Nine Years of the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation, 1989-1998 Reply

Article by Wayne Price.

I was at this group’s founding conference in 1989, and it was that experience along with my previous experiences in the North American anarchist milieu that largely convinced me that an entirely new movement was necessary. This article provides a pretty good summary of what North American anarchism was like in the 1980s as well as the trajectory followed by Love and Rage. I predicted when this group was founded that it would eventually be just another commie cult, and that’s more or less what happened when it’s leading figure decided to abandon anarchism and proclaimed himself a Maoist.

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NEFAC’s Wayne Price’s interesting account and analysis of the development and decline of the North American continental anarchist federation the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation.

A new wave of radicalization is spreading around the world. Federations of anarchists are being organized in the U.S and Canada, and in other countries. The ‘platformist’ current within international anarchism, with its emphasis on the need for anarchists to organize themselves, is having worldwide effects. In these conditions, it is not surprising that there should be an interest in the last major attempt to build an anarchist federation in North America: the Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation (L&R). Founded in 1989, it lasted to 1998, almost ten years, with branches in Mexico (Amor y Rabia) and in English-speaking Canada.

It came out of a very amorphous anarchist movement, whose main continental organization had been almost yearly ‘gatherings’. In various cities around the U.S. and Canada, anarchists would get together, attend workshops, talk with each other, eat vegetarian food, play together, engage in ‘pagan rites’, and then go home. Decisions were not made and lasting structures were not set up.

In this milieu, a minority began to call for the establishment of a continental anarchist newspaper. There were, of course, already a small number of anarchist periodicals, each expressing the views of the individual or small group which put it out. The idea was for a newspaper which reflected the views of a continental body of supporters, who existed to participate in putting it out and distributing it. The supporters of the ‘newspaper project’ soon realized that this implied some sort of organization.

People of various backgrounds and anarchist persuasions met to establish the Love and Rage Federation. A key role was played by a group from Minneapolis, Minnesota, calling itself the Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League (RABL or ‘rabble’). Another group came from the former Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL). This was a group which had evolved from Trotskyism to anarchism. The RSL (of which I was a member) had never regarded the state-capitalist Soviet Union as a ‘degenerated workers’ State, as did orthodox Trotskyism. It had interpreted Marxist orthodoxy in the most libertarian manner possible, such as emphasizing Marx’s writings on the Paris Commune, or Lenin’s State and Revolution. When this became impossible to continue, it moved toward anarchism. The RSL officially dissolved at the time of the founding of Love and Rage; most ex-members leaving politics. Some of us became involved in the setting up of the L&R and its newspaper, which was also called ‘Love and Rage’.

Love and Rage was distinguished from most of the anarchist movement in a few important ways. First, obviously, was the very idea that anarchists should form an organization, and, related to that, should put out a newspaper. These concepts were vigorously, not to say viciously, denounced by many in the anarchist movement. A relatively prominent anarcho-syndicalist came to the founding meeting only to denounce the very idea of founding an organization. The anarcho-primitivist Fifth Estate denounced L&R from the beginning. Many others agreed that it was wrong of anarchists to form organizations, or at least to form organizations beyond the local level. There was a widespread suspicion that the ex-members of the ex-RSL were really doing a Trotskyist ‘entry’, worming their way into the anarchist movement in order to emerge with a new and larger Leninist party. Considering the course of events, this was quite ironic. However, the issue of organization was never quite settled.

There was a constant tension in the federation over how far to go in unifying and coordinating it. A large minority broke off because they really wanted a loose ‘network’, not a more coordinated federation. Over time, this continued to be an issue. Due to its decentralized heritage, people were chosen for positions on the basis of geography, not politics. The continental committee which made decisions between conferences was picked this way. So was the smaller body which coordinated between that committee’s meetings. Influential people were often left out of these bodies, in the hope that this would prevent the formation of a ‘leadership’, but instead (of course), the real leadership was kept informal and undemocratic.

Editorial decisions for the continental paper were not made by any politically responsible body, but by the production crew. This was composed of random people who volunteered and lived in the city where it was put out. At the same time, L&R was never a real federation, because it never had more than a few real local groups. Mostly it had about 200 members scattered throughout North America. There were a few significant collectives in a few cities, and many individuals who were willing to distribute the paper.

Besides being pro-organization, the other distinctive feature of the L&R was its left-wing focus. It was for the struggles of the oppressed. It supported national liberation struggles (although there was tension over attitudes towards the nationalist leadership of such struggles). It supported women’s liberation, queer liberation, struggles of prisoners, of poor people, of youth, and of African-Americans. This may seem obvious, but much of the anarchist movement denounced this as too ‘left’. The left was seen as old-hat and out dated. This was the explicit conception of the primitivists. Even among anarchists who were consciously leftist, such as anarcho-syndicalists, many were for workers’ struggles but did not support national liberation wars or women’s struggles. Too many of these rejected non-working class struggles as irrelevant diversions.

Aside from that, there was little theoretical agreement among L&R members and little effort to develop a theoretical program. Their theory, or program, was something vaguely called, ‘revolutionary anarchism’. That is, we were anarchists who were ‘for’ revolution. This distinguished us from pacifist anarchists and reformist anarchists, but otherwise was not too specific. L&R was against capitalism, but would not commit itself to ‘socialism’, which was associated with State ownership.

There were different views on other issues, such as African-American liberation. A minority was for the Race Traitor program: racism was the main issue in the U.S.; everything else was secondary; white anarchist should not raise their views in the African-American community. Other people had other views which also revolved around similar white-liberal guilt feelings. The problem was not so much this or that opinion on any particular topic but the lack of a serious attempt to study past theory and to develop it further. From the beginning there were people who regarded any attempt to root L&R in anarchist tradition was something ‘cold’. There were no required readings for all members nor regular study classes. Even by the end, there were people who insisted that theory was something which they would develop out of their experience. Theory is, ultimately, nothing but the codification of many people’s experience. But this approach meant constantly reinventing the wheel, and repeating previous generation’s errors. However, it is not surprising that U.S. anarchists should have followed the empiricism and crude pragmatism of U.S. political culture.

The organization had an empirical ‘laundry list’ of good causes it was for (such as women’s liberation, queer liberation, prison abolition, and so on). It tried to work out a better, more thorough and lengthy, program. For years, at the conferences, it discussed parts of an improved program. But this process was inconsistent. By the time L&R dissolved, the program was still unfinished. Ron Tabor, an ex-member of the old RSL, tried to do serious theoretical work. He sought to rethink the meaning of Marxism from an anarchist perspective. While his previous pamphlet, A Look at Leninism, was widely distributed, the organization stopped publishing his articles critiquing Marxism in the newspaper. People just weren’t interested enough, they said.

Nevertheless, good work was done. A small number of real collectives existed and were tied together throughout North America. A real effort was made to support a Mexican group in producing a Spanish paper and literature.

We organized important U.S. support for the Zapatista rebellion (although politically this never went beyond being radical cheerleaders, instead of discussing the possibilities of a Mexican revolution). A continental anarchist paper was produced for nine years, on a more-or-less monthly basis. Some activities were done on a federation-wide basis, including participating in several national U.S. demonstrations.

However from the beginning there had been certain undemocratic aspects of what many members meant by ‘revolutionary anarchism’. One was a widespread sympathy for Leninist-Stalinist movements of the ’60s and ’70s. Many members admired the Weatherpeople, the German Red Army Faction, the Black Liberation Army, and other groups who wanted to create revolutionary dictatorships over the mass of people. The very last L&R issue included a very favorable article about imprisoned members of the Weatherpeople, titled, Enemies of the State. It would have been better titled, Enemies of This State, Friends of a New State.

The other undemocratic weakness was the lack of interest in, or orientation to, the North American working class. At most there was a patronizing acceptance that some of us were interested in workers as workers. As an influential member told me, workers did not identify as workers. When a major student strike broke out in New York City public colleges, our members did excellent work in organizing and leading it (‘leading’ in a non-authoritarian way). But they sneered at the idea of orienting the student struggle toward the workers (who, at the time were also struggling against the city government over comparable issues).

Later, our Detroit members got involved in support work for the striking newspaper workers. Our people put out a flyer raising the general strike. L&R people in New York did not want to cover this in the continental paper. One member asked if the ‘general strike’ was a ‘Trotskyist idea’, so little did they know anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist history.

Ultimately, contempt for the workers, their organizations (unions), and their struggles, must be undemocratic. It leads to a view that a little group of young radicals, mostly college students and ex-students from the middle classes, can transform society by themselves – without going deep into the working class and the oppressed sections of society. This is consistent with an identification with radical Stalinism.

