By Keith Preston May 13, 2023
Bellamy Fitzpatrick on the Trichotomy of “Decentralist Anarchy,” “World Domination Anarchism,” and “Worldwide Wokeness”
In January 2020, Bellamy Fitzpatrick, a well-known figure in left-wing anarchist circles in North America, produced a brief blog post that summarizes very well the problematic features of the present-day anarchist left. In the post, Fitzpatrick raised a question that many anarchists rarely address: “What would we do if the current Leviathan states receded, collapsed, or were forcibly broken apart?” noting that “an anarchic world will not be mono-cultural, but instead massively polycultural, with differential cultures developing out of organic, voluntary association in symbiotic relations with their differential landbases and/or differential nomadic patterns.” Fitzpatrick raises a distinction between two concepts that are potentially in conflict with each other: “decentralist anarchy” and “world domination anarchism.” The former phrase describes the polycultural patterns of organic social organization referenced above while the latter describes the ideal of what Fitzpatrick calls “World-Wide Wokeness.” As Fitzpatrick observes:
Conversely, I have started using the cheeky term ‘World Domination Anarchism’ (WDA) to describe self-identified anarchists who either explicitly or, more typically, implicitly conceive of victory as looking like an entirely globalized society that is, somehow, still anarchist. Often, the argument that a WDAist makes against the above conception of radical decentralization and the creation of thousands or even millions of micro-cultures is that some of these will inevitably develop authoritarian or otherwise undesirable cultural tendencies and thus become many tiny tyrannies. Often some kind of stirring but shallow rhetoric is involved here, to the effect of ‘If all are not free, then none are.’
The questions raised by Fitzpatrick are at the heart of my decades-long disputes with many in various anarchist milieus. For instance, some years back, Eoin O’Connor placed the following post in the Facebook group for the Anarchist Studies Network, where he compared and contrasted my own open-ended approach to anarchist theory and historical interpretation with his own much more narrowly constructed framework.
WHO AND WHAT COUNTS AS ANARCHISM?
There’s a number of different views on who’s deemed to be a real anarchist and what’s deemed to be legitimate schools of anarchist politics. Let’s imagine a spectrum of these views, measured in terms of “strictness” of who’s in vs out.
ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE
we have the view that anyone who calls themself an anarchist is one, along with anybody from history who seems vaguely anarchistic. So everybody from voluntaryist capitalists to primitivists to pro-market transhumanist individualists to anarchist communists to national anarchists counts as “in”.
ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE
we have the view that the only legitimate school of anarchism is social anarchism. Meaning anarchist communism (and its descendants), as it existed from its formation within the St. Imier International in the 1870s. Also including the collectivists of Spain, the anarcho-syndicalists, and anarchist social ecologists. This may seem extreme, after all, wouldn’t this exclude the first person to call themselves an anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and even Mikhail Bakunin? Yes it would. And supporters of this view cite the fact that while both men used the words anarchist as an adjective, and anarchy as a noun, neither ever used the term anarchism (as an -ism) and probably would’ve been against doing so.They are therefore seen as foundational to movement anarchism, but not part of it themselves. Much like how Rousseau was foundational to Romanticism, while being dead before it became a current in European thought.
To dismiss, at the beginning, the view that absolutely anyone who calls themself an anarchist is an anarchist, I think pretty much the only person who takes this view seriously is Keith Preston and his “pan-secessionism” clique. He proposes that we have privatised cities next to fascist racial separatist nations next to anarcho-communist confederations. Not something that’s going to happen. But even if you exclude the fascists and the capitalists from anarchism, is there not still tension between those who favour a stateless “free market” (even a socialist one) and those who favour a stateless confederation of free communes? This is why I’ve become more sympathetic to the “consistency” view on the other side of the spectrum. It may seem strict, but I think we need that in order to ground ourselves intellectually and make our theory coherent.
That’s not to say we can’t still describe things outside social anarchism as “anarchistic”, or as part of the wider “family of anarchy”, but we should only use the term anarchism to identify tendencies who cohere with a common sense of ideas and practices.
What do you think? Where do you place yourself on the spectrum and why?
I am unsure of what O’Connor means by “fascist racial separatist nations.” Does he refer to the Third Reich, Pre-Mandela South Africa, or the American southern states during the antebellum or segregationist eras? If these examples are indeed what he is referring to, then we are talking about conventional states that engaged in genocide, slavery, and enforced an ethnic caste system through highly authoritarian political and legal methods. Clearly, these practices are incompatible with anarchism. However, apart from this significant qualification, O’Connor accurately portrays my own views, highlighting the importance of the questions raised by Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick identifies three conceptual frameworks that need to be examined in order to expose the limitations present in some anarchist theoretical models.
