This essay is published in Turkish by Istiraki.
The Politics of the Imperfect
Building A Different World
Concrete Needs, Concrete Situations and Concrete Actions
In memory of Rudi Dutschke
It is a major task to do away with blind worship of the West. It should be carried out everywhere, in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In our country, too we shall continue to wipe out this blind worship. What I mean is that strategically we should despise imperialism as a paper tiger, as something of little account. But tactically and in each concrete task, we must attach importance to it and deal with it seriously. Imperialism will change from a real tiger or half-real and half-fake tiger, and finally to a completely fake tiger, or paper tiger. This is a process of transformation of a thing to its opposite. Our task is to accelerate this process. For a time before the conclusion of this process, the tiger may live and still be able to bite people. Therefore, we must deal the tiger blow after blow and pay attention to the art of boxing, and must not be careless.
The Global Context and Poly-Centric Perspectives – Taking Sides
I am speaking of global governance as a complex organisation which cannot be merely wished away. Getting from A to Z when you are at H requires that one go to I, J, and K, before X, Y, and Z. There have been movements to build a world government before, but that cannot even be an issue until America is reigned in – we are at a more preliminary phase of history, where even a weak institutional world federation would be a mammoth step forward in a world which cannot even have an effective United Nations. If we jump too far ahead in our thinking, we will become merely talkers and not actors of real history. We need to deal with the concrete and specific conditions of the world as it is evolving now. We are, in the first instance, seeking a polycentric or multi-polar world.
Every single person upon this earth has a story to tell and a life to live.
Every single person is also radically finite, mortal, thrown upon the topography of the earth, and inhabiting an ultimately makeshift world.
Each in his or her way is also ‘eternal’ not only with respect to having been there, as a fact, or phenomenon, but also as a free and creative being engaged in his or her situation.
No one, no word, act or omission, no silence is every truly forgotten.
One tries to listen to all the stories, all the voices from across the world, but each is limited – there is only so much each of us can experience or know. One sifts through the material and makes a rough sketch of the evolving state of the planet.
Beyond the facticity of cosmopolitan life, each also seeks to speak with others, make connections, and create relations that transgress our own limited perspectives (whether as individuals or peoples). Such relations are finite as each is finite, but this transgression of accomplices will have its ‘eternal’ impact in collective action.
It is upon this expanded topography that one begins to express strong instincts and suspicions in the context of a ‘we’, a relation. Experience and knowledge, experiencing and knowing, are collective as well as individual endeavours.
At the same time, however, life is not merely about ‘experience’ and ‘knowledge’, as it would be if one were merely a tourist of life, but life is primarily lived, and lived in very similar and basic manner by everyone – but in widely divergent avenues in terms of the quality of life. In this light, life is therefore about struggle, action, imagination, creativity, disappointment, patience, joy, sorrow, love and hate.
The tragic drama of life takes place upon a common earth, yet this place where we inexplicably live, ‘our world’, remains divided on so many artificial grounds into an indefinite typology of territories, relations of subordination, servitude, hunger, violence, intimidation and outright murder or forced starvation.
Capital plays itself out as the global ‘gangster’ on this theatrical stage of a permanently militaristic political economy, democracy as McDonald’s-ization, franchises of KFC, Burger King, human trafficking – corruption, theft and chaos. Stock brokers snort cocaine off the bellies of corporate sponsored escorts while millions die of starvation, lack of access to clean water, to medicine, where the very principles of capital forbid the fulfilment of basic so-called ‘human rights’ (a thoroughly politicised and over-determined notion, rendered nearly meaningless via political and legal nihilism), and under the cynical cloak of ‘intellectual property,’ litigiously prevents the production (and distribution) of more affordable generic versions of food or drugs for the sake of the poor.
Capital also produces seeds for poor farmers which die at the end of each year, thereby necessitating the farmer return to the seed manufacturer and distributor who avariciously profit from a seed whose genetic code has been patented. Nature has been de-naturalised and natural right is dead. Humans do not have any rights, if these rights remain unfulfilled.
Capital is therefore also murder, or perhaps the murderer itself – if, that is, it were not for the fact that there are identifiable and specific human beings who are carrying out the will of the current hegemon – the USA – as it fights to remain the master of Capital – of property and is willing to use subversion and torture to maintain the status quo. These specific human beings work in corrupted institutional frameworks which serve Capital and its suitors.
Odysseus converges in the streets, occupies public space to take back the household, the democratic ‘society’, from the philandering suitors.
In their own fatal repetition of the social relation of Capital, the servants of the hegemon, banal Eichmanns, operate amidst their myriad and respective tactical and strategic milieus, incessantly working to destroy the enemy, destroy unions, activist groups, widen the income gap, to win the war that It has never forgotten or ever stopped fighting.
Capital has never stopped obsessing even about each of its mild defeats at the hands of such challenges such as trade unionism, civil rights and socio-economic struggles, feminism, and ‘third world’ national liberation movements. It thus seeks to dismantle the welfare state, long established social negotiations, and international institutions, such as the United Nations, which were born out of struggle for the recognition of the basic ethical desire to prevent or curtail mass human annihilation and suffering.
The war of capital, led by its current hegemon, the USA (and NATO, IMF, etc.) gives rise to what essentially is a state of murder, of human sacrifice, in Bataille’s sense – the theft of life from so many individuals, who each had his or her own plans, desires, fears, and secret hopes (or, in the case of high infant mortality rates in impoverished nations an individual who never had his or her chance to be). Or, has murder, or the capacity thereof, become the new definition, the ‘new norm’, of political maturity and rectitude?
In other, and often quite wealthy, Western nations, Neo-Liberal governments, whether Conservative, Centrist, Social Democratic or Socialist, there is rule by austerity and crisis, directly attacking the most vulnerable: children, the disabled, and the poor. ‘We’ are all Neo-Liberals now!’ the deranged ghost of Richard M. Nixon might howl.
Poverty is the murder of innocents, the worst form of theft amidst the cruel absurdity, criminality, of the current global situation. It remains a form of theft, moreover, since, although we do not even own our own bodies, but essentially rent them from the State, the existential freedom of the poor, and of their creative possibility, is nullified .
We actually live in a Reality in which children and adults from all over the world are essentially exterminated (or trafficked) for the sake of the smooth maintenance and reproduction of a specific, real-life political, socio-economic and cultural order of power, one which has arisen historically and has been baptised in blood – that of the United States and its current allies.
How can one who knows the terrible truth of this specific world not take sides?
What is the psychology of the man or woman, having known the truth of the current state of the world, continues to act, just as Eichmann did, in the furtherance of the ‘machine,’ this monstrous site of injustice, hypocrisy, bloodlust, and treachery.
It is impossible not to take sides, and thus, this essay will be a strategic essay which seeks to give guidance to the those seeking to build relationships amidst our current global situation of ‘dual power’. The aid which I will give is a series of perspectives, recommendations, thoughts to various constituencies pertaining to the strategic alliance that I have indicated.
This is a world of widening disparities of wealth, starvation, mass genocide, proliferating civil wars, mass refugee displacement, environmental devastation, but also a world which harbours forces of resistance. The ‘dual power’ to which I refer indicates a specific alignment of nations and international and national movements. The hegemon is undergoing its second serious challenge.
The current state of the world is one of spreading chaos, a situation described quite elegantly by Vladimir Putin in his recent address to the Valdai Conference (24 October 2014) in which he describes a world in which international institutions are being seditiously subverted by the sole remaining ‘super power’ in its attempt to operationalize (or, perhaps weaponise) chaos – controlled chaos, the bastard child of Hegel and Henry Kissinger. Chaos is the impetus for control, or as Kissinger once said, ‘Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.’
However, before I begin to explore these strategic horizons and the operational aspects of this new bellum omnium contra omnes, I would first like to explain the background of my decision to offer my thoughts on these matters. Since, if I can make it clear why I have made the choice that I have, then others can follow the same reasoning and perhaps decide to make the same decision.
The Horizons of Commitment and Decision
What Putin did not talk about at the Valdai Club, although it would have been entirely appropriate if he had, is the topic of Plato and Justice, specifically the dialogue in Plato’s Republic, Book 1, in which Socrates poses the question to Thrasymachus as to his views regarding justice.
The position set forth by Thrasymachus is that justice is the ‘preference of the stronger.’ We would refer to such a position in the colloquial phrase ‘Might is Right.’ Socrates, of course, as we know from our reading of the Republic, holds that the notion of Justice cannot be captured merely in words, in saying, but must be shown, demonstrated in practise, and in his manner, in an Ideally functioning Polis. We can go along with Socrates to the extent that justice must be demonstrated, but we will part with him due to our own view that justice is action, a state of affairs, for the fulfillment of needs. Fulfillment is the true meaning of justice.
Yet, the immediate ironic response of Thrasymachus to the questioning of Socrates is that he could not possibly receive a fair hearing in such company, and thus, he decides to leave the company as they continue their dialogue upon Justice. Since Socrates is seeking the Ideal form of justice, Thrasymachus would not be permitted to simply point out the system of slavery that underwrote the allegedly democratic Athens – as is the case, for the most part, in our own contemporary ‘democracies’ (wage-slavery).
Neither could Thrasymachus be allowed to simply contend, as with his pale shadow Ayn Rand, that slavery and injustice are simply the objective truth of the world. From Thrasymachus’ perspective, Plato is a mere revolutionary of the rational Ideal, as he is attempting to describe a system which in practise could only ever be an ‘imperfect’ or diminished copy of the Ideal Forms, which for Plato, are the truly Real.
It is, of course, Plato’s exclusion of the creative (non-mimetic) poets from the Polis, and his objectification of the three stratifications of society into guardians, soldiers, and artisans, which exposes his covert reliance upon the same power pointed out by Thrasymachus, a troubling revelation in light of his advocacy of the Nobel Lie in his Laws.
It is in this way that a system of governance can be exposed as incapable of justice not only by committing the basic positivist error of Thrasymachus in his assumption of an Ayn Randian ‘objectivism’ of power, but also, by committing the fundamental error of setting forth a rigid and rational model of the State, one based upon permanent metaphysical Forms, the enactment of which would produce only violence and a system of the continuous production of violence. Justice must be attuned to temporal existence and the contents of this existence.
In either case, Thrasymachus and Socrates (Plato) fail to allow the demos, the people, to cultivate, amid the horizon of their own concrete and specific conditions, a democratic state of affairs which would be allowed to develop out of its own indigenous characteristics and circumstances. As Marx wrote in his 1843 Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, ‘Democracy is the generic constitution.’ Such a perspective is concerned neither with the ‘objectivism’ of exploitation and privilege, as in the image of an eternal divine right, nor with the implementation of a rational model of perfection, as is the case of Plato.
At the same time, we can return to Socrates and his inclination for showing over saying, with respect to the question of the meaning of justice. But, contrary to Plato, such showing is not to be the manifestation of some perfection, from some other metaphysical realm, but is an actualisation of justice amidst our forever imperfect world. Such justice is grounded upon the needs and desires of the people and the truth of such governance is disclosed in the fulfillment of these needs and desires. Such a state of governance would thus be based upon the self-determination of the people according to indigenous conditions, and upon the equality of the people in respect of their collective self-governance.
This would be a ‘politics of the imperfect,’ a politics of ‘occupation’ of the earth, of concrete situations and concrete action, of impact. Such imperfection does not however mean that justice can never be achieved, but instead that justice is the creation of mortals, of thoughtful praxis upon the intimate topography of our existence, in our imperfect world. Nietzsche suggested that we will live in the shadow of Platonism and Christianity for a long time to come – and this is what this word ‘imperfect’, with its privative im- entails – but perhaps we will have overcome this shadow of perfection when we no longer understand the meaning of the word imperfect in the sense of privation, but as the existential situation of life, of finite existence amid its indefinite horizons of possibility.
Such a transformative understanding has arisen as we have abandoned otherworldly hopes and the rationalist stratagems, the violence of the non-specific and non-concrete situation and its intimate relations. Nietzsche would allude, at such a time, such lies are no longer necessary. Yet, for such a transformation of understanding to take place, there must be a transformative praxis which works to occupy the earth and satisfy concrete human needs and desires amidst concrete conditions – a manifest terrestrial justice.
