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November 4, 2019 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Since Leftist Youtube has become a thing as Breadtube or Leftube, why not pull some smaller and lesser known accounts? On Strategies for Post-Capitalism by Mexie "Even if we take all their money we still have to deal with the super-rich as people." - Capitalist Realism by Radical Reviewer - "Anti-Capitalism is popular within capitalistic art. We need to talk about Cyperpunk" by Yaz Minksy on science fiction's trans, queer, anarchic roots - The Cult Of Work and why Frank Grimes is the bad guy by Renegade Cut - So, What is Good Praxis? by Bemundolack - Neolberalism, The Highest Stage Of Capitalism by Ray Ramses - What does Totalitarianism look like in mass media? by Tash Renyolds - The Paradox of Punishment by The People's Bayonet (with additional ASL work) - Well There's Your Problem "The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse" with special guest Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner- "So what happens when I find a text which isn't a euphemism? And what would it feel like to close the loop? To act on those ideas?" Subtlety is Dead: Communism and 'A Bewitching Revolution'
posted by The Whelk (46 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Small typo: It's Minsky rather than Minksy.
posted by lumensimus at 8:36 AM on November 4, 2019

Love your radicalizing posts, The Whelk.
posted by odinsdream at 8:37 AM on November 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

Can't wait to dig into these links. Definitely interested in that Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse video, my EE degree had a required Mech Eng class that did a case study on that incident, but of course it focused entirely on the engineering aspect. Viewing it through a lefty/anticapitalist frame seems like it would be fruitful and interesting.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:50 AM on November 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I just discovered the term "breadpilled" yesterday via leftist Youtube and I... I just don't know how I feel about it.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:12 AM on November 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

I want to cut unrestrained capitalism into tiny bloody pieces with a lithium battery chainsaw as much as anyone else, but...

Every tool progressives invent to subdue regressive urges and make life better for all, ends up being co-opted by the regressives to subdue progressives because they get off on subjugation. See: religion. That's why we've stumbled into a exhausting, never-ending tug of war called democracy as a governing principle; it's power is not voting good people in (because we rarely do) but voting bad people out.

Communism always starts with shiny happy people holding hands, but eventually degrades to Donald Trump VII assigning you a grimy hovel based on how hot you look in a teddy.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:14 AM on November 4, 2019 [13 favorites]

As someone who was a pretty ardent Communist for a while, my two main issues with Communism are as follows:

1. Centralized economic planning does have its downsides, especially the further removed from the ground level the planners are. If you demand farmers grow 1,000,000 bushels of wheat to feed the populace, but unexpected frosts lead to a 500,000 bushel harvest, someone's getting fucked.

2. Ideology is not a shield against abuse of power. Those with power typically focus first on maintaining that power, regardless of what ideology they claim to espouse. Authoritarian Communism is no better than Authoritarian Capitalism in this regard.

Of course, critiques like this tend to get dismissed and I never see radical leftist spaces that acknowledge them.

This is why I'm more of a Socialist these days. Marx's criticisms of Capitalism were on point, but his solutions vary in usefulness.
posted by SansPoint at 10:46 AM on November 4, 2019 [15 favorites]

On the topic of central planning, I've seen articles about looking at Amazon as a model for central planning (but without the part we're all the "winnings" go to sending a weird bald man into space).

I've wondered how well the theory holds up.
posted by Reyturner at 11:13 AM on November 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

It holds up quite a bit better than when the CEO of Sears tried to bring the magic of the market into his organization.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:35 AM on November 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Sanspoint, what does a communist world look like to you and how does it differ from a socialist one?

Because I'm just not sure which parts of

a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.

necessitate the collapse of democracy? It even seems like to me like the first bit might be a requirement for democracy.
posted by Acid Communist at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Acid Communist: In all the implementations of Communism we've seen, there's been a powerful autocrat at the center of government, a Dictatorship of the Proletariat that is an actual dictatorship with a singular dictator. By way of examples: Stalin, Mao, Castro, Ceaușescu, and the Kim family.

This is a recipe for disaster.
posted by SansPoint at 1:03 PM on November 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

So, as I expected, just the usual tired boomer line about regimes ended before I was born, taken entirely out of historical context and with every death laid at the door of communism solely, and upon no other factors.

45 million people die from capitalism every year. Billions are politically repressed, we produce more calories than we need yet people starve, and we can't get collective action on climate change.

