Mediatic facts and controlled demolitions from across the Rubicon

Conflict is deeply ingrained in the human mind. Like a cloud of electrically charged particles, it remains potential and shapeless, in an ideal resting state. When it is given ideological meaning, however, it’s as if the particles were suddenly exposed to an electromagnetic field. The latent conflict acquires a memetic nature, and animosity becomes orderly, vectorial. Ideological meaning works as a framework which allows hostility to be interpreted rationally by those who partake in it. It provides a cultural scaffold, a channel for violent impulse to develop and become political. It is through this process that the primal, schmittian distinction between Friend and Enemy is born.

In other words, political conflict cannot be deducted from ideological contradictions and divergences. On the contrary: ideology is induced from conflict, which is ontologically previous to it and which arises from real events, which are physical phenomena. We can observe how the parts in a conflict perform their confrontation, and after identifying the ideological differences found among the parts, we place said differences at the root of the conflict.

This notwithstanding, once a conflict is memetically well defined, the inverted phenomenon can also happen. An occurrence, which by its physical nature is non-disputable, can acquire a memetic load and become a mediatic fact, which is something entirely different. A mediatic fact can be completely counterfactual: in the age of deep fakes and counterfeit news, any story is suspect of having been distorted, misrepresented or plainly invented from scratch. Whatever the case, the mediatic fact becomes such by virtue of its ability to fit into an existing narrative, the previously established memetic framework of the conflict.

The recent blast in Beirut can serve to illustrate the difference between this closely related concepts. On August 4th, a huge explosion devastated the port of the city and the surrounding areas. The death count is by now past 200. Initial reports immediately pointed to a container where ammonium nitrate had been unsafely stored, after it was seized by port authorities six years ago. So far so good. But then, when it’s time to lay blame on someone, interpretations start to diverge according to one’s political stances.  Was it a terrorist attack by Shia group Hezbollah? An intelligence/military operation by Israel, or by somebody else? Perhaps just a horrible accident?

It is important for those involved in a conflict to establish a mediatic fact immediately after an event, so that it’s successfully propagated among potential friends. Violence is a creative force. Integrating every violent occurrence into a wider narrative strengthens intra-group links, fosters cohesion, and breeds identity. The mediatic fact is born from highlighting certain aspects of what happened, downplaying others and, if necessary, bending the factual truth. This is all a fancy way of describing propaganda, as should be obvious: nothing new about fake news, despite the pedantry of network theorists.

So what is going to happen now in Lebanon? Nobody knows for sure. As always in matters of geopolitics, we are dealing with incomplete information. We can’t even be sure the tragedy was intentional, let alone try to guess the motives of any potential culprit. The mediatic fact each actor is constructing, though, can be analyzed to shed some light on what the future could bring.

The explosion comes at a delicate moment in Lebanon. The country is being heavily affected by COVID-19 and deep in a financial crisis which will require a bailout of more than $93 billion. This is a gigantic sum, and the problem is aggravated by the fact that nobody wants to pay it. An important sector of the Lebanese economy is controlled by Hezbollah, which has a formal political representation in the country but is considered a terrorist organization by most of the American Empire. It is estimated that Hezbollah extracts at least $0.5-1 billion every year from Lebanon, while enjoying important clout in the legislative and executive branches; its military wing owns an impressive arsenal of 150,000 precision-guided missiles and is arguably more powerful and experienced than the government’s Lebanese Armed Forces. A lot of Hezbollah’s military effort is spent in supporting Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, backed by Iran and Russia. Any help delivered to the Lebanese regime would be fueling this system, something the West is reluctant to do.

Interestingly, Hezbollah has not rushed to accuse Israel directly in its formal statements, and has taken a more defensive stance, calling for an investigation of the blast to find out the truth, even going as far as initially ruling out Israeli involvement in the catastrophe. The Lebanese Cabinet, which was under the stranglehold of Hezbollah, resigned en masse in the aftermath of the blast. But instead of seizing the opportunity to exacerbate tensions with Israel and take over, the militants have called for a “national unity government” (preferably under their control, of course). In other words, the mediatic fact for Hezbollah is that the status quo has been altered by a fateful accident, and going back to it is the solution.

