Response to a Left-Anarchist Critic 10

Yesterday, a left-anarchist posted this critique of ARV/ATS on another forum. I’ve included the critique in its entirety at the beginning of this, and then spliced it up with my own comments inserted in the second section.

Really analyse the mission statement in it’s totality. First and foremost it constructs the Anarchist movement in a particular manner, like the most vulgar An-Caps and Libertarians, Preston cites “anti-statism” as the defining aspect of Anarchism.

“Instead, Attack the System holds to the radically anti-statist outlook of traditional anarchism within the context of a contemporary political and cultural analysis…”

But this is no surprise given that Preston was a contributor to anti-state.com, the Anarcho-Capitalist website, so it’s not difficult to understand where he draws his reasoning on this one. His assertion is incorrect, as has been said more than once here, Anarchism has never been reducible to “anti-statism” and is much broader, having declared it’s opposition to all forms of rulership. This is what, apparently, allows Preston to adopt the label with such zeal. If anyone objects, he and his supporters can start the “I’m more hardcore than you” debate about his interpretation being more “pure” than yours.

In almost the same breath, Preston attempts to distinguish himself from both the Left and the Right, by rejecting the labels of “Third Positionism and White Nationalism” while rejecting the Left and it’s goals of a fair society for all, in its entirety. He simplifies the politics of the “New Left” and “Old Left” and places them into a dichotomy. Anyone who responds to or criticises ATS or Preston can then be labelled a “Leftist” or “Leftoid” which dismisses the criticism without actually having to make a meaningful response. It’s a duck and weave and all those who openly espouse discriminatory attitudes and behaviours can cheer from the sidelines. More to the point, Preston claims that populism determines class identities and, according to Preston and every Third Positionist out there, “the Left are in power”, therefore the Right are anti-establishment and a more legitimate fighting force for “freedom”. In doing this Preston represents his views, and by extension, the views of others on the Right as being consistent with the views of the people, or alternatively, being on the side of “ordinary people”, which works as an attempt to justify or legitimate his ideas. Apparently, anyone who declares “Fight da powa!” is a class warrior, a representative of the people, and their ideas are justifiable no matter the content or ramifications.

He then goes on to develop the idea of “anti-statism” saying, as a strategic goal that the existence of the State is the first and foremost priority. He rejects all other forms of oppression. As has been said by others, according to Preston, all other forms of oppression can wait until after the revolution. However this shows a shallow understanding of and Anarchism; if you are Anarchist and you oppose all forms of rulership, you oppose all forms of rulership, everywhere, consistently. Oppression is interconnected and can all be related back to authoritarianism. You have to keep the bigger picture in mind.

As I said in response to Jeremy’s essay, ‘revolution is not driven by White Hetero Men who sit around drawing up plans about how to throw off the state (smoking, probably) while the women are out the back making the coffee, LGBT people are beaten in the street out the front, the KKK is erecting crosses in your neighbours front yard and those living across the street are arming themselves to the teeth in order to kill those “Islamo-fascist-Muslim-terrorists”.’

The Poet and radical LGBT activist Staceyann Chin said during an interview,

…sometimes what we intend to do is to walk in and flip the script, so that we become the more powerful people and the other people become the less powerful. It’s hard because sometimes I want black people to be in charge and some white people to be slaves. Sometimes I feel that way because shit is fucked up. But that’s reactive politics. That’s revenge, not social justice work.The hardest thing is the question of saving everybody at the same time. Because you see how many people that are oppressed and you see the interconnectivity of racism and sexism and you’re like, “shit! I just wanna help these motherfuckers here who are under stress. Can’t I just focus on these people, and just be a feminist and not an antiracist? Can we not talk about poverty now, because these people are being raped over here?” But the most successful revolutions that have happened throughout history are those revolutions that had groups working together, and where the people who were working against slavery were also feminists. Seeing the whole picture. I think that’s what I do, what I attempt to do.

 

And at first, this might all appear to be what Preston and Jeremy have both been saying, but you would be wrong as Preston and his broad coalition of “left and right” that “transcends ideology” explicitly states that they are not fighting for equality between individuals and actively rejects those who do as “oppressors of the Right”. According to Preston and the wider NA viewpoint, identities are a virus that need to be segregated in order to ensure social cohesion.

