16 November 2006

The occultism of small businessmen

A kindly contributor known as "thistle" has made an extremely intelligent comment to Liber MCMXVII, that you really should all check out. I want to deal with one point s/he made here so that it doesn't get missed. Among other things, s/he states:

There is nothing in the libertarian philosophy which inherently guards against the fascist impulse except for wishful thinking.

There is a very fucked-up place where anarchism, libertarianism and fascism combine. That sounds weird to someone who doesn't understand what Marxism means by "petty-bourgeois ideology" - or, to put it another way, the reality-tunnel of the small businessman (and I use the masculine form advisedly). This is the idealisation of the status of the self-employed craftsman or producer, making a modest profit, answering to no master, hating the evil corporates who wish to enslave him as much as he hates the majority of people for being part of that very corporate collective.

Some of these bold memetic warriors and whatnot out there talk a good game about having lost their ego or destabilised their own reality tunnel or whatever, but that very basic view of the world - that the life of the small independent artisan or trader is the ideal - is never challenged. This would probably be due to the fact that most of them are artists, writers or other kinds of creative types, and the only model provided for success in this culture is the small business model. It is a regrettable species of blindness that so many of these people don't see that this is part of the problem. For a start, it writes off as "part of the problem" the vast majority of the population of the western world who are wage-slaves to these corporates.

The problem is that the utopia desired by these people - a world of tiny independent petty capitalists trading with each other on terms of equality - is about as possible as unscrambling an egg is possible. That phase of history has already gone. The corporates ate it. You can't play the film of history backwards. How are you going to break up Microsoft, Exxon, the IMF etc. to fit your mutualist fantasies? Our modern technological/industrial culture only works on the basis of worldwide co-operation and division of labour. I don't share the nostalgia for the early 19th century - what our friend "thistle" calls "romantic occultism" - that so many of these people seem to have. I want to jump-cut direct to the nasty, fun-loving remote future.

There is no future for small, independent capitalism. The only way to defeat the corporates is to go through them. A self-conscious worldwide working class could use the structures of co-operation built by globalised capitalism for good, rather than evil. But that means giving up on methodological individualism. It means accepting that the path to greater human power and liberation lies in co-operation and building community, not in an autistic retreat to an ego-ideal that has been out of date since at least 1848.

As much as I love Robert Anton Wilson as an iconoclast and a good bloke, his politics as contained in his late 70's early 80's books show a disturbing love for the same kind of "third way", petty-bourgeois, Social-Credit-meets-techno-utopian politics which have been adopted these days by "soft fascists" like Troy Southgate (do a websearch on "rosenoire"). Mutualism, distributism, "guild socialism"... all these ideas based on tiny affinity groups negotiating with each other from a difference would require giving up on the world-wide networking and potential co-operation which is the main redeeming feature of modern capitalism. And it all stems from the fact that the people in this culture who are capable of thinking outside the square have been "recuperated" by not even questioning, for a moment, that the capitalist epoch's idea of "individuality" is real.

The future lies in collectives and co-operation, not in "free trade". The only question now is - will the corporations collectivise humanity? Or will humanity collectivise the corporates?


As to Situationism: my comrade Ben Watson has some pretty good things to say.


  1. I'm not real knowledgeable, and I too think a lot of that libertarian stuff a la Robert Anton Wilson needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but I think it might not be defensible to say that there's soemthing to the whole "Third Way" anarchist strand of thought. Again, I'm not a partisan, although I've read Wilson, Kropotkin, Henry George, and Charles Derber's "Corporation Nation" as well as Marx. I think that if we want to counteract what's wrong with capitalism and the world in general, we could do worse than to keep some of these other ideas on the table, especially in light of, you know, Stalin and stuff.

  2. I want to be a member of the worker class because???

    Why do I want to join in collectivist people that I have nothing in common with? Just because we both hate the corporate destruction of the world and the oligarchs that run it?

    I trust the masses of workers to put me up against a wall just after they finish with the rich.

  3. I trust the masses of workers to put me up against a wall just after they finish with the rich.

    And it's precisely that kind of elitist-bordering-on-solipsist attitude which ensures that most so-called "magicians" are actually practising nothing more than a rarified form of masturbation.

  4. Well, I gave up on occultism as so much wish fulfilment and wanking but ok.

    You didn't really address my point. Why should I want to partake of the collectivist class action of the proles? Because it is right and because we oppose the same tyrants?

    It could be argued that the proles want nascar and hotdogs from Walmart.

    I actually agree with quite a bit of marxist thought but I don't think what you're saying as a critique is going to convince anyone who isn't already a marxist.

  5. The political analysis that this blog defends argues that it is only the mass of proles who can change the world. No-one else can.

    I'm not actually interested in "converting" people to a Marxist analysis on this blog - there are plenty of excellent websites that make those arguments. Chaos Marxism serves to try to synthesise parapsychology and dialectical materialism. I don't actually want to be rude, but if you're not convinced by occultism or Marxism then you may be in the wrong place. ;-)

  6. Occultism had most of 20 years to convince me.

    What convinced me in the end? Buddhism, the four noble truths, emptiness.

    Class struggle. Whatever. Good luck, you'll need it against all of the perversions you'll fight and all the ones that would follow success. :-)

  7. Marxism has been oppressing people for about 100 years. whether its Mao, Stalin or Castro or the evil bureaucracies in europe with cmeras on every corner they all suck. Robert Anton Wilson was a client of mine and he gladly spoke at several Libertarian Party conventions. There are more libertarians than there are Greens, Marxists, left anarchists and Ocupiers put together. And we elect people too.