22 December 2013

"And some there were who tore the whole thing up and watched it fall away..."


‘I can accept a certain level of harassment. I was part of the church for 35 years and to an extent I believe you reap what you sow, but they have targeted Monique for years now and we need to do something about it...'

Even after leaving Scientology, Marty still upheld certain aspects of its teachings and tried to defend it. But now he has completely given up.

He said: ‘I spent three years methodically out lining what was good about Scientology, but how it was corrupted. I tried to differentiate between some of the core beliefs and the ends justifies the means, us versus them mentality, but I came to the conclusion that they are so
interwoven, you can’t separate them....

'I was trying to justify all that time I had dedicated to Scientology because I couldn’t admit to myself that it had been wasted. But I am done with it now.'

The full interview with Marty Rathbun - Scientology's Emmanuel Goldstein and formerly its Martin Luther/Leon Trotsky - is at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2526525/Squirrel-Busters-sex-toys-sent-office-secret-cameras-trained-home-Ex-Scientology-leader-wife-reveal-five-year-living-hell-crossing-powerful-church.html (I won't put an active link to the Daily Heil on principle.)

This is the point which many come to coming out of a cultish organisation. If you find yourself reproducing the cult patterns of behaviour in your post-cult organisations - like the "Independent Scientologists" have - then probably the basic doctrine is unsound. The question is on what basis we can build a revolutionary Marxist organisation which doesn't turn into an obedience cult - because if we can't, the flaw may be in Marxism.

24 November 2013

Guru-yoga and the Left: Prologue



On religion and ethics

I am going to be using "religion" in the pejorative sense below, distinct from any question of personal relationship to the 8th Dynamic/Absolute Truth/God Almighty. I am using Frank Zappa's definition:

"foolish rules, of ancient date
 designed to make you feel all great
 while you fold, spindle and mutilate
 the unbelievers from the neighbouring state"

Any Marxist, materialist or humanist should be able to argue that there are  materialist, humanist ethics: "shoulds" which come from the "is" of our lived experience, rather than being arbitraries. Mr Zappa again:
 
"Do what you want, do what you will,
 just don't mess up your neighbour's thrill, 
 and when you pay the bill, kindly leave a little tip 
 to help the next poor sucker on his one-way trip."

We would reject the speculation of religious scholars that the reason you can tell something is holy is precisely because it is irrational. (The question of whether there is such a thing as "divine" ethics which contradict humanistic ethics is something that we should leave well alone, although Sufis discuss it.)

So Zappa's definition of religion can be put in other terms as "a code of justifications for behaviour which contradicts the plain ethics of ordinary life". As Neil Gaiman put it: "something you know which I don't know which makes everything you do okay". Excuses for being an asshole, yes yes.

Given this, a religion (excuse-for-being-an-asshole) doesn't need God. It just requires some kind of idol (the State, the Revolution, the Clearing of the Planet, the Ascension), the service of which not only excuses but demands the suspension of the everyday duty of care towards one's fellow living creatures. It is the same as Giorgio Agamben's "state of exception" - the religious authority, or King (the two were not distinct originally) is that which tells you when it is okay to act like an asshole. And it is always a living person or persons wielding this power.

The Bible says thou shalt not kill, and then gives plenty of examples of justified and approved killing. The Qur'an explicitly says that there are times when religious law does not apply. Trotskyists know that all's fair (in principle) against the class enemy - lying, cheating, stealing, torture, if necessary for the Revolution. But only a big strong man - a ganzer macher, to use the Yiddish term - can act as an interpreter/judge and actually say "yes, this crime was in the greater good and was therefore no crime". L. Ron Hubbard wrote about this in the most explicit way.

So a religion gives guidance for the "state of exception" (the return to the law of the jungle), but only the Big Man can make such a declaration in individual cases. And this is why - and this is a Chaos Marxist aphorism coming up - the more dogmatic/literalist the organisation, the more a Big Man/Dictator will be necessary to interpret and execute the dogma/scripture. Imposition of rules = escalation of power to suspend the rules.

Now, a commentor on the fantastic anti-zionist blog Jews sans frontieres made the following observation in a comment:

members of left-wing groups do follow their ganzer-machers to an astonishing degree, however much the big man's latest whim makes the group a figure of fun or revulsion.

This is true to the extent to which the members of such a group are discouraged from having "their own politics" - i.e. their own individual ways of combining theory to practice - and have to have the Big Man do their thinking for them. Or in other words, the extent that "our politics" are theoretical positions instead of guidelines for behaviour.

This is the beginning of a series exploring the Ganzer Macher model of left-wing politics, based on my personal experience. To be, as they say, continued.

 
 

11 November 2013

The dynamics of existence



Out To Lunch is a big proponent of the Marxist-humanist philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya, formerly Trotsky's secretary who broke with him over his continuing attachment to the Soviet Union after that country had become a bureaucratic nightmare and pissed all over the ideals of October 1917. Now, I must admit I'm finding it hard to get into D-skaya's work - all I've got out of it so far is the importance of the Hegelian dialectic, which I interpret as a recognition that all categories are conditional, everything is in a process of flux, and therefore getting hung up on the definition of words or categories rather than seeing through them to the real stuff underneath will kill any movement for real emancipation stone dead.

