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Marx: the quest, the path, the destination

Alexander Kluge’s nine-and-a-half hour long film of Marx’s “Kapital” is not a minute too long says Helmut Merker

What is a revolutionary? The writings of Marx and Engels both use the metaphor of revolution as the “locomotive of history”. Is, then, the revolutionary a standard bearer of progress, a pace setter, a frontrunner?

None of the above, because in a world ruled by a turbo “devaluation” where only the new has market value, where commodity production spirals out of control, the “train of time” is a deadly trend. Alexander Kluge instead opts for Walter Benjamin’s idea of the revolution as mankind “pulling the emergency brake“. We must hold up the torch of reason to the problems at hand, and the true revolutionary is therefore the one who can unite future and past, merging two times, two societies, the artist who montages stories and history. And so we come to Alexander Kluge and his art.

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WHEN INSURRECTIONS DIE. Gilles Dauvé

Gilles Dauvé, Quand Meurent les Insurrections. ADEL, Paris, 1998.
This version, translated by Loren Goldner and revised by the author, first published by Antagonism Press, 1999.
“If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.”1

This perspective was not realised. The European proletariat missed its rendezvous with a revitalised Russian peasant commune.2

BREST-LITOVSK: 1917 AND 1939

Brest-Litovsk, Poland, December 1917: the Bolsheviks proposed peace without annexations to a Germany intent on taking over a large swath of the old Tsarist empire, stretching from Finland to the Caucasus. But in February 1918, the German soldiers, “proletarians in uniform” though they were, obeyed their officers and resumed the offensive against a soviet Russia as if they were still facing the Tsarist army. No fraternisation occurred, and the revolutionary war advocated by the Bolshevik Left proved impossible. In March, Trotsky had to sign a peace treaty dictated by the Kaiser’s generals. “We’re trading space for time”, as Lenin put it, and in fact, in November, the German defeat turned the treaty into a scrap of paper. Nevertheless, practical proof of the international link-up of the exploited had failed to materialise. A few months later, returning to civilian life with the war’s end, these same proletarians confronted the alliance of the official workers’ movement and the Freikorps. Defeat followed defeat: in Berlin, Bavaria and Hungary in 1919; then the Red Army of the Ruhr in 1920; the March Action in 1921…

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