But yeah nah that's one I hadn't heard before, if Stalin was a communist then I suppose private property is unassailable.
posted by Acid Communist at 1:16 PM on November 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

The Kim and Castro family regimes haven't ended yet, have they?
posted by Selena777 at 1:24 PM on November 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

There are options other than just unrestrained Capitalism and Communism(TM) - and not all market economies (that is, where goods & services are exchanged through buying & selling) are capitalist.
posted by jb at 1:32 PM on November 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Acid Communist, SansPoint made a point that you’re sidestepping. Every attempted communist government has failed into totalitarianism or corrupt oligarchy. The only communist government that has succeeded in following through on the central promise of the revolution (everybody eats, reads, and has a roof over their head, and we kick the bastards out) is Cuba, to my knowledge, and that one never pretended to be anything other than a dictatorship.

Anyone pursuing communism today needs to acknowledge those failures, understand why those systems didn’t work, and propose something genuinely new. That’s gonna take more than an eyeroll and boomer snark.
posted by Leeway at 1:32 PM on November 4, 2019 [15 favorites]

So long as the list of reasons includes "constant assault and sabotage by the USA and allies."
posted by Reyturner at 1:39 PM on November 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse video is pretty good, BTW. A bit more waffle-y than I strictly like, and it wasn't clear to me what the three hosts were actually bringing to the table that couldn't have been accomplished by donoteat alone (other than adding a bunch of waffle-y fluff, which I guess some people like?), but it's a pretty important incident that I think more people should talk about it.

I was disappointed in the lack of a real anticapitalist hook to the story, though. The blase attitude everyone took towards doing the math and agreeing on a final design before starting to build was brought up several times but not really analyzed. If you're already predisposed toward anticapitalist thinking, maybe it just goes without saying that the profit motive is at fault, but if you're not so predisposed you could just as well point your finger at poor code enforcement or whatever.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:41 PM on November 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

just the usual tired boomer line about regimes ended before I was born,

I don't have a great deal of patience for fundamentalist worldviews that say "My pet ideology is fine, nobody did it right. You just have to do X harder and with more feeling."

For X, substitute central planning, unrestrained communism, anarchocapitalism, tax cuts, unrestrained markets, businesses unfettered by regulation.

"Just do X harder" is a bankrupt worldview that imagines frictionless spheres all interacting in a wonderful utopia and pretends that it's never true that there's an optimal non-zero level of regulation, taxation, market freedom, central coordination, private enterprise, public stewardship, social welfare and capitalistic entrepreneurship that can all be used to work where they are the most effective for the people.

But don't listen to me, I'm one of those horrible centrists people keep straw-manning.
posted by tclark at 1:58 PM on November 4, 2019 [19 favorites]

Love your radicalizing posts, The Whelk.

Counterpoint: These posts are annoying and pointless since all but a tiny, tiny sliver of Americans detest communism, and will never be convinced to change their minds because communism is a failed ideology that is incompatible with our values, culture, and human nature in general.

Also, "capitalism", as practiced in the USA, has produced high standards of living for most Americans in the last couple of hundred years. Certainly better than what the Soviet experiment achieved for its citizens.

Happy member of the "Petite Bourgeoisie"
posted by JeffL at 2:01 PM on November 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

ok boomer
posted by odinsdream at 2:05 PM on November 4, 2019 [29 favorites]

ok boomer

Wrong - Generation X. The Best Generation.
posted by JeffL at 2:08 PM on November 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

> Wrong - Generation X. The Best Generation.

You might want to catch up on this thread before digging in any further here. TL;DR is that many in our cohort (I was born in 1976) are exhibiting the same boomer-ish tendencies of starting out with ideals of creating a better world for all but mostly deciding to just keep all the good shit for themselves. Which makes "ok boomer" not specifically about when you were born, but about what you're doing to take care of your fellow citizens.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:18 PM on November 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

Wrong - Generation X. The Best Generation.

"Boomer" now just means anyone older than you (even if it's just a few years/months, even days) that says something you don't agree with. So if you are a 17 year junior in high school, a 19 year old born in 2000 is considered a Baby Boomer if they have a different opinion on the job market or whatever.
posted by sideshow at 2:23 PM on November 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

If an idea boils down to left wing authoritarianism, then it can be easily rejected. If it contains a critique of power, status, money systems, class, social hierarchies, etc, then it might be worth paying attention. If it has all that but is then shown to be window dressing for promotion of status, heirarchies, and authoritarianism, then it also needs to be rejected. More common than not; see the ok boomer thread, see the incredible gap between words and actions of liberal white men as laid bare by #metoo, see the unselfaware racism of America's liberal white middle class since the civil rights era, and on and on.

