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In conversation with Aymeric Monville (2006)

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Aymeric Monville - Who do you address when you write?

Michel Clouscard - I address the worker-employee couple, who form the majority, whatever the media say. The double worker-employee position, the people who earn the minimum wage, that's where the history of France is; that's where the seriousness is.

This couple (male worker, female employee) cannot be permissive. It makes a virtue of necessity. In the couple, each brings his own salary. This is the basis of the provisional morality: making ends meet. Before, there was a working class culture that was held in the working class city. Today it's the double shift. Here we find something that resists the permissive.

Aymeric Monville - With this worker-employee couple, we immediately come to your updating of the class struggle, with the figure of the collective worker. Could you explain to the readers what this "collective worker" is?

Michel Clouscard - The collective worker is the alliance of manual and intellectual labour. By collective worker, I mean workers, employees and ITCs (engineers, technicians and managers). The latter are also producers.

They are placed in the same organic unit.

It has been said that the ITCs are not in the working class, trying to reduce the figure of the producer to the man holding a jackhammer. We must put an end to this miserabilism.

The ITCs with us!

Aymeric Monville - That's why you interpreted the strikes of 1995 as the first demand of the collective worker: a demonstration by producers in general against the exploiters and parasites who don't produce.

Michel Clouscard - Exactly. This social movement started from the base, that of work, of the nation. In this sense, it is the anti-May 68, a Parisian, student, libertarian, cultural, leftist movement ("rectified" by the June of Workers).

The social movement of '95 is a gathering, constituted and directed by the managerial intelligence of work, the pre-consciousness of the collective worker.

Aymeric Monville - This is rather encouraging, isn't it?

Michel Clouscard - Yes, there was a reconciliation of intellectual and manual work, a union of producers. When we realise that the system is only held together by them, we can expect gigantic upheavals. For the first time in history, the conditions for the revolution of labour by labour, of the management of labour by the workers, of the revolution of the mode of production by the mode of production (i.e. of the means of production by the productive forces), are met.

I wonder why everyone despairs. It's in place!

Aymeric Monville - You say in your latest book that you no longer see the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat. Why is that?

Michel Clouscard - This dictatorship is a concentration and confusion of powers. It's a question of identifying the CP apparatus with the state apparatus, and then proclaiming it a state under the rule of law: the U.S.S.R. From this confusion, an enormous political power can be born, but it will combine two perverse effects. On the one hand, it provokes a progressive splitting of class consciousness (party, state apparatus) and (sociological) class reality. This estrangement even leads to a rupture. On the other hand, this power certainly blocks any development of civil society (of the market of desire). But in this way, it represses it in the collective unconscious, that of the (class) reality which has just lost its class consciousness. Thus, this society has cut itself off more and more from the power that represented it to become more and more available to a nearby "consumer society".

Before, in the context of traditional society, revolutionary political philosophy could only be achieved through the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the new, post-industrial society, the revolutionary political philosophy - to be conceptualised - is that of democratic and co-management socialism.

Aymeric Monville - Moreover, you propose the creation of a parliament of the collective worker, serving as an end and a means to this project of co-management.

Michel Clouscard - Yes, we must demand a constitutional re-foundation. There is a bourgeois parliament at present, why not create a workers' parliament? Since there is a mix of men and women, why shouldn't there be a mix of the owner of the productive forces and the workers? The workers and employees being in the majority, the eternal revolutionary problem would arise: vote by head or vote by order? Voting by head, there would be 51% or 53% of the working class or employees and voting by order there would be a redistribution, which would give a large share to the top executives, the animators and the management. Can you see the logic behind this? This was at the origin of the French Revolution. It could be at the origin of the new revolutionary problem. If everyone, from one day to the next, demanded a parliament of the collective worker, there would already be enormous gains at the level of associations and unions, there would be a whole support system for this collective worker. There would be a whole problematic, a parliamentary renewal, which would solve the problems of the presidential regime and the parliamentary regime. This would be a ruse of reason. You can't arrive by saying "the class struggle", you have to say: "Let's update the social organisation". We have parliaments, a senate. Very well, we keep it, but we add a third parliament. This constitutionally renewed parliamentary system would only affect the legislative. The problem of the executive would remain, but the laws would be decided by the parliament of the collective worker. The demand is modest, but one can only win by playing on the opponent's field; the rest is platonic.

Aymeric Monville - What do you think of the crisis in the PCF?

Michel Clouscard - We have to change our strategy and our philosophy. We should no longer ape the SP and the third way. We have to be the maintainer, to propose the serious. That's what people expect. When I saw them having a fiesta at the Central Committee (Prada and others), I found it ridiculous. Communism means taking on the world's misfortune, and without pathos. We're not here for conviviality. For that, there's Jack Lang. What we need is to rediscover praxis. We must remake a world where "action would be the sister of dreams", to quote Baudelaire. Prometheus and Psyche must be combined. The opponents of Marxism have got their hands on the psyche; we must take it back from them.

Aymeric Monville - You are known for your definition of neo-fascism. Can you explain to us this mutation of fascism today?

Michel Clouscard - Before, we had a class versus class confrontation that came down to the bourgeoisie/working class duality. Since then, capitalism has created a second front, that of the third way, with the supremacy of the new middle classes, of the market of desire. These new middle strata, long embryonic, have become hegemonic. Today, we have a new divide: production/consumption.

