19 January 2018

Can the Left meme?

One of the reasons for the year's sabbatical I took from this project - and for the rather depressed and mopey posts for a year or two before that - was that I had come to the conclusion that the goddamn fascists had eaten our lunch. It wasn't inevitable that *chan-based meme culture would become White Nationalist Boogie Wonderland. Anonymous - as came out of Chanology and went on to become a social movement which put the fear of the Lord into various governments and multinational corporations after that - was smashed by state action, with the help of various informants, in the 2013-14 period. Meanwhile, the culture was being deliberately infiltrated by meme-planting Nazi scum, co-ordinated ("marblecaked", as we used to say) from Stormfront. The vacuum was filled.

Bear with me for a moment while I go on one of my Abe Simpson-style long stories that don't go anywhere ("I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time..."

Many moons ago I was rooming with a guy who was an Army Reservist, a generally decent character but a "bro" in every sense of the world. One night I was woken from a slumber because he'd gotten a bunch of his buddies around to watch porn. I got up and, being young and naive, had no idea what the attraction was. That's just gross, I said. Look at that guy, he's naked except for a false nose, glasses and a tie because he's ashamed to be in this. The sex is not erotic in any way, you can't actually be getting turned on by this. Why exactly do you watch this stuff?

He looked at me as if I was stupid, and said: "Because it's naughty."

THERE, comrades and friends, lies the central secret of meme culture. Being bad is its own reward. Lacan spoke of this as jouissance, the pleasure which turns into pain, the obscene pleasure which is commanded by the very Law forbidding it. The chief cause of crime is the criminal law, as R. A. Wilson might have put it.

And the problem with the modern Left is that we're too good for our own good. The glory days of social-liberal politics were the 60s and 70s Reichian hippies, making their stand for (a very masculinized) sexual liberation. Once they took cultural power in the early 80s, sexual libertinism became the new orthodoxy, which is why you had the Alex P. Keatons of the era rebelling against it and becoming Reagan Youth. Then the hippies came back as the neo-shamans and ravers of the 1990s and fought against the orthodoxy of neoliberal rationality/rationalism. Now we've once again swung back to the point where - as the noted asshole P. J. Watson puts it - "conservatism is the new punk rock".

What I'm saying is that the modern neoliberal-Left is aligned with the Superego against the Id. Liberal politics or conservative-left politics (as opposed to radical-left politics) are all about restricting how people talk, restricting how people can behave, setting rules of the type which are beloved by both neoliberalism and traditional SocDem statism. People keep saying this, or at least saying that the modern alt-right/neo-fascist movement is "the Id" come to life - in the case of the Dorito Mussolini now squatting in the White House, someone called him "a YouTube comments box come to life". Remember how everyone has been saying for the last 10 years don't read the comments? Well, that didn't work as a self-defence mechanism for the neoliberal orthodoxy of the mass media, because the repressed always returns. (The metaphor of anonymous Internet comments as being "below the lines" of the article is a pretty clear spatial metaphor of their psychic role, just like Jung's dream of successive sub-basements, later ripped off by Lovecraft in "The Rats in the Walls".)

To sum it up, the "Left can't meme" because it is clearly more fun to be a Nazi in the year 2018.


I raised this issue on the CM Facebook group and I got a lot of valuable counterarguments. One ran thus:

The left CAN meme. Just browse /leftypol/, or even some parts of leftbook.

Ha ha, but /leftypol/ is not the Left. At least, it's not the Left that Chaos Marxism wants anything to do with it. Those fuckers are mostly tankies.

(If you're a tankie, you've read too much already. GTFO OFF THIS BLOG!!!

Now let me backtrack slightly and I do know some very decent comrades who do come out of the self-described Marxist-Leninist tradition.* A "tankie" is not just someone who goes carryin' pictures of Chairman Mao. A "tankie" is historically someone who believes in the Russian Tanks road to socialism - someone who not only sees nothing wrong with building a new world on the crushed bones of the Bad People, but actively sees that as a good thing. The "new world" they want is a properly organised one, not a democratic-egalitarian one. As Trotsky noted, the British aristocratic Fabian reformers Beatrice and Sidney Webb hated the Russian Revolution until it was thoroughly Stalinised.

