“ALTHUSSERIAN POLITICAL COMMITMENTS”
In turn, however, this is not to say that all distinctions in this terrible matter (i.e., that fascism and National Socialism are forms of capitalism; and that to date communism has not been fully anticapitalist and has been willing to murder many people) are wholly insignificant. Since Waite's “political commitments,” as Zuckert puts it, are “Althusserian,” in some sense, and since, in her view, these are what have prevented him from understanding Gada-mer, and much else besides, Waite is required to say something in this regard. Althusser has been used to justify absolute quietism in the face of pressing political exigencies; on the other hand, he has done the opposite; and he continues to inspire urban and rural guerrilla fighters in the “third world” as well as cyberpunk hackers everywhere. Neither last nor least, Althusserians in blood-drenched former Yugoslavia found themselves, in friendship with Lacanians, being attacked and ultimately defeated by the two dominant parties who shared little else in common but this very antipathy: “Heideggerians among the opposition and Frankfurt school Marxists among the ‘official’ Party circles.” And for “Heideggerians” read here also: Gadamerians.
Implying that Waite's “political commitments” are not only “Althusserian” but Nietzschean (pace Waite himself, according to Zuckert, and in opposition to her own Nietzsche, one may assume), Zuckert herself (fighting for the moment alongside her Gadamer) offers the following description-cum-prescription: “rather than merely criticize (or attack) others from our own vantage point, Gadamer insists, we must first try to see things their way.” Rudely interrupting Zuckert again, one might ask what should we do after we have tried to see things in the other's way, and we discover that the other either will not enter into dialogue with us and/or is irrevocably committed to combating our position? If we assume what should not necessarily be assumed (this is one of the things that readers of the entretien preliminaire must decide for themselves), namely that Waite (and Orozco) has made an attempt to see beyond his own vantage point (though clearly not nearly to the satisfaction of Zuckert), it is at moments such as these that Waite recalls the recommendation once given by Gramsci, anno 1917 (a few years
When debating with an opponent, try to put yourself in his shoes: you will understand him better, and may end by recognizing that there is some truth in what he says, and perhaps a lot. For some time I myself followed this sage advice. But my adversaries' shoes got so filthy that I was forced to conclude it's better to be unfair than risk fainting from the stink they give off.
At this point, quite unseemly insults aside, however, Waite stresses that he does not really know what he would have done in circumstances the same as faced by Gadamer in the Third Reich. (He can at best know what he is doing now, in the United States of America, or rather in transnational capitalism.) Zuckert does not tell us what she (thinks she) would have done back then, either, though someone reading her response to Orozco and Waite, and her own (at least partial) defense of Gadamer, may surmise that she implies that she might well have done what Gadamer did (were she permitted by the regime, of course), or at least that, today, she finds his behavior legitimate and defensible insofar as he was defending his own life and that of his family and friends (“the ethical imperatives of friendship and decency”).
Not speaking for Orozco (never to mention Zuckert), Waite would say that none of us can know what we would have done before, during, or immediately after the events that propelled Hitler into power in 1933–34. If> however, in those years Waite was what he is now (namely, a member of a Communist Party [CPUSA], albeit with certain tendencies officially rejected by that party—including not only Althusserianism, but Trotskyism, Grams-cianism, and Maoism, and writing about topics anathema to the party, including Nietzsche, Heidegger, Strauss, and Gadamer), then Waite does know exactly what would have happened to him: incarceration on May i, 1933, or thereafter. But, to repeat, he does not know for certain if he would have also been a communist (or whatever) in those years. Since Waite's current form of internationalist identity (“cosmopolitan rootlessness” in the National Socialist and fascist terminology, “nicht unbescholten” in that of the NSLB) is neither Jewish, Romani, nor any racial type or sexual orientation proscribed or punished by the NSDAP and NSLB, he would not have been arrested at that time for that reason—unlike what would have happened, undoubtedly, for one or more reasons (taking not arbitrary examples) to Strauss, Rosen, Derrida, and Trotsky. But not have happened, for that reason, to Heidegger or to Gadamer.
Nor does Waite know what he would have done in the Stalinist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) or its satellites, say, the German Democratic Republic (GDR). His current adherence to a quasi-Stalinist party leads him to think that were he a communist in the latter regime he might
As a member of the Stalinist French Communist Party (PCF), and hence also a collaborator with the Stalinist Soviet Union, Althusser tried to reform the party from within, combating Stalinism. But is this not exactly-or more or less—the same thing that Gadamer was doing within the NSLB as official affiliate of the NSDAP and in Nazi Germany generally? And does not Waite here have a double standard: affirming Althusser and attacking Gadamer, to adopt Zuckert's way of thinking? Here the answer is more complex on both accounts: yes and no. But first we must stress that the penalties for criticizing a party (in Althusser's case) and a party and a regime (in Gada-mer's case) are not strictly comparable in terms of risk. In Gadamer's case the risk, if we believe him, was physical removal from his teaching position, danger to family and friends, and possible incarceration and even death. In Althusser's case the comparable risk was “merely” expulsion from the PCF—not physical death. To be precise, however, this would have been, for Althusser, a kind of philosophical, political, and psychological death. And, in the event, the latter “death” Althusser in fact suffered, though for overde-termined reasons. (He was irrevocably expelled from his party when he killed his wife, and fellow communist, Helene Rytman.) Too, Althusser developed his strongest alternative to Stalinism, even most Marxism, mainly in private, esoterically if one will. His “aleatory materialism” was designed to complement, at the level of textual production (based on principles derived not only from Spinoza but from Nietzsche, inter alia), the technique of reading the “symptomatic silences” not only of texts, notably Marx's Capital, but also, as in the case of the USSR and the PCF, political movements, as well as, and most especially, of capitalism itself. But, yes, Althusser did all this, including his public attacks against the PCF, from within his party; and it remained Stalinist despite his efforts—largely, if not even wholly, quixotic—to transform it radically “from within.” But, once again, to accept one kind of collaboration is not to defend all kinds. And this includes defending, as Althusser notably did not, collaboration with capitalism tout court, including its fascist or National Socialist variants.
But the specific question in this festschrift being asked by Waite (and by Orozco, albeit in a rather different way that Waite does not fully share but shares generally) is about Gadamer's silences, including those of his supporters and insufficiently savvy readers. Gadamer demonstrably (in his responses in the Library of Living Philosophers volume, for example) tries to reduce his more vigorous attackers to silence, and (unwittingly or not) Zuckert appears to be collaborating with him in this effort-victoriously.