Talking Badiou, Borders, and Bernie

I’ve been getting more interested in Badiou lately—I bought and have been reading “Theory of the Subject,” casually, or at least as casually as one can read such a book. What is good about Badiou is that he offers a real revolutionary lucidity; he doesn’t get led astray in the sense that the so-called “crypto-fascist” leftists do, the leftists who always happen to find themselves on the Right whenever it counts (there is, of course, often still something of value in those “crypto-fascists” like Zizek). Badiou always tries to stay faithful to the Event, the instance of collective liberation that establishes the Truth of radical egalitarian politics. If Badiou is “bad” it is because he is too committed to this, the “unrepentant Maoist.” Whatever my thoughts on the Cultural Revolution, I think this is refreshing.

Badiou’s history of work with migrant workers and marginalized populations is particularly relevant today. In the Verso Blog (as always):

Faced with the refugee problem, the left is deeply divided between NPA-style internationalism and the protectionism defended by Chantal Mouffe or La France Insoumise. What is your position?

Today, it is impossible to consider any major political problem except on the world scale. The consequences to be drawn from an organizational point of view are another matter… If you do not focus on this level, you cannot understand the situation. It is not completely wrong to say that there are no more manual workers in France. At the world level, on the other hand, there have never been so many workers as there are now. Simply that they are all in China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Brazil or Romania. We seriously misinterpret the political and social situation, in the broadest sense, by seeing it only through the French keyhole. Forty years ago, in this country, there was a complete social fabric, with peasants and workers in large factories. The changes of globalized capitalism force us to change our thinking accordingly. If you don’t have the same measure as your opponent, you’re bound to fail! Today’s proletariat is a vast nomadic proletariat seen as immigration or migrants. In reality, this is a question of class relations at the planetary level. This implies, at a minimum, prioritizing international relations and having a position on this nomadic proletariat that arrives in our country or wants to settle there. I like these divisive questions! Those on which there’s a consensus are rarely the right ones. This is the major political issue that divides, in a confusing way. Positions on the left are unclear. After all, what would an organization of the nomadic proletariat mean? We are far from having solved this problem. But you have to raise it. The strategic political stage is global. On this point, capitalism is a good step ahead because it is comfortably established on this stage.

I’ve written before about how socialist electoral politics faces an impasse with the issue of this nomadic proletariat. For the democratic socialists taking power in a country such as the United States requires, at the very least, winning over the existing “settler” working classes—the working classes that were long satisfied with the post-WW2 semblance of endless plenty, the classes who were invited into a way of life that resembled the rich and bourgeois classes but forced back out once their labor was no longer the most cost-effective option, the classes on the internal periphery of the core of capital, the dispossessed white blue-collar Trump voters archetype we have heard so much about. Carrying the torch of American social democratic politics, Bernie Sanders must speak for these people if he wishes to be elected president; he must, per Zizek, consider the jouissance that obstructs the “coming-together” of the dispossessed Rust Belt worker with the Other of the undocumented nomadic proletarian of Central America, the outsider from the external periphery, beyond the polis. The insistence that there is no impasse or tension whatsoever between these different groups is false.  This is not to say that Sanders must be racist, in the crass or vulgar sense, but it almost certainly means that he must leave some racist institutional structures unquestioned.

Let me put this another way: the total abolition of borders, the unconditional affirmation of the principle of absolute freedom of movement, and so on, is not a promising electoral strategy because it offers little to the people who will vote. (I will not specify the abolition of ICE in particular because that refers to the inhumane practices of the agency and not necessarily the theoretical stance of “no borders” overall.) Even if the nomadic proletarians do not steal the jobs and enjoyment of the dispossessed citizen-settlers as much as the nativist reactionaries claim, the impression, the popular mood, is what counts. The people Sanders must win over will not vote for him if the electoral socialist left’s messaging is that they (the citizen-settlers) are seen simply as white devil petit bourgeois class enemies—even if they really are.

(I am speaking of collectives, of myths, essentially. The “Trump voter” identity is the silliest myth of all. But we must use these broad strokes because we don’t have a discrete subject we can talk to, as in psychoanalysis. Instead, we have a sort of necessarily-inadequate aggregate nebula of moods.)

The woke-PC democratic socialists are right to say that these dispossessed Trump voters aren’t really the “proletariat” in the grand scheme of things. And to turn back to Badiou, “it is impossible to consider any major political problem except on the world scale.” But the very next sentence: “The consequences to be drawn from an organizational point of view are another matter…”

The abolition of borders is impossible in the context of a democratic electoral program that maintains continuity with the existing order. If we want to organize the nomadic proletariat we need to think outside of electoral politics, outside the nation-state—we must think in terms of international relations.

