Drawing Lines in the Sand?

22 05 2009

I realise that I haven’t been posting much lately, but I’m looking to change that over the next few weeks.  So to kick it off I thought I’d respond to waves my by Soviet Onion on the Alliance of the Libertarian Left forums regarding a essay by Keith Preston.

So where to begin.

In his essay Preston lists of his Anarchist CV to establish that he is anti-state, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-facist, not anti-semitic and a whole other list of other anti-somethings which culminates on arguing about immigration and, ‘pro-immigration propaganda.’ After citing some statistics concerning themselves with Americans and their views regarding immigration, we get down to the point;

“So it seems that we have the interesting spectacle of anarchists aligning themselves with the political class against “the people” when it comes to immigration. It is not that “the people” are overcome with xenophobia and racist “hate.””

Now I am one of those Anarchists who have, in the past, defended illegal migration as a natural act that should not suffer restriction.  Despite the statistics, Preston’s generalisation is sweeping and I am apparently an Anarchist who aligns themselves with the political class against ‘the people’.  After questioning whether these people are ‘true’ Anarchists, the illegal immigrant bashing begins;

“In a purely legal sense, I don’t think illegal immigrants should be dealt with any more harshly than ordinary trespassers, shoplifters, traffic offenders, or vagrants camped out on someone else’s property…

Yet the propaganda of pro-immigration leftists-anarchists-libertarians would have us all believe that opening the borders to any terrorist, criminal or welfare colonist who wants to jump a fence somewhere would be just fine. Why bother screening for communicable diseases immigrants from countries where public health standards are just about zero? What’s the big deal about tuberculosis, anyway? Why not allow a few hundred million Asian, African, Latin American or Eastern European immigrants to come on over and sign up for public assistance? Why not allow foreign states to empty their prisons of violent criminals and send them to America as Fidel Castro did during the boatlift of 1980? If al-Qaeda wants to open a branch office on Main Street, USA, then who are the rest of us to say otherwise?”

Which then, amazingly, transfers itself into an attack on homosexuals, beginning with;

“So what of the homosexuals?”

Emphasis added.  And it should be noted that once again I’ve cut out the part where Preston details his history of experiences with homosexuals, for the sake of brevity.

“…The source of the hostility seems to come down to two things: My advocacy of political decentralization ordered on the principal of individual liberty, freedom of association, private property and community sovereignty, and my advocacy of political alliances against statism, state-capitalism, and imperialism that transcend cultural boundaries and divisive social issues and, yes, alliances that might sometimes include people who disagree with homosexuality for religious, cultural, moral or philosophical reasons.”

Which all sounds hunky-dory, until, after expanding on his views of homo-totalitarianism we get to the point;

“This hypersensitivity to criticisms of homosexuality found in many anarchist and libertarian circles helps, I think, to explain the otherwise inexplicable “anti-racism” hysteria and enthusiasm for the most extreme forms of pro-immigrationism, not to mention the most ridiculous renditions of feminism, found among these people, virtually all of whom are white, overwhelmingly male, and mostly from middle class backgrounds. Anti-racism, anti-xenophobia and feminazism are simply surrogates for homosexualism. The wider “gay rights” movement has gone out of its way to attach itself to the legacy of the black civil rights movement. They do this because they know that most Americans recognize the treatment given to black Americans prior to civil rights was unfair, and thereby proclaim themselves to be a comparable victim group.”

And then he goes on;

“Therefore, they promote the most extreme and lunatical forms of “anti-racism” and immigrationism, and loudly proclaim any kind differentiation of persons or groups along racial, ethnic, national or gender lines to be the ultimate in human evil, no matter what its purpose, and then subsequently proclaim themselves to the equivalent of an oppressed ethnic group deserving similar favoritism. Apparently, their rallying cry is to paraphrase Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in the defense of sodomy is no vice.”

And back to racism;

“…the origins of racism are no mystery. Conflict of this type has existed as long as there have been human beings. The mystery is those rare instances where peace between races has been achieved.”

And back to homosexuality;

“To my enemies, I would respond by citing the immortal words of Jim Goad:

It isn’t what you do, it’s the way you do it. Not the meat, but rather the motion. It’s not what you’re saying, it’s your lousy voice. It isn’t your private cock-slurping, it’s your public megaphone-mouth. It ain’t how you move beneath the sheets, it’s the way you wave the picket signs around. The problem isn’t your self-consciously “decadent” personal lifestyle, it’s your warped social instincts…”

The solution?;

“As for the rest of us in the anarchist milieu, I say it’s time for a purge, if not an outright pogrom.

Do we really attract more people into our ranks by having so many self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, or persons of one or another surgically altered “gender identity” in our midst? Is this really something the average rebellious young person wants to be associated with? Could we not actually attract more young rebels into our ranks if all of this stuff was absent?

Does the average young rebel really want to join an “anarchist” movement that is only going to tell him what a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic sinner he is?”

Okay, so you get the general idea, but also throw in a couple of plugs for National Anarchism and there you go.  If you would like to read the rest, you only need to follow the link provided above.  Needless to say that the response to the post by Preston has been overwhelming negative.  For your enjoyment, first on our list is the post made by Mike Gogulski;

“The anarchist tent may, indeed, need to be bigger in order to achieve strategic goals. But here I see one arguing for a big-tent strategy giddily pushing marginalized groups out of the tent and encouraging others to do the same.

Not only is this a contradiction of the big-tent strategy itself, but it also pushes away all those who sympathize with those marginalized, traditionally hated out-groups. I, for one, am not going to be found standing up for the rights of bigoted assholes to be bigoted assholes, let alone lending them whatever credibility might attach in a given reader’s mind to finding such linked to at my own website.

And so today Keith disappears from my blogroll, and good riddance. For the moment he remains in my RSS reader, since I recognize that there is a fine mind at work in Keith, and one often worth reading, despite what I view as a clear deficit of empathy.

Without substantial work at repentance, Keith will not be welcome at my table, nor in my tent.”

Succinctly, Mike has vocalised my view of Preston’s position as well as the view of Kevin Carson which contained this Post Script, providing context to the original essay;

“Since writing the above, it occurred to me (as Mike Gogulski put it) what a deficit of empathy is reflected in Keith’s reactions. As an outsider to the conflict, I still feel very strongly that Keith’s increasingly demeaning and strident homophobic language is a personal overreaction based on his resentment at being purged from Aster’s Salon Liberty. It’s odd, therefore, that he fails to admit the possibility that what he regards as “hyper-sensitivity” or “victim culture” among racial and sexual minorities might reflect their own subjective response to what they have experienced as a lifetime of exclusion.

In any case, this post may (or may not) evoke some reaction in the blogosphere and in my own comment thread. I doubt I’ll participate much in the debate, either way. I’ve said what I have to say on the subject. As I’ve already stated, I try to stay out of debates on cultural issues because I’ve got a limited amount of time and energy for writing about the stuff I feel personally engaged with, and dealing with personal drama or emotionalized issues sucks the life out of me.”

It’s also a good idea to read the comment section of Kevin Carson’s post.  Funnily enough, Stephen Kinsella, ‘doesn’t get it’;

“Kevin, no disrespect, but a few of us on a list are discussing this, and none of us are quite sure what either you or Preston are trying to say. It sounds like a bizarre leftist soap opera on acid.”

So where do I stand?  Well, as a person who has had no dealings with Preston, I cannot say I have the same attachment as someone like Carson.  I have a great distaste for National Anarchists and their tactics, partly due to the writings of Andy and partly due to my own nosing around the corners of the web frequented by National Anarchists.  Clearly, Preston has achieved fame among some for writings on various subjects.  However, I believe my destiny lies under the same stars sought by Mike Gogulski.

As Shawn Wilbur of LibertarianLabyrinth noted on the ALL forums;

“Probably too much “some of my best friends are…,” that turns into “…unnatural freaks who ought to be purged before they give us bad press.” Not a word about why someone might consider “national anarchism” a worry. Oh, and “racism” scare-quoted. Sheesh. Personally, I’m not making any broad coalitions with Keith, or his NA pals. I believe in separatism, to the extent that I don’t have any interest in putting people with “irreconcilable differences” in, say, camps. But my political ambitions all aim at a better world than that.”

I think though, what needs to be remembered, is that no matter what happens, Preston wins.  Even if many disassociate themselves with him, or even outright condemn him, the conservative, orthodox bigot in others will inevitably lead them to follow Preston.  In fact, his ‘hardline’, confrontational approach in the essay linked to and periodically quoted above, will win him followers who will view him as their champion.  I’m not so foolish as to make the assertion, or even insinuate, that this was some great design worked within Preston’s essay.  It is merely an inevitable result of what is written as it is not a piece that will further Anarchist reasoning, but one that will polarise.

On a finishing note, I will re-publish the body of the letter posted to the ALL forums by Soviet Onion.  It’s an eloquent, passionate piece that is well worth the read.

“Proponents of feminism, LGBT rights, and sexual freedom and other filthy deviations from normality must be purged for the sake of the cause. Those serious about the revolution must drop their liberal scruples and be prepared to shoot these infantile deviationist freaks.”

Am I the only one who find’s Keith’s obsessions with graphic depictions of stereotypical gay male sex a little too much, in a Ted Haggard kind of way?