Nevertheless, Thrasymachus can at least be approved for his brutal honesty about the state of the terrible truth of the world. His error was his reification of the slaughter bench of history. That which is much worse than Thrasymachus, though, in this context, is a state which pretends to follow Ideals, but is in truth a mask of anarchy for a lust for power without limit and without regard for the concrete conditions and needs of the people.
We arrive, in this light, to the discourse of power amid the struggle for the creation of global democratic governance. We seek to create an Athens without Slavery. However, such an Athens would neither be the implementation of a rationalist plan, nor a canonical history which thenceforth served as a pseudo-idealist template to all further history – such violent practises are common to many participants of the historical political spectrum.
We need a ‘Politics of the Imperfect,’ at last recognising that we are radically temporal, material beings, descended from apes (and the abyss that such a descent entails). Socrates (and Plato with his contemporary descendants) must come down from the clouds of ideological perfectionism and sectarianism and engage in the world around them in the concrete struggle for a society of immanent and fulfilled justice, regionally, nationally and globally.
Imperfection is meant here not only as a contrast to the Platonic perfectionism that underlies many totalitarian ideologies, and which is thus used as an alibi, but also in a temporal sense – as the imperfect tense, in which life, for Nietzsche, remains suspended, in Bataille’s state of incompletion, of possibility.
As the basic condition of existence is contradiction, we will always be on the way, but also, already always there. I have recorded the following thoughts so as to engage in the struggle for an immanent justice, a terrestrial state of affairs in which the concrete needs and desires of unique and differentiated peoples may be fulfilled. For, as we are all very well aware, as we have intimated in the reference to President Vladimir Putin’s Address at Valdai, the current world order is not only not fulfilling the needs of the people, but is in actuality working against the needs of the people and of their never extinguished hope, to live in peace and cooperation.
Such a state of affairs is not possible in the current world order, and the development of BRICS is symptomatic of the attempt by some to radically transform the prevailing state of the world. Moreover, it would seem that this struggle is gaining traction with the fragmentation of the US dollar and its ‘uncontested’ military power, and it is in this sense that I describe the present moment of world history as a state of global ‘dual power’. To demonstrate the aptness of this description, the Director of National Intelligence of the United States government, in the 2014 National Intelligence Strategy, lays out a similar appraisal, but interpreted, from the perspective of the Hegemon, as an unprecedented situation of global risk. Even the IMF has pricked up its ears, and is now moving forward, against the intransigence of its own master, the USA, with greater voting power for BRICS in the organisation.
As a further challenge to Western hegemony, China and Russia are in the final stages of establishing a new credit rating agency, the Universal Credit Rating Group (UCRG) which will begin operations in 2015 in Hong Kong, and will compete with the likes of S&P, Moody’s, and other Western agencies. Indeed, Russia, after a downgrade of its rating by the Western agencies has withdrawn from S&P, Moody’s and Fitch. This move was nearly simultaneous with Russia abandoning the Petrodollar and setting up its own Sovereign Wealth Fund of $88 Billion and converting this over two months to around 8 Billion Rubles. This will maintain liquidity in the domestic market and further the global retreat from the ‘hegemony’ of the US dollar. Russia will also be a member of the new Chinese AIIB Infrastructure Bank, which has begun to attract even Nations from the West, Denmark and Australia. In this light, we can see hegemony as a dynamic state of affairs which is capable of transformation.
The Other Side of America – Thoughts of a Dissident
Recently, Chomsky declared that America was the Number One terrorist state in the world. The terroristic character of the United States, as it lives in bad faith, consists in its long term adoption of the non-philosophy of Thrasymachus, a mere nihilism of power. For the United States and its allies (the ‘West’), justice is the ‘preference of the stronger.’
How do people of good faith respond to such a situation? We have already chosen sides, but what is to be done?
I am proposing an interim strategy for the global struggle for the creation of a democratic, polycentric community. Utopia is nowhere since it exceeds the vital contradictions of space-time, of mortal existence, as did Plato’s Republic of Ideal Forms. Yet, it is important to understand that philosophy, living thought, with Deleuze, ‘creates concepts’ which are used for the purposes of life, and is thus a necessary mode of praxis. A global democratic community is not the rejection, therefore, of thought, but instead, of not only a peculiar type of rationalist, de-temporalised metaphysics, but also the non-thought of non-philosophy. A democratic community, which unfolds upon the topos of existential spatiality and temporality, requires creative thought amidst concrete conditions and praxis.
In this light, the democratic community will arise when countries of good faith work together to build a multilateral world of peaceful cooperation and development. Such work is already underway, as I have suggested, with BRICS and other countries and networks which seek a radical re-balancing of the situation of global power and wealth. Such re-balancing in not in our view one involving political elites, but must be focused upon the fulfillment of the concrete needs of the people, locally and globally.
Indeed, this work is being undertaken in response to urgent need, to the destabilisation of the world by the hegemon and its agents, and will attempt to build an alternative future, an alternative configuration of global governance, one which is polycentric, democratic, and whose motive is the satisfaction of the needs and desires of the people in a fair and equal manner – and not the devastating production quotas as growth for the sake of growth.
We do not need to invoke Plato’s forms or redemptive fantasies of a supernatural heaven (and the revenge of hell) to understand justice, fairness and equality or truth. The meanings of these words are plain, clear to all upon the plane of existence, of mortal immanence. We see injustice right before our eyes. The West’s complicity in the illegal coup d’etat in Ukraine and its alliance with the rise of neo-fascism in Europe has led directly to not only the deaths and displacement of thousands, but also to the de-stabilisation of the European Union and of all relevant international organisations of global governance, such as the United Nations.
The self-defeating sanctions of the USA and its axis partner UK, and its other ‘allies’, including the European Union and the former colonies of the British Empire, Australia and Canada, have inadvertently forced Russia to not only bolster its own internal economic development, but also to, in addition to its year-long ban on sanctioning countries’ produce (sanctions are considered violations of international law by Sergey Lavrov and others), deploy asymmetrical strategies of creating, with the other BRICS nations and their allies, especially China, alternative international economic institutions, technological cooperation, people to people exchange, sophisticated military alliances and vast commercial agreements.
