This is the second in a series of essays in response to Matthew Lyons’ critique “Rising Above the Herd: Keith Preston’s Authoritarian Anti-Statism.” And here is the transcript of a recent lecture by Lyons where yours truly gets a couple of mentions. Part One may be viewed here.
by Keith Preston
“If the individual cannot get along with the community, and the community cannot tolerate the individual, what real good will state intervention produce—wouldn’t separation be, in any world, the rational, noncoercive, nonviolent solution? Yes, it might be possible to contrive a state process that would force a Jewish Community to accept the Nazi Individual, or a White Community the despised Black, or a Fundamentalist Community the threatening Atheist. But it needs only for the principle of free travel to be observed—to the advantage of both the leavers and the stayers—and the Nazi, the Black, the Atheist can all find congenial communities of their own. The virtue of a multi-communitied world would be precisely that there would be within its multitude of varieties a home for everyone.”
“Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany is a horror; Adolf Hitler at a town meeting would be an asshole.”
“When a previously disadvantaged group rises to power, it exploits its new position just as did the group or groups it has displaced.”
-Mark A. Schneider, American sociologist
“The ultimate aim of multiculturalism is the creation of a totalitarian state ordered as a type of caste system where individual privilege is assigned on the basis of group identity and group privilege is assigned on the basis of the position of the group in the pantheon of the oppressed.”
The core aspects of Lyons’ objections to my own outlook are fairly well summarized in the following passages from his critique, and these comments from Lyons are also fairly representative of the most common arguments against my views offered by Leftists:
Preston only acknowledges oppression along lines of race, gender, sexuality, or other factors to the extent that these are directly promoted by the state, particularly through formal, legal discrimination against specific groups of people. Arguing that “the state is a unique force for destruction,” Preston ignores or trivializes the dense network of oppressive institutions and relationships that exist outside of, and sometimes in opposition to, the state. It is these societally based systems of oppression, not state intervention, that perpetuate dramatic wealth disparities between whites and people of color, widespread domestic violence that overwhelmingly target women, and suicide rates much higher among LGBT teens than heterosexual teens, among many other examples.
Preston portrays secession as a voluntary process, in which many varied groups of people decide to go their own separate ways and coexist peaceably side by side. But what does “voluntary” mean in a context where wives are expected to submit to the authority of their husbands, workers to obey their bosses, or homosexuality is regarded as a perversion and a crime? And how long would peaceable coexistence last in the face of absolutist ideologies that are inherently expansionist? The leaders of a Christian Right statelet would believe that homosexuality and feminism are wrong not only within the statelet’s borders, but everywhere, and they would feel a religious duty to enforce this belief as widely as possible.
The bottom line is that the primary objection to anarcho-pluralism, pan-secessionism, national-anarchism, anarcho-libertarianism and overlapping perspectives raised by leftists such as Lyons is their fear that some individuals, institutions, organizations, or communities is such a meta-political framework will practice values disapproved of by leftists or engage in discrimination against groups favored by leftists. The selective and arbitrary nature of such criticism is easy enough to identify. Imagine if a right-wing critic of anarcho-pluralism were to make comments such as the following:
Preston only acknowledges oppression resulting from liberalism and the Left to the extent that these are directly promoted by the state, particularly through formal, legal discrimination against specific groups of people. Arguing that “the state is a unique force for destruction,” Preston ignores or trivializes the dense network of oppressive institutions and relationships that exist outside of, and sometimes in opposition to, the state. It is these societally based systems of oppression, not state intervention, that perpetuate dramatic disparities in the rate of violent crimes perpetrated against whites by blacks and Hispanics, widespread dissemination of pornography that contributes to sex crimes and social decay, and the promotion of drug use, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality leading to teen pregnancy, illegitimacy, drug abuse, broken families, child neglect, venereal diseases, crime, welfare dependency and other social pathologies .
Preston portrays secession as a voluntary process, in which many varied groups of people decide to go their own separate ways and coexist peaceably side by side. But what does “voluntary” mean in a context where leftist localities have the option of banning private firearms and private property, where urban white families have to live among and send their children to schools with violent black youth, or where Christianity is regarded as a backward superstition and a dangerous threat to freedom and progress? And how long would peaceable coexistence last in the face of absolutist ideologies that are inherently expansionist? The leaders of a Marxist statelet would believe that Christianity and private property are wrong not only within the statelet’s borders, but everywhere, and they would feel an ideological duty to enforce this belief as widely as possible.
