Keith Preston of AttacktheSystem.com joins us to discuss the various schools of anarchist thought, his far-Left beginnings, and the practical realities of pan-secessionism.
By Keith Preston
Few thinkers personified the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment to a greater degree than the English political philosopher and novelist, William Godwin. In 1793, Godwin published his most influential work, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, which at the time was considered to be one of the most significant literary responses to the events of the French Revolution, along with the works of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. True to Enlightenment ideals, Godwin suggested that human beings were born as a Lockean tabula rasa, and that education, along with improved social and political conditions, could result in significant steps toward human perfectibility. Such an evolved condition of human existence would render the state unnecessary as individuals would be inspired by reason to act on behalf of what was in the best interest of the community. Similarly, Godwin envisioned that an enlightened society would be less in thrall to vices such as greed and acquisitiveness, and a more equitable distribution of resources would result. The classical theoretician of anarchist-communism Peter Kropotkin would, more than a century later, suggest that Godwin was in fact the first modern proponent of anarchist-communism.
Family, Marriages and Children
From a historical perspective, Godwin is today recognized more for his famous family members than for his political ideas. His first wife was Mary Wollstonecraft, a pioneer feminist who produced the classic work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was published in 1792, and argued for the extension of the Enlightenment idea of “natural rights” to include women as well as men. Wollstonecraft died in 1797 due to complications from giving birth to the couple’s daughter, Mary. However, Mary would later become famous both for her marriage to the Romance poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and for her authorship of the novel Frankenstein, widely considered to be a pioneer work in the genres of horror and science fiction. Clearly, Godwin’s family exercised considerable influence in British literary circles during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Godwin himself also produced a pioneer work in the genre of the “thriller” called Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams, and the family’s literary business, known as the Juvenile Library, also published children’s books as well.
Goofy Gillis has a lengthy interview podcast interview available. Listen here.
Here’s my general take on the content of this interview.
He’s not unintelligent, and much of what he is saying is not “wrong” per se. But I know enough about him to know that his idea of “freedom” amounts to the de facto compulsory universalization of the PC/SJW/Antifa/call-out culture paradigm, although perhaps enforced by extra-legal vigilante violence rather than a conventional state.
His ideology seems to be “Total positive freedom to make unlimited choices resulting in absolute diversity, except for people who might do something I don’t like, such as being ‘reactionary.'” That’s consistent with the nonsense I’ve seen in his Twitter feed.
Technology or no technology, progress or no progress, the evidence from all relevant fields shows that humans are naturally tribal in a social context, and individual values are rooted in their psychological and genetic proclivities. Where there is “freedom,” there is “diversity.” But diversity often includes the existence of polar opposites.
A recent interview with the Free Man Beyond the Wall podcast. Listen here.
Pete invited Keith Preston to come on the show to talk about the history of anarchists, the different schools and a look back in history to see if anarchism “has ever been tried.”
Keith has been an anarchist for over 25 years and has devoted much of that time to its historical study.
By Sean Gabb
I was called this morning by the BBC. It wanted me to comment on the claims that Sports direct, a chain of sports clothing shops, mistreats its workers – keeping them on zero-hours contracts, sometimes not paying them even the minimum wage, scaring them out of going sick, generally treating them like dirt. Would I care to go on air to defend the right of employers to behave in this way? I am increasingly turning down invitations to go on radio and television, and this was an invitation I declined. I suggested the researcher should call the Adam Smith Institute. This would almost certainly provide a young man to rhapsodise about the wonders of the free market. My own answer would be too complex for the average BBC presenter to understand, and I might be cut off in mid-sentence.
Here is the answer I would have taken had I been invited to speak on a conservative or libertarian radio station on the Internet.
First, it is a bad idea to interfere in market arrangements. Sports Direct is in competition with other firms. Making it pay more to its workers, or to give them greater security of employment, would require it to raise prices and make it less competitive. A general campaign against zero-hour contracts and low pay would raise unemployment. In even a reasonably open market, factors of production are paid the value of their marginal product. Establish a minimum price for labour above its clearing price, and those workers whose employment contributes less than this to total revenue will be laid off. If I felt more inclined than I do, I could produce a cross diagram to show this. The downward sloping curve would show diminishing marginal productivity, the upward the supply of labour at any given price. The point of intersection would show the clearing price. Draw a horizontal line above this clearing price to show the minimum allowed price, and you can two further lines from where this intersects the curves to create a box showing the unemployment that would result. I leave that to your imagination. Or here is a representation I have found on-line:
Jun 11, 2019
14 minute read (full)
First let’s decentralize history…
This month’s thematic has been a real challenge for us and raised many questions in our minds. Why? The history of decentralization is complex and non-linear. But most of all, it is difficult to be considered from an objective point of view, stripped of the predominance of the state.
