What Is Tomat0 Up To?

I make various projects regarding technology, politics, media, and philosophy. I journal my stuff here, along with my development progress and my thoughts.

Despite not penning an update on the official timeline, I've spent the months of December and January mostly attempting to grind through the remaining results pages and getting together the sources. While it has progressively gotten more difficult as I'm forced to finish the pages I've put off for a while, I am really happy to say that I have finished 32 out of 34 of the results pages, along with their respective reading sources.

So as we near the end of this leg of the development process, I do want to discuss one more thing related to my design choices for this project: how I go about distributing the reading material suggested by the site.

The Fundamental Principle

Above all else, one of the key principles underlying this project is the absolute freedom of information. The assessment itself serves to deal with the more intellectual barriers to accessing information (such as the sifting of information), and it's the same principle that has led me to put just as much time into making the information itself accessible as much as I put into the website itself.

A lot of the works listed are primary sources, seminal texts and cornerstones in the political thought that makes up the world today. But it is not enough for the information to just exist if people are unable to find it; an integral part of learning is also the presentation of information, and this is where I feel I have to step in to ensure that the information is able to get to the person who is willing to take the step to learn about these subjects.

The main obstacle to achieving this is intellectual property and the commodification of information. It cannot be understated how quickly intellectual property is becoming a major industrial force: to get a full grasp of the industrial factors behind IP, I highly recommend reading this 2016 report by the USPTO.

For those too lazy to read, I'll give you a rundown of a few of the most interesting insights:

  • Currently trademark and copyright-intensive industries make up a combined 40.4% of the total United States GDP.
  • Businesses in the field of selling newspapers/periodicals/books have netted about $2.9 billion worth of exports in the year 2012.
  • Over the course of the Information Age, copyright-intensive industries have shown employment growth greatly outperforming other sectors, whether they be reliant on trademarks or no IP at all. (see below)
  • IP-intensive industries constitute about thirty percent of all employment nationwide.

Employment statistics

When we stop looking at the larger picture, even as individuals we can see the effects. Search up any of these books, and most of the time you'll either be redirected to the Amazon page to buy it, or if you're less lucky, asked to subscribe to an academic database to access it. Articles discussing said works typically link to store pages, and so do general directories.

And this is where the exclusive nature of intellectual property begins to rear its ugly head: through the constant encroaching of DRM and aggressive copyright enforcement, information is quickly being walled off. You may be a person who cannot afford to pay, a person in a country which is unable to access the work to due regional restrictions, or even a historian in the far future struggling to recover a cultural artifact due to its limited availability.

The internet is an absolutely powerful tool, with the ability to connect people and ideas in a way never thought possible before: this could mean learning a new skill, meeting people with completely different experiences than you, or using digital tools to create information of your own. But all of this depends upon the freedom of information.

It is because of this, I have made the effort not just to create a novel political model, but also use the opportunity to help ensure that information remains free from the industrial stranglehold that remains on it.

My Current Strategies

There are times where I am lucky and am able to get my hands on a standard PDF for a book. Online libraries which share this same goal, such as Archive.org, the Marxists Internet Archive, The Anarchist Library, and Project Gutenberg have been invaluable tools to ensure this project's completion. Currently the vast majority of the texts linked are standard PDFs, obtained through varying degrees of effort and looking.

However, no matter my determination, there are still places where I hit a roadblock: accessing digital copies can occasionally be outright impossible sometimes, especially with older and more obscure texts. As an alternative approach, I've worked on attempting to manually transcribe physical copies to LaTeX. While the results have come out very well, considering LaTeX is an incredibly versatile program, there still is the issue of how incredibly time-consuming it is.

If you would like to see a sample of this, I have already transcribed the first nine pages of The Futurist Cookbook. I may return to this approach, as I still believe it holds promise, but I think I will need something else for the time being.

Deciding on a Stopgap

I'm simply using this section to write down what is going through my head right now, even if the ideas themselves aren't completely thought over or fully formed. After all, the main reason I write these short commentaries on the creation process is usually to outline my thought process when faced with crossroads of design decisions. This is no exception.

As neat of a solution as transcribing books is, as I close in on the end of this stage of development, I have to be realistic with how I'm allocating my time. Simply giving the ISBN would probably be too confusing for the end-user, especially considering the point of this is for me to expedite the research process for them. I still hold strong to not linking to storepages, and I do not see myself backing down on that any time soon.

When deciding what to do next, I was faced with two options:

  • Link to a listing of used books, on a search engine such as eBay or AbeBooks.
  • Link to a search engine for public libraries and their stock, such as WorldCat.

I initially considered the first option, since while used books cost money, they aren't subject to industrial forces in the same way a new book is. There's a distinction which I think can be best explained by the concept of CMC/MCM circuits as laid out in Capital Volume I:

The simplest form of the circulation of commodities is C-M-C, the transformation of commodities into money, and the change of the money back again into commodities; or selling in order to buy. But alongside of this form we find another specifically different form: M-C-M, the transformation of money into commodities, and the change of commodities back again into money; or buying in order to sell. Money that circulates in the latter manner is thereby transformed into, becomes capital, and is already potentially capital.

What, however, first and foremost distinguishes the circuit C-M-C from the circuit M-C-M, is the inverted order of succession of the two phases. The simple circulation of commodities begins with a sale and ends with a purchase, while the circulation of money as capital begins with a purchase and ends with a sale. In the one case both the starting-point and the goal are commodities, in the other they are money. In the first form the movement is brought about by the intervention of money, in the second by that of a commodity.

In the circulation C-M-C, the money is in the end converted into a commodity, that serves as a use-value; it is spent once for all. In the inverted form, M-C-M, on the contrary, the buyer lays out money in order that, as a seller, he may recover money. By the purchase of his commodity he throws money into circulation, in order to withdraw it again by the sale of the same commodity. He lets the money go, but only with the sly intention of getting it back again. The money, therefore, is not spent, it is merely advanced.

In simpler terms, because a CMC circuit begins and ends with a good, it is unable to loop. The commodity sold in a CMC ends up being replaced by another commodity, preventing an industry from being able to form around this relation.

Selling a used book seems to mirror this, however, there is one issue. Something other than the book is industrialized, and that is the service associated with online reselling. Going to such an effort would be futile if you still found yourself promoting something else. But more importantly than that, online reselling still finds itself setting up geographic and financial barriers.

For now, I think it is best to link to a library database like WorldCat, but even that poses barriers, mainly in convenience and once again, geographic ability. It'll most definitely have to be a short-term solution, and I'm probably going to continue exploring ways to expedite the transcription process.

How You Can Help

Another key component of the internet is collaboration; people who have access to different resources and have different skills are able to work together towards a common goal.

If anyone is interested in helping me find references, I have posted my major dead-ends under the “Wanted Reference” tag on GitLab. I accompanied each issue with whatever leads I have found in my research, and if you are able to figure out how to acquire these missing pieces, please let me know.

The best way to contact me is through my Mastodon, if you have any ideas or questions.

Federation on The Go

Note: Once again, I apologize for the (this time much longer) hiatus. Quite a few months ago, I partnered with WeDistribute, a news-site that was acting as the official mouthpiece for Feneas. The original plan I had in mind was to continue on Fediverse Spotlight after I got both of the already-written articles ported to there. However, the chief editor has been less and less active as of late.

I hold no ill will or resentment, but I must begin resuming this project under the assumption that the site is abandoned; the fediverse is at a crucial stage in its development and I do not want to waste this opportunity to help it grow by indefinitely waiting.


What is FediLab?

This is the first time I'm reviewing an actual work of free-software rather than just free-culture, but as it is directly related to the fediverse, I think it makes a good place to start. There's a lot of mobile clients out there, but FediLab remains the only one I've seen which handles multiple services rather than being dedicated to just one.

Here's what you need to know about FediLab:

  • Fedilab currently supports six different federated services: PeerTube, Mastodon, PixelFed, Friendica, Pleroma, and GNU Social.
  • It is licensed under GPLv3, making it a true copyleft work rather than just simply permissive.
  • It is currently being maintained by a solo developer (Thomas) rather than a team; to Thomas' credit, he is incredibly active and responsive to community feedback.
    • As of writing this article:
      • The last update was one week ago. (Jan. 19, 2020)
      • The last bug report Thomas responded to was 9 hours ago. (Jan. 30, 2020)
      • The last issue Thomas has resolved was two weeks ago. (Jan. 14, 2020)
  • All in-app links to Twitter/YouTube are automatically replaced with Nitter and Invidious, open-source front-ends that strip out all telemetry from the aforementioned services.
  • The app's color scheme can be easily customized, exported, shared, and imported thanks to a simple and portable theming system.

Tomat0's Thoughts

  • The most polarizing, yet unique choice is designing Fedilab to be one app for multiple services. Most mobile apps focus on one service, so this approach is definitely unique.
    • The execution is astonishingly good. This is a solo-effort by a developer who only asks for donations to cover server-costs. Then consider that this is fusing different types of services, each of which with self-hosted instances, and based on a platform that's very much in its infancy. The consistency, determination, and humility shown by Thomas is something I deeply respect, especially in the face of such a colossal challenge.
    • One of the strengths of this is that it helps play into the interconnectivity of the fediverse. Being able to quickly switch between PeerTube, Mastodon, and PixelFed is admittedly rather neat and is better for a quick daily catch-up.
    • On the flipside, having all of this in one app feels rather... distracting. As an end-user, I feel like its easier to focus when the environment I'm working in is dedicated to that specific task. As much as I appreciate Thomas' effort, I feel this undertaking conceptually would be a lot better as a suite of apps.
    • The app is huge, around 38MB. However, there is a Lite version which clocks around a much more reasonable 11MB.
  • Due to the sheer amount of moving parts, there's a noticeable amount of bugs here and there. To Thomas' credit, this project is an incredibly delicate balancing act and he's continued to patch them in an incredibly timely fashion.
  • Despite the wide variety of offered services, they all have a consistent UI that is clean, functional, and easy to pick up. Just today, I installed the update that integrated PixelFed support and I understood how to navigate it within less than a minute.
  • I very much appreciate the implementation of Nitter/Invidious; it highlights the open nature of the free-software community and how this sort of collaboration can manifest to give us creative solutions to simple problems like this.
  • I use a Blackberry 10 device as a daily driver, and the main reason I continue to use Fedilab is that it's maintained fantastic compatibility with older Android versions. This is incredibly important because BB10's Android emulator runs KitKat.

