Psychodynamics of Imperialism: Regressional Fields and Their Objects

Introduction and Concepts

Donald W. Winnicott, a British psychoanalyst, developed the concept of transitional objects, which are things used in early ego development that symbolize the relationship of the child with their parental figures and their functions. This object is used to help the child project and introject (I’ll define these soon) aspects and functions of the these figures through an external object that can be controlled and is therefore safe to act out anxieties on or with. The most immediately salient example of this kind of object is probably the classic blanket that becomes inseparable from the child and takes on the name and presence they give it. Winnicott unfortunately contributes to confusion over what the word “object” means in psychoanalytic discourse by here using it for an actual physical object that symbolizes a different psychodynamic object. A psychodynamic object can be thought of as a mental space within which representations of other people are held, and an introjection can be thought of as the filling in of this space of representation with characteristics of others. This is opposed to projection, which is attributing parts of the self or introjected objects to others. What I above referred to as a “parental figure” is psychodynamically a parental object. A transitional object, like the blanket, becomes used to create a symbolic space between internal and external reality wherein anxieties around relating to others can be acted out omnipotently and physically registered. This allows for a processing of desire frustration related to the parent figures and resulting anxieties over a lost feeling omnipotence that come about in that frustration. Over time the child internalizes the relationship they have to the transitional object and the realities of the external world become more accepted. This allows for a transition beyond this acting out of omnipotence via the external object. Through the reality testing this process involves, a more defined differentiation between inside and outside of the ego is generated and the transitional object loses its attraction.

This early style of relating to reality, involving processes of projection, introjection, and feelings of omnipotence, was thought by Melanie Klein to be a vital aspect of the paranoid-schizoid position. This position is essentially a constellation of psychological functioning that facilitates the incorporation, arrangement, and ejection of ego functions and psychodynamic objects (from here forward, when I use the term “object” it can be assumed that I’m speaking of psychodynamic objects). When the style of relating that the paranoid-schizoid position involves leads to conflicts with reality, the ego is consolidated through a depressive position, another constellation wherein people or their symbolic representations that support ego functioning are complicated, frustrated, or lost. Through the omnipotent style of relating being checked by reality, the external world is re-evaluated and a richer understanding is generated through reparative processes, both mental and physical, meant to create internal and external coherence. Marxists may be familiar with this kind of process in the application of materialist analysis, which is a system for reality testing, and self-critique, which creates a defined space for positively engaging depressive positions to result in more scientific and effective stances.

I’d like to use the term regressional object to signify something like a failed transitional object that doesn’t operate to open up mental space and/or sets conditions for avoiding confrontation with reality. Instead of the object functioning to allow a transition from earlier styles of functioning, it regresses the psyche to functioning more typical of a paranoid-schizoid position. There is a recursive process of projection and introjection that doesn’t open up space for thought and instead keeps people in a kind of solipsistic relating to reality.

When these processes occur on the imperialist side of social relations, reality testing can become superfluous due to available material wealth, distractions, and power, and omnipotent phantasies (phantasies are essentially thought content as related to unconscious object relations and drives) can be engaged in without threat. Due to the nature of regression, this is used to reinforce a cathexis (a mental and emotional investment and interest) of fragmented part-objects (particularized functions or aspects of an object; e.g., holding, persecution, or abandonment) without an impulse toward their integration into whole objects. Instead of omnipotent phantasies being checked, as they are with transitional objects, they persist. Whole object relating, or treating people as subjects in themselves, becomes unnecessary within this mode of functioning. The depressive position is consciously and unconsciously avoided. This serves to keep the space for thought two-dimensional and results in relationships more defined by the identification, narcissism, and sadism characteristic of the experience of omnipotence.

