Lay Lenin Lay


In his latest attempt to reanimate one of the most famous corpses in history, academic It Boy Slavoj Zizek gives two thumbs up to the 20th century's version of Vlad the Impaler, hero of "formal freedom" (i.e., the freedom to do as Lenin tells you).

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin died on January 21 1924, 80 years ago?does the embarrassed silence over his name mean that he died twice, that his legacy is also dead? His insensitivity toward personal freedoms is effectively foreign to our liberal-tolerant sensibility ? who, today, would not experience a shudder apropos his dismissive remarks against the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionaries? critique of the Bolshevik power in 1922?

?Indeed, the sermons which…the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries preach express their true nature: ?The revolution has gone too far. What you are saying now we have been saying all the time, permit us to say it again.? But we say in reply: ?Permit us to put you before a firing squad for saying that. Either you refrain from expressing your views, or, if you insist on expressing your political views publicly in the present circumstances, when our position is far more difficult than it was when the white guards were directly attacking us, then you will have only yourselves to blame if we treat you as the worst and most pernicious white guard elements.??

This dismissive attitude towards the ?liberal? notion of freedom accounts for Lenin?s bad reputation among liberals. Their case largely rests upon their rejection of the standard Marxist-Leninist opposition of ?formal? and ?actual? freedom, but as even ;eftist liberals like Claude Lefort emphasize again and again, freedom is in its very notion ?formal,? so that ?actual freedom? equals the lack of freedom. Lenin is best remembered for his famous retort ?Freedom—yes, but for whom? To do what?? For him, in the above-quoted case of the Mensheviks, their ?freedom? to criticize the Bolshevik government effectively amounted to the ?freedom? to undermine the workers? and peasants? government on behalf of the counterrevolution.

[Link via Arts & Letters Daily]

More fun with Lenin here.