Sunday, 4 May 2014

Slavoj Žižek on Fascism.

I very much enjoyed The Pervert's Guide to Cinema and its follow-up The Pervert's Guide to Ideology. Žižek uses the movie Jaws of all things to explore Fascism and its essential character and objective. It has become all too fashionable to claim an equivalence between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, as if to imply the US and UK should have sat it out and let the Germans and Russians slaughter one another. There are even those on the Right who try to argue that the Third Reich was identical to Stalin's Russia. Here Žižek drives home the difference:

Long before Solzhenitsyn, as Christopher Hitchens wrote in 2011, ‘the crucial questions about the Gulag were being asked by left oppositionists, from Boris Souvarine to Victor Serge to C.L.R. James, in real time and at great peril. Those courageous and prescient heretics have been somewhat written out of history (they expected far worse than that, and often received it).’ This internal dissent was a natural part of the Communist movement, in clear contrast to fascism. ‘There were no dissidents in the Nazi Party,’ Hitchens went on, ‘risking their lives on the proposition that the Führer had betrayed the true essence of National Socialism.’ Precisely because of this tension at the heart of the Communist movement, the most dangerous place to be at the time of the 1930s purges was at the top of the nomenklatura: in the space of a couple of years, 80 per cent of the Central Committee and the Red Army leadership were shot.

As Žižek points out, in The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, the promise of Fascism was always a conservative revolution, to transform the whole of class society and to, ultimately, bring about an alternative modernity devoid of the class antagonism. The aim is a society wherein a traditional hierarchical social order stands in harmony with a highly efficient and innovative economy. The problem resides in the inherent capacity for crisis and class conflict in the capitalist system. To circumvent the class antagonism and leave the class society intact is impossible. Therefore, the assertion of a racial identity is a necessary means of reconciling the working-class to conditions of exploitation and binding them to the ruling-class. It attempts to forge a collaboration of the classes through a shared racial consciousness. The array of social ills inherent to class society are then externalised onto the Other as an infection to be rooted out.

Here I would wheel in the work of Allen on white racial identity. If we look at the Theodore W Allen thesis on white racial consciousness we find that it is not a neutral social construct it is objective and it is a formation of social control. The white race is, ironically, colourless and yet defined as a distinct social category in this way. Perhaps the white race could only be constituted as a multi-class bloc against the Other which would in turn be defined as non-white. In this way the class struggle can be offset against the immediate need to build class collaboration. This is the promise of a harmonious capitalist society. It is conspicuous in its absence from not just the present, but the past as well. As Noel Ignatiev writes "We cannot say it too often: whiteness does not exempt people from exploitation, it reconciles them to it. It is for those who have nothing else."

No comments: