Reply to a Cultural Marxist Critic

A Leftist who uses the name of “Equus” has posted a limited critique of ATS on Royce Christian’s blog. Read it here.

My response:

Equus begins his rebuttal by offering a concise and helpful summary of the points of his refutation. I repeat it in full:

My objection to Third Positionism is that it first and foremost has an ahistorical approach inasmuch as it is leftist and only retroactively places itself there, using ideas and attitudes not formulated at the time of the conception of the left/right political spectrum. It claims to be neither left nor right and claims to be a synthesis of right and left ideas while rejecting the sole premise of left-wing ideology. Furthermore, it understands being anti-state as an ideological characteristic instead of a tactical characteristic; it would claim Anarchists and anti-government fascists are ideologically similar instead of correctly placing Anarchism as an ideology that opposes the state in the context of leftist politics. While it co-opts much of Anarchist rhetoric, it dismisses two key concepts: solidarity and community. Finally, it may not be an exclusively right-wing idea, but it provides an arena for people who oppose what Anarchists stand for to enter the conversation as legitimate actors and gives nothing back. I know little of Preston’s personal political background, and it is both irrelevant and hard to make the case that he is knowingly undermining Anarchism with his support of the Third Position. Regardless, his ideas have only provided a dangerous utility to the right that must be understood.

Equus proceeds with a discussion of the origins of the left/right dichotomy:

First, we need to look at the origin of the left/right political spectrum to broaden our view. This first began in the French Parliament around the time of the revolution. Those who favored the monarchy sat in the right wing and those who opposed it sat in the left wing. The most radical opponents of Monarchism sat in a part of the left wing referred to as “the mountain.” Among them was PJ Proudhon, the first philosopher to describe himself as an Anarchist and to articulate what was most likely a widely held view (I phrase it this way because any adherence to a figure as the sole example of a philosophy is a failure of understanding, i.e. Proudhon was a sexist, but that does not mean sexism is inherent to Anarchism). So there we have the basic framework for what it means to be leftist or rightist in a historical context.

While I agree that this is an accurate description of  the origins of  the left/right model of the political spectrum, I would also insist that the facts associated with the origins of this model are by themselves an indication of both the archaic (and indeed reactionary) nature of that model and the problematic nature of its continued use. If Proudhon is to be our starting point in a discussion of the historical contexts of the evolution of anarchist thought (and I agree he would seem to be as good a starting point as any), then perhaps we should begin by attempting an honest understanding of his actual views. No competent historian denies that modern anarchism has its roots in the left-wing of the Enlightenment and in the radical socialist labor movement. But this does not mean that anarchism is not to be distinguished from numerous other, more dominant strands of thought that emerged within the intellectual milieus and during the time periods in question. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn aptly summarized Proudhon’s contributions to political thought:

His socialism was distributist rather than collectivist; the key word to his economic thinking is “mutualism.” He was strongly opposed to economic liberalism because he feared bigness-the concentration of wealth, mammoth enterprises-yet he was equally an enemy of the omnipotent centralized state, which is at the root of most leftist thinking. Proudhon’s numerous books are full of notions and ideas that any true lover of liberty or any true conservative could underwrite…He always remained a healthy anti-statist and a convinced anti-democrat…Proudhon and Marx both dreamed of a “withering away of the state.” Marx sought to fulfill his ideas by revolutionary means, by the use of brute force, by the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Proudhon, on the other hand, was an “evolutionist”: the right order of things should be discovered, not arbitrarily blueprinted. Socialism should come gradually…it should encompass the globe through the voluntary consent of the people…not under one centralized superstate, but in a federal system-by federations deeply rooted in local customs, institutions, and traditions..

In other words, while Anarchism is clearly a product of Enlightenment thinking, it (or at least Proudhon’s version of it) is a product of that strand of Enlightenment thinking that adheres to a constrained rather than unconstrained vision of humanity and the nature of human societies. These contending strands in modernist thought have been identified very well by Dr. Thomas Sowell, and cut across conventional ideological boundaries. See more about that here. Equus describes the historical development of the Left in these terms:

The Monarchy opposed by the left has gone on to be Capitalism (in the case of socialists), racism (in the case of the black power movement among others), sexism (in the case of feminists), and so on. A colloquial way of phrasing it would be that the left is “anti-establishment.”

