Thursday, 28 July 2022

CWU Yet Again Refuses to Call Strike After Historic Vote 

Postal workers throughout Britain voted for strike action by 97.6 per cent, with 77per cent turnout over Royal Mail's 2 per cent pay offer. The offer comes with wide-ranging changes that amount to a fundamental re-organisation of the business to the major detriment of its workforce and promises a bonanza for shareholders. 

The strike vote was the largest ever and represented not only anger at Royal Mail’s attack on their pay and conditions but shows frustration at the CWU bureaucracy by postal workers. Postal workers still remember the last huge strike vote that the CWU deliberately ignored while they used it as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Royal Mail. Again it would appear that the union has no intention of calling a strike. 

Rather than call immediate strike action, the CWU has launched a second ballot over the changes Royal Mail want to activate. Dave Ward, CWU Leader, refused to call the strike saying, “it would be right to allow the company to think again on pay.” The CWU’s suppression of the strike is to stop the struggle of the postal workers from being linked to that of other striking workers. Instead of mobilising postal workers against Royal Mail’s vicious attacks, Ward reached out to shareholders and pleaded, "We're saying to shareholders, you shouldn't be supporting what these people are doing and what they're paying themselves, and you should be getting behind the workforce." 

The CWU bureaucracy has admitted being surprised at Royal Mail’s actions. To what degree the bewilderment of the CWU leadership at Royal Mail’s vicious attack on pay and conditions is real is open to conjecture. Ward’s found the company's so-called sudden turn "Very difficult to understand. How did we get to this situation, with the same people in charge?".  

In a recent speech, Terry Pullinger echoed Ward’s disbelief "The attack we're under now has no rational explanation. Things were going well, but then suddenly they disengaged, and nobody has explained why they've done that." Maybe it should be clear to Ward and Pullinger that this was always Royal Mail’s intention to reorganise the business fundamentally, and to Amazonisation the business.  

The CWU openly bragged that they were able to prevent this plan with the Pathway To Change agreement. They told the new Royal Mail leadership they could implement the changes it wanted without strike action. The CWU wanted to deepen its corporatist relationship with Royal Mail. 

Royal Mail saw things differently. While reluctantly agreeing to the Pathway to Change agreement, Royal Mail wanted to suppress strikes and give themselves time to implement their plan. After the union sa econd time refused to strike, CEO Simon Thompson issued detailed plans to decimate postal workers’ pay and conditions and reorganise the business. 

One day after the CWU announced that they would give Royal Mail time to reconsider their position Royal Mail published a seven-page document called “The change we need”. The first thing Royal Mail wants to bring in is a system of yearly Flexi hours. This means postal workers would be at Royal Mail’s beck and call instead of working a fixed week. Annualised hours will be the norm, and cuts to supplementary payments. Many workers will have a huge cut in sick pay and compulsory Sunday work for all new starters. The creation of a two-tier workforce, with "the next generation of postal workers coming in on 10 per cent less."  

Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams stated the company was making a loss of £1 million a day and needed these changes to fix the business. If this is the case, workers should demand to open up the books. He threatened to break up the company if workers didn’t accept these changes. While not contained in the company’s recent statement, they intend to run down the letters business to concentrate on the more lucrative parcels business. This would be based around the international parcel delivery operation called GLS. GLS’s appalling wages and conditions make Amazon look like an enlightened employer. Also, it is only a matter of time before Royal Mail bosses start to cut to the Universal Service Obligation, which means they must deliver letters to every address, no matter how remote or inaccessible, six days a week. 

Since Royal Mail was privatised in 2013, it has been an unmitigated disaster for postal workers who have seen their pay and conditions eroded. Now Royal Mail wants to quicken up the process. From day one, postal workers and the public were fed the lies that privatisation would benefit society. The reality is a looted pension fund with two tiers, much to the detriment of new starters.  A large-scale closure of offices and a land sale that echoed the American wild west. 

Every attack that Royal Mail has launched on the pay and conditions of postal workers has happened with the intimate collaboration of the CWU. The CWU has openly boasted that it had delivered unprecedented increases in productivity and revisions through the Pathway to Change. It also boasted of its close relationship with Royal Mail. So much so now that it invites Royal Mail Group to observe its union meetings. 

At a recent National Briefing meeting In Liverpool, current CWU deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger explained that there were RMG observers in the discussion, saying, "We must remember that we cannot allow them to set the agenda. The deal we want is a pay-only no-strings deal, and this is what you and the members need to remember when management speaks to you in the workplace. Even today, the 2% deal with no strings is a derisive offer and nowhere near enough to what we want, and you deserve. It may be a step from the 3.5% with all the strings, but the deal is still unacceptable. The Pathway to Change Agreement is there to deal with the strings they want to discuss in the pay deal, and that is where they will stay". 

There you have it. The Pathway To Change has led to unprecedented change, increased productivity, cut in hours and duties, led to redundancies and forced workers to work through a pandemic that has cost many lives, left some postmen with long-term sickness due to long Covid and has led to massive disruptions in delivery offices up and down the country. 

The latest episode is no different, with the union saying it has bent over backwards to facilitate the changes Royal Mail wants, saying, “We’ve delivered more change than ever in a short period and embraced more automation.”…and so, therefore, this union needs no lectures from the Royal Mail senior leadership on the nature of this current period, the changing needs of customers, what is necessary and what must be done.” 

The CWU’s treachery and cowardice is mirrored by several pseudo-left groups organised within the union. They play a crucial role in isolating and hindering the number of postal workers prepared for a fight. Many of these pseudo-left maintain high positions within the union. 

To take their struggle forward, postal workers must take the struggle against Royal Mail out of the hands of both the CWU bureaucracy and the pseudo lefts and form rank and file committees based on a socialist programme for the renationalisation of Royal Mail under workers' control. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Basu Thakur, Gautam. 2021. Postcolonial Lack: Identity, Culture, Surplus. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY. pp. 276.


Under neoliberalism, Basu Thakur finds, postcolonial theory has become a race for victimhood, “a brand of culturalism…” (p. xxiii). Following Gayatri Spivak’s specification that subalternity is a position and not an identity, Basu Thakur argues that postcolonialism has drifted into conceiving subalternity as an identity in practice. That explains why it has become anti-emancipatory. Relying on insights from psychoanalysis, Basu Thakur finds that postcolonial writers have to conceive identity as an ontological lack to be truly empowering. Indeed, it does not behove contemporary Indians or Algerians to merely reinstate the Other, the colonial master, by some postcolonial acolytes-disguised-as-authors. This is so because the Other remains rooted in fantasy, functioning as a governing structure that lacks substance. This explains why the best policy for decolonised peoples is neither to disavow nor take the European worldview seriously. Instead of addressing the lack on which postcolonial subjectivity sits as a frightening void, the book encourages readers to view it as a call toward universalism, a step toward revoking both the coloniser and the colonised.   

Basu Thakur proceeds by reconciling what are considered irreconcilable disciplines: postcolonialism and psychoanalysis. He finds that the two fields share common ground more than what each avows. The book is divided into two sections: the first contains three chapters and the second two plus a conclusion. The chapters in the first explain why postcolonial writers cannot counter the ontological challenge posed by the big Other. The second section teases how neoliberal modes of expression perpetuate the colonial/oriental project, thereby testifying to how the colonised/decolonised remains crippled with the same ontological fixation.

Chapter One: “The Subaltern Act of Freedom” distinguishes between acting out, ‘the passage to the act’ and act in Lacan’s theory of the Act in the sense that the first two never challenge the Other because they maintain the fantasy, whereas ‘to act’ is to decimate both the big Other and the imagination. Basu Thakur illustrates this point with one subaltern character, Draupadi, in Mahasweta Devi’s story with the same title, wherein the subaltern abolishes politics by putting the signifier’s symbolic order under duress. The revolutionary dimension in Draupadi’s act is specifically that one that does not solicit recognition; its spontaneous and eruptive unfolding breaks the monopoly over the symbolic framework because the master signifier through the show is deeply shaken. Indirectly Basu Thakur is telling readers that postcolonial texts fall below this bar set by Mahasweta. 

Chapter Two: “Postcolonial. Animal. Limit” revises postcolonial to criticism by claiming that the real animal is the one whose capacities escape humans’ imaginary: it shocks and destabilises the seemingly ever-strong symbolic order. (p. 36) only to learn that all extended orders remain rooted in lack. Only fantasy exhibits the Other’s apparent invisibility. Through a reading of Mahasweta Devi’s story, the postcolonial animal interpreted through a pterodactyl underlies less and less the occasional failures of language by zooming on the expressive shortcomings of language. Encountering the flying demon uncovers the impossibility of representing the condition of subalternity. In as much as it is real, not a symbol, the radical alterity in the pterodactyl remains an insult to subjectivity; it disrupts facile renderings and certainly cancels the capacity of representation to render any experience translucent. The animal’s death drive can be effectively countered through “explosive love” (p. 44), never through desire, allowing readers to confront universally traumatic nothingness.

Chapter Three: “Hysterization of Postcolonial Studies; or, Beyond Cross-Cultural Communication” builds on the Lacanian principle wherein people “…desire to remain in desire without satisfaction…” (p. 68). The author finds that the colonial archiving of knowledge is fundamentally rooted in nuisance or that excessive enjoyment from the dream of controlling the colonised. But this orientalist project wherein knowledge is sought less for its own sake and more for domination remains paradoxically an expression of lack and non-being besetting the master signifier. The evidence from reading Leila Aboulela’s “The Museum” and Tony Gatlif’s film, Gradjo Dilo (The Crazy Stranger, 1997), shows that the archive amassed to qualify for cross-cultural communication miserably fails. Hence, how postcolonial theory, when restricted to answering back, is destined to remain a self-defeating endeavour. Only the willing blind refuses to note that the archive cannot be exhaustive. By extension, a counter archive similarly expresses hysteria that craves acknowledgement from the Other’s symbolic order.

Chapter Four: “Fictions of Katherine Boo’s Creative Non-Fiction, or, The Unbearable Alterity of the Other” reads an American journalist’s Behind the Beautiful Forever: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012). Basu Thakur finds that neoliberal accounts have remained consistent with colonial narratives regarding how oriental spaces remain marred in poverty. Instead of chastising capitalism for the proletarization of India’s undercity, the report underlines postcolonial mismanagement and the elites’ corruption. White supremacists remain incapable of noting that the impoverished multitudes in Calcutta and other cities are essential to the prosperity of residents of upscale neighbourhoods in Mumbai or New Delhi in the sense that the two antagonistic sights go together. Narrative accounts wherein poverty is humanised, such as in Boo’s, risk “gutturalising the politics of globalisation by strategically redrawing the phantasmatic screen of third world abjection over the real conditions of global inequality suffered in the third world.” (p. 108). The argument wherein only in India (or other decolonised spaces) where corruption explains sights of depravation fortifies the idea that the West cannot tolerate despicable depravities because only the West/Other knows how to address gross economic inequalities systematically.

Chapter Five: “Political Correctness Is Phallic: Idaho Politics, Black Panther, and Gran Torino”, considers how representational politics, as shown in these films, facilitates disengagement from reality and remains complicit with neoliberalism. As displayed in these films, the conflict between communities is geared less toward provoking audiences to register the injustice of political choices but is precisely directed toward culturising injustice. The films serve as an ideological apparatus obfuscating the precariat’s chances of reversing their misfortunes by feeding them the illusion that solid opportunities are waiting for them just around the corner if they only stay patient. Meanwhile, the neoliberal order remains untouched. Instead of highlighting institutionalised segregation or the ensuing discrimination that followed the formal abolishment of slavery, Black Panther reverses the typical image by showing the imaginary African republic of “Wakanda as a site of pure plenitude.” (p. 148) But the technologically advanced Africa and Africans are nowhere nearly helpful or emancipatory as ‘Africa-as-the-heart-of-darkness’ since it is still through fantasy that the West mediates Africa. Readers reach this understanding that whoever seeks an acknowledgement from the master signifier is counterrevolutionary.

