|This site is a rhizome. This page is an attempt to bring order out of chaos through the encounter with Zizek's "A Plea for Leninist Intolerance." In this column are my comments on "A Plea for Leninist Intolerance," together with links to pages on this site that are implicated in Zizek's text. One could start anywhere, but I would recommend a quick scan of the pages linked to below||Excerpts from:
Slavoj Zizek, "A Plea for Leninist Intolerance," Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Winter, 2002), pp. 542-566.
Also available here. The numbers in brackets refer to the location of a paragraph in each section of the text.
"how are we to remain faithful to the old in the new conditions?"
We can go on making our small choices, "reinventing ourselves," on condition that these choices do not disturb the social and ideological balance. 
There is, nonetheless, a rational kernel in Lenin's obsessive tirades against formal freedom worth saving today; when he underlines that there is no pure democracy, that we should always ask whom a freedom under consideration serves, his point is precisely to maintain the possibility of a true choice. Formal freedom is the freedom of choice within the coordinates of the existing power relations, while actual freedom designates the site of an intervention that undermines these very coordinates. 
today, actual freedom of thought must mean the freedom to question the predominant liberal-democratic postideological consensus-or it means nothing. 
One is therefore tempted to turn around Marx's eleventh thesis: the first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to directly intervene and change things (which then inevitably ends in a cul de sac of debilitating impossibility, leaving one to ask, What can one do against global capital?) but to question the hegemonic ideological coordinates. If, today, one follows a direct call to act, this act will not be performed in an empty space; it will be an act within the hegemonic ideological coordinates: those who "really want to do something to help people" get involved in (undoubtedly honorable) exploits like Doctors without Borders, Greenpeace, feminist and antiracist campaigns, which are all not only tolerated but even supported by the media, even if they seemingly enter economic territory (say, denouncing and boycotting companies that do not respect ecological conditions or that use child labor). They are tolerated and supported as long as they do not get too close to a certain limit. 
Claude Lefort himself, whom no one can accuse of communist sympathies, recently made a crucial point in his answer to Francois Furet: today's liberal consensus is the result of 150 years of the leftist workers' struggle and pressure upon the state; it incorporated demands that were one hundred or even fewer years ago dismissed by liberals as horror. As proof, one should just look at the list of the demands at the end of the Communist Manifesto. Apart from two or three of them (which, of course, are the key ones), all others are today part of the consensus (at least that of the disintegrating welfare state): universal suffrage, the right to free education, universal health care, care for the retired, limitation of child labor, and so on. 
Today, in a time of continuous swift changes, from the digital revolution to the retreat of old social forms, this thought is more than ever exposed to the temptation of losing its nerve, of precociously abandoning the old conceptual coordinates. The media constantly bombard us with the need to abandon the old paradigms, insisting that if we are to survive we have to change our most fundamental notions of personal identity, society, environment, and so forth. . . . Against this temptation, one should rather follow the unsurpassed model of Pascal and ask the difficult question: how are we to remain faithful to the old in the new conditions? Only in this way can we generate something effectively new. 
Failure to think in terms of genetic ontologies, thus weakening the critique of postmodern forms of life and oblliterating the possiblity of undertanding the fate of the Russian Rev, the New Deal, and Fascism, which all share a common root determinant: ressentiment
but to repeat, in present worldwide conditions, the Leninist gesture of reinventing the revolutionary project in the conditions of imperialism and colonialism. . . . What Lenin did for 1914 we should do for 1990. "Lenin" stands for the compelling freedom to suspend the stale, existing (post)ideological coordinates, the debilitating Denkverbot in which we live. This simply means that we obtain the right to think again.
Of Apes and Men
The very question, apropos of some statement, Is it true? is supplanted by the question, Under what power conditions can this statement be uttered? What we get instead of universal truth is a multitude of perspectives, or, as it is fashionable to put it today, of narratives--not only those of literature, but also politics, religion, and science, all of which are different narratives, stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and the ultimate goal of ethics is to guarantee the neutral space in which this multitude of narratives can peacefully coexist, in which everyone, from ethnic to sexual minorities, will have the right and possibility to tell his or her story. 
In other words, what gets lost here is simply the dimension of truth-not objective truth as the notion of reality from a point of view that somehow floats above the multitude of particular narratives but truth as the singular universal. When Lenin said, "The Marxian doctrine is omnipotent because it is true," everything depends on how we understand "truth" here.'" Is it a neutral objective knowledge or the truth of an engaged subject? Lenin's wager-one that is today, in our era of postmodern relativism, more relevant than ever-is that universal truth and partisanship, the gesture of taking sides, are not only not mutually exclusive but condition each other. In a concrete situation, its universal truth can only be articulated from a thoroughly partisan position; truth is by definition one-sided. This, of course, goes against the predominant doxa of compromise, of finding a middle path among the multitude of conflicting interests. If one does not specify the criteria of the different, alternate narrativization, then this endeavour courts the danger of endorsing, the supremacy of some aboriginal holistic wisdom, or those that dismiss science as just another narrative on par with premodern superstitions. 