I have no disagreement with this statement. Yesterday’s liberalism is today’s conservatism. Today’s radicalism is tomorrow’s establishment. But if the Left is to be defined as the “anti-establishment,” then who in present day Western societies would constitute the “anti-establishment”? Capitalism began the process of overthrowing the old order centuries ago and is now well-established and has been for a very long time. Likewise, the classical socialist movement has become integrated into the establishment. Labor unions were once illegal in some countries, as were the socialist parties. Today, they are mainstream, respectable establishment institutions led by persons drawn from the middle to upper classes. Contemporary Western economies are a capitalist/socialist hybrid and bear no resemblance to the form of capitalism written about by the likes of Charles Dickens or Karl Marx. In more recent times, racism and sexism have likewise become established as the ultimate social and personal sins. The open promotion of racism is a criminal offense in many Western countries. Indeed, even perceptions of racism of an entirely dubious nature can lead to a confrontation with the law. Few things are more menacing to the careers of public figures than accusations of racism. Overtly supremacist ideologies such as Nazism or the beliefs of the members of the Ku Klux Klan have come to be regarded as the ultimate in evil. During the apartheid era, South Africa came to be regarded as the ultimate pariah state. Those perceived to have waged successful battles against racism, such as Martin Luther King, Ghandhi, or Nelson Mandela have come to be regarded as the greatest of saints. Whatever else one thinks of racists, clearly they are not establishment figures. Sexism remains somewhat less of a taboo than racism, but it is a taboo nevertheless. Even so prominent an establishment figure as the president of the most elite of universities is not insulated from sanctions generated by accusations of sexism. In other words, proponents of capitalism, socialism, anti-racism, or anti-sexism have been absorbed into the political and cultural mainstream of Western societies. Far from being “anti-establishment,” the Left is now the establishment.

Next we need to understand the basics of the sociological study of social inequality. Sociologists generally use two umbrella terms about social inequality: the conservative thesis and radical antithesis, which divides thinkers into two groups: structural functionalists or conflict theorists. Structural functionalists generally claim that stratification is functional, perhaps inevitable, or even natural and good. Conflict theorists generally state that inequality is to some extent a social construct and must be destroyed or at least minimized.

As one who is familiar with the variations of sociological theory, I would say this formulation by Equus  contains two principal errors. The first implicitly postulates that structural functionalism and conflict theory are mutually exclusive. They are not. One could recognize that stratification does indeed serve a functional purpose, while simultaneously recognizing the conflicting nature between demographic, political, or socioeconomic groups within a society. Because stratification may include a functional dimension, this does not mean that conflict is absent. Indeed, recognition of this principle brings us to the second fundamental error in the above statement by Equus.  He ignores a primary aspect of conflict theory. To quote one of my old textbooks on sociological theory from graduate school:

Any significant change in the distribution of resources that favors a subordinated group will lead to political conflict or violence aimed at redistributing advantages. In such conflicts, subordinate groups exploit the counterideologies they have employed to salvage their self-esteem, using them to delegitimate dominant ideologies. When a previously disadvantaged group rises to power, it exploits its new position just as did the group or groups it has displaced.

This is precisely the process we have seen unfolding in the Western countries over the past two centuries. Capitalism succeed in throwing off the ancien regime and “exploited its new position” by creating modern systems of capitalist or state-corporate plutocracy. Anarchists are of course aware of this. Socialism was incorporated into the managerial states that emerged in the early to mid twentieth century, and “exploited its position” through the development of the “new class” bureaucracies that have come to dominate modern states. See Alvin Gouldner on this New Class and James Burnham on its origins. More recently, “anti-racists” (a term that should by no means be regarded as a synonym for actual racial minorities) have achieved so much phenomenal success that their ideology has become one of the primary articles of faith of the legitimating ideologies of post-Christian Western states. See Paul Gottfried and Srdja Trifovic on this issue. “Anti-racists” are now “exploiting their position” in a wide assortment of ways. Hence, the prevailing political correctness we see in all institutions at present, and the emergence of previously unknown “criminal” offenses such as those prohibiting free speech (“hate speech”),  free thought ( “hate crimes”),  or freedom of association (discrimination prohibition), and new systems of privilege for the politically connected (so-called “affirmative action,” for instance).  In a similar fashion, feminists are also a newly minted establishment force that is “exploiting its position.” In the USA, for example, feminist domination of family courts has resulted in misandrist policies aimed at the criminalization of fathers merely for their male status. In those countries where feminists have achieved the greatest amount of power, such as Sweden and Iceland, they are “exploiting their position” for the purpose of persecuting men and subordinated classes of women alike. Most contemporary left-anarchists understand of course that capitalism has long been a status quo, establishmentarian institution. What they have failed to do is recognize that socialism, “anti-racism,” and “anti-sexism” have subsequently become establishmentarian forces as well. That they continue to beat the drums so loudly for social movements that have long been incorporated into the state is indication of their current reactionary nature. Hence, contemporary left-wing anarchism is a reactionary force that acts as an appendage to the left-wing of the establishment.

