What international? Interview and dialogue with Alfredo Cospito from the prison of Ferrara.
Internationalism has always been the principle inspiring the actions and horizons of the exploited who do not accept the role that society has given them. It has always been a vaccine against opportunism of every kind, a guarantee that those who practice it are not the servants of their boss or a foreign boss, but are authentic enemies of all forms of exploitation and authority. Internationalism as tension, as spirit, does not change with the changing of times. But the way it becomes real in history changes. Reformists, opportunists and authoritarians have always tried to pervert internationalism towards their own interests. The question of questions, the lever get the world to rise up, is therefore the International. How, what should the International be today? Should it be a real “organization”, a federation of groups, a “world party”? Or can there be instruments or “structures” that are closer to the anarchist Idea and that are more effective in this historical period?
Like “scientific” socialism, anarchism was born to oppose a global process, capitalism and the advent of the bourgeoisie. It is more than natural that anarchists and Marxists have from the beginning pursued with alternating fortunes an international organizational dimension. In the nineteenth century, with Bakunin, anarchy abandoned the philosophical, idealist level to take its first steps in the real world. First against Mazzini’s messianic liberalism, to then clash with Marx’s state socialism, giving rise to the autonomist federalist currents within the First International.
These first concrete steps of anarchism were taken thanks to two international organizations that today we could define “clandestine”, which acted in the shadows within the “real movement”, that of the workers, the proletarians. The International Alliance of socialist democracy operating from 1868 to 1872 and the International Alliance of revolutionary socialists operating after1872. Paradoxical as it might seem, I think that still today the attempt to create international “clandestine” organizations that act under the radar within mass movements can be incredibly effective and topical.
Marx’s “scientific” conception could not tolerate it, considering it a naivety, a forcing, a remnant of eighteenth century conspirationism. A little like how today the vast majority of the anarchist movement does not understand plotting in secret against the State and laws. It was Engels who first saw in “clandestinisation”, the double level, the attempt to hegemonise the International. Over time the anarchists made endless attempts to organize themselves internationally: Saint Imier in 1872, Amsterdam in 1907, Berlin in 1921, Paris in 1949, London in 1958, Carrara in 1968 with the creation of the IFA… but over time the conspiratorial perspective weakened until it almost disappeared. That “almost” is constituted in recent decades mainly of the efforts of the Anarchist Youth Federations with the name “First of May” at the beginning of the 1960s to bring solidarity to Spain under Franco’s regime through destructive action and armed struggle, and subsequently by the revival of the insurrectionary perspective enriched by the relaunch of the “affinity group” and informal projectuality. Up to the present day, with the birth of the FAI-FRI and with all those actions around the world that talk to one another through claims and concretize a kind of “black international”. Before I answer your question about what the international should be today and how it should be structured, let us try to clarify what this international should fight against. Let’s dwell a moment on the concept of capitalism.
When we talk about capitalism we cannot avoid talking about technology and science. Up to the end of the sixteenth century science and technology were separate fields, then a growing osmosis formed between the two, until the dawn of the most advanced capitalism when in the nineteenth century, science and technology became inseparable. Some argue (rightly, I think) that capitalism is substantially the product of the union of science and technology, or rather the subjection of science to technology. When we speak of imperialism today we speak of a scientific-technological revolution. And this “revolution” leads to an increase in the number of exploited, the bourgeoisie are thinning out, the dispossessed are increasing.
