Note from the Editors: The following exchange is the continuation of a dialogue between Daniel Miller and Zero HP Lovecraft began in August 2021, which can be found here.
Dialogue: Daniel Miller and Zero HP Lovecraft argue over empirical evidence for Left and Right
Zero HP Lovecraft: In a recent interview you conducted with Michael Rectenwald, when you asked him “What is to be done?,” he replied that, “we must understand ourselves primarily as dissidents and only secondarily, if at all, as members of a party.” While I am sympathetic to this claim, I’m not sure about its implications. I still believe there is a necessary distinction to be made between Left and Right. Where do you stand on this?
Daniel Miller: I agree with him. ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are heuristics, not empirical entities, and refer to each other, as opposed to objective political forces. There is no “Left” or “Right” as such. There are historical narratives and ideological concepts and symbols and forces which are linked to the Left or the Right at different places and times, but imagining politics as a war between the Left and the Right mystifies the real forces in play. It’s true the current year Regime articulates itself in leftist terms and mobilizes on the back of leftist slogans, but it would be a mistake to believe it is motivated by ideological goals. The regime is a corporatist oligarchy comprising intelligence services, central banks, and monopoly capitalists as well as organized crime networks. Ideology is just one weapon it uses to advance its agendas. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Regime controls extremist groups across the ideological spectrum from Antifa in the United States and Western Europe to Takfiri cells in Syria and Neo-Nazis in Ukraine. These deployments proceed on the basis of operational judgments, not genuine ideological sympathy, which is clearly irrelevant. The one-dimensional leftism which today serves as the opioid of the half-literate cadres is no different. It is heavily pushed, to the point of hypnosis, because it supports enacting key priorities, and because it neutralizes opposition. Rightism has previously been used the same way, and no doubt will be again.
Zero: Thank you for clarifying that. As you may anticipate, I disagree in the strongest possible terms. Though we agree that “The Regime” is a fine term for our current oligarchy, the claim that the regime is not meaningfully leftist, or that it is leftist only instrumentally, is fatuous. It is axiomatic, if not tautological, that leftism is instrumental to a leftist regime. There is an implicit claim here – which is also common – that beliefs which are instrumental are not sincerely held, predicated perhaps on some idea that sincerity should be somehow self-sacrificing, rather than self-serving. In fact, we should be very suspicious of the sincerity of someone with non-instrumental beliefs. It’s the easiest thing in the world to believe truly those things that serve you. Moreover, it is no mark against a regime as vast and sprawling as the American Empire (as such) that it does not command perfect ideological lockstep in all of its little international intrigues; the regime is vast, it contains multitudes. Nevertheless, the overwhelming ideological thrust of its many initiatives and actions is leftward.
Right and Left are relatively recent terms for a division which is as old as creation. As loci of political alignment, they transcend any specific institution or instantiation. Samuel Johnson said the first whig was the devil. This was not a joke. The animating energy of the Left is exactly Satanic, and is most succinctly captured by John Milton’s Satan, who believed it was “better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.” A leftist is a person who believes it is better to reign in hell, and a rightist believes it is better to serve in heaven. We have agreed before that the Left desires a flattening of all hierarchies; this is because each of them desires to be the ruler of hell, and indeed, a place where everyone is the ruler, because no one is, is the closest thing we can imagine to hell on earth. This dichotomy is the same when we look at any political divide of our day, whether over sexuality, or race, or the allocation of money and property, it is always the same metaphysical impulse – the same satanic impulse – which is present on the left side of the divide. “No one above me, no one above anyone,” cries the leftist, who would gladly bring about hell on earth in order to get his desire. In your disdain for populism and your desire to stand somehow above or beyond this clear and immanent division between – I say this with no trace of irony – good and evil, you will deign to defend someone like the Bronze Age Pervert (and for this I commend you), but it’s obvious you do it through gritted teeth, that you wouldn’t hesitate to, as you say, “burn BAP,” if the opportunity arose, which is to say, you have not tamed that part of you which might prefer to rule in hell.
Daniel: What we are talking about here is the meaning of words, and also the power of words. I do not insist that ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ have no meaning, but demand that we define their meanings and their limitations. You are arguing for the validity of the description ‘Left’ to designate a myriad of forces opposed in theory to the forces of the Right. You claim that the Left is a metaphysical impulse associated with Nietzschean slave morality. I suppose the Right in this schema must be master morality. I would be hesitant to directly map these concepts onto political reality, which obeys economic laws and power laws, not moral laws. The history of political development isn’t the genealogy of morals. You also talk about beliefs, or ideology and suggest a natural correspondence between one’s beliefs and interests. But what is someone signaling their passionate concern for certain topics really signaling?
