Category Archives: melancholy

Brecht de Smet: “Egypt’s Decade of Revolution and Counterrevolution”

“The fall of the Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, ten years ago today, was a triumph for popular mobilization. But the revolutionary forces lacked the political organization and vision needed to head off a counterrevolutionary backlash that restored the authoritarian state’s power.”

Robert Solé: “Ten Years of Hope and Blood”

“But in Lebanon, as in Algeria or Sudan, the game is not over. The same can be said of all the countries that have experienced a “Spring”, however fleeting, followed by a counter-revolution. The Arab peoples now know that it is not enough to overthrow an authoritarian regime to achieve democracy. Elsewhere in the world, the road has always been long and painful. Refusing to despair, the most committed or lucid citizens are trying, in Gramsci’s words, to combine the pessimism of intelligence with the optimism of will.”

“A Decade After the Arab Spring, Autocrats Still Rule the Mideast”

“Ten years later, the collisions between that old order and the popular uprisings across the Middle East in 2011 that became known as the Arab Spring have left much of the region in smoldering ruins.”

Warren Breckman: “Can the Crowd Speak?”

Occupy Wall Street shows that the constituent moment of democracy should include more than merely bodies gathered in public space; that the collective voice is not discovered but invented; that the spectacle of mass gathering and bodies in motion should give way to talking and listening; and that, if the crowd is to speak in a democratic voice, then that voice must be both singular and plural.”

David Ost: “The Triumph and Tragedy of Poland’s Solidarity Movement”

“To say that Solidarity was a democratic left alternative to state socialism thus does not mean that all of its leadership and members saw it that way. Nevertheless, from August 1980 to December 1981, Solidarity invented in Poland the kind of grassroots, democratic, noncapitalist, participatory social experiment that the Left has always tried to bring about. This is what should be remembered, commemorated, and highlighted today.”

Asad Haider: “Pessimism of the Will”

“Optimism of the intellect, because we have to start by recognizing that all people are capable of thought, that they are able to not only form conceptions of the world but also to experiment with new possibilities. … But pessimism of the will, because we know that the will has to take a material organizational form, and that across the history of revolutionary politics the classical form assumed by the young Gramsci is no longer available to us. We lack the concrete basis for organizations on the model of the twentieth century revolutions, and we know from the history which followed these revolutions that the emancipatory potential of the party seizing the state has been exhausted. … Our subjective horizon is the optimism of the intellect; our objective, structuring condition is pessimism of the will. Without optimism of the intellect, we have the party without the people. Without pessimism of the will, we have the illusion of power. Until we recognize this there is no path for action.”

Joseph Fronczak: “Melancholy and Mobilisation”

A review of Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory by Enzo Traverso

Cédric Durand: “It should have been a great decade for the European left – what happened? “

“If there’s a single moment that characterises the end of this moment, it’s the tragic Greek betrayal of July 2015. In this deadly summer, the Greek people voted against (“oxi”) the bailout conditions imposed by the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF. But this victory was transformed by Syriza – the only left-of-social-democracy government in Europe – into a humiliating submission. When then prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, accepted harsher structural reforms to keep Greece’s membership of the eurozone, he proved that democracy could be blackmailed. Capital, not people, has the last say.”

Alex von Tunzelmann: “The Evil Repercussions of the American Revolution”

A review of TO BEGIN THE WORLD OVER AGAIN: How the American Revolution Devastated the Globe (2019) by Matthew Lockwood.  “He finds it at the root of a long list of ills, including increasing authoritarianism within Britain itself and the wider British Empire, the failure of Irish, Indian and Peruvian movements against imperialism, the Russian conquest of Crimea, the establishment of penal colonies in Australia and the growth of the global opium trade.”

A.O. Scott: “Review: ‘Edge of Democracy’ Looks at Brazil with Outrage and Heartbreak”

‘One of the implications of “The Edge of Democracy” is that as Lula and the Workers’ Party lost touch with the mass movement that brought them to power and mastered the levers of the political system, they made themselves vulnerable to popular anger on the right. Corruption and back room dealing were longstanding norms of Brazilian governance that the party didn’t do much to challenge.’