by Keith Preston
Whenever I write on the subject of race, I always feel compelled to include evidence of my own anti-racist credentials. Race is a subject where frank but civil discussion is all but impossible in contemporary society. I am always amused by the “hate” mail that I get from knee-jerk racist fanatics and knee-jerk anti-racist fanatics alike. One group calls me “nigger-lover” while the other labels me a “fascist”. These juvenile slurs reflect the simple-mindedness of those who hurl them rather than any sort of accurate perception of my actual views.
My earliest political activism involved opposition to South African apartheid and the American war against the civilian populations of the Central American nations in the 1980s. I opposed apartheid because, then as now, I viewed it as an arrangement where one particular ethnic group was using its control over the state to suppress others, much like the current situation in contemporary Palestine. The apartheid regimes headed by P.W. Botha and F.W. De Klerk were de facto American puppets that served as outposts for U.S. ruling class interests on the African continent. The apartheid government was also pro-Zionist and sought to become nuclear armed with the help of Israel. Like my then-comrades on the American left, I believed the white South African regime had to go. Unlike my then-comrades, I always opposed the coming to power of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party. Throughout those years, I would warn my cohorts on the left that these elements would simply replace a tyrannical white fascist government with a tyrannical black communist one a la Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. I gave my own support to the Congress Of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a mixed race, anti-communist, anti-statist labor federation organized on the old anarcho-syndicalist model. I favored the political solution of Leon Leouw and Frances Kendall, a black and white South African respectively, who won a Nobel Prize for their book, After Apartheid. Their proposal involved the creation of a neutral South Africa that would be aligned with neither the United States nor the Soviet Union. A Swiss-style canton system would be established, with there being some black cantons, some white cantons, cantons for other ethnic groups, and racially mixed cantons. Different cantons could have different forms of government, from communism to free-market liberalism. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
I took similar positions regarding Central America. I favored victory for the FMLN guerrillas of El Salvador not because I was thrilled with their politics, but because they were the only available alternative to the U.S.-backed terrorist regime, which received $1.5 million dollars in American aid daily and practiced Pol Pot-style genocide against the rural population of the country. In Nicaragua, I supported the Sandinista regime against the CIA-created National Democratic Front, a terrorist group of former Somocistas who regularly massacred entire villages as part of their destabilization campaign. However, I also supported anti-Sandinista resistance forces. These included Miskito Indians, who had suffered land confiscation and massacres at the hands of the Sandinista army, black Protestants in the western region seeking autonomy from the Hispanic Catholic dominated government in Managua, peasants forced to work on state-owned collective farms seeking land of their own, and dissident Sandinistas, like Eden Pastora, who opposed the monopoly on power of the nine-man junta who controlled the Ortega regime.
I relate all of this obscure and seemingly irrelevant history to illustrate something I began to learn about the orthodox left during that time. My views in those days originated from my desire to see liberty triumph in those troubled nations. However, I soon realized that most of my leftist cohorts were interested not in the victory of liberty but in the victory of Communism and anti-white racism. Unfortunately, this was as true of the so-called “anarchist” factions of the left as it was of the more explicitly Marxist left. Hysterical “anti-racism”, mirroring the hysterical “anti-communism” of the traditional right, has become the foremost article of faith of the leftist-anarchist movement. Clearly, a more nuanced approach is sorely needed. Race relations in the United States are rapidly deteriorating. Historical evidence indicates that the eventual fate of multi-ethnic empires, of which the United States is one, is typically quite unpleasant. Informed and insightful commentators, such as Thomas Chittum (1), have pointed out similarities between the circumstances that led to brutal ethnic wars in the former Yugoslavia and Central Africa and the current state of race relations in America. Thus far, the anarchist movement has failed miserably as far as the need to develop a cogent and coherent analysis of the racial situation in this country is concerned. Simply repeating archaic Leninist rhetoric about white supremacist conspiracies will not do.
The central issue in developing a solid anarchist position on racial questions involves the matter of the relationship between race and state. To examine this matter thoroughly, we have to go back to the beginnings of the American nation. Most historians do not recognize that there were essentially two American Revolutions in the late eighteenth century. Anarchists are typically aware of the two revolutions that occurred in Russian in 1917. The first, the March Revolution, brought the republic of Alexander Kerensky to power. The second, the October Revolution, brought the Communist regime of V.I. Lenin to power after a military coup initiated by the Bolshevik Party and its henchmen in the Red Army deposed the Kerensky government. Similarly, the American Revolution of 1776 involved a populist revolt against the British colonial governments in the thirteen original American states. The result was the Articles of Confederation, a highly decentralized, largely libertarian regime, whose central body lacked the power of taxation. Pro-worker and pro-farmer governments were often elected at the state level. It has been said, for example, that the Articles-era government of Pennsylvania was as close to a “dictatorship of the proletariat” as has ever existed in America.
