October 10, 2015

Source: Shutterstock

What most interested me, however, was the reaction on The Guardian’s website of readers to the pictures to which I referred above. There is no way of knowing, of course, who or what those who post comments represent, though the newspaper’s website is one of the most widely read of its type in the world. But I was mildly disturbed to see the crudity of the sentiments expressed by many, the wish that such scenes should be repeated elsewhere but on a much larger scale. The managers were only getting what they deserved, according to many of the commentaries, and it was good that they should be made to suffer (never mind that Air France staff, who were making them suffer, would receive generous redundancy pay and were hardly the wretched of the earth).

There was an incipient bloodthirstiness about the commentary that was horrible. It expressed a rage not so much against the managers of Air France (how many of the people who expressed themselves thus can really have known the situation in any great detail?) but against the world. They were dissatisfied, therefore they were angry, therefore they were right. Their rage was cosmic, so to speak, and only momentarily directed at the managers of Air France. Tomorrow it will be directed at something else, but the emotion will be the same and just as strong. If the 2,900 employees of Air France were to get their jobs back tomorrow, it would not assuage the underlying fury, not in the slightest, not for a moment.

One commentator stood out from the rest for the abstract and calm nature of his hatred. He had a Greek name, though whether he was actually Greek, I do not know. He remained cool and rational. He wrote:

These acts of violence directed against particular individuals, pitiful representatives of the bourgeoisie, do not lead anywhere. The wrath of the employees and workers should be directed against the bourgeoisie as a whole, as a class. It is a shame that the CGT”€”a once powerful, revolutionary confederation of trades unions”€”calls for dialogue and expert appraisals of the situation. Such dialogues and appraisals always work against the working people.

One can easily imagine the writer dispassionately signing untold death warrants and demanding, à la Lenin, a certain (large) number of executions because he deemed them to be dialectically necessary. Stalin said that one death was a tragedy, a million was a statistic; for this Lenin of the internet, one death would be terrorism, a million deaths progress.


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