“A smell of “fin du régime” hangs over Washington, just as it did over the last days of decaying Soviet empire when an out of touch leader presided over a lost foreign war, and a swamp of influence peddling and bribery, as the secret police struggled to keep a lid on growing dissent.”
“Half a century after the end of World War II, and in places as far apart as the US, Europe and Japan, so little inclined are people to trust the state or risk their lives for it that even the death of a few soldiers is likely to result in an outcry and lead to campaigns being abandoned. In all these countries more and more the media tend to present the state as corrupt, inefficient and wasteful; not so much an aid to justice and social peace, as an obstacle on the way to obtaining them…(W)hat is going to take the place of the state?…If implosion is one result that may follow from the weakening of the state, integration may be another. From ASEAN through the EU and NAFTA and MERCOSUR, technological and economic changes are forcing states to cooperate with each other, not seldom at the expense of at least some parts of their sovereignty… individual states are being taken over by a larger organization. At present this new organization already makes law, exercises justice and makes money, though it does not yet either declare war or levy taxes. Above all, it is not sovereign and does not represent a state; that is why it is called a Union or a Community…
As states integrate into a larger organization that encompasses them, they are often made to devolve some of their internal powers to regions, districts and communities…While many states are either imploding or coming together, all of them face increasing competition from other forms of organization. Some of those organizations are private, others are public…Playing an independent role, they will exercise growing power over members and non-members; e.g. by making their own laws, exercising their own justice, levying their own taxes, and even manufacturing their own money in the form–as is often done at present–of stock-options. Depending on the issue and on the moment, they may cooperate with governments, exercise pressure on governments, oppose governments, and even wage war on governments.”
-Martin Van Creveld
I. The Ideological Foundations of Twenty-First Century Political Struggles
II. Assembling the Vanguard
III. Left/Right and the “Culture Wars”
IV. Left/Right and Radical Decentralization
V. Black/White and Radical Decentralization
VI. Resistance on All Fronts
VII. The Face of the Insurgency
VIII. Extremism Without Apologies
If the observations of Eric Margolis and Martin Van Creveld reflected in the above quotations are indeed rooted in an accurate perception of present trends, then some major, major political changes are on the horizon. If the US is now in a condition parallel to that of the Soviet Union in its geriatric years, then it stands to reason that the US is headed for a major collapse and perhaps complete disintegration. If Van Creveld’s analysis is correct, the downfall of the US would itself be only a signaling event in the emergence of an age whereby political institutions as we have traditionally thought of them are disappearing in favor of something almost entirely new. The world order towards which the twenty first century will take us will be one that combines greater decentralization with a greater role for transnational institutions, at the expense of the nation-state, with both kinds of political arrangements submerged in a global market economy. Additionally, we may well be witnessing the beginning of the age of decline of traditional state militaries as these are proving to be more and more ineffective against so-called “fourth generation” insurgent forces such as non-state guerrilla armies. The disappearance of nation-states and national military forces would mark a political transformation comparable to the decline of feudalism and the rise of industrial society.
I. The Ideological Foundations of Twenty-First Century Political Struggles
What will be the consequences of these developments for political struggles in the twenty-first century? In the realm of political economy, we are seeing the rise of a transnational corporate-mercantilism and a global supra-national political order where the sovereignty of traditional states has been eradicated but a global state is far from being fully consolidated at the expense of local autonomy. The ideological conflict likely to emerge from this arrangement will pit the forces of increased centralization and corporatism against the forces of decentralization and populism. All of the modern countries are now under the ideological domination of one or another variation of neo-Marxism, whether the Marcusean cultural Marxist revisionism of the European ruling class and the left-wing of the US ruling class, the Shachtmanite right-wing Trotskyism of the US Republicans or the post-Maoism of the Chinese Communist Party. It stands to reason that the foundations of political struggle in the coming century will essentially be a continuation of the oldest and most historic divide of the traditional Left, that between the Marxists and the Anarchists. This development in turn marks the fulfillment of William Graham Sumner’s prediction from a century ago that one day men would be divided into only two political camps, those of the Anarchists and the Socialists.
The crumbling of the US regime within a global framework of greater leanings towards (partial) decentralization and polycentrism will provide libertarian radicals in North America with unprecedented opportunities. It would be a foolish error of a truly historic magnitude if we were to let these opportunities go to waste. In developing a new North American radicalism, we must first consider the nature of the enemy. The US ruling class has continually drifted leftward over the last century to the point where the “Old Left”, the Marxist/Trotskyist/New Deal intellectual Left of the 1930s, are now the ostensible conservative Republicans while the Marcusean cultural Marxists of the 1960s “New Left” are now the liberal Democrats. If this historical pattern continues, then an on-going leftward drift will mean that within a couple of decades the ostensible “conservatives” or “right-wing” will be the present day reactionary liberalism of Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Albert Gore, John Kerry, Michael Moore and Morris Dees. We can easily envision an ideologically and intellectually decrepit lot such as these presiding over the final days of the crumbling US empire.
In formulating a new American radicalism, we have the relevant historical precedents to draw upon, including the aristocratic populism of Thomas Jefferson, the anti-slavery movement of William Lloyd Garrison and the abolitionists, the classical farm and labor populist movements and, to a lesser degree, the upheavals of the 1960s. From anarchist history, there is the precedent of the anarchist mass movements of Spain, France and other Latin countries in the decades leading up to the Second World War. In the realm of strategy, I have to confess to being a fairly orthodox Bakuninist. This perspective emphasizes the necessity of a militant vanguard and conspiratorial secret societies composed of radical intellectuals and activists acting as a leadership corps of a larger populist movement of which the lumpenproletariat and the rural population are the class vanguard. This is the strategy that was utilized by history’s most successful anarchist movement, that of the Spanish anarchists. Indeed, it was Bakunin’s emissary Fanelli who first planted the seeds of what was to become classical Spanish anarchism. As I will attempt to demonstrate, this approach might be quite feasible for modern North America as well.
At present, the primary intellectual framework of a new American radicalism is pretty well complete. We have the contributions to economics provided by Kevin Carson, a historical narrative provided by Jack Ross, and a geopolitical approach to foreign policy provided by Troy Southgate and other European New Rightists (which makes an excellent supplement to both Noam Chomksy’s anti-American, pro-Third World, New Left approach and the traditional isolationist approach of the paleo-right). There is also the approach to cultural conflict provided by the national-anarchists and certain paleo-anarchists, Thomas Woods’ paleo critique of the modern liberal account of US history, and Hans Hoppe’s critiques of centralized mass democracy and the national security state. Matthew Raphael Johnson’s work in Russian history makes an excellent effort at debunking the conventional Marxist approach to that nation’s history just as the works of Ross and Woods make similar contributions to the study of US history. Lastly, there are the efforts of Larry Gambone and myself to address the question of anarchist strategy.
II. Assembling the Vanguard
The next step is the assembling of the “principled militants” whom Bakunin recognized as the intellectual and activist vanguard of the insurgency. This is not to be confused with the Marxist-Leninist concept of the “vanguard” whose only purpose is the achievement of military dictatorship for the sake of managing a centrally planned economy. We are now in need of an organizational framework that can play the same role as that of the FAI in the development of Spanish anarchism. Translated into modern American terms, such an organization would be a combination think-tank and activist and propaganda front, sort of an anarchist alternative to ruling class entities of a similar nature such as the American Enterprise Institute or Democratic Leadership Council. Perhaps a better model might be Marcus Raskin’s Institute for Policy Studies or some of the radical libertarian think-tanks like the Mises Institute or the Independent Institute. To play its proper role, such an organization would have to not only issue position papers and conduct conferences but also involve itself in day-to-day activist efforts of the type the Stalinists coordinate with their International ANSWER and maintain a presence within larger, more mainstream political organizations such as the ACLU, NRA, labor unions, single-issue pressure groups, territorial secession movements, grassroots community action groups or the minor political parties. Obviously, the only kind of ideological framework suitable for such an effort would be something akin to Voltairine de Cleyre’s “anarchism without adjectives”, i.e., a non-sectarian, non-purist, tendency open to anarchists of all hyphenated tendencies as well as their fellow travelers. When I met Abbie Hoffman in 1987, I asked him what he thought the most common mistake made by radical activists was and he quickly replied that the main problem was that too many radicals waste time arguing over secondary issues like this or that “ism” rather than focusing on more immediate problems. We would do well to heed his advice. Larry Gambone describes the problem with doing otherwise:
“Read even the most superficial book on anarchism and you will discover that many forms of anarchism exist-anarchist-communism, individualist-anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, free-market anarchism, anarcho-feminism and green-anarchism. This division results from people taking their favorite economic system or extrapolating from what they see as the most important social struggle and linking this to anarchism….The hyphenation presents a danger. Like it or not, everyone, without exception, compromises, modifies or softens their beliefs at some point. Where they compromise is what is important. Do they give up on the anarchism of the other aspect? You can be sure that most hypenated anarchists will prefer to drop the libertarian side of the hyphen. There are plenty examples of this occurring .”
In other words, our core creed must be “Anarchy First!” applied within context of decentralism, populism and libertarianism. Here is a set of potential “first principles” for an anarchist-led libertarian-populism:
1) Minimal and decentralized government organized on the basis of community sovereignty and federalism.
2) A worker-based, cooperative economy functioning independently of the state, the corporate infrastructure and central banking.
3) A radically civil libertarian legal system ordered on the basis of individual sovereignty, individual rights and restitutive justice.
4) A neutralist, non-interventionist foreign policy and a military defense system composed of decentralized, voluntary militia confederations.
5) A system of cultural pluralism organized on the basis of voluntary association, civil society, localism, regionalism, decentralism and mutual aid.
6) The achievement of the above through an all-fronts strategy of grassroots local organizing, local electoral action, secession, civil disobedience, militant strikes and boycotts, organized tax resistance, alternative infrastructure and armed struggle.
This is a very generalized program that anti-state radicals of virtually any ideological stripe ought to be able to agree upon. I suspect that those who do not agree might be inclined towards an excess of purism, sectarianism or utopianism. Unfortunately, those with such an outlook will simply have to fall by the wayside. Principled realism should be our primary analytical and strategic tool. The first order of business in developing a strategic paradigm is to give due consideration to the actual structure of the United States, politically, economically and culturally. I also include Canada and Mexico within a program for a new North American radicalism, but there are differences in those countries that might require a somewhat varying approach from those of radicals in the US. For ideas on a building on libertarian radicalism in Canada, I would highly recommend the works of Larry Gambone. For Mexico, we might of course wish to look to the EZLN for leadership.
III. Left/Right and the “Culture Wars”
A principal issue for American radicals is overcoming the conventional Left/Right divide. An understanding of the distribution of the US population, geographically and ideologically, might be of some help in dealing with this problem. The majority of the US population lives in 75 large metropolitan areas. These are also the areas that tend to be the most culturally mixed, the most leftward leaning politically and with the greatest numbers of minorities, whether ethnic and religious minorities or feminists and homosexuals. Whenever a national election is held, much is made over the blue-state/red-state divide, but this is not an adequate description of the political distribution of the US population. The actual divide is much more decentralized, with big cities, university towns, environmentalist havens and coastal and border areas constituting the “blue” and landlocked areas, smaller towns and rural counties representing the “red”. When the entire US population is broken down on purely ideological lines, about half of the US public votes “blue” and the other half votes “red”. In fact, it is only because the US Electoral College system allows influence for the “reds” beyond their actual population numbers that the “blues” are not completely dominant as they would be in a completely majoritarian system (in my view, this is a good thing).
