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Against the Political Stasis, or the Story of a Fall

16 March 2022

Against the Political Stasis, or the Story of a Fall
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Untitled, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Source: Wikiart

Over one year has passed since the January 6 incident, the attack on the US Capitol. This article argues that the coup on January 6, though replete with right wing pageantry, and a fair share of ineptitude, was no mere spectacle however, but indeed a substantial threat to the already fragile moorings of American democracy. The text argues against reading of the January 6 uprising as a kind of ideological awakening and believes the attack on the US Capitol is a non-event that can only be caused by some kind of ideological and political predisposition. As writers assert, a democracy of the world will be the gathering of all the people of the world, without exception, in such a way that it comes over the present stasis.




Over one year has passed since the January 6 incident, the attack on the US Capitol. During this year, various interpretations of this attack have been presented. One could argue that the struggle to interpret that which led to this ‘incident’ can perhaps be considered the struggle to understand contemporary political reality of America. Despite all the various readings of this event so far, a number of important and fundamental questions remain: how are we to interpret this interruption? Can this event be seen as the opposition of a part of those who have no part?

There’s an often blasé attitude percolating on what is called ‘the left’ about January 6, present in America at least, which alleges that the attempted coup was merely a failed insurrection, a sort of political comedy of errors, suggesting that the events themselves are proof that a fringe group of cultists under the Trump banner are indeed too incompetent to represent a real political danger — this perspective is sorely mistaken. It is possible that the theatrics of Trump and his supporters over the last half-decade have become so normalized as to appear as a natural part of political life in America, and therefore it is not preposterous anymore to claim that the events of January 6 mark less an interruption and more a continuation of the same. The coup on January 6, though replete with right wing pageantry, and a fair share of ineptitude, was no mere spectacle however, but indeed a substantial threat to the already fragile moorings of American democracy. The threat of right wing populist violence of this kind is still very real.

The persistence of the threat

Indeed, downplaying January 6 is a dangerous move. However, it is also a problem if we simply hyperbolize January 6 as a monolithic “interruption” of contemporary American politics, as though it were a momentary ripple in the fabric of an erstwhile smoothly functioning democracy. Even if Donald Trump is to be considered the catalyst for the rise of the right in America, the struggle, this apparent “ripple” itself, of course, precedes Trump by decades, and will undoubtedly exist long after he is gone as the representative of the Republican far-right.

Another misstep is to claim January 6 represents an uprising that has bubbled up from the economically disenfranchised, the left-behind, impoverished and huddled American masses. Certain figures, such as the economist Richard Wolff, (1) seemed to buy into this narrative, at least initially, as though January 6 was the inevitable counter-reaction to the democratic party turning its back on the working class for the last 40 years, or as though the failure of the Democrats to galvanize voters around a socialist candidate like Bernie Sanders were the main causes of January 6 rather than, perhaps, a smaller tributaries of a larger problematic. It is uncertain if we can rely on this narrative for a variety of reasons. First of all, the statistics that eventually came out about the social composition of the January 6 insurrectionists demonstrated a bourgeois make-up composed of CEOs, business owners, members of the professional managerial class, doctors, lawyers, accountants — not to mention some celebrities, actors, musicians, etc. — and not some kind of “proletarian” or “lumpen” mass-mobilization of low or working-class interests against the federal government. We must be specific here: this coup was composed of a majority white, business-class demographic, and not some kind of poor or “laborist” sector of working class society.

