Why Anarchists Must Confront Totalitarian Humanism

It can reasonably be said that the overwhelming majority of liberals, progressives, social democrats, and Marxists would affirm all or most of the following presumptions:

-The state is an expression of popular democracy (see Jean Jacques Rousseau)

-The ever increasing centralization of institutions is conducive to economic and technological progress

-Ever larger states with an ever greater number of functions are necessary to modern society

-The state is a means of advancing the disadvantaged and imposing progressive values on benighted or reactionary local communities and regions

-The legitimacy of an eventual world federal government, and the principles of collective security, liberal internationalism, human rights internationalism, or what Noam Chomsky critically calls “military humanism”

-The desirability of forging a national and international consensus around “progressive” values with these to be imposed by national governments and international institutions

-The desirability of the welfare state, the managerial state, and managed economy

-The core principles of the Enlightenment religion of reason, progress, and scientism

-The legitimacy and necessity of the  public administration state

-The desirability of the nanny state and its involvement in such issues as the compulsory use of seat belts, smoking bans, diet regulation, firearms prohibition, compulsory education, far reaching measures aimed at “child protection,” etc.

It goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of these precepts, perhaps all of them, cannot be reconciled with libertarian, anarchist, anti-statist, decentralist, or anti-authoritarian values of ANY kind. It also goes without saying that since the days of the rivalries between Marx and Engels, and Proudhon, Stirner, and Bakunin, authoritarian leftists, statist socialists, and centralizing progressives have been our enemy. Period. It is time for anarchists to carve out an entirely new paradigm for themselves that defines the political spectrum not in terms of left and right or reactionary and progressive, but in terms of anti-authoritarian vs authoritarian, anti-statist vs statist, and decentralist vs centralist. This will be among the primary dividing lines of the future.

12 replies »

  1. To the point.
    Here’s a question though, do you think eventually the SJW pseudoleftists will become such a parody of themselves that they will lose support?
    It’s a hope.

  2. They’re already a self-parody. It’s hard to imagine how much more of one they could be.

    There are two questions that arise from this. The first is the question of whether a radical movement will be able to develop that is liberated from the albatross of SJW fanaticism. This stuff is an extremely disruptive and divisive force within opposition movements from the Left (to the degree that there are any), and within libertarianism as well.

    The second question is how far will the totalitarian humanist ideology go as far as being embedded in the state. Will it someday approach Stalinist levels of repression, or will it reach a tipping point where the pendulum starts to swing?

    The SJWs represent hard totalitarian humanism, while at present the state has only adopted a soft totalitarian humanism (for the most part). But imagine the hardline SJWs in control of SWAT teams and anti-terrorism laws, and you have a very Stalinist/Maoist like scenario.

    Hardline SJWism with full state power would probably be something similar to the U.S. “war on drugs” where politically incorrect speech and actions would be subject to full legal prohibition, and persons accused of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc etc, would be subject to full on police raids, de facto show trials, and imprisonment as enemies of the state. Again, right now we only have soft totalitarian humanism holding state power. The question is how far will it go before a tipping point is reached?

    The SJWs mostly originate from the upper middle class which is the class the totalitarian humanists originate from generally. Also, the SJWs tend to be younger. What will they be when they are older and hold leadership positions in institutions? And how representative will they be of their class and their generation?

    As an article I recently posted on here says, one effect they seem to be having is provoking a right-wing backlash. For example, to the degree that they have become embedded in the U.S. libertarian movement, they’ve provoked a reaction that’s driven other libertarians towards hard rightism, like the neo-reactionaries, dark enlightenment, neo-fascism, et. al.

    One thing I have noticed about US politics generally is that as the society and the state have moved further leftward, the more extreme and fanatical the right-wing has become (check out the U.S. Republicans). The more deeply embedded totalitarian humanism becomes, the more “right-wing extremism” is likely to appear even if it is swimming against the tides.

    My guess is that all of this stuff will reaching a tipping point in the future, and then begin to recede, but I don’t know when that will be.

    • First of all you have to discriminate between the cultural liberalism of the blue tribe that appeals to about 40% of the population and which serves as the legitimizing ideology of the Democratic party, and the hard cultural leftism of the Academic and protest left that appeals to (at best) 5% of the population and which serves as the legitimizing ideology of academic bureaucracy and protest leftism.

      To the degree that the Democrat party leadership supports policies that could be classified as police state, it does so in almost unanimous agreement with Republicans. Democratic Party ideology (to the extent that it has such) is not a vehicle for totalitarianism, but rather a system of political marketing. Obama was selling fake opposition to the police state to get elected, not advancing a pro-police state ideology as such.

      The mainstream ideologies that legitimize the rotating ruling factions of the police state must be the main enemies in any real radical project because they are a form of real power. By contrast the hard cultural leftism of the Academy and the protest ghetto is an absurd nuisance. The American police state is already here (it just isn’t evenly distributed). It could murder you tomorrow in a traffic stop, it is listening to your every word, and it already has a prison slave empire up and running. It has a ruling class.

      They are the enemy.

      Furthermore, the idea that the Academic or protest left could take power away from the rulers of the Democratic Party is just absurd. Outside of its protected enclaves, the hard cultural left appeals to almost no one. None of the main demographics of the Democratic Party are friendly to it. The academic left is a rent-seeking complaint while the protest left is a broken windup toy that just walks into the wall over and over again. To conflate them with the totalitarians of the twentieth century is just complete bullshit. Outside of protected enclaves the modern radical left is usually heavily disoriented, unable to observe reality, and almost always locked into an ideological program that just isn’t going to work.

