What is Net-Centric Warfare?

On “innovative” imperialism and the farce of American democratic republicanism

By Daniel K. Buntovnik, 6 November 2016


This piece addresses dilemmas facing opponents of war and imperialism in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, the future of war-profiteering, eumemicist racism, the “alt-right” rehashing of neo-Nazi occultism, and Net-Centric Warfare as black magic.

Note: The U.S. presidential campaign season will have come to an end soon, but the general dynamics of the two-party system discussed under the first subheading of this analysis are unlikely to disappear in 2020.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and the Anti-War Citizen

Although the ruling class of the United States of America bends over backwards to display its cleavage into so-called “Republican” and “Democratic” factions, this apparent split is, to a significant degree, exaggerated. Every day, conscious and unconscious agents of plutocratic, oligarchical dictatorship are working hard to drum up minor differences between the political parties of the bourgeoisie. This encourages us to spend a disproportionate amount of our time focusing on the disagreements between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and their parties, disengaging from the reality of their joint pursual of key political objectives.

The deeper the illusion of Democratic-Republican cleavage is driven into the citizenry’s consciousness, the more the popularity contest in which the masses are quadrennially enticed to (indirectly) participate is lent legitimacy. The suggestion that this contest represents a real opportunity to take part in the national policy-making process is enhanced by the impression of cleavage, while elevated awareness of bipartisan fusion and unity across the bourgeois political spectrum threatens to foment disenchantment and revolt, because it leads to the conclusion that American elections offers little in the way of actual choice.

The scope of the great false dilemma goes beyond what is commonly understood by the term “two-party system”. This is because U.S. presidential electoral politics have, in the 21st century, actually developed into a four-party system, composed of two “Big League” parties and two “Little League” parties. The Little League parties, by virtue of each one functioning as a fallback or an auxiliary to its Big League counterpart, serve as a farcical opposition force to what is generally understood by the term “two-party system” (i.e. the two Big League parties). Presently the Little League two-party system is composed of (1) the Green Party, absorbing disaffected ex-Democrats such as Jill Stein and the Gaddafist Cynthia McKinney as well as syphoning off resources from opportunistic Marxian micro-sects, and (2) the Libertarian Party, absorbing disaffected ex-Republicans such as Gary Johnson and Ron Paul (in whose case we see the revolving door between “Libertarians” and the GOP). Other “third parties” are relegated to competing with each other as well as with the Greens and Libertarians to gain access to the Little League two-party system.

Both the Libertarian and Green parties attempt to harness the storm of anti-war sentiment, but fail to adequately address imperialist war as an integral function of the capitalist system. Both pledge to put an end to what Gary Johnson calls the “imperialistic foreign policy” of the U.S.A., which Jill Stein says is “turning our republic into a bankrupt empire”. Notice how for these peewee politicians, U.S. foreign policy is not imperialist, but imperialistic—implying that it merely resembles imperialism; and nevermind the multi-century policy of invading and annexing foreign nationshalf of Mexico, Hawaii, the Philippines, just to name a fewthis doesn’t have anything to do with why the U.S.A. is a wealthy country today; the wars and drone attacks of the 21st century are only in the process of transforming the country into a “bankrupt” empire… but we’re not there yet! The Little League political players qualify their anti-imperialist posturing with significant caveats; the figurative fine print of Johnson’s program lets us know that he still wants “to build a strong military”, and Stein meanwhile pledges to continue spending as much as $298.5 billion per year on public sector U.S. militarism. That’s still $83 billion more than the country with the second highest military budget in the world, the People’s Republic of China [X].

Some attempt to paint an image of the Green Party as an attractive political center for revolutionary socialism and peace, but the Green Party and its micro-sect surrogates are oriented towards accommodating right-wing nationalist theory. Their objective is to co-opt supporters of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic “socialist” ex-competitor, Bernie Sanders, whose campaign’s central theme was about “saving capitalism for the many, not the few” with a national “political revolution”, the very notion of which stands in antagonistic contradiction to the act of abolishing capitalism through transnational social revolution (for a variety of reasons, some of which I explored here). Rather than criticizing the “trustbuster” thrust of Robert Reich inspired slogans like “political revolution against the billionaire class”, the Greens and their surrogates facilitate assimilation of the fantasy implicit in these slogans, that of a salvageable capitalism based around restored small business competitivity and regulationnot expropriationof the big corporations (labelled “democratic socialism”), along with continued deportations and borders, a fantasy which is rendered explicit upon closer examination of the discourse of individuals like Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, and Robert Reich.

If Jill Stein, the theoretically electable candidate in this year’s Electoral College with the most far-reaching proposals for U.S. militarism reduction, became the president of the United States and implemented her reforms, the U.S. war machine would likely be slightly weaker than it is now (although it would probably remain quite powerful, given Jill Stein’s pledge to provide it with an approximate yearly budget surpassing that of any other nation), but this would only be worthwhile if in the process of implementing these reforms, awareness of the need to ultimately abolish the basis of war (capitalism and hegemony of the bourgeois state) grew and the movement centered around this awareness became stronger. Otherwise the next president could simply reverse the course, and it’s not inconceivable that the Pentagon would find some sly way to circumvent those hypothetical budget cuts or perhaps even orchestrate a coup. However, given that Stein has virtually no chance to become president, why should anyone lend support to “anti-war” individuals and groups who do not plainly articulate abolition of capitalismthe precluder of peace in modern timesthrough social revolution as their ultimate goal? Are we really so cynical to believe that people are too stupid to understand the basic demands of socialism? Tax the rich, sure, but don’t become a stooge of the richplenty of them ultimately wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes if it meant saving even a bit of their privilege. The would-be revolutionary’s entryistic support, even if “critical”, for the reformist political center degenerates into de facto agitation for reformism, promoting non-abolitionist consciousness, which cannot be reconciled with abolitionist consciousness. The anti-war movement would be strongerwould existif it was centered around the objective of ending the basis of war, not around the idealistic embrace of leaders like Jill Stein, who vows to maintain the U.S. position of global supremacy in military financing, or Bernie Sanders, who views each imperialist war through an atomizing lens so that he can pick and choose which ones to support (such as the ones in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Syria to which he gave and gives thumbs up).

Given this reality and the hopelessness of leveraging the electoral process towards anti-war ends, the voter who would like to contribute to the stopping of imperialist war and militarist aggression only has one realistic option: throw away her vote. A protest vote for one of the “fifth party” candidates existing outside of the Big and Little League two-party systems (aka the four-party system) who may propose the actual abolition of capitalism and imperialist warfare is essentially equivalent to writing-in “flip tha system” and can be considered the most desirable fashion of throwing away one’s vote. The vote can be considered thrown away, because these candidates are denied even the hypothetical possibility of election by the nature of the system. But they are still a leg up over abstention because at least in certain cases they may be tallied and recorded, contributing to statistics which may stand as a testament to present levels of vanguard working class consciousness for generations to come, and at the very least there is a chance that, even if the write-in vote is not counted, it may appear as an unsettling anomaly to the one tasked with disregarding it. In that regard, and following the line of thought advanced by Eugene Debs on the desirability of not getting what one wants as opposed to getting what one doesn’t want, these hopeless votes are not thrown away but serve a kind of a purpose; they communicate anti-war sentiment.

Votes which can truly be considered thrown away are those cast “tactically” based in the doctrine of “lesser evilism”, in which case a vote for one of the peewees of the Little two parties registers simultaneous disaffiliation and affiliation with one of the Big two parties insofar as a Green vote is a disaffected Democratic vote and a Libertarian vote is a disaffected Republican vote. Then there are those who consider it better to vote for a Big evil (as opposed to the Little lesser evil), so long as it’s not the greatest Big evil. Perhaps the most twisted are those who believe it best to institute the most backward, reactionary, fascistic government possible, in the hope that this will be more likely to stir up revolt than a somewhat less murderous and oppressive bourgeois dictatorship, which is a dubious proposition to say the least. All these votes are thrown away, from the perspective of the anti-war voter, because they contribute to the perpetuation of mass criminal state violence and signal the voter’s consent to this, whether it be reluctant or enthusiastic.

The Next POTUS and the War-Profiteering of Futurity

A key point of unity in the political programs of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is their mutual promise to engage in war-profiteering once elected. To be sure, although there is a general consensus among the U.S. ruling class about the need to wage war for profit, there are indeed nuances between Clinton and Trump’s visions for the future of war-profiteering, rooted in a real cleavage of the U.S. bourgeoisie. While Trump has taken up the cause of the backwards and regressive old stock white supremacist and “nativist” bourgeoisie by advocating protectionism, trade tariffs, and the mass deportation of Mexicans as a sort of neo-Indian removal policy, Clinton represents the progressive faction of the bourgeoisie which embraces a new stock-inclusive white supremacy wherein the impression of cosmopolitanism is fostered by augmenting fluidity between manners of othering and ascribing social inferiority (i.e. by supplementing racism with civicism and culturism, allowing for the development of a black bourgeoisie), and the “progressive” extension of the government’s conception of whiteness as it is nowadays defined by institutions such as the Census Bureau and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which essentially occurs in two waves: first, the extension of whiteness in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the descendants of non-Anglo Saxon Germanic peoples and shortly thereafter to non-Germanic peoples of Christian Europe, followed by extension of whiteness in the late 20th and early 21st centuries which de-emphasized the alignment between Christianity and whiteness and began to include peoples of certain parts of Asia and Africa, the Balkans, Iberia, and Latin America as white persons.

The language deployed by the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns in the political platforms presented on their official websites is a 21st century confirmation of the assertion made long ago by high-ranking U.S. militarist turned anti-war dissident Smedley D. Butler that “War is a racket”. Although both campaigns frame their proposals for financial investment in war not as direct investment into warfare itself, but as investments in weapons manufacturing and war waging capabilities (i.e. the military industrial complex), both nevertheless take for granted that war is, was, and should continue to be a profitable business. Perhaps both presidential candidates have a sense that the public at large would find the proposal to perpetrate mass violence and terminate countless human lives in exchange for the accumulation of wealth distasteful if not presented delicately, cloaked as a call to invest in the mere machinery of war. However, this tactic is transparent; the call to invest in the tools and technologies of war is in fact inseparable from the call to invest in war itself, for these investments would be obsolete if there was no war in which to deploy them. And insofar as these weapons systems, war waging capabilities, and an empowered military industrial complex are said to function as a deterrent to hot war, they escalate the renewed cold war between great power factions, resulting in proxy-type wars.

Consider the following definitions from OxfordDictionaries.com before we examine the candidates’ programs more closely:

  • Racket – An illegal or dishonest scheme for obtaining money.
  • Invest – Put (money) into financial schemes, shares, property, or a commercial venture with the expectation of achieving a profit.
  • Profit – A financial gain, especially the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent in buying, operating, or producing something.

First, Donald Trump’s official presidential campaign website (donaldjtrump.com), informs us that Trump’s “vision” is to:

Invest in a serious missile defense system to meet growing threats by modernizing our Navy’s cruisers and procuring additional, modern destroyers to counter the ballistic missile threat from Iran and North Korea.

The only “profit” this investment will bring to anyone other than “defense” contractors is the metaphorical wages paid to cover the psychological cost of irrational paranoia over “the ballistic missile threat [to people in North America] from Iran and North Korea”, countries whose militarism is largely a reaction to U.S. jingoism in the first place. Of course, we should also all know by now that “defense” is really a militarist dog whistle for “war”: the so-called United States Department of “Defense” was more accurately and less Newspeak-ishly called the “Department of War” between 1789 and 1947. Hence why, for Trump’s PR team, the way to “invest […] in […] defense” is by “procuring […] destroyers”!

The fact that Trump openly calls for (primarily poor non-U.S. citizen) human lives to be sacrificed for the purpose of (primarily rich white American) financial gain should not even come as a surprise, given the blatantly imperialist statements he and his associates like Rudolph Giuliani have made, such as:

“In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils. Instead, all we got from Iraq—and our adventures in the Middle East—was death, destruction and tremendous financial loss.”   Donald Trump [X]

Enduring the Net-Centric Onslaught of the Ruling Class

While Hillary Clinton does employ the same lexical register of financial speculation to proudly raise the call for war-profiteering just as loudly and just as clearly as Donald Trump, her team’s investment pitch is nuanced by the form of “innovation” it advocates. The Klinton-Kaine Kampaign website (hillaryclinton.com) promises us that, “as president, Hillary will”:

Invest in innovation and capabilities that will allow us to prepare for and fight 21st-century threats. That includes leveraging our information advantage through what’s called “net-centric warfare” capabilities and preparing for asymmetric threats.

Clinton’s P.R. team has spiced up the war-for-profit pitch by plugging in a reference to what seems to be one of the latest militarist buzz phrases: “net-centric warfare”. A Wikipedia article on the term defines it as a “doctrine or theory” developed by the U.S. baby killer establishment in the 1990s which “seeks to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust computer networking of well informed geographically dispersed forces.”

In Network Centric Warfare: Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority (2000), David Alberts, John Garstka and Frederick Stein describe “Network Centric Warfare” as “the best term developed to date to describe the way [U.S. militarists] will organize and fight in the Information Age”.

The intuitive connection between networks, information, cyberspace, and global media is indicative of the fact that militarist buzzwords like “net-centric warfare”, “information warfare”, and “cyberwarfare” are essentially all iterations of the same thought process. Thus Hillary Clinton’s call to “invest” in Net-Centric Warfare in 2016 echoes her words to Congress in 2011, when she lamented (in a global context wherein non-American media networks such as Al Jazeera, RT, Sputnik, CCTV, and teleSUR were gaining traction in the Anglosphere as well as a stronger foothold in other regions) that “We are in an information war, and we’re losing that war”. Thus Hillary’s campaign pledge cannot be seen as an addendum thoughtlessly tacked on to the platform so as to pander to the pro-military crowd, but a longstanding sign of her approach to imperial affairs.

In Network Centric Operations: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress (2007), Clay Wilson explains that “Network Centric [Warfare] relies on computer equipment and networked communications technology to provide a shared awareness of the battle space [sic] for U.S. forces”.

One might well imagine some “Defense” clerks producing a flashy video of U.S. Army/Marine Corps baby killers consulting their smartwatches in between murdering savage Near Oriental men to “post statuses” on each other’s “timelines” about where the remainder of the unarmed men are seeking asylum from these brainwashed SS-worshipping death squads and “livestreaming” satellite images as they operate a genocidal dragnet across a dusty and generic Fallujah-esque town (perhaps filmed on the set of Homeland), their wounded comrades meanwhile being treated by medical androids remote controlled by ethically-compromised doctors on another continent, to sell this concept to bloodthirsty sociopaths in Washington D.C. The U.S. military would probably prefer that when the public hears the term “net-centric warfare”, it would imagine something like this, happening far away, directed at un-American others, and keeping America safe—but “leveraging ‘our’ information advantage” has much broader implications.

One indication that the scope of this project goes well beyond the battlespaces of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen is the fact that the term “net-centric warfare” is regarded as being synonymous with that of “net-centric operations” (Wilson, 2007). This supplanting of “warfare” by “operations,” like the supplanting of “battlefield” by “battlespace”, signals an important shift in the way U.S. militarists perceive the nature of conflict in the 21st century, sometimes referred to as the “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)”. The supplanting of the term “warfare” with that of “operations” marks a symbolic step towards the normalization of the state of perpetual warfare and the rendering ubiquitous of military operations outside their traditional spheres which have become reality under the so-called “War on Terror”.

This shifting emphasis in bourgeois military theory (from “warfare” to “operations”) can be traced back to the emergence of the “asymmetric warfare” paradigm (also alluded to by Clinton, cf. “asymmetric threats”) which began to gain currency towards the end of the genocidal U.S. war in Vietnam as baffled U.S. militarists struggled to fathom how their country had allowed them to be defeated (see “Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars” [1975]). The architects of the U.S. genocide in Vietnam expressed dismay at their defeat because they felt there had not objectively been sufficient loss or degradation of U.S. military machinery or manpower to warrant defeat; instead they identified the erosion of the subjective political will to continue fighting among the U.S. populace as the cause of their defeat. This view can be summed up in the rhetorical question of one U.S. militarist: “Was the United States defeated in the jungles of Vietnam, or was it defeated in the streets of American cities?” [Aquino, p. 6].

Similarly observing that “[the Vietnam War] was fought as much, if not more, in the living rooms of America as in the living jungles of Southeast Asia,” the U.S. militarist authors of Network Centric Warfare: Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority resolve that “the battlespace of the future […] will no longer be private or remote” [Alberts, p. 63]. But because the “political costs of using [lethal weapons]” against domestic anti-war dissidents and peace activists are likely to “far outweigh their effects”, the crushing of domestic civilian and non-state actor threats to the will to sustain U.S. militarist campaigns of genocide abroad (“the national will to victory” [Aquino, p. 4]) is primarily viewed as being a job for methods like “Information Warfare”, “Military Information Support Operations (MISO)” (also known as “Psychological Operations [PSYOP]”), “Operations Other Than War (OOTW)” [Alberts, p. 59], and “Effects-Based Operations (EBO)” [Smith, p. 1], although that’s by no means to say that they don’t consider the brazen use of lethal force against U.S. citizens out of the question [X]. The same authors note that in “some instances” of so-called Operations Other Than War “the line between war and peace and between friend, foe, and neutral is blurred beyond recognition” and that Information Operations “blur the boundaries between civilian and military,” having “the potential to totally redefine the nature of warfare” [Alberts, p. 59].

The doctrine of “net-centric warfare” thus encapsulates the idea that anyone who does anything to oppose the U.S. war machine must be regarded as a foe of the state, including those who do so in totally non-violent ways such as:

  • marching in the street,
  • spreading reasoned anti-war and anti-capitalist arguments,
  • educating soldiers about their legal right to become conscientious objectors, freeing them from their supposedly irrevocable soul-selling contract to the devilish forces of militarism,
  • or even merely sharing objectively true raw pieces of information that would lead normal human beings to conclusions that are unsupportive of current military operations, diminishing what’s called “information dominance” by U.S. militarist fiends and neoliberals.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s helped to further entrench the paradigm of “asymmetric warfare”, as the subsequent Soviet/Russian geopolitical recession undid the relative symmetricality of what had previously been seen as a bipolar global battlespace. Nowadays the U.S. military behemoth swallows up a whopping 37% of global military spending, more than China, “Saudi” Arabia, Russia, the U.K., India, France, and Japan combined, perpetuating the asymmetry between U.S. militarism and all other centers of militarism, competitors and partners included. This trend is tempered however by certain developments, such as the so-called “Sino-Russian rapprochement” and the recent expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a geopolitical counterweight to U.S. military dominance and a vehicle for the joint operations of Russian and Chinese capitalists and militarists eager to further develop their own brands of imperialism.

Nevertheless, despite the Klinton Kaine Kampaign’s programmatic inclination towards the discourse of warfare (i.e. its selection of the term “net-centric warfare” as opposed to “net-centric operations”) and its characterization of Russia as “a foreign adversarial power”, the displacement of “warfare” by “operations” as the dominant theoretical framework of U.S. baby killer circles is unlikely to be reversed because the threat of massive nuclear annihilation encourages the reframing of 21st century conflict between similarly matched great power blocs as “symmetrical operations”. The current U.S.-Russian “cyber” or “information” war, although these refer to operations other than war in the traditional sense, may be considered a “symmetric” situation or perhaps even a situation of U.S. inferiority. For example, despite having an inferior budget, the number of Russian intelligence operatives in the U.S. is said to be at least three times superior to the number of U.S. ones in Russia [X]. Hillary Clinton and U.S. militarists’ broad conceptualization of warfare, redefined and expanded to include a variety of operations which were heretofore held to be “operations other than war”, should be read as an attempt to accelerate the militarization of domestic policing, expand proxy wars, and work around the limitations imposed by mutually assured destruction, not as an imminent push to engage Russia with nuclear warheads, as the peewee two-party system bourgeois candidate Jill Stein has argued in her alarmist pro-Trump lesser evilist discourse [X].

In a country with few immediate signs of threat to the national will to “victory” in the form of mass movements, perhaps just as critical as directly suppressing dissident voices, if not more so, is the manufacturing of consent which seems to assure that a minimal amount of dissent hardly pops up in the first place. We know that the U.S. and global public is targeted by the military and intelligence forces en masse through operations such as the “Message Force Multipliers” program, which sought to achieve “information dominance” by saturating U.S. television with war-mongering talking heads around the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Another example of this kind of operation is the Pentagon spending half a billion dollars on the production of “fake Al-Qaeda videos that portrayed the insurgent group in a negative light”. That’s almost an entire fiscal year of U.S. military funds spent on some videosbut how could we even know what the real U.S. ritual human sacrifice budget is when U.S. militarists can’t account for $6.5 trillion in funds [X]? Surely the fact that U.S. militarists do not release such information is part of some asinine strategy on their part to “leverage [their] information advantage” over us information scroungers who are not privy to those “classified” true facts. A President Jill Stein might well leave us with a military caste who can “only” not account for $3.25 trillion!

Towards a “Memetically Engineered” Racist Empire

One expression of “Effects-Based Operations” (which a U.S. militarist named Smith defines as “military operations directed at shaping the behavior of foes, friends, and neutrals in peace, crisis, and war”) is the emergent military strategy of “meme warfare” or “memetic engineering” [X, X, X]. Modelled on an analogy to genetics (the science of biological heredity) first posited by raging anti-Muslim bigot Richard Dawkins of the Islamophobic “New Atheist” set, memetics (the science[?] of cultural “heredity” [as well as intra-generational cultural transmission]) supposes the existence of the meme as a “unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds” [Brodie, p. 11]. Another theorist describes memetic engineering as the conscious construction of information packages which are likely “to replicate themselves across a network of minds” [X]. The prevalence of memes is thought to be “a consequence of our evolved capacity to imitate” [X]. Meme warfare proposes the weaponization of mimesisdelivering ideas to targets (enemies, friends, and neutrals) in such a way that they assimilate those ideas which in turn induce behaviors that facilitate the meeting of the weapon-handler’s objectives.

We can anticipate that the project of creating a memetically engineered (or psychocivilized) society entails the desirability of control and influence over information distribution networks as well as control and influence over the production of knowledge and information, helping to explain the drive of U.S. militarists to forcibly penetrate media and academia, like the horrific and snarling incubi which these demonic rape culture perpetuating militarists are.

Closely related to the concept to “memetic engineering” is “eumemics”. Like eugenicists, advocates of eumemics believe that populations can be “improved” by the manipulation and control of “scientists”, though in this case it is the pathologization of devalued thoughts (dubbed “mind viruses”), not biological traits, which prevails. Nevertheless, memeticists do hypothesize that “memes drove biological selection as well as genes” [McNamara].

The transition from eugenics to eumemics nevertheless proceeds relatively seamlessly from the perspective of so-called “race science”, for the neo-Nazi movement’s embrace of anti-Semitic American fascist Francis Parker Yockey’s critique of materialistic scientism reveals a perspective on “race” which leads quickly to the supplantation of eugenics by eumemics.

In “The Scientific-Technical World-Outlook” (a chapter from his 1948 book Imperium), Yockey argues that “[by 1850] science was on the road which was to cultuminate in […] frank admission of the subjectivity of physical concepts”, that “the very study of matter itself” revealed “the profound knowledge […] that matter is only the envelope of the soul”, and that “the transition from 19th century materialism to the new spirituality of the 20th century was thus not a battle, but an inevitable development”. For Yockey, the neo-Nazi worldview is not based on science or materialism, although these are seen as useful “in the service of […] unlimited will-to-power”. The Nazi blowhard concludes that “the Idea [of a strong Western Culture that ‘creates Races’ and is the ‘higher Reality’] is primary,” though “superiority in weapons [furnished by techno-scientific methodology] is essential”. Neo-Nazism thus attempts to remedy the fact that the racial basis of German Nazism was objectively pseudoscientific by dislocating race from this framework and repackaging it as a transcendent subjectivity, beyond science and pseudoscience. This outlook may be rooted in the adoption of an “asymmetric” model of warfare by Nazi strategists in the post-war years, in which case Operation Paperclip signals the beginning of the supplantation of “warfare” by “operations”.

In another chapter of Imperium on the “Subjective Meaning of Race”, the fascist Yockey argues that “race is […] what a man feels” and that “this [feeling] influences, whether immediately or eventually, what he does”. “Race is not,” according to Yockey, “the way one talks, looks, gestures, walks, it is not a matter of stock, color, anatomy, skeletal structure, or anything else objective”. He further elaborates that “every race […] expresses a certain idea […] and its idea is bound to be attractive to some individuals outside it”, and that “every healthy, ascendant race accepts recruits who come in on its terms and who have the proper feeling”. This notion of the “true meaning” of race being a subjective feeling, existing independently of objective scientific study, is expressed by government policy in cases such as United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the law must uphold a “popular”, but “unscientific” conception of the so-called “white race” [X]. Popular and governmental conceptions did evolve thereafter, but remain unscientific. Perhaps it is this subjectivity that permits anomalous individuals such as Leo Felton, an African-American man, to become accepted as leaders in White Power prison gangs [X], and others, such as Barack Obama, to become legatees of the world’s leading white supremacist institutions.

From Memes to Occultism

The so-called “Alt-Right movement”, an “innovative” reiteration anti-Semitic, white supremacist, and Nazi bullshit for the Information Age which has emerged as one of the most vocal factions of Donald Trump supporters, places a heavy emphasis on memes and the memetic model of cultural evolution [X, X]. One “Alt-”right-wing 8chan forum set up last year calls itself “The Bureau of Memetic Warfare” and greets visitors with a “Black Sun” banner. It would almost be “edgy” if U.S. militarists had not already proposed a “Meme Warfare Center” a decade sooner [Prosser].

Seeming to fulfill the late comic George Carlin’s prediction that “when fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts, it will not be with jack-boots; it will be Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts,” The Daily Stormer, an Alt-Right website, notes that “a movement which meets all of the [Southern Poverty Law Center]’s definitions of Neo-Nazi White Supremacism using a  cartoon frog to represent itself takes on a subversive power to bypass historical stereotypes of such movements, and thus present the ideas themselves in a fun way without the baggage of Schindler’s List [sic] and American History X [sic].” They are talking about the so-called “Pepe”, a cartoon frog and internet-centric meme which even the Klinton Kaine Kampaign has addressed [X].

The same neo-Nazi website notes that “the Alt-Right is in the process of forming an actual religious doctrine around the god Kek, who is believed to be the spiritual root of meme magick” [X]. Alt-Right occultists have actually come to believe that the net-centric meme “Pepe the Frog” is a hierophany of the Ancient Egyptian god called Kek, who was depicted as a frog or theriocephalous frog-man [X].

Of course, some Alt-Right “irony bros” will inevitably fall back on the plausible deniability tactic when it suits them, and claim that internet meme-cum-hierophany discourse is pure satire done simply for “the lulz”; however, it is obvious from white nationalist texts like Esoteric Kekism, or Kek as a Bodhisattva of Racial Enlightenment that there is a genuine desire on the part of the so-called “Alt-Right” to engage in the time-honored fascist pastime of blatant cultural misappropriation of Eastern religious traditions so as to try to rehash yet again the aestheticized pseudo-mystique of an esoteric neo-Nazism, pioneered by “classics” like Maximine Julia Portas (“Savitri Devi”). Plausible deniability of the sincerity of Alt-Right discourse is stoked by public figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos, who has emerged as a cultural broker between the mainstream world and the largely web-bound (net-centric) movement. In a March 2016 Breitbart piece, Yiannopoulos argued that the reactionary/misogynistic/racist memes produced by the movement are merely meant to poke fun at “political correctness”, but the other representatives of the Alt-Right have vehemently scoffed at the idea that “no one in the Alt-Right actually believes anything that they are saying, and simply say it as part of some obscure joke” [X, X]. Meanwhile, there are others on the Alt-Right who are less chagrined by the fact that a gay Jewish man (Yiannopoulos) has become their unofficial spokesperson, basically seeing him as a useful idiot who is “contributing to the rightward shift in the Overton Window” [X].

Right-wing occultists are likely to the view those who “ironically” or “jokingly” spread the “Cult of Kek” and “meme magick” memes in a similar light, as the former use it to recruit devotees and initiates to their race-hate occultist worldview (see, for example, the Alt-Rightist recommendation made in the hypertext of the previous link that readers familiarize themselves with the work of British occultists Phil Hine and Peter J. Carroll to begin understanding “meme magick” as a form of “chaos magick”). “Chaos magick” is in turn considered to be a form of Satanism by prominent proponents of Satanism. For example, Anton Long (alleged alias of David Myatt, a proponent of neo-Nazi Satanism) writes in “Toward Understanding Satanism” (a “classic Order of Nine Angles text”) that, “standard definitions of Satanism […] encompass, and so may describe […] the type of esotericism propounded by advocates of ‘chaos magick’ and others who assert such things as ‘reality is what I make it or what others have made it, or perceived it to be’, so that ‘Reality is a matter is perspective [sic] and thus demons/gods/religions/techniques beliefs can be usefully used without believing in them’” [X]. Hine is extensively cited as an authority in the book Contemporary Religious Satanism: A Critical Anthology (2009) [X] and Carroll has associated with activists in the British neo-Nazi movement via his involvement in the magazine Chaos International [X, X]. Additionally, in a subsection of The Occult World (2014) entitled “Contemporary Occult War”, religions studies professor Christopher Partridge relates that the interest of Carroll (described here as “the founder of of chaos magic”) in waging “a purely politicized occult war in the form of a conspiracist libertarian condemnation of the European Union” should be contextually understood in relation to “the ‘sinister’ family of traditions derived from the [‘(explicit concern) with esoteric conflict against Jewish influences’ of the] Order of Nine Angles” (the previously mentioned neo-Nazi/Satanic group which developed out of English Wicca in the late 1960s or early ’70s) [Partridge, pp. 632-3].

Another self-described “Satanic” grouping, with documented ties to U.S. militarism and whose original High Priest’s contributions to the theoretical framework of U.S. militarist operations in the 1980s prefigure the emergence of Net-Centric Warfare in the 1990s in ways explored below, is the “Temple of Set”. This occultist religious sect was founded in 1975 by the U.S. militarist Michael Aquino, a PSYOPs officer during the U.S. genocide-war in Vietnam, after he left his position as a high-ranking member of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. In addition to reported disillusionment with LaVey’s proposal to sell positions in the Church of Satan to those willing to pay big bucks, the split may have arisen in part from what Aquino saw as the Church of Satan’s equivocal stance on the question of whether Satan was “real” or “symbolic”. “The Temple of Set”, Aquino writes in Black Magic (1975-2010), “resolved this dilemma […] by asserting the actual existence of ‘Satan’ (as Set – the original, pre-Judaeo/Christian entity)” [X]. Aquino’s collapsing of Christianity into Judaism and expression of desire to bypass its framework by displacing the figure of Satan with that of Set can be seen as an iteration of the same anti-Semitic concern with “esoteric conflict against Jewish influences” described by Partridge (2014). The anti-Semitic leitmotiv of Western esotericists can be traced back even further, to foundational figures of the contemporary occultist worldview such as Aleister Crowley, who lamented that “The Jew has eaten his way into everything. The caricature of Semitic thought, Christianity, rotted Roman virtue through introducing the moral subterfuge of vicarious atonement” [X]. In many ways modern proponents of “magick” in the West are heavily indebted to blatant cultural misappropriation which was facilitated by European colonialism. (For examples of the way in which contemporary Western esotericism and occultism cannot be contextually separated from their basis in Orientalism and cultural misappropriation, see the pivotal role played by European, especially British, colonialism in opening up “mystical” countries like Egypt and India to raging anti-Semitic white supremacists such as Aleister Crowley, Helena Blavatsky, and C. W. Leadbeater).

Like the newly “founded” occult-oriented neo-Nazi “Cult of Kek”, the “Temple of Set” was also based on cultural misappropriation of Ancient Egyptian/Kemetic mythology. The Egyptian gods Set and Kek share a number of similarities. Both have been called gods of chaos. Ancient Egypt Online notes that Set “was a storm god associated with strange and frightening events” including “eclipses” and that “his glyph appears in the Egyptian words for ‘turmoil’, ‘confusion’, […] ‘storm’ and ‘rage’” [X]. The same source indicates that Kek (or Kuk) “represented darkness, obscurity and night” and that “this darkness was the chaotic darkness which existed before the creation of the world [and] although he was a god of the darkness, he was also associated with the dawn and given the epithet, the ‘bringer-in of the light’” [X]. It is further noted that Kek “was also associated with Sobek”, depicted as a theriocephalous crocodile-man who was said to be the son of Setwho also took the form of a crocodile [X].

The Religious Character of Net-Centric Warfare

Net-Centric Warfare theorists posit the existence of three domains relevant to the warfighter:

  • (1) the physical domain,
  • (2) the information domain, and
  • (3) the cognitive domain [X, p. 10].

The quasi-religious underpinnings of this three-domain model of the battlespace need to be rendered explicit to understand, in the following section, Net-Centric Warfare as a reflection of the darker side of modern Western “esoteric” thought. We would also do well to take into consideration and keep in mind the argument of religions scholar Mircea Eliade that, contrary to what may still be considered conventional wisdom by some, religion “does not necessarily imply belief in God, gods, or ghosts, but refers to the experience of the sacred, and consequently, is related to ideas of being, meaning, and truth” [X].

Though the doctrine of the domains of Net-Centric Warfare is presented as trinitarian in form, in essence it replicates the Cartesian dualist meme; it is the bifurcation of the battlespace into physical and cognitive fronts, echoing long-posited binary oppositions between the body and mind, the material and the spiritual, which is fundamental to Net-Centric Warfare theory. Information is an intermediary between these two poles because it “inhabits” consciousness (where it is processed), but it can also be materialized into the external world via systems of communication (e.g. a book contains information which derives from the cognitive domain but exists in the physical domain). The “information domain” is thus not autonomous, but exists only in the relation to, and as an aspect of, the physical and cognitive domains. (The question of the nature of the information domain and its relation to the central dichotomy between tangible (external/physical) and intangible (internal/cognitive) which we find in the discourse of Net-Centric Warfare can also be located in the field of memetics, in the debate between memeticists of “internalist” and “externalist” persuasions [X]). The information domain is therefore secondary to the fundamental dynamic of Net-Centric Warfare, which is concerned with the ability to influence a target’s feeling or cognitive state so as to affect what he or she does in the world, thus altering the physical state of the battlefield. Net-Centric Warfare utilizes objective means (such as physical control of external information flows) to target subjective phenomena (e.g., morale, the “will to victory”, the will to resist, and the “will-to-power”). This is why “information dominance” is in fact a euphemism for “cognitive dominance”.

Returning to the notion of “the sacred” as the defining element of religion, we see that Net-Centric Warfare is in essence a theological expression of U.S. militarism in the way that it recognizes the mind itself as sacred. The Cartesian split between spirit and matter observed in U.S. militarist doctrine is imbued with the analogue which Mircea Eliade called the sacred-profane polarity and analysis of the discourse on Net-Centric Warfare (and similar militarist buzzwords) reveals numerous traits consistent with a type of religious thought. Elaborating on this dichotomy between sacrality and profanity which he argued was key to understanding the constitution of religious thought, Eliade put forth in The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1959) that:

[In] all pre-modern societies, the sacred is equivalent to a power, and, in the last analysis, to reality. The sacred is saturated with being. […] The polarity sacred-profane is often expressed as an opposition between real and unreal or pseudoreal. […] Thus it is easy to understand that religious man deeply desires to be, to participate in reality, to be saturated with power [X, pp. 12-13].

By inaugurating the pursual of general dominance in the “cognitive domain” as the ultimate key to victory in any war, the cognitive apparatuses of not only enemy combatants and their host populations, but also those of the U.S. military protagonists’ civilian co-nationals became consecrated as sites of battle. For U.S. militarists, the lesson drawn from their defeat in Vietnam was that domination of the battlefield’s physical domain amounts to an unreal victory if the enemy is still able to “leverage information superiority” and prevail in the cognitive domain. The consequence of being made acutely aware of the possibility of defeat in spite of superior physical force was the invigoration of a militarist discourse around the menace of “asymmetric threats”. To pursue an old-fashioned warfighting strategy that did not adequately take the nature of “asymmetric threats” into account became sacrilege. Focusing too narrowly on the physical, material domain (unreal) at the expense of having a sense of concern for the cognitive, spiritual domain (real) became a form of profanity in the militarist mind, a vulgarization of what it means to pursue victory, a kind of false idol worship. The newfound reality of the all-encompassing nature of war, its delineation so blurred that it was no longer distinguishable from peace, no longer fought exclusively on the traditional “battlefield” but across a vaster “battlespace” that penetrates inside the hearts and minds of “foes, friends, and neutrals in peace, crisis, and war” was the new theology of Militarism. War was profane; operations became sacred.

U.S. militarist Michael Aquino, the self-proclaimed “Setian” Satanist who ran PSYOPs in Vietnam in the early part of his career, called this shift from the battlefield of the physical domain to the battlespace of the cognitive one “MindWar”. In a 1980 military research paper co-written with another U.S. militarist named Paul Vallely (now a Fox News “senior military analyst”i.e. Message Force Multiplier) and entitled “From PSYOP to MindWar: The Psychology of Victory” Aquino (and Vallely, although Aquino’s voice seems to dominate the text) explain how, in their view, victory on the physical battlefield is only assured by militarist domination of the cognitive battlespace. One source claims that although the paper never appeared in its intended publication outlet (Military Review), it was nevertheless “widely circulated among military planners, and […] distributed by Aquino’s Temple of Set” [X]. Implying that commanders should be more concerned with the conquest of minds than with “tangible” victories, Aquino writes:

The MindWar scenario must be preeminent in the mind of the commander and must be the principal factor in his every field decision. Otherwise he sacrifices measures which actually contribute to winning the war to measures of immediate, tangible satisfaction.

It seems clear that Aquino’s articulation of the need for U.S. militarism to switch gears from traditional war to sublime MindWar developed in tandem with his involvement in the Satanic cult scene. In one of his more esoteric ramblings, Aquino notes that,

Perhaps the most important contribution of the original Church of Satan (1966-1975CE) was its focus upon and glorification of the psyche, even though its original ambition was to downplay that concept in favor of mere fleshly gratification [X].

This critique was likely formed, if these precise words were not themselves written, around the time of his break with the Church of Satan to form the Temple of Set in 1975, five years before writing the “MindWar” paper. With the help of a thesaurus, his criticism of the Church of Satan’s undue emphasis on “fleshly gratification” became that directed at the U.S. military for its undue emphasis on “tangible satisfaction” (i.e. the “physical domain”). Moreover, his appreciation of the Church of Satan’s “focus upon and glorification of the psyche” forms the entire basis of the MindWar doctrine, with its focus upon and glorification of the cognitive domain.

Aquino argues that MindWar only operates in “nonlethal, noninjurious, and nondestructive ways” and that it essentially amounts to “[overwhelming] your enemy with argument.” This is apparently as simple as “[seizing] control of all the means by which [the enemy] government and populace process information to make up their minds, and [adjusting] it so that those minds are made up as you desire”. But Aquino also makes it clear that, in the MindWar scenario, the U.S. populace is approached by its would-be militarist overlords as an enemy. While at first painting Americans who called for the defeat of the U.S. effort to commit genocide in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as victims fallen to the lies of enemy propaganda, Aquino goes on to imply that MindWar “must attack and ultimately destroy” the will of anti-war citizens because their opposition to the jingoistic “national will to victory” of the U.S. is merely a sign of their weakness and vulnerability to enemy psychological operations, arguing:

[The main PSYOP/MindWar effort] must originate at the national level. It must strengthen our national will to victory and it must attack and ultimately destroy that of our enemy. It both causes and is affected by physical combat, but it is a type of war which is fought on a far more subtle basis as well – in the minds of the national populations involved.

[…]

MindWar must target all participants if it is to be effective. It must not only weaken the enemy; it must strengthen the United States. It strengthens the United States by denying enemy propaganda access to our people, and by explaining and emphasizing to our people the rationale for our national interest in a specific war.

Of course, to accept MindWar as “noninjurious” and “nondestructive”, we would have to ignore the destruction and injury such a practice perpetrates against freedom of thought, freedom of information, and freedom of expression. We would also have to ignore that, given the fact that in most cases and for obvious reasons (e.g. bumbling U.S. militarists’ inability to even speak “enemy” languages) it is more feasible for U.S. militarists to strengthen the U.S. national will to victory with programs like the “Message Force Multipliers” than it is for them to “destroy” the will of the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries to resist U.S. military occupations and bombing campaigns, MindWar perpetuates lethal operations and augments the death toll by keeping the U.S. populace compliant with the war effort and consistently failing to keep “enemy” populations submissive to occupation forces and unresentful of U.S. bombing campaigns. In what seems a telling Freudian slip, Aquino recently uttered, “MindWar […] was an attempt to […] stress out the conscious parts of the human mind, to sort of […] create a mind slave” [X].

Aquino’s twisted conception of “truth” is also revealing of the fact that we are dealing with a religious concept when we talk about Net-Centric Warfare and MindWar. Arguing that legal restrictions on PSYOPs which forbid them from being deployed against the U.S. public are wrongheaded, Aquino writes:

Under existing United States law, PSYOP units may not target American citizens. That prohibition is based upon the presumption that “propaganda” is necessarily a lie or at least a misleading half-truth, and that the government has no right to lie to the people. The Propaganda Ministry of Goebbels must not be a part of the American way of life.

Quite right, and so it must be axiomatic of MindWar that it always speaks the truth. Its power lies in its ability to focus recipients’ attention on the truth of the future as well as that of the present. MindWar thus involves the stated promise of the truth that the United States has resolved to make real if it is not already so.

Here we arrive at the eschatological aspect of U.S. militarist doctrine; it deals with the end of days or the end of an age. By laying claim to knowledge of future events, to the power to preordain or predestine the ultimate outcome of any given U.S. military endeavor (which will invariably be “victory”), Aquino invokes what Afrofuturism scholars dub “the futures industry”, a synthesis of the “scientific and corporate activity [of ‘big science’ and ‘big business’] into a relatively coherent narrative” which is “then [disseminated] throughout the world [by ‘global media’]” in this way exercising control over the future through the art of prediction and the imperial production of futurist narratives [Eshun, Yaszek]. Investment in the futures industry is evidenced by the work of think-tanks such as the “Project for the New American Century”, and the impetus towards an eschatological approach is demonstrated by U.S. policy-maker initiatives to transform the “War on Terror” into a “New Thirty Years’ War”. The interest of the bourgeois futures industry in occultism may also derive from the latter’s conceptualization of “aeonics” (“the magical manipulation of ‘psycho-historical’ forces” [Partridge, p. 632]) or “aeonic magick” (i.e. the kind of magic “concerned with producing large-scale [civilizational] changes [‘altering the destiny of millions of peoples’] over […] centuries” [X]).

Net-Centric Warfare as Black Magic

The first words had a magical aspect to them, and the modern word still retains much of the powerful magicality of the primitive utterance. With words, one person can render another happy or push them to despair, and it’s with the help of words that the professor transmits her knowledge to students, that an orator leads his audience to predetermined conclusions, affecting their decisions. Words provoke emotions and constitute the general means by which human beings reciprocally influence one another.

Sigmund Freud, in Introduction à la psychanalyse (1916) [Freud, p. 11]

In light of the exposition of the religiosity implied by Net-Centric Warfare theory and its constituent concepts (including but not limited to: the physical/information/cognitive domains, meme warfare, information warfare, operations other than war, and psychological operations), as well as the occultism of its state actor pioneers (Aquino/the Temple of Set) and non-state actor practitioners (the Alt-Right/the Cult of Kek), it is reasonable to expect that further unpacking Net-Centric Warfare in the context of its esoteric underpinnings will help to demystify its actual workings. As a consequence of seeking an answer to the question “What is Net-Centric Warfare?”, we have been been confronted by the pioneers and practitioners of it with the concept of “magic[k]” and a variety of “types” of it, including: meme magick, chaos magick, black magick, and aeonic magick.

When we talk about “black magic” in particular, it is possible understand a number of different things. It is commonly understood that “black magic” is the evil kind, while “white magic” is the good kind; the person whose words render another happy does white magic and the one who pushes another to despair does black magic. Black magic and white magic are also said to correspond to the terms “Left Hand Path and Right-Hand Path”. Some have argued that good and evil are relative to the perspective of the individual, the cultural or class grouping, and that for this reason “black magic” cannot be equated with evil, nor can “white magic” be equated with good. The Temple of Set’s Michael Aquino would be an example of someone who falls into this camp, in that, although his religious worldview is indebted to a profound degree to early modern occultists such as Aleister Crowley and Helena Blavatsky, he does not seem to like the fact that they used the terms black magic and white magic “simply to identify their moral biases” (in the sense that they upheld the convention that black stands for that which is immoral and white stands for that which is moral). For Aquino, “black magic” (or the “left-hand path”) does not imply any “moral or ethical stance”, since according to him, it refers to one of two approaches to magic in general “rather than to the ends to which [it is] applied” [X, p. 61]. However, given what we know about Aquino’s almost five decades of prominence on the Satanic cult scene, we cannot take his theory of morally ambiguous “black magic” as a pure abstraction; consideration of his actual life and career, which we have already seen was dedicated not just to serving, but also enhancing the efficacy of, the genocidal enterprise of U.S. militarism, might be taken as an indication of this particular approach’s predisposition to being used towards unethical ends.

A closer examination of Aquino’s discourse in Black Magic (1975-2010) reveals that his attempt to dissociate the concept of black magic from its common definition (evil) is mired in contradictions. Here Aquino argues that the ideal member of his Satanic cult is “initially amoral” but that the cult “does argue for a high personal ethical standard” which is based on a Platonic “love of and dedication to virtue for its own sake – not on social or religious-ideological conditioning, threats, or enticements” [Aquino, p. 4]. Elsewhere in Black Magic, however, Aquino does express clear concern about safeguarding what he calls the “ethical reputation of the Temple” [p. 40], noting that, “Only if [a Satanist is] known to be a strictly ethical individual will [his or her] freedom from social norms be tolerated. Otherwise [he or she] will be ostracized and probably persecuted by society” [p. 94]. Contradicting his initial claim that the Temple’s argument for its members’ high ethical standards is not based on “social or religious-ideological conditioning, threats, or enticements”, Aquino admonishes his followers that ritually sacrificing “any life-form” will result in “the offender’s immediate expulsion [from the cult] and referral to law enforcement or animal protection authorities” [p. 119]. Aquino again contradicts his initial claim of the cult’s recognition of the supremacy of the individual Satanist’s “personal ethical standard” over “social conditioning” when he elaborates on the formula by which the Satanist is to avoid persecution/cultivate an ethical reputation: he is to “determine not only whether [a particular black magic ‘working’] will be ethical in his eyes, but also ethical according to the cultural mind-sets of all other parties to the working” [p. 106]. We see thus that the Temple of Set’s concern about projecting out an “ethical reputation” as a law-abiding, non-human/animal (or even plant) sacrificing cult into the world functions as a defense mechanism, its “ethical reputation” being a mere shell to protect its actual mission, which is to create an “unsafe space” (since Aquino asserts that black magic is “dangerous”) for “freedom from social norms” and the “social morality” [p. 112] of intrusive “subjective universes” (Aquino’s term) of other psyches, to the extent that such freedom and occult deviancy can be cultivated without provoking ostracization and persecution by the wider society.

Aquino’s concern with dissociating black magic from its connotation of evil cannot be understood without apprehending his view that “‘good/evil’ values are merely appropriate for the profane masses, who can’t – and don’t want to – understand anything more precise” [p. 106]. Aquino’s attempt to dissociate black magic from its connotation of evil mirrors the way in which his conception of the net-centric MindWar doctrine was intimately tied up with the desire to dissociate U.S. militarism (particularly in Southeast Asia) from its connotations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Turning the basic question of what is good and what is bad into a mystical equation serves to transform that which is unethical (imperialist war, use of “black magic” to manipulate the “profane masses” into compliance with the former by painting it as “good” from the perspective of their class-blind/class-collaborative “national interests”) into that which is ethical. Publicly identifying oneself as a Satanist and establishing a cult institution with the exoteric façade of an “ethical reputation” rather than keeping one’s wacko beliefs to oneself would seem to serve the purpose of, not only empowering oneself and gaining social influence (to the extent that one can accrue cult members and rise in the military industrial hierarchy), but also transforming the lay public’s perception of Satanists into its oppositei.e. from equating Satanism with evil and unethical practices to equating it with decent, ethical people who don’t really want to hurt anyone.

What does make the term “black magic” problematic is not its moral connotation by itself, but this in combination with its racial one. We must be skeptical when accusations of “black magic” are levelled in order to smear that which is genuinely good. For example, televangelist Pat Robertson has infamously called Haitians “cursed” in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 2010 for “[swearing] a pact with the devil” [X], in reference to the sacrificial Voodoo ritual performed in the Kayiman woods which is said to have initiated the slave rebellion against French rule, which was a revolution whose basis was the super-exploited and racialized enslaved proletariat of the island. From the perspective of international scientific socialist and transmodern decolonial communist ethics, the Haitian revolution was much more ethical than anything the Temple of Set ever dideven if we are to accept that the former did involve animal sacrifice and the latter wouldn’t hurt a flybecause it was revolutionary and promoted freedom while the latter was/is a cesspit of fascist U.S. militarist reaction. Certain African and Afro-diasporic artists have appropriated terms commonly associated with “Satanism” in Western thought such as “black magic” and “black mass” to affect decolonization. For example, in the music video to the song “Black Magic Woman”, the Ghanaian singer Azizaa plays up the notion of “black magic” and some of its tropes in a way that is feminist and coloniality-confronting. It is dubious however to suppose that the “path” of revolutionary or afrofuturist “black magicians” such as Dutty Boukman or Sun Ra is one and the same as that taken by imperial militarist or fascist “black magicians” such as Michael Aquino or David Myatt/Anton Long. Their paths could not be more opposite. Furthermore, two people cannot follow the same “path” and arrive at different ends, unless they started at different ends, and in that case one’s left-hand would be the other’s right.

Although it is genuinely possible to detourne “black magic” from connotations of evil as certain artists have succeeded in doing, we will nevertheless put aside the problematic “black is wack, white is right” racial baggage of the “black magic/white magic” distinction from this point forth and use the term black magic in the traditional sense of pertaining to that which is evil, as we move now to analyse bourgeois Net-Centric Warfare as it relates to the black magic worldview of its U.S. militarist, neo-Nazi, Satanist, and bigoted Eurocentrist neo-pagan pioneers and practitioners.

* * *

Many of the constituent concepts of the theory of Net-Centric Warfare can be read as analogues to those which are elaborated upon by self-proclaimed Satanic organizations. To illustrate these striking parallels, which show how the idea of “black magic” as it is understood/explained by Satanic groups meshes almost perfectly with that of “Net-Centric Warfare”, a three-column table is presented below. The first two columns in the table present the terminology used by the Satanic cults known as the “Temple of Set” and the “Order of Nine Angles”. According to religions professor Connell Monette, these are two out of the “three western esoteric groups that are openly aligned with the Left Hand Path” (i.e. black magic) [X], the other being the “Church of Satan” (founded by Anton LaVey in 1966 as the first above ground, openly Satanic organization). Monette’s claim is likely inaccurate (see other groups such as the Satanic Temple, Brotherhood of Satan, etc.though some of these may treat the figure of Satan as “symbolic”), but these are certainly what we might call “the big three”.

As previously alluded to, the Temple of Set split off from the Church of Satan in 1975 when many of its members became disillusioned with LaVeyan Satanism and can thus be seen as its successor, so LaVey’s cult has been omitted from the table. The Order of Nine Angles, meanwhile, is also said to have formed sometime in the 1960s or 1970s in Shropshire, England but takes a more “underground” approach. Its number of adherents is rumored to range anywhere from a handful of people or even a single individual using numerous aliases (David Myatt) all the way to anywhere from 300 to 2,000 people spread throughout the world [Monette, 2014]. Both the Temple of Set and the Order of Nine Angles proclaim themselves to be genuine Satanists, with Aquino stating that the Temple upholds the “actual existence” of Satan and Myatt stating that the Order represents “traditional Satanism”. There are some signs that the Order of Nine Angles was influenced or took inspiration from the Church of Satan; e.g. its name is said to have been appropriated from a text called “Ceremony of Nine Angles” written by Aquino in 1971 when he was a member of the Church of Satan (although the Order claims its name comes “from an aspect of esoteric tradition which existed before [1966]”[X]) and the pen name of the Order’s primary theorist (“Anton Long”) also seems to have been pastiched from the name of Anton LaVey, former head of the Church of Satan.

One of the most fundamental differences between the Temple of Set and the Order of Nine Angles is their approach to public relations. While the Temple, as we have seen, is concerned about maintaining an “ethical reputation” and not portraying itself as evil, the Order actively tries to cultivate an evil reputation. It does this in part by defending human sacrifice as “part of traditional Satanism”. To become a full-fledged “Adept” of the Order, one is expected to partake in what it calls “human culling” to “[remove] the worthless and thus [improve] the stock”. Monette mentions that ONA members are said to have joined police and military forces in seeking out opportunities to kill people and the Order also claims that in 2011, “several images were circulated on the internet of someone in NATO-issued combat fatigues with a NATO-issued weapon and next
to an O9A sigil [in Afghanistan]” [X].

In The Satanic Letters of Stephen Brown: Vol. I—which detail written correspondence between the Order of Nine Angles and the Temple of Set from 1990 to 1992 (in addition to ONA letters to third parties)the ONA criticizes Aquino’s group for instructing its members to disaffiliate from and disavow connections to Satanic groups and individuals advocating human sacrifice (e.g. the Order of Nine Angles) and pedophilia (e.g. the “Ordo Templi Baph-metis” and its magazine Abraxas, which were both under the thumb of a member of the Temple of Set named James Martin). Here the ONA derides Aquino and the Temple of Set as inauthentic Satanists, insufficiently loyal to the genuine “tenets of traditional Satanism” because their policy of public disaffiliation with persons openly calling for sexual abuse and murder constitutes “a code of ethics which members must adhere to”. In a true Satanic organization, the ONA argues, “there is nothing that is restricted or forbidden”.

However, it can also be remarked that the ONA’s literature is similar to that of Aquino’s in that it is riddled with internal contradictions. While human sacrifice and sexual abuse are necessarily permitted under the premise of “nothing is forbidden”, the ONA literature on “culling” nevertheless mentions that “victims [of human sacrifice] can never be children” and “voluntary sacrifices are always male”, thus positing restrictions on the practice [X, pp. 12, 14]. The fact that the ONA generally posits human sacrifice within a eugenics type framework (by virtue of likening it to “culling”) also contradicts the claim that the organization embraces evil, given that the supposed goal here is to improve the human race and do it good by transforming it into a more highly evolved god-race which Myatt calls “Homo Galactica”. The claim of “no restrictions” on individual members of the Satanic cult also disappears when the ONA literature notes that a “group wishing to conduct such a sacrifice with magickal intent must first obtain permission from the Grand Master or Grand Lady Master” [ibid., p. 12].

We also find in the Satanic Letters that in about 1986 or 1987 Aquino was a sent “a copy of a magazine called Ganymede” which had “a reputation in the UK for promoting pedastry and paedophilia” because “Martin had written an article” in the magazine which “was […] along those lines”. After members of the “Setian” priesthood were ordered by Aquino to “interview” James Martin, he resigned from the Temple. (This would have been right at the beginning or middle of the Presidio of San Francisco military base sex scandal in which Aquino was accused of sexually abusing dozens of children.) Additionally, it is explicitly revealed that at least one member of the Temple of Set, identified as “John [REDACTED]” later known by the alias “Richard Saunders or Bro Richard of Shropshire”, had a “working relationship” with the Order of Nine Angles via the “Brotherhood of Balder” (an organization in which he “held dual membership […] whilst a Priest of Set”). The Satanic Letters implicitly suggest a working relationship between the ONA and another (then) member of the Temple of Set, the New Zealand neo-Nazi Kerry Bolton, because in the Letters ONA member “Stephen Brown” (probably David Myatt) is forwarded a copy of and replies to an intra-Temple of Set letter between Bolton and a U.K.-based “David Austen” within a few weeks of it being sent.

Examine below each row from left to right as you observe the parallels between Satanic cult and U.S. militarist jargons.

Net-Centric Warfare as Black Magic:

Similarities in Conceptualization Between Occult Groups and the U.S. Military

Satanic cult jargon

“sacred/esoteric”

U.S. militarist jargon

“profane/exoteric”

Temple of Set

Order of Nine Angles

Net-Centric Warfare

Objective Universe (OU)

  • “the vast expanses of space and the masses of animate and inanimate matter & energy occupying it”
  • “Non-conscious […] phenomena”
Causal World

  • “the ‘physical’ universe described by three spatial dimensions […] and linear time”
  • Being, order, linear, progressive, evolutionary
Physical Domain

  • “the place where the situation the military seeks to influence exists”
  • “where physical platforms and the
    communications networks that connect them reside”
  • “encompasses all the physical actions or stimuli that
    become the agents for the physical and
    psychological effects we seek to create”
Magical Link (ML)

  • “The concept of magic postulates that there is a continuous ‘linkage’
    generally referred to as the Magical Link (ML) – between the OU and [Subjective Universes]. Hence a change occurring in one will have at least a partially similar effect in the other.”
Gate/Nexion or

The Abyss (1)

  • “the region where the ‘acausal’ and the ‘causal’ meet”
  • “The individual is but a nexion: an affective and effective means of synchronicity, of
    Change”
Information Domain

  • “Where information lives”
  • Where “collecting and reporting [of information] to create a shared situation awareness” happens
  • “encompasses all of the means of [translating] a
    cognitive response into physical actions”
Subjective Universe (SU)

  • “the ‘lenses’ or ‘windows’ through which the OU is perceived, assigned
    significance, and interpreted.”
Acausal World/Realm

  • Non-being, chaos, irrational, the Occult, magick
  • the universe (or universes […]) described by an unspecified number of spatial dimensions
    and by non-linear (or acausal) time.
Cognitive Domain

  • “in the minds of the participants”
  • “the place where perceptions, awareness, understanding, beliefs, and values reside”
  • Where “sensemaking [and] decisions are made”
  • “the domain of intangibles”
  • Its internal workings cannot be observed [Smith, p. 386]
Causal aspect

of the acausal world

  • Consciousness, rational thought, science, logic
Observables

  • “parts of the cognitive process” that are “observable”
  • “reflections of the cognitive domain decisionmaking process that occur in the information and physical domains”
The Abyss

  • “the ethereal chasm between that which man can systematize and that which is infinitely beyond the reach of his most advanced mathematical estimates” [X]
The Abyss (2)

  • “a connexion between the individual and the acausal”
  • “separates our everyday consciousness from the consciousness
    (and thus apprehension) of the Dark Gods”
Surveillance Systems

  • “the interface between the cognitive domain and the information
    domain”
  • A connection between the reflections of the cognitive process that are observable and intangible awareness
  • “the means by which a stimulus is recognized and conveyed to a human or to a human organization”
Acausal aspect

of the acausal world

  • Unconsciousness, the unconscious mind
  • “The Dark Gods”
Non-observables

  • “cannot be measured,
    and therefore, cannot provide meaningful
    feedback”
Lesser Black Magic (LBM)

  • “language by which [the Satanist] communicates with and impacts [the Objective Universe]”
  • “the influencing of beings, processes, or objects in the OU by the application of obscure physical or behavioral laws.”
  • “Applied / scientific / manipulative magic”
  • “the magician uses forces and features which are of the OU to accomplish his goal”
External Magick

  • “the use of energies [drawn ‘from the acausal’ via the ‘psyche’], directed by individual desire, to
    bring about changes in the causal”
  • “the changing of external events, circumstances or individuals in accordance with
    the wishes of the sorcerer”
Military Information Support Operations (MISO)

  • physical-information domain penetrating (external meme altering)
  • “an action creates a physical effect that […] crosses into the [information] domain”
Effects-Based Operations” (EBO)

  • a “combination of actions aimed at forming a specific model of behavior among friends, neutral forces, and enemies during peace, crisis, and war”
Greater Black Magic (GBM)

  • “language by which [the Satanist] communicates with and impacts [the Subjective Universe(s)]”
  • “the causing of change to occur in the SU in accordance with the will. This change in the SU may cause a similar and harmonious change in the OU.”
  • “focusing of the will of the creative self to adjust features of the SUs (personal and others’) to the desired state, which may or
    may not be ‘real’ in the OU”
  • “a supra-rational
    experience, not a logical, scientific, or artistic exercise”
  • “Has no purpose other than itself”
Internal Magick

  • “the use of […] energies [drawn ‘from the acausal’ via the ‘psyche’] to bring psychic, internal change”
  • “magick used to bring about personal development (of consciousness and so on)
  • “used to provoke an altered state of consciousness, leading to a process of ‘individuation’”
  • “Always individual”
Medial Black Magic

  • Aims to alter the Objective Universe but via “metaphysical means”i.e. “the [Magical Link]” (as opposed to physical ones, as in “Lesser Black Magic”)
  • “Not as ‘pure’
    as true [Greater Black Magic]”
  • “no calculable cause-and-effect”
Aeonic Magick

  • Aim is “to influence large numbers of people over a long period of time, i.e. it is to influence ‘aeons’, either by altering or distorting existing forces, or creating new ones […] in order to change the evolution of man”
  • “is focused not on the sorcerer or her/his particular aims, but rather on the creating widespread (perhaps memetic) change on a social scale”
  • “enable individuals to
    fulfil their potential, evolve to become like gods and so on. […] the goals are seen as long term – of centuries of more. The aim […] is to increase the number of genuine Satanic Adepts, and to provide changes which enable this.”
Psychological Operations (PSYOP)

  • cognitive-information domain penetrating (internal meme altering)
  • “an action [taken by a state actor after going through a cognitive domain decision-making process] creates a physical effect that somehow crosses into the cognitive domain [of targeted populations], as an indirect effect”
  • Effectiveness can only be calculated, measured, or observed insofar as it is reflected in the physical and information domains
Black Magic

  • “the language by which [the Satanist] communicates with and impacts upon all else”
  • there is “no turning back”
Black Magick

  • “an act of defiance against the restrictions
    imposed by the mediocre and the cowards”
  • practitioners “might bring you to the notice of the Intelligence Services” [X]
Black Operations/Black Ops

  • “Clandestine or covert operations not attributable to the organization carrying them out” [X]
  • Surreptitious: “kept secret, especially because it would not be approved of” [X]
Source:

Michael Aquino, Black Magic (1975-2010).

Sources:

Jacob Christiansen Senholt, The Sinister Tradition (2009).

