Raimondo on the Joke That the Left Has Become 11

Justin sums it up pretty well in this one.

Now that Bush’s wars are Obama’s wars, the antiwar left is silent. Oh, they still maintain they oppose the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, but that’s only in theory. In practice, they seek to subordinate the antiwar issue to the long litany of progressive causes. Their so-called “strategy” is to channel antiwar activism into building whatever rally or candidate the union bosses are sponsoring that day.

What galls me most of all is the lack of urgency, the complacency with which these self-proclaimed leaders of the antiwar movement approach the question of how to stop the US war machine. I find it galling that people who are so quick to accuse others of racism would be so focused on the trials and tribulations of an American auto worker who makes fifty bucks an hour over that of a dirt-poor Pakistani villager whose family has just been decimated by a US drone attack.

The great downfall of the US antiwar movement has been its dogged insistence on a multi-issue approach. It’s gotten to the point where these rallies all have the same character and tone: the whole litany of grievances is laid out, and every victim group gets to lodge its particular complaint. Opposition to our foreign policy of global intervention is just a single note in a symphony of protest. No wonder there are no more antiwar protests coming from the left – they’ve bored themselves to death!

And us, too, I might add.

11 comments

  1. One thing about the left today that I have noticed beyond its totalitarian tendencies and authoritarianism is its really right-wing view of the world. What I mean by this is that while many on the right accuse Obama and others of being Marxists, I think that it’s more accurate to say that they are Hobbesians, (Keith made this point in a discussion post if I remember correctly). Look at the way the media criticizes the right now that they are in power, they go after the tea party people not for being fascists, but for being anti-authority (not that that is actually true) http://c4ss.org/content/2859, http://c4ss.org/content/4136.

    I think that explains why the left is not going to stop the war because they believe in it just as much as the right does. That is also one of the true reasons that the left supports gun control, though they won’t come out and say it. To sum up, I think that despite right-wing fantasies to the contrary, the mainstream left has far more in common with Dick Cheney than Noam Chomsky.

  2. “What I mean by this is that while many on the right accuse Obama and others of being Marxists, I think that it’s more accurate to say that they are Hobbesians, (Keith made this point in a discussion post if I remember correctly)”

    Yes, that’s absolutely right with regards to their view of the state. Their view is that without a strong state to regulate and control everything and if people are left to their own devices then everyone will run around exploiting workers, poisoning consumers, polluting the environment , engaging in all of the forbidden Isms, Archies, and Phobias, leaving the sick and the old to die in the street, abusing children, engaging in vigilante murder, and all sorts of other things. This is essentially the Hobbesian view that without order being imposed by a Leviathan, chaos and the destruction of civilization will prevail.

    But there’s also a Rousseauan component to modern liberal ideology as well. They view themselves as possessing superior levels of intelligence, enlightenment, compassion, etc. Therefore, they regard it as their prerogative to impose what they consider to be enlightened and superior values on all the backwards people who supposedly haven’t reached their level of social evolution. Hence, their advocacy of what amounts to educational dictatorship.

    “Look at the way the media criticizes the right now that they are in power, they go after the tea party people not for being fascists, but for being anti-authority (not that that is actually true)”

    Yes, they’re every bit as strong in their belief in state authority as any law and order conservative. Over the years, I have encountered plenty of progressive-liberal types who express all the politically correct sentiments about social justice, human rights, racism, sexism, Darfur, animal cruelty, the environment and so forth and who will turn around and defend the police and the prison system, and express horror at my own views on anarchism, secession,etc. And not all of these people were idiots or completely thoughtless. They just couldn’t imagine anything outside of the conventional statist paradigm.

    “I think that explains why the left is not going to stop the war because they believe in it just as much as the right does. That is also one of the true reasons that the left supports gun control, though they won’t come out and say it.”

    Exactly. What motivation would they have to stop the war in Afghanistan? The Afghans are their perfect enemy: tribal, patriarchal, theocratic, feudal, traditional, conservative, reactionary, anti-modern. I suspect most of them are thrilled to wage war on the Afghans. Their views on gun control are particularly revealing and say quite a bit about their overall ideology. It certainly reflects their Hobbesianism, but it also reflects their plastic view of human nature and their Rousseauan view of society, e.g. take all the guns out of the environment and human nature will change and people will become non-violent. I had a discussion once with a liberal professor who was mocking the anti-gun control people as arguing, “Guns don’t kill people, kids kill people,” referring to school shootings and all that, as if the mere existence of guns makes a 17 yr old go out and shoot up his school.. My response was that, yes, sociopathic kids from dysfunctional families who are trapped in oppressive or dehumanizing institutional environments like the modern school system will sometimes kill people.

    “To sum up, I think that despite right-wing fantasies to the contrary, the mainstream left has far more in common with Dick Cheney than Noam Chomsky.”

    Well, Cheney himself appears to be little more than the typical greed and power monger. But the neocon ideology that guided the Bush administration is not much different from that of the mainstream left. Its core tenant is to advocate imperialist war in the name of spreading democracy, capitalism, and modernism, a modest welfare state and liberal immigration policies domestically. This is just a slightly rightward version of what the mainstream left favors. Think of all the domestic policies the Bush regime pushed: expanding the welfare state with the prescription drug entitlement, massive subsidies to pharmaceutical companies ostensibly for distributing AIDS drugs in African, Keynesian economics reflected in record budget deficits, federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind program, expansion of the welfare state into the religious sector (faith-based initiatives), amnesty for illegal immigrants-none of this could reasonably be considered conservative or right-wing in any conventional sense. Nor does it differ much from the mainstream left’s outlook.

  3. “But there’s also a Rousseauan component to modern liberal ideology as well. They view themselves as possessing superior levels of intelligence, enlightenment, compassion, etc. Therefore, they regard it as their prerogative to impose what they consider to be enlightened and superior values on all the backwards people who supposedly haven’t reached their level of social evolution. Hence, their advocacy of what amounts to educational dictatorship.”

    I actually think that totalitarian humanism is more of an add-on to the left’s Hobbesian view in that in addition to wanting a strong state to prevent the masses from killing each other, they also want the same state to prevent the masses from practicing patriarchy,racism, homophobia etc. As you pointed out, when it comes to law and order issues, the left is not that distinct from the mainstream right. Even on sexual issues, where supposed puritanical conservatives should be the enemy, it is the radical feminists that are at the forefront of things like censorship of pornography and outlawing prostitution. That is one of the reasons that Aster’s fear of a right-wing backlash (http://c4ss.org/content/4820#comment-10674) and the consequences for her because of her choice of profession seems somewhat ironic.

    Having I said that, I must add a counterpoint to my criticism of the mainstream left. I know I might be sounding like Aster when I say this but, when it comes to the masses I think they are often worse enemies of liberty than many politicians, judges, prosecutors, cops and other state types. While the statistics have changed, the fact is that the majority of Americans (and Canadians I might add) support the war on drugs and most other laws that libertarians argue against. In addition, There is overwhelming public support for things like tough on crime initiatives, longer sentencing, and other things. On top of that, the worst aspects of punishment, the horrible violence of the prison system are not only approved by the majority of society, but are seen as things to be encouraged by many, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmVDU3YRLAI, The really screwed up thing is that if you were to look at all the comments from every site where this video appeared, I’m sure you would find many who would approve of such a fate. Even the liberals know that they have to pander to the publics fear of crime in in order to garner support.

    I guess that’s one of the reasons that I am concerned about any movement against the current system is because I’m not sure that any other system will be any better. Unlike Aster though, I can never bring myself to embrace centre-left mainstream liberalism, I find it far too distasteful.

  4. “I actually think that totalitarian humanism is more of an add-on to the left’s Hobbesian view in that in addition to wanting a strong state to prevent the masses from killing each other, they also want the same state to prevent the masses from practicing patriarchy,racism, homophobia etc.”

    Well, most modern statism is rooted initially in the Hobbesian view of the state. Hobbes regarded the state as the means to restrain human destructive impulses thereby allowing civilization a chance to survive. We could interpret Jacobinism as an add on that incorporates into its philosophy of the state the ideas of Diderot: “Man will never be free until we hang the last king with the entrails of the last priest.” The French revolutionaries had the same ideas as modern liberals about using the power of the central state to eradicate supposedly backward traditional, private, parochial, and local institutions that were regarded as enemies of progress and enlightenment. Marxism has a similar view of the state, i.e. its role is to eliminate exploitation of the proletariat and repress reactionary forces. Totalitarian humanism is a more contemporary version of the same idea.

    “As you pointed out, when it comes to law and order issues, the left is not that distinct from the mainstream right. Even on sexual issues, where supposed puritanical conservatives should be the enemy, it is the radical feminists that are at the forefront of things like censorship of pornography and outlawing prostitution.”

    It was my observation of things like that which contributed significantly to my turning away from the Left. In the Scandinavian countries where the radical feminists have the most influence, sex worker rights have actually undergone a regression. It’s the same with the war on drugs, whose supporters are just as likely to be liberal therapeutic statists as much as conservative moralists.

    “That is one of the reasons that Aster’s fear of a right-wing backlash (http://c4ss.org/content/4820#comment-10674) and the consequences for her because of her choice of profession seems somewhat ironic.”

    Aster lives in New Zealand which has the most libertarian policies on sex work than any other nation, and NZ generally maintains a left of center government (by US standards, anyway) so that probably makes sense from her perspective. Not all feminists are feminazis. There are strands of feminism, particularly among younger feminists, who reject the misandry and neo-puritanism commonly associated with feminism.

    “I know I might be sounding like Aster when I say this but, when it comes to the masses I think they are often worse enemies of liberty than many politicians, judges, prosecutors, cops and other state types.”

    I think state functionaries are motivated mostly by careerism and opportunism. States traditionally seek to strengthen their position by attacking targeted outgroups to rally the masses to the state and deflect attention from the state’s real nature. This works because it’s the nature of most people to follow whatever leaders happen to be in power so long as they are perceived as legitimate. I do share your lack of confidence in the masses. Proudhon, the founder of modern anarchism, actually detested mass democracy.

  5. “While the statistics have changed, the fact is that the majority of Americans (and Canadians I might add) support the war on drugs and most other laws that libertarians argue against. In addition, There is overwhelming public support for things like tough on crime initiatives, longer sentencing, and other things. On top of that, the worst aspects of punishment, the horrible violence of the prison system are not only approved by the majority of society, but are seen as things to be encouraged by many, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmVDU3YRLAI, The really screwed up thing is that if you were to look at all the comments from every site where this video appeared, I’m sure you would find many who would approve of such a fate. Even the liberals know that they have to pander to the publics fear of crime in in order to garner support.

    I guess that’s one of the reasons that I am concerned about any movement against the current system is because I’m not sure that any other system will be any better. ”

    This is one of the reasons why strategic and organizational issues are of paramount importance. Other than Rothbard and, perhaps, Murray Bookchin, and maybe Sam Konkin, no modern anarchist thinker of any significance ever paid much attention to these questions. It was always just about high theory, critiquing the present system, and the laundry list of popular causes (e.g. Chomsky).

    You raise the issues of the drug war, sex worker rights, and prisons. Those issues are as good a place as any to illustrate the limitations of contemporary anarchist and libertarian thought. Those are the classes of people that are among the most under attack by the state. They are also among the most unpopular in a wider social and cultural context (which by itself helps illustrate the shallowness of the official PC ideology that dominates the state and the mainstream culture with its phony humanitarian pretensions). The question would be how to best go about addressing these issues from a strategic perspective. I mentioned that in the “Liberty and Populism” essay that outlines the wider ARV/ATS strategic paradigm. This is one way in which the left-anarchist/right-populist synthesis I’ve outlined the past comes into play.

