by Spencer Pearson
Everything depends on these assholes
I agree with Keith Preston on most issues despite coming from the supposedly “diametric opposite” political tradition. However it seems to me that maybe one of the reasons Attack the System and pan secessionism is not taken entirely seriously by other anarchists, apart from the fact not one in ten the latter is remotely serious about anarchism, is that we don’t behave like anarchists. Specifically I mean we don’t habitually engage in terrifying internecine bloodletting over arcane points of dogma. Well let’s do something about that right now.
Keith often argues that the principle advantage of pan secessionism is as a tactical doctrine which offers enormous potential since it presents the opportunity to effectively ally pretty much every possible potential opponent of the system1. However, while I accept the potential ability of pan secessionism to create a political force comprising almost everyone with so much as a solitary dissident idea in their head in effect I think the just one group is necessary for the revolution to succeed. That is not to say that the other nine groups listed in Keith’s “The Ten Core Demographics of Alternative-Anarchism/Pan-Secessionism” can’t make a contribution, merely that without the other one pan secessionism just isn’t going to fly. Moreover, even if the other nine groups ally themselves with the system against my one core demographic the outcome is the system still loses.
The nine groups I reject as “optional extras” fall into two categories. One group is made up of demographics which I consider to be irrelevant primarily because they are insufficiently numerous to make much difference. The second I feel such be discounted on the mainly on the grounds that they are political cripples incapable of making any useful contribution. This is where it gets complicated. While group A (too small) and group B (too stupid) I argue should be considered irrelevant for the reason identified by their classification I would add that the only thing stopping all of them appearing in the other category is that they have a bigger problem which puts them into the first. Without further prevarication these are my two groups.
Small first, dumb second.
#3 The Antiwar/Civil Liberties Left: I have never yet met, in reality or on the net, a member of either of those groups who considered those issues to be more important than the progressive agenda, which is implicitly statist and which is firmly in control of the system we aim to “retire”. I must therefore conclude that while it is theoretically possible such people exist, in much the same way there could be some remnant of the Aztec civilization hiding out deep in the Amazon, they ain’t going to be a major component of the pan secessionist movement.
#6 Racial Minorities Outside the Liberal Paradigm. I completely accept that many ethnic minorities in the West absolutely reject the values of the elite and their progressive ideology. The conflict between the religious values of fundamentalist Hispanic Catholics and Asian Muslims and the “liberal” values of progressivism are obvious for example. However the fact is that however much those minority group despise the liberal elites’ ideology they must, if they have any sense at all, recognize that the very same ideology makes them a favored group and that further any other paradigm is almost certain to place them, at best, in the traditional position of ethnic minorities. Which is not one noted for its comfort. For this reason I can’t imagine that any significant number of these people exist as potential allies.
#7 The DeClasse: While it’s always heartwarming to see renegade members of the economic elite turn on their own class on intellectual/moral grounds Kropotkin is dead and as yet very few examples of that prototype have rolled off the assembly line. Even considering the strong probability that ex-members of the elite are likely to be extremely effective opponents of it, we surely can’t expect enough of them to defect to make very much of contribution because they are so few.
#8 Ecological Radicals: Personally I find the “deep greens” analysis to be persuasive if not all that attractive as a practical proposition. I suspect that I am not alone, or likely to be so any time soon, in that respect. We are talking about a marginal element of a fairly small group here and while acknowledging that some of their direct action campaigns are impressive, they aren’t going to be swinging the battle against the system.
#10 Refugees from Political Correctness: One of the major reasons for the success of progressivism in the West in the incredible high you get from believing, without qualm or question, that you are one of the elect; the moral and intellectual cream of society and that History absolutely guarantees you to be on the winning team. Unlike most addictions this habit is regarded as a virtue by the elite, who almost universally enjoy the same buzz, and is therefore often handsomely rewarded with cash and status. Ex-PC junkies, unlike any other type known to man, are certain to suffer for their abstinence socially and economically. For this reason this is going to be a real small group.
Too retarded first, to small second
#1. The Populist Right: Keith identifies a multitude of groups in this category. “A wide assortment of sub-tendencies including gun rights, white rights, religious rights, men’s rights, father’s rights, family rights, alternative medicine, home schoolers, conspiracists, militias, state’s rights, local sovereignty, pro-life, hard money, libertarian, anti-tax.” All of which share one characteristic. They are all political losers, many of which have so catastrophically failed as to have been made into despised out groups and none of which have ever known anything but constant defeat. While this group is relatively large its utter ineffectiveness renders it powerless, we must conclude that if this group was capable of getting its shit together it would have done so by now. (Take my word for it, I come in this category myself and I speak from bitter experience)
#4 The Urban Underclass: The group is actually defined but its massive failure, we are talking about the people who have managed to allow themselves to be put in the least desirable physical and economic environment they realistically could be. The political ability of this group is negligible, at best, as demonstrated by the fact that no-one has a better motivation to engage in political activism and yet doesn’t.
#5 The Lumpenproletariat: While some of these people might be individually capable of high degrees of endeavour and organisation (certain classifications of criminal, drug dealers, sex workers etc) this group is defined by the ability of the state to persecute it. This has been going on for so long that most of members of the group have never considered the possibility they might not deserve that persecution. We must conclude that the historical total failure of this group to organise any type of political movement must be reflective of some deficiency which is likely to persist.