Fewer and fewer people have knowledge and therefore wealth on our planet; this “new” imperialism is increasing exponentially the gap between the included and the excluded. A tiny segment of humanity is responsible for this situation, at the service of the modern states and capital. The modern states and capital have created the conditions that could lead to the advent of a new world that will overthrow humanity as we know it today, annihilating all life on the planet. Scientists, mathematicians, biologists, computer scientists, chemists, researchers in all branches of science, technocrats, the whole aristocracy of human knowledge, without the large investments and resources that only capitalism and the states, with the exploitation of the majority of the population on the planet, can give them, could do nothing, let alone carry out that “revolution” which has been underway for some time and which if carried out “successfully”, will bring about such radical a transformation of our nature that it will in fact be equivalent, if it is not stopped, to the extinction of the human species at least as we know it today, and the change would certainly not be for the better. The “class struggle” remains the driving force of everything, our greatest resource, but only if it directs itself against the State and capital in equal measure. Only capitalism and modern states can adequately feed the technological progress, so much so as to lead us towards the abyss. So, I believe that this international has to fight against states and capital and feed class hatred, the hatred of the excluded, the poor, the proletarians, directing its energies against lobbyists, the military, industrialists, the rich, technocrats, politicians, statesmen, technicians and scientists. Against all the included, those who hold knowledge and capital and therefore power, whatever it may be. Technology is no longer at the service of capital, on the contrary increasingly capital is at the service of technology, this is the direction in which we are heading. The logic that commands us is less and less mere profit but the even more ruthless scientific logic; once a scientific discovery has been made it is impossible to go back, even if the ensuing technological innovation is leading us by the hand towards self-destruction. We have seen it with nuclear weapons, we will see it with the enormously more devastating and uncontrollable artificial intelligence, we are going ahead automatically without any possibility of turning back. “We are condemned to everything that has been invented once and for all”. Likewise we are condemned to take the following step until the final crash. Like the character in Hate who, falling into the void, reassures himself thinking: “so far so good, so far so good…” I don’t know whether internationalism will save us from this fall into the void, if as you say it will be the lever that will allow us to uplift the world and subvert it. But one thing is certain: in order to oppose this new capitalism decisively the collapse of the system must be global. Wars of position lead to defeat as much as anarchists awaiting the right moment to act have already lost.
It is here that the anarchist vision of action comes into play. Much more than revolutionary gymnastics or simply being prepared when the collapse of the system comes. It is in action that the anarchist realizes himself/herself, that they exist as such. It is in individual gestures of destruction, hotbeds of revolt and insubordination, that the anarchist lives their anarchy now, today, breaking with all forms of waiting. This living “nihilist” conception of being anarchist is accompanied by the relationship praxis-theory. In order to be effective theory must come out of praxis, not the opposite. Only by clashing with the system arms in hand can we build the action that will allow us to give ourselves the “organizational”, “informal” tools that will enable us to strongly contribute to the “international” (instrument to affect reality effectively) that we as anarchists feel so much need of. We anarchists have this international in our blood; our vision against states, borders, our rejection of all forms of nationalism leads us by the hand towards this perspective, we just need to concretize the response to this need. This dialogue between anarchists has always been there around the world, we have always influenced one another from one side of the globe to the other. Many, many have been the attempts to give constancy, a minimum structure to this international vision of the movement. But theory falling from above, overriding praxis and reducing it to the minimum terms, bureaucratisation, gradualism (a sort of impotent reformism) have penalized these intentions, however generous, reducing them (far too often in the last 40 years) to a sterile testimony of a glorious past. Today “informal” projectuality (based on communication without intermediaries through claims of destructive actions carried out by fluid and chaotic individuals and affinity groups scattered around the world) is giving us the chance to concretely relaunch an “international” that could unleash an unstoppable chain reaction in a dangerous way for the system. Certainly we are talking about infinitesimal minorities, but why exclude a priori that, as often happens in nature, an imperceptible virus injected perhaps by an insignificant mosquito bite can kill the mighty elephant? This is a possibility that it would be stupid to renounce; imagine if anarchists of action, in spite of their many differences, were to succeed in joining forces while safeguarding their autonomy, their diversity. After all, ours is the only alternative to capitalism that hasn’t betrayed itself. Perhaps because we have always “failed”. More than once in history there have been glimpses of anarchy concretized but always for short periods, we preferred to succumb rather than accept a “revolutionary” dictatorship. These failures of ours have left in us utopian strength, the primordial force of our utopia. It is in our striving towards this that our actions become reality, living