Radical media, politics and culture.


Seize the Day: Lenin's Legacy

Slavoj Zizek

Tuesday July 23, 2002,

London Review of Books

A review of Lenin by Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, translated by George Holoch. Holmes & Meier, 371 pp, £35, 2001, 0 8419 1412 5

In 1917, fighting against the tide of Bolshevik opinion, Lenin claimed that there is no 'proper time' for revolution, simply emerging opportunities which must be seized. In the latest exclusive essay from the London Review of Books, Slavoj Zizek argues that the left today needs Lenin's lessons more than ever.

The left is undergoing a shattering experience: the progressive movement is being compelled to reinvent its whole project. What tends to be forgotten, however, is that a similar experience gave birth to Leninism. Consider Lenin's shock when, in the autumn of 1914, every European social democratic party except the Serbs' followed the 'patriotic line'. How difficult it must have been, at a time when military conflict had cut the European continent in half, not to take sides. Think how many supposedly independent-minded intellectuals, Freud included, succumbed, if only briefly, to the nationalist temptation.

In 1914, an entire world disappeared, taking with it not only the bourgeois faith in progress, but the socialist movement that accompanied it. Lenin (the Lenin of What Is to Be Done?) felt the ground fall away from beneath his feet -- there was, in his desperate reaction, no sense of satisfaction, no desire to say "I told you so." At the same time, the catastrophe made possible the key Leninist Event: the overcoming of the evolutionary historicism of the Second International. The kernel of the Leninist 'utopia' -- the radical imperative to smash the bourgeois state and invent a new communal social form without a standing army, police force or bureaucracy, in which all could take part in the administration of social matters -- arises directly from the ashes of 1914. It wasn't a theoretical project for some distant future: in October 1917, Lenin claimed that "we can at once set in motion a state apparatus consisting of 10 if not 20 million people." What we should recognise is the 'madness' (in the Kierkegaardian sense) of this utopia -- in this context, Stalinism stands for a return to 'common sense'. The explosive potential of The State and Revolution can't be overestimated: in its pages, as Neil Harding wrote in Leninism (1996), "the vocabulary and grammar of the Western tradition of politics was abruptly dispensed with."

The Errorist Menace:

Caleb Carr's The Lessons of Terror

Reviewed by Bob Black

(From Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed
at: http://www.anarchymag.org/53/review_terrorist.html )

The Lessons of Terror:

A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has
Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again

By Caleb Carr

(Random House, New
York, NY, 2002) 274 pp. $19.95 hardcover.

The ideas in this book the author first set forth (he says) in a 1996
article, but no one needs to guess why the book was rushed into print. (A
list of seven errata has been put into the middle of the book, and it is
incomplete.) He proposes to place contemporary terrorism in the context of
military history stretching back as far as the Roman Republic. In a book of
256 pages, this necessarily implies a romp through history with only cursory
analysis of examples taken out of their contexts.

The author's purpose is avowedly didactic: Carr is literally teaching "the
lessons of terror." It is his startling thesis that terrorism is a form of
warfare, but "a form that has never succeeded." A further startling thesis
is that "it has been one of the most ultimately self-defeating tactics in
military history-indeed, it would be difficult to think of one more inimical
to its various practitioners' causes."

Quantum Mechanics & Chaos Theory:

Anarchist Meditations on N. Herbert's Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics
By Hakim Bey

1. Scientific worldviews or "paradigms" can influence -- or be
influenced by -- social reality. Clearly the Ptolemaic
universe mirrors theocentric & monarchic structures. The
Newtonian/Cartesian/mechanical universe mirrors
rationalistic social assumptions, which in turn underlie
nationalism, capitalism, communism, etc. As for Relativity
Theory, it has only recently begun to reflect -- or be
reflected by -- certain social realities. But these relations
are still obscure, embedded in multinational conspiracies,
the metaphysics of modern banking, international terrorism,
& various newly emergent telecommunications-based

The Limitations of "Open Marxism"

Mike Rooke,

Reviewing John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power, Pluto, 2002.
Paperback, 240pp, 15.99.

John Holloway has written an important book. It is a sustained
critique of orthodox (i.e. Leninist) Marxism from the standpoint of the
Open Marxism of which Holloway is an exponent (along with others
such as Richard Gunn, Werner Bonefeld and Kosmas Psychopedis). The
central argument is that the strategic orientation of the
(principally) Leninist tradition has focused on the capture and
wielding of state power, and the conception of socialism
characteristic of this tradition has been marked by a subordination to
this goal (the state illusion). More specifically he targets the
scientific-Marxist partyism of this orthodox tradition (p.84),
which he rejects for its pretensions to be an all-encompassing theory
of reality (a scientific epistemology). The greater part of the post-
Marx Marxist tradition, therefore, has become a reified theory and
practice, reflecting an accommodation to the structures and thought of
bourgeois society. Its fetishisation of state power (its capture) has
led to the consistent betrayal of revolutionary aspirations, and the
reproduction, rather than the abolition, of oppressive power
relations. While such criticisms of Lenin and Third International
Marxism are not new, a large part of the uniqueness of Holloways book
derives from his use of fetishism as a critical category with which to
construct a conception of revolution as the dissolution of power (as

