Is Anarchism Worth It? Reply

By Chris Shaw

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This question comes as a result of the lack of cohesiveness amongst the adherents of anarchism. Anarchists, while professing a common universality of values and beliefs, act as roving tribes when it comes to meetings between their different ideological sects. None seem to coalesce around any unifying concept, with each trying to outdo the other in how left-wing, anti-racist or intersectional they are. That’s all well and good for debate stages and internet forums, but it hardly builds a movement that can be politically and socially strong and that can challenge prevailing power structures. It leads to the question of whether anarchism, as the according ideology to so many beliefs, is really worth the time, the activism, the commitment that it is given.

Speaking from my ideological foundations, I’m increasingly coming to the position that anarchism is really only useful as a hollow political standpoint, where one rejects centralised power structures in favour of systems that are distributed and more horizontal. In effect it is seemingly only there to reject the prevailing mechanisms of hegemony, those of capitalism and the state. Now that’s fine but how does this accord to anything other than a statement of intent about one’s political goals. It isn’t an ideology, it’s a signalling tool to tell others what you are opposed to.

Thus all manner of things are tacked onto it that are meant to represent an extension of anarchism’s praxis without actually explaining the original praxis except in the vague, woolly terms of opposition to centralised power. But of course, this opposition is in no way original or particular to anarchism. There are statists who believe in the disaggregation of power. Are they enemies? Or allies? Others try to paint anarchism as the constant act of becoming, of a permanency of revolutionary developments that continue to push humanity forward. Who would this benefit? Revolutions are really only borne from the circumstances of desperation and a real desire for change. But once a revolution has occurred, to maintain its tendential permanency it seemingly has to accrue power into increasingly authoritarian structures.

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Chase Rachels & Derrick Broze Debate “Libertarian-Right” Alliance Reply

On March 8, 2017, authors and activists Derrick Broze and Chase Rachels debated the proposition of a call for a “libertarian-right alliance.”

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This is a great discussion. Both of these guys are very knowledgeable and articulate.

I find it very regrettable that so much of the anarchist and libertarian milieus have been sucked into this standard Red/Blue, Left/Right, Alt-Right/Alt-Lite/Antifa/SJW conflict, instead of carving out an independent position that attempts to rise above all of that. Many years ago I noticed for example that most hyphenated anarchists are more interested in the hyphens than the anarchism part (e.g. an-coms are communists first, an-caps are capitalists first, an-nats are nationalists first, an-fems are feminists first) and it seems to be even more that way today that it was in the past. There are exceptions like Black Flag Coalition, but otherwise libertarianism and anarchism just seem to be a microcosm of the conflicts that are present in the wider society.

While I am not an orthodox libertarian or a right-winger per se, I am interested in building a society-wide consensus against the state and in favor of pan-decentralization. My personal position on these questions is and always has been that enemies of the state should form coalitions and alliances around anti-state issues to the degree that these are feasible. This could include grand alliances centered around strategic concepts like pan-secession, general strikes, countereconomics, reformist action, civil disobedience, tax strikes, alternative infrastructure defense militias, and other activities. It could also include coalitions around single-issues (of which there are many). I also think the best standard for determining who should be excluded from tactical alliances and activist coalitions should be the necessity of excluding anyone that is militarily capable of imposing a worse system than the one we have now (i.e. overtly fascist, Islamist or communist groups capable of seizing control of the state). Over the years, I’ve worked with everyone from Alt-Rightists to Communists with varying degrees of success.

For many years I favored a kind of pan-anarchist, pan-libertarian solidarity against the state that was over and above these other things. But that doesn’t seem to be feasible. At present, I tend to more oriented towards expanding the anarchist and libertarian presence in as many different milieus as possible even when these are totally opposed to each other, e.g. more anarchist and libertarian alt-rightists, more anarchos among the SJWs and Antifa, a larger anarchist presence in both far left and far right organizations, more libertarians in mainstream groups, etc.

I don’t know that Derrick’s views and Chase’s views are entirely mutually exclusive. It’s more a case of focus and emphasis. Derrick’s approach would probably be more preferable for anti-statists with generally left-wing or center-left views on cultural questions, and Chase’s approach is probably more appropriate for those with rightward-leaning views.

Who and What Counts as Anarchism? Reply

From an anarcho-communist Facebook commentator.

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.

COMPARISONS

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?

