Critique of the Alternative Right from an "Anti-Fascist" Leftist 12

This is pretty good. It’s a much more objective, analytical, and intelligently written examination of the Alternative Right than what is typical among most “ant-fascist” types.  Some highlights with my comments:

Paleoconservatives don’t have a mass following or much in the way of institutional power these days, but they do have a fairly lively intellectual scene. The defenders of Western civilization offer a number of competently written, well-produced journals, websites, and blogs, and a whole cohort of younger writers along with older, more established figures. Some of what they have to say is the same old predictable poison, but there is also some genuine political ferment going on, with ideas from other sources (tribalism and national anarchism, the European New Right, black conservatism, even the Left) contributing to comradely debate.

In some ways, I think the Alternative Right is something new and a step above old-fashioned paleoconservatism. It brings a lot of residual paleo influences with it, but its evolved past paleoconservatism in some ways as well. Its adherents tend to be younger, less religious, less attached to more standard forms of conservatism, and more radical in their thinking than the paleocons of the 1980s and 1990s or even more recently. “Post-paleo” is a term I’ve seen thrown around to describe the Alternative Right.  Even today, I’ve noticed something of a generation gap among younger and older adherents of the Alternative Right.

Keith Preston’s role as an AltRight contributing editor is significant in itself. A former Love and Rage member who still calls himself an anarchist, Preston advocates a revolutionary alliance of rightist and leftist libertarians against the U.S. empire and writes prolifically through his blog, Attack the System, and other rightist outlets such as Taki’s Magazine.

This is an accurate description of myself except that I never actually belonged to the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. I was at their founding conference in Chicago in 1989, and the idea at the time was for Love and Rage to simply be a publication for North American leftist-anarchists, not an actual political organization. The organization didn’t emerge until a few years later. I actually broke with that project after the conference, believing that it was being dominated by authoritarian leftists motivated by the usual paradigm of left-wing identity politics and who had a very limited understanding of or commitment to the anarchist position. I actually became somewhat notorious in the North American anarchist milieu as a “Love and Rage”-basher for a brief time around 1990. Eventually, that group split up when their “leader” decided to turn the organization into a Marxist-Leninist sect, so apparently my criticisms were well-founded.

And as this brief sampling of writings from AlternativeRight.com shows, some paleocons are also listening to other movements and rethinking old ideas. The fact that many AltRight contributors are involved in a range of other publications and political initiatives indicates that this is not an isolated development. To varying degrees, this same political ferment can be seen on other paleocon websites such as Taki’s Magazine and The Occidental Quarterly. More broadly, a dynamic interplay between paleocon and revolutionary forms of white nationalism can be seen on sites such as Attack the System, Occidental Dissent and American Third Position.

Attack the System is Anarchist in its ideological orientation, and not white nationalist. Occidental Dissent and American Third Position are explicitly white nationalist in nature. What sets Attack the System apart from other anarchist tendencies is its rejection of both the Old Left classical socialist dichotomy pitting proletarians against bourgeoisie or the New Left dichotomy pitting traditional outgroups against traditional WASP society. Instead, Attack the System holds to the radically anti-statist outlook of traditional anarchism within the context of a contemporary political and cultural analysis similar to what James Kalb uses to describe the Alternative Right: “In America today, Catholic trads, constitutionalists, libertarians, and HBD fans all count as conservative, I suppose because they all object to the omnicompetent PC managerial state and take a more laissez faire and less radically egalitarian approach to a lot of issues.”

Attack the System identifies the managerial state, its totalitarian humanist legitimating ideology, its left-wing of the plutocracy, rising upper middle class, and New Class socio-economic orientation, and, in the case of the United States, the American empire and wider body of international institutions that are a manifestation of the empire as the primary enemy, rather than simply “the bourgeoisie” as historically understood or the usual laundry list of Isms, Archies, and Phobia attacked by the modern Left. This obviously puts us in the same camp as much of the Alternative Right on a good number of issues and, by extension, we overlap with much of ordinary paleoconservatism, right-wing populism, and even white nationalism as well.  But that’s not the whole story. We also overlap considerably with the “alternative left” to the degree that there is one, and many of the previously identified ten core demographics involve populations, ideas, or issues way outside of any kind of right-wing paradigm.  Properly understood, Anarchist class theory is populist rather than Marxist in nature, meaning that Anarchism conceives of political struggle in terms of “The People vs The State” (and institutional entities or class groupings allied with the state) rather than mere employers of wage labor or owners of means of production. Historically, Anarchists have been everything from dissident aristocrats or even nobility (like Kropotkin) to peasants or common criminals. In a contemporary American society, Anarchists and their allies and/or constituents could theoretically include both white nationalists concerned about escalating institutional discrimination against whites or high crime rates in minority communities, and black nationalists concerned about economic devastation inflicted on black communities by state and corporate policies, police murder and brutality inflicted on blacks, or the high rate of imprisonment of blacks in the prison-industrial complex. The constituents for Anarchism could include religious conservatives who wish to simply practice their religion within the context of their homes, businesses, churches, private schools, or alternative media, without being bothered by the dictates of PC or the intrusions of the Nanny State, and it could also include libertines who wish to set up brothels and opium dens without being subject to repression under prohibition laws.  All of these perspectives are compatible with the Anarchist paradigm. Those who find this baffling are simply stuck in old ways of thinking.

