Submitted by TheTedKArchive in anticiv (edited )
Newly archived PDF and OCR conversion of an old Wolfi Landstreicher essay that could use error correcting. Click the post title for the PDF or if you fancy helping error correct it as you read, click both the PDF and this link below:
Fixed Ideas and Letter Bombs
Formerly Feral Faun critiques FC's Industrial Society & Its Future as ideology
- Leftism: a Neurotic Response to a Psychotic Society (Fc’s Theses 1-32)
- Fixed Idea #1: The Power Process (FC’s Theses 33- 98)
- FC’s Description of Industrial-Technological Society (FC’s Thesis 99-160)
- FC's Fixed Idea #2: The Revolution Against the Industrial-Technological System (FC’s Theses 161-232)
- Afterword: Some Thoughts on Violence
Unfortunately, the response of american anarchists to the 'unabomber' (hereafter, FC1) has mostly been one of knee-jerk disavowal verging on reactionary hysteria. It seems these anarchists fear for their good reputation by which they plan to convert the masses to anarchism. So there has not yet been an actual critical response from an anarchist perspective to FC s tract Industrial Society & Its Future. Since FC claim to be anarchists (defining this in terms of favouring self-determination for individuals and small groups over the domination of large scale systems over our lives) and have involved themselves in doing something (whatever problems we have with their tactics), this non-response is absurd. Industrial Society & Its Future is an attempt to deal with some significant questions often ignored or dealt with by sloganeering in the anarchist press. FC's statement has many faults, often is shallow and inadequate to the challenge it is attempting to meet. This stems from a lack of thorough social analysis, reliance on concepts which seem to come from pop psychology and adherence to fixed ideas (a fixed idea is a thought or idea that dominates the thinker, causing her to channel all thinking and analysis through that one idea, e.g. for the religious, god is a fixed idea, for the patriot, the country). FC correctly sees that the industrial tot domination, but miss the fact that complex social system which needs to be attacked in its totality. But let’s examine FC’s theses.
Leftism: a Neurotic Response to a Psychotic Society (Fc’s Theses 1-32)
FCs tract strangely begins with several pages critical of leftism Stringer still this criticism relies completely on psychology (and that of a rather crude pop[-] form) FC use this as n basis, later on. for a more general description of the psychology of people under the industrials system.
FC see leftism as having a psychological basis in ’feelings of inferiority'’ and 'ovcrsocialisation'. Modem amencan leftism is certainly based in what Mux Sinner called ragamuffinism and Nietzsche called ressentiment" Some recent anarchist writings have referred to it as the ’’ideology of victimisin' This ideology does seem to reftecl and promote feelings of inferiority, but FC seems to be, unfamiliar with these ideas and adopt instead a methodology reminiscent of pop psychology in their critique Fortunately for FC, leftists are apparently so afraid of any sort of criticism, that they could only respond to FC’s inadequate criticism with hysterical yammering.
FC are correct in saying that most amencan leftists come from middle or upper-class buckgrounds But FC miss what may be the most significant aspects of thia in terms of the psychology of leftism namely, that manv leftists believe Ural they are privileged, that they have an excess of social power, and they lied guilty about this. In a very Christum, messianic manner, thry "give themselves" to those who - according to their ideology - have received the short schnft from society This guilt and secular chnstianist activism explain the leftist masochism, self-sacrificc and dogmatism quite well Recognising the religiosity of leftism, we cun sec that it cun be compassionate, morally based and hostile all al once just like Christianity which compassionately and morally instituted pogroms, technological system is a system ol it is an integral part of a more to be attacked in its totality But inquisitions. wars and genocide against heretics and non-believers.
FC's attempts to interpret every aspect of the leftist’s life in terms of a pop psychology inferiority complex severely weakens the argument leftists, like nearly every one else in this society, lead very compartmentalised lives. I have known leftists who seem to like the blues or world beast music because they imagine such music is a way to gel in touch with the feelings of black or thud world people Thus to the extent that leftism affects the art preferences of the leftist*it does not seem Io be in the direction of embracing defeat or irrationalism, but of trying to get in touch with' other cultures this is absurd and merely reinforces the commodification of these cultures but it does not. in itself, indicate inferiority feelings.
Certainly, leftists spend far too much time trying to prove the equality of oppressed groups and demanding that it be granted bv the state, but this does not so much prove the inferiority need to develop analyses of society and the left’s role therein thut go far deeper feelings of leftists as their adherence to relying on authority It is the leftist belief m a democratic social order — which is to say, a structure of democratic authority - which causes them to embrace vic t must tc ideology, an ideology which begs those in power to grant equality’, ’rights’, 'justice , etc This practise of constantly begging for what one wants (particularly when those wants have been transformed into abstractions which one can never sue accomplished) inevitably makes one feel weak and incapable — and so inferior. Leftist activists promote this form of radicalism because it guarantees their role within the present social structures When women, gays, blacks, etc., start taking their lives as their own as individuals, it brings them into conflict equally with leftist ideologues and with society, precisely because they are no longer begging and so no longer need lire leftists Io beg for them.
