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jeudi, 23 février 2017

Discussion with Keith Preston on Pan-Secession


Discussion with Keith Preston on Pan-Secession

From Attackthesystem:

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Green in Pacific Northwest: New Europe (White Nationalist)
Black in Mississippi Delta: New Africa (Black Nationalist)
Brown along the southwest: Aztlan (Mestizo Nationalist)
Rose red in north center: Lakota (Native American)
Rose red in eastern Oklahoma: Eastern Oklahoma (Native American)

Light blue in north center: Dakota (Northern Christian State)
Light grey in south center: Kiowa (Southern Christian State)
Beige around Utah: Deseret (Mormon State)

Purple around New Hampshire: Libertarian Republic of New Hampshire
Green around Vermont: Vermont
Beige around Hawaii: Hawaii
Green around Alaska: Alaska
Orange around New York City: New York City
Hot purple around Texas: Texas

Purple around Colorado and Wyoming: Libertarian Republic
Dark Red around great lakes: Democratic States of America
Bright Red in northeast: Progressive States of America
Dark blue in southeast: Republican States of America
Yellow around west coast: Pacific Commonwealth

Light Blue along southeast coast: United States of America (rump state)

The names "Kiowa" and "Dakota" are based on native american tribes that used to live in those areas.

Deseret is the name of a state actually proposed by the Mormon Church in 1849, not something I just made up.

Though the names themselves aren't terribly important. They're more placeholders than anything else.

I made this map after hours of looking up religious, racial, and political statistics in maps and states. It also takes into account contiguity. I look at the size of general political nations, where they are most concentrated, and treat those areas as national regions.

I understand that libertarians (real libertarians, not people who say they are "socially liberal and fiscally conservative", but people who ACTUALLY ARE socially liberal and fiscally conservative), for example, while perhaps 7-8% of the US population, don't have a national region, or any area in which they are a majority. So we take the area where they are closest to a majority that is not best served in some other country, center their new nation on that area, and expand out from there based on the number of libertarians across the entire US.

If your brain is not subtle or nuanced enough to understand that, please just go away. Your input is NOT appreciated.

And I am NOT interested in some map your just pulled out of your ass in a single hour or so, or some pop-crap partition based on ecology or what you think people believe as opposed to what they actually believe.

mercredi, 23 novembre 2016

“Anarcho-Fascism”: An Overview of Right-Wing Anarchist Thought


“Anarcho-Fascism”: An Overview of Right-Wing Anarchist Thought

This is the text of a lecture delivered to the H.L. Mencken Club on November 5, 2016.

The topic that I was given for this presentation is “Anarcho-Fascism” which I am sure on the surface sounds like a contradiction in terms. In popular language, the term “fascism” is normally used as a synonym for the totalitarian state. Indeed, in a speech to the Italian Chamber of Deputies on December 9, 1928 Mussolini describe totalitarianism as an ideology that was characterized by the principle of “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

However, the most commonly recognized ideological meaning of the term “anarchism” implies the abolition of the state, and the term “anarchy” can either be used in the idealistic sense of total freedom, or in the pejorative sense of chaos and disorder.

Anarchism and fascism are both ideologies that I began to develop an interest in about thirty years ago, when I was a young anarchist militant who spent a great deal of time in the university library reading about the history of classical anarchism. It was during this time that I also became interested in understanding the ideology of fascism, mostly from my readings on the Spanish Civil War, including the works of Dr. Payne, whom I am honored to be on this panel with. And I have also looked into some of these ideas a little more since then. One of the things that I find to be the most fascinating about anarchism as a body of political philosophy is the diversity of anarchist thought. And the more that I have studied right-wing political thought, the more I am amazed by the diversity of opinion to be found there as well. It is consequently very interesting to consider the ways in which anarchism and right-wing political ideologies might intersect.

Anarchism is also normally conceived of as an ideology of the far Left, and certainly the most well-known tendencies within anarchism fit that description. The anarchist movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth century was certainly a movement of the revolutionary Left, and shaped by the thought and actions of radicals such as Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, the Ukrainian anarchists, the Spanish anarchists, and others. Anarchism of this kind also involved many different ideological sub-tendencies including anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, collectivist anarchism, and what was known as “propaganda by the deed” which was essentially a euphemism for terrorism, and other forms of anarchism that advocated violent resistance to the state, such as illegalism or insurrectionary anarchism.

There is also a modern anarchist movement that largely functions as a youth subculture within the context of the radical left, and modern anarchism likewise includes many different hyphenated tendencies like “queer anarchism,” “transgender anarchism,” or “anarcha-feminism,” and many of which, as you might guess, maintain a very “politically correct” orientation.

However, there are also ways in which the anarchist tradition overlaps with the extreme right.

FR-anadr782130414087_v100.jpgThe French intellectual historian Francois Richard identified three primary currents within the wider philosophical tradition of anarchism. The first of these is the classical socialist-anarchism that I have previously described that has as its principal focus an orientation towards social justice and uplifting the downtrodden. A second species of anarchism is the radical individualism of Stirner and the English and American libertarians, a perspective that posits individual liberty as the highest good.  And still a third tradition is a Nietzsche-influenced aristocratic radicalism, or what the French call “anarchism of the Right” which places its emphasis not only on liberty but on merit, excellence, and the preservation of high culture.

My actual presentation here today is going to be on the wider traditions of anarchism of the Right, right-wing anti-statism, and Left/Right crossover movements which are influenced by the anarchist tradition.

First, it might be helpful to formulate a working definition of “anarcho-fascism.” An “anarcho-fascist” could be characterized as someone that rejects the legitimacy of a particular state, and possibly even uses illegal or extra-legal means of opposing the established political or legal order, even if they prefer a state, even a fascist state, of their own.

There are looser definitions of “anarcho-fascism” as well, and I will touch on some of these in a moment. However, it should also be pointed out that many anarchists of the right were not part of a movement or any kind of political parties or mass organizations. Instead, their affinity for anarchism was more of an attitude or a philosophical stance although, as I will explain shortly, there were also efforts to translate right-wing anarchist ideas into a program for political action.

Anarchists of the Right during the French Revolution and Pre-Revolutionary Era

Left-wing anarchist thought can to some degree trace its roots to tendencies within revolutionary France of the late eighteenth century, as well as the pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary periods. This is also true, to some degree, of the right-wing anarchist tradition. Once again, to cite Francois Richard:

“Here, at the end of the 18th century, in the later stages of the ancien régime, formed an anarchisme de droite, whose protagonists claimed for themselves a position “beyond good and evil,” a will to live “like the gods,” and who recognised no moral values beyond personal honour and courage. The world-view of these libertins was intimately connected with an aggressive atheism and a pessimistic philosophy of history. Men like Brantôme, Montluc, Béroalde de Verville and Vauquelin de La Fresnaye held absolutism to be a commodity that regrettably opposed the principles of the old feudal system, and that only served the people’s desire for welfare.” –Francois Richard

These intellectual currents that Richard describes mark the beginning of an “anarchism of right” within the French intellectual tradition.  As mentioned previously, these thinkers could certainly be considered forerunners to Nietzsche, and later French thinkers in this tradition included some fairly prominent figures. Among them were the following:

-Arthur de Gobineau, a 19th century writer, and early racialist thinker

-Leon Bloy, a novelist in the late 19th century

-Paul Leautaud, a theater critic in the early 20th century

-Louis Ferdinand Celine, a well-known French writer during the interwar period

-George Bernanos, whose political alignments were those of an anti-fascist conservative, monarchist, Catholic, and nationalist

-Henry de Montherlant, a 20th century dramatist, novelist, and essayist

-Jean Anouilh, a French playwright in the postwar era

Among the common ideas that were shared by these writers were an elitist individualism, aristocratic radicalism, disdain for established ideological or ethical norms, and cultural pessimism; disdain for mass democracy, egalitarianism, and the values of mass society; a dismissive attitude towards conventional society as decadent; adherence to the values of merit and excellence; a commitment to the recognition of the superior individual and an emphasis on high culture; an ambiguity about liberty rooted in a disdain for plebian values; and a characterization of government as a conspiracy against the superior individual.

