25 September 2009

Video killed the socialist movement?

The Marxist critique of capitalism would not have been able to spread, it seems, had industrial capitalism already annexed the sphere of symbolic goods. Marx profited from the backwardness of cultural circuits in relation to those of market production. A hundred years later, he would have missed his chance. All things being equal on other fronts, within the logic of image and markets (literary talkshows, weekly top-tens), Das Kapital would have remained what it was when it first appeared: a scholarly extravagance for book-lovers, not the source of a mass political current.

Old-school Guevarist Régis Debray argues that the shift from print culture to audiovisual culture has pretty much wrecked the way in which socialist memes used to grow and be reproduced. He seems pessimistic about whether socialism has a future in digital-Internet culture, for that reason. Your thoughts?

23 September 2009

Chanology: the state of play

Chanology may turn out to be the sort of thing that can't be duplicated. It's unlikely that Anonymous will ever face an opponent more exquisitely matched than Scientology—a strictly disciplined, hierarchical organization founded on the exact reproduction of relentlessly earnest, fiercely copyright-protected words. Here the assclowns of Anonymous found the perfect antithesis of their own radically authorless, furiously remixed, compulsively unserious culture. Scientology was a target so ideal that there is now almost no point in looking for another. Perhaps this, then, is how Project Chanology will be remembered: not as the first of a new breed of online protest movements, but as the last of the epic trolls.

(source)

19 September 2009

A Marxism - Memetics glossary, first few entries

Ideology: memetic entity
Personal consciousness: ego
Class consciousness: group mind
"Common sense": memes which shield the consciousness from reality
"Good sense": memes which enable the consciousness to change reality

17 September 2009

O wad some power the giftie gi'e us...

I think I've mentioned before that, in late period consumer capitalists, the cultural technician class functionally act in the same regard as the priesthood did in feudal Europe (manufacturing consent among the oppressed for their own oppression, creating narratives for the ruling class which justify that oppression, and being rewarded with quasi-autonomy and a slice of the pie). But of course, that's not how the "creatives" see themselves. They pretty much see themselves as wizards, as if this were some kind of fantasy novel. And of course some of them cast their "magic spells" for their own self interest, some for what they think might be the interests of the world as a whole (filtered through their own perception), and some simply for hire. The common thought is that they are the s00per-special elite who will decide the battle for one side or another.

Deluding yourself is probably a good survival trait if your aim is to get the most goodies out of the World-As-Is. However, rigorous honesty with what you really are is necessary if you actually want to act as an outlet of goodness into the world. And you might have the power to shape people's consciousness with your magick spells, and thus gain for yourself $$$ and other class privileges, but really, that's nothing that a mediaeval priest or a tribal witchdoctor can't do. And both those professions found themselves historically obsolete when a stronger class or national force appeared on the scene - unless of course they shifted their allegiance to the new boss, same as the old boss.

The cultural technicians and creatives have to be an important part of a new historical bloc to overthrow the system, of course, or the planet's screwed. If for no other reason that they probably have as much economic "weight" to throw about in the advanced capitalist countries as the industrial proletariat. However, the problem happens because they always assume that they're going to run the show and teach the idiot proles what's what.

Stalinism, and its mirror image McCarthyism, are both essentially middle-class ideologies because they include this basic assumption - that proles are dumb machines who need to be programmed by an enlightened class, and that the real battle is a Wizard's Duel between competing value systems and media networks. So it's White Wizards vs. Dark Wizards for the soul of the nation, and the proles will just have to sit back and wait to be told which side won. This of course lends to all manner of elitist claptrap such as conspiracy and terrorism, both of which might mean a new class of entitled jackasses taking over, but will never mean a change in the actual way the world works.

In contrast, Chaos Marxism promotes the concept of the "organic intellectual". Can you actually unify yourself with a real class force, and help it to come to self-awareness - which does not mean teaching them to see themselves the way you think they should be seen, but to clarify their own semi-conscious grasp of reality? To put it in concrete terms - the response to the Fox Newses and Globovisions of this world is not to set up competing and opposing propaganda channels. You can't beat the bastards on their own terms because it's based on mobilising within current market forces, and we're supposed to be opposing market forces. On the contrary - how can we create media in which people tell their own truth, rather than waiting for clever wizards to tell them what reality is?

13 September 2009

Not your grandfather's Marx

As far as the natural-scientific materialism of his contemporaries was concerned, Marx felt only scorn for it. The realization that we are, both mind and body, spirit and flesh, is a basic assumption of Marxian naturalism. While Marx did not differ from the materialists in their belief that body is more fundamental than mind, he also clearly put the spirit high above the flesh. Marx cherished the spiritual aspirations and the spiritual world of man as much as the most determined idealist and showed little appreciation for the material in the everyday use of this term. Although he was close to materialists, Marx was so emphatic about the worth of man’s spiritual life that he was rightly described- in the sense in which a paradox might state an important truth- as a thinker who leaned, so to speak, towards a practical dualism of body and mind and wished to liberate men from the bondage of their material nature.