Even name-dropping Kropotkin as evidence that it is possible for Anarchists to “agree with some things the Right has to say” is misleading, as Kropotkin and Bakunin both rejected their aristocratic positions in favour of egalitarianism and Anarchism. They didn’t take up the fight for Anarchism to defend their titles or privilege, just as no Anarchist with integrity will take up the pen or take to the street to fight for or protect their own privilege, or the privilege of a select group of people. This means no alliance is possible with the reactive Right which states, explicitly, as an aim and goal, to prevent people from safely being to able be themselves, or, who want to fight to keep their privileged existence.

Understand that agreement on one or two points does not mean two parties agree politically, that is, agree on what ought to occur. Milk is white and so is chalk dust. Would you drink a glass of chalk dust?

What is being done is a total re-writing of basic terms and phrases. This is called spin and propaganda and is made much easier in an American cultural environment where people are not well-educated in politics and terms and phrases have been spun so often and so frequently, by so many different party’s, they almost have no meaning. There is no synthesis of ideas in Preston’s work, but a loose set of ideas cherry picked from Anarchism and incorporated into those of reactive politics, the politics and cultural attitudes of the Right. Any claim to have transcended ideology is rendered moot, as the bulk of his argument is taken from the Right in reaction to the Left. The phrasing, the rhetoric, the language and the politics is designed to attract those of the Left, as well as Preston’s personalised anecdotes about his former life as an Anarchist.

My analysis, as above, informs me that Preston’s ideology meets all the elements associated with Third Positionism, despite the appeals to Anarchist rhetoric and labels. Just because you drop a couple of controversial labels, does not mean the substantive content of what you’re arguing is something different from what is typically expressed under those labels.

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And now my rebuttal:

Really analyse the mission statement in it’s totality. First and foremost it constructs the Anarchist movement in a particular manner, like the most vulgar An-Caps and Libertarians, Preston cites “anti-statism” as the defining aspect of Anarchism.

From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Anarchism /’an-er-,kiz-em/ noun (1642) 1. a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups. 2. the advocacy or practice of anarchism.

But this is no surprise given that Preston was a contributor to anti-state.com, the Anarcho-Capitalist website, so it’s not difficult to understand where he draws his reasoning on this one. His assertion is incorrect, as has been said more than once here, Anarchism has never been reducible to “anti-statism” and is much broader, having declared it’s opposition to all forms of rulership. This is what, apparently, allows Preston to adopt the label with such zeal. If anyone objects, he and his supporters can start the “I’m more hardcore than you” debate about his interpretation being more “pure” than yours.

From the Oxford Dictionary: ruler 1. a person or agent exercising government or control

The critic offers no explanation of how “rulership” is to be differentiated from “the state” or “government.”

In almost the same breath, Preston attempts to distinguish himself from both the Left and the Right, by rejecting the labels of “Third Positionism and White Nationalism” while rejecting the Left and it’s goals of a fair society for all, in its entirety.

I do indeed distinguish myself from both Left and Right in that I oppose the reactionary, conservative, or bourgeoisie manifestations of the Right, while borrowing selectively from strands of “rightist” thought such as those I recognized in my exchange with Paul Gottfried: natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness, the superiority of organic forms of human organization over social engineering, rejection of vulgar economism, and a tragic view of life. As for the Left, I consider the classical liberal and classical anarchist strands of the Left to be among the primary influences on my own thinking, while rejecting the Jacobin, Marxist, or Marcusean manifestations of the Left. While recognizing what I consider to be the legitimate issues raised by white nationalists and attempting to incorporate these into my own paradigm, I reject white nationalism as an ideological system, as it is essentially a form of egalitarian collectivism (“racial Marxism”). But then I do the same with black nationalism, American Indian nationalism, Puerto Rican nationalism, Palestinian nationalism, Tibetan nationalism, etc. Third Positionism is a term for ideologies that reject both capitalism and communism and which advocate a “third position” between these two. These include many different ideologies from all over the world. It has its roots in systems of thought like old British distributism and today it’s an umbrella term that includes all sorts of unrelated philosophies, ranging from Peronism to Ba’athism to the ideas in Qadaffi’s “Green Book” to the political and economic aspects of Ghandi’s satyagraha philosophy to strands of Islamic economic thought. Some neo-fascists in Europe have also latched onto the term which is the obvious source of the leftist hysteria over it. Here’s a good way to look at it: Libertarianism is neither left nor right in that it opposes both conservative as well as leftist forms of statism. There are also anti-capitalist and pro-capitalist forms of libertarianism. Likewise, Third Positionism is neither left or right in that it opposes both capitalism and communism, and there are statist and anti-statist variations of third positionism. So a technically proficient application of political language would indicate that I am both a libertarian and a third positionist, given my radical anti-statism and my free-market syndicalist-mutualist-distributist-communitarian economic outlook.

