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.
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.
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 a term that “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 bit of 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 SPLC first came across accelerationism in orbit of the far-right website Iron March. They have a separate article which explores the website’s belief in a “Trumpian fascist utopia”, which apparently means trying to implement 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!
“[T]he collapse of society, giving way to a national socialist, genocidal planet” is just a string of discordant and contradictory concepts, revealing nothing but the hysteria of a nationalist realism, and, as a result, it weirdly resembles the sorts of critique I received last year when I wrote “State Decay“. The same concerns I had then arise again now.
What happens when popular media and apparently respectable political analysts react hysterically and squeamishly to anything that calls for change? The response to the shooter is, of course, proportionate — what he did was fucking horrific and nauseating — but why does this often lead to a doubling down on a middle-of-the-road inactivity and complacency in the flurry of op-eds and hot tweets that follow?
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, and they’ve certainly demonstrated that again today following the hub-bub around this article on Twitter (case in point) — but it also speaks to another theory that I have.
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 supposed “left” becomes incredibly dumb and complicit in lesser evils in the aftermath, as calls for change are equated 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 a performative outsideness.
In the Communist Manifesto, for instance, Marx and Engels call for a “constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, [and] everlasting uncertainty and agitation”. We can find arguments for each of these things in the shooter’s manifesto, and in the portion on “accelerationism” in particular, when read in isolation, but only an idiot would compare these two manifestos based on their threats to the social order alone.
If this is all the context you require to denounce accelerationism, then you must surely denounce revolutionary politics of any kind.
I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but we live in some fucking weird times.
Update: Some further comments from Robin:
One thing to notice that makes these types F- at /acc: resentment at disappointed delusional faith in state and ‘voice’: always say ‘we were not consulted when our govt decided global technocapital & collapse of trad values.’ Daddy didn’t keep us safe so gonna beat up little bro. 
In this sense you can see the logic of saying that democracy, imperfectly implemented (ahem) as it always is, may just be fascism in a holding pattern. Once it becomes all too evident to brats that their voice means less than nothing, you’re gonna get a crayon in the eye 
Not that such a thing could happen here in Merrie England 
Yr essential point is good, indiscriminate troublemaking for the purposes of wanton destruction has a certain potentialcrossover with /acc (actually, we know someone like that) but their wholesale conflation is…dumb 
/acc seeks to be adequate to hypercapitalism as the irreversible breaching of horizon of any possible trad politics, this seems if anything about instrumental ‘acceleration’ of putrescence of libdem state in order to replace it with a different kind of state i.e. trad politics 
Update #2: Max Castle points to some sense shared on Facebook by Benjamin Noys.
Noys is generally cited as having coined the term “Accelerationism” — intended to be an insult before being positively reclaimed by Mark Fisher. His book Malign Velocities is often cited as an important contemporary text by some; by others, it’s to blame for a torrent of bad and lazy readings of ?/Acc discourses.
Not that anyone should care, rightly, but I have spent a long time carefully explaining to a journalist why ‘accelerationism’ is not cognate with the NZ manifesto and that ‘left accelerationism’ is not catastrophist. In fact, it seems, that this ‘manifesto’, from what I have seen reported and quoted, has a classic logic of terror argument in the ‘exemplary act’ of violence. This is then linked to a internet culture notion of ‘chaos’ and ‘subversion’ as the scrambling of political signifiers (including that of accelerationism, which does of course have its right / NRx form). Anyway, while trivial in the face of the horror of that act, which is so despicable, not allowing this ‘chaos’ to spread into all our signifiers is something.
Update #3: I have expanded on all of the above in my recent #WYRDPATCHWORKSHOP presentation, which you can read here.
Update #4: A softened stance on this is explored here:
My post on the Christchurch shooting and the mention of accelerationism in the killer’s manifesto upset a lot of people I know IRL. I heard from a few people in the aftermath who had begun questioning my politics and saw the post as somehow apologist, putting the press discrepancies above the act itself on which they were reporting. As such, the lack of a hard-line disavowal when it came to an association with something I’m personally invested in was seen as misguided.
I didn’t understand why at the time but I see it now. That post was written within and for this online milieu but the post spread much further. It had the tone of someone preaching to the converted but I failed to appreciate, at the time, just how small a minority that is and was. Reading it now, I can hear that defiance against the press and various mainstream institutions that Trump likewise espouses.
Because no matter how reductive their article on accelerationism, attacking the Southern Poverty Law Centre is not a good look.
I’ve been doing some soul-searching about this all week and I think others have too. Where does the blame lie? And how much of it is attributable to Acc Twitter specifically?
As complete as the imageboard bastardisation of accelerationism is, the call to “exacerbate schism” in the social sphere is nonetheless in line with some of Nick Land’s more recent writings. But then, wasn’t that Mark’s position to some extent too? Wasn’t his call to reweird the world articulating the same thing — albeit semiotically rather than through direct and violent action? (Not that Land has ever advocated for violence — that seems to be the central innovation of the imageboard contingent.)