Breaking down the “red/blue” divide on stricter ideological grounds, it is important to realize that rank and file Democratic voters are typically far more reasonable people than the cultural Marxists or shyster politicians who comprise their leadership. Similarly, most rank and file Republican voters are not radical theocrats or crypto-nazis as the reactionary Left hysterically proclaims. Indeed, most Republican voters are political moderates, “small c” conservatives in the Goldwater tradition, libertarians, Second Amendment advocates or simply taxpayers or business interests “voting with their pocketbooks”. Even many on the “religious right” are single-issue voters opposed to abortion and perceived, and often genuine, attacks on their culture or religious liberty by militantly secular liberal elites. And the hardcore racist right-wing exemplified by the Klan, Nazis, skinheads, etc. has no sympathy in mainstream American society. A conventional politician who received the endorsement of David Duke or the National Alliance would regard such an endorsement as a liability. Unpleasant though it may be for persons with a generally cosmopolitan cultural outlook to consider, like the “religious right”, the “white right” is not without legitimate grievances against mainstream society. A “white nationalist” web site lists some of these:
“It is a long list. Burdensome racial preference schemes in hiring, racial preference schemes in university admissions, racial preference schemes in government contracting and small business loans. Beyond quotas there is the denial of rights of free speech and of due process to Whites who are critical of these governmental policies. We have special punishments for assaults committed by Whites if the motives might be racial. In addition, Whites pay a proportion of the costs of the welfare state that is disproportionate to what they receive in benefits. But the most exploitative aspect of the situation is that neither the racial quotas, the business preferences, the loss of freedom of speech, nor the disproportionate contributions to the welfare state have managed to sate the appetites of non-Whites living in the United States. The more Whites sacrifice, the more non-Whites demand. Many Whites are beginning to believe that no amount of tribute, other than mass suicide, would satisfy the non-White demands. If our presence stirs up that much hatred in the hearts of non-Whites, then the only sensible course of action is to separate ourselves from them.”
Anyone familiar with the totalitarian speech codes of the US university system, “anti-whiteness” theory of the type subscribed to by the crazier sectors of the reactionary Left or the increasingly repressive policies concerning free speech in the European Union countries (for example, the David Irving case) that will eventually be imported into the US as the cultural Marxists come to power with their Marcusean ideology of “repressive tolerance” will understand that the complaints of the white nationalists are not exactly without merit.
As I mentioned earlier, the real political battle of the future is not between the Left and Right but an intra-Left civil war between the liberal-Marxist-statist-totalitarian Left and the libertarian-populist-decentralist-anarchistic Left. An authentic Right of the Burke-Metternich-De Maistre variety does not exist in the United States (it never really did) and the closest things to it (the “religious right” and the “white right”) represent points of view that were dominant in America long ago but have been losing power consistently for decades upon decades and are trying to “go down fighting”. If our principal enemies of the future are going to be the cultural Marxists of the type that now dominate the EU, then we must prepare ourselves for the day when the Clinton-Gore-Kerry crowd are the conservative Republicans. This process is developing very rapidly. The present neocons were to the left of the liberal Democrats of the 1960s. Now they are the establishment Right. The new left of the 1960s is now in the on-deck circle and will soon be up to bat. Any viable stategy for the libertarian-left must be prepared to meet this challenge head-on.
The strategy that I am going to recommend is tripartite, multi-tiered and “all-fronts” oriented in nature. The “tripartite” aspect of it involves building a radical movement that draws from the Left, Right and Center alike against the neoconservative/cultural Marxist ruling class. The “left” element involves assuming certain positions and undertaking actions that are actually to the left of the 1960s-style “new left”. The first matter is to adopt an attitude of complete rejection of the state. While 1960s radicalism had an anarchistic strand to it, the mainstream of the new left’s view of the state was standard left-liberal, social-democratic New Class welfarism. Few enthusiasms from that era have proven to be a greater failure. This does not in any way mean that we adopt the “neo-liberal” economic outlook of the corporate right. Far from it. We need an authentic libertarian-populist approach to economic radicalism that regards “big government” and “big business” as two sides of the same enemy coin. This is obviously a complicated matter and I will address the issue in more detail below. Second, we need to abandon the bourgeoise identity politics that have grown out of the new left. The legacy of this has been to create a constituency for the left-wing of capital among elite members of traditional minority groups including educated professionals among blacks, feminists and homosexuals, middle-class ecology enthusiasts and animal-lovers and so on. The best approach here would be to attempt to pull the rank-and-file elements of the traditional minorities out from under their bourgeoise leadership. This means that anarchist revolutionaries such as ourselves would need to seek out common ground with nationalist and separatist elements among the non-white ethnic groups against the black bourgeoise of the NAACP, poor and working class women against the upper-middle class feminist groups like NOW and the gay counter-culture (complete with its transsexual, hermaphrodite and “transgendered” elements) against the more establishment-friendly gay middle-class.
Indeed, we have not even begun to touch on the possibilities for building a radical movement rooted in part in marginalized social groups ignored, despised or persecuted by the establishment. These elements include the handicapped, the mentally ill, students, youth, prostitutes and other sex workers, prisoners, prisoner’s rights activists, advocates for the rights of the criminally accused, the homeless and homeless activists, anti-police activists, advocates of alternative medicine, drug users, the families of drug war prisoners, immigrants, lumpen economic elements (jitney cab drivers, peddlers, street vendors), gang members and many others too numerous to name. On these and other similar issues, our positions should be to the left of the ACLU. Adopting this approach will bring with it the opportunity to politically penetrate the rather large lumpenproletarian class that exists in the US with little or no political representation. At the same time, the last thing we should wish to do is emulate the mistakes of the new left by adopting an ideology of victimology and positioning ourselves as antagonists of the broader working masses. Nothing could be more self-defeating. The defense of marginal populations way beyond any efforts in this area offered by the left establishment should be part of our program, but only part. Our main focus should be on the working class itself, the kinds of folks who work in the vast array of service industries that comprise the bulk of the US economy.
This is the “center” part of our strategy. I am not advocating a return to old-fashioned labor unionism of the type championed by the classical anarcho-syndicalists. I believe the decline of unions is permanent in nature and while traditional labor unions might still have a role in play in a twenty first century class struggle, it will only be on the margins. Instead, the economic foundation of class struggle in the future will be alternative economic enterprises and service delivery arrangements operating independently of state and corporate structures. Foremost among them will be worker-owned and operated enterprises and non-state social or health services originating from what is called the “independent sector”. This is an essay on political strategy and not economics so I will not go into a great deal of detail here except to say that the main political implication of this is that organizations formed for the defense of such economic institutions against state repression or state-imposed monopolies will be vital part of any future radical coalition.
As for the broader question of the relationship between the state and the economy, we need a populist economic program that favors elimination of state intervention into the economy on behalf of privileged interests and the reduction of taxes starting from the bottom up. This is an issue that dissidents from across the spectrum ought to be able agree on, from socialists to libertarians to paleoconservatives to Greens. Kevin Carson’s “Political Program for Anarchists” provides a good overview of how to approach this. As anti-state radicals, we should take a position of rejecting the welfare state as a means to poverty relief, while at the same time rejecting the scapegoating of the poor common to the talk-radio right-wing. We should instead be quite outspoken about the damage to done to poor communities (particularly rural farmers and inner-city minorities) by state interventions such as agricultural policy and urban renewal. As an intermediate stage to full abolition of the welfare state, we might consider the “negative income tax” suggested by Milton Friedman back during the Nixon era, whereby the costs of welfare management could be cut back drastically by distributing cash payments or vouchers directly to the poor and eliminating the bureaucratic middle-men that absord most of the welfare budget. With this approach, it might even be possible to increase subsistence payments to the poor while simultaneously cutting back significantly on both bureaucracy and taxes. The writings of Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess, Hans Hoppe, Kevin Carson and Larry Gambone also contain some interesting ideas on how to go about “de-statizing” those industries and services presently operated by the state.
It is of the utmost importance that the working masses view us as the champions of their economic interests. Nothing less will be sufficient. Our populist coalition must include rank and file blue collar workers, working class taxpayers, union members, small businessmen, farmers, the self-employed, the urban poor, single moms and the homeless. We do this not by promising entitlement rights to all, but by eliminating state-imposed obstacles to economic self-determination and self-sufficiency, placing state or state-corporate industries and services directly into the hands of the workers and consumers, developing alternative economic arrangements independently of the state, eliminating taxes from the bottom up and gradually phasing out archaic state-assistance programs, with poverty relief and social security programs being the last to go once the corporate state has been fully dismantled. This is precisely the opposite of the “cut taxes and regulations at the top, eliminate subsidies to the bottom” approach favored by the right-wing corporatists. Our approach should be “cut taxes and regulations at the bottom, eliminate subsidies to the top”. On these matters, authentic fiscal conservatives and authentic class war militants should be able to agree. We should describe our economic program as neither “conservative” nor “socialist” but as simple “economic justice”.
If we appeal to the Left with a defense of marginalized or scapegoated population groups and to the Center with an emphasis on economic justice, then how will we appeal to the Right? This is likely to be the most controversial aspect of our program. There are indeed many areas where the radical Left and the radical Right have much in common. One obvious area of possible collaboration would be opposition to imperialist warfare and military interventionism on behalf of ruling class interests. Another is on libertarian-populist economic issues of the type mentioned above. There is certainly no reason why the libertarian-left cannot endorse the civil liberties issues of the right such as freedom of religious practice, the right to have homeschools, Second Amendment rights against the gun-grabbers, personal property rights against eminent domain and asset forfeiture laws, opposition to the use of anti-racketeering laws to harass anti-abortion activists, abusively anti-male “child support” and other divorce-related laws, speech codes, self-defense rights, tax resistance, intrusive zoning, licensing, or environmental laws and so on. If militiamen or right-wing patriot types wish to drive without licenses or tags, so be it. Common law rules of tort and liability would still apply.
IV. Left/Right and Radical Decentralization
The main obstacle to alliances between left-wing and right-wing populists and decentralists are cultural in nature. A substantial sector of the radical right views itself as being under attack by an elite that is hell-bent on imposing militant secularism, totalitarian multiculturalism, homosexual radicalism, extremist feminism and other manifestations of cultural Marxism on the broader society and doing so in a way that displays total disregard for the traditional American liberties of free speech, freedom of association, economic or religious liberty and Second Amendment rights. One need not share the cultural outlook of the socially conservative right-wing to recognize that there is much truth to their complaints againt the cosmopolitan liberal establishment. On this question, the radical left typically puts the cart before the horse. It is well and good to defend unpopular minorities against genuine oppression and to agitate for the ongoing expansion of civil liberties. But it is strategically foolish to adopt an antagonistic stance towards towards the traditional and majoritarian culture of the working masses by attempting to pit varying demographic groups against one another in the form of blacks against whites, women against men, gays against straights, immigrants against natives, tree-huggers against loggers, animal lovers against meat-eaters, eco-freaks against small property owners, peace creeps against veterans, hippies against blue collar workers, poor Appalachian whites against Jewish bankers or whatever. A grievous strategic error undertaken by the left during the 1960s and 1970s was its abandonment of the class struggle orientation of the historic left and reinventing itself as what the Nixonites would sneeringly refer to as “the party of amnesty, acid and abortion”. Paul Craig Roberts describes the consequences of this:
“President Bush has used “signing statements” hundreds of times to vitiate the meaning of statutes passed by Congress. In effect, Bush is vetoing the bills he signs into law by asserting unilateral authority as commander-in-chief to bypass or set aside the laws he signs. For example, Bush has asserted that he has the power to ignore the McCain amendment against torture, to ignore the law that requires a warrant to spy on Americans, to ignore the prohibition against indefinite detention without charges or trial, and to ignore the Geneva Conventions to which the US is signatory.
In effect, Bush is asserting the powers that accrued to Hitler in 1933. His Federalist Society apologists and Department of Justice appointees claim that President Bush has the same power to interpret the Constitution as the Supreme Court. An Alito Court is likely to agree with this false claim. This is the great issue that is before the country. But it is pushed into the background by political battles over abortion and homosexual rights. Many people fighting to strengthen the executive think they are fighting against legitimizing sodomy and murder in the womb. They are unaware that the real issue is that America is on the verge of elevating its president above the law.
