Strauss, Beyond Left and Right Reply

by Jack Ross

Paul Gottfried has paid me the high compliment of writing an extended response to a message board comment I made of his essay on the critics of Leo Strauss.  Though I’m amused that Gottfried seems to be taken in by the argument of some Straussians, of which I was vaguely aware, that Strauss was really a Cold War liberal, I think in the end it misses the point to debate whether Strauss was a man of the right.

Gottfried is correct that Strauss’ Zionism was not a right-wing predilection in the European context.  The analogy to black nationalism is instructive with its very great likeness to Zionism.  Before World War II, to be a Zionist was a right-wing choice in the Jewish context, not only with socialism still a force to be reckoned with but with German Zionism still very much influenced by classical liberals like Hannah Arendt.  Indeed, Jabotinsky was probably responding to the likes of Arendt and Magnes far more than to Labor Zionism.

As for whether Straussianism belongs on the right today, I go back to the template that I actually picked up from a very bad leftist professor, that the right, as opposed to conservatism, is simply the enemy of the left which hates the left more than it believes in any positive program – which goes far, of course, in explaining how so much of the right through history, from fascism to neoconservatism, came out of the left.  (This professor, by the way, who was in great measure responsible for the failure of my graduate school career and I was told on good authority was only even there as a condition for hiring his wife, was furious when I invoked his template in embracing Edmund Burke).

There may well be a strong argument that in the 20th century context Strauss and his immediate disciples were closer to Cold War liberalism than even the new right, but in placing Straussianism on the right today one need only examine the fundamental Straussian influence behind Glenn Beck and the Tea Party doctrines generally.  I remember well back during the 2008 Republican primary, when I asked my friend Joe Stromberg, a Mormon apostate, what he thought of Mitt Romney’s speech on religion in America.  Blessedly cut off from the media circus, Joe wasn’t even aware of it, so we ended up having a very general conversation about Mormonism.  In explaining his quite compelling thesis that Mormonism is the ultimate religion of American predestination, at one point I was led to ask in shock “are there Mormon Straussians?”, to which Joe bemusedly replied “one or two, yes.”

Mormon Straussianism, in short, is the secret of the Glenn Beck phenomenon.  Its core doctrines about the divinely inspired Constitution (something the two groups separately believe anyway) were expounded Beck’s acknowledged forebear Cleon Skousen.  The above link by Michael Lind explains how it was the Claremontistas who first began pushing the notion that Woodrow Wilson was our worst President – not because his crusade to make the world safe for democracy directly led to all the totalitarian horrors of the 20th century by allowing the Allies a decisive victory, not because he set up the worst police state in American history (yes, Southern partisans, worse than Lincoln, we can have that out another day), but because he introduced theories of government that contradicted the Straussian belief in natural law.

It was in watching Glenn Beck’s coming out party as the white Farrakhan last August that I was finally determined to figure out how the American right came to believe such bizarre things about Martin Luther King.  I soon enough realized that it was but a classic Straussian exercise, to banish any historical and cultural context and divine the secret meaning of a great man’s words in the abstract.  In his bizarre “Rally to Restore Honor” religious revival speech that was one part Elmer Gantry and two parts Edward Bellamy, Beck made brief allusions to Mormon theology about the predestination of early America at creation.

He deftly went over this in an instant, but that he got away with it at all before his evangelical audience is shocking.  What it proves is that the American right is far more steadfast to the neocon “fourth great western religion” of Americanism than to Christianity.  What this owes to Leo Strauss hardly need be repeated here.

So if – and I realize many, not least Gottfried, will want to debate this point – the Tea Party represents the right in America today as opposed to principled conservatism, than the progeny of Strauss most assuredly belongs there.  But I should think that categories of left and right are superfluous in diagnosing the militant world-redemptive idolatry of Americanism.  And to be clear, I am the last person who would deny its debt to liberalism.

That 1918 Feeling Reply

by Jack Ross

Though it may well be too soon to assume any real significance to the withdrawal of Hezbollah from the Lebanese government, it is nevertheless suggestive of what I have argued for a while – that we are on the brink of an uprising across the Arab world to cast off the yoke of the American empire akin to the wave of uprisings that finally freed Eastern Europe from the Soviets.  Helena Cobban writes:

My sense from afar is that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his friends and backers in Tehran are sending a fairly blunt message to the west (whose leaders often like to describe themselves as the “international community”) that regime change is indeed a game that more than one side can play.

Where is Saudi King Abdullah? He has had several serious medical procedures recently. Who has PM Saad Hariri been listening to as he has made his decisions of recent weeks?

If Nasrallah and his friends in Tehran (especially Supreme Leader Khamenei) indeed think the time has come to give the western house of cards in the Middle East a little nudge in Beirut to see what happens, the fallout from this could well end up extending far beyond Lebanon’s tiny confines.

Cobban believes that Saudi Arabia is indeed as ripe for revolution as Egypt, with King Abdullah as near death as Mubarak.  There is apparently even some shit going down in Tunisia, of all places.  The neocons, in their moral outrage at the comparison to 1989 (or is it 1919?) will now doubt insist that this would only be the conquest of the Middle East by Iran.  But it is certainly no more so than the fall of Communism meant that Eastern Europe was absorbed by the American empire.  Indeed, who can imagine the Iranians constructing an apparatus to compare to NATO?

Speaking of Iran, in a possibly related matter we have seen the dramatic shift in the party line about the Iranian nuclear program, in what can only be interpreted as the desperation of the war party to buy time, for reasons as yet unclear.  The official consensus mouthpiece itself, the Washington Post, is typical:

The challenge for the Obama administration, Israel and other allies will be to make use of that window to force a definitive end to the Iranian bomb program. The administration still hopes negotiations, set to resume Jan. 20, will achieve that end, but most likely it will require a fundamental change in Iran’s hard-line regime. From that point of view, five years is certainly not much time.

Perhaps Barack Milhous Obama really is about to actually reach out to Iran and end the madness.  But it may also be that the neocons and Israel lobby have decided all they can do now is go for broke and do all the moral chest-beating they can muster, and perhaps try to put across the big lie that America is legally bound to use its military to prevent “crimes against the Jewish people”.  The apparent strategic retreat may also be a sign that America has already lost the war – like Russia before the revolution, like France before the Americans came in, and like Germany thereafter.

But the liberation of Lebanon, and perhaps also Tunisia, if they spread to Egypt and Saudi Arabia could create a revolutionary wave that not even the most U.S. garrisoned Gulf sheikhdoms could withstand.  Let the Arab Spring commence!!!!

Drug War Kabuki Theater Reply

Kevin Carson on the modern version of the Baptist/Bootlegger alliance.

The ostensible opposing sides in the so-called Drug War have a similar relationship.  In the real world, the private drug cartels derive their power from the existence of a lucrative black market which the state plays a central role in maintaining.  And the state itself is just another drug cartel which profits from controlling — rather than eliminating — the drug trade.

You can be sure that, if anyone presented a plausible threat of actually ending the production of all illegal narcotics, the black ops people in the national security state would “neutralize” them, and that right quickly.  Without the drug trade, how would the CIA fund its global network of death squads and other criminal thugs around the world?

In a dipolomatic cable published by Wikileaks (quoted in an article by Ginger Thompson and Scott Shane at the New York Times — “Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency,” Dec. 25),  we see a long list of examples of the Drug Enforcement Agency acting — not so much to eradicate illegal drugs — but to determine the balance of power between government and private drug cartels.

The Critic Responds, and My Reply 7

A few days ago, I posted this response to a left-anarchist critic.  The critic has offered an analysis of my earlier reply. Read it in full here. First, a clarification:

I got into a prolonged scuffle on the LeftLibertarian forums with Jeremy Weiland who identifies as a “Left Libertarian” and hosts, for free, mind you.  Naturally, fate intervened when Keith Preston, who was the subject of much debate in that thread, picks up my post, publishes on ATS (without accrediting me at all mind you) and then tries to haul me over the coals in front of his Third Positionist buddies.  All I have to say is that if Preston felt threatened enough by a forum post to rebut it to a post published on ATS, and in such a condescending manner, then I must be doing something right.

The critic’s name is Royce Christian, whom I believe resides in Australia and is a left-anarchist/left-libertarian. I did not use his name in my earlier reply out of respect for his privacy as I was uncertain about to what degree he is “public” about his anarchist beliefs. Royce’s reply is rather wordy, and often redundant, so I’m not going to attempt a line-by-line rebuttal of his analysis of my work. Instead, I will focus on what seem to be the major or at least the more substantive points of his arguments.


