Reflections on the Left/Right Libertarian Culture Wars 54

Recently, Jeffrey Tucker, formerly of the Mises Institute, published a piece in The Freeman, a publication of the Foundation for Economic Education, that has generated some controversy in libertarian circles. Here’s the original piece. Tucker is basically arguing there are two kinds of libertarians: the nice, friendly, touchy-feely, lovey-dovey, humanitarian “good” kind, and the hateful, reactionary, crypto-authoritarian, bigoted “bad” kind.

Having some experience with this question, I figured I might as well offer some thought of my own.

Some right-ward leaning libertarians have lamented that Tucker’s article marks a regrettable leftward turn in libertarianism, although the article does not appear to have been particularly well-received.

There are few people around who have spent more time criticizing the left-libertarians (as well as the wider hard left anarchist milieu) than myself, and probably no one who has spent more time criticizing me than the left-libertarians. If you took a poll of left-libertarians concerning what libertarian figure they hate the most, I’d probably be near the top. But I’m skeptical that libertarianism has taken any significant leftward turn in recent times. For one thing, I’m big picture oriented, and I’d argue libertarianism was far more “left-wing” in the 60s and 70s than it is today. Just go back and read some libertarian literature from back then and you see it’s obsessed with drugs, porn, homosexuals, open marriages, group sex, and all sorts of other extravaganzas in the cultural arena. While Murray Rothbard also disdained lifestyle libertinism of this kind, it was also true that Rothbard’s Libertarian Forum openly cultivated the New Left, and supported the Black Panthers, SDS, and even the Vietcong. “Right-libertarianism” back then was basically a few leftover Old Rightists like FEE, and the Randians who said they hated libertarians. Later, Rothbard lamented that so many of his proteges in the New Left era adopted a lot of leftist trappings and baggage, but what did he expect?

Libertarianism actually started moving more rightward in the late 70s when it started getting Koch money, but even then it was billing itself as “low tax liberalism” and aligning itself with the left-socialist Institute for Policy Studies think tank. Noam Chomsky used to write for the Cato Institute’s journal, Inquiry. Read what National Review conservative Ernst van den Haag had to say about libertarians in the late 70s. He was comparing them to Communists, and noting the high number of homosexuals among them. Then read now-paleolibertarian Ralph Raico’s response to Van den Haag where he’s saying libertarians need to be the champion of minorities, women, gay people, etc.

It wasn’t until Rothbard and Rockwell’s paleo turn in the 90s that libertarianism really started to take on any rightward slant, and even then it caused a big uproar when the paleolibertarians were aligning themselves with the Buchananites. The wider body of libertarians were calling them bigots, racists, homophobes, sell outs to the fascists, etc. Read some of the criticisms of paleolibertarians from the relatively moderate Liberty magazine from the 90s, for instance. Nothing’s changed. Libertarianism does seem to have grown in numbers in recent years, but the same old arguments are still there.

It was circa 2000 when LewRockwell.Com was at its most paleo, for instance. It was the tail end of the Clinton era, which had done much to push some libertarians right-ward, particular given the growth of the religious right, paleoconservatism, right-wing populism, and the patriot militia movement during the 90s. The Rothbardians were trying to capitalize on all that, and did so with reasonable amount of success.

One right-libertarian commentator has observed: “I still think it is significant that left-libertarians felt the need to distinguish themselves in the mid 2000s when Carson and others came in and started to undermine it with Marxist revisionism.”

Rothbard’s intellectual system is actually very similar to that of Communists: atheist and materialist in philosophy, extreme political and economic radicalism with a hyper-universalist bent, but staunch cultural conservatism (“keep the fags in the closet and the feminists in the kitchen”). Plus, he advocated Leninist organizing tactics, and considered Communism to be a historically progressive force for having overthrown feudalism in much of the world. You could take much old guard Communist rhetoric and take out “capitalism” or “the bourgeois” and put in “the state” or “interventionism” and Marxist and Rothbardian rhetoric would be interchangeable.

I first met Carson when he first appeared on the scene around 2001. I had just started ATS at that point, and he contacted me expressing interest in what I was doing. In fact, his first online articles were hosted at ATS. But while he had the same mutualist philosophy he has now, he hadn’t bought into the hard left cultural outlook yet. In fact, he often sounded like a paleo himself at the time, and expressed admiration for the Southern Agrarians, Edmund Burke, and the Old Right. I’m (basically) an individualist-anarchist like Benjamin Tucker myself, and Carson was in the process of reformulating Tucker’s work to make it relevant to a contemporary society, so he and I had a lot in common at the time. In fact, people would sometimes say “Kevin Carson and Keith Preston” in the same breadth, like Batman and Robin. But a few years later left-libertarianism started becoming infested with a variety of hard left caricature elements, especially those who wished to convert left-libertarianism into a branch office of the “LGBT” movement. They started trying to push me out because of my orientation towards building broad-based alliances against neoliberal imperialism and centralized states, and association with the national-anarchists, right-wing patriot groups, and other non-leftist anti-state groups for the purpose of developing such alliances. I eventually threw down the gauntlet and said either we can let these usurpers and disruptive elements hijack the movement, or we can tell them to fuck off and have a serious anti-statist movement. Carson was moving towards the cultural left by then and was getting closer to Rad Geek and Roderick Long, so he ended up siding with them, and I’ve been mortal enemies with the left-libertarians ever since. This is the gist of why the the left-libertarians object to me so much: I don’t hold to any universalist conception of property rights, so I’m not really a Rothbardian, but I do think property systems and free association are necessary for liberty, privacy, prosperity, etc. On economics, I’m actually closer to the left-libertarians than to the orthodox Rothbardians, and certainly more so than mainstream libertarians. What galls them about me is that I’ve worked to build alliances between different kinds of decentralists and anti-statists over the years, including some with very un-PC views on a lot of things. My association with the national-anarchists particularly sets them off: “How dare they defile the good name of anarchism with a curse word like ‘nationalism”?”

To be fair, I’ve known plenty of people from all over the spectrum who agree with me on these questions to varying degrees: left-anarchists, left-libertarians, gay libertarians, feminist anarchists, etc. But they’re either in the minority, or at least not as loudmouthed and shrill as the PC douchebags that unfortunately dominate powerful strands of left-libertarianism and left-wing anarchism. I also know a lot of people with unconventional combinations of ideas: white nationalist anarcho-communists, transgendered national-anarchists, black paleolibertarians, etc. I think the key to fighting this stuff is basically the Cold War model. The 60s generation is now the elderly generation, so they’ll start dying off soon enough. As this hyper-leftism becomes increasingly institutionalized, it will be more and more difficult for younger people to proclaim their political radicalism while pledging fidelity to PC without being laughed out of court. Plus, I think much of PC is a backlash against past events, and the memory of all that will fade with time. PC will eventually go the same way as Soviet communism, and for the same reasons. It’s nonsense on stilts, an ideological house of cards that will blow over eventually.

The ironic thing about all this in my experience is that, as I mentioned, I was always basically a left-libertarian myself. In fact, after reading my book, I’ve had friends from the radical right say, “I didn’t know you were a leftist!” I never had any kind of background as a racialist or social conservative or anything like that. For instance, I never had any problem with the libertine libertarianism so often criticized by paleolibertarians like Hans Hermann Hoppe. I’ve even written critically of culturally conservative libertarians on multiple occasions, and my book actually has four separate chapters where I take conservatives to task.

I’m often asked how I developed my critique of “totalitarian humanism” as it’s assumed I did it by studying obscure counterrevolutionary thinkers from the past, or equally obscure paleoconservative scholars. But that had nothing to do with it. It was just through observation. The big turning point for me was when I discovered the sovereign citizen movement in the 90s and the national-anarchists in the early 2000s and came to regard these as a means of building a wider anti-state movement. The former I saw as a means of applying what were essentially anarchist ideas in way that reflected a right-wing populist image. The latter I saw as a means of accommodating all forms of anarchism, libertarianism, and overlapping philosophies, and well as reaching out to identitarian and/or self-determination movements in all ethnic and cultural groups, including some from the far right that would otherwise never have any interest in libertarianism of any kind. But what I found was that the left-libertarians and left-anarchists would react to these tendencies with shrill hysteria that resembled a child finding a spider under their bed. So I started asking the question of what do these people really want? Do they want political anarchism? Do they want to overthrow states? Do they want freedom of association, freedom of choice, and voluntary societies? Apparently not. What they want is a hyper conformist society where no one ever says bad words and acts in a reverential, deferential way to self-appointed moral arbiters. In other words, they don’t really strike me as libertines as much as a bunch of dour puritans always obsessed with other people’s  alleged moral faults. The whole “privilege checking” thing is a perfect example of that. And their wider view that racial minorities, women, homosexuals, transexuals, immigrants, workers, etc are by definition “oppressed” irrespective of their personal circumstances and are by definition deserving of sympathy, virtuous, just, admirable, etc. irrespective of what they personally or collectively do strikes me as the mirror image of the crude stereotyping of entire classes of people they claim to be opposed to.