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Response to Fascist Provocation and Entryism at ISFLC Reply

The libertarian antifa. It had to happen. My guess is that a libertarian, anti-state, anarchist mass movement would include multiple major factions, and even more minor factions. Many of these might refuse to associate with each other. There would likely be a centrist reformist wing like Students for Liberty, an alt-right leaning “anarcho-fascist” wing, and a a hard left-wing like C4SS, the an-coms, or “libertarian antifa,” and plenty of neither fish nor fowl perspectives. Bring it on.

Libertarians United Against Fascism

On February 18, 2017, a small group of crypto-fascists calling themselves The Hoppe Caucus [archive] brought Richard Spencer, an open white supremacist, to the International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC). The conference organizers did not allow him inside the conference itself, so the provocateurs put him in a bar at the hotel where the conference was held. They deceptively set up a makeshift sign saying that the event was Richard Spencer’s appearance at ISFLC. Shortly thereafter, they were confronted by conference attendees. After about 45 minutes, the fascists were expelled by the bar’s owner.

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In a Polarized Climate, Libertarian Students Look for Common Ground Reply

This is pretty wimpy, middle of the road stuff, but these kids seem to at least be on the right track. This is probably what the centrist, reformist wing of pan-anarchism would look like.

By Julia Sanchez

Chronicle of Higher Education

Their fiscal sensibilities lean toward the Republican Party, and their social beliefs trend Democratic. So libertarian students can sometimes wonder where exactly they fit into the partisan debates playing out on their campuses. Recently, some 1,700 of them registered for the annual International Students for Liberty Conference, in Washington, where they spent time discussing the relationship between individual liberty and personal responsibility. They talked about what it’s like to witness campus political battles from a third-party perspective.

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Against the “Anti-Fascist” Creeps 3

A Review of Alexander Reid-Ross’ “Against the Fascist Creep”

by Keith Preston

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Academic Gloss for the Antifa

For decades, a minor cottage industry of professional “anti-racists” and “anti-fascists” has existed for the purpose of perpetually sounding the alarm about the imminent threat posed by supposed “far right extremists.” The most well-known and influential of these is the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has raked in millions of dollars largely by frightening elderly liberals and Jews old enough to remember the Holocaust with hobgoblin tales about the supposedly persistent rise of neo-Nazism in America. The fundraising tactics of the SPLC are nearly identical to those of televangelists soliciting funds from elderly Christians by spinning tales about the supposed infiltration of the public schools by gay pedophiles. If one reads the literature of the SPLC and, for example, the publications of religious right organizations such as Focus on the Family and Coral Ridge Ministries, parallel themes will soon become noticeable. While the SPLC and a similar organization, the Anti-Defamation League, are the major league players in the “anti-fascism” industry, there are a number of minor league players as well ranging from the Ford Foundation-funded (how is that for irony?) Political Research Associates to AK Press, a small publisher oriented towards the “antifa” sector of the wider “anarchist” milieu.

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Mutualism: The Philosophy of Anarchy Reply

By Will Schnack

Evolution of Consent

This was composed for a speech given to the East Texas Freethinkers
on February 18th, 2017 in Tyler, Texas.
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Mutualism is an anarchist social philosophy first established in print by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. While often considered to be the father of mutualism (something I have repeated and am apt to do again), Proudhon was actually more of its first philosopher, because mutualism already existed to some degree, long before Proudhon would write about it in his works. Proudhon had spent time among the workman’s associations in Lyon, France, where he witnessed fraternal organizations and guilds functioning in mutualistic manners, involving member control from voluntary participants. When he wrote in favor of mutualism, he probably had these cooperative associations in mind. Nonetheless, Proudhon can be considered to be the first philosophical exponent of mutualism as a school of thought.

Along with being the first philosophical proponent of mutualism, Proudhon is the first to call himself an anarchist. Yet, again, the sentiment against government and the state long preceded Proudhon. Some have traced it back to Ancient Greek or Chinese thinkers, such as Zeno or Lao Tzu. Others suggest that others much closer to Proudhon’s time were the first, such as William Godwin or Josiah Warren. Proudhon maintains the title of the first anarchist simply for being the first to call himself such on record.

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When Government Acts, “Unintended Consequences” Follow Reply

By J P Cortez

In 1850, French economist Frédéric Bastiat published an essay that is misunderstood, or more often, unread, titled, “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.” Bastiat brilliantly introduced the idea of opportunity cost and, through the parable of the broken window, illustrated the destructive effects of unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, because of misplaced belief in government benevolence, even the most powerful and successful members of the American citizenry often miss the point.

