The Force

As the previous post suggests, I have been through some religious seeking, and finally arrived at some clarity about what I find to be a solution, and what the hell I was even looking for in the first place.

I basically have come to conclude that the cosmic or divine backdrop of a person’s life matters almost not at all.  It really does not matter what gods or devils or divine laws do or do not exist.  If they are with me I will be with them, if they are against me I will defy them, if they seem irrelevant I ignore them.  My life remains largely unaffected by whatever is in the background, and spirituality seems more like a struggle of finding fulfillment or doing something, anything significant at all, while trapped in an extremely limiting human body.

But on the way to this conclusion I passed through some interesting meanders, and while I don’t think the objective backdrop is critical to spirituality, my perspective on what objectively exists did shift.

I have basically come to be a believer in the Force.

Now I know that’s bad, stupid etc., to base my beliefs on a sci-fi fantasy series – even worse, a series which, if we include the prequels, was not necessarily even that good.   (Shit, I might as well link to this while I’m at it.)

But don’t worry.  I came to this view through scientific and philosophical explorations, not because I like Star Wars.  The issue is that the Force is simply the most exact way of labeling or illustrating what I came to know separately.

WHAT IS IT?

Firstly, the Force is not God.  It’s not judging you, or maybe it’s judging you subconsciously, but it’s just not like that.  You could go your whole life as an atheist who thinks only matter is real, and the Force would not be offended (or even awake enough to care).  So don’t worry about it.

Further, unlike God, I am extremely skeptical that the Force has a central consciousness.  Otherwise the world would simply be too different from how it is now.  It think such a central consciousness would be much more assertive in revealing itself as a continual presence to us.  In other words, instead of merely sending Jesus two thousand years ago, the Force would still be talking to us openly and directly now, in a way that was clear and unmistakable and required no subtle interpretation.  Either that, or the Holocaust was part of God’s plan.

Like the fictional Force, the real Force has both a Light and Dark side.  However I am not sure it is so neatly divided as that.  Better to say that the Force reflects and includes the full range of human emotion and probably a lot more besides.

So what the hell is this thing?  Simply, it is the maximal interpretation of Jung’s Collective Unconscious, a mental-emotional energy field reflecting/generated by all life plus some elemental forces and probably a lot of weird twists and connections across time, possibility, and other dimensions.  It is everywhere, an undercurrent of soul in the physical universe (possibly not separate from matter but merely its mental aspect, which would explain how a neural network can develop emotions and experiences).  It is more emotional than rational, like a child, and semi-conscious, like a dream.

How exactly I came to this opinion requires some science.

WHY WOULD I EVER THINK THIS?/FUCKING MAGNETS, HOW DO THEY WORK? (1:51)

I have come to believe that the brain’s computations do not solely occur at the neural level, but that each neuron is closely tied to a quantum network which influences each neuron’s electric charge.   (And yes, I read almost all of Penrose’s book, as painful as that was.  Apparently the dark side really does demand sacrifice.)

Now most of the time quantum effects cannot influence atomic-scale or molecular-scale behavior – there is a sort of wall of interaction between the magnitudes – but cellular microtubules provide on of the rare environments in which this is possible.  It’s not unheard of in nature; plants use quantum physics, too.  It’s silly to think that natural selection, in its great randomness, would not utilize every physical phenomenon, just because it is cutting-edge technology on the edge of contemporary human understanding.  We didn’t understand genetics for a long time either, but it was still real.

So if you know anything about quantum physics, you probably know of the creepy phenomenon of quantum entanglement, or the inexplicable ability of particles at the quantum scale to interact at infinite distance or even across time.

Don’t fight it, just accept it.  Like gravity, we can’t explain it but it just exists.  Before you argue, the military  and high science are already using it as a wireless communication system (and it kind of solves the future interplanetary communication problem because it doesn’t lag!).  So fuck you with your conventional physics where things have to touch and all that.

What does this mean?  What I have concluded is that human mental computation is entirely unlike the linear mechanical deterministic process we thought (but then with the brain’s chaos, I guess we never really thought that).  But more importantly, this computation is taking place outside the brain, in addition to inside it.  Like not just in another dimension, though probably that too, but also across the dust of the known universe.

