyment and the interests of all, a calculated risk, a case of execution, a favourable opening. It accustoms one to autonomy and creativity and lays a real basis for the relations which revolutionaries aspire to establish between themselves. It is the subversion-play on which bureaucratic recuperation founders. Here is a description of what happened in 1968 in a car plant near Detroit.
    "... Acts of organised sabotage began to be noticed in certain sections of the plant. At first there were faults in assembly or even parts left out, but on a much larger scale than usual, so much so that numerous motors were rejected upon first inspection. Organisation of this action brought various agreements between inspectors and some assembly workshops with mixed feelings and motives among the workers concerned certain of them were determined, others were merely out for some sort of revenge, still others took part only for the hell of it. Be that as it may, the movement spread rapidly amid an atmosphere of high enthusiasm... If, in the course of inspection or trials, a motor appeared which had apparently come down the line without any manufacturing defects, a simple twist of a monkey-wrench on the oil filter or valve cover or distributor was all that it took to set that straight. Sometimes motors were rejected simply because they failed to turn over quietly enough... Schemes devised during countless meetings led eventually to sabotage on the scale of the V-8 engine works as a whole... As six cylinder jobs the V-8s were assembled in a faulty manner or damaged during production so that they would be rejected. In addition, during trials, the inspectors agreed with one another to reject something like 3 out of every 4 or 5 motors under examination... Without the shop floor ever having admitted to their sabotage the manager was driven to embark upon a circuitous argument to attempt to explain (something which even he found it hard to accept) that the 'lads' should not be rejecting engines which were quite evidently defective. Of course although he might hint at this, he could at no time state it openly. All such efforts were in vain, for the 'lads' simply ignored him. Unfailingly they argued back that their interest and the company's were identical and thus that they had a duty to ensure that only products of the finest quality left their plant... During that summer a sabotage rota was organised throughout the entire plant as a means of securing increased free time for the workers. At meetings, workers would number themselves off from 1 to 50 or beyond. Similar meetings were held elsewhere in the plant. Each worker was allocated a certain period of time, say 20 minutes or so in duration, over the following two weeks. When his turn came he would do something to sabotage production in his workshop... and that would be, if at all possible, something serious enough to bring his entire line grinding to a halt. The moment management sent in a team of workmen to repair that 'breakdown', the whole process would be repeated at some other key point in the plant. In this way the entire plant was out of action for between 5 and 20 minutes per hour for a fair number of weeks, either because of a hold-up on one line or because of an absence of engines on the line. Even the techniques of sabotage that were utilised were very numerous and varied widely, and I have no idea which ones were used in most of the workshops... The remarkable thing about all of this is the level of cooperation and organisation among the workers inside a single workshop and also between workers in different workshops. Whilst a response to the need for coordinated action, this organization was also a means of pursuing the sabotage, taking up collections or even of organisation of games and competitions which served to turn the working day into a period of enjoyment. This is what happened in the workshop where the engines came for testing: The inspectors on the engine tests bench decided upon a competition centring upon the valves: this competition required that lookouts be posted at the entrances to their workshop and also that an understanding be reached with the workers on the engine assembly line to the effect that a certain number of engines chosen at random would not have their valves soundly attached. Whenever an inspector heard dubious vibrations, he would call out to everyone to clear the workshop whereupon the workers would abandon their work in order to shelter behind the crates and shelving. Next, the inspector would rev. the engine up to 4 or 5,000 revs. per minute. The engine would make all sorts of noises and eventually, after much clanking, would stop; and with one loud, sharp, cracking noise, the adjustable valve holding the gearbox would hurtle at great speed from one end of the workshop to the other. This was the signal for the rest of the workers to emerge from their shelters, cheering all the while. The inspector in question would then have another point chalked up to his score on the wall. This competition continued for several months, and involved the explosion of more than 150 engines. Betting was all the rage. In another instance, it all began with two workmen who hosed each other down one hot day with the hoses employed by the test workshop. This developed into a running battle with hosed water for weapons and it persisted throughout the entire workshop for several days. Most of the engines were ignored or simply given a brusque seal of approval so that people would be free to engage in the water-fight. In many cases the engines were destroyed or damaged so that the men would quickly be rid of them. All in all some 10 to 15 water jets were engaged in the battle, each one with a pressure force comparable to that of a fireman's jet. Water jetted everywhere as then men laughed and shouted and ran in every direction. Given this atmosphere there were very few in any mood to get down to their work. Their workshop was regularly awash to ceiling level and all of the men were absolutely saturated. In no time at all, they were bringing in water pistols and garden hoses and pails and the escapades assumed the scale of one huge carnival during working hours. One fellow strolled around wearing his wife's shower cap, to the huge amusement of the rest of the plant's workers who were unaware of what was going on in the test workshop..." (from the pamphlet Lordstown 72 published by 4 millions de Jeunes Travailleurs, Paris, See Also Solidarity Pamphlet/45).
  11. The problem of organization is an abstract one unless it answers the question... "who organised and why?" At best, those organisation set up without the workers have resulted in practical impotence and, on most occasions, in the renewal of bureaucratic apparatus. Organisation set up in the name of the workers have, at best, created the conditions for bureaucratization and, most times have become instruments of para-statist oppression. The only form of genuinely workers' and revolutionary organisation is the assemblage of wildcat strikers evolving into an assembly for general self-management, as described earlier. This is ushered in, not by other, necessarily hybrid and separate organizations, but by the revolutionary action which requires only intervention groups coming together for a precise operation and dissolving once that specific activity no longer has need of their existence.