The Articles of Confederation government was destroyed when the centralized federal regime was created by Alexander Hamilton and his cronies. The Hamiltonians represented northeastern mercantile, shipping, and banking interests, which desired a state-capitalist central government with which to advance their own economic interests. The powers delegated to the new federal government included the creation of a central navy to protect commercial vessels from pirate ships, subsidies to infrastructure, a central state monopoly on the issuance of currency to constrict the supply of capital, uniform bankruptcy laws to be imposed upon the states (state bankruptcy laws were regarded as too favorable to debtors), the creation of a large state-mandated “free trade area” for commercial interests, tariffs for the furtherance of mercantilist ambitions, monopoly privileges imposed by a patent system and other features of a mercantilist, state-capitalist infrastructure (2). In its very essence, the federal government of the United States was established to be a state-capitalist class dictatorship from the very beginning.
The opponents of the creation of the federal government, the so-called “anti-federalists”, included some of the most prominent, and most radical, early American revolutionaries such as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Henry refused to serve in the US Senate out of his objection to the federal regime. Jefferson, in particular, was harshly anti-federalist and offered a radical decentralist alternative to both the federal regime and the state governments alike. He proposed “dividing the counties into wards” in the several states, under a system of populist community self-management with a meritocratic, natural aristocracy of philosophers, intellectuals, and scientists serving as societal leaders. Jefferson also opposed central banking and warned of the potential dangers posed by the then-nascent industrial capitalist class. He favored the elimination of slavery and the creation of sovereign states for freed slaves in the territories west of the thirteen colonies. Jefferson also opposed a standing military and seriously downsized the US military forces during his term as president. He seems to have retained his radical decentralist views even during his term as President, which he accepted only to prevent the arch-reactionary Hamilton from achieving the position. Jefferson was about as close to an anarchist as existed among the intellectual classes in those days.
To understand the implications of all of this for contemporary racial issues, we can imagine how American society would have evolved if Jefferson’s views had prevailed in his day. If slavery had been abolished along with the British colonial occupation and blacks given their own land and a chance for free development, race relations would obviously have begun on a much more equitable footing in this country. If the federal government had not been created in the first place, there would have been no centralized state for northern capitalist interests to obtain control over and impose tyrannical tariffs and economic discrimination on the agricultural southern states. Without slavery and the Tariff of Abominations, there would have been no Civil War, with its 625,000 casualties and the subsequent consolidation of a nationalist regime and the elimination of states’ sovereignty. Even if slavery had not been abolished following the 1776 revolution, without a federal government there would have been no Fugitive Slave Laws, and abolitionist sympathizers in the north would have been able to harbor escaped slaves if they desired (3). Enclaves for liberated slaves could have been formed in the regions bordering the slave states and in sparsely populated areas of the south. These might have been used as launching points for guerrilla efforts against the slavocracy. In fact, the early American anarchist Lysander Spooner once drew up a plan of precisely this type (4).
Without the federal government, there would have been no American invasion of the 1850s and seizure of a third of the Mexican nation. There would have been no land-grabbing of Indian territory. Western migration would have taken place anyway, but it would have been slower and done on more equitable terms with the Indian nations. Skirmishes between whites and Indians still would have occurred, but these would have been localized conflicts, akin to the inner-city gang wars of today. The unconstitutional annexation of the sovereign Republic of Texas by the United States would not have taken place. The absence of a centralized state would have rendered the centralization of wealth that led to the monopoly capitalism of the robber baron-era impossible. America would have remained a nation of small producers in a decentralized economy. Without the rise of the nationalist, mercantilist state and monopoly capitalism, there would have been no abandonment of traditional American neutrality (“isolationism”) for the sake of capitalist interests in the Spanish-American War. There would have been no American entry into World War One, and therefore no destruction of imperial Germany, no Treaty of Versailles, no Hitler, no World War Two, no Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, no destruction of continental Europe and Japan, no Cold War, no arms race, no American hegemony, no Korea or Vietnam, no military-industrial complex, no New World Order.
If our ancestors had applied their revolutionary ideals more consistently, America would today be a decentralized federation of sovereign territories and communities with a worker-farmer-inventor-artisan-merchant dominated economy with localized production for local use. We would have a Swiss-style neutralist foreign policy and a local militia-based defense force. The eastern and northern regions of the country would be predominately white, with moderate assimilation by other ethnic groups, bordered by prosperous southern and midwestern enclaves and territories dominated primarily by blacks, with largely harmonious trade and cultural relations taking place between the races. The southwest would be Mexican territory, highly prosperous because of its mineral wealth, with a large population of whites who serve as the region’s primary technical workers. Texas would be a sovereign nation and an important trading partner. The west and northwest would be inhabited by a large Indian population mixed with a large white merchant class. There would be no corporate-dominated command economy, no bureaucratized welfare state, no crime-ridden urban ghettos, no prison-industrial complex, no police state, no wave of political and economic refugees pouring across the border, no international imperial system, or many of the other countless disasters facing America today.
