Chenshu Zhou, “76 Days: Can the Dead Speak?”

Chenshu Zhou, "76 Days: Can the Dead Speak?"

76 Days, a feature-length documentary film focusing on the initial coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city Wuhan, has been making the rounds at film festivals around the world since September. Unlike Ai Weiwei’s Coronation, which offers a more comprehensive picture of the same subject, 76 Days devotes most of its screen time to one intensive care unit inside a hospital in Wuhan during its 76 days under strict lockdown. Weixi Chen, a journalist for Esquire China, and a local photojournalist credited as “Anonymous” shot the footage, which Hao Wu (director of The People’s Republic of Desire and All in My Family) then edited from his home in the United States.

While the pandemic continues to rage in many parts of the world (including the US), 76 Days is timely, topical, and, despite its limited perspective, relatively informative. For those still insensitive to the reality of the novel coronavirus and for those curious about what goes on behind the closed doors of ICUs, 76 Days is a valuable record of the early stage of the pandemic. Yet watching it as a narrative film, I also find 76 Days to be underwhelming, if not troubling at times. Beyond its immediate topic of the coronavirus, it raises both old and new questions about representation in our now distantly connected world that are worth a closer look.

In several ways 76 Days frustrates expectations. Despite featuring a tense, dramatic scene as its trailer, most of 76 Daysfeels rather quiet. Inside the ICU, there isn’t the chaos one might expect. Patients await their fates in hospital beds while medical workers go about attending to them in a more or less routine manner. It is not that we do not witness emotional outbursts or heart wrenching moments, like when an old man who keeps trying to “escape” suddenly breaks down saying he knows he is dying, or when the head nurse sorts through the belongings of the dead. But overall the mood is not dramatic, and it is clear that Wu aimed not to dramatize (by not including a soundtrack for example). This in itself is refreshing and demystifying. After all, not everyone has time to be sentimental in the face of death. (The contradictory message, of course, is that the marketing of this film clearly privileges intensity and chaos.)

Yet the everyday routineness of ICU life also disrupts any sense of time passing. For a film that foregrounds time in its title, Wu made the interesting decision not to time stamp the film but only use the footage itself to suggest time. During most of the film, one thus only gets a vague sense of where one stands in the 76 days. Whenever a specific date is referenced, it feels surprising. At least to this viewer, knowing how long a patient has spent in a hospital matters, and for the film not to provide that it is very unsatisfying. Without the clear progression of time and a strong narrative, 76 Daysalso feels more like raw footage than a finished film.   

The truly troubling part of the film, however, is its portrayal of the patients with more severe symptoms. I am the kind of person who usually cries at everything, whether it’s a six-year-old playing the guitar or John McCain’s concession speech from 2008. I started 76 Days preparing to tear up, but it did not happen. Part of it, I suspect, is due to the difficulty of connecting with the people being filmed over PPE and face masks that hide their faces. During the first 30 minutes of the film, it was difficult to remember who was who and to recognize their faces or voices. Meanwhile, my viewing was frequently interrupted by another unanticipated and uncomfortable thought: did the “subjects” give their consent to be included in the film? For those who can no longer give consent, did their families give consent?

What is undeniably visible in 76 Days are aging, unconscious, and dying bodies lying silently in their hospital beds. There are shots of swollen hands (both pre-and-posthumous), dirty fingernails, wrinkled, yellowing faces with dents from repeated intubation. These images are extremely hard to look at. They unmistakably show us what illness takes away – your dignity as a human being, your individuality, everything that makes you who you are beyond the physical mass of a body that you can no longer control. Are these images there to shock viewers into awareness? Yes, coronavirus is ugly, death is ugly, and there is proof. But my immediate reaction was to turn to my husband who was watching the film with me and said: “if I am ever in a similar situation and if I die, please remember that I do not give consent. I don’t ever want people to see me like that.”

There is one patient who is identified by name in the film. In one scene, she is shown lying in her hospital bed unable to speak while several medical workers surround her and tell her things will be ok. Later we find out that she has passed away and we get a scene of the head nurse handing her belongings to her daughter outside of the hospital. Somehow not knowing whether she was ok with her last moments being shown in this film and whether her family is ok with it really bothers me. Perhaps she didn’t mind it. Perhaps her daughter was even glad that she could at least get a glimpse of her mother in the hospital bed since she could not visit her in the ICU in real life. I wish I knew. I wish I knew more about who she was and what she did before she became a sick body in a film, a number in a pandemic. But I don’t. I don’t know if she felt violated with the camera of a stranger pointing at her in her most vulnerable moments.

What seems likely (unless the filmmakers say otherwise), rather, is that the absence of the need to obtain consent was fundamental to how 76 Days could come into being in the first place. As mentioned earlier, 76 Days was a result of trans-pacific collaboration. Without Wu’s intervention, footage might have stayed footage, or it might lose its independence, become subsumed by bigger narratives of the outbreak more acceptable to both the Chinese state and its people (as in several recent Chinese tv series that dramatize the event). Without Chen and Anonymous, Wu of course would have nothing to work with. I’d like to believe that Wu would have wanted to go to Wuhan if he could have. In an interviewwith the Toronto International Film Festival, Wu was asked about the issue of access. The interviewer was gesturing toward a comment on China’s control of information. But Wu, instead, shared that he had tried to film at hospitals in New York, which he found to be extremely difficult. “It would be more difficult here because of the HIPPA laws,” he said. 

What is implied is that there are no such laws in China, and it was easier to gain access there. But aren’t privacy laws precisely what prevent documentary filmmakers from looking at their stories merely as stories, and their “subjects” as merely characters in a film?

The ethical dilemma of photographing and documenting human suffering is not something new. If consent was necessary for someone to be included in an image, we probably would not have seen a lot of the iconic images that have changed the world, such as the “Napalm Girl” shot by Nick Ut during the Vietnam War. So perhaps the more important question is, does the violation, assuming that in itself it is never ok, lead to something important? Is it a worthwhile price to pay for greater empathy and justice? (Does the greater good even justify the taking of someone’s image if they adamantly refuse to be photographed and filmed?)

