France is more fascist than Ukraine

While the Charlie Hebdo controversy has been dying down, there was something that’s been bothering me about the coverage of “fascist elements” in Ukraine. For a while, scholars like Volodymir Ischenko have been warning, and to some extent rightfully so, about the far-right movement in Ukraine.

The problem is, this great attention pales in comparison to countries with an actual fascist problem, not the least of which is France. For comparison, in the 2014 elections, the far-right Svoboda party won less than 5% of the vote and did not enter government. In France, Front National didn’t win any representatives either but it garnered 18% of the vote. For those doing math, almost four times as much of the population voted for fascists in France as did in Ukraine. And recent polling shows that the fascists are leading in France.

All of which makes me wonder: where are all the think pieces about the rising tide of fascism in France? For all that’s been said, fascists are a fringe force in Ukraine, but they have huge possibility of winning right in the heart of Europe.

“Why is terrorism always committed by muslims?”

Let’s forget the fact that, at least in the US, Muslims commit less terrorism than even Jewish groups, let’s forget that more 95% of worldwide suicide terror attacks are in response to foreign occupation. And lets especially forget that, contrary to Sam Harris’s statistic of “20% of Muslims,” only tiny minorities support terrorism.

No It looks like the shootings in France were not committed by: far-right Jews, not far-left or far-right atheists, not PKK atheists, not IRA Christians, but just Muslims, two Muslims who are apparently representative of over a billion people on the planet.

Capitalism is more hierarchical than ever

One of the most persistent delusions is the idea that capitalism has entered a new “spirit,” one in which it is no longer “Fordist” or hierarchical in the way it works. As Slavoj Zizek put it,

Capitalism abandoned the hierarchical Fordist structure of the production process…and developed a network-based form of organization that accounted for employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace. As a result, we get networks with a multitude of participants, organizing work in teams or by projects, intent on customer satisfaction and public welfare…

In this way, capitalism usurped the left’s rhetoric of worker self-management, turning it from an anti-capitalist slogan to a capitalist one. It was Socialism that was conservative, hierarchic and administrative.

Right off the bat this seems suspicious, at the most immediate level, do we see a radically different world of freer workers? In films like Office Space, were people complaining about how autonomous they were? If anything it is the exact opposite, we are entering an age that is more hierarchical than in centuries.

The idea that the workplace changed to be freer comes from Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s 1999 book, The New Spirit of Capitalism. In it, they look at the managerial literature from the late 1800s to today and look at how corporations tried to internally resolve some of the critiques that were offered. Of course while the evidence is vast, the conclusion does not follow; by examining how managers talked to each other, all it shows is the propaganda that companies used, not whether the structure actually changed.

In contrast, organizational studies show that the organization did change but not in the way Boltanski and Chiapello predicted. What is called “guard labor,” that is, the labor that is used to keep people under control rather than to do something productive, has dramatically increased. As one study shows, management has gone from about 10 percent throughout the 1940s-60s to 16 percent today. The authors even wrote about it in the New York Times (blog), and the problem could conceivably be getting worse.

supervisors

If this has shown anything, it is that capitalism is inherently hierarchical, and that, instead of following corporate propaganda, we should be looking for ways to change it.

Was Lenin Actually For Democracy?

Among Marxist circles In recent years, there has been a re-evaluation of Lenin as wanting to construct a democratic party organization but because of war-time circumstances, had to create a top-down hierarchical organization. Of course, this points to something positive, since the radical left is advocating for democracy instead of the short flirtation with authoritarianism after the collapse of Occupy. But this rehabilitation is itself troubling because it simply is not true: for all of Lenin’s libertarian writings before the revolution, none of the proposals were actually carried out and instead a regression happened.

It’s Not Democracy If We Lose: The 1917 Election

If there was an obvious point where the Bolsheviks could have implemented full democracy, it was after the 1917 Russian elections. In the first free and fair elections since taking power, the Bolsheviks overwhelmingly lost the vote to other left parties. Instead of stepping down, they threw out the results and justified it on the grounds that the true power was with the worker’s councils. Unfortunately, that power was quickly broken apart as well.

Lenin and Worker’s Control

It is worth remembering that, independent of the Bolsheviks, worker takeovers were spreading throughout Russia. In a detailed history by Maurice Brinton, it shows how Lenin attempted to suppress much of what was happening right from the beginning.