The important point here is not sincerity, or insincerity, but conscious and unconscious motives, also mass unconscious motives, and how symbols function in a system. We could theorize a kind of mass leftist ideology but the relationship between a totalitarian regime and its official ideology is not as simple as you seem to be suggesting. I reiterate the Left as such has no empirical existence. There is no object called ‘the Left’, at least not in this dimension. There are networked institutions, individuals, activities and causes which can be associated with the Left, and also symbols, mantras, and positions, but these objects have their own reality and motives. Ideology is distributed across them in a socially fragmentary way. Different people pick up on the different messages and images, which are now being pumped out incessantly by advertising, education, and the culture industry, or spread virally on social media, and make them part of their personas and their projects. These messages are anchored in the threat of violence. Most people don’t want to become a target. Fanatics use official symbols to channel violence and cynics use fanatics to extend or camouflage their operations. The main belief is this language is politically effective: this is actually the only necessary belief. But this belief is not essentially leftist. It is the credo of a sociopathic mindset. Today, it takes on leftist features as the deathmask of the society which created it, but you see a similar dynamic in the witch craze and in Hitlerism.
If people can get something by using particular words, people use them. The Regime could change the programming tomorrow, and the people now repeating leftist talking points would instantly switch narratives. We saw this in 2020. There is no consistency whatsoever, not even a misguided consistency. But there is a pattern – a kind of esoteric liturgy for the liquidation of nations and ultimately humanity. The strategies that are being expressed through the symbols are directed towards atomizing traditional values, virtualizing and commodifying experience, globalizing economic and political power and advancing a transhumanist agenda. The logic of these strategies emerges from the contemporary structure of power, its needs, capacities and urges, and the mindset which it generates. Do you believe this structure, which is composed of the most powerful forces in the world, is essentially ‘leftist’? Is the global biopolitical surveillance state which they are currently installing ‘leftist’?
You identify the Left with Satan, but Satan is a complex symbol. Has the devil always been progressive? Was Prometheus a leftist? How about Faust? The concept quickly compromises the project of modernity and then the history of the West. To identify something as evil is one thing, but to understand how evil operates is more involved. You ascribe evil to leftism, but it has deeper sources, in human nature, in psychology, in the cycle of regimes, in the development of global markets and the power of technology. What you are calling leftism is the mirror of these forces, which lends them an illusion of coherence. This illusion also exists them, and it does have real effects. But it remains an illusion. The Left is acted on, and through, it does not itself act. What is necessary is to identify the specific forces and intelligence which is at play behind the contemporary Left, and also the contemporary online Right. This involves a set of concepts and a form of thinking which goes beyond the opposition of Left and Right.
With regards to BAP, one of my heroes is Giordano Bruno. Before he was burned at the stake in the Campo de’ Fiori, Bruno told his executioners: “You are more afraid of killing me than I am afraid to die.” Would BAP welcome such a death? My concern remains with theorizing something which remains only vaguely understood. Official narratives about the online Right, which is a complex psychological and media ecology, are still ideologically reductive and conceptually simplistic. Nobody will touch the subject except to denounce it, and anyone who does is targeted. These accusations are traceable to casual slurs, and the transgressive use of political imagery which defines the online anon Right as a mediatic and aesthetic phenomenon. This language also distinguishes it from a disciplined political movement. I see the simulacrum of a movement that ironizes heretical ideas and rhetoric to issue signals of distress, or make offerings to fate. My role is not to denounce this, but to question and criticize. I don’t intend on burning anyone.
Zero: Satan is quite a straightforward symbol if you inhabit an ordered moral cosmology, one where equality and freedom understood to be both contingent upon and subordinate to hierarchy and duty. Whether we are talking about the ‘elite’ or about the ‘masses’, people situate themselves in society and history using stories, spectacles, and parables, which necessarily have moral and spiritual dimensions. Jesus spoke in parables because this is the most effective way to make moral concepts feel real and immanent. The Left also does this; they don’t dryly state their beliefs and motives in some lofty abstract place, they freely mix them with sacred symbols and emotions. A king and a serf both have the same relation to God and to eternal things, and this is the only equality anyone can ever have.
As for the Left “does not have empirical existence,” the rhetorical technique here can be used to make any concept seem to dissolve. I believe the zoomer slang for this is ‘tactical nihilism’. Nearly everything is an aggregate of other things, and by trying to examine a concept or phenomenon at a different level of magnification, we can make it seem more or less real. Temperature doesn’t exist if we look at the level of individual atoms, because it is an aggregation of atoms moving at different speeds, and fast atoms are hot, and cold atoms are slow. But we don’t say “temperature doesn’t exist,” we say it’s an emergent phenomenon of atoms. The people who are enacting this pattern, as you call it “[an] esoteric liturgy for the liquidation of nations and ultimately humanity,” do not believe their actions are driving towards the liquidation of humanity. They believe that liquidating nations will allow everyone to realize a fuller and higher vision of being human. This is one of several fatal flaws in their political program, and only literal devils would earnestly strive to liquidate humanity.
These people have an internal and mostly coherent understanding of the good (it is wrong) and they are, like any other people, trying to balance their own personal impulses and desires against that understanding, while also working towards it. Now, do I believe this structure composed of the most powerful forces in the world is essentially leftist? Yes. The ‘conspiracy’ really is decentralized. The surveillance state that is assembling itself is not, itself, an ideological artifact, and nor is it part of any particular agenda. It’s simply impossible to build a system of ubiquitous wireless digital telephony without also building a system of ubiquitous digital surveillance. These two things are the same thing, 100% overlap, just like every single jet airplane ever built is also a missile that can blow up a skyscraper. Authority and coercion are always going to exist, and they should exist, because without them there is only anarchy. You identify the locus of the problem in the fact of the surveillance system, when the actual problem is the specific character and the moral beliefs of the people running it. In fact (and I am grateful for this) those people are mostly incompetent, because the sheer quantity of data they are collecting is intractable to human-scale endeavors and their attempts to solve it with high-dimensional matrix algebra will require a level of genius that their ideology prevents them from cultivating.
Finally, there is nothing casual about the online Right’s use of slurs; it is a deliberate and even a political act, and although it does, admittedly, carry a thrill of transgression, there is nothing wrong with that. As much as I loathe to draw this parallel, we might also imagine that leftist agitators in previous decades also enjoyed transgressing against the norms they were trying to overthrow. And why shouldn’t they? The use of slurs both signals that we do not respect the piety of our enemies, and that we mean very seriously to overturn it. Of course they can prosecute you for this – they wrote the blasphemy laws in the first place. We don’t overturn them by playing into their frame. They forbid more words every year, the same way software companies issue security patches, and if we let them dictate even one word that we aren’t allowed to say, then we are giving them the license to dictate morality to us. I obey their speech rules to the exact degree needed to avoid being deplatformed, but I will always find newspeak-compliant ways to blaspheme their idols, because there is nothing casual about my desire to smash them.
Daniel: I agree it is possible to talk about leftism, but I say again we should define its limits. There is a line beyond which this concept cannot cross, both politically and theoretically, and it arrives sooner than you think. I am reminded of a story by Brecht: “Someone asked Herr Keuner if there is a God. Herr Keuner said: I advise you to think about how your behavior would change with regard to the answer to this question. If it would not change, then we can drop the question. If it would change, then I can help you at least insofar as I can tell you: You already decided. You need a God.” Evidently not even the most monological fanatic is simply Left or Right, but a combination of attributes and desires and identities which manifest or activate in different ways at different times. A left/right polarity operates in particular spheres, in which it is used as a shield, or as a rhetorical weapon, or tool. What is the relationship between these spheres and others? Social media defines the paradigm as a circus of personas exchanging information marked by left/right codes. These personas are the avatars of users, situated in a variety of mental states and social situations, who want to say or do things in the virtual world. With this in mind, they transmit signals as their coded wishes. The symbols, mantras, and rhetorical positions associated with the Left compose one code or grammar; and the rhetoric and concepts of the Right compose another. For reasons of contemporary symbolic economy, these different codes are more or less receptive to different psychological agendas. But the agendas which are being coded Left or Right vary widely.
It is actually possible, in principle, to express any agenda through any arrangement of codes. As Guy Debord observes one can now publish a novel in order to arrange an assassination. This recognition compels us to move beyond labels to examine the motives behind them. In the mainstream official narrative composed by education and the global media, the Right is usually associated with atavistic and ignorant impulses, and the Left with progress and the better angels of our nature. The Right is formed of people who oppose, and/or invert this view. My own relationship is more detached. I don’t believe the Left is the eternal enemy, or the author of contemporary events. I think it is a symptom and a weapon which is governed by a colder, also dumber form of power which has no interest in the Left’s beliefs and fantasies, except to the degree it uses them as screens. The Left does not have a monopoly on stupidity and cowardice, although today it has a major market share, and the online anonymous Right is not an army of freedom fighters, if it is an army, rather than a circus or mirage. Everyone and everything which opposes the Current Year Regime, or which it opposes, including critical thinking itself, is now associated with the Right, if not the far-right. Why? From the perspective of strategic interests (for example pharmaceuticals or the near-monopoly political position of the DNC) certain people or formations represent a threat or target, but it is impossible to simply openly declare this. Persecution must instead be orchestrated through the language of the contemporary Left to supply it with a simulacrum of legitimacy. Their name for the enemy is the Right so the Regime declares it is opposed by the far-right. The left attacks. From this perspective, the Right is specifically an accusation, not a conceptual identification, which both dilutes its meaning and defines it use in general circulation. It represents a coded mirror of the priorities of the Regime rather than a force itself. It also corresponds to a biopolitical category in the world digital state. Anyone assigned the gender Right or associated with positions on the Right, or the psychological and biological attributes of the Right is subjected, as dissidents, to systematic repression by regime institutions, their apparatchiks and allies. My sympathies are naturally with the outcasts and the persecuted, and against all misuses and abuses of language, in all times and all places. For this reason I side with these people called ‘Right’. But at the same time, I prefer to analyze the agendas being pushed under the names of Left and Right in their own terms, as opposed to through the prism of an ideological amalgamation.
What are the key leftist and/or rightist institution, actions, or conditions of existence, so that if these disappeared, the Left and Right would vanish? What is the atomic form of rightist and/or leftist power? We confront the problem of a “Left (or Right) of Theseus” after the legendary ship which for decades was continually rebuilt in Athens. At what point does the ship, with more or less of its parts replaced, become a different object? At what point does the Left become a different thing? You solve this problem by specifying all its manifestations derive from a metaphysical impulse, or a transhistorical psychological quality, namely ressentiment, which underpins its appearances. But the history of resentment is not identical to the history of the Left, which does include bold moments. Ressentiment also has fueled rightist politics and can be expressed in rightist terms. Plainly whatever this impulse is, it is not itself leftist, but only produces the Left, or releases it. What we’re really discussing is a politics of motive assuming different ideological expressions in different contexts, and also a form of neo-gnosticism, involving powers in perennial opposition. Identifying the antagonistic powers as the Left and Right inflates this frame beyond a heuristic calculus of contemporary rhetorical alignments into a global myth. But whose?
The motivation and the instrument are prior to the ideological content. The history of feminism illustrates this point quite well. Women entered the labour force and also a liberalized sexual marketplace in large numbers in the ’60s and the ’70s. This major shift in social and economic organization was presented as a liberation against reactionary opposition. It has increased the size of the tax base, increased downward pressure on wages, crashed family formation and fertility, and also general mental health. All this has been sold as social, if not moral progress, and been extremely profitable for some. Similar tactics were deployed by nineteenth-century imperialism where the dream of spreading civilization supported strategies of ruthless capitalist development. But this idea was never the deepest idea. It is worth recalling that the origins of Planned Parenthood, which is the main supplier of abortions in the United States, emerge from technocratic forms of thinking associated with the prewar eugenics movement. The anthropology is materialist and positivist, not leftist. You want to draw a distinction between the emerging global system and the people who control it, as if the individuals recruited by the system did not channel its most fundamental needs and urges. These are not leftist urges. The objective is the maximum primitive accumulation of all political and economic profit. Leftism is just a vector.
