AttacktheSystem.Com is Now Ten Years Old 1

January 25 will be the tenth anniversary of Attack the System’s first appearance online. Special thanks to all of those who have supported or contributed to ATS over the years. For newer readers or those with a taste for nostalgia, here’s what we looked like in the old days. Check it out.

As a veteran of the conventional left-wing anarchist movement in the 1980s, I started to realize around 1990 that there was a whole world of ideas and issues that anarchists were ignoring in favor of their usual focus on countercultural lifestyles and left-liberal popular causes. I became interested in developing a new kind of anarchist movement that would not necessarily turn its back on everything that came before, but would draw on a much wider array of influences and incorporate a much broader perspective into its analysis. Throughout the 1990s, I observed movements like the patriot/militia folks, the anti-globalization movement, and the Austro-libertarians, and realized that the internet would be the best tool for developing the kind of alternative anarchist movement I wished to see emerge. That’s how AttacktheSystem.Com was born. The name was originally suggested to me by an 18 year old college student I met at an anti-drug war protest in November, 2000, and the original version of ATS was designed by a friend of mine’s younger brother who was still in high school at the time.  Right from the start, we were a thorn in the side to the anarcho-leftoids and have been ever since. Infoshop.Org placed us in their Index of Forbidden Websites. For the most part, I have always regarded our critics among the leftoid-anarchists as the public relations and marketing division of ARV/ATS as few others have made more effort than they to publicize what we do here. Essentially, they play the same role as Jesus freaks passing out fliers at a Marilyn Manson concert saying “Don’t Let Marilyn Manson Send Your Soul to Hell” thereby increasing the mystique and exotic appeal associated with performers like MM.

I’m actually amazed at how rapidly alternative anarchism has grown, particularly over the last few years. Now it seems like new sites, blogs, or local groups are popping up every week. What we see going on right now in Western anarchism is some good old fashioned Darwinian evolution. The archaic anarcho-leftoids who still think it’s 1969 will have to either adapt or face extinction.

What Would the Right-Wing of Pan-Secessionism Look Like? 5

I have a piece up at AlternativeRight.Com where I take a look at Alex Jones. Read it here. I argue that the kinds of elements Jones appeals to might be the ground level forces for the Alternative Right just as the fans of “conservative talk radio” and FOX News are the grassroots support base for the neoconservatives.

Expanding this analysis a bit, the ground level right-wing populism of the Alex Jones crowd might well be what the right-wing of pan-secessionism would look like at the lower levels. I’ve suggested before that a strategically effective pan-secessionism would need a left-wing, a center-wing, and right-wing, with the right-wing element being precisely the kind of consistent anti-establishment populism that Jones promotes. It does not matter that Jones’ particular analytical framework is rather shabby (to say the least), or even whether Jones himself is even sincere in his rhetoric. All that matters is that Jones has managed to put together an audience of people from the populist-right with consistently anti-establishment views.

This raises the question of what the left and center wings of pan-secessionism would look like at the ground levels. It’s somewhat easy to imagine what a left-wing version of Alex Jones might be. The grassroots left-wing of pan-secessionism would probably look like some of kind synthesis of left-anarchism, left-libertarianism, Alexander Cockburnism, Noam Chomskyism, neo-yippieism, and neo-Black Pantherism, and intermixed with all sorts of countercultural, New Age, occult, left-conspiracist, and “alternative lifestyle” influences and tendencies. My best guess at present that the center-wing of pan-secessionism would look somewhat like the Ron Paul and/or Tea Party movements, but sufficiently radicalized to the point that they take a consistently anti-establishment line and are open to more radical propositions as opposed to simply being Republican dupes or hoping to elect “one of us” to the presidency.

And, of course, the primary task I envision for the alternative anarchist movement and its allies is to the coordinating forces that are capable of bringing all of these elements together into a strategic alliance for the sake of carrying out the pan-secessionist effort.

The Assessment Revisited: Again 2

by Michael Parish

After posting my official reply to my critics last night, I paid a visit to Keith’s blog only to find that another voice had slipped under my radar. Normally, I would compose a brief rejoinder and post it in the comment’s section; the considerable length of this particular response, however, necessiates an official reply. So, I find myself compelled to return to the drawing board….

Jared

” Interesting essay and comments, I think that the discussion in the comments shows the weaknesses of ideological labelling in that if you call yourself a left-libertarian, anarchist, or conservative inevitably you associate yourself with a whole laundry list of positions in the minds of most people.”

