The Future of Anarchy (Cont’d)

One of our readers, “John S.,” raises what might be the most pertinent questions regarding the future of anarchism, and the other ideas we discuss here at ATS.

I think if anarchy became significantly popular, and actually started to effect politics, economics and/or social issues, it would be co-opted just like the tea party, Operation Wall Street, and libertarianism have been hijacked. People liked what Ron Paul had to say, so Fox News spins libertarianism into neoliberalism. I may be wrong, but I don’t think the mainstream, self-identified libertarians, like Rand Paul, take strong vocal stances against corporate welfare, but don’t get them started on domestic welfare, or drugs.

Absolutely correct! It’s refreshing to encounter observers who understand these things.The problem with the Tea Parties, Occupy, and “libertarianism” (the Ron Paul movement) is that none of these ever really had any genuinely radical foundations to start with. The Tea Parties were primarily a movement of middle to upper middle class, older, conservative, suburban white people that were primarily interested in conservative issues of a reformist nature, e.g. taxes, the national debt, government spending, etc. They were easily coopted by the GOP because their ideas and objectives essentially mirrored GOP rhetoric and stated ideology. Many of the Tea Partiers were already Republicans to start with.

Occupy Wall Street was a standard brand leftist protest movement, no different than the anti-globalization movement before it, or the student protests that have happened more recently. At best, the Occupy movement was merely a hybrid of modest liberal reformism (“Forgive my student loans!”) and typical leftist victimology (“I’m more oppressed than you!”). Very soon Occupy came to resemble a rock concert more than anything else.

The Ron Paul movement was actually the better of three because it had a much stronger focus on foreign policy and the question of U.S. imperialism (although with a limited amount of depth). Ron Paul’s criticisms of the Federal Reserve also involved taking on a core power elite institution. However, it needs to be recognized that Ron Paul’s followers were hardly anarchist revolutionaries committed to anti-imperialist struggle.

Mostly they were disaffected conservatives tired of “business as usual” Republicans, young people looking for something different, and antiwar folks tired of the Left’s impotence on foreign policy issues. Ron Paul was important in that he served as a kind of “gateway drug” to more radical forms of libertarianism for some people, and the anarcho-capitalist, market anarchist, and other similar tendencies have grown considerably since then to the point of overrunning the left-socialist-anarchists in North America. But quite a bit of that has also been steered into other directions, like the neo-reactionary movement or the social justice warriors. And the Ron Paul movement itself has subsequently moderated itself considerably, given that Rand Paul is the movement’s heir apparent, and is taking it in a more moderate direction.

The essential problem with all of these movements was their lack of an explicitly revolutionary outlook, i.e. they were not committed to the defeat of imperialism abroad, and the overthrow of the state and the power elite domestically.

Although, it seems to me like the establishment is so scared of Anarchy, you won’t find a single documentary on TV about it, or even hear the word anarchy uttered on Fox or CNN, unless by the bastardized usage describing lawless chaos. And I think that’s the definition 95 out of 100 Americans would give, if asked what anarchism means.

Yes! And that’s why the “anarchist” label is so important. By embracing the identity of “anarchist,” one is placing one’s self outside the realm of respectable opinion, which is where you need to be if you want to adopt a seriously revolutionary perspective. That’s why I’ve never used the word “libertarian” to describe myself except for the sake of convenience in certain contexts. It’s a provocative, offensive, and controversial concept, and that’s why we need it.

If the term were to disappear or change, since labels can have propagandistic values, you could try using a more empowering title, like self-governism, or independism. I’m sure someone steeped in political history or marketing could come up with a good title.

Anarchists have already done that with terms like “libertarian municipalism,” “confederal democracy,” “participatory democracy,” “direct democracy,” “inclusive democracy,” “communalism,” “decentralization,” “autonomism,” “participatory economics, “gift economy,” “agorism,” “demarchy, “polyarchy,” “panarchy,” “consensus democracy,” “social enterprise,” “anti-authoritarianism,” “bio-regionalism,” “cooperativism,” “dual power,” “self-management,” “counter-economics,” and plenty of other things that might be helpful depending on the context. This is an area of legitimate concern. The larger a movement gets the more it needs to be concerned about winning the consensus of popular opinion and building a core demographic base for the movement in question, rather than merely maintaining an oppositional stance. I wrote about this process extensively in this piece from about 10 years ago: http://attackthesystem.com/liberty-and-populism-building-an-effective-resistance-movement-for-north-america/