Some Drugs Are More Equal Than Others Reply

So says “Thoreau.

As a helpful guide to our readers, I have prepared a detailed classification scheme for illegal drugs:

Class Ia:  The drugs that you used when you were young and wild.  Not as potent as today’s drugs, and nothing to get judgmental about.  Sometimes worth getting a bit nostalgic about, though.

Class Ib:  The drugs that you used before  joining a 12 step program and/or a new religion.  Dangerous, evil things that even a fine person like you could not handle, and definitely too strong for anybody else.  Well worth getting self-righteous about, but not worth losing your rights over.

Class II:  The drugs that your young children might use some day unless the government Does Something About It.  Dangerous, evil things that must be stopped at any cost, as long as that cost is mostly paid by somebody else.

Class III:  The drugs that your teenage children just used.  These drugs are a private family matter that nobody else needs to get involved in.

Class IV:  The drugs that you heard are being used by people with less money than you and/or more melanin than you.  These drugs are not only incredibly potent and dangerous substances, they are also a sign of a deep moral defect that warrants a stiff prison sentence, substantially reduced employment prospects, and permanent suspension of voting rights.

The New White Nationalism in America 5

Scott McConnell of The American Conservative reviewed this book by Vanderbilt law professor Carol Swain.

I consider this book to be the very best scholarly work on the question of American white nationalism. In fact, it is probably the only such work of any genuine quality. Dr. Swain is an African-American, and not personally sympathetic to white nationalism, while giving it an objective scholarly analysis. It is this work that has most influenced my own thinking regarding the question of white nationalism, and it is largely Carol Swain’s policy recommendations (with some adjustments to make them more compatible with the anarcho-libertarian paradigm) that I have incorporated into the ARV/ATS program.

Swain reminds us that the affirmative action policies that mandate quotas, timetables, and diversity monitors were initially developed as a means to give immediate succor to the black poor in the aftermath of the civil rights revolution. They have now developed into anything but that. Instead, they are seen either as a means to impose diversity, now construed as an end it itself, or as a method to provide black and Hispanic students with role models.

Swain has no patience with any of these rationales. It strikes her as pathetically small minded to imagine that blacks need black role models to succeed: her own, she adds with some poignancy, were white male academics who prodded her to push herself intellectually. As it is, the current system undermines both the self-esteem and the education of its purported beneficiaries. Swain asks how the personal chemistry of college sports teams would fare if teams were required to have proportionate quotas of white and Asian athletes. And she relates a bitter truth from her own experience with black students on campus—many of whom pass through college believing that affirmative action guarantees their admission to top-quality professional schools regardless of their academic performance. Such a belief
may be only partially true, but it has had devastating consequences for black academic performance.

When liberal immigration policies are thrown into the mix, the American racial system is threatened with overload. Swain estimates that by the middle of the present century well over half of Americans will be entitled to racial preferences. It seems most unlikely that such a development could take place without fierce resistance by white Americans.

Swain’s own recommendations are the epitome of common sense. Racial preferences for hiring and promotions should be eliminated. Affirmative action should be remodeled with an emphasis on class rather than racial background in order to benefit the poorest Americans. Racial preferences for new immigrants should be scrapped entirely. Immigration rates should be reduced, and the laws against hiring illegal aliens (who compete with and drive down the wages of the American working poor) should be enforced. The black leadership should be challenged: its current focus on divisive issues like reparations or its obsession with eliminating statues, street names, and other symbols of the Confederacy do nothing for the black poor and only drain the reservoir of racial good will. Social policy should be refocused on aiding the working poor through such measures as income subsidies and vocational training for high school dropouts.

The Contradictions of Noam Chomsky 2

Excellent, comprehensive take down of the High Priest of Left-Anarchism by left-anarchist Roderick T. Long.

I will always acknowledge my intellectual debt to Chomsky, whose writings more than those of anyone else helped me to develop a thorough understanding of the history and nature of U.S. imperialism. But as the years have passed I’ve come to find his views on domestic issues and his contradictory analysis of the state to be increasingly revolting.

