This blog initially set out to focus primarily on Islam and the Islamisation of the UK. However, since that time the subjects covered have broadened. They now include (amongst other things): IQ tests, Jean Baudrillard, global warming, sociobiology, Marxism, Trotskyism, David Cameron, Foucault, Nazism, Ralph Miliband, economics, statistics and so on. - Paul Austin Murphy
I've had articles published in The Conservative Online, American Thinker, Intellectual Conservative, Human Events, Faith Freedom, Brenner Brief (Broadside News), New English Review, etc... (Paul Austin Murphy's Philosophy can be found here.)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Lyotard on the Leftist Religion: Jacobinism to Bolshevism to Corbynism

Firstly it needs to be explained why the word 'Leftist' has been used in the title rather than the word 'communist' or 'socialist'. The main reason for this is that - in his account of Leftism - the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard (“the inventor of postmodern theory”) goes back to the French Jacobins of the period 1789 to 1794. The first self-conscious uses of the word 'socialist', on the other hand, date back only to the 1820s.

Secondly, Lyotard died before Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the British Labour Party. In fact he died 17 before that event – in 1998. That simply means that I've taken the liberty to extend Lyotard's ideas and apply them to Corbyn and to other contemporary contexts.

As for the focus on Jacobins. There's a very broad consensus that Leftism can be dated back to the Jacobins. More specifically, the terms 'Left' and 'Right' were first used during the Jacobin phase (which included “the Reign of Terror”) of the French Revolution (i.e., 1789 to 1794).

Traditionally, and going back to the Jacobins, Leftists have always supported “social equality” and “egalitarianism”. They've also been against “social hierarchy” and “inequality”. Leftists also posit themselves as being morally and/or politically concerned with the “disadvantaged” and with “social justice” generally. Thus even today there's a very popular pro-Corbyn and self-consciously Leftist website calledJacobin(Jacobin has the tagline “Reason in Revolt” - see later section on Jacobin Reason.)

Thus if one reads the positions of the Jacobins in the 1790s, then one will quickly see that they're almost perfect forerunners of what Jeremy Corbyn believes in 2017.

Like Maximilian Robespierre, Corbyn is very much in favour of the Rousseauian “social contract”. (Or in its contemporary offspring, “social justice”.) So, for example, here's Robespierre talking about merchants:

"I denounce the assassins of the people to you and you respond, 'let them act as they will.' In such a system, all is against society; all favors the grain merchants.”

Think here of Corbyn's soundbite: “For the many, not for the few.” The quote above also expresses Corbyn's views on “bankers”, “Tories”, etc.

More relevantly, like the Jacobins, Corbyn is an economic and political interventionist. To the Jacobins and Corbyn, the collective/state always comes first. Presumably that's why Corbyn wants to be Prime Minister and not a street activist, a cloak-and dagger revolutionary, or a “social entrepreneur”.

Leftism is a Religion

The similarities between Leftism and religion can often be obvious and explicit. That's certainly the case when it came to the Jacobin revolutionaries. In fact the Jacobins acknowledged the religious nature of their revolutionary Leftism.

Take this historical account (found in the book Toward the Post-Modern) from Jean-François Lyotard:

Officially, dechristianisation opens the way to solemn ceremonies such as the Festival of Reason on 10 November 1793 in Notre-Dame and the Festival of the Supreme Being on 8 June 1794 in the Champ de Mars.”

Of course this wasn't a strictly philosophical use of the word Reason. During the French Revolution it was believed that Reason was expressed in republican Leftism. Leftism, as it were, instantiated Reason. Indeed Jacobinism was Reason made flesh. (Today Jeremy Corbyn's radical socialism is seen – by Corbynites - as making equality, tolerancepeace, etc. flesh.)

In the late 18th century, the religious nature of Leftism was even more extreme than the quote above suggests.

