[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] Re: Don't do it

("Ulvi" is a beautiful Turkish name. I think it means "uplifted" or
"enlightened", or something like that.)

We just had a revolution in South Korea, but in (at least) three ways it
was a rather disappointing one.

Most obviously, it was a political revolution and not a social revolution.
On March 10 (at eleven in the morning precisely!) the Constitutional Court
upheld the December impeachment of President Park Geunhye for high crimes
and misdemeanours (a phrase that will stir the blood of our American
friends!) and removed her from power. But of course the underlying social
conditions, which are pretty close to what Ulvi described, are pretty much
the same. Ulvi says that a family of four in Istanbul has an income of,
say, 750 dollars a month, of which about a third goes for rent. In South
Korea the median income is about twice that, but housing is a great deal
more--the figure Ulvi gives us is about a weekly rent in Seoul). Social
polarization means that hardly anybody even has a median income--the
richest fifth of the population make six times what the bottom fifth makes.

Secondly, the Constitutional Court upheld all the wrong articles of
impeachment. The President was removed for peddling influence on behalf of
a friend of her youth, whose father, a religious charlatan who claimed to
speak for the President's murdered mother, helped the young orphan through
a more than usually privileged, but more than usually difficult, childhood.
The actual influence peddling, in this instance, consisted mostly of taxing
the rich to give to fake charities set up for the upcoming Olympics in
Pyeongchang and for various other sporting events--not an ideal form of
social redistribution, but much to be preferred to profits as usual, and
very much less than male politicians in South Korea routinely get away
with. In contrast, the articles on blacklisting leftist opponents
(including at least two members of our Vygotsky group in Seoul) and her
grotesque dereliction of duty during the Seweol disaster (about which I
wrote on this list at the time) were set aside.

Thirdly, it's really not over. There's going to be a presidential election
in sixty days, and unless something changes very fast we will simply get
Mun Jae-in, the candidate that Park defeated by judicious election rigging
and having the National Security Agency flood the country with...you
guessed it...slanderous tweets. I have had many friends, including devoted
members of our Vygotsky group, try to explain to me, for example, the
difference between Mun's health care plan and Park's, and they usually end
up (as Peg did not too long ago) simply intoning that equating the two is
"wroooong" and that's it. The party I voted for, which at the time was the
third largest in South Korea and the only working class party in
parliament, remains dissolved and its leaders remain jailed.

But there WAS one thing in this revolution which I think was not at all
disappointing. Nobody got killed. I know, there were two people who died on
the last day, but it's not at all clear to me that they were killed: I
don't mean to sound heartless, and I know that Seoul weather is pretty
harsh at this time of year, but the president's supporters are
mostly--well, of a certain age, the age that remembers her father fondly;
on the one hand, they often not in the best of health and on the other they
tend to be excitable (in America, Korean students call them the "gas tank
grandpas", because they show up at demos with jerry cans of petrol and

Actually, Tom, this bloodlessness was the point that really got obscured in
the linguistic discussion. It was Ulvi himself who introduced the idea that
the arguments against revolution are usually imperatives, because they are
so manifestly untrue when they are put to rent-paying working class
families as declaratives. I don't see this as an irrelevance at all; quite
the contrary. Mike then introduced a long quote from Dickens about how the
psychological nature of people is immutable and fixed, and when placed in
revolutionary conditions it will always act more or less the same:
barbarously and bloodily.

On the contrary! I think that the bloodlessness of the South Korean
revolution is the rule, not the exception. When a tiny minority tries to
cow the vast majority, they use terror, but when the vast majority at last
turns on their tormentors and turns them out, violence is largely beside
the point. Historically, the bloodshed of the French Revolution WASN'T
mostly Parisian. Yes, there were thousands of executions in Paris, mostly
because the bourgeoisie had little to offer the working masses except heads
on pikes. But the real violence--a little less than half a million
people--took place in the Vendee areas, south of Nantes and north of La
Rochelle, where the religious wars happened under Henri III and Henri IV.
It was ordinary peasants who did the dying on both sides. It happened
precisely because Paris had little to offer these people besides
rationalistic mumbo-jumbo nobody could really understand.

As intellectuals, it's easy to feel irrelevant, and to want to make
yourself more relevant by going down in the street and shouting. It
alleviates some of the frustration we feel bystanding and handwringing and
the guilt we feel as the "most dangerous" people that Ulvi spoke of. But I
think that disasters like the Vendee happen precisely because although
revolutionary workers do what they have to do, sometimes revolutionary
intellectuals are too busy being revolutionary workers and not doing their
real jobs. Part of that job is pointing out the real (that is, actual) role
of violence in a revolutionary transformation. It is mostly potential and
not real at all.

As Shelley wrote after the terrible massacre at Peterloo:

Little fear and less surprise
Folded arms and steady eyes
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away


Rise like lions, after slumbers
Shake your chains away like dew
In unvanquishable numbers
You are many. They are few.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

On Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 4:33 AM, Tom Richardson <
tom.richardson3@googlemail.com> wrote:

> Sorry* Ulvi* - I've got it right this time.
> Tom
> On 13 March 2017 at 17:25, Tom Richardson <tom.richardson3@googlemail.com>
> wrote:
> > Hi xmca-ers
> > Looks to me like Ulci is on to a hiding to nowhere with his conviction
> > that socialist revolution is a necessity.
> > Strange to imply that *all *revolutions will *inevitably *result in
> > social-human conditions worse that the overthrown ones, when the quoted
> > French overturning of society was a bourgeois revolution.
> > IMO Ulci adduces evidence that Turkish social conditions are at present
> > intolerable.
> > A literate debate about speech acts seems a strange displacement of
> > her/his original anguished cry for changes that result in greater justice
> > for oppressed populations.
> > But then I believe that the current capitalist anarchy is unconditionally
> > intolerable.
> > [No strawpersons please - Stalinism was an brutally disastrously
> > dysfunctional anti-social formation.]
> >
> > Cordialement
> > Tom Richardson
> > Middlesbrough UK
> >
> > On 8 March 2017 at 21:32, Ulvi İçil <ulvi.icil@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >> If I say
> >>
> >> don't do it, it is imperative.
> >>
> >> But if I say,
> >>
> >> It is not realistic and you do not need it.
> >>
> >> It is affirmative and even  though negative, it is again affirmative, to
> >> demobilize you.
> >>
> >> What I mean is Revolution.
> >>
> >> Addressed to a married couple with two children.
> >>
> >> With 3 thousand Turkish liras in Istanbul in a  rented home of at least
> >> 1000 tl for rent.
> >>
> >> 1 usd = 4 Turkish liras
> >>
> >> Survival economics.
> >>
> >> Any prospect?
> >>
> >> No.
> >>
> >> That simple.
> >>
> >> What is socialist revolution?
> >>
> >> It is neither an intention nor a wish.
> >>
> >> It is simple necessity.
> >>
> >
> >