Israel has denied any involvement in the affair and offered humanitarian aid through UN channels, as it is still technically at war with Lebanon. While there have been accusations on social media of the Jewish State being behind the explosion, these are unlikely and in any case hard to prove. There is no interest either for Israel in escalating the situation more than it does already: the Israeli Defense Forces continue to clash with Hezbollah in Lebanon’s southern hills, with the last cross-border shelling happening only last month. In summary, the mediatic fact for Israel is that all of this has been a terrible tragedy, and an indicator that it’s time to move on from old policies; if somebody is to be blamed it’s Hezbollah, for storing explosives in populated areas.

This said, the truly remarkable event concerning Israel in these last few days is not the explosion, but the US-brokered agreement between the country and the United Arab Emirates to restore formal diplomatic relations. Again, this is a mediatic fact: the UAE and Israel have been in contact behind the scenes for years, and Israel’s supposed concession of suspending its West Bank occupation is just it acquiescing to postpone something which it can’t do anyway. Making all of it official after the blast is a way of building a united front just in time for possible regime change in Lebanon.

Mediatic reactions haven’t come far behind the mediatic fact of the agreement. Hezbollah condemns the act, calling it a “betrayal of Islam” and criticizing the other Arab regimes which arestanding already in turn awaiting the order” to make peace with the US before the November elections. Turkey’s Erdogan declared “the move against Palestine… can’t be stomached”. For Syria and Iran, the deal means the chasm with the Sunni world is widened. For Turkey, it is another reason to move away from the USA and towards new friends in Europe, Russia and China.

Israel, the US and its Arab allies have waited for this turbulent moment to tease Lebanon with the prospect of a relatively peaceful Levant, set to balance the Turkey-Syria-Iran axis. They don’t need to push for change in Beirut, as the tide is already going on that direction by itself. Once food shortages and disease start kicking in, the Lebanese system is bound to fall apart. If anything, the US, Israel and the Gulf States are interested in seducing Lebanon to fall on the right side if all hell breaks loose. If this process happens in the form of a controlled demolition instead of an explosion, all the better… But you can’t plan for what lies across the Rubicon. There are steppe wolves out the door, and many of them yearn to see the sunset over the Mediterranean’s wine-colored waters.

Birds of prey have no friends: the first anti-Capitalist War

Hitler: one of the few people in Modern History who have ascended to almost purely memetic status. Che Guevara and Mahatma Gandhi come close, but none of them have gone so far in their transfiguration; perhaps because Hitler serves as the contemporary incarnation of Evil. There are already more than 120,000 books and articles that have been written about the character, so any new approach to the topic has to be justified. This is why Cambridge historian Brendan Simms deserves at least some credit for trying to produce a fresh, powerful and consistent interpretation of the dictator in his 2019 book “Hitler: a global biography”. In the Outpost we believe he also succeeded, which is even better.

An award-winning author of other historical works, Simms specializes in analyzing the centuries-old rivalry between England and Germany. The main thesis of his book on Hitler was already advanced in an article in 2014, titled “Against a world of enemies: The impact of the First World War on the development of Hitler’s ideology“. The focus of Simms’ interpretation places the life of the German dictator, and in particular his combat experiences in the First World War, at the root of his political beliefs. Then a 25 year old private infantryman, Hitler first saw action at the First Battle of Ypres, where many fresh recruits perished; the event is still remembered in German historiography as the Kindermord bei Ypern (the Ypres Killing of the Innocent); Hitler’s own regiment sustained 3000 casualties out of its 3600 men.

