Leftist Deja Vu 3

by  Jack Ross

Originally published at Jack’s Post Right blog for The American Conservative

I am admittedly late in commenting on this item on @TAC praising a new effort to unify and strengthen leftist dissent from Obama.  It brings me nothing so much as an overwhelming sense of deja vu about my own youthful travels on the left and what it was that ultimately left me dubious if not completely disillusioned.

Some personal history first.  I became a more-or-less committed Green Party backer in my first year of college (my mind-boggling assortment of other associations will be a topic for another day).  By the time the 2004 election was in full swing I was solidly behind Nader over the Democratic plant David Cobb to get the Green nomination, but when Cobb prevailed I was disgusted by both sides in the faction fight and ended up voting for Socialist Walt Brown – prompted in large measure by a friend who was voting for him after learning he was pro-life which, unsurprisingly, got him into hot water with some of his initial supporters.  I happen to know that the men responsible for getting Walt on the ballot in his two best states respectively, Florida and Wisconsin, both voted for Pat Buchanan in 2000.

By late 2003 I had also fallen in love with the young upstart TAC, which provided intellectual stimulation I could never have hoped to find on the left.  It is worth noting that a great deal of the displeasure with Nader from what my friend Keith Preston aptly calls “reactionary leftists” was over his friendly interview with TAC and enthusiastic support from Buchanan backers like Pat Choate and Justin Raimondo.

I take this stroll down memory lane to set the stage for the current effort represented by ProtestObama.org.  I have great respect for all the signers, if for some more than others.  If I am correct to interpret from their plan of action that they are calling for unity of the third parties of the left, I can only urge it on.  A part of me even takes the hope from this that the heartbreak of the Green implosion will lead to a bigger and better force, analogous perhaps to the organizational chaos in the last quarter of the 19th century that led up to the formation of the Socialist Party in 1901.

Alas, that’s the optimist in me.  The major source of deja vu in all this is that this open letter takes the form of a direct appeal to a group which is not unjustly referred to as the “left establishment”.  These characters who for whatever strange reason are singled out by name – Norman Solomon, Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael Moore, Tom Hayden, Katrina vanden Heuvel – were the Stalinoids centered around The Nation I hated with a passion as a young Green and viewed as one of, if not the major obstacle in the way of the revival of a more authentic and populist left.  In short they are exactly the people anyone interested in rebuilding a serious third party movement on the left needs to pointedly ignore.

It would be an injustice to readers if I did not also point out the serious reasons for pause.  The Peace and Freedom Party, though a crucial backer of Nader in 2008 and a touchstone of nostalgia for many libertarians, ran for Nancy Pelosi’s seat this past year Gloria La Riva of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, an offshoot probably constituting the majority of the old Workers World Party, which not only worships at the altar of the Kim dynasty but has defended Idi Amin as a progressive anti-imperialist.  I even found in my brushing up that one of their members got the Green nomination for a state legislative seat in Ohio.  The Workers World remnant itself even endorsed the Green ticket in 2008 rather than run their own campaign.

But let us assume for now that this is ultimately a minor stumbling block.  Indeed, the best defense against such a cancer is aggressive outreach to middle-American radicals, as the Greens showed some promise of in their headiest days from 2002-04.  An event last spring in Madison, Wisconsin, at which several Greens joined hands with TAC’s own Sean Scallon, Angela Keaton of Antiwar.com, and the heroic third-party defender Christina Tobin, could represent the basis of future unity.

Last summer, I was seized by the idea of Bill Kauffman as the candidate all the people at that event could get behind in 2012, and could do well enough to keep the third party flame alive at a time its desperately needed.  I had little luck modestly floating a trial balloon last summer, yet I can not shake off the vision of Batavia as the new Terre Haute.  Bill Kauffman in 2012 – who’s with me?

