Lenin Complex and Some Frustrations of Mine

It doesn’t take one very long to realize that the Left-wing movement is full of oddballs; most of these oddballs are loveable. Others, however, are not so loveable and so I found it fitting to be the topic of this short post– overly serious “professional” revolutionaries who fancy themselves the Lenin of their times.

Or, Lenin Complex for short.

Ignoring the maybe slightly Ableist connotations of the word “complex”, these people are the sort of comrades which frustrate me more than any other comrade. Why is because, at best, they turn Leftism into a drab military-esque formation where everything is sacred, and all is black and white. At worst, such comrades hide reactionary politics and/or toxic behavior.

You know who they are, they are the Leftbookers who will never be caught uttering a joke, mentioning anything about their personal lives which hasn’t be filtered through fifty-shades of SERIOUS™ and POLITICAL™, and who always act as though every post and story shared, every sentence of commentary, is akin to a polemic which will be read by online archeologists decades down the road. Maybe they even are working on their “collected works” or an “autobiography” of their political lives.

I deplore these people.

Now, there is nothing wrong with taking yourself or your organization seriously. Not everyone needs to be a clown-in-training. But there is a difference between taking yourself seriously and immersing yourself within the SERIOUS™.  The former is something mature people practice from time-to-time while the later tends to be, more often than not, a cover for self-aggrandizement and reactionary politics.

To give an example: I have known several comrades over the years who have transitioned to far-right extremists. It is a sad development but something which happens from time to time. What every instance had in common, however, was that the comrades in question had bad cases of Lenin Complex (nothing against ya, Lenny!).

These comrades would try to mask everything they did. One, a younger fellow, posted an overly long, yet emotionless rant about how he lost his cell phone while on a study trip to Europe. Why the post was long was because he wanted to be taken SERIOUSLY® for his newly acquired Right-wing pals; he didn’t want to be perceived as a stereotypical, whiny American kid who was so concerned about his cell phone. It will not surprise you to learn that this behavior was something which followed him throughout life, even when he was a leftist: before he ditched an organization which, at the time, we were both members of, he called my on Skype to say that we were still comrades; a touching sentiment, yes, but something which is hardly needed if you are merely leaving one group to join another.

Another example, this time with someone older than my ex-comrade: in short, he was a class reductionist National-Bolshevik. He was incredibly transphobic. Part of how he would hide his fascist sentiment was with overly-serious attitudes; he would post lengthy commentaries on how carefully he decided on the course of action to take. To him, every time he deleted somebody from a social media profile was a BIG EVENT©. People such as him hoped to find their fame as a left-wing personality by making it seem as though they took a personal interest in each and every action and story they shared. It was pathetic.

What I am getting at is that this behavior indexes larger problems.

One can just as easily hide their counter-revolutionary politics with “ironic” humor, it is done every day, especially with TERFS. But, if one uses humor, it is harder to build a cult-following and easier to pass one’s self off as a respectable commentator and source of opinion. Whereas comedy tends to alienate the respectable, the serious attracts the crowds out of the authority fallacy.

I want to shift gears, though, because I think this Lenin complex cuts deeper. This is where my personal frustrations peek.

Lately, I have been becoming more and more frustrated with the revolutionary left. Do not mistake me, I have never been more of a revolutionary communist, but I have been finding it harder and harder to have non-hostile conversations with people from certain tendencies and outlooks, mainly because of how they operate in a subset of Lenin Complex.

What irks me is when a comrade will remain connected to my profile for a long time but only comment or react to my content when it comes time to disagree with a political statement I make. Now, I tend to be selective about who I let on my profile, but there is a variety of people on there, not all of whom are Leftists. But what I strive for in my interactions has been to keep up an interest in my friends’ activities. Sometimes this means liking/reacting to stories, other times commenting, or if they are of the persuasion, messaging them and deepening the connection. What I have been seeing lately, though, is comrades who simply only care about my activity when it clashes with their own beliefs.

These comrades you will not see taking an interest in anything you do: they will not like/react to your posts, they will only rarely comment or message you. But, don’t worry, they will comment on your posts if you post something which offends their very exact political sensibilities. Never will they interact with your content about your personal life, even though you clearly give off the vibes of someone who is open to people becoming closer via communication.

