The left, coronavirus and death. Interview with Jean-François Gava.

Settling scores at O.K. Covid

Like Nietzsche, Jean-François Gava, occasional contributor to  Kairos The author of this book, who is also a professor of philosophy at the University of Montreal, uses a hammer to make philosophy, intertwined with solid historical knowledge. Of Marxian filiation at the beginning, he attacks here the left, accused, for more than a year, of passivity — in the best of the cases — or of collaboration — in the worst — with the psychobiopower. Let’s embark on a guided tour of Covidiotie, with a lot of huffing and puffing! And as a precaution, take out your dictionary, it’s Gava in the text, erudite and flowery!

B. L.: For more than a year, I have been dismayed to see the whole of the left aligning itself with the official narrative of the covid, except for two small isolated outbursts from Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the spring of 2020 and very recently. After having been the useful idiot of neoliberalism, has the left not become the useful idiot of covidism?

J.-F. G.: The Left has always been at home on the side of the State of capital, of the State of the capital-society! Since August 1914 at the latest, let’s say, when neither the Nazis nor the Bolsheviks were still playing the useful role of repulsors to explain the 30 million dead of the First World War (according to Kolko). She is quite at home in this totalitarian civilization of encasement, in a general way. She longs for the government, breathes in and out its air, lives only for it. How could it feel the carnage that comes out of its precincts, where it has been sitting for so long? The end of the rule of law (as a legal limitation of class violence) at home (with the colonies once outside) is not even a detail for her, she simply did not realize it after 9/11 and the Patriot Act. How can we expect the guardians of the salaried pedestrians to react? They have always embodied the religion of capital and its blissful faith in progress for the benefit of the working class. At the threshold of the capitalist era, with the French Revolution, the left (the real, historical left) eradicated a caste of premodern exploiters. But today Pasolini is right to say « I am a communist, not a leftist ». No, this internal police force of the labor movement is the worst thing that could happen to it in the 20th century. And we are still paying the consequences. Questioning the official version of the facts, an official discourse, doesn’t even occur to him! While we know that the right, since Edward Bernays, for example, thinks of the construction of a mass psychosis, in which we are wading with this sinister « sanitary » joke.

B. L.: Let’s take the case of the unions, they are totally in line with the government…

J.-F. G.: But party and union are the same boat! Rühle, the great biographer of Marx, had clearly seen during the creeping German revolution of 1918–1923 that the revolution was not a matter of party, nor of trade union (after having briefly believed in the possibility of a unitary, economic-political organization). The advent of machinism, of the OP (professional worker) after 1870, and even worse of Taylorism (and its OS, specialized workers) after the First World War made the Left play the card of the integration of the proletarianized working class in the sense of « deprofessionalized », rather than that of the interruption of modern development, since the tool was demolished to the benefit of the system of machines. Since then, the prospect of interrupting the galloping cancer of the commodification of access to goods and services has been blocked in the developed world. And the Third World has failed in its attempt to imitate it. Everyone sees today that work-for-capital, even and especially skilled work, is a vast piece of shit, and these leftist jerks insist on trying to save it. No, we have to promote compulsory workmanlike teachings, with energized tools no doubt, and therefore return to compulsory professional workman training from secondary school onwards, next to humanities, arts and pure maths, and restore the role of modern sciences in the history of thought to its rightful proportion of cabinet of curiosities. The rise of ecology could have been an opportunity to understand again that the industrial devastation of the thin biofilm, as Latour says, was not an option, even « redistributed correctly » — again: that is, after forgetting that the first victim of the destruction of the biofilm was the human race itself. But no! The workers for their organizations are a full part of this society, with internal interests in this society, instead of forming a counter-society in the enemy camp, with disruptive, incompatible interests, in order to dismantle this vast camp in question. Ecology could have revived the critique of political economy, it was the last missed reminder of interspecific, intraspecific and even trans-class solidarity against the classes themselves. It could have insisted as an implacable indictment against the industrial, that is to say capitalist, way of producing. Instead, if it is the last train taken by the left, it is the one that has for destination the accommodation of the disaster, that is to say the disaster itself. Governmental ecology or greenwashing are the same thing, which themselves are not distinct from disaster capitalism, a capitalism that feeds on the very disaster it engenders, in a final firework display. It is in this sense only a moment of the ongoing nothingness, which shines as its illusory solution. The Greens participate in the active nothingness of capital itself (Sergio Bologna had seen it well) while claiming to be Illich, who is turning over in his profaned grave. The anti-value Marx had already suffered a similar fate with those dogs of Marxists, ignorant as well as Christian (or atheist, which amounts to the same thing, as we shall see).