Screenshots from F-Droid

Interview with Developer

1. Why did you create an all-in-one app as opposed to a dedicated one?

I published the first release of Fedilab on May 2017 (previously Mastalab) because I discovered the Fediverse through Mastodon few weeks ago. Then I discovered Peertube, and I wanted to keep the same logic of an app for the Fediverse. That's also why the app uses many portion of code for working with different social networks. Other supports came later with user suggestions. Also, managing several apps will be resourceful (different projects, publications with a lot of common code).

2. As a solo developer, do you ever see yourself burning out? Would you bring other people to work on the project?

Yes, sometimes it's hard to keep this motivation. That's why encouraging messages are really useful. I mostly do know every weaknesses of the app. I do care of messages that criticize the app because they help to point out most important issues. But I have the help of several people for translations and also someone helping me in background.

3. How has the community been at suggesting things and reporting issues? Have you noticed your communication with them having an effect on how you handle the project?

Fedilab is simply built with feedback. I added a lot of features that could have been suggested or things I wanted. I really do care about people suggestions. That's how the app grows up since its beginning.

4. Do you use your own app to browse the Fediverse? If so, how does it feel when you're using it?

Yes, I mainly only use it. My critics would be the same than others. It's slower and less smoothly than other apps. But, I can't switch because I do need extra in-app features. I planned to fix all that bugs to let new ones come.


FediLab also has an official Mastodon; if you would like to donate to help cover server costs, Thomas has set up a Paypal.me. The source code for FediLab, alongside all of the other apps he has developed can be found on his GitLab.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form officially affiliated with any of the projects/instances. I write/cover on this topic because I genuinely care for it.


As people become increasingly disillusioned with “conventional social media”, there's a lot of confusion among creators regarding alternatives for publishing their work.

There's been multiple attempts by vultures, usually involving crypto-currency in one way or another: these are often structured similar to Ponzi schemes and should be avoided at all costs.

However, past all of that, there is one initiative that holds promise for creators who are scared of copyright/censorship: the Fediverse.

What Is the Fediverse?

The Fediverse is a term used to refer to the ecosystem created by various interconnected instances to make one unified yet decentralized social media community.

All of these “instances” are individually hosted websites with their own rules and administration: however, they all run a common, open source application under the hood that links them all to each other.

This allows for the giant content pool of centralized social media without any of the centralized control. Don't like the rules of one instance? That's fine, just go to another one which you like more.

Due to the checks provided by federation/FOSS, the freedom often claimed by many isn't just a hollow promise. It's in place regardless of what the original creators decide to do years down the line.

Where do I publish/register?

The instance recommendations are subject to change at any time, for obvious reasons.

Registration seems to throw people off, but it's easy once you have a lead on where to look. Here's a quick guide.

Music/Podcasts

  • Best Service: FunkWhale
  • Recommended Instance: Official
  • Replaces: SoundCloud
  • Mobile App: Otter

Videos

  • Best Service: PeerTube
  • Recommended Instance: LinuxRocks
  • Replaces: YouTube
  • Mobile App: Thorium

Art/Photography

  • Best Service: PixelFed
  • Recommended Instance: Official
  • Replaces: YouTube
  • Mobile App: Thorium

Blogging/Writing

  • Best Service: Plume
  • Recommended Instance: Official
  • Replaces: Medium/WordPress

FAQ

Why should I care? A lot of the popular platforms have become quasi-monopolistic, and as a result it is no longer out of the ordinary for a creator to get screwed over. False copyright claims, sporadic removals/demonetization are incredibly common and difficult to appeal usually.

I'm not sure if I want to fully commit yet.

That's fine, you can still mirror your content over to these services. This will give you a backup incase something happens to your original account and also give you a chance to try out these services.

How will I get paid without ads/crypto?

Ad-revenue and crypto both have their issues to the point that anyone who expects to seriously get paid should not expect this to be a stable source of money.

At this point, independent creators are best off relying on donation platforms; here are a few options:

  • LiberaPay is a popular option with Fediverse creators, functioning similarly to Patreon but with a few key differences.
  • The traditional option is Patreon, a donation platform that works similarly to a subscription model for the people who wish to donate to you.
  • If you don't want a subscription or for some reason want additional privacy, setting up a Monero wallet is probably your best bet. The process is a bit more involved, so I wouldn't recommend it if you just want an easy way to get paid.

Thesis: Fascism is a historical phenomenon born out of the conditions of the late 19th/early 20th century. In order to understand (and distinguish) the broader idea of reaction, it is necessary to understand the contextual role and relations of the wartime fascist movements.


It must be remembered that reaction isn't limited to any historical movement; over time it constantly undergoes transformations in name, appearance, and manifestation.

Reaction, at its core, isn't an ideology or set of values, but rather instead a phenomenon. As the world undergoes major changes in its evolution, groups accustomed to the previous status quo find themselves at odds with the new order. This conflict gives rise to paranoid mobs, opportunistic hero-figures, and an attempt to re-establish what the reactionaries had lost.

It is because of this, the reactionary is a product of their time. In the broad sense of the term, “reaction” is inherently contextual. The reaction is innately tied to the action. Without understanding the historical background, one will struggle to get a clear picture of how the reaction is unfolding.

The goal of this essay is to get a picture of the modern reactionary, to understand exactly how reaction has evolved since nearly a century ago.

Rebuilding the Right

The dawn of the 20th century brought with it the Second Industrial Revolution, the fall of monarchy, and a nascent global market: in other words, liberal capitalism had matured and was proving to be a fatal threat to the monarchies of old. As the economic bar continuously rose, nationalism was proving to be more and more unsustainable.

Former imperial powerhouses had slowly, but surely witnessed their authority be chipped away by the new industrial order. A deadly combination of modernist philosophy and international trade was enough to put giants such as Spain, Prussia, and Japan on the defensive.

  • Historically, rulers depended on religious and hereditary claims to their throne; this was effective because information and written communication was left in the hands of the few at first. Because information was so horribly fragmented, very few were even remotely literate enough to take advantage of written language and sufficiently question this authority. For most of Europe, this came with the invention of the printing press and the rise of Protestant Christianity. The former would allow for written material to be reproduced and spread at incredible rates, whereas the latter would encourage the literacy needed to understand said written material.

  • The liberal rejection of economic autarky was no help either: the shift in production that accompanied the Industrial Revolution gave way to a new economy. An economy in which nations with different social structures, governments, and natural resources would collaborate to expand and accelerate production. The barometer for authority was changing, and the kings of old were being quickly pushed aside to make way for the barons of new.

Both of these were absolutely necessary occurrences in order to justify the change of production, and even each other to an extent. Thanks to the economic effects of the printing press, information was no longer contained, but rather instead privatized: this allowed people to reject static dogma in favor of adherence to flexible methodologies that were able to adapt and be shaped with changes in information. In turn, the pursuit of understanding and skepticism pushed people to transcend national borders in order to further the sphere of discussion and research.

Of course, this dealt a devastating blow to orthodox nationalism, people were able to look beyond their own surroundings and challenge the idea of their king and nation being the absolute truth. Revolutions sprung up all across Europe, and it became increasingly clear the capitalist mode of production was here to stay. And as the world closed in on the 20th century, it was becoming increasingly clear nationalists had to adapt if they wanted to maintain their relevance.

The narrative of the First World War recounts this: the Germans didn’t just lose, they lost in a slow, brutal, and humiliating fashion. The authority of the Kaiser was completely ridiculed on the public stage, and German nationalists, most prominently those in the military, faced a dilemma: this loss was powerful fodder for their political opponents, opponents who began building coalitions around the rejection of communitarianism. The nationalists knew they had to ally themselves with the growing fascist movement and embrace its innovations: namely Social Darwinism and palingenesis.

  • Social Darwinism, which fuses rigid hierarchy with modernist rhetoric. The idea of “might makes right” creates a self-evident justification for the ruling parties by exploiting one of modernism’s worst flaws: methodology isn’t safe from dogmatism either. Mass printed propaganda and excessive scientism comes together to create a cultish cognitive dissonance that has adherents simultaneously rejecting reason while parading themselves as the champions of it. The skepticism that stood at the core of the Enlightenment was not safe from subversion either, instead being utilized by demagogues to create a sense of paranoia against a grand conspiracy in which nobody can be trusted.

  • This eventually ties into palingenesis or the concept of national rebirth, by taking the defensive war of the fascists and turning it on its head. In palingenesis, the nation is under simultaneously under attack and realizing its true potential, meaning they are both perpetual victims and the revolutionary vanguard.

It’s simultaneously progressive and reactionary, protecting and celebrating what makes up the nation all while also inciting people to kickstart the process to create said nation. Irridentism, or the idea of reclaiming lost land plays into this too: it brings a fascist spin to foreign policy; starting wars and invading countries is no longer “globalism” but rather instead framed as the retaking of what rightfully belongs to the people.

When you piece all this together, you do begin to see that the theories of fascism fit reaction like a glove. The vacuum it filled arose out of industrialization, it relied on coalitions with the displaced aristocracies of old, and it's theories were adaptations to philosophical and industrial modernism.

The Fate of the Radical Right

There are notable breaks from the purely theoretical fascism once it is put into practice. I think one of the best ways to demonstrate this break is to look at its historical relationship with Christianity, for reasons that will soon be clear.

When we look at the turn of the century, when fascism was still nascent and not tainted by tactical compromises, we see one of the first targets of this movement is Christianity and its “slave morality”.

