The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'marxism'
In Japan, Christmas is associated with romance, and regarded as a Valentines'-style event for couples. Which, of course, doesn't play well with bitter singletons, and so, there is a group of lonely single men, calling itself Kakumeiteki Hi-mote Domei (“Revolutionary Losers’ League”), which protests against Christmas, and as such, seeks to strike a blow against romance-capitalism itself:
“In this world, money is extracted from people in love, and happy people support capitalism,” the group’s leader, who goes by the moniker “MarkWater,” told AFP. “Christmas is the most symbolic event for this.” He added: “Unpopular men, who don’t have a girlfriend or are not married, are overly discriminated. We want to break this barrier.”The group, unsurprisingly, also condemns Valentine's Day (which it calls a “blood-soaked conspiracy” of “oppressive chocolate capitalists”). Its ideology is vaguely Marxist (or perhaps pseudo-Marxist, appearing to be somewhat light on the cultish jargon and references to historical materialism and the works of German philosophers that proper Marxists might adorn their communiqués with), having been founded by a young man who, after having been dumped, found solace in a copy of the Communist Manifesto.
It's interesting to contrast the Revolutionary Losers' League with their American equivalents (which one may be tempted to dub the Reactionary Losers' League). In both cases, there are young men who are not getting the attention from women they feel entitled to, and they consider as a socially-ordained baseline for not being a loser. In America and the West, they blame feminism and “Cultural Marxism” (a buzzword unrelated to the Frankfurt School of Marxist philosophy, but instead meaning anything a self-identified conservative finds objectionable, from feminism to Beatlemania to brown people not knowing their place) for having brainwashed women out of their natural subservience to alpha-males; the ideology of this movement varies from the rugged-loner libertarianism one could absorb from reading a lot of Robert Heinlein to actual neoreactionary ideology, calling for a rolling back of the Enlightenment and a settling of scores, to psychotic argumentation in favour of rape and murder on principle. In Japan, it seems, they blame capitalism, and embrace actual Marxism (to each according to his sexual and romantic needs, I guess). I wonder how much of this is due to Japanese culture being more collectivist, perhaps due to the Confucian influence, and/or to Western gender roles and capitalism being seen as having been introduced by Commodore Perry and/or General MacArthur. In either case, the pattern seems to go:
Problem (a) ⇒ Cause (b) ⇒ Reaction (c)The problem, in both cases, is the same: “Women Don't Dig Me, So I'm A Loser”. The main difference is the inferred cause of this: in America, feminism, liberalism or “Cultural Marxism”, and in Japan, capitalism. The Reaction is, in either case, to embrace the opposite of (b) and hold on.
The Revolutionary Losers' League could also be seen as a romantic equivalent of the Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv, a West German Marxist group from the 1970s, comprised of mental patients and psychiatrists. Both groups take an issue seen as an individual failing (in the SPK's case, mental illness; in the Revolutionary Losers' League's, romantic rejection) and exonerate the individual, instead placing the blame squarely on capitalism.
In 2003, US mass-market clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch approached Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek to write some ad copy for them; he took them up on the offer, and the result (NSFW) consists of goldenly sunlit vintage-soft-porn-style photographs of naked good-looking young people, with Žižek's unique brand of macaronic Freudian-Lacanian theorising superimposed over a proportion of the pages, in bold sans-serif face. A representative example of the text:
Žižek reportedly said that the assignment took him 10 minutes of free associating, and that he found it less demeaning than the US academic sector:
But Zizek bristled at the suggestion that there was anything unseemly about an internationally renowned intellectual writing copy for a clothing catalog. ''If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing [EXPLETIVE] to get a tenured post,'' he growled, ''I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!''Which sounds like a Marxist take on the “punk rock” philosophy mentioned in an earlier post: if the bourgeois-capitalist system is (a) bullshit and (b) inescapable, and the supposedly “credible” parts of it are the worst by their pretence of being something other than bullshit, why not show the lie of the system by shunning its serious institutions and engaging solely with the most honestly base and tawdry aspects of it: populist cinema and mass-market clothing chains?
