Voice of Revolutionary Students
Monday, March 30, 2009
In follow up to the discussion of published polemics by the Revolutionary Communist Party USA vs the Nepal Maoists and Alain Badiou at the prior post Nepal: Revolution Reports (Prologue - Section 3):I'd like to wrap up and not spend any more time on these polemics.
I was really struck by the fact that the Nepal Maoists and the philosophy of Badiou have become my main points of interest over the last few years and the RCPUSA has chosen precisely these two elements in the development of 21st Century communism about which should have the most fear. I feel encouraged therefore that I may be on the right track. Nothing more to say on the Maoist polemic as I think IMHO it has been fairly discredited in comments at Kasama already. I do want to say at least a bit on the Badiou, then 'nough said.Each section of the polemic is repleat with quotes employed from Mr. Marx, supplemented by the wisdoms of RCPUSA guru Bob Avakian, and well salted with exhortations against the evils I am sure all of us abhor without resorting to such hyperbole. But at the end of each section we do get an original statement and these comprise the heart of the polemic. Beginning at the very end of the document:
Alain Badiou’s “egalitarian maxim proper to every politics of emancipation” does not offer a pathway of moving beyond the narrow horizon of bourgeois right—nor open the possibility of eliminating the bases for class society, commodity production, and exploitative and oppressive relations. It is stuck in bourgeois society.
To this I would like to supply Badiou's statement of the "communist hypothesis" from an article on Sarkozy (bourgeois right, isn't he) written sometime before his (Badiou's) now famous attack on the president in the latest book - the article:http://www.newleftreview.org/?view=2705
What is the communist hypothesis? In its generic sense, given in its canonic Manifesto, ‘communist’ means, first, that the logic of class—the fundamental subordination of labour to a dominant class, the arrangement that has persisted since Antiquity—is not inevitable; it can be overcome. The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of massive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away.So that is Badiou "stuck in bourgeois society".
The polemic is clearly focused on the question of Badiou's "egalitarian maxim" axiomatic as in the key statement ending the second to last section:
Yes, people have a capacity for truth (a criterion of equality for Badiou) but exactly in consequence of the divides and inequalities in society, this capacity does not translate into spontaneous gravitation towards or embrace of truth.Well first of all I want to say "Well no shit". If "people" (and I guess they mean something that means everybody) spontaneously embraced truth, then I that truth whatever it may be would not be something humanity failed to embrace. Obviously Badiou is not indicationg that. The "criterion of equality" is based on the "capacity for truth" not its spontaneous embrace by anyone (and here we are discussing the internal logic of the stement in the polemic, not at all what Badiou says). What is missing is a comprehension of Badiou's philosophy of the "Event" and the "Truth Process".
If, and this means "if" , a genuine novel "Event" occurs engendering a truth, it is only by individuals acting in allegiance to what they believe is a novel truth in this process (yes its an atheistic faith, perhaps even an embrace in a different sense) that the establishment of their having been an actual event occurs, it is realized future anterior. It is the case says Badiou that the advent of Marxism itself is in its truth process and marked by such manifestations as May 68 and the Cultural Revolution. The hypothesis is even said to be operative far into the past or not so far before Marx during the French Revolution. In a lack of understanding of Badiou we see the conclusions from the third to last section of the polemic:
With his “communist hypothesis,” Alain Badiou conflates the radical upsurges, social upheaval,and enthusiasm of the popular masses during the French Revolution with the communist revolution to overturn the bourgeois order and to create a new world.Actually Badiou presents the idea of revolutionary phases, positioning the state of the communist hypothesis at the start of the 21st century:
In many respects we are closer today to the questions of the 19th century than to the revolutionary history of the 20th. A wide variety of 19th-century phenomena are reappearing: vast zones of poverty, widening inequalities, politics dissolved into the ‘service of wealth’, the nihilism of large sections of the young, the servility of much of the intelligentsia; the cramped, besieged experimentalism of a few groups seeking ways to express the communist hypothesis . . . Which is no doubt why, as in the 19th century, it is not the victory of the hypothesis which is at stake today, but the conditions of its existence. This is our task, during the reactionary interlude that now prevails: through the combination of thought processes—always global, or universal, in character—and political experience, always local or singular, yet transmissible, to renew the existence of the communist hypothesis, in our consciousness and on the ground.
So we come at last to the beginning of the polemic:
Alain Badiou is driven to a framework of understanding of the “problem” confronting humanity and its “solution” that corresponds to the class position and class outlook of a very definite segment of society, the radicalized petty bourgeoisie. He sees the problem of vast inequalities, but does not follow through to the taproots of exploitation in the economic base of society; he sees the solution as a “pure Idea of equality” in the political realm, not in overcoming the “4 Alls.”Then shortly after that in the same concluding statement of the first subsection: Alain Badiou wants “equality” but shrinks from the complex process of making a revolution that not only overcomes social inequality but also achieves something far higher than equality.Something "far higher than equality"?
The polemic tries to tell us Badiou is stuck in an earlier sequence from Rousseau to a present radicalized petty bourgeoisie. Actually, to put it in terms something like the way Badiou employs set-theory, the RCPUSA is circumscribed by a set situation made up of dogmatic elements, demonstrating the inadequacy of their party for 21st century communism because all they have is their rigid conclusions and anything else is revisionist. Badiou says there is the void, always a multiplicity exceeding set situations in the scope of our present understanding of how communism, or the egalitarian maxim, may manifest. Concluding with Badiou from the same article cited on the need to understand the novel phase underway:
What remains is to determine the point at which we now find ourselves in the history of the communist hypothesis... The first sequence runs from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune; let us say, 1792 to 1871. It links the popular mass movement to the seizure of power, through the insurrectional overthrow of the existing order... The second sequence of the communist hypothesis runs from 1917 to 1976: from the Bolshevik Revolution to the end of the Cultural Revolution and the militant upsurge throughout the world during the years 1966–75. It was dominated by the question: how to win? How to hold out—unlike the Paris Commune—against the armed reaction of the possessing classes... the revolution prevailed, either through insurrection or prolonged popular war.. but it proved ill-adapted for the construction of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in the sense that Marx had intended—that is, a temporary state, organizing the transition to the non-state.. the Cultural Revolution and May 68, in its broadest sense—can be understood as attempts to deal with the inadequacy of the party... 1871 to 1914 saw imperialism triumphant across the globe. Since the second sequence came to an end in the 1970s we have been in another such interval, with the adversary in the ascendant once more.. The second sequence is over and it is pointless to try to restore it.
The RCPUSA Polemic is here : http://revcom.us/index.html
Diplomats in Athens believe some criticism of police tactics is justified
Amnesty International has accused Greek police of serious rights violations and called on the government to set up an inquiry into "systemic problems".
The rights group said the response to December's riots in Athens was the culmination of an "entrenched pattern of serious human rights violations".
The anti-government protests erupted after police shot dead a teenaged boy.
In the following weeks police faced almost daily demonstrations and riots, and have come under armed attack.
The Greek government has not responded to the Amnesty report, but diplomats said the police have shown considerable restraint in the circumstances.
In January, a policeman was shot and seriously wounded in central Athens in an attack claimed by the left-wing militant group, Revolutionary Struggle.
It was one of several such armed attacks.
In a report published on Monday, Amnesty said that since the end of the anti-government demonstrations in January it had received mounting allegations of human rights violations by police.
The people of Greece have the right to proper policing in accordance with the government's national and international obligations
Greece: Alleged abuses in the policing of demonstrations
The group said it had brought a number of cases to the attention of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, in which police officers were said to have arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated and detained peaceful demonstrators and prevented detainees, including minors, from promptly contacting their lawyers.