According to Lyotard again, “truly Catholic processions enter the Convention only to be transformed into republican parades”. In other words, the Jacobins weren't hiding (or disguising) the fact that they'd obliterated Catholicism only to substitute it with another - better – religion: Leftist Jacobinism.

As for religious “processions”, we can see this kind of thing during the rallies/meetings of Corbyn's supporters when many Corbynites look intently – and often with watery eyes - into the eyes of their very own patron saint: Saint Jeremy of Islington. You can also see it at the meetings and final get-togethers of the Socialist Workers' Party's annual Marxism “festivals” in London. What we have there the singing of the Red Flag hymn, the holding of hands, collective homogeneity/ecstasy, socialist iconography and so on.

The Jacobinism of the Bolsheviks

Let's move forward to 1921 and the Bolsheviks.

In 1921 (i.e., when the Bolsheviks were actually doing their stuff), Bertrand Russell wrote (in his book The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism) that

"Bolshevism is not merely a political doctrine; it is also a religion, with elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures".

Thus if we have a religion (with its “elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures”), then we must also have both the followers of these scriptures as well as their interpreters. Lenin was one such follower and interpreter. According to Russell:

"When Lenin [whom Russell actually visited] wishes to prove some proposition, he does so, if possible, by quoting texts from Marx and Engels."

Today you can still come across such blind faith in sacred Marxist texts.

For example, you often hear Trotskyists and communists saying: "What was Lenin’s position on Islam and Muslims?" (As if Lenin would - by definition - have insightful and profound things to say about such things.) If you go to a SWP conference (or check its agenda on the Internet), you'll see titles such as ‘What did Marx think about Sadomasochistic sex?’, or ‘What is the Leninist position on 19th century Italian opera?’. I've also seen Marxist books and lectures on things as diverse and esoteric as quantum physics and chaos theory.

And along with sacred Marxist texts and religious personas, you must also have dogma and dogmatism. According to Russell, the communist

"is a man who entertains a number of elaborate and dogmatic beliefs – such as philosophical materialism, for example – which may be true, but are not, to a scientific temper, capable of being known to be true with any certainty".

Moreover, that dogmatism and zealotry serves a purpose. Russell writes:

"it cannot be denied that, over any short period of time, dogmatic belief is a help in fighting. If all Communists become religious fanatics, while supporters of capitalism retain a sceptical temper, it may be assumed that the Communists will win…"

Thus it's no surprise that to Russell "Marxian Communism" itself

"ha[d] the fixed certainty of Catholic theology, not the changing fluidity and sceptical practicality of modern science".

Except, of course, that Marx himself believed that he was a scientist – even if asocial and economic scientist. Indeed all Marxists stressed the scientific nature of Marxism until the 1960s. After that period, Marxist “scientism” began to become largely unfashionable. (However, various communist parties - along with communists themselves – often retained the belief that Marxism is a science.)

The fact is that Marxism is the exact opposite of a science precisely because it owes more to religion than it does to science. Indeed, as implied, the only people who ever thought that Marxism is a science were… well, Marxists.

Russell even made a strong connection between the Bolsheviks and the Cromwellian puritans. He said that communists "are not unlike the Puritan soldiers in their stern politico-moral purpose".

Russell also claimed that the early Bolsheviks had "a state of mind not unlike that of the early successors of Mahomet". In what sense? In that

"opposition is crushed without mercy, and without shrinking from the methods of the Tsarist police, many of whom are still employed at their old work".

The Manichean battle between good and evil was seen - by these early communists - as being between capitalism and the working class (or the “revolutionary vanguard” of the working class). Such communists believed that

"all evils are due to private property, the evils of the Bolshevik regime while it has to fight private property will automatically cease as soon as it has succeeded… These views are the familiar consequences of fanatical belief".

That meant that the banning of free speech, the use of violence, the Gulag, etc. were all seen as being necessary when it came to fighting capitalist evil; just as violence and bannings are still necessary today when fighting “fascists”, “Nazis”, “racists”, “neoliberals”, capitalists, “the far Right”, Ukip, right-wing academics and even “Tories”.