Anton Long, The Error of Egoism (2011).

Order of Nine Angles, Naos (1989).

Connell Monette, “Ch. 3: The Order of Nine Angles” (2014).

Sources:

Edward Smith, Effects Based Operations (2002).

David Alberts et al., Understanding Information Age Warfare (2001).

As we can see in the table, the dynamics of Net-Centric Warfare are very much akin to those of “black magic”.

Firstly, the framework within which the psychological manipulation/black magic is posited to occur is similar. The elaboration of a trinity of “domains” in Net-Centric Warfare theory corresponds to a trinity of “universes”, “worlds”, or “realms” which are elaborated upon in the literature of the modern Satanic movement. Recall that the Net-Centric Warfare trinity of domains is in actuality a Cartesian duality between the physical domain and the cognitive domain. This dualism is paralleled by the Satanic cults, which call these two domains the “objective universe” or the “causal world” and the “subjective universe” or the “acausal world”. Like Net-Centric Warfare, they also posit some kind of mechanism for the transcendence of these two poles, the two fundamental domains/universes/worlds. In the case of Net-Centric Warfare, this intermediary is the “information domain”, while the Temple of Set refers to a “Magical Link” between the physical domain and the cognitive domain, and the Order of Nine Angles meanwhile calls this interstice the “gate”, “nexion”, or, alternatively, “The Abyss”a Crowleyan trope which has worked its way into the Satanic discourses of late-stage capitalism, along with the related idiomatic phrase “to cross the abyss”.

What is the pertinence of this notion of “crossing the abyss” to Net-Centric Warfare?

The goal of the practitioner of Net-Centric Warfare is to “cross the abyss” between the physical domain and the cognitive domain and vice versa. First, it is the awareness in the cognitive domain of U.S. militarist which acquaints him with knowledge of his will, which is to conserve and expand his physical dominance over the modern imperialist order via the military industrial complex. Then, and still in the cognitive domain, this awareness of his desire/will informs a decision-making process which results in the U.S. militarist selecting the course of action most likely to lead to best rates of non-threatening meme replication. The memes he desires to cultivate are non-threatening to him because they diminish and eradicate awareness in non-militarist cognitive domains of the need to abolish the U.S. war machine and militarism. Thus the will of the militarist crosses the abyss from his cognitive domain into the physical domain when it is enacted through cognitively-determined physical action. It is generally thought that the physical domain tends to influence or determine the cognitive domain to a much greater extent than the latter determines the former, thus with “proper” management of the physical-information domain, where external memes or “e-memes” reside, the cognitive domain of the civilian population can be determined by the will of the U.S. militaristthe consciousness and will of the civilian populace will align with U.S. military interests as the U.S. militarist engineered e-memes cross the abyss and become internal memes or “i-memes” in the civilian cognitive domain.

Mao Tse-tung problematized these dynamics in On Contradiction (1937), where he evoked the impact of the “mental on material things”:

When the superstructure (politics, culture, etc.) obstructs the development of the economic base, political and cultural changes become principal and decisive. Are we going against materialism when we say this? No. The reason is that while we recognize that in the general development of history the material determines the mental and social being determines social consciousness, we also—and indeed must—recognize the reaction of mental on material things, of social consciousness on social being and of the superstructure on the economic base. This does not go against materialism; on the contrary, it avoids mechanical materialism and firmly upholds dialectical materialism.

Crossing the Abyss also happened to be the name of a white supremacist journal written by members of a hate group called the White Order of Thule which was widely circulated in U.S. prisons [Christiansen, p. 40]. The FBI has acknowledged that street and prison-based white supremacist criminal organizations operate in every branch of the U.S. military [X]. Net-Centric Warfare’s revelling in the notion that the socio-economic class configuration of physical dominance can, despite the inherently alienating and revolting character of capitalist society which leads naturally to the persistence “enemy” ideas, perpetuate itself virtually indefinitely through the willed engineering and “force multiplication” of information packages and policing the information “nexion” echoes the theses of Ragnar Redbeard in Might is Right as well as Francis Parker Yockey’s Imperium, pillars of the ultra-reactionary ideological program of the White Order of Thule, publishers of Crossing the Abyss [X].

Next we must examine more closely black magic itself. Both the Satanic cults under study uphold the existence of three different kinds of magic. For Aquino, the first kind is “Lesser Black Magic”, which he basically defines as a person’s ability to manipulate objects, or the objective behaviors of other subjects in the world around them, and doesn’t seem to involve anything particularly supernatural, other than a vague allusion to “obscure physical laws”. The ONA literature refers to that which Aquino calls “Lesser Black Magic” as “External Magick”, and defines it in such a way that the two are virtually indistinguishable from each other. At some point, Aquino likens “Lesser Black Magic” to the phenomenon of reciprocal influence which Freud alluded to above. Thus it is in keeping with the perspective that Satanism is a mere implement, and a universal one at that, rather than evil in and of itself (which he shares with the ONA) that Aquino stakes out the claim that “everyone in the world is practicing [Lesser Black Magic] on everyone else, usually unconsciously and usually extremely unskillfully”.

And it is with clear implications for his MindWar concept that Aquino notes:

[Lesser Black Magic] is also a useful technique in mass situations. The governing principle remains the same: to impel behavior at the subconscious level, to control
people without their realizing how or why they are being controlled.

Here we have Aquino explicitly conceptualizing MindWar/Net-Centric Warfare as a form of black magic. “Lesser Black Magic” or “External Magick” can especially be likened to what U.S. militarists call “Military Information Support Operations (MISO)”, which have in turn been closely associated with the idea of “Psychological Operations (PSYOP)”, although we might distinguish MISO from PSYOP in that MISO implies a lesser degree of “focus upon and glorification of the psyche”, targeting the physical domain and the external information domain (e-memes) as opposed to the cognitive domain and the internal information domain (i-memes).

Also compare Aquino’s description of the applicability of “Lesser Black Magic” to “mass situations” with Smith on “Effects-Based Operations”:

The main content of all “net-centric wars” consists of “effects-based operations” (EBO). This is the most important concept in the entire net-centric warfare theory developed in the US. EBO are defined by US specialists as a “combination of actions aimed at forming a specific model of behavior among friends, neutral forces, and enemies during peace, crisis, and war.”

The second type of black magic according to proponents of Satanic cultism is a more “mystical” type which Aquino calls “Greater Black Magic” and which Myatt calls “Internal Magick”. This is the only “esoteric” cult terminology under study here that does not seem to have a neat corollary in U.S. militarist jargon, although it could be likened to the way in which the soldier introspects after committing war crimes. By not becoming a conscientious objector despite taking part in a mass murdering organization, the soldier’s “subjective universe” or “acausal world” edges closer to “The Abyss” of suicide, now the leading cause of U.S. militarist deaths.

Both the Temple of Set and the Order of Nine Angles also propose a third type of magic which can be likened to PSYOPs in that it synthesizes the concern with the “mystical”, non-observable cognitive domain with the more mundane, “observable” physical domain and focuses on the interplay between them. The Temple of Set calls its third type of magic “Medial Black Magic”; medial in the sense that it is in between the “Lesser” and “Greater” varieties, combining (1) the former’s concern with changing the “objective universe”/“physical domain” in accordance with the Satanist/U.S. militarist’s desire, with (2) the latter’s concern with expanding one’s mind beyond the conventional plebeian’s moral concerns about “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “evil” through Satanic ritual (becoming god-like by extricating one’s own individualist subjectivity from all other collectivism-tinged influences). The ONA’s “Aeonic Magick” is quite similar to “Medial Black Magic” in that it deals with the Satanist’s desire to self-deify or become god-like by influencing the course of human society long beyond one’s own “causal”/“physical”/“objective” lifetime, which involves efforts to “influence large numbers of people” with a long-term timeframe in mind. PSYOPs like the “Message Force Multipliers” do this by promoting memes (i.e. units of information) that, as an ensemble contribute to the construction of a general public perception about the “War on Terror”/“New Thirty Years’ War” that is desirable from the point of view of the bourgeoisie as it seeks to “[alter] or [distort] existing forces” in late-stage capitalist society but also “[create] new ones” which assure the project for the new U.S. militarist “aeon”.

The exaggerated difference of “aeonic” vision between the two Satanic cults parallels that between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in that Aquino is more Clintonian in the way he, on the surface, repudiates openly white supremacist movements and tries to dissociate his cult’s image from Nazism (despite having clearly flirted with it [see Wewelsburg castle incident where Aquino held a Satanic ritual and founded the “Order of the Trapezoid” at the former SS-cult site] and in practice recruited neo-Nazis, like Bolton) and seems more favorable to harnessing the existing force of U.S. neoliberalism with MindWar. On the other hand, the Order of Nine Angles is more Trumpian in the way that it embraces Nazism and the pseudo-“revolutionary” nationalist reaction to “globalism” which pretends that it is a “revolution” to stage a violent coup d’etat in which a reactionary element within the ruling class which favors closed borders and trade protectionism mobilizes mass petit bourgeois disdain against the progressive element of the ruling class which favors open borders and free trade by sublimating the impetus to address the root cause of the disease (discontent caused by the capitalist system) into addressing merely some of the symptoms or consequences of capitalist state management (such as deindustrialization, labor and capital migration flows), thus aiding the cause of counterrevolution by preserving class society. The sublimation of class conflict into a Spengler-inspired culture war between the “Faustian” and “Magian” elements allows figures such as Trump to seem superficially “revolutionary” while in actuality halting revolutionary movement, which is socialist movement from primitive communism back towards communism albeit in a different, advanced form, not fascist movement from liberal capitalism back towards semi-feudalism.

Another memetic correspondence (that’s to say, a similarity in theoretical understanding of mental content) between U.S. militarist discourse and that of neo-Nazi Satanism is revealed in their shared conception of units of information (memes) as living entities which are created after intangible feelings and perceptions render themselves tangible by entering the physical-information domain (in effect, through inter-dimensional travel). As Alberts (2001) argues in Understanding Information Age Warfare that information “lives” in the information domain, so the Order of Nine Angles argues that “once an image or idea is born by magick through the desire of an individual it will, if possessed of sufficient magickal energy at its birth, spread via the acausal to the minds of other individuals and generally becomes a form of living entity”.

Computer scientist and digital culture critic Jaron Lanier (whose work will be revisited below) has challenged this tendency to anthropomorphize information/memes, describing it as characteristic of a group he calls “cybernetic totalists” (perhaps an apt name for Net-Centric Warfare practitioners):

Cybernetic totalists love to think of the stuff as if it were alive and had its own ideas and ambitions. But what if information is inanimate? What if it’s even less than inanimate, a mere artifact of human thought? What if only humans are real, and information is not? [X]

Finally, there is the notion of “black operations” or “black ops” which is key to Net-Centric Warfare and which has an obvious parallel in the term “black magic”. The Satanic discourse of the ONA defines “genuine Black Magick” as “act[s] of defiance against the restrictions imposed by the mediocre and the cowards”. Thus it is no hyperbole to say that U.S. militarists practice black magick when they target U.S. citizens with PSYOP programs in defiance of the legal restrictions against this practice.

Given the apparent compatibility of theoretical models and overlap of personnel between U.S. militarism and the late modern Satanist movement, which parallels the closeness between British colonialism and the rise of the early modern Western esoteric movement in the cultural misappropriation by figures such as Crowley and Blavatsky of aspects of religions and mythologies indigenous to North Africa and South Asia (consider also that David Myatt was born in British colonial Africa), we might question whether, rather than exploring “Net-Centric Warfare as black magic”, it might actually make more sense to interrogate “black magic” as a construct (an engineered meme) of imperialism and U.S. militarism in particular. Here it becomes a question of which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Conclusions

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”

Karl Marx in The German Ideology (1845)

“Developing and leveraging information superiority” by means such as “memetic engineering” and “weaponizing cultural viruses” towards the ends of achieving “information dominance” (i.e. cognitive dominance) are just a few examples of the new idiom spoken the U.S. military industrial complex. This vocabulary has been developed in a conscious effort to refine the same process by which physical dominance via the capitalist state and its constituent “special bodies of armed men” translates into domination of the cognitive domain of subaltern humans by their ruling class “betters” which Marx described one hundred and seventy-one years ago.

Hillary Clinton and the U.S. ruling class support financial investment in Net-Centric Warfare with the expectation of dividends, believing that the forcible penetration of our cognitive apparatuses by a material reality which has been manipulated to impel behaviors favorable to the achievement of U.S. ruling class objectives will generate profit. The same investments have yielded returns such as MindWar, Meme War, PSYOP, and a variety of other right-wing militarist acronyms and buzz phrases. It is only natural that the opponent of imperialist war and militarism would regard these with the utmost suspicion. This wariness might arise not only from the origins of these terms but also from their appropriation by prominent white supremacists such as the Alt-Right and bigoted right-wing conspiracist outlets such as Alex Jones’ InfoWars.

But what if Net-Centric Warfare is, in itself, neutrala weapon or a tool which can be picked up and used for either “noble or ignoble” ends? Is it not tempting to believe that perhaps if the Left were simply to hone its meme-engineering skills and produce the correct meme(s), it/they will catch on, almost like magic? Why couldn’t the Left appropriate it and wage its own net-centric counteroffensive against the abysmal memes of the reactionary cloud?

Unfortunately, the “fittest memes” thrive not because they are more innately suitable to mimicry, but because they emanate from the ruling material force of society, which seeks to dominate all pivotal information-sharing networks. The etymology of the word “meme” implies that memes are, by definition, received ideas. Through mimesis, the status quo (of exploitation founded upon class distinctions) reproduces itself. Innovations to the capitalist system like financialization and globalization serve mimesis because they reproduce capitalism, while communist revolution brings forth authentic innovation in that it does not serve the reproduction of classes and exploitationit entails rupture with these. (Capitalism was itself a memetic innovation on feudalism as opposed to a revolutionary rupture in the real sense, insofar as bourgeois-democratic “revolutions” merely re-configured the dynamics of exploitation by class). What seems innovative in the net-centric approach is on the engineering side of the operation, while the memetic side is imitational. The engineer is the active subject, while the target’s cognitive apparatus is objectified, reducing the mind to a passive physical vessel which becomes infected by outside ideas and units of information (memes), themselves conceptualized as the living entities. The objectified cognitive apparatus is merely the host for the meme subject, which travels via networks.

The preceding exposition of Net-Centric Warfare has revealed that, like black magic, it is orientated towards the internal manipulation of receivers by the emitters/broadcasters. Something about this paradigm does not sit right, and is incompatible with an egalitarian approach which centers on inter-subjectivity. (Although this last formulation may be oxymoronic since inter-subjectivity supposes a multiplicity of centers, lacking thus any intrinsic “center”). Network-centricism, while ostensibly valorizing inter-subjectivity, in fact devalues it, promoting instead an attitude of subject-object manipulation. More precisely, this approach is actually subjectified object-objectified subject manipulation (in that, in the topsy-turvy world of Net-Centric Warfare, information is considered to be “alive” and the targeted cognitive apparatus is considered to be determinable).

These contrastive attitudinal orientations (inter-subjectivity v. subject-object manipulation) correspond to egalitarian and hierarchical modes of thought and behavior. The hierarchical mode of Net-Centric Warfare is witnessed in its arborescent schemathe cognitive domain of the U.S. militarist MindWar technician or PSYOPS engineer represents the underground, occult roots of the “the tree”, whose trunk corresponds to the physical-information domain and is memetically determined by their engineering effort. Branches reach out from the trunk of the tree into the collective cognitive domain of the members of the populace, who are plugged into the network interface of the meme-implanting tree. For Deleuze and Guattari, “All of the logic of the tree is a logic of calque and reproduction […] The tree articulates and organizes calques into a hierarchy, the calques are like the leaves of the tree” [X, p. 20]. (Cf. the “Tree of Wyrd” employed by the Order of Nine Angles, another [ironic] case of calque, a mashup and imitation of the “Septenary” of Theosophy with the “Tree of Life” or Sephirot from Kabbalah which has been altered enough to fit into an anti-Semitic form of mysticism. The Order of Nine Angsty neo-Nazis claims of course to have culturally misappropriated only Judenrein texts and artifacts from “ancient sources that are Hellenic, Arabic, Persian, and Indic” [X, p. 27]). If the tree is hierarchy and “filiation”, then the rhizome is said to represent “alliance” [X, p. 36]. The rhizome concept could thus provide a possible starting point for considering revolutionary alternatives to Net-Centric and Memetic Warfare.

The danger of buying into militarist doctrines like “net-centric operations” and “meme warfare” lies in the implicit worldview bourgeoisification which doing so necessarily entails. The fact that theories of net-centric operations and meme war are presented as objective scientific descriptions of the dynamics of warfighting and not as political arguments per se augments the temptation to adopt these principles. They are, however, anything but neutral. Their implicit promotion of the subject-object (or subject-objectified subject) manipulation attitude is a prime demonstration of this, and a good reason to be wary of them.

Let us recall that, for PSYOP officer Aquino, the idea of MindWar was this: “Essentially you overwhelm your enemy with argument”. And, “[You explain] and [emphasize] to [your] people the rationale for [your] national interest in a specific war”. But what if you didn’t need to present people with arguments to compel them to think or behave according to your wishes? The reality of this possibility is confirmed by computer scientist Jaron Lanier, who writes in You Are Not a Gadget (2010), “We [technologists] tinker with your philosophy by direct manipulation of your cognitive experience, not indirectly, through argument”.

Once you begin to model your thought (and therefore your action) along the lines set out by U.S. militarists, whether you do so using the lexicon of Memetic/Net-Centric Warfare or that of a Satanic cult, you have succumbed to a form of mental colonization not dissimilar to what Lanier calls “the process of lock-in”. Lanier uses this expression to refer to the way in which software transforms the subjective worldview of the programmer into what the user of that software perceives as an objective cyber-world. Lanier compares “the process of lock-in” to “a wave gradually washing over the rulebook of life, culling the ambiguities of flexible thoughts as more and more thought structures are solidified into effectively permanent reality”. Adopting Net-Centric Warfare-esque or memeticist thinking has a similar constricting effect.

The fact that net-centric operationsespecially when considered in the broader sense in which their (pseudo[?]-)demilitarized applications impact ongoing cultural development such as through that series of net-centric operations called the “world wide web”have fomented new and “innovative” forms of fascist reaction (e.g. the meme-centric Alt-Right) cannot be overlooked, and there is something to be said for the argument that the current configuration of this increasingly commercialized network also inclines it towards political reaction.

If we consider the notion of “Web 2.0”, one of the most, if not perhaps the single most increasingly pivotal element of the information domain which Net-Centric Warfare practitioners seek to dominate, as a meta-meme in and of itself, we see that it functions like an operating system which reduces the capacity for critical thought by promoting:

  • (1) the user-generated meme-upvote-downvote construct as the predominant information domain interface which the internet-accessing masses encounter, combining encouragement of reactionism, passivity, and non-creative deferment to the hive mind with the illusion of participatory empowerment,
  • (2) “meme-splicing” as the predominant expressive mode of the middle classes, whose creativity is limited to “second-order expression” (i.e. expression “made of fragmentary reactions to first-order expression” [Lanier, p. 82]),
  • and (3) “memetic engineering” as the reserve of ruling class media moguls, monopolizing “first-order expression” (i.e. the sort of expression which “presents a whole, […] that integrates its own worldview and aesthetic[, and is] genuinely new in the world” [Lanier, p. 82].

The big social media and social networking platforms may be considered higher order, engineered memes, while the user or “community” member, may be considered to engage in meme-splicing when they generate “original” content, in that they connect and weave their micro-meme into the fabric of the pre-existing higher order meme, although one may be hard-pressed to qualify many of the micro-memes as “genuinely new”; each one is simply another post, tweet, update, etc. barely distinguishable from the others. Still, the interface encourages the bulk of user activity to remain passive (lurking, scrolling) and reactive (liking, favoriting, retweeting, upvoting).

Much of Lanier’s previously cited book is dedicated to criticizing “cybernetic totalists”a name he uses to describe “one subculture of technologists [which] has recently become more influential than the others”. According to Lanier, the capital of “cybernetic totalism” is the Silicon Valley, whence was spawned a new “digital culture” whose “central mistake […] is to chop up a network of individuals so finely that [it ends] up with a mush,” lifting up “the abstraction of the network more than the real people who are networked, even though the network by itself is meaningless”.

Lanier also unpacks the quasi-religious, eschatological character of these technologists’ transhumanist belief that the noosphere, the collectively harnessed power of individual human consciousnesses, will one day form an immortal Singularity or that the internet itself will develop its own god-like consciousness, echoing a common theme which we have already covered here.

Furthermore, it is this subculture’s penchant for anonymous trolling and the hive mind concept which leads Lanier to believe that “with millions of people connected through a medium that sometimes brings out their worst tendencies, massive, fascist-style mobs could rise up suddenly”.

Developments in the 2010s have proven that last piece of speculation, about the potentially menacing real world implications of “cybernetic totalism”, somewhat premonitory, such as when misogynistic users of the Web 2.0 platform “4chan” began cheerleading and encouraging mass shootings in 2012 [X]. The year 2016, with the marriage between digital meme culture and neo-Nazism seen in the rise of the Alt-Right to mainstream prominence, also seems to bring us closer to realization of Lanier’s 2010 speculation about embryonic Silicon Valley-inspired fascist mobs.

An antifascist writer by the name of Josephine Armistead provided in mid-2016 a relevant overview and analysis of the roots and emergence of this new breed of Information Age fascism identified with “neo-reaction, or ‘NRx’” as well as the Alt-Right in “The Silicon Ideology” (2016). Armistead concludes the report with the recommendation that “neo-reactionaries must be fought on their own ground (the internet), and with their own tactics”. But given that their tactics include things like “meme magick”, we might take this recommendation, at least in part, with a grain of salt.

Digital meme culture is not particularly conducive to the preeminence of critical thought. If it was, it would not have devolved into far right mysticism. It is rather conducive to the preeminence of calque and imitation. It is a branch sapping from the sickly tree of Net-Centric Warfare. We cannot be sure what or who exactly are at the roots of this tree, though it might well be folks like Michael Aquino and Paul Valley. Hives hang from the branches of this tree. Jaron Lanier is of the belief that “we will only escape” the imitative and second-rate cultural production of the memetic zeitgeist “when we kill the hive”. But what if the whole damn tree is rotten?

Liberation demands that we assault not just the bad “reactionary memes”, but the pseudoscience of memetics itself. The attitude of subject-object manipulation is anathema to revolutionary movement-building. The subaltern force of society will become the ruling one not because a radical hive mind spawned a vanguard cloud of “dank commie memes” which infected the minds of the proletarian masses, nor because it sufficiently “downvoted” reactionary memes, but because it overcame the meme-upvote-downvote construct. The revolution will not be memeticized.

But anyway, here’s a meme:

commiememe

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Together with Russia?

A Critique of the Pro-Sino-Russian “Anti-imperialism” Trend in the USA and Western Europe, or Part I of a response to “Position paper from Red Guards Austin, 2016”

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

17 July 2016

The appearance of new political centers for the advocacy and advancement of Marxian revolutionism in the United States is a good thing. It would, however, be unreasonable to suppose that any one of these centers is infallible, no matter how grounded in the “science” of whatever “-ism” it pretends to be. Revolutionary agitators, organizers, and educators should avoid the pitfalls of sectarianism and provincial-particularism-cum-universalism by remaining open to the ideas emitted by a panoply of political centers (which need not necessarily be constituted by sects), moving in this way towards a decolonial transmodern pluriversalism as an authentic universalism. The potential mass organization of futurity operating on a genuine democratic centralism need not conceptualize its constituent political centers as tentacle-like “branches” sprouting from the sectarian center of one metropolitan province, but as disparate centers, autonomous in and of themselves, which link up, like the social individuals who exercise agency in coming together to take part in the formation of a collective, even though they may not have been previously “related” in the mundane sense.

It is in this spirit of critical open-mindedness that I received some of the criticisms of American left-wing activist groups that a Maoist-oriented organization based in Austin, Texas and calling itself the “Red Guards” after the eponymous Red Guards of 1960s China made in their 2016 position paper “Condemned to Win!”. What follows are some of my reflections on what they put forward in that paper, which serves also as a launch pad to further elaborations.

Allegations of bogus “anti-imperialist” posturing

The author(s) of “Condemned to Win!” see as problematic a trend they identify among the formally organized leftist groups in the United States (and beyond) in the form of a vulgar anti-imperialism which they call “alternative-imperialism”. They argue that one “cannot be an anti-imperialist and at the same time be a running dog for Russian or Chinese imperialism.” Others have argued exactly the opposite. For example, that there is at the present moment no such thing as Russian imperialism and that you cannot oppose imperialism without standing in solidarity with certain key policies of the government of the Russian Federation [X, X]. Before we can evaluate both lines of argumentation about how we are to oppose imperialism and come to a sound conclusion as to which one, if any, is correct, we must first consider what imperialism is, what its essential features are today, and how developments in imperial systems over the course of the last one-hundred years which have passed since the “classical” Marxian theorists first described modern imperialism might change our orientation towards it.

A brief overview of “imperialism” and its development

Human societies have been confronted by something we might call “imperialism” (the system of empire) for thousands of years. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries that a number of political theorists (the “classical” Marxians) began to elaborate analyses of a new form of imperialism that was qualitatively different from that of Imperium Romanum or Manden Kurufaba. Whereas in those ancient and medieval empires, outgrowths of the earliest agricultural class societies, the basic schematic elements of imperialism (the amassing of wealth and privilege by members of one class and/or polity to the detriment of others, combined with an expansionist thrust) could be found in practices of conquest, colonization, enslavement, tribute collection, and vassalage, the arrival of modernity signalled the beginning of a long process of progressively layering new features onto the imperial schema, as well as transforming or discarding some of the old.

While the embryonic capitalism of the first modern empires arising around the 15th century CE preserved many of the trappings of the older class system of feudalism, such as the continued predominance of artisanal and handicraft-type manufacturing, their distinctive novelty was in the emergence of a wealthy and powerful merchant class associated to a large extent with the transatlantic triangular trade.

A middle phase of capitalism seemed to be inaugurated when these empires underwent industrial revolutions and holders of capital in the form of “large-scale machine industry” (prefigured by those plantation-capitalists who made factories out of the land and machines out of human beings) became the principal basis for an imperialist power elite. In this middle phase of empire (safeguarding some of its predecessor’s traits as had its predecessor kept some of those of the system preceding it), factories, mills, and industrialization were concentrated more densely in the imperial “core” or “metropolitan” countries, the objective being to plunder resources and raw material from the “savage” peripheries, refine/assemble/upgrade them into more valuable finished products with “civilized” know-how, and sell them back in the colonies at a profit, fulfilling in this way a little bit of the mission civilisatrice through commodification and exports.

But by the “late stage” of capitalism, which we seem to still be stuck in and which had already begun to take shape by the time the classical analysts of modern imperialism produced their theories, new developments in the financial sector signalled another shift; the financier, the rentier, the investor, the banker, the holder of a more abstract and vertically concentratible form of wealth called finance capital began to supersede the robber baron industrialist of yesteryear as the archetypal representative of the power brokering imperialist class.

It is the superior vertical concentratibility of wealth permitted by financialization which allows modern imperialists, in what would seem a paradox to those of olden days, to “[exploit] inequalities in the world economy” by outsourcing industrial capital to poor (“Third World”) semi-peripheral to peripheral countries—dismantling their factories and mills at the heart of “civilization”, setting up shop in places where labor is sold at a fraction of the cost—and importing the manufactured goods to the core (at an immense rate of profit to the core-based financier, of course). And though the (super)exploitation is palpable, these imperialist profiteers claim to be doing a favor to those neocolonial countries by providing them with “more jobs”. The industrial core becomes the rust-belt, and “hard work pays off” becomes more jobs, more poverty.

It is the topsy-turviness of this stage in which “certain of [capitalism’s] fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites” that Vladimir Lenin identified as being at the essence of modern capitalist imperialism. Another important inversion of capitalism’s fundamental characteristics, one identified by Lenin, is the transition from free competition to monopoly; that is, the lessening of competition, the greater concentration of power in lesser numbers of hands. Ironically, apologists for today’s monopoly capitalism defend this system by barking about mythical “free markets” at the mere insinuation that trust-busting state intervention might threaten to undermine their rate of return investment.

The newest imperialist phase

Lenin described imperialism as the transition from “free competition” to “monopoly” in 1916, one-hundred years ago. To what extent has monopolization progressed since then?

Answering the question of whether or not monopoly capitalism has progressed to such an extent that we face before us now a form of imperialism (call it “unipolar imperialism”) in which Empire is axed around a unique central core—a monopole—centered in the United States, perhaps on Wall Street, is paramount to determining whether or not it is anti-imperialist to rally behind the proverbial barricades of pro-Russian and pro-Chinese forces as they make their stand against American Empire. Clearly the United States played a hegemonic role in world affairs throughout much of the last two (maybe even three) centuries and it has continued to play that role throughout this century. It is the dominant great power in the world today in terms of military, economic, political, and perhaps pop-cultural force… the top dog, so to speak. But is it the only great power capable of contesting international hegemony? The only dog in the fight for monopolization?

In “The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital”, University of Oregon sociology professor and Monthly Review magazine editor John Bellamy Foster identifies three key “classical” Marxian analyses of imperialism: Bukharin’s Imperialism and the World Economy (1916); Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913); and Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916). Foster argues that these analyses “were responses to a period of international instability, marked by the decline of Britain as the hegemonic power in the world economy and the rise of competing nations, particularly Germany and the United States, leading in the ensuing struggles to the First and Second World Wars” [X]. Thus the imperialism which they grappled with was clearly multipolar in nature, emanating from more than one center. Indeed, for Lenin, “an essential feature of imperialism is the rivalry between several great powers in the striving for hegemony”. Lenin also noted that, despite monopolization being a trend towards severely reduced free competition, monopolies nevertheless “do not eliminate [free competition], but exist above it and alongside it, and thereby give rise to a number of very acute, intense antagonisms, frictions and conflicts” [X].

Foster also suggests that there is now a ubiquitous belief among leftists that “the world has entered a new imperialist phase” which “is widely referred to as neoliberal globalization”. Given that many of the theorists of this 21st century phase of imperialism highlight major differences from the classical Marxian theory of imperialism outlined by thinkers like Lenin, key among these differences being the shift from multipolarity to unipolarity, a new name is needed. If “imperialism” was the stage of capitalism described by Lenin in which inter-great power rivalry and conflict was “an essential feature”, and if today capitalism is essentially different in that it has reached a stage where such rivalry is non-existent, giving way in its stead to a unilateral global assault by fascistic Empire, we must give this stage a name to distinguish it from the fundamentally dissimilar stage described by Lenin and other classical Marxians a hundred years ago.

Theories of “super-imperialist” neoliberal globalization

Some (e.g. Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, William Robinson, and Leslie Sklair) see the latest stage of capitalism (neoliberal globalization) as being led by a deterritorialized and/or transnational state entity one might name simply “Empire”; not centered in any one nation-state but represented by multinational corporations and privately contracted security/mercenary/intelligence firms, much of its wealth is hidden away in offshore accounts, only a fraction of which was revealed by the Panama Papers. Foster further relates that Robinson’s idea that “globalization involves a supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of social life under capitalism” is said by Ernesto Screpanti, another 21st century imperialism theorist, to be the approach “that today most nearly replicates the outlook of Kautsky’s ultra-imperialism”. (Kautsky, a German Marxist leader and contemporary of Lenin, forewarned at the beginning of the 20th century of a coming imperialist phase in which “the joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital in place of the mutual rivalries of national finance capitals” would take place. Lenin mocked this theory as “notorious” [ibid] and “ultra-nonsense”).

