19 January 2018

Can the Left meme?


One of the reasons for the year's sabbatical I took from this project - and for the rather depressed and mopey posts for a year or two before that - was that I had come to the conclusion that the goddamn fascists had eaten our lunch. It wasn't inevitable that *chan-based meme culture would become White Nationalist Boogie Wonderland. Anonymous - as came out of Chanology and went on to become a social movement which put the fear of the Lord into various governments and multinational corporations after that - was smashed by state action, with the help of various informants, in the 2013-14 period. Meanwhile, the culture was being deliberately infiltrated by meme-planting Nazi scum, co-ordinated ("marblecaked", as we used to say) from Stormfront. The vacuum was filled.

Bear with me for a moment while I go on one of my Abe Simpson-style long stories that don't go anywhere ("I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time..."

Many moons ago I was rooming with a guy who was an Army Reservist, a generally decent character but a "bro" in every sense of the world. One night I was woken from a slumber because he'd gotten a bunch of his buddies around to watch porn. I got up and, being young and naive, had no idea what the attraction was. That's just gross, I said. Look at that guy, he's naked except for a false nose, glasses and a tie because he's ashamed to be in this. The sex is not erotic in any way, you can't actually be getting turned on by this. Why exactly do you watch this stuff?

He looked at me as if I was stupid, and said: "Because it's naughty."

THERE, comrades and friends, lies the central secret of meme culture. Being bad is its own reward. Lacan spoke of this as jouissance, the pleasure which turns into pain, the obscene pleasure which is commanded by the very Law forbidding it. The chief cause of crime is the criminal law, as R. A. Wilson might have put it.

And the problem with the modern Left is that we're too good for our own good. The glory days of social-liberal politics were the 60s and 70s Reichian hippies, making their stand for (a very masculinized) sexual liberation. Once they took cultural power in the early 80s, sexual libertinism became the new orthodoxy, which is why you had the Alex P. Keatons of the era rebelling against it and becoming Reagan Youth. Then the hippies came back as the neo-shamans and ravers of the 1990s and fought against the orthodoxy of neoliberal rationality/rationalism. Now we've once again swung back to the point where - as the noted asshole P. J. Watson puts it - "conservatism is the new punk rock".

What I'm saying is that the modern neoliberal-Left is aligned with the Superego against the Id. Liberal politics or conservative-left politics (as opposed to radical-left politics) are all about restricting how people talk, restricting how people can behave, setting rules of the type which are beloved by both neoliberalism and traditional SocDem statism. People keep saying this, or at least saying that the modern alt-right/neo-fascist movement is "the Id" come to life - in the case of the Dorito Mussolini now squatting in the White House, someone called him "a YouTube comments box come to life". Remember how everyone has been saying for the last 10 years don't read the comments? Well, that didn't work as a self-defence mechanism for the neoliberal orthodoxy of the mass media, because the repressed always returns. (The metaphor of anonymous Internet comments as being "below the lines" of the article is a pretty clear spatial metaphor of their psychic role, just like Jung's dream of successive sub-basements, later ripped off by Lovecraft in "The Rats in the Walls".)

To sum it up, the "Left can't meme" because it is clearly more fun to be a Nazi in the year 2018.

***

I raised this issue on the CM Facebook group and I got a lot of valuable counterarguments. One ran thus:

The left CAN meme. Just browse /leftypol/, or even some parts of leftbook.

Ha ha, but /leftypol/ is not the Left. At least, it's not the Left that Chaos Marxism wants anything to do with it. Those fuckers are mostly tankies.

(If you're a tankie, you've read too much already. GTFO OFF THIS BLOG!!!

Now let me backtrack slightly and I do know some very decent comrades who do come out of the self-described Marxist-Leninist tradition.* A "tankie" is not just someone who goes carryin' pictures of Chairman Mao. A "tankie" is historically someone who believes in the Russian Tanks road to socialism - someone who not only sees nothing wrong with building a new world on the crushed bones of the Bad People, but actively sees that as a good thing. The "new world" they want is a properly organised one, not a democratic-egalitarian one. As Trotsky noted, the British aristocratic Fabian reformers Beatrice and Sidney Webb hated the Russian Revolution until it was thoroughly Stalinised.

* Note that Trots never call themselves MLs, but just "Leninists", or "Bolshevik-Leninists" on occasion. Chaos Marxism is anti-Stalinist, post-Trot and post-Leninist.

A tankie is someone who reuses the iconography of the Stalin and post-Stalin/Warsaw Pact era, not in the sad, half-ironic sense that another neo-Leninist might (as melancholic reminders of a future which never happened), but in that they actually think Joe Stalin, the Gulags, the Great Purge, barbed wire and concrete walls right through the centre of Europe, corrupt rule by an arrogant bureaucracy etc., were a good thing and they would bring them back (or defend them, in the case of the DPRK or even modern China). Because Joe Stalin (Enver Hoxha, the Korean Kim Dynasty, etc) were tough guys, Big Daddies, who pwned the hated enemy. Because that's the final argument isn't it? The Red Army chased Hitler back to the Berlin bunker and therefore Stalin was just all right by me.

What exactly is the difference between this and a MAGA-hat wearing, Pepe-meme sharing Trumpist? You tell me.

"Horseshoe theory" is centrist bunkum. There is no inevitable identity between the far left and the fascist right. Stalinism at least paid lip service to democratic ideals that outright fascism happily danced on the grave of. But there always has been an essential identity, a "dirty secret" shared between Stalinism and the fascist right. Stalinism is essentially red-brown politics, not socialism but a disgusting parody of socialism which has a sneaking affinity for actual fascists. Before there was Stalingrad, there was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and before that there was the Third Period, the German Communists actually lining up with the Nazis against the hated social democrats and liberals. Sam Charles Hamad (who doesn't speak to me anymore) was the first to point out that this wasn't just realpolitik, "enemy's enemy" stuff, but that the Stalinists had a programmatic commonality with the fascists - against the alliance of the Western allies, for strong-state autarky and an "ordered" society. And we're going back there, in the form of the Berners 4 Trump, "Lexit", Putin and Assad = Cool Bastards "alt-left".

Meme-Stalinism, then, is nothing but *chan-fascism with different-colored memes. Just masochistic surrender to Big Daddy as a fuck you to a liberal establishment which COMMANDS you to be liberated and to think for yourself. Leonard Cohen said "give me back the Berlin Wall, give me Stalin and St. Paul", but that was irony. If that's your proof that "the Left can meme", I don't want any part of it.

Chaos Marxism stands against the tide, in opposing both neoliberal "don't read the comments" goodthink and red-brown masochistic authoritarianism. Give us proof that our Left can meme. Please.

... okay, I don't like to end on a down note, so here's a song the best Leftist meme of 2017: