The Female Monster and the Misogynist Revolution

During the turbulent decades that preceded and followed the French Revolution, classical mythology was subject to extensive cross-pollination with Enlightenment and revolutionary literature. Many narratives were reinterpreted through the scope of Progressive ideals, and the question of women’s role in society and the differences between the sexes was no exception.

Women’s issues were an important topic for many revolutionary schools of thought previously discussed in this blog, all of the painstakingly catalogued and targeted by Marx and Engels in their Communist Manifesto as obstacles to Progress. Proudhon, a founding figure of Anarchism (branded as Bourgeois Socialism by the Manifesto), was staunchly opposed to the education of women and believed their primary role was child-rearing and the home. Traditional gender roles were seen as natural and most conducive to happiness. This anti-feminist position, developed in “Pornocracy or Women in Modern Times”, earned him many detractors, and led to important contradictions within the budding anarchist movements across Europe.

Contrary to Proudhon’s views, Critical-Utopian Social Communists (CUSC) such as Fourier or Henri de Saint-Simon defended the access of women into the work force and their consideration as individuals detached from the family institution. Marriage was seen as an oppressive institution to be done with, and women were seen as indistinguishable from men and an oppressed collective. Specifically, Fourier was one of the first thinkers to consider the role of women as a barometer for the degree of development of a society, an idea which embedded itself quite successfully into the wider progressive memeplex. The recognition of LGBT orientation as legitimate was also a notable feature of CUSC thought, and is a trait inherited by virtually all current progressive movements.

As discussed in last week’s post, these ideological trends can be exemplified in the evolving interpretations of Pandora’s myth, a meme which gradually gave way to a new feminine archetype in fiction: that of the femme fatale, the wicked woman who brings doom to men through cunning and seduction. This figure, which peaked in the era of Noir cinema, contrasted with the sympathetic Pandora presented by Goethe and Casti. It was coherent with the feminist ideas cited above in that it lacked any condescension and saw women as dangerous and powerful; nonetheless, it still emphasized their sexual appeal to men as a central trait. Although the femme fatale archetype can be traced back to Helen of Troy, its most malevolent characteristics come from even deeper in the human collective imagination: the Female Monsters of the Greek pantheon.

Unlike the femme fatale, who is purely (yet perversely) feminine, mythological Female Monsters have a distinct type of indeterminate or hybrid sexuality. They often manifest themselves as half-human, half-animal creatures such as Echidna, the Syrens, the Gorgons, the Harpies, the Sphinx, or Scylla and Caribdis. Most trace their lineage to Gaia (Mother Earth); thus, they are strongly associated with the oldest, most primitive generation of gods, and are related to Chthonic cults of darkness, night and fertility. One of the most common epithets for Gaia is, precisely, Πανδώρα (“Pan-dora” or “all-giving”), calling back to the Hesiodic Theogony.

A key characteristic of these monstrous beings is their anatomical abnormality, their dismeasure (ὕβρις, hubris); a lack of conformity to that which is proportionate and rational. Having only one eye or too many of them, serpents instead of hair, etc., they represent chaotic and destructive primordial matter, and an affront to the order imposed by the Olympians, which were Gaia’s youngest divine offspring. The Latin word for mongrel, “hibridus” (from which the English “hybrid” is derived), is of unknown origin, but here at the Outpost we speculate that it might be related to this Greek concept of hubris, which ended up meaning something similar to arrogance and pride.

In any case, the behavior of the typical female monster is predatorial, violent and voracious, especially towards men and children. Sometimes disguised under a beautiful appearance or voice, they bewitch sailors and wanderers, leading them to their death. The root of their evil is sexual: the bodies of their favorite prey, young men, are found naked and mangled among their fangs, in a vulnerable and passive attitude. There is an inversion of sexual roles at play, and their female nature is portrayed as dominant while displaying virile characteristics of aggressiveness. The case of the Sphinx is paradigmatic: a phallic female exercising her tyranny both sexually over her victims, and politically over the city of Thebes. Attracting travelers with her voice and her enigmatic gaze, she poses them with a question; when they fail to answer, she throws herself at them. The men are paralyzed and raped, strangled in a deadly coitus: a death unbecoming of their masculine condition.

