Identity and Universality + Radical Grace by Alain Badiou (Video)

Being, Non-Being and Becoming Non-Identical of the Subject as ∅


If the one is not, nothing is. ~ Parmenides

In a recent article citing my Postnihilistic Speculations on That Which Is Not: A Thought-World According to an Ontology of Non-Being, the giant of philosophical blogosphere and my fellow para-academic colleague S.C. Hickman has succintly outlined the roots of contemporary ontology. Drawing upon Parmenides, Plato, Meillassoux, Žižek and Badiou in praticular, he has provided new insight concerning the relationship between being, non-being and becoming. After quoting my take on the retroactively speculative new direction in philosophy he goes on to say this:

“As I was reading this post of his I felt a deep underlying, almost religious tone in his voice; the power of the absolute filtering its banal surprise (maybe a non-God, non-All, rather than the mundane gods or God religion or the philosophers). Whatever the absolute may be, it seems to ride the edges, or borderlands of between thought and non-being rather than the metaphysical realms of Being. Though secular through and through the incorporation of the themes of eternity, time, mortality, immortality, etc. like those others who have influenced our thinking: Nietzsche, Badiou, Zizek, Laruelle, Henry, Deleuze, etc. – and, lest we forget, Freud (Lacan: lack?) with his mythology of drives, that endless war of eros and thanatos, life and death, love and war – comes through Erdem’s essay. What struck me above all is the underlying mythos and movement toward transcension, toward elsewhere, immortality, transcendence. Of course as he says, this is nothing new, and it is everywhere in our present transcendental field of speculation, as if between a totalistic closure upon metaphysics had brought with it – not a rational kernel, but rather an irrational kernel of ancient thought. For do we not hear that oldest of songsters, Orpheus, the Greek singer, theologian, poet, philosophical forbear out of whose roots Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle and their ancient antagonists Leucippas, Democritus, and Lucretius down to our day still wage a war over the body of a dead thought (God?).”~ S.C. Hickman, Social Ecologies

When it comes to philosophy I usually avoid dialogue, in that sense I am strictly Deleuzean, a man of “free indirect speech”, always sustaining a kind of internal dialogue with the philosopher’s image of thought he created in his mind. Rather than engaging in polemics with the philosophers, Deleuze used to think with them, although not always in accordance with them, sometimes for and sometimes against them, always disjunctively synthesizing affirmation and negation as well as transcendence and immanence. For Deleuze the important thing was to bring out that which matters in thought. So, what I intend to do in this brief note will be an active reading of Craig’s article rather than a reaction to it. I shall therefore point out that which is missing in his account, namely the relationship between time and change.

Now, for Kant the thing-in-itself, or the noumenon, could be thought but couldn’t be known. We could only know the transcendental ground of our thought, and therefore the thing-in-itself is not submitted to change. For change requires the transcendental constitution of the subject to take place in time. The subject constitutes and is constituted by the transformation of the thing-in-itself(noumenon) into the thing-for-us (phenomenon).

In his Critique of JudgementKant distinguishes between the determinative and the reflective modes of judgement.

If the universal (the rule, the principle, the law) is given, the judgement that subsumes the particular under it is determinative. If, however, only the particular for which the universal is to be found is given, judgement is merely reflective. [1]

If we keep in mind that the reflective mode of judgement reflects on particulars in such a way as to produce universals to which they can be subjected, and that the determinative mode of judgement determines a particular by subjecting it to a universal, it becomes understandable why among these two it is the reflective mode which splits as it unites the subject of enunciation and the enunciated subject. But it must also be kept in mind that the subject of enunciation which refers to the universal is itself a constitutive illusion, or a regulatory idea necessary for the emergence of the subject as the enunciated content. It is only in and through a position of non-being within and without being at the same time that the becoming non-identical of the subject can take place. For change requires the localisation of being in a particular world submitted to time as Badiou puts it in his Being and Event. Therein Badiou asserts that there can be multiplicities not submitted to change and there can also be ones submitted to change. Change is not on the side of multiplicity but on the side of the relationship between multiplicities. There can only be a relation between multiplicities in a particular world. Change is the property of being when being is localised in a world. Change is not the destiny of being as in Heraclitus, but is submitted to the relation between multiples. Hence Badiou can say that “the one does not exist.” It exists neither as a totality as in Parmenides, nor as a multiplicity as in Heraclitus. While for Heraclitus being is in constant change, for Parmenides being is that which never changes. Kant splits being into two halves, one half of being ever changes(phenomenon), while the other half of being never changes(noumenon). For Heraclitus there is only multiplicity, while for Parmenides there is only one. If we have mutltiplicity then there is also change, if we have the one there is no change at all. Being an atomist, Democritus says that being is composed of atoms and the universe is composed of an infinity of atoms. Democritus is the atomic explosion of Parmenides and the sub-atomic implosion of Heraclitus at the same time.[2]

We find ourselves on the brink of the decision, a decision to break with the arcana of the one and the multiple in which philosophy is born and buried, phoenix of its own sophistical consumption. This decision can take no other form than the following: the one is not.[3]

Is there an existing totality before thought? If there is one, is there a part of this existing totality which is outside change? We exist in a world of change and when we think the world we think its change. For change to be thought there has to be an identity first. The relationship between identity and difference is probably the oldest and most complicated philosophical problem. The two orientations of thought concerning the problem of change and the interaction between identity and difference have their roots in Socrates and Zeno as analysed by Badiou in Being and Event.

If one allows that being is being-in-situation—which means unfolding its limit for the Greeks—it is quite true that in suppressing the ‘there is’ of the one, one suppresses everything, since ‘everything’ is necessarily ‘many’. The sole result of this suppression is nothingness. But if one is concerned with being-qua-being, the multiple-without-one, it is true that the non-being of the one is that particular truth whose entire effect resides in establishing the dream of a multiple disseminated without limits. It is this ‘dream’ which was given the fixity of thought in Cantor’s creation. Plato’s aporetic conclusion can be interpreted as an impasse of being, situated at the deciding point of the couple of the inconsistent multiple and the consistent multiple. ‘If the one is not, (the) nothing is’ also means that it is only in completely thinking through the non-being of the one that the name of the void emerges as the unique conceivable presentation of what supports, as unpresentable and as pure multiplicity, any plural presentation, that is, any one-effect. Plato’s text sets four concepts to work on the basis of the apparent couple of the one and the others: the one-being, the there-is of the one, the pure multiple and the structured multiple. If the knot of these concepts remains undone in the final aporia, and if the void triumphs therein, it is solely because the gap between the supposition of the one’s being and the operation of its ‘there is’ remains unthought. This gap, however, is named by Plato many times in his work. It is precisely what provides the key to the Platonic concept par excellence, participation, and it is not for nothing that at the very beginning of the Parmenides, before the entrance of the old master, Socrates has recourse to this concept in order to destroy Zeno’s arguments on the one and the multiple.[4]

Badiou proclaims “the multiple as heterogeneous dissemination,”[5] while Žižek rightly criticizes Meillassoux in particular and Speculative Realism in general for not having an adequate theory of the subject for the present, for the time of being in change.