Such criticisms would correctly be dismissed as special pleading on behalf of right-wing ideological values, political interest groups and favorite causes. One of the principal ideas behind anarcho-pluralism is the recognition that irreconcilable differences between different political factions and population groups will always exist, and the need to establish societal institutions that are capable of accommodating such differences in a way that avoids both bloodshed and the subjugation of some groups by others. With regards to the “authoritarianism” question, it is necessary to point out that abstract notions like “freedom,” “liberty,” and so forth are understood in radically different ways by different kinds of people. Lyons gives no evidence that his own ideological preferences are somehow decreed by the cosmos, by some divine creator, or by natural law. The bottom line is that the political and social preferences of leftists like Lyons reflect the subjective value judgments of individuals and groups in the same manner as any other kind of assertion of ideological principles. Leftism is ultimately just another tribe like Christianity, Islam, fascism, libertarianism, Satanism, or veganism.
The selectivity of Lyons’ criticisms is further illustrated by his choice of which groups to attack from the list of potential constituents for anarcho-pluralism that I have identified. He focuses on three of these: the League of the South, Christian Exodus, and believers in Christian Identity. He chooses not offer any criticism of “Marxist-Leninists,” “Islamic rightists,” “people of color nationalist movements,” “militant environmentalists,” and so forth. It is only those tendencies that claim to speak for the interests of white Christians that he seems particularly concerned about. This raises the question of whether it is really “authoritarianism” that Lyons is worried about or whether it is merely white Christians as a general population group whom he regards as the problem with political “authoritarianism” not really being all that important if it is controlled by leftists and their allies or constituents.
It is interesting to observe how this selectivity actually undermines his arguments against my perspective. After all, if the goal is to discredit my own outlook among the public at large, then there is a lot more potential ammunition for the critics to use that can be gleaned from my work. Imagine how the typical resident of Middle America would react to passages such as this one from the American Revolutionary Vanguard Twenty-Five Point Program:
American Revolutionary Vanguard seeks dialogue and mutually advantageous cooperation with non-political outlaw organizations including street gangs, motorcycle clubs and prison gangs. We applaud those organizations of this type who have negotiated truces among themselves and who have sought to take up political struggle.
Imagine how horrified the typical Joe Sixpack or Jane Soccer Mom Average American would be to visit the ATS website and see articles with titles like “Why I Choose to Collaborate with the Criminal Underworld” or “The Rebellion in Los Angeles: The Context of a Proletarian Uprising.” The latter offers a favorable analysis of the “L.A. riots” of 1992. Lyons’ critique never refers to any of this material, probably because it is not the prospect of violence, criminality, or “authoritarianism” that he is concerned with. Indeed, Lyons’ article at one point digresses into a lengthy discussion of obscure bits of U.S. history that includes a reference to armed conflict between rival ethnically-based fire companies that occurred way back in the American past. If warlordism and the possibility of an outbreak of violence between rival private or localized organizations is what he is really worried about, then it would make far more sense to raise the issue of extra-legal, non-state violence between contemporary street gangs rather than fire companies from the nineteenth century. But there are reasons why that would not be politically correct, are there not?
Nor does Lyons even attempt to address any of my arguments concerning the question of how anarcho-pluralism and pan-secessionism might even be of benefit to the radical Left in at least some circumstances and on many issues. I addressed that question in ARV/ATS’ primary strategic manifesto, “Liberty and Populism,” and in a separate article, “Why the Radical Left Should Consider Secession,” that has actually been published in left-wing venues. In the past, I have issued statements such as these:
The major U.S. urban areas tend to be the most diverse culturally, racially, ethnically, and religiously. It is also in these areas where the majority of racial minorities, LGBT people, persons with countercultural values, and those with left-leaning political views tend to be concentrated. The majority of the underclass persons fed into the prison-industrial complex also originate from the large cities. It is in the major cities where most abortion services are located and where most abortions take place.