matter, action, projectuality, praxis – theory. If we look at which forces push us towards the international we will see that all concrete attempts at internationalizing struggles have “solidarity” as their driving force, solidarity with a population in struggle, solidarity with migrants, solidarity with sisters and brothers hit by repression… “Solidarity” is the first thrust, the deus ex machina of every struggle that aims to involve mutual aid, because it comes from an inner need that is important for every human being. You ask me what the international should be and what are the instruments, the most anarchist and effective structures, in which our profound need for internationalism can express itself. This is a controversial question, the points of view can be many. In the history of our movement specific organizations, federations, even parties, let’s remember UAI which Malatesta himself defined an anarchist party, were all put to the test even on an international level with mixed fortunes and common failures. Far be it from me to make “moral” judgement concerning which organizational form should or should not be adopted. Otherwise we get tangled up in jesuitical discourses on what is or is not anarchist, excommunicationing right, left and centre. I spent my life doing this and only now do I realize that it is a huge waste of time and energy. What I can try to give an answer to is what for me is the most effective “structure” or “tool” to concretize a powerful, aggressive, dangerous anarchist international. An international that makes power bleed, by hurting it, by waging war on it effectively. I shall be clear and brief: for me this “international” already has its form, its own dynamics even if only in outline. With its ups and downs and its smallness and greatness, it is made up of all that world of sisters and brothers who, through their claims, also without acronyms, talk to each other, giving support and solidarity to one another calling for campaigns all over the world. A small thing at first sight, but which contains great hope in itself, a real possibility that, after the failure of scientific Marxist determinism, can restore hope to the oppressed of the earth, bring new life to an anarchy that risks annulling itself in a post-anarchist gradualism, which behind the semblance of “realism” delivers us entirely into the politics of gradual changes, reformism. Only by not postponing the revolution to some far-off tomorrow, but living it now, violently, without compromise or mediation will we be able to push ourselves out of this dead end. I know I am repetitive in my contributions and writings from prison. I am not looking for originality at all costs but the few ideas I have I will repeat ad nauseam in the hope that they are discussed. I am firmly convinced that the knot we need to untangle in order to become more incisive and cause as much damage as possible to this hyper-technological system that rests on two crutches, capitalism and the state, is how to “organize” without betraying ourselves, without giving up any individual freedom as we do so. My adhesion to the project FAI-FRI says a lot about what I think should be the way forward and what this “international” should be. We will find the way to talk about that later on, it is a simple and at the same time complex discourse, which, like all vital things, divides the movement, creating tensions, misunderstandings and, last but not least, repression, and we are just at the beginning …
The media are announcing the arrival of robots with great fanfare. We shall see. The role that science plays in the world of exploitation, however, has been clear for millennia. How to stop this monster that is threatening to disrupt life on this planet for ever? What perspective should inspire the actions of an international towards scientists? Could individual direct action be accompanied by mass explosions, as happened in the past with the “luddite” movement (for example by people who have a grudge against robots because these take their jobs away or make the pace of slavery worse)? And how do you see “historical” movements such as ELF, ALF and the like?
It is true that the media are announcing the arrival of robots with great fanfare. And when they do, they almost always link this phenomenon to the danger of unemployment, some more imaginative media go even further, seeing the advent of robots as an overcoming of the human, a dictatorship of machines to which a generic humanitarianism should be opposed. For decades they have been bombarding us with the danger of an imminent ecological catastrophe, suggesting at best a digestible, ecological technology, and the hope of a spontaneous collapse of the system (to the most “radical” ecologists) in the worst case. Why are the media doing this? They give us a huge amount of information that leads us by the hand to fictitious solutions, a “generic humanitarianism” which acts as a counter-balance to an equally generic concept, that of “people”, suggesting a supposed inevitability of catastrophe from which only “fate”, a meteorite, a nuclear war, the arrival of green men can save us. In this way they undermine our will by convincing us that the possible is impossible. Leaving us with only two “alternatives”, the false hope of a technology on a human scale or resignation to the inevitable in the false hope that “god”, “fate” will deliver us from the nightmare. What could we counterpose to all this shit? Full awareness of our own strength, full awareness of who is responsible for exploitation, wars, the impending catastrophe. One single class has control of the hyper-technological society. One class alone enjoys its benefits, all the others enjoy the rubbish, the crumbs, the exploitation. It is not the robots that are our enemies, but those who design them, capitalism and the states, that finance these projects, men and women in flesh and blood. I’m sure I am stating the obvious in saying that a “liberated society” that uses a hyper-technological model is a contradiction in terms. We must have the courage to renounce “progress”, we must have the courage to oppose it arms in hand