“Anti-Platform-Antifascism” is Out Dated

No_Platform_(1).jpgA major political controversy of today is over the concept of free speech and censorship. To many, it seems odd that the contemporary left is being railed against for an authoritarian stance against free speech. For many in the West, it seems like the left have been some of the staunchest advocates for free speech. We can think back to the lefts beginnings in the enlightenment with liberalism, which had a principled support for freedom of speech. We can look at the 20th century left of the likes of the ACLU, Free Speech fights by the socialist union the IWW, those against the House on Un-American Actives Committees, and the Free Speech radicals of the Berkley movement that ushered in the 1960s. However, the left has another tradition. In regards to fascism, many on the left have held a stance of “No Platform”, since the 1930s. This was established with anti-fascists in London, notably during the “Battle of Cable Street, with anti-fascists unionists in Minneapolis during the 1930s Teamster’s strike, which faced fascist adversaries, and elsewhere. In the contemporary political moment, we see that the “No Platform” tradition being taken up by the left and those now labeled as right are harkening back to the enlightenment liberalism to wave the banner of freedom of speech.

 

I feel shaky on this issue, on the one hand, I think fascists are abhorrent and think that fascism building any semblance of political cohesion is dangerous for society, on the other hand, the civil libertarian ideals I hold pull me towards a freedom of speech that should be completely unhindered. Karl Popper dealt with similar dilemmas with his writing on the Paradox of Tolerance. The only thing I can say for sure is that the contemporary left is losing. It would be easy to see the point with the most caricatured parts of the left, the Social Justice Warrior types that have provided a myriad of ridiculous events for the alt-right to cohere around. However, even the most intelligent and strategic leftists who hold nuanced views of “No Platform” are losing and will continue to lose. I don’t say this due to a moral judgment, but rather a pragmatic one, with sympathies for the anti-fascists. The rise of the Internet has made enforcing “No Platform” impossible. Further, controversial and violent events, which clashes between leftists and fascists so often are, tend to attract attention. Entire celebrities have been built around this: Milo Yiannapolis, Ben Shapiro, and others. I would further add that controversial and offensive is not the same as fascists and many on the left have failed to make the distinction, creating a “boy who cried wolf scenario”. That last point aside, the fact is that the anti-platformists and antifascists have been building their adversaries platforms and handing over entire arenas for these people. If the goal was to make these people not be heard, and especially not to allow them to build a political movement with such events, the leftist anti-fascists have failed totally.

 

New strategies are needed for those that fear the authoritarian right. But while we are fighting the authoritarian right, we may also be curious about the rising authoritarianism on the left. The stage and characters may be different, but it seems we are flirting with the same dramatic scene that engulfed the globe in the 20th Century that played a pivotal role in World War Two and the existential threats of the Cold War, left and right authoritarianism.

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Ideology the Modern Antichrist

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Sermon and Deeds of the Antichrist, Luca Signorelli

“Our blight is ideologies — they are the long-expected Antichrist!” Carl Jung, The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (1954)


Are You Serious?

 Here is a list of questions for revolutionaries, radicals, and all who hold a firm political orientation:

  1. Are you serious about what you advocate?

 

  1. Do you really want what you advocate? Is what you advocate really what you want? Is there something else?

 

  1. Why do you want what you advocate?

 

  1. What stories do you tell yourself that support what you advocate?

 

  1. What is your base value at the very bottom of your scheme of justification for political belief?

 

I think people need to question their assumptions and reevaluate their beliefs on occasion. To do this constantly is not healthy, but to never do it may be worse.

I have been interrogating myself with these questions in recent months. The reason for this is three-fold. First, moving has put me in untrodden psychic territory- dropped out of college, enrolled in trade school, gotten a new job, and move cities- and I have had to figure out the new landscape. Second, I have also been alone a lot without Wi-Fi, try it sometimes, it can be nice. It can also be unpleasant once you sit down, get bored, and let your mind start to dialogue with yourself, you start asking yourself questions like the ones above and the responses aren’t always the ones you would expect or desire. Lastly, I had recently begun listening to lectures by Jordan Peterson based off his book Maps of Meaning. Peterson’s insights have made this path of interrogation less traumatic and more structured.

Was I Serious?

