Monday, 31 October 2016

The Other Red Pill: the Desert of the Real

In the previous installment of The Other Red Pill, we broke down the basics of economic relations and class and how ownership of capital, or lack thereof, was crucial to that.  While many factors and variables play into things, higher levels of ownership of capital translate into being higher on the class totem pole (bourgeoisie as opposed to proletariat, in Marx's admittedly antiquated terminology) and thus into more wealth, privilege and political influence.

It's important to keep in mind that class structure, even when framed in these concrete terms, is surprisingly complex.  The small shopkeeper and the majority shareholders in the world's largest banks are both, technically, bourgeoisie, but exist worlds apart from one another in terms of actual wealth and influence.  Ditto for unskilled and uneducated laborers vs. highly trained professionals who own their own tools but are still employed by others.  To say nothing of the role of government and its employees.  If you have any kind of investment portfolio or even a savings account, you are, to however limited an extent, the owner of productive capital.  So go straight to gulag, enemy of the people!

Marx was sharply critical of the class structure of his day, perhaps because it was so stark: there was the bourgeoisie who grew fat off the toil of the laborers.  Before this, the emerging middle class first acquired the capital needed at the dawn of the industrial revolution through such niceties as the enclosure of agricultural lands, acquiring large stocks of precious metals, usually by force from foreign cultures, wars with rival powers and the notorious Atlantic slave trade, among others.  By the time Adam Smith's famous theories of market theory and the industrial revolution came along, they were - believe it or not, surprisingly progressive doctrines.  Probably not to poor sods toiling away in textile mills for fifteen hours a day in early 19th century England, mind you.  Nor to the poor sods similarly toiling away in China today, so that you can buy stuff on a mixture of high interest credit and wages not high enough to be at all interesting.  The gravy train chugs along.  For the bourgeoisie, at least.

So if your boss is a prick, take heart in the fact that he's not unusual, and that his boss is probably a bigger prick still.  Bosses have a very long history of being jerks.  That's not likely to change soon.  If yours isn't, you're the exception rather than the rule.  Count yourself lucky.

So what does all of this have to do with anything, you might ask?

A great deal, as a matter of fact.

Not in the sense that there's going to be a revolution, as Marx predicted and hoped, to overthrow the class structure and bring about a classless society.  That's not politically feasible, obviously, and may not even be desirable.  The real issue today is that class, in the historical materialist sense of the term, has largely faded from the public mind, even among anti-capitalists.  This has resulted in distortions in the way a lot of social issues are perceived.

It is no secret, for example, that income inequality has risen sharply in the past several decades.  It is no coincidence that this has occurred alongside a steady withering of the "old left" - a way of analyzing inequality in terms of class and a subsequent rise of the "new left", which emphasizes identity and culture as driving forces of inequality.

A lot of factors have fueled this trend, beginning with the Frankfurt School in Europe prior to WW2, and the proliferation of their theories in postwar academia.  Then came the new social movements emergent in the 1960s, and as a parallel development beginning in the 1970s and 80s, the demise of socialism.  In the early 1990s the USSR dissolved, driving the final nail into the coffin of Marxist credibility in the eyes of many.  The unions grew weaker as a result of manufacturing jobs moving to more repressive, low wage environments.

Leftist parties, desperate for new bases of political support, turned to an emergent class of urban knowledge workers, cosmopolitan in it s racial and gender composition and educated in an academia that cared much more for cultural critical theory, postmodern philosophy and identity politics than the dry, antiquated theory of Marxist materialism.  Leftist ideology gradually forgot how essential economic relations were to the concept of class, and began to see inequality through lenses of culture and identity instead, casting white males in the role once reserved for the bourgeoisie and women, people of color and LGBT people in the role once reserved for the proletariat - often with little regard for the actual class of the people in question.  Academically trained "leftists" attributed privilege to even poor and working class white males that they would not attribute to "marginalized" CEOs, however less common they may have been.

Conservative parties also cashed in on the changes that were taking place.  They appealed to white male working class voters through appeal to their own identities, and with union stewards far less likely to be on hand to advise the white proletariat of its true class interests, they were more likely to cast their lot in with right wing parties.  This did little good, as these parties merely exacerbated the economic inequalities already long on the rise.  Much of the voting middle class were sitting ducks for right wing politicians in the 1990s and early 2000s who framed capitalist economics in terms of morality and individualism instead of class relations.  The left, for its part, now cared much more about culture than about economics, and it was along these lines that political battle lines have since been drawn.

It is no secret that the left/right divide has grown more bitter in the last fifteen or so years.  From social conservatism and liberalism, we now have the emergence of the identitarian determinism of the Social Justice Warriors on the left and its shadow counterpart, the Alt-Right - both of which are the terminal points for class-blind politics on both ends of the spectrum.  From here, the frustration and militancy on both ends are only going to get worse so long as the class relations that are the real causes of inequality and alienation remain invisible and the resulting social problems blamed on identity groups - white males for the SJWs and Jews and other minorities for the alt-right.  And for added instability, toss mass Islamic immigration into the mix.  One need but look at the state of race, religious and gender relations as reflected in any social media outlet to see the consequences.  Intersectional feminists will not be losing their taste for white male tears any time soon, and that, quite frankly, is the least of our worries.

All the while, wealth inequality and its consequent effects on politics from the local to the global are only going to get worse.

As Morpheus so bluntly put it to Neo in that iconic moment in The Matrix - "Welcome to the Desert of the Real."

Alt-Left Facebook Groups

Alt-Left types now have a broad variety of groups on Facebook that they can join and pages they can like.  Hooray!

Have I missed any?  Comment with a link below.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Other Red Pill: Tense Relations

In the previous installment of the other red pill, we looked briefly at the overarching premise of the material conception of history, which is that the way in which people sustain themselves economically form the basis of society and culture.  More or less.  Nothing is ever so simple as that, of course, and it would be a mistake to believe that it is, but I'm sure its importance is indisputable to any honest historian, economist or sociologist.

There's no real way of sugar coating what is to come now.  And that's Marxist terminology and a fair bit of it.  And a few general accounting and financial management principles on top of that.  In my four plus decades on this Earth, I've studied a fair bit of both.  So keep this page bookmarked for those nights when you really need something to put you to sleep.  But it's useful stuff to know because, for reasons that will be explained in subsequent installments of the other red pill, this is going to be an important way to look at social issues for people interested in being able to lock horns with right wingers and regressive leftists with any hope of obtaining decisively positive results.  So here goes:

As mentioned in the previous section, we evolved to be social animals and productive animals.  Some of us more than others, no doubt.  Groups of people have advantages over lone individuals in that they can have a division of labor that allows for things to get done more efficiently.  Anyone who's ever done work in a group can be forgiven for believing otherwise.  But we take for granted just how much this is done already.  If you actually have a job, besides being lucky these days, you have a recognizably specialized niche in the overall economy.  No one person does it all.

So let's say you're one of the lucky ones and you work full time these days.  You're a wage earning schmuck somewhere.   We're going to follow you around a bit to get a glimpse of how this whole system works.  Once at work - in a plant, warehouse or office you don't own, situated on land you don't own, you typically use tools of some sort - machines, computers and so on.  You don't own those either.  These Marx referred to as the means or instruments of labor.  So that they don't sound too Marxist, the guys you work for probably refer to the same things as capital assets, or something similar.

While at work, you utilize your labor power along with the means of labor to act upon what are called the subjects of labor - raw materials, raw data, inventory and so on, with the intent of adding value somehow.  You don't own any of this either.  If this doesn't sound terribly exciting, that's because it usually isn't.  That's why a lot of people, yourself possibly among them, spend a fair bit of your day watching the clock.  Or reading blogs like this.  Don't let your boss catch you, or you'll end up in what Marx called the Industrial Reserve Army.

Now pay attention, because this is central to it all: The instruments of labor, labor power and the subjects of labor together are referred to as the means of production.  Did I mention you don't own any of it?

Since you don't own any of this, who does?  This is a more complex question.  Chances are, it's not the guy yelling at you to get back to work.  He's probably got somebody looking over him telling him to not to goof off as much as he does either.  Not that you feel sorry for him, of course.  He's still a jerk.  But he's not the tophat and tails capitalist that Marxist jargon brings to mind.  Business ownership structures are complex and varied, but at some point a bank expecting repayment or shareholders expecting growth or dividends are the ultimate owners.  Taken together, all of the kinds of relationships that people enter into for productive purposes are the relations of production, and they vary largely by ownership, or lack thereof, of capital.

Now pay attention again, because another important concept here: all of the people in any society whose jobs have the same or very similar relations of production are what is really meant by the term class.  And all this time you thought it referred to something along the lines of taste or decorum.  Marx's most famous examples of classes were the bourgeoisie - those who owned the means of production, and the proletariat - those who did not.

