26 May 2015

Got to grow up sometime

 
The Chaos Marxist jury is still out on whether Jacques Lacan was the most original and useful psychoanalyst since Wilhelm Reich, or whether he was simply a bullshit artist who wrapped Freud's insights up in impenetrably flighty jargon to sell himself as a new guru/master; in other words, the French L. Ron Hubbard. But we are finding his central concept of The Name of the Father (which, in French, can also mean "the Name given by the Father", as well as a pun on "the NO! of the Father") very productive.

To put it in the rather quaint and patriarchal language of the Freudian Oedipal complex, the Father draws boundaries for the Son by saying NO! you've had enough snuggle-time with Mummy, it's my turn now. But when you grow up, if you're a good boy, you can have a woman of your own. In exchange for the sacrifice of undifferentiated infant bliss, the Son gets a Name of his own and a place in the Symbolic Order - aka a role to play in the Real World of Horrible Jobs - plus the promise of a replacement Mother (Wife) sometime later. Of course, where the hell does this leave women, the queer or the genderqueer; but perhaps Virginia Woolf gave us the answer to that one, in saying that since beforra dawna time women have been looking for A Room of One's Own in the symbolic order, alongside those carved out for their brothers.

Lacan argued that the Name of the Father is not only the Law of Society, but the master signifier in the Son's system of meaning, in the way he makes sense of the world and his place in it; and also (and this I think is quite debatable) that the failure to provide the NO! of the Father leads to very vague and provisional ego boundaries prone to collapse into psychosis later on.

But the Name of the Father is also, to put it in the terms of Neil Gaiman's Delirium of the Endless, "something you know that I don't that makes everything you do okay". It is privilege; it is an excuse for harmful behaviour towards self/others/nature, at the base of that claimed by all religions or cultish ideologies. It is a demand for sacrifice and obedience in return for deferred pleasure; or, alternatively, the obscene pleasure of enforcing the Law on the nonbelievers. It is the 72 virgins or the tree covered with a million leaves each showing a porn film which is the reward for the faithful martyrs in Paradise. It is the seed-faith donation of $5,000 to the IAS or your local megachurch pastor which will turn into untold riches maybe in this world, maybe the next. It is the coming classless utopia in the name of which we can lie, cheat and steal in the here and now. It is the line between us Real People / revolutionary cadre and the brute beasts / homo sacer over there who don't belong to our Symbolic Order and thus can be ruthlessly exploited, or exterminated, and our Big Nobodaddy doesn't care either way.

===

 Lacan is reputed to have told the 68ers "you are hysterics looking for a new Master, and you will get one". And that certainly happened; the libertarian movements of that era, born from the generation in the West who had decided that their Fathers who fought the Second World War didn't know what they were talking about and deserved no more obedience, after a few years substituted new Names at the head of their symbolic orders, for whom they were expected to sacrifice and die. Trotsky, Mao, L. Ron Hubbard, Jesus Christ (an oldie but a goodie there), Jim Jones, Aleister Crowley, Ayn Rand (women can be The Father if they act like one), Hare Krishna Hare Hare... But the most powerful new Master Signifier, and the one which overwhelmingly dominates the world today, was - as befits reification in late capitalism - not the name of a man or a woman, but of a social institution or abstraction: The Market.

The Thatcher/Reagan revolution was twofold. One part was a neoliberal "negation of the negation" of 1960s radicalism, which encouraged ex-hippies to become yuppies and fulfil their dreams of A Room Of Their Own within the globalising market system. There was plenty of money sloshing around, now that profits had been restored at the expense of the workers; why not cash in? That succeeded triumphantly.  The other part was a neoconservative rollback of 1960s radicalism, aimed at restoring Western imperialism (aka the Defence of the Free World) and Traditional Family Values as the Name of the Father in the global symbolic order. This was only half successful.

The Market as the new Name of the Father, unlike the more traditional ones, demanded no personal sacrifice in return for A Room Of One's Own; except in the sense of having to pay the mortgage on it, if you follow the metaphor. You need not accept any personal/sexual discipline, only market discipline. Hedonism was good for the economy now; savings were less important in the era of easy credit; you could have as much sex and drugs and rock'n'roll as you wanted if you were a successful yuppie (the Drug War was only on the poor/black homo sacer). The yuppies decided that "you could be a socialist and still have staff", that a Cadillac was just as good as a VW Combi van for putting Deadhead stickers on and smoking weed inside of. You could follow any bogus guru who would condone your mega-egotistical lifestyle and yet tell you that you were better than anyone else. And you would vote Republican/Conservative because Daddy Ron or Mummy Maggie (the Market in human form) would guarantee your freedom, at the expense of the Others standing in the dole queues, lying in the gutters or in pools of their own blood in foreign parts.