Authentic tolerance means tolerating people and behaviors you don’t like, not just what you personally prefer or agree with. I had one left-libertarian tell me: “I am not free as long as one queer teenager has to sit through a Mormon church service.” I’m not making this up. There’s also the way they put “trigger warnings” on everything, and their fixation on “safe spaces” and “anti-oppression policies.” Such efforts by themselves may not be illegitimate. After all, freedom of association and the right of exclusion are among the things we’re supposed to be defending and upholding. But unfortunately, much of this kind of  stuff has become a type of psychotherapy cult for freaks, losers, misfits, and psychologically damaged people who want an environment where they can act out in any ridiculous or malevolent manner they wish without being criticized for it: “How dare you criticize me for acting like a petulant five year old? I have my Officially Oppressed card right here! I’m formally licensed to engage in narcissistic anti-social behavior while wallowing in self-pity. And you better love me for it. Maturity? Never heard of it.”

You’d never know by observing the mainstream media or listening to the rhetoric in dissident political circles, but most Americans simply do not identify with extremes on either side in the culture wars. Check out the results of this recent Gallup poll.

What this shows is that most Americans are concerned with the issues that libertarians are supposedly concerned with: a deteriorating economy and excessive statism. To hear both the media and extremists on the Left and Right tell the story, you’d think America is about to explode into a race war, but the polling data shows most Americans think racism is actually a fairly marginal issue. And all of the LGBT stuff involves issues that only affect about 3.5% of the wider population. Of course, the small size of a population has nothing to do with our obligations as good libertarians and anarchists to uphold their authentic libertarian rights (speech, association, privacy, property, religion, due process, etc). Libertarianism means nothing if it does not mean defending the undefendable, or those who are most unpopular with the wider society. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve gone out of my way to give a fair hearing to those with unpopular political views, unconventional religious preferences, or who are members of perceived deviant subcultures. But while the organized “LGBT” rights movement may have started off as a legitimate libertarian movement resisting police repression and state persecution, it has now become a force that is favored by substantial sectors of the state and the ruling class, and has a clearly articulated state-centric agenda of its own as demonstrated by its attacks on the aforementioned libertarian rights of others. Indeed, the social status of the LGBT community has advanced to the point where a majority of Americans now believe one in four people is a sexual minority, about seven times their actual numerical size.

How did these perceptions come about?

I recently saw where Kevin Carson tweeted the rather dubious claim about that we all need to take a stand against transphobia, et. al. in order to strengthen working class solidarity (WTF?), and to claim otherwise represents an anachronistic 1930s “workerist” outlook.  But a perspective like that completely ignores the past 40 years of U.S. politics. Starting in the 70s, the Democratic Party bought off the loyalty of the Left with social issues and identity politics, while moving the party away from its older union base and obscuring the McGovernite pacifist wing of the party, and moving the party towards neoliberalism in economics and liberal internationalism in foreign policy (see Bill Clinton and Barack Obama). Adolph Reed Jr, an African-American leftist-socialist has a very good piece about all this in Harper’s this month.

The Republicans responded to this by reaching out to the far right on social issues (by creating groups like the Moral Majority in the late 70s), while allowing the neoconservatives to take control of the party and move it towards Third World plutocracy in economics, and into the Twilight Zone on foreign policy. In order to keep shoring up their electoral bases, the two parties kept reaching into the outer fringes of cultural politics as a means of creating constituents for themselves. Meanwhile, a variety of factors, from the easing of broadcast licensing requirements to the advent of cable TV and the internet, allowed for the much greater diversification of the media. So different factions of the elite established media outlets of their own to appeal to their respective fringe constituencies. Hence, the advent of networks like MSNBC and FOX. On a socioeconomic level, this represents a conflict between the traditional WASP elite on the GOP side and a rising upper middle class of newly rich entrepreneurs outside the traditional plutocracy, urban professionals, the expanded public sector, elites within traditional outgroups, and a spectrum of liberal political interest groups on the Democratic side. Working class oriented politics no longer exists in the US. Instead, it’s about rival cultural factions within the affluent and wealthy classes. Basically, now elderly 60s hippies and and now late middle aged 80s yuppies on one end, and conservative suburbanities and Chamber of Commerce types on the other end. Voting patterns in U.S. elections reflect this.

Here’s the relevance of all this to anarchists and libertarians: Most political radicals tend to originate from or orient themselves towards the cultural fringes. That makes sense. Someone who is not alienated from the mainstream culture is probably going to be less inclined to reject mainstream political norms as well. Consequently, most anarchists and libertarians tend to identify with the cultural far left. That’s obviously true of the leftist-anarchists and it’s generally true of libertarians as well as I previously pointed out. Those who don’t identify with the cultural far left tend to go to the other extreme and identify with conservative Christianity, white nationalism, neo-monarchism, et. al. As for the culturally leftist libertarians, Rothbard identified the core problem with this: While their values may put them at odds with Middle America, they’re not necessarily at odds with the values of the cosmopolitan, secular, progressive cultural and intellectual elite. And they’re not necessarily at odds with the business elite who, for instance, want cheap Third World labor and are pro-immigration, and who want to cultivate an ever greater array of populations as customers. Historically, capitalism has had the effect of advancing cultural liberalism rather than hindering it. Even Noam Chomsky has pointed this out. Nor are they at odds with the state, which seeks an ever greater variety of clients for state services and voting constituencies for the funding of those services. Rothbard was politically shrewd enough to recognize that in a secular, multi-ethnic, plutocratic state-capitalist, welfare state and mass democracy, it is ultimately going to be those who reject cosmopolitan values who come into the greatest amount of conflict with the state. The exception would be the lumpenproletariat, i.e. the class that rejects middle class values altogether like drug addicts, the homeless, criminals, the chronically unemployed, the perpetually poor, etc. As a champion of anti-statism but as a defender of middle class values and property rights, Rothbard recognized his best bet was to align himself with right-wing reactionary elements. Hence, the beginning of the paleo movement, which laid the groundwork for the Paul campaigns 15-20 years later, which in turn spurred the growth of libertarianism we’ve seen since. In other words, Rothbard was right, and the paleo strategy worked. In fact, I even think the newsletter scandal helped. As they say in show biz, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Where the current left/right controversy among libertarians comes in has to do with something Rothbard himself identified 20 years ago: While there are certainly people who are drawn to free market libertarianism because they prefer middle class values or economic conservatism, most people with such values remain ordinary conservatives and do not cross the line into libertarianism. A much larger group that is drawn to libertarianism are those who oppose the state because they oppose authority of any kind. They hate politicians for the same reasons they hate their parents. They join the libertarian milieu not to uphold middle class values but to reject them in favor of the drug culture, sexual deviance, alternative lifestyles, cultural uber-cosmopolitanism, etc. So they end up siding with the far left on cultural issues, which are the only ones they really care about in the first place.

That’s where a guy like me enters the controversy. For 15 years, I’ve pushed the idea that the only way the state will ever be effectively subverted is through a cross-cultural, cross-ideological alliance by all those under attack by the state. This includes lumpen elements on the far left, anti-cosmopolitan elements on the far right, and the radical middle of people who are culturally “normal” but just don’t want to get shit on economically by the alliance of big government and crony capitalism, don’t want to get killed in imperialist wars, don’t want the cops kicking in their door, don’t want their kids shipped off to a federal pen for decades for petty drug offenses, etc. And the only way to work around these differences is through decentralized associational liberty resulting in independent enclaves for factions with contending values, as advocated by such concepts as  anarcho-pluralism, national-anarchism, anarcho-ecumenicalism, pan-anarchism, anarchism without hyphens, etc. This should be a matter of common sense, but it’s so controversial among some anarchists and libertarians because they ultimately hate their cultural opponents more than they hate the state or the establishment. The real enemy of liberty in their view is not the empire, military industrial complex, corporate plutocracy, police state, prison-industrial complex, or the regulatory bureaucracy. No, the enemies of liberty are rednecks who think gay marriage is icky or stuffy suburbanites with their manicured lawns.

I should probably once again point out that I’m not really a Rothbardian, because I don’t think anarcho-capitalism or Lockean property theory needs to be universalized. And as I mentioned, I’m actually more in the left-libertarian camp on economics than I am a conventional libertarian, and much more sympathetic to the socialist-anarchist camps than right-libertarians normally are.  If Rothbard were here today, he’d probably be attacking me for my left-wing deviations the same way he attacked Karl Hess and Murray Bookchin for the same. In fact, my views are probably closer to Hess or 19th century individualists like Tucker and Stirner, or to Proudhon himself, than they are to Rothbard, Rand, Mises, Hayek, Friendman, and other libertarians gods of the 20th century. But I don’t think there’s any “true” economic system just as there is no “true” cultural system.

I regard the historic anarchist struggle against states, ruling classes, and empires to be over and above the specifics of particular economic systems and the cultural norms of particular communities and societies.

Anarcho-capitalism for Rothbardland. Workers councils for Chomskyland. Primitivism for Zerzanland. Stuffy Home Owners Associations for the bourgeoisie. Orania for the ethno-statists. Mondragon for the syndicalists. Black Panthers for the ‘hood. Swaziland and Botswana for the black separatists. Georgism for the Georgists. Monasteries for the monks. Liechtenstein for the anarcho-monarchists. Lakotah Republic for the Native Americans. Vermont and Cascadia for the Green decentalists. Colorado for the stoners. Amsterdam for the hookers, druggies, and trannies. South Central for the Bloods and Crips.  Sweden for the social democrats. Switzerland for the militiamen.

