Tendance Coatesy

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon Beats François Hollande in French Presidential Election Opinion Poll.

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Who’s Pedalo Captain Now?

Europe 1 reports on the latest opinion polls for next year’s French Presidential election.

Alain Juppé (Les Républicains  looks an easy winner at present with 35% (plus 4 points since December) in front of Marine Le Pen  26% (minus 2 points). François Hollande only gets 13% (minus 7 pts) Jean-Luc Mélenchon (12%, +1).

In effect Melenchon wavers between 12% and 16% in the polls, according to the survey.

It is important to note that Marine Le Pen is in first place in the case if  Les Républicains (the main right party)  is presented by either ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, François Fillon or Bruno Le Maire.

Les Républicains have yet to designate, by ‘primary’ elections, who their candidate will be. Deep divisions continue.

But this, one of many identical polls, strengthens Juppé’s hand.

Far-left candidates, Nathalie Arthaud, Lutte ouvrière (1,5%) and Philippe Poutou, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (2,5%) and the Green Party (EELV), Cécile Duflot, (3%) barely register.

Neither the Socialists nor the Front de Gauche (of which Mélenchon remains nominally a member) have decided on their official candidate.

A sign of Mélenchon’s trajectory is that he already has 95,000 people signed up to his personal candidacy and claims that 500 groups exist to campaign for him.

Présidentielle 2017 : Intentions de vote (17 avril 2016) http://www.tns-sofres.com/publications/presidentielle-2017-intentions-de-vote-17-avril-2016:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is reported to be on Cloud Nine (Jean-Luc Mélenchon se sent « sur un petit nuage ») enjoying the taste of success while it lasts.

With his customary generosity and dislike of sectarian point-scoring  Mélenchon has commented, (DL)

Je regarde passer le corbillard des Verts et le Radeau de la Méduse du parti communiste.

I am looking on as the Hearse of the Greens and the Communists’  Raft of the Medusa pass by.

JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT - La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19).jpg

  Mélenchon is now predicting that he will go to the second round in the Presidential elections:

« Le programme que je porte peut être présent au second tour »

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Frédéric Lordon, Nuit Debout ‘Leader’: Diamond Geezer, or….Not?

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Frédéric Lordon: Diamond Geezer of Nuit Debout? 

In the March’s Le Monde Diplomatique Frédéric Lordon’s Pour la république sociale discussed the end of social democracy and its surrender to the “empire du capital”. He called for the “socical republic”, a slogan with deep resonance on the French left, going back to the 1848 Revolution, and to the writings of Jean Jaurès.

The goal of this republic should be expanded ‘total’ democracy but equally,

…l’abolition de la propriété lucrative — non pas bien sûr par la collectivisation étatiste (dont le bilan historique est suffisamment bien connu…), mais par l’affirmation locale de la propriété d’usage (6), à l’image de tout le mouvement des sociétés coopératives et participatives (SCOP), des entreprises autogérées d’Espagne ou d’Argentine, etc. : les moyens de production n’« appartiennent » qu’à ceux qui s’en servent.

The abolition of profit-making property – not by state collectivisation (whose historical balance-sheets is sufficiently well known…) but through the local assertion of the right to use property, on the model of the broad co-operative and participative movement, self-managed enterprises in n Spain and Argentina, etc; the means of production belong only to those who make use of them.

Having read Lordon’s writings (see also his Blog), with respect if rarely complete agreement, for some years it was nevertheless a surprise to see his rise to national prominence in the wake of the Nuit Debout movement.

Lordon played an instrumental role in the rise of the Nuit debout movement. He wrote a piece in the February 2016 issue of Le Monde diplomatique on François Ruffin‘s film, Merci patron!, describing the film as a clarion call for a potential mass uprising. This prompted Ruffin to organise a public meeting which led to the organisation of the public occupation of Paris’s Place de la République on 31 March 2016. Lordon delivered a speech at the 31 March protest, highlighting the goal of uniting disparate protest movements. He subsequently refused to talk to national media about his role in the movement, explaining that he did not wish to be seen as the leader of a leaderless movement.

Wikipedia. 

Verso has just published (amongst other Lordon material) a translated an interview with the radical economist and social theorist which carries some important observations about the Nuit Debout movement, and more widely, about the crisis of the European left.

Apart from an illuminating account of the origins of the protests (which have spread to scores of French cities and towns, though drawing  predominantly educated crowds rather than people from the banlieues) and the role of François Ruffin’s film Merci patron!  this section  is of great interest to those tending to emphasise the convergences between Nuit Debout and the political expression, Podemos, of the Indignados movement:

Podemos in Spain has repeatedly said that we should no longer speak of Left and Right, but rather of top and bottom, the 1 percent against the 99 percent. Do you agree ?

I completely disagree with this stance of Podemos. In France the denials of the Left-Right split have had very bad echoes. We hear this in the mouths of both what I would call the general Right — namely, the classical Right and the new Right that is the Parti Socialiste; if you will, the general Right is the undifferentiated party of managing neoliberal globalisation — and the far Right. Someone in France who says he is “neither Left or Right” is unfailingly right-wing, or will end up being so. Similarly, I don’t think that monetary inequality — on which basis Podemos converts the Left-Right split into the split between the 99 percent and the 1 percent — is a very incisive political theme. The topic of inequalities is, in any case, becoming a kind of flabby consensus — we even find the OECD or a liberal magazine like The Economist talking about it…

The true question is not the inequality of incomes or wealth, but the question of the fundamental political inequality that capitalism itself establishes: that wage-earners live under relations of subordination and obedience. The wage-relation is less a principle of monetary inequalities than a relation of domination, and this is the principle of a fundamental inequality — a political inequality.

Frédéric Lordon: “We have to stop saying what we don’t want, and start saying what we do want”

Marta Fana’s interview with economist Frédéric Lordon was published in Italian in Il Manifesto and in French in ReporterreTranslated by David Broder.

There remain issues about Lordon’s outlook.

New Left Review recently published this overview of his writing:

A STRUCTURALISM OF FEELING? Alberto Toscano. 

Though less well-known in the Anglophone world, the economist turned social philosopher Frédéric Lordon has emerged as one of the most effective public figures of the French intellectual left. On tv talk-shows and in La Pompe à Phynance, his blog for Le Monde diplomatique, he has launched ferocious attacks on Hollande and Valls’s post-Bataclan police-state legislation, making no concessions to union sacrée thinking. [1] He has been a staunch left critic of the single-currency project, demolishing wistful social-democratic hopes for ‘another euro’, and makes no bones about characterizing the ps as ‘the moderate fraction of the right’. He greeted the financial crisis with a four-act play in rhyming alexandrines, the bankers explaining the tragi-comedy of their subprime losses to the President of the Republic and ministers of state. At the same time, Lordon has been developing an ambitious research agenda, aiming to renew and re-ground the social sciences on the basis of a Spinoza-inspired materialism. What are the origins of this project, and what have been its results to date?

It would be necessary to reproduce the entire article to go into the detail of Lordon’s project but these, less than encouraging, elements, stand out:

A return to the national level was the most viable way to ‘deconstitutionalize’ economic policy. In a spirited concluding chapter, he argued for the left to reclaim la patrie from the Front National by means of Article Four of the 1793 Constitution, granting full citizenship rights to any foreigner who has been resident in France for a year—‘no risk the fn will take that nation from us.’

..