French philosopher Jacques Rancière offers a surprising but useful way to think about these questions. In an essay called “The Intolerable Image” (included in the book The Emancipated Spectator), Rancière expresses skepticism at the assumption that making an image so full of pain to the degree that it is intolerable for the spectator can necessarily lead to guilt/indignation and then action. Without a pre-existing political movement that contextualizes the pain, he suggests, the link between knowledge and practice is tenuous. But this also does not mean that images are inherently impotent. Rancière argues against those maintaining that the ubiquity of intolerable images desensitizes us, banalizes horrors while there is always something at the heart of the horror that is unrepresentable (the Holocaust being a prime example). For Rancière, images are potentially transformative; their capacity to effect change is tied to their ability to draw out new configurations of “what can be seen, what can be said and what can be thought, and consequently a new land of possibilities. But they do so on condition that their meaning or effect is not anticipated.” In other words, strong authorial intentions backfire; what is seen as a strength of images is the indeterminacy of meaning, which invites curiosity and contemplation.

Bypassing the issue of consent, Rancière’s approach is a practical one that we can apply to assess the efficacy of 76 Days. Does the film draw out new configurations of what can be seen and thought? Did it succeed in reshaping the system of representations (or “the dispositif of visibility” in Rancière’s words) that sustain our sense of the reality surrounding the coronavirus pandemic? I’m afraid 76 Days does not let me see past how the severely ill and the dead appear on screen with no voice and no privacy laws to protect themselves. If the message of the film is simply that medical workers tried their best, patients strived to survive, COVID-19 is a tragedy, and death is ugly, I’m not sure if it is worth it to traffic individual suffering in such a blunt way. After all, as Rancière also writes:

We do not see too many images of suffering bodies on the screen. But we do see too many nameless bodies, too many bodies incapable of returning the gaze that we direct at them, too many bodies that are an object of speech without themselves having a chance to speak.”

76 Days, in my view, accumulates more such nameless, voiceless bodies without a greater trade-off. Given how timely the film strives to be, perhaps rather than watching it as a documentary film with grand artistic ambitions, it is more appropriate to think of it as the visual equivalent of a news report, as journalism. It reveals, observes, and informs – to a certain extent. That’s that.

Poems by Kim Nam-ju (translations by Kevin Michael Smith)

Poems by Kim Nam-ju
(translations by Kevin Michael Smith)

Kim Nam-ju (1945-1994), born in Haenam, South Cholla Province, was a leading leftist poet associated with South Korea’s minjung or “people’s” movement of the 1970s and ‘80s. He was one of 36 individuals convicted by the military government for involvement in the National Liberation Front, an illegal, underground organization agitating for national reunification, and spent the years 1980-88 in prison in Gwangju. His sentence was spent writing dozens of poems commemorating the Gwangju Massacre of May 1980 and protesting his incarceration, South Korea’s military dictatorship, the north-south division system, and US neocolonial domination of the country. With the help of comrades both inside and outside, Kim was able to sneak these poems secretively out of prison for publication. Following his pardon in 1988, he resumed his writing and political activities until his death from cancer in 1994. 

My Name

My name
is red tag 2164
My age
I was in my mother’s belly as Japanese imperialism was chased out the back door
I came out into this world as US imperialism raided through the front door
a so-called “liberation baby”

You ask where I live?
My address is Gwangju City, Munhŭng-dong 88-1
2 S. H. 41 is my house and my room and my toilet

You ask where that is?
My time my place
a day with no sunrise a night with no moon or stars
a cave smaller than 3 meters squared
My freedom?! That’s 24-hour confinement
no make that 365-day confinement
no maybe it’s a 5,475-day grave

My clothing
only a single blue jumpsuit
My food
only three dented nickel dishes
My shelter
only a straw cushion and blanket

I’m “not allowed”
not allowed to t’ongbang1 with the next cell
not allowed to look inmates in the face once in awhile
I’m not allowed
not allowed to leave my designated seat without permission
I’m not allowed
not allowed to lie down or doze off outside of sleeping hours
I’m not allowed
not allowed to possess writing utensils or paper without permission
I’m not allowed
not allowed to read or try to read a book without permission
I’m allowed
allowed to report anyone violating the above conditions immediately to the officer in charge

You ask who I am?
You ask who I am and what I did to live this way?
You, you’ve heard them before
due to American beef imports the price of Korean cattle has plunged
crushed below that is a farmer groaning
those groans belong to my father
You, you’ve heard them before
because they shared the workers’ lives of pain they were accused of being hired illegally2
the pleas of a sexually tortured college girl
those pleas are my sister’s
You, you’ve seen it before
refusing to live like a slave exploited to the maximum
a worker declaring human equality by burning himself
that immolation is my little brother’s
You’ve seen it clearly before
the screams of a mountain village woman raped by American GIs on a “team spirit” mission
those screams are my aunt’s
You right now like every hour of every day
you can see it hear it in your house on your street
down every road you’ve ever walked
your compatriots, no different from your own sons and daughters
you’ve seen them and heard their cries
Let’s rip to shreds the XXX,3 puppet of US imperialism!
Long live the anti-fascist democratic struggle!
Long live the anti-imperialist national liberation struggle!
That chant is mine
mine and my friends’ and my neighbors’ 

 

Father and Son

My son
         you asked
                       your dear father

Shouting Chosŏn
                        Independence
                                           Forever
Arrested by the
                    Chosŏnin4
                                 police detective
Interrogated by the
                          Chosŏnin
                                       prosecutor
Convicted by the
                       Chosŏnin
                                    judge
Under surveillance by the
                                    Chosŏnin
                                                 prison guard
                      10 years
                                  behind bars
Of this dear father
                          you asked
                                       in prison!
This father’s youth
                         gone
                               gray-haired
straight
          from that same prison!

Yelling Anti-American
                              National Liberation
                                                         Struggle
Arrested by the
                     Korean
                              police detective
Interrogated by the
                          Korean
                                   prosecutor
Convicted by the
                       Korean
                                judge

Now under surveillance by the
                                           Korean
                                                    prison guard

Like this you asked
You said nation fear masses love
My compatriot thrown into prison
Who can be comfortable in their own bed you asked
What’s money, law, power, status you asked
What’s a life what’s living you asked

 

T’ongbang
For memory’s sake

Exactly one knock that makes “k”
Knock, knock if two then “n”
Knock knock knock three that’s “d”
Zip if there’s one stroke then “a”
Zip zip if two then “ya”
Zip zip zip three makes “ah”
And so on vowels and consonants together forming syllables
Like this we start the t’ongbang

