Olivier Assayas' recent film Carlos, the five and a half hour biopic about the notorious "Carlos the Jackal", has garnered a significant amount of critical acclaim ever since it played at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Beautifully shot, cleverly edited, and extremely ambitious, this film could have been another Che, or, at the very least, a Bourne Identity with revolutionary politics. Unfortunately Carlos was an insulting and politically offensive piece of ahistorical trash that, after the first promising hour and a half, degenerated into retrograde confusion. Perhaps this confusion was promised in the first third of the film, when the titular protagonist proclaims, in defense of his Marxist-Leninist principles, "we are not nihilists" - a statement the audience, by the end of the film, should understand as ironic.
Indeed, Assayas' film is tainted by that postmodern irony and cynicism that cannot help but suspect revolutionary principles and must sacrifice honesty and realism in order to insult and denigrate any person or persons who were foolish enough to act, rightly or wrongly, according to these principles. The film became confused and nihilistic because we are supposed to believe that the politics of the film's subject are essentially confused and meaningless. Thus Carlos was a rockstar biopic masquerading as a film about a revolutionary terrorist, and the character Carlos was like a Jim Morrison: substitute guns for microphones, and anti-imperialist comments for pop songs - once the surface trappings are changed, the film might as well have been any other cautionary moral tale about celebrity stardom.
I do not believe that films about revolutionaries should always be hagiographical, that committed and infamous militants should always be depicted as inhuman saints. That is not my problem with Carlos. As one of my friends wrote about Carlos (real name: Illich Ramirez Sanchez), before seeing the film, "he might have been an asshole but he was our [meaning the left's] asshole." No one is perfect, and every great revolutionary is as flawed as everyone else. I am certain that Carlos was no different from other masculinist radicals of the time, the sort of glory-seeking heroes much criticized by radical feminism. And yet the film did not even present Carlos as "our asshole" - rather, it presented him as just a two-dimensional asshole whose supposed revolutionary principles were just about being a jerk.
One of the most apparent problems with Carlos, and what should cast most of the film into suspicion, is its basic historical inaccuracy. For example, Assayas claims that the infamous OPEC raid was funded by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And yet the historical record on this point is clear: Carlos' team received funding from Libya not Iraq, and an Iraqi security agent (not a Libyan security agent as the film falsely shows) was killed during the raid. Even wikipedia, not the most reliable source for political information, accepts this fact as irrefutable. Moreover, evidence submitted at trials for other OPEC raiders always pointed to Libya. This might seem like a minor quibble, but this act of historical dishonesty is important for the film's ultimate anti-anti-imperialist agenda.
The problem with Carlos is not whether or not Carlos was a horrible human being. Rather, the problem is that the film's logic is constructed in such a way that he could be nothing but a confused nihilist, a rank mercenary who only pays lip-service to radical politics, because the political commitments themselves are meaningless. Carlos is nothing more than a cipher of an incoherent politics that are a priori flawed (and never given any real coherence by the film-maker): his flaws are the fault of a dishonest politics. The revisionist account of the OPEC raid serves this purpose. In fact, the beginning of the OPEC raid is where the film's degeneration begins.
When Carlos is first given the OPEC assignment by PFLP-EO leader Wadie Haddad, he is informed in a closed-door meeting that the raid is not really aimed at Palestinian liberation but is secretly an Iraqi operation. The Iraqis want the Saudi and Iranian oil ministers assassinated (the reasons given are rather nebulous, and must be nebulous since this is a massive historical error), and the PFLP-EO has decided to hire itself out as a mercenary group for Iraq. Thus we are told that the specific political struggle Carlos has committed himself to is really meaningless. The revolutionary leadership of the PFLP is not concerned, apparently, with the liberation of Palestine - they just pretend to care in order to trick people into becoming their operatives and then sell their services to the highest bidder.
One must wonder why the PFLP, Carlos, and the other "mercenary" revolutionaries are committed to their militant lives in the first place. The film cannot spirit away their anti-imperialism completely - that would be obviously historically inaccurate in light of the declarations, speeches, and interviews of Carlos and the PFLP. So instead the film undermines the anti-imperialism by making it seem like a lie, nothing more than a cover for mercenary opportunism. And yet the film's position makes no logical sense within the film itself: why are these people talking about anti-imperialism when there doesn't even seem to be an anti-imperialism in the movie? Why would a glory-seeking macho-man like Carlos be drawn more to the anti-imperialist struggle than, say, a mercenary team backed by the CIA? At the end of the film, when the Berlin wall has fallen and Carlos has become a political dinosaur, why would he refuse to go to Venezuela with his wife, thus leaving the life of revolutionary terrorism, if he lacked any real political commitment?
