Critiques of nihilist communism?

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KriegPhilosophy
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Apr 29 2012 20:07
Critiques of nihilist communism?

Apart from the fact that it seems incredibly Puritan. Does anyone have any strong critiques they are willing to share?

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Apr 29 2012 20:45

I've always just seen it as taking some of left communism to a ridiculous point, where the implicit principles of doing nothing but writing commentary on what others are doing become explicit.

I haven't read the book, though, primarily because that is my impression.

jameswalsh
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Apr 29 2012 21:03

Doesn't sound any fun. And they don't believe in anything- that is always in communistic supply levels I think your find.

Isn't it covered in this?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118715/

bzfgt
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Apr 29 2012 21:03

Puritan in what sense?

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Apr 29 2012 21:20
KriegPhilosophy wrote:
Apart from the fact that it seems incredibly Puritan. Does anyone have any strong critiques they are willing to share?

Nihilists wrote:
We believe in nothing, Lebowski. Nothing. And tomorrow we come back and we cut off your chonson.
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Apr 29 2012 21:42

The problem with critiquing 'nihilist communism' is that it's generally a provocative self-label and not much more.

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Apr 29 2012 22:09

I find it an exceptionally useful thinking tool and recommend the eponymous book. Or if you want to just dip your toe, then the dupont articles scattered around the web are a good start both in the Letters journal or on Mute magazine (tell me if you can't find them). The duo split later and only one of them writes these days. He's softened his absolutist position somewhat and the other book Species Being is considerably more positive.

The main thrust of nicom is that there's nothing that us 'lefties' can do to usher the revolution, so all we can do is wait for it to happen spontaneously due to the collapse of capitalism and perhaps try to influence whatever comes next for it to be communism or communist-like in some regard. That's where the nihil part comes from, i.e. that there's nothing we can do to bring it about quicker. Of course the problem here is we're human beings with very very short lifespans and there is the real possibility that we may not be alive by the time these apocalyptic times (as in change, not destruction of the world) come around which makes all our efforts even more futile.

I really wish people stopped posting the Lebowski stuff as it's disingenuous (you know that nicom is not about that type of nihilism) and it fails to engage with the question. It's a bit like calling all green anarchists wackos who want to be cavemen or something. Libcom is better than that.

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Apr 29 2012 22:18

By your description, I don't think it really deserves much thought or consideration at all. Seems like religious millenialism to me. I'm not sure I buy that the proletariat has some inherent communist seed in itself, which will emerge if the conditions become ripe. That doesn't mean that I think that its required that 'pro-revolutionaries' come in and educate though. I mean, looking at history and the various almost revolutions, it seems a big reason they happened was because of intergenerational organizing and agitation that spanned decades. Is there anything that is truly spontanous?

I don't know who wrote it, but this sentiment seems to come from someone who was involved in struggles that were defeated, and this the conclusions they came to within that depressing context. Not sure its worth reading into more than that.

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Apr 29 2012 22:47
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
I really wish people stopped posting the Lebowski stuff as it's disingenuous (you know that nicom is not about that type of nihilism) and it fails to engage with the question.

First, the nihilists in the band Autobahn are a million times more lucid than the nihilists who post on libcom.

Secondly, those latter passive-aggressive nihilists are about the most humorless bunch that's ever existed. It's like you all can't produce dopamine any more and have regressed into anhedonia.

Lastly, Juan hit the nail on the head. How is "wait[ing] for it to happen spontaneously" any different from religious millenarians waiting for the second coming?

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Apr 29 2012 23:28
Juan Conatz wrote:
Seems like religious millenialism to me. I'm not sure I buy that the proletariat has some inherent communist seed in itself, which will emerge if the conditions become ripe. That doesn't mean that I think that its required that 'pro-revolutionaries' come in and educate though. I mean, looking at history and the various almost revolutions, it seems a big reason they happened was because of intergenerational organizing and agitation that spanned decades. Is there anything that is truly spontanous?

