Tag Archives: leftism

Leftism Should Stop Punching Itself

The problem with modern left-wing politics is that they are defeatist. Being defeatist isn’t just a matter of not thinking you will win; in fact, I would say that most defeatists are convinced that they will eventually win. Defeatism, especially in terms of left politics, is an assumption that one’s real desires cannot be achieved. It is a reformulation of desires in a way that substitutes inadequate tokens for the real objects of desire and puts those desires off forever. Social democracy is a defeatist idea. Eurocommunism is a defeatist idea. They take it as read that essential parts of socialist & communist ideology, as conceived of in the war years and the Soviet period, are unachievable and therefore not worth striving for. Left defeatism treats the success of capitalism as being a result of capitalism’s innate correctness and therefore determines to subordinate its wants to those of capital.

The primary weapon wielded against the left is the prospect of chaos overtaking society. This is not the chaos of the left, however. This chaos is like an allergic reaction. A peanut is introduced to the system, something that doesn’t harm the system as a whole, but the system misunderstands and reacts by distressing the body, possibly to the point of strangling it. The damage from an allergic reaction is not caused by the peanut, the so-called foreign agent, the damage is caused by an overreaction of the body itself. At the same time, I want to stress that this is a metaphor and society is not an organism as such. People do not choose their allergic responses but they do choose their political actions. I likened rightist response to an allergic reaction not to suggest that this response is natural or intrinsic, I did so just to highlight that the damage and chaos may be related to the introduction of the new material but it isn’t actually caused by the new material.

I bring this up because left defeatism is directly related to the trigger for that chaos, and defeatism’s central premise is that society can be convinced that the left will not lead to chaos. This premise is bogus. The right causes the chaos because of what it knows the left must do. They are resisting the expropriation of their wealth. When the wealth of the wealthy is threatened, they are likely to react violently. The fundamental problem with left defeatism on a functional level is that the left must expropriate from the wealthy. If it doesn’t, it no longer performs the basic deeds that people expect from the left. It effectively stops being left-wing.

Why does the left have to expropriate? In brief, it is because primary value always equals 1 whole. This might be easier to understand by equating “primary value” with “priority for society”. If we view priority as a substance to be distributed, those with higher priority get more and vice versa. It should be clear that nothing increases or decreases the “total amount” of priority in a society. With that understood, we can see that if something has high priority, something else has low priority. One of the illusions of capitalism is that primary value can be extended. This is one of the roads that defeatism travels on: leftists feel that they can’t defeat capitalist forces and so decide to buy into this lie, hoping that enough value can be created such that everyone can get as much as they desire. Labor relations show that this is a lie. We know that we produce enough that the idea of poverty wages is not justifiable by the constraints of production. We know that improved conditions enable more production. Our current situation persists not because “the numbers don’t work” but because they mask the real operation of primary value. My point here is that the poor and underserved cannot be helped unless primary value is redistributed. Leftism fundamentally cannot avoid expropriation if it wants to totally reform society.

What is the solution for the left? My suggestion is the embrace of functional terror. The “terror” in question is the process of expropriation. This was the spark of left revolutionary terrors: the reaction to expropriation by the wealthy/right led to the repression of those resisted expropriation. Left defeatism’s principal argument is that we must reject concepts like revolutionary terror and dictatorship of the proletariat, but that is because it ahistorically locates the cause of that chaos in a left desire for vengeance; it treats the chaos as something for the left only to stop.

To embrace functional terror is not to love violence but to be prepared for it. It acknowledges that expropriation may be “terrifying” but that it must happen, and also that the purpose of terror is not to enact punishment but to reorder society. Rather than pretend at being harmless, we should point out that the wealthy cause this chaos all the time in their violent opposition to, for instance, poor workers who want a raise that may make their disgustingly wealthy employer just a little less wealthy. The idea that this position should be respected to the point that leftists blame themselves for the push-back they experience is frankly insulting. Left defeatism is a fucking dead end. Realize what has to be done, don’t run from it.

Hot Allostatic Vampire Castle

I’m gonna have to do a version of Exiting the Vampire’s Castle that doesn’t suck shit huh. One that isn’t just crypto-rightist grievance.