Imperium then launches into a swingeing attack on the anti-nationalist left, targeting ‘the grotesque claims of the well-off’ for a ‘liberation from belonging’, without acknowledging how much they benefit from their own belonging. Lordon contrasts this to the reality of statelessness, the nightmare of absolute non-inclusion, surviving like the sans-papiers without rights—and indeed fighting for citizenship, for belonging. [20] The experience of involuntary migration may rather serve to sharpen awareness of national difference: against protestations that the proletariat has no country, the workless proletarians in the Calais ‘Jungle’ are said to fight on a national basis: Eritreans against Sudanese or Syrians. [21]

To disavow national affects in the metropole while allowing them, romantically or condescendingly, for the subaltern, is mere hypocrisy. One is never totally free of national belonging: we are seized by a nation from our very first day, raised in its language and ways of thinking. Badiou, for example, is ‘profoundly French’. [22] The Europeanist post-nationalism of Habermas and Beck is singled out in this acerbic catalogue as the grossest fallacy of all, its claim ‘to have done with the nation’ simply paving the way for a supra-national power endowed with all the characteristics its authors claim to abhor. Dardot and Laval’s Commun (2014) also comes under fire, while a detour through seventeenth-century theories of sovereignty, counterposing Bodin and Althusius, reveals the limits of a federalist political imaginary in the latter’s theory of consociatio. Ultimately, bodies are not delocalizable; the place where one lives—even as an enemy of the state, a secessionist group or a counter-cultural commune—is always part of the territory of a community. Rather than indulge in these ‘impossible disaffiliations’, Lordon calls for the sharpest critique of nationalist historiography, the record of internal repression and external aggression, as the best defence against national-chauvinist passions.

The “political anthropology” Lordon offers, grounded on the notion of inherent human conatus “effort; endeavour; impulse, inclination, tendency; undertaking; striving”) an inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself, calls for recognition of the “sense of belonging” is even less attractive (see also, Review by Jean-Marie Harribey : Frédéric Lordon, Capitalisme, désir et servitude. Marx et Spinoza, 2010).

To Toscano it is  “a Spinozian conception of the community constituted by convergence around a shared emotion—a common view of good and evil, for example—which the vertical of sovereignty then establishes as a condition of membership. The community’s feeling for itself exceeds the individual”.

Thus, “with Spinoza completed by Bourdieu, but also brought into hypothetical alignment with Regulation Theory, the argument seems to be that the potentia of the multitude is realized through the institutional processes that constitute its various ‘regimes of capture’. “

Toscano argues,

 More gravely, this approach almost entirely bypasses the question of the capitalist state. [35] When Lordon does ultimately broach the issue of relations between wealth and power, the results are a good deal less illuminating about the specific operations of either than was La Politique du capital. Indeed, at the level of generality at which Lordon has chosen to operate here, what can distinguish capitalist power from imperium? [36] In asserting the trans-historical existence of the state without specifying the genesis of its forms, Lordon leaves himself bereft of any protocol for moving from the general theory to the historical conjuncture. Imperium supplies no theoretical mediation to traverse the space between philosophical concept and social reality: yet re-entry from the exospheric heights of abstract speculation into Earth’s atmosphere often causes conflagration.

Whether Lordon has “no illusions” about his turn to the national we can;t help noticing that he talked in Le Monde Diplomatique about “la”  République sociale, that is France, and not une République sociale européenne, still less an international, world-wide political objective.

One might say that the emphasis on the sense of belonging and the – however social –  national state skirts uncomfortably close to sovereigntism. It is worth noting that reviews of Merci Patron state that it is “critical of the practice of outsourcing French jobs to foreign labour.” specifically a factory relocation to Poland.

As Lordon says of the Euro,

La souveraineté, non comme talisman, mais comme condition de possibilité de toute politique progressiste — car répétons-le : la sortie de l’euro n’est jamais qu’une condition nécessaire, et certainement pas suffisante

Sovereignty, not as a talisman, but a condition for the possibility of any progressive policies – because, we repeat, leaving the Euro, is only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one….

In these circumstances in July 2015 (La gauche et l’euro : liquider, reconstruire) he cited Owen Jones, and backed a stand which he claimed (before Owen’s turn to backing remaining in the European Union), the,

l’idée du Lexit (Left-Exit). Ça n’est plus tel ou tel pays qu’il faut faire sortir de l’euro : c’est la gauche elle-même.

The idea of Lexit (left-Exit). It’s not just such and such a country that has to come out of the Euro, but the Left itself.

Sure….. (1)

*****

(1) For those who read French: theoretical and highly abstract demolition of Imperium : Quelques remarques sur la philosophie de Frédéric Lordon Bruno Amable et Stefano Palombarini  is offered here.

L’État général prend de nos jours la forme de l’État-nation ; et l’affect commun correspondant est l’appartenance nationale. Ces deux affirmations (peu fondées théoriquement) conduisent FL à minorer l’importance des clivages et des rapports de forces sociaux à l’intérieur des frontières « statonationales ». Mais on voit bien le lien avec la vision des institutions proposée par Imperium : l’État capte la puissance de la multitude, et produit un corps politique qui tient sur la base du sentiment d’appartenance nationale. Les institutions découlent de l’État. Dans ce cadre, le conflit social est complètement neutralisé — l’affect « commun » est majoritaire, la construction institutionnelle est cohérente et le corps politique viable —, ou alors producteur de chaos : l’affect « commun » ne permet plus la viabilité d’un corps politique destiné à mourir (et à renaître sous d’autres formes : mais la forme même de l’État-nation sera alors destinée à disparaître). Cohérence institutionnelle et reproduction sociale, ou bien explosion du conflit, chaos et bouleversement complet des structures sociales. Il n’y a pas de place, dans ce cadre théorique, pour le conflit et le compromis comme sources des changements institutionnels qui accompagnent la vie d’une société et le développement d’un État. Nous avons aussi signalé que FL a le plus grand mal à analyser les rapports entre État et capital sans faire violence à son propre cadre théorique. Et on comprend pourquoi : le capital a bien impulsé des changements majeurs non seulement dans l’architecture institutionnelle mais dans les formes mêmes de l’intervention étatique, sans besoin de rendre socialement minoritaire l’affect commun de l’appartenance nationale, et sans produire le chaos qui accompagnerait la mort des corps politiques « statonationaux ».

Mais les changements institutionnels qui caractérisent la réalité concrète dans laquelle nous vivons ne sont pas l’objet central d’Imperium, qui s’intéresse bien davantage au contenu d’une perspective « révolutionnaire » bien particulière. Celle qui consisterait non pas à renverser les rapports de domination sociale existants, mais à marcher (difficilement et éternellement) vers le règne de la raison, dans lequel les hommes « règlent leurs désirs et leurs comportements sur ce qui ne peut rien produire d’autre que leur concorde ». Idéalement donc, plus de pouvoir ni d’institutions. Cet idéal — nous dit FL — est inatteignable, mais on peut s’en rapprocher en choisissant les « bonnes » institutions. De façon là encore assez étonnante, FL indique dans les « institutions de la science qui contraignent les scientifiques à la vertu scientifique, au moins autant que leur désir propre de la vérité scientifique » un modèle à imiter : « la vertu devient l’objet d’une politique des institutions bien agencées » (p. 306). Il ne s’agit donc pas de lutter pour des institutions correspondant à des rapports de forces différents, à une modification de la frontière dominants/dominés, mais de sélectionner les institutions sur la base de leur teneur d’universalité, de leur capacité à créer un environnement favorable au développement de la raison : les « bonnes » institutions sont celles qui nous déterminent à la « vertu ».

 To summarise, the critics consider the assertion that the affects (that is attachments hooked ultimately to the concept of conatus ) to the nation are primal, and the national locus of institutions, create a feeling of national identity, obscures internal social conflicts in states  and the place of conflict (agonistic, that is intellectual and political,  or social) in how states are created a condensations of conflict (class struggle).

Critics of the use of Spinoza in social theory would observe that this may be traced to an ontology grounded on ‘monist substance and the  absence of a concept of real oppositions and contradictions in the social fabric.

The ideal of ‘virtue’ animating this approach is particularly empty (second paragraph).

More: Au fait, que défend Frédéric Lordon ?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2016 at 10:23 am

Badiou: Sokal Style Spoof (Canular) of Badiou Studies Hits Le Monde.

