Saturday, 15 January 2022

Review: The Unfathomable Ascent-How Hitler Came to Power-by Peter Ross Range- Little, Brown and Company (August 11, 2020) 464 pages.


"Hitler pounded out Mein Kampf " with two fingers on his little typewriter."[1]

"If twelve or fifteen thousand Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas . . . the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain."

—Adolf Hitler,  Mein Kampf

"Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him to remain unknown to him. Otherwise, it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence, he imagines false or apparent motives." [2]

"When a state turns fascist, it does not only mean that the forms and methods of government are changed in accordance with the patterns set by Mussolini – the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role – but it means, primarily and above all, that the workers' organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism".

Leon Trotsky, What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat[3]

When researching for this review, my first thought was did we need another biography of Hitler?. At the last count, it was estimated that there were nearly twenty thousand biographies, but this book changed my mind. Ross Range's political biography is an extremely well researched and thought-provoking political analysis of how Hitler came to power.

I want to say that I have been following Ross Range's work for decades and that this was my area of expertise, but I would be lying. I was drawn to this book by the extremely interesting and important interview with Ross Range by David North on behalf of the World Socialist Website[4]. Significantly, Mr Range agreed to the interview, although he does not share the political views of the World Socialist Website, it is a sign that broad layers of the middle class and, for that matter, the working class are starting to seek answers to today's problems through learning the lessons of the past.

It has not always been the case that the I.C.F.I. (International Committee of the Fourth International) has promoted, let alone sell, books of this sort on their media platforms. In the past, if a book was important for the development of the movement, it was discussed internally. In my own experience, I can remember one important book being discussed, and that was by Eric Hobsbawm's Nations and Nationalism.[5] I think this is an important change. The Marxist critique of the 1619 project is a hugely important event, and the collaboration with leading historians of the American revolution and the promotion of their books on Mehring Books[6] is extremely important and groundbreaking.

It is eighty-eight years since Hitler came to power. It would seem the purpose of  Ross Range's book is to learn the lessons of that period to prevent it from happening again.

President Paul von Hindenburg gave Hitler power. During his twelve years as German chancellor, as Peter Swartz eloquently points out, "the Hitler regime committed crimes never previously witnessed by mankind. It smashed the organized labour movement, subjected the country to a totalitarian dictatorship, destroyed Europe in an unprovoked war of aggression, and murdered millions of Jews, Roma and other minorities. January 30, 1933, was a historic turning point. Before then, barbarism and antisemitism had been considered traits of economic and cultural backwardness. In 1933, however, the elite of a country that was highly developed both economically and culturally handed over power to a barbaric anti-Semite whose party relied on the dregs of society.[7]

While predominantly a political biography of Hitler and the rise of German fascism, Ross Range does not shy away from showing the terrible economic crisis that paved the way for Hitler to come to power. As Peter Schwarz again points out, "The source of this crisis lay in the irresolvable contradictions of German and international capitalism. The consequences of World War I and the onset of the global economic crisis in 1929 had ruined broad layers of the working class and middle class. German society was deeply divided; democracy existed only in name. The Weimar Republic survived based on emergency decrees and presidential cabinets as it headed towards a social explosion".[8]

This book is a very rare breed in that it contains a masterful political analysis of the rise of Hitlerite Fascism. It has an almost novel-like pace which is the hallmark of good narrative-driven historiography. His book is meticulously researched. Ross Range has deep mined and ransacked many German archives, and many of his sources have been translated into English from the German originals, probably for the first time.

Many things separate Ross Range's work from other historiographies. He does not believe that Hitler's antisemitism was fully developed during his pre-war Vienna period. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler said he was stimulated in his hatred of Jews because they were walking around Vienna, saying they were "an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks".It is true that Hitler early on had a murderous hatred of Jews.

But as Konrad Heiden points out, Hitler "hated the whole great sphere of human existence which is devoted to the regular transference of energy into product; and he hated the men who had let themselves be caught and crushed in this process of production. All his life, the workers were for him a picture of horror, a dismal gruesome mass, everything which he later said from the speaker's platform to flatter the manual worker was pure lies".[9]

As David North points out in one of his earlier works, "Herein lies the key to an understanding of Hitler's demonic obsession with the Jews. In Mein Kampf, Hitler explained how his conversion to antisemitism flowed from his encounters with the labour movement. It was among the workers that Hitler first came into contact with Jews. He then discovered, to his amazement, that many Jews played prominent roles in the labour movement. "The great light dawned on him," wrote Heiden. "Suddenly, the 'Jewish question' became clear. … The labour movement did not repel him because it was led by Jews; the Jews repelled him because they led the labour movement. One thing is certain, Heiden concluded, "It was not Rothschild, the capitalist, but Karl Marx, the Socialist, who kindled Adolf Hitler's antisemitism."[10]

In his book 1924, Range quotes historian Othmar Plochinger stating that Hitler only started using antisemitism as a political weapon in Munich. Plochinger believes Hitler's antisemitism was "the winning horse in the existing political environment."8

Ross Range does not appear to subscribe to the "great man of history" genre and does not inflate Hitler's intelligence. However, he does make the point that Hitler learnt from his mistakes. According to Ronald Bleier", Hitler's flexibility "was due to a realistic self-appraisal of his extraordinary political, administrative, and rhetorical abilities and his clear understanding of the turbulent politics in which he operated".

