domenica , 23 Giugno 2024

A Contribution to the Critique of Resistance

Leggi l’editoriale in italiano

In more or less recent times, the call for “resistance” has echoed throughout different mobilizations in Italy. It resonated in June 1960, during the revolt against the national convention of the neofascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) party, which started in Genoa and spread throughout the peninsula. Behind the slogan “Now and forever resistance”, which led to the fall of the Tambroni government, there wasn’t just the defense of the democratic constitutional order, but a glimpse of a new worker subject whose struggles would mark the next two decades. Even in the 1970s, in response to the terrorist strategy of the state and neo-fascist groups, the idea of resistance weaved itself into the movements of a generation of proletarians who refused the factory as destiny. To resist meant to fight and prevent the state’s reactionary and extraordinary repression from constraining the dynamic and radical nature of the processes transforming reality that were being experimented. In 1994, at the dawn of Berlusconi’s first term, a massive demonstration launched by the Manifesto group crossed the city of Milan. Hundreds of political and labour organizations joined together with a multitude of people chanting in the pouring rain, “Oh partisan carry them away,” who called for resistance against the first executive that allowed neo-fascists from the MSI party to participate in the government. The demonstration in Milan was an important milestone for what happened in the following years, up to and beyond the Genoa days of July 2001. To resist, in the squares and counter-protests of Prague, Seattle, Genoa, etc., was to revive another idea of the global world.

Through these instances (although other examples could be cited), resistance has changed the reactive nature that marks its term because it was rooted in struggles, within experiences of organization and political projects against exploitation and oppression: it wasn’t just counteraction in a field of forces defined by the opponent, but a process of transformation of that very field of struggle. This has been a characterizing trait of the labour and communist partisan resistance: a militant experience that broke the fronts by transforming the patriotic war into a class struggle, a clash of sides – and not of peoples – through which workers and women were able to change their outlook on the present, break with the fascism that had scarred their history and biographies, and embrace the partisan choice, intended as a struggle to no longer be what one is or has been. Here lies the meaning of resistance as liberation.

Nowadays, at our latitudes, the word “resistance” appears as vague as the flickering light of stars. The way it has been used in recent years, the idea of resistance no longer seems capable of holding together organization, politicization, and transformation. On the contrary, the process of articulating struggles, which nonetheless exist, into a framework of politics against the war, that can match up to the conflict currently stretching from the Red Sea to Eastern Europe through the Middle East, is being hamstrung by the discourse on resistance. Where the bombs fall, in Palestine as well as Ukraine, resistance means a forced struggle for daily survival, reproduction of one’s existence, and flight or desertion to find shelter from the bloodshed. It’s a different kind of resistance from the one propagandized by the so-called “Axis of the Resistance”, whose political project reproduces the same nationalism, patriarchy, and exploitation against which we should fight. It is also a different kind of resistance from that of those who fight to defend or define a border, that’s to say for the state and the restoration of its territorial sovereignty, which does not only respond to the need for rights but also to the dream of restoring the imaginary integrity of a people and its identity.

To those who live under the bombs and experience the urgency of survival, we cannot ask to linger on these distinctions. On the other hand, for those who only see the bombs from afar while enduring the effects of the war (and the militarism that comes with it), we can ask them to make this effort. What kind of resistance are we referring to when we speak of resistance? How can discussing resistance today yield the political effects of liberation and emancipation from exploitation and oppression? We believe it’s time to ask how we can embark on a process capable of politicizing subjects who are not predetermined and whose struggle cannot be reduced to the affirmation of a denied identity. In other words, a process capable of experimenting with forms of organization that can tackle the problem of transforming reality instead of replicating the existing one. Thus, we must pose the problem of moving beyond the reactive character of resistance and transform the field of forces that will otherwise remain invariably determined by the counterpart, embodied time after time by a government, a state, or a capitalist platform. It seems to us that nowadays these questions are inescapable to politically address the question of resistance. Likewise, we think it is necessary to counter the warlike siege mentality and bloc logic in all its expressions, even when it comes in the form of resistance. If it fails to answer these questions, the discourse on resistance might indeed dangerously fuel a division into fields that reproduces the logic of war and prevents building an autonomous side, outside the blocs imposed by geopolitical or identity formations. The issue is not against whom one resists and struggles, but against what: against a social order of racism, sexism, exploitation, and oppression that crosses the borders of warring states.

The presence of this bloc logic and its acceptance as a “lesser evil” show the difficulties that every attempt at politicizing the discourse on resistance must face. This is especially relevant today in Italy, where the right-wing government is waging a battle for cultural hegemony, with the subsequent erasure of the historical and anti-fascist Resistance itself. In the face of this attack and given the upcoming April 25, we need to seriously ask whether the call for resistance will be able to overcome its reactive nature and turn into liberation. Otherwise, it will be a moral discourse, and the only action it will succeed in producing will be a discounted and ephemeral solidarity, perhaps limited to social networks.

If resistance were to become a moral act, then resisting would be right, regardless of the premises and purposes of the resisting act itself. The subjects who make up the current fronts would be treated as if they were intrinsically homogenous, and the oppression and exploitation that permeate them might not be even acknowledged. The very ability to see those who oppose their own state and refuse its deadly logic as comrades of struggle might be lost. And the appeal to resistance might end up establishing a hierarchy of oppressions: on the account of the “resisting” role Iran is playing in the Middle East and the “universal justice” of this resistance, the demand for freedom from Kurdish and Iranian women is being sacrificed on the altar of geopolitics, as Tehran has repressed it with an even greater force, after the armed conflict with Israel. The mention of resistance would therefore force us to believe that the struggle against patriarchy, racism, and exploitation might be feasible only once full national sovereignty is restored. That is the blunder of a mythologized resistance which stifles the opportunities present in the actual disorder rather than opening them to a change that’s not satisfied with resisting.

The ethnic cleansing practiced by the state of Israel against Palestinians is producing, from Europe to the United States, more than a series of resistant responses since they take place in the streets, in the workplace, and in universities, showing widespread defiance of the Western states’ geopolitics of war. However, those states supporting Palestinians are neither temporary allies nor long-term friends. We cannot withhold our judgment on their religious and patriarchal policies or the project of society that characterizes them, not even for a moment. A general assembly of social movements that, building on the mobilizations for Palestine, would discuss possibilities for action in the present is therefore more than hoped for. If it’ll take place, this assembly must not confirm the division into fields, nor can it be driven by the claim, to sum up all existing resistance movements triumphantly. It can’t discriminate against Israeli communists and dissidents who oppose the occupation on an ethnic basis, nor can it postpone the problem of patriarchy instead of resistance. It shall be an assembly to think about our political action beyond resistance.

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