Starting with Ragnar Redbeard, who provides us one of the earliest defenses of social Darwinism:

The world awaits the coming of mighty men of valor, great destroyers; destroyers of all that is vile, angels of death. We are sick unto nausea of the “good Lord Jesus,” terror-stricken under the executive of priest, mob and proconsul. We are tired to death of “Equality.” Gods are at a discount, devils are in demand. He who would rule the coming age must be hard, cruel, and deliberately intrepid, for softness assails not successfully the idols of the multitude. Those idols must be smashed into fragments, burnt into ashes, and that cannot be done by the gospel of love.

From there, we move into the Traditionalist school and various theoreticians who explicitly chose pagan/syncretic inspirations as a foundation for the esoteric. Most notorious of these is Julius Evola:

Christianity is at the root of the evil that has corrupted the West. This is the truth, and it does not admit uncertainty.

And at the culmination of all of this, we have the Italian Futurists, an artistic movement that openly and brazenly rejects reactionary nostalgia in favor of hypermodernity.

It is from Italy that we are flinging this to the world, our manifesto of burning and overwhelming violence, with which we today establish 'Futurism',for we intend to free this nation from its fetid cancer of professors, archaeologists, tour guides, and antiquarians.

Anyways, the reason I bring up Christianity specifically is because of Italy. Italy, while being a hotbed for this new movement, also happened to be home of the Catholic Church. It was unavoidable: if one wished for political success within that nation, especially among the right, the Catholic Church had to be appeased.

Redbeard, despite being the only non-Italian mentioned in this section, is able to predict the strategy the Italian fascists would employ to seize power:

Neither morals, laws, nor creeds are First Principles, but they may (probably) have their uses; just as guillotines, and gardeners’ hoes have THEIR uses. They may be convenient engines for the deletion of Lower Organisms, for extirpating individuals of infantile intellect. Indeed the secret object of all superstitions possibly is, to provide an ultra-rational sanction for fraudulent standards of Right and Wrong.

Before taking upon the responsibility of maintaining power, Mussolini himself publicly expressed his disdain for the Catholic Church:

As a young man, Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) had been a socialist atheist who referred to Catholic priests as “black germs” (Mussolini, 2004). When planning to get married, Mussolini chose a civil ceremony rather than being wed in a church. But his attitude about Catholicism changed dramatically when, in 1922, he was elected head of the Italian government.

But regardless of the intensity of the ideological differences, the gap had to be bridged somehow; the Catholic Church simply held too much power:

Even as early as 1920 he had observed that the pope represented “400 million men scattered the world over... a colossal force (Mussolini, 2004). Hence,he could not afford to anger the pope and the cardinals. Therefore, as the years advanced, he created ever stronger ties with the Vatican by requiring the display of a crucifix in every school classroom (1924, 1927), by his remarriage in a church ceremony (1925), and by his arranging the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The treaty recognized the Vatican as a sovereign state, accorded the pope the privileges of a head of state, and awarded the Roman Catholic Church a large sum of money as reparation for the treatment the church had suffered in 1870 when the Vatican’s control over the papal states was forcibly terminated.

Even the brazenly radical Marinetti quickly found himself having to capitulate to the Church to get anywhere:

Only Futurist artists, who for twenty years have addressed the complex matter of simultaneity, are able to express clearly, with suitable interpenetrations of time and space, the simultaneous dogmas of the Catholic faith, such as the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Conception and Christ’s Calvary.

If the preceding quotes haven't made it clear enough yet: the radical right was doomed from the start. They justified the appeal to reaction as part of political manipulation, but the power gap was simply too wide; the fascists found themselves having to constantly compromise and appease until their once-proud movement became an ideological Frankenstein.

It's this sort of desperate negotiation that showcases the internal contradictions: scientific yet anti-intellectual, elitist yet populist, strength-worshiping yet born out of weakness, nihilistic yet moralistic, the further and further it devolved, the more absurd it became.

Stripped down to its core, we see the “political religion” on full display: a desperate, emotional mess of cognitive dissonance and aesthetic fetishization.

History Repeats Itself

It's been nearly a century since Mussolini first took power, and it'd be a gross understatement to say that things have changed since then. With the Cold War and WWII scored away, international hegemony seemed to be centralizing under the West, especially in the 90s and 00s. As then-president Bush put it:

“A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. Today that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we've known”.

This sentiment echoed throughout Fukuyama's The End of History and The Last Man, where he attempted to use Hegelian teleology to proclaim his era as the ultimate evolution in human history. While his claim was quickly contested in academic circles, the notion quickly found itself at home in public discourse. Things seemed to also look just as bright on the economic side; the Information Age brought with it massive technological leaps on par with the Industrial Revolution a century before it.

But as with said Industrial Era, such optimism proved itself to be incredibly naive. The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the intensification of economic imperialism has been the source of building tension, and the ground for a re-emergent reaction could be considered rather fertile, especially in countries who have been subject to Cold War hegemony: Russia, Philippines, Turkey, Iran, and Brazil.

What we are seeing now is another “reaction” if you will, this time to the new events that peppered the 20th century. Despite some common (and familiar) themes of anti-intellectualism and protectionism, it's still rather primitive ideologically; still having to rely on justification through vague populist appeals.

I think a good way to describe the present condition is to use a historical parallel: for the sake of simplicity I'll cite the Völkisch movement, but there's plenty of examples to go through if you so wish. As I've made clear throughout the essay, with the Industrial Revolution came upheaval, but it must be noted the upheaval wasn't instantaneous: Nazism (as per the German example we're using) did not come out of thin air. What preceded it throughout the 19th century was a vague, broadly populist, amorphous collection of reactionary sentiment.

A study of the latter type is certainly necessary, given that one of the consistent features of the völkisch movement was its diversity. As Roger Griffin has argued, a “striking feature of the sub-culture... was just how prolific and variegated it was... [T]he only denominator common to all was the myth of national rebirth.” In short, the völkisch movement contained a colorful, varied, and often bewildering range of religious beliefs.

The article cited here specifically deals with the issue of religion, however it is important to note that this level of variety can be seen in other aspects of the movement, which is why its often referred to as a subculture. And by the time it hit its boiling point, it found an ideology that was suited to its theme of national rebirth like a glove: fascism.

All of this is important because we can see that the sentiment predated the ideology; fascism was a manifestation, a vessel of the broader reaction. And while fascism was undeniably linked to reaction in the 20th century, we mustn't completely co-inflate the two. Just as we witnessed the fascists assert their novelty by breaking with the monarchists, we must be prepared to take an analysis of reaction that goes beyond fascism. As we discussed previously, fascism is uniquely born out of it's time, and as that time becomes history, so does its relevance as a tool of reaction.

Looking at the post-war works of the aformentioned Julius Evola, this “post-fascism” becomes immediately apparent:

What is called the Right in today’s Italy includes various monarchists, and especially those tendencies with a ‘‘nationalist’’ orientation that are committed to maintaining ideological ties with the preceding regime, that is, Fascism. What has so far been lacking in these tendencies is the necessary differentiation that could allow them to appear as representatives of an authentic Right. This belief is the result of thoughts we shall develop that are devoted to distinguishing the ideological contents of Fascism. Making these distinctions should have represented for this movement an essential theoretical and practical task, which instead has been overlooked.

And as history continued even past Evola's time, it became increasingly clear reaction was moving away from fascism. What we got instead were groups such as the French New Right, who distanced themselves from fascism, utilizing politics more characteristic of the era. The New Right, just like the New Left, shaped their strategy around the battlefield of late modernity; their visions of “archeofuturism” and “cultural identity” carried on through the following decades into what would become the alt-right.

Neo-Reaction

Quite a bit has been written about the alt-right, but I'd rather shift my focus as we find ourselves exiting the “late modernity” and entering a true post-modernity. So, consider this essay a “part one” of sorts. Now that we've laid the foundation, there is quite a bit to discuss regarding NRx/accelerationism, so I'd like to save it for its own piece. Stay tuned.


Referenced Works:

  • Redbeard, Ragnar. Might is Right, Or, the Survival of the Fittest. 5th ed. London: W.J. Robbins, 1910.
  • Evola, Julius, and John B. Morgan. 2013. Fascism viewed from the Right.
  • Thomas, R. Murray. Religion in Schools: Controversies Around the World. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2006.
  • Marinetti, F. T. 1983. Manifesto of futurism. [New Haven]: Yale Library Associates.
  • Koehne, Samuel. “Were the National Socialists a “Völkisch” Party? Paganism, Christianity, and the Nazi Christmas.” Central European History 47, no. 4 (2014): 760-90. www.jstor.org/stable/43965085.

Thesis: Capitalism must be understood as a wholly structural concept; in contrast to moralistic concepts, we cannot judge it by right/wrong, but rather instead look at its internal contradictions. It is not created/maintained by one person or a group of people, but rather instead, the result of countless abstract societal relations and understandings.


Quite arguably, the most important legacy left by Marx's work was the “science of socialism”. This move to rationalize the socialist movement, of course, would contrast heavily with the utopian tendencies of the socialists of his time.

For the utopians, socialist society was their logical starting point; their analysis of the world around them and the process of socialism had to be extrapolated from their vision. While this allowed for stretched imagination and expanded discussion, it was not something sustainably pursuable. There had to be a move forward towards something more concrete.

While there is debate over whether Marxism is technically a science or not, the sort of cold, objective attitude associated with science was definitely present. More specifically, the “science of socialism” usually refers to Marx's structural analysis of capitalist society itself; the utopians formulated their critique in relation to their ideal, while the critique of Marx had to begin with the negation of the present.

And following the fallout of the Cold War and the breakdown of Marxism-Leninism, we seem to have reverted back to a state that hasn't just rejected structural analysis, but has instead forgotten it. Unable to conceive anything outside of capital, social democrats, anarchists, and state socialists have found themselves all retreating back to the same view of socialism as a moral struggle; this is exactly why I feel it is necessary to restate the structuralism that is capitalism.

The Historical Basis of Economy

It's important to include a historical element to our analysis, not just for establishing precedent, but because history gives us a look into how production evolves and manifests. History isn't static, and limiting yourself to one frame of reference, whether it be past or present, prevents you from getting a fuller picture of the situation at hand.

