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.

More…

The Dangers of Decentralization? Words from a Reader 9

Some comments from a reader named “Jared”:

Totalitarian humanism is something that I agree is a serious threat and where I live in Canada, it has advanced into law where people can be incarcerated for expressing opinions that are deemed hateful.

[Keith: At present, the First Amendment and a journalistic class conscious of its own self-interest prevents the formal censorship that has emerged in the Western European countries and Canada. This could very well change in the future. Modern American liberals are still somewhat under the residual influence of classical liberal values regarding a number of issues, such as free speech and freedom of the press. But that could end as the PC ideologues gain ever greater power.]

When it comes to the far right and their criticisms of leftist authoritarianism, I think they are on the mark. In many respects I find the authoritarianism of managerial liberalism to be far more distasteful than the worst right wing small town authoritarianism. My reasons for this are that while the crude authoritarianism of the latter sort is laughable to most, the former is taken seriously by people in the cultural elite. Also, the right wing type is up front about it’s authoritarianism while the left often conceals it behind all sort’s of nice sound rhetoric such as, “we as a society,” we are the government” etc. That was one of the things that angered me so much about the way Ron Paul was treated when the whole newsletter scandal broke. The fact that people were so up in arms about Paul’s paper authoritarianism while the media darling, Rudy Giuliani, was never criticized in the mainstream media ( that I saw) about his real life authoritarianism while he was mayor.

[Keith: Yes! A socially conservative but libertarian Republican is far less acceptable to the liberal elite than a socially liberal but authoritarian Republican such as Giuliani.]

On decentralization, I think that the reasons for some of my concerns about what sort of societies might develop come more from what I have seen in both the contemporary anarchist and libertarian movements, from an the perspective of an outsider I might add.  As you have said that strategy is a primary concern, I think you would agree that these issues are important to any strategic considerations to be made.

In your past articles, you have discussed your experience with left-anarchist movement years ago and criticized many of the ridiculous elements in that movement. From what I have observed as an outsider, the same movement today of my generation is as bad as the movement was when you were involved, which is the reason that I have no interest in being involved with any of those groups. One thing that really bothers me is not just the fact that those various groups are uncooperative and engage in pointless feuds, but also what accompanies the interpersonal nastiness is a victim mentality that such people have when it comes to the state. Whenever protests occur such as at the recent G-20 in Toronto, invariably what will come out are all sorts of writings, blog posts, and videos full of people complaining about minor mistreatment at the hands of the state, such people give ammunition to the critics who charge that people involved in these anarchist groups are just a bunch of pampered, sheltered, and spoiled brats who are live in complete ignorance of the world around them.

[Keith: Many such protesters do indeed convey an image of “How dare that cop arrest me for throwing a rock through a window?” hooliganism.]

I realize that what I have just stated will seem pointlessly repetitive to you as you haven expressed similar sentiments in your own writings in the past. The reason that I am bring this up now is in the light of the kinds of communities that would exist in a decentralized system. If the current system fails in a sudden way, there will be many groups vying for power and most of them will be a lot worse then the current group of people that control our centralized system. While you have argued that authoritarian groups may gain control in rural areas, but that cities would be a different story, I still have many concerns regarding them. The reason is that in cities there gangs and other organized crime groups who would clearly seek an opportunity to grab more power and control if they saw an opportunity to, which they would have if the current system fell apart. Now if my analysis of most contemporary anarchists and for that matter libertarians (especially of the left types) is correct, it is clear that such people would be absolutely powerless in the face of those groups that would seek the fill the power vacuum left in the absence of the state. I would add that as critical as I am of the police, the fact is that in the current system they are bound by certain rules of conduct whereas the groups that I have mentioned are not.

[Keith: The key to the problems of decentralization is still more decentralization. Let’s say a predatory gang comes to dominate an urban region in an “Escape From New York” scenario. Surrounding communities might build a fence around it and essentially imprison and quarantine the offenders, which I think is the most preferable solution to violent crime anyway.]

One example of what I am describing is among the libertarians who make up the Free State project, which I been following for the past few years. I would invite you to check out some of the activism done there freekeene.com, and you would see many of the same sorts of silliness such as pointless civil disobedience acts, silly protests, and other absurd antics. On top of the fact that such acts do nothing to build a realistic alternative to the current system, the activists have also earned an extremely negative reputation among the people in those communities where they do their activism.

[Keith: That doesn’t surprise me a bit. PR and marketing never were the strong suits of anarchists.]

I suppose that given what I have written here, it isn’t surprising that you would break with both left wing anarchists and libertarians the silly and cowardly nature of so many in those movements. It’s clear that such groups have not improved with the times, but have in fact degenerated. If there ever comes a time when there is a serious movement against the empire, I would rather have this guy on my side (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7420469.stm) than a thousand of the current crybabies that are rampant in anti-authoritarian movements today.

[Keith: I can only imagine what Antonio Baron would think of today’s anarchist movement. I have always said I would rather have five quality people in my camp than five hundred mediocrities or losers]

Anarcho-Pluralism and Pan-Secessionism: What They Are and What They Are Not 6

A close colleague recently put a question to me that I regard as important enough to be well worth discussing publicly. I was asked if whether or not my own assumption of controversial stances on a variety of issues might have the effect of weakening my wider advocacy of an “anarcho-pluralist” political framework and a “pan-secessionist” strategy for achieving it. For instance, by attacking political correctness, am I not alienating many people with PC views on many issues who might otherwise be sympathetic to my wider outlook? By challenging the “open borders” preferences of mainstream libertarians, am I not pushing away anti-statists and decentralists who might also hold pro-immigration views? Indeed, might not even illegal immigrants themselves be viable allies within a pan-secessionist or anarcho-pluralist meta-political framework given that, at least on some levels, they are in conflict with the existing state?

Clearly, a number of important distinctions need to be made regarding such questions. The most significant of these distinctions involves defining what “anarcho-pluralism” and “pan-secessionism” actually are. “Anarcho-pluralism,” as I conceive of it at least, is a brand of anti-state radicalism that has “anti-universalism” and what might be called “radical localism” as it core defining characteristics. It is “anti-universalist” because it rejects the view that there is one “correct” system of politics, economics, or culture that is applicable much less obligatory for all people at all times and in all places. As Russell Kirk observed: “There exists no single best form of government for the happiness of all mankind. The most suitable form of government necessarily depends upon the historic experience, the customs, the beliefs, the state of culture, the ancient laws, and the material circumstances of a people.” Anarcho-pluralism advocates “radical localism” as the best possible method of avoiding the tyrannies and abuses of overarching Leviathan states, and accommodating the irreconcilable differences concerning any number of matters that all societies inevitably contain.

“Pan-secessionism” is the strategy for achieving anarcho-pluralism. Given that most modern societies are under the rule of overarching states possessing expansive bureaucratic tentacles and police powers, the simple territorial withdrawal of regions and localities and renunciation of the central state by the secessionists would seem to be the most practical and comprehensible method of resistance.  These few simple ideas are all that anarcho-pluralism and pan-secessionism really amount to. Theoretically, one could hold to just about any other set of beliefs or values and operate within the framework of anarcho-pluralism and pan-secessionism. In its essence, the anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist program does nothing more than work to abolish the central state and give every political interest group its own territory to create whatever kind of society it wishes, with ultimate success or failure being the sole responsibility of the local organizers, residents, or participants.

With regards to political correctness, it is certainly possible for persons holding stereotypical PC views to operate within a wider anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist framework or to join an alliance for the organization of such. For instance, the late, great, feminist-extremist Andrea Dworkin was actually a proponent of “lesbian separatism” and apparently favored the creation of communities for those with views like hers complete with “land and guns” of their own. Some in the left-wing anarchist milieu favor an idea called “libertarian municipalism,” a perspective advanced by the late anarchist-ecologist Murray Bookchin which basically involves creating independent city-state-like municipalities organized on the New England town meeting model, presumably espousing the usual communitarian-green-feminist-rainbow values of the far Left. It is theoretically possible that if and when the day comes that a pan-secessionist movement that is actually large enough and well-organized enough to mount a credible challenge to the authority of the U.S. regime and ruling class emerges, a majority or even a super-majority of the individuals, organizations, and communities participating in such an effort could potentially reflect the kinds of “far Left” values and positions on issues of the kinds that most current left-anarchists espouse.

A similar theoretical formulation could be applied to the immigration question.  It is entirely possible that many if not most participants in a pan-secessionist action could indeed be persons or groups favoring a completely “open borders” policy for their respective post-secession communities. Indeed, it is even possible that many participants in a pan-secessionist movement or action could be immigrants, even those who immigrated illegally according to present U.S. law, or the immediate descendants of such.