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Badiou: raves against ‘Machinations’ Behind Spoof of his Oeuvre. 

Alain Badiou et le réveil de la farce (1) was published over a full page in Le Monde des ideés yesterday (full article only available on-line to subscribers)

It explores the amusing – we are still laughing – hoax carried out on the prestigious Badiou Studies by two genial pranksters  Philippe Huneman and Anouk Barberousse (see:  Un « philosophe français » label rouge. Relecture tripodienne d’Alain Badiou).

Mediapart, reports Badiou being struck by  « l’ignorance totale de [son] œuvre que révèlent les manœuvres de deux ratés de la philosophie qui s’égarent dans leurs minuscules machinations » – the complete ignorance displayed in this work, which revealed the manoeuvres of two philosophical failures engaged in nanoscopic machinations.

The Le Monde article cites one reaction: that the jape was a way of avoiding a serious debate on Badiou’s august philosophy.

It would indeed be a mighty task to do so, but the parody was targeted at the respectful attention ‘cultural studies’ (as Le Monde puts it) gives to anything spread with enough of Badiou’s speculations.

We will simply ask: by what ‘truth procedure” can  anybody impose as a “grid” this ontology, as cited by the admirable Retraction Watch)?

Sets are what gendering processes by reactionary institutions intend to hold, in contradiction to the status of the multiplicities proper to each subject qua subject. This tension between subjectivity and gender comes to the fore through the lens of the ‘count-as-one’, the ontological operator identified by Badiou as the fluid mediator between set-belonging and set-existence. After having specified these ontological preliminaries, this paper will show that the genuine subject of feminism is the “many” that is negatively referred to through the “count-as-one” posited by the gendering of “the” woman.

Badiou is said to have originated his ideas in Althusser’s anti-humanism.

So, regardless of his later use of set-theory (rather than, say Athusser’s ‘Spinozist’ monist ontology of substance) it is “useful” (quotation marks) to ask in what sense is there a “theoretical practice” at work? What  raw material do Badiou and his acolytes employ? Or to put is more clearly: what are their ’empirical’ (more quotation marks) material – their data?

The underlying impression is that Badiou uses a picture of who the world is structured – the ground of existence – which comes from his own head. Assuming that he is not a new Pythagoras and sees numbers in stones and stars (and perhaps refuses to eat beans) one would like to know how this theory relates to the central aspect of Badiou’s politics: not the structures of Events (though we would like to know how their uniqueness is more unforeseeable hapexes, (that is wholly new occurrences, from apparently ‘nowhere’) that is Humean aetiology), but how set theory operates in history, and in the Idea.

Badiou’s “‘pure doctrine of the multiple” (with very obvious echoes of Mao-Tse-Tung’s writings on ‘Dialectics’) presents exactly the problems – that it can be simply imposed on material – that the parody of  Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non) Being (Benedetta Tripodi) was designed to illustrate.

That is, a group of ideas that can be spread without any rigour or regard to reality, in an academic text which ‘consecrates’ the authority of the Master, Badiou.

In case anybody does not believe that  Badiou’s ideas are deeply problematic see the Wikipedia entry.

Badiou uses the axioms of Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory to identify the relationship of being to history, Nature, the State, and God. Most significantly this use means that (as with set theory) there is a strict prohibition on self-belonging; a set cannot contain or belong to itself. This results from the axiom of foundation – or the axiom of regularity – which enacts such a prohibition (cf. p. 190 in Being and Event).

..

These sets are, in line with constructible ontology, relative to one’s being-in-the-world and one’s being in language (where sets and concepts, such as the concept ‘humanity’, get their names). However, he continues, the dominations themselves are, whilst being relative concepts, not necessarily intrinsic to language and constructible thought; rather one can axiomatically define a domination – in the terms of mathematical ontology – as a set of conditions such that any condition outside the domination is dominated by at least one term inside the domination. One does not necessarily need to refer to constructible language to conceive of a ‘set of dominations’, which he refers to as the indiscernible set, or the generic set. It is therefore, he continues, possible to think beyond the strictures of the relativistic constructible universe of language, by a process Cohen calls forcing. And he concludes in following that while ontology can mark out a space for an inhabitant of the constructible situation to decide upon the indiscernible, it falls to the subject – about which the ontological situation cannot comment – to nominate this indiscernible, this generic point; and thus nominate, and give name to, the undecidable event. Badiou thereby marks out a philosophy by which to refute the apparent relativism or apoliticism in post-structuralist thought.

Let us jump from this can ask: how can we ‘decide upon the undecidable event’, tied by a kind of Sartrean commitment (fidelity)  to the supreme Events of Communism?  What indeed are the Events in question, their concrete structures which leave such deep traces that the furnish the material for his “hypotheses” – of Communism?

In the extremely clear dialogue in Que faire ? Dialogue sur le communisme, le capitalisme et l’avenir de la démocratie, d’Alain Badiou et Marcel Gauchet, (Philosophie Editions 2014) All the set theory, all the set of dominations, all the generic sets, fall away. Badiou simply repeats that, er well, the Revolution and specifically the Chinese Cultural Revolution (given or take some minor quibbles about this or that decision taken at the time), remains a fixed point of reference and hope for Communism.

Since many would strongly dispute that the Cultural Revolution was a Communist Event, the basis on which he elaborates his “communist hypothesis”.  That by contrast it was created by a faction fight between various  nationalist and Stalinist bureaucrats , and the highly dubious ‘communist’ Mao, Badiou has to answer on the terrain of History. As illustrated at length in the writings of  Pierre Ryckmans (28 September 1935 – 11 August 2014), who also used the pen-name Simon Leys, and who had an enormous effect on the European radical left in the 1970s, though apparently not on Badiou. (1)

A settling of accounts with that blood-stained History is something Badiou has never done.

All he can do is to repeat, when presented with these and other facts, is  that, “la démocratie, sous sa forme parlementaire, interdit tout changement d’ampleur ” – parliamentary democracy banishes all form of substantive change.”

Many leftists would not see the commands of the Great Helmsman as an alternative to democracy tout court.

Anouk Barberousse and  Philippe Huneman are therefore right to highlight the abstract absurdity of a system based on a system based on an ontological  system.

If anything they are too kind about Badiou’s groupuscule’s past.

The second comment in the article comes from le Monde’s  Julie Clarini. She asks whether the hoax is not part of a fight within the radical left (gauche radicale).

Indeed it is – here. Badiou decides on the ‘Event’ of the cultural revolution. His practice (which Wikipedia registers only in his ephemeral L’organisation politique) goes back to the subject of this Blog post below – not to mention the Tendance’s own political background as a Marxist and leftist opponent of the kind of ‘Maoism’ Badiou stood for.

*****

(1) Laurent Joffrin, (Libération) with whom we do not always agree, probably almost never agree with,  makes this salient summary of this appalling position,

On se permettra donc de rappeler, sur le même ton de légèreté, que cet amusant «bond en avant», lancé par Mao pour mettre en œuvre son «hypothèse communiste», a déclenché l’une des plus terribles famines que la Chine ait jamais connues, pendant laquelle, sans doute pour se donner un air d’anticonformisme révolutionnaire, les familles affamées mangeaient des écorces, des rideaux ou des excréments et, dans certains cas, encore plus distrayants, mangeaient leurs jeunes enfants pour survivre. Au total, on estime que la politique de Mao à cette époque a causé la mort de plus de vingt millions de personnes, sur lesquelles on passera rapidement dans le souci de ne pas gâcher l’ambiance. Comme le dit Badiou en parlant de Mao et de son régime, «les caricatures sont tellement faciles».

Put briefly Laurent remarks that the jolly old Great Leap Forward alone resulted in intense suffering and countless millions of deaths.

 So here is a look at the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ past of Badiou:

Badiou: Deleuze, Guattari and the ‘fascisme de la pomme de terre’.