But I suppose I really like the name of the intellectual tendency which she left behind: "Marxist-humanism". That is, again in my own filtered perception, a recognition that, as the proverb of the indigenous people of my country has it:  He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata. (People are the most important thing.) By people we mean actual living breathing humans in all their objective conditions of living and their subjective, emotional, contradictionary consciousness. The essence of capitalism - and the bureaucratic state capitalism which Stalin mockingly called "socialism" - is that numbers  and quantities are the most important things - dollar signs, amount of "stuff", the necessity to put a dollar sign on all the stuff so it becomes just the same as all the other stuff, the race to have more "stuff" for less effort than the unbelievers from the neighbouring state. So capitalism has certainly provided the world with more "stuff" than our ancestors dreamed possible. In doing so, we proved that "stuff" doesn't make people happy.

(Some people get nostalgic for Eastern Bloc "socialism" because it wasn't competitive, it was a lazier society, there was less stress on the average person if they weren't a political dissident. But that was a bug rather than a feature in the system. Stalinist economics was supposed  to be capitalist economics only much faster, as Stalin himself explained. People prefer the old system precisely because it didn't work, or to be precise stopped working in the early '70s. In the words of Dr Frank 'N' Furter, I think we can do better than that.)

But there has to be a step beyond Marxist-humanism, and I think we can use the term ecosocialism for that. Now I worry that I may be misusing a known term here. I think hithero "ecosocialism" has just meant socialism with a specific emphasis on ecological issues, like socialist-feminism means socialism with a specific focus on combatting misogyny. But no, I'm not talking about difference in political demands. I am talking about not only incorporating the humanist emphasis on combatting alienation, on the development of individual as well as class consciousness in the class struggle, rather than (as sect-Marxism as historically done) fighting capitalist alienation and exploitation by letting your Party superiors exploit and alienate you. I am talking about expanding this to an ecological awareness of the dialectical relationship between "culture" and "nature". Of a socialism which sees humanity as a crystalisation/hypostatisation of Earth's biosphere, and wishes to prevent capitalism becoming a cancer which will kill the whole body in the mistaken short-term interest of one part of it.

Now I hate to say it, but I'm going to use the Scientology concept of the "Eight Dynamics of Existence" here again. I'm sure that the conman Hubbard ripped this off from a more reliable source, but I haven't found it yet. Anyway, the idea is that one experiences life 1) as an individual; 2) as part of a family; 3) as part of a tribe/group/nation; 4) as a human animal; 5) as part of life on earth; 6) as part of the physical universe; 7) in the realm of spirit/metaphysics; 8) in the realm of Absolute Reality or God. In this sense, Marxist-humanism is Marxism which explicitly includes Dynamics 1-4; ecosocialism, in my conception, adds Dynamic 5. Perhaps a long-time descendent of this train of thought might finally unify the social and physical sciences and add Dynamic 6, but there's a way to go yet.

04 November 2013

Review: The Newhaven Journeyman, issues 1 and 2


The principal interests of Chaos Marxism are revolutionary politics, psychology and culture – and the place where, like the fundamental forces of nature, they are revealed to be a unity under situations of high pressure. It has been increasingly gratifying to discover, over the last year or two, that – particularly in Britain – we are not alone in these concerns. Making contact with the Materialist Esthetix current was a decisive point in our evolution; another was being sent the first two editions of the Newhaven Journeyman, a journal under the capable editorship of Alastair Kemp at Eleusinian Press.

The Journeyman subtitles itself “a haven for dilettantes”. Dilettante comes from Italian and literally means “someone who delights” - that is, someone who takes delight, pleasure, jouissance in a field of endeavour. In original Italian, it has the same meaning as the French amateur - “someone who loves”. (Italian football's highest amateur league is Serie D, for dilettantes.) And both these words have taken on the secondary connotation of the opposite of “professional” - not only in the sense of “doing it for money, rather than love”, but, sadly, as in “not up to the highest standards of craft; shoddy; half-baked”.

Professionalisation, of course, was originally a step forward for working people. The history of organised sport began with a struggle between, to use old-fashioned sexist cricketing terminology, “Gentlemen” and “Players” - i.e. between the ruling class who had no day jobs and could therefore take time off whenever they felt like it to train and play, and working people who needed to be paid to bring themselves up to the “Gentlemen”'s level. Similar things happened in the world of music and other artforms, when the old-school patronage model (where, as Frank Zappa put it, “the duke said, I'll chop your fingers off if it doesn't sound like this”) was replaced with the freedom to sell one's creative efforts in the market place.

