Interview #1 / Godofredo Enes Pereira

militant analysis / Communist Party

We engage in dialogue with researchers and authors whose work intersects with ours. Godofredo Pereira is an architect, researcher and head of the Environmental Architecture MA at the Royal College of Art. He has led research on collective equipment and is co-author of the forthcoming book CERFI. Militant Analysis, Collective Equipment and Institutional Programming. In this conversation, we share our work-in-progress research with Godofredo, find points of mutual interest and hear some interesting feedback on our project.

Patrick ffrench: I thought it might be useful to summarise some of the things we have done for our project. So we've done a quite detailed chronology of not only the work of the CERFI group itself, but also of the things around it, such as publications, events, seminars, lectures…

Susana Caló: Godofredo, this is similar to something I know you have done in your research, a chronology that tries to capture the social, political and conceptual context of the activities of the group.

Pff: And we have been meeting online mostly to discuss these things, and the trajectory of our thinking about it has changed a bit. I got kind of into a more biographical approach, thinking about the kind of conflicts and tensions that arose around the issue between the CERFI group and Félix Guattari, on the one hand, and Robert Linhart of the Gauche prolétarienne, on the other, for example, and the responses to the articles that were published in Le Monde and Libération about CERFI. That led me into a kind of biographical research or fascination with that context. We've also done another thing, we've produced a number of what we call dossiers, which are not so much blogs, as focused investigations on particular aspects. There’s a Nietzsche dossier, looking at how CERFI engaged with what was going on Nietzsche at the time, one on Klossowski, who was a kind of a tangentially related connection to the CERFI issue, one on the FHAR (Le Front d’action homosexuelle révolutionnaire) and one on Foucault as well. But more recently, what we’ve been doing is to go back to our original aim, which was to trace, to map, as we as we put it, the concepts that were used in Recherches 13, to group them and then comment them. So, we’re just at the point of establishing a kind of list of key concepts and groups of concepts, some of which derive or seem to derive from L'Anti-Œdipe, some of which relate more to Foucault and L'Archéologie du savoir and Foucault’s earlier work Naissance de la clinique and Histoire de la folie, some of which relate to Sartre, some of which are more baseline Marxist concepts like production, dialectics and so on, and some of which relate to Braudel. We have a draft list, we now want to try and analyze that or do something with it, to map it and find some way of representing what we're doing with it. I think that's where we are. Do you want to add anything to that, Susana?

SC: I just wanted to add that the alternative title of the project is La Toupie Folle, which means the mad spinning top, and is an expression that we took from Marie-Thérèse Vernet-Straggiotti

that appears in a collective discussion at the end of the issue to describe the work in R13. The mad spinning top is a very productive figure to understand the affective and intellectual interplay in the issue so we are taking inspiration from this ‘figure’ to develop our own research.

This project has been a very rich opportunity to experiment with a couple of things, which means that we are also inventing things as we go along and the project develops, as in a research-action approach to theory. Patrick has been more the mad spinning top in terms of blogging, much more than I, but these dynamics are generated from our lives or desires at the time. But then we have kept a regular pace of meetings where we reflect and think about what we should do next together. So, I think that's very interesting. That's important to say part of the project is that we also connect with other people such as you that are developing very close work to ours like you have been for all these years. The other two people we thought about entering into dialogue with is Andy Goffey and Stuart Elden.

So, I guess the other thing that's important to mention, Patrick, is that apart from being doing research work about the CERFI, Godofredo has, prior to that, or almost parallel to that, developed architecture studios at the RCA about collective equipment. So what I think maybe could be interesting, Godofredo, and thank you for your generosity spending time with us, would be to hear what you think about the project, know more about your work on collective equipment as well and perhaps, Patrick, we have specific questions that we want to ask. I know for example that Godofredo you have researched quite a lot of the work CERFI did at the New Towns so it would be good to hear what you think about the genealogy group in relation to the New Towns’ group or its research.