*Note on Racial Separatism 1

One of the biggest controversies surrounding myself is my association with the national-anarchists, my recognition of them as a legitimate branch of anarchism, and efforts to include them as part of a pan-secessionist alliance. This statement by the National Anarchist Tribal Alliance of New York provides what is perhaps the most concise yet thorough clarification of the true relationship between national-anarchism and racial separatist ideologies.

Left and Right Against Fascism 12

This interview with Naomi Wolf gives a good overview of the real problems with the police state that has arisen from the terror war. Read it here. Wolf is actually a pretty good antidote to the histrionics of the Glenn Beck and/or Alex Jones crowd. She actually provides solid intellectual arguments, firmly supported by evidence, as to how the police state continues to grow and expand, rather than relying on conspiracy theories and over the top rhetoric based on assertions from questionable sources.

The only problem I have with Wolf is that, from what I can tell, she doesn’t give much of a back story on how the modern American police state actually began to develop long before the terror war. It really has its roots in the FBI’s COINTELPRO program in the late 1960s, and was further expanded by Nixon’s initiation of the drug war. The drug war was later intensified by Reagan, and his successors expanded the drug war to a war on “crime” generally. The culmination of all this was the terror war that began after September 11. As Wolf points out, Obama is now institutionalizing the provisions of Bush’s terror war and making them into permanent features of American political life.

Also, this analysis of Obama by Pat Buchanan is right on target. Buchanan debunks the hysteria of the FOX Newsians who insist Obama is an American Hugo Chavez or Robert Mugabe. Rather, he’s more comparable to an ambitious corporate executive who finally makes it to the CEO’s chair and is more interested in protecting his own position rather than imposing some far-reaching ideological agenda. His personal opinions are obviously left of center, and he’s arguably the most liberal president the US has ever had, but the claim of the Glenn Beckians that he’s a Marxist revolutionary is insanity.

On the Political Climate of Hate in America Reply

by Jeremy Weiland

It is natural to look for meaning in tragedy. History, myth, literature all represent means by which humans attempt to come to terms with the dark sides of our experience and to find something valuable in it, so that the tragedy was not for naught. The motivation is not simply to avoid similar tragedies in the future, but to give ourselves a sense that we understand what’s going on, that all this isn’t just a huge chaotic mess from which we will never be able to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We seek comfort as much as insight.

It is not natural, however, to fit tragedy into an ideological narrative. Ideology doesn’t originate within us but arises from our acceptance of a narrow system of thought to which we attempt to conform. So complex events and nuanced actions must be shoved like a square peg into a round hole in order to validate the black and white ideological approach in our gray shaded lives. But we adopt ideological approaches for similar reasons: to give ourselves a sense that we can explain it all, that if we can just achieve the world prescribed by the ideology, such tragedy will never occur again.

The attack on Representative Giffords is now being portrayed by many as an outgrowth of the “climate of hate” surrounding conservative politics in general and the Tea Party movement in particular. The assassin would never have attacked this congresswoman, many claim, if there wasn’t a poisonous undercurrent of anti-government sentiment. While an individual is responsible for his or her actions, we have a responsibility also to preserve a civil discourse and ensure that loose cannons do not employ our rhetoric in the service of violence.

Insofar as this goes, I have no problem with the argument above. We should take responsibility for the climate our politics creates, because that climate is the reality behind the abstractions of politics, civil society, and other institutions we ostensibly critique and support. The less positive and constructive our participation in the network of society, the more we create the hell we claim to seek to avoid. We each have an unenforceable but important duty to be our best selves in all matters.

However, this duty is only part of the story. Yes, we the people are accountable for our participation in the body politic. And if people are angry, then that is a problem – but a problem for all of us. After all, people don’t just get upset for no reason. It is usually the persistent denial of their interests, their values, the legitimacy of their point of view that creates the frustration and cynicism leading to such lashing out, rhetorically or physically.

Conservatives and liberals are jumping on the Giffords attack to push it into or out of their ideological narratives. They either blame those who stand against government overreach, or they deny that resistance to government overreach is to blame. What neither side does is question the premises of this argument: that only one side is responsible for this.

It seems to me that the growing conservative backlash to intrusive government has contributed to the climate of hate. But then, by the same token, so has the intrusive government acts that created the backlash. For that matter, the attitude with which certain statists have demonized and marginalized anti-statists also fed the feelings of hate and resentment. If there is a climate of hate, then all of us are responsible – not just the party that breaks first from these conditions.