  12. Ephemeral groups formed as necessary by and for the exploration of the effects of a specific action, will see to it that the autonomy of the individual is respected, obedience repudiated and all sacrifice excluded. The only discipline will be the discipline that will be adopted after discussion and regulated by the requirements of the undertaking and of protection against any chance of repression.

  13. Every revolutionary is entitled to act alone, in commandos or in ephemeral groups, but he should take care lest he act separately i.e. lose sight of the tactical line which leads from acts of sabotage and adaption to the wildcat strike, and from the wildcat strike to collective occupation and adaptation of factories. Our revolution is a total, indivisible revolution. This means, for instance, that sabotage is not confined to action against work, but is applicable to every facet of commodity, dispensing with authoritarian attitudes, taboos (such as incest and sexual repression), self-centred conduct Jealousy, avarice) and the lies of representation, etc... in such a way that everywhere freedom is encouraged along with strengthening of passions, harmonisation of desires and personal wishes...

  14. Only self-defence groups, formed for the purpose of encompassing a specific action and dissolving once it has been encompassed and once the protection of all has been assured, can prepare the way in any coherent fashion for the emergence of conditions favourable to the establishment of assemblies of general self-management.

  15. The workers who are against work, parties, unions, commodity, sacrifice and hierarchy will form circumstantial self-defence groups. The "factory hooligans" as they are known to the statist front (from fascists to Maoists) represent the basis of a movement in whose absence the "neighbourhood hooligans" lapse into terrorism, and from which the assemblies of generalised self-management will necessarily emerge.

  16. The finest way in which to ensure the safety of a group engaging in sabotage or adaptation activities is to unleash a collective upsurge of revolutionary enthusiasm in the breasts of the workers and the population generally. And the best anonymity is to enjoy the fellowship of as many people as possible.

  17. The absence of hierarchically arrived-at decisions cuts down the risks of police manipulation and bureaucratic machination. Nonetheless, every ephemeral group with a brief has an interest in:
    1. setting itself up among people who know its members well;
    2. taking account of the capacities and weaknesses of each individual, and attuning them to the action;
    3. anticipating the failure of their plan through treachery or inadequacy, and preparing a variety of possible ripostes, taking care to avert any widespread repression (e.g. by taking hostages and by giving consideration to the extermination of probable exterminators and their accomplices, etc.) and by learning the lessons from their failures and, in practical terms, by turning each and every defeat into a defeat for the statists.

  18. As a general rule, subversive activities initiated by a guerrilla group against the ruling system, should fulfil at least these 4 conditions:
    1. They should give free rein to individual creativity and autonomy whilst giving a sharper edge to the empathies and antagonisms between the participants.
    2. They should examine probable forms of repression and the method by which a response can be made for the benefit of the greatest possible number.
    3. The struggle should be carried into every single facet of everyday life, which is the true yardstick of the progress or shortcomings of a long revolution.
    4. It should always have an eye to the real pleasures and quality of life for all the workers of a factory, or an entire district or for the entire proletariat.

  19. The degree of success can be measured by the speed with which the progression is made from sabotage and individual adaptations to the wildcat strike and to collective adaptation... this being the only act that furthers the movement towards generalized self-management.

  20. The basic unit of generalized self-management is not the individual but the revolutionary individual who acknowledges obedience only to a circumstantial commitment to a specific purpose and to his own pleasure as the universal guide, and who pays hommage to no organisational fetishism.

  21. One does not improvise an act of sabotage or adaptation, be it by individual or group. Instead, one prepares for it as if it were a harrying action. One has to calculate the opportune moment, the relative strength of factors engaged on both sides, the lay-out of the land, possible defections and mistakes and everything that might contribute towards their correction, as well as the possibilities of withdrawal and the risks involved therein. One ought also to link one's action to an overall strategy, the central concern of which ought at all times to be the construction of a system of generalized self-management.

  22. it is a good idea to circulate plans and details of factories, telecommunications centres, etc... so that access plans, the methods by which these are to be sabotaged and details as to how they operate are made available to a number of people who can then bring their powers of ingenuity to bear upon these questions.

  23. It is good if documents such as we have just described can be discussed and criticised and amended, though not in any abstract fashion. Only practice can bring any real criticism to bear upon the revolutionary plan.

  24. Similarly, the best way to eliminate ideologies and their armies of bureaucrats, is to struggle with the greatest possible consistency and as much precision as can be mustered for the goal of generalised self-management. The moment that wildcat strikes open up the possibility of forming self-management assemblages with elected, mandated and revocable delegates, and the moment that the free distribution of goods becomes the system... the ideologies shall see criticism in arms line up against their statist and bureaucratic aspirations denounce once for all the lies behind which they are masked.

  25. The theoretical axiom according to which "... the right to live life to the full can be achieved only through the utter destruction of the commodity-spectacle system"... must now assume a consistency in practice stretching from the overall strategic conception to the tiniest details of the tactical struggle. This is why it is not without its uses that every individual should draft and circulate his recommendations in the game of subversion (for instance, it is possible to dislodge any enemy from his premises simply by tossing in... together... a bottle of bleaching water - say, sodium hypoclilorite - and a flagon of sink or toilet cleaner (sodium hydrate based)... and, remember that one hour prior to an expected tear-gas attack, one should absorb anti-histamine tablets (rumicin)... etc. etc.). And one would do well to mistrust the phoney information supplied by the cops themselves.

  26. The struggle for the utter destruction of commodity is indivisible from the day by day elaboration of a full life freed of taboo and constraints. Of necessity, every revolutionary aspiration depends upon the quest for personal amelioration and upon a calculated gamble pitting risk against pleasure (minimum risk, maximum pleasure).

 

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