On the inverse cripples
Through Zarathustra’s remarks on the inverse cripples, Friedrich Nietzsche is criticizing modern intellectuals who are revered as geniuses:
“[F]or there are human beings who lack everything, except one thing of which they have too much — human beings who are nothing but a big eye or a big mouth or a big belly or anything at all that is big. Inverse cripples I call them.
‘And when I came out of my solitude and crossed over this bridge for the first time I did not trust my eyes and looked and looked again, and said at last, ‘An ear! And ear as big as a man!’ I looked still more closely — and indeed, underneath the ear something was moving, something pitifully small and wretched and slender. And, no doubt of it, the tremendous ear was attached to a small, thin stalk — but this stalk was a human being! If one used a magnifying glass one could even recognize a tiny envious face; also, that bloated little soul was dangling from the stalk. The people, however, told me that this great ear was not only a human being, but a great one, a genius. But I never believed the people when they spoke of great men; and I maintained my belief that it was an inverse cripple who had too little of everything and too much of one thing.’
When Zarathustra had spoken thus to the hunchback and to those whose mouthpiece and advocate the hunchback was, he turned to his disciples in profound dismay and said: ‘Verily, my friends, I walk among men as among the fragments and limbs of men. This is what is terrible for my eyes, that I find man in ruins and scattered as over a battlefield or a butcher-field. And when my eyes flee from the now to the past, they always find the same: fragments and limbs and dreadful accidents — but no human beings.” (1)
There is the great chemist who knows nothing of Ludwig von Beethoven. There is the engineer who has never read Immanuel Kant. There is the economist who has not read William Shakespeare. There is the historian who knows nothing about Albert Einstein. There is the artist who has never read Karl Marx. There is the sociologist who knows nothing of Isaac Newton’s laws. There is the great physicist who believes in the devil.
Bourgeois education, the university system, is highly specialized. It aims to develop an extreme level of specialization in a single area, usually discouraging broader education. This is not just true of the physical sciences and engineering, but it is true of the humanities. An individual might be highly adept at looking at the world through the lenses of his specialty, but that is all he can do. This allows him to see the problems within his specialty very clearly, but it makes him blind to the broader problems of the world. It also leads to a kind of compartmentalization of knowledge. People are not trained to connect their specialized knowledge to everyday life or to other areas. They have a very disjointed, unbalanced world view. It is kind of like a blind spot in reverse. A very tiny corner of the world can be seen very clearly, but the majority goes unseen and unnoticed.
This phenomenon ripples across broader bourgeois society. The United States has one of the most literate, educated populations in the world. Yet, according to a recent poll, more Americans believe in the existence of a literal hell and the devil than believe in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Eighty-two expressed belief in a god. Seventy-two percent believed that Jesus is God or the Son of God. Belief in hell and the devil was expressed by 62 percent. Seventy-nine percent expressed belief in miracles. (2)
In Zarathustra, the description of inverse cripples passes into a description of society as “fragments and limbs of men,” “ruins and scattered as over a battlefield or a butcher-field,” “fragments and limbs and dreadful accidents — but no human beings.” Nietzsche’s politics are far from perfect, but he is correct that complete humans or what is described as human is not found in capitalism. What Nietzsche should have seen is that the “battlefield or butcher-field” was a humanity ravaged by the violence of imperialism, the exploitation of capitalism, the banality and stupidity of bourgeois society. It is a humanity scarred by bourgeois society where even its great intellectual accomplishments are accompanied by deformity and monstrosity. Nietzsche echoes Karl Marx when he describes the contradictions within and imbalances of bourgeois society, the contradiction of great intelligence and disability, great accomplishment and great banality, existing at the same time, in the same individuals and societies. It is a characteristic of bourgeois society that it can only produce feats of intelligence at the expense of a greater crippling of itself.
