The theology of death

With the election of an Argentine pope, one with very suspicious ties to the bloody dictatorship that ruled in that country in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I thought it a good idea to re-publish here my translation from Página 12 of an article by Rubén Dri, who was a progressive priest during the time of the “Dirty War” and now one of the foremost left theorists in Argentina working on theorizing concerning popular movements.

On December 23rd, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo concluded their ethical trial of the Church’s complicity in the crimes of the military dictatorship. It was emphasized that the trial was not against the whole Church, nor against faith or Christianity itself. The only thing on trial was the part of the Church that collaborated with the military dictatorship. It was stated again that there was a progressive Church as well whose activists were persecuted, kidnapped, jailed, tortured, and “disappeared”, as was the case with many activists. In the trial, various concepts of a true Theology of Evil were exposed that have not been noticed until now, but were subjects of my book, Theology and Domination. Many expressed to me surprise and horror at such concepts. Therefore, I believe it necessary to reproduce here some of these ideas, along with some perspective from the point of view of the present moment. This will shine some light on the monstrous deeds that are coming back into the public eye thanks to the trials of those who are most responsible for this genocide.
Read More

Chavez and the Future of South American Independence

The death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has without a doubt left a void in the politics of South America. Chavez was by far, for better or worse, the most viable figure of South America’s “Pink Tide”, the massive resurgence of left-wing/center-left ideology in South American politics.  This represented for the first time in decades a true break from US involvement and hegemony in Latin America, which as we all know supported and even installed vulgar right-wing dictators from the military apparatus. Names and dates such as Nicaragua 1954 and Chile ’73 have become synonymous with US manipulation of democratically elected governments. As well as the fact that the Pink Tide starting at the beginning of the 21st century was a reaction against the Washington Consensus of the 1990s, at the end of the Cold War perhaps the height of South American docility against US hegemonic influence. The Washington Consensus was a major push for the neo-liberalization and total privatization of all state enterprises. Which was adopted by leaders such as Rafael Caldera of Venezuela, who cow-towed to the will of the IMF only to have Venezuela’s entire national resources owned by foreign corporations, a huge spike in poverty, a widening of the wealth gap, and a major economic collapse in the nation, which Hugo Chavez led a platform of overturning by nationalizing and taking control of those resources. And let us not forget what happened to another follower of the Washington Consensus; Argentina. Regarded by advocates of neo-liberalism as “the poster boy of the Latin American economic revolution”, came crashing down in 2002.

The Pink Tide that came in the aftermath of all this destruction of state and economical institutions promised a clean break of business as usual with Washington, which the Latin American nations would by far receive the short end of the stick on. Chavez emerged as a major ideological figure of anti-imperalism and South American self-determination, citing Simon Bolivar, leader of South American independence from the Spanish empire, as a major inspiration. And the Pink Tide, in some form or another, spread from Venezuela to Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina. I would make the statement that there are two different forms of the Pink Tide. One mirrors very similarly to the center-left social democratic parties of Europe, welcoming capitalism but having the desire to institute some policies of welfare to make capitalism in the country more tolerable to the average poor and working class people. This form can be seen in Brazil with it’s former president Lula da Silva and it’s contemporary one being Dilma Rousseff, as well as Uruguay with Jose Mujica, now famously known as “the world poorest president” because of the vast amount of his paycheck he gives to charity. And then there is the other form of the Pink Tide, which is a much more left-wing ideological based movement, coming from countries which have been dealt a great deal of pain in the past because of neo-liberal policies. This type of Pink Tide, while still keeping a market based economy it sees it’s goal as to make dramatic changes in altering capitalism. These changes can be for example implementing measures of participatory democracy within the country and nationalization of industries. And usually these countries are led by charismatic leaders, Hugo Chavez being the most obvious form of this Pink Tide, but it is also in Bolivia with Evo Morrales and Ecuador with Rafael Correa. There is a tendency among center-left/left to view this type of Pink Tide with suspicion and skepticism, fear that because of the more heavy handed attitude of this form of Pink Tide it may be associated with the authoritarian history of leftist (in this case Marxist-Leninist) governments. While potential destabilizing, it seems unlikely these governments have any attempt in staging a dictatorial coup over their country, unlike the right-wing, US backed governments decades ago. Instead this type of more ideologically left-wing Pink Tide wishes to push major reform as hard as it can to improve the condition of their country without sending to turmoil.

