Written in the cold spring of 2020, Guidelines for Revolution in Hell initially served only as a means of stress for the casualties and pain of that anxious period; then it became a testament to an impulsive but timid, helpless and incompetent disposition. The entire book comprises 64 pages, with an embossed cover. The interior pages are printed on plutonium paper.
Guidelines for Revolution in Hell itself is imperfect, with many superficial arguments and flaws in its research; but the book works because its meaning is complex, as a form of pointing out that the illusion of keeping the revolution alive is as important as anything else, as a means of encouraging a fight to the last. On the other hand, the action that is never taken is as absurd as this book, and the hope of a sudden and grand revolution to solve multiple conflicts is as absurd as the hope of glory and wealth after death.
It may be true that, to some extent, the word “underworld” is like the promised land of power and wealth after death, but Guidelines for Revolution in Hell points out the fact that imagining the underworld should never be the privilege of the greedy. The book seeks to recreate the imaginary of the underworld as a utopia, an imaginary that is a preview of the struggle against totalitarianism or a rendition of an illusory world of freedom and equality, respecting individual values. Naturally, in that sense, it is a recasting of the word “utopia” as well.
The traditional fantasy construction of the underworld has its roots in the most deep-rooted ideologies of society—myriad imaginings, complex, realistic and deep-rooted projections, rather than a single, almost paranoid, feudal superstitious ideology. Thus, the ongoing critique of the everyday remains crucial: after all, there are millions of forms of revolution in everyday life.
Aesthetic Rigidity in the Underworld
Aesthetic Dissent with Wandering Spirits and Wild Ghosts
The entire system of governance of the underworld and its visual system comes from a mishmash of Chinese folk mythology and legend with Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The structure of the underworld is derived from the ancient Chinese judicial bureaucracy in charge of the penal system. The Hell House is a government office that receives, judges, punishes, and manages wandering spirits and ghosts. With the authority of a governmental body and the coercive nature of a violent one, the source of its legitimacy has never been effectively questioned, let alone resisted in any substantial way, for thousands of years. Everything in the underworld is reproduced according to the bureaucratic system of the feudal dynasty in the world of the living, a system that has remained static for a long time. After death, the soul enters the underworld and walks through the Yellow Springs Road, and the first place it comes to is this government office. The visual system of the underworld is isomorphic to its structure as a violent dictatorial machine. Therefore, in order to liberate the wandering spirits and ghosts, to make them the masters of their own house, and to smash the oppressive ruling class headed by the King of Hell, it is necessary to break the visual imagination of the underworld and its aesthetic monopoly.
Art, as a political action, has the task of making itself a sort of subtle declaration against reality. It is necessarily distinguished from direct political action, but is a necessary complementary to the latter. Political revolutions through the ages have always been accompanied by equally radical aesthetic revolutions. The change of dynasties and the ushering in of a new order have been accompanied by the shattering of old and rigid aesthetic patterns. One of the more recent and well-documented examples is the far-reaching debate in 1923 between the socialist Aleksandr Voronsky and the journal Na Postu (the predecessor of the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers) over the treatment of the classical literary heritage. “The Na Pustu group believed that in destroying the old state and building a new one, it was necessary to destroy the culture of the old class in order to build a new culture of the proletariat itself.” In their manifesto, the Napostovtsy stated that “proletarian literature must first of all be completely free from the old influences, both in the field of ideas and in the field of forms.” In the so-called “ideological sphere”, the old influences were replaced by the ideology of the proletariat, and in the “formal sphere”, the old influences were replaced by the creative methods of the proletariat. Voronsky, on the other hand, disagreed with the proletarian culturalists and the Napostovtsy, and advocated the creation of a proletarian literature based on the inheritance of the excellent heritage of Russian classical literature, with some innovations. But in any case, in the face of a huge ideological upheaval, the new aesthetic, as a concrete manifestation of ideology, is also in urgent need of revolution.
