Then… something happened.
I was lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete.
I found freedom.
Losing all hope was freedom.
A fundamental fact of life, regarding our potential to manifest any sort of large anarchistic mass-society, is that to successfully do this then anarchists must take the vast majority of the population along with them for the ride.
Society as a whole is essentially a social construct which is the manifest result of the most popular norms of the population. The state is no exception to this. It remains intact because a vast majority of people either passively accept or actively support statism. To therefore create any kind of large-scale functional anarchist society, a majority of people have to be persuaded to support anarchism of some sort in either an active or passive manner.
However, anarchists are, to put it bluntly, a minority. It is also likely that this situation will remain for the foreseeable future because the fact of the matter is that the majority of the population have no interest in attempting to realize any sort of bona-fide anarchist society and, even if they did, many do not have the necessary abilities in order to function within it. Material dependency on the current order is as big a factor as pure ideological support when examining the motivations of people who support statism.
This is a large part of the problem with selling anarchism to a mass audience.
Anarchism fundamentally asks people to take responsibility for themselves and the management of their own lives. Thusly, for an anarchistic society to manifest, it requires that people transcend the need for an higher authority which performs these functions on their behalf.
This is a hard sell to the majority of people who, more often than not, find taking complete responsibility for themselves an unattractive idea for whatever reason and do not realize or care that farming responsibility for their lives and management over their own affairs out to the state merely makes us all vassals to it.
Many anarchists, observing the decline of confidence in the political system that has taken place within the collective mind of the general public, consider that statism is dying. This is a misconception however. A crisis of confidence for the status-quo, does not necessarily mean that anarchism is about to reach critical mass. In fact, the most popular model of society within the mindset of the general public is essentially a reformed version of mildly nationalistic state-capitalism with a few safety nets.
Without an active and well-prepared opposition, the biggest enemy the state has is itself and the system is much more likely to destroy itself due to its own internal contradictions and weaknesses (such as the seemingly never ending debt crisis) than being overthrown by revolutionaries or undermined by incrementalists.
For us, as anarchists looking to manifest anarchism within our lifetimes, then there is no hope.
So, faced with such a bleak analysis, what is my conclusion?
The alternative: An egoists international.
The conclusion I have reached, is borne of having spent a lot of time around anarchists and minarchist libertarians both online and in real life and also observing regular people who do not readily identify as anarchists in real life without isolating myself to any particular bubble or clique. I will attempt to lay it out and describe what I think would be a productive alternative for people who sympathize with anarchism and who are determined not to simply accept statism by default purely because of the bleak situation we find ourselves in as anarchists.
I would start referencing the concept of “The Remnant” as presented by Albert J Nock in his article “Isaiah’s Job”.
Nock’s concept of the Remnant was essentially based upon the idea that reforming of the political system is a lost cause. On the other hand, Nock also argued that it would be virtually impossible to convince any significant portion of the general population to accept some sort of new libertarian paradigm and, since he flatly rejected any notion of a violent, vanguardist revolution, Nock argued that the best course of action for libertarians to focus on would be promoting and nurturing what he called “the Remnant”.
“The Remnant” is a label for what Nock perceived as a tiny minority of individuals who understood the nature of the state and society, and could only emerge to create a new order after the present status-quo had run its course and expired. This was a situation that Nock believed may not happen until some distant point in the future. In order to “revive civilization” after its inevitably apocalyptic crash, then it was important to not allow the herd to destroy “The Remnant” and therefore the focus of libertarians should instead switch to preserving and cultivating this aspect of humanity.
As anarchists (indeed, even merely as intelligent, capable people) then our situation is very similar to that which Nock described and is ultimately reducible to being held hostage by the herd.
The state itself is effectively a manifestation of the norms of the herd after all. This means that while the collective norms of the herd are statism, that there is no real hope of manifesting anarchist society. Thus, the best chance we have for maximizing our liberty is to foster organized co-operation between people who we identify with and who have similar attitudes towards self-improvement, personal empowerment and an open mind towards exploiting the inherent weaknesses of the system for personal gain. In effect, as Nock himself argued, forget trying to rescue the herd from themselves, and instead focus on cultivating “our own people”.
Now, how to best approach such a perspective in practice?
If a good analogy for the state (and statism in general) is a prison, and we are its prisoners, then the best option is for us to attempt to form an internal prison gang in order to elevate our own liberty and standard of living “on the inside” while exerting as much influence as possible on the herd as a whole, and the various institutions of society “on the outside” in order to further our own goals.
