Anonymous on Sat Apr 21 00:08:27 2001

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by Antonio Caronia

As many readers know, Wu Ming is the collective name adopted by four 
Bologna-based promoters of the Luther Blissett Project (precisely the four 
authors of *Q*) after the *seppuku*, the samurai-styled ritual suicide by 
which they quit the "Luther Blissett" multiple name in December '99. The 
fifth member is Riccardo Pedrini, former punk rock musician and martial arts 
teacher, as well as author of the blood-chilling novel *Libera Baku Ora* 
[Free Baku Now!] (Derive Approdi, January 2000). The latter book was rare 
evidence that Italians have no genetic taint and can write intelligent 
science-fiction even ignoring the legacy of Calvino and Primo Levi.
    Wu Ming (chinese for "No name") is an artisan factory of literature and 
culture. In less than one year of activities, they have created a website 
( and an electronic newsletter (/Giap/), 
published a novel (*Asce di guerra* [Axes of War]) and made a short novel 
freely available on their website (*Pantegane e sangue* [Rats and Blood]). 
In the next twelve months they'll probably publish their third novel, *54*. 
Given that Wu Ming, as individuals, do a plenty of other things - from the 
participation in the anti-globalization movements to the practice of Thai 
boxing - this confirms a common saying about post-Fordism: people are 
working much more than they did under Fordism. Of course they work in a 
quite different way: in the past decades - the Sixties, the Seventies etc. - 
Wu Ming would've run the risk of becoming (I do not mean to offend anyone) 
editors or advisors for some big publishing house. Nowadays, they don't need 
to renounce their autonomy, nor are they forced to fence themselves in an 
"underground" milieu which is too pleased with marginality.
    Is this a "surrender" to the cultural industry, as some short-sighted 
and envious people shout from the rooftops? If it is so, then it's a very 
strange surrender. *Asce di guerra*, their first novel with the new alias, 
doesn't give up the intransigent anti-capitalism and the comptent for the 
official Left that characterized Luther Blissett in the Nineties. Wu Ming 
have excavated stories from the     Resistance and the early post-war years, 
uncovering the rage against the stalinist/catholic compromise which allowed 
the fascist personnel to return to their positions. In the process, Wu Ming 
have demolished the traditional "nice-ist" imagery of the Resistance handed 
down by the reformist Left. They've done it by teaming up with Vitaliano 
Ravagli, the boy from Imola who was too young to fight with the Partisans, 
got sick of the post-war restoration and went to "kill fascists" in 
Indochina, joining the Lao guerrilla fighters. Ravagli is both the co-author 
and a character in the book.
[Ravagli and Wu Ming] didn't want to propagandize a creed, nor did they aim 
at teasing the "armchair radicals":  they just gave a voice to the "figures 
from the background", those who were excluded from "History" and had to 
fight their way out of silence, bet their life in the social war, all the 
while remaining faithful to themselves.
    In order to debunk some distortions (including Luther Blissett's 
supposed "Situationism") and get a better understanding of this book and Wu 
Ming's work in general, we asked them a few questions.

    Q ended by acknowledging that "No plan can anticipate everything. Time 
will not cease dispensing victories and defeats to those who keep on 
fighting." The new novel starts by saying: "Stories are axes of war that we 
must unbury." Do you mean that the past and the future have no immanent 
rationality? Are they nothing other than sceneries, open to any individual 
or collective will and intervention?

    <<Some charged *Q* with being fuelled by conspiracy paranoia. Quite the 
contrary, it is a dissertation on the reactionary nature of conspiracy 
theories confirming themselves *ad nauseam*. The character called Q believes 
that "there is nothing new under the sun" out of the Church, that is why 
he's named after *Qohelet* [Ecclesiastes], a book of the Old Testament, of 
which this is the traditional interpretation, now questioned by many 
scholars. Little by little Q's faith vacillates, the novel is the chronicle 
of its disenchantment, the desertion of the best agent on the last mile. If 
you like novels "in cipher", *Q*'s key is not in the epilogue, it is in the 
last letter to Carafa, the one which Q fails to send. The final sentence of 
the novel ("Let the action continue without any plan") is only a sigh of 
relief, and we plagiarised it  from (i.e. it was a tribute to) Don De 
Lillo's *White Noise*.
    As to *Asce di guerra*, we object to the notion of the past as a 
mausoleum we ought to garrison, or a memorial tablet we ought to polish and 
embellish with plastic flowers. We are not interested in the "immanent 
rationality" of an era, we want to know how a community in struggle can make 
use of certain stories, we want to explore the link between the reasons of 
the past and the present,     between yesterday's junk food and today's 
indigestion. When one looks at the "immanent rationality" of the past, s/he 
takes the risk of justifying any position and choice in the name of the 
"spirit of the times". That way, we'd end up blurring any distinction 
between the Partisans and the [fascist] Black Shirts.>>

    Unlike Luther Blissett, Wu Ming is not a multiple name which anybody can 
adopt. Moreover, your first names and surnames are not secret. You have 
already explained that, and you're probably bored with repeating things, 
but... could you explain one more time why you've changed tactics since 

    <<Since the beginning, our adhesion to the Luther Blissett Project was 
based on a Soviet-styled Five Year Plan. Five years were enough to achieve 
what we had in mind without getting bored and repetitive. Things went better 
than in the USSR: there a factory would produce only left shoes, we produced 
*Q*. It was a great hold-up, we reached the vault of popular culture and 
left the self-referential shallows of “alternative culture”. At the end of 
the Plan, it was normal to give up the multiple name, become an enterprise 
and let the LB martial art evolve into further different styles. Anyway, Wu 
Ming keeps many features from the previous project: the anti-copyright 
stance, opacity towards the media,  the work more important than its author 

    The classic studies on the cultural industry (Adorno & Horkheimer, Edgar 
Morin…) are all out of date, as is Marx's distinction between productive and 
unproductive work. What is the relationship between the descriptions of 
mental labor as directly *social* and your call to artists (or 
"brainworkers", as you call them, or even "cognitarians", which is Bifo's 
definition) to exploit the form of "autonomous political enterprises"?