Obviously, this is not a position shared by comrades who have thousands of friends. As I said, I am selective about who I let on my profile. Additionally, I understand boundary issues and some people just wanting to do their own thing. I get that. So what bothers me is when I see Lenin Complex intersect with other bad behavior; behaviors such as: overly serious, religious-like, reverence some comrades have for their group or tendency, or how it leads them to remain connected with known abusers but does not lead them to conduct self-criticisms. Such comrades place personal affectations above politics while remaining attached to that overly-serious political model which allows them to deny any personal stake in their actions; it is the reverse of my own frustrations but a very real present all the less.

Personal affectations aside, however, the general conduct of the left in organizing has been disappointing. There have been many premature declarations and larger than life assertions with poor practice. I hope that organizers start taking their roles as political agents more seriously. I say this because in my personal experience, there is a lot of weirdly misplaced effort in the most unlikely of places and it disturbs me.

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“Russia is an Imperialilst Country”

Comrades over at Mass-Proletariat recently published a great take on modern Russia’s imperialism; since there is much confusion on Russian imperialism, with some people refusing to believe it even exists, this should be mandatory reading for anyone who considers themselves a Leftist.

Link: http://www.massproletariat.info/writings/russia_is_an_imperialist_country.html

Concerning Melodrama and Conduct: A Self-Criticism

 

li-zhensheng

Not sure if this is an image of a public criticism, but I think it gets the point across, essentially.

 

In the theoretical tradition which I have immersed myself, there is the concept of a self-criticism; essentially, it is a means for comrades to lay bare their mistakes, air their inappropriate conduct, behavior, and practice, and solicit responses from comrades. It is a chance to admit up to our frail, human status and try to better ourselves. Opportunism

So, it is long, time that I conduct my own self-criticism for an action of mine from a couple years ago. Please keep in mind, though, that the names of the persons involved have been omitted for their privacy.

Anyways, to get on with said criticism.

A couple years back, I was severely depressed. During one such depressive episode, I drank heavily and casually remarked that I was going to commit suicide. A comrade tried to talk me out of it; instead of responding in a neutral, mature, and healthy manner, I derided them and called them horrid transphobic slurs. This was not merely a mistake on my part but a fundamental mis-practice.

I wish to apologize for this behavior: I am sorry.

Though I do not consider myself a Transphobic individual, when I drink, I often become depressed; during this night, that depression reached a great height with my threat of self-harm. When the comrade in question attempted to dissuade me from self-hurt, my transphobic response was that of a melodramatic, Hollywood-esque shenanigan to garner attention—I called them slurs in an effort to drive them away, the understanding being that I would die alone unless they continued to shower me with the rugged ‘I will not leave you’ affection. I wanted to be pitied and cared about as I spiraled into despair.

There is no excuse for this highly bourgeois, individualist behavior. It reflects a personality which must not only strive to combat their reactionary impulses but live in a manner which pushes back against their divergent neurological facticity. Comrades should never play mind games with one another, abuse their personage. Moreover, comrades should especially not engage in such immature and petty stunts, like garnering attention from sappy affectation mining.

Alcohol is not an excuse for my actions. When I slurred at the comrade in question I knew that it was wrong of me, but I did it regardless because I desired to be the center of attention and because I was upset with myself; I decided to take out my existential frustration on another person instead of level-headedly discussing my worldly grievances in an open and honest manner.

I wish to also apologize for taking so long to write this self-criticism.

Obviously, when the incident happened, I was not in a healthy state-of-mind, so I was distracted by not only my own place but also  because of certain issues which came up as a result of that night (which does not concern my own action as much as it does of the action of my comrade in question). During the time I was also a university student, so I had a degree of class work to keep my mind from addressing my rotten behavior; though, it should be said, that this was largely just an excuse to prevent me from internalizing the consequences of that night. Additionally, what impeded me writing this self-criticism, aside from my own hesitancy, was the desire to not have any family or close relations see the dysfunction; a part of me wished to disown that night and forget that it ever existed. But this is not possible—what happened, happened, and I cannot ignore my own ill-conducted practice for the sake of self-aggrandizement.

What I did was wrong philosophically, theoretically, morally, ethically… however, you wish to think of it. My conduct went against my own community and radical tradition. It was inexcusable—period. So, I again apologize for this repulsive conduct. I promise to strive to better myself, not abuse persons when I drink and operate as a level-headed representation of the revolutionary tradition. It will be a long road, but I feel confident in my ability to better myself; and so, with all that said, I wish to beg forgiveness and to simply state that I will do better.