––Mister, for which incident are you in here?
––The South Korean National Liberation Front incident, sir.
––Ah! Is that right? I’m remembering it now, I’m proud of you, I’ll bet you went through a lot of hardship for that. I expect you’d have some company but just how many of you are there in here?
––Including the women, altogether there are 36 of us, sir.
––Ah! There are women as well? They must have been sent to the women’s block then. I apologize, I should have introduced myself sooner, I’m Yu Han-uk from Sinŭiju,5 what is your name, sir?
––Is that so? I am Kim Nam-ju from Haenam in Chŏnnam province, sir.
––Forgive me for asking, Mr. Kim, but how many years did you get?
––15 years, sir.
––Oh, really! Be especially mindful of your health, then. Does that room not leak water?
––It does leak; the ceiling is all rotten. But this can’t be a place for people to live. It’s no more than a coffin for laying corpses.
––That’s right, it truly is a coffin. Moreover, it’s a coffin on which rain drips. Because we are human we can manage to survive this place, but if it were a goose or chicken or some such caged animal it would have perished right away. Mr. Kim, you must move your body around in order to stay alive. If you don’t move you will not survive. Plenty of people go crazy or have their blood pressure burst in here.
––Yes, I understand well, sir. How long have you lived this life?
––Me, is it me you’re asking? It’s been a full thirty years.

 

Inside and Outside

eating
sleeping
shitting
this is my freedom
here I’m also inside
there I’m outside too
an animal’s freedom

swindling
cheating
stealing
this is my freedom
here I’m also inside
there I’m outside too
law of the jungle

there’s nothing
to read the books I want
to write the essays I want
to say what I want to say
there’s no such freedom
not here inside
not there outside
human freedom

at the top sits the capitalist boss
below the workers carry the weight
one country but two kinds of citizens: owners and slaves
a country split in two in such a country I’m
eating
sleeping
shitting
an animal’s freedom
swindling
cheating
stealing
it’s the law of the jungle
all for one
and one for all
working
singing
fighting
there’s no such freedom
not in prison
not outside 

 

Things Have Really Changed

Under Japanese imperialism if Chosŏn people
shouted “Long Live Independence!”
Japanese policemen would come and take them away
Japanese prosecutors interrogated them
Japanese judges put them on trial

Japan withdrew and the US stepped in
now if Koreans
say “Yankee Go Home”
Korean police come and take them away
Korean prosecutors interrogate them
Korean judges put them on trial

Things have really changed after liberation
because I shouted “Drive out the foreign invaders!”
people from my own country
arrested me, interrogated me, and put me on trial

 

Notes

1 T’ongbang (通房) refers to the morse-code like system of communication among prisoners characterized by patterns of knocks and strokes on the prison walls, in use since the Japanese colonial period, and, as evidenced by Nakano Shigeharu’s 1930 poem “Finally from Today” (Iyoiyo kyō kara), among Japanese political prisoners as well.

2 This refers to student activists who left college to organize factory workers by not disclosing their college backgrounds to employers and getting hired as workers themselves, a common tactic of the 1970s and 80s minjung movement in South Korea.

3 This word was (self) censored in the original.

4 I have chosen not to translate the Korean term Chosŏnin (朝鮮人), which literally means “people of Chosŏn,” using the former title of Korea’s ruling dynasty (1392-1897), by which the Japanese also referred to Korea during the colonial period (1910-1945), and which is still officially used in North Korea. Leaving the term untranslated preserves Kim’s contrast in the original between the colonial period and the contemporary term referring to (South) Koreans, Hangukin (韓國人).

5 Sinŭiju is a city in the far northwest of North Korea along the border with China, near where the Yalu River empties into the Yellow Sea. The date of this poem from the late 1970s implies that the prisoner with whom Kim is speaking, Yu Han-uk, was apprehended shortly after the 1950-53 Korean War for espionage or related activities on behalf of the North. To this day several such long-term North Korean political prisoners remain in South Korean jails.

Critical China Scholars, Open Letter to Monthly Review

OPEN LETTER TO MONTHLY REVIEW
19 October 2020

Dear friends at Monthly Review,

As scholars and activists committed to charting a course for an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist left in the midst of rising US-China tensions, we write in response to your recent republication of a “report and resource compilation” by the Qiao Collective on Xinjiang.

We fully acknowledge the need for a critique of America’s cynical and self-interested attacks on China’s domestic policies. We are committed to that task. But the left must draw a line at apologia for the campaign of harsh Islamophobic repression now taking place in Xinjiang.

Qiao’s “report” is written in a style that is sadly all too common in leftist discussions of China today. While the report “recognize[s] that there are aspects of PRC policy in Xinjiang to critique,” it finds no room for any such critique in its 15,000 words. Eschewing serious analysis, it compiles select political and biographical facts to suggestively point at, but not articulate, the intended conclusion – that claims of serious repression in Xinjiang can be dismissed.

We wish it were the case that talk of internment camps was a myth, fabricated by the National Endowment for Democracy and the CIA. But it is not. Problematic links do exist between individual activists and organisations and the American security state, and there have been errors and misattributions in reporting on Xinjiang. The applicability of terms such as “genocide” and “slavery” can be debated. But none of this should permit agnosticism, let alone denialism, towards what is clearly a shocking infringement on the rights of Xinjiang’s native peoples.

Since 2016, Xinjiang has seen a massive expansion of its security infrastructure, featuring a network of camps that mete out a punishing program of political indoctrination, compulsory language drills, and workhouse-style “vocational” training. Internees range from party members deemed disloyal, intellectuals and artists whose work has sustained the distinct non-Chinese cultural identities of the region, through to those thought to display signs of excessive piety. In the same period Xinjiang has seen a surge in incarcerations, with Muslim Uyghurs imprisoned for as a little as encouraging their peers to observe their faith. Others, meanwhile, have been sent to the Chinese interior, as part of non-voluntary labor programs designed to instill factory discipline into Xinjiang’s rural population. In some cases, these workers have been sent to factories linked to the supply chains of Western corporations

Families inside Xinjiang have been torn apart, with some 40% of school-age  children now enrolled in boarding schools, and many growing up in state orphanages. Outside China, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others live with the trauma of not knowing the fate of their relatives.

While elements of these policies call to mind the excesses of past ideological campaigns in China, they occur today in new conditions of rapid capitalist development in Xinjiang, intended to turn the region into an economic hub of Central Asia. The link here between capitalist expansion and the oppression of indigenous communities is one the left has long been familiar with. To fail to recognise and critique these dynamics in this case is a form of wilful blindness.

