Alain Badiou on the French headscarf law

by on March 21, 2015 at 1:32 am in Books, History, Law, Religion | Permalink

This is from his Polemics book:

43. In point of truth, the headscarf law expresses only one thing: fear.  Westerners in general, and the French in particular, are no more than a bunch of shivering cowards.  What are they afraid of?  Barbarians, as usual.  Barbarians both at home, the ‘suburban youths’, and abroad the ‘Islamic terrorists’.  Why are they afraid?  Because they are guilty, but claim to be innocent.  Guilty from the 1980s onward of having renounced and tried to dismantle every politics of emancipation, every revolutionary form of reason, every true assertion of something other than what is.  Guilty of clinging to their miserable privileges.  Guilty of being no more than grown-up kids who play with their many purchases.  Yes, indeed, ‘after a long childhood, they have been made to grow up’.  They are thus afraid of whatever is a little less old than they are, such as, for example, a stubborn young lady.

44. But most of all, Westerners in general, and the French in particular, are afraid of death.  They can no longer even imagine that an idea is something worth taking risks for.  ‘Zero deaths’ is their most important desire.  Well, they see millions of people throughout the world who have no reason to be afraid of death.  And among them, many die for an idea nearly every day.  For the ‘civilized’, that is a source of intimate terror.

I’ve tried a few other Badiou books, but I find this to be the one easiest to make sense of.  Here is Wikipedia on Badiou.  Here is a Guardian article on him.

1 eddy March 21, 2015 at 1:44 am

The West is also guilty of creating just about everything of value in the modern world, guilty of doing more than any other part of the world to elevate the position of women, to legislate against ethnic and religious discrimination, etc.

Surprised a a but disquieted that you would link to this claptrap. Has your account been hacked by a drunken Guardian intern?

2 vak March 21, 2015 at 9:23 am

As I’m quick reading thru this book. Your first sentence is either flattering to the foresight of the author of the book or cheapens your rubutal as it is being adressed around p. 45-46.

3 Hazel Meade March 21, 2015 at 11:27 am

What the West is really guilty of is not having a Marxist-Socialist revolution.

4 Thor March 21, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Having read some Badiou, and knowing some historians who have also read him and his influences, I can state categorically that this is the nub of the issue.

5 JCW March 21, 2015 at 4:01 pm

“Surprised a a but disquieted that you would link to this claptrap. Has your account been hacked by a drunken Guardian intern?”

Click bait, my friend. You not only read the post, but you commented.

As the kids say, these days, TC FTW.

6 Elias March 21, 2015 at 1:53 am

To be honest, I never thought I would see someone like you read Alain Badiou. I’ve always thought it’s critical for people on opposite sides of the spectrum to read each other’s work, and its comforting that some still do that. If you ever have some more time, I would recommend Baudrillard’s essays on media and news. They’re basically the foundation for the cliche ‘don’t trust the mainstream media,’ except that they communicate an essence left out by most. While most of his stuff is wacky, his theory of communication and information is interesting nonetheless.

7 AyeJay March 21, 2015 at 11:14 am
8 Dain March 21, 2015 at 2:47 pm

I Marxist I discovered through some tenuous link to classical liberal bloggers was Paul Piccone. Interesting fellow, became so disenchanted with his fellow Marxist academics for denying their place as members of the ruling class that he ended up flirting with radical federalism and decentralization as an antidote, which led to sympathy for the European New Right.

9 Ray Lopez March 21, 2015 at 2:01 am

I wonder if Badiou would be so opinionated if somebody had placed a Salmon Rushdie style fatwa on his head? LOL Seems like projection on his part. If he does not fear death, he should take up extreme sports. Anyway ‘fear’ and lack thereof is apparently a genetic response, some people have no fear because their brain is reckless, and does not process danger like normal people.

10 Marian Kechlibar March 21, 2015 at 4:05 am

Multicultural self-flagellating idiocy of Badiou & Co. brought Europe into its current untenable situation re mass migration.

I am fed up with all the hare-brained theories that Europeans, Westerners or whites are somehow inherently guilty. It is ultra-insulting to hundreds of millions of people. It is a testament of real level of civilization in the West that such authors run around without any fear that someone is planning to kick their ass.

Their favorite religion, Islam, is observably less tolerant to its critics.


11 vak March 21, 2015 at 8:01 am

I’m not really sure who you are angry at: the philosopher for having had a couple of thoughs you seem to desagree with and writting them down? The publisher for thinking those thoughts may be worth more than the paper they are printed on? The readers for thinking it is a good use of their time to follow these arguments?