The audience, however, need not worry about these questions. Assayas has gone to great length to obfuscate these contradictions by only vaguely referencing the underlying political logic. We are not given a concrete reason for Carlos' Marxist-Leninism, and only vague explanations for why he would choose revolutionary terrorism. At that point in history Carlos' ideas of political practice, the semi-Guevarist terrorism ideology, was somewhat common and there was a reason, rightly or wrongly, for people to believe that it made sense. We know from experience that it was a mistake - that it lacked any connection with mass movements and so was doomed to failure in prisons like Stammheim - but the film does not explain why someone like Carlos would honestly believe in this ideology aside from attributing it to his ego. And if his political commitments were nothing more than an ego trip, then we must ask ourselves why he chose radical communism over any other ego-boosting mercenary life. Again, Assayas' Carlos is a rockstar pretending to be a revolutionary.
The film's logic tells us that if Carlos is a sexist pig whose politics are nothing more than mercenary opportunism, then we should not blame only Carlos. The fault lies with his dishonest politics, politics we were taught to distrust earlier in the film - hours before Carlos is revealed as a super asshole - in the PFLP-EO meeting preceding the OPEC raid. From there we must accept the logic of Carlos' personal degeneration.
In fact, this cynicism allows Carlos' problematic behaviour to exist beyond criticism. If there is no political foundation with which to hold him to account, no real basis of incongruency between his politics and his behaviour, then he cannot be critiqued. He can tell people they "lack discipline," while clearly lacking discipline himself, but we already understand that his politics are nothing more than disguised mercenary-ism. And when Wadie Haddad criticizes Carlos for putting himself above the organization, we can't take the leader of the PFLP-EO seriously because we were already told that this organization was as opportunistic and politically suspect (for all radical politics MUST be suspect) an hour earlier.
This political cynicism, this post-modern irony that Assayas cultivates at every point in the film (at one point we have Carlos talking about guns and playing with grenades while he seduces a woman), is what critics love. Todd McCarthy's review, an excerpt of which was featured in the Carlos trailer, demonstrates that critics are suspicious of films that celebrate radical politics - that they do not want political militants depicted without cynicism and irony:
"Carlos" is everything "Che" wanted to be and much, much more - a dynamic, convincing and revelatory account of a notorious revolutionary terrorist's career that rivets the attention during every one of its 321 minutes.The contrast with Che is important. Where Che, regardless of any of its flaws, tried to accurately represent its subject's politics, Carlos spat on the politics of its protagonist and those associated with the protagonist. To make a film that honestly depicts a revolutionary's political commitments, and to demonstrate this revolutionary was (regardless of any flaws) honestly led by these commitments, is something most bourgeois critics cannot stand. They want to be told that these people were really mercenaries, that there is no reason to believe in their politics in this enlightened post-Cold War era. McCarthy's entire review speaks to this desire for a cynical treatment of revolutionary figures - he even goes so far as to accept the revisionist historical account of the OPEC raids, proving that he really knows nothing about the basic facts of that period.
So if anything, Carlos adequately represents the political film mainstream critics desire. Radical politics must be erased, the revolutionary's commitments must be treated with utter cynicism. The mainstream does not want to believe that there might have been ethical and important reasons behind the 1970s period of international terrorism, and that men and women like Carlos, regardless of their flaws, were acting out of a sense of ethical conviction.
Again, I have no problem with the revolutionary (especially the revolutionary male) being critiqued and shown as problematic - I think this is important. There was another film that showed at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, for example, that did examine the flaws of committed revolutionaries and yet, unlike Carlos, was not anti-anti-imperialist. Hors-la-loi, by Rachid Bouchareb, was an attempt to examine the FLN's terrorist activities within France in support of the Algerian Revolution. And though Bouchareb's film was very critical of the people running the FLN within France - depicting all of their moral lapses and failures - it did not at one point claim these failures were due to some essential problem of their political commitments. Rather, the viewer was shown why they believed what they believed (colonialism, the Setif Massacre), and made to sympathize with their commitments even if one could not sympathize with some of their actions. And yet Carlos was celebrated at the Cannes, and Hors-la-loi was attacked by a conservative movement that tried to have it removed from the festival. Both dealt with flawed revolutionary figures, but the former was critically adored whereas the latter was targetted with censorship.