Leftist Faith

The French philosopher Michel Foucault also stressed the faith which many Leftists have in various socialist/Leftist truths. Some of these “truths” were even known – by some Leftists themselves - to be falsehoods. (At least in their heart of hearts.) However, to paraphrase Karl Marx: The point is to change the world, not to interpret it. Truth, therefore, doesn't matter. What matters is bringing about “progressive” or “revolutionary change”. Thus Foucault said (as quoted in James Miller's The Passion of Michel Foucault) that Leftists are

obliged to stand behind… facts that are totally beyond credibility”.

This Leftist self-abasement and knowing subversion of truth “was part of that exercise of the dissolution of the self” for the various communist parties; as well as for Leftist causes. As I said, changing the world is what matters; not truth or knowledge.

In a similar manner, Lyotard quotes Jules Michelet thus:

A prodigious act of Jacobin faith. They denied the sun at midday. And this was believed. The medieval affirmation of Catholic faith ('This bread is not Bread, it is God.') is no more forceful... Such is the robust faith of the new Jacobins.”

The best example of this is the Leftist's utter faith in a future utopia. Of course it's highly embarrassing – nowadays - to use the actual word utopia. Nonetheless, utopia is hinted at in almost everything the Leftist utters.

Despite that, Marxists and post-19th-century socialists have always congratulated themselves for not being utopians. Yet the very zealous and fundamentalist attitude they have to all things non-socialist (as well as their often implied promises of a better – even perfect - future) are simply a disguised utopianism: a utopianism which dare not speak its name. After all, the actual utopians - in the early 19th century - were all "bourgeois reformists”. Thus how could a Marxist or Leftist also be a utopian? (Do you know who said that “revolutionary socialists” can't be utopians? It was Marx himself.)

In what sense, then, is Marxism/Leftism utopian?

Let’s just think about the heaven on earth Leftists hint at, rather than state. Here again Leftism's religious nature shows itself.

Take communism. What does communism promise? According to Bertrand Russell:

"It promises glorious things: an end to injustice of rich and poor, an end to economic slavery, and end to war. It promises an end of the disunion of classes which poisons political life and threatened our industrial system with destruction… It promises a world where all men and women shall be kept sane by work, and where all work shall be of value to the community…"

The other classic example of Leftist faith is what happened when Marx's apocalyptic prophesies and theories all turned out to be false. What happened? Yes, as everyone now knows, Marxists still kept the faith. That is, they qualified Marx's prophesies and theories. These qualified prophesies and theories were also, in turn, shown to be false. Then those qualifications of qualifications were also qualified... So much so that Marx's ideas are still debated – e.g., in the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Independent - and still seen as being “relevant and important”.

Other articles of Leftist faith include:

The moral/political purity and homogenity of all ethnic minorities and (formerly) the working class.
That the rich are rich because the poor are poor.
That capitalism is in crisis and therefore that it will end sometime next week.
That capitalism invented racism and can't exist without it.
That blacks can't be racist,
That there are infinite funds for the all public services.
That “the rich” and “Tories” are evil. (This is another word – like 'utopia' - that's rarely used; though it's very often hinted at or implied.)

Another important article of Leftist faith is in the Collective (hence the Germanic/platonic capital).

This fantasy of a Collective (or of Lyotard's “political body”) has been with us since the Jacobins. Lyotard states:

If the body of the Republic in the autumn of 1973 is a monster, it lives on in many other times...”

This belief in the homogeneity of the Collective is commented upon - in reference to the Jacobins again - by Lyotard. He tells us that

the political body is a monster composed of a unified organism and a plurality of drives that are incompatible both with it and with each other... the 'body' is dislocated by the divergent drives that course through (or rather constitute) all of its surfaces”.
Yet the homogeneous nature of both friends and enemies is required by the Left. In contemporary terms, the Left is as dependent upon positive and negative stereotypes as any other political group – perhaps more so.

