Thursday, 28 September 2017

What Jordan Peterson gets Right and Wrong About the Regressive Left

Controversial University of Toronto professor Jordan B. Peterson begins this video thus:
Now the Marxist ideas are predicated on the fundamental assumption that, I would say, individualistic western capitalist culture is corrupt beyond redemption, and that it's fundamentally erected to nothing but benefit those who have maximum power.  So then you get the racial issue like white privilege and you get the patriarchy idea, that it's white men in particular who've created this only for themselves and that all of the processes that are used to support this system, including logic, rationality and dialogue, all of those things, are only offshoots of the desire for that small group of power mad creatures to maintain their dominance over the rest of the world, and the only reason that there's any wealth associated with that is because the wealth was generated as a result of oppression.  Now, the thing is is that story is partially true.
What parts would be true, I wonder?  That Marx's works critiqued white privilege or patriarchy?  These had very little to do with Marx, for whom oppression was a matter of economic relations, as were most things. He and Engels touched on the implications of women's reproductive role in their broader subordination to men (Engels would pursue this much more thoroughly than Marx), but otherwise had little to say about identity and culture except that it was ultimately derivative from economics.  Base and superstructure, remember?

Patriarchy did not enter into the leftist lexicon until the late 1960s and early 70s, with Kate Millet's Sexual Politics, published in 1970 being exemplary, and white male privilege would have until feminist theorist Peggy McIntosh unpacked that knapsack in 1989.  In both cases, more than a full century after the publication of Das Kapital.

A more apt comparison would be with Lenin, and his authoritarian notions of a vanguard party that would exist only to advance the interests of the social class whose identity it usurped in order to justify its extremely machiavellian and opportunistic approach to gaining and wielding power for power's sake.  Whether what happened in the USSR was truly in line with Marx's hopes for the future development of man is highly debatable.  Replace a romanticized notion of a red flag waving working class with a romanticized construction of women, people of color and other marginalized identities to emerge out of the new social movements of the summer of love era, led by a vanguard of academics schooled in critical race theory and feminist theory, and you have the basis of today's SJW regressive left.

What are these "Marxist ideas" which hold that logic and rationality were to be dismissed as tools of the white male oppressor?  Really?  Marx regarded his take on historical materialism as a scientific means of understanding history and society.  Its core problem might be that it's too logical and rational.  Two words that all too often fail to accurately describe human behavior.  That it claimed a foolproof means of understanding human social organization.  This was precisely the kind of thing that postmodernism, with its rejection of "metanarratives" and skepticism towards absolute truth and universal morality arose in opposition to.  And this is what's crucial here.  Postmodernism arose out of disillusionment with Marxism (and other strands of western philosophy), not as an extension of it.

Likewise for critical theory.  While it began with a view of social conflict between oppressed and oppressors as an axiomatic principle of social organization that was modelled on Marx's analysis of class conflict, their critique went well beyond mere relations of production to posit that western civilization itself was somehow fundamentally wicked and oppressive. This view was based on the observations that nationalism and racism seemed to trump class consciousness during the era of the world wars, just as Trump uses nationalism and, some would say, racism to similar effect today.  However, the idea that culture and identity, not economic relations, drove history and social relations was a 180 degree deviation from core Marxist thinking.

Leftist identity politics arose out of a quasi Marxist oppressed/oppressor dynamic, but crucially divorces the concept of class struggle from class itself, defined by Marx in terms of relations of production.  Privilege and marginalization in identity politics become intrinsic characteristics of certain racial and gender identities, and so no means of resolving the contradiction via politics - through the creation of a democratic system of universal suffrage and individual rights or via economics - via the social ownership of capital, becomes possible.  What we are left with, then, is a darwinian struggle between the races, defined by relationships of zero-sum adversity.  While it won't be phrased specifically in this way, implied is the notion that noble races must strive against naturally exploitative races for mastery of the world.

Where have we seen this before?

It's worth noting that the whole reason that the fascists and Nazis of early 20th century Europe hated both socialists and liberals is because the primacy of identity and race was to take a backseat to universal ideas of liberty and equality.   This is why Hitler and Mussolini railed against them back in the early 20th century, and why paleo-cons and the alt-right go so wrong when they attack "cultural Marxism" today.  Cultural Marxism is an inherent contradiction in terms.  Any philosophy in which culture and identity are to be axiomatic in social relations, that philosophy ceases to be, by definition, Marxist.