Regressional fields, then, are created by intersubjective processes based in the social results of regressional (part-)objects as they’re shared within and across groups, in addition to styles of social relating that engender regression to a paranoid-schizoid position, especially through media. Additionally, since on an individual level within a regressional field people are absorbed more on the side of paranoid-schizoid functioning, these regressional objects are often other people that take on roles of part-objects. People outside of the group more serve as canvases for projection than external subjectivities. The field becomes two-dimensional due to a circularity of exchange of a closed set of ideology used as a symbolic field for the introjection and projection of part-objects. A transitional field with three-dimensionality that allows space for mental movement and development fails to open up. The world can be denied and in fact ideology in the core is constructed by the ruling class for the preservation of this denial.

This is why threats to the denial of reality must be omnipotently annihilated or otherwise placed under regimes of control. In this sense, the propaganda around “fake news” creates a regressional field that allows for projection of fear of confrontation with reality onto other people who take in “fake news,” and the production of “fake news” can be blamed on contaminating (conservatives/liberals/political Others) and persecutory (Murdoch/Soros/Putin) part-objects that need to be neutralized or ejected. The circularity of “fake news” is generated through mutual projections where the news of your group is to be trusted and the news of oppositional groups are immediately rejected as not only fake, but dangerous. Threats to the denial of reality push people into the paranoid-schizoid position through the engagement of ego defenses to block the threats to ideological part-object identifications, and this is especially true with groups. The limiting of this space to two dimensions blocks a growth into objective analysis. One role a Marxist-Leninist can be thought to take on in their propaganda work is generating a three-dimensionality within intersubjective fields to open up space for critical thought in others.

Before continuing, I’d like to mention that this essay presents regression for the most part negatively, but this is not necessarily or even primarily the case, and though I’m mostly presenting negative aspects there are positive ones that will be ignored. For example, regression can be a necessary step back in psychic functioning to allow for a rearrangement of object relations and drive functions to better reflect reality. In fact, regression is a vital part of psychic growth, and anyone taking a turn from imperialist ideology to anti-imperialist ideology can be expected to experience a great deal of regression as part of the process. Without regression such a psychological rearrangement is impossible. Regression can also lead to immense pleasure regardless of any valences of growth, because it taps into the psychological states where pleasure has been experienced at its most intense and encompassing previously in life. The problem at hand isn’t that of regression in itself, but of regression as imperialism perpetuates it and uses it for its benefit.

Regressional Objects in the Imperial Core

A good introductory example of a regressional object, due to its extremity, is Alex Jones and his various media ventures. Jones presents the world in a way that pulls in people who are vulnerable to deep paranoid-schizoid positions by identifying part-object fragments with delusional structures of social control. For instance, the idea of a reptilian race that shape-shifts controlling society seems absolutely absurd, and it of course is . . . but are not reptilian creatures of one sort or another a common symbol of oedipal conflict in our society? Dragons, dinosaurs, and the like are often used by children to project oedipal anxieties onto. Boys, for instance, often become obsessed dinosaurs as they work through anxieties related to identification with a threatening object (prototypically the father) that has special treatment to pleasures given by a desired object (prototypically the mother). The vague outlines of these anxieties can be seen in the cultural phantasy of killing a dragon (father) to get a princess (mother), along with all the variants off of it that play with these anxieties. Reptiles are generally thought of as threatening, cold, and unemotional, which is how the threatening oedipal part-object is understood in a child’s unconscious. People in general know there is something deeply wrong with society, and imperialism sustains itself by trying to make a true symbolization of this wrongness impossible. Someone in an especially vulnerable regressed position can, through this kind of regressional object, become attracted to a profoundly delusional apparatus of symbolization that identifies internal fragmented part-objects (e.g., the threatening father) with absurd representations of society’s wrongness (e.g., a race a shape-shifting reptilians) in a way that leads to disconnection from reality and possibly a spiral towards ego disintegration.

