2infantile4u: How the Ideas of the Communist Left are Still Useful

What can communists in the 21st century learn from the classic Left-Communist current? 

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Left communism is sometimes described as a confused, limited tendency. Critiques range from questioning the relevance of its ideas to disputing the validity of even calling oneself a left communist. A large issue of contention is the Communist League’s shift away from a position closer to the communist left, to a position seeking communist electoralism. Left communism encompasses quite a few positions; the Communist League has not made a hard break with all them. As someone who describes themselves as a left communist, I would like to go over the usefulness that still exists in these ideas and in doing so critique some the ideas currently proposed by the Communist League at large.

As I began to drift away from marxism-leninism and learn of the other currents of marxism, I coincidentally came in contact with the group that would become the Communist League of Tampa. I found a group of like-minded Internationalists with an interest in left communism. Donald Parkinson even wrote an article about Gavril Myasnikov, filling the Guevara-shaped hole in my heart. Along with many of the League’s current detractors, I was alarmed by the complete acceptance of electoralism as a communist strategy by most members. The legitimacy of claiming CLT to be a left communist group is all but gone. it is essentially a multi-tendency group with an interest in orthodox Marxism. Its members are still genuine, well-read communists and I don’t believe all members must agree on all topics for a group of our nature.

Likely the most basic critique of left communism from those familiar with it is whether someone can claim to be a left communist and also if the prominent left communists are similar enough to make a legitimate tendency. Firstly, calling one’s self a left communist in our period probably is dubious. However, it still serves as useful shorthand for a distinctly internationalist and uncompromisingly working class-centered worldview. Left-wing communism, coined by Lenin as an insult towards communist critics of the Bolsheviks, has origins as a catch-all and subsequently has diverse opinions within it. Although the prominent marxists of this selection did not find themselves in a united opposition to the degeneration of the revolutionary movement, their similar criticism and overlapping themes of communism as a movement gives them them the coherence that marks political tendencies. Reading their works with the correct historical context makes for the most adequate understanding of the communist movement and especially its petering out in the 20th century. Still, I think the emphases and viewpoints of the communist left has great relevance to modern capital and the left.

The modern landscape of the left organizations do not seek to push for a theoretical line or gain influence among even a subset of the working class. Obviously a political group cannot just will this influence into existence, but as the left and the labor movement remains defeated these organizations will make little way in recruitment and even less in tangible effects on the social ills of capitalism. What these leftist organizations lack in understanding and what the ideas of left communism have to offer is the re-enforcement of the idea of class activity as a central part of the working class achieving power and emancipation. Its as if an illusion of progress brought about by bank-sponsored labor day events yield results only visible to the activist. I think Amadeo Bordiga’s criticism of activism and the seemingly endless stage play of outrage without any sustainability are an important message to the left:

. . .the bourgeoisie, putting into practice bold reforms in the organization of production and of the State (State Capitalism, totalitarianism, etc.), has delivered a shattering and disorienting blow, sowing doubt and confusion, not against the theoretical and critical foundations of Marxism, which remain intact and unaffected, but rather against the capacity of the proletarian vanguards to apply those Marxist principles precisely in the interpretation of the current stage of bourgeois development. (Bordiga, “Activism”)

Even though left communists such as Bordiga and Anton Pannekoek had differing views in quite a few respects, they both saw the working class as inescapably central to a successful communist movement and attempts to change that constant leading only to degeneration. In our modern day reliance on politicians to champion the specific symptoms of capitalism, the ideas of the communist left could re-introduce some concepts that articulate not avenues around the working class, but why they are necessary.

National Liberation, as an avenue to socialism, serves as a good example of one of the untouchable concepts people are introduced to within the left. ‘To not support national liberation or nationalism of the oppressed is to betray all legitimacy as a communist’, that is the typical line. A sentiment so strong it could make a Stalin-lover swoon over Khrushchev, for his blanket support for national liberation. Though the stated support for nation states is just that, a statement. A soundly applied analysis of the nation state within capitalism could bring some to question the assumptions that come with being integrated into the left. Marx and Engels had already preemptively described why socialism would be impossible in one country (see question 19 of The Principles of Communism), but many militants of the communist left brought back this basic analysis while adapting it to the national liberation ideology that was grafting itself onto communism in the 20th century. Being the gatekeepers of Marxism, the Stalinist parties very successfully melded the concepts of ‘socialism in one country’ and national liberation into being core components to a post-cold war radical left.

The concept of ideological anti-imperialism has been the outcome of this thought as national liberation itself becomes less relevant. It will aid the left in moving on from the holdovers of being a cold warrior to understand the fundamental ineffectiveness of these nationally and ethnically based fights for equality through statehood. If not to just make us look less like jackasses defending horrid states like the DPRK and the Syrian government out of hatred for our own states and their imperialist histories. In all seriousness socialists became popular because of their opposition to pointless inter-imperialist conflict not for supporting the underdog in it. I think there is a completely definable line between understanding the reason for struggle leading to national liberation, but being honest about its dead end. This is summed up nicely by left communist, Paul Mattick:

   Although socialists sympathies are with the oppressed, they relate not to emerging nationalism but to the particular plight of twice-oppressed people who face both a native and foreign ruling class. Their national aspirations are in part “socialist” aspirations, as they include the illusory hope of impoverished populations that they can improve their conditions through national independence. Yet national self-determination has not emancipated the laboring classes in the advanced nations. It will not do so now in Asia and Africa. (Mattick, “Nationalism and Socialism”)

In a way I see the line of the communist left as decluttering the notions of who is the enemy of communists and the workers. Many tendencies in the radical left seem to be falling to notions that the main antagonist for the radical left is the American imperialist or the fascist. As communists of course these are to be opposed, but simply put the answer to defeating them lies in defeating capitalism. The communist left may seem reductive in their dead set analysis of capitalism and the need for its survival being the root of these problems, but history seems to favor this analysis. I think this is important currently when we deal with the age of opposition to Donald Trump. It is ridiculous to abandon all principles and act as if the problems of capitalism fell from the sky the day Trump took office. In our critique of antifascism, it is clear why it is alarming to see these antifascists concede to the idea that this particular figurehead of capital is an anomalous and particularly worse representative.

Although the stakes are not as high, this is fundamentally the popular-frontist position applied to Donald Trump. While crackdowns on dissent, further erosion of the welfare state, and continual war are in the works for us, these are long standing trends that did not begin with the election of Trump nor would they have abated with a Clinton victory. However, much of the left is easily corralled into believing that this is the time to defend democracy from the anomaly. Communists of our perspective urge that we see the issue as capitalism and not just the people currently in charge. All the more ironic that this view is blamed for Trump’s victory and the rise of fascism when it is this same bourgeois leadership that always hands the house keys to the fascists in times of crisis. Although I find it hyperbolic to label Trump as a fascist, I think the critique of popular fronts can be applied to the left’s rationalizing of America under Trump. Gilles Dauvé describes the tactic employed by the bourgeoisie to use the radical left as defenders of liberal democracy:

If they succeed in dominating the situation, the creation of this new political form will use up people’s energy, fritter away radical aspirations and, with the means becoming the end, will once again turn revolution into an ideology. Against them, and of course against overtly capitalist reaction, the proletarians’ only path to success will be the multiplication of concrete communist initiatives. . .(Dauvé, When Insurrections Die)

Many Communist League of Tampa members have adopted the view that an effective communist movement not only can, but should engage in the electoral process. Donald Parkinson laid out the basis of this view and ends up conflicting with one of the most consistent positions among the communist left. Fellow member Donald brings up that anti-electoralism is a position taken without thought by the left and I’d agree that more of the left should read up on early communist participation to draw their conclusion. I still think the weariness of electoralism is justified for the radical left and I believe abstentionists of the early 20th century have insight that accurately assess the limitations of parliamentarianism for communists.

An agreeable point is one on the use elections as platforms of agitation and propaganda in the correct level of revolutionary fervor. They can be used as gauges of support and displays of power. However, I believe the need to move from bourgeois institutions in periods of higher struggle was succinctly pointed out by abstentionists of the Third International. The party that integrates itself into the power of the state seems to develop an instinct to protect that position and also form factions sympathetic to the state within it, with the SPD as a prime example. In the current CLT position it is believed that the tendency of communists in state positions to favor their position and party unity can be overcome. I think skepticism of this position is justified in looking at the way in which the right of a party is allowed to consolidate power and betray the working class when in a position of elected power. In situations like the one SPD found itself in during the German Revolution I don’t believe measures to make the party leadership accountable will work when it is engaged with the bourgeois state at a time of that state’s vulnerability. The leftcom position would see the case of the SPD as the rule and not merely an anecdote, as Anton Pannekoek described, “When personal statesmanship has to compensate for what is lacking in the active power of the masses, petty diplomacy develops; whatever intentions the party may have started out with, it has to try and gain a legal base, a position of parliamentary power; and so finally the relationship between means and ends is reversed, and it is no longer parliament that serves as a means towards communism”.

I would also argue that right-wing deviation within a communist party in legislative power comes from stagnation in the possible gains from parliamentarianism and that it would be unavoidable in this parliamentary road. Though Donald does wisely call for a diversity of tactics and not just electoral focus, I think the work within the bounds of the state will lead to an opportunistic right that will need to be fiercely oppose and defanged. I would regret not including a quote about this phenomenon from the ultimate sass-master Bordiga, again from “Activism”:

we saw the sordid conclusion of the super-activism of social democracy: after decades of activity entirely devoted to the conquest of parliamentary seats, of mixed trade union commissions, and of political influence, that had bathed them in an aura of unstoppable activism.