As good communists, we of course recognise that the negation of amateurism by professionalism was a triumph of the bourgeois revolution over feudalism; and yet, perhaps it is time for that negation to be negated once again. Professionalism in sports, the arts, academia and music has led to a hypostatisation of all the worst elements of the “celebrity cult” - hyperspecialisation means that our performers have become untouchable, unreachable, iconic, inhuman, and their increasingly superlative performances have ceased to bear anything but a vague family resemblance to anything that ordinary people might do for fun. In my own country, a recent series of newspaper articles have explored the hitherto-hushed story of mental health issues among elite sportsmen. Meanwhile, we all know from a million rock biographies and artist documentaries that success in the cultural market economy can screw our creative heroes up far worse than failure.

Karl Marx predicted that the communist future would mean a kind of “return to amateurism”, a reversal of the inhuman hyperspecialisation in the division of labour encouraged by the unfettered commodity economy - wherenobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes(The German Ideology). In the spirit of the Hegelian dialectic, this would mean that the dilettante – she who does things for fun, for passion, for use-value – has become more useful than the full-time professional, paid a good living to concentrate on a vanishingly small area of human endeavour.

The academy, in the current vogueishness of “interdisciplinary studies”, has finally begun to catch up to this. But by that it means teams of hyperspecialists. Woe betide any generalist – or even someone who wants to start in an interdisciplinary fashion – getting such a position. Combined with the “bums on seats” model of tertiary education, where pushing people up the ladder to dissertation becomes an end in itself, and you get what I like to call the lumpen-intelligensia – the “reserve army of philosophy and art”, people with all the verbal, creative and cognitive skills necessary to make real steps forward in combining theory into practice in creating new stuff which means something, and yet not able to use those skills in the market economy. So many of us end up earning a crust by proofreading, grammar-checking or indexing the works of those good enough at, to use another Zappaism, “politics or blow-jobs” to have landed one of the jobs that the rest of us were trained for.

Where was I? Oh yes. So in one sense the whole Internet/blogosphere can be seen as a “haven for dilettantes”. But the flip side of open access is zero quality control – except in the sense that “click-baiting”, sensationalism or pandering to prejudice for an audience, creates its own superstars. Surely the future of a communist logosphere must be in collective quality control. It's the difference between “private publishing” and “vanity publishing” - you can put your stuff out completely freely, screw the market economy and the institutions, etc, etc... but if you're not part of a collective or a community which can help you spellcheck your work, give it a wash and shave its armpits, or even in extreme cases to tell you that you've just wasted your time... I don't fancy your chances of producing something great. You need a grindstone to whet your sword of burnished gold against.

And herein is the genius of the Newhaven Journeyman – it comes out in the format of a small booklet, of similar size and shape to institutionally-backed journals, and – one assumes! - has an editorial agenda of quality control. And yet the content is a metric fuckton more interesting than anything you'll find in a “real” journal, because it comes from the intersection of theory and practice. This ain't a bunch of psychs reading off the results of randomised controlled trials of the new Blahdeblahdezine tablet in making crazies sit down and shut up, no sir. When – in Issue One (2012) you read Jan Tchamani talking about her experiences of syanesthesia when the outside world becomes literally too painful to step into, or Andrew Roberts' deeply sad exploration of the life of poetess Charlotte Mew, who lived a lonely life for fear of any progeny falling prey to the “lunacy” which had led to her sister and brother being locked up – this is real stuff. This is what being “differently sane” to use the Church of the SubGenius's terminology feels like on the inside. It's a cage made of bars no-one else can see. This is radical subjectivity, the subaltern telling Gayatri Spivak to get lost and doing its damndest to speak. Or – in the case of Kim Withnail's “Two Women” - when it's gone too far down to speak, you'd better hope you have an artist/therapist/activist with a hell of a lot of compassion handy to at least transmit a glimmer of what's really happening to those on the outside.

The subaltern, as I think Aleister Crowley might have recognized, can only speak from a place of “darkness”, that is, from the “blind spot” of the All-Seeing Eye of official consciousness. This is the place of Freud's “uncanny”, or Robert Graves' “objective poetry” which is the same thing as the most ancient voodoo magick chants in that you can tell “the presence of the Gods” (or Muses, or the Juice) by the hairs on the back of your neck bristling. So we have experiements in weird fiction which are deeply unsettling. I must say that I didn't enjoy either Thomas DeAngelo's “The Scientist” or Liz Aidl's “Beneath” from Issue Two (2013). But that's because I recognized where they came from. The first is a morality of tale research into radical subjectivity gone too far, while the other explores the masochistic complicity of the partner of a Dixie version of Josef Fritzl. I don't like those places where the writers delved, because I've been close to them and barely got out again with my ego intact. Which is precisely the kind of thing that “objective art” reminds us of. You're not suppose to like the “real stuff”.

Hold on, I almost forgot myself. Talking about “whetting the grindstone”, and I was about to finish this review without any criticism? Well... I must say I wasn't too impressed with Tristan Vivian Adam's “Talking with Cries”, which read to me a bit like “cargo cult academia” - aping the obscurantist langage of our social betters to come to a conclusion which might have worked much better as a one-page poem. Daniel Spicer's cut-up was very interesting for the first few iterations, not so much after that. As for the work of Michael Burnett, I thought "Ghost in the Cell" was quite clever and apposite, while "Black Widow" disappointed by relying on old school misogynist tropes. And – while I'm personally excited by the whole meme of ecosocialism – I found his non-fiction “The Cost of Winning” a bit too abstract, without direct connection to doing stuff in the here and now. With regard to reconciliation ecology, Michael – a subject which I find intriguing – what is to be done, by us, to coin a phrase?

