Silence over Gaza

by Bernard Lyon / Alain

Introduction by Julien Guazzini: “Silence over Gaza” was written in 2009 by Alain (AKA Bernard Lyon), a long-time member of the ultraleft group/journal Théorie communiste and, by then, a memorable fixture of the communization milieu. He was known for being vocal, be it among friends, comrades, formal meetings, or online—certainly not one to remain silent. That’s probably why he felt quite surprised and discomfited when the same milieu, always prone to heated arguments and passionate rhetorical jousting, found itself at a loss for words in 2009. In his peculiar and idiosyncratic way, he then addressed at once political concerns—what is there to say—mingled with anguished questions—is it possible to speak in the face of atrocity?

He might have particular reasons to feel concerned about the war waged on Palestinian people by the Israeli army: his Jewish background and his Marxist passions had led him to join a kibbutz in 1966, only to decamp and return to France after a few months: Disillusioned about this “socialist experiment,” he came to experience as quotidian drudgery—all work and no play... Yet he would never foreground this politically and personally distant experience in conversations, around Middle East questions or others. As he once quipped, his paradoxical identity was to be deemed Jewish by antisemites but not by the local rabbi; in that he was and will not be alone.

Alain, with his burning tongue for communism, his championing of communization theses, and his unsurpassed skill for provocation, was a source of inspiration and hope that the palabre1 would prevail in a post-capitalist world. His nonpareil voice joined our materialist heavens in 2022.

There’s been a lot of talk about Obama's election, about the riots [of December 2008] in Greece, yet not a word has been said about the war in Gaza – why?

Is it because it’s none of our concern? Because it's irrelevant “from the point of view of the revolution”? It could be said, but I think that's quite obviously not true; we’re upset by the scale of this new war in Palestine, or perhaps worse – frightened.

We’re worried by this late war because proletarians in Gaza are being slaughtered with no escape from the snare they are caught in. Their only “choice” is to die under Israeli bombs or in combat alongside Hamas; they can't even desert the battlefield, they're prisoners in a range of fire. They can't revolt against their own side that is holding them hostage. It's an absolute tragedy, there's nothing to hope for, Obama blames Bush, and only our national clown [the president] takes advantage of the situation to put on his pathetic show.

This horror is terrifying because we sense here something that could spread across the globe with the disaster crisis of capital (to come): capitalist fractions of all stripes, state or otherwise, could well go at each other without any kind of communist escape route in sight.

Note that this is not an analysis; everything I believe leads me to think this catastrophe as impossible, in denial of the class contradiction, that Gaza is in no way symptomatic of the situation in the rest of the world. And yet, in its specific character of ghetto for surplus proletarians, Gaza is also paradigmatic of the restructuring of capital as mise en abîme2, and that's why we basically avoid thinking about it and look away, because we'd see an unthinkable horizon.

B. Lyon, January 2009.

Translated by Otto Mattick and Julien Guazzini