Zero: The existence of Right and Left does not imply that all people are purely Right or purely Left, any more than it implies that all people are purely good or purely evil. Although ideas possess people, it is rare if not impossible for an idea (really, a complex of ideas) to wholly supplant the idiosyncrasies of an individual. In addition to being ideological beings, we are also possessed of various animal drives and affections, and so on. Jesus himself observed that even wicked people know how to give good gifts to their children; people exhibit both capacities. When you talk about “agendas which are coded Right or Left,” what you’re doing is subtracting out the possibility that people are actually motivated by ideals; you’re reducing people to their animal drives and their little vendettas, and denying a priori the possibility that people are moved by beauty or by faith, or by beliefs in higher ideals. You assume what is to be proved when you say ideology isn’t what drives people, and then offer, as proof, the claim that leaders and powerful people are cynical. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that people are often unaware of their own baser motives, but I also believe that, when they do not labor under immediate existential duress, they are ‘free’ to make decisions according to lofty ideals like equality, liberty, and progress. Such ideals tend to be divorced from reality, and people take it for granted that words that make them feel good are things they should strive to bring about. That’s my personal cynicism. But in the moment, when the shiny ideal is in front of you, and you’re warm and well-fed, that’s when people do the most heinous things imaginable, and they do them because they believe those things are good without qualification. It is not the case that all evil things are Left. It is the case, however, that all Left things are evil, and that leftists are people who mistake evil things for good. In the same way, aligning yourself with the Right is no guarantee of personal virtue, it only means you are looking in the proper direction.
Every time leftists have succeeded in implementing their agendas, things have rapidly gone to hell. Every country that ever turned communist imploded under the weight of its contradictions. Let me give you some pratical examples of the infungibility of codes and agendas. Suppose for a moment you desired an ethnostate composed purely of people of pure German blood. There is simply no way to square this, not even in principal, with the codes of Ibram Kendi or Robin DiAngelo’s ‘Antiracism’. The closest you could get would be a concentration camp but for whites. Similarly, suppose you wanted to create a country where trans- and homosexuality are outlawed. There is no way, not even in principle, to square this with the codes of the LGBT movement. You can, admittedly, use any system of codes to justify going to war or attacking your enemies. You can express a violent agenda using any arrangement of codes. This does not establish the fungibility of codes, it merely points to the universal utility of violence, that violence and the friend/enemy distinction are preconditions or meta-conditions of ideology.
The specific agendas of leftism that I wish to oppose are its homosexualism, its feminism, its genocidal inclination towards all people of European heritage, and its disparagement of beauty, intelligence, and achievement in favor of its perverse understanding of equity. In the current year, such people as homosexuals and women are not only not oppressed, they are worshipped, though they believe they are the persecuted. In fact, this is the pillar of their ideology; they are oppressed and their status as such grounds their moral entitlements. I believe there are some people who ought to be persecuted, either because of what they do, or because of what they believe. If my ideals were ascendant I would not flip to having sympathy for the devil. Such an idea as “sympathies for outcasts” seems to me to be making a principle out of being unprincipled. But setting that aside, is “sympathy for outcasts” not a moral stance, an ideological stance? You say you subscribe to this principle, but how shall I square this with your claim that ideological agendas are pursued for cynical reasons? Or is your claim only that powerful people are incapable of sincerity?
Regarding your point about feminism, this is the crux of our disagreement. If you could go back in time and interrogate every suffragette and suffragette ally, or even someone like Harry T. Burn, the congressman who cast the deciding vote to ratify the 19th amendment to the constitution, not one of them would cite a profit motive. Not only that, none of them would be able to articulate the case that increased downward pressure on wages, crashed family formation and fertility, and destruction of mental health would be consequences of their actions. (And feminists today would not concede that feminism caused these things.) Second-wave feminists would find these views similarly perplexing. Are you asking me to believe in a colossal conspiracy across centuries to cynically empower women in order to make a buck selling them dildos, small dogs, and SSRIs? That was only slightly facetious. The stronger case is “adding women to the labor force lowers the price of labor, allowing capitalists to increase their profits.” But this argument fails on two levels: lowering labor costs only increases profit for a few monopolists, so the people who benefit from feminist labor arbitrage are a tiny minority who are already also the richest and most powerful people in the world. These people have nothing to gain by slightly increasing their profit margins.