Today's regressive left, which Professor Jordan Peterson rightly criticizes, doesn't hold to postmodern philosophy or Marxism in any principled sense.  Much like their predecessors in Bolshevik Russia and Fascist Europe, today's militant feminist and critical race theorists cherry pick Marxist and postmodern kinds of ideas for their own ideological convenience.  Marxism and postmodernism both have their flaws, but these flaws are not what is wrong with the regressive left.

What drives them is no core philosophical or moral convictions at all, but rather raw machiavellian collectivist egocentrism and opportunism.  To advance their own group interests ahead of all else, at all costs.  They must be stopped, but before that, they must first be properly understood.  This will not be successfully done by a reactionary right that can't let go of its cold war era obsessions with anti-Marxism.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Why did Hitler Lose the War?

Any discussion of why Germany lost WW2 is likely to result in a long list of strategic errors that Hitler committed, and perhaps a few strokes of genius on part of the Allies. Hitler should have captured the British expeditionary force at Dunkirk.  He shouldn't have invaded the Soviet Union before having first an armistice with the British.  He shouldn't have declared war on the United States. He should have better prepared for the Russian winter.  He shouldn't have forbid his generals, especially in the east, strategic withdrawals, nor should he have meddled in command decisions nearly as much as he did.  For their part, the victorious allies managed to break the enigma code and better coordinated with one another strategically, amongst other things.  So on and so on.

There's merit to these claims, of course, though agreement among historians as to their relative weights of importance on the grand scheme of things is by no means universal.  These arguments cut both ways, mind you.  What if peace in Chamberlain's time ended after the Austrian Anschluss or Munich crisis? What if Hitler squared off against a France that actually had the will to fight and fight hard as it theoretically could have, or at least wasn't caught off guard by Hitler's implementation of Manstein's strategy of striking through the Ardennes forest?  What if Stalin hadn't ignored the numerous warnings of Hitler's impending attack, and what if he hadn't so thoroughly thinned out his officer corps or not been in the process of reorganizing his forces, possibly in anticipation of a surprise attack of his own against Germany because he damn well knew the Germans were planning one, when Barbarossa was launched?  Blunders are not restricted to one side or the other in war, and a fair treatment of the 'what-ifs' has to allow for both sides not making their worst mistakes.

So it's not so clear that defeat for European fascism boiled down to this or that strategic or tactical error.  Some would suggest that the war was unwinnable from the get-go, or at least from the time of Operation Barbarossa.  Perhaps the disparities in population, territorial size and resources enjoyed by the USSR vis-a-vis Nazi Germany were simply insurmountable.  But the problems that the Axis had went beyond the more obvious factors of demographics, supply, logistics and command.

Germany had the most potent military machine in the world at the outbreak of hostilities.  The commanders, troops and equipment of the Greater Germanic Reich were top rate and it didn't face adversaries who were simply impossible to beat.  Despite being larger and more populous, the USA and the USSR were far from unbeatable, and both were defeated or at least fought to a standstill in the 20th century by relatively minor powers, so it's not like the military machine that the likes of Rommel and Manstein commanded could not possibly have beaten them.  Victory in war is not all about comparable sizes in population or resources, though these are doubtlessly important.  The will to fight is crucial, and not something that either postwar superpower was always able to create and sustain indefinitely, as the Americans later discovered in Vietnam and the Soviets learned in Afghanistan.

In any war, much depends on the objectives and the overarching strategy employed by the supreme commanders.  In particular, the role played by the official ideology of the state in determining what those objectives and the strategies used to achieve them will be.  And that's where the real story of Hitler's defeat rests.

People today who would take an interest in rehabilitating Hitler's image and ideology would do well to take heed here.  For ultimately, Hitler lost the war for one single overarching reason.  For as UK military historian Andrew Roberts puts it in his 2009 opus The Storm of War, "Germany lost WW2 because Hitler was a indefatigable, unregenerative Nazi."  The truth of this statement reveals itself progressively as the war unfolds.

The problems this caused began well before the war.  Consider the fact that up until 1933, the world center for nuclear research had been in Gottingen, in the German state of Lower Saxony.  The leading physicists involved in nuclear research were predominantly Jewish and not sympathetic to Nazi thought.  Thus they were expelled, or fled voluntarily to the United States.  The Jewish man whose name has become a byword for intelligence: Albert Einstein, immigrated to the USA after the man whose name certainly is not be a byword for intelligence: Adolf Hitler, came to power in Germany.

