martes, 31 de marzo de 2009

Badiou's Naturalization of Communism as a Political Generic Procedure

Some interesting moments happen towards the end of this short conversation when Badiou was accused of resting on mere 'faith' to legitimize communism as the correct idea for communitarian emancipation. Badiou appeals to the proper vision of a society 'without classes' as the general content of the communist idea, but struggles to make it more substantial than the proverbial ideological cliché of democracy which advocates a society 'without racial/sexist/ethnic discrimination' for everybody. Through communism we know oppression can be thought of in terms of class struggle; just as we know the importance of opposing racism, sexism and ethnocentrism from the agenda of liberal democracy. The critique Badiou brings forth against the democratic tenets of freedom of culture, individual expression and human rights does not, by itself, tell us how to move beyond communism qua the expression of a class into a general platitude for social justice any more than the democratic liberal discourse.

This is why I am tempted to suggest that popular emancipation remains too banal a concept, too general an aim, to warrant the maintenance of the name 'communism' as the horizon for political activity; and certainly insufficient to justify the necessity of going back to a primitive Idea of communism (such as Marxist theory). The desire to keep this name in circulation as the only possible route towards political change seems to me to require the leftist nostalgia Badiou must inevitably sink into given his intimate political/theoretical activity, his involvement through the events of May 68, and the political allegiances of his mentors. For if the idea of class struggle is no longer proper only to communism (as it has in fact been virtually appropriated into all Western political discourses) and this idea is no longer sufficient (as Badiou says, the sequence of traditional revolutionary politics as expressing the social contradictions of class struggle is finished) then what remains to communism seems the ether of equality and justice. This can hardly guide us in the arduous task of preparing a new framework for today’s sociopolitical organization, away from the limitations of liberal democracy and today's capitalism.

On the other hand, I find myself close to Badiou in that the crisis serves as a reminder that the political remains a task for thought. Something new has to be built; a new logical framework which can singularly help us go beyond the classical revolutionary politics which were experimented during the 20th Century. But this new logic and new world can also be something new, something for which there is yet no name, not even communism, a beginning of a beginning. Making the name of communism tantamount to social justice (perhaps best captured by Sartre’s claim that whoever is not a communist is a dog) is something like the inscription of an eternal name, a historically indisplaceable truth event, a normativized/naturalized political generic procedure. Put bluntly: it would positivize communism as the only path towards political novelty. The impasse is rather not knowing what this 'new framework' will look like and its incalculable distance- to be incapable of determined now, within the situation, which struggles will be included or belong across its process, and through which names this will happen. Without this, we cannot know what can supplant the contemporary situation in its ongoing course.

To summarize, we can agree with Badiou in that the future of politics remains a task for thought, but we should be cautious about remaining within the scope of communism simply because it seems rather trivial to appeal to popular emancipation as being proper to it. Revolutionary politics certainly entails distance from the State, and the construction of a new truth (a new generic procedure). Even if we must presuppose communitarian emancipation, the point is that without anything else it is quite impossible to distinguish that tenet as being proper to communism; it can also be said to be the idea behind human rights' generalized freedom from oppression or tyranny (communism does for class what liberalism does for race, sex and ethnicity). We still need a firmer ground to lay the bricks.