I think that, in its very anti-transcendentalism, Meillassoux remains caught in the Kantian topic of the accessibility of the thing-in-itself: is what we experience as reality fully determined by our subjective-transcendental horizon, or can we get to know something about the way reality is independently of our subjectivity. Meillassoux’s claim is to achieve the breakthrough into independent ‘objective’ reality. For me as a Hegelian, there is a third option: the true problem that arises after we perform the basic speculative gesture of Meillassoux (transposing the contingency of our notion of reality into the thing itself) is not so much what more can we say about reality-in-itself, but how does our subjective standpoint, and subjectivity itself, fit into reality. The problem is not ‘can we penetrate through the veil of subjectively-constituted phenomena to things-inthemselves’, but ‘how do phenomena themselves arise within the flat stupidity of reality which just is, how does reality redouble itself and start to appear to itself ’. For this, we need a theory of subject which is neither that of transcendental subjectivity nor that of reducing the subject to a part of objective reality. This theory is, as far as I can see, still lacking in speculative realism.[6]

Today philosophy has a tendency to think outside the contemporary world, whereas the goal of Ancient Greek philosophy had been to find an orientation of thought for the good life in time. The quest was how to live in accordance with a conception of goodness in mind. This is not an abstract goal, but rather aims at transforming subjectivity as it is here and now.

If one took the point of being which seemed to be the smallest, much like a dream within sleep, it would immediately appear multiple instead of its semblance of one, and instead of its extreme smallness, it would appear enormous, compared to the dissemination that it is starting from itself.[7]

In his Logics of Worlds, Badiou makes a distinction between being and existence.

I have posed that existence is nothing other than the degree of self-identity of a multiple-being, such as it is established by a transcendental indexing. With regard to the multiple-being as thought in its being, it follows that its existence is contingent, since it depends—as a measurable intensity—on the world where the being, which is said to exist, appears. This contingency of existence is crucial for Kant, because it intervenes as a determination of the transcendental operation itself. This operation is effectively defined as ‘the application of the pure concepts of the understanding to possible experience’. In my vocabulary—and obviously with no reference to any ‘application’—this can be put as follows: the logical constitution of pure appearing, the indexing of a pure multiple on a worldly transcendental. But, just as with the object, Kant will immediately distinguish within this operation its properly transcendental or a priori facet from its receptive or empirical one.[8]

As the subject’s intensity of self-consciousness increases, so does its pain and anxiety in the face of death. This causes hopelessness and despair which may or may not lead to a total devastation of the project of inverting and putting into the spotlight the nothingness at the centre of the subject. Heidegger repeatedly puts all this down in Being and Time when he says that “being-towards-death is angst.” One cure for expelling anxiety has been to believe in god, any other metaphysical construct, or in some cases it has even taken the form of a materialist system of thought; in all these cases, however, an escape is seen as a solution when in fact it is the problem itself. For our concerns, an escapist attitude, and especially one that tries to go beyond the present, does not work at all, for what we are looking for is a way of learning to make use of the reality of the death drive as an interior exteriority constitutive of the subject as a creative agent of change at present, in the time of the living and the dead at once.

And finally here is the Lacanian definition of the subject referred to by Badiou towards the very end of Being and Event

I am not, there where I am the plaything of my thought; I think of what I am, there where I do not think I am thinking.[9]


Reference Matter

[1] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. James Creed Meredith (London: Wilder Publications, 2008), 13

[2] Alain Badiou, Being and Event, Meditation Two: Plato, trans. Oliver Feltham (New York: Continuum, 2005), 31-7

[3] Badiou, BE, 23

[4] Badiou, BE, 36

[5] Badiou, BE, 33

[6] Slavoj Žižek, Interview with Ben Woodard, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Realism and Materialism, Graham Harman, Nick Srnicek, Levi Bryant (eds.), (Melbourne:, 2011), 415

[7] Badiou, BE, 34

[8] Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, Section Two, Kant, trans. Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2009), 237

[9] Badiou, BE, 431

Hermetico-Promethean Postnihilism



To begin at the beginning we shall say that philosophy is the dialectical process of truth in time, it is an infinite questioning of that which is known, a continuity in change of the unknown, a practice of situating eternity in time. Without a relation to the requirements of one’s own time philosophy may still mean many things, but these do not amount to anything worthy of rigorous consideration much. This doesn’t mean that philosophy must have an absolute conception of good and constantly strive towards it. Quite the contrary, if anything, philosophy would much rather resist against the evil within this inconsistent multiplicty falsely named world. No, there is no one world against which philosophy can situate itself, but rather many multiplicities out of which philosophy infers meanings and values in accordance with a better future in mind. Not necessarily better than today, but less worse than it will have been if nothing is done to slow down worsening. So having an idea of a better future is not necessarily imposing a totality, an absolute conception of goodness upon the multiplicity of existents. What’s at stake might as well be that the resistance aganist evil in time is itself a creative act sustaining the less worse condition of future existence. It’s all bad and it can only get worse, the question is this: How can we decelarate this worsening condition of we humans, we animals and we the plants?

My interest in science in general and neuroscience in particular derives from this understanding of philosophical activity as a dialectical process in nature. For me science is not an object of philosophy but a condition of it. Presumably you can already hear Badiou’s voice here, and rightly so I must say. Badiou had once said that “philosophy is the conceptual organisation of eternity in time.” What, then, is dialectic? Dialectic is simply “the unity of opposites,” as Fredric Jameson defines it in his Valences of the Dialectic. Everything has within itself nothing and inversely. The self and the other are always already reconciled, but in order to actualise this unity philosophy splits the one in such a way as to sustain the process of its reconciliation within itself. The one is not, it all begins with two and continues ad infinitum. Of course a designation such as Hermetico-Promethean post-nihilism is paradoxical, but this being paradoxial is itself creative of the space out of which something not only new but also good, or less worse than that which is or could be, can emerge. That said, a positively altered future itself only ever emerges from a split introduced in-between the past and the present, the good and the bad…


Now, I see nothing bad in interrupting the process of negativity, but needless to say one cannot achieve this by affirming it. One still needs negativity to interrupt negativity. It is in this sense that nihilism turned against itself becomes a condition of progressive philosophy. If science is making a huge progress while the whole planet is rapidly dying, what’s the point of that progress in science? It becomes a meaningless activity for its own sake. Without a future there can be no science either, but it is only by way of putting science into good uses that we can have a future. And when I say we I mean we humans, we animals and we the plants. Paradoxical though as it may sound, robots are of no concern to me, but enhancement technologies such as neuroplasticity softwares are…

I take whatever rings true to me in accordance with my intention. Intending something is not necessarilly willing without consciousness. One may be driven to anything at all, including willing nothingness as Nietzsche has taught us, adding that “man would much rather will nothingness than not will.” Although Nietzsche’s proclamation may be valid for some, it is not necessarily valid for all. To say again now what I’ve already said some other time, I’m still up for consciously desiring good life. That said, I reckon it’s not even worth mentioning that will, drive and desire are not the same thing. As for the difference between consciousness and self-consciousness, we must return to Hegel as always. There are indeed many illusions in this life, some for life yet some others not, some necessary while some irrelevant. Not that I am one, and yet it’s not for nothing that Hegel had once said, “the great man of his time is he who expresses the will and the meaning of that time, and then brings it to completion; he acts according to the inner spirit and essence of his time, which he realizes.” This, I think, is still true and ever will be, if we are to have a future worthy of the name, that is…


Alain Badiou delivers the 11 points inspired by the situation in Greece

 It is urgently necessary to internationalise the Greek people’s cause. Only the total elimination of the debt would bring an “ideological blow” to the current European system.