* Note that Trots never call themselves MLs, but just "Leninists", or "Bolshevik-Leninists" on occasion. Chaos Marxism is anti-Stalinist, post-Trot and post-Leninist.

A tankie is someone who reuses the iconography of the Stalin and post-Stalin/Warsaw Pact era, not in the sad, half-ironic sense that another neo-Leninist might (as melancholic reminders of a future which never happened), but in that they actually think Joe Stalin, the Gulags, the Great Purge, barbed wire and concrete walls right through the centre of Europe, corrupt rule by an arrogant bureaucracy etc., were a good thing and they would bring them back (or defend them, in the case of the DPRK or even modern China). Because Joe Stalin (Enver Hoxha, the Korean Kim Dynasty, etc) were tough guys, Big Daddies, who pwned the hated enemy. Because that's the final argument isn't it? The Red Army chased Hitler back to the Berlin bunker and therefore Stalin was just all right by me.

What exactly is the difference between this and a MAGA-hat wearing, Pepe-meme sharing Trumpist? You tell me.

"Horseshoe theory" is centrist bunkum. There is no inevitable identity between the far left and the fascist right. Stalinism at least paid lip service to democratic ideals that outright fascism happily danced on the grave of. But there always has been an essential identity, a "dirty secret" shared between Stalinism and the fascist right. Stalinism is essentially red-brown politics, not socialism but a disgusting parody of socialism which has a sneaking affinity for actual fascists. Before there was Stalingrad, there was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and before that there was the Third Period, the German Communists actually lining up with the Nazis against the hated social democrats and liberals. Sam Charles Hamad (who doesn't speak to me anymore) was the first to point out that this wasn't just realpolitik, "enemy's enemy" stuff, but that the Stalinists had a programmatic commonality with the fascists - against the alliance of the Western allies, for strong-state autarky and an "ordered" society. And we're going back there, in the form of the Berners 4 Trump, "Lexit", Putin and Assad = Cool Bastards "alt-left".

Meme-Stalinism, then, is nothing but *chan-fascism with different-colored memes. Just masochistic surrender to Big Daddy as a fuck you to a liberal establishment which COMMANDS you to be liberated and to think for yourself. Leonard Cohen said "give me back the Berlin Wall, give me Stalin and St. Paul", but that was irony. If that's your proof that "the Left can meme", I don't want any part of it.

Chaos Marxism stands against the tide, in opposing both neoliberal "don't read the comments" goodthink and red-brown masochistic authoritarianism. Give us proof that our Left can meme. Please.

... okay, I don't like to end on a down note, so here's a song the best Leftist meme of 2017:


02 January 2018

Against Pamphlet Marxism

As we have always said here, textual fundamentalism is the enemy. As any postmodern literary theorist can tell you, a text can bear any interpretation a reader puts on it. Textual fundamentalism - "if it's in X BOOK it's true" - either turns into solipsism, with every nutbar reading into the texts what she wants to see; or into crypto-personalism in that you need an Imam or a General Secretary to tell you what the text really means. And then you get into meta-personalist silsilas, or chains of authority - Lenin interprets Marx for us, Stalin interprets Lenin, Mao interprets Stalin, history of shaving.

Bear with me a moment - I heartily recommend the works of Michael Muhammad Knight in general, and Why I Am A Salafi in particular in the current juncture. Some of you may have a wrong idea by reading excitable "war on terror" screeds from either the crypto-fascist Right or the neo-Stalinist Left, that Salafi means "the bad kind of Muslim", House of Saud/al-Qa'ida/Da'esh style. In fact, as MMK explains, the term actually means those who attempt to follow the example of the salaf, Prophet Muhammad's original companions, and to critically appraise or chuck out wholesale the 13 or 14 centuries of Islamic civilisations and movements that followed.

