Apocalypse Now

Since time immemorial, those in power have feared the destruction of their order, and once removed from power, they and their sympathizers always seek to bring about its return. This power – and the fear surrounding it – formed the basis of the definitions of political left and right we use today, as the Right represented those who sought the return of the French monarchy, the Ancien Régime, and on the Left, the Republicans who abolished it.

It is not surprising, then, that as generations pass and society goes through phases of upheaval and development, the ruling classes try to instill fear of societal collapse within the masses. In the United States, the political right (represented by both major parties) first drummed up fear of widespread anarchy at the turn of the 20th century, and later shaped it into fear of nuclear war with Soviet Russia. Today, the Democrats have returned to McCarthyism to accuse the ruling Republican party of conspiring with Russia, while the predominantly Republican police and ex-military are turning into the core of a popular fascist front (under the guise of “Blue Lives Matter”) much as they did during the abortive German revolution of 1918-1919.

This fear serves two purposes. First, it divides the working classes along various lines, echoing the fear of black people that the white capitalist class has used to prevent working class solidarity throughout most of US history.  Today, that fear has been supplemented by islamophobia and transphobia among other fears. Second, it allows the capitalists to profit off of each other: witness the rapid growth in disaster preparedness among the super-rich.

The term that is most used to describe the situation these reactionaries are afraid of is apocalypse. From Wikipedia:

An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω, literally meaning “an uncovering”) is a disclosure of knowledge or revelation.

Note how the popular understanding of the term – most notably appearing in the post-apocalyptic film genre – paints the apocalypse as a universally bad event. Most of the popular culture since the Cold War has focused on nuclear war as the trigger of societal collapse. Some stories explore a gradual descent of society into fascism or authoritarianism. But very few stories – Star Trek and the Culture series by Iain M. Banks excepted – explore the idea of post-class societies, even though that certainly qualifies as a dramatic revelation.

Let us embrace the apocalypse, then. Let us rise up and uncover the lies of the capitalists; let us disclose this knowledge to the world. Only then can we build the class consciousness needed to bring our destructive, unequal, and exploitative society to its rightful end, as Georg Lukacs wrote in 1920:

The proletariat only perfects itself by annihilating and transcending itself, by creating the classless society through the successful conclusion of its own class struggle. The struggle for this society, in which the dictatorship of the proletariat is merely a phase, is not just a battle waged against an external enemy, the bourgeoisie. It is equally the struggle of the proletariat against itself, against the devastating and degrading effects of the capitalist system upon its class consciousness. The proletariat will only have won the real victory when it has overcome these effects within itself.

 

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