1. The Greek people’s massive “No” does not mean a rejection of Europe. It means a rejection of the bankers’ Europe, of infinite debt and of globalised capitalism.

2. Isn’t it true that part of nationalist opinion, or even of the far Right, also voted “No” to the financial institutions’ demands – to the diktat from Europe’s reactionary governments? Well, yes, we know that any purely negative vote will be partly confused. It has always been the case that the far Right can reject certain things that the far Left also rejects. The only clear thing is the affirmation of what we want. But everyone knows that what Syriza wants is opposed to what the nationalists and the fascists want. So the vote is not just a generic vote against the anti-popular demands of globalised capitalism and its European servants. It is also, for the moment, a vote of confidence in the Tsipras government.

3. The fact that this is happening in Greece and not – as ought to be the case – everywhere else in Europe, indicates that the European “Left” has sunk into an irreversible coma. François Hollande? German Social Democracy? Spain’s PSOE? PASOK in Greece? The Labour Party?  All these parties are now overtly the managers of globalised capitalism. There is not – there is no longer – a European “Left”. There is a little hope, which is still not very clearly defined, in the wholly new political formations linked to the mass movement against debt and austerity, namely Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece. As it happens, Podemos repudiate the distinction between “Left” and “Right”. I do, too. It belongs to the old world of parliamentary politics, which must be destroyed.

4. The Tsipras government’s tactical victory offers encouragement to all new propositions in the political field. The parliamentary system and its government parties have been in an endemic crisis for decades, since the 1980s. Syriza’s successes in Greece – even if they are temporary ones – are part of what I have called “the reawakening of History” in Europe. This can only help Podemos, and everything that is to come, in future and elsewhere, over the ruins of classic parliamentary democracy.

5. However, in my opinion the situation in Greece remains a very difficult, very fragile one. It’s now that the true difficulties will begin. It is possible that the Merkels, the Hollandes and the other executors of European capital’s power will alter their demands in light of the tactical success of the referendum (a vote that makes them into defendants in the court of history). But it is necessary to act without paying too much attention to them. The crucial point, now, is to know whether the “No” vote will expand into a powerful popular movement, supporting and/or exercising acute pressure on the government itself.

6. Indeed, how should we judge the Tsipras government today? Five months ago he decided to start by negotiating. He wanted to buy time. He wanted to be able to say that he had done everything to reach an agreement. I’d have preferred him to begin in a different way: with an immediate appeal for a mass, extended popular mobilisation involving millions of people, with its central demand being the complete abolition of the debt. And also through an intensive struggle against the speculators, corruption, the rich who don’t pay their taxes, the arms manufacturers, the Church… But I am not Greek, and I don’t want to give lessons. I don’t know if an action so centred on popular mobilisation – in a sense, a rather dictatorial action – was possible. For the moment, after five months of the Tsipras government, there has been this victorious referendum and the situation remains completely open. That is already a lot.

7. I continue to think that the hardest ideological blow that could be struck against the current European system is represented by the demand for the complete elimination of Greece’s debt – a speculators’ debt for which the Greek people bears absolutely no responsibility. Objectively, it is possible to eliminate the Greek debt: plenty of economists – far from all of them revolutionary – think that Europe has to cancel it. But politics is subjective, in which sense it is different from pure economics. Europe’s governments are absolutely determined to prevent a Syriza triumph on this score. Such a victory would open the way to Podemos, and after that, perhaps other powerful popular movements in Europe’s larger countries. So Europe’s governments – urged on by financial lobbies – want to punish Syriza, punish the Greek people, rather than resolve the debt problem. The best way to punish these punishers themselves would be to default on the debt, whatever the risks that this would entail. Argentina did it a few years ago, and it isn’t dead – far from it.

8. Everywhere there is agitation over the possibility of Greece’s “exit” from Europe. But in truth it is the European reactionaries who are brandishing this notion. They’re the ones making “Grexit” an immediate threat. They hope that this will frighten people. The correct line, which up till now has been the position taken by both Syriza and Podemos, is to say: “We are staying in Europe. We only want – as is our right – to change the rules of this Europe. We want it to stop being a transmission belt between globalised liberal capitalism and the continuation of peoples’ suffering. We want a really free, people’s Europe”. It’s up to the reactionaries to say what they think of that. If they want to chase Greece out, let them try! On this point, the ball is in their court.

9. We hear of geopolitical fears mounting in the background. And what if Greece did turn to people other than the Whipping Fathers and Mothers [Père fouettard: a kind of anti-Santa Claus, who punishes naughty children at Christmas] of Europe? Well, I’ll say this: all European governments have an independent foreign policy. They cultivate entirely cynical friendships, like Hollande’s ties with Saudi Arabia. Faced with the pressures to which it is being subjected, Greece can and must have just as free a policy. The European reactionaries want to punish the Greek people, and, as such, it has the right to seek foreign help in order to diminish or prevent the effects of this punishment. Greece can and must turn to Russia, the Balkan countries, China, Brazil, and even to its old historic enemy Turkey.

10. But whatever comes of this outside help, the situation in Greece will be resolved by the Greeks themselves. The principle of the primacy of internal factors applies to this situation, too. Now, the risks are all the more considerable in that Syriza is only formally in power. We know – we can feel it – that already the old political forces are engaged in intrigues behind the scenes. Even beyond the fact that state power very rapidly corrupts, when it is acquired in regular and non-revolutionary conditions, we could obviously pose some classic questions: is Syriza in complete control of the police, the army, the justice system, the economic and financial oligarchy? Certainly not. The internal enemy still exists, it remains almost intact, it is still powerful, and it enjoys the support in the shadows of Syriza’s foreign enemies, including the European bureaucracy and the reactionary governments. The popular movement and its grassroots organisations must keep a constant watch over the government’s actions. To repeat – the “No” in the referendum will only be a true force when it continues into very powerful independent movements.

11. International popular support – a ceaseless one, one that demonstrates, one that catches the media’s attention – must devote all its forces to Greece’s possible call for mobilisation. Today, I’ll remind you, 10 percent of the world population possesses 86 percent of disposable wealth. The world capitalist oligarchy is very narrow, very concentrated, and very organised. Faced with this, dispersed peoples lacking in political unity and closed off within their national borders, will remain weak and almost impotent. Everything today is playing out at a global level. Transforming the Greek cause into an international cause of very powerful symbolic value is a necessity, and, therefore, a duty.

By Alain Badiou, Athens, 7 July. Originally published in Liberation. Translated from the French by David Broder.

via Verso

A letter from Badiou to Deleuze on Heidegger (July 1994)


I would like to resume, today, the parallel between you and Heidegger that I was sketching in my last letter.

1) A crucial difference seems to count against the comparison. In your work there is no “historial” set up, of the type “history of the forgetting of being”, “decline”, etc. As you say, you are certainly not tormented by the “end” of philosophy. You pick up the energy of your epoch, as must be done for each epoch. You love and think the cinema, the American novel, singular popular movements, Bacon’s paintings…The peasant from the Black Forest does not impress you. You are a man  of the imperial metropolis, a man of the bestial power of capitalism, a man of invisible subtractions, also, and of the finest of contemporary capillarities.

2) Being for you is not at at all a “question”, and moreover you do not in any way consecrate philosophy to “questioning”, any more than to “debates”, that French parliamentary form of German “questioning”.