    The foundation of the movement against the police state will need to be rooted in the urban lower classes. This is the largest population group that is in direct conflict with the state. It is also from these classes and regions that the population groups we’re discussing here are drawn. The strategic goal is to create independent municipalities in urban areas where the the federal drug war, sumptuary or prohibition laws imposed by the state governments, paramilitary police forces, the prison-industrial complex, etc. have been eradicated and the state’s legal racket has been replaced. But to do that it’s necessary to strip away the overarching layers of the state that would be an impediment to such efforts. That means forming strategic alliances with other kinds of movements from rural, suburban, and secondary city areas that are in conflict with the federal government for any number of reasons. It also means building alliances with separatist communities of a more organic nature that conflict with the political boundaries of state and city governments. Black nationalists/separatists, Native American tribes, and radical bioregionalists, for instance.

    I agree with you that the masses often express rather retrograde views on the issues we’re discussing here. This is why strategic caution is necessary. These need to be issues that Anarchist movement leaders are aware of and seek to address within the context of a wider revolutionary struggle, and we need to focus on efforts where the most important victories can be achieved, while realizing that you can’t force social evolution at a rate that it won’t go. For instance, we can take a political line on these things in the course of organizing the urban lumpenproletariat and lower proletariat that is much, much more radical than what the limits imposed by prudence would allow for when we are organizing in rural areas, middle class suburbs, etc. The point that I’ve repeatedly tried to drive home to the left-anarchists is that you can’t put gay rights, transexual rights, animal rights, illegal immigrants rights, druggie rights, hooker rights, prisoners rights, etc. right out in front as your banner issues if you want to get anywhere so far as organizing to accumulate the amount of sympathy necessary to ultimately attack the wider systemic infrastructure of the State, the international bankers, the corporate ruling class, the military-industrial complex, the empire (assuming one cares about attacking these things). When addressing Middle America and the traditional working class, you’ve got to speak in the language of Ron Paul, Jesse Ventura, or Alex Jones rather than Michel Foucault or Hakim Bey. One thing that’s ironic is that despite my neo-fascist reputation among the left-anarchists, I actually agree with them on most of these issues, with my Pim Fortuynist-Garrett Hardinist views on immigration being the only exception, and I take a nuanced and qualified view even on that.

  6. Keith,

    Really interesting articles and discussions. You argue that anarchists should work togehter and forget lef/right distinctions. When it comes to issues such as cultural issues and immigration I can find myself agreeing with you to some extent. But I cannot see how a true anarchist can work with anarcho capitalists. Because when you disscuss with these guys they don’t wanna world where there might be an anarcho capitalist city and then fifty miles away a libertarian socialist commune. They still want property rights protected above all else and the capitalist system to be the over riding system. they don’t want different systems working together or even small localised societies, their overall drive is the maintenance of capitalism.

    To my mind the issues of immigration and feminism and cultural issues and everything else may be important but can be put into the ‘we agree to disagree’ box, but unless capitalism is overthrown along with the state there will never be real freedom for people I don’t think. Surely anarcho capitalism or even worse fuedalism will just lead to new enclosure acts further entrenchment of property rights and no chance for most men and women to be free agents of their own economic lives?

  7. “But I cannot see how a true anarchist can work with anarcho capitalists.”

    Perhaps you would have more fruitful discussion if you weren’t so obviously biased when talking to them and be able to reach a better understanding of how, among other things, common the goals are even economically and organizationally identical. If you go into an attempt at pluralism you must be open minded.

    “Because when you disscuss with these guys they don’t wanna world where there might be an anarcho capitalist city and then fifty miles away a libertarian socialist commune.”

    Wrong. If you talk to any reasonable, non-randroid capitalist who isn’t clutching to their minarchism (and let’s not forget that the marxists are the same way for the left. it’s a useful point on one’s intellectual journey perhaps but poison to stay at) they will, even if they don’t like it, reasonably concede that freedom of interaction and private property can create communal systems, to put it in austrian terms, that is to say, there is potentially a market demand for socialism.