In addition to this, capitalism is presented as potentially utopic in this ideology: it is the good part-object that would provide ministration if you worked for it as this idealized capitalism expects. But a bad part-object (projected onto constructs like the Illuminati, reptilians, Jesuits, communists, and Jewish bankers) prevents its attainment through its engulfment of society, turning people into inhuman zombies and sheeple that need to wake up. This sense of engulfment of others uses a projection of infant anxieties relating to a feeling of devivification in relation to a bad part-object. In infants there is initially a lack of differentiation of the self from the external world, and most profoundly with its maternal objects. When an infant’s needs are frustrated and it can’t bring the external world to care for it, due to its lack of object constancy it feels abandoned in an absolute way. From this the bad part-object is initially understood out of a sense of enigmatic absence that, because the self has not been differentiated yet, leads to a fear of annihilation as a self. The bad part-object hoards the self, and this relation to the bad part-object becomes reinforced by presences that recreate a sense of absence through unempathic, persecutory, and/or invasive relating. The extremity of these anxieties is what leads to the initial split into good and bad part-objects, as the infant can’t yet process that the being(s) that give it extreme pleasure are the same as those that make it fear its own annihilation. Phantasies of engulfment combined with oedipal anxieties are why narratives like the reptilian race story become believable in extremely regressed states, through which they can be processed and introjected.

The above is also related to the constant Manichean interpretations of society Alex Jones presents. This is evidence of a massive, polar split of good and bad part-objects, and that this becomes mystical (like when Jones speaks of things occurring across several dimensions or engages in demonology) is evidence of the depth of paranoid-schizoid functioning involved and the kind of delusional and hallucinatory thinking it can bring about. Watching Alex Jones analyze anything provides ample evidence of this character of thought. All of this also creates a sense of persecution, leading to a paranoia that is projected onto today’s surveillance systems. Indeed, it sometimes seems imperialist outlets like the Intercept and groups like Anonymous focus on surveillance systems simply to create this sense of a persecutory part-object existing in the world to project paranoia onto. This can draw people into regressive fields to either scare them into submission or attract them to regressive objects like Alex Jones. In this way dissent is turned into fear and ego fragmentation, and also fascism.

While the above example relates mostly to the paranoid aspects of the paranoid-schizoid position, the sadistic aspects of it are maybe most apparent in violent video games. These function through the projection of various kinds of bad (persecutory, contaminating, invasive etc.) part-objects into virtual enemies who are to be sadistically killed and dominated for the attainment of goals for reward, or simply repetitively killed in cycles of pure sadism that is a goal in itself. Primitive sadism often involves phantasies of explosion and tearing, resulting in the exposure and dissolution of internal space and contents, which is one reason why blood that marks the destruction of an enemy is sadistically relied on as a signification of domination. This sadism is caught up in frustrated libidinal drives that get fused with aggressive phantasies of domination of the Other for gratification. If the reader is familiar with the way teenage boys tend to talk to each other when playing these games, these dynamics are clearly apparent.

Another example of something that acts as a regressional object is the sort of television programming that finds its way onto Adult Swim, which relies on dynamics that pull people into regressive states through the presentation of intricate contradictions within and between fragmented part-objects. This fragmentation is maintained through a dissonant overall tone, presentations of arbitrary sadism, and generally bizarre representation. For an illustration of this I’ll take some examples from an episode the Eric Andre Show. Notably, every episode begins with Andre destroying the stage with explosive aggression, often attacking his house band and show-mate. In this episode there is a skit where, in public, Andre pretends to be an emergency responder trying to “resuscitate” a woman in a gurney – who looks like they’ve had a serious neck injury – by humping at them. Reactions to this are filmed and concerned people become targets for ridicule. This imagery is transgression for transgression’s sake. It’s taking the ideological field, which is saturated with imperialism and misogyny, to present boundaries to break for the sake of breaking boundaries. Those who resist this sadism are lame. Unprocessed and repressed sadistic drives become liberated in laughter. While this is a specifically heinous example of this sort of programming, there is a constant message in these kinds of shows: the imperialist and patriarchal ideological field is to be played with to regress into a dissonance of contradictory part-object symbolization so that boundaries can be sadistically transgressed to pleasurable effect.