This is not to imply that left communism is a tradition with all the answers or without need of reevaluation. The already sectarian nature of the defeated left leaves modern left communist organizations some of the most sectarian and ideologically demanding. Some of these qualities are greatly exaggerated for their lack of compromise with more center/reformist positions, but this description can still be true. Although I enjoy much of the writings of the International Communist Current, I don’t believe it would be unfounded to call some of their positions class reductionist. Additionally, some left communists in their opposition to the trappings of reformism, reject outright advocating for alleviating the ills of capitalism. It is true that any gains in alleviation are at the mercy of the capitalist state, but it is useful to bring our views to the table and join the working class when they actively take up these reforms.

In other ways this strongly working class-centered view can lead to seeming irrelevancy is a dismissal of social issues. I’ve enjoyed bordigist texts on race, but I believe the historical council communists’ view on social topics may leave us out of the 21st century. I think this Theorie Communiste piece, “Communisation vs Spheres” on feminism describes this well:

True to its origins, this current remained fundamentally anti-feminist in its period of total marginalization. Feminist ideology was interpreted as one of those ‘modernisms’, which substituted for the proletariat a new revolutionary subject (e.g. women, the youth, or immigrants). Of course, there is an anti-class feminism, but it does not speak for all feminists.

Some of the issues of left communism having a place today could be found in a pattern noticeable even in this article, that being mostly negative assertions. Seemingly more positions opposed than taken. Left communist works often function as the most fundamentally communist line attempting to push the movement to its most powerful and encompassing conclusion. As we adapt to this setting we should be attempting to lay a concrete vision for the world allowing with our usual critique of the capitalist state and the left at large. I hope to see more organizations such as the comrades in Worker’s Offensive, trying to actively engage the world despite the landscape of the defeated communist movement (to be fair I don’t know what the activity is like of all leftcom groups).

I don’t believe people need to unequivocally accept all the opinions of left communist theoreticians(that literally wouldn’t be possible), in fact Dauvé’s “Notes on Trotsky, Pannekoek, Bordiga” ends with the message that we should always contextualize prominent marxists and take the good and leave the bad. It is a travesty that the works of these genuine, militant radicals are kicked to the wayside because they are not the words of a eventual head of state or romantic revolutionary. The problems facing the left today can’t be entirely boiled down to theory, however theory informs praxis and that is clear in looking at the modern left. As internationalists we push for the most radical line for proletarian power and as long as the proletariat exists the ideas of genuine communists will remain useful.

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Kill All Normies – neither radical or useful

If you’re searching for a materialist analysis of the alt-right or modern identity politics, look elsewhere.

Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies is a short book, but its created a massive amount of controversy in the left. Unfortunately much of it has taken the form twitter harassment rather than actual debate. The topic of the alt-right, which is basically the current ideological form of “counter-revolution” in the US is a serious topic Marxists should understand, despite how marginal it is. However much of the controversy around Nagle’s book is focused on whether or not she is a transphobe. Nagle’s gender politics are definitely conservative, but more important than Nagle’s personal views is whether the book provides an accurate and useful narrative for understanding the alt-right and how these views influence her understanding. I believe the narrative that Nagle presents regarding the rise of the alt-right is basically off the mark and will try to provide an alternative narrative. I have spent quite a bit of time studying the alt-right and the beliefs of their main ideologues, so I feel like I have some level of knowledge that I can bring to the table.

First of all, what are the merits of the book? On one end it does provide a decent geography of the alt-right subculture, and does comprehend that this subculture is very much divided. On one end you have the alt-right proper, who are committed white nationalists and patriarchal traditionalists that believe in anti-semitic conspiracy theories.  These are your followers of Richard Spencer, Greg Johnson, Red Ice Radio, Identity Europa, Matt Heimbach, Kevin Macdonald, and Christopher Cantwell. On the other end you have what is derided by these more hardcore white nationalists as the alt-lite, figures like Milo, Paul Joseph Watson, Sargon of Akkad, Jordan Peterson, Mike Cernovitch and Gavin Mcinnes. The alt-lite stays away from anti-semitism and focuses more on opposing identity politics, rejecting the alt-right for being identity politics for whites. While there are reactionary viewpoints of all kinds shared by both sides, Nagle does have awareness of some of the contradictions within the broader new right. 

Nagle does also demonstrate how social media has changed the terrain of politics, where memes are now an important part of a presidential campaign. While focusing on this instead probably would’ve made for a more interesting book, Nagle does demonstrate how the ability of the alt-right to use the internet to wage a campaign of cultural subversion is an example of how online spaces have become places where political discourse is developed. There is an argument to be made that the far-right has done the best job at mastering the medium of the internet so far, leading to the popular phrase that “the left can’t meme.”

The left of course can meme, but its internet subcultures are critiqued pretty harshly by Nagle. Her argument that tumblr ID politics are based on a cult of victimhood is coupled with a sort of dismissal of the actual reason tumblr ID politics exist. Her take on identity politics has also been a large part of the controversy around the book. For example, Nagle mocks the “spoon theory” that people with disabilities use to describe the drudgery of suffering from chronic fatigue and physical dysfunction in a cruel world of market domination. She also says that women who have never been in the military most likely don’t suffer PTSD when arguing wholesale against the idea of trigger warnings. There is also her treatment of Judith Butler, where she is blamed for the fringe phenomena of ‘otherkin’ which is mostly invoked to mock transgender individuals. It comes off in bad taste, callous and dismissive of the real oppression people suffer from. Fans of Kill All Normies point to the negative reaction to the book from “social justice tumblr and twitter” as proving the books point. All it really proves is that leftists aren’t a fan of conservative gender politics and mocking disabled people, which is correct and rightfully so.

The reason tumblr ID politics exists is that people experience real oppression in their daily lives, and a lack of collective solutions leads people to individualistic methods of coping with this. Of course this culture can also have a toxic side of heavily policing people’s views and online harassment. But the alt-right doesn’t simply gain followers by seeking out the most absurd and excessive examples of tumblr ID politics to try and paint the entire left as ‘irrational’ rather than emotional. This is a tactic the right has always used, taking the excesses of the left to argue against the very principles of the left. Most people can comprehend that what a small minority that the right focuses on doesn’t represent the entire left.

While it was treatment of the topic of tumblr feminism that caused the most rage from some quarters of the left, the primary problem with Kill All Normies primarily lies within the narrative of how the alt-right came into existence, using a methodology that itself has more in common with liberal cultural theory than marxist materialism. Nagle’s theory is essentially this: 1) liberal multiculturalism and diversity have become the main ideology of “elites” 2) there is a long tradition of transgression that goes back to the Marquis De Sade, that once belonged to the left and 3) now that liberal multiculturalism is the dominant ideology, attempts to be transgressive today will simply mean attacking the values of these liberal elites and the culture of 4chan provides a perfect medium for this. So therefore the Alt-Right are not so much in the tradition of far right politics but rather that of Antonin Artaud, George Bataille or even the Situationists, subverting the modern hegemony of liberal political correctness. 

There are many problems with this narrative. For one it mostly sees the alt-right as a purely online phenomena, while ideologues like Richard Spencer and Kevin MacDonald have been organizing their think tanks and affinity groups for quite some time, and as proven by events in Charloettesville they are quite willing to take their ideas ‘to the streets’. There is a lack of information about the actual alt-right as it exists in the real world. Politics happens in the real world, not on the internet. Nothing is said about the efforts of white supremacist organizers like Identity Europa or the Traditionalist Workers Party to organize frats or rural workers and what kind of visions these groups have (a balkanization of the US and the create of an all-white “enthno state” is a common one). Rather Nagle pretends the alt-right is only an online phenomena, when these people have been trying to promote these politics for years. While one could say the book is focused on online culture wars, these “culture wars” do not exist in a vacuum isolated from the society that created them. 

Nagle also completely ignores the role of Ron Paul libertarianism. Anyone who understands the alt-right knows there’s a connection between libertarian politics and the alt-right, and that many people disappointed by the failure of Ron Paulism turned to the alt-right. Most of us can name at least one libertarian friend who ended up going pro-Trump or full on white identitarian. Libertarianism, an ideology where all morality is based on property rights in a country built on a foundation of slavery and segregation attracts racists. Libertarianism’s emphasis on competition can lead its followers to embrace Social Darwinism and explore ideas related to race realism. This creates a connection between white identitarians and libertarianism.  A case example is Christopher Cantwell, who started as a libertarian online ideologue but came to decide that fascism was needed to create a white “ethno-state” that would make libertarian economics possible. But this is hardly a new phenomena, since libertarians like Murray Rothbard have also cooperated with the racialist right. From Ron Paul’s libertarian paleoconservatism it was very easy for many to move further to the right, especially realizing that Ron Paul wouldn’t solve their economic problems. It’s a common trope that there’s an expressway from libertarianism to the alt-right, with Richard Spencer himself starting in politics as an anti-war libertarian. The ‘base’ created by Ron Paul gathered people disaffected with the republican party with racist paleo-conservatives. There is a sort of vulgar positivism to libertarian ideology that bides well with race realism. Libertarianism ideology, at its most extreme in anarcho-capitalism, has even flirted with endorsement for monarchism over democracy such as in the works of Hans-Herman Hoppe. Seeing markets as more democratic than any kind of state institution, free market liberalism is itself is critical of all that is egalitarian and democratic and therefore in its most extreme variants biding well with the ideology of the alt-right.

