The 3 Rs: Reform, revolution, and “resistance” (Thessaloniki, Greece)

The problematic forms of
“anti-capitalism” today

Image: Poster for Platypus in Greece

Costas Gousis, Thodoris Kariotis, Nikolas Sevastakis, and Aris Tsioumas

Originally published by the Platypus Review.

The following are excerpts from the transcript of a moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A on the problematic forms of anti-capitalism today, organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society in Thessaloniki. The panelists were Nikolas Sevastakis, associate professor at the School of Political Science of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; Thodoris Kariotis, who participates in direct democracy and cooperative movements; Aris Tsioumas, a member of Movement for Labor Emancipation and Self-Organisation; and Kostas Gousis, member of NAR, a component of the anti-capitalist coalition ANTARSYA. The panel discussion was moderated by Giorgos Stefanidis of Platypus. The event took place in the Lodge of the Student Unions, Faculty of Philosophy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, on May 30, 2012.

Nikolas Sevastakis: The appeal to resistance — and I am talking about the multiple appeals to democracy that have appeared in the last few decades — often reflects a puzzlement concerning the founding aspirations of the radical movement. Not only puzzlement, but also an actual avoidance of the target of transcending capitalism. Let me put it a little differently: The aim of radical systemic change is substituted by practices of stalling or blocking the most extreme and negative aspects of a state of domination, or of a governmental decision. At this point, resistance, accompanied by “radical” and “subversive” terms, evokes the idea that the movement is everything, the final goal is nothing, an idea formulated by Bernstein in the reformist tradition.

Despite the limits of the logic of resistance (and the appeal to resistance), i.e. despite the fact that it actually “carries with it” the experience of the losses and the multiple defeats of earlier emancipatory movements, I consider it politically and ethically problematic to “repress” this experience of loss or failure for the sake of some new truth as affirmation, by which we are “exempted with a leap” from the burden of a sad or guilty consciousness. I believe that the experience of loss as a starting point for the daring recognition of the ethical and political evil that has risen within the radical tradition (mainly, but not exclusively, within communism) is preferable to the charm exercised today by certain dogmatic trends. The necessary distance from older “disorienting” moments of postmodern mourning for the loss of meaning, or the liberal postmortem on the darkest aspects of the revolutionary movements of the 20th century, should not lead to a kind of “ethical insensitivity” disguised under the veil of radical praxis — a combination of Carl Schmitt and Lenin that attracts many radicals of our era. Continue reading