Now we come to a statement by Preston:

(Regarding the assertion that Anarchism is opposed to all forms of authority) I regard this as a revisionist definition of anarchism and one that is difficult to glean from the writings of the founding fathers of anarchism given a proper understanding of their ideas in relation to the context of their times.

It is perhaps ironic that Preston claims this to be the revisionist definition. Anarchists have been in no position to revise this definition. The works of Anarchist authors are readily available on the internet or in a library for any interested party and Anarchists have been in no position to alter them or destroy them. Is it happenstance that throughout history we see Anarchists aligning themselves with other anti-authoritarian movements? Every, and I say this with the utmost conviction, every Anarchist revolution, action, or moment of success has been intertwined with an opposition to all hierarchy (it should be noted that it escapes the scope of this article to explain in depth what “anti-authority” has meant to Anarchists. Obviously a shoemaker is the authority on making shoes. Anarchists have not and do not oppose that notion of the word).

Equus’ comment regarding the shoemaker indicates that even he recognizes a distinction between natural and legitimate forms of authority, and coercive and artificial ones. Certainly, anarchists have traditionally opposed “hierarchy” in the forms of hierarchical privilege traceable to the impositions of the state. It is more questionable as to whether anarchism is simply a synonym for egalitarianism taken to the level of outright social nihilism.  Some observations of Proudhon should help to clarify this distinction:

The February Revolution replaced the system of voting by “classes”: democratic Puritanism still was not satisfied. Some wanted the vote given to children and women. Others protested against the exclusion of financial defaulters, released jailbirds, and prisoners. One wonders that they did not demand the inclusion of horses and donkeys.

Democracy is the idea of the state without limits.

Money, money, always money-this is the crux of democracy.

Democracy is more expensive than monarchy; it is incompatible with liberty.

Democracy is nothing but the tyranny of majorities, the most execrable tyranny of all because it rests neither on the authority of a religion, nor on the nobility of a race, nor on the prerogatives of talent or property. Its foundation is numbers and its mask is in the name of the people.

Democracy is an aristocracy of mediocrities.

It would seem safe enough to conclude that the founding father of modern anarchism was indeed rather suspicious of the wild egalitarianism our friend Equus seems to be insisting on.

The Spanish Revolution of 1936 saw Social and Political revolution intertwined, with the Anarchists firmly declaring that neither supersedes the other.

Yes, of course. But a social revolution against what? It was a social revolution against those institutions of oppression and exploitation allied with the state, e.g. feudal land barons, capitalist plutocrats, the theocratic church, the military, the police, etc.

The Paris commune and French revolution saw Anarchists with convictions outside of opposition to the state.

When have I ever argued that Anarchists should not have convictions outside of opposition to the state? I, for example, am an atheist and have very strong anti-Christian views. Yet I do not feel the need to bring my atheist convictions into all of my political projects for a variety of reasons. In the modern countries we have separation of church and state. Elites do not take religion seriously. Intellectual culture is overwhelmingly secular. Popular religion is very ecumenical in nature. Even conservative or fundamentalist religion is quite liberal by historical standards or even contemporary world standards.  The influence of organized religion continues to decline. The common people are the most religious, and are alienated by overt attacks on their sacred beliefs. This is hardly conducive to organizing them politically and economically. Overt hostility to religion tends to produce a conservative religious backlash. Hence, I do not incorporate the militant atheism of many of the classical anarchists into my own paradigm (even if I might agree with it personally) because I do not feel it is necessary and I regard such as strategically destructive in a modern society. There are plenty of other issues that I do fit into my paradigm that do indeed involve matters other than opposing the state. As I said in an earlier critique of the cultural Left:

I am very much for the development of non-state charities, relief agencies, orphanages, youth hostels, squats, shelters for battered women, the homeless or the mentally ill, self-improvement programs for drug addicts and alcoholics, assistance services for the disabled or the elderly, wildlife and environmental preserves, means of food and drug testing independent of the state bureaucracy, home schools, neighborhood schools, private schools, tenants organizations, mutual banks, credit unions, consumers unions, anarcho-syndicalist labor unions and other worker organizations, cooperatives, communes, collectives, kibbutzim and other alternative models of organizing production. I am in favor of free clinics, alternative medicine, self-diagnostic services, midwifery, the abolition of medical licensure, the repeal of prescription laws and anything else that could potentially reduce the cost of health care for the average person and diminish dependency on the medical-industrial complex and the white coat priesthood. Indeed, I would argue that the eventual success of libertarianism depends to a large degree on the ability of libertarians to develop workable alternatives to both the corporation-dominated economy and the state-dominated welfare and social service system. To the degree that libertarians fail to do so will be the degree to which we continue to be regarded as plutocratic apologists without concern for the unfortunate or downtrodden on the right end or as just another species of Chomskyite anarcho-social democrats on the left end.

The student protests of Paris, May 1968 brought on a whole new approach to left struggles that were outside of the state and labor movement (and I believe now define the new left).

No doubt about it. Yet a core element of my arguments is that the New Left of 1968 are now the status quo. See Tomislav Sunic and Sean Gabb on this question.

This will all be explained in more detail later, the point being that it is overwhelmingly easy to glean that Anarchists have always been opposed to forms of authority outside of the state until the right retro-actively tried to place themselves in-line with the leftist thinkers of the past.

This ignores the fact that the American right is historically rooted in the left (e.g classical liberalism) and that many right-wing movements in the Anglosphere today reflect this classical liberal influence, e.g. libertarianism, paleoconservatism, populism, Anabaptist influenced forms of Christian evangelicalism, or agrarianism. See Murray Rothbard on this. Moreover, the ideas of the radical traditionalists that have influenced a number of third positionist tendencies overlap very well with those of classical anarchists. The radical traditionalist journal Tyr describes its principles as “resacralization of the world versus materialism, natural social hierarchy versus an artificial hierarchy based on wealth, the tribal community versus the nation-state, stewardship of the earth versus the maximization of resources, a harmonious relationship between men and women versus the war between the sexes, and handicraft and artisanship versus industrial mass-production.”

This vision sounds almost Kropotkinite, does it not?

Moreover, Preston has stated that he accepts:

“natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness”

This places, at least, Preston himself in the position of the conservative thesis, the sociological side generally associated with the right, if not Third Positionism itself. If nothing else, it distances the entire notion of Third Positionism from Anarchism and the classical understanding of Libertarianism outside of the US. It is ideologically impossible to claim any lineage to Anarchist thought without the idea that social inequality is to some extent a social construct.

Where have I ever denied that “social inequality is to some extent a social construct”? See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Do the English and the Afghans have “equal” levels of social evolution concerning gender relations? Would not the relationship between the culture of the Dutch and that of the Saudis not constitute an inevitable “otherness”? Equus next turns his attention to the question of the state itself.

There is no doubt that old leftist ideas have gained popularity amongst western industrialized states. Public education and universal healthcare are just two examples of leftist ideas practiced by the state.

No doubt about it. But is this a good thing? The traditional anarchist critique of state-controlled education is that it is a means of disseminating the state’s legitimating ideology and inculcating youngsters with pious reverence for the state. The historic purpose of the welfare state was the cooptation, pacification, and subjugation of peoples’ movements by making people dependent on the state and crowding out alternatives. Kevin Carson has written extensively of the progressive welfare state’s efforts to overrun popular institutions, and the welfare state idea has its roots in Prussian militarism. An anarchist who cannot grasp these principles is not worthy of the name.

This does not, however, place leftism firmly in the statist sphere of political belief.

The Left, like the Right, has statist and anti-statist strands of thought. However, it is also true that the Left has significant, even dominant, strands of extreme statist tendencies exhibited in such movements as Jacobinism, Marxism, and Leninism.

National Socialism, a clearly right-wing ideology, has seen itself manifested in the state.

Well, the true origins of National Socialism are something of an embarrassment to the Left.

Most leftists, adhering to the conflict theorist understanding of social inequality, believe that the state is a tool that can be used to minimize or destroy social inequality,

Which means that “most leftists” are incompatible with Anarchism.

Similarly, most of the right sees the state as a way to ensure that a system of stratification is as functional as possible,

The pro-state Right is likewise incompatible with Anarchism. Thus does not mean the anti-state Right should be shunned.

The New Left is intensely critical of authoritarian statism (as Paris 1968 demonstrated), but does not leave behind old understandings of authority (class oppression, gender oppression, racism, etc.).

This statement completely ignores what the New Left has subsequently evolved into, and the fact that the New Left has indeed become part of the status quo, as many have demonstrated.

