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Conspiracy and interstice: Notes on the wasteland

Conspiracy and interstice: Notes on the wasteland

Struggles for vacant land defend many ungovernable uses and relationships, beneath the mechanisms of capitalist ownership and state control

from Lundi Matin

Gap is a nice word. A nice word that would have the potential to please everyone. In other words, a pretty word that might mean nothing. We were among those who, a priori, were wary of its use to describe the now very famous wasteland of Hochelaga in Quebec. As if there was something smoothing, pacifying in this term. Something that would remove from this struggle its conflictual character. But it was rather because we ourselves were somewhat lost on what “was really at stake” in the wasteland. And that it was never about creating a little oasis in the desert, but rather about what was going on underneath.


The major reference regarding the gap today is Erik Olin Wright. In his book Real Utopias, he places in his conceptual scheme the interstitial strategy alongside the strategy of rupture and that of symbiosis. The interstice is distinguished for him on the one hand from transformation through rupture, specific to the old revolutionary tradition, which aims to produce a movement transforming capitalism as a whole. On the contrary, the interstitial strategy consists, in his opinion, of “a process of metamorphosis in which small successive transformations produce, by adding up, a qualitative change within the social system itself”. On the other hand, the interstice differs from the symbiotic transformation, specific to social democracy, because it maintains a “distance from the State”. It is not a question of adjusting institutions, as in the reformist tradition, but rather of eating away at their power – or even of developing new ones.

Wright’s proposal was taken up this year in the work Interstices – Sketch of real utopias in Quebec. What is especially striking, in this book as in Wright’s, is above all the absence of the question of political conflict. “Alternatives to the system” are presented in turn, but which operate precisely within the parameters established by the State. The antagonistic relationship between interstitial initiatives and the power in place has seemingly disappeared. If, for a few pages, there are questions about the setbacks of young communards, the notion of interstices essentially means, in the rest of the book, marginal economic or local governance initiatives. Without wishing to diminish the potential interest of its initiatives, it is nevertheless necessary to emphasize that once again, it is only in the field of economics or governmentality that we are authorized to talk. That enmity can only be thought of in terms of competition between different forms of commodity production. That the community can only be experienced under the supervision of the State. We have been so defeated that even the possibility of radically changing the world is expressed in the codes of liberalism.

We must understand that for his diagram to work, for him to be able to arrive at his reasonable conclusions, Wright needs to cheat somewhat on the meaning that can be given to the interstice. There could be no question of squatting, territorial autonomy zone or municipal expropriation. The interstice must remain civilized. It is therefore rather a question of sitting down, voting for regulations, and letting oneself be carried along by the long, calm river of the imperial economy, or of paddling against the tide. Presenting the interstitial strategy in such an innocuous way, and that of rupture as belonging to the past century, Erik Olin Wright has a good time offering us a synthesis of the three avenues, “a fairly flexible strategic pluralism”, where the strategy of symbiosis in emerges victorious. The gap is nothing more than a joke.

The problem with this mainstream conception of the interstice is that it sets aside the political and existential character. That is to say, by distorting the meaning of the interstice, by removing its conflictual aspect, it undermines its revolutionary potential.

In truth, the object of the interstice is not the alternative, but the conspiracy.


In the vast world of ecology, there is also a version of this gap thinking. This is about creating green spaces, islands of freshness, buffer zones. The gap is designed as a tool to reduce the impact of ecological disaster, enhance a neighbourhood or maximize biodiversity. As in the economic version, the gap can only exist here if it has a function, if it contributes in one way or another to society. In advanced capitalism, everything has the potential to have value if it demonstrates its productive potential.

The wasteland of Hochelaga could have been the place where this type of “interstitial initiative” was developed. Some have tried to reduce it, to give it a value. Transform it into a cooperative rental park, a social economy zone or even a natural space, where – of course – it would no longer be possible for us to set foot. These ways of thinking about the interstice do not, however, agree with what has been happening for several years in the East of Montreal. The wasteland is not a “real utopia” nor an “emancipatory alternative” and even less a “minor institution”.

