You know, a person’s heroes can tell you a lot about them. What they admire, what they wish to emulate, what they think is good and true in the world. Of course, when you’re a Marxist, you can’t go with the traditional heroes like George Washington or MLK jr. No, you can’t even go for non-traditional heroes like Illidan or Darth Vader. You have to find yourself Marxist heroes, or heroes you can culturally appropriate into being Marxist heroes from before Marxism was really a thing. So let us look at one Marxist’s hero, by our old friend Chris “You’re gonna kill us all!” Thompson’s The Universal Patriot
I’m sure a man who grossly misrepresents what other people say is going to be totally truthful here. Then again, I was also under the impression that nationalism and patriotism were evil, capitalist things, so…not sure what he’s going for here.
A Forgotten Ancestor
The founder of anarchism as a modern political philosophy is generally held to be either William Godwin (1756-1836) or Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865). Some of the most influential ideas in anarchist philosophy come from Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), who proposed a system of anarcho-communism. Kropotkin’s ideas later influenced Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), whose philosophy has now been taken up by the Kurds in Syria. Bookchin’s system -which is not strictly anarchist – is based on networks of directly democratic people’s assemblies.
Ah, yes, Godwin. No doubt the creator of Godwin’s Law, which states that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 1.” Which, given that their first real post about this, “Confronting the New Right” was all about comparing other Pagans to Hitler and Nazism…
Also, I see we’re going with cultural appropriation here. Chris is raising up the Kurds as an example of Anarchism while at the same time stating they’re using direct democracy rather than…anarchism. But hey, I’m sure there’s nothing morally questionable about claiming an embattled people facing extermination at the hands of religious zealots as a living example of your failed political ideologies for your own ends. I wonder if our dear “warrior” Chris has started up a fundraiser to buy guns and supplies for these “anarchist” Kurds to help them in their fight against ISIS.
Probably not. That would be Islamophobic after all. In fact, I’m surprised that Rhyd is allowing such an Islamophobe as Chris to write for Gods & Radicals. It seems Marxists really will let anyone in.
Forgotten in all histories of anarchism is the extraordinary and obscure figure of John Oswald, a veteran of the Black Watch Highland Regiment who turned his back on colonialism, lived for a time with the Kurds, joined the Jacobin Club in Paris, taught martial arts to the revolutionaries and then died in combat in the Vendée.
TFW you will never be as cool as your hero.
I love this whole “turned his back on colonialism” but then “lived with the Kurds.” Which…sounds a lot like cultural appropriation to me. I mean, a white man forcing himself into the society of PoC, making them teach him their ways and becoming part of their tribe. Such Imperialism! Such Colonialism! Such Racism! He should have gone back to his homeland and never disgraced these precious minorities with his whiteness.
In a short work called “The Government of the People, Or A Sketch of a Constitution for the Universal Commonwealth,” Oswald proposed a system of directly democratic people’s assemblies in 1792 – a year before Godwin and decades before Kropotkin. Oswald never became as influential as these other thinkers, but you could make the case that he should be considered one of the founders of modern anarchism.
But about 20 years after the founding of the United States of America, which in turn was founded several decades after most theories about democracy and republic forms of government had been hashed out.
Also, what is it with Anarchist apparently pushing for democracies. I mean, let’s be honest, we already have democracies throughout the west. Anarchism is, to my knowledge, supposed to be “Population Sans Government.” But the instant you have a democracy of any kind, you have a government. So…apparently Oswald is an Anarchist…even though he’s advocating for democratic governments.
I’m sure there’s a term for this…
He was also, at least in some sense, a pagan. Consider this passage from his vegetarian tract “The Cry of Nature”:
But not to the animal world alone were the affections of man confined: for whether the glowing vault of heaven he surveyed, or his eyes reposed on the greeny freshness of the lawn; whether to the tinkling murmur of the brook he listened, or in pleasing melancholy melted amid the gloom of the grove, joy, rapture, veneration filled his guileless breast: his affections flowed on everything around him; his soul around every tree or shrub entwined, whether they afforded him subsistence or shade: and wherever his eyes wandered, wondering he beheld his gods, for his benefactors smiled on every side… From that joyous commotion of his heart arose the Queen of young desire; on the fond fluctuation of his bosom glided the new-born VENUS, deckt in all her glowing potency of charms. And thou too, O CUPID, O CUPID, or if RAMA-DEVA more delight thine ear; art thou not also with all thy GRACES a glad emanation of primal bliss?
