Zizek on “Mandela’s Socialist Failure.”


For many of us, Nelson Mandela’s passing has served as a refresher course on the decade of the 1980s. By the time Ronnie Raygun was napper-in-chief, “official” America had the story down: “Okay, apartheid may be a tad disconcerting, but it’s small beer compared to what will happen if the majority rides the ANC into the arms of the Commies — and the biggest domino in black Africa falls, and then what?”

Slavoj Zizek is just the writer to remember this, and relate it to what has happened (or hasn’t) in South Africa since Mandela was released from prison … which is the period of time during which most of us stopped paying attention.

Mandela’s Socialist Failure, by Slavoj Zizek (The Stone, at the New York Times)

… South Africa in this respect is just one version of the recurrent story of the contemporary left. A leader or party is elected with universal enthusiasm, promising a “new world” — but, then, sooner or later, they stumble upon the key dilemma: does one dare to touch the capitalist mechanisms, or does one decide to “play the game”? If one disturbs these mechanisms, one is very swiftly “punished” by market perturbations, economic chaos, and the rest. This is why it is all too simple to criticize Mandela for abandoning the socialist perspective after the end of apartheid: did he really have a choice? Was the move towards socialism a real option?