According to Reuters, Ramin Arani, a co-portfolio manager of the $25 billion Fidelity Puritan fund, said while discussing his current bullish stance of gold, “In terms of unpredictability, there is a tail risk with this administration that did not exist with the prior…There is a small but present possibility that government action is going to lead to unintended consequences.”

Arani’s overall bullish stance on gold is sound. Given the political climate, gold is an attractive “insurance” for equity exposure. The problem doesn’t lie in his financial analysis, but rather in the seemingly innocuous comment that followed.

“There is a small but present possibility that government action is going to lead to unintended consequences.”

To suggest the chances of unintended consequences are merely “small” is extremely naïve.

Notwithstanding myriad examples of government action leading to unintended consequences, including, but certainly not limited to, minimum wage laws, rent control, social security, and the disastrous war on drugs, there are countless examples of unintended consequences brought on by government action that should resonate with a multi-billion-dollar portfolio manager. Yet they seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

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The Maoist Infiltration into Anarchism Reply

By Aragorn

One of the reasons that anarchism has become a popular political perspective is because in many contexts (for instance mass mobilizations or broad direct action campaigns) we seem open, friendly, and nonsectarian. This is in great contrast to visible (and visibly) Marxist or Leftist organizations, which either seem like newspaper-selling robots or ancient thorny creatures entirely out of touch with the ambivalence of the modern political atmosphere. Anarchists seem to get that ambivalence and contest it with hope and enthusiasm rather than finger-wagging.

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The public face of anarchism tends towards approachability and youth: kids being pepper sprayed, the general assemblies of the occupy movement, and drum circles. These are the images of the past five years that stand in contrast to the image of anarchists as athletic black clad window breakers. Both are true (or as true as an image can be) and both demonstrate why a criticism of anarchists continues to be that (even at our best) we are politically naïve.

 

Of course very few window breakers believe that breaking windows means much beyond the scope of an insurance form or a janitorial task, but that is beside the point. What matters is that the politics of no demands makes the impossible task of intelligent political discourse in America even more complicated (by assuming that discourse is a Pyhrric act). To put the issue differently, the dialectical binary of both engaging in the social, dialogic, compromising act of public politics while asserting that there is no request of those-in-power worth stating or compromising on isn’t possible. It is cake-and-eat-it thinking that is exactly why Anarchists must do what Anarchist must do1.

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Why Anarchists and Libertarians are just a Microcosm of the System Reply

Some interesting thoughts from an anarchist on Facebook.

“My fear was that jokes about helicopter rides would be escalated into calls for outright genocide, which is actually starting to happen.

Some “anarchists” or “alt-right” have begun the dehumanization process of a group of people by generalizing them all as “degenerates.”

If anyone is familiar with history, this is the same thing Hitler started doing to the Jews, except he based his dehumanization tactics on an ethnic\religious group rather than a political group.

This mentality shakes me to the core, because I have maintained the idea that anarchists could keep their perspective and dignity—and that their beliefs were the opposite of murder and mayhem. But it seems like their dignity and decency has been perturbed by recent and apparent culture wars.

With that said, this is not to justify people on the economic left who choose to vandalize or destroy property. It is not to condone this childish, aggressive behavior. Indeed, I rail against this aggression and weakness of philosophy as well. However, I honestly had higher expectations of people who promote modern, libertarian anarchism. I thought they knew the dangers of dehumanizing others and trumpeting violence against economic groups as the answer. I thought they could move beyond this urgency to shed blood.

It turns out they were weak minded and desirous of warfare. Turns out they were not really freedom lovers, but hate mongers hellbent on tasting the blood of their enemies.

So I will ask any “anarchist” who have these Freudian murder fantasies a few questions: what can you do for peace instead? How can you deescalate an increasingly volatile situation without stoking the fire? How can you reign in your growing desire to hurt others? How can you better relate to others even if they are unhinged and ready for violence? How can this be resolved?

My hope is that these people talking loosely and non-jokingly about extermination can come to terms with their impulses, and we can find better ways to solve the current cultural crises.

I don’t want to see this escalate anymore.”

And my response:

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Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Confederate Sympathizer; Mikhail Bakunin, Right-Wing Populist Reply

So says a commie critic of anarchism.

