26 September 2016



Take a look at how it was great when it all began (I was a regular Lenin fan), and what remains of those grand hopes that we were going to work out how to save all the movements for human liberation? Possibly only this: Nietzsche's old saw about "battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster". Replicated in Marx's "the ruling ideas of society are the ideas of the ruling class", and L. Ron Hubbard's (!!!) "if you fight an enemy and do not defeat it, you will assume its valence" - i.e. "turn into it".

I think we can boil down all we've usefully learned here to groupthink and tribe-against-tribe logic is the enemy, even if you're the good guys. This is all the more important in the social media era when it's the work of mere seconds to assemble a lynch mob to harass the bad guys into silence or suicide. It is our nature, having grown up in class society, to behave like this. The plus side of this is that reflexivity, humility, and opening to non-ego motivations of action are the only defence, and we must learn them and teach them to each other. And by "ego" we mean the collective ego of being the Good Guys, as well. Tony Cliff was wrong - the only way to actually overcome our enemy is to be asymmetrical to them.

Here are some very recent materials on the subject:

Embrace Your Inner Scientologist
Something I Said

08 September 2016

An open letter to Mark "Marty" Rathbun

 Dear Mark:

I hope this finds you, Monique and your kid well. To introduce myself, I've been a watcher of the wacky world of Scientology since the early 1990s; on one hand I found some of the ideas plausible enough at one stage to dabble with a "Free Zone" group at one stage, but on the other hand I was very active in the initial phase of Project Chanology in 2008/9 and I've never had any illusions that the Church itself is a totalitarian organisation which is either an oversized abusive relationship or a mini-North Korea.

I've watched your progress with interest since 2009 since you emerged from your career as "enforcer" for Scientology's dictator David Miscavige, to your career as a spokesperson for the "Independent Scientology" movement, to your eventual break with the Indie community. I must say I have not been 100% sure what to make of your current phase of seeking to transcend the Scio/anti-Scio fight altogether. However, I must say that anyone who is extremely surprised by your family's decision to exit your lawsuit against Miscavige, or your critical reviews of Ron Miscavige and Louis Theroux's recent anti-Scientology works, has clearly not been paying attention to your regular blog posts over the last few years where you ponder the futility of getting involved in an endless fight with something (example). Very Zen, quite convincing. I totally understand why you are doing your best to end your involvement with the whole subject.

In this regard, I have been most distressed by some of the wild abuse recently thrown at you by anti-Scientology activists (let's say "Scientology critics" to be polite); not just the "TRAITOR, WHORE, JUDAS" stuff from the lunatic fringe, but the slightly more sophisticated stuff which suggests that, when you criticise Ron's book or Theroux's film for distorting the facts in the service of a good story, you are now "agreeing with David Miscavige" and are therefore no doubt in his pay once more.

There's another movement where telling the truth as one sees it gets a wave of abuse for "forwarding enemy lines" or accusations of being in the pay of the bad guys. It's called the Church of Scientology. In fact, it's a major hallmark of any toxic group that sticking with the group's story is more important than the truth. The story of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby clearly shows that "you are attached to what you attack"; or, as Nietzsche would have put it, if you battle monsters you risk becoming one yourself.

I think that Tony Ortega's "Underground Bunker" has done good service over the years exposing Scientology abuses, and I read it every day (not the comments, though...). But I've always thought he has an issue with you personally, for some reason, even at the time when you were working closely together. Now, it seems, he seems relieved to be able to "release the hounds" in your direction. One thing I find extremely interesting was that when he reviewed your book Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior, his main criticism was that you were "self-alibi'ing", to some degree - refusing to admit your share of moral responsibility for the abuses conducted by the Church while you were its enforcer. Now, at the end of your review of the Theroux movie, you note that the movie's depiction of Miscavige's abusive behaviour is actually closer to your own of the time. Ortega's response? "Good on Marty for 'fessing up"? No, you are now chided for agreeing with Miscavige, "forwarding enemy lines"! You really are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

(Interesting, parenthetically, that you criticise Ron Miscavige for trying to whitewash his own responsibilities for his son's development and behaviour in his memoir - which, in turn, is taken by the Bunkeroos as proof that you are now a traitor-judas-whore in the pay of Darth Midget. The acceptability of the argument seems to be based on whether the person making it is on the "good guys" or "bad guys" list at the time - a sure sign of toxic mob mentality.)

