You are on page 1of 5

Î| Kb¯ Pb ¯KPLcLT, ÅmcP Pb ÎPKLc

proccss in which wc arc ohcrcd a choiccî Within this logic, history
dctcrmincs only thc altcrnativcs wc facc, thc tcrms of thc choicc, but
not thc choi cc itsclf. At cach momcnt of timc, thcrc arc multiplc
possibilitics waiting to bc rcalizcd, oncc onc ot thcm is actualizcd,
othcrs arc canccllcd. 1c suprcmc casc of such an agcnt ot historical
timc is thc Lcibnizian God who crcatcd thc bcst possiblc world. bcIorc
crcation, hc had in mind thc cntirc panoply ot possiblc worlds, and
his dccision consistcd choosing thc bcst among thcsc options. Hcrc,
possibility prcccdcs choicc. thc choicc is a choicc among possibilitics.
Evcn this notion oI "opcn¨ history, howcvcr, is inadcguatc. What is
unthinkablc within this horizon of lincar historicaÌ cvolution is thc
notion ot a choicc or act which rctroactivcly opcns up its own possi-
biÌity. thc idca that thc cmcrgcncc of thc radically Þcw rctroactivcly
changcs thc past-not thc actual past oI coursc ¦wc arc not in scicncc
hction), but past possibilitics ¦or, to put it in morc formal tcrms, thc
valuc oI modal propositions about thc past). havc rcfcrrcd clscwhcrc
to [can- Picrrc Oupuy`s claim that, it wc arc to confront adcguatcly thc
thrcat oI ¦ social or cnvi ronmcntal) catastrophc, wc nccd to brcak out oI
this ¨historical¨ notion ot tcmporaity. wc havc to introducc a ncw notion
oI timc. Dupuy calls this timc thc ¨timc ot a projcct,` ot a closcd circuit
bcnccn thc past and thc mmrc. thc mmrc is causahy produccd by our acts
in thc past, whUc mc way wc act is dctcrmincd by our anticipation ot thc
tuturc and our rcaction to this anticipation.
¯c CaIasIrOQhlC cVcLI ls lnsCrlbcO lnIO Ihc IUIUrc as CcsIlny, IOr sUrc,
bUI aÌsO as a COnIlngcnI aCCldcnI. lI COUÌC nOI haVc IaKcn QÌaCc, cVcn lI,
ln ]|a· caté·|ea·, lI aQQcar> as ncCcssary . . . . lI an OUIsIanClng cVcnI
IaKcs QÌaCc, a CaIasItOQhc, IOr cXamQÌc, lI COUÌC nOI not haVc IaKcn
QÌaCc, nOncIhcÌcss, insofar as lI dC noI IaKc QlaCc, it is nO! lncVlIabÌc.
ÌI ls IhUs Ihc cVcn!s aCIUaÌl2aIlOn¬Ihc laCI IhaI lI IaKcs QÌaCc whlCh
rcIroacIlVcÌy CrcaIcs l!s ncCcssl|. `'
Jcan Pìcrrc Dupuy, Pc||tc mc|a
[
h
)
si
}
uc dcs tsunam|, Parìs. Scuì| zooy,
Åmc LLPÎLP|b¯ mTÎL¯mcb| b | b |
It-accidcntally-an cvcnt takcs placc, it crcatcs thc prcccding chain
which makcs it appcar incvitablc. |a|s, and not commonplaccs on how
undcrlying ncccssity cxprcsscs itsclf in and through thc accidcntæ
play of appcaranccs, is |n nucc thc Hcgclian dialcctic of contingcncy
and ncccssity. In this scnsc, although wc arc dctcrmincd by dcstiny,
wc arc noncthclcss :c |c c|ccsc cur dcs||n). According to Dupuy, this
is also how wc should approach thc ccological crisis. not to appraisc
¨rcalisticall
)
' thc possibilitics of catastrophc, but to acccpt it as Dcstiny
in thc prccisc Hcgclian scnsc-if thc catastrophc happcns, onc can say
that its occurrcncc was dccidcd cvcn bcforc it took pÌacc. Dcstiny and
frcc action ¦to block thc ¨if¨) thus go hand in hand. at its most radical,
frccdom is thc frccdom to changc onc`s Dcstiny.
1is, thcn, is how Dupuy proposcs to confront thc disastcr. wc
should hrst pcrccivc it as our fatc, as unavoidabÌc, and thcn, projccting
oursclvcs into it, adopting its standpoint, wc shoud rctroactivcly inscrt
into its past ¦thc past ot thc futurc) countcrfactual possibilitics ¦¨lf
wc had donc this and that, thc calamity that wc arc now cxpcricncing
would not havc occurrcd' ¨) upon which wc thcn act today. Wc havc to
acccpt that, at thc lcvcl of possibilitics, our mturc is doomcd, that thc
catastrophc will takc placc, that it is our dcstiny-and thcn, against thc
background ot this acccptancc, mobilizc oursclvcs to pcrform thc act
which will changc dcstiny itsclf and thcrcby inscrt a ncw possibility
into thc past. Paradoxically, thc only way to prcvcnt thc disastcr is
acccpt it as incvitablc. For ßadiou too, thc timc ot thc hdclity to an
cvcnt is thc ]|ur an|é·|cur. ovcrtakng oncsclt vis- a-vis thc tuturc, onc
acts now as it thc futurc onc wants to bring about wcrc alrcady hcrc.