Guattari and the ‘fascisme de la pomme de terre’.

Alain Badiou’s political philosophy is, apparently, grounded on singular situated truths and potential revolutions. Fidelity to the invariant truth is a matter of procedure. What he calls an ‘Idea’’ has three basic elements, “a truth procedure, a belonging to history and individual subjectivation”. Authenticity, we might say were we admirers of Sartre’s philosophy, hangs in there.

This has a range (to put it as its most modest) of applications. But Badiou is best known for his politics (which are not renowned for their modesty).

On the Chinese ‘Cultural Revolution’, the professor has aroused controversy time and time again by giving a positive, glowing, account (“at any rate from 1965 to 1968” although he does not give the exact day of the week in this time-span) of this “political truth”. (1) These have had local, indeed spatial, moorings, no doubt, for example, in Maoist re-education camps as well as some time in Shanghai. There is the also the possibility of becoming a “militant for the truth”, perhaps, one might hazard, exemplified in the acts of the Union des communistes de France (marxiste-léninistes), the UJM (M-L) founded in 1969 by Alain Badiou and others whose names, sadly or not, few can recall or care about.

On the issue of Communism the professor has declaimed that the “Idea of communism, subjectivation constituted the link between the local belonging to a political procedure and the huge forward march towards its collective emancipation. To give out a flyer in a marketplace was also to mount the stage of History” (2) In the light of, er, recent and not so recent events, Badiou is not enthusiastic about the State’s ability to deliver Communism. A True Communist Event occurs only when it is “subtracted from the power of the State. “ Yet he notes with pleasure that Mao “had begun” to deal with this issue, incarnated by Stalin, “in a number of his writings” – which Badiou has commented on “guided by the eternity of the True.” (3)

Alain Badiou is perhaps reticent, for reasons which will become apparent,  to mention that he too has mounted History’s stage. He too has experience of the “vigorous subjective existence of the communist hypothesis.” Indeed as Francis Dosse’s biography Gilles Deleuze Félix Guattari. Biographie Croisée (2009) illustrates in a fascinating snapshot, it was indeed “vigorous”.

In the journal of the UJM (M-L) Cahier Yénan (No 4. 1977) Badiou attacked the celebrated joint work of Deleuze and Guattari, L’anti-Œdipe as “vulgar moralisers”, and for ignoring the scientific teachings of Marxism-Leninism. The second piece under the pseudonym of Georges Peyrol, was titled, Le fascime de la pomme de terre. Badiou observed that the pair were “pre-fascists”. Badiou frothed at the metaphor of the “rhizome”, to grasp the tentacles of multiple being, the proliferation of social shoots (most celebrated in their Mille plateaux1980). The Ontologist detected a parallel with Lin Biao’s revisionism, the One that dived into Two, had subtly become the One that symbolised the Tyrant. (4)

Revisionists!Pre-Fascists! During the 1970s these words did not just hang in the air in the Vincennes campus where both Badiou and Deleuze taught. Tendance Coatesy has already recorded the history of the oh-so-sage Professor’s Maoist troops during that period. Their efforts to imitate the Shanghai Commune included their assaults on another ‘revisionist’, Maria Antonitta Macciocchi. In this instance a colleague ran the intimidation from the same department of philosophy.

At the beginning the hostile M-L claque’s presence ensured that the lectures ended early. Later they would try to disrupt Deleuze’s lectures by claiming that a student union meeting to back a workers’ struggle was being held; other times the more erudite mentioned the bogey-name of Nietzsche (Deleuze’s 1963 study on whom no doubt proving by its title alone proof of serious pre-fascism). The admirers of the Little Red Book also assailed others, Jean-François Lyotard, and François Châtelet.

The stunts of the little band of Badiou’s Marxist-Leninists petered out as the decade proceeded. That has its own history, one which awaits Badiou to tell with anything resembling the truth.

When Deleuze passed away in 1995, Badiou, Dosse recounts, gave him a “vibrant homage.” He considered himself a “worthy successor” of Deleuze in his present Chair, on condition that one read him in the light of the “bonne philosophie” (the right philosophy). According to Dosse Badiou revealed that in 1991 he had proposed to Delueze to hold a public exchange of views (at the time when one of the Deleuze’s best-known works, What is Philosophy, was published). This was refused but as the resulting correspondence, giving reasons for this refusal, was apparently important. He equally refused to let this be published, which left Badiou with material he could not render public.

The book which did get to the printers, is Badiou’s, Delueze. La Clameur de l’Être (1997). It no doubt interests those fascinated by the obscurity of a (until very recent) apologist for the Khmer Rouge, and a conformed admirer of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. What rankles Dosse is that Badiou baldly repeats a much earlier idea: that Deleuze’s philosophy centres on the ONE, “C’est la venue de l’Un, renommé par Delueze l’Un-tout, que se consacre, dans sa plus haute destination, la pensée.” (5) In other words, he repeated, at the core of this ‘study’  the ridiculous claims he made back in the days of Cahier Yénan dressed up in more elliptical and pretentious language. He further – we note ourselves –  charged that Deleuze was something of a Stoic – which to many people has more than w whiff of his old ‘cultural revolution’ or more exactly Gang of Four  thinking about attacking ‘Confucius’.

Still, at least he didn’t call him once more a ‘pre-fascist’.

That’s Badiou for fidelity, hein?

*****

(1) Page 2. The Idea of Communism. Alain Badiou. In The Idea of Communism. Edited Costas Douzinas & Slavoj Žižek. Verso. 2010. (2) Page 4. Badiou. Op cit. (3) Page 10.  Badiou. Op cit. (4) Pages 432 – 434. Francis Dosse Gilles Deleuze Félix Guattari. Biographie Croisée La Découverte. 2009 (5) Page 435. Dosse Op cit.

Everything (mostly) that you wanted to know about the politics of the fraud Badiou here: Révolution culturelle : Alain Badiou, le Grand Prestidigitateur.CLAUDE HUDELOT

This is worth noting, although it includes a link to Badiou’s evasive responses, Editor Calls Badiou a “Frozen Dinosaur”

Badiou is no stranger to Maoist militancy of his own. When he worked at the same university as Gilles Deleuze, he declared Deleuze an “enemy of the people” and would bring groups of fellow Maoists to disrupt the class.

About 12 years ago I wrote a lengthy critique of Badiou’s Ethics and his tendentious claims about the universalism of Saint Paul.  Unfortunately it’s in a format I can’t Blog with. But believe me, there is a more, a lot more, to say…

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 10, 2016 at 11:15 am

Guardian Smears Charlie Hebdo – again.

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Guardian and its like have never pardoned French secularist satire.

After the Charlie Hebdo/hypercacher slaughter The Guardian could just not wait to spit on the corpses of the dead.

Seamus Milne, former Comments Editor at the paper, (now something to do with the Labour Party) stated of its cartoons, “This wasn’t just “depictions” of the prophet, but repeated pornographic humiliation.” Milne put the blame for the attacks down to Western policy in the Middle East and the ‘war on terror’.

This is their angle during the present week:

How did Charlie Hebdo get it so wrong?

In blaming all followers of Islam for terrorism, the French magazine is finding its catharsis in bigotry.

The editorial then laid the blame squarely on two factors – the complicity of the average, unaffiliated Muslim, and the erosion of secularism by a conspiracy of silence. Terrorism was fomented, it said, and people died because society could not voice discomfort at the many little “iceberg tips” of religious expression that had cumulatively eroded laïcité – the secularism written into the French constitution. Terrorism happened, in short, because freedom of speech was curbed.

The editorial gives credence and sanction to the view that there is no such thing as an innocent Muslim. That even those who do not themselves commit terrorism, somehow by just existing and practising, are part of a continuum that climaxes with two men blowing themselves up in Brussels airport.

I assume Malik is not a French speaker, or she would have read that the  Editorial – in the original – was signed by Riss, somebody not held in universally high regard in secularist left quarters.