On the State, Anarchism, Goals, and Strategies

A key objection that Equus raises against my own outlook is his contention that left and right wing anti-statists, whatever their surface appearances, oppose the state for fundamentally different, even diametrically opposed, and therefore incompatible reasons.

If nothing else, Third Positionism does not lay in the same historical bed as Anarchism, it’s not even in the same bedroom. While there may be right-wing thinkers that see the state as a mechanism to ensure the functionality of a society and others who see it as a roadblock, neither the left or right necessarily see it as a tool that must be used. Without the understanding that social stratification is to some extent socially constructed, Third Positionism and ATS are squarely on the right of the ongoing political discourse, accepting that social inequality is inevitable.

First of all, not all third positionists are necessarily anti-statists, and those who are will more likely be decentralists of some kind or merely interested in pan-secessionism as a tactic, rather than adhering specifically to branches of anarchism that are directly influenced by third positionist thinking (like national-anarchism). In terms of forming alliances with third position-influenced groups, I would say “take them as they come,” meaning evaluate specific groups and individuals on the basis of what they can or could likely contribute to a wider anarcho-pluralist movement employing pan-secessionism as tactic. Equus regards left and right wing anti-statists as incompatible on the basis of perceived differences in their respective understandings of human nature, particularly their contending views on “inequality.” While the elitism/egalitarianism dichotomy is not as picture perfect as Equus would have us believe, even if we concede this point for the sake of argument, it still does not follow that left and right wing anti-statists have no common ground. Equus goes on to describe a laundry list of points of view that should be excluded from the anarchist movement.

This does not exclude Market Anarchists or Individualist Anarchists from the Anarchist movement (although it most certainly does exclude “Anarcho-capitalists”). The market, like the state, is a tool, a forum, a method. It is a tool by which Anarchists seek freedom from hierarchy and those on the right use to legitimize it. The Anarchist would claim, “The market will liberate all individuals from hierarchy,” while only the rightist would claim, “Any hierarchy as a result of the market is legitimate, fair, or natural and must be accepted since it is a result of the market.” The left seeks to reform or destroy hierarchy; the right seeks to legitimize it. The tools they use depend on the individuals.

These are just word games. Why should anarcho-capitalists be excluded from the anarchist movement? Surely, we would want to exclude state-capitalists. I agree there is no room for plutocratic “conservatives” or vulgar “libertarians” in our ranks. But there is no reason why those who want to set up economic arrangements involving a Lockean basis for property rights or voluntarily employing wage labor should be prohibited from doing so in a stateless system.

The reason Third Positionism, the populist right in the USA, and other right-wing ideologies have recently become anti-state or at least garner harsh feelings toward the idea of government is easily understandable in a historical context. It is a relatively new phenomenon from my understanding that the right can be associated with anti-state sentiment at all. As the left gained support in the government via the labor movement, black power movement, feminist movement, etc. the government has adopted some ideas from the left while maintaining social stratification. Public education and healthcare are two examples of this.

This amounts to an admission by Equus that the Left has indeed become part of the status quo in many, many areas of society.

In this sense, the right is opposed to government because the government has adopted ideas that are diametrically opposed to its traditional beliefs.

Yes, in some instances, but so what? Naturally, in an anti-state movement some people will oppose the state out of consistent hostility to the state, while others will oppose it only because they see it as antithetical to their own interests.

Inasmuch as the right opposes the current trend of governments, the alliance between Anarchists and the “libertarian” right is faulty at least, and most likely hazardous.  ATS’ Statement of Purpose legitimizes and says it accepts the following schools of thought:

“anarcho-monarchism, anarcho-feudalism”

Being that some of the first Anarchist thinkers, let’s just use Proudhon and Baukunin as examples, lived in societies that had feudal, monarchist states it becomes increasingly hard, and as any further thought will prove impossible, to reconcile the term “anarcho-monarchism.” If Anarchism as a philosophy was first articulated in the face of Monarchist/feudal systems, how then could it have progressed towards them? Without retroactive defining that is completely delineated from Anarchism, it is impossible to give anarcho-monarchism any credibility.

