The Revolution Issue

The Eternal Idea of Revolutionary Justice

A road map for insurrectionary anticonsumerism.
The Eternal Idea of Revolutionary Justice

Photo by Janine Gordon

Resurgence is in the wind. The cynicism that has dogged every gesture of our resistance is giving way as the disappointment of 20th century communism is eclipsed by the rebellious will to try again. Guiding this radical revival are two philosophers whose political theories breathe new life into the revolutionary project. We speak of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek, a neo-Platonist-Maoist and a post-Lacanian-Leninist, whose carefully considered political philosophy revives the ideals of egalitarian-communism and heralds revolution in our lifetime.

Their project is philosophically grounded in Badiou’s two-part magnum opus Being and Event and Logics of Worlds. In the preface to the latter work, Badiou hypothesizes that there are four elements of the “eternal Idea” of revolutionary politics: egalitarian justice; revolutionary terror; voluntarism; and trust in the people. And Žižek takes up with gusto the task of applying these elements to contemporary politics. Together, their roadmap for insurrectionary anticonsumerism is invigorating in its breadth and intensity.

It begins with an egalitarian justice that irrevocably overturns the “established hierarchies of power or wealth” by stripping the rich of their supposed right to consume a greater percentage of the world’s resources. This entails “worldwide norms of per capita energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, etc.” that limit and equalize global development.

The second stage is revolutionary terror, the “will to crush the enemy of the people.” Žižek argues persuasively that we cannot have equality and sustainability without disciplined terror against the hyper-rich. In practical terms this requires the courage to impose a limitation on the “freedom” of wanton consumption that has brought humanity to the precipice along with the willingness to support “ruthless punishment of all those who violate the imposed protective [ecological] measures.”

The third phase responds to the question of how these changes will be accomplished. Badiou and Žižek propose voluntarism or “the belief that one can ‘move mountains,’ ignoring ‘objective’ laws and obstacles.” For too long has our emancipatory project been dismissed because it violates the so-called “laws” of neoclassical economics and the limitations of the capitalist imagery. Voluntarism acknowledges that where there is a will there is a way and that the “only way to confront the threat of the ecological catastrophe is by means of large-scale collective decisions” that pull the brake on the runaway train of capitalism.

Finally, what ties these elements together is trust in the people, the demos of democracy. In rejecting reactionary politics that harbors “antipopular suspicion or the fear of the masses,” we uphold the conviction that “the large majority of the people support these severe measures, see them as their own, and are ready to participate in their enforcement.” This fourth element is the linchpin of them all, a crucial ethical foundation that keeps us from repeating the tragic failures of the past.

What we gain from these four revolutionary elements is a clear strategic statement for attaining our movement’s victory. But as Badiou makes clear, at each step a dangerous perversion of ideals is possible, and a seemingly slight distortion, such as the one that trusts “the People” abstractly but loathes the people concretely, can turn our revolutionary project into another army of oppression. To ward off this evil requires a firm, unwavering commitment to the egalitarian nature of our movement. Further, it demands fidelity to the mental environmentalist’s founding intuition: That our overconsumption is the tool of others’ oppression, that the occupation of our minds builds the sweatshops on their land.

That is why we dream of nothing less than a global emancipation, a spiritual insurrection that sets this false world ablaze.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley and is writing a book about the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

64 comments on the article “The Eternal Idea of Revolutionary Justice”

Displaying 51 - 60 of 64

Page 6 of 7

Anonymous

Were I live they are placing camras on the streets, so they can watch people going about thier own time why would they do this I thought captilism was anit-totaltarian but it is not since they put camras in public places I am going to start wearing my bandana over my face everytime I walk down town, fucking commies, captlists whats the difference? reading 1984 and find wow its happining I doubt these revolusionists would care for the disabile, the homeless prob send them to another form of the gulag! and its funny since consertives would like to put the homeless, the drug addicts in jails then they would all so like to go after anybodies that says soemthing they don't like.
sometimes I wish I could just run into the woods and live there far from all this maddness
the only hope is a new form of politicail bullshit but who can come up with an orginial Idea
other then all the stuff that was before, Ihave never read any of thier works B and Z no plan too! like the beatles said "you say you want to start a revoltuion but when you talk about killing and destruction well brother you can count me out"
yet I do like the idea of change thats not based on blood shed anything that uses blood shed for a goal is like trading one tyrant for another.
sorry for my bad grammer(..!..)