The idea that the Left is merely about a “fair society for all” is lunacy. This ignores the authoritarian and totalitarian strands of the Left. It ignores the bloody history of the Left in some countries. There’s also the question of how “fair” is to be defined in the first place. Nor do I reject all goals normally associated with the Left. A comprehensive review of Attack the System and my various published writings will reveal that I have incorporated the great majority of the conventional left-anarchist program into my own paradigm, including a lot of issues that are shockingly radical even by conventional leftist or liberal standards (e.g. prison abolition, abolition of compulsory education, drug user and sex worker rights). My critics who have anything beyond a peripheral familiarity with my work are no doubt well aware of this. Their attacks on me are nothing more that willful and knowing lies and slander, because they don’t want my arguments to be heard.

A first principle of anarchism is that we should be freethinkers above all. This means that we do not simply approach issues on the basis of what the party line of the Left is at present, or what our PC professors told us, or what we pulled off of Infoshop.Org. Instead, it means that all issues and matters of controversy must be evaluated on their own terms, with an attitude of civility towards all but the incivil, and a fair hearing for all contending points of view, on which no one is to have the last word. Further, it means that issues have to be examined within the context of their relationship to anarchism, not leftism. For instance, when members of the racial minority, feminist, and “LGBT” communities or other conventional constituencies for the Left raise claims of oppression, by all means we should give their arguments a fair hearing. But we should do the same for all other demographic and political interest groups.  We then need to evaluate whether claims of oppression are legitimate within the context of the anarchist political and philosophical paradigm. Much of the time they are. Sometimes they are not. For instance, sexual minorities who claim they are oppressed by sodomy laws, legal repression of gay-oriented businesses, or violent crimes by private individuals who target them on the basis of their gender or sexual identity are legitimate within the anarchist paradigm. Neo-Nazis who claim they are oppressed by the mere existence of Jews are not legitimate. Racial separatist whites (or of any other race/ethnicity) who claim their rights of property and association are being violated by discrimination prohibition are legitimate. Feminists who would legally require churches to accept women into the ranks of the clergy are not as this violates the associational and religious liberties of others. At the same time, there would be nothing inherently un-libertarian about feminists within a church organization agitating for altering church policy regarding gender exclusivity in the clergy if they so desired.

There are a lot of issues where there is much gray area. These include the familiar issues where there is no clear agreement among anarchists and libertarians such as abortion, capital punishment, animal rights, children’s rights against their parents, the limits of self-defense, the handling of predatory criminals, the precise definitions of property rights, the use of the environment, and so forth. There are other issues as well. For instance, if private discrimination against particular demographic groups (races, religions, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, occupations), even if not legally required,  is so pervasive as to severely undermine the economic, social, or even physical health of those on the receiving end of such discrimination, then what sorts of remedies may be in order? These may be situations where the Ghandi-MLK paradigm becomes applicable, e.g. people using their liberties of speech, assembly, association, trade, boycott, etc. as a means of opposing or at least reducing such discrimination. There is also the issue of how to apply anarchist theory in societies like our own where the state and state-protected institutions dominate much of the society. With regards to discrimination, for instance, it would seem reasonable enough that government, service providers with a state-protected monopoly, or mass corporations created by the state should not be able to deny services or protection to individuals and groups for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons. For instance, the US Postal Service should not be able to provide mail delivery only for whites but not for blacks, and public schools should not be able to provide admission only to Protestants but not to Catholics. Nor should General Motors be able to refuse to hire Mormons or gays simply because they are Mormons or gays.

There may be some instances where there are simply irreconcilable differences between those making claims of oppression and where both sides present valid and compelling arguments. One of these is the traditional tension between left and right wing anarchists over the “right to work” versus the “right to strike.” To what degree are employers legitimate in replacing striking workers with “scabs”? To what degree are workers legitimate in preventing scabbing? Right-anarchists are typically “pro-scab” while left-anarchists are usually “anti-scab.” The former will argue in favor of freedom of contract, freedom of movement, property rights, freedom of association, etc. The latter will argue against the employer’s claims that its position is legitimate and that workers are the rightful owners of their jobs. I find both sides of this issue compelling and my guess is that a libertarian legal code would largely reflect prevailing regional and local ideological currents on this question, e.g. the degree to which scabbing is legally tolerated or the degree to which scabbing is prohibited, and the degree to which extra-legal means of preventing scabbing are tolerated (e.g. civil disobedience). Immigration is another such issue. I’ve made my criticisms of some of the “open borders” libertarians and anarchists known in the past, but not all issues raised by proponents of “immigrants rights” are foolish or illegitimate, either. Again, this is why I’ve suggested that in an anarchist polity with a libertarian legal code matters of immigration and naturalization would likely be a local matter with varying degrees of restrictiveness or permissiveness on this question. I myself would likely prefer some degree of moderation on this question.

He simplifies the politics of the “New Left” and “Old Left” and places them into a dichotomy.

This is a standard practice of historians of the Left from all sorts of ideological perspectives. It did not originate with me.

Anyone who responds to or criticises ATS or Preston can then be labelled a “Leftist” or “Leftoid” which dismisses the criticism without actually having to make a meaningful response.

The term “leftoid” was one I coined about twenty years ago as a derivative of “Stalinoid.” I have always used it to describe the reflexive dogmatism and cultic psychology common to so much of the Left. I have indeed made many a “meaningful response” to my critics. They’re just not listening. Instead, they hear what they want to hear.

It’s a duck and weave and all those who openly espouse discriminatory attitudes and behaviours can cheer from the sidelines.

The critic gives no explanation of what he means by “discriminatory attitudes.” I presume he’s not describing left-liberals who wish to discriminate against gun owners or Communists who wish to discriminate against small property owners or militant secularist or gay rights activists who wish to discriminate against religious believers or “anti-racists” who wish to discriminate against ethnic Europeans, or academic leftists who discriminate against conservative student groups who wish to form organizations on college campuses. Clearly, none of these classes of discriminating individuals are fans of my work. Therefore, it is unclear why this critic would say that “all those who openly espouse discriminatory attitudes and behaviours” are cheering me on from the sidelines.

More to the point, Preston claims that populism determines class identities

Not exactly. What I argue is that Anarchism tends to identify class struggle in terms of “the people versus the elite” while the Marxists see class struggle in the more reductionist manner of wage laborers versus employers, property owners, or holders of capital. This insight is not original to me. I picked it up from Larry Gambone, whose left-anarchist credentials are impeccable. The populist struggle against the elite transcends class identities in that it does not rely on a single class as a principal agent (like the Marxists do with their deification of the proletariat). That said, I have indeed identified particular class identities that I describe as the “vanguard classes” in an anarchist struggle in a contemporary society.

according to Preston and every Third Positionist out there, “the Left are in power”, therefore the Right are anti-establishment and a more legitimate fighting force for “freedom”.

The present day ruling class paradigm is a synthesis of classical bourgeoisie liberalism and socialism (i.e. a capitalist/social democratic hybrid) and the institutionalization of the values of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Therefore, the Left is indeed “in power.” The Right is anti-establishment in the sense of opposing the dominant liberal-left paradigm. As to whether the Right is “a more legitimate fighting force for freedom,” that depends on which strands of the Right we are talking about. Some strands of the Right are flagrantly anti-freedom. Some are stridently pro-freedom (e.g. the Rothbardians). Most are a mish-mash of pro-freedom and authoritarian ideas (just like the different strands of the  Left).

In doing this Preston represents his views, and by extension, the views of others on the Right as being consistent with the views of the people, or alternatively, being on the side of “ordinary people”, which works as an attempt to justify or legitimate his ideas. Apparently, anyone who declares “Fight da powa!” is a class warrior, a representative of the people, and their ideas are justifiable no matter the content or ramifications.

No. The “views of the people” are probably closer to the center than anywhere else (that’s why it’s called the center). Most research shows that “ordinary people” are to the right of the elites on cultural and social issues, but to the left of the elites on economic issues, and more inclined towards foreign policy non-interventionism that the elites. There’s no inherent relationship between populism and Fascism or Nazism, as the critic tries to suggest with his link. Populism can be used towards any end, from fascism to communism to religious fundamentalism to nationalism to anarchism.

