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Tag: Russia

Can’t Get You Out of My Head (Curtis, 2021)

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Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World is a six-part series that explores how modern society has arrived to the strange place it is today. The series traverses themes of love, power, money, corruption, the ghosts of empire, the history of China, opium and opioids, the strange roots of modern conspiracy theories, and the history of Artificial Intelligence and surveillance. The series deals with the rise of individualism and populism throughout history, and the failures of a wide range of resistance movements throughout time and various countries, pointing to how revolution has been subsumed in various ways by spectacle and culture, because of the way power has been forgotten or given away. Adam Curtis, 2021

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Western Marxism and the Soviet Union (2007)

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A Survey of Critical Theories and Debates Since 1917

by Marcel van der Linden

Translated by Jurriaan Bendien

[Download PDF]

The ‘Russian Question’ was an absolutely central problem for Marxism in the twentieth century. It was, as Castoriadis put it, ‘the touchstone of theoretical and practical attitudes which lay claim to revolution’. For that reason, it is all the more astonishing that, until this very day, not one scholar has tried to portray the historical development of Marxist thought about the Soviet Union since 1917 in a coherent, comprehensive appraisal. Quite possibly, this lacuna in the literature has less to do with the specific topic area than with the underdeveloped historiography of Marxist theories generally. Anderson concluded years ago in his Considerations on Western Marxism that ‘the causes and forms of [Marxism’s] successive metamorphoses and transferences remain largely unexplored’. Likewise, in the history of ideas Marxist theories have not received the attention they deserve.

Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today (Goldner, 1995)

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Kevin Sloan, Our Modern Animal, 2013

Preface to the Swedish edition of Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today (Riff-Raff)

Loren Goldner, 2002

The core of the following text was actually written in 1988, before the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and was then slightly modified for its first publication in English (1991) to briefly take note of the 1989–91 »events». Over the past decade, it has been translated into seven other languages. The fact that it was written prior to the collapse (a collapse whose imminence I, like so many others, did not foresee), and continues to arouse international interest a decade later, is one indication that, whatever its flaws, it succeeded in resonating with some deep preoccupations of the contemporary world.

Indeed, since 1988, interest in the work of Amadeo Bordiga has only increased1, and seems on its way to eclipsing (hopefully with happier results) the earlier 1960s/1970s fascination with Antonio Gramsci, who was, not incidentally, Moscow’s point man for the eradication of Bordiga’s influence from the Italian Communist Party in the mid-1920’s.Of course, the great majority of »Gramscians» of the 1960’s and 1970’s were hardly aware of Gramsci’s real political role, but then they were hardly interested in the real politics of their own era either. The postwar Gramscians, particularly in the English-speaking world (we are thinking of figures such as Carl Boggs, admirer of 1970’s »Euro-communism») rode on the wave of »culturalism» which included the Frankfurt School and French post-structuralism, which appeared to them (as to the broader social stratum from which they came, the radicalized middle classes) as the worthy successor to »vulgar Marxism». (Had they been more than dismissively aware of Bordiga, they would undoubtedly classed him with such »vulgar Marxism».) The Gramscians, like other currents of the culturalist camp, greatly preferred discussions of cultural hegemony to the »vulgar Marxist» issues such as the critique of political economy, not to mention the »art of insurrection», and the decline of their influence parallels rather concisely the decline of the illusions of culturalism. Capitalism benefited greatly from the »cultural radicalism» of the 1960’s, which turned out to be a large part of the managerial wisdom of the 1990’s3.

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Commentary on the Manuscripts of 1844 (Bordiga, 1959)

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Amadeo Bordiga

“Commentarii dei manoscritti del 1844”: Il Programma comunista, Nr. 15-18, 1959.


Cornerstones of the communist programme

At the closing sessions of the meetings in Turin and Parma (including the corollarii[1] in the report of the first meeting) we dealt with the basics of our party doctrine, which ties in with the negation of individualism and personality; something with which not only the propaganda of the Western capitalist countries, but also that of Moscow’s friends and followers, is rife with disgrace. The fact that we want to go back over this aspect of our doctrine is linked to the demonstration that all the innovations and reforms announced at the last Russian party congresses continue to drift diametrically in the opposite direction to Marxist communism, whether in the case of theoretical statements regarding the structural changes made in the organization of the Russian economy or those that are outraged by the “revisionism” of Yugoslavia and others. We have again and again opposed all this to the actual programme of scientific communism and the doctrine of historical materialism, thus defending the indispensable theses that are so often denigrated – even by those who do not take sides for the Russian policy. These theses culminate in the party’s role as the bearer of the revolutionary dictatorship and its actual function, which is not based on the opinions of the individual and the stupid vote counting at elections, but is founded on the classical international invariant doctrine spanning centuries.