This episode ends with a skit about an “Abu Ghraib Comedy Show Challenge,” where the comic Jim Norton poses as a tortured person from one of the most famous photos of the atrocities performed at that prison and makes a few bad-taste jokes as he pretends to be electrocuted, has leashed dogs bark at him, and has “guantanimo babes” come out in bikinis patterned with the Amerikkkan flag to dance around in celebration with sparklers as the skit ends. This takes disparate imageries to create a collage of dissonant irony around imperialism’s crimes. At once there’s a feeling that there’s something deeply wrong but there is no critique either. It’s clearly meant to be funny, but why and how? Boundaries are transgressed by being blurred across each other, and anxieties related to imperialism are displaced into a dissonant object only for imperialism be re-introjected through an identification with dissonance itself. Processing of imperialist symbolism is denied and instead ideology is played with to bring about solipsistic psychological states.

Regressional Fields of the Imperial “Left”

Internet forums and social media can become co-constructed regressional fields, which is seen among the “left” as easily as anywhere else. A quick survey of, for instance, tHe rHizzone or /r/fullcommunism quickly illustrates this point. The ideological field becomes pulled from for the purpose of representation and expression of fragmented part-object relations here as well. The symbolism of communism becomes used to represent internal conflict instead of used for the liberation of the working class. For instance, jokes made about actions that involve massive loss of life are used for signification of sadistic drives: people being sent to gulags or put up against a wall to be shot en masse. In this way, the historical struggle of communism is kept as an enclosed space for the expression of internal part-object relations and drives. While this sort of space can plausibly act as an initial transitional field for those still completely absorbed in imperialist ideology through the transformation of object relations and drive cathexes, these spaces seem to most often be used as excuses to liberate repressed drives through communist symbols solipsistically. These part-object relations fail to reach out into the real world, and praxis becomes stunted or, more commonly, never seriously taken on. The oppression and killing of workers merely becomes a social condition that allows for the displacement of oedipal anxieties onto cops.

Irony in these contexts, I believe, serves to preserve a paranoid-schizoid position in the face of a possible turn towards a depressive position. Again, the depressive position is where the splitting of (part-)objects and omnipotent phantasies of the paranoid-schizoid position comes into conflict with reality, and as a result a person mourns for losses, feels guilt, and tries to repair both internal and external objects involved. This also creates a process towards seeing external objects, or people themselves, as actual subjects. Irony becomes a defense mechanism to prevent allowing the world to touch an emotional center, which would allow for a fracture that could draw a person into the depressive position. This is another space where the ideological field is played with two-dimensionally rather than creating any generative political forces.

Irony can also function to preserve an omnipotent position of supremacy within a group. This works in a few of ways: (1) the emotional center is presented as beyond reach, (2) the circularity of argumentation guarantees that the ironist can grind the other person down if the ironist cannot themselves win through sincere argument, and (3) the assumed grouping within a supremacist circle means that the irony allows them to take up an apparently transgressive position while maintaining the supremacist circle itself. This means that irony can be used to present the exercise of authority as its transgression, and therefore sadistically enclose oppressed people in social spaces that preserve oppression and supremacism exactly when they’re trying to leave it, which is then used to itself fuel supremacism. Social spaces apparently meant to build momentum towards revolt become enclosures appended to the general imperialist field at the exits.