The Tragedy of Martin Van Creveld 2

by Jack Ross

Originally posted at The American Conservative

Richard Silverstein blogs about the most recent newspaper column of Martin van Creveld, the brilliant Israeli military historian and author of the monumental work The Rise and Decline of The State.  The column is just the conventional argument that it is necessary for Israel to retreat to the 1967 borders in order to survive as a Jewish state.  It is argued with the bluntness one would expect of a hard-headed realist, or at least that which we should have expected five years ago when there was still a prayer for the two-state solution.

The Rise and Decline of The State is probably the greatest and most profound work of sociology since the time of Weber and Marx.  Its thesis is that the modern state was created at the dawn of modernity for the purpose of sustaining large standing armies to wage war, that this enterprise peaked in the first half of the 20th century with the two world wars, but has been on a slow but sure decline since the end of the Second World War, meaning, ultimately, the decline and fall of the state itself.

The importance of the work has been widely recognized by libertarians as well as by such other interested theorists as William Lind, and even they probably have yet to do it justice.  For van Creveld might also be read as nothing less than the vindication of Marxism, since it is in fact under social democracy (that is, under European welfare states that have all but abolished their militaries) that the state has begun to whither away.  Indeed, as I have noted in the past in such places as the above link, the early discovery of this phenomenon was crucial to the spawn of neoconservatism.  And for that matter, one could even describe the present crisis of the European welfare states, to be in equal measure gratuitously and ironically Marxist, as the exposure of the system’s contradictions.

The tragedy of van Creveld is that this (possibly inadvertent) giant has devoted a considerable degree of his energies to try and rescue the state in which he lives – which is, at that, the last state on Earth committed to preserving the original precepts of the modern state in its first principles.  (America is a somewhat more complex case, a topic for another day).  In his past writings on the Israeli dilemma he has proposed the most conventional Laborite program of forging an alliance with Syria and Saudi Arabia against Iran, which raises the question of how the author of The Rise and Decline of The State could in all seriousness make such an ossified Metternichian proposal.

For surely van Creveld must also recognize the great revolutionary moment represented by the 2006 Lebanon War, in which for the first time since no later than Westphalia, the state (Lebanon) was unable to commit its essential function of defending its people against the war of aggression being waged against them by Israel, and therefore this function fell to the non-state actor of Hezbollah.  In our actually existing world, if one is to go by the Marxist template the better part of wisdom counsels that the case of Lebanon is closer to the Muenster Rebellion than the Paris Commune, meaning the world after the state is still a few centuries off.  Yet revolutions do come into this world like bastard children.

History will judge whether Martin van Creveld was merely the Hegel whom the libertarian Marx had to turn on his head or something greater still.  But surely it is a tragedy of historic proportions that the prophet is destined to be at the ramparts defending the very vanguard opposing his own prophecy.

Left Libertarians: A Dispassionate Assessment 67

by Michael Parish

Originally published at A Beautiful Mind

Left-Libertarianism is an ideology that seeks to hybridize the economic agenda of classical liberalism with the cultural agenda of the New Left, as such constituting a conscious return to the movement as it existed in the mid to late nineteen sixties. Therefore it appears paradoxically both radical, in that desires a thorough recalibration of the status quo, and reactionary, in its quest to re-establish a vanished ideology. This apparent paradox collapses rather quickly, as a thorough examination of their philosophy extinguishes its pretenses at radicalism and renders transparent its purely reactionary nature.

Left-Libertarianism is, before it is Left, libertarian. As such, it carries it with it the historical detrius of classical liberalism, instantiated in the movement’s atomist conception of human society. In the Left-libertarian mind, the atomized individual is the basis of society, and individual agency it’s base causal (and constituting) factor; the latter is therefore a chance aggregate of individuals and their actions. From this conception the the individual assumed as their one and only theoretical reference point, and all social and political issues are evaluated with it as its their basis.