Nicom doesn't express any sentiment that communism will triumph in the end, but rather that revolutions will happen and capitalism will end - communism may or may not occur in that situation.
One of the often repeated statements in nicom is that the nihilism comes from the fact that there's nothing that leftist orgs can do to usher this revolution and that it's not guaranteed that communism will triumph at all. And of course, nothing is spontaneous since all this is in the human sphere so based on social interactions at all levels. But what they say or advocate is that the pro-revolutionaries are as much part of the existing order as the oppressors. That our role also allows this to exist and to keep it going and being bearable to its detractors and also teaching our rulers how to change and mutate to accommodate organic (your spontaneous) reactions. In a way, we can't see what's around the corner because we're still on this side of the revolution and are part of it.
I understand that the provocative element to the texts is off-putting to people who take their rev activity really seriously and who think it really matters. The authors of nicom say they spent years involved in rev activity around the UK and they saw no lasting change, no increased class consciousness, no increase in numbers of pro-rev people, etc. I'm in the same boat as they are, but I come to libcom, don't I? And the nicom authors keep writing and engaging with local issues (or so they say in the later texts). So what does that say?

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Apr 29 2012 23:30
Hieronymous wrote:
How is "wait[ing] for it to happen spontaneously" any different from religious millenarians waiting for the second coming?

How is doing the same thing over and over again and not seeing any change or increased class consciousness or increase in rank and file of rev orgs or any relevant results any different from doing nothing? At least the not doing anything option leaves you time to enjoy life outside.

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Apr 29 2012 23:38

Whatever one might say about him, I thought Bob Black's review in Anarchy Magazine was a fine overview of Nihcom's ridiculousness.

I'll admit I have considerable contempt for the nihcom folks - I feel like they've raised passive aggressive whining to new heights as well as engaging in a variety of disingenuous stunts. That said, I can see how some people would find them interesting. The thing is that I don't think the interesting parts of nihcom are original to them but more or less come out of Situationist, other left-communist positions or whatever. One might say that the Situationists themselves were perhaps similarly unoriginal. Sure, but the Situationists et. al had a practice that related to changing the world. The nihcom folks mainly seem oriented towards getting attention.

Nihcom is a cleverage packaging of ideas. But I congratulate someone for producing such a clever packaging if it serves a purpose I'm sympathetic with. In Nihcom's case, it doesn't.

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Apr 30 2012 00:05
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
How is doing the same thing over and over again and not seeing any change or increased class consciousness or increase in rank and file of rev orgs or any relevant results any different from doing nothing?

Speak for yourself. I've seen class consciousness rise exponentially during struggles. Sure, it dips down again, but these "collective memories" stay with people -- who are often the first to act in the next round, often being self-critically able to overcome past mistakes. .

And what's with the organizational fetish? If I didn't know any better, I'd say you and your lot were latent Trots.

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Apr 30 2012 00:40

The 'core' of nihilist communism as described above doesn't particularly sound any different than ideas held by individuals and organizations coming from the revolutionary left (the swathe called 'libertarian communists', 'libertarian marxists', 'left communists', 'councilists', 'anarcho-syndicalists', etc)- that the practice of revolutionary organizations and individuals will not 'start' then bring about a working-class revolution and communism.

So their main difference is that the above mentioned tendencies/categories of revolutionary minded folks believe that revolutionaries and militants should organize themselves in non-revolutionary or pre-revolutionary times, while nihilist communists do not believe such organization makes a difference until the proletariat has begun to move?

I'm not familiar with much of 'nicom'/'nihcom', aside from a couple articles or tiny mentions, so if there are ridiculous aspects to their followers or particular ideas or history, I'm ignorant of them, and would like to see an actual concise version of whether my question above is a legitimate one to ask or not.

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Apr 30 2012 00:43

One might say that the Situationists themselves were perhaps similarly unoriginal. Sure, but the Situationists et. al had a practice that related to changing the world.