Chomsky recently warned that our world is closer than ever to a global nuclear war. The West must, but never will, admit their ‘fatal mistake’, as Henry Kissinger recently declared, and end their intransigence with respect to Russia and, indeed, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, etc. etc. The West – is not promoting dialogue, but for the cynical motive of profit, instead is promoting hostility, warfare and an ethos of untruth, propaganda, and psychological warfare. Instead, the West uses environmentally destructive ‘fracking’ and its ‘Frankenstein monster’ ISIS to unsustainably depress the price of oil as a weapon – and from another perspective, NATO and its never self-reflective Neo-Con theorists are re-enacting their ‘regime change’ scenario (so evidently successful in Iraq), a component of which being to actively seek a regional war in eastern Europe. Western banks will moreover continue to benefit nevertheless from the latest orgies of ‘military Keynesianism.’
Such a de-stabilisation of the Russian supply lines would allow Qatar and Saudi Arabia to take over the European oil and gas market from the Russians and Iranians. Israel has also entered the fray with its proposal of a pipeline to southern Europe. With its persistent calls for attacks upon Iran, a distracted Russia can only be seen as a positive development, given the latter’s support for Iran. The US Senate, on December 11, 2014 took one step closer to war by passing the “Ukraine Freedom Support Act,” which provides lethal aid to Ukraine, a move unacceptable to Russia. All of these legislative moves, moreover, are being matched on the ground by further build-ups of NATO military assets and personnel near the Russia border.
One Leftist Member of the Duma, Mikhail Yemelyanov of the Fair Russia party, has called for ‘adequate measures’ in response to the quickly devolving situation of Ukraine in order to avoid a more devastating war later, with a Ukraine ‘armed to the teeth.’ Putin, however, has not blinked, and is responding with asymmetrical strategies in relation to his ‘Asia Pivot,’ a counterpart and a cooperative strategic response to the containment of China by the United States.
It seems clear however that there will continue to be a measured and systematic asymmetrical strategic array of initiatives on the part of Putin (Putin’s Annual Marathon Press Conference 2014), in the context of the pattern of attacks upon Russia by the USA, as with the additional legislation against Crimea and Russia by the United States Congress. The twelve provisions of the new Act take another step on the pathway to war. Obama, the recipient of the Noble Peace Prize, has thrown further fuel on the fire with his economic embargo of Crimea (December 18).
The Leadership of Europe is also acting in tandem with its masters, with another round of sanctions on 19 December. Such a policy of the isolation of Russia was put into play during the Carter administration (preparing the ground for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush), yet it is necessary to comprehend that the primary difference between the late 1970’s and 2014-15 is the strong alliance between Russia and China. With the support of China, Putin may be able to maintain his commitment to International Law and dialogue. China’s FM has expressed its support of Russia’s determination to have the 12 February 2014 Minsk Agreement applied in full, saying that the Minsk Agreement must be ‘cherished.’
It is important to keep in mind that the strategies of the West do not occur in a laboratory but in a situation of risk and blow-back. Russia’s State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alexey Pushkov observed for instance, ‘The IS is freely trading oil on all oil markets. How can it be? The terrorist organization, which cut off heads of citizens of Western countries, exercises de facto the rights of oil trader. Nobody takes any sanctions. Anyone heard the State Secretary call for sanctions against the IS? This suggests how the US really treats the Islamic State.’ (Russia and India Report, 14/11/2014)
Russia has, as suggested, already responded to these stratagems of the West and its Middle Eastern allies such as with Putin’s announcement in Ankara on 1 December 2014 of the cancellation of the Black Sea South Stream gas pipeline through Bulgaria, and the construction by Gazprom instead of a pipeline through Turkey to Greece, where Russia would gain access to the Southern European gas market – and thereby outflanking Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The latter however demonstrate their commitment to the strategy of the conquest of the European market – and the desire to undermine its Russian, Iranian, Mexican and Venezuelan competitors, the profitability of ‘fracking’ in the USA and UK, and the Green Revolution – as indicated with the maintenance of oil production levels by OPEC. Beyond the battle over the European market, there is the battle of current market share, and while there is disagreement in OPEC, no one wishes to lose their respective share of the market, despite falling prices. It is seen as political and temporary.
Outside of the contingencies of a regional conflict in Eastern Europe, which need not occur, the perfect storm against the Russian economy has had its impact, but what has been revealed is the strength of the fundamental tendencies of the Russian economy, which has diversified away from petrochemicals, which constituted only 16% of GDP in 2013. In this way, such dangers as occurring now may only be short-lived, and will ironically lead instead to a further consolidation of the BRICS and affiliated political economies, as demonstrated by the continued integration of Russia and China on many levels, including its recent policies to protect the value of the ruble against the storm.
On 29 December 2014, there was a ‘Yuan Swap’ which will indefinitely protect the Russian economy. The same type of asymmetrical strategies are also being developed with other Asian nations, such as Pakistan and India. It is an irony that the USA sanctions policies are not only hurting its European ‘allies,’ but are actually accelerating the very phenomena to which the USA was originally responding, the growing power of BRICS. Some are already expressing concern that Russia and China work to subdue the ‘Paper Tiger’, the Hegemon, the USA, before it, in desperation, lashes out like a wounded animal. They have many non-lethal, financial weapons at their disposal.
To consider these ideas more concretely, and in terms of the current urgency of the evolving global situation of ‘dual power,’ I will suggest that cooperation must continue to be established between power blocs so as to contain the hegemon, the USA, its global network of military bases and assets, NATO (as its European Occupation and platform for military attacks upon the Middle East, North Africa and Russia), a vast complex and the primary agent of militarism and exploitation in the world. Of course, the allies of the USA include Western-branded ‘democracies’, but despite its seemingly empty rhetoric about freedom and human rights, also Military Dictatorships and Monarchies, which operate in a severely unrestrained capitalist, most recently, Neo-Liberal environment.