Firstly, it is evident that the concept of “decentralist anarchy” is largely redundant. For anarchy to hold any meaning, it must inherently be decentralized in practice. Naturally, decentralized communities and organizations can voluntarily form federations. The World Council of Churches serves as a global voluntary federation of religious organizations, representing almost two billion individuals, operating independently from any state (with the Vatican City microstate being a partial exception) and without coercion. However, any federative entity that claims to be “anarchist” must adhere to the guiding principle of decentralized voluntarism. Nevertheless, in a world comprising “thousands or even millions of micro-cultures,” many of these cultures would uphold beliefs, values, and practices that may not align with contemporary anarchist standards of “wokeness.”
Nonetheless, there exists a theoretical possibility for the tense and uneasy coexistence of “decentralist anarchy,” “world domination anarchism,” and “worldwide wokeness.” Decentralist anarchy could potentially emerge “if the current Leviathan states receded, collapsed, or were forcibly broken apart.” One can simply consider the collapse of the aforementioned Communist regimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a classic example of the withdrawal of consent to “voluntary servitude,” as identified by Boetie as the subjective foundation of legitimacy upon which the power of all states ultimately rests, in accordance with the pattern of acclamation and/or acquiescence outlined by Schmitt. Anarcho-capitalist theorist Hans Hermann Hoppe once described a potential process where Leviathan states might fall successively like dominos.
…the unrestricted proliferation of independent free territories, until the state’s range of jurisdiction finally withers away. To this end-and in complete contrast to the statist projects of ‘European Integration’ and a ‘New World Order’-they promote the vision of a world of tens of thousands of free countries, regions and cantons, of hundreds of thousands of independent free cities-such as the present-day oddities of Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, (formerly) Hong Kong, and Singapore-and even more numerous free districts and neighborhoods…
Naturally, such entities have the potential to embody a wide range of philosophical, ideological, and cultural currents, ranging from cannibalistic tribes in remote Papua New Guinea to “smart cities” equipped with sophisticated techno-surveillance systems.
However, there is a possibility for “world domination anarchism” to emerge within the framework of “decentralist anarchy.” Throughout history, religious beliefs and practices have undergone transformations, progressing from animistic and folk religions to polytheism, henotheism, monolatry, and ultimately monotheism. Proto-monotheistic traditions, such as Atenism in Egypt, Zoroastrianism in Persia, Tengrism among the Turko-Mongols, and Shangdism in China, laid the groundwork for the Abrahamic faiths. These faiths seem to be influenced by a combination of proto-monotheism, folk/ancestral traditions, and later Gnostic conceptions. Today, monotheistic religions comprise the largest collection of religious beliefs globally, followed by reincarnationist traditions, remaining folk religions, and the religiously unaffiliated (including atheists and those with hybrid or non-sectarian religious views).
The concept of “worldwide wokeness” raises inquiries regarding the prevailing moral, ethical, cultural, and social paradigms in future “decentralist anarchies,” assuming that “world domination anarchism” is equally prevalent. Currently, most anarchists, particularly in developed nations, espouse a viewpoint commonly referred to as “woke,” which in the past has been labeled as “politically correct,” “cultural Marxist,” or “social justice warrior,” often by critics. However, the vast majority of individuals who align with the “woke” paradigm are not anarchists and explicitly reject anarchism. This phenomenon is rather peculiar. It appears that “woke” anarchists have assimilated these influences not from anarchist theory or practice, but from conventional sources such as the public education system, colleges and universities, the mass media, social media, the entertainment and advertising industries, various professions in the “human services” sector, the impact of non-governmental and philanthropic organizations, diverse youth subcultures, mainstream religious institutions, and in some cases, their families or local communities of origin.
I have previously discussed the “woke” phenomenon in many other contexts: https://attackthesystem.com/2023/01/12/can-anyone-define-woke-as-in-wokeness/
But, for purposes of the present discussion, it is sufficient to say that the influence of the “woke” framework is readily apparent in anarchist subcultures. Nor is this merely a recent phenomenon. For example, the statement below is taken from a 2009 blog post by a left-wing anarchist who described their experiences in anarchist circles, and the pervasiveness of authoritarian progressive influences to be found there:
“I used to be an anarcho-communist. Actually, I started out as someone who was vaguely sympathetic to mainstream libertarianism but could never fully embrace it due to the perceived economic implications. I eventually drifted to social anarchism thanks to someone who’s name I won’t mention, because it’s too embarrassing.