He then goes on to develop the idea of “anti-statism” saying, as a strategic goal that the existence of the State is the first and foremost priority.

An anarchist suggests that opposition to the state should be first priority of anarchism? Geez, who would have ever thought that?!!

He rejects all other forms of oppression. As has been said by others, according to Preston, all other forms of oppression can wait until after the revolution. However this shows a shallow understanding of and Anarchism; if you are Anarchist and you oppose all forms of rulership, you oppose all forms of rulership, everywhere, consistently. Oppression is interconnected and can all be related back to authoritarianism. You have to keep the bigger picture in mind.

No. An honest reading of the full volume of my work would indicate that I have incorporated a wide assortment of issues of resistance to oppression into my broader ideological and strategic framework.  These include the struggle for self-determination for indigenous ethnic minorities in the US (e.g. African-Americans, Natives/American Indians), opposition to American aggression against other peoples all over the world, opposition to oppression inflicted on a broad array of marginalized populations that even conventional leftists typically ignore, and struggle by and on behalf of the lowest socio-economic elements in the class system. There is the wider question of how to approach these questions in a way that is strategically feasible. See my comments on that here.

As I said in response to Jeremy’s essay, ‘revolution is not driven by White Hetero Men who sit around drawing up plans about how to throw off the state (smoking, probably) while the women are out the back making the coffee, LGBT people are beaten in the street out the front, the KKK is erecting crosses in your neighbours front yard and those living across the street are arming themselves to the teeth in order to kill those “Islamo-fascist-Muslim-terrorists”.’

This is so silly that it merits the dignity of a response only because these comments are fairly representative of the outlook of the leftoid cult. Someone who thinks that this is representative of American society, let alone general Western civilization, at the present juncture is simply a deluded nutcase who’s stuck in a time warp where it’s always 1968. Get with the times, dude! In a libertarian legal order, burning crosses on the front yards of other people without their consent would constitute the crimes of trespassing, vandalism, intimidation, probably arson, and a good number of things. Violent physical attacks on ” LGBT” people would constitute the crimes of murder, assault, robbery, and the like. Preferably, neighbors would be “arming themselves to the teeth” for the purpose of resisting ordinary criminals, government functionaries and, if necessary, external invaders. And suffice to say that the circles of alternative anarchism are comprised of much more than “white hetero men” (with even some of us evil white hetero guys, like myself, being non-smokers!) and that the women in our circles contribute much more than simply “making coffee” (I hate coffee!).

The Poet and radical LGBT activist Staceyann Chin said during an interview,

 

…sometimes what we intend to do is to walk in and flip the script, so that we become the more powerful people and the other people become the less powerful. It’s hard because sometimes I want black people to be in charge and some white people to be slaves. Sometimes I feel that way because shit is fucked up. But that’s reactive politics. That’s revenge, not social justice work.The hardest thing is the question of saving everybody at the same time. Because you see how many people that are oppressed and you see the interconnectivity of racism and sexism and you’re like, “shit! I just wanna help these motherfuckers here who are under stress. Can’t I just focus on these people, and just be a feminist and not an antiracist? Can we not talk about poverty now, because these people are being raped over here?” But the most successful revolutions that have happened throughout history are those revolutions that had groups working together, and where the people who were working against slavery were also feminists. Seeing the whole picture. I think that’s what I do, what I attempt to do.

Well, I actually agree with this. When have I ever endorsed rape? When I have ever endorsed poverty? When have I ever endorsed slavery?

And at first, this might all appear to be what Preston and Jeremy have both been saying, but you would be wrong as Preston and his broad coalition of “left and right” that “transcends ideology” explicitly states that they are not fighting for equality between individuals and actively rejects those who do as “oppressors of the Right”.

The critic gives no definition of what he means by “equality of individuals.” If he means equality of legal and political rights in the classical liberal sense, then I would be for “equality of individuals.” If he means equality of individuals to rise according to their own merit, without being hampered by statist, feudal, theocratic or capitalist institutions, then I would be for equality of individuals. If he means opposition to genuine systems of class or caste exploitation, then I am for equality of individuals. But if he means “equality” in the sense of equating the foolish with the wise, the ignorant with the educated, the stupid with the intelligent, the diseased with the healthy, the drunk and addicted with the sober, the amateurish with the professional, the neophytes with the experienced, the ugly with the beautiful, the incompetent with the capable, the undeserving with the meritorious, and the insane with the mentally healthy, then I am by no means for equality of individuals. As for the matter of “oppressors of the Right,” I most certainly am in favor of the equality of all individuals to own firearms, smoke in pubs, practice religion, own property, join exotic cults, patronize a prostitute, take drugs, open a home school, skip school, drink beer at age nineteen, eat junk food, practice alternative medicine, eat meat, or read a “non de-niggerized” edition of Huckleberry Finn.