      Alinsky and Gramski are certainly well worth reading, but you could go right ahead and completely skip Adorno and the entire Frankfurt school with no loss whatsoever. (For an excellent summary of it and its proper place in the Marxist tradition, see vol 3 of The Main Currents of Marxism by Kołakowski.) If you bother to actually read Alinsky it becomes obvious that despite all the name checking, no one in the protest left understands him as they make every fatal mistake he warned against, again and again.

      To study the enemy means: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rachel Maddow, NPR, etcetera. The ideology that legitimizes the actually existing police state, which is broadcast daily through a vast mechanism of mass manipulation, is the ideology that we must destroy. The modern radical left should be destroyed in the name of a real left, or at least the memory of such, but it is not a legitimizing ideology of a power faction in the police state, and its real prospects to become such are marginal.

        • I understand the differences between Democratic Party liberalism and the hard left that you raise. For the sake of time and convenience, I don’t always make the distinction when I’m writing about these things. But by totalitarian humanism I am referring primarily to Democratic Party liberalism or the ideology of the Western European elites. The Democratic Party’s totalitarian humanism represents the left-wing of capital in the US (neoconservatism, the ideology of the right-wing of the ruling class, deserves just as much criticism as well and on other grounds).

          I also think the cultural hard left would be just as bad in control of the state as the totalitarian humanists, but as you say, it’s a non-issue. The reason I criticize the PC hard leftists as much as I do is because they have such a presence in radical movements, such as anarchism, and because they are such a disruptive and co-opting force within the context of radical movements.

          Yes, Obama, Clinton, Maddow et al, are the real enemy, and the antifa, feminazis, and homo-fascists are just an annoyance and a nuisance. Meanwhile, the Republicans represent a dying social and economic demographic, i.e. the traditional WASP elite and the right-wing of the middle class.

          I actually covered all of these issues fairly extensively, and in the terms you outline, in one of my primary strategic documents:

          • The future of the Western ruling classes will totalitarian humanism, and the cultural hard left will most likely attempt to piggyback on totalitarian humanism which they are already doing to some degree. The neocons and the traditional WASPs will eventually fade and recede and the new opposition will be similar to the paradigm we discuss here.

  3. “This will be among the primary dividing lines of the future.”

    Keith, you think a line that divides .05% of the world’s population from 99.95% of the world’s population can really be termed a “primary dividing line”?

    • Hey Gene,

      It’s a been a while. Good to hear from you again.

      I don’t think it’s a matter of absolute categories in the way you portray the dichotomy above. It’s not like the world is divided into .05% anarchists and 99.95% Stalinists.

      The spectrum of statism, centralism, authoritarianism, etc. is more like a continuum. If Kim Jong-Un is a 0 and Max Stirner is a 100, then most nations would probably be in the 30-70 range. But the range between 70-100 is still pretty vast. We could start with Stirnerites at 100, then an-caps and an-coms, then minarchists and syndicalists, then classical liberals and libertarian socialists, then paleocons and the ACLU, etc.

      On the 0 end, there could be Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and the Kims. Then Saddam Hussein, Castro, Ho, Robert Mugabe, Qadaffi,the Assads, Mussolini. Franco, Nasser, Peron, Chavez, etc.

  4. At any one time the primary political dividing lines are between those who are aligned with the status quo and those who aren’t. For instance, classical liberals vs the ancient regime, the working class vs the industrial capitalist class, the middle class culture of the 1950s vs 60 radicals. Right now in U.S. politics it’s the traditional WASP establishment and the right-wing of the middle class against traditional out-groups (Catholics, Jews, minorities, homosexuals, etc).

    The ambition here is to cultivate a new opposition that rejects the emerging ruling class paradigm of therapeutic-managerial statism, neoliberal economics, liberal internationalist or “human rights” imperialism, and de facto “totalitarian humanism” as its legitimating ideology. This would be a new paradigm that is in opposition to the emerging dominant paradigm, and whose component parts would be the various philosophies, movements, and issues described in the ATS statement of purpose, among others.

    Some parts of this new paradigm would be primarily concerned with statism for different reasons, some with neoliberalism, some with imperialism, some with totalitarian humanism, and some with single issues or the perceived interests of their own reference groups. The cultivation of this paradigm plus the strategic ideas we promote provides the means for self-determination for all sorts of cultural and political factions in ways that do not require an overarching state apparatus.

    • At one point, anarchists were a large international radical movement. Anarchists were larger than the Marxists at one point, and held sizable minorities in a number of countries. I think the main difficulty anarchists of that time had was that they were swimming against the tide. The 20th century was the century of ever more centralized and bureaucratic institutions, not to mention total war. But now things are starting to go the other way (see Martin Van Creveld).

      During the Spanish Civil War, anarchists managed to organize a popular front against the ruling class of the time. There’s no reason these models can’t be replicated at some point in the future, although anarchist theory has to be modified to fit contemporary societies. For instance, the dogmatic anarcho-communism and anti-clericalism of the Spanish anarchists certainly isn’t appropriate for the present time in the Western world. But many other aspects of historic anarchism certainly are, and our model of decentralized, pluralistic, particularism provides us with an opportunity to connect with folks all over the political and cultural spectrum.

  5. The views we promote here shouldn’t be that difficult to understand. We promote pan-secessionism as a strategy on the model suggested by Kirkpatrick Sale. From there it’s Freetown Christiania for leftists, and Orania for rightists, Mondragon for an-syns, kibbutzim for an-coms, and Liechtenstein for an-caps. Pretty simple, really.

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