Outside of France

A number of thinkers also emerged outside of France that shared many ideas in common with the French anarchists of the Right. Ironically, considering where we are today, one of these was H. L. Mencken, who was characterized as an “anarchist of the right” by another French intellectual historian, Anne Ollivier-Mellio, in an academic article some years ago. An overlapping tradition is what has sometimes been referred to as “anarcho-monarchism” which included such figures as the famous author J.R.R. Tolkien in England, the artist Salvador Dali in Spain, the Catholic traditionalist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in Austria, and, perhaps most intriguingly, the English occultist Aleister Crowley, who has been widely mischaracterized as a Satanist.

Conservative Revolutionaries  

The traditions associated with right-wing anarchism also overlap considerably with the tendency known as the “Conservative Revolution” which developed among right-wing European intellectuals during the interwar period. Among the most significant of these thinkers were Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Stefan George in Germany, Maurice Barres in France, Gabriele d’Annunzio in Italy, and, considerably later, Yukio Mishima in postwar Japan.

AN 251 1.jpgPerhaps the most famous intellectual associated with the Conservative Revolution was Ernst Junger, a veteran of World War One who became famous after publishing his war diaries in Weimar Germany under the title “Storms of Steel.” Much later in life, Junger published a work called “Eumeswil” which postulates the concept of the “Anarch,” a concept that is modeled on Max Stirner’s idea of the “Egoist.” According to Junger’s philosophy, an “Anarch” does not necessarily engage in outward revolt against institutionalized authority. Instead, the revolt occurs on an inward basis, and the individual is able to retain an inner psychic freedom by means of detachment from all external values and an inward retreat into one’s self. In some ways, this is a philosophy that is similar to currents within Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies.

Yet another well-known figure from the Conservative Revolutionary era, and one that is certainly influential among the more radical tendencies on the alternative right today, is Julius Evola. Evola was a proponent of an extreme elitism that characterized the period of the Kali Yuga of Hindu civilization during approximately 800 B.C. as the high point in human development. Indeed, he considered everything that has taken place since then to have been a manifestation of degeneracy. For example, Evola actually criticized fascism and Nazism as having been too egalitarian because of their orientation towards popular mobilization and their appeals to the ethos of mass society. Evola also formulated a concept known as the “absolute individual,” which was very similar to Junger’s notion of the “Anarch,” and which can be described an individual that has achieved a kind of self-overcoming, as Nietzsche would have called it, due to their capacity for rising above the herd instincts of the masses of humankind.

Now, I must emphasize that the points of view that I have outlined thus far were largely attitudes or philosophical stances, not actual programs of political action. However, there have also been actual efforts to combine anarchism or ideas borrowed from anarchism with right-wing ideas, and to translate these into conventional political programs. One of these involves the concept of syndicalism as it was developed by Georges Sorel. Syndicalism is a revolutionary doctrine that advocates the seizure of industry and the government by means of a worker insurrection or what is sometimes called a “general strike.” Syndicalism was normally conceived of as an ideology of the extreme left, like anarchism, but a kind of right-wing syndicalism began to develop in the early twentieth century due to the influence of Sorel and the German-Italian Robert Michels, who formulated the so-called “iron law of oligarchy.” Michaels was a former Marxist who came to believe that all organizations of any size are ultimately organized as oligarchies, where the few lead the many, and believed that anti-capitalist revolutionary doctrines would have to be accommodated to this insight.

Cercle Proudhon

Out of these intellectual tendencies developed an organization called the “Cercle Proudhon,” which combined the ideas of the early anarchist thinker Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, such as mutualist economics and political federalism, with various elitist and right-wing ideas such as French nationalism, monarchism, aristocratic radicalism, and Catholic traditionalism. Cercle Proudhon was also heavily influenced by an earlier movement known as Action France which had been founded by Charles Maurras.

Third Positionism, Distributism and National-Anarchism

Another tendency that is similar to these is what is often called the “Third Position,” a form of revolutionary nationalism that is influenced by the economic theories of Distributism. Distributism was a concept developed by the early 20th century Catholic writers G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc, which postulated the idea of smaller property holders, consumer cooperatives, workers councils, local democracy, and village-based agrarian societies, and which in many ways overlaps with tendencies on the radical Left such as syndicalism, guild socialism, cooperativism or individualist anarchism. Interestingly, many third positionists are also admirers of Qaddafi’s “Green Book” which outlines a program for the creation of utopian socialist and quasi-anarchist communities that form the basis for an alternative model of society beyond both Capitalism and Communism.

Within more recent times, a tendency has emerged that is known as National-Anarchism, a term that was formed by a personal friend of mine named Troy Southgate, and which essentially synthesizes anarchism with the notion of ethno-cultural identitarianism.


Troy Southgate

Right-wing Anarchism, Libertarianism and Anarcho-Capitalism

Certainly, any discourse on right-wing anarchism needs include a discussion of the sets of ideas that are associated with Libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism of the kinds that are associated with an array of free-market individualist thinkers such as Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich August von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and, of course, Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard.

In many ways, modern libertarianism has a prototype in the extreme individualism of Max Stirner, and perhaps in thought of Henry David Thoreau as well. The more recent concept of anarcho-capitalism was developed in its most far reaching form by Murray Rothbard and his disciple, Hans Hermann Hoppe. Indeed, Hoppe has developed a critique of modern systems of mass democracy of a kind that closely resembles that of earlier thinkers in the tradition of the French “anarchists of the Right,” Mencken, and Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

SkonkonIII.jpgIt is also interesting to note that some of the late twentieth century proponents of individualist anarchism such as James J. Martin and Samuel E. Konkin III, the founder of a tendency within libertarianism known as agorism, were also proponents of Holocaust revisionism. Indeed, when I was doing research on the modern libertarian movement, I discovered that Holocaust revisionism  was actually popular among libertarians in the 1970s, not on anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi grounds, but out of a desire to defend the original isolationist case against World War Two. Konkin himself was actually associated with the Institute for Historical Review at one point.

Samuel E.  Konkin III

There are also various types of conservative Christian anarchism that postulated the concept of parish-based village communities with cooperative or agrarian economies. Such tendencies exist within the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions alike. For example, Father Matthew Raphael Johnson, a former editor of the Barnes Review, is a proponent of such an outlook.

Very similar concepts to conservative Christian anarchism can also be found within neo-pagan tendencies which sometimes advocate a folkish or traditionalist anarchism of their own.

Left/Right Overlaps and Crossover Movements

A fair number of tendencies can be identified that involved left/right overlaps or crossover movements of some particular kind. One of these was formulated by Gustav Landauer, a German anarcho-communist that was killed by the Freikorps during the revolution of 1919. Landauer was also a German nationalist, and proposed a folkish anarchism that recognized the concept of national, regional, local and ethnic identities that existed organically and independently of the state. For example, Landauer once characterized himself as a German, a Bavarian, and a Jew who was also an anarchist.

In the early 1980s, a tendency emerged in England known as the Black Ram, which advocated for an anarcho-nationalism that sought to address the concept of national identity as this related to left-wing anarchism. Black Ram was a conventionally left-wing tendency in the sense of being anti-statist, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist, but which understood nationalities to be pre-existing cultural and ethnic expressions that were external to the state as an authoritarian institution.

