I just checked the stats. Red Liberty is surprisingly about as popular now as it was when it was active, even though I haven’t updated the blog in nearly a year. I feel I owe the readers something of an explanation here for my absence, some indication as to my current opinions, and a statement formalizing the end of Red Liberty as this will be my last post. I also intend to shut down the clearnet version of Red Liberty and delete its Facebook page. Red Liberty will continue to exist on its darknet mirrors; Freenet and ZeroNet, perhaps I2P and Tor also. I will give reasons for this below.
I started this blog pseudo-anonymously, never seriously identifying myself for personal reasons. I’m a very private person. The blog documents my extensive, sometimes turbulent political and intellectual growth over a period of several years following my embrace of socialist politics and my intellectual development in that domain. There is much I regret here, but nothing I can change. Life can only be lived forward, only understood backwards (Kierkegaard).
The decision to shut down the clearnet version of Red Liberty stems from the fact that the most popular articles today are really old ones I strongly disagree with today. These are articles that in my opinion can lead someone who is just discovering radical politics to at best, outdated Marxian concepts of the modern world and at worst, to anti-democratic, highly authoritarian forms of socialism. As critical as I am of modern capitalism and mainstream politics, I recognize even the status quo as infinitely superior to blatant totalitarianism.
On Radicalization, Good Politics, My Past
It would be self-evident that I am or was, at least by some definitions, radical. Lord knows I’m probably on a list somewhere. I always liked this quote by Eugene Debs on that issue: “If it had not been for the discontent of a few fellows who had not been satisfied with their conditions, you would still be living in caves. Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.”
Radicalization itself is a very powerful thing. It can be radically good or radically bad or neither depending on the context. Jesus was a radical, so was Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. But so was Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. I have found that being open minded and always radically open to the possibility that you are wrong helps curtail potential dangers here, as does not taking yourself too seriously. What exactly makes a radical good or bad? Allow me to briefly explain my sentiments.
Here is what I have to say on the issue as it pertains to the modern day: if your political views don’t support and defend democracy, a free and open society, human rights, and social equality (or equity if you want to get pedantic) they aren’t worth a damn in my opinion. That’s the scale by which they should be judged. Do your views actually try to make the world a better place for everyone? Do they help people? Do they follow the golden rule? Even your enemies? “Sure maybe some of my ideas are crap”, you should say, “and I’ll try to re-evaluate that, but at least I’m helping make society more free, open, democratic— at least I’m focused on helping people”. Being a good person, following the golden rule, trying to make the world a better place— these are the most important things. Never be corrupt, never betray your own principles. It’s a constant struggle. Today I am a radical defender of the ideals of universal brotherhood, individual freedoms, human rights, open society, democracy, the long-term survival of the human race, etc. And in this way I am radical. In my view this is far better than just being of X left-wing political tendency. Just try to be a good person. Help someone in need. Love other people. All men are brothers (yes women and non-binary folks too, there is a limitation with the English language when it comes to poetry). Act like it.
In my earlier days I held and shared very authoritarian views on this blog, views that were in my current view way too extreme, and I regret this immensely. I feel alienated from many of my former “comrades”, many of whom I still consider good friends. I used to think of myself as someone on the far-left of the political spectrum. Now I’m not so sure. I’m left wing, far-left on some issues, center on others, even right-wing on others. I’ve used reason to reason myself out of some (most) of the views I used to hold. I still consider myself a leftist, a progressive, and in some ways a radical. I consider myself adamantly libertarian— just as if not even more strongly than I am left-wing.
I’m am something of a revolutionary who wants a revolution without a revolution and I’m proud of that. Gandhi was right, Robespierre wasn’t. I want benevolent and radical social change without violence. Revolutions aren’t automatically good things, when they go too far they curtail even their own aims and become worse than the thing they first sought to overthrow. I consider myself a warrior for peace who is doing my part to try and help guide the ship of humankind away from the rocks of climate change, technological dystopias, and other social evils so that one day we may claim our destiny among the stars. In my heart I wish only the best for all humankind, even to my enemies. That’s my Christianity. Love is everything. Love for God, love for others. It’s all about love, it has to be. Actually read the teachings of Christ, you will find they embody the highest, noblest virtues one can follow. I am not arrogant in saying these things, I have no delusions of grandeur. I know very few will read my words, but I have to do what I can. So do you. At least writing this blog has helped get my ideas out into the world, and even when they were (often) wrong I feel that’s fundamentally a good thing. This life is so short, and I can only do so much. Life is precious, enjoy it like a fine wine.
And there is also something to be said of the spiritual need for a cause. Eric Hoffer’s ‘The True Believer’ explains it all, and there are aspects of that “true believer” in myself as well, such that I did not like what I saw when I looked in the mirror. How readily did I, though informed and though I reasoned myself into it with reason and logic, hoist off the banner of Marx for Bookchin in a fortnight— still just understanding the basics compared to my knowledge of classic Marxism. I couldn’t help but think of those who went so easily, the moral differences of the argument aside, leap from Naziism to Communism and vice versa in the Weimar Republic. Was I really so different? Just leaping to a cause because I needed it? Yes I elucidated above how the only “good” radicalism is that which promotes, defends, or assumes the existence of a free and open society, but according to Hoffer the psyche of the fanatic is the same regardless of the cause. And I saw within myself a spiritual hole I had sought to fill with so many different things, an emptiness longing for purpose, longing for something more. So I decided that I needed to take a step back in order to remain objective. Bookchin and Marx have a ton of valid critiques of modern society, but I am not so enamored by either cause that I will lose myself in it.
And look how brainwashed people get even within Marxism; tankies who are extremely critical of the United States to the point of seeing it as worthless/ wanting to destroy it in spite of innumerable accomplishments, and are at the same time not even a little bit critical of literal totalitarian states such as Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, or North Korea today. This is the mentality of a cult, and is in my opinion no better than fascism in its outward effects. Differentiating between Marxism and the more authoritarian Stalinism, we must of course say that equating Marxism to fascism is idiotic and that Marxism still has so much to offer today. So much of the Marxian critique of capitalism is still valid, but seeing how easily people turn it into a political religion, a cult, makes me want to take a serious step back. I am not that person anymore, I don’t want to be.
I still defend Rojava from a moral perspective and agree that Bookchin’s ideas largley supersede those of classical Marxism, but understood above all else that I needed do some serious soul searching. I saw this then, I see this now. It’s a trope that the fanatic hates the present and cares only for some ideal future. To do this now is only idiotic. It is not out of hatred for the present but out of love for the present and hope for the future that good politics emerge. What we have today is precious, the pinnacle achievement of thousands of years of civilization. The enemy is not the present but a potential dystopian or worse— nonexistent future. It is there that socialism emerges urging an alternative. It is there that I demand fellow socialists meet the challenge of our day.
On The Issue of Socialism: A Challenge For Today’s Left, Reflections on Earlier Posts
My approach to socialism itself is today much less “hot” than it was in years past. In truth I regret much of what I have written, not as much in the past year or two, but the earlier writings when I still called myself a Trotskyist. Actually the darknet mirrors of the blog (the main page anyways) I consider to be mostly good writings still. What worries me is how often the old, very much outdated writings are those still being read today. That more than anything else is what’s leading me to shut down the clearnet mirror of the blog. I consider my conceptions of the world in earlier writings to be much more naive and messier than I realized then.
These early writings can also indeed be dangerous to someone being radicalized into anti-democratic variants of socialism as I once was. I have a social responsibility to address this. Deleting these posts individually now is superfluous, the blog is already a relic of my own personal history and I see it as much more fitting to simply delete the whole blog and move on— at least the clearnet version which is still being accessed today along with the Facebook page. It will still always exist on Freenet and ZeroNet. I may also still host a mirror on Tor or I2P for old time-sake. But the blog itself is finished. I must start another project anew. Red Liberty has served its purpose as the sketchpad of my ideals during a certain phase of my life. To continue it would be disingenuous. Maybe I should make a book out of it. I suspect my writings here over the years could easily fill a volume of books.
I also feel I should clarify then where I currently stand on at least some of these issues. The idea of economic socialism; that the means of production should be socially/ democratically owned and controlled I generally support insofar as it is done on a genuinely libertarian basis. Socialism in economic life means industrial democracy, the introduction of the principles of democracy into the workplace and the economy at large. The most important thing to me is that the question of what is to be done with the surplus value produced by everyone be a matter that everyone has a say in. It should not be used to fund politicians, special interest groups, political parties, etc. Wealth should be separate from politics. Surplus value should not enrich the owners to absurd levels of wealth while workers make a menial wage. This is a sin. Workers should have a say in where that money that they made goes. Here I agree with the Marxian critique of capitalism. I am equally opposed to this being a purely private matter as I am to it being something dictated or “planned” by a centralized state. I have no issue with the fact that individuals often innovatively create and lead businesses. Actually I think this can be a really good thing for innovative projects started by individuals. In other areas such a model doesn’t make sense. Economic socialism has a lot to offer, even in a market economy. The problem is that virtually no one today’s political can even define what socialism is.
My approach today towards the problem is much less concrete and much more agnostic towards the question of how it would be done. I simply do not have enough data to adequately conclude what specific form/ forms of socialism would in-practice work better than capitalism. What I favor here is mass social experimentation. Give me something I can show people that works better, concretely, than what currently exists. Something that penetrates people who respond to ideas they have never seriously delved into with thought-cancelling quips like “Oh but what about Venezuela”. Such quips are in essence no different than when a Stalinist dismisses legitimate critiques of North Korea by calling the critic a “petty-bourgeois idealist”. We can complain about the effects capitalism has on stifling genuine political democracy, how it exploits and robs workers, how it is destroying the planet, etc. all day long. And insofar as these claims do not perpetuate a black-and-white worldview these are largely valid concerns. It won’t change a damned thing until people have a working model they can see themselves. Rojava is doing an excellent job here politically and socially if not economically. The problem is that thus far we have only offered whimsical idealism and vague notions as to what the alternative we propose is concretely. I get it, that’s to be expected. But we can do better. Buckminister Fuller put it best: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Do that. Do that.
With the exception of state capitalism in the former Soviet Union (and other Marxist-Leninist states), certain workers self-directed enterprises within modern markets, and various anarchist or libertarian socialist experiments, the logistics of actual socialism have never really been worked out on a mass scale. It presents a massive logistical problem which can only be addressed by a kind of mass social experimentation that the ruling class today has a very obvious interest in not doing. Socialists should do it instead, at the local level by popular consent and popular support. How would, or should, democratic (socialist) principles be introduced to the workplace? Honestly I look to the design infrastructure of free software (or open source) projects as a potential model, but this is just a thought. Hypothesize, plan, test, execute, evaluate. Do this until you have something concrete to bring to the world. This is exactly how capitalism took root over the feudal system, if not so consciously. It simply worked better. This is exactly how a genuinely benevolent socialism that makes society freer, more open, more democratic, more prosperous, etc. will take root today. Until then I am agnostic as to specifics, at least insofar as they do not violate my ethical principles. I am sympathetic to Communalism. I think parts of Rojava is in many ways the future, that it offers a lot politically, morally, and socially, etc. Google Murray Bookchin. Vote Green Party. Read a book from someone you strongly disagree with. But I have written on these things previously and will not write of it here for some time.
I should not even speak here on “communism”, a word no less misunderstood and demonized than those of “socialism”, “anarchism”, or “christianity”. But I feel compelled to do so. By communism, not a political tendency whose goal is a communist society but the thing itself, it is generally meant a society that embodies the philosophy “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”. When I speak of communists I am not merely speaking of Marxist-Leninists (those who follow the authoritarian or totalitarian version of Marxism which took power during the 20th century) but of the much broader spectrum of politics the word represents. A communist society is a society where work is largely automated and entirely voluntary (not coerced by the principle of “work or starve” which prevails today), where money as we know it today is largely superfluous, where a centralized state is largely superfluous, where social classes no longer really exist. It encapsulates a potential future state of being for the human race that is so open, free, and democratic that our modern world would be deemed in many ways tyrannical to a person living at such a time. It is not a perfect world anymore than our world of modern luxuries is perfect from the perspective of someone living 500 years ago. It may seem so on face value, but it is not. It is merely a better state of being than what currently exists, the natural result of exponential technological growth, social progress, and a course of history that is not dystopian. It implies a post-scarcity society where all the major or primary commodities of life are free for all. And people today are as close-minded to this simple possibility as a medieval peasant would have been to the modern notion of a democratic state. That is what I mean by “communism”. I am not speaking of “communist parties”, communist politics, or “communists” as most people envision them today. It is as foolish to speak of a “pure communism” as it is to speak of a “pure free market captitalism”. The United Federation of Planets in ‘Star Trek’ is communistic. I am basically describing the Star Trek when I use the word “communism”, which has far more in common in terms of its values with the liberal democracies of today (and what Marx himself would have envisioned) than it does with any Marxist-Leninist country of the past or present. Unfortunately when most people hear the word they remember the horrors of Stalinist totalitarianism, not Star Trek. Understand then what I am talking about.
The reason for this is of course self-evident to anyone at all familiar with history. Communists often don’t merely believe in the potentiality of technology and society to eventuate in a communist society, they more often than not believe in somehow taking over society to realize those ends. Worse still, this is often based on Marx’s outdated notion of class conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in a world where any real possibility of such a conflict hasn’t seriously existed since it peaked in the 1930’s. Bookchin’s criticisms of Marxism are more valid today than ever.
Any serious socialist would have to conclude looking back that on the question of the practical attainment of goals during the Russian Revolution, the Mensheviks were in the right, and not the Bolsheviks in saying that Russia was too underdeveloped for socialism to be a technological possibility. The best possible outcome from that revolution would have been a kind of open, free, and democratic, progressive form of what we today call social democracy but with social ownership and control of the means of production. Anything beyond that would have been (and was) an artificial imposition by a radical intelligentsia on a society not yet ready for what they had to offer. How much blood then was so needlessly shed! Unfortunately this is what social revolutions more often than not become in practice. And this is the real tragedy. You could have had, then in Russia, experiments with anarchism, soviet democracy, and great social experiments in the field of economics, etc. It would have naturally been far more progressive than even the most progressive social democracies of the 20th century. But it was not. Lenin and Trotsky saw that soviet democracy was impossible given the backward state of the workers and peasants of Russia, and, instead of doing what the founding fathers of the United States did in creating a state that minimized potential abuses of power in order to gradually realize its foundational principles over time, they created a state which vested absolute power into the hands of a Communist Party which betrayed those founding principles after only 5 or 10 years. Of course, absolute power did its thing, in corrupting absolutely, and the rest is history. I repeat myself in saying that Lenin didn’t read enough Jefferson or other enlightenment thinkers. The Russian Revolution was betrayed not by Stalin, but even more tragically first by Lenin and Trotsky.
Is today really so different? Any “seizure” of power by self-proclaimed communists in my opinion would lead only to the same tragic results, not because communism is “impossible” or “against human nature” (the same arguments were made against political democracy for thousands of years), but because most communists today often don’t hold to a value system that’s in line with that which is good of the liberal tradition. “Liberalism” is not “bad” because it naively assumes such abstract things as rights exist (that’s actually a good thing), it’s “bad” because it has a tendency to excuse the worst excesses of capitalism. I am only for a “communist” polity that fully embraces the non-bourgeois aspect of the liberal tradition, that “I might not agree with what you have to say but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it” (even to horrible people), that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, that “all life is sacred and the ends do not necessarily justify the means”, that “compromise is the basis of democracy”, that “never take yourself too seriously”, that “the world isn’t black and white”. I have found very few such individuals, all who I have found are libertarian socialists, mild anarchists, more radical social democrats, greens, and Communalists in my experience. Many just call themselves progressives. They are often far closer to social democrats than they are to Maoists, but to the left of the former, and principally libertarian. They are the true inheritors of the legacy of the political left if anyone is truly worthy of it. Social experiments in that domain that are done on a purely voluntary, non-violent (except in self-defense as in the case of Rojava), local and organically confederated basis I support. I support what is happening in Rojava because that is an organic immersion of a fuller kind of political democracy than exists virtually anywhere else in the world. It is something happening on the local level, a working model superior to anything that currently exists (see above Buckminister Fuller quote). This is what we need more of today, not fanaticism. Rojava is the future of the left and (hopefully) the world if anything is truly worthy of it.
Am I a communist? I am no more a communist than a person living in the dark ages who believed in the hopeful, benevolent emergence and dominance of political democracy, but who thought the world was not yet ready for it, was a democrat. I would prefer to call myself a cautious socialist, or even a Utopian, as Murray Bookchin called himself (while noting that– to a person in the dark ages, the modern world is already a Utopia in many ways). I am a Utopian for insisting that the socially responsible use and development of technology can and should eventually lead to a world without hunger, poverty, war, climate change, a language barrier, etc. I am Utopian for insisting that it is within the realm of technological possibility to have a post-scarcity society where thanks to automation the social coercion to “work or starve” no longer exists, where extreme differences in wealth no longer exist, a world which we would consider radically open, free, and democratic. As for the limits of technology in human society, I’m not sure there are any. If I dared to speculate what I thought could be possible in a mere 200 years you would call me mad. The end of poverty or war would be the least of what I would say could be done.
I am not at all ignorant to the fact that a lot can be done today to placate human suffering. I don’t think we can build actual communism today (unless it’s what philosophers such as Žižek mean) on a mass scale, outside of voluntary associations, but a lot can still be done. The Marxian critique of capitalism is still largely valid. I keep repeating myself here because it’s true. There are a lot of flaws with capitalism that certain forms of socialism can address, even within a market economy (see Richard Wolff). A lot of what I’ve written on this blog, especially the last year or so of posts, is still valid. The increase in US military budget from 2016 to 2020 was enough to end (by conservative estimates at least) both world hunger and homelessness in the United States. We can do those things, they are well within our power, we simply choose not to. And that to me is unacceptable. The power corporations have on the political system in the United States is so great that the US political system is classifiable more as an autocracy than a democracy. That to me is unacceptable. Capitalism as it exists today has proven itself unable to seriously address and solve the climate crisis. An alternative is needed, I just don’t know what that alternative could be because I don’t have enough data to say. My value system and knowledge of history, economics, and politics gives me an idea of what ought to be done, but nothing more. I point to Rojava as an experiment that shows promise and encourage my readers to look into it. I do this cautiously, a mere suggestion.
The ideal I have found is often outside of the normal expected parameters of a question. GNU/Linux is the superior operating system to “Mac or PC” or “iOS or Android”, Green Party is better than “Republican or Democrat”, democratization is better than “free market or state controlled industry”, Communalism is better than “anarchism or Marxism”. It’s not so much a problem then of “fighting capitalism” as it is with trying to build a better model than capitalism that works in practice. It’s not so much a problem of “class war” as it is a problem of combating abuses and excesses of power wherever they exist (both political and economic, regardless of if they are “left wing” or not). It’s not so much a matter of creating a utopia for tomorrow as it is a matter of fighting dystopia today. We can do both, but we should focus on the latter in order to achieve the former insofar as it is desirable. We can help nudge society in the direction we want it to take, a direction that is better for everyone, not as fanatical ideologues but as social scientists (or if we are honest, hopeful children) critically evaluating what works and what does not work– even when it’s not what we want to hear. Yes, let’s experiment with a kind of social democracy that doesn’t rely on a centralized state, with a universal basic income, with different forms of market socialism and gift economies, with semi-direct, face-to-face, neighborhood democracies and popular assemblies, with this or that. Maybe X or Y or Z can work today, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it can’t. The fact is we often don’t have the data to say for sure. As long as it doesn’t violate the fundamental principles of human dignity, of an open, free, and democratic, pacifist society I am all for it.
On the attitude of the state or government towards God and Religion
My thoughts on what the ideal attitude of the state or government towards religion I also realize needs correcting. I always saw state secularism as a rational compromise between the extremes of theocracy on the one hand and state atheism on the other. The most important thing here is to preserve everyone’s religious liberty, not just that of the dominant religion (or lack thereof). But recently I’ve come to see that the opposite of the love is not in fact hate but indifference, and that therefore the opposite of the love of God is not the hate of God, but indifference to God. Therefore in merely promoting state secularism without additional commentary runs the risk of offending believers in the worst possible way and worse still, offending God. This presents a serious philosophical challenge— how to remain neutral while avoiding indifference. The only workable position I’ve found in practice is to do precisely what the United States does already, that is, vague overtures to a supreme God that is not of this or that faith, but simply God. And God can really mean anything. The technical term for this is ceremonial deism, a legal term and concept that I think is truly brilliant as it avoids indifference to God on the one hand, and theocracy or the promotion of religion on the other. Any excesses of theism are curtailed by its long-standing existence as tradition. It really is the perfect balance. Accommodationism can also work in parts of the world where one religion has a clear majority and the will of the people is to live under a religious government, but I think for anything above the level of the nation state such a position would prove disastrous in practice insofar as governments are still ruled by human beings. Shall I even mention Antidisestablishmentarianism in England? I think I should stop while I’m ahead.
The End of Red Liberty
Do I want to continue writing? Actually I have been for quite some time, just not here and not always on politics. I am currently publishing elsewhere, though I admit I am writing less. I want to share some of those things here, but I cannot, I will not. In addition to the aforementioned reasons, unfortunately at this time there has emerged something of a conflict of interest regarding the question of my anonymity. If I continue writing at Red Liberty extensively on my recent personal interests and activities— especially if I import my recent writings here, I risk prematurely identifying myself. I never intended the blog to remain anonymous forever, however. Eventually I’ll claim it as my own. That will certainly be interesting. I’ll probably have to pick a new handle, that’s fine I guess. If the need truly arises I might post here, but I can’t foresee that happening. I think it much more proper to end things now on a high note. This blog has served its purpose, and now new things must be done. Fret not, I may start a new blog as its successor and if so I will announce it here and there. I already plan on a successor to Purple Under Moonlight, my Freenet-only non-political flog. If you want to read more of my writings they will probably be on I2P and Freenet. Until then. It’s been a pleasure.
Red Liberty (Thought Foundry Blog).