“Certain attitudes derived from the New Left and the so-called counter-culture permeated neo-anarchism and had a deleterious effect upon it. Chief among these was elitism. It was the common belief among the New Left that the majority of the population were “coopted”, “sold-out”, “racist” and “sexist”. For the hippie-left, most people were considered to be beer-swilling, short-haired rednecks. Much of this youthful hostility was directed against their parents and hence was more of an expression of adolescent rebellion than political insight. With the exception of those who opted for anarcho-syndicalism, most neo-anarchists carried this contemptuous attitude with them. The majority was written-off as hopelessly corrupted and this attitude still continues today. Such contempt is in complete contrast to classical anarchism, which even at its most vanguardist, saw itself as only a catalyzer or spokesman for the masses. While rejecting the majority, they became infatuated with minorities. The New Left, scorning workers, turned to racial minorities and the “poor” as possible agents of social change. Native people, prisoners, drop-outs, homosexuals, all have been given a high profile, virtually to the exclusion of the rest of the population.”
-Larry Gambone, Sane Anarchy, 1995
A recent article in the Intelligence Report, the journal of the state-connected, crony-capitalist, cop-friendly, “private” espionage and surveillance agency known the Southern Poverty Law Center remarked: “Unifying anarchists has been likened to herding cats. But if there is one theme that most anarchists will rally around, it is that of stamping out racism, especially organized racism driven by white nationalist ideology. Many younger anarchists are members of Anti-Racist Action, a national coalition of direct-action “antifa” (short for “anti-fascist”) groups that confront neo-Nazis and racist skinheads in the street, often resulting in violence.”
And what do these anarchists have to show for all of this “anti-racist” zealotry? How well are these anarchists regarded by actually existing people of color for their efforts? An item that has recently been circulating in the anarchist milieu with the revealing title, “Smack a White Boy, Round Two“, demonstrates just how much “solidarity” is felt towards the mostly, white, middle-class, left-anarchist movement by the supposed beneficiaries of its anti-racism:
Dread locked white punks, crusties with their scabies friends, and traveling college bros swarmed a space on the dividing line of gentrification in the Bloomfield/Garfield/Friendship area late July 2009 in Pittsburgh for the annual CrimethInc convergence. Whereas previous CrimethInc convergences had been located deep in wooded areas, this particular one took place in a poor, black neighborhood that is being pushed to the borders by entering white progressive forces.
There were those that had experienced CrimethInc’s oppressive culture and people for years and others who had experienced enough oppression after just a few days. Our goals were to stop CrimethInc, their gentrifying force, and to end the convergence right then and there for all that they had done.
Just a few blocks away, eight anarchist/autonomous/anti-authoritarian people of color* gathered to discuss a direct confrontation. We arrived from different parts of these stolen lands of the Turtle Island. Some came from the Midwest, some from the Northeast, some born and raised in Pittsburgh. Altogether we represented 7 different locations, half of us socialized as female a variety of sizes, skin color, with identities of queers, trans, gender-queers, gender variants, and womyn. With little time and a desire for full consensus, we quickly devised a plan.
The majority of the CrimethInc kids were in the ballroom on the second floor watching and participating in a cabaret. A group of us began gathering attendees’ packs, bags, shoes, banjos, and such from the other rooms on the second floor and moving it all down the hallway towards the stairs. We had gone pretty unnoticed, mostly due to lack of lighting.
Once those rooms had been emptied, it was time for the main event. We gathered at the ballroom’s doorway furthest from the stairs following the final act of the cabaret.
On the count of three. One, two, three!” one APOCista said.
Get the fuck out!”, we all shouted.
And the eviction began. One apocer began reading ‘An Open Letter to White Radicals/Progressives’, while the others began yelling at the attendees to gather their things and leave. Irritated by their continued inaction after about 10 minutes or so, one of the people involved in the action shouted,
This is not an act! Get your shit, or we’ll remove it for you!”