USE THE FORCE

So there are bits of our thinking-and-experiencing process happening all over, probably in everything we’ve ever touched, their air we’ve breathed, the water we’ve cycled.  So what, are we psychic?  Well, we’re probably not psychic any more than on a murky subconscious level; that stuff probably mostly comes through as background static.  But combined the quantum physics’ ability to defy time, this provides a hypothesis for my family’s experience with non-déjà vu precognitive dreams.  You won’t believe it so I’m not disclosing.

From my experience, my family has been most affected by precognitive dreams when the person having them was living in an emotionally impulsive way.  This means letting yourself get excited about things, letting yourself get hurt, taking offenses personally, letting yourself daydream, going with the moment, etc.  Of course this is a horribly impractical way to live, especially in capitalism which requires a total mechanical deadening of the emotions.  And then thinking emotionally also impairs your objective judgment regarding whether what you experiences is in your head.  This means we are operating in a realm of often unverifiable personal experience.  That’s why I am not annoyed if people don’t believe what I believe, since like Morpheus, my beliefs do not require them to.

Is the Force – The Spiritual Solution?  Again no, I just think it’s something that objectively exists, though its objectivity is closely intertwined with our subjectivity (making it similar to Warhammer 40,000’s “Warp”).  There is some overlap though.  When a human being strips off their persona and pretentions and feels themselves as they really are, I think they are dipping into the same substance of which the Force is made, ie their souls, with the Force again being an undercurrent of soul that is everywhere.  Again, I think the spiritual solution is finding some strong life purpose and sticking to it.  I also think this is the best way to command the Force, but even if it wasn’t I’d still recommend it.

Can people start Force-pushing or shooting lightning out their fingers?  As usual, life is not so theatrical – I think you’d have better luck with Jedi mind tricks.  But the intertwining of quantum physics with the world of possibility is suggestive.  We’ve already exploded the concept of time as merely a measurement; it must be a dimension unto itself.  But then Schroedinger’s Cat is alive-and-dead until you actually lift the box and find out (necromancy?).  A multiversal series of possibility-threads is the only way I can explain a world with possibilities instead of one pre-determined mechanistic outcome.  Given the link between human consciousness and the universe via entanglement, and given the bridge between that entanglement and possibility, it is possible for human consciousness to nudge the direction of events.

Is this – The Secret? FUCK NO.  The Secret implies that you can make things happen that are beyond the realm of possibility.  I think the Force can nudge outcomes, but outcomes which are not grossly outside the realm of possibility.  There has to be some kind of tethering us down to current material circumstances.  If you wish for a million dollars fuck you, the world isn’t going to rearrange its entire setup for your ass.  If you want someone to die, praying they spontaneously combust, well.  But if you pray they die in a car accident, make sure you really mean it.

So what if something you want is outside the realm of possibility?  How would you bring it closer?

It’s called doing work.

It also helps if you have realism in assessing how possible something actually is, not wishful thinking.

This brings up a critical issue: subconscious roadblocks.  You can will something in the Force but if you are emotionally divided about it, or don’t believe you deserve it, or just don’t entirely want it, it’s going to flop.  So how do you convince yourself you want it?  First you may have to deprogram yourself out of any religious-inspired guiltiness or foolish ethical codes, if what you want is selfish.  Or if you can’t do that, at least find a way to justify (sincerely) what you are pushing for as helping-yourself-help-others.

But besides reprogramming/deprogramming, the best way to convince yourself you really want and deserve something is WORK FOR IT.  This will (1) bring it physically closer to the realm of possibility, especially if we’ve thought it through objectively and it actually does this (2) clear up subconscious roadblocks because we all feel we deserve a thing we’ve worked for (3) create a center of gravity, focus, and intention in the lines of possibility.  In this way two hands at work don’t just beat a thousand folded in prayer, but two hands at work actually are two hands in prayer, as all work implies hope and will.

For the dark side especially, a person having the Force doesn’t simply mean they are in touch with the universe’s waves.  It means they have force, that their personal determination creates a momentum in their wake which bends spacetime and the threads of possibility, sweeping events and the world around them toward the direction of their goals.  No, it’s not only traditionally successful people who have this and many successful people actually don’t; their lives are often lived without real purpose or weight.  Many leaders are incompetent bureaucrats, who care only about maintaining their position or maybe don’t even care about anything.  (Sad how much of humanity is morally indefensible.)  And no, it’s not only vocal, arrogant male leader-stereotypes who have it.  Influence can be silent and subtle and edgeless, yet very strong, like water.  Ranking people as having it/not having it is probably not helpful since we all have it at least a little, but when someone’s got a good deal of it you’ll probably notice.

