How Robert Jackson demolished the Left Accelerationism school

In his groundbreaking essay, Ordinaryism: An Alternative to Accelerationism. Part 1 – Thanks for Nothing, Robert Jackson asks us to consider the things we take as entirely ordinary. So I went through his essay and pulled a number of quotes I found particularly interesting.

Bear with me as I tediously enumerate the most significant of them by stringing together significant sections of Jackson’s argument:

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For Marx’s Accelerationism – against Post-war Marxism

I didn’t see this post in April when it was first published but I should have: “Against Accelerationism – For Marxism”, by reidkane. According to the writer, accelerationism aims to force down the wages of the working class and thus goad them to organize and fight back:

“‘Acceleration’ is ambivalent; it is regressive in that it is the mechanism by which the conditions of the working class are forced downwards, but progressive to the extent that this is mediated by political radicalization.”

This a quite wrongly stated, at least insofar as the idea can be traced to Marx and Engels.

The accelerationist project as Marx and Engels explained it

szwPygbHere is what I do understand about Accelerationism, and it is all taken from a couple of sentences in the Communist Manifesto, written, as you probably know, by the original accelerationists, Marx and Engels — a couple of guys I tend to trust when it comes to historical materialism because they invented it:

“We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

The first part is probably uncontroversial: the proletariat aims to displace the bourgeoisie as the ruling class of society. We can agree with this idea, at least insofar as it implies the previous ruling class is pushed off the stage and forced to get a real job. Leaving aside whether Marx and Engels could get a quorum for this idea is another question, as well as whether this made sense. In any case, they thought it might be nice for the working class to organize itself as the ruling class of society as it first step. They thought this — there is no controversy about this; no one suggests Nick Land came up with the idea of seizing political power on his own.

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Third-Worldism: How to stop communism with a 2% wage increase

I’m reading a fascinating book: “Divided World, Divided Class” by Zak Cope that was recommended to me by Justin Wooten (@justinwooten on twitter). It’s completely wrong, but the writer exhaustively lays out the case for a bribed first world working class.

This is the labor aristocracy theory explanation for why the class struggle in the advanced countries is muted. Cope introduces his argument for the theory this way:

“This book began as an attempt to understand the regularity and intensity of racist and imperialist attitudes and beliefs within the working class of the advanced capitalist nations in order to explain the evident disinterest and disdain with which it greets revolutionary socialist ideas.”

maxresdefaultYou see, if the working class rejects the self-evident truth of ‘revolutionary socialist ideas’, they must somehow be defective. If we could just figure out what this defect is, we may be able to remedy it. If we can’t remedy it, then we should turn our attention to workers who don’t have this defect. Those less bribed workers, of course, are located in the oppressed countries of the world market.

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An uncomfortable question for the Left after SYRIZA’s victory: Was Nick Land right all along?

Rory Scothorne (@shirkerism) tweeted this interesting statement:

“tbh the best way of getting a Scottish Syriza probably would have been via the brutal troika/IMF restructuring following independence”

wowtripod_profileSo does this mean Nick Land is at long last vindicated? The Left is very bad at drawing lessons from its own experiences, so I just want to hear the Left acknowledge Nick Land was mostly right.

SYRIZA’s victory in Greece, has only come after years of a brutal austerity regime, where, SYRIZA finance minister Varoufakis once argued, “everyone except the Nazis, the bigots and the misanthropic racists will be a loser”.

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Marx’s big error

post-work2I came across this comment by JD Taylor on accelerationism, in a post that seems to adopt Ben Noys’ argument in toto:

“Secondly, a tactic like Accelerationism acts either as a ludicrous and fatalistic defence of Capital, or a strategy that is just too vague to implement and which, in whatever small cases it is worked, will mainly serve to alienate others and get that person sacked, making the Left look even more obscure and confusing.”

There is, says the writer, some big problems with accelerationism:

“There’s some clear flaws with Accelerationism. The Marxist logic itself, for one. Ok, we defeat Capitalism (hurrah hurrah implied, but why would we want to do this though?) by pushing its inherent contradictions – it’s gonna blow anyway, with a religious redemptive revolution at the end of it, let’s push it faster, exacerbate the conditions for revolution! So does that mean, as local govt employees, we actually strive to make living conditions worse?”

And this conceals an even bigger set of problems:

“Secondly, why do we assume history is on our side? This is something Alex Williams is particularly guilt of in his dual-analysis of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ accelerationism, in another post on his blog, Splintering Bone Ashes. Weak Accelerationism drives capitalism towards point of communist revolution by foregrounding its internal contradictions, which in real terms means making things worse, which presupposes that the proletariat might not just rise up against their middle-class and marginal left-wing overlords who are acting to manipulate the markets and criticise trade unionism. Strong Accelerationism in contrast poses whether accelerated processes of Capital itself might fundamentally alter them, and in doing so alter subjectivity towards the inhuman, beyond any revolution.”

The problems posed by the writer points to a huge error Marx probably had not anticipated in his theory:

Marxists would be too dumb to figure anything out on their own.

They would, instead, simply circle around the same old arguments over and over again until capitalism just finally collapsed on its own without their help.