Building off of this use of irony for the preservation of supremacist positions, those acting in “leftist” circles from supremacist positions also rely on what Christopher Bollas termed extractive introjection. This occurs when, in an act of introjection, aspects of the psychic life of another person are effectively stolen. In a group context, this can occur through a supremacist assuming elements of the psychic life of oppression that is provided within the group field by the oppressed and presenting it as their own or taking on the function of analysis in a way that discourages analysis by the oppressed of their own situation. These aspects of oppression are represented from a position of supremacy back into the group, which metabolizes the elements of oppression from the perspective of a stratum of the social field shared by an oppressor group. The unconscious communication is initially that the ownership of oppressed psychic structure is shared when it isn’t, and the supremacist group’s maintenance of a privileged position for speaking leads to group dynamics where oppression is felt as stolen from the oppressed. Extractive introjection happens in “leftist” circles in many other ways as well. This sort of relating can be used by infiltrators to distort and dissolve potentially revolutionary structures. Who would want to contribute to a group that steals? This also perpetuates regressional fields, as a three-dimensionality to allow for psychic growth is prevented due to the absorption and vitiation of oppressed perspectives to the exclusion of the oppressed. That this is used consciously by imperialist ideological mercenaries as a regular mode of propaganda operation is hopefully also obvious.

The above can help to explain how even apparently sincere “leftists” in the core have such a hard time getting past their solipsism, and in fact have a politics seemingly designed to maintain it (in an almost paradoxical way) by bringing cathexis away from the internal object relationships as they relate to individual history and displacing them into society to remain unintegrated. And society is by no means affected by this displacement in any kind of significant way since any action relating to it is strictly contained and ineffectual. Where this could lead to a depressive position of mourning or an opening of a three-dimensional space in which to consider and deal with one’s embeddedness in the very real murderous structures imperialism, instead the drives that could lead to that end are maintained in regressional fields.

Regressional fields are also imposed on groups that might pose a threat to imperialism. This could be seen in the COINTELPRO strategy used to destroy the Black Panther Party. For instance, forged mail was created and sent under members’ names between each other to create a sense of confusion and paranoia. The FBI tried to create factions within the party, which increased the ability for internal groupings to project anxieties onto each other. Relationships with outside groups were also targeted in this way, even leading to violent confrontations. The spread of drug use by infiltrators was used to decrease the ability for party members to think clearly and to increase connections to lumpen elements. The kind of oppressive environment all of this infiltration led to eventually broke the party. Though this is an extreme example, smaller versions of this process aren’t infrequent (think of, for instance, the presence of police infiltration at large protests that’s often used to incite violence), and the knowledge that this sort of thing can and does happen can create paranoia even in the absence of actual infiltration.

How the above relates to imperialism is hopefully already clear, but the discussion so far has been mostly related to the functioning of ideological apparatuses in the core that disarm possible material opposition to imperialism there. Regressional objects and fields also serve specific and vital functions in the reproduction of imperialist violence itself.

Imperial Violence and Regression

Within the core, the fusion of regressional objects and fields of imperialist symbolism is used to place people in a regressed state for the internalization of imperialist attitudes into the ego through creating a cathexis of imperialist imagery as it becomes identified with internal part-objects. Where in a game like Doom the projected bad part-objects presented for sadistic destruction are represented by demons or zombies, in a game like Call of Duty or Ghost Recon these are humans targeted by imperialism. A common enemy for these since the end of the Cold War has been the people of MENA, who are presented as barbaric and deprived of meaning as subjectivities. They represent forces that deny the omnipotent force for good of the United States and therefore are to be targeted as disruptors of the unity of the ego, and the ego becomes projectively identified with imperialism, its states, and its military apparatuses. This resulting Amerikkkan ego is preserved through mass killing and cathartic climaxes of violence, and this aids imperialism in its need to convince core populations that its real mass killing is valid, good, and protective. The barbaric murderers deified under significations like “soldiers,” “marines,” and “Navy SEALs” are introjected as a part of the ego through acting as them and killing as them. Film and television work similarly in how they create identifications between part-objects and imperialist symbolism.

