Activism

Keith Preston is an Asshole

By Kevin Carson

Libertarian Alliance

Center for a Stateless Society

In a post at the Students For Liberty (SFL) blog, (“Between Radicalism and Revolution: The Cautionary Tale of Students for a Democratic Society,” May 6), Clark Ruper uses the example of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) as a warning against factionalism and division within the libertarian movement. The libertarian movement, he says, should be united on a broad common agenda that appeals to as many people as possible — one that focuses on the “most important” issues like fighting corporatism and foreign interventionism and protecting civil liberties. Ruper seems to focus mainly on anarchists, revolutionaries, social justice advocates and left-libertarians as the sources of potential schism. And he makes it clear that his post was motivated, in large part, by recent controversies over the “thick libertarianism” or “non-brutalism” endorsed (among others) by Roderick Long and Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, Sheldon Richman and Jeffrey Tucker:

Some argue that “real” libertarianism or an improved libertarianism must also include anarchism, or progressivism, or critical race theory, or any number of perspectives….

For us today, it often seems that libertarianism is not enough; what we really need is left-anarchism or thick libertarianism or non-brutalist libertarianism or any number of camps out there.

In response Jeff Ricketson at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) (“Radicalism as Revolution: A Call for a Fractal Libertarianism,” May 18) has challenged Ruper’s call for monolithic unity and instead praised fractalism as a positive good:

What he should have called for is a libertarianism united under the common banner of freedom, with passionate, friendly discussion on the issues therein, and a fractal nesting of smaller, more specialized groups.

Fractalism and specialization, he says, are good because they increase the agility, resilience and adaptability of the larger movement in the face of change.

And this is quite true. It’s hard for libertarian activists working in specific communities to relate basic libertarian values to the particular needs and life situations of the people they’re working with, if they have to clear everything with the agenda approval authorities at Party Central Headquarters.

I myself, along with others at C4SS, have come under criticisms similar to those of Ruper for what our critics see as excessive attention to social justice concerns. They say we have lost our rightful focus on the “real” issues, the “big stuff” — like the corporate state, economics, class, war and civil liberties. Instead we have been distracted by “Political Correctness” and “Identity Politics.” We should stick to a simple, common libertarian agenda with broad appeal, limiting our focus to those “important issues” and avoid saying anything that might alienate white cultural conservatives who agree with us on the economic stuff.

Of course this is ironic, given that much of this hand-wringing over narrow, “inflammatory” agendas that might alienate someone in Flyover Country comes from a “pan-secessionist” movement that welcomes neo-Nazis and national anarchists, and whose leader called for purging the anarchist movement of LGBT activists. So apparently alienating the Chick-fil-A and Duck Dynasty crowds who wallow in their own sense of victimhood is a big no-no, but showing support for gay or transgender people who are genuinely victimized every day by structural injustice isn’t so bad.

In any case, calls for One Big Movement, united around a simple common platform with the broadest possible appeal, are fundamentally wrong-headed. This is essentially the same argument that the old establishment Left — some of whom proudly call themselves “verticalists” — have made against the horizontalist direction the Occupy movement has taken. It’s the standard patronizing criticism from managerial-centrists in the liberal and “Progressive” community:

Appoint leaders and adopt a platform!

The thing is, Occupy came very close to doing that. The people from Adbusters and New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts who showed up at the early planning gatherings were all set to agree on One Big Demand for their common agenda, appoint public spokespersons, and all the rest. Had they done so, Occupy would have been another flash-in-the-pan movement that disappeared from the news in a few days. But David Graeber and a handful of other horizontalists — Wobblies and veterans of the Seattle movement — coalesced into an opposition group that quickly replaced the establishment people as the dominant culture within Occupy.

Instead of adopting an official leadership and agenda, Graeber and the horizontalists chose to follow the loosely networked model of the M15 movement in Spain. Instead of one common demand, or a short platform with a few key points, they decided to center their message on the “We are the 99%” meme — in loose opposition to things like the power of corporations and banks over the state, neoliberalism, imperialism, etc. — and let the various subgroups, communities and individuals that made up the broader movement set their own agendas relating their particular needs and concerns to that broader theme.

In other words, Occupy didn’t have a platform — it was a platform. It was a ready-made toolkit, brand and library of imagery and slogans to be used and adapted to the specific needs and agenda of any group that shared the general opposition to neoliberalism and the power of finance-capital.

Both Ruper and the center-left critics of Occupy are appealing to an outmoded mid-20th century organizational model. In this model, celebrated by Joseph Schumpeter and John Kenneth Galbraith, industrial production required large, hierarchical, capital-intensive organizations that possessed economies of scale and extensive divisions of labor, and were governed by Weberian-Taylorist work rules, job descriptions and “best practices.” And agitating for political change was a function that required large size, capital and hierarchy just like GM, GE and all those industrial dinosaurs.

But guess what? Those industrial dinosaurs are obsolete. They are doomed. And their organizational model, and all who follow it, are likewise doomed. Technological changes have destroyed the material basis for most hierarchical institutions and caused capitalization requirements for duplicating their functions to implode. Cheap micromanufacturing tools, desktop technology that outperforms the work previously done by publishing houses and music studios, and networked many-to-many communications with virtually zero transaction costs, have enabled individuals and small horizontally organized peer groups to do things that previously required powerful institutions in giant glass and steel buildings, full of thousands of drones in cubicles, run by a bunch of men in suits at mahogany desks on the top floor.