Ross Range shows in the book that everything was not plain sailing for the Nazi leader, and on many occasions, he could have been defeated, and his political career ended.

In a Time Magazine article, he elaborates, "Adolf Hitler did not have to come to power. Indeed, during his 13-year quest for leadership of Germany, he almost failed many times. In the end, however, his astonishing success showed how demagoguery could overcome potentially career-ending challenges—and profoundly change history. A determined strongman, not taken seriously by the elites but enabled by a core of passionate supporters, could bend events his way just as his country went into free-fall. Hitler's seemingly improbable ascent is an object lesson in the volatility of history.[11]

This is an extremely valuable book, and I highly recommend it. Ross Range proves that Hitler ascent to power was entirely fathomable. It is, however, not without faults. Ross Range says next to nothing on the betrayals of the worker's movement by Social Democracy and Stalinism. Hindenburg gave political power to a homicidal maniac to save German capitalism from revolution. The monstrous betrayals carried out by Stalinism, and Social democracy paved the way for Hitler to come to power without a single shot being fired.

As David north pointed out in the interview, Ross Range cannot write such a book, but it is down to the Fourth International to write such a book. This new work has to draw heavily on the political writings of the great Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky, whose writings are still prescient for today's political situation. One such book that does that is Why are they Back.

Speaking of the danger of a fascist movement today in Germany, Christoph Vandreier said, "The fascists are not a mass movement but are a hated minority. However, the ruling elite is once again promoting fascism and right-wing ideology in order to suppress opposition to its militarism and worsening social inequality. That is why an independent movement of the working class is the only way to fight this danger."

The working class must learn the lessons of this history. As the writer, Bertolt Brecht warned, "Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."[12]



1. Peter Ross Range, 1924: The Year That Made Hitler (New York: Little, Brown, 2016), p. 224-225.2 Range, 224-225.

2. Why Are They Back? Historical Falsification, Political Conspiracy and the Return of Fascism in Germany, Christoph Vandreier-Mehring Books.

3. The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (Merit S.) Hardcover – December 1 1970




About the Author

Peter Ross Range is a world-renowned journalist and author of numerous books. In addition to The Unfathomable Ascent: How Hitler Came to Power (Little, Brown and Company, 2020), he is the author of 1924: The Year That Made Hitler (Little, Brown and Company, 2016).

[1] Despair and Triumph in Hitler's First Miracle Year: A Review-Essay on Peter Ross Range's 1924-by Ronald Bleier-

[2] Frederick Engels in the The Jewish Question, Abram Leon, The Jewish Question, Pathfinder Press, pp. 234-35



[5] Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, Second Edition: Programme, Myth, Reality (Canto Classics) Paperback – 29 Mar. 2012


[9] Konrad Heiden, Der Fuehrer, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1944), p. 58.

[10] The Myth of “Ordinary Germans”: A Review of Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners-


[12] Referring to Arturo Ui (representing Adolf Hitler), in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941)

Monday, 3 January 2022

Pornocracy Generalized: Fetishizing the Body and Selling the Process as Empowerment

Fouad Mami,

University Ahmed Draia Adrar (Algeria)

Abstract: Erin Louis’ latest book Expose Yourself: How to Take Risks, Question Everything, and Find Yourself claims the facilitation of youth empowerment by encouraging a confrontational stance vis-à-vis society and its pillars. In targeting the past (religion), it overlooks the sources of the ill of modern society which are largely attributed to the false omnipresent, capitalism. The rampant postmodernist biases in the book thrive on relativizing moral codes leading to a generalized pornocracy. This essay proceeds via presenting the central thesis of the book, offering a synopsis regarding the chapters’ overall content. Eventually, the discussion propounds a critique rooted in how misplaced attacks on the past remain counterproductive. The conclusion warns against the claims that champion critical thinking only to reverse critical thinking and permeate stupidity.    

 Keywords: under-sexualization, pornocracy, fetishization, disempowerment, critical thinking

  Erin Louis’ Expose Yourself: How to Take Risks, Question Everything, and Find Yourself promises to guide the youth out of their pampered self-enclosure, shed their lack of confidence all for the sake of becoming ever ready in facing the challenges of the real world. The author is a retired stripper and the present book reworks whatever “insights” she comes up with in: Dirty Money: Memoire of a Stripper (2017), soon followed by: Think You Want to be a Stripper? (2018). It teaches in accessible language (interspersed with profanities occasionally) and through twenty-three chapters the wisdom of not only surviving from day-to-day, but even thriving in the brave new world. The author has been an activist in a society called the “Freedom from Religion Foundation.”

Louis claims that her career in stripping and erotic dancing has somehow magically fostered an aura of sophistication and liberation from the inhibitions attributed to her birth into the Catholic faith. Hence, how she feels entitled to procure life-saving lessons (not just tips) in critical thinking via nursing the habit of questioning everything. Her basic argument is that religion and morality are codifications that end in slavery; and the more one sheds the faith (any faith), the better one enhances his or her chances for improved remunerations. The method is simple: Louis’ style is mostly anecdotal (though it can be sometimes serious) and it gravitates around the abundantly free, but doubtful, publicity that stripping as an economic activity pays handsomely. In a context where more and more people with shining qualifications do find it challenging to make a living, the magic formula comes from Louis: self-exposure, a byword for breaking all ethical standards, hence the title: Expose Yourself. The title has the music of an adage but the way it pertains to the questioning of everything remains a face-saving maneuver at best.

The book lies in twenty-three chapters. Chapters one and two begin rather boldly, loudly announcing that the wisdom the volume proffers is gathered from a career in the adult industry, exactly, from a lifetime in stripping, making it crystal clear that the wisdom correlates against what the author takes for granted as a morally-degenerate society. Louis capitalizes on the shock effect, insisting that the wisdom she is about to impart stands at odds with a society, which contrary to facile portrayals, remains lacking and degenerate. Such introductory announcements pave the argumentative line, and attentive readers cannot overlook how the author assumes the disbarment of audience members in order to be receptive to her message. Chapters three to five harden the initial resolve to challenge society by singing the praises of disconformity. Certain that members of the select audience have been won to the cause of exposure, Louis’ real focus in chapters six to twenty alternates between attacks on morality and the empowerment that presumably follow from those attacks. The last three chapters enforce the ‘wisdom’ gained by again relativizing society-sanctioned codes, drawing boundaries when socializing and enumerating the expected advantages from taking risks. The author’s line of reasoning suggests how difficult experiences follow logically from an uncritical fixation on the already dead past, usually emitting from one useless moral code or another. According to the author, the practical way (not a practical way) to surmount present challenges is to shed the ways of the past and adhere to the dictates of self-exposure by literally taking pride in breaking the old morality.   

Theoretically considered, and within the perspective of a peasants’ brand of Catholicism,[1] a stripper recalls the figure of la femme adultère or the adulteress who came under the protection of Christ from the morally condemning and degenerate Jews. As such, no one has the right to judge Louis or ask her to fix her own life before extending unsolicited advice that would tend to others. In suspecting the self-righteous’ sense of certainty, the figure of the prostitute becomes a practical reminder that no one has the monopoly over right and wrong. Therefore, her voluptuousness and eroticism are, in pure abstraction, a life-giving force and in any social entity that role has to be championed since it is revolutionary, and that is how it achieves freedom from restrictive and coercive religion. In theory still, a healthy community has to tolerate those members whose ethical standards remain diametrically opposed to those commonly held and practiced for the purpose of generating an open temporality: tarrying with the negative of the predominate ethical code generates the auto-movement of history. But in practice, Louis’ project, far from enflaming any subversive reverberations or revolutionary character, can only end in regression.

Methodologically considered, that liberal extension of Christian charity has limits. For the biblical femme adultère never brandishes her moral choices or seeks to monetize them in the form of a toolkit wisdom or philosophy. What is troublesome in the book is how Louis participates in a capitalistic drive that over-sexualizes less human desire as such, but the desire for desire. On the surface of the phenomenon of stripping, the world is formally over-sexualized. But as far as the essence of love goes, the world is substantially under-sexualized. Stripping and by extension exposing oneself testify that sex is no longer a multiplication of two souls seeking the infinite. Rather, the act of love—if indeed it can be qualified so—is an arithmetical annexation of two lost individuals seeking to distress, a force of thanatos in a generalized pornocracy. Always one recalls that stripping accelerates the fantasy less for copulation as such but – worse – for masturbation.  When closely examined, the oversexualization takes a horizontal level only. Because it is impaired, that is denied a vertical dimension, it remains an under-sexualization with regressive and exceptionally taxing consequences.