Another problem lies in the premise that liberal multiculturalism, as expressed at its most extreme on tumblr, is the ideology of the ruling elite. The very notion of a ruling elite should be thrown out, for we live under the power of a ruling class. Furthermore, the ruling class is not homogeneous and competes within itself. So it is hard to say that there is one monolithic ruling class ideology, but rather there are different competing ideologies that are often contradictory. So while liberal multiculturalism is part of the ruling ideology, so is white supremacy. Bourgeois society isn’t one unified bloc.

Nagle seems to find the contradiction between the alt-right’s aesthetics of anime porn, vulgarity, and appeals to traditionalism as a fascinating new development in the right. It is true that we are used to typical religious conservative appeals to family values and condemning obscenity. Yet at the same time how many of these religious conservatives have been found to be complete hypocrites? A sense of moral transgression and deviance was also present in the original fascist movement. Gabriel D’Annuzio, whose attempt was to create a colony in Fiume based on the rule of bohemian intellectuals fueled by national chauvinism was a classic example. As Wilhelm Reich noted in Mass Psychology of Fascism, Nazi subculture used promises of sex and rebellious youth behavior like smoking cigarettes to win support from the youth. Julius Evola got his start in dada. So fascists have used forms of transgression before. It’s just not a transgression that attacks the basic moral fabric of capitalism itself. Rather, they attack the democratic aspects of modern capitalist society, like universal suffrage and the notion of human rights for oppressed groups, which are often won through popular struggle in defiance to capitalism. It is the simply part of the psuedo-revolutionary aspect of capitalism, presenting tradition and order as a revolutionary alternative to the decadence of modernity.

The idea alt-right are being transgressive against the rulers of culture is only true in the most shallow sense. Their inherently anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic ideology is actually fully compatible with capitalism. Ultimately, norms like nationalism and the family are upheld by the alt-right, norms which are essential for the reproduction of capitalism. While some alt-righters might try to move towards a sort of third positionist attempt to combine anti-capitalism with their idea of counter-revolution, ultimately their ideas amount to economic nationalism and localism and don’t actual challenge the rule of private property. So while the alt-right may revel in their sense of transgressiveness, it has nothing to do with the tradition of transgression represented by De Sade or Bataille who were attacking the moral authority of the ruling class itself. The alt-right yearn for a ruling class with firmly established moral authority.

The roots of the alt-right are not in the historical tradition of transgression. Rather they are part of the tradition of counter-enlightenment, the ideologies of those who wished to forever undo 1789 and 1917. De Maistre and Carlyle, Nietzsche, Julius Evola, Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Mussolini, and Martin Heidegger are the intellectual heritage of the alt-right. It is the intellectual heritage of opposition to enlightenment ideals and the marxist perfection of these ideas, such as universalism, human equality, the desire to be free from domination, the attack on illegitimate authority, an opposition to the patriarchal family. These are thinkers who in the cases of the bourgeois revolution of 1789 and the proletarian revolution of 1917 virulently opposed the general attempt to make a better humanity and put forward ideals that directly negated the notions of human equality, questioning of tradition and self-rule. Instead tradition, hierarchy, patriarchy, and ethnic collectivism were to be upheld. The intellectuals of the Alt-right like Richard Spencer are part of this tradition of ‘counter-revolution’ that most fiercely manifested itself in the Nazi death camps.  Yet they are counter-revolutionary ideologues without a revolution to crush.

We are living in a period where liberal centrism seems to be in crisis, and it’s hard to imagine things going the same way much longer. There is a sense of alienation and fear about the existing conditions, as well as a sense of paranoia. Without a strong left, the far-right will grow in situations like this even if there is no revolution to crush. And with swathes of young middle class men who are sexually repressed and blame the decadence of modern society as the cause their problems, specifically freedom for women, this counter-revolutionary politic can find a base. This is explored in the chapter on the manosphere in Nagle’s book, but hardly sufficiently.

As Matthew Lyons has pointed out, the modern alt-right is especially sexist and misogynistic compared to the far right of the past. Nagle does touch on this in her chapter that focuses on the manosphere, but in the process reveals her own conservative gender politics. For example she concludes in her chapter on the manosphere by saying that the “sexual revolution” has led to a “steep sexual hierarchy”, the decline of monogamy creating a “pecking order” amongst men. So accordingly, some men are inherently going to be at the bottom and denied sex, hence leading to the insanely sexist reactionary politics these men carry. So essentially the MRAs in a sense are right according to Nagle, that the “sexual revolution” has created a pecking order where some men are simply bound to lose.

Nagle doesn’t conclude from here that we need a reestablishment of intense patriarchal gender norms like the alt-right, but she essentially agrees that this has dealt men a bad hand which leads them to embrace reactionary gender roles. Yet it is better to understand the embrace of reactionary patriarchy by these young men as a reaction to the actual gains feminists have made for the rights of women, which men ideologized as being at their expense. They imagine an ideal where being born white and middle class would mean they’re guaranteed a hot wife, a 6 figure job and a family they’re in command of, an ideal that never existed. Instead they develop an ideology around the hatred of women and resentment, blaming ‘cultural marxist feminists’ for talking away this idealized past. The idea that these men just can’t get laid and are therefore doomed to be this reactionary just feeds exactly into the ideology of reddit incels.

The breakdown of the family as a unit of production under capitalism does do a huge blow to patriarchal relations and the domination of the family structure without eliminating it. This allows radical gender politics to develop because there is less of a patriarchal structure enforcing gender norms. The amount of divorces that occurs is a good metric for how much freedom women have. The rise of mass society also allows for women to participate in politics. One can see the intense sexism of the modern alt-right as a reaction to this. One particularly controversial alt-right meme is “White sharia”, the idea that whites need their own sharia law to put women back in their place. People don’t believe this stuff because they’re at the bottom of some imaginary sexual hierarchy, but because they’re delusional conspiracy theorists and revanchists against freedom for women. Their own hatred of women and feminism is probably a factor in why they are ‘incel’.

While there isn’t a revolution to be counter to, in the sense that they want to roll back the advances made for women due to the breakdown of family structures the alt-right is still in the tradition of reaction and counter revolution. For example, Julius Evola warned that capitalism is just as revolutionary and subversive as communism. So a sense of sexual resentment against women winning rights can be seen as a main factor that fuels the alt-right. The ideas of Wilhelm Reich (in his marxist period) on how the sexual repression of the patriarchal family structure fuels counter-revolution make sense in the context of the alt-right.

Another factor to take into consideration is the weakening of the global color line and the structures of white supremacy being less embedded in a formalized political hierarchy. The post-colonial world of a multinational proletariat was created by a blow to white supremacy and in turn has led to a desire for white revanchism which is justifying with false ideologies of victimization. White supremacy, while still a major force, was relatively weakened by decolonization and movements for civil rights. Yet petty-bourgeois whites are still raised in the US to expect a special social status. The extreme racism of the alt-right can be seen as a result of anxieties about loss of this status. Alt-right racism is very much an expression of the anxieties of global white supremacy, where the main item of faith is belief in a white genocide due to immigration changing demographics.

Kill All Normies is basically a discursive account of the alt-right, focusing on the online discourses created by the alt-right and not looking at the actual material conditions that have given rise to his ideology. As much as the alt-right is an internet phenomena, the conditions that give rise to this ideology aren’t explainable purely through online discourse. What’s being used is an essentially liberal methodology. What is needed is a materialist understanding of the alt-right and what factors in society have given rise to it. Simply focusing on its online discourse provides a shallow surface level analysis.

Kill All Normies isn’t Marxist. It’s hardly even leftist. It comes mostly from a liberal centrist opposition to “extremism”. Yet opposition to identity politics from the left has led many self proclaimed communists to embrace the book, despite the inherently conservative nature of Nagle’s arguments. While it is true that identity politics can be used as a way to suppress class politics, Nagle doesn’t even seem to think that class politics should replace identity politics. Her primary problem with identity politics seems to its “oversensitivity” and “extremism”, not their failure to adequately address exploitation and oppression in a materialist manner. Communists should critique bourgeois identity politics not to dismiss fighting against oppression, but rather to develop a more materialist and effective means of doing so.

How the Bolshevik Revolution Inspired Americans

The Bolshevik Revolution aimed to inspire workers of all countries to unite for the creation of a world soviet republic. Workers in the United States were no exception. 

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“Nowhere are all the means of political power so shamelessly purchasable as in America: administration, popular representation, courts, police and press; nowhere are they so directly dependent on the great capitalists. And nowhere is it more apparent than there that a proletariat with a Socialist conscience is the only means of saving the nation, which is falling even faster into complete servitude to the great capitalists than they are able to subjugate foreign countries.” – Karl Kautsky, 1902

Today it is hard to imagine the current neo-liberal regime going on as it has for much longer. The rise of populism from both the left and right has shown that the project to de-politicize society in favor of the rule of the market has failed. In both reactionary and progressive ways the masses are entering the stage of politics and rejecting the notion “there is no alternative”.

However, a crisis can simply mean another repeated cycle of barbarism as failed attempts to transcend capitalism are overtaken by reactionary forces, which we saw in the period from 1917-1945. While 1945 ended with a sort of class compromise, the gains that workers have been able to make have only been rolled back according to the imperatives of capitalism. The dream of social-democracy still lingers on however, as well as the dreams of regressing into a “simpler way of life” based on autonomous communes and/or small local communities. There are both right wing and left wing variants of these visions, but both ignore that that the destruction of capitalism can only result in an emancipatory society if it happens on a global scale.