by risking our lives to stop this self-destructive process, which is not at all inevitable. Only the systematic exploitation of billions of women and men can sustain modernity, there is no communist state “utopia” that can hold. This will be the case at least for as long as the reins are in the hands of us imperfect humans, until the ruling class is forced to delegate (cede) command (of a “mega-machine” by now too complex to be managed) to a “super-intelligence” then, yes, we can expect “virtual wellbeing” for all, “infernal wellbeing” without any freedom, which I don’t even wish on my worst enemy. But let’s be clearer about what are we talking about: however “science fiction” and fanciful it might seem, we are talking about a “revolution”, which if not stopped will disrupt the life of the whole planet. If capitalism is the alienating and alienated offspring of the supremacy of technology over science, we can easily conclude that the product of this relation is the “mega-machine” in which we all live immersed in today. The next step will be this “mega-machine’s” gaining awareness through AI (artificial intelligence). Let’s take it step by step: all over the world investments in AI are substantial and multiplying year after year. In 2016 Europe invested 3.2 billion euros, 20 billion euros are predicted in 2020. The United States have already invested 18 and 37 are predicted in 2020. 12 billion euros all over the world in 2017 solely for the study of algorithms capable of learning from their errors, autonomously. In an advanced stage, the creation of neuromorphic computers, which instead of performing calculations based on binary codes (on – off) use processors that exchange signals as our neurons do. By reaching infinitely greater speeds and more and more reduced dimensions and ways of functioning “closer” to our mind. The effects on the market, even if partial, are already there: – self-driving cars– medicine (analysis of medical records, X-rays, diseases, viruses) – robotics (all the systems that manage robots) – industrial automation – analysis and management of complex systems such as the road network in a metropolis – automatic management systems – analysis and forecasting of stock market trends – analysis and forecasting in the meteorological and agricultural fields – analysis of videos and texts and images published online – logistics management. Those running this “revolution” today are a limited number of scientists, super-specialized technicians in a few centres scattered around the world. They all are within reach of an anarchist international, a combative one, even if limited in strength. Its best weapons? Willpower and determination, these two qualities are sufficient to chase back, slow down this technological “progress” they want us to believe unstoppable. We still have time at our disposal and room for manoeuvre, especially as the “system” is not yet fully aware of the turning point it is about to take and investments, however huge, are just at the beginning. It is very likely that government bureaucracies and intelligence agencies have a certain ineptitude and rigidity that will prevent them from fully understanding the importance of certain developments, which could be clear to those of us external to these logics and certain specialisations. Let’s say that our being outside and against the system could allow us a greater overview, a greater mental elasticity. The obstacles to understanding such a technological “revolution”, such a turning point, could be particularly strong for governments, states and capitalists.
But what would this turning point, this technological “revolution” be? The agricultural revolution spread around the world over thousands of years, the industrial revolution over hundreds of years, the information technology revolution over a few decades and it will have its apex, its “point of no return” with what technicians and scientists define “an intelligence explosion”. The “Human Brain Project” founded in 2005 hopes to recreate a human brain within 20 years. This will trigger the so-called “explosion”, the transition from human intelligence to (sub-human) super-intelligence. Scientists claim that once the human intellectual capacity is reached in a very short time (even months) the intelligence explosion will be triggered, consisting of an exponential and uncontrollable growth of the intellectual capacity of AI. From that moment the risk of losing the reins of our destiny will be very high, to the delight of the transhumanists homo sapiens will transform into something else, something obscure, an abortion of nature, a cancer for this planet even more than we already are. Fortunately for us, scientists are by nature often too “optimistic” in their timing and “imaginative” in their outlook. We can well believe in our ability to oppose if not reverse this process. It depends on us, on our lucidity, on the strengths we bring to bear, on the weapons we put in place. I think the important thing is to not be overwhelmed by catastrophism, which doesn’t strengthen us but leads us to resignation in the face of the inevitable. In order to have a more precise idea of the technological leap that “modernity” is promising us through super-intelligence, let’s try to read a couple of definitions that technicians give of the same: «any intellect that greatly overcomes the cognitive performances of human beings in almost all the domains of interests», an ultra-intelligent machine is «a machine that can greatly overcome all the intellectual activities of any human being, however intelligent». According to those working on it, super-intelligence will be the panacea against all evils, the Aladdin’s lamp that will solve all our energy, pollution, economic problems, it will find the cure for all diseases, it will even promise, if not immortality, a-mortality. But the very scientists and technicians who are dreaming about these future advances (which, let it be clear, will inevitably “benefit” only the class of the included) are terrified of it and consider its advent extremely dangerous, so much so that it makes the dangers of the atomic