The Problem is All the Liberal-Communists

Zizek reflects on how we are distracted by being thrown from crisis to crisis rather than evaluating the broader issues that give rise to the crises themselves: the real problem is capital and its ability to co-opt anything that sets out to resist it.

It is the self-propelling metaphysical dance of capital that runs the show, that provides the key to real-life developments and catastrophes. Therein resides the fundamental systemic violence of capitalism, much more uncanny than any direct pre-capitalist socio-ideological violence: this violence is no longer attributable to concrete individuals and their “evil” intentions, but is purely “objective,” systemic, anonymous. (Zizek, Violence, pp. 12-13).

In short, because nobody is directly responsible for such “objective” forms of violence, they tend to be more or less invisible to us.

Zizek points out that there has been a great merger between the Right and the Left under the shadow of global capitalism. Capitalists like Bill Gates can now fund anti-capitalist poverty and development programs.

The new liberal communists are, of course, our usual suspects: Bill Gates and George Soros, the CEOs of Google, IBM, Intel, eBay, as well as their court philosophers, most notably the journalist Thomas Friedman. What makes this group interesting is that their ideology has become all but indistinguishable from the new breed of anti-globalist leftist radicals… Both the old right, with its ridiculous belief in authority and order and parochial patriotism, and the old left with its capitalised Struggle against Capitalism, are today’s true conservatives fighting their shadow-theatre struggles and out of touch with the new realities. (Zizek, Violence, p. 16).

These new conservatives have managed to unite the old Right with the old Left in the favor of capitalism itself. State redistribution has failed, or so the argument goes, and thus the only means to redistribute wealth is by volunteer charity from the wealthy and the corporate powers. The leftist radicals inherited or built their giant companies and now operate a kind of capitalist-communist charity fund that focuses on counteracting subjective violence: homelessness, poverty, racism, rape, etc. Such a position is not laudatory because it refuses to evaluate what causes the problems of poverty and h0melessness in the first place. Capitalism causes the problem and is, magically, somehow, the solution as well.

We need to ask ourselves whether there really is something new here. Is it not merely that an attitude which in the wild old capitalist days of the U.S. industrial barons, was something of an exception (although not as much as it may appear) has not gained universal currency? Good old Andrew Carnegie employed a private army brutally to suppress organised labor in his steelworks and then distributed large parts of his wealth to educational, artistic, and humanitarian causes. A man of steel, he proved he had a heart of gold. In the same way, today’s liberal communists give away with one hand what they first took with the other. (Zizek, Violence, p. 21).

This is why the delicate liberal-communist–frightened, caring, fighting violence–and the blind fundamentalist exploding in rage are two sides of the same coin. While they fight subjective violence, liberal communists are the very agents of the structural violence which creates the conditions for the explosions of subjective violence. The same philanthropists who give millions for AIDS or education in tolerance have ruined the lives of thousands through financial speculation and thus created the conditions for the very intolerance that is being fought. (Zizek, Violence, pp. 36-37)

We should have no illusions: liberal communists are the enemy of every progressive struggle today. … Precisely because they want to resolve all the secondary malfunctions of the global system, liberal communists are the direct embodiment of what is wrong with the system as such. (Zizek, Violence, p. 37)


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