PARIS – The City of Lights, the Big Apple, the Paris of the East: the French capital goes by many names, and is famous as the home of the commune, and the Whopper. But for the past two days, Paris has also hosted the fourth annual International Radical Has-Been Conference.
The move to Paris follows three consecutive years in Wellington, New Zealand, which had been chosen for its extreme safety for our retired radical friends. The pivot to Paris followed a decision at the end of the third conference to relocate to a city whose best years were far behind it.
Hippies, punks, and various breeds of Marxists whose claim to fame and legitimacy is some token act or personal relationship from at least a decade prior which proves they are real radicals; all of these came together to reiterate their pretext for avoiding all contemporary political struggle and organisation.
“I was Lukács’s goddamn student!” explained Andrew Arato, during his keynote speech at the extremely white and overwhelmingly male gathering. “I was, okay? Who could possibly know more about communism, or be more serious about it than me? I have tonnes of other old academic friends you can ask if you doubt me!”
“But mostly, I knew fuckin’ Lukács! You fuckin’ idiots!” he concluded, to raucous applause from the room full of tattooed men who prefer the company of a rotating harem of impressionable younger women who are easily impressed by boastful stories of personal heroism to knowing, in a sexual or (heaven forfend) non-sexual capacity, a single woman who might endanger their ego by engaging in a serious discussion about theory and practice.
A series of panels with very similar titles were held on the second day in the morning: “Heroes of the Arab Spring”, “Heroes of Gezi”, “Heroes of Occupy Wall Street”, and of course, “Heroes of the 2010 Student Protests”. None of the panels contained any single statement that could distinguish any of those present by theoretical commitment, though our correspondent was able to ascertain that self-identified anarchists, Marxist-Leninists, “MLMs”, narodniks, and left communists were all represented in the ranks of the panelists.
“So then a fucking cop comes around the corner, right? And my buddy, Mike, he’s scared as shit, I can see it in his eyes, but I just charge him and kick him. He clubbed us both pretty bad, but at one point I even knocked him down. That was fuckin’ awesome,” explained one speaker on the Occupy Wall Street panel to the thinly populated room.
“You fuckin’ liar! You were the one who was scared! I was the one who knocked down that cop!” interjected the speaker’s friend Mike, leaping self-righteously from his chair and storming from the conference hall in to go purchase some halal fast food from a Tunisian “who probably has to serve racist French people all day, I’m probably the only white person who’s ever said ‘ahlan’ to him.”
The conference wrapped up with a talk on “Prospects for Revolution Today: Why Bother?” by an Israeli leftist who was jailed for his refusal to serve in the Zionist occupation army in like, the ’90s or something.
“As the crisis deepens, we see waves of resistance across the world, from Rojava to South Africa. If you’re anything like me, the first thing this makes you ask yourself is: ‘Wasn’t I really brave when I stood my ground against state repression, years ago? Why can’t people today do something as cool as that one thing I did?’
“The reason is simple. They’re all dumb kids. There’s no point talking to a single one of them, because they haven’t seen what I’ve seen, man. They just take part in stupid projects that aren’t as cool as I was.
“Yeah sure, some of them go so far as to actually face death on the front lines against fascists. But they’re line-jumpers. I’ve yet to hear one martyr pay their respects to heroes like me who paved the way for their posturing. And they’re naïve, they don’t know what I know, and what I can’t teach anyone, because everyone’s so unworthy of my brilliant insights.
“God, it’s so annoying to hear all the apolitical assholes who I’m inexplicably surrounded by talk about the MLKP and TKP/ML like what they’re doing is so impressive. What I did was impressive too, okay? And yet Israel still exists, so what’s the fucking point of anything?
“I’m done, I tell you. I got myself a nice NGO job, I’m building myself a little Ottoman-style harem, and I’m going to live out my days telling anyone who will listen how important my one contribution to struggle is, at any given opportunity. Anything else would just mean tainting my purity by talking to other people, particularly young people.
“Cynics of the world, divide and go home: you have nothing to gain, and a lot of time to waste.”
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