Quotable (#216)


In order to win the war unleashed by the Leninist revolution, Western capitalism fomented fascism against the working class. […] We know the story of what followed: Soviet communism and Anglo-American capitalism were forced into an alliance. Then democracy defeated the Soviet Union.

This might be the most garbled historical narrative I’ve ever heard.

(Piece as a whole is worth a read, though.)

Quotable (#167)

Sam Kriss on Left Accelerationism:

[Inventing the Future by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams] consistently refers to its future not as communism, but “postcapitalism.” It’s a world without work, but also without the commons. “The theory of the Communists,” write Marx and Engels, “may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” But here, private property remains untouched. The productive apparatuses are to be fully automated, removing workers as much as possible from every stage of the production process: who, then, will own them? Who will own the commodities that these apparatuses produce? And if humanity is unburdened from the need to work and left to produce freely in the pursuit of its own self-expression, who will own that? Without anything to oppose bourgeois property, the result could be fully monstrous: a bloated, gluttonous ruling class engaged in limitless production, and recapturing any losses when the new peons come to spend their universal basic pittance. The propertied classes would fuse with an automaton that requires no human parts except for ownership to form a single apparatus; Utopia as a cyborg dictatorship.

This future has, in fact, already been described – it’s E.M. Forster’s 1909 science-fiction story The Machine Stops. Here, all of humanity lives in tiny cells within the body of the vast subterranean Machine. The Machine produces all their consumer goods, it provides them with anything they might want or need at a moment’s notice, it speaks to them, and allows them to speak to each other through video-messaging. People tend not to leave their cells; it’s not forbidden, but it’s certainly not encouraged. Full automation. Universal basic income. A networked society. In the end the Machine starts to slowly disintegrate. Billions die, and Forster, who had something of a reactionary streak, can only see this as a good thing. Who owns the Machine? The Machine does.

Geopolitics > Ideology

George Friedman places recent US-Vietnam engagement within the history of balance-of-power diplomacy going back to the 1960s, in order to make a simple but compelling point. US relations with the USSR, China, and Vietnam have been only trivially inflected by ideological differences:

… look at the whole story and see how little ideology matters. The entire story is one of three Marxist regimes hostile to each other, and a Western capitalist regime using that hostility to balance the power. […] From the point of view of geopolitical analysis, the unimportance of ideology in all that happened is clear. The importance of the nation-state, regardless of its official ideology is equally clear. None of these four nations behaved as their ideology demanded. All behaved as their national interest did. […] This is why I find geopolitics an enormously more important method for understanding the world than beliefs and principles. These may matter in personal life. But the Marxism that defined Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev – and they were very much believers – could not resist geopolitical imperatives. And therefore, the president of the United States went to a Marxist country and set the stage for arming it. This should not surprise us.

Quotable (#158)

Kristof in the NYT:

Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

The Gramscian-triumph hangover wasn’t supposed to be this uncomfortable.

Quotable (#131)

A Christmas message from Jacobin magazine:

The Marxist claim is that the social relations within a system of production identify real mechanisms that shape the lives of people and define a terrain of conflict, and that the heart of those mechanisms is a combination of exploitation and domination. These are the two words that are used to characterize the specific mechanisms that Marxian classes identify as causally relevant.

Comparable Yuletide greetings to the readers here.

Quotable (#122)

Nick Dyer Witheford (in conversation) on the variants of far Left politics under advanced capitalism:

… it’s clear that capitalism is creating potentials – not just technological, but organizational potentials – which could be adapted in a transformed manner to create a very different type of society. The evident example is the huge possibilities for freeing up time by automation of certain types of work. For me, the problem both with Paul [Mason]’s work, which I respect, and with the accelerationists, is there is a failure to acknowledge that the passage from the potential to the actualization of such communist possibilities involves crossing what William Morris describes as a “river of fire.” I don’t find in their work a great deal about that river of fire. I think it would be reasonable to assume there would be a period of massive and protracted social crisis that would attend the emergence of these new forms. And as we know from historical attempts in the 20th Century to cross that river of fire, a lot depends on what happens during that passage. So there is, if one could put it that way, a certain automatism about the prediction of the realization of a new order in both these schools, which we should be very careful about.

(What automation wants — be definition — is more of itself. There’s a name for that, and it isn’t ‘communism’.)

The abstract for this talk gives a sense of the diagnosis.