15 April 2014

Sectarianism: the unbeatable high!

...I see vividly
that I depend on your being down for my being up. I would never be
able to know that I belong to the in-group of "nice" or "saved" people
without the assistance of an out-group of "nasty" or "damned" people.
How can any in-group maintain its collective ego without relishing dinnertable discussions about the ghastly conduct of outsiders? The very identity of racist Southerners depends upon contrasting themselves with those dirty black "nigras." But, conversely, the out-groups feel that they are really and truly "in," and nourish their collective ego with relishingly indignant conversation about squares, Ofays, Wasps, Philistines, and the blasted bourgeoisie. [...]
What, for example, is more quarrelsome—in practical politics—than the project for a truly classless and democratic society?

- Alan Watts, The Book on the Taboo against Knowing Who You Really Are

11 April 2014

The death of individuality, part 2: WE WERE RIGHT

[Giorgio] Agamben claims that, by disassociating themselves from all markers of identity, the occupiers of Tiananmen became “whatever singularities”. These whatever singularities remain precisely what they are, regardless of the qualities they happen to possess in any given moment. According to Agamben, in presenting themselves in this way, the occupiers necessarily ran aground on the representational logic of the state: the state sought to fix the occupiers into a specific identity, which could then be included or excluded as such. Thus, Agamben concludes: “wherever these singularities peacefully demonstrate their being-in-common, there will be a Tiananmen, and, sooner or later, the tanks will appear”.
 ...the unfolding of the general law of capital accumulation undermines stable identity formations in all segments of the labour market. More and more people are falling into the surplus population; anyone can, potentially. Increasingly, the stable-unstable distinction is the one that regulates all the other distinctions within the working class. That leads to a widespread sense that all identities are fundamentally inessential...

- quoted in "The Holding Pattern: The ongoing crisis and the class struggles of 2011-2013", Endnotes 3

Apart from the serious ground-level business of helping build workers' resistance to attacks on capital, for real radicals of the new millenium, our overriding strategy must be: DESTROY ALL IDENTITIES. Actually existing personal and social identities do nothing but ensure that you will stay in your box forever. And that includes the identity of "revolutionary" or "magus" or whatever.
- Chaos Marxism, 2009

By happily accepting a description of themselves as "THE HIVE" (or "hivemind"), the massed ranks of Anonymous show that capitalist normality's privileging of individuality as the highest good is a trap. ... I always wondered why my sympathies were always with the bad guys in those cartoons. They hate us because we don't need to be individuals.
- Chaos Marxism, 2011

28 March 2014

Linkspam's endless caresses

This blog is in semi-retirement at the moment because I'm finally able to make these arguments in the movement (and, via Facebook, in the movement in other countries) in such a way that I'm actually getting dialogue, and action. So I just wanted to keep you up to date with a few extremely interesting articles:

  • perhaps this McKenzie Wark's concept of "low theory", in the sense of "the attempt to think everyday life within practices created in and of and for everyday life, using or misusing high theory to other ends", is precisely what CM is all about. Hell, shouldn't that be what Marxism is all about in general - the bringing together of workers and science? I know that OTL goads me occasionally about being hyper-wordy, but as a translator, I know that you have to fit the presentation to the audience. I talk one way on Facebook with other overeducated communists, another way with Sufi brethren, and a third way with my football team. Who is McKenzie Wark, anyway?
  • our favourite Zen monk punk bassist Brad Warner suggests that Cartesian dualism, the idea of humanity as "a ghost driving a machine made of out meat", was all that saved science being destroyed by religious obscurantism in the 16th century. I think it's the equivalent of Stephen Jay Gould's idea of "non-overlapping magisteria". But going on further from Warner - perhaps the collapse of dualism, with the New Age popularisation and bastardisation of the insights of materialist psychology and the wackier kinds of "mind-body unity" stuff, once again the physical sciences have started treading on the bounds of the guardians of the totems of the Tribe Of The West. The ruling class in the United States, in particular, is increasingly becoming anti-knowledge and anti-science, at least for their own citizens who have a vote. Just like Dubai and Saudia Arabia have solved the problem of the proletariat as the gravedigger of capitalism by importing a semi-indentured labouring class from the subcontinent, so the rulers of the United States have decided to deliberately dumb down their own masses, trusting that they can import all the scientific skills they need from overseas with the super-profits resulting from the native proletarian religiously voting against its own interests.
  • $cientology refuses to tell you exactly what it's about without paying for it. L. Ron Hubbard banned "verbal tech", i.e. anyone explaining his psychology/philosophy in any words other than his - which should be the first sign that it's a form of fundamentalism i.e. braindeath. However, if you really want to know how it works, an Austrian "independent Scientologist" gives you the full, detailed course. All you need to do it is a study buddy and an E-meter clone (sold separately).

