Intergalactic apocalyptic communism
America has long been recognized as a place where bizarre and exaggerated ideas are welcomed. Cults, New Age philosophies, gurus, positive attitude movements – the United States has always welcomed the strange, especially California, which Archie Bunker called the “land of fruits and nuts”.
As it turns out, the human capacity for the bizarre is not limited to the West. Take the case of posadism, the subject of a new book, I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs, and Apocalypse Communism by AM Gittlitz. Posadism known as “apocalyptic communism” is based on the vision of an Argentine Trotskyist named J. Posadas (1912-1981). Posadas, whose real name is Homero Rómulo Cristalli Frasnelli, was one of the most famous Trotskyists of the 20th century in the West. Posadas was a militant worker from Buenos Aires who grew up poor, joined a group of Trotskyist intellectuals in the late 1930s, headed the Latin American office of the Fourth International, and believed that extraterrestrials and nuclear war would play a crucial role in a global anti-capitalist revolution.
These may seem wildly different worlds, but they all have something in common: the desire for a utopian answer, whether from the state or from heaven, to the problems of inequality and human suffering. A definitive, comprehensive answer to life’s difficulties has been suggested not only by Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro and Bernie Sanders, but also by L. Ron Hubbard. It is largely forgotten that Marxist revolutionary Alexander Bogdanov wrote The Red Star in 1908, a story about how Martians brought a young Russian student back to Mars, a planet that represents a communist utopia in which women escaped “domestic slavery” . Bogdanov would become a rival to Lenin for leading the Russian Revolution. Bogdanov’s science fiction style was banned after the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922.
In 1919, Homero Cristalli was seven years old and lived in his working-class Boedo neighborhood when he witnessed a revolution on his doorstep. A workers strike at the nearby Vasena metal factory turned bloody, six people were killed, and the funeral procession turned into a mass demonstration and riot. The country’s 1919 workers and intellectuals had been inspired by the recent revolution in Russia. The words of the anarchist-communist ancestor Mikhail Bakunin were in the air: “The passion for destruction is also a creative passion!” It was intoxicating for Cristallil, the son of two poor cobblers who had immigrated from Italy. His parents, Emanuel and Elvira Cristalli, were members of the Argentine Regional Workers’ Federation, an anarchist group.
After a short time as a soccer player, Cristalli joined a youth group of the Socialist Party. He was an avid “newsie” who distributed newspapers while doing odd jobs. In the 1930s he became aware of the International Communist League, which has been described as “a small circle of Bohemian intellectuals including members of the Communist Party of Argentina, avant-garde artists and existential philosophers”. In the 1950s he headed the Latin American office of the Fourth International, a socialist group. Posadas, who would eventually grow into a cult leader, urged his followers to live light sleep and constantly produce party texts and newspapers. In Cristalli the party saw an authentic proletarian worker who grew up poor and understood the class struggle. To one comrade, Cristalli was both street-wise and ignorant: “He didn’t know much about politics, economics, or world parties, and his shortcomings in science made him believe anything.” As Gittlitz notes, Posadas’ talent was enthusiasm and charisma, not analytical thinking : “His perceived role as a figurehead and leader was based on his years of experience, his intuition for conveying debate, his working class legitimacy and the charisma required to attract new militants to the organization. “Physically, he was described by a young devotee as” quite impressive … the prophet Jonah as painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel “.
Posadas’ tendency to be more emotional than rational made him not only politically gullible but also about the plausibility of occult science fiction ideas. In the winter of 1947 his colleague Dante Minazzoli came to a socialist coffeehouse meeting with an article on flying saucers that had been seen in America: “Minazzoli was in love with science fiction, cosmic philosophy, and the Bolshevik futurists who believed that humans were were just a racing song, many in our galaxy. “
Gittlitz compares posadism with a combination of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology audits and Jim Jones’ “mixture of sensitive salesmanship and gospel” with a pinch of Marshall Applewhite’s “soul-pervading self-confidence”.
While the other Trotskyists tried to ban the talk of UFOs from their conferences, Posadas found with aliens the real great leap forward that would bring heaven on earth. They argued that the first Marxists, particularly Alexander Bogdanov, author of the Red Star and co-founder of the Bolsheviks, “showed that reality is ultimately a function of intersubjective human consciousness”. Posodists considered themselves the true heirs of the First International. Aliens and nuclear war would wipe out the old world and establish the utopian future. The title of a Posada essay at the time sums up this unique worldview: “Flying Saucers, the Process of Matter and Energy, Science, the Struggle of Revolution and the Working Class, and the Socialist Future of Humanity.”
In 1961 Posadas was denied leadership of the Fourth International, and in 1962 he formed his own group. At a meeting in 1967, Posadas gave a speech in which he spoke about UFO sightings and extraterrestrial life, arguing that extraterrestrials might be able to use “all the energy present in matter.” When Posadas formed his group in 1962, he claimed, “Nuclear war is inevitable. It will destroy half of humanity. It will destroy immense human riches. It is very possible. The nuclear war will deliver a real inferno on earth. But it won’t hinder communism. “Meanwhile, Castro denounced Posadas, although, as Gittlitz notes, the mainstream Marxist dogma was no more stable than belief in UFOs:” Until then, Posadism was so similar to other Trotskyist groups that they had little ammunition around Posadas as its cult Politically attacking personality, abuse of militants, rabid anti-imperialism, paranoia, extreme zigzag and catastrophe were features that were more or less present in almost every other tendency. “
By the late 1960s, Posadas had become a full-blown cult leader. He demanded excessive discipline from his followers, including strict living conditions and bans on non-reproductive sex, homosexuality and abortion. One guide described an encounter with Posadas as follows: “Meetings with Posadas often turned into psychoanalytic sessions. Much like a confessor, a little priest, the militants kept walking away feeling that Posadas had an incredible insight into their character. ”Gittlitz compares it to a combination of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology audits and the“ mixture of empathetic Selling Art and Gospel ”by cult leader Jim Jones with a shot of Marshall Applewhite’s“ soul-pervading trust ”.
Marxist groups, whether in politics, journalism or science, tend to fragment one another and attack one another for ideological impurity. This is the long and tragic history of the left, and this is exactly what happened to Posadas as its cult became smaller and more marginalized in the 1970s, even though the Posadas became more intense in its beliefs. It’s amazing how many groups, subgroups, and communities Gittlitz lists in I Want to Believe. Everyone is fighting with ever greater intensity over smaller and smaller things – no different than today’s warriors and academics of social justice. In the end, posadism became a sliver of a sliver. As Trotskyist Michael Pablo noted in an article after Posadas’ death in 1981, the Führer became so insular and fanatical that he saw a permanent revolution “everywhere at once, to give it an interplanetary dimension”. If socialists cannot create heaven on earth, the only place they can go is the stars.