Two months ago I would have called myself a revolutionary, I was engrossed with Marx, Kropotkin and myriad of leftist discussions/journals. I treated this arena with some higher truth and urgency. I was convinced of the correctness, the moral authority, and necessity of these ideas. I was an ideologue.

Being an ideologue is a dangerous intellectual territory and a dangerous social territory. It is intellectually dangerous because it seems to increase your psychic tendency for confirmation bias. You no longer search for facts and plausible descriptions of the world but instead search for stories and descriptions of the world that only increase the value of the ideology that you serve. Socially it is dangerous territory because if you think that your worldview is the whole story morally, descriptively and a necessity, then the actions that can emerge from this can be very violent.

Take 20th Century Marxism, for instance, this was a complete worldview with a utopian end and backed by the winds of history (or so the doctrine states). The last supposition seems to be the most detrimental since it removes responsibility from the actor, he is merely a tool of history. Many of the atrocities and misguided policies of the USSR were backed by this very justification of historical necessity.

 

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“Away with Private Peasants!” Propaganda for De-Kulakization. 

What Is To Be Done?

The aim of the questions above is to break from ideology or at least interrogate the assumptions, which they are based. The potential outcomes of this: one, a toppling of the hierarchy, which the worldview/ideology is built, or two, building a few more beams to support if the assumptions seem to be verified.

Now the thing about ideologies is that they are most times true, but only partially. So, you can find a lot of support for all sorts of beliefs, however, they are often unidimensional in the way they look at and describe the world, and thus the prescriptions for which they recommend are incomplete.

I think it is good to go to the very base assumptions, which are often rooted in a moral framework. What is your basic moral axiom, which is being used to evaluate the world? Is there one? Or are you just resentful and vengeful that the world is unfair?

I was resentful and vengeful and when I pushed a little bit on the structure of my ideology, it tumbled. Luckily, what was revealed was a foundation I had forgotten existed. The moral axiom, which could guide my individual behavior and my desire for the social world: I wish for a sustainable social world that can reduce human suffering. This axiom has no particular ISM, but certainly is a basic value system

Looking at a fundamental axiom and using this as a building point and not forgetting about it seems like a better way to engage the world. You use the base value to look at the world, but not ignore it. The world is full of obstacles and tools for use, it is up to me to decide how to relate to the world.

Build your worldview, just hope that the levels aren’t rotten. Maybe a pyramid would be the best design?

As for me… Ian  back down at the foundation, re-examining to see if it will get the job done of supporting the structure.

Clickin’ and Scrollin’ on the Information Conveyor Belt

mining-belt (0;00;00;00)_1.jpgWe all understand confirmation bias: our mental prejudice to seek information that confirms our existing beliefs. There are ways to work against this that require intentionality and social organization that force people to confront information and experiences that collide with their existing notions, however current trends seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Contemporary information technologies (social media, smartphone news apps, etc.) do everything to reinforce confirmation bias and its worst aspects. I noticed this in myself when my interest in politics had become an all-encompassing form of dogmatism that was bolstered by my Facebook newsfeed. Politics was my focus of choice, but it could easily be swapped out for any other interest: sports, cooking, you name it.

These information sources are not neutral purveyors of content. These media corporations and tech companies have a stake in keeping you clicking and scrolling; it’s how they make money. These information sources don’t care if you’re well-rounded, informed, or healthy, they care only that you keep clicking and scrolling, so they can toss you in a marketable pool and sell you things from their advertisers. There is nothing profound about this analysis. Most of us already understand this.

However, even as we understand this, we still play into the worst distortions of this information conveyor belt. I, for instance, felt trapped by Facebook’s addictive qualities. I would scroll through various posts on my newsfeed, and in an almost unconscious manner, toss out my like reaction, angry reaction, or other reaction. A smaller diversity of posts began to dominate my news feed and my mental life became dominated by shitty political analysis and click-bait headlines. I continued to go along. It wasn’t until I no longer had Wi-Fi at home that I really noticed how prevalent this mode of activity and thinking had become.