Godofredo Pereira: That’s great, thanks for the overview. I think the first thing in my mind is that it's actually quite interesting, the complementarity between our projects. So, what we're trying to do, and surely Susana has told you this already, is to focus on the arc that starts in the 1950s and 1960s through to the 1980s. It's very much based on interviews and all these archival materials, and it’s an attempt to rewrite the way in which CERFI’s history has been told, insofar as it has been told in a very fragmentary way by those few that have approached it. But also, to rewrite the way that Deleuze and Guattari have been understood, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon context, very much from a Deleuze-centred perspective and a slightly apolitical and acontextual reading of these authors. And so, what happens before ‘68, with FGERI (Fédération des groupes d'études et de recherches institutionnelles) with Opposition Gauche, and during ‘68, and the transition and the strategic decision to accept working with the state – which was not an easy decision – is very interesting. And so all these sets of decisions that are taking place mark a series of shifts that imprint CERFI’s life. But we don't have time to dedicate to everything, and we focus a lot on Recherches 13 because even though it is the issue about which more is published, it is where more work needs to be done. As an overall research project on CERFI has not been done, you end up with fragmentary readings of a fragmentary output, which produces incomplete interpretations. From the moment that CERFI decided to put those very nuanced and personal positions in the world that's unavoidable. I would suggest reading Sven-Olov Wallenstein’s work on CERFI that touches on Recherches 13. He looked at CERFI already in the 2000s. His work is an insightful complement to that of Stuart Elden. It would also be good to have Stuart Elden contributing vis-vis the influence of Braudel in Recherches 13. It’s important to understand that the way that CERFI and Recherches 13 read Braudel, and by that, I mean specifically how François Fourquet and Lion Murard read Braudel, which is not the same way in which Guattari and Deleuze are reading Braudel necessarily while they're writing Anti-Oedipe. Even though that’s not particularly relevant for R13 itself, it trickles down into what are differing takeson collective equipment from Fourquet and Guattari.

So, to go back to what I was saying, I would suggest engaging with Sven’s work because it fits really well in the mix of things you are trying to do. [[ Andy Goffey’s ]] work is very insightful too. I started doing work on collective equipment inspired by his astute lines of thought about collective equipment in his introduction to the translation of Guattari’s 1979 work published as Lignes de Fuite. That’s a work at the end of the New Towns project. It's at the end of a process of trying to bring an entryist-based approach into programming within the state, and then Fourquet stays very much up until the end, writing about the state. And very much within that unique thing, which is the French state with all its multiple levels of institutional depth, in relation to which Fourquet takes a much more anthropological approach. And so, already there's a tension there to some of the things that will be more manifest later.

As you were speaking a couple of things come to mind. You mentioned the dossiers that you are doing, I think it would be interesting to look into Lacan on the question of desire and need, because it was a crucial reference for Guattari at the time, as well as Sartre, and then the way in which the desire-need dyad in Lacan is reframed in a more kind of positive approach, or productivist approach of desire, in Guattari. I would say a few more things, I'd note that the meeting with Michel Conan is in 1970, it's a bit earlier. So, they meet him by chance, or they meet the secretary by chance and they have the first meeting, then they produce a text, then there's a call for tenders. And then there's these two things: there's the funding for the exploratory work in Evry and the New Towns. To my knowledge, all the research centres that applied for funding by the urban mission received some funding. And that's the first 1971 grant, the grant from 1971. So Evry starts a bit earlier. I think it would be really useful to analyse this at the moment. I have a spreadsheet where I check out important dates - for us, there's an issue of scale, because the book focuses on CERFI itself. But it is very important to see it not only at the scale, let's say, of the theory that was produced at the time, but also in terms of key political events and international political events, which are very important for all these militant groups.

So, we know that Guattari comes from an earlier militantism, from the late 1950s, around the breaks of the Communist Party, who would then partner with younger groups that produce militantism on the back of Algeria, in relation to Vietnam, but start looking inside and at relationships that have to do with sexuality, gender, and etc. All of them brought together by the critic of the incapacity of the Communist Party to produce a properly revolutionary organization. So there's an institutional aspect there that’s core. And so what we're trying to do in the book is to trace this encounter, between institutional psychotherapy and critique and internal tensions to communism that demand a new type of institutional form.