12 comments

  1. Very good stuff. Thank you for writing your responses, cause I was thinking the same thing when I was reading the article. It’s a pretty unfortunate tendency to associate ATS with explicit white nationalism, and especially when people mistake tribalism for racial supremacism.

  2. I think what’s going on with the WN association is that racial nationalism is, to many people, the most shocking, sensational, and taboo of political positions, and so it sticks in their minds while all the other components of anarcho-pluralism are more easily forgotten. It’s the same sort of selective attention bias that makes sensationalistic news stories more memorable than the thousands of other more statistically significant events that take place.

  3. “It’s a pretty unfortunate tendency to associate ATS with explicit white nationalism, and especially when people mistake tribalism for racial supremacism.”

    Right! American Third Position and The Occidental Quarterly are basically just old-fashioned, reactionary, 1920s-style racialism (like Madison Grant and Lorthrup Stoddard at the more intellectual level, or like Wilmot Robertson’s “The Dispossessed Majority”). Tribalism overlaps with indigenous peoples movements around the world, and neo-tribalism overlaps with left-wing communitarianism in many ways. I think National-Anarchism has more in common with these than with old-fashioned reactionary racists. It’s the European component of NA that throws everyone off.

    “I think what’s going on with the WN association is that racial nationalism is, to many people, the most shocking, sensational, and taboo of political positions, and so it sticks in their minds while all the other components of anarcho-pluralism are more easily forgotten.”

    Well, that’s certainly true of the radical Left sectors that are always attacking us. While psychological dislocations from perceived violations of taboos obviously contribute these kinds of reactions, there’s also a strong ideological component as well. This video of Tim Wise commenting on the election is a good example:

    What Wise seems to believe is that old, conservative, whiteys are the root of all evil and when they finally die out society will be paradise. Apparently, he thinks no one of any other race or color or any white person with left-wing political views is capable of oppressing anyone or engaging in tyranny. What about Charles Taylor, Samuel Doe, the Duvaliers, Fidel Castro, or Kim Jong-il? What about Robespierre, Lenin, or Stalin? Also, he seems to associate “progress” and “social justice” with the expansion of the state into more areas of society. He also seems to think that all people who are not old, conservative, whites have the same values, the same political views, and the same interests. I wonder how this fellow fits into that paradigm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig2JJulsD10&feature=share

  4. “Right! American Third Position and The Occidental Quarterly are basically just old-fashioned, reactionary, 1920s-style racialism (like Madison Grant and Lorthrup Stoddard at the more intellectual level, or like Wilmot Robertson’s “The Dispossessed Majority”). Tribalism overlaps with indigenous peoples movements around the world, and neo-tribalism overlaps with left-wing communitarianism in many ways. I think National-Anarchism has more in common with these than with old-fashioned reactionary racists. It’s the European component of NA that throws everyone off.”

    It was actually sympathy for indigenous people’s struggles that got me interested in NA and anarcho-pluralism in the first place, as the next logical step is to extend the same respect to the indigenous peoples of Europe. The private rhetoric of some NAs still turns me off sometimes, but c’est la vie – everyone who comes into this alternative-anarchist paradigm will be carrying some baggage with them.

  5. When I first discovered NA, it seemed to me to be the antidote to the conventional racist/anti-racist dichotomy. Too much white nationalism carries the usual baggage with it, and leftist “anti-racism” often spills over into totalitarian statism and racism against whites and indigenous Europeans. Self-determination for all peoples within an anti-imperialist and anti-statist framework seems to be a preferable alternative to either one of the other two perspectives.

    “The private rhetoric of some NAs still turns me off sometimes, but c’est la vie – everyone who comes into this alternative-anarchist paradigm will be carrying some baggage with them.”

    Yes, agreed. That’s why I push the “separation of race and state” concept modeled on the church/state separation idea. In practice, NA, neotribalism, ethno-communitarianism or whatever we want to call it would work best if the state were simply removed from racial/ethnic issues altogether, and different ethno-cultural or ethno-religious “tribes” simply had their own institutional forms, private organizations, voluntary associations, and independent communities that included economic self-determination.