12 ladderff March 21, 2015 at 9:24 am

The establishment which translates these things into actual policy that actually affects real people whether or not they’ve ever heard of Alain Baidou? Outer party members like vak who play dumb over questions like this?

Can we just start hanging these people, finally?

13 Thiago Ribeiro March 21, 2015 at 1:51 pm

“Can we just start hanging these people, finally?”
Don’t you have to hold your Two Minutes of Hate meeting first?

14 LG March 21, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Precisely, it is the fault of the right for allowing leftists free reign to dominate the education, legal, and now moral planes.

15 Thomas March 22, 2015 at 3:49 am

Hanging people… now there’s an idea. Badiou could certainly appreciate if his intellectual opponents suddenly dropped the fear of death and started pre-emptively murdering marxists. Right?

16 Moreno Klaus March 21, 2015 at 11:53 am

To say that due to some obscure French communist philosopher Europe is now flooded with mass imigration does not make any sense…

17 vak March 21, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Not just an obscure either: I would add old, intelectually isolated and one who uses ‘zingers’ such as:

“At this point, I’d like to put forward a precise philosophical proposition: every substantialization of a formal adjective requires a dominant predicate.”

(maybe ladderff’s thesis is that his writing are influencing the migrants themselves, ’cause it’s hard to see him having much influence on this side of the mediteranean see)

18 FC March 21, 2015 at 2:38 am

Fear is for the untenured.

19 Moreno Klaus March 21, 2015 at 11:55 am

+1 good one!

20 abilio March 21, 2015 at 3:37 am

some kind of homer simpson politics, maybe. cheap tech products plus financial uncertainty, no sense of community, human capital investment as our only possible form of transcendece

21 The Anti-Gnostic March 21, 2015 at 7:46 am

That’s the eventual outcome of classical liberalism, an atomized, consumptive and ultimately unsustainable society. In a more traditional, I.e., ‘barbaric,’ society and there would be no academic bubbles for stupid old bolsheviks to revile the people who pay the taxes and staff the military and police so they can spew this crap for a living.

22 Thiago Ribeiro March 21, 2015 at 11:41 am

Evidently the traditional (and Christian) West Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire (not to mention the traditional Mongol Empire, the Mayans, the Aztecs and those wonderful traditional Muslim societies, which are the envy of the world) were brought down or debased by those classical liberal bolsheviks and their books. Funny how those “sustainable” traditional societies either are not around anymore or, when they are around, are so bad that the apologists of “traditional” societies are eager to dissociate themselves from them. It is almost as if traditional (whatever it is meant by the vague term) societies had failed…
Given the penchant of barbarians for persecuting and killing other barbarians (see “Jewish presecution of early Christians”, “Christian ill-treatment of Jews”, “Roman persecutions of Christians”, “Catholic persecution of Protestants”, “Protestant persecution of Catholics”), in a more traditional, I.e., ‘barbaric’ society (i.e. one society without those pesky classical liberals saving barbarians from their peers), there would be no free speech bubble for stupid old barbarians to criticize the barbarians in power who don’t happen to share their favored brand of barbarism. Not to mention what would happen to the barbarians if the “atomized, consumptive and ultimately unsustainable society” was to model its behavior after the one of those wonderful “more traditional, i.e. barbaric” societies. You are welcome. Free speech is something civilized societies give to their opponents, including those who spew apologies of traditional, i.e. “barbaric societies”, be it for a living or for pleasure.

23 The Anti-Gnostic March 21, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Empires are not traditional. They are inorganic and unsustainable, and always eventually devolve into their constituent nations.

24 Thiago Ribeiro March 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm

So, aside those isolated natives of Brazil and Australia and some European fiefdom dwellers of yore, a “traditional” society never existed (by the way, those societies, too, are either death or decadent, their faiths and cultures replaced by our “atomized, consumptive and ultimately unsustainable society”).
I really wonder what counts as an Empire. China and India, with their many languages, ethnic groups and beliefs? Japan and the Kaiser’s Germany, with their Emperors and their bloody unifications (or maybe racial uniformity-or the semblance of it- covers a multitude of sins)? Every single little African country mired in ethnic-cultural strife?