Talking about decentralization leads obviously to discuss about centralization; to find the ghosts of history, to cross-reference the victories and failures of social-political movements; to discover some contemporary alternatives to the generalized centralization of our lives. Unless we consider that a technology is neutral, in the end, we cannot talk about decentralization without talking about governance, suffrage, politics or apoliticism, autonomy, organization… and the dominant model of centralization: the nation-state. Still, if a very vast literature and documentation concerns rise of states, it must be stated that the one granted to the opposite, i. e. the absence of a state, is almost non-existent. More…
In my perfect world, there would be nothing but voluntary communities, and particular communities could be as open or closed as their members wanted. I tend to think that for utilitarian reasons within the current state-capitalist system there needs to be at least some limitation on both immigration and discrimination. I don’t know that throwing open the borders and saying, “Come one, come all” would have a happy ending, just like I don’t think anyone’s freedom is being abridged when WalMart can’t put a sign out front saying, “No Coloreds Allowed.” Virtually the entire spectrum of the ruling class and the state benefits from mass immigration, i.e. more scab labor employers, more clients for social services bureaucrats, more constituents for ethnic lobbies, more voters for political parties, more students for the education bureaucracy, new parishioners for organized religion, etc. But immigration enforcement also benefits other state/ruling class interests, i.e. the federal police state, companies that get state contracts to build walls/detention centers, the prison-industrial complex, capitalist corporations that profit from prison labor, retrograde Republican politicians using immigration as political vehicle, etc. It’s a win-win situation for the power elite, and lose-lose for everyone else.
I don’t think it’s a Left/Right issue per se. Immigrant detention centers didn’t start with Trump. They’ve been around for quite a while spanning Democratic and Republican administrations. I’d argue immigrant detention centers are part of the wider apparatus of the police state/state legal racket/prison-industrial complex. So people in immigrant detention centers are in the same boat as people in jails, prisons, places of involuntary psychiatric incarceration, juvenile detention, etc, etc,etc Traditionally, the US prison system has overlapped with the older slave system as well as things like Jim Crow. I’d argue it’s also something that transcends boundaries of race, class, gender, politics, etc even if those categories aren’t irrelevant either. But the same traditional conservative vs traditional progressive dichotomy that defines US politics today has been in place for over a century with swings back and forth in different directions.
Progressives have exercised a great deal of influence over US society since around 1900 (Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were Progressives, for God’s sake). Progressives have long been involved in facilitating authoritarian state policies (eugenics, racism, and drug and alcohol prohibition among them). During the course of the 20th century progressives did an about face on race, immigration, homosexuality, the “sexual revolution,” etc. But they’ve still favored authoritarian state policies in many other areas. For example, the modern “war on drugs” has been supported just as zealously by liberal politicians and civil rights leaders as conservative Republicans and the religious right, and the war on drugs is to a large degree the foundation/cornerstone of the modern American police state (though there are obviously many other contributing factors).
Most progressives are not anarchists or libertarians (left or right) and don’t claim to be. They accept the supposed legitimacy of the state, state law, state penal institutions, etc. They just don’t like it when these things are used against people they like (illegal immigrants, environmental protestors, etc) as opposed to people they don’t like (the Bundy clan, corporate executives, gun nuts, racists, etc). But given their acceptance of these things, they don’t really have a principled argument against the statist argument that says, “If you don’t want to go to jail, don’t break the law” or “The law is the law. If you don’t like the law, you can work to change it not break it” or “These people chose to break the law and choices have consequences.” Once the legitimacy of the state, state law, police, prisons, etc. is conceded, I don’t know that there is a principled counterargument that can be raised that doesn’t amount to special pleading.
Of course, my view is that anarchists and libertarians who wish to be consistent should stand in solidarity will ALL persons being held by the police state and prison-industrial complex (and, yes, that includes serial killers on death row, racist hate criminals, scumbag corporate executives, pedos, and every other kind of creep imaginable as well illegal immigrants, drug users/sellers, sex workers, “consensual criminals,” self-defenders, “survival criminals,” vagrants, etc). The struggle against the state/ruling class/power elite/globalism/imperialism/capitalism/Zionism is not a “Nice People Only” club.