Why thank you, and an astute observation regarding the ambiguity of ideology.

” In this specific instance, there are probably some self described left-libertarians who fit Michael’s description but, the majority probably do not. I myself have given up trying to put any ideological label on my beliefs; other people can do so if they wish.

And the disagreement sets in early. My description was informed by my readings of Left-Libertarian writings, all of whom betrayed those conceptions. I have observed that the adherence to such views is implicit rather than pronounced, leading me to believe that it is largely unconscious on their part.

“As for Michael’s essay, I agree with his points regarding economic determinism and the importance of cultural factors. Turning the economy into an idol is an error that I think both left and right leaning libertarians are susceptible to. The importance of culture is also one area where I would agree with Michael though the conclusions that I come to are radically different than his.”

Neato, although I was referring more to the tendency to totalize than idolize the economy, the latter fallacy being a common flaw in many, far too many ideologies. As for he and I disagreeing over cultural determinism, let’s have a looksie shall we?

” Now onto my areas of disagreement with the article. The first thing that caught my attention was his bringing up of the individualism vs. collectivism thing. He accuses left-libertarians of holding to a theory of atomistic abstract individualism in contrast to his communitarian ideal.”

I never in my critique mentioned the dispute between individualism and collectivism. What I did mention was the unsoundness of the liberal conception of the individual as an autonomous unit, and the logical absurdity of proceeding with that as your theoretical basis. For clarification, communitarianism is not a preferential “ideal” on my part; it’s something that I have come to view as a practical necessity for dealing with quantitative concerns in the absence of the state. The term “atomism” as I employ it refers to the philosophic view of society as a sum total of individuals and individual agency, reducible to the sum of its parts; not to the disintegration of previously organic social structures, though I attack that as well.

“The first thing that I want to point out in the whole debate over individualism and collectivism is the assumption that there is an inherent conflict at all times between the individual and society. I am not convinced that such a conflict must necessarily exist. ”

Human thought and human society cannot be reduced to the simplistic polarity between “individualism and collectivism,” which I will address later in this piece. I’m similarly unconvinced of the unavoidability of the conflict he mentions, albeit positing a different solution to it.

“One thing I want to point out about this criticism of individualism is that it is often made by people who hold to an abstract notion of collectivism. What I mean by that is that collective notions like society, race, nation, are given an existence of their own independent of people who make up these collectives.”

In my travels, I’ve come to the opinion that different peoples and their respective cultures are objects of value worthy of preservation. It may be objected that such notions are unquantifiable but these stem from the flaw of strict rationalism; they are easily experienced, particularly in their absence. Apart from this, my criticism of abstract individualism is not leveled from an ethnonationalist perspective; he is drifting from addressing my critique to an unrelated tangent.

“This is in contrast to the idea that our actions can affect others and so social rules should take that fact of existence into account, which is something that I agree with. The thing with abstract collectivism is that the institutions are the things that are important and people have a duty to serve them rather than the institutions serving the individuals.”

Actually, thinkers with a particularist cultural outlook typically do acknowledge and emphasize that fact. The relation between the individual and the institution is reciprocal, the latter earning service from the former through service to the former; it cannot be either the slave devotion he denounces or the one sided entitlement he favors.

“The abstract individualism that Michael imputes to left libertarians is probably only held by a psychopath, it may be the case that sometimes libertarians in general underestimate the degree to which an individual’s actions affect other people, but I think the consequences of that error pale in comparison to what abstract collectivism has wrought. I think that concrete “real” individualism which recognizes actual people as being preeminent over institutions is not only compatible with social harmony, but is in fact necessary for an advanced society that values progress.”

If Aster and her ilk could be defined as “psychopaths” then my impution would be correct. Libertarian fallacies extend far beyond the underestimation he mentions; their conception of the individual, as an autonomous unit emanating as if from thin air, is unsubstantiated. Recognizing individual preference is important but it can’t be the basis of a social theory; individuals are from the start shaped by the institutions to which they are related, and their functioning in life determined by them; faltering institutions produce defective individuals, whose actions in turn create a faltering society. Hence the importance of cultivating healthily functioning institutions prior to the individual, for the purpose of what Jared terms “social harmony.” I do not subscribe the trajectory of “progress”; it’s a belief unsubstantiated by anything empirically observable in human history.

