Blanqui: review & interview

From the interview with translator Frank Chouraqui:

Q: Though Blanqui avoids ethics throughout Eternity by the Stars, it is possible to read it as implying an ethics suitable for a perennially unsuccessful insurrectionist. If there is no progress, only an infinity of worlds extending throughout time and space, then the locus of meaning cannot be the future effects of any action, but only the action itself. He has produced a valorization of his chosen struggle that is impervious to a thousand defeats, even to the certainty of permanent defeat.

FC: Yes, you put it in a very subtle manner, and the issue is very subtle. I think it is one of the main features of Blanqui’s vision that revolution is an end in itself, and yet, he keeps hoping for a political life that actually embodies, fosters, and protects universal brotherhood. The way you formulate this question reveals the potential tensions between these two projects, and they are the tensions at work in Eternity too.

The bottom line, I think, is: should we identify value with actuality? For Blanqui, this precludes revolution. Of course, the problem is now to identify value with revolution, but this precludes victory. For any victory would mean the end of revolution. 

If such is the case, it means that fueling revolution with such existing, crowd-moving aspirations as peace, justice, and brotherhood is a travesty, for all that revolution can offer is continuous strife. In this context, the cosmological view may seem to offer an alternative, for in Blanqui’s calculation, what we find is the identity of actuality and potentiality: all that is possible is actual. If this discovery is used powerfully, one can value revolution no longer for what it can lead to, but for the very fact that it exists.

The problem, of course, as Nietzsche pointed out, and many leftist thinkers since, is that the actual project of the revolution cannot be the same as the project of the masses, for the masses seek peace, and the revolution seeks strife. I don’t think Blanqui really ever came to a final position on the question. What we can say—and it is already quite a lot—is that he embodied the question in ways that stand in themselves as a contribution to radical thought. His life poses the question that runs throughout radicalism: is any good politics a dead politics, a politics that exceeds human demands and therefore refuses to be contested from within? If given human aspirations must be taken into account, the answer will be yes. If revolution has a value superior to that of any human aspiration, no.”

Rolling Thunder (spring 2014) 121–127. Link to pdf of ToC. Full issue not accessible online.