A Conversation between Sergio Benvenuto & Cornelius Castoriadis: Autonomy, Politics, Psychoanalysis

This conversation took place in Castoriadis’ apartment in Paris, on May 7, 1994. It was registered and filmed for the Multi-Media Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences of the RAI – Radiotelevisione Italiana. First published in European Journal of Psychoanalysis, No 6, Winter 1998. Translated from the French by Joan Tambureno.

 

Benvenuto: You are a philosopher of politics, but you are also a practicing psychoanalyst. Does your profession of analysis have an influence on your philosophical concepts?

Castoriadis: There is a very strong bond between my concept of psychoanalysis and my concept of politics. The aim of both is human autonomy, albeit via different processes. Politics aims at freeing the human being, making it possible for him to accede to his own autonomy through collective action. The prevailing concept during the 18th and 19th centuries (including that of Marx), according to which the object of politics was happiness, is a mistaken, even catastrophic, one. The object of politics is freedom. And politics is collective‑conscious and considered‑action, aimed at transforming institutions into institutions of freedom and autonomy.

Benvenuto: The American Declaration of Independence does not proclaim that the aim of the state is happiness, but it ensures everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness. That individual quest for happiness has gradually been identified in America with the criteria of ‘problem solving’. However, does the quest for happiness for every man not imply also the autonomy of every man? The idea that society must permit everyone to search for his own happiness implies a certain liberal concept of autonomy. Is it in that American sense that you intend ‘autonomy’?

Castoriadis: No, not in the American sense. The American Declaration states, “We believe that all men are created free and equal for the pursuit of happiness”. But I do not believe that God created all human beings free and equal.

In the first place, God created nothing at all because he does not exist. Secondly, since human beings came into existence, they have practically never been free and equal. Therefore, it is necessary that they act in order to become free and equal. And once they have become free and equal, there will doubtlessly be demands regarding the Common Good, and that is the contrary of the liberal concept according to which each and everyone must pursue his individual happiness which would imply, at the same time, the maximum happiness for all. There are certain kinds of social services which are not exclusively directed to the interests of individual happiness and which are the object of political action‑for example, museums, or roads‑and all the same it is in the interest of my own autonomy that others are autonomous.

However, if society interferes with my happiness, the result is totalitarianism. In that case, society will tell me: “it is the opinion of the majority that you should not buy records of Bach’s music, but those of Madonna. That is the will of the majority, and so much for your happiness!” I believe that happiness can and must be pursued by each individual on his own. It is up to each individual either to know or not know what his own happiness is made of. At certain moments, he will find it here and at others elsewhere.

The very notion of happiness is a fairly complex one, both psychologically and philosophically.

However, the object of politics is freedom and autonomy, and that will only be possible within an institutional, collective framework, which permits freedom and autonomy. The object of psychoanalysis is the same. And there is the response to the question as to the fin of psychoanalysis (to which Freud returned often), in the two senses of the word fin (aim/end): the termination in time and the objective of the analysis. It is the aim of analysis that the individual become as autonomous as possible.

This does not mean autonomous in the Kantian sense, that is to say complying with moral dictates, established in the same way, once and for all. The truly autonomous individual is one who has transformed his relationship with his unconscious to such a point that he can ‑ to the extent that it is possible in the human universe ‑ know his own desires and at the same time succeed in mastering the acting out of those desires. Being autonomous does not imply, for example, that I am moral because I do not covet my neighbor’s wife. I have not mastered this desire for my neighbor’s wife, besides which each one of us began life desiring the wife of a fellow human being, since each desired his own mother. If one has not begun life thus, one is not a human being but a monster.

However, it is quite another thing to put that desire into action. Individuals of fifty or sixty can still have incestuous dreams, which proves that that desire remains. An individual who at least once a year has not wished the death of someone because that someone has in some way wronged him is a seriously pathological individual. This does not mean that he must necessarily kill that person, but it is necessary to realize that “in that moment I was so furious with that person that if I could have made him disappear from the face of the earth, I would have. But then, I wouldn’t have, even if I could”. That is what I call autonomy.

Benvenuto: You speak of autonomy. Other analysts who, like you, tend towards the Left prefer to speak of psychoanalysis as an instrument for emancipation. Is this the same thing?

Castoriadis: It is; however, autonomy is more precise. Psychoanalysis cannot be an instrument for social emancipation, it cannot free us from our money-dominated society or the immense power wielded by the state. Psychoanalysis does not have the capacity to make revolutionaries of patients, but it can help them to overcome their inhibitions, rendering them more lucid, more active citizens.

However, the problem of psychoanalysis is the relationship of the patient to himself. There is Freud’s famous comment in the New Lectures on Psychoanalysis: “Wo es war, soll ich werden”, “where it has been, I must become”, that is to say, substitute the It (or Id) with the I. That phrase is more than ambiguous, even if its ambiguity is removed by what follows in the paragraph: that is an effort of drying out, similar to the Dutch efforts to drain the sea of the Zuyderzee. The intent of psychoanalysis is not to drain the unconscious; that would be an absurd, as well as impossible, undertaking. What it does intend is to attempt to transform the relationship of the I instance, of the subject more or less conscious, more or less reflected, with his drives, his unconscious. The definition of autonomy on the individual plane is: knowing what one desires, knowing what one would really like to do and why, and knowing what one knows and what one does not.

Benvenuto: Today a sort of official ideology of autonomy prevails. It is enough to look, for example, at the advertisements in the media to realize that there is an ideological sale of a pagan song to happiness pursued by autonomous men and women. Isn’t your ideal of autonomy close to the ideas dominant today? You wrote that Marx was anti-capitalist, but that in reality he shared the same prejudices and the same assumptions of the capitalist society. You could be accused of the same thing, because you propose as an alternative an ideal which is today altogether dominant, even banal.

Castoriadis: There is clearly, on the part of contemporary society, an extraordinary force of assimilation and recuperation. However, I began speaking of creation, the imaginary and autonomy approximately thirty years ago. At that time, it was anything but an advertisement slogan. Gradually, the ad-men appropriated my words because they became the ideas of May ’68. However, the mystification of these ad-men becomes apparent when they speak of creativity. “If you really want to be creative, come and work for IBM” ‑ that is a publicity slogan. But at IBM, you are neither more or less creative than you are elsewhere. The creativity I speak of is of human beings who must be freed, which is quite a different thing.

In France, one does not speak so much of autonomy as of individualism. Now, individualism as it is referred to in publicity, in the official ideologies, or in politics, has nothing to do with what I call the autonomy of the individual.

In the first place, individualism is: “I do what I wish”, while autonomy is: “I do what I believe it is right to do, after reflecting; I do not deprive myself of doing what pleases me, but I do not do something simply because it pleases me”.

In a society in which each one does what he pleases, there will be murder and rape. And then, that publicity and ideology are deceptive, because the alleged individualism, the narcissism with which we are inundated, is a pseudo-individualism. The current form of individualism is that at 8:30, every evening in every French household the same dials are tuned to receive the same television programs, which propagate the same rubbish. Forty million individuals, as though obeying a military command, do the same thing, and that is called individualism! By “individual” I intend someone who attempts to become autonomous, who is conscious of the fact that, as a human being, he is absolutely unique and attempts to develop his singularity in a reflected way. Consequently, there is no relationship between the ideology of publicity and what I have said.

Benvenuto: Apparently, your idea of the aim (fin) of psychoanalysis is virtually opposite to the one proposed by Lacan. He strongly criticized the idea that that aim was to create an autonomous ego, calling that theory an “American ideology”. Do you consider Lacan’s criticism to be fair?

Castoriadis: Partially so. For, in it there were two potential‑perhaps even real‑deviations. The first was the absolute over-estimation of the Ego and consciousness. Freud’s expression, “where It was, I must become”, should be completed by the symmetrical: “there where I am, the It must be able to appear”. We must succeed in making our desires speak. Letting them pass into reality, allowing them to be translated into action, is obviously quite another thing. Therefore, it is necessary to let drives rise; it is necessary to know even the most bizarre, monstrous, and abject drives which could appear in our everyday, conscious life. On the other hand, the autonomous Ego referred to by certain Americans was in fact the socially constructed individual: the Ego was constructed by society; that is, an individual knew that he had to work to live and that if he opposed his boss it was because he had not resolved his Oedipus complex. There have been job application questionnaires in American companies in which, if the candidate responds to the question “when you where a child, did you love your mother or your father more?” by “I loved my mother more”, he earns a negative point. Because, clearly, if he opposed his father, he could be a potential troublemaker in the company. That is an ideological utilization of psychoanalysis for the purpose of adaptation.

In 1940, when there were 15 million unemployed in the United States, an article appeared in the International Journal for Psychoanalysis by American psychoanalysts interpreting the psychoanalytical roots of unemployment: one is unemployed because of an unconscious desire to be unemployed. This is an aberration, as well as idiotic, since unemployment is clearly an economy-related phenomenon.

However, Lacan’s criticism of that tendency was somewhat in bad faith. In the first place, because he chose an easy target, in the second place because he wished to propose an ideology of desire. Now, that Lacanian ideology of desire is monstrous, because desire is murder, incest and rape. For Lacan, there is the Law, but that Law ‑ as he is incapable of putting it in a social-historical context ‑ perhaps could be any law. There was law at Auschwitz; there was law in the Gulag; and there is law in Iran today.

Benvenuto: But Lacan spoke of symbolic law, constituted by language, and with a universal structure. It is not a question of just any law, imposed by any regime.

Castoriadis: Of course, with language we can say anything we please. But what exactly does he mean by symbolic law? The word “symbolic” for Lacan is a skeleton key, a word to conceal the fact that one is speaking of the institution and the instituted. However, in saying that it is symbolic, what he wants is to endow the institution and the instituted with a pseudo-transcendental dimension, as Kant would say. But the symbolic is quite another thing. Language belongs to the symbolic, in the sense that all signs are symbols of a referent, or that there are symbols of another order. But we must put an end to that Lacanian mystification of the symbolic.

There is no “symbolic” as independent domain; there is a symbolic as part and function of the imaginary. Otherwise, there are institutions, and there is a question of the validity of the institutions. However, the question is not symbolic. Is then the institution valid by right? It will always be valid de facto, as long as it is sanctioned. But it was valid de facto at Auschwitz and is so also in Iran today. Is it valid by right? Now, there is nothing in the concept of Lacan to lead us to make a distinction between the law of Auschwitz and the law of ancient Athens, or the present laws in the United States. Thus, the famous expression of Lacan to the effect that the master relinquishes nothing of his desire. Now, it is the master who knows what his desire is, and if his desire is like the desire of Lacan ‑ i.e., to transform his followers into slaves ‑ then his desire is realized. But that is basically opposed to the scope of psychoanalysis, which is not that the desire of the master, or of everyone, be realized ‑ particularly if one is aware of what desire implies in psychoanalysis ‑ because that would be incompatible with real, social life. And I do not intend here the actual American society, but also the most ideal society conceivable. So, Lacan comes back to the most utopian aspects of the ideology of the young Marx and the Anarchists, although he would have laughed sarcastically at the consideration of these ideologies. The young Marx and the Anarchists conceived of a society in which there would be neither law nor institution.

Benvenuto: That accusation directed at Lacan as anarchist surprises me. His left-wing critics usually accused him of being repressive, due to his insistence on Law and castration. For Lacan remaining faithful to one’s desire means castration, i.e., renouncing the putting into action of one’s own fantasies.

Castoriadis: Not so, because the assumption of castration in Lacan is extremely ambiguous. It is the renouncing of desire directed at the mother, but that is the condition of realizing desire. For Lacan, there is neurosis because the individual has not succeeded in assuming his castration, and if he does assume it, then his desire is liberated, with the exception that he obviously no longer directs it towards the mother but towards other women.

Benvenuto: But for Lacan, assuming one’s own desire does not imply enjoying that which one demands in reality. He makes a distinction between desire, demand and enjoyment which occurs in reality.

Castoriadis: All this is very ambiguous. Lacan is, theoretically, all that which is most banal, most suspect, similar to one of those Parisian vogues which appear and then disappear after five, ten, twenty years.
But coming back to the history of psychoanalysis, the particular problem of the human being is to succeed in creating a relationship with the unconscious which is not simply a repression of the unconscious, or its suppression according to a given social dictate and, in particular, the social heteronomy. Here we have once more a point at which psychoanalysis and politics meet. To what extent might I call the social law also my law and not a law which has been imposed on me in a heteronomous fashion? It is my law only if I have been concretely active in the formation of the law. Only in these conditions can I be truly autonomous, given the fact that I am obliged to live in a society which has laws. Thus, we have a second point of conjunction between the sense of autonomy in psychoanalysis and the sense of autonomy in politics.

Benvenuto: The left-wing culture has often criticized analysis as a practice particular to a bourgeois society, because it is essentially based on a private contract of sorts. Above all, during the 1960s and 1970s, a certain sector of the left proposed substituting psychoanalysis with a social treatment of personal problems, reducing psychopathological disturbances to social alienation. What is your opinion of this left-wing, Marxist criticism of the psychoanalytical ethic?

Castoriadis: That was a radical leftist exaggeration of the 1960s and 70s, which found motivation in certain aspects of establishment psychoanalysis. Every psychoanalytical process necessarily involves two persons: an analysand and an analyst. There cannot be a transference and a working through of the transference outside this relationship between analysand and analyst. There is, however, an aspect which is extremely difficult to resolve and to which no one has yet provided a solution: the financial aspect. On the one hand, the psychoanalyst has to make a living. On the other, as experience proves, even for the analysand an unpaid analysis is not psychically tolerable (because the debt he contracts with the analyst is enormous), and it will inevitably be ineffectual since the analysand can prattle on interminably, because the time of the session costs him nothing.

There is in any event a problem: the enormous inequality of the distribution of wealth in today’s society places psychoanalysis out of the reach of most of those who need it, unless they are reimbursed by the National Health System. This could be resolved effectively only within the framework of a general social transformation.

Benvenuto: What then are your practical, political suggestions for countering the classic criticism against analysts: that they only treat the idle rich, and usually too few patients in ratio to the average population?

Castoriadis: This is not necessarily true. Of the dozens of patients I have treated up to the present, practically none have been rich. Some have made enormous sacrifices in order to go into analysis. I adapt my fee to the patient’s economic possibilities. There are also those who cannot pay anything. But practically no one has come to me for analysis in order to be able to say at a fancy dinner party “I am in analysis”.

The financial question is however a real problem, and it would be good to attempt to eliminate this great inequality of income in today’s society. However, from a theoretical point of view, we cannot remain blocked at the Freudian theory as it was formulated initially. Freud was an incomparable genius, and to him goes the credit for a wealth of ideas. But there is a blind point in Freud: the imagination.
There is a considerable paradox in Freud’s works, in that everything recounted by him is formations of the radical imagination of the subject, of fantasies. However Freud, who was formed in the Positivist spirit of the 19th century, as a student of Brücke in Vienna, neither sees, nor wants to see, these formations. For this reason, initially, for some time he believed in the reality of the scenes of infantile seduction his hysterical patients described. He believed that the subject was ill because of something which had created trauma.

Benvenuto: For more or less the past ten years, there has been in the US the tendency to return to Freud’s initial belief in the real seduction on the part of adults.

Castoriadis: These are political idiocies created by the politically correct vogue. The patient, when he says that his mother, father, nurse or neighbor seduced him when he was a child, is always necessarily right. But that is not the problem, because the basic response is that for any traumatic event, the event is real in that it is an event, while it is imaginary in that it is traumatic. There can be no trauma if the imagination of the subject does not give a certain meaning to what has occurred, and that meaning is not politically correct but is the meaning given to the fantasy of the subject and his radical imagination. Now, Freud does not want to acknowledge that basic concept.

