Judo with Karl, Part II

Marx said that culture is the “superstructure” which rests on the “base” of economics.

Given that

  • society always organizes itself around the relations of the means of production;


  • change in the relations of the means of production drives social change.

Which left the Left in a real pickle when it came to the reality of daily life behind the Iron Curtain.  One can hardly imagine a more comprehensive change in the relations of the means of production than that effected by the Bolsheviks… but “soviet power plus electrification,” as Lenin described the ideal communist society, seemed to entail a whole lot of people getting reformed to death in labor camps.

Fellow travelers took their best shot at squaring that murderous circle.  Whether or not “Daniel Norman” is a Scottish name, that article is Caledonia on crack.  True communism has never been tried, comrade!  Still, it’s worth looking at, as he quotes Marx himself describing “true communism:”

Communism as the positive abolition of private property as human self-alienation, means the real appropriation of human entity by and for man; thus the complete, conscious return – accomplished inside all the riches of the past development – of man for himself qua social, that is, as a human being. This Communism is, as perfect Naturalism, identical with Humanism, and as perfect Humanism identical with Naturalism; it is the real solution of the antagonism between man and nature, between man and man; the genuine solution of the conflict between existence and essence, between objectivisation and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. It is history’s solved riddle and is conscious of being the solution. (Ibid).*

Everybody got that?  “The real appropriation of human entity by and for man.”  Though Onkel Karl could obfuscate with the best of ’em — he was, after all, a German philosophy PhD — he doesn’t get enough credit for his prose.  Marx, like Lenin, could be a brutally effective polemicist when he wanted.  If that definition of “true communism” reads like puffy, verbose bullshit, proclaiming everything and nothing simultaneously, then that’s the way he wanted it to read…

…which is further supported by this gem, describing daily life in the Socialist Utopia:

[each man has] the possibility to do this today and that tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to go fishing in the afternoon, to do cattle breeding in the evening, to criticize after dinner.

He doesn’t say who will clean the toilets or dig the ditches, but let’s be charitable and assume that our huntin’ fishin’ stock breedin’ opera critic will fit them in somewhere between naptime and the afternoon chess match.  The source of this remarkable job description, The German Ideology, would be called “juvenilia” if The Master had ever been anything less than an omniscient oracle; it’s no surprise he never got specific about life after The Revolution again.

Fun as it is, I’m not just making fun of Karl Marx and his goofy egghead fantasies.  There’s a point to this: Marx may have been right after all, if — as with everything Leftists say — you flip it 180 degrees.  What if culture is the base, and economics the superstructure?

Section break!

Since otherwise the guys in Our Thing will be fighting about this until the sun’s a cinder, let’s stipulate that

  1. biology (“race”) and culture have a dialectical relationship; and
  2. biology is prior.

Thus the oft-repeated dictum that Africa, for instance, is the way it is because it’s full of Africans.  Insofar as it’s possible to measure such things (and I’d love to see the methodology they used), the average Equatorial Guinean IQ is 56.  The “best” culture in the history of the human race isn’t going to produce too many rocket scientists from that raw material.

HOWEVER: That’s not to say that Equatorial Guinea can’t have a functioning society with a thriving economy.  Malabo isn’t going to replace San Jose in the Silicon Valley of the new millennium, but it doesn’t have to be your standard schizophrenic sub-Saharan shithole, either.  There’s a reason modern African history isn’t a requirement of any school curriculum, K-thru-PhD, and it’s this: Monstrosities like Belgian Congo aside, life was indisputably better for the majority of Africans — safer, healthier, more prosperous, far more stable, and, crucially, even more “socially just” — under colonial rule.

The Germans, for instance, were no one’s idea of enlightened colonizers, but when they ran the place Tanzania was a net food exporter.  The Tanzanians did even better under the British, but it only took a few years of Julius Nyerere‘s pan-African Marxist dumbfuckery to crater the economy and render the country one of the poorest and most malnourished in the world.

Same people, diametrically opposite cultures.

Speaking of the Germans, we actually have a historical example of an economy entirely subordinated to a culture.  I’m going to tread carefully here, since we seem to have picked up a few casual readers of late (we might even be up to 14 or 15 regular readers now!).  So if you haven’t been here a while, this is for you: Since the merest mention of the group in question brings out the lunatics, around here we refer to their animating philosophy as Cat Fancy.  This is not intended to be cute.  Most importantly, it is the furthest fucking thing in the entire goddamn universe from an endorsement.  When it comes to this particular group, I’m with Indiana Jones:

I can’t make it any clearer.

But they are important, and they do seem to have some things to teach us about our current situation, as they wrestled — evilly, I can’t stress that enough — with the same underlying issues.  “Cat Fancy,” then, is a way to talk about the ideas without reference to the — again, utterly reprehensible — details.

Everybody got that?  All right then:

As everyone in Our Thing knows, and as everyone on the Left who knows frantically instructs us to forget, the “S” in the Cat Fanciers’ official acronym stands for “Socialist.”  That’s because they were Socialists.  Cat Fancy agreed 100% with Marx’s analysis of class conflict.  They were all-in on the idea that the relations of the means of production Marx called “capitalism” caused that “self-alienation” stuff from the first quote.  Marx said that capitalism turns everyone into an interchangeable, deracinated producer-unit to be fed directly into the maw of industry.  The Cat Fanciers completely agreed.

But whereas Marx saw the end of explicitly national identities as a good and necessary step on the path to utopia — “workers of the world, unite!” — the Cat Fanciers viewed it with horror.  The “N” part of the Cat Fancy acronym, after all, stands for “National.”  They wanted to be German workers, and they structured their entire economic program around the uplift of the German worker.

We have ample historical evidence of how that worked out.  Setting aside for the moment the question of whether something like Cat Fancy could exist without war,** the history of the nation in question, 1933 to 1938, gives us a pretty good look at what the judo-flipped, cultural-base-economic-superstructure version of Marxism looks like.  Bringing the war back into it gives you a glimpse at what it was intended to become, given the massive resources of the East.  The Nerd wasn’t as pithy as Lenin, but “feudalism plus autobahns” is a pretty good summary of Cat Fancy’s wildest fantasies.  The East was supposed to be a network of medieval market towns, linked by huge freeways and populated by wehrbauern, who really were supposed to be something like Teutonic knights with tanks and air support.

Again, and crucially: All of this was intended to support the culture.  It was taken as given that this, and ONLY this, could save the culture in question from utter destruction.  Where Marxism is just envy dressed up like an economic system, Cat Fancy is paranoia masquerading as an economic system.

In The Current Year, everyone agrees that Western Civ is in mortal danger.  See above: The Left doesn’t even bother anymore to disguise its glee at the prospect of destroying whatever remains of European culture.

We also all agree that the Left’s main weapon is economic.  These days, Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism reads like a GloboHomo how-to manual.  So triumphant is global finance capital that minor things like “making a profit” are blithely tossed aside in the pursuit of social justice — “get woke, go broke” is so common a phenomenon that we’ve made a pithy rhyming slogan about it, but note that none of the #Woke give a shit.  Our Thing loves to bang on about comic books and Star Wars (which doesn’t at all make us look like a bunch of whiny manchildren), so let’s go with that.  Thanks to Hollywood accounting and the fact that there are about three media companies left in the world, Disney et al can keep releasing “flops” that only make a billion dollars per.  They’ve bet that they can all but release three hours’ footage of Mickey Mouse taking a dump on the Constitution while getting a hummer from a gay transgendered dragonkin Of Color, and so long as it has light saber sounds the public will watch it.

Guess what?  They’re right.  Hell, Disney and Netflix are gearing up to boycott the entire state of Georgia.  Think about that — instead of consumers boycotting companies because of their predatory business practices, companies are boycotting their own customers for wrongthink.  And guess further what?  It’s working.  So long as the dollars keep flowing — and the Chinese, now among the biggest movie consumers worldwide, surely don’t care about overt propaganda in their space operas — the cultural assault will continue apace.

So: What is to be done?  Can economic arguments be used as a springboard for cultural ones? With what success?  How?  History has a lot of lessons out there, if we choose to look.




*the “ibid,” if you’re interested, is MEGA 1/3
**The Cat Fanciers themselves were uniquivocal: No, it can’t.  War was as essential a part of their thing as…you know… that other thing.  But once again, nobody’s suggesting that Cat Fancy is the way to go.


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7 thoughts on “Judo with Karl, Part II

  1. Frip

    Severian: “Most importantly, it is the furthest fucking thing in the entire goddamn universe from an endorsement.” That was funny. I remember when John Kerry was running for president. He started saying “let me be crystal clear” all the time because he’d gotten a reputation while campaigning for being the opposite of clear. I like your version better.

  2. Maus

    It seems clear to me that biology dictates family dictates tribe; and that economics doesn’t kick in until group dynamics exceed Dunbar’s number. So the idea that culture preceeds, and is the basis of, economics makes perfect sense. The real confounding idea is egaltarianism. If you are committed to the principle that all humans are equal, then economic manipulation is the clearest way to engineer equality of outcome. The contingent has failed because the precedent is false. Humanity is heirarchical, everywhere and at all time. Cat Fancy explicity acknowled this truth and objectively designed culture to recognize it with really cool looking Hugo Boss apparel. They simply chose evil goals to channel this heirarchical culture. Onkel Karl’s devotees reluctantly acknowledged the truth of heirarchy, which they initially rejected as an intermediate stage in the dialectic, by cobbling together the dictatorship of the proletariat. All are equal; but some are more equal than others, eh Commerade? In either case, their culture lost to another heirarchy; and nobody respects and admires losers. But our American culture’s heirarchy seems unique in that it recognizes its power and privilege, but loathes the accomplishments of its exercise. When and where did post-tribal America (beginning late 18th to early 19th century) learn to admire and favor the underdog? Why do we celebrate with Lazarus the weak, huddled masses rather than rejecting them in disgust? Did Christian tradition, in the face of such natural abundance and Lebensraum, compel prodigal levels of magnanimity? This would be curious, since that very same Christian tradition did not forestall the disposition (I refuse to call it genocide) of the aborginal inhabitants.
    Anyway, I am mystified by the culture in a way that I am not by reductive economic theories, no matter how erroneous.

    1. WOPR

      American mythos has two items at its founding that answer some of your questions. First, the underdog theme is from the very beginning. Who in their right mind thought a rabble of poor colonists could beat England? This is England which came out of the Seven Years War as the top dog. However, underdog until recently meant the guy who was outclassed in physical assets, but through grit, hard work, and not quitting wins through. It never was the intersectional nonsense you see today.

      The minutemen or militia are the reason for some of the egalitarian beliefs. Hey, they kicked butt at Bunker Hill. Any guy with a gun can simply show up and whip a bunch of regulars. How much more egalitarian is that? Of course, the reality was much different. The myth though probably helped the Americans hang in there for the long haul.

  3. WOPR

    Our Thing loves to bang on about comic books and Star Wars (which doesn’t at all make us look like a bunch of whiny manchildren), so let’s go with that.

    Let me say in defense of the gamers and comic book nerds, they have at least fought back with equal ferocity against the NPCs. The SJWs ran into another monomaniacal group that will not roll over.

    1. Severian Post author

      Credit where credit’s due. The nerds have shown us the way, if we had eyes to see it.

      The Left has two, exactly TWO, tactics: 1) point-and-shriek and 2) violence. The nerds have shown us that 1) doesn’t work on people who are proud of being outsiders. Which only leaves 2). If you want my honest best guess as to how Ft. Sumter II: The Sumtering is going to start, it’s this: The Left will do it’s usual “ur a raciss” thing to someone, who will come back with “So? And?”

      The Left will retreat in fear and confusion, and when they see that no matter how many times they shout “Wow just wow I can’t even,” the guy won’t relent. So more and more people will start picking up on it. Pretty soon everyone will be laughing at the impotent rage of the noodle-armed soibois — “ooh, whaddaya gonna do, cry some more?

      As C.S. Lewis said, above all, the Devil can’t stand to be mocked. So then the shooting starts, and one way or another, things get decided.

      1. Frip

        Sev: “Wow…just…wow. I can’t even.” (edited for real life cadence). Poor Sev, he’s obviously done hard time in the presence of young women. Poor sonofabitch. No wonder he’s half gone. PTSD is real.

        1. Severian Post author

          Oh lord you have no idea. There oughtta be an emoji for, you knooow, like, vocal fryyyyyyyyyy… omigod I can’t even.

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