The future Führer would go on to serve at the Battles of the Somme, Arras and Paeschendaele, being promoted to the rank of Gefreiter (lance corporal) and earning the Iron Cross. Like many others of his generation, Hitler soon came to respect the English enemy whom he was facing in the battlefield; not only for his prowess but for his country’s productive power. The Western Front had been the terrifying testing ground of a new doctrinal concept: la guerre de matériel, “material warfare”, in which the industrial capacity of the contenders was fully devoted to supplying the troops and carrying out massive artillery shellings, leading to the dizzying casualty rates of the War. This element of Anglosaxon superiority was further fixed in Hitler’s mind after the war, when he witnessed the fast economic recovery of the English-speaking world, and the well-being that it provided for its population. Years later, when he became involved in politics, Hitler held on to his admiration for the Anglosphere, now increasingly represented by the blooming USA. In the prison cell where he wrote his seminal book Mein Kampf, he hung a portrait of car manufacturer Henry Ford, which according to him epitomized the American civilization.

Simms tries to convince his readers that the figure of Hitler and the Nazi movement should be put under a new perspective, namely, that Hitler unleashed the Second World War not against Communism nor against the Soviet Union, but against International Capitalism. This Anti-Capitalist streak was primely directed against Great Britain and its ally, the United States, and was rooted in anti-Semitism. For Hitler, Bolshevism itself was nothing more than an instrument of Jewish capital.

Nowadays, the memetic weight of the Holocaust dominates the collective imagination about the Second World War. Nonetheless, it was not seen as the main point of the conflict by contemporary Americans. At Nuremberg, Nazi leaders were indicted primely for conspiring against peace and for waging wars of aggression; the accusations of war crimes and crimes against Humanity came second, and were not given an exclusively anti-Semitic interpretation. The trials were also criticized by jurists for their ex post facto nature: the crimes were only codified as such after their perpetration, with Chief US Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson describing the whole legal process as a “high-grade lynching party”. The centrality of the Holocaust in narratives of the war started growing much later, after Israel’s independence in 1948, high-profile Nazi executions such as Adolf Eichmann’s in 1962, and the proliferation of literature and film about the war.

According to Simms, however, the Holocaust was not “a detail” of the war that Hitler planned. On the contrary: the Jews were the main objective of destruction, being the human element of International Capitalism. Hitler, more than an anti-Communist, was an anti-Semite. In his 1945 Berlin testament, he did not even mention the Soviet Union or Communism; he had carried out the war effort that eventually led to his death with a single objective: opposing “the international statesmen… of Jewish origin or who worked for Jewish interests”. All across his writings he makes frequent references to “International Jewry and its collaborators”. This terms are highly charged, and their use is meant to target a specific type of capitalist: the globalist financial bourgeoisie of moneylenders who do not build nor create, but prey on other’s work. Alchemists performing dark magic with numbers, juggling assets and exchange rates. In a sense, it was a revival of the old medieval taboo on usury, still present in most of the Muslim world.

It is simply a historical truth that Hitler’s army endured most of its hardest fighting on the Eastern Front, but Simms’ framework suggests Hitler’s strategic gaze was set on the West. If Germany was fighting the USSR to obtain its coveted Lebensraum, it was to compensate for a deficit of territories, resources and human strength: in sum, all of the advantages that the “Jewish capitalists” had at their disposal. Globally, Simms’ interpretation of the facts is not really new. Movements on the Fascist side of the spectrum have always rejected financial Capital and the rootless, cosmopolitan culture it engenders, its non-generation of value. The moniker National Socialism is there for a reason. Nazis were an offshoot of German Socialism, a bastard product of Idealist over-theorization and French revolutionary literature. Their model, which glorified the German petty-bourgeois and seeked to transform him into a citizen-at-arms, was always more Spartan than Athenian.

What is interesting, though, is that Hitler’s German Anti-Capitalism only echoed the ideas of many North American capitalists, among them Henry Ford himself. Like many others in the English-speaking world, Ford approved of Hitler’s European policy. He saw in it a force capable of counteracting the parasitic financial power embodied by “Jewish Capitalism”, the true enemy of the industrial civilization which had taken root in the United States. It is a well known fact that, for the war’s duration, Ford had been producing both jeeps for the US Armed Forces and turbines for the Wehrmacht’s V-2 rockets. In June 1940, after France had been already conquered, Henry Ford personally blocked a US government-approved plan to build Rolls-Royce engines under license, for use in British fighter planes. The manufacturing plant of Ford Motor Co. in Germany did not need to be seized by the Third Reich, as it collaborated freely with the war effort after the American and German branches broke contacts, once the US had entered the fray against the Axis. Furthermore, Ford was not alone in this position. General Motors Corp. literally put the German invasion of Poland on wheels. The use of POWs as labor certainly cut costs for American manufacturers operating in conquered Europe, but what is attributed to simple greed might actually have been a principled stance. It turns out corporate America loved the Fascists: IBM, Exxon (then Standard Oil of New Jersey), Gillette, General Electric, Singer, Eastman Kodak… All of them had a German connection.