This section is a relatively brief restatement of historical materialism, as a simple matter of laying foundation.

As materialist historiography dictates, we see history take upon different stages that gradually brought a dispersed humanity consisting of hunters and gatherers into a society based around industrialization.

While there is a lot to be said regarding the specifics of the various stages, I'd like to focus on the key insights we get here.

Firstly, that the catalyst of this process is the introduction of trade into human relations. We can tell this for two reasons:

  • One, we see a coherent pattern arise when discussing historical progression, in that the evolution of production and society always precedes the evolution of society. Production itself is an extension of the relations of trade.
  • The trade relation is inherently axiomatic in that it presupposes all other social and material relation. Concepts of currency, ownership, industry, and value rely on this as a foundational justification for their existence.

So what exactly is the trade relation? I think the best way to explain it is to start by constructing a controlled environment; obviously there's going to be issues doing this empirically, so we'll have to rely on a hypothetical here.

Assume you are one of two people in a pre-civilization world. You have an excess of fruit you've picked, and the other person has an excess of crude knives they have crafted. For whatever reason, both of you want to eat some chopped fruit, so you decide to give him some of your fruit if he gives you some of his knives.

It's a rather basic example, which is why it's useful for a closer analysis. The first question each participant has to resolve is: how much fruit is worth how many knives? Intention is unimportant here; whether or not they are looking to make a fair deal or get a bargain, they still will need to make a mental judgement on this in order to decide.

Whatever answer they come up with determines the exchange value of each product. And once you begin creating more and more trade relations between different products, you create a relative system of value.

  1. Currency acts as a universal language of exchange-value, so to speak, aggregating all these trade relations into a numerical scale. As currency becomes the language of commodities, it becomes a necessity to survive: you accumulate currency by selling goods you produced, and industry is born out of many people producing and trading simultaneously.
  2. In order to ensure that a commodity can be produced steadily, industry takes control of resources that are essential to reproducing these commodities, control justified by claims of ownership, claims we call property.
  3. Because ownership is fundamentally exclusive in nature; there are going to be those who do not own property. What they do own, however, is their own productive capacity, their labor, which is a key component of transforming a raw resource into a commodity that can be traded.
  4. In order to convert that labor into the exchange-value necessary for survival, they negotiate with those who own property: they supply their labor to ensure the reproduction of the commodity being produced, and the property owner supplies them with just enough compensation to ensure they able to continue working and reproducing said labor.
  5. Ownership in name only doesn't do much; a person who rejects the claims could take whatever is being owned for themselves. So in order for the ownership to be protected and recognized, a state must be created, able to use force to maintain the validity of the claims of ownership.

Of course, there's a lot of concerning implications to this, but that's not the focus right now. Right now, above all else, what we are establishing is that, yes, all of this is interconnected and foundationally based upon the trade relation. I must stress this because before we can even get into criticizing structural economy, we have to first acknowledge that structural economy even exists.

The Necessity of Capitalism

So now, we have established economy as a structural process, but we still haven't talked about capitalism: after all, capitalism is not synonymous with economy but, rather instead, a stage of economy.

And in this sense, capitalism is a necessary evolution: it's an unsustainable and ultimately contradictory one, but it must be maintained it is necessary, not in the sense of “holding together the glue of society”, but rather instead necessary as the predecessor to communism.

It's an angle a lot of socialists seem to ignore, and the ones that don't usually misunderstand this as evidence supporting a gradual approach.

And I think its that conflation with reformism which tends to scare a lot of revolutionary socialists from acknowledging this fact. When we refer to communism as “seizing the means of production”, this has to be understood as an appropriation of it, not as the disowning of it. In simpler terms, there has to be production to seize before one can seize it.

And this truth reveals itself rather morbidly when we look at what capitalism has brought us.

  • English becoming a language of international communication required the ruthless destruction, erasure, and subjugation of countless communities and cultures.
  • Rail, telephone wiring, canals, and infrastructure required the central planning and the enslavement of countless in order to make sure things didn't just advance technologically, but also advanced in a coordinated fashion. It's much easier to build a new road than it is to build the entire interstate from scratch.

And it is precisely here we see Marxism break from moralism. Was any of this right? No, not in the slightest. Did the advances at all “redeem” or “justify” the countless atrocities in its wake? Absolutely not.

This analysis of capitalism is where Marxism immediately breaks from moralism; because capitalism is structural as opposed to humanistic. Yes, these actions have morality to them, but the morality has to be assigned in a non-structural context; those who do have to either reject Marx's approach, such as in the cases of the post-structuralists, or create a different structural interpretation as in the case of Federici.

The Structuralism of Class

One of the most glaring examples of this sort of structuralist/moralist divide can immediately be seen in the intense contrast between Marxist and “leftist” class analysis.

The common conception of class seems to be rich/poor, the haves and the have-nots. These are vague and relative terms, easily to project your own ideals onto. This is why politicians may be comfortable talking about the “one percent”, the “billionaire class”, or “the establishment”. It lacks any concreteness to be offensive. To the moralist, the billionaire has a duty to be a “responsible capitalist” and to fail to do so is a moral failing. It ultimately fails to do much beyond making people feel good and passing the buck to “the bad apples”.

The structural approach takes class in reference to its role in maintaining economy.

  • The proletariat is defined in clear and objective terms as the class of labor, key to the production of value. They do not own productive property, and they are forced to sell their labor to survive.
  • The bourgeois are defined as those who own the means of production, and thus own others' labor.

This distinction isn't meant to be one of good/bad or us versus them, but rather instead one that acknowledges the intense divisions and specializations of the whole productive process.

The proletariat isn't privileged for their moral superiority or their victimhood. Sure, they may resent the bourgeois, but that is due to the nature of class conflict; their interests remain diametrically opposed, and they only find freedom in the repression of the other. No, rather instead it is that as the class that is responsible for generating value, they alone are the only class inherently capable of putting an end to the capitalist structure.

Dangers of Humanizing Capitalism

And this humanization of capitalism is what tends to leave so many leftist tendencies and organizations stuck in the possibilist trap.

  • For the social democrats, they humanize the politicians, media figures, and brands whose ideology they deem “closer to the left”, regardless of if their actions match their words or not.
  • For the Marxist-Leninists, they humanize the states that take upon a communist aesthetic, despite their economies still maintaining the very same economic base as the countries they deem “the real capitalists”.
  • For the anarchists, they humanize unions and co-ops, even though “boss-less capitalism” is still subject to the repressive forces of economy itself.

To some of you, this sort of totalization in left-wing ideology might sound familiar, and that's because this criticism has been leveled before, most notably by the post-left. The Situationists, acting as a bridge between Marxism and this post-left current, echo this sentiment in their theory of the Spectacle.

The Situationists' seminal text, Society of The Spectacle, defines the Spectacle as the following:

In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation. The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be reestablished. Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity, as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation. The specialization of images of the world is completed in the world of the autonomous image, where the liar has lied to himself. The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living. 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. The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.

I've gone through the trouble to bold the important parts here, read the full text if you wish, it's actually incredibly insightful. The whole book is a collection of theses, so the prose might be rather jarring. I'll try my best to restate exactly what is being said.

In the same way economy reduces all material relations to trade-relations, we witness a similar phenomenon occur as commodity begins to enter the realm of ideas. These social relations: our politics, our goals, our virtues, get reduced down to representation, or more specifically, imagery.

Taking this into context, we see the “human capitalism” for what it actually is. It's the incorporation, or more specifically, the recuperation of ideas into the totalitarian reign of the commodity.

This has already happened to the social democrats, it's happened to the Marxist-Leninists, and eventually even the anarchists.

It might be easy to shrug it off as a few idiots buying merch, and I most likely would've assumed the same, if there wasn't a fundamental connection.

  1. They start by humanizing individual structural entities; this is important because what the humanization does is that it fundamentally rejects capitalism as totalitarian. We know this because the idea of “good apples” and capitalist totality are mutually exclusive.
  2. All of these fields (geopolitics, electoral politics, industry) require either cooperation with the current hegemony or a sufficiently competitive counter-hegemony.
  3. Regardless of which strategy you take, you are eventually going to end up participating in the “game of capitalism” and in good faith, no less. Bad faith actors are crushed before they can centralize power, and by the time you do, your organization is too far in to consciously back out.
  4. Participating in the game means generating commodities, in this case, images. Unions need members, politicians need voters, and countries need a military. All of these, as you see in the above examples, require popular appeals, which can only be found by competing in the marketplace of spectacles.
  5. And as part of the marketplace of spectacles, you become just another face of the capitalist singularity.

Structuralism and Humanism

There's a reason I'm juxtaposing the terms humanism and structuralism with capitalism, and that's because there is a sect of Marxists who refer to themselves as “structural Marxists” in order to separate themselves from the “Marxist-humanists”.

It should be noted that the above discussion relating to capitalism is different from structuralism/humanism in the context of Marxism. Within Marxism, this refers to the debate between those who see the individual as subject to the structural and those who see the structural as subject to the individual.

To put it more simply, we've established capitalism as structural, but there still is the question of the individual, and whether or not the individual is capable of acting independently of the structure.

Arguments against the individual's agency usually cite the same social-relations we discussed earlier, which would be correct, if we were assuming capitalism itself is a totality. It is totalitarian, yes, but it is only totalitarian in the sense that it is converging on totality. It has not reached totality. For capitalism to have reached totality, it would have had to have transformed all relations into economic relations.

And this is where Marx's theory of alienation comes in. Alienation implies a dissonance; reification attempts to eliminate that dissonance. However, this proves more difficult than one may think; alienation isn't just man's dying breath, but rather instead evidence of an underlying contradiction, arguably the ultimate contradiction in capitalism. The contradiction of the workers' bond to their work and the economy's claims over everything. For the individual to have been totally recuperated, they would cease to become proletarians, for without alienation, they would remain just as exploited as a machine.