Dorothy_Day_1916.jpgDorothy Day was an American radical, a religious pacifist, and advocate of social justice, who combined anarchism and Catholic traditionalism. She was the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and considered herself to be a supporter of both the Industrial Workers of the World and the Vatican.

One of the godfathers of classical anarchism was, of course, Mikhail Bakunin, who was himself a pan-Slavic nationalist, and continues to be a peripheral influence on the European New Right. In fact, Alain De Benoist’s concept of “federal populism” owes much to Bakunin’s thought and is remarkably similar to Bakunin’s advocacy of a federation of participatory democracies.

Dorothy Day

There are a number of left-wing anarchists that have profoundly influenced the ecology movement that have also provided inspiration for various thinkers of the Right. Kirkpatrick Sale, for example, is a neo-Luddite and the originator of a concept known as bioregionalism. Leopold Kohr is best known for his advocacy of the “breakdown of nations” into decentralized, autonomous micro-nations. E.F. Schumacher is, of course, known for his classic work in decentralist economics, “Small is Beautiful.” Each of these thinkers is also referenced in Wilmot Robertson’s white nationalist manifesto, “The Ethnostate.”

Anarchism and Right-Wing Populism

Because American political culture contains strands of both anti-state radicalism and right-wing populism, it is also important to consider the ways in which these overlap or run parallel to each other. For example, there are tendencies among far right political undercurrents that favor a radically decentralized or even anarchic social order, but which also adhere to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories or racial superiority theories. There is actually a tradition like that on the US far right associated with groups like the Posse Comitatus.

There is also a radical right Christian movement that favors county level government organized as an uber-reactionary theocracy (like Saudi Arabia, only Christian).  Other tendencies can be observed that favor no government beyond the county level, such as the sovereign citizens, who regard speed limits and drivers’ licensing requirements to be egregious violations of liberty, the proponents of extra-legal common laws courts, and various other trends within the radical patriot movement.

The relationship between the Right and the state in many ways mirrors that of the Left in the sense that both Right and Left have something of a triangular interaction with systems of institutional and legal authority. Both Left and Right can be divided into reformist, libertarian, or totalitarian camps. In the case of the Left, a leftist may be a reform liberal or social democrat, they may be an anarchist or a left-libertarian, or they may be a totalitarian in the tradition of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others. Similarly, a rightist may advocate for reforms of a conservative or rightward leaning nature, they may be an anarchist of the right or a radical anti-statist, or a person of the Right may be a proponent of some kind of right-wing authoritarianism, or a totalitarian in the fascist tradition.

samedi, 17 septembre 2016

Robert Stark interviews Keith Preston about Thinkers Against Modernity


Robert Stark interviews Keith Preston about Thinkers Against Modernity

Robert Stark and co-host Alex von Goldstein interview Keith Preston about his book Thinkers Against Modernity

Topics include:

KP-th-1.jpgHow the book is an examination of thinkers critical of modernity from a value neutral perspective

How Keith is influenced by the intellectual tradition of the enlightenment, yet finds value in traditionalist critiques of modernity

Julius Evola as the purest critique of modernity

How the Right tends to have a pessimistic view of the present and idealizes a particular era of the past(ex. Julius Evola the 8th Century BC, Nietzsche the Sophist era in Ancient Greece, Traditional Catholics the Middle Ages, and mainstream conservatives the 1950’s or Reagan Era)

Defining characteristic of the Right include rejection of social change, egalitarianism, and universalism, and a fixed view of human nature

Nietzsche’s point that ideologies become new religions, and how the modern politically correct left is a new moralistic religion rather than genuine liberalism or Marxism

Aleister Crowley’s aristocratic individualism, and his view that capitalism and mass democracy degraded a genuine cultural elitism

The Distributist G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, their views on the distribution of capital, and their critic of capitalism as degrading traditional values

Carl Schmitt’s view that democracy was incompatible with liberal individualism

How Carl Schmitt subscribed to the realist school of though and viewed the

United States as having an ideologically driven foreign policy

The United States as a nation founded on Classical Liberalism and the Enlightenment

The European New Right, how it was founded in the late 1960’s as a counter to the New Left, fusing aspects of the New Left with the conservative revolution of the interwar period

How the New Right tried to appeal to the left on issues such as anti-globalization, anti-consumerism, anti-imperialism, and environmentalism

The New Right’s critique of political correctness, feminism, and mass immigration as being products of capitalism

Noam Chomsky on capitalism and anti-racism

The American Alternative Right, how it is influenced by the European New Right, and how it is different

Guillaume Faye’s Archeo-Futurism and futurist thought on the right

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mardi, 29 septembre 2015

Invitation to Become Who We Are

Invitation to Become Who We Are

Washington, DC

Registration: http://NPIEvents.com
Eventbrite: http://becomewhoweare.eventbrite.com




mardi, 25 mars 2014

Robert Stark Interviews Keith Preston

Keith Preston.jpg

The Stark Truth
Robert Stark Interviews Keith Preston

By Counter-Currents Radio


To download the mp3, right-click here [2] and choose “save target or link as.”

To subscribe to our podcasts, click here [3].

Robert Stark welcomes back Keith Preston of Attack the System [4]. Topics include:

  • Keith’s article “Who and I? Left, Right, or Center”: http://attackthesystem.com/2014/02/21/who-am-i-left-right-or-center/ [5]
  • How his anti imperialist views on foreign policy overlap with the far Left as well as Paleoconservative and New Right thinkers
  • How he finds his critique of capitalism often overlaps with both those of the far Left but also those of Catholic distributists and social nationalists on the far Right
  • How he shares some views on social issues with the Left, but swings back to the Right on decentralist, anti-statist or civil libertarian grounds
  • His support for regionalist and ethno-identitarian movements as a bulwark against imperialism and the Leviathan state
  • The cult of guilt by association versus intellectual freedom
  • Making a case against mass immigration to anarchists
  • His podcast “Who Are the Power Elite?”: http://attackthesystem.com/2013/12/30/attack-the-system-who-are-the-power-elite/ [6]
  • The difference between power elite analysis and conspiracy theories
  • Power elite analysis versus theories of democratic pluralism
  • How the power elite uses demographic, cultural, and class conflict to protect its own position of dominance
  • Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone and the concept of social capital
  • His podcast “Creating Alternative Infrastructure”: http://attackthesystem.com/2014/02/15/ats-roundtable-on-creating-alternative-infrastructure/ [7]


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/03/robert-stark-interviews-keith-preston-3/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/frogonbeetle.jpg

[2] here: http://cdn.counter-currents.com/radio/StarkTruth-2014-03-19-KeithPreston.mp3

[3] here: http://www.counter-currents.comitpc://feeds.feedburner.com/Counter-Currents

[4] Attack the System: http://attackthesystem.com/

[5] http://attackthesystem.com/2014/02/21/who-am-i-left-right-or-center/: http://attackthesystem.com/2014/02/21/who-am-i-left-right-or-center/

[6] http://attackthesystem.com/2013/12/30/attack-the-system-who-are-the-power-elite/: http://attackthesystem.com/2013/12/30/attack-the-system-who-are-the-power-elite/

[7] http://attackthesystem.com/2014/02/15/ats-roundtable-on-creating-alternative-infrastructure/: http://attackthesystem.com/2014/02/15/ats-roundtable-on-creating-alternative-infrastructure/

mercredi, 23 octobre 2013

Herbert Marcuse and the Tolerance of Repression


Herbert Marcuse and the Tolerance of Repression 1

by Keith Preston

Ex: http://www.attackthesystem.com

“I am not bound to defend liberal notions of tolerance.” –Left-wing anarchist activist to the author

The rise of the New Left is typically considered to have its origins in the student rebellions of the late 1960s and early 1970s when the war in Vietnam was at its height and cultural transformation was taking place in Western countries with dizzying rapidity. Yet scholars have long recognized that the intellectual roots of the New Left were created several decades earlier through the efforts of the thinkers associated with the Institute for Social Research (commonly known as the “Frankfurt School”) to reconsider the essence of Marxist theory following the failure of the working classes of Western Europe to produce a socialist revolution as orthodox Marxism had predicted.