A final conflict broke out during the last two years of L&R. Chris Day, a founder and influential member (that is, a ‘leader’) had concluded that it was time to abandon anarchism. He told people informally that we had reached the limits of the anarchist ‘milieu’ and it was time to move on. He wrote a paper on The Historical Failure of Anarchism, emphasizing the programmatic weaknesses of anarchism. He declared that no revolution could succeed without a centralized, regular army and a revolutionary state. A group formed around him, particularly of people who had never had to chose between anarchism and authoritarian Marxism. Although they suddenly discovered the value of the international working class, their new-found Marxism was not of any of the libertarian or humanistic varieties (autonomes, council communism, CLR James, Eric Fromm, Hal Draper, etc.). It was Maoism – one of the most Stalinist, authoritarian, versions.

A small number of us began to resist, at first by writing counter documents. We were mostly, but not entirely, former members of the RSL, and were mostly older than the average member. What was upsetting and confusing to us was that most L&R members did not react to the dispute. They stayed out of it. This nonreaction was helped by the neo-Maoists’ maneuver of rarely stating openly that they rejected anarchism. Instead the group talked around this. They made hints, and then denials, and then direct statements, and then withdraw the statements. If people wanted to ignore the issue, it was made easy for them. We, the group that said there was a crisis, were treated as troublemakers.

As we saw it, the issue was the rejection of anarchism for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. We were accused of being dogmatic, not active enough, being troublemakers, wrong on any number of other issues, and so on. There is a myth in the present anarchists movement that L&R collapsed due to weakness over African-American liberation. This was never a major dispute inside the organization, although perhaps it should have been. It was raised at the last minute, the main supporter of Race Traitor politics blocing with the Maoist faction. But it was never the issue in the faction fight, that being anarchism versus Maoism.

Behind the fight and then collapse of Love and Rage was broader historical trends. About the same time that L&R dissolved, our Mexican section also came apart. The Quebecois network which had put out the anarchist Demanarchie also broke down. And the British group, the Class War Federation, also dissolved. While there were specific issues in each case, behind them all was the long lull in the broader movement. People were discouraged. In our case, anyway, people were looking for some alternative.

Marxism had been discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the officially pro-market turn of the Chinese. But it still had the attraction of its history of revolutions and its vast amount of theoretical work, unlike anarchism. It was, and still is, a real pole of attraction for many. L&R had a brief meeting to formally dissolve the federation. The Maoist group, and those it had attracted, formed Fire By Night, for a short time. Soon they were to dissolve into the Leninist milieu. Our group has put out the anarchist journal, The Utopian ( http://www.utopianmag.com). Otherwise individuals have continued to engage in the anarchist movement in various ways. Within two to three years of L&R dissolution, there was a large upturn in the anarchist movement, but there was no continental anarchist federation to participate in it. Lessons of the Love and Rage Federation

When I think over my experiences in L&R (as well as earlier experiences), I reach the following three main conclusions:

(1) There is a need to balance activism with theory. An activists’ program needs to be based on a theory of the world, what causes oppression, what would liberation mean, what sectors of society can overturn oppression, and what can we do to help them to move toward liberation. Otherwise we are just actively jumping around. If anarchists are not to be outdone (once again) by the Marxists and other authoritarians, we have to know what we are doing. Not that every member of an anarchist federation has to fully agree with the same ideas, but there needs to be a core of members with a common approach. This does not mean that we can do nothing without a full-grown theory. Unlike the Marxists, we do not have a set of sacred books to learn from. But as we participate in struggles, anarchists should be simultaneously working on theory. There should be study groups, a common set of readings, and a lively theoretical journal.

(2) There needs to be an orientation to the working class. This is not only for theoretical but for strategic reasons. There is no other oppressed group which has the potential ability to shut down capitalist society – and to start it up again. Only workers – as workers – can do this. No other grouping is oppressed at the heart of the process of production or has the self-interest to create a classless society. This was the insight of anarcho-syndicalism.

Anarchists must continue to participate in and champion the struggles of women, queers, of oppressed races and nations. Their oppression is as real as that of workers. Their movements are as essential for liberation. But just as their issues must be raised in the class struggle, so the class struggle must be raised in them. This means participation in workplace concerns. We need to develop a serious and positive view of unions, and a set of tactics for dealing with them.

(3) There is a need for a democratic organization of revolutionary anarchists – if we are not (once again) to be outorganized by the Marxists. There can be no abstractly preordained structure for such a democratic organization, except that it be democratic. Much depends on the circumstances. The principle is that it should be as decentralized and directly democratic as possible but as centralized and coordinated as is minimally necessary. This is not a party, which is an organization for taking power (by election, or by control of a revolution). This is an instrument for participation in popular struggles and for encouraging the people to take over themselves. An anarchist organization is part of the process of popular self-organization, not its opposite. But, as is said in the Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists, it needs some personnel chosen by the membership. They should be elected on the basis of their politics, not their personalities or their location! s. I believe it is essential for such a democratic, programmatic body to be elected to oversee publications, and other literature, as well as to do a certain minimal amount of coordination and reacting to emergencies.

All these points are controversial among anarchists. But I have seen, all too often, the victory of the authoritarians, statists, and Marxists, over the anarchists and libertarian socialists. We have a chance to change that awful history, if we are prepared for it.

Wayne Price
From Northeastern Anarchist #3 Fall 2001
Text taken and edited for layout and typos by libcom from http://nefac.net

Quote of the Day Reply

Hat tip to MRDA. Dain is an old acquaintance of mine from the U.S. libertarian milieu.

“I’m personally interested in the tradition of libertine individualist elitism. The nether region where John Henry Mackay, Max Stirner and HL Mencken meet. These people don’t truck much with liberal pieties and Stirner’s “spooks,” but nor do they give a shit about upholding tradition, conservative or otherwise.”

–Dain Fitzgerald

The above quote describes my own outlook pretty well, with the caveat that such sentiments are not enough to build a movement that is actually subversive to the state for the simple reason that most people are not libertines, individualists, or elites and are not going to be. Such an outlook, I believe, is appropriate if not perfect for the cultural and intellectual leadership of the Anarchist movement, but at the ground and middle levels we need something else. Hence, the ARV/ATS emphasis on populism, anti-globalism, neo-tribalism, rejection of the left/right paradigm, cultivating an array of interest groups who are under attack by the state as constituents, lumpenproletarianism, pan-secessionism, fourth generation warfare, etc.

This Is What Revolution Looks Like Reply

Article by Chris Hedges.

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Welcome to the revolution. Our elites have exposed their hand. They have nothing to offer. They can destroy but they cannot build. They can repress but they cannot lead. They can steal but they cannot share. They can talk but they cannot speak. They are as dead and useless to us as the water-soaked books, tents, sleeping bags, suitcases, food boxes and clothes that were tossed by sanitation workers Tuesday morning into garbage trucks in New York City. They have no ideas, no plans and no vision for the future.

Our decaying corporate regime has strutted in Portland, Oakland and New York with their baton-wielding cops into a fool’s paradise. They think they can clean up “the mess”—always employing the language of personal hygiene and public security—by making us disappear. They think we will all go home and accept their corporate nation, a nation where crime and government policy have become indistinguishable, where nothing in America, including the ordinary citizen, is deemed by those in power worth protecting or preserving, where corporate oligarchs awash in hundreds of millions of dollars are permitted to loot and pillage the last shreds of collective wealth, human capital and natural resources, a nation where the poor do not eat and workers do not work, a nation where the sick die and children go hungry, a nation where the consent of the governed and the voice of the people is a cruel joke.

More…

Rothbard on Power to the Neighborhoods 6

Another Rothbard classic.

My long term goal is to have ATS and ATS-allied groups operating in cities, towns, counties, and regions all over the USA, and working in tandem to advance ideas like this in their own local areas. The rest of my work is simply about developing an intellectual counter-elite and theoretical foundation for these ideas, developing a workable strategy, cultivating constituents for such a project and developing viable activist endeavors towards such an end.

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This article first appeared in the May 15, 1969, issue of The Libertarian Forum.

Norman Mailer’s surprise entry into the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City, to be held on June 17, provides the most refreshing libertarian political campaign in decades. Mailer has taken everyone by surprise by his platform as well as his sudden entry into the political ranks. The Mailer platform stems from one brilliantly penetrating overriding plank: the absolute decentralization of the swollen New York City bureaucracy into dozens of constituent neighborhood villages. This is the logic of the recent proposals for “decentralization” and “community control” brought to its consistent and ultimate conclusion: the turmoil and plight of our overblown and shattered urban government structures, most especially New York, are to be solved by smashing the urban governmental apparatus, and fragmenting it into a myriad of constituent fragments. Each neighborhood will then be running its own affairs, on all matters, taxation, education, police, welfare, etc. Do conservative whites object to compulsory bussing of black kids into their neighborhood schools? Well, says Mailer, with each neighborhood in absolute control of its own schools this problem could not arise. Do the blacks object to white dictation over the education of black children? This problem too would be solved if Harlem were wholly independent, running its own affairs. In the Mailer plan, black and white could at long last live peacefully side-by-side, with each group and each self-constituted neighborhood running its own affairs.

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The Clockwork Orange Dilemma! Riots, Reflections and Ramifications… Reply

Article by MRDA. The best analysis yet of the London riots.

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When folk get angry, why do they always piss on their own doorstep? Westminster is only a bus ride away.
– Tunnocks, Guardian Reader.

But this I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful…And when they  call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had—power.

– Friedrich Nietzsche

image

It took only two bullets to rupture the relative calm of a whole country…

…and,more than three weeks later, the wound remains sore and exposed.

However I won’t delve too deeply into the circumstances surrounding Mark Duggan’s fatal shooting by the Boys in Blue; nor those of the ensuing protest, two days later. Much remains to be clarified over those two occurrences: did Duggan unwittingly commit “suicide-by-cop”, or receive a summary execution ala Jean Charles de Menezes?  Did the police go on to batter a peaceful protestor, or a pugilist?  The little that has come to light hardly sheds any in return.

Still, I will spout off a few paragraphs concerning the now-infamous riots that springboarded off of those events…

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Libertarian Homesteading Can Restore the Inner Cities Reply

Article by Anthony Gregory.

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In Oakland, California, where I live, urban homesteading – growing food on private land for small-scale trade and consumption – has become so common the city government has backed off a bit. In a rare triumph for sanity and freedom, anachronistic zoning ordinances from 1965 are being liberalized to accommodate the city farmers. Molly Samuel writes at KQED:

“The city has already made some changes; it’s now legal to grow and sell vegetables on an empty lot with a conditional use permit. . . . Oakland North reports one of the hotly debated topics [at a city meeting] was animal husbandry: Should Oaklanders be permitted to raise, slaughter, and sell animals? Or not?”

Despite the remaining government bureaucracy, we have to cheer on the homesteaders. They are so impossible to ignore, hundreds of them flooding a city meeting, that the tyranny of zoning is being ratcheted back for once.

And although it has a leftish quality, libertarians ought to take notice of this countercultural movement, whose localizing agenda poses profound implications for the future of liberty. With the economic forecasts dire and the corporatist system of mega-farms firmly gripping the Obama administration and all federal politics for the foreseeable future, our rights and perhaps very lives may depend on the freedom to farm at home.

Libertarians often straddle radically different, sometimes seemingly opposed, stereotypes. We are simultaneously atomist rugged individualists and slaves to the anonymous division of labor found in modern cosmopolitanism. This seeming paradox is reconciled in our simultaneous love of political localism and integrated economics, self-sufficiency and the contemporary blessings of a thriving voluntary community. And as admirers of both the frontier and the integrated city life, we can see much to relate to in the urban homesteaders and their hybrid lifestyle of city-slicking, strenuous agrarianism.

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Libertarianism and White Racial Nationalism 30

Article by Kevin MacDonald.

This piece makes for an interesting contrast with critiques of libertarianism from leftists who often seem to regard it as a variation of Nazism: “Without the state imposing enlightened, progressive values on the wider society, racism, sexism, fascism, and capitalism will go through the roof!”

Now MacDonald makes exactly the opposite argument: “Without the state upholding white ethnic interests, society will be overrun by Jews and immigrants!”

So which is it going to be? 🙂

Unschoolers learn what they want, when they want 7

Burn the Schools!

Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper had it right on the question of “education.”

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By Jacque Wilson, CNN
August 3, 2011 8:46 a.m. EDT


Students chat outside at Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Six-year-old Karina Ricci doesn’t ever have a typical day. She has no schedule to follow, no lessons to complete.

She spends her time watching TV, doing arts and crafts or practicing the piano. She learned to spell by e-mailing with friends; she uses math concepts while cooking dinner.

Everything she knows has been absorbed “organically,” according to her dad, Dr. Carlo Ricci. She’s not just on summer break — this is her life year round as an at-home unschooler.
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A Reply to Matthew Lyons, Part Three: Sheep, Wolves, and Owls 55

This is the final in a series of essays in response to Matthew Lyons’ critique “Rising Above the Herd: Keith Preston’s Authoritarian Anti-Statism.” And here is the transcript of a recent lecture by Lyons where yours truly gets a couple of mentions. Part One may be viewed here. Part Two may be seen here.

By Keith Preston

“‘As long as the sun shall shine upon man’s misfortunes, the sheep will be eaten by the wolf.’ All that is left is, for those who know and can, to avoid becoming sheep.” –

-Vilfredo Pareto, The Rise & Fall of Elites

“(There is) a perpetual struggle between ‘freedom’ and ‘authority’; neither one of which will be annihilated. It appears, indeed, that we are left with a politics of perpetual protest. There cannot be any point at which those dedicated to liberty can sit back in security and assume the world is in peace, harmony and freedom…(E)ven if anarchy were to be achieved, eternal vigilance would be the bare minimum price for a modicum of success…(T)here is no final battle. The battle is forever.”

-Harold Barclay, Anarchist anthropologist

“What the common man longs for in this world, before and above all his other longings, is the simplest and most ignominious sort of peace — the peace of a trusty in a well-managed penitentiary. He is willing to sacrifice everything else to it. He puts it above his dignity and he puts it above his pride. Above all, he puts it above his liberty. The fact, perhaps, explains his veneration for policemen, in all the forms they take — his belief that there is a mysterious sanctity in law, however absurd it may be in fact. A policeman is a charlatan who offers, in return for obedience, to protect him (a) from his superiors, (b) from his equals, and (c) from himself. “

H. L. Mencken

“…a series of fundamental misconceptions…which prevented (man) from learning the lessons of the past, and…now put his survival in question. The first of these..is putting the blame for man’s predicament on his selfishness, greed, etc.; in a word, on the aggressive, self-assertive tendencies of the individual…I would like to suggest that the integrative tendencies of the individual are incomparably more dangerous than his self-assertive tendencies.”

Arthur Koestler

Matthew Lyons depicts the philosophical foundations that inform my political views in this way:

Preston’s opposition to the state is based on a radically anti-humanistic philosophy of elitism, ruthless struggle, and contempt for most people.

Preston embraces “a philosophical conservatism regarding human nature and the nature of society,” whose tenets include “natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, [and] the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness…”He is harshly critical of the left’s egalitarianism and universalism. Instead, he offers an elitist, anti-humanist philosophy that echoes Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Jünger, and Ayn Rand:

those who obtain the upper hand in the ongoing power struggle will almost always be the most ruthless, cunning and merciless of the competitors. The wolves will always win out over the sheep. Within the bleak framework of a perpetual war of each against all, there from time to time arises the exceedingly rare individual whom Nietzsche referred to as the “ubermensch.” This is the individual of superior will, strength, mind, spirit, discipline, intelligence, intuition, perceptiveness, shrewdness, wisdom, creativity, inventiveness, generosity and other such characteristics that set the human species a half step above the other animals. It is this individual who becomes the “anarch,” the “egoist,” the one who rises above the perpetual fog in which both the sheepish people and their vicious masters dwell…. It is persons such as these who carry with them the seeds of cultural and civilizational growth. For any sort of human existence to emerge beyond that of the merely animalistic, this type of individual must thrive…

Preston argues further that “the first purpose of any politics or ethics beyond the purely material or defensive” must be to protect and foster these rare, superior individuals, the anarchs. “It is apparent that the political framework most conducive to the advancement of the anarch is some sort of anarchism.” In other words, the main reason Preston supports anarchism is not to liberate all people — but to help a handful of superior individuals rise above the bestial mass of humanity.

This is a generally accurate portrayal of my view of human nature and the nature of human societies, as the extensive quotations from me in the above passages from Lyons’ essay would indicate. Just as Lyons’ critique of my economic outlook provides, on a general level, an illustration of the historic differences between the Marxist and Anarchist approaches to political economy, so does his critique also exemplify one of the most crucial philosophical conflicts in the history of modern Western political philosophy. This is the battle between egalitarianism and non-egalitarianism. This conflict is not necessarily a struggle between the Left and Right. As no less a man of the Right than Richard Spencer has observed:

 

…in my fantasyland, there would still be a Left and a Right—and granolas and libertarians and animal rights activists and Mormons, et al.—but they would operate within Western unity and natural hierarchy.

Some, no doubt, might counter that you can’t have a “non-egalitarian Left.” But I don’t agree with this at all. Jack London was a collectivist; HL Mencken, an anarchist; both were “leftists,” of sorts, and both rejected egalitarianism. And they both operated on a different planet than the whole spectrum of contemporary Leftists and Rightists, from Glenn Beck to Cornell West.

To this list of anti-egalitarian liberals and leftists could be added the socialist George Bernard Shaw, the anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon, and the classical liberal John Stuart Mill, all of whom expressed skepticism of the tendency of modern democracy towards ochlocracy. In his discussions of the conflicting visions of humanity and society found in traditional Western thought, Thomas Sowell has identified Plato as a proto-typical utopian radical and Aristotle as a proto-typical conservative realist. Yet it is interesting to note that neither of these two of the greatest thinkers from antiquity were egalitarians.