Much of the left has given up on this project, its roots in the defeat of Bolshevism by Stalinism and other factors. The left has instead looked inward to the nation, looking for solutions to the problems of capitalism within the confines of the nation-state. It is of course very difficult to imagine a global communist revolution given the current popularity of nationalism (and the mere difficulty of organizing such a project), so it is no surprise that this vision for most of the left has been disregarded as utopian. Only small sects of Trotskyists and Left-communists still seem to have true internationalism at the core of their beliefs.

Yet in 1917 a section of the left didn’t take the path of least resistance, and launched a revolution that looked beyond national borders. The universalism of the Bolsheviks message was a true universalism meant for all of humanity, so it is little wonder reactionaries like Oswald Spengler saw the Bolshevik Revolution as signalling the death of “white civilization” as revolutionaries in the colonies took up the call to arms as well as in Europe. The message of global revolution resonated throughout the world, far beyond Lenin and company. It even inspired revolutionaries in the United States of America, where sociologist Werner Sombart previously claimed socialism could never get a foothold.

Of course, the Cold War historiography aims to deny this, painting Bolshevism as a sort of foreign contaminant to be rooted out of the real American nation that had no use for such ideas. Bolshevism was presented as completely alien to “real American life” with no real resonance beyond a few immigrants. The direction of this historiography (reflected in the works of Theodore Draper and Harvey Klehr) has been to paint all the activities of the Communist Parties as a sort of “foreign interference in our democratic process”, not a popular movement that attracted actual adherents. For many it could come as a surprise that Bolshevism did inspire many American workers, and it was often the experiences of workers as militants in the USA that attracted them to Bolshevism.

The experiences of John Reed as an American Bolshevik are generally well known; there are many more examples of Americans who were inspired by Bolshevism that are not. While John Reed was a famous intellectual, often forgotten are the mass actions of rank-and-file workers that were inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, as well as the reactions of lesser known intellectuals and public figures.

While internationalist politics spread like a wildfire due to the Bolshevik Revolution, many American workers already had their own experiences of organizing on internationalist grounds in the syndicalist IWW. The IWW aspired to be One Big Union that would unite all workers regardless of race or gender and was directly influenced by syndicalist movements in France and Italy, as demonstrated by Salvatore Salerno’s Red November, Black November. Some members of the IWW even found themselves fighting alongside Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magon. The IWW had a vision of workers directly taking over production through industrial unions or syndicates formed in organized direct action against the employers. For members of the IWW, the Bolshevik Revolution’s promise of “soviet power” where workers councils would rule was linked to their own ideas of taking over production through syndicates.

The militancy and universalism of the IWW stood in stark contrast to the Socialist Party USA, which had denounced direct action and had instances of segregated locals. However the SPUSA did have a left wing, best personified by Eugene Debs who supported the IWW and intransigently opposed the First World War. By 1915 the left wing of the party formed the Socialist Propaganda League due to tensions with the reformist right. There was also Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor Party, which was less of a political force but through its combination of industrial unionism and party politics attracted many radical workers. While Socialism in the USA was a divided force, there was no lack of a “vanguard” of workers who would be willing to take up the cause of the world revolution in the footsteps of the Bolsheviks.

Despite the conservatism of much of the Socialist Party, members like John Earl Haynes of the Cleveland Socialist Party issued statements of support for Bolshevik universalism. The Cleveland SP’s statement would praise “the Bolshevik effort to establish peace…without annexations and without indemnities” arguing that the alternative was the utter destruction of human civilization. The statement also pledges allegiance to the Bolshevik cause of wiping out imperialism to establish a world commonwealth without regards to nationality. This shows that almost instantly throughout the US the Bolshevik revolution resonated with certain groups in the left, many of them part of organizations whose conservatism held back the radical views of the rank-and-file. What is present is not an in depth knowledge of Bolshevik ideology and theory, but rather enthusiasm for the universalism of the cause that the revolution stood for.

Even a  preacher like Dr. John Haynes Holme could find inspiration in the October Revolution, who gave a sermon titled “Thank God For The Russian Revolution”. To reduce Holmes to a pastor would of course do disservice to his commitment to democratic freedoms: he was an early member of the NAACP (and white) as well as a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Holmes’ sermon is a Thanksgiving Day prayer that declared a hope that “The spirit of Tolstoy today is ruling Russia” and is “not a thing we can give too much thanksgiving” as the “peasants of Russia have overthrown the Czar, and with him the spirit of autocracy, war, Siberia, and oppression.” The vision set forth by Holmes is one of pacifistic Christianity that has little in common with Marxism except a sense of universal human equality. The sermon is in fact rather naive; the Bolsheviks who saw liberation through heavy industry with the peasants as a historically doomed class couldn’t be further from Tolstoy’s vision. Yet the sermon shows a very key aspect to how the revolution struck a chord in people of all backgrounds and belief systems, resonating with those all around the world to all who identified with the struggle to end exploitation and oppression. One did not have to be Marxist to identify the abolition of Czardom and call to end WWI as historic breaking points in the struggle for a more equitable and free humanity.

While many individual socialists would praise the revolution with words, others would organize specifically to support it. The first pro-Bolshevik group in the United States formed within a month of the October Revolution, the Friends of the Russian Revolution. According to Theodore Draper the organization saw prominent participation from the left-wing of the Socialist Party. The organization’s main goals were to promote a peace without annexations, which saw them lobbying senators to prevent the damage the US would do to the new workers republic in Russia. Their demands were for “friendly relations between American and Russian democracy” which included fair play in commerce with the new Russian State and for a “peace parley” under Russian leadership to develop a peace without annexations worldwide. The demand for peace, as evidenced in the aforementioned examples, seems to have been one of the calls of the Bolsheviks that most clearly resonated to an international base. The Friends of the Russian Revolution also held mass demonstrations, including one in Carnegie Hall where after they changed their name to Friends of the New Russia. While police marshalls intimidated the gathering, ultimately the meeting attracted enough supporters around the cause of recognizing Revolutionary Russia to make police repression fruitless. Future Communist Party leader James Cannon would speak, arguing that international cooperation between nations would be needed to end war, calling on the United States to accumulate no territories or tolerate such from their allies.

These initial outburst of support in the US would eventually take organizational form beyond groups lobbying the Senate for fair play. A group calling themselves Red Guards with support from the Socialist Propaganda League would combine and throw together a group of 500 volunteers called Red Guards (after the institution in Russia) and send a delegation to ask the Wilsonian War Department for permission to go fight in Russia. Of course the venture was a failure, described by Theodore Draper as “inglorious” and “pathetic.” While the actual attempt failed, it did bring Richard Fraina, an idealistic internationalist, to the forefront of the pro-Bolshevik faction of the socialist movement, who would address a mass meeting in support of the Red Guard thats workers of all nations should “refuse to fight against the revolutionary workers and peasants of Russia, whose cause is their cause” and to “sweep aside the infamous, imperialistic socialism of Schneidemann and all the social patriots, and to rally around the standard of Karl Liebneckt and Rosa Luxemburg for the social revolution.” This internationalist call showed how partisans of Bolshevism aimed to spread the view that the success of the Russian Revolution was not a mere Russian matter, but the cause of workers of all nations. While ultimately the attempt to send a division of troops to Russia failed, one wonders whether it was meant to be successful at all or to reveal the real attitude of the US government to the Russian Revolution. Either way it showed a growing support for the revolution that was expressed not just in words but in deeds.


The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), arguably the most radical workers organization in the USA at the time, had no lack of members who were inspired or influenced by the Bolshevik Revolution. Many pamphlets were produced and distributed by IWW members praising the revolution, particularly in Tacoma. On January 26th, 1918, the IWW paper Industrial Worker would print “The trend of events in Russia sustains the IWW contention that power of the workers lies in industry and in their unions on the economic field.” While there was a contradiction between the emphasis the Bolsheviks had regarding the centrality of the revolutionary party and the focus on pure industrial action that the IWW espoused, this did little to prevent the IWW from showing strong solidarity with the Bolshevik Revolution. A pamphlet written by Harold Lord Varney, a proletarian militant with experience as acting secretary of the IWW, would write a pamphlet called Industrial Communism which aimed to prove Bolshevism had applied the principles of the IWW in Russia, would express this contradiction. For Varney “the communist proletariat are Bolshevists in Europe….in America, they are the Industrial Workers of the World”. He makes a direct comparison between the Soviets in Russia, that aimed to represent the entire working class in a given region and the Industrial Unionism of the IWW that aimed to build “one big union of all workers”. This idea of Soviet Power is seen as uniting the IWW and Bolshevism, which Varney admits come from different traditions of struggle, with the IWW a “spontaneous product of capitalist despotism” and Bolshevism “a sprout of political Socialism” with roots in the 2nd international He continues to argue that the IWW, as opposed to other global trade unions, is a thoroughly Marxist and Communist organization at the core.  


This document is very revealing for understanding how the October Revolution and Bolshevik Party were initially understood by militant American workers. While not ignoring their differences, Industrial Communism essentially projects onto Bolshevism the ideas of the IWW, seeing Soviet Power as the essence of Bolshevism and Soviet Power as essentially the same as the IWW. For Varney the two merely differ due to national circumstances, with Bolshevism more suited for Russia while the IWW was more suited for the United States. “All power the soviets” is translated to “all power to the IWW” for Varney, showing that he is looking at the revolution through the lens of his own radical tradition, almost seeing the Bolshevik Revolution as the dream of the IWW being put into practice.