All this wealth of our original and powerful doctrine and method was once again denied at the last Russian party congress and trampled underfoot when the successive surrenders to capitalism went so far as to acknowledge the incentive of personal interest in the functioning of today’s economy! This bravura piece among the anti-Marxist theses has been expressed most shallowly, how could it be different, in the KPI’s report on the 21st Congress (Unità of 17 March 1959): “In agriculture, the principle is being restored” (the same eloquent verb can be found in Khrushchev’s report), “that individual interest should continue to be the main driving force in the development of collective farm organization.” In the “guiding principles” of the congress, this demand is embellished somewhat more subtly with the assertion, that in the works of Lenin and the founders of scientific communism there is a statement of the incentive of material interest. Not a particularly clever trick: One is the material interest that the exploited, who have to overthrow the privatist society, have in common, the other is the personal interest, whose motivation is the incentive to fuck over the class brothers.

Now, here however, there is talk of the characteristics of a socialist and (after the recent distortions) even communist society. And just for this reason the thesis of personal incentive reverses revolutionary Marxism, which is why we must return to its original content. We readily admit that the restoration of that principle – of personal interest – is on the agenda in Russia; it is one of the innumerable steps being taken by the worst of all counterrevolutions.

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The Double Heritage of Communism to Come: 1917-1968-2018

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by Bini Adamczak

Crisis & Critique Vol. 5 Issue 2 Nov 2018: 50 Years After May 68

Communism does not exist in the singular. The common is no unity that would encompass everything by subordinating it to an idea, will, or central committee. The common is rather that which the many share with one another, as equals and free in solidarity.

At the same time, communism was repeatedly understood like this: a final sublation of social divisions into an overarching harmony. Thousands of communist parties and factions of the past dreamt in this way of the future: the troublesome dispute with enemies as well as with comrades would finally find an end when the whole world would see that just this one, one’s own party program is the right one. To be signed by everyone. Even, and especially, the Communist Party of the SovietUnion (Bolsheviks), for a long time the largest and most influential communist party, followed this dream. In a spiraling movement that begins even before 1917 and finds its climax in the Stalinism of the late 1930s, it combatted initially the monarchist and bourgeois parties, then the allied social-democratic, social-revolutionary and anarchist parties and ultimately, when all other parties were prohibited, the oppositions, fractions, currents and platforms within itself. As it had, according to its own conviction, a privileged insight into the truth of the social, it believed itself able to represent the common in all its parts: the population was represented in the working class, the class in the party, the party in the central committee, the central committee in the general secretary. The party line that was issued by the latter would lead into the communist future, no matter however much zigzag it would entail. Whoever would deviate from this deviating course was guilty. The counter term to identity was thus not difference, but opposition. “Other” became synonymous with “inimical”. Until its demise, the Soviet leadership saw itself surrounded by inner enemies. Wherever social initiatives cropped up, it was safer to oppress them. This mistrust worked as self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, the protesting people did (preponderantly in fact) not want a more democratic, more humanist or more friendly socialism, as was still the case in the 1920s, 1950s and 1960s, but rather no socialism at all.

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Revolutionary Hangover

MV5BMjA0Njg4MzQyNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjAyNzkxMzE@._V1_ by Rosa Luxemburg, 1909

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History does not pamper the proletariat. Now, when under the undivided rule of counter-revolutionary violence the open performance of the broad mass became almost impossible, when revolutionary work again has been driven underground, the participation of the proletarian Social-Democratic deputies in the State Duma is the last strong ‘legal’ post of class struggle, the Duma tribune – the last tribune, in which it is possible to more or less openly proclaim the slogans of this struggle. And then it appears that even this last legal representation of the proletariat by far does not stand at the height of its tasks, that the Social-Democratic faction very often makes mistakes, that the Duma tribune is insufficiently used for the systematic upholding of the principles of class struggle, for revolutionary critique of all bourgeois parties and their counter-revolutionary games, for political enlightenment of the labouring mass, but frequently is an arena of indecisive action and vacillation on the side of the proletarian deputies, vacillation, excluding a sustained political line and sometimes directly contradictory to the demands of proletarian politics. If one evaluates similar facts ‘on the surface’, not delving deeper in their background, then one can call the present condition of the Duma representation of Social Democracy quite sad. But to say only this would be to observe a truth, undoubtedly, cheaper, than fruitful.

