Bill O’Reilly recently denounced liberal economist Robert Reich as a communist, and Reich responded to this absurd charge by challenging O’Reilly to debate him. The debate I’d like to see, which will never take place, would be between O’Reilly and philosopher-funnyman-motormouth Slavoj Zizek, a genuine communist and an admirer of both Karl and Groucho Marx.
Here is Zizek in The Guardian, all wound up and addressing the dilemma of all who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement:
Economic globalization is gradually but inexorably undermining the legitimacy of western democracies. Due to their international character, large economic processes cannot be controlled by democratic mechanisms which are, by definition, limited to nation states. In this way, people more and more experience institutional democratic forms as unable to capture their vital interests.
It is here that [Karl] Marx’s key insight remains valid, today perhaps more than ever: for Marx, the question of freedom should not be located primarily into the political sphere proper. The key to actual freedom rather resides in the “apolitical” network of social relations, from the market to the family, where the change needed if we want an actual improvement is not a political reform, but a change in the “apolitical” social relations of production. We do not vote about who owns what, about relations in a factory, etc – all this is left to processes outside the sphere of the political…
One of Zizek’s points is that many fed-up people are in denial about the link between their declining standards of living and the failure of capitalism in its current form. He’ll go anywhere to make his points, including classic movies:
Let us recall the famous joke from Ernst Lubitch’s Ninotchka: the hero visits a cafeteria and orders coffee without cream; the waiter replies:
“Sorry, but we have run out of cream, we only have milk. Can I bring you coffee without milk?”
Was not a similar trick at work in the dissolution of the eastern european Communist regimes in 1990? The people who protested wanted freedom and democracy without corruption and exploitation, and what they got was freedom and democracy without solidarity and justice. Likewise, the Catholic theologian close to the pope is carefully emphasizing that the protesters should target moral injustice, greed, consumerism etc, without capitalism. The self-propelling circulation of Capital remains more than ever the ultimate Real of our lives, a beast that by definition cannot be controlled.