Given the exceptional importance sexual identity is granted in contemporary politics, let’s put forward an esoteric hypothesis in regards to these mythological archetypes of violent, ambiguous sexuality. Perhaps, more than a consequence of the defeat conservative-bourgeois or socialist morality, the return of classical memes about the masculine and the feminine results from the action of forgotten gods (i.e. demons) reclaiming their space in the shared unconscious. The political, social and cultural demands presented by the feminist movement may be a hyperstitional call from the Old Ones, designed to trap us again in the myths Female Monsters used to inhabit.

Now, the question that follows this intriguing conclusion is another. Are cultural manifestations such as feminism or LGBT pride an attempt to normalize non-traditional sexuality? Or is it a display meant to liberate men from their instinctive fear of the indeterminate, ambiguous and predatorial female monster? Maybe these symbols of barbarism and irrational, destructive violence, are exhibited not with the purpose of acceptance, but that of inviting their own elimination. What could be more similar to a flock of the Odissey’s bird-like syrens than a show of drag? The phenomenon of QAnon and speculation about spirit cooking and murderous pedophilic cults has an obvious memetic connection to the primal fear inspired by the Sphinx or the Chimaera.

Let’s take the story of Perseus and Medusa. The latter was a Gorgon, a female monster endowed with a horrendous face; a long, phallic tongue aggressively showing among pointed teeth; hissing snakes instead of hair. Medusa’s power resided in her deadly gaze, which turned human beings into stone. Perseus, son of Zeus and thus a demigod, severed her head and turned it into a weapon, using it to conquer and petrify his enemies. This triumphant moment is portrayed brilliantly in a sculpture by Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini; the statue has circulated widely through the Internet, achieving its own memetic status among esoteric right wing and masculinist circles since the early 2010s.

Contemplated in myths, the elimination of female monsters symbolizes the restoration of a harmonious and just order. By eliminating the aberrant entity, the myth guarantees that Olympic Reason, as an essentially masculine quality, is imposed over Chthonic Nature, irrational and feminine. Are we witnessing the signs of a Misogynist Revolution? Maybe woke culture’s glorification of “fierce” queerness and dominant female sexuality is not really about men, women and social justice. Perhaps it’s a spell, a hyperstition meant to foster the return to power not of men, but of immortal demigods. The founding of a new city: after all, Perseus would go on to build the Kingdom of Mycene, of which Agamemnon, vanquisher of Troy, was the most famous ruler; unlike his brother Menelaus, though he never played the simp for that thot fatale Helen.

Age of the Corporate Drone

Capitalism is eternal, will never fall, and will not be replaced by any kind of socialism. Such was the accelerationist message encoded in the Communist Manifesto: a message intuited by Veblen and which was not difficult to decipher for Trotskyist James Burnham (1905-1987). At the core of Burnham’s view of communism was one notion: that the progress of capitalism depended not on the owners of Capital, but on those who controlled its flow.

Burnham saw a similarity in the economic fabric of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Roosevelt’s New Deal USA: the dominant role of huge hierarchical, permanent structures operated by credentialed bureaucrats. From this observation, he described the existence of a managerial class: a technocratic elite of administrators at the top of corporate and government organisms, making most decisions regarding politics, economy and culture. This managerial regime differed greatly from classical entrepeneurial capitalism, and was completely alien to democratic liberalism. Its nature was exploitative and totalitarian: a hive-like community of white-collared bugmen. A world lacking a guiding thread, simplified and run by an depersonalized elite expert in handling the chaos of reality. A portrait of this vision can be found in Adam Curtis’ famous documentaryHypernormalisation”.