Yet for Varney, the revolution that the IWW will usher forth is different from the Bolshevik Revolution in another key way – it will develop from the IWW forming the “new society” in the shell of the old and then coming to state power through mass strikes, not needing any kind of red terror in order to govern. For Varney the Bolsheviks were forced to terror because they came to power in a country where capitalism had yet to exhaust itself, while the American IWW will not make this mistake and see that capitalism evolves into socialism as peacefully as possible. Yet Varney does not make this argument to propose some form of American exceptionalism, claiming the red terror in Russia also could have been averted by learning from the Industrial Unionism of the IWW. These differences are less important for Varney than the practical task of unity between the IWW and Revolutionary Russia:  “The Russian Bolsheviki have given to the I. W. W. the thrill of success. They have given to the I. W. W. a great historic example of tactics….as the proletariat of America rally to the IWW they build an organization which shall rise in victory beyond Bolshevism to INDUSTRIAL COMMUNISM.” While the pamphlet can’t seem to decide whether to portray the IWW as American Bolsheviks or argue for the superiority of the IWW over the Bolsheviks, the point that workers in the IWW should rally for the cause of the Russian Revolution makes it clear he sees their struggles as intertwined and in solidarity. Varney also makes it clear the Bolshevik revolution provided an impetus for militancy, providing the “thrill of success” that has made the goal of a workers society not a mere abstraction but a reality to actively fight for in the now.

Labor movement support for the Bolsheviks went beyond the radical IWW, though often pushing against conservative labor leader. The general view of Bolshevism by union bureaucrats like Samuel Gompers was negative, trying to hold back worker militancy. Gompers initial reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution was condemnation. Yet this came up against opposition from the rank and file, with delegates at the AFL convention on 1919 in Atlantic City making resolutions that called for an end to US intervention in Russia, with a delegation from Seattle claiming “The workers of Russia are endeavoring to establish in their country a government of and by the workers; and the capitalist of the world are seeking to annul their efforts.” The resolutions weren’t passed, but the AFL leadership eventually compromised with a resolution that called for the withdrawal of US “at the earliest possible moment.” On the other hand the ILGWU were able to pass resolutions that condemned the US blockade and a reestablishment with trade with Russia. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers (ACA) was even more supportive of the revolution, denouncing the American blockade and calling for solidarity with the Soviet Republic. Yet the AWC was not affiliated with the AFL and therefore not responsible to Gompers, who would criticize their position. The labor bureaucracy, as capitals last line of defense, was quick to denounce Bolshevism. However, according to Philip Foner, the rank-and-file of the AFL was supportive of the Bolshevik Revolution and campaigns to stop US intervention. Lenin himself would note that “In the United States, the strongest and youngest capitalist country, workers have tremendous sympathy with the Soviets.”

The rise of Soviet Power and Bolshevism in Russia most importantly impacted the labor movement in the Seattle General Strike. In 1919 workers in Seattle essentially attempted to take power over the city in a mass strike led by the AFL Metal Trades Council and IWW that shut down the city. The strike erupted out of a series of labor disputes that developed to the point where workers across industries agreed to strike. A strike committee composed of delegates elected from each local was put in control of the city once all major industry was shut down, a situation similar to the idea of workers councils running society. According to Jeremy Brecher, the lead up to the strike saw distribution of massive amounts of propaganda about how workers had taken power in the Bolshevik Revolution with even the more conservative members of the Seattle Labor Movement supporting the revolution and US intervention. There can be little doubt that the militancy of the strike action was spurred not only by the strike wave hitting the nation as a whole that year but also by example of the Bolshevik Revolution. One leaflet stated quite clearly that “The Russians have shown the way out,” urging workers to take full control over industry and begin establishing a socialist society. Yet the Seattle General Strike could only last for so long without a national plan to take power, something the Bolsheviks had that the Seattle strikers didn’t. Eventually the delegates elected to the strike committee in charge decided to end the strike. However without the precedent set by the Bolshevik Revolution, it is hard to imagine workers going as far as they did.

Seattle_General_Strike

The Seattle General Strike can be seen as an attempt of American workers trying to create a version of “soviet power” in their own city. What was inspirational to workers was not so much the sophisticated Marxism of the Bolsheviks but their rhetoric of workers control and soviet power, which seemed amenable to the syndicalist ideology of the IWW. Also inspiring was the internationalism of the Bolsheviks, which told workers across the ocean that they were essentially engaged in the same struggle. This appealed to workers across political divisions who thought that the American Socialist movement was too nationalist and narrow in its concerns. The Seattle General Strike showed the militancy that American workers were capable of, yet whether they were able to organize into a force able to take state power was another question. Bolshevism, with its emphasis on the proletarian party, would provide an answer for workers who wanted the militancy of syndicalism but the benefits of party organization.

The Seattle General Strike was not the only workers revolt inspired by Soviet Power however. In 1919 Local 25 of International Lady Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) saw female insurgents organize “workers councils” like the Soviets of Russia in a rebellion against the male leadership which they deemed as conservative. This uprising was linked to a general factional conflict in the ILGWU that reached an apogee in the 1920 between communists and more conservative leaders. Local 25 was considered a “girls local” by the conservative leadership, but in the period of 1909-1919 the union saw major growth. Yet women wanted more of a voice in the union, and looked to the model of the Russian workers councils as a means to challenge this lack of democracy. In this case women workers took the ideas of “soviet power” to challenge the sexism within their union, within a male dominated labor movement that often simply cared about “pure and simple” trade unionism. The victory for women’s rights in the Bolshevik Revolution, which saw female suffrage introduced before the US, acted as inspiration for proletarian women to challenge the male dominated labor movement.

Black radicals were also driven to militancy by the Bolshevik Revolution with its call for an end to colonialism and freedom for the oppressed in all nations. Black Americans were often sidelined and ignored by the US Left, with Socialist Party locals in the South often being segregated. As noted by Mark Solomon, the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution saw independent socialist currents emerging in black Harlem such as the 21st AD Socialist Club and the Peoples Education Forum. Intellectuals such as Hubert Harrison, Cyril Briggs and Claude McKay were all inspired by both the Irish Struggle for independence and the Russian Revolution and would go on to form the African Blood Brotherhood, which “sought to draw together the themes of race patriotism, anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, and organized defense against racist assault.” The African Blood  Brotherhood would work in alliance with the early Communist Party, aiming to apply a politics that reflected the influence of Bolshevik class struggle and its broader anti-colonial call with the experiences of Black proletarians in Harlem. Claude McKay would also speak to the Comintern on the specific topic of racial oppression in the US in 1921, and was inspired by the fight in Russia against anti-semitism to link the struggle against racism with the organization of the working class. He stated that: 

“Every Negro…should make a study of Bolshevism and explain its meaning for the colored masses. It is the greatest idea afloat in the world today. 

Bolshevism has made Russia safe for the Jew…it might make these United States safe for the Negro. If the Russian idea should take hold on the white masses of the western world then the black toilers will automatically be free.” 

Like the Wobblies who applied the idea of Soviet Power to their own ideas on Industrial Unionism, groups like the African Blood Brotherhood would apply the rhetoric of international revolution and self-determination associated with the Bolsheviks to their experiences as oppressed black Americans. The African Black Brotherhood, while coming from a black nationalist background, would come to communist positions and in their manifesto call for alliances with “the class conscious white workers who have spoken out in favor of African liberation and have a willingness to back with action their expressed sentiments.”

Winning white workers, even communists, to the struggle against racism would prove no easy task. Communists in the US were not free of race prejudice, and the anti-colonial clarion call of the Bolshevik revolution would not cleanse the US communist left of its racism. In his 1921 speech to the Comintern, Claude McKay would say “the Socialists and Communists have fought very shy of it because there is a great element of prejudice among the Socialists and Communists of America. They are not willing to face the Negro question,” leaving the task to the “reformist bourgeoisie.” It would take Comintern intervention to get the US Communist Party to actively fight for civil rights rather than simply treating race as a subsidiary of the labor question. This entailed a struggle within the US labor and communist movement against white supremacy, one which would see the Communist Party eventually become a strident crusader for black rights. Ultimately the fears of white supremacists like Oswald Spengler were correct about the Bolshevik Revolution being a threat to global white supremacy.

Attempts to actually form a Communist Party aligned with the Comintern that came out of the Russian revolution would of course prove to be no easy task, and many IWW militants who were initially attracted to Bolshevism would become alienated by the bureaucracy of the Comintern who chose to work within the AFL instead of the IWW. While a functioning Communist Party would eventually form, it was not because of a lack of support from the militant working class for the mission of the Bolsheviks to spread worldwide communism. With the consolidation of a military dictatorship in the USSR, many workers probably saw the ideals of “soviet power” once embraced by the Bolsheviks as having been betrayed.  While John Reed would claim in 1918 that “Nothing is farther from the normal desires of the American Socialist party than a Revolution. It is really the refuge of almost all intelligent humble people who believe in the principles on which the American Republic was founded” events like the Seattle General Strike showed that a growing revolutionary trend inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution was picking up steam. Where the US left may have been behind the European left in radicalism, lacking a militant movement like those that existed in Germany, Italy, or Finland, a tradition of radicalism that existed in the US working class was certainly invigorated by the Bolshevik Revolution to pursue a more militant and radical course. Ultimately it was the example of Internationalism in action as pursued by the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution that showed the possibilities of socialist internationalism as a possibility and not simply an empty slogan. Why revolution never broke out is another question that requires further investigation.

