Help save Laughing Horse books

7 05 2011

Without your help, the collective-run Laughing Horse books in Portland, Oregan may soon be forced to close its doors.

Laughing Horse books is a independent bookstore, music venue and meeting space for radicals and activists with a history that goes back a quarter of a century.  To lose Laughing Horse Books would be the equivalent of losing a limb for the activists in the area.

Shawn Wilbur, Anarchist and Mutualist who has worked hard to translate and research early Mutualist thought writes:

The people and projects who stand to lose, in terms of finances, time, morale, etc., are primarily allied, radical projects who can’t afford losses and activists in exactly the same position.

It doesn’t matter where you are in this crazy world, if you count yourself an Anarchist, this is your chance to act in solidarity and live up to all the talk of mutual aid that goes on within these circles.

Whether it’s a 10, 5 or a few dollars, anything will help keep the creditors from the door.

Donate by heading over to Shawn’s blog and using the “ChipIn” widget in the far-right column or head directly to the ChipIn website and
spread the word on Facebook, on Blogs, on Forums, on Twitter.

Check out Laughing Horse books on Facebook and Myspace.

Anarchist news

1 03 2011

If you haven’t checked out this great news program from submediaTV, do so.  Has a insurrectionist flavour.  Covers labour movements in North America, uprisings in Africa and the Middle East and continuing resistance organised by Greek Anarchists. publishes interview with Egyptian Anarchist

5 02 2011 has published an interview with an Egyptian Anarchist that provides a different perspective on the unrest.  Well worth a read.

2) The world is watching Egypt, and even moving in solidarity. However, due to the internet being cut, information was difficult to find. Can you tell me about what has happened in Egypt in the past week? What did it look like from your perspective?

The situation in Egypt is so crucial right now. It began with an invitation to the day of rage against Mubarak regime on January 25th. No one expected an invitation to a day of rage from a loose group, a Facebook page, not really organized, called “we are all Khalid Said”.

Khalid Said was an Egyptian youth who was killed by Mubarak police in Alexandria last summer. It was that Tuesday which started everything, it was the spark for the whole fire. On Tuesday big demonstrations were in streets in every Egyptian town, on Wednesday began the massacre. It began with trying to finish the sit-in in Tahrir square on Tuesday late night, and continued in the following days, especially in Suez town. Suez has special value in every Egyptian heart. It was the centre for resistance against Zionists in 1956 and 1967. In the same district that fought Sharon’s troops back in Egyptian-Israeli wars, Mubarak police carried out a massacre, at least four people killed, 100 injured, gas bombs, rubber bullets, fire guns, a strange yellow substance thrown above people (maybe mustard gas). Friday was called the Jumu’ah of Rage. Jumu’ah is Arabic for Friday, it’s the national weekend in Egypt, in many Islamic countries also, it’s the sacred day in Islam, because there are the big prayers on this day, called Jumu’ah prayer. It was planned for demonstrators to go on a march after this prayer, at noon. The police tried to prevent the marchers, with all of their power and violence. There were many clashes in Cairo (downtown, in Mattareyah (east of Cairo)), and all over Egypt, especially in Suez, Alexandria, Mahalla (in the delta, one of the centres of the working class). From noon to sunset people marched in Cairo downtown, to a sit-in in Tahrir till the removal of the Mubarak regime, chanting one slogan, “The people demand the removal of the regime”.

At sunset, 5pm CLT, Mubarak declared a curfew and brought the army into Egyptian towns. This curfew was followed by a planned escape by police, letting out the criminals and thugs which called Baltagayyah, and police planned a great escape of criminals in many Egyptian prisons to scare people in Egypt. With no police, many army troops couldn’t control the street. It scared people, and it was followed by a news jam on Egyptian TV channels, radio and newspapers, about Luddites in many towns, about thieves firing at people. People organized “people committees” to secure every street. It was welcomed by the regime to make people more scared about instability in the country, but it was also a point we could start from to build workers’ councils.

3) As of Wednesday, there have been clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak people. Is that the correct way to describe it? Who are the “Mubarak supporters”? How are these clashes affecting the attitudes of average working class Egyptians?

It’s absolutely wrong to call it clashes between anti- and pro-Mubarak. The pro-Mubarak demonstration consisted of many Baltagayyah and secret police to attack the protesters in Tahrir. It only began after Mubarak’s speech yesterday, after Obama’s speech too. Personally I think Mubarak feels like a slaughtered ox that tries to throw its blood over its slaughterers; he feels like Nero, who wants to burn Egypt before his removal, trying to make people believe he’s a synonym for stability, safety and security. In this way he has really made some progress. The holy national alliance now has been formed against Tahrirites (Tahrir protesters) and Commune de Tahrir.

Many people are saying, especially middle class people, that the demonstrations must end because Egypt has been burned, famine has begun, and it’s not true at all. It’s only an exaggeration. Every revolution has its difficulties, and Mubarak is using fear and terror to stay longer. Personally I’m saying even if the protesters were responsible for this situation, even if this is so, Mubarak must

Read the whole interview here.

American Rosa Novarro talks about her arrest and how she and her friends were pressured by the military to confess to being journalists or spies.  It seems the latest tactic of the regime is to circulate conspiracy theories reagrding foreigners and spies infiltrating the protests.

Check out the terrible BBC coverage of the latest protests which put the numbers of demonstrators at “more than 100,000” which is rather underestimating the turnout.  Additionally, preference and emphasis was given to Obama’s repeated speech instead of the continuing protests.  I wonder if the BBC haved decided enough is enough.

