20.02.2013, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel. Sofia, 8 boul. Madrid.
New Left Perspectives:
Seminar with Prof. Sean Homer
Associate Professor in Writing and Literature at American University in Bulgaria.

In this talk I will reflect upon two loosely converging trends within the present conjuncture in Greece. First, Slavoj Žižek’s deployment of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘Critique of Violence’ in his recent work calling the European radical Left back to the “Idea” of communism. For Žižek, Benjamin’s distinction between mythical and divine violence, the objective, systemic, violence of the state and the divine violence of the revolutionary, as a subjective reaction to systemic violence violence, is crucial in his demand for a new strict egalitarian justice, an emancipatory terror and revolutionary discipline. This is not a rallying call I have found very convincing or helpful in rebuilding the Left today. Secondly, therefore, I will consider the rise of revolutionary violence in Greece today. Greece has a long tradition of resistance and struggle and we can trace the most recent manifestations of revolutionary violence – November 17, Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, Revolutionary Struggle - back to the fall of the military Junta in 1974. The rise of revolutionary violence is creating something of a political dilemma for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), of which Žižek is a very prominent supporter. SYRIZA can neither condemn the violence nor support it as some of it comes from the more radical fringes of SYRIZA itself.


In this talk I will argue that not only is this violence a distraction from the real struggle against capitalist austerity but also that we have been here before. In the 1970s the Red Army Faction in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, Action Directe in France, the Angry Brigade in the UK all turned to revolutionary violence as a “wake-up” call to the slumbering “masses.” Through direct action the state would be forced to reveal its true nature, its inherent violence. In the case of the RAF they defended their actions when they were brought to trial through recourse to Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’. The legacy of the 1970s revolutionary violence was a disaster, not only in its immediate consequences but for decades following. If we are to take Žižek seriously then, and really learn from past mistakes, this is not a route we should be taking, it is a dead end.

Sean Homer has published on cultural theory and psychoanalysis. He is author of Fredric Jameson: Marxism, Hermeneutics, Postmodernism and Jacques Lacan. He is co-editor, with Ruth Parkin-Gounelas and Yannis Stavrakakis, of Objects: Material, Psychic, Aesthetic, a special issue of Gramma: Journal of Theory and Criticism. He is also teaching and researching contemporary Balkan cinema.

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