During one incident on 9 January, several lawyers were reportedly arrested and mistreated after a violent demonstration on Asklipiou Street in Athens, Amnesty said.
Video footage showed police refusing to answer any questions and later dragging an elderly woman along the pavement, it added.
"Time and again police officers in Greece have been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators or denying them their rights when in detention," said Nicola Duckworth, director of Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia programme.
"The police response to the recent unrest is the culmination of an entrenched pattern of serious human rights violations by law enforcement officials."
Ms Duckworth said such incidents "should be used as a catalyst by the government to launch a wide-ranging commission of inquiry that would investigate not only recent events but also systemic issues, including training of police on the use of firearms and of force".
Greek police have protested against the repeated attacks of recent months
"The people of Greece have the right to proper policing in accordance with the government's national and international obligations," she added.
Union officials representing the police say morale in the force is at an all-time low, because of poor pay, insufficient training, and most important of all, the pledge by left-wing militants to kill an officer in retaliation for the shooting of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos in December.
SOURCE : BBC NEWS
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
These talks revealed that movement will be made on some of the demands. The University has offered to support the transportation costs of charitable donations to Gaza. It has also issued a statement concerning the recent conflict in Gaza that can be found here: http://www.shef.ac.uk/mediacentre/gaza.html The University further promised to review their scholarship programme, consider an academic partnership with the Islamic University of Gaza and publicise the DEC appeal in some format. Details of these commitments are unclear and in light of this the occupiers have agreed that if the University goes back on the commitments it has made or does not adequately pursue them more action will be taken.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Today a group of students representing the Islamic circle, Palestine Society and the Black Students Committee meet with pro-vice chancellor Paul White in the student’s union. The meeting was held after students from Sheffield University have occupied university buildings for more than a week. The fact that the Occupiers were not represented is very unfortunate, and furthermore, undermines the strength of the movement for an acceptable university policy on Palestine. It is clear that these talks would not have taken place were it not for the occupation, given that the university ignored our previous requests for a meeting and that demands have not been met at any university where an occupation has not taken place.
The fact that the occupation was not represented also meant that demands could not be discussed in the context of an ongoing occupation, and that the bargaining chip was effectively taken off the table. The so called “roundtable discussions” were an opportunity for the university to show itself in a good light, seemingly willing to discuss issues that they blankly ignored a week ago.
The pro vice chancellor did, on behalf of the university promise to bring the concerns raised in the discussion back to the Vice chancellor and open up for talks on several of the demands. He promised to make the case to the VC that the university should align itself with the already existing Union policy on Palestine, and state that the university deplores any aggression against educational institutions. The issue of scholarships will also be raised together with the possibility of the university funding the transport cost of sending equipment such as old books and computer to the occupied territories.
The University is currently entering into a program of corporate social responsibility, and the group responsible for this is having their first meeting tomorrow. Paul White stated that he would try to get the issue of the university twinning with the Islamic University of Gaza on the Agenda.
Due to pro-vice chancellor White’s lack of knowledge around the issue of the arms trade this particular demand could not be addressed properly. However he was notified of the fact that the groups in the meeting could not accept his grounds for not making political statements, when taking the decision to work with arms companies is of a highly political nature.
The Occupiers would like to make it clear that we welcome the commitments to address the issues we have raised. However, if the promises made are empty more direct action will be taken
Monday, March 23, 2009
The demands of the occupying collective remain the same, as does their commitment to negotiate a de-escalation of the action with University management and their determination to see such a positive resolution. The VC has as of yet not fulfilled his commitment to meet with interested parties (The Palestine Society, Islamic Circle, Union Officers and Jewish Society) to discuss constructive ways of implementing the occupying collectives demands.
We are dismayed that the VC appears flagging on his prior commitments on this issue. Similarly we are disapointed by the effective exclusion of the occupation from this process given the VC's verbal commitment for inclusion in this process which his staff have subsequently reversed.
The planned events for this afternoon and evening have continued with a 4:30 talk on "Palestine Past and Present" and an expected film showing. We endeavour to keep a friendly and respectful relationship with University staff.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
We publish this article which orginally appeared on the REVOLUTIONARY PRAXIS site has contribution to mutual understanding and emulation rather than competition between Socialist Anarchists and Marxists.
We do not agree completely with this article on the question of socialism in one country and world revolution because we do not accept the Trotskyist posing of this question as an either/or in an undialectical manner which has more in common with Soren Kierkegaard than with materialist dialectics.
The world revolution will always be a process where some national developments proceed others and not be simultaneous, and communism and socialism should not be confounded has the latter proceeds the former.
The confict between interests of State and Proletarian revolution continues in the modern world with Castro and Chavez putting their state interests before support of the FARC in Colombia.
We feel however this article poses questions which are highly relevant to building Anarchist and Marxist Leninist Maoist unity of action in the new Global space of class struggle.
Modern anarchists frequently criticise Marxists for vanguard elitism, and Marxists are critical of the utopianism of anarchists. But these questions are not the central issue that divides revolutionary politics. Rather the main issue is whether revolution and the transition to communism can be conceived in national or international terms. Lenin’s ‘State and Revolution’ is problematic and ultimately utopian because its approach is abstracted from the question of weather it is possible to build socialism in one country. Indeed, implicitly, ‘State and Revolution’ seems to suggest that Soviet democracy will be sufficient for establishing a national dictatorship of the proletariat that can facilitate the realisation of a stateless and classless communist society.(1) Whilst the anarchist Alexander Berkman is of the opinion that the spontaneous creativity of the Russian workers and peasants was sufficient to realise anarchism in national terms, and only the actions of the Bolsheviks thwarted this possibility.(2) Furthermore Berkman’s one-sided emphasis on the virtues of spontaneity leads him to contrast peace to the necessary task of developing the struggle for world revolution.(3) In other words anarchists, just like Marxists and Bolsheviks, can be inclined to uphold illusions in the national conception of the realisation of their revolutionary aims. But what has to be understood is that both Marxism and anarchism are utopian and ultimately reactionary if they limit their aspirations to a national terrain and propagate a version of ‘communism in one country’.
The tragic nature of the split between Marxists and anarchists within the First International concerning issues about the nature of the post-capitalist society is that both protagonists were committed to a strategy of world proletarian revolution. Bakunin (possibly even more so than Marx) outlined with great clarity the reasons why a single nation state could not realise communism. He argued that the realisation of the principles of equality, solidarity, and justice required a world revolution, and on this basis a world federation of anarchist and communist societies could be developed. For if revolution was limited to a nation state the impulses would still be powerful to enough to limit the revolution to a political character, and this would mean economic exploitation would re-emerge on the basis of the domination of a new bureaucratic class. Indeed Bakunin’s analysis is very similar to Bukharin and the Left Communists who maintained that if the October revolution did not quickly become part of a world proletarian revolution then the Soviet state would undergo an opportunist degeneration that would result in the domination of a new ruling class.(4) Rosa Luxemburg had similar concerns to those of the Left Communists.
Obviously the anarchist and revolutionary Marxist approach to the question of world revolution was not identical. Bakunin’s strategy was based upon how to reconcile reality with ethical principles such as equality. Whilst Bukharin outlined the economic, political, and strategic reasons why class antagonisms could not be overcome at a national level and only the immediate struggle for world revolution could facilitate the realisation of communism. But both were united in trying to establish an international and universal basis for how they considered specific questions and their necessary answers. This similarity between Bakunin and Bukharin could be objected to, and it could be maintained that their aims were still radically different. Bakunin aimed to establish a stateless society and Bukharin wanted to strengthen and expand the dictatorship of the proletariat. Certainly these differences were and are a matter of ongoing theoretical and political dispute, but Bakunin and Bukharin were aware that political processes can only have an emancipatory dimension if they acquire an international context.
This point can be located more precisely within history. Firstly, both Marx and Bakunin were united by their support for the Paris Commune. Neither of them repudiated their different views about the nature of post-capitalist society, and Marx actually considered the Paris Commune to be an important indication of what the dictatorship of the proletariat could be like. In contrast Bakunin maintained that the Commune showed the potential to be a stateless and anarchist society. But what united them was their perspective that the Paris Commune could and should be an inspiration for the international class struggle against capitalism. The strategic task of world revolution united Marx and Bakunin despite their many differences. Secondly, both Marx and Bakunin were critical of the ‘state socialism’ of the followers of Lassalle. The ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’, which proclaimed the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, was based upon the criticism of the reformist Lassellean formulation of the ‘peoples state’. Bakunin also showed that Lasselle’s approach and perspective was reformist and reactionary, but he then connected support for the ‘peoples state’ to adherence to the dictatorship of the proletariat!(5)
In other words, continually on crucial political questions, such as the Paris Commune and the programme of emerging German Social Democracy, there is essential agreement between Marx and Bakunin. However, the conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat obscures this real and principled level of agreement. Similarly, in contemporary terms, revolutionary Marxists and anarchists could be united against the modern adherents to Lasselle’s state socialism, who are represented by the Socialist Alliance, which has a nationalist, reformist, and state capitalist adherence to the welfare state, or the most recent form of the ‘Peoples State’. But, once again, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat obscures this level of agreement between revolutionary Marxists and anarchists against modern forms of reformism.
Ironically it is idealist to be for or against the conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat or a stateless society because it is not possible to anticipate the historical future in rigid and predictive terms. Objectively we do not know the economic and political conditions of any possible future revolution, and these conditions will define and shape the nature of the society that is emerging from capitalism. Subjectively what is necessary is that the creativity of the working class and peasantry will decide as much as possible that the emerging post-capitalist society will be democratic, accountable, and participatory. But this means it must be up to the working class and peasantry to decide whether a state will still be in existence. So the role of Marxists and anarchists will be to influence but not impose their preferences onto the working class and peasantry. Marx was aware that political sectarianism, authoritarianism and utopianism go together when the working class is not yet able to change history in accordance with its class interests.(6) Consequently, elite sects attempt to dictate to the working class as to what should constitute its aims and aspirations. The debate about the validity of the dictatorship of the proletariat is an expression of this subjective, idealist and utopian reasoning by both contemporary Marxists and anarchists. They tell the working class that you should be for or against the dictatorship of the proletariat, and so they impose their views and therefore repudiate the real role of revolutionary leadership, which is the strategic necessity to inspire and develop confidence within the working class for world revolution.
The task of world revolution is not an idealist and sectarian imposition onto the working class because the exploitative nature of capitalism as global indicates the material content and necessity of international class struggle by the working class against the bourgeoisie. To limit struggle to obtaining reforms upon a national terrain is what is essentially unrealistic because it does not challenge the basis of the exploitative power of capital, which is international and expressed by the domination of the transnationals. If (and it is an historically big if) increasingly coherent and co-ordinated struggle for world revolution starts to develop then the creative content of this struggle will be the objective and subjective basis to evaluate the continuing validity of the perspective of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Or, as Marx argued at the time of the Paris Commune, it will be actual historical development that establishes what is possible and necessary and what is reactionary and utopian. Hence it was the Paris Commune which showed that the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat was both more principled and realistic than the ‘peoples state’ of Lassalle. But what will be the outcome of contemporary world revolution? This question is presently unanswerable, and in fact is still an irrelevant question because the real problem is how do we develop the struggle for world revolution. Nevertheless it does facilitate theoretical clarification to contribute further to the debate for or against the dictatorship of the proletariat. This question will be evaluated in the next section.
FOR AND AGAINST THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT
Marx’s writings on the Paris Commune, and the ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’, contributed immensely towards showing the transitional necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin’s ‘State and Revolution’ summarised the views of Marx and Engels and outlined why the epoch of imperialism established the need to smash the bourgeois state and develop a new proletarian state. But possibly Lenin’s most influential and important article about why a national dictatorship of the proletariat needed to be developed after proletarian revolution was outlined in his 1915 article:
‘Slogan for a United States of Europe’.(7) Lenin argues that the slogan for a United States of Europe is reactionary and utopian if it is being suggested that it be formed as a new bourgeois democratic bloc because its imperialist content remains. But Lenin goes further and suggests that the uneven economic and political development of imperialism will lead to the establishment of the national dictatorship of the proletariat. The need to oppose internal and external counterrevolution and the furtherance of the world revolution requires the strengthening of the national dictatorship of the proletariat:
"A United States of the World (not of Europe alone) is the state form of the unification and freedom of nations which we associate with socialism - until the time when the complete victory of communism brings about the total disappearance of the state, including the democratic. As a separate slogan, however, the slogan of a United States of the World would hardly be a correct one, first, because it merges with socialism; second, because it may be wrongly interpreted to mean that the victory of socialism in a single country is impossible, and it may also create misconceptions as to the relations of such a country to the others.
Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone. After expropriating the capitalists and organising their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world - the capitalist world - attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, stirring uprisings in those countries against the capitalists, and in case of need using even armed force against the exploiting classes and their states. The political form of a society wherein the proletariat is victorious in overthrowing the bourgeoisie will be a democratic republic, which will more and more concentrate the forces of the proletariat of a given nation or nations, in the struggle against states that have not yet gone over to socialism. The abolition of classes is impossible without a dictatorship of the oppressed class, of the proletariat. A free union of nations in socialism is impossible without a more or less prolonged and stubborn struggle of the socialist republics against the backward states."(8)
Lenin’s approach seems to be compatible with a world revolutionary perspective. On the one hand he indicates that uneven development could lead to a situation in which proletarian revolution is nationally located, but this national dictatorship of the proletariat will act as a base of world revolution and become the objective basis to advance international revolution. On the other hand Lenin seems to suggest that the national dictatorship of the proletariat can build socialism in one country without the necessity of developing world revolution.(Lenin’s comments were obviously utilised by the Stalinists in order to justify the building of ‘socialism in one country’ by the national dictatorship of the proletariat.) The question that is left unresolved is which aspect is primary, the building of socialism in one country or the development of world revolution? Indeed, it could be argued that if establishing the national dictatorship of the proletariat is the priority task (as the outcome of the law of uneven development) then it will be up to this nationally located base of world revolution to decide the tempo and development of expanding proletarian revolution. The problem that could then arise is what if the interests of the national dictatorship of the proletariat start to conflict with the requirements of world revolution. Lenin’s strategy of developing a national base of world revolution does not seem to anticipate the problems of a contradiction between the interests of the national and international, but this contradiction did develop at the time of the Brest Litovsk treaty, which is evaluated later on.