However, the more experience I have with these questions, the more I come to the position that before a genuine radical movement can exist, it has to have a genuine radical intellectual, cultural, and political foundation, and a corps of leaders and activists that are committed to such an outlook. Otherwise, it merely gets coopted or comprised by the establishment or by conventional political factions. What has happened to the libertarian movement is a perfect example of this. For the most part, the libertarians have split off into multiple faction, all of which are just variations of the mainstream political and cultural tendencies. The left-libertarians have become full on social justice warriors. Others have become “low tax liberals” in the style of Reason magazine. Some have become Rand Paul-voting “libertarian Republicans” and still other have left libertarianism altogether and become neo-reactionaries. I think something Larry Gambone once wrote summarized why this happened:

“Read even the most superficial book on anarchism and you will discover that many forms of anarchism exist-anarchist-communism, individualist-anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, free-market anarchism, anarcho-feminism and green-anarchism. This division results from people taking their favorite economic system or extrapolating from what they see as the most important social struggle and linking this to anarchism….The hyphenation presents a danger. Like it or not, everyone, without exception, compromises, modifies or softens their beliefs at some point. Where they compromise is what is important. Do they give up on the anarchism of the other aspect? You can be sure that most hypenated anarchists will prefer to drop the libertarian side of the hyphen. There are plenty examples of this occurring .”

In other words, the folks that the Ron Paul-inspired libertarian movement attracted were never that radical to start with. They were never committed to a revolutionary anti-imperialism, nor a revolutionary anarchism, and were barely committed to an anti-statist reformism. Instead, they were most just ordinary conservatives (“Taxes suck, man!”) and liberals (“Gay Marriage Uber Alles!”).

This is why it is essential for anarchists to take positions are that genuinely radical, frequently offensive, and threatening to the establishment. Merely adopting the label “anarchist” is one of these. Advocating overthrow of the state is certainly one of these. Some of the radical economic positions that many anarchists subscribe to might be among these. An authentically anti-imperialist outlook is another. Secession is another. Advocating for forming militias is another. The kinds of ideas the “sovereign citizens” have fall into this category. So do complete drug legalization, abolition of consensual crime laws, abolition of compulsory education, prison abolition, etc. and other comparable issues that neither conventional liberals or conventional conservatives would likely ever embrace. Still another category of ideas of this kind is the view that offensively un-PC ideas like white separatism or homophobia are just another lifestyle preference like vegetarianism or polyamory.

As for anarchy continuing to fracture into smaller and smaller sub-units, I think that hurts the whole movement overall, just like diluting a toxin reduces its potency. If everyone could band together on commonalities (as you say) instead of pitting their tiny hyphenated, anarchist movement against the others, the movement as a whole would benefit, and in turn so would all of the hyphenated movements. But to think queer-anarchism alone is going to effect the mainstream political landscape by itself is delusional. I guess thinking all anarchs can come together may be a little bit far fetched, as Sir Einzige said in your debate, because they’ll never be able to defeat the trillion-dollar corporations and bankers, who have a trillion-dollar military-industrial complex at their disposal. But, still, what other option do you really have? There is some power in numbers after all. and If the empire does implode, at least there is some affirmed common ground between the multitude of anarchists groups. At least some level of mutual respect and understanding between different groups of radicals would be very helpful in a post-America.

That’s what I’ve been saying for years, and the ATS program is oriented in that direction. Our position is to make revolutionary anti-imperialism from an anti-statist perspective into out primary focus, and a common point of reference for anarchists, libertarians, and decentralists generally. From there, every kind of anarchist tendency would be oriented towards organizing around their primary reference or identity group, their preferred economic system, or their favorite social issue. But the objective would be to create a wider anarchist federation that is united against the state. To the degree that different groups are in conflict, we would invoke the wider anarchist principles of free association, decentralism, voluntaryism, pluralism, and the like. As far as reaching out to the wider society, the ambition is to build a pan-decentralist consensus oriented towards the city-state system (see Bookchin, Mailer, Kohr, Sale, Santillan, Kropotkin, etc), and as far as common issues that set us apart from other ideological factions, I have suggested that building a coalition against consenusal crime laws could be for anarchists what gay rights, environmentalism, anti-racism and abortion rights are for liberals and what gun rights, taxes, religion, and immigration are for conservatives.

Because, I think the elites have prepared for a post America. If a power vacuum opened up in this country, I think David Rockefeller and George Soros would be using their gold stockpiles or whatever, to pay off mercenaries. I don’t think they’ll go out quietly like the former Soviet Union. I may be wrong. How many tons of bombs have they (we) dropped continuously on South America, Asia, Bosnia, now the Middle East, over the last half-century, I don’t think they would hesitate for one second to unleash that type of cruelty in the US to save their power. It would definitely help for anarchists to be united with the possibility of such a grim post America. What do you guys think a Post America will look like? Do you agree with me that the current, overt and subtle power structures would find a way to maintain power?