Behind a curtain in a VIP room, lap-dancing sells, little but the fantasy of freedom. At one point Louis feels obliged to state that she remains “faithful” to her husband and attached to family values, though under a secular banner. “In the course of a lap dance, I always have a choice. I can quit anytime I want to. But when money is at stake, it does not always feel like a choice” (141). In the name of basic human sensibility (no spirituality or religion involved), Louis stays evasive how she strips for a living and is still able to maintain self-respect and fidelity for family. Louise claims she loves her husband and that her husband perfectly understands and supports her choices taken under the pressure from the market economy. It does not need a lot of intelligence to note how such a narrative smack of gaps. Leaving aside her husband, one cannot engage in eros and still expects a pay as a result. Sexuality cannot be healthy when measured against the law of value. Tolerating that degradation for once simply eases the constant ontological fetishization of oneself. But Louis in this book engages in banalizing the depreciation claiming that in order to make ends meet, one still has to consider stripping, selling intimate pieces of oneself. Instead of uncovering the socio-economic mode of production and how that mode fetishizes human life, Louis sings the praises of the very system that strips her, and millions in her shoes, of the right of and destiny for dignity. There are moments near the end of the book (mostly in chapters 17 and 18) where stripping becomes a metaphor, specifying what the wretched of the earth—according to her circumlocutory logic—have to do if they want to survive.

That is the main reason why the repeated attempts at capitalizing on Nietzsche’s adage of “God is dead” becomes a cognitive dissonance. Insights such as “praying is found to be more of a positive thinking than divine intervention: a Placebo effect than a miraculous recovery” (145) certainly do not open the door for a world free from slavery. Quite the opposite, the reification of the body through stripping (both literal and metaphorical) just enforce slavery. Likewise, the apparent over-sexualization or that pretension to empower the youth (as with Chapter 19: where going topless in the strip club is supposed to leave lascivious eyes disarmed) via eroticizing social life horizontally simply pales in comparison with a vertical sexualization. The latter is a true encounter with the beloved, ensuring a radical luminosity and the gate towards true empowerment and universality. Nevertheless, turning people into objects for sadistic pleasure with an equally lost soul who happens to be consuming through masturbation his or her emptiness but paying handsomely in the VIP room, one will be intensifying pathology. The reduction of the body into flesh-for-sale fires back in terms of a disengagement from the world, thanatos, never eros. Even when they are never hard-pressed, Louis’ audiences are encouraged to approach their bodies as ITM machines, ever ready for consumption to the highest bidder.

For nowhere in the book does Louis acknowledge that she truly enjoys what she is doing as a stripper or that she will keep doing it even in the absence of a paycheck. By receiving her dubious “wisdom,” readers will be undergoing whatever it takes to make a living, all in consequence of the merciless dictates of the market economy. What else could the world’s capitalists want? Here, the project seeks engineering a slave, who never complains or resists his or her black misery. In Expose Yourself, one will never reflect back on these dictates of the market, and in consequence will stay condemned into slavery in the form of generalized prostitution. As to what cost that liberation from the moral code that religion, any religion, formalizes, Louis does not specify. Thoughtful readers will note that the cost is freedom from freedom which is a category of experience that tarries with the negativity that ontological slavery captures.

In closing and deep-down, Louis registers that no matter how much glamorized, stripping outlines an engagement at odds with even the ABCs of empowerment. Nevertheless, she insists on generalizing pornocracy so that she starts feeling a little better about her self-worth. 



Fouad Mami: is a scholar from Algeria. He teaches Contemporary African Literature and Literary Theory at the Department of English, University of Adrar. His works have appeared in several reputable academic journals such as Postcolonial Studies, The Journal of North African Studies, and Democratization among others. More on his reading can be found by clicking on:


[1] Please refer to Engels, The Peasant War in Germany.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Al-Aswany, Alaa. 2021. The Republic of False Truths: A Novel. Knopf: New York and London. Trans. S. R. Fellowes; pp. 416; Hardcover: $ 24.49; ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0307957221by Fouad Mami


 Theoretical Clarity and Revolutionary Change: The Arab Spring in Fiction

Alaa Al-Aswany’s fictional engagement with the events known as the Arab Spring may easily seem pointless, cliché or commonsensical given the tons of films, novels and studies on the topic. But it is exactly what the title underscores for English reading audiences in his recently translated novel, The Republic of False Truths (2021) that raises his work above the waters of cliché and commonsensical. Unlike its Arabic title which connotes the farcical element in the quasi-republic, the English title zooms on the false omnipresent that applies uninterruptedly on everyone in that republic, irrespective of class or gender. Known internationally for The Yacoubian Building (2002), the recent addition explains (and never justifies) the existential need to grapple with precisely that which most people uphold as unmistakably self-evident. Indeed, when presumably unbiased research articles, speak less of private blogs or contents in either heavy or social media outlets, find the social uprisings that led to the decapitation of the likes of Mubarak “decisively deprived of traditional narratives and are haunted by the theme of death…[1], then the self-evident is no longer that self-evident. More often than not, resorting to abstractions—as with this presumable research piece—is triggered by this authorless for exploring the essence of the experience and more to evaporate that experience from the radar of the social field. Indeed, this academic facilitates the expulsion of reality from history by borrowing from a preexisting pool of vocabulary and set of thinking structures that masturbates endlessly on death, the limits of narrative’s agency or the Kantian sublime.   