This book is fascinating. It mainly consists in arguing that Marx was not a dialectical materialist, but an anthropological naturalist, and that dialectical materialism bases itself on Engels' misunderstandings of Marx and then Lenin's misunderstandings of Engels. Interesting and plausible - the paragraph above totally confirms the basic ideas that this blog is founded on (that spirituality and culture can be understood using Marxism, not abolished), and the book's description of "anthropological naturalism" reads like simple common sense to yours truly.

12 September 2009

Oh noes!

Some meddling libertarian kids have uncovered this blog's secret control of planet Earth!

I think the form of the dialectic that we are overwhelmed with today is probably more accurately "dialectic materialism." It is a tool to "manipulate us into a frenzied circular pattern of thought and action to advance humanity into an international dictatorship of the proletariat." It is often referred to as "chaos Marxism" because chaos must be created in order to inject the conclusion/goal.

Seriously, though - my habitual googlestalking of myself seems to have shown that the meme is actually spreading, in that people who don't get what we're on about at all are talking about us. That's kind of cool.

11 September 2009

There is a war between the rich and poor, a war between the man and the woman

Look, guys, this might be the most important thing I've written here in a long time. Are you listening closely? Right.

Forget all your labels. Forget all your words. Forget all your ideas and your images and your godforms and your shorthand and your colour-codes for the pieces on the global chessboard. It's all just froth on the surface. "The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao," and the true "tide in men's affairs" that is really shifting things around in this world is far, far deeper than any abstraction that you can come up with.

This is not about two teams of human egos, the Illuminati vs the Discordians, the liberals vs the conservatives, the pure vs the infidels. That's because human egos are not real. The world changes and shifts because of real forces - real physical forces, which express themselves in ideologies and consciousness.

This is why the Muslims will say "there is no power or strength but in God". Or a Marxist might put it: "the history of currently existing society is the history of class struggle". It is really, REALLY not about good guys and bad guys, of nice vs nasty, of a clash of ideologies, because all of that is a tiny, tiny tip on an iceberg, and the real things that moves are forces far more fundamental to reality than the individual human ego.

If Chaos Marxism has any point, and perhaps the jury is still out on that one, it's that your ego is not only unimportant in the grander scheme of things, it is lying to you. Your ego developed to help you play the game of personalities and ideologies and images. Your ego grew to help you navigate the Matrix. But the Matrix cannot tell you who you really are.

The whole point of everything we do on this blog has been attempting to cut through all the words in the world and bring us face to face with messy reality, a reality far, far deeper than the Real World of Horrible Jobs. Everything that happens to you might as well not be real if you only look at it with the eyes you've developed to play "the Game" of our current consumerist-capitalist society. You have to lean to look under the surface. It is possible for an individual to do this, with a lot of extremely hard and painful work. Easier to do it in a group, magickal order, political party, whatever, but you'll have to find a good one.

All human culture and ideology and language is simply a manifestation of deeper tides within Humanity as a collective entity, and at this point in history, that means the Class Struggle. Class struggle is how Humanity as an entity is coming to manifest itself - or kill itself off, if everything goes wrong. The forces of Waking Up as a planet or - well, not just staying asleep forever, but possibly even choking on our own vomit in our sleep, like John Bonham.

Things only REALLY change in the real world because a class - i.e. a current of humanity united by its place in the system of material production - makes things happen. Those foolish hippies in 1967 thought things were going to change because they took a bunch of acid, had more sex than was considered seemly and wore weird clothes. But of course the system took all that and commodified it and sold it back to them.

No, things really changed in the 1960s and 1970s because a new class - the middle-class managers and cultural technicians - became aware of themselves as a class and started agitating for the things important to it - consumption freedoms, for the most part, but among them important freedoms such as abortion, birth control, non-traditional sexuality, the breakdown of the classical family unit, and removal of censorship over expression. And they got all that, eventually, after fighting the Thatchers and Reagans who wanted to roll it back, simply because they were important to capitalism, and the system could grow much better and more efficiently if they got what they want.

A similar revolution is brewing around things like the Pirate Party and open-source. A new generation of cultural and infotech professionals simply want zero-priced digital content. And it will happen because if the corporate world doesn't give this new class force what it wants, that force will take what it wants. The whole question is: can corporate capitalism actually give the Intarwebz its liberty and still make profit? Because if not, we are coming up against a socio-economic convulsion that will dwarf the late 60's in importance.