In contrast to Lenin’s strategic ambiguity Bakunin had argued that the nation and state were the negation of emancipation and so retaining them in the form of the national dictatorship of the proletariat could not overcome the problem of domination and impulses towards imperialist expansion rather than enhancing international emancipation: "Thus I come to the conclusion: He who wants to join with us in the establishment of freedom, justice, and peace, he who wants the triumph of humanity, and the full and complete emancipation of the masses of the people, should also aim toward the destruction of all States and the establishment upon their ruins of a Universal Federation of Free Associations of all the countries in the world."(9) What then of the Paris Commune, was this not an example of the national dictatorship of the proletariat? Bakunin’s reply was that the Paris Commune could not sustain itself as a national entity, and so the logic of the Commune was to establish the international possibilities of human emancipation: "The boundaries of the proletarian fatherland have broadened to the extent of embracing now the proletariat of the whole world. This of course is just the opposite of the bourgeois fatherland. The declarations of the Paris Commune are in this respect highly characteristic, and the sympathies shown now by the French proletariat, even favouring a Federation based upon emancipated labor and collective ownership of the means of production, ignoring in this case national differences and State boundaries - these sympathies and active tendencies, I say, prove that as far as the French proletariat is concerned, State patriotism is all in the past."(10) It was precisely because the Commune united the particular and universal in the possibility for the liberation of humanity that meant the French and Prussian bourgeoisie were united in counterrevolutionary action to suppress the Commune.(11)
Lenin could argue that it was because the Commune did not consistently and sufficiently develop the national dictatorship of the proletariat the result was that counterrevolution became more likely and possible. Only when the national dictatorship of the proletariat is consolidated is it possible to establish the objective basis to facilitate developing the confidence and capacity of the world proletariat to struggle for world revolution. So we seem to be a stalemate point, in that Bakunin and Lenin are putting forward equally plausible and yet contradictory and opposed viewpoints. But what about when the national dictatorship of the proletariat (Soviet Russia) was put to the test concerning the question of world revolution: what does this clarify in relation to the strategic questions of the Lenin-Bakunin debate?
In his article ‘Left-Wing Childishness and the Petty Bourgeois Mentality’ Lenin replied to left-wing critics of the Brest Litovsk treaty with German imperialism.(12) Lenin argued that the Left Communists put an emphasis upon revolutionary phraseology rather than establishing the objective criteria of the balance of class forces, which showed that revolutionary conflict with German imperialism was not possible. The world revolution was not yet maturing, and the Russian workers and peasants wanted peace: "It is in our interest to do all that is possible, to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to postpone the decisive battle until the moment (or until after the moment) the revolutionary workers contingents have united in a single great international army."(13) Hence it was necessary to strengthen and defend the national dictatorship of the proletariat as the basis to facilitate the struggle for world revolution: "It is precisely in the interests of "strengthening the connection" with international socialism that we are in duty bound to defend our socialist fatherland. Those who treat frivolously the defence of the country in which the proletariat has already achieved victory are the ones who destroy the connection with international socialism."(14)
Lenin’s rejection of the immediate perspective of developing world revolution means that he has to establish an alternative conception of strengthening the national dictatorship of the proletariat through building the material productive forces for socialism. He considers that state capitalism is the policy that represents this task of building socialism in one country: "It has not occurred to them that state capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic. If in approximately six months time state capitalism became established in our Republic, this would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanent firm hold and wll have become invincible in our country."(15) What Bukharin does not seem to understand is that the national political power of the proletariat can develop state capitalism and the material conditions for socialism: "But Bukharin went astray because he did not go deep enough into the specific features of the situation in Russia at the present time - an exceptional situation when we, the Russian proletariat, are in advance of any Britain or Germany as regards our political order, as regards the strength of the workers political power, but are behind the most backward West-European country as regards organising a good state capitalism, as regards our level of culture and the degree of material and productive preparedness for the "introduction" of socialism."(16)
But in order to develop state capitalism it is necessary to overcome the anarchic and disorganising nature of the small commodity production of the peasant producers.(17) In other words the state capitalist road to socialism in one country requires war communism. For the only apparent national alternative to state capitalism is accommodation to petty bourgeois capitalism. So Lenin is prepared to compromise with large scale capitalists who cooperate with Soviet power in developing the productive forces, but he is intransigent that peasant discontent must be dealt with ruthlessly.(18) Lenin has posed two choices: revolutionary war against German imperialism or civil war against sections of the peasantry in relation to the task of the national organisation of state capitalism as the basis for socialism: "When the working class has learned how to defend the state system against the anarchy of small ownership, when it has learned to organise large scale production on a national scale, along state capitalist lines, it will hold, if I may use the expression, all the trump cards, and the consolidation of socialism will be assured."(19) In other words state capitalism is the means of struggle against the petty bourgeois or peasant economy and the basis for establishing communism in national terms: "This hard work, the work of learning practically how to build up large-scale production, is the guarantee that the class conscious workers in Russia are carrying on the struggle against small proprietary disintegration and disorganisation, against petty-bourgeois indiscipline - the guarantee of the victory of communism."(20) In contrast the approach of the Left Communists is defined as utopian, confused, and primarily outdated: "Bukharin regards the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship from the point of view of the past and not of the future."(21)
Lenin is concerned about the contradiction between the political and economic, in that the national dictatorship of the proletariat represents the political power of the working class but the economy is primarily of a petty bourgeois commodity character. But because he has rejected the immediate strategic task of developing world revolution, and instead puts an emphasis upon the national building of state capitalism, means that the only policy option seems to be that of moving towards war communism, or rigid and centralised control of the economy and forced requisitions of grain from the peasantry. Thus in the name of rejecting the supposed idealism of not signing the Brest Litovsk treaty, has meant that Lenin upholds the illusion of state capitalism, or the view that workers control of production can be made compatible with compromise with the bourgeoisie about the organisation of developing the productive forces. In practice this means the workers state is actively promoting policies that subordinate the working class to the state bureaucracy and managerial economic elite within the relations of production. Furthermore, the mass of the peasantry are alienated by measures that supposedly enhance the state capitalist and socialist development of the economy.
Lenin defends his approach in the internationalist terms of developing and strengthening the national base of the world revolution, but what is actually shown in reality is that the national dictatorship of the proletariat is a contradiction in terms. For the maintenance of the national integrity of the workers state is an idealist illusion. This means the national workers state becomes a new type of dominating and alienating state with the potential power to dominate the producers within the relations of production. Furthermore, this bureaucratic state upholds its ‘own’ socialism and rejects the necessity to develop world revolution. Unfortunately, Bukharin and the Left Communists never sustained the internationalist logic of their critique of the signing of the Brest Litovsk treaty because they became the most ardent supporters of war communism and the related illusion that socialism can be built on a national basis. Hence the Left Communists of 1918 became left Leninists rather than maintaining their Left Communism. They forgot their 1918 view that there is no national base of world revolution and instead there is only a constant and simultaneous struggle for world revolution. But the work of Bakunin, and the 1918 Left Communists, shows that there is a contradiction between nation and socialism and only world revolution can realise human emancipation.
Obviously it is entirely possible that national revolutions could occur before generalised international revolution. But the major task will be not to consolidate a national dictatorship of the proletariat but rather to further world revolution. It is in this context that the question of for or against the dictatorship of the proletariat needs to be analysed and evaluated. Consequently any anarchist who maintains that it is necessary to elevate the local above the international is also expressing an opportunist and utopian conception of the transition to communism. The necessity of world revolution is what enriches and represents the content of the possibility to create a consistent post-capitalist and classless society
On Friday Sheffield occupation was effectively locked in. No-one was allowed entrance although food parcels were allowed admittance.
