Revolution is impossible. In the contemporary epoch of new media technologies, revolution in its traditional sense has become impossible. Cinema and television mobilize massive populations far more effectively than any “revolutionary situation”. The notion of the “revolutionary situation” comes from the rhetoric of a party that felt called upon to mobilize the masses as the fictitious subject of the historical process. The question of who plays the role of the revolution’s main protagonist in the end – the masses or the party – can only lead us astray. It introduces dialectics to something that leaves little room for their to-and-fro.
The romantic enchantment with revolution or engaged involvement in collective action is one of the weapons of a political struggle in which the party reveals itself as a pragmatic institution of the most conservative type. One can understand attempts to reallocate the revolutionary mission to autonomous groups or communities, but still, all of these attempts still rest tacitly upon the age-old “romantic” model of political action, the model of the social “event”. This image of revolution is actually a product of the epoch of the bourgeoisie and its cult of novelty, its values of freedom and equality. This notion contains even the most radical forms of protest, especially today.
It is only possible to resist. Addressing the figure of resistance unconsciously accepts the fact that revolution is impossible. If revolution is geared toward success or victory, resistance implies neither the one or the other. Instead, it is a reflexive movement, preserving the right of the individual or the community to make a critical statement, even if this statement is incapable of changing anything at all. As a consequence, “the effectiveness of resistance” is not a word-combination with any meaning, but is that which actually contradicts the spirit of resistance, which is to be ineffective or even without effect in a world of total efficiency.
Resistance is only possible as weakness. As an active force, it momentarily falls prey to the mechanisms of market politics, becoming one of their “effective” instruments. In this sense, the only one who really needs political resistance are mainstream politics themselves. The rhetoric of revolution, class-struggle, human rights, and freedom have long been appropriated by capitalism. They form a sphere of human activity that is already under control. All of their actions are framed properly, so that both genuine and naive activists, be they dissidents, anti-globalists, Trotskyites or whatever, go out into the street carrying the same signs and slogans as always. They appear as yet another element of the system, whose function would not seem liberal enough without their presence. The notion of resistance to the existing order of things forms a critical position in relation to any possible show of force. However, this “critical position” retains its dependence on power, even if this dependence consists in the figure of negation. If revolution is the struggle for power, resistance is a war with power, waged forever, despite all the endless defeats.
Rebellion is more likely. Revolution is impossible, because it is always a struggle for power, but resistance is the possibility for constructing a subjectivity borrowed from power itself. So what are the alternatives? I would sum them up under the word of “rebellion”. But this isn’t the rebellion that is automatically associated with the beginning of a revolutionary movement, nor is it protest, but rebellion as an activation of the forces of life. This is neither a political occasion, nor is it an individual action. Rebellion is apolitical and anonymous. It is neither struggle nor opposition, but affectation and excess. An excessive life in a world where even thoughts and feelings are under capitalist control. Unlike revolution and resistance, rebellion is not connected to any particular notion or image. Instead, it is the purely positive action of life’s own justice, carried out through our communicative bodies. Rebellion is always out of currency. It is not aimed at changing the world, and does not represent any attitudes of value, but lays bare a zone of life in which any and all values seem out of place. Rebellion is located in a zone of anonymous sociality, and has no goal and no notion, except the one which it is ascribed by the politicians post factum. But rebellion often occurs on those zones which politics have either not reached yet or where they lay open all of their power instincts (makers of viruses and hackers on the internet, hardcore bands and some artistic groups, just like lovers, bums, and terrorists in a world of “total prosperity”). There is no struggle and no negation in rebellion; one might even say that rebellion notwithstanding all of its possible aggressions is the triumph of nonviolence. This is the answer to any political form, an answer that comes from life itself, mobilizing virtual socialities. And it’s no coincidence that the world of media-images is one of the main spaces of this anarchic activity. The energy of rebellion is what forces us into the regime of resistance; it is what forces our sympathy for revolutionary projects, and to even take part in them, even if we understand them as falsehoods and illusions.