ANOTHER RADICAL doctrine developed during the period of the 1830s– anarchism. Anarchism is often considered to represent current of radical thought that is truly democratic and libertarian. It is hailed in some quarters as the only true political philosophy freedom. The reality is quite different. From its inception anarchism has been a profoundly anti-democratic doctrine. Indeed the two most important founders of anarchism, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Michael Bakunin, developed theories that were elitist and authoritarian to the core. While later anarchists may have abandoned some of the excesses’ of their founding fathers their philosophy remains hostile to ideas of mass democracy and workers’ power.

It is certainly true that anarchism developed in opposition to the growth of capitalist society. What’s more, anarchist hostility to capitalism centered on defence of the liberty of the individual. But the liberty defended by the anarchists was not the freedom of the working class to make collectively a new society. Rather, anarchism defended the freedom of the small property owner–the shopkeeper, artisan and tradesman–against the encroachments of large-scale capitalist enterprise. Anarchism represented the anguished cry of the small property owner against the inevitable advance of capitalism. For that reason, it glorified values from the past: individual property, the patriarchal family, racism.

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A Free World Would Allow for Many Diverse and Dissimilar Communities Reply

By Parrish Miller

As a libertarian of the anarchist persuasion (one who advocates the complete and total abolition of the state), I often find myself in discussions of how a truly “free” world might look. The truth, though, is that a free world would allow for the development of many diverse and dissimilar communities that bear little resemblance to each other. While some might be thoroughly modern, capitalistic communities where trade and commerce were central to human interaction, others might be nearly the opposite.

I am not attracted to the supposed allure of socialism and communism as typically portrayed because (among other reasons) I like my stuff and I have no desire to share it with a collective. I find the mantra of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” to be entirely incompatible with normal human motivation and a recipe for widespread sloth and indolence.

All that said, I’m just one individual with a worldview informed largely by my own experiences. I know people who despise the corporate environment and who would happily trade it for a simple life in a beach commune somewhere. How long they would last in that environment is perhaps debatable, but their willingness to give it a try is what is relevant to the discussion of what communities might form in a free world.

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The Civil Society/State Dichotomy Reply

By Chris Shaw

Gramsci rightly identifies that in the modern political environment, simply recognising actors as either public or private, in the realm of states or markets respectively, is problematic. Unfortunately the crux of international political economy has accepted this modernist doctrine, tacitly deifying the rationalist discourses of action and modernity which underlie such conceptions. For a large bulk of IPE, as well as other social sciences such as economics and political science, this is the held belief. Rationalism guides human action, which inevitably means a continuous desire for capital accumulation, the expansion of capitalist cultural doctrines, and the belief that the individual is entirely the scope of investigation.

But of course this public/private discourse is far too simplistic to truly understand the extent of social relations and arrangements which provide governance and institutionalisation. Gramsci noted that in the public sphere, there exists a dialectic of civil society (the collection of organic institutions that range from the mannerisms of society to the voluntary governance arrangements such as townhalls and churches) and the state (which is perceived as the mechanism of implementation, mainly reliant on coercion and top-down infrastructure). The way a functioning public government works is by reconciling these two (seemingly non-reconcilable) sides. Thus most modern states, particularly those in the Global North, rely on the combination of a coercive state framework and a civil society infrastructure which legitimises the coercive practices and top-down authority. Thus states, to a large degree, rely on not just pure monopolised violence, but also on legitimising ideologies which allow it to create discourses and frameworks that may well have been rejected by civil society in its capacity to be a separate sphere of public government.

Equally, the private side of this dialectical equation is in many ways constructed by these statist and domineering discourses. The development of a capitalist mechanism of accumulation, grounded in private property and the control of the means of production, came almost entirely from the state’s mandate of it. Large scale ownership of production outlets and the relations of wage labour, where artificial economic classes were created, are entirely developments of the state in its accumulation of land during the enclosures, its encouragement of state credit through the development of central banking, and its destruction of the organic feudal relations which preceded this capitalist construction. This is not to say that private property relations cannot exist without the state. A multitude of tribal forms of property as well as elements in the feudal system proves this to be false. However, the extent to which private property relations inform modern society, and the importance this is given, is a creation of statist dynamics, which is justified both through coercion (as seen in the enclosures) and the development of a justificatory doctrine (modernist concepts of rational human action and the deification of a business class) which brings civil society onside.

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