Žižek: on Russia’s “nazification” & Ukraine’s popular resistance

13 01 2023

Slovenian theorist Slavoj Žižek has always been easy to agree and disagree with, his elliptically insightful arguments often leaving readers puzzled and exhilarated in equal measure (but rarely simply comforted; for some of my own agreements and disagreements with him, see my book Shadowing the Anthropocene).

On Ukraine, I have found him both insightful and consistent. In June, in a Guardian piece entitled “Pacifism is the wrong response to the war in Ukraine,” he astutely assessed Russia’s “strategic plan” as being

to profit from global warming: control the world’s main transport route, plus develop Siberia and control Ukraine. In this way, Russia will dominate so much food production that it will be able to blackmail the whole world. This is the ultimate economic reality beneath Putin’s imperial dream.

And he saw in Ukraine’s defense “the greatness of Ukrainian resistance: they risked the impossible, defying pragmatic calculations, and the least we owe them is full support, and to do this, we need a stronger Nato – but not as a prolongation of […] US politics,” but rather as a fully European strategy. He criticized the war’s “strange bedfellows like Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky,” both of whom have, at least by implication, advocated Ukrainian surrender. And even as he noted that Putin’s attack on Ukraine was little different from George W. Bush’s attack on Iraq, he argued that “Today, one cannot be a leftist if one does not unequivocally stand behind Ukraine.” 

This past week, in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Vasha Tavberidze (“Denazification Should Begin at Home, in Russia“), Žižek argued that while fascism, “horrible” as it is, has often limited itself to countries attempting to “maintain order in their own land,” Nazism represented a more expansionist and imperialist form of fascism. Today, he suggests, with Putin’s embrace of a vision inspired by fascist thinker Ivan Ilyin and with materially backed rhetoric about the necessary “de-Satanization” of Europe, Russia is the country that is most “dangerously approaching a new version of Nazism.”

The global risk, as he sees it, is that of “a silent pact between Western alt-right neoconservatives, aggressive populists from France to England to Germany, [and] the United States and Russia” pursuing a “new vision of sovereign neofascist states.” In this situation, he defends the social-democratic vision of a Europe that is “a corporation of states in a global emergency situation based on basic social democratic values [… of] global health care, solidarity, free education, and so on,” and argues that it is this Europe that needs to support the Ukraine that today counts as “one of the few examples [of] authentic popular resistance — they did the impossible, every leftist should be glad.” 

RFE/RL’s interview with Zizek can be read here.



One response

10 03 2023

I found his argument extremely sharp and well-founded.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar