“The state calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.”
The classical anarchist Bakunin recognized that the vanguard classes of the revolutionary struggle against state-capitalism must be the rural agricultural population, given the threat posed by urban cosmopolitan bourgeoise industrialism to their traditional way of life, and the urban lumpenproletariat, given the extreme alienation of these from bourgeoise society and the polarizing antagonisms between the bourgeoise and the lumpenproletariat. In seeking to advance the cause of anarchist revolution against the contemporary American regime, the question that must be asked involves the matter of which contemporary population groups more closely resemble the peasantry and lumpenproletariat. It is clear enough that the equivalent of the “peasantry” of modern America would be the rural farming population of the heartland areas. This class has comprised the class-base of various militant populist movements throughout US history, most recently the insurgent militia movement of the 1990s. The urban counterpart to the rural underclass would be the mass of urban inhabitants who exist on the very fringe of American society.
It is not merely coincidental that the two population groups most ignored or even despised by the Left establishment are poor and working class rural whites (whom they view as bigoted, racist, religiously fanatical, xenophobic, jingoistic, uncultured dullards) and the urban lumpenproletariat (whom they regard simply as criminals). The Left establishment is the party of cultural Marxism, eternally obsessed with left-wing identity politics (“racism, sexism and homophobia” and all that), the purpose of which is the advancement of the bourgeoise elements within the traditional minority groups. Nothing could be more subversive to the class struggle. This should be obvious enough as each of the left-identitarian factions have been severely coopted by the forces of bourgeoise liberalism. The contemporary strategy of the ruling class is to wage war against its authentic class enemies under the cover ideology of totalitarian humanism, with its triple banners of Equality, Health and Consumerism. Within this framework, poor and working class whites are attacked (along with other traditional cultural groups) for their alleged opposition to “equality”, meaning the program of state-managed multiculturalism and coercive integration relentlessly pursued by the left-wing of capital whose power is now almost fully consolidated (whether in its left-liberal or neo-conservative variations). Similarly, and in a very overlapping manner, smokers, drug users, gun owners and others are attacked for their alleged threat to “health”, “public safety” and other liberal-bourgeiose therapeutic statist pieties that evoke images of both the Jacobins and the Nazis. Lastly, class war in waged against both the rural and urban poor in the name of “urban renewal”, “development”, “property values”, “gentrification” and other manifestations of cosumerist totalitarianism.
There are no two factions of American political or social life hated and feared more intensely by the liberal-bourgeoise than “militiamen”, “racists” or “fundamentalists” among the rural, white poor or “gangs”, “drug dealers” and “criminals” among the urban, black or other non-white poor. It is these two respective classes that must form the class-base for a successful insurgency against state-capitalism. To put the question another way: Which would provoke greater fear among the ruling classes? A motley band of students, bohemians, middle-class intellectuals and counterculturalists marching in some sort of 60s-retro “protest” demonstration shouting “racist, sexist, anti-gay”, “the people united will never be defeated”, and other non-sequiters or cliched slogans? Or a phenomenon such as that which actually transpired in Dallas some years back when a New Black Panther Party convention featured Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance as its guest speaker, with Metzger noting their common hatred of the US regime, and the headlines the next day reading “Panthers, Supremacists Call for US Overthrow”? Obviously, the latter is much more fearsome in the eyes of the ruling class. Much of my approach to class theory has been shaped by my experiences as a resident of an inner-city environment with a majority black population, along with my previous experiences many years earlier as a gangster and convict. One of the best contemporary, popular works on class theory is the “Redneck Manifesto” by Jim Goad, which argues in the same manner as the Warren Beatty character in the film “Bulworth”, that underclass blacks and underclass whites have more in common with one another that either do with the bourgeoise. At the same time, Goad aknowledges (and I concur) that the proles and plebes are by nature tribalistic and that multiculturalism, feminism, homosexualism and secularism are the values that the liberal elite attempts to inculcate in the underclasses as a means of deculturation and ideological control.
This is not to say that an authentic class struggle would not have to cross boundaries of race and religion, and include women and homosexuals and all that, but that an authentically lumpenproletarian class-based movement would have to take a much different approach to these matters than that of the liberal bourgeoise, generally favoring tribalism, decentralism, separatism and mutual self-segregation (to varying degrees, of course, depending on which subsets of the respective underclass populations one is dealing with) as opposed to the integrationist, democratist ideals of the liberal elite. Bakunin recognized the need for a “revolutionary vanguard” of what he termed “principled militants” whose function would be to agitate among those population groups from whom the class-base of the revolutionary struggle would be drawn. The emergence of these “principled militants” in contemporary times requires the development of an entirely new ideological paradigm in opposition to the intellectual bankruptcy of both the reactionary Left and the neoconservative/neoliberal establishment alike. There are indeed many who are doing much useful and important work in this area. In economics, there are presently in the works efforts to synthesize traditional anti-statist labor radicalism with the best insights of modern economic thought, such as that of the Austrian school. In geopolitics, there are efforts underway to establishing a strategic geopolitical framework that can successfully challenge American imperial domination. In cultural matters, there are efforts to build a principled defense of both traditionalism and pluralism against totalitarian humanist multiculturalism. However, there remains the problem of how to go about conveying these perspectives and objectives to the masses.
Several important distinctions need to be drawn concerning various sectors and layers of the population groups likely to form the foundation of any new radical insurgency. The most essential of these on which we need focus are the intellectual/political leadership of the insurgency (the “principled militants”), the vanguard classes (the “lumpenproletariat” and “neo-peasantry”) and the broader array of constituent groupings likely to form the general populist framework of a new radicalism. The intellectual/political leadership corps will always be restricted to a relatively small of number of persons, not so much out of a deliberate elitism or exclusivism as much from the simple fact that most people are not intellectuals and have no interest in ideology or in esoteric or arcane economic theory beyond ordinary bread and butter issues. Even in the days of the classical socialist and classical anarchist labor movements it was commonly recognized that the workers typically exhibited no particular revolutionary motivations beyond what was at the time called “trade union consciousness”. This is likely to be even more the case in contemporary and future times. At the present juncture, the primary responsibility of the proponents of a new radicalism is to develop the proper intellectual foundations that can guide us in the struggle to come. Indeed, there are many who are doing just that. Illustrating a “trickle down” theory that actually works, the intellectual formulations developed by the philosophical elite subsequently work their way downward into the ranks of the plebes and proles. It is of the utmost importance to make and maintain a sharp distinction between the “vanguard classes” of the struggle and the “peripheral”, “constituent” or “popular” sectors to be included in the wider revolutionary populist umbrella.
If the great masses of unable to raise themselves above bread and butter questions, perhaps decorated with the accoutrements of one or another set of cultural myths, then it becomes essential to recognize that strategic questions concerning the matter of how to best combat the grave dangers ahead must be approached with the utmost delicacy. It is, of course, essential to maintain a specific hierachy of priorities in the struggle against the System. The prevention of the expanded domination of the New World Order on the international level and the preemption and overthrow of the ever-expanding police on the domestic level are of the primary concerns at hand. Beyond this, there is the matter of the class struggle in the purely economic realm, relevant environmental questions, social conflicts in need of resolution and the do-gooder social reform matters so near and dear to the hearts of so many on the Left. The struggle against imperialism and the police state must in some ways be a separate struggle from the broader array of economic or social struggles. On the question of imperialism, the burden of the resistance must unfortunately fall on those outside the borders of the domestic US. The Islamic fundamentalists have taken up this challenge zealously and thoroughly. It is common knowledge that during the Vietnam War the only thing that Middle America hated more than the war itself was the antiwar movement. Despite the unpopularity of the present war in Iraq, there is no antiwar movement of any significance, most likely because of the absence of military conscription and the still relatively low number of US casualties when comparisons to the Vietnam conflict are made. It is unlikely that the “American people” will ever rise to a level of anti-imperialist consciousness beyond that of a “Bring the Boys Home” variety. Therefore, the anti-imperialist propaganda of the revolutionary movement must be shrouded in a quasi-isolationist package of the type wisely advocated by the current populist Right.
