Organizing the Urban Lumpenproletariat

For some time now, I have argued for an alliance of left-wing anarchism and right-wing populism against the common enemies of imperialism and Big Brother statism. I have argued that the strategic application of such an alliance would be a pan-secessionist movement rooted in the traditions of the American Revolution and the later Southern War of Independence. Secessionism is often associated with political conservatism, given the greater regard of conservatives for American traditions like states’ rights and the conservative nature of the Southern secession of 1861. Indeed, pro-secessionist rumblings have emerged in the mainstream Right recently. Such developments are a welcome thing, of course, and no doubt a future pan-secessionist movement would have a strong right-wing and radical center constituency behind it. As the middle class continues to sink into the ranks of the underclass, and as the vast array of cultural groups associated with right-wing populism continue to come under attack by the forces of political correctness, no doubt an increasing number of people, including many former jingoists, members of the religious right and one-time neocon sympathizers, will realize that the centralized liberal-managerial regime is their enemy, and decide that a political exodus is their best bet. Certainly, a mass army of secessionists in the rural areas, small towns and red states will be a welcome addition to our cause.

However, I do not think that it is on the Right that the crucial political battles will be fought. The Right represents an agglomeration of political, cultural and demographic factions that are losing power and shrinking in size. Instead, the crucial battles will be fought on the Left. The dominant center-left that is now consolidating its position is a liberal Left that espouses liberal internationalism, universalism, humanism and human rights imperialism, and expresses itself in the form of the therapeutic-managerial-welfare state. However, there is an emerging radical Left that is oriented towards pluralism, postmodernism, cultural relativism, pro-Third Worldism and anti-Zionism. Eventually, there will be a sharp split between these two lefts, as the former is capable of cooptation by state-capitalism, but the latter is not. Take a look at these photos:

Can a radical Left that is fervently anti-Israel and pro-Third World nationalism ever be reconciled with the American ruling class? It is highly unlikely. Furthermore, the spectacle of conservative Muslims, feminists, gays, transgendereds, Marxists, anarchists, leftists, nationalists, national-anarchists, Jews, anti-Semites, racialists, anti-racists, peaceniks and Hamas sympathizers marching against Zionism and U.S. imperialism is not only a potential ruling class nightmare,  but a manifestation of the kind of pluralistic, culturally relativist, cross-ideological alliances against the System that I have been arguing for in the past.

The legitimizing ideological superstructure of the present regime and ruling class, i.e., liberalism, is antithetical to both paleoconservatism from the Right and cultural relativism from the Left, but there is sufficient enough overlap between these latter two as to make strategic alliances possible. We see the beginnings of this in the current alliance between bioregionalist and Green decentralist left-wing secessionists and conservative Christian right-wing secessionists. As left-liberalism continues to become an increasingly status quo and upper middle class ideology, the radical Left will find itself increasingly alienated from liberalism. The more deeply entrenched political correctness becomes, the more it will alienate even many of its former sympathizers.

The real political war of the future will be between not only the liberal-left and the postmodern left, but between the totalitarian and anarchistic left, and the New Class and the underclass. Just as the U.S. Civil War sometimes found members of the same family on different sides of the fence, so will the future political war find members of constituent groups from the contemporary Right and contemporary Left on both sides. If the battle is between liberal universalism and relativist pluralism at the intellectual level, then the natural political expression of the latter would be some kind of decentralized anarcho-pluralism, with its popular form resembling something like left-conservatism or pan-secessionism.

Although most of the actual secessionist movements at present are rooted in the red states or the more maverick blue states like Vermont and New Hampshire, a serious pan-secessionist movement will need to be first and foremost oriented towards the large metropolitan areas. This is where the majority of the U.S. population resides. It is where the plutocratic elites, state bureaucracies and New Class managerialists are located, and it is also where the lumpenproletarian masses are located. The large cities are where the paramilitary police forces are located and they are where most of the residents of the prison-industrial complex originate from.