The operation of regressional fields to, in a sense, prime the ego for internalization of imperial attitudes through entertainment deepens the introjection of imperialism in a way that allows for people to be extremely malleable to movements of imperialists within the core. Imperialism becomes ego syntonic – consistent with perceptions and representations of the self – and threats to imperialism become fragmenting, especially if the feeling of fragmentation from infringements to this ego syntonicity are identified with the operations of a foreign, contaminating part-object. This identification is one that imperialism consciously establishes, as it did in the Cold War with communism and as has been the case with efforts to make any truth telling a propaganda operation of “Putin’s Russia.” Within the field of imperialism, telling the truth about imperialism effectively if not actually makes you a Putin agent. And, as mentioned previously, the individual ego is projectively identified with the state to create an unconscious metonymy with it, and therefore disruptions of imperial function are felt as disruptions of the individual ego. Disruptions of public order can spur intense rage and a sense of internal contamination. Migrant workers, presented as dangerous criminals who steal jobs, are identified with a sense of internal contagion, a threat inside the body. “Sanctuary cities” become sites of metastasis. Through the spread of these racist identifications, Central America becomes a diseased region spilling across the border into Amerikkka, which requires a wall for inoculation.

These dynamics were plainly visible in both democrat and republican campaigns for presidency, which have continued into Trump’s presidency from both sides to be used for intensifying imperialist aggression. One of democrats’ main propaganda goals has been to establish, in opposition to Trump, the United States as a unity that is, again, identified with the unity of the individual ego. The fragmentation of this unity is represented by Trump, and especially so in his given role as a foreign, contaminating agent that brings the demonic forces of Putin into the very head of Amerikkkan governance. This leads to group-ego defenses involving the denial of other social contradictions within the United States and a perceived need to join together (“Love Trumps Hate!”) to neutralize the source of this contamination of Amerikkkan politics through aggression against Russia (Putin) and the agents that serve it (him). Through these mechanisms, the life drive of the average democrat becomes turned to enforcing Amerikkkan domination of the world in a way that feels righteous. Even a CIA or military coup of their own country would in all likelihood feel righteous and lead to a sense of moral victory. Such things have been openly called for in imperialist media aligned with the democrats.

Trump’s tactic has been to present the Amerikkkan ego as already fragmented. Trump’s presidency serves a restorative function and democrats, “leftists,” muslims, and immigrants are presented as fragmenters of the Amerikkkan ego that need to be neutralized or ejected. One of Trump’s key methods for creating the feeling of restoring Amerikkkan power has been to promote blatant sadism. “We” destroyed Iraq, but neglected to also take the oil. Countries under “our” hegemony are not thankful enough for their “protection” and need to be made to pay. “We’ll” not only build the wall, but Mexico will pay for it. This extraction of additional payment is pure sadism in its most basic political symbolism. Trump also tries to present Amerikkkan aggression as potentially boundless. This type of symbolism is made to bring about omnipotent phantasies among reactionaries in the US to create not just a sense of responsibility to go to war, like the democrats attempt, but also a sadistic desire to go to war. To restore the Amerikkkan ego, a war is needed and it needs to be unambiguously won. It doesn’t matter at all that these wars kill millions in this style of thinking. Additionally, in conservative ideology maternal functions must be controlled by patriarchal institutions that split the good from the bad maternal part-object, and then apportions access to the good maternal part-object through success that is strictly kept to alignment with the most greedy of types of human functioning, as is demanded by capital.  The split-off bad part-object that engulfs is what requires this adherence to capital and enforces these perceptions: a “nanny state” is the split-off bad object that engulfs entrepreneurship and individuality, and it must be denied at all costs for the preservation of the self.

Communist states historically represent this engulfment across the imperialist ideological field, and people living in these states are thought of as without selves as a result of this projection. This is plainly seen in dystopian literature, which is spurred by the disruption of the social maternal functions within capitalism and their explicit provision in socialism. The perception within capitalist ideology is that this is the explicit provision of the bad, engulfing part-object, which is fused with oedipal anxieties and embodied in a singular individual (e.g., Kim Jong-il, Mao Zedong, and Fidel Castro) that ruthlessly imposes it on the populace. This devivifies people living in socialist countries, who become effectively soulless and zombie-like. It’s why dreary images feel immediately salient and images of beautiful fauna lead to a feeling of uncanniness. Also uncanny are expressions of happiness. How can people depleted of their humanity by the bad part-object possibly be happy? The internalized object relations of people in socialist countries are also seen as inherently disturbed – they are a result of mind control – even when analogous, or the exact same, relations can be found among their own imperialist societies.