And yet, there is something at play in the interstice of the wasteland…
something unproductive, but which, nevertheless, persists.

In our opinion, the main error in ecological or economic conceptions lies first of all at the conceptual level. Interstices are always thought of as cracks, fissures. Spaces between two buildings, practices between two regulations, etc. We believe precisely that we need to think about the interstices on another level.

In How to do it?, a text published in 2001, it is about a slight displacement. Something like the experience of desubjectivation, which takes place in a situation, when a “play creeps in between my presence and the whole apparatus of qualities which are ordinarily attached to me”. A distance between the way I am in the world – between my presence – and the categories, the codes, the predicates which should define me.

“Everything that isolates me as a subject, as a body endowed with a public configuration of attributes, I feel it melting away”.

This gap, this distance, in reality, is the interstice. If it is mobilized there in a very intimate, very personal example, it is widely generalizable. It could be a broader question of all the dropouts, of everything that is experienced below capitalist normality. Uses, practices, moments, experiences that do not correspond to the requirements of the system. The distance between what is experienced and what is represented, between normal functioning and everything that happens underneath, between official rules and underground poaching – that is the gap. Not a set of cracks or fissures that we look at from above, on a map – a horizontal plane. But rather on a vertical plane, like the distance between our presence, what we experience, what is organized on one side and the world of representation, the social screen and all of the control devices of other. In short, everything that conspires.

Too obsessed with thinking about the outside, we have neglected the underside.


We would pay little attention to the dominant conception of the interstice if it were not spreading and contaminating us with its impotence. Everywhere, it is the same idea of ​​the alternative that is spreading, “inside, but against the system”, as if to definitively bury the possibility of revolution.

On several occasions in his work, Erik Olin Wright exults in the quantity of these “interstices” in Quebec. He even celebrates the heavy public financing and the governance institutions linked to them. However, there is a contradiction in terms here. The interstice, which had to be “far from the State” conversely becomes a tool of the State. And precisely, if Quebec stands out, it is because of its peaceful character. Its weak revolutionary potential. The social and solidarity economy is perhaps not, in itself, a counter-insurgency device, “but to buy peace it’s the best solution, it’s a lot cheaper than a revolution”, sang a local poet.

The last chapter in the history of economic domination, that of neo-liberalism, is perhaps even concluded here by the anarchists, when Anna Kruzynski tells us that “there is therefore no revolutionary moment or great evening to anticipate, no rupture, no abolition of system. Confirming the end of history that Fukuyama announced, it offers us as compensation “rather a broadening of the spectrum of economic activities”. As friends said: “The idea is spreading that the social and solidarity economy could constitute an ‘alternative to capitalism’. Rather, we see it as an alternative to combat.”

Some might see this as a bad play, where the debates of the First International are replayed. The supporters of the social and solidarity economy would come to play bad Proudhonists, hoping to “burn private property slowly” through economic and social issues rather than through politics. In which case socialists might respond with the imperative to focus on state power. Bad Marxists, they would undoubtedly urge us to make yet another attempt to give Québec Solidaire a revolutionary turn – and to buy their newspaper in the process. And we could undoubtedly find ourselves, alongside bad Bakuninists – with all the aura of the first line – playing the bad Blanquists. But let’s try to do better.


The distance between our definition of the gap and that of Erik Olin Wright is in our opinion not anecdotal. It is the allegory proposed by Robert Migner which would perhaps adequately exemplify this distinction: that of the eagle and the frog. As we can guess, the eagle has an overhanging point of view, an above-ground perspective which undoubtedly gives it many advantages, but which prevents it from perceiving the depth of things. This point of view is that of the whole, that of society. The eye of the master. Where the gap can only be seen on the horizontal plane. Despite all his efforts and good intentions, Wright remains a prisoner. As such, some will even say that it is perhaps less a question of an eagle than of a vulture; but let’s move on. Our conception of the gap is rather that of the frog. At ground level, only able to jump from his own situation, certainly, but remaining close to things all the same. Obviously, the frog is in the marsh, where it stinks, where it’s muddy and mired. But we didn’t need to wait for confirmation from biologists to know that this is where it swarms, where it swarms.