As mentioned above, things are more complicated than that in actuality.  Bourgeoisie and proletariat are best thought of us a spectrum rather than mutually exclusive absolutes, though they can be.  For example, you can have a "functional" capitalist, who manages the means of production but is also herself an "employee" of a higher level executive or board of directors, and a "rentier" capitalist, who profits entirely off of  ownership.

But as concepts, a class that makes its living entirely from profits generated due to ownership of capital, and a class that completely lacks capital and has no choice but to sell its time and labor in exchange for a wage, are useful to us.  The class structure of society together with its means of production are what is meant by the term mode of production.  Capitalism is so called because it is capital - the above mentioned means of labor - are what really makes the world go round.

As you can probably imagine, capitalism is a better deal for the bourgeoisie than it is for the proletariat.

You're a lucky fellow if your relations of production are a source of happiness in your life.  If your employees are smart and productive, if your boss is decent and appreciative, if your banker or landlord is a someone you'd love to have a glass of wine with or anything like that, consider yourself fortunate.  Oftentimes they're not, but not because they're fundamentally bad people, although they can be.  The economic relations of production naturally make a lot of these relationships antagonistic.

Our full time worker, however nice he is and however decent his supervisor may be, is ultimately listed as an expense on the company income statement.  Expenses are things that people like to keep low, and not because they're greedy evil capitalists, or for that matter, (((greedy evil capitalists.)))  It's about something much simpler than that: nobody likes to spend more than they have to for the things they need.  Especially if their boss expects frugality on their part.

Which is not to say that you - the worker - have no value to your employers.  Okay, maybe you personally have no value to them, but the job you do does.  This is because labor power is needed in order to make all those shiny capital assets do what they're there to do.  Which is to make people other than you rich.  Isn't it nice to feel useful?  But it's not a total bust - you do get a wage for it, and so long as you're producing more than you're costing the company, you're fine.

Contrast this with the above mentioned means of labor, or capital assets.  Accountants, managers and other fascinating people of that sort like these things, because they add value to the business.  They look good on balance sheets, and balance sheets that don't look good cause problems.

To get balance sheets looking good, bossy types of people want to have revenues exceed expense (and keep in mind that you are an expense) so that the company can post a net income.  Net income can then be used to either pay debt, acquire more assets (of which you are not) or increase the owner or shareholder equity in the business.  Balance sheets are evaluated largely by how much debt the company has compared to its assets and/or its equity - the less the better, generally.  They don't achieve this by giving you a raise.

Like the good German he was, Karl Marx had a word for everything.  The money you as a proletariat need to generate over and above your salary in order to make sure that income statement looks good is referred to as surplus value.  Which, for reasons we'll explore in future installments - is not necessarily always a bad thing.  The tense and conflicting interests of various classes, compounded by the lack of power and control that the lower classes suffered he referred to as alienation.

That's been your daily dose of the other red pill.  Now get back to work, you prole!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Other Red Pill: Living in a Material World

... and I am a material girl!  Hey, don't try and gender me, sh!tlord!  And buy me diamonds, pearls, gold and jewels while you're at it.

When you hear the term "materialism," that kind of mindset is doubtlessly what comes to mind.  While that's not wrong, that's not really what "materialism" is going to mean in the context of the other red pill: Marx's idea of historical materialism.

Marx isn't easy to read.  He's very much a product of it's time, which was characterized by verbosity for verbosity's sake.  Materialism in his own words is a case in point: "The chief defect of all materialism up to now (including Feuerbach's) is that the object, reality, what we apprehend through our senses, is understood only in the form of the object or contemplation (Anschauung); but not as sensuous human activity, as practice; not subjectively. Hence in opposition to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism -- which of course does not know real sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects really distinguished from the objects of thought; but he does not understand human activity itself as objective activity."

People were better educated in the 19th century.  A pity, actually.  But the basic, underlying concept is not really as complex as all that.  It begins with the fundamental premise that the meeting of our most basic needs - physical sustenance - is the most important of all human activities.  This is self evident.  If you don't believe me, try not eating, drinking water or sleeping in a safe environment sheltered from the elements for a while.  I'm sure you'll be convinced then.  So far, so good.

