Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stylistic Reaganism and Right Wing Existentialism

A little while ago a good friend of mine who happens to be of a Marxist disposition, though not of the vulgar sort, introduced me to the hilarity that is Ronald Reagan's cult of personality. Now there is much that can be made about Reagan and the rise of Neoconservatism but that is not what I want to discuss. Rather his cult of personality is the origin for the Bolshevikesque rallying around of Party and Executive Branch that now characterizes Republicans and mainstream conservatives. This phenomenon, of course, is wholly unpolitical and is of the same nature as doing what your boss tells you to do because (s)he is your boss and not because you trust him or her to direct things in a positive fashion. It is the simplistic worship of the external which is so characteristic of modern life and is to be found on the Right with the belief in submitting to authority because it exists as such and on the Left with the preoccupation with Otherness simply because it is not the established norm.

But before the Reagan cult of personality became a rite of passage for GOP card carriers it was a symbol for the 1980s zeitgeist of egoism, easy money and consumer excess. In it's original form it was even more divorced from politics and celebrated the beneficial outcomes of neoliberalism for individuals rather than the actual policies. While it ostensibly championed free market capitalism in it's purest form, the emerging neoliberalism was really cutting against certain New Deal leftovers from the relatively more subdued social capitalism of the High Modernist era which ended with the Carter presidency. Nevertheless, the cooperation between private enterprise and the military would surely remain intact as Reagan favored increased military spending. But, again, this stylistic Reaganism, as I call it, was not so much concerned with the actual politics and marks the changing economic structure from High Modernist to Late Modernist and the attitudes which accompanied it.

The HM era was essentially a middle class utopia. The emerging jobs which most people could attain were middle level managerial and clerical jobs. While higher education became affordable for more people, a high school diploma still allowed many to get jobs in industries where they could rise up to managerial positions and make a decent salary. The accompanying values where thus of conforming to the norm and what we might cynically and correctly note to be mediocrity and babbittry. Nevertheless, this was the egalitarianism which the High Modernist era afforded. While the social conformity was attacked by the New Left from 1968 and on, the aesthetic Reaganites of the 1980s would finish off the midlevel complacency with a new standard of excellence.

These were young people who had grown up in mostly middle class homes with parents who enjoyed the benefits of the High Modernist era. They saw that the essentials of petit bourgeois existence were fairly easy to come by but that it lead to a boring, predictable life: put up with the workaday drudgery now and be rewarded later with retirement somewhere sunny. These upstarts wanted the best of the world now and new jobs in the financial sector offered them this. Here we see a higher level of education being sought, from MBA's to CFA's, but not for the purpose of gaining a greater knowledge of the world but rather for financial gain which would lead to the accumulation of expensive commodities which would be the determinant of status. This status, it should be noted, was wholly ethereal and malleable, changing with the trends of the zeitgeist. It also went beyond the traditional modes of wealth and power to include coolness, something previously associated with countercultural elements like the Beats or Hippies who were avoiding the very life these new upstarts were striving for.

The reason for this is simple. As is explained here, the New Left was victorious on the social front and this has remained their legacy ever since the 1960s, while the [American] New Right was victorious on the economic front with the replacement of the social capitalism of the HM era with the cutthroat policies of neoliberalism. The beginnings of the Late Modern era saw a synthesis between these two groups. Hence the stylistic Reaganites, now commonly called yuppies, often favored libertine activities such as recreational drug usage, especially cocaine, while the Reagan administration waged the War on Drugs. Many were also sexually promiscuous, enjoying the benefits of the Sexual Revolution, and among this new breed of moneyed, urban financial workers homosexuals were well represented. Meanwhile, the Reagan administration pursued social conservatism.