However, Ortega's insinuations and apparent interest in putting you down personally are nothing compared to the mob mentality whipped up in his comments section. Let me emphasise that honestly I don't blame Tony for this. This is a pretty standard feature of all groups or communities which band together against a common enemy. Groupthink and mob mentality are occupational hazards.

The Sci-critical satirist Jeffrey Augustine rightly compares the Church to the Stalinist USSR and North Korea. In the 1930s, the followers of Leon Trotsky were expelled from the global Communist movement for opposing Stalin's increasing tyranny. But sadly, history shows that the various Trotskyist movements globally often ended up becoming just as internally oppressive as the official Communist Parties they were supposed to oppose. The British "post-Trotskyist" radical Tony Cliff explained it like this: "if a man is locked in a room fighting a mad dog for long enough, eventually you won't be able to tell the difference".

The proper analogy to the Trotskyists, of course, would not be Ortega's bunker (who might be more like anti-Commie witchhunters) but the Independent Scientology movement, who of course cast you out a few years ago once you noticed that they were in fact building their own little scale-model replicas of the official Church's oppressive apparatus. And not just the fanatical "Milestone Two" mob, either. The critic who goes by the name "Alanzo" suggests that Mike Rinder and Karen de la Carriere - two ex-Scientologists whom I have the utmost respect for - ran something of an informal "Indie OSA" back in the day. I really crave to hear more details about this.

I certainly don't begrudge Tony Ortega of making a living by being a professional Scientology critic. That organisation needs to have its shenanigans dragged into daylight at all times and - despite my distress at his animus towards you - he does that job well. But I also suspect he rather likes being the Fearless Leader of an angry mob and has no not much interest in curbing some of the negative tendencies in his fan club. (ETA: apparently Ortega read the Riot Act on some Bunker denizens' more heated personal attacks on Rathbun - good on him.) Mentioning Alanzo above reminds me that, when he spoke out against some of the Bunker's more heated speculations about why you and Monique dropped the lawsuit, some people actually suggested he was an imposter sent by OSA. That is not a healthy way to approach difference of opinion.

The Bunker and the rest of the Scientology-critic community really has to check itself before it wrecks itself. We should all take a good look at ourselves and be honest if we see ourselves starting to act like OSA agents or Squirrel Busters. There is no need for paid Scientology agents infiltrating and destroying Scientology-critical movements when the natural process of groupthink/mob mentality will often lead to critics taking on those roles themselves, free of charge.

Once again, Mark, good luck to you and your family in whatever you choose to do in the future. Sufi masters say that the true sign of a beloved of God is that 1000 trustworthy witnesses will all declare him to be a lost heretic, so being "shot at by all sides" is probably a sign that you're on the right path.

Doloras LaPicho

19 May 2016

We get zines in the mail Part 2 chaosmarxist boogaloo!

Thanks slowlyactivating, I've never been a character in hyperstitious fanfic before.

10 May 2016


Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast 666 his own self, died penniless in a boarding house on the south coast of England on 1 December 1947. There is an urban legend that his last words were something along the lines of "No, no! It can't end like this!"

Two of his more infamous disciples fared little better. John Whiteside "Jack" Parsons blew himself up (probably accidentally) at his home laboratory on June 17 1952. A slightly more trustworthy hadith suggests that his last words were "I wasn't done." His magickal brother, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, on the other hand, died living as a recluse and a fugitive in a trailer on a rach in remote California on January 17 1986. Very strong traditions (for example from his attendant Steve "Sarge" Pfauth) suggest that Hubbard - although he had amassed a personal fortune estimated around $400 million, was worshipped as a spiritual leader by thousands, doted on by celebrities, even created his own goddamn paramilitary force and a machine of oppression which outlives him and wrecks people's lives to this day - repeatedly commented in his last days that his own had life ended in failure. Certainly failure to exercise his own demons - which was, underneath all the grifting, no doubt the true motivation behind Scientology.