There are various ways in which the politics of the Qiao Collective abandons what should be key principles of an internationalist left today, but we wish to highlight one in particular: their treatment of the issue of “counterterrorism.”

Qiao would have us believe that the PRC’s “deradicalization” campaign stands in “stark contrast” to American policies in the War on Terror. On the contrary, China’s deradicalization discourse represents a deliberate appropriation of Western counterterror practices. In his speeches, China’s President Xi Jinping himself encouraged officials to adapt elements of the Western-led War on Terror since 9/11.

The authors of the report are aware of these precedents, citing Western policies to preemptively identify those “at risk” of radicalization and intervene. They make note of France’s highly intrusive deradicalisation policies, as well as Britain’s Desistance and Disengagement Programme, part of the notorious Prevent Strategy. (To this list we could of course add the abuses of counterterror policing in the US, Australia, and elsewhere). Astonishingly, though, they cite these policing techniques not to criticize them, but simply to accuse the West of double standards: China, they complain, has received a level of criticism that these European governments have not.

This is entirely disingenuous on Qiao’s part, a deflection worthy of the Chinese state media that they frequently cite. The left, along with Muslim advocacy groups, have long called for an end to these Islamophobic policies, resting as they do on a bogus association of Islamic piety and/or anti-imperialist views with a proclivity to anti-social violence (see here for a recent example of such a call). Would Qiao then be happy for China to receive only the same level of criticism, and face these same calls?

Judging from their report, they would not. The entire thrust of their report is instead to normalize harmful paradigms of “deradicalisation” and “counter-extremism” as an acceptable basis for a state to engage its Muslim citizenry.

Qiao is evidently impressed by the fact that “Muslim-majority nations and/or nations that have waged campaigns against extremism on their own soil” stand in support of China at the United Nations. We are not so impressed. These local “campaigns against extremism” have replicated the worst violations of America’s War on Terror, and often in collaboration with it.

One example Qiao gives here is Nigeria, whose counterterrorism Joint Task Force was accused by Amnesty International in 2011 of engaging in “unlawful killings, dragnet arrests, arbitrary and unlawful detentions, extortion and intimidation.” Another is Pakistan, which the US commander-in-chief in Afghanistan once praised as a “a great ally on the war on terror,” and whose air and ground forces are responsible for serial abuses against civilian populations.

The incidents of violence against ordinary Chinese citizens that Qiao cites should of course not be dismissed: we must criticize those who engage in terrorism, while at the same time recognizing the social conditions that produce it, and pointing to the need for political solutions.

Qiao, by contrast, directs us toward the murky world of “terror-watching” punditry that has arisen in symbiosis with the two-decade-long Global War on Terror, and has provided justifications for that state violence. One of the authorities they cite on terrorism in Xinjiang is Rohan Gunaratna, a discredited figure who made his name in the 2000s urging America and its allies to invade Muslim-majority countries and enact repressive security laws at home. If Gunaratna and his ilk are our friends, the left will have no need of enemies.

Uncritically invoking China’s “terrorism problem,” and downplaying the severity of Beijing’s response to it, paints a left-wing façade on a global discourse of counterterrorism that poses a threat to Muslim communities everywhere. The struggle against anti-Muslim racism and the devastating effects of the ongoing War on Terror is international, and our solidarity in that struggle must extend to its victims in China.

For these reasons, we find it regrettable that you have chosen to give wider audience to the Qiao Collective’s “report and resource compilation.” In recognition of the existence of alternative perspectives on the left, and in the interest of debate, we hope you will also publish this letter alongside it.

We look forward to future opportunities to collaborate on critical left analysis regarding China and the US-China conflict, and we hope you will contact us whenever we can be of assistance. To find out more about the Critical China Scholars and our activities, please see our website, which includes video recordings of past webinars.  

In solidarity,

Joel Andreas

Angie Baecker 

Tani Barlow

David Brophy

Darren Byler

Harlan Chambers

Tina Mai Chen

Charmaine Chua

Manfred Elfstrom

Christopher Fan

Eli Friedman

Jia-Chen Fu

Daniel Fuchs

Joshua Goldstein

Beatrice Gallelli

Paola Iovene

Fabio Lanza

Soonyi Lee

Promise Li

Kevin Lin

Andrew Liu

Nicholas Loubere

Tim Pringle

Aminda Smith

Sigrid Schmalzer

Alexander Day

Rebecca Karl

Uluğ Kuzuoğlu

Ralph Litzinger

Christian Sorace

Jake Werner

Shan Windscript

Lorraine Wong

David Xu Borgonjon

For the Critical China Scholars

Thomas Burnham reviews Julia Lovell, Maoism: A Global History

Thomas Burnham reviews Julia Lovell, Maoism: A Global History

Lovell, Julia. Maoism: A Global History. London: The Bodley Head, 2019. 606 pages.

In the West, as popular trust in liberal institutions is eroded, an increasingly unapologetic left is confronting an ascendant right.  In the United States, the word “socialism” has re-entered the popular lexicon through a new generation of voters who, faced with gilded-age levels of income inequality and impending environmental collapse, have gotten over their parents’ Cold War hangover.  As for the People’s Republic of China, once the site of the most radical socialist experiments in the world, socialism seems to be a thing of the past.  At an interview in the Oxford Union, Peking University Fellow Charles Liu grinningly shrugged off journalist Mehdi Hassan’s derision of the income inequality inherent to “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” saying, “We are certainly not as socialist as Norway, Finland, and Sweden.”1 Meanwhile, overzealous public security officers detain Marxist students who, inspired by Mao Zedong’s life and ideas, organize among factory workers and migrant labourers.  Characters and ideas thought to be swept into Fukuyama’s end of history have re-emerged as fields of contention in a post-Cold War context.  In the introduction to her book, Maoism: A Global History, Julia Lovell asks why a book like this had not been published already.  The answer is that the question of Maoism is a living terrain of struggle, both as a set of ideas and as a legacy.  The timeliness of Lovell’s book, and the book’s ability to draw an unbroken link between the history of Maoism to current events, lies in this ongoing competition over Mao and Maoism in China as well as the reinvigorated arguments over how left the Western left should be.