I’m very tired of this war. Everything written in the last two weeks has shown me that the vast majority left-libertarian community is willing to treat me as a human being. I would like nothing more at this point than to put away the armour, stop these unproductive flame wars, and dedicate my time to constructive writing in a community whose ideals and interests I share. But I can’t so that if that community won’t uphold standards against those who will treat me as untermenschen, who refuse the simple decency of allowing me my own name and identity and judging me by something more important than the way I was born.

Preston will never do that. Preston will never give up trying to entryist into left-libertarianism unless major voices in the movement step up and declare that, at the very least, sexists and homophobes will have to find other places to write and other people with whom to work with.

I want to write as I truly believe. My deepest fear, and the deepest experience which have taught me that ethics are suicidal in this world, has been that the only way I will ever by permitted to develop my talents are if I do under the name and authority of causes whose methods are indisputably unjust. I’ve had two wonderful statist-liberal people adopt me into their family, and a wonderful statist-liberal country give me a home I can call my own. I’ve had left-anarchists who sneer at libertarians and individuals treat me according to human expectations which libertarians have repeated flouted in display of the very essence of their ‘liberty’ Together they’ve collectively made me feel things which I didn’t know existed, made ideas like ‘love’, ‘family’, and ‘community’ mean something other to me than slogans for patriarchal abusers.

I confess that I am severely tempted to betray every libertarian principle and walk back into respectability. I swear by my goddess I would not do that just for the prestige and the money. But if there exists no radically individualist community on Earth where I can feel secure in the expectation of basic humane treatment, then I feel as if I have no other choices other than to give up on the life of the mind, or sell my mind to the liberal establishment. I wouldn’t blame any of you for hating me for doing the latter. But please- any of you- ask if you could lend your life to an idealism and promises of a better world could not grant you the happiness is given by an existing unjust world around you?

I feel within a hair’s breadth of a moral apocalypse in which my choices are to cooperate with those who would censor speech, or daily face words which hurt enough to make me want to kill and die.

Please, I implore you, make it final and clear that left-libertarianism will defend their own against national anarchists and other bigotries. I understand if you don’t feel motivated to do it for me, given my own compromises and bloody hands. But do it for Marja, for Soviet, for *Chris Sciabarra*, for everyone whom Preston wants to convince left-libertarianism to sell down the river.

You tell me you believe in virtue. I can see no sanity in an ethic not grounded in indiviudal happiness, but I do want to spiritually grow up, learn responsibility, and get beyond vulgar selfishness. But I can’t fight this. No queer person can fight the rhetoric Preston uses without being dismissed as a specially interested pervert. All I ask is that left-libertarian radicals do as good as can the corrupt institutional left. All I ask is that a politics which calls itself ‘left’ hold to the standards which define what is worthwhile within it. None of you could fight for a cause which the best part of you believes if you knew that the price would be ceaseless infliction of absolutely unmerited pain.

And as a sex worker: please, we have done good things for noble causes before. Roderick, I’m sure, knows the history. We’re not all, or not only, merely callous climbers. Respect the old alliances, and we just might create a world worth living in.

love and strife,

Jeanine Shiris Ring”

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4 responses

23 05 2009
Uri

American anarchists and libertarians will no doubt benefit from an encounter with the actions and analysis of the European NoBorder network – see http://www.noborder.org

Latest transnational newsletter (#6) – Sept. 08
http://www.noborder.org/crossing_borders/newsletter06en.pdf

Text from NoBorders Manchester:

Why No Borders?
Monday, May 7, 2007

No Borders is a transnational network of groups struggling for the freedom of movement for all and an end to all migration controls. It is also an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian position shared by many who are not necessarily part of a No Borders group. This booklet is a tool; a tool for thinking, discussing and taking action under the No Borders banner. Borders, migration and refugee issues are a complex world of organisations, companies, government agencies and acronyms. This is no accident but the result of a political and economic system based on exploitation and the relentless desire to control and to make profit. This A-Z provides some definitions which we hope will be a starting point to understanding a position against borders and taking action to achieve this goal. As well as explaining some of these organisations and terms in simple language it also gives a taste of the huge range of resistance and campaigns that exist to get involved with. This action is increasingly urgent as the repressive state immigration policies wreak havoc on thousands of lives around the world.

From the land enclosures and Highland clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, to the ‘migration management’ policies and surveillance of today, those in power have sought to control the movement of people. Fear of the ‘other’ is encouraged, and ordinary people are pitted against each other for apparently scarce resources, whilst certain sections of society consolidate their wealth and control. Categorisations such as ‘alien,’ ‘immigrant,’ ‘illegal’ and ‘foreigner’ create divisions that divert attention away from the real causes of poverty, environmental destruction and inequalities both in the UK and worldwide, i.e. Capitalism and unequal power relations. The No Borders network adopts an explicit anti-capitalist position, seeing capitalism as at the root of social injustice and inequality. As an anti-authoritarian network, No Borders rejects all forms of domination and social control.

