Doloras is trying to update this blog - removing rusty scrap, replacing it with more functional parts based on new insights, applying a new paint job - and I thought I'd just try to lend a helping hand. The Old Chaos Marxism had passed its 'best before' date in the face of simultaneous far-right success and far-left failure in the Realm of Hungry Memes, so it was indeed time for a revision. 'Examine everything,' they say, 'and preserve the good.'
Now in this light, I have some doubts about the New Chaos Marxism. I wonder if it's such a good idea to try and integrate a spiritual and political path in one organization. This is what I understand to be the goal of the 'praxis groups' outlined in 'Theses on the New Chaos Marxism.' Certainly, both personal, spiritual enlightenment and collective, political revolution may be said to require 'creating change in objective reality in conformity with intention.' In this sense, they are similar projects. But the contradictions between real-existing radical-left politics and the various forms of spirituality on offer seem to me to be far too big to integrate these projects in one and the same organization:
- Whereas radical-left politics typically looks for the causes of one’s problems in social structures outside oneself, spirituality looks for these causes in psychological patterns inside the individual
- Leftists seek psychological safety for themselves, a place where one belongs and everyone is accepted; followers of the spiritual path seek danger to their ego, threats to their identity and lousy rationalizations, a place where they detach from idols of personal identity and are (psychologically) dissolved in a larger Being
- The radical-left model of group decision-making is based on direct democracy or consensus, building 'affinity groups,’ whereas spirituality preaches a relationship to a spiritual teacher that is based on obedience and is intentionally hierarchical, though spiritual groups will typically cast this hierarchy as a gift of love and service on the part of the teacher
- Leftists encourage openness with regards to one's emotions, building collective anger and manifesting passionate negativity against a common enemy, whereas spiritual travelers tend to emphasize equanimity, politeness, and an interpersonal ethics based on consideration of the Other - all Others, including political enemies - before oneself.
Where I live, many a radical-left organization surely has much to gain by cultivating virtues of reflexivity - and probably it's the same where you live. Training group members in reasonable intellectual discussion, 'self-care' or even good manners are all commendable undertakings. But a commitment to practices of good intellectual debate, warm and kind interpersonal relationships, and individual psychological well-being does NOT IN ANY WAY preclude group members or even the group as a whole from acting horribly.
Liu Shaoqi stressed the need forcommunists to practice self-cultivation, urging his aspiring comrades to discover their ''wrong ideas, habits and prejudices and correct them,'' -- all in the service, we should add, of a party that was at that point a Stalinist repression machine. Medieval European knights were at the same time mystics travelling the Path of Love AND ruthless warriors wrecking the lives of ordinary people. Fuck - even ISIS has its spiritual commitments, and I'm not talking about the Egyptian goddess here.
To put it less dramatically, a group that aims to change the consciousness of its members for the better, while at the same time holding on to worldly goals (political or otherwise) risks merely reprogramming its members to subordinate themselves to The Cause. And note these Causes may very well contradict social or political progress. There's a reason spiritual organizations on the saner end of the spectrum usually refuse to appoint a representative to take the Seat of God on this planet, making do with a strategy of 'tuning into God's Spirit,' or something similar. (And a similar case could be made for consciously anti-authoritarian political groups.)
The old Chaos Marxist principle ‘‘don’t confuse the levels’’ still rings true. In the end, you can't get there yourself, which means you can't get there with a collection of selves-who-haven't-been-there, either.