So – although of course I love the way Ben Watson writes and his contributions to both issues give me real pleasure – I don't suppose you read the Newhaven Journal for fun, any more than you write for it for fun. To quote Rorschach, the disturbed vigilante from Alan Moore's Watchmen - “we do these things because we are compelled”. We write and draw and make music because to do otherwise means having no mouth and yet you must scream. It might not be any good but we can never tell that in advance and we must do it to find out if it was worth doing. And, if we are deeply honest, we find music and art and writing and politics which bring us face to face with the Blind Spot of our whole culture (the exploitation of the proletarian and the oppression of anyone who doesn't “fit), and with the Blind Spot in our own minds which is the internalisation of the lies we have to tell others in order to live in this $2.99 material world.

Keep going, Alastair and your motley crew of fellow travellers.

26 September 2013

Now We Are, er, Seven

I haven't posted much this year, perhaps because it has all been said and nothing remains apart from the doing. But I think that the attempted fusion of revolutionary Marxism, non-dualist spirituality and "magick" has produced some extremely interesting insights - in particular, into why cults form and what can be done to prevent it. At the age of 6 7*, Chaos Marxism still seems to be alive, in the sense that people still read, pass it on, and debate its conclusions.

Thank you all. Now go out and make it real.

( * edited because I can't freakin' count)

12 August 2013

A materialist enlightenment...



... is nothing more than reflexivity, the vision beholding itself, the "one I clapping". In other words: the psyche divides itself into ego, id and super-ego. The ego's job is to live in the World-That-Is, the Matrix, the "Real" World of Horrible Jobs. The ego gives you good reasons to do the things that the id wants to do but the super-ego finds shameful - and the id takes the blame. We could say that, in the older Judaic conceptions such as those found in the Book of Job, Satan is YHWH's id - as an angel he doesn't have free will, he's just a reflection/refraction of YHWH's attributes, but he's propped up for the rubes to blame as the guy who does the "dirty work" of the heavenly host.

"There is nothing more disillusioning as enlightenment", as Orton Nenslo put it. Brad Warner's description of an enlightenment experience in Hardcore Zen - a brief, beatific vision of identification with the Universe, as simply one of a countless number of moving viewpoints via which the totality explores itself through 4 dimensions - is materialistically identical with Jill Bolte Taylor's description of her cerebral infarct in My Stroke of Insight or Hazrat-e-Pir Javad Nurbakhsh's poetic formulation: "Say it plain, that God by God I see." It is the reflection on the individual level of Lukács' description of the proletariat recognising itself as the subject-object of history.

Adopting an ego means excluding the non-self, which means creating a "blind spot" or "censor barrier" through which the positionality of the ego can simply not be seen. The ego assumes a God's eye view and thus is God, in every meaningful way - as the hadith qudsi puts it, "He who knows himself knows his Lord". This is why Marxist praxis (theory mutually reinforcing practice) is necessary but not sufficient. The ego which evolved under capitalism will sabotage everything in order to keep up the barriers between "I" and "it" - it loves its own alienation because that gives it an excuse. It's so much easier to not be responsible. Watch how revolutionary groups and movements are destroyed by the reassertion of the leader-led dialectic of class society when things get tough - some people want an excuse to be Boss and order people around, and others want a Boss to take their responsibility away. Marty Rathbun is recently pointing out that too many of the "true believers" who have quit the increasingly insane $cientology cult have ended up starting their own cult, complete with all the "thought police" nonsense they were victimised by. It's all right for us to have a security-goon apparatus to protect ourselves, we're the good guys! Right? (For those not in the know, part of Hubbard technology is supposed to be making you able to confront everything - so exactly why do Scienos have to break off ties with friends who criticise the cult and aren't allowed to read teh intarwebz without a ent-nanny?) Marxists might recognize this as the "some of the biggest Stalinists are Trotskyists" syndrome, or noting that every split from Gerry Healey's cultish ICFI has kept all the cultist apparatus.

Jill Bolte Taylor saw her ego collapse - then put it back together, amazingly leaving out the bits she wasn't happy with - when a fuse blew in her left-brain hardware. This meant months in hospital and years of physical rehabilitation, of course, so I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. The more traditional way to go about it is a course of meditative practice, in which the mind is left "turning over in neutral" until the observing consciousness finds itself capable of confronting everything that it throws up, accepting but not reacting. That is the point of the (temporary) elimination of divisions between ego, id and super-ego; when restored, they can be edited, and recognized from personal experience as arbitrary. Caution: what you find out will disgust and disturb you, necessarily. It's coming to terms with everything that you hate, everything against which you found your very existence, and realising that THOU ART THAT. EGO ID SUM.