No Borders, No Nations, No Deportations! While this is clearly an ambitious goal, when we look at the historical context of nation states and immigration controls and their function the relevance of the position becomes clear. The nation state only became the foundation on which our political, economic and social lives are organised in the eighteenth century. Immigration controls were then introduced as a way of managing who entered these countries and for what purpose. The first immigration controls in the UK were set up in 1905 to prevent the inward migration of Jewish refugees, as a direct result of fascist agitation.

Through efforts to increase power and amass wealth, capitalism and imperialism have created a huge gulf between the comparatively rich nations of the West and developing countries, and this parasitic relationship continues. Rich countries exploit the land, resources and people in the majority world in order to fuel profit driven economies and consumer societies. Borders are necessary to defend the wealthy and to maintain this inequality. Nation states and protectionism are economically and politically desirable in this system, promoting the economy, managing the labour market and enforcing the borders, whilst others flee the very wars and poverty caused by this violent cycle or live exploited and precarious lives as ‘illegals’ or asylum seekers.

Despite their economic and political foundations, the idea that nations are somehow natural continues to shape how we think about ourselves and others. “The ‘imagined community’ of a country is created, the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Benedict Anderson, 1983). This illusion of harmonious common interests within the ‘nation’ disguises the huge inequalities of power and resources that exist in a system based on the exploitation of the many for the profit of the few. It also denies similarities of experience between people across the globe who feel the negative effects of this system.

In stark comparison to these imagined communities the impacts of borders and the nation state system are very real. War and genocide, immigration controls, detention centres, dawn raids, surveillance and monitoring, racism and xenophobia, thousands of deaths as people attempt to cross borders. Many profit from this system of control. This happens both directly through the running of immigration prisons as well as by managed migration of the global labour market. Whilst capital flows freely, the movement of people is controlled and restricted.

Since the movement of people generally follows the movement of wealth, it is no surprise that whilst the British ruling class conquered and exploited much of the world, people living in the areas that become impoverished and plundered follow the wealth to the UK. In this way border controls can be seen as a clumsy attempt to avoid the payback of imperialist conquest and exploitation. Those who have been dispossessed by imperialist domination during the age of empire and more recent capitalist neo-colonialism are well within their rights to demand a share of the wealth that is created off their backs. The No Borders network aims to support the interests of the people who have decided to take this hard and dangerous path.

Borders, and the immigration controls that mark them, create a social hierarchy of legal/illegal, documented/undocumented, and citizens/non citizens, whilst protecting a system that puts the needs of capitalism before the needs of people. Through No Borders, we are struggling for freedom of movement for everyone, not just those that are deemed worthy by the system. At its core then, No Borders is a position that rejects this categorisation, which defies racist distinctions and believes that where people are born and their ‘nationality’ should not dictate their lives. Rather, we call for Freedom of Movement for All and for collective, autonomous forms of organisation.

Since 1999 people acting under the No Borders banner have been directly targeting the structures and organisations that uphold the system of migration management. They have set up many No Border camps round the world to take action, learn together and bring attention to the reality of border controls. In the UK the No Borders network is a platform for exchange of information and experience among groups and individuals involved in different political struggles with an anti-capitalist perspective. We also work together with self-organised groups of migrants and act in solidarity with detainees, workers struggles and those threatened with deportation. Alongside migrant groups, we are involved in campaigns against a range of corporate and state targets including detention centres, airlines that deport people, corporations and security firms profiting from the system of migration management, the International Organisation for Migration, and against ID cards.

We call for a radical movement against the system of control, dividing us into citizens and non-citizens. We demand the end of the border regime for everyone, including ourselves, to enable us to live another way, without fear, racism and nationalism.

31 05 2009
Aster

Royce-

Thank you greatly for writing this, and for my kind words. I wish I’d been able to write them to you more quickly; my life has just been very rush-rush of late.

31 05 2009
Royce Christian

Aster,

Thank you just for taking the time to comment.

And it’s no problem. I just wish I’d taken the time to read through what I had written to eliminate all the nasty errors I made. I apologise to all for that.

12 06 2009
How to Convert a Big Tent Into a Small One | Austro-Athenian Empire

[…] prompting a flurry of hasta la vistas from the left-libertarian blogosphere (see Kevin Carson, Royce Christian, Mike Gogulski, Charles Johnson, Brad Spangler, Darian Worden, the ALL Forums, and now me with a […]

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