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Alexander Zinoviev in the 21st Century

I recently finished Tomislav Sunić’s1)Apparently the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies him as an extremist, a label that does not seem to fit well if one reads his critiques of biological determinism and racism. But since I have no dog in this fight, I’ll leave his “extremist-status” to be determined. Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right and while my feelings on it are somewhat mixed (you can read my brief GoodReads review here), I overall think that, despite the misleading name which Alain de Benoist critiques,2)See Alain de Benoist, “The New Right: Forty Years After,” in Tomislav Sunić’s Against Democracy and Equality (London: Arktos, 2011), 18. it serves as a decent cursory introduction to the European New Right. This post, however, is not about Sunić’s book as a whole, but rather about the analysis he provides of Soviet dissident Alexander Zinoviev in the final chapter of the book.

More specifically, writing the book originally in 1988 and analyzing Communism and the Soviet Union before it collapsed, Sunić makes interesting use of Zinoviev’s cultural analysis of Communism that is even more interesting to read in a post-Soviet era. Indeed, based on Sunić’s commentary on Zinoviev, it seems as if the latter was sure that Communism was a sustainable system and would endure any economic hardship the arms race with the U.S. brought to the Soviet Union. It is my contention that if we take Zinoviev’s view of Communism at face value — that is to say, as explicated by Sunić –, then in a post-Soviet world, we are forced to conclude that the Soviet Union was not, in fact, a Communist society as per Zinoviev’s view.

Before I continue, I should make it clear that I have not read Zinoviev’s 2002 book The Russian Tragedy: Death of a Utopia (indeed, I’m not sure that it is available in English) wherein he reflects on the collapse of the Soviet Union. In The Russian Tragedy, Zinoviev could very well answer every point I raise in the following post and I wouldn’t know it, but nevertheless I shall comment on his views pre-collapse as they are likely not only distinct from his later views, but provide intrinsically interesting insights.

In the chapter “Homo Sovieticus: Communism as Egalitarian Entropy,” Sunić takes on the task of explicating Zinoviev’s cultural view of Communism as not merely a “historical zig-zag,” but rather as “an epoch.”3)Tomislav Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (London: Arktos, 2011), 188. For Zinoviev, Communism, true Communism, is characterized by social entropy. For him, large scale stability and prosperity are not characteristics of Communism, instead, “social devolution” wherein individuals can “develop defensive mechanisms of political self-protection and indefinite biological survival” are characteristics of Communism.4)Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right, 189. Indeed, for Zinoviev, not only is power in a Communist society not centralized, the society itself is truly egalitarian with everything distributed horizontally. Given such a feature, under conditions of stress — namely economic hardship — there ought not be revolts as everyone is in an equally terrible situation as everyone else. Further more, conditions of economic stress ought not be seen as indices of the system buckling, but rather as instances of the system surviving. As Sunić points out:

In his usual paradoxical way, Zinoviev rejects the notion that Communism is threatened by economic mismanagement, popular dissatisfaction, or an inability to compete with liberalism. Quite the contrary: Communism is at its best when it faces economic difficulties, famines or long queues. It is a system designed for the simple life and economic frugality. Affluence in Communism only creates rising economic expectations and the danger of political upheavals.

Continuing on, Sunić pre-empts reader’s worries by saying that

[f]or contemporary readers, Zinoviev’s theses may often appear far-fetched. In an age of glasnost and the unravelling [sic] of Communist institutions all over Eastern Europe, one is tempter to believe that Communism irreversible. But if one reverse this assumption, glasnost may also be seen as a turning point for Communism, that is, as a sign of the system’s consolidation that now allows all sorts of experiments with liberal gadgetry.5)Ibid., 196.

Given this, it seems hard to claim that Zinoviev did not have a romantic view of Communism wherein words meant their opposite: hardship meant prosperity, mismanagement meant security, etc. If one takes Zinoviev’s theses at face value — namely that contradictions to Communism are not death spells –, it seems difficult to simultaneously maintain that the Soviet Union, a highly unegalitarian society that was brought down by economic mismanagement, popular dissatisfaction, and economic difficulties, was real Communism. Or perhaps Zinoviev is just wrong. Regardless, the collapse of the Soviet Union either disproves Zinoviev’s theses, or proves that the Soviet Union was not an example of real Communism. Both options seem unpalatable, but one must be true.

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1. Apparently the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies him as an extremist, a label that does not seem to fit well if one reads his critiques of biological determinism and racism. But since I have no dog in this fight, I’ll leave his “extremist-status” to be determined.
2. See Alain de Benoist, “The New Right: Forty Years After,” in Tomislav Sunić’s Against Democracy and Equality (London: Arktos, 2011), 18.
3. Tomislav Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (London: Arktos, 2011), 188.
4. Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right, 189.
5. Ibid., 196.

