(Texto apresentado na «Commoniversity 2010», encontro europeu de universidades anómalas realizado em Barcelona de 25 a 27 de Novembro de 2007)
Unipop is a Lisbon collective set up in 2007 to disseminate critical theory and militant practice beyond the narrow confines of the academic circuit, and to open up spaces where contemporary capitalism can be subject to analysis and political intervention. Unipop has a few core members but operates as a network that over the past few years has relied on the participation of hundreds of individual militants and academics as well as a number of independent organizations. In 2008 we organized and rallied around an International Conference on the afterlives of May 68, which was the trigger for a shift towards a more inclusive and continuous political and educational project. Our main activities since have been the organization of open courses, debates and workshops, in a variety of venues. We have an ongoing Contemporary Critical Theory Course (CCTC), which has existed not only in a generic form (as an Introduction to Contemporary Critical Theory) but has also covered themes such as ‘The economy beyond the economy’, ‘Politics beyond politics’, ‘The metropolis as social factory’ and, more recently, ‘Aesthetics and Politics’. We have begun a ‘Reading Workshop’, whose first series of sessions focused on Benjamin’s ‘The Author as Producer’ and a constellation of related texts. Alongside these, Unipop has also set up initiatives of a more episodic and topical nature, such as debates around the Greek riots, on political violence, on precarity and new forms of resistance, and on the political uses of the term terrorism, among others. Our latest initiative, still ongoing, is a series of debates on ‘The private, the public and the common’, whose inaugural session was a public interview with Michael Hardt. For 2011, the following activities are already scheduled and in preparation: three CCTC Courses (Science; History; Identity), a workshop on Benjamin’s ‘Theses on the Concept of History’; the first issue of our (as yet untitled) quarterly magazine; the publication of a collection of essays from the CCTC Courses lectures; a collection of Militant Critical Theory Readers; a ‘Reading Workshop’ on Marx’s ‘Theses on Feuerbach’. We are working towards diversify our approach even further, developing new forms of intervention, and we hope to extend or strengthen our international ties to similar organizations.
Although there is much common ground between the various Unipop members and collaborators, this common ground is something we continuously work on rather than a previously demarcated terrain, much less a singular political line. The work we carry out is open and cooperative, but also militant, anchored in a constellation of concerns aimed at a politically inflected understanding of the present and at encouraging new forms of critical understanding and emancipatory practice. These are interrelated parts of a general critique and redefinition of the scope of ‘the possible’.
In short, we want our identity to be shaped by our activities, contacts and exchanges rather than by a series of pre-established programmatic notes or trajectories. Be that as it may, there are a number of coordinates which can help situate our activity so far and give a sense of our direction in the future.
• We believe that both politics and critical thought should be wrenched from any attempt to enclose them as a professional or specialized fields.
• We aim to foster forms of debate that cut across entrenched institutional and academic lines, and we believe that dialogue between different currents of thought is necessary for the constructive exploration of political alternatives.
• Above and beyond any individual works or topics addressed in our public discussion, we want to render the workings of contemporary capitalism visible and intelligible. We feel this requires a double focus: a work of diagnosis, addressing the current configuration of capitalism in its various institutional and ideological forms; but also a recognition and critical reflection on existing forms of collective resistance, struggle and solidarity.
• We seek to take initiative and bring to the fore topics which are neglected or evaded in academia as well as in public discourse. Although we hold a partisan approach to knowledge, we feel our task is to aim beyond exclusionary views, facile oppositions or polemical simplifications. However, our activities have also been designed in form of response, as well as initiative— a stance that has proven all the more urgent in the context of the present crisis and which we intend to invest on even further in the future.
• We aim to move beyond education, in the narrow sense of passing on knowledge or contents, to political discussion and activity in all its aspects. The very form of such debates – i.e., to what extent they operate on the basis of openness and equality – is something to be continuously developed and improved.
• We do not want to take refuge in an autonomous field of ideas, but nor do we give in to an anti-intellectual shortcut to practice. There is, as far as we’re concerned, no clear-cut opposition between theory and practice: understanding and changing the world feed off each other.
• Our reflections and initiatives are based on the premise that the vocabulary, the theoretical frameworks and the forms of practice we have inherited from different strands of the Left tradition need to be examined critically, in other words, neither discarded out of hand nor taken for granted. Although we feel there are no clear answers to the present situation, nor even clear diagnoses, we do not buy into the notion of a ‘poverty of ideas’: this discourse is myopic and amnesiac, as well as defeatist, contributing to the closure of political alternatives. Ideas are there, both old and new, and they need to be picked up, bounced off each other and shared as widely as possible. The strengths and weaknesses of ideas should be tested at every turn. Our intellectual genealogy is a work in progress.
• It is not up to us to define what the collective is or ought to be, but we consider a collective dimension to be essential to any meaningful political practice.
• We refuse to accept, and actively engage against, the notion of the inevitability of capitalism. Opposition to this ideological discourse needs to be premised on the refusal to accept inequality and hierarchy as ‘natural’ in any way.
• We refuse to operate on the basis of a narrow definition of ‘the possible’ and of the restricted choice between privatization and the defense of the State. A critique of capitalism implies a critique of the State-form and its institutions.
• We believe that the current configuration of capitalism can only be properly understood on a global scale.
• Part of the task of understanding the present is to recognize the extent to which we are immersed in capitalist social relations. This is something we need to confront, rather than retreat from. Opposition to capitalism cannot mean withdrawing into an enclave and leaving the rest as it is.
• The horizon of systemic transformation should not stand opposed to more local and partial struggles or act as an infinite deferral of political intervention in the here and now. There are no silver bullets in the fight against capitalism: our tasks is to find ways to articulate distinct critical categories (class, gender, subalternity, etc) as well as multiple but overlapping local strategies and specific forms of intervention.
• We privilege a politics of alliance and horizontal collaboration. However, we have no fetishism of the fragmentary: the sense of solidarity and collective endeavor, as well as a systemic analysis of capitalism, should remain present beyond any single-issue politics. Difference and heterogeneity need to operate critically, rather than be ends in themselves.
Agradecemos o envio de propostas de iniciativas, de artigos para a revista Imprópria ou de livros para a edição, bem como qualquer sugestão ou opinião acerca da actividade da Unipop.