Yesterday, a left-anarchist posted this critique of ARV/ATS on another forum. I’ve included the critique in its entirety at the beginning of this, and then spliced it up with my own comments inserted in the second section.
Great discussion between Lew Rockwell and Naomi Wolf. This the kind of thing that a Left/Right anarchist coalition should be about.
The dissident Left speaks. Other than the managerial-welfare state enthusiasms expressed in this, it’s a pretty good statement of opposition to the liberal-left.
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.
Kevin Carson on the real Obama.
Yeah, Obama’s been imposing a regular Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution on the country, all right. A continuation of the Bush version of TARP, a doubling down on the war in Afghanistan, a scorched earth battle to defend Bush era war criminals against their rightful punishment, new claims of plenary Executive power…. The most “progressive” thing he’s done is a national version of Romneycare (you can almost hear the insurance CEOs crying “Please don’t fling me in that briar patch!”).
Obama’s even more of a managerial centrist than he let on during the campaign. He was entirely truthful when he called himself a moderate. The real lie is the ideology of moderation itself.
Obama lied when he said, “There is not a rich America, and a poor America…. We are one nation, one people.”
No, we’re not. As Howard Zinn said, the U.S. political leadership talks as if there was some single “national interest” that “applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.” But it’s a lie…
…The idea that Obama is “hard-Left” is utterly laughable. There is no Left in mainstream American politics. Nancy Pelosi’s husband is an investment banker. Joe Biden was the Senator from MBNA, and now he’s the Vice President from the MPAA.
The genuine Left was virtually destroyed, as a major political force, during Woodrow Wilson’s War Hysteria and Red Scare. Since then, popular anger has been pretty effectively distorted and channeled by the myth of America as a “middle class country” with a common “national interest.”
This is a particularly good comment:
“I wonder: does Morrissey’s little outburst offer a snapshot of what could happen if the Left acknowledge that their favoured folk aren’t always as innocent, victimized and enlightened as they portray them? Would these universal uplifters react venomously, out of a sense of “betrayal”, upon staring reality straight in its pockmarked face? Does the type of of white Leftist I describe here assign bigotry to his breed in order to avoid acknowledging it in himself? Like the rector who yearns to take it up the rectum, does his socially-sanctioned superego shield a malignant Morrisseyan id, itching to smash the slanty, swarthy “subspecies” into submission?”
This reminds me of what Tom Sunic observed about the former hard-line Communists in Yugoslavia who managed to somehow convert themselves into uber-capitalists overnight as the Communist meal ticket suddenly became invalid. Sunic has said before that the liberal-multiculturalist elites would likely reinvent themselves as hard line racialists or nationalists if the multicultural system proved to be no longer viable. In other words, how many liberals would lose their pretentious humanitarian gloss and become fascists if the latter offered a better deal? To quote myself:
It should also be pointed out that the old-guard Marxists, even the Stalinists, only took their egalitarianism so far. Their professed aims were limited to the ostensible equality of wealth among the social classes and, in some instances, political equality of racial and ethnic groups. They did not nearly go so far as to attack the long list of “isms,” “archies” and “phobias” (for instance, “looksism,” “phallocracy” or “transphobia”) so reviled by today’s leftoids, nor did they typically advocate equality of looks, weight, ability, intelligence or even species (hence, the modern leftist infatuation with concepts ranging from “grade inflation” to virtual prohibition of so-called “fatty foods” to giving animals legal rights approximating those of humans). Nor did they advocate ending race and gender oppression by simply abolishing races and genders. Indeed, the contemporary leftist obsession with both race and health under the banner of multiculturalism and the therapeutic state calls to mind the other great totalitarian ideology of the twentieth century. One shudders to think what will happen when these elements gain control of a more fully developed genetic engineering technology and subsequently combine this with emerging surveillance technologies. An increasing popular concept in leftist academic circles is the notion of “whiteness” which, as might be expected, is typically used as a term of opprobrium. Indeed, one of the more extreme proponents of “whiteness” theory maintains a website whose masthead reads “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” To understand the implications of this slogan, one need only remove the term “whiteness” and replace it with “Jewishness.”
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.
Paul Gottfried argues that what separates Left from Right is not equality vs liberty but equality vs inequality. Thomas Sowell argues that the difference is a constrained vision vs an unconstrained vision of humanity, human society, human potential, and so forth. Others have argued the difference is one of universalism vs particularism, or a linear view of history vs the view that history is either cyclical or simply a series of events with no discernible pattern. Still others say the difference is one of tradition vs the experimental. So which one is it, or is it all of these?
Read about it on David Yeagley’s blog.
Isn’t it ironic that leftoids who are always complaining about their opponents’ alleged efforts to “silence” the voices of their favorite groups (minorities, feminists, gays, transexuals, etc.) do not see any need to extend what they hypocritically demand for themselves to those who do not share their own ideological biases?
The American Renaissance conference was repeatedly relocated and then canceled due to threats of violence against the employees of the hotel hosting the conference. So much for these leftoids’ commitment to “workers’ rights.” We already know how much they value freedom of speech. Theirs is the standard Communist line of support for free speech only when out of power. Now that cultural leftism is becoming the mainstream social norm, they have no qualms about showing their true colors. It should also be remembered that violent intimidation of opponents was a tactic of the German Nazi movement even before it took power and overthrew the Weimar regime. This kind of behavior by lefto-fascist “anti-racists” is even more common in Europe.
It should also be pointed out that American Renaissance is not a fascist nor neo-Nazi organization. Its founder and leader, Jared Taylor, has taken only two public positions on race: repeal of antidiscrimination laws which many libertarians view as an abridgement of private property rights and freedom of association, and a moratorium on Third World immigration, whose critics have included such prominent neo-Nazis as Ralph Nader, the late African-American politician Barbara Jordan, and the black writer Carol Swain, who has written critically but objectively on the white nationalist movement in the U.S. Past American Renaissance conferences have featured Jewish speakers like Paul Gottfried, Michael Hart, Michael Levin, Rabbi Mayer Schiller, and even anarchists like Joe Sobran. David Yeagley, an American Indian, was scheduled to appear at this year’s conference.
What the lefto-fascists object to is the mere fact that some people are holding a meeting to discuss or promote conservative views on racial issues. Whatever one thinks about these questions, if the lefto-fascists are successful in these kinds of effort to silence opponents through violent and random threats, it is quite likely they will start using similar tactics against other ideological opponents as well. If they can deny freedom of speech and association to racial conservatives, why not pro-lifers, conservative Christians, opponents of gay marriage, Second Amendment advocates, critics of environmentalism, economic conservatives, men’s or fathers’ rights groups or anyone else who is outside the totalitarian humanist paradigm.
It is also likely that as totalitarian humanism/political correctness/Cultural Marxism becomes ever more deeply entrenched into institutions that “law enforcement,” law and order liberals like the SPLC, and extra-legal, lefto-fascist, Communist and anarcho-leftoid hoodlums will start bending towards one another and establish a more cooperative relationship. Be prepared.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
Recent dialogue between Kevin R.C. Gutzman, Christian Kopff and Tom Piatak concerning the tension between classical liberal-libertarians and traditionalist conservatives reminded me of an observation from my Portuguese “national-anarchist” colleague Flavio Goncalves concerning the clarion call issued by Chuck Norris a while back: “Seems like the US Right is as revolutionary as the South American Left? Your country confuses me.”
It does indeed seem that most of the serious dissidents in America are on the Right nowadays, and I think this can be understood in terms of America’s unique political heritage. American rightists typically regard themselves as upholders and defenders of American traditions, while American liberals tend to admire the socialism and cultural leftism of the European elites. However, the republican political philosophy derived from the thought of Locke, Montesquieu and Jefferson that found its expression in such definitive American documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and of which modern neo-classical liberalism and libertarianism are outgrowths, is historically located to the left of European socialism.
A variety of thinkers from all over the spectrum have recognized this. For instance, Russell Kirk somewhat famously remarked that conservatives and socialists had more in common with one another that either had with libertarians. Murray Rothbard observed that “conservatism was the polar opposite of liberty; and socialism, while to the “left” of conservatism, was essentially a confused, middle-of-the-road movement. It was, and still is, middle-of-the-road because it tries to achieve liberal ends by the use of conservative means.” Seymour Martin Lipset affirmed Rothbard’s thesis:
“Given that the national conservative tradition in many other countries was statist, the socialists arose within this value system and were much more legitimate than they could be in America…Until the depression of the 1930s and the introduction of welfare objectives by President Roosevelt and the New Deal, the AFL was against minimum wage legislation and old age pensions. The position taken by (Samuel) Gompers and others was, what the state gives, the state can take away; the workers can depend only on themselves and their own institutions…Hence, the socialists in America were operating against the fact that there was no legitimate tradition of state intervention, of welfarism. In Europe, there was a legitimate conservative tradition of statism and welfarism. I would suggest that the appropriate American radicalism, therefore, is much more anarchist than socialist.
Back in 1912, when the German Social Democrats won 112 seats in the Reichstag and one-third of the vote, Kaiser Wilhelm II wrote a letter to a friend in which he said that he really welcomed the rise of the socialists because their statist positions were much to be preferred to the liberal bourgeoisie, whose antistatism he did not like. The Kaiser went on to say that, if the socialists would only drop antipatriotism and antimilitarism, he could be one of them. The socialists wanted a strong Prussian-German state which was welfare oriented, and the Kaiser also wanted a strong state. It was the pacifism and the internationalism of the socialists that bothered him, not their socialism. In the American context, the “conservative” in recent decades has come to connote an extreme form of liberalism; that is, antistatism. In its purest forms, I think of Robert Nozick philosophically, of Milton Friedman economically, and of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater politically.”
Thomas Sowell has provided some interesting insights into what separates the Left and Right in contemporary American discourse. Both Left and Right are derivatives of eighteenth century radicalism, with the Left being a descendent of the French Revolution and the Right being a descendent of the American Revolution. What separates the legacies of these two revolutions is not their radicalism or departure from throne-and-altar traditionalism, but their differing views on human nature, the nature of human society, and the nature of politics. Both revolutions did much to undermine traditional systems of privileged hierarchy. After all, how “traditional” were the American revolutionaries who abolished the monarchy, disestablished the Church, constitutionally prohibited the issuance of titles of nobility, constitutionally required a republican form of government for the individual states and added a bill of rights as a postscript to the nation’s charter document? One can point to the Protestant influences on the American founding that coincide with the Enlightenment influences, but how “traditional” is Protestantism itself? Is not Protestantism the product of a rebellion against established religious authorities that serves as a kind of prelude to a latter rebellion to established political authorities?
I would maintain that what separates the modern Right and Left is not traditionalism versus radicalism, but meritocracy versus egalitarianism. For the modern Left, equality is considered to be a value in its own right, irrespective of merit, whether individual or collective in nature. The radical provisions of the U.S. Constitution, for instance, aimed at eliminating systems of artificial privilege. No longer would heads of state, clerics, or aristocrats receive their position simply by virtue of inheritance, patronage or nepotism, but by virtue of individual ability and achievement. No longer would an institution such as the Church sustain itself through political privilege, but through the soundness of its own internal dynamics. To be sure, these ideals have been applied inconsistently throughout American history, and all societies are a synthesis of varying cultural and ideological currents. For instance, it is clear that nepotism remains to some degree. How else could the likes of George W. Bush ever become head of state?
Yet, for the Left, equality overrides merit. With regards to race, gender or social relations, for example, it is not sufficient to simply remove barriers designed to keep ethnic minorities, women or homosexuals down regardless of their individual abilities or potential contributions to society. Instead, equality must be granted regardless of any previous individual or collective achievement to the point of lowering academic or professional standards for the sake of achieving such equality. This kind of egalitarian absolutism is also apparent with regards to issues like the use of women in military combat or the adoption of children by same-sex couples. The Left often frames these issues not in terms of whether the use of female soldiers is best in terms of military standards (perhaps it is) or what is best for the children involved or whether the parenting skills of same-sex couples is on par with those of heterosexual couples (perhaps they are), but in terms of whether women should simply have the “right” to a military career or whether same-sex couples should simply have “equal rights” to adopt children, apparently with such concerns as military efficiency, child welfare and parental competence being dismissed as irrelevant.
To frame the debate in terms of tradition versus radicalism would seem to be setting up a false dichotomy. Edmund Burke, the fierce critic of the French Revolution considered by many to be the godfather of modern conservatism, was actually on the left-wing of the British politics of his time. For instance, he favored the independence of Ireland and the American colonies and even defended India against imperial interests. A deep dig into Burke’s writings reveals him to have been something of a philosophical anarchist. His opposition to the French Revolution was not simply because it was a revolution or because it was radical, but because of the specific content of the ideology of the revolutionaries who aimed to level and reconstruct French society along prescriptive lines. The American Revolution was carried out by those with an appreciation for the limits of politics and the limitations imposed by human nature, while the French Revolution was the prototype for the modern totalitarian revolutions carried out by the Bolsheviks, Nazis (whom Alain De Benoist has characterized as “Brown Jacobins”), Maoists , Kim Il-Sung and the Khmer Rouge.