Because of how important economic activity is to people, the activities and behaviors that people engage in for this purpose are a primary motivator for human association.  It should not require too much elaboration to understand why groups of people have a better shot at survival than lone individuals.  This was most unarguably the case in prehistoric times, where the choice was this or be eaten by saber tooth tigers or the like.  There was evolutionary advantage to co-operative society, so man evolved as a social and a productive animal.

Already some things about human nature become easier to understand.  We tend to identify strongly with the groups we belong to, and attach importance to our roles in those groups.  They are literally a matter of life and death.  This is why ritualistic acknowledgement of the tribes we identify with and our roles within those tribes as tied in with people's means of sustenance and security are seen so universally across human civilizations.  Thus, culture and identity are not unimportant.  They are.  But they derive fundamentally from the means whereby people provide for their basic security and economic needs in a social context.

And that is what historical materialism is really all about.  Our "material girl" is materialistic in her own way, certainly. And as you try in vain to get that earworm of a tune out of your head, think about why she's like that, and why this song topped the charts when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were at their political heights, in light of what we've learned here: accumulation of wealth in the form of capital (the means of basic sustenance) is the basis of status and power in a capitalist society (the expression of group position within that society) and hence why men who do this are desirable mates in the capitalist mode of production.  Which we'll discuss more in future installments of the Other Red Pill.

Now about those diamonds and pearls ...

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Alt Left sub types revisited

Of all my blog posts so far, the one that has promoted the most discussion in alt-left circles - such as they are - to date has been my breakdown of sub types on the alt-left.

Just for reference's sake, here are the main ones.  What unites them is a skepticism towards unbridled capitalism.

Left Wing of the Alt Right: Nationalists, open to race realism.
Red Templars: Anti Islamists, oppose mass immigration.
Gamergate Leftists: Cultural libertarians, anti SJW.  Not necessarily into GamerGate itself, these guys are most concerned about censorship, campus speech codes, trigger warnings, safe spaces and the like.
Brocialists: Leftist anti-feminists, pro MRA or even pro MGTOW.
Red Enlightenment: Big on enlightenment values.  Sometimes into transhumanism, technocracy.
True Liberals: Anti-racist, pro-feminist (pro equity feminism, in any event) but put off by SJW extremism.  I've noticed a subcategory of these who are, say, cisgendered gay males or transgender people who've quarreled with trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs.)  I'll call these kinds Equal Rights Advocates.  Perhaps you recognize yourself among them, dear reader?
New Old Left: Predominantly about economics, class, labor, etc.  Disdainful of IdPol.
Christian Left: See Acts 2: 44-46, Catholic Social Teaching, the Social Gospel and Liberation Theology.
Patriotic Socialists: Socially conservative (in some ways at least) and economically leftist.  Okay, I didn't mention this one in the last post.  I am now.

And what of left wing conspiracy theorists?  Think Alex Jones, except for blue rather than red staters?  Who obsess over the New World Order rather than the (((New World Order.)))  Oh yeah, they already exist.  And have for a long time. 

I think I should clarify a few things here.

As a general rule, these are not hard-fast categories.  Please, my dear readers, don't obsess with categorizing yourself.  Not unless one or more really does fit you.  Even then, keep an open mind.  These should best be thought of as general areas of concern and interest, not as ideological straight jackets.  Perhaps they more accurately describe variations of ideas than people.  There's nothing precluding one or more overlapping.

There's also natural tension between some of them.  A Christian Leftist, Alt-Right leftist or a Patriotic Socialist is less likely to see eye to eye with the Red Enlightenment or Equal Rights Advocate sorts.  Being that both are generally anti-feminist, brocialist and patriotic socialists generally get along.  Except when they don't - many MRAs are as sharply critical of the "trad-cons" as the feminists themselves.  I have yet to see the neo/post Keynesian sorts really get into it with the more radical Marxist or anarchists, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.  Liberals disillusioned by SJW excess and nationalists disillusioned by alt-right excess are not naturally going to understand one another.  The differences go beyond different stances on core issues.  These people come from wildly different ideological backgrounds that think and frame issues in very different ways.

So why try to bring such a divergent group together, you might ask.  In answer, I'll quote Saul Alinsky's first rule for radicals: "Power is derived from two main sources: money and people.  Have-nots must built power from flesh and blood."  Or as the great Brian of Nazareth put it, "We should be struggling together.  We mustn't be fighting each other.  Surely we should be united against the common enemy!"

"The Judean People's front!"

"No!  No!  The Romans!"

The Other Red Pill. And I do mean red.