On this point, they have human development inverted; while it is certainly true that everyone is an individual, no one develops autonomously as if a vacuum. Prior to his entry into society, the identity of the individual develops through and only through his relation to others. This occurs specifically through the civil institutions whose existence predates his own, first his nuclear and then extended family, his local community, his religious or otherwise ideological institution, and so forth. It is impossible to conceive of an individual without reference to such factors. The individual, therefore, is not the beginning but the end of society, and therefore of politics.

To the extent that their recognition of this fails, to the same extent they champion the abstract concept of “individual liberty.” However, liberty (here defined in the purely negative sense) is a cause, not an effect; a means, not an end. In society, it is the latter, not the former that has empirically observable effects and is therefore of significance. Within the sphere of human interaction, it is the ends sought by individuals, not the means employed to achieve them, that are our object of concern.

In their misconstruing raw materials for finished products, the Left-Libertarians deliver a wholly unsatisfactory social theory. Prior to the “liberation” of the individual it is imperative that a functioning set of civic institutions be developed through which he learns to healthily exercise his liberation. Before he is freed from formal coercion to exercise his “liberty” he must develop in such a way as to learn to channel said liberty towards productive purposes. In summation, the aim of any politics of credibility is the cultivation of a functioning societal whole, not the satisfaction of every individual’s subjective ephemera, as the Libertarian Lefties believe.

The second critical error in the Left-Libertarian approach is their implied economic determinism, another historical carryover from their liberal heritage. The assumption here, that the economy and relations therein are the basis of human society from which all other factors are derivatives, leads to the envisioning of a society built entirely around commercial interactions. This again is an inversion, and one that leads to societal disintegration. Contrary to the reductionist myopia of the LL, homo sapien is a social animal long prior to his being an economic one. The basic interpersonal relations between friend and friend, husband and wife, and parent and child developed on their own prior to existence of economies and economic ones, the latter having historically developed only as a buttress for the facilitation of the former. To repeat an observation from the preceding paragraph, the LLers are again mistaking means for ends, resulting in an anemic social outline informed by a vulgar economism. It is imperative that civic institutions, those that exist prior to and independent of state and commercial ones, be recognized as the basis of society, and the market be relegated to its proper role as but a necessary extension of them.

The second function of the LLer’s economic reductionism is their anti-cultural bias. If the economic sphere is the foundation of society, then it naturally follows that matters of ethnicity, language, and culture are ephemeral transience, their dictation by the effects of the market not only permissible but imperative. Denouncing collective identities in the name of abstract “individualism”, they display the critical flaw of all rationalism: the inability to comprehend not only that which cannot be measured mathematically, but the values of those who adhere to them. They accordingly mistake historically evolved entities for arbitrarily defined “constructs”, which are to be destroyed for the ostensible purpose of further individual liberation; the type of individuals and societies to emerge in their wake are left undefined. This line of thought results, again, in a predictably grotesque reductionism. Given the natural tendency of the state and capitol to erode such organic identities and their respective cultures, and the consequent necessity of supporting them, this attitude is hardly of use within the context of contemporary anti-statism.

Bewildering about them is one principle inherited from the Left, in contrast to their libertarian positions, is their belief in egalitarianism. As Left-Libertarianism is essentially an economic doctrine their belief in “equality” can only be discussed in economic terms. To that end, individualism of the bourgeoisie sort they champion is wholly incompatible with economic equality. In political philosophy there are two competing conceptions of the individual. The first is the concrete individual, definitively unequal by his degree of personal merit; the second is the liberal “individual”, believed to be equal only by the mental process of abstraction which has stripped him of all defining characteristics. It is obvious which view the LLers predicate their theory on. In concrete terms, the inherently unequal distribution of merit within the population will produce a correspondingly unequal distribution of wealth. The dissolution of the corporate state, and the ensuing absence of artificial privilege, will not mathematically produce a society without elites but one without false elites.