16 February 2014

From The CM Guide to Cults: a fragment

Cats come in three vague categories of size, as do abusive organisations. As with cats you have tigers, ocelots, and Tiddles who curls up at your feet in bed, so with organisations you have totalitarian states; cults; and abusive families. While they operate at different scales of size and danger, the dynamics are identical, as many recent observers have pointed out between, for example, with references to the British SWP and in comparison between Scientology and North Korea.

We watched in reverence as Narcissus is turned to a flower.

You can start to feel like if only you could get more deeply into these spaces you’d know The Big Answer to Everything and could then bring it back and SAVE THE WORLD!
But it’s not really true. People have been attempting to do this for centuries and nobody has ever succeeded. It’s pure egotism to feel like you alone will be able to do what all the great masters of every tradition were not able to. [...]
Or else you become what the Buddhist traditions call a “self-enlightened one.” That’s somebody who keeps going deeper and deeper and deeper into her/himself until nobody and nothing else matters at all. You end up sitting under a blanket with admirers feeding you oranges but you can’t really do anything for them because you’re so far gone.
*ahem* Yes. That, in the first paragraph, is precisely what I used to feel about myself, my art, and this blog. I sometimes think that my scepticism and sense of the absurd is all that saved me from becoming something from the third paragraph, and it may still be a danger. Read the rest of this article from Zen monk / punk bass player / writer Brad Warner.

29 January 2014

Disjointed thoughts on first grappling with Hegel

  • If I understand what I've read so far right - and that's a big motorscootin' if - Hegel argues that the objective and the subjective form a dialectical unity (as compared to the idea that the subjective is a more-or-less imperfect copy of the objective, as mechanical materialism would have it; or that the objective is only an agreement between subjectivities, as Scientology and other wacky New Age beliefs would have it). Doesn't that make him a non-dualist in precisely the same way that Advaita Vedanta, Zen Buddhism, Sufism and Chaos Marxism would recognize? I really hope I've got that right.
  • Karl Marx said very clearly that the proletariat would become fit to be the ruling class during the struggle to become the ruling class. The subject of action becomes its object and transforms itself. And yet, actually-existing revolutionary socialists seem to believe in one of the two one-sided, undialectical narratives set forth in this article - either they think that the personal has nothing to do with the political (like Corin Redgrave saying "If Gerry Healey is a rapist, then we need more rapists!") or thinking they're the same thing (viz. "callout culture"). Personal change outside the political struggle is just neoliberal self-fashioning, the ego changing itself into more efficient fuel to be burned in capitalism's engines. But if you don't change as a person via the struggle, and for the better, then you by God have a problem, and you're probably on the wrong track politically.
  • I'm thinking of writing a book entitled Read This When You're Depressed: Self-Help For Revolutionaries. Instead of sappy New Age affirmations which build up your ego, it would remind you just how far you are from a special and unique snowflake. Look: if all the above is true, the Universe is a hologram; "as above so below", or in other words, the whole is reflected in the part. Therefore you are as you are precisely because the Universe is as it is, and there could be no other way. "Free choice'', clinical depression and various other psychological states and stations must exist somewhere in this universe - just like, under capitalism, grinding poverty must exist somewhere. So why shouldn't it be you? It certainly doesn't mean you're bad or inadequate - you feel bad and inadequate because the system requires some people to feel bad and inadequate. Once you understand this you can stop blaming yourself, because your Self is an illusion caused by the necessity of living in the $2.99 Material World.

22 December 2013

"And some there were who tore the whole thing up and watched it fall away..."

‘I can accept a certain level of harassment. I was part of the church for 35 years and to an extent I believe you reap what you sow, but they have targeted Monique for years now and we need to do something about it...'

Even after leaving Scientology, Marty still upheld certain aspects of its teachings and tried to defend it. But now he has completely given up.