However, no less incandescent (нечален) in its symptomatic significance is also that result, which the weakness of our Duma representation call forth among the ranks of the party in the form of a current, proclaiming openly or secretly the recall of the Social-Democratic faction as the sole exit from the sad situation. The activity of the faction in the third Duma proved its unfitness as a weapon of class struggle – consequently, one needs to recall the faction. So reason some Russian comrades, taking, evidently, this stirring simplicity and direct political reasoning for truly revolutionary decisiveness and solidity in putting the question. For better or for worse, revolutionary proletarian politics does not boil down to such simplified method of thought, – it must be based, in the given case, as also always, first of all on the deeper analysis of objective conditions of struggle of the proletariat and on the dissection of those dialectical inter-relations, in which lies also the true source of difficulties, experienced by Social Democracy, and the true road for the exit from these difficulties.

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I ❤️ Kant

Kant Is an Idiot’ Spray-Painted on Philosopher’s Russian Home

The home of 18th-century German enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant, located in what is now the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, is in ruins and has become a hot spot for drinking and debauchery among local youths, news site Novy Kaliningrad reported.

Someone recently spray-painted a Russian phrase translatable as “Kant is an idiot” on the red-brick building’s facade. The apparent insult is accompanied by a drawing of a flower and a heart, apparently from the same can of spray paint.

imageA Novy Kaliningrad reporter who visited the site found a fire burning in the grass nearby, saying it could have spread to the home had it remained unextinguished.

Regional authorities announced last year that they were seeking a caretaker for the home, which has been declared a cultural landmark. Alas, the home’s condition remains dismal.

Russians have been known to take very seriously the philosophies of Kant, who is perhaps most famous for his “Critique of Pure Reason.” In 2013, an argument about the philosopher between two men in line at a grocery store in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don ended when one of the men shot the other with rubber bullets.

The Moscow Times Mar. 18 2015

Moscow, January 1st, 2019

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An evening, sometime in the near future…

Simon Critchley

KADASHEVSKAYA HOTEL

26 Kadashevskaya nab. 115035 Moscow

January 1st, 2019

I guess we could all have seen it coming a few years back. Things really started to get worse around the end of 2013 and then dragged on into the long, cold winter months. That whole business with that guy, what was his name? Mountain in Wales. Snowden. That’s it. He went underground for a while and then emerged as the CEO of Bozhe Moi! (My God!): the amazing Russian search engine that overtook Google early in 2017. Totally wiped them out. I find it reassuringly old world and Le Carré-like to have the FSB watching all of us rather than the NSA.

Shortly after the President’s death, events moved fast. Well, suspicions were raised when they declared it accidental. Everyone knew it was suicide. He lost face (and faith) after that awful video circulated. You all know the one I mean. That was just after the attempted toppling of 1WTC. Why did they build that thing? It looked like a huge robot schlong. It was lucky that only a couple of hundred people died in the rogue drone strike, but the building’s been empty  – cursed – since then, apart from a shelter for the homeless on the ground floors. The city began to go bankrupt after whatshisname, Di Blasio, was unable to raise taxes to pay for all the damage from the great storm of summer 2016. That was when the BBB movement (“Bring Back Bloomberg”) really got momentum. It turned out that people missed his bad Spanish at those press conferences. He’s been in power for a year now, even bringing back everyone’s pal, Ray Kelly. It’s just like old times.

Biden governed heroically, if ineffectively, until they called an early election due to the state of emergency. But he was never going to beat Chris Christie, particularly after Hilary had to pull out of the primaries because of that scandal with Anthony Weiner’s ex-wife. God that guy really embraced new technology. I think he’s still serving time. Chris Christie was a surprisingly popular president. It was like being governed by Tony Soprano. People love a benevolent despot. But I guess we weren’t surprised when the heart attack happened. He was inspecting the Acela line to Boston after it had been destroyed by floodwaters.

President Rubio has been in power for over a year now. He looks the very picture of health, glowing like the self-satisfied Miami sun when he speaks. Obamacare has been fully repealed, the rather minimal tax increases on the rich have been reversed, the federal budget has been slashed (his “War on Debt” campaign), and Rubio plans to implement the NRA’s proposal to arm all schoolkids. That’s equality. Everyone gets a gun. People seem to feel safer that way. Or they just stopped caring after that horrific school shooting in Greenport: the sixth one last year. I mean, who’s counting, right?