Double caution: Aleister Crowley calls this "crossing the abyss", and points out that getting all the way up to the dissolution of the ego and not going through with it turns you into a Black Brother, i.e. some monstrous thing. Brad Warner speculates that that's what happened to, for example, Aum Shinrikyo's leader (and I'd add Ron Hubbard to that) - you get to a certain level of insight, you get the realisation that YOU ARE IT, and the ego twists that into a self-preservation that becomes madness: "I [ego] am God and identical with the universe, which means I can do what I like! MWAHAHAHA!" Dr Nurbakhsh similarly likened the spiritual path to a game of snakes and ladders, where there's a great big snake going from square 99 all the way back to square 1.

(For those who've developed an unhealthy fan-boy attachment to the owner of this blog, a bit of personal information to solve that: my brief "enlightenment" experiences have pointed out to me that I deliberately make my life painful and difficult because I get a high from panic; that I toy with fantasies of cruelty to others; and that, despite everything I've written here, what I really want to do is switch off and go play video games all day long. I'm obsessed with making myself look good to others: the main real reason I write this blog is to make people think I'm cool, and the reason I write pseudonymously is just in case anyone doesn't like it. So, anything good you read here is despite me, not because of me.)

But anyway, YOU do not exist. You are in potential everyone and everything. You constructed yourself through a "blind watchmaker" process of blind selection. You will never transcend the circumstances of your arising until you "undo" youself altogether then put yourself together again; which presupposes the gradual building of a "will" capable of acting contrary to the super-ego's commands, the ego's plans and the id's drives.

27 July 2013

The Weaver in the Web That He Made: preliminary notes towards a workable model



1. Stephen Hawking's model of the universe as "infinite but bounded" (i.e. spherical) in 4-dimensional space-time sounds good to me, forgetting the pesky little curled-up dimensions required by string theory for a moment. It is always-already complete. "Time" as we know it is an artifact of travelling through this area. The Time Lords in Doctor Who fiction are said to create "4-dimensional statues", i.e. things which have decay and change-through-time built into them. Some Muslims say that the Qu'ran is like this. But in any case, if Hawking is correct everything is like this. Every physical "thing" is a 4-dimension tunnel through space-time, and they intersect with each other.

2. Buddha, Heraclitus and Karl Marx all came to the same conclusion. The mental 3-dimensional "snapshots" we take of this reality and call it "the Real World" are illusory. πάντα ρει: everything is always slipping down its own 4D tunnel. Nothing is solid. Materialist dialectics is the philosophy of how things journey down the tunnel, conceived as a process of the resolution of internal contradictions.

3. The argument among Marxists of whether there is a "dialectics of nature" is therefore a complete waste of time. "Nature" as we perceived it and describe it in laws is a 3D snapshot (or, at best, a limited 4D "videoclip") of... okay, we will refer to the Universe as it really is under all that crap, the "emic reality" as R. A. Wilson and anthropologists put it, by the Arabic term al-Haqq. Yeah. Therefore anything that we can understand and put into words is an artifact of our viewpoint and understanding; therefore it is a creation of consciousness; therefore, what the hell, we can say it follows a dialectic process if it helps us. The "dialectics of nature" is thus a heuristic rather than an ontological truth, and much like Charlie Brown, I'm always certain when it comes to matters of opinion.

4. Anything we can actually conceptualise and put into words is a map, not the territory. Some maps are more useful than others. "Etic reality" is the world that we actually experience based on our interactions as primates blessed with rational minds on an M-class planet. We interact with thought-forms in our brains which provide a workable model for dealing with everyday reality.  By interaction with the others around us who are already totally plugged into the existing system by which humans create the necessities of life and of meaning, we create a Ego (called the Little Self or the nafs by Sufis) as our "counter" on the playing-board of life. We can refer to this as the Matrix, to use a Gnostic/Buddhist metaphor which everyone gets now.

5. So the Matrix is being continually and collectively constructed - a game of existence worked out by its players over the course of millennia. And as Marx correctly noted, its fundament is the struggle for material existence - keep these primate bodies alive, reproducing, and happy. But past that we go up Maslow's hierarchy of needs - safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. And all of these are things which are drives as Freud would have recognized them - real physical needs, filtered through the logic-making systems of the Ego.

6. So: the basis for the evolution of human society (and therefore class society) is the production and reproduction of the hierarchically-organised needs of the Ego. And of course modern consumer capitalism has busied itself, in the era of possible abundance, of creating artificial scarcity and implanted needs so as to keep the system running. The Matrix is self-perpetuating - it has no 4D perspective, it sees no end to itself, although its continuous efforts to keep the status quo dialectically mean it continually changes and progresses.

7. The Matrix is holographic in the sense that "as above, so below" - all of the "tokens" or "counters" in its system depend upon and bear the imprint of the whole system, just as in the structuralist view of language. Your Ego (what you almost always think of as "you") means absolutely nothing outside the context of your particular socio-economic Matrix. In fact, what you've come to think of as "you" evolved specifically to aid your survival and success within that particular system or game. Fish have no word for water. The ideas of the ruling class are generally the ideas of society.