 

Why Communism?

Communism doesn’t aim to negate democracy but fulfill its promises of universal human emancipation. 

French revolution - Women's_March_on_Versailles01


Why communism?

I told a friend of my cousin that I was a communist. The response was a reflexive chuckle and an incredulous “Really? Why?” I think this sums up ‘communism’ for most people in the U.S. To American conservatives communism is the ideology of the state. The state infringes upon the rights of the individual, most importantly the right to private property, on behalf of some collectivity. While American liberals will often justify state coercion as in the best interest of the nation, most American conservatives doubt the usefulness of state intervention or existence at all.

Most people look at communism as a discredited worldview, an archaic and random quirk. It’s an internet meme or utopian thinking. It’s not like it has any relevance today. But contrary to what American conservatives and liberals think, communists stand in opposition to the capitalist state. We don’t want to “make the state bigger”. And communists are indeed opposed to private property (this is distinct from personal property – your home, your toothbrush, your clothes). But what I’d like to emphasize to my American audience is this; Communists are the inheritors of the fight for republican democracy.

Republicanism vs Liberalism

Communists don’t believe in permanent rulers. This is also the guiding principle behind republicanism. Democracy is the idea that republican government requires not just legal equality in the abstract,  but social independence. America is a Federal Republic, with key government positions being democratically elected. But America’s is a compromised form of government, whose essential guiding political philosophy is liberalism, as opposed to democratic republicanism. Communists argue that capitalism has betrayed and undermined republican democracy, and that social independence for the working class requires the abolition of classes.

Liberalism emphasizes the liberty of the individual with respect to society and government. It’s an interesting paradox that liberal philosophy came about at a point in human history where society was becoming more and more interdependent. Liberal theorists stressed that political and social independence of citizens was foundational to the establishment of a functioning republic. But as the republican experiment in the U.S. was developing, the urban working classes and poor farmers were fighting losing battles to maintain access to what liberal theorists argued granted that independence; property! So, the poor began pressing for democratic rights. Liberals were content to limit voting rights by property ownership, but the emerging working class pressed on for suffrage. This is one illustration of the divergence between liberalism and democracy. Look around today; American Conservatives and Liberals (both philosophically liberal) completely ignore the question of social independence. What changed in America (And all over the world) was that private property was consolidated in the hands of a small class. Again, I’m not talking about your PS4 or your shirts. Private property is property used in a business enterprise; where you hire workers and sell the product for profit.

The connection between America’s compromised republicanism and it’s infatuation with philosophical liberalism is the lack of social independence for most of the population. What do I mean by social independence? For much of human history, there was no such thing as functional individual independence. Before the rise of states and forms of tradeable property (in humans or resources), human beings lived in communities where no individual was likely to survive “on their own.” This hasn’t changed, but there is today an illusion of independence. This argument can be reduced to property ownership being a condition of social independence, as a result of it allowing the individual control over the production of his or her necessities; food, shelter, clothes, and so on. Hence the initial restrictions on voting rights in the U.S. to those with certain amounts of private property. The idea was that independent property holders had a material stake and the capability to participate in self-government. Slaves and laborers were not considered capable, because they were dependent on their masters for their subsistence, and liable to be manipulated as a result of their vulnerable position.

In 18th and 19th century Europe and U.S., changing social relations and technology were driving political change. By social relations, we mean the long term relationships between people in a society. For example, before the 1600’s, almost all of Europe was organized around feudal social relations. The average person was a serf – they did agricultural work on land that belonged to a lord (think landlord). The lord took what was grown for himself, and allowed the serfs to grow some of their own food. But the serfs were forced to remain on the land. They were not allowed to move where they wanted, and if the lord sold the land, the person buying the land would also get the serfs. These social relations were, in a word, exploitative. From the liberal perspective, serfs (And slaves in the U.S. south) were dependent. The serfs were exploited by the lords; they were forced to produce more than they needed, kept ignorant and disorganized, in order to keep the lords wealthy and powerful. There’s more to feudalism than this relation, but the serf-lord relationship is perhaps the core social relation defining feudalism.

Feudalism eventually evolved into capitalism. As you might expect, serfs didn’t generally like to work for free. Their fights for freedom often took the form of the struggle for private property in the form of land; the main way they could be socially independent and take care of themselves and their families. Once serfs broke free of the landlords’ restrictions on movements, they also gained the right to own their own land, or pay the lord a fee – rent – for using the lord’s land and selling or keeping the product. Enterprising manufacturers and freed serfs in England, began to realize that they could amass fortunes by paying workers to work on land that they rented, with the tools and raw materials they purchased. These were some of the first capitalist businesses. These farmers, would rent land, purchase raw materials and tools, and hire workers.

The Nature of Dependence in Capitalism

As this accumulation of property in the hands of a small class took place, the connection of social independence to private property was quietly left behind. It is still factually true that anybody without social independence is at the mercy of his or her ‘benefactors’ (read: exploiters). But the political discourse of today assumes the vantage point of the socially independent, the wealthy, the property owners.

Who could be said to be independent in our contemporary society? The free property owner is the starting point for both contemporary economic theory and much of our political discourse. But the idea of social independence as the basis of political participation ultimately collapsed behind the broader and more vague agenda of individual liberty. Any imposition on my personal freedom is a violation of my liberty as an American citizen.  This is philosophical liberalism distilled. Core among these individual liberties is the right to private property.

In contrast to the liberal conception of freedom as the lack of constraint on the individual, republican conceptions of freedom often stress that individual freedoms derive from collective interdependence. Historically, this took the form of the small group of enfranchised citizens in republican societies being obligated to ‘act with virtue’ in an effort to guide the community to it’s best outcome through collective decision making. The small group of enfranchised were often (as in Rome) granted rights on the condition of property ownership and status of citizen.

What’s interesting for us is the point that republican liberty does not see the individual constrained by the alien society, but created by it. Certainly, we can understand the freedom generated from the division of labor in society. Because people work to produce food, clothes, houses and so on, others are free to pursue history, science and writing. The less work it takes to produce a fixed amount of food, the freer we are to pursue other interests. But I should stress here that the individual is constrained; by what is necessary to sustain humanity in it’s current (or any future, improved) social arrangements. That is, we do have mutual obligations, if we wish to have individual freedoms. These aren’t abstract moral obligations, but concrete, material facts about how we produce what we want or need and how we distribute it.

Put more concretely; did slaves need their masters? Not to produce their own food, or clothes or tools or anything else. They were already doing the work. The idea of the independent property holder is a myth through and through; the master, just like the boss, needs you, you don’t need him!

The most important aspect of the capitalist economy and the most important thing to a capitalist is profit. It’s not because the individual capitalists or business owners are themselves particularly greedy, but a result of the social relations. Managers are mandated by law to pursue the bottom line. While feudalism had lords and serfs, capitalism has workers and capitalists. Capitalists exploit workers just as much as lords exploited serfs. The emerging capitalist farmers used new technologies in order to increase productivity. This allowed them to reduce the price of what they were selling, and beat their competition. This process spread outside of farming and into manufacturing and services over the 19th and 20th century. Trade preceded the emergence of capitalist production relations, but it has come do define our “free market” society.

How do businesses exploit their workers? By exploitation, we don’t mean work without pay; workers are able to get paid a living wage and still be exploited. As with feudalism, exploitation is when you’re forced to work or produce more than you need to. Anyone who’s worked a day in their life can see that what they produce in a day is far more than make in wages for a week or sometimes a month of work. Capitalists chalk this increase of output to the ‘productivity of capital’ – the machines and tools. But machines cannot produce on their own; they simply make the one who works more productive. And what of the people who made the machines to start with? The workers are the ones that produce! Tools and machinery can’t do a hell of a lot without human beings to use them.

Profit is what the business has after it’s costs. The formula for profit is commonly understood; Revenue (the money they get from selling your product) minus Costs (wages for workers, cost of raw materials, tools, rent, etc.) equals profit. But all of the output produced was produced by workers. Why do capitalists get any of it? The answer is private property. The right to private property is in reality the right of the few to exploit the many. The few with enough private property (in the form of money) to start a business where they can live off of the profit they exploit from the many workers they employ.

Most people think private property is ok, because there is a chance that they could one day strike it rich. Frankly, this is the logic of a gambling addict. Forbes estimates that 8 out of 10 startup businesses fail. The Small Business Administration, a government body that collects data on small businesses, puts the estimate at 50% of small businesses failing after 5 years. According to Forbes, citing government data, around 75% of all businesses don’t have employees and their average revenue (before costs) is $44,000. Most ‘entrepreneurial’’ get rich-quick schemes are ways for employers to circumvent labor regulations and exploit their workers more effectively – think of Uber and the new “gig economy”. The self employed ‘independent contractor’ is just another worker, except divided and alone, making the boss’s bargaining position much stronger, and allowing them to drive wages down.

Capitalism is a social system based on these classes. The numerous working class works, and the capitalist class exploits. This isn’t to deny that capitalism has been fantastically progressive in many ways; whether technologically or in terms of social organization. But it is still a system of exploitation. Higher wages for workers mean higher costs for capitalists, which they will resist. Those higher costs will cut into their profit. So there is an irreconcilable difference between workers and capitalists. Why do the workers put up with it?

The main reason is that workers have no choice but to put up with it. If they don’t work, they don’t get the money they need for rent and groceries. The other reason is that they’re often kept ignorant of exploitation. American Conservatives and Liberals both support the right of private property, and point to Silicon Valley Tech gurus and rags-to-riches personalities as their representative big winners. But not everyone can win this lotto. By definition very few ever will.  This irreconcilable differences between capitalists and workers manifests in class struggle.