But anyway we're in such an intense straitjacket era of propaganda and forced economic participation that any pushback is welcome.
posted by MillMan at 2:28 PM on November 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm already loving this video on Cyberpunk. Thanks!
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:38 PM on November 4, 2019

That's the other one I was really looking forward to, I'll probably get to it tomorrow.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:44 PM on November 4, 2019

I have very little patience with this idea that we can miraculously tell that dictatorship will be the end state if you apply the label communism to anything.

No-one's making any arguments about how we get from Bernie or Corbyn to Stalin, I'm just supposed to live in fear of an unexplained slippery slope.

It all just essentially boils down to the same argument Jordan Peterson makes - hierarchies are natural and if you try and disrupt them you'll actually do more harm than good.

Plus the idea that there is never any criticism of Stalin etc in radical left spaces might be some of the most rank nonsense I've heard in a while. You're in a thread about breadtube. How do you think it got that name?

And I've heard they're thin on the ground in the US, but elsewhere we have Trotskyists.

I mean hey, I'm a centrist, I believe the best solution lies somewhere between tankies and anarchists, but I don't get the feeling that people who believe Stalin is the end result of co-op workplaces are spending much time on the difference.
posted by Acid Communist at 3:05 PM on November 4, 2019 [14 favorites]

And I've heard they're thin on the ground in the US, but elsewhere we have Trotskyists.

Speaking as someone with vaguely anarchist tendencies who was bullied out of my city's DSA chapter by Trostkyists who took over leadership, I'm just gonna offer that many US leftists have concerns about authoritarianism shaped precisely because of our experience organizing in leftist spaces by apologists for hierarchy and centralism, and not because of historical hypotheticals.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:57 PM on November 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

I left a Trot group for similar reasons, I have serious concerns about the Leninist party and a lot of how they operate, but the contention was that there is never any criticism of authoritarianism in radical left spaces.

Criticise Trots from the left all anyone wants, they were sexist, some I know are anti-Semitic, they run shady front groups with dodgy internal democracy, the failings go on. But they're also not about to precipitate a revolution, not representative of everyone who would take the label socialist and not who these right-wing criticisms about the inevitably of gulags are talking about in the slightest.
posted by Acid Communist at 4:10 PM on November 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Any major shift in economic and/or government system needs a social shift: socialism can't catch on as long as people think "I have the right to keep what I've earned" instead of understanding money as a government function rather than a private resource. (Or whatever the appropriate phrasing is.)

I've seen a lot of rants about how Walmart and Bezos are evil; I haven't seen much that goes into the practical "what does a socialist society look like?" after grabbing 80% of billionaire wealth and fixing a lot of our immediate problems.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:24 PM on November 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

I follow donoteat's channel since the last time he was featured here but I've become... More likely to skip his '...and friends' podcasts like the Hyatt Regency one because every time I give it a chance because of the interesting content I'm utterly frustrated for reasons tabascodagama outlined. That video in particular I had just concluded was a waste of time a couple days ago. If his mates were actually clever in the snarking maybe it wouldn't just be empty minutes of pointless riffing or maybe I should've smoked a joint at the same time.

Still, I'd rather listen to pointless breadtube videos for the empty calories than whatever else nonsense that's on yt.
posted by cendawanita at 4:50 PM on November 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Gen-X popularized the idea that you should always take a shit on company time which has been the greatest advance in left-wing labor theory since the goddamn Communist Manifesto so, you know, you're welcome.
posted by um at 7:18 PM on November 4, 2019 [14 favorites]

I haven't seen much that goes into the practical "what does a socialist society look like?" after grabbing 80% of billionaire wealth and fixing a lot of our immediate problems.

No-one really knows what this looks like, but the obvious places to start modelling what that society looks like are libraries and co-ops.

Of course, critiques like this tend to get dismissed and I never see radical leftist spaces that acknowledge them.

