In 2017, it felt like Accelerationism had reached its zenith in the UK’s public consciousness, being the subject of a “Long Read” on The Guardian and then later being humorously denounced by MP Jon Cruddas in The New Statesman as a “cyborg socialism” that the leftist humanists must vehemently reject.
You know when you’re rejecting L/Acc your politics are gonna be super dull.
The definitions of Accelerationism doing the rounds at that time were still the same annoying ones that have been around forever — “accelerate everything now!” — but it was mostly framed as positive and exciting. It was the last hurrah of Left-Accelerationism and the denouncement from Cruddas only helped frame this outside-seeking technological thinking as something cool for the kids.
In 2019, however, we’re somewhere else entirely…
Today, The Metro ran a strange article on Accelerationism following its appearance in the rambling manifesto written by Christchurch mass murderer Brenton Tarrant. (For those not in the UK, The Metro is a daily newspaper given away free on public transport up and down the country, with a casual readership somewhere in the millions, no doubt — although I doubt this particularly thin article appeared in the print edition.)
The article, written by Rob Waugh, effectively equates Accelerationism with ethnonationalism across the board. Whilst the author of the article initially hints at some nuance, acknowledging that Accelerationism “is used in various different ways — at first referring to the idea that capitalism and technology should be ‘speeded up’ to bring about social change”, it goes on to contextualise accelerationism exclusively by its infrequent appearances in far-right discourses.
A little bit of further digging suggests that the entire article is based on “research” done by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which writes in its own article on Brenton Tarrant’s interests:
The alleged killer also espoused a belief in “accelerationism,” the idea that violence should be used to push Western countries into becoming failed states. Adherents hope the collapse will give rise to radical, presently unthinkable changes in our society.
Accelerationism is pushed heavily by admirers of the book Siege, a racist and pro-terrorism manifesto published over multiple years as a newsletter by neo-Nazi James Mason. It’s also a belief system that was promoted heavily on the neo-Nazi forum Iron March, users of which are linked to murders and terrorism in multiple Western countries.
Accelerationism being the suggestion that “violence should be used to push Western countries into becoming failed states” might be an entirely original definition as far as I can tell. It would surely only take a cursory Google to challenge what is an extremely niche appropriation.
A little further digging suggests that the SLPC first came across accelerationism in orbit of the far-right website Iron March. They write in a separate article on the website’s belief in a “Trumpian fascist utopia” which apparently try means implementing a globalised “national socialism” — do you mean international socialism…? — that wants to smash nations in favour of an ethnonationalism. This is a series of backflips that I don’t think even the murdering terrorist in question could rationalise. They write:
Seemingly every news event discussed on Iron March was framed in the context of how it potentially could portend the collapse of society, giving way to a national socialist, genocidal planet. The convicted killer Arthurs even suggested in 2015, for example, that not Trump, but Jewish Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, could be “great” from an “accelerationist perspective.”
“Well, his policies would be suicidal for the state it would cost the state something like 24 trillion dollars,” Arthurs wrote as TheWeissewolfe on Sept. 23, 2015. “From an accelerationist perspective he’s great, on the other hand he could have far more devious and terrible policies that could harm us.”
Accelerationism refers to the idea that our neoliberal social order should be pushed to such an extreme degree that Western countries become failed states, giving rise to changes that would reshape our world in radical ways.
Someone send them the U/Acc Primer already!
This is weirdly the sort of critique I received when I wrote “State Decay” last year and the same concerns arise here again. What happens when popular media reacts so hysterically and squeamishly to anything that calls for change? Because, to be clear, that is all the “Accelerationist” “chapter” of Tarrant’s “manifesto” calls for, when read in isolation — it is nothing other than a call to “accelerate social change” — but, of course, it makes as much sense to read this page in isolation as it does to interpret the word “accelerationism” in isolation of literally everything else.
Everything else written across this manifesto’s seventy-something pages is invariably violent, racist and grotesque — also dumb — but it is strange that his interest in “accelerationism” is attracting so much interest relative to everything else.
I joked about this on Twitter at first — it makes the political analysis of recent Twitter critics appear on a par with the nation’s most frequently discarded commuter-fodder — but it also speaks to another theory that I have. And it is, admittedly, a tenuous one.
The right loves to make these kinds of vague calls towards radical social upheaval in order to raise false flags for the sake of their own conservatism. The more they shout loudly about change, the more people reject change in itself out of fear of being associated with the far-right. (My CuriousCat anon-troll demonstrated this very well.) This might sound silly but we’ve seen it happen repeatedly since 2017 and it is, ultimately, what killed off Left-Accelerationism as it climbed down into the more comfortable space of technosocialism.
So much is said, in the aftermath of these kinds of horrific events, about how these sorts of manifestos and massacres embolden the right, and the news cycle was peppered with suspected copycat cases in the days after the Christchurch massacres, but no one talks about how discourse on the left becomes incredibly dumb in the aftermath, as calls for change are equate with the worst kinds of violence and complacency with the boring dystopia of the present becomes the moral high ground. “Change” as the vaguest of concepts is jettisoned into extremism as the endgame of the Centrist Dad ouroboros. All the while, the right doubles down on its convictions whilst the left waivers from theirs, rejecting anything that may have been contaminated by this violence.
I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but we live in some fucking weird times.