Another Cycle: Nothing Gained

dumptrump

Another election farce has come to an end. The result? Another capitalist swine has entered office and given the emperor a new set of clothes. It is all base; nothing of it matters—though you may be tempted to disagree with the hordes of angry people screaming for the blood of other people who are far closer to their ideals then they realize. But, as progressive comedian George Carlin once remarked, “Americans like to get worked up over minute differences”, so it makes sense.

But since the pseudo-fascist face of the day changes so often, let’s see who will be exploiting, oppressing, and murdering us for the next four years.

Ah, of course—Trump. Dumpy Trumpy. Generic Rich White guy, racist and all. What would happen if the Youtube comments section grew a pair of legs and trademarked itself.

My thoughts: not very much. I never considered Trump a fascist, unlike a great swathes of the Left who seem to be unable to articulate what a fascist is thanks to how neoliberalism and neoconservatism have warped the base and super-structure. But, let’s stay on topic.

It is important to remember this—had Hillary gotten elected, the only difference—maybe— would have been in the social sphere; meaning, things about gender, sexuality, and… uh, some overtures in regards to race, perhaps. Honestly, the fact that I have to think about what social initiatives would be better under Clinton, even moderately, is a testament to how little difference there is between the two candidates.

With Clinton, you can understand how things would have been; lots of rhetoric about equality, gay rights, some transgender lip-service, and a whole lot of denial about her own racist history. Meanwhile, on the foreign relations front, Clinton would give the United States the face of a reasonable tyrant. After all, she is a seasoned and professional politician. This would have been good for the Democratic Party since Clinton’s war record attests to her actions as a would-be president—a hyped up military intervention on the world scale which would exacerbate contradictions with North Korea and China and Russia. If you want World War 3 then Clinton is your woman!

So what happens with Trump?

Not much. We can expect draconian policies in relations to woman’s reproductive health, Queer visibility and rights, likely a slash on the financial aid program… uh, you know, the same shit that reactionaries are always attacking and that have not fared too well under Obama-the-Bomber. So, yeah: Trump is an uber-reactionary when it comes to the social sphere. How unsurprising.

If there is a silver lining—if you view peanuts in shit as a silver lining—Trump’s foreign policy is likely to be less hostile, considering his stance on Russia and the like (his admiration of Putin and Saddam). We must also remember that certain neoconservative think tanks denounced him because he wasn’t right-wing enough, so…

But this is what our current bowl of shit-pudding amounts to—with, or without, urine?

Honestly, the differences, as they presently stand, between the two candidates and what we can infer from their actions, simply is not enough to make me care. Seriously, I could not give a shit.

What I care about isn’t the personalities behind the throne, it is the throne itself—capitalism. I care about the very real neo-fascist movement which is gaining steam vis-a-vie Trump’s campaign (not that he cares for it). I do not care about how Trump will, inevitably, disappoint his contingent of supporters when he proves unable to build some delusional wall or put Muslims on some watch list. I do, however, care about the people who will suffer violence and discrimination as a result of Trump’s victory; I don’t care for forcing a historically revisionist angle in trying to say that the Democratic Party somehow is the better keeper for American exploitation. That flies in the face of history

I must admit, however, that I am looking forward, with a fair amount of masochistic pleasure, to the unending wails from liberals and progressives who will now shout until their lungs are sore. People like:

  • scream bloody murder at the electoral system; proclaim that voting fraud was somehow involved (it may have been involved, actually, but whether it was enough to sway the election or even matter, is another issue entirely); (2) the Bernie Sanders supporters who will take this as a moment to rant about how detrimental Clinton was to progressivism and how Bernie could have saved us all; (3) then, of course, there will be those classical liberals who get all angsty at voting itself; (4) who accuse third-party candidates for stealing Clinton’s chance at victory; (5) and, who could forget, progressives like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert who will cry more indignant tears than all that exists in the ocean; (6) am I missing anyone? The conspiracy theorist, perhaps (but they are never important); (7) Oh, yes, who will forget, also: the pseudo-Left who gave critical support to Clinton based off of identity politics and are simply social-imperialists.

Provided, all the cries of Trump’s alleged fascism are going to get old quick. Though, I do hope that his victory at least provides the left with an opportunity to organize again; something which hasn’t been seen since Bush’s presidency; sure, such outraged liberals and progressives were hardly comrades, but they were at least there, doing something, and were in the position to listen to leftists. Conversion narratives, though, are a hard bright side. Though I do think the best that we can hope for is a moment of collective reflection and re-groupment on the part of the liberal-progressive establishment.