So much for the claims of anarchists to be exemplars of multicultural brotherly love. Now, before I get to other questions, let me say that I actually think the “Anarchist People of Color” group who carried out this “eviction” had a point. Many white leftists and progressives do indeed regard non-whites as children in need of rescue by enlightened folks such as themselves, and often assume a paternalistic attitude when dealing with people of color. And while I’m not so sure that “gentrification” by white anarchist kids is quite on the level of gentrification by upper-middle class, affluent, professional people organized into state-connected “civic organizations” and “business associations”, and operating in collusion with crony-capitalist “developers”, the overall point is still well-taken. Gentrification does indeed frequently assume the character of a kind of urban imperialism, and white, middle-class “progressives” who never tire of wearing their racial liberalism on their sleeves are often at the forefront of such efforts. Indeed, it might be argued that gentrification serves the same purpose in modern urban societies as the dispossession of native or indigenous peoples’ in frontier or colonial societies, i.e., naked robbery carried out under the banner of enlightenment, progress, paternalism or cultural and class chauvinsim. Some would go even further and argue that mass immigration serves a similar purpose, e.g., economic and cultural dispossession of the indigenous poor and working class in order to provide labor for capitalists, clients for social services bureaucrats and voters for political parties and ethnic lobbies. But that might be “racism”.
The obsession with “racism” exhibited by modern leftists appears to be rooted in a number of things. Some are the obvious, e.g., the political, cultural and intellectual backlash against such horrors as Nazism, South African apartheid, “Jim Crow” in the American South, the Vietnam War and other manifestions of extreme colonialism. Another is the need for the radical Left to find a new cause once the horrors of Communism were revealed. Still another is the universalist ethos that emerged from Enlightenment rationalism. Yet another is the adolescent rebellion against society mentioned by Gambone. And another is the quasi-Christian moralism exhibited by many left-wingers: “Love thy exotically colored neighbor.”
It’s like this, my fellow anarchist comrades: World War Two is over. Hitler is dead. George Wallace is dead. Bull Conner is dead. Jim Crow has been relegated into the dustbin of history. Apartheid is finished, and Nelson Mandela eventually became South Africa’s head of state. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the United States now has a black President. Many of the largest American cities have black-dominated governments. In the wider society, “racism” has become the ultimate sin, much like communism or homosexuality might have been in the 1950s. By continuing to beat the dead horse of “white supremacy”, anarchists are simply making our movement look like fools.
No doubt many reading this will raise the issues of the high rates of imprisonment among blacks and Hispanics, police brutality, the medical neglect of illegal immigrants in detention centers, or the high unemployment rates in American inner cities. Do you really think that no whites have ever been adversely affected by these things? Do you think there are no whites in jail or prison for frivolous reasons? Who receive shoddy medical care? Who are adversely affected by state-capitalism and plutocratic rule? Who are subject to police harrassment or violence, or who are shabbily treated by agents or bureaucrats of the state? Who are subject to social ostracism because of their class, culture, religion or lifestyle?
There is certainly nothing wrong with opposing the genuine oppression of people of other races or colors, and many anarchists and other radicals engage in laudable displays of support for the people of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tibet, Latin America, and indigenous ethnic groups who are subjected to occupation or imperialist aggression. Yet, the obsession with “racism” found among many Western radicals has become pathological in nature. Whenever I encounter these “anti-racism” hysterics, I am reminded of the cultic, fundamentalists religious sects, where no amount of devotion to the cause is ever good enough. Go to church three times a week? Not good enough, you need to be there six times a week. And there is little doubt that the war between Anarchist People of Color and Crimethinc will produce a great deal of “What are we doing wrong, us shitty white supremacists?” self-flagellation among many”anti-racist” left-anarchists.