25 François Godard March 21, 2015 at 4:47 am

Hat tip to TC.
Politics need some symbolic arena. Having contained the social issue through welfare, western politics are now revolving around these statistically negligible fears — immigration, drugs, terrorism, children abduction, street violence, food safety, nuclear accidents. The question is whether the cost of this security state (mass imprisonment, the end of privacy, expensive irrational policies) is cheaper than that of the politics as class war Badiou calls for — he is a big fan of the Cultural Revolution, arguing that violence is unavoidable in such a process and that the death tool was much exagerated.

26 Anon March 21, 2015 at 6:34 am

Badiou’s role as apologist for the cultural revolution ought to be enough to discredit him.

27 eddy March 21, 2015 at 1:10 pm

“statistically negligible fears — immigration, drugs, terrorism, children abduction, street violence” — are you high? Have you or yours ever experienced “street violence” as the result of “immigration”? In Western Europe, it’s a daily occurrence, in both serious ways (gays savagely beaten, cars set afire, shopkeepers robbed at knife- or gunpoint) and in lesser ways (street thugs hissing at women, knocking people aside as they race on mopeds, playing loud music on trains just to get a rise out of the timid natives). The perpetrators are almost always immigrants from a few select countries (and are almost never immigrants from, say, China or Canada). Things didn’t used to be this way; these changes are recent, and their effects are getting worse. These aren’t “statistically negligible” events, these are genuine concerns, concerns that you would smugly dismiss as “populist,” the same way that Gordon Brown smugly dismissed “that bigoted woman.” Your arrogance and self-righteousness are sickening.

28 sandman March 21, 2015 at 5:57 am

As I understand it, the policy reason is the same as the policy reason in secular Muslim countries: to stop forward thinking Muslim women from being coerced into wearing the veil by tribal elders and knuckle dragging young men.

29 Bob from Ohio March 21, 2015 at 11:05 am

Exactly. Its a pro-woman’s equality law.

Badiou, being a leftist, is no doubt a red hot feminist, except for Muslim women of course.

30 rayward March 21, 2015 at 7:28 am

Ed Conway’s new book, The Summit – Bretton Woods, 1944: John Maynard Keynes and the Reshaping of the Global Economy, is reviewed in today’s NYT. It’s part history, but also part lamentation for the missed opportunity to similarly reshape the global economy following the 2008 financial crisis. Like today, 1944 was a time of transition, from Great Britain as the world’s super power to the United States as the world’s super power, and from the United States as the world’s super power to (perhaps) China as the world’s super power. The difference is that Great Britain was so weak from fighting the war that it could not resist the transition, whereas in 2008 the United States successfully resisted (there was no summit following the crisis despite pleas to hold one) but nevertheless seems hell-bent on exhausting its treasure, power, and prestige with a quixotic obsession to control the middle and far east, through military power if necessary. Conway: “There are many important lessons for today from all this [1944], not least that having the smartest person in the room [Keynes] on your side is no guarantee of success. It highlights how the fall of an old superpower [GB] and the rise of a new one [U.S.] can impose huge strains on the global economy. Today, America is the old power that is having to learn what it is like to play a game in which others are catching up fast, and yet it continues to control the global reserve currency as if we were still in 1944.” Of course, Larry Summers (fill in the name of whomever you wish] is no John Maynard Keynes; but Keynes, having correctly predicted the global depression as the result of the onerous terms of the peace following WWI, had no real competition as the world’s preeminent economist. Many of today’s celebrity economists are indeed looking backwards, and wish to return the world not to 1944 but the 19th century.

31 The Anti-Gnostic March 21, 2015 at 7:33 am

LOL. Stupid old commie can go live in the bainlieues and demonstrate his solidarity with the ‘suburban youths’ against white privilege. Or better yet, go live in one of those ‘barbarian’ countries in which the barbarians are perennially unable to establish a decent civil order.

32 Thor March 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm

The left leaning masses need a French intellectual guru for every generation. We can only be thankful that Badiou is the best they can come up with for the moment. Imagine if they found someone compelling and convincing?

33 The Other Jim March 21, 2015 at 8:14 am

>But most of all, Westerners in general…

There it is! And it showed up in your little excerpt, no less.

No cliched lefty screed is complete without taking any random thing that happens anywhere in Europe and using it to whine about “Westerners in general.” Treating all “Westerners” as one cloned mass of humanity is a very enlightened approach. Labeling is fine if you stick to the approved target list.

34 The Devil's Dictionary March 21, 2015 at 10:04 am

That’s spot on.

35 Yerk March 21, 2015 at 8:23 am

“And among them, many die for an idea nearly every day. For the ‘civilized’, that is a source of intimate terror.”