I find this curious, because I rarely see leftists who aren't explicitly anti-authoritarian, who are thinking about this exact problem. It's The Obvious Question, in the same way that 'what do you do when it's night?' is The Obvious Question about 100% renewable energy. Here's an example from something I read recently:
Above all, though, is a change in the way socialists think about democracy. In this regard, not only the Soviet-style dictatorships serve as a cautionary tale, but also the paternalism of the social-democratic period. The postwar compromise did show how an industrial economy could serve the needs of the many, distributing the fruits of capitalist production more evenly than ever before. But the manner in which it did so—as a top-down technocracy—ended up, ironically, laying the groundwork for the later neoliberal takeover. I think back to the suburbs I grew up in in the Nineties. People said we lived in a democracy, but what was meant by this was that my neighbors and I would show up every two to four years at some lower-school gymnasium filled with booths where we’d push a button to choose a leader from options pre-selected by the country’s ruling-class oligarchy. Never were we trusted to deliberate over matters that affected us or participate robustly in civic life.
So that, as far as I can tell, is what the Left, as a movement, is trying to work out: how do we organise, with purpose and direction, but without leaders or hierarchy? It's a good piece, and it's clear-eyed about how this effort is struggling.
posted by Merus at 10:39 PM on November 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

I like the critique that draws parallels between liberalism and Really Existing Socialism as both at their core not believing that the majority of the population are capable of wielding even the most distributed form of power.

After all, if most regular people are, at best, not educated enough, not capable of understanding the complexities of issues then one eventually comes to the conclusion that whether liberal democracy or Stalinist fantasy, to really make lives better we must, as mentioned above, take a paternalistic view and keep power concentrated within an educated and informed elite who question and critique but are institutionally incapable of challenging hegemony.

I mean if we're going to have this term "horseshoe theory" we may as well try and do something interesting with it.
I can't remember where I read this take, but if anyone has seen something similar, I'd appreciate the opportunity to look further into it.
posted by Acid Communist at 11:12 PM on November 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

In all the implementations of Communism we've seen, there's been a powerful autocrat at the center of government, a Dictatorship of the Proletariat that is an actual dictatorship with a singular dictator.

This is the political ideology version of "lone wolf" vs "Islam is inherently evil" after terrorist attacks. Capitalism kills in the millions and is still leeching the global south dry, and keeps bombing countries, with no end in sight. But evil done by the capitalist economic system is just some bad CEO's, greed, regulatory capture, "shareholders demanding profit" as if that was a force of nature, or whatever. Never capitalism as a system as such. But evil done by a communist economy is evil inherently.

Similarly, treating everything that self-identifies as communism as actually communism is akin to those who claim the Nazis were socialists because "it's in the name". Communism is an utopian ideal of a classless, stateless, moneyless community. So any claim that communism is something like "state central planning" is wrong in every single word. However, this also means that actual communism has as much chance of becoming real as Campanella's or Thomas More's utopias. So in the near future we are probably better off focusing on stuff like co-ops, democracy in the workplace and in life more broadly, etc.

(Also, I despise tankies (Stalinism/Maoism defenders) from the bottom of my heart. And I think I'm seeing a real increase in left authoritarianism in recent times on social media. Someone recently told me that historians writing about Stalinist USSR do it only because they are "bourgie historians defending capitalist imperialism". And this left wing paranoid conspiracy version of "academia is a liberal plot that deliberately suppresses conservatives" is increasing fast.)
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:08 AM on November 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

historians writing about Stalinist USSR do it only because they are "bourgie historians defending capitalist imperialism"

I mean absolutely some of them absolutely have to be, but last month my ACW lecturer told us she believes we should all be engaging in violent revolution and overthrowing her generation, so there's a few good eggs as well.
posted by Acid Communist at 1:33 AM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I mean absolutely some of them absolutely have to be

Yes, they are, or rather, were (mostly). One of the more famous cases in point is the "kremlinologist" Robert Conquest, of The Great Terror fame. But the thing is that historians today know this very well, study it, and continue to do so. The study of history of history, including history writing fuelled by Cold War era propaganda (or lack of Soviet sources), is and has always been part of historical research. It even has a name, it's called historiography.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:57 AM on November 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Anyway, while there's a million books written about the history of the USSR, I'd still like to advertise one book, Karl Schlögel's Moscow 1937. This book is unique and different from many others in that it eschews the standard linear narrative of events and happenings, and instead takes a large number of snapshots of the life and goings on in Moscow in 1937, a pivotal year in Soviet history. It of course has chapters on the purges and the show trials, but also on Soviet art deco, the sports parades, movies, architecture, even a geological congress, an entire chapter on literally a guidebook, and many many others. A stunning panorama of the life in Moscow at that time. "Everything came together: confetti parade and death-sentence plebiscite, popular celebrations and thirst for revenge, carnival extravaganza and orgies of hatred."