Yet a number of obvious and vital questions remain. The most immediate of these would be: what is the purpose of anarcho-pluralism/pan-secessionism in the first place, its core principles aside? Anarcho-pluralism/pan-secessionism is an outlook that myself and some colleagues developed in the late 1990s in response to certain problems that we perceived in the mainstream of the anarchist milieu. From my earliest involvement in the anarchist movement, I noticed that quite frequently anarchists seemed to be, among other things, much more interested in promoting the standard laundry list of liberal or left-wing causes, or simply engaging in countercultural lifestyle practices,  rather than advancing the struggle against the state. Opposition to the state itself is the core essence of any anarchist ideology worthy of the name. Anarchism differs from classical liberalism, which views the state as a neutral agent whose purpose is to uphold and protect abstract “rights.” The anarchist view regards the state as a self-interested entity claiming monopoly privilege for its members. Anarchism also differs from leftism in that it regards the state as a parasite and usurper rather than as a reflection of some mythical “general will” (the democratist view) or as an agent of class rule (the Marxist view).  The traditional anarchist critique of capitalism regards plutocracy as the result of state-imposed privilege for private interests allied with the state (see Proudhon), and the traditional anarchist opposition to war, militarism, and imperialism results from the anarchist view of these things as simple acts of aggression and plunder by states, no different in kind from ordinary criminality.

An additional factor that shaped my own view was the recognition that many thinkers and activists outside the anarchist milieu and, indeed, outside the subculture of the “far Left” where most anarchists tend to function, possess many cogent criticisms of the state, plutocracy, empire and imperialism that overlapped quite well with the traditional anarchist critique, including some from the “far Right.” While studying the works of leading commentators and theorists from these schools of thought more carefully, I came to the conclusion that a good number entirely valid and legitimate issues and questions were being raised by many in these camps. Initially, I began pushing for greater collaboration between anarchists and the libertarian-left and paleoconservatives, the militia-patriot-constitutionalist milieu, right-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, the populist-right, and so forth. I then discovered the neo-secessionist tendencies that were starting to organize at the time, and around ten years ago I encountered for the first time the national-anarchist tendency that had recently emerged. This in turn introduced me to the world of “third-position” ideologies, to the French New Right of Alain De Benoist, and so forth. I began to understand that quite often the only key differences between many of these “right-wing” perspectives and traditional anarchism are matters of culture, and in some instances mere aesthetics or individual tastes.  I wrote a letter to a left-anarchist journal in 1999 where I outlined these views, and I later reworked the letter into an article expounding upon these ideas further.

Anarcho-pluralism/pan-secessionism was created as a tendency whose specific purpose was to re-orient the focus of modern anarchism away from liberal and leftist social causes and countercultural lifestyles, and towards a more concentrated attack on the state, the empire, and the plutocracy. A related purpose is to form tactical alliances towards this end with many others sharing overlapping critiques or concerns, including some from the “far Right” or other points on the political spectrum apart from the radical Left milieu. Additionally, strategic and organizational issues are to be placed at the forefront of our ongoing efforts and expressed concerns. In other words, anarcho-pluralism/pan-secessionism differs sharply from the mainstream anarchist movement  by

1) shifting focus away from left-wing social causes and countercultural lifestyles towards attacking the state, empire, and plutocracy as the primary values or objectives;

2) working for the construction of an anti-state, anti-plutocratic, and anti-imperialist political alliance comprised of opposition forces from across the political spectrum;

3) developing or promoting regional and local secessionist movements as the strategic and organizational vehicle for the political advancement of such a tactical alliance;

4) rejecting the universalistic claim that all participants in the anarcho-pluralistic/pan-secessionist project must hold to “ultra-liberal,” “far Left,” or countercultural lifestyle views on such matters as abortion, gay rights, feminism, transgendered rights, environmentalism, animal rights, “anti-racism,” “anti-fascism,” immigrants’ rights, “open borders,” veganism/vegetarianism, economic preferences, nuclear power, capital punishment, religion, drugs, family organization, squatting, dumpster-diving, punk rock music, and many other things. This is not to say that participants in such a project cannot hold “ultra-liberal” or countercultural views on such matters, but that such an outlook, while acceptable, is not mandatory.

5) recognizing that a post-state, post-plutocratic, and post-empire nation or civilization where anarchists are politically dominant would contain a genuine diversity of forms of political, cultural, and economic organization, and not just the kinds favored by the “far Left.” Consequently, a post-revolutionary political order would likely include communities and institutions of a conservative, religious, ethnocentric, traditionalist, patriarchal, or just plain old middle-of-the-road, moderate nature as well as those of a leftist or countercultural nature.

The Necessity of Confronting Totalitarian Humanism

Once upon a time, I generally agreed with the standard leftist view that much of the conservative critique of “political correctness” amounts to little more than sour grapes on the part of right-wingers who are on the losing end of history and political struggles. However, upon further experience and reflection, I found it necessary to alter my view. When I first began promoting the ideas outlined above in the anarchist milieu, I knew it would be controversial and that many would object. However, I was somewhat surprised by the level of vociferous hostility and threats of violence I received from the critics. Now, on one hand, if some anarchists regard immigrants’ rights, gay rights, transexual rights, animal rights, or the most extreme forms of “anti-racism” to be the most important issues, then they are still perfectly within their rights to feel this way. If they prefer to tolerate or endure the present system rather than cede any ground, politically or geographically, to the Right, or to have any sort of association with cultural conservatives, then they likewise have the right to make this value judgment for themselves. However, the fact that they cannot accept that some of us would choose a different way, and that they cannot co-exist with our own tendency without making threats of violence and assuming a generally obscurantist attitude, indicates that their commitment to such core libertarian values as freedom of speech and thought is rather limited. This essentially cancels their supposed “progressive” credentials and essentially renders them to the status of either a pre-Enlightenment cult movement, or secular theocrats,  or a variation of the modern totalitarian movements that have emerged since the French Revolution. As a biographer of the anarchist historian Paul Avrich observed: “Avrich does not shy away from controversy in his books, treating the anarchist acts of violence honestly and in the context of the time. He does not condone the violence of Berkman, but says he still admires his decision, considering how brutal Frick acted toward striking workers. But Avrich does not have the same patience for some contemporary anarchists, who choose to destroy property and who, he says, come mainly from educated and middle-class backgrounds. “I’m not so crazy about anarchists these days,” he says. Anarchism means that you leave other people alone and you don’t force people to do anything.” He says he is sad that the old-timers are not around to guide the resurgent movement. “They were nicer people –much nicer people.” Of course, the anarcho-leftoids, antifa, and other related groups are merely a symptom of the growing totalitarian movement of which Political Correctness is a manifestation. I have written about this third totalitarianism before, and will continue to do so in the future. For now, it is simply enough to say that Political Correctness must be confronted by serious anarchists in the same way that it was necessary for perceptive anarchists to confront Communism as Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin did in the days when it was the emerging totalitarian movement of the 19th century. This is simply a matter of self-defense, as the left-wing enemy has declared war on us. Given the rabid hatred expressed by PC Left (including its “anarchist” and “libertarian” contingents) towards anyone with political, social, or cultural values that conflict with hard-left orthodoxy, it is unlikely that these elements will ever be able to peacefully co-exist with those who are different from themselves.  The PC Left contains within itself the Lenins, Stalins, Maos, Castros, and Pol Pots of the future.

This is not to say that one cannot theoretically be a cultural leftist and simultaneously oppose Totalitarian Humanism. One can be a worker, a political leftist, or even a socialist, and oppose Marxism. One can be black, Jewish, or Hispanic and oppose totalitarian multiculturalism. Many do. One can be a woman and oppose the feminazis. There are many of these. One can certainly be gay and oppose the “homo-totalitarians.” Plenty of examples of this exist. Many of my own views on various issues are well to the left of the Democratic Party, if not the Green Party. Yet Totalitarian Humanism needs to be recognized for what it is, the third triplet after Communism and Fascism.

The Necessity of Strategic and Organizational Thinking

A criticism that has been issued against my outlook in the past is that it is overly concerned with pragmatic or strategic considerations and not rooted strongly enough in matters of abstract principle. But ideas are worthless (Stirnerite “spooks”) if they cannot be translated into real world action. If we wanted we could simply form a monastery where we sit around and debate whether drunk driving interferes with anyone’s property rights or whether non-coercive ageism or transphobia conflicts with the natural rights of man, but for what purpose other than intellectual masturbation? If that is what some wish to do, so be it, but for those of us who want an anti-state movement that is a real world contender, matters of strategy and organization are indispensable. Therefore, considerations of what kinds of demographic groups, subtendencies, organizational methods, and tactical efforts are most conducive to the success of the objectives outlined above, and considerations of time frame, are essential to our wider theoretical framework.

