2022: The year in posting
The surge in support for socialism comes to an end, and I uncovered two dark money projects that helped it happen.
2022 is almost over, so as usual I’d like to look back at my writing over the past year. The main reason I do this is so that people who are new to this blog can get an easy overview of what it’s about, but I also think putting all of this in one place can help longtime readers get a better sense of the broader critique I’ve developed.
Thanks as always to everyone for reading. I remain committed to only accepting crowdfunded donations for my writing, and that means a few dollars here and there from people like you. A one month subscription is just $5, and a year is just $40 — just a little over $3 a month. I have some projects for this site that I’d like to work on in 2023, and with your help we can make it happen.
Anyway, here are my dogs. Merry Christmas!
THE DARK MONEY CO-OPTION CAMPAIGN AGAINST SOCIALISM
WAS SEAN MCELWEE ONE OF SAM BANKMAN-FRIED’S STRAW DONOR CO-CONSPIRATORS? Liberal media has spent years hyping Data for Progress founder Sean McElwee as a spokesman for socialism — even as he actively attacked socialist politics, candidates, and activists. A big reason DFP became such a player, of course, is that it’s a project of Tides Advocacy, the biggest dark money Democratic pass-through there is. But just a week ago, I broke some news that’s even more troubling: it looks an awful lot like Sean has been taking money from disgraced billionaire SBF as part of an illegal straw-donor scheme.
WHO’S ON THE PAYROLL OF PETER THIEL’S DARK-MONEY “INFLUENCER” CAMPAIGN? Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time documenting a very similar phenomenon on the right: a whole network of media personalities who position themselves as Marxists and class warriors even as they actively attack socialism. Though rumors of dark money funding have circulated around them for a long time, this year I finally established a link: Peter Thiel’s Rockbridge Network, which has been funding an effort to build “a new conservative ecosystem”, and whose founder, Chris Buskirk, has aggressively promoted the so-called Post Left.
THE BOURGEOISIE CRUSHES THE PROFESSIONAL-MANAGERIAL “CLASS”
HOW MARXISM SOLVES TODAY’S GREATEST MYSTERY IN THE WWE. When Vince McMahon stepped down as CEO of the WWE earlier this year, wrestling media obsessed over a bizarre question: was he really gone? Most concluded yes, but I took the standard Marxist position that it’s McMahon’s ownership of the company, not his managerial title, that gives him power, and that if he wanted to return he could. Postscript: last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that McMahon is eyeing a return, and wrestling media is suddenly learning about the difference between the bourgeoisie and “PMC” workers.
MUSK, TWITTER, AND THE POWER OF OWNERSHIP. For years, right populists have pointed to the woke managers and administrators of Twitter as a perfects example of the PMC’s control over our politics. The came Elon Musk, who bought out the company — and has spent all his time since then effortlessly firing managers en masse and overturning their entire administration. It’s been a direct and unmistakable lesson in who really has control under capitalism; turns out, it’s the guy writing the checks.
NEOLIBERALISM AND ANTI-STATE IDEOLOGY ON THE US LEFT. Socialism has long understood the state as a weapon that capital can wield against workers — and that workers can wield against capital. Today, however, radical politics in the US is often marked by a de facto rejection of state power, often veiled with analytically empty rhetoric about “the bourgeois state.” I trace the recent history of this tendency and its relationship to the rise of neoliberalism.
POLITICAL HETERODOXY IS RARE, BUT THE BRAND IS EXTREMELY POPULAR. Relying on previously unpublished data by Pew, I demonstrate that the biggest group of partisans in the US don’t identify as Democrats or as Republicans. They’re pseudo-independents: people who call themselves independent, even though they have the exact same views and voting behavior as overt partisans. Moreover, the figure of the dogmatic partisan who never departs from the party line is virtually non-existent. These two facts should radically change the discourse’s framing of our politics as a battle between freethinking independence and mindless conformity, though I’m not optimistic.
HOW THE MEDIA HYPES RIGHT-WING ACTIVIST SCHEMES INTO “MOVEMENTS”. Right-wing astroturfing has come a long way from the days of oligarchs bussing in paid protesters. Today, the right has developed a sophisticated operation that selectively amplifies on-message lowbies as voices of a movement. It gives their communications of populist facade — and, as I noted elsewhere, it lets them keep their hands clean.
EVEN IF RUSSIA WERE TO INVADE UKRAINE, THE US SHOULD NOT GO TO WAR. This article, for me, ended up foreshadowing a lot of the discourse on Ukraine that has followed ever since. Leftists were rightly skeptical of US government warnings that Russia was about to invade Ukraine — but too many on the left let that skepticism become perverse certainty that Russia wouldn’t, grounded entirely in ignorance about the conflict and lazy credulity towards the Russian line. And when Russia did invade, our embarrassment on this became a significant liability for the anti-war movement that we’re still dealing with today.
WHAT LENIN TEACHES ANTI-IMPERIALISTS ABOUT UKRAINE. Radical discourse in the US often proceeds as if there’s an uncontroversial consensus over what “imperialism” is and how it must be fought. There is a significant difference, however, between the “west versus the rest” notion of imperialism that’s been popular among US radicals since the Iraq war — and between Lenin’s conception of imperialism as an inevitable feature of all capitalist economies. This question has become relevant once again as leftists decide whether their solidarity lies with Russia’s anti-western bourgeoisie or with the workers of Russia and Ukraine.
WHO DOES THE WORLD BLAME FOR THE WAR IN UKRAINE? Defenses of the Kremlin as the vanguard of an anti-imperialist war against the west often suggest that it has overwhelming support in the Global South. The largest poll of global opinion on the war to date, however, tells a completely different story. In GS nations, the average respondent places most of the blame for the war on the Russian Federation, with only two outliers — Indonesia and Saudi Arabia — placing slightly more blame on the West.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF COMPARING WOKENESS TO RELIGION. Every week or so, another right-wing pundit declares — to rapturous praise, as if it’s some kind of profound intellectual breakthrough — that wokeness is like a religion. Why is this happening? It’s tempting to think that this is just an easy, profound-sounding way to say “it’s wrong and irrational and some people take it very seriously” — but if you think that, you’re wrong. Saying that “wokeness is like a religion” was invented by a guy named Freddie and everyone’s just stealing from him without credit.
NEUROSCIENCE IS VINDICATING MARXIST DETERMINISTS. Determinism — the notion that we don’t have any free will whatsoever — has long been out of fashion among philosophers and political activists alike. In recent years, however, several intellectuals working in the hard scientists have become outspoken critics of free will and so-called “compatibilist” philosophy. This is particularly true in neurobiology, where we’ve come to understand more and more human behavior as the direct effects of genetic and environmental causes. And their explanations, remarkably, sound a whole lot like the theories of Soviet-era Marxists.
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