The support shown for their respective national states by the European working classes, and indeed by the Socialist parties of Europe themselves, during the Great War which had broken out in 1914 had generated a crisis of faith for Marxist theoreticians. Marx had taught that the working classes had no country of their own and that the natural loyalties of the workers were not to their nations but to their socioeconomic class and its material interests. Marxism predicted a class revolution that would transcend national and cultural boundaries and regarded such concepts as national identity and cultural traditions as nothing more than hollow concepts generated by the broader ideological superstructure of capitalism (and feudalism before it) that served to legitimize the established mode of production. Yet the patriotic fervor shown by the workers during the war, the failure of the workers to carry out a class revolution even after the collapse of capitalism during the interwar era, and the rise of fascism during the same period all indicated that something was amiss concerning Marxist orthodoxy. The thinkers of the Frankfurt School sought to reconsider Marxism in light of these events without jettisoning the core precepts of Marxism, such as its critique of the political economy of capitalism, alienation, and the material basis of ideological hegemony.

The Institute attracted many genuine and interesting scholars some of whom were luminaries of the unique and fascinating German intellectual culture of the era of the Weimar Republic. Among these were Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Otto Kirchheimer, Franz Neumann, and Erich Fromm. But the thinker associated with the Institute who would ultimately have the greatest influence was the philosopher and political theorist Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979). The reach of Marcuse’s influence is indicated by the fact that during the student uprisings in France during 1968, which very nearly toppled the regime of Charles De Gaulle, graffiti would appear on public buildings with the slogan: “Marx, Mao, Marcuse.” Arguably, there was no intellectual who had a greater impact on the development of the New Left than Marcuse.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Marcuse and other members of the Frankfurt School immigrated to the United States and reestablished the Institute at Columbia University in New York City. Marcuse became a United States citizen in 1940 and during World War Two was employed by the Office of War Information, Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency), and the U.S. Department of State. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Marcuse was a professor of political theory at Columbia, Harvard, Brandeis, and the University of California at San Diego. During his time in academia, Marcuse continued the efforts to revise Marxism in light of the conditions of an industrially advanced mid-twentieth century society. One of his most influential works was an effort to synthesize Marx and Freud, Eros and Civilization, published in 1955, and One Dimensional Man, a critique of the consumer culture of the postwar era and the integration of the traditional working classes into the consumer culture generated by capitalism. Both of these works became major texts for the student activists of the New Left.

Because of his legacy as an intellectual godfather of the New Left and the radical social movements of the 1960s and 1970s generally, Marcuse is not surprisingly a rather polarizing figure in contemporary intellectual discourse regarding those fields where his thinking has gained tremendous influence. Much of the curriculum of the humanities departments in Western universities is essentially derived from the thought of Marcuse and his contemporaries, particularly in sociology, anthropology, gender studies, ethnic studies, and studies of sexuality, but also in history, psychology, and literature. It is quite certain that if Marcuse and his fellow scholars from the Frankfurt School, such as Adorno and Horkheimer, were still alive today they would no doubt be regarded as god-like figures by contemporary leftist academics and students. From the other end of the political spectrum, many partisans of the political right, traditionalists, religious fundamentalists, nationalists, and social conservatives regard Marcuse as the personification of evil. Because the legacy of Marcuse’s work is so controversial and polarizing, it is important to develop a rational understanding of what his most influential ideas actually were.

Although he remained a Marxist until his death, Marcuse was never an apologist for the totalitarian regimes that had emerged in Communist countries. Indeed, he wrote in defense of dissidents who were subject to repression under those regimes, such as the East German dissident Rudolph Bahro. Marcuse considered orthodox Marxism as lacking concern for the individual and criticized what he regarded as the insufficiently libertarian character of Marxism. Like many associated with the New Left, he often expressed a preference for the writings of the younger Marx, which have a humanistic orientation inspired by the idealism of nineteenth century utopian socialism, as opposed to the turgid and ideologically rigid writings of the elder Marx. The thinkers of the Frankfurt School had also been influenced by the Weberian critique of the massive growth of bureaucracy in modern societies and strongly criticized the hyper-bureaucratic tendencies of both capitalist and communist countries as they were during the Cold War period.

Marcuse regarded the consumer culture that emerged during the postwar economic boom as representing a form of social control produced and maintained by capitalism. According to Marcuse, capitalist productivity had grown to the level where the industrial proletariat was no longer the impoverished wage slaves of Marx’s era. Economic growth, technological expansion, and the successes of labor reform movements in Western countries, had allowed the working classes to achieve a middle class standard of living and become integrated into the wider institutional framework of capitalism. Consequently, workers in advanced industrial societies no longer held any revolutionary potential and had become loyal subjects of the state in the same manner as the historic bourgeoisie before them. This by itself is not an original or even particularly insightful observation. However, Marcuse did not believe that the rising living standards and institutional integration of the working classes represented an absence of exploitation. Rather, Marcuse felt that the consumer culture made available by affluent industrial societies had multiple deleterious effects.

First, consumer culture had the effect of “buying off” the workers by offering them a lifestyle of relative comfort and material goods in exchange for their continuing loyalty to capitalism and indifference to struggles for social and political change. Second, consumer culture created a kind of a false consciousness among the public at large through the use of the advertising industry and mass media generally to inculcate the values of consumerism and to essentially create unnecessary wants and perceived needs among the population. The effect of this is that people were working more than they really needed to sustain themselves in order to achieve the values associated with consumer culture. This created not only the psychological damaging “rat race” lifestyle of the competitive capitalist workforce and marketplace, but generated excessive waste (demonstrated by such phenomena as “planned obsolescence,” for example), environmental destruction, and even imperialist war for the conquest of newer capitalist markets, access to material resources, and the thwarting of movements for self-determination or social change in underdeveloped parts of the world. Third, Marcuse saw a relationship between the domination of consumer culture and the outlandishly repressive sexual mores of the 1950s era (where the term “pregnant” was banned from American television, for instance). According to Marcuse, the consumerist ethos generated by capitalism expected the individual to experience pleasure through material acquisition and consumption rather than through sexual expression or participation. The worker was expected to forgo sex in favor of work and channel libidinal drives into consumerist drives. Material consumption was the worker’s reward for avoiding erotic pleasure. For this reason, Marcuse regarded sexual expression and participation (what he famously called “polymorphous perversity”) as a potential force for the subversion of the capitalist system. As the sexual revolution grew in the 1960s, student radicals would champion this view with the slogan “make love, not war.”