What this mcans is that onc should fcarlcssly rchabilitatc thc idca of
prcvcntivc action ¦thc ¨prc-cmptivc strikc¨) , much abuscd in thc ¨wær
on tcrror¨. it wc postponc our action until wc havc full kowlcdgc of
thc catastrophc, wc will havc acguircd that knowlcdgc only whcn it
is too Ìatc. Jhat is to say, thc ccrtainp on «hich an act rclics is not
mattcr of kowlcdgc, but a maucr of |c||c a truc act is ncvcr a stratcgic
intcrvcntion in a trinsparcnt situation of which wc havc hll knowI-
|| Kb¯ Po ¯hPLcLT, ¯McP Po ÎPhLc
cdgc, on thc contrary, thc truc act hlls i n thc gap in our kowIcdgc.
1is insight, ot coursc, undcrmincs thc vcry foundations ot "scicntihc
socialism,` thc notion of an cmancipatory proccss guidcd by scicntihc
knovlcdgc. ßadiou rcccntly proposcd that thc timc has comc to rcvokc
PIato`s banishmcnt ot thc pocts trom thc city and to cnact a rcconcili-
ation ot poctry and thought. ßut maybc, in vicw of thc rcccnt support
of a numbcr ot pocts for "cthnic clcansing¨ ¦viz. Radovan Karadzic) ,
onc should rctain, rcinlorcc cvcn, PIato's misgivings about poctry,
and rathcr cndorsc anothcr brcak with Plato. namcly, abandon his
notion ot philosophcr· kings. Ònc should do this not on account of thc
stindard libcral warning about ¨totalitarian" Lcadcrs who kow bcttcr
than ordinary pcoplc thcmsclvcs what`s good tor thcm, but tor a morc
tormal rcason. thc rctcrcncc to thc big Òthcr puts thc Lcadcr in thc
position ot thc ¨subj cct supposcd to know,` a subj cct whosc activity is
groundcd in tull kowlcdgc ¦ot thc ¨laws ot history,` ctc. ) -thc path is
thcrcby opcn to thc madncss ot, tor cxamplc, cclcbrating Stalin as thc
grcatcst linguist, cconomist, philosophcr, and so on. 1c momcnt thc
¨big Òthcr" talls, thc Lcadcr can no longcr claim a privilcgcd rclation-
ship to Knowlcdgc-hc bccomcs an idiot likc cvcryonc clsc.
1is, pcrhaps, is thc lcsson to bc lcarncd from thc traumas ot thc
twcnticth ccntury. to kccp Knowlcdgc and thc tunction ot thc Mastcr
as far apart as possiblc. Lvcn thc libcral notion ot clccting thc pcoplc
most ¨gualihcd¨ to lcad is not sumcicnt hcrc. Ònc should pursuc this
to thc cnd and cndorsc thc basic insight ot ancicnt dcmocracy. that
choicc by lot is thc only truly dcmocratic choicc. 1is is why Koj in
Karatani`s proposaI ot combining clcctions with lottcrics in dctcr-
mining who will rulc is morc traditional than it may at hrst appcar
¦hc himsclt mcntions Ancicnt Grcccc) -paradoxically, it fulhls thc
samc function as HcgcI`s thcory ot monarchy. Karatani hcrc takcs a
hcroic risk in proposing a crazy- sounding dchnition of thc dihcr-
cncc bctwccn thc dictatorship ot thc bourgcoisic and thc dictatorship
ot thc prolctariat. ¨If univcrsaI suhragc by sccrct baIIot, namcly,
parIiamcntary dcmocracy, is thc dictatorship of thc bourgcoisic, thc
|| RST PS ¯KLcL1, ¯mLl AS ÎPKLc
mcrc ¨rcprcscntation¨, in phi|osophy, it was Sartrc who, in his Cr|||quc
c] D|a|cc||ca| Pcasca, analyzcd how activc group-cngagcmcnt bccomcs
ossihcd in thc
¡
·ac||cc- |acr| institutional structurc. 1c kcy tcst ot
cvcry radical cmancipatory movcmcnt is, on thc contrary, to what
cxtcnt it transtorms on a daily basis thc
¡
rac||cc-|acr| institutional
practiccs whi ch gain thc uppcr hand oncc thc tcrvor ot thc strugglc is
ovcr and pcoplc rcturn to busincss as usual. 1c succcss ot a rcvolution
shou|d not bc mcasurcd by thc sublimc awc ot its ccstatic momcnts,
but by thc changcs thc big Evcnt lcavcs at thc lcvcl ot thc cvcryday, thc
day ahcr thc insurrccti on.