Second, even supposing there were a small cadre of masterminds behind it all, everyone outside their conspiracy would still be enthralled to the ideology they created, because that is the only way to control a mass at scale. The conspiratorial brotherhood would be powerless to stop their creation from consuming them. We are living in the world of the mass man, and our elites are now no more elite than our commoners. They eat the same fast food and drink the same sodas, though admittedly the elite ones have bougier branding. That’s almost a perfect metaphor for how power operates in the current year. Those who have profited from feminism are opportunistic, and they support feminism not because they think it makes them money, but because they think it makes them good people, and that by serving market needs that feminism facilitates, they are doing noble work to bolster the continuing work of rescuing women from the patriarchy. Doing this also provides affordances for them to achieve smaller, shorter term objectives that personally benefit them, but mere selfishness isn’t nearly as stupid as selfishness that aligns with ideology.
As to your question: “Which are the key leftist institutions, actions, or conditions of existence, so that if these disappeared, the Left would vanish?,” it’s an excellent one, but I do not believe the Left can be made to vanish because there will always be losers in any game, and leftism is the ideology of losers over winners; the ugly over the beautiful, the stupid over the smart, and so on. You are correct that I see ressentiment at its core. Leftism tends to win when losers find ways to coordinate and overwhelm the hierarchy in which they find themselves. In some cases this can even cause the new rulers to change their morals and start approximating right-wingedness, by which I mean: reverence for strength and beauty and contempt for equality. Disdain for hierarchy is a fairly natural sentiment for those at the bottom of it, especially when those in power are decadent, neglectful, or abusive. But the inevitable conclusion of disdain for hierarchy is to make idols of ugliness, weakness, and stupidity.
It is possible to have all of these bad attributes while also being right-wing, and success often begets decadence. Power, like violence, has no necessary ideological valence. I think we mostly agree on this. But powerful people do have ideological alignments, and it matters tremendously what they are, because after they have spent some portion of their energy maintaining their power, the remainder is spent pursuing their own understanding of the good, which is mostly shaped by their ideology. When you talk about a “dumber” form of power, I think you have it exactly inverted. Cynical, purely self-interested power is at times malicious, but it also strives for competence. The manifestations of power that we are seeing now are retarded precisely because they are ideological, because they believe that the very concept of competence is an artifact of Fascism and white racial aggression. Leftism arises whenever someone reasons from “I don’t like it that there are people more powerful than me” to “no one should be more powerful than anyone else.” This is a tempting way to think, especially if you have never held any power or wealth before, because it seems to be the maximally fair social arrangement. People who hold this belief usually also pursue power and wealth, because there is nothing that stops us from holding contradictory premises in our heads. The illusion that ideology is cynically held comes from this fact, that the two most common ideological stances – violence is evil, power is evil – are also the most contradictory and retarded. The evil part is when people who believe this obtain power, because they use all of their excess to destroy everything they see that fails to conform to their facile moral ideas. I compare this to Bataille’s understanding of the accursed share – that portion of our modern wealth which must be burned on art or sexuality or else catastrophe.
The simplest and most parsimonious explanation for any utterance is that the person making it really believes what he’s saying. This doesn’t make the utterance true, but this should be our null hypothesis, because lying is harder to sustain than honesty. I also note that belief does not always coincide with actions. Actions that align with beliefs are a luxury, and we are living in a luxurious time, so our beliefs really do matter. I have no reason to doubt also that such people who control the press and the media wish to manipulate us towards various agendas by means of hysterical propaganda. We see this every day, and we see it is effective. But we also see how transparent and ham-fisted most of that propaganda is, and that’s because when you add up all the writers and reporters and actors and the people who run the distribution networks there are too many of them to possibly coordinate on any kind of 4D chess conspiracy level. The only way to coordinate that many people is through ideology and belief. That belief does not have to be total, it’s more akin to a tithe. The theory of history where ideological action is secretly driven by cynical or sinister motives is itself a kind of gnosticism: it makes you feel smart because it lets you think you’re seeing behind the curtain to reveal the true nature of reality underneath. The truth is that while people do conceal their motives, they’re actually quite bad at it, so most people mostly match their exposed surfaces most of the time. If you wear a mask for too long it becomes your face, and this is as true of societies as of individuals.