Others (e.g. Michael Hudson, Peter Gowan, Leo Panitch, and Sam Gindin) make the case that neoliberal globalization represents the ascendency of a quasi-“all powerful” American Empire which dispossesses all other empires. In this analysis, Europe and Japan have become wholly-owned subsidiaries of American Empire. These theorists call the current stage of capitalism “super-imperialism”, a term which Lenin also used a synonym for Kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism.

What both of the theories of neoliberal globalization described above seem to share is their acceptance of “end of history”-style narratives of the post-Cold War era. While the first emphasizes the beginning of inter-imperialist co-operation—the deterritorialized ultra-imperialist Empire is made possible through capitalists’ class conscious realization that transcending the obsolete form of the nation-state will lift impediments on their ability to accumulate wealth via multinational corporations, the second theory posits the end of inter-imperialist conflict through American Empire’s victory over great power rivals Germany and Japan in two world wars, further cemented in place by the apparent defeat of Communism seen in the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, political revolutions and coups in Eastern Europe, the disestablishment of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and the defeat of Central American national liberation movements. Nevertheless, the theory of deterritorialized transnational Empire, although many elements of it resonate, seems, for now, to fit better on the pages of sci-fi books than in objective analyses of the dynamics of imperialism in the present, for who can deny that the division of the world into nation-states continues to be very real and significant? Whoever denies this has surely never travelled across any international border that is not between the US and Canada or outside of the Schengen Zone. Foster’s essay further points to the fact that although the “reach [of multinational corporations] is global[,] their property and their owners have a clear national base”. It is the second theory of neoliberal globalization, that which posits it as the project of a uniquely American “super-imperialism”, that seems to justify the pro-Russian/Chinese position, and which needs unpacked.

 

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SUPEREMPIRE?

Sino-Russian regroupment against neoliberal globalization?

With the exit of the Soviet Union from the world stage, why are the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation increasingly paired in any informed discussion of 21st century global geopolitics? How was this rapprochement possible after the outright disavowal of Marxian ideals by Russia’s post-Soviet political system (ideals which are still paid lip service by the Chinese leadership), given the legacy of the three decades long Sino-Soviet split, born from the Chinese Communist perception that the Soviet Russian Communists were revisionist traitors to the cause, “bent on seeking Soviet-U.S. co-operation for the domination of the world”?

In parallel to the emergence of a new scheme to implement a US expansionist drive on the global level at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st (in large part dependent upon the discovery/construction of NATO’s new raison d’être: “radical Islamism”, perhaps with Russian containment coming in a close second), notoriously outlined by the think tank “Project for the New American Century”, Sino-Russian rapprochement took shape through the foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a political, economic, and military alliance between China, Russia, and several Central Asian states, which is on course to expand and incorporate several other states in the near future, including India and Pakistan as soon as this summer (putting China in the awkward position of being in alliance with a capitalist state’s decades long fight against Maoist rebels), as well as Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia. This realignment of great powers was a sure sign that the predicted era of global unity and long-lasting peace founded on the evolutionary plateau of “liberal free market democracy” heralded by Fukuyama after the disintegration of the Soviet Union was an illusion. Furthermore, the fact that both of these strategic initiatives (the “Project for the New American Century” and the Sino-Russian regroupment) essentially occurred in tandem indicates that, rather than one initiative being purely reactive to the other, the bourgeoisies of each great power were simply following the imperial logic of carrying out the struggle for international hegemony.

Opponents of American “super-imperialism” paint this trend towards regroupment outside the spheres of US-EU-Japanese influence as strictly anti-imperialist. For them, it is a question of nations seeking to liberate themselves from “Dollar Dependency” and “Debt Peonage”. In this perspective, China and Russia are “ex-empires which have taken the political decision to become mutually dependent on each other, […] creating [a] symbiotic relationship.” Brazil and South Africa are posited as potential collaborators with the SCO in a bid to “create a new, dollar-free and independent economy and market” [ibid].

But the ideological basis of this supposed “anti-Empire alliance” has nothing to do with any kind of Marxian class conscious objection to the underlying logic of late stage capitalist development. The “anti-super-imperialists” demonstrate a willingness to overlook the Sino-Russian national bourgeois leadership at the heart of appeals to the possibility of a “dollar-free and independent economy and market” through SCO-led “anti-super-imperialism” as an alternative to neoliberal globalization. The underlying suggestion here is that, with the right balance of power between global bourgeois forces, fairer and freer conditions can be won under capitalism which would put some wind in the sails of the working class movement. These “super-imperialism” analyses posit the national bourgeoisies of Russia and China as classes who unconsciously advance the movement towards socialist revolution.

Even if one does accept the premise that the SCO represents strictly an oppositional bloc to Empire, that is, the theory of “super-imperialism” as the end of inter-imperial rivalry through the arrival of an all-powerful US-led Empire on the world stage, this nevertheless downplays the presence of tension between the United States and its imperial allies and the possibility of rising antagonisms in those relationships. A variety of these antagonisms can be identified: American policymakers have openly discussed plots to “[take] the Saudi out of Arabia”, replacing the House of Saud with “the Hashemite monarchy that now rules Jordan”. Another example would be a leaked phone call that revealed antagonism between the US and EU with regard to the Ukraine conflict, with the Assistant Secretary of State telling the US Ambassador to the Ukraine, “Fuck the EU.”

A modest decline in US imperialism’s ability to enforce policy objectives through brute militarism seems to be evidenced by two key trends. First, there is the fact that another quasi-unilaterally US-implemented “coalition of the willing”-style invasion à la Iraq and Afghanistan seems increasingly unfeasible as it would be incredibly unpopular and likely lead to an undesirable backlash for the US bourgeoisie. Secondly, there are also signs of Europe and Japan emerging as independent imperial militarist centers. Top EU officials have called for the formation an EU military force. German leaders have recently discussed the need to amend their country’s constitution to allow for leeway in military adventures in Iraq [X, X], while Japan has in the last year lifted constitutional restrictions preventing its military from carrying out overseas assaults [X]. The Japanese government is also fostering its own military-academic industrial complex by directing universities to abolish social science and humanities departments and move towards weapons research, including notably weaponized robotics research.

Pro-Sino-Russian revolutionary US defeatism, pan-defeatism, or “neither victory nor defeat”?

For subjects in the heart of American Empire who desire to see the defeat of capitalist neoliberal globalization and the wars and neocolonial occupations that go along with it, it is of paramount importance to determine whether the material dialectic flipside of this equation is the victory of the bourgeois great powers China and Russia.

Important questions must be asked:

  • If revolution is not immediately feasible in the Bible-thumping heartland (much less the liberal-progressive cosmopolitan burgs) of American Empire, will the defeat of the latter at the hands of a Sino-Russian-led alliance facilitate the revolutionary movement in the core?
  • If the ruling capitalists in China and Russia are victorious in facilitating the unhinging of US hegemony, will this accelerate the revolutionary movements in those Eurasian countries?
  • Should socialists in the United States and the European Union hail the Russian social-patriotic defense of the fatherland in Donbass and Lugansk as a historically progressive struggle? And what of the Russian military intervention in Syria, ostensibly on the same side as the US military intervention?

During much of the First World War, Lenin endorsed a policy called “revolutionary defeatism”. Lenin posited revolutionary defeatism as the axiom that “during a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government”. Lenin was careful to explain that this policy of calling for the defeat of the Russian Empire did not imply a desire for “the victory of Germany” as its compliment [ibid]. Instead, it was held that “in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government” [ibid]. Here Lenin presents revolutionary defeatism not as the argument that German victory would be a “less evil” outcome of revolution in Russia throwing a wrench in the country’s war machine than a continued costly struggle for Russian victory and defense of the tsarist fatherland, but that Russian defeat would accelerate the revolutionary movement in Russia, making the defeat-slogan a call to defeat all imperialisms; the transformation of imperialist war into civil war would spread to Germany and “the German victory [would] be short-lived”. It was not a pro-German defeatism, but an anti-imperialist pan-defeatism. If we accept Lenin’s 1915 formulation, that proletarians of “all” imperial core areas must desire the defeat of their own government (implying that in a colonial national liberation war, proletarians do not need to wish for the defeat of their government), the answer to the questions posed above then depends on whether we see modern Russia and China as imperialist in the modern sense, a question which we will return to later.

The idea of “revolutionary defeatism” was not a new one on the Russian political scene when Lenin was writing about it in 1915. A prototype of the call for “revolutionary defeatism” was deployed by Russian revolutionaries a decade earlier, during the inter-imperialist Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. In that earlier instance however, Lenin’s explanation of what revolutionary defeatism entailed was quite different from the one he offered during the First World War. While, during the First World War, Lenin tried to distance the notion of revolutionary defeatism from formulations that “[put] the question in the form of a choice between military outcomes on the government plane”, Hal Draper argues in The Myth of Lenin’s “Revolutionary Defeatism” (1953) that Lenin was in fact guilty of doing exactly this as he deployed a lesser evilist line of argumentation for defeatism that glamorized Japanese imperialism as a progressive force during the Russo-Japanese War. Draper further shows that Soviet (Stalinist) historiography covered up this inconsistency between Lenin’s early pro-enemy nation defeatism and later pan-defeatism out of embarrassment. (Lesser evilist, pro-enemy nation defeatism being considered an error—Lenin and Trotsky split on the question of the defeat-slogan during the First World War with Lenin criticizing Trotsky’s characterization of Russian defeatism as implying a desire for German victory, a difference which the supporters of Stalin were keen to play up in an effort to discredit Trotsky as thoroughly un-Marxist-Leninist). Draper’s book makes the case that Lenin actually abandoned slogans of revolutionary defeatism after returning from exile in Switzerland after the February Revolution (in March 1917) and realizing that it was too “theoretical” and out of touch with the common people of Russia, many of whom were not chauvinistic “social patriots” but had “defensist sentiments” out of an instinctual desire to defend their country from oppression; they “[accepted] the war only as a necessity and not as an excuse for making conquests” [Lenin].

Draper points to the fact that during the 1904-1905 war, “pro-Japanism in the sense of desiring the victory of Japanese imperialism but also in the sense of ‘idealizing’ Japan as a progressive force” was commonly associated with the policy of revolutionary defeatism. He explains that “a ‘desire for defeat’, tended to merge this sentiment into its obvious consequence: a wish for the victory of Japan”. It is in an article written by Lenin in 1905, after the surprise attack on the Russian naval fleet in Manchuria, “The Fall of Port Arthur”, where he exhibits most strongly the pro-enemy nation essence of his formula for revolutionary defeatism at that time. But what was the basis for this Japanophilia?

In “The Fall of Port Arthur”, Lenin writes, “Advancing, progressive Asia has dealt backward and reactionary Europe an irreparable blow.” At that time, the Empire of Japan was undergoing rapid industrialization and modernization, developing free market capitalism following the end of sakoku isolationism. Japan was a constitutional monarchy with a House of Representatives while Russia was a semi-feudal absolutist dictatorship with no constitutional law.

Key to Lenin’s enthusiasm here for the “advancing” and “progressive” character of Japanese imperialism was the notion that Japan was at a higher stage of social development than Russia. Lenin rebuked his contemporaries who argued “that a socialist could only be in favour of a workers’ Japan, a people’s Japan, and not of a bourgeois Japan” because, this, he argued, “is as absurd as blaming a socialist for admitting the progressive nature of the free-trade bourgeoisie as compared with the protectionist bourgeoisie”.

Lenin reiterates this point several times over:

“The proletariat is hostile to every bourgeoisie and to all manifestations of the bourgeois system, but this hostility does not relieve it of the duty of distinguishing between the historically progressive and the reactionary representatives of the bourgeoisie.”

And,

“While struggling against free competition, we cannot, however, forget its progressive character in comparison with the semi-feudal system. While struggling against every war and every bourgeoisie, we must draw a clear line in our agitational work between the progressive bourgeoisie and the feudal autocracy; we must recognise the great revolutionary role of the historic war in which the Russian worker is an involuntary participant.”

If we transpose this formula for revolutionary defeatism by the progressive power which states that, when conflict arises between two bourgeois great powers, the bourgeoisie of the more socially advanced nation plays a revolutionary role in dragging forward the bourgeoisie of the backwards nation, then the 21st century “anti-imperialist” enthusiasm for the “progressiveness” of the national bourgeoisies of China and Russia quickly loses steam, because, in the Leninist schema for stages of economic development, monopoly-finance capitalism is a progressive outgrowth of free competition under industrial capitalism. If, in 1905, capitalist, constitutional Japan was more advanced than semi-feudal, autocratic Russia, then it follows that today the measure of a great power’s progressiveness is the degree to which it has developed socially by transitioning via financialization from the more primitive system of nation-state-based industrial capitalism to the “higher”, more “civilized” system of free transnational trade: neoliberal globalization.

A proponent of this view might argue that the neoliberal austerity measures implemented across the Global North in recent years are progressive in that, in globalizing poverty, cutting the social benefits/privileges found only in the wealthy countries, and dismantling the welfare states whose construction was only possible with Marshall Plan imperialist superprofits, they reduce the inflated living standards of the labor aristocratic imperial core middle class and professionalized workers and their excessive consumerism run amok. By polarizing the rich-poor divide in wealthy countries and rendering the petit bourgeois downwardly mobile (proletarianizing them), as well as trending towards multiculturalism, the revindication of postcolonial centripetal migrations of labor as a path to reparations, and the dissolution of the nation-state system, neoliberal globalization sets the stage for a globalized class struggle, wherein a super-rich global ruling class and a global poor face off in struggle relatively freed up from the hindrances of national division.

While the old school Marxian theorists supposed that it would be the working class socialist movement which would carry out the task of establishing “the future union of peoples in a single world economic system, which is the material basis for the victory of world socialism” [Stalin], neoliberal globalization confronts us with the possibility that this system may be brought about not by proletarian revolution but by bourgeois-globalist revolution. This is what makes neoliberal globalization, as opposed to neoconservative protectionist isolationism, progressive from the scientific perspective.

Proponents of “pro-Russian anti-imperialism” base their argument for the progressiveness of the defeat of American imperialist machinations as a whole or partial result of the strategic initiatives of the Russian bourgeoisie on the denial of Russia being imperialist. For proponents of this position, as we shall examine more closely in sections below, Russia is a non-imperialist capitalist power not because it has advanced to a higher stage of development than US capitalism, but precisely the opposite: because it is at a lower stage; privatization has not progressed as far as in the West (much of its industrial capital is state-owned) and its economy is not as financialized as that of the US. And since it is assumed that Lenin’s conclusion that it is only in imperialist countries that socialists must subscribe to defeatism is a scientific axiom, it is therefore thoroughly un-socialist to desire the defeat of capitalist, underdeveloped Russia. But if we accept the kind of pro-enemy nation defeatism espoused by Lenin during the Russo-Japanese War and its accompanying lesser evilist proposition that scientific socialists must admit “the progressive nature of the free-trade bourgeoisie as compared with the protectionist bourgeoisie”, then one is forced to uphold the American bourgeoisie as progressive as compared with the backwards Russian bourgeoisie. While the American bourgeoisie is leading negotiations for significant new free trade measures such as the TPP and T-TIP, the Russian bourgeoisie and its satellite bourgeoisies in Belarus and Kazakhstan are the most protectionist in the world [X, X]. Other SCO states, including China and India, are also world leaders in protectionism [X].

Take a step back from this economism and, on the cultural plane, the outlook for a “pro-(Sino-)Russian anti-imperialism” is not much better. Although critiques of “pink imperialism” accurately point out the shamelessness of imperial recuperation of the struggle for LGBTQIA+ liberation and the absurdity in the idea that rights for gays will come to Afghanistan via American drone campaigns, reactionary outbursts against “Gayropa” from the Russian state and Orthodox and fundamentalist Christians do not under any circumstances lend themselves to progressiveness. Western “pro-Russian anti-imperialist” lefts seem blissfully unaware, or just don’t care, that their counterparts in the East base a significant part of their case against integration into neoliberal globalization on socially conservative arguments against a culturally decadent West. In Eastern European states torn between US/EU and Russian great powers, it is the Soviet nostalgic pro-Russian “socialists” who propose laws to, in their own words, “do everything possible to stop propagation of homosexuality and the destruction of Christian values and the traditional family” [X, X].

Nevertheless, it does seem that, in slowly backing away, at first from the pro-“progressive enemy” and quasi-two-stagist narrative of revolutionary defeatism as the triumph of modern bourgeois-democratic liberal capitalist imperialism over outmoded semi-feudal autocratic capitalist imperialism in the Russo-Japanese War to the pan-defeatist calls for simultaneous revolutions in Germany and Russia (and all state participants in the inter-imperialist conflict) during the First World War, and then away from defeatism tout court after the bourgeois-democratic February Revolution to an appreciation of the “‘conscientious’ revolutionary-defensism” of the Russian masses, Lenin discretely abandoned the defeatist formula because it had become a roadblock to revolution.

So is it this “revolutionary defensist” path which allows us to transcend the binary trap of “victory or defeat” which implicitly excludes the possibility of working class leadership in its formulation of inter-capitalist conflict as a sadistic restaurant of mass slaughter where the only items on the menu are those outcomes offered by bourgeois governments? Only if the addition of a transcendental “third way” was somehow enough to everytime set us free from the trap of binary thinking. Alas, we have merely shifted to another duality: “victory or defeat” or “neither victory or defeat”. What is clear is that revolutionaries must blaze their own trails.

In the words of the cat-dog:

“All categorical options are a trap. There are not only two paths, just as there are not just two colors, two sexes, or two beliefs. The answer is neither here nor there. It is better to make a new path that goes where one wants to go.”

The anti-austerity fightback attempts to apply a kind of revolutionary defensism of social benefits and public services under attack, though its successes seem to be relatively few and far between. But this kind of defensism, if it is not principled, can easily slip into chauvinism, e.g. from defending the right to a job to the “right” to defend against an immigrant competing for a job.

Revolutionaries within US Empire must assess to what extent the masses sincerely accept the “War on Terror” and its next phase which US military policymakers call “The New Thirty Years’ War” as a necessary evil—some kind of just war—and not just a cynical “excuse for making conquests”, before calculating how effective defeatist-sloganeering might be. Certainly the effects of sustained mass hysteria following 11 September 2001 must be considered. Broadcasting Twin Tower collapses on repeat was a powerful trigger for defensive instincts and amplifying perceptions of an oppressive Axis of Evil “hating us for our freedom”, but its effect may be wearing off. If such sincere defensism does still exist on a mass scale, the defeatist slogan may prove counterproductive to anti-imperialist mobilization. On the other hand, if defensism has become largely insincere, with young people joining the US military for its promises of career advancement and the chance to “see the world”, all while basically knowing full well that it is fighting for imperial hegemony and hydrocarbon conquest, then perhaps embracing desire for defeat still has its place. In that case, it is important to articulate who—what social forces—will defeat US militarism and global economic exploitation: Sino-Russian capitalists leading a new economic bloc against “Dollar Dependency” and “Debt Peonage”, low-class Westerners leading a struggle against capitalism, a combination of the two? If we opt for the first or the third, we must ask whether socialist struggle in China and Russia to defeat those nations’ bourgeoisies parallel to the low-class Westerners’ struggle undermines the SCO economic project.

Revolutionaries in Russia and China, meanwhile, are advised to determine to what extent NATO’s geostrategic war games and containment policies foster genuine sentiments of oppression among the masses there. In those places it might also be considered to what extent scaremongering about the decadence of Western culture can also be used to project class antagonism between the workers and the national and comprador bourgeoisies within those countries externally. If Russian and Chinese proletarian comrades come to the conclusion that they are indeed at the butt end of a super-imperialism, then they must determine whether antagonism and strife between them and their patriotic national bourgeoisies undermines the struggle against super-imperialism.

But it must also be clarified whether a non-super-imperialist country can still be imperialist in the sense of a lower stage of imperialism; for the Old Bolsheviks certainly did not negate in their scientific analysis that the underdeveloped Russia of 1905 was imperialist, even if it was a semi-feudal imperialism, qualitatively different from the higher stage imperialism of Japan. The Chinese and Russian revolutions, though they failed to bring about a socialist world, did fulfill the development tasks of the “bourgeois-democratic” revolution in their countries (i.e., they are no longer “semi-feudal” to any significant degree; the veneer of “socialism” was used to build monopolies through state ownership of industry).

Thus it is the supposition of “super-imperialism” (again, that is unipolar globalist imperialism—unforetold by the classical Marxians but by Kautsky) as marking a revolutionary new stage of capitalism that begs the question of whether the socialist revolution in countries poorly integrated into the super-imperial globalized system no longer faces before it the “simple” task of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and instauring the socialist stage of development, but must also carry out the task of the bourgeois-globalist revolution before it can move on to the socialist and communist stages. It is this suggestion, that a unique and new historical stage of development has been reached, or is being reached by something we must call bourgeois-globalist revolution, where the revolutionary class is the transnational bourgeoisie who grows class consciousness, attacks and overthrows the reactionary national bourgeoisies and which sheds the old imperialism of its essential feature of inter-great power imperialist rivalry, which justifies the characterization of China and Russia as backwards (non-imperialist) countries. The thesis of neoliberal globalization as unipolar super-imperialism negates the old school Marxian idea that the union of peoples into a single world economic system “can only be voluntary, arising on the basis of mutual confidence and fraternal relations among peoples”. The decolonization wave of the 1960s did indeed “lead to the crisis of world capitalism” [ibid], but capitalism managed to survive this crisis by initiating the bourgeois-globalist revolution of neoliberalism, instauring a neocolonialism which seems immune to the old school national liberation movements.

The confusion of “pro-Sino-Russian anti-imperialism” is in the fact that it is reactionary against the bourgeois-globalist revolution for the wrong reasons. It opposes the globalist half of the revolution but embraces the bourgeois half. This is inherently and doubly un-socialist because the socialist revolution is, if not globalist, not socialist. Socialist revolution in the 21st century must carry out, in addition to the expropriation of the means of production, certain tasks of the bourgeois-globalist revolution associated with “supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of social life under capitalism” (e.g. removal of barriers to free movement of labor [passport privilege], removal of protections which sustain inequality between countries). Socialist revolution cannot and will not be led on by nationalist and protectionist bourgeois forces.

Towards a sharper critique of masquerading “anti-imperialism”

Now let us go back to the allegation of the Red Guards Austin introduced at the beginning of this essay that a trend exists among certain Western leftists to substitute opposition to American imperialism with support for alternative imperialist projects, namely Russian and Chinese.

There are varying degrees to which this trend is realized. In its mild form, opposition to imperialism downplays the imperialist ambitions (if not outright real imperialistic actions) of foreign capitalist polities engaged in self-interested resistance to the ongoing process of US-led neoliberal globalization. In its severe form, opposition to imperialism is essentially reduced to cheerleading what we might call, if not imperialist, petit-imperialist and aspiring-imperialist forces who are engaged in contests for international hegemony not with the aim to abolish exploitation or liberate countries from neocolonial subjugation, but to increase their own competitivity in global markets. No matter the severity, at the heart of this tendency is the substitution of principled revolutionary opposition to all imperialism (not only “super-imperialism”) with opportunistic enthusiasm for the weakening of one country’s imperialism at the hands of powerful capitalists from another, or a powerful coalition of capitalists from multiple others.

Vulgar anti-imperialism (anti-super-imperialism) is akin to championing the plight of mom ’n’ pop shopkeepers displaced by Wal-Mart, calling it anti-capitalism, and accusing any worker who criticizes their small business boss of being a Wal-Mart PR Rep or an ultra-leftist unwittingly undermining solidarity with the enemy against the bigger enemy. Vulgar anti-imperialism is the projection of the petit-bourgeois populism of “Main Street versus Wall Street” or “the super-rich 1% (billionaires) versus the 99% (including ‘middle class’ multi-millionaires)” onto a global scale.

A number of would-be “anti-imperialists” have appeared out of the woodwork in recent months and years to weave twisted defenses of 21st century Great-Russian “social patriotism” [X, X, X, X]. These polemics are no doubt reactionary outbursts to geopolitical developments which point towards the re-emergence of Russia as a great power in inter-capitalist competition following the brief disorientation triggered by Soviet collapse: namely, the Russian Federation’s decisions to annex the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 (first colonized by the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century and home to a strategically located Russian naval base) and to intervene militarily in Syria (also home to a strategically located Russian naval base [X]) in 2015 (still ongoing). These confused would-be opponents of imperialism deny that spacefaring, nuclear warhead-armed, expansionist [X] polities like the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are highly advanced capitalist states, claiming that they have not yet developed monopolistic capitalism.

What happens when you discard the fact of monopoly capitalism’s essential multipolarity: the tragic case of the “hardcore anti-Germans”

An apt comparison might be made between this anti-Americanism cum anti-imperialism and a heterogenous political identity claimed by some radicals leftists in Germany known as Antideutsch (“anti-Germans”). The anti-Germans argue that German national identity has been so tainted by the legacy of the Holocaust and Nazism and that it stands as a barrier to internationalism and the struggle against capitalism. They reject the notion that the left can “rely on the German working-classes”, the vast majority of whom harbor “a deep authoritarian disposition”. One anti-German group calling itself sinistra! explains the tendency as “a radicalization of anti-national theory” whose roots go back to the First World War, when Karl Liebknecht remarked that “the most dangerous enemy is to be found in your own country”.

Where anti-Germans stand out from much of the left is in their self-declared solidarity with the state of Israel and their prioritization of the critique of antisemitism masked in anti-Zionism. But where the tendency really veers away from the vast majority of what we conceptualize as “the left” is in their embrace of Americanism. Like with the “anti-American/pro-Russian anti-imperialists”, this embrace of the “enemy” varies in degree from group to group. It is said that “all anti-Germans […] denounce anti-Americanism” because of the German heritage of Nazi resentment at American and Allied troops (and not the German left) preventing the full realization of the Final Solution which they allege occupies the core of much of Germany’s anti-Americanism.

The embrace of the myth of the “progressive enemy” in its more severe form described by the anti-German sinistra! group is not pretty:

“[S]ome anti-German groups (often referred to as ‘hardcore anti-Germans’, although this term might be quite misleading) made it a point to celebrate every single move in American foreign politics in the past and present. Instead of just giving the US credit for the major role they’ve played in defeating Nazi-Germany in World War 2 and thereby putting an end to the holocaust, these groups are drawing close similarities between WW 2 and the “War on Terror”. By this they are putting the reactionary and anti-Semitic regimes in the so called Islamic world on one level with the Nazis. This is not only a serious minimization of the nazi era and the holocaust, but also a violation of the (radicalized) categorical imperative of Karl Liebknecht, that the main enemy is one’s “own country”. These anti-Germans see themselves on the side of civilization and declare Islam their main target instead of Germany.”

Like the “hardcore anti-Germans”, the “hardcore anti-American imperialist” tendency makes the error of discarding the essential multipolarity of imperialism. Further, Liebknecht wasn’t calling for the defeat of German Empire at the hands of Russian and American imperialisms, but by a revolutionary social movement led by its own working class.

Coupling Liebknecht’s axiom with the acceptance of the unipolarity of imperialism leads to lesser evilist thinking: “If, as an American, my enemy is my ruling class, then it’s good if the Russian ruling class hurts my ruling class. If Russians of the subaltern sort get fed up with their government’s participation in wars in the Ukraine and Syria and form an anti-war movement that leads to decline in Russian influence there, then Ukraine will join NATO and turn away from Russian/SCO protectionist capitalism and Syria will undergo regime change, and that’s what my enemies at home want so that’s bad.” The moment you accept this lesser evilism, you begin to look to the Russian ruling elites as your friends instead of the common people of Russia. Taken to its extreme, this “hardcore” tendency to make saviors out of perceived foreign enemies can lead to even more cringeworthy iterations than “pro-Russian anti-imperialism”. Some would-be leftists in the West apply the same faulty way of thinking to extend “critical support” to ISIS as an enemy of US imperialism [X]. Sometimes this phenomenon even works in reverse, such as when American white supremacists managed to receive official DPRK sponsorship for their self-declared support and solidarity for the besieged North Korean state [X].

The Liebknechtian “enemy at home” theme of anti-Americanism can soon be forgotten when one begins to accept the idea that American imperialism is the only imperialism in the world today. Focus is displaced in the same way that the “hardcore anti-Germans”, in their unthinking embrace of Americanism, forgot that Germany was supposed to be their main enemy. By assimilating the American ruling class point of view, they began to view America’s main enemy du jour, “radical Islam”, as their main enemy. The same process of displacement and forgetting occurs with the “pro-Russian anti-imperialism” variety of anti-Americanism. When one adopts this attitude, one begins to see the cohesion of the “most realistic” social force for the defeat of US imperialist machinations (i.e., Sino-Russian/SCO-led capitalism) as more essential than organizing or mobilizing in one’s own Western community, where the people are too brainwashed, unreliable, holding a deeply reactionary disposition. Whenever one adopts any sort of “pro-enemy” anti-imperialism, there is a real danger that the struggle against the enemy at home is displaced by prioritizing the struggle against “the enemy’s enemies” wherever they are, often leading to cheerleading because those enemies are physically nowhere near the “anti-imperialist” living in the heart of Empire. The pro-Russian Westerner begins to spend more time sharing Russia Today articles, complaining about Pussy Riot psyops, and speculating about the collapse of the dollar as the world reserve currency, than he does organizing and mobilizing to defeat empire at home. And even if he does take this step, it is to organize a pro-Russian micro-sect whose members’ activity are directed to amplifying the cheerleading he would otherwise do individually. He begins to fret as much about Ukrainian enemies as American ones, if not more.

Russian monopoly-finance capital

The majority of the “anti-imperialists” we have been discussing here bank their thesis of (Sino-)Russian non-imperialism on the presence of lower levels of finance capital found in countries like Russia (and China) relative to countries like the United States, France, Britain, and Japan. They argue that finance capital does not dominate the Russian economy in the same way that it does in these other countries, and therefore it is not imperialist.

But here they have abstracted one essential feature of imperialism outlined by Lenin (the importance of finance capital’s role) from the synergetic whole and discarded the equally essential notion that imperialistic monopolization can never totally eliminate competition. Although imperialism’s monopolization and elimination of free competition is not equivalent to the implementation of centralized economic planning, the latter was used to varying degrees to modernize Russian and Chinese imperialisms. Indeed, as we have seen, the supposition of a super-imperialist elimination of all imperialist competition requires adjustments to old school Marxian theory; it requires admittance of a new stage of development unforeseen by most of the classical Marxian scientific social theorists. In other words, supposition that Russia and China’s successful bourgeois-democratic and failed socialist revolutions during the 20th century have not pretty much brought them up to speed with the rest of the imperialist world only makes sense in the case that the rest of the imperial great powers have entered, and are already quite advanced in, a new revolutionary period; namely, the idea that neoliberal globalization is in fact a bourgeois-globalist revolution. On the other hand, the Sino-Russian rapprochement and its expansionist policy to incorporate the South Asian subcontinent into its own almost demi-global economic bloc shows that there are now two great camps vying for hegemony to carry out the bourgeois-globalist revolution according to their own interests. Within each camp there are antagonisms too innumerable to cover here.

The other problem with the “not enough finance capital in Russia and China for them to be true imperialists” argument is that this ignores the vast discrepancy between the levels of finance capital in Russia and China relative to the smaller sovereignties whose territories fall within the Russian and Chinese traditional imperial spheres of influence, which date from the pre-capitalist period.

