Why a Critique of the Totalitarian Humanist State is Essential to a Genuine Radicalism 3

If we were Soviet or East European citizens in the 1950s, 60s or 70s, and we were attempting to build a revolutionary underground, classical criticisms of the state would certainly be helpful. For instance, the Augustinian view of the state as a “robber band writ large”. However, we would be selling ourselves short by simply criticizing “the state” as an entity unto itself without focusing the nature of the particular kind of state we wished to resist. For this, we would need to look further than simple critiques of statism qua statism and delve deeper into criticisms of Marxist states as particular manifestations of the state. Further, we would need to critique the ideological underpinnings of Marxist states: the ideologies of Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Hoxhaism, etc.

So it is with those of us who would resist the present day regimes of the West. Most manifestations of the state except one are considered illegitimate in modern societies. Very few people take seriously the supposed philosophical justifications for monarchy, theocracy, aristocracy, fascism, communism, or military dictatorship. Only “democracy” is considered legitimate, and not just any kind of democracy. Iran is arguably just as democratic in the political sphere as any of the Western countries, yet it is considered a pariah nation. Instead, “democracy” must be fused with “the free-market” (state-capitalism), “the public sector” (the welfare state), “multiculturalism” (state-enforcement of compulsory racial/ethnic/cultural integrationism), state-regulation of “public health” (the therapeutic state) and a number of other things.

Additionally, the Western nations have, over the past 30-50 years, undergone a de jour cultural and social revolution and a de facto revolution in politics, law, education and a number of other institutions. Fifty years ago, racism was nearly universal and frequently mandatory. Today, it is regarded as the ultimate horror. A friend of mine’s sixtyish mother was told as a young girl that her aspirations to become a physician were inappropriate, “as boys become doctors, girls become nurses”. Such sentiments would be considered laughable today, even by most social conservatives. A generation ago, homosexuality was a serious felony. Five years ago, the US Supreme Court declared it to be a constitutional right. Abortion and pornography were once criminally prohibited vices, akin to drug use at the present time, yet these have likewise been declared constitutional rights.

No doubt many people, including myself, would consider most of these changes to be positive in nature. No one wants to return to Jim Crow, or endorse crass sexism, or hail the persecution of homosexuals by the state. And the rights of free speech, freedom of the press and privacy are essential to keeping the state at bay. But that brings us to another interesting matter. As all of this supposed liberation and breakdown of oppressive social structures has occurred, the state has become increasingly ruthless and pernicious in its expression. For instance, the US Constitution allows for the prosecution of only three federal crimes-treason, piracy and counterfeiting. Today, there are over 3,000 federal crimes and forty percent of these have been created since 1970.  Prior to the mid-1980s, drugs were illegal, with drug crimes being treated in a manner comparable to serious property offenses like burglary or grand larceny. Today, even the most minor players in drug offenses are frequently sentenced to greater periods of incarceration than even some who commit violent crimes. Asset forfeiture laws were originally used to go after the holdings of members of drug trafficking cartels. Today, such laws apply to 140 other types of “crimes”. The US prison population has increased a dozen times over since the 1960s. Paramilitary policing was a new phenomenon in the 1970s, and originally intended as a means of dealing with either civil unrest or particularly difficult matters of law enforcement like hostage situations. Today, paramilitary policing is normal, even for routine police work, like execution of a search warrant. Even at the height of the Nixon era, the idea that a president would claim the right to unilaterally suspend habeus corpus and imprison suspects indefinitely in secret prisons without trial would have been considered absurd.

As the state has grown more pernicious, so has the economic position of the working class declined as US elites have adopted the Third World economic model. The American state, for the first time, is openly proclaiming a policy of reserving the right to wage “preemptive war” against virtually any other state it wishes, for any reason, at any time. Further, the cultural revolution of the past generation is being used as the foundation of a whole new kind of authoritarianism. Babies are now accused of “racism” for disliking exotic ethnic foods. A university janitor is reprimanded for reading a book about the Ku Klux Klan during his break time, even though the book in question was anti-Klan. A mother is arrested for spanking a child even when no evidence of genuine abuse exists.

One thing that is rather interesting about this new totalitarian humanism that seeks to establish a Big Brother state to make sure no one is ever being abused or discriminated against is its arbitrariness. Spanking a child is “child abuse” yet the US federal government can roll over dozens of children with tanks at Waco and no one from the System raises an eyebrow. “Racism” is regarded as the ultimate horrorshow, yet the single policy that inflicts the greatest amount of harm upon black communities, the War on Drugs, continues unabated.