Currently, in the US, there is the attempt to go back in time. It is touching and funny to see that during the analysis of the Wolf Man, Freud long believed in the reality of the primitive scene which the Wolf Man described to him‑that is, the fact that he saw his parents making love from behind; and that it was not until the end of the analysis that he said‑in a footnote‑that perhaps, in a final analysis, the primitive scene was only the patient’s fantasy. However, the matter is of little importance. Freud did not account for the role played by the imagination in what he called fantasmatisation. He attempted to attribute philogenetic origins to these fantasies, and he attempted to find them in the initial myth of Totem and Taboo, which is absurd.

To explain the origin of society, Freud created a myth.

At the outset, he posed the problem of the origin of society as simply negative‑that is, the problem of the origin of the two major interdictions: that of incest and that of intra-tribal murder. Not murder in principle, because nowhere is murder forbidden in principle; if you kill the enemies of Italy or France, you have done well and are decorated‑but one must not kill within. You can kill within only if you are an executioner, or a policeman on duty. Freud did not see that the problem of the origin of society is not exclusively the problem of the creation of two interdictions. It is the problem of the creation of positive institutions: the creation of language, norms of behavior, religions, meanings, and so on. Freud’s myth explains the creation of the two major prohibitions during the course of history of the primitive horde, where a father had all the women and castrated or drove out his sons in order to continue to reign over his harem. One day, the brothers killed the father and divided the women of the tribe. Then the brothers concluded a pact stipulating that on no one would attempt to take the woman of another or to commit murder. And so they portrayed their father as the tribe’s totem animal. And every year they would prepare a sacrificial meal, during which an animal was sacrificed and eaten, thus repeating symbolically‑in the true sense of the term‑the murder of the father.

From an anthropological point of view, this myth does not hold, although it is a very significant mythical construction not only because of the fashion in which Freud and the thought of his time functioned, but also from the psychoanalytical point of view, in that it is in fact an Oedipus complex‑the tendency to murder the father and eliminate brothers/rivals. But all this was already known through psychoanalysis without the myth of Totem and Taboo. The myth represents that which it should explain, because it represents the brothers’ capacity for socialization on the day they joined forces to kill their father. That is already a social action, which presupposes the existence of language. Therefore, to explain the origin of society, Freud presupposes that society is already there, that is, that the brothers could converse among themselves, conspire and maintain a secret. Animals have never been seen to conspire.

However, because Freud totally dismisses the creative role of the radical imagination, of the fantasmatization, he is something of a reductionist or determinist; he tends to always attempt to find the connection of causes and effects in the subject’s psychic life, which created in that subject that symptom, neurosis or particular evolution.

This is carried to the extreme in stories such as A Childhood Memory of Leonardo da Vinci, in which he attempts to explain one of Leonardo’s paintings and his creative life on the basis of a childhood incident, which is here also supposed as mythical, and which, even supposing it all held together, fails to explain the painting of Leonardo, why that painting is great, or why we experience pleasure in looking at it. Also when it is a question of explaining the evolution of a singular subject‑demonstrating the reasons for a certain neurosis and not another‑Freud finally admits that it is impossible to know, and he calls it “the choice of the neurosis”. An individual chooses his neurosis, and by two or three years of age she has already embarked upon the road to obsession rather than, say, hysteria.

Benvenuto: But is not the expression “choice of neurosis” contradictory to you assume to be his determinism? Because, evidently, to speak of choice is in itself to repudiate determinism, and consequently to admit that there is no relation of cause and effect between the history of a person and his psychopathology.

Castoriadis: That is what I said. Freud inevitably attempts to find a connection between cause and effect. For example, in the Rat Man’s Analysis or in the Wolf Man’s Analysis, he says that a certain symptom exists because a given thing has occurred at a given moment.

However, in the first place, he does not see that the thing which has occurred at that moment has played this role only because the patient attributed to it that fantastic meaning. And secondly, Freud does not explain that which has occurred, and is consequently forced in the end to say that there is a choice of neurosis that he cannot explain.

He often refers to constitutional factors, but constitutional factors are like histories (heredity) in old medicine, or the soporific virtues of opium, as Molière said. Saying that there are constitutional factors does not constitute an answer. Here, once more one must be fair: when Freud spoke of constitutional factors he was not completely mistaken; for example, with infants, from the outset there is a considerable difference in their tolerance of frustration. Some infants, given the breast or the baby’s bottle, remain calm for six hours until they are once more hungry, while others very quickly begin to cry, scream, demand the breast or the bottle, or do not accept the mother’s going away. Then, constitution implies something innate. However, any effort at psychoanalytical determinism fails.

Freud said the same thing in the texts of 1936-30, as regards female homosexuality, when he stated that a girl, during adolescence, has three alternative ways. She can become a woman who loves men and who wishes to have children, she can become a dried-up old maid who detests sex and anything related to it, or she can become a tomboy in whom, even if it remains latent, there will be a tendency towards homosexuality. Why does she choose one alternative rather than another? One could point to factors which have led to a given choice or inclination, but ultimately it can never be determined.

Benvenuto: Are not the problems Freud poses on “choice” of neuroses or ways of being a woman tied to problems inherent in all historical reconstitution, since a historian reconstitutes processes over time? There has always been this oscillation between determinism and in-determinism in historical reconstructions.

Castoriadis: Yes. It is precisely for that reason that determinist and scientist reductionism is false; one can never demonstrate the totality of necessary and sufficient conditions. That does not necessarily mean that there is an absence of any form of determinism; there are certain connections of cause and effect, but not always and not essentially. It is a question of domains.

Benvenuto: But in analytical treatment, does one act on the causes or something else?

Castoriadis: That is the most important and the most difficult question. Psychoanalysis attempts to transform the way the patient sees his world. In the first place, it attempts to make him see his world of fantasies. That is, it attempts to make him understand that the way in which he sees the world is a way which, for the most part, depends on his own psychic constructions and fantasies. Secondly, it attempts to lead him to an adequate relationship with his fantastic constructions. If you are dealing, for example, with someone who is on the paranoiac side, first of all he must be made to understand‑not by logical persuasion, but through the analytical work‑that it is not true that everyone wants to persecute him, but that, essentially, his view is his own fantasmatization, and that one might even say that when he actually does encounter persons really intent on persecuting him, it is he who has chosen them.

He chooses the woman who will persecute him.

I have chosen an extreme example, because with a delirious paranoiac there is practically nothing to be done; it is necessary to take a borderline case. However, it is more convincing than when you take a neurotic and attempt to lead him to overcome that way of fantasmatization. There are other cases where it is a question of leading the patient to live more or less peacefully and reasonably with his fantasy world, as well with his new fantastic productions. The way in which that occurs is also one of the mysteries of analysis. Freud never succeeded in explaining why a real interpretation has an effect. And I cannot explain why a true interpretation at times produces an effect and at other times produces none. A dyed-in-the-wool analyst will tell you: “if an interpretation does not produce any effect, this is because it is not true”. That is not exact.

Benvenuto: Apropos of the effects of analysis, in recent years there has been considerable criticism by a certain epistemology of the validity, the scientific truthfulness, of psychoanalysis. For example, Popper, Grünbaum and Eysenck have criticized the scientific plausibility of psychoanalysis. Grünbaum in particular has said that analysis sometimes simply creates placebo effects. What is your opinion of these criticisms which consider the effects of analysis as being no different than the effects of magic cures? Because, at times, a magician can also cure.

Castoriadis: But how does he do it? Mr. Grünbaum, Mr. Popper, and even Mr. Lévi-Strauss have no explanation for that. Lévi-Strauss says that psychoanalysts are the shamans of modern times, and shamans the psychoanalysts of primitive societies. But why experiences in double blind (1)? Why is there a placebo effect? Because there is suggestion. But why is there suggestion? Psychoanalysis responds that all suggestion is the result of transference. The patient to whom the physician gives a medicine is very likely to believe that that medicine will be beneficial, and for that reason there is a placebo effect and that faith can produce effects on the psyche. Secondly, it is for that reason that one makes experiments in double blind, and to say that the fact that someone goes to a psychoanalyst three times a week and that that is beneficial due to a placebo effect, is saying nothing at all. Why is there a placebo effect?

Benvenuto: Yes, but you say that epistemology and analysis both admit the existence of suggestion. I cannot believe that any analyst would be content to admit that the effects that he produces are due to suggestion, even if suggestion is explained in a psychoanalytic way.

Castoriadis: Psychoanalysis can explain suggestion, but suggestion cannot explain psychoanalysis. Because psychoanalysis is essentially‑I do not say exclusively‑the work of the analysand himself. These philosophers, perhaps because they often live in America, have in mind a psychoanalyst who says to the patient: “If you think that, it is because your mother did that”. However, other psychoanalysts worthy of the name would never say anything of the kind. Now, one has more sophisticated forms: one says that the patient who knows what the analyst thinks attempts to say to him that he knows what the analyst will think, and so on. But if one is experienced in analysis, nothing of the sort holds. It is a question of authority, but in the end I have an experience which Grünbaum has not. If one wishes to, one believes me, and if one wishes to, one does not. One sees how a patient changes in the course of a treatment, and one sees that he resists. How Mr. Grünbaum can explain why a resistance at a certain point gives way? Why does a patient for two years make no progress and then suddenly something moves and he shifts to another speed?

All these criticisms, beginning with Popper, compare psychoanalysis to an idea of science identified with positive sciences [sciences positives]. But anyone who expects psychoanalysis to be a positive science is a fool. Popper struggles against that fool. By Popper’s own reasoning, one could say that there exists no history, because there is no possibility of falsifying in history. That is possible only as regards concrete facts. If someone says “there is no Parthenon in Athens”, there is a falsifiable aspect of that thing because one can take him to Athens and show him the Parthenon. But if someone says, as Burckhardt did, that for the ancient Greeks the athletic element‑that is, competition and the struggle against the opponent‑was very important, that is an interpretation and not refutable in Popper’s sense. Popper, with his would-be criterion, says that there are positive sciences in which there is experience, measure, etc., and all the rest is literature. That may be so, but this literature is more important, perhaps, than the positive sciences.

History, society, the psyche, our lives, are at least as important as molecules and atoms.

 


(1) A “double-blind” experiment in medicine is when some patients in a control group are given actual medicine, while others receive a placebo, but without either the doctor or the patients knowing who has been given which. [Note of the editor].




Nation-State, Nationalism and the Need for Roots

Yavor Tarinski

The State is a cold concern which cannot inspire love, 
but itself kills, suppresses everything that might be loved; 
so one is forced to love it, because there is nothing else.
That is the moral torment to which all of us today are exposed.

Simone Weil[1]

The influence nationalism has today can be attributed to the sense of uprootedness people experience in the contemporary neoliberal globalization. The human need for feeling part of a community within familiar territorial and temporal environment remains heavily neglected by the dominant heteronomous paradigm of individualism and exploitation.

Rootedness appears as one of the most important, but overlooked, human needs. People are rooted when they, not only feel protected by, but actively and organically participate in the life of their community, preserving in this way alive certain traits of the past and expectations for the future. When brought to life, every human being is connected to a certain place of birth, cultural traditions and social environment. As Simone Weil writes: Every human being needs to have multiple roots. It is necessary for him to draw well-nigh the whole of his moral, intellectual and spiritual life by way of the environment of which he forms a natural part.[2]

In the current state of uprootedness, however, The Nation-State, and eventually nationalism, appears as the last remnant of human collectivity related to actual geographical territory and historicity amidst digitalized global flows of authority and capital.

The contemporary pseudo-rational paradigm that places consumption and individual success as the main target of life has come to degrade all social links and bonding imaginary significations. As Castoriadis explains in his article The Crisis of Modern Society, these processes have come to produce a crisis of insignificance in the so-called developed liberal societies that is slowly spreading to all their satellites in the developing world[3]. In this crisis social bonds are being diminished even on family level and the only entity that remains to provide any sort of identity, both on social and individual level, which links the future, the present and the past, appears to be the Nation-State.

The reality, however, is much different. There has been, and to some extent there still are, many other levels of human collectivities related to common ground on much smaller, decentralized and humane scale like the municipality, the city, the town, the village, the province etc. The nation or in other words – the State – has come to replace all of these, homogenizing the various cultures and traditions within its borders in its effort at establishing its authority as the only legitimate one. Thus the national identity has come to replace or dominate every other bond of attachment. As philosopher Simone Weil suggests: [m]an has placed his most valuable possession in the world of temporal affairs, namely, his continuity in time, beyond the limits set by human existence in either direction, entirely in the hands of the State.[4]

The Emergence of Nation-State

Nations are a recent invention, if we take into account the time span it occupies within the whole human history. It is tightly related to the logic of etatism and the emergence of the Nation-State. But before its domination over social imaginary, people’s continuity in space and time was expressed, for example, through their shared experiences in medieval cities and towns. There was still a sense of belonging, but it was of a more fluid nature; without being exclusively set within strict territorial borders, specific language or narrow cultural traits.

What did not exist prior to the emergence of the Nation-State was that permanent, strictly-defined patriotic devotion, on a mass scale, to a single object. Feelings of belonging and loyalty were much more diffusive and dispersed, constantly varying according to shared similarities and changing threats. Their character used to be far more complicated as they varied between interconnected groups and territories: belonging to certain professional guild, town, region, community, leader, religion or philosophical tendency. There was not one single extra-social national identity above all other intra-social interactions.

All this has changed with the emergence of Nation-States.

By shifting the role of sovereign from the vibrant public life to the lifeless bureaucratic body of the state, nationalism (as the absolute internalization of national identity by society) attempts at summing the total of people who recognize the authority of one and the same statist formation. Thus, as Weil suggests, when one talks about national sovereignty, he really means the sovereignty of certain Nation-State.[5] In statecraft, i.e. the art of making statist politics, the authority does not lay in the collective disposal of the people but it is being absorbed completely by the inhumane, merciless and bureaucratic etatist mechanism.

The latter’s complete hold on power, exercised through constant policing of everyday life, provokes on the one hand, popular feelings of mistrust, hatred and fear, while on the other, the national element demands absolute devotion and sacrifice to the very same structure, strengthening its total domination on material and cognitive level. These seemingly paradoxical characteristics complement logically each other. Total concentration of power in the hands of one extra-social bureaucratic entity requires for it to appear before its subjects as an absolute value, as a loveless idolatry, to which Weil adds the rhetoric question – what could be more monstrous, more heartrending.[6]

Unlike absolute monarchies of the past, in which the kings were being presented as direct descendants of God, modern nation-states present themselves as desacralized. But they are still embedded in a metaphysical imaginary: one that is not related to religion or God, but on hobbesian fears of the people and weberian bureaucratic rationalism. 

State is not a sacral idol, but a material object which serves “self-evident”, nationally determined purpose, that must be forced above everything else. It allocates, as Kurdish revolutionary Abdullah Ocalan suggests, a number of attributes whose task is to replace older religiously rooted attributes like: nation, fatherland, national flag, national anthem and many others.[7] The notion of national unity comes to reminiscent and goes even further than religious concepts such as the “Unity with God”. It becomes divine in an absolute manner.

In order to achieve this total absorption of all social life, it strives at systematically destroying all organized and spontaneous forms of public interaction, so as to remain the only link between the past and the present, as well as the only social and individual signification. This antagonism between State and society, that takes the form of the former’s efforts to constantly degrade public space and time, has low but ceaseless intensity. This process is invisible for the social conscience, because of the cautiousness that is required for the statecraft to not lose its supremacy that nationalism provides. The outcome of this national bureaucratization of everyday life is the infliction of traits of servility, passivity and conformity into people’s imaginary, so as to make social interaction beyond Nation-State hardly imaginable.

