In the early to middle 2000s I produced a number of documents that I still consider to be the core theoretical foundations of the ATS philosophy and strategy. These documents contained a number of predictions concerning domestic US politics and international relations, so it is interesting to revisit these with the perspective of hindsight.
In “Philosophical Anarchism and the Death of Empire” (2003) I predicted that U.S. unipolar hegemony was a transitional phase that would likely recede and be eclipsed by the emergence of a global superclass divided into multipolar factions, and which was increasingly being challenged by populist movements, rogue states, and non-state actors. This appears to be happening at present given the increasing assertiveness of Russia, the rise of the BRICS axis, the Resistance Block, Latin American populism, the ongoing proliferation of terrorist organizations, and the rise of opposition movements from the Left and Right in the core as well as on the periphery. This recent piece by Noam Chomsky, the Left’s leading intellectual, recognizes these trends, and I further elaborated on these ideas in a relatively recent speech on how these various forces are presently challenging the hegemony of the Anglo-American-Zionist-Wahhabist axis.
In “Liberty and Populism: Building an Effective Resistance Movement for North America” (2006) I described the ongoing leftward drift of the United States, and elaborated further a few years later in “Is Something Really Wrong with Kansas?” (2009) with an analysis of demographic trends and their relationship to voting patterns in U.S. elections. Ten years ago, I offered this assessment of the ideological drift of the U.S. political class and hegemonic intellectual class in response to the achievement of dominance in the Republican Party by the neoconservatives, and the parallel rise of the “cultural Marxists” (what I called totalitarian humanists) as their primary rivals:
The US ruling class has continually drifted leftward over the last century to the point where the “Old Left”, the Marxist/Trotskyist/New Deal intellectual Left of the 1930s, are now the ostensible conservative Republicans while the Marcusean cultural Marxists of the 1960s “New Left” are now the liberal Democrats. If this historical pattern continues, then an on-going leftward drift will mean that within a couple of decades the ostensible “conservatives” or “right-wing” will be the present day reactionary liberalism of Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Albert Gore, John Kerry, Michael Moore and Morris Dees. We can easily envision an ideologically and intellectually decrepit lot such as these presiding over the final days of the crumbling US empire.
In “The New Totalitarianism” (2007), I predicted an eventual convergence of the neoconservatives’ foreign policy paradigm, the neoliberal economic paradigm, and the totalitarian humanist social paradigm. This process is now occurring as evidenced by the fact that the Hillary Clinton camp and the neoconservatives are moving closer together in response to the rise of populist movements, represented by Sanders on the Left and Trump on the Right (although one thing I fortunately got wrong was when I predicted the central figure around which this convergence would emerge would be Rudy Giuliani rather than Hillary Clinton).
I have also in the past suggested that as the leftward drift of the U.S. continued, not only would the “right” come to resemble the Clinton/neoconservative hybrid suggested above, but that the “left” would increasingly come to resemble forces that were at the time to the left of the Democratic Party, such as the Green Party, the Democratic Socialists of America, or the academic left. The left-wing insurgency in the Democratic Party by the Sanders movement would seem to indicate that this is now coming to pass. Some polls now show that Sanders would be more likely than Hillary to beat Donald Trump in a general election, and, ironically, he’s not even a real Democrat. He’s actually to the left of the Democrats (more in the vein of the Greens, DSA, or the SPUSA) and is only running as a Democrat for convenience.
I have previously predicted that as the right-wing of domestic U.S. politics continues to lose power due to demographic and cultural change, the right would become increasingly militant.
An authentic Right of the Burke-Metternich-De Maistre variety does not exist in the United States (it never really did) and the closest things to it (the “religious right” and the “white right”) represent points of view that were dominant in America long ago but have been losing power consistently for decades upon decades and are trying to “go down fighting”. If our principal enemies of the future are going to be the cultural Marxists of the type that now dominate the EU, then we must prepare ourselves for the day when the Clinton-Gore-Kerry crowd are the conservative Republicans. This process is developing very rapidly. The present neocons were to the left of the liberal Democrats of the 1960s. Now they are the establishment Right.
