A counterbalance to today's cruel lack of solidarity

The Second Coming
Forfatter: Franco «Bifo» Berardi
Forlag: Polity Press (Storbritannia/USA)
Totalitarianism? / The anarcho-communist critic Franco Berardi believes we have overestimated reason and intelligence as a world-changing force.


Berardi's new book appears as a collection of hectic notes on the threshold of a new and dangerous time, which is sadly our own, but strikingly similar to the interwar wars' bleak series of insidious tendencies, a historical witch's kitchen where a ubiquitous chaos threatens the horizon. He points out that the experience of the chaotic world is not so much a result of ideological contradictions, but rather that each one has to process more and more information at an accelerating pace. The experience of chaos is partly a subjective effect, though the causes are objective. Historically, at the same time, we are in a historical period of wrestling: The relative order that has prevailed in the last 30 – 40 years, dominated by the liberal-capitalist world order, is about to burst.

Each one has to process more and more information at an accelerating pace.

As an anarcho-communist critic and activist, Berardi has interpreted contemporary issues continuously since participating in the alternative labor movement in the 1970s. He has followed several chaotic and transitional periods: not just the promising time of the 68 rebellion against the stagnation of the radical movement in the Thatcher era. He also closely followed the digital revolution, a time that was pregnant with alluring opportunities, but is now closing in on monopolies and information power. As the infrastructure changes, the experience of what is possible and necessary also changes. Stable schemes can be swirled away in no time as times change – which opens up new opportunities for good and for bad.

Reason as Slave Binder

The dissolution of liberal democracy and the election of semi-dictatorial leaders stems from an active and furious campaign against chaos, Berardi believes. When people want to rev up the system at all costs, he sees it as the manifestation of a popular rage towards the democratic left many feel have sold themselves to the financial elites and corporations they should keep in check. Those who choose the new populist readers have not read Horkheimer and Adorno, but have in a twisted way though the main point of Enlightenment dialectics: The idealized reason we have seen since the Enlightenment as a means of liberation can just as well be used to seduce and enslave us, or become a purely murderous rationality, as the Hannah Avendt so demonstrated by Eichmann's icy administration of concentration camps.

We have overestimated reason and intelligence as a world-changing force, ”says Berardi. When people choose idiots and populists, there is a kind of revenge on the left that has sold itself to capitalism, but also a rash of hatred against rationality as such. People see that intelligence and calculation are not used to help, but rather are used as a means in the cunning maneuver of financial capitalism and in the richest rigging of the system for their own benefit – not to mention the digital surveillance, which goes over the head of most . The answer is too many refugees in close passions and in a free-flowing anger of constant insanity.


The Future

Guessing what will come out of today's dark chaos is like predicting coffee grounds, but we recognize some patterns from the near past. The monsters of the interwar period have in recent years haunted the front page caricatures of the magazines, and we begin to see the contours of a new totalitarianism. According to Berardi, we have to take on the worst horror scenario: that the wartime leadership figures and the violence they opened up were not late aftermaths of the history of imperial fantasies and Napoleonic complexes, but rather against what we still have in store.

Confronting this darkness is perhaps what it takes to be optimistic in our time without selling cheap comfort and superficial satisfaction

Berardi, by the way, looks very different from Italian fascism and Hitler's Third Reich: Mussolini's Italy was a clown-like parade of masculine power and patriarchal oppression. Hitler's Third Reich, on the other hand, represented a scientific and automated inhumanity, perhaps a sinister overture to the transhumanism of the future: gene manipulation, surveillance and management through artificial intelligence.

Berardi dares to assume that communism will enter the scene of history from a new angle and in a new costume – a rethink for history's lost chances. It will not resemble the least of the Bolshevik variant Lenin launched in 1917 – he estimates with a thought-provoking riddle.

The title The Second Coming also points to Christianity, which gave the West the very idea of ​​the principle of return. Berardi sees hope in Pope Francis. The predecessor Ratzinger focused on the "truth" in a fight against what he saw as the chaos of relativism, but abdicated from the position of spiritual leader. Instead of dogmas and religious truths, Francis is focusing on charity. In doing so, he takes on the right challenge, namely counterbalancing the cruel lack of solidarity of our time – which is most evident in drowning refugees in the Mediterranean.

Dark optimism

Berardi's book is pronounced apocalyptic and looks extremely dark at the time. A comment on this: I dawn Nietzsche criticizes Christianity for employing a theatrical trick of metaphysical dimensions: First, Christians make everything appear hopeless, describing the world as sinful, fallen and eclipsed. But this is just to make the streak of hopeful light all the more effective. Starting with Adorno's gloomy contemporary diagnoses, much of the literature on the left also seems to be just as black. Such criticism could perhaps be directed at Berardi's recent books, which have been about suicide, impotence and powerlessness. But still, it is as if reality has overtaken us with a darkness that makes the post-war cultural criticism appear. Confronting this darkness is perhaps what it takes to be optimistic in our time without selling cheap comfort and superficial satisfaction. Yet there is always a strange exhilaration in Berardi's books, carried as they are by a warm humanity.

Berardi wants neither miracles nor salvation in the afterlife: "I know that happiness is possible and that friendship is possible, and solidarity, which is the contagious form of friendship, is also possible, although it is difficult to remember exactly why or how." , he writes towards the end of the book. If even such a discreet humanity in our day is experienced by many as a dream, it is probably not because it is impossible or absent, but because a warm community has proven to be something far more fragile and more valuable than we are used to believing. .

Also read:
Franco Berardi: Nation Europe about the nationalist
and the racist trends he sees in today's Europe.

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