Slavoj Zizek’s misunderstanding

Slavoj Zizek

Mr. Slavoj Zizek has tried to interpret recent development of the UK Labour Party – its election debacle – but has only exhibited his misunderstanding of the entire capitalist scenario.

The heading, if the heading is by Mr. Zizek and not by the editor, of his article in RT on December 17, 2019 – “Big Capital will use every tool at its disposal to crush socialists like Corbyn” ( – is the first show of his misunderstanding. Whoever formulates the heading, Mr. Zizek writes: “The second reason for Labour’s failure was the well-orchestrated campaign of character assassination against Corbyn […]”.

Not only big capital, all capitals irrespective of size, origin and character, irrespective of the circuits these pass through, and in whatever way it metamorphoses use every tool at its disposal to crush socialists. And, it’s not only capital, but all economic and political forces use all tools at its disposal to crush opponents, not only socialists, if not compelled to make compromise. Slave owners and feudal lords followed the formula. Capitalists of all sizes always try it. Any rich landowner in any backward economy uses all the tools he can master to crush his opponents. It’s an old fact in economy, society and politics. In any socioeconomic reality, this is the formula the antagonistic class forces follow while the forces deal with each other. However, a section claiming to be “lefties” forgets this fact as they expect their political opponent would not behave hard, brutal or barbaric. They expect their political opponent would act like a lover. It’s a childish expectation. This expectation is based not on lower- or upper-middle class, but on middle-middle class idea about class-based politics, which is actually no-idea. They understand neither class nor class struggle. They expect that they will organize protest marches and their political opponent will shower them with rose water. It’s failure to understand politics and political struggle. They even deny looking at recent street protests in Sudan and Iraq – the number of people the state machines killed.

Crushing Corbyn is not a new development. It was tried in case of Lenin, Mao and Fidel. Lenin was depicted as a German agent; Mao as a red dacoit, Fidel the same. Long articles have been composed and “serious” analyses” have been made showing Lenin was “financed” by bankers to secure bankers’ interest. There were assassination attempts on Lenin and Fidel. Even, Arafat had the same experience. There are hundreds of similar instances in countries. Therefore, Mr. Zizek’s statement is nothing new.

The point Mr. Zizek misses is: Capital’s no attempt against Lenin, Mao and Fidel succeeded. Socialists’ one of the tasks is to foil capital’s all these attempts. It depends on socialists’ capacity, capability, efficiency and power. The incapable and inefficient is busted. The rest learn from the failure.

Mr. Zizek writes in the opinion piece: “The Labour Party’s election failure in the UK proves that, for the progressive left to succeed, it will have to become considerably more revolutionary. The ‘softly, softly’ approach isn’t working.”

“More revolutionary” means the party is already “revolutionary”. In no sense, the LabParty is revolutionary. The LabParty’s program is not also revolutionary. Illusions and unreal expectations should be thrown away if someone likes to survive in the turmoil of class struggle.

In a time of rightist onslaught, in a time of the rise of the rightist and ultra-rightist forces of different colors, in absence of forceful presence of revolutionary politics, the LabParty seems better, seems better than ultra-rightist. That’s the consolation. But, basic character of the LabParty’s politics shouldn’t be forgotten. Aspiration of supporters of a political party and character of politics of the party are not always the same. The two – aspiration and character – may be the same, and the two may be different, even completely opposite. A party leadership can play – exploit – with the aspiration of its supporters to advance the interest it’s tied to. This has been/is found in all sorts of countries – advanced bourgeois democracies, colonies/neo colonies, in the metropolis of the capitalist world system and in the periphery, in the case of aged political parties and in the case of political parties new in terms of age but old in terms of politics and ideology.

Mr. Zizek refers to “[t]he challenges that we face”, and writes about the requirement of “a global reorganization of our societies.”

Other than the forces of status quo, none will disagree with this claim – “a global reorganization of our societies.” Mr. Zizek deserves thanks for this reiteration of position.

But misunderstanding begins in the next sentence: “Whichever way this will happen, two things are sure: it will not be enacted by some new version of a Leninist Communist party, but it will also not happen as part of our parliamentary democracy. It will not be just a political party winning more votes and enacting Social Democratic measures.”