In a Grauniad article on a new zombie-themed novel by MacArthur genius grant recipient Colson Whitehead, more speculation on the political economy of the undead:
Critic and writer Stuart Kelly believes something political is going on when authors use zombies. "It goes back to Das Kapital," he said. "Marx doesn't use the word zombie, but the idea of the worker as repetitive drudge and human machine is there. The vampires are the capitalists; the workers are the zombies. The idea descends through Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School and becomes a paradigm for discussing the unlived life."And previously on the left-right zombie-vampire divide.
The Graun's Alexis Petridis is not impressed with the new Primal Scream album:
More baffling is the decision to foreground the vocals and lyrics of Bobby Gillespie. Never the highlight of any Primal Scream album, here they're inescapable: he is, as a rapper would say, all up in your grill. There's the usual torrent of drug-related cliches - "I stuck a needle in my baby's heart, she looked so hot and sexy," offers Gillespie, who is 46 years old - but the real problems come when he abandons the platitudes about junkies and veins and offers us something of himself, chiefly his famous political acumen. He has a tendency to address listeners as the lobotomised drones of the capitalist system. That sort of thing got a bit wearying coming from Crass, who were at least committed anarchists, squatting in an open house commune and apparently unable to play live without attracting unwanted police attention. Coming from Primal Scream, who are none of those things, but have been heard advertising everything from cars to clothes to Carphone Warehouse, it sounds, at best, pathetic. "Take a drive around the city, tell me what do you see? Empty houses, burning cars, naked bodies hanging from a tree," opens the title track, thus begging the question: where have you seen this, exactly? In Islington, where you live? No wonder property prices in N1 have levelled off.
At worst, however, it's genuinely insulting. "Congratulations, you live in a dream, in the dead heart of the control machine," sneers Gillespie, a man recently spotted confronting the grimy day-to-day reality of life on society's margins by attending the Mayfair launch of a $250,000 diamond and sapphire-encrusted ice dagger designed by Jade Jagger for use in the world's most exclusive bars, including Crystal, the London nightclub run by Prince William's Eton pal Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe. He was probably there plotting the downfall of the dead-hearted control machine with his fellow guests, including noted revolutionary Marxists Alexa Chung and Davina Taylor. These are hardened insurrectionists, who, like Gillespie, know that there can be no social justice until the gutters run red with bourgeois blood. "We've got a noose if you want to hang around," he jeers, "maybe some torture to tousle your hair."In my opinion, Primal Scream appear to be a textbook example of Thatcherism-Blairism as an artistic ideology, a Hegelian synthesis of (the superficial aspects of) bolshy anti-capitalist agitation of the Thatcher era and the whorish mercantility of the Blairite marketing society, a culture, nay, a civilisation built entirely on appropriating and repackaging. And Primal Scream do it well; moving at the speed of spin from trend to trend (from NIN-lite industrial rock to meat-and-potatoes blues-rock that sounds like the Rolling Stones if they instructed their engineer to overcompress everything into a black blob of loudness to the ubiquitous vapid cod-Marxism that makes Sid Vicious look like George Monbiot by comparison), never making the mistake of investing enough of themselves in any one thing to miss the next shift in market research. Soon enough, listeners realise that they've been sold a turd in a can, but by then they've moved on to the next thing.