This impasse is something that polite democratic socialists do not want to accept exists. Either they must identify with democracy, the nation-state, the parliamentary status quo, and work with the settler classes or they must reject electoral politics entirely and side with the nomadic proletariat, taking the path of revolutionary politics and effectively ceasing to be American (“Amerikkkan”). The latter option is the real rejection of identity politics since its goal is the end of identity, full stop.

What this ultimately comes back to is a question of what the Left should be trying to achieve, the organizational question. A Sanders presidency—a best-case scenario for the DSA faction—would by definition maintain continuity with the status quo, sanctioned by authority of the Constitution written by all those slave owners, and whatever. It would not be Communist. But that isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be better than what things are now. I will leave this question hanging here. The DSA faction will only trip over itself if it thinks it can legislate its way to revolutionary politics and abolishing the nation-state. If we just want some of the “nice things” that social democratic Europeans get to have, then we can skip the revolution—but we have to beat the imperialist bourgeoisie at their own electoral game. Is it worth it?

Letter from a French Incel, PhD: Response to “The Aeneid for Incels”

The following is an email I received in response to my Jacobite article “The Aeneid for Incels” back in May.

 

Hello Mike,

I have just read your “Aeneid for Incels” piece.

Although it seemed all too “mild-mannered” to me, i.e. you need to spread a lot of academic drivel to arrive at a key point and do barely tell it right, but by the same way you make it palatable to bourgeois bohemian types who fancy themselves to have a higher human value, it was also one of the most interesting reads I’ve seen on the infamous Elliot Rodger affair.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am French, born and raised in Paris, but have fled this city—where a disenfranchised middle-class son cannot have roots unless he sucks the right dicks—to get a try elsewhere. This was a good choice. I managed to pull from a master degree in philosophy to a PhD program. Now I can write my name with the famous three digits put after. However, although this allowed me to develop my intellectual abilities and master many social cues, hard analytical paradigms and rhetorical tropes, this is not the most interesting part.

No: the most interesting part is that I have been an incel. My first fuck happened just before I turned 20. Although I was a rather athletic guy who knew the secret entrances to the much-fantasized unofficial Paris Catacombs, my notch was a 4/10 (and I’m gentle) fat black girl whom I didn’t even intend to fuck before we became inebriated. She later resented me (I think I was a honest 6/10) for having allegedly “abused” her in her inebriated state, although both of us were inebriated. Later on, I paid 150 € to fuck an escort who was tired from “work” and merely waited for the hour to pass. This was cruel. She was below average, too, yet she had a value, and a high one, on the sexual marketplace. I, on the other hand, was worth nothing on the market, so much nothing that I had to pay a pricey sum to get a non–seduction-processed notch, and even then, I was just another customer to someone who would barely remember each customer at the end of her day.

Only much later, in the course of my doctoral studies, did I meet a girl who actually desired me. This led me to start treading down the PUA way. It was difficult, yet less than I had imagined it to be. Then I stopped being an incel, I almost went overnight from “shitty worthless little white guy” to “fucking shitlord hooking with and fucking 3 girls at the same time.”

Now one of these girls became the only one. We have married, and she’s pregnant with our second child. Doesn’t look very much “incel,” does it? Yet I was. And I know for sure I will never throw off this aspect of my past, just as no sane individual accepts having part of his dearest, closest-to-the-chest personal history mocked, stigmatized, spat upon and treated as if below the mud.

I also wrote for several Alt-Right websites, then for Return of Kings. (It is fun that you mentioned ROK on the article, as no one on ROK ever approved of Elliot Rodger or the “PUA hate” movement. Why is Elliot Rodger supposed to “represent” ROK better than thousands of expatriated men who strive to pick up girls? Just a nasty Leftist caricature. If, say, ten per cent Muslims kill but 0.001% so-called masculinists do, they will defend Islam against “intolerance” yet make unfair generalizations and show the worst intolerance towards people who never claimed to be “masculinists.” But I’m straying from the point.)

Let me get it straight. You reached the heart of the issue when you wrote: “It’s not just about literal sexual intercourse, it’s about sexuality in its deepest, most fundamental sense. It’s about Eros.

Of course it is. And of course is there something social here. But what is it? The incel issue is exactly the same as the prole, or proletarized issue. You were born a middle class white guy, and you grow up to find out that no one wants you. Recruiters do not think of you as “interesting” even when you accept getting paid like shit. Girls do not think of you as a potential sexual partner, you’re a forever orbiting beta male at best. You’re supposed to have experience to work, but you never had experience, so how do you start? Likewise, it seems like you are supposed to be already sought after to get sought after—but you’re not.