But truly, truly, all this is for nothing if the majority class doesn't get into action and change things. Because up until that point, this is just the elite squabbling with the next bunch down the totem pole of history. A new chapter in history, but not a new volume. We really do need a class force which will crush corporate capitalism altogether - and that has to be a force which rallies the majority of the currently powerless, not just a small middle layer.

Anyway. *ahem* Nothing happens because of great men or women, their great egos, their abilities to manipulate memes, etc. That's just an ideology which reflects the cultural-techician class masturbating to its own cooklness. No, to use religious language again - if it looks like you just kicked a door down, God already opened the door for you and you happened to be in the right place at the right time. This kind of humility isn't popular, though, because it goes against the reward structure of the Matrix - viz., if great individuals aren't the ones who cause change, if they are actually only expressions of broader forces within human society as a whole, then the whole basis of intellectual property and authoritarian leadership goes down the drain.

Polish your mirror. You can't individually change the world. But you can perhaps see where change is coming, and be in the right place at the right time at the right frame of mind so that the positive currents within humanity - the forces of Waking Up rather than Choking In Our Sleep - can use you as their gateway into the world. This means really realising that you don't own anything, you don't have any rights, that your ego is an artefact of the Matrix, that you are froth on the surface of crashing waves, but that if you know all this you can surrender yourself to the real forces which move everything, and make yourself a useful part of evolving, awakening Humanity.

This is perhaps easier for those of you who don't have advanced egos which are admirably placed to earn privileges in the "Real" World of Horrible Jobs - those who have nothing to lose but their chains, in other words. But the industrial proletariat of Marx's time weren't just revolutionary because they had nothing to lose, it was because "without their strength and labour, not a single wheel would turn". The industrial proletariat are still the most vitally important class on the planet, but we cultural technicians in the advanced West also have our part to play. Will you play it, or will you play around in the Matrix until the whole thing shorts out?

I think I'm starting to understand the Hidden Mystery.

09 September 2009

Good advice

... spiritual life is exactly like everything in nature. It's subject to the law of nature. There is a tide like the tide in the sea, like the day and night. There is tremendous nearness to the Beloved, and the soul is happy, and we are walking on clouds, and then suddenly there is nothing there. You are suspended naked over a chasm or an abyss, you can't pray and God doesn't exist and everything is cold and everything is horrible... This is the path of the mystics.

- Irina Tweedie. Substitute "the Revolution" for "God" and this paragraph should look familiar to our secular Marxist readers as well. The test is whether you give up when it looks like everything's turned to shit. But there's a subtler trap - the trap of "well, maybe what I've been doing hasn't worked, so let's do something else." That way lies spiritual and/or political dilettantism, jumping on whichever bandwagon seems interesting at the time.

The important question is: regardless of success in the real world, is your group as a group working? If you've got a good political party, or tariqa, or affinity group, stick with it because groups can do things individuals can't. You might waste a lot of time and energy trying to affiliate yourself to a new guru, only to find out that you actually brought the problem with you.

08 September 2009

...your future you often have asked me...

There's an important scene in the beautiful film Goodbye Lenin! (which you all should watch), in which our East Berlin hero goes to some kind of West Berlin underground-fetish nightclub and is totally blown away. Now, that's something that always struck me - the idea that Eastern Bloc "socialism" ended up being so grey, boring, aping the most cheesy and unthreatening parts of Western mass culture but criminalising its own interesting dissidents. You would have never predicted that back in the 20's and 30's - Picasso was a socialist, the Surrealists were Trotskyites for God's sake, and generally all the best artists were actual anti-capitalists, rather than posturing "lifestyle anarchists" or insipid Greenie-liberals like they are today.

Obviously, part of the problem was the establishment of "socialist realism" (i.e. bland, feelgood pap) as the official art of Stalinism. But there's also a problem with a rigid centralised political/social structure of any sort, and that's that Stalinists don't really understand the dialectic. Because they think that a bureaucratic police-state structure is pretty much as good as it gets for humanity, they think it's their job to repress all social contradictions. Hence bullshit elections where the "good guys" get 99% of the vote, and all the other nonsense of social unanimity.

I once read an old Soviet propaganda brochure called "What do people talk about in the Soviet Union?" It gave "real-life" examples of random Soviet people having heated arguments on all manner of things, but the last chapter said: "One thing that we never discuss is whether socialism works. That's settled forever and ever and ever." And the Catholic Church is really democratic because you can discuss anything apart from the central dogma. What did Marx say? "All criticism starts with the criticism of religion" - the idea that there is any dogma, anything which can be off-limits for debate, is brain-death and a block on the evolution of humanity. (Note: yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre, or "Islam out of Britain" in Brick Lane, does not count as debate and should be rightly suppressed.)

