Liberals like to point out similarities between Left and Right “extremisms”: Hitler’s terror and camps imitated Bolshevik terror, the Leninist party is today alive in al Qaida. Even if we accept this, what does all this mean? It can also be read as an indication of how fascism literally replaces (takes the place of) the leftist revolution: its rise is the Left’s failure, but simultaneously a proof that there was indeed a revolutionary potential, dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize. How are we to understand this reversal of an emancipatory force into fundamentalist populism? It is here that the passage from the Two to the Three gains all its weight: the hegemonic ideological field imposes on us a field of (ideological) visibility with its own “principal contradiction” (today, it is the opposition of market-freedom-democracy and fundamentalist-terrorist-totalitarian- ism “Islamo-fascism” and so on), and the first thing we must do is to reject (to subtract ourselves from) this opposition, to perceive it as a false opposition destined to obfuscate the true line of division. Lacan’s formula for this redoubling is 1+1+a: the “official” antagonism (the Two) is always supplemented by an “indivisible remainder” which indicates its foreclosed dimension. In other terms, the true antagonism is always reflexive, it is the antagonism between the “official” antagonism and that which is foreclosed by it (this is why, in Lacan’s mathematics, 1+1 = 3). Today, for example, the true antagonism is not between liberal multiculturalism and fundamentalism, but between the very field of their opposition and the excluded Third (radical emancipatory politics).
So what about the core values of liberalism: freedom, equality so forth? The paradox is that liberalism itself is not strong enough to save them – namely, its own core – against the fundamentalist onslaught. The problem with liberalism is that it cannot stand on its own: there is something missing in the liberal edifice, and liberalism is in its very notion “parasitic,” relying on a presupposed network of communal values that it itself undermines with its own development. Fundamentalism is a reaction – a false, mystifying, reaction, of course – against a real flaw of liberalism, and this is why it is again and again generated by liberalism. Left to its own devices, liberalism will slowly undermine itself – the only thing that can save its core is a renewed Left. Or, to put it in the well-known terms from 1968, in order for its key legacy to survive, liberalism needs the comradely help of the radical Left.