The struggle against the police state raises even greater challenges. Most people are conditioned to respect authority and to fear disorder. It will be possible to partial overcome this obstacle as more and more people find themselves victimized by the perpetrators of the police state. However, it goes without saying that the proper constituency for full-blown resistance must come from those most frequently in conflict with the System and who have the least to lose by expanding that conflict. In all of my travels and political activities over the years, there is no group whom I have found to be more aware of the true nature of the System than the urban lumpenproletariat. I have often found that when discussing the System with ex-convicts, gang members, drug addicts and dealers, street punks, homeless people, prostitutes, the various population sectors that comprise urban street life and residents of urban ghettos, these people are already profoundly aware of simple truths that lengthy discussions and debates with middle class persons, even professed political radicals, or even conventional working class persons, are unable to convey. It is these and other similar populations that recognize, for example, that the police are nothing more than the attack dogs of the ruling class and the state’s apparatus of repression and control euphemistically referred to as the “criminal justice system” is simply a sham business designed to enrich and empower its proprietors. Therefore, the most hard-core elements to drawn into the struggle against the police state must originate from these urban lumpenproletarian sectors.
This is likely to prove to be the most difficult as well as the most dangerous of any radical undertaking. It is essential that any authentically radical program include within its efforts outreach projects to all of these population groups. Indeed, the more intelligent individuals among these sectors could well be eventually worked into the ranks of the revolutionary leadership corps, understanding as they do the naked truths regarding the nature of the System. The defense of the lumpenproletariat as a class is vital to the broader class struggle against state-capitalism. Conventional Leftists are aware of the way in which the System exploits differences of race and culture among its subject populations as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy. However, there is considerably less awareness of the means by which the System pits the so-called “respectable” poor and working class against the lumpenproletariat in still another “divide and conquer” effort, particularly for the sake of strengthening the police state. It has been my observation that the urban lumpenproletariat comes under attack most frequently from those elements who also target low-income housing, fast food establishments, late night restaurants, music clubs, tattoo parlors, strip joints or adult bookstores, youth hang-outs, bicyclists, skateboarders, the so-called “squeegeeists”, street vendors or peddlers, shelters and soup kitchens, rooming houses and high-residency apartment complexes, graffitti art, squatters, housing trailers, cruising strips frequented by teen-agers, parties held by college students, all-night bars and nightclubs, and virtually anything else not in conformity with bourgeiose class or lifestyle interests. Therefore, solidarity among all non-bourgeoise economic or cultural interests is required.
One question that most radicals consistently refuse to address with full honesty is the matter of armed struggle. I can think of no explanation for this beyond mere cowardice generated by a culture of materialism and the prevalence of an intellectual culture with “nonviolence” being some sort of aesthetic principle, with the latter probably being a derivative of the former. It is, of course, vitally necessary that any sort of radical movement worthy of the name, particularly one that claims to be “anarchist” in nature, prepare itself for the day when an armed showdown with the state will be necessary. Probably no other aspect of my own political outlook has generated more controversy or confusion. Those who attack my own views on this matter often give the appearance of believing that the state, the ruling class and their entire police state, military-industrial complex, prison-industrial complex will simply “wither away” magically once the revolution comes. Reality will not be so kind. It is impossible to predict the specific set of circumstances that will lead to the collapse of the US regime. My own wild guess would be that it will probably happen in the same manner as the disintegration of the Soviet Union. However, there will continue to be left behind a vast array of vested interests who will not go away without a fight. It is a vital necessity that proponents of a new radicalism take military matters seriously and recognize that a future revolutionary party or coalition must maintain militia, paramilitary and guerrilla forces of their own. It is a reasonable assumption that many of these will be drawn from those expressions of the lumpenproletariat or neo-peasantry who are already most heavily armed.
The maintenance of a friendly relationship between the political leadership corps and the urban street gangs would be of immense value to the revolutionary struggle. These groups are already de facto at war with the state anyway. Such groups often provided the initial recruits for insurgent forces that emerged out of 1960s era radicalism such as the Black Panthers or Brown Berets. They already possess an organizational infrastructure and are well-armed. Many of their so-called “criminal” activities, such as drug dealing or numbers running, are entirely victimless. Even some of their common crimes, such as theft or even murder, are miniscule when compared to the crimes of the state. I’ll take the Gangster Disciples over Salvadoran death squads any day. So what if gangbangers occasionally shoot each other over drug markets? Who cares? One can argue that such activities pose lethal dangers to innocent bystanders, and indeed they do, but an educated guess would be that the number of truly “innocent” persons killed or injured in such disorder is relatively small when compared, for example, to the number of persons killed in the current Iraq war, including tens of thousands of civilians. We should aspire to be anarchist revolutionaries and not “law and order” conservatives.