Bush Justice Department official and Berkeley law professor John Yoo argues that no law can restrict the president in his role as commander-in-chief. Thus, once the president is at war – even a vague open-ended “war on terror” – Bush’s Justice Department says the president is free to undertake any action in pursuit of war, including the torture of children and indefinite detention of American citizens.
The commander-in-chief role is probably sufficiently elastic to expand to any crisis, whether real or fabricated. Thus has the US arrived at the verge of dictatorship.”
The “red-state fascists” who constitute Bush’s most enthusiastic grassroots supporters may not care if Bush and his cronies were to create an executive dictatorship for themselves, but they should consider the future consequences for their own interests when such powers subsequently fall into the hands of President Hillary Clinton. A preview of this was granted during the Bill Clinton/Janet Reno era. As the 1960s generation becomes the elderly generation, the cultural Marxists of the New Left will be the unquestioned status quo. As mentioned, the likes of Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein will be the “conservatives”. The goal of this crowd is the creation of a pseudo-Stalinist state where “freedom”, “democracy”, “human rights” and other shallow pieties amount to extravagant affirmative action, unlimited abortion, gay marriage and little else within the context of a Mussolini-like corporatist economy and an overtly fascistic police state. The old-style civil libertarian left of Nat Hentoff or the libertine, “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” left of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin is long dead. The establishment left of today is the left of Morris Dees, Catherine MacKinnon and Michael Moore.
I believe the best way to approach the possibility of a rapprochement between the radical libertarian-left and the populist radical-right is to convince both sides that their cultural interests are best defended within the context of a radically decentralized political order. Much of the right should be open to this idea as respect for venerable American traditions such as “states’ rights” and “local sovereignty” is common on the right. Indeed, cultural conservatives frequently lament the alleged “judicial activism” of federal courts that have legalized abortion, pornography and homosexuality nationwide, mandated racial desegregation, expanded criminal rights and removed religious instruction from public schools. This is an exaggeration. The rulings of the federal courts on these matters, particularly those of the Warren and Burger Supreme Courts, only reflected prevailing trends of the times. Most of the individual states were already starting to adopt a more liberal approach in these areas when the courts stepped in and speeded up the process a bit. For example, when the Supreme Court struck down state anti-sodomy laws in 2003, only thirteen of the fifty states still retained such laws. Social conservatives, cultural, religious, racial or otherwise, are losing the so-called “culture wars” on all fronts. The more perceptive and intelligent persons within those milieus recognize this. For example, Paul Weyrich, a founder of the religious right, has called for “cultural secession” by conservatives, recognizing that the cultural left has largely won the war. A territorial secession movement of this type, the Christian Exodus Project, has emerged. And no serious person among the white nationalists believes there will ever be a neo-nazi regime in the US or that the old southern racial caste system will ever be reinstated. Instead, these forces have adopted a purely defensive position. For the cultural right, the choice is clear enough: Either adopt an outlook of separatism and decentralism, or prepare to be ruled by the cultural Marxists. The right should have no problem choosing the former over the latter.
For the libertarian-left, the question is a little more problematical. The left tends to associate slogans like “states’ rights” or “local sovereignty” with apologies for slavery and racial supremacism. And much of the left ignorantly believes that in a decentralized system the entire American heartland would fall under the rule of Christian Talibanists or the American Nazi Party. This perspective reeks of elitist ignorance and bigotry. It is necessary to demonstrate to the left that their interests are also best advanced through decentralization and local sovereignty. As mentioned, the majority of the US population resides in 75 major metropolitan areas. It is in these areas where ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, the urban poor, the youth countercultures, the homeless, marginal populations and other groups championed by the left tend to be concentrated. If these areas were independent city-states, it would be much easier to advance to interests of these populations politically. Here’s an interesting case in point: In my own state of Virginia, there have been debates in the legislature about how to go about changing the state’s sodomy laws now that the Supreme Court has declared them unconstitutional. Generally speaking, the “pro-sodomy” delegates tend to originate from the Washington, D.C. suburbs in northern Virginia, the heavily populated Atlantic coast region and the metropolitan area around the capital city of Richmond. The “anti-sodomy” delegates tend to originate from the conservative, rural areas in the western part of the state. Obviously, it would be more advantageous for the “pro-sodomy” crowd if the more liberal, densely populated areas could simply legalize sodomy on their own and by-pass the state legislature.
Such a political framework would be very advantageous in ending the drug war. The large urban areas in the US, where most drug addicts as well as most prohibition-related crime is located (and where most drug war prisoners come from), could simply end the drug war a la Amsterdam on their own with conservative, rural areas and smaller towns maintaining prohibition on the “dry county” model. Leftist often argue that is such a decentralized system, abortion rights would disappear but this perception is inadequate. Abortion rights advocates will point out that roughly 85 percent of American localities (cities, towns and counties) do not have any abortion services available due to poverty, local taboos or whatever. In other words, decades after abortion was legalized nationwide it is still de facto prohibited in most American communities through sheer unavailability, legal or not. Meanwhile, if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, state governments would be authorized to prohibit abortion even in metropolitan areas where “pro-choice” sentiment is quite strong and urban abortion rights activists would be at the mercy of state legislators from counties with strong religious fundamentalist leanings. Of course, we could reverse this and apply the same analysis to Second Amendment rights. If the Supreme Court were to rule that the Second Amendment protects only state militias and not an individual’s right to bear arms, then rural gun owners would be at the mercy of suburban and urban state legislators representing vociferously anti-gun constituencies. So it works both ways.
V. Black/White and Radical Decentralization
A libertarian-populist insurgency will out of strategic necessity need to divide and disrupt the popular coalitions that comprise the grassroots support base of the left and right wings of the ruling class. We can draw from the right in the ways already mentioned, i.e., defending both the economic interests and the cultural liberties of the conventional working class. Our ability to draw from the left will be dependent on our aptitude for pulling the rank and file members of the traditional minority groups out from under their bourgeois leadership and cultivating not-so-traditional minorities as constituent groups. Of all the issues raised by this question, none are quite so inflammatory as the matter of race. Ruling classes have maintained a “divide and conquer” stratagem for the subjugation of their populations since time immemorial. In the interest of frankness, here’s how I interpret America’s present racial situation: Cultural openings and cultural conflicts of the past fifty years have created a situation where a multi-ethnic ruling class attempts to micromanage social conflict and expand the reaches of the state with the ideology of totalitarian multiculturalism. The US ruling class is still primarily European in its ancestry, but is increasingly accepting of members of other ethnic groups into its ranks. Contrary to the imaginings of professional anti-Semites, “the Jews” do not rule America but organized Jewish ethnic interests do play the role of junior partners to the broader plutocracy. We might say that the Jewish elite play the role of Tony Blair with the mainstream white ruling class assuming the role of George W Bush. Meanwhile, the loyalty of the elite members of the African population is maintained through an elaborate racial spoils system operating at the expense of the white working class majority. This in turn creates resentment on the part of whites which the elites channel into the scapegoating of poor, urban minorities who are the most subject to attack under the cover of public hysteria concerning drugs, guns and crime and whose plight their ethnic leadership ignores or helps to perpetrate by acting as a buffer between the ruling class and an authentic black insurgency.
What I am really saying here is that the socially or even racially conservative white working class shares a common enemy with the black urban lumpenproletarian class. Political leaders who are able to build bridges across the divide between these two classes will possess a mighty weapon to be used against the ruling class enemy. How can this be accomplished? Rather than emulating the conventional liberal “strategy” of promoting some sort of utopian ideal of endless brotherly love where wolves and sheep join hands, it might be best to adopt an approach more consistent with the principles of realpolitik. We need to create a political program where both poor blacks and the white working class have more to gain from aligning themselves with each other than either does by aligning themselves with the ruling class against the other. The best approach would probably be one of sovereignty, reparations and amnesty for the advancement of the interests of blacks and the elimination of race-based favoritism, affirmative action, antidiscrimination laws, etc. for the advancement of the interests of whites. The black bourgeoisie would not find this to be an acceptable trade-off but many nationalist, separatist or urban “underclass” blacks might. The white liberal bourgeoisie would be appalled by such a suggestion but the white working class would probably approve. Therefore, the anti-ruling class black factions and the anti-ruling white factions would find themselves on the same side of the fence against the common class enemy. This is how it should be.
The matter of implementing such a settlement to America’s historic ethnic divides brings with it certain complications. The “pro-white” aspects of the settlement proposed above would be simple enough to enact. It is merely a matter of repealing particular laws (like antidiscrimination statutes) and policies (like affirmative action) and ending subsidies to particular interests (like “minority set asides”). The “pro-black” aspects of the settlement are a little more difficult. On the question of sovereignty, various black nationalist factions have proposed widely divergent ideas. It would seem that the best approach would be one that involved the least amount of disruption possible. Some years ago, the Peoples’ Democratic Uhuru Movement proposed that the majority black section of St. Petersburg, Florida be separated from the rest of the city into a sovereign municipality. There is no reason why such an arrangement could not be put into place in all American cities with sizable black sections. The only serious criticism of this approach is that the disconnected black communities might degenerate into Bantustans of the type the former South Africa was famous for. At least a partial solution to this problem would be for sovereign black municipalities and their satellite towns and villages to be federated into larger “black nationalist” states on a national or regional basis. There is certainly sufficient precedent for such a territorially disconnected nation. One need only think of the United Kingdom at its height with its scattered island states and protectorates. On the question of reparations, it is obviously best to avoid an approach that requires administration by a large, obtrusive state bureaucracy. Instead, we might consider the suggestions of Kevin Carson:
“In frontier areas like America, the ruling classes feared the economic independence that open land would give laborers, and relied on the state to restrict access to unclaimed land. Even when land was opened to settlement, as in the much-vaunted Homestead Act, the state gave wealthy land speculators preference over ordinary settlers. Most of the white laborers who settled America, through the early nineteenth century, were indentured servants or convicts. Considering the harshness of punishment under the indenture system, and the number of minor infractions for which the term of indenture could be extended for years, it is likely that most indentured laborers died in service. We are today forced to sell our labor on the bosses’ terms, because in the past we were robbed. “Forty acres and a mule”–for all of us–ain’t just a cliche. It’s JUSTICE.
Which brings me to the point of this article–reparations. The furor over reparations must really be a hoot for the ruling class. It’s the oldest trick in the book: keep the producing classes fighting each other so they’ll be too busy to fight the bosses. For example, for most of the seventeenth century in Virginia, there was little legal distinction between black and white servants. Servants of both races often intermarried, and began to develop a common class consciousness. The servant class, black and white, fought the planters in Bacon’s Rebellion. Clearly, this wouldn’t do. The Slave Codes, “white skin privilege,” and racist ideology on a large scale, were the ruling class response to this crisis. And it worked pretty well, didn’t it?
The same is true of the reparations movement. Like “affirmative action” for professional jobs (“black faces in high places”), it is more about the interests of the black bourgeoisie than those of working people. Cabinets, legislatures, and boardrooms that “look like America” just mean everyone can have the pleasure of being screwed by people of the same skin color. Likewise, although I’ve seen a few people on the libertarian left, like Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, who genuinely intend to use the proceeds of reparations for grass-roots empowerment, it’s a fair guess that most of the civil rights establishment view it as a cash cow for themselves. For Jesse Jackson, it’s probably just another shakedown like the Anheuser-Busch distributorship.
At the same time, reparations will not hurt the plutocracy. So long as the statist roots of class privilege are left untouched, the usurers, profiteers and landlords will manage to adapt any “reform” to their own benefit. Monopoly capitalism will just pass the increased cost of reparations along to consumers, as it does all other forms of “progressive” taxation. Which means that the descendants of convict laborers and indentured servants will effectively be taxed to pay reparations, which in turn will almost certainly be skimmed off by people like Jackson. Just another example of how identity politics is being used to disrupt solidarity between working people of all races.
