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Putin’s ‘anti-imperialism’ trope also taken from Nazi playbook, Zizek says

slovenian philosopher
Slovenian philosopher, cultural theorist and public intellectual Slavoj Žižek/ Source: Getty Images
Putin’s ‘anti-imperialism’ trope also taken from Nazi playbook, Zizek says
Article by: Paul Goble

Many in the West believe, as Putin intends them to that his talk about fighting imperialism precludes the possibility that he is behaving like a fascist, Slavoj Zizek says. But in fact, what he is doing is exactly what the Nazis did during World War II. After conquering Europe, they insisted they were fighting German and French imperialism.

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The recrudescence of that idea, the Slovene leftist philosopher says, risks becoming the basis of “a new neo-fascist ‘axis,’” in which people of the left around the world will form “an anti-liberal union” that could supplement the anti-liberal union of the right that has already taken shape.

In the course of a wide-ranging interview with the Meduza news agency, Zizek says that he is apprehensive about the fragmentation of power in Russia, something that may weaken Putin but that will lead to disaster and the rise of an ugly ideology that will likely continue to inform the actions of Moscow even as it loses ground, just as was the case with the Nazis.

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“The negative version of Russian ideology comes from Dugin and his colleagues,” he continues. “It is neo-fascism which like its grandfather promotes itself as ‘a third path’ that will avoid the excessive individualism of liberalism and the excessive collectivism of communism” at the same time. For its followers, and they include in part Putin, “fascism is a middle path, which takes the best from both systems” while avoiding the worst.

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But in fact, it ends by taking the worst from each and suppressing the best that each offered in contrast, Zizek says.

In other comments, he suggests that Russia “needs federalism,” and its ideal form would be “an eastern version of the EU.” It is a system in which the Russian majority would support the aspirations of the others rather than seek to suppress them and thus be viewed by the latter as its friend rather than its enemy.

In this regard, Zizek says, “the disintegration of the USSR really was a mistake.”

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Diversity needed to be recognized, but the links among the republics needed to be maintained. Now, the task is to somehow restore them without that process taking the form of Russian rule without any recognition of the needs and rights of all the others.

Concerning federalism, he argues, Lenin was hardly an ideal ruler in that he opened the way to the rise of Stalin.

“But he was against Russian chauvinism and called for a great deal of autonomy for the national republics. This for some reason is ignored by many on the left in the West.”


“Besides, both Lenin and Trotsky fanatically spoke out against Russian domination in Ukraine. Putin knows this and therefore he constantly accuses Lenin as the creator of that country.”


As for Ukraine, its resistance has been remarkable and heroic; but one thing is strange, Zizek says “Ukraine has not mobilized the left within its own country. Its rulers continue to rely on rightist liberals and conservative who ever more frequently will betray them. For example, in the US, the republics plan to reduce military aid to Ukraine.”


“When the war began,” he says, “many of my progressive friends secretly hoped for a rapid Russian victory. They said, ‘yes, this will be terrible, we will protest for a certain time, but on the other hand, everything will quickly be over.’ Ukrainian resistance surprised very many people in the West.”

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What those who care about democracy and freedom need to do, he suggests, is “to take the next step and say openly that the Ukrainians by resisting Putin in the long-term perspective are helping Russia to democratize. This is obvious!”


Too many on the left in the West can’t do that because they are trapped by the old leftist view that “if the EU, the US, and NATO are involved in anything, one must automatically be against that. Unfortunately, this isn’t true,” and they are wrong.

If and when Russia loses in Ukraine, the outcome won’t be like in Yugoslavia in that unless the international system changes more than one can imagine. No plane will carry Putin and company to an international tribunal in the West. Russia is a far larger and more important country than Yugoslavia was, and no one is going to achieve that.

“For me,” Zizek concludes, “the fact that after more than a year, the resistance of Ukraine continues is a real miracle.” What remains critically important is that Ukraine “survives as an independent state. This will eventually be useful for Russia itself.”

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