Slavoj Žižek Speaks to Occupy Wall Street

October 11th, 2011

Published on NY Observer, by Aaron Gell, October 9, 2011.
(see also OWS/Homepage; and 50 Portraits From the Occupy Wall Street Megamarch, on NY Observer, by Drew Grant, October 6, 2011 (click on START THE SLIDE SHOW).

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek turned up at Zuccotti Park to address the Occupy Wall Street demonstration on Sunday, offering up a seminar on Radicalism 101 for an appreciative crowd … // 

… He told, for instance, an old Eastern Bloc joke (borrowed from the introduction to 2002’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real) about a dissident who’s about to be sent to a work camp in Siberia. Since he knows his letters will be censored, he tells his friends he’ll write to them using a simple code: Blue ink for the truth, red ink for lies. His first letter arrives, and it’s a glowing report of life in the camp—a lovely apartment, great food, beautiful women. Then he concludes, “The only thing we can’t get is red ink.”

Occupy Wall Street, he explained told the crowd, is pointing out the lies that underlie American capitalist society. “You’re the red ink,” he said.

Mr. Žižek also offered some practical advice. Noting the festive atmosphere in the park, he warned, “Don’t fall in love with yourselves. Carnivals come cheap.” The meaningful work will be what comes afterwards.

He steered the discussion away from the Cold War debate between communism and capitalism, noting that former communists, particularly in China, “are today the most efficient, brutal capitalists.”

The communist revolution “failed absolutely,” he said, suggesting that “the only way we are communist is that we care about the commons,” citing the environment as an example.

Mr. Žižek suggested that the left “abandon certain taboos,” including hard work, discipline and following orders, if they support the agreed-upon goals. And he advocated reclaiming certain notions that had been adopted by the right wing, including family values.

Somewhat controversially, he described organic food as a “pseudo-activity,” designed to make consumers feel they are having a positive impact on the world and thereby absolving them from looking at the more destructive systemic issues … (full text).


Slavoj Žižek: on his official website; on wikipedia;

‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’: Slavoj Žižek on the UK riots and the end of revolution, on VERSObooks, by Tamar Shlaim, 19 August 2011;

A significant contribution to an understanding of Permanent Revolution: Witnesses to Permanent Revolution, The Documentary Record (Brill, 2009), on WSWS, by David North, April 19, 2010;

(Another) Interview with Slavoj Žižek, on Metropolis, by Javier Bassas Vila and Felip Martí-Jufresa, Spring (April – June 2011);


Civil Society Websites shown by OWS participants: Local 372, N.Y.C. Board of Education; Food and; Rootstrikers; CWA Union Communications Workers; Local 1199, Health Care Union 1199SEIU; Labor unions in the United States and its external links …  ; Humanist Party; New York City’s Commission on Human Rights; Domestic Workers United organization; Jobs with Justice; Local802; Make the Road NY; Hudson County Labor Counsel; old enough: a film on IMDb; List of Ponzi schemes on en.wikipedia.

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