3) Your personal philosophical genealogy (the Stoics, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, a certain Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson…) is very different from Heidegger’s (the Pre-Socratics, Aristotle, a different Leibniz, Schelling, a different Nietzsche, Husserl…).

4) Nevertheless three points strike me as the distant indication of a resonance.

The hostility to Plato. And, in a certain sense, for the same reason as for Heidegger: Plato is the establishment of a régime of Transcendence.

The hostility to Descartes. There too, a common motif, in almost opposite languages, can be devined: Descartes is the establishment of a régime of mastery subordinated to the Subjet.

The conviction that Nietzsche is an essential “turning point”. You argue very finely against Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche. But at stake, for you as much as for him, is a decisive question: how to give meaning to affirmation? And this donation of meaning to affirmation (this “meaning of active force”) is tied to the critique of Plato. Because Plato extenuates active (or immanent) force in the (transcendent) separation of the Idea.

5) What distances you from Plato is the conviction that the access to the real must be thought as immanent (or creative) trial, and not as inscription, or matheme. What distances you from Descartes is the conviction that this immanent trial does not have its criterion in the clarified chain of reasons, but in a descriptive finesse, of which Art is the veritable paradigm. What ties you to Nietzsche is the conviction that the Multiple must be thought as duplicity of Life (active and reactive forces), and not as inertia, or simple extension.

6) The decisive point seems to me to be your conception of Being as pure virtuality. This is not at all Heidegger’s vocabulary. Nevertheless, his “latence” and your Chaos are co-thinkable. They are co-thinkable as ultimate reserve, of which there exists no direct experience, and of which the thought is simultaneously exposing and sheltering.

There is in Heidegger a pathetic version of the trial of thought: the “height of distress”, etc. You avoid this sort of jargon. But you too come to think of thought as the “traversal”, that is at once demanding, proximate, and sheltered, of the infinite virtual. That Being is pure virtuality entails that thoughtful creation is always like a fragmentary witnessing in view of a voyage on the edge of chaos.

This is why the figure of Christ can serve you as a metaphor, as much for Spinoza as for Bartleby the scrivener. Just as it is constantly sub-jacent to the way in which Heidegger describes the “nostos”, or the endurance of Hölderlin. It’s that your general logic of fluxes is like a version without pathos of what Heidegger describes as the liberty of the Open.

Finally, the decision to think Being, not as simple unfolding, neutral, entirely actual, with no depth, but as virtuality constantly traversed by actualisations; the fact that these actualisations are like the populating of a cut (cut of the plane of immanence for you, cut of beings for Heidegger); all that entails a logic of reserved power, that I think is common, in this century, to Heidegger and to you.

My question would thus be the following: what in your view essentially distinguishes your relation virtual/ actualisations from Heidegger’s relation of Being and beings?

We are here (as when you seek to situate me as a Neo-Kantian) in a protocol of investigation of your own creation of concepts, and not in what is your most intimate enemy: Analogy.


A letter from Alain Badiou to Gilles Deleuze, first published in Libération, 07-11-95. Translation by Terence Blake.

via Agent Swarm

Alain Badiou on Communism and Multiculturalism

The Red Flag and the Tricolore

1. Background: the world situation

Today the figure of global capitalism has taken over the entire world. The world is subject to the ruling international oligarchy and enslaved to the abstraction of money – the only recognised universal. Our own time is the painful interval between the end of the second historic stage of the communist Idea (the unsustainable, terroristic construction of a ‘state communism’) and its third stage (the communism that realises the politics of ‘emancipating humanity as a whole’ in a manner adequate to the real). A mediocre intellectual conformism has established itself in this context – a both plaintive and complacent form of resignation that goes hand in hand with the lack of any future. Any future, that is, other than rolling out what already exists in repetitive fashion.

And now we see the emergence of its counterpart. This is a logical and horrifying reaction, a hopeless and fatal one, a mix of corrupt capitalism and murderous gangsterism. Giving subjective form to the death drive, it maniacally retreats into the most varied identities. This identitarian retreat in turn sparks arrogant, identitarian counter-identities.

The general plot of this story is the West – homeland of the dominant, civilised capitalism – clashing with ‘Islamism’ – the reference point of bloody terrorism. Appearing against this backdrop we have, on the one hand, murderous armed gangs or individuals with stockpiles of their own, which they wave around in order to force everyone to honour the corpse of some deity; on the other hand, savage international military expeditions mounted in the name of human rights and democracy, which destroy entire states (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, Congo, Mali, the Central African Republic…). These wars have thousands of victims, and they never achieve anything more than negotiating a precarious peace with the worst bandits in order to secure the oil fields, mines, food resources and enclaves where big business can prosper.

Things will go on like this until real universalism – humanity itself taking its own fate in hand, with the emergence of the new, decisive historical-political incarnation of the communist idea – deploys its new power at a world scale. At the same time, this will put an end to the enslavement of states to the oligarchy of property-owners and their servants, to the abstraction of money, and finally, to the identities and counter-identities that ravage peoples’ minds and call them to their deaths.

The world situation is a delay – the delayed arrival of the time when every identity (for there will always be different, formally contradictory identities) is integrated into the destiny of humanity in general in an egalitarian and peaceful way. Its arrival is delayed, but it will come, if enough of us want it.

2. The French specifics: Charlie Hebdo and the ‘Republic’

A child of the rebellious leftism of the 1970s, Charlie Hebdo became – like many intellectuals, politicians, ‘new philosophers’, impotent economists and various jokers – a both ironic and feverish defender of Democracy, the Republic, Laïcité, freedom of expression, free enterprise, sexual freedom, the free state… in short, the established political and moral order. There has been a proliferation of this type of renegade – as spirits grow old across changing circumstances – and in themselves they’re not of much interest.

More of a novelty is the patient construction of a domestic enemy of a new kind – the Muslim. Such an effort began in France in the 1980s, and has proceeded by way of various truly criminal laws, pushing ‘freedom of expression’ as far as the painstaking control of people’s clothes; new prohibitions concerning the historical narrative; and new cop series on TV.  It has also advanced via a sort of ‘left-wing’ attempt to rival the irresistible rise of the Front National, which since the Algerian war practiced a frank and open colonial racism. Whatever the variety of causes we could discuss, the fact is that the Muslim – from Mohammed to our own time – became Charlie Hebdo’s ‘bad object of desire’. Mocking Muslims and making fun of their mannerisms became this declining ‘comedic’ magazine’s stock in trade, a bit like how a century ago Bécassine made fun of the poor (and at that time, Christian…) peasants who came from Brittany to wipe the arses of the children of the Parisian bourgeoisie.

So at root all this isn’t so new. In this war of identities, France tries to distinguish itself by a totem of its own invention: the ‘secular democratic Republic’ or ‘Republican pact’. This totem glorifies the established French parliamentary order – at least since its founding act, namely Adolphe Thiers, Jules Ferry, Jules Fauvre and other stars of the ‘republican’ Left massacring  20,000 workers in the streets of Paris in 1871.