(And I thought my prose could get purple…)
But here we have another example of appropriation. I really should have just called this post “A Warrior’s Appropriation” or something. Because Oswald uses imagery and symbolism for Roman mythology he is now a “Pagan” of sorts. Because, of course Chris’s hero is going to share the same religion as Chris if Chris has anything to say about it.
Of course, Oswald probably was not a Pagan, probably had nothing to do with Paganism, and I don’t think Chris’s poor heart could take Oswald’s likely real beliefs about Paganism. But this would be like me claiming Thomas Jefferson was a Pagan simply because Jefferson occasionally used Roman Mythology and said he didn’t care how many gods a man had.
But don’t worry, after the Glorious Revolution, the Ministry of Truth will be sure to correct these obvious lies of the Capitalists. Oswald will have always been Pagan.
Oswald’s writing style tended to be even more florid than 18th-century tastes required, but to sum up what he’s saying here in one sentence: humanity in prehistoric times worshiped the powers of nature under the names of the pagan gods, through instinctive gratitude for the beauty of the world.
See, what did I tell you. Ministry of Truth is already hard at work to bring ancient thought into line with modern belief. To be honest though, I thought Dr. Bones was going to be in charge of the Ministry of Truth and Chris was going to be in charge of the Ministry of Peace, but hey, I suppose as long as the job gets done.
Still not sure how this proves Oswald was a “pagan” of sorts but I’m sure that’s just my thoughtcrime showing.
Oswald was definitely what we would now call “anti-civ.” He goes on to say:
misled by the ignus fatuus of science, man forsook the sylvan gods… hence the inequality of ranks, the wasteful wallow of wealth, and the meagerness of want, the abject front of poverty, the insolence of power…
And…clearly Oswald was not a historian.
Or an economist.
I’m starting to question if he was educated at all.
Every civilization has sought wealth. Every civilization has had inequality of rank. There has always been the meagerness of want, abject poverty, and insolent power. I could list off the name of every Pagan Nation that had these, but there’s an easier way to list the populations in history who have not had these things.
BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE!
While I do not personally agree with his primitivist stance, I find it fascinating that Oswald linked the abandonment of pagan religion and the birth of inequality. Some of the ideas we talk about here at Gods and Radicals are not as new as people assume – they go right back to the birth of anarchism and the earliest days of the modern pagan revival in the late 18th century.
Given that humans have a recorded history of about 10,000 years and Anarchism only popped up in the last 200…I’m going to go with “remarkably new.” Also, apparently Rome, Greece, Germania, Gaul, Persia, Syria, India, China, Japan, and every other god damn civilization on this planet was not, in fact, Pagan. because only the abandonment of pagan religions would create inequalities and all those civilizations were clearly unequal and driven by the desire for wealth so they could not possibly have been Pagan.
Nope, clearly they were all civilizations controlled by evil, capitalist
Christians Jews Chronomancers. The Ministry of Truth has Spoken! The only true Paganism is an anarcho-marxist Paganism in which there is no inequality of wealth or power. To claim otherwise is wrongthink thoughtcrime.
At that time, both paganism and atheism were seen primarily as statements of rebellion against Christian orthodoxy, and most people made no clear distinction between them. Godwin’s son-in-law, the poet Shelley, portrayed himself as an atheist in some contexts and as a pagan in others. Oswald was much the same, and was known for his intense hostility to organized religion. The few historians to write about him usually describe him as an atheist, but his own writings make it clear that Oswald was at least highly sympathetic to paganism. If he was still alive today, he would probably be one of the pagan humanists or atheo-pagans. According to Oswald:
Oh man, than he would have hated the Roman Religion of old, seeing as it was overseen largely by the State and highly organized. Or the Norse religion, actually. Probably would have hated all those Druids, what with their organization. And don’t get me started on the Heavenly Bureaucracy that is China’s Pagan religion.
Oh wait, I’m sorry, an update from the Ministry of Love has just come in and reminded me that those are not, in fact, True Paganisms. Because True Paganism has no hierarchies or inequalities.
The first adoration of mankind was paid, no doubt, to heaven and earth, and this worship was nothing else than a sentiment of gratitude emanating from the heart… The offerings of gratitude, which in the first ages the human race sacrificed to the gods, consisted simply of grass. In proportion, however, as men multiplied their enjoyments, more costly offerings were made of honey, wine, corn, incense.
In his own lifetime, Oswald was often accused of being a Hindu due to his vegetarianism and his frequent references to Indian deities such as Rama. This was not exactly true, but Oswald’s unusual political and religious opinions did have a lot to do with his exposure to Hinduism while fighting in India in a Scottish Highland regiment.
Oswald Paganism Confirmed then.