It is this totalitarian humanism that is the foundation of modern state tyrannies. Just as we need the traditional critiques of statism found in the works of various historic thinkers, just as we need a coherent critique of the relationship between “big government” and “big business” of the kind that Kevin Carson has developed, so do we need a similar critique of totalitarian humanism and its tentacles like cultural Marxism and the therapeutic state.

The overwhelming majority of North American and probably European “radicals” still proceed as if it were perpetually 1968, if not 1928. Just as the simultaneous rise of the global economy and the decreased viability of the welfare state has mandated a search for new economic alternatives, so does the rise of totalitarian humanism necessitate a critique of this phenomenon beyond what most “radicals” could ever offer. A primary barrier to the formulation and dissemination of such a critique is the fact that most “radicals” essentially share the same value system as the proponents of totalitarian humanism. Yes, many liberals and leftists, for instance, oppose some of the excesses of Bush and cronies concerning civil liberties, but most of them also hold to the view that state-enforced multiculturalism, state-regulated “public health”, state interference in private institutions and local communities to prevent or deter illiberal social practices are legitimate and share the view of the current ruling class that racism, sexism, gay discrimination, fundamentalism, xenophobia, carrying a handgun, failing to attend public schools until age eighteen, etc. are the ultimate sins. Perhaps this explains why the antiwar movement has been utterly impotent and ineffective in opposing the neocons’ wars,i.e., because they share they same fundamental values of spreading “enlightenment”, “democracy”, “equality”, yet may have some reservations about the neocons’ methodology (like American unilateralism and defiance of international law). And, of course, some, like Christopher Hitchens, do not possess even those qualms.

One reason I find tendencies like the national-anarchists or the left-conservatives or the national-Maoists or the neo-secessionists to be rather refreshing is that they represent an outlook that genuinely rejects establishment values. After all, what would be more frightening to the American ruling class and political establishment: A bunch of college students, middle class leftists and hippies marching in the streets in a manner that looks more like a rock concert protesting global warming, racism, and Third World honor killings or a disciplined, orderly march of hard-core revolutionaries drawn from the ranks of inner-city gangbanger/ghetto types, Appalachian rednecks, or ex-convicts and other genuinely lumpen elements carrying banners with menacing slogans like “Death to the System!”, wearing all-black and red outfits and demanding overthrow of the government, smashing the ruling class and dissolution of the system into separatist/secessionist communities?

I know which team I’d pick.

3 comments

  1. Kudos.
    Many local employers and landlords already do it secretly, but they
    need to openly discriminate against heterosexuals, which is still legal
    in NC, because they use too much parental leave and childcare benefits.
    Tax funded schools and childcare destroy the environment and raise
    rents and oil prices by exploiting the childless, especially sports
    programs which also encourage bullys.

  2. Right on! I think the problem is that many on the Left only hear one version of the leftist agenda, and it’s focused on ends and not means. Quibbling over the means to humanist, liberal ends is seen to be a technical, not a moral, matter. Whatever you can do to reintroduce a more nuanced analysis into the oppositional consciousness would be helpful to all who advocate freedom.

  3. I’m 100% in favor of, and sympathetic to, everything in this cogent and well reasoned essay–EXCEPT the conflation of totalitarianism and humanism. I do NOT see that the appalling prevalence of fascist totalitarianism has anything whatsoever to do with humanism. And neither do the neo-con Straussian ideologues who actually, more or less openly, favor the fascist totalitarianism which has so far prevailed. You’ll find no respect for the the values of humanist civilization among them!

    You must have a very different definition of humanism from the ones found in my dictionary:

    1. any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values and dignity predominate.

    2. devotion to the study of the humanities.

    3. the studies, principles, or culture of the humanists.

    4. Philosophy: a variety of ethical theory and practice that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world….

    Of Course, among fascist/marxist ideologues like Heidegger, Gramsci, Althusser, Foucault, anti-humanism is pretty much a given–because you can’t really be a humanist and believe, as they do, in the social/class construction of human thought and personality. You’ll notice that their arguments against humanism have in fact a palpably resentful, collectivist classism that rejects the very possibility of individual worth and responsibility. This I doubt, on the strength of this essay, to be true of you. But perhaps you could persuade me that I am wrong.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s