One can certainly reject the hyper-egalitarianism championed by the Left and still favor far-reaching political or social change. It would be hard to mistake Ernst Junger for an egalitarian, yet he was contemptuous of the Wilhelmine German military’s practice of selecting officers on the basis of their class position, family status or political patronage rather than on their combat experience. He preferred a military hierarchy ordered on the basis of merit rather than ascribed status. Junger’s Weimar-era writings are filled with a loathing for the social democratic regime, yet he called for an elitist worker-soldier “conservative revolution” rather than a return to the monarchy.
Nor does political radicalism imply the abandonment of historic traditions. I, for one, advocate many things that are quite radical by conventional standards. Yet I am extremely uncomfortable with left-wing pet projects such as the elimination of “offensive” symbols like the Confederate flag; the alteration of the calendar along PC lines (C.E. and B.C.E instead of A.D. and B.C); the attacks on traditional holidays like Christmas or Columbus Day; a rigidly secular interpretation of the First Amendment (and I’m an atheist!); and the attempted reconstruction of language along egalitarian lines (making words like “crippled” or “retarded” into swear words or the mandatory gender neutralization of pronouns). All of these things seem like a rookie league version of Rosseauan/Jacobin/Pol Potian “year zero” cultural destructionism. Nor do I wish to do away with baseball, Fourth of July fireworks displays, Civil War re-enactors or the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I am also somewhat appalled that one can receive a high school diploma or even a university degree without ever having taken a single course on the history of Western philosophy. It is not uncommon to find undergraduates who have never heard of Aristotle. If they have, they are most likely to simply dismiss him as a sexist and defender of slavery. I’ve met graduate level sociology students who can tell you all about “the social construction of gender” but have no idea who Pareto was.
The principal evil of the Cultural Marxism of present day liberalism is its fanatical egalitarianism. Unlike historic Marxists, who simply sought equality of wealth, cultural Marxists seek equality of everything, including not only class, race, or gender, but sexuality, age, looks, weight, ability, intelligence, handicap, competence, health, behavior or even species. I’ve heard leftists engage in serious discussion about the evils of “accentism.” Such equality does not exist in nature. It can only be imposed artificially, which in turn requires tyranny of the most extreme sort. The end result can only be universal enslavement in the name of universal equality. For this reason, the egalitarian Left is a profoundly reactionary outlook, as it seeks a de facto return to the societies organized on the basis of static caste systems and ascribed status that existed prior to the meritocratic revolution initiated by the Anglo-American Enlightenment.
Perhaps just as dreadful is the anti-intellectualism of Political Correctness. In many liberal and no-so-liberal circles, the mere pointing out of facts like, for instance, the extraordinarily high numbers of homicides perpetrated by African-Americans is considered a moral and ideological offense. If one of the most eminent scientists of our time, Dr. James Watson, is not immune from the sanctions imposed by the arbiters of political correctness, then who would be? Are such things not a grotesque betrayal of the intellectual, scientific and political revolution manifested in Jeffersonian ideals? Is not Political Correctness simply an effort to bring back heresy trials and inquisitors under the guise of a secularized, egalitarian, fake humanitarian ideology? The American radical tradition represents a vital “left-conservative” heritage that elevates meritocracy over both an emphasis on ascribed status from the traditional Right and egalitarianism from the Left. It is a tradition worth defending.
A recent exchange at Taki’s Magazine between two of my favorite writers, Justin Raimondo and Paul Gottfried, prompted me to consider ways in which the thought of anarcho-libertarians and traditional conservatives might be reconciled or at least overlap. For many years, I was involved in the left-wing anarchist milieu, and I still consider Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Chomsky, Goodman, Bookchin, et.al. to be among my primary influences. Yet over time, I developed a strong appreciation for writers and thinkers of the traditional and not-so-traditional Right as well, including Rothbard, Mencken, Nisbet, Kirk, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Pareto, Junger, De Benoist and others. I’ve also come to strongly admire the American populist tradition beginning with Jefferson and extending through contemporary paleocons and alternative Rightists. Consequently, my ideological leanings have come to be an eccentric “left-anarcho-libertarian, populist-nationalist, decentralist-pluralism.” Odd? Perhaps, though I suspect the fact that Kropotkin’s daughter Alexandra was a Goldwater Republican indicates more continuity than radical departure within the context of her family’s ideological heritage.
Because the source of the disagreement between Gottfried and Raimondo was an earlier piece by Jared Taylor, and because the majority of the persons within the left-anarchist milieu from whence I came are known for their hysterical “anti-racism,” I should probably note that while I agreed in part with Raimondo’s criticisms of Taylor, I also recognize Taylor as someone who dares to ask provocative questions that ought to be given a fair hearing, but are forbidden by the self-appointed censors of political correctness. Surely, libertarians can do better than that. Furthermore, Taylor has publicly advocated only two policies: complete freedom of association in racial, ethnic, religious and cultural matters; and a moratorium on Third World immigration. Contrary to what many of my anarchist compatriots, themselves in the grip of political correctness, would have us believe, neither of Taylor’s proposals are in violation of traditional anarchist articles of faith. In fact, the Webster’s dictionary defines anarchism in part as “advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups.” Historically, anarchists have opposed the monopolization of power, wealth, land and resources by states or by state-connected plutocratic elites, and have argued for self-managed communities and a wider dispersion of ownership. But ownership implies the right of exclusion. Whether one is a leftist-syndicalist-communitarian anarchist or a rightist-proprietarian anarchist, it certainly does not follow that either collectively owned communes or associations of private property owners are obligated to admit all comers, regardless of beliefs, behavior, or individual contributions. Consequently, immigrants do not have any “right” to immigrate into the communities or proprietary associations of others, and while public areas (streets, lands, amenities) might consitute a kind of commons where individual citizens (such as street vendors or skateboarders) should not be arbitrarily excluded for the gratification of others, it does not follow that those from elsewhere have a “right” to enter or squat on such properties.
But what is even more interesting is Gottfried’s dissection of Raimondo’s Rothbardian “anarcho-capitalist” ideology. Says Gottfried:
The real source of Justin’s outrage lies in the contradiction between his ideology and Jared’s emphasis on cultural and biological specificity. The world as conceived by Justin is a collection of self-determining individuals, who should be free to work out their social and economic affairs, providing they do no physical harm to anyone else. In this ideal society, all humans, at least adults, however one defines them chronologically, will be free to develop themselves on the basis of their feelings and self-interests. Personally I couldn’t imagine how such a chimerical society could come into existence, let alone sustain itself, except in the minds of libertarian intellectuals or on a very provisional basis among likeminded ideologues. Such ideas are the modern counterparts of nineteenth-century utopian communities, all of which were attempts to restore a natural human condition that as far as I can tell never existed.
Historically, there have been more anarchist communities than many recognize, and while it is true some of these have lasted only for a few decades, or even a few years, others, such as the Icelandic Commonwealth and Gaelic Ireland, have lasted longer than the United States has been in existence.
Without authority structures, whether created by traditional hierarchies or by the modern managerial state, human beings have never lived together for any length of time. This generalization would apply to, among other societies, early America, which was a stratified and family-focused place.
I would dissent from the claim that political libertarianism necessarily implies either a radically egalitarian society or some kind of alteration of human nature from what it is at present. Certainly that is not the case for someone like myself, whose views on political science and social science are heavily influenced by the likes of Lawrence Dennis and James Burnham. Indeed, some of the most essential insights of elite theory like Michels‘ “iron law of oligarchy” and Pareto‘s “80/20” principle tell us that human organizations of any size will be dominated by the few rather than the many, and with a natural ranking of persons in even the most liberal circumstances. These principles are no less true for, say, an anarcho-syndicalist labor federation or an anarcho-capitalist private defense agency than for a conventional business firm or university. Nor does libertarianism, even in its more anarchistic forms, imply doing away with non-state social institutions such as family, religion, community, education, commerce, charity, or professional, cultural, and fraternal associations. Indeed, the elimination or massive reduction of dependency on the state should actually serve to strengthen such institutions.
Our sharp difference of views is reflected in the divergent ways in which Justin and I define the American Old Right. From his perspective, that American Right, about which he wrote an entire book, featured radical individualists resisting societal pressures and state authority. On my reading the interwar Right stood for a small-town and predominantly Protestant America faced by bureaucratic centralization and the rise of the modern culture industry.
Is it really a case of either/or? Surely, it would not be wholly counterfactual to suggest that Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, H.L. Mencken, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Jay Nock, or Lawrence Dennis were indeed “radical individualists resisting societal pressures and state authority,” particularly Dennis, who was placed on trial for sedition by the sinister Roosevelt regime. However, there is certainly no denying that the American Right, whether in its “old” or “new” forms, has traditionally “stood for a small-town and predominantly Protestant America faced by bureaucratic centralization and the rise of the modern culture industry,” at least at the rank and file level.
Are libertarian-individualist anti-statism and rural, small-town, Protestant conservatism really all that incompatible? Not that I can tell. As one who wants to see government stripped down to the level of city-states, counties, communities, and neighborhoods, it would seem to me that some kind of libertarian-anarchism would potentially be the political salvation of the entire spectrum of the authentic political and cultural Right, whether cultural conservatives, moral traditionalists, religious fundamentalists, ethnic preservationists, immigration restrictionists, family advocates, racial separatists, property owners, firearms owners, homeschoolers, tax resisters or hard money advocates. It is these forces that are the most under attack by the centralized, managerial-therapeutic-multicultural-welfare state. Surely, the death of the state is at least the partial victory of social and cultural forces such as these. Surely, those most under attack by the heavy hand of totalitarian liberalism will have more to gain through the obtainment of sovereignty for their own communities and institutions than through the perpetual expansion of the state.
Now, to be honest, I would make the same argument to the Left as well. I have long believed that the ultimate settlement to the culture wars will have to be some kind of Peace of Augsburg rooted in pan-separatism. Surely, the blue counties could have all the single-payer health care, affirmative action, gun control, same-sex marriages, smoking bans, publicly subsidized transgender surgeries, institutionalized animal rights and wacky environmental laws they wished if only they did not have to share a political roof with those nasty, fascist conservatives, Nazi Republicans and Christian Talibanists! Traditionally, conservatives have argued for such principles as states’ rights, local sovereignty and community standards with regard to social and cultural matters. I agree with them. So it would seem that the demise of the state would essentially solve many of these conflicts, as the various sides would simply go their own way. To some degree, everyone would win, especially those who are most likely to suffer escalating attacks as political correctness becomes ever more deeply entrenched in state and state-connected institutions.
“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
“With respect to libertarian eccentricity, the dream of an absolute private freedom is one of those visions that issue from between the gates of ivory; and the disorder that they would thrust upon society already is displayed in the moral disorder of their private affairs. Some present here will recall the article on libertarianism in National Review, a few years ago, by that mordant psychologist and sociologist Dr. Ernest van den Haag, who remarked that an unusually high proportion of professed libertarians are homosexuals. In politics as in private life, they demand what nature cannot afford.”
“Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you, but human history is not entirely summarized by the bold struggle for the “right” to poke your veiny ding-dong through disco-bathroom glory holes. Not every act is political. Some are just silly and ugly and stinky.”
For all of my adult life, I have been fascinated by the ideas of classical anarchism, classical liberalism and modern libertarianism, including the works of Jefferson, Paine, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Rothbard, Hess, Szasz, Chomsky, Bookchin, and other such thinkers. For roughly the same amount of time, I have never failed to be completely underwhelmed by most of what I have found in organized anarchist, liberal or libertarian circles.
I became a radical roughly twenty-three years ago, after having been awakened to the nature of U.S. war crimes and state-sponsored genocide in places like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, East Timor, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere. Early on, I noticed most of the other people in the anti-imperialist movement were Communists, left-wing Christians, and pro-state liberals. Maybe it was because I grew up among Birchers, Falwellites, Wallaceites, and Reaganites, but I never cared much for the Big Brother statism of the Left on domestic issues, however much I might have agreed on foreign policy. So, to make a long story short, I became an anarchist.
From the time that I first encountered the organized anarchist movement, I was a bit puzzled by the overwhelming obsession with “racism” to be found in those circles. It might have made sense if anarchists were predominantly blacks or Hispanics or Asians, but, then as now, probably ninety-eight percent of anarchists were white, at least in North America. I personally helped found two separate anarchist student groups at one point. How many “people of color” did we ever attract? I recall two. One was a young black woman with an upper middle class background whose father was a colonel in the U.S. military. Another was an immigrant from Sri Lanka from the northern Virginia suburbs. For several years, I was the local representative of the anarcho-syndicalist labor union Industrial Workers of the World. I attended several national events of the IWW. How many non-whites did I ever meet? I recall one, a black middle class schoolteacher from Brooklyn. I was on the national committee of the U.S. section of the International Workers Association (which also includes the CNT of Spanish Civil War fame). How many non-whites did I ever meet? Two, both of them Cuban exiles. I was at the founding conference of the old “Love and Rage” anarcho-communist faction. How many people of color? Two blacks, an Caribbean immigrant and a gay ex-Trotskyist who had recently converted to anarchism. I attended two separate continental anarchist gatherings in the late 1980s, both of them attended by several thousand people, mostly countercultural youth, but very few non-whites. This pattern has continued ever since.