So, CERFI had two key decisions, I feel, one key decision is to say: let's not go and do a hippie community in the middle of nowhere after ‘68, which was a very common approach, particularly in the US but also in France. If capitalism is inflected through state bureaucracy how do we approach it? And it's an interesting question, because it forced them to deal with the limitations of their own militancy that existed within the different organisations; the Communist Party, the Trotskyist International Communist Party; they all suffer from the same problems. So, it's an inescapable challenge. And so when the possibility comes – there’s a pragmatics of funding - but it's also a very key challenge to say: let's try and work it out at the level of collective equipment. Yes, but what you'll notice and what we started noticing, is that in in the group there are dissidences. And it’s really complex to understand the internal conflicts in Recherches 13 just by the militant comments that appear in there, because they lead to a bit of confusion. I would note that Fourquet and Murard, in their introduction, do a bit of unpacking as well, even though it's a militant comment from the top, we are writing this and we do the militant unpacking of nuances of erotic knowledge and production, but still, from the top. But that – and we've noticed it a lot in our interviews – might lead to erroneous conclusions. Insofar there was an interplay of both political differences, personal inclinations, and very practical issues. So, starting with personal inclinations, people like Fourquet and Murard like writing a lot. And it was very much a site where they wanted to invest their militantism. And you see that in Fourquet, if you read the Recherches 14, and his critique of Althusser, and where that eventually leads. And these are characters that are very much not fully convinced by the type of militantism that used to take place pre-‘68. And so there are certain types of characters that want to invest very much in writing as a continuation of their militantism, and other people that are less into that such as Anne Querrien, Hervé Maury, Liane Mozère who are more interested in being on the ground and intervening, etc. Now, that sometimes gets confused with other issues derived from different positions on certain topics between men and women, but it's not exactly the same, even though there are clear patriarchal aspects at play. So, there's a political distinction there, but there's also different types of readings. For example. Lefebvre was very important to Anne Querrien, she did her PhD with him. And so with Lefebvre we have the importance of everyday life and so she will do more inclined to do work on the ground, versus someone like Fourquet or Murard. So yes, it’s important to understand the writing within certain events and a certain context and pragmatics.

Some of these things can used to connect the dots in relation to the discussion on axiomatics, the Trotskyist entryist approach etc. etc. But some things are very circumstantial and quite new, in the sense of new things that they are encountering, and so to disentangle this takes a bit of care. But when we speak about internal conflicts, there's kind of duration of internal conflict that works I would say diagrammatically; it's correct to say that there is a more theory/academic oriented group, and a more practice-based group within CERFI, let's say in generic terms, these are different inclinations within the group.

A few other things occurred as you were speaking, Susana was asking about the genealogy group and the New Towns group. They are working in parallel, but not working together. Fourquet and Murard were part of Evry at the beginning but then Evry ends first and work in Melun-Sénart and Marne-la-Vallée continues much further, leading into other types of urban projects. These works are being developed in parallel, but not theorised together in a systematic way.

Pff: So one thing that I don't think I've quite grasped yet, because I'm sure there is material in Recherches 13 or around it that would help that but I haven't done that yet: I am still trying to understand the composition of the various groups. So there's the Genealogy group, the ‘Crèches’ group etc. I don't think I've really have a clear sense of what the differences were. And when they happened.

GP: I think that's an expectation that we will never get fully resolved. I think there's dozens of groups. The most beautiful thing about CERFI is that they redeployed funds to research less able to receive funding. Let's say there's types of research that were able to receive serious research money. And just as our institutions will always take a 20% or 30% cut for building & estates or something like that they will take a 20 or 50% cut, or whatever they decide to be honest, for redistribution, and for further research projects. Now the most systematic groups were the New Towns and the Genealogy groups, before that you had the work in Bouake and Fnac. But then you have a bunch of other things which they sometimes call Clubs, such as the Psychotherapy by Letter Club. And it comes out of this idea of exceptional objects of research. And this is something about which we go to quite a decent level of detail in the book. It's about tracing these different types of groups. Sometimes they’re dormant; they sometimes exist, or they don't exist.