So as an alternative to reparations for slavery, how about reparations for primitive accumulation instead? Lets make a united front in the class war, instead of letting class be hidden behind race relations. The way I see it (I’m a Proudhonian mutualist, by the way, not a Marxist), all tenants paying rent on apartments, urban tenements, public housing, etc., should stop. Those of us working for manufacturers and other large employers should “fire the boss,” as the Wobblies put it, and keep the fruit of our own labor. Agricultural wage laborers should dispossess the agribusiness companies and rich landlords whose plantations they work. Possession, for groups and individuals, should be the basis of ownership. The land to the cultivator, the shop to the worker, free and equitable exchange.”
In other words, it is only possible to achieve racial “justice” if the broader demand for economic “justice” or class “justice” is satisfied. Any such settlement to race and class based conflict must necessarily include amnesty. It is well-known that the United States maintains the world’s largest prison population. More than one quarter of all the world’s prisoners reside in US prisons. A grossly disproportionate number of these are blacks or other minorities. A comprehensive amnesty program is essential to any serious effort to dismantle the US Leviathan state. As a model for amnesty, we might look to that implemented by Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, prior to the commencement of the current war. Most prisoners were given full amnesty, foreign spies excepted. Thieves were pardoned on the condition of victim restitution. Even violent criminals had their sentences commuted if the victim or the victim’s mother agreed to a pardon. If this was good enough for Saddam Hussein, it ought to be good enough for anti-state radicals in North America. Under such a general amnesty, the only remaining prisoners would be those who refused to compensate victims or whose crimes were serious enough to discourage the victim from granting a pardon. The rest of the prison population, from tax evaders to drug vendors to owners of “illegal” firearms to those convicted of violations of arcane regulatory statutes, would simply be cleared out. Likewise, those imprisoned for self-defense, whether against common criminals or the government (for example, Leonard Peltier, the surviving Branch Davidians or those resisting “no-knock” raids) should also be granted amnesty. Additionally, panels of legal experts should be commissioned to review the cases of those convicted of even the most serious crimes. Given the notorious incompetence of the US legal system, it is likely a significant number of these are innocent.
Two extremely controversial issues that will naturally arise out of discussions of these types are those of crime and immigration. Thus far, much of the anti-state movement has failed to work out a consistent position on these questions. On crime, I propose the following approach: We should be tough on crime, but equally tough on cops, courts and laws. On the issues of legal restrictions on the investigative and arrest powers of the police, the powers of the courts to prosecute the accused and impose sentences, and the powers of penal institutions to hold incarcerated persons and the conditions they are held under, we should take positions as “liberal” as those of the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild and beyond. However, when it comes to the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms, to use them in defense against criminals and to form private organizations (neighborhood watches, militias, posses, private security guard services, vigilance committees and common law courts) for the purpose of mutual self-protection against crime (including government crime), we should take positions as “conservative” as the Gun Owners of America, the Michigan Militia and beyond.
As a trivial but pertinent example of how such a policy might be implemented on a practical level, many people in large urban centers are persistently annoyed by the presence of aggressive bums demanding handouts from passersby and issuing threats when refused. Now, we would not want to interfere with general free speech rights by prohibiting panhandling. Nor would we want to interfere with genuinely poor or disabled people, runaways kids or others who wish to be peaceful beggars. Nor do we want to kowtow to bourgeois elements who object to the presence of such lumpen elements as an “eyesore”, “blight” or, more specifically, a perceived threat to real estate values. We certainly do not want to turn public streets into “Official Police Property”. What, then, should be done about annoying or threatening panhandlers? A simple common law rule that states that if an aggressive panhandler continues to annoy a pedestrian after being refused twice before, the person being subjected to the annoyance may, in the presence of at least one witness, physically strike the annoyer once with a hand, foot, fist or non-lethal object and in a non-lethal way, should be efficient. Such would be a common sense conservative policy whereby government gets out of the way in favor of individual responsibility, initiative, self-sufficiency.
On immigration, it is clear enough that the only viable solution is one of local sovereignty. Obviously, we should not wish to strengthen our great common enemy, the US federal government, by militarizing the borders and building a Berlin Wall along the Rio Grande. Instead, the Swiss model can be applied to immigration policy and individual communities can decide whether to be pro-immigrant “sanctuary” communities, anti-immigrant communities with the Minutemen stationed at the county line, or somewhere in between. The great Israeli dissident Israel Shamir discussed the value of the localist approach in his debate with Noam Chomsky:
“Does this critique mean that the no-state idea should be discarded? Not at all. But instead of non-territorial millets, we may support small semi-independent territorial communes, as envisaged by Marx in his Civil War in France and by Lenin in his The State and Revolution, or indeed by Plato in his Republic. Such a solution is extremely suitable for Palestine and for the US, and for the rest of the world.
In the US, it would solve many problems; people would be able to choose whether to live in a mixed or a separated community, a liberal or conservative one, with or without abortions and gay marriages, and would not be imposing their social vision upon others. The federative framework consisting of independent units would not be an aggressive state prone to send troops to Iraq, but it would be able to organise its mutual self-defence. It would mean undoing the lifework of a Bismarck or Garibaldi, and good riddance, too! Full autonomy for every commune would slow down if not eliminate migration flow and would help people to regain their roots. Indeed, let the people of Boston or Atlanta decide whether they want to accept immigration from Ghana or Sweden, instead of having this question decided for them by the New York-based media and Washington lobbies. This was the rule in Switzerland: Alexander Herzen, a Russian noble and dissident of 19th century, discovered that the Swiss federal government had no power to grant citizenship or even rights of residence to a stranger; it was a prerogative of a local commune. This wise rule can be implemented today everywhere.”
VI. Resistance On All Fronts
In formulating a strategy for resistance to the US regime and ruling class, it might be best to observe the efforts of successful resistance movements from other nations and to also take a look at the lessons from the past. Most successful or semi-successful resistance forces, whether the IRA/Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Vietcong or the present day insurgency in Iraq have followed rather consistent patterns in terms of their strategic approach. Each of these have applied an underground/overground strategy that included a wide range of actions such as electoral politics, grassroots community organizing , international propaganda campaigns, cultivating “friends in high places”, maintaining alternative institutional infrastructure and armed struggle. Obviously, some of these are more suitable for present day North America than others. As anarchist radicals in the United States, there are two historical precedents we might wish to draw on, one from anarchist history and the other from American history. The Spanish anarchist movement of the 1930s had as its militant leadership corps the Iberran Anarchist Federation (FAI), a strongly Bakuninist but relatively non-sectarian outfit. The FAI comprised the political leadership of the much larger National Confederation of Workers (CNT), an anarcho-syndicalist labor union federation. When the Civil War began in 1936, the anarchists put together an even larger militia confederation drawn from the ranks of anti-fascist, anti-Soviet and anti-capitalist forces of all ideological stripes, ranging from non-Stalinist Marxists to non-fascist nationalists. The French anarchists of the same era maintained a similar arrangement. The French counterpart to the FAI, the Union Anarchiste, organized a “Revolutionary Front” alliance of the same kinds of anti-fascist, anti-Stalinist and anti-capitalist forces that made up the militias of Spain.
This was the only time in history when anarchists achieved even the most meager amounts of success. The question is how to replicate this in twenty-first century North America. An obscure but interesting part of American history might provide us with a clue. There was a long-forgotten antislavery party, the Liberty Party, that competed in US national elections during the 1840s. Its electoral performance was comparable to that of today’s Libertarians, Greens or Constitutionalists. The party leadership made a strategic decision to orient the party towards the primary goal of blocking the furtherance of slavery into the western territories. Towards this end, they aligned themselves with the “know-nothings”, a virulently racist party that also opposed the westward expansion of slavery, but for ideologically opposite reasons. The antislavery activists knew they were aligning themselves with persons whose values they would find extremely distasteful, but they also knew that the political victory of this alliance would be the death knell for slavery itself. The alliance of the Liberty Party, the “know-nothing” American Party and, later, the Free Soilers and the anti-southern Constitutional Union with the leftwing of the remnants of the Whig Party once that party could no longer sustain itself became the basis for the founding of the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. This is not to say that Republican ideology and ambitions, then or later, were benign or salutory. It does, however, demonstrate how a small, radical party with militantly libertarian ideals managed to advance itself beyond its wildest dreams in less than two decades.
I propose that anti-state radicals in the US work towards the goal of recreating the general framework of the Spanish and French anarchist movements in America using the strategy and methodology employed by the Liberty Party. What would this mean? As mentioned, we need a militant anarchist vanguard organization comparable to the FAI or the Union Anarchiste that would in turn serve as the leadership corps, braintrust, primary intellectual and activist base, principal strategists, propaganda front and mediating coordinators of a much larger populist movement utilizing some of the concepts I have already outlined. The only organizational vehicles that ever brought the classical anarchists any success were the mass anarcho-syndicalist labor federations of the early twentieth century. Now, the time of organized labor as a mass movement seems to have passed and an attempt to revive such an idea would probably be to take an archaic and reactionary position. Instead, a comparable organizational structure that is relevant to North American political culture would be a political party but a very unique type of political party. Such a party would be organized internally as a federation of local and regional parties, with these in turn having economic, institutional and military arms of their own. At the national level, the party would deal only with a handful of the most pressing matters that dissidents of virtually all stripes agree upon such as opposition to US imperialism, the corporate state and the federal police state. All other matters, whether specific ideological tendencies, specific political, economic or cultural arrangements or controversial social issues (abortion, death penalty, gay marriage, stem cells, immigration, school prayer) would be dealt with on a local basis. Therefore, the party platforms of the Idaho or Texas branches of the party might be similar to those of the present day Constitution, American Independent or America First parties. The platforms of the Vermont or Oregon parties might resemble those of the Libertarian or Green Parties and the programs of the most reliably centrist regions might be similar to the Reform or Independence Parties. The South Carolina party might reflect the ideals of the Christian Exodus Project while the northern California party might reflect the values of the Republic of Ganjastan.
Such a party could have its own economic arm in the form of dissident labor unions (a foreshadowing of this might be seen in the recent AFL-CIO split), an assortment of alternative economic enterprises, our own internal social service and health care delivery system (Hezbollah and Hamas might be models to emulate here), a system of alternative media (we can learn from both talk radio and the religious right on this one), legal defense organizations (modeled on the ACLU and NRA), fundraising organizations, single-issue oriented organizing projects and a vast network of community and support organizations. We might commence our drive towards the realization of this ambition through the practice of entryism into one of the present minor parties (I would suggest either the Libertarians or the Greens, or both simultaneously) with the goal of achieving leadership positions, particularly in the realm of strategic formulation. From where will our ideological support base come from? Point Four of the American Revolutionary Vanguard Twenty-Five Point program states:
“American Revolutionary Vanguard seeks to network with and form alliances with all groups and individuals engaged in active resistance including decentralists, non-supremacist separatists, constitutionalists, autonomists, patriots, populists, anti-corporate libertarians, anarchists, sovereigns, common law advocates, regionalists, anti-state conservatives, non-statist nationalists, agorists, mutualists, syndicalists, individualists, guild socialists, council communists, individualist anarchists, collectivist anarchists, national anarchists, municipalists, Georgists, farmer liberationists, agrarians, radical traditionalists, micronationalists, Luddites, radical environmentalists, deep ecologists, non-reactionary third postionists, geonomists, geolibertarians, libertarian socialists, non-racist militias, anarcha-feminists, libertarian feminists, queer activists, anti-globalists and non-statist class struggle advocates of every kind.”
