I fully acknowledge how problematic this collective “we” is, for, as Derrida notes, “who could ever venture a 'we' without trembling?” (2001). But it is a “we” that attends to the writing of mourning (and still mourning, of things not that much different from in my Fragments; Panourgiá 1995). I am writing of the gestures of mourning, gestures that can be deciphered only through the exploration of deflected accounts, practices, narratives, and self-presentations that I am trying to trace in this present project. This is mourning that most often does not appear as such, does not cry out its melancholia, for a khōra (that happens to be my khōra, also, my place) where justice forgot to happen, where the pain of existence got flattened into discourses of entitlements and acquiescence, where the seduction of capitalist comforts (even when never attained and realized, even when eternally suspended as desire) has completely dislocated what one of my interlocutors noted (lamenting its loss), namely, the ethos of poverty as a cultural value. “Poverty [ftōhia] and friendship [philía] are what kept us together,” said this person, who has gone from being a barefoot village boy to a multi-millionaire restaurant owner. Therefore it is precisely in the name of friendship, as Derrida says, in that there is no “we” without or outside of friendship, that the utterance of “we” presupposes a friendship that allows, asks, and demands to share the burden and the responsibility of mourning, that this “we” that I invoke here wants to be heard.
Wendy Brown complicates and problematizes the use of “we” in different ways when she invokes the collectivity of the “we” in her discussion of mourning the revolution. Without a trace of hesitation (and rightly so), Brown speaks of the inclusiveness of the “Left” (my quotation marks) in socialism, in the antiwar movement, in a feminist revolution that “carried the promise of remaking gender and sexuality that itself entailed a radical reconfiguration of kinship, sexuality, desire, psyche and the relation of private to public” (Brown 2003: 8). Brown deploys this “we” in the face of mourning for the feminist revolution that has failed, for the emancipatory promise of that project, and it is a “we” that needs to be uttered and articulated in the face of so many carefully constructed fragmentations of identities that refuse to undertake the responsibility of a “we.”
In Jean-Luc Nancy's terms, we should not take this “we” as being “'composed' of subjects,” neither is it “a subject” as part of a process of a narrative of a self, and hence it does not necessarily posit or transcend the “aporia of all 'intersubjectivity'” (Nancy 2000: 75). But Nancy suspends the idea of the “one” and “with” in the colloid that produces the “we,” in that no “we” exists unless it exists as the one being “with-one-another.” In other words, the “we” presupposes and understands that all who comprise it are specific “ones” existing with other “ones” (2000: 76).
Elephantis (2008 ) brings the entire question of “we” into sharp focus in the case of Greece (but, one would suspect, within a far wider context, and certainly with Derrida in mind) when he posits this “we” as a question in reference to the legacy of the October Revolution. Which “we,” Elephantis asks? “The radicals and socialists of the end of 1910, the Communists of the decade of the twenties, the socialists, the antifascists of the interwar period, of the antifascist war, the EPON, EAM, ELAS of the Resistance [the Leftist youth, civilian, and military organizations of the Resistance], the captains [military leaders of ELAS], the fighters of the emphýlios, the exiled and imprisoned, the Leftists of EDA [the coalition of the Left between the 1950s and the 1970s], the fighters against the junta, the ones who revered the Soviet Union, the Trotskyists, the Archive Marxists, the peasantists, the libertarians, those who considered the de-Stalinization of 1956 to be the 'true' vision of communism, the Zachariadists [loyal to the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece, Nikos Zachariadis], those who followed the 'Rebirth,' the Maoists, the Guevarists, the Lambrakides [followers of the assassinated Grigoris Lambrakis, members of the World Council for Peace], the Eurocommunists, members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and its youth (KNE) after [the split of the Party in] 1968, those agreeing with 'the movement,' the ecologists, the feminists, the members of Synaspismos [the new coalition of parties of the Left], the partisans who fled to the countries of Eastern Europe, the exiled, the imprisoned, the 'movement,' the rest of the Left, the dēlôseies [those who signed declarations of repentance], those who denounced others, those who were 'rehabilitated,' the dead?” (42). But there is nothing stable in the categories that Elephantis gives, and he knows it. As he says, there are real, actual people who inhabit these categories; they are not just ghosts or specters of existence. He knows full well, as he says, that “there is no continuous 'we,' unchanged by time.” He recognizes that the history of the terms that he has produced is a history that belies uniformity and homogeneity but that nevertheless is the history of the current Leftists, sometimes grouped together, often fragmented, through the enchantment of friendship and the bitterness of betrayal, mourning for a better world that could not have come.
In any case, however, an act of mourning can be claimed behind every “we” that is uttered. The “we” is intimately connected to the work of mourning, and it is precisely this mourning that I am invoking here.