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Points to Consider

One of our readers, “Julius Ebola,” offered these thoughts in a recent comments thread. I think these are points that are well worth considering. Thoughts on some of these ideas anyone?

“Sectarianism and opportunism are useful as general political concepts, and that seems to be how Rothbard understood them. This did not save the Libertarian party from becoming a textbook example of sectarianism, or the Cato institute from becoming a textbook example of opportunism, unfortunately.

Despite the widespread victory of at least some Libertarian ideas, the party remains completely hopeless as a political vehicle, and the idea of it ever coming into real power is absurd. In the popular mind it is synonymous with half-baked cranks, racist idiots, UFO believers, and conspiracy theorists. Not even Libertarians take it seriously.

Cato has more prestige and influence, but only so long as it focuses on Republican-friendly issues (mainly lower taxes for the ruling class, of course). At best it is a reformist organization that has safely nested itself within the ecosystem of think-tanks and special interest groups that lobby the state. Expecting anything revolutionary from it is just as absurd.

(Let us not forget how many Cato and Reason type “libertarians” supported the Bush administration and the war with Iraq, until it became unfashionable.)

Beyond general concepts, the terms sectarianism and opportunism are also very specific terms of art in the most sophisticated and effective revolutionary theory ever developed, and you are correct that this theory was central to Communism becoming the most dangerous revolutionary movement in human history.

The Bolsheviks had a once proud weapon that has become encrusted with the barnacles of a century of reaction after it was submerged in a river of blood. Do not mistake the cargo cults and academics for the old wolf. He soaked two thirds of the world in blood.

I have spent a lot of time trying to imagine how this theory might be modified for anarchist purposes, but this presents a whole series of extremely difficult problems in both theory and practice. Pan-anarchism is in want of a theory of political conflict. An examination of Bolshevism is a good place to start, as an example of how the fundamental problems that face any revolutionary movement were successfully solved.

(This is not an argument for or against Leninism. I am a card carrying member of the Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Dead Horses, and I have no interest at all in such an argument. That is not to say that I have no position.)

Sectarianism and opportunism are words that come with a thick crust of slander that has accumulated during the last 100 years of their use as two of the Communist’s favorite slurs. In the common use today among the surviving cargo cults, the meaning is thus:

Everyone to the left of me is a sectarian; everyone to the right of me is an opportunist.

This obscures a strategic lesson of the first order that is one of Lenin’s most important contributions to revolutionary theory.

Sectarianism and opportunism are not moral qualities or psychological tendencies; they are not types of politics or species of ideologies. They are not even fixed political positions.

They are strategic traps on the political battlefield that will destroy a revolutionary movement that falls into them.

You can fall into these traps, as one can be outflanked or encircled on a battlefield, against your own intentions and due to circumstances beyond your control. As on the battlefield, there is no set-piece solution that will protect against them.

Sectarianism and opportunism are the opposite polarities of revolutionary conflict. A revolutionary movement must find ways to navigate between them because it must approach both without falling into either.

In order to continue to live, a revolutionary movement at minimum must have:

A revolutionary direction

Independence of action

Access to the mass

Power

When a movement loses its independence or its direction, it will die as a revolutionary movement. When this happens, as it usually does, in search of power or access, this is Opportunism.

The position of the AFL-CIO today is an example. It has power and access, but it has been so hollowed out and infested with DNC apparatchiks that it has zero independence and whatever revolutionary direction the American labor movement ever had is, of course, ancient history. The corpse has been kept around as a tool of the DNC, but as we saw with NAFTA and Obama care, it can no longer even protect its own interests. Its position is so desperate that the only hope it has of survival is that it can steal enough money from its workers so as to be valuable enough to the democrats that they don’t finally just sell it out to the corporations completely and ban government unions. (Except for the pig unions, of course.)

Power without the independence to use it is worse than nothing.

When a movement is cut off from all access to the mass or from any hope of power, it will die as a revolutionary movement. When this happens, as it usually does, in search of independence or revolutionary direction, this is Sectarianism.

