Q: You’ve lived through the Cold War the, fall of the Soviet Union, the disintegration of Yugoslavia – did you think that in 2016 there would still be a Castro in power in Havana?
Slavoj Žižek: No, I didn’t. But let me add two points. First, you know there are so many surprises, for me the big surprise was not that communism disintegrated in 1990. People usually say who would have imagined this happen even 10 years earlier. But who would have imagined that five years afterwards in 1995 – you remember – post communist candidate Kwaśniewski and Lech Wałęsa. So in this sense the persistence of communism is not a surprise. But nonetheless I think with all the pathetics of fidelity to revolution, resisting United States pressure and so on and so on; I think all of these is nonetheless a realization of a very sad metaphor. We all know from cartoons this classic scene: a cat walks across the precipice and goes on walking in the empty air. And then it falls down only when it looks down and notices that there is no earth beneath its feet. Isn’t that something … the same going down in Cuba? The revolution was going …
Q: It’s been going on for a long time. I don’t know what it’s like where you are in Slovenia, but here in France it really has been a throwback Monday. The fault lines, the classical old-school fault lines between the right and the left are back in the coverage of this particular story. Is the same where you are?
Slavoj Žižek: No. I think our reaction is more one of indifference and I even think this is the right reaction. Because I think that the tragedy of Cuba was – well, let me tell you a wonderful phrase of the great French philosopher Gilles Deleuze: ‘Si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l’autre; vous êtez foutus’—If you are caught in another person’s dream, you are lost. Isn’t this what happened with Cuba? People there were living in misery, inertia, but their country was caught in other person’s dreams – Castro’s dream, the dream of West European leftists and so on. And that was the tragedy not only of Cuba but also of ex-Yugoslavia. These countries which were not the same real socialist countries as the great East European dictatorships, so West European leftists like them as a dream of, you know, maybe this is a different authentic revolution and so on and so on. Unfortunately, in the case of my own ex-Yugoslavia, as well as in the case of Cuba, I don’t think there was a difference. With all my sympathy Cuba, heroic resistance to the United States pressure and so on and so on, what ultimately matters for me, as the one who is still a convinced radical leftist, is simply: did Cuba provide something that at least can serve as a kind of a model project for what a new socialism for 21st century should be, or was just a nostalgic inert remainder of the past? I think, unfortunately, there is no potential for future emancipation.
Q: Slavoj Žižek, just one final question on this our correspondent earlier, we spoke to him in Havana, he said young Cubans they have no illusions about the way their country is run; and yet they feel genuine sorrow – ninety percent, he said, of those he’s been speaking to this weekend.
Slavoj Žižek: Yeah, but for me I see, nonetheless as a trained psychoanalyst, no problem in this. These two sides go together. On the one hand, this revolutionary sublime, maximal leader and so on; on the other hand, look at the daily life in Cuba: inertia, misery, escapism in drugs, in sex, in pleasures and so on and so on. That’s the reality of the revolution sublime.