The Problem with Left-Wing Anti-Woke (and Its Opponents)

All things considered, it is a good thing that the phenomenon of “left-wing anti-woke” has emerged in recent times with writers from across the spectrum of “left” opinion (from centrist liberals to Marxists) increasingly expressing discomfort with the “woke” paradigm. For a long time, critics of totalitarian humanism from outside the right-wing were very rare, with most “anti-PC” commentators being from the ranks of conventional Republicans, right-libertarians, and the “right-of-the-Republicans” far-right.

I have never had any use for American-style “conservatism.” The Republicans are a hybrid of a far-right plutocratic party (like El Salvador’s ARENA) and a far-right militarist party (like Israel’s Likud) that cultivates the most retrograde forces in US society (neo-Know Nothings, Christian Zionists, dominionists, segregationists, flag-worshipers, cop-lovers, Randian worshipers of plutocrats and oligarchs as Nietzschean supermen, etc., etc.) as useful idiots to serve as their base (the same way the House of Saud is allied with Wahhabi clerics or Likud is aligned with ultra-orthodox rabbis). The idea that anybody with any kind of libertarian values of any kind could be a Republican seems inconceivable (except, of course, for the practical purpose of building constituents for dissolving the USA on the pan-secessionist model generally).

At various points over the years, I have mentioned the necessity of “Attacking the Left from the Left” in the tradition of the historic anarchist opposition to Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, and Maoism, and from the left of liberalism and social democracy.

Plenty of “right-wing” or “conservative” critiques of “woke” are available. Victor Davis Hanson, a Red Tribe ideologue, neocon adjacent, and arch-imperialist is an articulate spokesman for the Red Tribe perspective with his dissection of Blue Tribe ideology and woke elites. Of course, given the opportunity the right-wing would have a political correctness of its own (for example, the enthusiasm of many on the right-wing for the criminalization of flag-burning). That goes without saying, and actually happens in geographical areas and institutional sectors where the right-wing is still dominant (e.g. the controversy over the “Maus” novel in backwoods Tennessee school districts).

However, more recently a variety of commentators have appeared that express what might be called “second thoughts” about totalitarian humanism.

The French left-wing economist Thomas Piketty, using an analogy to the Hindu caste system, has identified the phenomenon of the “Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right” dichotomy that has emerged in the Western democracies, whereby the “Left” has come to represent educated elites (“Brahmins”) in opposition to the traditional merchant class (the equivalent “Vaishyas”). To this analysis, it could be added that the Brahmins cultivate the historically poorest and most disadvantaged sectors of the socioeconomic  pyramid (the equivalent of the “Dalits”) as constituents in opposition to the merchant class and conventional working class alike (the “Shudras”) with the administrative class (the “Kshatriyas” in traditional Hindu terminology, or James Burnham’s “managerial elite” in modern, Western terms) divided between the left and right depending on their particular function or individual predilection (e.g. private sector vs. public sector, traditional professionals vs. new professions, education bureaucrats vs. law enforcement, the left and right wings of the military and intelligence agencies).  The Marxist-Leninist commentator Caleb Maupin has identified the concept of the “Synthetic Left” and points to the roots of what some on the right-wing refer to as “cultural Marxism” in intelligence operations extending back to the 1950s.  Of course, most left-wing critics of the PC paradigm are not as penetrating as Piketty or Maupin, but merely consider the woke phenomenon to have been extended beyond the level they are personally or politically comfortable with. In the process, the limitations of left-wing anti-woke have become apparent enough. Consider some of the following categories of anti-wokesters on the left:

Quasi-Neocons (e.g. Bari Weiss): “Maybe the American Empire isn’t so bad compared to Russo/Sino/Islamo ‘fascism.’ And isn’t Israel wonderful?”

Latte Liberals (e.g. Michael Schellenberger): “I love art galleries, ethnic restaurants, the environment, and gay people, but these homeless folks camped out on the street are annoying as hell. And ‘’progressive prosecutors’ are causing crime to increase. I’m scared!”

