Sunday, September 19, 2010

Limits of terror

Nuanced post on revolution from Scurvy Tunes:
Today renewed debates over communism are flaring on the edges of academe; these at least throw into relief once again the wager and stakes of a serious and strategic anti-capitalism. The hypothetical return to communism may work as a provocation and stimulus to thought, but whether this tarnished legacy really offers a vector of leftist renewal is more dubious. The Communist Parties of the early Third International – before the self-mutilating corruptions of Stalinism and the decimating attacks of fascism – constituted a credible challenge to capitalist power.

But these organizations in the event did not suffice: the world revolution had stalled by 1923, and the Parties discredited themselves to the point that, fifty years on, the exploited had abandoned them and their marginalized splinter formations in decisive exodus. The collapse of Soviet-style ‘really existing socialism’ helped to fuel a decade of neo-liberal triumphalism and encouraged gloating post histoire pronouncements about the death of revolution. The reasons for the demise of Soviet imperialism are complex and debatable, and the subsequent resurgence of Russian imperialism and the rapid rise of Chinese state capitalism do not make the task of critical interpretation any easier. What these restructurings portend in the long run for other models of socialism remains to be seen. But the defeat, over the course of the last century, of the revolutionary hopes released by the Russian Revolution at the very least puts in question the conception of revolution that took the Bolshevik vanguard as its model.
Though Ray’s analysis, above, is historical, he tries to escape historicism with this pronouncement: "The idea of revolution, however, is not bound to this historical model and is not compromised by its defeat."  If not historically, can revolution be redeeming at all?