Because the communist movement has failed so immensely in the past century, workers aren’t regularly confronted with our arguments. It’s on us to fix that. It’s worth pointing out though, that workers do fight back in individualistic ways. They quit their job, they punch their shitty boss, they slack off at work.

Many workers form unions – organizations of workers in workplaces or industries which fight for better pay and working conditions. Unions are the first step to workers gaining social and political independence because they push back against capitalists at the exact place where the exploitation takes place. But it’s not enough. If workers want to get rid of capitalism then they have to unite politically and fight it out with the slugging committee of the capitalist class; the state.

From Democratic-Republicanism to Communism

This brings us back to the principles of democracy and republicanism – or equality and self-government. At work the boss is a dictator. It’s often humiliating. If a worker wants time off or needs anything like a raise, they have to go hat in hand as an inferior. The worker who day in and day out slices the steaks, or loads and unloads the trucks; the worker who through their labor creates the revenue of the whole society, is subject to the dictates of business; and what’s good for business is profit. What’s lacking in the workplace is partly what’s lacking in our society – the full realization of self-government and equality.

These principles inform how we organize the working class to fight for emancipation. Workers don’t have time to fuss with recalcitrant and secretive political cliques. They require a democratic, self-governed unions and political parties. That means recallable officers and organizational transparency. Decision making in a democratic way requires transparency and ease of access to the decision making process. But there is a more fundamental point about political unity for the working class.

Workers need a program. Think of a program as a guide or plan of action. The political program is a way to keep workers on the same page about what we’re fighting for, and also a way to evaluate our elected leaders and keep them accountable. How many times have American workers supported a Democratic party or union reform candidate only to be burned when they don’t make good on campaign promises? The Democratic party doesn’t have a program. The “platform” that it sometimes uses is also not functional because the members of the Democratic party have no means to hold their representatives accountable.

What would this plan look like? Well, we’d have to continually re-evaluate aspects of the program, but its core elements would remain the same. In the past, communists/socialists had divided the party program into two sections; the maximum program is the long term; basically communism. The minimum program consists of economic and political demands which are more immediate.

The minimum program might be thought in terms of democratic rights. That is, universal rights necessary for democracy (equal participation in the political process) to be realized. For example, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the right to assemble are all democratic rights. Sometimes these are called civil rights or civil liberties as well. In the past, communists, especially of the Stalinist and Maoist varieties, have been ambivalent about democratic rights. This was a terrific mistake. Democratic rights are not the end of the fight for communism, but it’s beginning. Any communist party should defend democratic rights from capitalists and their state. For example, we could extend democracy in the United States, by fighting against felon disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, legal and illegal political corruption, limits to freedom of speech and assembly, the host of violations of democratic rights associated with the so-called war on drugs; unreasonable search and seizure, excessive bail, and long jail times without convictions. There are plenty of other examples of problems which can be better understood as violations of basic democratic rights. Not only can these fights be most effectively won by understanding the class struggle nature of the fight, but by winning them we gain power for the working class. If we fought for drug legalization and an income adjusted bail, we’d get the police officer’s boot off of the neck of much of the American working class.

Fights for democratic rights lay the foundation for working class political and social independence. The whole class must become independent of the capitalists class. Through unions, we can fight to impose our vision of the future in the workplace, and through the formation of democratic-republican – communist – party, we can build our vision for a new form of society.

The American state is unresponsive to the needs of the working class. It’s designed to be bought off by the rich. Both parties are essentially fundraising machines for candidates, courted by factions of the capitalist class. Workers need their own political party – a communist party – to fight for the the political conditions which would bring that class to power. It is fundamental for us that the working class cannot rule through bureaucracy or a military clique. This is why we argue for republican democracy. In power, the working class can work to solve the problems of production and distribution on the basis of need, not profit. This would be a revolution, and it would have to be an international revolution for it to last.

The idea of nationality is a tool of the capitalists. Initially, it allowed them to counterpose a ‘public’ to the exploitative landlord whom they sought to replace. It also allowed them to craft an identity that could endear the worker to their exploiter, at the expense of the workers uniting with each other. This happened at the same time that the parties of the capitalist class dropped the ideas about independence and shifted to different ideas about national unity and their own, moralistic form of nationalist obligation.  This same idea of a ‘public’ as distinct from classes, is used by capitalists to scapegoat unions, foreign workers, and so on. Why fight the wars of the rich?

Part of fighting for international republican democracy is fighting for equality for oppressed groups in the working class. Historically, oppressed ethnicities and nationalities need support where the capitalist state takes special aim.The rights we fight for are universal. The reality is not. Similarly, sexual oppression and the gendered division of labor, alongside their political concomitants, have to be eviscerated; we fight for concrete, explicit demands. (Full and free healthcare, covering abortions and birth control, collectivization of housework and so on). Liberal ‘identity politics’ is useless for the working class because it offers no way to end the root of oppression and exploitation; dependence. Hillary Clinton’s political campaign showed that it is a tool for one section of the capitalist class to unite against workers as a whole, using race-baiting and liberal forms of segregationist politics (in addition to outright corruption) to frustrate working class interests in the Democratic Party.

Communists fight for the emancipation of the working class. Our first step then is to build the political independence of the working class. Capitalism has made our society interdependent on a global level, but the capitalists have kept workers divided and dependent on their employers, whether directly at work or through employer-run political parties. The most pressing need then is to unite the divided working class. It is only through organization and unity that the working class can become independent. Working class independence is the basis for fulfilling America’s dead promise of democratic republicanism not simply for our nation, but as part of an international movement founded on the principles of self-government and universal equality – or in a word, communism.


Statement on war with Syria

This statement reflects the general views and positions of the Communist League of Tampa. 

“Death to Imperialism!”

We, the Communist League of Tampa, resolutely oppose the recent attacks on Syria that have united the Democratic and Republican war-machine. An attack on the people of Syria is an attack on our fellow citizens of the world and must be opposed for that reason alone. US intervention has always increased civilian deaths and instability, as it will be done on the terms of the financiers and industrialists who rule our government and carve the world into spheres to plunder for financial profits. The capitalist class has decided once and for all that Trump is fit to rule the US now that he has given up his isolationist pretensions. In their sick eyes this has made him truly “presidential.” Yet Trump is merely falling in line with the needs of the ruling capitalist class, staying true to the legacy of US dominance and hegemony over less developed nations. This is of course no surprise; Trump never once represented the interests of working people.

Of course the recent attacks in Syria are not a break in US foreign policy, as intervention through proxies has been the norm for quite some time. The ideology of American exceptionalism tells the public our bombs are for democracy, giving consistent US presence in the Middle East a “humanitarian guise”. However, the very notion that one nation has an inherent right to rule another is anti-democratic at the core. While US crimes against the people of Syria are nothing new, a full on attack against Assad escalates this conflict to a new level and shows increased imperialist tensions that are against the interests of humanity.

Imperialism is inherent to the global system of capital accumulation, based on the competitiveness of firms and military rivalries of nation-states. For the sake of commerce the bourgeoisie wants to maintain a relative peace, but the permanent crisis of capitalism drives nation-states into military competitions that can explode into all out war. Capitalist overproduction has led to a lack of profitable markets, and nothing works better for businesses interests than war. This conflict is not a mere matter of politician’s decisions but a symptom of an inhumane economic system.

Therefore imperialism, a crisis of capitalism, cannot be opposed by supporting one capitalist state against another. Hence, while the main enemy is at home, we reject any position that grants Assad political support of any kind. We call for a ‘third front’ of the democratic working class to develop an opposition to the Assadist regime, US Imperialism, and reactionary Jihadists. We support any efforts that promote the development of such a front.

To make concrete action against the war we must challenge the very system that props up imperialism. Those in the armed forces should take whatever action is possible to resist the war, up to and including mutiny against officers. We also demand unconditional support and citizenship for Syrian refugees. Workers in war production should do what they can to sabotage the military industrial complex. Nationalism and militarism can only be defeated with proletarian internationalism.
No War Between Nations, No Peace Between Classes!

 

Letter to the City Council of Tampa

This speech was delivered to Tampa City Council in the morning of Thursday February 23rd under the unanimous approval of CLT regarding the concrete needs of the houseless proletariat. 

Dear Council members,

Every morning, our neighbors wake up sore and fatigued on the sidewalk. Among them are perfectly able workers: plumbers, builders, electricians, teachers, and more who cannot find work due to bogus felony convictions and lack of permanent address. Also among them are the disabled, the elderly, the children, and those bearing children. We have more empty houses than houseless people, and yet our neighbors still sleep on the street. Not plagued enough by the hardships of poverty and houselessness, these folks are hounded and harassed daily by the Mayor’s thugs in the Tampa Police Department. Despite the fact that Tampa remains a haven for human trafficking with a violent crime rate higher than almost 70% of the nation, TPD chooses to bully our most vulnerable neighbors for holding signs and carrying open bottles.

To address the crushing weight of all these problems facing the houseless community, you in the City Council have proposed a new program akin to slapping a bandaid on a gunshot wound. It would provide a few hours’ work for meagre pay, one meal, and a place to sleep for a night. For those who cannot work due to disability and other factors, it would provide nothing. This is the typical bureaucratic response to life-and-death matters: offer the minimum relief necessary to placate the public.

