Closing Comments on Chaos // Critique of Statist Communism
jamal at bronze.lcs.mit.edu
Sun Sep 17 11:33:32 MDT 1995
On Sat, 16 Sep 1995, Stephen Tompkins wrote:
> > Hello! Just signed on the other day.
> > Pardon me for asking, but what does it mean to engage in a social
> > interpretation of Chaos theory? Is this similar to engaging in a
> > bio-chemical understanding of Freud's libido? I mean, is this stretching
> > cross-paradigm analysis just a tad? (not the zucker brother's definition
> > of 'tad' in airplane II either!)
My purpose was to simply put a "Marxist angle" on Chaos Theory and let
people either accept it or reject it, and move on from there. We obviously
dont have to talk about Chaos Theory at all.. we can ignore it and "hope
it goes away" (as some organizations tend to do when confronted
with new ideas).. or, we can examine it, and "Chew it up and spit it out",
so to speak. I've seen the capitalists talk about Chaos theory, and
I've seen some anarchists talk about it (Hakim Bey and John Zerzan),
so I would imagine Marxists could talk about it too.
The equivalent between Marxist dialectics and Chaos theory could
be accepted if you accept my "version" of Chaos theory. If someone is
interested in writing a book with the size and depth of "Capital",
going into this issue, I'm sure it would then carry a bit more weight (or
we would find that the comparison is ultimately pointless.)
Thinking back, I can see that my assumption that because of the nature
of Chaos theory, "if only the truly oppressed understood it they would
immediately revolt" was not really made clear or plausible at all. Chaos
theory could, depending on how you look at it, convince someone that since
everything is effected by everything else, so nothing is predictable,
that anything they try is hopeless and they should do nothing. This would
make Chaos theory a reactionary theory, just like Christianity by the
large became a reactionary theory, because of it's capitalist interpretation.
(and thus useless to the oppressed.. many are in fact mentally paralyzed
by a Christianity which promises them "life after death", but not life
Now, I think _Marxism_ will tend to have the effect of empowering
the economically powerless (when truly understood.. too bad so many
parties attach vanguard strings to this knowledge). This is why
Marxist-style existentialism (Sartre) is empowering and not
paralyzing like it's Nietzchian, nihilistic relative. This is
why Marxist-influenced Christianity (liberation theology) is liberating
and not paralyzing, like it's status-quo counterpart. The same would
go for anything else. All of these theories are affected by dialectics
and end up being split into 2 overall categories, reactionary and
Even feminism has reactionary and emancepatory versions. When certain
feminists of the early 70's "rejected" Marxism, saying it was a "male
oriented thing" (man, that is so STUPID. Like Marx's wife & daughter
Elianore, or Lenin's wife just sat around doing dishes? Nope!)
feminism was split between a truly libertory version, and a bourgeois
version that white women who wanted equal privileges to other imperialist
men were (and still are) following.
Something to remember here: capitalists are sometimes using chaos
theory to say: "Science is proving that authoritarian control cant
possibly work, because of the naturally chaotic nature of the universe".
And with this comes the sneering insinuation that "all communism is
authoritarian, therefor all communism cant work, so just give up
and accept capitalism and the 'free market'". Obviously
this rhetoric doesn't cause capitalists, fascists, and dictators
to "just give up power". Also, I dont believe that the versions
of communism presented by the right and some on the left are the
only "versions". I'm more interested in a libertarian marxism,
along the lines that the French anarchist Daniel Guerin described.
This is not to say I would reject the idea of revolution,
internationalism, or accept the current electoral process,
like the social democrats do.
My point is that Chaos theory, if it is going to be used in a social
context (ontological, epistemological, or whatever .. can someone
please explain what those 2 words mean? I dont have a dictionary around),
to describe the universe: why things work the way they do, and how things
come about, then obviously there will be a reactionary interpretation, and a
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra said:
> Moreover, no individual can know the whole, nor can any individual know
> completely the workings of his or her own mind. Hayek gives us a lesson
> in cognitive humility, but in social humility as well-- because no
> individual or group of individuals can know completely the consequences
> of individual or group action, since unintended consequences are quite
> simply, an extension of sociality. And since no human being can master
> such unintended consequences, the idea of human control over all aspects
> of the social totality, envisioned in the Marxian ideal of communism, is
The problem with this type of statement is that it's already assuming
that communism would be about an integrated structure where everyone
is watching everyone else, or some such nonsense. People have forgotten
the idea of the "invisible hand". You know, the invisible hand does
not just apply to capitalism. It _can_, but it can also apply to
a communist society too.. in fact, it simply would _have_ to for a
communist society to work. People would do what was in their
own interests, and from afar it would all appear chaotic. This isnt
utopian, it's just practical. Is it utopian to expect to not
be exploited? Maybe we need a broader definition of "utopian".
This whole stupid notion that the "invisible hand"
only applies to capitalism helps along the idea that
individualism and collectivism are somehow polar opposites. They
are not. Revolution and reaction are, yes.. but to say that
collectivism is never in the interests to the individual is silly.