This ‘republican pact’ to which so many former leftists have rallied – including Charlie Hebdo – has always suspected that trouble was brewing in the suburbs, the factories on the periphery and the gloomybanlieue hang-outs. It has always sent big police battalions into these areas, and under countless pretexts filled its prisons with the suspect, ill-educated young men who lived there. It infiltrated its snitches and grasses into these ‘gangs’ of youths. Moreover, the Republic carried out a vast array of massacres and implemented new forms of slavery in the interests of keeping order in its colonial empire, torturing ‘suspects’ in the smallest African or Asian village police station. Indeed, it was Jules Ferry – who was without doubt, a fighter for the republican pact – who outlined the programme of this blood-soaked empire, exalting France’s ‘civilising mission’.

But you’ll see that a considerable number of the young people in thebanlieues are not only good-for-nothings with a flagrant lack of education (strangely, the famous ‘republican school system’ seems not to have been able to do anything about this… but it can’t accept that this its own fault, rather than somehow being the kids’ responsibility). Moreover, they have proletarian parents of African origin, or else they themselves came from Africa for survival’s sake: and as such, they are often of Muslim faith. In short, they are both colonised and proletarian. Two reasons to distrust them, and to deal with them using heavy repressive measures.

Let’s imagine that you’re a young black man, or a young man of Arab appearance, or perhaps a young woman who’s decided to cover her hair because it’s forbidden and she wants to rebel. Well, in that case you are seven or eight times more likely to be stopped in the street by our democratic police (and very often detained at the police station itself) than if you look like you’re ‘French’ – which means, and only means, that you have the features of a person who is probably neither ex-colonised nor proletarian. And not Muslim, either, of course. In this sense, Charlie Hebdo is just imitating the police’s old habits.

Here and there, people say that Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons aren’t attacking Muslims as such, but rather the fundamentalists’ terrorist activity. That is objectively false. Let’s take a typical example of their cartoons: we see two naked buttocks and the caption ‘Et le cul de Mahomet, on a le droit?’ (‘And what about Mohammed’s arse – can we use that?’). So is the Muslim faithful’s Prophet, a constant target for such stupidity, a contemporary terrorist? No, that’s not any kind of politics. It’s got nothing to do with the solemn defence of ‘freedom of expression’. It is a ridiculous, provocative obscenity targeting Islam itself – and that’s all. And it’s nothing more than third-rate cultural racism, a ‘joke’ to amuse the local pissed-up Front National supporter.  It may be amusing for the comfortably-off, but it is an indulgent ‘Western’ provocation against not only vast popular masses in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but also a very large section of the working population in France itself: the people who empty our bins, wash our plates, man our pneumatic drills, hurriedly clean luxury hotel rooms and clean the big banks’ windows at 4 a.m.

In sum, that part of the people who through its work alone but also through its complex life, its risky journeys, its knowledge of many languages, its existential wisdom and capacity to recognise what a real politics of emancipation would be, deserves at least some consideration and even – yes – admiration. Putting aside any question of religion.

Already in another time, in the eighteenth century, all these seemingly anti-religious sexual jokes – which were in fact jokes mocking the people – had provided a certain ‘barracks’ humour. Look at Voltaire’s obscene comments on Joan of Arc: his La Pucelle d’Orléans is entirely worthy ofCharlie Hebdo. This dirty poem about this sublimely Christian heroine is alone proof enough that this third-rate Voltaire didn’t provide much illustration of the real shining lights of critical thought.  It shows how wise Robespierre was to condemn all those who made anti-religious violence the heart of the Revolution and thus achieved nothing but popular disaffection and civil war. It invites us to consider that what divided French democratic opinion was whether people (knowingly or not) were on the side of Rousseau’s really democratic and constantly progressive approach, or else on the side of the lascivious wheeler-dealer and the wealthy speculator who also happened to be a hedonist and a sceptic. This latter was a sort of ‘devil’ on Voltaire’s shoulder, who in other cases did sometimes prove capable of mounting real struggles.

But today all these jokes stink of a colonial mentality – as indeed the law against the ‘Islamic’ veil provided a much more violent re-run ofBécassine mocking the Bretons’ head-dress. These are all points where lurid cultural racism fuses with blind hostility, crass ignorance and the fear that the vast mass of Africans or banlieue residents – the wretched of the earth – inspires in the hearts of our self-satisfied petty-bourgeois.

3. What happened, 1: a fascist type of crime

And the three young Frenchmen who the police so quickly finished off?

Let’s mention in passing that their killing saved us from a trial that would have meant discussing the situation and where blame really lay – and most people were pretty happy about this. It also meant forgetting about the abolition of the death penalty: returning to pure public vengeance, like in the Westerns.

I would say that they committed something that we ought to call fascist-type crimes. A fascist-type crime, in my view, has three characteristics.

Firstly, it is not blind, but targeted: its motivation is an ideological one, of a fascistic character, which means a narrowly identitarian one: national, racial, communal, folk, religious… In this case, the murderers visibly targeted three identities that classical fascism often attacked: journalists considered to represent the enemy camp, policemen defending the hated parliamentary order, and Jews. So in the first case it was a matter of religion, in the second case a nation state, and in the third case a supposed ‘race’.

Secondly, it is an extreme violence: an unabashed, spectacular violence, because it seeks to give the impression of cold, absolute determination – also in a suicidal vein, with the murderers accepting that their own deaths will likely result. That is the nihilist allure, the ‘viva la muerte!’ sentiment behind such actions.

Third, in its sheer enormity, extraordinariness and surprise effect, the crime is intended to sow terror, and as such to provoke the state and public opinion into excessive reactions. The idea is that this response will be nothing more than the assertion of a vengeful counter-identity; and in the outlook of the criminals and their patrons, this will justify the bloody attack post facto, by way of symmetry. And that is indeed what happened. In this sense, the fascist crime did achieve something of a victory.

This type of crime requires killers whom their manipulators can abandon to their fate once the action has been accomplished. These are not great professionals, secret service agents or seasoned killers. These were working-class kids drawn away from lives in which they saw no meaning – and thought they had no escape from – by the fascination of the pure act. Then add a few wild identitarian ingredients into the mix, as well as the sophisticated weapons, the travels, the gang identity, the forms of power, the pleasure [jouissance] and bit of money that they were thus able to access. Already in the France of another era we saw how recruits to fascistic groups could become murderers and torturers for the same kind of reasons. Particularly during the Nazi occupation of France: this was true of many of the miliciens that the Vichy régime employed under the banner of the ‘National Revolution’.

If we want to reduce the risk of fascist crimes, then we have to draw some lessons from the picture I have just outlined. We can clearly see the factors that were decisive in allowing these crimes to take place. There is society’s negative image of these young people – with their background in global poverty – and the way in which society treats them. There is the unconsidered way in which we throw around questions of identity, and the unchallenged – or even, encouraged – use of racist and colonialist categories, and the truly criminal laws that impose segregation and stigmatisation. There is also, without doubt, the consideration that political proposals apart from the ruling consensus – proposals of a revolutionary and universal nature, able to organise these young people around an active, solid, rational political conviction – are disastrously weak, internationally. (That is not to say they do not exist at all – in our country there are activists full of ideas, and who are linked to real people). Only on the basis of a constant activity working to change all these negative factors, with a call to change the dominant political logic from top to bottom, might public opinion have been made to understand the real importance of what was going on. This could have allowed for the subordination of police activity – which is always dangerous when it’s left to its own devices – to a capable, enlightened public conscience.

Yet now the government and media reaction has done exactly the opposite.