Well, perhaps that's not entirely fair.  Hitler was not unintelligent.  He had, among other mental gifts, an almost savantish memory when it came to technical facts about weaponry and hardware: the water displacement of ships, gauges of trains, maximum ranges of various weapons and similar things.  Nor was he strictly speaking irrational - at least not until the very end of the war when he ranted and raved in his bunker and issued orders to units that no longer existed.  Hitler was not always the military imbecile his generals would later make him out to be. He sometimes supported the good decisions of his generals, such as Manstein's plan to have the main thrust against France be through the Ardennes Forest, and was not incapable of strategic and tactical soundness.

Hitler was neither insane nor stupid.  He was something worse than either.  He was an ideological fanatic, who was utterly convinced that the ends justified any means used to achieve them, and created about himself an echo chamber of sycophants who told him what he wanted to hear rather than what he needed to know. At times he even evidenced a sort of messiah complex, and claimed that he was chosen by "providence" to achieve his extremely lofty and ambitious goals within his own lifetime.  His uncanny successes in the 1931 to 1941 timespan seemed as if to conspire with this illusion, and so it should not surprise us quite so much when the entire nation drank the Kool-Aid, as it were, in the early to mid 1940s.

For his part, Einstein would later go on to affix his signature to a letter advising President Eisenhower of the potential of nuclear weapons, resulting in the eventual development of the Manhattan Project.

This and this alone may well have made world war unwinnable for Hitler.  A decisive advantage would be gained by whichever power first developed nuclear weaponry, and because the virulent anti semitism of Hitler and his Nazis drove the best and brightest nuclear physicists off the continent, that power was to be America, not Germany.  So at best, a cold-war style stalemate with the US is the very most that Nazi Germany could ever have hoped for.

This same antisemitism alienated not merely the nuclear physicists, but the millions of other Jews who had been patriotic enough during WW1.  This same antisemitism that drove the SS to divert an admittedly small number of its own forces, though a force still more useful actually fighting in the war, to slaughtering in the millions people who otherwise could have shored up declining industrial production at precisely the time when it was most needed.  To say nothing of the rail and industrial capacity similarly wasted on mass slaughter rather than supplying and reinforcing his forces.

Hitler would later claim that posterity would thank him for his efforts against the Jews, and hopefully be willing to carry on his work.  One wonders whether the hosannas sung to der Fuhrer on 4chan's politically incorrect forums or in YouTube video comments sections are worth the destruction his genocidal mania wrought on millions of innocent people, including his own who lost the war as a result?  Do antisemitic idiots raving on social media about cultural Marxism make it all worth while to old Adolf, in whatever corner of Hell he happens to be burning in?

Asking why Hitler invaded the USSR before having first subdued Great Britain misses the whole point of why the war was fought as far as Hitler was concerned.  This question assumes that one is looking at the war from a military strategy rather than a Nazi ideological standpoint, and der Fuhrer was using the later lens.  His real objectives, as outlined in Mein Kampf, were these:
  • Living space in the east.
  • Toppling the bolshevik government in Russia.
  • Ethnic cleansing of the Jews
All of these objectives were central to Nazism, and depended upon one another.  There's a certain intersectionality, if I may borrow the term, about these goals.  They intersect on the need to invade Russia in order for them to be accomplished.  It should also have been easy to accomplish, or so they thought.  After all, France was far tougher to beat in WW1 than Russia, and France fell easily enough in 1940 so how tough could Russia possibly be, especially with unmanly and non-Aryan Judeo-Bolsheviks running the place?  Following the Wehrmacht's sterling performance in Poland, Norway, the low countries and in France especially, in contrast to the Soviet Red Army's shameful performance in the winter war against Finland, I suppose you can't blame the Germans - notice I didn't say Hitler specifically, for his high command was much less opposed to the idea than their postwar alibis would have you believe - for thinking it was going to be a cakewalk.  

Hence, why it didn't matter if Great Britain were knocked out of the war or not, nor how this was to occur.  The USSR was sure to fall easily, and this would cause Churchill to come to his senses and sue for peace, so that the British Empire, of which Hitler was fond due to its being white anglo-saxon, could live in peace with a German hegemony on the continent.  Or so Der Fuhrer thought and hoped.  Like so many of his thoughts and hopes, it would turn out to be catastrophically wrong, and rooted in the absurdity of racial ideology, not reality.