After the War, and moreso after General Eisenhower’s presidency, the US went on with the civilizational project initiated by Ford and developed by National Socialism: the Autobahn, the Volkswagen and the V-2 bomb became the Interstate Highway System, the Chevrolet, and the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. A certain vision of the future had prevailed, the mission was accomplished and the victors were to enjoy the spoils of victory. The Second World War might have been “America’s Good War”, a conflict based on ideals. What those ideals were, and whether they were that good after all… well, that’s an entirely different story.

At the edge of the abyss: looking for a katechon in 2020

I recently wrote a guest post for possibilities broker Sonya Mann, whose blog boasts the coveted Seal of Approval of The Outpost. You can find it here.

Futurist rioting, conceptualism and sensuality

The Futurist Manifesto was first published in 1909. It was written by Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a celebration of speed, youth, violence and technology. It was also a declaration of the author’s hopes for his country in the 20th century: a country of industry, innovation and dynamism, fully engaged with the world. It decried Italy’s main identity as the seat of a long-dead culture, to be admired for its past achievements. Futurism explicitly rejected the “innumerable cemeteries” which plagued the Italian peninsula: museums, libraries, and antiquaries. Although politically associated with Italian Fascism, Marinetti’s ideas never managed to establish themselves as the official aesthetic of Mussolini’s regime. Fascist glorification of Roman grandeur and its strong ties to Roman Catholicism prevented this from happening

In love with Modernity, Futurists vowed in their Manifesto to sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons”. Eight years ago, Kanye West and Jay-Z released their music video for “No Church in the Wild”. An aesthetic primer for this week’s riots, it featured a mass of violent protesters confronting a disciplined, brutal and militarized police force. All the fighting in the video is set to a background of classical-looking buildings and statues. The lyrics are somewhat cryptic, with references to luxurious cocaine runs and nightly excess; the general message of the song seems to be revolve around existential meaning in a godless world, devoid of truth and morality. The whole thing is full of occult and masonic imagery, something not that unusual in Western mainstream cultural production. The protesters turn cars over; fireworks fall from above like fallen stars. They charge against the police under a pyramid of light, formed by green laser pointers shooting to the sky. All participants in the video seem to be possessed by a kind demonic energy. As twilight gives way to the night, illuminated by green and red light, the old pagan statues of the seem to participate in the upheaval. They alternatively cover their eyes in distress, rally the masses to battle or stare approvingly at the violence, hieratically contemplating the ordeal with dead eyes and a petrified smirk.

The real-life, ongoing disturbances in mainland cities of the American Empire have themselves generated a lot of less stylized images of fire and violence. Countless fights and beatings; a woman set aflame while mishandling a Molotov cocktail. A man ran over and dragged through the asphalt by a FedEx truck he was trying to loot. The motor of a stolen Mercedes-Benz roaring through the shattered windows of a store, amid shards of flying broken glass and cheering crowds. Heavily armed policemen on the run. Thanks to Twitter, images of the riots are broadcast almost in real time. Usually, we can hear the commentary of the person filming; mixed with the anxiety, there is almost always a tone of striking glee and excitement. Laughter, combustion engines and shattered windows: the sounds of ecstatic urban violence. Meanwhile, among the clouds, the SpaceX Dragon Crew rocketflies into (outto?) the dark, silent abyss of Outer Space. There is no contradiction: together, both contexts compose a coherent example of Futurist aesthetics: the same type of image that the now-defunct neoreactionary tumblr Post-Anathema tried to create.

