Too much comfort and abstraction will kill you

I know this post is rather spontaneous, and I don’t plan on writing about the Gods and Radicals stuff for too long, or at least unless something major happens, but it seems that Rhyd Wildermuth’s article about anarchism just yesterday received a response on that very same website written by Christopher Scott Thompson, an anarchist and contributing author. The article, titled “We Are What We Always Were: A Response To “What Happened To Anarchism”“, is a sincere challenge to Wildermuth’s arguments against anarchist anti-fascism and I find that it put some real, heartfelt perspective to what Wildermuth strives to complain about, as well exposing his lies.

But, the article itself is not the main subject of this post, though the perspective it provides is a big part of what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is some reflections and perspective that was inspired by Thompson’s response.

Probably the most important point to consider from the article is about conflict, more specifically Thompson’s response to Rhyd’s points about the tactics used by anti-fascists. In response to Rhyd’s point about how it was ironic that anarchist websites got banned from Patreon and Facebook after Antifa groups “led the call” for far-right groups getting banned, Thompson argued, pretty convincingly, that even their own groups getting censored was, while bad for them, worth the risk to take out the far-right. His point was that a tactic in itself doesn’t become bad just because it can be turned against you, because the same applies for every tactic, in that there is no tactic that isn’t in some ways a double-edged sword. According to Thompson, everyone knew that this would happen, and accepted the risk on the grounds that it was worth taking the hit if it meant preventing harm being done. While I tend to be skeptical of deplatforming and definitely opposed to censorship on principle, when it comes to doxxing fascists who are about to do violence on others and bully others into committing suicide, it almost seems like there’s no reason to oppose that. I mean it’s just as Thompson says, which is more ethical? Is it more ethical to let fascists on 8chan “troll storm” Sophie Labelle into committing suicide because they didn’t like the fact that a trans person was creating comics that offended them, or is it more ethical to stop those fascists from doing that? If Thompson is right, the 8chan fascists seemed to stop harassing Sophie Labelle only after anti-fascists doxxed the people involved. I can’t help but think back to what happened to Near, the emulator developer who was bullied into suicide because they were trans and autistic, and wonder if perhaps the people at KiwiFarms might have backed off if they had the feeling that, perhaps, they would face the consequences of what they were doing? Would Near still be alive?

The perspective that Thompson offers is like a lightning bolt, it thrusts something important, but often forgotten, to the center of consciousness. From the perspective of Thompson, and the active, on-the-ground anti-fascist movement of which he is a part, it’s all about conflict, because theirs is a struggle in a real and visceral sense, one that is violent in nature in response to violence against the marginalized. For liberals, conservatives, vulgar libertarians (as opposed to radical, socialist ones), and apparently for people like Rhyd Wildermuth too, this is all just a conversation of ideas and opinions that can be hashed out intellectually. That’s in stark contrast to the anti-fascists fighting on the streets: for them, this is war.

Struggle, conflict, war, these are things that are lost to people who live in comfort and abstraction. Rhyd Wildermuth lives in the Ardennes, far away from anything happening in the United States that was once his home. Angie, his friend, is a middle class online socialite from London. Her friend, Aimee Terese is the rich daughter of a Lebanese capitalist living all the way in Australia, all the while doing nothing but incoherently rambling about the politics of a land whose people she has no real connection to. There’s all sorts of people who live, if not in comfort, then certainly in isolation from the struggle that persists at the center of the present. But if you live in relative security, comfort, alienation from struggle, it’s easy to think what you do about people who actually live in struggle and conflict, and make it their business to claw their way out rather than try to talk their way out of everything forever. And sometimes, just as is the case for the bourgeoisie, if you have comfort you’ll stoop to anything to protect it, even becoming a grotesque reactionary. I once met a guy who lived in the happiest country in the world and for him everything was about how to win debates and resolve the issues of “wokeness” to make socialism electable. The last time I saw him, he had fully embraced white nationalism. That’s what becomes of these people, because the truth is, if they’re not trying to hold on to their pre-existing biases, they have no skin in the game, and have no respect for those who do have skin in the game. Besides, all they like to do is get offended about everything and then complain about their rivals supposedly being like that. That is weakness.

Here’s something important to take away, consider it a lesson in life: never allow your struggle to be reduced to an intellectual quandary. If you do, then you’ll spend too much time trying to figure out how to solve the quandary, but all that means in practice is creating a set of rationalisations to justify yourself to others in a way that you hope your enemies will be satisfied with. They won’t be satisfied, because they never are, because that was never the point for them. Their real goal has never been to achieve resolution through reason, but instead to dominate you, gaslight you, and create insurmountable obstacles for your goals that can only be overcome on their terms, and while you never win they sit comfortably knowing that their victory is forever assured. Meanwhile the war, if it hasn’t already been ceded through intellectual compromise, is still going on all around you and your friends are dying or being brutalized, and figuring out how to rationalize yourself intellectually has solved nothing.

