Category Archives: Politics

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.

References   [ + ]

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>

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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References   [ + ]

The Gordian Knot of Climate Change and Terrorism

Following the recent terror attacks in Manchester and on the London Bridge, both the Left and the Right have been quick to give their own narratives of what happened and why. The Right, predictably, blames the attack on open-borders, multiculturalism, and Islamic extremism, whereas the Left is placing blame either upon “hate-mongers,” climate change, and interventionist foreign policies. As with all things, I think that the truth lies in the middle…but that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to reply to dear, old Tomi Lahren and the following asinine tweet of hers:

Tomi’s tweet, along with countless others like it, are imbued with a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gordian Knot that is the relationship between climate change and terrorism. This post will be a modest attempt to explain what people mean when they say “climate change is linked to terrorism.”

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Book Review: “The Alternative of Real Ecology” by Kveldulf Gunnar Larsson

Introduction

Self-titled “real ecologist,” Kveldulf Gunnar Larsson, gives himself a lofty task in The Alternative of Real Ecology1)Kveldulf Gunnar Larsson, The Alternative of Real Ecology (Germany: Solitude Books, 2016). when he attempts to critique ecology as it is presented today, environmentalism is it is practiced around the globe, and humanistic thought…all in a book that is self-styled as “a collection of thoughts […] not written to be taken seriously.”2)Larson, The Alternative of Real Ecology, 95, 266. Indeed, The Alternative of Real Ecology is a unique book insofar as it is, either intentionally or unintentionally, written in a quasi-Delezuoguttarian way by trying to do away with subjectivity both in the traditional, humanistic sense, and in the sense of being a book about something. Indeed, Larsson notes his book has no value in the traditional sense. “It has no scientific, academic or literary value. It was not written to entertain or make money. It has no educational value; it was not written to educate. It doesn’t even have any environmental value as it’s not an environmental book.”3)Ibid., 2. Unfortunately, the subsequent questions that arise from Larsson’s bold statements and radical project (e.g. ‘What am I reading?’ ‘Why am I reading this?’ ‘How ought I understand the human-‘nature’ relationship?’) receive little treatment apart from the repetition of slogans within the 260+ pages of the book. Furthermore, numerous editorial and stylistic errors hinder the reading of The Alternative of Real Ecology to the point that, not only does one become angry with the text itself, but the project as a whole is jeopardized. The subsequent review will be divided into three parts: substance, critique, and style; however, as we shall see, the nature of the project necessarily intertwines the three together.


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References   [ + ]

1. Kveldulf Gunnar Larsson, The Alternative of Real Ecology (Germany: Solitude Books, 2016).
2. Larson, The Alternative of Real Ecology, 95, 266.
3. Ibid., 2.