As the working class had ceased to be a revolutionary force, Marcuse began to look to other social groups as potentially viable catalysts for radical social and political change. These included the array of the traditionally subordinated, excluded, or marginalized such as racial minorities, feminists, homosexuals, and young people, along with privileged and educated critics of the status quo such as radical intellectuals. Marcuse personally outlined and developed much of the intellectual foundation of the radical movements of the 1960s and exerted much personal influence on leading figures in these movements. The Black Panther figure Angela Davis and the Youth International Party (“Yippie”) founder and “Chicago Seven” defendant Abbie Hoffman had both been students of Marcuse while he taught at Brandeis. However, it would be a mistake to regard Marcuse as having somehow been a leader or founder of these movements. Marcuse did not so much serve as a radical leader during the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s as much as he was an interpreter of social and political currents that were then emerging and a scholar who provided ideas with which discontented thinkers and activists could identify. It is often argued by some on the political right that the thinkers of the Frankfurt School hatched a nefarious plot to destroy Western civilization through the seizure and subversion of cultural institutions. This theory suggests that radical Marxists came to believe that they must first control institutions that disseminate ideas such as education and entertainment in order to remove the false consciousness previously inculcated in the masses by capitalist domination over these institutions before the masses can achieve the level of radical consciousness necessary to carry out a socialist revolution. Those on the right with an inclination towards anti-Semitism will also point out that most of the luminaries of the Frankfurt School, such as Marcuse, were ethnic Jews.

Yet the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s was the product of a convergence of a vast array of forces. The feminist revolution, for instance, had as much to do with the integration of women into the industrial workforce during World War Two while the men were absent fighting the war and the need for an ever greater pool of skilled workers in an expanding industrial economy during a time of tremendous technological advancement and population growth as it does with the ambitions of far left radicals. The real fuel behind the growth of the youth and student movements of the 1960s was likely the war in Vietnam and the desire of many young people of conscription age to avoid death and dismemberment in a foolish war in which they had no stake. The sexual revolution was made possible in large part by the invention of the birth control pill and the mass production of penicillin which reduced the health and social risks associated with sexual activity. The racial revolution of the era was rooted in centuries old conflicts and struggles that had been given new impetus by growing awareness of the excesses which occurred during the Nazi period. The heightened interest in environmental conservation, concerns for populations with serious disadvantages (such as the disabled or mentally ill), increased emphasis on personal fulfillment and physical and psychological health, and concern for social and political rights beyond those of a purely material nature all reflect the achievements and ambitions of an affluent, post-scarcity society where basic material needs are largely met. Suffice to say that the transformation of an entire civilization in the space of a decade can hardly be attributed to the machinations of a handful of European radicals forty years earlier.

herbmar111.jpgThere is actually much of value in the work of the Frankfurt School scholars. They are to be commended for their honest confrontation with some of the failings and weaknesses of Marxist orthodoxy even while many of their fellow Marxists continued to cling uncritically to an outmoded doctrine. Marcuse and his colleagues are to be respected for their skepticism regarding the authoritarian communist states when many of their contemporaries, such as Jean Paul Sartre, embraced regimes of this type with appalling naivete. The critique of consumer culture and the “culture industry” offered by Marcuse, Horkheimer, and others may itself be one-dimensional and lacking in nuance at times, but it does raise valid and penetrating questions about a society that has become so relentlessly media-driven and oriented towards fads and fashions in such a “bread and circuses” manner. However, while Marcuse was neither a god nor a devil, but merely a scholar and thinker whose ideas were both somewhat prescient and reflective of the currents of his time, there is an aspect to his thought that has left a genuinely pernicious influence. In 1965, Marcuse published an essay titled, “Repressive Tolerance,” which foreshadows very clearly the direction in which left-wing opinion and practice has developed since that time.

The essay is essentially an argument against the Western liberal tradition rooted in the thinking of Locke, with its Socratic and Scholastic precedents, which came into political reality in the nineteenth century and which was a monumental achievement for civilization. In this essay, Marcuse regurgitates the conventional Marxist line that freedom of opinion and speech in a liberal state is a bourgeois sham that only masks capitalist hegemony and domination. Of course, there is some truth to this claim. As Marcuse said:

But with the concentration of economic and political power and the integration of opposites in a society which uses technology as an instrument of domination, effective dissent is blocked where it could freely emerge; in the formation of opinion, in information and communication, in speech and assembly. Under the rule of monopolistic media – themselves the mere instruments of economic and political power – a mentality is created for which right and wrong, true and false are predefined wherever they affect the vital interests of the society. This is, prior to all expression and communication, a matter of semantics: the blocking of effective dissent, of the recognition of that which is not of the Establishment which begins in the language that is publicized and administered. The meaning of words is rigidly stabilized. Rational persuasion, persuasion to the opposite is all but precluded.

Marcuse proceeds from this observation not to advocate for institutional or economic structures that might make the practical and material means of communication or expression more readily available to more varied or dissenting points of view  but to attack liberal conceptions of tolerance altogether.

These background limitations of tolerance are normally prior to the explicit and judicial limitations as defined by the courts, custom, governments, etc. (for example, “clear and present danger”, threat to national security, heresy). Within the framework of such a social structure, tolerance can be safely practiced and proclaimed. It is of two kinds: (i) the passive toleration of entrenched and established attitudes and ideas even if their damaging effect on man and nature is evident, and (2) the active, official tolerance granted to the Right as well as to the Left, to movements of aggression as well as to movements of peace, to the party of hate as well as to that of humanity. I call this non-partisan tolerance “abstract” or “pure” inasmuch as it refrains from taking sides – but in doing so it actually protects the already established machinery of discrimination.

This statement reflects the by now quite familiar leftist claim that non-leftist opinions are being offered from a position of privilege or hegemony and are therefore by definition unworthy of being heard. Marcuse argues that tolerance has a higher purpose:

The telos [goal] of tolerance is truth. It is clear from the historical record that the authentic spokesmen of tolerance had more and other truth in mind than that of propositional logic and academic theory. John Stuart Mill speaks of the truth which is persecuted in history and which does not triumph over persecution by virtue of its “inherent power”, which in fact has no inherent power “against the dungeon and the stake”. And he enumerates the “truths” which were cruelly and successfully liquidated in the dungeons and at the stake: that of Arnold of Brescia, of Fra Dolcino, of Savonarola, of the Albigensians, Waldensians, Lollards, and Hussites. Tolerance is first and foremost for the sake of the heretics – the historical road toward humanitas appears as heresy: target of persecution by the powers that be. Heresy by itself, however, is no token of truth.

This statement on its face might be beyond reproach were it not for its implicit suggestion that only leftists and those favored by leftists can ever rightly be considered among the ranks of the unjustly “persecuted” or among those who have truth to tell. Marcuse goes on to offer his own version of “tolerance” in opposition to conventional, empirical, value neutral notions of tolerance of the kind associated with the liberal tradition.

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: … it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word. The traditional criterion of clear and present danger seems no longer adequate to a stage where the whole society is in the situation of the theater audience when somebody cries: “fire”. It is a situation in which the total catastrophe could be triggered off any moment, not only by a technical error, but also by a rational miscalculation of risks, or by a rash speech of one of the leaders. In past and different circumstances, the speeches of the Fascist and Nazi leaders were the immediate prologue to the massacre. The distance between the propaganda and the action, between the organization and its release on the people had become too short. But the spreading of the word could have been stopped before it was too late: if democratic tolerance had been withdrawn when the future leaders started their campaign, mankind would have had a chance of avoiding Auschwitz and a World War.

The whole post-fascist period is one of clear and present danger. Consequently, true pacification requires the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed, at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs.

