In the depths of resignation, this left-wing melancholia is a red thread that crosses revolutionary culture, from Auguste Blanqui to critical cinema, passing by way of Gustave Courbet, Rosa Luxemburg, and Walter Benjamin. Traverso forcefully — and counter-intuitively — reveals the full subversive, emancipatory charge of revolutionary mourning.
This essay by Michael Löwy was written as a preface for the multiauthor collection La Commune du Rojava, and published online at Entre les lignes entre les mots. Thanks to Éditions Syllepse for their permission to republish. Translated by David Broder.
Detail from the cover of La Commune du Rojava.
Western public opinion became aware of Rojava’s existence in 2014 with the battle of Kobane, when the combatants of the YPG-YPJ succeeded in doing what the armies of Assad’s dictatorial regime or the Iraqi government could not do, even with Russian and American backing: namely, they inflicted a military and political defeat on Da’esh. The photos of Kurdish militiawomen, arms in hand, in the front rank of the fight against "Islamist" fascism, circulated around the world. They revealed to surprised, astonished readers a singular experience: libertarian Rojava.
This appeal denouncing the police violence and the abuses that have become generalized since the state of emergency came into effect in France was produced by a collective made up of more than three hundred academics, activists, and artists. Translated by David Broder.
(Outside the Saint-Lazare train station, April 12, via Libération.)
Since last November and the proclamation of the state of emergency, the decomposition of the social-regression and police-truncheon state has massively accelerated. This state has dropped any inhibitions about its submission to capital — a capital that stamps its feet, impatient to be able to exploit and cast aside whomever it likes, whenever and however it pleases. Those who refuse to roll over — fighting for their dignity, their future, or simply their everyday lives — are being brought in ever-greater numbers before tribunals, treated as terrorists and, like the Goodyear workers, sentenced to prison terms. Developing in tandem with this has been the most methodical police violence.
The right to demonstrate is non-negotiable. But in towns and cities across France, society is being reordered in a way that criminalises social and political struggles.
In Madrid, the opponents of the new Internal Security Act organized a demonstration of holograms in the Spanish Parliament.
On the weekend of the international conference on Nicos Poulantzas’s work held at the Sorbonne on 16–17 January, Contretemps published this interview with Michael Löwy, who was for seven years the late Greek-French thinker’s assistant at the Université de Paris 8-Vincennes.
Can you tell us about how you met Nicos Poulantzas?
In the 1960s my Brazilian friend Emir Sader – who to this day remains one of the most important Latin American Marxists – was living in exile in France. After my own move to France in 1969 I met with Emir one day and he said to me: ‘I have to leave for Chile’ (this was a few months before Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular came to power, in 1970), ‘can you take my place as Nicos Poulantzas’s assistant at Vincennes university’? I said ‘yes, of course…’ That was when he introduced me to Nicos, who also agreed to this.
At that time, Nicos knew nothing of my own theoretical and political pedigree. He had no reason to worry about that, since Emir had vouched for me. But we belonged to very different tribes of Marxists: he was an Althusserian whereas I was a Lukácsian, he was semi-Maoist and then a Eurocommunist, whereas I was a Trotskyist. And yet we got along marvellously well. Over the years we organised courses on the Third International, the national question, state theory, Lenin, Gramsci… And at the outset we had decided to do the courses together. The students loved this, because they heard two different points of view on each of these themes. Our little duo lasted for some years…