Those are the million dollar questions. What you are describing there is more or less what happened to the Soviet Union. Thankfully, a generally reasonable, sensible and humane leader in the person of Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union who was committed to ending the Cold War, ending the Soviet empire, and scrapping Soviet totalitarianism in favor of liberalization. But while the Soviet Union died a relatively peaceful death, it almost didn’t turn out that way. Recall the attempted coup by the KGB in 1991 that failed only because the Russian army refused to fight. Even after the Soviet Union fell, a kind of gangster capitalism of the type you describe developed in Russia during the Yeltsin period. Life expectancy for Russians dropped about 20 years during the 1990s.

Real political opposition and radicalism will only develop as things continue to deteriorate. Class relations will increasingly begin to resemble the Third World model. Ongoing cultural, demographic and generational change will generate more and more social conflict. Foreign policy adventurism will continue to generate more and more terrorist reprisals. Totalitarian humanism will continue to tighten its grip and become more extreme the more powerful it becomes. Those on the losing end of the culture wars will become increasingly militant and extreme. The state will increasingly be unable to cover its public debts and budget deficits. Social unrest will continue to grow.

But what we need to be focused on at present is to simply recruit more people, and not just numbers for their own sake, but better quality people, and with more sensible and reasonable ideas, as well as developing projects oriented towards reaching more people on the popular tabloid-level.

Categories: Uncategorized

10 replies »

  1. The million dollar questions are very important.
    ‘Thankfully, a generally reasonable, sensible and humane leader in the person of Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union who was committed to ending the Cold War, ending the Soviet empire, and scrapping Soviet totalitarianism in favor of liberalization.’

    The problem is will we have a president whose ‘generally reasonable, sensible, and humane’ in office when the country collapses? I see them doing everything possible to get war-hawk, corporate-prostitute Hillary Clinton into office. If Bernie continues to be extremely popular, I could see a horrific, staged terror attack occurring, and then a nonstop, concerted media blitz about how Hilary is the only one who’ll ‘stop dem terrorists.’ And the stupid masses who vote will most likely, unfortunately, fall for it.
    Would the soldiers attack the American populace if commanded? I don’t know. One can only imagine the kind of brainwashing the military receive once enlisted, but I think even that can’t prevent a majority of them from realizing how duplicitous and phony the war on terror is. They probably extensively know the weapons they and the enemy combatants use, so they’ve got to be a little bit suspicious that every time they are in a confrontation with ISIS, they have high-tech American-made weapons and vehicles. It’s got to dawn on them ‘Hey, how do these semi-literate, fanatical desert-dwellers know how to program webpages, and run impressive, social media campaigns?’ Brainwashing can only go so far.
    I could definitely see the CIA and the Mossad doing everything to maintain power, just like the KGB, but I don’t think the military will follow suit.

  2. Of course they would still have neo-cons on TV to promote enlarging and further empowering the military-industry complex and its endeavors. They would still have commentators explaining how we need to bail out large banks, and how the government ‘must’ intervene at the behest of Big Business.
    They would just bring the anarcho-capitalist on to expound the particular aspects of that ideology which are beneficial to the ruling classes i.e. reducing government regulations on the large corporations and ‘job creators.’
    Then they would claim they truly are ‘fair and balanced’ because they actually allow anarchists on their programs.

  3. Clearly Anarchism needs more people if it is to become a society-changing radical movement, but.. I am not sure that currently the average bourgeoisie could be trusted to join or even be educated to Anarchism..
    I do not want to sound pessimistic or elitist, I truly believe that the current situation is out of control and hopeless, given the vast number of stupefied people in most societies.. People need state control and indoctrination. People need to be told how to exist and this is very deeply rooted.. I cannot see how the majority of people could embrace, liberty, free-thought, independence, rationality, inquiry, honest education, voluntary association and exchange with each other. I cannot see how the armies of office-workers, doing meaningless service jobs, being paid 9-5 to shuffle paper and click a mouse, could embrace, craftsmanship, creativity and productivity, making useful/beautiful things and living a full, real and free life.. Wouldn’t be better if anarchists tried to organise, perhaps territorially, make voluntary, free, self-sufficient, trading societies and try to recreate anarchism in a small scale to start with?