And again, there's more than one research grant, one for the Crèches group, which then publishes Babillages, but there are more; it is difficult to find all the reports. And I think that's, again, one of the important things that we hope to be able to say, in a clearer way, which is that we should imagine this group and its ethics as towards militancy and political impact; it’s not towards due process for research grant providers. So, they'll give one title and put Foucault in the name, and someone else would do it and then someone else would write it, someone who had the time. So it’s a young group of researchers which doesn’t have a very systematic way of organization. Though I would correct myself, it's not that it's not systematic: the way of organizing themselves was very systematic in terms of what they felt would be the core aspects, politically, of self-management – to have rotation in the management of money and funding, to allow for different research grants, to allow you to drop out in the research process, depending on your affective investments. So the question of how to write this is quite interesting. Because the types of questions that we always pose trying to find out this process for all of them: what was the grant? when was the grant made? when was it approved? by whom? from where they get the money? who was part of it? how was it then published? what's the title of the report? what's the title of the output publication if it goes public? it was originally an objective that I had; I don't have it anymore, because it needs a different approach, particularly when you interview them, and they literally contradict the same thing that they've said somewhere else. And I feel that it's more important to speak of this inconsistency and these inconsistencies. Okay, so now they're deciding to call it a different name. And that's literally what they're doing. I think that's quite beautiful. So it's not exactly that there's no system, but the system, the priority of that organizational system is collective intelligence, leading into a research which is not systematic, impact-oriented type of research, right. And I think it's important to grasp that because what you find sometimes in the literature on this is the classical historian sense and aim to provide a sense of certainty.

Pff: That’s really interesting. You mention this idea of rotation, so that this idea that it's not systematic in the way that one might have wanted it to be, but systematic in a different kind of way. I don’t think we have quite grasped that yet, Susana. But I’m thinking about our idea of la toupie folle which we take from Marie-Thérèse and which she uses to describe the kind of process when they have to draft a report but is also something about the rotation of the work that relates to the organization of the group. And it's also not collective in that everyone agrees, and they kind of collectively, like a chorus, speak with one voice. It's more like a spinning of different aspects.

SC: It's the mechanism itself. That kind of collective: it spins, it might spin onto someone that does not want to do the work, who doesn’t know. So we should do that, Patrick, we should just spin it.

GP: I think that is an important concept. In the Clinique La Borde, participation is not always on the same model and that kind of expected model. And I think that was very important. Of course, that immediately trickles down. They're also 20-year-olds, with revolutionary ambitions and a bunch of other things going on. And so that can also be used to post-rationalize a kind of laziness, annoyance, doing something else, and so on. I think it's hard, let's say, it's impossible to distinguish that, I don't find it that interesting, to be honest, politically, I think it's obvious that those things would mix. But I think it's more interesting, at least from our side, in the book, to simply try to identify these kinds of shifting priorities, which means that you'll encounter different types of challenges. And a lot of the problems that CERFI had were self-inflicted. And a lot of the criticism that CERFI suffers from results out of it. At the same time, a refusal to falling into generic equality models, flat versions of democracy in which we all do the work together, we all share something etc. They're very much working through conflict, making it apparent, working it in a way that allows a lot of it to remain. So that's also what then creates the big fissures in the group.

SC: Recherches 13 certainly is interesting in that sense because it has the collective discussions that contain, you know, harsh critiques coming from some members, and these discussions intercalate with the more historical pieces of research, and they could almost have done two separate books. For example, Stéphane Nadaud, when he writes about the reviews, says that the work is not collective, you know, lacks collectivity, I don’t share this view. This is an editorial, collective object in the sense in which they allow for those discrepancies to show up, for all that conflict to be very visible.

