Some time back, William Gillis of the Center for a Stateless Society offered the following criticisms of those of us who hold to a decentralist-pluralist version of anarchism as opposed to his leftist-universalist perspective. His comments are in italics followed by my response.
Anarchism is a rigorous ethical rejection of power — of relationships of control — from the interpersonal to the macro. It is not merely “anti-statism” or “anti-big-statism”. Reactionaries embrace micronationalism often to use naive “pluralism” as a defense of tyranny.
Not all anarchists are ethicists. Some are moral skeptics, subjectivists, and/or antihumanists. Either way, not all systems of power are equal. Clearly, world empires, totalitarian regimes, police states, leviathan states, and neo-feudal plutocracies are more powerful than “interpersonal relationships” or micro-level social interaction. Micronationalism is a counterbalance to such systems of power, a means of developing a counterforce to concentrated power, and not an end unto itself.
There’s a reason reactionaries repeatedly turn to micronationalism, & it isn’t a consistent hostility to power (however much they may tack on valid complaints about the US empire). Reactionaries know they need to imprison people in compounds to sustain their ideal power relations.
Contemporary micronations are typically ranked as being the most ideal living spaces in the world. Not pure anarchy by any means. Not without their problems. But the idea that they are comparable to prisons is absurd. It is certainly not true that all micronations are “reactionary.” Some, like Iceland, are among the world’s most liberal nations.
What such reactionaries share with tankies and campists more broadly is a disbelief in getting outside relationships of domination. They believe the options are merely how localized the domination is. And so the DPRK, for instance, is seen as a noble hero against the US empire.
The DPRK is a slave state. But the idea that a totalitarian regime like North Korea is somehow comparable to, say, a neighorhood of nosy neighbors is absurd. This is the kind of ridiculous conflation of concepts that has unfortunately infected the social justice movement.
What I think many people fail to grasp about “national anarchism” is that it isn’t *just* neonazi streetfighters clumsily appropriating anarchist aesthetics. The appeal of reactionary micronationalism is widespread. And there are BIPOC folks stumping for “national anarchism.”
The politic of “micronationalism” is supremely insipid and has broad cachet. “We’ll beat the evil empire by creating small local fiefdoms, pluralism!” is a perennial dumbass solution reached for by naive folks looking for a magic bullet to the showiest expressions of power.
Decentralization can theoretically involve any kind of social organization, not merely “fiefdoms,” as the many historic anarchist communities have demonstrated.
This micronationalist “solution” (more attentive cops, more immediate power structures, tighter and more all encompassing toxic communities, fewer individual options in social ties) is widely converged upon by reactionaries. From NRx “patchwork”, to Hoppean ancaps, to “bolo’bolo”
To the contrary, there would be more “individual options in social ties” just as there were more individual options in religion when church and state were separated, and just as Russians and Eastern Europeans had more individual options in groceries and restaurants once the state monopoly on food production and distribution was abolished.
In reality of course “localness” & “smallness” into tiny prisons are only one way of doing decentralization. Anarchists want a decentralized global network, where individuals aren’t forced to choose to between being stuck in one insular community or another, but have expanse ties.
Yes, which is what panarchism actually is.
What we have here is an example of “anarchist fundamentalism” which postulates that within the realm of “relationships of control” there is really no distinction between name-calling and obnoxiousness on one hand and genocide on the other, and which insists that everyone should somehow have total freedom to do whatever they want except to be “reactionary” (with High Priest Gillis, His Eminent Goofiness, being the self-appointed arbiter of what counts as “reactionary”). Gillis is the anarchist equivalent of a holy-roller who thinks that not wearing lipstick in church is a value on par with avoiding the practice of human sacrifice.