Marcello Tarì - There is no unhappy revolution

Book review of Italian autonomous thinker, first translated book in english.

Tari, is an independent researcher of contemporary struggles and movements who doesn't come from academia who follows the tradition of Autonomy's inquiry.

He is the author of numerous essays and books in French and Italian, known for his Italian translation of the Invisible Commi1ttee’s The Coming Insurrection. His book in french “Autonomie!” presented an historiography of Italian Autonomy from its beginning. 

There is no unhappy revolution was published on common notions publishing house with a cover design by Josh Macphee who is recontextualizing the January Suchodolski’s Battle of Palm Tree Hill. Depicting one of the battles of the Haitian Revolution, Tarì’s english edition of his book embraces the Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, where the french translation depicted a more conservative cover of people at a demonstration.

The main thesis of his essay is that in order to successfully challenge capital you have to rethink how you organize what Marcello Tarì calls destituent power, a term popularized by thinkers close to Autonomy, that you can almost trace back entirely to the original editorial board of the french situationist and autonomy influenced revue Tiqqun and their affiliated.

Julien Coupat who was one founder of the revue, state in a text in the formerly Maoist turned rad lib french Journal Libération :

“We intend to initiate a destitution of all aspects of the present existence. These last few years have shown us that there are allies everywhere for this. We have to bring back to earth and take back in hand everything on which our lives are suspended, and which tends to escape us all”2

Another central piece of Tari’s thesis is the destitution of the concept of the Metropolis3

Tarì, as part of the autonomous tradition, considers that metropolis rather than the individual workplace is the new focus of political activity.

Cities in the west were rebuilt in order to make crowd control easier, this was for example the reason why The Hausman’s baron destroyed a large number of streets in order to build Paris' large avenue. Nothing better than a large avenue and a “Plazza”  where people gather in order to do crowd control. The recent project in Egypt by Al-sisi to move Cairo’s administrative power to a new capital is one of many examples of this. As Tari’s put it “the metropolis is the technological organization of generalized hostility, the extensive and radical instrumentalization of a particular emotional tonality which has to be broken if we are to discover ‘the character of our problem’. 

“it was Frank Lloyd Wright who, in 1958, in the throes of the cybernetic revolution, first theorized the new city as a space that embraced a whole country, or rather the nation as a single, homogeneous, continuous, and empty metropolis. We have been in a para-imperial dimension for some time, and today the metropolis extends across the entire world space, while Calvino’s city of Trude has gone from being an invisible city to a tangible reality.”

One of the arguments of this book is how we need to pay attention to political geography and networks. At a time where technodeterminists are advocating to tokenize the metropolis to fight atomization4, with “smart contracts and token ownership” as a tool for “civic engagement”.

We need to rethink as a whole how we engage those questions within the left and not let the Silicon Valley Crowd decide where we go from here. 

As he put it “the occupation of the bocage [a landscape of mixed woodland and pasture] in Notre- Dame-des-Landes against the construction of an airbase, with frequent incursions into the urban zone of Nantes. The struggle underway in France against labor reforms, finally, seems not only to represent the summa of all the forms of metropolitan conflict that have occurred during the last ten years but also (and above all) the emergence of an overall political conflict: there is finally an attempt at true verticalization.”

Realistic yet full of optimism, this essay sounds sometimes a little bit like a wake up call for militants as a friend put it a “personal development book for anarchists”.

As we sink deeper into the manifestation of climate collapse and people are getting more seduced by the neo-malthusian agenda pushed by people like the English broadcaster David Attenborough5 or plainly ideologically giving up and becoming literally the figure of the “doomer”.

For context, Italy and France were the spearheads of the Autonomous left tradition, thanks to exchange during the events of the French May and the Italian “Mai rampant”6 who resulted in the Hot Autumn. The Autonomous tradition is still strong and seems to not have gone anywhere since its founding  in the 1960s. Tari's book focuses on the historiography of recent movements which attempted to destituent power through these past years, The Argentinian Insurrection of 2001 to Occupy Wall Street, The Spanish Indignados, the French Student and worker’s movement against austerity, the Arab Springs, the struggle in the Val di Susa, among others.

To those tired by the numerous defeats and the ritual of the demonstration, when things resume the next day he say ; “it is no longer enough to slavishly repeat formulas from long ago, or simply to rubber stamp the postcard of postmodern militancy, that activism which haphazardly chases after ‘social struggles’.” 

Tari's book is important to be able to focus among the constant noise. 

It had of course several short comings, especially regarding colonialism and the black radical tradition, interesting to note that there is quote from T.E Lawrence7 If you want to build the destituent power who will put an end to the present to paraphrase Tari's. Then you have to follow the lead of black radicals and the global south and their different social movements. Which the book fails to highlight, unfortunately. Nonetheless,  I enjoyed reading the galvanizing prose dear to the autonomous movement and could see the influence of the invisible committee , and the Tiqqun review in his essay.

1

 Between legal precedent regarding  “racism against white people” and the overall far-right u-turn in France, I would say fair enough.

2

https://lundi.am/vers-une-theorie-de-la-puissance-destituante-Par-Giorgio-Agamben

3

Antonio Negri, another thinker of the autonomous tradition states the following “The power of the strike was not demonstrated solely through noisy trade-union marches, but above all through the festive parades of people in the streets every morning and every evening. It was not a ‘strike by delegation’ but a diffuse strike that involved the whole of social life and people’s everyday routines. In the dictionary of strikes invented by the proletariat in struggle (trade-union strike, general strike, staggered strike, wildcat strike and so on) we should add this new entry: the metropolitan strike.”

except of his book “From the Factory to the Metropolis”

5

https://www.socialist.net/attenborough-s-a-life-on-our-planet-capitalism-not-overpopulation-to-blame.htm

6

We can translated it by “creeping May” or “Slow may” as the Italian May event esclated slowly to go toward the period called Hot Autumn  and the year of the lead, a period of political turmoil and insurgency who lasted more than decade and resulted in France by the implementation of the “Mitterrand Doctrine” where Italian member of the autonomous movement  could ask asylum in France as political refugee as long they didn’t commit “crime of blood” and leave behind violent action .

7

Also known as Lawrence of Arabia, who was an important actor for british colonialism in the “ middle-east”.