If these larger urban areas were separated from the states in which they are presently located and from the federal system, urban progressives would no longer need to share space politically with rural, small-town, or suburban reactionaries, conservatives, or religious fundamentalists. Therefore, it would be immensely easier for independent city-states of this kind to enact, for instance, single-payer health care, same-sex marriage, stem cell research or a living wage. It would also be easier to protect abortion rights from the influence of current state legislatures or the federal government. Likewise, it would be much more possible to decriminalize drugs, prostitution, gambling and other “consensual crimes” along the lines of New Zealand, Portugal, or the Netherlands at present. Such changes would severely weaken and undermine the police state and prison-industrial complex. The likely weakening of corporate power following the demise of federal and state corporate welfare would also provide a more level playing field for activists to take on landlords, developers, bankers, and other plutocratic interests on a municipal and regional level, and perhaps initiate economic alternatives like cooperatives, collectives, communes, LETS, mutuals, land trusts, and so forth. (“Why the Radical Left Should Consider Secession”)
I have long believed that the ultimate settlement to the culture wars will have to be some kind of Peace of Augsburg rooted in pan-separatism. Surely, the blue counties could have all the single-payer health care, affirmative action, gun control, same-sex marriages, smoking bans, publicly subsidized transgender surgeries, institutionalized animal rights and wacky environmental laws they wished if only they did not have to share a political roof with those nasty, fascist conservatives, nazi Republicans and Christian Talibanists! (“Tradition, Race, Anarchy“)
As mentioned, the majority of the US population resides in 75 major metropolitan areas. It is in these areas where ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, the urban poor, the youth countercultures, the homeless, marginal populations and other groups championed by the left tend to be concentrated. If these areas were independent city-states, it would be much easier to advance to interests of these populations politically. Here’s an interesting case in point: In my own state of Virginia, there have been debates in the legislature about how to go about changing the state’s sodomy laws now that the Supreme Court has declared them unconstitutional. Generally speaking, the “pro-sodomy” delegates tend to originate from the Washington, D.C. suburbs in northern Virginia, the heavily populated Atlantic coast region and the metropolitan area around the capital city of Richmond. The “anti-sodomy” delegates tend to originate from the conservative, rural areas in the western part of the state. Obviously, it would be more advantageous for the “pro-sodomy” crowd if the more liberal, densely populated areas could simply legalize sodomy on their own and by-pass the state legislature.
Such a political framework would be very advantageous in ending the drug war. The large urban areas in the US, where most drug addicts as well as most prohibition-related crime is located (and where most drug war prisoners come from), could simply end the drug war a la Amsterdam on their own with conservative, rural areas and smaller towns maintaining prohibition on the “dry county” model. (“Liberty and Populism: Building an Effective Resistance Movement for North America”)
With regards to political correctness, it is certainly possible for persons holding stereotypical PC views to operate within a wider anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist framework or to join an alliance for the organization of such. For instance, the late, great, feminist-extremist Andrea Dworkin was actually a proponent of “lesbian separatism” and apparently favored the creation of communities for those with views like hers complete with “land and guns” of their own. Some in the left-wing anarchist milieu favor an idea called “libertarian municipalism,” a perspective advanced by the late anarchist-ecologist Murray Bookchin which basically involves creating independent city-state-like municipalities organized on the New England town meeting model, presumably espousing the usual communitarian-green-feminist-rainbow values of the far Left. It is theoretically possible that if and when the day comes that a pan-secessionist movement that is actually large enough and well-organized enough to mount a credible challenge to the authority of the U.S. regime and ruling class emerges, a majority or even a super-majority of the individuals, organizations, and communities participating in such an effort could potentially reflect the kinds of “far Left” values and positions on issues of the kinds that most current left-anarchists espouse.