Now, this may lead, depending on which authorities you follow as to what was actually being done in 7th century CE Arabia, to cutting off thieves' hands and selling concubines. Or, it may lead - as it has in the case of the followers of Rashid Khalifa or Edip Yuksel - to ultra-progressive Islam of the type which suggests that Muhammad's "true" message was similar to liberation-theology Christianity and all those verses of the Qur'an which are troubling to modern liberals were mistranslations by The Conspiracy. See, textual fundamentalism gets really odd-ball when you're not only interpreting the original texts but suggesting one, true, correct translations into other languages.

But any Marxist will see the similarities with our own tradition. The reason I didn't get into the Marxist or Leninist traditions until quite late in life was that my lived example, when I was young, were the kind of Trotskyists who solved every problem with appeals to the Holy Scriptures - the Gospel according to St Karl, the Letters of St Leon to the Schismatic Belgians, etc etc etc. And like the Bible or the Qur'an, the Collected Works of the Marxist Prophets are so voluminous that you can find quotations to prove anything you want to prove. Lenin, in particular, was an effective politician precisely because he was not afraid to practice exactly what he had been preaching against two years ago, if he thought it would work.

Anyway, I had enough of a background in fundamentalist Christianity that that method of arguing held no interest to me. It doesn't matter what anyone said or wrote, except to the extent that it offers a guide to action - and those actions can only be judged by their results. I enjoy reading Lenin of 100 years ago, for example, on why a "United States of Europe" would just mean a cartel of the existing colonial empires, as an argument made by a clever politician of a different era. But if you use that as an authority to argue for Brexit today, you are as brain-dead as any Saudi sheikh using hadith to argue that women shouldn't drive.

Anyway, here's MMK on "pamphlet Islam", which was supposed to be the point:

... one of the dominant themes of what I called "Islam" in my teen years was Islam's awesome clarity: The message presented itself as so simple that it could fit inside a pamphlet with large font and bullet points. For me to reconsider my teen Salafism, I'd have to reconsider what Omid Safi has called "pamphlet Islam": an Islam forged in the "serious intellectual and spiritual fallacy of thinking that complex issues can be handled in four or six glossy pages". These expressions of "pamphlet Islam," readily available at almost any Islamic center, bear titles such as "The Status of Women in Islam" or "The Islamic Position on Jesus" and thus rely on the assumptions that (1) there is such a possibility as a definitive "Islamic position" on anything, and (2) the author has the "Islamic position" on an issue nailed down firmly under his/her control, with no room for it to move...

Safi argues that we can and must do better than "pamphlet Islam" and I agree, but I'm also afraid that our efforts might only produce bigger pamphlets. Progressive Muslim reformism, with all its performance of theoretical sophistication, sometimes makes for its own counterpamphlet that's no less simplistic.

Some ex-Spartacists made a similar point about their former comrades in the late 80s:
the Spartacists have decided that Soviet defensism is the "central question" at all times and in all places. Those who don’t agree are automatically denounced as State Department socialists. This travesty of the Trotskyist position of defense of the Soviet Union has one advantage. It is easy to teach to new recruits. But if revolutionary politics were so simple a moderately intelligent myna bird could learn the formula in a matter of weeks.
Add to this the comment I say from some old "M-L" online saying that the best thing he loved about the works of Stalin was that "they were easy to understand and digest", as opposed to high-philosophical Marx or clever-clever Trotsky.  I hope you can see the point I'm making. Especially re: Syria and now Iran. If the politics or the religion are straightforward and don't need you to think, it's probably not healthy.