It is also important to remember that most of American politics is driven by individual issues rather than by ideology. Our party must be a “coalition of coalitions” organized around such issues. Here they are:
- authentic fiscal conservatives vs. corporate plutocrats
- welfare recipients vs. New Class social service bureaucrats
- students/parents vs. educrats unions
- black nationalists, separatists and the urban “underclass” vs. black bourgeoise, civil rights industry
- white working class vs. white liberal elite
- non-Zionist Jews/anti-Zionist Jews vs. Israel Firsters
- labor militants vs. corporate stooge labor bosses
- authentic class war militants vs. social democratic politicians
- gay counterculture vs. gay middle-class
- prisoners, prisoners’ advocates and families vs. prison-industrial complex
- soldiers, veterans vs. foreign policy elite, military-industrial complex
- antiwar activists vs. “humanitarian” interventionists, revolutionary democratists
- rank and file evangelical Christians vs. televangelist charlatans
- drug users, medical marijuana advocates vs. DEA, narcotics police, drug war profiteers
- American Indian tribes vs. Bureau of Indian Affairs
- guns owners vs. gun grabbers, ATF
- lumpenproletariat vs. urban bourgeoise
- taxpayers, tax resisters vs. IRS
- anti-Zionists vs. Israeli lobby
- small property holders vs. regulators, land grabbers
- environmentalists, land rights advocates vs. state-corporate monopolists
- farmers vs. agribusiness
- alternative medicine advocates vs. medical-industrial complex
- mental patients vs. psychiatric industry
- civil libertarians vs. police state
- parents rights advocates vs. Child Protective Services, social service bureaucrats
- fathers rights advocates vs. family courts, feminist lobby
- libertarian-individualist feminists, poor and working women vs. bourgeoise gender feminists
- consumer advocates vs. corporate lobbies
- common law advocates vs. legal industry
- young people vs. selective service, drinking ages, curfews, music censorship, truant officers, schools
- sex workers vs. vice police
- small broadcasters, alternative media vs. FCC
- “hate” groups vs. “anti-hate” professionals
- “cults” vs. religious bigots
- immigrants vs. INS
- anti-immigration activists vs. antidiscrimination laws, entitlements for non-citizens
- gang members vs. gang-enforcement units
- Third Worldists vs. US imperialism
- Muslims, Arab-Americans vs. Zionists, imperialists
- smokers vs. health nazis
- free speech vs. political correctness
- isolationists vs. imperialists
- paleoconservatives vs. neoconservatives
- populists vs. professional politicians
- conspiracy theorists vs. NWO, CFR, TLC elites
- ethnic preservationists vs. totalitarian multiculturalists
- nationalists vs. internationalists
- states’ righters, localists vs. centralists
- hunters vs. middle class animal lovers
- animals vs. factory farming industry
- economic scapegoats (money launderers, bookies, loansharks) vs. federal, state prosecutors
- anti-abortion protestors vs. Department of Justice, RICO statute
If indeed an insurgent libertarian-populist movement were able to put together a “coalition of coalitions” such as this, then we would de facto have the majority of the US population in our camp. Such a coalition would also splinter and neutralize the existing grassroots support coalitions maintained by the two rival wings of the ruling class, the neoconservatives and the cultural Marxists. In other words, victory would be ours. How will we get there from here? The present efforts by Kevin Zeese are an excellent model to draw on. Mr. Zeese is currently seeking the nomination of the Green, Libertarian and Populist Parties simultaneously in his bid for the Senate in Maryland. Zeese is running on a straightforward program of opposition to the Iraq war, salvaging the economy from ultimate ruin, opposing the PATRIOT Act and end the drug war. This might be a prototype for a radical future. Ultimately, we may at some point be able to combine the Green, Libertarian, Populist, Constitution, Natural Law and other minor parties into a single party, organized in the manner I have thus far outlined. I would suggest calling such a party the “Federalist Party” for several reasons. First, there is precedent for this from American history. Second, it accurately describes what the internal structure of the party should be. Third, it provides a model for the general types of institutional arrangements we should seek to develop. Perhaps our party flag could be an anarchist black flag with the snake from the “don’t tread on me” Gadsen battle flag embroidered on it.
It is of the utmost importance that our rhetoric and propaganda resonate well with American history and political culture. We should not publicly call ourselves “anarchists”, “radicals” or “revolutionaries”. Instead, we are “federalists”, “localists”, “constitutionalists”, “states’ righters”, “decentralists”, “libertarians”, “populists”, “Jeffersonians”,”democrats”, “patriots”. We advocate “economic justice”, “freedom”, “democracy”, “liberty”, “constitutional rights”, “decentralization”, “human rights”, “social justice”, “American ideals”, “self-reliance”, “the pioneer spirit”. Our icons are Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Edmund Burke, Davey Crockett, Frederick Douglas, Bob La Follette, Jane Addams, Mark Twain, Charles Lindbergh, Samuel Gompers, Dorothy Day, Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater, Malcolm X and Eugene McCarthy. It would be best if those of us who are to be the intellectual leadership of the insurgency remain in the background and attempt to avoid becoming public figures (if you are reading this you are probably included in this category). We should avoid the “public eye” and calling unnecessary attention to ourselves. We need the freedom to be able to speak and write whatever we need to communicate without too much attention from the press or our enemies. We should seek to be Machiavelli rather than Lorenzo de Medici, Rasputin rather than Czar Nicholas, the privy counsel rather than the king. From our enemies’ perspective, we should be the subversives who whisper poison into the ears of princes.
VII. The Face of the Insurgency
Thus far, much of what I have outlined follows a fairly conventional model of American political organization. Some anarchists will no doubt object that my approach reeks far too much of a reformist/electoralist outlook. While I certainly respect this point of view, I believe it is unnecessarily sectarian and archaic. The classical anarchists often advocated boycotting elections and for good reason. In most of the countries where the classical anarchist movement existed on a scale of any significance, the “right to vote” was either non-existent or the franchise was very limited. Even in nominal democracies like Switzerland and America, women and other large population groups were denied the vote. Even at that, many Spanish villages elected anarchist mayors and village councils in the years leading up to the civil war. I believe modern anarchists need to develop an approach to this question that is relevant to the nature of modern states and modern societies. The approach I favor is one of cold realism and pragmatism. It is indeed possible for ordinary people with conventional levels of resources to be elected to local and state offices in many parts of the US. Persons who achieve some level of success in this area are then in a position to influence appointments to other positions of influence. This can be very important as a means of keeping the worst elements away from seats of power.
The worst mistake that virtually all of the minor parties currently make is to waste millions of dollars in resources and thousands upon thousand of hours of labor on symbolic but utterly futile Presidential campaigns. If a coalition of minor parties could be united in the kind of confederation I have outlined, it would be best to develop a strategy of campaigning for positions that can actually be won and boycotting those where the odds are flagrantly stacked in favor of the establishment. A large minor party that campaigned, often successfully, for positions like city councils and county boards of supervisors, school boards, state representatives, local sheriffs, planning commissions and (where feasible) governors and attorney generals and but openly boycotted presidential and senatorial elections and denounced them as fraudulent would have a propaganda field day. Meanwhile, we could gradually build up our influence at the local and regional level, make common cause with local and regional secessionist movements and work to pull the rug out from underneath the feds. I would suggest that the public faces of our movement should be familiar community activists, issue-oriented dissidents or sympathetic celebrity candidates. We need plenty of Jesse Venturas of our own. An eighteen year old kid was elected mayor of a Minnesota town. Anti-police militant Tom Alciere was elected as a stealth candidate to the New Hampshire state legislature. A Republican delegate to the Arizona state legislature introduced a bill calling for secession by Arizona in the event of gun confiscation or imposition of martial law. As mentioned, the intellectual leadership of the movement should remain in the background, primarily as strategists, advisors and formulators of policy proposals.
The achievement of victory by the kind of “coalition of coalitions” organized around anti-state, pro-class struggle issues of the type previously mentioned would mean the de facto abolition of the state. It is important to remember that all political systems contain a mixture of ideological currents and institutional models. All revolutions inevitably bring with them remnants of the previous system. It may well be that the victory of the anarchist movement in North America will take place inside the shell of the traditional constitutional system. That system has remained in place on the formal level for two centuries plus, even though its internal modus operandi has been altered radically a number of times. The US Presidency may continue to exist in the same manner as the British monarchy. Congress may well continue to exist on much weaker basis, akin to that of the European Parliament. Another possibility might be that the USA will split apart into a collection of smaller countries a la the former Soviet Union or the Ottoman Empire. We should be more concerned with substance than with form. Much more thought needs to be given to the kind of institutional framework that will be utilized following the victory of the anti-state movement. Examining the views of many of the anarchist sects on this question, I find many of their ideas and suggestions to be less than sufficient.
The primary forms of political organization favored by most anarchists are either the New England town meeting “direct democracy” model of the Bookchinites, the “private defense agency” model of the Rothbardians or the industrial union model favored by most traditional anarcho-syndicalists. Each of these perspectives might have something to offer. “Direct democracy” is probably as good a model for the management of individual neighborhoods or county villages as any other. Private defense agencies could certainly be one method of crime control along with neighborhood watches, militias, posses, elected local constables, etc. The syndicalist model might be one means of industrial organization. However, each of these presents dangers of their own. The actual history of regimes organized on the “direct democracy” model is not exactly a happy one. It was this kind of system that executed Socrates and instigated the Salem witch trials. Likewise, “private defense agencies” often sound remarkably similar to traditional feudatories or warlord systems when described by their anarcho-capitalist proponents. Workers’ syndicates also bring with them the dangers of new kinds of monopolies and bureaucracies.
One of the most important insights of the Machiavellians is that all human organizations of any size are oligarchies. There is no other. So the question is not whether or not there will be elites but rather what kind elites we will have. There seems to be two basic choices, either plutocracy (“rule of money”) or meritocracy (“rule of merit”). We should endorse the latter rather than the former. In the spirit of what Jack Ross calls the “Virginia radicals” of the Revolutionary War period, we should seek to cultivate an aristocratic populism that recognizes that the liberty of the leadership of the insurgent forces is dependent on that of the lowest commoners or most marginalized outcasts. Serious cultural, ethnic or religious conflicts can be handled through decentralism, separatism and mutual self-segregation. Aristotle noted that the Greek cities contained among themselves at least 158 separate and distinct constitutions. The Holy Roman Empire existed for centuries as a rather stable confederation of hundreds of largely sovereign kingdoms intermixed with thousands of independent territories or free cities. Likewise, the Swiss confederation has also existed for centuries with comparatively high levels of liberty, prosperity and peace. Even today, there are political oddities around the world that might be prototypes for future anarchist institutional arrangements. The Israeli kibbutzim might be a model for anarcho-communists or, alternately, anarcho-racialists, Somalian kritarchy for anarcho-capitalists, the Mondragon worker cooperatives for anarcho-syndicalists, Liechtenstein for anarcho-monarchists, Amsterdam for anarcho-stoners and Malta for anarcho-papists.
As the nation-state system declines and the welfare-warfare states that have emerged over the past century are discredited, the core political task of the next wave of radical intellectuals will be the establishment of political arrangements that eventually replace the state as it is now understood. The dangers of concentrated power are now well-known and recognized. The inability of the plutocratic democracies that have come to dominate modern societies to effectively control power will be fully understood soon enough. The Greek cities, the Holy Roman Empire, traditional Swiss political culture and contemporary micronations are all models to draw upon. We might first consider how the United States managed to begin as a federation of thirteen largely sovereign colonies along the Atlantic Coast and subsequently degenerate to the present level in barely two centuries. The Holy Roman Empire, the Icelandic Kingdom and other pre-modern societies managed to maintain much higher levels of stability and consistency (not to mention limited government) over a longer period of time than that. The Swiss confederation has existed for seven centuries. Where did America get off track?
I believe that the rapid degeneration of America since its founding is traceable to a number of sources. Some of these include obvious things like the unfortunate by-products of population growth, technological expansion and general intellectual trends. However, there are two historically unique features of the American system that have led to its downfall. The first of these was America’s making her merchant class into the ruling class at the time of the founding. Most previous societies had been organized on the model of the Old Order, with the merchant class being subordinate to the landed aristocracy, the monarchy and the Church. A look at the powers delegated to Congress by the US Constitution reveals that the American consitutional system was originally designed as a state-capitalist class dictatorship. These powers included those necessary for the advancement of the interests of capital, such as central banking, uniform bankruptcy laws, transportation subsidies, a large free trade area and so on. Such a framework could only lead to the entrenchment of the plutocratic “monied interests” warned against by Jefferson. The early American leader Samuel Adams warned of the evils of plutocracy:
“If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude
greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in
peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick
the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may
posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
If “capitalism” (or rule by the mercantile bourgeoise) is one head of the dragon of Leviathon, then “democracy” is another. Originally, the US was designed as an aristocratic republic on the model of pre-Julius Caesar republican Rome. Neither the President nor the Senate were elected by popular vote and what little voting there was was limited to a small portion of the general population. It was during the Jacksonian era of the early nineteenth century that Jacobin notions of “democracy” began to be imported into the US from France. Indeed, the classical liberal Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville was alarmed by this trend and wrote about it in his classic “Democracy in America”. Specifically, Tocqueville warned about the dangers of the Provider State, a kind of soft totalitarianism that he could only speculate about in his time and one that Aldous Huxley would discuss much more thoroughly a century later. Even at the time of the American founding, Jefferson had warned of this danger:
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the
government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of
taking care of them.”
The problem with mass democracy is this: Politicians must obviously appeal to more and more constituent groups the more universal the franchise becomes. This in turn requires the radical expansion of the state in order to satisfy the demands for state assistance from all of these groups and the creation of massive bureaucracies in order to manage the distribution of state favors. In other words, mass democracy must by nature be totalitarian and, indeed, even the most “liberal” democracies of today are totalitarian by historic standards.
There is an even greater danger than the bureaucratic regimentation of daily life inherent in the nature of modern capitalist democracies. The core values of these states are those of egalitarianism, consumerism and therapeutism (as opposed to merit, frugality and responsibility). It is considered the sacred duty of the state to provide everyone with “equal rights” and not only the pursuit of happiness but happiness itself. Theoretically, this is to be done through a generalized ethos of materialism and consumption to the point of gluttony, endless psychological conditioning techniques and a Nanny State resolved to protect everyone from falling into “unhappiness” as a result of poverty, illness, racism, sexism or drug addiction. In others, modern “democratic capitalism” is nothing more than the Provider State warned against by Tocqueville or, more specifically, Huxley’s “Brave New World”. Even prior to the World War Two era, perceptive thinkers like Huxley or George Orwell understood the menacing nature of the culture of materialism and false egalitarianism then developing in America. Martin Heidegger argued that the universal triumph of such a system would be the “night of the world” or a new dark ages. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn warned that egalitarianism can only breed mediocrity for egalitarianism does not raise the inferior to the level of the superior but only reduces the superior to the level of the inferior. Herbert Spencer understood that “to shield people from their own folly”, the central purpose of the Nanny State, “is to populate the world with fools”. Nietzsche insisted that a civilization whose principle purpose was the pursuit of comfort and the avoidance of danger would that of the “last man”, a prelude to complete barbarism generated by decay and mediocrity. As I have said elsewhere:
“The nations of the West are driven by an almost as fanatical devotion to Mammon, that is, to wealth, luxury, power, pleasure and privilege. Further, the culture of the West combines this unabashedly materialist ethos with rejection of strength and discipline in favor of a maternalistic emphasis on health, safety, “sensitivity”, “self-esteem”, “potential”, “personal growth”, “getting in touch with one’s inner child”, “feelings” and other concepts common to pop culture psychobabble. Of course, the socio-cultural ramifications of this is to create a society of weaklings, mediocrities and crybabies.”
Indeed, it is in those nations where this kind of system is the most well-established and long-established that the process of decay is the most advanced. And yet it is precisely this kind of system that America wishes to export to the rest of the world. Fortunately, this will prove to be a failed ambition. An empire whose ideology is a combination of advertising slogans, psychobabble and silly pseudo-humanitarian platitudes (presumably enforced by tanks and air strikes), and whose subjects pledge allegiance to nothing other than their VISA cards, convenience, “sensitivity” (for themselves but not for anyone else), the latest celebrity gossip and the latest model cell phone, is not really an empire that is suited for world domination for very long. The ancient cultures of Asia and the Near East are once again asserting themselves. Nietzsche insisted that the warrior ethos was essential to the survival of civilization. I was in Europe when the present war in Iraq began in March of 2003. Watching coverage of the war on International CNN in the lounge of my Amsterdam hotel, I observed the militancy and zealotry of the Iraqi militiamen and contrasted their warrior spirit of that of the American soldiers being transported into battle. Most of the Americans looked like what they were: a bunch of scared shitless barely-out-of-high-school kids wondering, “How the fuck did I get here?!!?” There was no doubt in my mind who would win this war.
Back to the question of what we will replace the present welfare-warfare state with once it has finished running itself down, an event that is likely to occur soon enough. We should aspire to establish the foundations for a civilization that can endure and preserve itself not merely for decades or even centuries, but for millenia. The Icelandic Kingdom survived as a quasi-anarchy for three centuries and even then fell under the rule of only the Norwegian monarchy. The Holy Roman Empire endured for nine centuries before the rise of the absolute monarchs and the god-awful nation-state system during the sixteenth century. And the traditional civilizations of Russia and China enjoyed similar lifespans. Indeed, Matthew Raphael Johnson reveals an astonishing truth about Russia prior to the horrendous coup by Lenin and Trotsky in 1917:
“… there were 5,000 full time policemen in the entire empire of 180 million souls, which would make Russia one very poor example of a police state. In fact, the total number of government workers, including the zemstvo employees, policemen and employees at all levels never exceeded 330,000. By contrast, much smaller France, in 1906, had budgeted for 500,000 employees.”
How can we replicate this on an even greater level? The primary dangers to any political order are plutocracy, bureaucracy and mobocracy. Plutocracy can be avoided by the establishment of a cultural foundation that devalues material pursuits and glorifies learning, knowledge and wisdom in the ideological realm and the decentralized control over resources by individuals, families, worker and community groups in the structural realm. Bureaucracy can be avoided through decentralized political systems involving small states governing small populations with limited amounts of resources and an expansive voluntary sector. Mobocracy can be avoided in part by the principle of radical decentralization so that “voting with your feet” actually becomes feasible.
If any society is to advance itself, it must make a painstaking effort to insure that its heretics are safe from persecution, whether by greedy plutocrats, power hungry bureaucrats or ignorant mobs. Those familiar with the internal operations of modern democratist regimes known well that legistlation is typically for sale to the highest bidder. In other words, democratic governments constitute a type of marketplace for coercion, a shopping mall of political repression and plundering. Those who wish to order government on the market seem to forget that there exists a market for coercive violence. And if the proprieters of interest group democracy are not constrained by the Bill of Rights or the constitutional separation of powers, there is little reason to believe that the proprieters of quasi-feudal insurance agencies will be constrained by Murray Rothbard’s “Libertarian Law Code”.
“Participatory democracy” (or “direct democracy” as it is sometimes called) brings with it the flaws endemic to all democratic orders. If Plato’s warnings about the susceptibility of the masses to the demagogue and Aquinas’ fears of mobocracy apply to modern parliamentary states, would they not apply much more to unbridled popular democracy? The historical track record of these kinds of regimes is not a particularly appealing one. As previously mentioned, it was popular democracy that killed Socrates and initiated the Salem witch trials, and some of the more appealing aspects of the traditional US constitutional system are those existing outside the reach of majority rule, such as the Bill of Rights. Personally, I am more into the idea of limited government than popular government. We should consider the words of Proudhon on this question:
“…because of this ignorance of the primitiveness of their instincts, of the urgency of their needs, of the impatience of their desires, the people show a preference toward summary forms of authority. The thing they are looking for is not legal guarantees, of which they do not have any idea and whose power they do not understand, they do not care for intricate mechanisms or for checks and balances for which, on their own account, they have no use, it is a boss in whose word they confide, a leader whose intentions are known to the people and who devotes himself to its interests, that they are seeking. This chief they provided with limitless authority and irresistible power. Inclined toward suspicion and calumny, but incapable of methodical discussion, they believe in nothing definite save the human will.”
“Left to themselves or led by their tribunes the masses never established anything. They have their face turned backwards; no tradition is formed among them; no orderly spirit, no idea which acquires the force of law. Of politics they understand nothing except the element of intrigue; of the art of governing, nothing except prodigality and force; of justice nothing but mere indictment; of liberty, nothing but the ability to set up idols which are smashed the next morning. The advent of democracy starts an era of retrogression which will ensure the death of the nation…”
If we reject both plutocracy and mobocracy when searching for the most optimal system of social management, we might wish to consult the “wisdom of the ancients” on the matter. It was Socrates who was among the first to postulate the concept of consent as the foundation of political legitimacy. For Socrates, the rules of the polis were “just” if they were predicated on the right of emigration, whereby the dissenting citizen could leave the city with his family and property. It is essential to recognize Socratic notions of consent as explicit and conventional in nature, as oppose to the implicit or metaphysical conceptions of “consent” later found in the works of liberal thinkers like John Locke. Explicit consent as the foundation of legitimacy necessitates that political units be highly localized and autonomous in nature, a fact recognized by Aristotle. Such arrangements allowed for a wide plurality of political or cultural identities.
The notion of explicit consent continued into the medieval era, when “no taxation without consent” would often be the battlecry of subjects in revolt against their exploitive lords. Explicit or direct consent is to be differentiated from the conception of “no taxation without representation” found in early liberal theory, whereby the process of “consent” is removed from the individual subject to political functionaries claiming to speak for entire communities. Obviously, “consent” of this type is bogus and impossible. Indeed, it was in response to the failure of liberal regimes to curb the usurpations of the state that classical anarchism arose as a revolutionary force in the nineteenth century. So for consent theory to maintain legitimacy, it should be obvious enough that the highest and primary unit of social organization should be the sovereign local community, the “polis” of Aristotle. The implementation of the Socratic-Aristotelian-Jeffersonian-Proudhonian ideal would require the dismantling of coventional nation-states into autonomous provinces, and the subsequent decentralization of the provinces into confederations of free cities, supreme counties, townships and village communities, with each of these in turn organized as an aggregate of sovereign citizens (indeed, a conceptually interesting “sovereign citizen movement” has taken root among elements of the American “far right” in recent years).
From American history, we see the Puritan founding of Massachusetts, the Anglicans in Virginia, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, the Mormons in Utah and so on. Norman Mailer offered a similar vision in his campaign for the independence and decentralization of New York City:
“I ran for mayor of New York in the hope that a Left-Right coalition could be formed and this Left-Right pincers could make a dent in the entrenched power in the center. The best to be said for that campaign is that it had its charm. I am not so certain, however, that this idea must remain eternally without wings. It may yet take an alchemy of the Left and Right to confound the corporate center. Our notion was built on the premise that we did not really know the elements of a good, viable society. We all had our differing ideals, morals, and political ethics, but rarely found a way to practice them directly. So, we called for Power to the Neighborhoods. We suggested that New York City become a state itself, the fifty-first. Its citizens would then have the power to create a variety of new neighborhoods, new townships, all built on separate concepts, core neighborhoods founded on one or another of our cherished notions from the Left or the Right. One could have egalitarian towns and privileged places, or, for those who did not wish to be bothered with living in so detailed (and demanding) a society, there would be the more familiar and old way of doing things-the City of the State of New York-a government for those who did not care-just like old times.”
In addressing this question of how to best avoid the combined dangers of plutocracy and mobocracy, I can only roll out a few meager suggestions. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn said of the political outlook of Plato:
“According to Plato, there can be no good government unless the philosophers are kings and the kings philosophers, by which he does not mean Ph.D.s and crowned heads. What he does mean is the rule of those well-informed and knowledgeable. But do not forget there are two aspects to this: There is knowledge, and there is experience, and they have to go together. Knowledge alone is insufficient; practice alone is insufficient. To be a good ruler, one needs the combination of knowledge and practice.”
