Who Am I? Left, Right, or Center?

As one who has been very critical of many aspects of the conventional left/right model of the political spectrum, I always find it interesting to observe how my own work is perceived by sympathizers and critics alike, and from both the Left and the Right. What I often find is that more conventional leftists will regard me a right-wing, while rightists while consider me to be a part of the Left.  Perhaps this is still another piece of evidence as to why the left/right model is flawed. Consider the various positions I normally take on contentious matters:

I have always considered myself to be a part of the far Left on the question of U.S. foreign policy, and my influences in this area were thinkers like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, and Alexander Cockburn. Yet, the standard far left critique of U.S. imperialism often overlaps with that of the paleoconservatives, not too mention rightist thinkers in Europe and Russia, such as Alain De Benoist and Alexander Dugin.

I share the standard criticisms of plutocratic state-capitalism advanced by the left-wing anarchist tradition represented by figures like Proudhon, and I even think Marx had a few things to say on the matter than were worth hearing, but I find this critique of capitalism often overlaps with that of Catholic distributists and social nationalists on the far right.

I generally share the perspectives of the center-left on most of the social and cultural issues that are controversial within the mainstream society and political discourse, albeit from a libertarian-individualist rather than social democratic perspective. These include abortion, gay rights, the death penalty, civil liberties, race, gender, and sexual orientation issues, and the environment. Yet I am well-known for my criticism of the excesses of the Left in some of these areas. And I have a tolerant and conciliatory rather than hostile and confrontational view of people who take more conservative positions on these questions.

There are many social issues where I side either with the far left, and or where I take positions that aren’t even on the charts. My lumpenproletarian orientation is especially representative of this.  For instance, I doubt the typical Democratic Party partisan or academic leftist would agree with much of what I’ve said or written in the past about the role of gangs as an alternative infrastructure for the lumpenproletarian class, or my advocacy of anarcho-syndicalist model student unions.

Yet there are other issues where I swing back to the right on decentralist, anti-statist or civil libertarian grounds. These include local sovereigny, home schooling, gun rights, and right-wing free speech issues.

I also take some rightist-leaning positions on anti-capitalist grounds. For instance, I generally share Alain De Benoist’s critique of massive population migrations of the kind many societies are now experiencing as driven by dislocations generated by capitalism. However, I remain opposed to or at least skeptical of most of the proposed “solutions” suggested by rightists.

I am known for being very critical of the excesses of what I call Totalitarian Humanism, but I regard this merely as a continuation of the historic struggle between Anarchists and Communists, so my criticisms of these kinds could be considered either leftist or rightist.

I am also widely criticized by leftists for my associations with tendencies variously labeled as the alternative right, “dark enlightenment,” and the like, but I find many of the criticisms of the Left offered by these tendencies to be relevant and helpful, and at the very least a necessary counterbalance to the excesses of their opponents.

I also support regionalist and ethno-identitarian movements as a bulwark against imperialism and the Leviathan state. But some of these are also supported by at least some leftists, such as black nationalism and native peoples movements. Of course, I sympathize with comparable movements of whites, Christians, Europeans, and Afrikaners as well, so that puts me back in the rightist camp. I sympathize with regionalist movements of a conservative bent, such as the Lega Nord, Southern nationalism or the Texas independence movement, but I also sympathize with left-regionalists such as the Scottish and Quebecois independence movements, and the Second Vermont Republic. Either way, I see no contradiction between any of this and Proudhon’s and Tucker’s French patriotism, Landauer’s folkish anarchism and Bavarian regionalism, Bakunin’s pan-Slavic nationalism, or the lengthy history of anarchist participation in anti-imperialist or anti-colonialist struggles.

I am secular in religious matters, but oppose the atheist jihad represented by the “new atheists.”

Perhaps the differences have to do with wider philosophical abstractions. As a Nietzschean, I generally have an elitist and non-egalitarian view of human nature, which puts me on the Right.  I also share Spengler’s (or the ancient Greek) view that history is more cyclical than linear. But I also admire the Enlightenment and the legacy of classical liberalism. I do not share the univeralist or egalitarian zeal identified with the Jacobin tradition. But as a Stirnerite, I reject the claim that anyone has any intrinsic obligation to uphold “traditional values” of any particular kind.

Of course, the various anarchist and libertarian traditions with which I most closely identify are historically derivative of the Left, but there are certainly overlapping traditions on the Right as well.

So am I on the Left, Right, or Center?

6 replies »

  1. I think Mr. Preston is most like the individualist anarchists of the US and UK: Warren, Tucker, Spencer and Thoreau. With various flavors of anarchism (Proudhon), nationalism (anti-immigration) and distributist (economics). In the end I believe Mr. Preston is a child of the revolution (The American and French I mean) in that sense he is on the left. For that matter anarchists, libertarians, communists and Nazis are all on the left, for all the modern ideologies from nationalism, to scientific racism, to class consciousness to democratic worker control to lassies-faire are all post 1776 beliefs. The modern or leftist age is marked by a rejection of tradition, humanism and organized religion. The right looked back to a golden age and the left looks forward to a golden age. Pan-anarchism is very much a forward looking belief system and thus modern and thus on the left. Mr. Preston is both a humanist and a futurist and a skeptic of organized religion sounds like a mix of Voltaire, Sorel, and Russell.

    “I also take some rightist-leaning positions on anti-capitalist grounds. For instance, I generally share Alain De Benoist’s critique of massive population migrations of the kind many societies are now experiencing as driven by dislocations generated by capitalism.”

    This is a good point. Not even the left believes its idiotic labor theories. If the goal is full employment, i.e. to eliminate scabs and increase labor’s bargaining power, then why support universal suffrage and unlimited immigration? Employing women and migrants is ‘scab heaven’ and the antithesis of ‘full employment.’ It’s basic supply and demand, as supply of labor increases, real wages decrease proportionally. The doctrine of full employment entails an anti-immigration and anti-suffrage mentality, both of which are anathema to the modern left. Given that every major left-wing thinker from Noam Chomsky to Samantha Powers believes in universal suffrage and unlimited immigration are we all capitalists now?

    Noam should be told that helping Hispanics immigrate and work in the US and employing women lowers worker bargaining power, but I doubt he’d get it.

  2. The right looked back to a golden age and the left looks forward to a golden age.

    This is a very interesting and pregnant way of framing it, Todd. What _should_ we be looking at, if we reject these two objects of striving? Is it more important to keep people focused on some distant ideal or to focus on realizing our values and agenda within the current status quo?

    I always get a sense that the present belongs to the establishment. This is almost certainly the wrong way to think about it. What can we do _right now_ that realizes our agenda in the material lives of people? What can we offer? What do people want?

  3. I don’t necessarily think looking to past golden age is bad, but if you mean that you reject both extremes, then that is something entirely different.

    If we divide time into past, present and future we see that any dominant ideology must in some since command all three spheres. To use the pithy quote from the video game character Kane:

    “He who controls the past commands the future, He who commands the future, conquers the past.”

    The establishment seeks to give us a certain account of the past, a certain way of behaving in the now and a certain vision of the future. Any alternative ideology must wrest control of all three periods of time from the establishment.

  4. Why dont people care about those who are in need anymore? How can we spend millions of dollars to expand civil gay rights programs while there
    are children in need of emergency medica surgeries all over the US? Do you see those cans at gas stations with pictures of children on them? They are
    there because an ignorant group of people spent their money on more gay rights for improving their private bedroom lifestyles instead of helping
    out those in need. How do you put your perverted selfish wants before those in need? What a selfish arrogant country America has become.

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