The truth is that national politics no longer seems to matter. Neither does the state. Cosmos is the new 1% international political force, set up by Jamie Dimon and other senior business figures from across the world. Its radical plan is to abandon all states and national borders and establish an independent league of mega-cities (initially New York, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Moscow, but many others want to join) with its own police force and border agents. They’ve already begun to issue passports. It comes free when you sign up for their premium credit card. I have one here in my wallet. It has their catchy motto engraved on the titanium: “The world is ours. Make it yours”. They were initially called “The League of Rootless Cosmopolitans”. But they shortened their name: like the magazine, like the drink. The only political imperative was how to preserve the patina of liberalism while maintaining existing levels of inequality. Unsurprisingly, this is not that hard. It turns out that this is what we had anyway. A large proportion of the funding base for the Democratic Party has evaporated. Bozhe Moi ! is also a big funder of the Cosmos party. Secession from their various states is expected to begin this year.

After the whole Google glasses debacle and the copycat suicides where people filmed their own deaths while wearing them, huge amounts of money were spent on lawsuits and the program was abandoned. Capital was poured into the development of what was called “inner space research.” There were various plans to insert probes under the skin at the wrist in order to internalize search functions with fingertip control. They also tried to develop an ultra-gossamer type mask where computer and skin surface would meet and merge. They called it “2 Skin”. It also failed. As did the plan to insert implants in the retina. The stroke of genius at Bozhe Moi! was realizing that the search engine and the whole apparatus could be run from a customized pair of headphones. People really like headphones. It turns out that there is still a huge difference between what you are prepared to stick in your eyes and your ears. I’m wearing mine right now to talk to you. The translate function means that everyone can speak any language they wish which is what I do here in Moscow. Rosetta Stone is already a distant memory.

Of course, we knew that the rise of Bozhe Moi! was a soft authoritarian takeover. Old-fashioned leftists would proclaim that the promised means of our emancipation (the internet circa 1996. Remember that?) had merely shackled us more tightly in virtual servitude. Boring! I mean we read Foucault too when it still mattered.  But the truth was that people didn’t really care about their privacy. Not really. Not even the Germans.

Wars came and went in the Middle East, huge populations were displaced and innocent civilians were killed. Business as usual. The pieces moved slightly on the global chessboard and then moved again. We stopped caring, particularly after the big broadcast networks began to fold – CNN was first. We knew less and less about world, particularly after all those attacks on BBC journalists. But life was just fine here. There is still no two-state or one-state solution in Israel and settlements are still being built. After the attacks on Iran following their nuclear tests, the Ayatollahs even took out a new fatwa on Salman Rushdie and one on Bono too, after he was involved in that hit musical about the Iranian Revolution. But I think they both still go to parties.

I guess the weirdest changes have been around sex. The omnipresence of the highest quality 3D pornography, combined with “sensorium” patches that went on sale in 2015, effectively killed it off. Together with the first cases of a fatal testicular cancer caused by a variant of the HPV virus that was said to be in 90% of the sexually active young male population. That got their attention.

This led to two trends. A sudden vogue, that summer, for reckless, public sex: in buses, parks, sidewalks, subways, everywhere. It became a kind of display of political indifference or even resistance among the poor, but it was picked up and imitated by a lot of college kids. They call themselves the “League of Lovers” or LOL as way of mocking the Cosmos. There continue to be many arrests and an African-American couple was shot last weekend for refusing to stop making love in Prospect Park. Not so much “Stop and Frisk” as “Stopping Friskiness.”

The other trend – less numerous, but much more influential – was the Cenobite movement, where people would pay significant amounts of money to live together but in such a way that they could remain apart and not constitute any kind of threat to each other. The first one was founded outside Warren, Vermont a few years back. But they have spread all across Vermont, New Hampshire and Upstate New York. After electing to withdraw from the world – what they call anachoreisis – each Cenobite is given an “anchorhold” where they can stay safe and warm with their devices and sleep. Any participation in public events is optional, but with the right use of a wonderful new anxiety medication called Atarax, cenobites are able to be together socially and even main eye contact without looking at their devices for up to two minutes. For fear of contagion, celibacy is the rule in all cenobite groups. This did not extend to masturbation, of course. That would have taken things too far.

People incapable of even this degree of social activity or who could not bear to be disconnected from their devices began to gather outside the Cenobite communities in more extreme group. They began to be called “Hamlet camps” or the “Inkies” after their customized black clothing, that was something between sports clothing and a Beneditcine habit. The sign up fee is prohibitively high in order to pay for the private police force and guarantee exclusivity. But I hear that some of the “Inkies” are beginning to produce some really high-level electronic music.

