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<nettime> Re: Continental Drift
brian.holmes {AT} wanadoo.fr on Tue, 27 Sep 2005 09:57:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: Continental Drift

Hello Joseph -

Thanks for such an interesting comment. The referendum on the EU constitution was
a turning point, definitely. I found myself in disagreement with the majority of
my colleagues in the journal Multitudes, not so much because they voted yes, but
because even when the victory of the non was clear, they never saw its political
potential. Constitution or not, I am really uncertain whether the present balance
of powers in the EU can produce a democratic alternative, and not just a new
parliamentary vei l over the deals that power cuts with business. The point is to
have stron ger transnational social movements and a more informed, critical public
opinio n when the next crisis comes.

Meanwhile, I am tempted to say, anything can happen in a French election. .. Like,
if the electorate on the right were to grow disgusted enough with th e UMP, you
could have Bove versus Le Pen in the first round. In which case Bove would win.
But that's about the only winning scenario. Remember, it took Lula four tries and
then, as you say, they got what they got, i.e. not much except what looks like the
end of the fabulous adventure of the PT.

The interesting thing, to my mind, is that we could be at the outset of a new
adventure in France: a long-term mobilization on the Left outside the umbrella of
the socialists. Many people on the further Left are very bit ter about
participating in the Socialists' failure to go beyond a kind of self-defeating
reformism which is undone by the next "alternance." The question is not so much
whether we could have Bove for President. The question is how to take a highly
active and fairly large minority and make it effective, not just at a specific
moment where something can be blocked , but over the middle and long term where
specific policy options can be durably cut off and others put in motion, at both
the national and European levels.

I'm not exactly talking about activism here. If I just allow myself to imagine
what could produce a real effect, it would be broadly interconnected transnational
network of locally well-established groups, highly informed, semi-disciplined but
not bound in a hierarchy where the only option is obey or exit, willing and able
to support each other across national boundaries but also able to move decisively
within them, capable both of acting on conscience and of arguing scientifically,
and fully understanding that their force is not yet to be a majority, not yet to
be a presidential party, but rather to develop an analysis and a mode of
organization that can really do something over the long haul - rather than caving
in immediately, Lula-esque, when some figurehead finds him or herself isolated at
the top, without the knowledge and agency to intervene , unable to stand up
decisively against the class power of the corporations and their CEOs, owners,
government allies and private beneficiaries, who together constitute the real
antagonist, the one whose name we so rarely pronounce.

This kind of network has begun to exist, but what it can do is still uncertain.

That said, as far as I can see, there is still something very positive about the
kind of "telluric shocks" you mention, which in a way the no vot e already was,
since it sent out the powerful signal that miserable wasn't enough, that a certain
number of people were no longer willing to accept a deeply flawed social order
just because it could be worse. The question is, how to produce such a shock on a
fully European level, and then translate it into effective politics3F Apparently
some of my colleagues would say: that was already done, by Genoa, September 11,
February 15, the specter an d then reality of a second Bush administration; and
the political translatio n was the larger scope of parliamentary powers offered by
the EU constitution. But they are wrong, because what the demographics of the
French vote showed is that those gain the material privileges of the EU vote for
it; while those who don't vote massively against it. Until ther e is a way for
intellectuals to build real alliances with those on the bottom, without becoming
national-consumerist in the bargain, the Left is a joke. The work is really ahead
of us.

best, Brian

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