this statement has been thrown around to the point of looking like a platitude and he is present in discussion more frequently as a joke than anything else, to a degree that it almost seems thoughtless of me to invoke it, but i am one hundred percent serious when i say that i feel like like you and others like you are engaging in the failure zizek identified - for you, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. a historically contingent world-system, a particular stage in a long lineage of shifting modalities, seems in your mind to possess a stasis, an inability to move in the process that is inscribed in its very existence, the process which gave birth to it in the first place, a stasis that is more concrete than thousands of years of human existence. the global expansion of a movement that has achieved its goals repeatedly throughout our recent past is more unthinkable than the eschaton itself
Everything is subject to change. The big decadent forces will give way to the small newborn forces. The small forces will change into big forces because the majority of the people demand this change. The U.S. imperialist forces will change from big to small because the American people, too, are dissatisfied with their government.
when mao tse-tung identified the reactionary forces of empire as paper tigers this was not simply a kind proverb to fuel the hearts of the chinese people, but a conclusion realised from the prolonged struggle of the revolutionary proletariat against the entire weight of the global hegemon. struggle is won by resilience, attrition, popular support and the fidelity to the cause of justice. which of these characteristics does empire enjoy?
1. Most wars are asymmetrical / irregular.
2. In these wars, the guerrillas / irregulars / insurgents do NOT aim for military victory.
3. You can NOT defeat these groups by killing lots of their members.
In fact, they want you to do that.
4. Hi-tech weaponry is mostly useless in these wars.
5. "Hearts and Minds," meaning propaganda and morale, are more important than military superiority.
our contemporary conditions have done nothing but prove time and time again these principles. if these forces really do possess an unprecedented might, can you point to a single genuine victory? if the strength of their arms and their delusional self confidence mean anything at all, why are they incapable of neutralizing a single opposition? where was the victory in iraq, a struggle which resulted in the establishment of a majority shia government that refused the continued presence of u.s. troops? in afghanistan, where the forces of the west were reduced to skirmishing with bearded goat herders while the taliban leadership slid comfortably across the khyber pass? where was the victory in 2006 when the zionist entity was expelled from lebanon by the hezbollah? what about libya, a process where their engagement was restricted to cowardly air strikes and the covert training of salafist death squads, and all it accomplished was handing power to a militant force with an extremely contingent affinity towards western imperialism and radicalising the minority groups still loyal to the qadaffi regime? look at the ashes of their c.i.a. outpost. and look at the complete failure they faced when trying to pull the same tricks against al-assad. all they are capable of doing is pouring money into terrorist salafist militia and hoping for the best, as if it has any chance of lasting. you speak of the inevitable realisation of the strength of the indian state against the naxal corridor, a space the size of a small nation, but should they really have any fear of a power which is trying to bribe them away from their struggle with petty cash?
We were only a few months into the War On Terror, and the talk by amateur war dorks was getting out of hand: If you remember, the major magazines and newspapers were slobbering all over each other for a new superlative to describe America’s military dominance. It wasn’t enough anymore to call America “the world’s only superpower”—by 2002, they were inventing super-bosso playground words to describe America: now it was a “hyperpower” rather than a mere “superpower”; they claimed that the American Empire was the most powerful empire that mankind had ever produced, putting the Romans and the Mongols to shame. America had achieved “full spectrum dominance” they boasted. The only thing that prevented America from completely subjugating every last human being on earth was America’s own benevolence and sense of restraint.