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.”
It does not necessarily imply that this moral paradigm would be the most prevalent within the context of either “decentralist anarchy,” “world domination anarchism,” or both. For instance, the prevailing social outlook could potentially align more closely with mystical Christian anarchism as espoused by Tolstoy, the anarcho-Catholic social conservatism advocated by Dorothy Day, or the focus on familial or particularist sentiments expressed by Proudhon. Another possibility includes embracing the individualistic philosophies of Stirner, Spooner, or Tucker. The prevailing philosophical or ethical standpoint in future anarchist societies might be derived from Buddhism, Taoism, Stoicism, Judaism, Jainism, Sufism, or native traditions.
Vast territories could emerge where industrial technology has been largely abandoned, with simultaneous human colonies established in oceanic, subterranean, or extraterrestrial environments. Communities might form dedicated to embodying the values and ideals of beloved novels, television shows, film series, or renowned utopian works from the past. There are also various forms of “right-wing anarchism” that display a similar inclination towards hybridization and incorporating external influences. Examples include anarcho-capitalism, national-anarchism, anarcho-monarchism, anarcho-feudalism, anarcho-conservatism, anarcho-masculinism, and even anarcho-fascism. However, regardless of individual or collective moral and philosophical preferences, these ideals would need to be realized outside the realm of statism, centralism, authoritarianism, or imperialism in order to maintain an authentically anarchist nature.
In my own perspective, decentralized, stateless, autonomous, or voluntarily federated anarchist networks will reflect a multitude of cultural frameworks, as identified by Fitzpatrick’s “polycultural” model. The best historical example of this is seen in the numerous indigenous societies that existed across all continents prior to the emergence of states in Mesopotamia around 5500 years ago. Additional examples include the infinite variety of sects within the world’s religious traditions, the diverse subcultures dedicated to food, music, sports, entertainment, and various other activities, as well as the endless variations found within Internet subcultures. However, it is certainly worthwhile to engage in discussions on what optimal micro-level anarchist practices could entail.
Ian Mayes and Utopian Anarchism
In a couple of posts on the ParenthesisEye blogsite titled “Envisioning Utopian Anarchism” and “Imagining Utopian Anarchist Communities,” Mayes presents an approach to anarchist theory and philosophy that places emphasis on the micro-level aspects of social life. Mayes notes that constructing frameworks for an ideal society involves four fundamental areas of consideration: individual needs and desires, interpersonal relationships, institutional and organizational structures, and the means by which people fulfill their physical and material needs. These observations align with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which forms the foundation of humanistic psychology and many modern psychological and psychotherapeutic approaches. Mayes identifies four key influences that have shaped his own understanding of “utopian anarchism”: Manfred Max-Neef’s concept of fundamental human needs and human scale development, Buckminster Fuller’s comprehensive anticipatory design science, utopian socialism and the resulting utopian communities, and Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication framework. Mayes then proposes ten core principles that reflect the ideals of utopian anarchism:
- Having an idealized positive vision for the desired society.
- Developing a comprehensive understanding of the underlying systems and structures that enable such a society.
- Focusing on creating happy, healthy, and harmonious individuals.
- Striving to eliminate all forms of domination, emphasizing voluntary cooperation and sharing to meet needs.
- Addressing personal growth, relationships, group structures, and the physical environment simultaneously.
- Incorporating various anarchist critiques while primarily focusing on the positive end goal.
- Building a foundation on open, honest, considerate, and thoughtful conversations that recognize and express personal and others’ needs.
- Recognizing, using, creating, and discarding social constructs without being bound by them.
- Acknowledging that diverse visions can still enable sufficient cooperation.
- Encouraging voluntary associations based on individual choices.
Mayes also proposes ten core practices that would contribute to realizing these principles:
- Egalitarian income-sharing intentional communities.
- Vipassana meditation practice.
- Empathic listening exchanges.
- Restorative/Transformative Justice for addressing harm.
- Convergent Facilitation for group decision-making.
- Decentralized organizational structures.
- Fundamental human needs assessments.
- The Co-Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.
- Group size based on Dunbar’s Number.
- Student-centered learning.
