The Leviathan’s Shadow: ‘Accelerationism’, ‘The Dark Enlightenment’, and Late Capitalisms NRx’s Rise

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“The life of a man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes; Chpt. XVIII, Ln. 30)

“The thing that is common to all these people, whether it is Pétain mournfully preaching ‘the discipline of defeat’, or Sorel denouncing liberalism, or Berdyaev shaking his head over the Russian Revolution, or ‘Beachcomber’ delivering side-kicks at Beveridge in the Express, or Huxley advocating non-resistance behind the guns of the American Fleet, is their refusal to believe that human society can be fundamentally improved. Man is non-perfectible, merely political changes can effect nothing, progress is an illusion. The connexion between this belief and political reaction is, of course, obvious. Other-worldliness is the best alibi a rich man can have. ‘Men cannot be made better by act of Parliament; therefore I may as well go on drawing my dividends.’ No one puts it quite so coarsely as that, but the thought of all these people is along those lines: even of those who, like Michael Roberts and Hulme himself, admit that a little, just a little, improvement in earthly society may be thinkable.” – George Orwell, December 4, 1943

The Shadow is Cast: #Accelerationism, the ‘Dark Enlightenment’ , and the Legacy of TINA

Thomas Hobbes, writing the Leviathan in opposition to the English Revolution, sought out to counter what had ultimately become the final push for the transition of the socio-economic order of feudalism to ultimately the new mode of production; capitalism. In the Leviathan, Hobbes constructs an opposition to the nominally democratic narrative of the rising bourgeoisie to a rhetoric that changes itself to the shifting material conditions, coming out as one of the most fervent counter-revolutionaries, or reactionaries, of capitalist ideological history. Following suit to the tradition of reactionary activity in opposition to growing emancipatory movements, today we as well see a slowly growing neo – reactionary movement on what is beginning to appear as more or less as a reaction to the cusp of neoliberal collapse or instability. Whether neoliberalism will collapse or not, is not the question, but “when will another world appear?”, is what the emancipatory movements of the Arab Spring, the Squares Movement, OWS,  BDS, anti-austerity leftism, and Black Lives Matter pose for the sake of the oppressed’s survival. However, this neo-reactionary movement (NRx/ Dark Enlightenment) premises itself from the fomenting far-right movements of the past, from the intellectualism of eugenics to the social determinism of technological advancement will render humans useless through “accelerating” the self destruction of capitalism. This neoreacitonary movement, although pooling misfits from milieu’s of internet forums with a social-Darwinist bend, is becoming something more than just an intellectual interest of the future Goebbels reenactors or the next posturing nietzschean bickering on the internet of the futility of modern dating, but a spiteful collection of capitalist apologists bringing humanity to it’s knees before the ultimate Übermensch to strong-arm the forces of the market and retain the heirarchical character of this sociopathic system, even if this strongman is not man, but machine.

A collection of ideological arguments borrowed from the Marxist left, the Dark Enlightenment’s main thinker comes from across the pond with Continental philosopher and writer, Nick Land. Land, embodying the “common sense logic” of the apocalyptic implications of Capitalism’s “eternal” growth and concessions to Marx’s correct analysis of capitalisms self destructive tendency, presents an argument that opposes all forms of egalitarianism and universalism. Taking a direct opposition to the tradition of the enlightenment, we see Land through sci-fi narratives and cyber-punk motifs, create a manifesto of his own against the fostering egalitarian trends in the late 90’s and early 2000’s in the Dark Enlightenment. This movement, being cherished by bitter libertarians and white supremacists, is seen as the basic logic of the Darwinian apologism of capitalism that “only the fit survive” where AI eventually will devour humanity and that hierarchies constructed of bitcoin economies will prevail.

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It is not surprising that the far-right of today would be drawn to Land’s open ended stance against egalitarianism and universal values. This is the basic logic that underlies capitalism, that although democratic values are espoused, they are rarely guaranteed by the ruling classes internationally that rule over capitalisms anarchic growth. Yet, like a conductor loosing control of a train crash, we see that the way white supremacists, neoreactionaries, fascists, and conservatives have in common, is that this is humanities final frontier, and whatever happens afterword is only a concern to what rights are guaranteed for my preferred ethnic or religious identity, or at least class position in tact. This absurdism, accepting the insufficient logic of capitalism as inevitable, pushes for capitalisms collapse and eventual anarchic reign of Murry Rothbard’s “libertarian” dream of investors and capitalists individually ruling over society with the capitalist market still in tact.

Land’s view is:

“For the hardcore neo-reactionaries, democracy is not merely doomed, it is doom itself. Fleeing it approaches an ultimate imperative… Predisposed, in any case, to perceive the politically awakened masses as a howling irrational mob, [neoreaction] conceives the dynamics of democratization as fundamentally degenerative: systematically consolidating and exacerbating private vices, resentments, and deficiencies until they reach the level of collective criminality and comprehensive social corruption. – The Dark Enlightenment; Part 1. Neo-reactionaries head for the Exit

Peter MacDougald, covering Land in his excellent piece, the Darkness before the Right, shows the pervasive attitude of numbness that Land’s politics relies upon in both forum and circles of the far-right. MacDougald describing their view of capitalism as a

“Brand of authoritarian capitalism [that] has a certain fascist sheen, but in truth it’s closer to a rigidly formalized capitalist technocracy. There’s no mass mobilization, totalitarian social reorganization, or cult of violence here; governing will be done by the governors, and popular sovereignty replaced by the market Mandate of Heaven. There is a strange sort of disillusioned cultural conservatism here as well, albeit one absolutely stripped of moralism. In fact, what’s genuinely creepy about it is the near-sociopathic lack of emotional attachment; it’s a sort of pure incentive-based functionalism, as if from the perspective of a computer or alien. If a person doesn’t produce quantifiable value, they are, objectively, not valuable. Everything else is sentimentality.” 

Nick Land, author of The Dark Enlightenment

Nick Land, author of The Dark Enlightenment

This feeling of a inactive existence with sentimental or emotional attachment has become a common motif amongst those that critique emancipatory politics to those who seek out individualistic terror activities such as mass shootings or racial intimidation. Acting as if the rational scientist at heart, todays neo-reactionaries bring back a similar mythos that has been present since capitalism’s athena like birth from the head of feudalism: the constant anxiety for superiority.

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The Distinguishing Features of Leninist Political Practice – Paul Saba (1977)

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The Distinguishing Features of Leninist Political Practice

Introduction

We are seeking to practice the scientific approach to politics of Marx and Lenin. Thus the text which follows seeks to elaborate systematically what constitutes a Leninist political practice. Essentially, the objective of Leninism is the establishment of a communist society via socialism, the transition period of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Many would agree with this objective but reject Leninist practice. This rejection manifests itself in a fixation with a particular organisational form or type of struggle. Leninist political practice does not have fetishes, but considers the likely consequences of a particular form of struggle and opts for the form most likely to promote its objectives. It is, therefore, not “unprincipled”, because the objectives to be achieved are clear, and inform the practice. Thus, it is clearly distinct from a political practice which eschews principles, i.e., opportunism, and also from the opposite deviation of being politically paralysed by too many “principles”. Such paralysis generally arises from the error of elevating a strategy or tactic to a principle An example should clarify this.

Based on their understanding of the bourgeois state, Leninists reject attempts to achieve socialism through electoral struggle. But rejection of parliamentarianism does not rule out participation in electoral or reform struggles when they can promote short-term advances. Fundamentalists fail to make this distinction and thus reject any involvement in electoral or reform struggles “on principle”. Opportunists, by contrast, are satisfied with only the short-term gains and thus will engage in reform struggles as ends in themselves – to win better wages, more party members, or whatever.

What constitutes a Leninist political practice in contradistinction to these other tendencies is outlined in the text, which sets out three classes of conjuncture, describing in broad terms the type of party activity appropriate to each class. Such a classification is not a substitute for conjunctural analysis. Quite the reverse. Leninists must have a detailed knowledge of the situation in which they are working and the possible courses of development in order to intervene effectively using a political programme developed primarily from their analysis. The classes of conjunctures are specified to provide a directed research programme, just as preliminary categories and definitions are drawn up in all scientific research. They also enable us to analyse new situations as they arise. It must be noted, however, that there is no necessary sequence of movement between types of conjuncture: history is not a straight path but a route which zig zags and turns back on itself. When Leninists suffer a reverse they need not necessarily advance over the same ground or by the route by which they retreated.

Looking at the particular types of conjuncture outlined some points should be noted. Revolution is not possible in all social, political and economic conditions. Contrary to the belief of many on the Left that the manifestations of contradictions at the economic level inevitably imply a revolutionary situation, reality is much more complex. Economic crises do not necessarily develop into political crises, let alone into a military crisis, a necessary feature of revolutionary situations. In a revolutionary conjuncture, the choice is between a reestablished capitalism and a defeated working class, or socialism – the dictatorship of the proletariat and the erosion of the capitalist mode of production. The choice is never between capitalism or communism, let alone socialism or barbarism. As Lenin said, those who expect a revolution in which the bourgeoisie are all lined up on one side and the proletariat on the other will never live to see it. In non-revolutionary conjunctures the options appear even less distinctly. In particular, in a restructuring conjuncture it may appear that Leninists are faced with the choice of supporting capitalism by opting for a particular form of restructuring, or supporting the proletariat by calling for all manner of resistance to all forms of restructuring, but this is a bogus choice. In a situation where the conditions for a revolution do not exist, as in Britain at present, it is inevitable that capitalism is going to restructure itself, the form of restructuring being determined by political struggle. Leninists, then, have two choices.

The first option is to try to affect the course of that restructuring for the benefit of the working class: for example the development of greater class polarisation, with increased class cohesion and strengthened working class ideology; the weakening of the material bases of ideologies which divide the working class, eg racism, sexism, nationalism; the increased self-confidence of the working class in its collective ability to take charge of society. If a crisis is not revolutionary, restructuring must take place under the existing state power. If the working class is to influence the restructuring, it must make demands on the state. However, in fighting for reforms, communists never lose sight of their eventual aim or permit the belief that the existing state apparatus can serve as an instrument of proletarian state power: reformism must be strenuously opposed. Reformism is the idea that socialism can be achieved through a gradual accretion of reforms won by constitutional means and without the overthrow of bougeois state power. Our view is that the struggle for reforms can only prepare more favourable conditions for the future overthrow of bourgeois state power.

The other option is confinement to propaganda work, disregarding changes in material conditions, whether on the grounds that the restructuring cannot be influenced or that involvement in reform struggles will only foster illusions in the working class.

To the first objection one can say: “Suck it and see!”; at the very least the analysis and experience of political struggle gained will be valuable. To the second, the obvious retort is that there is no inevitability about the outcome of political struggle. The outcome depends on the relative strengths of the forces involved. Leninists cannot intervene and lead the struggle in a revolutionary crisis without having already developed their political, ideological and organisational practices. These practices cannot be developed in a political vacuum. If Leninists have always waited immobile or stood aside for fear of being contaminated with reformism, when all the conditions for a revolutionary situation exist they will be unable to influence its outcome. Communists must be aware of the possibility of deviations, but must not become paralysed and impotent in the face of these dangers. As Lenin pointed out:

The greatest, perhaps the only danger to the genuine revolutionary is that of exaggerated revolutionism, ignoring the limits and conditions in which revolutionary methods are appropriate and can be successfully employed.

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Fifty Years Since Its Founding: 
A History of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) (Viewpoint Magazine)

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“The legacy is very wide and can be observed in multiple dimensions: political, social, cultural, aesthetic and ethical. I’m going to restrict myself to the political dimension. In that, there are several aspects that we can emphasize. On the hand is the programmatic content of the MIR’s proposal: this organization put forth, and fought materially in that sense, for the construction of socialism in Chili. Today, when the alternatives to capitalism are configured in a diffusemanner, many young people and many revolutionary organizations are returning to argue for the necessity of constructing socialism. What kind of socialism? We don’t know; but the debate about its contents and orientations is a fundamental demand of our era. And with regards to that, the Miristas and the Mirista program have a lot to say.

On the other hand, the first generation of the Miristas and the one formed after that, in the struggle against the dictatorship, put forward a political example and an ethical challenge. It concerns generations of revolutionaries whose generosity and commitment led them to give their lives for their ideals, without asking anything in return. So far from the contemporary political class (old or young), that makes of their career in public office a strategy of enrichment and power. The moral stature of those revolutionaries influences, without a doubt, in an important way the political attitude of anti-capitalist militants today.

Finally, it’s necessary to emphasize the requirement of organization. Many today, after moving along the roads of a sterile movement, accept that political organization, the political vanguard, constitute an irreplaceable element of every revolutionary process. The successful historical experiences demonstrate it (Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua). That revolutionary organization, provided by a revolutionary strategy, that takes into account the particularities of a region (Latin America) and a country (Chile), must construct itself from within the workers and the people. It must adjust itself to the new situation and historical context. That lesson of the dialectic of history, the MIR constructed with commitment, courage and self-sacrifice.” – Igor Goicovic Donoso, Fifty Years Since Its Founding: 
A History of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) (Viewpoint Magazine)

Bautista Van Schouwen, Marcello Ferrada-Noli and Miguel Enriquez in their college days. Photo courtesy of Marcello Ferrada-Noli

Bautista Van Schouwen, Marcello Ferrada-Noli and Miguel Enriquez in their college days. Photo courtesy of Marcello Ferrada-Noli

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Duncan Hallas – Towards a Revolutionary Socialist Party (1971)

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An excellent essay by Duncan Hallas (International Socialism/ Socialist Workers Party U.K.) from 1971 on the conditions and goals of creating a genuinely internationalist and revolutionary socialist organization. Honestly a must read.