Today the occupiers report that Matt Fox, the Union Activities Officer has an email from the VC, Keith Burnett, posted up on his blog. The email confirms the VC would like to meet with Union officials and delegates from selected societies but not anyone in the occupation. The occupiers had previously received an email from the Womens’ officer which asked for names of delegates the occupation would like to send to the talk. They have posted her email up on their site. They selected their delegates on Friday and were looking forward to starting negotiations soon. The occupiers have contacted the representatives from the Palestine Society, the Islamic Circle, and the Jewish Society who will all be involved in the discussions and all agree that the occupiers should also be included.Please contact the VC to protest this move: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, March 21, 2009
For a critical analysis of Badiou's ideas take a look at this "Why Alain Badiou is a Rousseauist" This I understand is just one chapter in a long Polemic against Badiou. I welcome this polemic even though I am sympathetic to Badiou has I feel he needs challenging from a Marxist Leninist Maoist perspective and I hope the RCPUSA is up to the task. I will cover the full polemic on Spring Thunder.
http ://revcom.us/a/159/Badioupolemic.pdf :
100 Hours Update:
We’re currently under lockdown again; University management have taken the decision to remove access to the building for the weekend. Today we selected our delegates to the meeting with University management and we’re currently waiting for the Vice-Chancellor to respond to our correspondence and schedule a meeting. We had a successful meeting today, in which Hilary Smith from Sheffield PSC spoke about the tactic of boycott as part of the campaign. Shortly after this the university put the building on lockdown and here we are. People are no longer allowed to enter the building and we’re only able to receive food parcels at the door.
The occupation rolls on!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Visit my Blog List on right of this page for link to http://december18th.org/
Sign your support today
Attempts to undermine Sheffield University Occupation by Zionists - Jewish Student Activists in Occupation Respond
The Secretary of the University of Sheffield Jewish Society today released a statement on a Facebook group set up to oppose us expressing the feelings of vulnerability and harassment felt by some Jewish students towards our occupation. The text of this statement is viewable at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/topic.php?uid=60170581533&topic=9766.
Below, Jewish activists within our occupation respond to the statement.
We are writing as Jewish activists from within the occupation in response to fears and concerns expressed by J-Soc. Although we regret any feeling of victimisation on the part of any Jewish student, or any student of another ethnic minority, we wish to make it entirely clear that our occupation is unambiguously opposed to anti-Semitism, which we believe can play no positive role in any movement to fight for peace and justice in the Middle East.
Unlike some, we do not dismiss out of hand the notion that anti-Semitism exists within the Palestine solidarity movement; however, many of the activists involved in our occupation have been at the forefront of fighting those elements and attempting to build a movement in which Jews who oppose the Israeli state's oppression of the Palestinians are made to feel welcome.
The motivation behind this occupation is ultimately anti-racist: we feel revolted by the callous attitudes which see Palestinian lives as disposable, and it is exactly this feeling of solidarity that leads us – and our gentile comrades – to oppose anti-Semitism wherever it occurs, whether inside or outside the movement. The very first principle of our code of conduct clearly states that racism (as well as other forms of discriminatory behaviour such as sexism and homophobia) is unacceptable and will not be tolerated within the safe space we have created.
It is also not the case that our occupation is hostile to Israeli-Jews as a people. Our opposition is to the Israeli state and its oppression of the Palestinians and occupation of their land; far from expressing hostility to Israeli-Jews, one of our demands is that the university expresses its solidarity with those brave Israeli students who have faced jail rather than serve in the IDF in what they feel is an unjust and immoral war. We stand in solidarity with progressive, democratic and radical forces across the world – including within Israeli society.
We cannot see any reason why any of the slogans raised by our occupation would be seen as threatening or anti-Semitic; however, if students do have genuine concerns about feeling threatened, we invite them to explain what their problems are, so we can work our concerns out together and clean up any misunderstandings that may have arisen. Any student with concerns about the impact of our occupation is welcome to visit our occupied space to discuss with us without any fear of intimidation or harassment.
Without wishing to trivialise or dismiss any concerns our fellow students may feel, we would also wish to invite anyone who feels intimidated by the sight of a few solidarity banners in a building to take a moment to think of the plight of Palestinian students attempting to study under military occupation, as it is this sense of compassion for people who are having their educations – and their lives – disrupted which drove us to this course of action in the first place.
We are proud to identify with a long, varied and rich cosmopolitan tradition of radical diaspora Jews, from Emma Goldman to Albert Einstein, and thoroughly resent the idea that an identity as diverse, multifaceted and gloriously indefinable as Judaism should be tied to a narrowly nationalist, militaristic ideology, with diaspora Jews asked to either silence criticism of Israel or else be made to feel somehow “less Jewish”. Furthermore, and as we have said, a considerable opposition movement – comprising working-class forces, refusers, anti-war activists and others – exists within Israel itself, which sees no problem with combining Jewish cultural identity with criticism of, and opposition to, the Israeli ruling-class.
Finally, we disassociate ourselves entirely from the incident in which a 'boycott Israeli goods' sticker was placed on the J-Soc noticeboard. Our occupation has no policy on the question of a boycott and many activists within it oppose the tactic. We wish to reiterate our total opposition to all forms of racism (including anti-Semitism), our commitment to internationalist solidarity with the Palestinian people and our support for Israeli-Jews struggling for peace and justice for all peoples in the Middle East.
Jewish activists within the occupation (in personal capacities
A first hand account of the occupation of Manchester Metropolitan University in solidarity with the people of Gaza. This short documentary follows MMU students Mark Harrison, Keir Williams-O'Gorman and many more as they storm the Geoffrey Manton Building and stay overnight in a lecture theatre in protest of the Israeli bombings of Palestine. It was filmed by MMU students Neirin Best Lianne Pierce and Andreina Castellanos.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Public reenactment of a speech given by Paul Potter, former President of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), at the April 17, 1965
"We must name that system. We must name it, describe it, analyze it, understand it and change it.
Public reenactment of a speech given by Paul Potter, former President of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), at the April 17, 1965 March on Washington. Potter offers an insightful critique of our governments use of the rhetoric of freedom to justify war, and calls for citizens of the United States to create a massive social movement to build a democratic and humane society in which Vietnams are unthinkable. Max Bunzel, a Washington D.C.-based actor delivered the speech on location on July 26, 2007. This five-minute video is based on a 29 minute speech.
"We must name that system. We must name it, describe it, analyze it, understand it and change it. For it is only when that system is changed and brought under control that there can be any hope for stopping the forces that create a war in Vietnam today or a murder in the South tomorrow or all the incalculable, innumerable more subtle atrocities that are worked on people all over all the time."
"How do you stop a war then? If the war has its roots deep in the institutions of American society, how do you stop it? Do you march to Washington? Is that enough? Who will hear us? How can you make the decision makers hear us, insulated as they are, if they cannot hear the screams of a little girl burnt by napalm?"
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Our building's been locked down so no-one new can come in. We've also been given written notices that the University will seek a court injunction against us if we're not out by 9am tomorrow morning. This injunction will seek damages for legal costs as well as the cost of paying for extra security workers.
We're all pretty outraged that the University would suddenly start behaving so heavy-handedly towards its own students, particularly given the lengths we've gone to to ensure the minimum amount of disruption to normal educational functioning (going as far as to facilitate lectures taking place ourselves when University management wanted to relocate them!).
People have congregated outside our building to attend our 7pm meeting; we're currently discussing how to maintain and grow our occupation...
We believe that your position of refusal to engage with the occupiers of the Hicks lecture theatres is entirely unreasonable. The occupation began as a response to your failure to respond to earlier correspondence well before the occupation took place; the onus was on you to continue negotiations and discussions in this manner, and your refusal to do so is what led the occupiers to conclude that direct action was the only option left to them.
Furthermore, the Student Union's statement of condemnation - upon which you base your refusal to negotiate - was predicated entirely on a falsehood. The occupiers have consistently express their willingness for lectures to take place in the occupied space, and indeed have taken it upon themselves to facilitate this despite University management's attempt to unilaterally relocate lectures. The vast majority of students and lecturers who have visited the occupied space have found it a welcoming, non-intimidating environment that would be in no way disruptive to learning and education.