Such a concrete strategy of containment is never explicitly mentioned in reference to the USA. Nor is the active cultivation of links between BRICS and European countries and the Euopean Union itself, including cooperation between the Eurasian Union and the European Community. Europe can be persuaded to distance itself from its American occupiers if it is provided a clear and distinct opportunity for an alternative order of things. Such an alternative may be deemed a matter of necessity if the USA insists upon re-arming Europe with nuclear weapons. As noted above, Denmark and Australia have applied to be members of the new Chinese Infrastructure bank, in defiance of the USA, and of which Russia is to be a member.
The decisive victory of the anti-austerity party Syriza may also help Europe, as Foucault demanded, to ‘think differently.’ Greece has already made contact with Russia and has joined other EU states (Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia) in opposition to the Russia sanctions policy. Slowly, but surely, Europe as a whole may be persuaded to call an end to the absurd charade, especially as the sanctions continue to lead to damage to European economies – not to mention the prospect of another ‘Yugoslavia’ on the doorstep. Moves such as these have already occurred with the words of the Head of EU Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini who stated that the West wishes to replace the ‘logic of confrontation’ with that of dialogue.
Such a strategy of the clear distancing of Europe from and the simultaneous global containment of the USA is not an attack upon the American people, but a reminder to their government that there are others interests in this world besides their own and that the mature way of handling disputes is through the historically achieved institutions of global governance and International Law. In contribution to this strategy, Russia has advised the European Union to reject the TTIP Agreement with the United States and has invited Europe into the Eurasian Union, an event, gesture of diplomacy not reported in the “Western” media.
By the new year 2015 already, the Western propaganda war against Russia has disintegrated, as indicated for instance not only in the sheer panic amongst Western media giants about the success of Russia Today, but also in such blatent admissions, like that of the Czech President, who recently said in an interview, matter of factly, ‘Maidan was not a democratic revolution, and I believe that Ukraine is in a state of civil war,’ and went on to say that only ‘poorly informed people’ do not recognize that the Ukraine events were the result of a Western backed coup d’etat and not comparable to the Prague Spring. The French President Francois Hollande has moreover joined in the disintegration of the Western propaganda and economic war by calling for an immediate end to the sanctions against Russia. The next day, of course, the infamous Charlie Hebdo incident occurred.
Let me then be the first to break the ice and simply speak plain words.
Just as the USA has deployed continuous and myriad stratagems of containment and subversion against its perceived rivals, and has even subjected its own allies to surveillance and coercion, the other side, that vast network of still proud nations, must work to contain the USA and its principle allies with the goal of compelling the USA et. al to faithfully adhere to international law and to participate in the creation of a genuinely global (polycentric) and democratic order of governance. The containment of the USA and its allies would be inevitably synchronized with democratic resistance and perhaps revolution in the USA and in its client allies. This strategy would also entail a radical reformation of current international institutions, such as the United Nations, and the elimination of other international institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank and NATO, which have served merely for the interests of the hegemon.
The peoples of Europe are also invited to join this grouping of nations. Yet, as a condition for participation of Europe in this bloc, NATO must be dismantled as it is an insidious American occupationary force.
‘Europe’ cannot be Europe if NATO exists. It remains an occupied Europe.
NATO creates false or unnecessary enemies to continually justify its existence.
NATO is seditious in relation to the International Community and is subversive of International Law.
NATO must be dismantled, de-constructed, in order for Europe to be a sovereign political association and for the emergence of a ploy-centric system of global democratic governance, dedicated to peaceful, cooperative, and sustainable development.
There is now a global opposition to the hegemon, a state of dual power has arisen – BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa; and other nations, such as Venezuela, El Salvador, Bolivia, Argentina, Nicaragua, Cuba, Vietnam, among many others. The centrepiece of this vast network of cooperation will be the BRICS Development Bank. Such alternative financial systems and networks will be welcomed by numerous poor nations, who until now, have been presented with the ‘forced choice’ (Zizek) of US denominated institutions.
This strategy is to bring about a situation where America is no longer exceptional to accountability and responsibility, a state of affairs in which the United States and its decreasing allies becomes contained as the hegemon is no longer capable of paying for its imperialist adventures and fantasies.
It will be in such a context that America will finally be forced to follow international law and cooperate in the arraignment of accused war criminals. Such a test case for the current state of our Thasymachian world will be whether or not any prosecutions will come out of the US Senate CIA Torture Report, for which the United Nations has called, a resolve echoed by the Legal Director of The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Already however the USA Justice Department has bluntly stated that they will make no charges in the matter. This is indicative of the current unjust and illegal state of affairs of the current dangerous situation of global governance in which a Federal Court can dismiss a civil claim against those involved in the planning and execution of torture can be dismissed and the torturers immunized from any further legal action (19 December 20914). Nevertheless, The Center for Constitutional Rights has joined a complaint on torture taken by leading German Human Rights group, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). The destination would be the International Criminal Court on Crimes Against Humanity and Crimes of War.
In such a situation, there must be concerted resistance against and coordinated action to contain ‘American exceptionalism’ (exceptional with regards to International Law) and an urgent renaissance of international institutions and democratic global governance, one that will establish a new norm of legal, peaceful, cooperative and sustainable (economically, environmentally, culturally) development.
On the Challenges of the Western Left
In this imperfect world of ours, it has become vital that people of good faith in the Western Left come together to build an alternative both to Neo-Liberal Socialist, Social Democratic and Labour Parties and to a terminally sectarian Left which remains incapable of grasping the politics of the 21st century. People of good faith must maintain their focus upon concrete conditions and concrete needs – it is amidst such a context that true revolutionary and creative thought will emerge, and will continue to emerge in the future. Such a gathering took place at one time in the Communist Party in Europe and the United States, a place eventually taken by the New Left and various social and single issue or identity movements.
The problem with ‘communism’ in the contemporary West has revolved for decades around the interests and preferences of the hegemon, which currently is the United States. The United States did everything possible to disrupt communism in Europe, or arranged to fabricate a split between communism and socialism, not to mention the infiltration of socialist and communist organisations, giving rise to a culture of ‘splitters’, ‘spittists’, tiny, irrelevant some-brand of communism, socialism, revolutionary socialism. This splittist topography, together with its antagonistic tribalism is the consequence of the many political defeats of the Left in the United States, and across Europe, Australia, and Japan. The Left has fared much better in South America since the political parties of the Left have remained engaged in the mass movements of workers and the poor.
But, in the belly of the beast itself, in the USA, and in its satellites, the Left has been quarantined in the ghettoes of ideological sectarianism and perfectionism, mostly fixated on various and mostly conflicting interpretations of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. In light of the real urgency of need amongst the poor and vulnerable in all countries, on a global scale, the continuing arguments between, for instance, Trotskyists and so-called Stalinists, or Maoists for that matter (and let us not forget the Euro-communists), would be laughable if the need for unity and expansion on the Left was not so utterly necessary. Such unity on the Left was recently achieved in the German state of Thuringia, after decades of divisive ideological disputes, have broken down the walls. They have succeeded not due to more supporters, but due to the unified constituency which was achieved by good faith participants in discussions leading to the alliance.
The massive wave of anti-austerity protests of 2011, following on the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, and which still continue, across Europe and the world, are at last finding electoral political expression in my ‘New Left’ parties and in recent Leftist scholarship from thinkers such as Thomas Picketty. This shift to the Left follows in the wake of the same process across Latin America. Examples of New Left alliances in Europe are Syriza in Greece; Podemos in spain, the Anti-Austerity UK alliance of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens; the Anti-Austerity Alliance in Ireland, and similar political formations in many other countries in Europe. Yet, the anti-austerity policies of these parties, while rooted in the streets, in People’s Assemblies, have not yet led to a ‘grand synthesis’ of a New Left which will have been universally embraced by the ghettoised Left in the European, American and world-wide contexts.
The decisive victory of Syriza in Greece however should have convinced even the most recalcitrant cynic that the Left has a vital and powerful future on a European and Global level. Now, amid their high risk election strategy, a far more radical Leftist party, Popular Unity has emerged with an intention of divesting Greece from adminstration by the IMF and its chief European advocate, Angela Merkel.
This longstanding fragmentation of the Left has made productive discussion and mass coordinated action nearly impossible (even amidst the Occupy movement which is larger than any single organisation), and needs to be overcome with the growth of a new leadership which embodies the avant garde of both theory and practice simultaneously. Such thoughts are dealt with in more detail in my essay ‘Fatal Repetition – Badiou and the Age of the Poets with an appendix ‘A Psychoanalysis of Alain Badiou.’
There must be a deconstruction/displacement, through creative philosophical and political thinking, strategy and action, of sectarianism which is, after all, an un-worlded and idealistic corruption of ‘dialectical materialism’, the focus of which must be actuality, creative and experimental struggle, need – and not the elaboration of the perfect theory. The movements of the people, on the streets, must evolve into a self-consciousness of political power. The thought, as Marx contended, will emerge as a determination of existence from concrete needs, situations, and actions. Indeed, many dogmatic “Marxist-Leninists” behave in the manner of the Utopian socialists whom Marx criticised throughout his work, as idealist in a pre-critical sense, as mere histrionic dogmatism.
I am exploring the thought and praxis of a democratic communism in the spirit of Marx, one which can, on the one hand, benefit from study and debate upon the past, but, on the other hand, in maintaining its focus upon concrete situations and concrete relations, the New Left must be united in concrete struggle (Occupy, Stop the War, Worker’s Rights, etc.) and, through this engagement, decide which are the best strategies and tactics for the current era of struggle. Put another way, the international Left movement will learn much from the study, discussion and criticism of history, but must, more importantly, put aside these intellectual divisions by focusing on the real needs of the people and by actually testing tactics and strategies in the field. Organisation is hard work and requires time commitments, but such networking will always be the basis of a movement for radical change.
Concrete needs, concrete situations and concrete action.
The contemporary Western Left resembles a group of fire men and women arguing about the history of fire fighting while the house standing before them goes up in flames with everyone inside dying. Every political party has room for factions and differences of opinion, but (especially when the decision is made) the focus must be to turn to the united work of struggle since real suffering and pain inhabit the present lived moment. The fire is burning but the fire-fighters stand on the side lines, arguing about the past.
This is the meaning of Marxian dialectical praxis, one that has been attempted by many for nearly two centuries, but often in a way that past actions or past personages become formulas or idols. Revolutionary thinking, which even Marx did not invent, is however one that is focused upon concrete conditions and concrete strategy in the context of the deep and often perplexing complexity and irrationality of human existence. Yet, all of this work must be attuned to the fulfillment of human need and desire and the creative actualization of the potentialities of the earth and of all of its life.
Leftists for example in the West should support, as I argued in my essay ‘Fatal Repetition: Badiou and the Age of the Poets, with Appendix: A Psychoanalysis of Alain Badiou’, nearly all existing regimes which are prepared to work in good faith for the peaceful, cooperative and sustainable development of a global polycentric democracy in balance.
When considering the various nations of the world in terms of strategic and tactical partnership and alliances, we must stop looking for reasons for rejection, dismissal, enmity and seek instead the grounds for acceptance, admittance and friendship. Indeed, there is no perfect recipe for the perfect society and any such recipe, in the attempt to implement it, would, through its inevitable violence, create exactly the opposite type of society than the one which was so keenly desired. That is why revolutionary thinkers must continuously question, critically engage the tradition, and to experiment creatively with alternative ways of speaking, thinking and acting.
Intellectual freedom is therefore vital to any truly democratic society, movement or community, one which marries democracy and shared ownership. This is the great task of praxis, conscious-material interaction, the event of the attempt, the experiment. In this way, true Marxism will always be a form of revisionism, if revisionism means the healthy intellectual, practical and strategic praxis of a revolutionary socialist, a democratic communist, or a people in struggle for national liberation. The world persists in a drastic state of uneven development, economically, politically, culturally, and we must be sensitive to not only to this uneven development, but also to the necessary cultural and national specificity and uniqueness which may characterise any particular country.