Another shift in consciousness which occurred between the HM era and the Late Modern one was the emergence of a vulgar, rightist existentialism which took many forms. The most mainstream version of this existentialism was expressed by Margret Thatcher when she famously stated, "And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families." The stylistic Reaganites took these words to heart and found that the best way to counter this lonely atomized outlook was to become highly successful within the capitalist system achieving wealth, power and coolness. This strive for excellence was set strictly within the limits of materialism, like most postwar existentialism. But unlike the existentialism of the Left, be it either Fanon's racial Otherness or de Beauvoir's feminized Englesism, this new, nominally Right existentialism was strikingly asocial and even antisocial. The Left believed that alienation, be it of a class-based, racial or gender-based variety, could be solved by a new humanist society. I would term this a social existentialism as it is not rooted in religion as, for instance, Kierkegaard's theories were but believed that social and political acts could solve said alienation. The institutionalization of the New Left has lead to the establishment of the Therapeutic State.

The Therapeutic State marks the point where the New Left went from being a revolutionary force (even though this was always in name only) to a cultural addendum of the new liberal establishment. Hence, the New Left abandoned the theory that a new society was needed to solve the alienation of women and ethnic minorities. Instead, government-funded outreach in the form of affirmative action, cultural studies programs in higher education, and sensitivity training in the private sector became the solution. This inability to distinguish between organic community and an atomized society is part of what Thatcher was attacking in her famous quote. Nevertheless, Thatcher also denies that organic community even exists. Rather there are only individuals and families and no social units or bonds larger than those. Instead, these individuals are responsible for their own lot and cannot nor should not rely on society at large to help solve their problems, be they social, financial or existential. Participation in the marketplace was the one commonality which these otherwise isolated individuals and families shared. The market was also the place where the isolation of existence could be overcome, namely through the wealth, power and coolness which the stylistic Reaganites aimed to achieve.

There is another form of this materialist, rightist existentialism which actually predates the Reagan/Thatcher era though it shares the same outlook. This existentialism was relatively more populist in character and was rooted in a reaction to social changes brought about by the New Left. This mood is best exemplified by the vigilante films Dirty Harry, Death Wish, and Taxi Driver. All feature lone individuals dealing with societal decay. In these movies there is never an appeal for some form of collective solution, rather the individuals in question must deal with rampant crime themselves and, true to the vigilante tradition, won't even elicit the aid of the police. There is also an implicit lack of transcendent values in these films. In Dirty Harry, it is the broad appeal for the preservation of law and order which is the justification for the extrajudicial killings committed by Harry Callahan. In Death Wish it is the desire to protect one's family that serves as the basis for vigilante justice. Taxi Driver features the protection of innocence against sexual perversion and exploitation as its underlying theme. In all three there is an appeal to base conservative values: law and order, family loyalty and feminine purity, but the notion of society being nothing more than a loose association of isolated individuals and families brought together only through economic transactions (i.e. jobs, purchases) remains intact. While these movies do not glorify consumerism and upward mobility, in part because they predate the Reagan years where this became a greater part of the zeitgeist, they certainly do not oppose it or in any way imply that this materialism could lead to existential despair.

A third form of rightist existentialism appears during the Reagan years and to an extent is a combination of the two previously mentioned. This form, while not putting forth a transcendental solution to the materialist despair of capitalism, at least recognizes that capitalism, specifically Reaganite neoliberalism, does lead individuals towards an existential crisis. The best example of this would be American Psycho by yuppie author extraordinaire Brett Easton Ellis. The novel tells the tale of Patrick Bateman, an investment banker, who commits horrific murders in his spare time. Ellis includes scenes of graphic violence alongside the mundane activities of modern life as if to give the impression that for Bateman there is no difference. The end of the novel leads the reader to question whether the murders even happened and thusly the objective nature of reality itself. Instead, Bateman's isolation and lack of connectedness to the world around him outside of the superficial banalities of yuppie living becomes the focus.