Daniel: I don’t claim that nobody is ever moved by their convictions. People can be moved by ideology, or by convictions, terms which you conflate, but they are moved in different ways, and latter is less common. You also conjoin in the foregoing “a moral stance, an ideological stance.” I think these are two different things. We had this same issue previously in terms of superstition and religion. To be sure there is a moral or ethical stance behind every ideological stance but this stance is not immediately ideological, and often is unconscious. To believe something, you have to understand it, otherwise you just have a vague emotional impression. What you believe also has to be itself coherent. You can’t believe in something that has no consistent meaning. In this case, your belief is just a calculus of position and advantage with respect to an emotional exchange rate. That is ideology. Convictions, on the other hand, entail a set of necessary consequences or commitment to an ethical position. Unlike ideology, convictions do not change. Also, they involve a cost. There are numerous historical examples; and none can be straightforwardly classified as belonging to the Left or the Right. At least, their meaning is neither exhausted by these categories, or essential to it. Zola was a man of the Left, but also he was more than that. As Clemenceau said, “Men have been found to resist the most powerful monarchs and to refuse to bow down before them, but few indeed have been found to stand up alone before misguided masses, to face their implacable frenzy without weapons and with folded arms to dare a no when a yes is demanded. Such a man was Zola!” What Zola opposed was persecution and injustice – not a rival ideology – from the point of view of moral force. Today we have a nominally Antifascist fascism and a nominally Antiracist racism in which the rhetoric of persecution is itself used as a weapon. Some individuals now even actively engineer their persecution, or stories of their persecution: they make inventing this persona into a project and sometimes a career. But we can nonetheless distinguish between this phenomenon and real incidents of persecution, like we can distinguish between claims and facts.
I don’t know what kind of persecution is currently being claimed by the LGBTQ+ movement or understand their theoretical position. This phenomenon is really a rhetorical formation. It expresses a triangulation of contemporary strategic forces, which speaks a certain language to extend the reach of certain interests. Most importantly, it aggregates a set of theoretical identities, defined by sexuality, into a politically administrated block. LGBTQ+ offers multiple vectors of power projection for multiple actors, including geopolitical actors: that is why it is successful. We could amalgamate these actors into a single power called ‘the Left’, in order to polemically oppose it, but only at the price of more incisive understanding. For this same reason, if someone wants to identify with the Right or the Left, I want to understand that context and what specifically is being said, or claimed. I don’t accept that the association of a thought or thing or action with the Right or Left invalidates it, and I don’t accept it validates it either. What interests me are ethical and tactical criteria, not abstract rhetorical associations. I’m also skeptical about transcribing random abstract categories into crypto-metaphysical conceptions, which is what your ideological interpretation of The Genealogy of Morals represents. Persuasive as this appears, what this operation represents is the elaboration of a myth rather than a critical analysis, and a reductive myth, which is not complex enough to generate real insight. Bataille once wrote that he couldn’t understand a myth until he understood how he could believe it himself. To understand what you refer to as the Left from this perspective means understanding the triangulation of desire and feeling which are empowering leftist structures. This desire and feeling is ultimately human desire and feeling, and only secondarily leftist. Resentment is among them, and so is greed, and fear.
What seems to me critical about contemporary leftism is how it serves as the spearhead of the global centralization of power. You seem to suggest that the Left is controlling the oligarchs, but it seems clear to me that the oligarchs, themselves ultimately controlled by their proximity to global power, are controlling the Left. They control it through various devices, including the phantom of the Right, and it claps on command. The activists either don’t know why they are clapping, or they simply like clapping. In Germany in the 1920s, the army and monopoly industry supported an aggregation of gangsters, neurotics, mercenaries, psychopaths, and the discontented, with a small number of misguided idealists to defend their interests under the rubric of the Right. Now we have a global plutocratic corporatism, which wields a weapon called ‘the Left’. Believing anyone participating in this sub-executive formation has an ethically or intellectually coherent vision misunderstands this situation. Did the Cheka have a vision? They are remote-controlled fanatics or amoral cynics, not partisans of real ideals. Likewise, the intellectual position of the contemporary Left is terrorism – it imposes its position based on moral blackmail, violence and intimidation, it makes no effort to persuade. This is also the position of the global biopolitical regime with regards to critics of their pseudo-scientific policies. The regime intimidates in one way or another. In response most people mumble, nod, and look the other way, others become instruments and toys. The global psychological and social sum of all their casuistry, threats and self-deception, daily pumped out on social media, today defines the real ideas of this Regime. Meanwhile, an anonymous online Right, adopting an alternative approach, declares its deathless opposition to the Left. But is this the real name of the enemy? There’s a legendary statement by Wole Soyinka responding to the Negritude movement in his day. “A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude, it pounces!” The tiger who is standing in the middle of the internet anonymously declaring he’s a rightist is doing something else.