Galloway has said that ‘the disappearance of the Soviet Union was the biggest catastrophe of my life.’ To Saddam Hussein, he said, ‘I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem!’ We know that Galloway signed a petition demanding the release of Saddam’s number-two Tariq Aziz, with whom Galloway once danced in a North African nightclub. The Iraqi ‘resistance’, jihadis who kill civilians, socialists and aid workers, is ‘defending all the Arabs, and they are defending all the people of the world from American hegemony.’ When trade unionists broke down in tears at their recollections of torture under Ba’athists, Galloway sneered that their visible emotion was ‘a party trick’. He called Iraqi trade union leader Abdullah Muhsin an ‘Iraqi Quisling’. He said of the Syrian dictator that ‘Syria is lucky to have Bashar al-Assad as her President.’ We know that he described Hamas as a ‘Palestinian national resistance movement, analogous to the organisations fighting for freedom in Kashmir,’ and said at a London antiwar rally that ‘I AM HERE to glorify the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, and I AM HERE to glorify the resistance leader, Hassan Nasrallah.’ He has also said that ‘in poor third world countries like Pakistan, politics is too important to be left to petty squabbling politicians… only the armed forces can really be counted on to hold such a country together.’
Galloway’s Respect party was an alliance between the SWP and conservative Muslims. To keep its new friends on board, the party threw out its commitments to secularism, female equality and gay rights, which SWP leader Lindsey German dismissed as a ‘shibboleth.’ That is Galloway’s legacy, if nothing else: he has brought the communalism of the BNP into left-wing politics, and brought religious reaction into left-wing politics.
In France, Islam is the new Marxism; the disaffected, who once turned to Communism as an ideology of resistance are now embracing Islam. Most of them are immigrants from a Muslim background, but some are converts rejecting traditional European culture. (via FmH)
Like communism, it represents for many of its devoted adherents a transnational ideology tilting toward an eventual utopian vision, in this case of a vast, if not global, caliphate governed according to sharia, the legal code based on the Koran.
A utopian ideal based on the 9th-century Arab Empire (whose day-to-day code of laws shari'a was), and being essentially an enlightened feudal kingdom? I'm skeptical as to how broad its appeal could be in this age. Then again, "dictatorship of the proletariat" didn't exactly sound like a winning proposition either.
Anyway, according to the article, most political Islamists in France are not isolationist radicals, but seek to engage within the existing system, which suggests that political Islam may assimilate into mainstream French politics much as Communism did.
Phil Doré was a member of the Stop the War Coalition, the group which organised huge anti-war protests in the UK; then he left the group and now runs a website on what's wrong with it. In short, the coalition is run almost entirely by hard-line totalitarian leftists like unreconstructed Stalinist George Galloway. Their ideology seems to be that anything goes as long as it's against Western capitalist liberalism; thus they give uncritical support to anti-Western totalitarian dictators like Saddam Hussein, ally themselves with Islamic fundamentalist groups (something any moderate socialist, let alone liberal progressive, would find alarming), and pulled a bait-and-switch on the thousands of moderate Guardian-reader types who came to their rallies, promising opposition to a war but handing them banners praising anti-Israeli suicide bombers. Doré's site (and the abbreviated Butterflies and Wheels article distilled from it) talks about Britain's StWC, but from what I heard, the US and Australian organising groups like ANSWER are similarly riddled with reprehensible ideologues.
This conjunction of the SWP and the MAB led to the STWC drawing a clear link between war in Iraq with Israel/Palestine. At protests such as those on February 15 th 2003, middle-of-the-road liberals who had turned up to voice their disquiet at a reckless military adventure in Iraq were bemused to find themselves being handed placards that said not just Don't Attack Iraq or Not in My Name but also Freedom for Palestine. The MAB in particular seemed to be giving out almost as many Freedom for Palestine as Don't Attack Iraq placards. The Socialist Alliance went further, subtitling their Freedom for Palestine placards with the words Victory to the Intifada, at a stroke turning middle-class Guardian readers into standard-bearers for suicide bombers.
A look at the list of names on the Stop the War Coalitions steering committee gives an idea of the scale of the takeover. The chair is a man who thinks that people shouldnt whinge about Stalin's careless slaughter of 20 million people (Andrew Murray). The convenor is a member of the Socialist Workers Party, an organisation that advocates the overthrow of democracy and its replacement with a dictatorship of the proletariat (Lindsey German). Of the Vice-Presidents, one is a man who thinks that the indiscriminate murder of Iraqi civilians can be likened to the French resistance in World War Two (Tariq Ali). Another spent the 1990s condemning Saddam's regime when he was in London and sucking up to it with a nauseating sycophancy when in Baghdad (George Galloway MP).
