Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Slavoj Žižek: "Let's Not Dwell in Safe Illusions"

This interview ought to be translated into Persian:
AMY GOODMAN: This is a radio and a television and an internet show, broadcasting all at the same time. We showed, during Charlie Haden's music break, coverage of Prague in '68. This had an enormous influence on you. For an audience who would not even know what those two connections are -- Prague '68 -- explain what happened. And where were you?

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: It's like, by chance, I was very young at that point. I was in Prague. But OK, so that we don’t lose time -- there is something really tragic about Prague '68, namely -- let's be very frank, and it's something very hard to swallow for a leftist. What if the Soviet intervention was a blessing in disguise? It saved the myth that if the Soviets were not to intervene, there would have been some flowering authentic democratic socialism and so on. I'm a little bit more of a pessimist there. I think that the Soviets -- it's a very sad lesson -- by their intervention, saved the myth. Imagine no Soviet intervention. In that ideological constellation, it would have been either, sooner or later, just joining the West or, nonetheless, at a certain point, the government is still in power, would have to put the brakes. It's always the same story. It's the same in -- now you see my conservative, skeptical leftist side.

It’s the same in China, Tiananmen. I will tell you something horrible. Imagine the Communists in power giving way to the demonstrators. I claim -- it's very sad things to say, but if Tiananmen demonstrations were to succeed, like the Communist Party allowing for true democratic reforms and so on, it would have been probably a chaos in China. No, I'm not saying now that we should opt for dictatorship or some kind of a strong arm as the only solution; just let's not dwell in safe illusions.

I think all too often today's left falls into this play, which is why they like to lose. And I think this is the original sin of the left, from the very beginning. I -- and I still consider myself, I'm sorry to tell you, a Marxist and a Communist, but I couldn’t help noticing how all the best Marxist analyses are always analyses of a failure. They have this incredible -- like, why did Paris Commune go wrong? Trotskyites. Why did the October Revolution go wrong? And so on. You know, this deep satisfaction -- OK, we screwed it up, but we can give the best theory why it had to happen. I mean, this is what my title, the title of tonight's talk, implicitly refers to, this comfortable position of resistance. Don't mess with power. This is today's slogan of the left. Don't play with power. Power corrupts you. Resist, resist, withdraw and resist from a safe moralistic position. I found this very sad. ("'Everybody in the World Except US Citizens Should Be Allowed to Vote and Elect the American Government' -- Leading Intellectual Slavoj Žižek," Democracy Now!, 11 March 2008)

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