Friday, March 11, 2011

Mehdi Belhaj Kacem on Tunisia and French Intellectuals

Via Progressive Geographies: Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, a French-Tunisian critic, weighs in (an excerpt in French here) on events in Tunisia and the response of French (and other) intellectuals. Interestingly enough, the declarative mode in which he operates reminds me of the two intellectuals that he is criticizing:
This is a fact that the Badious and the Zizeks of the world mustn’t make us forget, and especially not a Tunisian in 2011: the Stalinist and Maoist regimes were thoroughly abominable. A Chinese woman whose family actively participated in the Cultural Revolution told me that for her it was worse than Auschwitz. As far as that’s concerned, one really has to beware of the shortcuts one takes, playing at a trendy leftist in the comfort of a bourgeois academic apartment. The “Badiou affair” may very well blow up in our faces just as much as the “Heidegger affair.” What I’ve read from Badiou and Zizek on the Tunisian revolution is absolutely useless. Tunisian philosophers have told me they regret that a Deleuze, a Foucault, a Derrida isn’t still around. They would have found the right, resonant words to take the measure of the event. I find the silence of people like Nancy and Rancière regrettable. Their sensitivity is totally right for what has happened.
I can't say that I was too impressed by what Badiou or Zizek had to say thus far. What MBK proposes, a kind of cross between Situationism, Badiou, and Kojève, is not, however, unproblematic. It's a leap from Tunisia (my emphases in bold)...
That’s the reason why the Tunisian event is already a historic event: the Tunisians are collectively experiencing freedom and, in the truth of the event, we see that a people that experiences freedom also experiences equality. That’s the hard lesson that the Tunisian event gives to our academic Stalinist dinosaurs. Kojève:
Kojève said, rather humorously: “They take me for a leftist Hegelian. But I’m a right-wing Marxist.” He said that Fordism was part of Marxist politics and that he’s the one who thought up the Marshall plan. I’d rather be that kind of right-wing Marxist than a postmodern leftist fascist.
I might be wrong, but isn't "right-wing Marxist" code for "Stalinism?"

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