Learn to Live without Masters

An Interview with Slavoj Žižek taken by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Naked Punch, October 3, 2009

1. Getting Rid of the Big Other.

OGR: It seems as if, in the end, your philosophical and political project is to break through the various impasses of extrinsic vs. intrinsic accounts of everything, from cinema to science and politics, without playing to the gallery of hysterics who want you to give them ‘the new law’. That would explain why your discourse (and your practice) cannot simply follow the conventions of the discourse of the university. Put otherwise, is this what you are getting at when you state that the task is ‘to get rid of the Big other’ in all its forms (including that of the ‘organic intellectual’)?

SZ: It was already Jacques-Alain Miller who elaborated the idea that democracy involves a kind of destitution of the big Other, with direct reference to Claude Lefort: “Is ‘democracy’ a master-signifier? Without any doubt. It is the master-signifier which says that there is no master-signifier, at least not a master-signifier which would stand alone, that every master-signifier has to insert itself wisely among others. Democracy is Lacan’s big S of the barred A, which says: I am the signifier of the fact that Other has a hole, or that it doesn’t exist.”

Of course, Miller is aware that EVERY master-signifier bears witness to the fact that there is no master-signifier, no Other of the Other, that there is a lack in the Other, etc. – the very gap between S1 and S2 occurs because of this lack (as with God in Spinoza, the Master-Signifier by definition fills in the gap in the series of “ordinary” signifiers). The difference is that, with democracy, this lack is directly inscribed into the social edifice, it is institutionalized in a set of procedures and regulations – no wonder, then, that Miller approvingly quotes Marcel Gauchet about how, in democracy, truth only offers itself “in division and decomposition.” Is this, however, all that is to say here?

Let me recall Karl Kautsky’s old defense of the multiparty democracy: Kautsky conceived the victory of socialism as the parliamentary victory of the social-democratic party, and even suggested that the appropriate political form of the passage from capitalism to socialism is the parliamentary coalition of progressive bourgeois parties and socialist parties. (One is tempted to bring this logic to its extreme and suggest that, for Kautsky, the only acceptable revolution would take place after a referendum at which at least 51% of voters would approve it.) In his writings of 1917, Lenin saved his utmost acerb irony for those who engage in the endless search for some kind of “guarantee” for the revolution; this guarantee assumes two main forms: either the reified notion of social Necessity (one should not risk the revolution too early; one has to wait for the right moment, when the situation is “mature” with regard to the laws of historical development: “it is too early for the Socialist revolution, the working class is not yet mature”) or the normative (“democratic”) legitimacy (“the majority of the population is not on our side, so the revolution would not really be democratic”) - as Lenin repeatedly puts it, it is as if, before the revolutionary agent risks the seizure of the state power, it should get the permission from some figure of the big Other (organize a referendum which will ascertain that the majority supports the revolution). With Lenin, as with Lacan, the point is that a revolution ne s’autorise que d’elle-meme: one should assume the revolutionary ACT not covered by the big Other - the fear of taking power “prematurely,” the search for the guarantee, is the fear of the abyss of the act.

Democracy is thus not only the “institutionalization of the lack in the Other”. By institutionalizing the lack, it neutralizes – normalizes – it, so that the inexistence of the big Other (Lacan’s il n’y a pas de grand Autre) is again suspended: the big Other is again here in the guise of the democratic legitimization/authorization of our acts – in a democracy, my acts are “covered” as the legitimate acts which carry out the will of the majority. In contrast to this logic, the role of the emancipatory forces is not to passively „reflect“ the opinion of the majority, but to create a new majority.

2. The Role of the Public Intellectual.

OGR: You seem to entail that even in democracy we keep looking for new masters, new guidance and new recipes, when in fact we should strive to get rid of them all. To be consistent with that perspective one must then question also the position of the engaged intellectual, such as yourself, which more often than not appears as the ‘advanced’ conscience of society, the one proposing new forms of social and political experimentation and innovation. You have been approvingly portrayed several times as such, as an experimental performer or an innovative thinker, for instance by the San Francisco Chronicle a few years ago, after the screening of the film ‘Zizek!’. However, if you reject this role for the intellectual as a convincing form of political action in the present situation, then what is/should be the proper role of the public or politically engaged intellectual? Have intellectuals done anything of any relevance whatsoever, as a British journalist put it after the death of Jacques Derrida? Or is it their destiny to fail (politically) even when they succeed?