This obsession with “racism” on the part of many anarchists might be worth it if it had the effect of recruiting or converting many thousands or millions of people of color to our cause. Yet, the simple truth is that decades of anti-racism hysteria has produced an anarchist movement that is as white as it ever was. This does not mean that there are never any non-whites to be found in anarchist circles. Of course there are. But are they representative of the cultural norms of the ethnic or racial groups from where they came? Not in my experience. Instead, the relatively small number of people of color who can be found in North American anarchist circles are usually immigrants from other places, or products of ethnic minority cultures that have assimilated into a wider white culture, for instance, blacks who grew up in white middle-class neighborhoods or minorities who participate in white youth subcultures, like punk rock. Honestly speaking, what would a typical African-American or Latino think if they wandered into the standard anarchist discussion group and found themselves in the midst of the usual anarchist banter about “racism”? What would they think, other than, “What a bunch of freaks!”
This does not mean that anarchists should become “pro-racist”. It simply means that it would be more productive if anarchists would simply re-orient themselves towards the ostensible purpose of anarchism, i.e., “a political philosophy encompassing theories and attitudes which consider the state, as compulsory government, to be unnecessary, harmful, and/or undesirable, and promote the elimination of the state or anarchy.” I recently came across a Facebook page with the heading “The Other Anarchists” which described itself thus: “For those who wish to see the state abolished, but are not nihilists, terrorists, or idiots. Including some: free market anti-capitalists, anarcho-capitalists, anarcho-monarchists, voluntaryists, social anarchists, Christian anarchists, Green anarchists, and our fellow travelers ( [non-violent] Luddites, paleoconservatives, minarchists, left-conservatives, retroprogressives, and the like).”
This would seem to be about right. Perhaps we can work with the nihilists and terrorists, but the idiots really need to be shown the door. What should anarchists do about “racism”? Just forget about it. Yes, you read that right and if you need more elaboration, watch this. And this. Many anarchists engage in many worthwhile projects that many different kinds of people can benefit from, like antiwar activism, labor solidarity, prisoner defense, support for the homeless, resistance to police brutality, the protection of animals from cruelty, environmental preservation, alternative media or alternative education. These are issues that transcend color lines. Just stick to these and let “people of color” work out their own problems for themselves.
The APOC/Crimethinc battle may well be indicative of what the future of the political Left will be. I have predicted before that the center-left will be dominant in American politics for the next several decades due to demographic, cultural and generational change in U.S. society. It is widely predicted that the non-white populations will collectively outnumber whites in the U.S. by the 2040s. As the non-white population grows due to demographic trends and large-scale immigration, and as class divisions widen, there is likely to be a split within liberalism between the mostly white, upper middle class, cultural progressives and the mostly black and Hispanic lower classes, which include many persons with more conservative views on social questions like gender roles, abortion, homosexuality and religion.
A Zogby poll taken last year concerning the level of public sympathy for the matter of secession indicated that the principal source of support for genuinely radical ideas (like separatism) comes not from the “far right” or backwoods militiamen but from young, unemployed, uneducated blacks and Hispanics in the heavily populated areas of the U.S.. In a few decades, the crumbling U.S. empire and its liberal-capitalist-multiculturalist elites and affluent classes may well be facing an insurgency by the expanded non-white underclass. There are an estimated one million urban gang members in the U.S., mostly blacks and Hispanics, and these are organized into thousands of armed groups. Are these not a domestic American version of the “fourth generation” insurgent movements that exist in other parts of the world like Latin America or the Middle East?
What will be the condition of American society in the decades ahead as the liberal-capitalist-multiculturalist ruling class begins to lose its grip and is faced with an insurgency by the black and Hispanic underclass? What should be the response of the mostly white anarchist movement to such a turn of events? How should the anarchist movement seek to handle such a scenario? Play your cards wrong and you’ll end up in a situation infinitely worse than that faced by Crimethinc.