According to Preston and the wider NA viewpoint, identities are a virus that need to be segregated in order to ensure social cohesion.

I’m only a fellow traveler to NA. I’m actually a classical anarchist and my own “anarcho-pluralist” outlook is simply a modern version of “anarchism without adjectives.” However, NAs if anything celebrate identities rather than regarding them as “viruses.” NA is the polar opposite of old-fashioned segregation like Jim Crow, apartheid, Nuremberg Laws, etc. Rather, it champions self-determination for all ethno-tribal and ethno-cultural groups on the basis of free association.

Even name-dropping Kropotkin as evidence that it is possible for Anarchists to “agree with some things the Right has to say” is misleading,

Kropotkin’s strategic outlook regarding anarchist organizing among common people was the same as mine. For instance, he opposed trying to teach peasants about things like atheism, rationalism, Darwinism, etc and instead favored respecting their cultural and religious traditions while offering assistance on their own issues of concern like economic oppression and exploitation by the state and feudal landlords. And, if this means anything, Kropotkin’s daughter Alexandra actually immigrated to the USA and became a Goldwater supporter while continuing to claim her family’s anarchist heritage.

as Kropotkin and Bakunin both rejected their aristocratic positions in favour of egalitarianism and Anarchism. They didn’t take up the fight for Anarchism to defend their titles or privilege, just as no Anarchist with integrity will take up the pen or take to the street to fight for or protect their own privilege, or the privilege of a select group of people.

Fortunately, we don’t have titled aristocrats in modern Western societies, or where we still do, they are toothless. What “privilege” is it that we alternative anarchists are defending? The critic gives no examples or illustrations. Are we defending the military-industrial complex? Seeking to uphold the American empire? Are we Ayn Randian-fans of the corporate overlords? Are we apologists for the bureaucratic overlords of the New Class? Do we heap praise on the elites of the media and the world of academia?  Do we going around displaying slogans like “Support the Troops” or  “Support Your Local Police”? Not that I can tell.

This means no alliance is possible with the reactive Right which states, explicitly, as an aim and goal, to prevent people from safely being to able be themselves,

You mean people who want to be “born-again” Christians, or join the Branch Davidians, or display a Confederate flag, or own a handgun, or smoke tobacco, or attend a pre-Vatican II mass, or express politically incorrect opinions, or attend a home school, or watch or participate in beauty pageants? There is no evidence we alternative anarchists or those among our allies who are from the Right wish to prevent anyone from doing any of this.

or, who want to fight to keep their privileged existence.

No explanation has been offered as to how any of us are “privileged.” Most of us are certainly privileged compared to our counterparts in many other parts of the world. Fortunately, most of us are also stridently opposed to the oppression inflicted on people of other nations and civilizations by our own ruling classes such as people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Columbia, Latin America, Iran, northern Africa, Southeast Asia, etc. Fortunately, the lumpenproletarian orientation of ARV/ATS incorporates the interests of the most oppressed in our own societies into a wider ideological and strategic paradigm.

Understand that agreement on one or two points does not mean two parties agree politically, that is, agree on what ought to occur. Milk is white and so is chalk dust. Would you drink a glass of chalk dust?

Not being Marxists or Jacobin fundamentalists, we recognize that different subsets of human beings will always have conflicting ideals as to what constitutes “the good.” As anarchists and radical decentralists, most of us generally concur that such differences should be dealt with according to the principles of individual liberty,  free association, pluralism and peaceful co-existence where possible, and decentralism, localism, secession, and mutual self-separation where not possible.

What is being done is a total re-writing of basic terms and phrases. This is called spin and propaganda and is made much easier in an American cultural environment where people are not well-educated in politics and terms and phrases have been spun so often and so frequently, by so many different party’s, they almost have no meaning.

This is a rather extraordinary statement coming from someone who displays the level of abuse of political terminology and ignorance of political history of this critic.

There is no synthesis of ideas in Preston’s work, but a loose set of ideas cherry picked from Anarchism and incorporated into those of reactive politics, the politics and cultural attitudes of the Right.