The Necessity of High Intellectual Standards and Political Foresight

While considerations of strategy and action are important to the formulation of theory, this does not mean that we should not aspire to high intellectual standards. For one thing, the purpose of ARV/ATS is not to simply be popular and attract sympathizers, but to cultivate an elite leadership corps who will be the revolutionary elite of a future anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist populist movement. A competent leadership corps has to first possess not only high intellectual standards but a capacity for serious political foresight. These considerations are relevant to many different questions. For now, we can reflect a bit on the relevance of these to the immigration question, given that immigration is at present a prominent and controversial public issue.

With the exception of the paleo-libertarians, national-anarchists, and perhaps some Green-anarchists, most present-day anti-state radicals generally advocate “open borders,” meaning that the existing states should simply order their border and coast guards to stand down and allow entry into their respective countries by anyone who wishes to enter for whatever reason. If that’s how many if not most libertarians or anarchists feel at present, then that’s their prerogative. Yet the popularity of a position should not be a barrier to its challenge. After all, if the goal were to simply be popular in the anarchist milieu, our own tendencies would not even exist in the first place.

I criticize the “open borders” beliefs of many anarchists for a variety of reasons. First, I regard mass immigration as a phenomenon that is actually generated by the forces of State, Capital, and Empire, and serves the interests of present day political elites and ruling classes. Second, I am skeptical as to whether a civilization of anarchic communities would actually have “open borders” as many anarchists conceive of such. “Open borders” simply invites the existing state to impose a uniform immigration standard on all communities and institutions within the wider society. There is likely to be a considerably greater degree of variation with regards to matters of immigration and citizenship in the absence of an overarching statist system. Third, it is doubtful that the cultural and social ultra-liberalism promoted by many anarchists and libertarians is compatible with the importation of unlimited numbers of persons from profoundly illiberal cultural environments. Fourth, the history of efforts by genuinely multi-ethnic and multicultural societies to maintain civil peace is not a particularly happy one or a cause for optimism. Fifth, there are the practical costs of mass immigration. For instance, do we really want North America to become as populous as China or India? Lastly, I am skeptical as to whether anarchists who champion “open borders” the most fervently are motivated primarily by anti-statist or civil libertarian concerns.

For instance, many anarchists have not devoted nearly as much effort, or no effort at all, to opposing statist legislation that is far more onerous or draconian in content and effect than the recently enacted Arizona immigration law. So are these anarchists motivated by anti-statism and civil libertarianism, or are they motivated more by universalism, e.g. the view that immigration is a good unto itself regardless of the state’s role in fostering or prohibiting it? What sort of concerns do they express? What sort of criticisms do they raise? Do they say “Requiring travelers to display passports is a statist interference with freedom to travel!”? Perhaps they do at times, but there are plenty of laws on the books of a comparable nature that they rarely if ever discuss, for instance, those requiring motorists to obtain and carry a driver’s license. Are they not more likely to say, “Restricting immigration is racist and xenophobic!” It is fairly clear that for many of the “open borders” anarchists and libertarians, univeralism rather than anti-statism is the guiding value.

Now, to be fair, it should be pointed out that those anti-statists with anti-immigration views are often likewise motivated by values beyond those of mere concern with the role of the state in promoting or sponsoring immigration. The same could be said of libertarians holding opposing views on other controversial matters like abortion or capital punishment. Yet,  anti-statists who are anti-immigration are typically much more likely to demonstrate anti-universalism. For instance, Hans Herman Hoppe is a leading paleolibertarian critic of “open borders” libertarians, yet he recognizes the degree of discrimination or non-discrimination, inclusion or exclusion, homogeneity or heterogeneity, will inevitably vary from community to community and institution to institution minus a system of uniformity imposed by the central state. Likewise, the national-anarchists typically recognize that the internal norms and standards of differing “tribes” or communities will vary greatly in the absence of the state, and typically understand that without the state homogeneous communities will co-exist with multicultural ones. Neither paleos nor national-anarchists typically engage in slander, vilification, threats, or violence towards those who do not share their views. Therefore, their claims of authenticity are at present the most valid and compelling.

The Necessity of a Flexibility of Theory and Tactics

The matter of immigration raises a few other issues that are relevant to the anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist paradigm. For instance, I have had some no doubt sincere and well-intentioned people ask questions such as these?

1) How can it be argued that the state promotes immigration and that immigrants benefit from statism when illegal immigrants are subject to arrest by the ICE or other police agencies?

2) Is not criticizing immigration promoting division among enemies of the state, thereby weakening the anti-state cause?

3) Is not criticizing immigration actually strengthening pro-state elements on the Right, who are after all motivated not by anti-statism but by statist nationalism?

4) Would not it be strategically more feasible to ally with immigrants against overarching common enemies, such as the global plutocracy?

Here are some short answers to these questions:

1) The state not a monolithic conspiracy. Many anarchists and libertarians seem to regard “the state” the same way Marxists regard “the capitalists” or Nazis regard “the Jews.” The state is a collection of certainly overlapping and interconnected interests, but one that also contains within itself plenty of contradictions and conflicts. Yes, certain elements within the state (for instance, the ICE or Joe Arpaio) might well have self-interest in enforcing immigration law. But plenty of other interests within the state actually benefit from immigration. These have been widely documented by immigration critics. Further, simply being a lawbreaker does not necessarily make one an enemy of the state per se, much less an anarchist revolutionary. If mere law-breaking were to be our standard of anarchist authenticity, then we would have to say that dirty cops are among the most anarchistic of all. After all, dirty cops commit perjury, plant evidence, engage in police brutality, confiscate drugs and then use or sell them, steal from evidence lockers, accept bribes, participate in illegal searches and seizures, solicit sexual favors from suspects or prisoners, or even engage in outright common crimes such as robbery, rape, kidnapping, and murder. There are certainly plenty of laws prohibiting these things, but are we prepared to argue that such cops measure up to anarchist standards?

2) For reasons that are widely known, it is doubtful whether immigrants, or even illegal immigrants, can be classified as enemies of the state on any kind of consistent level. As Andrew Yeoman succinctly put it: “…the ideal is to decentralize political power and increase the power of local institutions outside state control. This does not mean supporting illegal immigrants, who aren’t outside the state — to the contrary. Illegals represent a minority that is trying to impose its will on the majority by fully integrating itself within the state. Illegals oppose state power just as much as they oppose capitalism, which is to say, not at all — they are here to make money and eager to take advantage of all the benefits of the welfare system. They are also seeking race replacement.

3) It is undoubtedly true that many on the anti-immigration Right are motivated less by an opposition to the imposition of a uniform and universalist immigration policy by the central state, and more by a desire for a xenophobic brand of statist nationalism? But to what degree are these elements reflective of ruling class values or elite consensus, or even the mainstream of public opinion? For instance, the New York Times (which Abbie Hoffman used to refer to as “the voice of the ruling class”) has consistently taken an “open borders” stance, as has the Wall Street Journal (which might be called “the voice of the global plutocracy”). The evidence is overwhelming that while elites and the radical Left share the common goal of total or near-total abolition of immigration standards, hard-core “xenophobes” are a fairly marginal, fringe movement. Research indicates that the average American of all races or colors generally has a tolerant view of legal immigrants, while regarding present immigration rates as too high and believing that illegal immigration should be barred. This is hardly an indication of imminent genocide as “immigrants’ rights” hysterics would have us believe.

4) All of these issues aside, are there indeed areas or situations where illegal immigrants might well be potential allies? Aside from my strenuously un-PC views on certain questions, one of the areas of my own thinking that often raises the most eyebrows is my position that outlaw organizations might well be valuable allies against the state in certain instances. For instance, motorcycle gangs, survivalist militias, common street gangs, exotic cults, and the like. There are a number of reasons why I hold to this view. One is the obvious. Many of these groups view themselves as a nation of their own that is at war with the government, therefore in a situation of direct conflict with the state, they may be viable military allies against a common enemy. Second, many of these groups have a history of being in direct conflict and combat with the repressive apparatus of the state, e.g. the BATF, FBI, DEA, or state and local SWAT teams or paramilitary police. Thirdly, by recruiting them as allies or mercenaries for “our side” we prevent our various enemies from doing so.  There are other, less significant reasons why I take this position as well.

This brings us to the final question of on what issues might it be appropriate to take a pro-immigration stance or to ally ourselves with illegal immigrants. As mentioned, individuals participants in the anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist project can have any other views they wish. By extension, they can advocate for their own tribe, community, or territory whatever political values they wish. For instance, if some left-anarchists, left-libertarians, Hispanic ethno-nationalists, or liberal multiculturalists decide to organize a Miami secessionist movement (the “Republic of Miami”) and decide they wish for an independent Miami to have completely open borders, so be it. If most people in a liberal metropolis like New York City or San Francisco prefer that these regions be “sanctuary cities,” then that’s how it will be. Likewise, while I would defend Arizona’s sovereignty against the feds regarding the controversial immigration law, if one of Arizona’s cities or counties, say, Tucson or Flagstaff, decided to secede from Arizona in protest of the immigration law, I would defend their right to do so as well. Nor does this mean that any policy of any seceded polity is necessarily “written in stone.” For instance, in an independent Arizona, pro-immigrationists could certainly agitate for less restrictive immigration policies, and I would defend their free speech rights to do so. In an independent  “Republic of Miami” with open borders, immigration restrictionists could push for more limits on immigration, and I would likewise defend their free speech rights as well.

