Tanqeed joins forces with Cambridge Critical Theory and Practice to bring you a series of talks and conversations on radical theory and how they bear on political practice.
Note from TQ Editors:
“Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built,” said Marie Le Pen in a chilling statement after Trump’s win. We kick off our collaboration with Cambridge Critical Theory and Practice in dark times. With upcoming elections in France, Austria and the Netherlands, and far-right governments in power in Erdogan’s Turkey, Modi’s India and Netanyahu’s Israel, the far right is on the rise. It’s time to riot.
This event was held at the University of Cambridge on Tuesday 15 November 2016 exactly one week after Donald J. Trump was elected into the most powerful political office in the world. Dr. Ayça Çubukçu’s opening statement was followed by a public dialogue available here. You can also watch the live stream here, here and here.
This will be the first of several posts Tanqeed will bring you reflecting on the rise of the right and how to fight it. If you’re interested in contributing to the conversation contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erdogan’s Turkey, Modi’s India, Netanyahu’s Israel, Putin’s Russia, Sisi’s Egypt, Trump’s United States. The rise of Farage in Britain, of Le Pen in France—examples could be multiplied. What phenomenon are we witnessing? How should we evaluate what has been happening? Is this the global ascendance of “populist nationalism” as Francis Fukuyama argued in the Financial Times a few days ago, as if nationalism was ever not populist? Or, are we witnessing the surge of “fascism” as some on the left have claimed?
For the purposes of building a global movement, we may or may not need a common name for our friends and our enemies. But enemies we have in politics, which is not like the nursery, as Hannah Arendt once said. For this reason, I will speak about a global left and what it should counter as the rise of right-wing populism around the world—which, let us notice, has its own visions of internationalism.
In no particular order:
First, lest we think too quickly that the Trump administration is an anomaly, that it will last only for four years, we should remember the re-election of George W. Bush, and look too at the example of Turkey. Power tends to breed power. Erdogan’s AKP has been governing Turkey for thirteen years, one election after another, with all the tools of the state—laws, guns, and funds—at its disposal. And this long duree, despite the emergence of a remarkable popular uprising in 2013, which managed to shake, even if briefly, the government’s stability, challenging its legitimacy irreversibly.
Second, we must understand that racism, sexism, and homophobia, which right-wing populisms consistently mobilize, are phenomena that take root over time. While they can be elected into office, so to speak, they cannot be unelected. Neither Turkish racism against Kurds and Armenians, nor American racism against Blacks and others appeared with the election of Erdogan or Trump. On the contrary, such figures appeal to deep-seated attitudes and institutions already prevalent in “their” societies, which they feed on and into. This is worth emphasizing if we must resist the tendency to personalize the target of our struggles as “Vladimir Putin,” “Narendra Modi” or “Donald Trump.” Our problems—including neoliberalism and ecological disaster—run much deeper, much deeper than these men.
Third, our struggle must be transnational. Not for reasons of charity or paternalistic sentiment, but to understand better how our lives are intertwined together. Whether sharing recipes against the poison of tear-gas, or tested strategies for navigating right-wing lands, we must establish the means and the occasions for speaking with each other. We must address one another, in our actions, in our minds, in our slogans. Not to “save” each other, but to grow together, not to patronize one another, but to learn from each other.
Fourth, as undesirable as this can be, to establish new friendships or to maintain old ones, we must, sometimes, unfriend others. This is the time to think seriously about whom we count among our friends—of what they do, of what they need, of what they dream. Have they food on the table, decent housing; are they harassed, encamped, or killed as brown people or refugees, as dissidents or terrorists? Can they live where they want, migrate freely by all means? What peace are they willing to make, what price are they able to pay, what struggles animate our friends? In brief, we must consider whom and what we love, and perhaps hate, too, what needs hate.
Fifth, we must take public space, take place in public, and protect what belongs to us in common. We could begin with water and air or stand in solidarity with rocks or mare. We may or may not be many, but the question is the same: how to use meaningfully this pronoun “we”? This is what we must ponder.
Sixth, we must face our own multiplicity, our own arrogance, our own supremacist tendencies. This is not an easy task. Our goal cannot be to maintain ideological or moral purity but to get our hands dirty in action and contemplation. And this we must do, because we can cultivate friendships, we can care for each other in a messed up world, even with messed up selves and messy means.
Seventh and last, we must create new institutions. Radio stations, newspapers, seminar series, magazines, organizations, support networks, parties, affinity groups, translation brigades, unions, forums, knitting circles, coalitions, reading groups. You name it. We must fight isolation, we must give our energy to tasks much bigger than ourselves.
Dr. Ayça Çubukçu is Assistant Professor in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she leads a research group on Internationalism, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Solidarity. She is also a co-editor of Jadaliyya’s Turkey page.
King’s in the Middle East host a series of conversations on history and society and are generously supported by the King’s College, Cambridge Research Committee.
Cambridge Critical Theory and Practice is an initiative run by a collective of political organizer-activists and scholars in and around Cambridge in the United Kingdom who want to bring radical theory into conversation with political practice.