We're all familiar with the iconic scene in the first Matrix film where Morpheus offers Neo the choice between the blue and red pills.  This has since become a cultural metaphor for any choice between the acceptance of blissful ignorance and hard reality.  Between continued acceptance of vs. initiation into rebellion against the "world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth ... that you are slave.  Like everyone else, you were born into bondage.  Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch.  A prison for your mind," in Morpheus's compelling words.

This metaphor is most common in underground caverns of the internet, where it connotes a rejection of mainstream liberal narratives on racial and gender equality, and a subsequent initiation into some kind of race realist or manosphere concepts.  You are then "redpilled" on race or gender.

It's time to reboot the Matrix yet again.

The agents caught up to Morpheus this time, so it's up to me to present you with a choice.  This is your last chance.  After this, there is no turning back.  You take the blue pill, the story ends.  You wake up in your bed and believe that power and privilege are all about race and gender.  Or that racial and gender equality are lies hoisted on you by the politically correct establishment.  Or that people are unequal only because some people just work harder than others, are innately superior somehow or another, talented in unique ways or are just lucky.  Or whatever.

Or ... you take the red pill, and you stay in Wonderland, and I'll show you how deep the rabbit hole really goes.  Remember: all I'm offering is the truth.  Nothing more.

Red pill it is.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Stark Truth Interview with mysterious alt-left blogger.

Alt left veterans Robert Stark (no, not THAT Robert Stark), Rabbit, Robert Lindsay and Alex Goldstein interview Alt-Left blogger Ryan England (with an a) who blogs at Samizdat Chronicles.  Which is here.  Which means it was me they interviewed.

The secret's out!

The interview can be heard here.  It's easy to get lost over at The Stark Truth if you're not careful. You can easily lose a LOT of time listening to Mr. Stark interview people with unconventional outlooks on just about any kind of issue or subject you can think of.  Highly recommended for anyone wanting to break out of the red state vs. blue state mold.

Topics for conversation include:

  • My unpleasant youthful politicization during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s
  • My subsequent exposure to leftist ideas listening to former Dead Kennedys lead singer Jello Biafra's spoken word tours, and Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky.
  • How I lost faith in left wing politics for a time as a result of reading "The Myth of Male Power" by Warren Farrell, as well as the underlying class-based concerns that Dr. Farrell raised that are of concern to the left.
  • My loss of faith in right wing politics as a result of how conservatives only ever care about the interests of corporations and high profits, and could really care less about social issues and social cohesion.
  • How for a long time I remained left wing on economic issues and labor issues, and even became involved in job action and workplace organizing.  But I hated cultural leftism, but the cultural right didn't do it for me either.
  • How I encountered the early alt-right, but was put off by their white nationalism.
  • And then wondered if there was an alt-right, could there be a leftist counterpart.  Which led me to the discovery of Rabbit and Robert Lindsay's blogs.  I didn't agree with them on everything, but grasped the overall gist of it.
  • My own theory of the alt-left, based on the need to for a restoration of economic class analysis to clear up popular misconceptions around the notions of power and privilege.
  • Splintering and factionalism on the alt-left, as with so many political movements.  "Judean People's Front" syndrome.
  • How untrammeled capitalism is the force that destroys relations based on nation, family and so forth. Corporations have loyalty only to the bottom line.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

What the regressive left knows that libertarians and the populist right does not.

The online cultural libertarian movement is in a tailspin again.  In fact, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they've ever been in anything other than a tailspin.  This time, it's because feminist critic Christina Hoff Sommers is alleging that several of her YouTube videos have been classed as "potentially objectionable."  Social media user clauses under names like "community guidelines" are notoriously vague, and the only patterns to emerge from the Kafkaesque world of social media moderation seem to be that it's primarily right-leaning stuff that gets deleted and accounts suspended.  These kinds of stories are commonplace, from the deletion of anti-SJW Facebook pages to Milo Yiannopoulos's infamous Twitter ban.

What is happening, our beleaguered shitlords wonder?  What of freedom of speech?  What of objectivity in media, in academia, in the broader society?

There are certain things you learn and catch onto when your political background is in Marxism, or an offshoot of it.  One of those things is that the hard left does not approach politics the way liberals of various hues approach it.  The liberal tends to have faith in human reason and its eventual impact on politics.  The truth once told will set us free, and the reasonable people in positions of power in our various organs of state and culture will set about acting upon what they know to be right.  Failure to do so is simply chalked up to stupidity or ignorance, or perhaps at being bought out. Come election time, simply vote in people who will listen.  Or not, if the incumbents win.  Or not, if a "reformer" wins but nothing substantial changes.  This seems to be happening a lot these days.

