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

We are conditioned to think of the law as something that is repressive and draconian. People should do something because they believe spontaneously that such an action is the right thing to do. In many places in life, there are many who think that people should do the “right thing” because there is some sort of burning in the bosom, a sense of “love”, that makes them do things without being told. In this section of the book, Zizek is analyzing the role of the Law in St. Paul and Christian discourse in general, and comparing it to the sense of law and love in other systems.

What came to mind here as a Catholic was Vatican II. Was Vatican II the ultimate “Stalinist moment” in the Catholic Church, where the Law was supposed to be replaced by the Law of Love? Really, when I hear people speak of the “spirit” of anything, or the hermeneutic of whatchamacallit, I start heading the other way. In that sense, I feel sorry for “liberal Catholics” sometimes: like the confused apparatchiks in Stalin’s CP, they “misread” the “pastoral” directives of the ecumenical council. While those who made the Council said one thing, wrote another, and intended people to read it another way, the progressives were left holding the bag of taking the signs of those times too literally. It turns out that all changes were just cosmetic. If they had “loved” the Church sufficiently, they would have figured that out.

That being said, I can’t think of many more places where such a paradigm of law would be the case. Maybe the reader can help me on this one. HR or academic departments sometimes give off this vibe, but in general, at least in the U.S., we are a pretty litigious society still, so I don’t think many people argue for the spirit vs. the letter of the law all that often. Really, I think all of these arguments about the “true meaning” of the Constitution are ridiculous, so I won’t even touch them.


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4 responses

4 11 2010
synLeszka

Arturo,
you seem to not know that Żiżek claims that he was influenced by Carl Schmitt. Carl Schmitt, was a famed German lawyer and legal scientist, proud Catholic, who is best known for his defense of Hitler’s takeover in 1933. He is best for his Political Theology I and II, where he states that all modern political doctrines are secularised mediaeval theologies. The Supreme God of Thomas becomes the Rational Law-Giver(liberalist stage) who morphs into the Supreme Will of the People, the Fuhrer or Lenin or Stalin or Tito. He states along with Nietzsche, that political and legal power is beyond good and evil, just and injust, because it is based on the one who makes a violent response to the calumnies of democratic due-process discourse. Yet in all of this, as I stated above Schmitt considered himself a devout Roman Catholic, so he in a most juristic passion interpreted the Golden Rule. Schmitt said that you must differentiate between personal enemy and meta-enemy. Schmitt states that for personal enemies you have to apply the Golden Rule. On the otherhand, for the meta-enemy, the class enemy, the national enemy, you must seek to destroy.
In reality, Stalinism did not codify its own legal thought but Żiżek was authentic that he did something so politically incorrect, which is that he applied German Nazi legal jurisprudence to the Soviet government.

Sadly, that generation of Central European philosophers is dying out and being replaced by intellectuals who propagate pop-science. Woe, is my region of the world! I appreciate the Marxist professors who are not afraid to tell the truth to all these neoliberalist conseratives! I may approve of conservatism but I cannot stomach these people.

4 11 2010
synLeszka

The difference between the Tsarist state and the Communist state was that the Communists told you that you had democratic rights while under the Tsarists you had the responsibility to be obedient to your feudal lord. In the end, they were not much different, because they preached the Gospel of Great Russia, from sea to shining sea. At least under the Tsars, you know your position as you believed that it had been given to you by the will of Heaven (Confucius) as the Russian peasants believed until the Rupture, the discontinuation.

The reform after Vatican II in the Catholic Church was a success. I appreciate the Romance-speaking conservative reactionaries (the real movers and shakers of the Traditionalist movement), I respect their martyrology and mythology but their fatalism and tragism had to end.
The sadness of the Romance-speaking aristocracy in Europe after the French Revolution did not transform itself into something positive but became a pagan determinism. This determination towards the demise of the body of Christ, countered by the equally pagan yet upbeat determination towards positivity by the harbingers of progress had given humanity a question mark. What is next? The Second Vatican Council illuminated our eyes, that the body of Christ will survive and that progress is a lead balloon. I find it an anomaly, that traditionalists admire people who would have not allowed a wife to work in the same store as her husband, who fought for the laws which stated that a woman is eternally a child with no rights of her own. I am not talking about voting rights but rights to sell or buy their own goods. (Check out any commentary on the French Code du Commerce from the early 1800’s.)
I say look at the history of the Tradis, starting with the Lefebvre and Siri, read their biographies, then go onto the history of ideologies and philosophers in Europe whom they admire, read those biographies, then read the works of the modernists, analysises of their treatises. I would do more research into the tradis movement but I have no interest in scientific theology and this would be a waste of the time, because anyone who combines the political undertones of the last 250 years in France with the Lefebvrist struggle will attain a shocking yet accurate picture. I have to add, that in English speaking countries, this sort of analysis is hard to carry out because the Anglos were outside of the reality which is Europe. The source materials exist in English, perhaps even more so than in many continental languages, America also imports, dare I say steal, the best European professors but somehow they just don’t get the whole picture.

Irregardless, of the conservative and socialist-progressivist divide, there exists an error which is embodied in the laissez-faire ideology, which both sides agree should be destroyed. This ideology, the ideology of liberalism destroys the society which exists and claims to be marching towards the secularised New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse, the Open Society or the Great Society. Libertarianism is the chilialism error of the ancient Jews, replacing the Messiah with financial wealth and secular glory. This error has so influenced our thought today that we forget that we can do nothing in reality but be the pawns of spirits and tempests.

4 11 2010
You must love Big Brother | English Catholic

[…] I was astounded today when reading an article from my old e-mail friend Arturo Vasquez – Truth and action in Stalinism. He begins by quoting a book he has reading, Slavoj Zizek, The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse […]

4 11 2010
Robert

The main problem with Vatican II was that the Church leadership desired to implement reforms which they thought would be handled well by both the lower level clergy and laity. The real problem was not so much the introduction of rather modest reforms, but that the Church had been so Stalinist in her previous management that the moment the window’s were let open and a more relaxed style of doing things was introduced, most people got the wrong signals and went overboard in a liberal direction. If the Church of the past had expected less of a “pray, pay, and obey” mentality from their flock and entrusted them with a more equal partnership in promoting the faith, like the Orthodox do then maybe more people would have protested and worked to moderate liturgical and theological abuses instead of just blindly running off the cliffs like so many lemmings.

The radical authoritarianism of the Church which was thought to be so necessary to govern the great masses of laity ended being more detrimental to the system when it came time to relax the rules in order to promote some organic growth. We the people at the bottom were always taught wrongly that it wasn’t our job to regulate and pass on the faith, that task belonged to the higher ups who, we were always assured would never, never loose their way. When many of them did start loosing their way and a few of us started complaining, we were silenced by the new, liberal masters with the same “pray, pay, and obey rhetoric that they used to use in the old days, only now it was the rightist who were the victims of this scolding discipline.

In a way, it does bear an eery similarity to the plight of the Russian people under the Czar’s who used an autocratic system as weapon to beat down all opposition, and their Communist successors who used the very same type of technics of Czarist days (Secret police, work camps, and mass pogroms and “terror”) In order to control their unrulier populace. Funny how the worm can turn.

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