A similar theoretical formulation could be applied to the immigration question. It is entirely possible that many if not most participants in a pan-secessionist action could indeed be persons or groups favoring a completely “open borders” policy for their respective post-secession communities. Indeed, it is even possible that many participants in a pan-secessionist movement or action could be immigrants, even those who immigrated illegally according to present U.S. law, or the immediate descendants of such. (“Anarcho-Pluralism and Pan-Secessionism: What They Are and What They Are Not”)
One of the fears Lyons expresses concerning my efforts is the possibility that some from the Left may be corrupted by my influence: “Unlike most rightist ideologies, it also has the potential to serve as a bridge between a wide variety of rightist currents such as white nationalists, Patriot/militia groups, Christian rightists, and National-Anarchists — and even some left-wing anarchists, liberal bioregionalists/environmentalists, and nationalist people of color groups…Although closely aligned with the National-Anarchists, his network may also attract some people, including leftists, who are put off by National-Anarchism’s more obvious “tribalist” baggage. He is someone to watch carefully.” It is therefore interesting that Lyons does not make an effort in his critique to critically dissect the more left-friendly arguments I have advanced:
Among the most compelling reasons why the Left should consider dissolving the U.S. into multiple nations, regions, or city-states are:
-Break-up of the U.S.A. means an end to the American empire that has killed millions of people throughout the world over the last sixty-five years, including perhaps two million Iraqis, three million Southeast Asians, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, half a million Timorese, thousands of Afghanis, and many, many more.
-Without the support of the U.S., international capitalist organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc. would be much less powerful and influential.
-The demise of the federal regime would mean an end to U.S. aid to Israel, and a fighting chance for the Palestinians.
-The collapse of the U.S. federal system would mean an end to federal corporate-welfare, bank-welfare, and, above all, the death of the military-industrial complex.
-No more federal regime means no more DHS, FBI, CIA, DEA, BATF, Bureau of Prisons, Bureau of Indian Affairs, federal drug war, federal mandatory minimums, or the national police state built up around the war on terrorism. What could be more successful at overturning the “terror war” legislation of the last eight years than complete disintegration of the federal government itself?
-An end to federal corporate welfare means a severe weakening of Big Pharma, agribusiness, or local developers utilizing federal money in efforts at gentrification.
-The disintegration of the U.S. means not only the end of federal drug prohibition but an end to U.S. support for the international drug war and the America-centric structure of international drug prohibition, thereby allowing other nations to develop more progressive policies on this matter. (“Why the Radical Left Should Consider Secession”)
What I have done by developing the concepts of anarcho-pluralism and pan-secessionism is create a strategy whereby all of the primary institutions that radical Leftists claim to oppose (those representing the American ruling class, international capitalism and the American empire) would be overthrown. Regarding domestic U.S. society, my analysis and predictions regarding what anarcho-pluralism in North America would look like indicate that most of the issues, causes, and groups favored by Leftists would generally prevail given the realities of demographic, cultural, generational, economic, and political trends. Now, Lyons and anyone else are certainly entitled to doubt the viability of this strategy or disagree with my assessment of its probable results. Yet, it is rather astounding that Leftists would vociferously attack a strategic outlook and proposed political meta-system that might grant them victory on eighty to ninety percent of the Left’s issues and causes at the expense of making concessions to the Right on perhaps ten to twenty percent of the Right’s issues and causes.
Lyons argues that I ignore forms of oppression that exist outside the state. This is simply not true. As the ARV 25-Point Platform states:
American Revolutionary Vanguard works for the creation of special organizations for the defense and protection of youth, students, runaways, the homeless, the mentally ill, street vendors and other small-time entrepreneurs, prisoners, addicts and prostitutes. These classes of persons are the most victimized and brutalized by the present system and are therefore in need of special assistance and recognition of their plight.
And as I have written:
Indeed, we have not even begun to touch on the possibilities for building a radical movement rooted in part in marginalized social groups ignored, despised or persecuted by the establishment. These elements include the handicapped, the mentally ill, students, youth, prostitutes and other sex workers, prisoners, prisoner’s rights activists, advocates for the rights of the criminally accused, the homeless and homeless activists, anti-police activists, advocates of alternative medicine, drug users, the families of drug war prisoners, immigrants, lumpen economic elements (jitney cab drivers, peddlers, street vendors), gang members and many others too numerous to name. On these and other similar issues, our positions should be to the left of the ACLU. Adopting this approach will bring with it the opportunity to politically penetrate the rather large lumpenproletarian class that exists in the US with little or no political representation. (“Liberty and Populism: Building an Effective Resistance Movement for North America“)
Regarding the race issue, Lyons himself recognizes that my proposed settlement to this historic North American conflict would involve economic reparations to African-Americans, American Indians, and Native Peoples for the purpose of creating the means to economic self-sufficiency, political sovereignty, legal amnesty, cultural autonomy and self-determination. This is a much more progressive and far reaching agenda than anything offered by the Left with its affirmative action/welfare statist paradigm. In fact, what else is there? That the liberal-statist paradigm on race issues is a smokescreen for the continued class subjugation of poor and working class minorities through the cooptation of their middle to upper class official spokesmen has been widely documented by dissident minority scholars and writers whose ideological preferences range from ethnic separatists to conservatives.