It should be a matter of common understanding that human beings are not “equal” on either an innate or behavioral level. Wide variation exists among human types with regards to both intellectual ability and physical or psychological fitness. It is therefore obvious that any sort of prosperous civilization with functional institutions must rank the intelligent over the stupid, the healthy over the diseased, the physically fit over the disabled, and the psychologically stable over the mentally disturbed. Persons with Down’s syndrome are not going to be neurosurgeons. Stratification must also exist whereby the wise are ranked over the foolish, the competent over the incompetent, the sober over drunks and addicts, the productive over the lazy, and so forth. Not even the most ideologically rigid leftist-anarchist commune could survive for very long and tolerate freeloaders, moochers, predators, or perpetually destructive or disruptive individuals, no matter how fervently committed the communards were to their egalitarian ideals.

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A Reply to Matthew Lyons, Part Two: The Subjectivity of Authoritarianism and Special Pleading as Ideology 28

This is the second in a series of essays in response to Matthew Lyons’ critique “Rising Above the Herd: Keith Preston’s Authoritarian Anti-Statism.” And here is the transcript of a recent lecture by Lyons where yours truly gets a couple of mentions. Part One may be viewed here.

by Keith Preston

“If the individual cannot get along with the community, and the community cannot tolerate the individual, what real good will state intervention produce—wouldn’t separation be, in any world, the rational, noncoercive, nonviolent solution? Yes, it might be possible to contrive a state process that would force a Jewish Community to accept the Nazi Individual, or a White Community the despised Black, or a Fundamentalist Community the threatening Atheist. But it needs only for the principle of free travel to be observed—to the advantage of both the leavers and the stayers—and the Nazi, the Black, the Atheist can all find congenial communities of their own. The virtue of a multi-communitied world would be precisely that there would be within its multitude of varieties a home for everyone.”

Kirkpatrick Sale

“Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany is a horror; Adolf Hitler at a town meeting would be an asshole.”

–Karl Hess

“When a previously disadvantaged group rises to power, it exploits its new position just as did the group or groups it has displaced.”

-Mark A. Schneider, American sociologist

“The ultimate aim of multiculturalism is the creation of a totalitarian state ordered as a type of caste system where individual privilege is assigned on the basis of group identity and group privilege is assigned on the basis of the position of the group in the pantheon of the oppressed.”

-Keith Preston

The core aspects of Lyons’ objections to my own outlook are fairly well summarized in the following passages from his critique, and these comments from Lyons are also fairly representative of the most common arguments against my views offered by Leftists:

Preston only acknowledges oppression along lines of race, gender, sexuality, or other factors to the extent that these are directly promoted by the state, particularly through formal, legal discrimination against specific groups of people. Arguing that “the state is a unique force for destruction,” Preston ignores or trivializes the dense network of oppressive institutions and relationships that exist outside of, and sometimes in opposition to, the state. It is these societally based systems of oppression, not state intervention, that perpetuate dramatic wealth disparities between whites and people of color, widespread domestic violence that overwhelmingly target women, and suicide rates much higher among LGBT teens than heterosexual teens, among many other examples.

Preston portrays secession as a voluntary process, in which many varied groups of people decide to go their own separate ways and coexist peaceably side by side. But what does “voluntary” mean in a context where wives are expected to submit to the authority of their husbands, workers to obey their bosses, or homosexuality is regarded as a perversion and a crime? And how long would peaceable coexistence last in the face of absolutist ideologies that are inherently expansionist? The leaders of a Christian Right statelet would believe that homosexuality and feminism are wrong not only within the statelet’s borders, but everywhere, and they would feel a religious duty to enforce this belief as widely as possible.

The bottom line is that the primary objection to anarcho-pluralism, pan-secessionism, national-anarchism, anarcho-libertarianism and overlapping perspectives raised by leftists such as Lyons is their fear that some individuals, institutions, organizations, or communities is such a meta-political framework will practice values disapproved of by leftists or engage in discrimination against groups favored by leftists. The selective and arbitrary nature of such criticism is easy enough to identify. Imagine if a right-wing critic of anarcho-pluralism were to make comments such as the following:

Preston only acknowledges oppression resulting from liberalism and the Left to the extent that these are directly promoted by the state, particularly through formal, legal discrimination against specific groups of people. Arguing that “the state is a unique force for destruction,” Preston ignores or trivializes the dense network of oppressive institutions and relationships that exist outside of, and sometimes in opposition to, the state. It is these societally based systems of oppression, not state intervention, that perpetuate dramatic disparities in  the rate of violent crimes perpetrated against whites by blacks and Hispanics, widespread dissemination of pornography that contributes to sex crimes and social decay, and the promotion of drug use, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality leading to teen pregnancy, illegitimacy, drug abuse, broken families, child neglect, venereal diseases, crime, welfare dependency and other social pathologies .

Preston portrays secession as a voluntary process, in which many varied groups of people decide to go their own separate ways and coexist peaceably side by side. But what does “voluntary” mean in a context where leftist localities have the option of banning private firearms and private property, where urban white families have to live among and send their children to schools with violent black youth, or where Christianity is regarded as a backward superstition and a dangerous threat to freedom and progress? And how long would peaceable coexistence last in the face of absolutist ideologies that are inherently expansionist? The leaders of a Marxist statelet would believe that Christianity and private property are wrong not only within the statelet’s borders, but everywhere, and they would feel an ideological duty to enforce this belief as widely as possible.

Such criticisms would correctly be dismissed as special pleading on behalf of right-wing ideological values, political interest groups and favorite causes. One of the principal ideas behind anarcho-pluralism is the recognition that irreconcilable differences between different political factions and population groups will always exist, and the need to establish societal institutions that are capable of accommodating such differences in a way that avoids both bloodshed and the subjugation of some groups by others. With regards to the “authoritarianism” question, it is necessary to point out that abstract notions like “freedom,” “liberty,” and so forth are understood in radically different ways by different kinds of people. Lyons gives no evidence that his own ideological preferences are somehow decreed by the cosmos, by some divine creator, or by natural law. The bottom line is that the political and social preferences of leftists like Lyons reflect the subjective value judgments of individuals and groups in the same manner as any other kind of assertion of ideological principles. Leftism is ultimately just another tribe like Christianity, Islam, fascism, libertarianism, Satanism, or veganism.

The selectivity of Lyons’ criticisms is further illustrated by his choice of which groups to attack from the list of potential constituents for anarcho-pluralism that I have identified. He focuses on three of these: the League of the South, Christian Exodus, and believers in Christian Identity. He chooses not offer any criticism of “Marxist-Leninists,” “Islamic rightists,” “people of color nationalist movements,” “militant environmentalists,” and so forth. It is only those tendencies that claim to speak for the interests of white Christians that he seems particularly concerned about. This raises the question of whether it is really “authoritarianism” that Lyons is worried about or whether it is merely white Christians as a general population group whom he regards as the problem with political “authoritarianism” not really being all that important if it is controlled by leftists and their allies or constituents.

More…

A Reply to Matthew Lyons, Part One: Anarchism Contra Marxism Revisited 5

This is the first in a series of essays in response to Matthew Lyons’ critique “Rising Above the Herd: Keith Preston’s Authoritarian Anti-Statism.” And here is the transcript of a recent lecture by Lyons where yours truly gets a couple of mentions.

by Keith Preston

Part One

Anarchism Contra Marxism Revisited: The Role of the State in Political Economy

Engels pretty aptly summed up the difference between anarchists and state socialists over a century ago: “They say abolish the state and capital will go to the devil. We propose the reverse.

-Kevin Carson

Let me say to M. Blanc: you desire neither Catholicism nor monarchy nor nobility, but you must have a God, a religion, a dictatorship, a censorship, a hierarchy, distinctions, and ranks. For my part, I deny your God, your authority, your sovereignty, your judicial State, and all your representative mystifications.

-Pierre Joseph Proudhon

Matthew Lyons summarizes his objections to my views on political economy as follows:

Preston portrays the state as the only significant source of oppression, and sees “corporate plutocracy” purely as a result of state interference in the market economy. It’s quite true as he argues that the state has actively promoted the concentration of wealth and economic power, but his assumption that “natural” markets can be separated from “unnatural” state involvement is a libertarian myth. Both state and market are institutions created by human beings, and the two are closely intertwined. Market relations have expanded enormously under capitalism — not in spite of, but largely through, state intervention (forcing subsistence farmers across the globe to become wage laborers, for example). “Freeing” markets from the centralized state would certainly reshape capitalist power, but would not abolish it. Rather, it would benefit certain forms of capital and certain business factions over others.