In this connection, Al-Aswany’s The Republic of False Truths serves in reversing similar masturbations and lies. Lest they fall to collective amnesia, the novel recreates the events leading to the euphoria of Tahrir Square in 2011 and 2012, the decapitation of the dictatorship’s head and a few swirling events afterwards. In answer to anyone doubting the relevance from synthesizing those events in a story, just ask that person: where is Tahrir Square today in the map of Cario? Of all seventy-three chapters comprising the novel, chapter thirty-one explicitly answers: “Tahrir Square has been transformed into a small independent republic—the first parcel of Egyptian land to be liberated from the dictator’s rule.” (184) Little wonder then how now it has become an interminable construction site with the specific objective of eradicating from collective memory the very possibility of massive gathering which may or may not propagate into a revolt. If a physical space has garnered such a monumental level of hatred and revenge, then unbiased rationalizations of historical reality, let alone activists’ narratives of the popular uprising, remains an unaffordable indulgence. Not for nothing, the early twentieth-century French philosopher/ activist Simone Weil (1909-1943) finds: “Official history is a matter of believing murderers on their own words…[2] For if events that unfolded in most readers’ own lifetime, that is, only the other day, are decreed disconcerting and are now being falsified, there is more reason to distrust official reporting of incidents that happened where we were less aware or not on this planet yet. It is never a tautology to underscore that history writing is thus no joke.

In this context, Al-Aswany’s novel does not shy from the task of setting things, events and people in their correct historical order. It measures these actors as variables in the scale of the experienced unfolding, not mythical or ideological unravelling. There will be people who may find that measurement missing in the scale of revolutionary ardour and passion, but what can be more radical and subversive than an honest elucidation of that which actually happened and happens. Understandably, there exist vested interests to report on that which took place in Tahrir from bourgeois’ perspective, and to justify the counterrevolutionary status quo of the present. Hence, the explanatory (never the justificatory) demand for a methodological axis serving also an existential matrix whereby falsity (false truths in the title) can be distinguished from truth. Al Aswany’s theoretical coordinates have been history’s inevitable ‘class struggle’.

The term ‘class struggle’ comes from a glossary that for better or for worse has been antinomic vi-à-vis the current counterrevolutionary climate of post-2011 Arab World. Let us recall that several Arab cities and capitals witnessed exhilarating agitations and marches in millions against dictators only to be disappointed in the following months and years. The term ‘class struggle’ is not just an ideological milestone for those activists of social movements on the left; it is a methodological eye-opener for registering and thus seizing the real movement of the world, according to the nineteenth-century German philosopher Karl Marx[3]. The concept expresses a historical continuity with uprisings and revolutions of the oppressed from all over the world and from times both past and to come, and if enough oppressed people embrace the class struggle as a milestone for consciousness, the current world order will be not just shaken but redefined. Hence why the powers that be have always had a vested interest in sweeping the term ‘class struggle’, speak less of the concept, under the rug.

Through mostly written entries and dynamic interactions between a set of characters and via reading mostly their entries: Ashraf Wissa, General Alwany, Seikh Shamil, Asma Zanaty, Mazen Saqqa, Madam Nourhan and Essam Shaalan along with others readers will gain a solid understanding of what took place in Tahrir. Each character emerges from diametrically opposing backgrounds, and the novel reflects the class dimension of the uprising. Only when considered from the point of view of the class struggle, readers unveil how the counterrevolution justifies the present status quo in effusive abstractions and unabashed crusades for chasing smokescreens: death and the presumed wisdom of/in extinction!

Given this connection, The Republic of False Truths (2021) resuscitates the concept of the ‘class-struggle’ for purposes of underlying needed, if not urgent, theoretical clarity. Part of Al-Aswany’s demystification showcases that well before the restoration (July 2013) formally triumphed, most rank-and-file Egyptians expressed varying levels of exasperations at revolutionaries. Perhaps, apart from the heady eighteen days leading to the abdication of President Mubarak and which were marked by euphoria and spectacle, the following weeks and months witnessed a steady decline in the supply of people living in impoverished and destitute neighbourhoods since most of these people become disenchanted from the revolutionary project. Ironically, those people beset by black misery themselves turned hostile of the very process that promises the breaking of their chains. Counting as the evidence for this state of affairs is how the oppressed accuse the revolutionary youth of jeopardizing their security by conspiring against the country.