The dominant economic and organizational paradigm today is networked, horizontal — stigmergic. It’s the organizational model of movements ranging from Wikipedia and the file-sharing movement to Anonymous and Al Qaeda. In this model, everything is done by individuals or small self-selected affinity groups united around many different agendas. Everything is done by the individual or small group most interested and motivated to do it, most qualified to do it, without waiting for anyone’s permission. And rather than “detracting” from some common mission, the contributions of the individuals and affinity groups are synergistic and mutually reinforcing. In file-sharing networks, when anyone cracks the DRM in a song or movie, it immediately becomes the common property of the whole network. When a new and improved IED is developed by a cell in Al Qaeda Iraq, it can be immediately adopted by any other cell that finds it useful — or left alone by any cell that does not. A stigmergic network is the ultimate in Hayekian distributed knowledge.

We no longer need to aggregate ourselves into large institutions in order to accomplishing anything, or get everybody together on the same page before anyone is allowed to take a step. The activists are already doing it themselves. What they need is simple: support and solidarity. They can decide for themselves what is important to the communities they are part of and work with, and how the broader libertarian agenda relates specifically to them. And meanwhile any of the rest of us can do the same with our own local concerns, while wishing our comrades well in the other sub-movements and offering them solidarity and support whenever we are in a position to do so.

All this means that it is totally unnecessary — not that it ever was necessary — for those seeking gender or racial justice to throw themselves under the bus and support the common economic-class agenda “Until After the Revolution” or “For the Good of the Party.” In fact it is counterproductive. The kind of forced unity and subordination to “important” issues that Ruper advocates is, paradoxically, the one way guaranteed to foster discord and division.

Based on my own conversations with friends, I think it’s pretty clear this tendency to subordinate “divisive” (race and gender) issues to the “important” (politics and economics) stuff is the main reason libertarianism and anarchism are perceived by women, LGBT people and People of Color as the province of “white anarchist dudebros.”

I’ve seen the same thing in online establishment liberal circles of the sort that call themselves “Pragmatic Progressives” (and are derided by others as Obots) and use the #UniteBlue hashtag. No matter what the issue — Obama’s use of drones to murder innocent civilians, NSA surveillance, corporate collusion in drafting the TPP — their standard responses are “So would you rather Romney was in office?” or “How will this affect Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016?” This kind of cynical opportunism at the expense of the needs of real human beings is ugly — wherever we find it.

If this forced unity around the “real” issues fosters division and resentment, then the way to foster unity is to actively address and take into account the specific interests and needs of different segments of the population. The practice of intersectionality — that is, taking into account the way different forms of oppression like class, race, gender, etc. oppression mutually reinforce each other and differentially affect different subgroups within activist movements — was not developed for the sake of a “more oppressed than you” competition. It was developed precisely in order to prevent internal fracturing of racial justice movements along class and gender lines, feminism along class and race lines, etc., by being mindful of the special needs of the least privileged within each movement.

If you want to see what happens to a movement that focuses on the “important” (economic) stuff without regard to intersectional issues, just look at the sharecroppers’ unions in the 1930s, that split into separate black and white movements — separately defeated — thanks to COINTELPRO-style efforts by the planter class to exploit racial divisions among the membership. Or you could take a look at the typical mainstream gathering and take note of how many attendees are white males, and ask yourself why the One Big Movement is so unappealing to the majority of the population who are women and People of Color.

Categories: Activism, Strategy

40 replies »

  1. Our premise is to not make standard Left/Right ideological battles and issues into criteria for joining the resistance. A lot of us say shit on a daily basis that would piss off people in “Flyover Country.” He seems to be implying that we are setting up a rightwing laundry list of acceptable stances on gay marriage, race, gender, etc. that is a mirror to the left. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  2. So this guy is advocating a “fractal” movement, which allows for tactical and ideological flexibility thus potentially allying the widest coalition possible …… and then criticizes ATS for not excluding like half the American population? ” We can’t afford to alienate the LGBTQ people! But fuck those fly over states! And the whole South as well!”

    I can’t decide whether progressives are incapable of distinguishing between opposing their agenda and mentality (fanatical totalitarian secular theocracy) and opposing the groups they claim to be saving from the gas chambers, or are they just being disingenuous?

    I say white, black, gay, straight, conservative or socialist and everyone else should unite in a loose but effective alliance to destroy the elite and their fundamentalist Trekkie ideology. (Just for the record).

  3. In this particular case, I think it’s a matter of disingenuous calculation. The antifa types who have destroyed whatever brain cells they ever had by dropping ecstasy and sniffing glue or whatever the latest chemical fad is might really believe the stuff that’s said about us. But Carson knows too much about us, and my own work in particular, to honestly reduce ATS to “Keith Preston loves Nazis and hates queers.” My guess is he’s just trying to beef up his leftoidal credentials for the sake of the left-anarchist and general progressive target audience he’s trying to reach. I suspect he also thinks his one time association with me is a political liability towards that end, and is trying to compensate. I don’t personally fault him for this. All successful politics requires some level of marketing skills, and some particular angle that precludes other angles.