This is a highly selective and willfully ignorant reading and evaluation of my work.

Any claim to have transcended ideology is rendered moot, as the bulk of his argument is taken from the Right in reaction to the Left. The phrasing, the rhetoric, the language and the politics is designed to attract those of the Left, as well as Preston’s personalised anecdotes about his former life as an Anarchist.

As the statement of purpose says, ARV/ATS is a dissident tendency within North American anarchism specifically and Western anarchism generally that seeks to compensate for the conventional anarchist movement’s failure to both develop an ideological and strategic paradigm that is actually relevant to a twenty-first century Western society, and to recognize the dangers posed by authoritarian leftism (in spite of the history of bloody conflict between anarchists and left-statists). This is simply a replay of the battle between Bakunin and Marx, between the Kronstadt rebels and the Bolsheviks, or between the Spanish anarchists and the Stalinists.

10 comments

  1. “A first principle of anarchism is that we should be freethinkers above all.”

    Bingo.

    It’s unfortunate that so many are unable to see your program for what it is. It appears clear to me that your agenda is to find a way of procuring a sustainable vision of the society you’d find ideal. This clearly involves compromise over some issues. The important question is whether we should have universalized compromise or visions of ideals which can be tested, allowed to thrive, and serve as models for others.

    I think Jeremy hit the nail on the head when he stated “Killing them all is not an option.”

    What I want to hear from a lot of those who disagree with such strategies, is what do you propose? Uniformity through the barrel of a gun? Or anarchy in a million years? Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, there are more important values to defend and values which are more apparently correct than others.

    I personally prefer promoting the social/economic values I believe in while in tandem with a coherent way of doing things and a reasonable skepticism of my own goals, but there are different ways of looking at it. The particular way in which I think anarchism can be guaranteed to fail is further such a narrow definition of “anarchism” as to render it incompatible with any society that could possibly exist.

  2. I’ll throw in my own comment here:

    “But this is no surprise given that Preston was a contributor to anti-state.com, the Anarcho-Capitalist website, so it’s not difficult to understand where he draws his reasoning on this one.”

    This passage, if not the post in its entirety, is stereotypical of how pathetic the Hard Left has become – you can’t associate with he wrong people, lest you be branded for life.

    Besides, anti-state.com calls itself a site devoted “market anarchism”, not “anarcho capitalism”, and while some anarchists can’t do anything but reflexively connect any mention of “markets” with “capitalism” (just as some rightists can’t either), it remains a wrongful connection, which Kevin Carsons work is just one contemporary example of.

    Even labelling ASC as ‘market anarchist’ is woefully myopic, as it has been host to a large number of authors, anarchist and libertarian of various ideologies. The ‘critic’ and his ilk could of course proceed down the well known lane of exclusing ANY anarchist or anarchist-leaning ideology or expression that doesn’t properly suck genitals on his variosu preferred long-dead ideologues, but that does nothing to help, in fact it just sinks this critique deeper down the mudpit of dogmatism. (Remember, it’s not fundamentalism when WE do it.)

    Again, this pages long critique is nothing new – it’s just one in a line of tens of thousands of examples liberally scattered across debate web forums and weblogs that goes to show how utterly intellectually bankrupt the Hard-Left has become, in that it doesn’t care about getting allies to change an unjust world, but its members rather only care about Purity of Mind and screaming, ideological witchhunts.

    For the same reason, this travesty of a ideological grouping will *never* make an actual, tangible difference in real politics or counter-politics. True revolutionaries need apply elsewhere.

  3. The combination of this and the bogus ramblings over at the ALL have prompted me to write a thorough full length piece clarifying everything related to this site and the Left’s attacks on it.

  4. After reading the critique I have an urge to vomit (seriously)! If someone asked me what is bad for the current left I would point him to this text. I completely agree with Keith. I would like to point out something:

    As I said in response to Jeremy’s essay, ‘revolution is not driven by White Hetero Men who sit around drawing up plans about how to throw off the state (smoking, probably) while the women are out the back making the coffee, LGBT people are beaten in the street out the front, the KKK is erecting crosses in your neighbours front yard and those living across the street are arming themselves to the teeth in order to kill those “Islamo-fascist-Muslim-terrorists”.’

