The Eigteenth Brumaire of Gaius Balthar

So, with Laura, a paper for the conference on bsg planned for end of the month. My notetaking has been so frakking slow I cannot tell you, but parts of the plot now seem to show up on Draidis. So say we all. (Mere notes, sorry, see other Sci Fi bits in labels for more):

The Eigteenth Brumaire of Gaius Balthar

Repetition is the key to both the opening of Marx’s great text The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Boneparte and the back story to BSG, this has happened before and it will happen again. We are cylons, we forget we are, we build cylons, we repeat the forgetting…

Things repeat themselves, says Hegel, but Marx adds that he forgot to say the second time round it happens as farce. Hence Gaius, the comical hero of the new Battlestar Galactica remake (3 series done, the final one starts again in Jan).

So, I think this gives us an opportunity to demonstrate how a dexterous analysis from Marx’s text can make sense of the changing fortunes/opportunisms of both Gaius Balthar and the Mentat Roslin. And deploying this reading of bsg might then further show how the nuances of Marx’s class analysis in his book from 1852 – no simple binary plottings – can help us make sense of the convoluted violences of our lives today – in 2007.

But there should be no simple reading-off from the text to ‘correlated’ examples from the real, or vice-versa. The search for one-to-one correspondences is forlorn, the borg are not Intel or Microsoft – though its helpful to sometimes see that resistance is not useless (Picard as open source/or Shakespeare)

We project contemporary anxieties into stories, into space, into the future (Feuerbach critique of religion here?). Our constructions of what we do and desire are played out as farce. Gaius is our faulty and insufficient image – a pale mechanism through which greater hopes than his declared intentions are filtered. Gaius himself is cylon (how did he survive the original nuclear destruction of Planet Caprica if not – he just forgets, this little nephew, that he is reborn).

So, its not so much a questiion of who represents who in bsg. Sure, there are elections and unions (both yellow) and so on, but the potatoes in a sack are the (number declining) ‘people’ in the fleet – represented only by Galactica, or in the figures of Starbuck etc. There is a confusion here, analysed so well by Gayatri Spivak, between darstellung and vertreten (two words in German for one – in English). In Gaius we have the (farcical) representative of the people (their president, because they cannot represent themselves), and the picture of them (their number, they must be represented).

Though suddenly reading CLR James on Moby Dick I am not sure that Adama isn’t really Ahab. As all captains are.

Can we plot the co-ordinates of bsg, 18th Brumaire and Melville’s novel…


2 thoughts on “The Eigteenth Brumaire of Gaius Balthar

  1. Marx’s Brumaire provides some kix–quite a few more than Melville’s Moby doth (both M’s were Mad, yet I’d venture to say Capn Hermie was damn near certifiable). The Brumaire, however (–I have not as of yet mastered it-=–), seems to embody a type of quasi-historical writing which Marx is the undisputed master of (Engels as well quite skilled): perhaps better termed ideology.

    Was Marx pointing out the shortcomings of french Republicanism, or “doing history,” or, Osirus forbid, philosophy, if not some sort of psycho-econo-historicism? All of the above it seems. As with much of his writing, the rage and ressentiment seems to overpower the analysis.

    The accuracy of Marx’s narration–both in regards to the real French Rev., and to the 1848 rebellion– is itself problematic, as are the incessant references to class (and he conviently overlooks some of the phun brought about 1792 or so by the class of the sans-cullottes). Marx in effect implements his own political theory while ostensibly engaged in historical research. Some postmod could probably unravel all of that better than we can, but at the very least, it’s not an objective record (that’s not to say that any “objective record” may be easily produced). A historian presents the facts as best as he can: when he starts invoking bourgeois-this, or republican-bourgeois-that, or republican-monarchist, etc. ad nauseum, the skeptic reaches for a revolver. CLass struggle is not a science, nor “necessary”. Reading the Brumaire one feels like a spectator at a chess match, and our young revolutionary has set up some combinations and is moving his pieces about rather haphazardly, sacrificing many major pieces (ok, not the greatest analogy–but will suffice for comment box).


  2. Hi Peresozo

    Thanks for this … but… depends what we mean by science and fact I reckon. There is this historian (quite a famous one nowadays) that I remember mostly as an annoyance, who once stood up in front of a crowd, spread his arms like Jesus on the cross, and announced in tones that brooked no contradiction: “I have a great respect for the facts”. Within a week he had effectively stolen a map in my possession, claiming it belong to him by right. Fact was, it did not.

    I think there certailny is room for a chess analogy in/on Marx – in fact see here.

    Its absolutely worth pursuing the Brumaire – but its got to be in the more readable Pluto edition from James Martin and co. Not the Progress press one, bless em. No fear of ideology here – nor is the class struggle ‘necessary’, in some senses, but it would be good to see more people engage in it on the side that does not rest content with the murder-death-kill of the status quo.

    OK, lets see what the Lung-people make of all this. Thanks, J


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