For the uninitiated, Maoism begins with a crash course on Maoist tenets through a parallel thematic biography of Mao himself, and it is in this crash course that the book takes a clear side on the question of Maoism today.  Framing Mao’s lecherous womanizing or the thought reform of the Yan’an Rectification Movement with tenets like “women hold up half the sky” or “expose errors and criticize shortcomings,” Lovell selectively contrasts Mao’s thought with his life and practice, portraying him as a brutish hypocrite (albeit a charismatic one) so as to lambaste Maoism’s inherent contradictory impulses.  In having set out to uniformly condemn Mao and Maoism, Lovell casts the Anti-Bolshevik League Incident in the 1930s as a sort of biblical fall defining Maoism for eternity as merely an ideology of indiscriminate purges.  Having introduced the reader to Maoism within China, the book briefly charts Maoism’s earliest vectors out of China and into the world.  Through the example of Clarence Adams’ decision to remain in China after fighting in the Korean War, Lovell recognizes that Western injustices like the U.S. Jim Crow laws and the racialization of the draft led to many in the West to empathize with Maoism. The book also paints a somewhat sympathetic picture of Edgar Snow as a carelessly misinformed eccentric forsaking due journalistic diligence in seeking a name for himself.  However, Lovell derides Red Star over China a “puff piece” and frames such perspectives on China as nothing but sanitized or naive understandings of Mao and his ideas, thus setting the tone for how the book will discuss Maoism globally.

The core of Lovell’s warning against Maoism comes in her summary of “high Maoism,” or the peak of Maoist radicalism as experienced in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.  Hoping her book will inoculate the reader against Maoism, a point Lovell reiterates throughout is that, like Snow, Maoists in China and abroad are either ignorant or misinformed about the disastrous outcomes of Maoism in power and are therefore prone to repeating those outcomes.  Lovell links Vietnamese readings of the Rectification Movement and Great Leap Forward to the excesses of Vietnamese land reform.  She discusses how Cambodia’s iteration of the Cultural Revolution’s radicalism led to the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.  She argues that the CCP’s class-inflected nationalism fostered competing communist nationalisms among the CCP and its fraternal parties in Southeast Asia, resulting in war between the three countries.  A continent away, Lovell argues that iterations of Maoism in Africa were abject failures in every case but in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.  Lovell observes that China’s revolutionary foreign policy was successful in garnering enough influence in Africa to join the United Nations and that emulating Maoism helped to prop up African dictators, but the book unequivocally judges Maoism as having failed Africans themselves.  Returning to Asia, Lovell considers the Communist Party of Nepal’s ascent to power, beginning with their grassroots agitation, the Nepali Civil War, and finally with their leaders’ buying into the quid pro quo political machinations of Kathmandu.  With Nepali Maoists having muscled their way into power, Lovell frets about their ignorance of China and the actual effects of Maoism there, saying that this was just revolution “by the book,” in the sense that it was completely (mis)informed by propaganda like Red Star Over China.  In a similar vein, Lovell sympathetically portrays the Naxalites’ work fighting for the catastrophically poor Adivasi people of Northern India, noting their lack of awareness and even apathy about China and Chinese history, and yet insisting that their Maoist-inspired violence and “kangaroo courts” are not the answer to the bare existence endured by the Adivasis.

In addition to criticizing Maoism in power and exhorting against historical apathy, Lovell also makes a more abstract point on how Maoism has been weaponized both by self-avowed communists and the very organs of state repression they opposed.  Lovell connects the American fear of Chinese “brainwashing” in the Korean War to America’s dark history with black psyops (see MKUltra) and the “enhanced interrogation” methods of the War on Terror, setting up the recurring theme of Maoist revolutionary tactics engendering their own reflections in what Lovell calls “Maoish” state repression.  In a similar vein, the book depicts Western Maoists as violence-prone kooks only going through a phase before taking their own role in constructing our neoliberal present, a role they took both directly—by selling out or buying in—and indirectly—by provoking repressive organs of power to bring counter-insurgency methods from abroad to the home front, formulating programs like COINTELPRO.  Lovell further illustrates this dynamic through an account of Sendero Luminoso’s accelerationist battle against the Peruvian state.  The Shining Path both carried out atrocities modelled on Maoist ideas and intentionally provoked state violence as a means of fomenting violent rebellion.  Moving like “fish in water,” the Shining Path deliberately implicated the desperately poor and racially discriminated-against Peruvian peasantry in their actions, only to retreat and abandon them to horrific police and military repression.  Peruvian counterterrorism operators got wise and implemented a Maoism of their own, arming the peasantry and rebuilding whatever patriotic attitude the Peruvian people once had to finally encircle and defeat the Shining Path.

Lovell concludes the book by investigating how Maoism fares in its birthplace today.  The final chapter examines the effort of the contemporary CCP to balance between quarantining itself from the populist chaos of Maoism and disavowing the PRC’s founding father altogether, a move which would risk the collapse of its historical legitimacy.  This chapter contains portraits of some of China’s so-called New Left, a problematic moniker considering that these neo-Maoists are more akin to the red-brown alliance of the former Soviet Union than readers of E.P Thompson or Herbert Marcuse.  The portraits include a Cultural Revolution nostalgic, a group of ultra-nationalists using Maoist language to oppose the new order of reform and opening, and a quasi-religious “teacher” with his own rural commune.  Using the example of Bo Xilai’s mobilization of Maoist symbolism before his precipitous fall from grace in 2012, Lovell argues that both post-1976 de-Maoification and the recent reappearances of Maoist populism are symbolic only; that today’s China is “Maoish,” not Maoist.  According to Lovell, Maoism in post-market reform China endures in the elevation of Xi Jinping to “core status” within the CCP.  Lovell concludes remarking on the dynamic ability of Maoism to navigate paradoxes and contradictions such as the CCP’s management of one of the most vibrant players in global capitalism, speculating that this ability will extend the life of Maoism in China and abroad for the foreseeable future.  However, rather frustratingly, the book does not dedicate any real space to the Maoist students who might be just as quick as Lovell to decry China’s so-called New Left, a glaring omission considering the worldwide attention the students have been able to garner for themselves since the 2018 Jasic incident.