These ideas draw from a wide range of scholarly and popular sources, demonstrating a comprehensive approach. Mayes’ efforts address social, cultural, personal, and interpersonal considerations, similar to how Carson focuses on economic alternatives and Srinivasan presents an alternative political vision. As Fitzpatrick highlights, cultural variations within anarchistic societies will be diverse, but the question remains: which approaches would yield the most optimal results? For instance, in the absence of a monopolistic system of law and governance, how would interpersonal disputes be resolved? The issue of education also arises, with concerns regarding both public and private schooling systems. What would be the ideal approach to education that avoids rigid ideological frameworks? Similar questions arise regarding familial relationships and the protection of children from abuse. Critics of anarchism often argue that without the state, there would be no organized and reliable means of providing for vulnerable individuals. Crime is another challenge, with concerns about community and individual protection. “Utopian anarchism” presents a model for addressing these challenges at the micro-level, aiming to maximize routine functionality in basic social relations.
Hans Widmer and bolo’bolo Revisited
In the early 1980s, the Swiss writer Hans Widmer created a fictional portrayal of a future world where the primary form of social organization consists of “bolos” or utopian communes. Each bolo represents a small group reflecting the preferred cultural or lifestyle orientation of its inhabitants.
“In a larger city, we could find the following bolos: Alco-bolo, Sym-bolo, Sado-bolo, Maso-bolo, Vegi-bolo, Les-bolo, Franko-bolo, Italo-bolo, Play-bolo, No-bolo, Retro-bolo, Thai-bolo, Sun-bolo, Blue-bolo, Paleo-bolo, Dia-bolo, Punk-bolo, Proto-bolo, Krishna-bolo, Taro-bolo, Jesu-bolo, Tao-bolo, Para-bolo, Pussy-bolo, Marl-bolo, Necro-bolo, Basket-bolo, Coca-bolo, Incapa-bolo, HighTech-bolo, Indio-bolo, Alp-bolo, Mono-bolo, Metro-bolo, Acro-bolo, Soho-bolo, Herb-bolo, Macho-bolo, Hebro-bolo, Ara-bolo, Freak-bolo, Straight-bolo, Pyramido-bolo, Marx-bolo, Sol-bolo, Tara-bolo, Uto-bolo, Sparta-bolo, Bala-bolo, Gam-bolo, Tri-bolo, Logo-bolo, Mago-bolo, Anarcho-bolo, Eco-bolo, Dada-bolo, Digito-bolo, Subur-bolo, Bom-bolo, Hyper-bolo, Rasle-bolo, etc. Moreover, there are also just good old regular bolos, where people live normal, reasonable and healthy lives (whatever those are).”
Widmer’s vision can be described as depicting “infinite diversity in infinite combinations,” to borrow a phrase from a famous science fiction franchise. His suggested networks of polymorphous bolos reflect a macro-level application of Mayes’ micro-level “utopian anarchist” approach. Models of social organization akin to Widmer’s proposals could potentially provide an infrastructure for education, safety, elder care, child care, and community maintenance (e.g., garbage collection) without relying on the coercive mechanisms of the state, including taxation and prohibition. Networks of such bolos might also handle functions requiring a larger scale, such as transportation systems and public utilities. Widmer’s work is significant in acknowledging the impracticality of universalist models of social organization and rejecting the need for ideological compulsion or conformity:
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 perspective initially presented by Widmer, decades ago, aligns with Fitzpatrick’s emphasis on the importance of differentiating between “decentralist anarchy” on one hand and “world domination” or “worldwide wokeness” on the other hand. It acknowledges that the latter may often be incompatible with the former.
Pananarchism, Anarchism Without Adjectives, and Anarchist Economics
Indeed, concepts like “bolos” provide a framework for facilitating the peaceful coexistence of culturally incompatible groups without any group tyrannizing over the others. This is especially true when combined with the broader panarchic “network states” model proposed by Balaji Srinivasan. Aviezer Tucker, in a review of Srinivasan’s work, highlights this aspect.
Srinivasan’s refounding of the state on an explicit contractual, non-territorial basis is not a new idea, despite his reliance on cutting-edge technologies. Well before Srinivasan, the economist and botanist Paul-Emile de Puydt had laid out, in an article published in Brussels in 1860, the concept of non-territorial states founded on explicit social contracts. De Puydt called this new concept Panarchy. De Puydt’s article reads as if it was written yesterday because in1860, Belgium was a divided society between Flemish and Walloons, Republicans and Monarchists, Liberals and Conservatives, Catholics and Protestants. As in today’s America, a territorial division within Belgium was impossible because the communities were mixed geographically. De Puydt wanted to found a political order that allows people with radically different values to live together, and avoid a civil war. He suggested that alternative non-territorial states could coexist on the same physical territory on the basis of explicit social contracts-constitutions. In theory, low exit costs would facilitate competition between states over customer-citizens and thus result in better political services.