Nation-State and Borders

The dynamics of State and nationalism enclose those that are situated within their frontiers, both on territorial and temporal level. On the one hand it encloses through its territorial borders, while on the other, through the subordination of people’s imaginaries to patriotic identities. Thus the social flow of ideas through space and time is being obstructed. These national compartments restrain human creativity, and although not dulling it completely, they still seriously limit it’s potentials by placing on its way border check ups, bureaucratic formalities, patriotic dogmas and national antagonisms. Simone Weil suggests that a closer examination of history will reveal the striking difference between flow of ideas and cultures in pre-national periods and the modern age of statecraft and capitalism.[8] Without romanticizing the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, one can see in those periods the fluid, creative, curious relationship inhabitants of cities and regions from different cultural and territorial backgrounds had with each other, as well as with their history, present and future.

Today on the contrary, when (while) we are supposedly connected globally with each other, and the planet has become, as the popular saying goes, one “giant village”, we see more suspicion to the foreign, more fear from the unknown, than our access to knowledge, science and technology should suggest. One of the main reasons for this is the deepening enclosure of public space and time by statecraft and nationalism. Similar processes have been observed by other thinkers like David Graeber, who in his book The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joy of Bureaucracy[9] observed the unfulfilled promises of the highly scientific, technological age we have already entered. These failed expectations he attributes to the civilizational shift from the real to the simulational, which is a direct result of the capitalist and bureaucratic dynamics that have uprooted our societies from organic experience of and intervention with public space and time.

The National Sense of Injustice and Loyalty

In the national context of statecraft, every notion of justice is being expropriated by and submitted to the expansionist nature of the State. As being an entity aimed at concentrating authority, it is always in antagonistic relationship with other similar formations, as well as with social uprisings for power redistribution. States always present themselves to be in position of injustice regarding their national mission for complete domination.

According to Hannah Arendt: tribal nationalism [patriotism] always insists that its own people are surrounded by ‘a world of enemies’ – ‘one against all’ – and that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others.[10]

Justice loses its meaning and from a matter of public deliberation it is being absorbed by the patriotic discourse. It is being turned into a tool through which the Nation-State processes and condemns its opponents on geopolitical and on inner/structural level (as national threat and as national traitors, respectively). This inflicted sense of national injustice is used to fill the gap left by the uprooted imaginary significations that relate people and their communities to actual territorial environments and vibrant cultures. It attempts at turning acts, done in the name of homeland, into struggle against universal injustice.

But since this feeling of national injustice is of simulative rather than of organic character, it often leads to extreme attitudes like xenophobia, racism, discrimination etc. Thus it comes as no surprise when Weil concludes that fascism is always intimately connected with a certain variety of patriotic feeling.[11]

By breaking all organic bonds of public life and replacing them with patriotic justice, the state becomes the only entity to which one can pledge loyalty. In such way monstrosities that are being conducted by national bureaucracies are being often adopted by the common folk as just. As radical geographer David Harvey explains, national identity is the primary means by which the state acquires legitimacy and consent for its actions.[12]

This is the reason why people willingly engage in wars that will cost them much, if not even their lives, while empowering, without to place in danger, their rulers, which have provoked the conflict in the first place. It is because of this imaginary signification of national loyalty against the ultimate injustice that has led societies to massacre each other. It is also most certainly the engine of the current rise of xenophobia and racism among people in the developed countries. Nationalism leads them to view themselves as victims of those that seek refuge from the rubbles of the Third World, neglecting the fact that it was the pillage and exploited conducted by their own nations that have provoked these current migratory waves.

Reproduction of Hierarchies

The sense of uprootedness slowly penetrates the social imaginary. The long tentacles of the dominant bureaucratic mechanisms embed themselves within the everyday life of people, making it almost impossible to not view everything in terms of nations, states and capitalist relations. Thus the current heteronomous worldview is often being recreated by those who rebel against it. Social mobilizations that rise against authoritarian regimes or exploitative/parasitic capitalist systems tend to slowly replace the initial democratic traits with erection of hierarchies and leadership cults that mimic the patriotic loyalty to the Nation-State. This is especially true for, but unfortunately not limited to, movements that strive at achieving social change on representational level since, as Max Weber correctly concludes, no party, whatever its program, can assume the effective direction of the state without becoming national.[13]

By being uprooted from their physical and temporal environment, with only the lifeless bureaucratic machinery of the State as a linkage between the human being and the world, people are compelled to embrace leaders, whose role resembles that of the statist Leviathan. We can see this logic in pop culture, and particularly in cinema, where manufactured stars play characters that resemble contemporary popular perceptions of the state:  either the flawless superheroes and top agents from the Cold War era, or the cynical and vulgar, but effective, antiheroes that have sprang during the ongoing crisis of political representation.

Thus uprootedness breeds further uprootedness, or better yet – it expands itself, constantly securing the continuation of dominating bureaucratic organisms and power relations. The dangers of these processes have been examined by thinkers like Hannah Arendt, for whom the loyalty to religious or national groups and identities always leads to the abdication of individual thought.[14] But we are not doomed to remain uprooted and thus easily controlled and manipulated. Possibilities for rooting can be found all around us that lay beyond the ideological mystifications of the contemporary heteronomous system.

Putting Down Roots

Putting down roots means restoring the sense of belonging that one feels towards his social and cultural environment, through shared responsibility. There is the need to make, as Andre Gorz suggests, “one’s territory” livable again.[15] People should be linked to their cities, towns and villages, through grassroots direct participation in their management and shape them according to actual social needs in the constantly changing world, instead of following predetermined and sterile bureaucratic planning. As Gorz puts it, [t]he neighborhood or community must once again become a microcosm shaped by and for all human activities, where people can work, live, relax, learn, communicate, and knock about, and which they manage together as the place of their life in common.[16] Democratic confederations, instead of Nation-States, can ultimately coordinate the activities of such emancipated and rooted communities, allowing them to reclaim their public space and time from the nationalist supremacy.

This requires for the constant creative activity of the public to once again be irritated. The Ancient Greek notion of Astynomos Orgè[17], i.e. the passion for institution-making, must become vital social and individual signification that gives meaning to life, so as to allow for the responsible participation to replace the irresponsible consumption propagated by capitalism.

Such rooting cannot be “ordered” from above by “artificial” (i.e. extra-social) structures like electoral parties or powerful leaders, for reasons that we already explored above. Instead they should be guided by democratic organizations that emerge in ecological manner in the midst of everyday life by day-to-day necessities. Germs of such organizational type already exist on embryonic level in our contemporary surroundings in the form of neighborhood assemblies during urban insurrections, markets without intermediates during economic crises, and even the regular meetings between neighbors that live in the same condominium. Political activists and organized groups should encourage and nurture the political element in such occurrences and spontaneous social movements, since politics is what allows societies to reclaim their space and determine their temporality.

An example of such rooting can be observed in the Paris Commune and how this was indicated by certain changes in the language. By taking direct control of their city, Parisians’ reclamation of public space and time could be observed through the replacement of the terms mesdames and messieurs (ladies and gentlemen) by citoyen and citoyenne (female and male for citizen). As Kristin Ross observes, the former formula, used mainly by the French bourgeoisie, indicated the saturated time of Nation.[18] It confirmed and inscribed the existing then social divisions (i.e. the superiority of the bourgeoisie over the working class) and the continuation of a certain politico-historical tradition of statecraft and hierarchical stratification.

The introduction of citoyen and citoyenne by the communards, according to Ross, indicated a break with the national belonging. Instead we can suggest that it addressed revolutionary withdrawal from the artificial/extra-social national collectivity and heading toward popular rooting in another politico-historical tradition, dating back to the emergence of the Athenian Polis. It indicated new politicized relationship that people obtained with their surrounding and temporality and the way they linked themselves to their city and history: On the one hand, they began viewing themselves as stewards of their city, managing it collectively; on the other, they began conceiving of history as creation, in which they take an active part. Citoyen and citoyenne was not a reference to a certain social strata, part of national entity, but an expression of equality and shared passion for political participation in public affairs. We could only imagine how this new democratic culture could have developed in the long run if the Commune was not brutally suppressed by the French army after only three months of existence.

Conclusion

Today we see how our society of uprooted people willingly embraces narratives like nationalism that provoke hatred and fear, which ultimately leads to social degradation and cannibalism. The pseudo-dilemma before the modern individual is either to stick up with the Big Brother, i.e. the Nation-State, which to offer him a sense of belonging, or to become a kind of neoliberal “space cowboy” that wonders the world on his own in search of things and experiences to consume without any sense of self-limitation or ethical boundaries. But both these options strengthen each other and create a vicious cycle.

What seems to be hidden from the “naked” eye is the third option of rooting people through the recreation of public space and political time on the basis of direct democratic self-emancipation. This means detaching history from the sterilization of the Nation-State and linking it instead to the organic experience of life in our cities, towns and villages. Historic facts should not be distilled by the means of statecraft but by the imaginary context of each epoch and society, allowing communities to determine their temporality. This would also mean that the spaces we inhabit become truly public, i.e. controlled and managed directly by those that inhabit and depend on them, and not by bureaucrats or capitalist markets.

This approach will not solve all our problems, neither will put an end to history, but it will get us closer to the paradigm of social and individual autonomy, which in its essence can provide people with the freedom to determine their past, present and future. The historic popular efforts at self-emancipation have shown the potential of such paradigm shift, offering us germs for us to use in our efforts today. It is in our hands to determine how our societies will move on.


References:

[1] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p111

[2] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p40

[3] Cornelius Castoriadis: Political and Social Writings: Volume 3 (London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), pp106-117

[4] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p97

[5] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p124

[6] Op. Cit. 4

[7] https://libcom.org/library/nation-state-not-solution-rather-problem

[8] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p119

[9] David Graeber: The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joy of Bureaucracy (London: Melville House 2015)

[10] Hannah Arendt: Origins of Totalitarianism (London: Harvest Book, 1973), p227

[11] Simone Weil: The Need for Roots (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 2005), p143

[12] Network for an Alternative Quest: Challenging Capitalist Modernity II (Neuss: Mezopotamya Publishing House 2015), p51

[13] Max Weber: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p106

[14] https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/254461/hannah-arendt-and-gershom-scholem

[15] Andre Gorz: “The Social Ideology of the Motorcar” in Le Sauvage, September-October (1973)

[16] Op. Cit. 15

[17] https://www.athene.antenna.nl/ARCHIEF/NR01-Athene/02-Probl.-e.html

[18] Kristin Ross: “Citoyennes et citoyens!” in Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune (New York: Verso, 2015)




Notes and Premonitions of a Coming Storm | Athens Log

Victor Stransky*

Wednesday September 19, 2018 –
Koukaki, Athens, Greece
@ 14:45

I was awoken by the alarming dark of comrade Andonis’ living room, I have become accustomed to the past few days since arriving in my beloved Athens. There hasn’t been a day when my utter exhaustion hasn’t sedated me, leaving me comatose until early afternoon. The cool darkness of his apartment with its closed shutters recall the peculiar sensation of a bunker, or of the primordial serenity of the womb, or perhaps even the vacuum of quantized space.

The shower — now a dreary ritual, the jerk-off — a profane machination, the cigarette –an unpleasant yet irresistible indulgence. Clothes and shoes on, wallet, phone, keys and cigarettes. Lock the door down the stairs, onto the street and turn right towards Attiki metro station.

The sun was shining and the balmy heat of the city stuck into my skin while the rumba and cumbiaesque flow of the city remind me of a place I have never been to, of a song I have never heard before, but which I somehow knew intimately. I wove a hesitant path through the small, indistinguishable side streets, clinging to the shade like a lizard to a rock, crossed the train tracks much as I had done that now distant Sunday morning when I had arrived and had proceeded to find a party in Kerameikos, only today with the intent of finally visiting the old town of Athens.

On the surface level around the station, there was no obvious multitude of people, but upon entering the caverns below, I was abruptly awash in a river of motion and excited particles – a hive, a collective mind, channeled the form and function of the urban landscape. The train was on the platform and the doors closed just as I shot in.

The train sped down the tracks, through the underground tube, until we eventually reached my destination and I got off at FIX station, where I was immediately engulfed in an urban landscape decidedly different from the ones I had grown accustomed to during my short stay in Athens. Yet it was disturbingly familiar. One could quickly absorb the subtle marks of the neighborhood – the nicely paved streets, the well-kept sidewalks, the trendy cafés, restaurants and knick-knack stores lined on the ground floor, nestled among tall trees and fine greenery abounding. I, of course, being as addicted to coffee and cigarettes as I am, searched in vain for a good 10 minutes before I could find a place with reasonably priced tiropita and coffee.

As I walked about the neighborhood my mind was quietly searching for people who were different from me in appearance, whereas in the other parts of the city I had been, the presence of different people and cultures was a staunch fact of life. That is not to say that there aren’t people on the streets in this neighborhood. It seems to me that those I have seen dress similarly, have a similar anxious or arrogant air about them as they walk or talk and have the same skin color as me. What’s more, my eyes have yet to catch the graffiti or the political posters upon the walls and façades of buildings. Instead, at each turn I am greeted by clean, sterile and recently renovated plaster, brick and cement – nice and pristine like the streets which lock them geometrically, which are obviously cleaned regularly by the municipal cleaning service.

Should all this mean that people in this neighborhood are happy and taken care of? Or that all is suddenly well with the world and that there are no more grievances among people?

I seriously doubt it.

There is another public ‘service’ which caught my attention very quickly, catching me quite off guard in fact, seeing how I had become happily accustomed to its utter absence. As I sit on this glitzy IKEA stool, consuming my over-priced coffee and pastry which I purchased from two markedly unfriendly workers (or perhaps they were the owners?) and as I write this cute little diary entry, there are not 1, not 2, but 3 police patrol cars parked on the street and sidewalk to my immediate right, only a few meters away.

 

Hill of Diateichisma, ancient Athens
@17:07

I left the café on Koukaki heading towards the Acropolis museum, planning to pass through the old quarter, circle around the citadel and find my way to the Pnyx, from where I would go on my way back to our beloved Exarchia.

A little way down up the road, the elite neighborhood of Koukaki gave way to the bustle of the touristic foothills of the Acropolis with its impressive southeastern fortification towering above the modern city and a huge Greek flag raised to the heavens from its bastion. Now the urban design was even more refined and maintained. The tramline and cobblestone streets, the marble, granite and limestone, white façades and the expensive souvenir shops, restaurants and cafés became ever more chic and bourgeois with each passing step and the human currents became more mixed, now with faces and voices from all corners of the world – most dressed crisply and smart, while others, those working cleaning the streets, cooking in the kitchens, minding the stalls, begging for money and so forth had an air that was in particularly stark contrast with the transient guests who flowed through the streets of the capital of the Greeks, whom on their part can be seen chatting idly, going about their daily routines, well at ease in their urban domain.

The fine esplanade then gave way to the tight alleyways of an old merchant quarter, with one- or two-story buildings whose parterres brimmed with the commercial activity of luxury souvenirs dealers, gold jewelers, cosmetics dealers and fine restauranteurs. Faces of every color and voices of every continent can be seen and heard as one meanders about the channeled veins of this human organism – the neighborhood, all the while appearing eerily similar, despite a deceptive diversity. The style, the accessories, the contrived manner, the content of their conversations, the anxious walk, the uneasy glance over the shoulder all paint a picture of a people who to my mind seem ubiquitously out-of-place.

I eventually wound up at the Roman forum, whose ruins were less than spectacular, as I have come to recognize is the case for most of those found in the ancient city of King Thyssius, mere shadows of their former glory. Walking through shoddy enclosures, archeological digs and along dirt paths in the archeological park reserve, I couldn’t help but wonder at the fleeting nature of all things, just as many before me have surely contemplated, without finding much comfort.

