Recently an article on Medium attacked the National-Anarchist Movement, whose second annual conference was recently held in London. Read the original article here. This was my response:
Some of the comments in this article are extraordinarily misinformed. National-Anarchism is very similar to older ecumenical anarchist tendencies like panarchism, synthesism, or anarchism without adjectives, plus some other ideas like neo-tribalism and ecology. Recently, this meme was posted on an N-A page:
And these were some of the comments in response by leading N-As:
“This chart would be an overview of interaction between various N-AM communities, which serves as an umbrella for, sometimes mutually exclusive, ways of life.”
“I agree, but I doubt whether some of these variations would be quite as tolerant as we are. Agreeing to disagree is one thing, but true Anarchism should never venture into the realms of coercion. In other words, the squares to avoid should never become squares upon which to impose your own views.”
“The chart is also very atheistic/materialistic in that it leaves out a vast multitude of Anarchist variations centred on spirituality. Think of all the Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Occult groups, for example. And there is always room for thematic Anarchists, too, who may base their communities on sexual (beyond homosexuality), musical, dietary, historical, fictional or cinematic themes. The list is endless and the N-AM is the only movement on the planet that caters for such diversity.”
Obviously, the ideas expressed above have nothing to do with either fascist totalitarianism nor neo-Nazi terrorism.
My understanding of the N-AM philosophy is that it is inclusive of both self-identified “racialists” and non-racialists. Plus, the “racialism” of some N-As is more like the neo-tribalist or anarcho-primitivst movements than fascism or Nazism. Actually, fascists and Nazis are banned from N-AM.
“The blinkered manner in which both Left and Right view the world occasionally finds its way into the ranks of the National-Anarchist Movement (N-AM). We have to come to expect that people who have only recently discovered our ideas will inevitably have retained some of the negative ideological baggage of the past, but unless people are willing to discard all traces of their former political allegiances then they have absolutely no place in our Movement. National-Anarchists do not support Trump, Putin, Assad or Le Pen; National-Anarchists do not endorse racist behaviour or misogyny; National-Anarchists are opposed to fascism and neo-Nazism; National-Anarchists do not defend imperialism and colonialism; and National-Anarchists are not anti-communist to the extent that they forget about the capitalist ruling class or ignore the fact that the historical roots of our struggle can be found among those who have always fought against injustice and oppression.”
Perhaps some folks here will find my own experience helpful. In the 1980s and early 1990s, I was a conventional left-anarchist, who belonged to the IWW (I actually ran for General-Secretary-Treasurer but didn’t win), and I was on the national committee of the IWA’s US section. I was also at the founding conference of the old Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. I used to conduct anti-racism workshops, protest Reagan’s wars in Central America, taught classes on anarchism in alternative schools, etc. Back then I began considering myself an “anarchist without adjectives,” largely after being impressed by the diversity of anarchist thought (and there’s even more diversity today).
My interest in anarchist and anti-state philosophies led me to take a look at libertarianism/anarcho-capitalism, and while I’ve never bought the whole package of all that, I realized it wasn’t the demon leftists make it out to be. During the 1990s, I became interested in similar ideas on the far right, like the “sovereign citizens” and neo-secessionist groups, and saw these as a potential bridge between the far right and far left. I also began looking at similar tendencies among the European right, and that’s how I discovered National-Anarchism (which was a new tendency at the time, this was in the early 2000s). At the time, I actually regarded N-A not as some kind of “fascist entryist” conspiracy but as a possible means of weeing actual fascists away from all that.
Around the same time, I established a project of my own, which still exists, for the purpose of building bridges between all the different kinds of anarchists and anti-state radicals (and to encourage discussion with people of other points of view, left, right, or center). The project still exists. Here is the website: https://attackthesystem.com/ As the N-A movement has developed, it seems to me to be similar to other ideas like not only anarchism without adjectives but also Paul Emile de Puydt’s and John Zube’s panarchism or Karl Hess’ idea of “anarchism without hyphens.” For that matter, the N-AM philosophy is very similar to what the Black Flag Coalition is supposed to be (but apparently not, perhaps). The interest in ecology expressed by many N-As is pretty much the same as the Green anarchists, anarcho-primitivists, social ecologists, etc which where influences on N-AM. And the interest in ethnicity seems more like Gustav Landauer’s folkish communitarian anarchism than anything else.
