Keith Preston Not Interesting? 4

I recently gave an interview to a left-anarchist podcast. While they decided not to post it, there is a discussion of it on this podcast. The relevant part starts around 19:30 and the part about our interview starts around 26 minutes in.

Listen here.

Welcome to the Anews podcast. This is episode 77 for August 17, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.

4 comments

  1. This was a fascinating listen, although not for the reasons the hosts think. It would be enlightening to read an account from your perspective of how the interview went.

    The male host claims that the interview was “boring” because he found himself mostly agreeing with you, with the clear subtext being that he wanted to have a shouting match with a “Nazi” because that would have been “interesting.” Instead, in his account, he ended up having a civil discussion with a fellow anarchist whom he mostly agreed with. I suspect that this spooked him more than a shouting match would have.

    Even more revealing is their response to Tribes. The male host describes it as not containing anything obviously “creepy” or “fucked-up” — evaluating it not in terms of factual accuracy or logical consistency, but in terms of moral disapproval — and admits that the “national” aspect refers to the anthropological fact that actually existing indigenous peoples regard themselves not as atomized individuals but as members of nations. (Personally, I prefer to say “peoples” or “ethnic groups,” since “nation” traditionally implies “nation-state,” but that’s a terminological quibble.)

    The female host, who has a neutral upper-middle-class American accent, responds to this point with a burst of nervous, exaggerated laughter which will sound familiar to anyone who’s ever made the social faux pas of “realtalking” in a college or office setting. She’s audibly unsettled by the recognition that this is a legitimate discussion point, and so she tries to bluster through her discomfort by dismissing it as beneath consideration.

    This observation really is an achilles’ heel for left anarchism, particularly for “greens” who look to indigenous tribal peoples as models of stateless social organization. It’s not a problem for the statist Left, of course, which relies on the state to enforce social cohesion. This may well be related to the hosts’ confession that in 2018, left-anarchism as a political tendency has mostly been reduced to tailing the antifa movement. In a dramatic reversal since the 1990s, all the intellectual and organizing energy on the Left right now is either social democratic (DSA) or Marxist-Leninist.

    • Yeah, I kind of got the feeling that the interviewer wanted the discussion to be about “How racist are you?” or “How fascist are these N-A people?”. The whole conservation wasn’t about that. A lot of it was about my personal background, as well as a surface level discussion of ATS as a project. When he started asking about race issues, the National-Anarchists and all that, I simply described myself as a “racial atheist,” meaning I have no racial beliefs. And then he was like “But these folks do….” and I simply said that there are many people who do not have racial/ethnic beliefs in the N-A milieu, and those who do are very diverse in terms of their perspective on those issues, and that people of color were among the N-A milieu as well. I think that threw him a bit. He seemed to think I was dodging the question.

      The male host was the one who actually conducted the interview. The female host wasn’t present. The interviewer was not unintelligent, thoughtless, unfair or unreasonable. He’s almost my age, and has been around the anarchist milieu about as long as I have. He seemed to be genuinely struggling with our conversation in the sense of a “I just don’t know what to make of this” type of perspective. At one point, he said Tribes has a “fascist aesthetic.” Apparently, the colors looked “fascist” or something. But he said of the magazine, “I don’t hate this.” I think he was just bewildered.

      At one point in the podcast they describe the anarchist milieu as a bunch of isolated groups and individuals that dislike or distrust each other, and which collectively are a bunch of wingnuts without a coherent plan. That sounds about right. It’s too bad there is no interest in changing that among anarchists.

      “In 2018, left-anarchism as a political tendency has mostly been reduced to tailing the antifa movement. In a dramatic reversal since the 1990s, all the intellectual and organizing energy on the Left right now is either social democratic (DSA) or Marxist-Leninist.”

      Yeah, once again anarchists follow their 100 year trajectory of being overrun by Commies or being coopted by social democrats. In fact, it’s always seemed to me that most left-anarchists are really just social democrats anyway. One of the first articles I ever posted on ATS when it first went online 18 years ago was a piece called “Anarchism or Anarcho-Social Democracy?” which was intended as a criticism of all that. That’s one reason why I’ve always said anarchists need to stake out their own position apart from that of the “general left,” “social justice,” “socialist,” whatever milieus. However, if anarchists have been reduced to “tailing antifa” then anarchists really have bottomed out (like an alcoholic or junkie that’s now sleeping in alleys and eating out of garbage cans). Which means there is nowhere to go but up.

      It is true that at present anarchists have started developing a “libertarian socialist” presence in groups like DSA, the Libertarian Party, and the Green Party. I’m actually very much in favor of that. It’s relevant to ideas I have written about in the past in terms of tactical or strategic considerations. However, I agree that while anarchists tended to be heavily present in things like the anti-globalization movement and Occupy, nowadays anarchism seems to be declining with Commies and social democrats making a comeback, probably because it’s now been 30 years since the end of the Cold War and the USSR, and a whole generation has come along with no memory of that, although for a lot of these neo-Commies it seems to be more of an aesthetic as anything else (the same is true of their neo-Nazi counterparts).

      One thing they said in the podcast regarding my interview is that ATS is “weird.” That’s something I have heard from other camps as well. For instance, a libertarian friend once said that whenever she sends libertarians to ATS they say they “don’t understand” us. I think it should be pretty obvious that ATS is a forum for all different kinds of anarchists and libertarians, and in way that presents a wide range of viewpoints on topical issues, and engages with other ideas and philosophies from the Left and Right. But apparently, that’s just way over most people’s heads.

      The more I deal with these issues the more I think Antonio Gramsci was right in the sense of having to win the war of ideas before you can win anything else. Developing a meta-politics and all that. Much of my own work has been an effort to do just that (however inadequately).

      In the late 19th century, anarchists were the world’s major revolutionary movement, both in the industrial nations and in the colonies until we were overrun by the Bolshies, suppressed by the fascists or coopted by the social democrats. The question is how can we reclaim our former position, and achieve the kind of success the Commmies had in the 20th century, i.e. leading a third of the world’s nations and half the world’s population?

      It’s interesting how the Marxists took what was a very elaborate body of thought (dialectical materialism and all that) and reduced it to a few popular slogans like “Peace, Land and Bread.” Winning the war of ideas is one reason why I’ve always emphasized the proto-anarchist thinkers and movements before the development of modern anarchism, thinkers and movements with overlapping ideas or interests, the work of thinkers outside the normal anarchist trajectory that we can learn from (from anti-state communists to critics of the state from the far right), or those that formed a philosophical paradigm or body of political theory that might be relevant in some ways (Hobbes, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Stirner, Ernst Junger, Carl Schmitt, Hayek, Mao, Foucault, Benoist, etc.), in the sense that we need that intellectual backdrop in order to win credibility among thinking and educated people (like the Marxists did in their time). It’s also necessary to reach out to and connect with people across the political and cultural spectrum, and find where there are commonalities. But we also need a general narrative that non-intellectuals can latch onto as well like “voluntary communities vs the state” like the Marxists had “workers vs capitalists.” It’s also necessary to identify the enemy in simple terms (“state,” “globalists,” “power elite”) while at the same time promoting the idea that the state includes the entire range of elite institutions and functionaries, from universities and foundations and NGOs to police, military, and prisons (and not just elected officials or corporate bosses).

      As I have said many times before, most anarchists don’t really seem to have any ideas that you couldn’t get from a Sociology 101 university course (the whole “race, class, gender” narrative and all that), plus what you might get from an Anarchy 101 website. It’s necessary to move past all that and develop a much more solid body of intellectual work, with a serious philosophical foundation, economic theory and analysis, genuine social criticism, genuine engagement with history, anthropology, political theory, etc. Of course, genuine methods of organization, strategy, tactics, propaganda, etc. are the other side of the coin.

      But once again, it’s also necessary to reduce these to simple concepts that non-intellectuals can understand, e.g. “We’re against the global power elite, and for voluntary associations, voluntary communities, local self-rule, and decentralized societies” to quote Antony Sutton. It might be helpful to draw on concepts from popular culture, i.e. we’re for “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” (Star Trek) or “the rebels vs the empire” (Star Wars). It’s necessary to create low brow propaganda that’s like a hybrid of Alex Jones, Howard Stern and The Onion because that’s the kind of stuff most people seem to relate to.

      A lot to do, obviously.

  2. For starters… I am not a leftist. I am an active publisher of non and anti-leftist material (http://littleblackcart.com).

    The editorial to Tribes sketches out a definition of nationalism as tribalism (“we use it the same way native americans use it!”). In that vein I believe that digging into specifics is necessary. Hence my “racial” questions and my bewilderment that KP refuses to discuss the issue. My goal was not gotcha journalism (and any review of the podcast would confirm that). It was attempting to sincerely discuss these issues outside either of our framing of the topic.

    A swing and a miss.

    Aragorn!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s