Learn your Marx, guys! The whole freakin' universe is in contradiction, and always will be, because without contraries, without tension and conflict, there can be no progress. The promise of socialism is that social-economic contradictions (class and inequalities) will be overcome, so that we can learn all-new forms of conflict and contradiction! All the great art comes out of struggle. All bland, boring nonsense comes out of official propaganda trying to pretend that struggle and conflict doesn't really happen in our glorious utopia. The point of the end of the history of class society is that we can start a new history, not a boring "happily ever after" - aka "death", or a kind of C S Lewis afterlife.

This is why the socialist future cannot be a bureaucracy, or a central bank (sorry Lenin), but a network, with interdependent but autonomous nodes of production, of thought, of culture, of art, and yes they must not get on with each other. The main difference from capitalism as it stands is of course that these different centres will have different ways of relating to each other than markets, money, oppression and violence. There's only the vaguest idea from this point what that might look like.

The Holy Qur'an quotes the central intelligence of the Universe as saying something like: "If I wanted you all to be the same religion, I would have made it so. Instead, I gave you several different faiths, so you could vie among yourselves in holiness". If it doesn't have a counter-culture and heated arguments on every subject under the sun, it's not my revolution.

04 September 2009

And when Hugo Chávez says things like this, they call him a communist dictator

We live in a meme pool. We should start fining those companies that are peeing in the pool.

Ben Mack's Poker Without Cards is frustrating me. The author talks about the glories of capitalism on one page, and on the next explains how everything which actually characterises modern capitalism - memetic terrorism by an ever narrowing clique of corporate oligarchs, alienation and exploitation of creative labour, the cancerous ideology of perpetual growth - is a disaster that needs to be dealt with. Indeed, I think the author has the problem which many Americans have - no idea of what "capitalism" actually means.

Capitalism is not "the free market". There have been markets in every single social set-up since we got out of hunter-gathering, and there will probably be markets in a classless society. What characterises capitalism is:
a) the ubiquity of the wage- or salary-labour relationship (i.e. someone owns resources, hires labour to turn them into saleable products at less than that labour produces, and pockets the difference);
b) the ubiquity of commodities - increasingly everything, not just goods and services but entire areas of human existence, is produced as a tradeable, for-profit commodity.

Here we are with the occultism of small businessmen again - the middle-class spoilt rich kids who write these psychonautic books understand that capitalism in the big sphere is wrecking the planet, but because they have the social skills necessary to operate as small capitalists and make a profit, then somehow that is all right. The comparison is a middle-class citizen of the Roman Empire deploring the barbaric state of the massive agricultural slave plantations, but considering it only right and proper that they should own a maid, a cook and possibly a tutor for the kids as their personal property. Oh, and that the legions should go on fighting barbarians who might want to take those things away.

Yeah, I don't have those middle-class entrepreneurial skills. I was brought up on what Americans would call "welfare" from a upwardly-mobile working class family background. I only learned these l33t memetic skills because I live in a country socialist enough that even proles can afford advanced university education. But I never learned how to operate in the market as anything other than a wage slave, and when I tried I was abused and brutally slapped down. Perhaps because I don't have the skills to be able to make the system work for me, I can see that the system as a whole is cancerous, not just the parts which don't enable a cruisy lifestyle for confident bullshit artists. And I really, REALLY don't get how people working in a craft which is supposed to harness and control the ego can possibly support a social system which rewards the most success to those who are All Ego All The Time.

Anyway, perhaps more later.

ETA: Oh, here we go:

The way I see it, cultural elites are defending their power and position against a less moneyed mass. The elites resentthe mass for not respecting their place, as dictated by The Law. The lessers accuse the elites of creating the law. Bothhave morality on their side. Both manipulate the law to their own agendas; the elites are just better at it. This is a war
for power that will be played out primarily on television. Those of us who oppose changing the foundation of our government to favor either group will have an additional burden placed on us. We have to find ways to influence public opinion that don't rely on the forms of manipulation we’re trying to stop.

As I suspected - another proud warrior for the Middle who despises the elites and the unwashed masses equally, and wants to work out a way we can all live happily together, the lion lying down with the lamb and not biting it too hard. This is, sadly, once again the grey area where libertarianism and fascism come together, in the shared delusion that society is a unity. It ain't. It's a contradictory unity and if you don't choose a side you're choosing a life of parasitism. Chaos Marxism is on the side of the "less moneyed mass" because that's the side that's going to create a properly human world. And in that world all those middle-class circle-jerks of marketing gurus, designer drugs, fashionable clubs and cosy internet cliques will suddenly become obsolete. It'll be like being a Freemason, two hundred years after that particular meme came to the end of its usefulness.