And this is where I do think the theory of the Spectacle outdoes Althusser's ideas of interpellation. Althusser attempts to demonstrate the subjection of the individual first by tying the terms “you/I” to a subjection, and then tying that subjection towards social structures itself. But in the process, he makes an incredible amount of assumptions and equivocates hard on the identity of the subjector. The concept is vaguely in the right direction, but its not concrete enough to carry the claims Althusser makes regarding humanism and the individual.

For Debord and the Situationists, the subjector was clear; it was representation through imagery. And this makes sense, because we can demonstrably see how symbolism is capable of turning abstract ideas into commodity. Flags and logos can be bought and sold, labels for people, movements, and ideas can be tossed around the same way one tosses a brand around.

And its through this understanding of how ideas become integrated into economy, that we get a clearer picture of alienation and how consciousness can come about. Because the individual's subjection requires their expression as an image, there are some avenues for self-autonomy. The Situationists experimented with the subversion of existing imagery to create a distance between the symbol and their actions.

And it proved incredibly effective in the age of liquid-modernity. Of course post-modernity has recuperated irony, but that is to be expected; the Situationists aren't meant to be a movement continuously clung onto for the rest of the time, but rather instead an example, that even during Althusser's time, it is possible to act independently of the structure.

Political Dichotomy Assessment: Where The Other Tests Fall Short

This was discussed earlier in the Introduction document, but one of the main goals of this project is to create a qualitatively distinguished model of politics as opposed to a quantitatively distinguished one. This is important because all current major models/tests still rely on quantitative methodology, which ends up severely handicapping their usability.

Left/Right Spectrum

1D Spectrum

As this model was born out of the French Revolution, it distinguishes people between those who oppose progress and those who support progress; during that time period it was used to distinguish those who supported the Revolution and those who supported the monarchy.

The issue with this is that the definitions of progress tend to be highly relative, and in some cases subjective. What can be considered “left” or “right” is still dependent on what the individual or larger society as a whole considers to be social progress. When we have different individuals, different time periods, and different cultures being cross-referenced, this model finds itself far too situational to be of any use.

If you're interested in a more in-depth analysis on why this is an issue, I'd recommend checking out Whig History by Herbert Butterfield.

Political Compass and 8Values/PolitiScales

2D Spectrum

Unsurprisingly, the problem wasn't solved. If anything, tacking on another axis only served to bring up more questions. Who is authority referring to in this case? One can be authoritarian but believe in that authority being enforced by someone other than the state; the opposite is true too, you can be libertarian in a non-statist sense.

We continued to get more and more models that slapped on more metrics: first there was the aptly named 8Values, but when that didn't work out, the creators of PolitiScales decided to double the axes.

I know some people swear by these tests, but the issue is that the scores don't really hold much application outside of the chart itself. If you just look at the ideologies that 8Values suggests, you'll see almost all of them are either vague, incorrect, or in some cases, completely made-up terms.

Questions

Keep in mind all of the above is just me discussing the final result and the presentation, we haven't even gotten to the issues with the questions on these tests yet.

Interestingly enough, despite all the novel ways they come up with to try and present information, we still end up with the exact same structure for how questions are asked and evaluated.

Questions

Often times a series of statements are given, and for each statement, the participant is asked to give a rating of how strongly they agree with it. This answer is then taken, converted to a number, then either added or subtracted to a score on one axis.

For example, answering “Strongly Agree” to the above question may give me +3 points on the authoritarian/libertarian axis, while answering “Strongly Disagree” may give me -3 points on the authoritarian/libertarian axis.

This method would be fine, assuming the question is relevant to every participant and could only be answered in two ways; often times, however, that isn't the case. For a lot of these questions, someone could take a position that would lead them to be neither, against, for, or even neutral towards a statement because the statement would make an assumption that doesn't apply to them.

Quantitative Versus Qualitative

The reason all these tests have to rely on scoring systems and linear questions is because they all assume a quantitative model of ideology. That one's beliefs are based upon the intensity of a position they hold, how strongly they feel about something.

And this is why all of these models completely fall apart when they have someone who holds a strong position, but still a position that the test doesn't account for. It's not even that radical positions become discouraged by this model, but rather instead that they become inconceivable, outside the boundaries of what can even be imagined much less supported.

This is probably going to be the third of a set of pieces I'm doing regarding design choices for the project, not for self-indulgence, but rather instead for the purpose of getting my thoughts back in order following an immense amount of feedback I've received.

One of the biggest issues facing the test right now is well... the test itself. While the methodology itself proves effective, it's an incredibly dense and abstract test, making it difficult for people who aren't too ideologically conscious to answer the questions; this is an issue because those people are quite literally the target demographic.

So I think it's for the better I take a step back and think about how to approach this, going over the concepts I'm incorporating and so on.

Why use Marxist concepts?

I stated this in the last piece, but I have no intention to pretend to be neutral here; the decisions I make are ones I feel better reflect the true nature of the topic: there's no point to trying to do a balancing act for a balancing act's sake.

However, there is a reason I'm incorporating Marxist concepts apart from solely favoritism. Marxist theory tends to be heavily structuralist and as a result, it's rather “self-aware” for lack of a better term. There's a wealth of discussion regarding its priorities, historiography, and contextual placement of the individual, rather than solely discussing proposals and blueprints.

It should be understood that one's “political position” is not just a suggestion of what should be done but rather instead an understanding of what is going on around you.

So in this sense, so-called scientific socialism is able to act as a template of one specific understanding of society. From there, we can actually extrapolate the model Marxists apply to themselves and see how this can apply to other perspectives and their own understandings of the world.

The Tree Analogy

Since the test itself uses a combination of methods, I refer to it and its various components in the context of a “tree”.

The test can be best divided into two halves, the “canopy” and the “branches”.

Like the canopy of a tree, the first part is wide and full of “leaves” that eventually branch down; in other words, the canopy is actually a table, where the answers to two activities form different combinations which we refer to as “leaves”. These leaves, which are on the top of the tree, act as a starting point for the rest of the test.

Once a leaf has been found, a series of conditional yes/no questions are able to give you a much more specific answer. These are called branches because the questions vary based on your answers to previous questions, designed to conditionally “branch out”.

The Canopy: Spheres of Focus

As stated above, the canopy is a table, with the leaves acting as an intersection of two factors: what you believe society is and what you believe needs to be done regarding society.

This section covers the former, namely gauging how the test-taker sees the world around them.

Borrrowing from Althusser's theories of state apparatuses, we'll divide societal institutions and relations into one of three categories:

  • The Political sphere deals with a society's ability to maintain its order and stability.
    • Words associated with this include: power, influence, coercion, hierarchy, strength, force, conflict, domination, rule, elite, law, justice, violence, peace
  • The Ideological sphere deals with a society's dominant values/narrative.
    • Words associated with this include: culture, morals, ethics, values, ideas, discussion, progress, tradition, common sense, opinions, beliefs, art, media
  • The Productive sphere deals with how a society handles the creation and allocation of commodities.
    • Words associated with this include: economy, currency, production, labor, distribution, resources, trade, exchange, technology

Now that we've established the three spheres, the next step is applying them to the test by using them in a question/activity.

The question we will want to answer is: “how do these elements of society interact with each other?”

In order for the test-taker to convey this, I've reverse-engineered Marx's base/superstructure model. For Marx, this model served as a demonstration of his theory that society is fundamentally governed by economic relations.

Base and SS

In abstract terms, the theory goes as such:

  • The base is the foundation, the root cause of societal outcomes, serving to shape and guide the direction of the other spheres (the superstructure).
  • The superstructure is the reinforcement; it justifies the underlying base that guides it, and ensures that it continues to be maintained.

The neat thing about this model is that it gives a very clear and concise picture of how a communist would understand society. But there's nothing about the model itself that makes it exclusively communist in nature. By applying the same model elsewhere, we can get a structural model for the worldviews of all sorts of political and ideological currents.

A cleric may see sin as the base of our world, a king may see strength as the base, and so on and so forth. By having the test-taker sort these categories into base and superstructure, we get a better idea of their thought process.

The Canopy: Approach to Society

Now that we've determined what the test-taker believes society to be, we can begin looking into the other part of the table, what the test-taker wishes to do about it.

This question is two-fold: first the participant has to decide how they see the individual relative to society, more specifically relative to the existing judgement society has made regarding the topic.

The connection between the individual and society manifests itself in the idea of valuation. We refer to valuation in this context as the assigned worth/merit of an individual relative to the greater community.

The valuation of an individual can take one of three forms:

  • Innate valuations are judged upon a consistent, inherent, and transcendent standard. This standard is determined by what was selected as the Base.
  • Mutable valuations are judged upon a constantly evolving standard; all hold equal potential for value, but that potential may have varying results.
  • You can also choose to deny any standard of valuation, seeing the concept as completely Invalid.

The above tells us what the test-taker personally believes about valuation, but we still haven't connected the test-taker's conceptions with society's conceptions.

So the next directive is to understand the test-taker's position towards society's conception of valuation:

  • Agreement, with the wish to either preserve or slightly reform these conceptions.
  • Disagreement, with the wish to control and mold these conceptions to a different standard.
  • Rejection, fundamentally criticizing the conceptions with the aim of abolishing the standard itself.

A combination of both of these will give us the next factor of the table. Now by evaluating the answers of both, we can determine a leaf.

The Branches: Narrowing Down

We have the leaf, which gives us a broad idea of a worldview, but we can still get more specific. Luckily since the Canopy narrowed down the field so far, we can complete the rest through a series of specific and conditional questions, utilizing the process of elimination to come to our final answer.

Once we have established a branch, we have finished the test.

I have just finished up the Identitarian page for the Political Dichotomy Assessment and I think this is a good time to discuss my reasoning behind the selection of information to include on the site.

I'm not going to hide behind any pretenses of neutrality here, I fully believe these types of nationalists are morons to the highest degree. And it seems quite a few of you agree:

Fascists are anti-intellectual by nature. Intellectualizing the anti-intellectual is an exercise in futility that is most likely to be capitalized on by said fascists.

