Re: review of John Holloway

From: John Holloway (johnholloway@PRODIGY.NET.MX)
Date: Thu May 29 2003 - 01:05:26 EDT


    Very many thanks for this - I would never have come across it otherwise.

    By the way, do you have an e-mail address for Jacques Depelchin> it
would be very interesting to get an African perspective.

    All the best,

>From: Rakesh Bhandari <rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU>
>Subject: review of John Holloway
>Date: Fri, May 16, 2003, 7:01 AM

>Book Review
>John Holloway Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of
>Revolution Today (London, Pluto Press  2002)
>"Political power grows from the barrel of a gun." (Mao Tse Tung)
>As we know from history Mao gained power in China after a long civil
>war, including the Long March. At the beginning of 2001 the Mexican
>Zapatistas marched from Chiapas to the capital Mexico City. They did not
>come to power but spoke in the Mexican parliament and on the Zocalo, the
>main square of the Mexican capital.
>John Holloway is one of the theoretical backers of the Zapatista
>insurgency. In his new book Change the World Without Taking Power - The
>Meaning of Revolution Today, he draws a picture of a new form of revolution.
>While in Mao's understanding power was located in the military forces of
>the capitalist state which had to be defeated by revolutionary firepower
>and guerrilla warfare, the Zapatistas, though armed, renounce provoking
>a military confrontation with the Mexican army. Instead, they are
>promoting the concept of ordinary-therefore-rebellious, a concept that
>rejects a view of revolution led by an avant-garde of professional
>revolutionaries and the view that revolution is made by taking power.
>Their strategy is the strategy of low intensity revolution, a revolution
>that changes society from the inside without taking the power but by
>destroying the power.
>Holloway supports the Zapatista style of uprising by backing this new
>understanding of struggle theoretically. His argument is different from
>the classical anti-imperialist and revolutionary view of struggle,
>preferring "a refusal to accept" (p. 6), a refusal of the daily
>experience of exploitation and injustice, whether experienced as direct
>injustice - being sacked by a boss - or cognitively perceived - by
>knowing about millions of children that have to live in streets, or the
>fact that the world's income is unjust distributed. This feeling of
>being trapped in an unjust world like "flies caught in the spider's web"
>(p. 5) is the energy that fuels resistance. Holloway's "scream" is a
>primarily emotional rejection of the capitalist system, because it is in
>capitalism that injustice has to be located. The scream proves that 'we
>are' and above 'what we are not yet' (p. 7). So the identity of people
>who are screaming is first of all a negative identity. It is the
>identity of negating the present capitalist state of world society. Its
>negativity forbids thinking in terms of classic forms of identity such
>as working class, women or race.
>Holloway states that old forms of revolutionary theory have been
>outdated as they have not brought the success expected and for this
>reason places his theory beyond the state and beyond power. He asserts
>that former leftist theory whether it was Rosa Luxemburg, Vladimir Ilich
>Lenin or Eduard Bernstein always had as its focus for social upheaval
>the taking of state power. Whether it was by elections (Bernstein) or by
>revolution (Luxemburg/Lenin), the object of desire was the state. Since
>the state is embedded in a network of power relations, the world cannot
>be changed by taking state power. The state itself is only a node in the
>net, but not equivalent with society.  Holloway maintains that all
>"major revolutionary leaders of the twentieth century: Rosa Luxemburg,
>Trotzky, Gramsci, Mao, Che" (p. 18) shared this logic. Further on he
>asserts that history has shown that this concept has not been successful

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