SZ: What can a philosopher do today, what can he or she tell the general public haunted by the problems of ecology, of racism, of religious conflicts, etc.? The task is not to provide answers, but to show how the way we perceive a problem can be part of the problem, mystifying it instead of enabling us to solve it. There are not only wrong answers, there are also wrong questions.

A fake sense of urgency pervades the Left-liberal humanitarian discourse: “A woman is raped every six seconds in this country,” “In the time it takes you to read this paragraph, ten children will die of hunger”… Underlying all this is a hypocritical sentiment of moral outrage. This kind of pseudo-urgency was exploited by Starbucks coffee stores a couple of years ago: at the store’s entrance, posters greeting customers pointed out that almost half of the chain’s profits went into health-care for the children of Guatemala, the source of their coffee, the inference being that with every cup you drink, you save a child’s life.

There is a fundamental anti-theoretical edge to these urgent injunctions. There is no time to reflect: we have to act now. Through this fake sense of urgency, the post-industrial rich, living in their secluded virtual world, not only do not deny or ignore the harsh reality outside their area – they actively refer to it all times. As Bill Gates recently put it: “What do computers matter when millions are still unnecessarily dying of dysentery?”

Against this fake urgency, we might want to place Marx’s wonderful letter to Engels of 1870, when, for a brief moment it seemed that a European revolution was again at the gates. Marx’s letter conveys his sheer panic: can’t the revolutionaries wait for a couple of years? He hasn’t yet finished his Capital.

A critical analysis of the present global constellation - one which offers no clear solution, no “practical” advice on what to do, and provides no light at the end of the tunnel, since one is well aware that this light might belong to a train crashing towards us - usually meets with reproach: ‘Do you mean we should do nothing? Just sit and wait?’ One should gather the courage to answer: “YES, precisely that!” There are situations when the only truly “practical” thing to do is to resist the temptation to engage immediately and to “wait and see” by means of a patient, critical analysis.

There is a well-known Soviet joke about Lenin. Under Socialism, Lenin’s advice to young people, his answer to what they should do, was ‘Learn, learn, and learn’. This was evoked at all times and displayed on all school walls. The joke goes: Marx, Engels and Lenin are asked whether they would prefer to have, a wife or a mistress. As expected, Marx, rather conservative in private matters, answers ‘A wife!’, while Engels, more of a bon vivant, opts for a mistress. To everyone’s surprise, Lenin says: ‘I’d like to have both!’ Why? Is there a hidden stripe of decadent jouisseur behind his austere revolutionary image? No – he explains: ‘so that I can tell my wife that I am going to my mistress, and my mistress that I have to be with my wife…’ ‘And then, what do you do?’ ‘I go to a solitary place to learn, learn, and learn!’

Is this not exactly what Lenin did after the catastrophe of 1914? He withdrew to a lonely place in Switzerland, where he ‘learned, learned, and learned,’ reading Hegel’s logic. And this is what we should do today when we find ourselves bombarded by mediatic images of violence. We need to ‘learn, learn, and learn’ what causes this violence.

This, of course, in no way means that one should agree with the liberal common wisdom according to which philosophers in politics stand for a catastrophic misfortune: starting with Plato, they either miserably fail or succeed… in supporting tyrants. The reason, so the story goes on, is that philosophers try to impose their Notion on reality, violating it - no wonder that, from Plato to Heidegger, they are resolutely anti-democratic (with the exception of some empiricist and pragmatists), dismissing the crowd of “people” as the victim of sophists, at the mercy of contingent plurality… So when the common wisdom hears of Marxists who defend Marx, claiming that his ideas were not faithfully realized in Stalinism, the reply: thanks God! It would have been even worse to fully realize them! Heidegger at least was willing to draw consequences of his catastrophic experience and conceded that those who think ontologically have to err ontically, that the gap is irreducible, that there is no “philosophical politics” proper. It thus seems that G.K.Chesterton was fully justified in his ironic proposal to install a “special corps of policemen, policemen who are also philosophers”:

“It is their business to watch the beginnings of this conspiracy, not merely in a criminal but in a controversial sense. /…/ The work of the philosophical policeman /…/ is at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary detective. The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary detective discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be committed. We have to trace the origin of those dreadful thoughts that drive men on at last to intellectual fanaticism and intellectual crime.”

