Big news everyone! I’ve changed my blog name! Logo pending. Also, Žižek endorsed Trump. No, really. Have a look at the video below. I guess Žižek has gone a bit mad. He could be joking, but I don’t think he is. I think he’s making a very serious, yet utterly awry, political point. Lets look at some of his exact words.
Trump. I’m horrified with him, I’m just thinking that Hillary is the true danger. Why? She built an impossible all-inclusive coalition. Look, the one point when I fully agreed with Trump was, you remember, when Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary? he said, Trump, wasn’t it simply true? He said it’s like somebody from Occupy Wall Street endorsing Lehman Brothers. [Cut] In every society there is a whole network of unwritten rules, how politics works, and how you build consensus. Trump disturbed this. And, if Trump wins, both big parties, Republicans and Democrats, would have to return to basics, rethink themselves, and maybe some things can happen there. [Cut] That’s my desperate, very desperate hope, that if Trump wins, listen: America is still not a dictatorial state, he will not introduce fascism. But, it will be a kind of big awakening. New political processes will be set in motion, will be triggered.
Žižek then goes on to list some reasons why Donald Trump is dangerous, insofar as he’s backed by white supremacists and has pledged to stack the Supreme Court with right wingers. But, apparently these mere technicalities are not the “real” danger.
I’m just afraid Hilary stands for this absolute inertia, the most dangerous one. She is a cold warrior, and so on, connected with banks, and pretending to be socially progressive.
Žižek is an incredibly learned and insightful scholar, and for that he’s earned at least 30 seconds worth of consideration before I dismiss this as dangerous nonsense. His point is fairly familiar. The true enemy is not any particular individual, but capitalism. Hilary represents the establishment. Trump is an outsider, the wrong kind of outsider, but at least he can bring about some sort of [insert vague Trotskyite euphemism for civil war], and lead us towards a progressive future. Trump is the candidate of the destruction of the political consensus. Hilary is the “inertia” candidate.
To be fair, inertia is the perfect term to describe her. The problem is that the left need this inertia to be maintained because the progressive politics of Marx and the regressive politics of fascism are never, ever aligned. Žižek dismisses quite quickly the notion that Trump could introduce fascism, far too quickly. Perhaps he is alluding to the last hope of liberals, which is that historically the legislative branch of government in the US has prevented any progress whatsoever. I think this is naive. I’m not an americanist, but if the presidency is so impotent that it cannot introduce any changes, why would the establishment care? Why would they have to “return to basics” or “rethink themselves”?
I’m also sick of this talk of “return to basics” and “rethinking”. UK politics has been saturated and destroyed by this idea. A significant portion of the Brexit vote was a “make ‘them’ wake up and rethink” idea, and the drama of the Labour party over the last year has been about rethinking and returning to radical roots. But, institutions don’t think, people do (maybe). The Labour party isn’t in a time of renewal, licking its wounds, or going through an existential crisis. Its inner “establishment” has been ripped from its position of internal power and replaced with another faction, a faction the majority of which weren’t in the party two years ago. The result of this, without passing judgement on which side is correct, ia that the whole institution of the Labour party is politically weak, and is likely to remain so for many years to come.
The real problem with this outlook is a remarkable ignorance of the power of power. I’m surprised Žižek is making this mistake, to the point where I think he might just be being deliberately provocative, not that this would be an excuse. Power is powerful. It is capacity to do things. But, this is something forgotten. Take, for example, the shock by “disenfranchised” Brexiteers, who were tweeting about conspiracies and pencils in polling stations right up until the result. They did not really believe the power that they possessed in that ballot, but it was real, and Brexit is happening. The only thing the recent High Court ruling means is that it is going to happen under the appropriate scrutiny of Parliament.
Similarly, the left has spent so much time sulking in its own impotence that it has forgotten the experience of the power of power. When a protester says things, nothing happens. Decades go by, and nothing happens. Projecting this impotence onto those holding power is dangerous, because when Theresa May, for example, says things, things happen. But, at least May is only a capitalist. At least Hilary is only a capitalist. Inertia is better than a return to the past, because the one thing we’re supposed to all agree on is that “never again” should a fascist have the power of power. Žižek’s words are irresponsible in that context. At the time of writing, nearly 2 million people have watched that video, and I hope none of them have a vote in the presidential election.