There is a surprising paradox in the political life of post-communist societies. Surprising to traditional political values. The totalitarian communist parties in our countries have become socialist by name and conservative by stand. In the revolutionary process of transformation from a one-party state to a multi-party system, from a state-owned economy to a market economy, from no human rights to universal human rights, those parties supported a conservative approach; reforms were carried out by parties declared to be right-of-center.
The latest political scandal in Bulgarian society was around the proposal for ratification of the Istanbul Convention of The Council of Europe, aimed to fight violence against women, children, and other vulnerable gender groups. The Bulgarian Socialist Party surprisingly, or not, was the first, even before the nationalist parties, to stand against this ratification with the argument that the term gender was a threat to traditional family values. This was done in opposition to the position of the European Socialist Party, their umbrella party. If we add their firm stand against immigration and their thinly veiled opposition to many EU initiatives, we could see the general characteristics of contemporary right wing populist parties. Their rhetoric about “Europe spoiling our traditional values” could also be heard from a radical Islamist organization. On the other hand, in our society, human rights are defended by political parties of the right.
How do we understand this mix-up of values? The opposition of totalitarian/non-totalitarian leads us to the Lacanian opposition: ethics of the Good/ethics of desire. No ideology based on the sovereign Good cares much about subjective truth or subjective desire. This is a clue to the contemporary phenomenon of populism. Under the pretext of democracy (the rule of the majority), they propose to the supposed majorities in Europe (national, ethnic, religious, sexual…) to rule over the “bad” minorities (immigrants, LGBT, Muslims…). Classical right and left ideologies are also based on such group oppositions between the good/the bad. This is the essential opposition in the discourse of the master. Populism, like Islamist radicalism, are the contemporary radicalizations of this discourse. Following historical radicalizations based on national ideals and class struggle, these movements propose a radical, instead of dialectical, solution for the impossible: the extermination of the real.
Following Freud, Lacan has provided us with an ethics of desire, an ethics of the divided subject that never obtains wholeness. If we use Lacan’s logic of the Not-All, we could say that the different populisms attempt to subdue all subjects with the dictate of the One of the phallic signifier. This could account for the misunderstandings caused in Bulgarian society by the manipulative discussions about the Istanbul Convention and the reaction against it.
Hence the populist revolution, in the sense of returning to the starting point, or maybe another loop of Marx’s spiral, has again brought us close to the longing for a “final solution.” It has to do with the human dream for eternity, “this dream consists in imagining that one wakes up,” as Lacan states it in Seminar XXV: Le moment de conclure. As if a final solution would bring eternal Good to the human race, or at least to our group of people.
It seems that what we need at this point is a “New Shaking” (Un Nuevo Temblor), as Jacques-Alain Miller puts it quoting Lorca’s words, in order to continue without the dream of a final solution, which could only be deadly in its enactment.