While organized left-anarchism (and its “free market” variation of “left-libertarianism”) might have a grossly disproportionately low number of racial minorities, one thing that also becomes immediately apparent in such circles in the grossly disproportionately high number of “sexual minorities,” e.g., gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendereds, transvestites, transsexuals, and butch-women, along with the occasional hetero female feminist. And this is the likely explanation for the rather pronounced hostility to myself found in many left-anarchist and left-libertarian circles.
The ironic thing is that those who attack me the most fervently are those whom I agree with most of the time. I’ve taken Theodore Adorno’s “F Scale” test and come up with the rating of “liberal airhead.” I’ve taken this “political compass” test and come up as a “left libertarian.” So if my critics are to be believed, I’m a liberal airhead-left libertarian-neo fascist. Oh, well, so be it.
I admit that I am often baffled though amused by the rantings of my political enemies. I have tried to figure out where the “fascist” label assigned to me originates from. Am I an advocate of totalitarian government? No, I am a loud critic of the state. Am I an advocate of a Mussolini-like corporatist economy? No, I’m the author of a prize-winning essay attacking such things. Am I an apologist for imperialist war? No, I am an outspoken opponent of the U.S. empire. Do I favor a police state? No, my published writings are filled with denunciations of the state, the law, the cops, the prison system, the war on drugs, and victimless crime laws, even to the point of advocating virtual insurrection against such things. Do I support jingoistic nationalism? No, I’m right alongside Noam Chomsky in my “anti-American” sentiments.
Am I an apologist for Hitlerism or Nazism? No, I’ve attacked Nazism repeatedly. Do I promote theocratic fundamentalist Christianity? No, I am an atheist. Am I a social conservative? No, I support legalized abortion, euthanasia, drug decriminalization, abolition of laws prohibiting consensual adult sex, and repealing vice laws. Do I lack concern for the oppressed, disadvantaged or downtrodden? No, I’ve written, spoken and even appeared on television upholding the rights of the homeless, the disabled, the sick and diseased, runaway teenagers, students, prisoners, psychiatric inmates, prostitutes, drug addicts, and others whom many people don’t give two shits about. I have written repeatedly in favor of forming non-state defense organizations for these kinds of marginal populations. I favor abolition of compulsory school attendance laws. I am opposed to the drinking age. I am opposed to state-licensed or state-regulated marriage. Am I some sort of reactionary “family values” conservative, moral traditionalist? No, for years I worked for a Greek family that owned a collection of strips joints and all-night bars and many of my female friends are strippers, hookers, lesbians and biker chicks. For all of my life since about age sixteen, I’ve been associated with marginal subcultures: one percenter motorcycle clubs, hippies, anarchists, rock ‘n’ rollers, gutter punks, ex-cons. I am for the abolition of the prison system. I am opposed to capital punishment. I would put more restrictions on the power of the police than ACLU would. I am opposed to statutory rape laws. I am for upholding the right of unconventional religions to practice unmolested by the state, for instance, Mormon sects that practice polygamy or sequestered cults whose members can be subjected to abduction and forcible “deprogramming” by others. I am for the right to practice alternative medicine. I’m even skeptical of laws requiring driver’s licenses. Unlike the left-wing “civil libertarians” who think the proper response to the police state is to file lawsuits, I am for forming civilian militias for the purpose of chasing the PIGS away. Hell, I’ve even defended street gangs on the basis of freedom of association and more broadly as a form of class-based insurgency. Indeed, my views on most social issues are well to the left of the Democratic Party, often to the left of the Green Party.
Am I an anti-Semite? I’m very critical of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and I generally agree with the analysis of this question advanced by Mearsheimer and Walt and by James Petras. I generally think that American Jews who favor Israel’s interests over keeping the U.S. out of foreign wars should simply put their money where their mouth is and go live in Israel, take their right-wing Christian Zionist cohorts with them and leave the rest of us alone. I suppose some would say this makes me an anti-Semite. Certainly Norman Podhoretz would think so. However, probably fifty percent of my primary intellectual influences have been Jews. These include Thomas Szasz, Noam Chomsky, Murray Rothbard, Murray Bookchin, Milton Friedman, David Friedman, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Sam Dolgoff, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Friedrich von Hayek, Paul Goodman, Hannah Arendt, Arthur Koestler, Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo, Paul Gottfried, and Norman Mailer. So there would seem to be some problems with the “anti-Semite” label. With regards to Israel, do I care that Israel exists? Of course not, just as I do not mind that China or Japan exist, though I am quite strongly in favor of Palestinian independence, just as I am in favor of independence for the Tibetans. What I do oppose is the hijacking of American foreign policy by the Israel Lobby. I think the arguments of those who claim that severance of the U.S.-Israel relationship would result in genocide of the Israelis at the hands of the Arabs are absurd. If anyone in the Middle East is likely to be genocide victims, it is the Palestinians. But assuming such an argument has merit, I’d say, okay, fine, then we can simply establish a West Israel in one of the New York City boroughs, or in West Palm Beach, or in Hollywood and be done with it.
Am opposed to black people? Like most white Americans, I’m mostly indifferent to blacks. I live in a majority black city, with a black dominated municipal government, and I’ve done so for twenty-two years. I guess if I thought blacks were that awful, I would have relocated to whiter pastures by now. I’ve had plenty of blacks among my co-workers, fellow students, business associates, and neighbors. I even had a couple of black roommates when I was in my twenties. I can’t say that on average I’ve regarded them any higher or any lower than my white associates in the same situations. Hell, of all the women I’ve had, I’d say about a third of them were something other than white (Indian, Asian, black, Hispanic, American Indian, Arabic-the whole fucking Crayola box). Fuck, one of my grandmothers is Cherokee, for god’s sake. So there would seem to be some problems with the “racist” label being applied to myself as well. Politically, I have advocated reparations to blacks for the purpose of economic development of politically sovereign black homelands in North America, the creation of independent black municipalities in sections of large cities and metro areas where blacks are dominant, and legal amnesty for most black prisoners (and most other prisoners, for that matter). These are essentially the same positions as the Nation of Islam, Republic of New Afrika, and the People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement. What I do oppose are efforts to abridge freedom of association, micromanage race relations by the state, or create a new racial caste system based victimological ideology in the name of compulsory integrationism.
A favorite cause of many contemporary left-anarchists and left-libertarians is pro-immigration. Virtually every website, zine, or blog of this type is littered with pro-immigration propaganda. I happen to think this is an issue reasonable and honest anti-statists can disagree on, as it involves population transfers among states, and it is states that create the conditions under which population migration occurs. The reasonable pro-immigration position might be something like that articulated by Craig Biddle:
“Open immigration does not mean that anyone may enter the country at any location or in any manner he chooses; it is not unchecked or unmonitored immigration. Nor does it mean that anyone who immigrates to America should be eligible for U.S. citizenship—the proper requirements of which are a separate matter. Open immigration means that anyone is free to enter and reside in America—providing that he enters at a designated checkpoint and passes an objective screening process, the purpose of which is to keep out criminals, enemies of America, and people with certain kinds of contagious diseases. Such a policy is not only politically right; it is morally right.”
Indeed, Rasmussen research has shown some interesting results concerning immigration:
Sixty-six percent (66%) of likely voters nationwide say it is Very Important for the government to improve its enforcement of the borders and reduce illegal immigration. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 32% of America’s Political Class agrees.
An even more dramatic gap appears on the question of legalizing the status of those immigrants now in the country illegally. Voters nationwide are evenly divided on the question of whether it is even somewhat important: 48% say it’s important, and 45% say it’s not.
However, among the Political Class, 74% say legalizing the status of these residents is important, and only 17% disagree.
So it seems that we have the interesting spectacle of anarchists aligning themselves with the political class against “the people” when it comes to immigration. It is not that “the people” are overcome with xenophobia and racist “hate.” As the Rasmussen study points out:
One major misunderstanding has clouded the debate over immigration. Most pundits assume that those angry about the issue are angry at the immigrants. In fact, data shows that the anger is directed primarily at the federal government. Rather than being angry at immigrants, 56% continue to favor a welcoming immigration policy that would let anybody move to the United States except national security threats, criminals and those looking to live off the U.S. welfare system.
So it would appear that the majority of Americans take a rather magnanimous, tolerant view of immigrants. I would argue that the mass immigration problem that we currently have in the Western nations is the fault of perverse incentives created by our own ruling classes, who are addicted to easily exploitable Third World immigrant labor, and who use liberal-multiculturalist ideology as a smokescreen, and whose class of court intellectuals, liberal academicians and media hacks generate propaganda for such on their behalf.
I would probably take a position not dissimilar to Biddle’s, with the qualifications that “antidiscrimination” (prohibition of freedom of association) legislation be repealed, that immigrants be ineligible for state entitlement programs and tax-payer funded services, that employers be prohibited from using immigrants as scab labor, that employer use of illegal immigrant labor be barred, that immigrants convicted of serious crimes (like rape, robbery and murder, not drug possession or vending without a license) be deported, and that naturalization policy be decentralized according to local community standards. These measures, combined with large-scale efforts to create alternative economic institutions operating independently of the capitalist class which demands immigrant labor and, if necessary, the formation of volunteer citizen militia to better safeguard border areas would likely reduce immigration to manageable levels. I am actually quite wary of the proposals by some to create a “war on drugs” or “war on terrorism” police state crusade against illegal immigration. Nor do I “hate” or personally resent the masses of Latin American immigrants into the United States or Islamic immigrants into Europe. In a purely legal sense, I don’t think illegal immigrants should be dealt with any more harshly than ordinary trespassers, shoplifters, traffic offenders, or vagrants camped out on someone else’s property. My priority political issue is to oppose U.S. imperialist aggression against other societies where many of the Left’s much beloved “people of color” actually live. But just because I do not wish to see people in other lands slaughtered does not mean I wish for Western civilization to commit economic, political and cultural suicide, just as my opposition to the statist persecution of homeless drug addicts does not mean I’m going to invite them all to move in with me, either. As Murray Rothbard said: “It’s the only civilization we’ve got.”
Yet the propaganda of pro-immigration leftists-anarchists-libertarians would have us all believe that opening the borders to any terrorist, criminal or welfare colonist who wants to jump a fence somewhere would be just fine. Why bother screening for communicable diseases immigrants from countries where public health standards are just about zero? What’s the big deal about tuberculosis, anyway? Why not allow a few hundred million Asian, African, Latin American or Eastern European immigrants to come on over and sign up for public assistance? Why not allow foreign states to empty their prisons of violent criminals and send them to America as Fidel Castro did during the boatlift of 1980? If al-Qaeda wants to open a branch office on Main Street, USA, then who are the rest of us to say otherwise?
What is odd is that the anarchist and libertarian groups who push such ideas are almost all white. Check out a group photograph of any anarchist sect and you will rarely find a “person of color.” So what is the source of the extreme “anti-racism” hysteria and equally over-the-top “immigrants’ rights” perspectives held by many of these people? Perhaps they are simply regurgitating what they have picked up from the media, the entertainment industry, their public school teachers and university professors, or their ex-hippie parents. Perhaps they come from right-wing subcultures, and such views are a means of giving the finger to their Christian fundamentalist, redneck racist or bourgeoisie Republican parents? Clearly, there is no issue of self-interest involved. Or is there?
So what of the homosexuals? When I was about fourteen, I was in a fundamentalist church, and I heard a hysterical Jim Jones-like preacher advocating the death penalty for “sodomites,” saying something to the effect that “if Jack and Fred want to make out on a street corner, then we should fry Jack and Fred.” I recall being baffled by the intensity of this fellow’s rhetoric and emotions. Then as now, I really couldn’t give a good goddamn if two queers want to poke each other in the anus or not, just as I don’t care if some hetero dude wants his girlfriend to shove a strap-on up his fucking rectum. For that matter, I don’t particularly care if others wish to engage in S&M or coprophilia or just about any other sort of sexual freakiness they prefer. In fact, as one who grew up among the so-called “religious right,” including some of its more extreme branches, like the Christian Reconstructionists and the Bob Jones people, I could never really understand what the point behind all the hooey about “the homo-sex-shuals” really was. When I was in my mid-teens, there were two gay guys who bought the house next door to my parents. I don’t recall that it was any kind of issue. My first real exposure to homosexuals was in a state correctional facility when I was in my late teens. While I didn’t exactly go out of my way to befriend them, I thought they were basically harmless. When I was in my early twenties, one of the guys who lived on my floor during college was a stereotypical “flaming gay” and I had no problem with him. Since then, I’ve had plenty of gay co-workers, neighbors, a gay professor, and other such associates, and I’ve never had any problem with them. As mentioned, the many leftist, liberal, libertarian and anarchist political groups I’ve been associated with over the years have included many homosexuals, and I’ve never had any problem with that. A few years ago, there was an openly gay anarchist who lived at a nearby commune who was an occasional guest at my residence.
