Interview - 17. 11. 2007*
* 17. 11. 1989 – “Velvet Revolution”, Czechoslovakia
Jiří Ševčík JŠ, Michal Hauser MH, Tomáš Samek TS
The interview was created as a transcription of a video recording.
Recorded by Zbyněk Baladrán.
Would you like something to drink?
I have to leave in 10 minutes, so maybe they’ll have... Do you have...? No, it’s silly... Do you
have any dessert? Something nice, sweet, creamy, but with no sugar. A dessert with cream in
it, but no sugar – for diabetics.
Something for diabetics?
No. Ok, what’s the lightest dessert you have? Few calories, little sugar... Something that isn’t
totally a sin. Something that wouldn’t be a total tragedy. I’ve got Middle European tastes.
Czech, Austrian, Slovenian. You know, dumplings, sauces, all that really unhealthy food.
Isn’t it a kind of utopia, a new utopia, that we can wage war against...?
Yes, but unfortunately it’s a utopia with a kind of a safe justification inside it. Because if the
utopia fell, if it failed, then... You see, the war isn’t over yet, you know what I mean.
It’s also, in this respect... a purely Stalinist utopia, which can endlessly...
But I agree with you. It has Stalin’s logic in it. You know, Stalin’s greatest contribution
was when he said: the more socialism progresses, the more active its enemies are. So you
constantly need more and more terror, and so on and so on. You don’t understand anything
about war or terror, without taking this endlessness into account. You keep getting terrorists
again, this transition from terror to post- terror again. It’s an endless transition again.
Yes, but if that’s the way it is, then the question is whether the era of utopias might not be ended or brought
to a head with anything other than new utopias. I have the feeling that’s your question.
I see what you’re getting at, but what I’m thinking is that maybe we live in an epoch… When
you read the rhetoric typical of today’s liberal regimes, they play different games than before.
They no longer say, ‘We’re going to have a perfect liberal society.’ Their game… They’ve taken
up a much more moderate rhetoric, which says, ‘We don’t want the best society, but a less bad
one.’ In order to preclude a greater evil, there’s a rhetoric here that says, ‘If you want a radical
revolution, then I tell you, you’ll always end up with absolute, Italian terror.’ And they usually
argue in the ‘But of course, we know liberalism isn’t perfect, but…’ vein. You know that old
witticism by Winston Churchill: democracy is the worst form of government except all the
others that have been tried.’ In reality it’s a utopia, but it’s commonly legitimised by temperate
ideas like ‘We just want the least bad system.’
Do you think it’s possible to have a system with no ideology? Is it possible?
That’s such a difficult question because… what do you mean by ‘ideology’? Because I think on
the one hand… OK, I’ll put it this way. The obvious answer is: ‘No, it’s not always ideology. The
greatest ideologies specify the idea that it’s possible to live without ideology.’
OK, it depends how you understand ideology, but I claim that it’s too simple to say that. No,
we have to live with ideology. At least you can get to a point where the way ideology works
changes so radically that you have to ask if it’s an ideology anymore, because you know, for
example, even for Marx – he is very precise here – for Marx, in primitive society there is no
ideology. Even though it’s unusual. Marx never simply identifies ideology with illusion. And
ideology is what serves classes, bla bla bla. Power, in other words. That’s the irony, I think, in
Marx’s finesse. You can have an ideology which is factually quite true, but serves a lie.
It was a great lesson for psychoanalysis. You can lie and the lie can take the form of a truth.
That’s what obsessional neurotics like me do. You know, you can say something that’s literally
true, but by manipulating it, it serves as a lie. No. Don’t tell me, I know this. I’m… I mean any
psychiatrist who looks at me for three minutes knows. If foreign beings wanted to kidnap
humans who represented pure character types: one pure psychotic, one pure hysteric, one
pure obsessional neurotic –I’d be perfect for the obsessional neurotic. Seriously, you know
why, because even my talking too much is a defence. I talk all the time – you know why? – not
because I’m looking for conflict, but because I’m afraid if I stop, something may really happen.