The anarchist milieu needs to re-think its positions concerning racial matters. Continuing to perpetrate anti-racism hysteria year after year, decade after decade, is a dead end. There is zero evidence that such a stance will bring the masses of North American blacks and Hispanics into our ranks, and much compelling evidence that such efforts are futile, foolish and counterproductive. For many years, the anarchist movement’s obsession with “social issues” has been a distraction from what ought to be the primary objective of anarchism, i.e., the abolition of the state. This is not to say that anti-statism is the only value, or that anarchists should not be concerned with other matters. It does mean that a more constructive stance on certain questions should be pursued.
For one thing, it might be helpful if anarchists would display an interest in issues other than run of the mill left-wing causes like those involving race, gender, sexual orientation, ecology and the like. Why are anarchists not involved in the movement for the defense of the right to keep and bear arms? In a sensible anarchist movement, there would be anarchists sitting on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association. Why are anarchists not involved in the various movements for local or regional autonomy, or secession by states and communities? Certainly, such efforts should fit well with the supposed anarchist emphasis on decentralization.
What might be a more sensible approach to racial and cultural differences than the hysterical approach currently taken? A venerable American tradition is one of “separation of church and state.” This is a tradition that has worked quite well throughout U.S. history. Individual Americans are largely free to practice or not practice whatever religion they wish. Yes, fringe religious groups like the Branch Davidians are sometimes subject to persecution. Yes, state laws such as the ban on the use of psychedelic drugs impedes powerless groups like certain indigenous tribes from practicing their religion. Yes, children from sects whose tenants prohibit certain medical practices are sometimes forcibly subjected to such practices. Yes, religious do-gooders sometimes wish to use the force of the laws to suppress activities deemed immoral, like gambling, vice or alcohol. But for the most part, most people practice their religion or non-religion of choice most of the time with very little interference from either the state, or from society at-large. Compare this with the situation in, say, Saudi Arabia or North Korea, and it can be determined that “separation of church and state” is a system that works quite well. Research shows, for instance, that atheists are a minority group that is more widely disliked than any of the groups championed by the Left: blacks, immigrants, homosexuals, Muslims. Yet atheists, of whom I am one, are hardly an “oppressed minority” but an intellectually and culturally elite group who are heavily represented within the ranks of leading scientists, philosophers, academics, journalists, authors, artists and entertainers. As far back as 1910, Thomas Edison was able to proclaim his heretical religious views with to the New York Times with impunity.
I submit that the appropriate attitude for anarchists to take concerning racial and cultural matters is one of “separation of race and state” or “separation of culture and state.” Within such a context, all state legislation or regulation concerning race and culture would be eliminated, and individuals and groups would be able to engage in whatever racial or cultural practices they wished within the context of their own voluntary associations. Just as some religious organizations or institutions are very conservative or exclusionary in nature, and others are very liberal and inclusive, so might some racial or cultural organizations and institutions be similarly conservative or liberal, exclusionary or inclusive. For instance, the Anarchist People of Color and other like-minded groups could have their own schools, communities, neighborhoods, commercial enterprises and other institutions where white folks are verboten. Likewise, the Nation of Islam, Aztlan Nation, evangelical Christians, Mormons, paleoconservatives, or “national-anarchists” might also have their own homogenous communities as well. Feminists and queers might implement similar arrangments for themselves.
As I have said before, we need a “revolution within anarchism itself”. We need an anarchist movement that is not just an all-purposes leftist movement, but a movement that has abolition of the state as its central focus, and an approach to matters of race, culture, religion and so forth that is workable in a highly diverse society. This renovated anarchist movement would shift its focus towards the building of autonomous, voluntary communties, reflecting a wide assortment of cultural, economic or ideological themes, within the context of a wider pan-separatist ethos who principle enemy is the overarching state. It should be understood that severe and irreconcilable differences among different kinds of people will inevitably arise, and that such differences are best managed according to the principle of “peace through separatism.” As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn observed: “The ideological and philosophical struggles, which can neither be suppressed nor made an organic part of the governmental machine, have to be relegated to the private sphere of society.”