Zizek: Stalinist, Leninist, or…?

In his contribution to the book The Idea of Communism, Zizek again repeats his provocation:

one of the mantras of the postmodern left is that one should finally leave behind the ‘Jacobin-Leninist’ paradigm of centralized dictatorial power. Perhaps, the time has come to turn this mantra around and admit that a dose of this ‘Jacobin-Leninist’ paradigm is precisely what the left needs today…

Either he really believes this, or he is being a provocateur.  Either way he needs to stop.

But then he goes on to make a fairly interesting point: the disaster that was the Communist Party-State (in the Soviet Union, in China, in Cuba, etc.) was above all the failure of anti-statist politics, of direct forms of self-organization like factory councils, because those alternative forms weren’t strong enough to force the new state to wither away.  He says the true task before us now is to “make the state work in a non-statal mode.”  The goal of revolutionary violence, he says, is not to take over state power, but to transform it radically into new forms of power that are constituted through popular participation. Okay, here there’s something to consider seriously, a different way to approach the state.  It does not wither away of its own accord; rather it is forced by the power of popular energy and mobilization to transform radically, so radically that it is no longer clear if we could even call it a state anymore.  This is a kind of Leninism, and one can see more than an echo of Lefebvre’s work on the state (which is itself inspired by State and Revolution).  Maybe he’s got a point.  But I would be more sympathetic to this line of argument if he didn’t couple it with his clownish pining for centralized dictatorial power.


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