Duncan Hallas – Towards a Revolutionary Socialist Party (1971)

The events of the last 40 years largely isolated the revolutionary socialist tradition from the working classes of the West. The first problem is to reintegrate them. The many partial and localised struggles on wages, conditions, housing, rents, education, health and so on have to be co-ordinated and unified into a coherent forward movement based on a strategy for the transformation of society.

In human terms, an organised layer of thousands of workers, by hand and by brain, firmly rooted amongst their fellow workers and with a shared consciousness of the necessity for socialism and the way to achieve it, has to be created. Or rather it has to be recreated. For such a layer existed in the twenties in Britain and internationally. Its disintegration, initially by Stalinism and then by the complex interactions of Stalinism, Fascism and neo-reformism, reduced the authentic socialist tradition in the advanced capitalist countries to the status of a fringe belief. As it re-emerges from that status, old disputes take on new life. The nature of the socialist organisation is again an issue.

That an organisation of socialist militants is necessary is common ground on the left, a few anarchist purists apart. But what kind of organisation? One view, widespread amongst newly radicalised students and young workers, is that of the libertarians. In the nature of the case this is something of a blanket term covering a number of distinct tendencies. The essence of what they have in common is hostility to centralised, co-ordinated activity and profound suspicion of anything smacking of “leadership”. On this view nothing more than a loose federation of working groups is necessary or desirable. The underlying assumptions are that centralised organisations inevitably undergo bureaucratic degeneration and that the spontaneous activities of working people are the sole and sufficient basis for the achievement of socialism.

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The Battle of Cable Street (1936)

“How communist activists in london, despite the conservatism of their Stalinist leadership, staved off the anti-Semitic attacks of the British fascist ‘blackshirts’ and their police protectors in 1936.” via Comrade Dorian Bon

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On ‘Force’

Black Civil War Soldiers

Black Civil War Soldiers

“The question of how one group’s understanding of reality, its ideology, appears to prevail over others when it comes to real and effective political power. Depending on who poses the question, it is the problem of social order, of converting power into authority, or of political hegemony. The most obvious answer – force- is not an answer. There is never ultimately enough force to go around, particularly since submission is hardly ever an end in itself. If the slaveholders had produced white supremacy without producing cotton, their class would have perished in short order. A colonial ruler does not just want the natives to bow down and render obeisance to their new sovereign. The natives must also grow food, pay taxes, go to work in mines and on estates, provide conscripts of the army, and help to hold the line against rival powers. For these activities to proceed the natives must not just submit, they must cooperate. Even in those few cases in which submission is an end in itself, force is never enough in itself. Slaveholders, colonial rulers, prison guards, and the Shah’s police all had occasion to discover that when nothing remains except force, nothing remains – period. The rule of any group, the power of any state, rests on force in the final analysis. Anyone who gives the least thought to the matter reaches that conclusion, and thinkers as different in other respects as Weber, Marx, Machiavelli, and Madison would have no trouble agreeing on that. Rule always rests on force in the last analysis. But a ruling group or a state that must rely on force in the first analysis as well is one living in a state of siege, rebellion, war or revolution.” – Barbara Jean Fields, Slavery, Race, and Ideology

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“Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power.” – Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1. Chapter 31: Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist

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Dec. 25, 1837: Christmas Day Freedom Fighters: Hidden History of the Seminole Anticolonial Struggle

“This daring Seminole story begins around the time of the American Revolution when 55 “Founding Fathers” broke free of British colonialism and wrote the immortal Declaration of Independence. About the same time, Seminoles—suffering ethnic persecution under Creek rule in Alabama and Georgia—fled south to seek independence. Africans who had earlier escaped bondage and became among its first explorers welcomed them to Florida.

The Africans did more than offer Seminole families a haven. They taught them methods of rice cultivation they had learned in Senegambia and Sierra Leone, Africa. Then the two peoples of color forged a prosperous multicultural nation and a military alliance ready to withstand the European invaders and slave catchers. The Seminoles were led by such skilled military figures and diplomats as Osceola, Wild Cat, and John Horse.

This alliance drove U.S. slaveholders to sputtering fury. They saw Seminole unity, prosperity, and guns as a lethal threat to their plantation system. Here was a beacon that enticed escapees and offered them a military base of operations. Further, these peaceful communities destroyed the slaveholder myth that Africans required white control.” …

“But suddenly the U.S. faced the largest slave revolt in its history, its busiest Underground Railroad station, and the strongest African/Indian alliance in North America. The multicultural Seminole forces carefully moved families out of harm’s way from 1816 to 1858 as they resisted the U.S. through three “Seminole Wars.” Today many Seminoles still claim they never surrendered.”

Source: Dec. 25, 1837: Christmas Day Freedom Fighters: Hidden History of the Seminole Anticolonial Struggle

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