Saturday, September 3, 2011

Zizek and Gaddafi: Al Jazeera gores both my oxes

This column on Al Jazeera caught my eye, being a Zizek cultist now for several years:

Zizek and Gaddafi: Living in the old world - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

What do the mediasoothsayers of Qatar object to?

The European philosopher has lost all hope: “Unfortunately, the Egyptian summer of 2011 will be remembered as marking the end of revolution, a time when its emancipatory potential was suffocated.”

“The end of revolution?” So early? So early in the game and so utterly has the European philosopher lost all hope. How did he come to that conclusion? “Its gravediggers are the army and the Islamists. The contours of the pact between the army (which is Mubarak’s army) and the Islamists (who were marginalized in the early months of the upheaval but are now gaining ground) are increasingly clear: the Islamists will tolerate the army’s material privileges and in exchange will secure ideological hegemony.”

While I would not put myself forward as Zizek's parish interpreter in NE Ohio, I think his bellwether quality could serve communists instructively on this whole question of the so-called Arab Spring. [What a wonderfully chauvinist and dismissively arrogant term, "Arab Spring." Particular rebellions in particular semi-colonial status in the Maghreb manage to throw out kleptomaniac capitalist rulers, and the imperial taste-makers congratulate the locals while re=shuffling the deck of dictatorship one more time.]

Arab Spring is the renewed ground zero of history, the sight of a world that is beginning to reveal itself, precisely at the moment when the European philosopher sees the world “worldless” because it is not his world - just like Colonel Gaddafi - a world in which he cannot imagine himself, for he has been imagining the world for everyone else. The Arab Spring is the opening horizons of a hope of emancipation, of a renewed reading of world, of worlds. But Zizek does not see it because this is not the world of his making, the visage and force of a world Hegel had delegated to pre-History, non-History. Zizek has already recited the obituary of the Arab Spring, while what appears as a worldless world to the European philosopher is a world he cannot fathom, as it is being inhabited by others he cannot not read.

bleats the Al Jazeera commentator. But what was this Arab Spring? A spontaneous revolt, primarily by youth, at the prospect of more austerity, brutalization, and zero horizons. The Arab Spring, to the extent that it has along-term revolutionary message, is different from the congratulatory bon mots being issued from cozy Qatar or MSNBC or a rainbow of think tanks in Washington and New York. It is this, and I think with his usual opacity, Zizek may have been getting to the edge of this pertinent question: without a revolutionary leadership for these struggles, developed from within the mass movement that gave them birth, there will be no revolutionary change within these states, and no march toward workers power to end the dictatorship of capital, the material basis for untold horrors rebellions always rise against.

[The fact that for such a misdemeanor the Al Jazeerans condemn him to Purgatory with Muammar Qaddafi is indicative of their own objective journalistic values, spring-like or otherwise.]

I was reminded of this when reading the excellent editorial produced by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) on the "UK Spring" uprising in August across that country. It made me realize that while such spontaneous rebellions have come before, the fact that they come and go is a register of several things: the brutality of capital and its state powers, the rebellious courage of young people, and the immaturity of working class leadership.

....Communists support and defend the oppressed when they rise up, but we have seen massive uprisings before, generally in the same communities as current events, for example in 1981 and 1985. But so long as capitalism remains in place, it continues inexorably to impoverish the working class; and overthrowing capitalism is impossible without conscious organisation for that purpose. So long as capitalism remains in place, the real gains of workers’ struggles, however magnificent, are transient and reversible – precisely why the events of previous years are being repeated today.

Communities certainly need to form themselves into self-defensive bodies to resist the police and other agents of bourgeois repression. But above all the working class needs its own general staff, which can lead not only in defensive struggles but also in the struggle to overthrow the increasingly criminal rule of the bourgeois class of heartless billionaires whose system treats the millions of working-class people as vermin.

This general staff can only be a communist party, guided by the science of Marxism Leninism: the accumulated wisdom of more than a century and a half of struggle by the working people of the whole world. The CPGB-ML is fighting to build such a party and welcomes class-conscious people to join its ranks. With your help, we can organise to enable the working class to seize power and build a new society where it is the interests of working-class people that will determine what we build and how we live, rather than the requirements of the rich to make profits.

The fact that communist party-building and leadership development in all but a few countries is currently reduced to the level of propaganda and individual recruitment does not alter the fact unless this work is done, and mass communist parties develop from it that are capable of taking power, workers and farmers everywhere will be consigned to the dead-end of various Springs every few decades, pragmatically reinventing and reinvesting the wheel.


  1. are you aware that this article was written by hamid dabashi, one of the leading professors at columbia university? your continuous gestures towards "qatar" and "bleating" aljazeera commentary proves your racist agenda. you strike me as little of a marxist, and instead an imprecise ideologue.

  2. steer clear of race-baiting if you want to be taken seriously; I know the pro-NATO-TNC source of the article I criticized.