Zizek's latest

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 19 08:21:29 MST 2003


An article titled "THE IRAQ WAR: WHERE IS THE TRUE DANGER?" by the
Freudian radical Slavoj Zizek just showed up at:
http://www.lacan.com/iraq.htm

It is written from his customarily tortured perspective, which is to
treat all important events in the class struggle as tidbits of popular
culture to be masticated and then belched up. Like Perry Anderson, Zizek
has a rather blinkered idea of what the antiwar movement stands for:

 >>And, incidentally, opponents of the war seem to repeat the same
inconsistent logic: (1) Saddam is really bad, we also want to see him
toppled, but we should give inspectors more time, since inspectors are
more efficient; (2) it is all really about the control of oil and
American hegemony - the true rogue state which terrorizes others are the
US themselves; (3) even if successful, the attack on Iraq will give a
big boost to a new wave of the anti-American terrorism; (4) Saddam is a
murderer and torturer, his regime a criminal catastrophe, but the attack
on Iraq destined to overthrow Saddam will cost too much...<<

I have no idea what sort of "opponents" he is talking about, but this
sounds like more like a NY Times editorial than the sort of people I
marched (or attempted to march with) on Feb. 15th.

He also shared Perry Anderson's detached Mandarin style, which allows
him to come with howlers like this:

 >>The one good argument for war is the one recently evoked by
Christopher Hitchens: one should not forget that the majority of Iraqis
effectively are Saddam's victims, and they would be really glad to get
rid of them. He was such a catastrophe for his country that an American
occupation in WHATEVER form may seem a much brighter prospect to them
with regard to daily survival and much lower level of fear. We are not
talking here of "bringing Western democracy to Iraq," but just of
getting rid of the nightmare called Saddam. To this majority, the
caution expressed by Western liberals cannot but appear deeply
hypocritical - do they really care about how the Iraqi people feel?<<

This is only a "good argument" if you sweep history under the rug. The
population of nearly every country that wound up in the gunsights of US
imperialism eventually found itself "crying uncle". If you take
Hitchens' argument seriously, then you would find yourself in sympathy
with the fate that befell both Nicaragua and Yugoslavia. When the USA
decides to put on the pressure on semiperipheral or peasant societies,
"daily survival" becomes a vain hope. Our position is to allow every
country, including Iraq, to find its own path to social justice and
democracy.

To drive the point home, when Zizek writes:

 >>One can make even a more general point here: what about pro-Castro
Western Leftists who despise what Cubans themselves call "gusanos
/worms/," those who emigrated - but, with all sympathy for the Cuban
revolution, what right does a typical middle class Western Leftist have
to despise a Cuban who decided to leave Cuba not only because of
political disenchantment, but also because of poverty which goes up to
simple hunger?<<

we are reminded of the canard about leftists spitting at GI's returning
from Vietnam. In fact, the more recent Cuban refugees are not despised
as much as pitied. The main objection to "gusanos" is not that they
enjoy Miami middle-class life, but that they terrorize other Cubans and
leftists who seek normal relations between the socialist republic and
its imperialist neighbors. Zizek's tendency to psychoanalyze the left is
a poor substitute for hard, fact-based reporting of the kind that Marx
produced.

A final word on one other most peculiar item in Zizek's meandering
essay. He writes:

 >>No wonder that, in February 2003, an American representative used the
word "capitalist revolution" to describe what Americans are now doing:
exporting their revolution all around the world. No wonder they moved
from "containing" the enemy to a more aggressive stance. It is the US
which is now, as the defunct USSR was decades ago, the subversive agent
of a world revolution. When Bush recently said "Freedom is not America's
gift to other nations, it is god's gift to humanity," this apparent
modesty nonetheless, in the best totalitarian fashion, conceals its
opposite: yes, BUT it is nonetheless the US which perceives itself as
the chosen instrument of distributing this gift to all the nations of
the world!<<

When exactly was the USSR "the subversive agent of a world revolution"?
Sigh, if only this was the case. In fact, we have been dealing with an
aggressive "capitalist revolution" (or counter-revolution, to be more
precise) for more than 82 years. It was, after all, the USA that invaded
the Soviet Union with 20 other capitalist nations, after 1917 and not
the other way around.

In any case, I urge one and all to read Zizek's essay, if for no other
reason, that it is important to take the pulse of the left academy in
these trying times. Compared to Perry Anderson, Zizek at least has his
heart in the right place. Now if he could only get his brain to follow
his heart's direction.


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