State Socialists (e.g. social democrats and Marxists): “Maybe we should slow down with this woke stuff because we need Trump voters to help us build our socialist state.”

Every one of these viewpoints is just as problematic as the woke phenomenon itself. The first category reflects the standard “leftist to neocon” drift that has been going on since the 1950s, and of which the late Christopher Hitchens was a typical example. The second category represents the standard conflict between bourgeois liberals and the respectable proletariat against the lumpenproletariat. Look for these to eventually embrace the neocons’ “broken windows” paradigm of policing that dominated the 1990s era war on crime, perhaps even dusting off “Bookie of Virtue” Bill Bennett and calling for a reinvigorated “war on drugs.” All in the name of the “quality of (bourgie) life.” The third category reflects the problematic features of state socialism as anarchists since Proudhon, Bakunin, and Stirner have pointed out and, indeed, state socialist subcultures have once again emerged in response to the Third Worldization of the US class system.

Ideally, opposition to the latest wave of authoritarian moral panic in the form of totalitarian humanism would be led by anarchists and the libertarian-left, not by the right-wing, less hurried liberals, or Marxists. Unfortunately, many anarchists have imbibed what amounts to a parody of “woke” and are consequently completely disarmed in the face of the new totalitarianism.

Murray Rothbard, the godfather of modern anarcho-capitalism, in his seminal essay from 1965,“Left and Right: Prospects for Liberty,” described how “libertarianism” (individualist-anarchism, more or less) is historically to the left of socialism:

“The Left Socialists were then trapped in a crucial inner contradiction: if the State is to disappear after the Revolution (immediately for Bakunin, gradually “withering” for Marx), then how is the “collective” to run its property without becoming an enormous State itself in fact even if not in name? This was a contradiction which neither the Marxists nor the Bakuninists were ever able to resolve.”

Similarly, Murray Bookchin, the leading theorist of late 20th century anarcho-communism, observed in a 1979 interview how in many modern countries the Left has become the real Right, and how Stalinism and Maoism are the natural consequences of Marxism.

“The American left today as I know it—and believe me, I am very familiar with the American left—is going toward authoritarianism, toward totalitarianism…What I saw of the SDS in the ’60s was very abhorrent to me: Marxism, Leninism, almost the KGB mentality—a police politics that I found completely totalitarian in nature. And in Europe, I would say that today the real support for State power and totalitarianism comes from the Communist parties and the Socialist parties and, where they are sizable, the Trotskyist groups. They are the ones that really frighten me.”

“People who resist authority, who defend the rights of the individual, who try in a period of increasing totalitarianism and centralization to reclaim these rights…I feel much closer, ideologically, to such individuals than I do to the totalitarian liberals and Marxist-Leninists of today.”

“I regard Marxism as the most sinister and the most subtle form of totalitarianism…I regard Marxism as a very subtle form of what I would call the totalitarian ideology—all the more subtle because it professes to advance the notions of freedom. I don’t think that the Soviet Union and China are accidents, aberrations; I think they follow from Marxism-Leninism. I think that Leninism comes out of Marx’s basic convictions.”

Of course, in 1979, half the world’s population and a third of the world’s nations were ruled by Marxist-Leninist regimes, with fraternal parties and movements in many other places. Today, Marxist-Leninism is only peripherally influential in the West, with the “authoritarian left turned authoritarian right” primarily becoming represented by “neoconservatism” (a outgrowth of Trotskyism that functions as a modern expression of the Jacobin-Girondin-Montagnard tradition stemming from the French Revolution), the PC/Woke paradigm that I refer to as totalitarian humanism (which represents an intersection of the Frankfurt School, Congress on Cultural Freedom, New Left, old-school Rockefeller Democrats and liberal Republicans, and Clintonian neoliberals), and, in the case of China, the post-Maoist, Dengist/Zhouist “capital road” paradigm (although there is evidence the Xi regime is reverting to neo-Maoism).