Kuehnelt-Leddihn contrasted the Platonic view with that of modern plutocratic democracies:
“In the United States illiterates are now admitted to the polls. Sometime in the coming century, people will rack their brains pondering how nations with tremendous scientific and intellectual achievements could have given uninstructed and untrained men and women the right to vote equally uninstructed and untrained people into responsible positions.”
If anarcho-capitalism brings with it the danger of plutocracy and if “participatory democracy” of the type favored by most left-anarchists brings the danger of mobocracy, perhaps a third alternative would be something akin to the classical Chinese civil service examination system. In that system, a citizen typically studied for decades in order to pass the most rigorous of examinations in order to be allowed admittance into political management. The examination system was rather egalitarian in nature, allowing entry by qualified persons from all social classes. Its main weakness was the fact that the scholarly elite were still subject to the dictates of the Emperor and his broader system of nepotism and patronage, so the scholars ended up being little more than court intellectuals for the ruling class. However, a way to reverse this would be to make the highest body of government into a type of monastery of scholars, where only the most demonstrably brilliant minds were admitted into positions of leadership. Even then, there is the danger of a new caste system developing whereby the scholarly caste simply becomes the new priesthood or the new Brahmins.
The best check on this problem might be to make the policies and plans formulated by the scholarly elite subject to public accountability by means of public assemblies, public juries and popular referendums. For example, a federation of anarchies might conduct foreign policy through a “council on national defense” composed of the most experienced and best trained minds in the fields of history, military science, international relations, cultural studies, social psychology, diplomatic history, political economy and so forth, with the general council then being assisted by sub-councils of an even more specialized nature. However, the “council on national defense” could not simply decide to make war on its own initiative. A proposal for war would have to be approved by a super-majority vote of the entire affected population. Matters of supreme importance (like war and peace) might be subject to approval by general referendum, while matters of lesser importance (like a treaty establishing an agreement to share a particular seaport with another country) might need to be approved only by a popular assembly composed of recallable delegates sent by local community or occupational committees. Similarly, any law enacted (whether by legistlation or by judicial precedent) would be subject to on-going approval by popular juries and competing private judges or judicial panels enjoying the full legal right of nullification.
Let us now summarize what I regard as the core propositions we must postulate. First, we need a “vanguard” of radically anti-state and anti-ruling class activists and intellectuals to come together as the brain trust and leadership corps of a broad anti-establishment populist movement. The most optimal method of pursuing this objective in modern America would be the creation of a coalition of minor political parties and activist organizations and the consolidation of these into a larger party, organized as a federation of local parties. The national party would deal only with pressing national matters on which there is common agreement among all of the radical camps, with matters of specific economic, political or cultural arragments, or matters of religious, ethnic and social conflict, being left to the local parties. The principal purpose of the party would be the creation of a “coalition of coalitions” organized around anti-state and anti-ruling class issues, with the programs of the local party units orienting themselves towards local political culture. Electorally, we would boycott major national elections on the ground that these are fraudulent, and instead seek local and regional positions which might be more reasonably attainable. It is essential that the electoral organizations be both assisted and policed by networks of grassroots activist organizations as well as anarcho-Machiavellian advisors who are largely directing things from behind the scenes. Electoral action would be regarded not as an end but as a means to an end, along with militant strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, riots, the creation of alternative infrastructure, tax resistance and other subversive actions.
In breaking down the state, we should seek to bolster local and regional secessionists and other separatist movements. We should also work to create a plurality of power structures that can effectively challenge the state. This has sometimes been referred to as “building the new society within the shell of the old”. We can agitate for an end to the states’ monopolistic courts system in favor of competing private, common law, merchant or customary courts, systems of negotiation, mediation or arbitration and an end to the bureaucratic police forces maintained by the state in favor of citizen posses, militias and so forth. We can also form popular assemblies that run parallel to the state’s legistlatures and demand the legal empowerment of these. We can agitate for the decentralization of state governments to the municipal or county level and the subsequent decentralization of the county and city governments to the neighborhood or village level. Another effort might be a push for the closing of the federal and state prison systems and the relocation of prisoners to penal colonies with more normalized living conditions. We can demand an end to the use of patronage in political appointments in favor of a system of meritocracy perhaps drawn on the model of the Chinese civil service examination system. This model might be particularly beneficient as a process for the staffing of appeals courts, the supervisory staffs of penal institutions and, as mentioned, institutions of defense and diplomacy. Localties and regions can begin to assert their traditional Jeffersonian right of nullification of the decrees of objectionable central authorities just as juries can begin to reclaim their traditional Magna Carta right of jury nullification of objectionable prosecutions. On the economic level, we can develop organizations whose purpose is to agitate for the conversion of state or state-corporate industries and services into worker, consumer of municipal cooperatives. These can be supplemented by independent labor organizations and organizations formed for the defense of alternative economic enterprises.
VIII. Extremism Without Apologies
“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
-Barry Goldwater (speech written by Karl Hess)
The most frequent objections I encounter to my own political outlook and agenda are typically those summarized or accompanied by the labels of “extreme”, “inflammatory”, “fanatical” or “violent”. To these charges, my plea would be one of “guilty, but proud”. Those who make these charges are typically middle-class Americans with little or no experience of direct conflict with the System. However, when I test my views on those who know what it means to be on the bottom end looking up, they pick up on what I am saying right away and are frequently in complete sympathy. The classical anarchist Mikhail Bakunin recognized that the class vanguard in the struggle against the state must come from those with the least to lose. I agree. Bakunin’s recognition of the necessity of the role of principled militants as the intellectual and activist vanguard of the revolutionary struggle is also consistent with Friedrich von Hayek’s observation that new and revolutionary ideas typically begin with the intellectual and philosophical elite and then “trickle down” into the ranks of the masses, finding their way into the minds of dissident intellectuals, their student radical followers, bohemians, counterculturalists, the lumpenproletariat, the conventional poor, the working classes, the middle classes and then, finally, the establishment. Over time, all ideas that begin as radical or revolutionary ideas are compromised and moderated as their popularity and acceptance increases. For better or worse, success tends to breed moderation. However, in its initial stages a revolutionary outlook must seek not popularity and passive acceptance but fervent committment. For this reason, those who would seek to build an authentic insurgent movement against the present American regime and ruling class must be unapologetic extremists.
This does not mean that we do not produce propaganda campaigns oriented towards appealing to the ordinary sensibilities of the commoners. However, it does mean that attitude is just as important as strategy or ideology. Far too many North American radicals are have fallen prey to the delusions of liberalism, democratism, pacifism, humanism and other “feel good-do good” mentalities. This kind of attitude needs to be abandoned in favor of the Nietzschean warrior spirit. We need to cultivate among ourselves and our sympathizers a mindset that more closely resembles that of the Islamic jihadists or the guerrilla fighters of Latin America. In the nation of Colombia, a substantial portion of the insurgent forces are composed teenaged girls. These young women no doubt display a much greater warrior spirit that what is typically found among adult males in the North American radical milieus. A determined resistance force could launch a effective assault on the decadent and decaying US regime and ruling class with relative ease. Kevin Carson aptly describes the crimes of our enemies:
“Capitalism was not, by any means, a “free market” evolving naturally or peacefully from the civilization of the high Middle Ages. As Oppenheimer argued, capitalism as a system of class exploitation was a direct successor to feudalism, and still displays the birth scars of its origins in late feudalism.
Romantic medievalists like Chesterton and Belloc recounted a process in the high Middle Ages by which serfdom had gradually withered away, and the peasants had transformed themselves into de facto freeholders who paid a nominal quit-rent. The feudal class system was disintegrating and being replaced by a much more libertarian and less exploitative one. Immanuel Wallerstein argued that the likely outcome would have been “a system of relatively equal small-scale producers, further flattening out the aristocracies and decentralizing the political structures“…
…Although such medievalists no doubt idealized that world considerably, it was still far superior to the world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Kropotkin described, in terms evocative of William Morris, the rich life of the High Middle Ages, “with its virile affirmation of the individual, and which succeeded in creating a society through the free federation of men, of villages and of towns. “In those cities, sheltered by their conquered liberties, inspired by the spirit of free agreement and of free initiative, a whole new civilization grew up and flourished in a way unparalleled to this day.” The free cities were virtually independent; although the crown “granted” them a charter in theory, in reality the charter was typically presented to the king and to the bishop of the surrounding diocese as a fait accompli, when “the inhabitants of a particular borough felt themselves to be sufficiently protected by their walls….“
…The technical prerequisites of the industrial revolution had been anticipated by skilled craftsmen in the urban communes, scholars in the universities, and researchers in the monasteries; but the atmosphere of barbarism following the triumph of the centralized state set technical progress back by centuries. The nineteenth century was, in a sense, a technical and industrial “renaissance,” built atop the achievements of the High Middle Ages after a prolonged hiatus; but because of the intervening centuries of warfare on society, industrial technology was introduced into a society based on brutal exploitation and privilege, instead of flowering in a society where it might have benefited all…
…The Renaissance as it happened, G.K. Chesterton argued, was only an anemic ghost of what it might have been had it taken place under a democracy of guilds and peasant proprietors. Had Wat Tyler and John Ball been successful, Chesterton speculated,
“our country would probably have had as happy a history as is possible to human nature. The Renascence, when it came, would have come as popular education and not the culture of a club of aesthetics. The New Learning might have been as democratic as the old learning in the old days of mediaeval Paris and Oxford. The exquisite artistry of Cellini might have been but the highest grade of the craft of a guild. The Shakespearean drama might have been acted by workmen on wooden stages set up in the street like Punch and Judy, the finer fulfillment of the miracle play as it was acted by a guild.”
The real advancement, the real humanism and progress of the High Middle Ages, has been neglected, and the barbarism and regression of the age of the absolute state disguised as a rebirth of civilization. In short, history has been not only rewritten, but stood on its head by the victors.
“How many lies have been accumulated by Statist historians, in the pay of the State, in that period!
Indeed have we not all learned at school for instance that the State had performed the great service of creating, out of the ruins of feudal society, national unions which had previously been made impossible by the rivalries between cities?….
And yet, now we learn that in spite of all the rivalries, medieval cities had already worked for four centuries toward building those unions, through federation, freely consented, and that they had succeeded.““
Matthew Raphael Johnson describes the apparatus of lies used to obscure these crimes:
“The purpose of The Third Rome is to alter the political universe of those who read it. In other words, it was to challenge the assumptions that underlie the liberal/conservative consensus in western countries. Such assumptions include the superstitious belief in progress, the linear (i.e. evolutionary) development of history and, importantly, the continued dominance of the idea that western democracies are morally superior to not merely the rest of the globe, but also superior to all systems of rule that have ever existed…
…For the exoteria of western politics, one is routinely treated to myths about the linear development of European history from the “darkness” of the middle ages to the “light” of the Enlightenment, science and its progeny, postmodernism. The “tyranny” of medieval and early modern kings is contrasted to the benevolence of modern republics. The evils of feudalism are contrasted to the capital/state alliance. This makes up every introduction to political science in universities, and it is at the very nature of “civic discourse” as it is contrived in the west. The only difficulty is that it is nonsense…
…At no time in global history have ruling classes amassed such centralized power: surveillance techniques, media power, armies, advanced weapons, computers and a disciplined bureaucracy that can track each and every citizen with pinpoint accuracy throughout his life form the vulnerable underbelly of the tripe concerning “democracy” and “republicanism” in the west. Tyranny previous to modernity was largely impossible: the technological apparatus needed to create “totalitarianism” simply did not exist. Only modernity can create tyranny…
…[T]he day to day functioning of royal government, is not contrasted with the actual functioning of republican systems, but rather with idealistic theory of republicanism…The peasant commune controlled the social life of the peasant, and was completely independent of the tsar..An “individual,” isolated from his commune or region, would, as in all “democracies,” be a meaningless legal fiction, easily exploited. This is the esoteria of “individualism” in political theory; it is easier for the oligarchy to dominate isolated individuals than to deal with larger and more powerful communal and municipal structures…
…In liberal democracies, those who have the most ambition to rule are those who run for office. Nicholas showed the opposite that, even when the crown was handed to him, he rejected it in favor of the (formal) heir apparent. Only under pressure did he accept the crown. In democratic thinking, only the ambitious and obnoxious are capable of doing what is necessary to get elected. American politicians are whores. They are forced to alter their views depending on the group with which the politician is meeting with or speaking. He is constantly asking for money with far less grace than a common prostitute…
…St. Nicholas II was brought to the throne in 1894. He found a Russia far from being “backward,” but, in a few years – by the start of World War I – was the envy of the world. She had the lowest taxes in all Europe. Direct taxation per capita amounted to 3.1 rubles per year, versus 13 for Germany, 10 for Austria, 12 in France and 27 in progressive, democratic and capitalist Britain. Indirect taxation was also the lowest in Europe, amounting to 6 rubles per capita for Russia, but 10 for Germany, 11 for Austria, 16 for France and 14 for Britain…Russia was just beginning her economic expansion into world markets. There can be no question that the refusal of the Romanovs to set up a central bank under the rule of the global financial elite marked them for extinction. Imperial Russia was the only major European power who refused to set up a Central Bank, though the Bolsheviks, as always, willingly obliged…
… in 1861, what took the American republic years and hundreds of thousands of American lives to accomplish (in the case of slavery), the Russian Tsar accomplished in one fell swoop, the elimination of serfdom and the liberation of the peasant…By 1917, the peasantry controlled the overwhelming majority of farmland – more than three times what was controlled by the nobility….”Free elections” are the easiest way for an oligarchy to enslave a population without them knowing it.”
What Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn said of Russia might well apply to modern Western civilization as a whole:
“Imagine a very popular, intelligent, conscientious, good-looking and responsible young man, obviously destined for a highly successful life. One day, having had a few drinks too many, he runs his car into a tree and ends up a paraplegic. Accidents happen not only in the lives of persons, but also in the lives of nations.”
Perhaps a more appropriate analogy might be to compare the Western ruling classes to drunk drivers who have crashed their respective nations into a multiple vehicle pile-up on the freeway and maimed and dismembered their innocent victim producing classes in the process.
In formulating a culture of resistance, we must not hesitate to pull out all of the stops. By all means, we should attempt to utilize peaceful and legal means of resistance of the type that I have thus far outlined. However, it is foolish to think that this will be enough. The neoconservative/cultural Marxist ruling class will never consent to the handing over of power to the type of libertarian-populist resistance coalition that I have argued for. Are we really going to believe that the ideological descendents of Robespierre, Trotsky, Adorno, Marcuse and Strauss are simply going to step down without a fight? They would be much more inclined to repeat the Reign of Terror, the Kronstadt massacre or the treachery of Barcelona. During the Reagan administration, plans were drawn up for the implementation of martial law by executive order. The present neocon regime is creating the pseudo-legal framework whereby the executive branch can simply ignore acts of Congress, court rulings or international treaties and engage in indefinite detention without trial or access to counsel, conduct warrantless searches and seizures, engage in torture, secret tribunals and, presumbably, administrative death sentences and summary executions. The only remaining steps would be to cancel elections and abrogate constitutionally imposed presidential terms limits in favor of absolute despotism. Even if the neocons do not go all the way with this program, the cultural Marxists who succeed them might. Therefore, preparations must be made for such an occurrence.
Whenever I assert that an armed insurgency against the present US regime is not only feasible, but likely to result in the victory of the resistance forces provided they utilize the correct strategy and maintain the proper level of determination, the usual response I get in one of skepticism. I beg to differ. This is a regime that cannot even maintain “law and order” in its capital cities. This is a regime that cannot even maintain order in the event of natural disasters like the New Orleans floods of 2005 or uprisings like the “L.A. Riots” of 1992. In the latter event, the LAPD (the largest and best trained police department in the world) simply turned and ran for cover. The present regime is simply a house of cards that maintains an elaborate smoke and mirrors show as a means of hiding its fundamental weakness and incompetence. If the US military (the largest, most technologically advanced and best equipped in history) can be defeated by rag-tag insurgents in the jungles of Vietnam, mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Baghdad, there is absolutely no military reason why the US regime cannot be defeated in the swamps of the Gulf Coast, the mountains of the midwest or the streets of New York, Los Angeles or Miami. A Vietnam veteran, Bill Bridgewater, describes the possibilities here:
“Is there even a shred of possibility that an armed citizenry could succeed against the strongest military power on Earth today? Perhaps we should review the years 1960-1975 again. The United States blindly stuck its oar in the muddied waters of Viet Nam very shortly after the French got their heads handed to them on a platter and were invited not to be a colonial power in Viet Nam any more.
Finally, we found ourselves in the position of guaranteeing the survival of an independent South Viet Nam when the Northern part of the country made it clear that they were interested in reuniting the country under their particular brand of socialism. For a decade and a half, we changed the leadership of South Viet Nam quite regularly; increased the pressure on the Johnson thumbscrews; bombed, quit, bombed, quit, ad infinitum; quantified the war; and finally turned it into an electronic war. At home we kept telling the citizens that we were just about to win decisively and elected another president to drive crazy with this goofy little war.
Finally the president declared that all was over and the troops could come home. But they did not return home in triumph with the bugles blaring. They came home with their tails between their legs just like every other defeated army in the history of the world. And the reason that they did so, my friends, was that the world’s most powerful nation got its backside severely whipped by a small, backward, agrarian nation who started the war against us with an assortment of ancient bolt-action rifles, no lines of support, no manufacturing base, and no infrastructure that the country absolutely depended upon.
It is not a joke that they made sandals from cut-up truck tires – it’s the truth. They fought the only kind of war they could hope to fight and win successfully – a guerrilla war. They had two good models: the American colonies against the British in our war for independence, and the American Indian wars, where the value of slash-and-run against a superior foe was escalated to a fine art by the world’s finest light cavalry. Twice the North Vietnamese allowed themselves to be suckered into main force set-piece battles, and they got cut into ribbons for doing it. Otherwise, they stuck to General Giap’s plan of guerrilla warfare to the finish. The North finally *did* get to mass their troops and tanks during their final sweep to victory into Saigon.
Why did this happen? Why did the world’s most powerful nation get its teeth kicked in and sent home in disgrace? Because we forgot our very own origins! We forgot that we were the ones who hid behind logs, berms, and bushes and shot British troops and their mercenaries as *targets of opportunity* while denying our opponents a target of any kind. We used the skills of the mountain and plains Indians against an Army that was trained in only one form of combat. We refused to engage in the British methods of combat until we had superior forces and the odds were highly in our favor. General Vo Nuyen Giap did exactly the same thing against us in the 1960s and 1970s while we used our superior firepower and technology to create ten million deaf monkeys and water buffalo. We defoliated tens of thousands of acres of jungle forest to prove that Giap’s troops weren’t there. We constructed every kind of trap known to mankind to capture and destroy divisions of enemy troops where there weren’t any. We very patiently fought a European theater-type of warfare against a steadfast foe who fought a completely different kind of war that simply made our complex weapons systems useless. By inflexibly insisting on doing it our way, we lost the whole shooting match to a man who played it his way and won…”
“…A revolution could be waged against the current American government far easier than you might imagine without careful examination. Consider:
* The sheer numbers of firearms of all kinds in the hands of the American public would have made the American commanders in Viet Nam quake in their boots. We’re not talking junk equipment here, either. The average deer hunter with a .270 or .308 could give a platoon of regular troops more grief than they want. There was a special on the tube recently about military armaments on sale in the black market (including Stingers).
* The population base from which revolutionaries could be recruited is *massive* – 250 million.
* There are literally millions of well-trained men who served as officers and NCOs who learned face-to-face how guerrilla warfare works. They haven’t forgotten it, either.
* There are millions of young men out there with military training and experience with weapons of every conceivable kind, who would make top-quality guerrilla troops.
* Every one of the 100 counties in the state of North Carolina could field at least one full company that would be formidable in capability. If one assumes that North Carolina is no more capable than other states, that could amount to 180 divisions. These potential rebel troops would be fast-moving light infantry, with the capability of melting into the general population when necessary. American military leaders would be in the position of having an inventory of high-tech weapons that they would be dependent upon your son or nephew to use against you. There would be no enemy states in which you could say that any weapon could be used against the rebels. They would be from each and every state and major city.
By the same token, there would be no sanctuary for the federal troops anywhere in the land. No matter where stationed, they would be subject to attack and harassment. The infrastructure on which the federal government depends would be rather easily disrupted by those who live there. Airfields and major lines of communications could be shut down and kept down for days at a time. Disruption of supplies to major bases and to centers of government would be simple. You don’t have to cut them off, just keep them hungry. The federal government would be denied the use of all their major weaponry because they would still “own” the cities and villages. How do you justify bombing your own city just because there is a rebel company in it? One bombing would be the biggest recruiting drive ever for the rebel forces. Now just how powerful do those 12 Army divisions and those three Marine divisions really look to you? Just how scary is the Air Force against America? What will the Navy do, shell all coastal cities? I don’t think so.
One of these days a truly charismatic individual is going to walk out of the heartland of America and point out that the Declaration of Independence has never been repealed and that it *requires* all citizens to rise up against an oppressive government. With the current attitude toward our government and the people who populate it, a massive groundswell of support for throwing the current crop to the dogs and starting over again might not be so difficult. As for the *ability* of the American citizens to successfully wage a guerrilla war on their own government, the likes of which this world has never seen nor contemplated before, I am absolutely convinced that it could be done, and a lot more swiftly than many might believe possible. How many highly-capable long-range snipers can your county put together? “
I have absolutely no doubt that a determined left/right-black/white-libertarian/populist alliance could, if it played its cards right, achieve such a victory. There are over thirty thousand street gangs in America, with their collective membership totaling more than one million people. The nationalist/separatist elements of the various minority groups who would be an essential part of any resistance alliance command the respect of these groups. A nationwide alliance of urban street gangs into a militia/paramilitary force could easily defeat and eliminate municipal police departments loyal to the ruling class. Suburban militias composed of rebellious youth and countercultural radicals organized in a manner similar to Mao’s Red Guards or Colombia’s FARC could easily defeat the rent-a-cops that comprise suburban police departments. Just as the LAPD turned and ran during the “L.A. Riots” so did the suburban SWAT team at the scene of the Colombine massacre in 1999 hide behind ambulances and firetrucks cowering in fear of two teeny-boppers with ordinary household firearms. The principal problem of many of these wayward youth, urban gang members and suburban “school shooters” alike, is that they realize instinctively that they are under attack, but are unable to trace these feelings to their proper source, so they simply take it out on the nearest target, their schools, neighborhoods or each other. What they need is something worthwhile to fight for, like eliminating the present depraved regime and the creation of a superior civilization, one that is liberated from the parasitical albatross of state and capital.
Citizen militias drawn from rural, small town and heartland communities, including within their ranks many military veterans of the Tim McVeigh model, could wage an insurgent war against the US regime in the same manner as the present day insurgents in Iraq. As Tariq Aziz said prior to the US invasion of Iraq:
“People say to me, you (the Iraqis) are not the Vietnamese. You have no jungles and swamps to hide in. I reply, let our cities be our swamps and our buildings our jungles.”
Indeed, these militias, mercenaries, guerrillas, gangs and paramilitaries will be the foundation of the defense forces of our future Jeffersonian-Proudhonian-Bakuninist-Rothbardian federations of anarchies and republics of republics. As Jefferson reminded us:
“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. …And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
Let’s do Uncle Tom proud!