OTHER IMPLICATIONS

So this Force, is this suggesting one of those ridiculous scenarios where every religion has a grain of truth simply because some people believe in it?  Hell, maybe.  I don’t know.  I’ve heard a lot of weird things, but then I’ve also heard a lot of bullshit.  I maintain a policy of equal parts open-mindedness and skepticism.

Again, the Force isn’t one of those things where you have to panic about whether it’s true, or whether you conform to its concept of right and wrong.  Its existence could suggest to you that maybe you should live for something more than going-along-to-get-along, that you shouldn’t be unthinkingly stumbling or passionlessly drifting.  But I could have told you that without resorting to an invisible energy field.

It does bring up the whole Light and Dark issue, though in my opinion any grown-up should realize that these are totally different from good and evil (this may just be my dark side bias).  All people and groups probably have a mixture (yourself, Christianity, the French Revolution).  It’s interesting how closely the Jedi and Sith mirror the Right-Hand Path and Left-Hand Path, especially in the context of the Force.  The Jedi believe in serving others and obeying the Force’s guidance.  The Sith believe in serving themselves and tell the Force what to do.  But in reality both sides use the Force both ways.

Of course as always I learn dark.  Me, I believe in being a leader, whether we’re talking about society or invisible force fields.  I’m sure the Force has plenty of wisdom buried in it if you listen, but the Force is also indecisive.  It’s like the unconscious: all sentiment, no decision-making.  We can, and should, be the deciders.  If the Force is the universe’s collective unconscious, then we are its pointed, individualized consciousness – its ego.  Again, if I was wrong, I think the Force would make it directly clear for us.  No – we are the Force’s greatest embodiment, we are the tip of its pyramid, we are the spearhead of the universe’s ever-persisting struggle for greater clarity and complexity and pattern.  We are the ones who have to bear the responsibility of conscious planning and putting things into material practice.  For the good of the Force itself – and just because we canwe must decide how the Force will be expressed, and express it – forcefully! – even if doing so requires going against Nature, ethics, religion, sentiment, our humanity, physics, or even seemingly the Force itself.

The Force is like a child who doesn’t know how to say what it wants, or doesn’t even know what it wants.  This may be why there is so much historic confusion over “what God wants” (besides people making things up).  The Force isn’t sure!  So we must use our patience, our intuition, and careful listening to figure it out.  But once we do figure out what it wants, which will necessarily in large part reflect what we want – then we must not be afraid to command it in full confidence.

my Left Forum 2013 misadventure

Left Forum 2013!  You’ve all been DYING to hear my thoughts, I’m sure!  This is how I pretend I’m not a loser at a keyboard screaming into the void.  So stay faithful and true, my hypothetical audience.

First and foremost, I faced two fitting contradictions.  (1) The Left Forum was about “Economic and Ecological Transformation,” and I could not economically afford the hotels in the area.  (2) The Left Forum was about “Economic and Ecological Transformation,” and a ridiculous storm was halting me from getting there until almost a day late.  So the forum, whatever its other shortcomings, was topical.  I was broke, and messed-up nature was messing me up in turn.

Also I should preface that this was my first Left Forum, and previously the only comparable things I had attended were the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) in DC when I was an anarchist teenager, and the ISO’s Socialism national and regional conferences.  I went to a lot more of the ISO’s stuff, maybe a total of seven or so, and I will write about how the Left Forum and the ISO events compare elsewhere.

So my trip up is already complicated by things like sleep (I work night shift) and I was made late to my train because apparently towns change the names to streets without Google Maps ever being informed.  But after hours of white-knuckle speeding in which I used Sith mind domination on police officers in order to evade tickets and infinite train boredom, I arrive.