The crux of the point is, you’re disenfranchised. You are a legitimate son, a rightful heir, employee, partner, citizen—and you are not acknowledged as such. To the contrary, you are at best ignored, at worst supposed guilty of whatever “oppression” or “ism” or “phobia” the almighty Left will throw at you. You are of no value, no one wants you. To be “of value” it seems like you have to play an inauthentic role, accept shit tests and humiliations, be treated like dirt and get scraps. You are socially dis-integrated. Isn’t that what being an incel is on the seduction/sexual plane? An incel is just like someone without a job. (Incidentally, I got a job. I even have so much work it becomes stressful at times. But, once again, I refuse to despise and throw mud at what I was, at what many deserving, legitimate men are.)

Being socially disintegrated is even more cruel when criminals, liars, thieves, and invaders receive positive attention and you don’t. And then, when you finally succeed, you are expect to bury your origins and pretend you are part of the Cathedral’s chosen as if the other ones (you know, the ones just like you were before) were nothing, or monsters.

Even my own father, who tries hard to be a good bourgeois bohemian (and, of course, a Leftist), does not have a clue when I try to tell him that Alt-Righters are courageous, fair, honest, decent, hard-working, not to say virtuous or meritorious. He doesn’t even understand that people who never get acknowledged unless they are inauthentic crave recognition for their true deeds. And such is Eros—sexual recognition.

There is a French writer called Yann Moix who said that, when he became famous and acclaimed from his writings, he saw women’s way of looking at him change. When he was “nothing,” he was nothing in their eyes. Certainly not someone they would open their legs to, much less desire. Then, when he gained fame, he saw these women notice how cool and interesting and intelligent and spiritual he was. He then pretended to seduce some of them, just to break their hearts later. Revenge is best served cold. He also fucked some of them to “next” them, that is, replace them right after.

The top tastes even better when you come from the bottom!

What matters is not to fuck. What matters is being desired. Being desired is being integrated into sociability. This is what matters. Or, at least, having these girls do their best to fake desire, which means that you matter, that you’re integrated—and who knows, perhaps their faking will lead to a spark of true desire.

Abolish the sexual oligarchy and the deregulated marketplace. Perform some justice. Kick the invaders out and punish those who abused from their position, whether they are douchey chads, politicians, or privileged boomers. Then, perhaps you will solve the incel issue.

Things are not that simple because the bourgeois bohemian class and world became autistic and showed itself unable to listen and talk on an equal foot with non-liberals. They need to make elaborate, and ultimately worthless, theories on why people elected Trump. Why don’t they simply ask said people? Perhaps because they can’t even stand the answers. They can’t consider these without putting a distorting filter, accusing, slandering, caricaturing and reproducing a heap of double standards and intelligent-yet-idiotic norms such as forbidding their own to go to the point without academic drivel.

BTW, if a bit of “let’s deconstruct liberals” seems interesting to you, I can provide some ROK pieces, most of these written from my desk.

IMO people such as Jack Donovan, Paul Waggener or even many ROK writers are much closer to reality than bourgeois bohemian autists who need to put a filter between said reality and their closeted world. Want the heart of the problem? They’ve stolen the West, and they want every other Westerner to make it to bobolandia or disappear in silence as his name is covered with filth. Then they do not understand. LOL. Incels are no more absurd than the Dark Knight‘s League of Shadows. But here am I wandering off the point again.

Please, keep up with the good work. Thank you for having read my non-native, although highly alt-polished English, up to this point. I just wish Jacobite Mag leaned closer to Social Matter.

Take care,

[Redacted]

(and yes, I’m a white man named [Redacted], if this needed to be mentioned)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

How can multiculturalism contradict working-class solidarity?

This is part 1 in what will be a series of blog posts.

In response to my last blog post, I was asked a good question: “what exactly is multiculturalism and what is its contradictory relationship with international solidarity?”

Multiculturalism is something that can have many different definitions, so I’ll try to stick by the understanding that has to do with the context of “why Zizek was right” and antagonisms with international working-class solidarity.

To start, in the most general, theoretical sense, there is no antagonism between multiculturalism and international solidarity. In short: immigrants can and should be considered part of the broader workers’ struggle. This is not, in principle, something that needs to be fundamentally revised. In a globalized world, we need to think about these issues in a “global” sense. So I think I made a mistake when I said:

“There is, however, still an unavoidable antagonism between a left-theoretical commitment to multiculturalism and a left-theoretical commitment to working class solidarity under global neoliberalism: the left needs to come to terms with the practical-left commitment to a working class displaced and alienated by widespread de-industrialization.”