I think the fear is not that many are willing to die for an idea like the Roman Christians, but that many are willing to kill for an idea. If stated that way, I think the case Alain is making sounds much less romantic.

36 annoying March 21, 2015 at 8:27 am

Starting reading it on Amazon but couldn’t stand it after this sentence:

“At this point, I’d like to put forward a precise philosophical proposition: every substantialization of a formal adjective requires a dominant predicate.”

What is it about the French that makes them so unreadable.

37 prior_approval March 21, 2015 at 9:50 am

The fact that you don’t read French?

38 derek March 21, 2015 at 10:48 am

The bot has a personality. European condescension.

39 Sam Haysom March 21, 2015 at 12:36 pm

You’ve got to hand it to prior approval he has the alternating self-pity and laughable grandiosity of a petty French functionary down perfectly. He could be the sad sack protagonist of a Simneon novel.

40 ShardPhoenix March 21, 2015 at 8:31 am

I don’t support banning of headscarves as a matter of principal, but it’s stupid to claim that we shouldn’t be afraid of the “barbarians”. Barbarians of one sort already destroyed Western civilization once and plunged it into a centuries long dark age, it’s hardly impossible for barbarians of a different stripe to do the same again, especially when so many are practically begging them to do so.

41 Hazel Meade March 21, 2015 at 11:36 am

They imagine that the barbarians will merely destroy capitalism, and pave the way for the glorious socialist revolution they haven’t been able to pull off without outside help.

But seriously, I doubt it’s even that cogent. It’s just about revenge now. Revenge against the West for failing to embrace the correct ideas.

42 Joel March 21, 2015 at 12:39 pm


43 Chip March 21, 2015 at 8:50 am

The West is guilty of all the things that only Western civilization has found to be wrong.

No one asks the Persians for slavery reparations. No one condemns the Yoruba for sexism.

Too many people think destroying the West and it’s ‘guilt’ will produce innocence. But it will only erase the difference between guilt and innocence.

44 Brian Donohue March 21, 2015 at 9:47 am

I feel a kind of sadness for the novel stupidity of the 21st century.

But perhaps this kind of intellectual idiot has always been around.

45 Jimmy March 21, 2015 at 12:05 pm

This is a good question. Neither self-hatred nor idealistic revolutionary fervor are new, but there is something peculiar about the way the 21st century has combined them.

One of Aristotle’s wisest maxims: virtue does not destroy that which possesses it.

46 Dain March 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

I wonder if Cowen is compensating for the fact that some of his readers are into Evola by being into Badiou.

47 M March 21, 2015 at 9:54 am

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori… “

48 A B March 21, 2015 at 10:02 am

Franz Rosenzweig saw this flaw in European philosophy a long time ago: “the reality of death which will not be banished from the world and which announced itself in the inextinguishable cry of its victims–these give the lie, even before it has been conceived, to the basic idea of philosophy.”

49 A B March 21, 2015 at 10:03 am

(Not that I could actually get more than a few pages in to ‘The Star of Redemption,’ but this was at the beginning).

50 Socrates March 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Disagree. Philosophy is the practice of dying and being dead.

51 Freethinking Jeremy March 21, 2015 at 10:07 am

Why are such ideas even being discussed here? This left wing guilt mentality is stupid and dangerous. Stupid and dangerous because it enables real problems to grow by blaming them on the “privileged” and ignoring the sources of the problems. Stupid and dangerous because it partially legitimizes the far right which may become a whole new problem.

The Western world isn’t afraid of Islam, they just don’t like lower standards. If your white-trash neighbor’s kids enter your house, do you not make them take off their muddy shoes to match your standards? Why? Are you just a coward, afraid of mud? Afraid of their white-trash culture? That’s ridiculous. I don’t agree with France’s law, but the problem it is trying to address is real.

Troubled groups gain protected status and then it is politically incorrect to speak about the problems (unless you’re blaming them on one or more “privileged” groups). And how do you fix a problem if you can’t even speak of it honestly? The irony here is that Muslims, a far right group, has come under this left wing protection.

Is Badiou himself a coward, afraid of death and afraid of Islam? Why does he live in a cushy western city? Why not go live in a poor, war-torn Islamic country? Maybe because he’s full of shit?

52 TBC March 21, 2015 at 10:39 am

Why are you discussing these ideas? They’re dangerous!
— A person who styles himself “Freethinking Jeremy”

53 Freethinking Jeremy March 21, 2015 at 10:58 am

ad hominem attacks are always a good defense against common sense, aren’t they?

