Category Archives: defeat

Mitchell Abidor: “1968: When the Communist Party Stopped a French Revolution “

“1968 was the definitive proof, if such proof were still needed, that the Communist Party had no interest in seizing power through revolution. But it also demonstrated that in this, the PCF was the perfect image of the class it represented, and vice versa. Cornelius Castoriadis … wrote in an essay published during the events:

In France in May ’68 the industrial proletariat was not the revolutionary vanguard of society, but rather its ponderous rear guard. If the student movement attacked the heavens, what stuck society to earth… was the attitude of the proletariat, its passivity in regard to its leadership and the regime, its inertia, its indifference to everything that was not an economic demand.”

David Graeber: ” Why are world leaders backing this brutal attack against Kurdish Afrin?”

Afrin‘s “inhabitants had taken advantage of their peace and stability to develop the democratic principles embraced throughout the majority Kurdish regions of north Syria, known as Rojava. Local decisions were devolved to neighbourhood assemblies in which everyone could participate; other parts of Rojava insisted on strict gender parity, with every office having co-chairs, male and female, in Afrin, two-thirds of public offices are held by women. Today, this democratic experiment is the object of an entirely unprovoked attack”

Owen Holland: “‘What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents’: The Paris Commune and the Poetics of Martyrdom in the Fin de Siècle Socialist Print Culture”

“The problem of how to relate to, and retrospectively valorise, the Commune’s failure created a tension in the socialist periodical press between the motivational need to celebrate such a heroic defeat, in order to justify sacrifices both past and present, and the evaluative need critically to assess the reasons that underlay the defeat.”

Simon Callow: “How Wagner Tried to Revolutionize Art and End Capitalism”

Persuaded by Röckel’s arguments, he became increasingly radicalized, connecting his idealistic views of the position of art in society with Röckel’s vision of a world where the power of capital was annihilated, and class, position and family prejudices would disappear. In the new order, Röckel assured him, everybody would participate in labor according to their strength and capacity, work would cease to be a burden and would eventually assume a purely artistic character.”

Haleh Esfandiari: “Reform or Revolution? Iran’s Path to Democracy”

“Iran has often seemed to be on the brink of democracy. During the twentieth century, the country experienced three major political upheavals: … [They] all constituted a reaction to corruption, misrule, and autocracy. They all reflected the spread of literacy, the rising expectations of a growing middle class, and the impatience of a wealthy business community with official mismanagement. They were all characterized by an aspiration for some form of democratic government. Yet each time, that aspiration was disappointed. … In Democracy in Iran, Misagh Parsa examines why the forces of repression have always gained the upper hand over Iran’s democratic impulses and how democracy might eventually emerge in Iran. “

Daniela Mussi: “Awaiting an Alternative”

“We seem not to notice, even as we stand before so many attacks, the key problem of organizing a new collective will with the capacity to attract new hearts and minds in a time of crisis. Something is aging, its death fast approaches, without a new replacement that could carry the beauty of an effective and concrete political alternative. This has been the tragedy of the Brazilian left for some years.”

Despina Lalaki: “Charting Syriza’s swift rise and fall”

“Profoundly disappointed, not merely with the capitulation of the government but also its alienation from the party and the movements, Helena Sheehan [in The Syriza Wave: Surging and Crashing with the Greek Left (2016)] evaluates through her interviewees and discussants some of Syriza’s fault lines as well as the prospects of the Left’s recomposition, especially after the break of the left wing of Syriza and the large exodus of dissidents both from the government and the party.”

Susan Faludi: “The Patriarchs are Falling. The Patriarchy is Stronger than Ever.”

“Which leads me to wonder, if we get rid of a handful of Harveys [Weinsteins] while losing essential rights and protections for millions of women, are we really winning this thing? How is this female calamity happening in the midst of the Female Revolution? An answer may lie in a schism that has haunted women’s protest for 150 years.”

For an “affirmative melancholic politics”

Advancing “the conception of an affirmative — as opposed to circuitous, nostalgic, or introspective — melancholic politics” (220), Klaus Mladek and George Edmondson (“A Politics of Melancholia,” in Strathausen, ed.: A Leftist Ontology, 2009) note that, since the early 1990s, “there has been a steady movement on the part of what might be called the poststructuralist left, represented by Derrida, Butler, and Bhabha, … toward a politics of melancholia” (210). They draw on the late Freud who believes that “the ego is constitutively melancholic, a vital defense system … said to ‘revolt’ against the extinction of objects that are unmourned and unmournable” (210). They suggest that, out of an unyielding fidelity to lost objects and values, melancholic militancy rebels against failure, refusing to allow them to sink into oblivion. Thus there may be “an affirmative, even proud dimension to the melancholic state — a dimension that recognizes doom itself as the engine of rebellion” (210).

Jonah Birch & Bhaskar Sunkara discuss “Lessons From the First Red Century”

“For those of us between the two traditions of revolutionary socialism and social democracy, we have no program, no clear alternative to either. Either we choose to fight for gains for workers within the system, while re-stabilizing the system, the path of social democracy, or we choose an insurrectionary path in an era where state legitimacy and other factors makes that seem unrealistic in advanced capitalist countries. The challenge for us today is developing that alternative, the type of strategy and politics that can actually transform the world.”