    << As we wrote in our *Declaration of Intents*,  “the Intellectual” as a 
figure separated from the whole of production has long passed away. 
Information is the most important productive force. The "cultural industry" 
has a symbiotic relationship with the entire galaxy of commodities and 
services. The saying "All is multimedia" is already pleonastic. Telling 
stories is just one of the many     aspects of mental labor, of a greater 
social co-operation integrating software programming, industrial design, 
journalism, music, intelligence activities, social services, gender politics 
etc. Mental labor is completely within the networks of enterprise and 
production, indeed, it is their main driving force. We must build up our 
companies, go beyond free-lancing, in order to acquire more     strength, 
get control on the production process and the results of our creative labor. 
However, we must set up *political* enterprises, because we are past 
“engagement” as a choice which “those who create” *might as well* make. 
“Creative workers” are left with no choice, they simply *cannot avoid 
intervention*. To write is part of production, to narrate is politics. At 
last, we make a bet on the self-valorization of mental labour, i.e. on our 
own entrepreneurial ability. One ought to avoid begging public funds or 
establishing subordinate partnerships with bureaucrats of any level. We aim 
at relationships on a parity basis, that's why the political enterprise must 
also be *autonomous*.>>

    Since the days of Luther Blissett people admire (or despise) you because 
you're able to occupy the media landscape. According to the detractors, you 
have re-invigorated the spectacle you claim to be fighting. At the end of 
*Asce di guerra* you cited a disconsolate comment by [Immanuel] Wallerstein, 
that "every form of antisystemic movement" was “entirely produced by 
historical capitalism”. How can we sort it out?

    << Wallerstein is not a pessimist, he thinks that historical capitalism 
is an immanent system, doomed to end as all the previous historical 
societies. In the very piece we cited he explains: "Any weakness of the 
system in a direction has strengthened it in another direction, but not 
necessarily on the same level! That is the question". As to "the spectacle", 
we think it is a meaningless pseudo-concept, it was simply the solution 
Debord found for any crossword puzzle clue he put in his most famous text, 
e.g. "Laudatory monologue of the existing order" - solution: "spectacle". 
"capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image" - 
solution: "spectacle". Come on, do you really deem it is an useful category? 
As far as we know, to fetishize it has only caused inaction, frustratrion 
and grudge. We never "fought the spectacle", we are not scribblers showing 
off the maximum of formal radicality and who gives a fuck if nobody 
understands. We have no paranoic feelings about "recuperation", we want to 
take part to actual social conflicts, communicate with as many people as 
possible and aim at concrete achievements. As to our ability to occupy the 
media landscape, we always did it by promoting virtual characters that were 
the product of real social relations.>>

    You stated: "Any opening line by Dashiell Hammett is better than James 
Joyce's complete works". I think that Joyce deserves more than that, after 
all he told "stories" as well, even if in an experimental way. Besides my 
personal opinion, you  demand and produce "epic" fiction based on a dense 
plot and a radical content. Aren't you running the risk of updating 
so-called "socialist realism"? Do you think you can avoid that?

    <<That statement kept our mailboxes impenetrable by minimalist short 
stories, autobiographical works by people whose lives are of no interest, 
and neo-gothic novellas crammed with useless obsolete terms. Having said 
this, no way we get close to Zdanov, that was not mythopoesis, it was 
*mytho-paresis*, he used to paralyze imagination by imposing a language that 
removed experience.     On the contrary, we want to keep the action an inch 
from the reader's nose, we want them to dive into a pond of blood and shit. 
"The character is the action, the action is the character". Certainly we're 
closer to Francis Scott Fitzgerald than we are to Kim Il Sung.
    *Asce di guerra* is a peculiar operation, we mixed memoirs and 
non-fiction novel with an anti-oleographic point of view which surpasses the 
antithesis orthodoxy/heterodoxy. This is *re-visionism* in the original 
meaning, "to see again", with new eyes. Our next novel *54* will be a crazy 
spy story. The stories take place inside Cary Grant's brain during Lucky 
Luciano's neapolitan exile. There are several sub-plots, and characters from 
other novels (e.g. the *Rififi* French series). The McGuffin is a TV set 
which nobody can repair. Could this be "socialist realism"? As to Wuming Wu 
[Riccardo Pedrini], his second novel *Havana Glam* will be a good example of 
"socialist surrealism", or "socialist magic realism".
    As to dense plots: to tell (and listen to) stories has been a basic need 
among the humans of all ages. Any community needs stories and myths to live 
by. Our literary references are of very wide range: Emilio Salgari and James 
Ellroy, Cormac McCarthy and Latin-American adventure novels. We are too 
devoted to Benjamin Peret to appreciate Ilya Ehrenburg.>>

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