The Black Watch
The Black Watch began as a military policing unit in the Scottish Highlands, tasked with suppressing the Jacobite clans and preventing cattle raiding. It was eventually incorporated into the regular British Army as the 42nd Highland Regiment, and used in many of Britain’s colonial wars. This pattern is as old as the Roman Empire: after the conquest of a warrior society, the empire then recruits those warriors to fight on its behalf. The Highland Regiments were one of the earliest examples in British history, to be followed by Sikh regiments, Gurkha regiments and so on.
Well, you know what they say. “Twelve Scotts and a bagpipe is a rebellion.”
Also, how dare the oppressive shitlords of the British Empire try to prevent cattle raiding. I mean, it’s not like people really need to have their farms and homes protected. And all those Scottish boys no doubt killed by The Black Watch were good boys, who didn’ du nuffin’. Clearly, these racist Black Watch need to be brought into line. It’s Current Year!!!!!
Oswald himself was not a Highlander, but a Lowlander from Edinburgh. His parents were the owners of a popular café. Other than this, little is known of his early life or why he decided to enlist in a Highland regiment. When he joined the regiment, he would have received instruction in the Black Watch style of Highland broadsword fencing. (Another Black Watch veteran who served around the same time as Oswald preserved this system in a fencing manual now studied by historical fencing enthusiasts.) Oswald carried a sword at his waist for many years, so we can assume he continued to practice Highland swordsmanship.
Oswald, you culturally appropriating racist! How dare you appropriate Highlander culture with your damn middle class, lowlander self. Highlanders could have used that job, you piece of racist shit. Thanks to your oppressive and exploitative actions, Highlanders no doubt starved because they couldn’t get jobs. Not to mention contributing to the Wage Gap between Highlanders and Lowlanders. You should have leaned in, and been part of the solution for equality!
Also, I love how Chris can’t resist talking about how another Black Watch guy created a swords manual so that we could study how they fought. I love history and swordfighting, so it’s cool this exists. But I can’t help but think that by studying it, Chris is helping to perpetuate a racist system of oppression that was built off the lives of dead highlanders who were no doubt the targets of many of these sword techniques.
I don’t know, feels like it should violate his ethics somewhere…
However, he seems to have had problems getting along with his new comrades at first, leading to a pistol duel with an officer named Norman MacLeod. As often happened after a duel, MacLeod and Oswald became close friends, and many years later MacLeod spoke up for Oswald in the British Parliament when news of his revolutionary activities raised the possibility of a treason charge.
Uh…really? Because usually after a duel someone was dead. And even if no one died, I’m not all that familiar with a lot of “close friendships” that started because of duels. Mostly it was because you hated the other guy, or he’d insulted you in such a way you had to try and kill him to regain your honor. Honestly Chris…it sounds like you’ve been watching more Anime than you have reading historical dueling results.
Oswald fought with the Black Watch in India, but he became disgusted with Britain’s colonialist policies and the war crimes he saw committed by the army. He was impressed by Hindu vegetarianism, and became a passionate vegetarian himself. Resigning from the army, he wandered for some time through the Middle East and lived among the Kurds. He ended up in London, where he became a hack writer for the Scottish publisher William Thomson. (Oswald may have ghost-written the biography of the famous swordsman Donald MacLeod.)
Holy Shit! Oswald was a Tumblrite before Tumblr.
Let’s see here
1) culturally appropriates positive things from oppressed cultures as a protest against their “imperialistic, immoral native culture.”
2) Forced himself into minority communities so that he could live with them rather than his imperialist society.
3) became a hack writer with prose so purple even Prince could no longer stand the color.
By Jove, I see why he’s Chris’s hero!!!!!
When the French Revolution broke out, Oswald went to Paris and became an active member of the Jacobin Club. However, he did not share the authoritarian views of fellow Jacobin Robespierre, with whom he publicly clashed on several occasions – before Robespierre had the power to do anything to retaliate.
Leaves army to protest War crimes…goes and joins a Revolution consisting primarily of war crimes.
But hey, don’t worry, Oswald isn’t getting away that easy.
Due to his military background, Oswald was an obvious choice to train the revolutionary sans-culottes of Paris. He designed his own system for using the pike, a kind of spear favored by revolutionaries without access to firearms. Oswald’s pike unit trained and drilled under his instruction in Paris, but when they were sent to fight the counter-revolutionaries in the Vendée they put down the pikes and took up guns.
Making this one of the few times in military history where the French were not complete fucking idiots.
How come I can see during the Glorious Revolution, Chris teaching some band of Marxist Anarchists to fight with Pikes because in their anti-gun fervor they have none, but the instant they can get their hands on them, Chris’s glorious “pike fighting school” will devolve into Ok Corral.