1crc is only onc corrcct answcr to thosc Lchist intcllcctuals who
dcspcratcly await thc arrival ot a ncw rcvolutionary agcnt capablc ot
instigating thc long- cxpcctcd radical social transtormation. It takcs thc
torm ot thc old Hopi saying, with a wondcrtul Hcgclian twist trom
substancc to subjcct. ¨Wc arc thc oncs wc havc bccn waiting tor´´ ¦1is
is a vcrsion ot Candhi`s motto. ¨ßc yoursclt thc changc you want to
scc in thc world´`) Waiting tor somconc clsc to do thc ]ob tor us is
a way ot rationalizing our inactivity. ßut thc trap to bc avoidcd hcrc
is that ot pcrvcrsc sclt- instrumcntalization. ¨wc arc thc oncs wc havc
bccn waiting tor¨ docs not mcan wc havc to discovcr how it is wc arc
thc agcnt prcdcstincd by tatc ¦historical ncccssity) to pcrtorm thc
task-it mcans guitc thc oppositc, namcly that thcrc is no big Othcr
to rcly on. In contrast to classical Marxism whcrc ¨history is on our
sidc¨ ¦ thc prolctariat tulhls thc prcdcstincd task ot univcrsal cmancipa-
tion) , in thc contcmporary constcllation, thc big Othcr is us.
lch to itsclt, thc inncr thrust ot our historical dcvclopmcnt lcads to
catastrophc, to apocalypsc, what alonc can prcvcnt such calamity is,
thcn, ¡urc vc|un|ar|sm, in othcr words, our frcc dccision to act against
historical ncccssity. In a way, thc ßolshcviks tound thcmsclvcs in a
si milar prcdicamcnt at thc cnd ot thc civil war in I¸2J. two ycars bctorc
hi s dcath, whcn it bccamc clcar that thcrc would bc no immincnt
Luropcan-widc rcvo|ution and that thc idca ot building socialism in
onc country was nonscnsc, Lcnin wrotc.
Åmc LLPPLP|oÅ mTÎLÅmcb|o Ì åb
What iÍ thc comgÌctc hogcÌcssncss ol thc situation, by stimÌatn_ thc
chorts ol thc workcrs and gcasants tcnloÌd, oHcrcd us thc ogportuni|
to crcatc thc tundamcntaÌ rcguisitcs ol civiÌization in a dißcrcnt way
tro that ot thc Yc:t Luropcan countrics:`º
Ls this not thc prcdicamcnt ot thc Moralcs govcrnmcnt in ßolivia, ot thc
tormcr Aristidc govcrnmcnt in Haiti, and ot thc Maoist govcrnmcnt in
Ncpal î 1cy camc to powcr through ¨tair¨ dcmocratic clcctions, not
through insurrcction, but oncc in powcr, thcy cxcrtcd it in a way which
was ¸partialÌy, at Ìcast) ¨non- statal¨. dircctly mobiÌizing thcir grassroots
supportcrs and byassing thc party-statc rcprcscntativc nctwork. 1cir
situation is ¨objcctivcly¨ hopclcss. thc wholc drih ot history is basically
against thcm, thcy cannot rcly on ¨obj cctivc tcndcncics,` all thcy can do
is to improvisc, do whæt thcy can in a dcspcratc situation. NcvcrthcÌcss,
docs this not givc thcm a uniguc trccdomî Ònc is tcmptcd to appÌy
hcrc thc old distinction bctwccn ¨frccdom trom' and ¨trccdom tor¨.
docs thcir trccdom trom History ¦with its laws and ob]cctivc tcndcn-
cics) not sustain thcir trccdom for crcativc cxpcrimcntationî Ïn thcir
activity, thcy can rcly only on thc colÌcctivc will of thcir supportcrs.
Wc can count on uncxpcctcd alÌics in this struggÌc. fatc ot
Victor Kravchcnko-thc Sovict dipÌomat who, in :p((, dcfcctcd
whiÌc in Þcw York and thcn wrotc his tamous bcstsclÌing mcmoir, Í
Cacsc Frccdcm÷|s worth mcntioning hcrc` His book was thc hrst
substantial hrst-pcrson rcport on thc horrors of Stalinism, bcginning
with a dctailcd account of forccd colÌcctivization and mass hungcr
in Lkrainc, whcrc Kravchcnko himscÌf-in thc carÌy :p]cs stiÌÌ a truc
bclicvcr in thc systcm-participatcd in cnforcing coÌÌcctivzation. 1c
morc widcly kown story about him cnds in ¡p(p, whcn hc triumphcd
in a major trial against his Sovict accuscrs in Paris, who had cvcn
brought his cx-wifc to court to tcsti| to his corruption, aÌcoholism,
y6 VI. Lcnin, Cc||cc|:d wcrk, Vo|. ]], Moscow. Progrcss PubÌishcrs q)ç.
y; Scc Mark Jonath±n Harris`s outstanding documcntary on Kravchcnko, Tc
Dc]cc|cr ,zco8).