54 China Cat March 21, 2015 at 11:01 am

I think you think there’s irony in your comment.

55 Hazel Meade March 21, 2015 at 11:18 am

I find it somewhat ironic that he first condemns the West for it’s “privilege” and oppression of Muslims, and then turns around and condemns the West for (supposedly) not understanding the willingness to die for an idea.

I think he’s wrong about the latter, and he knows it. HE certainly understands dying for ideas. His problem is that nobody in the west want’s to die for the ideas of him and his leftist friends anymore. He’s angry that there’s no more revolutionary zeal to overthrow the capitalist system, and is pissed off that the only “rebels” against it happen to be Islamist nutjobs. With whom he can’t help sympathizing as a result.

56 Jonathan March 21, 2015 at 10:29 am

I remember reading similar rhetoric from neo-conservative sorts in the run-up to the last Iraq war- that one should not fear death so much as to avoid things worth dying for (and, you know, making the other fellow die for), that non-Westerners had no such fears, etc. They however usually included (and probably still do) the obligatory bit about how we in the West used to not be so afraid of death, though they had in mind the two world wars and, perhaps, colonial adventures before and between. Badiou fetishizes different manifestations of restructuring, redemptive violence, and would consider colonial violence- and probably much of the violence of both world wars- as regressive or anti-emancipatory, but it’s really mostly just a case of mutatis mutandis. The unifying feature is the glorification of violence, death, and disruption, something that our own neo-conservatives, revolutionary leftists, and twentieth century fascists all have in common.

I’d also add that while it is no doubt often true that ‘traditional’ peoples do not fear death in the way that many contemporary Westerners do (and here Badiou is both right and wrong, I think), that does not mean that they are eager to embrace revolutionary violence, or violence in general. Strong belief in an afterlife, in divine providence, or adherence to communal solidarity, etc., may make death a less frightening and even more ‘normal’ aspect of life, but they do not automatically lead one to long for death, and certainly not for the disruption of warfare and organized violence. Quite the contrary- ‘traditional’ societies are often ones in which reconciliation efforts are central, even to the extent of minimizing and negotiating out of crimes and offenses, so as to maintain communal stability.

57 ivvenalis March 21, 2015 at 12:45 pm

That’s because what he actually seems to be talking about is not a willingness to die but a willingness to kill.

58 Hopaulius March 21, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Regarding religious acceptance of but not eagerness for death, a friend of mine quoted this: Everyone loves heaven, but don’t nobody want to go there.

59 Hazel Meade March 21, 2015 at 11:06 am

There are lots of Westerners who will fight and die for their ideals. They just don’t happen to be the ideals that Alian Badiou thinks they should die for.
This sounds like the flailing of a dying leftism, screaming in frustration that the West will no longer die for THEIR vision, as is there was no other vision worth dying for.

60 Moreno Klaus March 21, 2015 at 11:49 am

“There are lots of Westerners who will fight and die for their ideals” …. Who exactly? Not me or any people that i am aware of in my Facebook friends list !!!! (and i suspect, not a single commentator here) …. Well ok there was that news the other day of a “City” finance dude, that went to fight with curds against ISIS (there are crazy people everywhere).

61 Hazel Meade March 21, 2015 at 1:48 pm

You obviously don’t hang out with many conservatives.

62 Moreno Klaus March 21, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Why should I loool ? If you are willing to die for a cause / idea either of the following holds: a) you are a complete idiot (probably this one holds for your conservative friends 😉 ) and/or b) you have been severely brainwashed c) you were born in a very unfortunate place (Random ditactorial regime) d) can not in any way get laid ( (a) and (d) are kind of correlated!!!)

63 Hazel Meade March 21, 2015 at 7:22 pm

So if a fascist regime came to power in America, you would be a peaceful collaborator?

64 Moreno Klaus March 22, 2015 at 5:48 am

Given the sophistication of nowadays propaganda, no fascist regime needed anymore, they (government/business elite) can already do as they please. As the other said “resistance if futile” 😉

65 Dain March 21, 2015 at 3:04 pm

That libertarian couple last year in Vegas who shot those cops and got shot themselves. And yet I don’t think Badiou would find them very compelling. They’re certainly far less chic than radical Islamists as they just look like a couple of CVS shoppers. And while both groups are fans of pickup trucks, only the libertarians would ruin them with gauche Don’t Tread on Me decals.

66 JWatts March 22, 2015 at 4:26 pm

“…. Who exactly? Not me or any people that i am aware of in my Facebook friends list !!!!” You live in a bubble.