” In contrast to this, collectivism in my view has been responsible for the retardation of human civilization. At bottom, the collectivism promoted by authoritarians including these paleocons and others is at bottom an authoritarian, fear-driven, and anti-liberty mentality. This is the mentality that is behind the fear-driven rhetoric of the so-called war on terror and the calls coming from that camp for people to sacrifice their liberties in the service of a greater good. You also see this mentality in cults that control their members as well as in primitive societies where ignorance and fear prevail and where such things prevail, collectivism finds fertile soil.”

This first statement is not backed by examples and I will therefore decline to respond. If your definition of “authoritarian” is statist, then Paleoconservatives do not nearly equal the authoritarianism of the managerial liberals they (and I) criticize. They also do not support the foreign and domestic proclivities of the neoconservatives; I fear our friend here is conflating the two out of ignorance. Collectivism is an umbrella term encompassing a wide number of otherwise unrelated ideologies, not a spirit or essence invisibly running through all of them. The forms of group-think one encounters in neoconservatism, “primitive” societies, and religious cults all have noticable qualitative distinctions.

“In contrast to this, the more enlightened and secure people are, the less collectivistic doctrines have any appeal.”

Give me a concrete definition of the term “enlightened”, as this is a quality I have never seen instantiated in any actual society.

“Those rare individuals who have advanced civilization and brought us beyond our animal origins were those who had the courage to go against both the sheep and their wolf masters.”

Agreed, although an individualist impulse can just as easily led to mediocrity and stupidity in those who have it.

“Collectivism in my mind is responsible for the way in which people discriminate against people because of race, sexual orientation, and other characteristics because they don’t see that person as an individual, but just as part of a group that a person has attached certain traits to in his/her mind.”

Agreed again, although there are qualitative differences between groups that impact the functioning of the societies in which they exist. One instance of this is the Hispanic population in California, the members of which generally hold culturally conservative views on the issues of religion, gender, and sexuality. As they increase in number, they will increase in influence, and social policies in the state will shift noticably rightward as a result. Group membership may be a non-issue within the microsphere of daily human interaction, but not within the broader macrosphere of politics. In the realm of political theory, this must be factored into account, and and the failure to do so is one of the insufficencies of strict individualism.

“Also, the sort of inter-group violence is a product of a collectivist mentality in my mind. Left-libertarians by their universalism (which the author is against) at least would apply a minimum standard of treatment to everyone on the planet in contrast to the tribal nature of the sort of politics that Michael endorses.

Agree with the first statement, although I don’t see inter-group tension taking a hike anytime soon. My stated opposition to universalism is it’s lack of grounding in reality; everything is a particular, and can only be seen as a universal through limited vision. I don’t advocate “tribal” politics; this is a gross misinterpretation of my views arrived at through knee jerk fear of illiberal social views.

” In other words, you don’t see these atomised individualistic libertarians going out and hacking people to death with machetes because they are part of an outside group. It’s the tribal mentality that generates that sort of behaviour.”

Nope, but similar behavior has been reported in another, earlier group whose rhetoric rather closely predated that of “these atomised individualistic libertarians.”

“On the issue of culture, I agree that liberal ideas have only existed so far for the most part among northern European populated nations from the 17th century onward and areas where these groups are most prevalent are where these values are the most ingrained. Whether that will always be the case is something that I don’t think can be answered one way or the other yet. That is one of the reasons that I am a little concerned about mass immigration from other cultures with different values into these nations although I don’t take the hysterical anti-immigration stance of some. The irony is that those who hold to the sort of politics of collectivism ought to have a favourable attitude towards these people with non-liberal values coming in. ”

Agreed entirely, and this is another instance of the insolvency of both strict individualism and universalism.

” As for left-libertarians sharing the same presuppositions as the modern state, well so what? Even the most rabid neocon believes in basic human rights, free speech, is opposed to genocide etc. I am thankful for anyone that shares the basic ideas of the enlightenment, which in my opinion was the best thing to happen to humanity other than civilization itself. ”

Sharing the same presuppositions of the modern state limits one’s opposition to it. By “presuppositions”, human rights, free speech, and opposition to genocide were not what I was refering to. That would be the conception of society as a sum total of atoms, each one a self-serving homo economicus, with the whole existing only as a machine programmed to satisfy each’s material desires.