Oh, the sheer dark side power of New York City!  I’m sorry Philadelphia, maybe I’m not meant for you.  In Philly, despite it being one of America’s top five largest cities, it still has really no place where there is a continual flow of foot traffic, just spurts of pedestrians here and there.  In lower Manhattan, I could literally not find a sidewalk that was not uncomfortably crowded.  It was hard to find a place to walk, the subways were more crowded, people kept bumping into each other, and I got this sense that everyone was just slightly more pissed off than they are anywhere else.  Like when I ask people for help they give it, with seeming good intentions, but curtly and gruffly like I sort of annoyed them by even asking even though they know I mean no harm.  Also I heard possibly almost as much Spanish and unidentified Asian being spoken as English, and I’m sure that kind of cross-cultural mish-mash in an environment that’s already a pressure cooker can really piss off the white racists and lead to all sorts of hostility and tension.  When I asked some New Yorkers about the city’s sinister air, they began trying to justify and explain it, and I had to clarify, no – I like it.

So it’s a short walk from the World Trade Center PATH stop to Pace University, home of the Left Forum.  And oh no, it begins.  These fucking people start bombarding me with “literature.”  Literature, so much fucking literature shoved in my face that I took it all home and had a fire in my backyard.  I’m not kidding, I just did that today.  Most of it was just a “Maoist” (Bob Avakian) analysis of this or that, so much of it was socialist newspapers that all say the same shit and I already read on the Internet anyway.  I’m there on a mission to promote socialist convergence so I don’t want to offend people by refusing their papers, but deep down I just really do not want their fucking papers, and most of the time the “deep down” part of me won out.

There was an unfriendly “volunteer” making me wait too long to even get the door and get my nametag which would allow me in and out of the door.  My nametag was premade which sucked, because I wanted to write Saturn instead of my real name because really most people at the Forum who already knew of me know me as Saturn because Internet.

Oh yeah – I met a lot of people in person who I have only known via Facebook or whatever.  Pretty much none of them looked precisely how I expected, even though Facebook has pictures.  Weird.

The way the Forum was organized was curious.  Often times each panel was organized by one of the specific Leftist groups.  This was odd; rather than it being a united forum, this often made it feel as if it was just a bunch of meetings by individual groups which happened to be in the same building, with much of the self-segregation of the Left persisting.  That would be an overstatement, though; it had more cross-pollenation than really any event I’ve ever seen.  Especially at North Star panels, since North Star doesn’t really have members and just tended to host people of various opinions.

So a lot of my problems with Left Forum were summarized by this one panel, “Occupy and the Future of the Left.”  It involved Frances Fox Piven, who wrote a good book once and has this great thesis about how disruption and attack are necessary but is pretty much a useless academic who IMO has writings which can too easily be interpreted to mean a dismissal of organization.  It also involved Joe Schwartz, a Temple professor I’d frequently encountered at Occupy Philly who is consistently the best speaker of whatever events he’s at simply because he discusses the standard of living and class warfare in detailed, empirical, statistical terms (see Red Meat).  Schwartz also made fun of Stalinists by saying his mother was such a ridiculous hardliner, that she thought the only thing wrong with the USSR was Gorbachaev.

Present was none other than Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin magazine, who is a fine fellow but honestly I was a little disappointed with.  I think that deep in his heart he is a revolutionist but he turned out to be much more of a Social Democrat in person than he ever seems to be in his writing.  (Ah, hell, maybe I was just hoping that and his writings totally give it away.)  But the real disappointing thing was, despite his/Jacobin’s call for socialist regroupment AKA a re-merger, he seemed pessimistic in general.  He did not seem to think the forces exist to even bother with such an attempt, which is the opposite of my own opinion.

Partially implied and partially explicitly stated, it seems the only “solution” he really offers is some kind of socialist entrance into the Democratic Party, which is actually not a solution, but our biggest problem.  Sunkara also pissed me off by saying “I don’t have the answers, and I wouldn’t trust anyone who claims to.”  He wasn’t the only one to say that – many other panelists and academics said the same useless shit.  You know what?  We sit here and listen to you for hours.  In fact in some cases you’re a professor who gets paid to have answers for society, and what’s worse, not just paid to do that, but paid by public tax dollars.  We sit here and patiently listen.  You get paid.  What, do you think you’re being cool and hip with your non-committal stance?  FUCK YOU, I DON’T TRAVEL FOUR HOURS TO HEAR PHILOSOPHICAL WANDERINGS, I DO IT TO GET SOME ANSWERS.  I DO IT BECAUSE SOMEONE SHOULD PROVIDE ME WITH A PLAN FOR ACTION, THAT AS A CONSCIOUS BEING I CAN JUDGE AND ACCEPT OR REJECT FOR MYSELF.  YOU USELESS TURD.  This is not really directed at Sunkara but the whole of the Left Forum.

