Paul Gottfried and Me: An Exchange on Left and Right and Anarchism 10

Recently, there was an interesting exchange between Paul Gottfried and myself at AlternativeRight.Com. It began when I posted a  recommended reading list in response to similar lists posted by James Kalb and Richard Spencer. Paul Gottfried expressed puzzlement regarding the eclectic nature of the collection of readings I suggested as well as the incongruity of some of the influences I claim. I posted a response here and here.  Gottfried responded briefly here.

An understandable mistake that Gottfried continues to make is to presume that I am an orthodox modern libertarian of the kind identified with the Mises-Hayek-Rand-Friedman-Rothbard axis. While modern American libertarianism of this type is certainly an influence on my thinking, and I agree with libertarians of both the right and left variety on a good number of issues, this hardly represents the full body of my outlook. Gottfried also continues to be perplexed that I can be an admirer of right-wing critics of liberal democratic states like Carl Schmitt and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn without endorsing the full body of their work, and taking their criticisms of the liberal democratic state in a radically different direction from what they intended (at least with Schmitt, Kuehnelt-Leddihn is more ambiguous).  The best analogy I can think of right now to explain this intellectual dilemma is to point out that many, probably most, leftists implicitly or explicitly endorse the Marxist critique of capitalism, without necessarily endorsing Marx’s prescription of communist revolution, much less outright Bolshevism. Likewise, it is possible to recognize the validity of Schmitt’s insights into the contradictions and theoretical errors in liberal democratic theory and the inadequacies of its practice, or Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s characterization of mass democracy as a prelude to totalitarianism, without endorsing their specific prescriptions of a Hobbesian state in the case of Schmitt or a traditional monarchy in the case of Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

This gets us to the question of the relationship of political anarchism to wider philosophical and metapolitical concepts.  I generally regard a Nietzschean general philosophical framework, a metapolitical outlook of the kind developed by the European New Right (while recognizing the multiple tendencies to be found within the ENR-see here), and a philosophical conservatism regarding human nature and the nature of society to be the best intellectual foundation for a modern political anarchism. On the latter question,  I described this particular type of philosophical conservatism at AltRight: ” natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness, the superiority of organic forms of human organization over social engineering, rejection of vulgar economism, and a tragic view of life.”

However, I do not consider such an intellectual framework to be mandatory or necessary for a viable political anarchism, only preferable. Indeed, most anarchists at present would no doubt reject such an outlook. One could likewise be a committed anarchist revolutionary and hold to a Lockean natural rights position, a utilitarian outlook, a simple pragmatic philosophy in the style of William James, some kind of religious outlook, or even a Rousseau-inspired utopian-egalitarian-humanism. After all, I was an anarchist long before I developed the broader intellectual framework to which I now subscribe. Whatever the broader philosophical beliefs we may subscribe to, it remains true that one of the most important of all human questions is the matter of how society is to be organized, and the first question regarding social organization is the matter of statecraft, or the political question.

Until a few centuries ago, political rule was justified and legitimized by religion in virtually all societies. This outlook was demolished by the Enlightenment, and this particular aspect of Enlightenment thinking which began as a European project has now spread to much of the world.  Modern political philosophy is derivative of the ideas of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, Hegel, Mill, Marx, and some others. All of these systems would seem to be efforts to legitimize and retain the state while denying its traditional source of legitimization, i.e. its supposed divine origin. As I’ve mentioned recently, anarchism is to political theory what atheism is to theology (not that political anarchism necessitates atheism per se as there are also religious anarchists). There is in the anarchist canon a huge body of literature that demolishes the conventional intellectual arguments used to justify the state, and from a wide range of philosophical or theoretical perspectives, including socialists and individualists, religionists and atheists, philosophical liberals and philosophical conservatives, utilitarians, rights-theorists, moral skeptics, and nihilists. I regard all of these approaches as complementary rather than contradictory with one another.

The question that I have for anarchists is this: If we reject the legitimacy of the state, then how exactly do we go about getting rid of the damn thing? I have focused much of my own efforts on the question of anarchist strategy for the reason that I consider this to be one of the most important yet most neglected aspects of anarchist thinking. How can anarchism come to dominate Western civilization (or other civilizations for that matter) in the same way that Christianity was dominant for 1500 years and in the same way that Enlightenment liberalism has dominated for two centuries?

A major problem for anarchists is the one has also been a problem for Christians, particularly Protestants, and that is the question of sectarianism. Most anarchists have held to some kind of hyphenated brand of anarchism, e.g. anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-capitalism, anarcha-feminism, national-anarchism, etc. Many of these sects of anarchism do not recognize many of the others as legitimate. I have tried to compensate for this problem by developing an “anarcho-pluralist” (a term I lifted from the late Sam Dolgoff) framework, and which is really just a re-working of older ideas like “anarchism without adjectives” and the “synthesist” outlook developed by the French anarchist movement in the pre-World War Two period. What would be the irreducible minimum of ideas one would have to accept to be reasonably considered to be an anarchist? I’d suggest that one would have to advocate abolition of the present system of rule by corporative entities commonly described as “the state” that hold a monopoly on the legal use of violence, rule-making, and physical coercion within a geographical territory, and whose members collectively form an identifiable political class who social role is differentiated from that of other people, e.g., whose purpose is simply “to rule.” This would mean opposing not only the corporative form of the state familiar to modern societies, but also systems of personal rule that were common in older societies, e.g. emperors, kings, etc.

It is also necessary to have an irreducible minimum of ideas concerning what the state is to be replaced with. The guiding principles for anarchists on this question have been voluntarism, mutualism, decentralism, and federalism. In other words, the state is to be replaced with federations of autonomous or semi-autonomous communities with a strong emphasis on voluntary associations and mutual aid, i.e., the general framework outlined by Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin (the “holy trinity” of the founding fathers of modern anarchism).  Presumably, the economic and cultural variations of such arrangements could be immensely different from one another. This seems to be where most of the difficulty concerning sectarianism among anarchists emerges. Conflicts regarding different economic and cultural values lead to different sects of anarchists attempting to exclude one another. A historic example of this was the rivalry between the anarcho-communist Johann Most and the individualist-anarchist Benjamin Tucker.

If we take political anarchism as our starting point, we can then branch out into other areas of political philosophy and identify tendencies, ideologies, and movements with which we have considerable overlap. These include paleoconservatism, populism, Catholic distributism, the traditional Jeffersonian philosophy that American political theory is ostensibly rooted in, and modern libertarianism from the Right. These also include varying strands of socialism, the various Green philosophies, black nationalism, indigenous peoples’ movements, neotribalism, and the anti-globalization movement from the Left. These are the areas where we can branch out into other movements and form strategic alliances and an enhanced theoretical framework.  At present, I would identify the main weaknesses in the anarchist milieu as these:

1) A failure to recognize that the absence of a centralized coercive authority in the form of the state automatically suggests pluralism in all sorts of matters, including perspectives that radically disagree with one another, even among self-proclaimed anarchists. This necessitates that anarchists recognize the inevitability and legitimacy of “otherness,” as opposed to some kind of abstract universalism. One reason why I endorse a Nietzschean philosophical framework for anarchism is its ethical subjectivism. Moral objectivism strikes me at least as holding the door open for authoritarianism of the kind associated with both traditional theocracy and modern forms of statism. There is no greater tyrant than one who possesses moral certainty. As H.L. Mencken said: ” The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.

2) A failure to develop a viable strategic outlook concerning how the state is to be abolished. Ideas are worthless if they can’t be translated into real-world action. If other anarchists don’t like my ideas on this question, then they are welcome to come up with their own, of course. But the question of strategy is one that is severely neglected among anarchists.

3) The tendency of anarchists to get sucked into “culture war” politics that serve as a distraction from the broader struggle against the forces of State, Capital, and Empire. I’ve said plenty about this in the past and my views on this question are already well-known.