Once again, a distinction must be made between state-monarchism or state-feudalism and anarcho-monarchism and anarcho-feudalism, just as a distinction has to be made between state-capitalism and anarcho-capitalism, state-communism and anarcho-communism, or state-syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism. Clearly, an anarcho-communist commune such as Twin Oaks is the polar opposite of state-communist regimes such as North Korea, Cuba, or the former Soviet Union. Clearly, a syndicalist model workers’ cooperative federation such as Mondragon is the polar opposite of the state-corporatist “syndicalism” of Mussolini. Clearly, a purely private business firm employing voluntary wage labor is the polar opposite of state-capitalist entities such as General Motors. Likewise, an anarcho-monarchist community where the participants voluntarily appoint a monarch or a collection of monarchs to serve such functions as the organization of protection or settling disputes is the polar opposite of the absolute monarchies championed by Thomas Hobbes. Prototypes for anarcho-monarchist societies can be found throughout history and contemporary Liechtenstein comes close to being such an arrangement. Likewise, it is possible that, for instance, an anarchist seastead or colony might voluntarily anoint certain individuals to be dukes, barons, counts, knights, and so forth, thereby setting up a kind of anarcho-feudalism. Indeed, “anarcho-feudalism” might well be conceptually useful in those countries where feudal titles still carry some influence, and where common people maintain a sacralized vision of the process whereby those titles are issued. Further, it is possible that in an anarcho-pluralist pan-secessionist action that some regions or localities of a more conservative bent might be inclined towards anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-monarchism, or anarcho-feudalism, while those of a more liberal or progressive bent might be inclined towards anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, or mutualist anarchism. Others may think what they wish of such beliefs or actions, but the disapproval of others does not invalidate their legitimacy.

Equus goes on to make a number of comments, with the same assertions repeated to the point of redundancy, concerning the history of private violence between left and right wing extremists. The following is a sufficient illustration of such comments:

However (and what an ominous word that can be!), when the “matters of controversy” are ideologies, or, people supporting and espousing ideologies that are diametrically opposed to those held by Anarchists it becomes an entirely different matter. It is simply illogical to fight alongside some one who may very well want to murder, beat, or rape you post-revolution. Perhaps the words “murder,” “beat,” and “rape” seem extreme, but they most certainly are not, especially when one places “Anarcho-nationalism” in-line with Anarchism. Nationalists across Europe, and fascists all over, have indeed murdered, raped, and beaten Anarchists throughout history inside and outside of the state.

I might be inclined to take such sentiments seriously if it were not for the fact that the so-called “anti-fascists” have a lengthy history of collaboration with Communist groups, whose tendency towards bloody repression of anarchists once in power is well-known. Besides, it ludicrous to associate all rightist political activity with violent neo-Nazi psychopaths, and so-called “anti-fascists” are not beyond engaging in unprovoked criminal violence of their own. Suffice to say that in a libertarian legal order, aggressive violence (whether by “fascists” or “anti-fascists”) would be disallowed.

The idea behind Third Positionism is that two communities that oppose each other will not live together and go on to their respective communities post secession, but assume for a moment that these two hypothetical groups live in the same neighborhood. By the “anarcho-nationalist” point of view, if that neighborhood is rightfully theirs (say the majority of the neighborhood is anti-Semitic) then there is absolutely nothing to stop them from murdering, raping, and/or beating their Jewish neighbor.

I have previously addressed this question here. I would only add that the inclination towards aggressive violence is hardly something that is unique only to “fascists.” The possibility of intercommunal violence following the breakdown of the state is all the more reason to build a pan-secessionist movement that works towards negotiated alliances and settlements for the purpose of avoiding such violence.

Say there is a Tibetan Anarchist who was dropped off at this Monastery as a child. He/she now identifies with the community he/she lives in, but cannot help his belief that the organization of the monastery is wrong. He/she talks about it with some friends and they all agree. Soon, there’s a faction of Buddhist monks that wish to reform the organization of their monastery. Does an Anarchist across the planet now turn the same indifferent eye towards the monastery?

Hell no.

This is the psychology of a Christian missionary who cannot bear the idea that even one soul in the far corners of the earth might not achieve salvation. Having been both a Christian fundamentalist and a reactionary leftist at various points in my life, all I can say is that I’m done with trying to save the world. Others may attempt to do so if they wish.

Nowhere in Equus’ rebuttal does he outline any provisions for what his ideal form of anarchism might look like, nor does he discuss any ideas on how such preferences might be achieved. This statement by Equus is indicative of what is wrong with left-wing anarchism at present:

Since Anarchists (leftists) all have a general consensus about what they are against and the only legitimate quibbles are about what they are for, there is no real reason to call for a broad alliance of them since it already exists.