Let me be clear, however, that Bhaskar was actually a fairly funny fellow and certainly not the biggest disappointment of the panel.  One of the biggest disappointments was the hyper-authoritarian format which Sunkara actually opposes, as he brought up on a different panel.  It was Question and Answer, meaning that after an hour of listening to four different panelists talk, every single question (or typically comment as people gave the rules the finger) was followed by panelist response – sometimes all the panelists.  At this panel, only seven people from the audience spoke!!!  But, as for Sunkara’s shining moment: when some sectarian from the audience (more on them later) started screaming at Sunkara about how Social Democrats (which seems to include all socialist groups but the speaker’s own) are the spawn of Satan and other stupid epithets, and went on to list the Social Democrats’ historic crimes, Sunkara said in a completely even voice and straight face, “Actually you’re forgetting the worst thing we’ve done.  We killed Rosa Luxemberg.”  I think me and my friend Tom were the only people in the audience who understood that Sunkara was trolling and burst out into hysterics.  Oh, world…smh.

However, the worst part of that panel was none of that.  It was this one piece of shit guy from the magazine Tidal, which seems to be the literary incarnation of Occupy Wall Street’s NYC remnant.  Having lost its mass character, Occupy is now a roach infestation of the worst type of verbose, pretentiously-worded anarcho-postmodernists.

Of course, it also happens to be that one of my college roommates, Mike Tracey, ran a lame leftist magazine that I really should not have helped start.  And of course this roommate also liked making political speeches in extremely pretentious language with lots of aimless meandering, and had annoying politics, and of course, of course this guy looked EXACTLY like my roommate Mike Tracey down to that fucking beard, and I really had to double check to make sure it actually was not him.  But apparently no, the world just makes copies of certain kinds of people, and I have yet to meet my own clone (besides my father), but I am sure when that actually happens we will see what happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force.

So this guy spoke so pretentiously and meaninglessly, and the little that came out clearly was so fucking stupid and politically useless or counterproductive, that I really want to just take his head and smack it on his podium again and again, and I think the audience near me knew I felt this way.  Sometimes in the past I felt this way about Mike Tracey, and the whole thing felt oddly like home.  The redeeming quality, though, was that a woman from the audience resembling Roseanne Barr started screaming at him that his magazine is sectarian because it only allows a strictly horizontalist perspective, whereas she and, as she rightfully claimed, many people in New York’s working class would have preferred a more clear, efficient, majority-democratic structure that would allow 9-to-5ers to actually participate.  She made this rant clearly and articulately and with furious indignant righteous justice, to audience applause.  It felt like the assholes who ran Occupy into the ground finally getting their comeuppance.  Apparently her project is called OccuEvolve.

Let me again state that the Q&A format is really horrible and undemocratic.  The panelists get to talk enough; other than perhaps a closing at the end, the rest of the time should belong to the audience forming its own democratic dialogue, with comments not questions (which must inherently revolve around the panelists).  Because of the harsh limit on the amount of audience speakers, half of the few who squeaked in ended up being screaming sectarians there only to denounce everything.

Those freaking sectarians need to be physically driven out of the movement.  Also I’m not sure if I classify the Avakianist RCP in the same category, but it’s pretty close.  I’m really just not sure if anyone can take the Left seriously if there is actually a group walking around talking about their glorious leader Bob Avakian.  Seriously, they never even stated why Avakian was so great; they just dropped his name a lot and hoped it would stick?  I understand if you have some attraction to Maoism; Mao was a pretty serious dude who came to power over a whole giant country, and Maoism has some interesting theories which make it unique from any other school of Marxism.  Okay I get that.  But this whole unsubstantiated promotion of Avakian just makes you look god damn ridiculous, and makes the rest of us look ridiculous too, for even standing near you or breathing the same air.  I think the Left needs to be beaten into a shape that will cause the working majority to actually identify with it, and that beating may sometimes have to be literal.  These people need to go away, and to feel like it’s not physically safe for them to come back, it’s the only way.