You may ask me a really unpleasant question, which is the basic paradox of the obsessional
neurosis. You’re working all the time not to achieve something, but to prevent anything from
For example, when I was in psychoanalysis twenty years ago, I would talk to my analyst
constantly, because I was afraid that if I were silent for two seconds, the analyst would ask
me really difficult questions. The whole point of my talking was to prevent anything from
happening. I’d just wait for my analyst to say, ‘OK! That’s good for today.’ Of course I was
a total Stalinist. All my associations, everything I said there was totally planned. I never freely
thought about anything. No, I was a pretty difficult case, yes. So I simply dropped the analysis.
I discovered that I didn’t want to be analysed. I never analyse my dreams. I am very repressed,
I immediately forget all my dreams.
I find absolutely.... not only discussing my dreams, but you know, I don’t even have a photo of
myself. I mean I have two or three of them that you have to have in your passport. My films
– like the Pervert’s Guide to Cinema – I haven’t seen any of them. It’s too horrible for me to see
myself on the screen. That’s life. Listen, can I ask you something? What’s happening tomorrow
morning? Where would you advise us to go? But remember that I am a panicky guy. I like to be
obsessional with new things.
But you know if you ask me about transitions, I mention this in one of my first books, which
hasn’t been translated. My most tragic experience... If you ask me, there’s one person who
embodies the tragedy of ... how do you call it... transition. In 1988, when the communists knew
they were lost already, a young journalist, a student, invited an old retired communist for an
interview on a talk show at an independent studio station in Ljubljana which was of course no
longer controlled by the party and was in the hands of dissidents. He was, you know, basically
a tragic, naive old guy, not corrupt. He was a real old ‘cadre’. You know – grey suit, he only
spoke the jargon. This guy was desperately trying to please the young people. He knew. He
knew he was there to convince them that the communists were good. So of course this young
journalist there provoked him... not only politically, but even personally. ‘What is your sex life
like? How do you do it?’ And this was the tragedy. This guy knew that he had to say something
about sex, but the only language he was able to use was this wooden language. Sentences like
‘Touching women between their legs is always a great inspiration for my study of socialism.’
This kind of bureaucratic... He was a tragic figure.
This is true transition – when you try to speak about new things in the old language. And
another thing I love... It’s the same. It’s when the communists started to play the religious
game... For example, you remember... It was in the mid ‘80s, or when was it, in southern
Bosnia, where the Virgin Mary appeared. The Bosnian communists, who were hard-line idiots,
tried to suppress it. The result was that the tourism that arose around all this was taken over
by Italian capital. Bosnia lost at least three billion dollars. Because, you know, this meant
tremendous business for tourism. OK. Then, in Slovenia, where the communists were very
business oriented, some local priests – no, local farmers – reported that north of Ljubljana,
halfway between the city of Ljubljana and the airport, some small statue of the Virgin Mary
was doing what they supposed it’d been doing, moving a little bit, shedding tears of red
blood.... and they were so glad. They said, ‘Now we’ll do it properly, not like those stupid
Bosnians.’ They were already making plans to organise… They said, ‘Perfect location. Good.
The Virgin Mary will appear there, you know, close to the airport. Good for tourism. Great
business opportunity.’ Then a catastrophe happened. A local priest there said, ‘Sorry, this is
superstition, this was not a miracle.’ And then the communist party attacked the priest in the
newspaper for being un-patriotic. As if they were saying, ‘Come on! You should have said it
was a miracle – to help the country.’
What’s going on with their anti-religious propaganda? It was a wonderful moment. Take
China, for example. You know why I like China? They’re obscene, I mean, but... Are you aware
of what happened in China two months ago? It’s no joke. No joke. One of my Chinese friends
confirmed it. Their ministry of religious affairs passed, or rather enforced a law – I’m not
joking – regulating reincarnation. If you want to reincarnate, if you’re religious, you get a form
in which you say, ‘I want to reincarnate as a dog.’ And it must be recognised. I love this idea.
I can imagine this big fat bureaucrat saying, ‘You want to reincarnate as llama? No way,
llamas are all taken, only dogs and insects are free, you know. Sorry.’