    • Well it is admirable for any revolutionary to accept their expandability, “shoot coward you’re only killing a man” etc. It equally admirable for revolutionaries to be prepared to throw their wounded under a bus if that advances the cause. However if that is what Carson is doing then the question is does it advance the cause?

      I propose that you can no longer be “progressive” and be “radical” since the former is the ideology of the system and the state is it’s weapon. Ultimately these “prog rads” are always going to come down on the side of progress in a fight between progress and radicalism. They are, inevitably, on the side of the system. Chompsky. QED

      Carson may as well debase himself in order to enlist the fucking Carebears (whose none existence is the least of their shortcomings as revolutionaries) in the struggle as denounce ATS in order to curry favour with the Left-Anarchists. By all means denounce a comrade who is a liability, that’s justifiable for its own sake. But if Carson is excluding not just “reactionaries” (in the widest possible sense of that word) but all those unwilling to admit the irredeemable “evil” of those reactionaries then he has actually betrayed the cause itself. Since what is anarchy if not applied freedom of conscience for all? And since “all” includes people the “left-anarchists” (a contradiction in terms, yeah I said it) hat….. dislike intensely its a straight choice between anarchy and progressivism.

  4. “I say white, black, gay, straight, conservative or socialist and everyone else should unite in a loose but effective alliance to destroy the elite and their fundamentalist Trekkie ideology.”

    Hear, hear!

    I don’t see that the ATS message is particularly complicated. It can really be reduced to a few key points:

    1. There is an empire out there that is the enemy of most of humanity (and trees and animals too for those who consider that a priority issue).

    2. The empire can only be defeated by building unified resistance on a global basis, and building resistance inside the empire’s military arm (the USA) is particularly important.

    3. The most viable post-revolutionary alternative to the empire is a world of city-states, sovereign provinces, villages, townships, and regions where contending political, cultural, religious, racial, ethnic, economic, linguistic, ideological and lifestyle interests are able to achieve at least some degree of sovereignty within their own communities, enclaves, and historic geographical areas, i.e. decentralized pluralism.

    4. To be effective, a struggle of this type has to include as wide a demographic cross section as possible, which means you can’t incessantly attack and alienate the traditional and majority cultures of different nations or societies. All the while, you need to build a relationship with all kinds of outgroups, traditional and non-traditional minorities, and marginal populations in realms where this is feasible and appropriate. This means the grand alliance of revolutionaries will eventually include everything from clergy to criminals.

    It seems like anarchists of all people could get this.

    • “It seems like anarchists of all people could get this.”

      There was a moment in my crusade to liberate Stormfront from retardation that I realised that despite the fact that I was surrounded by people who called themselves “nationalists” I was probably one of the last of that tradition on the planet. That’s why your “anarchist” friends don’t get it, they aren’t anarchists.

    • The empire can only be defeated by building unified resistance on a global basis, and building resistance inside the empire’s military arm (the USA) is particularly important.

      How unified? In what manner? I think this is the black hole that sucks in all fears and anxieties about folks of different persuasions and creeds.

      I’ve never thought of ATS as promoting a mass movement. Instead we’re building alliances between key people who can function as the network architecture for a distributed resistance. It doesn’t need to be one with a central governance or set of goals or even identity. It just needs to serve the common interests we share. Let’s work on identifying those interests, and in the process practice our anarchism in the shell of the empire.

      • “How unified? In what manner?”

        That’s a good question. I think a number of different scenarios could emerge.

        The “most unified” possibility would be something like All-Nations Party, a political meta-party with multiple sub-parties representing more narrowly focused interests as constituents. An international parallel might be the “Free Nations Coalition” suggested by Craig and Jamie. I suppose if this were the direction things evolved in we would be the 21th century equivalent of the communist movements of the 20th century, i.e taking down state after state in country after country. Right now, populist-nationalist parties are gaining in popularity in Europe and something similar to pan-secessionist ANP-like parties might eventually be a more radical successor to those.

        The “least unified” might be more along the lines of what Carson advocates, which is basically no organization at all other than highly localized efforts and temporary, ad hoc “networks.”

        Some mid-way points between these extremes might be ad hoc alliances that cut across the political spectrum around individual issues, like Nader is now advocating, albeit from a very mainstream reformist perspective. Another might be something like ANP or FNC, but on a more localized level. For instance, pan-secessionist meta-parties at the provincial level or the “Mailer model” in one city, or scattered cities with local movements acting independently, without coordination across national or transnational boundaries.

        As to which perspective I favor, as usual I can argue the issue from multiple angles and generally favor a synthetic approach with a great deal of flexibility relative to circumstances. My greatest sympathy is probably with the “most unified” approach (to the degree that would ever be possible) for the sake of common defense among revolutionaries, though I prefer some of the other models when it comes to many issues.

        • My views on this question probably reflect too strong an influence from 1930s Spanish anarchism. But the model I’m most sympathetic to is probably a federative block of minor political parties, regionalist movements, militia organizations, and various activist, economic and identitarian organizations organized into a pan-secessionist alliance, with a much improved anarchist movement functioning as the “mediating coordinators” that Mark Gillespie wrote about some years ago. Pretty much the FAI-CNT-Popular Front model, although obviously radically modified to fit the circumstances of 21st century North America.