4) A failure to identify who the enemy actually is. In the Western world today, the primary enemy is the state’s legitimating ideology of totalitarian humanism (whether in its neoconservative or conventional left-liberal variations). The failure of anarchists to recognize totalitarian humanism for what it is severely limits their ability to form a viable movement of any kind. One of the most pathetic activities anarchists engage in at present is to waste time focusing on irrelevant fringe groups like the neo-Nazis or the Fred Phelps cult. The real enemy is those who actually hold state power, not exotic cults despised by the wider society. As for movements that are currently out of power, the greatest potential threat in posed by an insurgent Islam made possible by demographic change in the West. This the primary reason why I endorse the European New Right as the best available metapolitical framework for present day anarchists. More than any other contemporary intellectual current, the ENR has developed a critique of the philosophical underpinnings of totalitarian humanism, as well as a rational response to the question of threats posed by demographic transformation.

Until contemporary anarchists develop a serious and concentrated effort to overcome the weaknesses I have identified here, I regrettably see no prospects for anarchists to become an effective or even relevant movement.

10 comments

  1. “Moral objectivism strikes me at least as holding the door open for authoritarianism of the kind associated with both traditional theocracy and modern forms of statism.”

    This can only be true assuming one’s ethics allow for interference in the first. That is to say, I am a humanist morally and I know there are many things people do I would consider immoral but my morality is both subservient to ethics (that is, the non-coercion guideline over rides moral objection to lack of interference) and what I would argue true humanism is also has the same guideline about non-interference.

    It is quite frustrating and insidious, totalitarian humanism, because to my mind, if you truly believe yourself an heir to the mantle of the enlightenment, the standard bearers of rational, objective thought among humans and most importantly (it is called humanism after all) an adherent to the belief that humans are the most exalted product of evolution so far (well, self exalted) seems to me a poor groundwork for believing you can best run someones life for them.

    But ahah here the subtle racism tinged with fabianism creeps in. Some groups (blacks, women, gays, etc.) are so oppressed they must be managed before they can function. Of course only they are fit to say when everyone is caught up and the culture war is over. On the other side, the lower classes among the former in group slide in to irrelevance and the fabians speak in jeering terms towards those “rednecks” and the like, as if the fact that they are white should force them to conform to their culture and that since they’re white they should not be “failures” or “fly-over country.”

    tl;dr moral objectivity is not a bad goal so long as it is clearly done in the frame work of a non-coercive ethic.

  2. You do have a gift for synthesis and strategic formulation. This is quite good. If anybody distorts your positions they really have no leg to stand on.

    I think probably the most controversial part of this framework for anarchists at large is the first tenet. The problem for a lot of left/social anarchists is that they see coercion as a bigger problem than merely centralized authority, above and beyond the emphasis on universalism. In reaching out to the left wing I cannot see any possibility for progress unless there is some kind of compromise here.

    Moreover, it will be interesting not only to see whether such a consensus can be achieved between the left and right, but also how that consensus informs the kinds of activism likely. We envision a single issue coaltion on anti-statism, but there are also more networked models possible, where perhaps there is a detente between right and left with left focusing on a subset of the state they can get behind (that involves anti-patriarchy and anti-homophobia, for instance) and the right focusing on what they care about (centralized power and social engineering, for instance). A coordinated two-pronged approach that respects the different visions could be just as powerful as a united approach that de-emphasizes the different visions.

    It occurs to me that what you are outlining here – not necessarily the specific points, but the general approach to grand strategy and intra-movement principles and particulars – is precisely what C4SS needs as a guide for the fabrication of agitprop and direction of research and polemic.

  3. “The problem for a lot of left/social anarchists is that they see coercion as a bigger problem than merely centralized authority, above and beyond the emphasis on universalism. In reaching out to the left wing I cannot see any possibility for progress unless there is some kind of compromise here.”

    There are two separate issues that they raise here. One is the possibility of legal/physical coercion by local authorities. Both left and right anarchists/libertarians will raise this issue. I actually agree with them on this question. Some of the most onerous economic repression comes at the local level through zoning ordinances, building codes, land use regulations, licensing laws, eminent domain, and so-called “public-private partnerships” (which is just a euphemism for naked state-capitalism). Also, police departments are most frequently organized at the local level and most arrests and prosecutions under prohibition laws and other legal silliness is probably done by local police and city/county prosecutors. I don’t know the exact data, but most incidents of police brutality are probably perpetrated by local police. Conditions in local jails are often much worse than those in federal or state prisons. Local school systems impose all sorts of foolishly oppressive regulations on students (for instance, a friend of mine’s son was suspended for the rest of the year for bringing a water pistol to school-he was in fourth grade!). There are also the campaigns by bluenose groups to eradicate supposedly disreputable commercial or cultural activities from local communities, from adult book stores to tattoo parlors to fast food to smoke shops. Advocating decentralization does not mean that we need to accept all of this. I’m all for anarchists organizing opposition to all of these kinds of things at the local level. When I had a TV talk show in Richmond in the late 90s/early 2000s, I used to rail against city council all the time. Still, I’m never going to be convinced that corrupt or incompetent local officials or petty local regulations are comparable to what the US federal regime did in Southeast Asia, Central America, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. I’d also prefer to have to deal with local police only rather than local police assisted by state police and federal agents. The feds have also stifled efforts at genuine reforms in a libertarian direction at the local and regional level (particularly on drug law reform). The US uses its international power to undermine drug law reform, sex worker rights advocacy, and other things left-libertarians should care about on a global level.

    The other issue left/social anarchists and left-libertarians raise is forms of perceived oppression or coercion of a non-state nature. This includes things like “bossism” or hierarchical commercial enterprises in the economic realm, as well as discrimination along the usual taboo lines like race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. I’d approach this on several different levels. I define coercion as physical in nature. This would include physical coercion by public authorities (the state and its regulators/police) or by private individuals (criminals). On the question of private crime, I actually take a pretty conservative line. When it comes to predatory individuals like robbers, rapists, muggers, murderers, thieves, etc. I don’t favor expanding the power of the state to control these things obviously, but I’m very much in favor of expanding individual rights of self-defense and the right to bear arms for that purpose. I’m also in favor of the standard institutions of self-defense favored by anarchists (e.g. militias, neighborhood watch, private security, posses).

    Of course, leftist anti-statists seem less concerned about private crime (except the un-PC kinds like sex crimes against women or hate crimes against gays or ethnic minorities) than about economic exploitation and social discrimination. I agree that employers, particularly large corporations, exercise a great deal of power over their dependents and over wider communities in which they operate. They may not be able to kill an employee who defies corporate authority but they can take away his livelihood and do significant damage in other ways. I’ve said repeatedly that a serious anti-state movement would have to be rooted primarily though not exclusively in those classes most under attack by the system. This automatically means we need to address the economic concerns of ordinary poor and working people. That’s where ideas like Carson’s come in. I don’t see any real conflict between my views and those of the anti-statists of the left here. The only qualification I might add is that I don’t think we should shun right-wing anti-statists who are solid on other issues (particularly foreign policy or civil liberties) solely because of their economic conservatism. The reaction to Ron Paul by some left-libertarians and left-anarchists is a good example. Also, I could see things like a pan-secessionist alliance including upper middle class civic organizations from affluent suburban areas who want to secede simply because they don’t want to pay taxes to some higher state authority they object to. Italy’s Lega Norde is somewhat in that mold, and I suspect some leftist anarchists would respond to that with the usual moralistic sentiments about how they’re all selfish rich people who don’t care about the poor, etc. (score another point for ethical subjectivism!)

    The issue of social discrimination or cultural norms that allegedly put groups favored by the Left at a disadvantage seems to be the big issue with the Left, over and above even economic differences. Some of this I dismiss as hysteria, or mere special pleading on behalf of pet causes or narrow individual self-interest. But in other cases I agree that it’s a real issue.

    The biggest issue here is race. I don’t think it’s all that clear who has the upper hand on this issue. I take it as a given that the future of the Southwest US belongs to Aztlan. Any serious or reasonable proposals for decentralization has to take that into account. African-Americans are a minority generally but often a majority in large cities (and most of the US population generally lives in the 75-100 largest metro areas, including suburbs and outlying towns and counties). As Miles recently pointed out, in a battle between urban street gangs and state militias it’s likely the former would have the upper hand. The main thing I’m concerned with on race issues is not a return to old-fashioned racism like that of the KKK as much as interracial or inter-ethnic violence of the kind we’ve seen in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, India, and other places. Violence of that kind is not only incredibly stupid but is about as counterproductive as it gets. If stuff like that started up in America, whites would be no better off than any other racial group. The question is how to prevent such things from ever occurring in the first place.

