by Gilbert Achcar interviews by Jeff Goodwin published in Catalyst
Read original on Catalyst's website
In this interview with Achcar, Goodwin tries to un...Show description
Posted 680 days ago
Good interview. It reminded we of Anand Gopal's amazing essay in the last publication of Catalyst: The Arab Thermidor.
Achcar also mentions Orientalism a number of times, which I can't imagine is coincidental that Chibber wrote the introductory piece on: Orientalism and Its Afterlives.
Posted 740 days ago
I was a little frustrated with Goodwin's questions. He kept on trying to frame the issues in socialist revolutionary terms. Achcar kept responding like look, you can't think about it that way, you have to look at it through the lens of simple grassroots organizing for systematic change. Maybe that was the point of the article, to show where the rhetoric of academic Leftism breaks down in the real world and to make us focus on organizing and labor.
For example, Achcar days that the labor movement was crucial in toppling the Tunisian regime, but that there wasn't a fundamental restructuring of the country's economics. There was no socialist revolution, nor hope for one, simply the unification of people pushed down by a harsh and unequal system. Achcar puts it well:
But it is one thing to be against capitalism in theory, and another to be against actually existing capitalism. In the latter sense, there are very large numbers of people who are fed up with rotten capitalism and neoliberalism. They wish to get rid of the socioeconomic system under which they live. That doesn’t mean most are conscious socialists, but they definitely aspire to social justice in a vaguer sense, and that’s the key starting point. Social justice was indeed one of the prominent slogans in the Arab Spring.
As Achcar makes clear, the revolutionary rhetoric, both from Socialists and liberals alike, doesn't really translate to the real world. He argues that no revolution has ever been swift, it's a long drawn out struggle of organizing and simple building a new structure in the prevailing system. Again, he says:
When a mass movement takes essentially the form of occupying squares, that may constitute a show of numerical strength, but at the same time, it’s a sign of qualitative weakness. Why? Because if the movement were truly strong and well organized, it would shift from a “war of position” to a “war of movement” and aim at seizing power. But if it stays in the squares, the truth is that it is because it knows that it can’t overthrow the regime on its own, let alone take power. It is thus expecting someone else to overthrow the government from within the powers that be.
This is very well put. I think Achcar is a realist and part of what Vivek Chibber is trying to being back to the Left in this journal. Very good piece.