An analogy could be made to class issues. Any interest of mine is organizing secessionist efforts by large cites with an emphasis on class issues. While I am a Southerner, neo-confederate ideology or Dixieland revivalism doesn’t really interest me much. Instead, I would prefer to develop secession movements on the part of the large metro areas like Richmond, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Chattanooga, Charleston, and so forth. The focus would be on achieving economic self-sufficiency and self-determination for the lower classes, and on repealing policies that generate much of the violent crime in these urban areas, particularly drug prohibition. Consequently, if we were to organize a general strike or mass walkout by workers in fast food chains, superstore chains, meatpacking plants, crony-capitalist real estate developments, or agribusiness plantations, I would very much advocate labor solidarity among all the workers, even though many of these places employ illegal immigrants.

At the same time, as part of the process of developing a pan-secessionist movement, I am certainly open to class collaboration on certain issues. While my personal focus would be on the urban lower classes, in many of the counties surrounding my own city there are affluent, upper-middle class communities with strong conservative leanings. If indeed a secessionist movement motivated by a desire to simply not pay taxes to Washington, D.C. or the state government were to emerge among such people, I would certainly back their efforts. Likewise, even though I am a pro-abortion atheist who thinks the cause of gay marriage is more silly than offensive, if a rural county or small town comprised of evangelical Christians or other religious conservatives were to secede rather than recognize Roe v. Wade or gay rights/gay marriage laws, I would support their efforts as well.

In a similar vein, given the reality that the future of the American Southwest likely belongs to Aztlan, it may well be likely that tactical collaboration with Hispanic ethno-nationalist secessionists in the Southwest, including many illegal immigrants or their immediate descendants, will be strategically feasible or even necessary at some point in the future.

Ad Hominem Argument: A Classic Example 5

Carol Moore is someone who deserves credit for helping to publicize the secessionist cause. See her website here. Unfortunately, she has delivered a classic example of an ad hominem argument against Yours Truly in response to my suggestions that the radical Left should seriously consider the possibility of adopting a secessionist outlook. You can see Ms. Moore’s response here. Here it is in full:

While Preston’s article seems rational, if you look at the list of articles he’s published he also promotes “National Anarchism” which is against “miscengenation” and promotes (as opposed to merely accepting) separation of the races. He also promotes revolutionary violence, including by Tim McVeigh. FYI.

The ad hominem part of this is obvious. What Carol is saying amounts to is: “Yes, Keith Preston makes reasonable arguments as to why the radical Left should consider secession, but he’s also a bad guy, so this refutes or at least dimishes his arguments.”  A response to the charges is in order:

“…he also promotes “National Anarchism”…”

Guilty but proud. See my discussions of National-Anarchism and related views here, here, and here. National-Anarchism is a freshingly interesting and vibrant current when compared with the dull conformists and predictable lefto-losers associated with the mainstream anarchist movement.

“…which is against “miscengenation”…”

There’s no “n” in this term, but as something of a serial miscegenator myself I don’t really care what views National-Anarchists may or may not hold on “miscegenation.” See John Derbyshire on this one. I don’t really adhere to any of the Christian taboos about “adultery” or “fornication” either, but I’ve also promoted Christian secessionist or separatist groups in the past. I’ve even promoted Mormon polygamists. To demonstrate the absurdity of this kind argument against the National-Anarchists, imagine if a Muslim, an Orthodox Jew or a Seventh Day Adventist were to make an argument like this: “Yes, Preston makes reasonable arguments in favor of secession by Muslims, Jews, and Adventists, but he also promotes individuals and groups that eat pork, drink alcohol, and refrain from keeping the Sabbath…..”

Enough said on that point.

“…and promotes (as opposed to merely accepting) separation of the races…”

As an anarchist, what I actually advocate is a concept I call “separation of race and state” on the same model as the Jeffersonian idea of “separation of church and state.” If racial and ethnic integrationism of the kind favored by liberals and leftists can take place on its own without the coercive apparatus of the state to compel it, and without the economic pressures generated by state-capitalism and imperialism, then so be it. On the other hand, if the kind of racial separatism favored by “racial conservatives” (for lack of a better term) is indeed normal or natural, then that’s fine by me as well. My guess is that there would probably be some of both, with the degree of extremes on either end depending on other factors like local culture, institutional forms, ideological currents, economic factors, population size, geography, history, individual personalities and so forth. Imagine if Carol were to instead make an argument like: “Preston promotes (as to merely accepting) separation of the cultures and religions where hippies, Christian evangelicals, Catholics, goth-rockers and Jehovah’s Witnesses simply do their own thing-what a god-awful thing this is!”

What leftoids just can’t seem to accept is that some of us just flat out don’t give a damn if races are “separated” or not. Indeed, some the present-day “anti-racism” hysteria is starting to sound a lot like the anti-commie  panic of the 1950s or the “Satanic panic” of the 80s. If Joe McCarthy were alive today, no doubt he would be talking about the evil cabals of racists who’ve infiltrated American institutions. If Dana Carvey were just inventing his “Church Lady” character today, he’d have to make her a PC liberal: “Satan?…Racism!!!!!”

Enough said on that one.

He also promotes revolutionary violence,…”

It is quite unlikely that the existing regime, ruling class, and empire is going to let territories within the U.S.A simply walk away without a fight. So, on that great day of reckoning, it is indeed quite likely that secessionist movements will indeed need defense organizations of a “fourth generation” nature. See Hezbollah, Hamas, the FMLN, or the Peoples’ War Group. See 1776, 1861, or Spain 1936. Pacifism doesn’t interest me.

including by Tim McVeigh

McVeigh got an “A” for attitude but an “F” for tactics and good sense, in my book.

Enough said on that one.

Ten Reasons Why I Am an Anarchist 10

1. I agree with the Augustinian view of the state as a robber band writ large.
2. I agree with the Stirnerite view of political obligation. Why should I obey this guy just because he’s the president, king, mayor, etc.?
3. I agree that democracy is a system where five wolves and sheep vote on what to have for lunch.
4. I agree that the death and destruction perpetrated by states make that of individual criminals look trivial by comparison.
5. I agree with George Bernard Shaw that democracy replaces the rule of the corrupt few with the rule of the incompetent many.
6. I agree that the state exists to monopolize territory and resources, protect an artificially privileged ruling class, expand its own power and subjugate and exploit subjects.
7. I agree with Hayek that the worst gets to the top.
8. I agree that the insights of social psychology show that most people are creatures of the herd.
9. I agree that the herd is the permanent enemy of the superior individual.
10. I agree that values are subjective, that life is ultimately a war of each against all, and that survival of the fittest and the will to power are the only true laws.

Why the Radical Left Should Consider Secession 26

Kirkpatrick Sale of the Middlebury Institute recently observed that there is presently “more attention being paid to secession than any time since 1865” and predicts that “one of the American states will vote for its independence in the next 10 years.” Neo-secessionist sentiments are frequently stereotyped as a characteristic exhibited primarily by “right-wing extremists.” Yet there are serious reasons why genuine progressives should consider secession. Among the most compelling reasons why the Left should consider dissolving the U.S. into multiple nations, regions, or city-states are:

-Break-up of the U.S.A. means an end to the American empire that has killed millions of people throughout the world over the last sixty-five years, including perhaps two million Iraqis, three million Southeast Asians, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, half a million Timorese, thousands of Afghanis, and many, many more.

-Without the support of the U.S., international capitalist organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc. would be much less powerful and influential.

-The demise of the federal regime would mean an end to U.S. aid to Israel, and a fighting chance for the Palestinians.

-The collapse of the U.S. federal system would mean an end to federal corporate-welfare, bank-welfare, and, above all, the death of the military-industrial complex.

-No more federal regime means no more DHS, FBI, CIA, DEA, BATF, Bureau of Prisons, Bureau of Indian Affairs, federal drug war, federal mandatory minimums, or the national police state built up around the war on terrorism. What could be more successful at overturning the “terror war” legislation of the last eight years than complete disintegration of the federal government itself?

-An end to federal corporate welfare means a severe weakening of Big Pharma, agribusiness, or local developers utilizing federal money in efforts at gentrification.

-The disintegration of the U.S. means not only the end of federal drug prohibition but an end to U.S. support for the international drug war and the America-centric structure of international drug prohibition, thereby allowing other nations to develop more progressive policies on this matter.

