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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Another Cycle: Nothing Gained

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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

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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.

Sketches on Antagonistic Non-Resolution

The issue at hand is not if the dialectic[1] is universal. Nor is it whether there is in fact a functioning dialectic behind the happenings of the world. Both of these statements are givens: there is a universal dialectic that operates in all worldly, existential, and temporal realities. What is the issue, however, is the skewering of this dialectic into irrelevancy and eventually into debt.

Bourgeois society hasn’t changed: there still is two primary oppositions– that between the ruling capitalist class and the exploited working class[2]. What has changed is resolution. Within the imperialist center there is rapidly dwindling the ability for the dialectic to reach resolution, or synthesis. Bourgeois ideology and hegemony have created an elaborate anti-dialectical system aimed precisely at eradicating the ability for contradiction to be resolved; while normally quantitative change leads to qualitative change this is no longer becoming the case.

As stated shortly ago this is due to an anti-dialectical system, something which ruling class ideologues have slaved over ever since, and even before, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Incorporating ideology, religion, nationalism, and the expanded mass-media social networking apparatus, the goal for this system was to ensure constant turmoil in the subject production process. Every culture, person, gender, sexuality, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, and age had to be juxtaposed as an accomplice to a million reflections: fashion, the specific sub-set of a religion or political orientation, and even film, music, and video game interest; untold particles demanded to be mashed with another set of untold particles without any ever being split.

The consequence of this vast multiplicity in identity was, in fact, twofold: (1) the cultural arm of the bourgeoisie could allocate resources to new “cultural sectors” in an effort to squash a resurgence in “use-full” identities, those personalities which minimized danger to capital and maximized the ability for a subject to comprehend passed identity politics. (2) No one has a true identity. Instead of a host of divergent “Use-Full” identities there is an ocean of “useless” identities; those consumption-oriented personas[3] promoted to expand capital and its reign. In any cultural sector, be it pop culture, high culture (decadent bourgeois culture), nominal culture (the typical mass culture in a territory defined as a blending of that territory’s various identities), or sub-culture the bourgeoisie has the ability to utilize this non-identity to railroad how the dialectic would naturally lead to a synthesis; however, instead of the decline of capital forcing the decay of identity politics and Useless identities, the opposite has transpired: more emphasis has been channeled into the creation of these false identities because now more than ever it is vital for the capitalist class to maintain hegemony in the post-“end of history” period. The challenge of a communist project cannot be allowed to be legitimated among the working class; Use-Full identities cannot be allowed to take precedence and shatter the multitude of other illusions which lie just beyond the subject creation process. In other words what is seen is an antagonism which never reaches fruition. In all the spheres which the dialectic operates, the cultural managers of capital wage a merciless battle to combat the Use-Full subject producing power of the dialectic with their own Useless based identity project.

Why antagonistic? Because the mode of resolution is external. It is not internal, something which is dependent on the individual themselves. In order to reach synthesis the contradiction (the subject: Use-Full vs. Useless identity) must find passage through the external world which surrounds them. However, as alluded to in the second half of the title, Non-resolution denotes a lack of synthesis; meaning, an empty void of actual resolution. So how can these two concepts share the same idea?

The basic understanding concerns with interpenetration: even when a contradiction fails to reach resolution there passes a moment of conflict. As we know every contradiction possesses two side: a dominant and a non-dominant. In failing to reach resolution one of the two sides of the opposition triumphed over the weaker, non-dominant. However, this lack of a resolution comes from the overwhelming interpenetration that resulted from the great nexus of identities, from these identities being unable to separate themselves from the cultural-state apparatus. This moment of conflict, though ending in disrepair for the non-dominant aspect-the Use-full identity-still retains its social promise, the ability to remerge one day when recovered, albeit in a lessened quality. It does not go away despite the all-engulfing battle; which, when examined, is precisely because it does not fade: the huge proportion of the battle between the dialectic and anti-dialectic in all social spheres maintains the non-dominant side, almost as though the weaker aspect were in a coma. The non-dominant side, after all, is connected, like a limb, to the remaining battle: when healed it reserve the ability to re-enter the conflict; the only issue being the danger of false-starts in re-entering the fray, of connecting once more in a meaningful manner despite being rendered pointless for a long time. So while there was no resolution the concept of resolution still lingers in the air. The violence done to it, the attempt to resolve and reach synthesis, which was dependent on the other branches of the contradiction, therefore constitute the antagonistic quality. The stage which it passed through merely indicated a false start, not a final form.

This is not to say though that the method of resolution merely lies in surmounting the dominant side. While this is true in a technical sense this attitude ignores the additional danger posed to the contradiction, to the dialectic: that of debt, a concept which is that critical stage in the battle where the contradiction faces almost imminent defeat at the proverbial hands of the anti-dialectic, where every assemblage of the contradiction is in the process of being thrown into the coma-like state of inaction.

[1] Italicization here denotes when a term has a specific philosophical meaning. The reader will know when a word means not its usual definition but an exact one rendered through the Marxist dialectic. For a list of definitions and their meanings see Thomas Weston’s “Basic Concepts of Dialectics” on the Marxist Philosophy website.

[2] Here widely defined as everyone who is not a capitalist or a small capitalist.

[3] While it is not limited to merely consumption, for the basic imagining of this idea think of mainstream music. How many bands, groups, and artists have special “clubs” or pseudo-organizations for paying members? Many do while a defining characteristic of both this group, as well as the image which comes to be associated with the idea which the musician(s) promote, is for their “army” members to dress in certain clothes and define a definite social idea; this requires for the person in question to purchase commodities, usually directly from the musician’s website, in order to fulfill this idea. This person, who has built an entire persona around a specific idea bias to capital, has what I define as a “use-less” identity- that persona which is dependent on orders from above, can be renovated and re-directed to fill new needs, and which serves capital while deluding its follows into being separated from the herd when, in fact, they are merely one number among many. An identity built isolated from the class dynamic.