The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard also comments on this Leftist reification of the Collective, classes and groups. In his In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, Lyotard wrote:

One says: ‘the mass of the workers.’ But the mass is never that of the workers, nor any other social subject or object… The mass is without attribute, predicate, quality, reference. This is its definition. It has no sociological ‘reality’. It has nothing to do with any real population, body or specific social aggregate.”

Baudrillard's quote show us that just as individualists are said to obliterate the collective, so collectivists – in turn - obliterate the individual. Of course there are shades of grey between complete and partial obliteration. In the Soviet Union there was a strong attempt to obliterate the individual. Pol Pot's Jacobins went even further. (For example, the very act of wearing glasses betrayed one's “individualistic bourgeois” origins.) In our own day, Corbyn's stress on a class war against “the rich”, the “Tories”, “bankers”, etc. can't help by attempt to obliterate – at least to some extent – the individual on the sacred alter of his socialist collectivism.

The Leftist's Will-to-Death/Power

The Leftist's fight against evil, “intolerance” and “hate” (as it's also called nowadays) nearly always includes evil, intolerance and hate. Lyotard cites the Jacobin Robespierre:

When Robespierre sets the guillotine into motion in the name of the Republic's safety, it is without doubt due to a very 'erotic' passion for the organic unity of the social body, but it also through the opposite desire to blow it to pieces, even if this means that he will himself perish.”

In other words, there are always profoundly decent and moral reasons for Leftist violence, censorship, bannings, etc. After all, if the enemy is the personification of evil, then not only is violence required – it's necessary! That's was why the mass class/ethnic “liquidations” - of kulaks, “counterrevolutionaries”, “fascists”, “reactionaries” and “conservatives” - were carried out without any qualms or second thoughts by communists/socialists.

This Leftist fixation on violence is summed on when Lyotard quotes Michelet again:

'In 1793, love appeared as it is: the brother of death.'”

Moreover, during “the intensity of autumn 1793” there was “the intersection of life and death instincts upon the body”. We also saw this in Russia in the 1920s and 1930s, China from 1966 to the early 1970s, Cuba from 1959 to 1961 and Cambodia in 1975.

Year Zero

Lyotard also quotes Mona Ozouf saying that

'the revolutionary festival is exactly what it is meant to be: the beginning of new times”.

Moreover, we also had “the Jacobin desire that time actually be measured from the constitutive act of the Republic”.

Thus, as in Cambodia in 1975, the Jacobin phase of the French Revolution was also a Year Zero. Indeed this has been the aim of every Leftist revolution right up to Jeremy Corbyn. Of course, as stated, they come in degrees. Yet Corbyn himself is often keen to say how much he wants to “radically change” the United Kingdom. How different is radical change from destruction? To paraphrase Lenin: How can an the omelette of radical change be brought about without breaking very many heads?

None of this should surprise us because, according to Lyotard, Leftist “social strife” or activism is “always itself expressed as the struggle for another, more organic society”. In other words, the road to a “classless society” (or a society without “austerity”, racism, war, intolerance and violence) will almost inevitably include mass violence, much suffering and many deaths.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My Chat With a Critical Race Theorist

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is obviously theoretical in nature. That's meant in the simple sense that it isn't primarily factual. It CRS were entirely (or even mainly) factual, it wouldn't be theoretical. Despite saying that, it's certainly the case that many philosophers of science – as well as scientists themselves - often dispute any rigid distinction between fact and theory. It will even be argued that merely mentioning the words “fact” and “truth” - in this or indeed in any context - is philosophically naïve. Nonetheless, in the case of Critical Race Theory, it's clear that theory is the main deal. If theory were only - or simply - factual, then it wouldn't do the political job that “race theorists” want it to do.

In that sense, CRT is very much like Marxist theory. Indeed it is a variation on - or outgrowth from - Marxist theory.

