Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sleeping With the Enemy or the Unbearable Comfortableness of Slovene Radicals

Faculty of Social Sciences (FDV) of University of Ljubljana organized a symposium last weekend, titled "Democracy of multitude in-outside-beyond Europe". Star of the evening was Antonio Negri, Italian political philosopher who on this occasion presented Slovene translation of his recent books "Multitudes" and "The Return".

Negri, who served his entire prison sentence of 17 years for "crimes of association and insurrection against the state", was during criminal proceedings cleared of rest of the charges that linked him to the terrorist Red Brigades. Today Negri seems to be “last best hope,” to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln in somewhat perverse manner, of Anti-Globalization movement, theoretically based in a sort of dialectic materialism adapted for 21st century.

Although Negri's somewhat dubious fame could be simply explained by mere European inclination towards "radical glamour," phenomenon so typical for various continental anti-globalization movements, it must be said that Negri’s previous work "Empire" was cited among the seven 'next big ideas' by Time. Perhaps this appraisal tells more about Time than about Negri. Finally, Slavoj Žižek himself hailed "Empire" as “a communistic manifesto of our time, that convincingly shows how global capitalism generates contradictions, which will make it explode eventually”.

As expected, the press covering the symposium and Negri's visit, presented both his revolutionary branch of new Marxism and the event itself without any critical reflection whatsoever (see for instance this article in Delo: http://www.delo.si/article.print.php?ID=127217). As if there was nothing problematic about the claim that "nation is the most oppressive formation in history" to quote dr.Andrej Kurnik, one of the hosts of symposium and – how appropriate - lecturer of “political extremism” on Faculty of Social Studies (his text with quote on nation can be found here: http://www.progresivna-stranka.si/prikaziforum.asp?id=212). One of the key suppositions of Negri’s Multitude is "inevitability of downfall of sovereignty." But this hope of "destruction of sovereignty is not enough," assert the organizers of symposium. Instead of sovereignty new institutional structures must be created based on "existent conditions"(sic!; see more on that here: http://www.krtaca.si/node/1301). This hopelessly boring and impotent drivel goes on and on in "Anti-Globalization" discourse and one cannot but nostalgically remember brilliant pieces of wisdom by such great revolutionary theorists as Edvard Kardelj, or - for those unfamiliar with Slovenian past - Lev Trotsky who were both able to test so many "compassionate" theories in their ferocious practice.

Carl Schmitt was predicting the demise of the state as early as the sixties. Long before him, following different theoretical presumptions Marx famously created his dogma on demise of state. As regards notions of "state", "nation" and "sovereignty", there have truly been some fundamental changes in second half of 20th century - constitutional theory now speaks of "open statehood". Nevertheless both the state, nation and concept of sovereignty are here to stay since there are several functions that only Verfassungstaat, state ruled by law, can perform, such as international cooperation, administration, judiciary and especially protection of human rights. Despite this, words like “state”, "nation" and especially “Slovene nation” remain abusive language to our anti-globalization radicals.

To conclude: it would be interesting to know how Negri is perceived in his homeland Italy. As for Slovene anti-globalists and revolutionary theorists the question remains what is their relation to certain nation-state, namely Republic of Slovenia. Both of latest Negri's books were published by publicly funded Student publishing house, The NGO’s aligned with radical theory and activism are funded by budget and the Faculty For Social Sciences (FDV), alma mater of vast majority of radicals, is also funded by public sector. Why do I stress that? Once more, theorists and activists belonging to the so called global social movements are not embarrassed at all by getting subsidies from the very same state they despise. Who cares if the nation is "the most oppressive formation in history" and if the state has to be destroyed. For every sensible Machiavellian knows, be it Andrej Kurnik or Henry Kissinger, that it's allowed to take money from the enemy, as long as it's for the noble cause.

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