“You obviously don’t hang out with many conservatives.: … ” Why should I loool ? If you are willing to die for a cause / idea either ” You even realize it. And yet you are convinced you know the motivation of people you disdain and whom which you don’t spend any time interacting.

67 Clover March 21, 2015 at 12:05 pm

43. In point of truth, the headscarf law expresses only one thing: fear. Westerners in general, and the French in particular, are no more than a bunch of shivering cowards. What are they afraid of? Barbarians, as usual. Barbarians both at home, the ‘suburban youths’, and abroad the ‘Islamic terrorists’. Why are they afraid? Because they are guilty, but claim to be innocent. Guilty from the 1980s onward of having renounced and tried to dismantle every politics of emancipation, every revolutionary form of reason, every true assertion of something other than what is. Guilty of clinging to their miserable privileges. Guilty of being no more than grown-up kids who play with their many purchases. Yes, indeed, ‘after a long childhood, they have been made to grow up’. They are thus afraid of whatever is a little less old than they are, such as, for example, a stubborn young lady.

The basic idea of “anti-racism” is the idea than non-Whites are morally superior to Whites.

44. But most of all, Westerners in general, and the French in particular, are afraid of death. They can no longer even imagine that an idea is something worth taking risks for. ‘Zero deaths’ is their most important desire. Well, they see millions of people throughout the world who have no reason to be afraid of death. And among them, many die for an idea nearly every day. For the ‘civilized’, that is a source of intimate terror.

When ISIS marched across the Syria-Iraq border and faced the Iraqi Army, the Shia-dominated Iraqi Army turned and fled, despite significantly outnumbering ISIS and having better weapons. The reason was simple, the Shia troops were not willing to risk their lives to hold onto a relatively worthless, Sunni inhabited territory. You see a similar situation in cities and towns all over France, where there are “no go zones,” where police tend to stay out of. And you can see why. Why would the police risk their lives to enforce France’s laws? There is no personal or ideological reason for them to do so. White people are smarter than Muslims, we are more cooperate, but their main advantage is that we see no reason to fight and risk death for our people, and they do.

68 Moreno Klaus March 21, 2015 at 12:22 pm

They who? Unfortunate teenagers brainwashed via internet, sponsored by money coming from western ally countries? Let’s not forget where all the financing for terrorism and all the extremist madrassas comes from…but i never see anyone in the media US/EU complaining about it… (left or right) This in turn, tells you a lot about the nature and purpose of “islam extremists”…dont be naive…

69 meets March 21, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Well, you’ve certainly learned the talking points.

70 Judah Benjamin Hur March 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

If there were any justice in the world, Badiou would be the star in the next ISIS action flick.

71 prior_approval March 21, 2015 at 1:04 pm

‘Let’s not forget where all the financing for terrorism and all the extremist madrassas comes from…but i never see anyone in the media US/EU complaining about it’

That’s because Saudi Arabia’s oil is worth all the hypocrisy money can provide.

The Saudis have been sponsoring its Wahabist theology with all the money we provide for decades – but then, complaining about it changes nothing.

(The Iranians aren’t that much better, of course – but unlike the Saudis, the Iranians seem to be in someone’s bombsights.)

72 Moreno Klaus March 21, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Yes, but my point was that to claim that western governments are not complicit with it, would be very naive…I mean US/EU are world leaders in regime change, diabolization of its enemies, but nothing happened in Saudi Arabia, while they are truly… “guilty” like our Badou friend would say 😉

73 jean-louis salvignol March 21, 2015 at 1:15 pm

1 / Badiou support the Khmer Rouge regime


Tribune libre par Alain Badiou, publiée par
le journal “Le Monde” du 17/1/1979.

L’INVASION du Cambodge par cent vingt mille Vietnamiens avec chars et
aviation de bombardement ; l’installation à Phnom Penh de ” dirigeants ” tirés
des bagages de l’envahisseur : prendre position sur ces faits engage, à notre avis,
des questions essentielles.
A supposer que l’inertie l’emporte, qu’aucun courant d’opinion mondial ne se
lève dans le scandale et dans l’action, un pas décisif serait fait vers la violation
sans détour du droit des peuples à exister, du droit des nations à voir leurs
frontières garanties et leur sécurité internationale reconnue. Aller régler les
problèmes politiques du voisin à grands coups de division blindées serait
désormais chose normale.
Dans ce climat d’acceptation du gangstérisme international, c’est la
généralisation de la guerre qui deviendrait inévitable.
L’acquiescement, ou même la seule protestation réticente, devant cet acte de
barbarie militariste franc et ouvert, reproduirait la logique munichoise, qui croit
différer le péril sur soi en livrant et trahissant les autres, Autrichiens ou Tchèques
hier, Khmers aujourd’hui.
Il est tout aussi vital et moralement clair de se lever contre l’actuelle invasion, qu’il l’était de condamner sans détour l’agression américaine de 1970. Les procédés sont les mêmes, aviation et division blindées contre un petit peuple
démuni. Les objectifs sont les mêmes : Installer dans les villes un pouvoir à la botte de l’étranger.
Les résultats seront les mêmes : la guerre populaire de résistance nationale.