The goal of a serious pan-secessionist movement whose aim is to overthrow the empire for real should be to obtain political preeminence in large cities as a first order of business. Cities tend to be dominated by the aforementioned plutocratic elites, and by landlords, developers, and well-heeled civic and business interests. These elements are for the most part bought into the System, and can therefore never be converted to our side. So strategically speaking, an urban secessionist strategy will generally have the flavor of plutocratic/bureaucratic elites vs Everyone Else. Recognition of this fact implies the necessity of a class-based radical movement rooted in the lumpenproletariat, petite bourgeoisie, lower respectable poor, lower middle class, bohemians and de classe elements. The goal is to obtain a political majority capable of seizing power at the municipal level in large metro areas. Once political preeminence was obtained in a fair number of cities, a formal alliance of municipal secessionist movements could be formed, and these could form a wider alliance with secessionists among the Red Staters, Greens, indigenous people and so forth. In “Liberty and Populism” I wrote:

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.

There are several reasons for these positions. The first is rooted in recognition that as the Left has abandoned class-based politics in favor of the cultural politics of the left-wing of the upper middle class, it is only natural that we should step in to fill the void. The second is rooted in recognition of a wide assortment of outgroups that have never made it into the Left’s pantheon of the oppressed/victimological coalition, and the possibility of recruiting from these groups in order to increase our own numbers. The third is to undermine liberalism’s claimed monopoly on do-gooderism. A pan-secessionist movement that is seen as the simultaneous champion of the ordinary working poor and the marginalized and persecuted such as the homeless, punk rock squatter kids, mental patients, drug addicts, prisoners, will have a much easier time of deflecting the “fascism and racism” labels that will ultimately be thrown in our direction. The fourth is to undermine liberalism by splintering its constituent groups.

Note that I am not implying anything politically correct here. For instance, while we might uphold the legitimate rights of gay organizations, businesses or individuals that come under attack by the state, and practice non-discrimination within the context  of our own alternative infrastructure radical organizations, this does not mean that we will allow “gay rights” organizations allied with the liberal enemy to dictate who can or cannot be a part of our own movement. Being a primarily lower class movement, it is only natural that many people with conservative views on sex, morality, religion and the like will also be included within our ranks. Likewise, we may support organizational efforts set up to provide genuine assistance to transgendered people (even the Iranians do this), drug addicts, the handicapped, people with AIDS or other special populations, but we do not insist on the universalization of liberalism. For instance, we might also be just as supportive of skinhead squatters as leftist punk rock squatters, national-anarchists as leftist-anarchists, separatist tendencies among redneck white communities along with black separatists. More broadly, the radical movement would vehemently defend all victims of political correctness wherever they can be found just as strongly as we might defend victims of police brutality. We would defend students harassed by school authorities for carrying Bibles or other religious artifacts just as quickly as we would defend students harassed in a similar fashion for wearing “Goth” clothing. While in urban areas at least, we would take an liberal-left-libertarian, ACLU-like approach to cultural and social matters, with some exceptions like our own defense of the right to bear arms, unlike left-liberals we would recognize that controversial social questions like abortion and gay marriage are best handled at the local level according to community standards. While our own worker, tenants, squatter, and prisoner defense organizations would out of necessity be inclusive of both natives and immigrants, even illegal immigrants in some instances, this does not mean we would necessarily accept carte blanche immigration as a matter of principle.

The question of race is a particularly interesting and challenging one. African-American anarchist Mark Gillespie offered this assessment:

Whether you are a homo-leftist-anarcho-syndicalist-voluntary-eco-feminist or a racist-ultra right-wing-neo-conservative-constitutionalist-patriot, both agree that the State, in its current form, is detrimental to their views and lifestyles. In this “society”, these groups are kept from uniting by the activity of the state and its media. However, we know that in anarchy, diversity of views is a strength, not a weakness. We have allowed the State to divide us based upon the most trivial things.