Would not thinkers as different as Popper, Adorno and Levinas, also subscribe to a slightly changed version of this idea, where actual political crime is called “totalitarianism” and the philosophical crime is condensed in the notion of “totality”? A straight road leads from the philosophical notion of totality to political totalitarianism, and the task of “philosophical police” is to discover from a book of Plato’s dialogues or a treatise on social contract by Rousseau that a political crime will be committed. The ordinary political policeman goes to secret organizations to arrest revolutionaries; the philosophical policeman goes to philosophical symposia to detect proponents of totality. The ordinary anti-terrorist policeman tries to detect those preparing to blow up buildings and bridges; the philosophical policeman tries to detect those about to deconstruct the religious and moral foundation of our societies...

One should thoroughly reject not only this criminalization of intellectuals, but, even more, the defensive domestication of radical intellectuals who, so the story goes, offer a provocative correction to democracy which, through his exaggeration, renders visible the inconsistencies and weaknesses of the democratic project. The idea is that radical theories are provocations which are not really “meant seriously,” but aim, through their “provocative” character, to awaken us from the democratic-dogmatic slumber and thus contribute to the revitalization of democracy itself… This is how the establishment likes “subversive” theorists to be: turned into harmless gadflies who bite us and thus awaken us to inconsistencies and imperfection of our democratic enterprise – God forbid to take their project seriously and try to live them…

3. Not Unite but Separate.

OGR: Many of your self-appointed friends demand that you write ‘more rigorously’, ‘more geometrico’ I remember one of them saying. However, it seems that part of what makes your intervention so unsettling is precisely your refusal to play the role of the mainstream academic. A bit like the Cynics of ancient Greece, who were not that Greek, and whose political intent and philosophical outlook was no less powerful and rigorous than that of other post-Socratics.

As we know, the latter often ended up tutoring emperors, close to power, while we have no news of any of the Cynics sitting comfortably with those in power. Then, perhaps there is some political truth in the refusal to play along the rules of the current academic establishment, committed to the self-revolutionising impulse of modern/colonial capitalism and to the integration of ‘excess’ into the normal, while being strictly ‘rigorous’. Rather, your intervention seems to posit itself in the place of the analyst, separating what in the social link appears together in relation. Is it not this, precisely, the position of rebellion and revolution, separating from, even shattering the binds and relations that characterise the present situation?

SZ: Confronted with complex historical situations, our task is not to unite the empirical plurality, but to reduce complexity to its underlying minimal difference. Our immediate experience of a situation in our reality is that of a multitude of particular elements which coexist – say, a society is composed of a multitude of strata or groups, and the task of democracy is perceived as that of enabling a livable coexistence of all the elements: all the voices should be heard, their interests and demands taken into account. The task of radical emancipatory politics is, on the contrary, that of “subtracting” from this multiplicity the underlying antagonistic tension (we see immediately how far we are here from the fashionable criticism of the “binary logic”: the task is precisely to reduce the multiplicity to its “minimal difference”). That is to say, in the multiplicity of elements, of parts, we should isolate the “part of no-part,” the part of those who, although they are formally included into the “set” of society, do not have a place within it. This element is the symptomal point of universality: although it belongs to its field, it undermines its universal principle. What this means is that in it, specific difference overlaps with universal difference: this part is not only differentiated from other particular elements of society within the encompassing universal unity, it is also in an antagonistic tension with the very predominant universal notion/principle of society. It is as if society has to include, count as one of its parts, an element which negates its own defining universality. Emancipatory politics always focuses on such a “part of no part”: immigrants who are “here but not from here,” those living in slums who are formally citizens, but excluded from the public law and political order, etc.etc. It thus reduces the complexity of the multiple social body to the “minimal difference” between the predominant/ruling universal social principle and those whose very existence undermines this principle.

On September 11th, 2001, the Twin Towers were hit; twelve years earlier, on November 9th, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. November 9th announced the “happy ‘90s,” the Francis Fukuyama dream of the “end of history,” the belief that liberal democracy had, in principle, won, that the search is over, that the advent of a global, liberal world community lurks just around the corner, that the obstacles to this ultra-Hollywood happy ending are merely empirical and contingent (local pockets of resistance where the leaders did not yet grasp that their time is over). In contrast to it, 9/11 is the main symbol of the end of the Clintonite happy ‘90s, of the forthcoming era in which new walls are emerging everywhere, between Israel and the West Bank, around the European Union, on the U.S.-Mexico border.