Back to reality: I was going to stay at my cousin’s, and he was going to let me into his place.  Well my cousin fell asleep.  I called him four times and couldn’t get in.  I started panicking and looked for hotels in the area.  The only one within walking distance was $220 per night for last-minute walk-ins, which a $9/hr slave such as myself simply cannot do.  I seriously considered finding an alley to sleep in.  Finally I just started yelling up at my cousin’s window until it woke his him up and he let me in.  The transaction was fast.  I gave him the promised beer.  He showed me around.  I showered, otherwise hygiened, and slept.  I woke and left before he was even awake.  So it goes.

A lot of the rest is really incidental and episodic.  I’d been handling out Socialist Convergence Campaign quarter-sheets that say “We need an American SYRIZA!”  During a third party strategy panel, a guy sitting next to me grabbed one and wrote on the back “I am in NY SYRIZA.”  I gave him the that-makes-literally-no-sense-face until he explained to me that he’s Greek and NYC has a SYRIZA chapter for Greek immigrants.  He took my number, word up.  I met a lot of the North Star crew, and had a really great conversation with Dario.  I was really impressed by Tim Horras’ knowledge of third party history, too; really it was beastly.

I also met Carl Davidson, whose event I had sort of accidentally trolled on Facebook, but we could at least be civil.  He is/was way too much of a Democrat for my liking but made a good point about how the Left is going nowhere until every leftist knows what a precinct captain knows: everyone in your neighborhood, their names, their birthdays, their problems, whether they are registered to vote, if they’re not registered how likely is it you could get them to register, “plus/minus/zero” (are they for your/against you/neutral)?  Despite my disagreements with a good deal of his politics, he dropped a quotable that really sums up where I am in politics and life: “We can’t achieve socialism through elections, but we can only achieve it through elections, that is, by utilizing them and exhausting them in the eyes of the public.”

I had good conversations with members of Socialist Alternative and the Green Party, one of whom promised to give me training in the law and process of working in elections, and made an NJ contact with the Greens that way.  I had some awkward run-ins with New York ISOers, the tendency I just recently quietly exited, but it was more awkward silence than any kind of hostility.  My old organizer Shaun Harkin had a nice chat though.  He ran an apparently awesome panel on Thatcher and the Irish which I had to skip because of a third party strategy panel, but for anyone wondering from my old school TCNJ, Shaun Harkin is still a babe, and let me be clear that I’m a straight guy…mostly…except when I’m around Shaun Harkin…  I learned some disturbing things about climate change, like the OECD says that even though capitalism is actually lifting some of the global population out of poverty, the environmental catastrophe which is inevitable with our current CO2 emissions will wipe out any such gains by driving 2-3 billion people back into deep poverty.  I got to see an old acquaintance Mike McCabe also tear Occupy’s silliness a new one and put forward a better, more realistic model for how to build the Left.  He mocked consensus: if it can’t manage a movement, or even a single decision, how can it manage a society?  He described its time-consuming, impractical nature as a “dystopian utopia.”

But still, something was missing…

 

NO STRATEGY

I was hoping that more people at the Left Forum would identify with the strategy I was putting forward.  Actually no, I was hoping for more – I was hoping that people who had previously made noises about regroupment or convergence before, like Jacobin and North Star, would bring it up first and I could be a voice in support.

No, turns out that nobody brought it up, I always had to break the ice, and in the tiny 90-second increment I was typically given to speak, I could never really bring it up in a sophisticated way.  This caused many people to dismiss my introduction of socialist convergence as “oh just another noobie who would feel good if everybody got together” and not as an actually complex position based on the need for socialists to project visibility and the historical irrelevance that results from their fragmentation, a rift that cannot be healed by merely collaborating in movements.

The darkness bless Jodi Dean for being the only one who backed me up in person.  Read her piece here.

Pretty much every group that I hoped would bring up regroupment either didn’t even bring it up, or worse, as in Sunkara’s case, actually made the ridiculous claim that a third party would be premature.  Of course the speakers of the existing socialist groups either said the same thing or trotted (perhaps Trot-ted) out the tired old line that groups with different ideas and methods can’t work together.

One of my SCC compatriots has helped me come to a certain conclusion about that.  Socialist leaders say “build movements” as if to say “never you mind the big picture, little grunt, leave that to the experts.”  This is comparable to the method of union bureaucrats who tell their organizers and members to focus on doing organizing work and to never question anything strategic such as organizing style, or party politics issues like the Democrat alignment.

It is an emphasis on struggle, which seems productive but goes ultimately nowhere without the right kind of organization to carry it to an expansionist, confrontational, or revolutionary conclusion.