The issue shouldn’t be framed as an antagonism between the theoretical commitment to multiculturalism and a theoretical commitment to working class solidarity, but between a theoretical commitment (multiculturalism) and practical commitment (working class solidarity). I think I was incorrect to imply that the issue necessarily occurs at the theoretical level.

So what is the practical contradictory relationship between multiculturalism and working class solidarity?

To get an idea of what is at stake in this, consider the line that the Clinton campaign used against Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Party primaries—that Bernie Sanders is a “single-issue candidate” for running on a platform of economic justice, opposition to Wall Street, and so on. Part of what was implied in this is that Sanders’ program is “just for white people,” that the struggles of women, minorities, and others are not fundamentally tied to a critique of capitalism—and that, if anything, the capitalists, the well-educated and well-mannered elites, are precisely those who are on the side of the marginalized, as opposed to the racist, provincial, backwards white working class.

Of course, the Clinton campaign alone does not demonstrate that there is a theoretical contradiction between multiculturalism and working class solidarity at all. In fact, from this, we can affirm the theoretical compatibility of those things. The opposition between “intersectionality” and “socialism” that the Clinton campaign set up is best countered by demonstrating that there is no opposition—that many of the most structurally oppressive issues that marginalized people face are fundamentally economic, and that it is the “Woke Capital” ideology that is more concerned with empty gestures and tokenism. But does this calculating Clintonite sleight of hand reveal something deeper?

This brings us to where the practical contradictory relationship between “multiculturalism” and working class solidarity occurs. The Clinton campaign’s “Woke-Capital” ideological opposition of multiculturalism with working class solidarity is nonsense on the theoretical socialist terrain—but it mirrors the concrete functioning of global capital, and poses and urgent practical obstacle for organizing in developed countries. I will summarize crudely. Capital expands outwards to avoid the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The rate of profit is sustained by creating global value chains of production, extracting resources and labor from the global periphery—“developing countries”. As this expansion toward the periphery occurs, the industrial base in the economic core is no longer needed, because the cost of labor is higher and the potential returns are lower. These former industrial regions in the global economic core themselves begin to resemble the “underdeveloped” periphery, facing widespread unemployment, poor social services, and other issues (the “Rust Belt,” the Ruhrgebiet, and so on). By contrast, the new cores of the developing countries, benefiting most from the windfall profits of global value chains, begin to look much more like the core—embodying the logic and the appearance of “cities of the future” than the core itself (Shanghai, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg…). The consequence of this is that there is a form of “multiculturalism” that is taken up and assimilated into the logic of global capital. This logic does validate the rainbow-colored masses of “the developing world,” but it only understands their value through the exploitation of their labor (“Immigrants: they get the job done!”). But what this logic has no use for is the post-industrial “leftovers,” who are themselves backwards and forgotten, as if excluded from the progression of history (“Why do people support a racist like Trump? Don’t they know it’s [the current year]?”).

The Left’s confusion over the apparent impasse between multiculturalism and the interests of the “leftover” working class has done little to stop right-populists and fascists across the developed world from achieving previously-unimaginable electoral success. The now-popular identification of developed-world post-industrial working class interests with the Right is inexcusable for leftists. Accepting the left’s position on the conservative side of a radically-flipped political spectrum of late capitalism is the fast track to obsolescence.

How can we get around this impasse? To start, the Left’s theoretical understanding must take into account the nuanced, shifting, and increasingly-muddied distinctions between global economic cores and peripheries. It must to take into account the leftover working classes in the “peripheries of the cores” that have been left behind by history.

But this is only a tiny part of the beginning of the solution. We must go much deeper to truly work through the problem of contemporary racism posed by the issues facing multicultural western societies. For this, we should turn to psychoanalysis, and in particular, the concept of jouissance. Zizek is correct to identify this as the kernel of the problem in his fascinating 2015 feud with Sam Kriss:

“Which is the factor that renders different cultures (or, rather, ways of life in the rich texture of their daily practices) incompatible? What is the obstacle that prevents their fusion or, at least, their harmoniously indifferent co-existence? The psychoanalytic answer is: jouissance. It is not only that different modes of jouissance are incongruous with each other without a common measure; the Other’s jouissance is insupportable for us because (and insofar as) we cannot find a proper way to relate to our own jouissance.”

I intend to go into more detail on the meaning and significance of jouissance as an obstacle to solidarity across cultures (and discuss how the Zizek-Kriss debate is the microcosm of the Left’s theoretical difficulty grasping this issue) in another blog post.