4. What happened, 2: the State and Public Opinion

Indeed, right from the get-go the state instrumentalised the fascist crime in an extremely dangerous and unhinged way. It responded to a crime with identitarian motives by advancing another, symmetrical identitarian cause. It unashamedly counterposed the good French democrat to the ‘fanatical Muslim’. It took the disgraceful theme of ‘national unity’ or even the ‘union sacrée’ – which in France has only ever served for sending young people to die for nothing in the trenches – back out of the mothballed cupboards again. And we also saw the identitarian and bellicose nature of ‘national unity’ when Hollande and Valls – followed by all the media – struck up the tune of the ‘war on terror’, a tune Bush composed for his sinister invasion of Iraq (whose absurd, devastating effects are today plain to see). And that’s true even if after this isolated, fascist-type crime, they didn’t actually exhort people to hole up at home or to stick on their reservists’ uniforms and head for Syria at the sound of the clarion.

The confusion reached its climax when we saw the state calling on people to come and demonstrate – in true authoritarian style. Here in the land of ‘freedom of expression’, we have a demo at the state’s command! We might even wonder if Valls thought about imprisoning the people who didn’t show up for it. Here and there people were punished for not going along with the one minute’s silence.

Amazingly, at the low point of their popularity, our leaders could get a million and more people to march, thanks to three perverted fascists who couldn’t have dreamt that they would score such a triumph. The people who attended were simultaneously both terrorised by ‘Muslims’ and nourished on the vitamins of democracy, the republican pact and the superb grandeur of France. Even the colonial war criminal Netanyahu could march in the front rank of the demonstration, supposedly in the name of freedom of opinion and civil peace.

So let’s talk about this ‘freedom of expression’! Was that the demonstration was about? No, quite the contrary: amidst its sea oftricolores it asserted that being French firstly requires that everyone have the same opinion, guided by the state. During the first days of this affair, it was practically impossible to express any opinion contrary to the one that consisted of making paeans to our freedom, to our Republic; damnation of the corruption of our identity by young Muslim proletarians and the horribly veiled girls; and virile preparations for the war on terror. We even heard the following slogan, a fine example of freedom of speech: ‘We are all police!’

And besides, how can anyone dare speak of ‘freedom of expression’ today in a country where, with very few exceptions, all the papers and TV stations are in the hands of the big private industrial and/or financial groups? Our ‘republican pact’ must be flexible and accommodating indeed if we are to imagine that these big groups like Bouygues, Lagardère, Niel and all the others are ready to sacrifice their private interests on the altar of democracy and freedom of expression!

In fact, it’s only natural that the law of our country is that of a single way of thinking and fearful submission. Does freedom in general, including freedom of thought, of expression, of action, of life itself, today consist of us all helping the police hunt down a few dozen fascist brigands; universalised grassing on dodgy types with their beards and veils; and constantly casting a suspicious gaze toward the banlieues, heirs to thefaubourgs where the Communards were slaughtered? Isn’t the central task of emancipation, of public freedom, in fact to act in common with as many of these young banlieue proletarians as possible, and with as many of these young women – whether veiled or not, it doesn’t matter – as possible, within the framework of a new politics? That is, a new politics that is not based on any identity (‘the workers have no fatherland’), and which prepares the egalitarian future where humanity finally takes charge of its own destiny? A politics with a rational perspective for getting rid of our merciless real masters, the wealthy rulers of our fate?

In France there have long been two kinds of demonstration: protests marching under the red flag and those marching under the tricolore flag. Believe me: the tricolore flags controlled and used by our masters aren’t the right kind. Even if what we want is to reduce murderous, identitarian little fascist gangs to nothing (and no matter whether these fascists are promoting sectarian forms of Islam, French national identity or the supremacy of the West). No: it’s the other flags, the red ones, that we need to bring back into the fray.

By Alain Badiou

Translated by David Broder.

An abridged version of this piece was originally published in French in Le Monde 27 January.

via Verso

Sanat, Felsefe, Politika, Gezi ve Ötesi ~ Rancière, Žižek, Sloterdijk, Erdem, Acar, Jackson, Cage, Virno, Gržinić (Varlık, Eylül 2013)

Dosya: Sanat ve Politika – Jacques Rancière, Slavoj Žižek, Peter Sloterdijk, Cengiz Erdem, Barış Acar, Thomas H. Jackson, John Cage, Paolo Virno, Marina Gržinić

SANATIN POLİTİKASI / Dosya / Varlık – Eylül 2013

Sanatın Politikası – Barış Acar Sayfa:3

Gezi Direnişi’yle beraber sanat dünyasında, belki de uzun zamandır tanık olmadığımız kadar canlı bir biçimde, yeniden sanat ve politika ilişkisi konuşulmaya başlandı. Ne ki, konu üzerine giden çalışmalar, genellikle 80 öncesi sol gelenekten devralınmış politik sanat argümanlarını tekrar etmekten ya da soğuk savaş boyunca emperyalist dünyadan yayılan küçümseyici ciddiyetsizliği yansıtmaktan öteye gidemedi. Bunların dışında kişisel çabalarla sanatın politikasını ele almaya çalışan girişimler ve 21. yüzyıl aktivizminin sanatsal boyutunu değerlendirme çabaları da oldu elbet. Ancak çoğu zaman bu kişisel çabalar yeteri kadar destek bulamadı ya da sosyolojik saptamaların cazibesine kapılıp sanat alanını terk etmeye eğilim gösterdiler. Varlık dergisi için hazırladığımız “Sanatın Politikası” dosyası bu noktada sanatlar açısından geniş kapsamlı bir bakış ortaya koymayı hedefliyor. Kısa bir zaman aralığında, dergi yetkililerinin de büyük gayretiyle, şiirden müziğe, siyaset felsefesinden bilgi teorisine kadar konuyla ilgisi olduğunu düşündüğümüz önemli metinleri bir araya getirmeye çalıştık. Gezi Direnişi gibi tarihsel bir olayın ardından aynı kavram ve yöntemlerle eskide kalmış tartışmaları yinelemenin ötesine geçerek, sanatların içinde uzun zamandır soluk alıp vermekte olan politikayı, –Walter Benjamin’in öne sürdüğü terimle ifade edecek olursak– “şiirsel politika”yı ele almamızı sağlayacak bakış açılarını araştırmayı denedik. Gezi Direnişi’nin hepimize gösterdiği gibi, o ya da bu politikanın temsili olmayan, sanatın dünyada yer tutma biçimi ve kendi yapıp etme tarzından kaynaklanan poetik bir politika sanıyoruz ki o kadar uzak ve yabancı değil.

Duyuları Olanın Dağılımı: Siyaset ve Estetik – Jacques Rancière Sayfa:4

Sanatlar, egemenlik ya da özgürlük projelerine, olsa olsa verebileceklerini verirler, yani son derece basit bir dille söylemek gerekirse, onlarla paylaştıkları şeyleri verirler: bedensel konum ve hareketleri, konuşma işlevlerini, görülür olan ile görülmez olanın dağılımını.