As Karl Marx himself put it:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

Franz Fanon - the essentialist about blackness and advocate of “revolutionary violence” (who also inspired Post-Colonial Studies, Critical Theory, Marxism, etc.) – also wrote:

How can one then be deaf to that voice rolling down the stages of history: 'What matters is not to know the world but to change it.' This matters appallingly in our lifetime.”

Moreover, if we also take Sociology of Culture, Critical Legal Theory, Discourse Analysis, Black Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Deconstruction, Critical Race Studies, Media Studies, Peace Studies, Subaltern Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Queer Theory, Critical Theory... ad infinitum, we can safely say that these academic disciplines are deeply political. That is, they don't simply study politics and society: they're also deeply political in themselves. What that means is that such academics have political causes and values in mind before they carry out their “empirical research”. Political causes and values colour almost everything they do. In other words, such academics are as politically-driven as they claim their opponents are.

All the above points to the fact that these disciplines are tools to bring about "progressive change" - not tools for discovering truths/facts. Truths/facts may be found (or used) by such professors/lecturers in their academic work. However, truths, facts and even evidence aren't the raison d'être of their work.

Despite my mentioning “the unseen” (to use Althusser's word) of academia, many professors and lecturers – especially Critical Race Theorists – have been honest about their political use of theory. They've freely admitted that the prime motive behind their theorising is to bring about “radical political change”. Indeed there are numerous quotes - which can easily be found - of such academics explicitly stating (if not to outsiders or to political opponents) their political motivations

And because of my own critical position on Critical Race Theory, Fluetin McX (whom we shall meet later) had this to say:

Sociology is a pseudo-science? I forgot we lived in a 'post-society' world, of course.”

I never actually classed sociology as a “pseudo-science”. Sociology isn't a “pseudoscience” in the same way that astrology, ESP, Freudianism/psychoanalysis, Marxism, etc. are; though it's certainly not like physics, biology and chemistry. However, the term “sociology” is extremely broad and it covers many areas. So my words are really about the sub-disciplines mentioned above. Namely: Critical Legal Theory, Deconstruction, Discourse Analysis, Black Studies, Queer Theory, etc.

None of the disciplines above utilise the scientific method or any of the tools used by physicists, chemists, biologists, psychologists or even philosophers. Indeed there's no reason why these disciplines should use the scientific method if they aren't sciences in the first place.

Many political/social “theoreticians” and “radical” philosophers have also spent a lot of time criticising science and the scientific method. They've also argued that the scientific method doesn't so much as exist. Indeed many disciplines – such as Deconstruction – have even argued against the very existence of truths or facts; as well as against the political or theoretical point of argumentation or evidence. Again, this too has mainly been for political – not factual or philosophical – reasons.

The aforementioned academic disciplines, therefore, are but means to bring about political ends. And if we add to that the fact that almost all these professors, lecturers and “researchers” are leftwing or “progressive” in political persuasion, then we have a massive academic bias on our hands. In fact we've had that bias since the 1960s.

Finally, the following is primarily a commentary on a conversation I had – on social media - with a strong believer in Critical Race Theory. I've used his own words in the piece and changed his name to Fluetin McX.

Systemic White Racism?

Fluetin McX said:

In terms of sociology: yes! all white people are racist. That because all whites benefit from systemic racism.”

I replied:

In terms of very specific progressive/leftwing theories within sociology: yes! it's indeed the case that “all white people are racist”.

McX continued:

We identify racism as a systemic network where there is perpetuation of prejudice rather than single instances.”

McX's ideas above are political additions to the everyday notion of racism. They're a result of leftwing theory. No one accepts them unless they already accept the politics inherent in them and the political causes they advance.

McX had more to say on “systemic racism”: He said:

The fact that this system is skewed into direct benefit of white people means that we take, tacit or not, advantage out of the system.”

Even if all that were true, it still wouldn't stop blacks from being racist or succeed in making all whites racist. It's theory and theory alone which does that trick.

