On the Real Reactionaries

(This article originally appeared on Sam Bate-Francis’s personal Medium page. It has been edited and reproduced here with the author’s permission.)

Vladimir Lenin’s observation that there are decades where nothing happens and weeks in which decades happen has been vindicated by the events of summer 2020. A global pandemic, the state enforced lockdown that accompanied it, and the international political unrest that emerged in reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police have irreversibly altered the landscape of political and social affairs. 

Many on the right have continued down the path of natural progression that they have been navigating for the best part of 50 years. Their total antipathy for working people, previously demonstrated by their pursuit and perpetuation of low intensity, high collateral wars and their psychotic commitment to economic dogmatism and austerity measures, has at last manifested in the form of catastrophic incompetence. Their handling of the COVID-19 outbreak shows that their eagerness to sacrifice thousands at the altar of capital can only be matched by the desperation with which they cling to the largely nominal positions of power and status within the democratic apparatus.

It would appear that the political left has benefited most from the current upheaval. After a rough four-to-five year period characterized by routine failure, colossal defeat, and ritual humiliation—capped off by the electoral meltdowns of the Labour Party in the U.K. and the defeat of Bernie Sanders and his $200 million campaign fund—affiliates of the left are now experiencing a resurgence in confidence.

Mainstream leftism today is a program of class war that barely conceals its latent hatred of working people.

But the revanchist left—particularly in the U.S. and the U.K.—is ultimately sinister. The movement has shed its largely conciliatory commitments to the interests of the working class in favor of forming an ever-growing cadre of vicious and determined professionals who practice deliberate mystification, gaslighting, and appropriation in order to advance a politics irreconcilable with working-class interests. Mainstream leftism today is a program of class war that barely conceals its latent hatred of working people behind the screen of its own perceived benevolent superiority.

The origins of this front of the class war can be traced all the way back to the neoliberal reforms of the 1970s and 80s, but the acceleration and intensification of the assault on the working class is undoubtedly a product of the massive expansion of higher education that took place during the Clinton and Blair eras in the 1990s and early-2000s. Rolled out under the guise of providing access, the inflation of the universities has done little more than cheapen the value of the degrees they produce, as well as saddle millions of graduates with eye-watering levels of debt. To the neoliberal consensus of the end of the last millennium, these policies acted as a much-needed parachute with which they could temporarily delay the social and economic backlash that would inevitably occur as a result of the destruction of proletarian economic security and social wellbeing that the Reagan/Thatcher, Bush/Major eras had begun to cultivate during the 1980s with the destruction of the trade unions and the assault on the community. Most eloquently summed up with Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as society” speech.

With industry off-shored, the labor-capital compromise has been voided, and economies have been totally freed of any obligation to the public interest. Universities allowed for the temporary pacification of large sections of the working class who, instead of facing the crushing inevitability of the permanent unemployment that had characterized many post-industrial regions of Thatcher’s Britain, were offered degrees in a wide-variety of increasingly vocational subjects at extortionate prices, then funneled into (as described by David Graeber), “bullshit jobs” in consultancy and recruitment with little-to-no productive utility.

For a period, the con paid dividends for the neoliberal ruling class; between 1992 and 2008, despite brief and infrequent interruptions of far-away military intervention and domestic terror attacks, the West seemed to be meandering quietly through the end of history. The financial crisis of the late-2000s completely destroyed the anaesthetized tranquility of the post-Cold War consensus; covertly exposing the higher education racket to its victims through its slow asphyxiation of the graduate job market and the casualization and feudalization of low-skilled service industries. Since 2010, universities have devolved into production lines of anxiety. The vast majority of middling institutions exist solely to churn out working-class and lower-middle class kids who are crippled by the very real fear of being unable to join the professional class and subjected to a lifetime of gargantuan debt obligations and minimum wage retail work.

In addition, the theoretical discourse infused into these students by the ideological consensus of higher education has been fundamentally antagonistic to working-class interests. Much mainstream leftist economic and social theory is detached from the reality of ordinary people; in fact, it deliberately alienates the university graduate from the worker. Look no further than the aggressive campaigns waged against proletarian-dominated professions, such as the police. As the fatuous histrionics of police abolitionists subside, it has been replaced with demands to suck that particular sector into the university meatgrinder. Instead of championing the public investment and job creation programs that would alleviate many of the interracial tensions between police and low-income communities, the left wants college degrees, the debt that accompanies them, and the ideological contempt for working people as prerequisites for entry into the force.  

Much of the thrust of the practical aspects of leftist dogma can be found through an investigation into the idea of “Luxury Communism.” Initially thrown around as a pejorative by antagonists on the right, the term has been appropriated and mainstreamed by a cabal of youthful organizations and commentators, most notably Aaron Bastani and Ash “Literal Communist” Sarkar and their gang of “revolutionaries” at Novara Media in the U.K, and Nathan J. Robinson and the cadre of dandies at Current Affairs in the U.S. The concept of Luxury Communism is simple: it proposes a society in which hyper-abundance of consumer products and services are available to all. In his book on the topic, Bastani suggests we accelerate technological progress through massive funding increases so as to create products that can mine asteroids for raw resources. As utopian and optimistic as this sounds, it is little more than a product of bourgeois decadence and the rantings of an increasingly desperate elite class.

Even the term “Luxury Communism” is an irreconcilable juxtaposition that signifies yet another defeat for anti-capitalism. Bastani’s book, and the ghouls that cling to its coattails, are essentially guides, illuminating the logical development of the technocratic-autocracy that has emerged under neoliberalism. There is little to no critical analysis by Bastani and his allies of what the effects of unleashing the big-tech conglomerates as the driving forces of societal progress would be in relation to their already exploitative relationship both their labor forces and customers. Facebook, Amazon, Google and Tesla have already demonstrated their utter contempt for ethical boundaries and good practice. Is there any reason to believe that these corporations will shift away from the business models that have brought them such success—models that rely on the use of semi-serfdom, child slavery, political disruption of third-world countries, and privacy infringements of their own customers? Leftism, as it exists today, would hand the keys to the future to these institutions while pacifying the working class with neoliberal rip-offs such as a hyper-abundance of things people neither want nor need, and Universal Basic Income schemes that drain even more power away from labor and into the hands of benevolent technocratic overlords, whose good intentions can be found in their unshakable commitment to fairness and justice, demonstrated by shows of solidarity with neoliberal super-predators and immaterial peace offerings made to the desperate masses.

‘Luxury Communism’ exists in a fantasy land in which class power dynamics do not exist.

“Luxury Communism” exists in a fantasy land in which class power dynamics do not exist. Take this Current Affairs article which envisages a society of decadence “for all.” Note in the illustration the waiter standing by to serve his strikingly diverse and thus essentially good superiors. As much as pampered aristocrats posing as communists would wish it to be the case, the class conflict that will emerge from the death agonies of capitalism can not be developed away through the production of an iPhone that can go underwater. The working class needs an economic agenda that guarantees dignity and sovereignty. UBI, a laborless society, and a flatscreen in every home are no substitute for full employment, productive work, a robust welfare state that leaves nobody behind, as well as a society based on solidarity cultivated by shared struggle and determination. leftists know this, and they resent it, which is why they have abandoned the philosophers and precepts that have fueled successful proletarian revolutions in the past.

Dialectical Materialism—the theory that the events of history emerge out of conflict between the forces of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie—is the fundamental lynchpin of Marxist theory. There is much room for debate and discussion outside of this concept, but it is impossible to be a Marxist unless you subscribe to this belief. Not only because it provides the scientific framework around Marxist analysis of all aspects of life, but also because it provides the philosophy with an endgame. When the proletariat finally overcomes the bourgeoisie, the classless society will emerge and the pre-history of human society will end. The reality of this assertion is up for debate, but it must be the goal of Marxist political action.

The leftism we have seen develop over the course of the last decade and explode into centrality in the last few months is utterly devoid of any utility to the working class, and in fact thoroughly contemptuous of its members. Despite its obsession with the aesthetics of “resistance,” the mainstream, existing left—as embodied by those clinging to the failed Jeremy Corbyn experiment, the brushed-up millennial strivers on the American left (such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), and the self-proclaimed anarchists responsible for the murder of two young black men in Seattle’s “CHAZ”—operates as the vanguard of the next stage of neoliberalism. This new form will dispense of its clunky and increasingly unnecessary working and middle-management classes, and attempt to convert everyone to round-the-clock bicycle delivery boys and OnlyFans cam girls, existing only to deliver the products of capitalisms unassailable wealth accumulation to the 1% at the top. 

The hysterical anxiety created by the very real material instability we are witnessing today is reactionary and antagonistic to the worker. The dogma that has developed on the left bathes its supporters in the self-righteous assuredness of complete moral superiority while working to maximize the pain and suffering of the global proletariat. The professional-managerial class will be burned away eventually. If it is successful, capitalism will brush off those who have worked to perpetuate it with the same degree of cool disinterest as it did with the working masses who stabilized it after World War II. We have a choice: allow it to run its course and endure the collateral damage it will inflict on the workers, or overcome it as socialists with a program centered around fairness, dignity, and solidarity, making a true commitment to the inclusivity of this program for all who wish to partake in it and abandoning tests of loyalty based on the breadth of your nose and what type of sex you’re in to.

The alternative is more insecurity, more bullshit jobs and stagnant wages, more forever wars in distant countries, and more police violence. The solution is not a change of management or the introduction of a HR department at Capitalist HQ. It is its total disassembly, and in its place the reconstruction of a new system built by the masses.