By Keith Preston April 22, 2023
I have no particular loyalty to any specific cultural faction. My approach is to criticize the dominant ideological superstructure of the ruling class of a particular society during a specific era. Right now, totalitarian humanism is dominant in the West, and I criticize it. A few decades ago, when the traditional American civil religion was dominant, I criticized that. I would apply the same approach to Islam, Marxism, “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Russian nationalism, Confucianism, Hinduism, or any other paradigm.
Any tribe that becomes hegemonic automatically becomes tyrannical and abusive. That’s a general law of history. As Carl Schmitt pointed out, any serious political theory begins with the recognition that humans are aggressive, predatory creatures who group off into warring tribes. Some tribes may be more benign and less malevolent than others, but none are “good.” The most serious political question involves the need to constrain the predatory tendencies of the human species. Individuals are not the primary source of human aggression.
Even the most severe individual criminals are a minor nuisance compared to the dangers posed by organized collectives united by institutional discipline. The most predatory, aggressive, and conniving individuals typically reach the top of institutional pyramids. The more rigidly constructed the institutional pyramid, the more predatory the wolves who reach the top will be. The historical, sociological, anthropological, and psychological evidence for this is overwhelming.
However, an even greater danger is the overdeveloped human capacity for engaging in group think and inability to engage in critical or independent thought apart from tribal norms and the promptings of leaders and authority figures presumed to be legitimate. The capacity of humans to act as tribal automatons is even more significant than the aggressive and predatory capabilities of humans. The first political aim is to constrain warring tribes of automatons led by predatory individuals and groups.
The necessity of such constraints overrides the objectives and interests of any particular tribal-sectarian-cultural-ideological faction. The question is what types of social organization will best develop and maintain such constraints. The anarchist critique of institutional power is demonstrably verifiable. But when I observe what passes for “anarchism” today, or read what passes for the anarchist press, I often shake my head in embarrassment and shame.
Most “anarchists” are just progressive liberals who’ve read a few Noam Chomsky books or: “Anarchism is woke worker cooperatives!” The “rightier” anarchists often go in the other direction and become anti-woke reactionaries obsessed with guns and “taxation is theft.” I’ve ventured to move anarchist thinking away from that kind of stuff and toward a more “operational” (empirical) approach. The biggest theoretical questions I am interested in are:
What would it look like if anarchist philosophies were the world’s most extensive collection of political factions? How would we get there? What institutional arrangments are the most compatible with “decentralist anarchy,” and how might these conflict with ideological anarchism? What would be the dominant cultural, ethical, and philosophical paradigms in a world of anarchies, minarchies, panarchies, polyarchies, personarchies, decentralized and/or non-territorial governments, communes, intentional communities, cooperatives and/or startup societies?
Would something like “woke” be the dominant paradigm (for example, the view that racism and sexism are the ultimate evils or that health and ecology are the greatest goods)? Or would it be something like the Christian anarchism of Tolstoy or Day, or some kind of Kharjite or Sufi-influenced Islamic anarchism? Or Buddhist or Taoist anarchism? Or a return to classical philosophy? Stirnerite egoism? Postmodernism? Nietzscheanism? A Bertrand Russell-like utilitarian liberalism? A return to indigenous tribal traditions? Social norms based on borrowings from classic literature, folk culture, or popular culture?
The funny thing about many trads, dissident righties, tankies, Jacobin lefties, and neo-Nazis, is that in the kind of world they claim they want, they would be the first to go. Anarchists exhibit all of the same difficulties. Anarchists lose big in any revolutionary situation and end up in gulags and before firing squads. Every damned time. And that’s why I am an anti-Communist. The Communist Party was the Catholic Church of the 20th century Left. Recognition of all that is why I developed the concept of pan-secessionism and a strictly “neither left nor right” paradigm in the first place.
The leftist model of revolution has been a consistent failure. Anarchists need to bypass liberals and socialists and be our own paradigm. Right-anarchists often fall into the same error as left-anarchists, i.e., being anti-leftist reactionaries rather than anarchists, just like many left-anarchists are liberals and socialists first and anarchists only as an afterthought, if that.
It is necessary to always critique the dominant ruling class’s ideological superstructure and to shift one’s analysis and frame of reference as political, cultural, and economic conditions change. For example, many anarchists are still focused on anti-social conservatism or anti-clericalism. Past generations of anarchists adopted such views because of their times’ social, political, and economic circumstances. The militant anti-clericalism of Bakunin, for example.
Outside the Islamic world, I don’t consider religion the “main enemy” as many old-school anarchists and anti-clerical radicals did in the past. The secular state is the main enemy in most countries today. The exceptions would be some Middle Eastern, African, or Asian countries. There’s no justification for that in a society that has church/state separation (America), where religion is a very marginal or peripheral museum-like institution (Europe and East Asia), or where the culture is religious in a socially tolerant way (like in Latin America).
In recent years, I’ve made an effort to introduce anarchists to the work of Antony Sutton, which shows that capitalism, communism, and fascism are different points on the same triangle, interconnected to a greater degree than recognized, and equally deserving of contempt. Left-anarchists are anti-fascist to the point of hysteria but weak on communism and the liberal wing of capitalism. Right-anarchists are inclined to be anti-communist/anti-leftist to the point of equally exaggerated hysteria but weak on fascism and the right wing of capitalism.