#9 Lower class members of the traditional outgroups and/or left-wing constituent groups: This group only narrowly avoided getting into Group A however since the entire working class (British/European sense) is covered by the second part of the definition…… In order to get into this group you need to reject the elite orthodoxy which, at least in theory, is on your side AND be part of a group defined by its low status and therefore political incompetence. Not exactly promising material. Here in the UK it is exactly these people who form group #1, and the results are not encouraging.
Which leave us with my one core demographic.
#3 The Sinking Middle Class.
Keith correctly notes “Class divisions in the U.S. will increasingly resemble those of Latin America, and when that happens the former middle class will be PISSED!”. I should probably define what I mean by “middle class”. To some extent we can use the wide American definition of this group which is something like “anyone who has a job (or has had) and a bank account but not a helicopter”. However I personally think we could go further a use the British definition which refers to people earning at least the average wage, probably with some professional qualifications of some sort, usually having a reasonable level of education, probably owning at least some capital and invariably exhibiting the cultural values of that class, even if they deviate from them. Even using the very narrow Marxist definition of the Bourgeoisie could work.
I maintain that no revolution, or political movement of any type, has succeeded without the support at least a section of the middle class and that any revolutionary/political movement will fail if it does not contain elements from that class. Moreover, if a section of the middle class could be persuaded of any revolutionary or political ideology then the only thing which is going to stop it succeeding is the rest of that class.
It gives me no pleasure to state that argument. I am personally not from the middle class in the English/European/Marxist sense and maybe only just qualify under the American definition. My father was a truck driver (and that was also my main economic activity for most of my adult life) and all available research suggests that he was merely the last in at least two hundred years worth of ancestors on the wrong end of the industrial revolution. I myself have never entertained anything other than a loathing and contempt for middle class values which I regard as pathetic, horrendously boring, shallow and cowardly. You could construct a fairly cogent argument which stated that the essence and uniting feature of all radical doctrines was a hatred of middle class culture and that this was the principle cause of their failure. I only differ from this standard MO of radicals in having an even lower opinion of the other classes and groups in society, and it is their weakness, rather than any admirable qualities, in the middle class which lends them their power.
Pan Secessionism, I would contend, is uniquely well suited to the task of setting elements of the middle class against the system. It is, after all, this middle class which staffs the apparatus of the state; they are the people who work in the government bureaucracies, education systems, police departments, health services and social programs. More significantly still a subset of these people serve in the local government as elected representatives on local and town councils, education boards and the rest. Pan secessionism offers these people something which no other political doctrine does, the chance to extend their own power at the expense of the ruling elite. This has to be an attractive offer to people who generally are frustrated by the limitations and impositions placed on them by the centralized state which can make no such offer to them.
This class of people differ from the others outlined by Keith in that they are politically capable, having the necessary experience and skills to lead communities, or at least pacify them. Additionally their defection away from their current position as minions of the establishment would also serve to seriously undermine that establishment in a way that say the adoption of pan secessionism by the populist right, for example, wouldn’t.
This analysis of the critical target demographics has considerable implications for the tactical doctrine of pan secessionists. As radicals we are ever inclined to go looking for “extremists” and renegades hoping to forge a coalition strong enough to take on the local establishment. However if we agree that those local establishments are in fact those most capable of enacting a pan secessionist revolution then our methodology must be somewhat revised.
Obviously it would not hurt to have the populist right or the deep greens adopt the principles of pan secessionism during the “terminal phase” however I worry that if they did prior to that they might associate the concept with their own movements which would, I suggest, tend to alienate potential middle class support.
Association with one of the “sub cultural” factions of late modern radicalism might well cost pan secessionism its considerable advantage in being agnostic on almost every divisive issue. Equally it’s fairly easy to imagine a scenario where gangs, criminal networks and militant organized minority communities might be useful if the establishment was forced to resort to its military power against a successful pan secessionist movement. (After all, if the US Government actually allied itself to the Italian Mafia in extremis during the Big One…..). However it’s fairly hard to see how a Declaration Of Independence by the Bloods and the Crips is going to win over many school teachers. (See Mexico where gangs have successfully wrested control of entire provinces from the state driving everyone else to support it). By the same token an attempt to formally institute a Islamic Republic of Dearborn, MI is not particularly likely to endear either mainstream society or one of Keith’s other target demographics, the populist right, towards pan secessionism (or visa versa).
This is an important issue because our assessment of which groups should be targeted by pan secessionist activists is based upon it. I believe, based on personal experiences as well as careful consideration, we are far more likely to achieve concrete results by engaging with our local elites than we are by trying to persuade out groups and marginal sub cultural political traditions of the justice and practicality of community autonomy. If we are serious we should talk to serious people.
1 While I agree with that assessment I usually like to stress the philosophical/moral arguments in favour of pan secessionism as well, mainly because, hey, it’s not like occupying the “moral high ground” is any kind of disadvantage. I have yet to find any moral ground more commanding than the position “I totally respect your right to determine your own social, economic and political arrangements, even if you don’t” (on the basis of you should get exactly what you deserve) “I can’t see why you would not afford me the same extremely reasonable and obviously just right”.