Posts Tagged ‘Slavoj Žižek’

The horse we rode in on

August 26, 2013 9 comments

On July 5, I wrote the following to an old antiwar movement friend about events in Egypt:

Well, the military was badly burned by its experience of direct rule and happy to retreat into the background, provided they could preserve all their power and privilege–which the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] was happy to go along with so long as they could clamber into office. Morsi, the army, and the US had worked out a modus vivendi, but the MB fucked up, combining incompetence, lack of reform, and offensive power grabs. The felool (old regime supporters) conspired against Morsi from the beginning, but the Tamarod movement obviously struck a deep chord–the June 30 protests were truly gigantic. So I don’t think the military had this planned from the day one of the Morsi administration (although they obviously knew what was going to happen in advance, as evidenced by how smoothly they’ve staged things).

That said, I do think this is a coup–albeit one with popular support–and if the army has any brains, they will seize the opportunity to suppress not just the MB, but the society as a whole. (This is why they’re allowing violence to go on the boil, to intervene later as the “saviors of society.”) I suspect that the revolutionaries in Egypt made a very serious mistake in agitating for the overthrow of Morsi–not because he didn’t deserve to fall, but because only the army had the power to oust him and take control of the process. The revolutionaries either openly relied on the military and/or didn’t think things through, fooling themselves with the mythologies of “anti-power” and the notion that people can just keep overthrowing governments until a “good one” comes up. It’s Occupy politics taken to its most extreme and dangerous conclusions. The left should have formed a militant opposition, developed a program of deep reforms (a “transitional program” in the Trotskyist argot), and worked on building its institutional bases (political parties, intellectual/cultural centers, trade unions, etc). The left needed a long-term revolutionary strategy rather than a campaign to topple a government that would, if successful, inevitably result in military rule.

I hope I’m wrong.

Unfortunately, I was right. I quote myself from six weeks ago not to claim any peculiar powers of political prognostication; actually I claim quite the opposite: if I foresaw the development of things, it is only because their development was actually very easy to foresee. (I have quoted my entire original message, without adding or subtracting anything save the two words in square brackets.) I was open about my views and shared them with many comrades even before June 30, but I regret not writing about them publicly. I knew that I should have, but I chose not to because I felt that I lacked the “standing” to publicly criticize the Egyptian comrades; I was also, frankly, shy of the fight that it would have inevitably set off. That is a shabby attitude unworthy of Marxism.

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The spirit that negates

August 8, 2013 1 comment

What is constructive criticism? If you came up sometime in the last 40-odd years, you probably think it means something like: criticism that doesn’t make you an asshole. In other words, all legitimate criticism is necessarily constructive criticism. But if that’s the case, why not just call it criticism–why add the clunky prefix? It’s as if someone were trying to convince you that vegan nachos are the only form of nachos. And, like with vegan nachos, you might wonder if the unmodified version were not more satisfying altogether.

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It says nothing to me about my life

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I dislike commenting on Žižek as a rule because I feel that, no matter what I say, I’m bound to get in trouble with someone that I respect. When I praise him, some comrades think I’m nuts for liking this Lacano-Maoist whack-a-doo. When I trash him, it proves to different comrades that I’m just another dreadfully boring Trotskyite stick-in-the-mud. I suppose if I were a liberal, I would, like Obama, take the fact that I’m pissing everyone off as evidence that I’m doing the right thing. I can certainly see the comfort in that. But as Luther would have said, had he lived in the 21st century: “Here I blog; I can do no other.”

Žižek’s essay on the London riots has made a bit of a splash on the left, and it drew an unusually cranky reply from Marxmail’s Louis Proyect. Now those who are familiar with Proyect’s writings–which I like and recommend–will realize that an unusually cranky reply from Proyect is, like, preternaturally cranky. As in, like, declaring the latter half of the article sufficiently “flatulent” not to merit a reply. Hmm. It probably would have helped if Proyect realized that Žižek’s title was a joking reference to a Smiths song, not a programmatic statement. Or very possibly that would have made things worse. In any event, I actually thought the part Proyect passed over was the really interesting point.

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