01 November 2006

Second practical idea

One comment I've heard occasionally is that socialism needs to be "rebranded", to purge the taint of the syphilitic parody that was Stalinism. While I think the word itself is still servicable, the truth is that Marxists do need to remember that the map is not the territory - that symbols are only useful in so far as they serve the actual purpose on the ground. For example: the Russian revolutionaries called their ideas "social democracy" until that term became tainted with the Western social-democrat parties' signing up to World War I - they then took on the name of "communist". In my country, we ditched that term after 1991 in an effort to exorcise the ghost of Stalin and his imitators. The name is only important in that it conveys an idea of liberating action, not one of bureaucratic paralysis and oppression.

It is totally up in the air whether the phrase "working class" or the red flag can still be used, or whether new memes will have to replace them. I mentioned "tribe of the workers" before - don't know whether that will have general effectiveness yet.

The Marxist method runs concrete->abstract->concrete; actions produce ideas and ideas can provoke further action. To put it in magical jargon, we start with the memes and thoughtforms which arise spontaneously from anti-corporate activity, transmute them magically to give them the best chance of survival and replication, and then release them back into the infosphere of the activity where they were born. To put it in a hopefully jargon-free way: we must start with the ideas and symbols that arise spontaneously from the actively existing struggle, work on them to "sharpen them up" for maximum effectiveness and general application, and then use them to inspire further struggle.

To give an example: the Marxist idea of a workers' council as the structure of a post-capitalist state wasn't made up by Marx or Lenin sitting in a library. One spontaneously appeared in the Paris Commune of 1871, and Marx recognized it as the seed of a new state. The next time they appeared - in the Russian Revolution - Marx's heirs recognized what they were and did their best to encourage the new meme to grow and spread. Eventually - all too briefly - they did succeed in smashing the old reality.

It is in this light that my comments about the Unborn Goddess should be taken. Any memes cooked up by a single ideological worker / artist / mage hunched over a computer, an altar or a drawing board will be of limited usefulness at best because they don't arise from the group consciousness of the actually existing struggle. The best you can do with that is tinker with your own psyche (which of course has its place, but is not at the forefront of the Great Work). We are not initiators of the New Culture - we can only hope to be its midwives.