Eventually, of course, the yuppies grew up somewhat, left Mummy and Daddy behind and chose their cool big brothers Bill and Tony (a sax player and a former lead singer, yet!) to lead them instead, who relaxed authoritarianism on the moneyed middle classes while intensifying it on the poor, the neo-colonised and other Others (you know what I mean). Biological racism was increasingly replaced by a cultural racism directed against the working poor, welfare beneficiaries, prisoners, and unruly racial/religious Others threatening Western interests in foreign parts. Cheerleading imperialism and scapegoating refugees meant no personal sacrifice for the middle classes, even more so when fought by armies based on an economic draft among the poor rather than a social-wide draft. Financialisation means that wars can be fought on credit, and resulting inflation of the military budget can always be blamed on whoever you'd decided to blame social problems on anyway.

However - with the exception of a brief explosion of moralism during the early AIDS crisis - "traditional family values" (aka the patriarchal nuclear family and the sexual codes thereof) have been fighting a losing battle. Partly this would be due to the newly liberated yuppies not seeing the need to make their kids go through the metaphorical castration they themselves struggled against. This wasn't necessarily great for the kids, as New Model Army sang in "A Liberal Education":
Be yourselves, please yourselves,
Express yourselves so more!
It's your right to do what you like
Because we can't really be bothered with you at all.
But it may well have made the future possible.

Partly, also, this would be due to the same socio-cultural processes which led to the original crumbling of the peasant nuclear family during the Industrial Revolution and a kind of abortive original women's/children's liberation - i.e. the need for all family members to work to survive in the crisis-ridden globalised neoliberal economy. Partly, it was because of the Pink Dollar - gays and lesbian yuppies were just as important as consumers and skilled workers as straight ones (hence the eventual triumph of same-sex marriage worldwide).

So, while neoliberalism rolled back the social gains of the working class which had built up during the era when "we were all Keynesians", and led to a rebirth of imperialism (especially in its sickening social-liberal "humanitarian" form), it preserved and actually promoted a market-libertarian form of feminism, gay rights and multiculturalism, not attempting to prevent changes in family structure and child-rearing which would have been seen as breathtakingly radical even in the 1960s. The "Millennials", as the generation brought up in neoliberalism, might be spoiled and egotistical/ individualistic, but they don't see any reason why women shouldn't work/have reproductive autonomy, why gays and lesbians shouldn't get married, or even (increasingly) why gender boundaries should be policed at all. This may be the Achilles' heel in the neoliberal utopia.

There's a joke that the real front-runner for the US Republican presidential nomination, if people were to answer honestly, would be Zombie Ronald Reagan. This is very similar to the way that Zombie Kim Il-Sung is still President of north Korea. Like Moses or Obi-Wan Kenobi, the authoritarian Father is more powerful dead than alive. But the Republican base (unlike the British Conservatives, who've been smarted in adapting to social liberalism) are growing old and dieing off. They may run the state legislatures but I doubt they'll elect another President any time soon. As a broad rule, the younger generation just don't need the Name of a human Father any more. Can these pure children of neoliberalism both realise and suppress neoliberalism's utopian promise?

===

A revolutionary counterhegemony will also come with a new, revolutionary symbolic order - a new way for people to belong, to participate, to be in community. Can we build a symbolic order without a Name of the New Adopted Father? Can we hope for something better than having a Mao or Lenin up there on the wall where the Holy Icon or Granddad's portrait used to be? Certainly there is no going back. Nostalgia is simply nostalgia for having a human authoritarian leader to fight against, and may well lead into a bloodthirsty yearning for killing authoritarians elsewhere (war on Da'esh, anyone?)

Well, I think I mentioned last year sometime that Anonymous might be the first forerunner of that. Refusing to have "a forename, a hind-name and an address", while accepting the techno-commercialism of modern globalism, they opt out of the Symbolic Order altogether. Why opt for a Room Of Your Own in the Father's house when you've built your own space-age yurt on a vacant lot across the street? Of course, this certainly doesn't mean to say that the defiantly racist/misogynist/queer-baiting social norms of various Anon formations are utopic. But they show that it is possible to opt out of the Father's Symbolic Order without the kind of mass psychosis which American Lacanian analyst Bruce Fink fears.

The global egalitarian/libertarian economic mode of production of the future communist utopia will surely come with a global egalitarian/libertarian symbolic order; in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all", that is, there will be a symbolic place for everyone, no matter physical status or social occupation, as well as a physical Room of One's Own. It will mean the end of homo sacer, the sovereign or the despised outcast who is exempt/excluded from the Community or its Law. In future communism, you will no longer need to be real, or have a face, or a gender for that matter. Perhaps the only Law in the future will be the Golden Rule of antiquity, most memorably recently rephrased by nerd-culture hero Wil Wheaton: don't be a dick. Which in itself would be a telling blow against phallocentrism.