Assayas missed an opportunity to make the sort of film the contemporary left needs. A film that could show flawed militants like Carlos who were led, regardless of their flaws, by honest principles. A film that could be critical of the Carloses of the world and yet, by interrogating their politics, maybe teach us that there was a reason why people believed in these commitments and these types of actions. A film that could make the end of the Cold War, and the isolation Third-Worldists felt, something more than a music video: there was an internationalism in the 1970s that was lost, a feeling of global solidarity amongst the oppressed that was not just vocalized by hero-men like Carlos (Leila Khaled, for example, springs to mind). A film that could show him, as my friend said, as "our asshole." Instead, because Assayas made Carlos a cipher of his political commitments, and that these commitments were flawed from the get-go, we are left, at the end of the movie, with an impotent egomaniac who could only be impotent because his politics were impotent. (This is another cheap irony, and a sexist one at that: Carlos literally losing his "manhood" as a symbol of the "impotence" of his political beliefs.) In the end, we are told that there is no reason to believe in radical politics because these politics are meaningless: Carlos was the nihilist he claimed he was not.
"One can only assume Assayas and co-screenwriter Dan Franck, working from an original idea by producer Daniel Leconte and with the assistance of historical advisor Stephen Smith, have done scrupulous homework where such matters are concerned, just as they have been clinically honest in documenting Carlos’ vain interest in liposuction and the concurrent testicular malady that enabled his abduction."ReplyDelete
Ha! is right... For all their scrupulous homework they couldn't even get the most basic facts about the OPEC raid correct. But they're probably correct about the liposuction...ReplyDelete
"Assayas' film is tainted by that postmodern irony and cynicism that cannot help but suspect revolutionary principles and must sacrifice honesty and realism in order to insult and denigrate any person or persons who were foolish enough to act, rightly or wrongly, according to these principles."ReplyDelete
Would you say that CARLOS caters to the same nihilistic pseudo-intellectual politics of "irony" that was put on display by Stewart and Colbert in their anti-rally rally ("Rally for Sanity")?
I don't know because I wasn't at home when the Rally for Sanity was televised. I have a feeling that it might be different because it was not an attempt at satire, which is what (and here I'm guessing because I missed the rally and should probably catch up on youtube) the Stewart and Colbert types are usually about... Whether or not Stewart and Colbert's satire works, or whether it's the same sort of nihilistic irony I mentioned above, is an interesting question, though.ReplyDelete
This critique reminds of me of Robert Duvall's Stalin. All focus on the man's "paranoia" and "bloodlust" while no real examination of his beliefs. It seems to me that generally these movies are about just what JMP is discussing: attacking an ideology through its adherents. This is great propaganda for the enemy but should seen as a victory for our side. Look at the acrobatics these people go through to undermine an idea. Obviously, they are scared stiff and spare no expense or effort to bury revolutionary thoughts or actors.ReplyDelete
Good point and comparison, RRH... I'm also worried, though, about how films like this become substitutes for the actual historical accounts. As Todd McCarthy's review (and others like it) indicate, people tend to take the fictionalization of history, because it appears in a popular medium, as history itself. Jung Chang's "Wild Swans" is a good example of this (and it was just a popular memoir and not a movie) - Kazuko Ross referred to this sort of thing as "faction" where docudramas/memoirs/biopics use the veneer of fact to disguise politically suspect fiction.ReplyDelete
Maybe the answer is to repopularize these things with our own pop cultural offerings rather than just point to sober and boring historical accounts...?