    I think one reason the left-anarchist anti-racists get so upset about this idea is they identify it with systems like South African apartheid, Nuremberg racial laws, or Jim Crow. But those systems were the polar opposite of what I’m proposing. Those were systems that were essentially situations where one ethnic nation is ruling over another one tyrannically. What I have in mind is something more like the Swiss canton system, the local communes of Luxemborg, or Norman Mailer’s proposed system of neighborhood sovereignty for New York City. A lot of leftists also tend to view this system as something where people are putting up electric fences and razor wire to keep Pakistanis or Mexicans out of their town. That could theoretically happen in some instances, for instance, in situation where migration from other areas was extensive enough to amount to an invasion or where ethnic or racial separatist sentiments or ideology were particularly strong. But I don’t think it would be the norm. Protestants don’t put armed guards in their neighborhoods to keep Catholics and Jews from walking up the street. I doubt it would be any different regarding different ethnic populations.

  6. “In practice, NA, neotribalism, ethno-communitarianism or whatever we want to call it would work best if the state were simply removed from racial/ethnic issues altogether, and different ethno-cultural or ethno-religious “tribes” simply had their own institutional forms, private organizations, voluntary associations, and independent communities that included economic self-determination.”

    I’m starting to think that it will be easier to simply build these institutions and compete with the State directly rather than recruit a critical mass following to an ideology. It should be easy, shouldn’t it? The State is rather lacking in its ability to provide a decent standard of living for tens of millions, and fails miserably at feeding the heart and soul. The market anarchist in me likes to think we’re filling a economic niche.

  7. I agree with that half-way. I think building up alternative institutions is a vital task. It’s like the old IWW concept of “building the new society in the shell of the old.” But I think it’s not possible to simply ignore the state, which is an issue I have with the market anarchists. The state is not going to let such institutions grow to the level that they become a credible threat. The state will instead act to repress them. Now, it may not be overt repression like COINTELPRO (though we have to be prepared for that as well), but it could also be things like trying to regulate alternative institutions to death through things as mundane as zoning laws and building regulations.

    I very much agree with you that it’s an impossible task to convert the masses to some radical ideology, which is why I take the position that we need a network of leaders committed to a radical vision who organize the masses through appealing to routine economic issues and addressing single issues that are important to a lot of people. Alternative institutions would obviously be an important and even critical part of this. We may not be able to obtain a critical mass of self-avowed anarchists, but I think it’s possible to create a critical mass of ordinary folks motivated by issues of material survival, political interest groups who are either under attack by the state or who reject the system’s value, and a smaller corps of serious radicals committed to a broadly defined revolutionary outlook.

    There’s also the need to challenge the state’s legitimating ideology. The totalitarian humanists have largely overthrown the old WASP culture that was dominant prior to the 1960s largely by obtaining cultural hegemony. It helps to be in control of the media, the educational system, the universities, the social services, the mainline churches, and other institutions where the legitimating ideology is disseminated. In fact, I think this is one of our most herculean tasks. We don’t have a TV network at our disposal like the Neocons do, and we’re not likely to get one, so we have to find other ways to disseminate our ideas. The internet is one way, of course. Lately, I’ve been leaning towards the idea of building up a student insurgency on campuses, e.g. forming radical student groups committed to the kinds of ideas we talk about here, and who are opposed to both the Republicans, the neocons, and the ordinary conservative movement but who also oppose the totalitarian humanist forces that dominate universities. That way we would be attacking the totalitarian Left in its home territory, while sharply distinguishing ourselves from the ordinary Right at the same time and essentially spreading a new kind of counterculture in the same way that the 60s radicals spread theirs.

  8. “I’m starting to think that it will be easier to simply build these institutions and compete with the State directly rather than recruit a critical mass following to an ideology. It should be easy, shouldn’t it?”

    That’s the idea behind BANA and no it is not as easy as it sounds. People are after all, people. In order to compete with the State you have to offer political goods of equal or greater value then the State (regulation of commerce, protection, mediating grievances, and legitimacy) can provide. I don’t know if a mass following based on ideology will work to do that anymore. Let’s look at a recent well known blossoming of alternative culture: Burning Man. It is able to garner a mass following without an ideology by providing an experience that its attendees find deeply fulfilling (whether you want to call it tribalism or anything else). Other movements such as the Taliban and Hizbollah are able to able to achieve their success to basing their organizations in part on religious law accepted by their host populations, we don’t have any similar (widespread anyway) basis for that here. Individualism has really turned into the perfect antidote to challenging an established liberal democracy.