FC's concept of “oversocialization" also proves to be inadequate because it depends on psychology rather than an analysis of the social role of the leftist. Leftism is a form of liberal democratic / humanist politics - that is, it is part of the political system to which the rise of capitalism and the industrial system gave birth So it is no surprise that leftists subscribe to the ’’liberty, equality, fraternity’' which are the shibboleths of such politics But the totality of the social system is far more complex and irrational than FC dunk. The real values of (his system, the ones for which it sacrifices all others, can be summed up rather simplistically as follows (I) the expansion of capital; (2) efficiency in production. (3) increasing social control in the daily lives of individuals to guarantee the first two Beyond these fundamentals, die social system is quite irrational and full of contradictions Thus, the social structure is both anti-racist and racist us each of this tendencies max under different circumstances better serve the above-mentioned values (and. of course, aspects of earlier social structures do not disappear overnight) The same can be said about sexism / anti-sexism, violence / non-violence, war / peace, etc. Leftists arc no more or less " oversocialization” than conservatives, moderates or most radicals Leftists believe that the social system can be rationalised, that Us contradictions can lie removed without destroying the system as a whole So they try to convince the authorities to abolish sexism, racism, violence, war - without realising that, within this social system, these arc a necessary pan of the same mechanism of control of which anti-sexism, anti- racism, non-violence and peace arc a pan - the one side needs the other, just as the right needs the left and vice versa.
I do not deny the neuroses of leftism as evidenced in its guilt, masochism and moral stridency But if we want to make an intelligent attack on the social system - as FC apparently does – we than FCs pop psychology.
Fixed Idea #1: The Power Process (FC’s Theses 33- 98)
The first major fixed idea that dominates FC’s thoughts is 'the power process’’ This idea seems to form the basis of most of FC’s analysis, and that's too bad because it's a (flawed idea - |>op psychology reminiscent of 70 s management strategies and self- help books FC describes the power process ‘Everyone needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort. and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of these goals But do I need goals? No, I need or want specific dungs Some effort is inherently involved in getting these things and, of course, 1 will be happier if 1 do get diem and if I determine how I get them But to transform tins need for actual dungs into an abstract need for goals, effort and attainment which are simply words dial can be used to describe how one gels what one needs, and then to base an analysis of the present social system on this abstraction is absurd I have goals simply because I need or want specific things, but I do not need goals -- so I not need a 'power process”
The ‘power process ' is a psychological model and. like all such models, springs from and is only useful within u specific social context The ‘Oedipus complex’ was a model developed in Victorian Europe which worked well for explaining much of the sexual psychology of victorian Europe over time il has pruned less and less useful and is now used only by die-hard Freudians It has no applicability to ancient Romans, Hopi Indians. Mbute pygmies, medieval English peasants, etc. The “power process' assuming it has any application outside of pop psychology would also have to be understood in terms of a specific social context FC’s attempt to universalize it leads to a sloppy understanding of history and anthropology.
FC's anthropology is about 30 years behind the lunes FC socm to assume that primitive people needed to spent most of their time and energy satisfying biological needs It has been pretty well established that even in harsh environments. the amount of time primitive people spent m activities which provided their basic needs is about one quarter of the amount of time spent by the average person in industrial society at work In other words, primitive people got the things they wanted with less effort than most of us expend to get what we want In fact since there was no lime schedule which they had to follow to perform these activities, so they could he done whenever «ine pleased (except in emergencies), it can be argued thast primitive societies were societies of total 'leisure With the nse of agriculture and cities about iO.tXK) yeasrs ago. the new technological sy stem doubled the amount of time that those who used it had to spend m meeting their basic needs and placed this activity on a *tnct seasonal time schedule — this could be considered the origin of work Industnal technologs drasticallv increased both the amount of work tiime and the ngidits of scheduling necessan f<» work So most people in our society find themselves so exhausted bv activities not of their own making that in what little leisure time thev have they often chooac to vegetate through passive entertainment This problem is ahenatum EC are not completely unaware of thu in otu society people do rau satisfi their biokvgical needs AUTONOMOUSLY, but by functioning ax parts of an immense social machine.