In applying Lawrence Dennis’ concept of “operational thinking” to anarchist revolutionary strategy, the two most significant questions that emerge become: What is a realistic set of objectives for the anarchist movement? How are these objectives best achieved? Generally, we should aspire to prevent the full consolidation of the New World Order, primarily through the defeat of the US regime. In the process of this struggle, we need to develop practical but radical solutions to the numerous economic and social problems that inevitably arise, while recognizing that Utopia is not an option. An additional matter involves the question of what sort of organizational vehicle will best serve these ends. Given the nature of American history and politics, a new political party, a genuinely revolutionary party to challenge the hegemony of the Republicans and the discredited Democrats, would seem to be the best route to embark upon. The anarchist revolutionary intellectual/political/philosophical elite would then serve as the leadership corps of this party. The party’s internal infrastructure would be decentralized, with the party essentially organized as a de facto federation of local or regional parties. The party should maintain an economic, political and military arm, along with a wider periphery of support groups and alternative infrastructure. The party should offer as a new ideological paradigm a type of libertarian-socialist/third-positionist/anarchist-populism.
The value of a decentralized party infrastructure would be both its relevance as a model for a post-revolutionary system as well as a strategic method of working around divisive cultural, religious, ethnic and other issues. The relevance of this model of political organization to the relationship between the lumpenproletariat and the revolutionary struggle would be its utility in the formation of strategic alliances with the varying sectors of the lumpenproletariat while at the same time employing an overall populist rhetorical and constituent development framework. In the major urban centers, for example, we might seek to form political interest groups on behalf of drug users, prostitutes and other marginalized populations modeled after such organizations currently in existence in many European cities or nations. Likewise, we might seek the development of prisoner unions of the type that began to emerge very briefly during the turmoil and upheavals of the 1960s-70s era. Furthermore, we might seek to incorporate urban street gang structures into our party militia formations. The function of these militias would be two-fold. First, the military defeat of municipal police organizations under control of local bourgeoise oligarchs. Secondly, as foundation for a broader popular army of resistance to the last remaining vestiges of the state-capitalist regime. To some degree, we can work with both conventional left-wing organizations as well as separatist/nationalist elements among the traditional minority groups on these issues, while recognizing that our own agenda is considerably more comprehensive than theirs.
The principal obstacles to the successful development of an effective new radicalism are the sectarian nature of most adherents of the current radical tendencies and the residual influence of the universalist presumptions constituting some of the more negative features of the intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment. The first essential task of the next wave of Bakuninist “principled militants” to the development of a new intellectual paradigm capable of combatting such well-entrenched sectarianism and universalism. The second task is the positioning of the intellectual and political leadership of the next wave of authentic class struggle anarchism (that is, class-based politics from an anti-statist perspective) as “mediating coordinators” for the creation of the necessary political coalitions for a total war against the modern state. As a model for such a struggle, we need only to look at our enemies. Our ruling class enemy maintains the neoconservative/neoliberal paradigm as its intellectual foundation, with the corporate mercantilists and liberal bourgeoise as its class base, and a spectrum of stooges ranging from the religious right/Christian Zionists to the black bourgeoise and gay lobby as its grassroots shock troops. Likewise, the new revolutionary movement would maintain a populist-nationalist/libertarian-socialist/third-positionist/anarchist-populist intellectual paradigm, the lumpenproletariat and neo-peasantry (within a larger class-transcendent populist framework) as its economic base, and a spectrum of periphery, alllies and fellow travelers ranging from Far Left to Far Right to the Radical Center. Just as recruits into the US army range from a disproportionately high number of minorities on one hand to “good ole boy” conservatives on the other, so would our revolutionary armed forces likely maintain a similar dichotomy. Among the most militant and effective of our fighters will likely be those whom the state grants the title of “criminal”. How wonderfully ironic!
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