Let not propositions and "ideas" be the rules of your Being. The Fuhrer alone is the present and future German reality and its law. Learn to know ever more deeply: from now on every single thing demands decision, and every action responsibility. Heil Hitler!
Martin Heidegger, 1933
The on going discussion of Carl Schmitt has reminded me of another National Socialist thinker, Martin Heidegger. These thoughts also seem to coincide with recent remarks Zizek has made during his Birkbeck lectures (via Daniel at Different Maps)
I give you example of Nietzsche and Hitler - okay, I know this was vulgarization, but nonetheless - Nazi party really did legitimize themselves with his philosophy! I will say something horrible - this figure of rejuvenating provocateur, what if this was exactly Hitler? And you know what, in a certain way: this was what he was! After all, it was only after war that for the first time ever in history liberal state power accepted role of universal provider of welfare! I am not going to turn into liberal now, but this is real achievement!"
Whether Hitler can really take any credit for the post-war welfare state seems dubious. But that detail aside, the general tone of his comments remind me of some of his more troubling declarations about the necessity of revolutionary leadership:
“Liberal Democracy tends toward "rational" decisions within the limits of (what is perceived as) the possible; for more radical gestures proto - "totalitarian" charismatic structures, with a plebiscitarian logic where one "freely chooses the imposed solution," are more effective... often, one does need a Leader in order to be able to "do the impossible." The Authentic leader is literally the One who enables me to actually choose myself - subordination to him is the highest act of freedom.” (Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Pgs 246-247)
Before I proceed any further, late me state that I am very sympathetic to many of the criticisms Zizek levies against democracy, especially as it seems to provide the ideological supplement for what Jodi Dean has called communicative capitalism. But when Zizek moves toward a description of what a true revolution looks like, he inevitably relies on the image of a ruthless (but principled) vanguard coldly implementing authentic acts of violence.
Toward the end of his most recent work, The Parallax View, he deepens his description with a subtle contrast between "the analyst" and "the totalitarian leader." The distinction rests upon the “difference between the perverse social link (in which the pervert knows what the other really wants) and the discourse of the analyst who, while occupying this place of supposed knowledge, keeps it empty:”
Here we should not be afraid to come to a radical conclusion concerning the figure of the leader: as a rule, democracy cannot reach beyond pragmatic utilitarian inertia, it cannot suspend the logic of “servicing goods”; consequently, just as there is no self-analysis, since the analytic change can occur only through the transferential relationship to the external figure of the analyst, a leader is necessary to trigger enthusiasm for a Cause, to bring about radical change in the subjective position of his followers, to “transubstantiate” their identity. (Parallax View, Pg 380)
Now there are many questions one can pose at this point: is Zizek really advocating for a version of the Fuhrer Principle? If so, clearly the ends he supports are the very opposite of the Nazis agenda - but is it enough to assert the liberatory origins of Stalinism over the fascist racism of Hitler? He quite often makes the point that fascist displays of violence aim at terrorizing the community so that “nothing will really happen,” while authentic revolutionary violence changes “the basic coordinates of a constellation.” While I agree this is a distinction worth making (and Zizek provides wonderful examples), I wonder if all successful mass movements are necessarily defined by charismatic leadership? Do such leaders merely provide a "face" or are they the real catalysts for change? Clearly one can think of several charismatic figures (Ghandi, MLK, Ceasar Chavez) whose impact was essential - but do they exhaust the limits of what is possible?