07 November 2017

Walking through walls

It is said that the sport of rugby was invented in 1823 when a kid playing football at Rugby School, England, just decided to run up the field holding the ball, which was previously not part of the rules - thus creating his own, new set of rules*. This is the same phenomenon as Nietzsche spoke about with the Übermensch.  Those great Gnostic movies of the late 90s, Dark City and The Matrix, made the case that the Nietzschean Superman (in gender-neutral form, natch) is someone who can literally walk through walls or through hails of bullets, because they have realised that the Black Iron Prison we all live in is not real, that Big Brother is not in fact watching you at all, that the law of Karma/gravity is only a physical one, that There Is No Spoon. But shorn of the special effects, the real message is that the one who is "beyond good and evil" can simply ignore social rules and norms and thus do what they want.

That's what you're really talking about here, expanded from the playing field to the social field. As the noted screenwriter John Rogers, a man who has written a lot of entertaining stuff on criminality and is something of an expert on it, notes:

The man who will literally say anything and is impervious to being rebutted or shamed or called out is the bad kind of Übermensch who can only be brought into line by force alone.

So what is the difference between a Nietzschean Superperson, a cartoon supervillain, and the Gnostic/Buddhist/Sufi enlightened one / qalandar / Holy Fool? Old comic books offer us the example that Superman and Batman both live by a code (eg: they don't kill anyone, not even if they desperately need killin'). Superman, in particular, was created by two left-wing Jews and spent his early comic book adventures beating up on slumlords and other predators upon the innocent.

It is therefore possible to live outside of the Law, beyond good and evil, beyond what anyone else thinks about you. But if you don't write your own law, and live by it, you become a monster, a "Black Brother" (not to be confused with a Funk Soul Brother). The problem with being able to walk through walls is that ordinary people kind of rely on those walls to live their lives. Otherwise you're just a giant in the playground kicking over people's sandcastles, and people themselves for that matter, not even because they deserve it but because you no longer give a shit. This is of course why a liar - who knows what he says is false - is much less dangerous than a bullshit artist - someone who just doesn't care.

* Much like Jedidiah Springfield, this may only be a legend, but the point still stands. 

ETA: How could I forget? Far too many on the Left are forgetting that the difference between us and the Right is that we are aiming at building a new collective reality, a True Mass Enlightenment - not just allowing some Giant in the Playground to kick ass on our behalf, an authoritarian Daddy who will kick over the walls on people we think should be hurt. These are the people who suckle at the teets of every personality cult, turning flawed leaders like Lenin or Chávez into religious icons, metastasizing cancers on socialist discourse; these are the people who think that criticisms of the Corbyns or the Sandersersers is treason. These are people who would flip to fascism in a heartbeat if they thought the company would be pleasant enough.

26 September 2017


Valis's will was not fully realized on Earth. This was the adversary's realm, the Prince of this world. Valis could only work within this world, work with a small remnant of men; he was the minority party, here, speaking as a still small voice to one man or a handful, from a bush, in sleep, during an operation. Eventually he would win. But not now. These were not the end times after all. 
- P. K. Dick, Radio Free Albemuth (1976/1985)

God is definitely on the side of the Revolution; God is the minority and the Revolution is always about the minority. As one of my heroes, the late liberal Muslim scholar Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid used to say, "The majority never brings about change - it's too invested in the status quo."
- Mona Eltahawy, introduction to Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, Occupy Spirituality (2013)

This side of the revolution, the revolutionaries are a minority.
- Tony Cliff, sampled on Neither Washington nor Moscow (The Redskins, 1986)

... a minority composed of weirdos, oddballs and the differently sane. If we were popular we would have already changed the world. The idea of being a vanguard implies there's someone following you. Going along with the majority is a dumb idea, as is yelling "screw all y'all" and storming off into the woods all on your lonesome. Live in the Real World of Horrible Jobs but don't become part of it. Always look for a way to bust the prison house down, and be prepared to stay in prison if your people don't want to leave. This is the path of the Bodhisattva Vow, the way of learning how to love our brothers and sisters who don't know the law.
 - Doloras LaPicho, commentary to the above

SPECIAL NOTE: This is not only the 11th anniversary of the CM Project, but our 420th post. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

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.