    “We envision a single issue coaltion on anti-statism, but there are also more networked models possible, where perhaps there is a detente between right and left with left focusing on a subset of the state they can get behind (that involves anti-patriarchy and anti-homophobia, for instance) and the right focusing on what they care about (centralized power and social engineering, for instance).”

    That’s more or less what I’m in favor of: an anarchist movement that is a single-issue coalition against the state at the meta-level but organized on a decentralized, networked basis with local activities reflecting local interests. In major urban centers, we should orient ourselves towards the lower classes and marginal or traditionally disadvantaged populations (which includes all of the groups the Left claims to sympathize with and then some). The only qualification here is that we don’t want to oppress others outside this paradigm in the process. That’s one reason why a group like BANA is important. They’re actually defending an unpopular minority viewpoint (socially conservative whites) in a locality where left-liberalism is almost universal. When organizing in middle class suburbs, traditional white working class neighborhoods, rural areas, or smaller towns, we will out of necessity have to take a more conservative line on certain things. For instance, when organizing in rural counties in Virginia we’re not going to make gay rights or transgendered rights our flagship issues if we want to get anywhere. Instead, we want to focus on issues the local culture will be responsive to. This doesn’t mean we advocate oppression of gays or other traditionally marginalized groups in such communities. In the process of organizing local secession movements oriented towards tax resistance, gun rights, local control of education, property rights, and other conservative-libertarian issues, we might help advocacy groups for gays or trans or sex workers or druggies get started, but we would have to proceed cautiously and somewhat quietly with that.

    The last question would be the matter of cultural or political factions that are by definition exclusionary along un-PC lines, e.g. white supremacists, hard-core religious fundamentalists, “racists of color,” Hasidic Jews, cults, rabid homophobes, avowedly patriarchal religious cultures (e.g. Muslims, whether indigenous converts or immigrants), internally authoritarian subcultures (e.g. gangs), etc. Once again, as I’ve said repeatedly before, the only solution is territorial or institutional separation. None of these factions are particularly large in the US at present and even if they grew in size numerous times over, they’d still be a minority even collectively. The only way that could possibly change is through mass immigration by people from parts of the world untouched by Western liberalism. And not every issue or idea raised by these “instinctively authoritarian” factions is completely invalid. I certainly would not want live in a suburb organized exclusively for snobby white yuppies or in some lunatic white supremacist “sundown town.” Nor would I want to live in an area where the Crips constituted the local government. Unlike most of my readers, I actually grew up in religious subculture that was extremely “conservative” by mainstream standards and I haven’t had anything to do with that for nearly 30 years. But at some point the “good riddance” argument has to come into play. If hard core reactionaries or authoritarians are that awful, then why shouldn’t they have separate communities and institutions? Why should we want them in our own institutions?

  4. A very important issue here is the question of leadership. I think we need for leaders to emerge in the various anarchist factions as well as overlapping and allied movements that are committed to the common plan of action we’ve outlined. I see what we do here as a prototype for that. For instance, I work with the alternative Right. Jeremy works with the left-libertarians. Andrew works with BANA. Dave works with mens/fathers rights groups. Miles works with black nationalists. Ravenwarrior works with those of his tribal heritage. But we all hang out here at ATS and discuss common ideas and interests. I would presume we have a lot of points of agreement among us, or otherwise we wouldn’t all be here. The kind of movement I envision would work the same way. There would be networks of groups and organizations with their hands in all kinds of activities, and even frequently disagreeing with each other on a lot of different things, but whose leading figures and core activists would understand and be committed to the common plan of state abolition through pan-secession and radical decentralization and coordinate activities with one another for that purpose.