Today, instead of pointing out the causes of an otherwise benign pandemic (for once?) — deforestation, destruction of the habitat of wild species, industrial breeding and zoonoses -, we are communing with the official version, we consent to the terrorist violence of a psychosis wanted and planned by the governments-sigbited by Big Pharma The left in general never got on the revolutionary ecology train, which the Greens themselves had already abandoned long ago to the derailment and rusting of quasi-clandestinity. Who cares about Illich, Moscovici and so many others who, like them, saw that political ecology could only aim at dismantling the megamachine?

B. L.: The ecologists and the left are simply asking for more intensive care beds…

J.-F. G.: Exactly! They are bogged down in a bad kind of short-termism, since it is the accomplishment of the catastrophe in progress itself that is now in the short term, warns Yves Cochet, among others. Instead of stopping the disaster, they propose to erase the symptoms. Even the self-satisfied mediocrity of these sigisbées and towel-bearers will not pay at all very soon. But rather die than make a decent gesture, even if it is only a thought: that is the law of the world. They want an efficient « super-iatric » society, a vast « rest home », to organize a vast rotten house in reality, an efficient general hospital that cultivates its cripples, its defectives, its human ectoplasms, next to these other wards of the prison archipelago, to use Foucault’s beautiful image, that are what remains of factories and offices. Nice project!

B. L.: Can one be an ecologist without falling into hygienism? On the contrary, public health, and more precisely the non-death of the covid, seems to have become their Holy Grail…

J.-F. G.: You can’t be an environmentalist and a hygienist. Of course, they want « public health », but what they mean by this is the industry of repairing, of patching up these masses of weakened bodies, which is concerned with sending back to work a human herd that looks so much like flocks of frightened sheep, instead of concentrating on prevention and on the foundation of a healthy society, of strong, fulfilled bodies, skilled to the point of the ability to defend themselves. It is the industry of keeping people alive at all costs, as if this were an indication of civilizational progress.

B. L.: Some people say that the current hygienism is a new form of puritanism…

J.-F. G. : If we broaden the conception of puritanism beyond the question of morals, it can indeed characterize the vast modern enterprise of subtracting the subjects of capital from any corporeality embarked in innumerable links with the rest of the living world — of respecting and taking away at the same time. The ideal of the proletarian, from the point of view of capital, is a body without hands and without voice. A body not only not human, but not even animal, in short, because animals are much more skilful than the image of the domestic herd makes them seem. They hunt and make their habitat — without tools, of course. They even play. Umay Tülay and Jean-Claude Paye have analyzed all this.

B. L.: Like the governments that imposed it by default, the left advocates deontology, without even raising the question of utilitarianism. On the part of those in power, appealing to the ethics of the population is a crude manipulation. Titillating people’s altruism, their sense of morality, their empathy, and hammering home the point that all lives must be saved, means that we must also and above all defend the sanctity of all life for self-interest. The covid has not brought us out of individualism! Individualistic submission means obeying in one’s own interest.

J.-F. G.: When an old man dies of a serious illness, is he considered to have been sacrificed?

B. L.: Yes, if it is proven that the impossible was not done to save him…

J.-F. G. : It is true that he is sacrificed in a way a first time, because there is no reason to die regularly from serious diseases outside a pathogenic world. But he is sacrificed a second time, not by dying, but by undergoing the torture of therapeutic obstinacy, which only postpones death atrociously, and in the absence of which any death would be assimilated to professional misconduct, or even manslaughter! What indecency!

B. L.: But refusing to allow the use of prolonged therapy is, according to the left, tantamount to social Darwinism, or even eugenics.

J.-F. G.: I have heard that almost all those who enter the ICU leave with their feet first… In any case, eugenics and euthanasia are obviously confused here, which I think is a beautiful word. Eugenie is also a beautiful name, like Eugene. Then, a society emancipated from slavery is eugenicist by nature. Who is born bad who is not born in irons? These mass murderers without massacre want to see death alive, death in charge. As a result, death as an indispensable moment of life, and subject to life, is unthinkable to them. They want a (non-)world of the living dead.