Now in this time of uncertainty with the death of president Hugo Chavez, those in South America who do not want to see it return into becoming just an asset of the United States government must try to unite together in solidarity, and build political and economical ties with one another.  Building upon the “Union of South American Nations” and discussing the possibility of a single South American currency can do great benefits. In the end, besides just the major gains the left has made in South America, this is not just a question of what is “the left’s” place in South America, but more importantly this is a question of South American self-determination, the independence of an entire continent. For all those countries in South America, forced under brutal right-wing dictators for decades because US hegemony have now found a voice of independence and self-determination. There may be ebbs and flows between democratically elected conservative and socialist leaders, but there is no going back on this progress. Simon Bolivar’s dream of an independent South America has come true. And it has Hugo Chavez to thank for it, among many others as well.

Descanse en paz el presidente Chávez.

Putting in work

Notes toward a brief history of work in Christian thought and praxis from Creation to the present

Apologies for the poorly documented, perhaps rambling post to follow. I am tired and don’t have much energy for something more well thought-out and organized.

The inspiration for what I write here is a couple of articles in Jacobin Magazine:

Post-Work: A Guide for the Perplexed by Peter Frase

Ross Douthat and the Young Marx by Evan Burger

Work Ethic/Slave Morality on James Livingston’s blog

As I think it would be horribly boring for me to summarize their arguments and what I think of each one, I will begin my little excursus and hope that you keep the cited links in mind.

Read More

A Protest Against Real Distress: Religion and Revolutionary Struggle

In response to Dario Cankovic’s Socialism and Religion, Redux:

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions.”

— Karl Marx, Contribution To The Critique Of Hegel’s Philosophy Of Right

I have a love/hate relationship with religion and layers upon layers of both antipathy and affection for this complex reality. The same thing could be said for the revolutionary struggle. The revolutionary struggle is my primary allegiance; my personal happiness means very little while millions languish under the yokes of the death-systems of capitalism, sexism, racism, authoritarianism, and ecocide (to name only five of the central enemies of all beings on earth.) It seems most urgent to me today that we build alliances with all who are committed to the revolutionary struggle and that emphasizing our common ground is critical. I’m very aware that most people on the far left will disagree with my approach to religion, but it seems to me that the left really has no choice but to rethink how it will work with all potential revolutionaries, the majority of whom are religious — because the majority of humanity is religious.

Tendance Coatesy

Round of up latest wags’ work  from the Dark Side of the Internet.


Hat-Tip- Carl Z.

“Redfriars School was founded in 1877 by its eccentric benefactor Anthony Cliff, as a special fee-paying school for Trotskyists, so that they could enjoy the benefits of a public school education, far from prying eyes.Since Cliff passed away, Acting Headmaster Algernon Stallinicos has struggled manfully to maintain the school’s traditions, with the help of the Chair of the Governors, Sir Charlie, the Seventh Baronet Kimber.Billy Delta is the Creep of the Remove. Billy is well-known for being able to peel an orange in his pocket. His appetites are vast. He is always on the prowl, and usually loses his trousers. Billy is waiting for a ten-bob postal order.”

Rest of supurb strip … as it were….Here.

I particularly liked this:

I didn’t find this spoof  very funny though (handed out at yesterday’s UNISON Women’s Conference),

View original post 35 more words

Why did Lacan draw his subject like a dollar sign?

19-My Precious logo

I recently said that I thought that Marx’s conception of Value might be thought of as being the same as Lacan’s subject. That is, the Value form has the same structure as Lacan’s subject and might fruitfully be considered as the subject of Capitalism or the Capitalist subject.

What is Lacan’s Subject?

