The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

A Note on Crimethinc May 4, 2005 by RedStar2000

The folks at crimethinc "mean well"...I don't think anyone would seriously dispute their good intentions.

But they have some very odd ideas.



Some of you may not like crimethinc...

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. This is one of the don'ts.

Why We’re Right and You’re Wrong

quote (crimethinc):

Any kind of capital-R Revolution, any redistribution of wealth and power, will be short-lived and irrelevant without a fundamental change in our relationships—for social structure is an expression of these relationships, not a factor external to them. Revolution, then, is not a single moment, but a way of living: anarchy and hierarchy always coexist in varying proportions, and the important question is simply which you foster in your own life.

I don't think they are speaking of the objective relationships of production; the rest of the document makes it pretty clear that they are talking here of personal relationships.

The suggestion is one of "personal choice" -- you have as much "anarchy" or "hierarchy" in your life as you "choose"...without regard to the objective material conditions in your life or the lives of others.

I do expect people's priorities and personal relationships to change quite a bit in the period immediately before, during, and following a genuine "capital R-revolution"...but those changes will reflect objective material conditions, not the other way around.

quote (crimethinc):

Objectivity thinking, on which our scarcity-oriented, authoritarian civilization is based, posits that there is only one truth. According to this school of reasoning, those who want to explain human behavior or overthrow capitalism should make different propositions regarding the best way to do this, and debate them until the “correct” one is selected. And so, in the ivory towers, intellectuals and armchair revolutionaries debate incessantly, coming no closer to consensus, developing more and more exclusive jargon, while the rest of us labor to make something actually happen.

"Objectivity thinking" is the only kind of thinking that figure out what is objectively true is the only way to change that truth in a purposeful way. If we don't comprehend X as it really is, then any efforts to change it to Y simply amount to magic of one sort or another...and the probability of failure approaches 100%.

Intellectuals and "armchair revolutionaries" are not necessarily to be despised. Sometimes they are people who were activists in their youth and no longer possess the physical stamina that activism requires.

But they may have learned important truths -- things that are objectively true -- that you ignore at the peril of simply repeating the same mistakes that they made...and that they are attempting to warn you against.

quote (crimethinc):

Subjectivity thinking accepts that there is no “the” reality, and infers that any “objective” reality must simply be one subjective reality institutionalized as Truth by those in power.

Sometimes that's true...and sometimes it's not!

Telling the difference often requires the services of "intellectuals and armchair revolutionaries" -- they may have seen the same official lies -- "Truth" -- in an earlier incarnation.

My observation, for what it's worth, is that "subjectivity thinking" is really what psychologists call magical thinking -- something is "true" for me regardless of any objective evidence against it.

It is remarkably ineffective in real world interactions.


Whatever ideological issues need to be worked out can be worked out in practice, if they can be worked out at all—they certainly will not be resolved by another contest of egos disguised as a debate about theory.

Theory does come from practice -- otherwise it's just noise. That's because practice is a confrontation between theory and objective reality.

Some activists sneer, "we don't need no stinkin' theories". The objective truth of the matter is that they do have a theory or rather an incoherent mixture of theories that they operate on...often quite unconsciously.

In this particular document, for example, crimethinc operates on a theory that asserts that theoretical differences are entirely based on personal psychological motivations -- "ego contests".

Is that a good theory? Does it "make sense"? Is there evidence to support it?

Unlike crimethinc, I find it rather difficult to look "inside people's heads" to discover their "deep psychological motives" for advocating the ideas that they put forward. In fact, I can't think of any way to demonstrate that such motives actually exist...with rare exceptions.

Someone with the monumental gall to say something like "my ideas are correct because I'm me" would be a suitable candidate...but, as I say, that's a pretty rare occurrence even among the most egotistical thinkers.

It's easy enough to claim that all theoretical struggles are just "pissing contests"...but I'm not aware of any evidence to support that proposition.

quote (crimethinc):

Remember—every value you hold, every decision you make, you make for yourself alone.

That would be true if each individual person lived on his/her own planet. But the objective truth is that "everything is connected to everything else"; like it or not, everything we individually do or even just say has a social impact of some kind...even if it's "too small to measure" (as it usually is).

quote (crimethinc):

Those who still hold that there is such a thing as “objective” truth generally feel a compulsion to persuade others of their truths. This is the self-perpetuating consequence of the power struggles that go on in the market of ideas; as in any economy based on scarcity, this market is characterized by competition between capitalists who strive to preserve and increase their power over others.

Self-indicting; crimethinc itself tries to persuade others of its "truths".

Crimethinc's title for this document -- "Why We're Right and You're Wrong" -- is obviously intended to be taken ironically...but it's also literally true as well!

The relationship of such an outlook to capitalism is obviously a very distant one.

quote (crimethinc):

It’s hard to imagine from here what a world free from this war of ideologies would be like.

I'll say!!! Humans are a very contentious species...and I would be quite shocked if they ceased to argue with one another even when the very concepts of power and wealth as presently understood are but empty abstractions in very old and almost completely unread books.

quote (crimethinc):

Thus the biggest challenge for those who would find common cause with others to make revolutionary change is how to avoid making them defensive in the process.

That is the "set-up"...

quote (crimethinc):

Radical politics does make people feel defensive in the West today—this is a greater obstacle to social transformation than any corporate control or government repression. And this is due in large part to the attitudes of the activists themselves: many activists have invested in their activist identities as an act of compensation at least as much as out of a genuine desire to make things happen—for them, activism serves the same function that machismo, fashion, popularity serve for others. Activists who are still serving the imperatives of insecurity tend to alienate others—they may even unconsciously want to alienate others, so they can stand alone as the virtuous vanguard. Seeing such activists in action, people who don’t have the same insecurities to placate assume that activism has nothing to do with their own lives and needs. Whenever we have an idea for a “revolutionary” project—we must ask ourselves: Are we certain of our motivations? Will our words and deeds mobilize and enable, or immobilize and discourage? Are we trying to create a spectacle of our freedom/compassion/erudition, to establish our status as revolutionaries/leaders/intellectual theorists, to claim the moral high ground, to win at the childish competition of who is most oppressed (as if suffering was quantifiable!), still seeking power and revenge in the guise of liberation?
--emphasis added.

"Revolutionary" introspection?

"Acts of compensation"?

"Imperatives of insecurity?"

"Status", "moral high ground", "childish competition"?

Damn, what a bunch of fucked-up bastards we all are...except for crimethinc, of course.

And at the end -- "seeking power and revenge in the guise of liberation" -- did you catch that one?

When the capitalists accuse us of being motivated by "spite" and "envy", how does that differ from crimethinc's accusation?

The real error here, of course, is crimethinc's a-historical approach...the reason that revolutionaries are unsuccessful at this point in time is that they are "psychologically fucked up".

Objective conditions are "irrelevant"...since they "don't really exist" anyway.

quote (crimethinc):

The radical significance of a statement is in the effects of making it, not in whether or not it is “objectively” true.

I saved the worst for last. The American neo-cons have enthusiastically embraced the strategy of Plato's "noble lie" -- and have carried it out thus far with considerable success.

Crimethinc summons us to invent the "radical lie" -- to assert propositions that may not be "objectively true" but will have the effect of "radicalizing" people.

I can't even imagine a lousier idea. When we go up against the entire edifice of capitalist ideology, the one weapon that we have is the truth...and the conviction that it will, in the end, defeat all of their lies, "noble" and otherwise.

To abandon that seems to me so wacko that I'm at a complete loss for words to respond.

The remainder of the text (about half of the total) is a lengthy and somewhat tedious plea for "harmony", "tolerance", and "positive thinking"...advice that may or may not be useful depending on objective circumstances. They just "universalize" it as "true" for "all times" and "in all situations".

Very well, here's some "harmony" for them. I am "positive" about crimethinc whenever they actively resist the despotism of capital. I'm willing to "tolerate" a good deal of their pomo foolishness as long as that resistance continues.

But in the larger scheme of advancing revolutionary consciousness, I don't expect their approach will ever amount to much.

Magic almost never works.
First posted at RevLeft on April 29, 2005


All else in life is subjective--and the subjectivity argument is one of the key arguments against capitalism, schools, religion, law, and corporate jobs, and is used quite often...

The fact that an argument is "used in a good cause" does not make it true...and, quite possibly, ends up doing more harm than good.

The various ideologies that are used to "justify" various hierarchies are social question about it. And they are designed to create and maintain the "intellectual legitimacy" of power and wealth...likewise, a sensible proposition.

But when you "de-construct" those ideologies, you still face the question of what is really going on and why.

Does power and wealth exist simply because people have accepted "bad ideologies"? Does the entire human species suffer from severe psychological disabilities? Are we the slaves of our "selfish genes"?

Or is it possible to discover order in the seeming chaos of human history? Did Marx, in fact, discover that order?

Crimethinc. of course, would have nothing to do with Marx...but that leaves them with what?

Pleas for harmony and introspection and tolerance do not a revolution make.

Or even a good that can be supported by evidence.


...there is no such thing as objectivity (outside the physical attributes of the earth), and since humans are imperfect, they will never achieve objectivity...

This is a crucial point. I agree that humans can (probably) "never achieve" perfect objectivity in human affairs.

But that is nevertheless what we should try for!

There may be lots of things that we "cannot do" very well right now...but it's almost certain that we could do them better than we do now.

To simply assert that "there's no objective reality" in human affairs because of our inadequate understandings of that reality is just surrendering to our own ignorance...and even proclaiming that ignorance as a "virtue".

One might as well say that whatever happens between humans is "God's Will".

In addition, there's another problem with this outlook. If physical processes in the world are objectively real, why then should it "not be possible" to grasp the objective reality of human interactions?

Humans, after all, are part of the natural order of things. They are more complicated than other parts of the natural order...and thus much more difficult to understand.

But how does it make sense to dismiss the serious efforts that have already been made to understand human societies and individuals? Criticize them, sure. Subject them to the ordeal of "trial by evidence", absolutely!

But give up? Just say "it can't be done"?

Had we taken that attitude towards the world around us, we'd still be living in caves.


... thus institutions that preach an (ultimately flawed) sort of 'one truth' or institutions that attempt to mass-market people, are anti-progress and anti-freedom.

Maybe...and maybe not.

You have to actually look at the specifics of what is being said.


But apparently you missed step 3, thinking that they fall victim to the very thing they are condemning. If you read many crimethinc essays you'll notice there is no mention of crimethinc authors being any sort of exception. When they say people want to project themselves onto others, that includes them. The difference is, they're analyzing it.

Well, perhaps you're right about this...I haven't read enough of their material to say, one way or the other.

I don't see how it helps their case though, even if you are right. If they agree that they're "just as (psychologically) fucked up" as the people they criticize, then where does that leave us?


You're saying the objective truth is US, our side. Are you not doing exactly what the essay is describing? Ours isn't a "truth," ours is a theory for the ostensible "betterment" of society as a whole. When all one can think about is how truthful and "right" one is, you're no longer arguing about anarchism or communism or socialism or what have you--you are arguing about who is wrong.

And who is right, of course. *laughs*

Well, do we think "all the time" of being right or being wrong? Is that an accurate description of our priorities?

And if we do behave like that, why?

Is it "wrong" to want to be "right"?

If you think there are no "right or wrong" ideas about social reality, as crimethinc evidently does, then it "doesn't matter" and people should think about other things. (Though why they would bother is another question.)

But if you think, as I do, that a good understanding of objective social reality is crucial to changing it in the ways that you want, then the matter of which ideas are right and which are wrong becomes likewise crucial.

Certainly you can change social reality without thinking that you "know what you're doing" or, in fact, without having any understanding of social reality at all. Probably most social change up to now has been like that.

But the problem is obvious and there's even a name for it: unintended consequences.

If you haven't thought through the consequences of what you propose to do, it will be "too late" when objective reality "bites you in the ass".
First posted at RevLeft on April 29, 2005


I am saying that because of natural human bias we can say we are objective but no matter how we try to "neutrally" show things or do things, whether on a personal scale, like in a conversation, or in international laws, we wind up being biased in some way and overlook things. There is no way to be objective.

Yes, I understand what you are saying; in effect, perfect objectivity is unachievable no matter how hard we try.

I just draw a different conclusion from that observation than you do...I think we should try as hard as we can to approach "perfect objectivity" as closely as we can.

The closer we get, the more justification we have for claiming that whatever we say is "objective truth".


If objectivity existed, there would be perfect computers. The very fact that computers have errors despite their 'perfection' shows there is no objectivity even in man's "stagnant" inventions.

No one (not even Bill Gates!) claims that computers are "perfect"...but I don't see how you could deny that progress has been made. Computers are more versatile now than they were even a few short years ago...and they "work better" -- faster and more accurately -- than ever.

The conclusion that seems reasonable to me is that human understanding of objective reality with regard to information technology is closer to "what really exists" than ever before.

And I see no reason that it will not progress further.


... claiming there is objective reality is claiming one ultimate truth: that is fanaticism.

Well, revolutionaries have always been accused of "fanaticism" that doesn't really bother me at all.

But, what happens when you deny the existence of objective reality?

quote (crimethinc):

In another hilarious and ironic development, it turned out that there was a theater group in New York for the protests under the moniker Greene Dragon Society. Scrambling to give the impression that they were in control of the situation, the FBI announced that it had infiltrated the “Green Dragon Group” over a year earlier and were abreast of all its nefarious plans; this could only be to the misfortune of both the aforementioned liberal group and the FBI, however, as the Greene Dragon Society doesn’t appear to have been anywhere near the puppet that went up in flames, nor to have had anything to do with its construction. A more likely story was circulated by Starhawk of the pagan cluster, who was engaged in a spiral dance a block away when the dragon caught fire; she speculates that it was the energy released from their ritual that triggered the conflagration.

Demonstrating Resistance: Mass Action and Autonomous Action in the Election Year

Now this article is a really good one -- one of the best objective analyses of tactical resistance that I've ever come across. I urge people to read it.

And yet...this paragraph pops up towards the end -- a sample of the drooling idiocy that results from the failure to acknowledge the existence of objective reality.

Do you think that fires can be ignited "from a block away" by "spiral dancing"?

Do you believe in magic?
First posted at RevLeft on April 30, 2005
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