That is to say, it’s more what English speaking journalists  would call an “Op-Ed”, an opinion piece,  than an authoritative statement of the weekly’s views.

It is also translated into what one can only call an “approximate” English; a task in any case facing difficulties for Riss’s highly colloquial style. (1)

The English title reads, How did we end up here?

The French reads: Qu’est-ce que je fous là ? – which most would agree is somewhat different to the former.

Riss asks, after the Brussels attacks,

In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale. Our noses are endlessly rubbed in the rubble of Brussels airport and in the flickering candles amongst the bouquets of flowers on the pavements. All the while, no one notices what’s going on in Saint-German-en-Laye. Last week, Sciences-Po* welcomed Tariq Ramadan. He’s a teacher, so it’s not inappropriate. He came to speak of his specialist subject, Islam, which is also his religion. Rather like lecture by a Professor of Pies who is also a pie-maker. Thus judge and contestant both.

I assume the Guardian has no French speaking journalists, or at least those that follow French politics.

Ramadan, who “puts himself forward as a man of dialogue, someone open to a debate” has hit the French news recently (19th of March) because of this:

Tariq Ramadan reconnait avoir rejoint l’Union mondiale des savants musulmans (UMSM)*.  Une organisation sur la liste des organisations terroristes des Emirats Arabes Unis. L’Union mondiale des savants musulmans est dirigé par le sulfureux théologien des Frères Musulmans : Youssef Al Qaradawi.

L’homme, recherché par Interpol, est un « savant » antisémite, homophobe, auteur d’une fatwa autorisant à mener des attentats suicide. Une fatwa que l’on retrouve sur plusieurs sites du Hamas. Youssef Al Qaradawi a aussi réclamé la destruction de mausolées chiites et  justifié l’assassinat de personnalités comme Mouammar Kadhafi  et Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan has admitted having joined the International Union of Muslim Scholars. This organisation is on the Arab Emirates List of terrorist organisations. It is run by the Muslim Brotherhood theologian Youssef Al Qaradawi.

This man, wanted by Interpol, is a ‘scholar’, who is anti semitic and homophobic. Qaradawi is the author of a Fatwa authorising suicide bombings – found on many Hamas sites. He has also called for the destruction of Shiite Mausoleums and justified the killings of Gadafi and Saïd Ramadan Al Boutih.

Tariq Ramadan fait enfin son « coming out ».

The controversy over whether one should debate with this figure – in view of the above facts about his racist far-right links, has been stormy.

This appeared a couple of days ago:

Le Monde: « Accepter le débat avec Tariq Ramadan ne signifie pas être d’accord avec lui »

As for blaming the ‘average Muslim’ for genocidal terrorism I find no evidence in Riss’ article.

What he does do, and in a highly questionable way, is to place the spread of cultural Islam – with all its intolerance and attempts to impose its ‘law’ on everyday life, alongside the fact of the killings.

“From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. ”

The device of citing anecdotes about bakeries and the Burka in the context of murder is more than doubtful:.

It is precisely the kind of ranting which prevents secularist opposition to the religious imposition of veiling  (a declaration of ‘purity’ against the ‘impure’) getting a hearing.

But that is Riss, and a good reason why his thoughts are not treated with seriousness that the Guardian and like-minded mates  claim for it.

Another Guardian article by their ‘religious correspondent Harriet Sherwood (Charlie Hebdo criticised for linking all Muslims to Brussels bombings) lists their manufactured outrage.

As Sarah Brown  says,

I was looking again at the possibilities I started out with and thought I should make clear that I don’t think this is ‘an attack on all Muslims as potential fifth columnists’. Some have been saying it as good as paints all Muslims as terrorists and that’s clearly not the case.

To repeat, Riss puts alongside these observations, he does not link them in a causal chain.

Mailk concludes,

The magazine characterises its mission as war with a “silencing” establishment, and sees only one way to prevail: more freedom of expression, more secularism. But its thesis needs to be challenged. Is this silenced, hesitant, subdued France that Hebdo describes the country in which a minister called women in hijab “negroes who accept slavery”? If that is too timid, what would it propose: banning hijabs, banning beards?

To employ Hebdo’s own concluding rhetorical device, let us ask “the world’s oldest and most important question”: how the hell did we end up here? Imagine being that liberal, energised by the moral certainty of your secularism, sustained by belief in the supremacy of your values and righteous indignation. Mightn’t you ask yourself: how the hell did I end up here, advocating bigotry and prejudice?

Perhaps Malik might care to make some observations about the bigotry and prejudice of the scholarly  organisation the eminent Oxford Professor, Tariq Ramadan has recently joined?

But, no, silence.

The Guardian one notes does not exactly open its pages to defenders of Charlie Hebdo either.

 (1) This is today’s example of the ‘English’ version of the Editorial:

This week’s big debate was about the reality of Salah Abdeslam’s perpetuity. About his eventual sentence. Whether ‘life’ was going to mean life. A wind of panic swept over some of us when we realised that the possibility of a life sentence (that most perpetual of perpetuities) was not quite ‘real’ because, in the normal course of things, after a few decades of imprisonment, there was a chance that he might be released.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Nuit Debout: Is France Finally to Have a Spanish ‘Indignados’ Movement?

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On Lâche Rien!

Several thousand people launched an occupation of the place de la République, Paris, at the end of Thursday’s  demonstration against the new labour law. The group, Convergences des luttes (converge of struggles) was behind the initiative. Up to 4,000 people were present at the height of the protest.

The left weekly, Politis, says it’s the birth of a new, unprecedented, movement (Nuit debout», acte de naissance d’un mouvement inédit).#

A statement read to the crowd from the philosopher and economist Frédéric Lordon observes,

Il est possible que l’on soit en train de faire quelque chose. Le pouvoir tolère nos luttes lorsqu’elles sont locales, sectorielles, dispersées et revendicatives. Pas de bol pour lui, aujourd’hui nous changeons les règles du jeu. En donnant au capital des marges de manœuvre sans précédent, cette loi est génératrice de la violence néolibérale qui frappe désormais indistinctement toutes les catégories du salariat et, par là, les pousse à redécouvrir ce qu’elles ont en commun : la condition salariale même.

It’s possible that we are in the middle of doing something. Those in power tolerate our struggles when they are local, by a particular social or employee group, separated, around specific demands. Today they have run out of luck: we are changing the rules of the game. Giving capital unprecedented freedom, this (labour) law creates neo-liberal violence which will henceforth hit every type of employees, and for that reason, pushes workers to discover the thing they have in common: the condition of being a wage-earner.

Le Monde asks if this is the first step towards a movement, which many compare to the Spanish ‘indignados’ (the indignant) which gave rise to Podemos,  that the supporters dream will sweep the country.

The occupiers took decisions on the basis of a 80% majority of support for motions (that is, not “consensus” model that bedevilled the Occupy movement).

A key proposal is to draw up, cahiers de doléances,  the lists of grievances that preceded the French Revolution. They hope to spread the movement across France.

This morning the CRS removed 500 occupiers from the Square.

Est-ce l’amorce d’un mouvement qu’ils rêveraient « lame de fond » ou peut-être « déferlante » ? Est-ce l’annonce d’un « sursaut citoyen » qui mettrait dans la rue des Français de toutes conditions avides de protester et débattre, en criant leur défiance abyssale envers leurs élus et envers un système ? Est-ce le prélude d’un processus dit « révolutionnaire » ?

Whether they carry the “wind of revolution”, as one participant stated, remains to be seen.

The Tendance’s favourite recent French left group, HK et les Saltimbanques, sang.

We wish the young comrades well!

This music really sums up the wrongs of the world and how to fight back.

More here: «Nuit debout» : expulsés à l’aube.

A NUIT DEBOUT NE SE COUCHERA PAS !

Le 31 nous ne sommes pas rentrés chez nous après la manifestation.