Some leftists want to redeem Lenin (partially, at least) by opposing the "bad" Jacobin-elitist Lenin of What Is to Be Done?, the Lenin who relied on the Party as the professional, intellectual elite that enlightens the working class from outside, to the "good" Lenin of State and Revolution, who envisioned the prospect of abolishing the state, of the broad masses directly taking the administration of the public affairs into their hands. 
How many great minds (inclusive of Freud) succumbed to the nationalist temptation, even if only for a couple of weeks! This shock of 1914 was, in Alain Badiou's terms, a desastre, a catastrophe in which an entire world disappeared, not only idyllic bourgeois progressism, faith in progress, but also the socialist movement that accompanied it. 
In October 1917, Lenin claimed that "we can at once set in motion a state apparatus constituting of ten if not twenty million people." This urge of the moment is the true utopia. 
The idea is not to return to Lenin, but to repeat him in the Kierkegaardian sense, to retrieve the same impulse in today's constellation. The return to Lenin aims neither to nostalgically reenact the good old revolutionary times, nor to opportunistically-pragmatically adjust the old program to "new conditions" but to repeat, in present worldwide conditions, the Leninist gesture of reinventing the revolutionary project in the conditions of imperialism and colonialism. Or, more precisely, subsequent to the politico-ideological collapse of the long era of progressivism founded upon the catastrophe of 1914. Eric Hobsbawn defined the concept of the twentieth century as the time between 1914, the end of the long peaceful expansion of capitalism, and 1990, the emergence of the new form of global capitalism after the collapse of "really existing socialism." What Lenin did for 1914 we should do for 1990. "Lenin" stands for the compelling freedom to suspend the stale, existing (post)ideological coordinates, the debilitating Denkverbot in which we live. This simply means that we obtain the right to think again. 
|liberal democratic legacy? Campagns 1992, 94, 96
On the problem of intellectuals and careers:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
If the name "Hegel" stands for a mode of thought, the name "Deleuze" can stand for a crisis for that mode of thought. In the era of neoliberalism, and in the wake of the collapse of the historical left (this includes the Keynesian Elite in the New Deal state), philosophy falls into a kind of anomie, turning ever inward, making elaborate lateral moves and suffering stylistic excess.
Yet in my fifty year effort to put "Hegel" into action, the results of which can be seen in the pages that make up this site, it was only at the end (2012-13) that I discovered that what I was doing is best described by the "Deleuzian" concepts of: transcendental empiricism, the encounter, plane of immanence, image of thought.
"the speculative movement of money begetting more money":
this was critique of LDB-TS. Capitalism--really exisiting capitalism--the five genetic ontologies: regression to primate from Bildung
re big system ripe for socialized control: see Smith
"In capitalism, the potential of this opposition is fully realized; the domain of exchange values acquires autonomy and is transformed into the specter of selfpropelling speculative capital that needs the productive capacities and needs of actual people only as its dispensable temporal embodiment." FOOD; DRUGS; FASHION
"On the one hand, we have crazy, solipsistic speculations about futures, mergers, and the like following their own inherent logic; on the other hand, reality is catching up in the guise of ecological catastrophies, poverty, Third World diseases that imperil social life, mad cow disease."
see Derrida Spectre for same bourgeois-christian error; see Fig 1 for immanent critique of capitalism
"So where is Lenin in all this? According to the predominant doxa, in the years after the October Revolution, Lenin's loss of faith in the creative capacities of the masses led him to emphasize the role of science and the scientists, to rely on the authority of the expert. He hailed "the beginning of that very happy time when politics will recede into the background… and engineers and agronomists will do most of the talking" (L, p. 168). Technocratic postpolitics? Lenin's ideas about the road to socialism running through the terrain of monopoly capitalism may appear dangerously naive today:"
see five ontologies; smith: Dasein
the question of stalinism
misses the nature of these new social movement: crippled bildung fused with a hegemonic regressive narcissism
Zizek et al simply do not conceptualize their critique beyond the givens of bourgeois christian sentimentality. Thus, it is still suffering and exploitation; Dasein is unconceptualized, and the still living heart of "Leninism" is not understood.
