By Keith Preston
In the essay, “Liberty and Populism: Building an Effective Resistance Movement for North America,” written in 2006, I made the following observation:
Ultimately, we may at some point be able to combine the Green, Libertarian, Populist, Constitution, Natural Law and other minor parties into a single party,… I would suggest calling such a party the “Federalist Party” for several reasons. First, there is precedent for this from American history. Second, it accurately describes what the internal structure of the party should be. Third, it provides a model for the general types of institutional arrangements we should seek to develop. Perhaps our party flag could be an anarchist black flag with the snake from the “don’t tread on me” Gadsen battle flag embroidered on it.
It is now time to begin the application of the core strategic ideas outlined in such ARV-ATS documents and “Liberty and Populism” and “Philosophical Anarchism and the Death of Empire.”
Since the above was written, at least two proposals have been put forward concerning how the type of meta-party described above might be organized and what it’s orientation might be. The most elaborate plan of this kind has been advanced by Ryan Faulk’s All Nations Party. The ANP is a proposed pan-secessionist party that would have ethnic separatism as its primary, though not necessarily exclusive, orientation. Another such proposal is Joe Kopsick’s Pananarchist Party USA, which seeks to advance the concept of non-territorial governments within a general individualist anarchist framework. While both proposals are a commendable efforts to open dialogue and engage in strategic formulation on this question, in both instances there might also be a bit of overreach.
Twenty-five percent of the US population currently expresses at least casual sympathy for the idea of a secessionist movement in their own region or locality. The principle objective for those of us who have embraced the pan-secessionist strategy should at this point be the awakening of this sleeping giant. The question is how to we turn this mass of 80 million passive sympathizers into a mass of active sympathizers? The first thing that should be recognized is that most of these 80 million potential constituents are not adherents of extremist or exotic ideologies. Instead, the bulk of the opinions held by these people are likely to be rather close to the mainstream on most issues.
There is no evidence that there is a sizable constituency for ethnic separatism within any ethnic group. To be sure, there is a tiny but outspoken minority of people within all ethnic groups who advocate for ethnic separatism, but the sum total of all ethnic separatists within all ethnic groups would still be a tiny fraction of the 320 million people who make up the US population. It is also true that there are many people who practice de facto ethnic separatism, but this largely reflects the economic and lifestyle choices of individuals, and is a far cry from advocating de jour ethnic separatism as a matter of ideology or moral conviction. While it is certainly true that ethnic separatists can also be pan-secessionists, it is unlikely that a pan-secessionist meta-party (PSMP) that advances ethnic separatism as a primary value will win a great deal of sympathy.
Likewise, it is unlikely that a PSMP that is primarily oriented towards the promotion of an esoteric or exotic ideology will gain much of an audience. While there are certainly plenty of historical precedents for such concepts as non-territorial governments, such ideas are also culturally alien to the overwhelming majority of persons in North America. Therefore, it would be unwise to adopt an ideological stance of this kind as principal strategic objective.
However, the concept of secession maintains very powerful roots within mainstream American history, culture, and politics for reasons that are too obvious to require discussion. Further, secession is a tactical concept that can be embraced by movements of any ideological, cultural, ethnic, religious, or economic orientation. How then should a PSMP organize itself?
The All Nations Party idea of a PSMP that functions as a umbrella for a set of constituent parties and regional or local secessionist movements that have their own interests is generally a solid one. However, I would suggest that at the meta-party level the PSMP should have only two stated objectives:
1. Promoting, advocating, legitimizing, and legalizing the right of secession by regions and localities from larger governmental units.
2. Promoting, advocating, legitimizing, and legalizing the right of minor parties to participate in public elections against the present two-party duopoly.
From this basic starting point, the constituent parties and secessionist movements associated with the PSMP would have every right to advocate for whatever philosophies or issues they wished. For example, the PSMP would have no position on foreign policy. If a collection of red state secessionists wished for the red states to go to war with ISIS, then so be it. The PSMP would have no position on economics. Presumably, for example, there would be both advocates of socialism and capitalism within the PSMP. The PSMP would exist only for the purpose of defending the rights of constituent groups to form their own parties or secessionist movements advocating for any ideas that they wished, and to strip away political and legal barriers to both competition in public elections by minor parties and secession by regionalist movements. This is does not in any way mean that any constituent party, organization, or movement of the PSMP would abandon or even downplay any of its other issues. It simply means that the PSMP would provide an organizational umbrella for the advancement of the interests of all minor parties and secessionist movements at the collective level. Within the framework of the PSMP, socialists would still advocate for single-payer healthcare, libertarians for tax cuts, social conservatives for the pro-life cause, and social leftists for LGBT issues. The PSMP would no doubt include many constituencies who were otherwise antithetical to each other, such as the Prohibition Party and the U.S. Marijuana Party.
In this sense, it must be understood that the PSMP would maintain both macro-level constituencies and micro-level constituencies. At the macro-level, the PSMP would have only two constituencies: the 25% and growing number of Americans who sympathize with the idea of secession, and those who prefer alternatives to the two-party duopoly. At the macro-level, the PSMP would exist only to promote the two issues of third party rights and secessionist rights, and these issues would be promoted in the same way that proponents of marijuana legalization, gay marriage, gun rights, gun control, the right-to-life or abortion rights have promoted their own issues. At the micro-level, the PSMP would have many constituencies, i.e. the constituencies of its component parties, organizations, movements, and the issues raised by each of these. Obviously, the opportunity would arise within such a scenario for a infinite variety of conflicts between the various constituents of the PSMP, and such conflicts are to be expected. Therefore, mutual agreements among the PSMP constituents would have to be formulated in order to maintain the common peace to the greatest degree reasonably possible. The most practical approach would be for the various constituent forces to simply agree to stay out of each other’s backyards. For example, the constituents forces that trended rightward would agree to focus their organizing and recruiting activities on the “red” demographic sectors of the US, and the forces that trended leftward would agree orient themselves towards organizing among the “blue” sectors.
At the national level, the presidential candidates of the PSMP would run solely on the two core principles of the PSMP: advocating for the rights of third parties, and the rights of secessionists. Preferably, the presidential ticket would be split between the Left and Right. For example, the presidential candidate might be from the Socialist Party or the Green Party, while the vice-presidential candidate would be from the Libertarian or Constitution Parties. Further, the Left/Right split ticket should be reversed every four years. For example, in the 2016 election the presidential candidate might be from the Left with the vice-presidential candidate might be from the Right. In 2020, the presidential candidate would then be from the Right while the vice-presidential candidate would be from the Left.
All other candidates of the PSMP would run on joint tickets of both the PSMP and their respective constituent parties. For example, the candidate for the governorship of Massachusetts might run on the tickets both the PSMP and the Socialist Action Party, and a comparable candidate in Texas might run on the tickets of both the PSMP and the Objectivist Party. Once again, in order to avoid overlap, rival constituent parties and organizations would mutually agree to stay out of each others backyards. Additionally, the candidates from minor parties and secessionist movements might also be combined at times. For example, a candidate in Georgia might stand simultaneously for the PSMP, Constitution Party and the League of the South, while a candidate in Oregon might stand for the PSMP, Green Party and Cascadia.
An approach of the kind that has been outlined above would serve multiple purposes. One would be to simply awaken the sleeping giant of potential secessionist sympathies among one-quarter of the U.S. population, and to challenge the Democratic-Republican two-party duopoly. Yet another would be to create a forum where many different kinds of people with otherwise opposed philosophies would be able to work with one another against the common enemy. A third would be to create a prototype for the kind of system that might exist following the inevitable demise of the present system, a decentralized system based on the principal of self-determination for all.
Of course, the emergence of a PSMP of the kind described above would also receive a great deal of criticism from a variety of sources. The critics would include ideologues and sectarians of both the left and right, the professional anti-rightist cottage industry, anti-leftists of a comparable nature, avowed statists and totalitarians, neoconservatives, jingoists, the party hacks of the system’s parties, their kept media, and, of course, the overlords of the system themselves. So be it. Revolutionaries without enemies are not revolutionaries at all.
Of course, some from the general anarchist milieus will object that party politics is antithetical to the wider anarchist values of rejection of the state. I previously address this question in “Liberty and Populism,”:
Some anarchists will no doubt object that my approach reeks far too much of a reformist/electoralist outlook. While I certainly respect this point of view, I believe it is unnecessarily sectarian and archaic. The classical anarchists often advocated boycotting elections and for good reason. In most of the countries where the classical anarchist movement existed on a scale of any significance, the “right to vote” was either non-existent or the franchise was very limited. Even in nominal democracies like Switzerland and America, women and other large population groups were denied the vote. Even at that, many Spanish villages elected anarchist mayors and village councils in the years leading up to the civil war. I believe modern anarchists need to develop an approach to this question that is relevant to the nature of modern states and modern societies. The approach I favor is one of cold realism and pragmatism. It is indeed possible for ordinary people with conventional levels of resources to be elected to local and state offices in many parts of the US. Persons who achieve some level of success in this area are then in a position to influence appointments to other positions of influence. This can be very important as a means of keeping the worst elements away from seats of power.