People with ideological roots on the far left harbor no such illusions.  They do not see politics as a chivalrous clash of ideas.  They see it as a war of irreconcilable interests between oppressed and oppressor groups.  In this war, anything goes so long as it is done in the interests of the "oppressed" or their self appointed representatives.

This is not new.  The tumblr generation did not invent this.  The great grandfather of tumblr, Vladimir Lenin, called the concept Kto-Kovo, translating roughly into "who, whom?"  Who benefits?  Whose interests prevail, that of the capitalists or that of the revolutionaries?  It is on this basis and this basis alone that the right or wrongness of a given course of action is to be evaluated.

Such thinking did not confine itself to the USSR.  No less a luminary of the (then) new left, Frankfurt School standard bearer Herbert Marcuse famously argued in his 1965 essay Repressive Tolerance:

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.

Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc.
This by one of the founding fathers of critical theory, which along with varying strands of postmodern philosophy, notorious for its denial of enlightenment era claims of objective morality and liberal notions of enlightenment universalism, underlie the core ideology of the regressive left. Should it surprise us, therefore, that people trained in such thought act as ideological gatekeepers in the academic and media institutions their credentials enable them to take administrative posts at?

Back in the USSR, meanwhile, the Leninist traditions carried on, with liberal notions of civil liberties being dismissed as "bourgeois morality" and guilt or innocence in criminal and civil proceedings being determined more by one's professional and class background than whether the evidence of the actual accused's guilt or innocence.

Sound familiar?

When we hear SJWs today claim that there's no such thing as misandry, or racism against white people, they're trodding a very, very well worn path.  Pravda was saying similar things for many decades before tumblr was ever up and running.

Naturally, all of this lends itself to a ruthless political approach that the cultural libertarians and social conservatives have been unable to respond at all well to.  Except where they had no need to respond well since the collapse of the USSR did their work for them as far as refuting Marxist Leninist political economy is concerned, thought the "new" left had long since abandoned those ideas in any event.  But in the realm of identity and cultural politics, different story. Perhaps the Milo Yiannopouloses of this world need to dust off their copies of Machiavelli, if they have any.  For starters.  And the cultural right might want to give up its silly obsessions with true Scotsmen and make Milo their leader.  He's as savvy an activist as they've had in a long time, however much an avatar of everything not socially conservative he quite obviously is.

The alt-left will have similar difficulties if it does not study and learn what the regressive left has been decades in the studying and learning.  Ultimately, the alt-left seeks to challenge not only regressive left dominance in cultural matters, but neo-liberal dominance in economic matters.  We're going to need all the help we can get:

  • We would do well to study the above mentioned Frankfurt School and its theoreticians.
  • It's a myth that Antonio Gramsci coined the phrase "long march through the institutions." It's still an idea worth looking long and hard at, though.  As are Gramsci's theories.
  • The postmodern emphasis on language deconstruction is no mere academic exercise.  It's revealed powerful knowledge on how the human mind uses language to structure and frame thought. You need not study such wordy and pretentious volumes to get an idea.  Cognitive linguist George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant" is a great little primer on this whole subject.
  • Speaking of media, it works in ways people who don't study media at a post-secondary level don't realize.  Message content is barely the tip of the iceberg.  It can't hurt to study a bit of Marshall McLuhan as part of your broader curriculum in political efficacy.
  • Did I mention Saul Alinsky yet?  Conservatives love to grumble about him.  They love to grumble about a lot of things that their opponents learn and put to effective use.  As my earliest political mentor, former Dead Kennedys lead singer Jello Biafra once said, "don't hate the media, become the media."
And I'm sure there's lots more than this, and it will all need to be worked into broader political strategies as time goes on.  It might be useful to know, for example, that campus speech codes can be attacked and ridiculed until hell freezes over; university boards of governors are much more worried about compliance with government hate speech and harassment laws.  It's something called a fiduciary duty.  So nothing will change until those laws do.  Just as one example.  Who knows what might be possible one day?  But a lot can be made possible today too, even if it's just you not walking away from a flame war with a regressive leftist wondering what the hell happened?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Leftists! Leftists everywhere!