Lyons raises the issue of domestic violence against women. While such violence is deplorable, it is hardly the only kind of violent crime that takes place in American society. The purpose of anarcho-pluralism is to overthrow the American empire, state, and ruling class, and not to correct everything that is wrong in the world. Beyond that, I would have no problem with the creation of ARV/ATS sponsored programs or shelters for battered women or abused children (are you listening, ARV/ATS supporters?). In a similar vein, Lyons raises the issue of higher suicide rates among gay teenagers. I would agree this is unfortunate and entirely unnecessary. I would have no problem with an ARV/ATS Gay Teen Suicide Prevention Program just as I would have no problem with an ARV/ATS Drunk Driving Prevention Program or an ARV/ATS Neighborhood Trash Collection Program. But, once again, the purpose of anarcho-pluralism is not to correct everything that is problematical, from traffic accidents to animal cruelty to individual psychological problems to bad breath and body odor. Indeed, Lyons issues some rather extraordinary comments regarding such matters:
He portrays homosexuality as weird and somewhat distasteful but “not a problem” as long as it’s kept private; any efforts to challenge heterosexism collectively and publicly are, at best, trivial distractions from the important job of overthrowing the U.S. empire.
Whether or not homosexuality is weird or distasteful is an individual value judgment, just like the question of whether eating snakes or dogs is weird or distasteful is also an individual value judgment. Both sexual mores and dietary mores are subjective cultural and anthropological constructs. But to compare modest or peripheral social discrimination against homosexuals, which continues to decline and which is counterbalanced by the influence of powerful organized homosexual interest groups and the sympathy of elites for the gay rights movement, with an empire that has annihilated millions of people for the better part of a century is indicative of a diminished sense of proportionality.
Authoritarianism doesn’t require a large centralized state, but can operate on any scale, such as a region, a neighborhood, or a family.
Once again, comparing the narrow-mindedness common to small towns, a snobby and exclusionary suburban community, a neighborhood populated by racist rednecks with green teeth, a dogmatic church or strict parents with what the U.S. empire has done in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indochina, Indonesia, Central America, the Philippines and many other places is an absurdity that merits mention only for the sake of pointing out what the Left has degenerated into.
It is at least theoretically possible, maybe even probable, that anarcho-pluralism might result in believers in Christian Identity coming to dominate scattered clusters of backwoods counties where most of the locals already share many of their views anyway. While there is zero possibility of reviving the Confederacy (as even Jared Taylor has acknowledged), it is possible that the League of the South could achieve political preeminence in an occasional enclave in the southern states. And it is also possible that Christian Exodus or comparable groups might come to dominate some of the reddest parts of the reddest states. The politically incorrect response to this question is: “So what if they do?” It is likewise possible that believers in the Nation of Islam might come to dominate some urban sectors with large African-American populations or that enclaves of believers in traditional Islam would emerge that reflect that faith’s brand of “cultural conservatism.” Given the realities of immigration, it is also likely that communities of Hmong, Somali, Pakistani, Iraqi, or Chinese ethnics would develop, and that the guiding mores of these communities might be rather un-PC in many ways.
Of course, this does not mean that any one set of mores would necessarily be frozen in place for all time. It is certainly conceivable that a civilization where the dominant principles of political philosophy resembled something like anarcho-pluralism might over time see the development of a feminist or homosexual opposition movement in the conservative Christian or Islamic traditionalist communities, or a gun rights movement in the liberal communities, or a socialist movement in the libertarian communities, or a libertarian movement in the communist communities.
