My critic suggests:
“…my problem with Keith Preston’s approach is not that he suggests identifying and allying with criminalized, marginalized, or lumpen people. My problem is, first, that he has what I consider a disastrously selective view of whose criminalization and marginalization counts as legitimate libertarian concern (=). And, secondly, that he has the wrong idea about what the process of building such an alliance, and the terms on which allies might ally themselves with each other, looks like.
How “selective” am I? These are some the planks in the American Revolutionary Vanguard Twenty-Five Point Program:
1. Recognizing that the United States of America is rapidly degenerating into a totalitarian police state domestically and steadily being brought under the rule of a global corporate state internationally, American Revolutionary Vanguard is established for building a unified resistance front among all groups, organizations and movements opposed to the common enemies.
2. American Revolutionary Vanguard is non-partisan, non-ideological, non-racial and non-denominational. Our allies and supporters may come from any political party, ideological background, ethnic group or religion. We make no distinction on the basis of gender, nationality, sexual identity, physical disabilities, cultural identity, age or class origins.
4. 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.
10. American Revolutionary Vanguard supports the development of cooperatives and guilds for the provision of affordable health care to the poor and workers, care for the sick and elderly, provision of reliable information to consumers and the organizing of tenants in opposition to slumlords and public housing authorities without reliance on statist, classist “zoning” laws, “building codes”, “land use” regulations and other forms of government interference.
14. American Revolutionary Vanguard works for the creation of special organizations for the defense and protection of youth, students, runaways, the homeless, the mentally ill, street vendors and other small-time enteprenuers, prisoners, addicts and prostitutes. These classes of persons are the most victimized and brutalized by the present system and are therefore in need of special assistance and recognition of their plight.
15. American Revolutionary Vanguard works for the abolition of all laws criminalizing consensual adult behaviors including drug laws, gun laws, sex laws, prohibition of alternative medical treatments, prohibition of suicide, seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws, zoning laws, involuntary civil committment and drinking ages. Only acts of physical aggression against other people and their possessions can justly be considered crimes.
16. American Revolutionary Vanguard supports the abolition of jails and prisons which are simply the modern version of slavery. Persons who do minor harms to others should be required to compensate the victims in some way with economic sanctions being the primary means of enforcement. Serious criminals should be sent to separate, penal communities where they will work ordinary jobs, live in ordinary housing, wear ordinary clothes, etc. but pay restitution to compensate victims and finance whatever supervision they may require.
22. American Revolutionary Vanguard seeks dialogue and mutually advantageous cooperation with non-political outlaw organizations including street gangs, motorcycle clubs and prison gangs. We applaud those organizations of this type who have negotiated truces among themselves and who have sought to take up political struggle. We seek similar dialogue and cooperation with non-political, non-governmental clubs, leagues, orders, guilds, unions, fraternities and sororities of every kind.
24.American Revolutionary Vanguard opposes all military aggression by the government of the United States against other nations. The natural allies of American revolutionaries are nationalist, separatist, anti-globalist, populist, anarchist, libertarian and class struggle movements throughout the world. The peoples of the earth who desire sovereignty for themselves are asked to support the struggle of domestic American revolutionaries, whether they be Arabic or Islamic nationalists, European separatists, anarchists or anti-globalists, indigenous peoples everwhere and Latin American rebel forces.
It’s a little hard to imagine what could be more inclusive than this. In the essay “Liberty and Populism” I wrote:
“…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:
- Minimal and decentralized government organized on the basis of community sovereignty and federalism.
- A worker-based, cooperative economy functioning independently of the state, the corporate infrastructure and central banking.
- A radically civil libertarian legal system ordered on the basis of individual sovereignty, individual rights and restitutive justice.
- A neutralist, non-interventionist foreign policy and a military defense system composed of decentralized, voluntary militia confederations.
- A system of cultural pluralism organized on the basis of voluntary association, civil society, localism, regionalism, decentralism and mutual aid.
- 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.”
“…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.”
“…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”.
“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.
Once again, it is difficult to imagine what could possibly be more inclusive than what is outlined above. Racism?
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 muncipalities 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.
Civil liberties, police powers, and incarcerated persons?
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 communted 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.
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.
Now, we would not want to interfere with general free speech rights by prohibiting panhandling. Nor would we want to interfere with geuninely poor or disabled people, runaways kids or others who wish to be peaceful beggars. Nor do we want to kowtow to bourgeoise 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”.
