[Marxism] Zizek essay

RicardoStarkey at aol.com RicardoStarkey at aol.com
Tue Sep 1 10:11:28 MDT 2009

This somewhat rambling, and at times muddled essay by Slavoj Zizek is  
nevertheless very interesting in parts.  He deals with the theme of the  "Jew," 
among other ideas.  This is its rather odd title:  The Palestinian Question 
the couple Symptom /  Fetish
Islamo-Fascism, Christo-Fascism, Zionism
mieux vaut un désastre  qu’un désêtre

Here are a few excerpts, chosen not  particularly carefully:
'There are two different modes of ideological mystification which should in 
 no way be confused: the liberal-democratic one and the Fascist one. The 
first  one concerns false universality: the subject advocates 
freedom/equality, not  being aware of implicit qualifications which, in their very form, 
constrain its  scope (privileging certain social strata: rich, male, belonging 
to a certain  race or culture). The second one concerns the false 
identification of the  antagonism and the enemy: class struggle is displaced onto the 
struggle against  the Jews, so that the popular rage at being exploited is 
redirected from  capitalist relations as such to the “Jewish plot.”' 
'We all know the anti-Communist characterization of Marxism as “the Islam  
of XXth century,” secularizing Islam’s abstract fanaticism. Jean-Pierre  
Taguieff, the liberal historian of anti-Semitism, turned this characterization 
 around: Islam is turning out to be “the Marxism of XXIst century,” 
prolonging,  after the decline of Communism, its violent anticapitalism. However, 
if we take  into account Benjamin’s idea of Fascism as occupying the place 
of the failed  revolution, the “rational core” of such inversions can be 
easily accepted by  Marxists. The most catastrophic conclusion that can be 
drawn from this  constellation is the one drawn by Moishe Postone and some of 
his colleagues:  since every crisis which opens up a space for radical Left 
also gives rise to  anti-Semitism, it is better for us to support successful 
capitalism and hope  there will be no crisis. Brought to its conclusion, this 
reasoning implies that,  ultimately, anti-capitalism is as such anti-Semitic
… It is against such  reasoning that one has to read Badiou’s motto mieux 
vaut un désastre qu’un  désêtre: one has to take the risk of the fidelity to 
an Event, even if the  Event ends up in an “obscure disaster.” The 
difference between liberalism and  the radical Left is that, although they refer to 
the same three elements  (liberal center, populist Right, radical Left), 
they locate them in a radically  different topology: for the liberal center, 
radical Left and Right are the two  forms of appearance of the same “
totalitarian” excess, while for the Left, the  only true alternative is the one 
between itself and the liberal mainstream, with  the populist “radical” Right 
as nothing but the symptom of the liberalism’s  inability to deal with the 
Leftist threat. When we hear today a politician or an  ideologist offering us 
a choice between liberal freedom and fundamentalist  oppression, and 
triumphantly asking a (purely rhetorical) question “Do you want  women to be 
excluded from public life and deprived of their elementary rights?  Do you want 
every critic or mocking of religion to be punished by death?”, what  should 
make us suspicious is the very self-evidence of the answer – who would  have 
wanted that? The problem is that such a simplistic liberal universalism  long 
ago lost its innocence. This is why, for a true Leftist, the conflict  
between liberal permissiveness and fundamentalism is ultimately a false conflict 
 – a vicious cycle of two poles generating and presupposing each other. One 
 should accomplish here a Hegelian step back and put in question the very 
measure  from which fundamentalism appears in all its horror. Liberals have 
long ago lost  their right to judge. What Horkheimer had said should also be 
applied to today’s  fundamentalism: those who do not want to talk 
(critically) about liberal  democracy and its noble principles should also keep quiet 
about religious  fundamentalism. And, even more pointedly, one should insist 
that the Middle East  conflict between the State of Israel and the Arabs is 
an emphatically false  conflict: even if we will all die because of it, it 
is a conflict which  mystifies the true issues.'  
'When Milner claims that class struggle, etc., are no longer divisive  
names, that they are replaced by ”Jew” as the truly divisive name, he describes 
 a (partially true) fact, but what does this fact mean? Can it also not be  
interpreted in the terms of the classic Marxist theory of anti-Semitism 
which  reads the anti-Semitic figure of the “Jew” as the metaphoric stand-in 
for class  struggle? The disappearance of the class struggle and the 
(re)appearance of  anti-Semitism are thus two sides of the same coin, since the 
presence of the  anti-Semitic figure of the “Jew” is only comprehensible 
against the background  of the absence of class struggle. Walter Benjamin (to whom 
Milner himself refers  as to an authority, and who stands precisely for a 
Marxist Jew who remains  faithful to the religious dimension of Jewishness 
and is thus not a “Jew of  knowledge”) said long ago that every rise of 
Fascism bears witness to a failed  revolution – this thesis not only still holds 
today, but is perhaps more  pertinent than ever. Liberals like to point out 
similarities between Left and  Right “extremisms”: Hitler’s terror and 
camps imitated Bolshevik terror, the  Leninist party is today alive in al Qaida –
 yes, but what does all this mean? It  can also be read as an indication of 
how Fascism literally replaces (takes the  place of) the Leftist 
revolution: its rise is the Left’s failure, but  simultaneously a proof that there was 
a revolutionary potential,  dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to 

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