While political maneuvering to break self-management were occurring earlier, the first full attempt at repression occurred in early November 1917, when Lenin published the “Draft Decree on Workers’ Control.” In it he outlined that if enterprises were designated “of importance to the State” they would then be “answerable to the State for the maintenance of the strictest order and discipline and for the protection of property.

To be considered such an enterprise it would either be involved in defense or “in any way connected with the production of articles necessary for the existence of the masses of the population.” That is, almost any workplace could be taken over.

In fact, the decree was so odious it was resisted by the workers: the decree failed to pass because of resistance. After a two week stalemate, the Bolsheviks had agreed to a “compromise” where the workplaces could be given orders by a “Regional Council of Workers’ Control,” which-surprise!-was appointed by the Bolsheviks. This occurred on Novemebr 14th, all but ending worker’s control in Russia.

But, the Civil War!

The biggest defense for all this is the Russian Civil War, which, as an existential threat, necessitated brutal repression. Between the war and Lenin’s death then is the tragic rise of Stalin, who supposedly ruined everything. Let’s leave aside whether secret police, torture and forced labor are justified in war-time conditions, what this history shows is that workers control in Russia was ended a month before any signs of war (December being when the Volunteer Whites were formed).

Even later pre-Stalin propaganda justified the November repression for efficiency’s sake, it’s impossible to argue that these were done for the war when no signs of war were even close to present.

We need to accept that there is no rehabilitating Lenin or Leninism, he set out to subordinate the workers as soon as he could.

New Atheism Can’t Tell Where Religion Ends And Power Begins

Looking back, Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration, was almost written to offend New Atheists. In it, he not only defends religious tolerance and co-existence but also absurdly advocates for repressing atheists since, by his logic, its impossible for someone to be moral without believing in some higher power.

While he was definitively wrong about the lock-up-all-the-atheists part, he was right when he wrote that the problem isn’t religion per se; it’s power-struggles between religious institutions, at that time between the Catholic and Anglican Church. This was pointed out close to 400 years ago but still has not occurred to the so called New Atheism movement.

One example is he contentious topic of Islam and terror: major studies carried out by the University of Chicago found that “[m]ore than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation” and that it is carried out by other religions and secularists alike. The problem then is military occupation, not that any particular religion exists. Had the US invaded Mexico and Brazil instead of Iraq and Afghanistan; we might be talking about Christian extremism and “Christian terror” today.

But this is even more problematic when dealing with something virtually no one thinks were caused by religion, like the Troubles in Northern Ireland. No one that is, except for proponents of New Atheism.

For instance, Sam Harris posted on twitter that the “only salient difference between the groups is religious” and that “calling the divide “political” just confuses matters.” Even Dawkins, who is generally less strident then the rest, made some ham-fisted point that:

Yes, of course the troubles in Northern Ireland are political. There really has been economic and political oppression of one group by another, and it goes back centuries. There really are genuine grievances and injustices, and these seem to have little to do with religion; except that…without religion there would be no labels by which to decide whom to oppress and whom to avenge.

Yes, because if we used the names Group 1 and Group 2 instead of Protestants and Catholics it would have really made a difference over the distribution of power.

The point is, contrary to what New Atheists claim, very rarely is there true conflict between religious groups independent of other conflicts. The problem is powers using religion to legitimize themselves, not religion itself.

Dread Techlord: Why to Worry about the Dark Enlightenment

Erasmuslijn

Summary:

The “Dark Enlightenment” or Neo-Reactionary movement (“NRx”) has been the object of curiosity and condescension as its most high profile writers and adherents in the tech industry attract more mainstream coverage. The perils of the NRx’s sexist, racist, and hyper-capitalistic techno-utopian thought are evident to most observers. Rather than write off the movement as a nerdy non-entity that is beneath one’s concern, it is important to see how this reactionary strain is uniquely positioned to cause severe damage in the event of a social crisis that leaves people open to anti-liberal beliefs. This is a situation which has been made possible by the persistent libertarian ideology of elitist tech sector employees, whose material advantages leave them uniquely positioned to spread reactionary thought and practice. As remote as the possibility may seem, the potential explosion in popularity of NRx ideas gives a strong incentive to begin laying down frameworks of opposition against them today in the form of labor organization and…

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