possibility of a geo-political solution other than war should be evaluated. But it is a matter of record that, under the Bush family regime, the US–Europe alliance has not been interested in pursuing any programme of reduction of disparity, a few suspensions of Third World debt and UN summits notwithstanding. When Bataille searches for an alternative to war in some ‘vast economic competition’ through which costly sacrifices, comparable to war, would yet give the competitor with initiative the advantage (Bataille,
1949/1988: 172), he holds out hope for a kind of gift without return . That he showed some enthusiasm for the Marshall Plan after the Second World War as a possible model for this might need to be ascribed to the exhausted condition of post-war France, but he soon revised his assessment. The Marshall Plan was not as disinterested as Bataille implied; it facilitated circulation and recoupment of surplus value as profit. The Cold War and nuclear proliferation turned out to be the preferred examples of reckless waste in actuality – as recognized in volume two of The Accursed Share (Bataille, 1991: 188). Today, redistribution is not considered an option, the threat of Asian capitalism – after the slaughter of millions – can be ignored, and the war on Islam (known variously as the Gulf War, Zionism, and the War on Terror) appears as the primary strategy (combined with a war on South America, mistakenly named as a war on drugs, and a war on immigration disguised as a security concern). The secondary strategy is a newly hollowed out version of liberal welfare. In 1933 Bataille had written of the bourgeois tendency to declare ‘equality’ and make it their watchword, all the time showing they do not share the lot of the workers (Bataille, 1997: 177). In the 21st century, Prime Minister Blair of England has made some gestures towards a similar pseudoalternative. At a Labour Party congress in the millennium year he spoke of the need to address poverty and famine in Africa, and no doubt still congratulates himself on his pursuit of this happy agenda; as I write a large entourage of delegates and diplomats are flying to Johannesburg for another conference junket – the Earth Summit. The party accompanying Blair and Deputy Prescott includes multinational mining corporation Rio Tinto Executive Director Sir Richard Wilson (The Guardian, 12 August 2002). Rio Tinto is hardly well known for its desire to redistribute the global share of surplus expenditure for the welfare of all. If there are no gifts, only competitions of expenditure, what then of the effort of Bataille to oppose fascism ? It is not altruistic, and yet it is the most necessary and urgent aspect of his work that is given to us to read for today. Is fascism a charity-type trick? A deceit of double dealing which offers the illusion of more while giving less?
- Winter '16
- Jeff Hannan
- organic life, Bataille