A lot of people don’t give Jordan Peterson credit. And that’s fine, he’s a feckless pseudoscientific drug addict spat from the sullen womb of neoliberal academia. In a virtuous society, he would be living in the woods as a stateless exile, foraging off of berries and hiding from passing helicopters.
But when he talks about neo-Marxism, he’s got a point. This is a phenomenon in English speaking countries, and it’s essentially a reactionary phenomenon.
What makes it reactionary is how it embraces the neoliberal idea of post-morality. That we live in a Humean universe of complete subjectivity, and as such, all that remains in terms of society, civilisation, life and the human condition is that of aesthetics.
As such, “patriotic socialists” or “patsocs” have become a boogeyman among the aesthetic neo-Marxist thinkers, because they are people who do not ascribe to Hume’s ideas about aesthetics.
The practical function of socialism is, in our current civilisational context, quite rudimentary. Namely, an end to war and an end to poverty. That’s it. Those are the two key dialectical bulletins of our era. This is because they are substantative and measurable. They exist in the realm of objective observation.
Aesthetic thought on the other hand focuses on ideas, thoughts and intangibilities that ultimately serve as impossible windmills, and create a kind of controlled opposition who render themselves impotent by tilting at such windmills.
In other words, your typical college educated professional activist type who will use the poor and the downtrodden as instruments to further their own status and prestige throughout various avenues of media and politic careers.
It can sound very noble to, for instance, fight against racism. And indeed I can think of many admirable efforts to do so. From Tecumseh to Malcolm X. But what makes them different is how they did not make it into an aesthetic effort. They had real enemies, real resources, and real goals. The neo-Marxist possesses none of those things, and live in a world of symbolic gestures and ideological superstitions.
If you want to free political prisoners, end police corruption, alter the way in which laws, rights and statutes of civil governments are being treated by its executive branch. If you want to end wars of aggression or imperialism, or end the sanctions, apartheids and brutalities that exist in the third world through real and practical means, and through efforts that can be tested by some metric or intuition of causality, then I would describe this as real ways in which to, for instance, combat racism.
But when you seek to perform useless campus politics, write long drivels about postmodern abstractions, shout incoherently into microphones and argue on social media, then you are an aesthetic being, and as such, definitionally useless.
And one such struggle of culture is that of finally putting an end to those supposed patriotic socialists. A patriotic socialist is, as far as I have observed, someone who has better things to do than to meaninglessly harass people for being normal. Who do not wish to burn flags or hurl abuse at homeless veterans.
Fundamentally speaking, the opposition to patriotic aesthetics has its origins in the year zero doctrine, which was Pol Pot’s invention based on the perversions of Mao Zedong thought and the cultural revolution. Today China considers the cultural revolution to be a failure because of how it was an aesthetic effort.
It was not as bad as idiots like Robert Conquest would have people believe. No “millions of people” died by any standard of investigative of forensic evidence. There were riots, and there were acts of vigilante violence, but it was no worse than any riots in the west.
Rather they realised that it was meaningless to, for instance, vandalise a tobacconist store just because it said “Imperial Tobacco” on the sign. That this had no effect on imperialism, and that it produced no meaningful results. That the attack on aesthetics was fundamentally a waste of time, and only resulted in senseless violence.
In Pol Pot’s case, this war on aesthetics took an extremely dark turn. He did in fact kill scores of people. The idea was that by erasing the nation’s past by killing the intellectuals, then you could reset history and rebuild a perfect nation from a clean slate.
In truth however, he only repeated history. In fact, he killed so many Marxists that the CIA decided to form an alliance with him.
And this is where the talk of “Patsocs” is coming from. It’s yet another attempt to attack the aesthetics, and there is something ironic about it. Because it has its origins in the US. Supposedly, these great opponents of nationalism have declared themselves superior to Cambodians and Chinese alike, proclaiming that this time, the war on aesthetic things will work because now the superior American mind is at it and as such, they will not simply repeat the past.
Truth of the matter is that socialism is not about hating Americans. In fact, quite the contrary. China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Soviet Union alike have gone through every possible effort to make peace with the US. They have made every gesture of friendship, international solidarity and devoted the better part of a century to arms de-escalation, friendly competitions of sports and science, cultural events and peace talks.
The authentic Marxist effort to show kindness and appreciation to the US, and to try and make peace where sadly, the US government only sees war, has been an unprecedented one.
Real Marxists are cultured, and they admire the people, and they also admire the things that make such a people special. Real Marxists are not here to burn your flags and censor your songs and break your store windows, there’s no historical evidence of that. That’s a morbid stereotype made up by the CIA and the US state department, and to see western liberals adorn this stereotype and make a mockery out of a century long struggle for peace and compassion is quite irksome.
You do not have to be patriotic to be a socialist, but you also don’t have to be a flag burning hippie. You can be yourself. Your culture, customs and traditions are not a problem.
As long as you embrace the idea that poverty and war is a detriment to humanity, and that we must pursue radical measures to alter our path towards self-destruction, then you can be a socialist. Do not listen to the hippies. They are useless derelicts who exploit the poor for political gains. They make every promise, and yet history shows no evidence of keeping such promises.
Rather, take a page out of Malcolm X’s teachings. He called himself “X” not because he wanted to erase his past, but because he wanted to explore it, and understand who he was. If he was an aesthetic man, then he would simply call himself Malcolm Little, since after all, what’s in a name? His desire to reinvent himself, to explore what he was and how it defined him, is what put him on a path beyond aesthetics.
If he was some kind of college progressive, then what would he find even in Africa? Do you think he would find that his ancestors were perfect, idyllic and innocent? That Africa was a beautiful paradise prior to European colonialism? Africa had monarchism, and religious sectarianism, and war, just like any other place. It wasn’t perfect, but it also doesn’t have to be.
Because there’s also art, music, poetry, invention, great philosophers and extraordinary achievements. For example, Nigerian literature is to me some of the most compelling and beautiful literature in the world. But the stories they write are not happy ones.
There are no perfect nations or perfect peoples, and there are no perfect cultures, and no matter how hard they try, the book burners will never succeed in making a clean slate.
Whether it’s the Red Army choir or Pete Seeger or Malcolm X, you are not required to spit on the graves of your grandparents to be a socialist. Rather, you should feel compelled to look at the many gifts they left you, and ask what kind of things you can contribute to the generations of tomorrow.