Veteran anarcho-communist writer Wayne Price has offered a critique of my summary of the 2017 conference of the National-Anarchist Movement in Madrid on the Anarkismo site. Read my original article here, and Price’s reply here. My response to price is below.
By Keith Preston
This is the response to Wayne Price’s critique of the N-AM conference that I posted on Anarkismo.
Given that I am both the author of the original article that Wayne Price critiques, and one of the presenters at the conference in Madrid, I should offer a response to Price’s criticisms.
The individual presenters at the conference are capable of speaking for themselves, which Sean has already done, so I won’t take it upon myself to offer a defense of anyone’s specific views. Instead, I will point out that there were a range of perspectives presented at the conference by people of divergent backgrounds, and the same was true of conference attendees as well. For example, there were people present who expressed both positive and negative views of anarcho-primitivism, and I met at least one self-identified anarcho-capitalist among the attendees and another with pro-Israel sympathies.
Wayne says, “The article is written by one Keith Preston, who has claimed to be trying to pull together left and right libertarianism, anarchist-communism and national-anarchism.” This is correct. Those who are interested in the contents of my own presentation can watch a video of the whole thing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1Q94OT2JSA&feature=share
Wayne says, “The Nazis denounced capitalism and big business (especially their “left wing” which stupidly believed this rhetoric, until Hitler got into power and had “left Nazis” killed).” This would seem to be a selective criticism. Could not the same thing be said of the the followers of Lenin, Caballero, Mao, Kim, Castro, Ho, Pol Pot, and, indeed, virtually every leading Marxist revolutionary of the past century?
Wayne says, “So these pseudo-anarchists denounce the state, the international capitalist ruling class, imperialism, and the dangerous misuse of technology by capitalism. Preston summarizes, “much of what was said was highly relevant to the ideas of the libertarian-left and the libertarian-right alike, as well as those affiliated with anti-globalization, environmental, anti-imperialist, indigenous, anti-state, and anti-corporate movements generally.”How does this make anyone a “pseudo-anarchist”?
Wayne says, “The NA propose replacing the centralized state and mass society by more-or-less autonomous communities. The communities will form themselves on whatever basis they want, but (surprise!) the NA suggest forming them on the basis of “ethnicity.” The idea is that N-A communities can be based on any foundations their members wish, from animal liberation and veganism to Star Trek fandom, with the recognition that ethnicity (along with culture, geography, language, religion, family, socioeconomic status, and occupation) is among the predominant factors in human social organization, as any freshman-level social science student should be able to recognize.
Wayne says, “Another speaker “synthesized the ideas of Otto Strasser with those of Murray Bookchin.” Strasser was a Nazi.” And so were Heidegger and Schmitt, just like Aragon and Dubois were Stalinists, and Sartre and Foucault were Maoists. This negates the full body of their thought how?
Wayne says, “Another speaker pointed out that liberal capitalist democratic states are the most common and most accepted right now. Therefore National Anarchists should not focus on defending the democratic rights of the people,”What does this statement even mean? What are the “democratic rights of the people”? If Price is arguing for a kind of Noam Chomsky-like “anarcho-social democratic” reformism, then I would, yes indeed, argue that a much more radical position is needed. If Price is arguing that we should defend conventional civil liberties such as freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, etc. then I am in wholehearted agreement. Yet I would point out that not a few of Price’s anarcho-Marxist comrades have no interest in any these, and instead apparently prefer to engage in the physical assault of anyone they deem insufficiently ideologically correct.
Wayne says, “At no point do these NAs advocate democracy, even of the most radical, direct, participatory, kind.” Presumably, N-As would argue that N-A communities could be organized on the basis of ” democracy, even of the most radical, direct, participatory, kind,” if their members wished but that such is not mandatory, hence the lack of “universalism.”