This is a restatement of relatively standard Marxist views of political economy. According to such views, capitalism is the outgrowth of the market economy itself with the state existing as a manifestation of the collective power of the capitalist class. It is this view of the state that has been among the principal sources of contention between Marxists and Anarchists in past times. Lyons also grossly oversimplifies my own views regarding the relationship between the state and ruling class power generally:

Although Preston is an elitist who expresses contempt for most people, he is also a populist. More specifically, his anarcho-pluralism represents a form of right-wing populism — that is, it seeks to rally “the people” against established elites based on a distorted analysis of power that both masks and reinforces oppressive social relations. Right-wing populism offers a plausible target for anti-elite rage that channels it away from a thoroughgoing attack on the oppressive order. Some right-wing populists target a specific ethnic group (such as Jews) or even a specific sub-group within the elite (such as bankers or multinational corporations). Preston targets the state. More precisely, he falsely equates oppression in general with the large, centralized state, in a way that both obscures and promotes other forms of social oppression and political authoritarianism.

The state by itself does not comprise the full body of the elite or the ruling class as a whole. Rather, the state is the core institution through which layered networks of systems of institutional power interact. The political class is merely the highest body of the ruling class, its top layer. The state contains within itself multiple layers and contending factions. It is the state through which the other core institutions of ruling class power such as banking and finance, international commerce, industrial corporations, systems of mass propaganda (i.e. education and the media), the legal caste, other professional castes such as medicine (“the white coat priesthood”), and military and police power are coordinated. These latter two institutions-the military and the police-are particularly important to the development of an understanding as to how the state interacts with the broader array of systems of power in a modern society.

Virtually all modern states claim a monopoly on military and police power. For instance, the organization of private armies outside the prerogative of the state is either formally or de facto prohibited in most U.S. jurisdictions. Anti-militia and anti-gang laws are examples of this. Now, there are also formally private but state-connected military organizations which operate on behalf of the state or to which to the state has “farmed out” aspects of its claimed military monopoly. The Blackwater mercenary corporation is an illustration of this. Ostensibly private entities such as Wackenhut or the Corrections Corporation of America that have existed for the purpose of constructing and maintaining aspects of the U.S. prison-industrial complex are another. But these institutions have as their function the implementation of policies specifically decreed and pursued by the state, such as mass imprisonment of subjects or military occupation of other nations. Genuinely private military organizations, such as the Black Panthers of the 1960s, the Order of the 1980s, or the militia movement of the 1990s, that act outside of or in opposition to the specific objectives pursued by the state always come under severe repression.

Modern economies are not strictly “capitalist” or “socialist” according to the classical definitions of these terms. The capitalist/socialist dichotomy emerged in the nineteenth century as a descriptive concept developed for the purpose of understanding and analyzing particular systems of political economy and manifestations of socioeconomic conflict as they existed then. But the capitalist/socialist dichotomy became somewhat obsolete following the major changes in the nature of the political economies and systems of class relations that emerged in the industrialized nations in the twentieth century. Rather, the systems of political economy found in the advanced nations might be regarded as kinds of capitalist/socialist hybrids. The development of this hybrid was indicated by the emergence of the so-called “managerial revolution” in the industrialized nations in the middle part of the twentieth century and the related evolution of the “New Class” of technocratic and bureaucratic elites. This hybrid developed in the various industrialized nations irrespective of the official ideology of each individual nation. Thinkers such as Lawrence Dennis and James Burnham observed and wrote about this phenomenon as far back as the 1930s.

It is indeed interesting to attempt to identify a system of class hierarchies within the context of a contemporary system of corporate-social democratic political economy and mass democracy. As mentioned, the traditional anarchist view is that the state is the highest class, over and above socio-economic elites. The financial oligarchy and the largest, most politically influential corporate entities might be the second layer with national corporations of lesser influence or large regional corporations being the third layer. The fourth layer might be the increasingly expansive professional and bureaucratic class along with more localized or nationally or regionally organized but less wealthy and influential business interests. The traditional white collar class and the self-employed or small business class (the “petite bourgeoisie” in Marxist terminology) might be the next level. Following this conventional middle class would be the upper strata of the working class, such as high wage union workers. The lower socioeconomic levels consist of  the lower wage/lower proletarian sector, the lumpen proletariat of the unemployed and marginal or criminalized populations, and the neo-peasantry of rural agricultural workers and small, almost subsistence level farmers. This general outline is an oversimplification, of course. Within each of these classes, there is an array of sectors with sometimes contending or conflicting interests and there are a number of economic sectors whose specific class identity is a bit difficult to classify. Within the context of modern mass democracy generally, it has to be considered to what degree class identities and manifestations of class power actually share political power with organized interests of a not specifically economic or material nature, i.e. so-called “interest group politics” of the type that emerged in the mid to late twentieth century. Examples include ethnic lobbies, environmentalists, feminists, gay rights, pro-gun control, anti-gun control, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, et. al. Leftists recognize this latter concept in their own way with, for instance, their criticisms of racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural interests which they consider to be forces for oppression.

I am a bit baffled as to where Lyons gets the idea that I am an apologist for vulgar capitalism as many of his comments regarding my economic outlook would seem to imply. Lyons discusses the role of rivalries between contending capitalist factions in the shaping of U.S. politics at both the regional and national levels. I acknowledged as much in my interpretation of the rise of the postwar conservative movement as representing an insurgency by the Sun Belt factions of U.S. “capitalism” , with these being heavily intertwined with the military-industrial complex which emerged during precisely the same era, and acting against the traditional northeastern plutocratic and financial elites. I also largely share his apparent interpretation of the U.S. Civil War as a class conflict between northern industrial capitalism and southern agrarian remnant feudalism. Having been involved in municipal politics for years, I am well aware of the role of local financial, commercial, and real estate oligarchies in manipulating the reins of local and state governments. I also see the current manifestation of the Democratic/Republican divide as in part representing a political rivalry between newer, more high-tech industries such as those related to mass communications and the cyber-economy on one hand and the older, more established industries, such as oil, banking, armaments, and agriculture. Indeed, I regard present day American party politics as representing a class conflict between the older bourgeoisie WASP elites and the rising cosmopolitan, multicultural upper-middle class.

Nor I have ever suggested that business power should reign unchecked in a stateless economy or that there should not be institutional arrangements or mechanisms established for the purpose of preventing an excessive concentration of control over resources and property. In fact, I have repeatedly argued for just the opposite in an extensive and detailed manner. Unlike the Marxists, I regard “private property” as essential to both economic prosperity and individual liberty. This does not necessarily imply a vulgar neo-Lockean or classical bourgeoisie conception of “property rights” in the same manner as conventional “right-wing libertarians” of the kind Lyons obviously despises. Rather, it implies a dispersed and decentralized control over resources minus an overarching state apparatus of the kind favored by Marxists or plutocratic corporations of the kind favored by the conventional Right. Of the contending economic factions of the Right, I am probably much closer to the distributists than to the vulgar libertarians.

It is indeed true that much of the corporate apparatus and its supporting institutions are either directly created or assisted and maintained by the state. Kevin Carson, for instance, has documented this extensively, above and beyond the dissection of the relationship between state and capital offered by Marxist critics like Gabriel Kolko. Now, it is also true that without, for example, central banking, laws of incorporation, or corporate welfare, corporate entities of the kind we are presently familiar with might exist anyway, though on a more limited scale. My prediction would be that the breaking of the alliance between state and capital would mean the elimination of the super-plutocracy. There might still be a less concentrated wealthy class, a larger middle class, and a class of the poor that is still capable of living a dignified existence but not the large underclass we have at present. To some degree, I think inequality is inevitable. Most sober thinkers since the Greeks have recognized this. There is inequality of both individuals and groups: nations, regions, communities, businesses, socioeconomic classes, and other demographic groups. Some individuals are more intelligent, motivated, skilled, wise, and virtuous. Some simply have better luck than others. Nature is kinder to some than others. So is chance or fate.

But that does not mean we should not challenge abusive or exploitive economic arrangements when possible. As Aristotle observed, the most successful societies are those that are able to maintain a large middle class. The question is how to go about doing that. The key is to avoid the establishment of a plutocracy at the top or an underclass at the bottom. This implies both a widespread dispersion of property and resources and the existence of institutions that counter balance the influence of commercial and financial interests. Lyons recognizes my endorsement of labor militancy and the creation of alternative economic enterprises of the kind represented by the Mondragon workers cooperatives, anarcho-syndicalist labor unions, consumer cooperatives, tenants unions, non-state social services, private relief agencies, land trusts, and mutual banks. I also support agitation for the repeal of state policies, such as those mentioned in Carson’s “Political Program for Anarchists,” that have the effect of centralizing control over wealth.  I also think we need strong intermediary institutions as a counterweight to the power of economic institutions. One of the effects of managerial liberal-capitalism is its tendency to undermine or absorb institutions other than the state, the economy, and entertainment. Other aspects of life are eradicated. Larry Gambone’s “The Myth of Socialism as Statism” contains an extensive overview of the vast array of alternatives to both state and plutocratic rule that different thinkers have at times proposed.

