06 October 2008

I've got some bad news, Mr Spock

Jim Robertson, lider maximo of perhaps the ultimate crazed pseudo-Marxist cult the Spartacist League, has a saying which surprisingly has some truth to it: "Program generates theory". Generally "Marxists" prefer to believe that it's the other way around - that their plans of action are based on a scientific dialectical materialist analysis of the world. But it simply doesn't happen that way. The decision to act precedes the rationalisation of the act - and, friends and comrades, that applies to the decisions of individuals as well as organisations. Decisions to act can be absed on many other sources of knowledge - instinct, subconscious compulsion, primate territorial politics, intuitive insight, even mutterings from God / the Holy Guardian Angel / the Zeitgeist / whatever you call the little voice in your head which comes up with all the good ideas.

The purpose of rationality and logic is to work out why the decision to act did or didn't work, post-facto, and give suggestions for future options. "The owl of Minerva flies at twilight," said Hegel, meaning it's generally impossible to rationally work out what's going on until it's all over, and he was damn straight - all the decision-making forces above operate much much quicker than rationality or logic do. Also, you can make correct intuitive leaps based on incomplete information, a situation in which rationality doesn't work very well (which is why neoclassical economics is bullshit, parenthetically).

Interestingly enough, this suggests that the reason no activist organisation can operate by strict formal democracy / consensus is exactly the same as the reason that Vulcan society wouldn't really work - it takes too long and it's uncreative. "Paralysis by analysis" is a hard fact. "Leadership", we can tentatively suggest, embodies something of the irrational - rationality and logic can come out of a committee and in fact are probably best when they do, but intuition and creativity never do.

Now the place where Marxists keep coming up with this problem is discussing the Russian Revolution. If Lenin had fallen under that train at the Finland Station in April 1917, would the Congress of Soviets still have seized power six months later? Trotsky said "probably not". But aren't you just ending up at the "great man" theory of history there, something anathematic to Marxism? Another Marxist historian, whose name I forget, explained further: "The Revolution would probably not have happened without Lenin, but Lenin was made by the Bolshevik Party". I.e. - Lenin was only the leader in October 1917 because of his 20 years experience to that date acting up at the sharp end of underground revolutionary politics in Russia. And a lot of what happened after October 1917 also finds its roots in that fertile yet murky soil - reasonable people can disagree over whether, on balance, it was all worth it.

We certainly don't want to have any truck with any "great man" theories, which tend to end up at the nightmarish terminus of the fascist F├╝hrerprinzip - in which irrational leadership completely replaces rational analysis. That generally ends in fire, or a bullet to the brain in a bunker under a burning city. But Chaos Marxism can tentatively suggest:

  • A successful movement balances the irrational and the rational, the democratic and the autocracy of creativity, the collective and the individual.

  • Analysis is collective - leadership is individual. But the collective makes the individual who can give leadership, and the individuals make up the collective which makes the analysis.

  • The leader creates the followers as much as vice-versa. This probably goes back to our most essential primate nature, as in generally all an ape has to do is act like Troop Leader and he'll pick up some kind of troop. Everyone can "know" what needs to be done, but it really does take one brave soul to actually set out in that direction.

  • It is tempting to speculate that "natural leaders" are those individuals who embody most closely, in their background and individuality, the "current" of the movement which they find themselves leading. Which brings up the suggestion, based on the whole tradition of Western occultism, that an individual can hack their own personality in order to "invoke the Godform" of the movement.

Yes, what I am suggesting here is that Chaos Marxism is concretising itself as the magickal science of identifying the essential memetic "current" of the actually existing vanguard movement among the class... and of invoking that current in those individuals called to be leaders of that vanguard, and evoking that current in culture, agitation and propaganda to make it spread. (That's the "irrational" bit of it, anyway. The "rational" bit is still all about attempting to create a materialist science of memetics/culture/psychology/ideology.)

Chaos Marxism is based on science, as we keep saying, but mistaking "science" for hard-core logical skepticism is what Pope Bob called "Fundamentalist Materialism" (capitals in the original). Watson and Crick came up with the double helix structure of DNA in a vision, as did that fellow who intuited the structure of the carbon ring. The non-rational can be scientific, too - as long as in a mutually reinforcing dialectic with the rational/evidential/pragmatic.