          The problem with approaches like what Carson is writing about is that while “leaderless resistance” or whatever it would be called might be fine for certain kinds of activism, or even direct sabotage of the system, it doesn’t really address the issue of direct confrontation with the state, and creating a functional set of social systems following the demise of the state, or addressing the power vacuum that arises when regimes collapse. I don’t think there’s any avoiding of real world politics.

          I see the federative bloc I mentioned above as being the “American Hezbollah” that eventually supersedes the state, and creates the framework in which all kinds of political, cultural, and economic tendencies can go about doing their own thing. There’s also the need for common defense against remnants of the state, who are not likely to go down without a fight, and for defense against external states who might see a stateless territory with lots of natural resources and technology as ripe for the pickings.

          I’m willing to be convinced of some contrary position to the one outlined above, of course. But this seems to me to be the most realistic and practical approach.

  5. Another irony is that I’ve had right-wingers refuse to participate in some of the projects I’m associated with because of the presence of homosexuals in our circle, such as our “Queer ATS” affiliate blog. There are also neo-Nazis who have accused me of being a left-wing interloper in the far right. As for my previous calls for purging disruptive and divisive elements who wish to hijack other movements and make them into branch offices of their own special interests, I think the incidents at a number of fairly recent anarchist events, including one just a couple of weekends ago, vindicate my position pretty well.

  6. “So apparently alienating the Chick-fil-A and Duck Dynasty crowds who wallow in their own sense of victimhood is a big no-no, but showing support for gay or transgender people who are genuinely victimized every day by structural injustice isn’t so bad.”

    This guy is clearly an idiot. Fags run the media. Every day oppression this is just a code word for a cultural Marxist circle jerk.

      • I have never said that individual homosexuals or organized sexual minority identitarian groups should not be welcome in the context of a anarcho-pluralist or pan-secessionist movement. If that were my position, it wouldn’t make sense to have an ATS Queer affiliate site or to promote the work of thinkers and writers like Justin Raimondo, the late Gore Vidal, many others.

        What I do oppose is the state-centric and censorious orientation of much of the mainstream gay rights movement as just another branch of totalitarian humanism. I further oppose the way “LGBT activists” have in many instances attempted to hijack libertarian and anarchist movements and turn these into branch offices of the gay rights movement, and to function as a divisive and disruptive force in a wide variety of milieus that undermine efforts to address wider issues that affect everyone. There are other groups I would criticize in a similar way.

        • Another issue is that many critics of ATS apparently have zero ability to think outside the progressive universalist box. Those who adhere to the standard leftist paradigm of race/class/gender/eco/homo/trans/animal liberation/privilege checking are perfectly legitimate in doing so within the context of their own organizations, associations, movements, parties, institutions, and communities. However, anarcho-pluralism and pan-secessionism creates a wider meta-context in which these forces are sub-contexts just as Tibetan Buddhists, polygamists, the European New Right, Catholic traditionalists, evangelical Protestants, Shiah Muslims, Laveyan Satanists, white Afrikaners, Bloods, Crips, Tea Partyers, and Rave Partyers might be other contexts.

    • I don’t think Carson is an idiot. His work in economics is well worth considering, and I still consider his “Political Program for Anarchists” to be a good model for the creation of an anarchist-populist “Peoples Economic Front.” I feel the same way about Carson than I do about Chomsky. I agree with the former’s economic critique (to a great degree) and with the latter’s foreign policy critique (to a great degree), while disagreeing with Carson’s embrace of PC Leftism and Chomsky’s embrace of social democracy and reform liberalism.

      It is funny, however, because I used to think Carson was too stuck in the Old Left model of economic determinism and “workers vs bosses” class reductionism. And now that’s what he’s accusing ATS of since he’s embraced the New Left “traditional outgroups vs traditional ingroups” model.

      My actual view is that both the Old Left and New Left models are obsolete, at least in the Western countries. I think Eduard Limonov had it right when he said it’s now a matter of “against the system vs for the system” which cuts across many of the usual boundaries.

      • It’s very difficult for me to ignore the probable role that Twitter has played in this shift in Carson’s focus. On Twitter I saw him write things I didn’t think he’d have the stomach for. Twitter is many great things but it is a venue where nuance is hardly achieved, and Carson has really embraced this attitude of personalizing political discourse in a snarky and vicious manner. Never saw that back in the days of the Left Libertarian yahoo group or his blogger blog.

    • I just don’t understand why their support has to mean tearing down anybody who doesn’t toe their line. So they don’t want economic and international political issues to predominate, and we don’t want cultural issues to predominate. Why can’t we work with this? I feel like I have asked this question for years of my former colleagues at C4SS and never have I gotten a straight answer.

      If you look at how much, say, sexual assault is alleged to happen within left anarchist circles, it’s hard to say any one group has a monopoly on moral superiority. We can find common ground, but we have to look for it; we have to be comfortable and confident enough in our own beliefs and priorities to understand how to bring people along with us over time, on their terms rather than ours, instead of shouting at people until they comply out of humiliation and fear. We have to be humble enough to understand that the model informing our present activism may not be sufficient as new data and new priorities arise.

      In short, of COURSE no network is possible when there’s no effort made to negotiate a common protocol. Carson and C4SS aren’t helping, though.

      • “If you look at how much, say, sexual assault is alleged to happen within left anarchist circles, it’s hard to say any one group has a monopoly on moral superiority.”