Some may object that progressives have at times appealed to federal power against local reactionaries (for instance, in cases of civil rights, abortion rights, and church/state separation issues) and that dissolution of the federal regime may also weaken gains in this area. However, it should be considered that the majority of the U.S. population resides in the 75 to 100 largest urban, metropolitian areas. If these areas-New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Miami-were all independent city-states or micronations along the lines of Monaco, Luxemborg, or Singapore, genuine progressives would be in a much superior political position than at present. The major U.S. urban areas tend to be the most diverse culturally, racially, ethnically, and religiously. It is also in these areas where the majority of racial minorities, LGBT people, persons with countercultural values, and those with left-leaning political views tend to be concentrated. The majority of the underclass persons fed into the prison-industrial complex also originate from the large cities. It is in the major cities where most abortion services are located and where most abortions take place.

If these larger urban areas were separated from the states in which they are presently located and from the federal system, urban progressives would no longer need to share space politically with rural, small-town, or suburban reactionaries, conservatives, or religious fundamentalists. Therefore, it would be immensely easier for independent city-states of this kind to enact, for instance, single-payer health care, same-sex marriage, stem cell research or a living wage. It would also be easier to protect abortion rights from the influence of current state legislatures or the federal government. Likewise, it would be much more possible to decriminalize drugs, prostitution, gambling and other “consensual crimes” along the lines of New Zealand, Portugal, or the Netherlands at present. Such changes would severely weaken and undermine the police state and prison-industrial complex. The likely weakening of corporate power following the demise of federal and state corporate welfare would also provide a more level playing field for activists to take on landlords, developers, bankers, and other plutocratic interests on a municipal and regional level, and perhaps initiate economic alternatives like cooperatives, collectives, communes, LETS, mutuals, land trusts, and so forth. Meanwhile, social conservatives and other non-progressives who dissented from this prevailing liberal-libertarian-left paradigm could likewise achieve sovereignty for themselves in their exclusionary suburban enclaves, homogenous rural counties and towns, or sparsely populated red zones. Surely, this would be a better state of political affairs than the present system. If indeed secessionist sentiments are likely to grow in the years and decades ahead, why should progressives be left out?

On Paleocons and Pagans 4

The following brainstorming session between Keith Preston and David Heleniak was pulled, with slight editing, from the discussion page of AttacktheSystem.com.

KP: Have you seen this latest from Gottfried?

http://www.takimag.com/article/christian_heresies/

How would you reply?

DH: I disagree with him that Peter Gay’s book on the modern pagans of the Enlightenment is incorrect.  Rather, Gay is correct: the Enlightenment was fundamentally anti-Christian.

More…

Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You! 7

by David Graeber

Chances are you have already heard something about who anarchists are and what they are supposed to believe. Chances are almost everything you have heard is nonsense. Many people seem to think that anarchists are proponents of violence, chaos, and destruction, that they are against all forms of order and organization, or that they are crazed nihilists who just want to blow everything up. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Anarchists are simply people who believe human beings are capable of behaving in a reasonable fashion without having to be forced to. It is really a very simple notion. But it’s one that the rich and powerful have always found extremely dangerous.

At their very simplest, anarchist beliefs turn on to two elementary assumptions. The first is that human beings are, under ordinary circumstances, about as reasonable and decent as they are allowed to be, and can organize themselves and their communities without needing to be told how. The second is that power corrupts. Most of all, anarchism is just a matter of having the courage to take the simple principles of common decency that we all live by, and to follow them through to their logical conclusions. Odd though this may seem, in most important ways you are probably already an anarchist — you just don’t realize it.

Let’s start by taking a few examples from everyday life.

* If there’s a line to get on a crowded bus, do you wait your turn and refrain from elbowing your way past others even in the absence of police?
If you answered “yes”, then you are used to acting like an anarchist! The most basic anarchist principle is self-organization: the assumption that human beings do not need to be threatened with prosecution in order to be able to come to reasonable understandings with each other, or to treat each other with dignity and respect.

Everyone believes they are capable of behaving reasonably themselves. If they think laws and police are necessary, it is only because they don’t believe that other people are. But if you think about it, don’t those people all feel exactly the same way about you? Anarchists argue that almost all the anti-social behavior which makes us think it’s necessary to have armies, police, prisons, and governments to control our lives, is actually caused by the systematic inequalities and injustice those armies, police, prisons and governments make possible. It’s all a vicious circle. If people are used to being treated like their opinions do not matter, they are likely to become angry and cynical, even violent — which of course makes it easy for those in power to say that their opinions do not matter. Once they understand that their opinions really do matter just as much as anyone else’s, they tend to become remarkably understanding. To cut a long story short:
anarchists believe that for the most part it is power itself, and the effects of power, that make people stupid and irresponsible.

* Are you a member of a club or sports team or any other voluntary organization where decisions are not imposed by one leader but made on the basis of general consent?

If you answered “yes”, then you belong to an organization which works on anarchist principles! Another basic anarchist principle is voluntary association. This is simply a matter of applying democratic principles to ordinary life. The only difference is that anarchists believe it should be possible to have a society in which everything could be organized along these lines, all groups based on the free consent of their members, and therefore, that all top-down, military styles of organization like armies or bureaucracies or large corporations, based on chains of command, would no longer be necessary. Perhaps you don’t believe that would be possible. Perhaps you do. But every time you reach an agreement by consensus, rather than threats, every time you make a voluntary arrangement with another person, come to an understanding, or reach a compromise by taking due consideration of the other person’s particular situation or needs, you are being an
anarchist — even if you don’t realize it.

Anarchism is just the way people act when they are free to do as they choose, and when they deal with others who are equally free — and therefore aware of the responsibility to others that entails. This leads to another crucial point: that while people can be reasonable and considerate when they are dealing with equals, human nature is such that they cannot be trusted to do so when given power over others. Give someone such power, they will almost invariably abuse it in some way or another.

* Do you believe that most politicians are selfish, egotistical swine who don’t really care about the public interest? Do you think we live in an economic system which is stupid and unfair?

If you answered “yes”, then you subscribe to the anarchist critique of today’s society — at least, in its broadest outlines. Anarchists believe that power corrupts and those who spend their entire lives seeking power are the very last people who should have it. Anarchists believe that our present economic system is more likely to reward people for selfish and unscrupulous behavior than for being decent, caring human beings. Most people feel that way. The only difference is that most people don’t think there’s anything that can be done about it, or anyway — and this is what the faithful servants of the powerful are always most likely to insist — anything that won’t end up making things even worse.

But what if that weren’t true?

And is there really any reason to believe this? When you can actually test them, most of the usual predictions about what would happen without states or capitalism turn out to be entirely untrue. For thousands of years people lived without governments. In many parts of the world people live outside of the control of governments today. They do not all kill each other. Mostly they just get on about their lives the same as anyone else would. Of course, in a complex, urban, technological society all this would be more complicated: but technology can also make all these problems a lot easier to solve. In fact, we have not even begun to think about what our lives could be like if technology were really marshaled to fit human needs. How many hours would we really need to work in order to maintain a functional society — that is, if we got rid of all the useless or destructive occupations like telemarketers, lawyers, prison guards, financial analysts, public
relations experts, bureaucrats and politicians, and turn our best scientific minds away from working on space weaponry or stock market systems to mechanizing away dangerous or annoying tasks like coal mining or cleaning the bathroom, and distribute the remaining work among everyone equally? Five hours a day? Four? Three? Two? Nobody knows because no one is even asking this kind of question. Anarchists think these are the very questions we should be asking.

* Do you really believe those things you tell your children (or that your parents told you)?

“It doesn’t matter who started it.” “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” “Clean up your own mess.” “Do unto others…” “Don’t be mean to people just because they’re different.” Perhaps we should decide whether we’re lying to our children when we tell them about right and wrong, or whether we’re willing to take our own injunctions seriously. Because if you take these moral principles to their logical conclusions, you arrive at anarchism.
Take the principle that two wrongs don’t make a right. If you really took it seriously, that alone would knock away almost the entire basis for war and the criminal justice system. The same goes for sharing: we’re always telling children that they have to learn to share, to be considerate of each other’s needs, to help each other; then we go off into the real world where we assume that everyone is naturally selfish and competitive. But an anarchist would point out: in fact, what we say to our children is right. Pretty much every great worthwhile achievement in human history, every discovery or accomplishment that’s improved our lives, has been based on cooperation and mutual aid; even now, most of us spend more of our money on our friends and families than on ourselves; while likely as not there will always be competitive people in the world, there’s no reason why society has to be based on encouraging such behavior, let alone making people compete over
the basic necessities of life. That only serves the interests of people in power, who want us to live in fear of one another. That’s why anarchists call for a society based not only on free association but mutual aid. The fact is that most children grow up believing in anarchist morality, and then gradually have to realize that the adult world doesn’t really work that way. That’s why so many become rebellious, or alienated, even suicidal as adolescents, and finally, resigned and bitter as adults; their only solace, often, being the ability to raise children of their own and pretend to them that the world is fair. But what if we really could start to build a world which really was at least founded on principles of justice? Wouldn’t that be the greatest gift to one’s children one could possibly give?