Rancière’in Dersi – Slavoj Žižek Sayfa:8

Brecht, 1953 tarihli (1956’da yayımlanan) ünlü kısa şiiri “Çözüm”de, işçilerin isyanı karşısında Komünist nomenklatura’nın kibrini alaya alır: “Hükümetin halkı feshedip bir başkasını seçmesi daha kolay olmaz mıydı?” Ne var ki, bu şiir siyasal açıdan oportünist olmakla, Brecht’in Neues Deutschland’da yayımlanan Doğu Alman Komünist rejimi ile dayanışma mektubunun zıddı olmakla kalmaz (sözü dolandırmadan belirtmek gerekirse, Brecht iki yanı da idare etmek, hem rejime desteğini duyurmak hem işçilerle dayanışmasını üstü kapalı dile getirmek istiyordu, öyle ki kim kazanırsa kazansın, kazanan tarafta olacaktı), kuramsal-siyasal anlamda yanlıştır da.

Bilginin Kinizmi – Peter Sloterdijk Sayfa:14

Bilgi alanında kinik dürtünün tarihini yazmak isteseydik, bu tarih, yerginin felsefî tarihi, daha doğrusu yergisel zihnin fenomenolojisi biçimini alırdı; mücadele eden bilincin fenomenolojisi ve sanat dallarında düşünülen şeylerin tarihi (yani, sanatın felsefî tarihi) olurdu. Böyle bir tarih yazılmamıştır, ilkeler tarihsel dayanak olmadan anlaşılır kılınabilse yazılması gerekmezdi de.

Alain Badiou’nun Olay Felsefesi ve Gezi Ruhu’nun Hakikati – Cengiz Erdem Sayfa:18

Gezi Ruhu’nun evrensel bir hakikat formunda zuhur etmesi ise özellikle genç kuşağın iktidarın söylemlerini ironi ve mizah vasıtasıyla sürekli yapıbozuma uğratması ve internet üzerinden tüm o sloganları görselleriyle birlikte anında tüm dünyaya yaymaktaki başarısının ürünü olmuştu. Bu vesileyle de işte kısa sürede tüm Türkiye’ye yayılan Gezi Direnişi dünyada yaşayan tüm muhalif kesimlerin takdirini toplamıştı.

Sanatın Politikası Nasıl Kurulur? – Barış Acar Sayfa:24

Hakikate ya da hakikatlere dair fikrimiz ne olursa olsun onun üzerine refleksiyonu öne sürerek nesneden uzaklaşan tutum yerine Rancière’in önerisi, nesneyi ve onunla kurduğumuz ilişkiyi düzenleme yeteneğimizle özneyi yeniden ele almayı sağladığı için ilgi çekicidir. Kendini “olay”ın içinde tanıyan/tanımlayan bu özne kanımızca Badiou’nun önerisinden de çok uzak değildir.

Ezra Pound’un Poetik Politikası – Thomas H. Jackson Sayfa:28

Pound’un düşündüğü dinamik gerçekliğin tutarlılığı, Konfüçyüsçülüğün farkına varmasına yardım ettiği tutarlılık, hayli incelikli bir türdendir. Pound, Yeats’in “düzen” denilen bir şeye karşı faşistçe düşkünlüğünü paylaşıyormuş gibi gösterilebilir. Ancak Pound için “düzen” hâlâ kinetik, dinamik ve karmaşıktır ve bunu anlayabilecek incelikte bir zihniyet gerektirir.

Amerika’da Deneysel Müzik Tarihi – John Cage Sayfa:32

Bir defasında da, Sri Ramakrishna’ya şöyle bir soru sorulmuştu: “Madem Tanrı iyi, dünyada neden kötülük var?” Şöyle cevap verdi: “Meseleyi derinleştirmek için.”

Virtüözite ve Devrim – Paolo Virno Sayfa:35

Radikal İtaatsizliğin, Ölçüsüzlük erdeminin yakın akrabası olduğu düşünüldüğünde, direniş hakkı “meşruluk ve “gayri meşruluk” açısından gayet güncel bir kavram hissi verir. Cumhuriyetin temeli iç savaş olasılığından kaçınır, ama sınırsız bir Direniş Hakkı’nı kabul eder.

Marina Gržinić ile Söyleşi – Barış Acar Sayfa:42

Bugün sanat ve beşeri bilimlerde yapılan şey kavramsal sonsuzluk, insan sonrası dönem yahut kavramsal anti-hümanizmaya yönelik bir araştırma süreci. Çünkü insan ırkı küresel kapitalist sistem için tek kelimeyle boğucu. Dünyanın çevresel bölgeleri için durum bugün daha iyi olabilir, ancak aynı zamanda ciddi bir yıkım, kıyım ve köleleştirme süreci ile de karşı karşıyayız.

Yazılar: Romancı Örnek Okuruna Yol Gösteriyor (Mehmet Rifat) – Mehmed Uzun’un Romanlarında Kadın İmajı (Mine Şengül) – Metin Kaçan’a Tanıklık (Demir Özlü) – Esneyen Adam’ın Başına Gelenler (Melike Belkıs Aydın) – Bellek Tutulması (Feridun Andaç) – Dil ile Anlam Arasında Mesnevî-i Manevî (Hayri K. Yetik) – Toplumcu Gerçekçi Edebiyatın Kurucu Kuşağından Sadri Ertem (Çiğdem Ülker) – Kalp Ağrısı’nda Sindrella Kompleksi (İlkim Odabaş) – Not Defteri (Hüseyin Yurttaş) – Yeni Öyküler Arasında (Jale Sancak)

Şiir: Hüseyin Alemdar, Harun Atak, Yücelay Sal, Cenk Gündoğdu, Can Sinanoğlu, Aysar Küçükyumuk

Öykü: Deniz Özbeyli, Engin Barış Kalkan

Varlık Kitaplığı: “Haiku’ş” / Adil İzci (Mine Ömer) – “Geçmişin İçindeki Geçmiş” / Ebubekir Eroğlu (Atakan Yavuz) – “Görünen İnsan” / Bela Balazs (Nuriye Bilici) – Nurduran Duman ile Söyleşi (Gülce Başer) – “İnsanın Üşüdüğü Yer” / Cevat Turan (Ayhan Şahin) – Birgül Oğuz ile Söyleşi (Ayşe Aldemir) – Ali Budak ile Söyleşi (Hande Sonsöz) – Şiir Günlüğü (Gültekin Emre) – Yeni Yayınlar (Reyhan Koçyiğit)

Varlık bu ay da Bakış Açısı, Bir Bakışı Solduran Zaman, Not Defteri, Şiir Günlüğü köşeleri, Semih Poroy’un çizimleri ve son çıkan kitapların tanıtıldığı Varlık Kitaplığı bölümüyle okurlarıyla buluşuyor.

via Varlık Dergisi Eylül 2013 ~ Dosya: Sanatın Politikası

The Original French Text of Badiou’s Article on The Uprising in Turkey and Beyond: Vive la création d’un nouveau foyer, dans le monde, de la politique à venir!

Une très grande partie de la jeunesse éduquée anime en ce moment, dans toute la Turquie, un vaste mouvement contre les pratiques répressives et réactionnaires du gouvernement. Il s’agit d’un très important moment de ce que j’ai appelé « le réveil de l’Histoire ». Dans bien des pays du monde, la jeunesse des collèges, des lycées, des universités, accompagnée par une partie des intellectuels et de la classe moyenne, donne une nouvelle force à la fameuse sentence de Mao : « On a raison de se révolter ». On occupe des places et des rues, des lieux symboliques, on défile, on réclame la liberté, la « vraie démocratie », la vie nouvelle. On exige que le gouvernement change sa politique d’oppression conservatrice ou démissionne. On résiste aux assauts violents de la police d’Etat.