===

It is said that the best way to understand Scientology as L. Ron Hubbard's own attempt to find a way out of his own private psychic nightmare while keeping his narcissistic ego intact. Similarly, Chaos Marxism is clearly my (Doloras') attempt to awake from the nightmare of my personal history.

Brought up with an absent father and a mother with very insecure boundaries, my only ever "place" while I was growing up was being the smartest kid in the class, something I did quite easily. I didn't like the social exclusion that this engendered, but a place in the symbolic order as the Golden Child who would one day redeem humanity (DON'T LAUGH) wasn't nothing. Later on, my mother attempted to bring various stepfathers into my life, who did their best to crush my infantile dreams of omnipotence, but never offered me a place in the Symbolic Order in which I could live in a million years. That could not even begin to start happening until I realised that a heterosexual lifestyle could not be mine, at the age of 25.

But until very recently, I was still yearning for an authority figure who would give me the keys to my future kingdom. Which meant - in my professional, emotional and political life - offering myself up as a servant to some exploitative or authoritarian authority figure who claimed to know "the way out". They were all lying or bullshitting, every one of them. And they didn't understand why I should have been so resentful - they never actually promised anything, did they? And I suppose, at this distance, they were right.

Finally I learned that only I can build a Room Of My Own in community with others who have accepted responsibility for fulfilling their own drives, for not being a dick despite how much easier life becomes if you do act dickishly. Paradoxically, a responsible egotism requires a humility which comes from "spirituality" - not necessarily any supernatural belief, but a belief in something which is more important than your own wants or needs. As the Russian soldier in the 1987 Doctor Who serial "The Curse of Fenris" demonstrated, this can be The Revolution; but only in the sense of a real commitment to a true utopia, a new social and symbolic order without the Freudian castration complex or bowing to any God made in the image of Man, where we can all live.

20 April 2015

The enemy is textual fundamentalism



I've have to explain to people over the years that I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Church of Scientology. So why have I been fascinated with it for so long? Obviously there was a bit of disavowed desire in there, and I think I've pinpointed it.

I began reading about and becoming interested in Scientology (in 1991, the time of the TIME magazine exposé) because - even though it was clear that Hubbard was a cynical scam artist - there was something in his gobbledegook that I "wanted to believe". (In fact, that's precisely how LRH invites you into his mind-control circle. "Read the book until you find something you actually can believe, then go with that." They shove the rest into your brain "on a gradient", aka like a frog boiling as you slowly turn the heat up.)

What really resonated with me was the concept of the reactive mind: that my negative emotions and triggers were a bad, worthless part of me that could and should be expunged to turn me into an Adrian Veidt-like superhero. With crippling self-doubt and self-esteem issues, anyone with certainty sounded good - and, of course, is also the appeal of such movements as Objectivism and orthodox Trotskyism.

Of course I never became a believer because, no matter how much I read on the subject, written by Freezoners/Independent Scientologists who were much better writers than their guru, (a) I could identify that the basis of belief was exactly the kind of "collective solipsism" described in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, so I was held back by my determined materialism; (b) it never quite made sense. The pieces never "fit" in logical order. My brain kept yelling "citation needed".

And of course that was a feature rather than a bug. I've mentioned before how accepting texts as authoritative is in itself authoritarian, because only a dictatorial Reader can impose a single interpretation. You can see how the Bible, the Qur'an and the Complete Works of Lenin are internally contradictory and can be used to justify any damn thing, given enough ingenuity. The same is true of the Scientology Tech, and LRH did it that way on purpose. Confusion, as Jon Atack notes, is a hypnotic technique.  Make the logic centres shut down so the childlike mirror neurons kick in.

But after years going from textually-based belief-system to textually-based belief system, I learned to spot the similarities between all of them. Case in point: the Spartacist League wrote an article on their splinter group, the IBT, titled "Garbage Doesn't Walk By Itself". The argument made that any sensible person who leaves a group which wasn't right for them gets on with their lives; therefore, the way the IBT continued to try to politically engage the Sparts only proved that they were motivated by ulterior forces, possibly COINTELPRO. Change COINTELPRO for "the psychiatrists", and that's exactly the same accusations that the "orthodox Hubbardian" group Milestone Two make against other ex-Scientologists who make the gentle suggestion that M2 are exhibiting exactly the same paranoid authoritarianism as the official Church.

Liberation must be based on praxis, theory put into practice and refined by practice, not the authority of texts. The works of Karl Marx are only as much use as his method is of use in helping us work out solutions to the problems of today. Past that, they are historical documents and literature; past that, they are nothing. Nothing at all. Just bits of paper, or electrons.

21 February 2015

A small bundle of aphorisms

  • No ideas, but in things. No ideology, but in practice.
 
  • Everything that works is true. Things that don't work are either false, or countered by a greater truth. Nothing that works is false.