Born out of capitalism’s universal voracity, the managers guarantee the most efficient satisfaction of capitalist desires. Their superior status is a function of their role; not the cristallization of any individual right, but the product of their corporate position. All the powers and privileges of possession are bestowed upon them, who nonetheless are not owners of the corporation, but owned by it as organs. There is no Protestant ethic of individual self-discipline and entrepeneurship at play here. As a class, the managers’ power increases with the mass and complexity of the system; their ideal habitat is a hyperconnected world of endless appetites, consumerist hedonism and multivariable change. As any MBA student knows, the more volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, the better opportunities for the manager.

Burnham’s book “The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World” was published in 1941, signaling the author’s turning away from Marxism. It was a turbulent year. The Third Reich and the USSR started it as allies by way of the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact; a collaborative effort which ended abruptly with Operation Barbarossa and the Wehrmacht’s Eastward push in June 22nd. Two months prior, the Soviets had signed a neutrality agreement with Japan, respected by both countries until 1945, when the defeat of the Empire of the Rising Sun was unavoidable. The net result of these actions, in the geopolitical sense, was the firm establishment of the Soviet State as a tool of the predominantly sea-borne Allies. By solely focusing on their Western flank, the Russians became the land power we all know and love, leaving East Asia for the budding American naval Empire: a prize ripe for the taking. These developments were later enforced through the US’s policy of containment, which sought to isolate the Communist block from the rest of the world in application of Nicholas Spykman’s geopolitical theories.

Burnham himself was critical of containment. He supported what in International Relations is known as rollback, the opposite strategy of promoting regime change which failed in Korea (1950) and Cuba (1961). This attitude was not meant to counter socialism with capitalism, as he considered the latter’s demise a fact. Instead, Burnham believed that the product of capitalist critical acceleration was not collapse and socialist reform, but a next step in the capitalist-communist dialectic: managerialism. And in the coming world of managers, he sought to ensure the USA’s leadership by calling for a World Federation against the rival Eastern block, a position which turned him into the first neocon. This idea served as an inspiration for George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, illuminated by the writer’s own experiences of totalitarianism and propaganda during the Spanish Civil War.

Just like Burnham, Francis Fukuyama famously did not buy into the notion that capitalism was dying and was going to be substituted by socialism. Quite the contrary. In his frequently oversimplified article “The End of History?” (1989), Fukuyama announced the triumph of capitalism. What he proclaimed, though, was nothing else that the materialization of the Marxist utopia of 1848. He made no attempt to hide this fact: “The notion of the end of history. It’s not original. The best known propagator was Karl Marx, who believed that the direction of historical development was a purpose determined by the interaction of material forces, and would come to an end only with the achievement of the communist utopia that would finally resolve all previous contradictions.”

It seems his objective was to try and encourage the Soviet leadership to destroy their own real socialist state, in order to facilitate the progress of communism in the world. In this, he wasn’t asking for any betrayal of Marxist principles. The text had been drafted with a specific occasion in mind: the visit of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to the USA.  The arguments that the young State Department official proposed were aimed at helping Moscow communists understand the Communist Manifesto: that is, to continue to trust the doctrine of Marx and get rid of Socialism once and for all.

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.

Veblen, the leisure class, techno-conspirators and the leftovers

As an interpretation somewhat removed from mainstream Marxism, the natural synergies between Communism and Capitalism are a favorite topic of this blog. This trait was best recognized by no other than an American, organic anti-capitalist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). Veblen had been a keen student of Marx’s ideas, and he was not at all convinced. He considered that Marxism, while critical of some tenets of Liberalism, in the end stood firmly within the latter’s premises. This is due to their shared origin in both Hedonism and the doctrine of Natural Rights, the basis of English Liberal thought and the foundation of Marxist ideas of property, economic development and social evolution.

Veblen had his own class theory, which was rooted in neither of these three elements. In his book “Theory of the Leisure Class”, he identified the dominant class in Capitalism as an “idle” sector of society, made up of individuals who held as a common characteristic not being industrialists nor carrying out productive work: the leisure class. This sector of society is derived from the social customs of primitive societies, and can be traced to the origins of the division of labor. Said division was established mainly between productive and non-productive work. The former was characterized by efficiency, industriousness, and a greater capacity to supply the tribe of material goods; the latter was more prestigious, and implied depredation on another living being, animal or human, usually as a display of prowess. Archetypal examples of both activities are agriculture and manufacture, on the one side, and hunting and combat on the other.

Sexual division of labor was embedded within this distinction, males being the dominant, leisurely class; practices such as wife kidnapping and slavery are derived from this culture, and thus were central to social organization. Thus, the leisure class grouped together men who did not engage in any materially productive activity. On the contrary, they dedicated themselves to spending and, especially, superfluous spending, while taking on unproductive tasks related to government, the military, religion, and sports. Their ability to spend was revealed by the accumulation of riches, slaves, servants and wives, all of which had to be mantained.

As shown above, the violent acquisition of goods and their display was a direct indicator of prowess and thus awarded prestige to the owner. As irrational beings, instinctively Humans will look for ways to increase their social status, even to the detriment of their material well-being. The original leisure class demonstrated their superiority not by producing more, but by their increased capacity for wasting resources. Thus, as a demonstration of power and social position, a culture emerged in which conspicuous consumption was a sign of prestige and honorability.  To be able to maintain servants exclusively dedicated to minor, ritualized and/or non-essential tasks (such as music playing, or help in dressing up) represented an enormous pecuniary power, a symbol of prowess. The subsequent refinement in form and manners and progressive stratification of social hierarchies was the prime characteristic of barbaric feudalism, eventually leading to civilized society.

According to Veblen, in the peace awarded by this blossoming civilization, the predatory instincts of the barbarian and feudal eras became more and more absorbed by economic institutions. Archaic practices such as concubinage and the violent capture of slaves were not repressed, but transformed. Bourgeois capitalists, who had earned a measure of respect from the authors of the Communist Manifesto, were in the American economist’s judgment a bunch of greedy simpletons, with the mentality of lower class criminals. Lacking an outlet in tribal warfare, their rapacious instincts had been reconfigured under the guise of corporate fraud. Capitalism isn’t built on owners and proletarians, as Marx thought, but on two types of men: those who create value through industry and those who feed on money itself. Society asks of the former to be diligent, effective, and cooperative; of the latter, to be aggressive, to exert power, and to live off the others.

The exercise of power is not a simple enjoyment for members of the leisure class: it represents their only means of life, and it depends completely on social status and credibility. Enjoying a luxurious lifestyle is a serious matter, requiring considerable effort and dedication. Social obligations are called obligations for a reason. Hierarchies are upheld by displays of pecuniary strength through a form of specialized spending: acquisition of luxury items for oneself and one’s dependants. Veblen explicitly cites women’s clothing as an industry capitalizing on this impulse, this being the quintessential example of conspicuous consumption of women and, especially, their men. Yachts are another example of this, their upkeep being enormous and their use being almost purely social.

Economic life is just an arena where individuals fight for power. There are is no social classes, no nations and no states in Veblen’s theory. In the same way, neither do politics have the function of managing the economy and responding to social demands. On the contrary: politics is just a vehicle of Man’s desire for power. Statesmen are not there to monitor compliance with supposed laws of balance and justice, nor to protect the ideal of the common good. Politics is a business. And as in any business, the goal is to make the most profit possible, with the least expenses (or, even better, with others paying the price). Politics is the fight in which, in order for one to win, the other has to lose: the ultimate social zero-sum game.

This system, of course, is not designed to select the cream of the crop. Its effect is as simple as can be: to eliminate those individuals who cannot keep up. Veblen speaks without reservation in this context of the physical elimination of human material. This is the real mechanism of Darwinian Capitalism, and the real reason why crafty commerce and unscrupulous state administration perpetuate themselves, only serving the purposes of their masters. In direct opposition to Marx, Veblen knows that Capitalism is not there to produce better, but to discard human material; this is the root of its accelerationist effect. It has to be noted that in Veblen’s time, these statements about human selection were not controversial in the slightest. They were seen as a feature and not a bug of the system, and were fully in consonance with the expectations of the American Capitalist elite. The capitalist “shock therapy” introduced in Eastern Europe and Russia after the fall of real socialism is a magnificent example of this mechanism.