Lyons expresses the fear that reactionary, conservative, Christian, or white nationalist movements might experience growth or expansion within the context of an anarcho-pluralist political meta-system, yet he apparently dismisses out of hand concerns about mass immigration from the Third World which brings with it a wide range of social practices and cultural values that are unlikely to be found in the PC catechism. Nor does he give any thought to the possible dangers posed by authoritarian leftism, in spite of the bloody record of purges, repression, massacres, concentration camps, censorship, militarism, and lethal internecine warfare found in the history of the Left. Nor does he even consider the possibility that ceding an occasional region or locality to the far Right might be an acceptable trade-off in exchange for being rid of the empire, the state, the ruling class, the corporate plutocracy, the military-industrial complex, the federal police state built up around the myriad of alphabet soup agencies, and for the secession and autonomy of regions with ostensibly progressive values and where population groups supposedly favored by the Left are concentrated. Nor does he seem to be concerned about routine predatory street crime or even large-scale gang warfare so long as there are no incidents of racist, sexist, or homophobic hate crimes involved.
Lyons also gives no consideration to the question of whether population groups or issue-based activists outside the Left’s standard laundry list of constituent groups might have legitimate grievances against the state, other institutions, or society writ large. The abuses perpetrated by child protection services, environmental regulators, the efforts by feminists to use the family courts to essentially criminalize fatherhood, the conversion of the public school system to a network of juvenile prisons, and much else have been documented by commentators from all over the political spectrum for years. The excesses of political correctness (for example, sentencing someone to jail for supposedly revving their car engine in racist manner or the criminal prosecution of Christians for expressing theological disagreement with Islam) have likewise been documented by many different sources. Such incidents persistently become ever more common. The efforts of the therapeutic state to micromanage every aspect of life, from dietary practices to routine habits like smoking to childhood games and toys, likewise become more flagrant and obvious to the casual observer over time. And, horror of horrors, perhaps even white nationalists raise a valid point when they ask the question of what the fate of their posterity will be when their grandchildren and great grandchildren are part of a dwindling ethnic minority surrounded by ethnic populations with deep seated historical grudges against white Europeans and where the prevailing ideology insists that racial outgroup hostility against whites is not only acceptable but admirable.
It is also rather presumptuous to assume that the Left inherently speaks for all members of the population groups it claims to represent. I recall seeing an exit poll after the 2004 presidential election indicating that twenty-five percent of self-identified gays and lesbians actually voted for George W. Bush. Visit the offices of any conservative political interest group and one will discover than women are often among their most committed grassroots activists. Visit any fundamentalist church and one will often find that such churches frequently have more female than male participants. Have a political conservation with any average person who is not white and one will find that racial and ethnic minorities are every bit as diverse in their opinions about race, culture, religion, politics, social issues, and economics as whites are. In his recent lecture on “Right Wing Movements 101” Lyons admits as much:
“There will still be a hard core of white supremacists promoting biological determinism, but the real growth will be among forces that take a more sophisticated approach, including active coalition-building with between whites and people of color. Demographic trends say that white people are going to become a minority in the U.S. in about 40 years, and we should assume that there are right-wing leaders who are planning for this, not just railing against the trend. There are significant right-wing nationalist currents within communities of color, ranging from the Nation of Islam to supporters of India’s Hindu nationalist movement, and growing class divisions among people of color could fuel the growth of the right.
In other words, Lyons’ fear is not so much that minorities will be oppressed or excluded but that some minorities will not espouse leftism. Minorities are individually and collectively simply a means for advancing an ideological agenda. The Left views racial minorities in the same way as Christian fundamentalist missionaries who travel to the dark corners of the Earth for the purpose of supposedly enlightening and saving the souls of the benighted, hell-bound savages with their heathen religions and backward customs.
This consideration brings us to the heart of my criticism of the Left. The modern Left, like its Stalinist and Jacobin forefathers, is essentially a religious cult. The Left is not about developing a practical understanding of how human nature and human societies actually work and establishing a general set of empirically discernible principles concerning the criteria necessary for the establishment of a prosperous, stable, and equitable society that can preserve itself over lengthy periods of time. Rather, the Left is a kind of secularized Christian millenarianism that seeks either a return to the Garden of Eden or dreams of some other-worldly utopia to be found at the end of history. Lyons indicates that his greatest fear is that anarcho-pluralism and allied movements will take the game away from the Left. I submit that the game needs to be taken away from the Left as the Left is incompetent at playing the game.
One more charge raised by Lyons needs to be addressed:
While claiming that anarcho-pluralism would raise the overall level of freedom, Preston himself acknowledges that “there might also be a proliferation of a number of relatively or intensely closed communities, particularly among those operating within the framework of some sort of racial, religious, or cultural exclusivism or some sort of overtly authoritarian political ideology.” He has no problem with the idea of “anarcho-feudalism” or “anarcho-monarchism.”As far as I know, he has not directly addressed the question of “anarcho-slavery,” but it’s unclear why this would be any more objectionable.