Communist forms are never completly oringinal- if it's going to be communistic it will try and reflect human nature and need. But the Situationists knew what the point was unlike some it seems.

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Apr 30 2012 01:37

I was talking about the book rather than the tendency.

bzfgt wrote:
Puritan in what sense?

As in it views political organising as simply accumulation nothing else. I think it's a brilliant book mind you if you want to get total class view of things. For instance I now view the whole of existence to be dominated by the reality that is capitalism as in now I think that capitalism has existed ever since the human species developed pottery and agriculture the first examples of accumulation. Meaning that my whole physical and psychological reality is simply a product of a very backward way of doing things.

Which is why I ask for a solid critique.

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Apr 30 2012 02:50
KriegPhilosophy wrote:
I now view the whole of existence to be dominated by the reality that is capitalism as in now I think that capitalism has existed ever since the human species developed pottery and agriculture the first examples of accumulation. Meaning that my whole physical and psychological reality is simply a product of a very backward way of doing things..

But this isn't capitalism...it's not even historically (let alone theoretically) correct.....

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Apr 30 2012 03:55
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
Nicom doesn't express any sentiment that communism will triumph in the end, but rather that revolutions will happen and capitalism will end - communism may or may not occur in that situation.

Well, I didn't say that. I said 'if the conditions are ripe'.

Quote:
One of the often repeated statements in nicom is that the nihilism comes from the fact that there's nothing that leftist orgs can do to usher this revolution and that it's not guaranteed that communism will triumph at all.

Well the latter is not original and pretty much agreed by everyone. No one knows what direction things will go even in defensive times, much less offensive times.

And the former is just out of place with history. Has there ever been a time or instance that a near revolution happened without preceding efforts by countless organizers and agitators? I doubt there is even a couple examples.

Quote:
And of course, nothing is spontaneous since all this is in the human sphere so based on social interactions at all levels.

I think you know exactly what I meant by 'spontaneous' and it certainly wasn't that.

Quote:
But what they say or advocate is that the pro-revolutionaries are as much part of the existing order as the oppressors. That our role also allows this to exist and to keep it going and being bearable to its detractors and also teaching our rulers how to change and mutate to accommodate organic (your spontaneous) reactions. In a way, we can't see what's around the corner because we're still on this side of the revolution and are part of it.

Those are grand and vague statements that paint a broad brush over a swath of different activities.

Quote:
I understand that the provocative element to the texts is off-putting to people who take their rev activity really seriously and who think it really matters. The authors of nicom say they spent years involved in rev activity around the UK and they saw no lasting change, no increased class consciousness, no increase in numbers of pro-rev people, etc. I'm in the same boat as they are, but I come to libcom, don't I? And the nicom authors keep writing and engaging with local issues (or so they say in the later texts). So what does that say?

While they say that all 'pro-revolutionary' activity is useless or even counterproductive, that is exactly what they are doing, but on a smaller scale. Their intervention is towards the handful that communists that exist. It is activity and it is done with a purpose. Why bother? Seems like a glaring contradiction and not really different from others in different eras, who after facing defeat, go headfirst into inter-milieu manifestos on what went wrong and what we should do different. (see: Platformism, Spanish anarchists bickering with each other post-WW2).

They are also the flipside of the various saviors with blueprints who say exactly how things are gonna go down. But instead of the positive path of A to B, which is rightly rejected by most nowadays, they say the opposite. Their blueprint is entirely negative. I think this blueprint of the future or what is likely should also be rejected.

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Apr 30 2012 04:08
Juan Conatz wrote:
And the former is just out of place with history. Has there ever been a time or instance that a near revolution happened without preceding efforts by countless organizers and agitators? I doubt there is even a couple examples.

Really? I suppose it depends on how you define preceding and near-revolution. But off the top of my head I can't think of any post-WW2 major class struggles that have had long organisational build-ups like Russia or Spain did.