The leisure class is made up of the men of the upper classes, although what is decisive about them is not their economic situation but their disposition to adapt to continuous change. If individuals from the lower classes are eliminated, says Veblen, it is not because of their material hardship, but because they do not have the capacity to evolve at the rate of change promoted by the leisure class. Furthermore, they are more easily purged when they commit the recklessness of emulating the conduct of the upper classes without belonging to them.

Like individuals, institutions are also subject to the selection process. Only the best can survive, the working definition of “best” being those which themselves contribute to further selection of the most convenient mental habits. Veblen sees in Capitalism an unproductive organism in service of financial power: a tool against the productive class. Unlike Marx, Veblen thought that the pure monetary, “unearned” profit obtained by financial capitalists was not the surplus value created by the workers’ exploitation. It was the result of a network of three institutions: price, property and contract; magic formulas of power and engines of spending to which everyone submits, some with pleasure, and others despite themselves.

The role of these institutions is to stimulate and ensure continuous spending, especially of the conspicuous variety. A required rate of consumption unattainable for those in the bottom is essential for the leisure class to maintain power. This is especially true in industrial societies with traumatic erasures of the past, like America or some East Asian countries. The ante-bellum South had a traditional, martial leisure class similar to those found in European or Japanese barbarian culture. Those elites who could afford slaves, the ultimate status sign, were a small minority and enjoyed an idle way of life rich in ritual and social etiquette; their conflict with the industrial, productive North was thus unavoidable. The former could not keep up with the weapons of the latter: the price system, artificial scarcity and planned obsolescence.

The Civil War, however, did not eliminate the leisure class, but only its most traditional and outdated exponent. The death warrant of Southern slave-owning gentry wasn’t signed due to its low productiveness, but of its lagging capacity to compete in spending with the emerging northern capitalists, the America of holds and robber barons. The trend of traditional, “barbarian” leisure classes being substituted by a capitalist and globalist working class accelerated throughout the end of the 19th century, as pecuniary power became progressively disengaged from war spoils and every day more connected to predatory capitalism. Conflicts with a similar root followed the American Civil War all around the world, such as the Meiji Restoration in Japan and to some extent the First World War, which ended most European monarchies and empires in one sweep (with President Woodrow Wilson’s explicit intent to do so). The new elites would take on occupations according to their rank: politics, the military, religion and sports.

Veblen can be described as an anti-Marxist militant throughout his life. This anti-Marxism is what made him an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Revolution. A few months prior to his death, he said that he had set great hopes on Communism. The revolutionaries he had in mind, though, were not the same communists the authorities were thinking of when they opened an investigation against Veblen in response to the complaint of a Russian-born emigrant, who accused him of being “a traitor for hire who wishes for America what Lenin and Trotsky have done in Russia”. However, Veblen was no Trotskyist, but a Stalin devotee, in the sense he favored Stalinist emphasis on the material development of the USSR and not Trotsky’s theory of worldwide revolution.

In an essay with the title “Bolshevism is a threat – to whom?” he wrote that the Bolsheviks posed a threat to the establishment, but not because they could take over the United States. As happens with all revolutions, the threat was memetic in nature. Veblen explained it in a series of papers published together in 1921 under the title “The Engineers and the Price System”. It was his most subversive book; in it he encouraged engineers to create a “Soviet of Technicians” to attack the bankers, who were simply saboteurs unscrupulously hindering production to obtain better prices. The American leisure class was not endangered by the diverse soviets of workers, soldiers and peasants that Lenin had designed. The enemy it feared was a conspiracy of engineers and scientists revolting against their rule and way of life. Thus, any hint of utopian technocracy is to be coopted or destroyed.

The current crisis of Capitalism is both the manifestation of individualistic, internal competition within the leisure class, and the unavoidable result of its accelerationist, meat grinder-like nature. European Union mandarins, Blackrock finance druids, Silicon Valley technolords and Open Society spooks are all representative types of the contemporary leisure class; the same can be said of Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Kanye West. Their common enemy has not changed either: it is the productive class, now incarnated in the Chinese industrial juggernaut, itself a body infested by voracious and parasytical financiers and CCP bureaucrats. Meanwhile, ghetto thugs, BLM activists, lone-wolf jihadis, resentful incels and impoverished woke millenials go down the drain, leftover from pecuniary emulation of the leisure class and marked for physical elimination by way of death, prison or childlessness. The Dramatis personae for 21st century drama grows everyday more extensive.

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Parrhesia, subversion and piracy: the rise of the cyber-optimists

Parrhesia, from the Greek παρρησία, means literally “to say everything”, to “not hold anything back”. It is used to describe a manner of speaking frankly or boldly, to the point of bringing danger to oneself. The concept was central to the Cynical school of thought, a Greek philosophical movement from around the 4th century BC. The name of this school comes from κύων – kyon (“dog”), in allusion to the frugal and, in a sense, animalistic lifestyle of its followers. The cynics interpreted socratic doctrine as condemning of civilization; the righteous life was the one lived according to nature, because Man naturally carried within all the elements necessary for Freedom, Happy and Good life.

Diogenes the Cynic was probably the most famous example of this thought. From what we know about him, he had been exiled from his native Sinope along with his father for counterfeiting coins. Living in Athens as a homeless man, he dedicated his life to speaking truth to power in the rawest terms possible. He protagonized numerous and provocative shenanigans, a habit he referred to as “defacing the currency” of social customs – the fake currency of morality. This metaphor doubled as a reference to the causes of his expatriation, of which he claimed to be proud. Carrying a lamp in broad daylight, he claimed to be “looking for a [honest] man”. He laughed at Socrates’ definition of humans as “featherless bipeds” by presenting him with a chicken stripped of feathers and calling it a man. The Cynic’s philosophical statements also included public defecation and masturbating in the agora. When granted a wish by Alexander the Great, he told the Conqueror to move out of the way so as to not block the sun, earning the King’s respect with his insolence. All of these anecdotes were transmitted by others, as he left no written works.

The term Diogenes Syndrome, nowadays, designates a mental condition defined by the patient’s tendency to accumulate garbage and useless items in their home, often leading to extremely unsanitary situations. However, the cynical philosopher’s life was one in pursuit of integrity as supreme virtue. Integrity comes from the Latin word integer, used in mathematics to refer to numbers which are whole, intact. To have integrity is to be simple, without parts: to think, speak and act in a unified way. Animals are naturally like this, so according to Diogenes a virtuous Man should embody his animal, “doggish” nature, forfeiting everything else. He had to embrace his visceral, filthy reality, and get rid of all social conventions, masks and chains. Cynics like Diogenes made shamelessness their banner.

Deleuze, when describing control societies and comparing to Foucault’s disciplinary societies, remarked the former’s vulnerability to “jamming, piracy and viruses”. Justin Murphy has pointed to the connection of these ideas with Diogenes’ point of view. In one of his lectures, he argues that a parrhesiastic performance of sufficient gravity is what makes these three subversive elements possible. The danger inherent to “not holding anything back”, like Diogenes’ provocation of Alexander, generates a force capable of forging strong communities and movements. The disposition to die in the name of Truth has unparalleled transformative potential; a phenomenon which Christian apologist Tertullian summarized as “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church“.