Of course, it’s clear why they do this: they want to control the Dalai Lama. I mean, every idiot
knows what the point is. The point is what will happen.... They want to control... they want
the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama to be theirs. Which is right. The first rule of this law is
that if you want to be reincarnated, legally, you must reincarnate within the People’s Republic
of China. That’s the whole point – so that, you know, somebody can’t say, ‘You know, I’m
Indian but I am the reincarnation of Dalai Lama.’ They want to control who it is. I was always
fascinated by this strange moment when, for example… Do you know that the second most
important position in Tibet is that of the Panchen Lama? And now there are two Panchen
Lamas: one recognised by the Dalai Lama and another recognised by the Chinese communists.
Why is it so important? Because the key person who verifies the authenticity of the
reincarnated Dalai Lama is the Panchen Lama. So this, again, is the Chinese game about who
has control. OK. So it’s wonderful to read, frankly, the official Chinese communist documents
about why their Panchen Lama is the true one. Of course, they organised it all very well. Their
Panchen Lama was born to a communist ‘cadre’ family somewhere. The communists claim that
the first thing he did when he left his mother’s womb was to recite some Buddhist sacred text
or whatever, you know. And that he would agree that he was a miracle. They claimed – as did
the other side – that the others were cheating with the miracles. I like the communist arguing,
you know, ‘No, no.’ But it’s true that now the Chinese communists are getting their way and if
they get political control over the Tibetan Buddhist establishment, things will change to their
profit. An interesting situation – then, maybe, the anti-Chinese resistance will legitimise itself
in non-religious terms!
The social consequences of their transition to an unfettered capitalism are terrible. It literally
means the disintegration of the entire social fabric, of authority and so on. And they are
paying the price for it with incredible social tumult. They told me when I was there that
every year they have at least 2,000 – they use this nice communist jargon term – ‘serious
public disturbances’. I asked them what they meant by ‘serious’. They gave me a very precise
definition: ‘serious’ means that the demonstrations or protests are so heated that local police
cannot, really cannot contain them, so that they have to call in the army. So they are totally
panicking and what they’re trying to do is completely rehabilitate a sort of patriotic religion.
They’re really turning to a kind of neo-fascism. You know where you can notice this? Their big
task now is no longer called socialism but a ‘harmonious society’, which is an old Confucian
term. And then – I love this – you know that they now have this big programme to rehabilitate
Marxism. They distributed – this like a dream for us – they distributed more than one billion
dollars to different institutes to write new books on Marxism. Then I asked them, ‘But, OK, this
Marxism, it has something to do with labourers, with workers. How can this...?’ Because, you
know, in China they told me just now, ‘You can be phenomenal at these categories, who cares,
just don’t mess with ecology and more importantly, don’t mess with trade unions.’ That’s the
big trauma. Other things they don’t care about. So they told me now I was confusing leftism
and communism. They told me that leftism is this workers’ bla bla. No, communism – Marxism
– means that the key factor of social development is the development of productive forces. And
then the scientific analysis of China shows you that at this moment this is being done through
capitalism. So to be a good Marxist, you have to give your total support to capitalism. Then
I asked them, ‘But I don’t call that Marxism then. Why won’t we simply call it capitalism?’
Then the trick kicked in. I loved it. They told me, ‘Because if you allowed just capitalism
without a centralised party, capitalism would make the whole society disintegrate and that
would be bad for capitalism itself.’ Which, incidentally, is cynical – but it’s about to come true.
You know, here I’m very cynical. If you look at China today, allowing multiparty democracy
now would at first mean that the country – everybody tells you –would explode immediately.
Like the area around Shanghai. Shanghai. They’d like to get rid of the northern people and
so on. They told me this is why only the party can make that passage to capitalism, that
transition to a harmonious society. Then I asked them, ‘OK, so tell me: what is harmonious
society for you?’ They told me it simply means that there is no messiness, that everybody is
at his or her place, doing his or her job. The women cook at home, the father works, the son
learns, the boss commands. And then I said, ‘Yeah, nice.’
Now we can forget about cultural differences. What really made me sad was that I really think
something new is emerging there. That is the true transition. This is bad, I am not kidding, I’m
really afraid. I claim that we used to be able to count on the fact that if you allowed capitalism,
sooner or later somehow some kind of individual freedom and democracy would follow. I claim
that we may be approaching the end of this era. We can no longer count on this happening
automatically – you know, like the dream of all liberal ideologies.