An interesting interview with a fellow that describes a more than 20-year journey through the world of anarchism, communes, intentional communities, and activist culture. Lots of anarchist name-dropping in this.
From The Brilliant. Listen here.
By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will-Antonio Gramsci
When the individual’s behavior and consciousness get hooked to a routine sequence of external actions, he is a dead robot, and it is time for him to die and be reborn. Time to “drop out”, “turn on”, and “tune in.”-Timothy Leary
America, the indispensable nation. That old jingoistic canard gets tossed around like confetti in this country, while the rest of the world rolls their collective eyes and crack their collective knuckles. According to patriotic lore, America is some beige, color-blind, miracle designed by the greatest white philosophers since Socrates to free the world from its backwards indigenous ways with the magic of global capitalism. Naturally, this is all bullshit. The kind of sad pep-talk a date-rapist gives himself in the mirror before showering his glamour muscles in Axe body spray. There is absolutely nothing miraculous about America but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t exceptional.
America is an exceptionally cruel experiment in the outer reaches of colonial social engineering. We are a nation defined by the two greatest holocausts in recorded history, spanning three continents and an entire hemisphere. America as we know it was founded by an ambitious collection of European super-colonialists who found themselves and their nations increasingly depleted of the wealth they accumulated from the Crusades. So they traveled the seas in search of greener pastures to irrigate with more dark-skinned blood. They found their sainted killing fields of Shangri-La in the New World and with the superiority of their steel, they decided to take the Americas by force and slaughter anyone who stood in their way. But with an entire hemisphere half empty of its indigenous inhabitants, these European overlords found themselves with too much work for their feeble bourgeois fingers to handle, so they filled their new colonies with shiploads of slaves pilfered from the jungles of Africa to build a nation on their scarred shoulders, murdering millions more in the process and permanently hobbling another entire continent.
By Keith Preston
Originally published in Tribes Magazine
Perhaps one of the most curious features of modernity is the way in which ideologies have replaced religions as a principal source of contentiousness. During the era of the nineteenth century, when the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment was being institutionalized, a few perceptive thinkers recognized that the “death of God” did not mean the death of dogma. In 1844, Max Stirner noted that “our atheists are pious people,” an acknowledgment that humanism and liberalism had replaced Christianity as the religion of the intellectual elite. Similarly, Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Parable of the Madman” was rooted in the recognition of the consequences of the loss of faith, its metaphysical underpinnings, and its derivative traditions.
“What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882)
The era of the twentieth century revealed that the Age of Faith gave way not to an Age of Reason, as Voltaire or Thomas Paine would have hoped for, but to an Age of Ideology. What were the great conflicts of the twentieth century, whether the two world wars or the Cold War, but wars of ideology that paralleled or exceeded the great wars of religion that had taken place during previous centuries?
Many different ideologies abound in the same manner that many different religious sects can be identified. Ideologies are typically grouped into the categories of Left and Right. The Left is thought to favor equality, progress, and universality, and leftists include liberals, progressives, socialists, social democrats, communists, left-libertarians, and left-anarchists. The Right is thought to favor hierarchy, tradition, and the particular, and rightists include conservatives, reactionaries, traditionalists, monarchists, right-libertarians, fascists, and national socialists. There are also a range of ideologies that defy the left/right model such as nationalism, populism, environmentalism, regionalism, feminism, and third positionism.
By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
I like conservatives. Not all conservatives. Not the bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran kind or the endangered white male victim kind. But the Traditionalist kind. The Old Right, Paleolibertarian, fuck-you-mind-your-own-damn-business kind. I like people like Bill Kaufman, Wendell Berry, Ron Paul and H.L. Mencken. I admire the prose and courage of Yukio Mishima. I appreciate the insight of Martin Heidegger. I think Oswald Spengler’s ideas are at least as prophetic as those of Gramsci and Marx. I even think Alain de Benoist has a few good ideas (and about 67 bad ones). Justin Raimondo used to be one of my favorite writers before he mysteriously vanished up Donald Trump’s orange asshole. And I consider antifa-hate-thing Troy Southgate to be a personal friend of mine.
By Dr. Hawzhin Azeez
No longer the Kurdish Question, but the Kurdish Alternative – Hawzhin Azeez
It is either a fallacy, or a pure symbolic violence, to continue to assume the “Kurdish Question” as unresolved.
