A Response to Slavoj Zizek’s “Global Communism”


In the article Slavoj Zizek: Coronavirus is ‘Kill Bill’-esque blow to capitalism and could lead to reinvention of communism on RT.com, Zizek elaborates on phenomena people have experienced during this pandemic, which he believes is a fatal attack on not only the communist rule in China, but also and more importantly, on the capitalist system in the world, and he argues the necessity of a radical change – the reinvention of communism based on trust in the people and in science. Zizek sees this as an “ideological virus” that he wishes could “spread and infect us”. Related to the pandemic, Zizek brings up Fredric Jameson’s attention on cosmic catastrophes in the movies that always boost global solidarity. In order to avoid misunderstandings, he emphasizes it’s not that he enjoys the widespread sufferings, the point is that it’s sad that the solidarity doesn’t appear without a catastrophe. No matter the cause, Zizek makes it clear what is the result of these catastrophes: a global coordination (modeled after the World Health Organization) that should be given more executive power. In the following part of the article, Zizek doesn’t hide his opposition to capitalism. He criticizes the “capitalist animism” manifested during the pandemic and argues that the disturbed world market indicates an urgent need for a reorganization of the world economy. In the end he introduces Viktor Orban’s words: “There is no such thing as a liberal. A liberal is nothing more than a communist with a diploma” and advocates his ideal communism – liberals with a diploma.

It is valuable to hear different voices in a society, based on which Zizek’s idea is valuable in itself. But this utopian thinking is not solid enough to persuade. Let aside the discussion on whether it’s a good idea, it’s questionable whether the idea is even possible. In the article Zizek argues that it’s sad that the world needs a catastrophe to be really united, as if the global solidarity and coordination that he advocates can be achieved through a catastrophe, however sad it might be. However, the fact we currently see is even sadder, with this catastrophe – the global pandemic –  global solidarity and coordination seems to not even happening, if one takes a glance at the prevailing news on China and the US’s blaming each other, or Germany’s intercepting Switzerland’s masks. On the other hand, yes, liberals with diplomas sound promising, but in Zizek’s article it seems so urgent that we need to replace the capitalist system with this communism. The problem is, can the liberal population graduate and get their diploma in such a short time? Not even mentioning the segment of people who don’t even believe in liberalism. In addition, Zizek suggests a global healthcare network, but would all the participants abide by all the rules so that it’s fair for all participant states? It’s also a question if one takes a look on whether the Chinese Communist Party has abided by all the clauses negotiated and signed by themselves when China entered WTO.

Despite what’s mentioned above, the bigger question to ask is actually whether it is so urgent and correct that we need to replace capitalism with Zizek’s new communism. In the article Zizek doubts the smooth running of the world market which is true, but there’s no evidence that a powerful global executive power organized by human intelligence can run the market smoother in a time of crisis as this pandemic. What’s to be worried is the efficiency of a heavily burdened big government, global or national. Based on what’s shown in China, bigger executive power requires bigger organizational structure which diminishes the efficiency in action, so the question is how to build a global executive power big enough to handle worldwide urgent issue yet keep a high efficiency. In the end, an example about masks manifested in the pandemic tells a story that actually favors capitalism mechanism: back in the time when the corona virus started to spread in China, the market request of masks naturally raised, which needed to be fulfill through a higher mask productivity which can be achieved through higher profitability. However, in order to make sure the majority can afford a mask, the Chinese big government intervened in the market and set rules that limited mask prices, which led to a fact that, with a higher production cost (higher cost in labour, raw material, and freight) and un-raised price, many mask manufacturers went bankrupted or stopped producing masks to avoid bankruptcy. As one factory owner said, they want to help and would continue producing masks even if there’s zero profit, but the reality is they lose money every time they produce and sell a mask, so they had to stop because they can’t afford to help. This price limitation policy, with a good will, led to a phenomenon that the mask productivity significantly went down in a time that masks are hugely needed, which then made even those who wish to get a mask in a higher price can’t buy one. So, when China got hit by the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” and sat and went through the price limitation policy, would they reconsider to let the invisible hand freely run the market and let the price go up? Would the situation be better if they allow high prices that generate a high profitability that attracts more investment in the mask industry and drives all the mask manufacturers to conduct production in their full productivity? In this case, maybe capitalism is still working, even in a time of crisis as such, and communism can better be achieved through the development of productivity that takes time and goes natural than a political structure design motivated by urgent call.