- Radical Justice. Spain and the Southern Cone Beyond Market and State by Luis Martín-Cabrera
This is an intelligent and cohesive book, well-informed, ambitious, theoretically solvent, politically committed, and thoroughly relevant to contemporary discussions in Spain, Chile, Argentina, and elsewhere. But it is also a great book of criticism. Its primary objects are a series of detective novels (Vázquez Montalbán’s Galíndez, the Heredia series authored by Ramón Díaz Eterovic, and the three “Peronist thriller” novels by Osvaldo Soriano) and three documentaries (Bettina Perut and Iván Osnovikoff’s El astuto mono Pinochet contra La Moneda de los cerdos, Günter Schwaiger and Hermann Peseckas’s Santa Cruz . . . por ejemplo, and H.I.J.O.S., el alma en dos, by Carmen Guarini and Marcelo Céspedes), to which we could add a reading of Patricio Guzmán’s El caso Pinochet in the context of Baltasar Garzón’s attempts to prosecute, first, Augusto Pinochet himself, and later the people responsible for Francoist repression in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. These critical analyses constitute the main body of the book, and they tell a thoroughly absorbing story. We know the two usual, that is, both conventional and thoroughly boring, modes of critical writing in our field, namely, the fetishistic presentation of the primary work for its own sake, in the form of paraphrases, or the subordination of the primary text to some overarching thesis in the guise of “application” (“I will apply to these texts the notion of [say] ‘subaltern feminine identity’ . . .”). It is rare to read a book where those modes are left behind for the sake of a thorough integration of theory and critical analysis, where the latter advances the former, and the former does everything but subordinate the latter. Although I should mark my disagreement with, first, the enthusiastic endorsement of the escrache practice in the documentary on H. I. J. O. S., which I believe has elements in common with, say, the lapidating techniques of the Taliban, and also with the denunciation of a politics of human rights as “the ultimate manifestation of counter-revolutionary politics” [End Page 197] (213), which seems to take things a bit too far, Radical Justice does a very nice and efficient job of persuading the reader that there is no alternative to a serious engagement with the non-place of traumatic witnessing both for an adequate understanding of contemporary Spain, Chile, and Argentina, and for the possibility of a reinvention of politics commensurate with the task at hand.
Luis Martín-Cabrera has written a fascinating and important book whose main virtue is, however, also and at the same time symptomatic of a number of problems confronting the possibility of a left cultural politics today. Radical Justice, which places itself from its first line within the horizon of communism, is the result of work initiated at the University of Michigan and continued at the University of California, San Diego in the context of a collective enterprise entitled The Spanish Civil War Memory Project, which aims to collect testimonies of survivors from the Spanish Civil War. The book “has been written constantly keeping in mind the struggles and preoccupations of the social movements fighting from below against oblivion and impunity in Spain and the Southern Cone” (xi).
It is therefore a book whose communist politics wish to remain, if not contained, certainly motivated by what goes under the name of politics of memory. But there are, of course, genuine questions as to whether the horizon of memory can restitute the very possibility of politics, starting with a communist politics. The claim this book establishes is that memory keeps alive the messianic demand for a justice beyond market and state, and irreducible to either, or to their combination. The site for such a politics—a politics configured around the demand for messianic justice—is precisely a non-site: memory as a “non-place” which is first of all the place for the experience of a “radical...