For scholars, policy experts and political bureaucrats the Kurdish Question, with its complex sub and supra-national political implications, remains as the most pertinent dilemma of our modern times. The epic resistance that occurred against Daesh by the YPG-YPJ propelled the Kurdish Question into the international spotlight like never before. Seminar and conferences are held, papers and books are written at a rapid pace and people across social media flock to the hundreds of pro-Kurdish pages and sites thirsty for information.
And perhaps the clinical label of Kurdish Question was employable, for the Kurds and their stubborn refusal to assimilate and Turkify, Arabize or Persianize resulted in increasing levels of violence by the states to address this ‘problem’. Consequently, for decades the Kurds faced ethnic cleansing, ethnic displacement, Arabization policies, genocides, and loss of even the most rudimentary human rights, resulting from the arbitrary and artificial states who themselves were produced by violent colonial pens. Artificial states and their repressive and ideological machinations promoted violent, exclusionary, oppressive unitary identity politics resulting in the construction of imagined national identities and mythical one history, one nation, one language and one flag constructs. This blood saturated identity was not unique to only post-colonial states, but structurally to all modern ‘nation-states’
A reader writes:
“Very thought-provoking posts today, Keith (and great talk with Antony from the other day, on the state as aberration).
I agree that it’s a shame how wide the gap is between lefty anarchists and an-caps (and each camp’s fellow travelers). My feeling is a lot of that can be chalked up to the larger red/blue culture war trap, as well as quite a few instances where (if one looks closely) both sides are basically agreeing but merely prioritizing different issues to such an extent that they end up misreading one another as mortal enemies, rather than potential allies. Both view the other’s potential success as empowering what they deem to be the worst elements in the society (corporations, racists, and social conservatives on the one side; radical SJWs, communists/socialists, and immigrants/cultural aliens [sometimes explicitly non-whites and Muslims] on the other). There is also, of course, the simple communication problem of various groups using seemingly mutually unintelligible political languages each laden with their own wonky terms and ideological histories.
I think it was during that talk with Antony that you mentioned how the red and blue tribes have difficulty conceiving of separation of culture and state (to perhaps the same degree that people in Europe centuries ago had difficulty conceiving of separation of church and state). I’d never thought of it quite in those terms before, but that seems very accurate. The ironic flipside of that reality is that various ostensibly anti-state camps fall into the same trap: they want anarchism with red values, or blue values, and can’t tolerate the thought of co-existence with anarchists who’d want to arrange their societies differently than they themselves would. They’re still, as you put it, universalists. With the predictable end result that too many in the various anti-state groups, despite what they may theorize or envision for some idealized future — in practice just end up throwing their lot in with either the Republicans or Democrats as the lesser of two evils (as they see it), and are thus neutralized and incorporated back into the statist fold.
As someone who came of age at the height of the so-called libertarian moment in the late 2000s/early 2010s, it’s been disappointing and disheartening watching the an-cap/libertarian sphere implode and dissipate, with many getting sucked into the alt-right (or at least, against the SJWs), some into the SJW left (or at least, against the alt-right), and probably not a few just disengaging entirely. That’s not to say the libertarian sphere has necessarily shrunk a huge amount (though admittedly I myself am not too involved in it anymore), but it’s clear that the energy and passion (and numbers of activist-type youth, frankly) are much greater among both the rising progressive movement and the alt-right/alt-right adjacent disgruntled mobs. Neither of which I have much faith in to move us toward anything resembling a freer society.
By and large, they each seem to just want to gain hold of the cudgel of the state to beat the other, out of fear of being beaten themselves should the other get it before they do (in other words, politics as usual). And that fear limits their vision for what could be possible.
There are some silver linings. I’ve noticed that a few people in the progressive camp seem to be genuinely anti-war/anti-empire (supporters of Tulsi, Mike Gravel, and the more radical left supporters of Bernie). They do exist. But will it be enough in comparison to the mountain of progressives who are either apathetic about empire or enthusiastic supporters of it (under the guise of humanitarianism and “anti-fascism”)? Probably not. And of course, as you’ve pointed out, Bernie’s foreign policy views and priorities are problematic at best. He has spoken out strongly against US support for Saudi Arabia and the Likud government, so that’s a plus. But Obama as a candidate was also against the Iraq War and Gitmo.