These are bad days for the Rush Limbaughs of the world.  The internet is awash in left wingers!  Lucky for Rush and his kind, there are many kinds of left-wing people and they tend not to like one another.  Though this is increasingly true on the right as well.  But that's another story.  One way of categorizing the leftists is as follows:

Regressive New Left:  The kind of regressives we all know and don't like. "SJWs" and Islamic apologists.  Cultural authoritarianism based on feminist and critical race theory.  Tend towards anti-capitalism, but lack economic theory and are generally not concerned with economic issues.  While Hillary Clinton is probably not one of these, many of her followers are.

New Left: It's not really that new now.  The 1960s were a long time ago now.  Their main concerns were cultural and social, with environmentalism, anti-war, civil liberties and equality for women and minorities being the main issues.  Anti capitalist, but less concerned with economic issues overall.

Regressive Old Left: All things old are new again, and these guys are called "Tankies" now, I understand. Political authoritarianism based on Leninist or Maoist theory. Economically far left to a fault.  Culture is not a central concern, but they are repressive towards cultures that are seen as "reactionary" or inhibiting "class consciousness." Which can be just about any kind of culture they can get their hands on.

Old Left: Concerns around organized labor and Marxist, Keynesian or some other kind of center to left wing economic theory.  To the extent that they care about social and cultural issues at all, these guys are generally opposed to racial and gender equality, but reject identity politics and tend to see inequality mostly, if not entirely in economic terms.  

Regressive Alt-Left: These folks have only just begun to rear their ugly heads.  Cultural authoritarianism based on nationalism, racism or anti-feminism.  Their anti-feminism and/or anti-Islamism is less motivated by liberal concerns than they'd have you believe, and descend - not always consciously - into the fever swamps of extreme nationalism, racism and sexism.  Their economics are autarkic, nationalist and statist.  While Donald Trump is probably not one of these, many of his followers are.

Alt-Left: Oppose the influence of white male guilt in postmodern leftism, and are thus not opposed to advocacy on behalf of European culture, people of European descent and/or men's rights. They're weary of political correctness due to concerns surrounding civil liberties, freedom of speech and anti-white/male bias.  They worry about mass immigration and the Islamization of European and English speaking countries on liberal grounds: Islam being repressive towards gay and women's rights, mass immigration driving wages down, and so on.  Where feminism is criticized, it is for being censorious and misandrist.  Most alt-leftists advocate some kind of center left economics, a minority are farther left and more thoroughly socialist.


Regressive vs. Non Regressive: Regressive belief systems tend to be closed, tribalistic and irrational.  Non regressive belief systems tend to be open, universalist and rational.  Keep in mind that this is a continuum, not a strict either/or thing.

Overlap: Not uncommon, but one almost always dominates, and one of the two overlapping systems is almost always old left, regressive or not.  The trajectory of the post WWII world has been from old to new, and in the future, possibly to alt.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Now on Samizdat Broadcasts: "The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" by Eric Hoffer!

At long last!  The wait is over!  My complete cover to cover analysis of The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by the late, great Eric Hoffer, is up on this blog's sister YouTube channel, Samizdat Broadcasts.

My commentary not only covers the basis of Hoffer's thesis - that "true believers" are driven by a frustration with themselves that they project onto the world around them so as to imbue otherwise futile lives with purpose, but also applies Hoffer's analytic tools to more recent political and social events.  For people wanting a more indepth understanding of the seemingly bizarre political movements of our time, from religious fundamentalism to the regressive left to the alt-right, Eric Hoffer's magnum opus offers many essential insights.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Socialist Objectivism - A philosophy for the alt-left?

I'm probably not the person who you'd expect to hear this from, but I've always been a fan of the writings of Ayn Rand.  I think that objectivism is, for the most part, a reasonable way of looking at things.  The Ayn Rand Lexicon writes:

My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:
  • Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  • Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  • Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  • The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

Well, three out of four ain't bad.  The first point could be a bit tricky - it's debatable whether the nature of reality is indeed so absolute, but it is not so dependent on the subject as the postmodern relativist would have us believe either.  But even the last paragraph isn't all bad.  What's wrong, after all, with free and voluntary exchange for mutual benefit?   That's all capitalism really is, when you get right down to it, right?  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a bit, as it turns out.  Even the most right wing conservative governments of recent history - Thatcher's UK and Pinochet's Chile, among others, did not trust free market capitalism to the degree that Rand shilled for it.  Rand was one of more than a few right-libertarian thinkers (and that's what Rand was, whatever claims to the contrary she may have made) who claimed that "there was no such thing as society, only individuals."