So what is the source of the problem? I used to think it was ridiculous when members of the religious right and other social conservatives accused the gay rights movement of demanding “special rights.” Having taken a harder look at the “gay rights” phenomenon, I’ve more or less changed my opinion. Among those who have attacked me the most fervently as a “fascist,” those who can be personally identified are, with few exceptions, gay militants of one type or another. This has been true in my local community, on the internet, and in hate mail that I have received.
What is it that I do or say that is so offensive to gay militants? Have I called for the reinstatement of sodomy laws, or for vigilante violence against homosexuals, or for the closing of gay-oriented clubs or businesses? Have I called for severe social or economic discrimination against gays? Have I even criticized homosexuality as a lifestyle or practice? I’ve done nothing of the sort. Have I belittled the cultural or intellectual achievements of homosexuals? No, I haven’t. For instance, I’ve gone out of my way to promote the work of Justin Raimondo, not because Raimondo is gay (who cares?), but because Raimondo is one of the very best critics of U.S. imperialism to be found. One of the very best critics of the police state is Glenn Greenwald, a gay man. One of my favorite political writers is Gore Vidal, who is a homosexual. Have I called for the legal prohibition of transgender surgery as some reactionary conservatives have done? No, I haven’t. Would I care if gays could legally marry? No, though I don’t think the state should be involved in marriage in any capacity. I am not even carte blanche opposed to the adoption of children by same-sex couples, though I think the preference should be for hetero couples, all other variables being equal.
The source of the hostility seems to come down to two things: My advocacy of political decentralization ordered on the principal of individual liberty, freedom of association, private property and community sovereignty, and my advocacy of political alliances against statism, state-capitalism, and imperialism that transcend cultural boundaries and divisive social issues and, yes, alliances that might sometimes include people who disagree with homosexuality for religious, cultural, moral or philosophical reasons.
As a big tent, pluralistic anarchist, I would favor the proliferation of a wide assortment of lifestyles and communities in a libertarian system. For instance, on the economic issues that divide libertarians, I would advocate a plurality of economic arrangements. I would say there can be competing systems of property rights, perhaps determined on a geographical basis, of the kind Kevin Carson has suggested, reflecting Lockean, Georgist, or Proudhonian systems of property. There can be anarcho-capitalist private defense agencies, anarcho-communist kibbutzes, anarcho-syndicalist workers’ councils, mutual banks, geoist land trusts, and all the other kinds of economic institutions different kinds of libertarians favor. When it comes to issues that libertarians differ on, there are many. These include capital punishment, abortion, immigration, environmentalism, animal rights, childrens’ rights, property theory, theories of criminal punishment and many others. I’d say let these be determined according to community standards at the local level. There can be agrarian or primitivist colonies where modern technology or even industrial civilization of any kind is banned. There can be separatist enclaves for feminists, homosexuals or “people of color,” where men, heteros or whiteys are forbidden. There can be anarcho-puritan communes that bar guns, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, porn, S&M, prostitution, religion or meat-eating. On the other hand, there can be hedonist associations, modeled on places like the Red Light Districts of Amsterdam and Frankfurt (where I’ve visited numerous times) where virtually anything goes.
Of course, I’ve applied the same principles to the cultural right as well as the cultural left, and this is where the real source of the conflict between myself and others in the anarchist milieu begins. Hans Hermann Hoppe has gained much criticism for statements like this:
“…the anarchistic upshot of the libertarian doctrine appealed to the countercultural left. For did not the illegitimacy of the state…imply that everyone was at liberty to choose his very own nonaggressive lifestyle? Did this not imply that vulgarity, obscenity, profanity, drug use, promiscuity, pornography, prostitution, homosexuality, polygamy, pedophilia or any other conceivable perversity or abnormality, insofar as they were victimless crimes, were no offenses at all but perfectly normal and legitimate activities and lifestyles?”
“the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism-will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.”
“Say what you will in support of this statement – it is stark, it is well written, it is radical, it gives a well deserved intellectual kick to the teeth to some groups who richly deserve it — it is still exceedingly difficult to reconcile it with libertarianism. For, in the free society, there will always be the likelihood that different groups will tend to amalgamate in certain geographical areas, and even have restrictive covenants that enforce just requirements, and limitations on free speech. In places like parts of Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, for example, there is little doubt that such sentiments will be the order of the day. But there will likely be other areas of the country, for example, the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, Ann Arbor, Cambridge, Mass, Greenwich Village in New York City, heck, the entire Big Apple for that matter, where pretty much the opposite outlook will legally prevail. That is, in these latter places, positive mention of free enterprise, capitalism, profits, etc., will be severely punished by law. Why libertarianism should be equated with the former views and not the latter is a mystery. Surely, the libertarian philosophy would support the rights of both groups to act in such manners. As for homosexuality, it is entirely possible that some areas of the country, parts of Gotham and San Francisco for example, will require this practice, and ban, entirely, heterosexuality. If this is done through contract, private property rights, restrictive covenants, it will be entirely compatible with the libertarian legal code.”
I would go still further than Block, and advocate entirely separate homelands for those with irreconcilable political differences, for instance, neo-nazis and their equally thuggish “antifa” opponents. As I’ve written before:
Leftists whose main issues are “racism, sexism and homophobia” could create their own homelands complete with a constitution that required that a majority of the seats in the highest body of the provincial government be given to people of color, feminists and homosexuals. There could be “anarchist” city-states organized on the basis of “consensus-based direct democracy” complete with marathon debates over “process” along with “communist” city-states ruled hierarchically by the “vanguard party”. Recall the dichotomy between demo/hedo/homo/art-fag Athens and commie/fascist Sparta. In the white separatist states, there could be sub-communities established for “Aryan” white nationalists and Jewish white nationalists (yes, there is such a thing). Their could be collections of towns and villages for the followers of “moderates” like Jared Taylor and Michael Levin on one hand and “extremists” like the Aryan Nations or the World Church of the Creator on the other. In the black separatist states, there could be sub-communities for Garveyites, adherents of Black Israel, Black Muslims, black separatist Christians and Marxists like the Republic of New Afrika.
Of course, I don’t think it’s generally necessary to take things to these kinds of extremes. For the most part, I think cultural differences can be handled the same way religious differences are presently handled. Different groups could simply have their own institutions. For instance, with regards to education, there might be Afro-centric schools, “traditional American” schools, Catholic schools, fundamentalist-evangelical schools, Hasidic schools, liberal-leftist-politically correct schools, libertarian-anarchistic Summerhill-type schools, “white supremacist” schools, Islamic schools, and, yes, even “homo-centric” schools.
I take it as a given that there will always be groups as well as individuals with irreconcilable political, ideological, cultural, religious, racial, ethnic, economic and other kinds of differences. One of the virtues of libertarian ideas like decentralization, freedom of association, a wide dispersement of economic resources and so forth it that these things allow such differences to be accommodated without bloodshed or oppression. For instance, just as some leftists might prefer a way of life that priorities homosexuality, feminism, “green-consciousness,” racial and ethnic integrationism, hedonism, communalism, therapeutism or vegetarianism, so might some other people prefer a way of life that prioritizes religious devotion, ethnic preservationism, social conservatism, cultural traditionalism, asceticism, racial separatism, racial, religious or cultural homogeneity, “morality,” “family values,” private property, hunting, meat-eating or tobacco farming. There is no reason why there needs to be a civil war between such factions, or that such factions even be under the same political roof. There can be separate schools, churches, cultural organizations, intermediary institutions, media outlets, non-state social services, economic enterprises, common law legal systems, defense organizations, neighborhoods or, if necessary, entirely separate towns, counties, cantons or provinces for such competing factions.
Seems fair enough to me. After all, freedom of choice and freedom of association are two-way streets. Just as some people may wish to live a homosexual or hedonistic lifestyles, others might wish to live a “racist” or religious lifestyle. But what I have come to call “homo-totalitarians” typically respond in one of two ways. Some are outright political totalitarians who wish for an all-powerful central government to eradicate the associational, religious, economic, privacy and property rights of others with antidiscrimination laws, direct subsidies to homosexual organizations, the use of gay marriage laws to require taxpayers to finance state-funded benefits for same-sex couples, granting homosexual pairs preferential consideration so far as the adoption of children is concerned, criminalizing speech that is critical of homosexuality, the use of tax-funded public schools for the dissemination of pro-gay propaganda under the guise of “sex education” and “teaching tolerance”, enacting hate crimes (thought crimes) laws granting homosexuals legal protection above and beyond that of ordinary crime victims and many other such privileges.
Still others argue less for political totalitarianism of this kind and instead prefer a censorious intellectual culture where dissent from PC orthodoxy on homosexuality is forbidden. We have seen previews of what this would look like in the phenomenon of “political correctness” that has infested certain sectors of society, particularly the academic world and the media. What this amounts too, at minimum, is reacting to those with un-PC views on “gay rights” with hysteria, shrillness, rudeness, slander, vilification, and threats.
Within the context of libertarianism, some have argued that those with un-PC views pertaining to homosexuality, “racism” and a few other things should be written out of the libertarian milieu so as to uphold some standard of cultural leftist purity. Isn’t this interesting? To demonstrate the lunacy of such a proposal, one only need to ask what might happen if other supposed “minority” groups engaged in such special pleading? Should Mormon libertarians demand that libertarians refrain from criticizing Mormon theological beliefs or practices of the Mormon church? Should drug-using libertarians demand that drug use be off-limits so far as disapproval or disagreement from other libertarians is concerned? Should vegetarian libertarians demand that other libertarians refrain from criticizing or ever expressing disapproval of vegetarianism? What if people with tattoos and body piercings asked for similar favoritism? But this is precisely what “homo-totalitarian” libertarians expect. Anyone who comes near the libertarian milieu who has perfectly fine libertarian credentials but who disagrees with homosexuality for whatever private reasons should not only be shunned but personally attacked, according to the logic of these folks. Now, homo-libertarians have every right to criticize the views of anti-homo-libertarians. Hell, I’ve even criticized them on occasion. For instance, if homo-libertarians want to go picket a lecture by an anti-homo-libertarian like Hans Hermann Hoppe, then of course they are well within their rights, just as conservative Christian libertarians are well within their rights to organize boycotts of Disneyland for holding “Gay Day” or whatever the fuck it is. Yet, this kind of thing would seem to me at least to go against the “live and let live” spirit of libertarianism, and it is utterly baffling to me at least that others would regard such matters as equally pressing or even more pressing with concerns like, oh, well, overthrowing an empire that has killed eight million people worldwide.
This hypersensitivity to criticisms of homosexuality found in many anarchist and libertarian circles helps, I think, to explain the otherwise inexplicable “anti-racism” hysteria and enthusiasm for the most extreme forms of pro-immigrationism, not to mention the most ridiculous renditions of feminism, found among these people, virtually all of whom are white, overwhelmingly male, and mostly from middle class backgrounds. Anti-racism, anti-xenophobia and feminazism are simply surrogates for homosexualism. The wider “gay rights” movement has gone out of its way to attach itself to the legacy of the black civil rights movement. They do this because they know that most Americans recognize the treatment given to black Americans prior to civil rights was unfair, and thereby proclaim themselves to be a comparable victim group. Therefore, they promote the most extreme and lunatical forms of “anti-racism” and immigrationism, and loudly proclaim any kind differentiation of persons or groups along racial, ethnic, national or gender lines to be the ultimate in human evil, no matter what its purpose, and then subsequently proclaim themselves to the equivalent of an oppressed ethnic group deserving similar favoritism. Apparently, their rallying cry is to paraphrase Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in the defense of sodomy is no vice.”
I’ve wondered why there is so much acrimony between myself and many of these left-anarchist people, given that I agree with them the vast majority of the time. Some of it is no doubt attributable to what Thomas Sowell has called a “conflict of visions.” This has to do with broader philosophical differences beyond preferred political systems, economic policies, particular laws, positions on single issues and so forth. It is a conflict that emerged during the Enlightenment and has endured ever since. Says Sowell:
The great evils of the world-war, poverty, and crime, for example-are seen in completely different terms by those with the constrained and unconstrained visions. If human options are not inherently constrained, then the presence of such repugnant and disastrous phenomena virtually cries out for explanation-and for solutions. But if the limitations and passions of man himself are at the heart of these painful phenomena, then what requires explanation are the ways in which they have been avoided or minimized. While believers in the unconstrained vision seek the special causes of war, poverty and crime, believers in the constrained vision seek the special causes of peace, wealth, or a law-abiding society. In the unconstrained vision, there are no intractable reasons for social evils and therefore no reason why they cannot be solved, with sufficient moral commitment. But in the constrained, whatever artifices or strategies restrain or ameliorate inherent human evils will themselves have costs, some in the form of other social ills created by these civilizing institutions, so all that is possible is a prudent trade-off.
Recognition of these facts can sometimes require that hard choices be made. For instance, the need to balance being kind and generous to immigrants with cultural, civilizational, political and economic survival. The need to establish political priorities that aim to minimize the greatest harms (like imperialist war, mass imprisonment of harmless people, and severe economic failure that will severely damage tens of millions) as a primary consideration, as opposed to focusing primarily on upholding to the letter the interests and preferences of marginal fringe groups, like “sexual minorities,” regardless of other considerations.