54 comments

  1. While my own personal leanings are culturally left, I’m not opposed to broad alliances with non-left groups. I don’t quite understand the “left leaning” opposition to “right leaning” anti-state movements though. As far as I can tell, the National Anarchists want their own racially or culturally homogenized enclaves where they can be autonomous. And the still much feared Anarchocapitalists of a more Hoppesean mindset want to be able to trade goods freely while expressing themselves in a culturally traditional manner.

    Neither of these are things I myself would be eager to take part in. But I wholly support other people doing it themselves if they so wish. I thought that was part of the appeal of libertarianism, the idea of not enforcing one’s views of how another should live their life. I re-iterate, I’m a very proud left-libertarian. But I’m a left-libertarian whose starkly opposed to the aggressive mind games that a great deal of the Carsonesque mileau have taken up. I guess ‘live and let live’ is something lost on people who get too caught up in their own righteousness. Even if that is the core of their philosophy.

    • Welcome to Attack the System. There’s a small but growing group of left libertarians who have become disillusioned with that milieu as well. I appreciate the critical eye towards pluralist strategy that certain folks offer, but they need to account for how they will deal with the problems differently. For example, what do you do about racist communities who simply don’t accept your values? As far as I can tell, many left libertarians simply deny that would be a problem in any genuinely anarchist society. Maybe so, but that’s putting the cart before the horse quite a bit!

      • Well it’s uncanny. Part of what drove me further into Anarchism as a thing at all was the idea that nobody has the right to tell anyone else how to live their life. And in the end that’s what much of this seems to come down to. I find myself in discussions between rabid AnCaps and frothing at the mouth AnComs to be a increasingly isolated by the dialogue. I try to give credit where credit is due to each side and I try to make some criticisms here and there but some how I’m either seen as “the other side” or kind of a quaint but unnecessary voice in a wholly polarized argument.

        There’s plenty of things to be worked out in what an Anarchist society or societies would look like ideally. But frankly all of it is meaningless while we have a powerful and monolithic enemy who favors our divisiveness. (…I can’t tell if I’m being unnecessarily wordy or not.)

      • ” For example, what do you do about racist communities who simply don’t accept your values? As far as I can tell, many left libertarians simply deny that would be a problem in any genuinely anarchist society.”

        Well, that’s what I see as the root of some of these conflicts. I guess it depends on what one’s goals are. My goal is to resist the escalating encroachment of global government in all its manifestations (U.S. empire, U.N., transnational economic oligarchies), and to dismantle the leviathan states that have come to dominate societies over the past century or two. I want to see revolutionary anarchist movements taking root all over the world, the way Marxist and revolutionary nationalist movements did in the 20th century, and carrying out waves of actual revolutionary actions the way these earlier movements did before them.

        This means organizing and supporting revolutionary struggle from Amsterdam to rural Pakistan, in Africa, in Russia, in Asian, and the Americas. But anarchist movements would obviously be dealing with a wide assortment of cultural demographics if such scenarios were to begin to grow. If anarchists and libertarians think culturally conservative sectors are icky in North America, and in Western Europe, what about certain other parts of the world? My associates from the radical right, for instance, are “liberal” compared to what you would find in many parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or even Russia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.

        Kropotkin used to counsel anarchists in Russia to try to reach the peasants by meeting them where they are at: i.e. Don’t try to push Darwin and Nietzsche on them, focus on their feeling of economic exploitation at the hands of the landlords. That’s all I’m saying.

        • National Anarchists are a walk in the park compared to National Statists. The same is true for just about any Anarchist-to-Statist comparison, but I’ve seen some very scary National Statists. One of my favorite artists is actually a rabid white supremacist and Russian nationalist who fixates on violence as a way of solving every problem. The worst I’ve ever seen from a National Anarchist is that they’d be interested in a nationally and genetically pure enclave which would ostracize minorities. Sure, it’s not kosher or something I agree with, but it’s not the violence that you see from a Statist. (Again true for any statist, really.)

          I suppose what really broke my support for “fight the reaction” were the way the unified their enemies into one big lump. Capitalism, racism, sexism, it wasn’t enough to have these be separate problems that could be dealt with in separate ways. You’re either absolutely humanitarian and jesuslike or you’re a fascist capitalistic racist sexist pig who loves the 1%. And it made them super uncomfortable if you challenged that or lied somewhere in between.

          Also, about Kropotkin counseling peasants, I totally did not know that. Do you know which works he would have outlined that in? It’s super cool and maybe it’s something I can slip under some of my leftist buddy’s eyes.

          • I read that bit about Kropotkin in some anarchist work about 25 years ago. It’s stuck with me over the years, but I can’t recall the source. I’ve tried to locate it, but to no avail.

            • Ah, I’ll do a little research myself. I ask because I’ve actually said to some LL friends that they should consider the average farmer or peasant type of person. A lot of them aren’t going to be radical reformist types, they’re some of the most conservative people you could ever hope to meet.

              I also point out that the FAI-CNT used similar tactics in the Spanish Civil War. They were under a great deal of pressure from worried parents about husbands leaving their daughters, so they formed “revolutionary marriages” to try and ease the more rightwing peasant folk. It’s an interesting story really.

  2. “For 15 years, I’ve pushed the idea that the only way the state will ever be effectively subverted is through a cross-cultural, cross-ideological alliance by all those under attack by the state.”

    And if I understand you correctly, you think that left-libertarian resistance to that idea is primarily a function of left-libertarians not wanting to associate with [insert boogeyman here]?

    • I think it’s a real, profound shame that the kind of anarcho-pluralism Keith has pushed has been associated with his personal opinion of how pluralist it should be (namely the inclusion of far right elements). Let me frankly acknowledge that I’ve heard of many on the libertarian left who are open to a more pluralist coalition, but they just think Keith takes it too far. That is a fair position to hold, I believe.

      The problem to my mind is that they let the more extreme elements of the libertarian left drag down the debate with name calling and invented hyperbolic outrage. There’s no ability to calm down and deal with the realities of difference; no, we must segregate and excommunicate the other side.

      This is why I cringe every time Keith makes it about culture. I don’t think that captures it at all. It’s instead about the kind of wider libertarian debate that is productive, and who is in the window of acceptable positions. The left libertarians have generally banished Keith’s views from the realm of acceptable debate, and this is a tremendously unjust error. Everything else about “cock ringed queers” and “anarcho-fascists” and what not is just the piling of more noise on top of noise in attempt to obfuscate, not call out, the real differences.

      To put a finer point on this, remember the JLS symposium on Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, where Reisman and Block simply argued with a simplistic, outrageous straw man version of Carson’s thesis in Studies? I think Preston is mistreated by left libertarians in precisely the way that Mises folks mistreated Carson–instead of engaging in new, uncomfortable areas that drew them out of familiar territory, they simply repeat the same tone deaf lines that cement their own certainty and deny any truth value at all to competing concerns.

      It’s interesting to remember how marginal left libertarianism used to be, and how easily it was abused and dismissed by the dominant libertarian schools of the time. I think one day the critique of totalitarian humanism will have it’s day, because it’s a more honest way of looking at the current state of the Left. And in the process of finding a way to have a productive dialog with harder left folks, ATS is discovering new aspects of what a meta-political system in which different tendencies can coexist might look like.

      • “I think it’s a real, profound shame that the kind of anarcho-pluralism Keith has pushed has been associated with his personal opinion of how pluralist it should be (namely the inclusion of far right elements)”

        Well, my feeling about that is that it’s foolish to push away a wide assortment of people who are against the system in many different ways, and who have many of the same enemies, simply because they don’t meet up with contemporary standards of what it means to be socially progressive. For instance, most of the radical right in the US is consistently against US military intervention, and supportive of Edward Snowden’s efforts. Now why should I push them away simply because many of them are pro-life or disapprove of same-sex marriage or think immigration rates are too high? Why do these issues trump all the other issues?

        I’d say the same thing about many different kinds of people in various anti-state movements. Do you know who Tim Starr is? He’s a “hawkish libertarian” CIA-lover with neoconnish foreign policy views. Obviously, he and I are polar opposites on foreign policy and international relations, but why would I want to push him out of my, for example, drug legalization group? Let’s say I was organizing a general strike of fast food workers? Why would I want to exclude a transgendered McDonald’s worker who doesn’t have my position on antidiscrimination laws? Let’s say there’s a prisoner revolt. Why would I push away a left-wing feminist attorney who wished to represent the prisoners in some sort of legal action?

      • “This is why I cringe every time Keith makes it about culture.”

        You may be misunderstanding me on this. I don’t think of the conflict as being about the fact that many people in the libertarian milieus have far left cultural values. It’s not even those values themselves that I object to. I might think it gets a bit over the top at times, but the criticism I have is that I reject the view than any one cultural faction is entitled to monopolize wider movements. Libertarianism, for instance, is about the state, not about any one set of cultural norms. I’d be just as opposed to someone like Hans Hermann Hoppe insisting that only social conservatives can be a part of libertarianism. The problem is that these kinds of outlooks weaken the wider struggle by fostering internal divisions. The anti-state movement needs to organize everywhere from backwoods Alabama counties to the uber-liberal Bay Area. THAT’S how we bring down the state.