I feel there is a single observation at the root of all for accelerationism: the generation of alternatives within a system is an innately entropic process. That’s true of physics and surely also politics. If we can boil accelerationism down to anything, it is that observation.
This is something we see described in explicitly scientific terms by the right and something only gestured to by the left. (Again, this is something under the surface of all of Mark’s writings, even if he left the explicitly talk of entropy to Land.) However, as mentioned on Twitter recently, to sum up this purely scientific definition as “chaos reigns” is a woefully subjective reduction for a right-wing that frequently declares that facts don’t care about your feelings.
This is the mire of accelerationism to date. U/Acc’s previous attempts to re-emphasise the original (un)ground of accelerationism is arguably a response to the promiscuous and often problematic praxes that are built on top of a few sociopolitical observations — to the extent that the original observations are lost.
Personally, I feel like my conscience is clean. Whilst it was likewise only written for this corner of the internet, the spread of my U/Acc Reader as a counterpoint to the alt-right definition on the imageboards where these shooters are emerging from is not something I expected. But I’m glad to see it.
I can’t say what impact it is having beyond the appearance of imageboards in my WordPress referrals but if it means someone ends up as a hikikomori Kantian rather than white supremacist gun nut, I’ll take that lesser of the two evils any day.
Even apart from far-right discourses, my experience in online leftist spaces is that accelerationism is much more often used to refer to the Leninist notion of “heightening the contradictions” (see http://acceleratethecontradictions.blogspot.com/2010/04/accelerate-contradictions-notes-towards.html for a discussion of why it makes sense to attribute this idea to Lenin specifically), of encouraging some kind of disaster that will lead to a breakdown the present system and supposedly cause the masses to revolt and put a socialist system in its place, as in the notion that leftists might vote for Trump in the name of “accelerationism” (see for example https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Accelerationism ).
The difficulty with totally dismissing this usage (aside from the whole prescriptivism vs. descriptivism debate in linguistics) is that when Benjamin Noys originally coined the term “accelerationism”, he did at least partly mean it in something like this Leninist sense rather than in the more constructive sense of trying to encourage those capitalist trends like automation that may only be able to reach their full potential under a post-capitalist system. See Noy’s 2008 post at https://web.archive.org/web/20170714170557/http://leniency.blogspot.com:80/2008/10/accelerationism.html where he specifically references the idea of “the worse, the better.” Note that this was in response to Alex Williams’ piece on his “Splintering Bone Ashes” blog at https://web.archive.org/web/20100805021724/http://splinteringboneashes.blogspot.com/2008/10/xenoeconomics-and-capital-unbound.html and that Mark Fisher responded to both posts at https://web.archive.org/web/20170713113556/http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/010758.html where he used “accelerationism” to refer more to the original notion on Splintering Bone Ashes than to Noys’ notion. Also see Peter Wolfendale’s discussion of the different meanings of accelerationism at https://deontologistics.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/ofta-so-accelerationism-whats-all-that-about/ where he notes that “its precise origin is complicated by Ben Noys’ initial use of the term to christen and criticise a particular trend and its subsequent adoption and appropriation by Mark Fisher.”
So, maybe from a descriptivist perspective we should acknowledge that both senses of “accelerationism” are common in different communities, and try to distinguish them by attaching some extra terms, like “Leninist accelerationism” vs. “cyberpositive accelerationism” or something like that?
Yeah, this is an issue, I think, but I don’t really agree with the distinctions you’re making here. You’re right to cite Pete’s post but Pete is clear when he notes that Accelerationism has never sought to accelerate contradictions because, as D+G say, “nothing has ever died of contradictions”, and that is something we see all over. In fact, this is an endemic problem in lots of contemporary politics on the left and the right, and this is precisely the problem with the Accelerationism of the Christchurch shooter. It is nothing but contradiction, but that hasn’t stopped its spread.
This is why I prefer Mark Fisher’s later interest in the weird and the eerie, as a topology that isn’t related to contradictions but rather the exploitation of moments of anomaly that this contradictory engine can’t help but produce. Because these contradictions are already at the heart of the capitalist system. Accelerating them is not an exit from a present system. It’s just putting it on a faster spin cycle. It’s also internally orientated, and as I’ve written more recently, I just fundamentally disagree with that sort of orientation. I don’t think it achieves anything. Hence focussing on what it produces rather than just looking at how it moves.
This is why Noys isn’t a good reader of accelerationist texts, whether contemporary or pre-existing like D+G. The focus is placed entirely on the gestural movement outwards or on its speed but it contains no real or adequate analysis of the logistics for getting there which later accelerationist texts explicitly explore, related to the act of exit or the problematics of a philosophy of time. Repeatedly quoting writers who have said “exit” or “gotta go fast” isn’t an argument or a politics. It’s an entirely superficial collection of sentiments devoid of their broader context.
I don’t want to cast to many aspersions on these texts because they’re all very early and, in that sense alone, foundational, but so much of what was developed in the following years after this — up until the publication of #Accelerate — and the years following that up to the development of U/ACC, fills in the gaps of much of what these early conversations miss.