Lovell’s Maoism is unique in its scope and in the seriousness with which it approaches a critically important topic.  It is a timely, engaging, and succinct intervention in a field of study which is highly contentious and still evolving.  By choosing various episodes from Cold War history and drawing on a wide variety of sources, Lovell’s Maoism offers a globe-trotting and roughly chronological account of Maoism’s influence on history, compacting what might be an unwieldy academic endeavour into an approachable and well-paced narrative with a purpose.  Focused on this task, this book is not a deep dive into the nitty-gritty of Marxist-Leninist Mao Zedong Thought, but a narrative of what Maoism wrought on China and the world.  Lovell characterizes Maoism like “a dormant virus,”2 amorphous and adaptable, spread by all kinds of vectors, enduring and producing catastrophe after catastrophe.  Lovell’s narrative is an unsympathetic portrayal of the man and his ideas which is meant to serve as a warning against forgetting how Maoism actually played out in Great Leap Forward China, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, Peru during the Shining Path insurgency, and elsewhere.  By examining key episodes in the global history of Maoism and connecting them to current issues and events, this book provides an effective introduction to the sphere of Cold War history which resonates most piercingly into the present.

However, this focus on making the story of global Maoism a cautionary tale operates by trivializing and obscuring the repression faced by global left during the Cold War.  The brutal suppression, massacres, and civil war instigated by the Guomindang is set to one side in Lovell’s discussion of concurrent CCP purges in the Soviet areas, and the book’s treatment of the AB League Purge completely glosses over the broader context of the contemporaneous GMD encirclement campaigns or the exigencies of the CCP’s uneven attempts at state building in the Jiangxi Soviet.  Although Lovell mentions the role of Western powers in the genocidal massacres of Indonesian communists and ethnic Chinese in the 1965-66, she somewhat troublingly focuses the blame on the massacre’s victims, arguing that under Mao’s direct influence the Communist Party of Indonesia carelessly adopted an overly militant posture thus polarizing Indonesian society against itself.  This is not the only example of the book seemingly blaming the victim in order to make its overall point.  Framing her discussion of Maoism’s influence in the West with the “secular-religious zeal” of the “extreme millenarian fringe of this scene,”3 Lovell is openly hostile to the idea that Maoism as a set of ideas armed oppressed people with a language of resistance and comes dangerously close to advancing a narrative of “cultural Marxism” reminiscent of the contemporary far right’s hysteria about the permeation of leftist influence in Western academia.  Moreover, recognition of the repurposing of Maoism in Western philosophy and social sciences is so minimal as to do violence to the actual legacy of Maoism in the academy, and the context which may have elicited sympathy for Westerners influenced by Mao, like the story of the Black Panthers and Fred Hampton’s extrajudicial murder, is given short shrift.  Instead, the concept of “Maoish” state repression through organs like COINTELPRO is also blamed on Western Maoists themselves.

Such lack of context makes the book’s orientation towards current events problematic.  For instance, as universally loathed as the Shining Path may be, and as effectively as Lovell depicts the violence set loose against it and those adjacent to it, a key element to understanding Abimael Guzmán’s misguided revolutionary accelerationism, namely the background of U.S.-backed repression faced by Latin America’s left, is left out entirely.  While the people of Peru faced the dual reigns of terror of the Shining Path and the Peruvian state, leftists and their families in the rest of Latin America were being disappeared en masse, thrown out of helicopters, and brutally massacred by roving U.S.-trained and armed death squads.  Although Guzmán is now in prison, many of the architects of the U.S. Cold War policy in Latin America still haunt the halls of power today.  During the 1980s, one of the orchestrators of such suppression, Elliot Abrams, advocated for a style of U.S. accelerationism (accelerating regime collapse and civil war by shipping arms under the guise of humanitarian aid while simultaneously immiserating a target country’s populace through sanctions) in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.  This effort helped to produce the ongoing transnational humanitarian crisis stretching across Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border.  Abrams is now the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela where he supports a similar strategy for ousting Nicolás Maduro today.

Lovell’s book depicts Maoism both as a virus against which to inoculate ourselves and also as a weapon that the U.S. government now wields against its enemies.  The October after Nikita Khrushchev initiated de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union, Mao worried that if the socialist camp threw away the sword of Stalin the West would pick it up and kill them with it.4  In foreclosing any potential usefulness for the oppressed and the left by erasing both the wider context in which Maoism arose as well as the post-modernist aspect of Maoism that Zhang Xudong called its “built-in passion for the masses” and “profound disdain for discursive or institutional reifications,”5 Lovell’s warning functionally surrenders Mao to Chinese neo-authoritarians in Beijing and undead Cold Warriors in Washington.

Thomas C. Burnham is a DPhil student at the University of Oxford whose research focuses on Chinese and Soviet development aid to Africa in the 1960s.”

 

Endnotes

1“What is the human cost to China’s economic miracle? | Head to Head,” Al Jazeera English, YouTube video, 27:38, posted March 15, 2019. https://youtu.be/yZs4PqKlph0?t=1658.

2 Lovell, Maoism: 150.

3Lovell, Maoism:  268.

4“Meeting of the Delegations of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party, Moscow, 5-20 July 1963 ,” July 8, 1963, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO Barch JIV 2/207 698, pp. 187-330 (in Russian). Obtained by Vladislav Zubok and translated by Benjamin Aldrich-Moodie. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/111237.

5 Zhang Xudong, “Postmodernism and Post-Socialist Society: Cultural Politics in China After the ‘New Era’,” New Left Review, vol. 237 (September-October 1999) 98.

 

 

Kamran Baradaran, Ground Zero, or Why Do We Need Antonio Gramsci in the Times of COVID-19

Kamran Baradaran, "Ground Zero, or Why Do We Need Antonio Gramsci in the Times of COVID-19"

Politics is a protracted war. Do not be in a hurry. Try to see things far in advance and know how to wait, today. Don’t live in terms of subjective urgency.” Louis Althusser, letter to Maria Antonietta Macciocchi, 2 April 1968 1

It might seem strange to mention Antonio Gramsci together with COVID-19 in the title of this piece. After all, what could Gramsci possibly have to say about the 2020 epidemic? Furthermore, isn’t his connection to the contemporary left somewhat questionable? Doesn’t he stand as a symbol of Communist wishful thinking, of the unattainability of Leftist ideals? Doesn’t he represent the manifestation of the left’s inability to organize a revolutionary force against the relentless onslaught of the enemy? A plea for a Gramscian politics and the idea of re-actualizing him could appear to be useless, in these times. Yet, I argue that in fact Gramsci still has a great deal to offer, especially in these times.

Today, it seems there is a silent agreement between the radical Left (if there is still such a thing) and liberalism, an agreement to forget Gramsci and abandon his legacy—namely, affirming the importance of class struggle, the organization of the masses, and power struggle. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that in today’s tumultuous times, when silence has lost its ability to speak, Gramsci remains our contemporary and can shed a different light on the situation at hand.