The racial composition of the insurrection

Here, perhaps, one can use the film Winter Sleep, the irreplaceable masterpiece of the Turkish director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan. To summarize the plot, the film takes place in the mountainous region of Cappadocia in central Turkey, where Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a former columnist and actor, runs a small hotel called Othello with his much younger wife, Nahal (Melissa Sözen), and his sister Najla. A poor tenant family who has recently been threatened with eviction also lives in Aydin's property. Aydin's Jeep more or less crashes after one of the tenants' little boys throws a stone at it, triggering a chain of events that have tragic consequences for both families. The story examines the significant divide between the rich and the poor as well as the powerful and the powerless in Turkey. Contrary to popular and liberal readings, the final message of the film is not about moral questions and the need for empathy in the current unequal world. The main point of Bilge Ceylan's masterpiece is that all the characters in this film are in a kind of constant slumber: from Aydin and the articles he writes for local magazines to Nahal, Aydin's young wife, who is involved in charitable activities, to the common people and their meaningless beliefs. All the characters in this film are involved in some kind of pseudo-activism, the urge to “be active”, to “participate”, to mask the Nothingness of what goes on. Therefore, the final message of this film is not that, despite all the problems, we are all ultimately seeking perfection, and the best thing to do is to accept the human condition as it is. As a matter of fact, Winter Sleep is a portrait of how all classes, from the poor to the rich, from the intellectuals to the common people, do whatever it takes to not think about the Object-Cause of their desires and keep dreaming in their drowse. As Freud points out, in his analysis of the paranoiac judge Daniel Paul Schreber, the paranoiac "system" is not madness, but a desperate attempt to escape madness – the disintegration of the symbolic universe – through an ersatz universe of meaning. (2)

Nihal (Melisa Sözen) and Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) in a scene of Winter Sleep by Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Image Credit: dpa/hk

As Gerald Horne observed, the January 6 coup was a tactic of the 1 percent whose Euro-American, i.e. white supremacist, “foot soldiers,” as he called them last year, marched en masse in Washington, D.C. and tried to seize the Capitol in order to derail the democratic transfer of power. (3) There really is no mystery as to the economic interests behind January 6. Therefore, any attempt to link the events of January 6 to the onslaught of the underprivileged who have not found a proper way to vent their discontent is essentially going nowhere. The main problem with the attackers on the Capitol building was that in the end they all worked hard to avoid waking up from their hibernation. As Slavoj Žižek elaborates, radical pessimism is perhaps “the first step towards really opening up the space to change something is to admit the extent to which there is no easy way out, nothing can be simply changed” (4) since, often, the worst way to become the prisoner of a system is to have a dream that things may turn better, there is always the possibility of change. In other words, it is precisely this secret dream that keeps you enslaved to the system. (5)

Therefore, we should not be deceived by the usual readings in any way and see the January 6 uprising as a kind of ideological awakening. Of course, there is no doubt that there is a kind of awakening here, but what kind? The subject does not awake himself when the external irritation becomes too strong; the logic of this awakening is quite different. First we construct a dream, a story which enables us to prolong our sleep, to avoid awakening into reality. But the thing we encounter in the dream is more terrifying than so-called external reality itself, and that is why we awake: to escape the Real of our desire, which announces itself in the terrifying dream. (6) In his Conflict of the Faculties, (7) Kant conceded that actual history is confused and allows for no clear proof. For Kant, the important thing in the French Revolution was the enthusiasm that the events in France gave rise to in the hearts of sympathetic observers all around Europe and even across the world. In the case of the January 6 attacks, this logic must be reversed. Just the opposite of Kant's reading, the so-called uprising in the streets of Washington and the attack on the US Capitol is a non-event that can only be caused by some kind of ideological and political predisposition.

Gerald Horne analyzes this phenomenon on these specific terms: a class-conscious whiteness organizing around the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, (8) an explicitly white supremacist narrative supported and perpetuated by Trump and his propaganda arm, Fox News, Alex Jones, etc. To be sure, this coup not only harbored the familiar “south shall rise again” “lost-cause” supporters — confederate flags, nooses, etc. demonstrate this — but as well a general white, libertarian “don’t tread on me” ethos suffusing the symbolism and rhetoric employed by the insurrectionists. Tracing this ideological front back through the white supremacist political lineage in this country, as Horne does, is absolutely necessary to understand January 6. The events of that day were a continuation of the white supremacist violence we witnessed in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Unite the Right Rally, for instance. It was the continuation of pro-Trump neo-Nazi organizing, and white militia groups like the Boogaloo Bois, and the so-called Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and Oath Keepers.