Nietzsche’s response to the catastrophe is confused, a mix of nihilism, irrationality, individualism, and traditionalism. Zarathustra places his hopes in a vaguely-described “overman” to surpass man. This is why Nietzsche could be appropriated and misappropriated by German fascism and eugenics. Fascism promised a rebirth of society, vitalism, heroism, but delivered only greater carnage and deformity, both physically, but, more importantly to Nietzsche, intellectually and culturally. Fascism resulted in a great brain drain in many fields, and only produced its own inverse cripples: advances in war technology, and little else. Martin Heidegger actively joined the Nazi movement, hoping for a way out of the spiritual void of modern society. By the end, he too recognized fascism as just another face of a system that promotes techne divorced from more meaningful ways of understanding the world. Following Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse saw both Western liberalism and Soviet society as two sides of the same coin. Despite claims to be very different from each other, both elevate “How to” knowledge over “Why?” knowledge. Knowledge about how to get from A to Z is emphasized without asking why should we be trying to get to Z. They both represent the rise of “instrumental reason” to the exclusion of other modes of thought.
The Soviet experiment was the first really sustained attempt at constructing socialism, attempting to reach communism. Soviet socialism was very influenced by the theory of the productive forces, a view that overemphasizes the role of technology in creating communism and underplays the role of revolutionizing power relations, culture and ideology, i.e. class struggle. It makes sense that if one sees the development of technology as the main force leading to communism, then one’s cultural and educational policies will echo this outlook. Techne will be overemphasized to the exclusion of broader knowledge. Divisions of knowledge and power will be consolidated that echo the liberal West, which has always seen technology as the key to creating prosperity, raising all boats, etc. It makes sense that Soviet society would come to measure itself by the goal posts of the liberal West. And, when Soviet leaders found socialism lacking, Soviet revisionists restored capitalism. Although the Maoist revolution made greater strides in understanding revisionism, capitalism was restored in China in similar ways.
Marx’s answer to the catastrophe, “battlefield or a butcher-field,” of capitalism is communist revolution. Capitalism produces its own grave digger: the proletariat. In capitalism, science, its methods and approaches, are originally the product of an intellectual world populated by Zarathustra’s inverse cripples. However, it is when science is able to cross from the bourgeois intellectual world to the world of the dispossessed that revolution, overcoming the catastrophe of the modern world, surpassing current society, becomes possible. The great revolutionary leaders are not one-dimensional cripples. Great revolutionary leaders more approximate the ideal of communist multi-dimensional man. They have always had a foot in the world of high culture, the bourgeois-intellectual world, and a foot in the world of the masses. Marx was from a middle-class background, married a minor aristocrat’s daughter, and earned a doctorate. Even so, he dedicated his life to proletarian activism and writing, which landed him in poverty. Marx had a foot in both worlds. Lenin too was from a somewhat privileged background such that he received a university degree. A life of serving the people, of revolutionary work, transformed Lenin into a proletarian intellectual and leader. Mao was from a peasant background, but privileged and well-off enough to be sent off to the city to receive an education. He was radicalized by his exposure to science and ideology from all over the world. Both Lenin and Mao had their feet in both worlds as thinkers and men of action. Revolutionary leaders, the Organization itself, is a bridge by which science, its methods, approaches, etc. cross into the hands of the people, but in this process the ideas are transformed by the revolutionary leadership into weapons that can be wielded by the masses. Genuine Leading Lights act as a kind of transformative bridge to the masses. And in that process, science becomes transformed, forged into a new weapon, into revolutionary science, into all-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism. Just as capitalism produces its own demise, so too does the culture of inverse cripples inadvertently aids in its own destruction. The proletarian struggle to end all oppression led by the most advanced revolutionary science ultimately destroys not only the physical brutality foisted upon society, but also the intellectual and cultural deformity. The inverse cripples of bourgeois society are replaced by proletarian intellectuals, people’s warriors, heroes, Leading Lights. The Old Power is killed. A New Power is born. A new, vital, healthy culture is born. Leading Light succeeds where Nietzsche fails.