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Apr 30 2012 04:12

Really? I mean even May '68 had the presence (however counterrevolutionary they ended up being) of large CP's and affiliated trade unions, along with countless other groups that were active in the university and workplaces.. Same thing with Italy. Can one honestly say that their existence had no contributing factor at all? I don't buy that.

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Apr 30 2012 07:43
Juan Conatz wrote:
And the former is just out of place with history. Has there ever been a time or instance that a near revolution happened without preceding efforts by countless organizers and agitators? I doubt there is even a couple examples.
Juan Conatz wrote:
Really? I mean even May '68 had the presence (however counterrevolutionary they ended up being) of large CP's and affiliated trade unions, along with countless other groups that were active in the university and workplaces.. Same thing with Italy. Can one honestly say that their existence had no contributing factor at all? I don't buy that.

Now wait a second. Your first quote suggests the active efforts of leftists. May '68 though, wasn't an active effort of leftists, just something where they were part of the context. That seems a lot different.

I would say that any society where a revolutionary ferment appears will very likely involve the left appearing in some form. This doesn't say that this left wouldn't give up everything else if it meant suppressing revolution. Certainly, the European Stalinist parties showed this over and over again.

Still, I'm not "agreeing" with Nihcom, because their rendition of any similar position has an absolutist crappiness which auto-discredits their arguments.

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Apr 30 2012 08:13

So May '68 had no involvement from workplace and university militants (many linked to various left and ultraleft parties and groups) previously involved in struggle and actively involved in organizing and agitating? And that this wasn't contributing factor to what happened?

The nicom argument seems to say these militants can do nothing for revolution, not that they cannot be the primary reasons for revolution. I am not argueing they can be the primary reasons, I am simply contesting the nothing part and how this doesn't reflect any version of history I'm aware of. Unless, history is irrelevant and we are in a completely new era, in which case, that position would need further justification.

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Apr 30 2012 09:09
Hieronymous wrote:
Speak for yourself. I've seen class consciousness rise exponentially during struggles. Sure, it dips down again, but these "collective memories" stay with people -- who are often the first to act in the next round, often being self-critically able to overcome past mistakes. .

And what's with the organizational fetish? If I didn't know any better, I'd say you and your lot were latent Trots.

Yes, I speak for myself and you speak for yourself which is what you did just now.

I don't consider myself a nicom but felt the need to come on this thread as just posting animated gifs and making jokes is not the way to discuss things here. In fact, that kind of reply is what's been criticized by many new posters before - condescending, not engaging with the initial question, dismissive, etc.

IIRC, the nicom authors were either in the SWP or a similar group and their critique is mainly of the failure of those groups to raise numbers, consciousness or otherwise obtain measurable results by any method.

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Apr 30 2012 09:14
RedHughs wrote:
Still, I'm not "agreeing" with Nihcom, because their rendition of any similar position has an absolutist crappiness which auto-discredits their arguments.

I'm not sure anybody agrees or has to agree with nicom. Certainly it'd be ridiculous to be a nicom, in the same way that it's ridiculous or impossible to be a true nihilist. In the latter one's path can only lead to suicide and in the former it can only lead to a total disengagement from politics which will of course mean that no nicom books are written at all negating its very existence! That's why I mentioned in my first post reply that I found it to be a good critical thinking tool and that I still 'did political'.

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Apr 30 2012 09:15
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
IIRC, the nicom authors were either in the SWP or a similar group and their critique is mainly of the failure of those groups to raise numbers, consciousness or otherwise obtain measurable results by any method.

I thought they were in Afed and before that various libcom groups in the 80s?

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Apr 30 2012 09:30
Juan Conatz wrote:
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
IIRC, the nicom authors were either in the SWP or a similar group and their critique is mainly of the failure of those groups to raise numbers, consciousness or otherwise obtain measurable results by any method.

I thought they were in Afed and before that various libcom groups in the 80s?

Juan is right. I know one of them. He was in what was then called the Anarchist Communist Federation, and is now the AF. He was not in anything before except for a local anarchist group if I remember correctly.

Devrim

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Apr 30 2012 09:43

Thanks for the info.

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Apr 30 2012 15:06
devoration1 wrote:
The 'core' of nihilist communism as described above doesn't particularly sound any different than ideas held by individuals and organizations coming from the revolutionary left (the swathe called 'libertarian communists', 'libertarian marxists', 'left communists', 'councilists', 'anarcho-syndicalists', etc)- that the practice of revolutionary organizations and individuals will not 'start' then bring about a working-class revolution and communism.

So their main difference is that the above mentioned tendencies/categories of revolutionary minded folks believe that revolutionaries and militants should organize themselves in non-revolutionary or pre-revolutionary times, while nihilist communists do not believe such organization makes a difference until the proletariat has begun to move?

I'm not familiar with much of 'nicom'/'nihcom', aside from a couple articles or tiny mentions, so if there are ridiculous aspects to their followers or particular ideas or history, I'm ignorant of them, and would like to see an actual concise version of whether my question above is a legitimate one to ask or not.

This. I guess that conclusion probably leaves some on here a bit uncomfortable.

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Apr 30 2012 15:56

It depends what you mean by "make a difference". Certainly the activity of revolutionaries and militants changes the course of history constantly, without necessarily bringing "that glorious day" any closer.

Had the anarchists not intervened in the Poll Tax movement, for e.g., it would have remained a Militant front to get "Independent Labour" councillors elected. There would have never been a mass non-payment movement of 14 million households refusing to pay the tax, the riots, the fall of Thatcher, etc. If the then anarchist movement of 1988 (which was when we started in England & Wales, the Scottish comrades were a year earlier, and in fact won the most important battle over non-payment, pretty much on their own) had decided that political activity was all pointless and bird-watching was a more appropriate activity (the nicom line) none of that would have happened. Reforms are not won by the victories of reformists, but by the defeats of revolutionaries (see also, kicking racism out of football, which despite the revisionist history, the actual initial spadework was done by volunteer militant anti-racist and anti-fascist activists, again many of whom being anarchists). So you tell me, who are the real losers? The ones who try and fail, but in the process make the world a better place for ordinary workers? Or the ones who say, best not to try at all, so as to never have to defend their fragile ego from the possibility of not winning every time? The way of the warrior or the way of the wanker? - you pays yer money and you takes yer choice...

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Apr 30 2012 16:18

ocelot, I'd be interested to know more about the impact of the anarchists in the Poll Tax movement. As for kicking racism out of football it's besides the point, as revisionist or not that doesn't move us closer or further from communism (a trade-off between kicking fascists and increased legislation over leisure activities).
***putting my nicom hat on for the sake of assuming a critical POV***
Certainly both examples you mentioned fall into what I mention when I wrote "(...) our role also allows this to exist and to keep it going and being bearable to its detractors and also teaching our rulers how to change and mutate to accommodate organic (your spontaneous) reactions."
Or in other words, the outcome of the Poll Tax movement and the kick racism out of football, while good for the working class involved in that precise time and place, helped diffuse the tensions that existed and improve the system. A small injection of virus that taught the system how to deal with viruses in the future. And hasn't it done a good job since then? If smiling Tony Blair as a labour PM wasn't a sign of an improved oppressive system, then I don't know what is.
Feel free to call me, or the nicom authors, wankers at this point but anarchism can only live and improve if it doesn't become an ideology and for that to happen it needs to be challenged and fought over even as ideals.

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Apr 30 2012 16:37
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
ocelot, I'd be interested to know more about the impact of the anarchists in the Poll Tax movement.

A local anarchist gave a talk on the Poll tax at the Edinburgh Class Struggle Day School a couple of years ago. There's a recording of the event here.
http://archive.org/details/TalksFromTheClassStruggleDayschoolEdinburgh20-11-2010