Bruce Fink presents in The Lacanian Subject his interpretation of Jacques Lacan’s theory of subjectivity. In contrast to the ego (in its many guises: the individual, the conscious subject, the mirror image, the subject of the statement), Fink states that Lacan’s subject—the subject of the “return to Freud,” the true subject of psychoanalysis—is none other than the split subject: the barred S[…]As Fink says, “The [Lacanian] subject is nothing but this very split[…]The two parts/aspects into which the S (the subject) is split are consciousness and the unconscious. Superficially, we can say that the subject is divided between thinking—where the subject functions as a conscious agent (an ego) (as when s/he performs a task alertly)—and the unthinkable—that which is beyond the subject, that which s/he cannot think (in the sense of conceive, reflect, understand, articulate, and thus control) consciously (if anything, the subject is driven by it). Contrary to this, however, Lacan insists that there is thought in the unconscious, that the unconscious, as it were, thinks (for the subject). Thinking, Lacan argues, is not the exclusive activity of consciousness. There is thinking that is not conscious. There is unconscious thought. The split is thus not between thinking and the unconscious.

or, put otherwise:

Lacan is simply restating in the language of structuralist linguistics a claim already made by Sartre, and before him Kojeve and Hegel (and arguably Kant). This is the claim that the subject is not an object capable of being adequately named within a natural language, like other objects can be (“table,” “chair,” or so on). It is no-thing. One of the clearest points of influence of Kojeve’s Heideggerian Hegelianism on Lacan is the emphasis he places on the subject as correlative to a lack of being (manqué-a-etre/want-to-be), especially in the 1950′s. Lacan articulates his position concerning the subject by way of a fundamental distinction between the ego or “moi“/”me” and the subject intimated by the shifter “je“/”I.” The subject is a split subject, Lacan claims, not only insofar as—Freud dixit—it has consciousness and an unconscious.

moneyfranklinsSo if Value is the barred subject what is value’s ego and what is the unconscious? I would say that the ego is the commodity and the unconscious is the productive process and the class division that this process requires. But, it’s significant that for Lacan the subject is really nothing more than the divide or split. This means that, if my ponderous musings have any bearing, rather than simply eliminate the class division in society the producers of this division have to seize it. That is, rather than focusing on getting our hands on the commodities of this world those who would eliminate Capitalism would have to take hold of and alter the productive process and the class division in society.

Now, the fascist approach this is to try to return to pre-Capitalist modes of production and to reinstitute authority based on true and real merit rather than on servicing money.

The Communist approach is weirder, harder, than this. But perhaps more likely to succeed? The aim of Marx is to eliminate the basis of class, but not by eliminating the idea of it but rather by eliminating the conditions that support it. I would argue that Marx aims at subjective destitution as a way to create a new subject where competition and division is put into the service of meeting human needs. For Marx, communism is about emancipating pure drive without desire.

KULTUR-24s04-zizekNY-866_368The remainder here that determines the subject’s division we can assume, on the basis of Lacan’s remarks we have already looked at, to be object a. It is this object a then that makes the ‘fall’ of the fantasy and subjective destitution possible. But if the subject “no longer wants to take up” that “option” (the object a), how is it that a position of subjective destitution is even reached? Lacan goes on to boldly declare of psychoanalysis that “Subjective destitution is written on the entry ticket:

“The passage of the psychoanalysand to becoming a psychoanalyst has a door of which this remainder [the object a] that brings about their division is the hinge, for this division is nothing but the division of the subject, of which this remainder is the cause. In this change of tack where the subject sees the assurance he gets from this fantasy, in which each person’s window onto the real is constituted, capsize, what can be perceived is that the foothold of desire is nothing but that of a désêtre, disbeing.”

An interesting reflection on the Greek situation.

Greek Left Review

Greek elections reflect a polarized society. The Left takes more votes from youths, people in productive ages (18-44), employees, people living in poorer neighborhoods, people living in cities. The Right gets votes from older ages, more rural areas, affluent strata. On the one hand, this means that there is a dimension of civil war in current social contestation. On the other hand, it is evident that that the bases of a new ‘historical block’ are evident in the electoral result.

New democracy being the first party means that it is possible to have a pro-austerity government along the New Democracy – PASOK axis. However, it will not be a legitimized government. Even though it will start with the attempt to “renegotiate” the Memoranda , in the end it will be strong-armed into imposing austerity. This will lead to new social explosion. It is the responsibility of the of…

View original post 325 more words