      • “I think one day the critique of totalitarian humanism will have it’s day, because it’s a more honest way of looking at the current state of the Left. And in the process of finding a way to have a productive dialog with harder left folks, ATS is discovering new aspects of what a meta-political system in which different tendencies can coexist might look like.”

        That’s more or less the direction I want to move in the future, i.e. bringing the critique of totalitarian humanism into the mainstream along with the anarcho-populist strategy, while continuing to build pan-anarchism and pan-secessionism. Actually, ATS has moved considerably into the libertarian mainstream over the course of its history. I used to post some REALLY hard core stuff on here back in the early 2000s, a lot of Islamic radical and U.S. militia stuff.

  3. Well, there are certainly reasonable counter-arguments that could be made against many of my positions, of course, but that’s the only one that the left-libertarians have ever voiced with any frequency or consistency, and it’s certainly the one that’s the source of the vitriol.

    • Interesting. To be honest, I’ve never argued against your positions before because until very recently I somehow never really noticed you (I’d occasionally see your name, linked to the kind of voicing you reference, and had more important things to do than investigate further; it was Weiland’s apparently positive engagement with you that caused me to take a closer look).

      My own response to your ideas after a brief exploration (a few of the articles linked under ATS purpose, etc.) is that a movement for radical decentralization should be, well, radically decentralized. If I think [insert group or tendency here] is icky, there’s always something productive I can be doing that doesn’t require me to associate with the ickies in any kind of formal “cross-cultural, cross-ideological alliance.” All I have to do is stay out of their way and all they have to do is stay out of mine, and we can both do just fine at subverting the state.

      • I plan on launching a separate project for a more leftward-oriented flavor of anarcho-pluralism, something that can bring together a different constellation of cross-ideological alliances without the baggage of ATS. I’ve heard many left libertarians that actually like Preston’s ideas, but not the way he construes them in real world action. The solution to everything the libertarian left hates about ATS is not to shun it, but to do it better than Keith is doing it. That’s my take, at least.

        • I’ll be interested to see that project.

          From my perspective, while I have areas of agreement with some critiques of C4SS’s direction, it’s still very much doing the thing I’m interested in doing (getting a better libertarian perspective than that of the “establishment”/”improve rather than replace the system” think tanks onto newspaper op-ed pages).

          For some time, I’ve been getting further and further away from the idea of a “movement” as such. It’s my opinion that the Westphalian nation-state paradigm is within single-digit decades of coming apart completely — partly in a sort of Hegelian “under the weight of its own contradictions” collapse, partly due to emerging competing social and economic trends that aren’t really susceptible to “movement” organization.

          • From my perspective, while I have areas of agreement with some critiques of C4SS’s direction, it’s still very much doing the thing I’m interested in doing (getting a better libertarian perspective than that of the “establishment”/”improve rather than replace the system” think tanks onto newspaper op-ed pages).

            Yeah. That’s why I’m tired of bitching about C4SS. Instead, why don’t I just build something that reflects exactly what I’d like to see, and then we have two organizations doing good instead of one. I mean, C4SS isn’t really off the rails, it’s just not doing IMHO what it was designed to do. The vast majority of visitors to C4SS are already libertarians of some sort, not the middle Americans I thought we really wanted to reach. I know you’re intimately familiar with the details of C4SS’s outreach effectiveness, but the whole feel of the project has become insular and censorious to me. I realize I bring some of that baggage, though.

            It’s my opinion that the Westphalian nation-state paradigm is within single-digit decades of coming apart completely — partly in a sort of Hegelian “under the weight of its own contradictions” collapse, partly due to emerging competing social and economic trends that aren’t really susceptible to “movement” organization.

            Amen. In a lot of ways I’ve grown tired of C4SS’s emphasis on simply trying to convince people that this is happening, which is what much of Carson’s research is on, and instead answer the question of what we should tactically and strategically do about it. That is the major reason ATS appeals to me; it is taking the hardest issues first and facing them squarely. Instead of treating anarchism as an academic ideology, we at ATS treat anarchism as a coming reality for which we desperately need adequate tools. The attitude that it’s going to work itself out is possible only when you see decentralism and the hollowing out of nation states as a distant possibility , and not as a reality lurking just around the corner.

            And that’s precisely what I mean when I talk about taking left libertarianism _seriously_: the willingness to engage in non-idealized visions of likely futures where left libertarian analysis allows us to better adapt, respond, and ultimately help others survive and thrive.

            • “I mean, C4SS isn’t really off the rails, it’s just not doing IMHO what it was designed to do. The vast majority of visitors to C4SS are already libertarians of some sort, not the middle Americans I thought we really wanted to reach.”

              While I understand your argument here, I think it is incorrect.

              Yes, the vast majority of visitors to C4SS’s web site are already libertarians of some sort.

              But I consider the C4SS web site to be the “back end” of the operation, and its main functions to be a) letting libertarians know what we’re up to and b) getting libertarians to fund/support what we do.

              The “front end” of C4SS is submitting op-eds to publications — mostly mainstream newspapers — in order to reach those “middle Americans” you refer to. And while I’m not going to claim we’re doing as well on that end of things as I wish we were, I think we’re doing pretty damn well for a startup. I think that within a couple of years we will be competitive “by the numbers” with organizations like Cato, CEI, etc. when it comes to being able to place a viewpoint on a mainstream media page.

              • I know we owe a lot of that work to you, Tom. I’ve always appreciated your dedication to the core mission of C4SS. While some have treated it as a clique, you have treated it as a real calling. My disillusionment with the organization should not be construed as disappointment with many of the people involved. It’s too bad certain personalities seem to dominate and set the character of the group.

                I’m not rooting against C4SS–I’m rooting for you guys.

                • Jeremy, Thanks for that. But I don’t see it as a clique. While I have very real disagreements with some at C4SS over everything from thin/thick to the increasing adoption of postmodernist/critical theory arguments, I think everyone there is at least as committed to the mission as I am.

                  I was actually thinking about this a few minutes ago about Keith’s criticism that “all of the LGBT stuff involves issues that only affect about 3.5% of the wider population.”

                  I just don’t see any way that’s true. Even if only 3.5% of the population is LGBT, issues don’t map one-to-one on the demographics. That 3.5% of the population have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends. Additionally, issues at the edge or margin tend toward multiplier effects on both sides — the smaller groups that advocate for them are loud, and because they are edge or marginal the reaction TO them is much stronger.

                  I can think of lots of issues that are directly applicable to nearly 100% of the population, but those issues aren’t likely to be productive channels for achieving change either in attitude or on the ground, precisely because they are not controversial.

                  • We’ve had different experiences within the organization, Tom, no question.

                    I agree with you on the LGBT issues stuff. Like I said in another comment, I disagree with Keith that this is about cultural issues per se. I think it has much more to do with the inability of one or both sides to realize downright liberal principles of open, respectful, civil debate that maximizes communication and minimizing pot shots. If we had a healthy dialogue, there would be much less chance that the differences between ALL and ATS would be so irreconcilable.

                    • I suspect there are strong basic differences between ALL and ATS that aren’t reconcilable.

                      For example, apart from the perceived overlap between “national anarchism” and e.g. racial separatism, which definitely pings the anti-racist values that are fairly ubiquitous on the left-libertarian side, there’s a general sentiment of “anti-tribalism.” Or at least anti-tribalism where the tribalism is based on genetic or geographical accident.

                      Like most libertarians, I suspect most left-libertarians would be willing to accommodate voluntary tribes in a large milieu of overall liberty, but we’re not very interested in raising that flag as a rallying point.

                    • “I just don’t see any way that’s true. Even if only 3.5% of the population is LGBT, issues don’t map one-to-one on the demographics. That 3.5% of the population have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends. Additionally, issues at the edge or margin tend toward multiplier effects on both sides — the smaller groups that advocate for them are loud, and because they are edge or marginal the reaction TO them is much stronger.”

                      I’m not against LGBT people. I’ve always had the same position on subjects like homosexuality as long as I’ve even know what it is. It’s none of my business and none of the state’s business, period. Apparently, my views on this have gone from ultra-liberal to neo-Nazi in the space of 30 years just by my standing in the same place on the issue.

                      But here’s the issue I have with all this: From what I can tell, the LGBT movement is mostly about acquiring state legislated rights for themselves: gay marriage, anti-discrimination laws, hate crimes, etc. I’m indifferent to gay marriage. I don’t have a problem saying government agencies and mass corporations can’t discriminate, but prohibiting private discrimination violates other liberties like property, association, privacy, trade, religion. And hate crimes and hate speech laws spill over into the dangerous area of thought policing and censorship, and really do involve creating special rights for favored classes of people.