The position of the Portland IWW is an example. They still have all of their empty revolutionary rhetoric, and are independent enough to chart their own course, but they have zero power of any significance and their ability to even communicate with, much less organize, any large number of workers is also zero. The corpse lives on as a vegan coffee shop for anarchist hipsters, but the revolutionary potential is as dead as big bill. (We have whole town full of dangerous hobos, too.)

Revolutionary words without the power to act are nothing more than stupid primate noises.

Lenin crystallized this lesson in the context of the left and right of his era. When universalizing this lesson I find it more useful to think in terms of the center and the fringe. Revolutions must come from the fringe or they wouldn’t be revolutions. They must storm the center without becoming of it or they are nothing more than coups. During the long conflict to organize the mass that will be the main vehicle of the revolution they must navigate a course between the center (opportunism) and the fringe (sectarianism) that leads to access to the mass and to power without losing their independence of action or there revolutionary direction.

This does not mean taking “moderate” positions. It is extremely difficult in actual practice and requires the kind of radical creativity, operational excellence, and political acumen that the left today can only observe in its enemies or read about in old books.

The revolutionary direction is what Maoists call the line of march. It is not just the ultimate goal but also the path to that goal and the act of walking that path. It is a deeply shared vision that binds the revolutionaries together and the burning torch of revolutionary hatred that drives them forth to attempt and sometimes achieve the impossible. It is the source of all solidarity and discipline, all energy and courage, all sacrifice and valor.

Independence of action means at minimum the freedom to operate in pursuit of the revolutionary direction under your own command. It also includes the capacity to operate. A movement that sets up a printing press or gains the ability to organize in a factory has added to its independence by developing new abilities it did not have before. Conversely, a movement that has had its press confiscated or its organizers blacklisted has lost part of its independence. At the same time possession of a printing press or a cadre of talented organizers will benefit you nothing if you lose the freedom to use them.

This was Lenin’s crown jewel. He was willing to do anything to obtain it. He was willing to do anything to keep it. Losing it means liquidation and the end of the movement.

Access to the mass means at minimum to have contact with the mass and the ability to communicate with and organize it. Its most crucial aspect is the relationship of the movement to the mass. The fate of the entire project hangs on this balance. A movement that has so alienated the mass that it has become hated, or untrusted, or ignored, has lost its access just as surely as if it had been physically barred from it.

This is why legitimacy is such a critical issue for a revolutionary movement, and why losing it means certain death.

The definition of the mass is crucial, and it will change over time. In the beginning a movement must focus on recruiting a core of cadre, and the social group they are being drawn from is the mass. Once the cadre has been formed it then turns its eyes on the most radical part of the community it seeks to organize and this becomes the mass. As the targeted mass changes, so do the nature of the dangers of Sectarianism and Opportunism.

The communist understanding of power was one of the Bolsheviks’ most radical innovations. Power is anything that can be of use to the revolutionary conflict. Anything. It can range from participation in a small reading circle to control of a powerful union, from the ability to influence an election with articles in a press to the possession of a tank army.

Without power you have no way to fight. Power isn’t just the end; it is the means to the end.

With all of these concepts, context is absolutely critical as the dynamic correlation of forces in the struggle is constantly changing, as is the targeted mass. Today the mass is a small group of radical intellectuals, tomorrow it is the workers at temporary agency in Ferguson. In five years it is all the prisoners in the Illinois prison system. Today your only form of power is a baseball bat you are going to take to the car of the racist rat manager of the temp agency as an act of provocation to destabilize his relationship with the workers, in a year it will be a wildcat union that shuts the temp agency down, in five years it will be a general strike in the prison system. What was opportunism today may be sectarianism tomorrow. These are strategic dangers relative to the entire conflict, not fixed points or specific positions. The line you use to organize the radical intellectuals will not be the same one you use to organize the temps. The line you use to organize the local churches against the prison system will not be the same line you use to organize the people within it. This is an art, not a science, and it is hard.

All of these concepts are deeply interconnected when specifically applied: A printing press gives you the independence to publish what you want without censure and is also a line of communication with the mass. Once you have enough legitimacy it can become a form of power. The temporary worker wildcat union is a target mass, a form of power and a critical line of communication to the larger mass within the prison system. The general strike within the prison system is direct blow to the enemy, an exercise of power and an act of communication with every prisoner in the country, as well as an act of communication with potential cadre.”