My own approach to economics is pluralist: Proudhon, anarcho-syndicalism, Henry George, Austrianism, distributism, populism, paleoconservatism, Kirkpatrick Sale and Kevin Carson. Regarding the question of institutional checks on economic power, even orthodox libertarian thought on this question is not as monolithic or lacking in nuance as its critics often suggest. Lyons raises the issue of company towns, which Friedrich Hayek also found problematical. Mutualist and Georgist theories of land ownership suggest the legitimacy of limits on individual or collective accumulation of land wealth. The great libertarian-classical liberal Thomas Szasz has expressed sympathy for antitrust legislation. Later in his career, Robert Nozick came to endorse the need for limitations on inheritance so as to prevent the entrenchment of family dynasties in economic life. Murray Rothbard considered fractional reserve banking to be a form of fraud and thought it should be illegal in a libertarian society. Hans Hermann Hoppe has endorsed the syndicalist model for the distribution of state-owned property and Rothbard and Karl Hess, at least for a time, expressed sympathy for student occupations of state-run universities and worker occupations of welfare corporations and state-subsidized industries. The agorist philosophy of Samuel Edward Konkin III postulated the concept of counter-economics and counter-institutions as antagonisms to the status quo. And while it is true, as Lyons points out, that libertarianism is the faction of the US right-wing that has most impacted my thinking, classical European anarchism has been an even greater influence on my own outlook

The state has unique coercive powers that other institutions do not have such as a legal monopoly on the use of violent force, and an ideological superstructure that legitimizes this monopoly. Max Weber regarded this monopoly as the essence of the modern state as it has existed since the time of the Treaty of Westphalia. The modern state’s powers of taxation and conscription have provided the state with unique capacities for destruction such as the production and amassing of nuclear weapons and the ability to amass the resources necessary to wage war on a total level. The state has a unique penchant for genocide. This is one of the chief political lessons of the 20th century. Whatever one thinks of McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, or Microsoft (and I think very little of these), such corporations simply do not hold a candle to the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot regarding the question of institutional propensities towards the extermination of human beings on a massive scale.

The standard efforts at rebuttal offered by contemporary statists to arguments such as those mentioned above almost always involve an invocation of “democracy.” The presumption is that democratic states are of a fundamentally different nature than the more overtly totalitarian manifestations of the state associated with ideologies like Nazism or Stalinism. The assumption behind this argument is that democratic states are essentially peaceful and generally benign in their actions and not specifically inclined towards aggressive warfare, mass killing, or exploitation of subject populations in the same manner as non-democratic states. A school of political science, commonly labeled “democratic peace theory,” is even built up around this presumption. Therefore, a vitally important consideration that must be addressed by any contemporary critic of the state involves the question of the nature of the modern mass democratic state.

It is no mere coincidence that states have become more powerful and intrusive as they have become more democratic, and Plato’s ancient observation that democracy is typically the final stage in the degeneration of a political order before full-blown tyranny begins has been borne out by historical experience. The most vicious totalitarian states of the twentieth century emerged only after the traditional monarchies and aristocracies in their respective nations (e.g. Germany, Russia, China, Cambodia) had been overturned. Likewise, the rise of statism in the United States has transpired in direct proportion to the expansion of democracy. Indeed, the United States provides an excellent case study in how a traditionally democratic state can engage in mass killing and oppression in a way comparable to that of a formally totalitarian regime. It is widely known, for instance, that the USA incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the ostensibly totalitarian Chinese regime. Likewise, the body count generated by American foreign policy during the Cold War and the subsequent era of the U.S. as the “sole superpower” often matched that of America’s totalitarian rivals. A number of researchers-Johann Galtung, John Stockwell, Peter Dale Scott, Noam Chomsky-have documented that the probable number of casualties generated by U.S.-directed counter insurgency and destabilization campaigns during the Cold War era was approximately six million, roughly the same number of casualties produced by the Jewish Holocaust. The hundreds of thousands of casualties produced by the American invasion and bombing of Cambodia during the early 1970s rivaled the casualty count achieved by the Khmer Rouge regime during the latter part of that decade. A similar comparison could be made between the Cambodian holocaust and the massacres generated by American puppet regimes in Central America during the 1970s and 1980s or the American-sponsored and financed Indonesian occupation of East Timor during the same period. The number of persons killed as a result of U.S. aggression against Iraq over the past two decades easily rivals the number of casualties produced as a result of actions taken by the regime of Saddam Hussein. The American empire is as pertinent an illustration as any of the inability of so-called “democracy” to act as a constraint on the destructive nature of the state.

As a less severe but still significant example of the relative power of the state versus non-state institutions, we might wish to take a look at the practice of debt enforcement and collection in the present day United States. Traditional debtors’ prisons have for the most part been abolished in modern societies. At present, the only debts on which default can lead to imprisonment in the United States are those debts imposed by the state such as taxes, criminal fines, child support, and, in some instances, civil damages awarded in lawsuits. Forms of private debt such as that pertaining to credit cards, utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, bank loans, car loans, school tuition, and so forth can carry significant consequences in the event of default but rarely if ever lead to imprisonment in instances of non-payment not involving actual acts of fraud. To break it down even further, we might wish to take a look at the differences in collection and enforcement practices between state-issued student loans and private student loans. Default on a state-issued student loan can lead to administrative wage garnishment and asset seizure, while private student loan creditors have to go to court to get an order of garnishment. State-imposed debts and state-issued student loans are the only forms of debt which are non-dischargeable through bankruptcy. Private student loans are also non-dischargeable, but are considered an unsecured debt which in turn places greater limitations on the ability of creditors to pursue debt enforcement. The law always prioritizes the interests of the state over and above the interests of private competitors to state power. Even Bill Gates is not exempt from the clutches of the state. George W. Bush, on the other hand, was able to start a war under fraudulent pretenses and kill a million people thus far with impunity.

The evidence from both historical and contemporary experience overwhelmingly affirms the traditional Anarchist view, contra the Marxists, that it is the state that is the ultimate power in society, that the state is a uniquely destructive institutional force in human civilization, and that the state is a privileged class unto itself over and above commercial or socioeconomic interests.

Lyons gives no specific indication of what his own ideal economic arrangements might be. At one point in his critique, he claims to oppose the “centralized state” along with other “hierarchies” but provides no description of how a non-market, non-statist egalitarian economy might actually work. This has been the norm among Marxists for the past one hundred and fifty years.

"A Cold Monster”: Nietzsche on the State Reply

Article by Michael Kleen. I’ve posted this here before but it’s worth posting again.

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Out of all modern philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was one of the most unique critics of the modern State, yet his views on the subject have been largely overshadowed by his more famous critiques of morality, religion, and art. Since his death, only a handful of authors have broached the topic. Nevertheless, Nietzsche’s views on statism are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them down over a century ago. In his more sober moments, he saw the modern State as nothing more than a vehicle for mass power and as a squanderer of exceptional talent. In his most feverish moods, the State was “a cold monster” and a base falsehood.

During his lifetime, Nietzsche bore witness to the rise of statism in central Europe, and his disgust with nationalism, liberalism, and mass politics led him to live most of his life in self-imposed exile in Switzerland and northern Italy. Even after resigning from the University of Basel in 1879, he took to living in cheap boarding houses rather than return to his native land, which had undergone a dramatic transformation during that time. When Nietzsche was born in Saxony in 1844, the German Confederation consisted of 43 duchies, principalities, kingdoms, and free cities. He was only four years old when liberals and nationalists began to agitate for the creation of one unified German state. They succeeded in 1871, when Prussia defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War (in which Nietzsche briefly served as a medical orderly).

Friedrich_Nietzsche_-_in_uniform

In less than a decade, the German Confederation went from a motley collection of different dialects, customs, and political associations to a fully modern welfare state driven by mass politics. Contrary to the wartime propaganda image of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck’s Germany was just as liberal—if not more so—than the other great European powers. Members of the German bund traded away their regional independence for universal manhood suffrage, national healthcare, accident insurance, and old age insurance. A common criminal code, as well as court, civil, and criminal procedures, replaced a cornucopia of local legal systems. During his Kulturkampf, Bismarck attempted to erase the last vestiges of the old order by promoting one way of “Germanness,” much like “Americanism” sought to unify the United States around the Federal government after the American Civil War. This centralizing tendency was characteristic of all modern States, and according to Catholic socio-political theorist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, “This alone is able to foster uniformity and egalitarianism, and to ensure swift execution of governmental orders.”1 Nietzsche identified the rise of the modern State, with its emphasis on centralization and egalitarianism, as one of the defining features of the 19th Century.

What is the State? In Nietzsche’s mind, the State (Staat) is something apart from other forms of social organization such as family, tribe, society, or nation. In “The Greek State” (1871), a preface to an unwritten book, he described the State as a “clamp-iron” that is impressed upon those other forms of social organization. “Without the State,” he wrote, “in the natural bellum omnizim contra omnes,2 Society cannot strike root at all on a larger scale and beyond the reach of the family.”3 He seems to have later retreated from this view of society and family, but fundamentally, he retained the notion that the State acts as a shell or harness that is imposed from without and which restrains and shapes society. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn agreed, arguing that modern government had achieved autonomy from society and “can now be separated from the body social like the outer hull of a broiled lobster.” He added, “Nietzsche’s ‘coldest of all monsters’ would terrify pre-Renaissance man.”