I’m not kidding. When I went had to serve in the army (in 1975 and 1976), I was extremely
afraid to go because of the discipline. But I was shocked, because army was total chaos,
obscenities and confusion. I was shocked. I mean, where was the order? It was a big obscenity.
We were cheating all the time. I was in a tank unit and all I did was clean the tank. I never sat
in a tank while it was moving. I almost never shot with the tank. I only did so once, when they
called us to manoeuvres. And my unit probably set a world record. We were in front of a high
building and there were targets in the middle of the building. Behind the building there was
a mountain. We didn’t only miss the target, we even missed the mountain. And then, the
manoeuvre was instantly stopped and they said they’d ordered people not to walk in the forest
on this side of the mountain, but it hadn’t even occurred to them that you could be in front of
a mountain and miss the mountain itself. Were any of you in the army? When? In a good-old
truly democratic state?
In 1962, 1964.
In ‘64 people had already started the misfortune that led to ‘68 and the revolution. They’d
already started then?
Yes, but I only served one year.
I did one thing which I am proud of in the army. When they learned that I really had the title
of doctor, they asked me to organise some kind of a seminar on capitalist ideology. I said we
should really convince people about how corrupt capitalism is and the best way to do that was
to show them a film depicting it. So I organised a film festival. I showed The Godfather, some
Hitchcock and so on. So you can imagine the seminar was very popular. But the situation was
so chaotic, that nobody even minded. I have good memories of the second part of my military
service, because they put me in a small barracks in the library – which was nothing more than
a ‘Potemkin’ library. I was there for a half a year and not even one soldier went there. But it
was great, because I think this was my most productive year. I was 26, 27 and I remember that
in that half year I read so much. I really was free all day. And what I liked was that you didn’t
have to worry about how you were dressed, or what you ate. They took care of everything.
They gave the order and I just went there and read. It was absolutely incredible. I must say, it
was almost – in a way – the happiest time of my life. Imagine this total freedom: they took care
of everything, when you washed, what you ate and so on. You were just there, alone. I had
a trick. You locked yourself in and then when somebody knocked, you wouldn’t answer and
then people would think you weren’t there and leave you alone. This was the most precious
thing you could have. It was in a place where you could hide and they couldn’t find you. So you
did as little as possible. And that was ideal. Are any of you vegetarian? Do you know I read
somewhere that without meat proteins, we would still be monkeys?
We used to debate and especially good for us were the philosophers for a number of reasons.
Economics wasn’t so well developed. Dissidents started with philosophy – even more than
sociology. It was like that: first philosophy, then sociology and comparative literature. So we
were immediately thrown into it and we were quite serious about it, because those political
debates around that time were at a very high level. Even the communists had to pretend
to play this game. It was incredible. In political debates on national TV there were many
references to philosophy. For example, you know Claude Lefort, the French political theorist?
He has this theory of the empty place of power about how democracy is defined by the power
of a place, that it’s just structural and only somebody, from time to time... bla bla bla. The level
of debate was very high. My fondest memory was that at some point Latin became extremely
popular as one of the languages of the dissidents. Even the communists tried to imitate them.
That was my multiple-orgasm moment. Debate – not intellectual debate – but a big debate:
prime time, 8 o’clock, public TV. In ’88 and ‘89. One of the dissidents would say something,
it doesn’t matter what. Then a young communist would attack him, saying, ‘You’re wrong,
because you don’t understand that phallus is a signifier of the lack of signifier...’ It was total
madness. And the first thing that came with democracy was regress.