That said, the insistent restatement of “equality” betrays a fundamental naivete on their part. Contrary to the negative connotations attributed to them by liberal philosophy, terms such as “elites” and “inequality” are not pejoratives but accurate descriptions of ontological reality. An “elite” is merely a person who excels in his given area of expertise that he is distinguished from the general population; “inequality” within the structure of institutions is therefore a natural sign of societal health so much as it reflects actual disparities between their constituent members. The pursuit of its opposite, an unattainable ideal, is the pursuit of a chimera, the realization of which is possible only artificially, requiring the introduction of massive and damaging bureaucracy.

As a byproduct of modern liberalism, particularly its rationalist component, Left-Libertarianism is unable to distinguish qualitative differences between individuals, cultures, and groupings thereof. In the place of such factors they trumpet, rather loudly, abstract universalism. This reveals another crucial ontological miscalculation: the ignorance of relevant particulars and their potentiality as determinate factors in politics, and exaggerated primacy granted to (imagined)universals. Liberalism, including the kind that informs Left-Libertarianism, is one of these particulars, instantiated only at a specific interval of space (Western Civilization, specifically its Anglo Saxon branch) and time (mid-modernity, specifically post-1700’s.) Their foundational principles, including the autonomy of the individual and rights belonging there-in, have never existed outside this spatio-temporal milieu and it is highly unlikely they ever will. It remains dubious as to whether or not all of “humanity” will agree to join hands with them as “citizens of the world”, much less abandon their historically ingrained norms in favor of Western leftism.

Most troublesome about the ideology is its woefully incomplete societal analysis. The modern state is intimately connected to the philosophical premises of modern liberalism; an effective critique of the former necessitates one of the latter. On this note, the LLers fall pitifully short. For with all the enthusiasm with which they jab the state they posit but a partially qualified variant of the same Lockean social theory that informs it. This cripples not only their analysis but their potential for future success; sharing first principles with the regime you only recently displaced facilitates its immediate reconstitution.

They attack Social Contract theory as a hollow ploy for ruling class self-legitimation, but retain the same assumptions about human nature and activity. According to the contractualists, rational individuals consciously decide to establish written guidelines for overcoming the “state of nature”; according to the Libertarian Left, these same individuals consciously decide to cooperate on a stateless market. Implicit in this view is the invisible line drawn between civil society and the state, regarding the latter as an artificial imposition upon the former. Missing here is the conception of human society as a living organism, one which developed historically, not out of rational decisions but irrational circumstances, and of which the state is unfortunately an organic component. Only when such premises are accepted will the receptivity of the population to voluntaryst forms of social organization reach critical mass.

Troubling still is the LLers over-reliance on abstract principles to justify their anti-statism. Supposed axioms, such as “taxation is theft” are incomplete propositions; they are premises without conclusions. Even with the addition of a conclusion, such as “therefore taxation is wrong” they are still useless even if  theoretically valid. For this statement to be of any importance it must be demonstrated that first that this “taxation” correlates directly to a concrete phenomena occurring in the concrete world, second that it has an actual negative effect on said world, and third that society would actually improve in its absence. Otherwise, this is merely a walled off cognitive sequence that leads to inaction and ineffectiveness, as the population will not rally behind abstract theories.

The fetishization of “natural rights” evinced by many in this milieu serves a similar non-purpose, and betrays a fundamental ignorance of the nature of politics. “Natural rights” is part and parcel of a project seeking to instill human political affairs with a moral basis. Such a feat is impossible, as politics is based not on morality but on the self-interest of its participants. “Rights” and the ethical schemata underlying them are abstract entities reflecting only the self interest of the person or group invoking them. Metaphysically, they are causally inert; your “right to life” will not save you from a gun blast, as the former exists only within your consciousness but the latter is a physical object in the concrete world of phenomena. In political affairs, the “rights” the populace enjoys derive not from metaphysical-ethical schemes but from actually existing power relations. Therefore, it is the latter, not the former, that deserves radical attention. Or, to quote Proudhon “I don’t want rules but I’ll bargain.”