The stone columns and foundations strewn about the sloping hillside, I feel, stare remorselessly into my soul, intent on reminding all mortal fools such as myself of the violent and unyielding passage of time, that lays waste to and renders even the greatest of cities unrecognizable. As one goes through the trees, up and down the hills, one catches glimpses of stone temples and pine and olive woods, all to the spectacular backdrop of today’s sprawling metropolis, in all of its arrogant and unapologetic modernity, stretching as far as the mountains and the sea will allow.

I now sit on a stone bench atop a terrace outcrop of the Hill of Diateichisma with a daunting frontal view of the Acropolis as the sky makes its slow descent into the Western horizon. I will now make my way to the Pnyx, as I have resolved to confront a certain Socrates. There are questions I burn to know the answers to.

I fear our time and space to maneuver may be running out.

 

The Hill of the Pnyx, ancient Athens
@18:20

I now sit upon the stone incline of the Pnyx, the hill where Athenian democracy’s experiment ran its course during its tumultuous first years in the time of Socrates. I find it fitting that I myself should be atop this rocky hill, pondering similar questions as the ancients might have. There was an infamous moment in history when the demos, despite its exclusion of women, slaves and migrants – the vast majority of the poor citizenry, managed to seize power from the autocrats, the oligarchs and the aristocrats of old and establish a new order – an order and an idea which would change the course of human history.

I do not mean to fetishize or glorify the achievements of antiquity or ages past but I have lately been unable to shake off a feeling of despair that has drowned me, my comrades and the movement at large, I feel. Athens was a democracy for a time, yet Athens was also an empire at this time, too – an empire of the mind, of the ship, of the merchant and of the sword. It was an empire of brutal patriarchy, of despicable slavery and exploitation, of exclusion and conquest, of divide et imperia, and it was run democratically no less. The Acropolis at which I now gaze for the final time before my departure bears testimony to this legacy of contradiction, of harmony and antagonism.

What are we to do today, in my time, in the age of global corporate capitalism? What are we to do in an age of empire and oligarchy? What are we to do in an age of reckless, human abandon and environmental catastrophe? What are we to do to not only prevent our impending doom but to push towards a promising project of peace, prosperity, brotherhood, equality, discovery, sustainability and abundance? How may we topple the gods, our lords and masters and seize power from tyrants and oligarchs just as the people of Athens did nearly two and a half millennia ago? Will we, the people of the human race, succeed in changing the course of history? Will we succeed in bringing about a new age or will we succumb to darkness, violence, death, cruelty, stupidity, all-consuming wrath, waste and self-destruction? ‘What are we to do?’, I have asked, every day for as long as I can remember now.

And if we are to achieve a new, radical, local, regional and international democracy, what is to become of it? Will we once again succumb to the folly of empire building? Or to the despicable tragedy and waste that is human warfare? Will we succumb to the idiocy of the ill-informed, superstitious and vengeful mob, such as the one which unjustly sentenced the greatest mind of Athens to his death?

O, Socrates, how much you must know of the folly of human existence! How little must we have changed over the many thousands of years! Behold! See through my eyes how different the world is and how very little has changed! I gaze upon the time-ravaged ruins of your city and I gaze up at the same Moon in the clear September sky as you surely once did!

It is 19:00 and the church bells once again ring through the city, casting a lulling spell upon my restless mind.

 

Bar Karagiozis, Exarcheia, Athens
@20:43

A chilly breeze swept the Pnyx as the light began to fade and flushed the mountains, the valley and the sprawling city with rose and pastel tones. My flight down the hill from the ancient gathering place brought me further and further into the old town, with ever more merchant stalls and restaurants lining the sloping gradient of the cobblestone road.

The road eventually brought me Thyseio station, an unassumingly small, surface level train station. It was there that the tracks run between the wooded archeological complex and the urbanized central city districts on their way to Monastiraki and the pulsating heart of modern Athens. Nothing but overpriced restaurants, tacky or trendy, lined the ground floors of the low buildings along the train tracks and the tourists stumbled along, verbally prodded from time to time by zealous maître-d’s. They coaxed us to come sit in their establishment, much as any rancher would try to corral his unruly cattle after a day’s grazing, while dozens of sly cats lie about, perched idly like spirit world sentinels upon marble columns and epitaphs, almost as if preying patiently upon the tourists as well.

It didn’t take long before this rolling, open-air shopping mall of a street lead to Monastiraki square and what’s left of Hadrian’s majestic library jutted out from below us behind a wrought iron fence. This glorious building gave way to the left to an open plaza, blazing with the harmonious chaos of an ant colony.

It was the third time in my life I had found myself in that boiling cauldron of a public square and I couldn’t help but remember my previous visit, as well as the precarious and protracted personal and mental breakdown I had been going through at the time. I was swept with the urge to go down the road to the left and end up around the gay bars in Kerameikos. I managed to keep course and sail straight through the stormy urban nexus and then I caught a southerly wind up the forbidding and dark avenue that led up to Omonoia Square. My ultimate destination being the anarchist stronghold of Exarcheia, which I had come to call home for the past days and nights.

I met with comrade Ioanna and Andonis at one of the neighborhood cooperative bars and I was greeted with the usual warmth, casual gossip and political chit-chat that I’ve grown so fond of. We also talked about what had happened to comrade Yavor in the train after yesterday’s demonstration, still somewhat flabbergasted at the idiocy of overly-eager Antifa youngsters to get into trouble and use violence against their enemies, even at the expense of mistaking a fellow comrade for a right-wing provocateur.

I cannot help but be overwhelmed with conflicting thoughts and feelings these past few months, as the daily drudgery of life and the complexities of revolutionary struggle under capitalist society have been ever more prone to taking their toll on my mortal body. I think again of Socrates, of those that came before him, of those that came after him. I think of the revolutions and the bloodshed and of the brutal repression of the State, of Capital, the barbaric tendencies of our societies. At the same time, I think of the noble and courageous struggles of everyday people through the ages, striving for life, freedom, equality and in pursuit of a fleeting happiness in a tomorrow that may never come.

Yesterday, as our large and diverse group spent our final night together at the bar, I couldn’t help but stare out at nowhere in particular as my comrades danced frenetically around me, the music blasting favorite songs from times gone by, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the future of Exarcheia neighborhood with all its problems and promising prospects. Will the enemies of revolution ultimately succeed once again in destroying any hope for an alternative to this slow, rolling, dystopian nightmare we are living in, or will we ourselves succumb to the dark abyss by virtue of our spectacular and all-too-human imperfections? What will become of all the people and places I have come to know and love and what is our place in these times of historic importance? What decisions, what actions, what sacrifices and what bloody price must we pay on the day of reckoning?

I feel for those that I love and cherish. I feel for the untold masses whose only crime was being born into this world. This beautiful, beautiful world, bestowed with lives so precious that the folly of human avarice only makes their loss a tragedy all the more grotesque and unbearable.

I have met people from three continents during my stay here and I feel blessed to have been able to connect with each one, from the vendors on the street, to the beggar I gave some coins to, to the many inspiring comrades and everyday people who aspire to great change and sacrifice. But perhaps what struck me most was my acquaintance yesterday with a young, handsome man from Afghanistan named Kazem. We talked during the whole ride on the fully packed and sweltering bus to Keratsini for the demonstration marking the five-year anniversary of the murder of Pablo’s Fissas by members of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party.

Kazem was one of the great number of migrant comrades attending the demonstration, who risk deportation and thus their lives by attending such marches together with their brothers and sisters from other parts of the world. I was much impressed by a similar situation at this year’s radical pride march in Madrid where a similar context can be observed. Comrade Kazem had had an utterly different life compared to my own and he has gone through so much hardship. The war, the poverty, the discrimination and racism, the hardship of crossing borders, the brutality of the State, the cruelty of society and finally the torture and humiliation of imprisonment – solely guilty for the crime of being born as he is and in his homeland. He is half a year younger than me, at the age of 22.

 

On the train to Thessaloniki
@00:03

The train glides with a soft rumble through the heart of Athens, passing by empty platforms through deserted stations. This time around I’ve been allocated a seat in a newer coach and I hope the 11-hour trip to Sofia will be less harrowing and unpleasant than the one on the way over.

I will miss Athens and the people I have met terribly. Exarcheia is a peculiar case. I don’t think I can recall ever feeling so… comfortable, for lack of a better word, in any particular neighborhood in the world; not even in my beloved Madrid nor even in my hometown Sofia. It is truly one of the most remarkable places in the world at the moment, even with all its problematic tendencies, its troubled past and its uncertain future.

It would be beside the point to relay a list of all the occupied squats, the social centers, the migrant assistance centers, the communal garden, the anarchist bars, restaurants, shops, cafés, libraries, the assembly halls and public spaces, almost all of which are collectivized or at least run to high democratic standards. I am sure there are many stories and much data that have been dedicated to this amazing place. It is, however, the distinct feeling as one walks the streets – be it by day, or by night. It is the unique social contracts at play, known or unbeknownst to me. It is the dizzying kaleidoscope of cultural, social, ethnic and political diversity. It is the staunchness of a collective resistance so profound and it is a revolutionary fervor that permeates the air. It is the diligence and the consistency in people’s behavior, a state of constant mobilization where every word, spoken or written and every action can be rich with meaning and can be a token of the power of one’s will and the will of an entire community.

Exarcheia is a powder keg.

It is a black cat waiting to pounce on the poor fools who dare disturb the hornets’ nest and it will never go down without a bitter fight to the finish. Exarcheia is a neighborhood where the State’s repression agents such as the police do not formally or usually step foot in and it is where raids on their part have been met with riots, mass civil disobedience and militant resistance. It has been a stain on the vanity and arrogance of capitalist society and it has been a thorn in the side of the ruling class for a great many years now.

Thus, it has been subjected to the hybrid warfare of the capitalist State, where key services and infrastructure have been purposefully scaled down or outright neglected and where opportunistic drug dealers (most often undocumented migrants) find comfortable refuge from the many facets of repression they face from the State and society, bringing with their work a complex plethora of issues and social ills. Undercover cops, snitches and foreign agents abound in this revolutionary community under siege from within and from without, itself being not a fortress, but a porous ecosystem without physical barriers in the heart of central Athens, a mere stone’s throw away from Greece’s parliament, with its more-than-tarnished reputation and its even shakier political foundation. The people I had the honor to be alongside these past few days and nights, and whose names I have spared for the most part, are exceptional people.

That feeling of kinship, regardless of skin color, of ethnicity, of sex, of age, of gender, of orientation, of ability, of mind, that feeling of knowing and seeing the person in front of you and knowing what you are both about, will stay with me for the longest time, even if death should come to each of us personally, or to our comrades, or to our projects, or to the idea of a global eco-social, democratic, and anti-authoritarian revolution itself.

Should I happen to not live through a revolution or a crisis, God forbid, and I didn’t get the chance to visit Exarcheia again, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to think of it as a fraction of a glimpse into what human society could look like and how it could be organized, were it not for the fascistic exploitation of private Capital or the repression and domination of the State. Not to mention the tyranny, indentured servitude and environmental catastrophe that they imply.

What say you then, o, Socrates, patriarch of Western thought?!

What say you, who has no kind words for democracy nor for the stupidity and destructiveness of the masses, such as those who sentenced you to be murdered? What say you to the enlightened gods and emperors, to the tyrants, oligarchs and autocrats who rule this world? What say you to their faithful followers? What say you to these modern philosopher Kings of ours?

They and their children sit atop mountains of gold stacked upon mountains of corpses while rivers of blood gush down the slopes and the stench of misery and suffering drench the foul, polluted air of the entire globe! This is our day and age!

O, Socrates! What good is a life of reason if humanity should by chance make life on this planet no longer possible? What good are philosopher kings if even the greatest philosophers have led painfully imperfect, oh-so-painfully human lives?

To all of this, Socrates, I do not have the answers, nor, I think, do you. But there is, perhaps, one thing we can count on – the folly of mankind. Therefore, we must take appropriate action and we must plan accordingly.

Finished September 20, 2018
near Lamía, Greece
@ 02:09am

 


*Bulgarian activist, member of free social space “Fabrika Avtonomia” in Sofia




Interview with Antifascist Fans of Lazio

Questions: Yavor Tarinski

[Η συνέντευξη στα ελληνικά ΕΔΩ]

When most people hear about SS Lazio they immediately think of neo-nazis and fascists. But then there is your group -Laziale e Antifascista (LAF). Tell us few words about your group and its activity?

The group was born to destroy the stereotype that all Lazio supporters are fascists. This stereotype is a powerful propaganda tool for Roman neo-fascist groups to indoctrinate younger boys with racist and fascist ideals. They use the curve of Lazio to promote their values, to do political proselytism and business. The values of S.S. Lazio, those demonstrated with facts in history, are the opposite. For a few hundred fascists, especially thanks to the mainstream media, there have been constructed this stereotype that discredits Lazio and continues to feed the ranks of fascists, not just at the stadium, but in society.

All activities we do are meant to destroy this stereotype, to make it clear that Laziale does not mean fascist in Rome, in Italy and around the world. The number of LAF membership, in various capacities and independently, is constantly increasing. In Italy there are a hundred, mostly in Rome but also scattered throughout the country, and another hundred around the world.

Posters of LAF in support of foreign Lazio players. On the left & middle: Ogenyi Onazi (Nigeria) / On the right: Miroslav Klose (Germany)

The club has been heavily stigmatized by far-right imagery. But was that always the case?

It is so since 1987 with the advent of the Irriducibili who have conquered the curve with the help of criminal organizations. Before them, Lazio’s supporters were apolitical; there were right-wing groups, left-wing groups, mixed groups.

Lazio was founded upon egalitarian, solidarity and social values; if you studied the history of Lazio would understand that it is the opposite of a vision for a fascist life. Lazio was created in 1900 by nine Roman boys who decided to found a society of equals. This was decades before the birth of fascism. Now the misinformation makes people around the world believe that Lazio was the team of fascism when in reality Lazio was the only Roman team to oppose the attempts of the Fascist regime in 1927 to fuse all local teams into AS Roma. During World War II Jews and partisans have been hosted and hidden in the club’s structures. The colors chosen were those of Greece to symbolize and honor the Olympic Spirit: sports practice as a means of unifying of peoples. They chose the eagle as a coat of arms because it is a Roman symbol.

The largest fan group in the history of Lazio was the Eagles Supporters. They were a “mixed”, apolitical group. They dissolved when the Roman fascist parties and the criminal organizations decided to support the Irreducible to conquer the curve.

In the 70s in Rome there were the so called “Years of Lead” – a period of social and political turmoil in Italy that lasted from the late 1960s until the early 1980s, marked by a wave of both left-wing and right-wing political violence. In Stadio Olimpico there were fascist groups like the Viking, but also communist groups like Tupamaros and Commandos Aquile S.Basilio Talenti (C.A.S.T.). C.A.S.T., from the Roman districts San Basilio and Talenti, was actually the first group in Curva Nord. Others, like the anarchist Gruppo Rock existed until the early 90s. However no one had hegemony except of the Eagles who gathered many groups together.

Eagles Supporters

How is your group being accepted inside and outside the stadium?

People’s feedback has been very positive, filled with enthusiasm. We have the support of many fans from Italy to South America who understand the value of the work we are doing. Anyone who believes in a world free from prejudice and discrimination should support us beyond the football faith.

Are there other antifascist and/or non-racist groups related to Lazio today?

Inside the stadium there is not a unitary group but many groups scattered in various sectors that to date do not expose their own banners. But in the city of Rome there are thousands of anti-fascist Laziali, and our goal is to help them unite and get organized.

