Žižek against neutrality

Marcelo Guimarães Lima, Spiral, charcoal and acrylic on paper, 2021.


There is no possible autonomy in the world commanded by the so-called hegemonic liberal democracy

From the height of his authority as a left-wing intellectual, European and Slavic, knowledgeable insider of the cultural, historical and geographical world of which Russia is an essential part, Slavoj Žižek writes against “neutrality” in relation to the war between Russia and Ukraine, against the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops which he defines as an imperialist act of one nation against another on European soil.[1]

Citing the position of President Lula who, according to Slavoj Žižek, blames both sides for the conflict, the philosopher writes vehemently against “neutrality” in relation to war. The only acceptable position for Slavoj Žižek is the military defense of Ukraine, the prolonging of the war and the military and political defeat of the almost mythical figure of the current leader of Russia, who represents for the ever-enlightened European press and so-called public opinion on the North America-Europe axis, the last embodiment of absolute evil. Any alternative other than Russia's defeat is unacceptable. In this, the philosopher seems to agree with the position of the US and Western European countries.

His position is anti-Russia and anti-Putin, seen as the imperialist of the time: conservative, authoritarian, Russian nationalist or ultranationalist, homophobic, in short, the negative figure of Western and progressive ideals, insofar as the bourgeois-enlightenment heritage of individual freedom and international legality informs historically and critically the socialist ideals forged in popular struggles in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries in Europe. That this legacy is being undermined by the ruling classes themselves in the model countries of the so-called western democratic tradition would, in this case, be, I think, something to be duly considered.

In the confusion of spirits typical of the time, the figure of Vladimir Putin condenses “Eastern despotism”, from the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union, into a timeless symbolic amalgam, as a projection of the threat of the great barbarian other to the civilized West. It remains to be seen whether the clear position of Slavoj Žižek against Russia in the current context of warmongering and protracted war is in fact in favor of Ukraine.

Coming from Brazil, South Africa or India, neutrality is unacceptable, writes the European philosopher, without taking the trouble to examine why these countries, with their diverse political realities, apparently take a similar position that differs from the consensus western, of the ideas propagated by a more and more homogeneous press in the transmission of the “correct” and excluding perspectives on matters of public interest in Europe and North America.

It seems to me that Europe's objective interest would be the swift resolution of conflicts, even the most serious ones, and peace on its borders. But what Latin America knew at the beginning of the neoliberal period as the “Washington consensus”, the direct or indirect imposition of indisputable, obligatory political and economic directives on the countries south of the Rio Grande, seems to define today the European context in which guidelines Exogenous forces and interests alien to the interests of the majority in Europe are quickly and happily embraced by the ruling classes of the so-called old continent.

Added to the health and migration crises, the globalization crisis as a crisis of the hitherto hegemonic neoliberal economic model, the war aggravates the already precarious world political and economic balance and immediately the already unstable status quo in the main countries of the European Union: France, England and Germany.

The Global South takes a more cautious stance, which the philosopher does not like, on the conflict in Ukraine. From a southern perspective, the local conflict between Russia and Ukraine is seen as broader in space and time, overdetermined by hegemonic interests of the main imperialist power and its allies today. The US and its western allies are waging a kind of proxy war in Ukraine, a war for interposed subjects. They seek to defeat Russia at the cost of Ukrainian lives, at the cost of the material, and consequently moral, destruction of a country under the pretext of its defense. As already noted, the US and the European Union pledge to fight to the last man, that is, the last Ukrainian.

In the “campista” position, the one that separates the “good” from the “bad” in a complete, indisputable way, remembering the responsibilities of those who, through their actions, prepared in time and today inflate and finance the Ukrainian war on the other side of the ocean, is to support the imperialist Vladimir Putin. “Second-tier imperialist” we might say, as it is not Russia that has military bases in Western Europe and around the globe.

Whatever the subjective designs attributed to Vladimir Putin by his critics and “ideological” enemies, occupying and annexing Ukraine, for example, is beyond Russia's military and economic capabilities, warn independent experts on military matters, and therefore it is beyond the objective interest of the ruling group in Moscow. Here we have a matter of fact, as it is also a matter of fact for the Russian leadership the expansion of NATO as a hostile process towards the Russian state, towards its autonomy, its relations and its role in the globalized world.

Another question of fact of current times concerns the increasingly reckless initiatives of the leading group or groups, as it is a deeply divided elite, in the USA for the maintenance of the status of undisputed hegemonic power, that is: to prolong the century late XNUMXth century into the XNUMXst century.

Transforming the European inter-imperialist war into civil war, class war within national states against the dominant classes, was the motto, the watchword of revolutionaries in the European crisis of the so-called world wars at the beginning of the XNUMXth century. In the case of Ukraine in the XNUMXst century, it is possible to say that a prolonged process of latent civil war was transformed, by external decisions and interventions planned in conjunction with internal groups, into war between States.

In a recent interview, President Lula classified the invasion of Ukraine as a historic mistake by Russia. In view of the fait accompli and the ongoing war, the issue is to fight for peace, for a negotiated way out of the conflict, for an immediate cessation of hostilities, something that, I believe, would immediately benefit the Ukrainian population, as well as the fighters and the Russian people. In this sense, Lula's proposal seems more reasonable to me than the position of defeating the designated enemy at any cost, in which the philosopher Slavoj Žižek and Western powers under US command.

Lula's so-called "neutrality" is revealed here as another engagement, a far from abstract or idealizing engagement for peace, an initiative that has nothing "neutral" or indifferent to state violence, but an autonomous position that frontally contradicts the actions, the justifications, interests and warlike will of imperialism that really calls the shots in today's world and that has demonstrated its lethal capacity for intervention, always in the name of freedom and democracy, not only in Europe, but in the four corners of the world .

In the bloody and deadly war against Iraq at the beginning of the XNUMXst century, for example, justified with lies and the usual fallacious rhetoric of "values" and "moral superiority", little Bush declared the impossibility of any other position than the acquiescence to the determinations of the “unique and indispensable” power. Anyone who does not subscribe to the US position aligns with the enemy. There is no other alternative. In this particular little or nothing has changed.

There is no possible autonomy in the world commanded by the so-called hegemonic liberal democracy. In this world on Generis, which is ours, it is then possible to understand that far from opposing each other, the paradigmatic liberal democracy and its allies, the really existing democracy, the ideologically and militarily imposing democracy, and fascism, the radical ideological denial of representative democracy, are complementary in several ways. A proposition that can help us to understand some central aspects of the recent neo-fascist experience of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and its current and future extensions.

The search for autonomy in a world where the established hegemony is going through an evident crisis with its risks that are more than evident, is something that can be understood with a minimum of perception and goodwill.

For the consolidated opinion of the so-called first world, including some of its intellectuals, President Lula's position may seem like nonsense coming from the periphery of the world system, a foolishness of someone who does not have the military power of the central countries in the international order, an unreasonable audacity, something like a crime of high treason.

*Marcelo Guimaraes Lima is an artist, researcher, writer and teacher.


[1] Slavoj Žižek. “The dark side of neutrality”. Available in https://aterraeredonda.com.br/o-lado-sombrio-da-neutralidade/

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