So, to be clear, the events of January 6 are indeed intimately entangled with the contemporary political struggle in America, which constantly faces white supremacist violence, from the state, from militia groups, etc., and which is directed against those who are already marginalized by economic and repressive violence. The real conundrum about events such as the attack on the US Capitol is the ideological nature of their claims of government manipulation. It is not a question of whether their claim is true or not. The true question is why in order to sustain their political view, they need this form of skepticism. The same logic applies to the ideological whole of vaccination opponents and Coronavirus skeptics. It is not a question of whether their argument against vaccination is correct. The main point is how the ideological nature of ideas such as the "state of exception" requires this kind of skepticism to survive.

The misleading symptoms and the misdiagnosis

One common reaction to the events of January 6 in the United States (or similar examples around the world) is to emphasize the importance of maintaining unity. The question remains, however: where did Trump and his followers come from? One can argue that his rise not signal a deep crack in that very unity. This “unity” (the password to today's apolitical world) can be seen as an attempt to ignore the importance of the emancipatory forces that can be an alternative to the false duality that politics is plagued with these days. Unity should always be translated as “unity for who?” In the American context, the democratic party, the typical political “unity front” in this country, absolutely abuses the term from the standpoint of disavowal: unity is a party-line term, designed to consolidate neoliberal economic policy, and to stabilize an overall failed multicultural, “melting-pot” ideology, through which class stratification is inevitably reproduced.

Here we should take a lesson in the misleading notion of “unity” in thought. In The Muses, Jean-Luc Nancy uses a passage from Deleuze’s book on Francis Bacon to explain the relation between the plurality of sensations while taking a distance from Deleuze. The passage from Deleuze reads: “Between a color, a taste, a touch, a smell, a sound, a weight … there would be an existential communication that constitutes the ‘pathic’ (nonrepresentative) moment of sensation. … [T]he sensation of any particular domain ... is directly plugged into a vital power that exceeds all domains and traverses them.” (9) And Nancy adds: “it must only be noted that the ‘originary unity of the senses’ that is invoked here proves to be nothing but the singular unity of a ‘between’ of the various domains of sensation and that the existential communication happens only in the element of the ‘outside-of-itself’ [hors-de-soi], of an exposition of existence.” (10) Here Nancy emphasizes on the discretion of sensations, on the exteriority in which they stand with regards to one another and on the unbridgeable limit between them that is the place of their “communication.” Unity, then, is essentially nothing more than a charlatan to advance totalitarian policies, to implement the universal, the totalizing integral reality.

The notion “democracy of the world”, conceptualized by Shaj Mohan shows something similar from the terrain of politics itself. First, Mohan distinguishes “world democracy” from “democracy of the world” because the former will be founded on the concept of “identity” or “unity” in the model of world government. As Mohan elaborated, “the political arrangement which makes a ‘hegemon’ possible is also liable to stasis; stasis is when several groups in a political arrangement strive to be the ‘hegemons’ and as a result the very arrangement gets criticalised…” (11) Therefore we should understand that in any political conversation, if someone stresses “unity”, it is the identity and interest of a particular group that they seek to impose as the very meaning of the unity of the multiplicity. In other words, according to Mohan, in principle a democracy of the world will be the gathering of all the people of the world, without exception, in such a way that it comes over the present stasis.

Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) in a scene of Winter Sleep by Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Image Credit: dpa/hk

The alliances of the right

Today, however, we are also witnessing a rather strange manifestation of another kind of oppositional unity. We already mentioned the Proud Boys, who, for instance, have recently forged a libertarian alliance with Black Hammer, a black anti-colonial organization. (12) We might expect such seemingly inexplicable unities to proliferate and even metastasize in the wake of the Trumpian moment, confused as the battle lines have now become in the chaos sown by the ideology of authoritarian populism.

