Re: Is North Korea right wing?

10th May 2015, 00:47

As far as the global totality, or "Empire" goes, they are most certainly and undoubtedly reactionary. If we understand left and right wing as definite political standards which have significance on the global level, then this places North Korea, which either out of desparation or spontaneous inclination aligns itself with some of the worst scum globally - squarely in the right camp, in the reactionary sense (I.e. David Cameron and the Iranian state are both "right wing", but they are not the same).

Originally Posted by Tim Cornelis View Post
I read some commentary in a paper about how these types of people, like Foucault admiring the Ayatollahs, was the result of postmodernism. So these Tankies and anti-imps that support Ramzan Kadryov (yes, they exist), Iran, Alexander Dugin and Novorossiya, North Korea, China, are perhaps some kind of degenerate postmodern bastards. Would need to look into that to see if that holds some merit.
To be clear this is absolutely a postmodern phenomena unique to our de-industrialized epoch. It allows one to maintain a proper distance from the "thing", as a means of not identifying with them but reducing them to a mere expression of your consumerist individuality. It's also important to however not get confused: If one is supporting Dugin, while this is undoubtedly a degenerate postmodern phenomena it is still political - thoroughly reactionary.
The idea of totalitarianism is inherently a liberal one. How it works, essentially, is it contrasts the various ethical and political norms of liberal society - deemed to be natural and trans-historic, with the political and social standards of other societies: Because for these "natural" laws to be violated, i.e. in the process of contrasting them, they are deemed to all have intent behind them - the idea that there was a special psychological department in the Soviet propaganda apparatus that willfully manipulated people (this did exist for the Germans, ironically).

Either ONLY Fascism was totalitarian, or ONLY Stalinism was totalitarian. The reason is that Fascism was intentionally forced, and mimicked Stalinism in various ways, while Stalinism was organic and sufficient unto itself. The conclusions you could draw from this are EITHER the organic nature of Stalinist "totalitarianism" is why it is truly totalitarian (because, *Gasp* it was such an enclosed totalitarian society, even Stalin himself was brainwashed!) or alternatively, BECAUSE it was organic only Fascism was totalitarian, in the sense that it was in various ways staged like a spectacle that was all-encompassing in an intentional manner.

All in all, the idea of Totalitarianism is liberal masturbation and nothing more.
Originally Posted by Tim Cornelis View Post
Totalitarian systems of government are distinct from other systems of government and that warrants a word to describe the concept. Typical authoritarian systems of government distance themselves from the general population in order for the political elite to enrich themselves. It is corrupt, nepostic, marked by favouritsm, cliques, and these governments do not seek justification in grande ideological narratives. Totalitarian systems of government, in stark contrast, invite popular participation but in a tightly controlled fashion and this is tied to an ideological justification. Essentially, typical authoritarian rule is illegitimate, and totalitarian rule is legitimate. These two styles or systems of governance/government are distinct enough to discern between them.
The very insistence of this distinction has its basis not in any overtly apparent reality, but in an ideological perversion. The reason it is wholly unscientific is because the ideological pathology that sees a "totalitarian" system proceeds its qualifications for definition. The word "totalitarianism" is in essence nothing more than a means by which ruling ideology de-legitimizes societies with different ideological constellations and political standards. In order to have any discussion of "totalitarianism" we have to first accept that the qualification is muddied and unscientific - that its ambiguity is evidence of its ideological nature. The same goes for a so-called "Authoritarian" government.

No authoritarian government exists for the sake of the government - and typically when we think of an "authoritarian" government we think solely of the Franco, Suharto, Pinochet, Lee Kuon Yu and so on. This is how sick and hypocritical liberal ideology is - we use words like "totalitarian" to completely debase and delegitimize societies, but we can use "authoritarian" to describe societies which require the iron fist in order to institute our political standards. Even if they are equal in terms of their degrees of brutality and abuse of power, the basis of this distinction is not in cynicism, but what we want to pick and choose in legitimizing. The fact of the matter is that the totalitarian narrative, arguably for any society has been not only an utter failure in encapsulating and relating to the experiences of those who lived under them, but a meaningful analysis into the various complexities of these systems for what they were. The idea that he Soviet Union was totalitarian even under Stalin is so painfully disgusting words cannot describe it - even on an ethical level its reductionist is disgusting. Because the "horror" of Stalinism was precisely because it was not this, society was not "consciously" controlled and so-called grand ideological narratives (And tell me, what societies don't have this? The ideological mechanisms of Soviet, and North Korean power WERE legitimate! In fact, most of the opposition following collectivization pre-supposed in one way or another the structure of Marxist-Leninist ideology, albeit with some minor elaborations!) were actually adhered to and believed in by those in power.