                      What I don’t get is what this has to do with actually overthrowing any governments, or the libertarian non-aggression principle, or class struggle against capitalism, or property rights, depending on whatever version of libertarianism one holds to. One could certainly actively agitate for LGBT causes on other grounds, just like one can be a pro-life or pro-choice or animal rights activist or an environmentalist and still be within the libertarian paradigm for the most part. Nor do I have any interest in pushing away LGBT people who are solid on other questions even if I disagree with some of their agenda. Do I want to ban LGBT people from antiwar protests? from labor strikes? from constructing alternative enterprises? Do I wish to not defend LGBT people who are victims of, say, police brutality or prison rape? No, of course not. But I’d say the same about many other populations as well. So why does this have any more to do with libertarianism than a myriad of other social issues people are concerned with like, for instance, preventing teen pregnancy or creating better assisted living facilities for the elderly?

        • “I plan on launching a separate project for a more leftward-oriented flavor of anarcho-pluralism, something that can bring together a different constellation of cross-ideological alliances without the baggage of ATS. I’ve heard many left libertarians that actually like Preston’s ideas, but not the way he construes them in real world action. The solution to everything the libertarian left hates about ATS is not to shun it, but to do it better than Keith is doing it.”

          I’m all for that. I’m all for people picking up on ideas they find here and taking them in their own direction. As our kinds of anarchism grow, I imagine it will split off into all kinds of factions of its own, as movements generally do. There will be left anarcho-pluralists, right anarcho-pluralists, free market and socialist versions, conservative and leftist versions, etc. But that unifying thread of a pluralistic anarchism will still be there, just as the labor question was the unifying thread among the different factions of classical anarchism.

          • First you say that your problem with LGBT issues focus is that “all of the LGBT stuff involves issues that only affect about 3.5% of the wider population.”

            Then when I point out that that’s a pretty specious claim, you claim that no, your problem with LBGT issues focus is a bunch of other stuff.

            Let me know when you make up your damn mind.

            • LOL, no need to get hostile, dude. I was just clarifying my position. Actually, I’d say both. The “LGBT” thing does involve issues that only affect 3.5% of the wider population, and, more importantly, it’s a movement with a very state-centric outlook and has the sympathy of most of the power elite. Not exactly an appropriate vehicle for subverting the wider society or the political establishment. Yes, it was radical in the in period between the late 60s through the 80s. It was brought under the liberal umbrella in the 90s, and worked its way into the mainstream in the 2000s, but now it’s normal, status quo, innocuous, non-offensive, etc. Yeah, the other side of those issues still has a voice, but they’re losing big time.

              I personally view individual LGBT people the way I view different skin colors or eye colors or hair colors, or different subcultures like hippies, punks, metalheads, emos, ravers, etc. What they are is what they are, and welcome to the vast array of humanity.

              But there’s nothing politically subversive about any of that anymore. I mean, for God’s sake, we’ve got the USA lashing out at Russia over gay rights. And we’ve got the commentariat going crazy over the thing in Arizona. It’s completely establishment now.

              • I don’t think I’m being hostile when I try to get you to stop changing up your claimed priorities right in the middle of things.

                As far as the whole “only affects 3.5% of the population” thing goes:

                1) I doubt that — in the US, at least — the combined total of racial separatists of all types comes to half that percentage … and yet you seem to think there’s some revolutionary potential there.

                2) While I’d say 3.5% is a little low for actual LGBT folks, it’s certainly VERY low for the number of people “affected” by the related issues. And there was an opening for a libertarian position to be pushed there.

                That opening may be closing at this time as “identity politics” wins out, and the balance of resort to state power shifts, but it certainly made sense in, say, 2002, for me to be agitating against passage of a law providing for a two-week jail sentence and $500 fine for clergy performing non-government-approved religious ceremonies (that’s Missouri law against same-sex marriage). And it still makes sense for me to have a little laugh when the same people who supported that law quack about “religious freedom” as they try to bottle back up the forces they unleashed back then … before trying to help them fight the good fight, that is.

                • “I don’t think I’m being hostile when I try to get you to stop changing up your claimed priorities right in the middle of things.”

                  Well, I think you’re misinterpreting my positions, but I apologize if I have falsely interpreted your own stance.

                  “While I’d say 3.5% is a little low for actual LGBT folks,”

                  I’m just going by what the data drawn from the most credible studies on this question show. It’s long been claimed, at least since Kinsey, that homosexuals make up ten percent of the population. But more recent and more methodologically sound studies place the figure at about a third that. Maybe the more recent data is wrong, maybe it’s not. But that’s what it shows.

                  ” but it certainly made sense in, say, 2002, for me to be agitating against passage of a law providing for a two-week jail sentence and $500 fine for clergy performing non-government-approved religious ceremonies (that’s Missouri law against same-sex marriage). And it still makes sense for me to have a little laugh when the same people who supported that law quack about “religious freedom” as they try to bottle back up the forces they unleashed back then …”

                  You and I would have no disagreements there. In the 1990s in the Richmond, VA area I was involved in opposition to repression of the homeless and street-level prostitutes in this city, and some of the latter were in the “LGBT” category. I was even instrumental in eventually having a judge who had been in the forefront of it all removed from this position. (Not bad for a terrible old fascist like me, right!).

                  “I doubt that — in the US, at least — the combined total of racial separatists of all types comes to half that percentage … and yet you seem to think there’s some revolutionary potential there.”

                  That’s something of a caricature of views, albeit an understandable one. I’m very forward thinking and concerned with the overall big picture. I don’t much care about the state of US politics at present. I orient myself towards where I think things will be 30-40 years from now. By that time the “liberals” of today will be the ostensible conservatives, and the future liberals will be hard leftists. Imagine an America of 30 years from now where the conservatives are similar to today’s Obama Democrats, and the liberals are like the present day academic left, the US Green Party, or the Scandinavian states. Imagine a regime of this type with control over America’s military-industrial complex and police state (which may well be much larger by then). That’s the likely future of American government. Meanwhile the economy will continue to go down the tubes, and class polarization will increase. The latter will be brought about through a combination of state policy, overall economic deterioration, and large scale immigration from poor regions.

                  Demographic change will be such that there is no longer any ethnic majority, not even whitey. Meanwhile traditional, socially conservative elements will come under increased state repression. For instance, Christian clerics who object to homosexuality will be thrown in jail as hate criminals. Whites will face increased vilification as historic oppressors. Look at some of the shenanigans that presently go on in family courts if you want to know what gender relations will be like. All of this will be done to satisfy and buy the loyalty of elite and affluent members of traditional outgroups that will have become part of the new ruling class.

                  This doesn’t mean we’re going to have a progressive society of endless multicultural brotherly love at that point. There will be large numbers of whites from the former middle class that have sunk into poverty while losing their majority demographic status. There will also be a large underclass of poor people of color of all ethnic backgrounds due to the factors mentioned. Many of the groups who comprise what I now call the “PC coalition” will start turning on each other. The unifying thread among the Left’s coalition at present is opposition to traditional WASP society. When whitey’s and Christian America’s credibility as an enemy is no longer feasible due to shifting power dynamics, the constituent parts of the Left will start turning on each other. We’re already seeing this in places. Remember the fist fight between the trannies and the feminists in Portland? Remember the dust up between Anarchist People of Color and the crust punks of Crimethinc in Philly? Those are microcosms of the crack ups that will emerge in the future. Meanwhile, there will be splits among different minority groups along class, religious, and ideological lines. We already see signs of that now as well. These cleavages will grow with time.

                  Growing class polarization, demographic conflict, and state repression will eventually breed social unrest and political discontent. Already, we see the system losing its legitimacy as virtually all institutions have an ongoing negative approval rating. People will start transferring their allegiances away from “America” or the state to other bodies, and the most obvious candidates are racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural identity, along with political affiliation, geography, language, et. al. Already, for example, we see that poor underclass blacks are drawn to strong identitarian tendencies like the Nation of Islam and other comparable groups. We see similar tendencies among all the minority groups, and I think such tendencies will grow among whites as well as whites lose their majority status, for better or worse. We will also see many, many people from traditionally “conservative” populations turning against the system, and not just racist whites and Christian fundamentalists, but also gun owners, meat eaters, libertarian-individualists, traditional family types, the legions of middle America, and many others who are outside the urban-cosmopolitan-liberal-upper middle class paradigm that will be the unquestioned ruling class at that point, from whom they will become increasingly alienated, and from whom they come under the attack by the state in an ever increasing variety of ways.

                  There will also be more and more young people with no future, and who are politically alienated. More and more of these will be attracted to political rebellion, and it won’t be very rebellious to spout PC platitudes when these are the official ideology of the state.

                  I could discuss other trends as well, but I’ve made my point.

                  THESE are the demographics that will be the basis of future revolutionary struggle in the USA, and not folks with the values of academics drinking latte in a faculty lounge.

                  Those of us with libertarian values of any kind need to figure out how to advance libertarian ideas within a wider political and social situation as this. That’s what ATS is about.

  4. I have to say, this might explain the situation better than any I’ve ever read:

    One right-libertarian commentator has observed: “I still think it is significant that left-libertarians felt the need to distinguish themselves in the mid 2000s when Carson and others came in and started to undermine it with Marxist revisionism.”