“The sad thing is that National Anarchists, New Rightist’s, paleocons, and other assorted types do not seem to share these basic values.”

These Rightist tendencies are not tyrants in disguise; skepticism of the idea of progress and distrust of pleasent utopian rhetoric is a form of realism and not an indicator of latent despotism. As far as free speech is concerned, the greatest current threat to that comes not from the Right but from the statist Left, and derives from humanist premises. Liberal premises can lead quite easily to authoritarianism, hence the naivete in embracing a single philosophic framework for anti-statism.

” This leads me to a conclusion that I am very unhappy about coming to. ”

Uh oh….

“That is if it comes to choosing between the societies that the afore mentioned groups would inflict upon humanity and the current system that exists, I will choose the latter. I am as much an opponent of the present system as can be.”

Jared is obviously unfamiliar with what the Right actually stands for, as his equation of marginalized dissenters with majoritarian forces actually in power attests to. Decentralized networks of organically constituted communities cannot be possibly be as intolerable as the current system, making this perhaps the oddest statement I’ve yet read. As far as the notion of “humanity” is concerned, I suggest you heed this:

“Man is ‘an invention of recent date’ that will soon ‘be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea’” -Michel Foucault

” I am as much an opponent of the present system as can be. I am against the state, the injustice system, corporatism, the war machine, probably more laws than most libertarians are against, and so on. When I read stories in the news about people being busted for victimless crimes, it probably raises my blood pressure so high that I’m surprised I haven’t had a stroke by now. The thing is that I am against the system because of its illiberal nature and not because of the liberalism that it has. I am opposed to totalitarian humanism and managerial liberalism because I believe that they are fundamentally opposed to true liberal ideals by their authoritarian natures. I believe that concern over totalitarian humanism by the groups that I have mentioned is a smokescreen to mask their opposition to the most basic liberal ideals. ”

I agree with all this, although I don’t see all “liberal ideals” as worthy of embracing, particularly the ones not grounded in reality. There is more to the world than the simplistic black and white “liberal versus evil” polarity he adheres to.

He then ended with a drift into a commentary on racialist ideologies that was entirely irrelevant and unrelated to my article.

In closing, Jared’s response was another instance of someone misinterpreting my views and responding to them with strawmen, even if he did so with admirable civility. This has prompted me to compose a detailed exposition of my actual views, for the purpose of clarification and continuing this dialogue.

Almost Everything Is A Crime In America Now 1

From The Economic Collapse

#1 A Michigan man has been charged with a felony and could face up to 5 years in prison for reading his wife’s email.

#2 A 49-year-old Queens woman had bruises all over her body after she was handcuffed, arrested and brutally beaten by NYPD officers.  So what was her offense?  The officers thought that her little dog had left some poop that she didn’t clean up.

#3 A 56-year-old woman who was once a rape victim refused to let airport security officials feel her breasts so she was thrown to the floor, put in handcuffs and arrested.

#4 In Milwaukee, one man was recently fined $500 for swearing on a public bus.

#5 Several years ago a 12-year-old boy in South Carolina was actually arrested by police for opening up a Christmas present early against his family’s wishes.

#6 In some areas of the country, it is now a crime to not recycle properly.  For example, the city of Cleveland has announced plans to sort through trash cans to ensure that people are actually recycling according to city guidelines.

#7 A 12-year-old girl from Queens was arrested earlier this year and taken out of her school in handcuffs for writing “Lex was here. 2/1/10″ and “I love my friends Abby and Faith” on her desk.

#8 Back in 2008, a 13-year-old boy in Florida was actually arrested by police for farting in class.

#9 The feds recently raided an Amish farmer at 5 AM in the morning because they claimed that he was was engaged in the interstate sale of raw milk in violation of federal law.

#10 A few years ago a 10-year-old girl was arrested and charged with a felony for bringing a small steak knife to school.  It turns out that all she wanted to do was to cut up her lunch so that she could eat it.

#11 On June 18th, two Christians decided that they would peacefully pass out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk outside a public Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan and within three minutes 8 policemen surrounded them and placed them under arrest.

#12 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 5oo dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free.  So what was his crime?  Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them do it.

#13 Once upon a time, a food fight in the cafeteria may have gotten you a detention.  Now it may get you locked up.  About a year ago, 25 students between the ages of 11 and 15 at a school in Chicago were taken into custody by police for being involved in a huge food fight in the school cafeteria.