It is an emphasis on just building their current organization, instead of questioning where that whole project is going – isn’t that just supposed to be a subfaction of some larger formation, and not forever remain a freestanding organization unto itself?  It’s it completely ridiculous to think it will bloom into a mass party by itself, rather than just being a catalyst for one?

So the strategies provided by the entire combined panelists of the Left Forum involved the following three ideas: (1) reject the horizontalist silliness of Occupy (2) build movements (3) build one of the existing fragmented hyper-opinionated socialist groups.

I agree with the first two, anyway, but they still don’t answer the question of organization.  In fact the first two are so obvious to anyone who has been in the movements that they hardly even need stating.  Across the entire Left Forum, really then, the question of strategy went entirely unanswered.  All in all, the leaders failed to lead.

The only remotely sane line being put forward came from the Green Party, who is at least trying to fill the vacuum even if it’s with liberal-progressivism, and Socialist Alternative, who is also at least running in elections, even if they’re probably trying to become The Electoral Alternative themselves with the other socialist groups in tow and not as partners.  Still, their ambition does us all good by actually getting the race for socialist electoralism kicked off.

Is that not enough for you?  Yeah, it’s definitely not enough for me either.  Check out the Socialist Convergence Campaign, and maybe get involved.

unify theory and emotion

I think the key to being a long-term radical and not losing your mind is eliminating the gap between theory and emotion.  Hearing and judging a new idea, re-examining an old one, or pondering something yourself is often a sensory experience, felt in your gut — it “resonates” with you or not.  Listen to your subconscious, it knows the truth (and it is merciless to dogma).  Your mind’s job is only to articulate what’s stirring down below.

If you’re not careful this can spell instant demoralization, but that probably means your political strategy sucks or you mistakenly believe that your country’s population is less radical than it really is.  You should always be following your nose, trying to figure out a method for getting from where we are to where we need to be.

When I was a new radical, political theory was vital and a direct expression of my dissatisfaction with my life of continually exchanging one taskmaster for another, from parents to school to work to cops to whatever.

Once during a lunch break I was reading Capital by Marx, a section about how employers attempt to minimize the break-time in the workday to maximize work-time.  While reading it, the top manager came in and cut the lunch break short.  That’s theory addressing life.

I will follow until I don’t

That title means I have a policy of assumed base-line 100% disloyalty to any organization I may nominally join.

I may support your efforts.  I may do your organizing groundwork even – knock on doors with you, help you hang up flyers, help canvas people to promote a meeting or event, find you a meeting space, give you money, whatever.

Or I might not.

It’s not like I fuse my soul to an organization.  I just assist whichever of its activities I find valuable.  Don’t expect me to show up for whatever you do that I don’t care about.

If I am helping your campaign, I may suddenly withdraw my efforts.  I do not feel obligated to provide a reason why.  (Lately it would be because I had surgery and I’m sick as a dog, but that doesn’t seem to stop these fucking liberal foundation paid organizer types from blowing up my inbox and I can’t even mentally expend the energy to pretend to care.)

It’s possible I just don’t feel like it anymore.  Don’t assume I can even articulate my own thoughts; honestly most people can’t articulate their own thoughts, so it’s foolish to expect clearly-stated reasons for anything from anyone.  Most of real life is things, actions, and events, not the text-life of us intellectual types.

You don’t own me just because I worked with you once.

I think this is often the best and most natural form of decision-making, and let’s face it, it’s the one that really happens.  People vote with their feet.  People jump on the bandwagon.  Later they jump off.  What’s important is the reality of it, not the logic.  That’s the real determining force in revolutionary times – huge amounts of people doing things and changing their allegiances – not necessarily having a clearly spelled-out articulation of why.

Can you attract a large, steady following in a world of disloyal, inconsistent people?

That’s the true test of history.

history of the present

I really like the history of the present.  I like talking about the historical events of 2008, 2011, the weird lulls in between like 09/2010 and 12/13.

I like thinking about the 90s and the 2000s and how they became today.  When I reach back for further causality, I really only go as far back as the last great period of rebellion (1960s) and possibly to explain how that one played out, the one before that (1930s).  I look at how the 70s was a period of weak leftism descending, and how the 90s was a sort of mirror image, with anti-capitalist ideas beginning to return but in an extremely cultural, disorganized fashion.  And of course the bitter conservative winter of the 1980s.