if this is the truth, if the fangs of the imperialist paper tigers are of an unprecedented strength, why can i not point to a single successful mobilization of their power? is it simply their goodwill that has prevented them from decimating their opposition, rather than their absolute weakness? the reduction of struggle to the mobilization of murderous robots, the covert funding of violent militants, economic embargoes that are followed by only a handful of nations, the granting of power to vampiric autocracies whose allegiances can be bought and sold, are not the tactics of an empire in their prime, but the death throes of a withering hegemon. it’s true that the struggle against imperialism is far from being over, but the world-system we have grown so accustomed to, one defined by the grip of u.s. n.a.t.o. regimes, has passed. the shifting character of the global political economy will carry its own challenges, but it absolutely will establish new sites for the emergence of liberatory politics everywhere. it was from the decay of imperial powers that the soviet experience was born
just a few months ago practically two thirds of the world’s nation-states met in tehran for the summit of the non-aligned movement, an organisation which represents roughly 80% of the world population, proportionate to the growing worldwide population possessing a 10% increase in global representation since the 1960s (these figures including, historically as well as in the present, the presence of observer nation-states. thanks to jools for helping work this out). adding to this has been the substantial, and still increasing, rise in political and economic independence of the composite members of this group, almost the entirety of latin america and africa having been firmly under colonial and neo-colonial rule, now autonomous participants in a political movement that expressly rejects these paradigms. what was once an idea established by heroes of the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle, in direct opposition to a hegemony enforced by unimaginable violence, now represents the vast majority of people on this earth. 50 years ago this reality was just a dream
We have an expression, millet plus rifles. In the case of the United States, it is planes plus the A-bomb. However, if the United States with its planes plus the A-bomb is to launch a war of aggression against China, then China with its millet plus rifles is sure to emerge the victor. The people of the whole world will support us. As a result of World War I, the tsar, the landlords and the capitalists in Russia were wiped out; as a result of World War II, Chiang Kai-shek and the landlords were overthrown in China and the East European countries and a number of countries in Asia were liberated. Should the United States launch a third world war and supposing it lasted eight or ten years, the result would be the elimination of the ruling classes in the United States, Britain and the other accomplice countries and the transformation of most of the world into countries led by Communist Parties. World wars end not in favour of the warmongers but in favour of the Communist Parties and the revolutionary people in all lands. If the warmongers are to make war, then they mustn't blame us for making revolution or engaging in "subversive activities" as they keep saying all the time. If they desist from war, they can survive a little longer on this earth. But the sooner they make war the sooner they will be wiped from the face of the earth.
what you are unfortunately doing, i think, is fueling a weapon they do have, the processes of hyperstition. there is a dedicated spread of fictions, lies as grand as the idea that their hegemony is incontestable, that they are liberatory forces for freedom and peace, history itself is over, to ones as petty and trivial as iran developing nuclear weapons, chavez is up against a serious political opposition this election, the arab peoples are angry at a youtube video. these fictions spread themselves with such efficacy they begin to fulfill themselves... you clearly position yourself against capital, a total rejection of the miserable conditions our material conditions systematically produce, but, i claim, this despair buys into the very logic under which this production occurs. how is your resignation of any hope in the power of revolution not identical to the neoliberal fukuyamaist fantasy of the end of history, the time of political change has ceased, the spread of the logic of capital is the final and enduring stage of human existence. there is a serious poverty in a liberatory philosophy that eagerly repeats the ideology behind global exploitation
There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent.
the spread of capital is treated in your post like a force that erases any imagining or realizing of an opposition or change... this so readily ignores so much of the marxist argument. marx’s capital, it should be stated, did not grapple with the historical instances of actually existing capitalism but the system of capitalism at its most abstract, most pure. the universalisation of the market logic makes the marxist project more relevant than it has ever been... the view of this cessation of societal change in the delusions of neoliberalism that you repeat ignores totally the revelations of dialectical materialism. the entrenchment of the capitalist political economy, the deepening to the point of oblivion of human stratification, the imminence of economic and ecological crisis, these aren’t the threats that will dissolve any chance of resistance but the very conditions through which this resistance can exist. their faces, movements, their language may have changed, but the bourgeois we see today are the same bourgeois that have always accompanied our world-system. they never stopped producing their own grave diggers, and they never will, until they are finally placed in the dirt. the desperate flailing to impose austerity will be met only with violence. what hope do you have when your total end is inscribed in the very thing you exist to reproduce
there is a very compelling argument, very relevant to what you are saying, put forward by the little known french marxist claude bitot, that what marks the failure of our past communist movements is the existence in a space defined by the lack of this total, daunting chaos of the total infiltration of the capitalist logic in their historical conditions, the fall attributed to a long since dead hegemonic system that has no need in desperate ritualistic attempts to engage in the hyperstitional assertion of its own immortality:
Hence the successive defeats, the dead ends, the capitulations and the deformations experienced by the communist movement, to the point where today one could say that nothing remains of it, at a time when its perspective is totally eclipsed. If it has not completely disappeared, nothing is left of it except a weak, vacillating and flickering appeal. Thus, it is said that communism might be “one possibility” among others of history, a “choice” on the part of humanity that could be taken provided that humanity makes “the correct choice”. Why is this “possibility” better than any other? No one knows. Why the “correct choice” rather than “a mistaken one”? No one knows this either. In short, the fact that nothing is known amounts to full indeterminism and everything is left to a vague “free will”. In fact, the time is long past when revolutionary fervor was in the ascendant, and militants proclaimed communism in a resolute manner, without equivocations, as if it had already come about.