The Conclusion: “Particular Universal” underlines how postcolonial writers’ penchant for competing representations of misery and victimhood subscribes to the logic of illogic wherein gratification is expected and generated from the Other’s acknowledgement. Besides illustrating how this logic is sick, the conclusion claims how this logic enforces the other’s phallic image and justifies postcolonial oppression. Differently put, no matter how exhaustive the native informants’ knowledge of the subaltern will be, that knowledge stays rooted in lack and has to be mediated through fantasy. The subaltern cannot be reduced to any set of archives or manuals. The particularity of the urban precariat stands for the new universal. Following Žižek, Basu Thakur credits Malcolm X for accurately seizing on the radical understanding wherein “…the only possibility of moving forward lies through embracing the negation, claiming it as part of one’s identity, hence the ‘X’ in his name.” (p. 192)

When reading Basu Thakur’s volume, the reader cannot avoid the question, why would one seek to fix a theory by invigorating it with another one? But lest one precipitates, what seems like a fixation on the palliative is found out to be indeed revolutionary. Similarly, there are several instances of convoluted writing like in: “This is not freedom in the sense of Liberty as a metaphysical attribute. But, rather, freedom here is action illuminating the lack of freedom.” (p. 28), where they attempt to follow through the prose becomes a challenge. But soon, Basu Thakur’s discussion of his selected fiction comes to the reader’s rescue, convincing us to remain glued to the book. Indeed, Basu Thakur’s reading of Mahasweta’s Draupadi reads to me (at least) like the Tunisian Bouazizi, the man who inflamed himself in December 2010: an act that deposed several dictators. I could not overlook this quote: “By erasing their bodies to correspond with their already erased speech, that is, unravelling the body as an object of speech, the subaltern shocks the big Other. Their wanton disregard for the body delivers a traumatic truth. Namely, there’s a difference between having and being a body.” (p. 7). Insights such as these underline the author’s insistence on historical totality and the class dimension in the precariat’s misfortune with which he reinvents communism from the debris of postcolonialism and neoliberalism. How can readers afford to bypass Basu Thakur’s insights as to the latter recall Marx and Engels’ underscoring of the class struggle? Only that Postcolonial Lack deploys a different approach to solve the same theorem.



Fouad Mami

Université d’Adrar (Algeria)



Friday, 22 July 2022

Colonists Exact Stakes and the Untold Story of Algeria’s Independence

 Albert Camus (1913-1960), a Nobel Laureate for literature, was born and raised in colonial Algeria. He is largely considered in independent Algeria as the spokesperson of white settlers, perhaps even the pride of a social class better known as Les pieds noirs. The latter underlines the descendants of white settlers or colonists (French but also other Europeans) who joined the colony after the conquest of Algeria in 1830. Almost all of them acquired the most fertile land at a fraction of the cost following the decimation of Arab tribes and the ruinous policies that led to the dispossession of the remaining inhabitants from their communal lands. In the literature about the period, the first colonists are branded as pioneers. They worked the land and rendered it extremely productive.

It was rumoured during the 1930s that if America was proud of California, then France was proud of Orléansville, today’s the governorate of Chelf and the region around, spreading from Oran in the West to Médéa in the East. True, these colonists were industrious, but they too exploited the dispossessed native population. Russian convicts, who lived through the reign of the last Tsar and were serving prison terms around the 1910s in Bône (today’s Annaba), were shocked to find that the colonists treated Algerians worse than sheep.[1] With the end of military rule in the 1880s, colonists (not Metropolitan France) were responsible—through exclusionary practices—for literally sending Algerians behind the sun. Understandably, by the time the Algerian revolution broke out in November 1954, everything the colonists fought and stood for became at stake. Most of them, at that point, had been four generations in the colony.

To give non-Algerian and non-French readers a foretaste of la déchirure or the disheartening misfortune of these colonists brought about by Algeria’s independence in 1962, consider this analogy. In South Africa, Nelson Mandella was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace simply because he did not repeat the Algerian tragedy. Mandella kept intact the economic privileges white colonists enjoyed during the apartheid. He did not start a policy or propagate a process leading to their eventual eviction or dispossession. White liberals and their media adore Mandella for not doing what the FLN is thought to have done with white colonists three decades earlier.

Here enters Camus’s conciliatory discourse during Algeria’s war of independence. He is notoriously famous/infamous for adopting his mother’s point of view at the expense of justice.[2] Because I hailed from the very people sent behind the sun by Camus’ ancestors, I find any engagement with that ‘justice versus mother’ discussion’ a dead horse. How so? The terrorism Camus refers to in the quote was not terrorism; these were some people’s deliberate actions of emancipation to re-enter history after more than a century of denial. Hence, the euphoric reactions captured through Algerian songs and other cultural artefacts such as: “يا محمد مبروك عليك الجزائر رجعت ليك[3] While a student during the 1990s at Algiers University, I grew up having a part in several discussions regarding whether or not Camus was a misunderstood universalist or bloody racist. I can say now that lyricism does not even begin to approach, let alone solve historical necessities. Reading Camus may make one more sensible and more sensitive to certain complexities, but at the end of the day, poetic formulations of his and his like (Mouloud Feraoun, for one) do not advance the cause of emancipation a single centimetre. Lyrics and poeticism are what the French brilliantly capture through the expression: des masturbations a l’infini.

That explains why there exist perhaps a few solid reasons why the world will want to read one more book about Camus. Advancing this position, I am aware, comes at the risk of effecting a major offence to liberal sensibilities since Camus has been the darling of this class. It is worth knowing that Camus did not hail from these classes, but he had been accultured—appropriated, if you will, not without his tacit approval, though, and as such, he becomes an idol for anyone who wants to change their social skin. With class as a matrix for meaningful analysis, the methodological line is drawn for what comes below.

Similarly, it is worth recalling that with the conclusion of the Evian Agreements (Accords d'Évian), colonists became personas non grata, undesired in a country they called theirs. Many of them knew no other country to call theirs except Algeria. Most Algerians perfectly understand and even sympathise with their misfortune. Strangely, the Evian Agreements guaranteed the colonists’ right to stay. But it is they who sealed their fate in calling for and acting to keep Algeria French. Long story short, had they stayed, I and my kind (practically sons of peasants with living standards barely different from feudal times) would never have had the chance to make it beyond primary school. Like our forefathers, we would have been condemned to remain subservient to colonists, the lowest class on the social ladder. My father was coerced to leave school at the age of 10, and that is what France was able to offer him and his generation.

Meanwhile, it is no exaggeration that by literally enslaving Algerians, not a small number of colonists used to live like royalty. Hence the nostalgia and the rumination over a French Algeria in contemporary France has been more of a re-memory than a memory, properly speaking. Knowing that originally these colonists hailed from peasant and working-class backgrounds, it is understandable what they have gained and lost. Camus is an icon for everything they aspire to, the self-made entrepreneurial model.

Now, concerning how independent Algeria has fared without colonists, that is less significant to colonists and more appealing to capitalists. Volumes can be written about dysfunctionalities, imagined or real corruption, and money laundering. But for the sake of fairness, every Algerian is entitled to free education, health insurance, dignified lodgings, etc...… Only those blinded with unsurmountable hatred can deny these relative material gains. Still, the class struggle remains the perfect arbitration for any measure of success or failure.

