Zizek: Immigrants blamed for failures of EU leaders

The renowned Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek has written a piece for the New Statesman magazine blaming the rise of anti-immigrant feeling in the European Union on the failure of the continent's leaders to deal with, or even to understand, the problems facing the continent.

In late May, elections were held around the European Union to elect members of the European Parliament. In many countries, right-wing, anti-immigrant parties did very well.

  • In the UK, the UK Independence Party topped the poll with 27.5% of votes cast. It took 24 of the 73 seats available.
  • In France, which has 74 seats in the parliament, the far-right Front National took 25 seats and received a similar proportion of the vote
  • In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party came third with 20.5% of the vote. It took 4 of Austria's 18 seats.

In most countries, the vote for far-right, anti-immigrant parties rose.

The Elvis of cultural theory

Mr Zizek, once labelled 'the Elvis of cultural theory', was not surprised by the emergence of the far right and said 'what one should wonder about is why it took the anti-immigrant right so long to break through'.

Zizek says that the rise of populist demagogues who blame immigrants for the economic and social ills of the EU is not surprising given the incompetence of the ruling elite who do not know how to deal with the problems facing the continent and who are also boring. Their lack of passion and their inability to deal with the crisis in Europe instil no confidence in European voters.

Now that the European elite is imposing austerity, at the behest of international capital, he says, the far right parties such as the Front National appear to be on the same side as the people. He says that the leader of the Front National, Marie Le Pen, 'forms a clear contrast to the sterile European technocrats: addressing the worries of ordinary people, she brings passion back to politics'.

Nationalists tap into anger about austerity

Zizek says that the Front National, UKIP and other nationalists are attracting support because they are tapping into anger about the austerity programmes being forced on EU governments by the European Central Bank and the European elite.

He says that it is obvious to voters that the 'experts' who govern them do not know what they are doing, they are therefore looking to alternative parties who have alternative solutions. He says 'In western Europe, we are effectively witnessing a growing inability of the ruling elite – they know less and less how to rule'.

He cites the example of the measures imposed on Greece in the wake of its collapse in . He says 'Look at how Europe is dealing with the Greek crisis: putting pressure on Greece to repay debts, but at the same time ruining its economy through imposed austerity measures and thereby making it sure the Greek debt will never be repaid'.

'The blind are leading the blind'

He says 'the protesters don't pretend to have easy answers, but what their instinct is telling them is nonetheless true – that those in power also don't know it. In Europe today, the blind are leading the blind'.

Thus, he says, the electorate are drawn to the anti-immigrant policies of parties like the Front National'.

The trouble with this, he says is that they are looking in the wrong place for the source of their discomfort. He says 'The problem with this shared rejection is that, as they say in a joke, Le Pen is not looking for the causes of the distresses in the dark corner where they really are, but under the light, because one sees better there'.

Liberal democracy is driving people rightwards

Zizek goes on to argue that liberal democracy itself has become the ally of vested interests such as capital, or even feudal forces of repression. It is therefore, in its current form, alienating the people and driving them into the hands of the far right.

Thus he says means that 'only a radicalised left can save what is worth saving from the liberal legacy and save Europe and the world from the false solutions of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy.

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