        I think there are two primary psychological issues at play here. One is that many leftists are so enamored of their own moral superiority that they regard those who don’t share their views as moral lepers. They look at non-leftists the way some snobby rich folks might look at the homeless, or the way some hyper religious folks look at hookers and homos.

        That doesn’t mean some behaviors aren’t destructive personally or socially, or that some ideas aren’t dangerous. For instance, the fascination with eugenics I see in some radical right circles raises a red flag for me. The apparently rather serious forms of mental illness that I have found in many corners of the Left and Right I also find very problematic, and that brings me to the second point.

        I think a big problem in many leftist circles is genuine psychological disturbance, and the way this interacts with the politics of “personal liberation” and so forth. As I said in my most controversial piece of writing, for many of these people participation in radical politics does indeed seem to be a form of neurotic/psychotic acting out of serious psychological problems. Further, these people expect dissident political circles to provide them with a kind of therapy for these problems and, just as often, provide them with a social milieu where they can engage in destructive and ridiculous behavior and receive social approval for acting in ways that normal society would reasonably reject or criticize them for. I’ve seen parallels to this on the radical right (e.g. psychopaths who use white supremacist ideology as a cover).

        This is easily demonstrated by the ways in which these people can’t even get along with each other, e.g. the Crimethinc/APOC scuffle, the attack on Lierre Keith, the recent event in Portland, the incidents that have occurred at the Anarchist Bookfair in NYC. My contacts who are insiders in the left-anarchist milieu tell me this kind of stuff is almost the norm in those circles at this point. Every time there’s a left-anarchist event it degenerates into a shouting match or fistfight and, ironically, the cops end up getting called.

        I’ve seen this in the C4SS circle. Right after Thomas Knapp was posting stuff here criticizing me for not being “LGBT” friendly enough, he was being attacked by folks around C4SS for homophobia or transphobia or whatever. (I forget the details). Many of these people are simply not rational, functional adults. I’m sure their personal lives are probably just as big of a mess as their political lives, because, frankly, they’re damaged goods.

        That’s what my call for a “purge” a few years back was about. I do think radicals of all stripes, and this includes the right and libertarians as well as the left, need to do a better job of policing their own movements, as much as I hate to use that term. The main issue here is not letting these kinds of people define the character of a particular movement.

        It seems to me to be self-evident that political movements that allow themselves to be dominated by mentally disturbed freaks will never advance themselves very far, nor should they. The question I always keep coming back to is this: Can you imagine today’s anarchists, libertarians, radical rightists, or radical leftists fighting the American Revolution, American Civil War, Russian Revolution, Spanish Civil War or the wars in Southeast Asia, Central America, or the Middle East? Enough said.

        • With the whole notion of “Kill the cop in your head” of the 60s it is obviously that the left is a movement that is engineered to create psychopaths. The cop is obviously one’s conscience. The definition of someone without a conscience is a psychopath. William Jefferson Clinton enough said.

          Compare the English Civil War to the Russian One. In-spite Cromwell’s usurpation of power there were no gulags, or mass killings of former royalist soldiers, in fact Cromwell used Lord Monk (a former royalist as his admiral in the Anglo-Dutch War). Lenin on the other hand murdered his enemies without even the pretense of justice and on a scale that would make Genghis Khan and Tamerlane blush.

          Even the hostile Micheal O Siochru admits that Cromwell and his men were men of honor. For example their agreeing to keep to the terms of agreement with the Irish General Hugh Dubh O’Neill, by sparing his life. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls394vFqPMg 27:00-30:00.

          I ask you would the Bolshevisk dogs have given Generals Denikin, Kolchak or Yudenich the same terms and kept them? No the left is a club of psychopaths. Kill the cop in your head:) What do they want a society of Hannibal Lector’s?

  7. Your probably more generous to the left than I am. I am were you were about five to ten years ago in that department.

  8. In a previous comment on another article you said, to me, it was written five years ago and back then you were more uptight about cultural issues than you are now.

  9. Gotcha. Well, my actual views have never changed. I’ve held to the same paradigm I do know for about 15 years, and more or less the same paradigm for 25 years. If you get deep into the stuff I wrote in the early 2000s like “Philosophical Anarchism and the Death of Empire,” you’ll see that. I did spend quite a bit of time criticizing the Left about 4, 5, 6 years ago because of the grip the most absurd wings of the Left tend to have on the wider anarchist milieu, and much of the libertarian milieu. Not to mention the growth of PC authoritarianism in the wider society.

    However, the down side of that is that many people tend to focus almost exclusively on that part of my work, while ignoring the bigger picture, i.e. building a pan-anarchist/pan-secessionist movement against the Empire. For instance, there are right-wingers who are into my work solely for the anti-PC stuff, and there are left-wingers who criticize and attack me solely on the basis of all that as well.I eventually started coming to the conclusion that ATS was being viewed too much as just another “culture war” faction, which isn’t really the case at all. So I decided to pull back a bit from that. Obviously, some of that has to be criticized out of necessity, but it’s a question of focus and emphasis.