“Unity,” whether left or right, can also function as a “move to innocence,” as some scholars (13) have termed it; a kind of alibi for American whiteness which has its forgotten roots in settler colonialism. As Horne has already made clear, (14) settler colonialism is too often neglected or perhaps even foreclosed from the lexicon of the white left. We should absolutely take seriously the settler colonial legacy as one of the historical causes of the Trump phenomenon, but also the liberal wing of American politics. (15) We cannot overlook the white supremacist roots of settler colonialism and its contemporary political manifestations in state militia groups, as well as in militarized police forces, mass incarceration, the continued seizure and ecological devastation of indigenous lands, the fossil fuel industry, “fossil fascism” as Andreas Malm has described, and other phenomenon of modernity too numerous to count. (16)

These and other features have not coincidentally become the most predominant factors of modern American capitalism, employed both domestically and internationally, but they also account for much of the white supremacist lineage out of which the policies and rhetorics employed and endorsed by Trump and his supporters came into being. The confluence of these currents, and others, can be thought of as the economic, social, and cultural substrate out of which the Trump phenomenon emerged, and this phenomenon has similar features echoing the rise of other right wing figureheads and movements globally.

Indeed, it’s not a stretch to describe a global right wing authoritarian unity, connected from Trump to Bolsonaro, to Orban, and others. Trump’s fingerprints, as Agon Hamza wrote about last year, (17) can even be detected in Kosovo, and the coup to overthrow Albin Kurti’s Movement for Self-Determination in favor of a far-right party. This coup was a kind of Trojan horse on the part of Trump, insofar as he smuggled his own political prospects under the guise of a “peace deal” allegedly attempting to forge a less than cursory “unity” between Serbia and Kosovo (there was even a pitiful attempt to name a lake after Trump between territories). Such unified fronts are being forged on the right globally.

By contrast, Trump’s domestic coup is more like a Trojan horse without the horse; his “stop the steal” campaign is rather ironic in this regard, as he and his Republican supporters are quite openly the ones executing the steal! And they aren’t finished just because January 6 has passed by. They are planning a long coup, with Republican members of Congress and House of Representatives providing ideological support, and right wing judges supplying the legal struts. As Jason Stanley recently observed, (18) America is in its fascist legal phase, which includes packing federal courts, voter suppression laws, the erosion of Roe v. Wade, etc.

If we speak of unity, thus, we should be willing to speak of the unified almost proto-fascist legal and extra-legal forces that support Trump’s long coup: right wing populist militia groups and de facto vigilantes, sitting members of the House of Representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz out of Florida, and Lauren Boebert out of Colorado, who foment electoral conspiracy, fanaticism over the individual right to bear arms, border panic, and now medical and vaccine hysteria in the wake of pandemic, as well as climate denialism, and so on, and their business class of “foot soldiers” who mobilized in unison and lockstep on January 6. “Unity,” thus, is certainly a distracting and apolitical term unless we direct it toward the real unification campaigns that are emerging globally on the right.

As Slavoj Žižek has elaborated, (19) the typical rhetorical trick to the question of the far-right is in two moves. First, you condemn the far-right — “no place in our developed democracy.” But then you add, “but they are addressing the real worries of the people.” We have to break this vicious circle and aim at the true essence of this phenomenon. Although perhaps there is no “true essence” of the far-right phenomenon, there may indeed be a strictly economic impetus that we can identify, rooted in imperialism, neoliberal policy, foreign investment and divestment strategies, the continued dispossession of the Global South, and so on. We should not only try and diagnose this phenomenon from within our current horizon, but we should also make sure that we don’t forget the lesson of Hegel’s Minerva: we may not know how exactly to diagnose this vicious cycle while we’re still bound up directly within it. In other words, we may only come to know what we’re witnessing after we’ve witnessed it come to an end. Nevertheless, as Rodolphe Gasché explicates, the rampage on Capitol Hill raises the specter of the West burning its relations to tradition in the name of populist fantasies; It is an effort “to spare the West the challenge of self-critically measuring itself up to the exigencies of a mode of speaking respectful of difference or otherness, and of a way of life that reserves a constitutive place for the other.” (20)