Some years ago I sat in on a conversation of university professors discussing the mystery of the “origins of racism.” But the origins of racism are no mystery. Conflict of this type has existed as long as there have been human beings. The mystery is those rare instances where peace between races has been achieved. On another occasion, a liberal associate was highly offended by my defense of a man who had been arrested for shooting and killing a criminal who had been burglarizing his home, and my associate was giving me the usual drivel about “the sanctity of human life” and “criminals are victims of socio-economic oppression,” as though the interests of the crime victim counted for nothing. I responded with a quote from Adam Smith: “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” I once had a political science professor, a Princeton graduate, who said in all seriousness that the real issue in the gun control debate is whether “having a gun makes you feel safe” versus “knowing that someone else might have a gun makes you feel unsafe,” as though mere subjective emotions and states of mind are the real basis for public policy debates, irrespective of actual facts and tangible reality. Many years ago when I was in the Central America solidarity movement, I once criticized what I felt was the overuse of civil disobedience by antiwar protestors. To me, it seemed counterproductive to ritualistically sit down in the street and blockade traffic in a way that had zero effect on actual U.S. foreign policy, but resulted in hundreds of people being carted off to jail, and resources squandered on fines, bail, lawyer fees and court costs. I was told by a very intelligent man with a decades long history of involvement in such activities that the purpose of civil disobedience was to “make a personal statement” that one is taking a stand on this, that or the other thing. In other words, it was all about the individual protestor, not the actual cause itself.
If we see anarchism as a movement to oppose statism, capitalism, imperialism, aggressive war, and authoritarianism, and to uphold individual liberty, decentralism, voluntarism, federalism, mutual aid, cooperativism, syndicalism, communitarianism, pluralism, human scale, institutions, intellectual freedom, free inquiry, free speech, and freedom of association, then the attacks of my critics don’t really make sense. But if we see so-called “anarchism” as a movement of homosexuals seeking political, institutional and cultural privilege, while hiding behind the rhetoric of egalitarian-universalist-humanism, then such attacks begin to make a great deal of sense. To my enemies, I would respond by citing the immortal words of Jim Goad:
I don’t care about your precious personal lifestyle choices. I really don’t. And your entire dingbat philosophy, the whole tectonic plate upon which San Francisco rests, is based on the false presumption that people such as me are somehow upset about the manner in which you flap your genitals around. Egads.
It isn’t what you do, it’s the way you do it. Not the meat, but rather the motion. It’s not what you’re saying, it’s your lousy voice. It isn’t your private cock-slurping, it’s your public megaphone-mouth. It ain’t how you move beneath the sheets, it’s the way you wave the picket signs around. The problem isn’t your self-consciously “decadent” personal lifestyle, it’s your warped social instincts.
It has nothing to do with the widespread sidewalk displays of ass-rimming…or the women who look like Lou Costello…or even the concept of white people who hate the concept of white people… It’s the attitude.
As for the rest of us in the anarchist milieu, I say it’s time for a purge, if not an outright pogrom. Does the spectacle of a bunch of white college students crying about “racism, racism, racism” and pretending that they’re Black Panthers do anything to actually increase the number of Actually Existing People of Color in our ranks? It hasn’t yet after decades of trying. The typical convert to anarchism is an angry, young, white, male from an upper strata working class to upper middle class socio-economic background, one who possesses above average levels of intelligence and education, and an interest in history, philosophy, political science and related fields. Do we really attract more people into our ranks by having so many self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, or persons of one or another surgically altered “gender identity” in our midst? Is this really something the average rebellious young person wants to be associated with? Could we not actually attract more young rebels into our ranks if all of this stuff was absent? I believe we could. For instance, I’ve been amazed at how fast the “national-anarchist” movement has grown in the short amount of time it has been around. And it is largely due to the efforts of Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard to purge libertarianism of precisely this kind during the late 1980s and early 1990s of thing that eventually made possible the Ron Paul movement and the post-paleo movement that has followed it. Does the average young rebel really want to join an “anarchist” movement that is only going to tell him what a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic sinner he is? No, he can go to church or take university humanities courses for that.
As for the feminism thing, I suspect the absence of such “feminist” elements will actually increase the number of actual female participants in our ranks. In my experience, right-wing political groups and even fundamentalist churches tend to have at least as many women participants as left-wing groups, if not more. I mean, let’s be real. What confident, intelligent, secure, emotionally stable woman with a keen sense of individuality wants to join a movement of pissed-off, man-hating, dykes with an excess of body hair? I really doubt that many of our stereotypical angry young male anarchists really, in their heart of hearts, want to belong to such a movement. I recall a conversation with a female friend of mine, a 23-year-old bisexual anthropology student. I was criticizing the “gay rights” movement as having no real message other than: “We suck cock, and we deserve merit badges for it.” Her response: “Yes, exactly. That’s a perfect description.” As for homosexuals, let them be evaluated according to what they actually contribute to our movement rather than simply for their status as homosexuals. We need the likes of Justin Raimondo or the late Alisdair Clarke. I’m not so sure we need some of these others.
So where do we go from here? I suggest that those of us who want to have a non-leftoidal anarchist movement simply go about building one, and ignore the personal attacks that will continue to be thrown our way. As Andrew Yeoman of Bay Area National Anarchists suggests:
My goals are (in no particular order) are consistent with a pragmatic libertarian anti-capitalist holistic ethnocentric worldview. This is why I advocate for 1) less government authority and the repealing of many laws, 2) greater autonomy for the self-determination of all peoples, and 3) believe it or not, greater cooperation between powerless political factions. With caveats I will work with people who I disagree with on most issues because the philosophy I live by is to organize with different but like minded tribes. This tenet is continuously emphasized by National Anarchists like Troy Southgate. Disagreeing with me on issues is fine, but you will never tell me or my tribe how we shall live our lives.
National Anarchism is a political tendency that allows different communities to form a political structure according to their own values. That’s it. That’s the solution to the irreconcilable differences between me and other anarchists, different lifestyles, religions, and even races that have historically had problems living together (above and beyond mere class conflict).
Before we can have an anarchist revolution, we need to have a revolution within anarchism itself. We need to convey the message to other radical tendencies and to the public at-large that anarchism as a political ideology is not simply some freak show that exists to provide group psychotherapy to a bunch of psychologically damaged personalities. In recent years, an “alternative Right” has developed in the U.S. consisting of paleoconservatives, paleolibertarians, post-paleos, anarcho-capitalists, “left-conservatives,” and Ron Paulistas. New tendencies within anarchism have also emerged like national-anarchism, tribal anarchism, and anarcho-pluralism. Out of all of these strands, perhaps we can build a new “revolutionary Right” that in essence becomes the “true left,” a new radicalism that eventually replaces PC leftoidism as the dominant outlook of radical youth, and then begins the process of becoming an actual popular movement to displace the dominance of liberalism in American society.
Over the last few days, there’s been an interesting discussion going on over at the blog of left-libertarian philosopher Charles Johnson (also known as “Rad Geek“). I’ve avoided posting there, due to the presence of an individual who has declared themself my mortal enemy (a role I’m happy to assume), but the subject matter of the discussion provides a very good illustration of why any sort of libertarian philosophy that demands a rigid universalism cannot work in practice. A poster called “Soviet Onion” remarks:
It seems that both social anarchism and market libertarianism have respectively come to adopt forms of collectivism typical of either the statist left or right. That’s a result of the perceived cultural affinity they have with those larger groups, and partly also a function of the fact that they appeal to people of different backgrounds, priorities and sentiments (and these two factors tend to reinforce each other in a cyclical way, with new recruits further entrenching the internal movement culture and how it will be perceived by the following generation of recruits).
On the “left” you have generic localists who feel that altruism entails loyalty to the people in immediate proximity (they’ll unusually use the term “organic community” to make it seem more natural and thus unquestionably legitimate). Most of them are former Marxists and social democrats, this is simply a way to recast communitarian obligations and tacitly authoritarian sentiments under the aegis of “community” rather than “state”. This comes as an obvious result of classical anarchism being eclipsed as THE radical socialist alternative by Leninism for most of the twentieth century. Now that it’s once again on the rise, it’s attracting people who would have otherwise been state-socialists, and who carry that baggage with them when they cross over.
On the “right”, it’s a little more straightforward. Libertarians have adopted the conservative “State’s Rights” kind of localism as a holdover from their alliance with conservatives against Communism, to the point that it doesn’t even matter if the quality of freedom under that state is worse than the national average, just so long as it’s not the Federal Government. And with this, any claim to moral universality, or the utilitarian case for decentralism go right out the window. Like true parochialism, it hates the foreign and big just because it is foreign and big.
That’s also one of the reasons why I think there’s a division between “social” and “market” anarchists; they each sense that they come from different political meta-groups and proceed from a different set of priorities; the established gap between right and left feels bigger than the gap between they and statists of their own variety. And the dogmatisms that say “we have to support the welfare state, workplace regulations and environmental laws until capitalism is abolished” or “we should vote Republican to keep taxes down and preserve school choice” are as much after-the-fact rationalizations of this feeling as they are honest attempts at practical assessment.
The problem with left-libertarianism (or with the 21st century rebirth and recasting of 19th century individualism, if you want to imperfectly characterize it that way), is that instead of trying to transcend harmful notions of localism, it simply switches federalism for communitarianism. It does this partially as a attempt to ingratiate itself to social anarchists, and partly because, like social anarchists, it recognize that this idea is superficially more compatible with an anti-state position. But it also neglects the social anarchists’ cultural sensibilities; hence the more lax attitude toward things like National Anarchism.
These are some very insightful comments. And what do they illustrate? That human beings, even professed “anarchists,” are in fact tribal creatures, and by extension follow the norms of either their tribe of origin or their adopted tribe, and generally express more sympathy and feel a stronger sense of identification with others who share their tribal values (racism, anti-racism, feminism, family, homosexuality, homophobia, religion, atheism, middle class values, underclass values, commerce, socialism) than they do with those with whom they share mere abstractions (“anarchy,” “liberty,” “freedom”).
Last year, a survey of world opinion indicated that it is the Chinese who hold their particular society in the highest regard, with 86 percent of Chinese expressing satisfaction with their country. Russians expressed a 54 percent satisfaction rate, and Americans only 23 percent. Observing these numbers, Pat Buchanan remarked:
“Yet, China has a regime that punishes dissent, severely restricts freedom, persecutes Christians and all faiths that call for worship of a God higher than the state, brutally represses Tibetans and Uighurs, swamps their native lands with Han Chinese to bury their cultures and threatens Taiwan.”
“Of the largest nations on earth, the two that today most satisfy the desires of their peoples are the most authoritarian.”
What are we to make of this? That human beings value security, order, sustenance, prosperity, collective identity, tribal values and national power much more frequently and on a deeper level than they value liberty. Of course, some libertarians will likely drag out hoary Marxist concepts like “false consciousness” or psycho-babble like “Stockholm syndrome” to explain this, but it would be more helpful to simply face the truth: That liberty is something most people simply don’t give a damn about.
The evidence is overwhelming that most people by nature are inclined to be submissive to authority. The exceptions are when the hunger pains start catching up with them and their physical survival is threatened, or when they perceive their immediate reference groups (family, religion, culture, tribe) as being under attack by authority. We see this in the political expressions of America’s contemporary “culture wars.” During the Clinton era, many social or cultural conservatives and religious traditionalists regarded the U.S. regime as a tyranny that merited armed revolt. During the Bush era such rhetoric disappeared from the Right, even though Bush expanded rather than rolled back the police state. Meanwhile, liberals who would denounce Bush as a fascist express polar opposite sentiments towards the Obama regime, even though policies established by Bush administration have largely continued. So how do we respond to this? Soviet Onion offers some suggestions:
The proper position for us, and what could really set us apart from everyone and make us a more unique and consistent voice for individualism in the global Agora, is to recognize all cultures as nothing more than memetic prisons and always champion the unique and nonconforming against the arbitrary limitations that surround them, recognizing their destruction as barriers in the sense of being normative. And to that end there’s the instrumental insight that the free trade, competition, open movement and open communication are forces that pry open closed societies, not by force, but by giving those who chafe under them so many options to run to that they make control obsolete, and thus weaken control’s tenability as a foundation on which societies can reasonably base themselves. Think of it as “cultural Friedmanism”: the tenet that open economies dissolve social authority the same way they render political authority untenable.
THAT’s what left-libertarianism needs to be about, not some half-baked federation of autarkic Southern towns filled with organic farms and worker co-operatives. It can still favor these things, but with a deeper grounding. It doesn’t ignore patriarchy, racism, heterosexism, but opposes them with a different and more consistent understanding of what liberation means.