Such “disenchantment” did not arise by chance. It derives from modern capitalist domination, which has “rationalized” the world in such a way that it has created a world in its own image: a world driven by economic and social determinisms that are thought to be eternal and from which no one can escape including the capitalists. “There is no future”, as the English punks said.
From this moment on, finding ourselves in a closed world, padlocked and without a key, must we conclude, together with the minions of capitalism, that this is “the impassable and limitless horizon of humanity”, inviting those peoples who have not yet totally surrendered to it to stop procrastinating? Once again it is the merit of Marx that he shed light upon the fact that the laws and tendencies that rule the capitalist mode of production will ultimately enter into an increasingly striking contradiction with the productive forces that capitalism caused to arise, which will bring about its collapse, by finally making such a contradiction unendurable. Marx therefore concluded that capitalism, as a mode of production, was only a transitory form that corresponded to a “particular historical stage of the development of production”.
How will such a determinism unfold, which leads towards communism? First of all, we reject that imbecilic ideology which, confusing determinism with an insipid fatalism, holds that men no longer have to do anything except simply wait passively and peacefully for some mysterious or magical power to act in their stead and thereby grant them a “happy ending”. This is how gods, prophets, saviors and other charlatans are presented. Determinism, in its eminently Marxist sense, is just the opposite: it pushes men into action, it compels them to fight, it incites them to act and to exercise their will and thus to abandon their usual inertia. Furthermore, there is nothing mysterious about it because of its economic and social determinations. This economic and social determinism that impels towards action has a name: the class struggle, the motor of history, as Marx called it. For it is by way of this struggle, which is today still rejected and held in check, that the proletarian masses will succeed in clearing the way to communism; this struggle which, as Marx told Weydemeyer 150 years ago (Letter dated March 5, 1852), “necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat” and “that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society”. The communist movement of the past did not originate in the mind of an especially inspired thinker, but as a result of the ruthless exploitation of man by man that characterized the early days of capitalism. The proletariat of that era contributed a more or less utopian dimension to this struggle. Today’s proletariat (that is, in its widest sense, the majority of the active population) will enter the struggle without any poetic illusions or preconceived ideologies. Coldly and realistically, it will assess the situation by pronouncing it all the more intolerable the more that capitalism has in the meantime caused substantial productive forces to arise (in fact, for the needs of communism, there are already too many in the highly developed countries) that will make the poverty, the misery and the uncertainty of existence all the more unendurable. For communism has not yet begun!
there is no distant utopia in the struggle of the proletariat, no vindication of the masses as the redeemer of future generations, simply the cold, calculated mobilization of their power as an agent of history, dedication without concern for the future. only remembrance of those who died in blood and dirt for them, every moment the “strait gate through which Messiah might enter”... i understand that for you these conditions are a very deep despair, and that should absolutely be respected, it is awful that such a great and beautiful mind could be subjected to those feelings, but i totally abhor even the vaguest suggestion that the countless sacrifices that have been made, the innumerable risks faced every single day by the exploited peoples who struggle to build a better world, are all for nothing, as if any individual could ever know better than the very masses who construct history itself
Today, the danger of a world war and the threats to China come mainly from the warmongers in the United States. They have occupied our Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits and are contemplating an atomic war. We have two principles: first, we don't want war; second, we will strike back resolutely if anyone invades us. This is what we teach the members of the Communist Party and the whole nation. The Chinese people are not to be cowed by U.S. atomic blackmail. Our country has a population of 600 million and an area of 9,600,000 square kilometres. The United States cannot annihilate the Chinese nation with its small stack of atom bombs. Even if the U.S. atom bombs were so powerful that, when dropped on China, they would make a hole right through the earth, or even blow it up, that would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, though it might be a major event for the solar system.
as you say, the threat of the end of humanity is nothing new. once upon a time it was in the form of the atom bomb and now it is the danger of ecological disaster. as mao understood, this is not a revelation that shakes the core of emancipatory politics, it is frankly irrelevant. our failure is not in our inability to build, in some distant future, the kingdom of god... our failure is in the inability to do what is right: to continue to struggle, at all costs and in the face of any adversity, to rebel against the reactionaries at every turn
The life of dialectics is the continuous movement toward opposites. Mankind will also finally meet its doom. When the theologians talk about doomsday, they are pessimistic and terrify people. We say the end of mankind is something which will produce something more advanced than mankind. Mankind is still in its infancy.
