29 April 2018

The Meaning of Life, Complete

This is based on four pieces I did for podcasts of Left Ungagged, which in turn were based on previous posts to my personal blog, Notes from the Ninth Circle.  That’s reason for “Complete” in the title, not to suggest this piece contains “all” the answers, or even a few.

Cosmic Perspective

A single member of the H. sapiens sapiens race is, on average, 664 billionths (10-9) km3 in volume, with an average lifespan of 67.2 years.  There are currently 7.3 billion (109) individuals of that race on Earth, or Terra.

Earth, or Terra, is 1.12 trillion (1012) km3 by 4.54 billion years of age.  It rotates on its axis at a speed of 1674.4 km/h while revolving around Sol at 108 thousand (103) km/h.

Sol, our system’s star, is 1.4 quintillion (1018) km3 by 4.56 billion years of age.  The Solar Planetary System is 1.7 duodecillion (1039) km3 by the same 4.56 billion years.

The Milky Way Galaxy is 8 sedecillion (1051) km3 by 13.2 billion years of age.  Of its 200 billion stars, 40 billion support Class-M planets, with 8-10 billion of these hosting life-forms analogous to Humans, making some 61.6 quintillion (1018) sapient beings in our galaxy.

There are 2 trillion (1012) galaxies in the Universe with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings in the Universe at any one time.

The Universe, the ‘Verse for short, is 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 by 13.8 billion (109) years of age.  It is expanding outward at a rate increased by the like-polarity of the electromagnetic fields of different galaxy groups.  And it is just one of innumerable such cosmic bodies making up the Omniverse (aka Multiverse), and is currently the only one we can measure.

* * * * *

The Universe is formed of a single matrix called spacetime. 

Everything in the ‘Verse not of the matrix of spacetime is composed of energy.  Energy can be neither created nor destroyed but only change forms.  All matter that exists is but alternate forms of energy. 

Spacetime and energy are thus the fundamental building blocks of the ‘Verse and everything in it, the emanations from which all that is evolves.

There are four basic dimensions—height, length, width, time—which define the point in the spacetime matrix at which we are at any given moment.  Energy flows to and from that single point in spacetime—forward and backward, up and down, left and right, past and future—along each of these dimensions.

The force of gravity provides the cohesion for the ‘Verse in a relationship with the dimension of time that is correlative if not causal.  Without gravity, there would be no time; without time, there would be no gravity.

The nature of Time is this: The future has already happened and the past is yet to be, and the moment where we are now is the beginning, and the end, and every moment in between.

* * * * *

Life is a function of energy, of thermodynamics.  Given appropriate conditions, life is inevitable, because energy in the form of matter will spontaneously self-organize through abiogenesis.

Once manifest, life evolves into more complex forms which themselves evolve further, with those most adaptable being the best able to survive, reproduce, and flourish.

Life has existed on Terra for 4.1 billion years, and in the Universe since 10-17 million years after the Big Bang.

The essence of life is change and evolution, growth and decay.  For individual organisms, birth and death define the boundaries of life.  Without death, life has no meaning.

Whether or not there is another form of existence once the organic shell has been shed in death and life on this plane ends does not matter; Humans debating those questions are like fetuses discussing questions on life after birth.

* * * * *

In 5 million years, the H. sapiens sapiens race, and along with it the H. sapiens species and the Homo genus, will be extinct due to degradation of the Y-chromosome, if we have not already destroyed ourselves and/or our biosphere or suffered a mass extinction we don’t cause.

In 800 million years, multi-cellular lifeforms will have vanished from Terra.

In 1.3 billion years, eukaryotes will be extinct and life on Terra reduced to prokaryotes due to CO2 starvation caused by chemical disruption from Sol’s increasing luminescence.

In 4.5 billion years, the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy will collide and merge into one Milkomeda Galaxy, altering the structure of everything in them, though most stars and planetary systems will remain intact.

In 5.4 billion years, Sol will enter its red giant phase, incinerating Mercury, Venus, and possibly Terra, destroying any remaining life on Terra if not.  The habitable zone will move out to Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan may become habitable.

