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Slavoj Zizek: The global capitalist order is approaching a crisis again, and the vanished radical legacy has to be resuscitated

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03.08.2021

Thirty-two years after the fall of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, nationalist conservative populism is returning there with a vengeance: the recent turn of Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and some other post-socialist countries – I call them a new axis of evil – into a conservative-illiberal direction worries us all. How could have things turned so wrong? Maybe, we are paying the price now for something that vanished from our view after socialism was replaced by capitalist democracy. What vanished was not socialism but things that mediated the passage from socialism to capitalist democracy.

“Vanishing mediator,” a term introduced decades ago by Fredric Jameson, designates a specific feature in the process of a passage from the old order to a new order: when the old order is disintegrating, unexpected things happen, not just horrors mentioned by Gramsci but also bright utopian projects and practices. Once the new order is established, a new narrative arises and, within this new ideological space, mediators disappear from view.

Here is an example. In his Immaterialism, Graham Harman quotes a perspicuous remark on the 1960s: “You have to remember that the 1960s really happened in the 1970s.” His comment: “An object somehow exists ‘even more’ in the stage following its initial heyday. The marijuana smoking, free love, and internal violence of the dramatic American 1960s were in some ways even better exemplified by the campy and tasteless 1970s.”

If, however, one takes a closer look at the passage from the 1960s to the 1970s, one can easily see the key difference: in the 1960s, the spirit of permissiveness, sexual liberation, counter-culture and drugs was part of a utopian political protest movement, while in the 1970s, this spirit was deprived of its political content and fully integrated into the hegemonic culture and ideology. Although one should definitely raise the question of the limitation of the spirit of the 1960s which rendered this integration so easy, the repression of the political dimension remains a key feature of the popular culture of the 1970s. This dimension was the “vanishing mediator” which later disappeared from view.

The reason I mention all this is that the passage to capitalism in East European socialist countries was also not a direct transition: between the Socialist order and the new order, liberal-capitalist and/or nationalist-conservative, there were many vanishing mediators the new power was trying to erase from memory. I witnessed this process when Yugoslavia fell apart. To avoid any misunderstanding, I have no nostalgia for Yugoslavia: the war that ravaged it from 1991 to 1995 was its truth, the moment when all antagonisms of the Yugoslav project exploded. Yugoslavia died in 1985 when Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Serbia and broke the fragile balance that kept it working.

In the last years of Yugoslavia, communists in power knew they were lost, so they desperately tried to find a way to survive as a political force during the passage to democracy. Some did it by mobilizing nationalist passions, others tolerated and even supported new democratic processes. In Slovenia, communists in power showed understanding for punk music, including Laibach, and for the gay movement… (Incidentally, they financed a gay periodical and after the free elections, this money was canceled – the newly elected........

© RT.com


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