Ultimately, the motives of the LLers remain nebulous at best.While claiming opposition to the state in theory, their social values nonetheless reflect the current condition the institution and its economic corollary have inflicted on Western society. The deterioration of organic and pre-rational structures, and the consequent homogenization and materialist reductionism of human values, are a conscious aspect of the state’s function in the contemporary world, as the institution’s main role in this era is to serve as the vehicle for the further implementation of late modernity. As such, it remains unclear their rationale for anti-state sentiment when their core concepts are far better suited to the administered individualism of the centre-Left.

Within a historical context, their own implicitly linear and determinist conception notwithstanding, placing them within a critical dialectic is impossible. They represent, not a rebuttal to established ideology and its derivative forms, but a restatement of same taken to an even further level. As such they can be seen as the product of two factors, the first being the  psychological alienation experienced by those who do not identify with society in its current condition but whose existence is also unthreatened by it and secondly, the impossibility for members of a society to think along lines not predetermined by the epistime of their society in that particular era. If, as Hegel remarked, “philosophy is its own time raised to thought” then Left-Libertarianism is its own time raised halfway there.

Black Segregation in US Drops to All-Time Low 2

Some interesting data on race and class in America.

This caught my attention:

Amid swirling congressional debate over taxing the wealthy, three localities in Virginia had median household income of more than $100,000 – Falls Church, and Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Those three localities are just outside of Washington, D.C. in northern Virginia, about two hours north of my residence. They are populated mostly by civil servants and other federal employees, government officials, military personnel, professional bureaucrats, employees of welfare-corporations (particularly defense contractors), and lawyers whose business is government-related. In other words, northern Virginia is predictably a haven for the parasite class. Not surprisingly, the area has the most stable, prosperous, and affluent economy in the country.

Zionist Media Boss Attacks Anarchists! Reply

In their critique of the influence of the Israel lobby over US foreign policy, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer identified Mortimer Zuckerman as a leading figure in the media wing of organized Zionism in the US.  Zuckerman’s reply?: “”I would just say this: The allegations of this disproportionate influence of the Jewish community reminds me of the 92-year-old man sued in a paternity suit. He said he was so proud; he pleaded guilty.”

Now Zuckerman has turned his sights on Anarchists in the wake of the Wikileaks controversy.

Encouraging Words from a Reader 1

A reader recently posted these comments on a left-libertarian discussion board. These are very encouraging words (and not just because it includes praise for Yours Truly). This is the kind of genuine independent thinking we need for anarchists to engage in, rather than just being drones for this or that sectarian ideology, whether PC left-anarchism or anarcho-capitalism.

I proudly say that I vascillate between anarchist schools, though I have serious problems with ancom and REALLY really right-wing Heathian-style ancap. My biggest old-school anarchist influences though, would definitely be Tucker, Proudhon, and Carson, so you could say I’m center-left on the anarcho-spectrum. I started being politically active as a communist, I thought things like money and paying to get basic services were unjust before ever reading Marx, and then I discovered communism.

I always knew it to be the classless, stateless kind though, but I went along with all the Soviet Union stuff and Lenin and Trotsky and all that anyway. I was raised liberal but my parents were and are just Democrats, nothing ideological or even opinionated at all, they never talked about welfare like most liberals and state-socialists do. I still have an emotional attachment to the old Left and some of the Leninist tracts I used to read, unfortunately, even though they’re pigheaded nonsense to me now.

What got me into anarchism was somehow coming across libertarian socialism on Wikipedia. I read stuff on ancom from there, and finally anarchism itself. It was the Anarchist FAQ that really “made me an anarchist”, still, its rhetoric is the fieriest of any writing on anarchy I’ve seen, even though it has pretty bad arguments against markets and capitalism and stuff looking at it from where I am now. And obviously I had no problems with “freedom” and “libertarianism” , obviously, I was more for that after I read alot of the FAQ. What really got me “against the State” and totally in the camp that all governments today were illegitimate parasites that have got to die, was Spooner’s No Treason and Stefan Molyneux. And I still think wage labour is slavery and money is coercive, and am a big fan of Parecon and decentralised planned economies, just think they’re economically untenable. And communism in general is untenable.