Just as the industrial revolution pushed our bodies to perform specialized tasks, this information revolution is pushing our minds to become focused on specialized topics, and commodifiable desires. This isn’t a one-sided trend of total coercion, but neither was the trend of industrialism, choice has a major role in both of these cases. We choose to read certain posts, like a certain picture, and read a certain article. On the flipside, Facebook quantifies your activity, works to understand the pattern, and acts to reaffirm the pattern. The goal isn’t a conspiratorial method of brainwashing, the truth is much less sexy and much more obvious, these information sources wish monetize your activity. They don’t care what your activity is, as long as it creates a profit for the corporation. This capitalist action isn’t immoral or nefarious, it is just another example of the single-minded pursuit of profit that dominates our economic system.

So you say: so what, why should we care? You don’t have to care, but there are multiple reasons to care. The liberals out there are writing books on how it harms our democratic civility as if this hasn’t been under attack since the creation of democracy. The real reason I care is for my well-being. I wasn’t in a good mental state constantly being inundated with terrible political news that nurtured stress and pessimism. Further, I was becoming single-minded, which harmed my creativity and ingenuity in all areas of life, even the political area that had become dominant. Further, with out a diverse set of experiences and bases of knowledge our relation to others is hampered. It is harder to understand the ideas and experiences of people around you. This is extremely isolating and depressing. I fear the trend of declining empathy will only increase with these new information technologies. How ironic it is that in the era in which more information than ever is available, our mindset is becoming narrower.

How Do We Get To Class Consciousness?

Minneapolis Teamster Strike 1934

If I believed socialists needed to win debates and cash in at the marketplace of ideas as our main tactic to win a socialist future, I would be deeply pessimistic that such a political future would emerge. As an aside though, participating in debate is still important, but should not be the top priority for socialists. 

What then do I envision as the route towards a strong working class movement with a socialist political content? The answer is in building a strong workers movement through direct action. For socialism to become an actual threat to the existing order and a force among working people, the daily lives of working people has to come into confrontation with the system. In many ways this happens to people all of the time on an individual scale. However, my notion of class consciousness emerging goes like so: working people begin to take collective action and make demand to meet their needs (there doesn’t have to be an underlying socialist politics here). As working people continue building power and making demands upon the various institutions that make up the capitalist political and economic system, the demands of the working people collide with the functioning of the capitalist political/economic system. No longer can capitalism meet the needs of the working class movement. Then as a collective movement, not individuals, the workers movement must transcend capitalism. 

Liberals  and a lot of political radical activist focus on individual opinions and believe this is the main locus of politics. I think this is not a revolutionary politics, but counterrevolutionary. Class consciousness is not the consciousness of an individual, but the consciousness of a collectivity of workers in a movement of their own. I care much more about how people’s collective actions shape their relation to the capitalist system and how a movements trajectory relates to such a system than I do about individuals political out look. Socialism will never come from socialists, socialism will come when a wide array of workers (with diverse and non-cohesive ideologies) collide with the system and transcend it.

I think this conception of class consciousness works with the libertarian socialist conception of a militant minority within a workers movement, that work to more consciously organize workers into movements that could lead to a trajectory of colliding with the capitalist political/economic system. 

Common Self-Interests

Today people think of political engagement in all sorts of way. Many think of their political engagement as a way to fulfill the truth or a grand political vision separate from themselves. This can lead to soft and hard dogmatism, an almost religious fanaticism with certain political ends. I have had this orientation at certain times in political activity.

However, I think we should avoid dogmatism and fanaticism and as I have described before, we should steer clear from symbolic activism that is rooted in media spectacles (which seems to be a very alienating and vanguardist form of “resistance”).

We should think of political engagement in  a more self-centered way. So much activism is rooted in supposed altruism, and moral righteousness, this is epitomized by white liberal/radical guilt and their reliance on interpersonal privilege politics (which I think anyone that wants to build working class power should stay far from). People should figure out what their own personal problems and personal desires are, then seek to understand how these problems/desires relate to other people, especially those they are surrounded by. Further,  figure out how these problems/desires relate to the economic, cultural and political status quo. Is there a way to fight these problems and achieve these desires in a collective way? Most times the answer is resounding yes. For instance, I desire more free time to do things I want to do outside of school and work.  I would like more financial stability for my future. I would like the freedom to engage in diverse activites, instead of specializing.