Not so fast.  Group and institutional dynamics matter.  The manner in which power, responsibility and reward are distributed in both formal and informal associations of people impact on human behavior a great deal, making the total of the whole greater, or at least different than the sum of the parts.  The now famous prisoner's dilemma experiment is a perfect case in point wherein rational individuals acting in the most rational way to pursue their self interests, can end in mutually disadvantageous results.

In this era of postmodernism, cultural relativism and moral relativism seeming dominant in left wing thought, it's easy to forget that the economic left was once advanced by minds so preoccupied with systemic and logical rationalization of human interaction that they dared to call their take on socialism "scientific."  Whatever flaws Marxist historical materialism may have had - if we can take the failure of the USSR and the survival of capitalism to this day as evidence of the failure of this theory - there's also something to be said for it.

For one thing, it states the obvious: entering into "relations of production" of some kind or another really isn't voluntary.  Sorry libertarians.  If there's anything Rand and Marx would agree on, it's that man's necessities for survival aren't going to produce themselves.  This exposes a fatal defect in Rand's theory: the claim that laissez faire capitalism is rendered the ideal system due to all transactions that occur therein being completely voluntary is simply not true.

Marx's definition of class - those segments of the population with the same relationship to the means of production, remains an invaluable concept for clearing away all kinds of ideological rubbish, from the denial of class so often asserted by libertarians and conservatives to the assertion on part of SJWs that social groups with no specific relationship with the means of production - white males specifically - can actually form a ruling class.  Note that even if a disproportionate majority of the ruling class: that class that owns the means of production, are white males, their dominance derives from their ownership of the means of production, not from their being white males.

That all said, there's much to be said also for "free, voluntary exchange for mutual benefit", and that suppression of market activity such as was seen in the USSR requires a ruling class even more draconian than anything seen prior to it.  The idea to aspire to, I think, is not some kind of gigantic central planning bureaucracy, but some means whereby a market system can be socially owned.

Marxist theory made note of the strained political nature of the relationship between the ruling and subject classes.  While this had the danger of demonizing the ruling class and so rationalizing many ugly human rights abuses seen in the Soviet sphere, it also made apparent the need for a strategic political theory on part of the subject classes, whereby they could ultimately challenge the ruling class for, at least, a slate of basic rights under the system, if not ultimate control over it.  Contrast this with the more conservative nature of objectivism, which merely holds its truths to be self evident and simply awaits their uncritical embrace by a populace that accepts basic objectivist tenets.  Marxism reminds us that privileged classes have a vested interest in the maintenance of the status quo and do not give up their positions without a fight.

Historical Materialism was no more infallible than Objectivism was.  For one thing, Marxism was prone to reversing the mistake that Rand and her proteges made: while individualist thought denies the existence of "society", Marxist thought was prone to the misapplication of denial of the individual. This led to a cavalier disregard for the rights and lives of individuals in the theory and practice of Marxism, its offshoots from Lenin onward, and its present successor, critical theory.  What is said here is not a call that Marxism be revived and adhered to in a chapter and verse manner - there is much there that I disagree with (the labor theory of value, for instance), but rather that basic objectivist principles be joined with basic materialist principles as one (though by no means the only) means of analyzing social relationships.

The greatest danger present in both these rationalist systems of thought is losing sight of the fact that science and reason are processes, not positions.  They are the means of arriving at truth, not labels that one slaps on a particular doctrine as a means of rendering it infallible.  Randroids and Marxists regard capitalism and socialism respectively as the final word on economic theory because their "scientific" or "rationalist" reductionist formulas "proved" them true, and so they are clung to as if they were holy dogmas even in the face of obvious failure and need for reform.  That this kind of pseudo-religious devotion to any kind of theory is dangerous and directly countermands what objectivist and materialist philosophies claimed to stand for needs to be reiterated.  The only dogma should be that there are no dogmas, but theories that are shown to be sound and effective should be regarded as such until proven otherwise.

Never the less, there's a strong tendency towards objectivism on the alt-left, and I would go as far as to say that this is the philosophical basis for the alt-left's quarrel with the regressive left.  I do not think that we can deny the possibility of some kind of "Socialist Objectivism" or "Objectivist Materialism" - an objectivism that accepts some sociological concepts and even some aspects of conflict theory.  It is clear to me that this is indeed the underlying philosophy of much alternative left thinking.