The classical scholar and reactionary racist politician Enoch Powell is credited as saying "all political careers end in failure". Do all magickal careers do so as well? Or all artistic careers? Or anything at all where we try to change the world? Hazrat-e-Pir Dr Javad Nurbakhsh (ya haqq) commented to the effect that most people who set out on the Sufi path fail because they started with the wrong motivation. What is the wrong motivation? Virtually anything. Because all motivations come from the Self (I want spooky powers! I want social status! I want to conquer my inner demons! etc etc etc), and the Sufi path is all about transcendence of the Self and annihilation in the Absolute. If God or the Machine Elves or "Bob" or whoever wants you to die penniless, burned to a crisp or on the run from most of the governments of the globe, who are you to say otherwise, pinkboy. (Why, certainly, should you expect a happy ending to your character's arc when Aleppo is burning and the oceans are rising, etc etc.)

It's getting close to the 10th year anniversary of this blog, and I have to question whether the Chaos Marxist project, itself, ends in failure. Successes? I met some nice people and got some nice zines in the mail. Some friendly Discordians made a "greatest hits" package of the earlier stuff. Some of the stuff is literally true and still useful - although I don't think "I" really wrote that stuff, in the same sense that ibn Arabi maintained that The Bezels of Wisdom were written by Prophet Muhammad himself. The real stuff is always a transmission from Universe Central. To some degree, also, the world has caught up - since Anonymous became a real thing, the post-1968 toy-town Marxist groups are splitting and falling to pieces, and the "Lacanian left" (the good ones, like Jodi Dean not that racist fucker Zizek) have finally managed to start taking the subjective factor in ideology seriously. (There is a whole book to be written on the similarities between Lacan's approach and what a Sufi master or a Zen Buddhist teacher do, "holding space" for the ego to confront itself and what Gurdjieff called "the real horror of the situation").

But I never managed to start my own community or lineage or wherever. There is no Chaos Marxist current, community, party or international. I have allies; but it's just me, like it's always been. And certainly I never hit upon the Magickal Key that would unlock every puzzle of the movements for global liberation, peace and happiness, etc. Because that's what I was going for. Really big magick. But that was ego. It wasn't just enough that the world be saved, but that I, or at least ideas which originated in this particular brain-pan, should save it. And - hopefully - not be so messed-up on a personal basis any more. Or it wouldn't matter that I'm socially anxious and crippled by toxic shame, if I was freakin' Noam Chomsky crossed with Kate Bush crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer or whatever.

But here I am, still pursued by nightmares, still afraid of, and unable to love, my brothers who don't know the law.. The ideas have ceased to come - the new ideas, at least, the old stuff is still perfectly valid and useful. The God Hercules has left me, that had loved me well, to use another metaphor. Perhaps the illusion was that doing something good would make me good, or at least be able to make me believe in my own right to exist. But you can only get that in a real community, and perhaps I can never be part of a community which would have me as a member.

So say goodbye to Alexandra leaving, then say goodbye to Alexandra lost.

10 September 2015

You don't win arguments with communism

What's wrong with this picture?

It's certainly precisely the kind of thing that would make poor old George Orwell cough up another lung. Remember, Nineteen Eighty-Four was a satire on the wartime BBC as well as Stalinist Russia/Nazi Germany. Orwell knew perfectly well what Chomsky put into academic language decades later - that democracies use propaganda where dictatorships use brute force. Or as Gramsci, decades earlier, understood more clearly, the difference in the two is just a matter of proportion.

Anyway, for those of you who don't get the point, the eminently punchable Senator from Texas, Rafael "Ted" Cruz, was born in the Province of Alberta, which - I'm sorry to inform some of the Wildrose Party - is not in the United States. As he makes no secret of, to his credit. Perhaps a couple of that 40% figure above are sincerely ignorant. But I wager that most of them know perfectly well otherwise, but say different because he is one of their tribe and being "born in the US" is a good thing. Same for the tiny coterie of Obama "birthers", to the left.