#14 A few years ago a 70 year old grandmother was actually put in handcuffs and hauled off to jail for having a brown lawn.

Antimodernist Autonomism: Where Left and Right Meet 5

A correspondent recently informed me of Arthur Versluis’ article, “Antimodernism” (Telos, no. 137, winter 2006, pp. 96-130). This passage is particularly relevant to what we do here: (pp. 122-123):

“Indeed, even those who are often termed ‘leftists’ or ‘anarchists’ share a great deal with what is often termed the ‘far right,’ so much so that I think it more sensible to use the term ‘autonomist’ to describe all those antimodernists, of both the putative left and the putative right, who oppose the centralization, mechanization, bureaucratization, and technologization of life. It is hardly an accident that major anarchist figures like Peter Lamborn Wilson (under his pseudonym Hakim Bey), Bob Black, John Zerzan, and David Watson all seek to affirm individual and local autonomy in the face of what Watson, following Mumford, terms the ‘megamachine’ of technological society. Wilson’s ‘temporary autonomous zones’ (his name for areas or spheres that can be temporarily free from centralized authority) itself reminds us rather strongly of traditional conservative insistence throughout the twentieth century on local and regional autonomy, and even, in a more distant way, of ‘state’s rights’ based upon an extension of the same principle. Without a doubt, late twentieth-century anarchism belonged to the autonomist end of the political spectrum.

“While obviously these various groups and individuals represent a broad spectrum of views (and do not agree with one another on questions like the centrality of religion for human life), when it comes to antimodernism, the themes of their works are very much in harmony. For this reason, Alain de Benoist in particular and much of the European New Right in general explicitly seek a ‘red-black’ or ‘green-conservative’ alliance to cut across political boundaries that are often claimed to be impermeable, but that in fact are not only artificial but also misleading and even illusory. Benoist is quite right in this regard: there really is a fundamental area of unanimity that the theme of antimodernism reveals, and that area of unanimity joins together what once was called ‘left’ and ‘right.’ It is hardly a coincidence that the antimodernism of Noam Chomsky, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, Alain Joxe, and many others is at least partially in harmony with the antimodernism of Patrick Buchanan, Alain de Benoist, and even to some extent that new Rasputin, Alexander Dugin. They all, from various perspectives, share a profound distrust of American imperialism, of the corporatization and bureaucratization of modern life, and of the superficiality of what is often termed the ‘consumerist’ society of the spectacle, of ‘entertainment.’ ” (pp. 122-123)

We're Back in Business 1

Are anarchists back in business after 70 years? Yes, according to an AP News Report:

European anarchists grow more violent, coordinated … A loosely linked movement of European anarchists who want to bring down state and financial institutions is becoming more violent and coordinated after decades out of the spotlight, and may be responding to social tensions spawned by the continent’s financial crisis, security experts say. Italian police said Tuesday that letter bombs were sent to three embassies in Rome by Italian anarchists in solidarity with jailed Greek anarchists, who had asked their comrades to organize and coordinate a global “revolutionary war.” ~ AP News

The Enlightened White Man's Burden Reply

by Jack Ross

Pat reminds us of his brilliance yet again in taking on the ever-dreary national greatness conceit about the decline of our science and math test scores.  He cites a study by the great Steve Sailer showing that White and Asian test scores still beat all but a very few European and East Asian countries and that it is Black and Hispanic scores keeping the numbers down.  Per the above link to Lew Rockwell, I have always detested the science and math score conceit as just so much hand-wringing from the NBC school of national greatness liberalism (and to be sure, often enough, the national greatness conservatives).  But this revelation from going behind the numbers reveals something far more pernicious.

I trust it is hardly an original observation with me that all of our righteous NGO trendiness toward Africa is but so much window-dressing for keeping the white man master in Africa while China, India, and Dubai are scrambling for their respective pieces of the pie.  But the fundamental racism, pathologically determined to deny itself, of enlightened white liberalism seems most evident in the science-and-math conceit.  The pathologies of our national greatness religion cannot allow for an acknowledgment that the majority-minority America of 2050, if indeed the Union is even still in tact, will not be the harbinger of an inter-racial global millennium as they would like to believe.

This is the new white man’s burden – to uplift that chosen segment of the brown people that will yet one day lead the American empire.  It has failed before it has even begun.

"All Hedonists Are Equal, But Some Hedonists Are More Equal Than Others" Reply

Observes Paul Gottfried.

