There is no idea more novel, more surprising, than that of associating three hundred families of different degrees of fortune, knowledge and capacity.
The Theory of Social Organization. Harmonian Man: Selected Writings of Charles Fourier. 1820
How to imagine a better world and realize it has been the aim for revolutionaries and reformers since Plato’s the Republic and his failed experiment in Sicily 300 B.C. I will not dwell on all the attempts to build utopias since then, but rather focus on the last decades along with historical references and its implications for a non-violent process, with neither leftist or rightist excesses.
My focus is on real tangible efforts in practice that one can visit and learn from, as well as theoretical applications that try to work out a practical effort, hitherto unrealized. The rest is just talk, some gibberish, some fun, some dangerous.
In 2008 computer scientist and blogger Curtis Yarvin aka Mencis Moldbug proposed a decentralized system of city states, known as Patchwork. And in 2011 the futurist Kevin Kelly gave the name Protopia to a slightly improved vision of the world. Other attempts followed by my Swedish countryman Alexander Bard (using the term Ecotopia), Michael Shermer and others ensuing online discussions of their ideas.
This contribution is to sort out what I have found useful. I have no favourite, yet. I have divided the text into three parts:
First part is on my background, second on Patchworks and Protopia, and third on the excessive politics of autonomist marxism (Deleuze/Guattari/Negri) and accelerationism (Land/Yarvin).
1970s leftwing terrorism in Germany and Italy, and some later rightwing terror attacks have similar roots in an urban guerilla stragegy of tension (inspired either by Lenin and anarchism) or a wish to accelerate the downfall of capitalism (inspired by contemporary Nietzschean thinkers). Both resulted in deaths and misery, terror and madness.
Since my focus is on alternatives in practice and its realistic counterparts in theory (see 19th century utopian socialist Fourier above, who defined his phalanstére mathematically), I need to inform you about what I have experienced and read.
Born in university town Uppsala, Sweden, in 1958, I was able to participate in the counterculture of the 1970s, although it felt dated. I did this by reading about alternatives to capitalism and bureaucratic socialism, and visiting actual alternative scenes where people tried to work out the details. My fictional hero at 11 was Huck Finn, at 18 Sal Paradise.
My first encounter with the local counter culture was our own Woodstock music festival, Folkfesten (later evolved into the progressive cooperative Uppsala Musikforum where I washed dishes), in central Uppsala 1971. I was 13 and roamed around hippies, lentil soups, Maoist papers and strange new smells, while amateur bands played for free.
Later in Uppsala we had an alternative project going on in “The Workshop”, Verkstan. With inspiration from the provos and anarchists in Holland, a house for young people was rented in 1974 in order to provide non-commercial and drug free activities. The main target was the mentally unstable and substance users who would be persuaded to leave their pills, hospitalizations and substances for playing music, drinking herbal teas and hanging out.
We had contacts in Stockholm with a cultural cooperative, Kapsylen, that housed the famous rock-reggae band Dag Vag and a publishing house with libertarian socialist thought, Nordan förlag, as well as an anarchist café (where Anti-Fa would organize themselves later). “Activity House” Gamla Bro was another counter cultural project in Stockholm 1969–72 for providing drug free activities, but came to do the opposite.
In Denmark, a free hippie urban commune, Christiania, was launched in Copenhagen 1971 with self-sustainability and freedom as its goal. I went there after an anti-nuclear march in southern Sweden outside the Barsebäck power plant in 1977. At the Danish commune, cannabis was sold to freewheeling tourists like me and it seemed to be the major source of income, not clay pottery nor handmade jewelry. Christiania felt disorganized and desolate already by then.
Agricultural ecological cooperatives were in vogue. Neil Young sung 1970, “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the nineteen seventies”. Next year, Paul McCartney followed with “I’m gon’ move, I’m gon’ go, I’m gon’ tell everyone I know. Living in a home in the heart of the country”.