Au plus fort de la nuit, nous étions plus de 4 000 Place de la République.

Concerts, débats citoyens et projections ont ponctué cette nuit qui s’est déroulée sous les hospices de la bienveillance et de la fraternité.

Mais à 5h45, la police a encerclé notre rassemblement pacifique, et maîtrisé jusqu’au bout, avant de nous contraindre à quitter les lieux manu militari et sans explication.

Nous nous insurgeons contre cette violence injustifiée étant donné la légalité absolue de notre occupation de la Place.

Nous appelons dès aujourd’hui, toutes les forces progressistes à rejoindre et amplifier ce mouvement en nous rassemblant à nouveau Place de La République dès maintenant ce 1er avril et jusqu’à dimanche soir au moins.

Une assemblée générale est prévue vers 17h. Et ce soir des débats et de la musique encore…

Vendredi 1er avril depuis la Place de la République

NUIT DEBOUT

France: Day of Action against ‘Reform’ of Labour Laws.

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13h05, les étudiants en marche derrière les syndicats, s'engagent sur le boulevard de l'Hôpital.

Libération reports that over 200 marches and protests have taken place in France today against the Valls’ government ‘reforms’ of labour law.

There was a strong presence of school and university students.

There have been violent incidents on the margins of the demonstrations.

France 24 says,

Clashes broke out on the streets of France on Thursday during fresh protests over labour reforms, as workers went on strike in protest against the planned changes to working conditions.

Some French train drivers, teachers and others were on strike, while a separate strike by air traffic controllers threatened travel chaos for thousands of passengers.

The industrial action has not affected Charles de Gaulle airport, although 20 percent of flights at Orly airport have been cancelled.

State railway company SNCF has warned of disruptions to national and regional train traffic. International lines to London and Brussels should not be affected.

The travel chaos resulted in more than 400 kilometres of tailbacks on motorways around the capital.

The Eiffel Tower is closed all day. The company operating the monument said in a statement that there were not enough staff to open the tower with “sufficient security and reception conditions”.

City clashes

Riot police flooded the streets and clashed with protesters in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, among 200 demonstrations expected across the country.

Police said around 10 people had been arrested in the capital, where demonstrators marched under banners reading, “We want better” and “A giant leap forward to the 19th century.”

The Socialist government is desperate to push through reforms to France’s controversial labour laws, billed as a last-gasp attempt to boost the flailing economy before next year’s presidential election.

But protests by unions and students turned violent last week, and demonstrators vowed an even bigger turnout on Thursday.

They are angry over plans to make it easier for struggling companies to fire workers, even though the reforms have already been diluted once in a bid to placate employers.

Hollande’s government was still reeling from his decision Wednesday to abandon constitutional changes that would have allowed dual nationals convicted of terrorism to be stripped of their French citizenship.

The measure had been derided as ineffective and divisive, including by left-wing rebels within the Socialist party – many of whom also oppose the labour reforms.

Note: the measure has been derided because it will weaken the rights of employees (see earlier detailed post on Tendance Coatesy: France Mass Protests: Unions and Students against ‘reform’ of the Code du travail, the “Loi Myriam El Khomri”. March the 9th) .

Communist Senators protest against the law today in the Senate:

Unemployment still rising

Already the least popular president in France’s modern history, François Hollande is seeing his numbers continue to fall, with another poll on Wednesday showing he would not even make it to a second-round run-off in a presidential election.

Hollande, 61, has vowed not to run again if he cannot cut the country’s stubbornly high unemployment figures – long hovering at around 10 percent – and he hoped the labour reforms would encourage firms to hire more staff.

But pressure from the street and parliament’s back benches caused the government to water down the proposals so that they apply only to large firms.

Some reform-minded unions have given their support to the changes, but last week’s demonstrations saw cars burned in Paris and more than 30 people arrested as protesters clashed with police, who responded with tear gas.

A recent opinion poll found that 58 percent of the French public still opposed the measures.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri said this week that she understood why “such a profoundly reformist text has raised questions and requires debate”, adding: “It is not a blank cheque for companies”.

Bosses are also unhappy, particularly over the removal of a cap on compensation paid for unfair dismissal, and the scrapping of plans that would have allowed small- and medium-sized companies to unilaterally introduce flexible working hours.

Parliament is set to vote on the reforms in late April or early May.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 31, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Review Article.

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Un Silence Religieux. La Gauche Face au Djihadisme. Jean Birnbaum. Seuil 2015.

 
“Quand on voudra s’occuper utilement du bonheur des hommes, c’est par les dieux du Ciel que la réforme doit commencer.”

When we wish to carry out some useful work for human happiness, reform will have to begin with the gods in the heavens.

D’ Holbach. Système de la nature. 1777. (1)

The Brussels killings, have “nothing to do with Islam” said the Belgian Muslim on Sky News on Saturday. Amongst the disarray that follows each atrocity, the dignified quiet of mourning, there is this statement, “It has nothing to do with Islam” – Jean Birnbaum cites the official, the specialist, the columnist, and the academic in France, as across the world. Charlie Hebdo, the Hyper-Cacher, the Bataclan, and now Brussels; the slaughters in the Middle East, North Africa, Nigeria, and so many elsewheres, have nothing to do with Islam. These are, we are informed, acts of terrorism, with ‘causes’, about which the interested will find a very long, very weighty, list. But one is stubbed out: religion, left in silence. Rien-à-voirisme, that is, “nothing to with-ism” is the response. Jihadism has nothing to do with Jihad.

The massacre in Lahore leaves us enveloped in the deepest of silences, the most profound sadness. But we have to listen. Jean Birnbaum asks, by what right does anybody have to deny the religious claims of the Jihadists? If members of Daesh are ever brought to the Hague Tribunal and judged for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity will the religious doctrines that order their lives and by which they destroy those of others, be ruled inadmissible evidence?

Birnbaum’s Un Silence Religieux is not an essay on the failings of politicians grappling with the need to avoid scapegoating religious minorities. It is not about the generous feelings of people who wish to show respect for the beliefs of Muslims. It is not against those who point out the faulty syllogisms of the hate mongers who assert that ‘all’ Muslims are Islamist Jihadist sympathisers because…they too are Muslims. It is not, to cite a daily reiteration of his point, about the BBC’s official “rien-à-voirisme” labelling the Islamic State “so-called”.

Un Silence Religieux, the Gauche Face au Djihadisme is a dissection of the French left’s failure to tackle the fact of the irruption of Islamic belief in politics and war. His charge is that the majority fail to deal with the power of religious faith, its “autonomous force” in the lives of the Jihadists, reinforced in rituals and in murder. That Islam far from being consigned to the past, is a “universalism” with its own political impact – Islamism – is hard to accept, he argues, for a French left that is incapable to taking religion seriously.

If French left-wingers, intellectuals and activists, are more likely to dismiss faith as reactionary than, say, the English-speaking left, there remain those who take the that there is a form of “rebellion” at work in Islamism, a – distorted – projection of social causes. For every reflection on the Middle East and Islamism itself, another immediately jumps out: on Europe’s Islamists, on Europe’s states, on the French Republic, and the Salafism of the housing estates. That is to follow Olivier Roy, an “Islamisation of radicalisation”, (l’islamisation de la radicalité) a ‘nihilist’ and ‘generational revolt by those uninterested in written doctrine. (Le Monde. 30.11.15). To look for the sources in the failings of the French Republic, Western foreign policy, to look everywhere but in religion, In short, to explain away the fact of faith, that “day after day” by prayer and ceremonies guides the Jihadists, animated by the “récits mythiques et les formes symboliques” that “orientent leur esprit” (Page 31).

For Birnbaum this “community of fate” is the only ideal in the world for which young people by tens of thousands are willing to risk their lives, “le combat en faveur du rétablissement du ‘califat.” (Page 186) That claim, for all the elegance, clarity and passions he puts into this landmark essay, as they say, se discute – that is, it is very very debatable.