Ended up watching Brainpolice, Laughingman0x and all the important stuff by all the important people on Youtube, I guess you could say it was Jacob Spinney, thorsmitersaw, and Kevin Carson that really made my “rightward” shift talking about how all the concentrations in capitalism were due to state priveleges and stuff. Though I’ve never really READ Carson, his books are just too huge. Also never really read the big Austrians like Mises as they’re stuff is heavy too, but I’m still pretty much an Austrian. And a socialist too, imagine that. :mrgreen:

I really don’t have a huge problem with ancap believe it or not, and I’m really surprised to see them under-represented here, even though this is for the “libertarian left”. I like Molyneux’s book and I like For a New Liberty, actually, the biggest problems I think ancap has really recent Youtube critics have brought up. And I’m a huge fan of Fringelements’s videos too. Other than those guys, the biggest influence on my ideologies is die definitely Keith Preston. Voluntary segregation, decentralized governments of all shapes and sizes co-existing in my desired American Confederation, all that stuff. Pretty much all of his articles are some of my favourite stuff. He’s why I’m a voluntarist first and foremost.

Which leads me to the two things that will probably piss alot of people off here, even though you seem like an even-headed crowd. First off, I have a reactionary side. I agree with the “totalitarian humanism” idea Preston has and I dabble in white nationalism, and like alot of the stuff on Alternative Right. I like Burke, Kirk, the national-anarchists, Carl Schmitt, Jurgen Habernas, Julius Evola, Alan de Benoist, Paul Gottfried, Joseph Sobran, all those guys. I even admire the aims and mythology of fascism a little bit. Hell of alot better than Stalinism. I’m still a liberal and want to see liberal values triumph, gays empowered in their own identities, women empowered, destructive hateful practices between races worked through, I just take these conservatives as influences. And I’m only a white nationalist in a broad sense, if you can understand that, I have no wish to create a USA for white people or even live in a homogenous territory, but in a broad sense of racial and cultural feeling and expression. The same should be for every other race. I’m not a Christian either, I hate conservative Christians’ morality. I often call my view “liberal traditionalism” in that its still individualist and liberal but so different from the way liberals and Marxists want to do it. Unless your into this stuff, especially if you’ve never read or understood people like Evola, you probably wouldn’t understand any of this so, please, if your far-left, don’t bother inquiring, if your a traditionalist, I’d be happy to discuss my unique take on all this.

Secondly, if you know who Evola is, you’d probably’ve guessed it: I’m a theist. A pretty unabashed New Ager and pantheist on the “religious” side, with some more serious Hegelianism, Bergsonian and Schopenhaurian idealism, Buddhism and Taoism on the “philosophical” side. Plus most of the modern writers you would associate with that kind of thing that aren’t really New Agey in any way people would think of it now, like Ken Wilber. Although I obviously depart from all of those in places. This’ll summarize the closest things to my views on “philosophy” right now, although it obviously changes constantly, as it should, especially if your into Zen LOL.

Alright, all the politics and philosophy done with, personal stuff. Rural Upstate New Yorker, posit myself somewhere between British and American as I have an affinity for the old Spirit of ’76 Yankee rugged individualist New England forests kind of thing, but I’ve always held a deeper spiritual connection with Britain and Europe and speak with something of a cross between a Northern England and Canadian dialect. Strict PC gamer all my life, mostly RPG’s and RTS’s, but some FPS’s. Dress anachronistically and love 60’s and 70’s culture, love Celtic, British and European culture, as well as Far Eastern and Native American culture. Very European in my mannerisms. Watch association football when I can, root for the Munster team, Irish nationals, and a few English clubs, Chelsea in the big British leagues, and even the English team when Ireland isn’t playing LOL. My sn is my best friend’s nickname first, and aointas a cead, which is very badly done Irish for “union of a hundred”. I sing and I’m learning to play guitar. Music nerd, love every music genre except radio pop and rock. The big stuff is underground metal like doom, black, power, and tech death metal, classic metal, huge into classic rock and even more into psychedelic rock. I need to hear more indie stuff. And I especially love acoustic folk, probably more than anything else right now. Even like some underground and classic hip hop and rap. I try to put fun into everything I do which is why I’ll be nine times more joking and funny than everyone else on serious forum discussions, just so you know xD. And I try to be emotionally open and happy most of the time. I love my friends more than anything else in the world.