Anonymous Comrade writes

Roads to Dominion:

Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States

By Sara Diamond

Reviewed by Michael Handelman

While left-wing social movements have been extensively analyzed, right-wing movements have been inadequately analyzed. Thus, frequently, liberal interpretations suggesting that right-wing movements are “fanatical” have become the dominant ideology. This is why Sara Diamond’s book “Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing movements and Political Power in the United States” is so vitally important for leftists. This review is an attempt to outline the contents of this excellent book.

Mike Palecek writes:

A Requiem for Moral Patriotism

by William Strabala, Michael Palecek

The book deals with the historical necessity of protest in the U.S. and offers the lives and careers of these priests as example: Carl Kabat, Darrell Rupiper, Roy Bourgeois, Frank Cordaro, Larry Rosebaugh, Charlie Litecky.

A Requiem for Moral Patriotism

by William Strabala, Michael Palecek

380 pp., 2002
ISBN 1-892941-98-8 paper,
1-892941-99-6 hardcover

The book tells the story of a group of American men who happen to be priests ã who happen to have served decades in American prisons ã and the stalwart women who helped them form an international movement called Plowshares. In so doing, the book tells the morally patriotic story of America, a story told before only from behind an open hand across the face, like a football coach talking to his spotters in full view of a national television audience, afraid someone might see.

geert lovinkwrites

"http://www.newscientist.com/opinion/opbooks.jsp?id =ns23507

Netocracy: The new power elite and life after capitalism

Alexander Bard and Jan Soderqvist

£17.99 Pearson/Reuters

WHAT would Karl Marx have made of the works of 20th-century radical
philosopher Gilles Deleuze -- or the cultural contagions or "memes"
identified by biologist Richard Dawkins? Maybe the old Newtonian rogue would
have been baffled into silence. We'd all have copies of Capital as Idea by
Friedrich Engels and Emma Goldman on our shelves, rather than Das Kapital.
It would probably be rather better than Marx's great unread work -- or
Netocracy for that matter.

Chris Dixon writes "

The Battle of Seattle: The New Challenge to Capitalist Globalization

Edited by Eddie Yuen, George Katsiaficas, and Daniel Burton Rose

Review by Chris Dixon

Since the WTO protests of 1999, there have been countless articles and books
purporting to "document" and "explain" the so-called "anti-globalization movement."
Plenty of academics, journalists, and NGO directors have capitalized on this
opportunity; indeed, more than a few have launched their careers with it. But
out of all the reams of commentary, very little is useful for those of us on
the ground as we work to broaden grassroots resistance, link movements, and
build anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist alternatives. Accurate, relevant documentation
and sharp analysis are hard to come by, particularly in books.

Enter The Battle of Seattle (Soft Skull, 2001). Bringing together
contributions from some fifty radicals stretching around the globe, this book
is a welcome breath of fresh air. Although it is dated by its obvious composition
before the events of September 11, 2001, the vibrancy and the lessons are even
more necessary and relevant today. As Eddie Yuen explains in the Introduction,
"one of the goals of this volume is to open up a dialogue between militants
and the broader movement, rather than denying that articulate militant voices
exist, as other collections have done." This it does, in a thankfully nondogmatic

Review: Empire and Revolution

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, 'Empire' (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard
University Press, 2000), pb.

Charlie Post

(Charlie Post teaches sociology in New York City, is active in rank and
file organizing in the American Federation of Teachers and is a member of
Solidarity, a US socialist organization. The author thanks Vivek Chibber
and Kim Moody for comments on an earlier draft of this essay.)

'Empire' is a paradox. An overly long (478 pages with notes and index),
often abstruse intellectual exercise, 'Empire' would appear to be a work
destined to obscurity-to be read, at best, by small groups of left-wing
intellectuals ensconced in academia. However, the books has attracted
enormous attention, not only in the academy, but also in the mainstream
press and among anti-capitalist and global justice activists in both the US
and Europe. *1

Danny Yee writes

Free as in Freedom

Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software

Sam Williams

O'Reilly & Associates 2002, 225 pages, index

A book review by Danny Yee


Free as in Freedom is a generally sympathetic but far from hagiographic biography of Richard Stallman, inspiration of the free software movement. While much of the material in it will be familiar to anyone actively involved with free software, there are, as Williams claims, "facts and quotes in here that one won't find in any Slashdot story or Google search". It is also an entertaining and accessible study, which I finished within a day of my review copy arriving.


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