there is a really fascinating and rarely talked about trajectory in the later thought of immanuel kant that could prove to be immensely valuable, absolutely in the tradition of mao’s revolutionary cosmicism
Kant’s failure to work out the “gap” in his “critical system of philosophy” during the last years of his life meant that the following thesis remained hidden among the loose bundle of papers that the editors of his leftovers called – for want of a better title1 – Opus postumum: “human beings, as rational beings, exist for the sake of other human beings of a different species (race)” . The clause is neither in the subjunctive mood nor the future tense: humankind, as a class of rational beings, exists for the sake of another species of the same genus or another race of the same species – which is to say: humankind is, by nature, a means whose end lies in another, late-coming kind of human being. The lateness of this other kind may be the occasion for natural-historical speculation; but the thesis of radical mean-ness is not; it is based on an a priori principle of classification: “The organization of the system of organized bodies also belongs, in turn, to the transition from the metaphysical foundations of natural science to physics as a division that can be made a priori with concepts, according to which, in the order of classes, a species of creatures exists for the sake of another”. Human beings enjoy no special status; they are not exempt from the system of organized bodies, and so it must be asserted that they, too, exist for the sake of another. By nature, the species is a means like every other.
Nothing could be further from the thesis of radical mean-ness than the pietistic doctrine from which Kant freed himself in his youth. Human beings are not servants of a god who mysteriously reveals himself in human flesh; they are in service to human beings of another kind, who, for their part, may remain forever in absentia. The mean-ness of human beings cannot therefore be assimilated into conventional images of the role that human beings are supposed to play on earth – as passionate participants in a sacred history, for example, or, in reverse, as active agents in the construction of an artifice of culture.
that our existence is as a vanishing mediator for something that might never even exist, is totally unimaginable, nothing we can plan for or construct, but could emerge at any moment, is a really beautiful idea to me... the goes to back to benjamin’s messianism again, we are prohibited from investigating the future, but every second holds the potential for messianic emergence. we enjoy no special status, our end is just another stage in the dialectic of existence, the absolute contingency of reality opens every possibility...
the work of quentin meillassoux is really the most fascinating thread of contemporary theory, totally appropriate to these concerns, like mao or kant dealing with this insignificance of the human experience in the face of the absolute, his speculative materialism interrogating the possibility of the end of existence. despair at these conditions seems to lead from a disenchantment with the idea of the supremacy of the human subject, but a radical materialism would forego that disenchantment entirely... this malaise is only an issue if you were under the spell of the secular humanist delusions in the first place. for meillassoux,
there is no reason for anything to be or to remain thus and so rather than otherwise.... Everything could actually collapse: from trees to stars, from stars to laws, from physical laws to logical laws; and this is not by virtue of some superior law whereby everything is destined to perish, but by virtue of the absence of any superior law capable of preserving anything, no matter what, from perishing.
Neither events or laws are governed, in the end, by any necessity other than that of a purely ‘chaotic becoming - that is to say, a becoming governed by no necessity whatsoever’.
his philosophy, and this is a philosophy that we can tie to mao through the mediation of badiou as meillassoux’s teacher, is tied singularly to the idea that reality “might always be otherwise”... there is no reason why one cause could not give rise to a hundred different events, that while at any moment everything might perish, anything could emerge
If we look through the aperture which we have opened up onto the absolute, what we see there is a rather menacing power - something insensible, and capable of destroying both things and worlds, of bringing forth monstrous absurdities, yet also of never doing anything, of realizing every dream, but also every nightmare, of engendering random and frenetic transformations, or conversely, of producing a universe that remains motionless down to its ultimate recesses, like a cloud bearing the fiercest storms, then the eeriest bright spells, if only for an interval of disquieting calm.... We see something akin to Time, but a Time that is inconceivable for physics, since it is capable of destroying, without cause or reason, every physical law, just as it is inconceivable for metaphysics, since it is capable of destroying every determinate entity, even a god, even God.