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES. I’ve always thought it was me alone who just stumbled into left libertarianism in the mid-aughts! Now I can see that something happened around that time where a large number of us suddenly found each other. This is supremely interesting, since I always assumed the Movement of the Libertarian Left and ALL were well underway when I became a rather marginal participant around ’05 and ’06.

    I came to left libertarianism after experiencing the most profound disillusionment with infighting in the LPVA, where having a leadership position simply meant having the honor of aligning myself with one bitchy faction or the other. Seemed like far higher stakes than just picking up where a moderate like Harry Browne left off. I had recently read Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce” which described environmental issues in refreshingly decentralized terms, and I had been freshly exposed to facts about corporations and their personhood that simply could not be reconciled w/ mainstream libertarianism’s love of the corporation. Left libertarianism provided a label at a time when I really needed a bridge between minarchist libertarianism and full anarchism (heh). Folks like Charles Johnson, Roderick Long, Tom Knapp and others deserve a lot of credit for exposing me to other concepts in the economic, philosophical, and cultural vein. I wouldn’t take any of that back, and indeed I’m still in agreement with them on really a majority of those kinds of issues. Privilege and the “subsidy of history” matter; no question.

    It’s hard to deny that you, Keith, were a catalyst for some of this drama that pushed left libertarianism into the more-PC-than-thou area, but it was bound to happen anyway. Bush had just been reelected in ’05, and the Left and libertarian interests were both desperate. The typical reaching out to the losing major party was occurring on all libertarian fronts. I recall this preoccupation with being taken seriously by other sectors of the left, getting beyond the “libertarian” term and talking about leftist concerns in a fresh way.

    So don’t underestimate the intense desire on the part of many left libertarians to carve out a spot in the leftist milieu, this sort of political “fear of being left out” of the cool . Indeed, folks like Brad Spangler talked about _becoming_ the left, of being able to bring left libertarian economic analysis together with left progressive cultural concerns to form a consistent, powerful alliance that could contend with the neoconservative consensus that seemed unstoppable at the time. We even talked of “capturing” the Left for libertarianism, a sort of counterweight to progressive statism that could realign the main fight.

    In many ways I still consider this my project as a left libertarian. The difference is that in many ways the libertarian left has been successful in its long appeals to the wider Left; progressives, socialist, and left anarchists who once would have balked are much more likely to take our analysis seriously. So to the extent the left libertarians are now part of the milieu, they tend to deserve exactly the critique about totalitarian humanism that I would otherwise level at the traditional Left. In the same way left libertarians brought the Carsonian economic analysis and Johnson/Long “thick” values-based analysis to the Left, I seek to bring pluralist, extra-market, trans-individualist analyses to the libertarian left, believing that the left needs a less universalist, more anti-institutional orientation in order to be relevant.

    Great essay. I believe very strongly that, accept or reject your arguments, you have never gotten a fair hearing on the libertarian left. What bugs me about ALL, C4SS, etc. is not the cultural orientation as Carson seems to think. That is all fine. What bugs me is that, like the wider Left, they increasingly don’t adhere to principles of honest civil debate at all. They simply paint their enemies as racist, misogynist, transphobic backward white dudes who are to be viciously called out for the crime of lacking empathy. I agree empathy is important, but listening to dissenting views and challenging your preconceived notions is part of _how we learn to be empathetic_, understanding that human beings have all kinds of ways of being as wrong as we know we have the potential to be ourselves.

    To be fair, I think sometimes you, Keith, paint the libertarian left in far, far too negative a light as well. You have advocated for ridiculing and marginalizing people you disagree with, and I cannot support that. I think all sides have contributed to the poisoned well, and what I always wanted was to bring the conversation back to something that could be productive to both sides. Instead, as you point out, the left libertarians have decided to double down on a kind of progressive chauvinism. Sometimes it has seemed like our side has attempted to double down on obnoxious, contrarianism. I really would like to see just more honest, respectful, useful debate that focuses on the deep, nuanced REASONS we reject the others’ positions, instead of inventing cartoon versions of the others’ arguments.

    • “Bush had just been reelected in ’05, and the Left and libertarian interests were both desperate. The typical reaching out to the losing major party was occurring on all libertarian fronts. I recall this preoccupation with being taken seriously by other sectors of the left, getting beyond the “libertarian” term and talking about leftist concerns in a fresh way.”

      How well I remember. There was no one who bashed Bush and the neocons harder than me during the 2000s. I used to call Bush a drooling retard on this sight. But I also knew the reign of Bush and the neocons was temporary, and that the kind of liberal statist “totalitarian humanism” that I now criticize was on the rise and would eventually replace the neocons. I was writing about that even when the Iraq War was just beginning.

      “So don’t underestimate the intense desire on the part of many left libertarians to carve out a spot in the leftist milieu, this sort of political “fear of being left out” of the cool . Indeed, folks like Brad Spangler talked about _becoming_ the left, of being able to bring left libertarian economic analysis together with left progressive cultural concerns to form a consistent, powerful alliance that could contend with the neoconservative consensus that seemed unstoppable at the time.”

      Well, those were honorable motivations, if a bit grandiose and lacking in foresight.

      “We even talked of “capturing” the Left for libertarianism, a sort of counterweight to progressive statism that could realign the main fight.”

      I actually have a very similar view myself, as far as long term objectives are concerned. Recall what I wrote about that at the beginning of the “Liberty and Populism” essay back in 2006. I wrote that the progressive statists would eventually eclipse the neocons, and that libertarians and anarchists would be the natural left-wing opposition. I still hold to that position.

      “To be fair, I think sometimes you, Keith, paint the libertarian left in far, far too negative a light as well. You have advocated for ridiculing and marginalizing people you disagree with, and I cannot support that.”

      Could be. I’m sure my criticisms of them are colored by my negative experiences with them.

  5. “I really would like to see just more honest, respectful, useful debate that focuses on the deep, nuanced REASONS we reject the others’ positions, instead of inventing cartoon versions of the others’ arguments.”

    That is a great idea Jeremy, but alas our horrible education system, among other things, makes this nearly impossible. Part of this goes back to one of my earlier podcasts people cannot think logically. When you attack an idea, from which they derive their identity they are not intelligent enough to see that attacking the validity of their beliefs is not the same as attacking them.

    Jeremy you seem to like Keith’s idea of a broad alliance of anarchists, but don’t like his tactics? You like C4SS’s original intent, but not how it was hijacked. What your alliance look like that takes the best of Keith and C4SS? How would it be similar to these positions and how would it be different.

    • Jeremy you seem to like Keith’s idea of a broad alliance of anarchists, but don’t like his tactics?

      I disagree with one of his tactics: making fun of and ridiculing your enemy. I think it makes everybody poorer.

      You like C4SS’s original intent, but not how it was hijacked.

      I think it’s wrong to say it was hijacked, though there was a time I felt like that. I think C4SS has simply found an audience, and it’s not the audience I chiefly care about, nor an audience that is interested in the kinds of things I’m interested in lately.

      Like I said, the inability to clearly and calmly discuss these things is what bugs me — and why I so appreciate Tom stopping by to give his take. I’d like to delve a little more deeply into the issue of irreconcilability, but I certainly appreciate a level-headed critique that draws upon the best in both camps instead of the worst.

  6. ” but staunch cultural conservatism (“keep the fags in the closet and the feminists in the kitchen”).”

    Those wild halcyon days of paleo-libertarianism. Good times. I got introduced to libertarianism from reading articles on Lewrockwell.com from that era.

  7. Including the stormfront crowd in the ATS/ARD project in order to be “radical” is premised on a completely castrated concept of radicalism that seems to derive from the worst side of the New Left.

    The radicalism of the old “Hard left” was defined by how dangerously threatening it was to systems of power.

    Radicalism in the new left was redefined (not formally so much as in practice) by how far from cultural norms a verbal or symbolic activity, belief system or lifestyle was.

    It was an easy transition to make because in any stable social system things that really threaten the centers of power will always be beyond the pale of polite behavior.

    It does not follow however that something threatens the centers of power just because of its distance from cultural norms. Indeed most of the projects of the new left were ultimately digested and co-opted by the system, in some ways actually making it stronger.

    It was always a tendency for radicals to pose, and the political cranks will always be with us. It is however quite striking to look at photos of old radicals and see how mundane most of them looked compared to the compulsive cultural deviancy and precious individualist narcissism of the modern left.

    Some projects of the new left were radical in the old sense, such as the antiwar movement, the black revolutionary movement and the civil rights movement. At the other extreme was the dope hippy counterculture that eventually ended up following the grateful dead around until Jerry finally overdosed on crack.

    Unfortunately a legacy of the new left in modern radical politics, even among the new right, has been the unthinking adoption of a model of radicalism that substitutes single servings of meaningless social deviancy for real revolutionary movements.

    This degraded concept of radicalism is a key aspect of political consumerism.

    A well known example of this on the right is Big Man Libertarian syndrome. This is when you take a really offensive and outlandish position that no one will ever accept, and then dedicate your life to bitterly propounding and defending it. Women have the right to eat their own babies, for example. Insane monetary conspiracy theories. The list is endless.