The liberal error

What the liberal position generally forgets, of course, is that American liberal democracy, and its own white nationalist and capitalist roots, is the historical progenitor of our current conjuncture, and therefore culpable in the manifestation of the right wing contingent here in America. We should not forget that although George Bush Jr.’s track record in the Middle East was abhorrent, Barack Obama’s drone campaign was far worse; (21) and we are already seeing the (predictable) numbers comparing Trump and Biden’s border policies, (22) and it is looking like Biden’s numbers are rising and are comparable to Trump’s, and in fact Biden has adopted and is even expanding some of Trump’s border policy protocols. So yes, misdiagnosing or simply condemning the rise of the right rhetorically does entrap us in a vicious cycle of sorts, as it takes away from the common political and economic grounds between the left and the right.

The liberal apologists and the conservative “make America great again” propagandists offer thus a twin nostalgia of American exceptionalism. Cracking through this nostalgia, this apology to capitalism and maintenance of liberal democracy, to me sounds most of all like the classical problem of class consciousness — we’re cycling, yes, between an easily identifiable monster, Trump, and his milquetoast counterpart Joe Biden, however neither front offers a true, viable working class program; one might give the populist appearance of doing so (Trump), while the other (Biden) appeals to a platitudinous, vague sense of unity, normalcy, or democratic sanguinity.

The Concert in the Egg, Hieronymus Bosch; Image Credit: Wikiart

How do we achieve a class consciousness through which we can diagnose and ultimately break free of the vicious cycle that you describe? This seems to still be the central plight of the American left, plagued as it is with disorganization and identitarian fragmentation.

We might need to ask a similar question that Yanis Varoufakis confronted several years ago with the Greek debt crisis: should we try and save, or salvage, the European Union and with it European capitalism (which is what Varoufakis ultimately endorsed), or should we try and opportunistically use the crisis to our advantage, let capitalism fall and build something out of its ashes? The American political struggle falls between similar parameters: there has recently been talk of an emergent American civil war — the possibility of which, retired American generals, Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois and Canadian journalists all seem to agree upon. (23) If this is the case, and the crisis of democracy is truly reaching a head, then we must accept what the consequences of such a confrontation might look like without any illusions.

The final question in our time, however, is what to do in the face of events such as the attack on the US Capitol on January 6? What should the left offer in the face of such a wave of far-right alliances?

In most instances what we call the left suffers from what the Mohan called an idyllic a priori. That is, it thinks from the idylls of someone or some select people and then sets up this idyll as the impossible teleology. We must, each and every one of us, at first experience the fact that we are the forsaken by any transcendent ends. As Divya Diwievi elaborated: “Instead, if there is to be a Left—those who are capable of collective imagination—they must also be capable of suffering a collective crisis. Such a left will be able to gather from the present stasis, with the shared experience of forsakenness, to be the community of the forsaken. This community of the forsaken will then be able to raise itself from the present stasis, which is properly anastasis. One is tempted to give outlines of how this could begin, but it must be the work of collective imagination.” (24)



1. See Richard Wolff, “Wolff Responds: DC Rage: More Coming Unless Basic Economic Changes Made,” Jan 7, 2021:

2. See Sigmund Freud, ‘Psychoanalytic notes upon an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia,’ in Three Case Histories, New York: Touchstone, 1996.