But how far should our always championing of the “unique and nonconforming” go? If, for instance, a group of renegades happen to show up at the workers’ cooperative one day and commandeer the place, should we simply say, “Hell, yeah, way to go, noncomformists!” As for the question of the “Big Three” among left-wing sins (“racism, sexism and homophobia”), are we to demand that every last person on earth adopt the orthodox liberal position on these issues as defined by the intellectual classes in post-1968 American and Western Europe? Why stop at “patriarchy, racism and heterosexism”? Soviet Onion points out that many “left-wing” anarchists do not stop at that point:
I used to be an anarcho-communist. Actually, I started out as someone who was vaguely sympathetic to mainstream libertarianism but could never fully embrace it due to the perceived economic implications. I eventually drifted to social anarchism thanks to someone who’s name I won’t mention, because it’s too embarrassing.
After hanging around them for a while I realized that, for all their pretenses, most of them were really just state-socialists who wanted to abolish the State by making it smaller and calling it something else. After about a year of hanging around Libcom and the livejournal anarchist community, I encountered people who, under the aegis of “community self-management”, supported
- smoking and alcohol bans
- bans on currently illicit drugs
- bans on caffeinated substances (all drugs are really just preventing you from dealing with problems, you see)
- censorship of pornography (on feminist grounds)
- sexual practices like BDSM (same grounds, no matter the gender of the participants or who was in what role)
- bans on prostitution (same grounds)
- bans on religion or public religious expression (this included atheist religions like Buddhism, which were the same thing because they were “irrational”)
- bans on advertisement (which in this context meant any free speech with a commercial twist)
- bans on eating meat
- gun control (except for members of the official community-approved militia, which is in no way the same thing as a local police department)
- mandatory work assignments (ie slavery)
- the blatant statement, in these exact words, that “Anarchism is not individualist” on no less than twelve separate occasions over the course of seven months. Not everybody in those communities actively agreed with them, but nobody got up and seriously disputed it.
- that if you don’t like any of these rules, you’re not free to just quit the community, draw a line around your house and choose not to obey while forfeiting any benefits. No, as long as you’re in what they say are the the boundaries (borders?) of “the community”, you’re bound to follow the rules, otherwise you have to move someplace else (“love it or leave it”, as the conservative mantra goes). You’d think for a moment that this conflicts with An-comm property conceptions because they’re effectively exercising power over land that they do not occupy, implying that they own it and making “the community” into One Big Landlord a la Hoppean feudalism 🙂
So I decided that we really didn’t want the same things, and that what they wanted was really some kind of Maoist concentration commune where we all sit in a circle and publicly harass the people who aren’t conforming hard enough. No thanks, comrade.
These left-wing anarchists sound an awful lot like right-wing Christian fundamentalists or Islamic theocrats. Nick Manley adds:
I have encountered an “anarchist” proponent of the draft on a directly democratic communal level.
Of course, we also have to consider all of the many other issues that anarchists and libertarians disagree about: abortion, immigration, property theory, economic arrangements, childrens’ rights, animal rights, environmentalism, just war theory, and much, much else. We also have to consider that anarchists and libertarians collectively are a very small percentage of humanity. Nick Manley says:
I spend more time around libertarians then left-anarchists — although, I briefly entered “their” world and sort of know some of them around here. I was a left-anarchist at one time, but I no longer feel comfortable with the hardcore communalism associated with the ideology. I don’t really want to go to endless neighborhood meetings where majorities impose their will on minorities. I also would agree with Adam Reed that it’s naive to imagine such communes being free places in today’s world — perhaps, this is less true of New Zealand.
The list of things supported by anarcho-communists posted by Soviet Onion confirms my fears about village fascism posturing as “anti-statism”. I frankly do just want to be left alone in my metaphorical “castle” — I say metaphorical, because I am not an atomist and don’t live as such. I will engage in social activities, but I will not allow someone to garner my support through the use of force or do so to others. Like Charles, I have a strong emotional and intellectually principled revulsion to aiding the cause of statism in any way whatsoever. I’d be much happier being at some risk of death from handguns then in enforcing laws that harm entirely well intentioned peaceful people. This is not a mere political issue for me. I know more than a few people with guns who deserve no prison time whatsoever — one of them has guns affected by the assault weapons ban.
I honestly see a lot of principled parallels between conservative lifestyle tribalism and left-liberal lifestyle tribalism. Oh yes: there are contextual inductive distinctions to be made. A gun is not the same as homosexuality. The collectivist dynamic is still the same. Gun owners become no longer human in sense of rational beings. All of contemporary politics seems to be one thinly veiled civil war between fearful tribalists.
It would appear that tribalism is all that we have. I have been through a long journey on this question. I was a child of the Christian Right, drifted to the radical Left as a young man, then towards mainstream libertarianism, then the militia movement and the populist right, along the way developing the view that the only workable kind of libertarianism would be some kind of pluralistic but anti-universalist, decentralized particularism. Rival tribes who are simply incompatible with one another should simply have their own separatist enclaves. This concept is explained very well in a video series beginning here. Unlike the other kinds of libertarianism, there is actually some precedent for what I’m describing to be found in past cultures. See here and here. As Thomas Naylor remarks:
Conservatives don’t want anyone messing with the distribution of income and wealth. They like things the way they are. Liberals want the government to decide what is fair. Liberals believe in multiculturalism, affirmative action, and minority rights. Conservatives favor states’ rights over minority rights.
What liberals and conservatives have in common is that they are both into having—owning, possessing, controlling, and manipulating money, power, people, material wealth, and things. Having is one of the ways Americans deal with the human condition—separation, meaninglessness, powerlessness, and death. To illustrate how irrelevant the terms “liberal” and “conservative” have become, consider the case of Sweden and Switzerland, two of the most prosperous countries in the world.
Sweden is the stereotypical democratic socialist state with a strong central government, relatively high taxes, a broad social welfare net financed by the State, and a strong social conscience. Switzerland is the most free market country in the world, with the weakest central government, and the most decentralized social welfare system. Both are affluent, clean, green, healthy, well-educated, democratic, nonviolent, politically neutral, and among the most sustainable nations in all of history. By U.S. standards, they are both tiny.
Switzerland and Sweden work, not because of political ideology, but rather because the politics of human scale always trumps the politics of the left and the politics of the right. Under the politics of human scale, a politics that trumps our now-outdated and useless “liberal-versus-conservative” dualistic mindset, there would be but one fundamental question:
“Is it too big?”
It would seem that contemporary America is precisely the place to build a movement for this kind of decentalized particularism, a huge continent wide nation with many different cultures, religions, subcultures, ethnic groups and growing more diverse all the time, and where political and economic polarization is the highest it has been in over a century, and where dissatisfaction with the status quo is almost universal.
My challenge to anarchists, libertarians, communitarians, conservatives, radicals and progressives alike would be to ask yourself what kind of community you would actually want to live in, and where and how you would go about obtaining it. For instance, the geography of the culture war typically breaks down on the basis of counties, towns, precincts, municipalities and congressional districts rather than states or large regions. So why not envision forming a community for yourself and others in some particular locality that is consistent with your own cultural, economic or ideological orientation? The Free State Project, Christian Exodus, Second Vermont Republic, Green Panthers and Twin Oaks Commune are already doing this.
Political victory in the United States is achieved through the assembling of coalitions of narrow interest groups who often have little in common with one another (gun toting rednecks and country club Republicans, homosexuals and traditional working class union Democrats). Imagine if a third force emerged in U.S. politics whose only unifying principle was a common desire to remove one’s self and one’s community from the system. The only thing anyone has to give up is the desire to tell other communities what to do.
I’ve written rather critically of the cultural Left in the past. I do this for two primary reasons: 1) my view that left-wing concerns about matters like oppression of racial minorities, women, homosexuals, et al, while rooted in legitimate concerns and historical realities, have metamorphed into a new kind of authoritarianism, intolerance, and dogmatic fanaticism that is only now starting to become prevalent and will likely become more predatory in the future; and 2) my view that the contemporary emphasis on cultural politics from the Left has proven to be extremely destructive to the broader struggles against the forces of State, Capital and Empire.
I have had many brickbats thrown at me because I hold these positions. Some of the criticism on these matters I have received is rooted in simple disagreement or honest misunderstanding. Yet, much of the more vociferous hostility I have encountered seems to be rooted in dishonesty, mendacity, and hysteria, thereby proving my point. I’m going to outline what I consider to be the “proper” positions on cultural politics for libertarian radicals in the contemporary era. I say “proper,” in the sense of conformity to actual, tangible facts, relevance to the types of societies we find ourselves in, and the relationship of such questions to broader issues.
In looking around for examples of how the cultural Left typically thinks, an excellent example is a pamphlet in my possession published by a left-wing anarchist “collective” in my local community in 2002. I’m going to quote extensively from this pamphlet, and offer my own thoughts in response. The folks associated with this collective are very good people, some of whom I’ve known for over ten years, who have supported various projects of my own, whom I’ve appeared on television with, and who do very good work on many issues. In no way is any criticism I offer meant to convey hostility or personal attacks. The first point of this left-wing anarchist manifesto calls “For An End to White Supremacy”:
We live in a culture that was founded upon the slavery of Africans, the genocide of indigenous people, and the brutal exploitation of people of color.
No disagreement so far, though there was plenty of “brutal exploitation” of white labor during early American history as well.
Since our culture has not come to terms with its white supremacist past we continue to live in a white supremacist present based upon the unrelenting economic exploitation of people of color, the mass imprisonment of black and Latino youth, and the privileging of white people and their value systems. Behind the creation and perpetuation of this white Euro-centric status quo is the drive to create profitable capitalist empire.
I thoroughly disagree that we are in a “white supremacist present” in the contemporary United States, at least as far as historic American “white supremacy” is concerned. If that were the case, a black man could not be elected President, people would not lose their jobs or public figures would not be subject to relentless opprobrium for perceived racist utterances. Nor would features such as affirmative action or sensitivity training be the institutional norms that they have become. Are people of color really subject to “unrelenting economic exploitation”? The urban underclass, which is mostly black and Hispanic, falls into this category, but so does the rural white lumenproletariat. What about the black middle class? What about the black professional class or wealthy, upper class blacks?
White people need to know that allowing people of color marginal participation in the dominant white culture is not true freedom.
The problem with a statement like this is that it ignores demographic realities. Blacks are only 12.5% of the U.S. population, so it is unlikely that blacks are ever going to be dominant or a numerical majority in institutions or social organizations. The exception would be those geographical areas where blacks are a demographic majority, and in large American cities where that is the case, black dominated local governments are quite frequently found.
People of color in North America have historically resisted their oppression and colonization by any and all means necessary. From slave revolts to riots against the police to union organizing to movements for control of their own destinies they have resisted their oppressors. The white status quo has historically conceded only what was necessary to preserve their power and prevent the emergence of a revolutionary mass movement against white domination.
There’s no mention of what a “revolutionary mass movement against white domination” would actually involve. So long as whites are a demographic majority, there’s only three possible ways to avoid “white domination.” One would simply be to import large numbers of non-white immigrants to such a degree that whites would no longer be a majority. Indeed, this seems to be one of the reason why the Left is rather enthusiastic about mass immigration. Yet, the consequences of such an action are likely to be quite severe. Historically, genuinely multicultural/multiethnic societies tend to be rather unstable and prone to outbursts of intercommunal violence. Oppression of minorities by majorities becomes less of an issue than persistent strife and even bloodshed between contending racial/ethnic power groups attempting to get the political upperhand. Another method might be to grant minorities political and economic privileges and power beyond that of their actual numbers. This has been done through such measures as antidiscrimination laws, affirmative action, electoral redistricting so as to guarantee a certain number of minority legislators, quotas and set asides, school “busing” policies, and many other such measures that are too numerous to mention. Yet, in spite of all of this, minority and/or left-wing claims of inequality still persist.
The third alternative may well prove to be the most satisfactory one. Towards the end of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was apparently moving towards the idea of an independent black nation in North America, for the sake of achieving economic parity with the wider white society. Indeed, the level of wealth in the black community is already such that if black Americans were an independent nation, they would be one of the world’s more prosperous nations, comparable to many European or the more advanced Asian nations. Perhaps black sovereignty, and reparations for that purpose, will be the next phase of the movement for civil rights. The relative prosperity of black Americans may well be an obstacle to white embracement of reparations, as no living Americans ever owned slaves, and many were not even born when Jim Crow when still in effect. Still, there’s no denying that such past policies have prevented black prosperity of today from being what it otherwise would have been. If reparations were combined with elimination of statist social engineering policies concerning race relations, perhaps whites would not be as resistant.
We wholeheartedly support the needs and desires of people of color to organize in their own communities and workplaces free from the intrusion of the guilt-ridden consciences of white radicals. We recognize the ability of people of color to self determine their course in the world. People within the — — Collective who have white skin privileges will stand as allies and work in coalitions with people of color, when and only if, the people of color involved so desire.
Absolutely. I think the key phrase here is “when and only if, the people of color involved so desire.” Most radical groups in North American are predominately white, often exclusively so. The more rhetorically “anti-racist” they are the more all-white they seem to be. Racial minorities in North America who are politically motivated typically tend to prefer their own, separate political organizations. Some of these are obviously more about getting a bigger piece of the System, rather than overthrowing the System. But others aren’t, and it would seem the proper course of action would be to simply recognize and, when feasible, collaborate with black nationalists and related tendencies when mutually beneficial, with everyone otherwise going their own way. The emergence of groups such as Anarchist People of Color, the Lakota Republic, or the Pan-African International Movement would seem to be a positive development along these lines.