When Ashraf Wissa and his team display the atrocities of the military through a moving cinema project across impoverished Cairo neighbourhoods, he and his tiny group of activists were attacked, their gadgets broken and themselves are accused of bringing disaster. Instead of despair, Al-Aswany’s unorthodox conclusion zooms on a needful theoretical clarity, the one that attributes the failure of the revolution less to coercion by the repressive forces and more to the oppressed own conservatism, nihilistic resignation and detachment from revolutionary agitation. In the interest of fairness, Al-Aswany shows that the military intervened only when the majority was fed up; repression came to formalize what the oppressed themselves desired to restore: security. Without a precise reading regarding the role of various actors, revolutionaries will remain befogged with myths and self-pity. Even if repression has been behind the resignation of the oppressed, and not the other way around, a legalistic and procedural response will be still inconsequential. By pushing for an unsubstantiated narrative (confusing cause with effect), Al-Aswany unveils the plans of counterrevolution. Once activists’ attention is sidetracked toward the legalistic, as when denouncing human rights abuses, the revolutionaries pronounced their own death sentence. No one else did.

Still, mounting criticism in regard to the ways in which the revolutionaries responded does not mean that Al-Aswany favours the culturalist approach, whereby the oppressed are blamed for their own misery. The Republic of False Truths hinges its revolutionary project on a deeply entrenched historicist approach. The narrative has been careful with its vocabulary and plot details lest it embarks on blaming the victims, and thus falls into justification, not an explanation. Little wonder how this revolutionary-counterrevolutionary arch spells the fortunes and misfortunes of not only the Egyptian revolution but nearly of all Arab socialist uprisings. Certainly, Al-Aswany’s remarks connect directly with the Egyptian scenario, but in essence, his remarks mirror most, if not all, Arab revolutions post 2011.

Pushing for a culturalist approximation of events counts among the reactionaries’ toolkit in a preexisting arsenal to regain hegemony. Given the brutal violence that marked the Egyptian revolution, the one which many activists fail to register as the formalization of the subaltern’s dissatisfaction with the revolution, it is not surprising to mistake The Republic of False Truths as an exercise in oriental despotism. Female activists, like Asma, and after experiencing beatings and sexual abuse, utters statements that read more like self-pity. For her, it is hopeless to count on ordinary people as Egyptians are submissive by nature. Other characters too do not restrain themselves from drawing similar generalizations outside space and time as they express doubts vis-à-vis revolutionary change in a country where large sways of the populations are doubtful in the betterment of their lot. Asma’s letter to Mazen, sent from London after the former’s exile is probably the type of ranting that every revolutionary succumbs to in the face of adverse situations. Such despair risks eternalizing oriental despotism because it overlooks the dynamic of history. Despaired readings find the cliché of Oriental despotism comforting.

Al Aswany, not only rejects timeless generalizations. His spokesperson is Mazen who from beginning to end underlines a historicist approximation as to why ordinary Egyptians—even well before instantiations of violence—traded security for freedom. Nevertheless, the heavy investment in media and the latter capacity for brainwashing rank-and-file Egyptian and demonizing the revolutionary youth—as specified by General Alwany’s explicit instructions—have simply born its fruits. In an exchange with the Interior Minister, General Alwany explicitly outlines his strategy: “Our goal is to tell the ordinary citizen, ‘Either you side with the demonstrations and lose your security, or you side with the state, in which case, it will protect you.” (142) Readers find that the business tycoon and media mogul, Hag Muhammad Shanawany, as per request of the Security Apparatus, have invested enormous funds and resources to ‘redirect Egyptians towards ‘the right path’: family values and the wisdom of the tested and tried’. His media prodigies go as far as uncovering imagined CIA plots of destabilizing the country and creating chaos! Readers registers how Madam Nourhan, the celebrity broadcaster, has been hailed by Apparatus not only for literally abiding by the instructions set by the supervising army officer (set in the premises of every TV and radio station), but for her ‘innovative’ ways and quasi-effortless commitment in defaming revolutionaries, presenting fabricated testimonies that cast democracy activists as spies on the pay roll of foreign secret services. Through no fault of their own, the revolutionary committee realizes never without a cost that exclusive campaigning through Facebook and Twitter has its limits as large sways of Egyptians remain hooked up to newspapers and TV. By the time revolutionaries such as Ashraf started touring neighbourhoods and featuring human rights abuses committed by the military, it has become crystal clear that it was too late. Therefore, any sensible reading cannot overlook that the triumph of the counterrevolution has been the result of a steady and deliberate effort to rewrite history in favour of the counterrevolutionaries since they can afford this rewriting.