    I agree on the issue of compromise. That’s one reason why I think we need a strategic synthesis of all of the scattered anarchist tendencies. Each of these tend to complement each other in various ways and some are a corrective to the excesses or myopia of some of the others. For instance, on race issues, black anarchism is a corrective to the fact that most North American anarchists are white. National-anarchism is a corrective to the excesses of the white anti-racist anarchists and anti-racist anarchism is a corrective to residual white nationalist baggage carried by some in the NA milieu. Proprietarian anarchism is a corrective to the excesses of the anarcho-communists and vice versa. Most of the factions bring valid issues to the table. That’s also why we need an alternative to the left/right paradigm.

    While I favor an emphasis on local organizing and networking, I do think more formal organizations will be necessary at some point. I noticed no one responded to my previous post identified the minor parties in the US as targets for entryism. Question: what kinds of formal organizations would be best for an alternative anarchist movement in the distant future? Or will such efforts never be necessary?

  5. Good clarifications, Keith. I was more bringing up stuff we’ve already discussed to death but in the context of the C4SS conversations going on right now it seems more relevant.

    I noticed no one responded to my previous post identified the minor parties in the US as targets for entryism. Question: what kinds of formal organizations would be best for an alternative anarchist movement in the distant future? Or will such efforts never be necessary?

    Well, I agree, but the formal institutions of today are essentially built around and adapted to the establishment. That’s why I think many of us are unenthusiastic about third party entryism; these organizations seem to be merely formal, almost designed to be wastes of time within the current political context. I suppose I could see, say, a Libertarian Party emerge as a center of influence in some future Weimar-style America, but that’s a tough investment to make right now, and its quite a gamble.

    What I think are going to be the most powerful formal organizations are those that grow out of the needs we will begin having as the state hollows out. But in those situations the formality will be an afterthought; the usefulness of the group will already be well established, and any formality will be to preserve that, not establish it.

    I think the organizations most likely to endure that matter to common people are ones that can be easily repurposed. Things like neighborhood associations, where they are fulfilling a small need now but have the organizational capacity to grow and scale up responsibilities. I could see a PTA in a post-crisis America functioning as a network for parents to protect and educate kids when services collapse. What if neighborhood watches morphed into neighborhood militias?

  6. “Well, I agree, but the formal institutions of today are essentially built around and adapted to the establishment. That’s why I think many of us are unenthusiastic about third party entryism; these organizations seem to be merely formal, almost designed to be wastes of time within the current political context. I suppose I could see, say, a Libertarian Party emerge as a center of influence in some future Weimar-style America, but that’s a tough investment to make right now, and its quite a gamble.”

    I should have explained the reasons for my interest in this more fully. I don’t advocate building a third party in the US for the purpose of getting “one of us” elected Prez or anything like that. I did endorse Ron Paul a few years ago because I approved of his opposition to the empire and the police state, but I don’t think electoral politics is a winning formula, certainly not as an end unto itself, debates about anarchist scruples aside.

    What I’m more interested in is exploring the question of how we would go about developing organizations for the purpose of promoting our own ideas while working with more ordinary people or people from other political backgrounds around common issues. On one hand, we could build everything up from the ground level, e.g. an Attack the System or some other “official anarchist” organization for every issue or project of interest to us, but that could get a bit frustrating to say the least. The other alternative is to go into other organizations that already exist, are larger, and share at least some of our issues (recognizing also that all of us individually have our own primary issues.) For instance, would it be best to simply try to start an Attack the System Rifle Association (not that I’m opposed to that) or would it be more advantageous to have someone like you on the NRA or GOA board of directors? Would it be best to have an Alternative Anarchist Civil Liberties Union or have someone like Dave on the ACLU board of directors? There are a lot of larger, more mainstream groups out there which do very good work on important issues even if their overall vision or leadership is rather lame. Such activities also provide us with forums to network with other people who share some if not all, or even most, of our issues and to publicize our ideas.

    The reason I specifically mentioned these minor parties is that they in many cases fit pretty well the definition of the kinds of organizations Troy outlined as ripe for entrism: “So what are we looking for? Any organisation with a weak, apathetic or elderly leadership. An organisation that has a youth section or youthful membership; groups that contain middle-aged, middle-class or self-satisfied individuals are no use to us. What we need is an organisation that has idealists, people motivated by ideology and an organisation that has – or could have – some form of influence, given the right leadership, in the community.”