The predominant nationalist discourse prevailing after independence only seeks to asphyxiate the class war. Through several slogans, Le hirak (peaceful uprising) of February 2019 articulated that class dimension. Still, the triumphant narrative tried and succeeded in portraying it as only an exasperation with Bouteflika and his cronies. Rather, le hirak expresses an incendiary insurrection against the entire setup of postcolonial order, not just about the Bouteflika episode. The muffled class war has its explanation, which is further elaborated below, but the class dimension after independence remains there for all to see.

This leaves subaltern Algerians with no hatred against France or at least they do not hate France, les français de souche. In this connection, it is worth recalling that no hatred or admiration exists outside space and time. Sales of French cars do not compare with Asian ones; Algerians cannot resist French brands. So is the case with French cheese, delicacies, language, etiquettes, and above all, the French love for life! For most Algerians practically leading their daily lives (not when some journalist pushed a microphone their way), what happened happened, and one cannot sit around crying over spilt milk or reinvent the wheels of time. Algerians trust in the Hegelian law of historical necessity (not they know Hegel), through which he means: that what happened could NOT happen. Still, for historical accuracy and fairness in judgment: the colonists kept Algerians outside time. This is not some nationalist ruminating over colonial atrocities to cover for his postcolonial shortcomings and even crimes!

Ever since the end of military rule toward the end of the 1880s, the colonists and their offspring dominated the colonial administration. They made everything in the book to block the scanty metropolitan policies that aimed to provide, care for, and ‘civilise’ the native (Algerian) populations regarding schooling and caring for the health of Les indigènes. Who stood against the progressive policies of the French state? None but the colonists. In 1962 these colonists got what they have historically always deserved. Outlining this does not make Algerians blind to the fact that several colonists served in FLN ranks and openly supported decolonisation. The violence during the revolution settled scores; that violence, as Frantz Fanon brilliantly puts it at the beginning of Les dames de la Terre (The Wretched of the Earth), has purifying effects. No one, no matter how Zen or humanist, could undo that violence and bloodshed.

To counteract the sweeping lyricism in Camus’ prose, I always refer for the benefit of students (most of whom are historically removed from the colonial context) to the first page in Kateb Yacine’s Nedjma. Reading Nedjma’s first page, one will see how Camus has been out of touch with reality. Camus’ lyricism perfectly fits a middle-class sensibility full of: ‘either and or’, indecision, and mental fogginess. The first page of Nedjma saves readers from that fogginess and makes them fully register the class struggle. One will realise how acute Algerians’ living conditions after 1945 were and how they were aware of the necessity of bloodshed and violence, not that they liked it, but because they were squeezed out of options. Kateb Yacine remains a master had he written only that first page in his career. For there, one captures Algerians’ logos, the reflective consciousness that looks at the abyss but is not afraid to tease it out and distil the sensible course of action. Perhaps, it is not an exaggeration to conclude that Camus does not even begin to compare with Yacine. If literature is but another means of changing the world, not just an instantiation of the bourgeois hunt for the beautiful, then it is Yacine who deserves recognition, not Camus.

Now, after 1962 and as outlined earlier, one does not need to be an apologist for the FLN and their misrule. But it is unquestionable that materially speaking, Algerians fared well under post-independence rule than during colonial times. Regarding present Franco-Algerian relations, they too cannot be stripped out of context. Not all the criticisms one reads in the French media are accurate or innocent or not propaganda. It is not news that there exists corruption in reporting corruption in Algeria. Many observers recall that the French media were the first people who brought public attention to overpricing the 1200 km highway in 2006. Why? French companies, like American, Japanese, and South Korean, made their bids. But the project was contracted by three large and state-owned Chinese construction companies and one Japanese. How so? Simply because Algerian bureaucrats did their job. They handed the project to the lowest bidder. Like everywhere in the world, the initial fund meant to cover the construction was not enough, and the contracted companies asked for what was legally theirs. The highway is not Germany’s Autobahn, but its cost is reasonable. And the delivered infrastructure is not bad, as is often reported. Likewise, the French media became furious when the authorities handed the contract for building the largest damn in the Maghreb, that of Beni Haroun, in 2001 to the Chinese. The contract was mouthwatering, and soon the usual media faultfinding started. Bouteflika’s reign has been no short of objections, but it remains a duty to be fair.

Big contracts for building key infrastructure such as the one outlined above are a handful of examples of why tensions have always governed the relationship between independent Algeria and France. The cultural explanation proposed by the Algerian establishment often aims to confuse, justify, and never explain. The tension has deep roots in material history and the meaning of primitive accumulation. The tendential fall in the rate of profits [as specified by Karl Marx in volume three of Capital] obliges French companies to compete against more vibrant American and other competitors from around the world for parts of Algerian markets that dictate the tension. The corruption in corruption-related discussion seeks to cover that public officials and their cronies’ swindling of assets, large or small, cannot significantly account for the contradictions in international trade. And that these contradictions in international trade cannot be resolved through globalisation (Global Market) since the latter precipitates an equal standard when contracting from among national capitals—a situation that remains full of odds and engenders tensions among competing capitalisms making international trade. To provide a taste of this contradiction, Algeria’s decision to nationalise its energy sector in February 1971 gave leverage to American companies at the expense of French ones.

That explains that if one aims to address the subterranean forces that shape Franco-Algerian relations, then one has to read and consider the underlying thesis proposed by Gregory D. Cleva in JFK Algeria Speech (2022). It is not as if we only want to read the book, but we have to. The gist of it is how in the wake of that speech, a pattern was set for the relationship not only between the U.S. and Algeria or the U.S. and France but between Algerian and French establishments. (the two peoples here are outside the power equation) Leaving the ephemeral (that which French media deems newsworthy) and embracing the essential, the JFK Algeria Speech is the way to go. The intricate web of connections is barely highlighted, let alone sufficiently addressed neither by staunch Algerian nationalists nor by largely nostalgic French journalists and academics.

