Sunday, 10 July 2016

THE WESTERN CULTURAL REVOLUTION


In certain traditional cultures, it was believed that invoking the name of a god or demon could serve as a means of gaining power over it. Perhaps something like this also applies in metapolitics.

Consider, for example, the power that the Left has gained by using the name “fascism” against its enemies, in spite of the fact that this name was tenuous enough as a description of the wartime Axis powers and is used even more inaccurately now. Typically, when the name “fascism” is invoked upon a political group, something close to the results of a black spell are produced: the public is induced to see violence and defeat in the targeted group, and within the group itself, some are induced to disown their comrades in acts of “self-purification” while others are mesmerised into embracing the name as a suicide embraces the noose.

However, while using such names so promiscuously that some of their power is now visibly starting to fade, the Left has so far avoided handing its opponents any clear and consistent self-description that might be used to turn the same naming-magic upon itself. “Liberalism” is a notoriously confusing word, denoting free-marketeerism in most of Europe and vague socialism in Anglophone countries, and carrying propagandistic connotations of magnanimity. “Progressivism” is a much less objectionable substitute, but in order for us to invest this neutral term with any real content, we must find out a name for the so-called “progress” that has been going on uninterrupted in the Western world since the 1960s.

It goes without saying that this name cannot be some crude dysphemism drawn from our imagination: such names, divorced from historical context, have no real power and are apt to change like the wind. Nor can we, unlike the Left, hope to make an inaccurate name stick, for we do not have the necessary media power nor a congenital aptitude for lying.

Despite the modern Left’s clear descent from international communism, names and concepts drawn from the experience of Soviet totalitarianism (or its literary elaboration in Orwell’s 1984) do not entirely satisfy this need for accuracy. The stereotype of the rigid, disciplined, state-led Stalinist society chimes poorly with our present-day Western reality of chaotic “anarcho-tyranny”, in which political repression is carried out not by state gendarmes but by groups of volunteers who see themselves as “rebelling against authority”.

Orwell didn't foresee this.
This being the case, I am surprised that thinkers of the Right have not made a more consistent use of the name Cultural Revolution. At one level, this name can be used as a simple and accurate description: the progressivists, as they never tire of gloating, are creating a revolution in Western culture.

Simultaneously, of course, this is also the name for ten years of catastrophic social upheaval that took place in China from 1966 to 1976, presided over by the country’s communist dictator Mao Zedong. While this Cultural Revolution is generally remembered as a senseless orgy of mass insanity and violence, a closer look reveals a perverse inner logic and a host of parallels with our own Western experience.

Using a common name to link the “progress” of the West since the 1960s with the Cultural Revolution in China, e.g. by developing the habit of dropping offhand statements like “this law was changed as part of the Cultural Revolution”, is not just a matter of discrediting this “progress”. At a deeper level, it is a matter of destroying the myth that this “progress” is somehow above and beyond the morally-unedifying ups and downs of history, that it is completely unprecedented and yet completely inevitable. It might be objected that events in the recent history of China can only be too obscure to produce much resonance in the minds of Westerners; but it is likely that the increasing economic importance of China will change this.

So what are these parallels to which I just referred? First of all, there are the reasons why Mao Zedong started the Cultural Revolution in the first place. Many histories distort these by placing an undue emphasis on Mao’s personal lust for power (he had been sidelined by his own Party after engineering the Great Leap Forward Famine, and wished to make a political comeback), without explaining why a man who had been purging fellow communists since the 1920s should have had to plunge the whole country into ten years of chaos in order to stay at the top.

What actually motivated Mao was the fear that the communist revolution in China was under threat: that both feudal tradition and bourgeois practices still existed in the minds of the common people, and were therefore still capable of reconstructing themselves in the political and economic spheres. This danger must have seemed particularly severe in the 1960s, with much of China’s famished rural population resorting to the black market in order to survive, and the Soviet Union under Khrushchev rejecting Stalinism and opting for coexistence with the West.

The faithful Marxist disciple.
In short, Mao turned to cultural Marxism to remedy the failings of economic and political Marxism, following pretty much the same road as Western Marxists like Gramsci, Lukacs and the “Frankfurt School”. This suggests that the shift from economics and politics to culture in Marxism is an universal and fairly inevitable one. The fact that the cultural Marxists in the West were attempting to create an as-yet-unfulfilled revolution, while Mao hoped to consolidate an existing one, is the major difference between the two cases, and also the only reason why the Western Cultural Revolution has so far coexisted with democratic practices and individual freedoms (while nevertheless doing its best to hollow them out).

Moreover, when the Cultural Revolution in China became a mass movement in 1966, it took a form that should be quite familiar to us if we look beyond certain superficial differences. Rather than going to the workers or peasants, Mao organised adolescent schoolchildren and young students into militia-like bands known as the Red Guards, who were told that they had a higher revolutionary consciousness than their elders and that “to rebel is justified”. They responded with due enthusiasm by attacking their teachers, “struggling” them in violent and humiliating mass denunciations, and causing the cessation of all school classes.

Exempted from the rule of law, and allowed free travel and board at state expense, the Red Guards soon fanned out across China like a horde of locusts to foment revolution. This included desecrating ancient monuments, forcibly searching people’s homes to destroy cultural artefacts like books, antiques and family genealogies, attacking people for dressing in “bourgeois” ways, and finding pretexts to denounce, beat and humiliate those whom they arbitrarily designated as “rightist elements” or “counter-revolutionaries”.

Red guards "struggle" a "black gang element."
The fact that the Red Guards were students in their teens and early twenties is of crucial importance. As traditional Chinese culture places a strong emphasis on the hierarchies of parent and offspring, teacher and student, elder and child and so on, the mobilisation of China’s youth to turn its society upside down can be seen as roughly analogous to the use of “marginalised elements” like non-whites and homosexuals to attack traditional structures in the West. (The idea that children are morally superior, and entitled to "teach a lesson" to overly conservative adults, is not entirely absent from the Western Cultural Revolution either.)

Just as in the West since the 1960s, these revolutionary elements were swiftly given ascendancy over the working classes. Historian Frank Dikötter relates an anecdote about a destitute woman whose malnourished and weak daughter was commandeered to wash bedding used by Red Guards, and who “could not understand why the government wasted so much money on free travel and board for students”.

This “managed disorder” of Cultural Revolution, as opposed to the stultifying top-down discipline of the Stalinist model, allows for political repression to be carried out without the need for tight state controls. Resentful and marginalised elements within the population are mobilised, given simple guidelines as to who and how to attack, and simply let loose on the country – albeit with their exemptions from legal consequences granted on the condition that their violence travels in the “correct” political direction. This implicit concept of “useful” and thus “justified” violence should prove instructive for anyone who still thinks that Western governments are merely negligent in allowing Muslims to rape European girls or black mobs to torch American cities.

Cultural vandalism.
But let us return to China for the moment. After the initial vandalistic rampage of the Red Guards, Mao approved a second-wave uprising of “Rebels”, this time made up of disgruntled lower-status employees and workers who were encouraged to attack their superiors. According to Zhang Dapeng, who lived through the Cultural Revolution, this general unseating of the hardworking and talented resulted in such absurdities as ordinary nurses and attendants “struggling” doctors in their hospitals, demoting them to toilet cleaning or manual labour, and carrying out operations themselves.

Much of the self-righteous ire of the Rebels was directed against ruling Party cadres, many of whom were beaten and denounced by mobs for being “capitalist roaders” insufficiently loyal to Mao’s communist vision. Here we see another fundamental parallel with the Western Cultural Revolution: the superficial populist character of a “rebellion against authority”, in reality a persecution of the insufficiently zealous in the name of a slavishly worshipped ideological authority, carried out by “rebels” who are in reality cowards, sadists and bullies.

In order to justify the Rebels’ attacks on other people, millions of political pariahs were created in China under the rubric of the “Five Black Categories”: landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, ‘bad elements’, and rightists, all of whom were hunted down and subjected to humiliating and dispreferential treatment. It should not surprise European males in the West that membership of these persecuted categories depended greatly on blood lineage. However, anyone who did not fall in line (or was unfortunate enough to make an enemy of the wrong person) would also face these dangerous words being hurled at random.

The sense of detachment that comes from viewing, at least for a moment, present-day events through a faraway history that parallels them closely might aid us in working out our strategy against the “Social Justice Warrior” (SJW) movement.

In modern-day China, the slogans, counter-slogans and derogatory epithets used during the Cultural Revolution appear positively bizarre and even ridiculous; all that remains is an understanding of the selfish motivations of Red Guards and Rebels to loot, grab higher-status positions at others’ expense, and settle scores with personal enemies. The absurd dogmas and tables of sins of the SJWs, such as “intersectionality” and “microaggressions”, shall eventually be remembered in the same way. They are not really motivating beliefs in themselves, just flimsy and disposable justifications for baser motives, and there is no point in trying to logically deconstruct the dogmas or argue our way out of the sins.

The truth about the SJW movement is this: it is a job-grabbing scam for the benefit of mentally-ill, talentless, useless and parasitic social dregs, who by hounding “racists” and “sexists” out of their jobs free up space in their preferred industries and raise their own profiles among their fellows. If we want to make this "revolt of the mediocrities" history, we might start by taking the sort of detached view towards its slogans and justifications as is presently taken by historians of the Cultural Revolution in China.

This brings us neatly to another major difference between the two Cultural Revolutions: the fact that the Chinese Cultural Revolution ended (in 1976), while the Cultural Revolution in the West is still going on with no end in sight. However, this largely follows from the first major difference noted above, namely that the Cultural Revolution in the West took place without a Marxist political revolution and thus has been forced to coexist with democratic structures. After Mao’s death in 1976, pro-stability elements in the Chinese Communist Party – principally Deng Xiaoping – took over the reins of government and brought the Cultural Revolution to a halt by simply shutting down public participation in politics altogether.

In Western countries, where there is enough political authority to keep rightist opposition at bay but not enough to control those who express the ideological kernel of the establishment, there is no possibility that the Cultural Revolution will be ended in such a manner. (Perhaps an instinctive understanding of this fact is the reason why Western leftists take such a bizarre, schizophrenic love-hate attitude towards state power.)

Enforcing the ban on public participation in Chinese politics.
However, according to Frank Dikötter’s new history, the Chinese Cultural Revolution was hollowed out by the people even before it was brought to a halt by the government. After years of flip-flopping political campaigns, endless slogans, and dizzying ups and downs, ordinary people simply lost interest in politics and applied themselves to other things while maintaining a show of outward compliance. As the official ideology became an empty shell, a strong attraction to its perceived opposites seems to have taken hold among some sections of society, who started reading forbidden books and returning to practices such as fortune-telling and geomancy.

This implies that the Cultural Revolution in the West has more to fear from public apathy and rejectionism than from a “right-wing” opposition that perhaps even largely sustains it. The end for the Western Cultural Revolution will be nigh, not when the state legitimises human-animal marriage and the people (at last!) rise up in righteous fury, but when the people start to shrug their shoulders at the latest state edict on marriage and get on with contracting traditional marriages illicitly. But if we are destined for “Cultural Revolution fatigue” and a corresponding desire to plunge into its opposite, then rightist parties and traditional institutions like churches have everything to gain from standing fast against “progress” and taking the most reactionary positions possible, even at the price of temporarily rendering themselves irrelevant.

Where leftist idealism always starts 
and always ends up.
However, this public fatigue will not be enough to revive traditional culture in the West, and it is worth pointing out that such a revival certainly has not happened in China since the Cultural Revolution was shut down. Despite Western myths about a neo-Confucian society in intimate contact with its ancient traditions, modern-day China (spoken as one who has lived there) is in truth merely a vast cultural desert ruled by the crudest imaginable pursuit of money and consumer goods.

As for the strongly anti-Western and anti-Japanese nationalism of the Chinese, so apt to be misconstrued by certain elements in the Alt-Right as a healthy stirring of ethnic feeling, it is best understood as an unloading onto “foreign enemies” of the mass hysteria, paranoia, hypocrisy and savagery that tore Chinese society apart during the Cultural Revolution. This "nationalism" certainly does not generate enough fellow-feeling to prevent China’s elite from moving their wealth abroad, nor induce a majority of ordinary Chinese people to treat their compatriots any better than animals; and those in China who deplore these cultural sicknesses commonly blame them on the social upheaval caused by the Cultural Revolution.

If this is the case, the Cultural Revolution - a decade of the most militant communist revolutionary fervour ever seen - has served to create the perfect amoral, money-grubbing, spiritually-dead consumer capitalist society in China, a country that Western oligarchs now look to as a source of untold riches. The parallels with our own Western Cultural Revolution, which benefits big business in many ways and is supported by it at every turn, could not be more explicit. A reading of Dr. Kerry Bolton’s excellent book Revolution From Above should provide ample grounds for the suspicion that this is not exactly a case of “unintended consequences”.

If something more than this fag-end of the toxic progressivist cigarette is still possible for Europe, then in order to achieve it we must remember that restoring "stability" to a shattered society is not enough: we must actively, consciously restore a worldview that predates the Cultural Revolution, first in individual minds and then in those areas of wider society in which the official ideology has burnt itself out. And we must chew long and hard on the bitter knowledge of the present persecutions and injustices - so that, when our Western Red Guards are squealing for their “rights”, we shall have plenty to spit in their faces.

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Further Reading
The Cultural Revolution, A People's History - Frank Dikötter
Mao's Last Revolution - MacFarquhar & Schoenhals
Mao: The Unknown Story - Chang & Halliday
Life Under Mao Zedong's Rule - Dapeng Zhang

 

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