Wayne says, “Preston does not criticize either one of the anti-semitic presentations he reports.” My purpose in writing the article was to summarize the presentations made at the conference, and not to critique the ideas of individual presenters. As it stands, I have encountered people in the N-A milieu that I thought overemphasized the anti-Zionist/Jewish power line just as I have encountered plenty in the conventionally “left” anarchist milieus that I thought over emphasized the white privilege/supremacy/patriarchy/heteronormativity line. My own take on the former would probably be similar to that of James Petras, and my view of the latter would probably be similar to Wendy McElroy. That said, I don’t approach my own politics as a religion with an inflexible narrative and set of dogmas. I am fine with attending a conference with views like Peter’s or Sean’s being presented just as I am fine with engaging with the views of Glenn Ford or Anna Baltzer.
Wayne says, “From historical experience, we expect fascist “ideology” to be confused, contradictory, and irrational.” No disagreement there.
Wayne says, “No doubt many of these “National Anarchists” are sincere muddleheads. They may think that they are not fascists and have convinced themselves that they do not want to oppress people.” These are mere accusations and assertions lacking firm grounding in evidence. As the National-Anarchist Manifesto itself states,
Our vision, in a nutshell, is one of small village-communities in which people occupy their own space in which to live in accordance with their own principles. These principles depend on the nature of the people forming the community in the first place, because the last thing we wish to do is impose a rigid or dogmatic system of any kind. In theory, therefore, National-Anarchists can be Christian or pagan, farmers or artisans, heterosexual or homosexual. The important thing, however, is for National-Anarchist communities to be self-sufficient. They should also be mutualist, rather than coercive. In other words, people should be free to come and go at all times. If you are unhappy with the unifying principle of one National-Anarchist community, then simply relocate to another. On the other hand, communities must be respectful of their neighbours and be prepared to defend themselves from outsiders.
It takes a special kind of ideologue on the order of a Unification Church member to equate this with fascist totalitarianism.
Wayne says, “But this nonsense can only serve to support capitalist statism in its actual practice—as did National Socialism.”
If anything I would be inclined to argue that some in the N-A milieu overstate the opposition to capitalism to the point of rejecting not only the corporatist and plutocratic politico-economic structures of state-capitalism but industrial society and technology itself. A disagreement I might have with some N-As would involve a possible excess of Luddism, not capitalism.
Wayne says, “I am pretty broad in accepting self-described anarchists as anarchists: primitivists, gradualists, individualists, pro-market (but anti-capitalist) anarchists, etc. I argue that they are mistaken in their ideas and strategy, but not that they aren’t “anarchists.”“No disagreement.
Wayne says,”They mostly share the same goals as revolutionary class-struggle anarchist-socialists, which have been the historical mainstream of the movement. But I draw the line at “anarchist-capitalists” (right “libertarians” who oppose the state but support capitalism). They are not anarchists if they accept capitalism. Similarly people are not anarchists if they accept racism, anti-semitism, and nationalism, even if they pretend not to be fascists.” In other words, anarchists are fine as long as they are good Marxists at heart, or are at least willing to serve as periphery, dupes, and useful idiots for such. It is not surprising that a former Trotskyist and comrade of anarchist-cum-Maoist Christopher Gunderson would be taking such a line.
For the record, I have no problem with renditions of anarchism that are “class-struggle anarchist-socialists” per se. I consider this to certainly be a legitimate style of anarchism but not the only legitimate style. I define anarchism as a manifestation of a broad, historic, anti-authoritarian tradition that extends from Lao-Tzu to the Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade. Of course, most anarchists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were class-struggle oriented anarchists because the “labor question” was the big issue the time, just like the Vietnam War was the big issue in the late 1960s and early 1970, and the global capitalist empire is the big question today. Anarcho-syndicalist unions, communes, cooperatives, workers councils, etc. are just as legitimate expressions of anarchist theory and practice as anything else, as are black anarchism, native anarchism, indigenous anarchism, anti-racist anarchism, Islamic anarchism, Jewish anarchism, anarcha-feminism, queer anarchism, transanarchism, etc. Once again, I merely disagree that any of this needs to be compulsory, or that contending narratives and competing or parallel views cannot exist. I would add that I have certainly encountered plenty of folks in “left” anarchist circles whose commitment to a libertarian society (of any kind) seemed rather dubious…to say the least.