An emergency meeting of the Student Union Executive Officers (which only reached its decision by a majority of 5-3) cannot possibly be held to be meaningfully representative of the wide layers of deeply felt student opinion around this issue. We call on you and other members of the University's senior management to immediately retract your position of refusal to negotiate with the occupiers and enter into open discussions with them.
Hospital officials in Israel say the American activist Tristan Anderson is now semi-conscious after days under full anesthesia. Anderson was critically injured Friday when Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister directly at his head during a weekly nonviolent protest against the separation wall in the West Bank village of N’alin. Anderson underwent brain surgery in an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv on Saturday. Parts of his right frontal lobe were removed. Anderson is now able to lift fingers on one hand in response to a voice command.
by Alain Badiou
Translated by Alberto Toscano
We are familiar with Mao Zedong's formula: "Marxism comprises many principles, but in the final analysis they can all be brought back to a single sentence: it is right to rebel against the reactionaries." This phrase, which appears so simple, is at the same time rather mysterious: how is it conceivable that Marx's enormous theoretical enterprise, with its ceaselessly and scrupulously reworked and recast analyses, can be concentrated in a single maxim: "It is right to rebel against the reactionaries"? And what is this maxim? Are we dealing with an observation, summarizing the Marxist analysis of objective contradictions, the ineluctable confrontation of revolution and counterrevolution? Is it a directive oriented toward the subjective mobilization of revolutionary forces? Is Marxist truth the following: one rebels, one is right?1 Or is it rather: one must rebel? The two, perhaps, and even more the spiraling movement from the one to the other, real rebellion (objective force) being enriched and returning on itself in the consciousness of its rightness or reason (subjective force).
A. Practice, Theory, Knowledge
We are already handed something essential here: every Marxist statement is—in a single, dividing movement—observation and directive. As a concentrate of real practice, it equals its movement in order to return to it. Since all that is draws its being only from its becoming, equally, theory as knowledge of what is has being only by moving toward that of which it is the theory. Every knowledge is orientation, every description is prescription.
The sentence, "it is right to rebel against the reactionaries," bears witness to this more than any other. In it we find expressed the fact that Marxism, prior to being the full-fledged science of social formation, is the distillate of what rebellion demands: that one consider it right, that reason be rendered to it. Marxism is both a taking sides and the systematization of a partisan experience. The existence of a science of social formations bears no interest for the masses unless it reflects and concentrates their real revolutionary movement. Marxism must be conceived as the accumulated wisdom of popular revolutions, the reason they engender, the fixation and detailing of their target. Mao Zedong's sentence clearly situates rebellion as the originary place of correct ideas, and reactionaries as those whose destruction is legitimated by theory. Mao's sentence situates Marxist truth within the unity of theory and practice. Marxist truth is that from which rebellion draws its rightness, its reason, to demolish the enemy. It repudiates any equality in the face of truth. In a single movement, which is knowledge in its specific division into description and directive, it judges, pronounces the sentence, and immerses itself in its execution. Rebels possess knowledge, according to their aforementioned essential movement, their power and their duty: to annihilate the reactionaries. Marx's Capital does not say anything different: the proletarians are right to violently overthrow the capitalists. Marxist truth is not a conciliatory truth. It is, in and of itself, dictatorship and, if need be, terror.
Mao Zedong's sentence reminds us that, for a Marxist, the link from theory to practice (from reason to rebellion) is an internal condition of theory itself, because truth is a real process, it is rebellion against the reactionaries. There is hardly a truer and more profound statement in Hegel than the following: "The absolute Idea has turned out to be the identity of the theoretical Idea and the practical Idea. Each of these by itself is still one-sided" (Hegel, Science of Logic). For Hegel, absolute truth is the contradictory unity of theory and practice. It is the uninterrupted and divided process of being and the act. Lenin salutes this enthusiastically: "The unity of the theoretical idea (of knowledge) and of practice—this NB—and this unity precisely in the theory of knowledge, for the resulting sum is the "absolute idea" (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks). Let us read this sentence very carefully, since, remarkably, it divides the word "knowledge" into two. That is a crucial point, on which we shall often return: knowledge, as theory, is (dialectically) opposed to practice. Theory and practice form a unity, that is to say, for the dialectic, a unity of opposites. But this knowledge (theory/)practice contradiction is in turn the very object of the theory of knowledge. In other words, the inner nature of the process of knowledge is constituted by the theory/practice contradiction. Or again, practice, which as such is dialectically opposed to knowledge (to theory), is nevertheless an integral part of knowledge qua process.
In all Marxist texts we encounter this scission, this double occurrence of the word "knowledge," designating either theory in its dialectical correlation to practice or the overall process of this dialectic, that is, the contradictory movement of these two terms, theory and practice. Consider Mao, "Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?": "Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process . . . leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge" (Mao Zedong, Five Philosophical Essays). The movement of knowledge is the practice-knowledge-practice trajectory. Here "knowledge" designates one of the terms in the process but equally the process taken as a whole, a process that in turn includes two occurrences of practice, initial and final. To stabilize our vocabulary,2 and remain within the tradition, we will call "theory" the term in the theory/practice contradiction whose overall movement will be the process of "knowledge." We will say: Knowledge is the dialectical process practice/theory.
On this basis we may expose the reactionary illusion entertained by those who imagine they can circumvent the strategic thesis of the primacy of practice. It is clear that whoever is not within the real revolutionary movement, whoever is not practically internal to the rebellion against the reactionaries, knows nothing, even if he theorizes.
Mao Zedong did indeed affirm that in the theory/practice contradiction—that is, in a phase of the real process—theory could temporarily play the main role: "The creation and advocacy of revolutionary theory plays the principal and decisive role in those times of which Lenin said, 'Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement'" (Mao, On Contradiction). Does this mean that, at that moment, theory amounts to an intrinsic revolutionary possibility, that pure "Marxist theoreticians" can and must emerge? Absolutely not. It means that, in the theory/practice contradiction that constitutes the process of knowledge, theory is the principal aspect of the contradiction; that the systematization of practical revolutionary experiences is what allows one to advance; that it is useless to continue quantitatively to accumulate these experiences, to repeat them, because what is on the agenda is the qualitative leap, the rational synthesis immediately followed by its application, that is, its verification. But without these experiences, without organized practice (because organization alone allows the centralization of experiences), there is no systematization, no knowledge at all. Without a generalized application there is no testing ground, no verification, no truth. In that case "theory" can only give birth to idealist absurdities.
We thus come back to our starting point: practice is internal to the rational movement of truth. In its opposition to theory, it is part of knowledge. It is this intuition that accounts for Lenin's enthusiastic reception of the Hegelian conception of the absolute Idea, to the point that he makes Marx into the mere continuation of Hegel. ("Marx, consequently, clearly sides with Hegel in introducing the criterion of practice into the theory of knowledge," Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks.) Mao Zedong's sentence lends its precision to Lenin's enthusiasm. It is the general historical content of Hegel's dialectical statement. It is not just any practice that internally anchors theory, it is the rebellion against the reactionaries. Theory, in turn, does not externally legislate on practice, on rebellion: it incorporates itself in the rebellion by the mediating release of its reason. In this sense, it is true that the sentence says it all, an all that summarizes Marxism's class position, its concrete revolutionary significance. An all outside which stands anyone who tries to consider Marxism not from the standpoint of rebellion but from that of the break; not from the standpoint of history but from that of the system; not from the standpoint of the primacy of practice but from that of the primacy of theory; not as the concentrated form of the wisdom of the working people but as its a priori condition.