B. L.: Certainly, but it is the intention that counts: saving lives is the absolute priority, as Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the Covid scientific council in France and a great deontologist, insisted in the spring of 2020. Utilitarians say that we should aim for the greatest good for the greatest number of people, not just the sick, the frail, and the caregivers, and therefore subject health to arbitration as needed. Saying this will earn you the wrath of the left!

J.-F. G.: Well, we are armed with strong shields against these poor fools, our enemies. The debate is really polarized!

B. L.: Yes. A comrade of the social democratic left argued to me that the aim of natural collective immunity was eugenics! Because along the way, the weakest will die. But a civilization worthy of the name never lets down its weak members, under any pretext…

J.-F. G. : The proof that your left defends this « mouroir » that it calls civilization. There is a difference between caring for the frail — children, the elderly, the sick — and therapeutic overkill. Spinoza spoke of deaths without corpses, when the vital functions are maintained while all the human faculties have disappeared. Saving a young accidented life, taking care of an old man or a sick person who has to come back to life, has nothing to do with the maintenance at all costs of a life that must and will naturally pass away… I see there only the incensing of medical prowess inhabited by the Faustian myth that Goethe himself turned into acid derision.

B. L.: False, say the deontologists, there is no question of discriminating against lives, unless we fall into a form of fascism.

J.-F. G.: Blackmailing fascism is all that remains for these bastards. Let’s come back to eugenics, which is the choice of the right birth, not the right death. Between euthanasia and therapeutic persecution, there is no photo, for me. The latter is equivalent to torture. One could then say that deontologists are pro-torture! I prefer a beautiful death to an ugly one, and even more so to torture which claims to prevent death! Therapeutic persecution is moreover an insult to all those who die in the prime of life. Under the guise of « civilization », it is, on the contrary, barbaric beyond description! If I feel a community of destiny with others, the very idea of dying for it is not a sacrifice; my life continues in the common. One dies to continue oneself in others. It is a plural self, not an egotistical self, a trans-individual bubble, if we want to speak like Sloterdijk. But in spite of the incantations, one feels very little solidarity in this society whose sinister and comical achievement is to culminate the concern for the other in its avoidance!

B. L.: I would argue that atheism, in these pandemic circumstances, is not an advantage, because one finds oneself in a purely desiccating materialism where the only tangible reality is one’s own biological life, to which one clings all the more and for whose preservation one demands that all of society « cut itself in half.

J.-F. G.: classical or « materialist » atheism (de-animist in reality, because the dead matter of atheists is not matter) is the opposite of the « great » religions only in appearance. In reality these religions are counter-religions, according to Latour, or derived religions according to the Egyptologist Assmann: if what you take care of — a very elegant definition by Latour, again, of religion — makes you sweep away what others take care of, and this is the whole meaning of conquering religions, then you install hell on earth. The earth is emptied of its teeming interests in favor of an impalpable afterworld and the destruction of all earthly composition of those interests; that heaven is empty, on top of that, does not change the matter: atheism accomplishes counter-religion as surely as this one does, with the terrible additional consequence that no foul promise of an afterworld is kept any longer. Atheists sow the same hell as the counter-religions, from which they come, whose atrocity they purify in a way. But Bataille and Reich had seen all this a long time ago, we must reread the true revolutionary authors of the XXth century!

B. L.: We must postulate a transcendence. If one is in immanence, it is despair, and consequently the risk is to throw oneself into the arms of doctors and experts without discernment…

J.-F. G.: We can imagine a trans-individual immanence, with no other back-world than the communities from which we come and where we are reincarnated. It is possible not to despair without believing in God, but by taking care of our worlds while composing with those of others, and not only of one’s own little individual envelope. There is a despairing atheism that can be counterbalanced by Romain Rolland’s oceanic feeling. Trans-individual immanence saves religious feeling while sweeping away all pantheons. But in the end, immanence as that which has its principle in itself — provided that « self » is understood as the possible composition of all « selves », Gaia, in short — and transcendence, not as that which lies beyond the sensible-intelligible but as the (trans-) crossing of individual limits for that which counts as earthly in the eyes of individuals, are not only quite… composable with each other, but characterize in a complementary way a renewed religious vision, which includes in religion its capacity to compose with all the others.

