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“I am a Leninist. Lenin wasn’t afraid to dirty his hands. If you can get power, grab it”

October 30, 2009

Interview with Slavoj Žižek: full transcript
by Jonathan Derbyshire
from the New Statesman

zizekstatesmanNS: What relationship, if any, do you think your work has to the mainstream, normative, liberal political philosophy done in English and American universities?

SZ: I noticed something — maybe I’m just generalising this; I don’t know to what extent this is a rule– I noticed how many of the people who consider themselves to be more radical than the liberal standard, the left-liberal standard, most of them do not work in political philosophy properly but, as it were, hide themselves as literary critics or philosophers. It’s as if it’s an excess which requires you to change genre. Another tendency of these “radicals” is moralization connected with legalization. It’s a certain pose in which they want to deliver the message that they are really more radical. But this excess of radicality only concretely articulates itself in some kind of a general moralistic outrage — “what are we doing to immigrants?!” I think they often tend to be a little bit hypocritical. I always read the liberal anti-communists, liberal leftists – they’re interesting, one can learn from them. I read a wonderful essay by Orwell from 1938. There he has a wonderful analysis of the typical leftist liberal. He says they ask for a change, but they do it in a hypocritical way: they ask for a change but it’s almost as if to make sure that no real change will happen.
Don’t you suspect a little bit that there’s something of this in today’s typical radical liberal – in today’s anti-immigrant campaign for instance? The standard idea is to say, like my friend Alain Badiou in France, “those who are here are from here”. That is to say, no check for roots, open to all of them. Legalize everything. The problem is that they know very well that this radical opening will never happen. So it’s very easy to have a radical position which costs you nothing and for the price of nothing it gives you some kind of moral superiority. It also enables them to avoid the truly difficult questions. For example, my conflict with my radical leftist friends is when they want total openness and so on. I say to them, are you aware that anti-immigrant are mostly spontaneous, lower working-class attitudes? They talk as if some big imperialist power centre decides to be against immigrants. No! If anything, capital is more liberal about immigrants. So, I think this is not a good thing – I think of all these theorists, like Giddens and Held, who are left-wing, but left within the establishment … more

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