TransAct 22

TransAct statement

In a recent article "Blair and me versus the forces of conservatism" (Daily Telegraph, London: February 22), Jörg Haider emphasized the affinity between the New Labour and his Austrian Free Democrats, which renders irrelevant the old oppositions of Left/Right: they both a break with the old ideological ballast, combine flexible market economy (deregulation, etc.) with the community-based politics of solidarity (help for old, children, and the socially deprived), i.e. they seek to assert communal solidarity outside the old welfare-state dogma. (Haider even claims that his Party's immigrant policy is more open than that of the New Labour, which, probably, is true! ) Such statements are, of course, consciously and intentionally misleading, intended to cover up the xenophobic populist kernel of Haider's politics – they belong to the same series as the old South African apartheid partisans' attempts to present their politics as just another version of "identity politics," guaranteeing the survival of all the wealth of different cultures.

Ernesto Laclau introduced the distinction between the elements of an ideological edifice and the articulation of those elements which confer on them their meaning: Fascism is not simply characterized by a series of features (economic corporatism, populism, xenophobic racism, militarism, etc.), i.e. these features are not in themselves "Fascist," but can also be included into different ideological articulations – what makes them "Fascist" is their specific articulation into the global Fascist ideological project (say, large public works did not play the same role in the Nazi Germany and in the New Deal America). Along the same lines, it would be easy to show in what Haider's manipulation resides: even if Haider and Blair effectively DO propose a set of identical measures, these measures are inscribed into a different global project.

This, however, is not the whole story: Haider effectively IS a kind of Blair's uncanny double, his obscene sneer accompanying like shadow the New Labour's big smile. To put it in the good old Stalinist terms, although Haider is lying in equating himself with Blair, his statements are "objectively true": the New Right populism is the "return of the repressed," the necessary supplement, of the global capitalist multiculturalist tolerance. The "truth" of Haider's claim does not reside in the direct identity of the New Labour and the New Right populism, but in the fact that this populism is generated by the very inconsistencies of the Third Way project. In Haider's clinching to Blair (and the term "clinching" is here used in the precise sense from boxing), the Third Way Left gets its own message back in its inverted – true – form.

At the congress of the Front National a couple of years ago, Le Pen brought to stage an Algerian, an African and a Jew, embraced them all and told the gathered public: "They are no less French than I am – it is the representatives of the big multinational capital, ignoring their duty to France, who are the true danger to our identity!" Hypocritical as such statements are, they nonetheless signal how the populist Right is moving to occupy the terrain left vacant by the Left. It is absolutely crucial that the new Rightist populists are the only "serious" political force today which addresses the people with the anti-capitalist rhetorics.

The participation in the government of the far Right is not the punishment for the Leftist "sectarianism" and "not coming to terms with new postmodern conditions" – it is, on the contrary, the price the Left is paying for its renunciation of any radical political project, for accepting market capitalism as "the only game in town".

Slavoj Žižek
Philosopher, Psychoanalyst
(University of Ljubljana, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen)

Ljubljana, 15 April, 2K