A Leftist philosophy of existential temporality and action, of which Marx was the first major contributor after the development of early German romanticism and German Idealism, necessitates that we continuously revise our thinking in line with the development of concrete conditions and in tune with the needs of the people. With our rejection of the idealist perfectionism of Plato, we must be open to the everyday imperfections of various nations, realising that there is no ideal form, no perfect model or theory, and that the massive uneven development of many nations is not the grounds for accusation but for solidarity.
What we must emphasise instead is good faith participation in a common project for a different kind of world, one which will fulfil Marx’s favourite maxim, ‘From each according to ability, to each according to need.’ Yet, that is the goal to which we will always strive as mortals upon this planet, but as a species which is not only mortal, but also descended from apes, we must be cognizant of the fact that radical transformative praxis is a long term proposition. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will be a global democratic system of balanced and polycentric governance. Yet, it is a great achievement to be able to glimpse the alternative possibility which is there for us to build.
In this light, revolutionary thought, must ceaselessly transform itself with a transformation of the material and strategic conditions – in line with Mao’s notion of contradiction and Nietzsche’s notion of self-overcoming (Foucault’s ‘critical ontology of ourselves’). In this way, the accusation of ‘revisionism’ is symptomatic of an accuser who has not continued to develop himself or herself intellectually in the context of thoughtful praxis oriented to concrete conditions and concrete actions. Such a revolutionary is no revolutionary at all, but a ‘one dimensional man’, Zarathustra’s Ape.
Constant work must be done to make radical thought and praxis stronger in the face of the size of the challenge. Much can be learned from all areas of science and philosophy, sociology, psychology, anthropology – not to mention in the fields of art and aesthetics (Ranciere, Lyotard, Deleuze, Zizek, etc.) The key is to learn, to develop intellectually, and to be engaged in concrete practise simultaneously, so as to become a more powerful revolutionary. One should not be afraid to learn, even from one’s alleged enemies.
One recent attempt to build such an alternative Left party in the United Kingdom is Left Unity, which was founded in 2013 with an Appeal from controversial English film director Ken Loach. Many other socialist groups have since formed ‘tendencies’ within this new political party. Since any true party will participate in the electoral process, Left Unity intends to increase its participation in democratic elections on all levels.
It would seem, in an era in which a minority party of the British Right such as the neo-Thatcherite UKIP could potentially ‘hold the balance of power’, that it would also be possible for a party or parties of the Left, such as Plaid Cymru, the SNP, and the Greens to do the same – or, at the very least, make use of the democratic system, as it is, to disseminate an alternative message to the people. Much can be learned from this democratic socialist experiment for a different sort of politics.
Indeed, even for the hardcore sectarians who seem to be psychologically or educationally unable or unwilling to allow their thinking to be dialectical, transformative, and oriented to the experience gained by concrete praxis, even Lenin (Trotsky, Gramsci, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, etc.) believed one must engage in electoral and trade union politics, if available, for these are planes of access to millions of working people, the so-called ‘working class’.
Leftists must, with Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg, participate moreover not only in the political culture of their territory, but must also, in the spirit of the Surrealists, participate in cultural production, philosophy, art, activism, occupation, events – plastic arts, literature, music – so as to intervene in the seamless reproduction of the Adorno’s culture industries, life-style industries, control industries – Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘mechanism’ – it is precisely this place, this ‘mechanism’ – this field of contradiction – that is a topos, a place of contestation, struggle, experimentation and creation.
The state of politics on the Left need not be dire if people of good faith engage in creative thought and action oriented to concrete conditions and needs. A picture – a prison of jargon – holds many on the Left captive (Wittgenstein). Lacan has been of interest to existentialists, post-structuralists, some Marxists, like Zizek; he needs to be given to the captives of jargon. This secondary imago, the artificial, role-play identity of the ideological perfectionists and uncompromising sectarians needs to be deconstructed, exploded into little pieces. Deleuze and Guattari will help to pick up the pieces. Even sectarians are socially constructed – and like many others, have entered into a state of arrested development, in which further intellectual and experiential growth has been thwarted and denied.
The topic of China is a difficult topic to breach in the West due to near universal rejection of China by the Right and the Left. It is difficult to discuss these ideas in the West due to not only the massive propaganda in the media against China and socialism per se, but also due to the fragmentation of the Left mentioned above: the divide between Social Democratic, Socialist parties, academic Marxism, Traditional Marxism, New Left, Cultists of Stalin, unreconstructed Maoists, and tragically anti-intellectual communist activists, parties or groups who have not kept up on the development of revolutionary philosophy (Critical Theory, post-structuralism, contemporary Marxian writers, such as Deleuze, Zizek, Judith Butler, Cornel West etc.) and are thus mired in obsolete thought and dusty images (or follow a leader who serves as a virtual Guru).
It is difficult to pin down the precise issues that are involved in this widespread rejection of China, especially due to the fact that the agreement seems to be ultimately accidental. There subsists a surreal tradition of slander, accusations, actual, alleged or covertly orchestrated events, and the persistence of ‘orientalism.’ (Edward Said) Yet, in light of the disclosures of the many ‘archaeologies of knowledge’, the scales have begun to fall from our eyes which respect to the intricate puppetry of the Hong Kong ‘capitalist democracy’ movement, just as we learn more about the decades long role of George H. W. Bush in the events of Tiananem Square. Archives are dangerous things.
The Chinese have designated the current era of their history as ‘primary socialism’, as designated in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and mention, in a rather vague manner, that this period will last a ‘very long time.’ The primary theoretical basis of the current political economic policy is oriented to China’s decision to utilize ‘market socialism’ since 1978 in order to build their power-base in an anti-imperialist context (but not, of course, to let the genie out of the bottle, which has not yet happened).
Let me be very clear on this issue. On the one hand, there is a strong agreement between liberals, centrists and conservatives in the West as to the allegedly ‘authoritarian’ character of China. These are of course capitalist political parties and political formations, which are quite happy, however, to take advantage of this opportunity for investment and bail-outs. Democratic socialists, Social Democrats, and Labourists also reject China as a model for socialism – or have simply abandoned ‘socialism’ for the impotent management of the Neo-Liberal economy. Trotskyists, although this group is not monolithic, have generally rejected China as being outright capitalist or bureaucratic socialist. There is also a history of the defeat of Chinese Trotskyists by both the Nationalists and Communists in 1927.