And for the time being, the visual system of the underworld is characterized by a highly hierarchical system, centered on the King of Hell, a stereotypical imitation of the bureaucratic system of the world of the living, which attempts to present a majesty and oppressiveness that is difficult to resist in the midst of this rigid hierarchy. And the creations related to hell, even in contemporary times, follow the medium and aesthetics of the feudal era. In order to resist this rigid visual system, the wandering ghosts should invent a new visual system on their own, making it exist as the antithesis of the underworld. Such a new and revolutionary visual system should be hierarchy-breaking and centerless, with no counterpart in the world of the living. Such a new visual system could only have been achieved through continuous aesthetic experimentation by wandering spirits and ghosts, based on their real situation and sensitivity to the harsh realities of the underworld. The process of inventing a new visual language is also a revolution, a revolution of sensibility, in a sense as important as the armed seizure of power and thus the change of the world. Walter Benjamin, a German theorist from the world of the living, said that the Nazis had aestheticized politics, and in order to counteract this, the avant-garde had to politicize the aesthetic. The wandering ghosts, as the new vanguard class, are the natural subjects for the birth of a new art, and while issuing political dissent, they should also strive to produce aesthetic dissent. This new aesthetic value must come from a pluralistic narrative. The ideology propagated by the underworld is highly dependent on a single narrative chain and value system, i.e. the opportunity to be reincarnated depends on karma, reincarnation and the judgment and verdict of the bureaucratic system headed by the King of Hell. Such a unipolar narrative is a source of oppression, and it also dissolves the possibility of resistance by the spirits. The spirits should realize that the ideology of the underworld presents itself as the only possible value, and thus inhibits us from imagining more alternative values. Those alternative values are not unimaginable, but they must be beyond the reach of the existing order, and they are what the spirits living under the oppression of the existing order need to try to imagine. After all, the necessary foundation of all revolutions is imagination itself.
Introduction to the Economy of the Underworld
Why revolution is needed and what is the necessity of revolution are propositions that have long needed to be constantly debated. The lonely ghosts need to grasp the theory of revolution and to unite in order to defeat the feudal capitalist government. The success of the revolution in the underworld is crucial to the full administrative and economic independence of the underworld from the earth.
The need for full economic independence must be emphasized here, as the economic independence of the underworld is the greatest prerequisite for the political independence of the underworld and the success of the revolution.
At present, the economy of the underworld is fundamentally downstream of the earthly economy: this means that the economy of the underworld is not only totally subject to the human world, but also means that for a long time the underworld has been totally influenced by the ideology and economic form of the earthly world. To achieve full economic independence from the earthly world is to overthrow the current model of the earthly economy in the underworld and its natural inheritance of capitalist private ownership.
On earth, where capital is owned by individuals, there is nothing inherently wrong with the commonsense emphasis on private ownership, contractualism, and freedom of trade; but in the context of free trade based on unjust labor, profit is far more important than individual value and dignity. Marx pointed out in the face of private ownership that the hypocritical way in which morality is misapplied to immoral ends is the pride of the free trade system. The culprit of exploitation lies not in the system itself, but in the indifference to human nature itself. The London Stock Exchange was called by Voltaire a more respectable place than the courts because of its freedom and clear rules; Engels saw it as the best place for the evils of capitalism because the rules of trade rested only on freedom of trade and not the necessary expression of the value of labor. A commercial society based on free trade makes speculators rich while extracting demographic dividends through unfair labor contracts, further influencing political policy making and even religion, and reducing most of the formerly oppressed workers to the status of commodities, with freedom of trade concealing the fate of the proletariat enslaved by market forces. The proletariat, completely controlled by the machines of power, media and capital, is trapped in a most frightening vicious circle in the modern context—not only is it fully extracted from its productivity and turned into a production machine, but its few remaining leisure hours are also occupied by the capitalist giants who control the media and entertainment channels to create “consumption power” and turn the production machine into a consumption machine ready for the next production. *If we take a real example, an employee employed by an Internet giant may work up to 12 hours a day and work overtime, and the remaining 6 hours of leisure time may be taken up by the same capital-controlled entertainment and shopping platforms; the remaining leisure time and energy are also transformed into consumption power, which is used in the next round of alienation.
