The Argument from Atrocity Reply

A commenter at AnarchistNews.Org offered this response to my latest exchange with Anti-Fascist News:

I read it. I read through other things on that site. Yikes. It’s really bizarre that a large portion of Preston’s criticism of “left” anarchists (anarchists) is that they have a kind of selective amnesia for the atrocities of the left (yeah duh). However we then are treated to this gem

” In my associations with the alternative right, I’ve encountered traditional conservatives, free market libertarians, economic nationalists, populists, monarchists, anarchists, fascists, Nazis, Strasserites, distributists, right-wing Marxists, national-Bolsheviks, white nationalists, southern nationalists, black conservatives, white nationalist Jews, anti-Semites, self-proclaimed “radical centrists,” self-proclaimed “alternative leftists,” liberal racial realists,” (this goes on and on)

One certainly has to wonder why intentionally associating oneself with people who actively wish to recreate many of the past centuries atrocities is acceptable given his other arguments. If the left popular front has been disastrous for anarchists, the right popular front seems even worse.

This response certainly raises some valid points, though I think it misunderstands my arguments a bit.
The whole point of the statement from me that the commenter cites is to suggest there is no popular front among the “alternative right” due to a lack of a consistent philosophy or common goals. It’s much like the Left in the sense of being mostly a reactive (in the sense of opposing social trends such as mass immigration or the entrenchment of PC) rather than visionary set of tendencies (at least on the collective level-individuals may have their own visions). Based on my many discussions with participants in the alternative right about what kinds of government, economics, laws, cultural norms, foreign policy, organizational structures, strategic approaches, etc. they prefer I have received widely divergent responses.
But what I have found is that the “argument from atrocity” is just as prevalent on the Right as it is on the Left and vice versa.

The Left will raise the specter of the horrors of Nazism, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, right-wing military dictatorships, the Spanish Inquisition, the Ku Klux Klan, racist terrorists like Dylan Roof, hate crimes against minorities, abortion clinic bombers, police brutality, etc. etc. etc. etc. The Right will raise the specter of the horrors of Stalism, Maoism, Pol Potism, the Kim dynasty, the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, atrocities on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, the high rates of violent crime in minority communities, Islamist terrorism, etc. etc. etc. etc.
All of the things in the above paragraph are worthy of criticism.
But that has nothing to do with what ATS is about.

It’s not like the world is divided into a perfect break between anarchists on one side and Stalinists or Hitlerites on the other.

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. Figures like Saddam Hussein, Castro, Ho, Robert Mugabe, Qadaffi,the Assads, Mussolini, Franco, Nasser, Peron, Chavez, etc. would be at various points in the authoritarian range. Conventional, mainstream Western liberal center-left and center-right politicians would mostly be somewhere in the middle (with lots of variations, outliers and fluctuations).

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.

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.

To the degree that movements from either the far Right or the far Left embrace the paradigm outlined above they are compatible with the ATS philosophy. To the degree they reject the above paradigm, the more they are incompatible. Pretty simple, really.

As for the idea of what actual “popular fronts” against the state or global capitalism might look like, I have previously written about that extensively. See here for how such a popular front might work in North America, and here for the application of similar ideas on an international basis. In fact, I wrote a whole book that was largely devoted to that purpose, and much of this is summarized in the ATS Statement of Purpose and 25-Point Program as well, along with many, many other podcasts, articles, and essays.

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