In the final scene Madany (literally signifying passivism in Arabic) or Khaled father’s, takes revenge from the police officer who killed Khaled. Al-Aswany through that scene kills two birds with one stone. On the first level, he breaks away with the liberal stance of situating revolutionary work entirely in passivist forms of agitation. His stance corroborates, however, with the inevitability of the class struggle, demonstrating an affinity with Frantz Fanon’s ideas on the necessity of violence: where history simply takes its own course and classes become involved in a dynamic of cancelling each other. On the second, a milestone of theoretical clarity is gained from the failure of the legalistic and procedural path and where justice fails to see the day of light. The crooked justice system in Egypt facilitates regaining that incendiary form of clarity. Not only the bereaved father refuses religious authority personified in Sheikh Shamil’s mediation as when the Sheikh visits Madany with a sack of cash in exchange for closing the case in court. Madany similarly indulges Khaled’s university colleagues for a while, agreeing with their plan of taking the murder case to court. Danaya, General Alwany’s daughter and Khaled’s close classmate and eye witness to the murder, asks Madany to relieve her from witnessing in court. Despite enamoured admiration of and attachment to Khaled and his ideals, in the end, her admiration and attachment could not expand toward a revolutionary consciousness in the sense of a rupture with undeserved social status and privilege. That is how we read in the ultimate scene that the father hires thugs to kill the police officer. And that is how readers are not surprised as Madany successfully reverses the crooked justice system by taking justice (not just trying to) into his own hands.

The message from that scene helps readers seize the realization that revolutionary work cannot be a cerebral undertaking. It is and remains a spontaneous eruption and, in his circumstances, no one can convince Madany not to recourse to violence. He spontaneously takes that road not because he thinks only violence brings him a satisfying closure, but despite all rationalizations to the contrary. Readers find Madany has lived his entire life as a slave, literally from hand to mouth. But that dreadful experience subscribes in direct opposition to appearances. Galvanized by his prodigy, Danya asks Khaled: “When did you read all these books?” Khaled answers: “The credit should go to my father who noticed that I liked to read when I was small, so he gave me a subscription to the palace of culture. I began borrowing books, reading and returning them. Imagine that a simple, uneducated man could value reading so much!” (83) If there exists one hero in this novel, it is Madany because when catastrophe hits, he rationalizes light years better than university professors! As will be developed below, Madany deserves the title of Spartacus defying the decadent Roman empire.     

Madany’s decision is different from poetic justice in the sense that the latter is bourgeois whereas the former is prehistoric and can only be embraced by the subaltern. Both religious and civic authorities scold individuals from taking justice in their own hands and thus encourage people stripped of their basic rights to aggravate servitude by seeking institutional mitigation of justice. In line with Hegel’s reference to deep history whereby he relativizes political and cultural time[4], Al-Aswany shows that institutional mitigation other than being essentially pointless, given how justice is administered under dictatorships, remains counterrevolutionary. Not only the police officer was not arrested in preparation for the trial, but he also wasn’t even suspended from work or put on probation during the months leading to the final sentence which unsurprisingly finds him not guilty. For the benefits of theoretical clarity again, Al-Aswany illustrates that Khaled’s killer’s show trial has to be read specifically not as a dysfunctionality of the justice system either in Egypt or elsewhere. Rather, it has to be read as part of an immanent logic of dictatorships, and which Khaled’s father clearly registers, acts upon and professionally executes.

Indeed, that last scene can be disturbing because Al-Aswany masterfully positions it in gothic aesthetics. In displaying the inevitability of violence, Al-Aswany brings a satisfying closure from the perspective of the class struggle to that other gothic scene that triggered the finale. In chapter forty, we read how Madany in his own hands puts pieces of Khaled’s brain back in the hole caused by the pistol shot. Khaled has been a principal organizer of a field hospital near Tahrir Square charged of providing first aid to demonstrators. The officer aims to kill because Khaled dares (note the word dare in Kant’s definition of the Enlightenment) to reject the officer’s insult. It is a scene that comes to shake passive readers from their reifying experience and keep these audiences forever invested. That gothic structure generates a movement within the consciousness of individuals of the middle class or who identify as middle class. It is a movement that renders that consciousness receptive (hospitable) to a prehistoric form and logic of justice, the primitive law: an eye for eye! All else becomes synthesized by the same invested audiences as alienation, domestication and obviously, counterrevolution.

The way Fanon theorizes revolutionary violence suggests how Al-Aswany cannot be stigmatized by calls that organically propagate beyond the accepted perimeters of passive resistance. By raising a credible threat over life, speaking and executing a language that truly hurts the ruling classes, the revolutionary ardour of Tahrir Square reaches the tipping point in the Hegelian system, whereby quantity metamorphoses to quality. Violence, Fanon specifies, remains purifying in the sense of ridding oneself of hesitations and doubts, thus crystallizing practical predispositions to register false truths for what they are. What else do today’s revolutionaries hope to gain?    



[1] Walid El Khachab, (2021) “Death of the Revolution, Death of the Event: Cinema and Politics in the Aftermath of the Egyptian Spring.” Journal of the African Literature Association, 15:3, p. 525.