19 January 2015

Fantasies of omnipotence: neoliberalism as a cult



The real reason the radical Left has to learn to understand the technologies of ecstacy, metaprogramming and their relationship to ideology is that our neoliberal enemies have got there way, way before us, and they have been using this stuff since at least 1975, the last time people in the "orthodox" Communist, Trotskyist or Maoist traditions had an original thought. (Sorry.) Chomsky was absolutely right to point out that "propaganda is to liberal democracy what secret police and torture are to authoritarianism", although of course by propaganda we have to include not only news/current affairs, but all the "common sense" ideologies reproduced through media narratives and cultural memes of all kinds; and crucially, through the economic struggle at the point of production, ie. getting jobs and keeping them, or otherwise surviving in the market economy.

What is actually useful in Scientology is not original, and what is original in Scientology is total crap. But sometimes L. Ron Hubbard had a way with words, and his famous dictum The only way to control people is to lie to people is not only a classic example of Freudian projection, ascribing your own faults to another (something else Scientologists are taught as if Elron discovered it!), but actually true. To put it in terms of ideological theory, we could say: the only way to get people to act against their own interests is to give them a wrong idea of what those interests are.

Neoliberals aren't dumb. They sincerely want to increase labour productivity, the source of all profit. Fundamentally, from a Marxist point of view, all capitalist (or top-down, state-capitalist/bureaucratic) efforts at improving productivity are behaviour control over workers, and therefore must be understood psychologically. Neoliberalism is cognitive-behaviourism on a mass scale, and the whole globalised capitalist economy is its Skinner box. Backwards-looking Leftists scoff at the idea that "neoliberalism has seeped into the workers' souls", but that betrays an essentialist, monadic, Enlightenment idea of what soul or consciousness is, which has nothing to do with Marxism, a dialectic mode of thought which recognizes the origins of consciousness in practice, rather than inherent proclivities or rogue memes. Althusser knew: you pretend to pray every day, eventually you'll believe in God.

Chaos Marxism suggests that Behaviour Control can be seen on a continuum along which you can find the following points, in rough order: 1) lying; 2) bullying; 3) abusive intimate or economic relationships; 4) totalistic cults; 5) totalitarian state regimes. Neoliberalism doesn't like the high ends of that scale solely because slave labour is not economically efficient in high-tech societies (which is why North Korea and Scientology are in poor shape right now). But behaviour control of all types can be seen as following Robert Lifton's Eight Criteria of Thought Reform. (Note: a Marxist/Gramscian/Althusserian viewpoint takes thought reform and behaviour control as precisely the same thing.) Here's the CM attempt to apply them to the whole goddamn world we live in.
  1. Milieu (Environmental) Control - Control over the members' flow of information and social interaction.
    Technically speaking, this is no longer possible in the Internet era. But even though the cost of production and distribution of information is now virtually zero, attention is still a scarce resource. The capitalist media works with an ever-improving technology, spurred on by inter-capitalist and inter-state competition, of grabbing and corralling attention, and reproducing the approved narratives. Reality TV shows you how easily spontaneous, unscripted events can be hammered post-facto into a narrative. But the flipside is that they've created their own gravediggers, making the technology so easy their enemies can do it on a tiny budget. Like in Animal Farm: Snowball taught the sheep to recite Animalist slogans, but they could then be taught to recite precisely the opposite. Similarly, the Da`esh scumbags (religious fascists) have learned out to make their own memes with advanced capitalist technology (high quality videos, etc) which make a hell of a lot of sense to, say, poor Arab kids living in the Paris suburbs, with disastrous results.
  2. Mystical Manipulation - The group attributes supernatural influences where none are present--attributing an accident to a member that left to be "God's punishment"--or manipulates situations so they appear spontaneous--members believing that their new feelings and behavior has arisen spontaneously because of joining their new group.This is Gramscian ideology - "common sense" of capitalism persists because your everyday experience of working and consuming makes it look like that's how the universe works. The discourse of "market meritocracy" - the rich are simply better people than those on welfare - takes us into the next issue...

  3. Demand for Purity - Unreasonable rules and unreachable standards are imposed upon the members. The critical, shaming essence of the cult environment is gradually internalized by the members, which builds lots of guilt and shame, further magnifying their dependence on the group. Scientology, specifically, gives followers the goal of becoming OT (Operating Thetans). This, they are told, is their "native state" - they are deep down all-powerful immortal spirits, who have sadly suppressed their own power and even the memory of it over the last few quadrillion years because of their own crimes and mistakes and wishing to avoid making the same mistakes. In real world terms, what that means is: a mistake is a crime. If something bad happens to you, deep down you wanted it to happen.
    This is the extreme version of what behavioural psychologists call "internal locus of control". In less extreme versions, it's much preferred in the capitalist workplace than "external locus of control" (I have no control, things just happen to me, I am a leaf on the wind) - how can we exploit your labour if you don't believe you have any labour power? Or if you refuse to believe that the world is fair?
    This basic idea is also a best seller in the capitalist marketplace under the name The Secret/The Law Of Attraction. It's also a best-seller among "savvy" modern political scientists, known as "perception is reality" or - in Karl Rove's higher-level version - "the Empire creates its own reality". There is simply no meme more capable of making someone a slave than to impose an excessively internal locus of control: the fantasy of omnipotence will cripple someone with guilt, yet - unlike the totally external locus of control - you can still get them to work hard.

