The Whole World Reflected in a Fragment: 3 myths around the struggle against the high speed train (TAV) in the Susa Valley
1. The struggle in Val de Susa is not a local struggle
If we want to continue to call it that, we need to give it a completely different meaning to the one we use currently. One of the strengths of this struggle is its capacity to make links with a multitude of other “situations”. As the years go by, the links are strengthened, lines of communication are made, and secret paths between the Susa Valley and countless other places in Europe have been created. The struggle has already beaten the high speed train on its own terrain : it has managed to reduce distances in dizzying proportions- as much between inhabitants of the valley as between the “old timers” and the “outsiders”.
The No Tav-ers have also built a very strong relationship with the central area of the struggle, the Susa Valley, and have gradually built a force that is found nowhere else in Italy.
To an extent, the No Tav-ers have made the false distinction between local and global obsolete. False in the sense that on one hand there is almost nowhere in the world that is not connected to the globalized flux: imposition of culture, language, colonial sovereignty, connection to phone and digital networks, satellite coverage, immigration and emigration, etc; equally false because there is no power that exists- nor any opposition to power- that is not, situated in the material realm, that does not express itself in the physical configuration of places and things.
The power manifested in the Susa Valley comes from the fact that we don't struggle against abstract concepts (Capital, the State, a law, pollution, or the mafia) but against the local embodiment of the concrete way these abstractions govern lives, control spaces, and broadcast/ diffuse the effects.
What does it mean to be “No Tav”? It's to start from a simple statement: “the high speed train will never come through the Susa Valley” and organize one's life to make sure that this statement holds true. There are multitudes of people who have met around this certitude in the course of the last 20 years. From this particular point on which there is no question of giving up any ground, the whole world is reconfigured. The struggle in the Susa Valley concerns the entire world, not because it defends the “common good” in general but because at the core is the shared thinking of a certain idea of what is good. This thinking comes up against other worldviews/perceptions, defends itself against those who want to annihilate it and links itself to those who find affinity with it.
2. The Susa Valley is part of the metropolis
The Susa Valley is often described by its detractors as a backwards kind of place, populated by a cult of hillbillies who refuse progress and live deep in the woods in candle-lit shacks. This is a false caricature. But in the same way, many No TAV-ers put forth another caricature, opposite but just as false: the Susa Valley is a magnificent valley, wild and virgin, that the high-speed-train-monster wants to destroy, exploit, and devastate. Like the movie Avatar, the idea is of defending an intact territory threatened by the forces of evil come to colonize it. It is time to throw out both these caricatures and clearly state: the Susa Valley is a part of the metropolis. It's obvious, but not everyone is ready to admit it, in the valley but especially outside of it, where the “myth of the valley” is spread.
But really, who are these mythical inhabitants of the Susa Valley? Are they really so different from other Europeans? Don't they watch the same television, eat the same processed foods, want the same washing machines? Don't their children play with with same Playstations? Their memory, still carved in the cliffs and ravines of the valley, rich with stories of heretics, wizards and resistance movements is transformed into folklore for tourist guides and robbed of all danger by relegating it to the past. The community of the Susa Valley, which existed for a short time if ever, in any case no longer exists today. The possibility of its existance resides completely in what is to come.
Slashed by an enormous highway viaduct, disfigured by hydroelectric power stations, made legend by the tourism industry, the Susa Valley is not an immaculate valley, a happy island set apart from the flow of goods which makes up the fabric of the world.
On the contrary, the Susa Valley is presently, train or no train, a high speed corridor at the heart of the trans-european network of transporting merchandise and already supports the weight of devastating infrastructures. The border between metropolis and mountainside is blurred, dissolved in the space-time of logistics which cancel out distances, destroying all notions of “local” and all difference. Thus, there is not a lot to “preserve” in this land full of abandoned vineyards and office complexes.
And thus the places which the movement has used over the course of the past 20 years, like road blockades, the Baita Clarea, the encampment of Venaus, or the more intense experiences like the Free Republic of the Maddalena, they are not content to defend a “territory” in the state in which they found it, but that they have lived and experienced with an eye to what it can become.
The same reasoning holds true for the neighborhoods in our cities, which from the point of view of urbanism no longer exist, but which nothing (apart from maybe the police) can prevent us from trying to live as if they are ours. The struggle doesn't defend a pre-existing territory. It brings it into existence, makes it, gives it substance.
3. That the “worksite” at Chiomonte is anything other than a military barracks is absurd.
On the contrary, it exposes the very essence of all infrastructure, the impossibility of distinguishing the flux from what controls it. The character always more imminent, horizontal, and widespread of this so-called “control”, always more integrated in the architecture of the physical world, always more impossible to isolate from the processes by which it is “applied”, calls into question the very pertinence of the use of the notion of control.
We have come to ask ourselves if the valley is militarized to defend a worksite or if this worksite, at first glance just silly, in fact serves primarily as a pretext to establish order in the valley. We no longer know who obeys and who commands. And it will be more and more so, as long as politics and the economy, which are fairly recent abstractions, merge at the heart of each dispositif, to the extent that the government of people becomes confused with the administration of things.
Maintaining order has never meant blocking circulation but on the contrary regulating and selecting those who move. The high speed train is not a death machine, it's a machine that puts life in order, which gives it a certain form, a certain speed. And we can say the same thing of each example of capitalism in our lives. We can no longer say that the high speed train, or whatever other disgraceful project, is useless, absurd, or foolish. Faced with this dispositif, the bad question is “What is it good for?”. The just, materialist question is, on the contrary: “What goals, what operation does this dispositif bring into existence?”
The high speed train is ideology materialized. It is the embodiment made of steel, cement, and blue uniforms, of a conception of a world which is completely foreign to us but which we don't have the luxury to ignore. The long lists of reasons against the TAV show a pointless project, even from a pro-government or capitalist point of view. Without questioning the usefulness of such documents to propagate the opposition to the project, it means now that we must make one more step to make sense of the logic at work behind this apparently illogical infrastructure. For that we lack a language, adequate categories, because we are accustomed to expressing ourselves in political jargon of a century ago that has since become hopelessly outdated.
Yet an effort must still be made in this direction, because in discovering the principles which regulate this world at the very core of its infrastructure, we can also find a formula for turning it against itself. All government is technical, power is found in infrastructure.
Blockades everywhere, spread autonomy.