Yes to the latter! Let's get some b-roll and makes some movies!ReplyDelete
Aside from some historical inaccuracies, I find it difficult to understand what it is about the film that so irritates you. It seems like you have a problem with the presentation of Carlos as a cynical, narcissistic sadist, whose politics were incidental. You don't claim to want a hagiography, but rather a movie that treats his politics seriously. He was an asshole, but he was "our asshole"--our narcissist, our sadist. Ok, I suppose that's reasonable. The left has produced its share of narcissists and sadists I suppose. Whether his actions were motivated by cynicism or what you call "honest principles," though, I'm not sure whether that can be determined with any certainty. But if he was indeed an earnest Marxist who did horrible things in spite of being motivated by lofty principles, what does that tell us about ourselves exactly? If we aren't seeking to legitimate his actions, what exactly are we trying to do? What is at stake when we claim that his actions are motivated by zeal rather than cynicism? To me this seems a strange exercise.
You conclude that "in the end, we are told that there is no reason to believe in radical politics because these politics are meaningless: Carlos was the nihilist he claimed he was not." That seems accurate, but if he was instead portrayed as a principled zealot, how does that give us any more reason to believe in radical politics? In any case, perhaps we should not look to films about terrorists to reaffirm our belief in radical politics.
My point is not that he should be depicted as a "principled zealot", or that we need "terrorists to reaffirm our belief in radical politics." My point was simply that the film's loading of the political dimension - it's cynical position that radical politics are essentially (in a Platonic sense) wrong to believe - was made the reason for all of Carlos' flaws. This is a serious problem today when we are told we cannot believe in anything but the free market and that people that fought against the status quo (like Carlos) were failiures, liars, and insanely misled. The film is a product of this ideology.ReplyDelete
Things can still be critical of the person while showing the audience that there were good reasons to believe in the politics. I cited Hors-la-loi as an example of a film that did that... There are numerous example, in film and literature, where there are interior critiques but, at the same time, an overarching apology for the revolutionary position (Khoury's Gate of the Sun, which I wrote about earlier in this blog, is an other good example). There was a reason why Carlos did what he did, and the reason was laudable. Whether or not he, as an individual, was a jerk while he acted upon a commendable political principle is another question all together. But the film does not even bother to explain the content of these politics, aside from random slogans, which is reprehensible when it comes to a film that is based on someone who was devoted to a marxist anti-imperialism.
Also, I find your last sentence somewhat troubling. I don't think that films about terrorists should reaffirm our belief in radical politics anymore than any film can reaffirm this belief. But I don't think the actions of the marxist guevarist-style hijackers and hostage-takers of the 1960s and 1970s should be dismissed as nothing more than abhorrent and terroristic, as nihilistic, as the movie claims. I do think some of his large actions should NOT BE delegitimated: the OPEC raid, for example, was an important revolutionary action in many ways. I think these types of actions (Leila Khaled hijacking planes, etc.) are not bad for some insipid moral reason but because they are strategically and practically problematic. I also sympathize with those who were led to act in these ways BECAUSE I know the politics and I know, because of these politics, what is at stake. The movie does not give us any reason to believe that the principle (the communist principle, the anti-imperialist principle) demands action - in fact, it says quite the opposite.
I see that you wish to view Carlos' actions as stemming from a "commendable political principle" rather than from cynical nihilism, but I don't really see how the principle justifies the actions. You agree that some of his actions aren't justified, but your criticisms of those actions seem to be purely tactical--whether or not Carlos' "semi-Guevarist terrorism ideology" is unethical is irrelevant, it simply doesn't work, although raiding OPEC and assassinating government functionaries is, you argue, nevertheless an important revolutionary action. What precisely makes this revolutionary remains unclear to me, and you yourself note that his "revolutionary terrorism" was unconnected from any mass movement which would lend it legitimacy or practicability.ReplyDelete
Now I see that you wish to avoid "insipid moralizing," but I have some difficulty understanding how murder and terror become legitimate once we subscribe to correct principles. I wish to emphasize the implicit ethical dimension of your argument regarding strategy--committing acts of terror as an individual or as a cell or vanguardist party without any connection to a mass movement is not only _strategically_ stupid, it is ethically indefensible. Presumably a socialist views legitimacy as stemming not from the law or from individual principles, but from something like the "will of the oppressed." If there is no mass movement, there is no such thing as legitimate terror. One could even go as far as to say the will of the oppressed precludes the possibility of legitimate terror, because "legitimate terror" is precisely what we struggle against.