The “flags of anarchism” are numerous, potentially numbering in the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands. The concept of “anarchism without adjectives,” originally developed by classical anarchists Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and Ricardo Mella, aimed to create an unhyphenated form of anarchism. As noted by George Richard Esenwein, it was a doctrine without qualifying labels such as communist, collectivist, mutualist, or individualist, and instead focused on an attitude that allowed for the coexistence of different anarchist schools. As Voltairine de Cleyre suggested:
There is nothing un-Anarchistic about any of [these systems] until the element of compulsion enters and obliges unwilling persons to remain in a community whose economic arrangements they do not agree to. (When I say ‘do not agree to’ I do not mean that they have a mere distaste for…I mean serious differences which in their opinion threaten their essential liberties…)…Therefore I say that each group of persons acting socially in freedom may choose any of the proposed systems, and be just as thorough-going Anarchists as those who select another.
Likewise, Max Nettlau characterized anarchism without adjectives as a framework in which individuals might participate in multiple economic systems simultaneously:
Let me imagine myself for a moment living in a free society. I should certainly have different occupations, manual and mental, requiring strength or skill. It would be very monotonous if the three or four groups with whom I would work (for I hope there will be no Syndicates then!) would be organized on exactly the same lines; I rather think that different degrees or forms of Communism will prevail in them. But might I not become tired of this, and wish for a spell of relative isolation, of Individualism? So I might turn to one of the many possible forms of “equal exchange” Individualism. Perhaps people will do one thing when they are young and another thing when they grow older. Those who are but indifferent workers may continue with their groups; those who are efficient will lose patience at always working with beginners and will go ahead by themselves, unless a very altruist disposition makes it a pleasure to them to act as teachers or advisers to younger people. I also think that at the beginning I should adopt Communism with friends and Individualism with strangers, and shape my future life according to experience. Thus, a free and easy change from one variety of Communism to another, thence to any variety of Individualism, and so on, would be the most obvious and elementary thing in a really free society; and if any group of people tried to check this, to make one system predominant, they would be as bitterly fought as revolutionists fight the present system.”
Nettlau’s support for panarchism extended the concept of “anarchism without adjectives,” allowing for the coexistence of not only various anarchist schools of thought but also different political systems and ideologies. As anarchist movements and philosophies continue to gain influence, anarchists of all kinds may find themselves in situations where coexistence with followers of other philosophies becomes necessary. Even in societies where anarchism is the prevailing ideology, there will be political and other minority groups that cannot be suppressed if anarchist principles, norms, and values are to be consistently upheld.
The “World Domination Anarchism” of Crimethinc
Regrettably, as Fitzpatrick has highlighted, a significant number of left-wing anarchists seem to lack a crucial understanding. This is evident in a document published on the Crimethinc website in 2020, which exhibits certain limitations. However, it should be noted that the document does contain elements that align with anarchist concepts. To illustrate this, consider the following:
Anarchists take a different approach: rather than offering a prefabricated blueprint, we propose to work things out together, dynamically, according to the principles of self-determination, horizontality, mutual aid, and solidarity…
Anarchists, Indigenous and otherwise, favor models of decolonization that break with colonial logics and repudiate nation-states, ethnic essentialism, punitive and genocidal practices, and mere reforms regarding who holds state power…
So far, so good. But the manifesto subsequently offers perspectives of a more problematic nature.