Trotskyists often (perhaps against the thought of Trotsky himself) apply a similar criticism to all states which have not rejected Stalin and ‘Stalinism’. The latter groups, which remain part of the Western Far Left, have generally maintained perhaps the only positive attitudes toward China, but remain concerned about the prospects or the reality of ‘capitalist restoration.’ It is significant that the Chinese Communist Party itself, while defending Stalin’s role in the defeat of fascism and in the rapid national development of Russia, set forth criticisms not only of Stalin, but also of the Soviet Union itself – and especially the role of Gorbachev who oversaw the dissolution of the ‘Evil Empire.’ Indeed, it is inaccurate to characterise the current configuration and constitution of China as Stalinist or as bureaucratic socialist. I discuss China in its current challenges further in my essay ‘The Tragic Community: Friedrich Nietzsche and Mao Tse Tung’.
In fact, China has its own traditions of participative, consultative democracy, a petitioning system, and periodic elections of the NPC in a rather cumbersome three-tier system, each of which contribute to the ever evolving Constitution, which includes, among other threads, histories and theoretical constructions, the Republican revolutionary traditions of the Nietzsche inspired Sun Yat-sen, Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Three Principles, and several amendments to the Constitution. If one takes a step back, when considering the Chinese Constitution, one can ascertain two distinct principles of operation. On the one hand, there is the continuous evolution of the Constitution, based upon the Marxian philosophy of praxis and experimentation. Each new generation has the opportunity to contribute to the development of the Constitution.
The current government of President Xi Jinping, for instance, has contributed to the movement of China to the Left, with its re-affirmation and expansions of bi- and multi-lateral relations, a focus upon the continued development of a social safety net, including 95% health care coverage achieved this year after a five year effort, an anti-corruption ‘Mass Line’ in which thousands of corrupt officials have been removed from office or punished, a focus on reducing growth in favour of environmental rejuvenation, town-ification, and perhaps most importantly, the maturation of a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics (all of which is advocated by the Chinese New Left).
On the other hand, the Constitution is indicative of thinkers and experts who comprehend materialist history and political economic development. I referred to the rather vague statement that ‘primary socialism’ will last for a ‘very long time.’ This aspect points to the understanding that the national liberation struggle against imperialism is inseparable from the project of building a robust socialist democracy which can operate on a global scale not only in cooperation with other nations of good faith, even if these countries are not socialist, communist per se, but also in competition with the remaining capitalist nations.
From the perspective of materialist history, we cannot simply jump straight into perfect communism, as Marx and Engels outlined with clarity in The German Ideology. In our current world order, and for the entire history of colonialism and imperialism, national liberation struggles have been part and parcel of international socialist revolution. Moreover, from the perspective of Real Politik, and keeping in mind that we are descended from apes, in many instances in the current struggle, socialist purism is simply not relevant.
Of course, while it is most often the case that various countries and national struggles of good faith are also oriented to the agenda of the Left (as we can see in Africa, Latin America and in the Pacific Basin), it is also the case that some countries in BRICS, for instance, such as Russia, are far from being socialist or communist. Yet, Russia is important in an anti-imperialist context, as a member of the UNSC, and for its support for international law and the integrity of its institutions. But, again, in the context of the current struggle and the interim strategy which I am suggesting, this is not necessarily relevant as we are primarily involved in an anti-imperialist struggle of which Russia and India are vital participants. One must, with the Chinese, who have perhaps the oldest culture in the world, attempt to comprehend historical struggle in the long term – we must understand that material conditions change much more slowly than our thoughts, which often run recklessly ahead of us.
Such short-termist recklessness, fomenting from the schizophrenic discourses of the Western media, describe Western ‘democracies’ which attempt to function in a severely unrestrained capitalist, most recently Neo-Liberal, environment. I fear that this Neo-Liberal environment of white noise has also had its effects upon the Western Left. One cannot hold up some ideal and judge the material reality by such a standard – that is just the fatal repetition of Platonism. Not only does such a procedure fail to take into consideration the patience needed to comprehend and enact radical historical change, but it also obliterates local and unique conditions of differential cultural practise, historical traditions, and the rampant uneven development that is currently evident across the planet.
A Socialist Democracy, as envisioned by President Xi Jinping, on the contrary, is an entirely different phenomenon, one which can and will focus with more interest upon the future, since many of the short-termist problems of the West are entirely generated by capitalist business cycles and corruption/exploitation. Such avoidable ‘uncertainty’ should not occur in a socialist democracy which inhabits an environment of shared ownership and consultative grassroots participatory democracy.
In summation, I would suggest that Western Leftists and others of good faith, of all persuasions, re-double their attempt to comprehend the meaning of a philosophy of historical existence and the profundity and difficulty of radical historical change in a reconsideration of China and its own path toward a socialism with Chinese characteristics. This is an indigenous development of thought and creative praxis which is focused upon the concrete conditions and needs of the people.
Indeed, many of Deng Xiaoping’s ideas are arguably very astute and mature adaptations of Lenin’s own ideas in the New Economic Policy. In fact, such a course could be beneficial, especially if guided by a Left-wing government (as is being done in many Latin American countries), since it is clear from history that almost every socialist revolution was crushed due to weakness. For example, the Soviet economy of Russia was, at its height in the Cold War, only a third the size of the United States. Imagine what it must have been like when the White Forces of America, Great Britain and France attacked shortly after the revolution.
A socialist transformation or revolution will neither come by itself as economism suggests, nor will it come all at once, everywhere on the globe in a single day. Such a struggle is, in fact, indefinite, and will be messy, crooked, un-balanced, variegated – in a word, imperfect. Yet, as a species which has descended from apes, but at the same time, has glimpsed its own uncanny potential, we must have patience and solidarity with countries which are, in good faith, seeking an alternative and allies in their anti-imperialist agendas. We should join with these countries and should unite our struggles with their struggles, to build a global struggle – no matter how imperfect at times, in the good fight for a peaceful and cooperative world.