Truth and action in Stalinism

4 11 2010

In which the “law of love” is the worst tyranny

In the eyes of this “crazy” Law, we are always-already guilty, without knowing what, exactly, we are guilty of. This Law is the meta-Law, the law of the state of emergency in which positive legal order is suspended , the “pure” Law, the form of ordering/prohibition “as such,” the enuciation of an Injunction deprived of any content. And, in effect, does not the Stalinist regime, among others, provide clear proof of how such an “irrational” unconditional Law coincides with love? In the eyes of the Stalinist Law, anyone can be proclaimed guilty at any point (accused of counterrevolutionary activity); the very denial of guilt is considered the ultimate proof off guilt, and so on – but simultaneously, obeying a deep structural necessity, the relationship of the Stalinist subjects to their Leader is determined as that of love, of infinite love of the wise Leader…

Stalinism was a strictly centralized system of command, so the top leadership issues directives that had to be obeyed all the way down. Here, however, we encounter the first enigma: “how can one obey when one has not been told clearly what to do?” In the collectivization drive of 1929-1930, for example, “no detailed instructions about how to collectivized were ever issued, and the local officials who asked for such instructions were rebuked.”…

…[T]he gap was ambiguously filled in by the so-called “signals”, the key element of the Stalinist semiotic space: “important policy changes were often ‘signaled’ rather than communicated in a clear and detailed directive… say, [in] an article by Stalin discussing a minor point of cultural politics, an anonymous derogatory comment in Pravda, a criticism of a local party functionary… even an explanatory note on a historical event which had taken place hundreds of years before… The advantage of such a modus operandi is obvious: since the signals were never explicitly stated, they were easier to repudiate or reinterpret than explicit policy statements. The complementary opposite signal pointed in the direction of relaxation and tolerance, as a rule attributed to Stalin himself, putting the blame for the “excesses” on lower-level officials who did not understand Stalin’s policy.

-Slavoj Zizek, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity

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