The only acceptable solution to our neighbors’ suffering is a housing-first initiative of Panelák quantity and modern quality. There is no excuse for prioritizing the profits of absentee landlords over the lives of our houseless brothers, sisters, and siblings. While we in the Communist League have no confidence that the City Council will do what is morally just or materially efficient, we will be happy to build an alternative.

Know that with each passing day, you give validity to our assertion the working-class must organize independently from the bourgeoisie and its puppets in the state machinery. We look forward to building power with our houseless comrades, and pledge our solidarity in the struggle against City Council-legislated, police-enforced poverty.

Signed,

Cliff Connolly, Donald Parkinson, Wilhelm Reich, Sarah Rose, Lukas Goldsmith, Blake Nemo, Jake Verso, Shallah Baso, Anton Johannsen, Ferris Rocker, and Clarin Mayor, the Communist League of Tampa. 

The Recuperation of Authentic Outrage

By Ian Hinson and Aydin Jang. Originally posted here

The victory of the Trump campaign, and the catapultic rise of the alt-right movement from the shadows of the internet into the mainstream political paradigm, has stimulated a mobilization of opposition, and an immediate call to action. However, the specter of performative activism and pseudo-outrage continues to blur the lines between genuine action and specious placation.

As noted in Internationale Situationniste #9, the S.I. appropriately identified the neutralization of revolutionary strategies, concepts, and images, for the purpose of emptying them of their subversive content, thus making them compatible with mainstream, bourgeois culture. They formulated this process under the concept of recuperation. Media culture absorbs and diffuses radical ideas as a way to create a homogeneous plane of discourse, in which even the most mutinous of societal critiques are brought under the dominant space of acceptable discussion. In doing so, not only are the proponents of these revolutionary concepts forced to struggle for control over their own definitions, but the revolutionaries themselves are effectively dragged into the realm of their own repurposed concepts, in an attempt to retain coherency and an ideological relation to the general public. The S.I. go on to point out a few notable examples of this process of recuperation:

From Khrushchev to the priests, socialism as a concept has been given the richest variety of contradictory meanings ever consolidated in one single word. Unions have undergone such transformations that at this point the most effective strikes are those organized by the members of the privileged classes, as evidenced by the Belgian doctors this year. Not even anarchy has been spared, as one can tell from the “anarchist opinions” of the pro-Chinese Mr Siné and, even more so, by the anarchist opinions of Le Monde libertaire

Acting in accordance with capital’s need to exert its dominion over nature, it also extends its domination over the domain of language, and over the realm of acceptable expressions of outrage. One needn’t look any further than the outpouring of protests and demonstrations which have materialized over the past few weeks for an example of this subsumption of the limits of radical outrage, with millions participating across the globe in a show of solidarity to those affronted over the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. Multiple sources have stated that the “Women’s March” in particular, was the largest demonstration in Washington DC’s history, and while the ability to organize such a massive gathering of bodies is quite impressive, one must ask how effective this demonstration actually was at conveying its message. Moreover, what exactly is the praxis of these types of demonstrations, and why were the small glimpses of authentic outrage so universally condemned by the media, and similarly by the liberal stratum who made up the majority of the protest’s population? To put it simply, liberal activism can be described as that of an empty signifier, that is to say, it acts as an imitation of the radical activism in which it seeks to replace. It creates a stage for the general public to try on the mask of the political radical, while at the same time allowing for the members of the privileged classes to direct this performance by redefining what radical action actually looks like.The political radical in the sphere of mainstream discourse is no longer the black bloc creating a cacophony of kindled police mobiles and broken windows. The political radical has been recodified as the football star who kneels during the national anthem, or the movie star who gives an apathetic, detached speech during an awards show. The political radical no longer sees action as an instrument to realize systematic change, action is reduced down to means with no end, where the demonstration is a statement and nothing more.

Herbert Marcuse discusses the disarming of political action in his essay Repressive Tolerance:

Thus, within a repressive society, even progressive movements threaten to turn into their opposite to the degree to which they accept the rules of the game. To take a most controversial case: the exercise of political rights (such as voting, letter-writing to the press, to Senators, etc., protest-demonstrations with a priori renunciation of counter-violence) in a society of total administration serves to strengthen this administration by testifying to the existence of democratic liberties which, in reality, have changed their content and lost their effectiveness. In such a case, freedom (of opinion, of assembly, of speech) becomes an instrument for absolving servitude.²

What Marcuse sets out to illuminate in this analysis is not only the ineffectiveness of bourgeois activism to actualize systemic change, but also how this type of activism is metamorphosed into action which exculpates the oppressive class for their exploitation. Opposition via political activity reconciles itself with the status quo through its own existence. It contains itself within the limitations of the very system it seems to resist. “It is the people who tolerate the government, which in turn tolerates opposition within the framework determined by the constituted authorities.” It is thus apparent that the dominant forms of activism represent not a subversive expression of dissent, but as an implicit consent to be governed.

Engagement in activism constitutes an intervention within the space where politics and everyday life intersect. In this way it reflects the totalitarian nature of a democratic society, which controls the totality of life by appearing as the controlled object. In reality, of course, it is the individual whose life becomes co-opted by the machinery of the state through their own supposed participation in its process. This is the principal contradiction that the modern activist continuously and quixotically struggles to overcome. The politicization of human affairs is a component of the greater social phenomenon of alienation, as people act to strip themselves of autonomy through ritualized self-exploitation.

Politics function to a great extent on an abstract level, an intangible expression of the tangible violence of the state. It is a representational system, distorting images of the world by design. The public discourse that arises from this system is a reflection of a reflection, a second degree of non-reality. The rupture of this elaborate funhouse is seen through an act of physical violence, a refusal to engage in the maddening “dialogues” that form the basis of the mainstream consensus. With continued complacency, and an acceptance of this image of reality, that image becomes actualized. This series of relationships and social processes that constitute this spectacular construction becomes the manifestation of reality itself because it is understood that it is the totality of observable reality. The mystification of these spectacular aspects place them at the center of the social world. Guy Debord examined this phenomenon in his Society of the Spectacle:

The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification. As a part of society it is specifically the sector which concentrates all gazing and all consciousness. Due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness, and the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of generalized separation.³

We can see that this mask obstructs a clear view of the reality of society. The “politeness” of modern governance works to produce a societal consensus, one which inverts the truth of objective conditions by presenting helplessness as autonomy, coercion as accord. The maintenance of this phenomenological project is one of the most pressing issues of late capitalist modernity, as the intensification of crisis creates fissures in the objectified worldview.

It is this consensus which the activist, consciously or unconsciously, seeks to reproduce and perpetuate. Activism, as a by-product of capitalist democracy, is the art of manufacturing appearances. What is more important is to display anger, to compress it into a viewable form, rather than to actually act upon it. In the age of social media, this spectacular method can be virtualized and magnified, further diluting whatever emotional message was originally embedded. Activism is both an asocial and social affair, generating crowds that perform mechanistic demonstrations of indignation, brought together by an empty non-message. The deception of such crowds is that they are not so much crowds, but collections of individuals who are more focused on transmitting expressions of false personal investment to each other. The protester does not march towards any specific goal, but to engage in the act of marching itself. Expressive activism (protest politics) is the realization of the theater-form within our social world.

Consider the broken window, universally condemned as a product of “senseless violence”. Destroying a window attacks an ideological barrier as well as a physical one. The normative discourse of our society is one of simulated inaction, concealing brutality within pacifistic rhetoric. To subvert this false language and reveal its true nature is to speak the more “primitive” tongue of physicality. The burning limo and the smashed shopfront are not de-rationalized because they accomplish nothing, in fact the very opposite is true. They symbolize a death of passivity, posing an existential threat to the political mindset. This is why the puppets of the old order must denounce them as acts of insanity.

The limits of rational activity within a sphere of society are set according to the dominant narrative at play. For this reason, riots are depicted as the wrong way to dissent, that is to say, actualized resistance is an improper form of resistance. Violence is not sophisticated, they proclaim, the-pen-is-mightier-than-the-sword and so on. Once again, this returns to the very simple contradiction of democratic governance, that of representation versus content. Such a system can only survive by embracing its own contradiction, pursuing violence with greater theatrical flair, the imposition of a terroristic peace. Activism is only an expression of helplessness in the face of this terrible force. The ideological constraints reproduced by the activist are a consequence of state power, and only reinforce it, despite appearances.. As such, political performance is an expression of the cyclical nature of society’s administration. The perpetuation of the democratic ideology allows exploitative relations to produce the conditions for such an ideology to take root.

To point out the danger explicit violence poses to this system is not to say that the fracturing of a sheet of glass is such a momentous occasion. Breaking a window does not blow away the millions of police and soldiers and all their guns. Such an act does not practically undermine the state any more than a peaceful march does. Political violence faces the same problem that political debate does. The attempt to exert pressure and to force demands onto such a powerful entity is like screaming into a deaf ear.

It is violence as a form of action, in its movement beyond structure and symbolism, that threatens the present order. It bypasses the activist’s struggle to overcome the contradiction of their own work, and lays bare the foundations of the capitalist state. Beyond the political, lies the potential for a reconstitution of the human, if only we can cease to reproduce the conditions of our own oppression. It is only when it tries to overcome the state, rather than shape it, that any sort of resistance transforms itself into revolution.

References

[1] “Words and Those Who Use Them” Situationist International Online. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

[2] Marcuse, Herbert, and Wolff, Robert Paul. Repressive Tolerance. Berkeley, Callif.: Printed by the Berkeley Commune, 1968. Print.

[3] Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red, 1977. Print.