He said: ‘I spent three years methodically out lining what was good about Scientology, but how it was corrupted. I tried to differentiate between some of the core beliefs and the ends justifies the means, us versus them mentality, but I came to the conclusion that they are so
interwoven, you can’t separate them....

'I was trying to justify all that time I had dedicated to Scientology because I couldn’t admit to myself that it had been wasted. But I am done with it now.'

The full interview with Marty Rathbun - Scientology's Emmanuel Goldstein and formerly its Martin Luther/Leon Trotsky - is at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2526525/Squirrel-Busters-sex-toys-sent-office-secret-cameras-trained-home-Ex-Scientology-leader-wife-reveal-five-year-living-hell-crossing-powerful-church.html (I won't put an active link to the Daily Heil on principle.)

This is the point which many come to coming out of a cultish organisation. If you find yourself reproducing the cult patterns of behaviour in your post-cult organisations - like the "Independent Scientologists" have - then probably the basic doctrine is unsound. The question is on what basis we can build a revolutionary Marxist organisation which doesn't turn into an obedience cult - because if we can't, the flaw may be in Marxism.

24 November 2013

Guru-yoga and the Left: Prologue

On religion and ethics

I am going to be using "religion" in the pejorative sense below, distinct from any question of personal relationship to the 8th Dynamic/Absolute Truth/God Almighty. I am using Frank Zappa's definition:

"foolish rules, of ancient date
 designed to make you feel all great
 while you fold, spindle and mutilate
 the unbelievers from the neighbouring state"

Any Marxist, materialist or humanist should be able to argue that there are  materialist, humanist ethics: "shoulds" which come from the "is" of our lived experience, rather than being arbitraries. Mr Zappa again:
"Do what you want, do what you will,
 just don't mess up your neighbour's thrill, 
 and when you pay the bill, kindly leave a little tip 
 to help the next poor sucker on his one-way trip."

We would reject the speculation of religious scholars that the reason you can tell something is holy is precisely because it is irrational. (The question of whether there is such a thing as "divine" ethics which contradict humanistic ethics is something that we should leave well alone, although Sufis discuss it.)

So Zappa's definition of religion can be put in other terms as "a code of justifications for behaviour which contradicts the plain ethics of ordinary life". As Neil Gaiman put it: "something you know which I don't know which makes everything you do okay". Excuses for being an asshole, yes yes.

Given this, a religion (excuse-for-being-an-asshole) doesn't need God. It just requires some kind of idol (the State, the Revolution, the Clearing of the Planet, the Ascension), the service of which not only excuses but demands the suspension of the everyday duty of care towards one's fellow living creatures. It is the same as Giorgio Agamben's "state of exception" - the religious authority, or King (the two were not distinct originally) is that which tells you when it is okay to act like an asshole. And it is always a living person or persons wielding this power.

The Bible says thou shalt not kill, and then gives plenty of examples of justified and approved killing. The Qur'an explicitly says that there are times when religious law does not apply. Trotskyists know that all's fair (in principle) against the class enemy - lying, cheating, stealing, torture, if necessary for the Revolution. But only a big strong man - a ganzer macher, to use the Yiddish term - can act as an interpreter/judge and actually say "yes, this crime was in the greater good and was therefore no crime". L. Ron Hubbard wrote about this in the most explicit way.

So a religion gives guidance for the "state of exception" (the return to the law of the jungle), but only the Big Man can make such a declaration in individual cases. And this is why - and this is a Chaos Marxist aphorism coming up - the more dogmatic/literalist the organisation, the more a Big Man/Dictator will be necessary to interpret and execute the dogma/scripture. Imposition of rules = escalation of power to suspend the rules.

Now, a commentor on the fantastic anti-zionist blog Jews sans frontieres made the following observation in a comment:

members of left-wing groups do follow their ganzer-machers to an astonishing degree, however much the big man's latest whim makes the group a figure of fun or revulsion.

This is true to the extent to which the members of such a group are discouraged from having "their own politics" - i.e. their own individual ways of combining theory to practice - and have to have the Big Man do their thinking for them. Or in other words, the extent that "our politics" are theoretical positions instead of guidelines for behaviour.

This is the beginning of a series exploring the Ganzer Macher model of left-wing politics, based on my personal experience. To be, as they say, continued.