* Do you believe that human beings are fundamentally corrupt and evil, or that certain sorts of people (women, people of color, ordinary folk who are not rich or highly educated) are inferior specimens, destined to be ruled by their betters?

If you answered “yes”, then, well, it looks like you aren’t an anarchist after all. But if you answered “no”, then chances are you already subscribe to 90% of anarchist principles, and, likely as not, are living your life largely in accord with them. Every time you treat another human with consideration and respect, you are being an anarchist. Every time you work out your differences with others by coming to reasonable compromise, listening to what everyone has to say rather than letting one person decide for everyone else, you are being an anarchist. Every time you have the opportunity to force someone to do something, but decide to appeal to their sense of reason or justice instead, you are being an anarchist. The same goes for every time you share something with a friend, or decide who is going to do the dishes, or do anything at all with an eye to fairness.

Now, you might object that all this is well and good as a way for small groups of people to get on with each other, but managing a city, or a country, is an entirely different matter. And of course there is something to this. Even if you decentralize society and puts as much power as possible in the hands of small communities, there will still be plenty of things that need to be coordinated, from running railroads to deciding on directions for medical research. But just because something is complicated does not mean there is no way to do it democratically. It would just be complicated. In fact, anarchists have all sorts of different ideas and visions about how a complex society might manage itself. To explain them though would go far beyond the scope of a little introductory text like this. Suffice it to say, first of all, that a lot of people have spent a lot of time coming up with models for how a really democratic, healthy society might work; but
second, and just as importantly, no anarchist claims to have a perfect blueprint. The last thing we want is to impose prefab models on society anyway. The truth is we probably can’t even imagine half the problems that will come up when we try to create a democratic society; still, we’re confident that, human ingenuity being what it is, such problems can always be solved, so long as it is in the spirit of our basic principles — which are, in the final analysis, simply the principles of fundamental human decency.

Forty Years in the Wilderness? 12

For some years  now, I have advocated for the anarchist movement in North America a change in direction from the course it has followed since the 1960s. Essentially, the general flavor of the anarchist milieu is one that expresses the same set of primary values as Marxists, social democrats and left-liberal Democratic Party activists, with the added qualification of “by the way, we’re also against the state as well.” A principal problem with such an approach is that it fails to distinguish political anarchism from run of the mill leftism. Furthermore, anarchism exists primarily as a kind of youth culture/subculture that focuses on a very narrow ultra-leftism and hyper-counterculturalism that inevitably has the effect of relegating political anarchism into a fringe ideological ghetto.

This is a situation that I have sought to change. I have done so by advocating a broader, more expansive approach for political anarchism than what the current mainstream of the movement will allow for. This effort has won me many highly sympathetic friends within the anarchist milieu and many bitter enemies as well. In a recent and highly controversial essay, I argued for a “revolution within anarchism.” What I was calling for is the future advent of a “non-leftoidal” anarchist movement, meaning one that is more substantive, comprehensive and original in its approach, rather than simply championing the run-of-the-mill causes and issues favored by leftists and post-60s counterculturalists.

If one surveys most of the contemporary anarchist websites and publications, one typically sees persistent and predictable references to things like the evils of racism, sexism, and homophobia, the villainy of pollution and cutting down trees, the need to be kinder to animals, the championing of unions and worker-related causes, the need for better health care, and other things that any little old lady at a Democratic Party precinct meeting, liberal Methodist pastor, or high-school social studies teacher might be interested in. Added to this might be standard countercultural causes like publishing “zines,” alternative media projects, squatting, “Food Not Bombs,” vegetarianism or veganism, neo-pagan or New Age religions, transsexualism, hippie communes,  or punk music. Many of these are no doubt good causes or perfectly harmless activities, but it is questionable as to how much they really do to subvert “the System.” After all, the radicals from the 60s have for the most part been victorious on most of the issues that emerged during that time. But what has been the result? The military-industrial complex is larger and more expansive than ever before, and the empire more far-reaching and more overtly aggressive. The state is more expansive and repressive, and the police state and prison-industrial complex have emerged as major growth industries. The plutocracy has become ever more exploitive, and the socio-economic classes ever more polarized. And the “culture wars” have degenerated into battles within the middle class over symbolic issues like same-sex marriage.

I submit that anarchists in North America should strive to break the grip that the “60s model” of radicalism has on their own milieu and begin looking for new directions. In my previous writings, I have called for the development of an anarchist-led pan-secessionist movement with a strong populist orientation, and oriented towards the lower socio-economic orders, e.g., the lumpenproletariat, neo-peasantry, declasse’ sectors, lower petite bourgeoisie, respectable poor, sinking middle and so forth. Such a movement would champion “third way” economic tendencies beyond socialism or capitalism, with an emphasis on decentralization and the voluntary sector. There would be an across-the-board defense of civil liberties (defending both drug decriminalization and the right to bear arms, for instance) and irreconcilable cultural differences would be handled according to the model of “peace through separatism,” meaning groups like the feminist/gay Left or the Religious Right would have their own separate institutions, associations, communities, and, if necessary, entirely separate regions, with explosive cultural matters like the definition of marriage, abortion, capital punishment, the rights of children against their parents, educational practices, and immigration being determined according to local community standards. The emergence of such a movement would involve a situation where the independent Left, populist Right, radical Middle, underclass, lumpenproletariat, declasse’ sectors, radical ecologists, and racial-nationalists among the minority groups would naturally bend towards one another against the neoconservative/left-liberal establishment.

My own ideological perspective is, for all practical purposes, virtually identical to what one might find at a website like Infoshop.Org , with several important differences. One of these is my rejection of abstract internationalism in favor old-fashioned foreign policy isolationism. A similar policy has worked quite well for the Swiss and Swedes for generations, and an emphasis on strict neutrality in international relations is even more important in an era where “humanitarianism” is used as a justification and cover for imperialism. Second, the phenomena of what is called “political correctness” needs to be effectively and comprehensively challenged, given that this is the ideological superstructure of an emerging form of totalitarianism. Lastly, I wish to end the “culture war/race war” mentality common to many Leftists and Rightists alike, and deal with differences of religion, culture, race, ethnicity, language and so forth according to the principles of individual liberty, voluntary association, pluralism, meritocracy and peaceful co-existence where possible, otherwise decentralism, localism, secessionism, separatism, self-determination and mutual self-segregation. For holding such positions, I have gained many enemies, but I have also brought in new friends, allies, and ideological tendencies whose tenants overlap to a great degree with those of traditional anarchism. Just as those of us who opposed the Cold War were often accused of fueling Communism, so are those of us who today oppose the Culture War accused of fueling Nazism, fascism, racism and theocracy but, as has been said, “this too shall pass.”

A question that emerges from this discussion involves the issue of what sort of time frame we are looking at.  I prefer to use the “forty years in the wilderness” analogy, a reference to the biblical legend whereby the escaped Israelite slaves wandered in the wilderness for forty years before reaching the Promised Land. I will explain the relevance of this analogy shortly, but when considering such a matter it is important to recognize identifiable trends in U.S. politics. These include:

1) The two-party system has proven to be extraordinarily durable, and has survived for 200+ years since the founding of the Republic, with no significant alterations and in spite of many subsequent changes in American society of a monumental nature.

2) The state has persistently grown throughout U.S. history, with no significant rollback at any point, and will likely continue to do so in the forseeable future, particularly given the economic troubles that lie ahead. Depending on whose estimates one relies on, the U.S. state now consumes 35 to 40 percent of the GDP, and is capable of consuming still more, as the European social democracies demonstrate. Further, there is no real evidence that the public at large objects to this. Opinion research indicates that anti-statist ideologies like libertarianism and paleoconservatism are the least popular so far as ideologies somewhat connected to the political mainstream are concerned.

3) Demographic, cultural and generational trends indicate that the center-left and, consequently, the Democratic Party, will be the dominant force in American national politics in the decades ahead. It is also true that American domestic partisan cycles tend to run at 35 to 40 year intervals. The Democrats recently emerged victorious after Republican dominance since the late 1960s. The Nixon Republicans displaced the Democrats who had been dominant since the election of FDR in 1932, and FDR ended the Republican reign that had begun in the 1890s (with the exception of the disastrous Wilson presidency). If this trend has any meaning for the future, the current Democrat-dominated partisan cycle should begin to expire sometime in the 2040s, precisely the decade when Americans of non-European ancestry are expected to collectively become a demographic majority.