  4. People are stupefied because they have had a lifetime of indoctrination teaching them to not think too deeply or critically, and to put love, faith, and trust in the State. That America is the greatest country on earth, and because of that you need to do, think and say what Uncle Sam and all of his institutions tell you, because that leads to the greatest freedom. That American social democracy is government and society at its loftiest and pinnacle form. That we have reached the ideological summits with democracy. To support the troops no matter what heinous atrocities they’re committing because ultimately they’re protecting your freedom. To question any of that, even slightly, is un American and unpatriotic.
    They learned that and they can unlearn it.
    In fact, I think most people begin to unlearn that on their own as they get older and increasingly miserable with their jobs and lives. Poll after poll say that the majority of people see politicians as the least trustworthy individuals. I believe even more so than used car salesmen. Everyone’s aware that large corporations are extremely corrupt. A majority do not support the wars.
    All they need is someone to tell them, NO, social democracy is not the political nirvana you’re constantly told it is. And here’s why…
    A society based on Anarchist principles actually allows for more freedom, more democratic input, and more creativity. Here’s why…
    Here’s how a prototypical Anarchistic society might function…
    Propaganda is very, very effective. It’s effective because it takes advantage of the peculiar ways the human mind processes information and makes decisions, and it takes advantage of that to influence opinion and behavior. It appeals to emotions.
    WE ARE ALL SUSCEPTIBLE TO IT. You and me. No matter how intelligent you think you are, we all fall for cognitive distortions to certain degrees i.e. All or Nothing thinking, Labels, Straw Man, catastophizing over nothing etc.
    That’s just the way the human mind evolved to make quick decisions.
    So since people need to be led, why not be the one doing the leading.
    Why not use propaganda in a positive manner, backed up with real solutions and content.
    Yes, the idea is to break into smaller communities. But the United States isn’t going to let you just break off into your own autonomous community. You still have to pay taxes. You still have to follow the nations laws. The department of education is still going to have the final say in how you educate your children. You’re still going to choke on the pollution from the factories, and die from the radiation from the nuclear bombs.
    The idea is for everyone to have their favorite system of governance, but to simply unite around our common enemy (the state) and to have mutual respect for one another, because we can achieve more that way, and that way we can agree not to kill each other over our pet ideologies if the Empire collapses.

  5. John S, I agree with you on the effectiveness of propaganda and I am fully aware about our cognitive distortions. Yet, I strongly believe, with all my heart, that anarchism should be free from inculcation and order, pure and idealistic.. After all, it is the only philosophical ideology that focuses on liberating thought from mental or physical stipulations and scleroses.. I have to totally agree with Georg Holger, that mass movements are antithetical to anarchist options..

    Propaganda for the masses is really the wrong pill.. We need to be able to say that we lived by example.. Propaganda, direction and indoctrination are for the petty bourgeois parrots and their pathetic political parties.. Our liberty-based example will shine and the achievements of truly free associations of individuals will serve as vehicles of expansion.. Think about it, imagine small scale coherent freestyle organisation and progress, versus large scale chaos, trying to manipulate the opinion of the bourgeois while some of us (count me out) will fight on the methodology of the propaganda.. Is it not totally contradictory to the very essence of anarchism?

  6. No, I agree. I don’t mean to trick people with over-the-top Fox News or MSNBC-type propaganda, I just mean be persuasive.
    How would you go about starting a small-scale, coherent, freestyle organisation? I guess the first thing to do is find people in your area who are interested in Anarchy, which, even that may be hard to do, depending on how large or small your town or city is.

  7. ‘But what we need to be focused on at present is to simply recruit more people, and not just numbers for their own sake, but better quality people, and with more sensible and reasonable ideas, as well as developing projects oriented towards reaching more people on the popular tabloid-level.’
    I thought I heard Keith Preston mention pamphleteering as a way to reach people. By all means handing out pamphlets at your local University could be a way to recruit people. You would of course want your pamphlets to be persuasive. When I say use propaganda, I mean, for example, when you talk about American foreign policy, don’t just have an article on war, show brutal photographs of the victims of drone strikes and bombings. It’s propaganda (because it elicits a strong emotional response) but it’s at the same time a revelation of the true nature of war. The American public need to see more of what their tax dollars are contributing to, whether it’s to recruit members, or just to expose the horrors of our endless wars. I see nothing wrong with this type of technique. After all, it’s what the victims of our foreign policy deal with on a daily basis, and it’s being done in our name, with our money, and it’s just the type of horrific activity we are opposed to.

  8. A good place to find people to organize with and form a group of anti-state individuals is meetup.com I believe. I’m already a member of several groups on there, and I have really enjoyed many of the groups I have joined. The internet is an excellent way to meet like-minded individuals. I am reading the article posted above by Keith Preston:


    Articles like these can be excellent resources for reading assignments for your anarchist group. I recommend apps like Diigo, which allow you to highlight webpage articles in four different colors and write notes attached to the webpage. I highly recommend it, as it helps organize large articles. This, in my opinion, is the first step in your journey to hopefully eventually have your own sovereign anarchist community. It probably has to start with just a few people meeting weekly in a coffee shop, and then hopefully grow from there. As Keith points out, the collapse of the empire could happen at anytime, so even if you only find a few people to meet with to discuss a post America strategy, that is better than nothing and risk being unprepared.

Leave a Reply