Zikek on Lenin

Unpubl. Letter to The London Review of Books on Slavo Zizek.

‘Lenin and Lacan eh ? wot a pair – fnaar, fnaar!’: as a Viz character might say. Indeed, Slavo Zizek’s review of d’Encausse’s book on Lenin reads like a parody out of an upmarket Viz. He offers a classic hack defence of Lenin, spiced up with references to various bourgeois cultural dissidents whom Lenin himself would have despised (Bataille, Junger, Oshima, Lacan).

It is clear that, for Zizek, Lenin figures entirely as a symbol. He tells us, following d’Encausse, that Lenin destroyed the ideas of his opponents, but not the opponents themselves. The anarchists murdered by the Cheka, and the Kronstadt dissidents slaughtered by the Red Army might well disagree.

Zizek goes on to claim that Lenin was a supporter of ‘spontaneity’ outside the realm of the state. Is he really unaware of those texts of Lenin from 1918 which denounce the call for workers’ self-management of production as bourgeois syndicalist deviations ? Had it really been the case that Lenin continued with his espousal of the ideas of State and Revolution, then he would have endorsed the factory committees as concrete instances of proletarian self-organisation. His condemnation of them showed that, in his real attitudes to working people, Lenin had never broken from the Kautskyist notion that the working-class could only have its consciousness imported from the outside by a revolutionary elite.

Just what does Zizek mean by the comment that the opposition to global capitalism must be ‘properly political, not economic’? What sense does it make to assert that capitalism should be opposed ‘politically’, not ‘economically’ ? Perhaps the oddity of this claim is related to his absurd subsequent remark that nowadays ‘everyone is anti-capitalist’, including Hollywood. The basis for this remark being that a major theme of many recent movies is opposition to the big corporations. But it is perfectly possible to be opposed to the big corporations whilst being pro-capitalist. Is Zizek really unaware of this ? The politics which goes along with the political economy of endorsing small business, whilst attacking big business is that of National Socialism. If Zizek doubts this then he should visit the websites of European and American White Nationalists.

But then perhaps Zizek’s conflation of opposition to mega corps with opposition to capitalism as such is not surprising given his disgusting endorsement of Brecht’s excitement at the ‘authenticity’ of Russian tanks on their way to crush the Hungarian proletariat in 1956. This is a sensibility more associated with the Nazi cult of violence than with any variety of Leninism. Not even the most brutal old-style ‘tankie’ could ever have written that they were tempted to joint the Communist party because of the ‘authenticity’ of its repression. This is the response of a decadent aesthete, not of a serious political commentator.

In recent years we have seen some bizarre political mutations, in particular the shift of the nonmarxist “Leninists” of Living Marxism into avowed procapitalists. I wonder where Zizek will end up. I fear the worst.


Slavo Zizek over the last few years has attempted to revive Lenin as a significant figure for dissidents, in contrast to Marx, on the grounds that Lenin was actually engaged in political struggle; whereas the work of Marx has been recuperated by bourgeois academia.

Viz is a Brit ‘adult comic’ which features characters such as ‘The Fat Slags’ and ‘Sid the Sexist’ – I strongly recommend it.

Living Marxism was the journal of The Revolutionary Communist Party (a split from the Revolutionary Communist Group, itself a split from the – UK, not USA – Socialist Workers Party). I once attended one of their conferences called ‘Problems of Being a Revolutionary Elite’. My friend, with whom I wrote the review of the Callinicos book, posted some months ago, pointed out that the category of the ‘elite’ was not just a non-marxist, not even just a non-leninist category, but was one developed by Pareto and by Mosca an explicitly anti-marxist category. So we were unsurprised when the RCP dissolved itself, renamed its journal LM and is now a thinktank which sells its services to corporations to advise them against environmentalists. Its guru, Frank Furedi, is a frequent guest on TV and radio re the exaggerated ‘culture of risk’.Link


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