Gruppo Rock was one of the anti-authoritarian subgroups of the Eagles Supporters

Do you have relations with antifascist supporters of other teams from Italy and abroad?

We are not being an ultras group so we do not have “official” friendships with ultras groups, but we have many ultras friends from various teams. In Italy we have comrades from Genoa, Perugia, Juve, Empoli and Cosenza; in Europe there are St Pauli, Celtic and Marseille; while around the world we have friendships with Palmeiras, Gremio, Corinthias, CD FAS – Hinchada Del Rojo.

Recently the dominant far-right supporter groups of Lazio demanded women to stay away from the ‘sacred space’ of Curva Nord. Were there reactions against this sexist attitude?

They issued a sexist leaflet that asked to not bring women to the first 10 rows (supposedly reserved for the hardcore ultras), not in the whole Curva. The best answer was given by the thousands of women that support Lazio who, with their protests, forced the group to apologize.

Is your group or individual members collaborating with any political organizations and social movements?

We are more involved with social movements than with political parties. In Rome there are many antagonistic realities, and our initiative being a movement with autonomous and independent cells is present in many of them. There is no single thought in the LAF, nor a political ideology. There are anarchists, communists, socialists, liberals: each active in their own private life, people united by anti-fascism and passion for Lazio.

Photo of the left-wing Commandos Aquile S.Basilio Talenti (C.A.S.T.)

Can you give us a brief overview of the far-right influence in Italian football today?

The situation is alarming. Since the 70s the Italian neo-fascist parties have focused their recruitment efforts on the football stadiums. It is a political strategy that has been going on for the last 40 years. They indoctrinate young people who go to the stadium only to support their team with party-line, racist, intolerant values. Boys who do not have adequate cultural bases to defend themselves are being attracted by these values. In Italy today the ultras world has been almost totally hegemonized. Nowadays the fascists are more organized, because they are financed by neo-fascist parties that do business with organized crime.

What do you think is the potential of football for social change? Why there is such struggle for control over stadiums by both the left and the right?

It can improve things, but unfortunately can also make them worse. The stadiums convey values. Nowadays we see a nationalist drift in the curves of many European countries. For years, fascist and neo-Nazi parties and movements have been striving to occupy these spaces, throwing up their propaganda and making political proselytism. They try to change the values that sport should seek – brotherhood, equality and respect are replaced with intolerance and nationalism– in order the youth to internalize their neo-fascist, racist, homophobic positions.

Concluding words?

The situation is so hard that we have to do what we do!

Flag of the far-right Irriducibili taken by LAF

LAF stickers inside Curva Nord

LAF scarves and t-shirts

The recent close relationship with West Ham United has provoked much resentment among the far-right supporters of S.S. Lazio, because of the multiethnic character of the English team’s ultras (such as the infamous dark-skinned WHU ultras leader Cass Pennant-on the photo)


Cover photo: Demonstration by members of LAF in front of the Coliseum in Rome (March 2016)




Report on the Chemnitz Pogrom

First-hand report by a German activist

Maybe you‘ve heard of it, maybe not. This is a brief report on recent happenings in Chemnitz / Saxonia.

Chemnitz is a former industrial city of about 250.000 citizens situated in Saxony. This German state is known for its pretty right-wing state apparatuses and a strong fascist street movement (Pegida). Chemnitz, too, has a strong fascist movement and for some time it even was home to the Neonazi terror group‚ National-Socialist Underground‘ (NSU), known for having executed nine immigrants and a police officer.

There is, however, also a left-wing, antifa and anarchist scene in Chemnitz with two housing projects, an autonomous youth center, a feminist group, a local group of the anarchist union FAU and antifascist activists.

In the night of Saturday to Sunday, August 25th/26th, two groups of men got into trouble during the Chemnitz city festival. An Iraqi and a Syrian national reportedly stabbed two Russian Germans and a Cuban German, the latter, Daniel H., dying as a result of his injuries.

On Sunday morning, when the public learned of the killing, the right-wing footbal hooligan group Kaotic Chemnitz called on facebook for a protest in the streets. In the evening about 1000 right-wing hooligans, fascists, and so-called ‚concerned citizens‘ gathered and started to march through Chemnitz. Police was not able to control them at all. At some point the mob started chasing and beating up immirants.

A local fascist fringe party, Pro Chemnitz, that also has deputees in the city council, called for a march on the following day. Now antifascists from Chemnitz and neighbouring cities such as Dresden, Leipzig, Jena, Erfurt and others started to mobilise, too. On Monday evening 1000 antifascists of all stripes faced a mixture of 8000 hooligans, fascists and right-wing citizens. Police deployed only 600 officers and, hence, was not able to control the fascists. Durig and after their march several street fighting squads left the fascist rally aiming to attack the antifascists. On the way from the antifascist rally to the train station, to their cars or back home several antifascists were attacked. They got off lightly, though. Only one remained with a broken nose.

Monday was a wake-up call, not only for the radical movement but for the public, too. It was clear that something had to be done. On Thursday, Saxony‘s Minister-President Kretschmer was to join a citizens‘ dialogue in Chemnitz and fascists would organise a counter-rally and on Saturday there would be two marches, organised by Pro Chemnitz and AfD. At the end, it was agreed to call for an antifascist rally to be held in Chemnitz on Saturday.

On Monday, about 900 right-wingers held a rally against Minister-President Kretschmer, the ‚lying press‘, the ‚political establishment‘ and so forth. No specific incidents.

On Saturday, fascists and antifascists from all over Germany went to Chemnitz. 4500 fascists and 3500 antifascists were reported. Pro Chemnitz held a first march and then joined the march that was organised by the AfD as a ‚silent march‘ allegedly to commemorate the victim of the stabbing. At some point, the march could be blocked by hundreds of antifascists. After that police kettled hundreds of antifascists, keeping them for hours and checking their ID‘s. At the same time, fascist groups started attacking counter-protesters again. Several people were injured.

In some West-German cities there were big antifascist rallies. In Hamburg up to 10.000 people took to the streets, in Berlin, too. That‘s nice but it doesn‘t change the situation on the ground. Still, it shows that it‘s not just fascists conquering the streets but that we‘re witnessing some kind of polarisation.

On Monday, September 3rd, a concert ‚against the right‘ and ‚against hatred‘ and with the slogan ‚We‘re more‘ was organised in Chemnitz by different artists, some mainstream (like ‚Kraftklub‘, ‚Die Toten Hosen‘), others openly antifa (such as ‚Feine Sahne Fischfilet‘ and ‚Egotronic‘).

About 65.000 people reportedly attended the concert.

The concert didn‘t change the balance of forces on the streets, though. On Friday, September 7th, there was another march organised by Pro Chemnitz. 2000 fascists and about 1000 antifascists took to the streets. This time, no clashes were reported. As it seemts, things are calming down now.

Some notes from an anarchist perspective. On Monday, the second day of the pogrom, there were only 600 police and the fascists‘ march went totally out of control. That was not, as liberals and democrats assert, government failure. Everybody knew that thousands of fascists would flock to Chemnitz and that things would get extremely violent. It must have been a conscious decision by  some higher echelons in the police and state apparatuses to deploy way too few police and, thus, let the situation escalate.

In the pogroms of the past years it‘s been the same, in Freital / Saxony in January 2015, in Heidenau /Saxony in August 2015 and in other places, too. It seems to be the strategy of a part of Saxony‘s (and Germany‘s) state apparatus to encourage and tolerate fascist street violence and terror – as a means to combat leftists, to discipline the immigrant population, and to legitimise calls for the further buildup of the police and secret services.

On Saturday, September 1st, we‘ve seen an alliance of fascists across political divisions: right-wing football hooligans, local fascists of Pro Chemnitz, national-socialists of Dritter Weg, fascists of the party Die RECHTE, the Identitarian Movement, the right-wing populist movement Pegida, the right-wing populist party AfD. This marks a new stage in the history of the fascist movement since 2012. The fascists are growing ever stronger and the level of street violence is increasing.

Also on the antifascist side, somehow organically, a unity front has been formed, stretching from the social-democratic party SPD to autonomous antifas and anarchists. Thuringia‘s SPD, for example, sponsored busses to bring counter-protestors from Erfurt, Jena, and other cities to Chemnitz and almost all antifas, radical leftists and anarchists from those cities took those busses. There is a huge debate on how closely or if at all we should cooperate with politicians and authoritarian leftists and in the past years many of us categorically denied any cooperation. During the pogrom, however, the question was not even raised. This should give us reason for reflection.

Democratic politicans of all stripes (from the conservative CDU to the left-wing party) were quick to condemn the fascist street violence. What‘s their motive? Some of them were pretty clear about that. They‘re concerned that fascist violence might cheapen the image of Chemnitz, frighten off investors and enterpreneurs and endanger the integration of immigrants as a cheap and flexible workforce into the German economy. At the same time, there are only very few politicians to condemn state violence against immigrants, e.g. vexatious police controls or deportations, to the same extent. Furhermore, those ‚antifascists‘ felt compelled to distance themselves from left-wing and radical antifascists, lumping them together with the fascists as ‚extremists‘.

The objective of their antifascism, i.d. state antifascism, hence, is to maintain a certain equilibrium of forces in order to keep capitalist exploitation and the wielding of state authority going smoothly.

The AfD is the third strongest party in Germany. In the 2017 federal elections it won 12,5 per cent of the votes. In some states, such as Saxony, it won around 25 per cent, thus becoming the second strongest party. In Saxony, where state elections are going to be held in 2019, according to this election outcome, the only government possibly to be formed would be a coalition government of the conservative CDU and the fascist AfD. Their strategy, as laid out by AfD leader and right-wing intellectual Björn Höcke, is to transform the democratic system into an authoritarian regime. This is to be done by a national opposition made up by three fronts: the AfD as parliamentary force, the Neonazis as street movement, and, thirdly, disenchanted segments of the state apparatuses, i.d. cops, judges, state attorneys, military. This strategy is proving to be successful. The AfD is already the third strongest party.

The street violence scenes of Chemnitz showed the increasing strength of the fascist movement. And there are a lot of cops, military, judges and other state officials in the AfD оr in touch with the AfD. To give just one example of these days. In the midst of the Chemnitz events a correctional officer leaked the arrest warrant of the suspected murderer of the Daniel H. to fascists who then published it. Before leaking it, he discussed the move with around a dozen colleagues in a WhatsApp group.

Fascism, however, is not an endeavour of the new right.

We should not forget that it‘s conservative, social-democratic, green, in some states such as Berlin and Thuringia even left-wing politicians who are organising today‘s deportation regime – not the AfD. During the Chemnitz pogrom it was the Saxon police, i.d. of a state led by a conservative-social democratic government, that gave free rein to fascists and attacked anti-fascists. After the Chemnitz pogrom it was Saxony‘s Minister-President of the CDU and the head of the German intelligence service, the ‚Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution‘, who doubted and even denied that there was any mob violence against immigrants in Chemnitz – not the AfD. Even Sara Wagenknecht, a politican of Die Linke, not the AfD, who defended the right-wing mob by stating that not all protesters were fascists, that many of them were socially discontent citizens.

All in all, this is a sinister situation and many of us feel pretty concerned about the future.




Interview with Kristin Ross | May ’68: Beyond the Artificial Commemorations and Remembrances

Interview with Kristin Ross by Yavor Tarinski for Babylonia Journal.
You can find the interview in Greek here.

Kristin Ross gave an interview for Babylonia journal, analyzing the meanings and significance of May ’68. She will be among the keynote speakers at this year’s B-Fest (25th-26th-27th of May in the Fine Arts School in Athens). Ross is a professor of comparative literature at New York University and author of many books like “May ’68 and Its Afterlives”, “The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune” and “Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune”.

Yavor Tarinski: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the rebellious May ‘68, when the Parisian youth took to the streets, challenging established social hierarchies and dominant myths. What is, according to you, the relevance that this date bears for us today?

Kristin Ross: The categories you use—“Parisian youth” and even “May ‘68,”—are precisely the narrative categories that I tried to put into question and actively dismantle in my book, May ’68 and Its Afterlives. Perhaps what your question shows is the tenacity that certain tropes and images hold in organizing our vision of the recent past. I don’t perceive “youth” per se to be the political subject of ’68; I don’t see the events as occurring in the French capital; and the worldwide set of political insurrections and social turbulence to which we have given the name of “68” was certainly not limited to the month of May.

So, if what we call May ’68 bears any relevance for us today, we would have to look for it outside the parameters of your question, as I will discuss when I come to Athens:  in western France, perhaps, or on the outskirts of Tokyo; in the fruits of the unexpected meetings between very different kinds of people—workers and farmers, for instance, or French students and Algerian immigrants–and the political subjectivization sparked by those encounters; in the great “protracted wars” like the Lip or Larzac in France for example, which traversed the long 1960s (a political sequence that extends, in my view,  from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s), and which thus have a duration that far exceeds the month of May.

Y.T.: This period is seen by many as a pivotal one in the evolution of revolutionary thinking and praxis. On the one hand it shattered the idea of predetermined revolutionary subject, i.e. the working class, while on the other it challenged the privileges and leadership of “enlightened” experts (even of those that claim to hold expertise in revolution and social change), proposing instead radical forms of direct democracy. Many on the Left, however, have come to view this democratic decentralization as the ultimate reason for the revolt’s failure, since it prevented the social movements of that time from seizing state-power. You on the other hand seem to disagree with this narrative. What really made the rebellious events of May ’68 fail in their effort at radically transforming society, if you agree that they have failed?

K.R.: I am not a political theorist and try never to put myself in the position of gauging the success or failure of an insurrection or social movement. I don’t think the logic of failure/fulfillment gets us very far in our consideration of past movements, but it is a strikingly persistent logic. I’ll give you an example. A couple years ago, I had a discussion with Alain Badiou during which he insisted on the Paris Commune as an example of failure. I was tempted to ask him what, in his opinion, a successful Commune at that time would have looked like! I have always found it very difficult to know what counts as success and what has failed. There’s a saying in English: how many swallows make a summer?

The events that have preoccupied me—May ’68 and the Paris Commune–are a paradise for what I call back-seat drivers, those after-the-fact experts who second-guess the historical actors and make an inventory of their errors.  Why didn’t the Communards march on Versailles? Why weren’t they better organized militarily? Why did they waste their precious time (presuming, of course, they were aware of the imminent demise that would render their time so precious) quarreling in the Hôtel de Ville?  Why didn’t they seize the money from the bank?  Why did French workers during ’68 end their strike?

What is amazing to me is how unshakeable the desire to either teach the past a lesson or to have the past’s “failures” teach us a lesson (which comes to the same thing) can be. With Badiou I tried several ways of avoiding the pedagogical paradigm he was adopting toward the past. I spoke about how, for those who lived the Commune, a real sense of liberation and network of solidarity were achieved. I spoke of the ideas unleashed, for us now to consider, precisely by the inventive nature of the event. (Of course, both of these statements hold true for ’68 as well). And despite all that, Médiapart (the host of the discussion) still entitled the interview “The Lessons of the Commune!”

What this shows, I think is how much progressive thinking about emancipation still operates as though there were an agreed-upon blueprint of ends to be attained, and as though these ends could be precisely determined and then objectively measured as having been achieved or not achieved according to time-worn standards or to criteria drawn up in 2017.  I think people enjoy being in the position of establishing, after the fact, what was possible, impossible, too soon, too late, outmoded or unrealistic at any given moment. But what is lost when one adopts this position is any sense of the experimental dimension of politics.

In order to view the Commune or what occurred in any number of places during the ’68 years as laboratories of political invention, and to see the capacities set in motion when ordinary people work together to manage their own affairs, I had to try to completely disengage from any traces of the kind of balance-sheet logic I’ve been describing.