This is also why diplomatic means were eschewed in preference to raw force and brutality, especially once the eastern campaign began.  There was no consideration of allying with the Poles, Ukrainians or even disaffected Russians in a campaign aimed solely at taking down the deeply unpopular communist government in Moscow and replacing it with something everyone could better live with, or some other rational and attainable goal.  As far as Nazism is concerned, anticommunism was never really about being opposed to communism as a system of government or economics - "national socialism" was actually quite a close cousin to Stalin's take on communism, "socialism in one country."  Note the fact they're virtually identical linguistically.  To the Nazi mind, from the pages of Mein Kampf to the edgelords of 4chan, communism was always a codeword for internationalism, effeminacy and cosmopolitanism.  Themselves, in turn, code words for Jewishness.  

The master race does not ally with inferior slavs.  Rather, it forces their backs to the wall and thus motivates them to fight to the last and fight hard to drive out the hostile invader.  One wonders how hard you have to try to bully and abuse the Ukrainian and Russian peasantry into actually preferring Stalin; famines, purges and all, over your own invading forces?  Yet hats off to Hitler and his SS for actually managing it.  Thus the war in the east was condemned to become a meat grinder that naturally could only be won by the side that had more manpower, resources and land to sacrifice on the altar of attrition warfare.

That side was not Nazi Germany, especially after Stalin began getting his act together militarily, after Stalingrad.

Everything that followed was ancillary to those core points, and would merely have hastened or delayed the inevitable, as the case may be.  August of 1945 is the deadline on any other outcome post December of '41, whatever other decisions could have been made and outcomes achieved by anyone.  For reasons outlined above, this is when the bomb was ready for delivery, and Fatman and Little Boy would most likely have been detonated over German rather than Japanese cities by that point.

The core tenets of Nazism, inseparable from Hitler's character which was so instrumental in his rise to power in the 1930 to 1940 timespan, wherein he was fortunate enough to not face unified and determined opposition, condemned him to bloody failure from 1941 onwards, when he did face determined opposition. 

Yet even in the face of defeat for reasons that would be obvious to anyone with the slightest bit of military acumen - the populations and economies of the UK, USA and USSR make quite clear why their victory was inevitable - Hitler's coup-de-grace, delivered amidst his infamous deluded rantings (Fegelein!  Fegelein!  Fegelein!) was to condemn the German people to death and desolation for their failure to achieve his absurd and atrocious goals.  The so called Nero Decree, issued in March of 1945 and fortunately deliberately disobeyed by then minister of armaments and war production Albert Speer, was to destroy all German facilities and infrastructure in advance of the coming allies, along with forced marches of his populations from west to east, where hopefully (in his rotting mind) their surrender would be to the advance of the harsh Soviets, rather than the relatively more lenient western allies.  

That's what happens when you're not the master race and fail in your historic destiny. 

Something to consider before you start thinking Hitler might be edgy, or even that he did nothing wrong, even if it is "Just about the memes, bro."  

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Alt Right vs. Alt Left

"The Alt Right believes Western civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement and supports its three foundational pillars: Christianity, the European nations, and the Graeco-Roman legacy."

If this is the Alternative Right, what then would be the Alternative Left?

The Alt Left believes Enlightenment civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement and supports its own foundational pillars.  Of these, the first is reason and rationality, the second is individual liberty and the third is the enlightenment era philosophical tradition.

This promises no panacea, and often results in tension between competing ideals of the good.  The libertarian/individualist traditions and the egalitarian/collectivist traditions - think Adam Smith vs. Karl Marx for example, are often at odds with one another.  But common to both in the end is a commitment to a rationalistic world view and a belief in concepts such as scientific and social progress, however imperfectly these are often expressed or implemented.

We are skeptical of religions as dogmatic systems and romanticism (in its original meaning) and are likewise skeptical of deterministic and closed systems of "rationalist" thought such as Marxism and Randian objectivism - though ideas may be taken from both if warranted.  The labels of reason and rationality cannot be applied to closed and non falsifiable systems of thought, and individual liberty is not upheld by anyone who would demand the sacrifice of human well being to a dogmatic insistence on either market or plan.

