Thomas Hobbes famously declared that even the worst despot is better than anarchy, this is the antithesis to the ATS position. No true anarchist is a Hobbesian or vice-versa. Yet, the emergence of anarchy entails a de-facto government and that came to light in the case of CHAZ, Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, which was created in downtown Seattle. Raz Simone emerged as the leader of CHAZ, although the legitimacy of his position is questionable: he is not an elected official and it is unclear if he is capable of serving the needs of this nascent “autonomous zone”.
From the perspective of ATS, is CHAZ a morally tenable community? That is, is its existence compatible with anarchist thought?
A critique of ATS once wrote that Keith Preston’s worldview amounts to a “conservative philosophy with a mere liberal gloss”. That writer substantiated his position by citing how the founder of our community has little regard for federal agencies that are meant to protect minorities from “oppression”. They summarized Keith’s views as “let thousands of mini-authoritarianisms flourish”, citing how the racists of the Deep South and religious fundamentalists will set up regimes that are intolerant to the “victimized groups”.
However, the same critique can be applied to the case of CHAZ. Just as most members of a hypothetical “autonomous zone” in rural Alabama may be socially conservative, most residents of down-town Seattle tend to be progressive. Yet, what is to be done with the very few residents who do not support the BLM and Antifa? A number of unconfirmed accounts cite the possibility that CHAZ imposes taxes on businesses and residents. If that is true, what recourse do the residents have against CHAZ? Leaving could be their only option, but what if CHAZ emerges as a true far-left regime that makes it nearly impossible for residents to leave? That is what happened in communist regimes including Cuba, North Korea, and the USSR.
If that is the case, what course of action would be the most consistent with the ATS position? If one rejects the Hobbesian argument in favor of a Leviathan who protects the rights of individuals, how can such problems be resolved? If the leftist journalist who criticized Keith for condoning the emergence of xenophobic and homophobic anarchist communes was correct, does it then follow that we also cannot defend the rights of ordinary people who happened to have been at the wrong place and the wrong time? In short, the key question is how the rights of the individual be defended in a true anarchist state?
A number of other progressive activists endeavored to emulate the CHAZ experiment, but they have not been as effective at challenging the sovereignty of local governments. However, if they are to become more successful at establishing their own “autonomous zones”, it is very likely that the far-right activists will do likewise. To be certain, the Texan secessionists will not forfeit their opportunity to seek autonomy from the federal government. Various Southern Identity groups, survivalists in the American mid-west, conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, numerous rural militia coalitions, and other far-right groups who are intensely skeptical of the federal government will certainly follow suit.
In the last few weeks, the BLM and Antifa have shown that they cannot be reasoned with, negotiated with, or even appeased. They accept only unconditional surrender and respond to nothing but brute force. At times of maximal discontent with the federal government, peak levels of political polarization and an abundance of firearms in the hands of the far-right coalitions who may wish to imitate the CHAZ experiment, disaster seems imminent and inevitable. Is a Hobbesian “war of all against all” inevitable? CHAZ sets an incredibly dangerous precedent and if their experiment is to succeed, a full-fledged civil war is a best-case scenario. One can only hope that their right-wing opponents stand united against CHAZ and defend the republic accordingly. Indeed, a comprehensive victory for one side is preferable to the Hobbesian state of nature where “life is nasty, solitary, brutish and short”.
The BLM and Antifa are hostile to all fundamental values of the Enlightenment era that underpin Western Civilization, including free speech, free-markets, and individual rights. At the core, they are hostile to the individual and believe that people are defined by their race and gender. Far from endorsing equality before the law as classical liberals do, they believe in creating a society that serves the interests of racial groups who were oppressed in the past. Hence, their ideology amounts to the inversion of the Indian caste system where the “untouchables” claim their revenge.
They also have learned absolutely nothing from Edmund Burke’s “Reflections On The Revolution In France“, as they believe that every vestige of conservative European thought must be extirpated. Burke maintained that when the continuity of tradition is radically disrupted and the citizenry are forced to disavow their heritage, the foundation of social order collapses. As a result, the nation becomes ripe for totalitarianism: that is what paved the way for the revolutionary terror in the barbarous hands of the Jacobins.
The same result emerged during Lenin’s Red Terror and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. When a nation is completely unmoored from its culture, heritage, and history, it becomes a blank slate to be exploited by totalitarian despots. In that sense, a nation besieged by revolutionary terror is similar to the “ego-stripping” that occurs in a LaRouchist cult. Therein, the new inductee is routinely subjected to intense abuse until he or she renounces all connection to life as they knew it prior to their indoctrination. As a result, the cult member can be compelled to believe or do nearly anything.
When the BLM activists desecrate national monuments, they are engaging in an activity similar to ego-stripping. They are attempting to erase the nation’s collective memory, calumniate its heroes and create the foundation for a profound transformation of the citizenry’s collective consciousness. These tactics are not new and have already been implemented in Mao’s cultural revolution. The eradication of the right-wing was his main purpose, which is why the people of high social status in China’s prerevolutionary society were humiliated and condemned to perform manual labor in service of the revolutionary cause.
Political scientists have long been aware of a critical distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. The former merely refers to a simple dictatorship where the leader enjoys unchallenged authority. However, the autocrat is mainly interested in staying in power and those who do not pose a threat to him, have relatively little to fear. By contrast, the totalitarians strive for a fundamental transformation of the public’s mentality. That is precisely what the BLM, Antifa and the politically correct zealots aspire to do.
It is not enough that the government of Seattle allowed them to seize several blocks of the downtown area. It is certainly not enough that all officers involved in the unlawful killing of George Floyd are prosecuted. They have the fullest intention of controlling how people think and what they do even in their most private of spacest. That is the true purpose of political correctness: it has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with social control. That is why anyone who claims that all lives are equal must be fired from their job, even if they do so in an entirely private exchange. Tech giants from Google to Facebook are happy to assist the leftist radicals in this totalitarian endeavor and heartily endorse the ego-stripping that is currently happening in America.
To be certain, a communist is an enemy of humanity and revolutionary regimes claimed more innocent lives than the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Radical Islam, Nazism, and the sum total of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the world’s most invidious of fascist regimes. Yet, the alternative result is far from enviable. The CHAZ experiment may be new to Americans, but anarchist communes have existed in the past. The Makhnovia of Ukraine during Russia’s civil war, the Paris Commune, and Catalonia during Spain’s civil war are cases in point. In all of such similar instances, the anarchist commune was either defeated by the extreme right or it is co-opted by the totalitarian left. George Orwell’s claim to immortal fame rests on his critique of communism and in Homage to Catalonia, he wrote extensively on how the idealists of Catalonia were subdued by the Stalinists.
Totalitarianism appears to be the only outcome of anarchy: fascists or communists invariably prevail. However, there is one scenario that may be worse: an unresolved anarchy in which a society is permanently frozen in the Hobbesian state of nature. Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Syria are cases in point.
From the standpoint of ATS, the following fundamental questions must be answered and I call upon all anarchists to address them.
- How can anarchy uphold individual rights?
- How can anarchy stand tall in the face of the onslaught by communists or fascists?
- In light of the two aforementioned questions, is liberty compatible with anarchy?
- If anarchists defend themselves from fascism and communism, how can the Hobbesian state of nature be avoided?
- If the problem from question 4 is solved, how can a league of anarchist communities defend themselves from a foreign invasion? The Roman Empire was well known for having multiple city-state communities or “autonomous zones” and that may be the ideal outcome for anarchists to strive for. Yet, did a lack of centralization contribute to the fall of the Roman Empire. If so, how can an anarchist America overcome that problem?