Nihilism and the Left – by prof. Nicolas Sevastakis
(Image by Cliffort Harper)
In the article below, Nicolas Sevastakis, a political thinker, writer and professor at the Political Science Department of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, is analyzing terrorist activity in the form that it appears in Greece lately. Sevastakis critically discusses the nihilistic ideology behind such activity. The author exposes the individualistic and reactionary nature of nihilism. Instead, Sevastakis foregrounds the idea of democracy beyond its current reduction into a formal, technocratic regime whose ideal citizens are individuals that strive for their delimited sphere of ‘personal interests’ relating to consumer culture objectives and late capitalism’s labor demands. Other than a regime, the idea of democracy needs to be understood as a horizon that enables possibilities for more equal, free and just worlds to emerge for all.
Members of the CrisisMirror group felt the need to translate from Greek into English and to publish this text because various misconceptions may exist about Crisis Mirror, its identity and its aims –which are mentioned clearly at the group’s website. In the past, the group has been characterized as ‘militant’ by alternative media in Denmark (http://modkraft.dk/artikel/dansk-indsamling-til-militante-gr%C3%A6kere – CrisisMirror’s reply to the particular article follows at the end of the given post at Modkraft). Media frames (http://www.modkraft.dk/artikel/antifascister-sender-knyttet-n%C3%A6ve-til-gr%C3%A6kenland) may have also triggered vague associations of the group with sympathizers of ‘urban guerilla’ groups in Greece, only by participating in collective actions, despite the fact that the group never expressed such sympathies. Popular misconceptions on the South European political culture that are common in different European countries, are the outcome of the spectacularization of protest and suffering by mass media, which tend to overemphasize images of violence in general. We will stress again the need to acknowledge the regressive function of stereotypes, and the need to develop critical social thought that may lead to broad popular struggles for a better world today.
Nihilism and the Left
By Nicolas Sevastakis, 27/1/2013 at ‘Avgi’ http://www.avgi.gr/ArticleActionshow.action?articleID=746328
For the last two days I’ve been thinking about writing a text in response to the terrorist attack on the Mall(1). I believe that the particular strike exposes the absolute nakedness of the armed nihilistic mentality. This is a point that reveals in the most indisputable manner, the ethical and cultural chasm that separates an affirmative radicalism (that struggles) “in favor of life” from any nihilistic logic.
Therefore, Kedikoglou’s (the current Greek government’s representative, coming from the conservative party of Nea Dimocratia) complaints on the matter are laughable – to say the least- as they follow the usual formula: “are you criticizing the urban and environmental wrongdoings of the Mall or of any kind of ‘Mall’? Well, then you are only strewing the carpet for the terrorists.” Such views suggest the reserve of disagreement, and dictate uniformity to our judgments on what should constitute the ‘public good’ and the social interest.
But let us turn to the question that concerns the development of an armed form of the nihilism that is apparent in the recent years. As regards to its real effects and dimensions, the particular phenomenon is absolutely minimal. Nevertheless, it expresses moods and syndromes that can have disproportionately large effects, and by that I certainly mean negative effects. What is this nihilism though made of? And what does it aim at?
I disregard the police scenarios on the particular matter, along with conspiracy theories, because I believe that they cannot respond to the substance of the issue. The root of the matter is that in such incidents lies another version of the “hatred for democracy”(2). For the nihilist terrorist, no adversary exists in the form of a social or political opponent: there is only the “enemy that must be annihilated” as Karl Schmidt used to say. What particularly interests (the terrorist) is the conduct of the “war”, a game with a pervasive and ubiquitous enemy.
The nihilist speaks as such: “Let me do my war, you do not concern me”. And he says that to everyone else, from the libertarian socialists to the conservative citizens. He says: “let me” to any receiver of the messages that this form of terrorism emits: because simply put, he has no message to send as the sending of a message somewhere connotes to the listening of the others; (it means) that finally I am interested in their opinion and judgment.
The rationale of the militant nihilist is deeply indifferent and narcissistic. Even when it invests in a moralistic rhetoric against commodities, alienation or the status quo, it is simply a war game. For militant nihilism everything that surrounds us, every aspect of daily life is ‘alienation’. To drink a coffee in a shopping center, to sit and watch at people passing by, to be involved in any productive or unproductive routine. Everything has to be a continuous insurrection, to burn in the fire of an aggressive catechism(3) distributing people in fractions and hostile formations.
However, the contempt towards the different shades of life, towards the weariness or the unwillingness of people to “do war”, this contempt is totalitarianism. Little it differs from cries about “Devils” coming from Jihadist fanatics or similar groups.
Therefore I am saying that all this material is antithetic to a real social criticism, which is the other aspect, love for life, love even for the ‘lower’ moments of daily life. Those which seek to redeem the ‘alienated daily routine’ by contemning the bodies of people, the durability and the moral sentiments of people, manage to bring the opposite result: they add fear upon the fear and more despair upon that which has already been accumulated.
1. The author refers to the 20/1/2013 explosion of a bomb that was put at the shopping center called “The Mall”, which is located at a suburb of Athens. The explosion provoked injuries to security personnel.
The Mall’s construction has been scandalous from environmental, architectural and also legal points of view, as it trespassed various laws regarding building spaces. For more information: http://inura08.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/esf_the_mall_english2.pdf
2. ‘Hatred to democracy’ is a reference to the work of the political theorist Jacques Ranciere. “Jacques Rancière argues that the West can no longer simply extol the virtues of democracy by contrasting it with the horrors of totalitarianism. As certain governments are exporting democracy by brute force, and a reactionary strand in mainstream political opinion is willing to abandon civil liberties and destroy collective values of equality, Rancière explains how democracy—government by all—attacks any form of power based on the superiority of an elite. Hence the fear, and consequently the hatred, of democracy amongst the new ruling class.” (By www.versobooks.com )
3. A reference to Russian nihilist Sergey Nechayev’s main work Catechism of a Revolutionary. In that work Nechayev calls revolutionaries to exist in complete opposition to the state and church but also to its product, society. This is in order to provoke revolution. His main moral principle is: the ends justify the means.