This is common feedback I hear from people regarding the site. I think the topic itself is worth discussing, and as it is a bridge we're going to have to eventually cross, I figured it'd be best to discuss my reasons for including far-right literature in the project.

Quality Control

One of the main goals I outlined in the project introduction was the focus on filtering out “trash politics” in order to create a much more constructive learning environment. So before we discuss the relation between ideology and quality control, it's important we establish what my bar is for “quality”.

I define quality content as content that encourages further learning as opposed to acting as a substitute for it. YouTube talking-heads and celebrity books tend to not pass this bar for the following reasons:

  • Their content tends to be incredibly abstracted from primary sources, often times quoting out of context or heavily paraphrasing.
  • The product is not the content itself, but rather the personality behind the content; this promotes reliance on the personality as the sole source of information and a shifting of discussion away from ideas and onto personal character instead.
  • Content is not made with the intention of academic scrutiny, meaning that there's less emphasis on backing and creating a piece that's able to generate discussion.

There is undeniably a lot of this in far-right circles, due to the hero-worship, distrust of reason, and general manipulative character; if you'd like to read further on why this is such an issue, I'd highly reccomend Paxton's Anatomy of Fascism.

This sort of manipulation is why I've taken extra care to avoid shallow works like Mein Kampf and literally anything by Richard Spencer; it's difficult to take the majority of this at face value, so a lot of cross-referencing and structural analysis is necessary.

Asymmetric Ideology

You might notice me refer to fascism specifically a lot here, and that's because it remains the most well-documented form of modern hyper-nationalism. While other far-right sects may have their gripes regarding fascism, they still hold a significant amount in common; hence why people like Marinetti and Evola still supported Mussolini despite the magnitude of their disagreements.

One of these similarities is in how the ideology is structured; other movements usually operate on the assumption that the masses and leaders are on the same page, that there's a level of transparency involved.

It's more complicated with the far right; the intellectuals, the demagogues, and the masses all hold differing (often times conflicting) motivations, positions, and levels of understanding.

  • The demagogue operates on a principle of power; their goal is to accumulate and project strength at all costs; their actions all work towards building themselves up as a personality. Because of this, works by fascist leaders/heroes tend to often be deceptive and self-serving.
  • I think the best word to describe the masses during these periods of reaction is paranoid. There's this overwhelming and emotionally-rooted sense of fear/distrust that the demagogue is able to exploit, both by sowing distrust of all other authorities and by creating a sense of fraternity between all those who share this paranoia. Because the feelings remain abstract and emotional, the ideas don't get further explored, relying on vagueness and hearsay to defend themselves against academic refutations.
  • And then we have the intellectuals, and I think this is where it gets interesting. The intellectuals typically hold some sense of esoteric elitism, which quickly comes into conflict with the reactionary and populist sentiments of the demagogue. Both Rosenberg and Marinetti found their stances on traditional religion to be in conflict with their respective states' usage of the Church, stances which remained fundamental to their thought. In the case of Marinetti, he was forced to integrate Catholicism to remain politically relevant, and in the case of Rosenberg, his hardline paganism was the only thing that kept himself politically distanced from the NSDAP.

Dealing With The Problem

So, yes, I would say this topic would require some caution. Anti-intellectualism can prove dangerous not just for society, but also for the integrity of debate. Often times the tactics employed by anti-intellectuals are often underhanded and encourages the selective ignoring of facts and ideas that contradict one's worldview.

A milder example of this would be Duane Gish, who often would exploit the format of a debate to make his opponent look bad rather than honestly conveying ideas. His tactics would later be dubbed the Gish Gallop. Was it obvious he was playing dirty? Of course, but it didn't matter because he was playing to people's confirmation bias rather than arguing anything of integrity.

Sure, arguing for YEC is harmless enough, but this same cherry-picking of facts gets increasingly dangerous once we veer into the territory of Holocaust deniers and racial conspiracy theorists. This same relationship between the demagogue's thirst for mass appeal and the public's wanting to have their beliefs reinforced creates an atmosphere of ignorance that can be used to rationalize nearly anything.

However, I do think there's an opening, namely being with the far-right intellectuals. These books attempt to lay out a clear, consistent case for the beliefs and in the process give up the demagogue's greatest weapon, the shield of ambiguity. This is precisely why there's such a strong tension between intellectuals and demagogues. Often times, they threaten each others' existence: the leader's absolute dogmatism and the intellectual's absolute skepticism are diametrically opposed.

The demagogue may give lip-service to this or that writer, maybe pepper in an out-of-context quote, but ultimately engaging with their thought in full will only reveal things that serve to question his legitimacy. You'll see this often: reactionaries equivocating hard on what they do/don't believe, because they know if they're forced into specifics, they're going to be held up to much more scrutiny. By forcing engagement with the specific theory as a primary source, what we end up doing is creating terrain in which it is a lot easier to pin down contradictions and inaccuracies with the fog of ambiguity gone.

Regarding the Exclusion of National Socialism

Gonna throw a quick addendum on National Socialism because often times there seems to be questions regarding how to approach it; my stance follows as such:

National Socialism in and of itself is too vaguely defined, baseless, and self-contradictory to the point that it remains more akin to a personality-cult moreso than anything that can be concretely examined. The exclusion of National Socialism from the test is a choice based on its lack of qualitative merit, specificity, and distinctiveness.

Thesis: While Zizek starts with a rather solid criticism of electoral politics, he fails to fully apply it and as a result inadvertently finds himself falling into the mindset he criticizes.


Slavoj Zizek has always been a rather controversial figure, both in how he presents himself and also his insistence on breaking from what he deems the mainstream left. From what I've read of his academic work, his choices in rhetoric and attitude are at least understandable, if not agreeable; as a staunch Lacanian in a post-Deleuze world, he's inevitably bound to make his fair share of enemies.

One of his more polarizing choices came in 2016: he decided to endorse the Republican presidential nominee in an attempt to strengthen the American left. Press and certain circles within the left immediately seized on this, as more evidence supporting their doubts about him. Zizek would go on to maintain years later that this was no fluke, that he absolutely stands by his decision.

The purpose of this article is not to discuss whether Zizek backed the right horse: I could care less for who the “lesser evil” is. What bothers me about this statement is that his justification for said choice displays an uncharacteristic lack of understanding on his part, to the point where one cannot just write it off as a fluke.

He's maintained and doubled down on this position for years, continuously giving justification on his decision; if this is just another hot take, it demonstrates his willingness to participate in political theater, and if it isn't, then there's a lot more that has to be called into question.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will approach this as if he is fully serious, attempting to provide a more thorough criticism of this than what has already been said, because I am sure there are “vulgar accelerationists” out there who unironically believe in this.

“Trump as a Paradox”

Currently at the eye of the storm that is personality politics, we have the 45th president of the United States. One might ask, what makes 45 such a special number? I'll let Zizek explain:

Counter to the liberal perception of Trump as an autocrat, to Žižek, he is more accurately described as a middle-of-the-roader: “Trump is a paradox: he is really a centrist liberal, and maybe even in his economic policies closer to the Democrats, and he desperately tries to mask this. So, the function of all of these dirty jokes and stupidities is to cover up that he is really a pretty ordinary, centrist politician.”

Even with pedantry aside, that's nowhere close to the definition of a paradox. Could you argue that electoral politics adopting ironic elements is a symptom of the world around us changing? Sure. But the issue is, that observation doesn't just fail to support his assertion of this man being unique, it works against it.

Political rhetoric changes with the times, that's not a particularly new phenomenon. Zizek somewhat acknowledges this, but for every correct statement criticizing one side of the political stageshow:

The lesson of this thought-experiment is clear: the danger today is not passivity but pseudo-activity, the urge to “be active,” to “participate,” in order to mask the vacuity of what goes on. People intervene all the time. People “do something.” Academics participate in meaningless debates, and so on. The truly difficult thing is to step back, to withdraw. Those in power often prefer even a “critical” participation, a dialogue, to silence, because just to engage us in dialogue, is to make sure our ominous passivity is broken. The voters’ abstention is thus a true political act: it forcefully confronts us with the vacuity of today’s democracies.

We end up with him parroting the very same language of the “pseudo-active”:

How did we end up here? One has to repeat again and again that Clinton’s defeat was the price she had to pay for neutralizing Bernie Sanders. She did not lose because she moved too much to the Left but precisely because she was too centrist and in this way failed to capture the anti-establishment revolt that sustained both Trump and Sanders. Trump reminded some of his voters of the half-forgotten reality of class struggle, although, of course, he did it in a distorted populist way. Trump’s anti-establishment rage was a kind of return of what was repressed in the moderate liberal Left’s politics focusing on cultural and PC issues.

Littered throughout his writings on the topic we have him throwing around terms like “establishment”, “PC”, and “mainstream media”. And I think there's the bridge from a (rightfully) cynical view of electoral politics to an outright endorsement. Zizek is able to see through one narrative, but completely buys into a competing one.

And just because these narratives are competing does not mean they aren't serving the same purpose. Sure, the populist narrative might add an “underdog” spin to things, but ultimately, it's about as much of a shake-up as the countless other “political revolutions” that preceded it.

Once again, I can cite Zizek against himself here:

First, the fear that a Trump victory would turn the United States into a fascist state is a ridiculous exaggeration. The United States has such a rich texture of divergent civic and political institutions that their Gleichschaltung (the standardization of political, economic, cultural and social institutions as carried out in authoritarian states) cannot be enacted.

As he notes, political power in the United States is undeniably diffuse; however, he fails to apply this observation to the others involved in this election:

The popular rage that gave birth to Trump also gave birth to Sanders. Both express widespread social and political discontent, but they do it in opposite ways—one engaging in rightist populism and the other opting for the leftist call for justice. And here’s the trick: The leftist call for justice tends to be combined with struggles for women’s and gay rights, for multiculturalism and against racism. The strategic aim of the Clinton consensus is clearly to dissociate all these struggles from the leftist call for justice, which is why the living symbol of this consensus is Tim Cook. Cook, the CEO of Apple, proudly signed a pro-LGBT letter to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and can now easily forget about hundreds of thousands of Foxconn workers in China assembling Apple products in slave conditions. He made his big gesture of solidarity with the underprivileged by demanding the abolition of gender-segregated bathrooms.