[2] Simon Weil, An Anthology. Penguin Modern Classics. 2005. p.105

[3] Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Samuel Moore. The Merlin Press (2015), p. 3

[4] Hegel, Philosophy of Right

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Royal Mail Profits Soar to £726m While Postal Workers Get Sick

Royal Mail's annual pre-tax profits for 2021 have quadrupled compared with the previous year. Profits stem largely from the pandemic-fuelled online shopping boom. Pre-tax profit jumped to £726m in the year to 28 March, compared with £180m a year earlier.

The massive rise in profits has led to speculation that Royal Mail will return to the FTSE 100 in next month's quarterly market value-based reshuffle. The company will reward its shareholders with a bumper payout of £400million.

While the pandemic has been good for business, it has been an unmitigated disaster for thousands of postal workers who have got sick with a growing number of fatalities. Many worry that they have a significant chance of catching a deadly virus every time they turn for work and pass it on to loved ones.

Dire sickness levels have seen some customers not receiving mail all week. Large areas of the country are not receiving mail due to skyrocketing sickness levels amongst postal workers. In one week alone in the run-up to Christmas, 32 offices I know about were hit by covid related sickness. Sickness levels are double 2018 levels.

While Covid has caused havoc in many offices around the country, an even greater cause of disruption has been the massive restructuring programme undertaken by Royal Mail with the intimate collaboration of the CWU (Communication Worker Union), hours and job cuts have been made to increase productivity and profits.

The current CEO Simon Thompson bragged, "Last year stood out as one of remarkable change at Royal Mail. It has been challenging at times, but we have learnt that we can deliver results and change at lightning pace when we are united by a common purpose."

In the latest issue of the Courier, Thompson makes the extraordinary claim that 1700 revisions have taken place in the last six months beating the previous figure of 132 in twelve months.

Many of the revisions have been a disaster. It seems not a day goes by without pictures and videos being leaked to the press showing full grey sacks of mail piled high on top of each other. One office in London some walks not been taken out for weeks.

According to one source, many revisions have been so rushed 'the revisions are delaying the post. It is a 'computer says no' scenario. The technology says the routes can be done, but it does not take into account roadworks, traffic jams and blocks of flats with 30 addresses the posties have to get to.'

Communication Workers Union

The massive increase in productivity achieved by Royal Mail courtesy of the new agreement could have only taken place because of the role played by the CWU. In many offices around the UK, the union policed implementing the new revisions, while the others were a collaboration between the union and Royal Mail management. So much so that it has been hard to tell where the union ends and Royal Mail management begins. As George Orwell said, "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.[1]

The CWU's 'Pathway to Change Agreement' between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was hailed as a new way of working, and it would improve the working conditions of postal workers, and nothing of the sort has happened.

At Wakefield Delivery Office, West Yorkshire, the CWU suffered a rebuff when the structural revision agreed by managers was voted down by 94% of the workforce.

One aspect of the new agreement trumpeted by the CWU would be an end to bullying by managers, and this has patently not taken place. Revisions are now being imposed regardless of the workforce's agreement, hours are cut, and absorption levels are going through the roof.[2] In many cases, postal workers are now doing more work than before the agreement.

Also, if the Covid crisis has proved one thing, it is the inability of the CWU(Communication Workers Union) to protect its workforce. The role of the CWU has been crucial during the latest pandemic. There is no way that Royal Mail would be operating, let alone making money, if it were not for the role of the CWU bureaucracy. The CWU offered postal workers up as the fifth emergency service, and postal workers are now increasingly needing to use the real emergency services.

While it is clear to many that the CWU has become an arm of corporate management, numerous pseudo-left[3] groups such as the SWP(Socialist Workers Party) contend that the CWU is still an organisation that will defend workers interests. The SWP held up the latest agreement between the union and Royal Mail as proof of this.

While there is growing opposition to Royal Mail and the CWU agreement from postal workers, the role of the SWP is to provide left and militant credentials to the union bureaucracy and disarm postal workers seeking to fight. The SWP hailed the new agreement pathway to Change Agreement' saying it had stopped major attacks on workers' jobs and conditions. This is a lie, and nothing of the sort has taken place. If anything, the attacks and the workload of postal workers have increased after the agreement.












[1] Animal Farm-George Orwell

[2] Absorption. An agreement between Royal Mail and the CWU that when a postal worker goes sick his delivery is done by other postal workers on top of their own delivery.

[3] The term “pseudo-left” denotes political tendencies that utilize democratic and populist phraseology to advance the interests of privileged sections of the upper middle class and defend capitalism against socialist revolution. There are many representatives of this politically reactionary tendency internationally, including the Democratic Socialists of America in the US, the Left Party in Germany, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, Socialist Alternative in Australia, the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France, Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, and the NSSP in Sri Lanka.