Alienation is not merely a psychological problem. Often the most alienated people arc the m»»st adjusted to their alienation Alienation is the realm of a social system m which our Ines, our activities and our interactions arc not our own to create as we choose, but haw been made for us in such a way that we become the pretpertv of society I he wav s oJ fulfilling our needs and.wants become ven convoluted and indirect, like a Rube Goldberg machine — but it isn i comical I want ftxxL shelter, a few things in give me pleasure So I travel — In car or public transit iwhich have bcawne another necessity I -- to a place where I spend eight hours — not masking niv own food »w shelter or phivihtngs — Inil maybe 'hullling papers ar welding paru to parts or serving food tn ■trangas .v sitting tn front of a computet processing information that means nothing to me 1 do not do these things because they give me am pleasure — usually thev arc miserably tedious tasks In themselves, these tasks serve no purpose for me, they serve the purpose of the boss or corporation for which I do these tasks and they serve the purposes of the social system – in other words, they serve purposes alien to me. What I get for giving up so much of my life to serve an alien cause is money. So after work. I have to go out to the shops with the money I got from working to get food, clothing and pleasure items I want - vince n is as compulsory as a job. thi> chopping time should also be c» Hinted as w ork tunc — and J must pay rent to a land-lord or mortgsage to a hank fdor shelter In fact, with the cxceptnwi of a few who refuse, most people sacrifice most of iheir lives to huv survival and a few plastic trinkets Here there is a goal, an eflart of (he most horrendous sort and the attainment of liasic necessities — but there is no life, not one that is mv own. The technological system is an essential part of this ahenasuon but not the totality A complex social system incorporating work. technology, capital, authmtv. ideology (including religion) and w on. all of which are integrally mien ui this is what turns our Ines into mere resources for society And it must be attacked in its totality bv those of us who want to take hack our lives.
FC’s “power process” seems to me to have a meagre, palijctic view of the world as a constant struggle for -•unival This may well indicate the meagre, sdngv social context from which it springs — for the present era certamh is that But such meagreness will never get us out of tins mess That will take something strong and lively, something so certain of its abundance Oiat it has no fear of squarxiering Stimer speaks of such a thing calling it one s “own might the might of which one makes «me s life one s own. and so cornm u» have an excess of lie — and it is this, rnv lite as mv own, and n«A “the freedom to go tlirough the power process' . that I want
FCs reliance on tiieir fixed idea, the power process’ makes for very (xior — and. in my opinion dangerous — social unahsiA I have already punted out the fallacies this has caused in FC's understanding of primitive societies and the acquisition of necessities in industrial sucictv But I C take these lallacics further Wc II leave aside such minor absurdities as FC s a tin but ion of a lack of interest in having children to a durupb«) of the pnver process Ihe danger of FC’s use of the power pr<xxss as a basis for social analysis become- evident when it is applied to science I or FC science is essentially a tunogaie activity Scientists get involved in order to "go through the power pruccvs . <m*J xkikz is eniphaMis added
obedient only to thepiytluiloyical needs of the scientists and of Ilir govurrunent official* and corporation executives who provide the funds lor research.
If only it were that simple, but science is rn»i just a surrogate activity to help a few people meet their psychological needs Science i> an integral part of the social svstem under which we live, an ideological and practical tool for the maintenance and expansion of that social svstem It is this goal to which science is Hindis obedient, and for the oiciul s\ stem, science is not a surrogate acinny. but u necessary component for its survival Whatever psychological lultillmcnt science mass provide to its ITHClitioiKTs is simply, like the paxcheck part of the bribe necc'san to make people willing to serve the needs of socieh m this wav.
FC are obvmuslv aware of the svstemic nature at least of industrial technology (even though they don't make the tuai to the social system as a whole), yet (hey are so fixated on their pop psychology concept of the power pnxccss that they develop tunnel vision and interpret everything through this faulty idea So then end up lacking a clear analysis of society This fixation <m the power process causes FC to describe ihmgs as universal problems which are only problems within this prcseni social context because of the necessary contradictions of this society Ihus. transexuahty among American the tribes m which it occured accepted it without censure If FC were to study sexual anthrojxjlogy thev would discover that many sexual practise which are considered perverted by our society are pcascticed by masny frumtivc people without the stigma of jiervcTxion and so were no problem Such aclivities l>ecome prHilcmauc in this society because sexuality is most useful to it when repressed and promoted at the same lime — transforming n into a hard-to-get commodity and into an identity Thus, the problematic nature of sexuality stems not from a disruption of thr power process' as FC would have it, but from its commodificatHMi Such separahon of sexuality from life is rarely a problem in primitive cultures
FC define freedom^ as The opportunity t<» go through the power jxocexs ' The only freedom I consider lo be worth pursuing is that my life he mv own to determine fruit nn interactions be my own to create, that rm iiclfienjuvmcnl be central to liow I Ine my life FC may try to claim that (hi* is uh/it tlsc 'power pfoyeM” is. but (heir own use of the (erm proves otherwise It is a fixed idea through which to interpret the world and w hich one should sacrifice oneself The desire for self-determination and scif-cnjoymcni will move me to fight for inysclf and possibly even to sacrifice vane ihtnys. but J will sacrifice them lo mysrlf and will never sacrifice myself Itoi adherence to a fixed idea (such as the power process ) moves one to tight for the CAUSE, to sacrifice oneself to the CAUSE As I will show, EC call tor just such self-sacrifice, showing that the |x»wcr process’ lias nothing to do with making one's life one’s own. but is a fixed idea to be served
FC’s Description of Industrial-Technological Society (FC’s Thesis 99-160)
having laid the groundwork with tie fixed idea of the “power process” FC now present their “analysis” (more a description) of industrial-technological society FC introduce this part of their essay with five principles of history. As with most radicals for whom “history " is a central concept, they refrain from defining it. I find the five principles to be useless abstractions. Thev arc concerned with vast social trends and express only the most banal generalities about these trends. The only positive thing I have to say on it is that they would lead anyone who desires individual self-detcmunation to conclusion that they must destroy society itself. But FC use these principles as dogmas by which thev interpret industrial society. Nonetheless, this is the best section of FC’s essay Their descriptions of this society are often accurate, though their interpretations are fcrquentlv shallow and poorly thopught out because of Ihor dqjendence on fixed ideas and dogma
FC rightly recognise that the industnal-technological system w .tot compatible with self-determination, dial it must, out of inhcreo! necessity, rcgulaste people s lives and thasi tlie level of regulation must increa.se as the system expands, but FC do not recognise that this is true exif the system as an integrated whole — including its political, cultural and ideological institutions. The whole is beyond reform and revolt against the totality is necessary - which means thast attacks against any part of the social sy stem can be worthwhile as long us they are aimed at taking back one's life In the same light just as g<xxl and 'bud’ ports of leduxjlogy cannot bv sejjcraicd. neither can good' and ‘had’ parts of civilisation as a whole.
Throughout this section. FC describe many horrbic aspects potentiuh of industrial technology, but provides no social analysis, no recognition that there is an entire social context which creates this technology One is left to wonder of FC think social context has any significance Several times, ihcy bring up their bchefin the genetic basis of human behaviour as if it were proven fact Stphcn Jay Gould has effectively argued that this is an unproven hvp»<ficMs which does nol explain human bchavuxir very well In any case I wonder if FC's reliance on psyetiological models might mot stem from their aiiltcrcncc to geneticism It certainly impoverishes FC’s argument by causing them to ignore the social syy stern of which technology is an integral part making their argument inadequate and unconvincing in many wavs And it leads FC to propose a revolutionary strategy that is self- sacrificial and. furthermore, absurd.
FC's Fixed Idea #2: The Revolution Against the Industrial-Technological System (FC’s Theses 161-232)
I oppose not the industrial technology, but technology and civilisation tn their totality. So why do I call FC’s revolution against industrial technology a fixed idea? Because my opposition to civilisation is based on a recognition that civilisation as a system of social relationships makes mv life and mv uxctivities alien to me, so that they are not my own, but arc molds into which I am to try u to fit I would never willingly sacrifice mvself lor the destruction of civilisation Rather I try to destroy this system for myself as a way of taking back my life. For FC,
the destruction of [the industrial) svstem must be the revolutionaries ONLY goal no other goal can be allowed to compete w ith that one
So I am to be second to the goal of destroying industnasl technology Haviong a goasl for which one is w illing to sacrifice oneself changes the nature of the battle against the sociasl system FC’s strategics, aside from being frequently absurd, are also strategics on an immense scale One almost gels the impression that FC expect to convert u large number of people to their cause who will then be willing to participate in a unified revolution Since FC make comparisons to the French and Russian revolutions, it seems that this is then model for icvolution. sufficiently modified for use against industnal (cclinology But both of these revolutions actual moved in the opposite direction to thst which FC calls for Each created modem states which msde transition to an industrial system easier 1 would argue that a unified rcvolutiion of the sort for which FC call can most likely only lead to the creation of a unified system, nol to the destruction of one If the goal is individual self-determination, then the struggle must start from the individual who united only us one chooses with whom one fights.
[reached the character limit for raddle]
You website doesn't believe I'm human when I tell it to go fuck itself.
So AI is telling me I'm inhuman, so I'll just sit an stare at my screen.