Geopolitical Change Denialism

As we’ve explained before, when a conflict arises, the possible positions to be taken in regards to it, its memetic frame, is previous to the choice of sides by the participants. Geopolitical discussions are no exception. The polarization is magnified by the great amount of information available, the infinite ways in which that information can be interpreted, and the connection geopolitics has to many other subjects in which people are emotionally invested. So, naturally, when China-as-Future-Power is brought up, people are very fast to jump into the trench they instinctively recognize as their own.

One of such trenches is the one occupied by people who are deeply skeptical of China’s actual and potential power – let’s call them Geopolitical Change Deniers. This train of thought usually argues that the threat China’s ascent is blown out of proportion. President Trump’s confrontational rhetoric is explained as a propaganda strategy to obfuscate who the US’s true rival is. Usually, the Russian Federation is given this adversarial role, which follows the logic of classical geopolitics, enshrined somewhat poetically in the Sea versus Land paradigm. For a naval empire such as the US, foreign policy has to be focused on hampering the consolidation of continental power. In practice, this means antagonizing the most powerful player in Eurasia, using secondary actors to create a balancing counter-power.

One of the main arguments Geopolitical Change Deniers have to disparage China’s growing power is its economic dependency of the US. According to this line of thought, the Middle Kingdom relies on the American Empire to keep running. The idea goes something like this: if the US stops supporting China, the Chinese economy collapses; if China stops supporting the US, the Chinese economy also collapses. Thus, any diplomatic measure by the US against China is interpreted as a yanking of the leash to remind the dog who its master is.

This claim is disputable to say the least: although the US is indeed China’s greatest buyer (20% of Chinese exports go there), the combined value of exports to Asia and Europe triples that of products destined to America. This is a trade sphere which every day grows more detached from the US-protected trans-Pacific routes, especially as China develops its land communications and its own maritime security with its aggressive artificial island policy. On the other hand, 22% of foreign products arriving in the US come from China. At the same time, a third of US exports goes to the same Asian market China is trying to claim as its own. America cannot find an easy substitute for Chinese cheap supplies. It also cannot afford to lose the Asian market to China, who has obvious cultural and geographical advantages in accessing it. So who owns who?

The meme of China as a giant economy slave to the US, always on the verge of collapse, is a bastard scion of the Triangular Policy initiated by Kissinger in the Nixon era. This policy, devised in a time of relative weakness of American political influence, intended to drive a wedge between the two communist (and continental) powers of China and Russia. By exploiting their rivalry, US diplomacy hoped to avoid the creation of a united block capable of driving America out of the World Island. But the US has been cutting the Chinese too much slack, and as the world changes, it’s time to pay. China has made enormous inroads in Europe and in Africa, and even if the local powers don’t trust them, they will have to comply with Chinese influence if the US does not show up as a power player. There has been some talk of expropriating Chinese assets with the excuse of coronavirus reparations, but it’s difficult to imagine any country willing to assume the diplomatic cost this would entail, and that includes America. The People’s Republic is a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council, a nuclear and space power, and controls vast amounts of strategic resources, like rare earth minerals. It also has enormous pressure tools at its disposal, trade not being the least of them.

Another argument to support the Geopolitical Change Deniers claim that China is indeed a giant with clay feet, is the supposed threat of internal rebellion. The authoritarian Communist-Capitalism of China is seen as so oppressive, that to the West’s eyes a revolution is expected at any moment. Setting aside the possible hypocrisy of such a statement (looking at you, Google), the Deniers assume that a vacuum of power in China would be filled by Russia and Central Asian islamists. In their interpretation the US government is actually protecting a puppet China from its inner demons to avoid chaos in the region. While Chinese collapse would certainly be more dangerous to World stability than the current status quo, it is not such a safe bet to claim that Russia is ready –nor willing– to step in its place. The Russian Federation has profound demographic problems which make it barely able of holding its territory together, let alone occupying Manchuria. In fact, it is actually China who threatens Russia, with both its GDP and its population surpassing Russia’s by a factor of ten. The threat of Central Asian islamism is also overblown. Islam is not a new phenomenon in the region and hasn’t made gains in centuries. It has plenty of fertile ground to expand in other areas ripe for the taking, from the Sahel all the way to Indonesia.

The only argument in favor of a supposed US-China collusion is based, perhaps surprisingly, on ideological grounds. China inhabits the dialectic synthesis of Capitalism and Communism. It’s a vision of the Future, free at last from its human and religious/ideological drag. It’s not Late Capitalism what we’re seeing, but the early lights of Capitalist Revolution, at last led to triumph by its Communist elite. If after 70 years in power the Communist Party ends up collapsing, it will not be substituted by freedom-loving, religious “natural conservatives”, but by an even stronger and more materialist establishment, more certain of its superiority to the West than the Communists were. We’ve explored this subject in the past and we will explore it more in the future, so we’ll leave it at that for now.