Unfortunately for Oswald, he seems to have placed too much faith in the Highland Charge he had seen in action during his time with the Black Watch. The Highland Charge was originally a tactic for Highland swordsmen who had to fight regular troops armed with muskets. Knowing that the musket took some time to reload, the clan warriors would simply draw their broadswords and run straight at the soldiers while they were reloading. More often than not the soldiers would panic and run, and the Highlanders would claim the victory. In the final Jacobite uprising in 1746, government soldiers stood their ground and did not panic, and the Highland army was destroyed.
More Cultural Appropriation!!!!!
A filthy Lowlander appropriating Highlander tactics (which…honestly sound like bumrushing the cops) and teaching Highlander Cultural Values and Traditions to the French! Does this man have no social self awareness at all? Is his imperialism so ingrained that he cannot leave Highland Scottish Culture to the Highland Scottish? Stealing from an oppressed minority and using the stolen things for the benefit of the Majority is Racism!!!!!
After the disastrous defeat at Culloden, the Highlanders were banned from carrying weapons except in the British Army’s Highland regiments. Many of them joined these regiments and fought for the British Empire, although not always willingly – families that refused to give a son to the army could be evicted or have their houses burned down over their heads.
Damn it Oswald, can you not see how oppressed these Highlanders were! And here you are taking a job int he Black Watch, furthering systems of oppression and denying Highlanders one of the few jobs they could have in order to keep their homes!!!!
Honestly, this is telling me a lot about Chris. His great hero is a culturally appropriating racist who exploited minority groups for his own economic and spiritual well being and then stole their traditions for use by mass murderers. All while having a problem with a Government that…exploited minority groups for its own economic and spiritual well being. Huh.
The British Army was happy to use the tradition of the Highland Charge for its own benefit, sending countless Highlanders to die as cannon fodder, trying to storm almost impregnable enemy positions. (In the words of British general Wolfe, “they are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall.”) Despite the high cost in human life, the Highland Charge often succeeded through sheer courage and force of will. Oswald must have convinced himself it would work again.
Wow Chris is…something special.
He complains about the blatant exploitation of the Highlanders by the British, but at the same time speaks with an almost sexual admiration of Highlander men. I can only imagine that this is what he thinks about when he’s having trouble making love to his wife:
Bulging pecs, rippling thews, the sexy, strong legs peeking out from under the skirt. Oh Aye, that be what gets the little laddie to show up at attention for duty when the night calls. I have to wonder what excites Chris more, the thought of being thrown down and ravished by such a rippling example of masculinity or dominating another man who could break him like a twig?
When Oswald tried to get his sans-cullottes to stage a Highland Charge against the counter-revolutionaries, they shot him instead. It’s a sad ending for an idealistic revolutionary, although if he had stayed in Paris instead he would almost certainly have fallen victim to his old rival Robespierre during the Reign of Terror.
Providing for a us a second example of a rare French non-fuck up when it comes to war.
Of course, Oswald trying to get a bunch of starving french revolutionaries whose only meal had been the blood and flesh of their enemies to charge into a bunch of guns with the strength, fortitude, and rippling man-flesh of the Highlanders was of course doomed from the start. If ever there was an argument against cultural appropriation, this probably would be it.
Still, I’m sure that Chris can find comfort for the sorrow of his hero’s ignoble end in the strong arms of an oppressed Highlander.
Just remember to bring a blue ribbon in your hair, Chris.
The Universal Commonwealth
Oswald’s attempt to get Parisian sans-cullottes to fight like Highland clan warriors got him killed. From the perspective of the men who followed him, charging straight at a fortified position must have seemed like suicidal stupidity. They reacted as many other soldiers have done under the same circumstances – by fragging the officer. Despite his death under these ignoble circumstances, Oswald’s political ideas were strongly anti-authoritarian, which is why I refer to him as a forgotten founder of anarchism.
Right, so now we’re apparently going to discuss the ideas of a racist, culturally appropriating, middle class white man who died trying to enforce his cultural values on another race.
Wait…I thought that was the kind of person Marxists insisted we shouldn’t listen to?
Oswald called himself as a “universal patriot,” or what a modern radical would refer to as an “internationalist.” He strongly disagreed with the statist tendencies of his fellow Jacobins, and proposed a new system of localized government through directly democratic assemblies open to everyone equally. Networks of these assemblies would replace the nation-state, creating what Oswald called “the Universal Commonwealth.”
Ohhh, Oswald’s a Folkish!!!!