The many working people that are labeled apathetic and many who are labeled “conservative” (I added quotations because most people don’t have stable or cohesive ideology, unlike a lot of dogmatic activists) really are just people turned off by the moral “altruism” (self-righteousness) of anything associated with “the left” and don’t see how anything “left” is related to their life. However, most these people usually want a better life for themselves and their family, something I want for myself. Our society (and the political right) has perpetuated the idea that individualistic social mobility is the solution to all our problems and way to achieve desires: “just work hard, be better than others and you will make it”. At the same time, the contemporary left has done little to align itself with this very common desire and has further done little to point out the ways the economy, the state, and other forces harm the achievement of this desire for most people.

I know I would easily be drawn into the pragmatic individualist conservative political vision if I didn’t have certain assumptions about how this political and economic system operate (e.g. its tendency for economic crisis,  the existing class system/command system, profit as the dominant consideration in political-economy). So with these assumptions, I don’t think individual social mobility is a desirable or long-term possibility for achieving my self-interest. An alternative to the individualist mobility strategy is a strategy of working-class unity and direct action. This type of political action is what I believe will achieve many of my immediate needs and those of others. Further, this political action will help create a future world that can meet my needs and desires more easily. My vision of solidarity doesn’t emerge in selfless ally politics, but (to put it bluntly) a selfish understanding of mutual aid. An understanding that my life will be better if others lives are made better. My wage will be higher if more people don’t accept lower wages and the working class uses their leverage to fight the ruling political and economic class. Further, racism and sexism, beyond being merely wrong, inhibit the achievement of working class unity and should be fought on this basis, as well on a principled basis that these practices are wrong. I could go on. This fact is what anarchist theorist and revolutionary Peter Kropotkin was pointing to in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution: survival and prosperity of an individual is often contingent on the cooperation and mutual aid with other members, this is a reciprocal relationship, not a one-way relation of charity.

 

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Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution
 

This should futher shape the way we view organization and goals. Organizations are not ends in the self, they are tools for achieving goals. Even in a revolutionary society, they should be thought of this way. Radical democratic institutions, anarchistic institutions, or any institution, are not an end in themselves, but a tool for achieving various ends for individuals and groups. Unions, political parties, and social groups are all tools for various social/political ends. They all have different uses and achieve different things. We should engage with them as such and be guided by these questions: What do I and what will I get out of engaging with this organization? What does this type of organization achieve?

To wrap it up, much of the contemporary left intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates guilt and tries to frame their political project as the correct moral position. The contemporary left seems adamant about obfuscating the realization of any group or individual person doing slightly better than another that they may also have interests contradictory to the mandates of the system (this is something we should foster, not inhibit). Let’s build solidarity and mutual aid based on common self-interests. Let’s engage a broader part of the working class, because that is how we can make the world an easier place to survive and in the future thrive in.

As a little PS:

I think all of this puts debates about individualism and collectivism in a much more complicated space.

I would like to give a shout out to my friend Evan Burger, who wrote a great a piece about selfishness and the left.

For What It’s Worth, I Love Music

 

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Best Bassist of All Time Jaco Pastorius 

Over the weekend, I was able to attend a good friend’s belated birthday party! It was a fun time! It was great being able to converse with friends and catch up, always interesting things being shared. Beyond the good company, my favorite part of the party and my weekend was jamming with some of the good people there. At the party we whipped out guitars, I played the bass and we just jammed out. It has been awhile since I had really jammed out with other people. I had forgotten how much I missed playing music, especially playing with others. Right now, I am typing this with two blistered fingers from jamming’ on those thick bass strings (totally worth it).

Music is great! I have recently been getting back in touch with it. Right now, I am listening through the “Best of Buffalo Springfield” album. Playing music and listening to music causes such a wave of emotions. Music can completely change my mood, from apathy to rage, from sadness to happiness, from neutral to touched.

The previous weekend I had the privilege of reconnecting with another friend who was hosting an awesome Open Mic and then all out bash with his band that played a rap/jazz/psychedelic fusion. Music has come storming back into my life.

The entire point being. I need to keep music as a major part of my life. I need to return to actively listening to music, allow myself to be captivated. I missed music.

Also, I have been listening to Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” album, which is their best album in my opinion. Much more disco than their earlier electronic stuff.

Further, I have been trying to make it through the Rush discography, starting with their self-titled album, with one of my favorite tracks:

 

The Workers Don’t Need Bosses!