All “Man Camps” will be disbanded immediately, and resources will be dedicated to helping find missing Indigenous women and two-spirit people…
Universities, museums, and other institutions will return all bodies, body parts, art, and artifacts stolen from Indigenous communities…
Communities in countries that maintained external colonial projects (e.g., the United Kingdom, Spain, France) will facilitate a large-scale transfer of useful resources expropriated from their abolished governments, the wealthy, and institutions that existed to serve the wealthy (e.g., private hospitals). These resources will go to communities in the ex-colonies…
Communities of people largely descended from the survivors of slavery are right to take over large landholdings that had previously been plantations, as well as the excess wealth of families and institutions that profited off of slave labor. This redistribution should be carried out on a communal rather than an individual basis, to avoid encouraging identitarian processes that declare individuals legitimate or illegitimate based on abstract criteria…
Historically racialized neighborhoods that have been gentrified may be reclaimed…
Because many neighborhoods, before gentrification, are in fact quite diverse and working class people of all races can lose their homes, those who are involved in housing and anti-racist struggles at the time of the revolution may form assemblies to organize the process of inviting people back into reclaimed neighborhoods…
People in neighborhoods that are infrastructurally unsound or unsanitary, that suffer from environmental racism or other harmful effects that will continue causing health problems into the foreseeable future, may expropriate and move into wealthy neighborhoods (preferentially targeting the wealthiest). The prior residents of those neighborhoods may move into the vacated, substandard neighborhood with an eye towards improving it through their own effort, or they may move into other unused housing, of which there is plenty, thanks to capitalist real estate markets…
Weapons taken from the disbanded police and military will be distributed among Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities, and to volunteer militias that fought unambiguously on the anti-racist side during the entirety of the revolutionary conflict…
Evicting people from their houses is an emotionally traumatizing act that we do not want to form a part of the world we are building. However, many historically oppressed communities find themselves living in situations that directly shorten their lives, whereas the ostentatious housing of rich people represents generations of accumulated plunder; in those cases, it is better for them to take the housing of those who profited off their misery than to continue in misery. Under capitalism, there is no inalienable right to remain in a particular house, and we are not carrying out a revolution in order to give rights to rich people they did not even claim under their own chosen system….
The aforementioned statements are just a few examples of the numerous comments found in the Crimethinc manifesto. Notably absent is an exploration of who would be responsible for issuing orders to carry out the actions mentioned in the quotes above. Who would be tasked with instructing not only “communities” but entire nations to engage in large-scale economic and social reconstruction according to specified guidelines? The Crimethinc program resembles a conventional Communist manifesto, and one that also entails elements akin to ethnic cleansing. Such actions would likely result in a racial/ethnic civil war, with unfavorable outcomes for ethnic minorities and others. At best, the Crimethinc perspective aligns with what Fitzpatrick refers to as “world domination anarchism.”
Forceful, large-scale resource transfers and population movements are clearly incompatible with broader anarchist principles, regardless of their intended goals or attempts to rectify historical injustices. A serious anarchist economic program would instead focus on dismantling laws and state policies that centralize control over wealth, property, and resources. In anarchism, control over resources would be determined through localized agreements among localized groups, rather than following a prescribed central plan for large-scale social or economic reorganization. Economic self-mobilization offers a parallel possibility, encompassing anarcho-syndicalist unions, cooperative enterprises, partnerships, individual and family businesses, communes, collectives, clubs, barter networks, mutual banks, localized units of exchange, community land trusts, ecovillages, and various other avenues that anarchists have speculated about. However, any serious approach to anarchism cannot involve proto-central planning, incipient “mass socialism,” implicit authoritarian statism, or calls for racial and ethnic retribution as seen in the Crimethinc program.
Walter Block and Defending the Undefendable
The anarcho-capitalist theorist Walter Block has authored a trilogy of books centered around the concept of “Defending the Undefendable,” which highlights the areas where proclaimed anti-statists often lack consistency. To illustrate this concept, Block has identified various categories of economic or social scapegoats, which are listed below. The initial volume of “Defending the Undefendable” was initially published in 1976, followed by subsequent volumes in 2013 and 2021. These three volumes feature categorical listings that include the following:
|billionaires, the bankrupt, predatory lenders, anti-egalitarians, End the Fed supporters, pet hating landlords, zoning renouncers, housing rights repudiators, counterfeiters, misers, inheritors, moneylenders, noncontributors to charity
|prostitutes, pimps, male chauvinist pigs, drug pushers, drug addicts, smokers, human-organ merchants, breast-milk substitute purveyors,||labor union opponents, precarious labor employers, housewife non-payers,||federalists, anarchists, the election purchasers, flag burners, demagogues, yellow journalists, blasphemers, blackmailer, slanderer and libelers, deniers of academic freedom, advertisers, the person who yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater
|metric protestors, cultural appropriators, religious broadcasters, motor vehicle department deriders, Sunday shoppers,|
|water sellers, illegal immigrants, free traders, car warriors, foreign aid denigrators, dumpers, redliners, Airbnbers, gentrifiers, holdouts, evictors, rent control adversaries, entrepreneurs, stripminers,
|topless in public, polygamous marriages, burning bed, group marriage participants, straight white males, Jessica Yaniv, adulterers, front law nudists, host mothers, rape forgivers,||minimum wage challengers, academic tenure deniers, work sharers, jury refusers, self-dealers,
|haters, obese disparagers, pay gappers, beard belittlers, diversity demeanors, wage stagnationists, gigsters, (voluntary!) slave owners,||boosters, NBA-NFL-MLB eliminators, Olympic drug takers, Olympic commercializers,
|business license rejecters, bankers, curmudgeons, slumlords, ghetto merchants, speculators, importers, middlemen, profiteers
|socialized medicine debasers, ambulance chasers, FDA challengers, gene editors,
|hatchet men, home-workers, picket-line crossers, daycare provider, automators||sexists, peeping Toms, ageists, homophobes, stereotypers, litterers, wastemakers
|bad Samaritans, duelists, executioners, dwarf throwers, intellectual property deniers|
|multinational enterprisers, smugglers, British petroleum, nuclear energy, corporate raiders||evictionists, gay conversionists, drug price raisers, non-licensed doctors,
suicide instigators, prescription drug violators,
|fat capitalist-pig employers, scabs, rate busters, employers of child labor
|gypsy cab drivers, ticket scalper, dishonest cops
|war toy manufacturers, colorizers, baby sellers, heritage building destroyers|
Undoubtedly, there is room for disagreement regarding many of these identifications. For instance, left-wing anarchists would reasonably argue that billionaires and multinational corporations owe their existence largely to state intervention, making them beneficiaries of state action. Strip mining often occurs on land that has been seized from others, including indigenous communities, by the state. Furthermore, from an even more anarchist perspective, additional categories could be included, such as Starbucks vandals, Nazi-punchers, individuals who reject bathing, eco-terrorists, squatters, shoplifters, those who choose not to attend school, alien smugglers, campus rioters, animal liberation activists, workplace saboteurs, bank robbers, lazy employees, delinquent tenants, internet doxxers, drum circle leaders, unlicensed cat sanctuary caretakers, public library sink bathers, and affluent individuals who use food shelves. Nevertheless, the general sentiment expressed by Block aligns with an anarchist perspective. Otherwise, anarchists risk being co-opted by statism or laying the groundwork for the resurgence of statism through a gradual erosion of principles. However, this does not imply that perceived issues associated with the categories and identifications outlined by Block (or others) cannot be addressed through non-statist means such as direct action, strikes, boycotts, social ostracism, territorial autonomy, collective mobilization, dual power, counter-economics, and other potential approaches.
There is no consensus, among scholars or the general public, anarchists or non-anarchists, regarding the true nature of anarchism as a political philosophy. The most comprehensive and historically accurate definition might be Alejandro de Acosta’s description of anarchism as “a decentralized federation of philosophies, practices, and ways of life, forged in different communities and affirming diverse geohistories.” Almost every conceivable idea has been paired with “anarcho-” at some point in history. Anarchism has been intertwined with various philosophical, ethical, religious, cultural, economic, and political currents, and anarchists have advocated for a wide range of tactics to advance their goals. It could be argued that there are as many types of anarchism as there are other ideologies combined. Consequently, anarchists often fall victim to sectarianism and internal conflicts. Some anarchists have proposed solutions to this situation, such as “anarchism without adjectives,” “panarchism,” or “anarchism without hyphens.” However, these umbrella perspectives tend to become another form of hyphenated anarchism.
A parallel issue is that many anarchists prioritize the hyphen over the “anarcho-” element. For example, a Green anarchist identifies as an environmentalist first, a “workerist” anarchist prioritizes workers’ issues, and a feminist anarchist focuses primarily on feminism. This is not inherently problematic, as it helps spread anarchist ideas across various political, cultural, and economic contexts. However, it hinders anarchists from developing a comprehensive critique of existing institutions or power dynamics, as well as a coherent action plan. Perhaps meta-level critiques or strategic formulations are unnecessary, and individual anarchist groups can focus on their preferred micro-level or intermediary-level objectives.
It is possible to identify a set of core principles that are reasonably essential to the anarchist meta-paradigm, including anti-statism, individual liberty, free association, voluntary pluralism, decentralized local autonomy, voluntary cooperation, bottom-up federalism, mutual aid, rejection of unnecessary or unjust hierarchies and coercion, and broader concepts like “solidarity,” “horizontality,” and “self-determination” referenced in the Crimethinc program. Additional principles might include a general preference for personal and collective autonomy, workers’ democracy or cooperative production systems, direct action, an anti-authoritarian bias, adherence to the “non-aggression principle,” opposition to state warfare, censorship, military conscription, and civil libertarianism.