Another plank in my anarchist friends’ manifesto reads “For An End to All the Tentacles of the Patriarchy”:
We aim to shape a society based on equality, mutual respect, celebration of difference, and freedom from dominant patriarchal values and behaviors. Our society places value on labor, politics, and culture that benefits men, heterosexuals, and people who don’t bend the gender they were assigned at birth. Women, transgendered people…transvestites…transexuals…butch women…and feminine males..intersexed people… and sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, etc. are in different ways oppressed by a patriarchal system that privilges the masculine, the “normative” heterosexual, and the “appropriately” gendered.
I think some qualification is in order here. As Justin Raimondo points out, certain sectors of the homosexual population are quite successful and prosperous. It’s also true that some within the “gay rights” movement have an authoritarian and destructive agenda of their own. Still, if freedom or liberty or anarchy means anything, it ought to mean the right to be different or to be a non-conformist, and there are some people who would not give a “sexual minority” a fair shake no matter what. While there’s always going to be a certain price attached to being “different,” as that’s the way human nature and human societies actually work, it is true that oppressions of this type have long been overlooked. There are religious non-conformists that have been persecuted in American history to various degrees-Quakers, Antinomians, Mormons, “witches,” Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moonies, Branch Davidians. There exists such groups today on the cultural level (drug users, for instance). No reason exists why the oppression of sexual /gender outgroups cannot be opposed with the same vigor with which one might oppose religious persecution.
The patriarchy manifests itself in many visible ways; from the disparity of earning power between women and men…
There are reasons for this besides rank misogyny but there’s no identifiable reason why there cannot be a meritocracy whereby individual recognition is based on personal achievement and ability rather than group characteristics like gender. One of my favorite examples of such are the resistance movements in Latin America. Twenty percent of the FMLN of El Salvador’s fighting forces in the 1980s were females, and there were even all-female military units. At times, one third of the FARC of Colombia’s forces have been teenaged girls, and when it comes to leadership roles, there’s no denying the place of leaders like Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman or Voltairine de Cleyre in the anarchist pantheon. Some of the most ferocious fighters in China’s Tai Ping rebellion in the 19th century were female warriors.
…to brutal hate crimes against queer and trans people…
Certainly, such crimes are despicable, yet they are only a very small portion of all the violent crime that occurs in America. The people who perpetrate such actions are not honored by society. Such actions often become national scandals and the perpetrators subject to arrest and lengthy terms of imprisonment. However, just as some people commit other acts of murder, robbery or rape inspite of laws, arrests and prosecutions ostensibly designed to prevent such behavior, “sexual minorities” continue to be victimized in such ways at times as well. Perhaps the Pink Pistols are the solution?
…to the inaccessibility of hormones and surgery for transsexual people…
Very few people today realize that the polio vaccine was developed without state funding. Instead, it was developed through a private foundation founded by FDR, with funds provided by the March of Dimes. Perhaps there could also be a “March of Dollars” to generate funding for gender reassignment surgery for trans people?
…to the constant fear of violence that many women feel on the streets…
The obvious solution here is more women who are skilled and trained in the use of weapons, including firearms, for self-defense, and the repeal of laws restricting self-defense. This should be an issue where anti-rape and anti-sex crime feminists and conservative gun rights activists can find common ground.
Simultaneously, the patriarchy operates in many “invisible” ways; from the way that we speak and interact intimately…
Sorry, but “intimate” relationships are a matter of interpersonal relations, whatever the issues that arise, not political matters.
…to the self loathing that many queer, intersexed people, transgendered people and women feel…
Psychological peace has to come from within. If you look to others or to society to provide it, you’ll be waiting a long time. It’s as simple as that.
…to eating disorders caused by sexist beauty standards…
Again, self-acceptance comes from within, not from without. All societies have “beauty standards” of some sort. An acquaintance of mine who is a specialist in Latin American history tells me the Mayans thought crossed-eyes were attractive. In some cultures, “plump” women are considered attractive. Such variations we will always have with us.
…to the feeling of entitlement that people socialized as male often feel…
And not just “people socialized as male.” The assholes ye shall always have with you.
As a first order of business, cultural radicals need to get past their tendency to act with reflexive hysteria whenever “conservative” social views or opinions not in line with left-wing orthodoxy are presented or expressed. The dichotomy between “change” and “tradition” or “reactionary” and “progressive” will always exist on some level. Any genuine libertarian philosophy must have freedom of thought, opinion, speech and honest and open debate as a foremost principle. Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance describes the intellectual atmosphere of Hans Hoppe’s annual gathering of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey:
These conferences provide a time and a place where nothing is off limits. There are no forbidden subjects, no polite suggestions that whatever is being loudly debated over dinner by the swimming pool might be “inappropriate”. The only rule is the obvious one—that you listen to the other side before making reply.
These are conferences where social conservatives sit down with anarcho-libertarians, where Czechs and Chinese discuss where history went wrong, where English is the preferred language, but a knowledge of half a dozen other languages will frequently come in handy.
They are also conferences useful for what everyone nowadays describes blandly as networking, but what the old Marxists, with a more sinister and accurate turn of phrase, called “cadre building”. It is in Bodrum, every May, that the connections and ideas that will be the future of the libertarian movement are first to be perceived.
And so it should be.
This is in response to something posted about me on The Art of the Possible web site:
Says “Anonymous” (geez, that’s creative):
“This web site is dedicated to hosting a dialogue between libertarians and the left, with the goal of encouraging theoretical synthesis and practical cooperation between the best elements of both perspectives.
If this is the case, why is no one protesting the presence of Kieth Preston, a â€˜national anarchistâ€™ who valorises violence and openly collaborates with racists and fascists? Anyone who has any doubt as to the truth of this claim need merely spend a few hours browsing his attackthesystem.com website.
Surely anyone who takes *either* the ideals of social justice *or* the ideals of individualism seriously should be horrified by this!?”
Ugh, another one of those. Here we go:
“This web site is dedicated to hosting a dialogue between libertarians and the left, with the goal of encouraging theoretical synthesis and practical cooperation between the best elements of both perspectives.”
You mean like this:
“If this is the case, why is no one protesting the presence of Kieth Preston, a ˜national anarchist”™ who valorises violence and openly collaborates with racists and fascists? Anyone who has any doubt as to the truth of this claim need merely spend a few hours browsing his attackthesystem.com website.”
First, if you want to attack me, you could at least bother to spell my name right, which shouldn’t be so hard to do given that you’re such a self-proclaimed expert on my work. I’ll let my previous statements on all of these topics stand.
On my actual political views:
“Surely anyone who takes *either* the ideals of social justice *or* the ideals of individualism seriously should be horrified by this!?”
On “social justice”:
“Anonymous”, have you ever heard of something called open debate and free exchange of ideas? I suggest you cancel your subscription to the SPLC’s “Intelligence Report”, stop wasting time at ARA hoodlum shows, stop throwing rocks through McDonald’s windows, tell your Commie professors to fuck off, and read some actual libertarian and radical left works of quality, like Proudhon, Bakunin, Rothbard, H.L. Mencken, or maybe even that dead white male slave owning scumbag, Thomas Jefferson. And while you’re at it, you might want to actually check out some elite theory, some Austrian economics and maybe even some critics of cultural Marxism like Alain De Benoist, Paul Gottfried or William S. Lind.
What does it mean that the Vice-Presidential candidate for the ostensibly “conservative” party is a female from a working class background who has the flag of a foreign state associated with a domestic ethnic minority hanging in her governor’s office? What does it mean that the Presidential candidate of the opposition party is a black man with an Islamic name? Essentially, such phenomena demonstrate that the political Left has become entirely status quo and that the core values of the historic Left-cosmopolitanism, internationalism, universalism, liberalism, proletarianism, feminism, anti-racism, anti-anti-Semitism, religious ecumenicalism and anti-xenophobia are more or less mainstream and “normal”. Indeed, such values are very much those of the elite. As Joe Bageant recently observed:
“Elite consensus on the issues of race, sex and role of faith in public life are to the left of public opinion, the only area in which this is the case. Elite opinion is overwhelmingly secular, pro-choice, supportive of gay rights and hostile to overt displays of racism.
Tolerance and liberalism on this front is a very useful tool, since it buys political space to be more conservative on the more important money issues. It also enjoys the advantage of making the right enemies, after all who wants to be on Pat Robertson’s side during weekend dinner parties at the Hamptons.
When social conservative complain about the “Liberal Media” they are not wrong, but only in regard to their issues. The contempt of the American elite for the religious right is quite real. What social conservatives misunderstand is that the hostility against them is not because the threat their ideas represent but only a display of the traditional contempt that the merciless strong have for people they consider to be the feeble minded weak.
The significance of the religious right in our politics is only in the wonderful diversions their issues create. Issues that feed a war between urban educated middle classes against the more numerous, the ever more frustrated lower income fundamentalists on issues that are unsolvable in nature.”
This fact provides a great deal of insight as to why the radical Left is now utterly impotent in resisting the forces of U.S. imperialism, state-capitalism and the expanding police state. Beginning in the 1960s, the Left abandoned its historic position as the party of class struggle, first of the middle classes against the Ancien’ Regime, and then of the proletariat against the old bourgeoisie order. Instead, the Left reinvented itself as the party of cultural politics, shifting its focus to such matters as race, gender, homosexualism, environmentalism, abortion, secularism and so forth. Consequently, we now have a situation where the ostensible “radical Left” maintains essentially the same basic set of cultural values as the “liberal elite”. The more socially conservative poor and working class have subsequently been abandoned to be colonized by the Right.
But what is the Right? If we are to judge by the actions of the Republican Party leadership, we might realize that the so-called “conservatives” really care about only three things. The first of these is the perpetual expansion of the American empire internationally. There must not be a square mile of territory on Earth that the U.S. does not control, or so the policy makers and the jingoist propagandists who dominate the more rightward leaning sectors of the media would have us believe. The second of these is the perpetual advancement of the expansionist interests of Israel. The third is the advancement of the economic interests of those narrow economic sectors that dominate the Republican Party, primarily banking, “Big Oil”, armaments and so forth.
Of course, the Republican leadership has to pretend to be social conservatives so that all of the yahoos, jingos, flag-wavers, Bible-thumpers, “homophobes”, money-grubbers and amateur cops who fill the ranks of their most enthusiastic supporters will still come out and vote for them. Â But do they take their social conservatism seriously? Of course not. American society is now more liberal than ever before. Do they care one iota about the right-to-life cause, countering the influence of the gay movement, or restoring prayers in schools? No, they have made zero progress on these matters, while making much progress on the things that really mean something to them, like enriching the corporate fatcats, building a police state and conquering the world. Do they take their rhetoric of fiscal conservatism seriously? Not if the federal deficit and the national debt are any indication.
As contemptible a lot as the Republicans are, the Democrats are equally if not more pathetic. The Demos are struggling with a very thin and narrowing lead in this year’s election in spite of the dismal performance and unpopularity of the incumbent party and President. Ultimately, the Democrats represent the same set of interests as the Republicans. The Demos are beholden to the same kinds of banking, petroleum, armaments, pharmaceutical and communications interests as their rival party. The Demos are likewise firmly in the grip of the Israel Lobby. They are just as committed to the expansion of the empire, though they may prefer slightly more covert methods. Consequently, they have no real alternative to offer. Additionally, the Demos are much more reflective of the social and cultural values of the elite classes than the Republicans, hence their intransigence on these matters and their impotence on virtually everything else. Their best hope is to rally the array of left of center constituents group who share their cultural outlook and anyone else who wants to vote for “Anybody but a Republican”. Meanwhile, the Left will continue crying “racism, sexism, homophobia” (as if these were the most pressing matters in politically correct twenty-first century North America) while the ruling class drives things further down the tubes on matters of political economy, law and foreign policy.
The creation of a new radicalism capable of resisting the forces of State, Capital and Empire requires the development of a genuine “third way” beyond Left’s habit of appealing to traditional outgroups or the Right’s habit of appealing to “traditional values”. Instead, the new dichotomy pits those who are against the system versus those who are for the system. Enemies of the system may come from the extreme Right or the extreme Left, with a common denominator being a desire to attack the system! Pan-secessionism is our methodology, and perhaps some sort of lumpenproletarian-oriented anarcho-pluralist populism is our ideology. Our natural constituents are neither cultural conservatives or cultural leftists per se but enemies of the states wherever and whoever they may be.
In response to my statement “Is the Left salvagable? In and of itself, it does not appear to be,”, Jeremy raises some helpful points concerning the defintions of “left” and “right”:
That begs the question: what is this “Left”? If it is merely establishmentarianism with a cultural attachment to civil disobedience and protest, then one wonders whether the term â€œleftâ€ even applies. And so when you characterize the entire Left by its most objectionable qualities, it does give me pause. This is a very broad movement, with a wide variety of personalities.