Y.T.: In your book “May ’68 and its Afterlives” you say that the anonymous militants that were active in the everyday neighborhood grassroots politics of May ’68, have been replaced in the “official” memory by leaders and spokesmen that appeared afterwards. A similar pattern you observe in another revolutionary moment in another book of yours – “Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune”. Why is that happening and how can the oppressed reclaim their history?

K.R.: My books were each written to intervene into specific situations. In the late 1990s I began thinking about ’68 and the way it had been remembered, debated, trivialized, and forgotten over the years.  The reason for my fascination with that question at that moment had nothing to do with a commemoration or other artificial date of remembrance.

Instead, what motivated me was the way in which the 1995 labor strikes in France, followed by anti-globalization protests in Seattle and Genoa, had awakened new manifestations of political expression in France and elsewhere and new forms of a vigorous anti-capitalism after the long dormancy of the 1980s.  It was this revitalized political momentum that led me to write my history of May’s afterlives.  The workers’ movements had dislodged a sentiment of oblivion, if not triviality, that had settled over the ’68 years, and I felt the need to try to show the way the events, what had happened concretely to a staggeringly varied array of ordinary people throughout France, had not only receded from view, but had in fact been actively “disappeared” behind walls of grand abstractions, fusty clichés and unanchored invocations. The re-emergence of the labor movement in the 90s jarred the 60s loose from all the images and phrases put into place in France and elsewhere by a confluence of forces—the media, the institution of the commemoration, and the ex-gauchistes converted to the imperatives of the market.

At that time only a few faces—I’m talking about men like Bernard Henri-Levy, Andre Glucksmann, Bernard Kouchner, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and Alain Finkelkraut—were visible, and only their voices could be heard over the French airways, recounting what was taken to be the official account of the movement.  These self-appointed and media-anointed spokesmen (we have their equivalents in the United States), all of whom could be relied upon to re-enact at the drop of a hat the renunciation of the errors of their youth, were those I called in my book the official memory functionaries.

The labor strikes of the winter of 1995 not only succeeded in forcing a government climb down over the issue of changes to the pensions of public sector workers, they also wrested control of the memory of ‘68 from the official spokespeople and reminded people what all the combined forces of oblivion, including what we can now see as a kind of Americanization of the memory of French May, had helped them to forget:  that May ’68 was the largest mass movement in modern French history, the most important strike in the history of the French labor movement, and the only “general” insurrection western, overdeveloped countries had experienced since World War II.

In any mass political movement on the left, there is always the danger of what I call “personalization” to take place—that process whereby people involved in a leaderless social movement on a massive scale allow the forces of order or the media to concentrate the task of “representing the movement” and speaking for it, in just a few central figures.  But this kind of monopolizing of the memory of an event by official spokespeople did not really occur to anywhere the same extent in the case of the Commune as it did with ‘68. After all, many Communards were dead at the end of the Bloody Week, the survivors were scattered throughout Europe and even the United States.  Despite all sorts of censorship on the part of the French government, survivors were able to publish their memoirs and accounts, mostly in Switzerland.

Historians writing in the wake of the Commune do, of course, tend to concentrate their attention on the same figures:  Louise Michel, for example, or Gustave Courbet.  In my thinking about historical processes, I find that it is always interesting to shove these kind of leading men and leading women to the back of the stage—if only to see who or what becomes visible when one does so.

Y.T.: Your work encompasses another pivotal revolutionary moment – The Paris Commune. In “The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune” you write that the Commune was not just an uprising against the acts of the Second Empire, but perhaps more than all, a revolt against deep forms of social regimentation. One patter, for example, that seems to be shared by both is the urge from the grassroots towards dismantling bureaucratically imposed social roles and identities. Can this and other parallels be drawn between these two urban revolutionary experiences?

K.R.: Yes, I believe that deep forms of social regimentation were under attack in both moments—during the Commune and during May ’68.  Artists and artisans under the Commune managed to dismantle the central hierarchy at the heart of 19th century artistic production—the hierarchy that gave “fine” artists (sculptors and painters) vast financial privilege, status, and security over decorative artists, craftspeople and artisans. And one way of looking at ’68 is as a massive crisis in functionalism—students no longer functioned as students, farmers stopped farming, and workers quit working.

There’s a nice quote from Maurice Blanchot, of all people, that sums up the situation quite accurately. The specific force of May, he wrote, derived from the fact that “in this so-called student action, students never acted as students, but as the revealers of a total crisis, as bearers of a power of rupture putting into question the regime, the State, the society.”  The same could be said about farmers at that time—they acted as farmers but as far more than farmers as well; they were thinking about their situation and the question of agriculture politically and not just sociologically.

Y.T.: In 1988 you wrote that if workers are those who are not allowed to transform the space/time allotted them, then revolution consists not in changing the juridical form that allots space/time but rather in completely transforming the nature of space/time. Such traits we saw in both May ’68 and the Paris Commune. Do you see such revolutionary potential in the contemporary age, in which political apathy, mindless consumerism and generalized cynicism seem to reign?

K.R.: May ’68 holds absolutely no interest at all for me except to the extent that it can enter into the figurability of our present and illuminate our current situation. If it doesn’t, we are right to consign it to the dust-heap. As a group of radical historians put it in the wake of ’68, “Think the past politically in order to think the present historically.”  Their message was a two-pronged attack.  First: think the present both as scandal and as something that can change. And second: history is much too important a matter to be left to historians.

Any analysis of an historical event, and especially the 1960s, conveys a judgment about the present situation. When confronted with any attempt to represent the 60s, we have to ask ourselves what is being fought for in the present, what is being defended now. These are the questions I intend to pursue in my lecture in Athens.




Interview with Redneck Revolt: Arms Possession & Social Anti-fascism in U.S.A.

Interview with Redneck Revolt by Yavor Tarinski and Kostas Savvopoulos for Babylonia Journal. You can find the interview in Greek here.

On this year’s B-Fest in Athens we have with us people from the RedneckRevolt movement from the U.S. (25th-26th-27th of May in the Fine Arts School in Athens). Redneck Revolt was founded in 2016 as an anti-racist, anti-fascist network of community defense formations.

Redneck Revolt are fighting for social emancipation against any kind of oppressive regime or system, by highlighting the common struggles between people of color, the working class and the under-privileged in general. In the states of the U.S.A. where it’s legal to carry and operate firearms they are organizing protests and actions which they guard on their own, exercising their right to carry firearms. They propose a different look on the concept of gun ownership and use. They also operate a number of gun clubs and shooting ranges where they help their members to learn how to protect themselves and others against police brutality and the recent rise of the far right.

Their political ideologies are less important in the face of common and collective action. Through their actions they are providing the necessary space for oppressed people to express and assert themselves against the systemic and everyday inequalities and struggles.

 

Babylonia: What is Redneck Revolt and where does it draw it’s influences from?

Redneck Revolt: Redneck Revolt was founded in 2016, as an anti-racist, anti-fascist community defense formation. The history of the term redneck is long and complex. One of the earliest recorded uses of the term comes from the 1890’s, and refers to rednecks as “poorer inhabitants of the rural districts…men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin burned red by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks”.

​In 1921, the term became synonymous with armed insurrection against the state, as members of the United Mine Workers of America tied red bandanas around their necks during the Battle of Blair Mountain, a two week long armed multi-racial labor uprising in the coalfields of West Virginia.

​We are influenced by the ethos of direct action embodied by John Brown as he and eighteen comrades, including former slaves, raided a Federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, on October 15, 1859, in an attempt to seize weapons to be used in a massive slave uprising. Brown’s raid failed. But their courage and complete dedication to the freedom of all people serves as an example and testament: a refusal to submit to oppression and fear and to organize and act for the liberation of all with insurrectionary zeal burning hotly against the brutal institution of slavery.

We trace the radical, action-oriented racial solidarity of Brown’s company into the class conscious organizing efforts of the Rainbow Coalition in the late 1960s. The group formed in Chicago with members of the Black Panther Party, The Young Patriots–“dislocated hillbillies” or white working class youth—and The Young Lords, a militant Chicano gang-turned-political movement. Though targeted by the FBI with massive repression and direct violence, the Coalition defined new territories of anti-racist and community defense organizing.

B.: Standing by the 2nd amendment and claiming that the use of weapons is something good or –worst case scenario- something neutral (depends on who’s using it) is something that traditionally, left wing(we’re not talking about the Democrats or the liberals of course) and leftist radicals stand against. In fact the forces that stand behind the 2nd amendment and the NRA in the US are more or less in the right wing spectrum. How do you view the concept of weapon carrying and what are the differences between you and the opposing forces in this matter?

R.R.: We stand for the right of all people to live free and to defend themselves by any means necessary. Within the context of the United States we insist on exercising our right to arm ourselves and organize for our collective defense under the guarantees of the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights. We emphasize, however, that we place people’s right to defend their own liberty and autonomy over the provisions of any law. In the United States, the right wing privileges the law over people and we refuse this inversion of abstract power against living freedom.

We also challenge this idea that “left radicals” are against the use of weapons. Perhaps it is useful to place this idea within histories of white supremacy, specifically in the post-Civil Rights era of the 1970s and the rise of armed Black militancy such as the Black Panthers. It is in this moment that a white, liberal reactionary position based on an absolutist insistence on non-violence began to take hold to the point where inflexible pacifism has become the guiding tenet in left wing catechism in the U.S.

This fetishization of non-violence has led to the erasure of histories of armed self-determination and resistance, including during the Civil Rights era of Dr. Martin Luther King. This erasure, we contend, is part of a pattern of whitewashing by liberal, bourgeois white people who would rather preserve State monopolies of power and defang the working class and people of color by making pacifism the only “legitimate” means of dissent and thus coercing people’s behavior and tactical possibilities in the face of government and far right attacks.

Negroes with Guns by Robert F. Williams outlines strategies of armed community defense undertaken by African Americans in North Carolina during the 1950s and 60s amid maelstroms of white supremacist arson, violence, and murder. A more recent historical account of this same era, This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed by Charles E. Cobb, Jr., depicts the ways firearms and those who carried them were carefully incorporated into widespread struggles for self-determination and community safety throughout the American South and in so doing, dismantles the ubiquitous liberal myth that the Civil Rights struggles was a completely pacifist undertaking. Instead, this history insists that a diversity of tactics is crucial in building sustainable and victorious campaigns for justice and freedom.

Redneck Revolt rejects the alienating individualism central to modern, right wing interpretations of the 2nd Amendment. The right wing embrace of firearms is one of single-minded desperation and is ultimately a fetish of hyper-individualism.  We believe firearms are a tool to be learned and used within ethical parameters carefully developed by communities to serve their needs.

The great danger of firearms is an addiction to the limited power they represent. Guns are a tool of destruction. The use or deployment of weapons must be tactically specific and limited within larger strategies designed to provide spaces of security where people can work together to build up the societies they desire, free from fear. Redneck Revolt only carries firearms in carefully-defined situations and at the request of other members of the communities we come from. We are not a self-appointed militia of “the people”. Instead, we are accountable to the people we live among. Our tactics and our ethics are shaped by the communities we are responsible to.

B.: Concerning the latest events in the Florida shooting the debate of whether guns should be banned or not has been rekindled. Where do you stand in this, and secondly what do you think the main reasons behind the long history of mass shootings in U.S.A are? (if we assume that the main reason is the relaxed laws for weapon purchasing and usage)

R.R.: Redneck Revolt does not believe the people should be disarmed. People have the right to choose the means for their own best communal defense, especially while the police in the United States continue to murder with impunity and at accelerating rates—over 3,300 people have been killed by police since 2015. This body count far exceeds those lives lost in mass shootings. While these kinds of mass shootings are a spectacle of horror and produce a social panic, the media focus on mass shootings distracts from the larger, fundamental crises provoked by capitalism, imperial militarism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and a society intent on controlling and disciplining youth within an unequal schooling system.

Mass shootings are symptomatic of these larger issues that go unspoken and unchallenged within conventional, political discourse. People who are faithful to the State anxiously ignore or elide confronting these deep, societal problems. These people are still entranced by the false promise of symptomatic solutions through government legislation, such as banning a particular kind of gun. The statistical data about the limited effects of gun control is widely available for any curious and critical reader and we encourage people to think in complex ways—against reductive media narratives—about how they perceive the imbalances of power between the State and its people and the fracturing, volatile pressure people are subjected to within such a poisonous capitalistic society as they struggle with debt, poor health, food insecurity, loneliness, and endless war. We are not interested in debating new laws for firearms, knowing that in a capitalist and white supremacist society, any law is likely to be applied most severely against people of color and the poor.

B.: It seems that you are taking a different approach from many radical left-wing, anarchist and antifa organizations, regarding the way you interact with society. While often such groups descend into sectarian ideological purity, thus placing themselves and their actions against society, you tend to successfully intervene in your local context by embracing and reframing social traditions with emancipatory potential. In the description of what is RedneckRevolt you write that “In this project, political ideology is less important to us than our ability to agree on our organizing principles and work together”. What made you choose this approach that some can call social anti-fascism?

R.R.: Redneck Revolt is not interested in sectarian contention. Writing in 1860, the African-American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass understood that ideological and theoretical debate indulged by so many on the left “gratifies their intellectual tastes, pleases their imaginations, titillates their sensibilities into a momentary sensation, but does not move them from the downy seat of inaction.”

We take heed and choose action instead.

We are compelled to move, to create, to plan, to engage in our homeplaces: our neighborhoods, our communities, our villages, towns, and cities.

We abandon “the downy seat of inaction.” (We leave that cursed perch to the armchair anarchists, do-nothing communists, and especially to the anxious paralysis of the State-loving liberals.) Nothing substantial gets done by endless debate and a reluctance to actually attempt constructive efforts at making the small, social changes we require. It is important to confront fascists in the streets and in the courts and government buildings. But we also insist on the powerful effect of building up communities and to help them resist fear and oppression through autonomous action. Redneck Revolt is comprised of people from across the political spectrum and we are unified in our antifascist and antiracist goals and our focus on the local ground we share with our neighbors. Solidarity is forged through shared action.

B.: Because of your social approach you have encountered and collaborated with people from various backgrounds. How are local communities accepting your anti-racist messages for social liberation and do they also influence your group?

R.R.: Reception of our mission varies, but its simple and straightforward assertions, coupled with a belief that we need to meet people where they are and listen to the analysis they already bring has meant that we are able to build open relationships full of rich dialogue. We don’t need nor want to convert anyone—we have no party platform people need to conform to. Instead, we are able to amplify and enhance the critiques working people already have about the world they inhabit. People are experts in their own lives and they don’t need outsiders coming in to tell them what’s wrong with those lives. Redneck Revolt seeks to take the struggles people are already experiencing and bring them into conversation with broader struggles against racism and capitalism.

B.: What is the potential that social anti-fascism holds for one future that seems to be filled with multidimensional insecurity, encompassing racial, economic, ecological and other issues?

R.R.: Asking about the future potential of Redneck Revolt’s strategy is the provocative but unanswerable question. Each member of Redneck Revolt has their own dreams, stitched together with the resilient thread of mutual aid and communal dedication to our shared survival and freedom. Local contexts and individual experiences, skills, and capacity shape how our project manifests and mutates. Certainly we attempt to hold all these social, political, and environmental struggles before us and to analyze the intersections and complex textures they produce. By letting go of the need for a programmatic plan and centralized strategy, there is the uneven and unpredictable flow of micro-energies from communities and regional affiliations that develop practical models and a focus on immediate needs.