From the eagle’s point of view, many things could therefore be said about the wasteland of Hochelaga. Classify it in different ways, fit it into different boxes. But it will always only be a question of what can appear on the social screen. The great spectacle of everything that is representable, of everything that can be valued. Ultimately, what sets us apart from Wright – and his followers – is that he wants to make the interstice legible. He wants to give it meaning from society’s point of view. Conversely, what interests us in the interstice is precisely its illegibility character. Wright hopes to highlight a number of practices and initiatives to save the economy, save governance. However, for our part, if it happens that we find ourselves in this type of project, it is rather to save us from the economy and the power of the government. Because these initiatives allow a certain opacity, making it easier to carry out our operations. The interstice will never be the cooperative, the community center or the defended territory, but it can well open up in these places when we free ourselves from economic imperatives, from the limits of state legality, from the existential liberalism which locks us into small boxes: when we conspire.

While everything encourages us to prolong the long sleep of the body. The larval state in which all experiences are mediated by devices. Where everything that is shared must be counted. Where everything that is felt must pass through screens. Where everything that is said and believed must be able to be represented and exhibited. Where everything that is invented must be commodified. While everything invites us to continue this meticulous calibration of our subjectivities, we must focus on what is happening underneath. To what is irreducible from the point of view of society.


In recent years, some very bad reviews of the text Connections– For an ecology of presence have circulated in Montreal. Urban radicals saw fit to replay the sterile city/country opposition, assuming that living in cooperatives of the English-speaking petty bourgeoisie was more “decolonial” than living in the region. We will leave it to Marxists and decolonials to explain to them what life in a Western metropolis requires in terms of resource extraction, population movements, exploitation of the labour force in the Global South, etc. No incantation, no sacrificial policy, will be able to purge us of the sin of living in a colonial and capitalist world. Our question is not that of repentance, but that of revolution.

“Atheists, one more effort if you want to be revolutionary!”

What interests us, however, in these critiques is that once again, the interstice was spontaneously thought of in geographical and not existential terms. The call for secession and the development of other ways of being, made in Reconnexion, was received by its detractors strictly on a horizontal plane and not vertically. As if we could reduce to “leaving the city” a proposition like that of “attaching to places, inventing other ways of being there, new sensitivities, new relationships with oneself and with others, which hold us and which we care about. Learn to defend them, above all, and from this new position, inevitably cause harm.”

It is perhaps the proposal of the commune which has brought a lot of confusion in the reception of the text, accustomed as we are to thinking of the commune as the basic unit of the hippie communities of the 70s. But the commune n It’s not a fixed group of people, nor a specific place. The commune is a way of posing problems and responding to them, in common. The commune could arise on vacant land. Sometimes we feel it rising. You can feel it boiling. We sometimes find ourselves saying “We”. But the threshold has not yet been crossed. “The commune is what happens when beings find each other, get along and put themselves at stake”, we read in The Coming Insurrection .

We just have to put ourselves into play.


The same confusion extends to all these different “territorial struggles” which are increasingly being discussed. Confusion in which, it must be admitted, we ourselves have participated in recent years. In reality, no territory precedes the use or exploitation that is made of it. Hunting territory, breeding territory, secession territory, port expansion zone, zone to defend, zone to protect. Territories do not pre-exist either the planning and development that companies or the government plan, nor the struggle that responds to it. A territory does not have to be far from the city or correspond to a specific ecosystem or forest. A territory is simply a space where practices are deployed. Its surface area is ultimately that of the gestures that develop there.

