We’re Getting a Lot Closer

When I started ATS 20 years ago, the main objective I wanted to promote was to end US imperialism by dissolving the United States itself, a goal I had originally embraced in the 1980s. Initially, I had thought anarcho-syndicalism would be the vehicle but being involved with actual anarcho-syndicalist organizations as well as mainstream labor unions soured me on that idea. However, the overthrow of the Communist expanse in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s led me to the view that the revolutionary overthrow of even modern nuclear-armed states is still possible. The West Coast uprising of 1992 and the emergence of armed insurgent groups following the massacres as Ruby Ridge and Waco led me to the view that it would be the lumpenproletariat and not the traditional proletariat that would be the revolutionary class in modern advanced capitalist societies.

Examining different tactical models of revolution (territorial separation, general strikes, insurrection, counter-economics, dual power, civil disobedience, inside/outside strategies, etc. ) led me to develop a synthesis of these approaches that I came to call “pan-secessionism.” Recognizing that the Left/Right model of the political spectrum had become obsolete or inadequate in many ways,  I developed an alternative system/anti-system dichotomy applied within a pan-decentralist/libertarian/anti-authoritarian/anti-statist/anarchist framework that I came to call “anarcho-pluralism” or “pan-anarchism.” It was the combination of all of these ideas that became the basis of ATS.

During the 1990s, I predicted that the cultural left would eventually get the upper hand in the so-called “culture wars” and eventually meld with the state and capitalist class, creating an ideological superstructure that I later came to describe as “totalitarian humanism.” During the era of the neocons’ wars of aggression in the Middle East, I came to the view that such actions would have the effect of alienating world opinion from the United States and that the empire would overextend itself to the point that it would eventually begin to crack.  As the Red/Blue tribal war continued to escalate, I predicted that an internal fracturing of the USA would take place resulting in the emergence of implicit or explicit separatist movements. The rise of the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s and the “Great Recession” ten years later convinced me that anti-capitalism would start to make a comeback in the future.

Many of the things that I predicted or advocated for in the past are now much closer to becoming a reality. The number of US troops deployed overseas is now at a 100-year low, indicating that the empire is receding (but desperately trying to hold on by outsourcing many imperial functions to client states and proxy forces). Class divisions are now the widest they have been in 100 years, and class-based politics and/or anti-capitalism are now spiraling on both left and right. Political divisions are now the widest they have been in 150 years. The latest polling data indicates that sympathy for secession is now at 29%, the highest percent I have seen in the 25 years I have been following such trends. A third of Republicans and a fifth of Democrats now express secessionist sympathies. The past year has witnessed a series of lumpen proletarian insurrections from across the political and cultural spectrum, from the burning of a police station in Minneapolis, to attacks on the federal building in Portland, to the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

The cultural left/capitalist class fusion I predicted has now taken place in the form of “woke capitalism.” Meanwhile, as I also predicted, the right-wing has continued to lose cultural power and started to develop a more militant stance as evidenced by the recent rise of “right-wing extremism” illustrated by tendencies like QAnon.  I previously predicted that the Democrats would become the dominant party in US politics due to various changes in society and that the Democrats would experience internal conflict between neoliberals and leftists with the Republicans becoming a right-wing populist opposition party similar to comparable parties in Europe like France’s National Front/now National Assembly.  I also expected that the excesses of “PC culture” would generate refugees from the left who moved rightward which is now happening in the form of tendencies like #walkway.

I generally thought that large US cities would become the basis of class conflict between the urban lumpenproletariat and bourgeois neoliberals, and that cultural conflict would largely break down along rural social conservatives vs. urban lumpenproletariat vs suburban neoliberal lines. This is happening as well. I previously thought that expanded resistance to the police state in the form of, for example, resisting consensual crime laws like drug prohibition, sex work criminalization, and so-called “broken windows” policing would emerge in large cities, left-leaning states, and the urban lumpen class, and that mass incarceration and police statism would increasingly come to be criticized in large part on the grounds of racial disparities. This is also happening.

About the only thing that I either predicted or advocated for that hasn’t happened is that there has not yet been a political realignment along system/anti-system lines or along statist/authoritarian vs decentralist/anti-authoritarian lines. Instead, it seems that US politics and culture are fragmenting into a multiplicity of warring tribes, the majority of whom increasingly regard the system as illegitimate. Proto-pan-secessionist actions have taken place through the creation of sanctuary cities, 2nd amendment counties, wildcat strikes, mutual aid networks, or the nullification of federal drug laws by states and localities.

In other words, the general ATS paradigm has advanced much further along from where things were 20 years ago. However, only about 1% of what needs to happen has actually happened. What we have witnessed is the beginning of a paradigm shift that needs to continue to develop and unfold in the years and decades ahead. Virtually every aspect of the analytical, theoretical, or tactical aspects of ATS has now become reality at least on an embryonic level. This new embryonic paradigm now needs to continue to grow and expand.

This does not mean that a Soviet-like collapse or a civil war is on the horizon in the foreseeable future. Before either one of those happens, the USA will most likely increasingly come to look like almost every other country in the world with a large and diverse population, huge wealth disparities, persistent cultural conflict,  social strife, frequently occurring political violence, freakish and astoundingly incompetent political leaders, and ongoing instability. Many such examples can be found like Brazil, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa, to name a few.  However, the core task for North American radicals at this point is to determine how, in the event of a future collapse, massive material deprivation of the kind experienced by Russia in the post-Soviet period, or bloody inter-tribal/sectarian civil war of the kind experienced by the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, or Syria can be avoided, and how what is essentially becoming a Third World regime with First World armaments and technology can be effectively resisted.

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