This process is now unfolding as the right-wing of the Republican Party is now coming to more closely resemble the populist-nationalist parties of Europe rather than the older Reagan coalition. I have long argued that the right-wing populist undercurrents in U.S. politics would be a powerful force for some particular movement or leader to tap into, but that right-wing populism alone was not sufficient as a means of achieving actual political power. Instead, I have suggested that an opposition movement in the United States with a right-wing populist base would need to have a crossover appeal to the center and the left in some particular way, such as opposition to neoliberal economic, neoconservative foreign policy, or the excesses of political correctness. As I recently remarked, Donald Trump is now pursuing precisely such a strategy:
Trump started his campaign with an appeal to the populist right that allowed him to subvert the Republican Party from their right flank and from the bottom up. This was a brilliant strategy on his part and one that allowed him to dislocate the neocons and “movement conservative” shitheads in the mainstream GOP (and good for him!). But now he’s moving to the radical center with some Ross Perot-like populist ideas on foreign policy and trade, and he’s starting to initiate a crossover appeal the left on class, labor, and bread and butter issues. Again, this is a brilliant tactical move on his part, and one that I always thought would be the winning strategy if the neoliberal/neoconservative paradigm was ever going to be effectively challenged. Recent polls show Trump gaining on Hillary now that he’s adopted this strategy… Hillary is now the conservative, Trump is in the center, and Sanders represents the growing popularity of the far left.
In the early 2000s, I also suggested that a range of factors would eventually lead to growing political discontent and the rise of opposition forces of different kinds. These factors included increased disdain for neocons-sponsored wars, widening class divisions, the increased encroachment of totalitarian humanism, the tightening grip of the police state, the increased ineptitude of institutions, and increased cultural conflict due to demographic and generational change. Subsequently, a variety of opposition forces and semi-opposition forces have since emerged. These have included the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, the Alternative Right, the Ron Paul/liberty movement, the “truther movement,” Black Lives Matter, “End the Fed,” “Fight for Fifteen,” and others.
I have also previously predicted that the more pervasive totalitarian humanism became, the more insane it would likewise become, and this is now occurring in the form of the “social justice warriors” that have emerged online and on university campuses with their fixation on “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” “cultural appropriation,” and the like. I also suspected that over time what I call “cracks in the PC coalition” would begin to emerge, and the various factions of the Left would eventually begin to cannibalize each other. The most important division of this kind at present is between the Clinton left-liberals and the Sanders social democrats in the Democratic Party but there are many others that are also emerging or continuing long standing rivalries: Black Lives Matter vs. Sanders Democrats, the transgender movement vs. “TERFs” (a term for “trans-exclusionary feminists”), gay men vs. feminists, vegans vs. vegetarians, “sex positive” feminists vs. anti-porn feminists, Asians vs. blacks vs. Hispanics, etc etc etc. Meanwhile, the continued drift of the far Left into the Twilight Zone has produced a huge backlash in the form of the alt right, neo-reactionary, “dark enlightenment,””identitarian,” “MRA” and neo-white nationalist tendencies, and many of these tendencies seem to thrive on acting with a vulgar transgressiveness in the face of PC. Additionally, as disdain for mainstream politics and institutions has grown, “conspiracy culture” has also grown exponentially and assumed increasingly bizarre and outlandish forms (such as the “flat earth” movement).
It is also interesting to consider the condition of the various anti-state movements at the present time. Even as cultural, socioeconomic and political polarization are the widest they have been in a century, even as the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe are faced with what is largely a class based insurgency within their own respective ranks, and even as the Democratic and Republican Parties are internally fracturing, the anti-state movements have achieved very little in the way of progress, with the exception of legalizing marijuana in a handful of states. The Ron Paul movement created a foundation for the growth of the wider liberty movement, an opportunity that was subsequently squandered with almost unbelievable incompetence on the part of Rand Paul. It is now Donald Trump rather than Rand Paul who is the true heir to the Ron Paul legacy (in the sense of cultivating an anti-establishment populism from the right).
Ten years ago, I wrote:
The crumbling of the US regime within a global framework of greater leanings towards (partial) decentralization and polycentrism will provide libertarian radicals in North America with unprecedented opportunities. It would be a foolish error of a truly historic magnitude if we were to let these opportunities go to waste.
But this is precisely what “libertarian radicals in North America” have done. I suggested at the time that anarchists, libertarians, anti-statists, anti-authoritarians, and decentralists would have to move past their focus on sectarianism, locate common points of unity, and develop a viable common strategy for the achievement of actual political influence. As I said at the time,
Obviously, the only kind of ideological framework suitable for such an effort would be something akin to Voltairine de Cleyre’s “anarchism without adjectives”, i.e., a non-sectarian, non-purist, tendency open to anarchists of all hyphenated tendencies as well as their fellow travelers. When I met Abbie Hoffman in 1987, I asked him what he thought the most common mistake made by radical activists was and he quickly replied that the main problem was that too many radicals waste time arguing over secondary issues like this or that “ism” rather than focusing on more immediate problems. We would do well to heed his advice. Larry Gambone describes the problem with doing otherwise:
“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, our core creed must be “Anarchy First!” applied within context of decentralism, populism and libertarianism. Here is a set of potential “first principles” for an anarchist-led libertarian-populism:
1) Minimal and decentralized government organized on the basis of community sovereignty and federalism.