The true hateful

As the epidemic continues and fear spreads, long lists of guidelines and explanations are published. All of these, despite their ideological differences, have one thing in common: the emphasis on the need for coordinated action and cooperation to combat the threat of contagion.

The ongoing crisis has also triggered broad ideological interpretations, from paranoid conspiracy theories to the explosion of racism fables. In order to move forward, we need to overcome a whole series of semi-leftist misconceptions. The first and the most disgusting misconception is the paranoid conspiracy theory, harbored by some leftists, that secrete agencies are deliberately responsible for the outbreak. Several “leftists” have gone so far as to claim that China has intentionally designed and spread the virus around the globe to undermine Western economies and establish PRC hegemony. This form of leftist paranoia must be pitilessly discarded. It confirms that, as Jean Baudrillard put it, we always have within us a demand both for a radical event and a total deception. The logic of this conspiracy theory is that it is preferable to believe humans have control and let things get out of hand than to endow obscure and stupid viruses with the power to inflict such horrors on us. In other words, “even if it is a serious matter to admit one’s own shortcomings, it is still preferable to admitting the other party’s power.”2The true “destructive” element which undermines the foundations of our societies is not an external threat, like the current health emergency, but the dynamic of the global capitalism itself which sets the stage for such risks.

These speculations tend to ignore the fact that capital-led agriculture produces hotspots in which pathogens can evolve the most virulent and infectious phenotypes. As Rob Wallace puts it, “capital is spearheading land grabs into the last of primary forest and smallholder-held farmland worldwide. These investments drive the deforestation and development leading to disease emergence.” Therefore, if we are to learn anything from our condition, we must focus on what Slavoj Žižek calls “capitalism with Asian values”, a new form of capitalism, which is more productive and functions even better than the usual western one, but which doesn’t generate a long-term demand for democracy.

Thus looking the imaginary “hateful” and creating paranoid narratives certainly illuminates nothing and it further elides the fact that the “state of exception” no longer offers any concrete solution. This crisis has shown once again that the state of exception is not an emergency breakdown or catastrophe, but the current system of capitalism as such. The actual “state of exception” is the normal and evidently unpoliced everyday, the un-freedom we experience as freedom.

The ghost of antagonism past

Our current predicament has given new life to one of the left’s oldest concepts: antagonism. One should note the undeniable fact that in the face of viral infections, it’s easy for many of us, with the means to self-isolate, to accept lockdowns and quarantines, to entertain ourselves with free books, music, and virtual museum tours. But what about those who are not able to do so? What about the “essential workers” and others who are forced to keep working in the current situation just to stay alive and to keep us alive as well? Here there is no better interpretive concept than that of class antagonism.  We must reintroduce that classical category. To do so, we need a new radical form of political action, an intervention that changes the very framework which determines how things work. This intervention enables us to go beyond the “normal order of things”. As Jacques Rancière puts it, “it is this anomaly that is expressed in the nature of political subjects who are not social groups but rather forms of inscription of the (ac)count of the unaccounted-for.”3

It is precisely here that Gramscian politics should come in. Gramsci’s great insight was that in the face of changes that could wipe out the world as we know it, a new form of thinking and political act is needed to abolish the old regime:

“Events are the real dialectics of history. They transcend all arguments, all personal judgments, all vague and irresponsible wishes. Events, with the inexorable logic of their development, give the worker and peasant masses, who are conscious of their destiny, these lessons. The class struggle at a certain moment reaches a stage in which the proletariat no longer finds in bourgeois legality, i.e., in the bourgeois State apparatus (armed forces, courts, administration), the elementary guarantee and defense of its elementary right to life, to freedom, to personal safety, to daily bread. It is then forced to create its own legality, to create its own apparatus of resistance and defense.”4

This contagion has shown that the principal problem of capitalism is not neoliberalism, austerity politics, nor new and varied forms of authoritarianism, apartheid, sexism, homophobia and racism, but rather it is the capitalist form itself, that is, the value-form. Instead of referring to neoliberalism as the cause of our plight, we should return to older critiques and the overcoming of capital as the ultimate goal of our thinking and actions.5

To achieve this goal, there is another misconception that must be set aside. We should brutally dismiss left populism as the way to overcome this predicament. There is no doubt that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing a massive increase in unemployment, a severe economic crisis, and widespread social unrest. Of course, from a leftist point of view, it is difficult not to empathize with uprisings against the ruling order. However, this quick judgement in favor of protest, this all-to-easy , should give us pause.

Today, one should shamelessly emphasize that left populism does not provide a feasible alternative to the system. All those who make abstract demands in response to the ongoing conditions secretly know that their demands will never be satisfied. Here we witness the ultimate embodiment of the Hegelian “Beautiful Soul”, which feels superior to the corrupted world while secretly participating in it; they need this corrupted world as the only terrain where they can exert their moral superiority. This means that the left must play a double game here and make governments its main target: controlling the epidemic and providing accurate information is the main task of governments, and the authorities must use all their resources to achieve this! In a Lacanian sense, hysterical subjects are needed here, to take aim at the master’s discourse, to review and question it.

If we don’t do this, worse pandemics than current Coronavirus will await us. A few years ago, BBC portrayed what might be waiting for us as a direct result of the ways we intervene in nature:

“Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt, they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.”

According to this report, with the continuation of global warming, and as a consequence of permafrost melt, the vectors of deadly infections from the 18th and 19th centuries may re-emerge and re-infect animal and human populations. These warnings may seem more like an exciting scenario for an apocalyptic movie.  But we must not forget that the environment—and the changes that have taken place in it—are an integral part of our daily lives and can easily disrupt its course.

To return to my initial point about Gramsci, what is interesting in his ideas is that he sought to provide a revolutionary reading of historical materialism. He emphasized that the core of Marxism was based on the rejection of the idea that history was a “natural organism.” According to Gramsci, to get out of a dreadful predicament (in his time, fascism), the left must emphasize mobilizing forces to overthrow the bourgeois dictatorship. Within the framework of Gramsci’s thought, Marxism becomes a revolutionary act that can oppose the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, in various fields and contexts. The greatness of Gramsci lies in the fact that he did not intend to portray the ideal image of the New World but made every effort to portray the path that must be taken to achieve it.

The lesson the left must learn here is that the only realistic solution to the current impasse is to re-introduce the classic concept of antagonistic social relations. It may be true that the virus does not care how much money its host has in their bank account, but the handling of this health crisis is rooted in class antagonism and we must unashamedly place that antagonism at the center of our analysis.