B. The Three Senses of the Word "Reason"
If this sentence says it all, it nevertheless does so according to the dialectic, that is, according to a simplicity that divides itself. What concentrates and sustains this division, while apparently cloaking it, is the word "reason" or "rightness": one is right, the rebellion is right, a new reason stands up against the reactionaries. The fact is that, through the word "reason," the sentence says three things, and it is the articulation of the three that makes the whole.
1. It is right to rebel against the reactionaries does not mean in the first place "one must rebel against the reactionaries" but rather "one rebels against the reactionaries"—it is a fact, and this fact is reason. The sentence says: primacy of practice. Rebellion does not wait for its reason, rebellion is what is always already there, for any possible reason whatever. Marxism simply says: rebellion is reason, rebellion is subject. Marxism is the recapitulation of the wisdom of rebellion. Why write Capital, hundreds of pages of scruples and minutiae, of laborious intelligence, volumes of dialectic often at the edges of intelligibility? Because only this measures up to the profound wisdom of rebellion.
The historical density and obstinacy of rebellion precede Marxism, accumulating the conditions and necessity of its appearance, because they instill the conviction that, beyond the particular causes that provoke the proletarian uprising, there exists a profound reason, which cannot be uprooted. Marx's Capital is the systematization, in terms of general reason, of what is given in the historical summation of causes. The bourgeoisie, which cognizes and recognizes class struggle, is happy to admit and investigate the particular causes of a rebellion, if only in order to forestall its return. But it ignores the reason, which when all is said and done the proletarians hold onto—a reason that no absorption of causes and circumstances would ever satisfy. Marx's enterprise amounts to reflecting what is given, not so much in the particularity of battles but in the persistence and development of the class energy invested in them. The thinking of causes does not suffice here.3 The reason for this persistence must be accounted for in depth. The essence of the proletarian position does not reside in the episodes of class struggle but in the historical project that subtends them, a project whose form of practical existence is given by the implacable duration and successive stages of proletarian obstinacy. That is where reason lies. Only its clarification and exposition—simultaneously in the guise of reflections and directives—do justice to the movement, which rebellion brings to light, of the class being of phenomena.
Today only the Maoist enterprise integrally develops what proletarians do and allow us to know through the unconditional and permanent character of their rebellion. Only thus can we say: yes, contradiction is antagonistic, yes, the workers' rebellion, which is the fire at the heart of this contradiction, is the very reason of history. "It is right to rebel against the reactionaries" means above all: the obstinate proletarians are right, they have all the reasons on their side, and much more besides.
2. "It is right to rebel against the reactionaries" also means: the rebellion will be right, it will have reason on its side. At the tribunal of history, the reactionaries will have to provide reasons, to account for all their misdeeds of exploitation and oppression. The obstinacy of proletarian rebellion is certainly—and this is the first meaning of the word "reason," or "rightness"—the objective, irreducible character of the contradiction that pits the workers against the bourgeois, but it is also the practical certainty of the final victory; it is the spontaneous, ceaselessly renewed critique of worker defeatism. That the state of affairs is unacceptable and divided—this is the first reason for the rebellion against the reactionaries. That it is transitory and doomed is the second. It is reason, no longer from the standpoint of the motivation or of the moment, but from the standpoint of the future. It is reason in the sense of victory, beyond reason in the sense of legitimacy. Rebellion is wisdom because it is just, because it is founded in reason, but also because it is rebellion that legislates about the future. Marxism repudiates any conception of reason solely based on justification. The proletariat does not simply have true reasons to rebel, it has victorious reasons. "Reason" is here at the crossroads of revolutionary legitimacy and revolutionary optimism.
Rebellion is allergic to Kant's moral maxim: "You must, therefore you can." Besides, Kant concluded that an act thus regulated in terms of pure duty had doubtless never taken place. Morality is a defeated prescription. But the workers' rebellion has indeed taken place, and it finds in Marxism its place of victorious prescription. Marxist reason is not an ought, a duty to be, it is the affirmation of being itself, the unlimited power of what stands up, opposes, contradicts. It is the objective victory of popular refusal. Materialistically, workers' reason says: "You can, therefore you must."
3. But "reason" means yet another thing, and this thing is the split fusion of the first two senses. This time, "it is right to rebel against the reactionaries" means: rebellion can be strengthened by the consciousness of its own reason. The statement itself "it is right to rebel against the reactionaries" is both the development of kernels of knowledge internal to the rebellion itself and the return into rebellion of this development. Rebellion—which is right, which has reason—finds in Marxism the means of developing this reason, of assuring its victorious reason. That which allows the legitimacy of rebellion (the first sense of the word "reason") to become articulated with its victory (the second sense of the word "reason") is a new type of fusion between rebellion as a practice that is always there and the developed form of its reason. The fusion of Marxism and of the real workers' movement is the third sense of the word reason, that is to say, the dialectical link, both objective and subjective, of its first two senses.
We encounter here once again the dialectical status of Marxist statements, all of which are divided according to reflection and according to the directive: grasping, beyond its causes, the reason of class energy. By the same token the theory formulates the rule whereby reason can prevail over the cause, the ensemble over the local, strategy over tactics. Rebellion formulates its reason in practical duration; but the clarified statement of this reason breaks with the still-repetitive rule that commands this duration. Rebellion arms itself with its own reason, instead of simply deploying it. It concentrates its rational quality: it organizes its reason and sets out the instruments of its victory.
Knowing that one is right to rebel against the reactionaries, by delivering the (theoretical) reason of this (practical) reason, allows one to make the subjective (organization, the project) equal to the objective (class struggle, rebellion). "Reason," which initially voiced revolutionary legitimacy and optimism, now speaks of the consciousness and mastery of history.
C. Reason as Contradiction
"It is right to rebel against the reactionaries" is indeed a sentence that says everything about historical movement, because it voices its energy, its sense, and its instrument. Its energy is class struggle, the objective rationality internal to rebellion. Its sense is the ineluctable collapse of the world of exploitation and oppression—that is, communist reason. The instrument is the possible direction of the relation, within history, between energy and sense, between class struggle (which is always and everywhere the motor of history) and the communist project (which is always and everywhere the value promoted by the rebellion of the oppressed). The instrument is reason become subject, it is the party.
"It is right to rebel against the reactionaries" voices the whole, because it speaks of class struggle and the primacy of practice, communism and the withering away of the state, the party and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The sentence voices integral reason, which is to say divided reason, according to the subjective and the objective, reality and project, the endpoint and the stages. And we can see how this integral reason is contradiction: it is impossible to be right, to have reason alone and for oneself. One is right, one has reason, against the reactionaries. One is always right against the reactionaries, the "against the reactionaries" is an internal condition of the true. That is also why Mao Zedong's sentence summarizes Marxism; it says: every reason contradicts. "True ideas emerge in the struggle against false ideas," reason is forged in the rebellion against unreason, against what the Chinese invariably call "reactionary absurdities."
Every truth affirms itself in the destruction of nonsense. Every truth is thus essentially destruction. Everything that simply conserves is simply false. The field of Marxist knowledge is always a field of ruins.
Mao Zedong's sentence tells us the whole dialectic: the class essence of reason as rebellion lies in the struggle to the death of opposites. Truth only exists in a process of scission.
The theory of contradictions is wholly implicated in the historical wisdom of rebels. That is why the dialectic has always existed, just like rebellions. The dialectic philosophically concentrates the conception of the world of the exploited who stand up against the existing world and will its radical change. That is why it is an eternal philosophical tendency, which unremittingly opposes itself to conservative metaphysical oppression: "Throughout the history of human knowledge, there have been two conceptions concerning the law of development of the universe: the metaphysical conception and the dialectical conception, which form two opposing world outlooks" (Mao Zedong, On Contradiction).