  4. Confession - Past and present behavior, undesirable feelings are to be confessed.
    Don't we just love "true confessions" in the Facebook/Instagram era? You're not nobody unless you live your life on camera where you can be scrutinized and judged. If Orwell's IngSoc Party seized power today, people would be queuing up to have telescreens installed.
  5. Sacred Science - The teachings of the group are viewed as the ultimate, unquestionable truth. The leader of the group is likewise above criticism as the spokesperson for God on earth, whose Truth should be applied to all humankind and anyone who disagrees or has alternative ideas is not only irreverent, but also unscientific.
    There is no individual "leader" in neoliberal globalization - no human one, anyway. The MARKET is the One God and billionaires and mainstream economists are His Prophets. Any talk outside the bounds of this orthodoxy is just incomprehensible and thrown into baskets like "socialist", "primitive", "hardline" - just as damning in their ways as classic Newspeak terms like crimethink or entheta.

  6.  Loading the Language - The group's language serves the purpose of constructing their thinking and shutting down critical thinking abilities. "Groupspeak" forces members to censor, edit and slow down spontaneous bursts of criticism or opposite ideas. See #5 above. Note how mainstream political parties and media outlets use shaming, exclusion and continuing rhetorical battering to make their own ideology not only seem right, but to make any alternative seem like an unfathomable nightmare, run by communism, shari`a law, the Illuminati, the Jews, or any combination of the above. If - for example - it is impossible to be against "liberal democracy", meaningful politics become impossible.
  7. Doctrine Over Person - As members rewrite their own personal history or ignore it, they are simultaneously taught to interpret reality through the group concepts and ignore their own experiences and feelings as they occur.
    People need a language to interpret their own experience. If they can find a narrative which gives their lives meaning and makes sense given their experience, they'll grab it, no matter how inherently bogus or individually poisonous. The mass media market will provide you with any kind of narrative you can think of, giving you media and products to consume which will confirm you in any identity ("narrative of the self") which you've chosen. Even within that - if you've decided you're a gay man, for example, you can be a twink, a bear, an otter, a Leatherman, a Gay Christian, a Gay Muslim, whatever. There are branded products for you to buy, and websites (used to be magazines...) to read. Alongside this, for those who are really alienated, old-school cults will give you a totalising narrative, albeit not as shiny and satisfying as the new mass-market narratives: Scientology or other religious cults, lifestyle anarchism, sect-Leninism and other political cults, and of course, Salafism/Wahhabism or Iran-style Shi`a fundamentalism, which offer the best of both worlds.

  8. Dispensing of Existence - The group's totalistic environment emphasizes that the members are part of an elite or special group. Outsiders are considered unworthy or unenlightened.
    Just look at how the media want to you think about nations which are to a lesser (Russia, Venezuela, Afghanistan) or greater (Cuba, North Korea) outside the neoliberal globalist economy. True, 3 out of the 5 countries mentioned are pretty crappy. But the given solution is to send in Ideal Orgs to Clear the populace and bring them LRH tech increase the penetration of consumer cultural goods and bring the masses the glories of neoliberal productivism. The flipside of this is what Scientologists think about wogs, Al Qaeda thinks about kuffâr, anarchists think about Leninists or sect-Leninists think about anyone else. It's no coincidence that the Spartacist League used to refer to ex-members as "opting for a biological existence"; i.e. giving up on being one of the Chosen.
 So the summary that a revolutionary group which takes shortcuts like (a) adopting a totalist-lite narrative, a Chosen One fantasy, to hold the group together; or (b) attempts to use capitalist-style memetics (what Scientologists call "black Dianetics" - pushing people's buttons to control them, even if it's control them "in a revolutionary cause") is part of the solution rather than the problem. The solution lies in:
  •  a radical pedagogy of equality, where the self-radicalised learn from the actually existing mass grassroots movements AND vice-versa;
  • a rejection of all identity politics (by which we don't mean organising on the basis of race, gender, religion etc, which will always happen and probably should, but the politics of "we are better, we deserve rights over these Degraded Beings), and its flipside, conspiracy theory (reverse identity politics);
  • open-source use of techniques of cognitive-behavioural theory, narrative therapy, ritual and meta-programming/"magick", which when taught can give ordinary people free of charge, with no intermediary, the psychic benefits given from capitalist consumption or cultism. (Many radicals criticise CBT, but I think their criticisms apply to CBT used as a tool to make you into a better neoliberal slave. What else can it be used for? The techniques are basically the same as Crowley's magick, and even lower-level [Grades 0-4] Scientology...)
  • build organisations as safe from official oppression, informal bullying and inwards-focussed status-mongering as we can.

