For a few years now the TAP question has jumped to the headlines.
Precisely since 2013, the TAP consortium was chosen to carry out the construction of a gas pipeline through Turkey, Greece, Albania, the Adriatic Sea right to Italy, with Salento as its final destination so that it could be linked to another gas pipeline, the TANAP, which joins Turkey with Azerbaijan (where natural gas fields are to be found), and finally become SNAM, going up through the Italian Apennines, the so-called ‘Adriatic network’ – up to Austria.
Thousands of kilometres of pipelines, gas pressurization and depressurization plants, thrust wells, micro tunnels to link the mainland and the sea, optic fibres cables along the whole route, construction sites that will destroy landscape and local environments, high risk of accidents and explosions, air pollution, heavy vehicles on the roads for years to come, exponential increase of police forces, industrial transformation of the economy of a whole area and consequent loss of all choices for the people who live there. An example of this is ILVA in Taranto, a few kilometres from Lecce and Melendugno, where the gas pipeline will arrive.
Boasted to be the vanguard of progress in the 60s, ILVA, the biggest European iron and steel plant, has left only a desert, animated by a high concentration of tumours and diseases and no other possible means of survival compatible with the plant. For a number of years this has also been happening in the Lecce area. The Xylella affair and the withering of the olive trees, strongly suspected, even by the judiciary, to have been started by and continues with the aim of benefitting big agro-pharmaceutical multinationals such as Monsanto, Bayer and others, along with the TAP gas pipeline, give an idea of an attempt to dramatically transform a territory, probably considered unproductive by an economic model accustomed to exploiting every possible square centimetre. A recent bill of the Italian minister for Agriculture which, to tackle the Xylella problem imposes massive use of pesticides, from roadsides to the countryside, and failure to do so implies huge fines, is an absolute confirmation of this. So-called renewable energy with its wind and solar energy farms, biomass-fuelled plants and the massive concreting over and privatization of the coast, the latter destined to favour the tourist industry, are important parts of this picture.
But if a local look can help, it turns out to be absolutely limited and limiting if we want to better understand what the TAP gas pipeline is, its implications and reasons for being, mainly the same as those of the sources that produce and transport energy. This society or system, which many consider inseparable from the State apparatus, the international and economic bureaucracies that dictate the rules on a global financial level, is a heavy devourer of energy and will become so even more; and it takes little to realize how this reflexion is unquestionable. Two examples more than others show how the need for energy is considered irrevocable, and consequently strategic, primary.
The fact that the capitalist economy feeds off war is nothing new. Wars are often waged precisely in order to give new lymph to state economies in crisis, through the production of weapons and machinery. Or else, it is precisely the research, possession and management of fossil energy sources that dictate the calendar of some wars. Consider for example what’s happening in Syria, precisely where there are huge deposits of natural gas and the population has been slaughtered in a forgotten war for a long time. Whatever the reasons that feed a war conflict and the resulting dose of death and devastation, this cannot take place without an impressive use of energy. A single bomber fighter (an F-15 fighter uses 7,000 litres of kerosene per hour) can give a good indication.
Another example is that of technology in respect to the acquisition of energy supplies, which, needless to say, do not substitute one another but add to one another. Renewable sources, for example, don’t represent an alternative to fuel sources but are complementary to the proliferation and management of the world.
Technology is by now the important pillar. And the analysis of the implications, consequences, problematics, and irreversibility for both nature and people, from an environmental and perhaps above all social point of view is well known. Cities, with the smart city model, will increasingly become pulsating centres of fast connection and communication, as well as control of all aspects of everyday life. In1800 it was the introduction of codes as ruling models that gave the organization called State its intromission into all aspects of citizens’ lives. Today codes that control everything and everybody are IT algorithms. In fact in a totalitarian, levelling, homologated, rigid, pigeonholed and controlled society, it is pulsations, emotions, abilities, thoughts themselves that are in danger. And we are already experiencing this with the spreading of smartphones, a fundamental instrument of smart cities. In order to allow the production, lifespan and disposal of millions of smartphones, and likewise feed a smart city or any other city with their technological needs, or feed an IT server, a massive energy acquisition is required and so it is necessary to affect nature and devastate it, by building gas pipelines, wind farms, or by extracting more sources of fuel. If we add the energy necessary for the production of a disproportionate quantity of goods and their distribution, the picture becomes even clearer.