And what is an aesthetic? Basically, it is a memeplex which is not conceptual, but sensual. The word shares the same Greek root as anesthesia: αισθητικος (aisthetikos), meaning “sensation” or “perception”. Because Futurism is an aesthetic and not an ideology, it has aged much better as a meme than its conceptual fellow travelers, Fascism and German Socialism. That’s why, in his Manifesto, Marinetti was able to praise in the same sentence both militaristic, First World War patriotism and “the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas that kill”. As anybody working on marketing knows, aesthetics are impervious to attacks based on ideas and arguments. They operate at a lower and deeper cognitive level, far out of the reach of the evolutionary pressures imposed by rational, sophisticated discussion. Rival ideologies can share an aesthetic space: that’s why Communists and Nazis look so similar. Like the protesters of Jay-Z and Kanye’s video, they are all under the spell of the same demons.

The Manifesto of Futurism claims: “Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed”. An accurate assessment, for there are few spatial boundaries on Twitter. Advanced communication technologies have brought immediacy and virality to a whole new level, saturating the world with visual perception. The Internet is a festering wound for visual memes. Any aesthetic, noble or abhorrent, smart or stupid, can thrive in such a rich environment. Obviously, viral Internet aesthetics manifest themselves in real life: just look at the riots. In contrast, conceptual memes find the Internet a harsh environment. Every idea can be ruthlessly put to the test, criticized, made bare and exposed to ridicule. Now, drug-resistant pathogens grow in hospitals, where they are constantly under the threat of lethal chemicals and antiseptic measures. What do you think happens to memes?

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.

CUSC: wokeness, technoutopia, and outdated futures

Today’s the last chapter of this series on the Communist Manifesto. Staying true to the form of the past weeks, this finale will analyze the memetic history of the third and last type of socialism antagonized by Marx and Engels: Critical-Utopian Socialism-Communism. We will call it by its initials CUSC for short, as the movement seems to have initiated the cherished Marxist tradition of giving things exhaustive, long names like USSR, DPRK, or LPDR (you get extra credit if you recognized the last one).

CUSC is a bit different from the schools of thought that we have described so far. It can be described as the product of a “primitive” era, right after the French Revolution, when the end of absolutist feudalism was already predictable but not immediately evident. At the time, the Proletariat as a class lacked any strength or ability to organize and thus was completely incapable of any political action. The proponents of this movement identified the acceleration vectors of a society increasingly stratified not only by traditional criteria, but also new economic ones. Thus, CUSC is a school previous to Reactionary Socialism in the evolutionary – not necessarily chronological – sense. It predates the industrial environment which gave life to revolutionary communism. Paraphrasing Marx and Engels: it is in sum a product of class struggle being in an undeveloped state.

Seeing the trends of the 19th century, proponents of this movement such as Fourier or Count Henri de Saint-Simon aimed to change the world’s course for the better, bringing about a completely new society. Deeply seeped in the anthropological optimism of Rousseau and the Enlightenment, they speculated that a society which disposed of most of its traditional structures would be characterized by more justice and social equality. As the engineers of a New Jerusalem, they looked for ways to mitigate class distinctions and were interested in proletarians only in the sense that they were identifiable as the most suffering class”, according to Marx. Interestingly, these two most important exponents of CUSC came from very different social backgrounds: Fourier was the son of an urban merchant and spent his life traveling and writing, thanks to a modest inheritance; Saint-Simon was an idealistic aristocrat who had joined Lafayette’s army at 17 to fight in the American Revolution, and who experienced many different economic conditions throughout his life.

CUSC is called utopian because it advocated for peace, reconciliation and the mitigation of class struggle. In this sort of naiveté, it has some similarities with Bourgeois Socialism. Its good-willed opposition to revolution hampered the progressive historical development of the Proletariat, which made it counter-revolutionary under Communist eyes. It conflicted with Marxist economic theory and deviated from the materialist dialectical axis of Bourgeois Capitalism => Proletarian Communism => Capitalist Communism. Some examples of this utopianism can be seen in the development of voluntary association into communal living quarters, such as Fourier’s phalanstères (from phalanx and monastery), of which some were established in the USA by his followers. Funnily, Fourier tried to convince Capitalists to finance these subversive communes, and his failure to do so led to none of them being successful in Europe.