The fact is that, under anarchy, all of these different groups may “have it their way”. If the an-caps want a completely free market economy for themselves and the an-socs want to combine in communes, they can do this better under anarchy than they can now. If the Homo-an-syn-fem (hell of a moniker, yes?) wants to separate from the Neo-con-con-pat or vice versa, they can and do it more peaceably than they can under statism. This is the best weapon of an anarchist vanguard. We can and should embrace the different elements that make up this country. Think about this. If we can embrace just two major groups under the anarchist banner, we could send the statists home, without a shot. The major ethnic groups in this country are the New Worlders (Aboriginal Americans, Blacks and Spanish/Aboriginals) and the Old Worlders (people of mostly European descent). These groups are kept at each other’s throats and socially separated by negative media reports and by institutionalized racism. Reports of rampant crime, lack of morals and mob violence send shivers down the spines of the average, patriotic, “law-abiding”, traditionalist citizens, amongst the Old Worlders. Historic wrongs, appeals to end needed restorative services in the community and a envy for those who seem to do better than them, keeps New Worlders in the grip of a fear that the statists work hard to instill. Neither one of these groups are necessarily wrong, but, their fears and hatred, spread and protected by the weapons of the state, virtually ensures that these two major groups will meet together, only when they are pointing guns at each other.

The New Worlders make up a combined 25.7 percent of the nation’s population (approximately 72 million people). Let’s assume that the mostly Old Worlder patriot movement makes up about 3 percent of the white population (approximately 6.5 million). With these numbers, and a properly educated and motivated anarchist vanguard, there are at least 32 different states that are immediately vulnerable to a takeover and disbanding of the state government (based upon a population of less than 5 million/state) and any state in the union is vulnerable to a gradual takeover.

Something like 32 states and maybe 50 major cities sounds about right. I’m also inclined towards the view that an anti-state, pan-secessionist revolutionary movement would actually have a disproportionately high number of racial and ethnic minorities. Of course, even this would not stop our enemies from throwing the “racist and fascist” label in our direction. Of course, the proper response to such accusations would not be persistent denial and attempts at clarification but a simple middle finger. But while we should not treat the politically correct classes with anything but contempt, it does seem natural that a pan-secessionist alliance would indeed include many ethnic sub-tendencies, for instance, blacks in inner-cities, indigenous people in Hawaii, Alaska, the western plains or on reservations, Puerto Ricans independencias, Muslim or Arab enclaves in Michigan, Hasidic, Asian neighborhoods in large cities, or Indian Quebecois separatists, majority Aztlan local communities in the Southwest,  and perhaps even revolutionary organizations within Mexico itself.  Indeed, the pan-secessionist revolutionary organizations might even form tactical alliances with insurgent forces in Central and South American countries or in the Middle East such as Hezbollah or the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. After all, it is the empire that is our common enemy. None of this is inconsistent with our insistence on the sovereignty of nations against imperialism, communities against statism, and individuals within the context of freedom of association.

An urban, lumpenproletarian revolutionary movement would be unlike anything that has come before. It would be socially conscious out of the recognition of the economic circumstances of the lower classes and the social conditions of a wide array of marginal population groups. Yet it would shun the political correctness of the liberal upper-middle class and cultural and intellectual elites, and no doubt have a conservative and libertarian as well as progressive dimension to its character.

14 replies »

  1. So what stands between this analysis and bringing such a movement together in the real world? Any thoughts on how we get there, where we start, etc.?

  2. The two most obvious things needed are leadership and personnel. I think what Norman Mailer did in NYC in ’69 is a good model to draw on. Two, three, fifty Norman Mailers!