For this reason sustainability of energy sources and the green economy that protect the environment are mere fairy tales. Nothing is sustainable in this social model; it is simply the management of a catastrophe.
Making protest international
What’s the point then in opposing a gas pipeline? How is it possible to put opposition to one specific nocivity alongside a more general opposition? How can we combine opposition that often risks getting stuck in the defence of a piece of land with the attack on the world? How can we make the opposition to the TAP pipeline become an occasion to put much more in question? For self-organizing, for looking beyond our own back yard, for becoming aware, for going beyond reformism and state education, for reflecting on the necessity of violence on the one hand and the society of spectacle on the other. For leaving behind the frills and devices of an encaged life and going towards the uncertainty of imagination.
The instruments we gave ourselves were the constant refusal of delegation, the critique of reformist opposition and the State, horizontality. And these instruments were necessary throughout the years to carry on a discourse of constant and coherent counter-information and actions of disruption; moreover in the course of the years anonymous acts of sabotage were carried out. The search for the enemy, with all its ramifications, made it possible to draw a long list of TAP contractors and subcontractors, starting from its shareholders and finishing with local firms that sold themselves cheaply.
This is certainly an opportunity that can make opposition to TAP international, more insidious and general. Especially as among the contractors are not only the biggest oil and gas multinationals such as ENI, SAIPEM, British Petroleum, SNAM and so on, but also firms like Siemens, which deals with smart cities, Honeywell and Himachal, which deal with optic fibres, robotics and high technology.
The necessary link with war is another aspect that can give opposition to TAP an international range, which makes it possible, for example, to look at ENI’s interests in the world; ENI, with its subsidiary SAIPEM is building a thrust well in Salento, a step preliminary to the realization of the micro tunnel. Likewise, it makes it possible to understand the geopolitical importance of a gas pipeline that goes through Turkey with its expansionistic goals and responsibilities in the massacres of Kurds.
But making it international also means contributing to breaking the normality of control, security, disciplined life. And this is made possible by the huge limit that a social structure like the one being built brings with it. The ramification of technological apparatuses is the weak point of the new empire. Imagination and the unpredictability of action can be very important ingredients in this sense.
This is the nuance to be grasped so as to take nourishment and energy from the world.
Between insurrection and rupture
Many things can happen while some noxiousness, environmental devastation is looming over. It can happen that protest becomes general, that many people get involved and try to oppose the new monster that is appearing in front of them. This is exactly what happened in Salento in 2017, when a very banal event, the blocking of trucks for transporting olive trees uprooted by TAP to build the yard, carried out by eight demonstrators who sat down on the ground, was the spark that ignited the protest. Over the following weeks we could experience something new in a territory that had for a long time been dormant and still. Hundreds of people put themselves on the front line to block trucks, preventing TAP from going on with its works, facing police, also discussing and reflecting on other topics and putting imagination in motion. For once anger prevailed over commodified and alienated life. For those writing, it doesn’t matter whether the main drive was defence of one’s health or land, the reaction to yet more imposed work or the link with the olive trees that were being uprooted in their hundreds. The possibilities that could develop from a situation such as that were in any case a danger for the established order, which naturally tried to subdue the situation with the classic methods of repression and criminalization, until it instituted a red zone with fences and barbed wire, check-points and a massive police presence.
But it was not only the State that intervened, but also dozens of militants, reformists, pacifists and all sorts of organizers, who tried to give an organized form to the spontaneity of a protest; they substituted horizontality of action with specialism. All this, along with other elements such as dissociation and inexperience, have softened and perhaps buried that occasion.
In fact the realization of the red zone insinuated exactly what Power wanted to insinuate. Fear towards what is considered stronger, a State with its police apparatuses that show off their muscles and resignation towards work that was already being realized.
Unfortunately anger didn’t prevail and naturally the path has become a steep slope.
But those who have always considered TAP as only a part of their opposition didn’t have reasons to be sorry. If the anger has been in part put aside and indifference prevailed, if institutions and multinationals have raised their bets, given the enormous interests they have in the realization of the gas pipeline, not all is lost.
If TAP is trying to insert itself in society and many don’t see that as a problem any longer, then TAP will become a problem for all. It is with this hope that we think it necessary to block everything and break the normality gnawing away at us. And it is in this view we think that to sabotage, block, destroy and be thorns in their side can become methods of intervention to be extended, against TAP and against the world.
Some enemies of TAP, May 2018
Article published on L’urlo della terra, issue 6, July 2018
Translated by act for freedom now!