And at least historically speaking, it seems like the Right has a much more basic need to align with established norms and power than the Left (whether we’re using it in the traditional anti-establishment sense or in the modern, pejorative sense you employ). I’m all for transcending left and right, but not as an alternative to performing a much needed analysis of the current political conditions.
I’m not accusing you of laziness, but merely suggesting that we make sure we qualify our generalizations of convenience as such. There’s no need to turn anybody off by attacking their label of preference, is there? I’ve always liked the tack you’ve seemed to take where you out-left the left, and out-right the right, demonstrating that they lack the conviction of their own principles. This is the way to get serious people to think seriously about their own motivations. We transcend the political poles by not by dispensing with them but by clarifying what they were originally intended to represent.
In strictly historical terms, virtually all people in modern societies (those of the West and others with similar politico-economic systems) are “leftists”. The “right”, properly understood in its historical context, was the ideology of defense of the monarchy, theocracy and aristocracy: “Throne and Altar”. Such sentiments are marginalized to say the least in liberal democracies, particularly the United States, which has no “throne and altar” tradition of its own. In other words, nearly all Americans and most Westerners in general start with the American or French Revolutions and move leftward from there, often considerably leftward. The closest thing the United States has to a “right-wing” is the so-called “religious right”, which is rather liberal by historical and even contemporary world standards. For instance, compare the “religious right” in America versus that in Saudi Arabia.
Most contemporary “right-wing” ideologies are historically on the Left. For instance, the godfather of modern philosophical “conservatism”, Edmund Burke, was a Whig who opposed British imperialism in Ireland, America and even India. American “conservatism” owes much to the classical liberalism of Locke and Adam Smith. The neoconservatives are an outgrowth of either Cold War liberalism or Trotskyism (depending on who you ask or which neoconservative you’re talking about). “Right-wing” libertarianism is really the radical classical liberalism of Herbert Spencer. American “right-wing populism” is distinctively rooted in the American republican tradition and owes very little to European royalism to say the least.
The mainstream Republican-oriented right is really a kind of “right-wing liberalism”, and therefore historically on the left, particularly since the neocon takeover of the right. What is now called “liberalism” in the US is really social democracy, and this is very much a centrist, if not reactionary, position in modern societies. American “liberalism” and European “social democracy” both maintain roughly the same levels of state intervention into the economy, though the European social welfare system is slightly more extensive (and mad possible only by the absence of a large military-industrial complex of the kind found in the USA). This system, whether European or American, is becoming an archaism, given the fiscal difficulties of modern welfare states.
The Left established itself as the party of the welfare state several generations ago. That’s why a distinction was initially made between the Old Left and the New Left. As we all know, the New Left abandoned class politics for a cultural politics that is now relatively status quo. At the same time, as all of this cultural “liberation” has occurred, the grip of political totalitarianism has tightened. The “Campus Progress” group I mentioned in the previous post seemed, from the contents of DeAnna’s review, to represent a wide cross-section of the Left, from the mainstream Democratic-oriented left to The Nation to the radical gay/trans,etc. left to the Weathermen-friendly. Yet I also noticed from the content of that article that most of the issues covered involved the same cultural politics that has defined the Left since the 60s.
The fundamental problem I see with the Left is that not only does it not offer anything new, but does not take many fundamentally anti-establishment positions. Of course, if we wish to define “left” in the historic sense of opposition to the status quo, then it would seem that most of the currents I previously identified as “revolutionary right” would also be the true “left”. This would certainly include the “left-libertarian” tendency that Jeremy leans towards, particularly considering that many liberals and leftists consider libertarianism to be just a variant of fascism. It would certainly include Dylan Waco and Daniel Bein’s “left-conservatism”. Of course, it would include “national-anarchism” or the “national-Maoism” of the Patriotic Workers’ Party.
The problem I see is that most orthodox leftists would consider all of these positions to be heresy. If the “left” is the orthodox left, then are all of these genuine anti-establishment positions on the left, or are they something entirely new, or are they just a “left to the left of the left”? I remember Sam Dolgoff saying once that “there’s the left and then there’s the further left and then the even further left, and then there’s an even further left and that left is me.”
Maybe that’s what we are.
I wrote in the “Liberty and Populism” article that the real struggle in modern times is a continuation of the historic battle between Marxism and Anarchism, with Marxism representing the status quo, whether right-wing liberalism/Trotskyism in the form of the Neocons, centrist totalitarian humanism of the US Democratic Party and the ruling classes of the European nations, the crypto-Stalinist cultural Marxism of the PC Left, the post-Maoism of the Chinese Communist Party, et.al.
I suppose the true left is whatever is resisting all of this. Are religious conservatives standing up to totalitarian humanism by opening home schools leftist or rightists? Are gun nut militias left or right? Are the cultural nationalists of Vlaams Bloc advocating an independent Flanders left or right?
It’s a complicated question.
Jeremy raises an interesting question in the Comments section:
I don’t think the Left is so utterly irretrievable as you seem to, but a line must be drawn in the sand when it comes to revolutionary potential. Many on the Left (and Right, no doubt) will be found wanting.
And Mike offers a few important observations as well:
The analysis of today’s “liberalism” as totalitarianism is spot on. I would only add that there is a like tendency of thought from those on the â€œconservativeâ€ side of the political sphere that would likewise recognize no limitation or boundary to the use of state power to create their utopia.
Over at the Ancien’ Regimer page Taki’s Mag Kevin DeAnna has a piece that is highly relevant to this issue:
Most of DeAnna’s piece is an attack on the Left, but look at what he says about what passes for the mainstream “Right”:
In contrast, the majority of young CPAC attendees believed the purpose of political action was wearing a suit and preparing for a career. It is the difference between activists and politicos. Many Beltway conservatives are not activists and despise those who engage in protests or think of political alternatives beyond voting for Team Red. A mainstream conservative organization awarding young activists for direct action is simply unconceivable. Conservative organizations systematically funnel them into the dead end of Republican business as usual. Culture is largely ignored. The result is a youth “movement” that is actually less committed and effective than the older conservative grassroots. Campus Progress is building activists and the campus Right is building politicians and politicos.
In other words, the mainstream Republican-oriented “Right” is simply a movement of careerists and opportunists for whom political or party affiliation is simply seen as a career move. Well, duh, who would have ever thought that about Young Republican-types? This gets us to the difference between “conservatives” and a wide body of perspectives that might be called the “revolutionary Right”. What is a “conservative”? Roughly defined, a conservative is someone who wants to conserve a particular status quo (in the tradition of De Maistre) or is suspicious of change, or at least rapid or radical change (in the tradition of Burke). American conservatism also has a classical liberal strand to it, particularly the Lockean emphasis on property rights, though many right-wing histrionics over “property rights” amount to little more than an apology for the state-capitalist status quo (see Kevin Carson).
There is still another branch of “conservative” thinking, and one which I personally adhere to, that does not necessarily commit one to a particular ideological outlook in the political realm. This perspective draws on the realist tradition of Machiavelli and Hobbes and is found in modern thinkers like Carl Schmitt, Ernst Junger, Vilifredo Pareto,Â Georges Sorel, James Burnham, Lawrence Dennis, Robert Michaels and Gaetano Mosca. This point of view is elitist, anti-egalitarian, pessimist, anti-utopian, social Darwinian (or at least recognizes the inevitability of conflict), anti-humanist, cynical and espouses no small degree of moral skepticism. Unlike other brands of “conservatism”, this outlook does not commit one to the preservation of any particular status quo. One can be a “rightist” in the Machiavellian tradition, as I am, and also be an extreme revolutionary, as I also am.
The bottom line is that most of the American right-wing is a bunch of jingoistic flag-wavers or a bunch of middle-class people whining about taxes. Of course, we should want nothing to do with such people. Instead, we should seek to cultivate a “revolutionary right” that is far outside the mainstream “conservative” milieu. But what about the Left?
Back to Kevin DeAnna’s experience of attending the conference of some lefto-freakazoid outfit called “Campus Progress”. Here’s some of the better gems from DeAnna’s review:
I reported to registration to receive my official totebag, T shirt, and condoms. In the bustle, I was only able to grab three packs, but luckily, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and NARAL were handing out prophylactics in the display area (unfortunately labeled “Screw the Drug War”). The Campus Progress National Conference had begun.
This is genuinely sad, because the drug war is a serious issue, a foundation of the exponential expansion of the American police state over the past twenty or so years, and a means by which the state has tyrannized millions and brought about all sorts of social wreckage in the process. However, the approach of these folks is to make opposition to the drug war look like just another PC joke issue like demands to change the names of sports teams named after American Indian tribes or the right of men to use women’s restrooms in public buildings.
New Republic editor James Kirchick made an appearance during the panel on gay rights,”his Barack Obama-style flag pin being the only American flag at the entire conference. At CP, Kirchick was the official representative of right-wing extremism in that he argued that gays should become “normal” by gaining entry to bourgeoisie institutions such as marriage and the family and disowning terms like “queer.” This prompted cries of disapproval.
We know we’re in the Twilight Zone when the “conservative” representative at a leftist conference is a neocon homo who did a hit piece on Ron Paul for the center-left New Republic.
Richard Kim of The Nation argued the queer agenda should be about pan-sexual liberation, including liberalizing divorce laws and pushing for acceptance of alternative family models beyond squares like Kirchick and his hypothetical partner. A matronly trans-queer named Mason rumbled in a deep baritone that before openly becoming “trans,” he had “no identity.”
If the purpose of radicalism or activism or whatever we want to call it is simply to promote one big fuck-fest, wouldn’t it be easier to forget about politics altogether and just open an adult film company?
The Young Democratic Socialists handed out a flyer featuring Martin Luther King stating, “We are saying that something is wrong with capitalism, there must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism” which would shock my movement colleagues who tell me every January that MLK was a conservative Republican.
Compared to these folks, MLK was a conservative Republican.
The fact that an organization that has hosted senators, presidents, and the current Democratic nominee shares space with racists, communists, and homosexual activists that consider gay marriage to be reactionary is newsworthy.
Gay marriage is reactionary. The radicals of yesteryear would denounce marriage as a bourgeois institution and burn their marriage certificates, and this was true not only of free-lovers, free-thinkers, anarchists and bohemians but even many old guard socialists of the Fabian ilk. Nowadays, we have gays running out to join the bourgeoisie. Well, actually, we don’t. In Holland and other countries where gay marriage is recognized, only a small number of homosexuals have taken advantage of this “opportunity”.
As Campus Progress also recruits and advertises at the even more radical National Conference on Organized Resistance, which openly promotes force against military recruitment centers, the links between Democratic Party leaders and violent extremists goes well beyond Obama living in the same neighborhood as Bill Ayers. Campus Progress’s magazine’s feature on the “Lessons of the Weather Underground” is no aberration.
Well, now we might actually be getting somewhere. All Hail Violent Extremists!
It is to Campus Progress that U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison can speak, in his own words, “vanguard to vanguard.” The tendency of attendees to speak of overthrowing the “system” and in the next sentence talking about the upcoming Obama Administration is exactly how activists should think. While participating in Democratic campaigns, Campus Progress and the activists that work with it are building a force independent of partisan efforts, but not irrelevant to it. They understand that the role of activists is to push politicians towards an independently defined agenda rather than serving as cannon fodder.
Hence, a common concern of many activists was how to avoid being “co-opted” by the Democratic establishment, even if that establishment is headed by the most liberal candidate in American history. Similarly, a comment during the civil rights panel about how any movement needs a “militant resistance” was met not with nervous glances but agreement to what all perceived to be an obvious point.
This is an illustration of the split between mainstream liberal totalitarian humanism and the more hard-core PC cultural Marxist Left. I don’t know that there are any significant doctrinal differences, except maybe on a few economic points, e.g., welfare-capitalism vs outright socialism/Marxism. It’s basically the same as the historic divisions between Social Democrats and Commies. How fast do we want to go, and all that.
Is the Left salvagable? In and of itself, it does not appear to be. Instead, it appears to be more along the lines of a demented cult whose counterparts on the Right might be folks like the followers of Rev. John Hagee. But before I get too self-righteous about it all, I should point out that as a pan-secessionist I would welcome the development of both “Campus Progress” lefto-freakazoid secession movements as well as John Hagee Fan Club secession movements. Also, I was an evangelical Christian with views not unlike Hagee’s until I was a teenager and I also participated extensively in lefto-freakazoid activities not unlike these “Campus Progress” loons for a few years when I was in my early twenties.
I basically see both “movement conservatism” and lefto-freakazoidism as useful transitional phases for superior people who will eventually move on to something more concrete. For instance, some of the better people in the paleo milieu – Tom Woods, James Wilson, Joe Sobran – came out of “the conservative movement” (forgive them, for they knew not what they were doing). And many in the “beyond left and right” milieu came out of the Left-myself, Ean Frick and a number of other folks around Attack the System. I think we should look at both movements – conservatism and leftism – as sinking ships that may contain rare individuals actually worthy of being thrown a life preserver or picked up by a rescue boat. Let the rest of them drown.
What do others think about this? Is the Left salvagable?