Before looking at the inequalities between China and Russia and their supposedly “ex-”imperial spheres of influence, it is important to iterate the notion of continuity between semi-feudal, national capitalist, and globalist capitalist imperialisms, including the American and Western European empires. It is certainly no coincidence that pre-capitalist empires have a tendency to become monopoly-finance capital empires. Russia and China are no different in that Russian and Chinese “socialist” dominion over what were once semi-feudal empires evidences both a lack of true socialist commitment to unification of peoples on a voluntary basis as well as continuity between imperialisms. Bourgeois-democratic modernization under the veneer of “socialism” allowed 20th century Russian and Chinese nationalists, many/most of whom likely genuinely thought they were Communists, to save their backwards semi-feudal empires from being transformed into colonies of the more advanced empires by reversing the order of the Western recipe for modernization by implementing nationalization-cum-monopolization before and in parallel to industrialization. (In other words, free competition was ended in order to accelerate development to a level which would increase competitivity vis-a-vis other monopoly capitalisms).

One “anti-imperialist” analyst and apologist for Great-Russian chauvinism identifies a group of countries “very poor in finance capital” among which are categorized Russia and “most of the Eastern European countries”, as if the Russian Federation were on equal finance capital footing with the Republic of Moldova, when in that country 70% of the banking sector is controlled by Russian capitalists. It was in Moldova, said to be the poorest country in Europe, that a scandal dubbed “the theft of the century” unraveled last year in which a sum equivalent to one-eighth of the country’s GDP (about one billion USD) was apparently syphoned off to a pro-Russian politician. To give an idea of the scope of this neocolonialist robbery, this would have been proportionately equivalent to over 262 billion USD “disappearing” from Russian banks and funneled to a foreign country.

“One can only conclude that foreign investment, far from being an outlet for domestically generated surplus, is a most efficient device for transferring surplus generated abroad to the investing country.” – Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy in “Obstacles to Economic Development”

The migrant flow from Moldova to Russia also resembles that seen in other neocolonial-type relationships, such as that between Mexico and the United States. It is said that “foreign remittances constitute 30 percent of [Moldova’s] GDP – ‘and 60 to 65 percent of these remittances come from Russia’”. In recent years, Russia has used denial of entry to Moldovan migrants as a means of economic sanction and intimidation to deter Moldova from opening up to trade with the West [ibid].

The intermediary strength of Russian capitalist imperialism is apparent here. Russian finance capital does not dominate globally to the extent of US capital, but it is clear that it plays a petit-imperialist role in regional markets. To deny this would be to paint the relationship between Russia and countries like Moldova as one in which each party comes to the table as an equal, overlooking the inequalities of this nested financial core and periphery relation existing semi-independently of the global core-periphery schema. Middle countries like Russia and China are not at the vanguard of neoliberal globalization, nor however are their throats under the jackboot of it. They do have some aspects that could be characterized as semi-neocolonial; for example, the exploitation of Chinese workers by American corporations like Apple, which takes more than 98% of the profit for each iPhone assembled in China [Foster], but they are nevertheless capitalist great powers whose ruling bourgeois cliques’ class character is more patriotic nationalist than comprador. The simultaneous appearance of semi-neocolonial aspects does not negate the monopoly type relationship between the banking sectors of countries like Russia and Moldova or perhaps China and North Korea or the imperialist logic behind SCO bids to unseat US hegemony or at the least prevent US encroachment into their spheres of influence. They are simply less developed, poorer great powers, but imperialist nonetheless.

We can already anticipate what the apologists for petit-imperialism will retort to such facts: this imperialism “doesn’t count” because Moldova is a former Soviet republic that had previously been annexed by the Russian Empire after a semi-feudal inter-imperialist (and therefore not really imperialist) war between the Ottoman and Russian Empires; there are a lot of Russian settler-colonizer descendants there; and US/NATO/EU imperialism is bigger and badder; and therefore countries colonized by Russia should keep adhering to Russian capitalism. But this is exactly what makes “alternative-imperialism” an apt name for this position. The authors of “Condemned to Win!” are right to declare, “You cannot be an anti-imperialist and at the same time be a running dog for Russian or Chinese imperialism.”

The binary political thinking of vulgar “anti-imperialism”, an international analogue to domestic lesser evilism in the two-party system

The illusion-sowing and myopic opportunism of Westerners who deploy “‘pro-enemy’ anti-imperialist” analysis of foreign affairs is mirrored in their countries’ domestic politics. It must be understood how and why lesser evilism drives reactionary approaches both abroad and at home.

We can observe the fundamental similarity of these two lesser evilisms by continuing briefly the case study of Moldova introduced above, where, much like in eastern Ukraine, the “Party of Socialists” engages in pro-Russianism, based more on nostalgia for the Soviet era than on any genuine will to build socialism, by using as its slogan, “Together with Russia!”. Together with capitalist Russia, together with undocumented migrant-exploiting Russia. Thus in Eastern European countries Democrats and Republicans find their analogues in pro-Westerner and pro-Russian political camps. The difference between “Together with Russia!” and “Together with Europe!” is as palpable as “I’m with Her!” and “Make America Great Again!”.

togetherwithrussia

“Party of Socialists – Together with Russia!” (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Let us take as another example the case of NATO intervention in Libya in 2011. Certain sections within America’s organized Left moved beyond agitating to arouse opposition to US-led NATO intervention, into the pitiful realm of attempting to arouse admiration for the Libyan Jamahiriya, the “state of masses” and land of universal health-care, vast sums of free money, and direct democracy as a legitimate and “actually-existing” form of socialism. This push to switch and/or pair opposition to US imperialism with support for the Islamist “socialist” ideology concocted by Muammar Gaddafi in The Green Book [X] is mirrored in the attempts of the organized US Left to switch and/or pair opposition to that edifice of the US bourgeoisie’s class dictatorship known as the two-party system with support for the pseudo-anticapitalist Green Party of Jill Stein and Cynthia McKinney, in whose personnage we see perhaps most clearly the rapprochement between Green political movements of the Islamic “socialist” and environmentalist varieties. (Note that voting for an evil third party does not constitute a break with lesser evilism).

Opportunistic adhesion to “actually-existing socialism” abroad (which places the political center “out there” to the detriment of emerging political centers “over here”)—whether it’s in the form of shrieking defensively about the the “state of the of the masses” in Libya, the “socialist state control of industry” in secular Arab national “socialist” Ba’athist Syria (the same state that agreed to systematically torture people on behalf of the CIA “in a gesture of goodwill towards the United States”), or the world’s youngest “Red-Brown” coalition-based “people’s republics” in Donbass and Lugansk—follows the same logic which leads too many left-wing activists in the US to rally behind (without voicing much, if any, criticism) the “actually-existing movement for political revolution” in the US, even though this movement remains firmly opposed to social revolution with weak sauce ideologues like Bernie Sanders, Robert “Saving Capitalism” Reich, and Jill Stein at the helm.

When this part of the US left forces do finally arrive at the call for a bourgeois (Green) break with the two-party system, it’s only after they abandon Wall Street’s left wing and graveyard of social movements, the Democratic Party, with great reluctance. Even into July 2016, some “socialist” two-party system critics still had such hyped-up levels of delusion in the “progressiveness” of elements of the Democratic Party that they were still openly discussing the possibility that Bernie Sanders would break from the Democrats to run as a Green Party candidate, even though he announced many times his intention to support Hillary Clinton.

At home and abroad, work with bourgeois forces competing to implement their mildly differing imperialist visions of capitalist globalization, some a little more protectionist, some a little more neoliberal. These are the courses of action, the arguments go, that will “advance the working class movement”; because by tossing another big-contender reformist pro-capitalist party in the electoral mix, you pave the way for a revolutionary mass party of the working class, and by deluding yourself into believing that Bush-Cheney C.I.A. torture infrastructure was partially socialist, you pave the way for the final annihilation of monopoly capitalism. Although it is common for groups advocating these positions to pick one or the other—lesser evilism abroad (pro-Russian but anti-two party system) or lesser evilism at home (pro-Green/Bernie but anti-‘vulgar anti-imperialist’), they really evidence two sides of the same coin.

In truth, people who cannot argue for the defense of Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and so many other countries from the US war machine, or breaking with the two-party system, without sowing illusions in and glamorizing the lacklustre leadership of these causes (Gaddafi, Putin, Stein, Sanders, et al.) show the hollowness and bankruptcy of their own thought.

The theories espoused by United Kingdom-based blogger and “pro-Russian anti-imperialist” Phil Greaves (picked here as an example of the wider trend and political current he represents) illustrates the mistake of reducing anti-imperialism (and therefore imperialism) to mere policy options that great powers can pick and choose in whether or not to implement. This is the same error which Lenin criticized Kautsky for making a century ago, when he lambasted Kautsky’s non-sensical talk of a unipolar imperialism that did not take into account “the competition between several imperialisms”:

“The essence of the matter is that Kautsky detaches the politics of imperialism from its economics, speaks of annexations as being a policy ‘preferred’ by finance capital, and opposes to it another bourgeois policy which, he alleges, is possible on this very same basis of finance capital.” [X]

According to Greaves, the bourgeois government of the Russian Federation implements certain key “objectively anti-imperialist” [X] policies (which good Western leftists ought to “support” by joining good pro-Russian [“Communist”] organizations in the West) by sending its military to intervene in Syria against ISIS and in Ukraine against the pro-Western government installed after the Maidan movement (both identified as fascist US puppets). This abstracts politics from economics by positing that Russia, an imperialist country (because, as we have seen, it uses monopoly finance capital to exploit countries in its sphere of influence in a neocolonial fashion), can in one place be “objectively imperialist” and in another be “objectively anti-imperialist”. One can only come to the conclusion that the Russian bourgeoisie has implemented a “bad” imperialist policy decision in Moldova, while at the same time implementing a “good” anti-imperialist policy decision in Ukraine and Syria, if one wears the ideological blinkers of an unscientific school of “thought” we might term neo-Stalinism.

Concluding remarks

Going back to the catalyst of this essay, the 2016 position paper of the “Red Guards” of Austin, Texas also resonated with me in their condemnation of the vulgar Third Worldism of the Jason Dumbruhe and LLCO variety, which I criticized some months ago here on my blog. The Red Guards Austin note, as I did, that this Third Worldism originated on Ivy League campuses.

In this essay I have focused on the critique of vulgar anti-imperialism, an area where I found myself to be in agreement with the Red Guards Austin. There are nevertheless some areas where I feel the Red Guards’ positions, which are not unique to their group, should be contested. I will present the bulk of these criticisms in Part II of my response to “Condemned to Win!”. In light of their self-declared willingness to accept criticism, I hope that Part II and the following section will be received by them in a comradely fashion.

It has to be admitted that use of the term of derision “bastard” is problematic and stands in dissonance with Red Guards Austin statement that they “hold that bad gender practice is not acceptable for Maoists and that rectifying this should be given the utmost priority, without delay, excuses, or liberalism.” The term “bastard”, having arisen in English common law as a synonym for “whoreson”: the child of an “illegitimate” sexual liaison, is steeped in misogynist and patriarchal thinking. The Oxford dictionary informs us that the etymology of the insult “bastard” is ultimately Latin, coming from the word bastum which means “packsaddle” and entered the English language via the related Old French expression fils de bast, “son of a mule driver who uses a packsaddle for a pillow and is gone by morning” (compare with modern French fils de pute). Formulations found in “Condemned to Win!” like “arch-revisionist bastard Deng Xiaoping” and “bastards like Krushchev, Brezhnev, and their crews” are no less problematic bad gender practice than if they were to refer to these people as “sons of bitches”.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

ALL WORKS CITED IN COMPLIANCE WITH FAIR USE DOCTRINE

“Dirty War” Revelations Could Impact Race for the White House

Top Democratic and Republican contenders rub elbows with high profile individuals implicated in U.S. sponsored genocide, receive their endorsements


By Daniel K. Buntovnik

Much hullabaloo has been generated by the recent six day foray of America’s First Family into their “Backyard”. Arriving in Havana on March 20th, 2016 before heading to Buenos Aires on the 23rd and back to Washington on the 25th, President Obama visited two countries whose relations with the United States have rightly been described as being strained at best.

While President Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit long embargoed Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, in the case of Argentina, it’s only been 11 years. When George W. Bush took a trip to Argentina in 2005 with the goal of shoving neoliberal free trade dogma down South American throats, he provoked riots in Buenos Aires and saw then Argentine president Nestor Kirchner side with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Brazil’s Lula da Silva in rejecting the Washington Consensus. This moment is seen now as a milestone for the then rising “Pink Tide” in South America, as well as an important step towards the creation of UNASUR, the South American alliance viewed as a challenge to U.S. hegemony in the region (1).

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Hugo Chavez, Nestor Kirchner, and Lula da Silva: nefarious trifecta of 21st century “anti-Americanism” (photo source: Wikimedia Commons)

Obama’s trip to Argentina coincided with the 40th anniversary of the March 24, 1976 coup d’etat that instaured a six year reign of right-wing, quasi-fascist State Terror that some have dubbed the “Dirty War”: a campaign of severe political repression carried out under U.S.-backed dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and a succession of five other military junta rulers who held power until 1983. They called their extraordinary and murderous measures the “National Reorganization Process” (or El Proceso for short). Originally justifying El Proceso under the pretext of subduing left-wing guerrilla groups, the repression actually intensified after the armed “terrorists” (in actuality mostly just violent protesters) no longer posed an actual threat, and it began targeting anyone deemed “subversive” to Western and Christian values: political dissidents, student activists, intellectuals, artists, gays, Jews, and so on (2). Some 30,000 persons labelled subversive were murdered or “disappeared” (giving us the term desaparecidos). Similar to the “MindWar” doctrine of psychological warfare developed by U.S. intelligence operative Michael Aquino in the early ‘80s, the Argentine militarist leadership came to view the mere expression of left-wing ideas as grounds for designation of political opponents as enemies of the state:

“A terrorist is not just someone with a gun or a bomb, but also someone who spreads ideas that are contrary to Western and Christian civilization.” – Jorge Rafael Videla

The campaign of social-thought repression was transnational. El proceso was only the Argentine iteration of a wider conspiracy to commit state terror in the name of anti-communism known as “Operation Condor”, which affected almost every South American nation between 1968 and 1989 and was made possible in large part thanks to U.S. sponsorship via the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Obama visit also comes just three months after the inauguration of Mauricio Macri as the new president of Argentina. Critics point out that President Macri comes from a wealthy family of war-profiteers whose fortune grew exponentially during El Proceso, and that three months before his inauguration, Macri and his party voted against a law that would launch investigations into how businesses that supported the dictatorship participated in crimes during the 1976-1983 period (3).

Macri’s ascent to power marks a rightward shift in Argentine politics, ending the Kirchnerist era which began in 2003 with the presidency of Nestor Kirchner, who was succeeded by his wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in 2007. Under the Kirchners, the 1986 “Full Stop Law”, which mandated that all dictatorship era war criminals were immune to investigation (granted amnesty), and the 1987 “Law of Due Obedience”, which excused all dictatorship military personnel who held a rank below colonel or general from culpability on the basis of “they were just following orders” were both repealed in 2003, and more was done to bring those responsible for the “Dirty War” atrocities to justice than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the dictatorship, when in 1985 the “Trial of the Juntas” resulted in Videla and a handful of others who occupied the higher echelons of the junta being given long prison sentences, before being pardoned a mere five years later, in 1990.

Neoliberal free trade dogma is said to be on the agenda again, Obama’s visit being timed to take advantage of the new “business-friendly administration” (4). The POTUS proclaimed, “I’m in Argentina because I like the moves that Macri made at the start of his government to reconnect Argentina with the world (5).” In the week leading up to his visit, Obama also criticized Fernandez de Kirchner for being an “anti-American” who’s out of touch with modernity, and praised Macri for “recogniz[ing] that we are in a new era” (6).

In a bid to solidify the return of prodigal Argentina to the yoke of U.S. imperial subjugation, Obama has vowed to declassify U.S. military, intelligence, and law enforcement agency documents relating to U.S. collaboration with the military junta. Given the heinous nature of the State Terror committed during the “National Reorganization Process”, which was recognized as meeting the definition of genocide by the La Plata Federal Oral Court in 2006 (7), and also given the complicity in abetting this genocide on the part of at least two prominent U.S. political figures who have given high profile endorsements to leading 2016 U.S. presidential candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties, we should not discount the possibility that forthcoming revelations may shake up the U.S. political scene, as well as that of Argentina.

Clinton and Kissinger

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Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton kissing (photo source: Mother Jones)

If the promised declassification has even a shred of sincerity, there is surely a good chance that Henry Kissinger will be implicated in crimes against humanity, further than he already has been. This presents a slight problem for Hillary Clinton, who has embraced Kissinger and called him a “friend”. The standing evidence against Kissinger is strong enough that Hillary’s Democratic Party challenger, Bernie Sanders, felt compelled to criticize Clinton during the Univision Debate Democrata for her close relationship with the Nixon-era Secretary of State whose foreign policy decisions are estimated to have led to the deaths of more than a million persons (8). Before being attacked by Sanders over Kissinger, Hillary bragged sometime earlier that she “was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said [she] ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time (9).”

A transcript released in 2003 provided solid evidence for the thesis that Kissinger gave the “green light” for the genocide, revealing that he told the following to Videla’s foreign minister, Argentine militarist Cesar Guzzetti, in 1976:

“Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed. I have an old-fashioned view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems, but not the context (10).”

Kissinger is also notorious for his role in the overthrow of the democratically elected socialist head of state Salvador Allende in Chile three years before the debacle in Argentina, on September 11, 1973 and supporting the subsequent brutal capitalist dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Trump and Arpaio

(IPA pronunciation guide: [ɑɹpæ’ijoʊ̯])

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Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio (photo source: TheDailyTrump.org)

In addition to the relatively well known connection between El Proceso and Kissinger, and in turn that between Kissinger and Hillary Clinton, is another, less publicized liaison dangereuse: that between El Proceso and the racist Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Arizona.

Arpaio, made famous for his systematic racial harassment of undocumented migrant workers that has earned him a reputation as an “illegal immigration hardliner”, made headlines recently for tossing anti-Donald Trump protesters in jail and enthusiastically lauding the douchebag real estate magnet for his calls to cleanse the United States national territory of an estimated twelve to thirty million persons, many of them indigenous to the Americas (11).

But what is less discussed is that Arpaio was actively involved in Operation Condor, the C.I.A. orchestrated genocide campaign. In 1957 or 1958, towards the beginning of his career in law enforcement, Arpaio began working at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (or FBN), the agency that would later go on to form the Drug Enforcement Administration (12).  Arpaio continued to work for the DEA for the next 25 years, i.e. until 1982 or 1983. Arpaio has bragged on numerous occasions about having served as a DEA agent around the world, including in Argentina.

For example, between rounding up immigrant workers and arresting peaceful protesters, @RealSheriffJoe had time to tweet:

On an archived web page called “Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio”, the far right leader lists his DEA assignments in chronological order, suggesting that his post in Buenos Aires was at the end of his 1957-1982 DEA career, precisely during the “National Reorganization Process”:

[…] from the day I started working for the then Bureau of Narcotics in 1957 ( which later morphed into the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration), I loved the work. It was dangerous, exciting, exhilarating…and downright scary. It took me to places I never thought I would go – from Chicago where I started my career with the Feds to the hills of Turkey to Beirut and on to Paraguay, Panama, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, just to name a few (13).

Arpaio goes on to suggest his possible direct involvement in secret meetings with Jorge Videla and other leaders of the military junta:

[My DEA work] brought me face to face with small time and big time drug dealers. It brought me into classified meetings with Ambassadors, foreign heads of state and U.S. Presidents.

We know for sure that Racist Joe was in Argentina no earlier than 1970, as it was shortly after that year that the DEA began operating in Argentina. Historian David M. K. Sheinin notes in Argentina and the United States: An Alliance Contained, page 154:

In 1970, an informant gave the U.S. Embassy in Mexico information on Buenos Aires as a major transit destination for heroin coming into South America with the United States as a final destination. Shortly after, the two governments launched a long-term cooperative project to stop the international drug trade through Argentina that included U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency [sic] training programs in Argentina for Argentine police and the supply of military equipment to break the traffic in cocaine. As Argentina experienced a rapid rise in left-wing political violence, American officials turned increasingly to strong Argentine anti-Communists for political advice and information. Despite Argentina’s spiral into severe political turmoil between 1970 and 1976, U.S. government and business officials were uncharacteristically calm and lucid about the Argentine polity.

This places Sheriff Joe squarely in contact and collaboration with Argentine authorities under the framework of Operation Condor and, in all likelihood, during the “National Reorganization Process” genocide.

In “Creating a Crime: How the CIA Commandeered the DEA”, investigative journalist Douglas Valentine details the overlap and collaboration between these two agencies, particularly through the Bureau of Narcotics Covert Intelligence Network (BUNCIN), which was managed by CIA officers and later became the DEA Clandestine Operations Network (DEACON) in July 1973 when the DEA itself was formed (14). Valentine notes that “The CIA supplied BUNCIN’s assets with forged IDs that enabled them to work for foreign governments[.]”

During or around Arpaio’s sojourn in fascist Argentina,  Argentine intelligence operatives helped orchestrate the 1980 “Cocaine Coup” in Bolivia, bringing right-wing drug lords to power with the help of Nazi war criminal and CIA asset Klaus Barbie, the likely assassin of Che Guevara. It’s a well known fact that the South American countries whose governments carried out Operation Condor were notorious for being safe havens for hundreds, if not thousands, of fugitive Nazi cadres. These were the same people who committed genocides in Europe known as the Holocaust and the Porrajmos some decades earlier and were given a one-way ticket to impunity by the CIA’s Operation Paperclip. And who can forget Gary Webb’s expose on the CIA support for Contra drug trafficking, also around the same time? These facts demonstrate Arpaio’s hypocrisy and the farcical nature of the so-called “War on Drugs”. How can you be tough on crime when the criminal is you?

Are Kissinger and Arpaio really responsible for “genocide”?

The 2006 La Plata Federal Oral Court ruling on Proceso era Buenos Aires police boss Miguel Etchecolatz, sentenced to life in prison, marked the first time that the State Terror was legally qualified as constituting the crime of genocide. While the Genocide Convention, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, does not recognize systematic attempts at group extermination as genocide when it concerns political groups, the court based its conclusion on a 1946 UN General Assembly resolution which held that “crimes of genocide have occurred when racial, religious, political, and other groups have been destroyed, entirely or in part.”

The subject of political group extermination and their legal exclusion from subjection to the crime of genocide is problematic. Martin Niemoller famously pointed out in his “First they came…” poem that the process of Nazi German perpetrated genocide began with the targeting of political opponents such as Communists and trade unionists before moving on to racial and religious group extermination.

Like the Nazi genocide, the “Dirty War” also fed into and off of racialized scapegoating of the “Other” (i.e., groups perceived as being “subversive” due to their non-Western and/or non-Christian values). Argentine Jews, the sixth largest Jewish group in the world by citizenship, were disproportionately represented among the desaparecidos (15). The Condor Plan continued a centuries long campaign to uproot and eradicate the indigenous populations of the Southern Cone region of South America. In neighboring Chile, the Pinochet regime denied the very existence of the Mapuche people, native to Patagonia, which comprises both Chile and Argentina (16). In Brazil, entire indigenous communities were destroyed during the military dictatorship there (17). Furthermore, the European Roma Rights Center notes that “the existence of [some 300,000] Roma in Argentina is covered by silence (18).” Research also reveals that the LGBT minority was targeted by the Argentine junta (19).

Following the ascendency of Mauricio Macri to power, the right-wing in Argentina celebrated and began immediately to call for an end to the “culture of revenge” that they accused the Kirchnerists of instigating (20). Confounding justice with revenge, they want to go back to a culture of impunity for the perpetrators of genocide. Meanwhile, in the United States of America, figures such as Joe Arpaio and Henry Kissinger face hardly any scrutiny at all for their role in collaborating with fascist genocide by training, advising, and supplying State Terror forces with arms. They are celebrated and embraced by both ruling class parties.

Obama’s regret for the “controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days” means little if it is not accompanied by a recognition of those policies as genocidal and a serious effort to hold the people who enabled this genocide to occur accountable for their actions. Furthermore, the timing of the statements, immediately following the ouster of the Kirchners, who ended the era of amnesty for perpetrators of the genocide, and the inauguration of a new president who has displayed obstructionist tendencies, shows disingenuity on the part of Obama. This timing suggests a calculated decision to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to minimize the consequences of disclosing wrongdoing and disavow the continuity between the “early dark days” and the present.

On “Maoist Rebel News” and the Folly of Ultraleftism-Third Worldism

If you are not already familiar with the Maoist Rebel News brand, then it will suffice to say here that it first began as a Youtube video channel whose scope was to provide current events analysis from an ostensibly Marxist perspective. It is maintained by a Canadian man named Jason Unruhe, who upholds a pseudo-revolutionary political doctrine known as “Third Worldism”, or “Maoism-Third Worldism”. In this critique, offered from an authentically revolutionary left-wing perspective, I will demonstrate why this erroneous political line (which is by no means exclusive to Jason Unruhe’s Maoist Rebel News) is not what it purports to be. It is neither a coherent nor scientific worldview.

Claiming to be Youtube’s “#1 Marxist” for six years running, Unruhe is perhaps more of a public face for “Third Worldism” than anyone else in the Anglosphere. This is especially true since followers of the “Third Worldist” line generally place a high value on anonymity.

The use of campy aliases like “Serve the People” and text-to-voice software in propaganda messages are ubiquitous strategies of “Third Worldist” security culture. Ostensibly these measures are taken to mitigate the risks associated with being identified by the surveillance state, lending credence to their pretensions of being “serious” revolutionists–but it is also likely that in not divulging basic elements of their “real” identities, “Third Worldists” avoid revealing the awkward fact that, like leading proponents of “Third Worldism” Jason Unruhe and “Prairie Fire” (the self-described “Commander” of the Leading Light Communist Organization [LLCO], which Unruhe is a fellow-traveller of, hailing it as “the preeminent Third Worldist organization”), most “Third Worldists” are actually denizens of the so-called “First World”, making them, by their own definition, bourgeois (1).

It follows that this English-speaking “Third Worldism” constitutes a quintessentially Orientalist worldview, wherein the Westerner’s “Third Worldist” gaze constructs the East as Red Bastion of “revolutionary potential”, and in the same time, the Western man positions himself as the expert on that Orient, the one who knows what’s best for “those people” (2). Western, First World men are the Orient’s “leading lights” (read: glorious saviors) due to the fact that the material privilege which their self-acknowledged social parasitism provides them better allows them to study geopolitics, advance the so-called “science” of “Third Worldism”, and produce propaganda than the subaltern “Third World” masses, who, of course, cannot speak truth to power (3, 4).

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s thesis that “the subaltern cannot speak” is illustrated visually when, in a Maoist Rebel News interview with “Prairie Fire”, as we listen to the LLCO’s leader, a native of Denver, Colorado who refers to himself as “Supreme Commander” of the “Global People’s War”, we see his opaque cutout photo superimposed over a blurred image of Bengali people who are alleged LLCO cadre of the organization’s “Bangla Zone” (5). The Third Worlders’ faces have been punched by text, a slogan reading “our sun is rising, our day is coming.” Meanwhile, a translucent red halo peeks out from behind the Supreme Leader’s head, as if to convey the idea that he is their sun. Without Commander Prairie Fire’s scientific wisdom, darkness prevails. The astrological metaphor of science and wisdom as white light, embodied in illuminated white persons, reflects the underlying cosmology of “Third Worldism”, a convoluted reworking of the mission civilisatrice (6). (Cosmology: “theory of the [world or universe] as an ordered [system], and of the general laws which govern it.” [7])

LLCOrientalism

White power in yellow face. The LLCO logo serves the people fiction by displaying the sun as yellow, despite the scientific fact that the sun appears white to the human eye.

(It should be noted that the pretension to be “waging war” is nothing more than bravado, as the so-called “Leading Lights” only claim to be preparing for such a war, noting that, “To romanticize the gun prematurely or to romanticize it to such an extent that it interferes with actually winning is a big focoist, adventurist error.” [8])

The rantings of the “Commander” reflect the LLCO’s conception of “Leading Light” not as a vanguard born from within the revolutionary class, but posited in the framework of an Us-Them dichotomy wherein the “most advanced scientific core” is alien to the proletarian masses the organization purports to be waging “Global People’s War” on behalf of (my emphasis):

Real revolution is led by the most advanced scientific core, Leading Light Communism. There are plenty of cheerleaders who turn themselves into useful idiots in the process. It is good to support the broad anti-imperialist united front against imperialism. However, we should not lie to the proletariat. We must put the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, in their hands. We must understand that both high science and low science are weapons. We must master both. Serve the people truth, not fiction (9).

“Commander Prairie Fire” also claims in the same interview that a popular LLCO adage goes, “It does not matter how much chess strategy you know if you have no board and pieces.”

“Leading Light” Orientalism displays a strange contradiction in presenting itself as an organization whose cadre’s badass outlaw status is the “obvious reason” for which their work is “semi-clandestine”, while at the same time posting propaganda photos of its alleged members in Bangladesh, where actual Maoist guerrillas are known to operate, decked out in LLCO t-shirts, their faces clearly discernible (10). For the LLCOrientalists, the Western masterminds are the chessmasters and these people are the pawns–“useful idiots”–who serve to build the organization’s street cred, or rather, web cred.

In the LLCO’s millenarianism and white savior industrial complex vibes, one hears echoes of Jonestown. Bizarrely, the so-called “Commander Leading Light” has even openly endorsed cultism. This would actually explain a lot about the way the organization presents itself to the public, its “Supreme Commander” even sometimes (with tongue-in-cheek, we can hope) identifying himself as being at the helm of a “gangster cult”:

If your conception of activism is First World bound, I don’t even see why you need an openly communist party. You might need a cult to organize people effectively, but why a *communist* cult? Just build any old cult and direct people into anti-war, anti-militarism, and other progressive activism. It seems like if your conception of activism remains in the First World, flying a communist flag will only hurt your efforts to be effective at aiding Third World struggles in an objective way. I just don’t see the point of the red flag where there is no social base if your conception of activism is traditional stuff (11).

and

[Our beliefs] may seem otherworldly or “culty,” but this is how we are (12).

Below we see the conflation of science with religion–a phenomenon known as scientism, which I will explore later–and the fetishization of identity politics.

We must all become living examples of revolutionary purity. All should be able to see our revolutionary purity in everything that we do. We must strengthen our revolutionary character, our spiritual selves. We must remold ourselves as pure proletarians, Leading Lights (13).

Because LLCO Ultraleftist-Orientalist-“Third Worldists” view themselves as alien to the world proletariat, they must atone for their original sin as First Worlders by undergoing the alchemical sacrament of remolding through proletarian purification. “Third Worldists” obfuscate materialism and embrace obscurantism to arrive at the conclusion that socio-economic class is determined not by one’s position relative to the modes of production, rather it is the reward of Bildung (14).