    “The State is rather lacking in its ability to provide a decent standard of living for tens of millions, and fails miserably at feeding the heart and soul. The market anarchist in me likes to think we’re filling a economic niche.”

    There is definitely a growing marketplace for these ideas due to growing demand in the radical Left and Right scenes to grow as a realistic alternative to the System. The tendency going forward will be to jettison unrealizable ideas (such as persistent 20th century holdovers, particularly the 1920’s holdovers as Keith mentions elsewhere) and into practical real politick. It is alas a slower process then I would like!

  9. “Individualism has really turned into the perfect antidote to challenging an established liberal democracy.”

    That is what Jim Kalb’s critique of liberalism argues. http://www.zenit.org/article-25495?l=english Jim’s position is that modern liberal society eliminates pre-rational, non-material, or non-political values to the degree that the individual has no identity apart from his status as a consumer in the market, a hobbyist pursuing trivial enthusiasms (like video games, sports, or pop culture), a worker and/or careerist depending on class position, and as a subject of the state. Non-material values like family, culture, community, religion, history, tradition, ethnicity, non-economic forms of private association, etc. become pushed to the margins or disappear altogether.

    We can actually critique this phenomena from a conservative-traditionalist, libertarian anti-statist, or left-wing class-based perspective. Conservatives will make an argument like Kalb’s about the eradication of tradition, faith, family, and culture by technology, technocracy, commercialism, secularism, liberal individualism, etc. While there’s much truth to that outlook, we can also argue that the growth of the state has served to crowd out other competing institutions or centers of power and usurped many of their traditional roles, e.g., care of the children, orphans, elderly, ill, poor, homeless, etc.

    We can also make a leftist argument that the alliance of capitalism with the state has in fact produced the dominating centers of commercial power that serve to eradicate these other sources of social life. We could even make a quasi-Marxist argument that the growth of the welfare state actually has the purpose of pacifying and subjugating workers or class struggle movements by coopting their leadership, reducing the intensity of class conflict, and making the poor and working class dependent on a state that is allied with the plutocrats. There seems to be some historical justification for that critique from the Left.

    “There is definitely a growing marketplace for these ideas due to growing demand in the radical Left and Right scenes to grow as a realistic alternative to the System. ”

    What will grow these ideas is a combination of economic decline and the state’s financial insolvency. As class divisions widen, and the U.S. economy starts to resemble a Third World model class system (see the Paul Craig Roberts articles I posted ealier today), there will be greater need for institutions and organizations providing services like what we’re talking about and need will create the demand and self-organization of this type will start to grow. The other issue will be that as the state becomes increasingly bankrupt its role as a provider of social services and so forth will become more and more cost prohibitive. We’re already started to see budget cuts in lots of areas, even while the System is still running massive deficits. Even measures like early release of prisoners are being considered which never would have happened in the 80s or 90s. So a combination of growing economic need and a bankrupt state should eventually produce a strong growth in alternative institutions. But we can’t force it. It will have to grow at its own pace.

  10. Agreed, the real growth of these alternatives will happen from non marginal groups or local bourgeoisie. Attempts to do so with individual resources is simply not enough to make it work in the long term.

  11. Here’s something I’m working on with one of my tribal brothers:

    http://lingitlatseen.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/counter-institutions-tlingit-style-education/

    http://alaskanativestoryteller.com/2010/10/the-school-of-tlingit-customs-and-traditions/

    We’re starting a decentralized cultural school of tribal customs and traditions. There’s already a rich tradition of apprenticeship in the Tlingit arts. I’m hoping to extend this way of learning to project based homeschooling and then to project based construction and production of clan property, public goods and social services.

    Andrew, we already have a strong cultural context for what we’re doing. Some of us are only one or two generations removed from a truly tribal existence, so tribalism isn’t such a foreign concept for us. That’s why I have a lot of respect for what you’re doing with BANA. We get a lot of white folk who are seeking tribalism with us because they don’t have it with their own people. Tlingits frequently adopt non Tlingits, but only after they have demonstrated a true commitment to the tribe.

  12. The concept of racial supremacism is now largely redundant since we don’t live in an imperialistic age.

    In the past whites and other races did cultivate racial supremacism to basically give them the confidence to rule over slaves and colonised people’s. Today we don’t have slaves and empires so there is no point trying to prove on enforce racial supremacy.

    Ethno nationalists may want to argue they are different to other races, to bolster arguments in favour of immigration restricitionism for example, but they don’t really get anything out of trying to argue that whites are superior to other races.

    Liberals are quick to use the supremacist label because they won’t to crush any kind of particularism which they think might get in the way of the smooth functioning of the liberal state, whether its the left liberal government wing or the right liberal commercial wing.

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