Imperialism also uses regressional objects and fields quite purposefully within targeted societies to fragment them. This can be seen in the spread of salafist ideology by imperialism in areas it has targeted for destabilization and destruction. This ideology installs a set of nightmarish social conditions that regresses people through constant oppression to create a space of control, which leads to paranoia over adherence to a ruthlessly imposed and strict set of laws as well as wide varieties of traumatization and reactions to that trauma. Nancy Caro Hollander has written in detail on how similar death squads and the fascist political forces installed by imperialism in Latin America established power structures through these means. This is performed through the implementation of a mercenary ruling group with whom the acting out of this ideology is ego syntonic. They identify with what they see as just modes of performing their sadism, and this is ultimately guided, paid for, and rewarded by the Amerikkkan imperialist war machine.

The implementation of salafist ideology also creates conditions for the reproduction of terrorist atrocity. The extremely patriarchal structure imposed means that the only space for potency of any kind is through the structure of violence and sadism itself – other potencies are denied. As I pointed out on twitter earlier, conditions like the covering of women becomes a priming condition for phantasies of a mass of virgin women to give mercenary terrorists of Amerikkkan barbarism pleasure in the afterlife. Within the installed patriarchal structures, potentially desired sexual figures are made invisible so that the function of desiring is open to an ideal object for itself. Through mystical obfuscation of the good part-object, attainment of its sexualized patriarchal idealization, the virgin, is projected into an afterlife as an Other to be erotically absorbed into or infinitely penetrated. Suicide bombing, when performed within this ideology, is then an ecstatic reunion with the primordial Mother represented by the mass of virgins.

Additionally, children are introduced to acts of killing and trauma extremely early in life, which takes and exploits the confusion and underdeveloped object relations in children and concentrates them into conditions that perpetuate regression not only in children but also in adults. Seeing children mirror adult sadism releases the regressive field of the mercenary ruling group from any impositions of innocence that children might otherwise represent. They relive their own childhoods through the sadistic phantasies they force others to act out.

Not only do these methods of materially implementing conditions that fuel sadistic phantasies bring about the psychological conditions for the most immediately heinous of imperialist barbarity – of course, ultimately the most heinous imperialist barbarity belongs to the Amerikkkan ruling class – but it creates a barbarous Other on which to project bad part-objects from within the core. This creates a double movement where the regression of imperialist mercenary cutthroats reinforces the regression of imperialist core liberals, which are both used together for the destruction of social forces that resist domination by capital.

Aspects of this extends to any situation where imperialism uses the tactics of “divide and rule.” These divisions facilitate the projection onto and ejection into what become representatives of bad part-objects. The racialization of groups is used to provide these canvases for projection, and imperialism spreads ideology specifically to further these divides where it can make them and intensify these divides whenever possible. This has been especially obvious in the case of Syria, where from the beginning the imperialist mercenaries have been calling for the annihilation of Alawites, relying on a phantasy of annihilating the bad part-object to restore an idealized group unity. The psychological conditions for genocidal action are implemented through these means, and it allows for the most absurd imperialist propaganda to be understood immediately as truth. That another group, or an individual representative of them, performs profound evil is to be expected and anything they do that could be seen as good is interpreted through paranoid suspicion.

Though the concepts of regressional fields and objects are intentionally somewhat vague, hopefully their application has clarified how imperialism influences the psychodynamics of people to perpetuate systems of domination and enhance the effectiveness of their psychological warfare operations.