So the problem with this distinction is that it has its basis in what is already a false designation of government - the only way to measure an "authoritarian" or "totalitarian" government is by presuming the legitimacy of liberal democracy and contrasting it with them. Ultimately, the differences are bound by the state of class struggle - in liberal democracies, political power between classes, or its potential for it, is balanced - it was not "set up" this way, but it accommodates for the fluidity of capital and as a result its social stratification in a more dynamic manner. Initially, for example, democratic rights were not given to everyone - universal suffrage was fought for in various countries. So liberal democracy, while certainly representative of the rule of the bourgeoisie, is different insofar as it does not attempt to overcome the contradictions of capitalism. In "authoritarian" governments, typically you have either a transitional period wherein the political enemies of capital are liquidated followed by a "democracy", or traditionally, and what looks to be the future of capital is the disavowment of liberal civic values, with the retention of the "private freedoms" sustained by the capitalist economy.
Originally Posted by PhoenixAsh View Post
In that respect the arguments do not differ much from the natural rights arguments of liberalism. There is a good discussion to be had if on the respects of rights liberalism developed already existing natural rights arguments from feudalism and feudal authoritarianism and expanded the notion to apply equally to a larger population....and totalitarianism is a reactionary system that reverts it back towards a small part of that population.
No, in a so-called "totalitarian" society formally everyone is equal before the law. Even more ironic is that at least in the case of Stalinism, at least formally (and this is very powerful) the leader had the etiquette of just another citizen. The leader would clap at the end of his speeches when the masses did, in order to not dis-associate with them and so on. And I don't buy it was all some intentional publicity stunt. The cult of personality was something outside of his formal being, and it symbolically functioned to encapsulate the collective egalitarian spirit of the masses. In this sense, Stalinist "totalitarian" societies were much more democratic than liberal democracies, not in the sense that the direct decisions of people were more powerful, but that "the people", as such, mattered with regard to relations of political power.

Now 'formally' liberal democracy grants equal rights for all citizens, but in truth the reality is that this in practice, again, only applies to a small part of the population in full.
Originally Posted by Tim Cornelis View Post
There's clear differences between liberal democracy, illiberal democracy, authoritarian regimes, and totalitarian regimes. I don't see why some leftists are so allergic to using 'totalitarian'.
Well, let me be more concise: Is there something distinct about states that are deemed totalitarian? Yes. The distinction is undoubtedly there. The point is that the totalitarian model fails to conceive the qualifications of this distinction in a scientific manner. It is pathological not because it "falsely" groups things together that have nothing to do with each other, but because it emphasizes and de-emphasizes, it picks and chooses aspects about these societies in common in a way that is only possible if they're contrasted with liberal democracies. Hence the ambiguity of the term - the only meaningful reason behind it is to bind Fascist and Stalinist states together as somehow being the "same" in their extremism. This has little to do with any meaningful analysis of Fascism or Stalinism, but a means to obfuscate politics in western countries so that no one goes "too far" from the "center" of the political spectrum, which could only ever be those in power.

To cut a long story short, only two types of states in existence can be called "Totalitarian" - Stalinist, and Fascist states. I think on this we can agree, no? So the qualifications of distinction you've set forth - mass participation, "grand ideological narratives" and the irk - this is not a universal qualification that "any" ideology can conform to, it is something innately and uniquely Communist. The confusion arises from this simple fact: Fascism mimicked the aesthetic appeal of Communism in every possible way, but the difference is that Fascism was not an "organic" totalitarianism in the sense that - Fascism was staged, it was largely a spectacle. It did not have the grand awe-aspiring power of Stalinism, instead it had a sham of a mystique that, while able to inspire devotion from large sections of the population, was fundamentally not grounded in any transformative project (but preventing one!). Do you really thin the idea of the "master race" or whatever was in any way a meaningful goal? And even if it was, what is really socially transformative about it? Nothing. It's not as though Germany was such a culturally diverse state before the Nazis.

What are the distinguishing features of states ascribed to be "totalitarian"? Simple, a precarious political existence and the democratization of everyday life. "totalitarian" states were political in the domain of everyday life, because every day life was in the process of being transformed. With a mass feeling of solidarity, collective sacrifice and egalitarian passion, of course "ordinary" everyday life could not flourish. This is why totalitarianism usually ONLY refers to the Soviet Union during the Stalin era - when its existence was most precarious, and when the calm of everyday life hadn't set in politically. So what's the problem with the so-called "totalitarian" model?

It assumes that the citizens of these countries had some kind of innate spontaneous predisposition to diverge from ruling ideology, and had to be "kept in check" by the state in all domains of life. But this wasn't true to the slightest: When there was dissonance between the population and the state, it usually never took the form of an ideological difference but an opposition that pre-supposed the prevailing power structures ("totalitarian" power structures). Furthermore, in the cases where people had to be "kept in check", it wasn't because they spontaneously had predispositions to bourgeois-liberal ideology (I.e. the "natural" state of mankind and his desire for liberty). That's why after the collapse of Communism, most anti-Communist activists were in for a big surprise - their expectations for capitalism were entirely different from the reality of it. If it was otherwise, one could make the argument that they were spontaneously predisposed to capitalism, but they simply weren't.

Totalitarianism either ONLY refers to Fascism, or it ONLY refers to Communism. Because you can have it one way or another - either it's intentional, staged as a means of controlling people (Fascism) or everyone is "so brainwashed" that it forms organically without anyone knowing it (Communism). There's so much ambiguity HERE that it's impossible to make a meaningful qualification for ascribing the term onto something.
Regarding legitimacy, all the notions of it that have been put forth are innately liberal. What is legitimacy? When the ideology of the state apparatus, sustained of course by violence by default, is able to correctly approximate the real conditions of life and existence of citizens. In other words, when the state reproduces condition of production ideologically, and not just by sheer direct, naked force, it is legitimate.
Because then it inevitably leads to a game of subjectivity: justified by who? Acceptance by who? "The people"?

And now we see why it's liberal.
Originally Posted by Tim Cornelis View Post
The liberal American political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset said that legitimacy also "involves the capacity of a political system to engender and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the most appropriate and proper ones for the society." How's that any different from what you said?
Because what constitutes "society" for a liberal is infinitely different than what we consider relations to production. What's being said here assumes "society" as some kind of holistic well being of "the people", i.e. society here is not being used in a relative manner. You may as well replace "the society" for "the people". It makes no difference.

Supposedly, totalitarianism is a liberal concept as a way to chastise rule that deviates from the liberal norm but the same liberals also use the liberal-biased concept of legitimacy to describe that same totalitarianism. Doesn't really make sense to me.
This isn't what is being said. Pinochet arguably deviated from the liberal norm, and yet no one refers to his rule as totalitarian. The point being that it's a word used to de-legitimize societies that are built on fundamentally different political and social foundations with entirely different ideological standards, i.e. either ONLY fascist societies or ONLY Stalinist societies, for reasons I have mentioned above - of course all them are deemed totalitarian, but it can either be read that the Soviet Union was "fascist-like" or that Nazi Germany was "Soviet-like" in the minds of liberals. There is no in-between. The society which is the point of reference for totalitarianism which forms the basis of mimickery encapsulates the divide between different bourgeois political factions.

Conversely the way your'e describing it makes it seem like totalitarian is a regular occurrence that can be "left-wing" or "right-wing", as though it's a manner of taxamony, as though there's nothing extra-ordinary about it and it's just "another form of society" or whatever. This isn't the case though. A "totalitarian" society can either be Stalinist or Fascist. The relation between these two types of societies has already been established above.

But to ignore all of that, even by your own standards of argumentation I don't understand where the confusion comes from. The only way liberals could "chastise rule that deviates from the liberal norm" is by applying their own notion of legitimacy. Legitimacy for liberals doesn't ALWAYS have moral connotations. Divine right as a means of rule was described by liberal thinkers as a form of legitimacy - the point is that for liberals there are ethically acceptable foundations of legitimacy, and ethically unacceptable ones.

Yes, as far as I know, in the context of totalitarianism legitimacy refers to popular acceptance and perceptions of justification. And how is it subjective to make the objective observation whether a population considers their form of government legitimate? In the broader sense, legitimacy can also refer to acceptance and perceptions of justification of any social group.
Because a) What constitutes the population? Everyone not in a direct position of state power? Are they really so monolithic? And b) If this cannot be clearly defined, how can a WHOLE society be deemed totalitarian? Again, why is Iran "not exactly" totalitarian by merit of the definition you've given us? There is certainly popular acceptance and perceptions of justification. I'm not saying there's nothing distinct about what is described as a "totalitarian" society, I'm just saying that the conscious explanations brought forth for what that constitutes is inconsistent and wholly ideological. If we could be honest and say it only refers to Stalinist or Fascist societies, then this would reveal the utterly hypocritical nature of the word as not some kind of "neutral" means of designating societies (like democracy, autocracy, or whatever you want), but something that has been explicitly built upon very specific societies.