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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking His Stand: An Interview with Michael Hill of the League of the South Reply

Read the full interview here. This part is particularly relevant:

On the League’s website, you said that you seek a peaceful means to Southern secession. Suppose The American Empire collapsed under its own weight tomorrow and the United States of America was an entity only on paper. There are many people in The South who would rage against the birth of a new Southern nation. It’s true that many of the idle among them would vote with their feet and leave when they stopped getting paid to be idle, but still, the Deep South is facing ever-accelerating and ever more dire demographic changes right now. Would it not be wise for the theoretical Southern homeland to relocate itself in, say, southern Appalachia? Not that that would be easy, but wouldn’t it be easier?

I certainly see what you’re saying, and with the demographic revolution that’s taking place right now, I would never completely rule something like that out.

This has long been a principal criticism of mine concerning these Southern secession groups. I do not regard a unified Southern secession under one flag (much less the Confederate flag) to be viable. The South is far too culturally and political diverse for that. Instead, a more radical decentralist outlook is needed.

Liberty is the Mother, Not the Daughter, of Any Market Worth Having Reply

Jeremy Weiland takes down the proponents of vulgar economism.

Ostensibly, the colonists’ boycott of the East India Trading Company was a huge mistake; we should have resisted their monopoly by flooding them with money, I suppose! A boycott is not some extra-market construct that works against commerce; a boycott is a form of market activity. In order for a market to be free, it has to be just as valid to abstain from a purchase as it is to make it. Equally so, it has to be just as valid to coordinate demand among consenting parties (i.e. a boycott) as it is to coordinate the production of supply among willing business partners (i.e. a firm).

Attacking the World Reply

The latest from Paul Craig Roberts.

Some publisher somewhere needs to put out a volume (or multiple volumes) of Roberts’ columns over the past years. There is arguably no greater critic of the U.S. empire around nowadays  (his closest rival is probably Eric Margolis), and nobody cuts to the chase like Roberts. Plus, his status of having once been a federal official and a Reaganite gives him a credibility in a lot of corners that he otherwise would not have.

George Soros Taking Aim at Texas Nationalists 3

Read all about it here .

But the real question is why these national organizations have suddenly taken such an interest in Texas, and in particular why they suddenly feel a need to use Chicago-style blackmail politics to attack an organization they have long characterized as kooks?

The answer is that Texas’ emerging nationalism is a roadblock to plans for a global fascist government as envisioned by billionaire George Soros.

Even more than sweeping Republican victories across the United States on Nov. 2, an independent Texas — free of failed socialist policies and willing to curb the political power of moneyed elitists – could start a domino affect as nation after nation uses Texas’ example to return the concept of government to its original meaning.

The fact that every one of the organizations mounting this attack on the TNM – Media Matters, Democratic Underground, and others – is funded by Soros makes the conclusion that he is personally behind this sudden shifting of progressives’ priorities irrefutable.

Deism and the Development of American Civil Religion: A Case Study in Intellectual and Cultural Revolution from the Top 5

This is an old essay of mine that was originally a grad school paper for a course on the history of American religions.

What I did in this is trace how deism went from being a dissident intellectual movement among radical intellectuals in the West centuries ago to becoming the foundation of both American civil religion and popular religion, as well as the pivotal intellectual force that gave birth to the broader secular intellectual culture we find in the Western world today. The question: How can anarchism, currently a dissident intellectual movement among radical intellectuals, achieve over the course of the next few centuries what deism achieved over the past few centuries?

Minor Parties: A Target for Alternative Anarchist Entryism? Reply

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for third parties in the U.S.  Read it here.

Question: In their current forms, all of these parties are terrible failures, and that’s not likely to change. But to what degree might these parties be a vehicle for entryism by those of us in the alternative anarchist milieu? Read Troy Southgate’s essay on entryism to explore this concept further. What if we were to gradually gain leadership positions in each of these party formations, one by one, and combine them into a revolutionary federation that de-emphasizes conventional politics in favor of secession by culturally specific local autonomy movements and rejection of the left/right ideological framework?