In a recent exchange of polemics between the LLCO and a trio of anti-“Third Worldist” Stalinist groups, we see how Canada and U.S.-based “Third Worldist” individuals’ disavowal of their own self-implied bourgeois identity is complemented by projecting First World status onto Third World persons who oppose them. LLCO and Unruhe deride their Stalinist opposition as French Gonzaloists to tie their identity to the First World, despite the fact that the polemic they were responding to was jointly issued by Stalinist groups from France, Belgium, and Bangladesh (15). Obviously if these Orientals are so Occidental in their outlook, it must be because their identity has been corrupted, remolded by “First Worldist” values! Thank Mao for our “Third Worldist” American and Canadian Leading Lights putting those damn “First Worldist” Bengalis back in their place!

Looking beyond the LLCO, which originated in the United States and whose verifiable actions seem to be entirely limited to producing online propaganda, we see that the other organized entity promoting “Third Worldism” is the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM), which, as if by happenstance, is limited in its “on-the-ground” presence to England, Ontario (Canada), and the United States (16).

But what do these “Third Worldists” actually believe?

“Third Worldists” maintain that wealthy countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and France lack sufficient internal class antagonisms to allow for the possibility of revolution. The global capitalist system, they argue, is not merely tolerable for the vast majority of these nations’ populations, who will sooner fight to keep poorer nations impoverished and underdeveloped than join them in the struggle for socialist liberation; it actually better serves their interests than would global redistribution of wealth. In this optic, mass exploitation, which provides the social basis for revolution, only exists in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (17). In other words, “the general population of the First World [is] comprised of the class enemies of the global poor of the Third World (18).” So-called “Third Worldists” decry efforts to escalate the class struggle and engage in activism in wealthy countries as “First Worldism”.

In “Can the Subaltern Speak and Other Transcendental Questions”, Warren Montag notes that the elevation of “the contradiction between the First World and Third World as opposing blocs to a position of strategic and political dominance, as if the working [class] in the West (…) is structurally allied more closely to its own bourgeoisie than to those forces traditionally regarded as its allies in the nations outside of Europe, North [America] and Japan: workers, rural laborers, landless peasants, etc.” is “hardly a new position: on the contrary, it has a long history in the socialist and communist movements. Lenin flirted with it in his attempts to explain the capitulation of European social democracy in the First World War, Stalin embraced it and its very language derives from the period of the Sino-Soviet split and the consolidation of Maoism as an international current (19).”

One text which is particularly fundamental in anchoring much of “Third Worldist” thought is a pamphlet from 1965 called “Long Live the Victory of People’s War” by Lin Biao, who was a prominent Chinese military and political leader and a contemporary of Chairman Mao Zedong. Lin died in 1971 in a “mysterious” plane crash after allegedly plotting to stage a coup d’état against Mao. In the pamphlet, Lin wrote the following, describing “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Zedong’s Theory of People’s War” (with my emphasis):

Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called “the cities of the world”, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute “the rural areas of the world”. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America (20).

Lin’s distinction between the proletarian revolutionary movement and the people’s revolutionary movement is in line with the Maoist theory that in “backwards”, underdeveloped nations, aspects of capitalism are beneficial, and not harmful, to the “national economy and the people’s livelihood” (21). Workers should unite with a section of their exploiters, the petite bourgeoisie and the national-bourgeoisie, Mao argued, to end the rule of the comprador bourgeoisie (also known as the bureaucrat-bourgeoisie or the monopoly capitalist class), the part of the capitalist class which was tied to foreign interests. Mao thus defined “the people” in the People’s Republic of China as “the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie” (also known as the “bloc of four classes [22]”), admitting from the get-go of Communist Party rule in China (i.e. 1949) that the policy was “to regulate capitalism, not to destroy it (23).”

The leitmotiv was the same in the following particularly doublespeak-esque speech made eight years later. Mao foreshadows “socialism with Chinese characteristics (24)” as he announces his hope, not for the abolition of class-based exploitation or the withering away of the state, but for the transformation of the relationship between the Chinese boss class and workers into a “non-antagonistic”, non-adversarial one (my emphasis):

The national bourgeoisie differs from the imperialists, the landlords and the bureaucrat-capitalists. The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between exploiter and exploited, and is by nature antagonistic. But in the concrete conditions of China, this antagonistic contradiction between the two classes, if properly handled, can be transformed into a non-antagonistic one and be resolved by peaceful methods. However, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie will change into a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy if we do not handle it properly and do not follow the policy of uniting with, criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie, or if the national bourgeoisie does not accept this policy of ours (25).

Continuing from “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Zedong’s Theory of People’s War”, Lin Biao elaborates:

In the struggle against imperialism and its lackeys, it is necessary to rally all anti-imperialist patriotic forces, including the national bourgeoisie and all patriotic personages. All those patriotic personages from among the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes who join the anti-imperialist struggle play a progressive historical role; they are not tolerated by imperialism but welcomed by the proletariat (26).

Lin’s pamphlet was first published in 1965, right around the height of the biggest decolonization wave, that which occurred during the Cold War. Much of the decolonization of this period followed this confused logic of bosses subordinated to their workers and yet remaining bosses, with national liberation movements envisioned as being the joint project of the workers and ruling class capitalists of each colonized nation. It is now clear, observing the instauration of neocolonialism in virtually all the countries in which such national liberation movements won nominal independence, that this contradictory strategy was unfortunately, though not unforeseeably, doomed to failure.

Lin Biao’s ideas differed however from modern “Third Worldists” in that he did not deny the existence of a proletariat (“significant” or otherwise) in the United States, or that U.S. imperialism adversely affects the general population of the U.S.; in fact, he called for unity between the people of the United States and the so-called Third World (my emphasis):

U.S. imperialism is stronger, but also more vulnerable, than any imperialism of the past. It sets itself against the people of the whole world, including the people of the United States (27).

All people’s suffering from U.S. imperialist aggression, oppression and plunder, unite! Hold aloft the just banner of people’s war and fight for the cause of world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism! Victory will certainly go to the people of the world (28)!

Where modern “Third Worldists” do not deviate from their source material is in their denial of an antagonistic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, promoting instead the viability of collaboration between wage-laborer and industrialist classes in the name of patriotic national interests. They view this collaboration as viable both in the First World, where it is the reason for proletarian revolution’s impossibility, and in the Third World, where it is the reason for people’s revolution’s high potentiality. In other words, in no part of the world do “Third Worldists” envision workers wresting control of the means of production from the exploiting industrialist class. In no part of the world do “Third Worldists” regard socialism as a viable possibility.

In addition to his Youtube channel, Unruhe’s social media presence also includes a blog hosted at maoistrebelnews.com.

After one of his most recent articles, published on November 30, 2015 and entitled “How is Trotskyism Winning over Maoism?”, I (Daniel K. Buntovnik, author of the 21st century proletarian novel Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax) had the chance to engage with Unruhe in the comments section of his blog. We wrote back and forth for a full week, exchanging two dozen or so messages. Eventually I made myself stop, as he was seemingly only capable of responding to the citations, historical examples, and questions I provided him with evasion, strawmen arguments, dogmatic statements, and political slander. Considering Unruhe’s lamentations that “no one really wants to honestly debate [‘Third Worldist’] ideas”, and his standing “open challenge” for “anyone who thinks they can [debate him]” to “bring it”, his generally lackluster, short, typo-ridden responses were truly disappointing (29). However, it is my hope that in examining this exchange more closely, and bolstering it with further facts and commentary, some light may be shed on the glaring errors and distortions which plague “Third Worldist” political thought.

Where We Begin: Trotskyism vs. Maoism

In “How is Trotskyism Winning over Maoism? (30)” (the article which triggered our discussion), Unruhe evaluates the strength of a variety of left-wing activist groups in the U.S., arguing that the relative popularity and recent electoral success of Trotskyist activist groups vis-à-vis Maoist ones is just another piece of evidence to add to the mountain of support for the “Third Worldist” thesis that there is no hope for revolution in the belly of the beast.

According to Unruhe’s exercise in confirmation bias, Trotskyists receive more support in the U.S. because they “reject the idea of revolution.” They are not revolutionaries, but reformists due to the fact that “they call for social democratic reforms.” Not only is Trotskyism not revolutionary; it is, Unruhe pompously asserts, “a terrible reactionary, racist ideology, and social imperialist on a theoretical level.”

Unruhe attempts to solder the connection between reformism and Trotskyism by highlighting the success of Kshama Sawant (herself from the so-called “Third World”, where she has spent most of her life) in being twice elected to Seattle City Council on behalf of Socialist Alternative (S.A.), a left-wing activist group in the U.S. which is identified with the Trotskyist tradition.

Sawant’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” now competing for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. presidential candidate is another piece of evidence put forward by Unruhe to support his argument that Trotskyists “reject the idea of revolution.” He even credits Sawant’s endorsement of Sanders for having “driven a lot of people towards [him],” which is perhaps a bit overgenerous as an evaluation of her real level of influence. It should nevertheless be acknowledged that the dubiousness of the decision of a Marxist socialist to endorse Sanders, a pro-capitalist warmonger, scapegoater of immigrants, and sheepdog for the two-party system is certainly worthy of calling into question. However, the opportunistic positions of prominent members of S.A. cannot be said to represent the totality of Trotskyite-esque thought, anymore than the recently exposed Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought human trafficking and sex slave cult of Aravindan Balakrishnan in London can be said to be representative of the whole of Maoism. Other Trotskyist groups are running their own U.S. presidential candidates (e.g., the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which although it is seldomly keen to use the label, actually emerges from the Trotskyist tradition).

What follows are some annotated and lightly edited excerpts from our discussion. For a full record of the exchange, visit the comments section of the article in question on the Maoist Rebel News blog.

Phase 1: The “Transitional Program” and “Permanent Revolution”

Given the article’s focus on Trotskyism as the object of critique, our discussion begins by touching on the ideas above: the “transitional program”, sometimes known as the “transitional method”, and “permanent revolution”. These are two key concepts associated with the political theory of Leon Trotsky, founder and leader of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War.

As I read the article, it became apparent to me that Unruhe had no concept of the idea of “transitional program”. The basic idea of the “transitional program” is that radicals, avant-garde thinkers who for whatever reason have a more lucid of understanding of social dynamics, must bridge the gap between present demands and consciousness (e.g. “$15 per hour now!” or “End stop and frisk now!”) and the program for the revolutionary overhaul of civilization (e.g. “Lay utter waste to bourgeois hegemony!” or “Abolish whiteness!”). In other words, radicals must make the realm of possibility collide with that of the realm of phantasy. Ultraleftist-Third Worldists like Unruhe reject the realm of possibility and thus operate only beyond it, in the realm of phantasy, projecting an Orientalist construction onto the Third World and claiming to be revolutionary without actually being there. True radicals must straddle both realms.

I began by pointing out some of the inaccuracies conveyed in the article.

Calling for reforms does not necessarily a reformist make. (…) I think you misrepresent groups like Socialist Alternative’s position. The concept of the transitional program is what they work with. Both revolutionists and reformists call for reforms, with the difference being that the end game for the reformist is to save capitalism and for the revolutionist it is to side with workers struggling to implement popular reforms as a way to build momentum towards more radical change and raise consciousness. For example, if workers are demanding an end to child labor, a revolutionary can, and should, support that demand, while at the same time drawing attention to [the inadequacy of merely reforming capitalism and] the need for more profound system change.

And I was curious to see if Unruhe could back up his bold claim about the despicability of Trotskyite thought:

Can you explain what makes Trotskyism reactionary, racist, and imperialist?

Unruhe said:

First world people refuse to do revolution. And yes, reforms actually harm revolutionary potential. No revolution has been born from gettign concessions. Permanent Revolution alone almost insures imperialism. [Trotsky’s] belief was that the most backward countries had to be forced by the advanced to progress. I’d also show that Trotskyism leads to neo-cons.http://llco.org/who-and-what-are-trotsky-cons/

Of course, what Unruhe really meant was, “I’d also let the LLCO show that Trotskyism leads to neo-cons.” As far as the argument about certain individuals abandoning whatever Marxist tendency discrediting the ideas of said tendency goes, we could also look at a number of former Maoist radicals who have since turned to social democracy, neoliberalism, and even naked imperialism. For example:

  • Bernard-Henri Lévy, Maoist activist and journalist who made pro-Naxalite reports from Bangladesh during its war for independence only to later denounce Marxism as ”the opium of the people,” proclaim, “Socialism is dead!”, voice support for the NATO military intervention in the Balkans, and actually play the decisive on-the-ground role in the NATO orchestrated overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi by brokering the first meeting between the Benghazi-based National Transition Council and French president Nicolas Sarkozy (31, 32, 33).
  • André Glucksmann, leader of the Nouveaux philosophes, a large group of former Maoists who embraced right-wing politics. Alain Badiou notes in a 2008 interview, “we are now seeing an equally bizarre phenomenon, that of ex-Maoist intellectuals who made a complete about-turn and whom you hear on television railing against any kind of progressive politics (34).”
  • Serge July, former Maoist militant and co-founder of the newspaper Libération, originally a Maoist publication, which now embraces free market liberalism and is bankrolled by a Rothschild (35).

Soon I wrote back:

I must say I disagree with your view on the harmfulness in getting concessions. Would you tell ~5 million Bengali children [to] remain workers because them going to school harms their “revolutionary potential”? [This was a question I would repeat several times, but which he would ignore continually.]

Revolution is ultimately the big concession of the bourgeoisie surrendering its power to the proletariat. But revolution is also like a war in which you must win smaller scale battles to win the war. For example, the expulsion of US imperialism from the RoK [South Korea] and the unification of Korea under socialist leadership would ultimately only be a reform, since if this was done in isolation and US imperialism was not undone elsewhere there would always be the danger of a reintroduction of imperialism into the region and as a system it would continue to exist. [I thought this would be a swell example since Unruhe is a staunch defender of the DPRK.] Another example: the February Revolution, establishment of the Provisional Government, resignation of Prince Lvov, could all be seen as concessions on the part of the Russian nobility made on the path to the Bolshevik Revolution.

I see Permanent Revolution as being less about dragging the Third World to catch up with the First, but actually quite the opposite; it’s about recognizing the possibility of a path of development to socialism that does not mirror that of Western Europe (passing first through a stage of development resembling bourgeois liberal democracy). The idea isn’t that it’s pointless to start developing socialism in one country (this is actually very necessary!), it’s that that country can’t forever, or even for very long at all, be an island of socialism in a globalized capitalist system. Ultimately, the idea of ‘socialism in one country’ logically flows into that of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with capitalist states. ‘Socialism in one country’ can only survive if your revolution does not threaten the global capitalist system, otherwise the bourgeoisie will wage war on you.

The language of that LLCO article [“Who and What are Trotsky-cons?”] actually betrays a rather ethnocentric view; the idea that the ability of “backward” countries to “match” the West’s atomic bomb technology is an indication of [the independence of] their elected path of development suggests a game of catch-up. Socialism, being a higher state of social organization than imperialism, naturally surpasses capitalism. If the measure of [a] country’s advancement and progress is relative to the technology and living standards of Western capitalist societies, is that not a case of imperialism? the West using its military might to define the gold standard of what it means to be “civilized”?

Also, I’m curious, where does the former Second World (e.g., Eastern Europe today) enter into the Third Worldist equation? [Another question which Unruhe would ignore.]

I was actually a bit off base in asking that last question, as my idea of the Three Worlds was that of the Three-World Model, a Western political concept, rather than the Maoist political concept of the Three Worlds Theory (36, 37). Ultraleft-“Third Worldism”-Orientalism actually shares more similarity with the Western political concept than the Maoist one.

The Western “Three-World Model”, having its origins in the Cold War, posits a First World constituted by the Western neoliberal states axed around NATO, a Second World made up of the Soviet Union, its allies and/or Communist Party-led nations, and a Third World comprised by other nations which are not aligned with either the Western or Eastern blocs.

Mao’s Three Worlds Theory, on the other hand, places the USA and the USSR in the First World realm. The Second World is defined as the militarily weaker imperialist nations such as Western Europe, Japan, and Australia, and the Third World were non-imperialist nations (colonized, semicolonized, or neocolonized).

Given the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Western Three-World Model has limited 21st century applicability. In the sense in which the model is employed nowadays, the terms “First World” and “Third World” might better be replaced with “Global North” and “Global South” or “developed world” and “developing” or “underdeveloped world”, because it reflects a binary world structure rather than a ternary one. The Second World has ceased to exist and many apparently use its analogue terms without even realizing that at one point the model incorporated it (38).

Like the evolving meaning of the “Three-World Model”, the “Third Worldist” (or as some would say “Lin Biaoist”) Theory of Three Worlds also differs in a significant way from how it was originally conceived by Mao (39). Whereas Mao’s envisioning of the First World as comprising the two superpowers, measured primarily in terms of their nuclear arsenals, but also in terms of wealth, led to a view of the Cold War as an inter-imperialist conflict, “Third Worldists” and some hackneyed “anti-imperialists” take Lin Biao’s thesis of a unipolar imperialist world structure to suggest that inter-imperialist conflict can no longer exist; there is only one monopoly. Lin Biao casts the Soviet Union of the 1960s not in conflict with the West or U.S. imperialism, but actually “[coming] to [its] rescue just when it is most panic-stricken and helpless” and “working hand in glove” with it. The Theory of Three Worlds has thus been altered from a ternary conception to a strictly binary one by Lin Biao and the “Third Worldists”.

This view leads some on the Left, including Unruhe, to cheerlead 21st century Russian imperialism (or, they allege, merely some beneficial form of capitalism which has been pushed back to a lower stage so that it cannot be considered imperialist), which wraps itself in the iconography of tsardom and–perhaps out of ignorance–white supremacy, in lieu of building genuine anti-imperialist movements (40, 41, 42). This is no different from the quintessentially petit bourgeois “trust-buster” hope for a “more competitive” capitalism.

Phase 2: Reform or Revolution?

Our exchange then veered towards the question of whether concessions granted by the ruling class in response to demands made by those whom they dominate can help lead to proletarian revolution or if revolutionary sentiments and actions are supposed to just pop out of thin air. Throughout our exchange Unruhe basically conveyed the idea that any improvement in living conditions, rights, or social status attained by the working class, women, ethnic or sexual “minorities” under capitalism is bad for “revolutionary potential”. In other words, if the oppressed fight to improve their condition under the system in place, they are actually harming themselves because they are not fighting to immediately instaure a new system.

History is replete with examples demonstrating the dubiousness of Unruhe’s Ultraleftist-“Third Worldist” idea. In our exchange we focused in particular on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and on the U.S. Civil Rights Movement era. But we could look elsewhere, such as at the example of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), to see how reforms often precipitate and accelerate revolutions.

The Haitian Revolution began with enslaved persons demanding abolition of whipping, not slavery

The Code noir, or Black Code, was a set of regulations drafted in 1685, designed to maximize the French profits extracted from their slave colonies. In Saint-Domingue (now known as Haiti), the Code was overhauled and reimposed in 1784. The Code noir granted a number of rights to slaves, including land entitlement: it “legally obliged owners to provide slaves with small plots of land to grow food exclusively for [the slaves’] personal use (43).” Royal ordinances also made it possible for slaves to “legally denounce abuses of a master, overseer, or plantation manager.”

While these reforms were obviously not even remotely adequate (slavery was still in place and in reality the Code noir itself was sparsely enforced), the rights it granted in principle were central to the demands enslaved persons made during the revolution of the following decade.

In The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution, Malick W. Ghachem illustrates the fact that these reforms were granted, not unilaterally out of the kind-heartedness of King Louis XVI, but in response to the uprisings and rebellions which gripped the island colony throughout the years (my emphasis):

These and earlier rulings testify to the powerful obstacles, legal and practical, that remained in the way of slaves who sought to avail themselves of the cover of law in Saint-Domingue. On December 3, 1784, almost exactly a century after Louis XIV promulgated the Code Noir, the monarchy finally took decisive steps to overhaul the edict. A confluence of factors made action possible at this time: the efforts of military officers and administrators in Saint-Domingue to convince officials in the Colonial Bureau of the Naval Ministry of the urgent need for reform of the status quo; predictions of an impending crisis in the colony prompted by isolated reports of small-scale uprisings on the plantations; and a climate of opinion (both colonial and metropolitan that had begun to swing decisively against the most notorious of the planters. The rising influence of antislavery sentiment notwithstanding, it would be too much to say that the demands of abolitionists forced the hands of Louis XVI and the French naval minister, Charles-Eugêne de la Croix de Castries. Rather, the 1784 ordinance represented the culmination of the same prudential anxiety about planter brutality and its potential to incite a slave revolution that had characterized the thinking of administrators and judges in Saint-Domingue for decades (44).

And when the slave revolution did begin to unfold, the slaves did not immediately demand the instauration of a new system. Rather than beginning as a struggle to annihilate the slave system, the Haitian Revolution begins with slaves making reformist demands, such as “freedom for their leaders, additional free days during the week, and abolition of the whip as punishment (45).”

Reformists’ reign was required to secure the triumph of Bolshevik Revolution

In response to my previous statement of disagreement with his view on the harmfulness in getting concessions, Unruhe wrote:

Okay, please show me a revolution that came from concessions.

I reiterated what I had already said since he ignored the bulk of my comment, which already contained the example he was asking for:

Take the example of the Russian Revolution that I already mentioned. After its February phase (which could hardly be considered a revolution in the Marxist sense any more than the coups d’etat in February 2014 in Ukraine or December 1989 in Romania or the kind of ‘revolution’ Bernie Sanders is calling for in November 2016 in the USA), Tsar Nicholas II gave up power to Prince Georgy Lvov, a nobleman who wanted to continue Russian participation in WWI and who even sat in the royal court. The demission of Prince Lvov was then proffered under circumstances resembling the recent resignation of Victor Ponta (lack of support expressed via demonstrations), leading to the ascension of the reformist/unscientific socialist Kerensky who began initiating liberal reforms (such as freeing political prisoners, extending voting rights, and suppression of the death penalty).

Unruhe replied in his most typical fashion, dismissive non sequiturs superficially sprinkled with Marxist jargon-mongering:

You actually think that lead to revolution, and not the war and material conditions themselves? That’s utter nonsense.

So I elaborated:

The “war and material conditions” led to both the February Revolution and the October Revolution. Do you think the workers didn’t learn anything from the events throughout 1917? Did the February Revolution and its reforms make the October Revolution less likely to happen? I would reckon it made it more likely because they saw that the reforms were not enough, but they had also gained confidence, experience, organization, skills, awareness, etc. in fighting for those reforms.

I want to ask you again, would you tell ~5 million children in Bangladesh that they shouldn’t go to school because it would harm “revolutionary potential”?

Unruhe:

How do you confuse going to school with concessions?

Me, the Buntovnik:

Reformist demands to institute universal public education and abolish child labor require(d) concessions on the part of capitalists who profit from children working for them instead of getting education. Capitalists have historically been very resistant to laws limiting or abolishing low-wage child labor because it gives them a competitive advantage over firms employing adults, who are also generally more capable of organizing and demanding higher wages.

Unruhe:

Actually basic education was instituted because capitalists needed better educated workers, like basic reading and math skills.

Me, the Buntovnik:

Then why do capitalists still employ child laborers? And why were Afro-American children given de jure inferior education until mass protests pressured the US bourgeoisie to concede that “separate but equal” needed reform?

Unruhe:

Because of racism. Generally workers needed to be better, but they also excluded Blacks. Which BTW was a bad idea, later they changed it to inflate the labour supply to lower it’s cost.It’s a balance, they want more labour, but they also have to play into racist sentiment to divide.

Me, the Buntovnik:

Obviously it was because of racism. But it also shows that reforms around issues like education, child labor, 8 hour work day, etc. aren’t just unilaterally instituted by the capitalist class after their risk managers calculate the odds of revolutionary overthrow. Rather they are concessions won through bitter class struggle. And even if the capitalists do hope to de-escalate the class struggle and pacify the proletariat in granting them concessions (and they surely do hope this), this de-escalation/pacification is not guaranteed, as the reformist phase of the Russian Revolution shows.

Next Unruhe seems to imply that Kerensky’s reformist provisional government was meeting the people’s basic needs. I wonder why the October Revolution happened then?:

You’re not demonstrating how reforms make people ore revolutionary. FDR pretty much proved the opposite. Western social; democratic Europe proved the opposite. And don’t; compare basic needs with Russia to welfare the state.

Happy to oblige, I provided examples that were decidedly unrelated to the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the New Deal, mai ‘68, the Civil Rights Movement, and the current era of austerity measures):

I’d actually venture to say that history demonstrates the opposite; it’s not so much the reforms that make people revolutionary, but more-so the revolutionaries who trigger the reforms. So reforms are a sign of greater revolutionary potential rather than lesser.

The New Deal occurred at a time when Communists were leading major general strikes in US industrial centers. [For example, the Minneapolis general strike of 1934 (46).]

The point at which Maoism exerted its highest level of influence in Western European social democratic society was perhaps during “mai 68”, after the post-WWII welfare state had increased living standards [in France].

And it’s not a coincidence either that [the] heyday of revolutionists like the Black Panthers [is] correlated to the time significant reforms to American capitalism were enacted.

Contrast these with the last period, when there is less revolutionary organizing and agitation [and the capitalist and neoliberal bureaucratic class is more confident in waging war on the proletariat]. We are seeing the erosion of social protections in Western societies–cuts in “entitlement spending”–and virtually no significant reforms being made.

Unruhe then ignores all the examples I gave and pedals back to the Russian Revolution that I had made no mention of after him telling me not to compare it to Western welfare states:

Then you’d venture wrong. World War 1 was what sparked the prairie fire. The immeseration of the working class brought on by the war, even Lenin acknowledged this.

Okay so let’s go back to Russia, I guess.

Me, the Buntovnik:

“The prairie fire” being the Bolshevik Revolution? I already said that I agreed with you about WWI being the spark. I simply contend that the February Revolution didn’t make the October Revolution any less of a potentiality.

Indeed, in this passage from “Left-Wing Communism[: An Infantile Disorder]”, Lenin acknowledges that experiencing (and becoming disillusioned with) the reformist Kerensky government was a necessary phase without which the Bolsheviks would not have brought about the instauration a Proletarian Dictatorship.

[QUOTE, p.65-66] “(…)the fact that the majority of the workers in Great Britain still follow the lead of the British Kerenskys(…) and that they have not yet had the experience of a government composed of these people, which experience was required in Russia (…)to secure the mass passage of the workers to Communism, undoubtedly shows that the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should from within Parliament help the masses of the workers to see the results of a [reformist] government in practice(…). To act otherwise would mean placing difficulties in the way of the revolution ; for revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, and this change is brought about by the political experience of the masses, and never by propaganda alone.” [END QUOTE – Lenin (47)]

Lenin goes on to say that British Communists should work to help the “British Kerenskys” (Hendersons and Snowdens, i.e., petit bourgeois reformist socialists) defeat the conservatives, then show workers that they (the revolutionists) were right about the reformists being bankrupt and the workers overthrow the reformists, same as it happened in Russia in 1917!

We can leave it at that if you don’t want to address my points: why do we see reforms being granted during periods of heightened revolutionary activity and social protections being eroded during periods of generally stagnating class struggle?

After utterly misinterpreting the statement made by Lenin which I cited him, Unruhe senses it’s time to begin phrase-mongering. (If there’s anything that can refute Lenin, surely it’s more Lenin!):

You literally are trying to claim that reforms spur on revolution. This is false. Material conditions do, what you propose is anti-Marxist. No amount of “yea well there was reforms in Russia” means that reforms created it. By this logic Western Europe today would be the most revolutionary place. You;re trying to justify doing reforms instead of revolution when every communist theorist has said otherwise and history has demonstrated otherwise. First World people are refusing to do revolution, and reforms, a bigger slice fo the imperialist pie does not make them anymore revolutionary. Trying to compare feudal Russia to modern day First World countries is nonsense. Lenin’s point was to vote anti-imperialist war. You’re only trying to justify not doing revolutionary struggle.

“The industrial workers cannot accomplish their epoch-making mission. . .if they. . . smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement in their own conditions, which may sometimes be tolerable in the petty-bourgeois sense. This is exactly what happens to the ‘labor aristocracy’ of many advanced countries, who constitute the core of the so-called socialist parties of the Second International; they are actually the bitter enemies and betrayers of socialism, petty-bourgeois chauvinists and agents of the bourgeoisie within the working-class movement.”

“To tell the workers in the handful of rich countries where life is easier, thanks to imperialist pillage, that they must be afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment, is counter-revolutionary. It is the reverse that they should be told. The labour aristocracy that is afraid of sacrifices, afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment during the revolutionary struggle, cannot belong to the Party. Otherwise, the dictatorship is impossible, especially in West-European countries.”

– Lenin

It would be good here to examine a non-dit implicit in Unruhe’s last statement. If people in the First World are “refusing to do revolution”, then it is implied that people in the Third World are engaging in revolution. But when “Maoist-Third Worldists” speak of there being an abundance of revolutions and revolutionary activity in the Third World which stand in testament to that part of the world’s brimming revolutionary potential and the lack thereof in the First World, they are referring primarily to the national liberation struggles that induced the great decolonization wave of the Cold War era. It is a question of so-called “people’s revolutions”, not proletarian revolutions.

The reality is that people’s revolutions are easier to execute than proletarian revolutions. They do not require as high a level of organization or consciousness because the bourgeoisie is not threatened by this kind of revolution, which seeks to “regulate capitalism”, not abolish it. As we have already seen, in Maoist practice, the boss class has been deemed a trusted ally of the workers; there need be no antagonistic contradiction between exploited and exploiter classes. Swallowing this class-struggle-negationist lie guarantees that so-called “people’s revolutions” will always lead to neocolonialism. The progressiveness of the petty bourgeoisie and national-bourgeoisie is a myth; capitalism is a global system and the law of capitalism is to make profits, not serve the people. “Third Worldists” have more in common with Robert Reich and Teddy “The Trust Buster” Roosevelt than with revolutionists; their goal being to break “monopoly capitalism”, not capitalism tout court.

Mao’s theory of “New Democracy” differs from Permanent Revolution in that it envisions socialist revolution as having two stages: one bourgeois-democratic revolution in which the working class seeks to lead the national-bourgeoisie in establishing a “new-democratic state” under the joint dictatorship of the “revolutionary” bourgeoisie, proletariat, and peasants, followed by a second stage revolution at some unspecified future date (48). In this view, the so-called “national-bourgeoisie” (and urban petty bourgeoisie) of a Third World colonized or “semi-colonized” country are revolutionary and the proletariat and peasants of that country should unite with them in the event that they revolt against the “international bourgeoisie”. Permanent Revolution meanwhile repudiates the bourgeoisie’s having a place in society, much less in the state (which is an instrument of class rule) because this inherently contradicts the very notion of socialism and proletarian dictatorship (49). In no way can a capitalist society wherein any section of the bourgeois class exercises control through the state be considered socialist.

In “First vs. Third World Nationalism”, an article published by Unruhe on his Maoist Rebel News blog in late September 2015, he confirms his belief that the Third World bourgeoisie constitutes a revolutionary social force. Here Unruhe argues that capitalism in the Third World can be “altruistic”, that exploiters can be “allies” (50). When Unruhe identifies imperialism as the “primary contradiction”, he ignores the fact that imperialism is capitalism, in a more developed, “higher stage”. Maoism and “Third Worldism” are thus actually forms of primitivism in that they seek to empower a more primitive form of capitalism. You can’t have imperialism without capitalism, but you can have capitalism without imperialism, because capitalism is the base upon which the superstructure of imperialism rests; therefore it is correct to state that the primary, fundamental contradiction in today’s world remains capitalism more-so than imperialism. Admitting this does not negate the existence of imperialism, but shows a deeper, more accurate understanding of what imperialism is.