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15 replies »

  1. One of the best English (and non-communist) resources for how the whole Bolshevik strategy worked is “The Organizational Weapon” by Philip Selznick. It is available free for download in PDF from Rand.

  2. One of the best English non-communist resources for how this worked is “The Organizational Weapon” by Philip Selznick. It is available free for download from Rand in PDF.

  3. In reply to Jeremy from the other thread:

    >Actually, one thing about the Bolsheviks:
    >I’m not sure they actually “won”

    They won the revolution and botched the Utopia. By “winning” the revolution I mean merely that they destroyed the state (and other enemies) and assumed near total power. This was the objective, and they achieved it. In order to study revolutions across history you have to have a neutral technical definition of success. For our purposes as anarchists, destroying the state would seem sufficient.

    The reason to study the Communist model is that anarchists only need to do the easy half, which is destroying a state system. This is much simpler than turning the chaotic mess afterwards into a full scale police state or building a global Utopia.

    >If the LP endeavors to win elections but
    >becomes status-quo-Republicans in the
    >process, in what sense did the LP
    >actually “win”?

    Exactly! They would then escape Sectarianism only to fall into the opposite trap of Opportunism. Libertarian political strategy is usually so unsophisticated that it will almost always produce one or the other. The whole point if the above essay is to try and get at the Communist strategy to avoid both.

    >This is why I think ATS’s slow and steady
    >consensus building amongst a variety of
    >interests is in many ways the best move.

    That sounds like the ‘strategy’ we heard from Occupy. What real world interests are you referring to, exactly? As far as I can see ATS is a collection of disaffected individuals with exotic ideologies. A serious connection to real organic communities that could be mobilized is not in evidence. Verbiage about them doesn’t count. Do not confuse factions of recreational politics for actual social forces in the real world. Only the second count. Only the second can overthrow or destroy a state.

    It reminds me in a lot of bad ways of with Post-left/lifestyle anarchism, and predictably it seems to spend most of its time and energy trapped in the identity politics of alt right internet trolls. Just as a certain faction of lifestyle anarchists gained great notoriety by openly advocating child molesting, ATS has gained notoriety by associating with neo-nazis. Indeed you have much in common with the Hakim Bey crowd, and a larger exploration of your many parallels with Post-left anarchism might save you from the same mistakes.

    Violating social taboos will get you attention, but unless you are Barnum & Bailey, it isn’t a long term strategy that will lead anywhere by itself. The kind of personality types you will attract with it tend to be socially retarded losers expressing their profound psychological failures through recreational politics. The ones with Swastika tattoos tend towards inbreeding and heavy snitching, but with more violence and psychosis than you really get with the protest ghetto left.

    In lifestyle anarchism this meant that we got a huge number of people who refused to bathe and preferred to eat out of dumpsters. You cannot build a revolutionary movement out of that kind of human material. We saw the long term effect of this at Occupy, where the protest camps were overrun by idiots who were so fucking stupid that they would foul their own tiny campsite rather than use a public bathroom a block away. The cities usually had a point about it being a health issue, towards the end. Even the homeless don’t shit themselves out of their own camps, dude. Seriously this is an extinction behavior. It is a sign that a species has just given up to die.

  4. “Do not confuse factions of recreational politics for actual social forces in the real world. Only the second count. Only the second can overthrow or destroy a state.”

    Which social forces would you identify as revolutionary, or potentially revolutionary? Spencer Pearson has argued on this site that ATS should position itself as the “vanguard of the radical right” with the caveat that we should simultaneously cultivate an “antifa of the right” that explicitly rejects the fascists while embracing the radical right in a more generalized size.

    http://attackthesystem.com/2014/08/15/antifa-of-the-right-throw-the-fascist-down-the-well/

    However, I get the feeling you are much more a man of the Left than Spencer. So what social forces do you feel ATS should embrace? The re-proletarianized working class?

    “Just as a certain faction of lifestyle anarchists gained great notoriety by openly advocating child molesting, ATS has gained notoriety by associating with neo-nazis. Indeed you have much in common with the Hakim Bey crowd, and a larger exploration of your many parallels with Post-left anarchism might save you from the same mistakes.”

    Well, the way I attracted such a large audience in that milieu was by simultaneously criticizing PC and advocating secession as a tactic. The radical right, particularly the white nationalists, are the primary group that is interested in the combination of those two ideas at present. Elements of the mainstream conservative movement are anti-PC, but not about to embrace the “anti-Americanism” associated with secession. While there are secessionist leftists, the general thrust of the Left is anti-secessionist. And criticizing PC on the Left is unthinkable. Nowadays, PC is what defines the Left IS PC, and there’s really no Left without it.

    • I also think some of this comes down to whether you have a materialist or idealist conception of how social and political change actually takes place. The materialist position suggests that social change takes place when material forces like technology, ecological changes, the growth of new economic forces, etc. bring it about. That’s pretty much straightforward Marxism.

      But the idealist position argues that ideas shape history as much as material forces. For instance, I think the American, French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions can all be interpreted as revolutions by a rising middle class against a more traditional system of social stratification. A lot of left-Marxists, syndicalists, and left-anarchists would agree with me on that.

      But note that the ideas guiding these revolutions were often very different. What accounts for those differences? Levels of economic development? Historical time periods? The influence of different sets of thinkers?

      This is what I wrote about this question about ten years ago:

      “The standard pattern in the history of the advancement of radical movements is that a new revolutionary outlook first captures the imagination of the intellectual elite, who become dissenters, and this new outlook then advances into the ranks of those who are most likely to opt for radicalism, or who have the least to lose by doing so. So, in turn, the intellectual dissidents are joined by student radicals and rebellious youth, bohemians and counterculturalists, members of the lumpenproletariat and the underclass, and marginalized or outcast social groups. Eventually, radical ideas begin working their way into the ranks of the conventional proletariat, and then into the middle class, and, finally, the establishment, with social reactionaries reluctantly being dragged along.”

      I’d more or less stand by this statement today. For instance, if we look at the growth of the North American “liberty movement” at present, we see that Rothbard and a handful of other thinkers planted the seeds for all that back in the 60s and 70s, and for a long time libertarianism was just a fringe intellectual subculture and a movement of stoned college students. Then libertarianism actually found a national political leader in the form of Ron Paul, like him or not, and since then libertarianism has grown exponentially and veered off into all kinds of new subgroupings. The same thing happened with classical anarchism. Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and some others laid the groundwork, and it had trickle down effect and eventually became a relatively large movement.

      In many ways, I see the kinds of ideas we talk about here at ATS as the next logical step in the evolution of the liberty movement, and the idea is to spread some of these same ideas into many other movements as well until a general social consensus is reached in favor of pan-anarchism/anarcho-pluralism/pan-secessionism/whatever.

      It’s a more complicated and far reaching version of the same basic approach that proponents of gay marriage and drug legalization have taken although it’s ultimately more threatening to the ruling class. But decades from now I could see a much improved anarchist movement emerge that is large enough to start organizing a libertarian/populist left/right conservative/progressive pan-radical alliance against the state using pan-secessionism and other tactics we’ve discussed as strategic vehicles.

  5. I appreciate the thoughtful reply; I was hoping you’d respond to my comment.

    By “winning” the revolution I mean merely that they destroyed the state (and other enemies) and assumed near total power. This was the objective, and they achieved it. In order to study revolutions across history you have to have a neutral technical definition of success.

    I suppose that’s true if, as you say, power is the fungible unit of measure for success throughout history. I was only attempting to suggest that, however technical a metric it is, I’m not sure it’s a good one.

    Frankly, I’m not interested in a bolshevik style revolution / civil war. Or I should say: by the time something like that happens, the real work would already have taken place. This is a competing definition of revolution that has less to do with power than legitimacy, which is of course very difficult to nail down and hardly “technical” (though perhaps polls could provide some evidence).