For example, at the everyday level TV was paradise. In Ljubljana, You paid ridiculous sums
like two, three German marks or one, two dollars or euros per month. And you got between
5 and 10 hardcore channels legally and it was totally normal. It was a kind of paradise. Then
our video rental clubs – my God, it was like a mafia connection! You could have a VHS copy
of anything for a ridiculous price. Everything was connected. There were some 200 radio
stations – nobody even knew exactly. And then the democratic terror started. First they said
you had to pay the full price for the access to the TV channels; then you had to pay the full
price for the video rentals…
It was a really golden era. You were free without any responsibility and it cost nothing to be
free. You had the communists to blame for whatever happened. You could always say it was
because of the communists. The communists were in an unenviable position. They’d lost their
authority, but they were still totally held responsible. If anything happened, the communists
had screwed it up. I almost felt a little bit of sympathy for them. But then you learn about what
they did with money and all that, the economic transition and so on...
Speaking about transition, something very interesting has happened recently in Slovenia.
The nationalist government took over and they helped the old socialists into power. The
country could have changed. But an important thing happened half a year ago. Our main
daily newspaper was bought by a private capital group. And its own men started to attack the
government. It wasn’t the left. For the first time, we had real capitalism. Till then, we’d been
playing a game, looking around. We’d been asking the wrong question: ‘Which political power
is behind the new rich men?’ Politics used to be behind the economy. Now, we’ve started
asking the right question. You have an economy, I mean strong power blocks in an economy.
People play politics, but not because they espouse politics. They want to influence politics.
Maybe this kind of corruption is even some kind of maturity. Maybe this is the true success of
the transition. The transition is over when you no longer ask this question.
This structure, unfortunately, is emerging slowly. Take the main parties, for example. The
party to which I belong was called the Liberal Democratic Party, but that meant nothing. In
the former Yugoslavia in the late ‘80s, being a liberal didn’t mean being neoliberal. It meant
strictly one thing: you were critical of the communists, but you were not a nationalist. That
was it. The term ‘liberal’ simply meant anti-nationalist or anti-religious and non-communist. It
was a dissident position. Now this party has practically been taken over by a big conglomerate
The question everybody asks now is ‘Who’s behind it all?’ – meaning what economic group.
And in the case of our centre-right party, it’s immediately clear. It’s a group which owns
hotels and so on. That’s the question you ask now. So I almost have sympathy for the present
government. Even though it’s not quite crazy like with the Kaczynskis in Poland. When
I wasthere, half a year ago, when the two Kaczynski brothers were still in power, I said they
reminded me of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, making a reference to Alice in Wonderland. But
they didn’t like that. They had a little pride. But what I want to say is that, in contrast to pure
post-political liberals, right-wingers still fight authentic political battles; they see communist
conspiracy everywhere, for example, like ‘Oh, the ex-communists are behind that there.’ What
they don’t yet get it is that there is no one behind it; it’s just a capital-based process. I think
this is the tragedy of transition. Now in Poland you don’t have it too much. You have it a little
bit – what I call a belated anti-communism.
I think that’s the tragedy. Precisely because people expected something different, something
more in 1990. They got capitalism and they don’t want to blame capitalism, so you have
to come to the paranoid conclusion: we don’t have real capitalism. The communists are
still around. So, paradoxically, for me this belated anti-communism is, in a way, an anticapitalist sign. It means people expected something different when communism fell apart.
I agree with Benjamin: ‘Behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution.’ People obviously
expected something crazy – a utopia, something more, but all they got was vulgar capitalism.
So that’s one problem that we have with the transition, which is why... you know what the
right formula for transition in Slovenia is? The revisionists used to say that socialism was an
endless process – we had to construct it constantly. Now, the Slovenian right has proposed
the formula that transition is an endless process. The communists, ex-communists would like
to hear: ‘Now transition is over, we’re all normal, forget about the past, what we were doing.’
No, no: the right thing to say is that the transition will never end, basically. Because the neocommunists are really like some kind of a vampire; they’re the living dead. You kill them, and
they rise magically, again and again and again.
But that kind of paranoia, that communist paranoia, seems to show some signs that make it actually look
Yeah – yeah, absolutely. No wonder that so many of them are old disillusioned Stalinists in
Slovenia. A sociological survey revealed that one third, at least, of the votes for these radical
anti-communists and rightists were from old disillusioned ex hard-line communists. No, no –
who thinks it’s paranoia? You have to have clear traitors. They also like this emergency game
very much. A permanent emergency state, like good communists, you know. Did you see...?