"And, again, the limit of these movements is that they are not political in the sense of the universal singular: they are one-issue movements that lack the dimension of universality; that is, they do not relate to the social totality."
does not grasp that bildung needs an other to overcome in the process of its own becoming; needs a project, and that projct is dialctical, as in Bildung (wiki) DET E. SIDE
A Cyberspace Lenin?
However, anticapitalism without problematizing capitalism's political form (again, liberal parliamentary democracy) is not sufficient, no matter how radical it is. Perhaps the lure today is the belief that one can undermine capitalism without effectively problematizing the liberal-democratic legacy, a legacy that--as some leftists claim--although engendered by capitalism, acquired autonomy and can serve to criticize capitalism. 
Capitalism is not just a historical epoch among others; in a way, the once fashionable and today forgotten Francis Fukuyama was right: global capitalism is "the end of history." A certain excess that was, as it were, kept under check, perceived as a localizable perversion, as an excess, a deviation, is in capitalism elevated to the very principle of social life, in the speculative movement of money begetting more money, of a system that can survive only by constantly revolutionizing its own conditions, that is to say, in which the thing can survive only as its own excess, constantly exceeding its own "normal" constraints. [But at the top a regression to the primate regime] And, perhaps, it is only today, in global capitalism's postindustrial, digitalized form, that, to put it in Hegelian terms, really existing capitalism is reaching the level of its notion. Perhaps, one should again follow Marx's old antievolutionist motto (incidentally, taken verbatim from Hegel) that the anatomy of man provides the key for the anatomy of a monkey; that is, in order to deploy the inherent notional structure of a social formation, one must start with its most developed form. [The present as history.] Marx located the elementary capitalist antagonism in the opposition between use- and exchange-value. In capitalism, the potential of this opposition is fully realized; the domain of exchange values acquires autonomy and is transformed into the specter of self-propelling speculative capital that needs the productive capacities and needs of actual people only as its dispensable temporal embodiment [food article]. Marx derived the very notion of economic crisis from this gap; a crisis occurs when reality catches up with the illusory, self-generating mirage of money begetting more money. This speculative madness cannot go on indefinitely; it has to explode in ever stronger crises. The ultimate root of the crisis is for him the gap between use- and exchange-value; the logic of exchange-value follows its own path, its own mad dance, irrespective of the real needs of real people. [anti-Hegelian] It may appear that this analysis is particularly appropriate today, when the tension between the virtual and real universes is reaching almost palpably unbearable proportions. On the one hand, we have crazy, solipsistic speculations about futures, mergers, and the like following their own inherent logic; on the other hand, reality is catching up in the guise of ecological catastrophies, poverty, Third World diseases that imperil social life, mad cow disease. 
So where is Lenin in all this? According to the predominant doxa, in the years after the October Revolution, Lenin's loss of faith in the creative capacities of the masses led him to emphasize the role of science and the scientists, to rely on the authority of the expert. He hailed "the beginning of that very happy time when politics will recede into the background… and engineers and agronomists will do most of the talking" (L, p. 168). Technocratic postpolitics? Lenin's ideas about the road to socialism running through the terrain of monopoly capitalism may appear dangerously naive today [NEP]: 
Capitalism has created an accounting apparatus in the shape of the banks, syndicates, postal service, consumers' societies, and office employees unions. Without big banks socialism would be impossible… Our task here is merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more democratic, even more comprehensive… This will be country-wide book-keeping, countrywide accounting of the production and distribution of goods, this will be, so to speak, something in the nature of the skeleton of socialist society. [Quoted in L, p. 145] 
Is this not the most radical expression of Marx's notion of a general intellect regulating all social life in a transparent way, of a post-political world in which the administration of people is supplanted by the administration of things? [QHD] It is, of course, easy to play against this quote the tune of the critique of instrumental reason and the administered world (verwaltete Welt): the totalitarian potential is inscribed in this very form of total social control. It is easy to remark sarcastically how, in the Stalinist epoch, the apparatus of social administration effectively became even bigger. . . . Is there not also in the World Wide Web an explosive potential for capitalism itself? Is not the lesson of the Microsoft monopoly precisely the Leninist one: instead of fighting its monopoly through the state apparatus (recall the court-ordered split of the Microsoft corporation), would it not be more logical just to socialize it, rendering it freely accessible? 