The loose constellation of debaters and propagandists around which the alt-right was built tried to play this game. They used their memes about freedom of speech and overt critique of Political Correctness to gain enormous cultural momentum, something the conventional right had never managed to do. Trump’s 2016 campaign brutalized every sacred cow of acceptable discourse. For anyone who had been paying attention, this was a winner strategy. The future President’s announcement to supporters,we’re gonna win so much you may even get tired of winning”, though, turned out to be a grim prediction. As the Overton Window moved right, the parodies of Woke/PC culture became so trite they lost the shocking value they once had. Trump may win 2020, but the cultural momentum of 2016 is gone forever. The alt-right is old news. Those kids turned out to be just another brand of socialists trying to avoid being left behind by the wheel of Acceleration.

The 2016 Meme War, however, was fought under the influence of a dark elixir. During the early 2010’s, neoreactionary, accelerationist, and other fringe-right blogs had sown the seeds of a new Zeitgeist. The bloggers of that corner of the Internet, mostly anonymous, were not exactly martyr material. Many of them had families and careers. Some of the key figures seemed to be on it mainly for the intellectual stimulation, and certainly not down for any political activism; just look up Moldbug’s Steel Rule of Passivism. The scene lacked cohesion, internal coherence, and drive. It was, however, a fantastic machine for the production of parrhesiastic discourse. And on the receiving end of that discourse was a different generation, mostly born during the late 80’s and 90’s.

Not quite native to the Internet, raised during the hangover of the Cold War, and coming of age around the 2008 financial crisis, they got used to the intellectual promiscuity and the provocative tone of the online culture the Dark Enlightenment writers had contributed to generate. While the Dark Enlightenment quietly faded away, a new specimen, better suited for the fast-paced, abrasive exchanges of message boards and Twitter hot takes, was being born: the edgelord. His occasional banality and vulgarity, his directionless trolling, was just the lowest common denominator of a future intellectual culture. A culture of cyber-optimists, like Philosopher-King Kantbot and Bronze Age Pervert, the Prophet of Pirates. Rhizomic, marginal, non-ideological and somewhat esoteric, it has adapted to thrive in the market of attention. It runs on infinite lines of code and biological metaphors. Proliferating under the surface of the Internet’s primaeval soup, shapeless and unnamed, it is now ready to unleash a new era of jamming, piracy, and viral infection on the establishment.

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.

Thucydides within: the origins of Reaction

As announced in the last post, the next few installments on our series on Marxist thought will focus on the different schools of Socialism identified and targeted by the Communist Manifesto. Today we will start discussing Reactionary Socialism, which was a powerful ideological adversary to Communism for much of the 19th and the 20th century. In its original form, it was the last refuge of the losers of the Capitalist Revolution, a violent death spasm of the Middle Ages. According to Marx and Engels, it comes in three varieties: (a) feudal, (b) petty-bourgeois and (c) German or “true” socialism. The first two are named after the class the interests of whom they represented.The third one is specific to the German context, and over the decades evolved into something very different. We will focus on feudal and petty-bourgeois socialism for now, leaving German socialism for later posts.

The collapse of Medieval institutions, the rise of the Secular Westphalian State, the Protestant Reform and the advent of the Industrial Revolution, had conspired to modify the economic relations between classes at an ever-increasing speed. The upwardly-mobile merchants, manufacturers and bankers had acquired the means to multiply their productive force, thanks to a combination of technological ingenuity and shifting attitudes to money, religion, and politics. They had developed a habit of Capital Accumulation, much more abstract and less prone to disaggregation than Land Accumulation. Using an inverse alchemical process, they had been transforming gold into lead and iron: turning their economic power into political power, buying their way into the nobility, and participating in its conflicts as financers. They were an ascending class. This ascent of the merchant class was parallel to the decline of traditional institutions: churches with different, sometimes radical ideologies were proliferating, and economic activity was moving towards the cities and away from country estates. Gunpowder democratized killing, by ending the advantage of highly trained military-aristocratic elites. The traditional establishment felt threatened by this twilight of their supremacy. An internal trap of Thucydides was set in the middle of European social organization,tearing its fabric apart: the forces controlling the Ancien Régime had to react against these uppity bourgeois.

