The communist idea or “hypothesis” is then placed beyond empirical refutation. “The eternal idea of the [Chinese] Cultural revolution survives its defeat in socio-historical reality,” insists Zizek, while for Badiou, “failure is nothing more than the history of the proof of the hypothesis.” Under scrutiny, it becomes clear that we are not dealing with a communist “hypothesis” at all—that would involve testing and the possibility of falsification—but rather a communist dogma, and the relation of the new communists to that dogma is fundamentally religious, marked by piety and faith, and not at all critical.One of the threats posed to those of us who still believe in individual freedom and liberal democracy is that the advocates of new communism want to move the doctrine beyond the table talk of faculty-lounge blowhards, and into the streets and the halls of government.
The democratic socialist Eduard Bernstein issued a warning at the turn of the nineteenth century to his fellow Marxists. The danger of a “truly miraculous belief in the creative power of force,” he prophesied, is that you begin by doing violence to reality in theory, and end by doing violence to people in practice. What distinguishes the new communism is that its leading partisans are fully aware of that potential...and embrace its strategy. As Zizek puts it:Idle boast? Johnson doesn’t think so.
"The only 'realistic' prospect is to ground a new political universality by opting for the impossible, fully assuming the place of the exception, with no taboos, no a priori norms ('human rights,' 'democracy'), respect for which would prevent us from 'resignifying' terror, the ruthless exercise of power, the spirit of sacrifice...if this radical choice is decried by some bleeding-heart liberals as Linksfaschismus [left-wing fascism], so be it!"
This flirtation with the notion of left-fascism helps explain why the new communism needs to be taken seriously. Communism itself, of course, is dead. But when Zizek recommends the “insight” of the 1970s Baader-Meinhof gang that “in an epoch in which the masses are totally immersed in capitalist torpor...only a resort to the real Raw of direct violence...can awaken them,” we should be concerned. Recent history tells us that authoritarian philosophical and political ideas can still find their way to the streets in advanced capitalist societies. The new communist ideas might yet connect with the young, the angry, and the idealistic who are confronted by a profound economic crisis in the context of an exhausted social democracy and a self-loathing intellectual culture. Tempting as it is, we can’t afford to just shake our heads at the new communism and pass on by.Nor, in my opinion, can we ignore the possibility that cagier philosophes might avoid, altogether, the stale and needlessly provocative Bolshevik rhetoric of the new communists, yet weave the doctrine’s basic assumptions into the fabric of society in such an insidious way that one day we all wake up to find out that many of our basic freedoms are simply…gone.
You have been warned.