The “racial separatism” idea within N-A seems to agitate a lot of people. I don’t really think “race separatism” is the best term to describe the N-AM ideas on ethnicity. Something like neo-tribalism or indigenism or folkish anarchism would probably be more appropriate. I am not and have never been any kind of racialist or race separatist (I’m about 1/4 to 1/8 Native American, which is common in the geographical area I come from). Likewise, the anti-Zionism of N-AM is often confused with neo-Nazism or traditional anti-Semitism (like Hitler or the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion) even though there are Jewish people who participate in N-A, and I’ve come across a minority of N-As that even had a favorable view of Israel. However, Zionism is a political ideology, not a race or religion. Yet the anti-Zionism of N-AM wouldn’t be controversial outside the Western countries where the legacy of WW2 results in suspicion of perceived criticism of Jews. I’ve given interviews to Middle Eastern and Latin American journalists where this is not an issue. They understand anti-Zionism is not the same thing as wanting to hurt people merely for being of Jewish ethnicity or practicing the Jewish religion.
As an anarchist, I’m mostly interested in developing a “big tent” anarchism that is oriented toward opposing the “common enemy” (which I identify as “the empire”) ) rather than sectarian differences among the hyphenated forms of anarchism. I don’t think it’s appropriate to identify any one group as the official bad guys (“capitalists,” “fascists,” “whites,” Zionists” or “liberals”). I tend to see the world order as an agglomeration of criminal organizations of many ethnic and ideological orientations, and that’s all that really needs to be said:
A major disagreement I tend to have with left-anarchists is that I don’t think promoting demographic conflict is a good thing ( blacks against whites, women against men, gays against straights, immigrants against natives, environmentalists against loggers, vegans against carnivores, eco-warriors against small property owners, peaceniks against veterans, hippies against blue collar workers, poor Appalachian whites against Jewish bankers or whatever). I think that feeds the divide and conquer efforts of the ruling class, and also generates a backlash from the right-wing (hence, the emergence of the alt-right). I’m more interested in the idea of self-determination for all. Ironically, though, the N-AM philosophy seems to be wide enough to accommodate even opponents of many of the ideas of N-AM. For instance, in the N-AM paradigm there could theoretically be antifa communities, Marxist communities, Zionist communities, liberal-cosmopolitan-multicultural communities, Dworkinite Amazonian feminist communities, LGBTQ communities, sex-drugs-rock n’ roll communities, BDSM communities, communities modeled on the charter of the United Federation of Planets or the Klingon home world, etc.
Another article criticizing decentralist politics recently appeared in The Ecologist. Read the article here. This is my response, which offered an analysis of the differences between contending anarchist factions.
Based on my many conversations and debates with these people, I’d say they have a distinctively different definition of what “anarchism” actually is. For instance, I had one tell me that anarchism has nothing to do with “no state” and was instead about “hierarchy in personal relations” (i.e. the usual suspects e.g. racism, sexism, homophobia, etc). What they seem most opposed to is not governmental oppression or authoritarianism per se as much as the standard in-group/out-group dichotomy, at least in its more traditional forms (like ethnic or religious exclusivity or favoring traditional gender and sexual roles). Many of them may also claim to be for “direct democracy” or localized communes or anarcho-syndicalist unions, or whatever, but that tends to take a backseat to the jihad against “bigotry.” Opposition to the state itself is more of an afterthought, and even their anti-capitalism amounts to the standard social democratic paradigm (“Anarchists for State Welfare and Government Regulation”). If you mention decentralization to them their first instinct seems to be to object that some backwater town might not recognize gay marriage or allow an abortion clinic on every street corner. One of them even cited the Rwandan genocide as an example of “decentralized fascism.” I debated one of these guys once, and the Orania community in SA came up, and he said that the problem with Orania is that they’re undermining the moral fabric of society (like what some religious fundamentalist would say about homosexuality or pornography). I also mentioned Hasidic Jewish enclaves in America, and he starts talking about “looking for leadership from queer people” in such communities. Their ideal seems to be some kind of Tower of Babel like society. The anarcho-capitalist/libertarian types are at least consistent in their opposition to the state, even if the criticisms of their economism and “market good, state bad” dualism are often justified. The left-anarchists frequently seem to be advocating some kind of “compulsory voluntary mandatory non-hierarchical exclusively inclusive repressive tolerance.” However, I guess within the N-A paradigm there could ironically be separatist communities for those who prefer such a dystopia.