What has the working class ever gained by arguing that they have the right to equitable and humane living conditions, instead of fighting for those very conditions? What would Stonewall have ever gotten for the LGBT community if not for the riots of 1969? People talk about the American Founding Fathers to use them as a stamp of authority on behalf of their own positions, often for conservative goals, but you would never be able to do that if they didn’t wage revolutionary war against the British crown. Why do trans people have to debate their existence and their rights and endure the suffering of marginalization while their enemies get all the social protection and every benefit of the doubt?

Never forget what Heraclitus said, “war is common, strife is justice, and all things happen according to strife and necessity”. Struggle is real, it animates the transformation of things and of society, because Nature consists of cyclical growth and change, and therefore transformation. Life strives, therefore it fights. Therefore, the world turns. Change, justice, power, emancipation, these grow out of the barrel of a gun or the clash of a blade, or the smash of a brick, or the light of a flame. That’s also the only reason capitalism exists: it won the battle of the brutal transformation of the social order – that is what Marxists call the dialectic of history, and, I assure you, I’m convinced lately that the implications of dialectical transformation contain a grain of brutality to them. It’s also the only reason that losers get to evangelize about the greatness of civilization and progress, because they live off the fat of historic victory, turning that victory into the law of the land, and are eager to avoid losing their place.

Remember the struggle that matters, matters to you, because that knowledge at least might as well be sacred. If you lose it, you lose yourself.

Life Is A Struggle by Gustav Klimt (1903)

False victory

Ever since Bernie Sanders dropped out I kept seeing takes from progressives, as well as Sanders himself, about how the defeat of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn was actually a victory. Oh, sure, they didn’t win any of their respective elections, but they did win the “ideological battle. They won “the argument” rather than the election. Bernie Sanders said in his dropout announcement that his movement had “transformed American consciousness as to what kind of country we can become.”, which would be great and all if it weren’t for the fact that many of the same people who agreed with Bernie’s policies ended up voting for Joe Biden on Super Tuesday. More recently, Owen Jones penned a Guardian article in which he said that Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have “radically altered our politics”, despite, you know, failing to win the power to actually do that. The idea seems to rest on how Sanders and Corbyn shifted the center of gravity of the political establishment – yes, the same establishment you keep saying wants nothing to do with their politics and actively worked to try and eliminate – which is basically just an optimistic way of saying the Tories are gobbling up Labour policies in response to the crisis while Biden is busy trying to throw breadcrumbs Bernie supporters after already saying he would veto Medicare for All. Indeed, it’s no different to the canard that was passed around in 2017 after Corbyn failed to win the election, when he said he had won the argument despite actually losing the vote.

I am very tired of this line. What do these people thinking politics is about: winning an argument, or winning a war? To my mind, it’s the latter and not the former. Victory on the battle of ideas rather than the battle of politics is just a way for the losing side to feel good about themselves, fortify their egos and make it out like they are the real winners just that the media won’t acknowledge them as such on account of their electoral defeat. How closer does “winning the argument” get us to putting a roof over the heads of the homeless? How closer does “winning the argument” get us to providing young people a future where they don’t have to worry about debt? How closer does “winning the argument” get us to making sure millions of people don’t have to suffer from austerity? How closer does “winning the argument” get us to saving the planet from the worst effects of climate change? How closer does “winning the argument” get us to ending the fruitless wars of imperial aggression that lead to senseless losses of life throughout the Middle East? The answer is fucking nowhere. Didn’t Bernie win the argument in 2016 when he lost the primary to Hillary Clinton, who he ended up supporting? His policies are still widely supported by Americans, so why don’t Americans vote for Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden? Surely that’s what winning the argument would look like. Or how about Jeremy Corbyn? Didn’t he win the argument in 2017? So why did he lose so massively last year? And in that time, how closer have those people ever been to a position where they can affect change? The only thing I’ve seen happen is that in 2019 Bernie Sanders got the chance to push through a bill against the war in Yemen.

And, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like progressives are actually fighting the same fight as the kind they might lead us to believe that they are. If the real battle at the end of the day is the battle to prove a point, then you’re not fighting to win the political struggle. You’re trying to win debates with liberals, with conservatives, or with your jaded old grandma, but you’re not trying to claw the well-being of the masses out from the ruling class. You’re trying to win the battle of ideas, but you’re not trying to win the class struggle against the bourgeoisie. And we know for a fact that people like Bernie Sanders have been waging the political struggle, fighting for good and decent policies that might help ordinary people, but when they lose, their supporters declare that the true battle has not been lost. Why? Because those people believe that the real battle all this time has just been to prove that their “moral arc of the universe” bullshit is actually salient, even though if it were we would expect see divinely-ordained victory for their side manifest itself in real-time, and we have had two consecutive opportunities for this in the last decade for both the US and the UK respectively.

Please, progressives, stop pretending that you have won some “real” battle of ideas. The poor and trodden masses will never appreciate it so long as this lofty “victory” of years fails to deliver them any real victory and emancipation in their lives.