This is hilarious. Chris is trying to claim his hero is an “unversalist” but that would mean being more for a single, unified government over everyone (hence it being universal to everyone) but what Oswald is apparently advocating is instead small group autonomy in the face of a universalist “nation-state.” Individual groups have the right to self govern themselves according to their own will, rather than following a set of universal dictates that are applied to all people. I.e. Folkism
Sooo, Oswald is now a folkish, racist, culturally appropriating, middle class white man who died trying to enforce his cultural values on another race.
Unlike the silent hand symbols of an Occupy assembly, Oswald’s system was based on noise. Anyone in the assembly could stand up and make a proposal, and the crowd could either vote for it by shouting enthusiastically or against it by groaning. Oswald had nothing but disdain for the representative democracy the liberals wanted to establish, declaring that as long as one man could not piss for another, a man could hardly be expected to think for another either!
So….Oswald is a folkish, racist, culturally appropriating, middle class white man who died trying to enforce his cultural values on another race, that advocated for mob rule…
Because that is ever so more peaceful and just than voting via representative democracy.
Oswald not only anticipated anarchist ideas about how to organize society, but Marx’s analysis of labor as well:
No, say some with an air of triumph, those only should have a right to vote who are men of property. But, pray, is there any man without property? Is not the daily labor of the peasant, or the mechanic, as much his property, and as precious to him, as the wide possession or funded wealth of the landholder, or man of money?
Hey now, that’s some exclusionary language there Chris. It almost sounds like you’re advocating for private property there. What would Rhyd think of this? Don’t you know that private property is the root of all poverty and oppression, and that exclusionary ownership is an act of violence against the excluded party?
Because that’s what Rhyd has said.
And now Oswald is an exclusionary, folkish, racist, culturally appropriating, middle class white man who died trying to enforce his cultural values on another race, who believed in mob rule.
Damn, I love it when I can use my foe’s own arguments against them.
Although Oswald’s proposals lack the detail of later thinkers like Kropotkin and Bookchin, his emphasis on local and directly democratic assemblies places him in the same intellectual tradition, and his example of the sort of thing his assemblies might decide upon makes him an early anarcho-communist. According to Oswald, the first order of business was to decide:
Whether the land should be cultivated in common, or divided equally between the individuals of the nation?
Ahhh the age old Marxist conundrum. Do I allow people to have exclusive rights to their labor and create poverty, or do I demand everything be in common and exploit the worker…
Oswald did have some unexamined prejudices. For instance, he accepted the idea that some nations were “civilized” and others “savage,” and he never really addressed what role he thought women should have in his revolution. However, Oswald and his allies were also anti-slavery activists, and Oswald was friendly with Théroigne de Méricourt, a feminist revolutionary who carried a sword and trained an all-female pike unit using the system he had created. (Fore-runners of today’s YPJ among Oswald’s old friends the Kurds!)
You know Chris, you keep stroking it this hard it’s gonna catch on fire…
Right, so running it down…Oswalds is an exclusionary, folkish, racist, misogynistic, culturally appropriating, middle class white man who died trying to enforce his cultural values on another race, who believed in mob rule, but it’s okay because he was kinda, sorta friends with a Feminist.
I’m learning a lot about Chris too.
The only book-length study of Oswald in English is Commerce des Lumieres by David V. Erdman, which includes more of Oswald’s writing and many details of his revolutionary activities. It isn’t a particularly readable work, but it does gather all the available information about Oswald in a single place.
“It isn’t a particularly readable work…”
“The Government of the People” has been out of print for a long time, but selections from it can be found at the end of Erdman’s work. Oswald’s vegetarian tract The Cry of Nature is available as a reprint, and some of his poetry can still be found online – although readers should not expect too much from it as poetry. Oswald may not have been a great writer or a major thinker, but he did anticipate some of the ideas that were to become important in radical circles over the next century. Like Kropotkin after him, he saw clearly that representative democracy would ultimately serve only the ruling classes – but also that authoritarian forms of radicalism would not fulfill their promises. The revolution Oswald wanted was egalitarian and decentralized, directly democratic and communist, and it included reverence for nature and the pagan gods.
When I leave offerings to my ancestors, his name will be among them.
Sure he did Chris…sure he did.
So there we have it, Chris’s giant homoerotic masturbation glorification of Manly Highlanders and his hero Oswald, who one last time is a an exclusionary, folkish, racist, misogynistic, culturally appropriating, middle class white man who died trying to enforce his cultural values on another race, who believed in mob rule, but it’s okay because he was kinda, sorta friends with a Feminist and a demi-pagan.
And really, there’s only one way to end this. So here’s a special dedication from Chris Thompson to his hero Oswald. Let’s play it out for the ages…
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