For a large sway of ordinary Algerians, the FLN eventually won because it forced de Gaulle to accept negotiations. Under the carpet, however, is how the FLN, by the time JFK made his speech, was militarily defeated. Remember, it was in the context soon after the battle of Algiers and when FLN masterminds were chased down, nearly all of them were decimated. French generals’ strategy to defeat the insurrection started bearing fruits. And still, the FLN, in the final analysis, got what it wanted! Strange. Some other forces were working against French policymakers of the time and in favour of the FLN, not necessarily in favour of the Algerian people or the revolutionaries. We read in Cleva’s account that American general consuls in Algiers serving from 1942 to the late 1950s each and all of them played key roles by accurately reporting the pitfalls of French colonial policies. As a member of the Senate’s committee for foreign policy and thus a likely candidate for the presidency, JFK formalised what the American establishment, up to that point, had always wanted and discreetly planned.

The U.S. did not emerge from WWII victorious just like that. The world still remembers how President Donald Trump, in November 2018, reacted to French President Emmanuel Macron’s allusion to the need to create an independent European army, a framework outside NATO. Trump angrily retorts: “Without the U.S. help in two world wars, today’s Parisians would be speaking German.”[4] It is no secret that between the two world wars, the French establishment was quickly ageing and bitterly divided. To further explore this topic, here is a 2006 study: Le choix de la défaite: Les élites françaises dans les années 1930 by an imminent scholar, Annie Lacroix-Riz. The point here is that while the French generals and army overwhelmingly succeeded in suppressing the insurrection in Algeria, French politicians could not capitalise on that success because Washington wanted otherwise. The latter embarked on a decolonisation policy, and not even Britain was immune. India, the jewel of the empire, won its independence! So, who could openly say no to Washington? Who could dare? Not even de Gaulle.

With his return to power in 1958, le generale tried his best to secure Algeria as French, but eventually, he knew his manoeuvres would amount to a little showmanship. In mounting a rebellion, the FLN’s gamble, for that is what it was, somehow ironically paid off. U.S. geostrategic interests wanted an end to colonisation, lest upheavals and insurrections in the colonies would break the capitalists’ new orders. Decolonisation as a policy was meant to contain the colonised, regardless of how on the surface, it gave them better terms (not the best) to negotiate their fate and future emancipations. For Indians, as much as for Algerians or Kenyans, the colonised’s national independence, besides the pains and sacrifices, has been largely decided elsewhere, although it is disrespectful to presume that battlefields did not matter.

This gives us an accurate picture of how the French establishment views Algeria today. Perhaps less so than how Britain views India, France sees Algeria as a bitch that got tired of sleeping with Paris and decided in a fit of anger to go to bed with Washington. All other approximations to those relations are meant to confuse, perhaps justify, never to explain what the French establishment to this day cannot overcome what it considers as the impossible loss! Now for Algerians, both the establishment and ordinary people, severance of ties with France spelt good riddance with an abusive and unjust colonial system. But it is precisely here where Algerians prefer to overlook the American role and attribute victory exclusively to their forefathers’ sacrifices. Worse than a taboo, the refusal to acknowledge the American role spells the bewilderment of Algerian elites since they are not even aware this pivotal role exists. Perhaps apart from a handful of core FLN negotiators all perished by now, a few—if any—realise the U.S. part in Algeria’s independence.



[1] Owen White, 2021. The Blood of the Colony: Wine and the Rise and Fall of French Algeria. Harvard University Press. Please refer to my review of the book.

[2] “I have always denounced terrorism. I must also denounce a terrorism which is exercised blindly, in the streets of Algiers for example, and which someday could strike my mother or my family. I believe in justice, but I shall defend my mother above justice.” Herbert R. Lottman, Camus, A Biography (1979)

[3] or consider this largely forgotten one now “Fransa mellat” by Cheikh Bouregaa decrying how colonial France treated Algerians as sub-humans as well as the latter’s fight for their own self-respect during the revolutionary war 1954-1962:

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

The Missing Cryptoqueen by Jamie Bartlett- published by WH Allen, priced at £16.99.

"We find that whole community suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first."

Charles Mackay[1]

"Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied."

Otto von Bismarck

"The development of Blockchain is a further technological advance in laying the material foundations for a planned socialist economy in which the mass of the population—as workers and consumers—would be able to exercise democratic control and supervision over the organisation of economic life to satisfy human needs rather than the drive for profit."[2]

Nick Beams

Ruja Ignatova has the great distinction of being the greatest digital currency fraudster in the world to date, and Jamie Bartlett's narrative-driven book will make her even more infamous. Bartlett's The Missing Cryptoqueen was derived from a BBC podcast of the same name.

Even at a tender age, Ignatova was searching for ways to become rich quick. She was part of a very brutish and nasty social layer who worshipped at the altar of Capitalism and did not care whom they burned or cheated as long as they became rich quick.

Ignatova's search for wealth was boosted by the advent of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which she saw as a quick way to get rich. Quite why Bartlett glorifies this viper in his book is quite beyond me. He has an annoying habit of using Dr in front of her name as if she is some kind of economic genius. In reality, she was a small-time entrepreneur who decided to move from strategy consultancy into grooming and fashion and then into grand larceny via a scam.

Ignatova faced one tiny problem she had no idea how to integrate her OneCoin Cryptocurrency company into the existing financial landscape and had even less idea how to produce a blockchain[3]. The Blockchain is an integral part of any cryptocurrency.

As the Wikipedia article explains, it is a secure, decentralised electronic account of every crypto transaction and can be seen by all users who buy and sell digital currencies. In 2016 OneCoin attempted to hire a Norwegian expert, Bjørn Bjercke, to remedy this far from a trivial problem. Bjercke rejected the company's offer, which was above his pay grade and said that OneCoin having no blockchain was a bit like "a car without an engine."

Given that anyone with half a brain could see that OneCoin was a glorified $4bn Ponzi scheme[4] ,. As Bartlett writes, "OneCoin was not a rival to bitcoin, and a closer analogy would be Bernie Madoff Investments or Elizabeth Holmes'' medical tech startup Theranos. It was a brilliantly designed Ponzi scheme with no real technology. Up to a million people held thousands of OneCoin in believable-looking digital 'wallets', which they could not sell to anyone. The 'price' of OneCoin was just a number generated by Ruja's cronies. The only thing that was real was the losses".[5] It is amazing that it was allowed to continue to exist and is still going despite a number of its top executives being in Jail or awaiting trial

According to Henry Hitchings, "There were dissenting voices: as early as February 2016, Britain's Daily Mirror denounced OneCoin as "virtually worthless" – "all fur coat and no knickers". Yet only in the autumn of 2017, following an FBI probe into Ignatova's sometime lover Gilbert Armenta, did it become clear to investors that, as Bartlett neatly puts it, OneCoin was "three different scams rolled into one": a Ponzi scheme, an extreme example of "shark-like" multilevel marketing and a fake cryptocurrency".[6]

As I said, Barlett treats this scam company and its crooked leader with far too much respect and leniency. Despite Bartlett's vagueness over Ignatova's intentions, it seems pretty clear to even a child that she was planning an exit strategy from the off.