On Saving America from the Horrors of Liberty and Community 10

“Preston’s vision emphasizes individuals choosing the communities they want and not bothering other people…”

A “watchdog” critic from the Left wants to save America from such a horrifying fate.  Read the whole thing at the New Politics site.

This critique by Lyons is actually quite good, and is light years ahead of previous efforts by leftists to critique my own work. I get the impression he is making an honest, serious, and intelligent effort to understand my own views and interpret them correctly. This is considerably different from the usual habit of my critics of either misrepresenting my work in a seemingly deliberate manner, or of simply lacking the level of skill, knowledge, or ability required to interpret my work correctly. There are not many actual quibbles I would have with this piece regarding facts alone, ideological differences aside. I do see some problems with matters of focus, emphasis, or proportionality. These problems affect the “big picture” analysis of my work by zeroing in on peripheral matters that are inconsequential to the most substantive aspects of my work. Lyons’ interpretation of the broader philosophical framework I adhere to is a bit crude, and he greatly oversimplifies some of my economic views. There are a few seeming contradictions in places. But all in all, it’s a good effort. I’ll have a thorough reply forthcoming relatively soon.

Voting as a Sacrament in the State Religion Reply

Article by MRDA.
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For all the time Minchin spends ripping into religion, it’s tragicomic to see him endorsing one of his own; then again, it seems part and parcel of his sociopolitical outlook: supposedly irreligious Leftists haven’t disposed with God—simply replaced him. Why go to church when you can pop to the polling station, instead?

His obsession with ‘civic duty’, coupled with his evangelistic rhetoric (“Democracy require all voices.”), marks Minchin as a firm ‘n’ true believin’ democratard…

…and his enthusiastic endorsement of forcing the citizenry to the electoral Eucharist elevates (?) him to the status of democraturd.

Facebook friend, and Minchin’s fellow countryman, Schoma offers up an explanation for Tim’s turdiness…

I’ll bet his only reason is that he’s Australian, he’s grown up with compulsory voting and, just at a guess, he draws a false correlation between this country’s relatively good living standards/freedoms and compulsory voting.

…which sounds like the common fallacy amongst Western folk to equate democracy with civil liberty, even in instances where the former blatantly runs roughshod over the latter. A glance at how the non-Western world does democracy would surely be a bitchslap to their conceited conceptions; as Mupetblast said about the 2009 Iranian elections…

The vast majority of Iranian respondents, across the income spectrum (wherein higher income is associated with higher education), thought that abortion was never justifiable; that homosexuality was never justifiable; and that “men should have more right to job than women.”

In sum, what is it that Facebook fans of the Iranian uprising think will happen over there if their pleas are successful? … It seems to me that a perception that liberal, youthful, lovers of substantive freedom and a progressive ethos are up against a stodgy reactionary establishment is what motivates this enthusiasm. But if in fact the people they are supporting are even less liberal in orientation than a right-wing Republican (ooh, double shot!), and it appears that this is the case, what’s to get so excited about?

But then again, for a Western nation, Australia hasn’t been doing so well at the civil liberties itself, has it? With its overreaching defamation laws; proposed internet censorship; bans on porn, videogames, and suicide literature; and this-here elephant in the room known as compulsory voting, the nation of Oz sounds almost like an open-air version of its fictional “correctional facility” namesake.

It’s understandable how being raised in such a culture might contribute to moulding a mindset like Minchin’s…

…yet it doesn’t change the fact that ‘liberal’ remains a downright deceptive description of those who would subscribe to it.

Reply to a Cultural Marxist Critic 8

A Leftist who uses the name of “Equus” has posted a limited critique of ATS on Royce Christian’s blog. Read it here.

My response:

Equus begins his rebuttal by offering a concise and helpful summary of the points of his refutation. I repeat it in full:

My objection to Third Positionism is that it first and foremost has an ahistorical approach inasmuch as it is leftist and only retroactively places itself there, using ideas and attitudes not formulated at the time of the conception of the left/right political spectrum. It claims to be neither left nor right and claims to be a synthesis of right and left ideas while rejecting the sole premise of left-wing ideology. Furthermore, it understands being anti-state as an ideological characteristic instead of a tactical characteristic; it would claim Anarchists and anti-government fascists are ideologically similar instead of correctly placing Anarchism as an ideology that opposes the state in the context of leftist politics. While it co-opts much of Anarchist rhetoric, it dismisses two key concepts: solidarity and community. Finally, it may not be an exclusively right-wing idea, but it provides an arena for people who oppose what Anarchists stand for to enter the conversation as legitimate actors and gives nothing back. I know little of Preston’s personal political background, and it is both irrelevant and hard to make the case that he is knowingly undermining Anarchism with his support of the Third Position. Regardless, his ideas have only provided a dangerous utility to the right that must be understood.

More…

Paul Gottfried and Me: An Exchange on Left and Right and Anarchism 10

Recently, there was an interesting exchange between Paul Gottfried and myself at AlternativeRight.Com. It began when I posted a  recommended reading list in response to similar lists posted by James Kalb and Richard Spencer. Paul Gottfried expressed puzzlement regarding the eclectic nature of the collection of readings I suggested as well as the incongruity of some of the influences I claim. I posted a response here and here.  Gottfried responded briefly here.

An understandable mistake that Gottfried continues to make is to presume that I am an orthodox modern libertarian of the kind identified with the Mises-Hayek-Rand-Friedman-Rothbard axis. While modern American libertarianism of this type is certainly an influence on my thinking, and I agree with libertarians of both the right and left variety on a good number of issues, this hardly represents the full body of my outlook. Gottfried also continues to be perplexed that I can be an admirer of right-wing critics of liberal democratic states like Carl Schmitt and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn without endorsing the full body of their work, and taking their criticisms of the liberal democratic state in a radically different direction from what they intended (at least with Schmitt, Kuehnelt-Leddihn is more ambiguous).  The best analogy I can think of right now to explain this intellectual dilemma is to point out that many, probably most, leftists implicitly or explicitly endorse the Marxist critique of capitalism, without necessarily endorsing Marx’s prescription of communist revolution, much less outright Bolshevism. Likewise, it is possible to recognize the validity of Schmitt’s insights into the contradictions and theoretical errors in liberal democratic theory and the inadequacies of its practice, or Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s characterization of mass democracy as a prelude to totalitarianism, without endorsing their specific prescriptions of a Hobbesian state in the case of Schmitt or a traditional monarchy in the case of Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

This gets us to the question of the relationship of political anarchism to wider philosophical and metapolitical concepts.  I generally regard a Nietzschean general philosophical framework, a metapolitical outlook of the kind developed by the European New Right (while recognizing the multiple tendencies to be found within the ENR-see here), and a philosophical conservatism regarding human nature and the nature of society to be the best intellectual foundation for a modern political anarchism. On the latter question,  I described this particular type of philosophical conservatism at AltRight: ” natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness, the superiority of organic forms of human organization over social engineering, rejection of vulgar economism, and a tragic view of life.”

However, I do not consider such an intellectual framework to be mandatory or necessary for a viable political anarchism, only preferable. Indeed, most anarchists at present would no doubt reject such an outlook. One could likewise be a committed anarchist revolutionary and hold to a Lockean natural rights position, a utilitarian outlook, a simple pragmatic philosophy in the style of William James, some kind of religious outlook, or even a Rousseau-inspired utopian-egalitarian-humanism. After all, I was an anarchist long before I developed the broader intellectual framework to which I now subscribe. Whatever the broader philosophical beliefs we may subscribe to, it remains true that one of the most important of all human questions is the matter of how society is to be organized, and the first question regarding social organization is the matter of statecraft, or the political question.

Until a few centuries ago, political rule was justified and legitimized by religion in virtually all societies. This outlook was demolished by the Enlightenment, and this particular aspect of Enlightenment thinking which began as a European project has now spread to much of the world.  Modern political philosophy is derivative of the ideas of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, Hegel, Mill, Marx, and some others. All of these systems would seem to be efforts to legitimize and retain the state while denying its traditional source of legitimization, i.e. its supposed divine origin. As I’ve mentioned recently, anarchism is to political theory what atheism is to theology (not that political anarchism necessitates atheism per se as there are also religious anarchists). There is in the anarchist canon a huge body of literature that demolishes the conventional intellectual arguments used to justify the state, and from a wide range of philosophical or theoretical perspectives, including socialists and individualists, religionists and atheists, philosophical liberals and philosophical conservatives, utilitarians, rights-theorists, moral skeptics, and nihilists. I regard all of these approaches as complementary rather than contradictory with one another.