Ce sont là les caractéristiques de ce que j’ai appelé un soulèvement immédiat : une des forces potentielles de l’action politique révolutionnaire et populaire – en la circonstance, la jeunesse éduquée et une partie de la petite bourgeoisie salariée — se lève, en son propre nom, contre l’Etat réactionnaire. Je dis avec enthousiasme : elle a raison de le faire ! Mais elle ouvre, en le faisant, le problème de la durée et de la portée de son soulèvement. Elle a raison d’agir, mais quelle est, dans la pensée, et pour le futur, la vraie raison de cette raison ?

Tout le problème est de savoir si ce courageux soulèvement est capable d’ouvrir la voie à une véritable émeute historique. Une émeute est historique – comme ce fut le cas uniquement en Tunisie et en Egypte, où l’issue du combat n’est encore aujourd’hui aucunement décidée – quand elle rassemble, sous des mots d’ordre communs, non pas un seul, mais plusieurs des acteurs potentiels d’une politique révolutionnaire nouvelle : par exemple, au-delà de la jeunesse éduquée et des classes moyenne, de larges fractions de la jeunesse populaire, des ouvriers, des femmes du peuple, des employés….Ce dépassement du soulèvement immédiat en direction d’un large rassemblement crée la possibilité d’une politique organisée de type nouveau, une politique qui est durable, qui fusionne la force populaire et le partage des idées politique, et qui devient alors capable de transformer la situation globale du pays concerné.

Je sais que nombre de nos amis Turcs sont parfaitement conscients de ce problème. Ils savent en particulier trois choses : qu’il ne faut pas se tromper de contradiction ; qu’il ne faut pas engager le mouvement dans la voie d’un « désir d’Occident » ; qu’il faut avant tout se lier aux masses populaires en inventant, avec d’autres que soi-même – avec des ouvriers, de petits employés, des femmes du peuple, des paysans, des sans-travail, des étrangers, des formes aujourd’hui inconnues d’organisation politique.

Par exemple : la contradiction principale est-elle aujourd’hui, en Turquie, entre la religion musulmane conservatrice et la liberté de pensée ? Nous savons qu’il est dangereux de le croire, même et surtout si c’est une idée très répandue dans les pays de l’Europe capitaliste. Certes, le gouvernement turc actuel se réclame ouvertement de la religion dominante. Il s’agit de la religion musulmane, mais ce point est finalement secondaire : l’Allemagne est encore aujourd’hui dirigée par le parti démocrate-chrétien, l’Italie a été gouvernée pendant un demi siècle par la démocratie chrétienne, le président des Etats-Unis prête serment sur la Bible, le président Poutine, en Russie, ne cesse de flatter le clergé orthodoxe, le gouvernement israélien ne cesse de se servir de la religion juive…Partout et toujours, les réactionnaires ont utilisé la religion pour rallier à leur pouvoir une partie des masses populaires, ce phénomène n’a rien de spécialement « musulman ». Et il ne doit nullement conduire à considérer que l’opposition entre religion et libre pensée est la contradiction principale du moment en Turquie. Ce qu’il faut affirmer, c’est que l’utilisation de la religion sert précisément à masquer les vraies questions politiques, à laisser dans l’ombre le conflit fondamental entre l’émancipation des masses populaires et le développement oligarchique du capitalisme turc. L’expérience montre que la religion, en tant que conviction personnelle et privée, n’est nullement incompatible avec l’engagement dans une politique d’émancipation. C’est à coup sûr dans cette voie tolérante, qui demande seulement qu’on ne mélange pas la religion et le pouvoir d’Etat, et qu’on distingue en soi-même la conviction religieuse et la conviction politique, que le soulèvement en cours s’engagera pour acquérir la dimension d’une émeute historique et inventer un nouveau chemin politique.

De la même façon, nos amis savent parfaitement que ce qui s’invente en Turquie ne peut pas être de désirer ce qui existe déjà dans les pays riches et puissants, comme les Etats-Unis, l’Allemagne ou la France. Le mot « démocratie » est de ce point-de-vue équivoque. Veut-on inventer une nouvelle organisation de la société, en route vers l’égalité véritable ? Veut-on renverser l’oligarchie capitaliste dont le gouvernement « religieux » est le serviteur, mais dont des anti-religieux, en Turquie comme en France, ont été et peuvent redevenir des serviteurs non moins efficaces ? Ou veut-on seulement vivre comme vit la classe moyenne des grands pays occidentaux ? L’action est-elle guidée par l’Idée de l’émancipation populaire et de l’égalité ? Ou par le désir de créer en Turquie une classe moyenne solidement établie, qui sera le support d’une « démocratie » à l’occidentale, c’est-à-dire complètement soumise à l’autorité du Capital ? Veut-on la démocratie en son sens politique : un pouvoir réel du peuple imposant sa loi aux propriétaires et aux riches, ou la « démocratie » en son sens occidental actuel, soit le consensus autour du capitalisme le plus brutal, pourvu qu’une classe moyenne puisse en profiter, vivre et parler comme elle veut, dès lors qu’on ne touche pas au mécanisme essentiel des affaires, de l’impérialisme et de la dévastation du monde ? Ce choix commande que le soulèvement en cours soit une simple modernisation du capitalisme turc et de son intégration au marché mondial, ou qu’il soit vraiment orienté vers une politique d’émancipation inventive, relançant l’Histoire universelle du communisme.

Et le critère ultime de tout cela est en réalité assez simple : il faut que la jeunesse éduquée fasse le trajet qui la rapproche des autres acteurs potentiels d’un soulèvement historique. Il faut qu’elle porte l’enthousiasme de son mouvement au-delà de sa propre existence sociale. Il faut qu’elle invente les moyens de vivre auprès des larges masses populaires, de partager avec elles les pensées et les inventions pratiques de la politique nouvelle. Il faut qu’elle abandonne la tentation de s’installer, à son propre profit, dans la vision « occidentale » de la démocratie, ce qui veut dire : dans le simple désir intéressé qu’existe en Turquie une classe moyenne comme client électoral et faussement démocratique d’un pouvoir oligarchique intégré au marché mondial des capitaux et des marchandises. Cela s’appelle : la liaison de masse. Sans elle, l’admirable révolte actuelle s’achèvera dans une forme plus subtile et plus dangereuse d’asservissement : celle que nous connaissons dans nos vieux pays capitalistes.

Nous autres, intellectuels et militants de France comme des autres pays riches de l’Occident impérial, nous supplions nos amis turcs de ne surtout pas créer chez eux une situation comme la nôtre. Nous vous disons, chers amis turcs : le service majeur que vous pouvez nous rendre est de montrer que votre soulèvement vous emmène là où nous ne sommes pas, qu’il crée une situation telle qu’y soit impossible la corruption matérielle et intellectuelle dans laquelle se trainent aujourd’hui nos vieux pays malades.

Heureusement, je sais que la ressource existe, dans la Turquie contemporaine, chez tous nos amis turcs, pour que le mauvais désir de nous ressembler soit écarté. Ce grand pays, à la longue histoire tourmentée, peut et doit nous surprendre. Il est le lieu tout désigné d’une grande invention historique et politique.

Vive le soulèvement de la jeunesse turque et de ses alliés ! Vive la création d’un nouveau foyer, dans le monde, de la politique à venir!

~ Alain Badiou

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