era, of a nuclear war, ludicrous. Scientists and technicians, although still far from reaching it, are desperately studying possible virtual reality traps within which to contain it, deceive it, cage it once they reach it. Fears and hopes, the law of science condemns us to “progress” to go ahead at any cost ,even to the detriment of our survival as a species. But what worse condemnation for a slave than an amortality that prolongs the agony of a life without freedom. We anarchists have always been sensitive to these “issues” because nothing has challenged our freedom in recent years more than “modernity”, technology. We have not limited ourselves to sociological analyses of technique and technology over the years. Those of us more inclined to action, the anarchists who have put destructive direct action into practice through informality and affinity groups, have deployed a theoretical and practical armamentarium on the sensitive and peripheral points to be struck, optic fibers, power cables, pylons… The tendency has been that from the centre we needed to move to the periphery of the system where controls are inferior, where vital lines, if interrupted with reproducible means (fire, bolt cutters…) could wreak considerable damage; there has been much talk recently about interrupting the flow of goods. This tendency that prevails today among insurrectionalists owes its birth (in my opinion) to the opposition of anarchism of action to the BR [Red Brigades] “lottarmatismo” of the late 70s when the “keyword” for anarchists became that the State did not have a heart, a centre. Meantime the BR were maintaining the necessity of striking “the heart of the State” in the figures of its most significant men. Many decades have passed, everything has changed but this “formula” which had a strong sense at the time has become a “mantra”, a “dogma” that has perpetuated itself in the same way, losing more and more meaning and becoming harbinger of obtuseness, intransigence, justification for fears never expressed. This methodology, at least as far as concerns the country where I find myself living, has been reduced to a refusal (never admitted, but in fact practiced) to strike people, those directly responsible for the nefariousness of the system. For many anarchists there is only “sabotage” and destructive action (striking and destroying things). The exclusivity of this practice is also widespread in the “ecological” milieu with a few significant exceptions, Kaczynski for one. ALF and ELF also take on this propensity to exclude violent actions against people (with a few sporadic exceptions). These “organizations” are important for other reasons because they are an important example (because concrete) of how one can “organize” in a destructured way. As some comrades say “the organization that does not have or want organization”. In my opinion, their influence on the practice of FAI-FRI is without any doubt, it suffices to think of their communicating through actions and their international campaigns. I hope we’ll have the chance to talk about this more in depth later… Here in Italy in the anarchist sphere only a few actions of the FAI have gone against that tendency in recent years. The much denigrated “parcel bombs”, an ancient practice which, whatever you say, is part of the anarchist “tradition”. Just think of the so-called “galleanists” in America or the dispatching of explosive trunks addressed to the biggest Italian dailies carried out by [Italian] anarchists who had escaped to France during the fascist regime, to mention but a few. As I have already said in the past, the distortion of “history”, the purging of inconvenient facts is not an exclusively Stalinist practice, even we anarchists practice it in our own small way, often unconsciously. You mention the Luddite movement, anarchists, and not only, far too often present this movement as an exclusive example of the practice of “sabotage”, erasing the part of that history which is less digestible for a certain vision of action. Murder was also part of the Luddites’ paraphernalia, they didn’t limit themselves to the destruction of looms. In 1812 William Horsfall, the owner of a textile factory, was shot (dead) in an ambush. A few days earlier he had promised his workers he would put down any revolt and that Luddite blood would flow up to his saddle. It was he who succumbed, it was his blood that flowed. Three Luddites were hanged for that gesture of revolt. It was not a sporadic case, when we read the just exaltations of Luddism we hardly ever hear mention of this kind of action. Why? Is “sabotage” perhaps more subversive, more dangerous to the system than the physical elimination of a boss? Certainly today it involves a greater reaction by the system, more repression. But “fear” is never a good counselor, it makes us lose our rationality, our sense of reality. Perhaps the sense of loss of reality is due to the tomes and tomes, the endless “sociological” disquisitions of anarchists on the word “terrorism”, and on how this word can “isolate” us and is uniquely the product of power. Terrorism is a practice that anarchists (as almost all revolutionary and people’s movements) have always used. I will never tire of repeating it no matter how inconvenient and a bearer of repression it might be, because I believe that intellectual honesty and coherence go hand in hand, and in order to be credible, therefore effective, in action, we must be honest with ourselves and others, and not reason according to immediate convenience but in perspective. Terrorism, intended as a practice that spreads terror among the ruling class as Emile Henry did, as Algerians did by striking French bars (the examples are endless), however questionable it might be on a “moral” level, has never isolated anyone and history tells us so. Terrorism from below to above has all the justifications in the world. Excuse me if I’ve gone off the subject, but I had to say certain things, no matter how inconvenient. Let’s move on to the next question…
[Published in anarchist journal, “Vetriolo” n. 2, autumn 2018]
Source & Translated by act for freedom now!