If the requirement is, as Mr. Zizek writes, not a Leninist Communist party or its “some new version”, then what type of political party should it be if it goes for a global reorganization of societies? Let’s assume “some other party” or “some other parties”. But which class interest shall/should it uphold? No political party is simply a gathering or an amalgamation of huge or small number of persons with humbug or sweet pronouncements. All political parties uphold or aspire to uphold interest of any of the classes or any faction of a class in the society the organization operates in or makes loud proclamations about its politics.

A global reorganization of societies requires radical change of the world capitalist order – the old order; and that requires snapping of ties with the order; and that requires a political force that finds no interest in the old order; and that requires a class force having no interest in the order. It’s a complete antagonistic relation between the world capitalist order and the class force aspiring for a radical change of the order. The political party Lenin proposes is nothing other than of a class that have no interest in the world capitalist order, which is based on private property; and the political party doesn’t aspire transfer of ownership of private property from one class to another, but complete abolition of private property. It was not Lenin, who told these for the first time. Marx and Engels told this long ago. Lenin reiterated their position. In any class-based society, can anyone show any political party that doesn’t go for any of the class interests prevailing in the society? Is it possible to escape class question other than in some sort of middle class dream devoid of any idea of reality?

Mr. Zizek writes, “it will also not happen as part of our parliamentary democracy. It will not be just a political party winning more votes and enacting Social Democratic measures.”

Most probably with the word “our”, he means the bourgeois democracy. It’s not known whether he considers the system as his. And, if it’s not limiting with “enacting Social Democratic measures”, he has to go either to bourgeois democracy with no compromise with labor, if situation permits, or take measures fully opposed to bourgeois democracy – people’s democracy, which is opposed to class exploitation. The task needs leadership of a class, a class capable of carrying out the task. No political move in any society in any phase of the society was/is possible without leadership of any of the capable classes in the society. Contemplating anything else is a reflection of a brain having no idea of political move and maneuver in class-based society.

Mr. Zizek claims: “Radical changes are needed for our survival”. Then, it seems that Mr. Zizek is for radical change. What does it mean by radical change? Isn’t it a change in property relations? Isn’t it a change in political power? Are these possible without a political party having no class-mooring, program for change of property relations and political power? Lenin’s claim is this: A political party of the class, which is capable of radically changing these relations. Activities of a certain political party at a certain stage of the party in a certain society are not the sole concept of Leninist party. Mistakes and errors are not the entire concept. The mistakes and errors are not the sole output of the party. And, mistakes and errors are not always the output of the party. Objective conditions, the concerned party’s capability and experience also play a role. A clean, clear claim: “Blame the party” or “the party is the problem” is not a scientific approach. Mistakes and errors don’t wipe out the question of political party’s class basis. The bourgeois or even the backward classes don’t even dream of, plan, or organize their political party not running along the path of their class interest, not carrying out tasks the class interest deserves. Is it possible to cite a single example from any of the class-based societies other than the claim made in the preceding sentence?

Therefore, where does Mr. Zizek lands? It’s nowhere, but a misunderstanding.

Mr. Zizek has another misunderstanding as he writes: “So we should of course fully support Labour in the UK”. Is it possible to support the LabParty fully if it goes to imperialist war in some other country? Has not this – joining imperialist war – happened? Then, how can the working people support the LabParty fully? Should support be extended in absolute term – fully – when the LabParty has a history of joining imperialist war even if aspects of its policies in the domestic issues are ignored? Should objective lessons of politics remain unlearned?

These issues should be discussed as there are efforts, since the debacle of the post-revolutionary states in the eastern and central Europe and in the USSR, to misinterpret questions of politics, political party, dictatorship of class in class-based society, errors in those societies, etc. The basic concepts of class-based politics are thrown away in the name of weeding out mistakes and errors although it has not been possible to throw away issues of politics in class-based societies.

Mr. Zizek is right as he writes: “[O]ur future will demand much more than electoral games and Social Democratic measures.”

Therefore, there comes the question of class-based politics, political party, making support conditional to political forces trying to stand apart from the existing political matrix of right and far-right.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.




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