Among the words of 2017, along with Nazi, has to be accelerationism; one could say the term accelerated. At the beginning of the year, with bitcoin still in triple figures, institutionally accredited “left accelerationism” was the only strain to speak of, today, the exquisitely named l/acc is dead as a credible postulate, even as it remains on the march as a political myth, and two new variants square-off in what Hegel called the thunderdome of metaphysics: unconditional accelerationism (u/acc), and r/acc.
What is their relation? If each has attempted to solve, like a cryptographic equation, the problem of what accelerationism is, and implies (an updated version of the intractable riddle of history) equally enlightening are the circumstances of their birth. The descent of acc, like the ascent of man, and the origin of species, indexes an organic-strategic logic. In contrast to Cthulhu, who swims slowly but only swims Left, accelerationism has been speeding right.
L/acc, delivered at a Goldsmiths’s conference in 2010, came first. Following the flightpath that Mark Fisher, CCRU member turned affiliate lecturer and cultural critic has been pursuing on his k-punk blog since, at least, 2005, the conference aimed to make accelerationism safe for academia by mortgaging it to the extant Party project. The essence of the gesture was straightforward: Nick Land, the primal father of the CCRU, was dead, and his corpus was available for evisceration. But the funeral backfired: like in a voodoo horror, the attempt to bury Land raised him up again.
Accelerationism found a temporary support in academia, but not a home; Fisher’s suicide last January ended the experiment. In a coruscating text, the authors of the enigmatic Requiem for Left Accelerationism signed the death warrant. “With another lost future in the trash, the vocal and material mouthpiece, libidinal interlocutor and fosterer of left-accelerationism, Mark Fisher left the world in the beginning of 2017. Left-accelerationism’s story begins with him, back in those blog days where fiery exchanges gave energy to a small segment of the zombie left. Now, where nothing remains, it is worth screaming into the void. Left-accelerationism died with Mark Fisher.”
But something had revived. Between 2010 and 2017 l/acc jumped from the lecture rooms of the occupied academy into the propaganda of the UK Labour social fascist group Momentum, degenerating from a speculative hypothesis into the political myth, or Big Lie, of “fully automated luxury communism” that is “into activism, that which moves without thought.” At the same time, revived to consciousness by l/acc, and the success of his disciples including Fisher, Land, recidivistic philosophical cult catalyst, had been attracting a new crew. With Goldsmiths’s working like a river, or a sewer, pumping-out a l/acc syncretic Sender broadcast, Land’s influence spread rhizomatically: in the mainstream through the publication of his essays on Urbanomic, in the shadows at his blogs at Hyperstition and Urban Future, and above all via Xenosystems, platform of his engagement with so-called Neo-reaction, or NRx.
Fisher’s unique position as an ex-student of Land and a Leftist lecturer at Goldsmith maintained communication, at least in principle, between the polarizing camps; with his death that ended. Immediately, a vacuum of authority appeared at Goldsmith’s, followed by an incentivized attempt to claim it by a party of second-string l/acc students. Encouraged by their tutors in a shameful spectacle of cowardice and cynicism, the scapegoat was the independent art gallery LD50.
The episode demonstrated, amongst other things, the acceleration of cybernetic feedback from social media to global news, and the augmented power of the Party-State to mobilize indoctrinated “lumpen cognitariat” through social networks. It also staged the first fight of a dialectical conflict between the Landian accelerationism the gallery hosted, and a l/acc unveiled as death drive towards kakistocracy.
The synthesis was u/acc – a dispersed, semi-anonymous twitter group of Landroid students organized through the rhettwitter and subsequently cavetwitter hashtags. Based on a critique of l/acc formalized mainly by Vince Garton from the ultra-leftism of Jehu’s Real Movement, u/acc demolished l/acc’s Marxism as revisionist and Strasserist, that is, as Stalin put it, social-fascist. Their emergence indexed a transformation of information media ecology over seven years: whereas l/acc came out of a conference and a clique of institutionally-connected bloggers; u/acc was created interstitially through a freewheeling, trollish style mainly copied from frogtwitter.
Whereas l/acc had bought accelerationism second-hand; u/acc’s source was Land directly, through his teaching for New Center, and the tender vectors of the net, but his influence remained oblique. LD50’s recent retrospective reveals the group discovering, with downplayed fear, Land’s bracing Dark Enlightenment. Fascinated but uncertain, willing and motivated to employ Land as an access to symbolic capital, and critique him for cultural capital, they weren’t willing to follow him into (or out of) the shadows.
U/acc’s Land remained a defanged Land – tamed noumena – thus his symptomatically distorted, jokey presentation in their memes. The u/acc demand for Land to purge the xenosystems comment section of schizos and deplorables fit into the same theme. Pushed by radicalizing Left Orthodoxy, stripping down to an axial repressive function, and pulled-in by Land’s charisma, u/acc was a partial break, or break-out, or passage to the act, in the end remaining half-in, and half-out.
Transposing the political division to a coded philosophical terrain, u/acc re-established dialogue between a section of the Deleuzo-Marxist Left, and some species of reality, without being able to intensify it further. In this respect, it came to occupy the space previously occupied by Fisher, oscillating between the bad Mark, the aesthetic, piratical, k-punk, predating his engagement with the psychologically toxic London militant blogging scene, and the Fisher of Capitalist Realism, condemned to teach sociology on the Socialist galley.
Fisher had retreated into symptomatic fantasies of a “Marxist Supernanny” – the prototype of l/acc – on exposure to Land’s Capitalist Thing on Hyperstition in 2005. “There are two lines of thought clashing here,” summarized his interlocutor sd, “One of them goes Darwin-Dawkins-Pinker. The other is in full-scale retreat from Capitalism and Schizophrenia and has dug itself into the viral trench of Marxist-Leninism.” U/acc now accepted Land’s interpretation. Accelerating capitalist development towards the AI singularity was the primary process of modernity: “the Thing taking place, an occurrence or happening, no more in need of exact portrayal than a cyclone, an earthquake or a meteorite impact.”
But u/acc simultaneously surrendered to a different syndrome of “pronouncements of emotional allegiance over analytically defensible commitments” in the fissure of an ambiguity in Land. “On the one hand, we are to subordinate ourselves to a punitive Inevitablism,” wrote Fisher, “celebrated with requisite machismo glee (it’s going to happen any way, resistance is futile, puny humans); on the other hand, capitalism is all things bright and beautiful… and everything Good. The first celebrates the protean inhumanity of capitalism, the second its alleged benefit for human populations… The slippage from is to ought is the least of the problems with this move: either capitalism is viciously inhuman or it’s nice. Which is it?”
What is the connection between the State and Capital, and their analogues, humans and machines, meat and intelligence? Against l/acc, u/acc insisted that techonomic capitalist acceleration was incapable of management by Corbynist apparatchiks: AI, or Skynet, was not only the inevitable destiny of techno-economic progress, but the sole agent, driving remorsefully towards self-actualization. Because inevitable, whether this eventuality was good or bad, inhuman or nice, must be irrelevant, along with other human interests.
This acceleration into platitude was mistaken for profound. Man always has known everything; facing nothingness is where philosophy has always been. The configuration of the problem as a historical teleology evades, rather then intensifies the issue. The question is ultimately us, who are we, now, for what, and not the end of this species, which remains categorical.
Refusing to admit to any counterforce or logic outside intensifying technical complexity, invested in the fatalism of an inevitable destruction of humanity, and human politics, by Capital, u/acc amputated their ability to think politically. If a coalition has been organized to promote ideas in cyberspace, this fact compels reflection. This u/acc could not do. Embedded inside the Cathedral, transposing a technical analysis into ontology, asserting that not just progressive politics, but all politics, the polis, anthropol, grand politics, was meaningless, u/acc surrendered the ability to consider their own choices, and therefore to think about themselves.
A contemporary political determination of practical philosophical repression was revised into a cosmic law. Under the sign of Skynet, u/acc avoided singing from the hymn sheet, but remained within the choir, humming to the chorus: “Whatever appears is good, and what is good is what appears.” Severed from reality, projection filled the gap: any political expression beyond the limit of the Cathedral-sanctioned status quo was designated as resentment, a pretentious declination of the contemporary control word hate.
Nonetheless, like a tourist in a foreign country who cannot understand the question, “antipraxis” provided cover for accelerationism to continue staging a more radical escape, and may yet continue to perform. The systematic concept is the chain, traced by the exhortation to “outsideness” and insistence on selection for intelligence treated as a conduit for a permanent action of exit.
Like with l/acc refactoring as u/acc, it was a sense that u/acc had slowed down, was retarding, going nowhere, coagulating into Dunning-Kru/acc, which incepted r/acc. The structure is initiatic. if the fate of u/acc rests on what they cannot think, but don’t know why, r/acc is a drive for truth, not as possession but as aim. The question of accelerationism demands a better answer then a second-hand theodicy of Skynet, and something closer to a business plan. Science, not ideology, remains the means for understanding the reality of human society: evolutionary biology, not gender theory, political science, not socialism.
Still, it would be futile to exchange one delusion for another. If the discovery of 2017, for some, was that philosophy, “our only credible model of nobility” must be recognized as anathema to extant social order which it underpins, this recognition also grants an enemy, a code of ethics, and a plan. Heresy, not only heterodoxy, that is, realism, with respect to all the facts, seeking and transmitting truth under conditions of repression, in the shadows of the Party-State’s secret police, shuttles, and spies. The space of action isn’t only, or specifically, politically suppressed taboo ideas, but the fact that their articulation raises a continent of knowledge.
R/acc is an analysis of power and a collective movement of ideas beyond indoctrination into the unknown. The cosmological agenda is to understand the kind of universe we’re occupying, to grasp the determination of the determination: the organic modality, or the substantial reality that contemporary ideology grafts onto, and disfigures. Between exit and exile, what’s important is to know, but not be known, at the edge of an eternal situation. If 2017 was a year of shattering illusions, 2018 will be the year in which the shattered fragments start to take on a new form.