Other qualifiers could involve social equality in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation, animal rights, environmentalism, the right to personal property or possessions, opposition to censorship, or even the “right to bear arms” and a preference for non-state defense or protection organizations. Of course, anarchists strongly disagree on which principles are most essential, which ones may conflict with other anarchist principles, and which ones should be prioritized in practice. While most anarchists argue that anti-capitalism is integral to anarchism, there are fundamental disagreements among anarchists about the definition of capitalism. Some anarchists consider atheism (or alternatively, some form of religious perspective) or pacifism as critical components of anarchist theory or practice.
A significant theoretical and practical problem with most forms of hyphenated anarchism is the tendency for hyphenated anarchists to compromise with statism in the pursuit of their hyphenated agendas. As previously discussed, this leads many anarchists, both left and right, to become essentially “anarcho-statists.” The development of stronger forms of anarchism faces a fundamental psychological obstacle. Many anarchists have not fully shed the mythology of the state from their own psyche. They still perceive the state as a potentially benevolent paternal figure (the traditionalist view) or as a protective embodiment of a mystical “general will” or “social contract” (the modernist view). This problem primarily stems from their attitudes. Many self-proclaimed “anarchists,” “libertarians,” “anti-authoritarians,” or “anti-statists” have not reached the point where they firmly assert, “Situation X is terrible or Behavior Y is deplorable, but the state should not intervene in any way.”
Anarchists must cultivate an attitude towards statism that mirrors the attitude held towards a specific type of statism, namely German National Socialism (Nazism). It is widely agreed upon, both morally and philosophically, that Nazi Germany was an inherently villainous state due to its foundation on aggressive warfare and genocide. However, can we not perceive a lesser version of the same ethos in the majority of states throughout history? Was the Third Reich not merely the culmination of centuries of military conquest, economic exploitation, ethnic cleansing, and cultural eradication associated with colonialism and imperialism? Can we not view the 19th-century American “Manifest Destiny” as a variation of lebensraum embraced by English gentlemen? Do not the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution and the genocides, wars, purges, concentration camps, famines, and police states of 20th-century Communist regimes serve as sufficient evidence that humanity must never seek liberation or salvation through the state? Is this not the perpetual trajectory of states since their inception in the Ancient Near East? The remnants of statist influence in anarchist circles seem to stem from a succession of political philosophies that emerged between the 17th and 20th centuries, including liberalism, socialism, progressivism, what I have termed “totalitarian humanism,” and the broader intellectual paradigms of modernism and postmodernism. These frameworks have been absorbed to varying degrees into the ideological superstructure of ruling classes in the developed world.
Toward a New Enlightenment
Anarchists may consider working towards a pan-civilizational transformation comparable to significant historical periods such as the Axial Age, the rise of Christianity and Islam, or the Enlightenment for several reasons. Anarchism advocates for individual liberty and the dismantling of oppressive systems of power. A pan-civilizational transformation would aim to free individuals from the chains of authoritarianism, hierarchies, and oppressive institutions, fostering a society that prioritizes freedom and autonomy. Major historical shifts like the Axial Age, the rise of major religions, or the Enlightenment brought about significant changes in dominant cultural, social, and political paradigms. Anarchists may strive for a similar transformation to challenge and dismantle current oppressive structures and ideologies, paving the way for more equitable and just societies.
Anarchism emphasizes the importance of solidarity among individuals and communities. A pan-civilizational transformation seeks to foster global solidarity by transcending geographical, cultural, and religious boundaries. It aims to unite people around common principles of freedom, equality, and cooperation, fostering a sense of shared humanity. Today’s world faces numerous global challenges such as climate change, economic inequality, social injustice, and political instability. Anarchists working towards a pan-civilizational transformation recognize the need for collaborative efforts and collective action on a global scale to address these pressing issues and build a more sustainable and just world. Engaging in a transformative movement that encompasses diverse civilizations and cultures provides an opportunity for the evolution and expansion of anarchist ideas.
By embracing the insights and experiences of different traditions and perspectives, anarchists can enrich their understanding of freedom, power, and social organization, contributing to the development of a more comprehensive and inclusive anarchist philosophy. It is important to note that the pursuit of a pan-civilizational transformation does not imply imposing a single ideology or worldview on diverse cultures and societies. Instead, it involves fostering dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect among different communities, allowing for the emergence of a decentralized, pluralistic, and self-organized global society based on anarchist principles.
Categories: Activism, Anarchism/Anti-State, Strategy
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