CUSC’s critical component is a function of its intent to level all social structures, such as family or religion, which compromised the full and natural development of personality and allowed the existence of a parasytical class. A tribute to their Rousseaunism, theirs is a critique of civilization and an exaltation of the noble savage. Their criticism was notoriously centered in the promotion of sexual liberation: both in Fourier’s and Saint-Simon’s thought monogamy and the nuclear family endured heavy attacks, and some of the memetic roots of liberal-individualist feminism and LGBT discourse can be traced to their ideas. Another feature is their industrialism, most notable in Saint-Simon’s thought. Instead of the proletarian-bourgeois dichotomy, he saw the division as between the productive vs. the unproductive. The Industrial Revolution was not conceived by Saint-Simon as an oppressive tool conducive to proletarian uprising, but as a positive end in itself, capable of making redundant the useless, unproductive public servants, judges, feudal lords, and clergy. He advocated a scientific rule by industrialists and engineers: what would later be called a technocracy.

According to the diagnosis made by the Communist Manifesto, the historical relevance of CUSC is in inverse relation to historical development, as the more class consciousness is advanced, the more meaningless projects of a new, classless society become. Although it is true that they did not survive as political movements, many memes which can be traced to CUSC have survived well into our times, and in a remarkably unmodified form.

The most obvious comparison is with Woke Left ideas about personal identity and sexual conduct, particularly, are clearly a modern iteration of CUSC thought. Historically, these memes were seized for accelerationist and revolutionary purposes by the likes of Antonio Gramsci and the folks at the Frankfurt School. They however, have proved challenging to fit in the revolutionary narrative. The breach between classical Marxism and this Neo-Marxism, which rejects the former’s economical determinism, descends directly from the foundational Socialism vs Communism divergence we’ve been discussing these past weeks. The debate is still alive and kicking in the Modern Left, as Bernie Sanders can attest.

The same happens with other aspects of CUSC ideology. Fourier’s phalanstères, for instance, led to the development of similar communal living projects in other movements, from anarchist autonomous communes to, notably, israeli kibbutzim. This fact perhaps makes it less surprising that Israel, hardly a woke country in many aspects, portrays itself as a Near East’s queer paradise. At this point, it should be made explicit that these Fourierist, associative, voluntary communes are absolutely not to be confused with their distant cousin, the soviet, which is State-established, mandatory and more accelerationist in the sense that it processes social organization even more thoroughly. 

A final significant connection also emerges from the waters with this analysis. The relation between hippie culture, techno-utopianism and “California ideology”, which on the surface can seem contradictory, makes complete sense from an evolutionary memetics point of view. After all, when the Count of Saint-Simon joined the fighting in the American Revolution, he stated he did so for “the industrial liberty of America”. The perception of technology as an emancipatory tool is intimately linked to the American Project. The modern, Zuckerbergian iteration of this project certainly makes the cut: a communal space, a personal identity expression platform, and a mega-corporation, all in one. Silicon Valley overlords, with their t-shirts and jeans, look certainly in-character as modern socialist aristocrats of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In the end, CUSC shared a destiny with cyberpunk: it became less and less transgressive as the world transformed into precisely what it described. There’s no impact to it anymore: like the special effects from an old horror movie, which now look fake and unscary. Brave New World might have been deeply disturbing for its original 1932 audience; it has become so similar to reality that its dystopic tone actually flies over many people’s heads. The city-noir LA streets depicted in Blade Runner look like any current Western metropolis at night, minus the cyborgs and flying cars; its veiled, Yellow Peril implications are now a given with the coming Chinese economic sorpasso. With coronavirus raging outside, our dependence on virtual realities has become almost mandatory, too; we use our interconnectedness mostly for zoom calls, videogames and Uber Eats, though, so there’s less subversive hacking than anticipated. Past visions, utopic or dystopic, fail as they become just normal. The only thing nobody expected was our cyberpunk dystopia to be so lame.