The relationship between homicide and atomized individualism is not new, however. Ayn Rand, mother of vulgar libertarianism, was duly impressed with William Edward Hickman, a psychopath who killed and dismembered a 12 year old girl, because he reportedly told police, "I am like the state- what is good for me is right." Rand found this to be the most genuine expression of Man's psychology to date. It has been speculated that Hickman committed the murder simply to gain notoriety and fame. The murder is strikingly similar to the Leopold and Loeb case (possible origin of the homosexual thrill killing theory of criminology) where two bright young men from wealthy families murdered a young boy simply to see if they could get away with it. The case was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's excellent film Rope. In Rope, one half of the murderous duo spouts a crude Nietzschean philosophy in order to impress his professor. It is also implied that this materialist interpretation of ol' Fred is the basis for which they justified committing murder.

Of course, these are extreme examples and for most part people stricken with this modern disease do not go out and commit murder. The point, however, is that this lack of transcendent principles leads to despair and the dread of modern life becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. That certain deranged individuals would go so far as to commit murder just shows what sort of 'alternatives' become available when the cohesiveness of metaphysical values are abandoned. As Julius Evola notes in Ride the Tiger:

Transcendence, like freedom, ought to furnish existence with a foundation of calm and incomparable security, with a purity, a wholeness, and an absolute decisiveness in action. Instead, it feeds all the emotional complexes of the man in crisis: angst, nausea, disquiet, finding his own being problematical, the feeling of an obscure guilt or fall, deracination, a feeling of the absurd and irrational, an unadmitted solitude (though some, like Marcel, fully admit it), an invocation of the "incarnate spirit," the weight of an incomprehensible responsibility- incomprehensible, because he cannot resort to overtly religious (and hence coherent) positions like those of Kierkegaard or Barth, where angst refers to the sentiment of the soul that is alone, fallen, and abandoned to itself in the presence of God. In all of this, feelings appear like those that Nietzsche warned about in the case of a man who has made himself free without having the necessary stature: feelings that kill and shatter a man- modern man- if he is incapable of killing them.

Monday, February 23, 2009

On the Essentials of the High Modernist Era and the Current Crisis

I recently picked up The Idol and the Octopus by Norman Mailer in a quaint little used bookstore in Manhattan. He has held some interest for me since discovering that he is a self described Left Conservative. Dylan Hayle's blog by this name uses a great quote from the late Mr. Mailer which sums up most succinctly where radical politics needs to go in our current era, "It may yet take an alchemy of Left and Right to confound the corporate center." But Mailer offers much more than just potent quotables. The Idol and the Octopus reveals his eagle eye criticism of the High Modernist zeitgeist of which he was an essential component. For those readers (crickets...) who may have found my ability to define the high point of 20th century modernism lacking, here is Mailer on the essential look and feel of this era:

Railroad stations in large cities should properly be monumental, heavy with dignity, reminiscent of the past. We learn little from travel, not nearly so much as we need to learn, if everywhere we are assaulted by the faceless surfaces of everything plastic which has been built in America since the war, that new architecture of giant weeds and giant boxes, of children's colors on billboards and jagged electric signs. Like the metastases of cancer cells, the plastic shacks, the motels, the drive-in theatres, the highway restaurants and the gas stations proliferate year by year until they are close to covering the highways of America with a new country which is laid over the old one the way a transparent sheet with new drawings is set upon the original plan. It is an architecture with no root to the past and no suggestion of the future, for one cannot conceive of a modern building growing old (does it turn dingy or will the colors stain?); there is no way to age, it can only cease to function. No doubt these buildings will live for twenty years and then crack in two. They will live like robots, or television sets which go out of order with one whistle of the wind.

The fact that Mailer points out that the New Landscape which has popped up has come after the Second World War is the key to understanding this era. Yes the buildings are cheap, plastic and have no sense of past or future, only an eerie immediatism to them. As we now know, they do become dingy and the colors fade yet they still retain an ahistorical feeling. They lack all ornamentation and when they are left behind in placeless industrial parks like pods dropped from spaceships of modular production we are struck by the naked utility made moot by their emptiness. The antagonism they show for the environment around them has the effect of a spreading cancer infecting everything around it and producing the dreaded Office Rows present in every United State: miles of highway surrounded by these factories of fluorescent mediocrity garnished by an over-ordered landscaping. The feeling is again timeless and placeless and causes one to wonder about the Gnostic celebration of space over time. If space is the place and time is the enemy why does this smack of Purgatory? Mailer elaborates on the cancer allegory in his architectural criticism and roots it in the societal crisis of individuals:

Now note: we sink into cancer after we have gorged on all the medicines which cheated all the diseases we have fled in our life, we sink into cancer when the organs, deadened by chemical rescues manufactured outside the body, became too biologically muddled to dominate their cells. Departing from the function of the separate organs, cancer cells from separate organs grow to look more like one another than the cells they have departed from. So, too, as society bogs into hypocrisies so elaborate they can no longer be traced, then do our buildings, those palpable artifacts of social cells, come to look like one another and cease to function with the mysterious proportion of the past.

Getting back to the point of the first sentence of the previous paragraph, American victory in Dubya Dubya Two was the reason for the postwar economic boom (the beginning of the High Modernist era) just as American involvement in said conflict was the reason the Depression ended. Perhaps like Mailer's quote about the Left and Right joining to destroy the corporate center, we now have libertarians and Marxists alike agreeing that the New Deal failed to end the Depression and, in fact, prolonged it. As Marxist economist David Harvey notes:

It has been correctly argued that Roosevelt’s attempt to return to a balanced budget in 1937-8 plunged the United States back into depression and that it was, therefore, World War II that saved the situation and not Roosevelt’s too timid approach to deficit financing in the New Deal. So even if the institutional reforms as well as the push towards a more egalitarian policy did lay the foundations for the Post World War II recovery, the New Deal in itself actually failed to resolve the crisis in the United States.

Harvey, like many libertarians, also argues that Obama's current stimulus package will probably have the similar effect of failing to address the current economic crisis and possibly even prolonging it. Now while libertarians may not like Harvey's insistence that it is more spending, not less or any, which is needed to get us out of the morass (and I would agree with them), it should be noted that it was military Keynesianism which ended the depression. The equation was simple, hyperproduction + rationing by the citizenry as a whole + no damage to infrastructure or loss of life on the scale which Europe experienced during war= Depression ended and postwar economic boom. America in the High Modernist era was the epitome of the progress and evolution of capitalism to its highest point. At this point, thanks in no small part to the burgeoning cooperation between State and Capital (largely in the form of the MIC) which would set the stage for our current era of state capitalism, regular working people were able to afford much more and enjoy a higher standard of living than ever before. Advances in technology made it so that basic things like food were available in larger quanities and that even the process of cooking them had been streamlined so the least amount of time and labor was involved, i.e. TV dinners. With this we see the end of the Protestant work ethic and the beginning of the leisure principle which would lead to a consumer identity replacing a class based one and class itself being diluted by the consumer communism afforded by capitalism between the High Modernist era and the post-9/11 era. Why fight the class war when you can get lost in the supermarket? Forget "early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise", to quote Mark Sandman "early to bed and early to rise makes a man or woman miss out on the nightlife."

Now that the relative wealth and ease of life created by postwar advanced capitalism is being thrown into crisis we see criticism of the cheapness and utility of modern life popping up in mainstream publications and news sources. On the surface they resemble Mailer's prescient observations quoted above but the reality is much different. Mailer was someone who believed in social justice. He was an independent leftist who saw that the modernizing effect of technology which is too often lauded as positive in and of itself has a very negative effect on human nature. On the contrary, the journalists and opinion makers who now deride what was revolutionary and progressive about modern capitalism (an easier life and a higher standard of living) do so as to stay ahead of the curve so they can welcome with open arms the new class war between the People (the majority of the population, those who work for a living) and the Elite (the plutocrats and oligarchs, their enablers and co-conspirators in the government, and their defenders in the MSM and upper academia) and ensure they are on the winning side. These court 'intellectuals' (if we can even dignify them with such a word) will speak of the very real and often underexplained and underestimated economic crisis with the same level of urgency as the entirely fictional environmental crisis, itself a secularized catastrophe fantasy designed to give these postmodern Puritans something to feel morally superior about with their lifestyle politics of Whole Foods activism and urbanite entitlement.