Anarcho-monarchism and anarcho-feudalism (the terms can be used more or less interchangeably) would have a limited appeal in North America given their lack of congruence with American history and political culture, and adherents of these perspectives often seem to me to be comparable to Dungeons & Dragons fantasists. But proponents of such views will often cite the quasi-stateless societies of Celtic Ireland or the Icelandic Commonwealth as their models, and others will draw on the monarchic micronation of Liechtenstein as their inspiration. So what? The future anarcho-pluralist confederation or agglomeration can tolerate a few neo-Vikings or princes among its members. “Anarcho-monarchism” also represents a more general philosophical stance associated with figures like, for example, Salvador Dali and J.R.R. Tolkien, and thinkers like Hans Hermann Hoppe and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn have offered well-considered defenses of monarchy. Such arguments are not inherently absurd. The question of slavery has been long settled in Western civilization after centuries of struggle. There will be no turning back of the clock on this question, even if that were desirable, which it would not be.
Unlike Preston’s version of revolution, that means fighting not just centralized state power, but all forms of oppression.
Lyons gives no indication of what his own version of “fighting the centralized state” would involve, or how he plans to go about doing such. Nor does he provide any description of what his ideal multiculturalist, feminist, non-heterosexist, socialist utopia would look like or how he plans to achieve it. Not that he necessarily should, as he is critiquing my ideas and not expounding on his own. But what the kinds of radical egalitarian ideas espoused by leftists like Lyons typically amount to in practice is perpetual expansion of the state for the sake of regulating regions, localities, the private sector, civil society, non-state institutions, and individual lives and interpersonal relationships for the sake of compelling conformity to leftist ideology. As one of my readers, Francois Le Sueur, says of Lyons’ critique:
The questions raised by the author appear to reduce to one single fear: the question of power; that decentralising power allows for no comprehensive / universalist (totalitarian?) enforcement of social norms. And this is clearly what the author wishes: some universal enforcement mechanism that can punish communities for their “deviant” social choices. Surely that is true authoritarianism, writ large, compared with which the possibility of *some* communities choosing authoritarianism writ small is a much lesser threat to civilisation?
Lyons seems take it for granted that anything ostensibly done in the name of the “oppressed” (however selectively or arbitrarily defined) is by nature justifiable, virtuous, productive, etc. regardless of the actual results of such actions or their effects on other people, including those who are the supposed beneficiaries of such “help.” He also provides no evidence that leftist-victimologists are any more committed to fair play or fair treatment of all people than any other political faction. Indeed, one of the core insights of conflict theory is that former outgroups become as abusive and exploitive as their predecessors upon achieving power. It should pointed out that most liberals and leftists are not “anti-authoritarians” of any kind. Obviously, they are not lassez faire individualists and shudder with horror at the very concept. Left-anarchists are merely a youth subculture on the Left that the bulk of the Left regards as an embarrassment. As Abbie Hoffman once pointed out, this is the standard commie interpretation of anarchist history. The majority of leftists are not even “civil libertarian” ACLU-types, and even the anti-authoritarianism of the ACLU has a mixed record and is often selective in nature. Most leftists, certainly those with the greatest influence, are proponents of untrammeled Jacobin mass democracy, a massive and centralized socialist state, and a racialized form of cultural Marxism. According to such views, the state is an expression of the peoples’ will and merely an instrument of class power, with victimology being the modern version of the Marxist class struggle. The state is always right so long as it is acting in the name of the officially oppressed. The term that I use to describe this outlook is “totalitarian humanism.”
