A family friend visited the other day. A history buff and bilingual tour-guide in London, he’s also a veteran of various 1970s revolutionary left-wing groups, which were notorious for their furious discord, their endless -isms, and their tendency to split into smaller and smaller sub-factions. Declaring each other to be revisionist pseudo-Stalinist traitors, adding initials to your faction’s name, arguing about manifestos in draughty meeting rooms- all de rigueur for the movement1. The members of these groups wrote voluminously, and their bitterest enemies were generally one another. As far as I can tell, the 1970s extreme left didn’t accomplish much except to irritate the Labour Party, and to inspire the anti-Roman rebels in the brilliant Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Anyway, something our family friend said caught my ear. In passing, he mentioned the British Section of the Fourth International (Posadist), a franchise of a miniscule splinter group from the Trotskyist Fourth International, and their unconventional pro-nuclear-war stance.
I had to find out more about these people. So I started reading, and what I learnt was out of this world, in more than one way. Long before memesters and internet revolutionaries talked about Fully Automated Luxury Communism, there was a Communist who wanted to take the revolution to infinity and beyond, and his name was J. Posadas. Well, it wasn’t actually.
Blowing up Cuba
When Homero Romulo Cristalli Frasnelli was born in Argentina in 1912, there was no Soviet Union, and no real Communist society to evaluate and find lacking. Besides playing football, Cristalli Frasnelli was a workers’ organiser from a young age, in the mid-sized Argentine city of Cordoba. He must have watched Stalin’s abuses and terrors with increasing alarm, because he later joined the Fourth International, a Trotskyist organisation that opposed the degeneration or corruption2 of the Soviet Union. However, Cristalli Frasnelli never fully renounced Stalin, and still thought that the ‘worker’s states’ of China and the Soviet Union were preferable to capitalism.
At some point, the honorable HRCF started going by the moniker J. Posadas. I couldn’t even find out what the J stood for. In the 1950s, he broke away from the Fourth International to form his own splinter group: the Fourth International (Posadist). And as the fifties gave way to the revolutionary sixties, he deviated from the usual Marxist economic analysis to write something very unusual indeed.
After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Posadas initially wrote what you might expect a Marxist thinker to write. The revolution is an early triumph for the workers against ‘Yankee imperialism’3. ‘Imperial’ forces will try to sabotage the revolution through trade blockades and economic sanctions4. Mass nationalisation of land, banks, utilities and transport networks is needed to remove the economic power of capitalist landowners. ‘The defense and support of the Cuban revolution lies in this: that it must spread, broaden its social, economic, and political conquests, and rely on the revolutionary masses of Latin America and of the world.’ You know the drill. But as the Cuban experiment ran into difficulties, and was threatened by a failed invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the country became the crux of global politics, and the epicentre of a narrowly-avoided nuclear war.
Posadas thought that nuclear war might yield positive results. He had come to believe that the apocalyptic conflict was not just plausible but inevitable, and that it could be used to the advantage of the workers’ states, who should strike first and build a new world in the ashes of the nuclear winter. As an example, he later suggested the bombing of the USA’s last imperial foothold on Cuba, a little place called Guantanamo5: ‘Militarily, Guantanamo is of little historic value to the US: when the atomic confrontation starts, one atomic bomb will suffice to wipe it out.’ The war would obliterate most global capital, but the international proletariat of workers would not fear an atomic war. Far from it, the proletariat ‘is going to enter the atomic war with the all vigour it displays in the class struggle’. Quite how Posadas thought the proletariat would contribute with vigour to an atomic war, rather than just getting burnt or radiated to death, is a little fuzzy. Details, details.
Space Jam Tomorrow
The unconventional wisdom of the Posadists didn’t stop with nuclear war. They were UFO believers too. Dante Minazzoli, a long time supporter of Posadas, once said that in 1947, he had interpreted the earliest Roswell sightings as UFOs. Some people fear alien contact, but as Posadas noted in his famous 1968 essay6, ‘The behaviour of these beings, if it is true that they exist, seems not to be aggressive in character. All the people who say that they have seen them, say that none of them were of an aggressive disposition […] these beings come to observe, they try to make it understood that they intend no harm. Their behaviour expresses their superior organisation.’
Posadas believed that this superior form of organisation must- could only- be a type of communism! He argued that a Capitalist alien society would come to other planets in search of resources to extract and people to exploit, so aliens who only want to observe or learn must be communist. Capitalist philosophies can box people in with the profit motive, preventing them from seeing the broader possibilities of technology. However, a communist society would apply Marxist dialectic to technology, conclude that we need to change the material basis of thought, and eventually build technologies which would drastically change human thought itself: ‘The speed of thought depends on the dominant material means. Thought is still very limited today. Tomorrow it will be infinitely more powerful, and quicker, too.’ It’s really interesting to see somebody make a communist argument for the singularity- I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the two thought-worlds together in one place.
The two strands of thought, aliens and apocalypse, were gradually woven together. Not only was nuclear war inevitable, but indeed some kind of cataclysm which causes communist revolution has probably happened time and time again throughout the universe. Any aliens who visited Earth have probably had some kind of cataclysmic event on their planets- therefore Communists would have taken over and rebuilt from the ashes- therefore aliens who are sufficiently advanced to reach our planet are probably the result of a successful communist revolution of sorts! There are a few chasms of logic in this theory which I won’t probe at right now; I’ll just note the deep psychic significance of both Roswell and the A-bomb development site at Los Alamos being in New Mexico. At some point, when the A-bomb was dropped it transformed New Mexico into a desert retreat where new world orders are forged and impossible things can happen.
A Dedicated Band of Followers
In between the alien meetings and the nuclear fireballs, Posadas thought humans should learn to communicate with dolphins, and believed that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence should transmit rather than passively listening. He also wrote extensively about childbirth in space. The man himself became increasingly secretive and selective in his organizations’ membership- the British Section of the Fourth International (Posadist) may only have had seven members, according to our revolutionary friend (who should know).
The Posadists still exist, although now they have morphed into ‘Neo-Posadists’, with less focus on nuclear war and more on modern geopolitics, alien guidance and technological change. A Posadist blog chunters on, offering thoughts on Crimea, the colonisation of exoplanets, and, hilariously, a fairly nuanced position on Brexit. There is a Facebook page (Intergalactic Worker’s League- Posadist), which seems to be mostly a joke, but because we live in 2019 it’s impossible to tell.
I’m increasingly fascinated by this bizarre movement, which must have consumed huge portions of the lives of those few involved in it. It must have influenced the theorists of Fully Automated Luxury Communism, which is its own world of rethought Marxism and weird internet memes. I know their beliefs were somewhat horrifying, but it’s difficult not to like an organisation that can think nuclear war is inevitable and yet be so damned optimistic. In the end, it’s both horrifying and weirdly reassuring to imagine the Fifth International, an intergalactic federation of beings of pure energy and hyperconscious wavelength formations, popping across space in a wormhole to check out how our revolution is going. So long, Space Comrades.
‘Til next time,
From your correspondent off the shoulder of Orion.
1 There’s a touch of political Dungeons and Dragons about it all.
2 In Marxist dialogue, which specific word you use to describe the Soviet Union’s failure to live up to expectations really matters, but the nuance is lost on me.
3 Cuba wasn’t formally part of an American empire in the 50s, but most observers would agree it was under the thumb of the American government.
4 Again, kind of true.
5 America’s commitment to recycling the locations of its imperial misadventures shows real environmentalist cred.
6 Flying saucers, the process of matter and energy, science, the revolutionary and working-class struggle
and the socialist future of mankind.