    Now, I agree with you that ATS isn’t there yet as a revolutionary organization, either by your definition or mine. And maybe the ATS approach is not the one that will prevail. This is a long term project and where no certainties exist and unique conditions predominate. I welcome the critique; I simply think it’s important to consider a more expansive or ephemeral understanding of revolution.

    That sounds like the ‘strategy’ we heard from Occupy. What real world interests are you referring to, exactly?

    That’s impossible to say at this point. It’s a matter of discovery, and it will be a creature of the moment’s balance. Right now it’s an effort just to carve out a space. In a way, it’s a similar starting point to Occupy, which carved out space for free political activism and dialogue outside the establishment’s criteria for relevancy.

    I would very much be interested in pursuing the strategy of Occupy–not all of it, but the platform upon which the actions and mistakes we saw played out. What Occupy put in motion is more important than whether or not it was able to keep cops out of a public space. I’m particularly interested in the parallels with the Warsaw Pact-era Polish Solidarity movement which also got crushed and went underground only to reemerge with an irrepressible consensus. That kind of revolution also has its downsides (opportunism) which is why a resolutely decentralist / anti-state orientation is so crucial and healthy.

    The cities usually had a point about it being a health issue, towards the end.

    Not in the case of Occupy Richmond; we actually had a tea partier do a video at our encampment, all expecting to find what you claim, and he actually gave us a glowing review on our sanitation. Camping outdoors in an urban space will NEVER be hygienically ideal, and I’m not saying nothing bad happened, but do you have any specific examples you’re thinking of? Occupy camps usually had sanitation workgroups that did a decent job of handling these concerns given the legal and logistical constraints.

    As far as refusing to use nearby bathrooms: I know at OWS and in Richmond there were constant complaints that nearby private restrooms were being _used_. I’ve never heard the complaint that we were not using existing restrooms.

  6. I think that Julius has made some excellent points, indeed he expresses a very similar analysis to that which interested me in pan secessionism. As a strategic proposition PS differs from conventional radicalism in that, as far as I’m concerned, it is predicated in what is most feasible given the nature of the opposition and the common flaws which have derailed previous radical movements.

    I see PS as being effectively unco-optable in that through maximal decentralisation, without fetishising individualism to unachievable lengths, the task of absolute control of a society would become extremely difficult through sheer logistics (and a dozen other structural impediments). It is therefore “structurally” impossible for such a radical challenge to the system to be seduced by opportunism. Which is, I would suggest, an indispensable design criteria for any revolutionary strategy given like; people. (as Julius says all anarchists need do is destroy the state and PS is designed to do just that, adding only that impeding its reformation must also be a priority)

    I developed a “PS approach” of my own in parallel to Keith’s work (then discovered ATS) as a result of my experiences as an activist. What sets PS apart from conventional radicalism is that it is not predicated (in my view) on a philosophic system (even if it is compatible with many) but is emergent in any situation where someone asks the question “what could the resources I could possibly access do to actually challenge the system in a meaningful, rather than symbolic, way?

    PS is “low profile” in that as an ideology there isn’t a lot to shoot at, defending against it is far more difficult in an intellectual sense because it doesn’t have dozens of divisive secondary demands or implications. I think one reason ATS is attacked for not being “anti nazi” is because it can’t be attacked on any substantive basis. Moreover what concepts are embodied in PS; diversity, democracy, freedom, liberty, self determination, self reliance and so forth, well they are all considered to be effectively sacrosanct virtues. So not only is PS hard to hit, if you do so its double armoured plated.

    On the offensive PS is optimised to hit the system at its most vulnerable points. We have seen over and over again that modern states are intensely vulnerable to secessionist tendencies (for all kinds of reasons) while they thrive on armed or “democratic” challenges. Secessionism also lends itself to the kind of organisations radicals can put together, small localised groups which by virtue of high intensity and the relative weakness of the establishment at a hyper local level can often achieve localised supremacy. Better yet, because of the very nature of PS, localised supremacy isn’t a “stepping stone” to generalised supremacy, it’s all you need.