As another bomb goes off, slaughtering a few more Iraqi policemen or another crowd of Shia pilgrims, theres something very distressing about people like Tariq Ali and John Pilger actually welcoming this. When such figures suggest that these brutal and indiscriminate killings may lead to democracy and social justice, as Tariq Ali has (1), then one is left wondering whether to laugh or cry. You might as well hope that the BNP will take over the Equal Opportunities Commission and set about improving race relations.
Anyway, the site has a wealth of insightful and balanced criticism of the radical left's arguments, from their Intifada-good-Israel-bad take on the Palestinian issue to their support for the Iraqi "people's uprising" (which, surprisingly, isn't as popular with the Iraqi people as one would think after reading the Green Left Weekly). He signs off with a 7-step programme to rehabilitating the protest movement and saving it from the clutches of the paleo-Marxist ideo-zombies.
1. Communism is obsolete. Get over it.
2. Follow universal values. Instead of cheap partisanship and outdated revolutionary ideals, one should follow humanistic principles based on democracy, tolerance, respect for human rights and concern for ones fellow human beings. The key is the principle of democracy. Be wary of anything that smacks of condoning violence. Theres nothing more dangerous than an idealist with a gun.
3. Apply the same rules to everyone. This is important, because its necessary to be consistent in the application of ones values. Opposing the brutalities of the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories does not mean ignoring the indiscriminate slaughter of the Palestinian suicide bombers. Likewise, its perfectly possible to condemn racism against Muslims while also criticising the narrow-minded religious bigots of the Muslim Association of Britain and condemning the theocratic fascism of al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Iranian ayatollahs.
(One could add a meta-rule to this: beware of people who think in binary dualisms; that you must either be a Trotskyist or a neo-con, that you're either a hardline likudnik or you're cheering on the suicide bombers, that you're either with the gang of thugs torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib or the gang of thugs blowing up civilians in the Fedayeen "resistance"; that you're either With Us or Against Us.)
(via Peter, who has his head screwed on the right way.)
Flyer seen in an inner Melbourne café:
Colour me cynical, but I have some doubts about just how deeply the "Melbourne Ukelele Kollective" is informed by Marxist-Leninist ideology, as the name suggests. Granted, they could, by coincidence, be all committed socialists who gather to play the Internationale and other ideologically sound anthems of the radical proletariat on their ukeleles in North Korean-like unison, from each according to his playing ability; though, somehow, I doubt that. What's more likely is that they're just another group who decided to call themselves a "collective" because it's fashionable, in that apolitically consumeristic, Che-Guevara-T-shirt way.
This trend of calling everything collectives has been happening on university campuses for the past decade, as students eke out ways to be revolutionaries and radicals until getting that job at the accountancy firm; now, it seems to have spread to the mainstream, and appears to be losing most of its Red trappings, with "collective" becoming just the trendy replacement for daggy old words like "club" or "society".
What's next: The Chess Collective? The Red Rebel Motorcycle Collective? Celebrity fan collectives?
An interesting look at the ideology of neoconservatism, by a former neoconservative. One thesis he posits is that neoconservatism is an American equivalent of Marxism/Trotskyism, with "capitalist democracy" replacing communism as the goal of the ideological crusade.
Nevertheless, the origins of their ideology on the left are still apparent. The fact that most of the younger neocons were never on the left is irrelevant; they are the intellectual (and, in the case of William Kristol and John Podhoretz, the literal) heirs of older ex-leftists. The idea that the United States and similar societies are dominated by a decadent, postbourgeois "new class" was developed by thinkers in the Trotskyist tradition like James Burnham and Max Schachtman, who influenced an older generation of neocons. The concept of the "global democratic revolution" has its origins in the Trotskyist Fourth International's vision of permanent revolution. The economic determinist idea that liberal democracy is an epiphenomenon of capitalism, promoted by neocons like Michael Novak, is simply Marxism with entrepreneurs substituted for proletarians as the heroic subjects of history.
Is The Matrix a metaphor for the oppression of the workers under capitalism, with Neo representing the revolutionary proletariat? Ken Macleod (who else?) thinks so:
Reading it I thought of something I hadn't before - the real reason why in the film the machines use the humans as a power source, as 'batteries', something I have long derided. On a literal level it is of course ridiculous. But symbolically it makes literal sense: we are the source of their power. Surplus value comes only from living labour, not from machines.
Rifts are emerging in the anti-war movement in the US (yes, there is one), with some activists (from moderates to anarchists) claiming that anti-war umbrella group is a Communist front. ANSWER stand accused of being a front for doctrinaire Marxist groups, supporting the governments of Iraq and North Korea, having backed Slobodan Milosevic and having defended the Chinese government's Tienanmen Square crackdown as recently as 2000.
"Basically, ANSWER is dominated by the IAC, which is largely a front for the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist group that has been around since the 1950s," said Stephen Zunes, chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. "They are very effective at organizing because they are hierarchical. The main problem that I have with them personally is they have been very reluctant to acknowledge the nature of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Sounds much like the S11/No Logo movement, which became little more than a brand name for the Democratic Socialist Party (the "cops of the protest movement") and Socialist Alliance, and indeed the local Indymedia site (which is apparently controlled by Resistance or someone and censors posts inconsistent with Marxist principles, or so some anarchists have claimed). Then again, who would you expect to organise mass movements: the anarchists?
"They are uncritical of anybody that the United States and NATO oppose, from Milosevic to Saddam Hussein," said David Walls, a sociology professor at Sonoma State University. "That's the weakness of their position. They won't acknowledge that there is something despicable about Saddam's regime and violations of human rights; they think it's too much of a concession to the imperialists. But it leaves them without a lot of credibility themselves."
A timely reminder that no one side has a monopoly on stupidity.
There's Turkish Star Trek, and then there's the Soviet equivalent, Kosmicheskaya Militsiya, usually translated as "Cosmos Patrol". It's stylistically like Star Trek (it has its own Kirk, Spock (who's implied to be an ethnic German), even a proto-Wesley Crusher), only it's a vehicle for rather heavy-handed Marxist-Leninist dogma.
As on Star Trek, the "strange, new worlds" the Red Adventurer visits often seem ringingly familiar. Let's see: There's the Nazi Germany planet, the Gangland Chicago planet, the Ancient Greece planet, and the planet of the Militaristic Paranoid Fascists (the U.S.A. planet). And there's time travel, too: In my favorite episode, the crew somehow goes back to Zurich in 1917 to help Lenin get to St. Petersburg in time to start the Bolshevik Revolution... Perhaps one of the weirdest borrowings from Star Trek has Dobraydushev and a reanimated Peter the Great challenging holographic supervillains Adolf Hitler and John D. Rockefeller in a chess tournamentto the death!
Eternally zealous in the moral defence of capitalism, the Ayn Rand Institute denounce opponents of copyright extension as "Marxists". (Note in particular the prohibition against redistributing the article to media at the bottom of the page.) It's not hard to see how Randism ties in with intellectual-property absolutism, and how short a leap it really is from Ayn Rand to absurdities like Galambosianism. (via Reenhead)
Various leftist sociologists have compiled a book of essays against evolutionary psychology. As one might expect, the essays offer no constructive suggestions other than outright condemnations of that whole branch of study, and, at best, say nothing new, and at worst, are full of self-righteous tub-thumping and egregious omissions. Or so the reviewer, a well-known evolutionary psychologist, says. Though personally, I'm inclined to believe him.