Bartlett calls her a "visionary" and "painfully clever". It is not that Bartlett is not a good journalist because he is but from a social standpoint, he is very soft on these capitalist parasites. The way he treats Ignatova is similar to the glorification of wild west criminals and killers like Jesse James and John Wesley Harding.[7]

The book does have its moments. Bartlett described one jamboree when Ignatova came on stage to the sound of Alicia Keys anthem "Girl on Fire". Whose lyrics talk about "living in a world … on fire, / filled with catastrophe — but she knows she can fly away". Also, the numerous trips to the plastic surgeon were a bit of a giveaway. In her own words, she would 'Take the money and run, and let someone else take the blame.'

While the book is not without merit, it has some serious structural weaknesses. Its primary one being there is no analysis. Bartlett's attitude towards the origins of Cryptocurrency or Blockchain leaves a lot to be desired. The origins of Cryptocurrency are worth a few volumes. In the book, Bartlett downplays the significance of the founder of the Blockchain, Satoshi Nakamoto, and he treats him as a shady character. The fact that Bartlett fails to mention that the founding of the Blockchain and then Cryptocurrency was preceded by an extremely complex academic paper. Nakamoto's paper is not mentioned in the book, and nothing from academia is mentioned.

It is worth quoting at length from Satoshi Nakamoto's paper. He writes, "commerce on the Internet has come to rely almost exclusively on financial institutions serving as trusted third parties to process electronic payments. While the system works well enough for most transactions, it still suffers from the inherent weaknesses of the trust-based model. Completely nonreversible transactions are impossible since financial institutions cannot avoid mediating disputes. The cost of mediation increases transaction costs, limiting the minimum practical transaction size and cutting off the possibility for small casual transactions, and there is a broader cost in the loss of ability to make nonreversible payments for nonreversible services. With the possibility of reversal, the need for trust spreads. Merchants must be wary of their customers, hassling them for more information than they would need. A certain percentage of fraud is accepted as unavoidable. These costs and payment uncertainties can be avoided in person by using physical currency, but no mechanism exists to make payments over a communications channel without a trusted party.

What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party. Transactions that are computationally impractical to reverse would protect sellers from fraud, and routine escrow mechanisms could easily be implemented to protect buyers. In this paper, we propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer distributed timestamp server to generate computational proof of the chronological order of transactions. The system is secure as long as honest nodes collectively control more CPU power than any cooperating group of attacker nodes.[8]"

It should be noted that Nakamoto'does not bear responsibility for the current crypto turbulence, which is causing the collapse and bankruptcy of many Cryptocurrency companies. As Nick Beam points out, it is "an indication of a much broader deepening crisis of the financial system as the massive inflow of trillions of dollars from the Fed and other central banks over the past decade has promoted new and ever more arcane forms of speculation and in the Case of OneCoin outright swindling and criminality. Numerous reports from financial media have tied the wild, uncontrolled printing of money to the massive growth of Cryptocurrency.[9][10]

According to one report from the International Monetary Fund(IMF)," the total market capitalisation of crypto assets has increased exponentially from less than $20 billion in January 2017 to more than $3 trillion in November 2021. Much of this increase has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic as trade in crypto assets has accelerated, leading to a twentyfold increase in the market capitalisation of crypto assets between March 2020 and November 2021."[11]

Therefore it is no accident that figures like Ignatova have taken advantage of this phenomenon for their enrichment. She may be the first and biggest, but she will not be the last. The academic economist Robert Reich, the labour secretary in the first Clinton administration, called the crypto markets nothing more than Ponzi schemes saying, "There are no standards for risk management or capital reserves, and there are no transparency requirements. Investors often do not know how their money is being handled. Deposits are not insured. We are back to the wild west finances of the 1920s." Gary Gensler, Securities and Exchange Commission chief, said of crypto investments that they are "rife with fraud, scams and abuse."

The fraud and scams within  Cryptocurrency have, of course, had their counterparts in the so-called real capitalist economy. Despite the promoters of  Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies saying they represent the future of finance, again, as the Marxist writer Nick Beams points out, "this wealth is not the outcome of an increase in productive activity, signifying the underlying health of the real economy, but rather is a symptom of its increasingly diseased character. Whatever the virtues and advantages of the blockchain technology, on which Bitcoin is based, in establishing a ledger system in which companies can make rapid transactions and may have wider applications, the cryptocurrency mania is not an expression of efficiencies deriving from this technology. It can only be understood by placing it within a wider context. The past year has seen an orgy of speculation while the global economy has suffered its deepest contraction since the Great Depression, with consequences for years to come as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues out of control. Vast fortunes have been made on financial markets completely disconnected from the underlying real economy.[12]

Unlike Bartlett, Socialists believe that the new technological advances contained in Blockchain could well be developed to organise and plan production in a socialist economy. Under blockchain technology, information on available resources and needs in different areas could be gathered in ledgers and then used to organise production globally rationally. Despite having a "nicely mixed character of prophet and swindler."



Karl Marx, Capital Volume  (Penguin Books, 1991)

Crypto, Corruption, and Capital Controls: Cross Country Correlations-IMF-Marwa Alnasaa, Nikolay Gueorguiev, Jiro Honda, Eslem Imamoglu, Paolo Mauro, Keyra Primus, and Dmitriy Rozhkov -WP/22/60

Cryptic Connections: Spillovers between Crypto and Equity Markets-Tara Iye-IMF

Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System Satoshi Nakamoto 



[1] Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds







[8] Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System Satoshi Nakamoto


[10] See Crypto, Corruption, and Capital Controls: Cross Country Correlations-IMF-Marwa Alnasaa, Nikolay Gueorguiev, Jiro Honda, Eslem

Imamoglu, Paolo Mauro, Keyra Primus, and Dmitriy Rozhkov


[11] Cryptic Connections: Spillovers between Crypto and Equity Markets-Tara Iye


Sunday, 17 July 2022

Shirk, Mark. 2022. Making War on the World. How Transnational Violence Reshapes Global Order. Columbia University Press, New York. pp. 256

For Mark Shirk, "the idea that the state is receding in the face of globalization or that it is no longer as important as it once was is a straw man." (p. 147) For him, the Westphalian state has undergone several transformations, and the current global capital attack on the state is but a convoluted way of registering transformation. In short, Shirk finds that the state endures. Only that one's understanding of it has to be broadened and démodé conceptions abandoned.