8. The existence of a crappy watch proves the existence of a Blind Watchmaker. A system which evolves in response to a particular need will continue on that evolutionary trajectory (4D tunnel) even if that need no longer exist, because all systems become self-perpetuating once the Egos which partake in them become dependent on the system. Systems only become obsolete when the Egos making them up no longer find their needs met by the system. The main reason why capitalism (the human System based on generalised wage-labour and commodity production) has endured long-past its use-by date is that they've used the advanced sciences of Psychology over the last 100 years or so to perfect the art of consciously reprogramming Egos to become more useful to, and thus more dependent on, the System. They call that "neoliberal self-fashioning".

9. All subsidiary systems are holographic representations of the overarching System. That's right. There is no "outside" to capitalist domination. There is no "counter-culture", except in the sense that you have to have a Devil if you have a God - any Ego and any organisation of Egos in the world of capitalism will follow the rules of capitalism. In fact, the sick and sad thing is that the more an organisation which seeks to change the System actually adapts to the rules of the system - that is, the extent to which it "sells out" its own ideas and reproduces the oppression, repression, commodification, reification and concepts of its environment - the better of a chance it has of surviving. Revolutionary socialists understand this extremely well when it comes to worker-cooperative firms; until recently, they didn't seem to "get it" about their own groups (except for those French libertarian communists who wrote "Militancy: The Highest Form of Alienation").

10. The Ego - in the absence of some "fixed point" of reference already outside the System - cannot get outside the System for the same reason a fish cannot get outside water. All attempts at magick (the art of changing consciousness at will, i.e. the Ego editing its own programming) can only make the individual more successful in (and thus less dangerous to) the System - thus, the "occultism of small businessmen". At worst, it might lead to a collapse of the Ego, i.e. psychosis. Rational analysis can show where the exit doors are in the system - as Marx and Freud did - but they can't go through them.

11. Mysticism is about attempting to give the individual Ego exactly that kind of "fixed point" outside the system - in the form of al-Haqq, the absolute. The fundamental practice of mysticism is meditation - a kind of mental "neutral gear" in which the mind disconnects from the body and allows the automatic thoughts of the Ego to flood past without any sequelae in the physical world. Eventually, the discipline develops of forming a subset of the Ego which not only observes the ego but is capable of making decisions contrary to the Ego's likes, dislikes and preferences - we can call this the Will.

12. But the fundamental principle of mysticism is love - defined as the Ego's willing submission of its own needs and desires to another's, or at least, for the Other's needs and desires to be put on a higher plane. That is, love is a voluntary surrender of the Ego's usually rock-firm boundaries between I and You and It. It is therefore a way out of the System to which the Ego owes its very existence. Love is a key out of the Matrix and into al-Haqq. And it takes all the forms the Greeks recognized - eros, philos, agape. Marxists might add solidarity - because the proletariat can only see reality collectively, as a class acting for itself in struggle, rather than the isolated Egos produced by capitalism.

13. The Ego lives in the world. The rational intellect explains the world. Will changes the world. Love creates the world.


23 June 2013

Neoliberalism as magick



 “Government of the self ” becomes the taproot of all social order, even though the identity of the self evanesces under the pressure of continual prosthetic tinkering; this is one possible way to understand the concept of “biopower.” Under this regime, the individual displays no necessary continuity from one “decision” to the next. The manager of You becomes the new ghost in the machine.

Thank you, Philip Mirowski. Classical liberalism - or we might way paleoliberalism - was all about the freedom of the (monadic) individual, continuing the Western tradition of believing in a unique "soul" or core to the human personality. However, classic liberalism also understood the labour theory of value, labour being defined as socially useful activity under the guidance of the monadic intellect.

Neoliberalism is what happened when post-war capitalism took Freud seriously, and understood his insight that the "individual" is pretty much a pattern of habits and behaviours adopted so one particular human-shaped body can fit into its society, layered over a bubbling cauldron of half-formed dreams, nightmares, drives, repressions etc.

Neoliberalism blew apart the whole rationale for traditional class society by making it clear that potentially everyone could be a self-actualising Superhuman. But the flipside of that is that classical liberalism at least felt sorry for the poor and had an idea of charity - "there but for the grace of God, or upbringing, go I". But under neoliberalism, everyone is responsible for their own self-fashioning, so no-one ends up in a gutter without - at some point - making some choice to become a "waste of social space." Kein Mitgleid für den Mehrheit, indeed. There is no charity or pity under neoliberalism.

Is it any wonder that "magick" in the Aleister Crowley sense became big among the petty-bourgeois radical underground at the same time that psychology became an industrial science? Radical libertarianism - anarcho-cap or anarcho-commie flavours - hooked onto Crowley's insights (or the bastardised versions served up by Gerald Gardner, R. A. Wilson, Werner Erhardt or, God help us all, Foul Ole Ron) to beat the ruling class at their own "self-fashioning game". They called it self-liberation, but in fact it turned into neo-liberal self-fashioning, because the goal was to create for the (generally white male) individual the most comfortable life possible. Success meant being a celebrity, selling books, having a fan club, and otherwise score big in the market economy which of course the Big Names were too cool to really care about.