2) A worker-based, cooperative economy functioning independently of the state, the corporate infrastructure and central banking.
3) A radically civil libertarian legal system ordered on the basis of individual sovereignty, individual rights and restitutive justice.
4) A neutralist, non-interventionist foreign policy and a military defense system composed of decentralized, voluntary militia confederations.
5) A system of cultural pluralism organized on the basis of voluntary association, civil society, localism, regionalism, decentralism and mutual aid.
6) The achievement of the above through an all-fronts strategy of grassroots local organizing, local electoral action, secession, civil disobedience, militant strikes and boycotts, organized tax resistance, alternative infrastructure and armed struggle.
This is a very generalized program that anti-state radicals of virtually any ideological stripe ought to be able to agree upon. I suspect that those who do not agree might be inclined towards an excess of purism, sectarianism or utopianism.
However, “an excess of purism, sectarianism, or utopianism” continues to be the norm in the various libertarian, anti-state or anarchist milieus much to the detriment of the anti-authoritarians.
There are a couple of issues that are serious obstacles to building an anarchist movement that is capable of a moving past the usual sectarianism that is found among the hyphenated tendencies. Most an-coms and “anarchists of the left” seem to hold to a de facto Marxist outlook on economics, and many an-caps seem to go to the opposite extreme and become Austrian fundamentalists.
The same problem exists with social and cultural questions. Many an-coms (and some left-libertarians) seem to internalize the standard “social justice warrior” paradigm, and anarchists who don’t hold to that paradigm often seem to go in the other direction and become neo-reactionaries or something equivalent.
Is it really necessary for anarchists to adopt these kinds of extremist positions?
Is it not preferable to recognize that, yes, the Marxists are right that workers have frequently been oppressed by powerful business interests while, yes, the Austrians are right that state-socialist central planning is awful?
Is it not preferable to recognize that, yes, terrible oppression has historically been inflicted on people of color, women, LGBT people, and others, and that problems still exist in these areas, while recognizing authoritarian dangers associated with PC culture, labeling broad categories of people as “privileged” based on immutable characteristics, the homogenization inherent in global capitalist monoculture, etc.?
As we know, many anarchist discussion forums degenerate into food fights between proponents of these contending views. But perhaps the theoretical premises from which multiple parties are arguing are flawed to begin with?
On the cultural questions, the libertarian writer Elizabeth Nolan Brown offers a potential third way beyond the usual neo-reactionary/social justice warrior dichotomy. However, the economic conflicts are just as problematic.
With the exception of anarcho-communists (who are often viewed by critics as crytpo-Bolsheviks), libertarians have an image of merely advocating one step down from state rule to corporate rule, and in the cases of certain kinds of libertarians, it’s true. There is a wide range of libertarian, anarchist, classical liberal, an even an-cap philosophies that don’t buy into the Ayn Randian “Let them eat cake!” approach to economics, but unfortunately they are the ones with the loudest voices and the greatest public recognition, mostly because they are so cooptable by the right-wing of capitalism (see the Kochs). The problem with that kind of libertarianism is that there is simply zero constituency for the repeal of the minimum wage, total deregulation of capitalism, removing all environmental protections, totally dismantling the social safety net, etc. Not 1 in 100 Americans would actually vote for that which is probably the real reason why the Libertarian Party usually gets 1 percent or less in presidential elections. It’s ironic that they are so fascinated by markets and yet they never ask themselves why their product is not marketable. They have some good ideas on foreign policy, civil liberties, drug legalization, and monetary reform, but I suspect if any of that is ever implemented it will be done by a left, liberal or conservative party that has borrowed some libertarian ideas. Even the city-states, competing corporate governments, or communes envisioned by anarchists would have to maintain things like social safety nets to ever have any kind of legitimacy. The vulgar libertarian line amounts to “Let’s go back to 19th century capitalism!” Clearly, a more well-developed perspective is needed.
The issue of how to attack the international corporate plutocracy is the million dollar question, and this is a primary issue that is just as problematic for an-caps as it is for an-coms. The problem is that it’s difficult to fit a serious description of how state-corporate capitalism actually works into a simple slogan like “Taxation is theft.” I guess you could say “Corporate welfare is theft” or “Crony capitalism is theft” and that would cover thousands of other things. But clearly we need an approach to economics that will prevent anarchists and anti-statists from being dismissed merely as Marxists or Republicans under another name. There are a wide range of ideas like this already out there but figuring out how to communicate them is the difficult question.