D’obscures affaires de sauvages…

Qu’à l’arrière-plan on trouve cette fois les ambitions impériales de la
superpuissance soviétique, dont le Vietnam est client. Indique seulement la
rapidité des changements de conjoncture, et qui, désormais, entend jouer les
premiers rôles dans la gendarmerie contre-révolutionnaire mondiale. Ce qui
justifie le rappel du précèdent tchècolosvaque, dont du reste, avec un cynisme
sans égal, les Vietnamiens se réclament ouvertement. A dix ans d’écart, c’est bien
le même processus qui se déploie et s’aggrave.
Ce qui semble paralyser certains devant l’évidence du devoir, c’est la vaste
campagne menée depuis trois ans contre le ” goulag ” cambodgien.

En soi déjà, l’argument est curieux, il revient en somme à dire que puisque les
Khmers se sont tant tués entre eux, leur massacre par les chars vietnamiens doit
nous laisser froids ! On ne saurait mieux dire que vus de loin, et en Asie, la
question nationale, le respect des frontières, l’absolue ignominie qu’est une
invasion massive perpétrée de sang-froid ne sont qu’obscures affaires de

Contre les deux superpuissances

Sur le fond, nous constatons ceci : pour mieux ” expliquer ” la violence du
processus révolutionnaire au Cambodge, les censeurs dénoncent à qui mieux
mieux l'” hyper-nationalisme sectaire “. le ” refus de l’aide étrangère “, le ”
chauvinisme “, dont auraient fait preuve Pol Pot et ses camarades Khmers
rouges. On déguise à peine, dans ces propos, qu’il est outrecuidant pour un pays
de taille modeste de prétendre échapper à l’allégeance, à la soumission, à
l’inclusion dans une aire d’hégémonie.
Il est très vrai qu’en se dressant à la fois contre les Américains et contre les
Soviétiques, et en ne cédant rien au voisin puissant qui voulait coûte que coûte
les mettre en tutelle, les révolutionnaires cambodgiens ont, les premiers, ouvert la
voie à la question de l’indépendance nationale telle qu’elle se pose aujourd’hui :
refus de plier devant les hégémonismes, lutte simultanée contre les deux

Outre les tensions accumulées dans les siècles par l’absolue misère du paysan
khmer, la simple volonté de compter sur ses propres forces et de n’être vassalisé
par personne éclaire bien des aspects, y compris en ce qui concerne la mise à
l’ordre du jour de la terreur, de la révolution cambodgienne. Ce n’est pas justifier
toutes choses que de remarquer qu’à la lumière du ” Blitzkrieg ” des
envahisseurs vietnamiens, l’évacuation préalable de villes prend un tout autre
aspect. D’autres mesures étonnantes, comme l’abolition des échanges
monétaires et le passage accéléré au collectivisme n’ont du reste pas d’autre
précédent, fût-il très éloigné, que le communisme de guerre dans l’U.R.S.S. des
années 18-20. Le bilan de tout cela est à nos propres yeux une question ouverte,
et de première importance.

Une troisième guerre de libération

Cependant, il n’est en réalité demandé à personne de prendre position sur ce
point. Il n’est pas même demandé d’examiner en conscience à qui sert
finalement la formidable campagne anticambodgienne de ces trois dernières
années, et si elle n’a pas son principe de réalité dans la tentative en cours de ”
solution finale “. Une seule chose compte : se lever contre l’agresseur, et assurer, dans les faits,
le peuple cambodgien de notre soutien dans la guerre prolongée de libération – la
troisième – à laquelle il se trouve aujourd’hui acculé.

74 Thiago Ribeiro March 21, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Haven’t the USA and Thatcher’s government condemned the Vietnamese invasion as well?

