Monday, August 13, 2007

Personal Politics

(Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

My favorite book title ever is for Althusser's memoir, which I haven't read: The Future Lasts Forever. (So many chances to keep trying, at least...)

I have not yet read any of the news pieces about Rove's departure from the White House staff--the headlines alone induce in me intense revulsion. Why celebrate his departure? Because a "bad guy" is gone? Because the Bush administration is a sinking ship? Please. The damage is done. The engines for further profit-making have been put firmly in place. No "electable" Democrats will be able to--or want to--change it either. My only hope for the Democratic candidates, one of whom will surely win the 2008 election, is that maybe they'll be able to help the American working class. A little. No more.

Once I felt something secured within me. One of those very rare moments when you know you've changed a bit. I was reading a collection of texts related to the Paris Commune. The journals of the Goncourts gave very interesting descriptions of the Commune's former members, its then-victims, after the workers had been crushed by the military. The way the writer (which Goncourt was it? I don't recall but think it was Edmond) wrote with such humanistic sympathy for the downtrodden, ugly, defeated masses. All this energy put into the proper eulogistic tone for failed revolution, for utopia deferred, denied, and instantly I thought, as though I were talking to the author himself, "You didn't help them. You stood back while they were slaughtered, you and your kind, and all your sympathy came to naught because it wasn't solidarity."

Nice fairweather progressive and liberals ... we stand by while the monstrous machine keeps going. And people wonder why Marxists disdain Democrats, why radical people of color distrust white liberals, why "clerks" in and around the academy (I include myself in this group) are ridiculed and largely powerless. It's because we're the ones who watch the resistance get murdered and then shed a tear for it.

When I had an idea for what From the Clouds to the Resistance could be, it was to break out of this mold and to latch on to the struggle of those who knew better.


dave said...

the problems go much deeper than the damage of one party's electoral victories. the structure is the problem - or, to appropriate a cartoon's wit, "the cause of, and solution to, all our problems."

"knew better"... which begs the question (asked, of course elsewhere, and previously): What is to be done?
What constitutes legitimate, necessary actions? and, is actual, effective systemic change plausible in a way that does in fact change things for the better?

Zach Campbell said...

Yes yes yes, the structure is very much the problem! This is what From the Clouds was formed for, to focus on this structure (at least, as it plays out in terms of media, images, sounds, the film industry, film aesthetics).

What is to be done? Well, the first thing I've learned--slowly--is that I'm not the one to decide this. I'm still trying to scout out other people, make slow, gradual, lasting connections with those group of people (online) who are leading the way. Change should come on all fronts, but (off the top of my head) especially local, intimate, physical. Things people can see, notice, experience on a daily basis. The roles of criticism & commentary are a vital part of that--not the totality, an important part ...

Zach Campbell said...

Hmm--for some reason this second comment isn't showing up on the front page. Maybe if I post this third one it'll kick them both into visibility.

Alex said...


Though, for me, Karl Rove is, in some ways, a fascinating example (if a highly negative one) of precisely how we on the Left (if I can be called on the Left, which is ultimately quite inaccurate) can, indeed cause change. After all, as recently as the mid-60s, this type of conservatism a la Rove had only limited adherents, who were openly viewed as crazy by the remainder of society. Only 3 decades later, they had reached the pinnacles of power. If it's(comparatively easily) achievable by one political philosophy, why not another?

I'm not sure what I would have done in 1871 either - the reality is that Goncourt had not much practical immediate use in the situation. The theoretical man cannot easily be pressed into service as an active man. There are a handful of exceptions: Xenophon, Machiavelli, Cicero - but not that many. I suppose Goncourt could have manned the barricades as another body, but literary skill of the caliber of a Goncourt is not as easy to find as another body. (This is not to say that intellectual skills are superior to bodily skills: the craft of the armorer would likely be even more important than the rhetorical craft during the Commune and far rarer.) The Commune simply didn't last long enough or become a developed enough regime to utilize Goncourt's skills (at which point we could determine the true depths of Goncourt's support for the new regime).

The reality is that I myself would, at best, be utilized as a glorified supply clerk or financial analyst during the Commune.

Jeff Rubard said...

Cool blogs, Zach, and thanks for listing me on the other one. I've actually had a thought about the Althusser title for a long time: perhaps what Althusser was really getting at with *L'avenir dure longtemps* was "Tomorrow is a Long Time", which would make a kind of tragic sense.