Furthermore, contrary to many assumptions, what we need today is not the easing of pain and the diminishment of suffering. If psychoanalysis has taught us anything, it is that in catastrophic times, we must abandon the vulgar logic of self-knowledge and replace it with the struggle for a greater, external cause. The goal is not to alleviate the pain but to understand that there are things more important than our daily suffering. As Mark Fisher put it brilliantly, “the rebuilding of class consciousness is a formidable task indeed, one that cannot be achieved by calling upon ready-made solutions—but, in spite of what our collective depression tells us, it can be done.”

Change on trial

It seems that a demand for change is the new slogan of our times. Almost everyone is talking about change, including former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. “The reality is the world will never be the same after the Coronavirus,” said Kissinger in a Wall Street Journal editorial. “The U.S. must protect its citizens from disease while starting the urgent work of planning for a new epoch.” Today we are bombarded with slogans like “things will change after this epidemic.” Even Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who recently tried once more to blackmail Europe by sending a wave of refugees to Greece, is talking about a new world arising from the remains of the pandemic.

Nevertheless, one of the main problems with change is that it can lead to constant transformation, and continuous transformation can lead to no change at all! This is precisely what we are facing in today’s economy. The main question is how change or innovation can lead to something that is at the same time static, something that offers new principles, but not principles that can be used to maintain the same framework.

There is no doubt that after the dust settles, the world needs radical change and we’ll be facing a new reality. But change for whom and for whose benefit? The present state of affairs is a unique chance for the Left to represent itself as the “true solution.” The biggest triumph of the ruling class has been to present themselves as the only ones who can effect change, while presenting leftists, conversely, as naïve utopians who call for changes that cannot be effected. Now, we have the opportunity to manifest a practical and modest model of the future and show everyone that, on the contrary, the true utopians are those who advocate the same ideological system over and over again!

Referring to Italy’s experience during Risorgimento, Gramsci listed two types of revolution; the active revolution led by Giuseppe Mazzini and the passive revolution led by Camillo Benso di Cavour. The passive revolution entails an attempt to create cultural hegemony and change through a meaningful process that, from Gramsci’s perspective, would be achieved by patiently preparing for radical and revolutionary transformations. Today, there is a need for that same kind of comprehensive, global, and concrete project (to address everything from the political and economic crises to the ecological one).

Nowadays, more and more people realize that they are genuinely disposable, that there is no necessary job, role, or place for them in society. In other words, we are witnessing the emergence of a critical mass of individuals, who are newly conscious of their precarious positions, on the fringes of communities, who were waiting for their moment to cross over, to join their more prosperous neighbors, but for whom that moment never came. This is an excellent example of why we need a Gramscian politics based on intervention that is at once revolutionary and molecular. This micro-politics emphasizes getting our hands dirty and urges us to mobilize and redefine the very idea of the left. As Gramsci said in the early 1920s, “the socialists have never understood the spirit of the period through which we are passing in the class struggle. They have not understood that the class struggle may be converted at any moment, at any provocation, into an open war which can only be concluded with the seizure of power by the proletariat.”6

The present global situation may provide a unique chance to reexamine ideology and ideological state apparatuses. From a scientific perspective, a virus such as COVID-19 is nothing but a micro-mechanism that blindly reproduces itself. Can’t we say the same thing about the dominant global capitalist economy? Is it not just a mindless mechanism that endures on speculation and blindly reproduces itself? The answer to our predicament is not mere enthusiasm for crisis, but hard work to analyze the situation and provide an appropriate and accurate alternative. This is a task that Gramsci emphasized years ago, and now we must take the same path and embrace the hard work ahead.

Crisis at the gates

What should put fear in our hearts is the widespread and frightful sense that capitalism is the only viable political and economic system and that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.

On March 23, Reuters reported that the “Head of International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva has warned that the damage done to the global economy by the COVID-19 pandemic could be as bad or worse than the global financial crisis in 2008 and lead to a recession.” The report continued, “Georgieva said the outlook for global growth was negative and the IMF now expected a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse.” Aren’t we once again witnessing the same paradigm that Naomi Klein once described as “shock doctrine”: the exploitation of national or global disasters to establish controversial and questionable policies while citizens are too distracted (emotionally and physically) to engage and develop an adequate response and resist effectively? One should recall that after the 2008 financial meltdown, billions of dollars were hastily poured into the global banking system in a frantic attempt at financial stabilization. And the main victims were those who lost their life savings in the blink of an eye and had no chance to rebuild. It is important to note that capitalism not only faces crises but also feeds on them and, by implementing socialism for the rich and the destruction of the most ordinary types of social services, strengthens itself even more. We should also bear in mind that there should be an agent (or agents) who will give the “final crisis” of capitalism a positive and pragmatic twist and this is the role the Left needs to take in these troubled times.

Isn’t the COVID-19 crisis the best example of what Walter Benjamin described as “Geschichte ist Choc zwischen Tradition und der politischen Ordnung” (history is the shock between tradition and political organization)? If the present system is a train with broken brakes, speeding towards disaster, then the messianic moment is like a stop-chord. Again, as Benjamin put it, history is awakened with a slap born of long-contained frustration, not a kiss! Are current events a slap? Can this slap wake us up?

 

Kamran Baradaran is an Iranian translator, author, and journalist. He has translated works by Slavoj Žižek, Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard, Antonio Gramsci, Paul Mason, among many others. He has also published a book about Écriture féminine titled Feminine Writing: Improvisation in the Mist.

 

Notes:

1 Maria Antonietta Macciocchi, 1973, Letters from Inside the Italian Communist Party to Louis Althusser, translated by Stephen M. Hellman, NLB, p. 21.

2 Baudrillard, Jean, 2003, The Spirit of Terrorism, translated by Chris Turner, Verso, p.78.

3 Rancière, Jacques, “Ten Theses on Politics” in Dissensus; On Politics and Aesthetics, Edited and translated by Steven Corcoran, 2010, Continuum International Publishing Group, p.35.

4 Gramsci, Antonio, 1978, “Real Dialectics” in Antonio Gramsci; Selections from Political Writings 1921-1926, translated and edited by Quintin Hoare, Lawrence and Wishart, p. 17.

5 I owe this point to my conversation with Agon Hamza. See: https://www.ilna.news/en/tiny/news-759611

6 Gramsci, Antonio, 1978, p. 25.