    Sure ATS is comprised of dissidents from dissident tendencies, but the commonality we share, and that which sets us apart from the various traditions we come from, is we are looking for something that could work. Until such a time as any or all of those original traditions start taking a similar attitude then there is not much we can do. You can hand out all the guns you like but unless the recipients start firing at the enemy it isn’t going to achieve anything. I think ATS is pretty inventive, but if your asking us to come up with a mechanism that can turn posing idiots into revolutionaries, well you really need an alchemist.

    That said if someone as obviously intelligent as Julius can have failed to understand these kinds of arguments then it is because we have not expressed them often enough. When you come to think about it, it’s been quite a while since we actually did discuss and advocate pan secessionism. Kicking PC and spastic anarchists (and faggy Nazis) is all well and good but wasn’t we supposed to be doing something else?

  7. “When you come to think about it, it’s been quite a while since we actually did discuss and advocate pan secessionism. Kicking PC and spastic anarchists (and faggy Nazis) is all well and good but wasn’t we supposed to be doing something else?”

    I’m working on some ideas now for a new podcast that I’m tentatively titling “The Case for Ecumenical Extremism.” It will be a discussion of how to promote the pan-secession idea in a way that is ecumenical in the sense of trying to appeal to as many political and cultural currents as possible, while maintaining an “extremist,” non-coopted position.

  8. I’m trying to think how such a discussion might be framed without making some extremely disparaging remarks about above mentioned groups. Here’s a radical proposition, if a PS society magically appeared tomorrow would it not be almost certain that 90% plus of all autonomous communities within it wouldn’t be especially extreme at all. In fact I think it fairly likely that the vast majority would be less radical in a lot of respects than the system is right now.

    • I agree. In fact one of the points I make to my fellow leftists is that we really can’t move society in the direction we choose until we’ve actually convinced them–and that means letting them see how shitty the conservative, centrist society they want is instead of trying to save them from it. Maximize the contradictions, pan-seccesionist version, I guess.

  9. Right. That’s long been my position as well. If pan-secession happened tomorrow in the US, for example, most communities would be Democratic or Republican rather than anarchist, communist, fascist, etc. And the “red” areas of the U.S. might well become more conservative or “traditional values” oriented. Meanwhile, the “blue” areas in the large metro areas, northeast and West Coast might actually move leftward. The inner-cities would be de facto black nationalist city-states, and the southwest would be de facto northern Mexico.

  10. In response to Keith:

    >Which social forces would you identify as
    >revolutionary, or potentially
    >revolutionary?

    Mainly the organic communities that are already being mercilessly targeted by the state, and especially those who are already in open resistance to it. One of the main reasons I pay attention to ATS, actually, is that you have identified the gangs as a potentially revolutionary force. I agree with that completely. Indeed I think you have underestimated their potential.

    >I also think some of this comes down
    >to whether you have a materialist or
    >idealist conception of how social and
    >political change actually takes place.

    I tend to view both conceptions as reductionist. Profound social change is the product of a complex synthesis of forces, which is why no one has ever succeeded in having the same revolution a second time. I also focus in my own thinking on psychology and culture as being of central importance to motivating people into real conflict.

    In response to S E Pearson:

    >I think ATS is pretty inventive, but if your
    >asking us to come up with a mechanism
    >that can turn posing idiots into
    >revolutionaries, well you really need an
    >alchemist.

    The Bolsheviks faced a very similar problem to that of modern libertarians and anarchists: The Russian revolutionaries who had to be transformed into hardened cadre were a half-assed collection of dissidents who mostly just wanted to sit around and talk.

    The stereotype of the pre-Bolshevik Russian revolutionaries was that “they knew about everything but could do nothing” .

    Does that sound like anyone you know?

    Anyone you have ever met in the Libertarian movement, maybe?

    The new Bolshevik man went a little too far in the other direction, but this demonstrates what is possible even in a single generation.

    Radical social engineering projects, after all, begin at home.

  11. Punk Rock era Anarchism was all about violating taboos, but if you don’t have anything else, lifestylism is inevitable. Once the usual more-extreme-than-thou competition gets set up, you have a recreational subculture that valorizes public performance of deviance as an end in itself. Occupy is the natural and predictable result.