So what if the new proletarian position is that of the inhabitants of slums in the new megalopolises? The explosive growth of slums in the last decades, especially in the Third World megalopolises from Mexico City and other Latin American capitals through Africa (Lagos, Chad) to India, China, Philippines and Indonesia, is perhaps the crucial geopolitical event of our times. The case of Lagos, the biggest node in the shanty-town corridor of 70 million people that stretches from Abidjan to Ibadan, is exemplary here: according to the official sources themselves, about two thirds of the Lagos State total land mass of 3.577 square kilometers could be classified as shanties or slums; no one even knows the size of its population – officially it is 6 million, but most experts estimate it at 10 million. Since, sometime very soon (or maybe, given the imprecision of the Third World censuses, it already happened), the urban population of the earth will outnumber the rural population, and since slum inhabitants will compose the majority of the urban population, we are in no way dealing with a marginal phenomenon. We are thus witnessing the fast growth of the population outside the state control, living in conditions half outside the law, in terrible need of the minimal forms of self-organization. Although their population is composed of marginalized laborers, redundant civil servants and ex-peasants, they are not simple a redundant surplus: they are incorporated into the global economy in numerous ways, many of them working as informal wage workers or self-employed entrepreneurs, with no adequate health or social security coverage. (The main source of their rise is the inclusion of the Third World countries in the global economy, with cheap food imports from the First World countries ruining local agriculture.) They are the true “symptom” of slogans like “Development,“ “Modernization,” and “World Market”: not an unfortunate accident, but a necessary product of the innermost logic of global capitalism.

No wonder that the hegemonic form of ideology in slums is Pentecostal Christianity, with its mixture of charismatic miracles-and-spectacles-oriented fundamentalism and of social programs like community kitchens and taking care of children and old. While, of course, one should resist the easy temptation to elevate and idealize the slum dwellers into a new revolutionary class, one should nonetheless, in Badiou’s terms, perceive slums as one of the few authentic “evental sites” in today’s society – the slum-dwellers are literally a collection of those who are the “part of no part,” the “surnumerary” element of society, excluded from the benefits of citizenship, the uprooted and dispossessed, those who effectively “have nothing to loose but their chains.” It is effectively surprising how many features of slum dwellers fit the good old Marxist determination of the proletarian revolutionary subject: they are “free” in the double meaning of the word even more than the classic proletariat (“freed” from all substantial ties; dwelling in a free space, outside the police regulations of the state); they are a large collective, forcibly thrown together, “thrown” into a situation where they have to invent some mode of being-together, and simultaneously deprived of any support in traditional ways of life, in inherited religious or ethnic life-forms.

Of course, there is a crucial break between the slum-dwellers and the classic Marxist working class: while the latter is defined in the precise terms of economic “exploitation” (the appropriation of surplus-value generated by the situation of having to sell one’s own labor force as a commodity on the market), the defining feature of the slum-dwellers is socio-political, it concerns their (non)integration into the legal space of citizenship with (most of) its incumbent rights – to put it in somewhat simplified terms, much more than a refugee, a slum-dweller is a homo sacer, the systemically generated “living dead” of global capitalism. He is a kind of negative of the refugee: a refugee from his own community, the one whom the power is not trying to control through concentration, where (to repeat the unforgettable pun from Ernst Lubitch’s To Be Or Not to Be) those in power do the concentrating while the refugees do the camping, but pushed into the space of the out-of-control; in contrast to the Foucauldian micro-practices of discipline, a slum-dweller is the one with regard to whom the power renounces its right to exert full control and discipline, finding it more appropriate to let him dwell in the twilight zone of slums.

What one finds in the “really-existing slums” is, of course, a mixture of improvised modes of social life, from religious “fundamentalist” groups hold together by a charismatic leader and criminal gangs up to germs of new “socialist” solidarity. The slum dwellers are the counter-class to the other newly emerging class, the so-called “symbolic class” (managers, journalists and PR people, academics, artists, etc.) which is also uprooted and perceives itself as directly universal (a New York academic has more in common with a Slovene academic than with blacks in Harlem half a mile from his camps). Is this the new axis of class struggle, or is the “symbolic class” inherently split, so that one can make the emancipatory wager on the coalition between the slum-dwellers and the “progressive” part of the symbolic class? What we should be looking for are the signs of the new forms of social awareness that will emerge from the slum collectives: they will be the germs of future.