The gist of the book is that state and anti-state actors or structures reinforce each other, all for the benefit of the former. The latter could be early eighteenth-century pirates, late-nineteenth-century anarchists, or early twenty-first-century jihadists. In each example, Shirk takes, the state's initial response is largely inadequate. Eventually, the state learns its lesson through dynamics, which he calls: shattering and reinscribing. In exhausting its resources, the state causes some dysfunctionalities, but it gradually harnesses the courage to defeat the challenge. But the state neutralizes threats once ingrained habits, those thought useful for bypassing the threat are challenged. Only new and transboundary practices reinvigorate the state to the point that the state itself is transformed, almost beyond recognition, particularly for observers reared on entrenched practices. With each violent crisis, Shirk illustrates three he deems pivotal. It is not exactly the concept of the state but rather an outmoded understanding of its nature and role, which must be left behind. In the end, "boundaries have always been shattered and reinscribed; change is constant and the state [emerges] as a project, a process." (p. 146)

In "Change and Continuity in Political Order", the definition of state actors has to accommodate what we currently call the private sector since the latter operates in a state ecosystem. Because threats are transboundary, like with three examples treated in the issuing three chapters, old theories (such as geographical sovereignty and state competitions) are bypassed in understanding the evolution of the concept of statehood in practice. In conclusion, we read that borders are fluid (defined by surveillance, not by exclusion), and sovereignty is almost ontological. It comes irrespective of territory or citizens' acquiescence.

In "The Golden Age of Piracy and the Creation of an Atlantic World", readers find that from 1710 to 1730, piracy around the Caribbean Islands and the costs of what is today the United States constituted a major threat to the mercantile economy and the chances of European emerging capitalisms for expansions. Only by relocating judicial power to the periphery (the colonies) piracy was finally extinguished, and commerce resumed. Britain (not France or Holland) emerged as the biggest winner, less through design and more by accident.

In "'Propaganda of the Deed,' Surveillance and the Labor Movement", we read that by the end of the nineteenth century, radical socialists or anarchists called for a stateless order. Their means to achieve such an objective is the assassination of monarchs, heads of state, and lesser state representatives. States' repressions followed, but efforts to quell anarchism only succeeded when state legislators introduced the welfare state and the eight-hour working day. The state funnelled the anarchists' energy into labour movements. 

In "Al-Qaeda, the War on Terror, and the Boundaries of the Twenty-First Century", Shirk observes that following 9/11, the policies the U.S. took, such as the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, did not pay off. Such responses were more expressive of anxiety and confusion than judicious countermeasures. In the following decade, targeted killing by drones and data surveillance succeeded in illuminating terrorists' threats. Data surveillance, in particular, has irrecoverably transformed the state in the sense that liberal democracy that guarantees the individual's (citizen and alien) privacy is fundamentally challenged.

One cannot agree more with Shirk's proposal. Topping the three illustrative scenarios lies perhaps marron communities and Marronage as an anti-state institution. Those slave escapees who established independent communities at the top of mountains and other inaccessible localities and challenged empires could only be destroyed once the technology became available. But what dictates the transformation of the state is that situation where capital takes over from the state because it no longer needs a state, at least the one that is paternalistically understood.

Leaving the issue of the teleological unfolding of the process of state transformation to others, I choose to dwell on the book's approach. The practice theory unveils itself as anti-historical. Instead of universal principles, we read that "…it is situations that determine the meaning and outcome of the event." (p. 139) Even when deploying three historical situations, Shirk's proposition cancels historical destiny, that is, people's aspiration for freedom from state orders, the way the pirates, the anarchists, or jihadists dreamed of. So why deny that history has a sense, a universal principle called emancipation? Shirk's argument can be confused as the trust that there is neither right nor wrong outside space and time, but it is not. For him, that which is working (not that which works) has to be right is an ideological imposition, seeking to eradicate the subaltern's (the wretched of the world) resolve to challenge the state because the latter is presumed to be too invincible and as such cannot be successfully challenged.

Fouad Mami

Université d’Adrar (Algeria)



Monday, 11 July 2022

Bessinger, Mark. R. (2022) The Revolutionary City: Urbanisation and the Global Transformation of Rebellion. Princeton University Press: Princeton and Oxford.

Mark Beissinger is a political scientist from Princeton. His latest book, The Revolutionary City, surveys revolutions from 1904 to 2014. He finds that within this time framework, revolutions started in the middle of the nineteenth century in cities. Think of 1848 waves against several European monarchies, and perhaps the most famous of all—the Paris Commune 1871. Revolutions have been ruralised, given the state’s capacity for lethally coercive power. Most of these, Beissinger calls social revolutions: against absolute monarchs or for regaining independence. But by the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries, revolutions have relocated back to cities. True, unlike their antecedents, revolutions are now civic (non-violent), understood as “a mass siege of an established government by its population with the goals of bringing about regime change...” (p. 3) 

The relocation to the city presupposes the proximity of revolutions to the nerve centres of state power, a situation that has impacted—even sometimes dictated—not only the tactics but their scope. Fueled by the power of numbers or the capacity to mobilise huge crowds more than well-defined ideological convictions, urban revolutions are revolutions against corrupt and wasteful elites within the state. This logic of negativity specifies that, unlike social revolutions, urban revolutions are more likely to lead to less enduring achievements and legacies. Because they tend to unfold in relatively shorter stretches: over weeks, when compared with social revolutions, which usually take years, activists have to build consensuses and forge coalitions. The problem with coalitions is how they cause urban revolts to fail even when they succeed in ousting incumbent regimes eventually. It is precisely when they oust their nemeses that urban revolutions become less likely to survive post-revolutionary scenarios (upheavals for which they have inherited: marred living conditions that convinced people to revolt in the first place). Beissinger reminds us that with social revolutions, coalitions and compromises are significantly less common, often unthinkable.

Unlike social revolutions, urban civic revolutions remain, more often than not, unable to bypass the societal cleavages animating urban revolutionaries and activists. Such cleavages translate into an inherent inability to stabilise society and smoothly lead it to meet its aspirations: good services and a functional economy. Urban civic revolutions are at heart geared toward anti-political movements, and they display a deep distrust for political elites and frameworks.