On Keeping the Momentum Rolling 2

Over the past six months or so, interest in the various alternative anarchist milieus seems to have grown exponentially. The number of blogs, websites, or local affinity groups devoted to such projects has proliferated to the point where I can no longer keep track of them all. It would certainly be beneficial to our cause if this momentum could continue to keep building over the next year or two. Some months ago, I posted a list of possibilities concerning potential projects that Attack the System supporters or allies might wish to pursue. I’m posting the list again (minus the ones that have already been taken!). Keep in mind that these are only suggestions. Feel free to come up with your own ideas. And notice that some of these possible projects would be identified as “far left” and others as “far right.” That’s the value of pluralism, anti-univeralism, free association, and decentralized tribalism. Ideas that would otherwise seem mutually exclusive of one another in any other context can peacefully co-exist.

National-Anarchist/Austro-Libertarian Alliance

Attack the System Group for Radical Greens, Peak Oilers, Primitivists, Linkolans, and Deep Ecologists


Attack the System Canada

Islamic National-Anarchists

Attack the System Firearms and Self-Defense Project

Attack the System Student Association

Mormon National-Anarchists

Catholic National-Anarchists

Attack the System Fathers’ Rights Group

Attack the System Men’s Rights Project

National-Anarchist Project to Assist Battered Women and Abused Children

The Szasz Alliance: Exposing the Mental Health Industry

Attack the System Police State Monitoring Project

National-Anarchists Against Imperialist War

National-Anarchist Palestine Solidarity Project

Pagans Against Political Correctness

National-Anarchist Alliance to Expose Atrocities Against White South Africans

Bias in Hate Crimes Reporting Group

Attack the System Anti-AIPAC Outreach Project

National-Anarchists Against the Federal Reserve

Russian-American National-Anarchists

Asian-American National-Anarchists

Attack the System General Strike for Superstore and Fast Food Workers Project

Attack the System Prisoner Outreach Project

National-Anarchist Alternative Medicine Group

National-Anarchist Tea Party Outreach Project

Attack the System Secession for (pick your city, state, or region)

National-Anarchist Association of Home-Schoolers

National-Anarchists for Animal Rights

National-Anarchist Squatters

Attack the System Drug War Resistance Project

Attack the System Sex Workers Group

Celtic National-Anarchists

The Evola Study Group

The Nietzsche Study Group

The Classical Anarchist Study Group

Literature of the Weimar Conservative Revolution Study Group

Third Position Health Care (it’s been taken, so keep it active!)

Attack the System Alternative Economics Project

National-Anarchist Project to Document and Expose Political Correctness

Radical Patriots/ Radical Anarchists United Against Big Brother

As you can tell, the possibilities are virtually endless. Just set up a blog or FB page reflecting your preferred themes, or pull a few close comrades together and form a group, and see where it leads.

The New Anarchists Reply

Thanks to Jeremy for digging up this piece from David Graeber.

As an anthropologist and active participant—particularly in the more radical, direct-action end of the movement—I may be able to clear up some common points of misunderstanding; but the news may not be gratefully received. Much of the hesitation, I suspect, lies in the reluctance of those who have long fancied themselves radicals of some sort to come to terms with the fact that they are really liberals: interested in expanding individual freedoms and pursuing social justice, but not in ways that would seriously challenge the existence of reigning institutions like capital or state. And even many of those who would like to see revolutionary change might not feel entirely happy about having to accept that most of the creative energy for radical politics is now coming from anarchism—a tradition that they have hitherto mostly dismissed—and that taking this movement seriously will necessarily also mean a respectful engagement with it.

Afghanistan: The Last Hurrah of the American Empire Reply

Eric Margolis sums up the situation very well.

For the entire twenty-five years of my political activism and writing, I have considered the defeat of the American empire to be the most pressing political question. Now, it finally seems to be happening. The empire is essentially bankrupt, and is incapable of pacifying the indigenous resistance on the periphery. The post-WW2 alliances that formed the structure of the empire during the Cold War and post-Cold War periods seem to be falling apart as Europe is becoming more assertive of its own interests independently of the U.S. and the BRIC axis is rising as a potent economic force. Perhaps we can refer to this situation as “Noam Chomsky’s Revenge.”

The Health Tyrants Reply

Walter Williams on the latest manifestation of the therapeutic state.

Notice that the proponents of the therapeutic state seem to be the most extreme and deeply entrenched in those regions of the U.S. where the general totalitarian humanist ideology is also the most influential. As totalitarian humanism advances, this kind of thing is likely to spread to other regions and localities and into the federal government with much greater ferocity.