    I’ve also tried to make ATS less and less “The Keith Preston Show.” I want this to be a collective effort that grows over time, not just something where one person is the focal points (like the Lyndon LaRouchies, lol). So I want to have a diversity of views represented here, for instance, your own conservative/Christian/pro-Western perspective, Jeremy’s left-anarchism, Vince’s indigenous tribalism, Miles’ black nationalism, Jamie’s N-A spiritualism, Attie’s Afrikaner perspective, “Sorelian’s” apostate Marxism, Larry’s gay libertarianism, Rachel’s transhumanism, MRDA’s nihilism, Michael’s southern nationalism, RJ’s individualist anarchism, Meghan’s bitcoin activism,William Hathway’s socialist-pacifism, etc. I’d like to see an ever greater number of participants here, and from an ever greater number of perspectives. I also want people from all over the spectrum, and with widely divergent views on contentious issues, to feel welcome to participate here, so long as they’re civil and offer something worthwhile.

  10. If this forced unity around the “real” issues fosters division and resentment, then the way to foster unity is to actively address and take into account the specific interests and needs of different segments of the population.

    Actually I find this reasonable. The question is: what’s the proper forum and manner for addressing these various needs? It’s one thing to fight any forum or alliance that actively hurts you. It’s another to thing to fight any forum or alliance simply because it doesn’t prioritize your narrow interests.

    I for one have never criticized C4SS’s emphasis on social issues (my quite consistent criticism for years has focused on their market centrism). I have criticized the _manner_ in which they’ve addressed them. Instead of providing a forum for people to understand each other and have uncomfortable but civil and substantive experiences of other viewpoints, they have chosen a side and sought to demonize the other. And when adopting this orientation, they tend to attack the weakest, most outrageous and stupid arguments of the opposition instead of their strongest arguments. Why wait for COINTELPRO to divide us when these kinds of sentiments can prevent the arrival at any common ground in the first place?

    The kinds of networks Kevin is talking about are usually understood as operating over some kind of protocol, some sort of reduced scope of operation that allows the network to be useful to the people in it for a particular purpose. You can expand the network by building on top of the protocol and extending it. But it starts with a common unifying set of functions.

    It seems to me that if “routing around the system” and building robust, diverse networks are the goals, it will take the identification of a subset of all possible revolutionary interests to those we have in common. Carson can theorize, but until he starts doing the kind of work we’re doing here, reaching out to a broad swath of dissidents and finding what unites them, he has little practical input into what’s going on. In fact, that kind of robust and diverse network is precisely what is found on twitter, where he spends a great deal of his time, and where a lot of decent conversation occur that probably do more to move things forward than C4SS or ATS.

    I mean, Keith will tell you I praise Occupy every chance I get. But even I’d acknowledge there were serious problems with “the protocol”. Occupy often felt like trying to use pinterest over a 300 baud modem–the platform is simply not equal to the application. Not everybody wants to use General Assembly to dissect critical theory, sorry.

    What C4SS, Carson, and us at ATS should all acknowledge is that networks allow different kinds of interests and applications to come together without uniformity _precisely because the network is constrained in scope_. This constraint, this common foundation, is what is important in the political project of resisting centers of power. It’s what Carson talked about with Occupy being a platform and not itself the solution–and this insight is so foundational that it does not simply apply to Occupy alone! Carson is basically making our point, and while I think he’s lost a lot of his magnanimity and good faith lately, I can’t believe he’s unreflective enough to not understand this.

    All this means that it is totally unnecessary — not that it ever was necessary — for those seeking gender or racial justice to throw themselves under the bus and support the common economic-class agenda “Until After the Revolution” or “For the Good of the Party.”

    This is just dishonest. Nobody at ATS has ever suggested anybody should put their particular concerns aside. We’ve always talked about not using disagreements to negate agreements. Indeed, such thinking is almost certainly necessary to prefigure any kind of post-state world. Without monopoly mediation we’re going to need to work these spats out on our own.

    So it’s difficult for me to see the accusations Carson is making as anything but a blatant attempt to distract from what all of us have in common in the service of focusing on what we don’t. Having interests in common does not automatically lead to mass politics of the MoveOn.org variety, but perhaps it does mean that all of us haven’t found the right mix of interests that can unite us in a common goal (because nobody at ATS is talking about a mass political organization except maybe the All Nations Party which is totally separate).

    I miss the Carson that sought to engage in a genuine appraisal of ideas. Twitter (and perhaps the pressure of churning out articles at the Center) has turned him into a soundbite generator. At least we still have the studies he does–those are wonderful.

    • Well, when Carson derisively referred to you as the “Phil Donahue of the national-anarchists” (which is off base since you’re not N-A), I think he was actually being somewhat perceptive. One thing I’ve always wanted ATS to be is a forum where controversial public issues could be debated in a way that all perspectives can be heard (just like the way Phil Donahue would have gay activists, representatives of the religious right, Tom Metzger, Louis Farrakhan, Charles Murray, Abbie Hoffman, Andrea Dworkin and all sorts of other controversial characters on his show). This is precisely the opposite of the Left’s tactic of trying to silence all points of view that don’t meet the standards of progressive orthodoxy.

      I do think the Left’s 40 year emphasis on social issues merits criticism. They’ve been focused on those issues to the point that everything else has been allowed to slide, even to the detriment of issues they claim are the most important. Racism seems to be the Left’s biggest issue. Poor blacks and other minorities are the ones who are hurt the worst by a deteriorating economy. What has the war on drugs done for civil rights? Why hasn’t the Left been doing MLK style protests and civil disobedience against the drug war? What about the brown people killed in the system’s wars over the last two decades? Instead, the Left is worried about gay marriage and name calling.