In regards to said economic crisis, here is my entirely serious solution: It has been correctly noted by more than a few people that the Bailout (yes, I think we can start refering to it with caps like the Depression of the 1930s), instead of being doled out to a few members of the Elite, could have been distributed to each American citizen, which of course would make more sense as it is made up of tax dollars taken from the paychecks of working Americans. The exact amount that each American would recieve if evenly distributed can be debated but the I think it can be safely assumed to be well within six figures. This sort of bankruptcy sale social democracy would probably have the effect of actually bankrupting, or at the very least cripling to the point of irrelevancy, the government and those parasitic institutions which were never needed in the first place. With this populist stimulus the natural elite would buy land, firearms, food, vehicles and plenty of luxuries to make the hard times ahead as easy as possible as people got down to the serious business of free association, self determination and establishing a whole new economic system of production, sales and distribution and a whole new social and cultural order. Sure the morons would buy TV's, sneakers and Dane Cook DVDs and probably starve to death before they even attempted to be self sufficient but so be it. The plutocrats and their enablers would be rounded up and summarily executed.

Now while I think that the positive effects of modern capitalism mentioned above are, well, positive, that doesn't mean they don't come at a price. One cannot forget that there is a direct line from there to now that is unbroken, just take the rise of state capitalism as an example. Also, the problem with the rise of the leisure principle is that, well, it became a principle in and of itself rather than a nice side effect of the historical process. Norman Mailer gets it right (for the most part) when he writes:

The crucial characteristic of modern totalitarianism is that it is a moral disease which divorces us from guilt. It came into being as a desire to escape the judgements of the past and our responsibility for past injustice- in that sense it is a defense against eternity, an attempt to destroy that part of eternity which is death, which is punishment or reward. It arose from the excesses of theology, the exploitation of theology, and the oppressions of theology, but in destroying theology, the being of man and his vision may be reduced to a thousand-year apathy, or to extinction itself. The words are abstract, but the meaning by now is I hope not altogether hidden. In our flight from the consequence of our lives, in our flight from adventure, from danger, and from the natural ravages of disease, in our burial of the primitive, it is death the twentieth century is seeking to avoid.

To this I will add a point about leisure and technology. The Puritans lived life through a very materialist and life-hating perspective. They worked from sun up to sun down and allowed very little time for what most people might consider "fun" as they viewed such pleasures as acts of Satan and his emissaries. Idle hands are the Devil's tools. Indeed, the heathen or the independent Marxist will tell you that leisure time is essential for the creation of art and culture. But this perspective is not of the Judeo-Christian mindset which fused with capitalism through the Protestant work ethic and is now bellowing out of those windbags who now tell us that being poor (or poorer) will make us holy. The Romans, on the other hand, existed in a time far predating the supposed technological and ideological progress of the era in which the Purtians lived yet were possesed with a spitituality much greater than those nasty busybodies and were also able to enjoy bathhouses equipped with an elaborate plumbing system. Try explaining that one to their Colonial ancestors who were still heating up the bath water over the fire. Perhaps the present isn't always an improvement over the past. Yes, we are always moving forward in time, but we are moving forward in cycles. Maybe what we really need is a

“re-emergence of archaic social configurations in a new context”. For the societies of the future we need to think in terms of a combination of the advances of techno-science and the return to traditional solutions out of the mists of time. That may be the true nature of post-modernity, as far removed from a nostalgic cult of the past as it is from an idiotic worship of whatever is current. Between the longest memory and the Faustian soul should not be a question of “or” but of “and”. For they do match. To bring together Evola and Marinetti...The Ancients are not to be aligned with the moderns but with the futurists, for...globally the future needs the return to ancestral values and that applies the whole world over.”