The historic solution to the inherent problems of Marxism offered by the individualist anarchists, synthesist anarchists, panarchists, anarchists without adjectives, and genuine libertarian communists was mixture of genuinely private businesses, mutuals, collectives, partnerships,  cooperatives, communes, anarcho-syndicalist industrial federations, Georgist land trusts, eco-villages, intentional communities, and other forms of freedom of association in the economic realm.

However, the main problem with the woke crowd is not one of economics but one of an excess of moral realism.  As Max Stirner said of the prototypical progressives of his own time, “Our atheists are pious people.” Nietzsche recognized some of the self-limiting features of modern leftist thought:

“When the anarchist, as the mouthpiece of the declining levels of society, insists on ‘right,’ ‘justice,’ ‘equal rights’ with such beautiful indignation, he is just acting under the pressure of his lack of culture, which cannot grasp why he really suffers, what he is poor in– in life.

A drive to find causes is powerful in him: it must be somebody’s fault that he’s feeling bad . . . Even his ‘beautiful indignation’ does him good; all poor devils like to whine–it gives them a little thrill of power. Even complaints, the act of complaining, can give life the charm on account of which one can stand to live it: there is a subtle dose of revenge in every complaint; one blames those who are different for one’s own feeling bad, and in certain circumstances even being bad, as if they were guilty of an injustice, a prohibited privilege. ‘If I’m a lowlife, you should be one too’: on this logic, revolutions are built.–

Complaining is never good for anything; it comes from weakness. Whether one ascribes one’s feeling bad to others or to oneself–the socialist does the former, the Christian, for example, the latter–makes no real difference. What is common to both and, let us add, what is unworthy, is that it should be someone’s fault that one is suffering–in short, that the sufferer prescribes the honey of revenge as a cure for his own suffering.”

The problem that Nietzsche identified as being endemic to anarchists, socialists, and Christians alike even applies to much of today’s organized atheism. As Rickey Moore observes, “In short, I think atheists should be hard-core materialist…anarchists but unfortunately, they’re crypto Calvinist snobs, and their shock troopers of harassing normie Christians over fairy tales are anything but Nietzschean.”

And as Bellamy Fitzpatrick has cogently acknowledged:

I can only speculate about the toxic mixture of ressentiment, Manichaeism, and alienation that would lead someone to fantasize about gunning down ostensibly evil people on the beach en masse as part of the realization of their political agenda, and I certainly do not believe most self-identified anarcho-communists (or left-anarchists more broadly) consciously hold secret totalitarian desires. I do, however, believe that a great many radicals are so accustomed to being the perpetual underdogs with very limited political influence that they have not thought through what they would do if they really started winning. What would we do if the current Leviathan states receded, collapsed, or were forcibly broken apart? Opportunities for freedom would emerge, but there would still be millions of people in this region, and billions worldwide, who disagreed with us about a great many things (even more than we already disagree with one another).”

Where this problematic thinking identified by Fitzpatrick actually leads is obvious enough. As one anarchist writer observed some years ago:

“I used to be an anarcho-communist…After hanging around them for a while I realized that, for all their pretenses, most of them were really just state-socialists who wanted to abolish the State by making it smaller and calling it something else. After about a year of hanging around Libcom and the livejournal anarchist community, I encountered people who, under the aegis of “community self-management”, supported

  • smoking and alcohol bans
  • bans on currently illicit drugs
  • bans on caffeinated substances (all drugs are really just preventing you from dealing with problems, you see)
  • censorship of pornography (on feminist grounds)
  • sexual practices like BDSM (same grounds, no matter the gender of the participants or who was in what role)
  • bans on prostitution (same grounds)
  • bans on religion or public religious expression (this included atheist religions like Buddhism, which were the same thing because they were “irrational”)
  • bans on advertisement (which in this context meant any free speech with a commercial twist)
  • bans on eating meat
  • gun control (except for members of the official community-approved militia, which is in no way the same thing as a local police department)
  • mandatory work assignments (ie slavery)
  • the blatant statement, in these exact words, that “Anarchism is not individualist” on no less than twelve separate occasions over the course of seven months. Not everybody in those communities actively agreed with them, but nobody got up and seriously disputed it.
  • that if you don’t like any of these rules, you’re not free to just quit the community, draw a line around your house and choose not to obey while forfeiting any benefits. No, as long as you’re in what they say are the the boundaries (borders?) of “the community”, you’re bound to follow the rules, otherwise you have to move someplace else (“love it or leave it”, as the conservative mantra goes). You’d think for a moment that this conflicts with An-comm property conceptions because they’re effectively exercising power over land that they do not occupy, implying that they own it and making “the community” into One Big Landlord a la Hoppean feudalism

