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447. Darkening of the light (VIII)

Can there be such a thing as a left-Nietzschean? It sounds like an oxymoron, like a Catholic Orangeman or a devout atheist, for surely Nietzsche was the apostle for hierarchy and inequality—surely Nietzsche said, in parody, “Inequality is good and equality is bad.” The answer to this question is rather similar to Nietzsche’s attitude to the Jews—for you can find both praise and strong condemnation as regards the Jews in Nietzsche. This is consistent with Nietzsche’s project, since he revelled in self-contradiction; Nietzsche wanted us to dance and a dancer moves one foot in one direction and one foot in another, left-right, in order to create the dance.

The dancer will dance through his own traces, so in a sense he is consistently inconsistent; the alternation, as with Heraclitus or Yin-Yang, is the point—although Nietzsche would say the alternation must come from honest revelation as to current thoughts and feelings, not as an imposed rational project.

The reason Nietzsche is amenable to the left is that the real division between left and right is not hierarchy and chaos or inequality and equality but rather responsibility and irresponsibility. At times, Nietzsche speaks for a very strict knightly responsibility—a return to honour, really. Yet at other times his attitude is basically irresponsible, as you would expect—Nietzsche was a creative artist as much as a philosopher and artists thrive on chaos and irresponsibility. In his dark-light alternations, Nietzsche was more than willing to advocate irresponsibility.

Above all, Nietzsche is useful to the left because he hated, hated a class that no longer exists, the bourgeoisie. Today, our socialised states only retain the vaguest impression of this once mighty class: the thrifty man who owned his own business, attended church (he did not believe, yet knew atheists were all Jacobins), kept up appearances with the neighbours, remained scrupulously polite, acted in loco parentis to his employees, and had a utilitarian and somewhat sentimental view on life—he had a spaniel and read the papers to keep up on the latest advancements in science, sometimes he pottered in his greenhouse. For Nietzsche, this amiable dolt who chug-chugged back to the then-new Metroland suburbs on the Underground train was the end—the last man, smug and stupid. He needed to be blown up, and the left—for different reasons—absolutely agreed.

This is why leftists today still sneer at the suburbs; although the bourgeoisie as a class have been, to use Marxist jargon, liquidated the suburbs retain a bourgeois filigree that the left hates; self-satisfied hedonistic consumption, mindless conformism. What they really need, says the left-Nietzschean, is for the suburban husband to consent to be pegged by his wife and for suburban teenagers to liberate themselves from binary gender roles. The suburbanite is the last man, trapped by consumer society; the left-Nietzschean will liberate him through myth, the myth of the struggle for equality—now conceptualised in racial and gender terms, not as old-fashioned class struggle. The answer to the last man is derangement of the senses, as the poet Rimbaud suggested, every man—we are egalitarian—his own artist, burn the suburbs.

The Bolsheviks were not so different; as Sorel, a great admirer of Lenin, observed: by 1917 people had long-realised that Marxism as a science was useless, but as a myth it was excellent. The Bolsheviks were a hierarchical, quasi-military secret organisation dedicated to the myth of class struggle—to bring about revolution where Marx said it could not happen, Russia. A hierarchical elite—men “of a special sort”, as the Bolsheviks said—who want to seize power “by any means necessary” to usher in a New Man to replace bourgeois economic man. It sounds pretty Nietzschean, and it was—there was always an elite who were “beyond good and evil” and beyond mere economic calculation in the USSR. So the left-Nietzschean is the man who conceives his elite status as overman as a project to liberate the oppressed through a new mythology he creates.

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