Monday, February 16, 2009

Whispers of Conspiracy

More interesting stuff from the diaries of Ken Tynan. This time with Gore Vidal high on the 'exhaust fumes of democracy.' From June 25, 1973:

Then to the Connaught with Gore Vidal and Burt Shevelove. Gore is not a bit surprised that Governor George Wallace was on Nixon's list of politcal 'enemies', indeed, he says he is convinced that Nixon engineered the attempted assassination of Wallace during the 1972 election campaign.

Then on December 6th of the same year, the great American aristocrat returns to the same subject with further elaboration:

At dinner Gore Vidal bets me $1,000 that Nixon will be out of office by 1 April, next year. Cravenly, I refuse the bet, though I'm sure he can't be right. Gore is fascinating on the subject of E. Howard Hunt, the novelist, CIA man and Watergate conspirator who just may have had a hand in the killing of J.F.K. and the assassination attempt on Wallace.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reactionary [Late] Modernism: Back in Style!

ARTnews does a fine job reporting on horrifying events in the art world. Consider that art works owned by long since dead Jews, killed during some holocaust and confiscated by the Nazzies, ended up in European art museums, on display for the public! "Oh, gawd, tha horrahs!" Good thing the ancestors of those deceased parasites, er.. patrons of the arts, were contacted so the works could be returned to their rightful owners. Of course, contacting the ancestors of the artists who actually created the works was out of the question since in the feudal enterprise known as the art world, the fruits of one's labor mean nothing when compared to the purse of those desperately trying to buy culture.

After that shocking affair (art on display for the public! really...), we have this travesty: Alexey Beliayev-Guintovt winning the Kandinsky Prize for the Project of the Year, "Russia's answer to the Turner Prize." So far it seems innocuous enough until it is revealed that Alexy:

is regarded by many as a fascist. He is the official artistic director of the Eurasian Youth Union, the youth wing of the small, ultranationalist Eurasia Party, which is rumored to be supported by the Kremlin. Last August he visited South Ossetia during the war between Georgia and Russian-backed South Ossetian separatists. After his return, he gave an interview glorifying the might of Russian arms and proposed the reconstruct Tskhinvali, the battered capital of the runaway republic, in Stalinist architectural style.

Two things. For one, wasn't it Stalinist Russia that is typically credited with the defeat of the fascists? Secondly, why is it so out of the question for an artist who is a member of a political group rumored to be supported by the Russian state to be awarded the Kandinsky prize? The website for the Tate Modern notes that:

After the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917 Kandinsky produced no more paintings for two years. This was partly due to lack of funds; but he was also co-operating with the new government by taking on numerous important roles in the new art institutions of the Bolshevik regime. When he did start to paint again in 1919, his paintings show a simplification of form and a more comprehensible structure. Continuing his developments of two years earlier, White Oval (1919) includes both a strong central shape and a dark, enclosing border. The pictorial space is freer than in his earlier work, more open and less physically dense. The painting In Grey (1919) is subdued in colour, and the shapes are starting to become more sharp edged, verging on the geometric – possibly a response to Kandinsky’s contact with the younger artists of the Russian avant-garde, such as Kasimir Malevich and Alexander Rodchenko.

Of course Malevich and Rodchenko were both well known supporters of the Bolsheviks as well. But these well known facts certainly wouldn't prevent the defenders of liberal orthodoxy from making an ass of themselves:

the announcement of his win caused an uproar in the Vinzavod audience, his supporters cheering while detractors booed and jeered. His acceptance speech was interrupted by the previous year's winner, Anatoly Osmolovsky, repeatedly yelling "Shame!" Outside, picketers holding a swastika-covered banner and chanting "A disgrace to Kandinsky" scuffled with the artist's supporters.

Even the author of the article, who at least admits that the fascist label is misleading, goes off the deep end by noting that:

Russian commentators wondered how much the foreign jurors knew about such figures as Alain de Benoist, a leader of the French New Right, whose doctrines are available on the Web site of the Eurasian Movement along with a manifesto composed by Beliayev-Guintovt. It also seems unlikely that the foreign judges [Ed. note: two Western jurors who voted in favor of Alexey winning the prize and were quoted as saying they evaluated "the works and not their content", which is like saying they looked at them but didn't see them] are familiar with such prophets of Eurasianism as the militaristic German writer Ernst Jünger, who claimed to "hate democracy like a plague," or the Italian occultist and fascist Julius Evola.