Here Marcuse is clearly stating that he is not simply advocating “intolerance” of non-leftist opinion in the sense of offering criticism, rebuttal, counterargument, or even shaming, shunning, or ostracism. What he is calling for is the full fledged state repression of non-leftist opinion or expression. Nor is this repression to be limited to right-wing movements with an explicitly authoritarian agenda that aims to subvert the liberal society. Marcuse makes this very clear in a 1968 postscript to the original 1965 essay:

Given this situation, I suggested in “Repressive Tolerance” the practice of discriminating tolerance in an inverse direction, as a means of shifting the balance between Right and Left by restraining the liberty of the Right, thus counteracting the pervasive inequality of freedom (unequal opportunity of access to the means of democratic persuasion) and strengthening the oppressed against the oppressed. Tolerance would be restricted with respect to movements of a demonstrably aggressive or destructive character (destructive of the prospects for peace, justice, and freedom for all). Such discrimination would also be applied to movements opposing the extension of social legislation to the poor, weak, disabled. As against the virulent denunciations that such a policy would do away with the sacred liberalistic principle of equality for “the other side”, I maintain that there are issues where either there is no “other side” in any more than a formalistic sense, or where “the other side” is demonstrably “regressive” and impedes possible improvement of the human condition. To tolerate propaganda for inhumanity vitiates the goals not only of liberalism but of every progressive political philosophy.

If the choice were between genuine democracy and dictatorship, democracy would certainly be preferable. But democracy does not prevail. The radical critics of the existing political process are thus readily denounced as advocating an “elitism”, a dictatorship of intellectuals as an alternative. What we have in fact is government, representative government by a non-intellectual minority of politicians, generals, and businessmen. The record of this “elite” is not very promising, and political prerogatives for the intelligentsia may not necessarily be worse for the society as a whole.

In this passage Marcuse is very clearly advocating totalitarian controls over political speech and expression that is the mirror image of the Stalinist states that he otherwise criticized for their excessive bureaucratization, economism, and repression of criticism from the Left. Marcuse makes it perfectly clear that not only perceived fascists and neo-nazis would be subject to repression under his model regime but so would even those who question the expansion of the welfare state (thereby contradicting Marcuse’s criticism of bureaucracy). Marcuse states this elsewhere in “Repressive Tolerance.”

Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc”

herbmar.jpgMarcuse’s liberatory socialism is in fact to be a totalitarian bureaucracy where those who criticize leftist orthodoxy in apparently even the slightest way are to be subject to state repression. This is precisely the attitude that the authoritarian Left demonstrates at the present time. Such views are becoming increasingly entrenched in mainstream institutions and in the state under the guise of so-called “political correctness.” Indeed, much of the mainstream “anarchist” movement reflects Marcuse’s thinking perfectly. These “anarchists” ostensibly criticize statism, bureaucracy, capitalism, consumerism, imperialism, war, and repression, and advocate for all of the popular “social justice” causes of the day. “Tolerance” has ostensibly become the ultimate virtue for such people. Yet underneath this “tolerance” is a visceral and often violent hostility to those who dissent from leftist orthodoxy on any number of questions in even a peripheral or moderate way. Indeed, the prevalence of this leftist intolerance within the various anarchist milieus has become the principle obstacle to the growth of a larger and more effective anarchist movement.

A functional anarchist, libertarian, or anti-state movement must first and foremost reclaim the liberal tradition of authentic tolerance of the kind that insists that decent regard for other people and a fair hearing for contending points of view on which no one ultimately has the last word must be balanced with the promulgation of ideological principles no matter how much one believes these principles to be “true.” A functional and productive anarchist movement must recognize and give a seat at the table to all of the contending schools of anarchism, including non-leftist ones, and embrace those from overlapping ideologies where there is common ground. A serious anarchist movement must address points of view offered by the opposition in an objective manner that recognizes and concedes valid issues others may raise even in the face of ideological disagreement. Lastly, a genuine anarchist movement must realize that there is no issue that is so taboo that is should be taken off the table as a fitting subject for discussion and debate. Only when anarchists embrace these values will they be worthy of the name.


William S. Lind. The Origins of Political Correctness. Accuracy in Academica. 2000. Archived at http://www.academia.org/the-origins-of-political-correctness/. Accessed on May 12, 2013.

Herbert Marcuse. Repressive Tolerance. 1965, 1968. Archived at http://www.marcuse.org/herbert/pubs/60spubs/65repressivetolerance.htm Accessed on May 12, 2013.

Martin Jay. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research. University of California Press, 1966.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Marcuse – cite_note-marcuse.org-9

vendredi, 12 octobre 2012

From Anarchism to The New Right

"From Anarchism to The New Right" with Richard Spencer and Keith Preston on Alternative Right


lundi, 02 avril 2012

Keith Preston on Balkanization and the state of exception

Marginalia on Radical Thinking: Keith Preston on Balkanization and the state of exception

Keith Preston writes the blog Attack the System,  which attempts to tie together both left and right anarchism in a Pan-secessionism against the empire.   While I come from a radically different perspective than Keith, I find his critique of the way many left anarchists are militant shock troops of liberalism to be a serious and disturbing critique as well as the Nietzschean critique of modernity to be taken seriously and not softened as it has been in French post-structuralism. 

Skepoet:  You started out in the libertarian socialist tradition but have moved towards a pan-anarchist movement than includes decentralized nationalists and non-socialists.   Could you describe how you left ”left” anarchism in its socialist variety?

Keith Preston:  I never really renounced “socialist-anarchism.” I’m still interested in schools of thought that fall under that banner like syndicalism and mutualism, and I still very much consider the founding fathers (and mothers!) of classical anarchism to be influences on my thought. But I did abandon the mainstream (if it could be called that) of the socialist-anarchist movement. The reason for that is the left-anarchist milieu in its modern form is simply a youth subculture more interested in lifestyle issues (like veganism and punk music) than in revolutionary politics. And to the degree that these anarchists have any serious political perspective at all, it’s simply a regurgitation of fairly cliched left-progressive doctrines.

If listen to what the mainstream anarchists talk about-gay rights, global warming, immigrants rights, feminism, anti-racism, animal rights, defending the welfare state. the whole laundry list-they don’t sound much different than what you would hear in the local liberal church parish, or at a Democratic party precinct meeting, or a university humanities course. Eventually, I came to the realization that a serious anti-state movement would need to be grounded in population groups whose core values really do put them at odds with the mainstream political culture. There are plenty of these: the urban underclass and underworld, religious sects whose exotic beliefs get them in trouble with the state, ethnic separatists, pro-gun militias, radical survivalists, drug cultures and sex cultures that are considered deviant or criminal, etc. I’ve been very happy to witness the growth of the anti-civilization movement within the ranks anarchism. What you label “decentralized nationalists” and non-socialists who oppose the state also fall into this category. So it’s not so much about abandoning what I was before as much as building on that and expanding my perspective a bit.

S:  Well, these movements have been around since the middle 1990s on my radar, but I have noticed that Occupy movement seems to have pushed this tensions back into the radical milieu, so to speak. What have you noticed in the past year on the ground?

K.P.:  I consider Occupy Wall Street to largely be a recycling of the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s. I am skeptical as to whether it will fare any better than the anti-globalization movement did. From what I have observed thus far, OWS is a fairly standard representation of the left-wing subculture, in the sense that the OWS movement seems to roll out a hodge-podge of relatively conventional left-of-center issues in a very chaotic way that lacks direction or vision. OWS is a movement that is easily ignored or coopted by the establishment because it is does not threaten the system in any particularly significant way.

I essentially see OWS as the left’s counterpart to the Teabaggers who were easily coopted by the neocons. Where are the Teabaggers today? It will be fairly easy for the Democrats to coopt OWS over the long haul. Look how easily the New Left of the 1960s was coopted and that was a far more radical movement than OWS. The problem is that OWS offers no radical vision that is fundamentally at odds with the survival of the system. OWS has not developed a position of what might be called “radical otherness” in regards to its relationship to the political establishment.