B. L.: To get out of this rut, we would need an  aggiornamento global. Alas, the masses, on the contrary, have allowed themselves to be manipulated by a psychobiopower that has sold them the deontology by opportunism, betting that this is the discourse that will work. And it worked! He has succeeded in taking the masses by surprise, after decades of hyper-individualism…

J.-F. G.: But what ethics? What counter-argument? These sheep of Panurge only commune in the politically aroused terror of being reached in their only and miserable individual envelopes, as Hegel said. Where is the solution of continuity with liberalism? It is the apotheosis of atomism, on the contrary! Immunity as the only religion at the expense of all com-munity: take care of me, avoid me! This is the Crown of creation, to use the ironic title of the rock band Jefferson Airplane, the apotheosis of this accomplished modern thanatocracy (well accomplished, I would say: that we really move on…). An im-munitarism that is all the more blind because it ignores its maximum exposure, not to the power of others, as in com-munism, but to the destructive power of capital armed with its state (its « Republic » etc.).

B. L.: Utilitarianism is a consequentialism…

J.-F. G.: Yes. But governments are not concerned about all the consequences of their management choices, such as bankruptcies, depressions, suicides, including of children, and divorces, which are not the least of the traumas. They have aggravated a pre-existing situation. How far will they go in inoculating the individualistic plague, while preaching solidarity? The ultimate in sociability has become the avoidance of others in order to protect them. Has there ever been a more complete perversion of all intelligence? It is comical in its absurdity, as well as being Orwellian. This could be the maxim of a chemically pure liberalism: take care of others, stay away from them!

B. L.: There is also an inversion of Eros and Thanatos, since in the prevailing opinion, the apostles of Thanatos are those who refuse to obey the « sanitary » measures. Whereas Thanatos is found on the contrary in all those hygienists, those pandemicists who want to prevent living in the name of « life ». They are carriers of death, not only social death, but in fine the death of bodies, those of others and of their own, since by depriving human beings of authentic links, they die slowly. This was evident in the Ehpads in 2020.

J.-F. G.: Absolutely. By banishing death, we finally put it in power. This is the covidism of the covidae and of all the inoculated, as the biologist Kaarle Parikka says. Hide this death that I cannot see! The best way to hide it is to make it govern, to install it in the living itself by destroying all links. Death in power is the life of the living dead, that is to say, of the living promised to death by the destruction of all bonds; in the long run, it is true death that triumphs anyway, but not only in individuals, as in the terrible vision of modern atheists, but in everything: the death that will triumph will no longer be even conceivable as a moment of the life of the species, since it will strike the species itself. Our « totalitarian » civilization, of tendentiously total domination, founded on the eradication of memories and of the transmission of the past as fertilization of the future, cannot accept true death, which reveals in an obscene way the emptiness of this same civilization. This expulsion of death, which is only the work of death in power, « the » death moving blindly within itself, as Hegel said about the industrial « market » emerging before his eyes, actually ensures its triumph for the species itself: not only in the figurative sense of a life devoid of meaning because without links between its individual moments, but because a life that connects nothing is doomed to death altogether. The death of the power of this civilization of the living dead, which is nothing less than perennial, in reality announces only the disappearance of the species…

B. L. : On France-culture, Jean-Pierre Dupuy affirmed that death is an absolute exteriority, and there can be no question of considering it as part of the cycle of life. One more intellectual fallen in the covidian faith…

J.-F. G. : You mean, in imbecility! If we think that everything ceases when we die, if nothing we have worked for is perpetuated, survives us and makes us survive, what meaning can we still give to our life? What a pity to see thinkers who were once so penetrating wallow in decay…

B. L.: What lies in the background of the whole affair is the anguish of death, which is then rationalized, in the Freudian sense, in speeches, arguments, postures…

J.-F. G. : I think that the anguish of death is proportional to the emptiness of current lives. The emptier the life, the more one fears, with good reason, to abandon it and to fall into definitive oblivion.

B. L.: That’s what that old nihilist Roland Jaccard says: the more you have a lousy life, the more you cling to it. As psychiatrist Jean Furtos says, being obsessed with not dying does not help one live.

J.-F. G. : A life deprived of deep and lasting joys, that is the crux of the problem. This is what capitalism has promoted with Calvinism and its general encasement in view of a predestination to be revealed. This psychosis has come to power. Max Weber was right, although he abjectly considered that it did not take away anything from the superiority of the West. Nothing less than Calvinist terror was needed to engender this world, which is not sick, as if it had ever been healthy, but simply monstrous — a monster is a sterile individual, who can leave no offspring — and which is happily ending before our eyes, each day more surely.

Interview by Bernard Legros, May 2021.

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