Aymeric Monville - How are these populisms expressed?

Michel Clouscard - There are variations according to historical specificities. First, there is poujadism, the populism of shopkeepers who want to fight against the multinationals of mass production. It's the claim of the non-producer, of the small parasitic trade (profit without production). It's important to understand that Poujade didn't care if Hitler was in power. He was just fighting for privileges.

The second populism is that of the end of the colonial empire, of the OAS, of the little white people; it expresses nostalgia for the parasitic consumption inherent in colonialism, the loss of the white man's power of enjoyment. Then we have the third populism: student populism. It comes right after the second, when there is no more Empire, when the demographic and cultural surpluses accumulate in Saint Germain.

The student is the very principle of mediation. The problem of the student is not to be a worker, not to fall into pauperization. It is through them that the middle classes develop, with new categories of expression given to them, such as sociology, psychology, ethnology, and the human sciences, which make up the professions of the tertiary and quaternary sectors. A new social body is then constituted, on which a new mode of production can be founded.

Student populism marks the transition from the economy of scarcity to the consumer society, access to a potential of enjoyment.

Aymeric Monville - With failures all the same.

Michel Clouscard - The problem then is when "everything is allowed" becomes "nothing is possible". There will be both the promulgation of a new desire and, at the same time, the impossibility revealed by the crisis of the fulfilment of this desire.

Aymeric Monville - What makes us end up with Le Pen?

Michel Clouscard - That's it. The current populism, that of Le Pen, is nothing other than the collection of those disappointed by the liberation of desires. A promise was made, which turns out to be impossible to fulfil. What a trauma! The promised enjoyment is confiscated. So Le Pen picks up the disappointed of the consumer society. Le Pen is the synthesis of daddy's fascism and post-liberation populism, of the traditional bourgeoisie challenged by the crisis, and of the new bourgeoisie of the disappointed. Cohn-Bendit's disappointed form Le Pen's clientele.

Aymeric Monville - We've talked about the failures of this student populism. We must also note the successes.

Michel Clouscard - A distinction must be made. We have to talk about the parvenus, those who have been recycled. Some people have benefited from the ideology of desire of May 68, that's obvious.

Aymeric Monville - How can we fight against these populisms? You come to a defence of the nation-state, even if defending the state is a bit paradoxical for a Marxist, isn't it?

Michel Clouscard - The state has been the superstructural instance of capitalist repression. That's why Marx denounced it. But today, with globalisation, the reversal is total. Whereas the nation state may have been the means of oppression of one class by another, it becomes the means of resisting globalisation. It's a dialectical game.

Aymeric Monville - So you leave aside Engels' theses on the decline of the state or what Lenin says in The State and the Revolution?

Michel Clouscard - All that is doctrinal and must be updated. What is true is that the nation-state made capitalism possible. But today it is a means of resisting it.

There will always be a state apparatus, a highway code. The nation-state is something other than the political state. It is the means of creating a system of kinship and a mode of production. The state is a conquest in Hegelian terms, the apparatus for the realisation of the spirit.

Creon or Antigone? I'll put them back to back. Neither the Stalinist Creon, nor the leftist-fascist Antigone. Neither the formal, brutal state, à la Plato, nor Antigone's Penates with mothers who pamper and manufacture children delivered to consumerism.

I refer to the myth of Tristan and Isolde.

Aymeric Monville - This brings us to your "Traité de l'amour fou". The book had a tragic fate (the publisher went bankrupt at the time of its release). It is therefore difficult to find. Can you give us a brief summary?

Michel Clouscard - The treatise is more important than the amour fou. It is a discourse on the method of dealing with the ineffable. It goes against the cultural consensus - of romance and romanticism - and the consensus of social libertarian liberalism. There is no irreducible antagonism between mad love and the reason of state - in such a way that, at the end of the day, love would be the fight between the institutional, the orderly, the rational - but on the contrary, the reciprocal engendering of politics and sentiment. Tristan and Isolde, pillars of the nation state! In dialectical terms: unity of opposites.

I also reject the one-dimensional man of the Oedipus and the anti-Oedipus. It is Freud who chains Prometheus. I oppose this reductionism with the Oedipus of praxis. The desire of libertarian liberalism has become the desire of the market (of the dice), the act of the phantasmatic.

We must remember the elementary sharing that the myth proclaims. Love visits Aphrodite by day and spends the night with Psyche.

Sharing of flesh and soul: structure.

Libertarian liberalism flouts what makes human consciousness, its intimate debate, its freedom. Transgressive consumption has erased the Psyche.

I propose conjugality and the Psyche as a progressive refoundation.

These are man's two loves, his tearing apart, the double pursuit of the Eternal Feminine.

It is a question of reconciling the myth of Tristan and Isolde with the worker-employee household. The latter is the basic unit of citizenship.

How can we practice this civic practice and the superego of the feudal myth?

Aymeric Monville - Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

Michel Clouscard - I am finishing my life's work: philosophy of praxis and social ontology. It's the dialectical and historical relationship between Being (Greek philosophy), subjectivity (Christianity) and praxis (socialism). How did phylogenesis and ontogenesis come to this statement? And how can it come to a secular spirituality?

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