I think that what is important now more than ever, is to have a firm Marxist outlook.

Meaning, no compromise with reaction; condemnation of White Supremacy, an upholding of internationalism and anti-nationalism; a whole break with the pseudo-left that ignores the struggles of Native Americans and Transgender individuals. The left cannot afford to ignore anti-racist alliances and those who are struggling to violently break with the status-quo. These cancerous parasites have infected our movement for long enough and now, in a moment where a neo-conservative wad of waste has been elected, we should find it impossible to turn our heads in any direction but revolutionary communism.

Thoughts on the Peripheral Left

macromicro

I was reading the blog of JMP lately, and though I have my differences with his articulation of Maoism, I found his piece on “Saving the Left from Itself” to be a useful read. In this short post, though, I want to go in a slightly different direction and talk about another incarnation of Leftists against the Left that I feel has not been talked a whole lot about.

Lately, I have seen a decent amount of sentiment from people– mostly online only Leftists, but some real world activists as well– who have been ‘fed up’ with the Left. Their angst about the left is not unfounded, but it is a kind of misapprehension.

A lot of self-proclaimed Leftists who talk about the dismal state of the left hone in on certain topics: Lenin Complex (the idea of people believing themselves far more important than they actually are, a codification without doing anything), sectarianism, differing views exacerbates, and simply acidifying personalities making the left, in their eyes, appear infantile.

I have been thinking that part of the mistake that these people make when complaining about these facets of reality is that they are mistaking the part for the whole. To explain, let me talk about the Democratic Party (U.S).

The American Democratic Party is a mass-party. It has official branches in every state along with a host of unofficial apparatuses; ideologically, their thought is disseminated both consciously and unconsciously. Moreover, there is a host of groups which are not joined to the party in any conceivable way except for the support of a vaguely neoliberal policy.

Because of its widespread nature, the Democratic Party has many figureheads and functionaries. Many of these functionaries are only noteworthy for their local presence on both the online forums and the local grassroots assemblies. Other such figureheads are not even concrete: they are those ideological mouthpieces– such as Jon Stewart, but certainly many other lesser known people, from politics to entertainment– that espouse the Democratic Party’s goals.

The thing is, these other people advocate the position of the Democratic Party in myriad ways. But what happens with these lesser figureheads is that the Party itself is never directly implicated– it is always the mouthpiece themselves.

(I would not go as far to say that this is a general ‘law’ or anything like that)

In the Left, however, this course is reversed: it is the Left itself– and all of the accompanying parties, as divergent as they are– who are implicated, not the various minor figureheads and representatives.

When these people who say that they are ‘fed up’ with the Left start talking about what irks them, it is always the macro standing in for the micro. It never seems to occur to them that their experience with the left is a tiny piece of a much larger political formation, one which is greatly abstracted from anything representing the tangible reality of a mass organization. In other words, their micro piece may not– does not– represent what is the much larger (macro) reality.

A few real world activists here, some online drama there, a bit of sectarianism, and a dash of champagne socialism, and all of a suddenly, the left is some useless, or in the very least, dysfunctional, current no longer worth engaging; it becomes something that is hypocritical, immature, unrealistic, irrelevant… weak.

You will notice that this is not the approach taken with the ruling apparatuses. Why this is of course relates to ideology and power, but the standard code of conduct could nevertheless apply, so it is a bit mystifying why the left feels the need to judge their own ‘comrades’ on such an irrational basis, while the bourgeoisie manages to firmly demarcate the micro and macro.

Part of this, I feel, relates to the abstraction of real world leftism and the prevalence of online communities, where one invests so much effort into the ‘side-show’ that they forget that the real ‘show’ is where the thought actually counts; in short, that there is a complicated dialectic at work between the virtual and real, and that this dialectic is not to be ignored.

So when we talk about the Left against the left, I think we should also remember that those on the periphery, both in the real world and online, should take into consideration the great dialectic at work in society. Under a period of decaying ‘late’ capitalism, the ruling ideology has reified relations in different social sectors and made differentiation, and as such, political organization outside of the acceptable fold, more difficult to not only conduct, but merely initiate. Revolutionaries should remember that representation and reality are connected by a complicated series of aspects and inter-penetrative systems, and we should take our time in discerning what the total sum is before making grand pronouncements.