01 December 2014

Some wars should never have been fought.



At this stage in history it seems trivially obvious that Fredric Jameson was right to describe postmodernism as "the cultural logic of late capitalism". The cultural model of mid-period (Fordist, statist) capitalism was mass-produced, identical goods and conformist people. The nightmare of Metropolis and Nineteen Eighty-Four. But postmodernism is the logic of globalised, niche-market capitalism - finely-tweaked but still machine-produced commodities - where it is compulsory not to conform. "We command you to be a radical and disobey the norms! NOW!!!"

Modernity: "You can have any colour you like, as long as it's black."
Postmodernity: "You're a special and unique individual! Just like everybody else."

Modernity gave us the "mass man" (gendering deliberate), in the mass wife+2.4 kids heterosexual family in the suburb. Postmodernity gives us an endless proliferation of identities and ways of living; all commodified, all integrated into the global market economy.

Modernity gave us secure but stultifying lives if we conformed; postmodernity gives us freedom, of the type the stray cat has. The freedom to purchase an identity that we like, as well as the freedom to starve.

Modernity controlled the public through mass organisations like trade unions, workers' parties and established churches; postmodernity does it at least partly through the mass media, but then people will control themselves if their identity depends upon it.

Modernity gave us the grand narrative of "Science" and "Progress"; postmodernity gives us "you've got to work it out for yourselves. Within the market economy, of course, because there is no Outside to The Matrix", which leads to stupid science denial of both bottom-up (health quackery) and top-down (climate-change denial) varieties. (Ken MacLeod brilliantly predicted the future of postmodern culture in his 1995 sci-fi novel The Star Fraction, where Christian fundamentalists buy telescopes deliberately doctored to support geocentric astronomy to use in schools. He also predicted idiot kids nostalgically getting into Stalinism.)

Modernity gave us neurosis based on repression of primal urges; postmodernity gave us depression and anxiety based on being required to earn enough money to sublimate our primal urges into commodity purchases.

Modernity gave us "one size fits all" universalism; postmodernity gives us the tribal logic of "it's okay if we do it".

Modernity gave us the liberal imperialism of "human rights"; postmodernity gives us the echo-chamber effect of mass-market politics/identity/culture, where US "conservatives" have their own encyclopedias and their own dating services, and Twitter/Facebook are set up so you never even have to hear people you don't already agree with.

Modernity gave us monoculturalism and sexual conformity; postmodernity gives us multiculturalism and the commodification of sexuality and kink. (I remember once an enthusiastic article on Bear culture in some gay magazine which gave a listing of subtypes and said "just pick one". That's postmodernity in a nutshell.)

It seems quite pathetic now, that whole tradition from Aleister Crowley to Robert Anton Wilson who told us that freedom was freedom to fuck in the streets. Actually, Orwell was part of that tradition. People can be obedient and still get their rocks off, in postmodernity. That might have been the answer to the crisis of modernity, but how do you achieve transcendence via transgression when since the 1990s, every transgression is now acceptable on the open market as long as it doesn't threaten the commodity economy? The carnivalesque is only a threat as long as it threatens to get out of control and become the new quotidian reality.

The chaos magic crowd got what they wanted and it didn't change a damn thing - even Ultraculture understands this and has gone on to selling commodified chaos magick as a way to assume an identity which you can turn into profit on the open market. But the big mistake made by the Left in the last twenty years has been becoming reactionary and nostalgic for the era of capitalist modernity.

The problem was that the 68ers had a revolutionary project against modernity, and then postmodernity cut the rug from under them. And instead of throwing themselves into creating a revolutionary project against postmodernity (which would have meant giving up their identities), they decided to "not-is" the only people who were at least trying to understand the new state of the world.

It's the equivalent of feudal socialism, or how classical economics went insane in the face of Marx's insights and went down the psychotic pathway of "marginalism". The old world of mass trade unions, mass reformist parties and stable 9-5 jobs for whoever wants it is not coming back in the same form, and thank the Eternal for that, because that was also the world of compulsory heterosexuality, out-and-out white supremacy and "scientism" of the most oppressive kind. I am ashamed that in my time in the academy, which coincided with being a new and badly trained and therefore rather fundamentalist Marxist, I promoted the silly Callinicos book above.

Jesus wept, guys, what is the first thing a Marxist should learn? The dialectic; the fact that there is no end to history because every solution becomes its own problem because of its internal contradictions. Postmodernity had its own contradictions which offered liberatory possibilities if you were only willing to look. To put it another way: people go on about the horrors of language death imposed by English-language hegemony. This is absolutely true - on one side. But the flipside of Americans and Brits thinking they're too hegemonically cool to learn a second language is that they don't learn intercultural literacy. Which will one day spell their doom, if we can build a culturally literate counter-hegemony.

One Chaos Marxist aphorism comes from Tori Amos' introduction to a Neil Gaiman comic: "There is change in 'what is' but you have to accept 'what is' first." Postmodernity has ripened, and has begun to rot. You can tell because the academy are tired of postmodernism and starting to move into phenomenology, according to something I read on the Internet. But the valuable insights of postmodernism remain, from Foucault, Derrida, etc:
  • that knowledge is intimately tied up with power and therefore that science in every era serves the ruling class's priorities; 
  • that identity is constructed through narrative and discourse, and that mass media and mass education sets the boundaries of narrative and discourse in postmodernity; 
  • that there is no outside to culture, especially not in tiny fundamentalist groups who try to base themselves on immutable texts, and thus no outside to power either;
  • but there is an outside to The Matrix; there is the basic science of planetary ecology and human biology/psychology within that, and the understanding of commodity economics embedded in Marx. "Marx and Freud are still with us, despite repeated attempts to kill them off, because capitalism and the nuclear family are still with us" - Out To Lunch.
  • that given all of the above, in postmodernity political forms which were created to deal with modernist capitalism will just get sucked into the global cultural system as niche-market proprietors of spectacle and identity, and thus becoming part of the problem rather than the solution;
  • that instead of brain-dead rationalism/atheism/mechanical materialism, a new revolutionary project must be culturally literate, integrating indigenous, queer/trans, disabled, and, yes, religious/spiritual/magickal worldviews and lifeworlds with the scientific method (still the best way to understand physical reality). Neither Men In White Coats Nor New Age Witchdoctor Charlatans, But International Socialism.
I'm reading a book which suggests that Baudrillard was a writer of "theory-SF" (i.e. that he is to postmodernity what P. K. Dick was to Gnosticism), and perhaps if he'd said "The Gulf War might as well have never happened" he wouldn't have made himself such an easy target, while still getting his point across.

Right at the beginning of this blog I made reference to "hyperstition", an extention of Baudrillard's "hyperreality": a fiction that becomes true. Anonymous is the mightest example of that which ever happened, and it's that - plus, perhaps, a turn to phenomenology (i.e. accepting experience as primary), an understanding of how identity is constructed in niche markets and small groups, plus an understanding about how to build a new historic bloc which includes these new identities, rather than trying to stuff everyone into a one-size-fits-all workerist identity which fundamentalist Leninism can cope with - which revolutionary politics needs now.

Anonymous is political activism based on rejecting identity altogether. Identity is either sold to us, or we create it in small groups, as the modern "opiate of the masses" to cope with the Desert of the Real which is life as precarious labour in the postmodern world. Once we find an alternative to avoid reproducing that, we can find a way out of postmodernity and into the early history of Actual Humanity.

23 November 2014

CHAOS MARXISM: Final Communique?

Remember the Faction Paradox mythos? A bunch of renegades in masks, causing havoc for the Masters of Reality, by their very existence thumbing their nose at what gives those Lords of Time and Space their power? Whatever happened to Lawrence Miles' glorious dream?

What's that you say, Eddie Blake?

"It came true. You're looking at it."

Let's just adjust the picture slightly:

There. Now we're looking at it.
Alan Moore knows the score, and he knows exactly how the Masked (Wo)Man is such an ambiguous figure. And certainly, mass-produced stylized Guy Fawkes masks aren't nearly as cool as the Faction's bad-ass "time-travelling space goth" get-up.

My very best friend in the world used to dream about actually having a Paradox caucus - in full get-up, mind you - in our country's parliament. But I pointed out to her: in their mythos, the reason that the Faction's masks terrify the rulers of reality is that they are made from the skulls of creatures who never existed. The power of these Time Lords Great Houses is based on the fact that they own history and nothing changes in it without their say-so, that cause always follows effect. Those masks strike at everything they hold dear.

Obviously that's not going to terrify members of the actually existing ruling classes of Earth. What will? Used to be the Red Flag or the Circle-A of course - back in the 20s, when bosses would keep worker uniforms in their closet in case the revolution came and they had to sneak out undetected. But that's pretty much kitsch these days. How many workers in advanced capitalist countries use either hammers or sickles these days?

But you know what actually-existing late globalised postmodern consumerist capitalism needs, beyond everything else? Two things that increasingly it becomes clear that it can't live with out. The obvious one: secrecy. Government secrecy, trade secrecy, the walls of secrecy (enforced and culturally appropriate) which prevents us comparing our lots, raising our consciousness, getting organised, etc.