As for every white person being a racist, McX also said:

Participating in a racist system, whether apologetically or not, is being part of the system. and being part of a racist system means being racist, whether we want it or not, this is truth.”

I then asked him if - being a white person himself - he too was a racist. I also asked if he also “participates in a racist system”.

So McX believes in a sociological theory which makes it the case that all whites are racists and that no blacks can be racist against whites. That basically means that theories and definitions can do miraculous things. Especially if they're used to advance political causes.

The main claim, then, is that all whites – presumably this also includes white Leftists/progressives – "benefit from systemic racism". That must also mean that not only is white racism built into all political and social institutions in the “capitalist West”: it's also the case that all whites benefit from that systemic or institutional racism. And if that's the case, then, by definition, all whites must be racist (either in a strong or a weak sense).

So do all whites benefit from systemic racism?

What about homeless, unemployed and poor whites? In parallel, don't some – or even many - blacks benefit from such “racist institutions”? What about Barack Obama, Diane Abbott MP, Al Sharpton, black politicians, lawyers, pop stars, sports celebrities, rap stars, actors and, last but not least, Critical Race Theorists?

Fluetin McX's logic is faulty in another way.

Even if whites do benefit from “systemic racism”, that doesn't automatically mean that they're racist. Perhaps they can't help but benefit from such a system. This is like the case of people being born into a rich, privileged and politically-powerful families. That accident of birth can't be held against them. Though what they do after birth may be held against them. This, of course, depends on what they do after birth and also on one's own political and moral position on those people born into rich families.

In any case, presumably a person's racism is primarily a psychological phenomenon; which can indeed have social/political consequences. Thus it must also be about a person's attitude towards black people. Even if a white person does benefit from a “racist system” (if only in a passive way), he may still not be racist. Of course this is where theory comes in. Hence you can define a racist as "any white person who benefits from a racist system"; regardless of his psychological attitudes towards black people.

Why would someone want to define racism in this highly specific and theory-laden way? The answer is simple. That definition is a very good way to advance the political cause of utterly changing a political system. That is, the definition is designed to help radically change (or even destroy) "capitalist democracy" in the West.

This isn't hyperbole.

If the system – by definition - makes all white people racist, then the only solution to this is to change (or destroy) that system. Thus these theoretical definitions of racism are also designed to bring about large-scale political power for black people; as well as for the white (leftwing) enablers of blacks.

The Racism/Prejudice Distinction

McX also said that blacks can “hold prejudices; though they can't be racist against whites”. That's another theoretical/technical pair of terms from Critical Race Theory. It's yet another mindless expression of the cliched and very well-embedded distinction between “racism” and “prejudice”.

The strange thing is that (some?) CRTs do believe that blacks can be racist – though not against whites! McX, for example, said:

I never said black people cannot be racist, as there are other racisms, like against Asian people and so on.”

So blacks can indeed be racist against Asians; though not against whites. Why is that? Because “whites have the power”. Asians don't... or at least Asians don't have as much power as whites. However, Asians (i.e., mainly Chinese, though also Japanese, Korean, etc.) often do have more power – at least economic/business power – than blacks. And that partly explains the extensive and long-running black racism and violence against Asians in the United States.

To get back to the racism/prejudice distinction.

What most leftwingers (or “progressives”) do is quote this theoretical contrast as if it's progressive scripture. Yet, in actual fact, this distinction – along with the views that “all whites are racist”, etc. - is only held by a tiny number of people (mainly academics and students) at a particular moment in history. Nonetheless, these academics have immense social and political power: not only on their students; but also on the wider (non-academic) world.

Finally, there's no reason why anyone should accept Critical Race Theory's highly-theoretical distinctions and ideas unless they already accept the political causes, beliefs and values which have given rise to them. Thus, if one rejects the political theory, then the prejudice/racism distinction – along with all the other theories which run parallel to it - will very quickly collapse.