More than one scary mind-control cult claiming to be socialist - Fred Newman's International Workers' Party, or the LaRouche mob - attempted to do this on a collective basis. The Newmanites called it "breaking down the bourgeois ego to create a proletarian ego". What nonsense. We don't need a proletarian ego for the same reason that Trotsky argued in 1923 that we don't need a "proletarian culture". What this process meant was really to brainwash followers into being extensions of the Great Leader's Ego. R. A. Wilson pointed out, for example, the technology by which the SLA did this to Patty Hearst.

Meanwhile the revolutionary groups got left behind because the tradition of revolutionary psychology had petered out after Voloshinov disappeared in the gulags and Reich fled to the US and went a bit nutso. So back in the 1970s - and still today to a lesser degree - Marxists have been stuck with a theory of the individual which is just like that of an Adam Smith classical liberal - "the individual" as a monadic whole as opposed to "the collective" or the community. A dialectic between the two in the more sophisticated groups, but no overcoming of the contradiction at a higher level.

So what Chaos Marxism suggests is that we need to leapfrog the neoliberal enemy, which has destroyed the idea of the classical "individual subject" in the name of some kind of "individualism". The ideal neoliberal subject is nothing but a tool allowing capitalism to reproduce itself more effectively, continually refining itself as "human capital" to make more profit to its exploiters. To this extent, the next step for revolutionaries must be an ethic of community which transcends the individual/collective duality altogether. A community which offers a respite from the neoliberal urge to continually "consume more" and to "improve oneself".

What I am suggesting is that we need a revolutionary party whose cadre are appreciated as they are and as they feel comfortable being. If "the Party" wants us to become someone or something else to accomplish its own needs, exactly where lies its superiority to the corporation which brainwashes us with positive thinking and company loyalty? We await the day that the working class transforms itself into a class-for-itself; expecting to do that with socialists who have transformed themselves into activists-for-the-Great-Leader, fighting workers who have transformed themselves into good-corporate-drones, is really expecting the new era to come out of Bad Versus Worse.

Hope that makes sense. What I'm getting at is that the classical-liberal individual is indeed an illusion - we can all transform ourselves - but neoliberalism wants us to transform ourselves into its own tools - whereas we need to transform ourselves into the tools of the Future - and we can only do that in mutually respectful community and in revolutionary praxis.

20 June 2013

The metaphysical dialectic



I'm too stressed and my brain is too close to a homogenous mush to work this out much further, but I want to extend the point I made in a post below that a dialectic approach to the thought/object, subjective/objective, spirit/matter, machine/soul dichotomy is the only alternative to either mechanical materialism (which lets stupid idealism in through the back door via voluntarism or "positive thinking" bullshit), or stupid idealism (which lets mechanical materialism in through the back door with the idea of cause -> effect between thought and action, eg. the Catholic Church attempting to draw up a scientific analysis of miracles).

And that addition is the question of quality turning into quantity. The way you can tell that Stalinism is a form of capitalism as opposed to a form of socialism is its belief in pursuing quantity above all else, in the blind assurance that this is automatically the same thing as quality. Whether this is measured in $$$ of profit or millions of surplus tons of pig-iron or kitty litter, no-one actually thinks of acting like Marx suggested and seeing what the use value to actual human beings is of all this piled up "stuff", and what its non-quantifiable costs are. A sure sign that a "revolutionary" group has succumbed to capitalist/state capitalist logic is that it measures its success using quantitative tools - X papers sold, Y people at this demo or that meeting, Z extra members. A real revolutionary group would measure itself by its use-value - i.e. what it actually makes happen.

Robert Fripp, who is one of those "intelligent idealists" whom Lenin liked better than the stupid materialists and so do I, talks about "quality" as if it came from a Higher Realm and intersected with quantity. That's at least a bit closer to a materialist dialectic and is a sign of taking the question seriously.

13 May 2013

A blessing

"May we wish for each other what we wish most deeply for ourselves." - Robert Fripp. Thus:

May every friend and reader of Chaos Marxism be recognized for who they are and what they can do, and may they be given work which embodies that recognition.

In other words: may you all be delivered from alienation. Or rather, may we all deliver ourselves.

[UPDATED!: Great bonus Subgenius vs SubGenius fistfight in the comments.]

28 April 2013

I won't be what I am now


written at the low point of a vicious depressive episode

There is no heaven, no hell, no afterlife... at least of the kind which traditional religion teaches us to expect. You (i.e. your ego) will not survive this body, for exactly the same reason that your clock radio starts blinking 12:00 after being unplugged, or you have to back-up your hard drive. Data gets lost. Your body might be resurrected at the End of Time, but it might be like those heads in a jar in Futurama. The great Prophets weren't lying, as such, as much as trying to terrorise the simple folk into being good.

But you don't exist in this world, either. You - as an individual - are interpellated (as Althusser would have it) - called into existence - by the structures of this world. The twin traps of You are getting all wound up as to whether you win and lose the game of Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins; or the equal and opposite one, Who Dies With The Most Brownie Points Lives Forever In A Nice Place (And Whoever Gets A Negative Score Gets Fried Alive).