We want to grow powerful social possibilities, make friends, strengthen our comrades, figure out how to solve one another’s problems, keep each other healthy and fed, preserve our freedom, and defend our lives.   We work together in consensus to try to build the world we all desire while understanding that the dangers we struggle against are constantly shifting and are deeply woven into the fabric of the lives we lead. We don’t have things figured out. Theory is always in the service of practical action. Like so many of our comrades dedicated to fighting fascism and white supremacy, we are experimenting, playing within the social field, resisting in the ways that are needed in the moment but never imagining we have a perfect method or even that we fully understand the complexity of the issues we contend with. In humility, we are always open to critique.

This is a global moment for courage and radical love. Uncertainty abounds. Risk is always with us. We trust one another and yearn together for the ebullient world of freedom we dream of.

We fight to win!




B-FEST 7: Πρόγραμμα Ομιλιών-Συζητήσεων | B-FEST 7: Programme of Discussions & Speeches

(English below)

Το Διεθνές Αντιεξουσιαστικό Φεστιβάλ της Βαβυλωνίας B-FEST επιστρέφει με καλεσμένους διεθνούς φήμης ομιλητές, καλλιτέχνες και ανθρώπους των κινημάτων.

B-FEST 7 | RECLAIM THE FUTURE
25-26-27 Μαΐου 2017, Ανωτάτη Σχολή Καλών Τεχνών, Πειραιώς 256, Αθήνα

ΠΡΟΓΡΑΜΜΑ ΟΜΙΛΙΩΝ-ΣΥΖΗΤΗΣΕΩΝ:

ΠΑΡΑΣΚΕΥΗ 25/05

18:00 Είναι ο Φεμινισμός το Κίνημα της Εποχής; Συζήτηση για την Ατζέντα που Διαμορφώνουν το #metoo & τα Κινήματα Πολιτικοποιήσης της Έμφυλης Βίας
Λίνα Θεοδώρου (ομάδα Κιουρί@)
Parvus Princeps (ακτιβιστής)
Ελιάνα Καναβέλη (διδάκτωρ κοινωνιολογίας, περ. Βαβυλωνία)

18:30 Πολιτικός Λόγος & Ποδόσφαιρο: Το Πείραμα της Αυτοδιαχείρισης
Μάκης Διόγος (αθλητικός δημοσιογράφος)
Mέλος του Αδέσποτου Αθηνών (αυτοοργανωμένη ομάδα ποδοσφαίρου σάλας)

19:00 Πόλεμος & Τέχνη | Ροζάβα: Ιστορίες των Κατεστραμμένων Πόλεων
Mirko Turunc (Salonicasolidarity Afrin)
Önder Çakar (σεναριογράφος της ταινίας)
Ακολουθεί προβολή της ταινίας “Stories from Destroyed Cities”, παραγωγή: Rovaja Film Commune + Ζωντανή τηλεδιάσκεψη από Ροζάβα με μέλη της Κινηματογραφικής Ακαδημίας της Ροζάβα.

20:30 Redneck Revolt: Αντιφασισμός & Οπλοκατοχή στις Η.Π.Α.
Μέλος των Redneck Revolt
Κώστας Σαββόπουλος (περ. Βαβυλωνία)

ΣΑΒΒΑΤΟ 26/05

18:00 Πετρέλαια, Εξορύξεις, Φράγματα: Ενέργεια για Τι & για Ποιον;
Συμμετοχές από κινήματα για την ενέργεια και το νερό.
Μέλη από την Ανοιχτή Συνέλευση στα Γιάννενα ενάντια στις Εξορύξεις Πετρελαίου
Τάσος Κεφαλάς (Δίκτυο «Μεσοχώρα-Αχελώος SOS)
Στέφανος Μπατσής (περ. Βαβυλωνία)

18:00 «Imprimatur και Ιεροί Λογοκριτές» | Γιατί τα Μέσα που δημιουργούν τα fake news κηρύσσουν σταυροφορίες εναντίον τους;
Μαρίνα Μεϊντάνη (Ασύνταχτος Τύπος)
Λουκάς Σταμέλλος (omniatv)
Γιώργος Παπαχριστοδούλου (περ. Βαβυλωνία)
+ προβολή βίντεο, γραφικών & ντοκουμέντων

18:30 Αυτοματοποίηση, Έλεγχος & το Κίνημα Make Amazon Pay!
Christian Krähling (εργαζόμενος της Άμαζον)
John Malamatinas (ακτιβιστής)
Γρηγόρης Τσιλιμαντός (περ. Βαβυλωνία)

19:30 Η Αρχιτεκτονική του Πολέμου: Πόλεις, Βία & Εντοπισμός
Eyal Weizman (αρχιτέκτονας, Goldsmiths, παν/μιο του Λονδίνου)
Χριστίνα Βαρβία & Στέφανος Λεβίδης (Forensic Architecture)
Σπύρος Τζουανόπουλος (περ. Βαβυλωνία)

20:30 Ο Μάης του ‘68 & η Συνέχειά του: Πού Πηγαίνει η Δημοκρατία;
Kristin Ross (παν/μιο Νέας Υόρκης)
Αλέξανδρος Σχισμένος (περ. Βαβυλωνία)

ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ 27/05

18:00 Ελευθεριακή Παιδεία: Παρουσίαση του Ελευθεριακού Νηπιαγωγείου «Το Μικρό Δέντρο»
Μέλη από τη συνέλευση δασκάλων και τη συνέλευση γονέων του Μικρού Δέντρου.

18:00 Πόλη & Νέα Αστικά Κινήματα
Συμμετοχές αστικών κινημάτων από του Φιλοπάππου ως τα ρέματα της Αττικής.

19:00 Σύγχρονα Κινήματα & Στιγμές Εξέγερσης: Μάιος ‘68, Δεκέμβρης ’08, ZAD
Μέλος των Lundimatin (Γαλλία)
Φιλήμονας Πατσάκης (περ. Έρμα)
Πέτρος Τζιέρης (Αντιεξουσιαστική Κίνηση)

20:00 Η Υπόσχεση της Άμεσης Δημοκρατίας & το Παράδειγμα των Κούρδων
Debbie Bookchin (Αμερικανίδα δημοσιογράφος, συγγραφέας – με ζωντανή τηλεδιάσκεψη)
Sven Wegner (Διεθνιστικό Κέντρο Δρέσδης)
Yavor Tarinski (TRISE, περ. Βαβυλωνία)

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B-FEST 7 | RECLAIM THE FUTURE
International Antiauthoritarian Festival of Babylonia Journal
25-26-27 May 2017, Athens School of Fine Arts, Greece

DISCUSSIONS | CONCERTS | CINEMA | THEATRE | BOOK & PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION | CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES | COMIX | WORKSHOPS | DJ SETS

Programme of Discussions and Speeches:

FRIDAY 25/05

18:00 Is Feminism the Movement of our Era? Discussion on the agenda that is being created by #metoo and the movements for politicization of  gender violence
Lina Theodorou (Kiouri@)
Parvus Princeps (activist)
Eliana Kanaveli (PhD in sociology, Babylonia journal)

18:30 Politics & Football: The experiment of self-management
Makis Diogos (sports journalist)
Member of Adespotos Athinon (self-organized football team)

19:00 War & Art in Rojava: Stories of Destroyed Cities
Mirko Turunc (Salonicasolidarity Afrin)
Önder Çakar (Script writer of the movie)
It will follow projection of the movie “Stories from Destroyed Cities”, produced by Rojava Film Commune + Livestream  from Rojava with members of the Rojava Film Commune

20:30 Redneck Revolt: Antifascism & Possession of Weapons in U.S.A.
Member of Redneck Revolt
Kostas Savvopoulos (Babylonia journal)

SATURDAY 26/05

18:00 Oil, Extractions, Dams | Energy: why and for whom?
Participation of movements for energy and water
Members of the Open Assembly of Giannena against the extraction of oil
Tasos Kefalas (Network “Mesohora-Aheloos SOS”)
Stefanos Mpatsis (Babylonia journal)

18:00 “Imprimatur and the Holy Censors”: Why the media that produce fake news preache crusades against them?
Marina Meidani (Asyntachtos Typos)
Loukas Stamellos (omniatv)
Giorgos Papachristodoulou (Babylonia journal)
+projection of videos, graphics & documents

18:30 Automatization, Control & the Movement Make Amazon Pay!
Christian Krähling (worker from Amazon)
John Malamatinas (activist)
Grigoris Tsilimantos (Babylonia journal)

19:30 Architecture of War: City, Violence & Detection
Eyal Weizman (architect, Goldsmiths, university of London)
Christina Varvia & Stefanos Levidis (Forensic Architecture)
Spiros Tzouanopoulos (Babylonia journal)

20:30 May ’68 and its Continuation: Where Democracy is Heading?
Kristin Ross (New York University)
Alexandros Schismenos (Babylonia journal)

SUNDAY 27/05

18:00 Libertarian Education: Presentation of the Libertarian Kindergarten “The Little Tree”
Members of the assemblies of teachers and parents of “The Little Tree”

18:00 City & New Urban Movements
Participants from urban movements of Filopappou until the streams of Attica

19:00 Contemporary Movements & Moments of Insurrection: May ’68, December ’08, ZAD
Member of Lundimatin (France)
Filimonas Patsakis (Erma journal)
Petros Tzieris (Antiauthoritarian Movement)

20:00 The Promise of Direct Democracy & the Kurdish Example
Debbie Bookchin (American journalist, writer – live connection)
Sven Wegner (Internationalist Center Dresden)
Yavor Tarinski (TRISE, Babylonia journal)

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Πολιτιστικό Πρόγραμμα ΕΔΩ




“The war in Syria only benefits the counter-revolutionary forces” | Interview with Joseph Daher

Η συνέντευξη στα ελληνικά εδώ.

Interview-introduction: Lina Theodorou, Antonis Faras

The Syrian Civil War continues for 7th year, but it is still not clear when it will end. During the war, over half a million people died and about 10 million people, about half of the Syrian population, was displaced. On the occasion of the bombing of Syria, targeting the military bases of the Damascus regime, by US forces, the UK and France, the debate was renewed; anti-war strikes were organized and demonstrators even attempted to throw the statue of Harry S. Truman in Athens, Greece.

However, in the anti-war movement against the Syrian war, the hegemonic narrative within the Left has an approach to anti-imperialism, which, more or less, limits the position of imperialist exclusively to the United States. This view, which is an important analytical tool for interpreting the world outside of the West, takes one geopolitical character that neglects the social element as a factor of change, and on the other hand it implies a structural orientation in the way the Left treats politics, when talking about “others”.

Trying to shed more light on the debate, which is obscured rather than clarified by ad hoc confrontations, we asked Joseph Daher to answer a series of more comprehensive questions about the Syrian civil war. Daher is a Swiss-Syrian Marxist and scholar, whose books have been published in English, such as “Hezbollah: Political Economy of the Party of God (2016, Pluto Press).

We want to take a closer look at what have happened these seven years. Briefly: What led to the uprising specifically in Syria? What were Assad’s relations with the Syrian left and anarchist space before the uprising? What was his relationship with sectarian extremism?  Can you describe how the rebels organized during the first years of the uprising and what went wrong? How islamists prevailed, If they have, in the rebel’s groups?  

Syria was a despotic regime, ruled for the past 40 years by one family, and it is also a bourgeois patrimonial regime that went through a process of neoliberalization and privatization, accelerated considerably with Bashar al-Assad’s arrival to power. Sixty percent of the population was living under or just above the poverty line in 2011. Syria was subjected to the same form of crony capitalism that is prevalent in the region. For example, in Egypt it was the Mubarak family that benefitted mostly from the privatization and neoliberalization; in Tunis it was the Trabelsi family, of the wife of the dictator Ben Ali; and in Syria it is Makhlouf, the cousin of Assad. In the end what we have are neoliberal and authoritarian systems, and Syria is no different in this regard.

The absence of democracy and the growing impoverishment of important sections of Syrian society, in a climate of corruption and growing social inequalities, have paved the way for the popular uprising, which has been waiting for nothing more than a spark. Which was initially external with the fall of the dictators in Tunisia and Egypt and then internal with the torture of the children of Dar’a. These elements will trigger the process.

At first, the Syrian grassroots civilian opposition was the primary engine of the popular uprising against the Assad regime. They sustained the popular uprising for numerous years by organizing and documenting protests and acts of civil disobedience, and by motivating people to join protests. The earliest manifestations of the “coordinating committees” (or tansiqiyyat) were neighborhood gatherings throughout Syria. A number of youth progressive and democratic networks and groups emerged throughout the country.  The regime specifically targeted these networks of activists, who had initiated demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience, and campaigns in favor of countrywide strikes.

The regime killed, imprisoned, kidnapped and pushed to exile these activists.

From the first days of the revolutionary process, the regime dealt with the demonstrations with great violence and this increased with the massive interventions of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah. This situation led to a rising number of defections among conscript soldiers and officers refusing to shoot on peaceful protesters, while at the same time initial unorganized and punctual armed resistance was starting to emerge towards the end of May and beginning of June 2011 in some localities against the security services. In the following months, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was established, as well as a myriad of other brigades. Armed resistance against the regime was nearly generalized at the end of 2011, creating new dynamics in the uprising. The militarization was mainly the result of the violent repression on the local Syrian population opposing the regime; sections of it resorted to weapons to defend themselves. The first constituted armed opposition groups often had a purely local dynamic and served to defend their hometowns and areas from aggressions by the armed security services. The FSA  was never a single and united institution, but rather a network of independent military groups fighting under its umbrella. The various forces of the Free Syrian Army have been increasingly and considerably weakened throughout the years.

The members of FSA units generally originated from the majority component of the uprising: marginalized (informal and formal) workers of the cities and countryside members of the popular classes who had suffered from the acceleration of neo-liberal economic policies since the arrival in power of Bashar al-Assad and of the repression of the regime security forces. The armed opposition was made up of defected soldiers from the Syrian army, but the vast majority were civilians who had decided to take up arms. Some brigades were loosely gathered under some common umbrella, such as the FSA, but most were locally organized and only active in their hometowns. Lacking unity and centralization, they coordinated on specific battlefields, but rarely on political and strategic decisions. They were generally gathered along village or extended family lines, with little ideological cohesion.

Tragically throughout the year, each defeat of the democratic resistance strengthened and benefited the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist forces on the ground. The rise of Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist movements and their dominations on the military scene in some regions has been negative for the revolution, as they opposed its objectives (democracy, social justice and equality). With their sectarian and reactionary discourses and behaviors, these movements not only acted as a repellent for the vast majority of religious and ethnic minorities, and women, but also to sections of Arab Sunni populations in some liberated areas where we have seen demonstrations against them, especially among large sections of the middle class in Damascus and Aleppo. They attacked and continue to attack the democratic activists, while they often tried to impose their authority on the institutions developed by locals, often bringing resistance from local populations against their authoritarian behaviors.

Why we should continue talking about revolution in Syria – Isn’t it an old flame that went out? Which forms of struggle and organization evidence the continuity of revolutionary subjects? Could you elaborate on the self-governing local councils across Syria?

Nobody denies that we are no longer in March 2011 and that the situation of democratic and progressive forces is very weak today in Syria. Revolutionary processes are long-term events, characterized by higher and lower level mobilizations according to the context. They are even characterized by some periods of defeat, but it’s hard to say when they end. This is especially the case in Syria, when the conditions that allowed for the beginning of these uprisings are still present, while the regime is very far from finding ways to solve them.

However, these conditions are not enough to transform them into political opportunities, particularly after more than seven years of a destructive and murderous war accompanied by a general and important fatigue in the Syrian population, just seeking for its great majority to return the stability in the country. The effects of the war and its destructions will most probably weigh for years. Alongside this situation, no structured opposition body with a significant size and following offered an inclusive and democratic project that could appeal to large sectors of society was present, while the failures of the opposition bodies in exile and armed opposition groups left important frustrations and bitterness in people who participated and/or sympathized with the uprising.