In other words, we should count on the center-left being dominant for the next 40 years or so, and we should plan on using that time to build up a revolutionary movement that will eventually displace the current center-left coalition that has emerged victorious with the election of President Obama. Of course, there are a lot of people who wish to unseat the present center-left ruling coalition from the Right, ranging from right-wing neocon Frumites to paleocon Buchananites to the “grassroots Republican” Palinites to the Religious Right, Libertarians, and so forth. However, it is unlikely that any of these elements will ever achieve anything more than marginal or temporary victories, as all of them represent forces that were once dominant in American society but are in a serious state of decline. Neoconservatism, for instance, is a degenerated form of Cold War liberalism and the Paleocon/Religious Right program of turning back the clock to the 1950s is something of a joke. That mainstream “conservatives” have found no one better than Sarah Palin to be their leader demonstrates what a joke their perspective is as well. The purpose of present day “conservatism” is not to gain political power but to attract listeners and viewers to talk-radio or FOX News (itself a product of the “dumbing down” of American culture) and to sell books by barely literate right-wing polemicists.

It is of the utmost importance that a genuine revolutionary movement identify the present and future center-left ruling coalition as the primary enemy. To focus on “right-wing conservatives” is foolish given that these represent the losing forces of history, e.g., the right-wing of the old-monied elite, proponents of archaic nation-state based nationalism, religious fundamentalists, opponents of the sexual revolution, the declining white middle class and so forth. Yes, Rush Limbaugh may be a fat-assed windbag who peddles jingoism in its crudest form, and Ann Coulter may be a sniveling cunt, but there is no evidence that the movement they represent will ever achieve comprehensive or enduring political power in the United States. Indeed, the Bush administration, with its grotesque ineptness, may well have been their last gasp. Even more foolish is the tendency of some in the anarchist movement to devote inordinate amounts of attention to “right-wing extremist” groups, e.g., the Ku Klux Klan, neo-nazis, skinheads, et.al. Nothing is more marginalized and irrelevant to the mainstream of American politics than these. Persistent battles between “racists” and “anti-racists” are as socially and politically productive as wars between one-percenter motorcycle clubs or crack-dealing, inner-city street gangs.

The correct historical model to draw on in the development of a 21st century revolutionary movement in North America is not the battle between the Left and classical Fascism in the 1920s and 1930s but the historic rivalry between the anarchists and the Communists, with the center-left and its ideology of political correctness now playing the role of the “new totalitarianism.” I submit that the anarchist movement in North America should adopt as its primary objective the development of a revolutionary movement to challenge the center-left from the left, with the goal of obtaining political pre-eminence once the center-left expires its historical utility. In other words, there should be an anarchist-led revolution in the United States sometime during the 2040s, and the interim decades should be a build-up period to that point.

American history informs us of how we might proceed. Given the historic durability of the two-party system, it is worth noting that the only disruptions of that system were the replacement of the Federalists with the Whigs, and the subsequent replacement of the Whigs with the Republicans prior to the U.S. Civil War. Given that the Democrats are likely to be the ruling party over the next few decades, the aim of the revolutionaries should be to eventually replace the Republican Party with a yet to be named or thoroughly defined revolutionary coalition/organization/federation of some kind.

It is also worth noting and rather ironic that the only “near miss” as far as rolling back the perpetual expansion of the Leviathan state in U.S. history was the attempted Southern secession of 1861, which the Republican Party was formed primarily to prevent. Given that the two largest revolutionary events in U.S. history were the secession by the 13 colonies from Britain and the attempted Southern secession from the Union, it makes sense that a continuation of the American secessionist tradition should be our primary strategic tool. There is also the question of how to best go about formulating propaganda whose purpose is to shift popular opinion in our direction. As anarchists, we can quote Bakunin, Kropotkin, Goldman, Proudhon, Spooner, Tolstoy, Stirner, Nock, Rothbard, Bookchin or Chomksy within our own circles all we wish. The fact that remains is that most Americans don’t know and don’t care about such things. What they do know is the American populist revolutionary tradition that extends back to Jefferson and the Declaration Independence. In other words, we anarchists should follow the lead of Voltairine de Cleyre and work to fuse anarchism with American radical traditions in a way that makes sense to the ordinary person.

The need to abandon conventional “culture war/race war” psychology cannot be emphasized strongly enough. This does not mean that anarchists, the majority of whom identify with the left on social and cultural matters, should abandon their own ideals, interests or preferences. For instance, the majority of anarchists probably take a favorable view of the “immigrants’ rights” cause. Because immigration is a highly divisive social issue within the ranks of the poor and working class, I have advocated simply decentralizing immigration policy to the local level. This means that some localities might have the ultra-liberal immigration policies of contemporary “sanctuary cities” and others might take a position more like the contemporary Minutemen. In a community where the prevailing opinion on immigration was rather “conservative” in nature, left-wing anarchists could still agitate for an alternative point of view if they wished, vote against an anti-immigration referendum, etc. Nevertheless, it remains true that a wide assortment of demographic groups commonly identified with the “cultural right” will likely come under increasingly severe attacks from the state in the decades ahead. What we anarchists should say to the Right is this: “You rightists will get a better deal from us than with the totalitarian Left. We will defend you against attacks from the state. We will uphold the right to bear arms, free speech, educational freedom, freedom of association, and freedom of religion. We will shut down the police state. We will recognize your political sovereignty in those communities where your perspective is the prevailing sentiment. We will uphold the economic interests that you share in common with others.”  It should not be difficult to connect and form alliances with a wide variety of rightist factions against the common enemy in the central government given that states’ rights and local sovereignty are venerable American traditions of the kind which conservatives are the ostensible champions.

The center-left will eventually collapse as it begins to fracture along various lines. As political correctness becomes more deeply entrenched in American society, it will have fewer and fewer inhibitions about showing its fangs. As the role of the Israel lobby in U.S. foreign policy becomes increasingly exposed, the center-left will fracture along pro-Zionist  and anti-Zionist lines. As the immigrant and non-white population expands and becomes more powerful, racial and ethnic divisions on the Left will become more obvious. Other contributing factors to the eventual demise of the center-left ruling coalition will be growing class divisions, ideological differences among the left (multicultural vs universalism), the incompatibility of some of the left’s constituent groups (socially conservative blacks and homosexuals, for instance), the decline of the traditional Right as a common enemy and unifying force for the center-left, and the economic bankruptcy of the welfare state. Ultimately, the greatest fault line will be between upper middle class, white, liberals mostly concerned with social issues like gay rights, abortion rights, environmentalism and secularism, and lower class, mostly black and Hispanic, radicals concerned with class and economic issues, framed as racial and ethnic issues.

Over the next twenty years or so, anarchists should work to re-orient their movement away from a narrowly focused ultra-leftism and towards the broader pan-secessionist, decentralist populism I have outlined here. This will be achieved by those anarchists who already hold a similar position agitating for such ideas in the anarchist milieu and eventually gaining positions of leadership as the older ways become increasingly archaic. Once again, this does not mean that anarchists should necessarily abandon many of the projects with which they are currently involved. It means simply expanding the horizons of the anarchist milieu, appealing to a wider variety and larger number of people, and tackling a wider assortment of issues.

Once the project of re-orienting the anarchist movement towards becoming a more effective fighting force is achieved, the next step will be to work to gain political preeminence at the local and regional level for the ultimate purpose of overturning the present and future center-left ruling coalition, and doing so in a way that involves radical decentralization of power to the lowest possible level. This does not mean that decentralization is the only value. There are currently many worthwhile projects that anarchists are involved with ranging from assisting the homeless, to agitating for the living wage, to prisoners’ rights, to alternative schools, to solidarity with the Palestinians, Tibetans and oppressed people in other parts of the world. This does not mean that any particular set of anarchists needs to abandon their preferred set of cultural values. What I am simply proposing is that irreconcilable cultural differences be handled according to the model of “peace through separatism” as opposed to civil war, persecution, subjugation or oppression. Some rural counties may not allow abortion and some liberal enclaves may not allow handguns or smoking in bars. Some science academies may discriminate against creationists, and some churches may discriminate against feminists and homosexuals. Some schools may teach Afro-centrism and some may teach Euro-centrism. Some neighborhoods may exclude outspoken racists and others may exclude drug dealers or vice merchants. Such is an inevitability in a highly diverse civilization of hundreds of millions of people.

As to where those anarchists already committed to an outlook such as the one I’ve outlined here should begin, I would suggest that anarchists of this type begin infiltrating larger organizations for the purpose of gaining leadership positions. For instance, most of the current “third party” organizations are politically worthless, and there has never been a genuinely successful third party in U.S. history. However, these parties might well be captured by the anarchist movement and combined into a federation of more authentically revolutionary organizations, with their own infrastructure, social services, schools, media, militia and so forth, perhaps on the model of Fourth Generation entities like Hezbollah. It is these institutions and organizations that should replace the state once the present ruling class crumbles.