I should probably add to my answer to your first question that I still very much consider socialist-anarchism of the leftist variety to be a legitimate part of the anarchist paradigm. My criticisms of that milieu are based on my perspective that it is too narrowly focused and that it is ineffective at actually attacking the state. The number of strands of anti-state, libertarian, or anti-authoritarian radicalism are quite numerous. I consider all of these, from anarcha-feminism to Islamic anarchism to queer anarchism to national-anarchism, to be different denominations of the broader anarchist philosophy, just like the Christian religion has all of its different denominational or sectarian variations. The problem I have with the left-anarchists is that I regard them as playing the same role in anarchism that a form of sectarian fundamentalism might play in Christianity. I wish to embrace of all of the different tribes of the anarchist paradigm as brothers and sisters within the anarchist “faith,” if you will, despite our own tribal, sectarian, or denominational differences and however much the different types of anarchists may hate each other.

My goal is for a civilization to emerge eventually where anarchism becomes the prevailing political, social, and economic philosophy, just as Christianity dominated medieval European civilization, Islam dominates the civilization of the Middle East, or Confucianism dominates traditional Chinese civilization.

I try to approach controversial social, political, or economic questions from an objective, scholarly perspective  and I try to understand all different sides of issues and glean what tangible facts are available rather than simply relying on the established left-liberal paradigm that dominates the academic world as most anarchists seem to do. This ultimately leads to my taking a lot of unorthodox positions, although my primary concern in the the area of anarchist strategy. I think philosophical abstractions are worthless if they can’t be transmitted into real life action. I’m interested in question like what should the priorities of anarchists be given our current political conditions? What should be our principal goals? What are some real world goals we can set for ourselves that are actually achievable? What is the most practical approach to the question of what a civilization where the anarchist paradigm is the prevalent paradigm might look like? Questions of that nature.

S:  It has been interesting to see your post-left readings of Carl Schmitt who is a jurist whose work was ignored for a long time and I think re-popularized primarily by the works of the left-wing philosophy Agamben and by thinkers on in the European New Right.  How is an anarchist like yourself informed by Schmitt?

K.P.: Schmitt’s thought really unmasks the essence of the state in a way that I think is more penetrating that even much anarchist thought because it lacks the ideological predisposition towards attacking the state that an anarchist would obviously have and there’s also a lot of moral pretentiousness found in much anarchist writing. Schmitt is writing from the perspective of a brutally honest realist. He is one of those rare political theorists like Machiavelli, Hobbes, or Nietzsche that is able to analyze politics without much in the way of illusions.

Schmitt considered the true nature of the political to be organized collectives with the potential to engage in lethal conflict with one another. His concept of political sovereignty is also quite penetrating. As Schmitt said: “Sovereign is he who decides on the state of the exception.” What he meant by that is that the real power in any society resides in those who are able to set aside the formal rule-making process and codified system of laws when it suits the interests of the state. The law is intended for subjects rather than rulers. The state is a ruler or collection of rulers who act in their own interests. The law serves to restrain subjects, and not to restrain rulers in any authentic sense. Within the realm of the truly political, rulers engage in perpetual brawling with other rulers or potential rulers.

S.:  The sovereign exception is an interesting issue. So what is the anarchist answer to the idea of the sovereign exception?

K.P.:  I think that in a civilization where anarchism was the prevailing political perspective the sovereign would be non-state entities that were capable of repelling physical threats to the anarchist polities. For instance, there might be anarchist-led militias, citizen posses, or private defense forces that would serve the function of resisting either an external invasion or the attempted seizure of power by any one political faction for the purpose of creating a new state.

This one reason why I think fourth generation warfare theory is so interesting because it postulates that the sovereignty of the state is receding and giving way to non-state actors in the realm of military conflict.

There are some interesting historical examples of sovereignty without the state. The Icelandic Commonwealth existed for several centuries minus a single sovereign entity with a monopoly on coercion. During the Spanish Civil War, the anarchist militia confederations essentially replaced the state in certain regions of Spain. An interesting contemporary example is Hezbollah, which has for the most part replaced the Lebanese state as the sovereign in Lebanese society. Of course, Hezbollah are not anarchists, but they are an illustration of how a sovereign can emerge that eclipses the state.

S.: On the Fourth generation warfare:  This seems to also seem to be used as an excuse to strengthen the state.  Do you see this is a trend that is, at root, a sign that elements of the larger culture(s) are separating and going into radically different directions?

K.P.:  Sure. I think a major part of the premise behind the US’s “war on terrorism” is awareness on the parts of the overlords of the empire that the fourth generation resistance is rising and challenging the state in many different areas. So the state is trying to strengthen its position.

At present, most serious fourth generation efforts come from the periphery and conflict between these regions and the empire which is for the most part centered in the West has existed for centuries, of course. So there’s nothing particularly new going on there. However, within the center of the empire itself there does seem to be a separation taking class due to a lack of cultural cohesion. In Europe, the conflict is fueled by mass immigration into what were until very recently mostly homogenous societies. In America, I think the conflict is largely a class conflict on two different levels. First, there is the broader widening of class divisions that has simultaneously generated a strengthened plutocracy at the top, a shrinking middle class and a growing lower prolertarian and lumpenproletarian classes. Large scale immigration has played a role in this obviously, but I don’t think it’s the principal cause. Second, there seems to be a particularly intense class struggle between the dying WASP elites and their constituents among the traditional middle class and the rising upper middle class that is informed by the values of political correctness or what I call totalitarian humanism. This is what I consider to be the source of the US culture wars.

K.P.:  I think what you call “totalitarian humanism,” I call liberalism without the gloves on.  This, however, confuses people since the term liberal is linked to the center-left, which is only one of its manifestations.  Do you see the contradictions within totalitarian
humanism leading to more or less balkanization?

S:  Oh, more balkanization. Very much so. In fact, I think the contradictions within totalitarian humanism will be what eventually brings about its demise. Totalitarian humanism will end when the PC coalition fractures and its component parts eventually turn on each other. A key fault line is going to be the incompatibility of Western liberalism with the social conservatism endemic to most non-Western cultures. For instance, I’ve seen some research that shows anti-gay attitudes are more prevalent among African-Americans than any other ethnic group in the US. Secularism is certainly far more prevalent among Western liberals than among Third world immigrants. Right now, the line that the totalitarian humanist Left takes is something along the lines of “Oppressed peoples everywhere, unite against the white bourgeoisie!” or some variation of that. But these fault lines are very real and will increasingly find their way to the surface over time.

S.:  Is this why you have done so much work with alt right? That the Marxist and anarchist left no longer distances itself from liberalism in a meaningful way?

K.P.:  I’d say there are four things that drew me towards the alt right. First, the alt right is about 100% consistently opposed to American imperialist military adventurism. The Left often falls down on this question and gets taken in by supposed “humanitarian interventions,” for instance. The alt right also has a strong Nietzschean foundation which overlaps quite well with my own philosophical and meta-political stance. The alt right is much more willing to critique or criticize Christianity in a way that would be unthinkable to American-style conservatives and in a way that offers a lot more dept than the reflexive secular humanism or theological liberalism found on the Left. Lastly, as you point out, the alt right is the only political tendency that consistently criticizes totalitarian humanism and does so in a penetrating way.

I consider totalitarian humanism to a very dangerous force that is on the rise in the West, and despite their professed oppositional stance, the Marxist and anarchist left have swallowed the totalitarian humanist bait hook, line, and sinker so to speak, essentially making them the useful idiots of the liberal establishment.

S.:  A friend of mine says the same thing: “Lately the rhetoric between liberals and leftist, you’d think the far left would be an alternative to a lot of PC platitudes, but it isn’t anymore.”   This leads me to some serious questions: I have noticed a lot of professed anti-Fascists using fascist-style intimidation against other forms of anarchism. I suspect you see these anarchists essentially reflecting the anarcho-liberal confusion and becoming a sort of militant-wing for liberal identity politics?