And that's the problem with the movie: it doesn't at all explain why someone would commit to such a political praxis because the motivating politics are conjured away and insulted from the get-go. This was the thrust of my critique. I believe in a commitment to a politics that say we have to act against the horrors of capitalism/imperialism, and people like Carlos did as well, but the film never really says WHY people would be led to act in such a way: it is ultimately non-sensical because, we are told, there's no point in believing that imperialism is bad in the first place.ReplyDelete
I don't get, however, why you would not understand how/why murder and terror become legitimate in radical politics. The entire history of revolutionary praxis has discussed this at length and to reject the necessity of violence (as discussed by Fanon, as proved by every liberatory movement that has changed history) - though recognizing it as a tragedy forced upon us by history - is to be a Gandhian or a reformist. I agree with you, then, that if there is no mass movement then there is no legitimacy, but the period of time - and the international movement (which was quite "mass") - in which Carlos operated clung to the tactical belief that these actions were connected to mass internationalism, and issued from the sigh of the oppressed masses. Really, it comes from Che Guevera and Marighella, and we don't right off Che from the beginning.
As I indicated in my previous comment, however, and in my first paragraph of this one, the serious problem with the movie - the one I emphasized - was that it was constructed in such a way that we are meant to agree that anti-imperialist politics are garbage and that anyone who believes in them is a mercenary. Films like this are meant to foster the belief that we should just accept things as is because that is what is "good"... anything else is "evil." (And since I know you're reading Badiou's recent book, this is the whole thrust of his argument surrounding the discourse of "failure.")
Also, have you seen the film? I'm surprised by your comments because I'm pretty sure, once you see what I'm getting at by wasting 5.5 hours of your life with Carlos, you would be one of the first people to denounce it as part of the culture industry...ReplyDelete
One more thing... Side-tracking the discussion with the red herring of legitimate/illegitimate political violence is besides the point. And I think some of your misunderstanding with my review might be cleared up by this paragraph:ReplyDelete
"In fact, this cynicism allows Carlos' problematic behaviour to exist beyond criticism. If there is no political foundation with which to hold him to account, no real basis of incongruency between his politics and his behaviour, then he cannot be critiqued. He can tell people they "lack discipline," while clearly lacking discipline himself, but we already understand that his politics are nothing more than disguised mercenary-ism. And when Wadie Haddad criticizes Carlos for putting himself above the organization, we can't take the leader of the PFLP-EO seriously because we were already told that this organization was as opportunistic and politically suspect (for all radical politics MUST be suspect) an hour earlier."
Moreover, the historical innacurracy problem is intrinsically connected (as I pointed out in the review) with my overall problem with the movie. We must ask ourselves why bourgeois film critics IMMEDIATELY challenge the historical depictions of colonial massacres (every critic attacked Hors-la-loi for depicting the Setif Massacre), and yet uncritically accept, and reproduce as historical truth, the historical falsity that backs up their common-sense views of the world (such as the PFLP mercenary deal with Iraq, a gross distortion of history designed to mock the PFLP, in Carlos).
I haven't seen the film. I'm sure it's bad from the reviews I've read, and I don't have the patience to watch anything for 5.5 hours straight, certainly not a biopic about Carlos.ReplyDelete
I brought up the problem of what constitutes the legitimate use of violence because you argue here that some of Carlos' acts of terror are legitimate. Or rather, you say this and then you qualify it by noting that there are incongruities between his politics and his actions that place that legitimacy in doubt. My point is simply to emphasize the magnitude of those contradictions. Those contradictions make such films possible. The distance between Carlos' politics and his actions, and the actions of the other middle class urban guerillas of the 70s, helped to delegitimate socialism and Marxism in the eyes of many people. As you say, Carlos and those like him "clung to the tactical belief that these actions were connected to mass internationalism, and issued from the sigh of the oppressed masses," but of course that belief was never enough. There must be political organization, which mean persuasion rather than simply terror, solidarity rather than simply individual acts of "heroism." The abstract fact of suffering doesn't give anyone the right to murder people so long as they express correct principles and truly believe in them. That I hope is something we can both agree on.
I get your point that the contradiction in question is obscured by this film. That is very true, but I also think that Carlos' actions themselves obscure the nature of revolutionary violence and make lurid spectacles like this possible.