      I don’t really see that ATS is taking positions that are much different from the positions Nader is now taking, except he’s still operating within a reformist framework. He’s taking the positions he does because he knows that’s what needs to be done to effectively address some of these questions. That’s the conclusion I came to years ago.

      Like Jeremy said, that doesn’t mean anyone needs to change their position on other issues. Within the framework of pan-secessionist alliances or anarcho-pluralism, we’d still have vegetarians, animal rights activists, feminists, anti-racists, environmentalists, pro-choicers, gay rights activists, new atheists, etc just like we’d still have pro-lifers, home schoolers, tax protesters, conspiracy theorists, the anti-vaccination movement, etc.

      I do think as well that social issues are far more multidimensional and complicated than what the Left allows for and this merits criticism as well. As Jeremy said, the Left only wants one side to be heard, and often the most extreme versions of one side. That’s not going to work if all these other issues are going to be effectively addressed.

      • Well, when Carson derisively referred to you as the “Phil Donahue of the national-anarchists”

        LOL! I hadn’t heard that one before. It’s just weird because he and I have discussed NA probably less than 3 times in our entire association, yet THAT’s what he knows me for? Come on.

        • Radical leftists out my way have had the impression that I and ATS are National Anarchist and that we’re all one big entryist project. It seems to be a widely held belief that probably gives NA more credit than it is due.

          • “Radical leftists out my way have had the impression that I and ATS are National Anarchist and that we’re all one big entryist project.”

            That theory has all the sophistication of the 1960s John Birchers who said the anti-Vietnam War movement was hatched in Russia and China to foster a Communist takeover of America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRgYOobjiTk

            “It seems to be a widely held belief that probably gives NA more credit than it is due.”

            It’s interesting how such a small political tendency like the NAs are such a lightning rod for some of these leftists.

  11. Jeremy.

    One of the things I love about ATS is that as someone from a radical right background I can come here and ask you a question which anywhere else would immediately elicit an aggressive and partisan response.

    Moreover I can ask such a question with a high degree of confidence in and respect for the opinion of the person I am addressing. Nowhere else that I know of is that the case.

    I can say with complete sincerity that I feel absolutely no compunction in describing the reality of my own political tribe as far as I perceive it here despite the fact most of that tribe consider that to be tantamount of treason. However the way I see it, if we are going to fight then let us at least fight based what is actually the case rather than some collective delusion. (better still, let’s agree to disagree and compete rather than conflict)

    You appear to be disappointed in Carson, and I admit I am not familiar with the guy’s work, but from my perspective he has done exactly what I would have expected him to do. His behavior is precisely what I would have anticipated from a “left libertarian” or left anything for that matter. In fact his comments are so cliched and predictable as to appear almost to be post modern irony.

    Over the last few weeks ATS has been dominated by discussions about the total disconnect of the conventional radical left from any semblance of relevance or reality. I really want to believe that there is some kind of intelligence or at least reason behind the kind of, and I say this with no intention of causing deliberate offense, cult like behavior we see time and time again. (Now complete with actual catechisms as seen in the bizarre events in SF)

    Several commentators I have been reading recently have described “progressivism” as being something like a religion rather than a political movement. (John Micheal Greer (Archdruid of America) and Mencius Moldbug (leading light of the “dark Enlightenment”). I have heard this theory before but, since I have never been religious I don’t think the concept had the impact it might have if I had been say a Muslim or Catholic. I’ve always assumed that the left were operating on the basis of Empiricism and rationality as they present themselves and appear to unquestioningly believe. However it now occurs to me that this is not the case at all, since the language of religion seems more appropriate to their actions and attitudes. Hersey, sectarianism, fundamentalism, The Elect, Faith, The second coming etc.

    Carson’s behavior seems to fit with this analysis, as does the incoherent rant again Keith posted as a twin to this entry.

    So what do you think? Is this a helpful way of interpreting the attitude of Caron et al towards ATS? Is it in anyway an accurate assessment of the contemporary left or elements of it?

    Let me reiterate, my own tradition has its problems (serious, serious problems), but religiosity of any kind, save a pathetic attempt at Nordic paganism, is not really one of them. The whole radical right believes implicitly it is facing an enemy working on the assumption that it is the embodiment of Enlightenment rationalism and opposes that concept of rationality on that basis alone. If this is not the case, then it seems to me that what appeared to be a fight between “modernity” and “reaction” is actually a fight between two religious sects both of which can not reasonably claim to be anything more than mystery cults.

    • “Several commentators I have been reading recently have described “progressivism” as being something like a religion rather than a political movement.”

      There’s a lot of work available criticizing progressivism as a form of secular religion. Paul Gottfried’s work in this area is probably the best of any English speaking writer. Some libertarians and Objectivists have produced analysis of this type, as have thinkers of the European New Right.