    Also, the historic experience of the Liberty Party in the pre-Civil War US is in part a model on which my strategic outlook is based. The Liberty Party was anti-slavery party that formed the Free Soilers in coalition with nativist movement of the era. It really was an example of a successful left/right coalition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Party_%28United_States,_1840%29

    I consider the war against the state to be the anti-slavery movement of the present day. The Liberty Party/Free Soilers were successful in part because their anti-slavery militants contributed to the leadership of a much larger group that opposed slavery (or at least opposed its expansion into the territories) for more conservative reasons. This strategic outlook outlook is virtually identical to the kind of left-anarchist-libertarian/right-populist-palecon united front against the state that I advocate.

    Also, regarding party/electoral politics, aside from endorsing rare worthwhile politicians who are making an honest effort like RP, I generally favor boycotting most elections, particularly federal elections. But the other side of it is that symbolic, novelty campaigns at the local or regional levels provide us with forums for the promotion of our own ideas on varying levels. Case in point: http://revolutionarymayor.com/ I see no reason not to engage in such activities when feasible. Other examples are Tom Alciere’s anti-cop campaign, the Norman Mailer mayoral campaign I’ve cited repeatedly, or Jesse Ventura’s freak election as governor of Minnesota. I don’t advocate participating in such activities with actual electoral victory as a primary goal. I see these things as grand publicity stunts. An occasional freak victory wouldn’t be an awful thing, either. A lot of Spanish villages of the 1920s and 1930s had anarchist mayors or village councils, for instance. There are advantages to that. During the first Iraq war in ’91, Madison, Wisconsin (which is dominated by the far Left) planned to grant safe haven to draft resisters if the draft were reinstated. Immigration enthusiasts among our readers are no doubt familiar with the sanctuary cities. It’s also possible a city governed by a radical coalition could do things like implement a Portugal-model drug policy, or protect gun rights, or repeal antidiscrimination laws, or give safe haven to fugitives from other areas, depending on one’s issues of choice.

  7. Keith: ‘The question that I have for anarchists is this: If we reject the legitimacy of the state, then how exactly do we go about getting rid of the damn thing?’

    The damned thing about all this is that it seems the only power that can keep one state away is that of another. I’m sure that many anarchists will balk at this assertion, and apart from recounting cozy fireside stories of the past anarchist societies (ex. Iceland, Ireland), there just doesn’t seem to be any, or any concretely useful, historical examples of anarchistic forces that were able to push back a state presence.

    Just as many left-anarchists or curious bystanders would ask right-anarchists, along Nozickian lines how they would prevent the state from arising from the dominance of one private defense agency, the same question should be asked of those who would point to anarchist Spain as their model for an anarchist society rising against the state; will the militarized people willingly and uniformly de-militarize once the opponents are out of the picture? Or would it be another parallel to Marxist communism, which was so beautiful in its theoretic splendor about the societal advance toward stateless communism, but in reality never got anywhere in its attempts to cast off that state apparatus…?

  8. “What I’m more interested in is exploring the question of how we would go about developing organizations for the purpose of promoting our own ideas while working with more ordinary people or people from other political backgrounds around common issues. On one hand, we could build everything up from the ground level, e.g. an Attack the System or some other “official anarchist” organization for every issue or project of interest to us, but that could get a bit frustrating to say the least. The other alternative is to go into other organizations that already exist, are larger, and share at least some of our issues”

    This interests me greatly; as I’m working on some of this in my community. As far as entryism, I’m on the Board of Directors of my village corp. Outside of that I am working with and am a part of an up and coming generation of Native Americans that were raised amidst a white culture but are taking on their heritage and tackling challenges and problems in ways that only this generation is capable of: with the context of the old ways and the methods of modern times. Philosophically this generation has been trying to reconcile an American identity with a Native one. I am not alone among young Native thinkers in deciding to shed the “American one” in so far as it means allegiance to the state. Those others who are my age and younger who don’t think about it as deeply identify as Native and only echo America’s pop culture and little else (which can be said of most American youth.) A few of us are working at revitalizing the clan and sub-clan system to fit with modern times. I see this as very similar to moving a neighborhood watch to more of a peace militia or the PTA as a system of mutual aid and maybe homeshooling (or at least moving them toward alternative education in addition to public school)

    As described above, our clan leaders (and leadership throughout Indian country) is aging. The boomer generation of Native leaders were raised to assimilate, and my generation is crying “foul” for missing out on what our parents saw but never learned, and what we never even had a chance to witness in the first place. So we are learning and rebuilding.

    The failure of the left in this department has been that their work with minorities has been done by white kids with an agenda. What I am doing is coming from someone within the community who knows exactly which aspects of the culture gel with what we are doing here.

    I can see how similar work can be done elsewhere. My wife and I are raising our daughter to be home schooled and are a part of the organic foods/localvore/raw dairy/paleo-diet movement. Our peers in this circle are mostly white (except for Natives who hunt and eat this way anyway,) and even these progressive PC liberals find themselves bumping up against the state school system and state and federal department of agriculture. They are actively participating in gray markets around raw dairy and are bypassing agribusiness through farm direct CSA’s. We even organize to buy and split entire cows and pigs that are raised outside of the watchful eye of the Department of Agriculture. We do this through direct buys from farmers. News of raids spreads fast through this community. Most of these people are die hard PC liberals, but their actions speak louder than words. They may adore Obama, but are actively resisting compulsory public education and agribusiness through atypical channels. Now if only I could convince them that its not the fault of JUST the Republicans….

  9. “I’m sure that many anarchists will balk at this assertion, and apart from recounting cozy fireside stories of the past anarchist societies (ex. Iceland, Ireland), there just doesn’t seem to be any, or any concretely useful, historical examples of anarchistic forces that were able to push back a state presence.”

    Well, the Icelandic Commonwealth existed for a longer period of time than the US has been in existence. It wasn’t eternal, and it always had its faults, but it’s still a pretty good model to draw on. http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/long1.html

    “Just as many left-anarchists or curious bystanders would ask right-anarchists, along Nozickian lines how they would prevent the state from arising from the dominance of one private defense agency, the same question should be asked of those who would point to anarchist Spain as their model for an anarchist society rising against the state; will the militarized people willingly and uniformly de-militarize once the opponents are out of the picture? Or would it be another parallel to Marxist communism, which was so beautiful in its theoretic splendor about the societal advance toward stateless communism, but in reality never got anywhere in its attempts to cast off that state apparatus…?”

    Given the fate of the Spanish anarchist revolution, we can never answer that question. But another model to draw on here might be the American Revolution. The 13 colonies more or less demilitarized after the revolution, and the “founding fathers” were very suspicious of standing armies.

    Actually, Iceland + Spain 1936 + colonial America actually provides a pretty comprehensive model of what an anarchist society might look like.

  10. Raven,

    It’s fantastic that you’re out there actually living out the ideas we talk about here.

    I see a lot of parallels to the same things you’re talking about on the “far Right.” There seems to be a whole generation of young “conservatives” (though that’s not really the appropriate term in this instance) who are nothing like the old-fashioned conservatives who are still the grand elders of the palecons, nor are they anything like the “movement conservatives” of the FOX News variety. This is true mostly of radical “right-wing” youth who are somewhere between their late teens and early 30s. Not that all of this is a good thing. For instance, there are some who combine neocon foreign policy views with far Left social views, but there are others who are fervently anti-establishment on all counts, often fervently anti-statist, and who seem to be of a totally different breed from the conventional American right-wing.

    “They are actively participating in gray markets around raw dairy and are bypassing agribusiness through farm direct CSA’s. We even organize to buy and split entire cows and pigs that are raised outside of the watchful eye of the Department of Agriculture. We do this through direct buys from farmers. News of raids spreads fast through this community. Most of these people are die hard PC liberals, but their actions speak louder than words. They may adore Obama, but are actively resisting compulsory public education and agribusiness through atypical channels.”

    This is something people from a lot of different backgrounds can agree on. Maybe such efforts will morph into some kind of “food rights” and “farmers rights” movement in the future. There’s already stuff like that for alternative medicine and things like medical marijuana.

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