    I had been away from the lifestylist scene for well over a decade, and yet Occupy was completely familiar. Some of the new language was impenetrable (and all the cute little hand signals were lost on me) but the fanatics and idiots having screaming matches were the same type of people, in the same retarded protest ghetto subculture.

    It had somehow managed to get smarmier and filthier at the same time. You could get a free cup of vegan coffee or visit the therapy tent. You could also step on a dirty needle or get stabbed by the dude with the bleeding head.

    In the name of the 99% it presented an image that 99% of the population would never take seriously as a political project. Because of the polarization of our politics and the deep public hatred of our political institutions there was a mirage of support that instantly vanished once the debate moved on.

    Occupy was the botched abortion child of lifestyle anarchism that somehow managed to crawl out of the medical waste dumpster and get adopted by some gullible college students. Predictably it made a whole lot of noise, shit all over its crib, and died.

    The collapse was even faster and more complete than that of the Anti-war movement. The corpse lived on as the new brand in protest ghetto politics, but mainly for the six people who will always go to whatever leftist meeting.

    The question of how to avoid a similar fate is the fundamental question of how to turn a social activity full of useless talkers into a revolutionary movement. Post-left anarchism and the remains of left anarchism both failed to even face this question seriously in the modern era.

  12. One of the basic aspects of real cadre is a major personal commitment to a movement. Unfortunately, fringe movements in the United States seem to have only two polarities of commitment: either a vague subcultural milieu or a mind control cult.

    You see this in both new religions and the new left, and even in things like UFOlogy. Something about our national character seems to make any position between these two points an unstable balance that almost always devolves into one or the other.

    This is reflected in protest ghetto left by the two dominant organizational models: the Greenpeace model, and the fanatical pretend revolutionary “party”. Both of these models are children of the sixties, with Greenpeace and the Revolutionary Communist Party as poster children of the opposite polarities.

    I suspect that for an American panarchist movement the internal conflict that would parallel the one between dissidence and totalitarianism in the Communist party will be between recreational political consumerism or multi-level marketing on one hand, and mass suicide mind control cults on the other.

    (It is easy to see who is going to end up with the Icepick in the face with that line up, isn’t it?)

    A new American revolutionary movement will have to chart an internal course somewhere between Alex Jones and Jim Jones. As such we need to study the pathologies of both in order to avoid them. We have to create a balance that produces high participation without tending into a Cult. Furthermore, as Panarchists we have to create a culture of
    cadre where motivation and movement commitment are high and yet group loyalties and fanatical ideological commitments are low.

    The only alternative to this is to openly adopt the mind control cult model (as Stalinism openly adopted totalitarianism) with our eyes open to all of its defects and a strategy that maximizes all of its advantages. As the Libertarian subcultures have yet to produce the AUM level cult that they are probably capable of, it would seem that ATS could get in on the ground floor.

    Look, this is America, and we need to keep it real about what we actually have to work with in this country. Go to the Wal-Mart and look around. The Mormons attempted to capture the presidency in the last election, and they got 47%. The Jesus-Hitler-Stalin cult exposed by Jeff Sharlet has deep tentacles all over Washington. No one even knows how much money Scientology has, or how many slaves.

    Look at all the leftist organizations that came out of the sixties and compare them now to Scientology. Many of them became mind control cults, but Bob Avakian has a newspaper no one wants to read and Scientology has a navy. This is because Scientology never had any illusions about its organic model, and God does it have a market.

    Compare the entire history of Japanese leftism to Aum. Who had the microwave weapons and the heavily armed enclaves? Who had the laser research program and the mind control drugs? What did the commies have? Student rioters and some newspapers? Who needs dialectical materialism when you have Perfect Salvation Initiation mind control helmets?

    God knows that this is the land of the mind control cult and the age of the religious revolt. Even the most secular parts of the left are screaming doomsday at every turn. The singularity bullshit among “atheist” libertarians is full of blatant Messianic content.

    Looking at the cadre around here it would seem ATS has rich natural talent for such a project, and God knows this country, and the alternative right, are fertile ground for it. How is Tia’s Noe-Manichaeism project going? Give her, Todd Lewis, Keith and Haywire some DMT and see what they can conjure up. It would make a great podcast, at least.

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