I’m not saying he describes the thing badly, I’m saying you shouldn’t have to be forced to sympathize with fucking Russel Brand in order to get that point

I’m probably not the right person to do this though because I haven’t experienced this specific kind of trauma. Like, when I read it, I see all the bad parts but I’m not sure that I would actually be able to construct a new version of this that’d be useful.

One thing I will say is that I see that there are two main conversations when he’s talking about the vampire’s castle, he combines them but they’re separate. On one hand there’s his basic incuriosity and bitterness at the world. On the other hand is the struggle session.

A bunch of Fisher’s argument is just like “I think X but other people said Y and I think they shouldn’t get mad at me”, that fucking sucks. That part of it is useless to me. The part that is useful is the aspect of it which is struggle session, which is apart from that.

The struggle session is a kind of violence that I think we only recognized when it got that name in China, but it probably isn’t new exactly, it’s just that that’s when it sort of got codified. And that *is* a leftist thing inasmuch as it is not a central power at work.

It’s about making you sort of reckon with the things you’re supposed to believe, a kind of weaponized accountability. That sort of confrontation is something that I think we don’t have a robust language or theory for, and Exiting the Vampire’s Castle is a stab at it. A bad stab but a stab.

Because if you just read through it… Fisher is just mad that people yelled at him on Twitter and he wants to accuse them of being non-leftist because of it. That’s it. There’s nothing else really going on. He describes struggle session because he went through it, not cause he has good thoughts.

I am eventually going to read Capitalist Realism but, as I’ve said before, I’m not really looking forward to it. Finding out it’s only 80 pages is both a relief and extremely typical. It’s a shame that it seems he never really ran himself against a big brain cause ah… woof.

Reprise: The article Exiting the Vampire’s Castle came up in the context of another piece, Hot Allostatic Load, which is about being accepted into trans/queer spaces and how that can simultaneously open one up to being disposable. Both describe the anxiety at the root of community: what happens when the community turns against you? Or, perhaps more accurately in reference to Hot Allostatic Load, what if it was against you from the start? This is an extremely valid concern for all communities. The issue that both articles share is that they are building specific grievances into that discussion. This is not to say that these grievances (I use “grievance” to make their position here distinct) are invalid, only that they are specific and, perhaps more to the point, personal. To use Castle as an example here, it is very clear throughout that piece that a primary preoccupation for the author is that they were criticized and they view that criticism as being unjust. Though that does touch on the issues with community, the author obviously can’t simply build on their irritation at being criticized in order to form solutions that actually deal with the problem of community rejection, but that’s what he does. The fact that he begins by saying “it’s ridiculous that people think you are minimizing race and gender just by mentioning class” and ends by saying “this is why class must always trump identities like race and gender” should make it very obvious that he’s not proposing any real solutions, he’s just venting his irritation. All of his solutions are like that. His analyses involve laying out why his opponents are ideologically wrong and his prescriptions are all “shut up”. Hot Allostatic Load is similar in many respects. It never analyzes why something should or should not be done — for example, certainly some people should be ostracized (or otherwise handled) if they are dangers to the community — it simply lays out things that happened to the author and says they are bad and should never happen.

The reason that this distinction is important is because both Vampire’s Castle and Allostatic Load locate the issues as specifically being within leftism, progressivism, trans identity, etc.: generally left-wing politics. This identification is a result of their specific grievances, not because leftism itself has a problem. These problems are problems of community in general. Looking at them as being a problem with “tolerance run wild” or people “weaponizing their politics” will always fail because it isn’t actually addressing what is going on. All communities, not only leftist ones, provide the opportunity for their members to utilize ideology as weapons against other members.

This is not to say that I think these grievances should not be aired. I think Allostatic Load has a good case to be aired: abuse happened, people’s lives were actually ruined, and that is a real issue beyond the political/rhetorical hairs I’m splitting here. I don’t think that Vampire’s Castle had a good case because I do not give a shit that people yelled at Mark Fisher online. Be fucking serious. The point is, again, to understand that these works are not primarily works of analysis, they are expressions of specific grievance, and they should be understood on those terms.