One of my favorite parts was how the excuse of "Trotskyism" was always inevitably used against anyone and everyone. At one point, a number of people from a radio station were arrested as "Trotskyist infiltrators" because they played happy music during a day of mourning. It's stuff like this that tankies defend (or rather, don't realize they have to defend because I've never met a tankie who would know the basics of the history of the USSR).
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:28 AM on November 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

Also, "capitalism", as practiced in the USA, has produced high standards of living for most Americans in the last couple of hundred years. Certainly better than what the Soviet experiment achieved for its citizens.

Capitalism, as practiced in the USA is a system under which one of my friends is literally selling her blood to keep food on the table and I've paid medical bills for several friends. As for being better than the Soviet experiment. As for being better, about 14% of global CO2 emissions currently come from the US; the Soviet system was bad but didn't threaten the world's ecosystem that way.

Plus I definitely think North West Europe does better by most of its citizens than the current version of American capitalism. If I were looking for a good model it would be the various Scandinavian countries, not the USA.

For X, substitute central planning

Show me the successful company that doesn't have a strategy. Some central planning is necessary for the function of just about a large and successful system I am aware of. Trying to do everything through central planning on the other hand is like trying to run a military without NCOs. This is a case where balance is needed and people entirely rejecting central planning are ultimately little different from those entirely relying on it.
posted by Francis at 4:06 AM on November 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

The three arrows are for fighting monarchism, fascism, and communism.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 4:49 AM on November 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

Didn't the SPD...
a. Support the first world war
b. Crush the nascent revolution of 1918 and mediate a compromise with capital instead
c. kill Rosa Luxembourg
d. Fail to stop the rise of fascism, in no small part due to the animosity between SPD and the KPD

They're not exactly the perfect model.
posted by Acid Communist at 5:13 AM on November 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

You know what would be cool? If we talked about the actual videos.

That last video about the video game (an overtly Sylvia-Federici-based game!) is a little slow to get going, but it goes to some very interesting places about the limits of imagination, and the totalizing effects of capitalist ideology. I'm not a gamer at all, but I was very intrigued by the possibilities this game introduces.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:03 AM on November 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

That would be nice, yes.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:41 AM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is some tasty Whelkposting
posted by postcommunism at 8:46 AM on November 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

The line between badjacketing and moving at the speed of trust as descibed by Bemundolack is of great interest to me. Because it's so integral that we have faith in our comrades, yet we seek to always bring new comrades into the fold, and I think there's always something of a conflict there that I sometimes struggle with.
posted by Acid Communist at 9:34 AM on November 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well I think some that can be covered in Joyful Militancy which is "don't eat your comrades: but also "If you have a truly large movement you don't have to protect abusers in it cause you HAVE MORE PEOPLE." to replace them .
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 PM on November 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ok, fair point that's a good recommendation. I just read it and yes, a lot of what it's talking about does apply. When you first posted the excerpt article I thought it was closing off space for legitimate and necessary criticism but to be fair, it does not.

A friend and comrade attempted suicide a few days ago. She's spoken often of feelings of inadequacy as an activist, being burnt out and exhausted by the seeming impossibility of the task we're faced with. We say that activists burn out, survivors drop out and assaulters get degrees. It really is hard to imagine what things would look like if we were different.

There is no success at the standards people try and hold themselves to, it's just not possible. But there's that conflict where one would never want to be insufficiently harsh or rigid in dealing with unacceptable behaviour. All the discussion of guilt and sin, debt and obligation felt relevant. I've argued in the past that there is no need to ask for absolution from anyone, avoiding the risk of placing that demant on others, because it can't be obtained, there is only an eternal process of self-excoriation and hopefully self-improvement. This brings a lot of that into question quite sharply.

It seems related to how you navigate the balance between not excusing oneself and not taking every single criticism personally. It seems on some level like it's better praxis to treat every single criticism of white men, socialists, anarchists, the left and so on as something that applies to me in some way, and not try and find reasons why I should consider them criticisms for others to take on board or negotiate. But that leaves me feeling constantly disappointed in myself and/or hostile and suspiscious, and feels impossible to sustain. There is after all, never a time when I am not able to find such criticism online.

Anyhow yeah on point recommendation, thanks.
posted by Acid Communist at 6:30 AM on November 7, 2019

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