4. Division and Radical Politics in the World Today.

OGR: The suggestion here is that today the task of radical politics is not synthesis (the popular synthesis, the cosmopolitical synthesis), in a phrase, to build a ‘world’ capable of including the whole of ‘humanity’ (actually, capitalism does that already) but rather, as thinkers like Agamben or Costas Douzinas in Europe and Enrique Dussel and Pheng Cheah elsewhere put it, to separate and distinguish: the people in state of rebellion from the nation in state of exception, law and violence out of fear from the denial of violence without fearing it, globalization from national or post-national liberation.

SZ: Peter Hallward was right in pointing out that the poetics of “resistance,” of deterritorialized nomadic mobility, of creating lignes de fuite, of never being where one is expected to dwell, is not enough; the time has come to start creating what one is tempted to call liberated territories, the well-defined and delineated social spaces in which the reign of the System is suspended: a religious or artistic community, a political organization, and other forms of a “place of one’s own.” This is what makes slums so interresting: their territorial character. While today’s society is often characterized as the society of total control, slums are the territories within a state boundaries from which the state (partially, at least) withdrew its control, territories which function as white spots, blanks, in the official map of a state territory. Although they are de facto included into a state by the links of black economy, organized crime, religious groups, etc., the state control is nonetheless suspended there, they are domains outside the rule of law. In the map of Berlin from the times of the now defunct GDR, the are of West Berlin was left blank, a weird hole in the detailed structure of the big city; when Christa Wolf, the well-known East German half-dissident writer, took her small daughter to the East Berlin’s high TV tower, from which one had a nice view over the prohibited West Berlin, the small girl shouted gladly: »Look, mother, it is not white over there, there are houses with people like here!« - as if discovering a prohibited slum Zone...

This is why the “destructured” masses, poor and deprived of everything, situated in a non-proletarized urban environment, constitute one of the principal horizons of the politics to come. These masses, therefore, are an important factor in the phenomenon of globalization. The true globalization, today, would be found in the organization of these masses – on a worldwide scale, if possible – whose conditions of existence are essentially the same?

Whoever lives in the banlieues of Bamako or Shanghai is not essentially different from someone who lives in the banlieue of Paris or the ghettos of Chicago.” Effectively, if the principal task of the emancipatory politics of the XIXth century was to break the monopoly of the bourgeois liberals by way of politicizing the working class, and if the task of the XXth century was to politically awaken the immense rural population of Asia and Africa, the principal task of the XXIth century is to politicize – organize and discipline – the “destructured masses” of slum-dwellers.

Hugo Chavez’s biggest achievement in the first years of his rule was precisely the politicization (inclusion into the political life, social mobilization) of slum dwellers; in other countries, they mostly persist in apolitical inertia.

It was this political mobilization of the slum dwellers which saved him against the US-sponsored coup: to the surprise of everyone, Chavez included, slum dwellers massively descended to the affluent city center, tipping the balance of power to his advantage.

The course on which Chavez embarked from 2006 is the exact opposite of the postmodern Left’s mantra on de-territorialization, rejection of statist politics, etc.: far from »resisting to state power,« he grabbed power (first by an attempted coup, then democratically), ruthlessly using the state apparatuses and interventions to promote his goals; furtermore, he is militarizing favelas, organizing training of armed units there. And, the ultimate scare: now that he is feeling the economic effects of the »resistance« to his rule of the capital (temporary shortages of some goods in the state-subsidized supermarkets), he anounced the constitution of his own political Party! Even some of his allies are skeptical about this move: does it signal the return to the standard party-state politics? However, one should fully endorse this risky choice: the task is to make this party function not as a usual (populist or liberal-parliamentary) party, but as a focus for the political mobilization of new forms of politics (like the grass roots slum committees).

So what should we say to someone like Chavez? “No, do not grab state power, just subtract yourself, leave the laws of the /State/ situation still being in place”? Chavez is often dismissed as a clownish comedian – but would such a subtraction not really reduce him to a new version of Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista movement in Mexico, to whom now many Leftist deservedly refer to as “Subcomediante Marcos”? Today, it is great capitalists, from Bill Gates to ecological polluters, who “resist” the State…

It is here that the materialist-dialectic passage from the Two to Three gains all its weight: the axiom of Communist politics is not simply the dualist “class struggle,” but, more precisely, the Third moment as the subtraction from the Two of the hegemonic politics. That is to say, the hegemonic ideological field imposes on us a field of (ideological) visibility with its own “principal contradiction” (today, it is the opposition of market-freedom-democracy and fundamentalist-terrorist-totalitarianism - “Islamo-Fascism” etc.), and the first thing to do is to reject (to subtract from) this opposition, to perceive it as a false opposition destined to obfuscate the true line of division. Lacan’s formula for this redoubling is 1+1+a: the “official” antagonism (the Two) is always supplemented by an “indivisible remainder” which indicates its foreclosed dimension. In other terms, the true antagonism is always reflective, it is the antagonism between the “official” antagonism and that what is foreclosed by it (this is why, in Lacan’s mathematics, 1+1=3). Today, for example, the true antagonism is not the one between liberal multiculturalism and fundamentalism, but between the very field of their opposition and the exclude Third (radical emancipatory politics).