Like, I honestly have to stop and ask where he got “Clinton consensus” from; if he's referring to the recuperation of political movements, sure, but that a phenomenon that goes past Clinton, it goes past the US, it goes past 2019, and it certainly goes past “political correctness”. As it stands, all of ideology has been transformed into representation and commodified: the very nature of electoral politics is evidence of that.

And to the credit of these “multicultural” movements Zizek implicitly throws under the bus, they have often been some of the strongest critics of this milquetoast “progressive liberalism” he derides. Sure I have many disagreements with the analyses of these movements, but I still recognize the importance of their critiques: both Federici and Fanon wrote through the lens of their own experience, and as a result were able to analyze traditionally “Marxist” concepts from a different angle. “The ruthless criticism of all that exists” means the ruthless criticism of all that exists, and these critiques have greatly contributed to our understanding of the material base itself.

What doesn't contribute is the constant horse-betting that lures in leftists every election cycle. And regardless of who wins, voters go through the same exact motions repeatedly. Obsessing over individuals who will lose relevance in just a few years, constructing an elaborate case for how their pick will advance the greater good, and in the situations they lose, finding someone to blame.

It's not enough to just say “both options are bad”, unless you are able to acknowledge the fundamental incapacity of electoral politics, you'll be forced to play the weighing of 'lesser evils” game, which seems to be what is happening here.

Eventually, after he made his decision, all of his rebuttals to Democratic voters hit him like a boomerang:

The philosopher continued, “Look, the one point when I fully agreed with Trump was, you remember, when Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary? He said, Trump, wasn’t it simply true. He said it’s like somebody from Occupy Wall Street endorsing Lehman Brothers. In every society there is a whole network of unwritten rules, how politics work and how you build consensus. Trump disturbed this.” “And if Trump wins, both big parties, Republicans and Democrats, would have to return to basics, rethink themselves, and maybe some things can happen there. That’s my desperate, very desperate hope, that if Trump wins, listen, America is still not a dictatorial state, he will not introduce fascism,” he argued. But it will be a big kind of awakening. New political processes will be set in motion, will be triggered.” “But I am well aware that things are very dangerous here, not only all this white supremacy groups, but listen, Trump openly said, and there’s a report saying that he’ll probably do it, you know how important in the United States the Supreme Court is? He’s already said he will nominate right-wingers. So there are dangers and I’m just afraid that Hillary stands for this absolute inertia, the most dangerous one. Because she is a cold warrior, and so on, connected with banks, pretending to be socially progressive.”

And its statements like these where electoral myopia completely falls apart. Disturbing the order? Absolute inertia? A big kind of awakening? How many “disruptive” election cycles do we have to go through until people will realize this is the norm, not the exception? Elections have never brought about the long-fabled “political revolution” and there's no reason to assume they ever will, regardless of whichever face of the day is “fighting the establishment”.

Before the New Right there was the Tea Party, before the DSA there was the Greens. Before the Tea Party there was the Republican Revolution, before the Greens there was McGovern and Jackson. No matter which side covers these stories, the unquestioned assumption seems to be that any of this is unique or new. But, simply put, it's not. Sure, one could argue the rhetoric has taken a shift in these new movements, but of course rhetoric will change with the times, because what we perceive as authentic does too.

And ultimately, rhetoric can only give you so much insight into a person, especially one running for office. We can have the Gipper talking about “morning in America” one second and pushing some of the most inhumane policies the next. This is why it's so dangerous to let personality obscure politics; it ultimately does not matter which individual is sitting in the Oval Office, because power is so heavily diffused in our system. Not even just federal checks and balances, but also industry, the international community, and political parties. The president's job is to act as a face to a much more abstract and complex process; due to the inherent nature of their role, they can only exist as a subject. It shows in the way we discuss and consider these people: 'Bush era”, “Reagan won the Cold War”, etc.

And this is where you have to be careful in putting emphasis on people. Political currents often go beyond people, and when we fail to acknowledge that, we attribute phenomena to the wrong causes. Some might blame the Great Depression on President Hoover, when we see that recovery primarily came from the large spike in demand generated by war as opposed to the policies of the New Deal.

“Pushing the Democratic Party Further Left”

The Overton Window seems to be a favorite shield of the “left-liberals” (as he calls them): justifying their support of a cause/individual based on the hopes that “they will steer the conversation further to the left”. Zizek, instead, sees to it that his endorsement isn't gradualism, but rather instead gradualism with extra steps.

In his statement defending his judgement years later, he discusses the effects he hoped for:

Saritha Prabhu’s opinion piece recently published in the Tennessean deserves to be quoted at length. It moved me almost to tears with its description of a simple truth: “Brace yourself; there is a civil war coming soon in the Democratic Party. At the heart of today’s Democratic Party is an identity crisis and an ideological struggle. For starters, is the Democratic Party a party of the rich or a party of the little guy? For many years, they’ve been the party of the rich playing a good game of pretending to be for the little guy. And the Democratic establishment does it in insidious ways that are too clever by half: they are for the marginalised guy or gal in the race, gender, and sexuality issues because, hey, that doesn’t hurt their and their affluent constituents’ pocketbook much... But all this worked until 2016, but can’t be pulled off anymore...” Let’s make it clear: it was the rise of Trump which triggered the “civil war” in the Democratic Party – and, by the way, the proper name of this “civil war” is class struggle. So let’s not lose nerve, let’s rather use the opportunity inadvertently opened up by Trump. The only way to really defeat Trump is for the left to win that civil war.

First question to deal with: is this “civil war” actually representative of class struggle? No, I don't think so, and I have a few reasons for being skeptical of this.

  • The groups in “conflict” are too vaguely defined and equivocal. There's a conscious effort on the “left” wing of this issue to define the conflict as between the “people” and the “establishment”. This is most likely done to ensure broad electoral appeal, however, in the process of doing so, it loses any distinct character. It might seem like a nitpick, but class struggle without the element of class is ultimately no different from generic populism.
  • It's difficult to trace the rift back to economic origins. If anything, the fact that it took a candidate of the opposite party taking a surprise win makes me believe the “conflict” we're witnessing is purely a tactical disagreement. It would explain why its within a political party, why the rhetoric is strategically decided, and why there's such a hyper-focus on individual candidates.

And secondly, I want to confront the notion of “steering discussion”, because it's an incredibly common argument I hear from gradualists. Sure, the Red Scare brought with it misconceptions and negative connotations, but that is to be expected. Of course Marxism is controversial, it's a pointed critique towards something as fundamental in our society as economy. We aren't utopians, we're not here to “pitch socialism” to the public, our goal is the ruthless criticism of all that exists.

There's danger in the term becoming inoffensive too; being recuperated into “acceptable discourse” means that the conflict of class conflict had to have been neutered in one way or another. It means that our criticism lacks teeth, so it should come to no surprise that these advocates of the Overton Window are suggesting exactly that: partial demands, withholding criticism of their figureheads, and the complete erosion of class analysis. At the end of the day, we're left with a “socialism” that only differs from social democracy in name. It's precisely because we fear “losing our platform” that we end up losing the radical nature of the movement.


Articles Referenced:

  1. http://inthesetimes.com/features/zizek_clinton_trump_lesser_evil.html
  2. http://thephilosophicalsalon.com/donald-trumps-topsy-turvy-world/
  3. https://platypus1917.org/2017/08/29/slavoj-zizek-donald-trump-left/
  4. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2016/11/04/left-wing-philosopher-slavoj-zizek-i-would-vote-for-trump/
  5. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-hillary-clinton-populist-right-left-democratic-party-civil-war-a8975121.html

Thesis: “The left” as an ideological grouping is best defined by its ability to question what is taken for granted; it is through criticism that our understanding of the world evolves, and when we sacrifice criticism in favor of maintaining the coalition, we fall into ideological absurdity.


There's often a joke that goes around that the one thing a leftist hates more than capitalism is other leftists. Leftist infighting is not at all a new phenomenon, we've seen it from the original rivalry between Marx and Bakunin to the countless Trotskyist splinter parties.

The expansion of liberal imperialism and the rise of reactionary regimes throughout the 20th century only served to make the chaotic and fractured left seem incompetent in comparison. There was this sense, both among authoritarian and libertarian socialists that there needed to be a united front in order for the left to slay Goliath.

Yet, here we remain, little over a century after the initial Bolshevik insurrection, and we have to ask ourselves, what has our organization brought us? Yes, it's unfair to take a cursory look and write off the approach, so instead, I'd like to take a closer look into these centralist ideas and where they have brought us.

Democratic Centralism

Lenin's influence on political thought cannot be understated; what he brought to discussion was one of the first serious attempts at answering this question of Left Unity, in the form of democratic centralism.

What followed the First Internationale of Marx's time was a wave of various decentralized leftist insurrections and organizations, each one eventually either sabotaged or crushed in a counterrevolution. Lenin noted this, and came to the conclusion that a revolution must not just overthrow power, but also maintain it. The Bolsheviks' military success in the Russian Revolution only served to further cement this notion; it was clear they had successfully seized power. As the 20th century continued on, countless revolutionaries across the world followed the Leninist example and found themselves in control.

The interesting thing here is that due to the widespread influence of Marxism-Leninism, we actually do have an incredibly wide array of case studies to reflect upon.

Wide not just in the sense of quantity, but also in the variety of pre-existing conditions. This is important, because Marxism-Leninism, especially the more recent incarnations, make it a focus to adapt their theory to the differences in pre-existing conditions.

To quote Mao Zedong[1]:

Now, there are two different attitudes towards learning from others. One is the dogmatic attitude of transplanting everything, whether or not it is suited to our conditions. This is no good. The other attitude is to use our heads and learn those things that suit our conditions, that is, to absorb whatever experience is useful to us. That is the attitude we should adopt.

