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.

19 June 2014

The briefest of brief notes on ideology



Ruling-class ideas
->
a society where adopting ruling-class ideas is the best way to survive
->
"successful" members of society adopt ruling-class ideas as their ego-state
->
the ego fights tooth and nail to defend itself against the internal/external Other
->
a psychological "blind spot" which means that the gap between "common sense" and "good sense" becomes a source of terror like the Lacanian Real which can't be acknowledged let alone confronted by the ego under normal circumstances.
->
ideology transmitted by narrative as "just so" stories justifying "common sense".

Terry Eagleton and Frederic Jameson both thus came to the conclusion that literary / narrative studies have a privileged insight into ideology (in particular, how we justify things to ourselves which don't have any real material backing); however, perhaps that's just their own ideology justifying being lit-crit specialists?

I attended a lecture by FJ once. I asked him: "I agree with everything you said, but what do we do?" If I remember right, he muttered something like "Well, Hardt and Negri seem to have some good ideas..."

(Photo chosen deliberately to annoy Out To Lunch.)

12 May 2014

Creativity and Control



To paraphrase Ben Elton's excellent 1980s ecosocialist novel Stark, to start a new political party, religion, or any kind of activist group, even a small and stupid one, takes some brains, gumption... and creativity. That's the essential thing. You have to be able to make something new up. Even if it's idiotic. In Chaos Marxism, we call this "the juice".

So the cycle of degeneration of any organisation (no matter the value of the original creed) is this: Creative leader starts the organisation -> creative leader imposes mechanisms of control to keep the followers from straying off the reservation -> creative leader dies/quits/leaves -> uncreative epigones take over, use the mechanisms of controls to impose stasis and status quo -> the system inevitably degenerates.

Neither Joseph Stalin nor David Miscavige (or comrades Alex C and John R???) were capable of creating anything new, so they simply mindlessly repeated the mantras of their predecessors, and thus had to exponentially increase the cruelty of the mechanisms of control to get anything out of them. At least the Mormons, with their doctrine of "continuous revelation", have avoided this to some extent. You can actually imagine - barely - an LDS president announcing "People! The Lord GOD spake unto me and he said we're allowed to drink beer! Woo-hoo!"

But of course this is why I don't like the "rationalistic" schools of religion, like Protestantism, Sunni Islam or "scholastic" Catholicism. All this reason is based on interpretations of "divine revelations" which of course don't make sense out of their original context - so "garbage in, garbage out" as they say in the computer biz. If we can't have actual science, then at least something based on visions and revelations can adapt to new situations.

11 May 2014

One more time for the world!


Your body is programmed for biological survival; your mind for social survival. Sometimes the two contradict. Sometimes the programming goes haywire when too many conflicting pieces of "software" are installed. But generally the social programming that really motivates your everyday behaviour, the automatic solutions which may still be working even though the problems are long gone - the Bottom Line and Rules for Behaviour of which Cognitive Behavioural Therapy talks, which are called service computations in "clearing tech" - are generally so deep that you don't even recognize them. This is called "the ego".

Revolutionary practice - changing the system - only becomes pro-survival when the old order simply cannot stand any more. Up until then, it is a luxury rather than a necessity. Therefore "normal" people will not become revolutionaries until they have to. Which is why, this side of the revolution, the revolutionaries are not only a minority, but in general the "human debris" of the system - crazies, creative types (but I repeat myself), people looking for family, looking for tribe, looking for identity, looking for a new religion or a new daddy or an infallible Prophet - to scratch a psychic itch that is buried far too deep in their minds to even be seen, let alone be directly addressed.

The ego which enables you to survive under capitalism will, if its compulsions are not examined from a point of view outside itself based on objective observation of self and others - science and meditative practice - destroy any attempts to build revolutionary praxis. It will turn your "parties" or "affinity groups" into clubs, cults, sects and circle-jerks. And that is why revolutionaries need transpersonal psychology / mysticism, and that's what Chaos Marxism is.

06 May 2014

Is it just a waste of time?



A narrative that you hear often in the stories of people who spent 30 years in some cult is "How terrible. They wasted X years of their life working to bring about this ridiculous or delusory goal, or fulfilling the schemes of Great Leader Y who was obviously a psychopath, a cynical money-grubber, a troll, or come combination of the three."

Wasted it doing that because... what else could they have done? Earned big money? Found something to do in life that was useful and fulfilling? Hate to break it to you, but it's a tiny tiny minority under global capitalism who get to do that. Note that this narrative is particularly marked when the ex-cultist is white and middle class. You were privileged, ya schmuck. Don't you wish you hadn't thrown that privilege away? Why, you're no better than a prole now!

This is of course one of the arguments that cults use to keep people in - you don't have any skills that the Real World of Horrible Jobs wants. You'll be a burger-flipper! The irony being that a burger-flipper has some democratic rights even under globalised capitalism, which a cult member doesn't have. But a cult member has a reason to exist, which is generally something a burger-flipper lacks, except in rare circumstances.

The point is that, in a cult or in the "real world", usually what you do has no meaning or value in real terms, and you only get material rewards if you're either very lucky or know how to brown-nose. Or, to put it another way - you can only sacrifice if you had something to start with; or, more cynically, you can only sell out if there's a willing buyer.

For most of us life is an endless, drastic, alienated failure. There's a reason why, on leftist blogs, most of the comments are indications of doom, despair, and the glories of recreational drugs to numb the terrible pain. So why not join a cult? Unless you can find something to do in the here-and-now that means something, not just makes you feel good or scratches an itch which was implanted by ideology?

I'll Tumblr for ya



To the right, you will notice I've got a feed to a Tumblr account. That's where I'll be posting links, brief thoughts (or Aphorisms), etc, from now on. The blog proper will be reserved for essays or other lengthy original documents.