There is no impetus in the First World for the kind of class collaborationist “people’s revolution” which is proposed by the Maoists because the American bourgeoisie, the French bourgeoisie, or the British bourgeoisie have nothing to gain from posturing as allies of the working class in this way. There is no comprador bourgeoisie in imperialist countries. In a sense, the “Third Worldist” assessment of revolution in the First World as impossible is correct, but only because they are not interested in proletarian revolution to abolish capitalism, rather people’s revolution to regulate it.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

So, since Kerensky continued the war, how do you figure that Lenin was telling the Brits to vote against imperialist war by siding with the “British Kerenskys”? [Another question which Unruhe would decline to answer.]

Lenin was describing the Transitional Programme. Workers don’t just wake up one day and say badda bam let’s do a revolution. You engage their consciousness on the level it’s at and help them find the path.

I’m not trying to justify doing reforms INSTEAD of revolution. I’m saying that reforms happen as a consequence of the class struggle. We are back to a point I made in my first comment: Reformists are those who “smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement”; Revolutionists support improvements, but do not restrict themselves to improvements!

Improvement is a little bit subjective. Reform does not necessarily equal “improvement”, such as in living conditions, or comfort, or safety. In the US, segregation in schools has actually increased since de jure racism was reformed away. [Though one would be hard pressed to say that doing away with Jim Crow was not an improvement.] And plenty of emancipated slaves died of impoverishment. Lynching increased following the abolition of [chattel] slavery, a reform [of American capitalism] which Karl Marx praised.

Boycotting buses begot bombardment of military recruiting stations

After being schooled by none other than me, o baro BuNToVNiK, on his ignorance of the methods of revolutionary struggle, Unruhe sensed it was time to retreat back to dogmatically repeating Marxian mantras:

Reforms literally do not help revolution. Material conditions are what drives them, this is basic Marxism here. And the civil rights struggle is a bad example.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

Why is [the U.S. civil rights struggle] a bad example?

Unruhe:

Because the Civil Rights movement never went into revolution. Reforms DO NOT increase the potential for revolution. All history has shown the opposite for the advanced countries.

Here Unruhe contradicts himself and shows his two-facedness. In a gushy interview published earlier this year with Steve Struggle, a former Black Panther Party activist, Unruhe introduces Steve as “one of the original guys that led revolution in the United States during the civil rights era (…) when there was the most revolutionary potential that the United States ever faced.” Unruhe would do well to revisit the conversation he had with Steve Struggle and listen more attentively this time, because Steve begins by informing him that the Black Panther Party’s roots were in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC or “snick”), a group seeking civil rights reform (51).

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

The Civil Rights Movement never brought about revolution, but it did become more revolutionist as it progressed. The founding of the Black Panther Party, easily the biggest and most influential Maoist organization in US history, in 1966, 2 years after the passage of the reformist Civil Rights Act of 1964, shows this. Struggles for reformist demands like desegregation of public transportation and schools led to increasing levels of violence which led many to question the doctrine of non-violence and develop revolutionary politics.

Unruhe:

So the answer is no, it didn’t help revolution.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

Actually, the unrest on the US home front was a key element in demoralizing US troops in Vietnam and altering public perception, ultimately helping secure the victory of the revolutionary forces there. [Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)], which began as a reformist, explicitly anti-communist civil rights group also turned to Maoism at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement [e.g. the Weather Underground].

This map (“Gue[r]rilla War in the United States, 1965-1970”) shows that revolutionary potential was growing:http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon2/domguemap.html

Growth in the potentiality of revolution does not however guarantee inevitability.

historyisatool

Visit historyisaweapon.com for an interactive version of the “Guerrilla War in the United States, 1965-1970” map.

Unruhe:

So no, reforms do not lead to revolution.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

You are simply repeating ultraleftist dogma without sincerely addressing all the evidence to the contrary.

Your line is essentially no different from that of those who claim that the fact the Soviet project ultimately ended in failure means that socialist revolution can never lead to a stateless, classless society.

Cheers and nice talking with you.

Unruhe:

Ultra left dogma? By acknowledging that reforms don’t lead to revolution, they don’t spur on revolution. No, you’re reactionary social democrat. Check out Venezuela now.

Here we get to the childish essence of “ultraleftism”, in the sense Lenin employed it to criticize “Left-Wing Communism”. The ultraleftist finds comfort in assuring himself that his opponent, who advocates global proletarian revolution and building socialism, is more right-wing than himself, who advocates people’s revolution (also known as “bourgeois revolution in red flags” [52]) limited to a certain part of the world where he does not live, to regulate capitalism there.

“Third Worldism” is not scientific; it’s scientism

  • Scientism:
    • 1.) The problematic transposition of theories or methods from the natural (“hard”) sciences onto the terrain of the social (“soft”) sciences, philosophy, or even everyday life (53).
    • 2.) A philosophical position that exalts the methods of the natural sciences above all other modes of human inquiry (54).

A central component of the LLCO’s “Third Worldist” strategy is the attempt to derive authority from proclaiming how scientific their ideology is, even going so far as to say, “In terms of (…) science, we can declare absolute victory over all competitors. (…) All ideological competitors are dead at the level of high science. There is no more real debate (…) Without Leading Light, without genuine science,  [the non-”Third Worldist” Left] have no future. The sooner they see this the better. (…) The global masses have their organization, leadership, vanguard, Leading Light.”

We have seen how they claim that the hopeless futility of attempting to exact social revolutions in the United States of America, Western Europe, and other capitalist metropoles is an objective “fact”, grounded in “science”. They use statistics like per capita GDP to show that these countries’ working classes are a labor aristocracy, allergic to the very thought of revolution.

Of course, the “Third Worldists”, needing to justify their own existence, concede that there are “small pockets of allies spread across all strata of the First World (55).” In other words, there are American billionaires, “bourgeoisified” industrial manufacturing workers, and “unproductive” service sector workers who the glorious Third World masses can considered their allies, Unruhe and “Commander Prairie Fire”, presumably among those super special First World snowflake “anomalies” who are somehow able to see past the great personal benefit imperialism is bringing them and, not only show solidarity with the global poor, but actually become the primary “advanced scientific core” who will arm them with the only theory capable of liberating them, the great high science of the Leading Light Communism, blessed be its name!

The contradiction is obvious, but it must be rendered explicit: if science suffices to explain why we are not currently seeing a great proletarian revolution being carried out in the First World, and why the Third World’s national-bourgeoisie, urban petty bourgeoisie, workers, and peasants represent the only hope for socialism to flower, then how does one explain the anomalies? The messianic Neos who have woken up from the Matrix of “First Worldism” to develop the most advanced high science of social liberation, Leading Light Communism and “Maoism-Third Worldism”?

In Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine, Tzvetan Todorov warns us that the scientistic postulate that society and social phenomena can be fully understood by the methodology and theory of natural sciences “leads to the reduction of the human being to the status of an object”. This view leads believers in scientism to consider human beings as overly “determined by their nature” (56). In the scientism of “Third Worldism”, the nature of the masses of the First World is that of a labor aristocracy. The label of “labor aristocrat” serves to negate the agency of inhabitants of the First World as human subjects. “Third Worldists” privilege social structure as the only explanation for human behavior to justify their own social atomism and disengagement from the societies which surround them, selectively applying vulgar determinism to explain the stupidity of others while simultaneously upholding nondeterminism to explain their own virtue, exceptionalism, and tenuous empathy.

Pure science–construed as rote empiricism–is a fundamentally flawed approach to making social revolution. We all know that the conditions today are different than those of the past. We can learn from past revolutions, while at the same time being mindful of the fact that the degeneration of the Bolshevik Revolution ultimately spat out today’s capitalist Russia and the rest of the former Soviet republics, and that only a special kind of dipshit says that Foxconn and its mass suicides are the result of a successful socialist revolution. But we also have to recognize, given that the socialist transformation of human society has not yet been fully experienced (only glimpsed at in a few episodes), that our empirical data is limited to nonexistent.

This is why we must serve the people fiction. Now, more than ever before, as we live in the present period of protracted disenchantment and disillusion with revolutionary politics following the collapse of Soviet-style “Communism”, working class-generated radical systemic change is perceived to be beyond the frontier of the realm of the possible. This is why we must fog of the boundary between feasible and infeasible, embrace the fantastic. This is the basis for 21st century proletarian literature. This is the basis for myth-science and the music of Sun Ra, who said:

There is a message in all of my music. It’s all about people doin’ somethin’ else other than what they have done. Because what they have done is the possible, and the world the way it is today is the results of the possible that they did. It’s the results of the absolute thing, so now (…) there’s always something else in a universe as big as this (57).

In summary

All of the above goes to show that “Maoism-Third Worldism” is a foolish and ignorant political line, its adherents hypocrites of the highest order. While the critique of “Third Worldism” is by no means exhausted, let us review some key points:

  • The scientistic, clichéd, campy, kitsch cultist approach to public relations of “Third Worldists”, in particular that of the LLCO, will never attract the masses to their version of Communism, only anomalous weirdos.
  • It cannot be denied that in “[elaborating] (…) a basic geographical distinction”, “[distributing] geopolitical awareness into [political] texts”, and demonstrating a “certain will or intention to understand, (…) control, manipulate, even to incorporate, what is a manifestly different (…) world,” “Third Worldism” reproduces Orientalism. Their ideas reflect thus less upon the “reality” of life in the Third World and are more a reflection of their own impotency as would-be leftists in the First World (58).
  • “Maoist-Third Worldists” are not legitimate revolutionists of the proletarian sort. Their goal is not to create a dictatorship of the proletariat. The objective of “Global People’s War” is to knock capitalism back to a pre-imperialist stage by replacing the comprador bourgeoisie with the national-bourgeoisie, keeping the capitalist state intact.
  • “Third Worldists” utterly fail to understand the dynamics of social change. History shows that militating for reforms leads to heightened revolutionary potential. Revolutionaries must struggle in the here and now by demanding concessions which reflect the present situation to bridge the gap between the mass consciousness of today and the radical possibilities of a future socialist society.

Down with the pseudo-science of Primitivist-Orientalist-Third Worldism! Down with patriotic bourgeois collaborators, sheepdogs of neo-colonialism and proto-imperialism! Advance global class struggle! The workers’ struggle knows no border!

Notes

All URL’s accessed on December 18, 2015.

1. Jason Unruhe, “Interview: Commander Prairie Fire of the Leading Light Communist Organization” (April 11, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/04/11/interview-commander-prairie-fire-of-the-leading-light-communist-organization/.

2. Jeanne Willette, “Post-Colonial Theory: Edward Said” (September 6, 2013), Art History Unstuffed, http://www.arthistoryunstuffed.com/post-colonial-theory-edward-said/.

“For [Edward] Said, ‘Orientalism’ or the Western construction of the ‘imaginary Orient’ was fashioned by Europeans through practices of writing, which had the effect of representing the Other, the East.”

3. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1985), http://www.mcgill.ca/files/crclaw-discourse/Can_the_subaltern_speak.pdf.

4. “Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent B Leitch, 2194, http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic200861.files/Spivak.Can_the_subaltern_speak.pdf.

“Because subalterns exist, to some extent, outside power, theorists and advocates of political transformation have consistently looked to them as a potential source of change. Marxists speak of and for the proletariat, feminists of and for oppressed women, and anticolonialists of and for third world peoples. In part, Spivak is reacting against the persistent tendency of radical political movements to romanticize the other, especially against the notion that third world peoples must lead the fight against multinational global capitalism. To assign them that role is to repeat colonialism’s basic violence, which views non-Europeans as important only insofar as they follow Western scripts. Furthermore, when most of the power resides in the West, why should the least powerful of those caught up in globalization be responsible for halting its advance? Finally, Spivak points out that the suggestion that all third world peoples stand in the same relation to global capitalism and should respond to it in the same way is “essentialist.”

5. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Interview: Origins” (May 26, 2014), http://llco.org/quotes-from-a-recent-conversation-on-the-history-of-llco-and-other-fun-stuff/.

6. “What Color is the Sun?” Stanford Solar Center, http://solar-center.stanford.edu/SID/activities/GreenSun.html.

“It is a common misconception that the Sun is yellow, or orange or even red. However, the Sun is essentially all colors mixed together, which appear to our eyes as white. This is easy to see in pictures taken from space.”

7. “Cosmology.” In Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, edited by Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer, 129. London and New York: Routledge, 2002, http://ethnoproject.ru/sites/ethnoproject.ru/files/Encyclopedia_of_Social_and_Cultural_Anthropology.pdf.

8. Leading Light Communist Organization, “MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire” (April 6, 2015), http://llco.org/must-read-tasks-deviations-corrections-an-interview-with-leading-light-commander-prairie-fire/.

9. Ibid.

10. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Leading Lights of the Bangla Zone” (January 20, 2014), http://llco.org/leading-lights-of-the-bangla-zone/.

11. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Interview: Origins” (May 26, 2014), http://llco.org/quotes-from-a-recent-conversation-on-the-history-of-llco-and-other-fun-stuff/.

12. Leading Light Communist Organization, “MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire” (April 6, 2015), http://llco.org/must-read-tasks-deviations-corrections-an-interview-with-leading-light-commander-prairie-fire/.

13. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Destroy the Crooked Soul of the Wrecker” (April 16, 2015), http://llco.org/destroy-the-crooked-soul-of-the-wrecker/.

14. “Bildung.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bildung.

Bildung (German for “education” and “formation”) refers to the German tradition of self-cultivation (as related to the German for: creation, image, shape), wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation. This maturation is described as a harmonization of the individual’s mind and heart and in a unification of selfhood and identity within the broader society, as evidenced with the literary tradition of bildungsroman.”

15. Jason Unruhe, “The French Gonzaloists vs. The LLCO” (December 9, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/12/09/the-french-gonzaloists-vs-the-llco/.

16. RAIM, “About”, http://www.revolutionaryaim.org/about/.

17. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Our response to a supporter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist):” (July 29, 2015), http://llco.org/our-response-to-a-supporter-of-the-communist-party-of-india-marxist-leninist/.

18. Leading Light Communist Organization, “School shootings and gun control” (December 17, 2012), http://llco.org/school-shootings-and-gun-control/.

19. Warren Montag, “Can the Subaltern Speak and Other Transcendental Questions” (1998), http://clogic.eserver.org/1-2/montag.html.

20. Lin Biao, “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Tse Tung’s Theory of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch07.htm.

21. Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_65.htm.

22. “Bloc of Four Classes.” In Marxist Internet Archive: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms, https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/b/l.htm.

23. Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume IV, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-4/mswv4_65.htm.

24. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism_with_Chinese_characteristics.

25. Mao Zedong, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” (February 27, 1957), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume V, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_58.htm.

26. Lin Biao, “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Tse Tung’s Theory of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch07.htm.

27. Lin Biao, “Defeat U.S. Imperialism and Its Lackeys by People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch08.htm.

28. Lin Biao, “The Khruschov Revisionists are Betrayers of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965), https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch09.htm.

29. Jason Unruhe, “Maoist 3rd Worldist Open Challenge” (May 18, 2015), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSF_UoqPiA8.

30. Jason Unruhe, “How is Trotksy Winning over Maoism?” (November 30, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/11/30/how-is-trotskyism-winning-over-maoism.

31. Arif Jamal, “Bernard-Henri Lévy au Bangladesh” (April 25, 2014), La Règle du jeu, http://laregledujeu.org/2014/04/25/16832/bernard-henri-levy-au-bangladesh/.

32. Stewart McBride, “‘New Philosopher’; Bernard-Henri Levy” (January 20, 1983), Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/1983/0120/012034.html.

33. Richard Brody, “Did Bernard-Henri Levy Take NATO to War?” (March 25, 2011), The New Yorker), http://www.csmonitor.com/1983/0120/012034.html.

34. Rosa Harris, “Badiou: On Different Streams Within French Maoism” (November 3, 2008), Kasama, http://kasamaarchive.org/2008/11/03/badiou-on-different-streams-within-french-maoism/.

35. Philippe Corcuff, “«Libé» : libéral et libertaire contre la starckisation” (February 13, 2014), Libération, http://www.liberation.fr/ecrans/2014/02/13/libe-liberal-et-libertaire-contre-la-starckisation_980129.

36. “Three-World Model.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-World_Model.

37. “Three Worlds Theory.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Worlds_Theory.

38. Matt Soniak, “There’s a First World. There’s a Third World. Is There a Second World?” (September 25, 2012), Mental Floss, http://mentalfloss.com/article/12631/theres-first-world-theres-third-world-there-second-world.

39. “Maoism or Lin Biaoism? Defend Mao’s Three Worlds Theory!” (April 1, 2014), Pentru Comunism, https://pentrucomunism.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/maoism-or-lin-biaoism-defend-maos-three-world-theory/.

40. Marlene Laruelle, “Novorossiya: A Launching Pad for Russian Nationalists” (September 2014), PONARS Eurasia, http://www.ponarseurasia.org/sites/default/files/policy-memos-pdf/Pepm357_Laruelle_Sept2014.pdf.

“The Russian imperial flag has often been flown at combat sites in the Donbas and at meetings in Russia to support Novorossiya. In August 2014, the previously adopted flag of Novorossiya, red and blue and inspired by a flag of the Tsarist Navy, was relegated for use as a battle flag to make room for a new state flag, the Russian imperial white-yellow-black tricolor. The secessionist authorities stated that through the adoption of the new flag, used as a symbol of the Russian Empire from 1858 to 1883, they “integrate their own history into the historical course of the Russian state.” Positive memories of Russia’s Tsarist past are getting an unprecedented boost from the Novorossiya mythmaking process.”

41. Alexey Eremenko, “Ukrainian Rebels Channel U.S. Confederates” (June 9, 2014), The Moscow Times, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/ukrainian-rebels-channel-us-confederates/501789.html.

42. Chriss Zappone, “Are the Ukrainian separatists flying the Confederate flag?” (August 1, 2014), The Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/world/are-the-ukrainian-separatists-flying-the-confederate-flag-20140731-zz85b.html

43. Shona Ken, “French Rule and Tensions in the Colony, 1750-1784”, in History of Haiti, 1492-1805 (last updated October 27, 2015), Brown University, http://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/2frt.html.

44. Malick W Ghachem. The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 156-157.

45. Shona Ken, “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum, 1790-1791”, in History of Haiti, 1492-1805 (last updated October 27, 2015), Brown University, http://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/4.html.

46. “Minneapolis general strike of 1934.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minneapolis_general_strike_of_1934.

47. Vladimir Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Communism in Great Britain”, in Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920), https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch09.htm.

48. Mao Zedong, “On New Democracy” (1940), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume II, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_26.htm.

“In this era, any revolution in a colony or semi-colony that is directed against imperialism, i.e., against the international bourgeoisie or international capitalism, no longer comes within the old category of the bourgeois-democratic world revolution, but within the new category. It is no longer part of the old bourgeois, or capitalist, world revolution, but is part of the new world revolution, the proletarian-socialist world revolution. Such revolutionary colonies and semi-colonies can no longer be regarded as allies of the counter revolutionary front of world capitalism; they have become allies of the revolutionary front of world socialism.

Although such a revolution in a colonial and semi-colonial country is still fundamentally bourgeois-democratic in its social character during its first stage or first step, and although its objective mission is to clear the path for the development of capitalism, it is no longer a revolution of the old type led by the bourgeoisie with the aim of establishing a capitalist society and a state under bourgeois dictatorship. It belongs to the new type of revolution led by the proletariat with the aim, in the first stage, of establishing a new-democratic society and a state under the joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes.”

49. Leon Trotsky, “The Proletarian Regime”, in Results and Prospects (1906), https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/rp06.htm.

“The very fact of the bourgeoisie being in power drives out of our minimum programme all demands which are incompatible with private property in the means of production. Such demands form the content of a socialist revolution and presuppose a proletarian dictatorship.”

50. Jason Unruhe, “First vs. Third World Nationalism” (September 25, 2015), Maoist Rebel News, http://maoistrebelnews.com/2015/09/25/first-vs-third-world-nationalism/.

51. Jason Unruhe, “Interview: Steve Struggle of the original Black Panther Party” (April 6, 2015), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DfiMy4VDb0.

52. Loren Goldner, “Notes Towards a Critique of Maoism” (October 12, 2012), Insurgent Notes: Journal of Communist Theory and Practice, http://insurgentnotes.com/2012/10/notes-towards-a-critique-of-maoism/.

53. Peter Schöttler, “Scientisme. Sur l’histoire d’un concept difficile” (2013), http://www.academia.edu/6965956/Scientisme._Sur_lhistoire_dun_concept_difficile_2013.

54. Martin Ryder, “Scientism” (2013), https://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~mryder/scientism_este.html.

55. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Our response to a supporter of the Communist Party of  India (Marxist-Leninist):” (July 29, 2015), http://llco.org/our-response-to-a-supporter-of-the-communist-party-of-india-marxist-leninist/.

56. Tzvetan Todorov, “Scientisme”, in Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine (Paris: Seuil, 1989), 41.

57. “Sun Ra Interview (Helsinki, 1971)”, Youtube, 2:20, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMMWNwVhq5k.

58. Edward W Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 12.

Remembering Sun Ra: (Not a Jazz ‘Man’, but an Antiwar Hero)

“You can’t say you a man. sun_raIf you do, you’re filthy and abominable. And you can’t say you’re a man because if you do you’re like the beast that perishes.”

– Sun Ra

In this article, we will take a look at the life of the African-American musician Le Sony’r Ra (1914-1993), better known by his stage name, Sun Ra, and the opposition to war he exhibited throughout his life, through the contextual prism of current events.


These days, it’s easy to fall under the impression that intensification of imperialist war barely disguised as a humanitarian ‘last resort’ is not just inevitable, but what’s necessary, correct, and just. Across the media and the political spectrum, the supposed righteousness of state-sponsored, socially-sanctioned, extrajudicial killing is being beaten like a drum loud and louder into our collective mind. You’d think maybe ‘we’ would’ve learned something after the debacle of the post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’, but no.

Last Friday the 13th, a mass casualty incident in Paris succeeded in arousing a widespread outpouring of proclamations of sympathy for victims of terrorism and, perhaps more tellingly, belief in and solidarity with ‘universal’ values, which recent bloodbaths of a similar nature in Ankara, Beirut, and elsewhere failed to elicit, the saturation of social media with tricolore profile pics testifying to this fact. Conveniently ignoring the massacre in Paris on October 17th, 1961 of perhaps well over 200 North African immigrants, the selectively amnesic capitalist mass media has widely and erroneously billed the Paris mass casualty incident of November the 13th as “the deadliest violence to strike France since WWII.”  Sadly, we’ll never know the precise number of those murdered by Parisian police on October 17th, 1961 since, even when murderous imperialists do acknowledge that they’ve committed crimes against humanity, they “don’t do body counts.” The incident inspired ‘Socialist’ French president François Hollande to declare a ‘state of emergency’, strengthening not only the repressive state apparatus, but also the ideological state apparatuses (by giving the state the power to ‘control’ media). Since then, the ‘state of emergency’ has been extended for at least three more months, the president is calling for reforms to the constitution, and the government has even gone so far as to announce that it will be dispensing with the European Convention on Human Rights. (But don’t worry; human rights lawyers and NGO industrialists assure us that only non-fundamental, alienable, and violable so-called ‘rights’ like due process, privacy, and freedom of movement will be affected. It’s not a carte-blanche to do “whatever”; “human rights violations will simply be judged with more flexibility.” And plenty of other states have already long undone the adage that all rights are “interrelated, interdependent, and indivisible.”)

Meanwhile, in America, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush: everyone agrees, it’s time to contain, degrade, and ultimately destroy these Islamist mofos, they tell ya hwat. Turn on Fox News and you’ll hear folks like Tucker Carlson, Geraldo Rivera, and all the rest of those propagandist pieces of shit railing on about the need to annihilate the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.’ Tune in to MSNBC and you can hear the same thing, interspersed with timid warnings about why it’s bad to scapegoat migrants. Self-proclaimed anti-imperialists cheerlead the Russian bombing campaign in Syria, and anarchists praise Kurdish fighters, who now collaborate with the U.S. No matter where you stand, it’s virtually never a question of whether or not to wage war, but how aggressive ‘we’ must be in waging war.

On November 20th, 2015, one week after the mass casualty incident in Paris, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution demanding the entire world join in on the action, seemingly indicating that the ‘War on Terror’ may be escalated to heretofore untold epic proportions and comfortingly promising of a temporary surge in mass casualty incidents which will in the long term reduce the number and frequency of mass casualty incidents.

“This world, with American leadership, can and must come together to destroy [ISIS and Al-Qaeda].” –Bernie Sanders at the 2nd Democratic Debate

It was a little easier to be anti-war about a decade ago; with George W. Bush in charge and waging a war in Iraq that was a bit more blatantly based on criminal pretexts, a more active social movement against militarism meant that there were more sizeable numbers of folks with whom one could link up and plot disruptions of the war machine. In certain milieus it seemed everybody loathed ‘Dubya’. There was a popular meme from those years called “same shit, different asshole,” featuring George W. Bush juxtaposed with Adolf Hitler. I myself managed to, using black permanent marker, draw Hitler moustaches on a poster-sized photo of President Bush which one of my high school teachers, a one time Republican representative in state legislature, kept in his classroom. Hilarious to me at the time, the teacher didn’t seem to notice this unsubtle, perhaps juvenile détournement, since it stayed that way for months. But then, the managers of U.S. Empire elected a new approach public relations: white power in black face. Nobel peace prizes delivered by drones simmered down the anti-war movement quite a bit, but it wasn’t long before the cult of LaRouche had its Hitler Obama posters out. Of course, comparisons to Hitler and Nazism are far from cutting-edge. From reductio ad Hitlerum to Godwin’s Law, Nazifying one’s enemies has, for over 60 years, been a convenient and sometimes powerful rhetorical device; one that even the U.S. government itself employs in propaganda against its current boogeyman, an apparent enemy whose mediatized wickedness is bordering on, if not surpassing, comic book levels.

In an article entitled “The Islamic State and the Cynicism of Nazi Analogies”, Natasha Lennard highlights a fact which we will reiterate here: “the subtext of any Nazi comparison by a US official is to invoke a moral obligation to engage militarily.” Nevermind that the United States of America was the primary exporter of eugenics to Germany, or that American industrialists were enthusiastic supporters of Hitler, that its most beloved amusement park was the brainchild of a goddamn Nazi, that the US actively deported German Jews and would-be Holocaust survivors to Europe, and only entered into the Second World War as a result of a rival imperialist power’s attack on what had less than fifty years earlier been an independent country which Theodore Roosevelt declared to be arbitrarily granted to the USA by ‘manifest destiny.’ WWII was ‘The Good War’, the ultimate just war, “a morally clear-cut conflict between Good and Evil.”

It’s not exactly hard to sympathize with the draft dodgers of the genocidal Vietnam War, but to evade conscription during World War II? That could potentially be scandalous. Surely everyone has a duty to stop fascism. “No Gook ever called me a Nigger,” a popular Vietnam era slogan went; but plenty of Krauts did call the local African diaspora, whom they subjected to forced sterilization, ‘Rhineland bastards.’ Evil shit indeed. Perhaps there was no other time when it was more difficult to be anti-war in the USA than during the Second World War. Though the First World War had its Espionage and Sedition Acts, it was a blatantly inter-imperialist war. But out of the First World War emerged the Bolshevik Revolution, and so the former revolutionary defeatists had some semblance of a stake to defend in the Second. And recent and current U.S. wars have been fought by an all volunteer military, so it doesn’t take a lot of guts to refuse to fight these days.

Le Sony’r Ra, better known by his stage name, Sun Ra, nicknamed Sonny, leader of the Intergalactic Myth-Science Solar Arkestra, is best remembered for his prolific jazz career and pioneering role in the genesis of afrofuturism. However, he was also a conscientious objector to war, for which he is far less remembered. Little public record of this episode of Sun Ra’s life existed until the publication of John Szwed’s 1998 biography Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (not to be confused with the 1974 blaxploitation sci-fi film Space is the Place, which stars Ra). Born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914, Sun Ra was drafted into the US military in 1942. This marked the beginning of an ordeal which would eventually lead to his jailing in Alabama and internment in a forced labor camp in the middle of a forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. Known as Camp No. 48, it was part of a theocratic gulag system administered by the Civilian Public Service (CPS) from 1941 to 1947, consisting in total of 152 camps and smaller urban ‘units’ across the United States.

Sun Ra couched his resistance to participation in the war in Christian rhetoric, despite lacking membership in any church. This was probably the best bet for anyone seeking recognition as a conscientious objector, as morally-grounded exemptions from forced transformation into a human killing machine were, since the First World War, effectively limited to followers of the ‘historic peace churches’: Quakers and Anabaptist sects (i.e., Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and Schwarzenau Brethren). Furthermore, it was not until the 1971 Supreme Court ruling in Gillette v. United States that the possibility would be opened up of conscientious objection based outside of affiliation with a “well-recognized religious sect or organization whose existing creed or principles forbid its members to participate in war in any form” (i.e., ‘historic peace churches’–Quakers or Anabaptists). Gillette called his religious belief ‘Humanism.’ The ‘historic peace churches’ hold state-sanctioned violence as contrary to Christian morality. As religious movements, they were originally conceived in Northern Europe and in North America are rooted in overwhelmingly white congregations. This effectively barred African-Americans from being conscientious objectors. As Sun Ra would note during his draft ordeal, “[my case] has embittered me to such an extent that I am wondering whether a Negro has the right to be a Christian or whether it is even remotely possible that any white man can ever be expected to deal fairly with my race.” During the First World War, conscripted members of these congregations were forced either into ‘noncombatant’ military service or prison, where some were tortured and extrajudicially killed. It was the leaders of these churches, who had united to form the National Council for Religious Conscientious Objectors, and shortly thereafter merged with the Civilian Service Board to become the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO), in response to the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940, who actually concocted the plan to set up a network of forced labor camps under their control as a more desirable alternative to either ‘noncombatant’ military service or imprisonment. Camp No. 48, where Sun Ra was interned, was administrated by the Church of the Brethren.

Initially (and surprisingly, since he was not affiliated with a church), the government recognized Sun Ra as a conscientious objector, and the local draft board informed him that he would be granted the right to be detained in a remote forced labor camp as an alternative to military service. But for Sun Ra the musician, the church-run civilian gulag was no more desirable an alternative than ‘noncombatant’ military service or prison. As he appealed this decision, he was in communication with pacifist organizations and the National Service Board for Religious Objectors (NSBRO), whose members were more sympathetic to his case than those of the local draft board. In one of these correspondences, he writes:

My orchestra and the management of it, the arranging and composing, the rehearsing, the developing of potential talent, that is my work and the only earthly pleasure I love. To separate me from music would be more cruel than standing me by a wall and shooting me. I think I would prefer the latter. I hope you understand why I am so staunchly against being in any kind of camp where one must live according to certain rules and regulations and requirements. If it were possible to be in civilian life and be of help I would appreciate greatly this consideration.

In addition to his dedication to his orchestra and his religious objections to killing, Le Sony’r Ra was financially supporting one of his relatives through his musical work, and he was in a poor state of physical health, which made the kind of manual labor required at the work camp dangerous for him. Nevertheless (and despite having been cited Paragraph 652.11 of the Selective Service Regulations which the NSBRO had informed Sun Ra supported his exemption), the all-white local draft board ordered Herman Poole Blount to render himself to Camp No. 48, approximately 850 miles from his home, on December 8, 1942. When Sun Ra informed the draft board that he “would probably not show up at the designated time,” they threatened him with jail. Reporting back to the NSBRO how the local board had handled his appeal, he writes, “Gandhi, Stalin, Christ, and a lot of people who fought for right know of jail.”

