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Trace

The imperial leaves traces, and also consists of traces. These traces have effects to this day, most obviously in the case of  “post-imperial nostalgia” and “post-imperial syndrome”.

There are at least three ways of defining traces: the material, the forensic and the deconstructive. A fourth approach is that of medicine, this in turn bringing psychoanalytic concepts to the fore. These in turn have a structure of latency which is similar to forensic traces.

The definition of the trace from the point of view of forensics seems to be the most obvious one, especially considering the fact that the interrogation is a key activity within the Stalinist discursive formation. But in our approach, the forensic undergoes a shift: we interrogate the interrogation as the actual crime. We are not dealing with a simple securing of evidence after a crime, but rather a criminal method of evidence securing itself which erases its ‘real’ traces in search of ‘objective class enemies’. The ‘class enemy’ is at the center of attention – but one who has already been destroyed. In this way, Stalinism (and also Socialist Realism) lives in the mode of futur anterieur.

Deconstruction’s appraoch to the trace is also quite relevant, since Stalinist’s explicitly anti-metaphysical, but implicitly deeply metaphysical nature forces it to assume the real existence of an archi-trace (it posits humankind’s being always-already-en-route to salvation from class society). This positing deconstructs itself in its practices, whose main purpose is securing the archi-trace. For instance, the ‘return’ or ‘arrival’ to a completely ‘natural’ situation without the ‘artificial’ and evil effects of capitalist civilization takes place as pure theater or theatrification. Both the producers and viewers of this theater are aware of the theatrification, but have no way of leaving the theatrical stage into ‘real life’, for the latter has been erased in favor of the never-existing futur anterieur. It displays itself as living only in the future perfect, which is a specific form of self-deconstruction. Žižek rephrases this in Lacanian terms with his concept of the empty gestue and the empty Master signifier.

If one thinks these two approaches together, one might come to the following conclusion: the deconstruction of the ‘natural origin’ which Stalinist Communism claims to ‘restore’ can be investigated with the method of the interrogated interrogation and the forensics of criminal forensics. All of one’s ‘own’ crimes committed in the name of Stalin(ism) cease to be one’s own, since they are subordinated to the ‘archi-crime’ of the formation of social classes. In this way, Stalinists’ ‘own’ violence is moved out of reach of discourse.

Žižek’s Lacanian description of totalitarian destruction of both the human subject and of human lives (the former is in actuality more important to the Stalinists) as an implicit working out of the Real and of the own truth takes this argumentation one step further. The power of the Stalinist unconscious causes its conscious activity to remove its own mask (in way, to deconstruct itself) in the process of its own significatory practices. One might also say that the processes of conscious production and erasure of traces in turn leave traces which are located precisely on the border between the conscious di

scursive and the unconscious non-discursive. The latter frames the former and at the same time overpowers it, remaining much longer and more stubbornly than explicit political ideology.