Thomas Sowell has suggested that the principal distinction to be made between the American and French Revolutionaries of the eighteenth century involves a “conflict of visions,” with one vision advocating a constrained view of human nature and a tragic view of life, and the other vision favoring an unconstrained view and an essentially other-worldly view of humanity and human society. This is not a left/right conflict per se. Both the American and French revolutionaries were within the tradition of Enlightenment thought and classical liberalism, the “radical left” of that era. Sowell has suggested that this conflict of visions is traceable at least as far back as the differences to be found between the outlooks of Aristotle and Plato. Likewise, I would submit that this same conflict of visions is at the heart of the historic rivalry between Anarchists and Marxists beginning with the personal rivalry between Bakunin and Marx as individuals. As one writer has observed:
For some, the intensity of the conflict has been puzzling, given that the two authors seem to be struggling for identical goals. Convinced that capitalism is predicated on the exploitation of workers by capitalists, they were equally dedicated to fighting for a socialist society where economic classes would be abolished and all individuals would have the opportunity to develop all of their creative capacities. Hence, both envisioned socialism as eliminating the division of labor, especially between mental and manual work, and between men and women. In other words, the work process was to be transformed so that all workers would take an active role in the organization, design and implementation of it. Moreover, both argued that the oppressed must liberate themselves – one should not expect any benevolent impulses from members of the ruling, capitalist class; and to insure success, the revolution must assume an international scope. Finally, they agreed that the State was an instrument of class oppression, not some neutral organ that equitably represented everyone’s interests, and in the final analysis must be abolished. The 1871 Paris Commune offered, in their opinion, a model to be emulated.
Because of the preponderance of the points of agreement, some commentators have resorted to personality flaws to account for the interminable disharmony that plagued their relation. For example, Bakunin has been accused of being both anti-Semitic and anti-Germanic while Marx has been considered to suffer from an incurable strain of rigid authoritarianism. A more promising line of explanation of their intractable differences, however, lies in an investigation into the profoundly divergent philosophical frameworks that served as the points of departure for their respective political analyses. As will be shown below, their foundational concepts are so incompatible that even their points of agreement are rendered more illusory than substantive.
Bakunin deviated somewhat from this philosophic tradition by rejecting the description of humans as essentially individualistic. For example, he mocked the conception of society as originating by means of isolated, independent individuals contracting with one another, labeling this version a philosophic “fiction”, and argued instead that humans were naturally social and always lived in communities. But he profoundly subscribed to the view that humans should be regarded on the same theoretical plane as other natural objects and that consequently human behavior was governed entirely by mechanical, natural laws.
To summarize Bakunin’s philosophy, he is operating, by and large, within the naturalistic framework established by the empiricist current of the Enlightenment. Humans are conceived as embodying a permanently fixed nature with behavior basically determined by natural laws. This state of affairs is then identified with what is good. However, when coercion enters into the relations among people, we enter the realm of the unnatural. We are alienated from our natural condition and we lose our freedom.
While Bakunin’s major theoretical assumptions were firmly rooted in materialist Enlightenment philosophy, Marx was impacted by this tradition for the most part only after it underwent a significant transformation in the hands of Hegel. Most importantly, Hegel rejected the Enlightenment conviction that humans are a natural species, conforming to the same kind of permanently fixed laws as the rest of the natural world. Instead, he postulated a vision of humanity engaged in a developmental process, constantly transforming and recreating itself in its struggle to become increasingly rational. Moreover, this undertaking was conceived as a collective endeavor since rationality, in the final analysis, is an attribute that requires, both for its original emergence and its continual exercise, the contribution of the entire species. For example, each new generation builds on the rational accomplishments of its predecessors, and in this way humans gradually succeed in creating a scientific grasp of reality. Finally, in Hegel’s opinion, this historical process culminates in a state of consummate rationality when humanity acquires self-knowledge. Here humans achieve the capacity to regulate their interactions according to conscious, rational canons and have come to understand themselves as a rational species in a collective sense.
And there you have it, folks. I submit that the real source of the unremittingly hostility of many of the Left towards my own outlook and ideas, despite common agreement on many individual issues and practical questions, is rooted in our different views of these very fundamental questions involving the very nature of reality and what it means to be a human being in the material universe. The Left views me in the same way a fanatical Christian fundamentalist views those, even other Christians, who have not had a “born again experience.” I am not a “true believer” in the Utopia To Come. Agreements on actual issues or practical goals are of no importance one way or the other. What matter is that one “possesses the faith.” This consideration above all else illustrates what is dangerous about the Left, why the creeping totalitarianism we see in our Western nations has continued to escalate as the totalitarian humanist Left has become more powerful. As H. L. Mencken observed: “The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.” Such has been the case with both traditional theocracies and with the modern totalitarian states. Such will be the case with totalitarian humanism as well.