Walter Benjamin’s old thesis “every rise of Fascism bears witness to a failed revolution”

What phenomena like Taliban demonstrate is that Walter Benjamin’s old thesis “every rise of Fascism bears witness to a failed revolution” not only still holds today, but is perhaps more pertinent than ever. Liberals like to point out similarities between Left and Right “extremisms”: Hitler’s terror and camps imitated Bolshevik terror, the Leninist party is today alive in al Qaida – yes, but what does all this mean? It can also be read as an indication of how Fascism literally replaces (takes the place of) the Leftist revolution: its rise is the Left’s failure, but simultaneously a proof that there was a revolutionary potential, dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize. And does the same not hold for today’s so-called (by some people) “Islamo-Fascism”? Is the rise of radical Islamism not exactly correlative to the disappearance of the secular Left in Muslim countries? Today, when Afghanistan is portrayed as the utmost Islamic fundamentalist country, who still remembers that, 30 years ago, it was a country with strong secular tradition, up to a powerful Communist party which took power there independently of the Soviet Union? Where did this secular tradition disappear? In Europe, exactly the same goes for Bosnia: back in the 1970s and 1980s, Bosnia and Herzegovina was (multi)culturally the most interesting and alive of all Yugoslav republics, with an internationally-recognized cinema school and a unique style of rock music; in today’s Bosnia, there are effectively strong fundamentalist forces (like the Muslim fundamentalist crowd which brutally attacked the gay parade in Sarajevo in September 2008). The main reason of this regression is the desperate situation of Muslim Bosnians in the 1992-1995 war, when they were basically abandoned by the Western powers to the Serb guns. (And, as Thomas Frank has shown, the same goes for Kansas, the US homegrown version of Afghanistan: the very state which was till the 1970s the bedrock of radical Leftist populism, is today the bedrock of Christian fundamentalism – does this not confirm again Benjamin’s thesis that every Fascism is an index of a failed revolution?)

Slavoj Zizek, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce




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