It should also be pointed out that the PSMP would be merely a means to an end, and not an end unto itself. It would merely be a vehicle for promoting and popularizing a wider subversive agenda. Further, it would create a framework that would allow anarchists to reach out to and connect with people from all over the cultural and political spectrum, and experience the opportunity to work with a vast array of dissidents as equal partners towards common goals. Anarchists would would have the opportunity to embed themselves in the PSMP for the purpose of pursuing a more radical line and the advancement of more extraneous issues that are among the unique concerns of anarchists. Just as the myriad of constituent parties and movements of the PSMP would maintain their own objectives, and pursue those objectives within other contexts, so would anarchists do the same. Specifically, anarchists might concentrate their own efforts on local politics, and strive for the achievement of political preeminence in an increasingly greater number of cities, towns, and counties. Two, three, many Christianias, Marinaledas, Mondragons, and Kobanis could begin to proliferate. Meanwhile, the prototypes of South Africa’s conservative Orania community and Liechtenstein’s libertarian monarchical micro-nation provide models of how Anarchists and the Left might peacefully co-exist with the Right. Further, there might be a parallel pan-anarchist federation that co-exists with the PSMP, and functions as a base of activists and organizers for the PSMP. The relationship between the pan-anarchist federation and the PSMP would be comparable to the relationship between the FAI, the CNT, and the Anti-Fascist militias during the period of Revolutionary Spain.
The general demographic and electoral base of the PSMP would be that which has previously been outlined in “Liberty and Populism,” though periodically modified in order to adapt to changing trends. The PSMP would then emerge as a populist alternative political force perhaps comparable to Italy’s Five Star Movement, or the recently formed coalition in Greece between Syriza and the Independent Greeks. There is also the further possibility of the PSMP embedding itself in the major parties on the ground level. For example, Norman Mailer’s secessionist “left-conservative” Democratic candidacy for mayor of New York in 1969 is one example, and Larry Kilgore’s secessionist conservative Christian Republican candidacy for Senator from Texas in 2008 is another example.
The PSMP and the Pan-Anarchist Movement
Within the context of the PSMP, the pan-anarchist movement would then work to advance its wider body of strategic and political ideas such as core demographic theory, fourth generation warfare, libertarian populism, inside/outside strategy, left/right/center tripartite strategy, alternative infrastructure, cultural organizations that would replace the state’s social infrastructure, the 25 point platform, building coalitions of anti-state interest groups, a peoples’ economic front, legal defense organizations, civilian defense organizations,expanded cop watch and neighborhood watch programs, tax protests, civil disobedience campaigns, Kevin Carson’s “political program for anarchists,” Larry Gambone’s “populist groundswell” and decentralist economics, a coalition against consensual crimes, a prisoner amnesty movement, a libertarian common law system, a Norwegian approach to criminology, a Swedish or Swiss approach to foreign policy, the city-state system, and much else.
Once again, none of this meta-political or meta-strategic program implies that any of the myriad of anarchist, libertarian, anti-statist, anti-authoritarian, or decentralist factions would abandon their preferred issues. As I wrote in “Philosophical Anarchism and the Death of Empire” concerning the concept of “anarcho-populism”:
Hence, what I am proposing is a new strategic paradigm and, to a certain extent, a new school of anarchist thought that I call “anarcho-populism”. This new brand of anarchism would draw on the other schools in various ways. The classical anarchism originally developed by Proudhon would be its foundation. Like anarcho-socialism, anarcho-populism would be anti-capitalist and pro-class struggle. Like anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-populism would endorse property, markets and the independent sector as an antidote to statism, corporatism and welfarism. Along with leftist-anarchists, this new anarchist tendency would support political freedom and cultural self-determination for racial minorities, women, gays and the like but would not seek to mindlessly glorify or privilege these groups or demonize white males. Along with primitivists and eco-anarchists, anarcho-populism would seek to preserve the natural environment, but without the misanthropy and anti-tech hysteria of much modern environmentalism. Like national-anarchists, anarcho-populism would endorse the right of traditional racial, ethnic, religious or cultural groups to self-preservation and political sovereignty and cross-cultural, cross-ideological alliances against the NWO, but would seek to branch out into “mainstream” society rather than seek out reclusive isolation from the modern world.
Presumably, every libertarian faction would continue to focus on its primary areas of concern, from sovereign citizens to anarcha-feminists, and every faction could maintain its own sub-organizational identities within the context of the pan-anarchist federation as well. However, organizing and advancing the PSMP might serve as a common project and rallying point for all libertarian factions.
The main thing that is needed as this point is action. It is necessary for activists to step forward and being applying the ideas that have been outined above. How did other movements that have achieved a great deal of success, or at least size and recognition, begin? How did the marijuana legalization movement being? The gay marriage movement? The Tea Parties? The anti-Vietnam War movement? The civil rights movement? The religious right? The modern American conservative movement? Surely, there are things that can be learned from each of these.