Slavoj Zizek, before he became a professional contrarian/troll, understood that "ideology" (which Terry Eagleton described as "imaginary solutions to real problems") could also be called "what you believe even though you know that it's false". "Believe" here means "act as if it's true". Or, in Newspeak, doublethink. Liberals react to factoids like the above by saying "lol, those lumpenpleb teabaggers are STOOPID". No, they're just doublethinkful. Which is what everyone is in civilisation-as-we-know-it; Lacan would say it's the price of entering into language. You - yes you, gentle reader - have your own blind spot, something that you do or believe even though you know that it's wrong or contradicts your values, and if you even know you have a blind spot you're in a tiny minority. So don't be so quick to mock someone else's, as I think Jesus said once.

So this is why, just like you don't win friends with salad, you don't win arguments by appeals to the truth of the Marxist analysis. It's so much easier to go for the easier option. Trotsky bitingly points out in The Revolution Betrayed that the British chattering classes hated the Russian Revolution until it became a dictatorship under Stalin. A big boss man creating a new order by force of his mighty will? That was understandable, not this crap about every cook learning to govern. Some of us hoped that when the Eastern Bloc collapsed, so would this perversion of Marxism - actually authoritarian developmentalism/nationalism which killed Marxism in the gulags and the Ukrainian famine, then wore its victim's face in ghastly mockery. But it goes on. Those other imperialists are always preferable to our own. And sadly Trotsky fell into this campist logic himself by never being able to admit that the Revolution had not only been betrayed but had come to an end.

We've discussed the appeal of ganzer macher (Yiddish: "big man") politics previously - and pointed out that Trotskyist and post-Trotskyist politics (because of their incomplete critique of the Stalin counter-revolution) tended to fall right back into this trap. Yes, even the Third Campist ones (look at the careers of such British political entrepreneurs as Tony Cliff or Sean Matgamna). But that's only one possible short-cut. Appeals to emotion or nationalism? Coddling bigotries or conspiracy theories?  Anything to get the masses in motion. Once they're in motion, a cunning manipulator finds it easier to hoosh them in the direction (s)he considered appropriate. And that is what certain dime-store Machiavellis out there think revolutionary politics really is.

It is ironic that Marxism - which, as the old song says, is supposed to be "reason in revolt" - has been turned by some into its opposite: cynical realpolitik and its younger sibling, just plain being a manipulative bastard. It's not enough to say the masses make history - the masses make history for themselves. They're not your personal army. It's interesting that this hollowing out of rationality in favour of gang warfare also happens among the followers of Ayn Rand (who love emotional abuse and anathema towards their opponents) and the New Atheists.

But you don't even need a manipulator. Groupthink will do the job, especially among those who really need the group. Paul Zimbardo showed us that. And James Cannon - whom I hold responsible for bringing Stalinist methods into American Trotskyism - correctly said that small groups of people can talk themselves into the wildest ideas. Was it him who decided that "democratic centralism" meant that the Centre not only got to instruct the locals how to act, but how to think, and how to talk? No better way to brainwash yourself into something you don't believe than being forced to pretend that you do believe it, as Althusser rightly put it.

The Marxist phrase is "being determines consciousness" - Chaos Marxism might refine that to "activity and patterns of identity determine consciousness". You think what you do, and you are what you repeatedly do. And - among the kinds of social flotsam who find themselves attracted to revolutionary politics in non-revolutionary times - the desperate, burning need to find somewhere to belong ends up an open door to allow an unreflective group or an unscrupulous group leader to install Groupthinking-Zombification software in their brain.

Reflexivity and positionality are of course the answer. An activist or group which strives to compensate for its own blind spots (get better wing mirrors?) and be aware of its/their actual position in the capitalist socio-economy can begin by enacting Marxist praxis for themselves, and holding conversations with other groups of the broad masses. Walking into someone else's struggle with the idea that you can give them "the leadership they need" and "teach them how to win" is, once again, a hollowing out of the critical and dialectical core of Marxism, turning it into nothing but power politics aimed at a different constituency. Screw that.

Anyway, the point is: political arguments usually have zero to do with philosophy or practical action, and boil down to ape-against-ape territorial posturing. Which is why the wrong people almost always win them. Only praxis can win the day for communism.