    Another example (one of the crucial failures of the recent antiwar movement) was the explosion of retarded conspiracy theories about 9/11. Predictably enough it spawned a cottage industry and an entire subculture of UFO-conspiracy theory, complete with its own protocols of the elders of 9/11. The political effect was to disintegrate and delegitimize the antiwar movement, opening the way for the Democratic apparatchiks to co-opt it entirely.
    A revolutionary movement premised on the degraded concept of radicalism negates itself at its very foundation. It will turn straight into another meaningless subculture. The system can survive internet fringe subcultures. Indeed, it hardly even notices them.

    I begrudge no one an interest in the Hegelian right or the new right, but if you are going to hang the albatross of white nationalism or fascism *around your own neck* you are handing your political enemies the very weapon they will most predictably use against you. It is almost automatic for a leftard or a libtard to call someone a racist or a fascist. (Yes they are illiterate, but they can google Julius Evola.)

    You are not merely walking straight into a political ambush; you are springing it on yourselves. Men who think like that don’t make it back alive from Indian country. The cry babying about it is even more pathetic.

    If you want to be an Anarcho-Fascist, fucking Man up already and stop whining about the fact that the left doesn’t like you.

    What does the brave nationalist anarchist egoist libertarian transhumanist traditionalist nihilist tribalist fascist pluralist ubermen populist elite want with the left anyway? I’m not quite sure what your social base is, but it isn’t the left. If you keep going around with the stormfront crowd, it will be crank-head white trash with Hitler fantasies. Have fun with that.

    The rebranded corpse of white supremacism is only politically dangerous in the hysterics of the SPLC and Antifa leftards. It does occasionally produce a mass murdering sociopath like McVeigh or Brevik, and they are terribly dangerous to the innocent people they massacre, but they actually strengthen the system in the end. The political effect of an alliance with them is to delegitimize yourself and negate the possibility of real alliances with useful allies. It is also about the worst cadre pool on the planet. It is even more of a snitch fest than west coast anarchism.

    The right’s love affair with the corpse of white supremacy is as degrading and as repulsive as the left’s necrophiliac obsession with Communism. No one wants a recapitulation of the worst forms of social organization in human history. The revolutionary path leads out of the graveyard of failed ideas.

    The people who will walk this path will not come from a cesspool of damaged losers. This is the crucial part, much more important than the stupid ideas they hold. Getting a swastika tattoo is a social act that says “I am the worst kind of loser”. Not surprisingly this kind of moral material is prone to snitching and backstabbing. They like meth and forming rape gangs in prison. I grew up in a trailer park and I know the material.

    The timber will always be crooked, but when you select yours from septic tank of history you are making a choice that has obvious consequences.

    Dangerous ideas are those that prepare revolutionaries for conflict, and that lead them to victory. They will be outside the cultural paradigm by definition in a society as broken and conformist as our own. They will be off the map of either the fringe right or the fringe left.

    • It’s ironic you mention Stormfront because there was recently a lengthy discussion of us on there: http://www.stormfront.org/forum/t1027894/#post11944399

      I haven’t had the time or interest to read through that thread but my surface impression is that they don’t like us very much. I doubt the crude white supremacists you’re talking about would care much for us because we’re a very multicultural, mixed race, mixed gender, mixed sexual orientation, mixed religious group who often take far left positions on many things. But we’re also politically and ideologically mixed which is what sets the Left off. There are white nationalists/separatists who are sympathetic to what we do here, because of our radically anti-establishment outlook and because we favor decentralist or secessionist solutions to some of the issues we focus on. But I know I’ve also been personally criticized by neo-Nazi types for being an anarchist and not a racialist, and because ARV-ATS is, in spite of vehement protests by left-wing critics to the contrary, basically a left-wing anarchist group that doesn’t discriminate against people of any cultural, political, or philosophical orientation so long as they’re on board with the wider pan-decentralist, or pan-separatist or whatever you want to call it paradigm.

      Ironically, I can’t say I personally mind the accusations of fascism, et.al. that are always thrown at us. Controversy of that type is more or less what has put us on the political map. If it weren’t for all that, ATS would just be another “son of Infoshop.Com” or “son of Reason.Com” website of the kind the internet seems to be littered with. Yeah, I may argue with the critics and trade barbs and insults from time to time, but that’s all part of the game. All of that is for us the political equivalent of Alice Cooper’s chicken incident:http://www.contactmusic.com/news/alice-cooper-disabled-fans-ripped-chicken-apart-not-me_1207676

      It’s always been the “fascism accusers” who ultimately sell the tickets.

      I’ve always regarded the anti-fascists, left-libertarians, anarcho-leftoids, etc as the public relations and promotional division of ARV-ATS, because it’s really them they have brought us under the spotlight. For instance, there was a barrage of hate directed at us, or at least myself, a few years back after I wrote this article: https://attackthesystem.com/2009/05/20/is-extremism-in-the-defense-of-sodomy-no-vice/

      Traffic to ATS exploded after that, and has never gone down since, and the publicity and controversy associated with that piece opened a lot of other doors for me as far as getting a foot in other political camps. What’s so amazing about the “fascism accusers” is the way they build us up to be so much larger than life, and so much more important than we actually are. Take this recent piece by the Chip Berlet folks:

      http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/02/23/the-right-hand-of-occupy-wall-street-from-libertarians-to-nazis-the-fact-and-fiction-of-right-wing-involvement/

      The author of this piece lumps ATS in with a former presidential candidate like Ron Paul, people who are world famous like David Duke, someone who has had a longstanding functional organization like Lyndon LaRouche, someone with a huge audience like Alex Jones. And we’re nobody, no budget, no membership organization, nothing. What better hype could we expect to get? I’ve always suspect that the reason ATS and other similar tendencies like the National-Anarchists get so much press from the Left is because we must really be on to something powerful that the moribund left-establishment views as a serious threat in terms of ideas if not in terms of volume. Why else would they go so far out of their way to attack when we’re such nobodies?

  8. This is maybe the highest quality thread I’ve ever seen on the internet. Everyone has made good points and argued their case with great eloquence; so much so that I hesitate to comment at all.

    However if I may offer this observation? The standards demanded by pan secessionism are high. Not so much because it is difficult to accept the basic concept of toleration of all ideologies and philosophies but because they invariably mistake that toleration for support.

    To the evangelist of unpopular doctrines ATSs willingness to take some serious flak rather than conform to the orthodoxy must be driven by some sympathy for that doctrine. From their perspective we just need a little “straightening out” on the finer points and are thus ideal targets for a little bit of missionary work. And after all plenty of actual sympathizers of whatever cause aren’t prepared to take that kind of risk, so it would be well worth their time to explain to us the error of our ways since we are obviously not unduly disturbed by a little opposition.

    Then there are those trying to “work their thing” sideways and who assume we must be doing the same. Such people frequently get upset when they realize this is not the case.

    Those people at least assume we are on the team and are thus, at least initially, favorably disposed. However it there exists pessimistic opposites of all those positions which assume we are disingenuously trying to clear a path for whatever the object of their particular nemesis is.

    These attitudes are most common among the most fanatical of any given position. For the extreme left, ATS is about seducing away good comrades in order to turn them into fascists. For the extreme right it is the exact opposite. Ironically I find these attitudes are most frustrating when they come from advocates of the “extreme” I am most associated with because it is so hard to convince those people that I’m not “playing an angle” or have merely missed one or two crucial points.

    This is all the more infuriating because, as far as I’m concerned, this isn’t about organizing some kind of shotgun wedding between the most extreme of right and left. What I really would like to see is both to fuck off and leave the residue of people, who are actually more concerned with the state of our society than abstract ideological purity, to get on with it.

    H S Thompson said in 1979: “In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upwardly mobile—and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely. We owe that to ourselves and our crippled self-image as something better than a nation of panicked sheep.” Which seems, as much as anything, to be a fair description of the motivations of ATS.

    • Ironically I find these attitudes are most frustrating when they come from advocates of the “extreme” I am most associated with because it is so hard to convince those people that I’m not “playing an angle” or have merely missed one or two crucial points.

      I could never have said it so well, but bingo.

  9. ” For the extreme left, ATS is about seducing away good comrades in order to turn them into fascists. For the extreme right it is the exact opposite. Ironically I find these attitudes are most frustrating when they come from advocates of the “extreme” I am most associated with because it is so hard to convince those people that I’m not “playing an angle” or have merely missed one or two crucial points.”

    Right. From what I have seen in my own case, the “fascist accusers” tend to be more prevalent than comparable critics on the far right. That’s probably because I claim the anarchist label, and am also associated with national-anarchists, which is a special form of blasphemy to some on the far left. But when I was on the VOR network they used to get complaints from neo-Nazis about my program as well: “What’s this Communist-hippie-anarchist-race mixer doing here?” Some of the less extreme, more conservative types I encounter on the right just seem to wonder how this weird anarchist guy showed up in their midst. Troy Southgate has told me he gets the same thing in England.

  10. Well yeah, but Troy (I think anyway) represents the second obstacle pan seccessionism faces. So you’ve persuaded X that “no, this isn’t a really cunning plan to get to the dictatorship of the proles/fourth Reich. You’ve managed to convince them that the people they habitually hate on might actually have a common enemy, and that a cease fire might not do too much harm. You have sold them on the idea that they might actually achieve something if they drop the “all or nothing” premise of the nation state.