Even capitalists band together in collective structures in order to
defend wealth. The United states has a tremendous collectivistic
structure (which is quite hierarchical too): the military. And
even the most self-proclaimed "individualist" capitalists seem to
like the military, many were former members of it. (check out the
pages of "Soldier of Fortune": "individualist" America's homage
to collectivist militarism.)
.. my point is that communists can maintain individualistic self-awareness
while purposefully forming collective structures to counter capitalism.
People must "volunteer" to resist capitalism, they cannot be forced to.
We currently live in a capitalist "utopia". This is as good
as it gets: capitalists can do as they please, with a few nuisances
of the state to work around. There is no "higher stage" to capitalism..
technology will advance, but this is _socially_ the best things get.
Some so-called "anarcho-capitalists" and Libertarian Party members
tend to have a "utopian" idea of capitalism which is based on the
wish that humans wont complain or resist when exploited. This isnt
utopia, it's impossible. They dont accept (or they are denying for
propaganda reasons) that capitalism is in full swing and cant get any
"better" then it is now, and has been for a hundred years.
Some can argue that capitalism has gotten "Friendlier" over time. No.
Social Democracy took off the pressure for a bunch more people.. but
if one hasn't noticed, capitalists are _constantly_ trying to push
all of this back to stage 1. Back to the Haymarket days.
> Hayek is no raving individualist here. He is fully dialectical. He
> recognizes that the whole is an organic totality, that knowledge is a
> social product, and that internal relations are essential to the whole.
> He merely believes that nobody can know fully the nature of these
> internal relations in the complex network of an organic totality; to fool
> oneself into believing that one can control that totality is not only a
> pretense of knowledge--it is a prescription for calculational chaos and
> ultimately, oppression and brutality.
> - Chris
I agree. So taking this into account, one could logically shape ones politics
in such a way that follows anti-authoritarian lines. That is not to say that
one should reject organization, physical effort, and structure. (or revolution,
resistance, internationalism or federated bottom-up democracy, where possible)
The problem is that capitalism, when threatened, will eventually fall
onto fascism.. an intensely hierarchical and authoritarian organizational
social alignment in which masses of people all become part of a tremendous
killing machine. How can communists _possibly_ hope to counter
this, without compromising principles based on what Chris just said?
(There isnt just Nazi-style fascism.. there's also McCarthy style fascism
where "democrats" and "liberals" comply in the slaughter)
This is frustrating, as you can imagine. You cannot convince the masses
of people, during peacetime, that they should accept an authoritarian,
hierarchical structure.. but they will be more receptive to a libertarian
version, and ultimately it is a libertarian (anarchistic) socialism and
communism that will be successful.
BUT... when conflict arises, you cant fight a battle with a bunch of
rag-tag misfits. You'll lose.
I think this underlies why it's necessary to be both anti-authoritarian
yet organized and militant at the same time. ("militate" means "to
operate against".. to resist.) Militancy never "won" liberty,
democracy, equality or fraternity.. it simply blocked attempts for
the reactionaries to destroy these things. You organize and educate
to achieve principles.. and you militate to defend them. The
problem with vanguard groups is that they think the Militancy
is what "wins" principles. After a revolution, these vangaurdist
militants stay militants while "in charge" of attempts to bring
liberty, democracy, equality and fraternity to the
people. Thats dumb. You cant place a general in charge of a human
rights commission. A general cannot "run" a democratic, libertarian,
socialist society.. a general can only help the people defend it.
This is why (for example) I dont think Castro should "run" Cuba.
The justification for such things is that capitalist countries like
the USA will always work to destabilize the "socialist government",
so individual freedoms have to be suspended (just as they would be in
the USA in times of a "national security crisis"), in order to
preserve the "socialist state". It's my opinion that revolution
is always premature so long as reactionaries are powerful
somewhere in the world. Before the Russian Revolution, I
think there was a sense that the socialist, marxist, communist,
anarchist and even individualist (Jefferson, Spooner, Stirner,
Ezra Heywood, Adam Smith & others all were critical of capitalism, if
you didn't know) movements were all unified against capitalism in some
way, because everyone knew that capitalism all over the world was the
common enemy. Once one country attempted to have a "contained
socialism", it doomed socialism to deep contradictions, and divided
everyone, and division after division continued, to this day.
I also notice that every socialist group has some partial understanding
of the overall problem, but not the other necessary parts of this
understanding (which were abandoned when the split happened). The
final nail in the coffin is the obsessive group identifications.. the
desire to preserve a flag, symbol, clique, history, or a place on a
map, separate from some other group.. which makes socialists who all
ultimately are fighting for the same values decide that they are mortal
enemies. Even though capitalists have these same fetishes dividing
them, they have tapped into whatever it is that allows this to be
overcome, so they grow and grow and take over everything as time goes on.
- Jamal H.
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