Right to Insolvency

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Franco Berardi:

"A new concept is coming out from the fogs of the present situation: a right to insolvency. We'll not pay the debt.

The European countries have been obliged to accept the blackmail of debt, but people are refusing the concept that we have to pay for a debt that we have not taken. Anthropologist David Graeber, in his book Debt the first 5000 years, (Melville House, 2011), and philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato, in La fabrique de l'homme endetté (editions Amsterdam, 2011), have started an interesting reflection on the cultural origin of the notion of debt, and the psychic implications of the sense of guilt that the notion of debt brings in itself. And, in his essay, Recurring Dreams The Red Heart of Fascism, the Anglo-Italian young thinker Federico Campagna locates the analogy between the post Versailles Congress years and the present in the debt-obsession:

Last time, it took him decades to be born. First it was the war, and then, once it was over, it was debt, and all the ties that came with it. It was the time of industrialization, the time of modernity, and everything came in a mass scale. Mass impoverishment, mass unemployment, hyper-inflation, hyper-populism. Nations were cracking under the weight of what Marxists used to call 'contradictions', while capitalists were clinging to the brim of their top-hats, all waiting for the sky to fall to earth. And when it fell, they threw themselves down after it, in the dozens, down from their skyscrapers and their office blocks. The air became electric, squares filled up, trees turned into banners and batons. It was the interwar period, and in the depth of the social body, Nazism was still hidden, liquid and growing, quiet like a fetus.

This time, everything is happening almost exactly the same way as last time, just slightly out-of-sync, as happens with recurring dreams. Once again, the balance of power in the world is shifting. The old empire is sinking, melancholically, and new powers are rushing in the race to the top. Just like before, their athletic screams are the powerful ones of modernity. Growth! Growth! Growth! Their armies are powerful, their teeth shiny, their hopes murderous and pure. Old powers look at them in fear, listening to their incomprehensible languages like old people listen to young people's music.1

The burden of debt is haunting the European imagination of the future, and the Union, which used to be a promise of prosperity and peace is turning into a kind of blackmail and threat.

In response the movement has launched the slogan: We'll not pay the debt. These words are deceiving at the moment, as actually we are already paying for the debt: the educational system is already de-financed, and privatized, jobs are cancelled, and so on. But these words are meant to change the social perception of the debt, creating a consciousness of its arbitrariness and moral illegitimacy.

A right to insolvency is emerging as a new keyword and a new concept loaded with philosophical implications. The concept of insolvency implies not only the refusal to pay the financial debt, but also, in a subtle way, the refusal to submit the living potency of the social forces to the formal domination of the economic code.

Reclaiming the right to insolvency implies a radical questioning of the relation between the capitalist form (Gestalt) and the concrete productive potency of social forces, particularly the potency of the general intellect. The capitalist form is not only an economic set of rules and functions; it is also the internalization of a certain set of limitations, of psychic automatism, of rules for compliance.

Try to think for a second that the whole financial semiotization of European life disappears. Try to imagine that all of a sudden we stop organizing daily life in terms of money and debt. Nothing would change in the concrete useful potentiality of society, in the contents of our knowledge, in our skills and ability to produce. We should imagine (and consequently organize) the disentanglement of the living potentiality of the general intellect from the capitalist Gestalt - intended first of all as a psychic automatism governing daily life.

Insolvency means disclaiming the economic code of capitalism as transliteration of real life, as semiotization of social potency and richness. The concrete useful productive ability of the social body is forced to accept impoverishment in exchange for nothing. The concrete force of productive labor is submitted to the unproductive and actually destructive task of refinancing the failed financial system. If we may paradoxically cancel every mark of the financial semiotization, nothing would change in the social machinery, nothing in the intellectual ability to conceive and perform. Communism does not need to be called out from the womb of the future; it is here, in our being, in the immanent life of common knowledge.

But the present situation is paradoxical - simultaneously exciting and despairing. Capitalism has never been so close to the final collapse, but social solidarity has never been so far from our daily experience. We must start from this paradox in order to build a post-political and post-revolutionary process of disentanglement of the possible from the existent." (http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v014/14.4S.berardi.html)