With devoted calm, it is ultimately the same confusion that Lev Gurwitsch relates to us in his Outline for a Revolutionary Strategy. His criticism of “Zadist thought” sees in the various territorial struggles a desire to “fold back into a rural community, to extract territory, to build alternatives in parallel with the State”. A bit as if the ZAD had been experienced and thought of as specialists in socio-ecological transition would present it, an interstitial strategy in the style of Wright. In the same way, one could believe that Renseignement or the Territorial Defence and Decolonization Committees (CDDT) were carrying out this project. Go to the defence of territories, to the defence of indigenous or victimized non-indigenous communities. To find pure oppressed subjects, or intact natural objects to preserve. However, the project has always been more about exploring conspiratorial practices. Connecting what resists, weaving complicity across colonial and geographical divides. Published in 2020, the 3rd edition of the CDDT journals concluded by saying:

“In reserves, villages and towns, those
who look for accomplices will always end up finding them.
Between the act and the thought, the condition of possibility is conspiracy".

Where Lev Gurwitsch sees in “rural communes” or “territorial struggles” a withdrawal effect, an autarkic fantasy, we see it rather as the expression of a secessionist desire, open and shareable. A vast desire to live and organize on another level. It’s up to us to make it a moment in the current war. In the same way, despite everything, the passage in France from the struggle of the ZAD of Notre-Dame des Landes to the Uprisings of the Earth testifies to this quite well. The ancients would have spoken of “dialectic between the war of position and the war of movement”. We will rather talk about balance, in the construction of a political force, between its theoretical depth, its warlike capacities and the development of its material means. Provided, of course, that we stay the course on increasing our power and not sink into the invention of “campaign activism” in the countryside.

Thus, if vacant land is a “territorial struggle” it is because the uses that are defended there are territorialized. So are the relationships that are developed there. Hence the difficulty of limiting it precisely on a geographical level. The wasteland is neither the Boisé Steinberg, nor the Boisé Vimont, nor the wasteland and even less the cemetery of Ray-Mont logistics. The wasteland is not really the sum of all these places, but rather what is happening underneath. The assemblage of laughs and reflections, of contemplations and shenanigans, perhaps not ungovernable, but to this day ungoverned. A plurality of uses which develop beneath the mechanisms of capitalist ownership and state control. It is therefore not a question of “autarkic withdrawal” but rather of the autonomous deployment of other relationships with the world. In The vacant land is not for anyone, published in 2018, we asked for the infinite expansion of the vacant land. Our program remains unchanged to this day.


The great opportunity that the wasteland gave us is ultimately to be absolutely banal. Luckily for us, it’s worthless. The contaminated land prevents us from turning it into a field. Descendants of settlers, we would have had the reflex, by pure tradition, to clear it, to make it productive, to get something out of it. Sad hypermodern subjectivity, we would have liked it to be Instagrammable. Clean up this disturbing ruin into something like a default Windows sleep landscape. Children upset about the asphalt; we would have liked to transform it into a natural site. Expel us from the little we have left out of Christian charity, for the benefit of federally protected green space quotas. The wasteland actually saved us from ourselves.

The most evocative demonstration that this space is worthless undoubtedly lies in the need to destroy it in order to valorise it. All proposals on the table still involve disfiguring him. Two meters of soil would have to be removed and replaced across the entire site to install agricultural greenhouses. The woods would have to be razed to make a long road that could connect the chickpea containers to the rest of nothingness more quickly. It would need to be securely fenced off to chase away walkers and families and make it a protected ecological space. It would be necessary to mark the paths, add supervisors, cameras and toilets to exclude party girls and lovers, to make it a civilized park.

But the wasteland is worthless. It’s even a safe bet that the different species of birds listed land there like us: for no reason. Simply because they like the place. That they like to be there. That maybe they just love each other? And that they have become comfortable there over time. That they make use of the place, even if it’s a bit gross. If ecologists want to make their ontological turn, they will have to admit that we are not ultimately so much linked to these migratory birds by the immense fantasized fusional network of relationships which would connect together everything that exists… but rather because we we have practices in common, such as going to waste time in the wasteland.

