“When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” –Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"
"What a swamp the world could become without the call of socialism, the hope of socialism, and the 'danger' of socialism." -Mansoor Hekmat
What is going on today? The on-going global financial crisis signalled the fragility of liberal-democratic capitalism, not just in the West, but also on a world scale. Yet the mainstream consensus is that the social order will continue, that the crisis was merely a momentary hiccup that can be fixed and patched, that capitalism will go on. The question is what reform changes will be made to the global market to allow it to continue?
At the Marxism 2009 convention, Slavoj Žižek made the point that if there is anything we can learn from the on-going financial meltdown it is that capitalism as the way it has processed to exist up to this point cannot go on. Something needs to drastically change or else, according to Žižek, we will suddenly find ourselves in a society with new forms of ghetto slums, new social barriers and walls.
The central question, then, is what can be done? There are some who reject that we are on the road to disaster, those who claim that with reformist policies and regulations we can make society better, in short: a capitalism with a human face. To these one should make the point about the tremendous issues that liberal democratic capitalism faces: religious fundamentalism, ecological disaster, world hunger and poverty and so on. The point is that liberal democratic capitalism simply cannot account for these tendencies. What is the alternative, then? Can we not simply try to make the best of the situation, dealing with economic crisis after crisis, while we live relatively happy lives?
One is reminded here of the line by Winston Churchill, who once said of liberal democracy that it is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried (i.e. socialism, fascism). Yet who still believes in genuine democracy today? The last Canadian federal election had the lowest turnout in Canadian history, a startling 59.1%. What is this, if not an indication of the lack of belief in the democratic process?
Now, many will be quick to bring up the example of the Obama victory, where even apathetic youth turned out to vote for the first black President. Certainly, there must be some democratic force here? The simple answer is: yes. The Obama victory was not only historic in terms of anti-racist struggle and black history in America, but also for its attempt to restore faith and hope to millions of Americans that had lost assurance.
The cold truth is that Obama, being one man working within the framework of the already established capitalist system, cannot accomplish all that he himself has become a symbol of: freedom and equality. This is the realization that is it in fact the inherently flawed social order itself (capitalism) which must be altered.
In his latest book on politics, Žižek states in the introduction “Critical Leftists have hitherto only succeeded in soiling those in power, whereas the real point is to castrate them…" This is aimed, of course at the intellectual scene of the 80s and 90s, where the Left was dominated by post-structuralist and post-modernist forms of thinking.
This is perhaps best exhibited by the multi-cultural political correctness that has plagued the liberal and Left intellectual scene for the past twenty years. While their goal is admirable (i.e. respect for various cultures and identities), their method of employment is not. Companies, Universities and other institutions take up sensitivity training programs and initiatives in order to create a more equitable work environment. Equality is replaced by toleration. That is, I do not need to think of you as my equal, but rather I sure simply tolerate the differences I see between you and myself, between your culture and mine and so on. Žižek’s criticism of this is that it is not radical enough, it does not take capitalism by the balls, so to speak.
Communism must be put back on the table as the only viable alternative to modern day capitalism. I am not advocating violent revolution, I am simply saying, along with Žižek and Badiou, that as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, we have witnessed the death of capitalism both ideologically and economically (the financial crisis was a shocking reminder that the system is inherently flawed). For this reason, a fidelity to the Idea of communism, an idea which embodies equality, prosperity and liberty in the strictest sense, must be kept.
The 20th century was witness to the first attempt at realizing actual communism in the form of the party-State (Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc), we now know that this attempt failed, and while it was a valiant try, we cannot repeat its mistakes. So, we are in need to positing the communist hypothesis yet again. For, in the words of Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Žižek, Slavoj. "What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?" Speech. Marxism 2009. London. 8 Nov. 2009. Youtube. 6 July 2009. Web. 8 Nov. 2009.
Žižek, Slavoj. First as Tragedy, Then As Farce. New York: Verso, 2009. pp. 7
See the Wikipedia article found here