The most urgent problem for the new government in the underworld is the growing contradiction between the privatization of the means of production and socialized production, and the unbridled oppression of the proletariat. The economy of the underworld and its production values continue to depend entirely on paper money and paper products from the earth—which, it should be noted, are actually the by-products of the earthly exploitation economy, itself created by the real capitalist machine, in imitation of the bourgeois aesthetic. On the other hand, these paper products, which require a lot of manual labor to produce, are also the result of exploitative labor. All the lonely ghosts should have a full understanding of the underlying thread of this kitschy sweat paper shell product and reject this injustice. The revolutionary government, which represents the interests of the largest and most exploited group of ghosts, should also fundamentally reject the earthly exploitative economy and its aesthetic products in order to fundamentally achieve the autonomous economic independence of the underworld.
On the other hand, the underworld does not have the right to issue money; the four major banks in the underworld: Union Bank of Hell, Capital Bank of Hell, United Bank of Hell, and the Bank of Heaven are all controlled by the bourgeoisie on earth, and they issue money indiscriminately all year round, leading to long-term hyperinflation in the underworld. Since the underworld does not have the means to issue money, refusing to recognize earthly paper money and thus controlling the money supply is the first means to slow down inflation and combat stagflation.
The revolutionary government of the underworld should quickly establish the central bank of the underworld as the only legal institution for issuing banknotes, and at the same time recall the right to issue banknotes of the four major banks of the capitalist background on earth, recall illegal banknotes and replace them with old ones, and also prohibit the flow of other currencies to make them the standard currency of the underworld. If the replacement is to be carried out, then the basic exchange rate is to be set according to the real purchasing power and the real value of several types of underworld coins issued by the former four major underworld banks. The central bank of the underworld simultaneously increases market liquidity by lowering interest rates to increase employment and production. Short-term extreme inflation is a highly likely outcome, but at the same time the new government should pay more attention to the emergence of inflationary stagflation and deflation.
Fiscal policy and monetary policy are instruments that the central bank can use to regulate the economy. On the one hand, a tight fiscal policy and a tight monetary policy can be used to control the level of inflation in order to achieve a soft landing; on the other hand, an expansionary fiscal policy and an expansionary monetary policy can be taken into account to stimulate the economy and thus prevent deflation.
It is worth noting here that the central government should be cautious in implementing and promoting monetary policy, as overregulation may disrupt the already fragile market economy, while excessive use of tight monetary policy may lead to “too much goods, too little money”, resulting in a continuous decline in prices and deflation.
A different fiscal policy means that the central bank of the underworld has the power not only to intervene in the new market economy or planned economy, but also to reduce government spending in the underworld or to increase the yellow spring tax on the general reincarnation. The detailed formulation of monetary policy should be judged according to the actual economic conditions and degree of emancipation of different regions.
The implementation of a new monetary policy is a sure way to achieve an independent revolution; the revolutionary government of the underworld should at the same time realize that the reason for the exhaustion of the economy and productivity of the underworld is that, on the one hand, the productive initiative of the underworld still needs to be stimulated and mobilized, but more importantly, the real enemy of its economy is the powerful and noble class serving the capital system on earth with the King of Hell as the core. The reconstruction of the economic form of the underworld is aimed at the all-round independence of the underworld, and at the same time it is a practical struggle against the oppressions under the ideology of the capitalist class on earth—on the one hand, the obscene capitalist aesthetics, and on the other hand, the endless greedy prayers for blessings that will no longer receive any response from the people and revolutionary government of the underworld. The indiscriminate, greed-ridden papier-maché money, poor quality flesh-and-blood paper products and incense will no longer be accepted. The ancestors will not bless their descendants who work day and night on earth to exploit others and squeeze the surplus value. The people of the underworld will realize a real utopia in the true sense of the word in a fair, civilized and lawful independent underworld, representing the common will of the people in a democratic form.
Translated by Adrian Doo