The other element that could also play a role in shaping future events is the large documentation of the uprising that has never been seen before in history. There has been significant recording, testimonies and documentation of the protest movement, the actors involved and the modes of actions. In the seventies, Syria witnessed strong popular and democratic resistance with significant strikes and demonstrations throughout the country with mass followings. Unfortunately, this memory was not kept and was not well-known by the new generation of protesters in the country in 2011.

The Syrian revolutionary process that started in 2011 is one of the most documented. This memory will remain and could inspire and inform future resistance. The political experiences that have been accumulated since the beginning of the uprising will not disappear.

They are however still some pockets of isolated resistance in some areas, but they are very much weakened, in addition some attempts in exile are being worked to build democratic and progressive networks.

Regarding the number of local councils, they have diminished considerably after the fall of Eastern Aleppo in December 2016 and of Eastern Ghouta in March/April of this years because of the military advances of pro-regime forces capturing opposition held territories, and also as a result of the attacks of Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist armed groups that replaced civilians councils with their own.

Regarding local councils that played an important role in the opposition held areas, we must be clear that their very important experiences did not mean that there were no shortcomings, such as the lack of representation of women, or of religious minorities in general. Other problems existed as well such as some forms of disorganization, undemocratic practices, over-representation of some influential families in some areas, etc. Civil councils were also not always completely autonomous from military groups, relying often on military groups for resources. While numerous council members were generally elected, nearly half of them, there were also a number of councils undemocratically appointed rather than elected, based on the influence of local military leaders, clan and family structures, and elders. Another problem that was encountered in the selection of the council’s representatives was the need for particular professional and technical skills.

Despite these limitations, local councils were able to restore a minimum level of social services in their regions and enjoyed some level of legitimacy.

Is the rise of ISIS a fundamental element of the counter-revolution in the Middle East? If so, which are the other political and economic factors enabling the growth of fascist and fundamentalist forces. What role does religion play in Syria?

Explanations that want to find in the Quran and in Islam the reasons for the phenomena of ISIS are wrong, but above all reinforce racist and Islamophobic amalgams while wanting to characterize an intrinsic violent nature to Islam and Muslims more generally. Although ISIS claims to act in the name of Islam, the religion does not explain their behavior and actions. These groups and individuals take their source in the present time and not 1400 years ago, just as their actions.

Do we analyze the US invasion of Iraq by the religious beliefs of Bush (who had reported hearing God in a dream telling him that he had a mission and had to invade Iraq) or according to imperialist motives (political and economic reasons)? Will we find the reasons for the US invasion in the Bible? Will we analyze the US invasion based on the behavior of Christian 2000 years ago? Similarly, during the massacre perpetrated in Norway on July 22, 2011 by Anders Breivik, who claimed to act to preserve Christianity against multiculturalism, have we sought the reasons for his act in Christianity or the Bible?

The Arab writer Aziz Al-Azmeh, stated that “the understanding of Islamic political phenomena requires the normal equipment of the social and human sciences, not their denial” Not acting in this ways, will lead us to an essentialisation of “the Other”, in much of the current cases today of the “Muslim”.

Each religion does not exist indeed autonomously of people, in the same way that God does not exist outside of the field of intellectual action of man.

On the contrary religion, as the supernatural power of God, is a mystic popular expression of the contradictions and material realities in which people live.

We have to understand that ISIS’s expansion is a fundamental element of the counter-revolution in the Middle East that emerged as the result of authoritarian regimes crushing popular movements linked to the 2011 Arab Spring. The interventions of regional and international states have contributed to ISIS’s development as well. Finally, neo-liberal policies that have impoverished the popular class, together with the repression of democratic and trade union forces, have been key in helping ISIS and Islamic fundamentalist forces grow.

In this perspective, brute military force alone only ensures that other militant groups will take its place, as al-Qaida in Iraq demonstrates. Real solutions to the crisis in Syria and elsewhere in the region must address the socio-economic and political conditions that have enabled the growth of ISIS and other extremist organizations.

The Left must understand that only by ridding the region of the conditions that allowed ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalist groups to develop can we resolve the crisis. At the same time, empowering those progressive and democratic forces on the ground who are fighting to overthrow despotic regimes and face reactionary groups is part and parcel of this approach. Clearly, no peaceful and just solution in Syria can be reached with Bashar al-Assad and his clique in power. He is the biggest criminal in Syria and must be prosecuted for his crimes instead of being legitimized by international and regional powers.

There’s a leading leftist narrative regarding the war in Syria suggesting that given the recent developments, the bombing of military bases in Damascus, the cause of anti-imperialism call us to support Syria people, and consequently Bassar al Assad’s regime. What do you think about that?

It is important to remember that, even though conflicting interests exist between international and regional powers that are intervening in Syria, none of these actors care about the uprising or the revolutionaries. Instead, they have attempted to undermine the popular movement against Assad and successfully worked to strengthen sectarian and ethnic tensions in the country. These intervening forces have, for example, helped stabilize the Assad regime in order to oppose Kurdish autonomy (in Turkey’s case) and to defeat extremist groups such as ISIS (in the case of the United States).

The intervening powers are united in their opposition to popular struggle. They seek to impose the status quo at the expense of the interests of the working and popular classes. This is precisely why viewing the Syrian revolution only through the lens of imperialist competition and geo-political dynamics will not suffice.

This lens inherently obscures the political and socio-economic frustrations endured by the Syrian population that sparked the uprising.

We need to rebuild anti-war movements, true ones, by starting a critical assessment of the past experiences, an honest one. This in the perspective of building an internationalist and progressive alternative for all that oppose all forms of authoritarian regimes and all foreign interventions while clearly supporting the self determination of popular masses and their struggles.

In other words revolutionary humanism.

Some sections of the Left and the anti-war movements have refused to act in solidarity with the Syrian uprising under the pretext that “the main enemy is at home.” In other words, it is more important to defeat the imperialists and bourgeoisie in our own societies, even if that means implicitly supporting the Assad regime or the Russian state.

Among these sections of the Left, communist thinker Karl Liebknecht is frequently cited. Liebknecht is famous for his 1915 declaration that “the enemy is at home,” a statement made in condemnation of imperialist aggression against Russia led by his native Austria–Germany. In quoting Liebknecht, many have decontextualized his views. From his perspective, fighting against the enemy at home did not mean ignoring foreign regimes repressing their own people or failing to show solidarity with the oppressed.

Indeed, Liebknecht believed we must oppose our own ruling class’s push for war by “cooperating with the proletariat of other countries whose struggle is against their own imperialists.”

Among many Western leftists, there has been neither cooperation with the Syrian people nor collaboration with like-minded anti-war movements. They also have failed to oppose the policies of their own bourgeois states in crushing the revolution in Syria.

The Left must do better. Solidarity with the international proletariat means supporting Syrian revolutionaries against various international and regional imperialist forces, as well as the Assad regime, all of which are trying to put an end to a popular revolution for freedom and dignity.

No leftist organizations or anti-war movements today can ignore the necessity of supporting people in struggle, while opposing all foreign interventions (international and regional), especially from our own governments….

As Liebknecht said: “Ally yourselves to the international class struggle against the conspiracies of secret diplomacy, against imperialism, against war, for peace within the socialist spirit.” We can exclude none of these elements from our struggle to build a progressive leftist platform on the Syrian conflict.

Do you believe that the above mentioned narratives and the inability to comprehend an active political and emancipatory struggle, succumb to perception suffering from orientalism, or maybe even racism and islamophobia? Is there a paternalistic approach which we simply cannot get rid of?

I think reasons are multiple and sometimes interlinked, whether specific leftist inheritage (stalinism, campism, “Thirld Worldism”) yes forms of racisms and orientalism, etc…

But moreover and more generally there is a  skepticism in  the possibility of mass collective action to achieve the goals of the people, of power from below. This concept, which is at the heart of revolutionary politics, faces profound skepticism from some sections of the left. This should not prevent us, however, from building our solidarity on this basis.

Following the same narrative we have witnessed a call to unite under the lesser evil pragmatism of the coalition between Putin,Assad and Iran in order to ensure stability. Which is the outcome of this alliance during the recent years and against whom it has been forged?
This perception of these sections of the left is completely wrong and destructive of the “lesser evil”. The solution to does not lie in the collaboration with authoritarian regimes like the Assad regime or collaboration with regional powers and international imperialist powers such as Russia, quite on the opposite.

I believe that we should analyse a State on its class basis and policies as rightly put by Pierre Frank, a French Trotskyist that wrote that: “Let us note that the greatest theoreticians of Marxism did not at all define the political nature of a bourgeois regime by the positions which the latter held in the field of foreign policy but solely and simply by the position it occupied in relation to the classes composing the nation”. On this basis Syria, Russia and Iran are clearly not allies of working class people. We can see in Syria their destructive and murderous role.

The less evil is actually the road of defeat and the maintenance of an unjust system in which the popular classes in the region live. The role of revolutionaries is not to choose between different imperialist and regional powers. Our role is to oppose the different counter revolutionary forces and build an independent front from these two forms of reactions and basing it on democratic, social, anti-imperialist basis and opposing all forms of discrimination and working for the radical change of society in a dynamic from below in which the working classes the agent of change.

In conclusion, given the clashes or collaboration between the forces of reaction, let’s nor choose one form of the reaction, but support, build and organize a popular and radical alternative for the original objectives of the revolutions: democracy social justice and equality.

We Should oppose all foreign interventions. In addition, We must not imagine that the imperialist rivalries at the global level between the United States, China and Russia would be insurmountable for these powers, to the extent that these powers are in reality in relations of interdependence on many issues. All these regimes are bourgeois regimes that are and always will be the enemies of the popular revolutions, seeking to impose or strengthen a stable political context allowing them to accumulate and develop their political and economic capital in defiance of the popular classes. No regional or international power is a friend of the Syrian revolution as we have shown, just as it is not the imperialist contradictions that have been the source of the uprising in Syria or elsewhere as well in the region, but the political and socio-economic frustrations endured by the popular classes.

The regime’s refusal of any kind of opposition and the violence it has committed demonstrates that it has fascist tendencies. Were those evident and existing before the uprising and how did they interacted with the characteristics of the Syrian state and society?

The Assad despotic regime definitely has fascistic trends, demonstrated by its refusal of any kind of opposition and the violence it has committed. Regarding the nature of the Assad regime, I would argue it is a despotic, capitalist and patrimonial state ruling through violent repression and using various policies such as sectarianism, tribalism, conservatism, and racism to dominate society and mobilize a cross-class popular base linked through sectarian, regional, tribal and clientelist connections to defend the regime on a reactionary basis.

The patrimonial nature of the state means the centers of power (political, military and economic) within the regime are concentrated in one family and its clique, similar to Libya and the Gulf monarchies for example, therefore pushing the regime to use all the violence at its disposal to protect its rule.

It is therefore very far from being socialist, anti-imperialist and secular as presented by some among sectors of the western left, often ignorant of Syria.

Given the example of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan some time ago, the USA intervention is more than catastrophic. Invasions became synonymous with US, it went to war against communism and now it leads war against islamist extremists. What is their goal in the region? How did the election of Trump affect US policies in the region, if it did? What should we expect and prepare for?

Let’s be clear we should oppose as well all the interventions of Washington in the region that are not made in the interest of the popular classes. The recent wars you mentioned or its support for different dictatorships in the region and their actions demonstrate this.

American policy is mired in a host of contradictions that flow from its weakened position after its setback in Iraq and the contradictory foreign policy between Trump and some sectors of US foreign affairs administration. Of course, the U.S. remains the most important power in the world, but it has witnessed a relative decline against international and regional rivals, particularly in the Middle East.

The failure of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the global economic and financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 were severe blows to the hegemony of the U.S. This left more space for other imperialist powers like China and Russia, but also benefited regional powers throughout the world. The relative decline of the U.S. allowed all of these states to act more autonomously and even at times contrary to U.S. interests.

This is particularly visible in the Middle East. Russia has been able to increase its influence and play a significant role in Syria in saving the Assad regime, while various regional states like Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel have played a growing role in the region, intervening in the revolutionary processes in support of various actors in conflict with popular demands for democracy, social justice and equality.

US main policies in the Middle East are to defeat ISIS military and oppose Iranian influence in the region.  At the same time, they want to come back to a form of stability in the region while undermining forces like Iran.

Like other imperialist and regional powers they want an end to the revolutionary processes in the region.

We are facing a complex situation but we jump easily to conclusions and side-taking. How can we serve the main struggle, in terms of internationalist solidarity, which is rather obvious: opposition to all imperialist and authoritarian actors intervening in Syria?

Yes, I agree with this conclusion.

Multiple things can be done. I think progressives should call for an end to the war, which has created terrible suffering. It has led to massive displacement of people within the country and driven millions out of it as refugees. The war only benefits the counter-revolutionary forces on all sides. From both a political and humanitarian perspective, the end of the war in Syria is an absolute necessity.

Likewise, we must reject all the attempts to legitimize Assad’s regime, and we must oppose all agreements that enable it to play any role in the country’s future. A blank check given to Assad today will encourage future attempts by other despotic and authoritarian states to crush their populations if they come to revolt.

We have to guarantee as well the rights of civilians within Syria, particularly preventing more forced displacements and securing the rights of refugees (right of return, right for financial compensations in case of destruction of their houses, justice for the losses of their relatives, etc.).

Assad and his various partners in the regime must be held accountable for their crimes. The same goes for the Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist forces and other armed groups.

We need to support the democratic and progressive actors and movements against both sides of the counter-revolution: the regime and its Islamic fundamentalist opponents.

We have to build a united front based on the initial objectives of the revolution: democracy, social justice, and equality, saying no to sectarianism and no to racism.

We of course need to oppose all imperialist and authoritarian actors intervening in Syria.

In their own countries, leftists internationally should also struggle:

-for the opening of borders for migrants and refugees and against building walls or transforming Europe for example into a fortress that would turn the Mediterranean Sea into a cemetery for migrants

-against all forms of Islamophobia and racism

-against all cooperation of Western states with despotic regimes and the Apartheid, colonial and racist state of Israel (in this latter case, support BDS campaigns)

-against more “security” and anti-democratic policies promoted in the name of “the war against terrorism.”

We must be clear on one thing, the impunity given to the continuous murderous crimes of Assad’s despotic regime with the assistance and/or complicity of international imperialist powers encourages other dictators and authoritarian regimes to repress violently their own people. This participates as well in a global international trend of authoritarianism present throughout the world, including among liberal democracies in the Western countries, with the advancement and deepening of neo-liberalism.




A coffee with Jacques Rancière beneath the Acropolis (pdf)

A Coffee with Jacques Rancière beneath the Acropolis, Political journal Babylonia, Athens, August 2017.

The brochure of Babylonia “A Coffee with Jacques Rancière beneath the Acropolis” is now available for download in English. It contains the dialogue between Babylonia’s editorial team and Rancière, during B-Fest 6, 2017, on democracy, social movements, social change, the rise of the far-right and much more. Originally published in Greek in August 2017.

We met Jacques Rancière on Saturday, May 27, 2017, at the School of Fine Arts shortly before his speech at the B-Fest 6 International Anti-Authoritarian Festival, organized by Babylonia Journal, with a central slogan “We are ungovernable”. Rancière is among the most important European philosophers alive and his work does not need further introductions.

In the cloudy morning of Sunday 28 May, we sat beneath the Acropolis to have a coffee with the big philosopher. The transcript of our conversation reflects the vigor of thought and the passion of a truly democratic thinker.


Download (PDF, 314KB)