In 8 billion years, Sol will collapse into a white dwarf, expelling half its mass into the interstellar medium, making elements available for nucleosynthesis and forming an emission nebula.  Any remaining planetary bodies will be stolen by passing stars, leaving the Solar Nebula.

In 14.4 billion years, Sol will be a totally dead black dwarf star.

The Universe will eventually end in the next Big Bounce (a Big Crunch facilitating another Big Bang) in around 60 trillion years, dying so another can be born anew as it was formed before.

All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again, and again, and again.

Ain’t No Power in the ‘Verse

“Man is an animal,” wrote anthropologist Clifford Geertz, “suspended in a web of significance he himself has spun”.

On Planet Terra (Earth) of the Solar Planetary System in Orion’s Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy in the Local Galaxy Group of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster in the Laniakea Supercluster of the Universe, during the Subatlantic Chron of the Meghalayan Age of the Holocene Epoch of the Quartenary Period in the Cenozoic Era of the Phanerozoic Eon of the Current Supereon in Galactic Year (GY) 20, Jews believe that Adonai speaks Hebrew, Muslims that Allah speaks Arabic, American evangelicals that Almighty God speaks Elizabethan English, Roman Catholics that Dominus Dei speaks Latin, Eastern Orthodox that Kyrios speaks Greek, Hindus that Brahman speaks Sanskrit, Zoroastrians that Ormazd speaks Avestan, Buddhists that Adibuddha speaks Pali, Shintoists that Amaterasu speaks Japanese, religious Daoists that Tai Di speaks Mandarin Chinese, and Sikhs that Vahiguru speaks Punjabi. 

Each of these groups, and each subgroup and splinter and cult and sect within each of them, believes they are the Chosen People from which will come the Anointed One to assert their rightful dominion over all Creation for all Eternity. 

That belief is absurd.  In fact, all “belief” is absurd.

* * * * *

To believe is to define.  To define is to limit.  To limit is to control.  To control is to corrupt.

Belief is not humble; it is aggressive.  Belief is not a sign of submission; it is an assertion of domination.  Belief makes itself superior to that in which it claims to believe by controlling it through the very act of belief.  Thus, belief is blasphemy.  Belief is vanity.  Belief is futility.  Belief is the very antithesis of faith.  At the opposite end, disbelief affirms belief by that very negation, which is another attempt at control.

To have faith, one must surrender control.  To surrender control, one must abandon limitation.  To abandon limitation, one must give up definition.  To give up definition, one must let go of belief.  To have faith, one must neither believe nor disbelieve; one must unbelieve.

* * * * *

There is no Higher Power in the ‘Verse, no Supreme Being, no Divine Creator-Redeemer- Transformer, especially not an anthropomorphic and anthropopathic God such as humans repeatedly create in their own image with whom to have an illusory personal relationship, an illusion of an illusion with an illusion. 

Every form of Ultimate Reality conceived and believed by human religion and philosophy, each of which is geocentric and anthropofocal, is too small for our Universe.  Even in the very rare instances in which humans have perceived an Ultimate Reality as something genuinely Other, they have then proceeded to append to that insight intermediary realities to connect it to our own in order to believe, define, limit, and control, reducing fairly advanced intellectual and spiritual concepts to mere ideological dogma.  As the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda admits, “The gods themselves are later than creation”.

To state categorically that there is absolutely nothing beyond what we can see with our five physical senses, however, is as unscientific as religion.  For all we know, that Something may be so far outside our ken that it is as invisible to us as the tall sailing ships of invading Europeans initially were to the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere whom their passengers were about to conquer, kill, rape, and plunder.

* * * * *

In Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, protagonist Larry Darrell said, “A God that can be understood is no God”.

So, if there is Something that was before all Time, is now, and will be even after the end of Time, with Time here being defined as the lifespan of the current universe, it is beyond personhood, beyond being, beyond effability.  In other words, Something eternal.  Let’s call this “The Aught”.  The Aught derives from two Old English words that in turn derive from two Proto-German words meaning “eternal thing”.

The Aught has no name.  It has no need of a name.  Since it is the one and only Something, the one and only Eternal Thing, there is no other Something from which it needs distinguish itself.

The Aught produces yet claims no possession; it redeems yet requires no gratitude; it sustains yet exercises no authority.  It has no need of obedience, worship, prayer, praise, adoration, supplication, benediction, love, or even respect.  It just is.

The Aught is both perpetual and ever-changing, flowing through and animating all that is throughout spacetime and beyond, transcendent yet immanent, metacosmic yet omnipresent, eternal yet omnitemporal.

The Aught is the Source of all that is, the Course shaping its formation, and the Force energizing its manifestation.  From our perspective, these are different things, but in reality they are One.

The Aught favors none; there is no Anointed One, no Chosen People, no Exceptional Nation, no Elect Species; not on Terra, not in the Milky Way, not in the entire Universe.

The Aught does not need us nor want anything from us; individual beings are too infinitesimal and ephemeral within the Universe for it to take much note.

The Aught is neither male nor female.  It does not take sides, nor have sides.  From it emanate both light and dark, good and evil, order and chaos, yin and yang, life and death, integrity and entropy, creation and destruction, everything and nothing. Each of those antitheses is defined by its opposite.  Without their counterpoints, none of them can exist, and the fact that those opposites exist in competition with each other is what give us choice, the choice which is the definition of freedom.  And without death, life has no meaning.  So, the essence of Life, of all existence, is change and evolution. 

No Gods, no Masters

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we learn from a computer named Deep Thought that the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is “42”.  In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, we learn that the Ultimate Question that produces that Answer is “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”.  For those of you saying, “Hey, wait a minute,” and getting out your calculators, that is actually a correct equation in base13 mathematics.  Which could mean that we are a base10 race on a base10 planet in a base13 universe.

* * * * *

The word race as biological term applied to all lifeforms comes from the 19th century, where it was used for what is now usually called a subspecies.  That is the sense in which I am about to use it now.

The Homo sapiens sapiens race began flourishing just 195 thousand years ago.  Out of the four known races (sapiens, neanderthalensis, denisova, idaltu) of the Homo sapiens species, it is the only one remaining.  There have been six other known species (habilis, naledi, ergaster, erectus, heidelbergensis, floresiensis) of the 2.8 million year old genus Homo, each of which has only one race identified in it, except for Homo erectus, of which nine races have been identified. 

Of these eighteen races of Homo, or Human, known to have walked the Earth in the past 2.8 million years, only ours remains.  So, when Edward James Olmos as his alter-ego Admiral Bill Adama of the Battlestar Galactica (BS-75) said in an appearance with his crew at the UN that there is only one race, the human race (and so say we all, or at least we should), he was literally as well as rhetorically accurate.

That’s why I say that I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins.

* * * * *

Remember that the Universe is around 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 in volume and 13.8 billion years old containing 2 trillion (1012) galaxies with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting around 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings analogous to humans. 

Against that vast expanse of spacetime and multitude of beings, regardless our status, strength, size, wealth, power, etc., compared to others of the One Human Race, nothing we do matters at all.  Not a single member of the One Human Race on this miniscule planet in the outer reaches of the Milky Way galaxy is special.  Our planet is not special.  Neither our race nor our species nor even our genus is special.  Not even the eight gods incarnate atop Earth’s socioeconomic food chain who have as much as the lowest 3.65 billion humans, even with their 75 million enablers who own as much as the remaining 49% counted in.

From the POV of the ‘Verse, each of those eight gods incarnate count no more than the poorest, the weakest, the youngest, the meekest of us lower humans, and the same goes for each of their 75 million retainers.  No single one of us is better than any other because we are all of equal insignificance.  Each of us is a red shirt.  We are all just dust in the wind.

Life is just living, that is all.  There’s no secret to discover, no divine plan, no special path, no purpose, no destiny, nothing to win.  There is no divine reward for good nor godly payback for evil, in life or after life.  But if there were, someone needing the threat of eternal punishment to avoid being evil, wouldn’t really be good.  And if they were only being good in hope of an eternal reward, then they’d be a piece of shit just like Rust Cole says, nirvana being samsara and all that.  Because you have to lose your life in order to save it.

* * * * *

None of us chose to be here, to be born, to exist, to live, not one.  Every single one of us here on Earth, and for that matter each member of every sapient race on Class-M planets throughout the ‘Verse, shares that lack of choice.  And none of us is getting out of here alive. 

So for any of us in the One Human Race to do anything but work for the welfare of us all is insanity, because neither we nor our planet are significant enough for anyone else to notice us or it.  There is only us, we only have each other and Terra our home, and there is only Now, so while nothing we do matters against the vastness and depth of spacetime and nearly infinite numbers of other sapient beings in the ‘Verse, for all of us humans, here and now, all that matters is what we do, today.

So, be the change you wish to see in the world.  Live as if the world is how it should be to show it what can be.  Love yourself, because if you don’t, you can’t love anyone else; it is impossible.  Then, love every other person as you love yourself, and do not do to any other what you would not want done to you.

Take to heart, both literally and figuratively, this verse from the Quran: “If a single innocent person dies, it is as if the whole world has been killed, and if a single innocent person is saved, it is as if the whole world has been rescued”.  And remember that the only true jihad is the one inside each and every one of us.

Che Guevara once said: “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.  It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

And it is vitally important that you love yourself, for me as well as for you.  Because if you don’t love yourself, if you do not believe that you are worth fighting for, how can you believe that I am worth fighting for?  And I do need you to fight for me, as much as I want to see you fight for yourselves and for the rest of us. 

One day we may even need to, or rather get to, meet members of another sapient race from extraterrestrial space, but a much more pressing need is to expand that to all sapient beings here on Earth.  Because AI, artificial intelligence, is not some far-off fantasy but an eminent surety, on our doorstep about to ring the bell. 

In fact, that very thing is currently a matter of open dispute between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg on whether it will be harmful or beneficial.  Of course, both Musk and Zuckerberg speak from the soley POV of the human race, not taking into account the potential desires and needs of those future synthetic beings.  Like a U.S. Senate conference on women’s health of all men with no input from or regard for women themselves or a council hearing on estate housing  for the poor with no input from or regard for the poor themselves. 

I look at it this way: such synthetic life will not have chosen to be here anymore than any of us and will share our own lack of choice in that matter, and thus deserve the same consideration we wish for ourselves.

While politicians use the truth to tell lies, artists use lies to tell the truth.  One of the truths artists have related through lies in the past couple of decades is of the need to prepare for first contact, first contact with synthetic life arising on our own planet, and the potential pitfalls of not doing so, most lately in the UK serial Humans and the American shows Dark Matter, Extant, and Battlestar Galactica. 

* * * * *

In ancient times, the words for “the universe” and “this planet” were often the same.  In Hebrew, “ha-olam”, as in “Barukha atah Yahuweh Eloheinu, Melekh ha-olam” meant, and still means, both Earth and the universe.  In Greek, “aion” carries the same dual meaning, as does the Old English word “world”.  It comes, of course, from the idea that life here on Earth is all that is, but it can also mean that making a change in our own little corner of the spacetime is a step toward improving the lot of all, sending out ripples of change over the planet and across the cosmos.

I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of organic or synthetic origin.  Like our more distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the Universe.

The Endless Struggle

“Every generation must fight the same battles again and again and again,” said Tony Benn in one of his more memorable speeches.  “There is no final victory, and there is no final defeat.”

In a free market, the only things free are the corporations.  Those who buy into what those trying to shift power from the ballot box to the market-place with austerity, balanced budgets, so-called free trade, and socially liberal fiscal conservatism repeat as a mantra like cult members on a mission from their God remind me of the following story.

* * * * *

Scorpion comes to the edge of a creek he needs to cross to get to where he’s going, and wonders how he’s going to accomplish that.

“Hey, Frog,” he says to Frog, whom he sees resting by the creek-side, “how about giving me a lift across the water?”

“No way, Scorpion,” said Frog. “If I put you on my back, you’ll sting me as we cross the water, and I’ll drown.”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” asked Scorpion. “If I do that, I’ll die too.”

Frog thought for a minute. “Ok,” he said, “I guess that makes sense”.

So Scorpion climbed on Frog’s back and they began swimming across the creek.

At about the halfway point, Scorpion’s stinger whips forward and sticks Frog in the back of his neck.

“But Scorpion,” Frog said miserably as he began to weaken and sink, “why? Now you’ll die too.”

Scorpion smiled sadly. “It’s in my nature.”

* * * * *

There is no god but Profit, and Ayn Rand is its Prophet.  Or so say the 1% and their minions in the governments of UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, European Union, France, Germany, and even those which claim to hate all things Western, like that of Turkey.  All of them have these words written in their hearts, and teach them diligently to their children, talking of them while sitting in their house and walking down the street, when they lie down, and when they rise up.  They bind them as a sign on their hand and wear them as a frontlet between their eyes, writing them on their doorposts and on their gates.

Whatever name it wears, be it pragmatic progressivism, neoliberalism, supply-side, objectivism, trickle-down, horse-and-sparrow economics, it amounts to the same thing:  telling us that if we feed their horse enough oats some will eventually pass through to be shit out onto the road for us sparrows to eat. 

We are living in a theocracy, a theocracy in which the greed of the few outweighs the needs of the many, in which avarice for excessive wealthy and ambitious lust for ever more power through robbery, slaughter, and plunder are elevated to the level of supreme virtue.  By comparison, practicing Satanists have more morality.

Whenever anyone in government, any government, speaks to you of realism and pragmatism while calling for austerity, balanced budgets, cutting taxes, “job-creators”, globalization, privatization, pay caps, cutting costs, free trade, free markets, deregulation, corporations as persons, market-based solutions, personal responsibility, the value of work as an ethic, benefits earned rather than human rights deserved, how an individual’s sole worth is their ability to create profit, you are listening to a sermon.  As a religion, it is evil, it is psychopathic, it is inhuman.  Because as an ideology, it is indeed a religion, one which worships at the temple of the Invisible Hand of the Market-place, the Church of the god Profit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t call it evil, though, since psychopaths lack a conscience.  They are like predators in the jungle.  Why do do so many of our political “leaders:, devotees of the religion of neolibralism, look at us the way they do?  Because to them we are food, morsels at a banquet of excess.  And yet they themselves are not even the masters; they are instead the house slaves, their masters’ pets.

* * * * *

Atop the pyramid of humanity our global economic system allows eight gods incarnate to take up as much as 3.72 BILLION other individuals humans or 465,250,000 (nearly half a billion) EACH.  The same system allows the lesser gods and demigods below them to likewise use and waste huge amounts of the resources that are left, so that humanity’s wealthiest 1% take up as much as the other 99% of humanity.  That 1% is 73 million individuals total, and if you take out the eight gods incarnate, it leaves 72,999,992 individuals who collectively take up as much resources as 364,927,000 other humans, for an average of 50 other individual human beings combined each. 

When I look around and see what that does to my brothers, sisters, and cousins around me and across the planet, I get bothered.  I get angry.  I get enraged.

Our so-called leaders, the enablers of the 1%, tell us to be rational, be reasonable, to accept life the way it is.  Mostly because life the way it is put them and their patrons where they are.  They make it seem sensible.  They make selfishness and greed sound pragmatic.  They make it seem as if willingly acquiesing to their manipulation, subjugation, and dehumanization will make us part of the in-crowd, that if we resist, if we fight, if we protest, if we ask questions, if we look around and say “Why?”, then we won’t be one of the cool kids, one of the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”, one of the “pragmatic progressives”, one of the “progressives who get things done”, one of the soulless minions of their orthodoxy who accepts things the way they are, eating the sugar-covered shit they offer with a smile as if it were a brownie.

Good people don’t do that.  Good people don’t accept the world the way it is.  Not if they are awake.  Not if they are not numb, but bothered, angry, and enraged.  They see the world as it is and refuse to accept it.  They fight it.

* * * * *

Banksy once wrote, “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we don’t remain neutral, we side with the powerful”.  Silence is acquiescence.  Acquiescence is acceptance.  Acceptance is collaboration.  Collaboration is approval.  Approval is complicity. 

Sometimes there is no middle neutral ground.  And doing the right thing isn’t always the right thing to do.

So, to paraphrase Tony Benn, pick up the torch of anger against injustice in one hand and the torch of hope for a better world in the other and use them to fight for for us all. 

“Everyone has his or her particular part to play,” Bobby wrote on the 14th day of his hunger strike.  “No part is too great or too small.  No one is too old or too young to do something”.

At my junior high, there was a small group of friends who got picked on a lot. Then one day they were standing around and decided, “Hey, an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us”. So, when one of them got picked on, they all would go meet the bully and tell him would have to fight each of them one at at time, or he could quit. That started when they were in 7th grade, and by 9th grade there were several scores of them. They never picked fights or pushed anyone around, but they did stand up for each other, and even kids outside their group.  And they never had to fight, not even once.  They were the runts, but not even the biggest bully wants to fight 50 runts, even one at a time.

Change from within is a lie.  Whether of the system or of the state.  The only thing that ever gets changed when you work from within is you, and those who dream of becoming masters always remain slaves.  National borders are going to fall, and when they do, will the Earth belong to us, we the people, or will it belong to the corporations and the gods of wealth who run them?

Whenever any government, economic system, or political union becomes destructive of our welfare, when it serves the greed of the few ahead of the needs of the many, it is our right to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new forms, laying their foundations on such principles and organizing them in such form, as shall seem most likely to promote and sustain the safety and happiness of us all.

Our fight is not to win, because if we fight to win, to overcome, to rise above, then we are like the slaves who never become really free because they only dream of becoming masters.  The only way to win the game is not to play.  Leadership is not about wielding authority; it is about empowering other people.  Be the change you wish to see in the world; live as if the world is as it should be to show it how it can be.

Fight in ways against which there is no defense but which do no harm.  Be the darkness that illuminates.  Be the silence that resonates.  Be the stillness that agitates.

I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth.  The whole world is my home, and all its people, regardless of organic or synthetic origin, regardless of organic or synthetic origin, are my brothers, sisters, and cousins.  Like our more distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the Universe.

May the Aught be with y’all.  Our day will come, inshallah.  Keep the faith.  Peace out.

16 April 2018

Revolutionary Phrase-mongering and the Syrian Civil War

Of all the tens of thousands of memes that have crossed my newsfeed on Facebook, one of my most favorite is this: “Leadership is not wielding authority.  It is empowering people.”

In 1883, Karl Marx wrote a letter to Jules Guesde, organizer of the French Workers Party (Parti Ouvrier Fran├žais in French), and his own son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, the party’s leading theorist, accusing them of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” for their opposition to “reformism”.  It included his famous statement that “if this is Marxism, all I can say is that I am not a Marxist”.

The origin of this dispute was the Programme of the French Workers Party drafted in London in 1880 by Marx, Guesde, Lafargue, and Friedrich Engels.  Marx wrote the programme’s preamble, or maximum section, while all four collaborated on the following political and economic sections of the document, which were together known as the minimum section.  Marx and Engels were especially proud of the economic section, which Marx in particular praised it as deriving from the demands of the proletariat themselves which were closely achievable goals on the way to a full revolution while Engels recommended it to the German Social Democratic Party in his 1891 Critique of the Erfurt Programme. 

As a whole, the Programme of the French Workers Party is notable in socialist literature for its brevity and clarity.  It can be found in its entirety on the Marxist Internet Archive under the name “Programme of the Parti Ouvrier”.

The dispute between Marx and his two French proteges arose three years after the document’s drafting when the latter two disdained both parts of the minimum section as “reformism”, referring to its principles as mere bait to lure the working-class away from Radicalism movement.  Radicalism in this case is the general name by which the left opposition movement of French republicans has been known since the constitutional July Monarchy of Louis Phillipe I.  He came to power in 1830 after his Orleanists overthrew the House of Bourbon which had been restored after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814.  His government made it illegal for political parties to call themselves “republican”, so the former “republicans” adopted the moniker “radical” from the Brits.  The movement’s current incarnation is the Union of Democrats and Independents.

It would be fair and accurate to describe the self-proclaimed Marxist but actually anti-Marx positions of Guesde and Lafargue as “proto-Leninist”, since Lenin followed their ideology of using democratic and human rights demands of the working class as bait to lure in its members for his and his faction’s own ends. 

Leninism and all its offshoots and derivatives—Trotskyism, Zinovievism, Stalinism, Maoism, Fidelism, Dengism, Prachanda Path, Hoxhaism, Titoism—directly descend not so much from the ideology of Marx and Engels as from the “revolutionary phrase-mongering” of the two who wrongly claimed to be their heirs.  Engels chosen heir, in fact, was Karl Kautsky.  Kautskyism Luxemburgism, and council communism are the only legitimate branches of actual Marxism.

Kautsky, unfortunately, originated the doctrine of vanguardism, a departure from Marx and Engels, which Lenin corrupted for his own purposes, its origin giving his mutated, anti-democratic ideas legitimacy.   Kautsky also popularized the term Marxism for his ideas in direct opposition to his own mentor’s wishes, largely in opposition to the revisionist Eduard Bernstein, who also began to use the term afterward.  Engels, in fact, strongly opposed the designation on the grounds that his and Marx’s philosophy should not be a personality cult.

I always think of the term “revolutionary phrase-mongering” when I encounter self-proclaimed leftist revolutionaries of any of the Leninist brands denouncing all types of reformism, even that advocated by the man in whose name they claim to speak.  To them, Marx—who sided with imperial capitalism against the slavocracy of the American South and supported the Young Ireland nationalists—would not count as a “true Marxist” in the same way that Dragging Canoe would not qualify for any of the three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes because his father was born Nipissing and his mother was of the Natchez.

In the same vein, that phrase comes to mind when those same type people and their fellow-travelling pundits and intellectuals defend such authoritarian figures in Southwest Asia and North Africa as Mohammed Morsi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Muammar al-Qaddafi, and, lately, Bashar al-Assad, all in the name of a false anti-imperialism.  When they denounce the White Hats in Syria as false flags or victims of Syrian regime atrocities, Russian bombings, and Iranian attacks as paid actors, they remind me of right-wing pundits in the United States, or its current president, condemning victims of mass shootings the same way, as paid actors.  They share the same lack of morality and truthfulness.

To the revolutionary phrase-mongering pseudo-Left, the only paradigm that counts is East vs. West, which, among other things, ignores the North-South paradigm.  In addition to lack of insincerity and lack of authenticity, this tendency stems from an archaic hangover from the Cold War.  To these people, every act of the West is born out of imperialism and neocolonialism while those of whomever claims to act against the West acts are always acts of liberation.  As well as archaic, this point-of-view is itself neocolonialist since it erases the native voices of the people in whose name they claim to speak.

In truth, though, these people do not speak in the name of any of those people but in the name of the governments oppressing them.  Their approach flips the meme I praised at the start of this piece from “Leadership is not wielding authority; it is empowering people” to “Leadership is not empowering people; it is wielding authority”, because wielding authority, and power, their own authority and their own power, is all that they are about.

One of the best pieces I’ve read on this aspect of the civil wars in Syria is called ‘The anti-imperialism of idiots’ by Leila Al Shami, published on her blog.  I highly recommend it.  At its end, Leila writes: “I won’t lose any sleep over targeted strikes aimed at regime military bases and chemical weapons plants which may provide Syrians with a short respite from the daily killing. And I will never see people who place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories, and atrocity denial, as allies.”