Now let us imagine a scenario where the US federal regime miraculously and wonderfully disappears. That would be the end of the New World Order, dependent as it is on its principal benefactor in the person of the US federal state. No more foreign wars and imperialism; no more military-industrial complex; no more federal police state; no subsidies to corporate interests; no central banking scheme; no welfare state;, no Department of Education; no media monopoly created by federal broadcast licensing schemes; no destruction of the economic and social infrastructure of local communities via federal “urban development” programs; no urban reservations of public housing; no federal highway system and its various accompanying subsidies; no federal drug war and prison system. Most of the major US corporations would collapse, with production being taken over by workers, communities, or local entrepreneurial groups. Stable local currencies backed by a precious metal standard would emerge. Control over the media would largely be localized. Schools, whether “public” or private, would be under local control. Military units would either be dismantled, converted to local militias, or contracted out as mercenaries. Federal gestapo agents, such as those of the BATF or DEA, would have to get real jobs, assuming they were not killed in the upheaval.
What would the implications of all of this be for racial and cultural relations and immigration policy? The elimination of the welfare state and federal efforts to destroy urban economic life and social fabrics would, over time, bring about increased self-sufficiency and higher economic output for urban minority communities, with a subsequent reduction in crime and chaos. Federal laws prohibiting racial discrimination or implementing affirmative action programs would no longer exist, so whites could form racially homogeneous communities and institutions if they wished. However, state activities that serve as a source of artificial privilege for whites would be eliminated. Many affluent whites obtain their positions by staffing state and corporate bureaucracies, which would disappear with the elimination of the state apparatus. So the combination of higher productivity by blacks and fewer entitlements for whites would tend to equalize the overall distribution of economic resources among the racial groups. Decentralization of local and regional political institutions would allow for the achievement of cultural sovereignty by many diverse groups. Instead of the countless lawsuits and endless debates about “rights” that transpire today, groups with different interests would simply go their own way rather that battle one another over the control of central power. Depending on local preferences, some schools would have prayers, sex education, or bilingual education, while others would not. Rural southern towns and counties might continue to honor their Confederate heritage. Separate black municipalities in urban areas might instead celebrate historic black leaders or African culture. Blacks who wished to do so could have their own schools where “Afro-centric” education was emphasized, while whites might have schools with a “Euro-centric” orientation. Mutual trade and voluntary economic interaction would tend to harmonize overall social relations between divergent cultural groups.
What about immigration? This would largely be a local matter. Requirements for “citizenship” or “naturalization” would be determined according to community standards, as is currently the case in Switzerland. Immigration policies could be as restrictive as or as open-ended as local communities desired. There would be no federal entitlements to lure immigrants from poor nations to North America. They would be no federally imposed barriers to discrimination by those who did not wish to associate with newcomers. There would be no NAFTA-like arrangements to transport American jobs to nations with more readily exploitable labor. Indeed, under an economic order established largely on the principle of worker control of production, there would be no financial incentives for the type of disruptive “corporate globalization” currently taking place. American workers would not ship their own jobs overseas. Similarly, workers who control their own industries would not throw themselves out of work in order to employ cheap immigrant labor. Political and economic incentives for mass immigration would not be necessary. There would be no need for police state organizations such as the INS or the Border Patrol. Invasive immigration could be controlled by local militias.
On this last point, let me say that I recognize that many anarchists of the leftist variety view any and all forms of discrimination of a cultural or ethnic variety or all opposition to unlimited immigration to be a form of racist oppression. The hypocrisy of this position can be demonstrated easily enough. Let us imagine that tomorrow the entire population of New York City suddenly undergoes a mass conversion to anarcho-communism. The Big Apple is subsequently converted into a mass leftist-anarchist commune. What entry or residency requirements would be established for such a political body? Would any and all comers be welcome regardless of beliefs, behavior, or economic output? Hardly. More likely, members of those cultural groups considered conservative or reactionary would be expelled from the city, along with those accused of being racist, sexist, homophobic, producerist, transphobic, speciesist, et al, ad nauseum. If, for example, a group of neo-Nazi skinheads were to attempt a march in Central Park, certainly these anarchist believers in unlimited freedom would not impose formal censorship on such a display as they would be too busy beating the participants to death with baseball bats. Unfortunately, “anarchism” has its fair share of totalitarians. In their zeal to embrace bourgeois liberal pseudo-egalitarian monoculturalism, many anarchists have jettisoned such venerable anarchist traditions as decentralization, individual liberty, voluntary association, mutual aid (which can only occur among people with common interests and goals), and community autonomy. Instead, many anarchists have come to simply reflexively regurgitate the values and rhetoric of the left-wing of capital. Until this begins to change, anarchists will continue to remain a marginalized and irrelevant community.
1) “Civil War Two”, by Thomas Chittum
2) “Capitalism Versus Free Enterprise” by Keith Preston
3) In the pre-Civil War era, some northern states threatened to secede from the federal union in protest of fugitive slave laws.
4) Lysander Spooner is much underappreciated in contemporary anarchist circles. His “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority”, a refutation of the social contract theory behind the US Constitution, is a masterpiece. In the US Civil War, Spooner favored both secession by the Confederacy and slave insurrections simultaneously.
Copyright 2002. American Revolutionary Vanguard. All rights reserved.