So I decided that we really didn’t want the same things, and that what they wanted was really some kind of Maoist concentration commune where we all sit in a circle and publicly harass the people who aren’t conforming hard enough. No thanks, comrade.”

In a world of voluntarily organized anarchist communities, anarchists can presumably organize themselves however they wish with whatever anarcho-rules they wish, however idiotic. But what about people who do not share “woke” ideals, which includes a super-majority of the world’s population?

The futurist novel “Bolo’bolo,” which was written 40 years ago and is popular in some anarchist circles, might be considered a work of “utopian realism” and addresses the real-world problem (at least for anarchists who demand “worldwide wokeness”) of human diversity.

“It appears that seemingly “utopian” proposals like bolo’bolo create more confusion than they help to explain things. (The real “utopia” is capitalism.) One of these is the idea that everybody should live in bolos. It might be sufficient that 60%, 50% or 30% of people live in such basic communities to break the fundamental power of the Machine. Around this core many other “systems” — singles, families, capitalisms, socialisms of different kinds, small states, feudalistic, asiatic or other modes of production, traditional tribes, etc. might find more space to unfold than today. Once the stranglehold of the centers of the Machine — in North America, Europe and Japan — is broken (when history is really ended), even earlier stages in the development of the Machine cannot be dangerous any more. Once you get rid of (enforced) progress, uniformity in the levels of productivity becomes obsolete. Different ages and epochs can co-exist. Even truly free-market economies of partners of comparable starting positions could emerge in some odd places, and thereby realize the old liberal utopia for the first time in history. All these oddities are no temptations for a strong core structure built on self-sufficiency. What we have in mind is not the “next stage,” but a shortcut across country.”

The Super-Woke Left-Wing Anarchists are indeed correct most of the time about most issues, but their core weakness is their inability to shed the last residual influences of Christian messianism/millenarianism, manifested in modernity through the Enlightenment religion of “Progress” with its Rousseauan reworking of the notion of “original sin” (“man must be forced to be free”).

There is a series of tests that can be used to determine the seriousness of our present day anarchists, anti-authoritarians, anti-statists, libertarians, utopians, communalists, or whatever we call ourselves.

Within the framework of post-statism, post-capitalism, or however we wish to describe it, would the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a sect that is directly persecuted by the state in dozens of countries, be allowed to practice their religion? Would the Afrikaner commune of Orania be allowed to exist? Are the North Sentinel Islanders going to be left alone to pursue their preferred way of life, or are anarchist missionaries going to be trying to bring the Gospel of Progress?  What if a Murder Safari was established in a remote location among willing participants engaged in mutual combat?

There is a pressing need for anarchists to embrace the principles of paradox, for example, Taoist concept of the yin/yang (Lao-Tzu, the purported founder of Taoism, is widely regarded as the first anarchist, assuming her really existed). A paradoxical anarchism might recognize anarcho-communism and anarcho-capitalism or anarcho-primitivism and anarcho-transhumanism as legitimate forms of anarchism that necessarily complement each other.

It is best to ground radical theory in actual history and anthropology (which some thinkers like Harold Barclay, David Graeber, and James Scott have actually done) and conceive of anarchism as an infinite number of preferred lifestyles and voluntary communities.

We need less Anarchist Fundamentalism and more Anarchist Unitarian-Universalism (another paradox?).

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