In other words, left-wing anarchism is simply a reactionary movement with a laundry list of what it opposes. It offers no practical vision of what is it for because it doesn’t have one. Like the Marxists, the presumption of the left-anarchists is that all will be fine once the state simply withers away. Historical experience reveals this to be foolishness. I realized as much twenty years ago, which is why I went on to found American Revolutionary Vanguard and AttacktheSystem.Com for the purpose of building an alternative anarchist movement that is devoid of such weaknesses. Our own tendencies are growing exponentially, and expanding to an increasingly diverse array of demographic groups. Likewise, our preferred tactic of pan-secessionism continues to receive conventional media coverage. We are the future of anarchism, and not those who are stuck in a time warp where it is always 1968.

8 replies »

  1. The possibility of intercommunal violence following the breakdown of the state is all the more reason to build a pan-secessionist movement that works towards negotiated alliances and settlements for the purpose of avoiding such violence.

    This is the biggest reason I find value in ATS: to prefigure a peaceful post-state world that doesn’t require all of us to become enlightened benevolent souls as a precondition of liberty. At a certain point, it seems like the people with which we argue will not accept any compromise, even to the point of violence and domination to effect their justice. This is why I wrote “Because Killing Them All Is Not an Option” – not because I literally think they want to murder their opposition, but because their hostility to tyranny appears to cancel out their love for freedom. This is endemic in any oppressed peoples, though, which is why it’s so important that we achieve a more honest position in which understanding and healing can occur.

    To the extent we do not emphasize the last point, we do disservice to the pan-secessionist cause, I’m beginning to think. We have a tendency towards hostility to the opposition over constructive activism as well. How can we lead by example, so that this movement must not confine its arguments to theoretical projections? That is the challenge for me, at least personally.

  2. “This is endemic in any oppressed peoples, though, which is why it’s so important that we achieve a more honest position in which understanding and healing can occur.

    To the extent we do not emphasize the last point, we do disservice to the pan-secessionist cause, I’m beginning to think.”

    Interesting point. Care to elaborate on that a bit further? For instance, could you provide some specific examples with which to illustrate your point?

  3. I don’t know if I can draw on any specific examples of this happening in broad social terms, except to the extent that broad social terms arise from the confluence of particular individual terms.

    For example, somebody who takes their personal hurt at the hands of adherents to a particular ideology may come to see destroying the opposite ideology as preferable to healing the hurt. Surely you can think of somebody who might fit this description. It’s truly tragic because it suggests that the damage centralized hierarchical authoritarian systems exact might be more tricky to dislodge than we suspect.

    That makes it that much more important for positive theory to correlate with positive action. In many senses, the “disagreement in good faith” that you and I seek with others has been rendered impossible for many given the intensity of their experiences with the systems that rule us. That’s just the way it is. But to me that reinforces the primacy of securing the lower tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy.

    It’s tricky because it approaches the kind of therapeutism for which we share a distaste. Yes, you can use “help” as a way to reinforce the superiority/inferiority dichotomy that charity often entails. However, the therapeutic state helps others in spite of themselves for the state’s own purposes. Seeing hurt people and offering aid – but not demanding it be accepted – is totally different.

    What I’m starting to see is that the most stable and positive social constructs are those which orient themselves to service. In service, we initiate the establishment of good faith, instead of expecting the other party to “go first”. We also show a largeness of heart that puts people at ease and can diffuse their kneejerk reactions.

    This is why I think things like Food Not Bombs are so powerful. They are service organizations fulfilling real needs first, ideological organizations second. That’s the direction I see Hamas and the Sunni Awakening going. In a way, it’s the way any state works: by focusing their legitimating rhetoric on service, they “get away” with so much more.

  4. I’ve no problem letting you have the last word and do not plan to write a response. There are just a few things I’d like to briefly address.

    1) Cultural Marxist? Lawlz
    2) Herein the fact that the left is (in some ways) “in power” is criticized and it would be implied that I’m ignoring that while also my admittance that leftist ideas have caught on is used as proof that the left has gained ground in the state. I find it hard to reconcile both of these critiques. The point being that the sources of ideas are what gives legitimacy to groups working together. How they have been perverted by those in power is a historical matter.

  5. Oh and this 3)
    “This is the psychology of a Christian missionary who cannot bear the idea that even one soul in the far corners of the earth might not achieve salvation. Having been both a Christian fundamentalist and a reactionary leftist at various points in my life, all I can say is that I’m done with trying to save the world. Others may attempt to do so if they wish.”
    Let’s add some context, please. The (mis)quoted part of my article follows this passage:
    “There is probably racism, sexism, and classism in an Anarchist’s given community and it is within their community that they fight it. It may be worrying to an Anarchist that there is a hierarchical monastery in Tibet, but being a squarely anti-colonial ideology, there is little reason for an Anarchist outside of Tibet to infiltrate the monastery in hopes of creating a revolution there. This brings us to solidarity.”

