The ExitStateCraft series I’m editing for BAK’s Prospections platform continues with Eva Meyer and Eran Schaerf’s essay “Kahanoff’s Levantinism: The Anachronic Possibilities of a Concept.”
Postscript, March 2:
Paul Street has noted that “the Ukraine Crisis is a good focus for practicing the art of detesting two things at the same time“—i.e. “both supremely dangerous US-led Western imperialism and the less powerful but nonetheless criminal, imperialist, and supremely dangerous Vladimir Putin regime.” This in no way should result in false equivalences or whataboutism; Street rightly lays into the “foolish and false claims emanating from the Russian and Putin-fan side, which creepily includes no small number of “left”-identified and mostly white male Americans writing for and/or posting from media outlets that shamelessly channel Russian talking points for US and Western consumption.” Not just in America: In Germany, the Stalinist rag Junge Welt (which used to be the mouthpiece of the East German Communist party’s sclerotic youth organization, FDJ) memorably decreed that Putin had managed to “enforce peace”… on the day before the invasion.
Just as one can and should reject two (or more) things are the same time, so one should be able to keep different temporal horizons in view, and act on different timescales. In the short term, everything must be done to condemn, isolate and undermine the Putin regime, and to support the Ukrainian population—while still refusing to normalize and eternalize the post-1989 order of “democratic” nation-states that have frequently proven eager Putin pupils. I would argue that it is more crucial than ever to keep engaging with, and developing, the kind of social and political (and cultural) imaginary mapped by Meyer and Schaerf in their essay. Somewhat uncannily, it ends with remarks on experiments with “multinations” in Poland and Bukinova, a region that is today divided between Romania and Ukraine:
Zionist efforts to achieve territorial autonomy came into conflict with the Bund movement, which advocated for non-territorial autonomy. Bundist theoretician Vladimir Medem rejects the traditional overlapping of state and nation, and proposes a form of federalism based on autonomous social institutions for regions with mixed populations. Belonging to such a “multination” becomes a “subjective public right,” and through the formation of “entities under public law” the multination itself becomes the “legal person” of this law. This kind of personal autonomy was put to the test in the region of Bukovina in 1910 among Germans, Jews, Poles, Romanians, and Ukrainians. Plans to introduce it in 1914 in the Galicia region of Poland were hindered by the outbreak of war. Such ideas were also proposed at the Paris Peace Conference on 20 February 1920 in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the inevitable dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It goes without saying that the ever grimmer news makes it difficult to keep this dual focus in view; when friends, comrades and colleagues are trapped in cities under siege, it’s hard to see past the end of one’s nose. This is imperialist chronopolitics: imposing empire as a perpetual present beyond which there is no tomorrow, and against which no life can be allowed to thrive.
BAK’s Prospections has now added a section in support of Ukraine: https://www.bakonline.org/prospections/no-to-war/