As Szwed explains in The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (1998), Sun Ra was shunned by most of his family for his refusal to go and fight the Axis powers. But Ra quite rightly identified the fascist-imperialist ideology as occupying not only Europe and Asia, but also the Deep South he lived in. In his correspondences with the NSBRO, he admonishes the local draft board for “smack[ing] of Hitlerism,” and snatches the wig off of domestic inequities when he writes, “Unfortunately, I am not living in a part of the U.S. but more a section which seems a member of the Axis and which is determined that no Negro will ever receive justice.”

Shortly before Sun Ra’s arrest and forced relocation, Szwed informs us that,

On December 2, he received a sympathetic note from J. N. Weaver, head of the Camp Section of the National Service Board for Religious Objectors, telling him that he would be given another physical examination when he reached the camp, and that he would be discharged if he was not physically qualified. He concluded, “I suggest that you report to camp and we shall do everything in our power to see that you get justice.”

On December 8 Sonny failed to appear at CPS Camp No. 48. A week later they came after him, and took him away to holding rooms set aside for malingerers and subversives at the old post office building not far from his house. His family, still humiliated and angry, refused to have anything to do with him. Only his brother Robert’s wife and daughter came to visit him, where they found him spending his days writing letters to his bedridden great-aunt, the FBI, and President Roosevelt.

One can hardly fault Sun Ra for declining to travel across the country for a physical examination. Three counties southeast of Birmingham, Alabama lies Macon County, where the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments had begun ten years earlier, in 1932, and would continue for another thirty years, until 1972. These experiments, conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service on rural and impoverished African-American men, are remembered as some of the sickest, most fucked up cases of unethical human experimentation carried out by the U.S. government. Black sharecroppers were left with untreated syphilis treatment so that Public Health Service researchers could observe the deadly effects of the curable disease. When some of these human guinea pigs were, like Herman P. Blount, drafted into the military during World War II, draft boards began notifying the men to take penicillin treatment for the disease following physical examinations which were a routine part of induction, only to be prevented from doing so by the Public Health Service.

After he was arrested, Sun Ra remained in jail for 39 days until he was forcibly relocated to Camp 48 in desolate Marienville, Pennsylvania. Szwed writes that “camp life was a daily routine of forestry work followed by evenings of rest, discussions of religious matters, and reading. (…) The camp at Marienville was not segregated, and for the first time in his life [Sun Ra] had daily contact with white people, and he joined in the nightly discussions of the evils of war and the morality of resistance.” Arriving at Camp 48 in early February 1943, Sun Ra’s health rapidly deteriorated under the forced manual labor regime. “Suffering heart palpitations, headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and (…) paralysis on his left side,” he complained to the camp director until he was finally granted medical examinations and the camp’s doctor and psychiatrist both “recommended him for immediate discharge for reasons of physical disability.” At last, in late March 1943, he was set free, classified as a bona fide conscientious objector.

A little over a year after his ordeal had begun, Sun Ra wrote again to the National Service Board of Religious Objectors to request a subscription to their newsletter. “Certain of a sympathetic audience,” Szwed writes, “he went on to talk of morality, and the role of teacher he was assuming in civilian life:”

At all my band rehearsals I talk to the fellows and try to make them see the point of knowing and admitting to oneself whether he is right or wrong and how fine it is to know the ecstasy of being right. Due to many aspects which discourage, the young Afro-American often loses initiative and other valuable principles of life

I never speak of conscience, which makes them listen more eagerly as they think I will. I am beginning to wonder if conscience isn’t like intellect–you either have it or you don’t. The majority of people in the world don’t think, they dodge social problems and many other things which puncture their ego. Is it because they don’t have the brain? Some of them, maybe? Then what about the conscience? … Sometimes I think it is an abnormality to want to help others and to care about anything but self. The world is so selfish that sometimes I don’t care whether I live or die. I’ve tried to be selfish and unthinking, conscienceless, but I can’t.

Since the U.S. military no longer recruits via conscription, the law regarding conscientious objectors is, for now, seemingly irrelevant. But this is actually not such a fortunate thing as it might seem, as what it truly signifies is that there is a large pool of dumbasses who think that Call of Duty or Ghost Recon gameplay and plotlines resemble reality or that spending a couple years as a conscienceless killing machine is a great way to “pay for college” and “get professional experience”, or more desirable than working in a low wage job or being homeless or even suicide.

Unlike another famous so-called, would-be ‘conscientious objector’ named Bernie Sanders, Sun Ra was, legally speaking, an actual conscientious objector. This is because U.S. law on conscientious objectors, clarified by the previously mentioned Gillette v. United States (1971) case, holds that conscientious objectors must be opposed to war in any form. In other words, they have to oppose all war in general, and not only one or more particular war(s). While Sanders refused to fight in the Vietnam War, he later went on to endorse wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Gaza, and now, as if that wasn’t enough to permanently tarnish his reputation as some kind of antiwar icon, displays his warmonger credentials by proclaiming that “[the] military option [against Iran] is always a possibility,” and hypocritically calls on the young people of the Middle East to fight as U.S. surrogates in Syria and Iraq while at the same time claiming to “get very upset at people who are so prepared to send other people’s kids into that war.” Sun Ra, on the other hand, had a lasting conscience, exemplified by work from his later years such as “Nuclear War” (1982).

Late 1942 and early 1943 were surely a transformative time in the life of Herman “Sonny” P. Blount. His avant-garde efforts to assert his civil and human rights and to resist war during those years deserve more recognition.


If you were not familiar with Sun Ra or this episode in his life, then you have never read Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax, my 21st century proletarian novel which is also a satirical geopolitical thriller, because in it Sun Ra makes numerous appearances. In Raving Radicals, I have taken a few creative liberties. Unlike the real Sun Ra, who claimed to be from Saturn, the Sun Ra in Raving Radicals inhabits Rátopia, another ringed gas giant in an alien planetary system orbiting around a star called Szulo. Rátopia is similar to TrES-2b, the blackest planet ever discovered, except that it is even darker than TrES-2b and it has not been discovered; this is why it is called “the darkest planet unknown to Man.” Raving Radicals is a novel about jumping beyond the realm of possibility. Because mainstream political thought has pushed proletarian revolutionary change beyond the realm of possibility, it is necessary to embrace the fantastic, to realize the impossible.

“There is a message in all of my music. It’s all about people doin’ somethin’ else other than what they have done. Because what they have done is the possible, and the world the way it is today is the results of the possible that they did.” – Sun Ra

Fantastic literature, in the view of Bulgarian-French literary theorist Tzvetan Todorov, is a present-oriented genre, constantly at risk of vanishing into thin air because it is, in essence, the state of hesitation; it is the occupation of the liminal mental space before one has decided whether the happenings of a tale are feasible or infeasible in relation to a particular worldview. Rather than being an autonomous genre, the Fantastic is situated in between the past-oriented Strange, or the supernatural explained (into which it dissolves when bizarre happenings are better explained in terms previously known conceptions) and the future-oriented Marvelous, or supernatural accepted (which absorbs it when the outlandish overpowers the senses to the extent that a new worldview must be admitted). Raving Radicals as fantastic literature is thus highly extroverted towards elements of conspiracist ideation, from weather modification to melanin theory, posited within a constellation of more conventional social facts to build up this tension. In this particular passage, one of the book’s protagonists, Tisha Ulroy, has just arrived in the Uhuru Union, a Pan-Sub-Saharan Africanist proletarian state, to set up a diplomatic mission on behalf of the Socialist Rromani Republic of the Banat, a communist Gypsy state in Eastern Europe which she previously helped to establish along with her comrades of the Radical Book Club, an ultra left-wing activist group.

Eventually the bus went beyond the outskirts, into the countryside. Afternoon faded into night. Many celestial bodies could be seen. The Dog Star, or Sirius–as it is sometimes known–shone darkly upon the savannah as the speeding metallic block traversed it.

The Dogon members of the Uhuru delegation began to recount with pride to Tisha how the elders of their tribe had passed down knowledge to them of the star system Sirius. Dogon cosmology had been a curiosity to Western scholars since the early 20th century, when French ethnologist and honorary Dogon tribesman Marcel Griaule had brought the tribe’s inexplicable savoir of the star system to the world’s attention. Improvements in observatory and space exploration technologies would later confirm Griaule’s findings, demonstrating that a Dogon hogon, or ritual elder, was able to accurately anticipate the layout of the Sirius star system. Some of the Dogon claimed that the source of this astral knowledge was none other than Sun Ra, the alien jazz musician come from the ancient dream of a Black man via Saturn.

The Twa members of the Uhuru delegation disputed the Dogons’ claim. One Twa man instead attempted to convince Tisha that Sun Ra had actually been a 20th century African-American man who had fabricated his extraterrestrial backstory in a dissociative response to torture inflicted upon him near Tuskegee, Alabama during imprisonment for draft dodging during the Second World War. This first Twa man’s assertion was, however, disputed by another Twa man who claimed that, though Sun Ra was a 20th century African-American man, he was the descendent of a Dogon hogon. Furthermore, Le Sony’r Ra’s abundant melanocyte receptors, not to mention his copious amounts of the consciousness-altering hormone melanin, had allowed him to perform ancestor communion at will.

How could they have possibly known these facts? The Twa people, known for their supple pineal glands, which were rumored to be immune to calcification, were said to be adepts in the art of liminal epistemology, able to abstract invisibility from the visible. It was thus that they knew much about late stage capitalist barbarism, and formed well articulated critiques of it, without ever needing to leave the rainforests.

31 – The Globalized Future

In the year 2234, Ralph Rodgers worked at the Central Authority Agency. His job was to slaughter innocents across the globe in the name of hierarchy.

The Agency was the pinnacle of hierarchical perfection. All essential human wisdom had been relegated into the hands of the Agency. The brightest minds, the smartest fiends, and the maddest men: these were the people the Central Authority Agency had harnessed. These were the people the Agency bred. Constant oppression of the masses kept dissent to a bare minimum. Any outspoken criticism was instantly detected by the auditory mainframes, whose nodes saturated all aspects of automaton society, and was slated for brutal liquidation by the Automaton Dissent Repression Force.

The furthest a rebel movement had ever come to leading a revolution was in 2094, when the Human Liberation Army, in reality a rebellious and disillusioned sub-sect of low-level officers issued from within the Central Authority Agency, led a raid on the Authority Planning Center, a computer complex manned by hired guns in Langley, Virginia. The H.L.A. destroyed three mainframes in the Authority Planning Center. (How were the H.L.A. able to breach the Automaton Security Parameters? It was surely thanks to the Sonic Resistance Methods these rebels had picked up from the Central Africans in their campaign to automatize [or more precisely, automatonize] Sudan). With no computer systems managing the Central African Human Automaton Territory, chaos broke out in Central Africa. The mainframes which had been managing the delicate process of automatonization in the C.A.A.’s final colony in transition were unable to be rebooted in time before the Resistance solidified its hold over the consciousness of the Central Africans.

Central Africa was the last territory of the Earth to begin automatonization in the 2080s. By 2094, it had still not reached a fully automaton state. Resistance lingered in Central Africa. With the outbreak of chaos, the Central Africans found themselves subject to a war with the Agency’s puppet, the Central African Destruction Force on one side, and the Human Liberation Army on the other.

A wall had been constructed by the automatons around all of Central Africa. The area stretched from Cameroon to Kenya. Outside of this wall, automatonization continued as normal. The Central Authority Agency’s automatonization scheme was somewhat flawed however, in that whether it was a question of modifying human beings, or replacing them with artificial intelligences (both practices were commonplace—though the humans were not completely dispensable due to their function in organic intelligence spore production), there was always the risk that some particular element might not be perfectly rendered according to the directives of the mainframes. This was remedied by periodically re-implementing Electromagnetic Thought-Emotion Destruction Sequences.

Nevertheless, by the year 2234, Essential Automatonization had been achieved in all territories outside the Central African Containment Wall. However, also by this time, a new resistance to the Central Authority Agency had solidified. The resistance had become the religion of the underground. Resistance and religion were one in the same. The Central Africans worshipped anti-authority. This lack of respect for authority was crafted by a Central African shamanic storyteller, or djeli, to give the Central Africans a means of resisting the Central Authority Agency. It was the djeli who performed the rite of intense facial scarification on all newborns, replacing the baptism as a symbol for their eternal refusal to co-operate and their rejection of the dominant aesthetics of beauty. Religious Central Africans could not be reasoned with. They simply destroyed all hierarchy. This was done by living as wildly as possible. They ran through the forests, slaughtering all who they come across beyond the immediate family and shamanistic leaders. The exception of the immediate family existed only so that reproduction of the humans, and thus reproduction of the resistance, might continue. The shamans, meanwhile, used their powers to ward off the crazed survivors and rogue automatons of the global colonization.

This Afrikan Order grew so powerful that after all these years (2094-2234), the Central Authority Agency had not yet been able to stomp it out. Afrikan shamans held the esoteric knowledge behind the Human Liberation Army’s success in Langley in their hands. They passed on the old literature of resistance in strange and subtle forms from shaman to shaman, generation to generation. Through the laying on of hands in decentralized djeli-to-djeli networks, the Afrikan shamans were able to transmit communist literature in the form of organic files through melanocyte receptor swarms. This was how they understood the powerful resistance strategies of Comrade Mao Tse-Tung in order to sustain their people’s war against the oppressor.

The Central Authority Agency did have a plan though: slaughter each and every one of the free Central Africans. However, given the grand area and large jungles covering the territory, along with the way the Central Africans hid underground and in the trees, the Central Authority Agency was prevented from discovering the whereabouts of each and every Central African. Central Africa had become the final frontier in the struggle for a centralized global authority. With the destruction of the Central Africans, a central authority would guide mankind’s journey for the rest of existence. Humanity would indeed become one, now and forever. Once total control and power is achieved, none can escape its sanguine grasp.

Outside the Central African Containment Wall, automonization meant a life of mass psychological programming for the pawns of the Central Authority Agency. Collectively, they were bound to automaton-consciousness by the powerful mechanized aspects of mass computer consciousness. Automatonization was simply material reality. It could not be escaped; it was unfathomable for the de-spiritualized automaton mind. Only within the Central African Containment Wall did hope for freedom from oppression exist. The shamans gave strength to the Central Africans through their songs which glorified the brutal destruction of authority and planting the seed, or asili, of New Afrika.

This was the nature of things in 2234.

By 2235, the consciousness of the Central Africans reached a critical mass. No longer did they slaughter all beyond the immediate family, but they formed together a larger unit, a tribe dedicated to the destruction of authority, which was dubbed by some inside the Agency “The Egalitarian Sect”. Why had the Central Africans passed through this antisocial phase? It seemed that the trauma of isolation had rendered many of them insane, as it turns out would be the fate of the great majority of future humans and humanoids. Many of the so-called “Central Africans” were in fact not indigenous to this region, but refugees who had fled the settler-automatons from the north and the south.

The shamanistic leaders were those who had guarded the ancient wisdom of the ancestral spirits, thus preserving some degree of sanity in the face of the global mechanization process. The shamans judged by 2235 that the time had come to unleash the ancestral spirits, and so they decided to share with all Central Africans their wisdom of resistance. Soon enough all became literate, all read the holy texts of resistance, and all were empowered with the strength of the Anti-Authoritarian Spirit. All were shamans now. Together they gathered and communicated with the lwa, the spirits of their ancestors. The lwa showed them the path to victory. Many visions were seen and through the third eye of the shamanic unity, great comrades of past resistance movements manifested in ethereal forms and their powers were transmitted to them. First came Toussaint Louverture, then Bhagat Singh, Lei Feng, Vera Figner, and finally many others. All showed them the way, expressing one great truth: Liberation is necessary.

That same year, Ralph Rodgers was flying helicopter reconnaissance over the Central African war zone. Intelligence reports indicated that the Central Africans were indeed forming a new communal unit. Strange sightings of bright lights and other phenomena had been coming in from the peripheries of the territory where C.A.A. settler-automatons were stationed.

Ralph Rodgers was a good automaton. He knew how to obey authority very well. Little did Ralph know though that long ago, in the year AD 943, his ancestor had been bitten by a rabid wolf in the frozen forests of Norway. A Cosmic Afrikan djeli had accessed the wolf’s fangs by means of space-time warp-maneuvering aspects of the mega-verse. On the fangs of the wolf was placed the serum of self-hatred. The wolf sunk its fangs into Ralph Rodgers’ ancestor, and so the serum of self-hatred was intravenously introduced to the bloodstream. Science would later show that dormant aspects of the bloodline can be awakened at points in time remote from the mutant progenitor. As Ralph Rodger’s helicopter passed over an Afrikan shaman hiding in a tree, the serum of self-hatred was discreetly awakened by the passing. Suddenly Ralph Rodger’s mind was aroused by the hatred of his automatonized self. He could not help but to crash the helicopter, driving it towards the Earth. It exploded into a fiery ball of wreckage as it cascaded through the rainforest canopy. Branches flew every which way, brutally whipping his face into a hideous pulp. His corpse was disintegrated in the flames, and all Free Minds rejoiced. The wolf bitten spirit of his ancestor was released into the sunshine and then absorbed by many other automaton patrol-copters. They too were overwhelmed with wolf bitten spirit, and compelled by the realization of their worthlessness to crash into the tree tops. Those whose helicopters were equipped with automatic pilot ejection mechanisms were captured by mutant monkeys living in the rainforest canopy. The fate that awaited them was an even more gruesome one than had befallen Ralph Rodgers.

That night the Central Afrikans gathered on the spot where Ralph Rodgers had died. They rejoiced, knowing that soon the C.A.A. would fall apart as the oppressed masses inhaled the wolf bitten spirit.

European Pop Act First of its Kind to Perform in Pyongyang

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

On August 19-20, 2015, the musical group Laibach will do a ‘Liberation Day’ tour of Pyongang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea. Chogukhaebangŭi nal or ‘Liberation of the Fatherland Day’, known in the West as ‘Victory over Japan Day’, commemorates the 1945 surrender of the Empire of Japan following a series of heinous crimes against humanity carried out by the American government against civilian non-combatants in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Laibach has generated a fair deal of controversy over the years, stemming mainly from their deliberately provocative appropriation of Nazi aesthetics, including the swastika and Schutzstaffel (SS) uniforms. The band was formed in Yugoslavia in June 1980, less than a month after the death of the iconic Balkan leader Josip Broz Tito. This corresponds precisely to the historical moment where ethno-separatist and nationalist trends began to rise sharply in Yugoslavia, culminating in a series of wars and atrocities leading to the country’s disintegration. The band sings in German (although not exclusively), and a bit of onomastic digging reveals that the band took its name from the German word for Ljubljana, the capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia which was occupied by both Italian fascists and then Nazi Germans during the Second World War.

While the band’s visit is unlikely to signal the forthcoming addition of Pyongyang to the standard circuit for artists like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, or Iggy Azalea, the show is still remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, North Korea is seen as a pariah — it’s hard to imagine another country whose level of political and cultural isolation rivals that of the DPRK. Earlier this year, state functionaries in the US imposed a new round of sanctions after accusing it of waging “cyberwarfare” on Sony Pictures in retaliation for The Interview, a would-be comedy turned yellowface propaganda film depicting the assassination of the country’s head of state which was produced in collaboration with the CIA. The Interview and the ensuing real world conflict it helped escalate aren’t the only recent of examples of this imperialist entertainment complex rearing its ugly head. In 2012, a remake of the 1985 film Red Dawn depicted a North Korean invasion and occupation of the United States, an absurd scenario by any stretch of the imagination. Meanwhile, the US, whose weapons of mass destruction stockpile dwarfs that of North Korea, continues to carry out war games in the region on a regular basis which simulate bombing and invasion.

Though the DPRK is still in a de jure state of war, that hasn’t stopped Westerners, including businesspersons, tourists, artists, athletes, educators, and journalists from travelling there. In 2009, Swedish fashion company Noko Jeans became the first foreign capitalists to import trousers tailored in the DPRK. Norwegian artist Morten Traavik has collaborated with North Korean artists and cultural authorities and is the one largely responsible for coordinating Laibach’s ‘Liberation Day Tour’. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman generated a big brouhaha as well when he made visits to North Korea with Vice Media. And despite censorship, the DPRK even recruits Westerner educators to teach in its school system. Laibach follows in the footsteps of all these people, but breaks ground in at least one outstanding way: it is the first foreign musical group to play in North Korea, as far as anyone can recall.  

All of these signs point towards a timid rapprochement between the Kim dynasty and the West as it struggles to survive in a global geopolitical climate which is generally hostile to it. This is mirrored in this year’s re-establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba, another state hit heavily by imperialist sanctions where private enterprises have made significant inroads. Nevertheless, these developments demonstrate that, contrary to the bourgeois media narrative, these reclusive states are not isolationist entirely by choice, but largely as a consequence of sanctions and embargoes imposed by the Global North.

Laibach is set to play their shows at the Kim Won Gyun Conservatory, exposing approximately 2,000 people to their spectacle over the course of two days; that’s around 0.008% of the country’s population. While little seems to be known for certain about who will be amongst those eight-thousandths of a percent of the populace in attendance, or about the process citizens must go through to gain entry to the event, bourgeois journalists speculate that the audience will be made up virtually entirely of Workers’ Party of Korea apparatchiks and/or their children.

To what extent Laibach will play up its ‘totalitarian’ image (which is otherwise its defining element) while in Korea, and whether Laibach will leave a significant impression on the North Korean public in terms of their idea of ‘The Occident’ at large remains to be seen. There are nevertheless a few things we can examine here.

Nazi Image

Laibach is well-known for giving off a Nazi vibe. While some attempt to label it ‘totalitarian’ — dubiously equating Nazism with Communism — their aesthetic firmly remains predominantly Nazi. Recurring colors in promotional material and music videos are red, black, and white. Uniforms worn on stage, in music videos, and in promo photos are obviously based on the SS. They sing in German. They have white skin. All of this has made a lot of people question whether these musicians might be supporters of the far right.

classic

Laibach’s ‘Classic Nazi’ look, circa 2003

neo2011

Even with their newer, toned-down look (2011), the group would still not look out of place at a Neo-Nazi rally:

neonazi-2012

Jeff Schoep, leader of America’s largest Hitlerian hate group, speaks at a Neo-Nazi rally in 2012. As you can see, Neo-Nazi fashion trends follow a similar trajectory to that of Laibach.

The same question arises, and with all the more frequency, with regards to Laibach’s more commercial, more bro-ish, and less original little brother, Rammstein. In fact, Laibach anticipated a whole movement of Nazi-themed industrial and metal music. ‘National Socialist Black Metal’ (NSBM) exploded in the 1990s with explicitly pro-white supremacist lyrics. But other groups took the Laibach route: Nazi imagery combined with a (supposed) sense of ironic detachment. Perhaps the most notorious example of this kind of group is Hanzel und Gretyl. Like Laibach, this New York-based industrial rock band sings mostly in German and English and they incorporate space elements as well (see Iron Sky, a nearly unwatchable sci-fi film about a Nazi moon colony for which Laibach produced the soundtrack). In a 2009 interview, Hanzel und Gretyl give the following answer when questioned about the Nazi nature of their music:

Vas [Gretyl]: “No, it’s not Nazi music!”

Loopy [Hanzel]: “I think the person should react however they’re gonna react. I mean, we’re just sort of putting it out there. It’s a… maybe an extreme mode of expression and it’s gonna elicit different types of reactions. And that’s what we’re most interested in. We’re just putting it out here to see what happens. It’s not hate inspired.”

Vas [Gretyl]: “We just like to have fun!”

What has happened is that, even if we take at face value the dubious claim that their music wasn’t hate-inspired, it has indeed inspired haters. Their song “Third Reich From the Sun” was uploaded by Youtube user “88nordichate” (88 means ‘Heil Hitler’ in Neo-Nazi numerology, H being the eighth letter of the alphabet) over five years ago and has a comments section riddled with pro-white supremacist statements. “88nordichate” has uploaded dozens of other Neo-Nazi and Neo-Confederate videos, among them two other Hanzel und Gretyl music videos. The fact that Hanzel und Gretyl and Metropolis Records haven’t reported these videos for copyright infringement after more than half a decade would indicate that Hanzel und Gretyl and/or their manager either: (a) don’t ever use or check Youtube (unlikely), (b) don’t mind hate groups and bigots using their music as a platform for outreach and networking, or (c) haven’t experienced any backlash from their fans, whose political views range anywhere from apolitical to extreme right-wing.

The inner cover sleeve of Laibach’s third studio album, Opus Dei, features the following image created by John Heartfield (1934), a man regarded as an innovator in the instrumentalization of art towards political ends. Heartfield was a communist and one of the first people to be persecuted by the Nazi regime after it came to power:

heartfieldaxes

Subtext reads: “Blood and Iron – The slogan which Bismarck formulated lives again in the new German state. The executioners’ bloodstained axes form the Nazi swastika.”

Traavik, the Norwegian who sold the DPRK on a Laibach show, says that Laibach are “not a band making statements, but a band that is always questioning contemporary attitudes.”

Surely Heartfield wanted to make a statement with his above artwork. And one would be hard-pressed to accept that a group of men wearing SS uniforms and grunting in German about fascism, witchcraft, and NATO are merely “questioning contemporary attitudes”. Even if you did accept that, a question is also a statement insofar as it reflects the interest of the one who asks it. Using music as a tool for posing questions makes Laibach’s orientation instrumentalist. A critique of instrumental artwork must evaluate how effectively, and to what practical ends, that art is instrumentalized.

Dubious Exoneration

One of Laibach’s most famous contemporary countrymen is the anti-capitalist psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek. He has defended both Laibach and Rammstein from critics who say that their fetish for Nazi militarist iconography could be dangerous. Not only does Zizek exonerate them of any wrongdoing, but he actually goes so far as to say that their approach is “fighting Nazism”.

“The minimal elements of the Nazi ideology enacted by Rammstein are something like pure elements of libidinal investment,” Slavoj Zizek informs us in the documentary film The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012) as frontman Till Lindemann goose-steps across a stage. “Enjoyment has to be, as it were, condensed in some minimal ticks, gestures which do not have precise ideological meaning. What Rammstein does is it liberates these elements from their Nazi articulation. It allows us to enjoy them in their pre-ideological state. The way to fight Nazism is to enjoy these elements, ridiculous as they were here, by suspending the Nazi’s horizon of meaning. This way you undermine Nazism from within.”

Short of a time machine, these elements, gestures or constellations of “minimal ticks” can never be returned to a “pre-ideological state”. Zizek is actually appealing to de-politicization/decontextualization or, at best, ideological dilution. “Suspending the Nazi’s horizon of meaning” is not possible without cultural amnesia. This is not the way to fight Nazism, at least according to survivors of the death camps, who are some of the strongest advocates of memory. The very idea of being able to de-politicize the iconography of Nazi militarism, strip it bare of its Nazi significance, is akin to the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency’s ludicrous goal of expunging Nazi war criminals of their genocidal past in the post-World War II US government program Operation Paperclip, which was done for the same reason Zizek puts forth here: to nicely bring the German scientists to a pre-ideological state where their “enjoyable” elements were then accessible in the form of strategic scientific knowledge and data — at the expense of justice.

As we have seen in the case of Hanzel und Gretyl, the injection of Nazi elements into a “pre-ideological [de-politicized] state” is liable to attract and mobilize those who genuinely admire and romanticize Nazism.

In the best case scenario, the majority of those attracted to the band will be apolitical folks who simply find it interesting or enjoy the sound of the music and don’t care to examine its deeper message, while a minority will appreciate the work as a political critique and be strengthened or encouraged in adopting an anti-fascist worldview. Here live performances may even function as political sociodramas, which are a form of group psychodrama. Kellerman (2007) writes in Sociodrama and Collective Trauma, “In sociodrama groups that explore the effects of oppressive regimes and totalitarian political systems, it may be suitable to suggest that group members show this situation in action.”

Nevertheless, the worst case scenario, that of spreading romanticization and fetishization of militarist iconography (and by extension, militarism itself) among fans remains possible, even for Laibach, no matter the group members’ intentions. It would be no stretch of the imagination to envision the baby killers in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 getting psyched up on a Laibach track instead of the Bloodhound Gang’s “The Roof is on Fire”. It’s also been said that the perpetrators of the Beslan school siege listened to Rammstein during the event. De-politicization allows anyone, including Nazis and terrorists, to make the music theirs and instrumentalize it towards politically reactionary ends.

There are still other reasons why this would-be de-politicization or decontextualization of swastikas, goose-stepping, black and brown shirts, arm bands, etc. can be regarded as dangerous.

The mass psychology of fascism is alive and well in today’s world. The authoritarian family, rabid middle classes, crises of free market liberal democracy are all part of our 21st century world. Only when these things have been done away with will it be theoretically possible to divorce the elements of fascism from their horizon of meaning. The mere popularization of the constellation of elements is an indicator of a rising tide of vituperativeness amongst the petite bourgeoisie. Laibach are not licensed therapists qualified to carry out mass sociodrama. They are a rock band.

Whether people are making “libidinal investments” into a militaristic parade or into a performance of musicians on a stage at a consumerist venue, the fact that libidinal energy is being sublimated into anything at all means that everyone involved is a victim of a society which has made them feel that their naturally occurring animalian desires are unacceptable and that they should instead somehow divert that into “higher” desires like rigidly extending their arms at a forty five degree angle towards the Great Leader or enjoying consumeristic musical venues. The latter is all the more insidious precisely because it has become the more acceptable and palpable means of social control. War and genocide in their 21st century forms continue without the former, and are made possible in part by the latter.

Undermining Authoritarianism from Without

Do we really need to get into Nazism in order to undermine it, as Slavoj Zizek suggests?

We might consider some alternative perspectives on this issue to counterbalance Zizek’s.

In 1940, indigenous peoples in North America resolved to disown the swastika, a symbol which had been theirs previous to the rise of Nazism in Europe.

28 Feb 1940, Tucson, Arizona, USA --- 2/28/40-Tucson, Arizona: Florence Smiley and Evelyn Yathe, Navajos of Tucson, Arizona are shown signing the imposing parchment document which formally outlawed the Swastika symbol from designs in Indian art, such as basket and blanket weaving. Four tribes, Navajos, Papagos, Apaches and Hopis banned the symbol which was in use by the Indians long before it came to have a sinister significance. The document tells why Indians banned it. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Signing the resolution

In his 1964 autobiography, Romanichal actor Charlie Chaplin wrote of his 1940 film The Great Dictator, “Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator, I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis.”

thegreatdictator

Charlie Chaplin as “The Great Dictator”

Perhaps instead of tolerating, much less enjoying, these elements from within, the best way to fight Nazism is to recognize that the measure of free speech we have under private market liberal democracy and the lack of it under private market fascist dictatorship are really two sides of the same coin. Instead we must practice social responsibility and censor, ban, and lay utter waste to Nazism and fascism from without. We ought personally admonish fascist fucks in an intense and intimidating fashion and culturally repress their desire to be antisocial dickheads until they are forced to take their blasted libidinal investment in other directions. But with this blatantly outrageous and over the top censure bordering on obscene levels of anti-fascist bravado must also come a willingness to patiently and calmly explain why only revolutionary socialism can undo our hierarchical societies’ horrific injustice.


All works cited in compliance with the fair use doctrine.