Martin Van Creveld’s masterful work The Rise and Decline of the State argues that the nation-state system as it has been known since the time of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia is on its way out. As the twenty-first century progresses, conventional states of the kind that began to emerge several centuries ago and fully established themselves in the 19th and 20th centuries will be challenged by regional autonomist movements, transnational federations, separatist breakaway movements and “fourth generation” private armies and sources of authority outside the state.
If this is true, then the next wave of political radicalism will be the precise opposite of the radicalisms that arose in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries-liberalism, socialism and nationalism-all of which aimed towards more concentrated political authority. More than a century and a half since Proudhon first proclaimed himself an anarchist, it is time for anarchism to achieve its moment in the sun. What would a 21st century revolutionary anarchism look like?
1. It would draw on the history of classical anarchism and other pre-existing forms of anarchism, but modify these to make them more compatible with the times.
2. It would attack the left, i.e., liberalism and Marxism, as its primary enemies, particularly in North America, given that North America has no historical attachment to the Ancien Regime and the traditional right. Instead, the enemy to be assaulted is modern bourgeoise liberalism (internationalist, social democratic, corporatist, multiculturalist, therapeutist, managerialist)
3. It would specifically embrace movements, causes and groups ignored by the Left establishment, focusing primarily on the lumpenproletariat, petite bourgeoise, rural agricultural population and the declasse elements from all class backgrounds.
4. It would crossover to the radical middle with a populist-decentralist economic outlook standing in opposition to both big government and big business.
5. It would crossover to the vast culture of right-wing populism recognizing the many economic, foreign policy, civil liberties, decentralist and cultural rights issues raised by these milieus.
6. Its primary strategy would be the creation of alliance of local and regional secession movements spanning the cultural and ideological spectrum but united against the common enemies of state, capital, and empire.
7. The leadership corps of such movements should ideally be hardline revolutionaries with a commitment to radical action and an understanding of the major issues.
8. Aside from a populist-decentralist economic platform, such a movement would assemble coalitions of constituent groups at the local and regional level with grievances against the state and in favor of the decentralization of power.
9. Such a movement would seek to establish alternative infrastructure so as to reduce dependency on state services and to transfer responsibility to non-state services following the demise of the state.
10. Such a movement would recognize the legitimacy of armed self-defense against the ruling class, and so seek to establish private defense forces independently of the state.
So what would the endgame be?
1. Limited, decentralized and federative political institutions and the elimination of the gargantuan states of modernity.
2. Cooperative, decentralist economics outside the modern fiefdoms of state capitalism.
3. Non-interventionist foreign policy in opposition to both neoconservative “global democratic revolution” or leftist “human rights internationalism”.
4. Defense of civil liberties and individual freedom across the board, whether on seemingly right-wing populist issues like the right to bear arms or seemingly left-wing counterculture issues like drug decriminalization.
5. An authentically pluralist approach to social and cultural matters, where the basis of social organization is autonomous ethnic, religious, cultural, familial, linguistic, sexual, commercial, aesthetic or other such particularist enclaves.
So how do we get started?
To some degree, we see the beginnings of such a movement in the Ron Paul campaign, a grassroots revolt against the neocon’s foreign policy agenda, Kirkpatrick Sale’s and Michael Hill’s alliance of neo-secessionist factions, the emergence of the New Right as a genuine intellectual challenge to liberalism and Marxism, the resolutions local communities have issued against the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and other abominations of the present system, the success of popular referendums in favor of medical marijuana, the rise of the militia movement in defense of the 2nd Amendment in the 1990s, the rise of the anti-globalization movement a few years later, the economic scholarship advanced by Kevin Carson and other contemporary decentralists, and many other things that serve as prototypes for what might be done in the future.
I favor a trickle-down/trickle-up, inside/outside strategy. This means at the top level we need a new generation of scholars to emerge that challenge the hegemony of neoconservatism and reactionary leftism in the cultural and intellectual realms. At the bottom level, we need streetfighting radical activists devoted to the kinds of ideas that have thus far been outlined. We need those who work on the outside (like citizens militias confronting agents of the state when necessary or feasible) and on the inside (lawyers and lobbyists fighting the system on its own turf like the ACLU or the NRA).
Obviously, there is much work to be done.