If we fight against wasteland through certain uses, our project is not reduced to these localized practices. It is for Use that we are fighting, as an organizing principle antagonistic and heterogeneous to the world of capital. Against the decreed and organized separation of life and the sources of life which produces for us, over the course of several centuries of colonial modernity, like simple blooms, these beings of uprooting. We therefore take sides in the war on uses that Dalie Giroux speaks about, which attempts to prevent “the indefinite, proliferating and gratuitous extension of gestures, practices, mediations, DIY, rituals, cosmological intercession, which allow us to live, to sustain life.”

No, wasteland is worth nothing and it is fortunate since it forces us to use it: to live in a place without owning it, to spend time that cannot be counted, to take care of what shares our world, to do war without a commander. Experiment, by fragment, with the common form . There is a whole world, underground, but inhabited, full of things and relationships which are not reducible to the logic of value, which are irreducible. The wasteland requires us to find meaning, to identify what is really worth it, what can be at stake between us, below the world of economics. This is, ultimately, what distant cousins ​​summarized in Sumud Akbar :

“The contradiction of the era, its revolutionary charge,
is not between “a project of infinite growth and a finite planet”,
but between a global project of reduction and the irreducible character of all things”.

Below the world of value, the infinite world of play opens up. Pure loss, which claims nothing else and thus allows us to rediscover the naive joy of childhood. “The coming revolt is the revolt of lost children. The thread of historical transmission has been broken. “. We can still hear between the branches the laughter of the thousands of bad moves that have constituted this struggle for 10 years. All the parties and picnics, conflicts and antics that make it a territory. Rumour has it that it was with the same childish pleasure that Ray-Mont Logistique’s trucks were set on fire, its rails were concreted, the entrances were barricaded so many times or the fences were reopened every time. from the city.

Children lost in an era without truth, if our revolt is obvious, our triumph is uncertain. Our party still needs to be built.


In the defunct and defeated Marxist-Leninist tradition there was a concept, that of building the Party. There has long been talk, with, let us admit, some success, of going to workplaces during strikes and protests to find the “proletarians with the most advanced class consciousness”. Revolutionary political work then consisted of integrating these elements into the Party, of making them cadres who could in turn participate in the expansion of the revolutionary force. Today we believe that our role is to contribute to the reinvention of this concept of Party. Not to take up the centralized and institutional fantasy, but rather to draw from it the force of requirement, the capacity for coherence. Thus, from now on, our task is to meet situations to see the potential for withdrawal that they open up. The possibilities that present themselves where anyone emerges from the social screen. We believe that the terrain of the Party, the space of its development, is that of the interstice. The vertical gap, opened by the conspiracy.
This is the real plan of consistency.

Because it is impossible to place ourselves wisely alongside these alternative technicians. Specialists in the post-capitalist economy or socialist community agents, we are promised a world free from the violence of the system without, however, problematizing the political force that could make such a world possible. These theorists of political economy ultimately do the economy of politics. What made colonial modernity possible, what made it possible to preserve the logic of capital, was a constant war on customs. The world of value is maintained precisely on the separation of communities and territories, on the fragmentation of our beings into individuals having to sell their labour power, on the dispossession of the means of producing and reproducing one’s life – in short on the destruction of uses. The armed peace of Western democracies is only a moment in this war that is being waged against us and which we will one day have to choose to face or lose definitively.

Not so long ago, we spoke of the Party in the present tense. We are confined to talking about it today only in the future tense, as a hypothesis. We must now return to the drawing board, identify our mistakes, heal our wounds, rethink the foundations of what will follow. How can we coordinate, give ourselves consistency, without losing the movement in the institution, without crushing the meaning beneath the functioning? How can we densify relationships, multiply municipalities, without retreating into the gang, without reproducing group logic? How can we be reachable, audible, without becoming a prisoner of the social screen, without remaining as an authorized opposition that legitimizes domination? In the conspiracy, resistance is already opaque, diffuse. It’s up to us not to give the Empire the clues to defeat us. The adventure has only just begun. The sceptical mind, attached to the world of entertainment, cannot help but ask us: but what are you fighting for? If you have a party, what is your plan? What is your revolutionary goal, your communism? And we will respond in this way: our communism is custom. And this is how the conspiracy of uses began.

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