New York City began to feel too much like Alexandria in the late fourth century and I decided to get out when the right job offer came through. I’ve been living in this hotel in Moscow for the last 6 months working for a contemporary art space funded by one of oligarchs behind the Cosmos. It’s alright. The Russians make a generic version of Atarax and I have a bodyguard and a driver. But I stay in the hotel most of the time as it’s too dangerous to go out. Oh, happy new year.

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Disclaimer from the League of Rootless Cosmopolitans:

This rag from Comrade Critchley has not one shred of truth contained within its bowels. The League of Rootless Cosmopolitans, a fine organization of lumpenbourgeois entrepeneurs, is not the 1%. The 1% are our enemies; we are the 0.1%, the devante-garde of humanity. We have embraced the values of full communism, albeit of the meritocratic sort. Our politics are simple: once you devour your competitors, you have the right to enjoy the spoils of mankind without charge or limit. We are the true heirs of Blanqui, Lenin, Debord, and Steve Jobs. We despise work, we love drinking, and the party comes before all. Our party is international, interracial, intersexual, interwoven interstitially in interesting intersubjective intercourse interminably in situ.

Marx was right, labor is the enemy of all who desire a realm of seamless freedom. But not all deserve such leisure. We value the machinery of mankind, the robotic testicles of production that have engendered our endless stream of goods, that have saved us from the wretched toil of the service industry, that have united north and south, east and west, rich and poor in one giant ovary of happiness. Even words like “work”, “job,” “labor”, and “toil” make little sense in our new economic system which The Economist-Vice© magazine has appropriately labeled Freedomism.

Our cybernetic meadows, where mammals and computers live together in mutually programming harmony like pure water touching clear sky, dot the valleys of former cities. Our cybernetic forests filled with pines and electronics, where deer stroll peacefully past computers as if they were flowers with spinning blossoms, litter the highways of former nations. This cybernetic ecology, where we are free of our labors, and joined back to nature, returned to our mammal brothers and sisters and watched over by machines of loving grace, has been a blessing for all who can afford it.

America, that former crucible of spirit, that rose in the dung of the present, birthed many an ideology to get us here. The experience of representative liberal democracy taught us the true meaning of the word liberty: phlegmatic. Ruled by a dictatorship of process, liberal democracy’s indifference to human content allowed for our cosmological rise from the ashes of the first cyberwar. States, those reckless mafias, those war-mongering rackets, those debt-hungry cartels are finally on the way out of human history. Thanks in no small part to us, of course, the League of Rootless Cosmopolitans, heir to both the 1st Workers International and the WTO. Governments of the past left us with intractable conflicts over resources, lands, and all other sorts of fecal matter that we care less than nothing about. The reproduction and safety of individuals’ lives has been solved without any need to leave one’s property, ever. Our freedomist lifestyle is no longer burdened by archaic practices like “taxes,” “voting,” or “welfare.” The former-Russia’s meteoric rise to multiracial reich of the rich has put to rest any more talk of “social” democracy as the endpoint of progress. On the contrary, it was the last hurdle of pre-history.

Bozhe Moi! has liberated humankind from the weight of memory. Who would have thought that remembering things was the cause of so much suffering, evil, pain, and harm? The technological relief that the Bozhe Moi! self-search engine allows has eliminated feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, and even fever. Our League, along with the support of Bozhe Moi!, plans on finally ending the primitive method of communicative action called war in the next 10-15 years. By instituting a 1:1 drone to person charity program, everyone can be protected in his or her own privacy from others. The right to pursue happiness will reach its zenith with us. The Cosmos Art program, generously supported by the Tate Postmodern, the Banksy Institute, and the Relational Aesthetes Capital Investment Club, seeks to fund new sensory experiences for the micropleasures of the methodologically individual soul. All these exciting developments are happening right now, sponsored by us, and still there are those who doubt our munificence.

Traitor Critchley mentions two groups that he claims are forms of resistance to our orgiastic society. But the Cenobites and the League of Lovers are mere detritus from the wreckage of freedom. These modern stoics and epicureans are flies on the windshields of progress. Hamlet camps and LOLers are as reactionary as the Luddites, the anti-globalists, and the marriagizers. Snowden and Assange showed the way out for everyone: once we free ourselves from the need to hide anything, then all of us are united in the great spectacle of truth. 

As one of our heroes once said about the pre-Cosmos era, “Images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream, and the former unity of life is lost forever.” We are that unity of life you were looking for, that image reattached to its source, that I who is we and we who is I. The World is ours. Make it yours.