K.P.:  The “anti-fascists” are the mirror image of the Nazi stormtroopers who went about physically attacking Jews and Marxists during the Weimar period. Essentially they are the brown shirts of totalitarian humanism. The tendencies that I refer to as the “anarcho-leftoids” are a kind of parody of PC. Describing them as a “militant wing for liberal identity politics” would be apt in some ways, though perhaps too charitable. They are the new fascists in every essential aspect.

Your question here brings up a very important point. I’ve stated before that my ultimate goal is to build a kind of confederation or agglomeration of tribes of anarchists, libertarians, and another anti-authoritarian radicals who may have many, many profound differences of opinion or ways of life but who are united in their commitment to attacking the state. And, of course, I’ve developed the concept of pan-secessionism as a tactic to be used towards that end. I am sometimes asked if whether my persistent criticisms of the left-anarchists in these areas is not antithetical to my larger goal of a unified anarchist resistance. Am I not acting as a divider rather than as a bridge-builder?

But the immediate problem that we are confronted with is the fact that this totalitarian leftist mindset dominates the mainstream of the anarchist movement, certainly in the English-speaking countries. The leftist-anarchists insist on excluding the other anarchist tribes from their midst on the ground that they are not pure enough in doctrine. For instance, anarcho-capitalists, national-anarchists, Tolkienesque anarcho-monarchists, Nietzschean anarchists of the right, religious anarchists, conservative anarchists similar to the late Joe Sobran, sometimes even left-libertarians like the agorists, mutualists, or voluntarists are rejected for their supposed deviance from official doctrine in one way or another. The leftist fundamentalism that dominates the mainstream anarchist movement is comparable in many ways to the Protestant fundamentalism that dominates American Christianity. I know because I’ve been both a Protestant fundamentalist and a left-anarchist at various points in my life.

So I’m in a situation where in order to pursue my long-terms goals of unifying anti-state radicals against our common enemy, it’s necessary to become a divider in the short-term. I’m divisive because I attack the grip that doctrinaire leftism has on the movement, particularly in the USA. Whenever you speak out against the prevailing trend, you automatically become a divisive figure. So of course those within the mainstream anarchist movement will often come to regard someone like me as the equivalent of heretic who has rejected articles of the true faith. But then there are other anarchists who start to think, “well, you know, maybe Preston has a point with some of his criticisms” and maybe I provide a platform for those anarchists who are aware of some of these problems and have been hesitant to speak up. I’m also opening the door for those anarchists whose own beliefs differ from those of the hard leftists to eventually become accepted by and integrated into the wider anarchist milieu. There are a number of trends in left-anarchism that I see as encouraging such as the post-leftist, situationist, and Stirner-influenced tendencies. While I have my differences with primitivists I have not found them to be as hostile towards other types of anarchists as the leftoids. I also very much appreciate those anarchist tendencies that assert a kind of tribal identity among minority ethnic groups, such as Anarchist People of Color or native anarchists. This is of course very consistent with my broader goal of building a confederation of anti-state tribes.

S.:  Do you see the tribe as the only viable and possibly just political unit?

K.P.:  I should probably clarify what I mean by “tribe.” I’m using the term as a metaphor for any kind of voluntary association sharing a common purpose or identity and functioning independently of the state. So in this context there could certainly be anarchist “tribes” in the common sense of a population group sharing a particular language, culture, religion, or ethnicity, but there could also be tribes committed to a specific political stance, or economic system, or lifestyle interest. For instance, some years ago I came across a group advocating a “stoner homeland” for potheads in northern California. Presumably, there could be stoner anarchist tribes and there could be straight edge anarchist tribes just like there can be tribes representing Christians or Muslims or other kinds of identities. Within in the anarchist tradition, for instance, I would consider the syndicalists to be a tribe, the individualist-anarchists to be a tribe, the Kropotkinites to be a tribe, the Catholic Workers to be a tribe, and so forth.

I think tribes are the most natural form of human social organization. Therefore, they are probably the most viable in terms of durability as well. As to whether they are the most just, I think that’s a subjective question. I don’t really believe in the concept of abstract justice found in much of traditional Western metaphysics of the kinds associated with, for instance, Plato or the Church fathers or the natural rights theorists of the Enlightenment. I’m very much a Nietzschean, possibly a Foucaultian, on this question.

S.:  What do you think is Nietzche’s relevance to anarchism?

K.P.:  Of all the great thinkers of the modern era, Nietzsche was probably the most prescient and penetrating. He recognized that the core foundations of Western civilization-philosophical, cultural, moral, religious-had essentially been overthrown by the advancements in human knowledge that came out of the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, and the Enlightenment. Not only had Christianity been discredited, but so had traditional Western metaphysics. What distinguishes the thought of Nietzsche is that he takes things a step further and attacks the intellectual systems that grew out of the Enlightenment and had taken hold among educated people in his own era. In particular, he understood the progressive faith associated with movements like liberalism and socialism to essentially be secular derivatives of Christianity. Nietzsche regarded the intellectuals of his time as not having really abandoned faith in God, but rather as having invented new gods to believe in like progress, utopianism, equality, universalism, nationalism, racialism, anarchism, and so forth. All of these became forms of secular millenarianism in Nietzsche’s day.

Nietzsche considered all of these trends to be efforts to come to terms, or perhaps avoiding coming to terms, with the death of the foundations of traditional values. He saw these new gods as creating a cultural powder keg that would explode in grotesque warfare in the twentieth century, which is precisely what happened. He also believed it would be the twenty-first century before Western people began to really confront the crisis generated by the erosion of the foundations of their civilization and that cultural nihilism would be the greatest obstacle that the West would have to overcome. We see this today in the self-hatred and wish for cultural self-destruction that exists among Western peoples, particularly the educated elites. For instance, it is quite obviously seen in the thrill with which Western intellectuals anticipate the potential demographic overrun and cultural dispossession of the West.

What is ironic is that the leftist fundamentalism that dominates the mainstream of the anarchist milieu is perhaps the most advanced form of this nihilism. They’ve essentially absorbed the nihilism of the Western elites and amplified it several times over. In particular, they often epitomize the slave morality Nietzsche regarded as having its roots in Christianity and having been carried over into its secular derivatives on the political left.

So I think that the thought of Nietzsche, properly understood, could contribute to an awakening in the anarchist community, and provide us with the intellectual armour necessary to effectively combat our establish overlords rather than simply parroting them as so many of us do now. It does no good to simply regurgitate the values of political correctness when these are simultaneously the legitimizing values of the ruling class.

S.:  Thank you for your time. Anything you’d like to say in closing?

K.P.: Just to say that the first principal of any authentic radicalism has to be independence of mind above all other values. It’s not about how much you agree or disagree with me. Rather, it’s about your ability to apply critical analysis to every question and to every situation. It’s about being able to see every side of every question and giving due recognition where it’s merited. Any set of ideas, no matter what they are, can become menacing when they are dogmatized to the point of becoming unquestionable articles of faith, particularly when intertwined with the authority of the state. No matter how righteous a particular crusade may seem if its presumptions are not subject to regular critical scrutiny then it becomes a potential foundation for yet another tyranny.

Marginalia on Radical Thinking Series can be found hereherehereherehere, here hereherehereherehere  here, and here. 


Keith Preston

Keith Preston

Keith Preston is the chief editor of AttacktheSystem.com and holds graduate degrees in history and sociology. He was awarded the 2008 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize by the United Kingdom's Libertarian Alliance for his essay, "Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy."