I recall an event that occurred almost twenty years ago, in which Harry Cleaver, a notable figure in autonomist Marxism, called New York ‘the land of dinosaurs’. What he meant was that leftist currents that had died out years ago were still viable here. I don’t think anyone could foresee that the internet would provide a Jurassic Park for so many unfortunate ideologies.
I am used to Saturday travel taking me past two dinosaur exhibits. On the North side of the road there has been an ongoing gathering in support of the Trumpian flavor of right wing idiocy. On the South side is a peace and justice rally for most things vaguely to the left. The lefties have a better spot, being positioned next to a bagel store, which provides both bagels and a toilet. I don’t know where the Trumpists go to the bathroom. In each other’s mouths?
The evolution of this dynamic is unclear to me, but the peace and justice folks have been around longer. It is very likely the case that the Trump people showed up to hate them from across the street.
The number of people in attendance varies, and the Trump people seem to have run out of steam following his defeat in the 2020 election. I can blame them for a great many things, but a lack of desire to wave signs at a generally uninterested public isn’t one of them. Honestly, I miss them. It’s nice to have people to throw garbage at. The vehicle gets cleaner and, hopefully, they get just a tiny bit more demoralized and paranoid.
There was a new phenomenon on the road this week. A group of people were tabling outside of the post office and they had a number of confusing banners. One said ‘Crush the Green New Deal’, another said ‘Don’t Blame Russia and China’, and the most perplexing one advocated for the construction of new nuclear power plants. And then I saw, in the lower right hand corner of a banner, that they were associated with Lyndon Larouche. One of the more confusing things about this is that Lyndon Larouche is dead.
Someone being dead doesn’t necessarily mean that the politics they espouse die with them. People call themselves Marxists, Trotskyists, Maoists, Leninists… on and on and on. Christian is a thing, so let’s throw that in there too. I’ve recently begun to engage with Facebook again, and in a profound error of reasoning, joined the ‘Marxists Discussion Group’, and it is shockingly and alarmingly stupid.
My bad, really. I should have considered the name more closely, though it’s possible to misread it no matter what. Instead of an engagement with the thought and writings of Marx, it is an engagement with the thought and writings of people who identify as Marxists, and we’re not talking about contemporary theorists, who may or may not be dumb. We’re talking about the unsavory characters, like Stalin, Mao, Lenin and so on.
Participants have very weird questions which almost always devolve into arguments about the merits of autocratic socialist regimes. Someone will begin a thread by asking something painfully stupid, like ‘In a country where commodities are abundant is it necessary to have a dictatorship of the proletariat?’ (which is like asking what the right saddle for a pegasus is, but with more violence implied) which will somehow devolve even further into an argument about whether the deaths attributed to Stalin are propaganda or not. This is a baffling argument. If Hitler only killed half of the people attributed to the holocaust it doesn’t really change anything, except people will know with certainty that you are dangerous and should not be asked to take care of their pets when they go away for the weekend.
Initially I was just trolling, and then I realized that most of these people were impervious to mockery, which they might have trained for or they might just naturally be gifted with. Either way, lucky them. Even if the fantasy you live in involves eating white fish and making people dig their own graves, it still provides you with scaffolding for your internal world.
I see parallels between this and the Larouchians on the side of the road.
Lyndon Larouche was a fucking lunatic. And a predator. I accuse people of rank madness all the time so maybe it loses its impact, but really, I’m not crying wolf. With any cult leader it’s hard to separate out beliefs expressed that allow them to maintain power and beliefs expressed that were actual beliefs. If you’ve seen Wild, Wild Country his movement works along the same lines except without any promise of spiritual ascendance. Followers would turn over all of their money to the organization, be encouraged to engage in campaigns of harassment and direct violence against political opponents, and would undergo ‘therapy’ with Larouche intended to ‘destroy their egos’ (which always seems to be a theft- the cult leader holds onto the ego, no matter how shattered).
As well, there were always shadowy enemies waiting to kill Larouche, which provides a convenient way of creating a group identity. If the Queen of England (who is an international drug kingpin) is trying to have your leader assassinated then shit, you must be on to something.
This is not to say that assassinations of figures on the left weren’t occurring at the time, but rather that it’s relatively implausible that Henry Kissinger, Queen Elizabeth, the Communist Party USA and Nelson Rockefeller were the ones planning the assassination. Grand conspiracies are attractive to people who really want to believe something and don’t care if that thing is stupid.
The current iteration of the movement, operating mostly out of a political action committee, somehow survived the death of Larouche at the regrettably old age of 97, and has pulled hard right. They promulgate the common right wing conspiracies regarding election fraud in the 2020 election, as well as hewing to the line that Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists infiltrated and led the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2020. This is an odd place for an organization that began in the New Left of the 1960’s to end up, but then again, maybe not. They appear to mostly parasitize existing movements, drawing in the most deluded and sucking money out of them.
Their PAC is fascinating, and if you go to their website you can watch a woman who looks like Droopy Dog at an arraignment for possession of child pornography talk about pretty much the same shit that you can hear if you watch Tucker Carlson. But don’t click on their ‘contact’ link, because they download a file onto your computer. Fucking creeps.
Do I have a point to make? Perhaps it’s just that people are desperate for some kind of all-encompassing ideology that prescribes a concrete plan of action that will provide them with a path out of a present that is confusing and scary. Also, maybe it’s the case that people that are hateful are easily enlisted in histories that justify violence on a massive scale. Or, maybe it’s that people are dumb and they feel relieved when someone tells them what to do.
Whatever the case, dinosaurs roam the political landscape.