On Communism
Alain Badiou

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It becomes increasingly clear that it's always the citizens who lose, as the crisis showed it amply. Why does society give the impression of being powerless, unable to react and thus require another model?

The current difficulty is that it is very hard to resist and react within the existing political and institutional framework. It would be necessary to invent both the means of reacting and the contents of this reaction. That will take time, but I remain convinced that it is possible.

Do you think, as Jean-Luc Melenchon affirmed yesterday evening at Serge Moati's, that the state of public freedom these last few months is "rotten" in France, under the action of the government and of the president?

Certainly. A whole part of the policy of Sarkozy produces a reduction in public freedoms. There is an increase of controls, aggravation of sorrows, and open attacks against the institutions charged with defending these freedoms. There is no longer any doubt that Sarkozy's conception of a head of the State is basically an authoritative and repressive conception.

The Socialist Party has called for a "social and political" mobilization Thursday. Has the time finally come for the mobilization against the policy of Sarkozy?

I do not believe that the Socialist Party showed, during the last years, a particular vocation to be the engine of a mobilization. Rather it seems to follow other initiatives taken in this direction. This mobilization has been coming for a long time. The main question is whether it will finally unify and reinforce itself.

During the first third of his five-year term, were there policies which you did not expect in Sarkozy and his accessory ministers and capitalist members to carry out? Were you surprised, or, quite to the contrary, was it just what you had anticipated?

Part of the repressive action of Sarkozy was beyond what I could imagine. I will quote in particular the administrative control concerning mental patients, and the repeated attempts at unchecked toughness on the repression of minors. From another point of view, one can obviously be surprised at the State's systematic intervention to bailout banks and financial institutions, whereas liberal economic doctrines wanted to compress, nearly without measure, public expenditure.

There are many of us who expect "intellectuals", if any still exist, to break the silence and raise their illustrious voices together, to spare our brave professors from "resisting" and "disobeying" alone. That some scholars, who do not run any risk, raise their voices and take action.

It seems unjust to me to say that no intellectual speaks against the present state of affairs. It is painfully true that we're leaving a period when a considerable number of intellectuals appeared to put up with the established order. I believe and, furthermore, wish that this situation would change. In any case, as far as I'm concerned, the new fact is not so much that I speak, but that (what I say) is better heard than before.

What do you think of the news making in France concerning the Israeli aggression on Gaza?

I would like to intervene on a apparently secondary factor, which in my view is very important: it would have been essential to produce more information and testimonies on the demonstrations opposed to the war, even in Israel. This trend was, as might be expected, in the minority, but it existed, it was a courageous and determined one, and if the future must be that of peace, it is this current which incarnates the future.

You are atheistic. Would you say that religions are nothing other than antiquated or totemic forms of politics? And by politics I mean the dismissal of transcendence as the norm of collective destiny?

My position on this matter, reinforced by a recent trip to Palestine, is that today it is absolutely imperative to separate politics from religion, just like it should be separated, for example, from racial or identity questions. Religions can and must coexist in the same country, but only if politics and the State are separate.

Do you think that the French will awake before the end of Sarkozy's presidential term? Because when one thinks about who was elected in 2007, it says a great deal about the state of brain decay of our countrymen.

The election of Sarkozy is the outcome of two processes: first, the collecting of the votes of the Front National by the conservatives; and secondly, the illegible character of left-wing politics. Only in this regard could the brains have softened.

Why did the "No" to the European referendum not cause a bursting of the Socialist Party and, consequently, a coherent rebuilding on the left?

What followed showed that, on the whole, the rallying by certain leaders of the Socialist Party to vote No on the referendum corresponded more to a tactical choice, inside the party, rather than a sincere attempt to create a new left. This vote was actually much more orchestrated than a failed political expression.

Philosophy operating near the political power: is this new? Do you think that Nicolas Sarkozy is worth the sorrow, and is this not perhaps giving him too much credit?

The political engagement of philosophy belongs to a French tradition that goes back to the eighteen century, so I did not invent anything. As for Sarkozy, he's been functioning like a symptom of the situation of current politics, which is why I spoke about that of which "he is the name", and not about his person.

Intellectuals have a small megaphone, whereas governments and institutions have access to a very large microphone and million television sets. Do you think as Chomsky does that the mass media's business is in manufacturing consent while turning political economy to their advantage? Isn't this a hijacking of democracy?

The State and those in power have always had more leverage on propaganda and information that the poor and the destitute. Let us consider for example the Church's propaganda apparatus in the Middle Ages, with a church in each village; there is nothing new here. The success of popular movements or of revolutions had always to triumph over the dominant opinions. And we know that it is possible, including by using some of the new means available, like printing, radio, television and finally the Internet.

Don't you think that there is a proper compromise between the unabashed capitalism of Sarkozy and your antiquated radical line?

Having begun its journey four centuries ago, capitalism, even unbridled, is much older and archaic that all the radical lines that one opposes to it. Let us cease considering that liberalism, fashionable in the 1840s, embodies modernity and reform. It is Communism which is a new idea in Europe.

Which are the political limits of the youth riots in France?

To begin with the problem concerns the unity of youth, and then the unity between youth and the mass of ordinary workers. On the first point, the limit it is that there is not, for the time being, real convergence between the popular youth riots and the protests of high-school and university students. Secondly, what constrains the movement is that it lacks a unifying call, common to the frustration of youth and the serious difficulties of adult life.

Liberation, January 26 2009