This, then, is the subtraction to be made: the subtraction from the hegemonic field which, simultaneously, violently intervenes into this field, reducing it to its occluded minimal difference. Such subtraction is extremely violent, even more violent than destruction/purification: it is reduction to minimal difference, to difference of part(s)/no-part, 1 and 0, groups and proletariat. It is not only a subtraction of the subject from the hegemonic field, but a subtraction which violently affects this field itself, laying bare its true coordinates. Such a subtraction does not add a third position to the two positions whose tension characterizes the hegemonic field (so that we have now, on the top of liberalism and fundamentalism, also the radical Leftist emancipatory politics); this third term rather “denaturalizes” the whole hegemonic field, bringing out the underlying complicity of the opposed poles that constitute it.

Take Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: the hegemonic opposition is there the one between Capulets and Montagues – it is the opposition in the positive order of Being, a stupid issue of belonging to a particular, this or that, family clan. To make this issue into a “minimal difference,” to subordinate all other choices to this one as the only choice that really matters, is a wrong move. Romeo and Juliet’s gesture with regard to this hegemonic opposition is precisely that of subtraction: their love singularizes them, they subtract themselves from its hold, constituting their own space of love which, the moment it is practiced as marriage, not merely as a transgressive secret affair, perturbs the hegemonic opposition. (The crucial thing to take note of here is that such a subtractive gesture on behalf of love “works” only with regard to the “substantive” differences of particular (ethnic, religious) domains, not with regard to the class difference: class difference is “non-subtractive,” one cannot subtract from it because it is not a difference between particular regions of social being, but cuts across the entire social space. When confronted to a class difference, there are only two solutions to the love link, i.e., the couple has to take sides: either the lower class partner is graciously accepted into the higher class, or the higher class partner renounces his class in a political gesture of solidarity with the lower class.)

One of the names of this subtraction is “dictatorship of the proletariat.” “Dictatorship” designates the hegemonic role in the political space, and “proletariat” those “out of joint” in the social space, the “part of no-part” lacking a proper place in it. This is why the all too quick dismissal of proletariat as the “universal class” misses the point: proletariat is not the “universal class” in the same sense in which, for Hegel, state bureaucracy is the “universal class,” directly standing for the universal interest of society (in contrast to other “estates” which stand for their particular interest). What qualifies proletariat for this position is ultimately a negative feature: all other classes are (potentially) capable of reaching the status of the “ruling class,” while proletariat cannot achieve this without abolishing itself as a class – or, as Bulent Somay put it:

“what makes the working class into an agency and provide it with a mission is neither its poverty, nor its militant and pseudo-military organization, nor its proximity to the (chiefly industrial) means of production. It is only its structural inability to organize itself into yet another ruling class that provides the working class with such a mission. The proletariat is the only (revolutionary) class in history that abolishes itself in the act of abolishing its opposite. ‘The people,’ on the other hand, made up of a myriad of classes and sub-classes, social and economic strata, cannot structurally carry out such a mission. Quite on the contrary, whenever a ‘historical task’ is assigned to ‘the people’ as such, the outcome has always been that either a fetal bourgeoisie immediately took precedence and, through an accelerated growth process, organized itself into a ruling class.” There is thus more than hypocrisy in the fact that, at the highest point of Stalinism, when the entire social edifice was shattered by purges, the new constitution proclaimed the end of “class” character of the Soviet power (voting rights were restored to members of classes previously excluded), and that the Socialist regimes were called “people’s democracies.” The opposition of proletariat and “people” is crucial here: in Hegelese, their opposition is the very opposition of “true” and “false” universality. People is inclusive, proletariat is exclusive; people fights intruders, parasites, those who prevent its full self-assertion, proletariat fights a struggle which divides the people in its very core. People wants to assert itself, proletariat wants to abolish itself.”

Source: http://nakedpunch.com/articles/34