The question that I have for anarchists is this: If we reject the legitimacy of the state, then how exactly do we go about getting rid of the damn thing? I have focused much of my own efforts on the question of anarchist strategy for the reason that I consider this to be one of the most important yet most neglected aspects of anarchist thinking. How can anarchism come to dominate Western civilization (or other civilizations for that matter) in the same way that Christianity was dominant for 1500 years and in the same way that Enlightenment liberalism has dominated for two centuries?

A major problem for anarchists is the one has also been a problem for Christians, particularly Protestants, and that is the question of sectarianism. Most anarchists have held to some kind of hyphenated brand of anarchism, e.g. anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-capitalism, anarcha-feminism, national-anarchism, etc. Many of these sects of anarchism do not recognize many of the others as legitimate. I have tried to compensate for this problem by developing an “anarcho-pluralist” (a term I lifted from the late Sam Dolgoff) framework, and which is really just a re-working of older ideas like “anarchism without adjectives” and the “synthesist” outlook developed by the French anarchist movement in the pre-World War Two period. What would be the irreducible minimum of ideas one would have to accept to be reasonably considered to be an anarchist? I’d suggest that one would have to advocate abolition of the present system of rule by corporative entities commonly described as “the state” that hold a monopoly on the legal use of violence, rule-making, and physical coercion within a geographical territory, and whose members collectively form an identifiable political class who social role is differentiated from that of other people, e.g., whose purpose is simply “to rule.” This would mean opposing not only the corporative form of the state familiar to modern societies, but also systems of personal rule that were common in older societies, e.g. emperors, kings, etc.

It is also necessary to have an irreducible minimum of ideas concerning what the state is to be replaced with. The guiding principles for anarchists on this question have been voluntarism, mutualism, decentralism, and federalism. In other words, the state is to be replaced with federations of autonomous or semi-autonomous communities with a strong emphasis on voluntary associations and mutual aid, i.e., the general framework outlined by Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin (the “holy trinity” of the founding fathers of modern anarchism).  Presumably, the economic and cultural variations of such arrangements could be immensely different from one another. This seems to be where most of the difficulty concerning sectarianism among anarchists emerges. Conflicts regarding different economic and cultural values lead to different sects of anarchists attempting to exclude one another. A historic example of this was the rivalry between the anarcho-communist Johann Most and the individualist-anarchist Benjamin Tucker.

If we take political anarchism as our starting point, we can then branch out into other areas of political philosophy and identify tendencies, ideologies, and movements with which we have considerable overlap. These include paleoconservatism, populism, Catholic distributism, the traditional Jeffersonian philosophy that American political theory is ostensibly rooted in, and modern libertarianism from the Right. These also include varying strands of socialism, the various Green philosophies, black nationalism, indigenous peoples’ movements, neotribalism, and the anti-globalization movement from the Left. These are the areas where we can branch out into other movements and form strategic alliances and an enhanced theoretical framework.  At present, I would identify the main weaknesses in the anarchist milieu as these:

1) A failure to recognize that the absence of a centralized coercive authority in the form of the state automatically suggests pluralism in all sorts of matters, including perspectives that radically disagree with one another, even among self-proclaimed anarchists. This necessitates that anarchists recognize the inevitability and legitimacy of “otherness,” as opposed to some kind of abstract universalism. One reason why I endorse a Nietzschean philosophical framework for anarchism is its ethical subjectivism. Moral objectivism strikes me at least as holding the door open for authoritarianism of the kind associated with both traditional theocracy and modern forms of statism. There is no greater tyrant than one who possesses moral certainty. As H.L. Mencken said: ” The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.

2) A failure to develop a viable strategic outlook concerning how the state is to be abolished. Ideas are worthless if they can’t be translated into real-world action. If other anarchists don’t like my ideas on this question, then they are welcome to come up with their own, of course. But the question of strategy is one that is severely neglected among anarchists.

3) The tendency of anarchists to get sucked into “culture war” politics that serve as a distraction from the broader struggle against the forces of State, Capital, and Empire. I’ve said plenty about this in the past and my views on this question are already well-known.

4) A failure to identify who the enemy actually is. In the Western world today, the primary enemy is the state’s legitimating ideology of totalitarian humanism (whether in its neoconservative or conventional left-liberal variations). The failure of anarchists to recognize totalitarian humanism for what it is severely limits their ability to form a viable movement of any kind. One of the most pathetic activities anarchists engage in at present is to waste time focusing on irrelevant fringe groups like the neo-Nazis or the Fred Phelps cult. The real enemy is those who actually hold state power, not exotic cults despised by the wider society. As for movements that are currently out of power, the greatest potential threat in posed by an insurgent Islam made possible by demographic change in the West. This the primary reason why I endorse the European New Right as the best available metapolitical framework for present day anarchists. More than any other contemporary intellectual current, the ENR has developed a critique of the philosophical underpinnings of totalitarian humanism, as well as a rational response to the question of threats posed by demographic transformation.

Until contemporary anarchists develop a serious and concentrated effort to overcome the weaknesses I have identified here, I regrettably see no prospects for anarchists to become an effective or even relevant movement.

Why Motorcycle Clubs Are Potential Constituents for Anarcho-Pluralism 5

Of all my positions on various things, one of the most controversial is my view that official outlaw organizations like motorcycle clubs and street gangs are potential constituents for the anarcho-pluralist struggle against the state. Indeed, aside from my militantly anti-totalitarian humanist outlook, this issue combined with my insurrectionist views are probably the aspects of my thinking that raise the most eyebrows.  Here’s an illustration of why I take this position:

Jury Chosen at Outlaws Trial in Richmond

Notice this passage in particular:

(Defense attorney) Collins said the job of the undercover agents is to break up gangs such as the Outlaws. He urged the jury to pay close attention to whether they were collecting evidence or instigating problems.

An authentic anarchist movement should be defined first and foremost by two essential characteristics. The first of these is a commitment to freedom of thought and speech in the tradition of Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, or Bertrand Russell. This is where our PC “anarchist” thought police fail the exam. The second characteristic should be a defense of all those who come under the attacks of the state. Clearly, the role of state agents in the infiltration of motorcycle clubs and other comparable organizations for the sake of stirring up violence between different groups should be exposed and attacked by opponents of the state. There are numerous reasons for this. First, such state agents often participate in crime themselves, and not just consensual crimes like buying and selling drugs. State agents of this kind provoke violence that would not otherwise occur in many circumstances. State attacks on motorcycle clubs or anti-gang laws essentially criminalize freedom of association and are used as a weapon against subcultures that are at odds with the establishment. Lastly, the same tactics that are used against groups like motorcycle clubs are often used against political dissidents as well. See COINTELPRO.

It matters not whether the members of such organizations are “good” people are not. Political and social struggles are not contingent on the virtue of the individual members of groups that are under attack by the state or the ruling class. We might aid a general strike by fast food workers, even though some fast food workers may be virtuous people and others may be scumbags. The historic struggle against evils like labor exploitation, slavery, the religious subordination of women, religious persecution, or the state persecution of homosexuals was not contingent on the individual character or personality of individual workers, slaves, women, religious or ethnic outgroups, and gays. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we adopt the totalitarian humanist practice of defining individual virtue by group identity, either. It is fine to recognize genuine problems caused by, for instance, the presence of street gangs for residents of nearby neighborhoods.  It is fine to hold individuals accountable for harm they do to others. Not all criminal prosecutions are “unjust” by any means, though we may ultimately seek abolition of the state’s “criminal justice” system and its replacement with our own private, common law, tribal, or otherwise non-statist legal systems.

Still, a crucial test of a true anarchist is the degree to which anarchists defend all enemies of the state, regardless of their personal feelings about them or the individual characteristics of persons involved. Fuck the feds, I’m rooting for the Outlaws.

Civic Engagement is for Suckers 3

Kevin Carson tells why.

This reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a left-liberal, Dissent-magazine type who argued that liberals should be for the draft on the grounds that the draft would result in fewer wars because people wouldn’t support war if their kids had to do the fighting. I pointed out that American wars tended to be even more extreme and casualty-producing when the state had a virtually unlimited supply of conscripts at its disposal. See Vietnam, Korea, the two World Wars, and the Civil War.

He replied, “Yeah, but the draft would contribute to greater civic involvement. You can’t have a liberal society when fifty percent of the population opts out.” The latter comment was a reference to the percentage of Americans who actually vote in elections.

My reply? “Well, who cares about having a liberal society in the first place?”

On Creating an Intellectual Counter-Elite 6

by David Heleniak

I read through your piece on demographics. One group that’s not on the list and is important despite in terms of quality as opposed to quantity is non-PC intellectuals like evolutionary psychologists, who, because they have not focused on it, are not tuned into the problems of the State are conventional in their politics, but would be open to our ideas if we pitch them in an appealing way. Some Objectivists could become more radical anti-statists, maybe some cognitive psychologists, which, since the discipline is pretty good, would be open to truth.

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