In effect, this would resemble an “egoists international”. Effectively, a distributed fraternity of individuals seeking to co-operate with each other in order to maximize their own self-interest and manipulate the herd in order to facilitate whatever ends are sought along the way.
Indeed there are many groups that existed historically (and some still do today) that can be drawn upon for useful ideas.
For instance, the traditional notion of Max Stirner’s Union of Egoists whereupon people simply band together out of mutual self-interest is a useful starting point and template for an Egoists International.
The concept of the Union of Egoists is best described as a spontaneous and voluntary association resulting from people bonding together out of mutual self-interest and recognition of each others uniqueness. Such unions however are not seen as being above those involved in them (as institutions such as the state are). The union is therefore firmly horizontalist, with no member being above any other and if members of the union allow themselves to be dominated by others, then the union will have decayed into something else. Thus, there is no “bloc voting” or any other means of enforcing any sort of microscale herd groupthink upon the membership writ large.
Because the notion of a union of egoists requires that those involved do not sacrifice any of their uniqueness and freedom or allow themselves to be dominated by other participants within the union then the members have roughly the same bargaining power and the resulting association is based on self-management. Otherwise, we can assume that some of the egoists involved will stop being egoists and will allow themselves to be dominated by another. As Stirner himself argued:
“But is an association, wherein most members allow themselves to be lulled as regards their most natural and most obvious interests, actually an Egoist’s association? Can they really be ‘Egoists’ who have banded together when one is a slave or a serf of the other?”
So ultimately, participation is left up to the individual and free association is the norm within the “Egoists International” and neither of these aspects could be sacrificed without essentially transforming the Egoists International into something else.
So the first question I would assume is: What would an “egoists international” actually do in practice?
Simply put: Whatever its members decided they wanted to do. I could feasibly imagine a variety of activities and methodologies being pursued. Many of which would not only be beneficial to those people involved in the schemes, but which would be perfectly consistent with creating some form of genuine, unpretentious and honest countercurrent to the state and the general direction that our society is travelling in.
- A quick list of ideas to pursue might read as follow.
- Think tanks and general discourse dedicated to various forms of analysis and also developing productive schemes to pursue.
- Pooling resources and market analysis for speculative investments.
- Forming co-ops for the benefit of members.
- Forming small-time farming operations to help foster some sort of self-sufficiency.
- Inventing new methods of hiding income and assets from the state.
- Developing and pursuing low-investment business ideas and money making schemes.
- Pooling cash in order to acquire capital goods.
- Skills and knowledge being taught and exchanged.
- Inventing campaigns and other orchestrated political events being created for the purposes of pursuing political goals (E.g. tax cuts, deregulation, gun rights, internet freedom and whatever other goals and causes may benefit the group) and for manipulating the herd in beneficial directions.
And so on, and so forth…. according to the will of the members.
All of these points (and many others aside) could be of potential benefits to members of the “egoists international” and all of which could be used as productive bases for subgroups to collaborate upon. Moreover, all of these things are coherent with forming an internationalized counterposition to statism.
The last point on the list is particularly pertinent. After all, I see no reason why a working group of egoists ought not manipulate the system whenever possible in order to further their own goals. What reason is there to not take such explicitly political opportunities?
The traditional secret societies (many of which were Masonic in origin) were very accomplished in this task, and although I don’t consider that they were very good models for anarchist or egoist organization and am certainly not interested in the various paranoid (and mostly conservative catholic) conspiracy theories about the various fraternal communities of the Freemasons and other similar groups, I do think that the idea of utilizing the art of applied psychology, infiltration and manipulation in order to further social and political ends (as was the modus operandi of the historical Illuminati for example) is an interesting one.
For instance, if enough members of the Egoists International were working within a particular organization, they would then be in a position to form a specific insider force within that organization to directing it in a way that best fulfills their own particular self-interest. This could be applied to corporations, political groups, unions, and more. All of which could potentially be manipulated from the inside in order to further the mutual self-interest of a few intelligent members of the egoists international in order to further their own mutual self-interest. Indeed, entryism has a long history within political groupings and I see no particular reason why it could not be pursued within the framework of an egoists international and people simply looking to further their own mutual self-interest.
Where to go from here?
Quite simply, all we need to do to begin with is begin making contact with each other. The internet is the great facilitator in this respect (although obviously care must be taken when using it for organizational and collaborative purposes) and real-life meetings have even more potential for facilitating co-operation on the name of our own self-interest (although again, care must be taken when engaging in real-life meetings and activities with people).
Let’s stop fighting over fantastical and unrealistic scenarios and begin doing something that can enhance our own liberty today. Most of all, lets stop trying to save society from itself, and become the wolves instead of the sheep.