Un Silence Religieux traces the French left’s refusal to come to terms with the force of religion in the anti-colonialist history of North Africa. The minority of the country that stood in support of the struggle for Algerian independence and against the vicious repression of the French state was also marked by a tendency to remain silent about problems posed by the nationalist movement. Above all they treated the central role of Islam as “folklore”, the result of colonial underdevelopment that would disappear in the universalism and third-world socialism of the new society.

Four years after independence, in 1966, Pierre Maillot, closely involved in the conflict and its aftermath, sent an article criticising the Algerian programme of Arabisation and Islamisation to the ‘personalist’ left journal, Esprit. They accepted its truth, but judged it “inopportune” to publish.

Readers of the (colonial) Algerian raised Camus’ condemnation of all forms of blind terrorism, and those familiar with the section of the French left that backed the FLN’s opponents, led by Messali Hadj, and the small circulation writings of those who quickly denounced the new regime’s bureaucratic and repressive turn are familiar with some of the issues. But, as Claude Lanzmann recalls, having been overwhelmed by the necessity to defend the fight for independence against French repression and torture, the majority of the anti-colonial left was not about to denounce the efforts of the independent nation to create a new society.

One result, as Birnbaum states, was that nobody singled out the project that Maillot and a few others tried in vain to signal, the “arabo-islamisme” of the majority of those fighting against the occupiers, and the FLN’s determination to make Islam the centre of national life. Those critical of the new government concentrated their fire on these issues, and the emerging bureaucracy In Socialisme ou Barbarie, Jean François Lyotard warned in 1963 immediately after independence of the economic difficulties facing an underdeveloped country and a regime empty of democratic political life which began with populist slogans, including Ben Bella’s simultaneous railing against “cosmopolitanism” and calls for an Islam freed from “superstition”. Even the anti-totalitarian Claude Lefort, warning in the same year of the dangers of One-Party rule, considered the issue of secularism and Islamism to be a diversion from the economic – agricultural – and social problems of the country. (2)

Birnbaum argues that the legacy of this stand has indelibly marked the French left. The view that Islam is a religion of the “dominated” served to explain away the dominance of religious themes in the anti-imperialist Algerian struggle, to make it seem as if it was vehicle of revolt, and to conceal the autonomous importance of religious fervour. This had a long afterlife. In the 1980s Ahmed Ben Bella, the emblematic figure of the revolution deposed by the 1965 Boumédienne coup, was inspired by the Iranian example and became a fervent Islamist. An Arab nationalist (with all the problems that creates in a country with a strong Berber minority) he came to pronounce that Islamism was the “only authentic revolt against the economic and cultural domination of the West.” (Page 96) Freed from Maghreb detention he put his ideas into action, and, within a few years, founded an Islamist party opposed to the Algerian one-party state. Bella’s former comrades on the French left – and here I am speaking from direct experience – excused the turn. Asked if there was room for atheists in his version of the Islamic society when his template theocracy murdered non-believers it was said that a follower of Das Kapital could be considered one of the People of the Book.

It is hard, however, not to consider that the attitude of the French left towards Islam, like other European lefts, has been influenced by much wider considerations. The Bolsheviks, we learn from the Socialist Workers Party, tried in their early years to win Muslims to socialism. The early Comintern responded favourably to Pan-Islamism, as an anti-imperialist force. No less an authority than J.V. Stalin, supported the fight of the Emir of Afghanistan for independence, since his struggle “weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.” If Trotsky’s assertion that, “the rule of Islam, of the old prejudices, beliefs and customs ……these will more and more turn to dust and ashes” was not fulfilled the tradition of supporting any movement which saps imperialist power was established. It has endured. If the principle that undergirded the strategy, that all these movements were part of the era of revolutions which would produce, sooner or later, the “transition” to socialism and a communist mode of production, has become threadbare there are still many on the left, in France and across the world, who remain trapped within its premises. (3)

From Foucault to Harman.

In this respect Birnbaum offers two contrasting accounts of the relation between Islam and revolution. The first is a sympathetic (some would say, unduly so) account of Michael Foucault’s writings on the late seventies Iranian Revolution. Foucault, we learn, was struck both by the originality of this revolt, a people united in a “ collective will” without – apparently – a vanguard – and by its originality, that is, its ‘political spirituality”. He remained, Birnbaum assures us, suspicious of “power”.

At the time Maxime Rodinson discerned the potential in the clerics for the totalitarian exercise of that power in the Iranian movement. If he charged Foucault with ignorance about the ambitions already apparent in Islamism, from the Moslem Brotherhood onwards, others have questioned the ‘anti-modernist’ project itself. In a comprehensive study of these writings, Janet Afray and Kevin Anderson (Foucault and the Iranian Revolution. 2005) ask ““Did not a post-structuralist, leftist discourse, which spent all of its energy opposing the secular liberal or authoritarian modem state and its institutions, leave the door wide open to an uncritical stance toward Islamism and other socially retrogressive movements, especially when, as in Iran, they formed a pole of opposition to an authoritarian state and the global political and economic order?” (4)

Foucault was no doubt right about the importance of the Iranian Revolution and its long-lasting effects. The evidence for that legacy is there to read on the left. Alistair Crooke’s claim that “The key event that emerge from the Islamist revolution has been the freeing of thinking from its long tutelage to the tyranny of instrumentalism” may be more muted today. Judith Butler’s claim that the Burka represents a form of oppositional spirituality to the Western gaze, follows Foucault in ignoring the struggle of Iranian feminists against the veil. For Butler the March 1979 enforcement of the Muslim dress code to cries of “You will cover yourselves or be beaten” is invisible as well. Such indeed is the autonomous power of Islamist spiritual ideology. (5)

Birnbaum then delves into Chris Harman’s The Prophet and the Proletariat (1994) for a less exalted view of Islamic revolution. Harman, a leader of the “puissant” (powerful – yes….see Page 148) Socialist Workers Party recognised the importance of the Iranian revolution. A polemic against those who considered the Islamists ‘fascists’., and those who were prepared to directly align themselves with Iran against imperialism, Harman’ account, notably of the Algerian government’s own role in encouraging ‘moderate’ Islamism in the 1970s and early 1980s, indicates the realism of the text. To Harman the class character of diverse Islamist movements, in the petty bourgeoisie, amongst ‘new exploiters’, went without any fascist ambitions to attack the workers’ movement. He noted (see J.V. Stalin, above), “the destabilising effect of the movements on capital’s interests right across the Middle East.” Their main fault in this respect was not being anti-imperialist enough; their petty bourgeois utopia envisaged justice without challenging capitalism.

Harman stated, that this, “utopia” emanating from an impoverished section of the new middle class. As with any

“petty bourgeois utopia” its supporters are, in practice, faced with a choice between heroic but futile attempts to impose it in opposition to those who run existing society, or compromising with them, providing an ideological veneer to continuing oppression and exploitation. It is this that leads inevitably to splits between a radical, terrorist wing of Islamism on the one hand, and a reformist wing on the others. It is also this which leads some of the radicals to switch from using arms to try to bring about a society without “oppressors” to using them to impose “Islamic” forms of behaviour on individuals.“ (6)

In fact what Harman advocated was not a formal alliance with the Islamists ‘against the state’ but – sometimes – being on the “same side” against racism and against (see J.V. Stalin again) against imperialism. Always naturally involving discussion, and exposing the ‘contradictions” of the Islamists’ utopian ideas and trying to win them to “revolutionary socialism.” As Birnbaum observes, this was not only an “optimistic” belief, it also rests on the assumption that the “objective” course of history, the working out of economic laws, favours the socialist left. Given the SWP’s own self-belief in the creation of its party as a “tribune of the people”, is equally, Birnbaum accurately gauges, is tied to the much shakier claim that they would emerge as the principle voice and vehicle for the oppressed.