Reply to “The Moral Status of Political Violence”

In the wake of Charlottesville debacle, something I didn’t want to write about, my friend Paul penned an essay titled “The Moral Status of Political Violence” wherein he argues that political violence is moral insofar as it meets certain criteria. As I told Paul on Twitter, I was considering replying to him and although I really didn’t want to write about ethics, I decided to spend a night and write this. What follows is a reply to Paul’s argument that he abbreviates as follows:

I think political violence is moral if it meets most(or all) of the following conditions:
  1. It will not cause escalation
  2. All other nonviolent options have been exhausted
  3. The person using violence has little to no power within existing legal systems
  4. Nonviolent alternatives would be much less effective1)Paul, “The Moral Status of Political Violence,” on Paul Writes Things, published 8/13/17, accessed 8/13/17, <http://paulwritesthings.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-moral-status-of-political-violence.html>

Fair warning: The following post will be different than most of my others posts insofar as, not only is the content different (I tend not to write about ethics), but the style is reminiscent of my policy debate days. In that vein, I will be responding Paul’s offensive arguments one by one while raising my own objections. Specifically, I would like to raise questions regarding what Paul said, counter some of his points, and briefly provide a statement of my stance. The latter will not be very detailed as this is primarily a critique of Paul’s essay, but hopefully it will get some traction regardless.

“So in other words, yes I do believe beating the hell out of white supremacists in Charlottesville is ok. I don’t usually like antifa, but in this instance they are completely justified.”

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References   [ + ]

1. Paul, “The Moral Status of Political Violence,” on Paul Writes Things, published 8/13/17, accessed 8/13/17, <http://paulwritesthings.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-moral-status-of-political-violence.html>

The Birth of the Two Hour Music Video

Anyone who knows me (in any capacity) knows that I adore watching films. While science fiction will always have a special place in my heart, if offered, I will watch just about anything — silent, noir, superhero, buddy cop, etc. As I’ve grown more attentive to the construction of films — that is to say, lighting, mise-en-scène, soundscaping, etc. –, I’ve noticed a slightly disturbing trend: my favorite aspects (and what I would argue are the most important aspects of film) are being sidelined. As everything in our lives moves faster and becomes more in-your-face, plot and character development are being either rushed or skipped over entirely in favor of fast action sequences, stunning (or obnoxious) shots with over-the-top special effects, and, of course, expensive soundtracks. While I don’t want to down play the importance of choreography, cinematography, or soundscaping and design (in fact, I wanted to be a foley artist at one point in my life), nor do I wish to mourn a long-gone age of film, I do want to point out the disturbing trend: big-budget films — that is to say, top billed, IMAX, summer blockbusters — are increasingly turning into two hour music videos.

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“The Rhizome” by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Translated from English into American

In 2012, Sean Joseph Patrick Carney published an article for continent. titled “’The Precession of Simulacra’ by Jean Baudrillard, Translated from English into American.” The article, while entirely humorous and, at some points, lewd, served to explain Baudrillard’s rather difficult essay in terms the layperson could understand. Given the success of Carney’s translation in elucidating some of Baudrillard’s more complicated ideas, I figured a few other dead French guys deserved the same American love that we export to the world. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have frustrated students and scholars alike for decades due not only to the intentional obtuseness of their prose, but also due to the difficultly of their ideas. Well no longer! I present Deleuze and Guattari’s (arguably) central idea, the rhizome, in bite-sized, McNugget format. One devient deux.

Translated from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi, 3-25.

Look at these two love birds.

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Against Ideology

P U R E  I D E O L O G Y  is the name of the game and everyone wants in on it, and if you’re a Žižekian, you’re ahead of the curve. If you’re an internally consistent Žižekian, congratulations! According to some interpretations of Žižek — indeed, he espouses this in various places –, while we may think that we live in a post-ideological era, ideology is still constantly around us. We critique dominate hegemonies in the hopes of creating counter-narratives, but all that ends up happening is that we replicate the dominate ideologies of the past; capitalism is persistent. The following quotation from Žižek is especially salient:

Ideology is not simply imposed on ourselves, ideologies are spontaneous relationships to our social world, how we perceive it’s meaning, and so on and so on. We, in a way, enjoy our ideology.1)Slavoj Žižek, “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology – What is Ideology?” Excerpt from The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology2012: 5:00-5:20

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