When I say I think we should abolish bosses, the response I get is mostly blank stares, followed by a rant about how I am mistaken and just a naive idealist. Those that defend the boss will often have canned responses: “bosses worked hard to get where they are,” “bosses are essential and perform a necessary duty for business,” “we need leaders and we need followers” or ” worker ownership and a democratic economy sound nice, but require theft of the bosses property to be instituted”. There are more responses, but let me take the few I have outlined first.

For this post when I talk about bosses, I am referring to owners of businesses and those that are given the legitimacy by business and law to command and control workers.

Pyramid of the capitalist system.

“Bosses worked hard to get where they are!”

This is most likely true, I think that there are very few instances where people in the position of boss don’t put in a tremendous amount of effort to build and maintain a successful business. But likewise, migrant farm workers, union bricklayers, Chinese peasants and many other types of laboring people have all worked extremely hard to receive a pittance in comparison to most bosses. Hard work doesn’t seem like a legitimate enough license in our current economy to garner a decent living.

But let’s further break down the hard work that bosses engage in. Now a boss may have started his life as a mere worker employed under some other boss (though this is less the case these days, but it is important to realize that there are still boss-worker hybrids with small contract labor schemes). Most often today, for the large corporations, there are many distinct bosses trained in the business departments of University’s and ideologically melded by neoliberal economics. But, back to the point. Over time, the boss was able (through perseverance and hard work), maneuver into a position of authority where they employ others and use the employee’s physical and mental faculties to make money. After all the bosses’ have the machinery, the buildings and other materials necessary for producing goods (these are all products of labor, most likely not that of the bosses’). The boss’s work no longer creates a value for people (unless they are the boss-worker hybrid), but rather organizes other people to engage in labor and with then extracts profit from the value workers create.

“But bosses are essential and perform a necessary duty for business, that should be compensated!”

Often times the role of boss is infused with other tasks beyond merely taking the product of other people’s work. The useful things the boss does is organize the labor process and maintain the business. But why should the boss be designated this task? Society is dominated by one form of economic organization- business with bosses. I didn’t have a say in this. The boss holds no legitimacy for the role in my estimation. The useful role the boss engages in could easily be taken over by the workers. If it was necessary to have one person devoted to the role of maintaining aspects of business or organizing production, well, the workers could easily elect a delegate mandated to fulfill this task. We spend most of our time under the authority of business and we should at the very least have a democratic say in how things are run.

“We Need Leaders and We Need Followers!”

This is such a strange idea to me. Sure, we should split up tasks to be more efficient. However, this division of labor and this division into different roles should be done in the most legitimate way. Liberal social contract doctrine assumes that people are okay with how things are and that the limited channels of voicing concern are legitimate. I disagree completely. So many points of authority in society are taken for granted and given to people that were mostly lucky, winning the birth lottery. The economy is one of the least democratic arenas. Sure, we can have leaders, but we should not have tyrants, the leaders should garner legitimacy by the masses of workers.

“You give the boss legitimacy by working for them if you don’t like them work for someone else!”

But do you not see the major contradiction of that statement. It assumes that there is always an option to move from one boss to the next, which is often not the case. Secondly, it assumes that this is a sufficient and desirable option. I don’t decry the individual boss. I decry the social role of boss. I decry the dominant relationship of boss over worker. Shifting from tyrannical boss to tyrannical boss doesn’t change this reality, it maintains it.

“Worker ownership and democratic economy sound nice, but require theft of the bosses property to be instituted”.

As I outlined above, there is a distinction between the hard work of the worker and the hard work of the boss. The hard work of the worker is using their mental and physical skills to create a product or perform a service, satisfying a human need and/or desire. On the flipside, the hard work of the boss (in the capacity as boss) is about employing and organizing workers to create products and services, it is to take the product, sell it for a profit and use that money to enrich themselves, while continuing the process. The job of the boss is to maintain legal, systemic and professionalized theft of workers. The machinery, the buildings, and the money that the boss owns and uses for business are one hundred percent the result of the workers past labor.

In summation: Let’s cut out the middleman and get rid of the boss. Let us workers decide our lives and our conditions of work. Lastly, let’s have wealth end up where it belongs, in the hands of us workers.