Frank told me that there is this good Hungarian film playing now, a comedy about the first
years of communism. It takes place in a small city, somewhere in provincial Hungary, and
whenever they have a problem, a totally trivial problem – their factory doesn’t work or there
is a fire, for instance – an emissary comes from central committee to teach them how to... And
he always begins with ‘The international situation is worsening. It’s getting serious.’ And this
is the world view here. They don’t want to admit normalcy. They say, ‘We only have a formal
democracy. It’s just the form of a democracy but in reality, a group of people with connections
and money run it.’ And my answer was: ‘But you’re talking about capitalism. I mean this is the
usual capitalist democracy.’ To what extent are so many patterns of behaviour of the old hardline communists taken over by them? But the true transition would be – this was my utopia,
but it failed – you know, whenever you have a transition from one thing to another, in those
times of passage, sometimes something new might emerge. And that was my secret hope.
Maybe it could have been – but it wasn’t. The sad reality of this is illustrated by Poland, where
you’re almost glad when at least a normal neoliberal takes over.
I think that one thing is crucial to achieve the changes of the left. Did you also know this
one thing? I don’t know how it is here with you. I think you still have communists, explicit
communists, not those who mask themselves as democratic post-communists. If there is
something that the post-communists are afraid of, it’s speaking for the working class. They’re
ashamed to. The only serious political force which addresses the working class with the type
of rhetoric that says ‘Rich people are exploiting you, you’ve been deprived’ are the right-wing
nationalists. It’s the only political force that’s addressing the working class. Which is a sad
thing – but at the same time, I claim, strangely a sign of hope in the sense that maybe at
some point you’ll have a chance to... because you know what the real problem is? I’ve tried
to convince my friends that the true problem is what to do, what you can do today, even if
you gain power. Is it the eternal story of the left, that some leftist takes power – like I don’t
know, Mandela – and then you are allowed one year to play and then basically you confront
the dilemma regarding whether you accept neoliberal games or not? If not, there is economic
crisis, chaos, bla bla bla. And then you have either to play like Chávez, go half into dictator
mode, or you lose power in chaos. The coordinates of capitalism are quite cruel here. Which
is why I would love to see Germany succeed. This is my greatest desire, because till now, you
can’t imagine how often I read The Economist, the English liberal weekly, you know. They’re
always reporting that they’re pure neoliberals. They always reported it with such pleasure
whenever there was something wrong in Germany or in Sweden. ‘See ? It doesn’t work!’
This kind of welfare state needs a success story. Unfortunately, now the only true success
story is Norway, because they have oil, like Chávez. Although Sweden is still successful, isn’t
it? This is what annoys neoliberals. Sweden had a crisis for some years, but then they did it.
Somehow, they really did it – collectively, in a way. They collectively decided, ‘OK, we have
to sacrifice this much of the welfare state, but we can keep this much.’ There was some kind
of social pact, and it worked. This is why, again, from time to time you have an article in The
Economist that says, ‘Ah, dark clouds on Sweden’s horizon!’ You can see their desire, how they
would like Sweden to go wrong. No, of course, there are differences, but in the long term...
Again, I am relatively a pessimist. I am really worried about how the United States screwed
things up. I mean, they’re really almost literally in a position like that of a Greek tragedy. The
parents of Oedipus learned that their son would kill them. They tried to prevent it and that
very effort enabled their son to kill them. In the same way, the US learned that Iran was
a fundamentalist threat, they intervened in Iraq – and what did they achieve? They made Iraq
more fundamentalist than ever and they strengthened Iran. In Iraq they are more or less under
the control of Iran. Americans know that if they withdrew now from Iraq, Iran would win the
election in the form of pro-Iranian forces. And point two: over three million people have left
Iraq, the whole middle class – educated and secular – which was pretty strong under Saddam.