    Maverick candidates running symbolic campaigns on a secessionist platform, featuring Carson’s economics and other decentralist ideas, in large cities would probably be as effective a promotional tactic as anything. Here’s another example:


    David Letterman’s hate is as old as some ancient Hebrew prophets.
    Speaking of anti-Semitism, it’s Jerry Falwell and other fundy leaders who’ve gleefully predicted that in the future EVERY nation will be against Israel (an international first?) and that TWO-THIRDS of all Jews will be killed, right?
    Wrong! It’s the ancient Hebrew prophet Zechariah who predicted all this in the 13th and 14th chapters of his book! The last prophet, Malachi, explains the reason for this future Holocaust that’ll outdo even Hitler’s by stating that “Judah hath dealt treacherously” and “the Lord will cut off the man that doeth this” and asks “Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?”
    Haven’t evangelicals generally been the best friends of Israel and persons perceived to be Jewish? Then please explain the recent filthy, hate-filled, back-stabbing tirades by David Letterman (and Sandra Bernhard and Kathy Griffin) against a leading evangelical named Sarah Palin, and explain why most Jewish leaders have seemingly condoned Palin’s continuing “crucifixion”!
    While David, Sandra, and Kathy are tragically turning comedy into tragedy, they are also helping to speed up and fulfill the Final Holocaust a la Zechariah and Malachi, thus helping to make the Bible even more believable!
    (For even more stunning information, visit MSN and type in “Separation of Raunch and State” and “Bible Verses Obama Avoids.”)

  4. Keith Preston should write more stuff like this and Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy and less stuff about how totally awesome white separatism is and how we need to purge them dirty leftists from our movement beyond left and right.

  5. Thanks. Glad you liked those two particular essays.

    The question is not whether “white separatism is totally awesome” but whether to what degree white nationalists raise legitimate issues that merit consideration, and to what degree those who prefer “white separatism” for themselves are compatible with the libertarian-anarchist paradigm. I just had a post on that:

    I am not for purging leftists from a left/right libertarian-populist movement to oppose the state and state-allied institutions. Instead, I am for purging those among the left who vehemently oppose blurring the left/right distinction and act as a disruptive and obscurantist force towards those of us who attempt to do so. Here’s how I summarized the problem on Royce Christian’s blog:

    “The biggest point of contention between my camp and yours seems to be that I believe that to build an effective anti-state movement it is necessary to collaborate with political groups and organize among populations with decidedly un-PC views on any number of issues. Your side apparently regards that as the equivalent of blasphemy. In other words, your side regards the standard laundry list of PC cultural values as trumping other concerns. That’s a conviction that I do not share.”

    My criticism of the left is simple and straightforward: The Left has become so focused on cultural politics, lifestyle issues, and liberal pet causes that it has become utterly toothless as an opposition force to the state, plutocracy, the ever-growing police state, and the empire. These are things that affect everyone, and not just narrow interest groups. Besides, there is the question of the pervasive statism that has always existed in many corners of the Left and the history of leftist-sponsored bloodshed and repression. My criticism is that the anti-authoritarian left (much of it, anyway) at present waxes hysterical over social and cultural conservatives, but treats left-wing authoritarianism as virtually a non-issue, even though the former is declining and the latter is growing in influence.

    As for the Infamous Essay that you are obviously referring to, see this post from the No Treason site for an accurate interpretation of that essay:

  6. Fantastic essay. Few things though:

    1) Not all NAACP groups are created equal. The national chapter is a joke, no doubt. However, different local chapters are more radical than others. If it wasn’t for the Cincinnati NAACP’s work here, we’d probably have another private prison locking up members of the working class. They’ve also taken a position that puts them at odds with the liberal elite (Center city development “non-profits”)

    2) Any “anarchist” who wants to organize the urban proletariat needs to have a clear agenda of economic development, even if it’s small.