    And that’s awesome. They got that far, that takes something most just haven’t got.

    Great. So now they go off to have a think about all this and then they triumphantly return with “the plan”. The plan turns out to be loosely associated with the concept of distributed autonomy, but as seen through from whatever perspective they come from. So for the NA, “yeah do whatever you like, but hey forget that; permacultural ethnic villages, (and totally death to the Zionists) fuck yeah!”, For Our friend Knap here “yeah OK, maybe, but no nazis ……. and I need some particular love for the LGBTQ (like, how many letters do these guys need?).

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiight, well done guys, so shall we go back to the beginning one more time? If…. You …… Decentralise ……. Power …… Then ….. You …… Will ….. Not ….. Be …… Able …… To …… Impose ….. Limits …… On …. The …. Outcome ……. Because ……. There …… Will …… Be …… No…… Mechanism ……. To …… Allow ….. You …. To … Do …. That. (plus, like you’ve totally missed the whole point)

    “What!? Fuck that then, I’m going back to being a real anarchist, screw those fascists and smash the state, (no cuts to welfare)”.

    • I’m not necessarily against imposing limits, though. What I am against is formalizing mechanisms to do so as some sort of endlösung to the problems we seek to address. So to impose limits we will have to craft cultures, persuade individuals, inspire through art, reflect on our condition to discover principles and values, etc. We might even have to put up our dukes and bash peoples’ brains out once in a while.

      What we won’t be able to do is automate the limits and create static social structures that exist independent of individuals. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but I think we’ll find that it only really costs us when we choose to exist in fear of chaos and life.

  11. OK Thomas, you shamed me into reading about a months worth of your blog and all the comments on this thread again. Now I may have been wrong to associate you with the tendency of “left libertarians” to be, lets say, rather unimaginative in their thinking patterns. I say might have been since there wasn’t really too much evidence to the contrary either. However in my defense such an assumption is rarely a mistake around these parts.

    I think I’ve managed to understand your argument, which is that the LGBTQ fraternities moms, dads and sisters have more revolutionary potential than the few remaining racists? Interesting concept. So presumably your objection to the inclusion of the radical right within an informal alliance against the status quo would not hold if, say, it turned out 10 or 15% of the population were sympathetic to such views? In which case they should, presumably, be warmly embraced?

    I liked where you were going with the whole “radical decentralised none-movement” thing, totally agree on that score.

    • SE,

      It’s not that I have an objection to inclusion of the radical right within an informal alliance against the status quo.

      It’s that I don’t see that such an alliance is necessary in the first place.

      I hang with the Alliance of the Libertarian Left because I agree with and get along with those guys — not because I think we’re some kind of revolutionary vanguard cadre whatsit.

      I’ll admit to having envisaged something like the latter in the past, but as I’ve been watching events unfold I’ve concluded that about 90% of the revolution will be people who consider the politics a sideline at best and more likely a distraction — people just DOING COOL STUFF that happens to imply doom for the state — and the other 10% will mostly be lone wolf, “leaderless resistance” types rather than organized formations.

      I don’t know that LGBTQ and related people necessarily have “more revolutionary potential” than ethnic separatists. That’s a complicated question that has to include elements like mainstream capture of identity politics groupings, and it’s a question that, based on the previous paragraphs I don’t think I need to find an answer to. It’s going to work itself out regardless of what I do.

      BUT: IF Keith’s dismissal of LGBTQ on the basis of numbers/percentages is correct, my point is that he should be AT LEAST as, if not more, dismissive of the ethnic separatists based on the same numbers conclusions when it comes to his own strategic goals.

      • BUT: IF Keith’s dismissal of LGBTQ on the basis of numbers/percentages is correct, my point is that he should be AT LEAST as, if not more, dismissive of the ethnic separatists based on the same numbers conclusions when it comes to his own strategic goals.

        I think you’re right that the “3%” argument is weak. I’m not totally on board with the anarcho-populist outlook. I prefer to think of it as starting with interests who simply have no chance of being integrated into the system, elements that cannot be digested in the imperial identity.

  12. I’m totally with you on that Jeremy. In a society where people had the ability to control their own political environment then not only should there be occasions in which communities intervene in others affairs but that is [i]absolutely definitely going to happen[i/]. I’m pretty relaxed about that, a price worth paying considering the alternative.

    However, that’s stepping on a real big toe, because we just contradicted the sacred “none aggression” principle.

    I am extremely skeptical thought that anyone is going to war because the autonomous community down the road is not enforcing the standards of PC quite strenuously enough. In a pan secessionist society war is a whole different prospect to what is now. If people get pissed when “our boys” come home wearing a flag think how they will react when they themselves are within range and they themselves stand a fairly good chance of direct participation in one way or another. In fact I can see only one way most autonomous communities would go to war, and that is if they believe themselves to be directly threatened, or maybe if, you know, the neighbors went all Aztec on us or something.

    There would undoubtedly be from time to time communities which came over all imperialist, decided they could get away with a little expansionism, nobly decided they would take it upon themselves to be the nucleus of a new nation state, decide to save the souls of some poor heathens or whatever. However these guys should be stomped pretty hard because they so obviously threaten everyone else. And those kind of wars might even turn out to be kinda fun, like in the good old days. Few causalities, over by Christmas, everyone gets tell some cool lies about how awesome they were when they get home. We’re still talking about the ones which kept Ancient Greece divided up. What’s not to like?

    • However, that’s stepping on a real big toe, because we just contradicted the sacred “none aggression” principle.

      If there’s one thing I wish I could change about libertarianism in general, it is the hyperventilation over “aggression”. Not because I like aggression, but because they either parse the term down to a concept that has no resemblance to actual human behavior, or they simply want to discuss the violation of different boundaries (personal, national, property, etc.) without any discussion of their legitimacy.

      What is aggression and what is not aggression is a social norm that has no objective meaning. Sorry if libertarian philosophers think they can do better. This makes it _all the more_ urgent that people voluntarily associate along shared concepts of the inviolable.

      • I think the problem with the “conventional” libertarians goes back to what I was talking about earlier. It is absolutely futile to argue for a decentralised world of autonomous communities and then expect to be able to confine those communities freedom of action by principles. Principles have their place, but their place is most definitely not in lieu of firepower since, we are reliably informed, political power comes from high precision tubular engineering.

        Failure to comprehend that fact, and comprehension does not imply satisfaction, or deal with it is to diverge from reality to the point of utter irrelevance. Of course dealing with that reality and accepting its implication does not allow for utopianism, and horrible realpolitik does not appeal to a certain mindset.

        The irony is that, as terrible as the reality of physical violence and the various sub-violent methods of control and power are, they are right here right now. So a society in which that violence, aggression even, was more democratically distributed wouldn’t be any worse than the situation is now (*1)and would in all likelihood be considerably better since the temptation to resort to force inversely correlates with the come back that is likely to be produced. Policing without the doctrine of overwhelming firepower is, I would suggest, likely to be better policing.

        So ultimately the choice is, do you want a fair fight or just surrender right now?

        *1 I’ve never heard anyone make the argument that what ATS proposes is merely an extension of the systems currently holding the global order in place. Could pan-seccessionism work? Well if the system (theoretically) advocated by the UN for the whole planet is viable why wouldn’t the same system scaled down to say that of an American state work?

  13. Thomas, sadly I can’t find fault with anything you said there. See, we can all just get along. I think Keith see’s some revolutionary potential in the radical right because, let’s face it, they are getting seriously fucked right now. So they’ve got motivation, whereas the LGBTQ guys, well now they’re teacher’s pet and it is payback time.

    And I agree with that analysis, problem is that I used to be an active member of the radical right and my assessment based on that experience is that a significant element of them:

    A. Just can’t get passed the whole Hitler thing are irrevocably stuck down a very dark rabbit hole. It’s kinda hard to form a coherent picture when you think Jews control the whole world other than VNN with the explicit and sole aim of destroying everything you hold dear. And, hey, National Socialism really worked out well for Germany.

    B. Are not ideally suited to the tactical and ideological requirement’s demanded by something as complex as, “hey, let’s deal with those MFers first, then we’ll divide the booty”

    But, having said that, a minority of them can and that minority is not to be entirely dismissed. They are going to be some of the nastiest Lone Wolves out there causing all kinds of problems for the establishment. (that’s not to suggest they are predisposed towards political violence by the way. Rather that they are rather forced by their situation to be politically innovative and aggressive)

    So, the most sensible thing to do, and what we are going to have to do if we want to remain ideologically coherent, is just tell it like it is. Most of the radical right are hopeless losers, and the only people who really suffer for that is the rest of them. To that latter group it should be made clear that “we can do business” in the sense that we aren’t going to deliberately misinterpret everything they say and do, or attack them out of political rivalry or for the sheer hell of kicking a defenseless target. If we just agreed to give them a fair and respectful hearing, on the same terms everyone else gets, well I doubt you’ll ever see more pathetic gratitude from those with any potential, or rank stupidity hypocrisy from those without.

    I realize what I just said is going to appear to a lot of people to be self contradictory BS of the first order. I promise those people that as soon as the drugs wear off I’ll be right back here to see if it is.

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