You know, because Saddam was an interesting figure. He was an ultra-monster. But he created
the strongest secular middle class in the entire Arab world. This was a big comparative
advantage. Because till the very last years he presented himself as secular nationalist. He was
one of a very few: I think that only Iraq and Libya were countries – Arab countries – which
were at least officially secular. Not Islamic, Muslim states. So that the only truly good legacy
of Saddam is disappearing like crazy. Just like that, three million doctors, lawyers, educated
people, have left the country. And what are they doing? So again, I agree with you, when you
say that… I mean, ‘transition’ may be a big term. Today there’s endless transition. We have
this transition, in the West, they have a transition from the old welfare state. We have to
modernise. And whenever they do some dirty thing, like cutting a budget for education. They
say, ‘What? You don’t get it yet? This is modernisation!’
And Germany has endless reunification.
Yeah, yeah yeah yeah. So what I like is this endless process. Nobody’s there to stop them.
Transition here will be more or less endless. In the west, the transition to a real global
economy will be the end. There will always be some fanatic liberal to say, ‘No, the state is too
strong. Trade unions are too strong there.’ I think this is the big transformation. Maybe in
the Czech Republic or Slovenia, in these countries, we’re in transition in this narrower sense.
Maybe we’re the model for the entire world. The communists always wanted to be the model
– and now we, in post-communist countries, have succeeded in being the model. We’re the top
now: we’ve imposed the formula of transition on the whole world– the whole world is basically
in transition. At first, the West thought ‘Oh, poor guys there, they have to make a transition,
but we’re already there.’ But now they are discovering that nobody is there. We’re in constant
transition. Even the United States are now talking about accommodating themselves to a new
international... you’re always in some kind of transition. Venezuela is now in the opposite
kind of transition. And so on. But I think there is a deeper truth in it. The deeper truth is that
global capitalism is already in some kind of a structural crisis. I’m not saying it’s a fatal
crisis; what I’m saying is that we live in times which are potentially dangerous – you know
in what sense. Not in this paranoid sense – ‘America will drag us into war’ – but in sense
that during the Cold War the rules of the game were clear, there were unwritten rules
internationally. In the ‘90s, the United States tried to implement their rules. They failed and
now the world is looking for new rules. What are the rules of behaviour? Look at the United
States. Can they attack Iran? What will China do? The basic rule in the Cold War was always
between great powers. What does one side allows the other to do? The Soviets violated the
rule a little bit. Czechoslovakia? OK, it’s theirs. Afghanistan? That was more problematic,
that wasn’t OK. And so on. I claim that we live in these dangerous times in the sense that the
rules are not clear. And again it’s an eternal transition.
Is it similar, as you were saying yesterday, to the situation in Yeltsin’s Russia, where the rules were not clear?
There’s a certain kind of analogy.
I think the real message of the Iraq war was not to Iran, but to the international community:
‘We want to lay this down as a rule internationally. We can intervene whenever we want.’ But
it failed. I think that the true significance of the Iraq war was purely semiotic. To establish
a new rule. As a model. They were saying that the meaning of the Iraq war had nothing to
do with Iraq. It’s the model for international rules in the century to come. That’s what was
decided there. They were correct, in a way.
We’re in a transition again. I really think we’re in a transition right now, even though we
don’t even know it. You know what the surest sign that the socialist regimes were in trouble
was? When they start to cover up the failure. If people asked, ‘Wait a minute, we are supposed
to be living under communism. Is this communism?’ the communists started to introduce
further and further divisions of different stages of development: ‘No, we’re going through
lower stage of communism, but a higher stage of socialism.’ And then there were big debates
– quite serious ones – about it in the Soviet Union. Are we at a higher stage of socialism or
a lower stage of communism? I wonder if globalists will start to play the same game. Are
you at a lower level of radical globalisation or a higher level of non-radical... But I claim that
unfortunately the situation is the same as it was with communism. The moment you start to
say it’s a long transition, it means there is a failure in the project. So I really think we are all
in transition. Transition into what? What was our official dogma? ‘89 was the end of utopias.
No, the true utopia was the ‘90s. The true utopia was the ‘90s, when we thought ‘Now he have
the formula for everything.’ And if people ask me, ‘What about September 11th?’ – that was the
end of that utopia. The end of that utopia for me was not ‘89, ‘90. It was ’91 – sorry, 2001, when
it became clear that we were not all that liberal democratic. That capitalism can’t be exported
in any simple way. That we don’t have the definitive formula.