For the communists, feudal socialism is the interested agitation of the Proletariat by the secular and clerical nobility, with the intention of throwing them against the increasingly rich and influential bourgeois. As such, it is absolutely opposed to Progress and the March of History. The main issue feudal authority had with bourgeois systems, they argue, was not their creation of an oppressed proletarian majority, but the fact that the workers of industrial societies were more prone to hold a revolutionary tendency. In other words, feudal socialism was the reaction of an old ruling class, afraid of capitalist economic relations pushing the working classes too far and thus favoring their class resentment. Marx and Engels praised the acute criticism of liberalism developed by the feudalists, but correctly identified the dangers it posed to the Revolution. Although it made an accurate diagnosis and was successful in prodding the peasants against the bourgeois, feudal socialism had an unavoidable counter-revolutionary substrate. This completely interfered with the vector of History, a fact which justified issuing the Communist fatwa against it.

The Manifesto explicitly cites French Legitimists and the Young England party as examples of feudal socialism, but even the earlier failed royalist uprising in the Vendée represented this “peasant revolt” trope to some extent, and embroidered religious themes within it. Indeed, Marx and Engels argue that the recombination of socialist memes with religious ideals of asceticism, charity and poverty results in the various strains of what they call Christian socialism, which they dismiss as the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat”. The extent to which feudal and Christian socialism is attributed to a genuine peasant feeling or to a manipulation by the ruling classes depends a lot on where you lie in the memetic spectrum of the conflict. What is clear, though, is that in some European regions, and for a long time, factions possessed by this spirit regularly revolted and had to be violently defeated in the battlefield to conform to the bourgeois liberal State.

Landed nobility was not the only class rendered obsolete by the bourgeois system and the Industrial Revolution. Farmers who owned their own plots of land and craftsmen were also heavily affected by technological advances, the new organization of labor and the change in productive relations. Petty-bourgeois socialism was the version of socialism customized for this numerous sector of society. It was composed of socialist memes indigenous to countries such as France, where peasants and artisans comprised at the time more than half of the population. Aiming to restore traditional relations of production both in manufacture in agriculture, petty-bourgeois socialism sets the medieval corporate guild and the patriarchal family farm as models.

While feudal socialism wants to stop the wheel of History, its petty-bourgeois allies just wants to reset it to a previous state of affairs, being completely oblivious to the fact that it was precisely traditional relations of production what gave way to capitalism. Interestingly, while this meme is completely unable to catalyze any Revolution, it is perfectly viable as an idea, and its spirit has stood well the test of time. Common contemporary iterations of it are classical conservative stances of idealizing the 1950s, or the (sometimes admittedly ironic) aesthetic glorification of the 1980s in the alt-right. It’s an innocuous, but very contagious and mutable mental virus, which adapts to present cultural environments by periodically updating the prior era it fetishizes. Its toothlessness is what guarantees its survival. As any epidemiologist (or bioterrorist) worth their salt knows, diseases notoriously symptomatic and highly lethal –like Ebola– rarely cause a pandemic, because they kill the host too quickly and spectacularly for the patient to spread it around. It’s the inconspicuous, not-so-deadly viruses –like coronaviruses– which get to travel the world.

Feudal and petty-bourgeois socialists frequently were allies in the armed struggle against Revolution. While the first served as ideological justification for the rulers of the Ancien Régime, the latter was directed to the bulk of the reactionary fighting body: the dejected peasantry and impoverished petty-bourgeois craftsmen. It was a predominantly rural alliance, politically led by the feudalists. An iconic example of it can be seen in the Carlist Wars, were this absolutist core resisted viciously the liberal bourgeois system established by Queen Isabella II. The white side of the Russian Revolution also offers many instances of this type of collaboration. The disappearance of the rural world brought by improved communications and technologically put the final nail in the coffin of this type of movements. Their last unironic and unmodified iterations had practically died out in the West by the 1950s, their shattered remains rallying to the heirs of German Socialism, which meanwhile had been undergoing a fascinating transformation of its own.

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