Those who support the establishment – government functionaries, liberals sometimes, conservatives other times – act as if state actions are automatically legitimate, and that anybody who disagrees is a crank. Why isn’t this dismissive attitude not just as responsible for the eventual violence as the resentful attitude? If civility is the order of the day, it cannot be defined merely as fitting within the narrow confines of “accepted thinking”. And so extremism and hate are singled out as the problems, rather than the symptoms.

If we are to heal these divides and build a society based on some modicum of trust and appreciation, a society that can solve problems in the name of all its members and not to benefit some members over others, we have to take a step back from what we’ve been doing all this time and think freshly and honestly. It is incumbent on all of us – not just the side with which we disagree – to end the climate of hate. But ending that climate means addressing the causes, not the individual straw that breaks the camel’s back. And that likely means a stiff challenge to the centrist, establishmentarian elites who benefit no matter which side of the debate is labelled “extremist”.

Why the Right Was Blamed 2

by James Leroy Wilson

It was to be expected, right from the day of Barack Obama’s election as Presdient. As the Tea Party grew, it became not a question of “if” but of “when.”

Some lunatic was going to shoot a Democratic (or even moderate Republican) politician, and the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and right-wing talk show hosts would get blamed.

Well, this past Saturday a lunatic did shoot a Democratic Congresswoman, killed six others,and wounded many more. And conservatives were blamed even before the smoke cleared.

It appears that this particular murderer is too weird to be pigeon-holed ideologically.

But I admit that, upon hearing the news that a Democratic Congresswoman was shot (and before I heard that it was a much larger spree), my first thought was that it was a far-right nut job.

I suspect even many conservatives suspected the same thing. They understand there are violent, unbalanced nut jobs on The Right. It’s also true that a movement like the Tea Party would also attract fringe elements, and the media tends to blur the distinctions between the reasonable and extreme.

That said, why do we tend to assume that someone on the Right is more likely to do this kind of deed than someone on the Left?

Because the Far Right tends to invite it. Rumors of generals wanting to overthrow JFK for being “soft on communism,” KKK violence, and death threats against gays and atheists all tend to give the public the impression that the “fascistic” Far Right is inherently violent.

Likewise, because of people like Timothy McVeigh, they associate the “anti-government” Far Right with violence.

By anti-government, I do not mean libertarian. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, whereas “anti-governmentalism” is just a series of grievances, resentments and hatreds without a coherent philosophy.

It’s the domestic equivalent of foreign anti-Americanism.

And as many fear that foreign anti-Americans will commit terror, for the same reasons they fear that anti-government Americans may commit terror or assassination. Homeland Security has helped fuel this notion, and has smeared supporters of Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party, and the Constitution Party because of it.

In any case, it is disingenuous to say that “anti-government” rhetoric by a talk show host will push some violent wacko over the edge. It is far more likely that it is the government’s actions that will push him over the edge.

On Saturday, my first thought was that this shooter may be from the anti-government Tea Party fringe who may have been angry over something like last year’s vote on Obamacare.

But why would someone want to commit violence like that?

Probably because he’s crazy. One can be anti-government without resorting to violence, just as one can be anti-American without becoming a terrorist.

The violence is wrong. Everyone understands that. But when the grievances are deeply-felt, and when they are legitimate, a violent response by an already-unstable person is unsurprising.

I imagine that if I was born and raised in the Middle East, North Africa, or Central Asia, I would come to believe that the American government was on a Crusade to stamp out Islam and rule the world. I would be anti-American.

That doesn’t mean I would commit acts of terror. It does mean that I would at least understand why some people would fall off the deep end because of American foreign policy. It’s known as blowback.

That same thinking applies within America as well. Healthcare reforms such as the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is totalitarian. The IRS has ruined a lot of innocent people. Gun laws and drug laws do violate our very rights to life and to control our own bodies. Instead of protecting our rights and property, the Federal State attacks them with impunity.

It’s enough to push marginally stable people over the edge. Yes, their violence must always be condemned. The terrorist – foreign or home-grown – should be punished to the full extent of the law.

But let’s never forget that their grievances are often rational and legitimate, even as their viiolent responses are irrational and evil.

If the U.S. government stopped meddling in other nations, and reduced its size, scope, and power at home, we would be far more secure from both foreign and domestic terrorism.