From Hakim Bey
Music as an Organizational Principle
MEANWHILE, HOWEVER, WE TURN to the history of classical anarchism in the light of the TAZ concept.
Before the "closure of the map," a good deal of anti- authoritarian energy went into "escapist" communes such as Modern Times, the various Phalansteries, and so on. Interestingly, some of them were not intended to last "forever," but only as long as the project proved fulfilling. By Socialist/Utopian standards these experiments were "failures," and therefore we know little about them.
When escape beyond the frontier proved impossible, the era of revolutionary urban Communes began in Europe. The Communes of Paris, Lyons and Marseilles did not survive long enough to take on any characteristics of permanence, and one wonders if they were meant to. From our point of view the chief matter of fascination is the spirit of the Communes. During and after these years anarchists took up the practice of revolutionary nomadism, drifting from uprising to uprising, looking to keep alive in themselves the intensity of spirit they experienced in the moment of insurrection. In fact, certain anarchists of the Stirnerite/Nietzschean strain came to look on this activity as an end in itself, a way of always occupying an autonomous zone, the interzone which opens up in the midst or wake of war and revolution (cf. Pynchon's "zone" in Gravity's Rainbow). They declared that if any socialist revolution succeeded, they'd be the first to turn against it. Short of universal anarchy they had no intention of ever stopping. In Russia in 1917 they greeted the free Soviets with joy: this was their goal. But as soon as the Bolsheviks betrayed the Revolution, the individualist anarchists were the first to go back on the warpath. After Kronstadt, of course, all anarchists condemned the "Soviet Union" (a contradiction in terms) and moved on in search of new insurrections.
Makhno's Ukraine and anarchist Spain were meant to have duration, and despite the exigencies of continual war both succeeded to a certain extent: not that they lasted a "long time," but they were successfully organized and could have persisted if not for outside aggression. Therefore, from among the experiments of the inter-War period I'll concentrate instead on the madcap Republic of Fiume, which is much less well known, and was not meant to endure. Gabriele D'Annunzio, Decadent poet, artist, musician, aesthete, womanizer, pioneer daredevil aeronautist, black magician, genius and cad, emerged from World War I as a hero with a small army at his beck and command: the "Arditi." At a loss for adventure, he decided to capture the city of Fiume from Yugoslavia and give it to Italy. After a necromantic ceremony with his mistress in a cemetery in Venice he set out to conquer Fiume, and succeeded without any trouble to speak of. But Italy turned down his generous offer; the Prime Minister called him a fool.
In a huff, D'Annunzio decided to declare independence and see how long he could get away with it. He and one of his anarchist friends wrote the Constitution, which declared music to be the central principle of the State. The Navy (made up of deserters and Milanese anarchist maritime unionists) named themselves the Uscochi, after the long- vanished pirates who once lived on local offshore islands and preyed on Venetian and Ottoman shipping. The modern Uscochi succeeded in some wild coups: several rich Italian merchant vessels suddenly gave the Republic a future: money in the coffers! Artists, bohemians, adventurers, anarchists (D'Annunzio corresponded with Malatesta), fugitives and Stateless refugees, homosexuals, military dandies (the uniform was black with pirate skull-&-crossbones--later stolen by the SS), and crank reformers of every stripe (including Buddhists, Theosophists and Vedantists) began to show up at Fiume in droves. The party never stopped. Every morning D'Annunzio read poetry and manifestos from his balcony; every evening a concert, then fireworks. This made up the entire activity of the government. Eighteen months later, when the wine and money had run out and the Italian fleet finally showed up and lobbed a few shells at the Municipal Palace, no one had the energy to resist.
D'Annunzio, like many Italian anarchists, later veered toward fascism--in fact, Mussolini (the ex-Syndicalist) himself seduced the poet along that route. By the time D'Annunzio realized his error it was too late: he was too old and sick. But Il Duce had him killed anyway--pushed off a balcony--and turned him into a "martyr." As for Fiume, though it lacked the seriousness of the free Ukraine or Barcelona, it can probably teach us more about certain aspects of our quest. It was in some ways the last of the pirate utopias (or the only modern example)--in other ways, perhaps, it was very nearly the first modern TAZ.
I believe that if we compare Fiume with the Paris uprising of 1968 (also the Italian urban insurrections of the early seventies), as well as with the American countercultural communes and their anarcho-New Left influences, we should notice certain similarities, such as:--the importance of aesthetic theory (cf. the Situationists)--also, what might be called "pirate economics," living high off the surplus of social overproduction--even the popularity of colorful military uniforms--and the concept of music as revolutionary social change--and finally their shared air of impermanence, of being ready to move on, shape-shift, re- locate to other universities, mountaintops, ghettos, factories, safe houses, abandoned farms--or even other planes of reality. No one was trying to impose yet another Revolutionary Dictatorship, either at Fiume, Paris, or Millbrook. Either the world would change, or it wouldn't. Meanwhile keep on the move and live intensely.
The Munich Soviet (or "Council Republic") of 1919 exhibited certain features of the TAZ, even though--like most revolutions--its stated goals were not exactly "temporary." Gustav Landauer's participation as Minister of Culture along with Silvio Gesell as Minister of Economics and other anti- authoritarian and extreme libertarian socialists such as the poet/playwrights Erich Mªhsam and Ernst Toller, and Ret Marut (the novelist B. Traven), gave the Soviet a distinct anarchist flavor. Landauer, who had spent years of isolation working on his grand synthesis of Nietzsche, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Stirner, Meister Eckhardt, the radical mystics, and the Romantic volk-philosophers, knew from the start that the Soviet was doomed; he hoped only that it would last long enough to be understood. Kurt Eisner, the martyred founder of the Soviet, believed quite literally that poets and poetry should form the basis of the revolution. Plans were launched to devote a large piece of Bavaria to an experiment in anarcho-socialist economy and community. Landauer drew up proposals for a Free School system and a People's Theater. Support for the Soviet was more or less confined to the poorest working-class and bohemian neighborhoods of Munich, and to groups like the Wandervogel (the neo-Romantic youth movement), Jewish radicals (like Buber), the Expressionists, and other marginals. Thus historians dismiss it as the "Coffeehouse Republic" and belittle its significance in comparison with Marxist and Spartacist participation in Germany's post-War revolution(s). Outmaneuvered by the Communists and eventually murdered by soldiers under the influence of the occult/fascist Thule Society, Landauer deserves to be remembered as a saint. Yet even anarchists nowadays tend to misunderstand and condemn him for "selling out" to a "socialist government." If the Soviet had lasted even a year, we would weep at the mention of its beauty--but before even the first flowers of that Spring had wilted, the geist and the spirit of poetry were crushed, and we have forgotten. Imagine what it must have been to breathe the air of a city in which the Minister of Culture has just predicted that schoolchildren will soon be memorizing the works of Walt Whitman. Ah for a time machine...