The revolutionary movement is at a critical juncture. After great defeats in the Soviet Union and China, the proletarian movement is struggling to survive. Leading Lights are just now piercing the darkness. A more advanced revolutionary science, all-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism, is emerging. It is the transformative stage. It is moving from leadership to the masses. It is being forged into a mighty sword to place into the hands of the people. The seeds of New Power are just beginning to sprout. True heroes are emerging. At the same time, the effects of bourgeois culture ripple, even more strongly toward the revolutionary movement as our successes mount. Class struggle can intensify as the revolution gains ground. Victories can lead to increased attacks on the Organization by class enemies. In this instance, it manifests as Do Nothingism and Cowardly Lionism. These overlapping errors are often a result of inverse cripples infiltrating or posing as the revolutionary movement.
There are numerous revisionists who mine quotes from the Marxist tradition. They pontificate on all kinds of subjects. They debate on social media about the history of socialism or political economy as perceived through dogmatic lenses. In terms of practice, these “Marxist-Leninists” and “Maoists” are not that different from each other, or heaven forbid, the Trotskyists they so despise. Despite their over-the-top rhetoric, they do very little. At best, they do small forays into First Worldist, movementarian activism. Although they can quote monger the works of Marx, they still have not grasped “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” (3) They can quote Lenin and Mao, but they have not grasped their meaning. They do not see what should be obvious: Revolution is about power. It is about seizing power, not merely talking or fantasizing about it. The Peruvians use to promote the slogan “Without state power, all is illusion.” The whole orientation of the revolutionary movement must be toward seizing power. If it is not, then all words, all posturing, is just fantasy, illusory. The inverse-cripple revisionist thinks himself oh-so revolutionary, but really he has simply honed the skill of parodying past revolutionaries. Thinking themselves revolutionaries, even revolutionary intellectuals, they have gone to incredible lengths to master this strange talent. They have fine-tuned their art, becoming masters of dogma and cos play. Sometimes they might even appear to the less advanced more sincere and passionate about revolution than real revolutionaries. At the same time, they have developed no other talents. And, whatever potential they once may have had has long since withered away. So, they are nothing but big mouths wearing Mao hats on social media. A few people claim that with binoculars, one can see withered dangling bodies attached to the mouths. Others believe the mouths ate the bodies.
Deviations have always plagued the revolutionary movement. Revolutionary leaders are marked by their origins and the societies in which they exist. The Organization too is marked by its birth. Marx’s works are filled with polemics against the revisionists of his day. They are filled with analysis of the problems of the revolutionary movement. The Communist Manifesto ends with an analysis that traces revisionism and deviation back to its class origins. Lenin advanced this method further. One of the greatest works by Mao is On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party. In this work, Mao looks at the class origin of the mentalities that lead to deviations within the Organization. More than that, Mao proposes specific methods of rectification for each deviation. Part of the idea of criticism and self-criticism is to hammer out and destroy deviations using the collective wisdom of the Organization, to forge the cadre into a mighty weapon: people’s warriors, Leading Lights.
The inverse cripples and other effects of bourgeois decay will remain for the time being. The yappers will yap. The cowardly lions will roar. The jesters jest. Tumblr will reblog. Such is the air of capitalism. Lenin said that we have to be as radical as reality itself. We are scientists and warriors with revolutionary genius and heart. Organization. Leadership. Sacrifice. Duty. Courage. Honor. Respect. Loyalty. These are not mere words, they are the code for winning power. Serve the people; serve the Earth. Live and die for the people and the Earth. We carry our lives on our finger tips. Long Live the all-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light! Our sun is rising. Our day is coming.
1. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spake Zarathustra. The Portable Nietzsche edited by Kaufmann, Walter. Penguin Books. (USA: 1968) p. 250
3. Marx, Karl. “Theses On Feuerbach.” 1845 http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/