I watched the film and while I found most of it to be very shallow (especially the oft repeated displays of Carlos' womanizing) I did find something redeeming. Carlos at the beginning of the movie, saw himself as a soldier of the revolution in the strictest sense. He did not seem to be interested in persuading enemies to see things his way. He was much more interested in seeing them to the grave. Persuasion is fine and well when dealing with rational human beings in the spirit of mutual respect; it has little use when dealing with one's implacible class enemy. Imagine trying to "persuade" that teabagger who showed up to your demo with an M 16. I know I'd be happy to have a Carlos (or two...or more) around.ReplyDelete
I have trouble with the whole "murder and terror" de-legitimizes socialism and marxism in the eyes of many people assertion. Murder and terror are every day realities of capitalist domination. There is no moral equivalency between capitalist violence and revolutionary violence in response to it-even the violence of Carlos. "Many people" just might be (likely are) chicken shit liberals, or teabaggers who have no use for marxism, violent or otherwise and would be more than happy to see our socialist behinds rounded up and whatevered, whereever.
This does not mean I don't think the movie was really long, really boring, and really (silly)cynical. It does mean that even though Carlos was an asshole, I agree that he was "our asshole" and sometimes we just have to take ownership of our own. It's the right that plays the disowning big bastards of their belief game(see: Hitler was a socialist)not us. Carlos (the movie or the man) did not once make me feel ashamed. Just like Stalin (the movie or the man) never did. Like that awful Skynard song says: "does your conscience bother you? Now tell the truth." For me the answer is "not at all".
proud parent moment. Last spring my 13 year old daughter and some of her peers were invited to the principle's office to talk over the PA about the books they were reading. When her turn came she said she was reading about Stalin. The principal said "Well, honey, you know a lot of people hated him and he was responsible for a great many deaths". My kid replied "well miss, you of all people should know that anyone who tries to get folks to straighten up and fly right is generally not popular. After reading about Stalin's time I can see why he thought some of those folks, well, they just had to go."
Thanks for the comment RRH, you said what I would have said. And Jude, I get what you're saying. While I disagree (and think that it might be ahistorical) to call those who acted according to an adventurist/Guevarist type politics "middle class" (was the entire PFLP, consisting of disenfranchised Palestinians, or the Tupamoros middle-class), or to say they were responsible for distancing people from marxism (that is just historically wrong: Soviet revisionism, imperialism, and bourgeois ideology were doing this already and these movements were an attempt to reclaim the radical space), I can see why you would say how these spectacular acts would provide the space for movies like this to act. But a responsible film-maker should know better than to just reduce something that was understood at the time as deeply political to banal spectacle: that's my problem with Assayas and his cynical irony. Soderbergh could have done that with Che but he didn't. Ken Loach could have done that with his fictional IRA militants and their violence but he didn't.ReplyDelete
Funny story about your daughter, RRH... Although I have my problems with Stalin (but not for the same reasons as bourgeois ideologues), it made me laugh. How did the principle respond?
Well RRH, if you imagine Stalin was some kind of father figure who administered tough love and got people to "straighten up and fly right," and if you think the people who were killed by him all "just had to go," and if you teach your daughter these things, well, I'm pretty sure we have nothing to say to one another.ReplyDelete
Josh, I know your argument is far more nuanced than this, but I when I hear this desire to own Carlos as "our asshole" and I hear how this is expressed by RRH, I wonder if this desire to own the bastard is a desire to work through the contradictions of revolutionary terrorism or if it is a kind of flirtation with violence as such, a kind of disavowed pleasure in seeing violence depicted and feeling a part of it, pleasure in seeing the power of _our_ terror, or disappointment when we are unable to claim it as our own. I don't mean for this to sound accusatory; I think your arguments work against this kind of nihilism, but your rhetorical stance allows it to remain as an implicit or possible reading, a reading which RRH develops more explicitly.
Okay, Jude: we can continue this conversation in person or on the phone - or bring it up again in the context of another post (maybe I will write one on violence, though I usually try to keep my posts either funny or less philosophical). I also don't think it's fair to attack RRH who made some valid points, who is a regular commenter on this site, and who has demonstrated in his comments that he has a history of involvement in social struggles. [I won't delete your comment but it is in violation of the Comments Policy.]ReplyDelete
Obviously we disagree on the concept of revolutionary violence, but that's somewhat tangental to my overall problem with the film: as I have mentioned several times in my responses, your critique of my critique of the film is, in some ways, a red herring fallacy... Not that it isn't important: as noted, I'll try to do the violence thing in another posting (though the post about the French Revolution, way back, mentions this on the side - but in a semi-humorous way). In any case: I've got a comments policy damnit!! Peoples need to read it. Or not.