There's not much in Scientology that's worth it, but one exception is the concept of Eight Dynamics of the Self. That is: "self-interest" as defined by your personal biological unit is the smallest and lowest level of consciousness and responsibility. The next step up from that is your family and your domestic unit; up from that, the group (nation, class) you belong to; then humanity; then Life On Earth; then the physical universe; then as a Viewpoint detached from the physical universe (meta-consciousness, or as the vulgar would have it "the soul" or "spirit"); and past that, al-Haqq, the Absolute. The point being that anyone who puts their own personal identity at the top of their list of priorities is a really, really small creature, and due to be among the losers as everything they care about will cease to exist in less than 100 years.

The famous woman Sufi Rabi'a was seen running through the streets with a bucket of water to quench Hell, and a torch to burn down Heaven. Anyone who was motivated by Heaven or Hell, according to her, was as deluded and lost as anyone motivated by the riches of the Real World of Horrible Jobs (or, in her day, Goat Farming). The Absolute - the God's-eye view, or the view of the hardest of hard science - is the only thing worth worshipping. But all eight dynamics of the Self are worth living and dying for... in balance and moderation.

Whatever is really worth it about "you" is part of the Absolute, and is therefore eternal and immortal. Sadly, that doesn't mean what you call "yourself".

18 March 2013

Consciousness / Unconsciousness


Apologies for the break in service. All of a sudden, to our amazement, people have started taking CM seriously, and so I've been talking about this issues with people actually in political movements and making some excellent contacts. And some of them are with us now.

So, anyway: the goal of CM is still the marriage of Marxism and mysticism/magick, and another way into this is the problem of subjectivity. Changing consciousness at will, Starhawk's definition of magick, is one way to look at it - but why would you want to do that anyway? Answer: because your normal everyday self (i.e. the ego) can simply not see certain things. You have a blind spot, because of where you are and what you are doing and more importantly who you are.

Upton Sinclair said: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" More recently, Richard Seymour (he of the Sino-Seymourite Deviationists) has had this to say on intersectionality and the status of black female domestic workers in feminism:
Being insider-outsiders, they could perceive the routines and patterns, the assumptions, of an existing body of social theory that had been largely dominated by white men.  Importantly, this meant that their challenge would be aimed not just at inclusion in the sense of expanding the existing paradigms to 'include black women in', but at fundamentally subverting the existing paradigms by virtue of the particular forms of knowledge they were able to contribute.  But if that's true, it also has implications for intersectionality.  Insofar as postcolonial feminisms have sought to challenge a blindspot in existing feminisms, they have sought to qualitatively transform them.  

To spell it out, one's ego, or nafs, or class consciousness, or Bourdieuan habitus, means you simply don't, can't, won't look in a particular direction. The point of both revolutionary socialism and mysticism is to attempt to assume a universal viewpoint: the viewpoint of the proletariat as the "subject-object" of future history, or the viewpoint of God. Traditionally described, the point of magick is to be able to cast off one ego and put on another, which amounts to the same thing. The danger of course is that if you simply cast off your ego that's what ordinary people call "going insane", and they tend to lock you up and not give you the good pills.

The difference between revolutionary socialism and Stalinism/social democracy, as the difference between mysticism and religion, is the emphasis on agency and the subjective factor. If it's just a matter of doing the right things to achieve salvation, that leads to authoritarian conclusions, if there's only One Way and, as the traditionalist Catholics put it, "error has no rights". But if the point is to unite the objective with the subjective, then the question of will (defined in Gurdjieffian terms as the ability to do things that "you" don't like and don't want to do) is the question of the ability to create a revolutionary rupture with existing reality.

All parties, labels, dogmas, religions, and fixed identities get in the way of this, except insofar as they are supposed to be means to an end and to be burned as fuel in the struggle. Because if the workers don't burn the party as fuel, the party will burn the workers as fuel. That's what we call Stalinism, or fundamentalism. You have to be a soul and a class for yourself.

04 January 2013

New directions for the New Year


Language is a virus. The ego is a meme*. "The world flows through us." Most of what we do starts long before the left-brain language centres decided to make up a good excuse for it. The "unconscious" is that left-brain inventing someone else to blame for actions which don't fit within its own self-image, which have their sources in the Real World of Horrible Jobs. When the left-brain shuts down or is bypassed (stroke, dreams, drugs, spiritual/psychic practices, brainwashing, art), then you begin to see how "thermoplastic" your personal reality is. But corporate psychotherapy / self-help is all about you paying to adjust your reality so it's closer to theirs.

David Smail got there first. Hello, comrade.

* I picked this up from a book on post-Kantian philosophy, and it was so obvious and confounding that I was amazed to find out that only those wacky Grant Morrison fanboys at Barbelith had got there first. But it is here that social-materialist psychology agrees 100% with non-dualist spirituality. "YOU ARE NOT REAL". You cannot fix your world from a position of "I". In Truth and Love, there is no I and thou.