So, in summary: it’s not for nothing that the US is willing to change its warfighting doctrine to adapt once again to the South Pacific. Redesigning training plans, acquiring and developing new technologies, cultivating alliances in the region… All of this requires an important effort, which would be an enormous waste if it was only a matter of propaganda. As we’ve seen, China can be a problem to the West by being too strong, but also by being too weak. You can make a bonfire and stomp it down whenever you want, but you still have to watch it so it doesn’t burn your house down by escaping your control. Foreign policy does not have an auto-pilot mode, and the roof might be on fire.

Revolution defanged: Bourgeois Conservative Socialism

In the last posts we talked about Reactionary Socialism and its three variants. Marx and Engels were somewhat appreciative of the critic posed by the reactionaries to the Bourgeois State. They, however, acknowledged that it was “retrograde”; that is, it represented deceleration. As such, it was to be sacrificed in the altar of Progress. Pre-industrial society was not part of the dialectical process, but the raw material to be processed.

After their attacks on reactionary socialism, Marx and Engels proceed in their pamphlet to describe “Bourgeois” or “Conservative” Socialism. Their diagnosis can easily be summarized: it’s the product of the bleeding hearts of certain bourgeois types. According to Herman Hesse, to fall into sentimentalism is to indulge in emotions, which, while disturbing, are not strong enough to justify taking action. Sentimentalism, that most bourgeois of mental dispositions, is the distinguishing mark of Conservative Socialism: sentimentalism which doesn’t lead to revolutionary action.

Conservative Socialism’s opposition to the Revolution is temperamental, instead of existential or ideological. It hinders revolutionary acceleration because it finds itself relatively comfortable in a static bourgeois establishment, and its concern is to look for a way to purge Progress of its more negative aspects: to reform it. In contrast of grim, reactionary peasants up in arms, Marx and Engels identify the movement witheconomists, philanthropists, humanitarianists, those who aspire to improve the situation of the working classes, charity organizers, animal welfare societies, promoters of campaigns against alcoholism, preachers and social reformers of all kinds (…)”. These socialists don’t see workers as their enemies, and they don’t want to be perceived as such by them either. They have a trusting, can-do attitude, and a faith in the Bourgeois System which paradoxically makes them unable to unleash its potential as a catalyst for Progress-through-Revolution. Consequently, wherever conservative socialists try to improve the material conditions of the Proletariat, they end up thwarting the whole dialectical process.

This dynamic has not changed in its essence since the 19th century. It has, however, adapted to new cultural conditions. Western Revolutionaries, who, unlike the Soviets or the Chinese, had failed in armed revolution, developed Postmodern Critical Theory as a means to expand their ideological battleground. Identifying different collectives as a new oppressed class, the destruction of the Bourgeois State could now be achieved through Kulturkampf. Bourgeois socialists have followed through with this experiment in ideological arms-racing, building substitute, milquetoast versions for every meme the communists came up with, resulting in their deactivation.

An illustrative instance of this can be found in Modern Family, a TV comedy which showcases a bourgeois idealization of modern family life. The show portrays a fairly standard white family, which, despite having a conventional nucleus, includes also a Latin American illegal immigrant single mom and a homosexual couple. In spite of any possible initial misgivings, the “vanilla” members of the titular family are fully supportive of their relatives. Their acceptance is at least partially attributed to the fact that said characters are just normal, well-adjusted people. This inoffensive portrayal, however, erodes any transgressive edge, completely robbing them of their potential to dissolve bourgeois institutions such as the nuclear family. The take-home message, then, is: it’s OK to be gay, especially if you’re happily married and adopting, and not scandalously LARPing as the vulgar twin of Oscar Wilde at chemsex parties. Refugees are welcome, but they should adopt all of our cultural values, preferably mix with the local population, and accept their destined social role as token minorities.

Historically, Conservative Socialism survived in all the countries where the Communist Revolution didn’t succeed. It actually worked as a fantastic vaccine to the revolutionary virus, a mechanism which guarantees its survival. In the contemporary political landscape, civic nationalists and the like are the group heir to the conservative-bourgeois socialists of Marx’s day. They are characterized for being the sector most willing to accept revolutionary conquests which have already occurred. Nonetheless, they would prefer that those conquests be painless and barely noticeable; to absorb them into the body of the Bourgeois State and its existing social institutions. The bourgeois is a pragmatic man: he recognizes unwinnable battles and pretends to have been on the winners’ side all the while. This ambiguity allows him to combine Left and Right-wing sensibilities –a fact which, by the way, should make us reflect on the meaning of Conservatism and the bogus nature of the Left-Right dichotomy.

Conservative Socialism might be sentimental and self-righteous, but it is neither stupid nor harmless. Revolutionary governments are perfectly aware of the mechanisms of socialist disruption, as they should be. That’s why serious, savvy communists like our friends in the PRC are taking none of that NGO-y, worker’s rights crap from the West. When Western conservatives agitate for the improvement of conditions in Chinese factories, their intention is not to rile the workers up against the government. They sincerely want them to have better conditions, because in their comfort they will turn as indolent as westerners are. Chinese Capitalist Communism drags the West from the revolutionary future, and when conservatives feel the pull, they instinctively resist it. There’s no ill-will here, as there might not be in the writers of modern sitcoms; it’s all about the feels.

This article is part of a series centered around the Communist Manifesto. The next installment will be published shortly. You can read the previous article here.

The Anti-Socialist Load

In the last article published here at The Outpost, we discussed a critical assertion implied by the Communist Manifesto’s: that capitalism and communism are two sides of the same coin. They are two forces of the same cult of Material Progress, taking part in the same process of Acceleration. Two phases of a two-stroke engine bringing History forward.

With the end of Cold War polarization, this has only become more apparent. The Race against the Machine was tentatively introduced into US public discourse by Andrew Yang, and suddenly UBI experiments seem to be popping up everywhere. The lights of our porn and glucose syrup-fueled welfare dystopia must not go dark, so America will now take care of her forgotten children. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Ocean seems to be getting wider these days. After all, NATO was meant to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” America’s foreign policy of decoupling from its many foreign engagements makes it every day more unpredictable and unreliable for its allies overseas, and there is no more Soviet Union to fear. The US always had a cultural soft-spot for those boorish Russians. They may not be that bad, after all. Look at them sort out our Middle East headaches, and how admirably they comply with WHO Covid-19 recommendations! Let Europe deal with them. The Big American Game has already been on the Pacific for a while, anyway. The trade war pushes China to outsource its production to poor countries, and with it comes a way of life. After all, everybody enjoys some of that good consumerist alienation. It’s the Future.

This whole situation leaves the EU sitting on the fence: once again pushed to the edge by an existential security crisis, it looks into the abyss of full political consolidation. A Brussels’ bureaucrat wet dream of technologically-enhanced European solidarity with green, deculturalized, borderless markets, and a high-speed railroad from Lisbon to Beijing. The freight trains finally making the trip back to China fully loaded, for a change. Or, on the contrary, perhaps coronavirus will succeed where Jihadist terrorism did not, as the Schengen space collapses and disintegrates. The result is the same: either sell to the Chinese, or let the Chinese buy what’s left of your remains. The barbarians must pay tribute to the Middle Kingdom once more. And this is also the Future.

So, the landscape is evidently changing, one way or another. The World as we know it is being digested by the powerful revolutionary enzymes of technoeconomic Progress. Some kind of Brave New World, Fully Automated Luxury Communism looms over the horizon. The technology is coming nonetheless, so we might as well adapt. But what are those clouds gathering in the horizon? What dark forces dare to oppose this New Dawn?

Obviously, Socialism has always been an adversary of Capitalism. An often overlooked aspect of the Communist Manifesto, however, is how many of its few pages are dedicated to attacking Socialism. Communist animosity against socialists has its origin in the fact that socialists, as a force, opposes the forces of historical development, of Progress. The Progress which, as we were saying, can only be brought forth by Capitalism. Socialism means deceleration. Engels made it clear in the 1890 German edition of the Manifesto, when justifying its title: at the time of its first publication in 1848, the word “socialism” referred to a bourgeois movement, and “communism” to a workers’ movement. Socialism was quite respectable in the bourgeois milieu; communism was the complete opposite, an ideology for the great unwashed. And the great unwashed are the Future, too. Thus there was no choice but to describe the ultimate revolutionary ideology as Communist, in explicit rejection of Socialism.

Due to this rivalry, Chapter III of the Manifesto is basically a treatise on socialist taxonomy, comprising about 3,200 words, and distinguishing three main schools of thought: (1) Reactionary Socialism; (2) Bourgeois or conservative Socialism; and (3) Critical-Utopian Communism. All of them can be collectively described as aberrant variants of the proletarian movement, unfit for the responsibility of carrying forth the Revolution, which is a historical necessity.

The next few chapters of this series will focus on the different brands of Socialism, as understood by Marx and Engels, along with commentary on their memetic history, their associations, and their current versions.

This article is part of a series centered around the Communist Manifesto. The following installment is available here. You can read the previous article here.

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