This is not the place to more than outline the collapse of this attempt to embrace the same constituency as the Islamists. Birnbaum does not cover the grotesque alliance that brought forth the shambles and shame of Respect, a party that claimed to represent ‘Muslims’, and the SWP’s work with its leader, George Galloway, now puttering around on Russia Today, railing against Europe. Nor does he cover the miasma that came from these quarters following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the British Je ne Suis pas Charlie, workshop organised by the ‘anti-racist’ movement, Unite Against Racism, from those who had barely heard of the Hebdo who knew, just knew, that they (and the Hypercacher victims?) had it coming to them. But Un Silence Religieux, well informed as ever, does cover the more limited attempts on the French left, in the shape of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) to reach out to Islam. The admirable Pierre Rousset’s comment that the NPA’s acceptance of a veiled candidate in Avignon that this was (see J.V.Stalin above) an alliance against the “main enemy” and an inability to take religion seriously. And yet, as Rousset has more recently remarked, for the veiled candidate, Ilham Moussaïd, the « le voile incarnait ce projet politique » (7)

These examples would appear to show that anything but the most transient and punctual joint-action between those engaged in politics on the basis of Islam and those engaged in politics as socialists – that is those who derive their principles from the supra-human and those who base them on the world – is bound to run aground. If the British left could oppose the invasion of Iraq in alliance with a variety of forces, including the Liberal Democrats, it is hard to see how this can endure into the Syrian conflict where even the most moderate Islamists have sympathies for …Islamists who wish to create an Islamic – moderate – state. And that is without confronting the issue of secularism in its broadest and weakest sense. No Islamist, by definition, can back the principle of freedom from religion in the running of the public sphere.

Marxism and Religion.

Are there deeper fault-lines within Marxism that have contributed to this failure to come to terms with the religious reality of Islamism? Birnbaum discusses Marx’s conjecture that faith, as an imaginary projection of social relations, will evaporate once a fully transparent, communist society is created. He spends some time on the equally speculative writings on the origin of the religious imaginary in human alienation, despair and hope for the future. The feeling that somehow, at is origin, that Christianity, and – once whispered – Islam was a form of ‘primitive communism’, or at least socialistic, views expressed with some verve by Karl Kautsky and repeated by many, from Rosa Luxemburg, to, Birnbaum discovers, Gramsci, may yet encourage a renewal of that famous “dialogue” between the left and the believers that clearly some hanker after. Knowledge of the exclusive nature of these early communities, not to mention the reign of Mohammed, do not encourage imitation amongst more than small circles. The history of utopian communities is riddled with factionalism and failure. Medieval and other apocalyptic revolts with their mass killings, and hysteria, may also be important moments of early class – peasant – class conflict – but they do not inspire modern supporters of the right not to believe.

But for Islamism that time has long passed. Birnbaum contrasts the hopes for a fully human world that animated the Spanish Internal Volunteers with the Jihadist refrain of Viva la muertre! (Page 213) The social relations that are turned upside down and projected in the visions of death that appear in the jihadist wish for the “end of the world” and a “good death” are perhaps the affair of specialists, who might trace them in Olivier Roy’s nihilism. They do not fit easily into the explanations of those who wish to uncover a Universalist society of equality – a religious utopia in Ernst Bloch’s sense – amongst those attracted to violent Islamism. What we see bears a strong resemblance to another of Foucault’s visions, a disciplinary society based on obsessive regulation of every gesture by the learned interpreters of the Qur’an, or their home-made improvised pretenders. A world in which every form of behaviour, every belief we hold in our hearts under surveillance – by the vice-regents of god – and corrected. Which is ruled by punishment, always punishment. And mortal cruelty. (8)

Birnbaum asks why the enthusiasm for Islam, which has led in the form of Daesh, to a “cruel violence” a hatred of modern Reason, in its different shapes, philosophical, Marxist, bourgeois or proletarian, inspires. The left, after the Fall of Official Communism, the triumph of capitalist economics and the predatory wars of the West, briefly came to life in the anti-, or ‘other-‘globalisation movements, which have faded. We are, in sum, confronted with not the end of the ‘grand narratives’ of the left, progress, emancipation, but at an impasse.

Shoulder to Shoulder.

In these conditions what remains? If we recognise “la force autonome de l’élan spirituel” we have made a step forward: ideology is a material practice. But is that all? The rationalist strain in Marxism, which owes something to d’Holbach, has tried to concentrate on exposing the ‘error’ of religion. Yet science, atheism, or simply rational explanation, has so far fared badly faced with ideology. Translating Reason into lived experience has always looked a formidable task. But now when a world-view so all-encompassing, enforced by a web of publishers, of ‘educational’ bodies, and Courts, state backed or not, and financed so generously by the twin arms of Islamic intolerance, Riyadh and Tehran exists how can this be confronted but by open political struggle? (9)

They are already engaged in inter-Muslim warfare. But outside, from the institutions down to the jihadist micro-powers, right up to the Islamic State itself in Syria and Iraq, another battle, ideological, and ultimately, physical, is taking place. New fault-lines are emerging. It is clear, and Birnbaum admirably contributes to the literature, that there are many in the Islamic world, including those who consider themselves good Muslims, who for love of the world and its people, promote democracy, human rights, and free-thought about religion. We are less sanguine than Birnbaum’s former teacher, and one-times supporter of the Gauche Prolétarienne, Christian Jambert, on the resources available inside Islamic philosophy that can continue to the spirit of liberty. Will they, as d’Holbach suggested, be able to reform the idea of god? Will we be able to attract widely for the secular cause of freedom? For the moment it is for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with these democrats. (10)

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(1) Page 67. D’Holbach. Premières oeuvres. Les Classiques du people. 1971.
(2) Albert Camus. Chroniques algériennes. 1939 – 1958. Gallimard. 2012. Pages 498 – 591 Claude Lanzmann. Le lièvre de Patagonie. Gallimard. 2009. Page. 56. Jean-François Lyotard: L’Algérie évacuée Socialisme our Barbarie. No 34. 1963. La Politique et la Pensée de la Politique. (Les letters nouvelles. 1963) Reprinted in: Sur un colonne absente. Claude Lefort. Gallimard. 1978.
(3) Page 75. J.V. Stalin. The Foundations of Leninism. Peking. 1970. Also available here, The Foundations of Leninism  THE NATIONAL QUESTIONLeon Trotsky: Perspectives and Tasks
in the East. 1924. C:\Documents and Settings\Compaq_Owner\Desktop\Temporary\Leon Trotsky Perspectives and Tasks in the East (1924).htm.
(4) Page 136. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution.. Gender and seduction. Janet Afray and Kevin B. Anderson University of Chicago. 2005.
(5) Resistance. The Essence of the Islamist Revolution. Alastair Crooke. Pluto Press.2009. For Judith Butler the Burka, “signifies belong-ness to a community and religion, a family, an extended history of kin relations, an exercise of modesty and pride, a protection against shame, and operates as well as a veil behind which, and through which, feminine agency can and does work.”(Page 142) It is related to the fear of “decimation of Islamic culture and the extension of US cultural assumptions about how sexuality and agency ought to be organised and represented,”(Page 142). The Precarious life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence, Judith Butler. Verso 2006
(6)  Chris Harman. The Prophet and the Proletariat.
(7) Pierre Rousset. Le NPA, sept ans après : projet, réalités, interrogations. January 2016. K:\Le NPA, sept ans après _ projet, réalités, interrogations – Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.html
(8) Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish. Penguin, 1991.
(9) Marx et la baron d’Holbach. Denis Lecompte. PUF. 1983.
(10) On the forces sustaining and dividing the power of Islamism see: Riddles of the Book. Suleiman Mourad. New Left Review. No 86. Second series. 2014. Christian Jambert. Q’est que la philosophie islamique. Folio. 2011.