It is always a question of continuing the dialectic, of continuing it against metaphysics, which means: to give reason to the rebels, to say that they are right. Today, to give reason to the true Marxism against the false. To the Maoists, against the revisionists.
Alain Badiou, a professor emeritus of philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, works with Organisation Politique, a postparty organization. He is the author of several successful novels and plays as well as more than a dozen philosophical works.
Alberto Toscano is a member of the sociology faculty at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the editor, with Ray Brassier, of Alain Badiou's Theoretical Writings (2004).
This is a translation of chapter 1 of Alain Badiou's Théorie de la contradiction (Paris: Maspero, 1975).
1. On se révolte, on a raison. Throughout this chapter, Badiou plays with the resonance between being right, avoir raison, or considering right, donner raison, and the concept of reason, raison, recast in a partisan Marxist/Maoist guise.—Trans.
2. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is not a formalism. In it words are caught up in the movement of destruction/construction, which is the movement of real knowledge. If the target is attained, the signs matter little. Whence the fact that words can move around: only their power counts. Yet again, force prevails over the respect of places.
3. Lenin strongly underlines the insufficiency of the category of causality when he argues that Hegel, rather than Kant, is right not to give it any pride of place: "When one reads Hegel on causality, it appears strange at first glance that he dwells so relatively lightly on this theme, beloved of the Kantians. Why? Because, indeed, for him causality is only one of the determinations of universal connection." Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks.
Find this and other articles at: http://positions.dukejournals.org/content/vol13/issue3/
We are writing to you from inside a student occupation which began this evening in the Hicks building. We have peacefully taken control of two lecture theatres (5 and 6) on Floor E and are running them safely as democratic, student-run spaces.
We have done this in protest at the failure of university management to continue a process of negotiation over the university's response to Israel's recent attack on Gaza.
As student activists and members of the University of Sheffield community, we call on the university to:
Issue a statement condemning the disproportionate actions of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.
Create a special programme of five Palestinian scholarships and waive all fees for current students from the occupied territories.
Enter into an academic partnership with the University of Gaza.
Donate old books, computers and other relevant equipment to the University of Gaza, and pay for the transport of these materials.
Publicise the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal on Sheffield University notice boards, website and via email.
Initiate a programme in partnership with students of divestment and ending links with the arms trade.
Allow those studying medicine to carry out their electives in the occupied territories of Palestine.
Commemorate the United Nations Palestine Solidarity Day on November 29th.
Echo the Occupation's statement of support with Israeli students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in the IDF.
We have taken this action because we believe our university should be run democratically from below by students and staff, and not in the interests of corporate profiteering. Because of this belief, we express our solidarity with university workers and demand
10.That they face no cuts in jobs, wages or conditions.
We further demand
11. That participants in, or supporters of, the occupation face no repercussions.
We would like to begin open negotiations with representatives of university management as soon as possible. To this end, we invite you to visit us in our occupied space (Hicks LT6) tomorrow morning after 9am to commence discussions.
Email correspondence with the occupation can be conducted through this address.
The Sheffield Occupiers.
Monday, March 16, 2009
We have just heard that students at Sheffield University occupied a lecture theater in the Hicks building at 7:15pm today.
The students decided to occupy in solidarity with the people of Gaza and in response to the University Administration and Vice Chancellor’s uncooperative approach towards student’s previous list of demands.
Visit this link :
Breaking news Sheffield Uni occupied
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Anderson's friend, Gabrielle Silverman, says he was struck by a canister from a high velocity rifle after the protest subsided. She says troops kept firing tear gas as Palestinian medics evacuated him. He was taken to an Israeli hospital.
We wish Tristan well and hope he makes a full recovery from the surgery in Israel has he is a rare human being who is prepared to put his life on the line to support others weaker than himself.
We feel we must comment on some of the comments about Tristan on the Internet in US and Israel calling him a leftist lunatic and getting what he deserved - the inability in these times to distinguish between the actions of the self sacrifice of Tristan Andersen has that representing the best that humanity has to offer and the necessity to hurl abuse at such self sacrifice to self justify political positions on the right in Israel and US shows not only their moral bankruptcy but the fundamental weakness of their political beliefs.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers critically wounded an American peace activist after launching a tear-gas canister at his head and shot four Palestinians with rubber-coated bullets in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah, on Friday.
“He had a large hole in the front of his head, and his brain was visible,” one protester said of the injuries to the American activist.
Dozens of others choked on tear gas at an otherwise peaceful demonstration against the Israeli separation wall. The protest is a weekly event attended regularly by international peace activists, many affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement.
Demonstrators marched through the streets of Ni’lin toward the Israeli separation wall chanting slogans calling for Palestinian national unity and for resistance to the occupation. Then “the Israeli soldiers attacked the peaceful demonstration using rubber-coated bullets gas and stun grenades.”
The coordinator of the anti-wall Popular Committee in the village, A’hed Al- Khawaja, added, “Four were injured [and] others choked after inhaling gas.”
Later in the day the AP reported that one ISM activist, Tristan Anderson of Oakland, California, was in critical condition at a Tel Aviv hospital. The agency quoted one hospital official as saying “he's in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests.”
According to Teah Lunqvist, another protestor, "Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500 meters."
“I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After five minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed," she said.
In 2003 Rachel Corrie, another ISM peace activist, was crushed by a bulldozer as she stood protecting the home of a Palestinian family from Israeli demolition.
Newcastle University to issue a statement - demand met.
Newcastle University will facilitate us bringing the issue of arms investments to the finance council - demand not met, but action will be taken to facilitate a process.
3. Newcastle University will ‘actively support’ our campaign and its projects - demand met.
a) a collection of computers, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (ICU)
b) the visit of a student delegation to the ICU to establish their requirements/how we can best help them:
c) the university will actively support the campaign in following up on those needs.
d) the University supports us in campaigning for an ethical trade policy with regard to Israele) Newcastle University will publicise the DEC appeal for aid on notice boards around campus
Newcastle University supports new and ongoing collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link Newcastle students and IUG students - demand met.
Newcastle University will conduct a public review of the rules and regulations which currently restrict political activism on campus. Furthermore, the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign will no longer face restrictions on leafleting about our events, meetings etc on campus - demand met.
The University is arranging for surplus academic supplies to be sent to the Islamic University of Gaza. Alan Gilbert was very keen on this demand, and has been in discussions with the librarians to ensure that all disused books and other supplies are made available. As the occupation lasted a lot longer than expected (evidently longer than it takes to drive to Gaza!), the Viva Palestina convoy mentioned in the original demand has now arrived in Gaza, so we are in the process of researching other ways we can transport these supplies.
Major progress has been made in securing divestment from the arms trade. Gilbert has agreed to improve transparency over the University’s investment portfolio. This may not seem like a lot, but students have been campaigning over the University’s millions of pounds of investments in the arms trade for over three years now and, despite numerous stunts and protests over the issue, progress has been frustratingly slow. In a matter of weeks, Manchester students will know exactly where the University is involved with the arms trade, and so, in future, will be able to make far more specific, and therefore realistic, demands for divestment.
Although the Vice Chancellor refused to boycott a country, he was willing to consider boycotting key companies linked to Israel. Soon the University should make available to us lists of the companies that it holds investments in, and purchases supplies from. From these we plan to make specific, realistic suggestions of companies linked to Israel that the University can boycott, and Gilbert has indicated that he would be willing to do this.
The University will not official fundraise for the DEC appeal, although Gilbert has invited us to do so ourselves on campus, including by entering lectures.