    My concern is not who isn’t an Anarchist, it’s who is. I support those who are, I don’t care about those who aren’t as long as they do not threaten me.

    Anyway, as I said. I don’t intend to follow up much on this response. We can go on and on about the left/right spectrum and come to no consensus, and any clarification needed or potential misrepresentation of my ideas can be clearly seen if one reads the original article.

  6. @Jeremy, yeah I’ve been lately involved with an organization similar to Food Not Bombs that’s been helping out low-income workers. They’re pretty similar in that no political party is forcing them into any kind of ideology (or at least not so far…)

  7. @Equus.

    ‘My concern is not who isn’t an Anarchist, it’s who is. I support those who are, I don’t care about those who aren’t as long as they do not threaten me.’

    Not that I expect a response, but I’ll point out that you have presented a logical fallacy.

    Deciding who is presents the exact same necessity for a criterion to judge this by, as trying to determine who is not-. Taking the ‘positive’ (as in who-is) angle of course has a nice rhetorical ring to it, but it lacks substance.

    ‘Anyway, as I said. I don’t intend to follow up much on this response. We can go on and on about the left/right spectrum and come to no consensus,’

    And lack of consensus can stem from either disagreement over facts, avoidance of analyzing facts, or a lack of wish for reaching a consensus in the first place.

  8. “Money, money, always money-this is the crux of democracy.”

    I didn’t know Proudhon said that. This reminds me of de Tocqueville’s observation that people who lived in democracies were much more obsessed over wealth accumulation than people who lived under artificial aristocracies. I believe there is a sociobiological explanation for this. Dogs suddenly throw together are initially uneasy. After they briefly duke it out, however, a pecking order is established, with an alpha dog, betas, omegas, etc. Now all the dogs are relatively happy and at peace, even the dogs at the bottom rung. They all wanted to know their place in the pack, and now they do. In complex societies, what Hayek called great societies, that are also democracies, the way people compete to show their superior status is to accumulate wealth, People are uneasy because there is no established pecking order, but unlike in the dog example, there is never a point where a natural hierarchy emerges. This results in a never ending rat race in which people single mindedly pursue wealth, forever uneasy, forever keeping up with the Jones, never knowing their place in the world. One can see rampant careerism emerging, which is exactly what we have in the United States today. In a regime in which there is a bullshit artificial hierarchy, on the other hand, people are not uneasy (providing they believe the bullshit). Counts are above dukes who are above earls (or whatever–I have no idea how the ranking goes). People know where they stand and spend life on more important activities, like enjoying the company of friends and family.

    De Tocqueville, I think one interpretation says, saw things ending badly for America, because of the forces at work in American democracy. I was really taken aback by the initial Wikileak dump of the State Department cables and the government and corporate medias reaction to it. It showed the moronic and evil careerism that exists now, in contrast, I must believe, to prior days, when people had more integrity and would actually resign in protest to being asked to do something wrong rather than become complicit in wrongdoing for the sake of their career. I’ve been pondering what changes, and I think I have it. What de Toqueville didn’t foresee, and what saved America from degenerating into a careerist democracy as long as it did, was the emergence of a quasi aristocracy in America, the Protestant Establishment.. The WASPs controlled all the important areas of power, Wall Street, the CIA, the State Department. And few were unhappy with this state of affairs because of an implicit myth of legitimacy. The country was founded by WASPs, so it should be ruled by WASPs. When the WASPs legitimacy was challenged in the 60s, however, they abdicated their throne. At the same time the Protestant Establishment was declining, PCism ascended. Interestingly, in the top ivy league schools where the WASP quasi aristocrats would make connections and merge families (as in the joke about pursuing one’s MRS degree), PC now took hold. Who can dispute that PCism is most virulent in the top ivy league schools, e.g., at Harvard, where Larry Sommers was excoriated for blandly mentioning that gender differences could be biologically based.

    An interesting aspect of the Protestant Establishment was their emphasis on character. Now, we have a pseudo meritocracy, that, while possessing a high IQ, lacks integrity, love of wisdom, all the traits that the writers I admire display that you don’t see in the jerks with high IQs professing that the Emperor’s clothes look wonderful. What we see now in our ruling class is consequence of the revolt of the sell-outs.

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