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Slavoj Zizek: Why Far Right and Xenophobic Politicians Are on the Rise in Europe

Zizek: I really am worried about how the far right is setting the general political agenda, even while being in the minority.

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AMY GOODMAN: The massive French protests that are taking place—I mean, I think when people here hear that massive number of people are in the streets because the retirement age is being lifted from sixty to sixty-two—

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN:—people would only wish for that early retirement age in the United States.

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Yeah, but let me tell you something else which may surprise you here. I will make a different comment, because in my country, Slovenia, the same thing is going on. Of course, in general, in principle, I support those who strike and so on. But did you notice how they are mostly—mostly—state employees with guaranteed employment and so on. A strange phenomenon is now exploding in Europe, getting more and more accentuated, which was here, we just didn’t notice it all the time. Those who dare to strike today are usually the privileged, those who have a guaranteed state employment and so on. And they strike for these things like, no, we don’t want to freeze our salaries; we want raise them up, while, for example, in my country, there are thousands of textile workers, women, who, if one were to offer them what—that situation with regard to which those who strike today are protesting, like "we guarantee you permanent employment, just with frozen salaries for next five years," they would say, "My god! That’s better than we dared to dream." This is what worries me a little bit, that this strike waves, you know, are clearly predominantly strikes of the, let’s call it in old Leninist terms, workers’ aristocracy, those with safe positions. The truly needy and poor one don’t even dare to strike.

AMY GOODMAN: But talk about the mass protests in the street in France compared to what we don’t have here. We don’t see that in the streets.

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: OK, this is an old French tradition, and I wouldn’t even overestimate it. You know why? Because—this is what makes me sad. There is no alternate—again, we are always returning to the same problem—there is no global alternate vision. They are—sorry, but now I will appear like anti-worker, but I’m not, please believe me. They just think, "Oh, no, we want this. We want our piece of cake" and so on. Well, what the left is missing is a kind of a more global idea of how to restructure entire economy. I mean, they are not addressing the true causes. This makes me very sad. This is typical. All that the left can do today is to propose—sorry, oppose—protest against reductions. The left is, let me be very frank, in this social sense, a conservative force. In the social sense of social, fast changes and so on, it’s capitalists who are today the revolutionary class. This makes it very sad, the situation.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you one last question. You keep talking about the bigger issue of the system, that that’s what you have to look at. Explain.

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: No, let me take the example of the oil spill. I’m not saying this primitive, old leftist mantra, "we have to change capitalism," and so on. But what even enlightened capitalists know today, it’s not simply immediately this fight of good against evil to be fought in moralistic terms, more radical changes in how our economy is organized, in how we make certain political choices and so on, economic choices. It’s a very simple point, that we simply have to start thinking in more global term, and so that you will not tell me, ooh, I am a utopian.

 
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