This was the last chapter on a series about the Communist Manifesto. You can go to the first chapter here.

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.

Men Towards the Ruins: German Socialism

In our last post, we went through two of the strains of Reactionary Socialism described by Marx and Engels, feudal and petty-bourgeois socialism. Today we will discuss a third variant, dubbed German or “true” socialism.

This third school of thought is a very peculiar type, specific to the context of post-Enlightenment Germany and its unification process. This period in German history was marked by tension that pitted the liberal, industrial bourgeoisie against absolutist aristocratic power. The case presented by the Manifesto is one of memetic evolution promoted by changing environmental pressures. French revolutionary literature, once disconnected from its social context, became for German intellectuals an abstract thing; a literary trope. In characteristic Teutonic fashion, German philosophers equated the proletarian interests with “the Interests of Mankind”, economic oppression with “the Alienation of Humanity”, French criticism of the bourgeois State with “the Dethronement of the Category of the General”, and so on. The transfer of social conflicts characteristic of bourgeois France to the alien German reality resulted in the relegation of said conflict to the realm of Ideas. According to Marx and Engels, as a consequence of this decantment, French discourse was completely defanged and lost its revolutionary potential.

Following the example set by French and English reactionaries, German absolutists tried to use socialist themes as a weapon with which to attack the bourgeoisie. After being co-opted by the aristocratic, Junker-dominated governments, the meme soon found a promising breeding ground in the minds of German Philistines. This numerous class of petty-bourgeois and peasants had been long threatened by the pincer of Capital accumulation by industrialists, on one side, and the revolutionary proletarians on the other. The idealist substrate of German Socialism pushed it to take the side of these Philistines. It branded them as the human core of the German Nation, and denounced the “brutal destructiveness” of class struggle which was threatening said Nation. Some of the memetic roots of National Socialism, its German idealist heritage, and its bitter rivalry with both Communism and Liberalism, can be found in this early German socialism.

This type of Reactionary Socialism, married to idealist concepts of Nation and People, was not only retrograde to Communist eyes, but had to be repulsive aswell because it directly attacked the notion of an International Proletariat. For this reason, it was the first name in the communists’ hit list, even before it mutated to its more virulent form of Nazi racialism. German socialism was exported successfully to many European countries, thanks in part to the prestige of German intellectuals in the continent. Its abstract nature, decoupled from real social conditions, also gave it a quality of mutability, making it adaptable to many different cultural contexts. Many of these “regional varieties” would put up an impressive, violent fight against Communism for most of the 19th and the 20th centuries.

The merit of Marxist predictions concerning Reactionary Socialism lies in the identification of its retrograde tendency. The communists successfully anticipated that the social conditions conducive to the adoption of Reactionary postulates would fade away. Indeed, they have been non-existent in the West for almost a century. This is the reason why most current Western reactionary movements are basically LARPing clubs. Their only alternative is to rely on external conditioners such as strict peer pressure to perpetuate themselves. This is the mechanism employed by religious sects with “traditional” values: instead of letting the meme adapt to the medium, the meme itself creates a favorable environment for its survival.

As highly-abstract memeplexes, German Socialism and its exported national variants were able to overcome the loss of their habitat, the fin de siècle capitalist hellscape. They did so through a form of convergent evolution with communism, though, and acquired in the process a revolutionary and accelerationist streak. National Socialists didn’t see themselves as counter-revolutionary, but carrying forth different type of revolution. They saw their overcoming of class distinctions as nothing but the next step in the revolutionary dialectical process.  The Futurist world of aluminum, skyscrapers and parachutes, which inspired Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, is a good example of this. The crumbling of the Axis powers after World War Two allowed for the victors to reappropriate the most successful elements of this memeplex, and breathe life into them: the rocket, the highway, the atom bomb, and the space program. As a result, the strong association this technological icons had with reactionary socialism was diluted and eventually lost. As we’ll see in future installments of this series, however, the socialists kept trying.

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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