That's ok Jude, neither my daughter or myself would stand by and allow some fascist/teabagger to abuse or cart you off and be disappeared...whether you wanted to talk to us or not. We'd both be more than happy to use violence to defend you. I certainly don't see you as an enemy.ReplyDelete
I respect what you seem to ultimately stand for even if you despise her/my take on JS. Please, however, give my kid the credit for being able to form her own opinions as her and I do disagree from time to time about the General Secretary and his contradictions.
the principal thought my daughter was reading way above her level ( I'm not quite certain what her "level" should be but I guess Twilight or some foolishness would fit the bill) but commented that there must be some really interesting conversations around the supper table at home...boy there sure are!
Funny part is she was reading Montefiore's The Young Stalin which, as I am sure you can imagine, did not provide her with a glowing appraisal of JS. I don't censor what she reads, I enjoy seeing her develop and defend a position...even if I find it hard to swallow sometimes.
It would be a lie for me to say I am anti-Stalin, I see his value as an historic actor who wielded great influence for good and/or ill. It's not a matter of fetishizing violence, his, ours, or anyone else's. It's a matter of recognizing that revolution can mean unpleasantness, contradictions, and violence on a massive scale. Innocents can and will die but so will wreckers, fascists, aberrants, exploiters who would all be more than happy to exterminate revolutionaries. I think Stalin saw this and I don't believe he was always wrong in making people "straighten up and fly right" when he thought they were a threat to the revolution in the USSR. This has nothing to do with being "a father figure" it has to do with being an agent of history, regardless of gender.
I do believe he tended to ignore that it was (and is) about the working class doing the dictating. This is a point my daughter and I have laboured over frequently. This being said I accept JS as a person worth remembering for the good he did as well as the bad, and would rather have him with me than not when the capitalists come to enslave my class.
Libs and Fascists love to smear JS. To them I always say: Even a donkey can kick a dead lion and if he were here today you'd be shitting your pants.
I apologize for contributing to this getting out of control. This is a safe place for me to post my thoughts, as vicious, terrible, and base as they may be to some others. The positions I voice I've come by honestly. I've lived the life of a worker. All I know is the collective experience of my class which I hope someday someone will write volumes about (and name it Capitalism: the Tradgesy of the Working Class. I hope it's written like The Invention of the White Race). All I know is the day to day violence against me and mine. The never ending demands of more for less. The unremitting insecurity, instability and insanity. The boss (es), the courts, the cops, the reactionary unions, the predatory religions, the incessant wars,the capitalist propaganda machine that is the education system and media, and the constant fear for my children's future. I see and experience violence every day. All I ask is that I am not denied the space, to call for violence in self-defence, in defence of my class, defence of those I love. I ask that I'm not called out on the carpet for finding some kinship with those flawed historical actors who fought back, who struck fear in the hearts of the capitalists and their running dogs, who saw some folks slippin' and said "straighten up and fly right, this is for all the marbles".
Thank you for providing this space. I will work to respect it and those who share it with me. I'm sure you can well imagine that for a socialist worker (no, I don't read that paper) space like this is at a premium.
For some reason this last post of yours ended up in the spam folder (i think blogspot relegates posts of a certain size there) and I only noticed it because my partner said, "hey there's something in your spam box." I'm happy you think this is a safe space to post, RRH, and enjoy it enough to post. I'm also glad (if you're still reading Jude) for the unintentional debate this review of a movie caused: it provided me with substance for a somewhat long-winded post. Which you should both argue about ASAP...ReplyDelete
As for the Stalin question, I have my own position on that - that comes from the Maoist perspective of things - that is neither the bourgeois nor the utterly apologetic version. Nor a Trotskyist one, for that matter - though, to be fair, one of the better biographies on Stalin was written by Isaac Deutscher, a Trot who had every reason to uncritically hate Stalin but who managed to pull off a pretty good piece of scholarship in that area...