Intervention within Regressional Fields

What’s striking about these regressional fields is their ubiquity,  although it’s important to not project any of our own paranoid anxieties onto these processes. As mentioned towards the beginning, regression in and of itself is not bad – it is how this process is used within imperialism that’s bad. In fact, in any circle of Marxism-Leninism, regression is an important part of not just a step back for psychological growth through the rearrangement of internal objects and drive cathexes, but also these can simply be proper impulses for group defense. Indeed, the paranoia and impulse towards ejection brought about in a paranoid-schizoid position can be fully rational and appropriate for a condition of infiltration. As opposed to regressional fields deployed by imperialism, these functions are subject to critique and self-critique, and the scientific approach of Marxism-Leninism is meant to ensure that real relationships are being reflected.

Even sadism can be brought to good use. For instance, I’m aware of my own impulses of sadism when confronted by Trotskyist views on imperialism and use those impulses to viciously attack their ideology, which they have earned through decades of destroying anti-imperialist momentum. I have, I admit, a phantasy of wanting to tear their ideology off as if it’s flesh until only a skeleton remains to be seen as the grotesque reality of their support for imperialist murder. I did, after all, use “For the destruction of liberalism” as the subtitle for this blog. I think Marxist-Leninists become aware that this kind of viciousness is simply appropriate in some circumstances, and anyway it’s a natural impulse. Couching such impulses in only a life drive through protection seems to disavow something important. Sadistic phantasy sparked from confrontation with enemies can, I think, be ultimately positive if objectivity and humanity remains attended to. Our enemies, it must be kept in mind, are the enemies of humanity. Disavowing sadistic impulses while objectively evincing them seems more dangerous than an open appropriation.

This is where things admittedly get a bit murky, but it’s always easy to present psychoanalytic interpretations of others and pretend that you’re not subject to the same processes – lines must be drawn or the above presentation can be interpreted as merely a projection of projection. Many more words would be necessary for an attempt to situate these modes of psychological functioning in Marxist-Leninist praxis, but hopefully this speaks to how some aspects of regression can be dealt with. If read closely with an attention to the life and death drives, it’s apparent that leaders like Mao were very much aware of how these forces existed and had ambivalent tendencies that could, if taken individually, lead to their own kinds of idealism. Remember Mao’s reply to attempts to uncritically align Marxism-Leninism with the life drive: “Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.”

I mentioned in the introduction that a goal of Marxist-Leninists should be to open up a three-dimensional space for others to rearrange their understanding of Amerikkkan imperialism and (part-)objects that may be identified with it. I think communists should be able to serve as agents for the opening up of transitional spaces and should be willing to treat themselves as transitional objects for others that seem genuinely open to anti-imperialist politics. Empathically presenting a more whole understanding of how imperialism acts in the world can be an invitation to reconsider even fundamental views over time, as well as providing a safe space for doing so. Such an empathic space creates a sense of being held to make the regressions necessary for the rearrangement of object relations and drive cathexes not only possible, but rewarding.

However, this avoids conflict – more important, especially in the core, is to confront imperialist ideology and its proponents openly and with confident vigor. This involves the presentation of a reality that is incommensurately in opposition to all of the ideologies of imperialism. This keeps the field of imperialism defined and reminds communists of what the fight is for. And for those under the sway of imperialism but with their heart in the right place, it can take an ego fracture from such conflict to cause a self-reflective process that can lead to an exit from imperialist ideology and its various sub-genres. But it should be kept in mind, so as not to overextend ourselves with proselytizing, that it seems most people in imperialist countries will be unable to make such changes without a major economic and political crisis within the core, or even then.

Through all of this praxis of drives and object relations, communists have a duty to pursue truth scientifically and to develop an ability to serve as not only revolutionary propagandists, but as active militant personalities. Part of that is creating the space for others to come to understand the struggle workers and other exploited groups face in stopping this unending violence, suffering, and horror imposed by imperialism. Our propaganda, as the imperialists clearly well understand, isn’t just an intervention in an ideological field, but meant for a rearranging of internal psychodynamics. And such a thing, for Marxist-Leninists, is ultimately part of a democratic and scientific project to end imperialist barbarism and create the material conditions for peace and dignity.


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