The Revolutionary City has ten chapters, the conclusion included. The statistical method builds on data from across the globe and covers the period between 1904 to 2014 with sensible projections beyond these dates. The text comes peppered with statistical illustrations, charts, and tables; they can be at first intimidating for readers who are unused to quantitative approaches. But lest these readers rush to close The Revolutionary City prematurely, it becomes particularly rewarding to note how numbers and statistics speak the truth and common sense regarding the uses and abuses of revolutions. The razor-sharp distinctions save scholars hailing from Marxist and phenomenological backgrounds from the lyricism regarding what revolutions are and how they propagate. Besides, the text is followed by four major appendixes for those who want to check to further the data from the survey experiment Beissinger conducted. This priceless data may look like heartless commodification of human lives and legitimate aspirations for better lives to the realm of quantifiable at the expense of the qualifiable. Readers again should resist the temptation to disengage from its findings or method because these numbers tellingly underline human experience. The data is similarly available on the author’s website.[1]

The first chapter: ‘A Spatial Theory of Revolution’, underlines how the spatial relocation of revolution leads to the proximity dilemma. What is solved through galvanising large crowds and the power of numbers is lost through the critical need for coalitions. The latter involves ideological dilutions that haunt urban civic revolutionists once they succeed in ousting the contested power in terms of murky performances, precipitating upcoming societal upheavals.

The second chapter, ‘The Growth and Urbanization of Revolution’, specifies an increasing frequency of revolutionary episodes around the world. He finds that the massive shift of people from rural places to cities, the consolidation of states during the Cold War, and the rise of the unipolar world order dictate the rise of urban revolutions.

In the third chapter, ‘The Urban Civic Revolutionary Moment’ Beissinger sets the stage for his probabilistic approach. Instead of presuming causes (falling into biases), he proposes exploring factors that mark urban civic revolutionary episodes. He calls these factors ‘structural conditions.’ Because conditions such as inequality, poverty, and underdevelopment are associated with social revolutions, Beissinger finds that urban civic revolutions do not correlate with such conditions. Structural conditions explain the break between the unfolding of revolutions past and present. Meanwhile, the conditions crystalise the methodological cost when considering contemporary revolutions as a continuum of past ones.

Chapter Four, ‘The Repression-Disruption Trade-off and the Shifting Odds of Success’, stipulates how the chances of revolutionary success have never ceased of augmenting thanks to urbanisation and proximity to power centres. This does not mean that with each revolutionary scenario, the task of unseating regimes is more frequent and predictable than failures.

As outlined in the fifth chapter ‘Revolutionary Contingency and the City’” it is challenging for both incumbent regimes and their contestants to steer the next move and respond to rapidly unfolding updates. Mistakes or missteps from either party become acutely magnified, with direct and often irreversible consequences. This is the impact of what Beissinger brilliantly underlines as ‘thickened history.’ Mistakes, even outright blunders, used to be contained and remediable with social revolutions, which is never the case with urban revolutions.

The sixth chapter, ‘Public Space and Urban Revolution’, reiterates the far-reaching impacts of the unfolding of revolutionary work in cities and capitals. Cities like Paris were initially rebuilt to facilitate the quelling of revolts and popular movements. Beissinger, in this chapter, finds that the physical location and the symbolic value in the design of cities can be redefined to serve urban revolutions.

Beissinger, in the seventh chapter, ‘The Individual and Collective Action in Urban Civic Revolution,’ finds participants widely diverse. That explains the fundamental disagreements once the contested regimes fall and revolutionaries assume the steering wheels of the state apparatus. Limitations in leading smooth post-revolutionary scenarios underline how, irrespective of massively circulating narratives and “judging from motivations mentioned by participants themselves, these were revolutions not for democracy, but against the corrupt and abusive rule.” (p. 304)

Chapter eight, ‘The Pacification of Revolution’, finds that the data from the past century indicates that even with the ever-increasing number of revolutions, revolutionary situations have become significantly less lethal. Urbanisation ranks among the top causes of the decline of lethality. The decline should not lead us to assume that seating powers have grown ethical. Rather, regimes are mortally worried about the backlash from deploying pacification forces to control unruly or seditious crowds. 

‘The Evolving Impact of Revolution’ or chapter nine, contrasts the achievements of social revolutions against those of urban civic ones. Testable achievements are scaled down to five: political order, economic growth, inequality, political freedom, and government accountability. Orders emerging from urban civic revolutions last less in power than their counterparts from social revolutions. Even when they introduce a substantial increase in political freedom, urban civic revolutions fail to deliver on economic growth or fight inequality. These shortcomings—Beissinger finds—are never the fault of urban revolutions. The latter inherited the state with its embedded networks of corruption and nepotism. 

The last chapter, ‘The City and the Future of Revolution,’ concludes its historical perspectives by predicting that revolutions, as they have substantially changed in style and delivery during the last three centuries, will continue evolving. The internet already displays new mobilisation techniques and counterrevolutionary and surveillance potentials. In a nutshell, there is no end to the possibilities for revolutionary regime change.

Sometimes Beissinger’s designed abstention from qualification as with ‘coupvolution’ defined as “a mass siege of government aimed at regime-change that precipitates a military coup” (p. 29) sacrifices complexity for the smooth unfolding of a theory, for there are situations where revolutions and counterrevolutions are so close to each other and unfold in a confusing attire. Likewise, Beissinger’s approach, built on la coupure or rupture between social revolutions and urban civic revolutions, can be deployed by counterrevolutionaries to rationalise historical discontinuity, that is, to discourage people from looking at historical antecedents to carry out unfinished emancipations. 

These two remarks aside, policymakers and democracy activists will find the book particularly rewarding. Busy readers may limit their engagement to the introduction since Beissinger has squeezed the gist of his book in a nicely accurate synthesis there. Even counterrevolutionaries will benefit from The Revolutionary City. Quite an irony but true! Indeed, the quantitative method convincingly explains why certain post-revolutionary situations such as Tunisia, Egypt, or Libya are stuck in loopholes. Beissinger’s method leaves no space for self-flagellation (a path taken by several activists and pseudo-historians). Again, the method enables readers to register that every eventuality subscribes to the Hegelian logic of necessity where all that exists could not have existed. The Syrian nightmare remains the exception that proves Beissinger’s case: the more time it takes to defeat the incumbent and the bloodiest the struggle, the more enduring will be the fruits for the proletariat.


[1] Please check it at:


Fouad Mami

Université d’Adrar (Algeria)