If we wish to level a critique against Marxism-Leninism, we'll have to account for the varying conditions. Luckily, the aforementioned “wide array of case studies” gives us an opening to do this.

First we must ask, what is shared? Yes, there are conditional adaptations, but ultimately, the underlying theory is going to remain consistent in an abstract sense. The most obvious answer is the existence of the workers' state, the dictatorship of the proletariat so to speak, as the ultimate expression of the will of the worker. It remains forceful, yet democratic, crushing all opposed to the proletariat while remaining as the vessel of the proletariat.

The two most obvious threats to this model are internal and external: internal, in the sense that an unchecked vanguard may lose their integrity, and external in the sense that these states are prime targets for imperialism. And to the credit of the Marxist-Leninists, these remain front and center topics for the majority of their theory.

Yet, historically, what we see is that the Marxist-Leninists have struggled greatly in maintaining the power they ever so effectively seized. Hauntingly, there seems to be this sense of gradual decay coming in from all angles.

I'll be focusing within the context of the Cold War for two reasons: one, enough time has passed that we're able to make clearer analyses, and two, the role these states played in geopolitics at the time were significant enough that it serves as a sufficient test of the effectiveness of the methods.

Within the Cold War, we see these states take upon one of two roles:

  • A proxy role, due to the aggressive containment policies of the West. Vanguards that were vulnerable either due to not having completely held power or just a lack of scale were targeted often due to being the “weakest link”. The survival of these states is highly dependent on the international aid they can receive from stronger vanguards. Class wars became global ones as the US funded rebels and counterrevolutionary groups across the world.
  • Much more developed and powerful states took upon the role of the hegemon, as their own survival was dependent on the survival of the others. They were too strong to be attacked directly, so they had to remain on the alert for espionage, sabotage, and revision. As major superpowers, their decisions held incredible weight, and the decision process was where they were most likely to be attacked.

Like I said before, all of was not some new revelation to the Marxist-Leninists. They played their cards in a fashion to compensate for these weaknesses, yet the results don't show.

Why did the Soviet Union collapse under its own weight? Why does it seem that, as the years pass, the PRC becomes more and more assimilated into the world economy? Why do the sites of countless international revolutions seem so desolate and unrecognizable today?

It's easy to respond that this was due to the influence of revisionists such as Deng and Khrushchev, that the dependent nations cannot be expected to hold a revolution for so long against such an aggressive and powerful enemy. These are all fair responses, or they would be if the goal of democratic centralism wasn't specifically to prevent this sort of outcome.

I specifically attribute this to democratic centralism itself not just because the results have been replicated across a variety of circumstances, but also because often times the cause of these failures can be directly tied to the centralist model.

  • Both Cuba and Cambodia were instances in which the organized left united behind CIA plants in the name of anti-imperialism. Of course Pol Pot and Batista had their critics, however the mass line was able to be weaponized against the left instead of by them. The revolution didn't just stall, it became a counterrevolution, as the truly radical critics were able to be isolated and silenced.
  • The USSR is an interesting case because it is the one state that Lenin was directly involved in. There's a lot that can be said about what occurred in between, but I find it hard-pressed to believe that the eventual outcome of the USSR was by any means a success. The Bolshevik Purges, regardless of your opinion on them, acted as a pivotal turning point for Soviet history; the administrations of Khrushchev and his contemporaries would not have been possible without a Stalin to juxtapose themselves against; and because of the elimination of the majority of critical factions, the subsequent policies of liberalization and eventual capitulation were able to carry through much easier.
  • The shift from the Cultural Revolution to the post-Mao China seems jarring to many ML-Maoists, however, I'd argue there was most definitely precedent for the Deng-era. The Red Guard dedicated itself to eliminating the revisionist elements of the party, creating an atmosphere that fostered dogmatism and solidarity over criticism. The Gang of Four was efficiently and quickly deposed due to the same paranoid atmosphere they were once sowing shortly before.

And what worries me even more is that to this day, Marxist-Leninists are doubling down rather than taking their analysis to a theoretical level. Sure, there's a willingness to criticize individual leaders or acknowledge the crushing heel of imperialism, but these are treated as the cause of failure rather than failure itself. Revisionists and imperialism are exactly what the system of democratic centralism is intended to prevent, yet what we see instead is the united front work towards its amplification.

Platformism

Marxist-Leninists aren't the only ones guilty of this reliance on coalition-building: similar sentiments seem to pervade anarchist circles as well. Of course the anarchists have their gripes with the centralized model of the state-socialists, but their response ends up as less of a rejection of left-unity than just simply a reinterpretation.

One of the earliest and most-cited of these reinterpretations is the 1926 The Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists [2]. True to its libertarian roots, the Platform seeks to unite the left on a banner of abstract principle as opposed to party. The platform calls for anarchists to hold to four fundamental principles:

  • Theoretical Unity
  • Tactical Unity
  • Social Responsibility
  • Federation

The goal of the platform is to “reconcile the independence and initiative of individuals and the organisation with service to the common cause”, or in simpler terms, create a liberty free of egoism. The first two sections deal with unity, both in thought and practice: their should be common principles and concentrated action that corresponds with the greater anarchist movement.

Instantly, we begin to see the first problem an anarchist platform has to contend with: being authoritative without being authoritarian. What ends up resulting from walking this tight line is an incredibly vague sort of anarchist fundamentalism.

The Platform itself undeniably sets boundaries and direction for the anarchist movement, but the given definitions of the principles remain incredibly open-ended and unclear on how it should be read. Exactly how does the platform get revised, if at all? Is it inclusive or conclusive? If there's varying interpretations, how does one decide which interpretation is the correct one?

The Platform ended up facing severe criticism from other anarchists due to these issues, many of whom would go on to create “synthesis anarchism”[3]. Synthesis anarchism focuses on reconciling the three dominant currents (anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, and individualist anarchism) in a positive fashion; in other words, instead of constructing a platform for people to align with, they emphasized the commonalities the different branches share in their struggle.

While this ended up addressing some of the issues of The Platform, synthesis anarchism ends up feeling less of a synthesis and more of a peace treaty. Both Voline[4] and Faure's[5] writings on the topic focus less on the synthesizing and moreso on decrying infighting, hence the focus on the most politically-relevant strains of anarchism. The underlying issues of “anarchist organization” still remain: what is the limit of tolerance in this unity, how should coalition and principle be balanced? It makes sense that the critics of this approach tend to be individualist anarchists; what do egoists have to gain when this idea of a united front is one born in social anarchism?

The political origins make synthetic centralism feel like a political Hail Mary; casting aside fundamental debates of Ego versus Collective in the name of making sure the Left can live to fight another day.

The Left, Criticism, and Revolution

From what I can gather, these failures of centralism stem from a misunderstanding of revolution and the Left's relation to it. The main reason Marxism gives primacy to the proletariat is not because of their moral superiority or victimhood, but because as the class that is responsible for the production of value, they alone are capable of bringing an end to capitalism.

Yes, one could argue there's crossover between the proletariat and the Left to some extent, however there remains a clear distinction between the two by definition. The proletariat is economically defined, the Left is ideologically defined.

One can be part of the Left and still not hold that economic role, in the case of Sartre and Kropotkin; does this mean they are somehow “invalid Leftists” or worse people for being so? No, because morality is irrelevant here; what's important to note is that an ideological grouping alone is inherently incapable of bringing about material revolution.

One of the most damning examples of this was the fallout of the 1968 French riots. This is an especially interesting case because we see the actions of both the proletariat and the Left and what they lead to.

  • We start with the Situationists developing a critique of the social relations within capitalism, with an emphasis on subversion and tackling boredom. These critiques were highly influential, directly challenging the ideology of late-modernity, giving room to a dystopian vision of the current conditions and exploring relations between the individual and larger society as a whole.
  • As tensions heat up, the most pivotal moment occurs: the unplanned, simultaneous strikes of five million workers. At this point capitalism had adapted to utilizing unions as a negotiation tool, so the spontaneous movement of workers with no room for bargaining or concessions was devastating. This is precisely what led De Gaulle to flee the country and the country to enter a panic.
  • What happened next, however, was the Left attempting to take upon the role of directing revolution.[6] The PCF negotiated another election in which they brutally lost, the student anarchists were won over by reforms to policy, and the proletariat, the one class with no demands or negotiations, found themselves suffocated and forced to return back to their role under capitalism.

The Left, as an ideological grouping, found themselves successful throughout the period of their ideological critique. However, their challenge against the material hegemony ended up becoming destructive because they, definitionally, did not hold the same fundamental stake in the class war as the proletariat. They could be negotiated with, their demands met, and their movement rendered useless.

Because they saw themselves as the class of revolution, their actions were centered around this faulty principle. The victories they fought for were victories for the Left, increasing awareness of their movement and passing “leftist” reforms. They compromised their own critical nature out of fears that the fate of revolution hinged on their own popularity. And as these vanguards grow, the dissonance between the will of the proletariat and the will of the Left becomes more and more apparent. The spark of revolution stems from class unity, not left unity.

Is this to decry the left as useless? Absolutely not. The Left has a key tool up their sleeve, and that precisely is criticism. Communism is the ruthless criticism of all that exists. It's our constant and unyielding critique that serves to break down the boundaries of liberal mythos and bringing inspiration for the revolutionary movement itself.

Which is why it remains so important that the critical spirit of the Left remains, because without it, you end up recreating capitalist ideology under a different name. Theoretical developments have always come from a place of criticism, whether it be Marx's attack on the classical economists or Lenin's polemics against the reformists. It's through criticism and not coalition building that our understanding of the world around us evolves.


Referenced Works:

  1. On The Correct Handling of Contradiction Among The People by Mao Zedong
  2. The Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists by Delo Truda Group
  3. Reply By Several Russian Anarchists To The Platform by several Russian anarchists
  4. Synthesis (Anarchist) by Voline
  5. The Anarchist Synthesis by Faure
  6. Letter on The “May Events” by Louis Althusser