The perspective offered here is far more “liberal” than anything put forth by the Democratic Party or even the Green Party in many instances. Indeed, this outlook could be classified as “rightist” only in the sense that it rejects univeralism, utopianism, and radical egalitarianism, and the necessarily and inevitably totalitarian nature of these. As for the question of “what the process of building such an alliance, and the terms on which allies might ally themselves with each other, looks like”, this is from “Philosophical Anarchism and the Death of Empire“:
Indeed, domestic American politics tends to be driven by single-issue movements and organizations rather than ideological ones. Raw ideology pushers tend to find little success in US politics. With this consideration in mind, the question becomes one of how to best formulate a successful single-issue anti-state movement. Several possible constituents for such a movement have already been discussed. The emergence of a single issue anti-state party or organization that included the agendas of each of the various localist and regionalist movements would likely be a good start. There is no reason why there cannot be a party, or alliance of parties, that simultaneously favors the independence of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Texas, the South, numerous local communities, and religion/ethnicity based separatists like the Nation of Islam, Christian Identity, Aztlan, indigneous peoples and others. Such advocacy of regional/local autonomy should be accompanied by an emphasis on populist structural changes. Norman Mailer’s suggestion of decentralizing the governments of large metropolitan areas down to the neighborhood level coincides nicely with the objective of sovereign townships or county supremacy found in the patriot/constitutionalist milieu.
The efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union to defend the civil rights of all sorts of groups who come under attack from the state, ranging from neo-nazis to pornographers, might also be emulated. There are many such groups who are currently ignored by mainstream political organizations. These include home schoolers, “cults” or marginal religious denominations, intentional communities, so-called “hate” groups, prisoners and their families, opponents of the war on drugs, gun rights militants, tax resisters and many others. It is important to remember that a movement for political decentralization should employ a decentralized strategy. This means that the same tactics will not be appropriate in all situations. For example, anarchists working in urban or metropolitan areas should naturally take a political line that is considerable further to the left than anarchists working in rural areas or among more conservative population groups. The anti-racist/feminist/gay rights cultural paradigm that dominates the modern left might well be applicable in those communities that it is suited for, such as large cities with huge minority populations and where the prevailing values are cosmospolitan in nature. However, this would clearly not be an appropriate model for rural Kansas. For anarchists to persistently push “the right to bear arms” in liberal Connecticutt would probably be a waste of time. For anarchists to agitate for gay causes in small Tennessee towns would likewise be rather futile. So-called “extremists” from all points on the political spectrum might be rallied as the core constituents of the anti-System forces.
It is essential to remember that the anarchist movement itself (properly and constructively organized) is not necessarily a mass movement per se but only the intellectual and activist vanguard of a broader populist movement containing many different tendencies. The role of the anarchists is serve as the coordinating mediators conceived of by Mark Gillespie or the principled militants envisioned by Mikhail Bakunin. The decentralized organizational efforts of the anarchists would necessarily involve a scenario where the character of the anti-System movement varied considerably in its specific ideological, cultural, religious or ethnic orientation on a geographical or institutional basis. Across the American heartland, in the Deep South and in the mountainous regions, the anarchists might assemble a coalition of tax resisters, home schoolers, gun nuts, conspiracy theorists, pro-lifers, Christian fundamentalists, common law enthusiasts, farmers rights advocates, land rights advocates, “cults”, racists, libertarians, militiamen and other elements common to the political culture of rightwing populism. In large metropolitan centers, inner-cities, border areas and coastal regions, a similar coalition might include militants and separatists from the various minority groups, advocates for all sorts of class based social issues (gentrification, housing, environment), gays and other “sexual minorities”, all sorts of countercultural groups, students, street gangs and other official outlaws, communists, left-wing “anarchists” and others.
Among the affluent elements of American society, such as the realm of suburbia, it is probably best if the ranks of the revolutionaries draw heavily from the youth population. Opposition to the great oppressor of youth-the state’s school systems-might be the key issue. It is also important to note that class distinctions in modern liberal democratic states are somewhat more blurred than they may have been in previous times. Any authentic populist revolutionary movement would naturally have to include persons from all class levels. The task of the genuine anarchists, who will always be a small minority, even in Official Anarchist circles, is to coordinate and guide formal and informal alliances among such disparate groups. The kinds of issue and ideology based constituent groups being described here would provide the grassroots base for the broader anarchist agenda. But there remains the question of how to appeal to the broader public. A party/organization that combined local and regional autonomy, defense of social groups under attack by the state, recruited disparate elements from the cultural fringes as its activist/support base and maintained a decentralized infrastructure would also have to develop a populist program for the masses.
What my enemies and critics really object to is my refusal to endorse their program of cultural leftist universalism synthesized with mass immigration (which are incompatible goals anyway, and not particularly radical or anti-establishment goals) and not any lack of “inclusivity.”