Most of the alternatives posed to the present liberal tyranny, Jim points out, are flawed or unworkable. Glorifying the wills of some superior individuals or an ideal community based on biological similarity or working class élan may be to retreat into wishful thinking or else to open the door to alternative forms of tyranny. And the liberal hedonism on which the current democratic managerial order is built enhances control by “social professionals” and “scientific administrators,” as soon as we recognize that hedonistic egalitarianism cannot provide equal gratification for everyone. What this eccentric but now prevalent ideology produces is having “experts” and “human rights” priests decide on whose claims to gratification are to be satisfied. The others will have to go to the back of the line.

See also Gottfried’s take on efforts by FOX News to send the history of the real Right in America down the memory hole.

Bradley Manning: Defending Our Freedom Reply

Kevin Carson on a genuine military hero.

When I hear someone say that soldiers “defend our freedom,” my immediate response is to gag.  I think the last time American soldiers actually fought for the freedom of Americans was probably the Revolutionary War — or maybe the War of 1812, if you want to be generous.  Every war since then has been for nothing but to uphold a system of power, and to make the rich folks even richer.

R.I.P. Aaron Zelman Reply

The leader of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership has died. See obituaries here and here.

My only contact with Aaron was a lengthy telephone conversation about fifteen years ago, but I found him to be a highly impressive individual. JPFO’s materials are some of the most compelling available when making the case against firearms prohibition laws. In particular, JPFO has gathered substantial evidence that firearms prohibition/confiscation is a frequent prelude to genocide, and has provided substantive documentation that America’s Gun Control Act of 1968 was deliberately modeled on Nazi legislation and on anti-firearms legislation enacted in the Weimar Republic before the Nazi ascension.

Attack the System at the Enforcement Level 4

So says Kevin Carson:

I saw a couple of heartening news items this past week that illustrate the same principle.  First, a judge in Missoula County Montana complained that it would soon likely become almost impossible to enforce anti-marijuana laws because of the increasing difficulty of seating juries.  In a recent drug case, so many potential jurors in the voir dire process declared their unwillingness to enforce the pot laws that the prosecution chose to work out a plea deal instead.  The defendant’s attorney stated that public opinion “is not supportive of the state’s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances …”  The same thing happened in about sixty percent of alcohol cases under Prohibition.

Public agitation against a law may be very fruitful indeed — but not so much by creating pressure to change the law as by creating a climate of public opinion such that it becomes a dead letter.

Meanwhile, Darian Worden takes down the public school system.

The control of government institutions should be shifted away from centralized power structures to people with immediate understanding and interest. Greater choice in education and more student participation in directing the learning process should be created. It is also important to foster culture that values individual character over certified economic adequacy. Public employee unions, which are political organizations with members afraid to publicly speak out against official policy, ought to be remade into, or replaced with, workers’ organizations in which a spirit of mutual aid and solidarity prevails over the goal of securing political privilege. Instead of looking to the boss for protection from the market, workers should shape the market to value humanity over hierarchy.


Anti-Wikileaks Liberals and the Cult of Authority Reply

Justin Raimondo takes down Michael Lind.

Lind’s “new nationalism,” is, I’m afraid, the same as the “old” nationalism: a flag-waving, hysterical, ingrown doctrine of delusion and rationale for unbridled militarism. It is an ideological instrument that makes repression easier to justify, even as the epitome of an enlightened “liberalism.” Like all statists, his is the idolatry of Authority, which requires secrecy as a matter of course. His socialistic vision of a highly centralized American state, which controls much of the economy and society, far from curtailing US intervention around the globe, would make it far easier for our government to marshal national resources around an aggressive foreign policy. Once they grab power, these sorts of “liberals” are usually the first to make the most of it. In Lind’s rabid ultra-nationalism, we are seeing the future of “liberalism” as it exists under President Obama – and what a discredited, foul creature it is!

Also, check out James Leroy Wilson’s “Faith in Authority“:

Many secular Statists will say that a religion is discredited when its adherents kill in the name of God. But then they have no qualms about sending our soldiers to some remote land to kill in the name of Freedom and Democracy. They will say it is wrong to censor blasphemy, but see no problem in censoring political speech to ensure “clean” elections. They think it’s wrong to regulate personal choices for “moral” reasons – but will regulate all aspects of your life in the name of “public health.”

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.