Things could get interesting if both Tulsi and Gravel end up on the debate stage. But both could also be easily discredited in the eyes of most Western leftists (and in the case of Gravel, much of the public at large). Oh, Tulsi hated gays and likes Assad? Gravel is a 9/11 truther? Conversation over. It’s unfortunate, and it says a lot that that’s where we’re at.
Ron Paul sounds almost like a left-anarchist is this and Noam Chomsky sounds almost like an an-cap. It’s a shame the gap between an-coms and an-caps is so vast when we agree 90% of the time.
By Ria Montana, forest & wetland rewilder https://veganprimitivist.wordpress.com/
Within anarcho-primitivism plays an ongoing dialectic pinpointing origins of the problem of civilization. Impugning only capitalism or the industrial age is much too timid. From the left, radical environmental activist leader and author Derrick Jensen impugns the point people exceed their capacity for self-sufficiency, the dawn of cities. In the trilogy Ishmael, The Story of B and My Ishmael fiction writer and civilization critic Daniel Quinn renders agriculture as humans’ dichotomizing choice to be Givers or Takers. Couple city settling with plant cultivating & animal herding and you’ve hit the collective anprim sweet spot.
Looking farther back than agriculture as the start of humans’ split with nature slashes approval. Anarcho-primitivist author and Anarchy Radio host John Zerzan’s look back to origins of art and language has appealed to some but with less enthusiasm. In his 3/13/19 radio show Zerzan reals in analysis on the catalyst of controlled fire, instead positioning civilization’s birth at the point humans domesticated animals and plants. Some say focusing at this fixed ~10 millennia point paints too simple a picture, ignores all civilizations’ embers heating up, culminating to ignite the world ablaze.
The debate on civilization’s origins parallels the debate on what qualifies as a technology. Values connoted by technologies are biased to support the interpreter’s view on origins. For example, those who blame agriculture see the plow as an obvious tool of civilization. Those who include controlled fire in the blame see hearths uncovered in archeologic digs as technological shifts in humans’ relationship with living communities that set the stage for domestication of plants and animals. Agriculture-blaming purists deny that using fire is technology toward civilization, perhaps to justify keeping fire in their rewilding repertoire, or perhaps in an effort to ward off criticism of hunting and cooking animals. In the premise set forth here placing civilization’s origins with the beginnings of human primate’s colonizing lifeways, inventions such as mortar and pestle are not catalysts toward civilization if they are not used as colonizing instruments, but spears are catalysts toward civilization if they are used as colonizing instruments, no matter the complexity of design. (Yes other species use hunting implements, but not in a way that degrades and massacres large scale living communities in a mega-regional and eventually worldwide colonizing schema as humans have.)
Todd Lewis hosts a debate on anarchist strategy between Keith Preston and Brenton Lengel on Anarchist strategy. Brenton will defend a classic anarchist strategy and Keith his own homebrew Pan-Anarchism.
Sean Matthew King hosts a discussion between Brent Lengel, an anarcho-communist, and Keith Knight, an anarcho-capitalist.
This article is an important illustration of why a pan-anarchist movement, committed to global revolutionary struggle, needs to transcend the left/right paradigm. These romantic medievalist anarchists are people that we need as part of cultivating a mass audience for the project of state/ruling class/empire abolitionism.
By Alexander William Salter
The American Conservative
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.” These words are Patrick Henry’s, uttered in the course of his famous oration known for its powerful closing words “give me liberty or give me death.” Although Henry probably did not intend it as a sociopolitical axiom, the Anglo-American conservative tradition has adopted it as such. Conservatives rightly look to the past to influence their views of the future. Change in the basic structure of society’s institutions is inherently perilous, and must be guided by the “lamp of experience” lest reform lose its way.
But experience accumulates as time marches on. Proposed changes to public life that seem radical and dangerous in one era can embody wisdom and stewardship in another. Applied conservatism is nothing less than continual constitutional craftsmanship. And in that context, “constitution” refers not to whatever is formally drawn up in a document, but the actual procedures and practices that comprise a society’s public sphere.
In this spirit, I propose a position that seems extraordinary, but I am convinced is vindicated by historical experience: the state is a fundamentally anti-conservative force, and in order to preserve the good, true, and beautiful things in society, it’s got to go. In short, I argue that conservatives should seriously consider anarchism.
I realize such a position seems absurd, at least on its surface. Conservatism has long held that the existing political order deserves respect precisely because it is the result of custom, habit, and experience. Massive changes in basic social institutions almost always create chaos. How then can one be both conservative and anarchist?