It is the contradictions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it was beginning to develop in Russia, that form the object of Lenin's analysis and of his arguments. If you forget this fact, you can easily fall into dogmatism and formalism: Leninism can be represented as a finished theory, a closed system — which it has been, for too long, by Communist parties. But if on the other hand you remain content with a superficial view of these contradictions and of their historical causes, if you remain content with the simplistic and false idea according to which you have to "choose" between the standpoint of theory and that of history, real life and practice, if you interpret Lenin's arguments simply as a reflection of ever changing circumstances, less applicable the further away they are in history, then the real causes of these historical contradictions become unintelligible, and our own relation to them becomes invisible. You fall into the domain of subjective fantasy
First published in Libération. Translated by David Broder.
"What tomorrow will be…" — here I am re-using a title of Derrida’s, in turn borrowed from Victor Hugo.1 This is very apt indeed as a reference to something that is troubling a lot of voters on the more or less radical Left, as they face up to their "electoral duty" in the second round of the presidential election. I do not claim to be getting rid of the uncertainties now clogging up our horizon. But I do want to try to circumscribe and name them, which is in our common interest.
We know what we are going to vote against, why we are doing so and how to do it. There is no prevarication, here: we will be choosing Marine Le Pen’s adversary, who has a name on the ballot, which is Emmanuel Macron.
This essay first appeared in Libération. Translated by David Broder.
The new and substantially updated edition of Balibar's now classic introductory text The Philosophy of Marx is currently 40%, alongside all the other books on our Marx primer reading list.
The question that came to my American friends’ lips after Trump’s election was always the same: "Who’s next? Do you think that Le Pen will win the French elections?" They foresaw either a sort of domino effect or the onset of contagion, grounded in the devastation of the redistributive policies that have been torn apart by neoliberalism. They saw Brexit as a warning, a forerunner. The fall of Renzi as well as Hollande’s announcement that he will not stand for re-election echoed Clinton’s defeat. The question of whether Merkel would "hold on" in the face of the German far Right became a strategic variable.
James Ingram's translation of "Dissonances within Laïcité" first appeared in Constellations in September 2004.
The “debate” over the prohibition of the “Islamic headscarf” and other “visible,” “conspicuous,” or “ostentatious” signs of religious belonging in public schools revived by the conclusions of the Stasi Commission, the intervention by the President of the Republic, and the introduction of a “simple and clear” bill by the Minister for Education, has seen no end of opacities and and displacements. The contradictory implications of the demand for a legislative intervention, which its promoters sought to ignore or imagined would be easily mastered, have proved to be uncontrollable in the national as well as the international sphere.
The controversial banning of the "Burkini" by several French municipalities last week - and it's overturning by the state council - has once again brought the question of what laïcité actually means, and who it works for, in contemporary France. In this short article, originally published in Libération and translated here by David Broder, Etienne Balibar traces the vicissitudes of the concept to show how we have ended up with the "monster of identitarian laïcité".