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Topics for debate

Chris George recently offered these comments in response to my “Liberty and Populism: Building an Effective Resistance Movement for North America” essay. Chris raises some really good issues here. I’d like to know what others here might have to say on some of these questions.

On the whole, I think I’m mostly in agreement with the pluralist approach. In some respects I think it might be a little too unfocused on anarchism and more focused on pragmatic decentralism/secessionism. But that’s a minor gripe, considering that what I think needs to transpire first anyway. As a rhetorical tool, I always like to have my end goals remain the unwavering focus.

Some things I didn’t agree with or I’d need more convincing of (mostly public choice critiques):

Use of the political means: I’m all for anarchists “running” in elections as a way of using elections for education or mocking the system, but I’m extremely skeptical of any attempts to win. The worst will rise to the top. Elections, as I view them, are a crutch. I’m not sure if there’s one person that I know who I would trust in any position of political authority. My family who I trust aren’t anarchists and the anarchists I know of aren’t people I know well know enough to trust. The current environment is too vastly populated for us to be successful by any means of manipulation, politics being primary among them.

Secretive leadership: I can see the appeal of secretive anarchist leadership, but it makes me uneasy. Keeping things secret from the State has its benefits but I’m not sure if it’s necessary at this point. But secrecy may result in the State being more able to crackdown or use that secrecy as something to demonize leadership with. Plus, I don’t think there’s any need to keep our ideas hidden from those on the ground. Seems a little too “scientific socialist” to me.

Philosopher kings: I used to hate Plato for this stuff, but I’ve actually become a lot more sympathetic, if not supportive (and if not simply because the foolishness of most people is nauseating). However, I’m not sure how it could be enforced/secured or how people could be selected. The methods of training you suggested I find to be problematic for the same reason all testing for merit has problems. I would say as a matter of practicality that there should be no one with enforceable power over more than 10,000 – 50,000 people (just an arbitrary ballpark). Any kinds of federation meeting, I would hope, would involve several thousand equally empowered delegates.

Violence/Class Conflict: Call me an optimist, but I don’t think that the State could withstand a dramatic ideological shift to anarchism within the population. If it didn’t, then I think defensive violence on the part of workers taking over their workplaces and communities taking over their roads and government buildings may be in order barring any other more practical means, but actually attacking the State and military, I think would be a bad idea. Perhaps I lack the warrior spirit and the petite bourgeoisie criticism definitely applies to me, but I’ve got to look out for my interests as well.

NKM’s tagline “Life is the process of resolving conflicts that have no basis in reality” reflects my opinion that conflicts are mutually destructive and that there are preferable ways of resolving them than through violence, politics, manipulation, fraud, lying, etc. A lot of anarchists take an us against them mentality, but I don’t. For me, the battle is humanity against human institutions that do no good for anyone besides a psychopath here of there.

Also, there was some anti-consumerist/seemingly primitivist elements in there which I have some sympathies for but am mostly against.

Spent most of the time on criticism, but I’m more in agreement than not. Here’s my platform: radical decentralization to an anarchist end point, federation and free trade to libertarian future.

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  1. He and I have a lot of the same concerns, although I’m sympathetic to primitivist and anti-consumerist arguments for their sheer iconoclasm (it’s the personal identification with the technostructure and mass industrial consumerism that bothers me more than the practice itself). I agree that secretive vanguardism is problematic and might simply be a waste of energy and resources. Keith wrote not too long ago about the 30 year cycle of ideological ascendance. Instead of working for revolution now, I’m more concerned about building the new society within the shell of the old. Let new institutions and creative attempts at decentralized, localist solutions be our activism.

    The best thing ARV can do, in my opinion, is to continue to find better and better ways of doing what it’s been doing all along: serve as a breeding ground for ideas and conversations that transcend ideological boundaries. Let’s get away from isms and towards the kinds of consensus that are truly anarcho-pluralist.

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