    Humanist capitalists especially, in my experience, are prone to saying while they are capitalists/austrians they are mutualists in practice because they want to help people.

    “They still want property rights protected above all else and the capitalist system to be the over riding system. they don’t want different systems working together or even small localised societies, their overall drive is the maintenance of capitalism.”

    No, you are conflating state monopoly capitalism with stateless capitalism. You should not be so casual with how you define that word, much like socialism it exists on a spectrum.

    No anarcho-capitalist is for the perpetuation of coercive hierarchies, and corporations are as much this as the government. Again, anyone who is a capitalist that has abandoned statism is as much anti-corporatist as a socialist.

    “unless capitalism is overthrown along with the state there will never be real freedom for people I don’t think. Surely anarcho capitalism or even worse fuedalism will just lead to new enclosure acts further entrenchment of property rights and no chance for most men and women to be free agents of their own economic lives?”

    Interesting point but you make the same error as the statists, you seem to think capitalism is a voracious monster that can not cease to grow. It is not so invigorated as that. Anarcho-capitalists of the Agorist variety and further to the left (but still capitalist) are often rabid anti-centralists who are capitalists because they believe it would localize, spread, and decentralize most business.

    Finally, why would you have a problem with the spread of capitalism since traditional leftist theory is that capitalism must first replace monarchism/mercantalism/religion before socialism could then take capitalism’s place.

  8. Anarcho-capitalists are like any other political denomination in that there’s a lot of variation among them.

    There are some who are not going to come into our camp anyway, so there’s no point in worrying about them. Either they’ve got one foot in the system’s camp (like the CATO Institute, for instance) or else they’re simply armchair philosophers more interested in philosophy and economics in the abstract sense rather than revolutionaries committed to attacking the system. But there are others among the an-caps who are more compatible with our outlook. The crowd around the Mises Institute and LewRockwell.Com are very committed to decentralization and supportive of secessionist movements. They’re rather doctrinaire in their conservative Austrianism, but while they might look askance at libertarian socialist or anarcho-communist communes fifty miles away, I’d be surprised if they would advocate suppressing such by force.

    Also, remember that Murray Rothbard, the godfather of anarcho-capitalism, at one point at least advocated worker homesteading of welfare-corporations. Rothbard also considered fractional reserve banking to be a form of fraud and thought it should be illegal in a libertarian society. Additionally, many of the more serious an-caps are opposed to things like intellectual property laws, subsidies to transportation, central banking, corporate welfare, the military-industrial complex and many other state actions that serve to prop up the corporate system. I more or less consider Kevin Carson’s “Political Program for Anarchists” to be the core economic guidelines of the ARV/ATS movement: http://www.mutualist.org/id5.html

    Most of the stuff in that program is consistent with anarcho-capitalism and would likewise serve to drastically curtail corporate power if implemented.

  9. Not trying to pick on reluctantanarchist here, but the idea that free market anarchism will lead to an “out of control” force that will claim private property across the world is ignoring free market principles. Think of “market anarchism” as well as some varients of “anarcho-capitalists” as simply just extensions of voluntary association and a truly free society.

    Many market anarchists, like myself, believe in the natural role of organized labor within a truly free market society. It’s just that we so no conflict if parties choose to have artisanship or a voluntary contract wage system.

  10. @reluctantanarchist:

    “When it comes to issues such as cultural issues and immigration I can find myself agreeing with you to some extent. But I cannot see how a true anarchist can work with anarcho capitalists.”

    I think you are putting far too much weight into the latter word. Ancaps are no worshippers of banks and corporate conglomerates. To think so it to take the collectivist anarchists religious stance/hate towards ‘capitalism’ at face value.

    Also, there’s a very important message in successfully cooperating with others (not just in this, but in life in general): That you’ll have to cooperate with people you do not fully agree with if you are to get anything done.

    Fail at that and all dissidents, rebels, counterestablishmentarians, anarchists, etc. will remain holed up in their web forums and blogs in 20 years, ranting about the ideological impurity of one another, which the establishment machine chugs along like it always has. In other words, status quo.

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