yes, maybe everything will cease to exist. maybe our lives will be nothing but a recurring nightmare (even then, what weight do our nightmares carry against the ground we stand on, the space we exist in, the new man which will supersede us, the god that is yet to be born?)... but there is absolutely nothing that grounds this world as a possibility greater than any other, the cessation of mortality itself just as possible as the decay of our flesh... or total stasis forever. i don’t claim to be an expert on meillassoux, far from it, the lengths in which his thought develops are dizzying... zizek says his work will “shake the very foundations of your world”. his sadly yet unpublished work and doctoral thesis l’inexistence divine, “probably the most famous work in present-day continental philosophy that no one has read” (it is a tragedy that one of only a few ways to grasp it in any way is through insufferable superdork graham harman), establishes an argument more exciting than almost anything else, ridiculously challenging in its radicalism:
Meillassoux coins the term ‘divine ethics’ for the kind of ethics that seeks immortality only for the present life. In fact, The Divine Inexistence ultimately hinges not just on immortality for those already living, but on resurrection for the dead as well.
In the Western context, the resurrection of the dead has previously seemed like a special doctrine of the Christian faith, and is usually among the first to be scoffed at by those who reject this religion. But Meillassoux revives the doctrine on purely logical grounds: ‘since everything logically possible is really possible, then since the rebirth of bodies is not illogical it must also be possible. And not only is rebirth possible: it cannot even be deemed either probable or improbable’. Such rebirth would obviously be of comparable importance to the emergence of life from matter or thought from life. ‘It is an event that would be no more astonishing than these latter advents that have in fact taken place’.
Following the three Worlds of matter, life, and thought, the rebirth of humans ought to be distinguished as a fourth world . . . For if a World were to arise beyond the three previous ones, this World could only be that of the rebirth of humans.
Another name for this fourth order is the World of justice, in which humans attain the immortality they richly deserve, given that they are entities capable of absolute, immanent knowledge of a thoroughly comprehensible cosmos. While the fourth World has not yet occurred, it ‘exists already as an object of hope, of the desire of every human qua rational being’. If some new order is to appear, it must be something just as radically new compared with humans as human thought is in comparison with mere life. Meillassoux always displays a resounding sense of human dignity: ‘we know that humans have access to the eternal truth of the world’.
The first three Worlds thus represent the three constitutive orders of the human. Whatever might be the laws of matter, of forms of life, or of intellectual or artistic inventions . . . the three Worlds remain the definitional invariants of the human as a being of reason.
But we are also defined by our relation to the fourth World, via ‘hope as desire crossed by thought: the desire of humans torn between their present contingency and the knowledge of the eternal by which they reach the idea of justice’. This idea teaches us the strict equality of all humans; eternal truths are ‘indifferent to differences’ among humans. And this equality is the reason why ‘humans, as long as they think, are affected by injustice whenever it strikes them, since nothing permits us to found an inegalitarian difference of humans from themselves’. And as we already saw in ‘Spectral Dilemma’: ‘of all . . . injustices the most extreme is still death: absurd death, early death, death inflicted by those unconcerned with equality’. Humans must be reborn under conditions of justice that outstrip the horrible deaths of our fellows. To those who think this sounds like too extreme a conception of justice, Meillassoux notes that this justice always means ‘an extravagance towards the present world’, and in fact ‘we owe the dead nothing less’. In short, justice refers not only to the living, ‘but also summons our refusal of injustice for the dead, for recent or ancient deaths, for known and unknown deaths. For the universal is universal only when it makes no exceptions’.
what beautiful ideas... the absolute contingency of reality renders the future unknowable, unimaginable, but the very possibility of justice, a possibility that could emerge with any passing moment, is the foundation of struggle in our world, because we owe it to those who suffered before us. to return to benjamin, we need to carry that remembrance, forbid ourselves to look to the future, while seeing every second as a potential site for emergence of the messiah
i’d like to reinforce the other quote jools posted: A philosopher-mathematician loaded with explosives, lucid and reckless, resolute without optimism. If that's not a hero, what is a hero?... resolute without optimism. and what better model could we ask for than jean cavailles, a heroism pursued despite any background in our vacuous world of petit-bourgeois intelligentsia
People of the world, be courageous, and dare to fight, defy difficulties and advance wave upon wave. Then the whole world will belong to the people. Monsters of all kinds shall be destroyed.
We should rid our ranks of all impotent thinking. All views that overestimate the strength of the enemy and underestimate the strength of the people are wrong.
the revolutionary struggles of oppressed peoples the world over have always been a constant source of inspiration and faith for me and i really hope i could in some small way help anyone else find that too