Abstract-2

China, in 1968, proletarian artists created a collection of clay statues. These sculptors depicted the violent exploitation faced by the peasants. Titled Rent Collection Courtyard, each sculptor revealed a bit of the existential and physical horror endured by farmers under the heel of the dreaded landlord Liu wen-tsai of Tayi County, Szechuan Province.

The goal of the project was to depict the inhumanity of the exploitation; children clinging to their parents, elders contorted in pain after hauling their rent many miles, and people of all creeds torn in anguish over whether they would be able to pay their rent in full, or face the tortuous machinations of the landlord’s brutes.

The value in a project like this is that it delineates space; more aptly, it re-articulates spaces which, formerly, were subjected to exploitation and re-imagines them as spaces for communal advancement precisely through the uncovering—the depiction of violence—which exists just underneath the surface. Because history is sediment and is layered in succeeding levels as time proceeds, uncovering those previous layers is an exercise in revolution. In short, it takes both study as well as creativity in order to create the art projects which, like Rent Collection Courtyard, aim to help raise class consciousness; study for discovering (or remembering, if someone is of age) specific acts which occurred during specific times, and creativity for how to depict the act which was uncovered (what materials the artist will use and so forth). In true Maoist practice, neither can be divorced from one another as long as the artist expects a revolutionary outcome.

But, because of our present degree of distance from when this art piece was made and displayed, and because of the cultural and historical difference, this abstract and any extrapolation concerning it, will focus less on the specific aspects of this particular project, and more on what can be learned from interpreting similar spaces of re-articulation. Meaning, I will be exploring not merely certain aspects of how this piece relates to Chinese history and art, but how other projects similar to it, can help the revolutionary artist come to grips with how to interpret the physical space which surrounds them and how to use that space in bringing attention to class based ideas of emancipation.

For the PDF of Rent Collection Courtyard, see here: http://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/Arts/Sculpture/RentCollectionCourtyard-1968.pdf

On Gaming: A Revolutionary Perspective on Modern Video Games

This was the second major piece I had written and it was, again, written for the Kasama Project. I had a great deal of enjoyment writing this piece since it enabled me to come further into textual criticism at a time when it was still fairly new to me. The piece deconstructs the reactionary, and sometimes progressive, elements of modern video games and posits a dialectical analysis of the video game industry. In the future, I think this is a piece that I would like to re-visit, especially in the light of GamerGate, but for now, I post it here for posterity.

~

Preface

                Video games have become a cultural icon. Despite both conservative and liberal demonization the onslaught has done little to stem the growth of the industry. With annual growth rates exceeding that of the U.S economy and billions of dollars in profits[1] the influence of video games is wide and varied. Many millions of people play these games; many are young, many more are older. There is no typical depiction of a gamer even though their average age is 30[2].

I myself game though not as much as I once did[i]. My early days spending in front of the television or portable game console taught me many things which I did not hear from teachers and certainly not from my parents[ii]. Things such as honor, respect, understanding and friendship, through the emotionally involving plots, these prized traits were drilled into my mind and greatly affected the person who I am today[iii].

You may laugh at this assentation, it is normal to do so[iv]. Yet it is unfortunate it is normal that many people probably did indeed laugh at the above statement. I consider this unfortunate because the medium is so rich and powerful that those who laugh do not understand the allure and potential of video games.

Such people do not understand that people of all shades, from all classes and political persuasions, enjoy these games. That for some it is a hobby while for others it is a job. For me it will only ever be a hobby, one that I indulge in on an increasingly rare occasion.

Yet this hobby has applications which I do not think have been seriously investigated by political forces outside of the developer’s narrow intentions. No organization has given its critique of online gaming[v], of how it relates to the struggle, or how persecution of video games hurts youth rights and workers’ rights.

Because this critique does not exist I decided to write one. I willingly spell out my thoughts in this matter because I believe that eventually someone, or some group, will formulate a successful cyber-approach and be skilled in nabbing people from the online gaming realm to enter their convoluted fold[vi] (whether religious, political or civil).

I do not claim this manuscript is a completed “end-all” draft or a master one that lays everything bare. I do not substitute it for street work or community organizing. Rather it is an exploratory work aimed at initiating discussion on a topic that I feel has been neglected.

The central question within is this: can the online masses be led to socialist thought and can the revolutionary gamer reach them through their favorite medium, or is it a dead end? This has been on my mind recently and is a topic that I feel needs to be explored.

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