14 August 2015

Look At Yourself

Reflexivity! It's what's for breakfast in the bourgeois academy at the moment, as well as in professional training for nurses and other care-workers. The idea that the scholar or the professional worker has to make an effort to be aware of their own biases, bad habits, and unconscious assumptions, in order to be more effective at what they do, is simple common sense to anyone involved in ego-dissolving practices such as Thelemic magick, Sufism or Zen Buddism, and of course the cheap knockoffs thereof to be found in the "New Age" or "Human Potential" movements.

Surely the same should be the case for Marxists? Uncle Karl discusses "the ruthless criticism of all that exists", after all. The whole basis of the Marxist method is the material positionality of all the makers of theory. There is no "God's eye view" or Platonic realm of ideal forms. All ideas come from the material position of those who have the ideas, who discuss them and who propagate them. So a Marxist scholar-activist should be reflexive in practice as a matter of course. And a Marxist organisation, in turn, should encourage different points of view within itself, to welcome debate on its very existence and ways of organising.

... but they don't, do they? Because questioning organisational routines is the first step towards dissolving the organisation. Because habitual adherence to authority and routine is an "opiate" or "painkiller", which provides a feeling of security, which holds back the unpleasant feeling of actually having to deal with the howling menace of neoliberal globalised capitalist commodity culture and the total failure of the actually existing far left to do anything about it. Some organisations actually forbid self-reflexive discussion of the organisation - either because it's "navel gazing" irrelevant to "the workers", or out of honestly admitting that if we stopped to think about what we were doing, we wouldn't be doing anything. Which should make anyone who was honest think: then is it worth doing at all? Is mindless activity better than honest befuddlement?

Incidentally, check out the rhetorical move about "the workers" above. The sheer fact of the matter is that the actually existing Anglophone far left tends to be composed of white people with high levels of formal education and thus often a mildly privileged class position. But the essential dishonesty lies in refusing the very basic form of reflexivity involved in accepting this, and instead either claiming to speak for an imaginary "Worker-with-a-capital-W" subject who is in manual labour and has a very low level of cultural capital, or indulging in a guilt trip of not being a Worker-with-a-capital-W, or attempting to somehow become one by adopting a fetishised version of the culture of that layer of the class. This kind of "cultural guilt" is just as cringeworthy and destructive of a real politics of solidarity as "white guilt".

An honest position for cultural-capital-heavy Marxists would be based on being in solidarity with other sections of the working class while not denying one's own positionality. The romantic fiction indulged in by some groups that they are "declassed intellectuals" is precisely a refusal of the self-awareness of their real class position which would be step 1 of a real Marxist praxis.

Incidentally, when seen properly, the insistence on spiritual traditions of having a "master" or "guru" is an expression of reflexivity, in the sense that when you're just starting out, you have NO WAY to actually "look at yourself". Eventually, you can find the "master inside yourself", but only after internalising that very external viewpoint on which you have originally required. You can call it God, if you like.

22 July 2015


The late, interesting-if-not-great Palestinian-Jewish-British socialist Tony Cliff said that the essential contradiction of Marxism lies between "the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class" and "the ideas of the ruling class are the ideas of society". Can I add another very vital contradiction, for those of us who understand Foucault, Lacan, Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson on the link between language, reality and power:

Thesis: "Every identity within capitalism is constructed by capitalism, and there is no outside to capitalism."
Antithesis: "Capitalism is an internally contradictory unity prone to ever-worsening crises which can only be delayed, not avoided."

If only the first were true, there is no point to anything and we might as well have a good time until the oceans rise. If the second is true, there is no need to do anything and we only need to wait until the thing falls over. But since BOTH are true, we need to find a way to operate IN capitalism while realising that the identities it gives us are social relations and are NOT REAL, and finding ways to sharpen the contradictions in such a way that the next world-system is socialism rather than barbarism. Actually, that might be another contradiction:

Thesis: "Capitalism alienates human labour and requires us to play identity-games of oppression, exploitation and psychic injury."
Antithesis: "There is no outside to capitalism except death and insanity."