Pff: But then they erased the original Interventions Militantes, which raise these internal fissures, in the paperback edition and remove that completely.

SC: We will have to ask Florence Pétry how that process was done. What happened? Who made that decision?

GP: They erased Anne Querrien, they erased Françoise Paul-Levy; there are a few militant interventions that they erased. And I feel that's a very violent take. I think it's also interesting to understand and to read the introduction. I think it's should be quite near the beginning. I think it's actually a preface or just a little paragraph. And we quote it the book, when we speak about these processes of collective doing, how for example Fourquet introduces the work on R 13. In one way, there's an approach which has to do with labour, who did work. On the other hand, there's an approach to an expectation of collective work. I think, even though CERFI wanted to do collective work, what they didn't have is a unified idea of what constitutes collective work? Is it a collective work, because we list all the names? There are issues, for example in Babillages, where Liane Mozère lists all the names of the people that participated in the research, and listed her name as the author of the report. And that ultimately became the format that were more happy with, because basically the difficulty that they had was as follows: if we want to have all our names as authors, we need to find a position of agreement in terms of the main claims, which they would not find. Not to mention that there is a difference between authoring a practical or research work, and authoring the writing-up and publication of that work.

Pff: There's a part in the blog where I wanted to refer to the authors, author, authors of whatever the point was, and I found myself asking: what am I going to say here? Because I couldn’t say CERFI, and it's not exactly the Genealogy group. So I just used the shorthand of calling it R13. So that's something we should think about, and perhaps write about how we're referring to the collective or the group or the author, the enunciator.

GP: Yes, and I think it's important to think through this internal tension. Internal tension does not mean a problem that needs to be resolved. That’s my disagreement with Sven-Olov Wallenstein’s essay on R13: that there's almost an assumption that there's a group that should work peacefully in a democratic way and come to a conclusion at work, right. CERFI is anti-that. Actually La Borde is not a place to go for healing; it’s a place in which you mobilize your different effects therapeutically. But you don't just try to resolve them. It's not the place of conflict resolution. […] Violence is literally the history of CERFI. They say violence produced this issue, right? I think Susana you quote that when you're writing that component, and I think it's right. But it continues in the way that they think that's what they brought as a critique of the Communist Party. That's what they brought from La Borde as a way of deploying results, the kind of static Communist Party or Trotskyist party structures as well. That's what they bring in as a kind of device for political militancy, for work through conflict. And then if it needs to break, it breaks, and it broke at a certain point, there was no, there was not enough glue anymore. And so I think it's sometimes simply too easy to say there's a conflict here. Sure, that's not necessarily a problem. The Tuesday meetings were supposed to be one of the key devices to constantly initiate those conflicts and the other place was the Treasury, just the managing of money, etc. Now, I think it's interesting to see that there's a difference; what I would notice is that there's a difference in the ability of certain people to approach that naturally. And other people, for example, the members that came from the GIP, from the Prison Information Group, and you feel in some of the comments that they’re not used to this. These are super important questions, but they need context to avoid simplistic interpretations. And there's patriarchal power relations here, and there's lack of organization there. And there's a lot of things, but just identifying these specific moments, without context, that's kind of missing out on the point.

Another question is what type of concepts make their way into the military interventions? What concepts exist in a text that is not the text that's supposed to be conceptual? It's a text that's around your friends, but what concepts exist there? Which concepts make their way to actual life? And do how you deploy them? Do you use deterritorialization? Everyday, when you're having coffee, conversations? So the interesting for us, is how concepts make their way into the interviews, that’s something Susana noticed from the beginning, right? It's so beautiful, because a lot of these concepts make a language through which to speak of your daily life. And so if you're both working on the genealogy of concepts, I feel that would be one interesting thing. I don't know how systematic it is, but at least there's some lovely insights I imagine into how many of those concepts make their way into the militant interventions, into the introduction by Fourquet, which words are actually used, which words get to be embedded, right, and which ones are not. What is the stuff that you only deploy when you're deploying some sort of academic finesse in framing an argument?

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