3. See Gerald Horne and Paul Jay, “The Global Consequences of Jan. 6 and the Mass Base of Fascism,”, February 7, 2021: and Gerald Horne and Paul Jay, “Racism and a Failed Coup,”, January 10, 2021:

4. See Slavoj Žižek, “An Interview with Slavoj Žižek” The Believer Magazine, July 1st, 2004:

5. See: Slavoj Žižek, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, London: Picador, 2008.

6. Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, London: Verso, 1989, p. 45.

7. Immanuel Kant, ‘The Conflict of Faculties,’ in Kant: Political Writings, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 177.

8. See Gerald Horne and Paul Jay, “The Global Consequences of Jan. 6 and the Mass Base of Fascism,”, February 7, 2021: and Gerald Horne and Paul Jay, “Racism and a Failed Coup,”, January 10, 2021:

9. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Muses, trans. Peggy Kamuf, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993, p.23.

10. Nancy, The Muses, p. 23.

11. See Shaj Mohan, “The Winter of Absolute Zero: Interview with Shaj Mohan”, Critical Legal Thinking (CLT), June 18, 2020:

12. See Cheem Hammer, “Black Hammer Forms Coalition with the Proud Boys: All Your Questions Answered”,, December 14, 2021:

13. See Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization is not a metaphor”, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40

14. See Gerald Horne, “Gerald Horne: Against Left-Wing White Nationalism (Organizing Upgrade), Monthly Review, May 17, 2021:

15. Here, it is important to maintain a caution that not all colonialisms are the same and not all post-colonial situations are the same. As Divya Dwivedi and Shaj Mohan illustrated perfectly, cutting the bonds between post-colonial theory and (post)colonial spaces makes the critical status of this theory questionable; finally, it is post-colonial theory itself that becomes colonialist and oppressive: “postcolonial theories which phantasize about the idols of nativism to remould the matter of societies criticalized by colonialism are repeating fascisms”. See Shaj Mohan and Divya Dwivedi, Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-politics, London: Bloomsbury, 2019, p.217.

16. See Andreas Malm and Wes Stephenson, “What’s Worse Than Climate Catastrophe? Climate Catastrophe Plus Fascism: A conversation with Andreas Malm about his new book, White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism”, The Nation, May 25, 2021:

17. Agon Hamza, “Kosovo is slowly recovering from Trump’s coup: The left-wing party Trump helped remove from power in Kosovo in 2020 may win the February 14 elections“, Al Jazeera, February 14, 2021:

18. See Jason Stanley, "America is now in fascism’s legal phase", Guardian, December 22, 2021:

19. See Slavoj Žižek, “Far Right and Anti-Immigrant Politicians on the Rise in Europe”, Democracy Now!, October 18, 2010:

20. Rodolphe Gasché, Plato and The Stranger: Another Possibility of Democracy, Philosophy-World-Democracy, February 5, 2021:

21. See Glenn Greenwald, “Chomsky on Obama: Bush disappeared and tortured those the US disliked, while the Obama administration simply ‘murders them’,” Salon, May 14, 2012:; Noam Chomsky and Steven Garbas, “Noam Chomsky on the Era of the Drone,”, September 2013,; and “Obama’s covert drone war in numbers: ten times more strikes than Bush,”, January 17, 2017:

22. See Priscilla Alvarez, “Biden administration results in more of the same immigration policies,”, CNN, December 30, 2021:; David Agren, “Remain in Mexico: migrants face deadly peril as Biden restores Trump policy,” Guardian, December 3, 2021:; and Oliver Milman, “Biden administration reinstates Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy,” Guardian, December 2, 2021:

23. See Paul D. Eaton, Antonio M. Taguba and Steven M. Anderson , “Opinion: 3 retired generals: The military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection,” Washington Post, December 17, 2021:, and Stephen Marche, “The Next Civil War,” CBC, January 2, 2022:

24. See Divya Dwivedi, “The proletariat are all those who are denied the collective faculty of imagination: an interview with Divya Dwivedi”, Positions Politics, May 5, 2020:

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