All in all, I’m probably the most “dialectical” person on here philosophically. I belong to no school of thought, am an ardent revolutionary, and try to be the most unique person I can when it comes to these things, cheers!

The Plight of the Intellectuals 1

Jack Ross assesses the Left-Neoconservatives of the Euston Manifesto persuasion. The Euston Manifesto is particularly important because it outlines what will be the ideological future of the Western ruling classes, i.e. neoconservative foreign policy views, the Zionist/Islamophobic paradigm, neoliberal economics, and the social agenda of the far Left.  Therefore, look for the grassroots right-wing to increasingly resemble the English Defense League, which is essentially the Euston Manifesto ideology for the commoners.

I’ve blogged about the EDL here before, as I find it to be a fascinating synthesis of neoconservatism and the far Left. The EDL seems to be oriented towards deplorable ends (support for the neocon international agenda while using Islamophobia as a smokescreen), but it also has a casual resemblance to what we do here, which is in some ways a synthesis of the far Left and paleoconservativism. For some time, I have predicted that the real political dividing lines in the future will be between a far Left that supports the neocon foreign policy and economic paradigm as a means of advancing social Leftism and views cultural conservatives and the far Right as its foremost enemy, and a more radical Left that zealously opposes the neocon program of permanent war abroad, re-proletarianization of the US economy, and expansion of the police state, and is more open to strategic alliances with dissident sectors on the Right in opposition to common enemies, and recognizes the necessity of such. As I’ve said before, I see this in some ways analogous to the historic rivalry between the Anarchists and the Communists.  The political battles of the future may well pit a revolutionary Left/paleconservative dissident alliance against an establishment Left/neoconservative ruling class alliance.

Do You Hate the State? 5

Murray Rothbard asked the crucial question.

Tom Paine’s radical hatred of the State and statism was and is far more important to the cause of liberty than the fact that he never crossed the divide between laissez-faire and anarchism.

And closer to our own day, such early influences on me as Albert Jay Nock, H. L. Mencken, and Frank Chodorov were magnificently and superbly radical. Hatred of “Our Enemy, the State” (Nock’s title) and all of its works shone through all of their writings like a beacon star. So what if they never quite made it all the way to explicit anarchism? Far better one Albert Nock than a hundred anarcho-capitalists who are all too comfortable with the existing status quo.

Where are the Paines and Cobdens and Nocks of today? Why are almost all of our laissez-faire limited governmentalists plonky conservatives and patriots? If the opposite of “radical” is “conservative,” where are our radical laissez-fairists? If our limited statists were truly radical, there would be virtually no splits between us. What divides the movement now, the true division, is not anarchist vs. minarchist, but radical vs. conservative. Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or no. To carry our analysis further, radical anti-statists are extremely valuable even if they could scarcely be considered libertarians in any comprehensive sense. Thus, many people admire the work of columnists Mike Royko and Nick von Hoffman because they consider these men libertarian sympathizers and fellow-travelers. That they are, but this does not begin to comprehend their true importance. For throughout the writings of Royko and von Hoffman, as inconsistent as they undoubtedly are, there runs an all-pervasive hatred of the State, of all politicians, bureaucrats, and their clients which, in its genuine radicalism, is far truer to the underlying spirit of liberty than someone who will coolly go along with the letter of every syllogism and every lemma down to the “model” of competing courts.

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.