Anonymous

Were I live they are placing camras on the streets, so they can watch people going about thier own time why would they do this I thought captilism was anit-totaltarian but it is not since they put camras in public places I am going to start wearing my bandana over my face everytime I walk down town, fucking commies, captlists whats the difference? reading 1984 and find wow its happining I doubt these revolusionists would care for the disabile, the homeless prob send them to another form of the gulag! and its funny since consertives would like to put the homeless, the drug addicts in jails then they would all so like to go after anybodies that says soemthing they don't like.
sometimes I wish I could just run into the woods and live there far from all this maddness
the only hope is a new form of politicail bullshit but who can come up with an orginial Idea
other then all the stuff that was before, Ihave never read any of thier works B and Z no plan too! like the beatles said "you say you want to start a revoltuion but when you talk about killing and destruction well brother you can count me out"
yet I do like the idea of change thats not based on blood shed anything that uses blood shed for a goal is like trading one tyrant for another.
sorry for my bad grammer(..!..)

Anonymous

If you want a revolution, why attempt again the failed governments of the pass? Move forward, not back to a pretty fantasy after we've seen it shattered by reality. Sort through those pieces for anything worth salvaging and look at our own successful government. Can they be used to repair our own faults? I thought the purpose here was the consumerist lifestyle, not capitalism. You think that if the rich are brought down, power will dispensate equally? Some people have the money because money is power and power is hoarded and accumulates. If power is not in money, then it will be in some other thing and we'll have a new oppression. Many of the comments following this article are more viable than the article itself. Intelligent responses that don't get suckered into this sweet dream nonsense.

Anonymous

If you want a revolution, why attempt again the failed governments of the pass? Move forward, not back to a pretty fantasy after we've seen it shattered by reality. Sort through those pieces for anything worth salvaging and look at our own successful government. Can they be used to repair our own faults? I thought the purpose here was the consumerist lifestyle, not capitalism. You think that if the rich are brought down, power will dispensate equally? Some people have the money because money is power and power is hoarded and accumulates. If power is not in money, then it will be in some other thing and we'll have a new oppression. Many of the comments following this article are more viable than the article itself. Intelligent responses that don't get suckered into this sweet dream nonsense.

Anonymous

Don't worry....

Gaia has already begun the revolution and we will not be in control.

Pakistan and Russia this summer are just precursors.

The dislocation of millions, the loss of every shred of existence for millions of lives.

New Orleans already tasted Katrina. The US will be hit again and again.

Swim.

Anonymous

Don't worry....

Gaia has already begun the revolution and we will not be in control.

Pakistan and Russia this summer are just precursors.

The dislocation of millions, the loss of every shred of existence for millions of lives.

New Orleans already tasted Katrina. The US will be hit again and again.

Swim.

M in Seattle

I spent 3 days in jail during the '99 WTO protest/riots - and I am proud that Americans stood up and physically opposed bad policies and corporate machiavellianism.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------HOWEVER

My enthusiasm waned after spending hours in different rooms with communists of various stripes.

If problems have become so insoluble that people are drifting back toward Lenin, then I guess I may have to take to the streets once again if the commies take over and fight AGAINST the socialists.

Only the intellectually immature and the power hungry drift toward sthe profoundly STUPID idea that a socialist or communist government model would 'be more humane' or 'just' than the corrupt system it replaces. Group struggle over long periods produces dictators, ideologies, and conformity.

If people 'wake up' and start consuming less, reading more, and behaving more ethically, it must occur in an uncoerced fashion and be completely independent of the creaky and failed concepts of Marx/Lenin.

This magazine is making a big mistake by trying to revive that old shit and tie it to the Zeigeist.
Let's reinvent American Capitalism, not stagger into the fucking dark ages.

M in Seattle

I spent 3 days in jail during the '99 WTO protest/riots - and I am proud that Americans stood up and physically opposed bad policies and corporate machiavellianism.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------HOWEVER

My enthusiasm waned after spending hours in different rooms with communists of various stripes.

If problems have become so insoluble that people are drifting back toward Lenin, then I guess I may have to take to the streets once again if the commies take over and fight AGAINST the socialists.

Only the intellectually immature and the power hungry drift toward sthe profoundly STUPID idea that a socialist or communist government model would 'be more humane' or 'just' than the corrupt system it replaces. Group struggle over long periods produces dictators, ideologies, and conformity.

If people 'wake up' and start consuming less, reading more, and behaving more ethically, it must occur in an uncoerced fashion and be completely independent of the creaky and failed concepts of Marx/Lenin.

This magazine is making a big mistake by trying to revive that old shit and tie it to the Zeigeist.
Let's reinvent American Capitalism, not stagger into the fucking dark ages.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.