Why I Love Communists
The Church of Satan is a bit of a paradox - on the one hand, it stressed extreme individualism; on the other, it was a community, an institution, a church. The founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey, was always going on about how he was seeking "superior" people - an "elite" - a community of the most extraordinary and successful members of a generation. And yet contemporary Satanists tend not to be members of any elite, but rather losers, resentful misfits, nerds, and incels. Ah, well. Back to the drawing board. If I were a Satanist - I'm not, but if I were - and I were seeking an elite of superior, successful people, I wouldn't look for them among the followers of Ayn Rand, who are the most resentful, nerdliest nerdlings of them all, but rather among the communists.
What makes communism such a hotbed of elites? First and foremost, I love communists for their clothing. Communists are, on average, far better dressed than other people. They, and to an extent also left-anarchists, are into the latest fashions far before everyone else. They make excellent selections and have a subtle, almost instinctive sense of coordination and composition, recombining these selections in interesting and pleasing ways. It isn't simply a matter of the items of clothing (though of course that matters) but also how they wear them. This of course has a lot to do with the fact that communists simply tend to be more physically attractive than right wingers.
The most obvious measure of the fact that communists tend to be more elite than right wingers is the simple fact that communists on average are capable of having more sex and better sex, with more attractive people. This has been true for a long time. Marx and Engels themselves certainly had more than their fair share of sexual partners. Lassalle was even more notorious for his prodigious affairs. Sartre was another example. I suspect that it is perennially true. It's quite telling that right wingers are fixated on attractive women in leftist currents, and especially in, for instance, the color of their dyed hair. (If you are trying to test whether someone is filled with ressentiment today, the most obvious clue is that they are filled with rage against people with interestingly and attractively dyed hair.) Why are communists more popular than right wingers? That's obvious: because they are more likeable.
In addition to their fashion sense, communists tend to have better taste in music. Communists and anarchists are into music first, and then awareness of music gradually filters down to the rest of the population. By the time it reaches the ears of right wingers, it has been imitated a thousand times, and it is usually the imitation that the right wingers attach themselves to, and attach themselves with a passion that is as ferocious as it is uncomprehending. Oh, there are exceptions here and there - Wagner, for instance - but even he started out as a leftist, getting arrested and exiled after rabble-rousing alongside Bakunin.
Whom can one find among the communists? Movie stars and pop idols. And communism only enhances their intrigue and fascination, by making them seem dangerous - in this is sense, it is the perfect accent to their cosmetics and everything else that makes them romantic, dynamic, desirable, interesting, beguiling. In a word, communism is glamorous. Whom can one find among the right wingers? Dentists, weathermen, insurance agents, lawyers, middle management... not to mention meth addicts. (Communists tend to do better drugs than right wingers, too.)
In the art world, too, the communists are far more in with the in crowd, and for good reason. They are more discerning. Thus it is the communists who are able to identify a new movement in art before the rest of the slugs have any idea what's going on. Right wingers seem to think that art appreciation is a purely individualistic affair, that artistic merit is determined by whatever you feel like looking at. Communists have an analysis. If you want to make an investment in art, look to the communists to find out what will be of lasting value.
In poetry and literature, the communists are at the top of the social hierarchy, or close to it. Sure, some right wingers may do the mere menial labor of writing the poetry down (Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Jack Kerouac, Wallace Stevens, W. B. Yeats, F. T. Marinetti, most of the Romantics, etc.) or, similarly, writing down the novels (Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Honore de Balzac, Fyodor Dostoevsky, etc., etc.). But enough about these scriptors, these mere instruments of écriture. Writing may be well and good, but it is the communists who have excelled at the far nobler calling of appreciating poetry and literature. Communists also tend to be better at buying and selling it. The patter for their pitches is better, because it really means something to them. Plato teaches that the spectator (θεωρός, theoros) is superior to those who work with their hands (τεχνικός, technikos). [See, also, my article "Anarchism vs. Marxism - Science vs. Literature".]
The same goes, more or less, for philosophy. There may be right wing authors of philosophy, but most of the best readers of philosophy are communists. For instance, Nyiri has demonstrated fairly conclusively that Wittgenstein was a conservative. Wittgenstein's greatest fans, and best interpreters, on the other hand, were all communists. This is even more obviously true of Heidegger. Communists tend to interpret writing better than the writers themselves, whose understanding of themselves is shallow and obvious. And isn't philosophy the business of the lovers of wisdom, rather than wisemen [sophists] themselves? Plato knew Homer better than Homer.
One reason that communists tend to be more elite than other people is that they tend to be better educated. Many of them have advanced degrees from prestigious universities, but my favorite communists are often self-educated. They have a passion for learning, a curiosity that motivates them. They also tend to be in an economic situation that affords them the leisure, the opportunity and the access to such learning.
Communists have the most sophisticated analysis of political economy, in every sense of that word. They have a system, a structure, a literature that makes such sophistication possible. At the same time, it is a flexible structure - observe the way that communists can come up with a rationalization to justify just about anything. Other people lack that kind of structure, and their philosophy is impoverished because of that. Notice that nothing that I've said here has much to do with what I think about actual Marxist theory, or even much to do with the history of communist movements. I have a lot to say about those topics, but it all falls outside the scope of the present essay. For now, I'll just say that when I talk to people who haven't read their Marx, I feel like I'm talking to little babies. They're completely clueless. They don't understand my references, and everything seems scary and unfamiliar to them. I feel like I have to choose my words carefully because their minds immediately go to assumptions and imaginary places often based on fairy tales that have been drilled into their heads by bourgeois educational systems, which have usually never been questioned in any thoroughgoing way. And they don't get my jokes.
In short, communists have the best taste. To put a finer point on it, communists are the best consumers. They are experts at consumption, consumers of the highest distinction. An expert is a kind of spectator - an overseer, if you will. Communism is a form of specialization. What makes them such specialists at consumption, with such discerning taste? Obviously it is their capacity for criticism - for the relentless criticism of all that exists. Their art is criticism, and they excel at this art. They can incorporate anything and everything into it, from ancient Greek philosophy to industrial design to modern religion to psychoanalysis to the history of China to the latest Hollywood movie.
To put it yet another way, communists have the most complex and interesting desires. Part of what makes these desires so interesting is how difficult it is to express them. Perhaps they can only be expressed negatively, by articulating what communists don't want. This leaves only the ineffable, the transcendent, the deferred, the yet-to-be-said. Desires dance like ghosts on the tips of our tongues.
Of course, there are right wingers who try to be glamorous in their own way, with their own sense of fashion and intrigue and espionage and insurgency and revolution, but their supposed glamor is an imitation of the original glamor of the communists, and lacks its content, being a mere hollow show, because their supposed "revolution" does not change society at the material level. It is truly reactionary. Such ideology makes no logical sense on the face of it, and it cannot satisfy anyone with any real need for intellectual stimulation. Communism, on the other hand, has a depth, complexity, and history that is inexhaustible. Could anything be more boring, stupid, and intellectually vacuous than the ideology of nationalism, racism, and so on, which narrow one's focus to a specific cultural particularity? Well, yes, actually - the one thing more boring than the dead end of nationalisms is the bland platitudes of credentialed wonks in organizations like the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, the Trilateral Commission and so on. Capitalist hegemonic globalization and rogue nationalism are two sides of the same coin, because they both seek merely to affirm and strengthen that which already exists. The distinguishing quality of any communism that is not a sham is its openness. Communism avoids both narrow parochialism and world conformism by offering a rich, full internationalism - but a critical internationalism.
I have written before about why I love religion, and I've also written about seeing Stalinism as a form of religion. Other forms of communism can be seen as religions, too - "religion," from the Latin root religio, means "that which ties together," and communist traditions tie cultures together, and tie them to an entire history - a past, and a future. Sometimes people identify themselves with terms like "culturally Jewish" or "culturally Catholic" to indicate that they still have some kind of warm attachment to the clothing, the music, the dances, the rituals, the rich tapestry of the entire tradition, even if they find that they can personally no longer dogmatically believe in the tenets of the doctrine. In a similar way, I feel something that I'd like to call "culturally communist," if that term hadn't been sullied by people like Jordan Peterson, who are always searching for a conspiracy of "cultural Marxism" - which isn't supposed to exist, right?
The quibble between cultural traditionalists and communists is a misunderstanding, a case of mistaken identity, because it is precisely communists who are keeping a genuine cultural tradition alive, precisely by questioning it. (When I talk about "traditionalists," I'm obviously not talking about assholes like the "traditionalist workers' party," who are straight-up nazis. Fuck those people. Communists have nothing in common with them. I'm just talking more generally about, you know, people who enjoy traditions, and try to keep them alive. I'm sure you've got people like that in your family. People who like baseball, for instance, or soccer.) Perhaps paradoxically, communists keep abreast of the latest trends precisely because they understand them in and through this tradition and this history. Their tradition is different from the tradition of the traditionalists precisely because it is open to the new and the anomalous, to that which ideology represses. The tradition of communist theory gives people a framework with which to discuss history as it happens, but a history that is not foreclosed. This is especially true now, after the collapse of governments like the USSR, when communists are forced to admit that they don't know which way history is headed, and they can allow themselves to be always astonished by each new development. Like Socrates, they are forced to admit that they know nothing. The tradition only complicates our experience, without offering any easy answers.
It's easy to love communists because they don't have any power. Truth be told, they've never had any power. Maybe if they had any power, I wouldn't love them as much. Then again, that's probably true for anyone.
But seriously, folks, the real reason that I love communists and communism is this: right now there's a struggle going on in the world. On the one hand, there's global capitalism - a massive machine that every day is growing and drawing more and more people into itself, inexorably, permanently, so that they have no possibility of escape within their lifetimes, creating vast desolate landscapes of sameness. And the only viable forms of opposition to this massive machine of sameness are fanatical particularisms - rabid nationalism, ethnocentrism, theocracy, religious fanaticism, tribalism, patriarchy, etc.. A rather bad book was written about this struggle, with the clever title "Jihad vs. McWorld". Communism sits between these two horrifying monsters like a little bubble of moderation and nuance. Communism is like a religion, but with one crucial difference - that there is something fairly reasonable about it at its core. Especially now, after the collapse of states like the USSR, most communists are capable of being reasoned with. Very few actually believe that just because Karl Marx said something, that that makes it true (although many certainly act as if they did). I love them because I can talk to them, and they'll listen.