Conservative State Worship 8

No matter how pissed off I get at liberals and leftists (a very frequent occurrence, I assure you), I have never been able to bring myself to start calling myself a “conservative.” Some of this is no doubt a reflexive reaction to being raised among right-wing Know-Nothings. But just when I am sometimes starting to think that philosophical conservatives are the ones who really have their act together, I come across something like this post from conservative Catholic philosopher Edward Feser.

Feser was once associated with libertarianism, at least on the periphery, and is now some kind of ultra-reactionary Catholic traditionalist. Predictably, he takes a position on abortion that equates abortion doctors with serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer. I’ve known a number of other people who took such positions (mostly Christian fundamentalists of one type or another), and I really don’t find such views to be interesting enough to bother discussing them. Suffice to say that in an anarchic social order different kinds of communities would likely have different rules and standards concerning enormously controversial issues like abortion. As for my own preference, I’m for legal abortion, at least in the early stages of pregnancy. I’m probably for the legality of late-term abortion also, though I am less sure of this position and would be more accepting of compromise on the question. I don’t know that I really approve of peripheral regulations on abortion either, like parental consent and waiting periods. So, obviously, I’m in the “liberal” camp on this question. But what I find interesting about Feser’s post are comments like this:

On November 28, 1994, notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison by a fellow inmate. Unspeakably heinous though Dahmer’s crimes were, his murder can only be condemned. To be sure, by committing his crimes, Dahmer had forfeited his right to life. By no means can it be said that the injustice he suffered was as grave as what he inflicted upon his victims. But the state alone had the moral authority to execute him, and no private individual can usurp that authority. Vigilantism is itself a grave offense against the moral and social order, and Dahmer’s murderer merited severe punishment.
The recent murder of another notorious serial killer – the late-term abortionist George Tiller – is in most morally relevant respects parallel to the Dahmer case. It is true that Tiller, unlike Dahmer, was not punished by our legal system for his crimes; indeed, most of those crimes, though clearly against the natural moral law, are not against the positive law of either the state or the country in which Tiller resided. That is testimony only to the extreme depravity of contemporary American society, and does not excuse Tiller one iota. Still, as in the Dahmer case, no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands, and Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
 
One can understand how someone can criticize the killing of Jeffrey Dahmer by another prison inmate. Dahmer had already been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. But by the logic of Feser, Dr. George Tiller was a serial killer who was even more evil than Dahmer himself, a mass murderer of innocent children, and the state and the law were allowing him to commit his crimes. Let’s think about this for a minute: Suppose the Manson Family started a political lobby, and through the usual process of procuring legislative favors, pushed Congress or the states to enact a law exempting the Manson Family from the laws against mass murder. The Mansonites begin using their new-found freedom to kill other people with legal immunity. So some sensible person or group of persons grab their Glocks and start picking off the Mansonites one by one. Who would criticize them? Not me. I might even join in. At the very least, if the state subsequently arrested the anti-Mansonites for taking out the Mansonites, I might lead civil disobedience at the court house where the anti-Mansonites were being tried for “murder.”

So what’s Feser’s problem? If he really thinks abortion is the mass murder of innocent children that a corrupt state allows to legally take place, then why does he not praise the heroism of someone who places himself in grave danger in order to eliminate the killer and prevent him from killing more children in the future? Would Feser object to the killing of a wild animal that repeatedly attacked and killed human beings but could not be killed legally because of “animal rights” laws? Maybe, but I’d be surprised if he did.

Frequently, I have heard hard-core pro-lifers refer to abortionists as serial killers but then object to those who assassinate an abortion doctor. I suspect there are two reasons for this. One, whatever they think they believe outwardly, they really do not believe inwardly that abortion is the equivalent of mass murder. This is reflected in the fact that many pro-lifers do not believe there should be criminal penalties for women who obtain illegal abortions, only for the doctor. But whoever heard of the idea that being an accomplice to the murder of a child is not a crime? This perspective makes no sense at all. Many cult members and adherents of fanatical religions will betray their supposed beliefs in private moments and unguarded moments, often without the realization that they are doing so. In their heart of hearts, they really don’t believe in all the bullshit they claim to believe in.

But there’s another issue involved here as well, and that’s the state worship found among many conservatives. While many other conservatives are anti-statists with varying degrees of consistency or sincerity, “moralist” conservatives often express views not unlike Feser’s. Let’s look at Feser’s words once again. This is the key passage:

“But the state alone had the moral authority to execute him, and no private individual can usurp that authority. Vigilantism is itself a grave offense against the moral and social order, and Dahmer’s murderer merited severe punishment.”

And this:

“Still, as in the Dahmer case, no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands, and Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

What the hell is this crap about “the moral authority” of the state? What’s so special about the state? Would this be the same institution that killed two hundred million subjects during the 20th century alone? And how exactly is “vigilantism” such a “grave offense against the moral and social order”? The arguments against vigilantism are these:

1) Protection of the innocent. The accused should not be subject to the arbitrary accusations and retaliation of others. Instead, there needs to be a process of determining innocence or guilt according to objectives rules of evidence judged by neutral third parties.

2) Proportionality. One should not be able to arbitrarily execute someone they feel has wronged them. Instead, the punishment should “fit the crime” and be imposed by a neutral third party.

3) Civil order. If everyone “took the law into his own hands,” would this not lead to a breakdown of civil society and the emergence of a free-for-all?

These arguments might make sense in a functional society with a functional legal system, even one that performs erratically much of the time. But that would not seem to apply in a society that has formally legalized mass murder, which is what Feser thinks America has done with legalized abortion. Would a sensible person condemn Cambodian persons who armed themselves circa 1976 and starting taking out Khmer Rouge operatives? A Russian circa 1935 who did the same to Stalinist agents? A German who engaged in such actions against Gestapo agents in 1943? Of course not.

Aside from the fact that Feser does not really believe in his Catholic fundamentalist anti-abortion ideology beyond the surface, conscious level, he also exhibits the emotional and intellectual cowardice that comes with an inability to reject the state. If Feser had been born in North Korea, he would have been one of the North Korean soldiers I saw in television footage after Kim Il-Sung’s death hugging a statue of the Great Leader and weeping: “He took care of me since I was a baby!”

I’ve undergone de-conversion from three cults in my own lifetime: Christianity, statism, and egalitarianism. So maybe there’s still hope for Edward Feser. This brings me to another issue. The owner of the “Debunking Christianity” blog, John W. Loftus, has called for Feser to be fired from his teaching post at a community college because of his statements comparing the assassinated abortion doctor to Jeffrey Dahmer. Says Loftus:

“We’ve heard about the murder of George Tiller, an abortionist doctor. But did you know that in this blog post Edward Feser compares Tiller to Jeffrey Dahmer who killed, dismembered and ate 17 men and boys. Feser claims that “Tiller was almost certainly a more evil man than Dahmer was.” No wonder I won’t bother reading his book length diatribe against the new atheists, “The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.””

Feser teaches for Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California which is a community college. I call upon that college to fire him for this highly inflamed rhetoric which will probably bring on more murders of abortion doctors. And I ask others to do likewise. No professor should use such inflammatory rhetoric or be so ignorant about some crucial distinctions.

 Umm, excuse me, but didn’t Feser condemn the shooting of the abortion doctor and say the perpetrator should be “punished to the full extent of the law”? So it’s not like Feser is advocating the actual killing of abortion doctors. In fact, he’s criticizing such actions. What does Loftus expect? That no professor should ever express moral revulsion concerning abortion or those who practice it, even if they don’t engage in or advocate violence in retaliation against abortionists? That no one should ever insult abortion doctors? Sounds a little wacky to me.

This is the deal. Loftus is a former fundamentalist Christian apologist and pastor who converted to atheism. His writings on atheism and debunking Christianity are some of the best on these topics around. But Loftus seems to have fallen into the trap of many former religious people who replace one form of moralistic zealotry with another. Loftus say he used to lead boycotts against video stores that sold adult videos during his time as a Christian. Now he wants to lead crusades against un-PC college professors. I for one would like to see more un-PC college professors, given left-liberal dominance in much of academia.

I’ve been there. Over twenty years ago, I used to do presentations for high school and college students on the dangers of “racism and fascism” using materials from groups like the $PLC and the Berletoids (I know, I know, but forgive me for I knew not what I was doing). I used to belong to all of the official anti-Christian sects like People for the American Way until I realized that liberals are just as authoritarian and moralistic as any of their religious counterparts. I learned better as I went along. Eventually, I realized that values are simply the subjective emotions and opinions of individuals, and that life is simply a brute struggle of each against all for survival of the fittest. The only thing that matters is how one chooses to wage the war of life. What a liberating realization! May others come to such enlightenment as well.