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Srnicek’s horrifying glimpse into the Left Accelerationist future

If I am reading his essay Navigating Neoliberalism: Political Aesthetics in an Age of Crisis correctly, it seems that Nick Srnicek thinks increased application of technology and art can help the Left to visualize global productive activity as a Nasa-Control-e1376606139231totality and thus render the Left’s politics more coherent and viable.

If I understand his argument correctly, (and I want to emphasize this caveat, because he has told me he doesn’t recognize his argument in my first comments on twitter), he appears to believe that it may have been once possible for the Left “to make our own world intelligible to ourselves through a situational understanding of our own position”, but this is no longer the case:

“Jameson argues that at one time the nature of capitalism was such that one could potentially establish a correspondence between our local phenomenological experiences and the economic structure that determined it.”

However, with a globalized economy:

“We can no longer simply extrapolate from our local experience and develop a map of the global economic system. There is a deficiency of cognitive mapping, that is to say, there is an essential gap between our local phenomenology and the structural conditions which determine it.”

Why would this be a problem for the Left? Again, following this guy Jameson, Srnicek argues it becomes increasingly difficult to develop a socialist politics without the ability to conceptualize the social totality.

“With globalised capitalism having become unbound from any phenomenological coordinates, this possibility for a socialist politics has become increasingly difficult.”

Srnicek thinks it helps explain why, although neoliberalism is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions, the Left has not been able to exploit this collapse to realize an alternative vision of society. There is an “abyssal void at the heart of alternative political thinking”, expressed in the “woefully inadequate” Occupy movement and a regressive longing to return to fascism’s Golden Age of the 1960s.

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Noumena deFanged: Ray Brassier’s toothless critique of Nick Land

180694754Ray Brassier’s take on Nick Land is jaw-droppingly silly for someone whose Wikipedia entry touts him as “one of the foremost philosophers of contemporary Speculative realism interested in providing a robust defense of philosophical realism in the wake of the challenges posed to it by post-Kantian critical idealism, phenomenology, post-modernism, deconstruction, or, more broadly speaking, “correlationism”.”

You would think with those sorts of credentials he could understand Land’s argument at least at the level of a recent entrant to university.

But you would be disappointed.

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Land, Accelerationism and the “impending human extinction”

If you want to make the case against Nick Land, you could not do it more completely than the case made against him by Alex Williams. According to Williams, Land seeks to dissolve humanity “in a technological apotheosis”. The terminology is just completely over the top: Land has ‘hijacked’ Deleuze and Guattari, “bringing out an implicit inhuman pro-capitalism.”

16l0i3aNote Williams admit this so-called “inhuman pro-capitalism” is already implicit in  Deleuze and Guattari. He cannot possibly accuse Land of having invented it as I have so often accused Marxists of inventing ideas said to originate with Marx. If Land has done anything, it is only to tease out of Deluze and Guattari an inhuman pro-capitalism that was already present.

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An exchange with a Left Accelerationist

I had a short exchange with a Left Accelerationist, @nervemeter, on Twitter this week. It was an interesting discussion, so I am publishing it here. The original context is on my twitter account. I have made some edits to it for clarification.

Nervemeter: I don’t think [Nick Land] thinks the “blind process” is at all communism-bound. & I don’t think he thinks we can drive it there.

Jehu: And you accept that conclusion?

social_anxiety_1Nervemeter: Well, not entirely, but that there is one of the major dividing lines between [Right and Left Acelerationism]. I’m skeptical about the 1st part, but generally agree with the second. We can (I hope) find ways to steer blind cosmic-scale processes. But I don’t quite think capitalism is a machine fated to produce communism of its own momentum. It might create *conditions* for communism, that is, it might make communism *possible*, but never *necessary*. That’s my very sketchy take on it, anyway.

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Left Accelerationism as product re-branding

Indian_call_centerWhat makes Land’s Accelerationism the purest and only valid existing expression of Accelerationism today?

Well, at least in part, it is because Land’s self-styled critics, such as, for instance, Alex Williams, write shit like this:

Where Deleuze and Guattari ultimately counseled caution, to accelerate with care to avoid total destruction, Land favored an absolute process of acceleration and deterritorialization, identifying capitalism as the ultimate agent of history. As Land puts it, “Capitalism has no external limit, it has consumed life and biological intelligence, [and it is] vast beyond human anticipation.” Here, the deregulation, privatization, and commodification of neoliberal capitalism will serve to destroy all stratification within society, generating in the process unheard of novelties. Politics and all morality, particularly of the leftist variety, are a blockage to this fundamental historical process. Land had a hypnotizing belief that capitalist speed alone could generate a global transition towards unparalleled technological singularity. In this visioning of capital, even the human itself can eventually be discarded as mere drag to an abstract planetary intelligence rapidly constructing itself from the bricolaged fragments of former civilizations. As Land has it, through the acceleration of global capitalism the human will be dissolved in a technological apotheosis, effectively experiencing a species-wide suicide as the ultimate stimulant head rush.

Marxists look at Land and they are scandalized by his writing; writings that violate their petty bourgeois sensibilities.

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