The less obvious one, and here's where the psychological/spiritual side of CM comes in: identity. The Conspiracy (to use SubGenius lingo) needs you to be you. It needs you to have a forename, a hindname, and an address - an individuality - by which it "interpellates" you into the system (to use Althusser's great word). It needs you to be predictable. It needs you to have a place within the system.

Buddhists and Sufis have long said that identity - or ego - is the main barrier to enlightenment. Not, we hasten to add, having an "I" - but being attached to it, and the social rights and responsibilities which it maintains, and all the pleasures of participating in culture. It's said that a true Master would be equally happy as a king or a CEO, or begging for spare change outside a convenience store. Of course, those are tricks for advanced players.

The Anonymous mask - and this is what's beautiful - was totally historically contingent. Firstly, we had to have the otherwise disappoint Wachowski film of V for Vendetta, with its final scene of - rather than Evey taking on V's mask herself - a massed army of V's converging on Parliament. Secondly, we had the fact that Anonymous' first campaign was against Scientology - known to track down and harrass its critics. Wearing interchangeable masks was simply self defence.

(Speaking of which, dumbasses like to point out that every time someone buys a V mask, someone at DC Comics / Warner Bros makes money. This is a dumb point because there is no outside to commodity culture. You cannot live outside the cash-nexus any more, and anyone who tries is a moralist hippie or otherwise irrelevant to the struggle. You can only hope to transform it by conscious action - by using the rope the capitalist sells you to hang him with. Plus, some schmuck in Shenzhen or wherever has a steady job making those masks.)

The proletariat - the working class - isn't part of the system. That's why workers have no place in late capitalist culture - they want you to define yourself by the cultural goods you buy or the prefab subculture (with or without its own economy) you get into in your spare time. It's the Lacanian Real, the Horror Behind Door #3, the Face behind the Mask which is in fact just another Mask, it is the shit of the System which is the only thing which can transform the System. Barring total civilisational collapse, hostile UFOs or the Second Coming, of course.

The trap is of course that "revolutionary", in the dried-up remnants of 1968, has become just another identity-based subculture that capitalism sells back to you. Some clever Frenchmen worked this out in 1974, so why has it taken so long for anyone to notice? For the same reason that Maurice Brinton predicted the degeneration and collapse of the British SWP 30 years before it happened.

AND... because most people like it that way. It's most common in anarchism - or at least was, when I read some Alexander Berkman in the mid-90s and started going to meetings of my local anarcho group. I didn't wear patched clothing, wasn't a vegan, and didn't (then) like hardcore punk. So what was the point? It was a nice subculture and not a cult, but it wasn't revolutionary politics. Thank you once again, Out To Lunch, for showing me a glimpse of what revolutionary politics means for artists and other mad people.

So: being a revolutionary is much, much harder than joining a revolutionary group and being an active member. Panagiotis Sotiris asks the absolutely vital question: how can we change the world if we can't change ourselves? To be a true revolutionary, Chaos Marxism suggests, is very similar to being a Buddhist monk on the road to enlightenment. You have to be prepared to throw everything overboard, including "you". And including your "street cred" within "the movement". Including that precious Party/League/Group/Org you spent 30 years building!!!

Hazrat-e-Pir Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh said that the true sign of a Master is that 1000 truthful witnesses can be found to declare him a charlatan, a heretic, a corrupt bullshit artist, and a turkey (or similar phrases). If you're not being cast out by polite society, you're not doing it right. Assuming that what you wanted to be was the instrument through which change can come from within to this $2.99 Material World-As-Is.

I am not sure I can sum up any better than the above what I've learned in 27 years exploring my psyche, 12 years as a Marxist revolutionary, and probably a couple of months as an actual human being, so I may end there.

04 October 2014

weev was always a neo-nazi

"Remember when /b/ was good?"

"/b/ was never good."

So Andrew "weev" Aurenheimer, Encyclopedia Dramatica co-founder and troll legend imprisoned for hacking, is writing articles for White Nationalist blogs and apparently has a snazzy swastika tatto (as a commenter rightly says, "no way was that done in prison"). But he was spouting neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic garbage years ago in interviews. If you'll read ED, the "house style" is casually racist and anti-Semitic, except in the article on "White people", where they start sounding like the Nation of Islam.

This all ties back to a point that I've made several times on this blog - neo-Nazism (of the swastika fetishist type, not the serious business modern fascist movements who're smarter than that) is to politics what Satanism is to religion; trolling elevated to the level of a lifestyle choice. You in particular have the Nazi-Satanist subculture which sees itself as the "sinister dialectic", deliberately making themselves a threat, a villain, an ENEMY because there's power in that role. So anyone who was surprised by this wasn't paying attention.

CRISWELL PREDICTS: weev's next step will be to join Da'esh and be filmed cutting the head off something.