In other words, the key Leninist lesson today is that politics without the organizational form of the party is politics without politics, so the answer to those who want just the (quite adequately named) new social movements is the same as the answer of the Jacobins to the Girondin compromisers: "You want revolution without a revolution!" Today's challenge is that there are two ways open for sociopolitical engagement: either play the game of the system, engage in the long march through the institutions, or get active in new social movements, from feminism to ecology to antiracism. And, again, the limit of these movements is that they are not political in the sense of the universal singular: they are one-issue movements that lack the dimension of universality; that is, they do not relate to the social totality. 
|"Revolution is not experienced as a present
hardship we have to endure for the happiness and freedom of the future
generations but as the present hardship over which this future
happiness and freedom already cast their shadow-in it, we already are
free while fighting for freedom, we already are happy while fighting
for happiness, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Revolution is
not a Merleau-Pontyan wager, an act suspended in the futur anterieur,
to be legitimized or delegitimized by the long term outcome of the
present acts; it is as it were its own ontological proof, an immediate index of its own truth."
NY CP salons; 238 shopfloor; Dodge Main: BILDUNG! this is the ontology--dynamic, self-formative process/project
The idea of project, combined with the idea of the permanent mixed economy, makes this a silly concern 
emancipatory politics 
 is what I do
The Leninist Utopia
What, then, is the criterion of the political act? Success as such clearly doesn't count, even if we define it in Merleau-Ponty's dialectical way (as the wager that the future will retroactively redeem our present horrible acts); neither do any abstract-universal ethical norms." The only criteria is the absolutely inherent one: that of the enacted utopia. In a proper revolutionary breakthrough, the utopian future is neither simply fully realized, present, nor simply evoked as a distant promise that justifies present violence. It is rather as if, in a unique suspension of temporality, in the short circuit between the present and the future, we are--as if by Grace--for a brief time allowed to act as if the utopian future were (not yet fully here, but) already at hand, just there to be grabbed. Revolution is not experienced as a present hardship we have to endure for the happiness and freedom of the future generations but as the present hardship over which this future happiness and freedom already cast their shadow--in it, we already are free while fighting for freedom, we already are happy while fighting for happiness, no matter how difficult the circumstances [Bildung makes this so much clearer!]. Revolution is not a Merleau-Pontyan wager, an act suspended in the futur anterieur, to be legitimized or delegitimized by the long term outcome of the present acts; it is as it were its own ontological proof, an immediate index of its own truth. 
If one needs proof of how Leninism functioned in an entirely different way, are such performances not the supreme proof that the October Revolution was definitely not a simple coup d'etat by a small group of Bolsheviks but an event which unleashed a tremendous emancipatory potential? [cite sources: Rabinowitch, Smith, etc.] 
Perhaps the signifier Trotsky is the most appropriate designation of that which is worth redeeming in the Leninist legacy. 
This way, one can continue to dream that revolution is round the corner; all we need is the authentic leadership that would be able to organize the workers' revolutionary potential. If one is to believe them, Solidarnosc was originally a workers' democratic-socialist movement, later "betrayed" by the corruption of its leadership by the Church and the CIA. And if we add to this position four further ones, we get a pretty full picture of the sad predicament of today's Left: the acceptance of the cultural wars (feminist, gay, antiracist, multiculturalist struggles) as the dominant terrain of emancipatory politics; the purely defensive protection of the achievements of the welfare state; the naive belief in cybercommunism (the idea that the new media are directly creating conditions for a new, authentic community); and, finally, the Third Way, capitulation itself. The reference to Lenin should serve as the signifier of the effort to break the vicious circle of these false options. 
To repeat Lenin is to repeat not what Lenin did, but what he failed to do, his missed opportunities. Today, Lenin appears as a figure from a different era: it's not that his notions such as a centralized party seem to pose a totalitarian threat; it's rather that they seem to belong to a different epoch to which we can no longer properly relate. However, instead of reading this fact as proof that Lenin is outdated, one should, perhaps, risk the opposite conjecture. What if this impenetrability of Lenin is a sign that there is something wrong with our epoch, that a certain historical dimension is disappearing from it. 
|On Zizek's failure to see the potential in the U.S. electoral system
However, anticapitalism without problematizing capitalism's political
form (again, liberal parliamentary democracy) is not sufficient, no matter
how radical it is. Perhaps the lure today is the belief that one can under-
mine capitalism without effectively problematizing the liberal-democratic
legacy, a legacy that-as some leftists claim-although engendered by cap-
italism, acquired autonomy and can serve to criticize capitalism.
Marx located the elementary capitalist antago-
nism in the opposition between use- and exchange-value. In capitalism,
the potential of this opposition is fully realized; the domain of exchange-
values acquires autonomy and is transformed into the specter of self-
propelling speculative capital that needs the productive capacities and
needs of actual people only as its dispensable temporal embodiment. 554 See Food article
|Wht is at issue today more than ever is the self-formative process: what has man become (the ontologies); what is he becoming (Food article); what should he become . . . and how, by what means?|