This talk, “Marx’s Vindication or Marx’s Revenge?” by RiVAL co-director Max Haiven, was recorded in March of 2018 at the “200 anos de Marx” conference in Lisbon, hosted by Bloco Esquarda (Left Block). Slides here. (48 mins)
Liberal political theory and cultural politics imagines that revenge is banished to the borderlands of the capitalist empire, hence the bad-faith surprise of so many politicians and commentators when revanchist reactionary politics “invade.” Yet my argument is that we cannot fully comprehend, let alone confront, the “return” of revanchist fascistic tendencies without recognizing that revenge, or something like it, has always been at the core of capitalist accumulation. On the one hand, I am thinking of the discursive methods by which the struggles of proletarians and colonized peoples have been defamed and pathologized as beastially vengeful and nihilistic, precisely to distract us from the normalized political and economic sadism of the powerful. But more deeply I wonder if capital itself might be said to be vengeful when the contradictions of its accelerating cycles of accumulation reach such a stage that it appears that no “logic” can explain the nihilistic cruelties it unleashes. And I further wonder what revenge might have to offer a revolutionary politics. This paper draws on a wide range of Marxist and anti-colonial theorists to play out the potentials and perils of dwelling with revenge as an important caetgory for radical thought and action today.