    3) The Black Panthers, by far, had the best model for organizing the American working class populations. (And not just Blacks, either) This kind of goes with #2, but it is imperative to offer something the community needs outside of politics. Whether it be breakfast for kids, health care, whatever. (I even heard about a Winston-Salem chapter that offered ambulance services) Taking this model and bringing it into a 21st century paradigm is imperative. This is where I believe that new developments in urban agriculture and desktop manufacturing will fit into place. This leads me to #4

    4) “The contemporary shanzhai are rebellious, individualistic, underground, and self-empowered innovators….They [are] individualistic in the sense that they have a visceral dislike for the large companies; many of the shanzhai themselves used to be employees of large companies (both US and Asian) who departed because they were frustrated at the inefficiency of their former employers.” I don’t care what any old head says about the “hopeless” youth today, but this attitude runs rampant in Black youth to some degree. This is what we need to tap into before the arrogant corporations make their move on desktop manufacturing technologies. (Look what happened to the Electric car)

  7. Miles,

    ““The contemporary shanzhai are rebellious, individualistic, underground, and self-empowered innovators….They [are] individualistic in the sense that they have a visceral dislike for the large companies; many of the shanzhai themselves used to be employees of large companies (both US and Asian) who departed because they were frustrated at the inefficiency of their former employers.”

    Where did you pull that quote from?

    Also, are you familiar with Lorenzo Komboa Ervin’s “Anarchism and the Black Revolution”? If so, what’s your assessment of it? It’s online here:

    I met him about ten years ago when I was really starting to develop my current left/right populist-libertarian-anarchist positions. I explained some of my ideas to him at the time and while he wasn’t jumping with enthusiasm he didn’t seem particularly hostile and was curious about what I had to say.

    I think he outlines a general framework for insurgency by the urban black lumpenproletariat that is right on target, though I differ from him a bit on a lot of the details of his analysis. For instance, I think he relies too heavily on Marxist and neo-Marxist economic theory, particularly in his dismissal of mutualism and other forms of market anarchism as middle class. Also, he’s a bit vague on how his own brand of anarcho-communism would actually work in practice, and how it would be implemented and maintained without a state. Lorenzo also seems a bit influenced by the neo-Marxist/Maoist view of the white working class as an “aristocracy of labor” which I think is a somewhat dubious and strategically destructive claim. He also veers off into Chomsky-like “anarcho-social democracy” at times with his ideas on transitional stages from state-capitalism to anarcho-communism. I see some serious problems with some of his analysis of certain social questions, and I’m sure he would dismiss criticisms of PC as right-wing sour grapes. At times with him, it’s difficult to tell where the socialism and racialism end and where the anarchism begins.

    But like I said, that’s all in the details. I think his general framework of class struggle rooted in the urban lumpenproletariat is right on, even if I disagree a bit on the direction to take it in. And what I find most interesting is his effort to synthesize anarchist ideology with Black Panther ideology. That part of his thought is priceless.

    • Good points. First, the very esnitexce of the government is an initiation of force against me because I have to pay taxes to support it. Literally, simply by existing they must pilfer at least some of what I produce, which makes me a part time slave to the social state. Would you still be opposed if taxes were voluntary? Or if the only tax was a consumption tax for goods purchased/sold within the sphere of protection offered by the government? Perhaps, though, if taxes were voluntary, we would not longer be speaking of a true government any more.VN:F [1.9.7_1111]please wait…(1 vote cast)

  8. The quote is from a Kevin Carson article over at the P2P Foundation…but it’s not from Carson himself.

    Lorenzo is def. an influence on me, but your criticisms of his theory is right on. I’m more influenced by Ashanti Alston who at least recognized that it was market anarchists (Particularly Rothbard and Karl Hess) that recognized the strength of black nationalism rather than their left counterparts. Regarding his call for allies, I would add in hackers/DIY entrepreneurs. Critics can regard mutualism as “middle class” all they want, but this usually just comes from anarcho communists who are obsessed with ideology. To be fair, for practical reasons, I just don’t see anarcho social democracy as viable nor anywhere near about to succeed in the American arena.

    Synthesizing anarchism with Black Panther ideology isn’t too far off from its origins. Many Black Panthers were not Marxist… a good amount weren’t even nationalists.

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