    This is the finest piece of bullshit I’ ve ever read. Karl fucking Marx, was a White Hetero Man who smoked a lot, and I don’t think he had politically correct opinions about race. If someone can make an anti-state revolution without whites, males, heterosexuals and smokers, he/she is going to be a victim of natural selection somewhere in the future, or he/she is under 14 and and as a result, irrelevant…

  5. Keith, this is awesome. Ideologically bankrupt leftists like this guy are the reason it took me so long to come around to anarchism. I agree with Chris George. Exactly, how do these leftists think we would extirpate racism/sexism/nationalism or any other ostensibly unjust social proclivity in a world stripped of coercion? And that’s without complicating matters with the epistemelogical dillemas of anarchism. What gives the critic’s brand of ‘truth’ legitimacy over the ‘truth’ of others? It’s all very reminescent of early anarchist conceptions of concensus through “reason.” Personally, I favor anarchism precisely for its epistemelogical neutrality. Somehow the leftists can’t get their head around ‘pluralism’ in its widest sense.

  6. JBM:

    “Somehow the leftists can’t get their head around ‘pluralism’ in its widest sense.”

    Because pluralism means you might come into contact with people whom you disagree with.

    The verbal agression against ‘those of unpure thought’ just goes to illustrate that what the hardliners seek isn’t pluralism or free-thought, but ideological monoculture, thinly veiled in the aforementioned.

  7. Chris,

    “It’s unfortunate that so many are unable to see your program for what it is. It appears clear to me that your agenda is to find a way of procuring a sustainable vision of the society you’d find ideal. This clearly involves compromise over some issues.”

    It’s not even so much a question of what I would personally find ideal as much as an assessment of what is most possible and likely to achieve some kind of identifiable victory.

    “What I want to hear from a lot of those who disagree with such strategies, is what do you propose? Uniformity through the barrel of a gun? Or anarchy in a million years? Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, there are more important values to defend and values which are more apparently correct than others.”

    Well, here are a couple comments I’ve seen in response to my rebuttal thus far:

    “I’m reading through Preston’s response now. One thing that strikes me as bizarre is that he says that he rejects White Nationalism because it is a form of “egalitarian collectivism.” He rails against egalitarianism and attacks the strawman of egalitarianism as denial of the existence of differences (it’s a denial of the ethical relevance of such differences.)

    I think there’s a fallacy behind Preston’s program – he’s constantly uses these “anarchist revolution starts in 40 minutes” scenarios, where we suddenly reach anarchy with considerable chunks of the population still clinging desperately to backward, bigoted, fever-swamp mind-viruses. It seems obvious that these ideas are in decline and will probably vanish before statism does.”

    And another one:

    “I’m not that optimistic that they’re in decline, but I’d go farther and say that it’s impossible for statism to vanish until memetic hazards like ethnic nationalism and sexism are eliminated and a majority of the population is immunized against them.

    There are a lot of problems with these responses but one of the most obvious ones is their belief that only those with “conservative” or “reactionary” social views can be purveyors of authoritarian or statist oppression. The core aspect of my “totalitarian humanism” thesis is that ostensibly “progressive” values are now being used to foster statist authoritarianism, and in rather strident ways in some instances. They’re completely oblivious to this. It’s like they’ve forgotten completely that a mere 30 years ago most of the Eurasian landmass and many other parts of the world were dominated by authoritarian leftist regimes. It’s like they have no knowledge of the Reign of Terror or the repression of the Spanish anarchists by the Communists.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sino-Soviet_split_1980.svg

    These kinds of comments are a great illustration of why I say their ideology is basically just ordinary left-liberalism with “Oh, and by the way, we’re also against the state” tacked on at the end as some kind of afterthought or appendix. It also explains their lack of any kind of sense of urgency. It’s like they think the war against the state is something we’ll get around to when we’ve finished ridding the world of bigotry and prejudice or “backward” social views (however selectively and arbitrarily these are to be defined). I’m more interested in a 1776/1936 approach.

  8. I am particularly intrigued by this notion that the ideas circumbscribed by the left as backward or reactionary will disappear over time. Again, this reeks of positivist Utopianism. The arrogance and ethno-centrism of these self-professed free-thinkers is astounding.

  9. For my part, I’m releasing the compulsive need I have to get others’ approval for my beliefs and values. Keith and I can disagree. Royce and I cannot disagree. That is what it comes down to in the end. I’m through defending and am going to start putting my energy towards efforts that are likely to yield fruit.

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