But this is a vital and neglected area of history, useful because we’re living in it and can act on it, and forbidden because its very nature requires biased, controversial interpretation.

Estranged Labour, by Marx

Estranged Labour, by Marx

First, the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his intrinsic nature; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor.

 

“I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club

coming out of the woodwork

Leftist organizing seems to me a continual process of familiarizing yourself with an ever-broadening network of people.  This must be done at the informal, personal, street level, the ground level, or it is false.  It almost seems as if the closer you get to established organizations with name brands, the further you get from any actual self-organized or radical activity.

It no longer makes sense to claim lineage anymore – that we are The Descendants of the Bolsheviks, or Lenin or Trotsky or “anti-revisionism” or the Russian Revolution or the n-th International, the Unbroken Thread of Marxist Orthodoxy.  These days it’s almost an embarrassment to even call yourself an Occupy Working Group – shouldn’t you be dead by now?

None of that matters because these things that maybe once carried some weight with large numbers of people are now just historical echoes.  People are no longer attracted to them because they are no longer living forces.

We will always be in the process of establishing ourselves; we will always appear not-yet-established.  Our strength should not be that we are The Authority because we are a Pre-Existing Organization with an Already-Established Mass Membership.

Our appeal should be that we need a resistance movement, and that we are trying to be one, and we are a good spot to get together for anyone else who is thinking the same thing.

We will always be up against the stigma of being small, and therefore appearing hopeless and ridiculous.  Against that, however, we should simply insist that social change is simply necessary, and that every linking-up of individuals creates one more increment of strength for our side, so there’s no point in worrying about scale just yet.  The point is to get started organizing, even if it’s just you and me.

It’s easy to gain an entrenched view of the Left, a view that the existing structures are lasting and unchanging.  This perspective may have made sense in the 40-year dead zone of political history following the 1960s, but it doesn’t make sense anymore.  History is moving again.  People’s ideas are subject to shifting and change.  Organizations that have traditions which seem unlikely to ever change just may break their own rules and decide to do something new.

The rather arbitrary lines which demarcate various factions of radicals from each other may just melt away, or at least soften.

Instead leftist organizing should be a continual adventure.  It should be an RPG-like wander of exploring your city, stumbling upon others who share your goal and team up with you.  You should meander into all of the existing resistance groups, not with a mind of the critique you have of each of them, but as someone hoping to shake up their old narrowness and separation from each other (or maybe, God forbid, to actually learn something yourself).  Maybe it takes a fresh face to call the old tribal grudges into question.

As with progressive religion, the intellectual coherence of the project is beside the point.  The point is that it is a living force that can agree on a baseline and create change.

Obviously “unity” as a buzzword has its limits.  What we have to do is not just simply mash everyone together.  What we have to do is find the real commonalities between groups, which may indeed involve a process of debate.  When it seems that it’s only a language barrier or prejudice or semantics getting in the way of anarchist platformists and libertarian bolsheviks being on the same page, we may have to argue that out with people – they may not believe it, or have some kind of psychological investment in being-better-by-being-different-from-them.

In situations where these different groups are already in the same space, such as the Occupy moment, the emphasis may shift from getting everyone together to sharply standing up for a way of doing things that will actually keep everyone together, or at least the best elements.

When groups insist that they are better alone, better off in their own corner doing their own thing, maybe that’s something we should actually argue with them about.  The difference here, though, is that we are not trying to tear down one radical faction in the name of building up another one.  We have no organization, no factional identity over which we are asking people to swallow their pride and give up their old labels.  We just want a level of political collaboration (not just movement collaboration) which is for the benefit of all.

So let us wander through the infoshops, through the socialist meetings, through the feminist clubs, through the queer organizations, through what union events open their doors to us, let us wander through coalitions we previously wrote off as useless, let us familiarize ourselves with every squirm of movement under the sun.  Let us journey into the land of strange groups we never thought we’d find ourselves amongst – the Maoists, the Black Nationalists, the Zeitgeisters.  Let us learn about issues that may have been off the map of our old crew’s focus – legalizing weed, direct democracy, whatever.

Let us forget our histories, and become people who actually represent the potential of forward motion, instead of the naysayers who know all the answers but implement none of them because “it’s not time yet” despite the fire everywhere.

Ye must be born again.