It would be easy and correct to respond that man does not live by reason alone.  Fundamental to man's nature is the need for meaning and purpose which often find themselves expressed in the forms of religion, identity, artistry, creativity and mythology.  It is because of and not in spite of these needs that enlightenment civilization must be upheld.  The absence of liberty and reason in theocratic and fascistic spaces testify to this.  It is for the sake of poetry and spirituality, of philosophy and the arts that the foundations of society should be reason, liberty and enlightenment philosophies.  It is not the case that the alt-left eschews questions of identity and spirituality in favor of a narrowly economic and rationalistic conception of man.  Rather that a rationalistic and free social order is an essential foundation for man to satisfy his spiritual and philosophical yearnings.

There are those who assert that the enlightenment has failed, and advance a "dark enlightenment" calling for a return to tradition, religion and monarchy.  This is fundamentally misguided in that the neo-reactionary critique accurately targets not modernism, but postmodernism - or at least the bastardized implementation thereof, and its own neoreaction is really just a different version of the same thing: the replacement of reason, liberty and philosophy with identitarian subjectivism, tribalism and fanaticism.

To these ends, it is clear that the majority of the self described Alt-Left adheres, above all, to the disentangling of romanticism from leftist thought, and it is this that satisfies our definition of both alternative and left wing.  To this end:

·      We favor the redressement of the extremes of economic inequality and corporate power, not the quasi-religious glorification of revolution for its own sake. 
·      We favor equality of right and - ideally - opportunity for women and people of color, not the quasi religious glorification of the foreign and the feminine. 
·      We favor conservationism and environmental sustainability, not the quasi religious glorification of “Mother Earth” or back-to-the-land utopianism.
·      An approach to reform that emphasises implementable policy, not some or another kind of change of consciousness.

Vox Day would see the unseating of a democratic polity marked – in the words of conservative luminary Russell Kirk - by division between “all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal” in favor of a polity marked by division between “men and women who believe that they are ultimately defined by their momentary opinions and those who believe they are ultimately defined by their genetic heritage.”

It should be apparent to any reasonable person that this is the forcing of a choice of evils by means of a false dilemma, and one not marked by greatly different choices in any event.  Ultimately, would not a “genetic heritage” be every bit as binding and deterministic in the long run as an “enduring moral order in the universe” and a “constant human nature” if not more so? 

The neo-reactionaries have observed the morass that the postmodern regressive left has inflicted on western civilization via its capture of academia and mass media, and advance in defiance to it merely a belief in either ethnic or racial nationalism, or a belief in a reassertion of religious traditionalism or fundamentalism.  Utterly absent is any rational analysis of either the institutional structure of the organs that propagate culture in the west, the philosophical underpinnings of regressive left thought nor the strategies employed by the regressive left to gain the influence that it has gained.  Meme warfare - essentially online culture jamming - is child’s play compared to hegemony at the governance level of the very internet platforms whereon the memes are hosted and spread.

Due to their mutual faith in identity above all, the failure of both the reactionary right and the regressive left alike should be a foregone conclusion.  But that failure threatens to be very costly, and presents a fundamental threat to the western tradition that neoreaction so claims to cherish and want to uphold but simultaneously undermines, and that the regressive left claims to despise and wish to supplant but simultaneously depends on.

Erroneous philosophical foundations will not produce polities that last.  The extent to which western civilization has declined is quite proportionate to the extent to which its academics and professors extol their “genetic heritage” in preference to their responsibility to understand art, science and philosophy in any sort of nuanced and sophisticated way.  One look at a black studies or a women’s studies department makes that perfectly clear, and a white male version of the same thing will only hasten this decline.

The great demarcation in modern politics is between men and women who uphold a humanistic vision of reason, liberty and philosophy, and those who uphold a tribalist vision of fanaticism, authoritarianism and dogma.  In the later camp, it does not fundamentally matter if one’s loyalty is to the white race or the black, heteronormative machismo or radical feminism, the Christian Church, Islamic Sharia or state Atheism, libertarian capitalism or socialist planning.  When tribe, dogma or ideology supersede humanity, reason and philosophy, the end is always a bloodbath and the beginning is denial that we have a choice between the first three and the second three options.

Critical Theory - the Unlikely Conservatism

If "critical theory" is to be a useful and good thing, it needs to punch up, not down. This is a crux of social justice thinking. ...