I tried joining a farm started by a friend but failed to do the manual tedious weeding out of carrots by hand. Since then, his initiative, Torfolk in Värmland, has gained world known fame for its joint project of certifying ecological products by the label Krav.
I knew of other farming alternative villages and communes like Skognäs and Moder Jord, but never went there.
In 1979 I hitchhiked from the East Coast to the West with addresses to collectives like Kerista Village in California in my backpack but never visited this famous hippie scene. Through a subscription of the journal Mother Jones I had found Kerista and other initiatives in the US. I got a chance to join another bumming couple on a highway, stoned unlike me, to legendary hippie commune The Farm in Tennessee but declined.
I had read Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, some books on Dylan, Studs Terkel and liked the anarchosyndicalist trade union the Wooblies (IWW). But very few I met on the road in the late 70s seemed to understand what American workers’ movement was all about. Some were Trotskyites, some were Deadheads. Many were weekend hippies with regular jobs. In the Bay Area I stayed with a female computer scientist who got stoned in the mornings before driving down to Palo Alto on the jammed interstate 580 highway, just to get some steam off.
The closest I got to living true Walden Pond style was a week in a yurt outside Bowdoinham, Maine. Some bohemian artists and urban dwellers of Manhattan had raised yurts in a wood in order to get away. I was very lucky there with the happy painter, il pittore euforico Charles Stanley of East Village, NYC and his friends. But it was not a sincere alternative livelihood project.
I got back to Europe and hung out with house squatters in Uppsala and Stockholm. In 1982 I moved to Copenhagen and did likewise, writing about the BZ occupy movement, punk neo romantic poetry by Michael Strunge and open supermarket lootings.
My last countercultural initiative was to launch an alternative radial local magazine in Uppsala, which lasted for three months and ended in court as we did not pay taxes and fees.
In the 1990s I tried to visit an anarchist squatting Centri Sociali in Florence, inspired by the post-Marxist Autonomia Movement and reading Toni Negri , but they did not let me in. In Barcelona, the anarchists were much friendlier and I hung out with the FAI-CNT bikers’ cooperative, which ran errands across the city and divided profits among themselves, or gave away to artists in need.
The last ten years I have arranged public lectures and conferences in Sweden on free speech, participated in Danish Free Speech Society and counter-jihadist groups. No new commune in sight, not even an alternative right one.
My intellectual bent in 1970s counterculture led me to classics such as Ivan Illich’s Tools for conviviality and E.F. Schumacher, Small is beautiful, but mostly to writings in the libertarian left tradition, old and new (1968), in Old Europe (Kropotkin, Proudhon, Owen, Fourier) and the New World (Emma Goldman, Joe Hill (a Swede!), Alexander Berkman.
I dwelled on Bakunin’s wrath of Marx in the First International, workers’ council movements in Europe, Rosa Luxemburg’s criticism of Lenin, the Russian Kronstadt sailors’ councils 1921, anarchism in Spain 1936, situationism, Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s advice to senile socialists, US anarchists Murray Bookchin and Hakim Bey, browsed in Kaj Håkansson’s left-libertarian chronology Socialism som självstyre, subscribed to Frihetlig Socialistisk Tidskrift and the anarchist journal Brand, and of course the anti-totalitarians Huxley and Orwell, along with Kallocain by Swedish author Karin Boye.
In the 1980s I drifted into post-structuralism, wrote a BA thesis on Foucault’s The Order of things and started PhD studies in philosophy at a department that loathed Continental philosophy. Saint Quine and the Evangelists Kripke, Strawson and Davidson were their international role models along with Uppsala locals such as Axel Hägerström, Adolph Phalén and Ingemar Hedenius. An asexual philosophy if there ever was one.
I read the pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty and interviewed him, tried to find support for work on Deleuze’s, Negri’s and Althusser’s Spinoza studies with no success. The political theory of communitarianism must seem reasonable even to analytical philosophers I thought and translated 8 texts by Charles Taylor, Michael Sandel, Alaisdair McIntyre, Rorty, John Rawls et al, edited an anthology in Swedish but this attempt failed to gain support too. My philosophy papers were mediocre, sloppy or just wrong.
My department had little patience with me and I with them. In 1998 we parted. Today I thank the Spinozist Deus sive Natura for not having a mediocre PhD on PoMo in my CV.
Post-marxism and autonomist marxism sustained my leftist leanings during the 1990s, but the energy seemed to be gone. New Age maverick Ken Wilber seemed like a relief from my theoretical impasse and I continued with Tibetan Buddhism for a while, especially Stephen Bathelor and other Western Buddhists.
Since 2000 I have mostly read libertarian, conservative and right-wing literature until the thoughts and writings of the alt-right, IDW, and various nationalist populist movements started to gain prominence after 2010. With that stated, let’s go over to the first section of a recent alternative, Patchworks by Curtis Yarvin, published in 2008 under his pen name Mencis Moldbug.
In 2008, Curtis Yarvin proposed his vision in four chapters of Patchworks on his blog Unqualified Reservations:
“The basic idea of Patchwork is that, as the crappy governments we inherited from history are smashed, they should be replaced by a global spiderweb of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of sovereign and independent mini-countries, each governed by its own joint-stock corporation without regard to the residents’ opinions. If residents don’t like their government, they can and should move. The design is all ‘exit,’ no ‘voice.’”
He continues with supportive claims that human civilisation has thrived in times of great political division, such as during 7th to 4th century B.C. China, ancient Greece and Rome, medieval and Renaissance Southern Europe,. The smaller the better. No empires. Weaponize independent towns with encrypted (nuclear?) arms is better.
Patchwork is a reboot of the present system, in order to install a new operating system. Yes, Yarvin is a programmer and had the company Urbit supported by Peter Thiel. This network of small independent semi-feudal states, Patches, may be organized as monarchies, city republics as in ancient Athens or corporate run urban spaces. Yarvin would like to see industrial death metal and heavy-duty psychedelics in his favourite patch along with total security. Others, like me, may prefer Earl Grey tea and Bob Dylan in 1975.
To avoid civil wars between patches, one large patch dominating others, internal divisions among patches there are a few rules:
- Security above all. Modern medieval moats
- Security and profitability before liberty
- Simplicity before complexity
- Do not be evil
- If attacked by small resident mobs, use grapeshots
Laws must be kept as mutual promises are kept: “If it [the sovereign of a patch] breaks its own promises all the time and for no good reason, amputating hands willy-nilly after swearing up and down that life and limb are sacred, it will not be viewed as a safe place to live, and no one will want to live there”.
A Patch should be run by a corporation with nonresident shareholders who have little say in running the Patch as an Absolute Arbitrary CEO of Divine Right will be elected. Economy is granted through property taxes and citizenship through geolibertarian contracts. Should a Patch develop into a slavery of its citizens, the bad reputation that will follow with lead to abolition of its slavery. .
Inhabitants with no profitable skills in a newly erected Patch, such as present San Francisco for instance when turned into “Friscorp” Patch, will have to migrate to other patches. If they remain, they can be locked into virtual worlds where they do not interfere. Welfare budgets will be local and granted on citizens’ contracts where they state to behave well and fend for themselves. Visitors may be accepted if they sign the covenant or have a resident who guarantees their visit. A patriarch is responsible for his dependents. Biometric IDs are mandatory. AI regulates traffic between patches.
A patchwork with a decent neocameralist Chancellor of the Exchequer is not wasting resources. But this is a moral question, not financial: “We cannot construct a political structure that will enforce moral responsibility. We can construct a political structure that will enforce financial responsibility. Thus neocameralism.” Freedom of thought is above all, freedom of behaviour not.
Pathwork Creator C. Yarvin concludes after 8478 digressions and rants:
“Within Patchwork, peace, security and order are most definitely the same thing. Of course, a realm is designed to maintain absolute or near-absolute levels of internal security and order. Society within a Patchwork realm has none of the running sores of the democratic era: there are no slums or dirty streets, no gangs, and no politics. Japan or Singapore would be the closest analogies today, though both of course are quite imperfect. We can define a rational absolute sovereign, such as a Patchwork realm, as orderly. Such a sovereign is controlled centrally from a single point, by competent administration acting for a purely financial purpose.”
Yawn. He is a very tiring young reactionary. At last he states that a group of Patchwork city states might go along with a climate panic agenda, Swedish Greta Thunberg style. It may be undesirable but tolerable.
Deterrence always works, either by collective disapproval or military retaliation: “The basic secret of inter-realm relations in Patchwork is that it is much, much easier to construct rules for a community of rational or orderly sovereigns than for a community of irrational ones.”
I happen to spend a few days in the ancient coastal town with aqueducts from Herodes’ time (year 20–10 B.C.) north of Tel Aviv, Caesarea, that happens to be constituted along a few of the ideas of Patchwork. This area was bought in 1954 by the Rothschild family and rented to the state of Israel. Governance is made through a joint foundation with the Rothschilds and Israel. Here is the story:
“Baron Rothschild purchased more than 500 square kilometers of land in Israel, on which he established more than 40 settlements. When the State of Israel was established, the Rothschild family donated most of the land it owned to the State as a gift, the largest donation of land ever given to the State, and one that served as a critical impetus for its development.”
So as Yarvin wants, there are no local elections in Caesarea of municipal assemblies, no mayor (though Benjamin Netanyahu lives there), and no democracy to speak of. Everybody is playing tennis, gossip, trying to get way with two-timing, getting a nice suntan and feel free to do what wealthy Jews want to do (Yarvin is Jewish on his father’s side btw). The Arab boys serve hummus and shakshuka, smiling.
There is no sovereign in this modern town that are able to establish a nuclear shield against enemies but the idea is similar to Yarvin’s vision. The people I visited there seemed satisfied with the administration by the Rothschild foundation and were not eager to exercise their democratic rights as citizens of Israel.
Criticism from anarchist Black Cat
An anonymous blogger at Medium, Black Cat, has written five parts of severe criticisms of Yarvin’s Patchwork utopia. I will not go into the details but find some points accurate. That Yarvin is privileged is not enough to debunk him. Nor that he may be wrong about feudalism and wars in medieval Europe. As an anarchist, Black Cat views the transfer of power. His own “Stateless Patchwork” is an alternative that is serious, perhaps more than Yarvin’s original Patchwork.
Yarvin should matter more to anarchists as he is not kind to their bedfellows, the libertarians. He is a badass reactionary that the world has not seen since 1985 when Carl Schmitt died and 1998 when Ernst Jünger gave up his Nietzschean breath.
However, graduate student Courtney Hodrick (Stanford) gave an interesting speech in 2019 where she claims that Curtis Yarvin is still within a liberal framework that Carl Schmitt would have loathed. Yarvin’s Patchwork is according to her a brutal economic anticultural framework. At the same conference, professor Tim Luke (Virginia) spoke about a naive “digital divinity” of the Intellectual Dark Enlightenment and accelerationism.
I will get back to Curtis Yarvin at the end in relation to autonomist marxism, accelerationism and Deleuze/Guattari/Land. But for now, his proposal is quite detailed but not fulfilled anywhere. The Temporary Autonomous Zones, TAZ, American anarchist Hakim Bey dreamed of around 1990 were tried in 2020 in Seattle, Portland, and wherever BLM gangs and Anti-Fa gained power with the help of Democratic mayors during the George Floyd riots.
None were diligent nor sane. Yarvin’s Patchworks need a clear purpose and strategy to succeed, but the aim is not bad. Not at all. But to establish a realm of a new kind of sovereign is probably not possible now. On the other hand, benevolent dictator Lee Kuan Yew managed to proclaim the city state of Singapore in 1965 and made this new small urban nation thrive.
Over to another great computer scientist turned futurist, Kevin Kelly, senior editor at Wired magazine
This term was launched by Kevin Kelly in 2011 in opposition to unattainable, and maybe even boring utopias and sad but possible dystopian futures. Soviet Union was a bureaucratic but functioning dystopia where big bandits kept small bandits in order. A dysfunctional dystopia would be the cinematic worlds of Mad Max, Terminator or Blade Runner, or present Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya.
Kelly defined Protopia as a state of incremental process: “Protopia is a state that is better than today than yesterday, although it might be only a little better. Protopia is much much harder to visualize. Because a protopia contains as many new problems as new benefits, this complex interaction of working and broken is very hard to predict.”
Kelly laments the attention spent on the present now and not on any innovative future, a reasoning that Brit Marc Fisher also had in his thoughts on capitalist realism. In 2011 few dared to imagine what the future could look like, even among his hipster colleagues at Wired it seems. Protopia is not as sexy as utopia or dystopia (with erotic actors such as Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Harrison Ford, Saen Young, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton). Neither as challenging and exciting as utopias are for politicians and philosophers.
Since 2011 Kevin Kelly has written The Inevitable (2016) where he lists 12 forces of digitalization:
- Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
- Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
- Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real time for everything
- Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
- Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.
- Sharing: Collaboration at mass scale. Kelly writes, “On my imaginary Sharing Meter Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”
- Filtering: Harnessing intense personalization in order to anticipate our desires
- Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombining in all possible ways
- Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
- Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
- Questioning: Promoting good questions is far more valuable than good answers
- Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix
With these meshworks, we gradually accept a new and perhaps better world just by using built-in AI and similar tools. But there are no governmental structures as in Patchwork and no strategy how to achieve Protopia.
Kelly’s neologism was picked up by sceptic professor Michael Sherman but he did little to work out the details for the present, although he applied it to important victories of Western civilisation since the Middle Ages. Nor has fellow Swede, media star, amateaur futurist and atheist philosopher Martin Hägglund, come up with anything more specific than a totalitarian dream disguised as an utopian democratic socialist world government.
Protopia has remained a word with no content since 2011. A similar term is Ecotopia that fellow futurist Alexander Bard has thrown around of late, along with Game B. Young Slovakian futurist Jakub Šimek has tried to explore Bard’s vision of a new urban and digital ecological site, not to be confused with environmentalist concepts. Aiming for sustainability is too low as we need to plant more trees than we cut.
In fact, Bard’s idea of “machines helping us to love strangers better” is a useful practical advice so far in the development of Patchworks/Protopias/Ecotopias (Bard spoke with Peter Limberg at The Stoa on Nov 12, 2020 of devoting the third Futurica book precisely to Protopias).
Reminding of Kelly’s inevitable learning processes of AI but more aligned to youth culture. Bard is a seasoned pop star who rather sees skyscrapers than banning plastic bags as a solution to reach a sustainable ecology. Engineering rather than spirituality. Exodus to a new Garden, a digital Monastery or explore Sensocracy..
Finally we get to the crust of my argument, that the violence of the 1960s and 1970s are haunting the 2000s.
Deaths by politics since 1967:
German Benno Ohnesorg and Rudi Dutschke, window fallen Italian anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli, four dead students at Kent State, German Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ennslin, Hanns-Martin Schleyer, Italian Aldo Moro 1978 and the list goes on with victims of Ted Kaczynski (UNA-bomber), David Koresh (Waco siege), Tim McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber) up to the attacks at Christchurch, NZ, the murder of Blaze Bernstein, and we may add the Poway synagogue and the Escondido mosque and El Paso Walmart attacks last year.
My intention is to show that violent themes in theory and events in recent history relating to post- structuralist philosophy, traditional and autonomist marxism and neoreactionary/accelerationism (NRx, L/Acc, R/Acc, U/Acc) are important in order to understand leftist and rightist violence. I am not endorsing the left liberal VOX silly view on accelerationism but there is more to the story.
Just because the Swedish Defence University quite stupidly mentions Nick Land and accelerationism in their report (p. 32 in the Swedish original) on peaceful alt-right debates and violent nationalist attacks, it does not mean that they are totally wrong.
That does not mean that I blame Gilles Deleuze and Nick Land or my fellow Swedish friend Alexander Bard for inciting murders. But it is not enough to shrug one’s shoulders and say that morons are everywhere and if they can’t get radical but nonviolent ideas right, the thinkers are totally innocent. The Gray Prince needs to polish his mirror.
Let’s return to my youth, the 1970s and see what happened in Europe after the riots in Paris 1968 and similar uprisings by frustrated youth.
1972 philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychologist Félix Guattari launched their Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and schizophrenia I, which is central to all later discussions of provoking or accelerating the demise of capitalism:
“But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one? — To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist ‘economic solution’? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to ‘accelerate the process,’ as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.”
In the essay Machinic Desire, the “Deleuzian Thatcherite”, Nick Land expounds their line of thought (and flight):
“Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero contro/…/ Machinic revolution must therefore go in the opposite direction to socialistic regulation; pressing towards ever more inhibited marketization of the processes that are tearing down the social field” (Fanged Noumena, p. 338)
Not just Nietzsche but also Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had the same analysis of the inherent innovative, but also destructive tendencies of capitalism. 1848 they stated that “all that is solid melts into air”, a century later the title of a quite decent book by Marshall Berman. In their Communist Manifesto they hailed their enemies’ productivity:
“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society/./ Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away”.
Nick Land, as a scholarly philosopher (who received me kindly at University of Warwick in the Mid-England town Coventry, UK, 1990 when I searched for places to do graduate studies and also in 1997 at the philosophy departmental Deleuze conference), has laid out the intellectual history of accelerationism..
Back to the bible of 1968, the Anti-Oedipus. The authors cannot refrain from cheering to Napoletani militants, Arab hijackers, consul kidnappers, Black Panthers, stoned hippies, angry gays. Even political enemies may get you hot: “The truth is that sexuality is everywhere; the way the bourgeoise fucks the proletariat” and “Hitler got the fascists sexually aroused”. German sexual revolutionary William Reich was right, and updated by University of Paris VIII at Vincennes philosophy professors Deleuze and Lyotard (who published Libidinal economy 1974, translated by Iain Hamilton Grant, member of CCRU unit with Nick Land, Sadie Plant, Marc Fisher).
At the hip experimental university in the woods of Vincennes outside Paris, which was erected in 1969 to draw radical students off the city centre, Deleuze attracted many students but also marginalized people (although he hated the mentally ill). Inside the halls and corridors, hippies and homeless stayed overnight, loitering and littering to the extent that the buildings were torn down in 1980.
Meanwhile in Sweden: In 1975 the West German embassy in the Swedish capital Stockholm was occupied by left-wing terrorists from the Red Army Fraction (Baader-Meinhof Gang). They took hostages and bombed the building. Four died, among them two terrorists. A dark crime novel by “police professor” Leif G.W. Persson tells the story of a Swedish female socialist minister implicit in the embassy siege. Two year later, in 1977 another terrorist attack in Stockholm was avoided but it was related to the earlier one.
By 1977, revolutionary steam was heating up everywhere in Europe. Left-wing terrorists kidnapped and killed during the “German Autumn” and our dear anti-oedipal thinkers in Paris took sides. In an open letter in Le Monde, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari wrote that the German lawyer Klaus Croissant must not be extradited back to West Germany from where he had fled.
Croissant was the defence lawyer for the Red Army Faction which had many deaths, arsons and robberies on their consciences. Deleuze and Guattari came to his defence, writing that the left may use violence against its enemies (Guattari wanted to even call West Germany a “fascist state” but that notion was not printed). Their friend Michael Foucault did not sign the petition as he abhorred the “terrorism and blood” of the German left-wing militia RAF.
Guattari, always militant and manic, always being on the edge, went to Rome where he was greeted by the extra-parliamentary leftist group Autonomia, squatters and radical radio activists as a fellow revolutionary comrade. This was during the Italian “Years of Lead” that had started in 1969 and which culminated the next year with the kidnapping and killing of Christian Democrat politician Aldo Moro, former PM. The extreme left terrorist group Red Brigades took responsibility..
I remember reading in the Swedish anarchist journal Brand 1977 about a pledge to donate money to the “political prisoners of West Germany”. The list of subscribers must have been photographed by the Swedish secret police.
Deleuze and Guttari devoted a panegyric chapter in their sequel A thousand plateaus: Schizophrenia and capitalism II 1980 to autonomist marxism and their Italian fellow in arms, political science professor Antonio Negri. .
He was by then in prison, accused for supporting the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, but that charge was dropped. Instead he was sentenced to 30 years for participating in two other murders. His group at the time, the anarchic Autonomia Organizzata, had roots in the former leftist group Potere Operia that around 1974 split into two armed groups, Red Brigades and Prima Linea and the house squatting face-painted, often drugged autonomists.
In University of Texas at Austin 1979, professor Harry Cleaver wrote an insightful analysis, Reading Capital politically, of the theory of autonomist marxism or workerism, which had roots back to Socialism ou Barbarie (a French post-Trotskyist libetarian socialist group with members like Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort and J-F Lyotard, connected to Situationism and Autonomia).
Events IRL during 1970s of theoretical importance to postmodern cyber-culture and politics were the conference Schizo-Culture in New York 1975, which Deleuze, Foucault, Guattari and Lyotard attended as well as Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kathy Acker, John Cage among other avant garde artists and thinkers, and Negri’s seminar on Marx’ Grundrisse in Paris with Louis Althusser 1978, which resulted in Negri’s book Marx beyond Marx and later inspired the author of Cyber-Marx.
I translated a petition into Swedish for the release of Negri and published it with ten prominent Swedish signatures the anarcho-syndicalist weekly Arbetaren in 1998. Today I am not so sure of his innocence as an intellectual but as a strong defender of free speech I support his right to talk and write.
That does not mean that he, his deceased French colleagues and the current mavericks Yarvin, Land and their L/Acc, R/Acc, U/Acc, NRx comrades, are without responsibilities. It is not enough to state that one is against violence. Negri knew this and escaped to Guattari’s Paris apartment in the 1980s.
The cyber-culture unit CCRU at University of Warwick, led by Sadie Plant and Nick Land, that was a primer for accelerationism is gone, but eerie misfits with guns and IEDs still roam around, quoting CCRUs pioneers or just Donald Trump. Sad, mad but true.
The publishing house MIT Press issues books from radical UK publisher Urbanomic. In 2014 MIT distributed the anthology #Accelerate. The Accelerationist Reader. On a blurb the MIT Press markets the latest British (Intellectual) Invasion as:
“Accelerationism is the name of a contemporary political heresy: the insistence that the only radical political response to capitalism is not to protest, disrupt, critique, or détourne it, but to accelerate and exacerbate its uprooting, alienating, decoding, abstractive tendencies.”
Who wrote this crap? And why does this Ivy League institution call itself “one of the largest and most distinguished university presses, known for their intellectual daring, scholarly standards, interdisciplinary focus, and distinctive design” ?
It is not hard to interpret the words “to accelerate and exacerbate” as to provoke fear and instige a change with violence. Although I doubt that the perpetrators in Christchurch, El Paso and California claiming legacy to the thoughts from such a fine anthology have read it.
They may have hung out at 4chan where someone else, maybe reading my text as of now, have discussed Patchworks, Lenin, anarchism or just having fun with juvenile delinquents, pimple faced loners and curious grandchildren of Boomers.
Or they had followed my twitter @sjunnedotcom where I spew and spam current populist and radical nationalist views with little curation. I am sure they, unlike Steve Bannon, have not heard of René Guénon. How much heretic views lead to heretic violent actions is not discussed enough in IDW forums, among neoreactionaries/ accelerationists and should not be left to the secret police.
The crucial take from MIT is that they market accelerationism as what security agencies, lone wolves and your average geek understands it to be. None of them care much about caveats about non-violence
There is quite a distance from mellow 1960s institutions of the emerging counter culture of, let’s say Esalen Institute and Naropa (though William Burroughs is a common denominator), over to Vincennes and CCRU to online forums around L/Acc. I understand that the counter culture has evolved since Woodstock and do not expect everybody sitting down humming “Ooom, ooom, shanti, ooom” — as I heard Allen Ginsberg at Columbia hum in 1979. But the opposite, violent alternatives like American Weathermanian or West-German of the Die Rote Armee Fraction, were impasses already then. Let’s not repeat these mistakes.
During the Italian red and black terror in the 1970s, there was a sad joy when the politically opposite terror group bombed and killed. The political far right could point a finger to the far left, which had proven their evil nature with an attack, and vice versa. False flag attacks were prevalent too. Both sides were infected by infiltrators and police agents, even foreign.
I note similar sad smiles in counter-jihadist groups in relation to recent jihadist murders in France. And when Anti-Fa and #BLM riot. And when Charlottesville happened, 2017. Both sides thrive in their mutual tactical understanding and use of terror.
We older Europeans have lived through this before and some of us want to get on to Game B or just have some decent discussions. Already that hope seems too much, if we follow what Western higher education is suppressing, see The Coddling of the American Mind (and Bloom’s classic The Closing of the American Mind)
In this text I have analyzed some recent proposals of imaginary city states and AI solutions, as well as older realized alternatives to live and think outside (Realist — ) capitalism and the state. The earlier ones could be visited and evaluated to a larger degree than the more recent. A stopover in Singapore last year on my way to Australia was not enough to understand if this city state has any resemblance to Yarvin’s Patchworks.
The thrust of my criticism of radical utopias, realized or not, is the ways in which some few people take to arms in order to fight the establishment. I did not write The Cathedral but it is not unrelated.
Violence can never be erased from human interactions. Some unstable or frustrated individuals will find a motive for their violent actions. I am more inclined to lean on scholars Oliver Roy than Gilles Kepel here regarding the islamization of radicalism and the radicalization of islam.
To try to sever all connections between, say the Italian autonomist marxists and West-German left terrorists RAF and thinkers like Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard and Negri, is being naive. Same goes for these thinkers and their contemporary followers and violence, left and right. The responsibility of a particular deadly deed is the perpetrator, of course.
With that said, there are still links that need to be understood by more people than our quite silly intelligence (sic) agencies (if Candace Owens gets an important US’ political office, maybe with the help of Donald Trump, the Swedish Defence University is a joke, as they mention Owens in the their report, page 364).
All loose ends in my rambling thoughts about the relations of NRx, Land, Noys et al to violence are for readers to criticize and continue to develop at places like The Stoa and The Portal. Read Justin Murphy’s Based Deleuze too. I, and good people like Andrew Sweeny, may have started what needs to be done, a decent discussion about how to imagine and build an Intellectual Renaissance, not a Revolution.
I dedicate this writing to the memory of Mark Fisher (1968–2017)
By Jan Sjunnesson, Stockholm, Sweden, Nov 13, 2020
Jan Sjunnesson holds an MA in philosophy and MSc in education, a teaching diploma in adult folk education, worked as a journalist, teacher trainer, principal, think tank manager in India and has written 11 books, fiction and nonfiction. His blog www.sjunne.com