This was originally posted on the “Points to Consider” discussion thread, but the comments are important enough that I’m making them into a feature post. Take notes, readers.
By Julius Ebola
One of the basic aspects of real cadre is a major personal commitment to a movement. Unfortunately, fringe movements in the United States seem to have only two polarities of commitment: either a vague subcultural milieu or a mind control cult.
You see this in both new religions and the new left, and even in things like UFOlogy. Something about our national character seems to make any position between these two points an unstable balance that almost always devolves into one or the other.
This is reflected in protest ghetto left by the two dominant organizational models: the Greenpeace model, and the fanatical pretend revolutionary “party”. Both of these models are children of the sixties, with Greenpeace and the Revolutionary Communist Party as poster children of the opposite polarities.
I suspect that for an American panarchist movement the internal conflict that would parallel the one between dissidence and totalitarianism in the Communist party will be between recreational political consumerism or multi-level marketing on one hand, and mass suicide mind control cults on the other.
(It is easy to see who is going to end up with the Icepick in the face with that line up, isn’t it?)
A new American revolutionary movement will have to chart an internal course somewhere between Alex Jones and Jim Jones. As such we need to study the pathologies of both in order to avoid them. We have to create a balance that produces high participation without tending into a Cult. Furthermore, as Panarchists we have to create a culture of
cadre where motivation and movement commitment are high and yet group loyalties and fanatical ideological commitments are low.
The only alternative to this is to openly adopt the mind control cult model (as Stalinism openly adopted totalitarianism) with our eyes open to all of its defects and a strategy that maximizes all of its advantages. As the Libertarian subcultures have yet to produce the AUM level cult that they are probably capable of, it would seem that ATS could get in on the ground floor.
Look, this is America, and we need to keep it real about what we actually have to work with in this country. Go to the Wal-Mart and look around. The Mormons attempted to capture the presidency in the last election, and they got 47%. The Jesus-Hitler-Stalin cult exposed by Jeff Sharlet has deep tentacles all over Washington. No one even knows how much money Scientology has, or how many slaves.
Look at all the leftist organizations that came out of the sixties and compare them now to Scientology. Many of them became mind control cults, but Bob Avakian has a newspaper no one wants to read and Scientology has a navy. This is because Scientology never had any illusions about its organic model, and God does it have a market.
Compare the entire history of Japanese leftism to Aum. Who had the microwave weapons and the heavily armed enclaves? Who had the laser research program and the mind control drugs? What did the commies have? Student rioters and some newspapers? Who needs dialectical materialism when you have Perfect Salvation Initiation mind control helmets?
God knows that this is the land of the mind control cult and the age of the religious revolt. Even the most secular parts of the left are screaming doomsday at every turn. The singularity bullshit among “atheist” libertarians is full of blatant Messianic content.
Looking at the cadre around here it would seem ATS has rich natural talent for such a project, and God knows this country, and the alternative right, are fertile ground for it. How is Tia’s Noe-Manichaeism project going? Give her, Todd Lewis, Keith and Haywire some DMT and see what they can conjure up. It would make a great podcast, at least.
Punk Rock era Anarchism was all about violating taboos, but if you don’t have anything else, lifestylism is inevitable. Once the usual more-extreme-than-thou competition gets set up, you have a recreational subculture that valorizes public performance of deviance as an end in itself. Occupy is the natural and predictable result.
I had been away from the lifestylist scene for well over a decade, and yet Occupy was completely familiar. Some of the new language was impenetrable (and all the cute little hand signals were lost on me) but the fanatics and idiots having screaming matches were the same type of people, in the same retarded protest ghetto subculture.
It had somehow managed to get smarmier and filthier at the same time. You could get a free cup of vegan coffee or visit the therapy tent. You could also step on a dirty needle or get stabbed by the dude with the bleeding head.
In the name of the 99% it presented an image that 99% of the population would never take seriously as a political project. Because of the polarization of our politics and the deep public hatred of our political institutions there was a mirage of support that instantly vanished once the debate moved on.
Occupy was the botched abortion child of lifestyle anarchism that somehow managed to crawl out of the medical waste dumpster and get adopted by some gullible college students. Predictably it made a whole lot of noise, shit all over its crib, and died.
The collapse was even faster and more complete than that of the Anti-war movement. The corpse lived on as the new brand in protest ghetto politics, but mainly for the six people who will always go to whatever leftist meeting.
The question of how to avoid a similar fate is the fundamental question of how to turn a social activity full of useless talkers into a revolutionary movement. Post-left anarchism and the remains of left anarchism both failed to even face this question seriously in the modern era.
n response to Keith:
>Which social forces would you identify as
>revolutionary, or potentially
Mainly the organic communities that are already being mercilessly targeted by the state, and especially those who are already in open resistance to it. One of the main reasons I pay attention to ATS, actually, is that you have identified the gangs as a potentially revolutionary force. I agree with that completely. Indeed I think you have underestimated their potential.
>I also think some of this comes down
>to whether you have a materialist or
>idealist conception of how social and
>political change actually takes place.
I tend to view both conceptions as reductionist. Profound social change is the product of a complex synthesis of forces, which is why no one has ever succeeded in having the same revolution a second time. I also focus in my own thinking on psychology and culture as being of central importance to motivating people into real conflict.
In response to S E Pearson:
>I think ATS is pretty inventive, but if your
>asking us to come up with a mechanism
>that can turn posing idiots into
>revolutionaries, well you really need an
The Bolsheviks faced a very similar problem to that of modern libertarians and anarchists: The Russian revolutionaries who had to be transformed into hardened cadre were a half-assed collection of dissidents who mostly just wanted to sit around and talk.
The stereotype of the pre-Bolshevik Russian revolutionaries was that “they knew about everything but could do nothing” .
Does that sound like anyone you know?
Anyone you have ever met in the Libertarian movement, maybe?
The new Bolshevik man went a little too far in the other direction, but this demonstrates what is possible even in a single generation.
Radical social engineering projects, after all, begin at home.