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.