This article in today’s Guardian is typical posturing coffee-shop-radical claptrap from Zizek. How wonderful to be a well-paid, well-respected European critical theorist and have the luxury of saying that all oppressed peoples’ attempts to create a new world - be it in South Africa, Cuba, Zimbabwe, China, Korea, the former Soviet Union, etc - have been worse than useless. How great to be able to totally ignore all objective factors (little things like, errr, IMPERIALISM, the collapse of the USSR, total US geopolitical dominance of the early 1990s, the global rise of neoliberalism, massive droughts, etc) and focus entirely on the subjective factor, ie “how to move further from Mandela without becoming Mugabe”.
He tells us that life is just as bad for black South Africans now as it was under apartheid. Clearly he is not one of those dogmatic people who measures quality of life in terms of food security, housing, or the availability of clean running water, electricity and educational opportunities - all of which are MUCH better now for South Africans (not to say they are perfect, they obviously aren’t).
He says that “the rise of political and civil rights is counterbalanced by the growing insecurity, violence and crime”. This is a fundamentally racist point. Before 1994, whites had all the political and civil rights, and only blacks suffered from the extreme levels of insecurity, violence and crime. Now everybody has the political and civil rights, and whites have lost their automatic protection from violence and crime (well, it’s been a violent society ever since the whites turned up!).
"If we merely abolish the market (inclusive of market exploitation) without replacing it with a proper form of the communist organisation of production and exchange, domination returns with a vengeance, and with it direct exploitation." Great. And while we’re at it, how about we build a lovely utopia up in the clouds where the sun is always shining, people dance salsa day and night, and a bowl of marshmallows constitutes a nutritious meal? Socialism is born from capitalism, and it inherits many defects. Overcoming these and moving towards a sane, equal, prosperous society is the work of many generations. Furthermore, socialism is unable to develop freely in the era of imperialism, hence the number one priority being to end (or at least marginalise) imperialism. Tellingly, there’s not a single mention of imperialism in Zizek’s article.
And the parting shot: “We can safely surmise that, on account of his doubtless moral and political greatness, he was at the end of his life also a bitter old man, well aware how his very political triumph and his elevation into a universal hero was the mask of a bitter defeat. Mandela’s universal glory is also a sign that he really didn’t disturb the global order of power.” Yeah… because imperialism was totally happy for apartheid to die, yes? The ruling classes of Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the US were more than happy for African countries to get their liberation, and that’s why they organised endless ‘civil’ wars, interventions and campaigns of destabilisation?
The fact is that there is still an international campaign of destabilisation against South Africa. SA’s main trading partner is China; it is the only African member of BRICS; it’s a significant military force; it has excellent state relations with Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zambia (unlike in the apartheid days when it was occupying or waging war on those countries); it retains close ties with evil-communist-dictatorship Cuba. There are very few things the US and European ruling classes would like more than to see the ‘Democratic Alliance’ apartheid-nostalgia-brigade come to power in South Africa, and the barrage of ‘left’-sounding critiques of Mandela being printed in the mainstream press is in support of that aim. So the ‘strategy’ of this wonderful Marxist philosopher Zizek is to unite with the right against the not-quite-left-enough. Thanks but no thanks.