SLAVOJ Zizek’s book First as Tragedy Then as Farce is a soul cry for the return of Communism. He has given an open call to all former and anti-communists, “Do not be afraid, join us, come back! You’ve had your anti-communist fun, and you are pardoned for it – time to get serious once again.” Slavoj has quoted the story of Victor Kravchenko, a former Soviet diplomat who sought asylum in the US in 1944. He wrote an autobiographical book I chose freedom in which he spoke about the Stalinist regressions. The same Kravchenko, worried by the McCarthyite anti-communist witch hunt wrote I chose Justice, a sequel to his first book. He was worried that the methods used were similar to the Stalinist measures. He even took up the fight in Bolivia and finally shot himself dead in his home in an act of desperation.
The tragedy and farce he is referring to are the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the financial meltdown of 2008, the two events that “marked the beginning and end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. The significance and connection between the two events is the reaction of President Bush to both. “We should note the similarity of President Bush’s language in his address to the American people after 9/11 and after the financial collapse: they sounded very much like two versions of the same speech. Both times Bush evoked the threat to the American way of life and the need to take fast and decisive action to cope with the danger. Both times he called for partial suspension of American values, guarantees of individual freedom, market capitalism” Slavoj Zizek points out.
Slavoj Zizek trashes the capitalist economic system and mocks at it repeatedly in the book. Citing the case of one of the poorest countries in the world Mali, the book says it had two pillars of economy, cotton and cattle. While it could not sell the cotton at competitive prices because the financial support the US government gave to its cotton growers made the US cotton cheap, the European Union is the culprit as far as cattle (beef) is concerned. The western powers who lecture and impose rules on poor third world nations against subsidy, they practice it in full throttle.
“While crises do shake people out of their complacency, forcing them to question the fundamentals of their lives, the most spontaneous first reaction is panic, which leads to a “return to the basics”: the basic premises of the ruling ideology, far from being put into doubt, are even more violently reasserted,” says the book on the reassertion of capitalism in the face of the financial meltdown.
Slavoj Zizek has authored 40 books. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London. This is an engaging book discussing the failure of capitalism and yet its survival, while the Left has failed to offer an alternative. An interesting read.
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