      This review is a good discussion of Gottfried’s ideas on this:

      https://mises.org/misesreview_detail.aspx?control=220

      • I’d say this issue is actually one of two things that are the primary sources of conflict between myself and the Left. After classical and Christian ideas of justice and ethics lost their influence in the 18th and 19th centuries, many people replaced these with new secular religions (or fused these with older forms of religion, like Progressive Christianity). The “progressive” outlook was the most prevalent of these. I don’t see political struggles as some kind of great moral enterprise. I just see it as a practical matter like taking out the garbage or dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster. I’m against the system in the same way I’m against floods and tornadoes. But most leftists, including the majority of anarchists, seem to hold to the progressive version of moralism, e.g. creating the kingdom of heaven on Earth through righteous crusades against “social injustice” and for “equality” or whatever the latest trends and buzzwords are. It’s basically a secular version of saving souls and “winning the world for Christ” as some of the more hyper evangelical types would put it. I think much of it comes down to the conflict between what Thomas Sowell calls the constrained versus unconstrained visions.

        The other issue is simply a different set of goals. For me the goal is to foment anarchist-inspired revolutions against states, ruling classes, and empire. For many of the critics, the goal is to act out their own psychological disturbances, or merely to advance some narrowly focused personal or collective interests. Hence, the view that name calling and mild social disapproval of some lifestyles or values is comparable to killing hundreds of thousands of people in aggressive war. Who cares about hurricanes and typhoons when someone hurt my feelings? That’s the mentality I see among many of these people.

    • So what do you think? Is this a helpful way of interpreting the attitude of Carson et al towards ATS?

      Well I don’t know. You’ve got a lot of great folks at C4SS. We all have our hangups and blind spots.

      I think on the left right now, especially the online left, we are still in the 19th century. Everything is about mass politics and top-down organizations. Even C4SS, a place with people that understand this is a broken strategy, wants to participate in a wider leftist community where dogma and theory are to it what Latin was to the medieval Catholic Church.

      I’m disappointed in Carson because I remember reading his old blog where he took on all comers and engaged with a great variety of ideas and perspectives. His was a careful, cautious mind. Now I see him trolling twitter on a regular basis, and it’s clear by the volume of his participation that this is where he spends not just a lot of his time but a lot of his social energy. I think his adoption of this more virulent cultural orientation is a rather unfortunate desire to be “part of something”. I understand it. When I lived in bum fuck egypt I too sought community from the internet that was crucial to me keeping my sanity.

      The reason why I prefer ATS to C4SS is this ability to listen and consider all perspectives. ATS folks don’t try to get me to unfriend people I suspect are racists. ATS folks can entertain a criticism without losing their shit, and can offer one that is not personal. ATS folks are looking for the answer–they’re not convinced they already have it and it’s just the stupid red staters (or statists) in their way.

      Essentially, ATS is where the liberal tradition of inquiry meets the decentralist imperative. To the extent that the left isn’t precisely this, it has gone far afield in my opinion.

      • One thing I don’t get about C4SS is the way those “market anarchist” fundamentalists think kowtowing to the hyper-left is such a good idea, given that to the “normal” hard left the term “market” is a swear word.

  12. “Essentially, ATS is where the liberal tradition of inquiry meets the decentralist imperative.”

    I always kind of thought that’s what anarchism was supposed to be.

  13. OK, so I think we can agree that the conventional left, or at the very least a substantial element of it, isn’t really operating on a rational basis but rather a certain moral system. I think we can agree that this “culture”, lets say, is producing dysfunctionality in that it is constraining the left’s ability to engage in effective political and/or intellectual resistance to the system.

    So here’s the question. If it is the case that the conventional left is literally religiously wedded to concepts like universalism then surely that ambition demands all kinds of stuff that just can not be reconciled with anarchism of any meaningful sort. If you want global equality, whatever you mean by that, you are going to absolutely have to have a global state. Your going to have to accept that your going to have impose things on people that they would not voluntarily accept.

    I’m not accusing the left of subconscious authoritarianism of the more crude variety. It’s quite possible to imagine such an Enlightened planet could be brought about by ……….. let’s say education in order to avoid using negatively charged words.

    The point is if that is the case then what hope is there of any of these people even tolerating the kind of decentralist political engineering we promote at ATS? Surely they must be ultimately on the other team, they don’t like what the system is used for but that doesn’t mean they have thing against the system itself or its use to manipulate society. Indeed their sole thought is to take control of it themselves.

    If we accept such a proposition the implications are profound for the ATS project. If there is literally no hope of communication on a rational basis with nearly the entire left, then that only leaves one option I would have thought.

    • Well, I generally share your pessimism about much of the Left. But I’ve never been much about trying to recruit the Left to our position en masse. Rather, I’m about creating an alternative for those who are opposed to the hybrid of totalitarian progressivism and uber-capitalism currently being pushed by the international ruling class. This could include strands of dissenting leftists and progressives (and those do exist, some of them are in my circle), and people from other ideological and cultural backgrounds as well.

      An analogy would be to dissidents in the former Soviet Union. Their ranks included religious fundamentalists and monarchists on one end, pro-Western liberals in the middle, and socialists, Trotyskyists, dissident communists, and anarchists on the other end, and lots of points in between. But they all opposed the totalitarian Stalinist bureaucracy. My personal goal is to infuse the core ideas we promote at ATS, like the left/right libertarian/populist pan-secessionist strategic concept, and the “anarcho-pluralist” meta-political framework as alternative tactical and institutional models. When the Stalinist regimes finally failed, most of those countries either adopted Western style parliamentarianism or old-fashioned strongman nationalism. I’m about creating better options for when the global system finally fails.

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