75 jean-louis salvignol March 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm

2/ Badiou regrets

Alain Badiou : “Je le regrette. Et je suis heureux de le dire ici publiquement : je regrette d’avoir écrit ce texte. Mais il ne suffit pas de le regretter. Regretter et se repentir, on peut toujours le faire. C’est très facile. Nos chefs d’État eux-mêmes n’arrêtent pas de se repentir et de demander pardon. Au bout du compte, il vaut mieux penser que, comme le dit Spinoza, “le repentir n’est pas une vertu”.

Au-delà, donc, du fait que je regrette d’avoir écrit ce texte, je m’intéresse à la question de savoir pourquoi je l’ai écrit. Je l’ai écrit parce que j’avais été enthousiasmé par la victoire des Khmers rouges en 1975. Je n’ai pas été le seul. Relisez les premières pages du Monde à cette époque-là. J’ai ensuite voulu garder en moi cet enthousiasme, y compris contre le réseau des informations peu à peu disponibles. En politique, le découragement est monnaie courante, et l’enthousiasme est une denrée précieuse.

Quand les Khmers rouges prennent le pouvoir, c’est une éclatante victoire militaire. Pourquoi sommes-nous si enthousiastes ? Parce que c’est la victoire d’un tout petit peuple, organisé en guérilla rurale sous la direction des Khmers rouges, contre l’énorme armée américaine et ses complices locaux. Et c’est donc la validation d’un énoncé de Mao qui soutenait à l’époque l’espérance de millions de gens dans le monde : “Un petit peuple, s’il est uni et qu’il compte sur ses propres forces, peut venir à bout d’une grande puissance.” Encore aujourd’hui, cette idée que le plus faible par la puissance brute peut être politiquement le plus fort est d’une importance décisive.

Il y avait donc cet enthousiasme, et quand les Vietnamiens ont envahi le Cambodge, cette invasion m’a paru détestable. Quatre ans après avoir chassé les Américains, voilà que le Cambodge devait subir une nouvelle invasion ! Il ne faut pas oublier que le Cambodge a été envahi par l’armée vietnamienne en 1979 pour des raisons qui n’avaient rien à voir avec le sentiment humanitaire, pour des raisons de pure puissance régionale. Il ne faut pas l’oublier, car mon article de 1979 est avant tout un article contre l’invasion vietnamienne.

En leçon de tout cela, je pense que nous devons méditer, au terme du XXe siècle, sur les ravages faits dans les rangs de la pensée progressiste et communiste – reprenons ce vieux mot – par l’enthousiasme victorieux, prématuré et sans limites. Parce que les millions et millions de gens, ouvriers aussi bien qu’intellectuels, qui sont restés enthousiastes de la révolution bolchevique pendant des décennies, y compris sous Staline, tous ceux, innombrables, pour qui la vie prenait tout son sens à la lumière de la victoire de la Révolution de 1917, nous posent une question bien plus vaste que ma personnelle errance cambodgienne.

Cette question résulte de ce que les peuples soulevés sont rarement victorieux. Très rarement. Tout le monde le sait. Du coup, une victoire, fût-elle douteuse, divisée, obscure, et parfois marquée de crimes effrayants, a une puissance de ralliement extraordinaire. Et ce que le dernier siècle nous a appris, c’est qu’il faut se méfier de la fascination pour les victoires. Je dirais même qu’une des grandes tâches de la politique contemporaine – la vraie politique, celle qui cherche l’émancipation de l’humanité tout entière -, c’est de redéfinir ce que c’est qu’une victoire. Une réelle victoire de la politique, de la politique au sens retrouvé de ce mot fondamental, et non pas, naturellement, au sens de la victoire d’untel contre untel née de l’addition des isoloirs.”

76 Paul March 21, 2015 at 1:22 pm

As a Vietnam refugee once explained to me these sorts of intellectuals are ‘book Marxists’, everything they know of Marxism comes from books. They’ve never actually had to live under the real thing.

77 Moreno Klaus March 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

I would suggest a vacation in Belarus… KGB still exists there 😉

78 Thomas March 22, 2015 at 3:59 am

Don’t defend Badiou, Moreno, you’ve already admitted that you are the coward he was talking about.

79 Thor March 21, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Yes, and when the many and varied drawbacks of Marxism are pointed out to book Marxists (often Western intellectuals), they say: “but it wasn’t REAL Marxism.” (No true Scotsman…)

80 LG March 21, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Yes, or the west has no morals beyond what the present circumstances say are good or bad, i.e. moral relativism and cultural marxism.

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