Just imagine the horror if people actually read some of the works by these 'creeps' and actually formulated an opinion on them outside the fear mongering of the chattering classes. And here I thought the reign of liberal modernity was supposed to have caused the desacralization of the word...

The 68ers in a Nutshell

From the diary of Kenneth Tynan, High Modernist Hero (more on this later):

Someone at the party says: 'Whatever happened to Danny Cohn-Bendit?' At once I am back in Clive Goodwin's flat, packed with every literary Leftist in London for the party he gave in the spring of '68 to celebrate Cohn-Bendit's flying visit to London. The barricades were up in Paris; everybody was talking about 'instant revolution'; and when Cohn-Bendit held a question-and-answer session with the guests, I made myself immediately unpopular by asking: 'What's your strategy? What is the next step the student will take?' C.B. said impatiently: 'The whole point of our revolution is that we don't follow plans. It is a spontaneous permanent revolution. We improvise. It is like jazz.' Everyone applauded and reproved my carping. I went on to ask: 'Nobody ever had a successful revolution without the support of the army- are you trying to form any links with the military?' C.B. again brushed the question aside as an irrelevance: 'The army is no problem. Many young officers agree with us.' At the very moment, as we discovered later, de Gaulle was quietly testing the army's loyalty; assured that he had it, he knew that he was sitting pretty and that the revolution, for all its tumult and euphoria, was a paper tiger.

So what did happen to ol' Danny? He became a EU bureaucrat and supported neoliberalism and imperialist wars on Bosnia and Afghanistan. Of course the students were hardly the most radical part of Mai68. The Situationists with their cynicism and spot on critiques of modern capitalism and the workers who occupied their factories and established councils were the ones setting the stage for a new society. A few brats who didn't want to go class and idolized Stalinist murderers like Che and Mao were in no position to take power, except as future stockbrokers, paper pushers, managers and other assorted scum.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Former Trots Make Good

Recently I was reading about a group of former British Trotskyists from the now defunct Revolutionary Communist Party who evolved through the pages of their journal Living Marxism from stagnant Leninists to a group of smart left-libertarians with solid critiques of the liberal establishment, the therapeutic state and the cult of the victim. As a former Trotskyist myself, this story held some personal interest. Also, it is nice to see ex-Trots actually move on to something worthwhile rather than become tired social democrats or cretinous neoconservatives (or some unholy synthesis of the two).

The most interesting part of the whole story, however, was the behavior of certain leftists (especially environmentalists given LM's questioning the authenticity of global warming fears) as the group moved towards more independent positions. Guardian journalist George Monbiot has developed an especially strange obsession with the group, accusing them of sinister entryism, being stooges for corporate lobbyists and of being a cult. It seems that any amount of independent thinking will get one cast out of the Left 'community' faster than Hester Prynne and with all manners of absurd accusations in tow.

The death of their journal came about after they lost a libel action made against them by Independent Television News. This came about when an article was published in LM which correctly pointed out that ITN coverage of the Serbian conflict was incorrectly labeled with the express intent of providing bias against the Serbs. You see the group around the LM journal noticed from their years with the organized Left that when war and imperialism was being waged under the guise of 'humanitarian intervention' there were considerably fewer people to demonstrate against it. Their new site, Sp!ked Online (which was created after LM was forced to fold due to the loss of the libel suit), is also quite astute at pointing out the class prejudice and moral superiority inherent in liberal activism.

Of course, I don't share their Sinophilia or desire to keep the borders open, but it is certainly nice to a see a group of writers and activists who are solidly antiwar (that is opposed to it even when waged by a Democrat president), support Irish republicanism even after the peace process, and who are solid libertarians but not afraid to use Marx as a way to understand capitalism. Anyway, Sp!ked is in the links section, so check it out for yourself.