EXCLUSIVE: “We don’t want a cake” or “let them eat cake”?

18 01 2011

Royce’s note: Since posting my analysis of Keith Preston and, I received message from a infamous and illusive figure who asked if I would be interested in posting his position on the whole exhange.  I cannot tell you much about him.  Much rumour surrounds his person, but I can say that after a fiery exchange and much high-stakes negotiating, I have accepted this submission and have published it below.  I can also inform you that the good Comrade Equus is a learned figure and it is hoped his contribution will add a new dimension to this blog and to the exchange of ideas.

An explanation: I’ve been following Royce Christian and Keith Preston’s responses to each other, and after a while, I got so fed up I felt like I needed to jump in. I thank Royce for letting me post on his blog and accepting that I really do not want to get too entrenched in the cyber debate about Anarchism further than a forum post here or there, but felt like I had to weigh in. There has been name calling on both sides, from a demagogue in a black satin dress to a small-minded ideologue. I will try to avoid any name calling, which would supposedly give me some kind of upper-hand in the discourse, but I will bring attention to the fact that I am consciously refraining from doing so, which probably egotistically negates the action anyway. Similarly, I won’t be addressing any of the personal attacks launched against either party.

My objection to Third Positionism is that it first and foremost has an ahistorical approach inasmuch as it is leftist and only retroactively places itself there, using ideas and attitudes not formulated at the time of the conception of the left/right political spectrum. It claims to be neither left nor right and claims to be a synthesis of right and left ideas while rejecting the sole premise of left-wing ideology. Furthermore, it understands being anti-state as an ideological characteristic instead of a tactical characteristic; it would claim Anarchists and anti-government fascists are ideologically similar instead of correctly placing Anarchism as an ideology that opposes the state in the context of leftist politics. While it co-opts much of Anarchist rhetoric, it dismisses two key concepts: solidarity and community. Finally, it may not be an exclusively right-wing idea, but it provides an arena for people who oppose what Anarchists stand for to enter the conversation as legitimate actors and gives nothing back. I know little of Preston’s personal political background, and it is both irrelevant and hard to make the case that he is knowingly undermining Anarchism with his support of the Third Position. Regardless, his ideas have only provided a dangerous utility to the right that must be understood. 

This will not be a line-by-line response.

Historical Context

The problem any anti-authoritarian is confronted with when introduced to Third Positionism is finding out whether or not it is truly a synthesis of ideas from the right and left or a semantically and/or socially constructed concept that is new to recent history. It is true that until recently the right has not been opposed to government. This does not, however, imply a synthesis of ideas. First, we need to look at the origin of the left/right political spectrum to broaden our view.

This first began in the French Parliament around the time of the revolution. Those who favored the monarchy sat in the right wing and those who opposed it sat in the left wing. The most radical opponents of Monarchism sat in a part of the left wing referred to as “the mountain.” Among them was PJ Proudhon, the first philosopher to describe himself as an Anarchist and to articulate what was most likely a widely held view (I phrase it this way because any adherence to a figure as the sole example of a philosophy is a failure of understanding, i.e. Proudhon was a sexist, but that does not mean sexism is inherent to Anarchism). So there we have the basic framework for what it means to be leftist or rightist in a historical context. The Monarchy opposed by the left has gone on to be Capitalism (in the case of socialists), racism (in the case of the black power movement among others), sexism (in the case of feminists), and so on. A colloquial way of phrasing it would be that the left is “anti-establishment.”

Next we need to understand the basics of the sociological study of social inequality. Sociologists generally use two umbrella terms about social inequality: the conservative thesis and radical antithesis, which divides thinkers into two groups: structural functionalists or conflict theorists. Structural functionalists generally claim that stratification is functional, perhaps inevitable, or even natural and good. Conflict theorists generally state that inequality is to some extent a social construct and must be destroyed or at least minimized. Now we come to a statement by Preston:

(Regarding the assertion that Anarchism is opposed to all forms of authority) I regard this as a revisionist definition of anarchism and one that is difficult to glean from the writings of the founding fathers of anarchism given a proper understanding of their ideas in relation to the context of their times.

It is perhaps ironic that Preston claims this to be the revisionist definition. Anarchists have been in no position to revise this definition. The works of Anarchist authors are readily available on the internet or in a library for any interested party and Anarchists have been in no position to alter them or destroy them. Is it happenstance that throughout history we see Anarchists aligning themselves with other anti-authoritarian movements? Every, and I say this with the utmost conviction, every Anarchist revolution, action, or moment of success has been intertwined with an opposition to all hierarchy (it should be noted that it escapes the scope of this article to explain in depth what “anti-authority” has meant to Anarchists. Obviously a shoemaker is the authority on making shoes. Anarchists have not and do not oppose that notion of the word).

The Spanish Revolution of 1936 saw Social and Political revolution intertwined, with the Anarchists firmly declaring that neither supersedes the other. The Paris commune and French revolution saw Anarchists with convictions outside of opposition to the state. The student protests of Paris, May 1968 brought on a whole new approach to left struggles that were outside of the state and labor movement (and I believe now define the new left). This will all be explained in more detail later, the point being that it is overwhelmingly easy to glean that Anarchists have always been opposed to forms of authority outside of the state until the right retro-actively tried to place themselves in-line with the leftist thinkers of the past. Moreover, Preston has stated that he accepts:

“natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness”

This places, at least, Preston himself in the position of the conservative thesis, the sociological side generally associated with the right, if not Third Positionism itself. If nothing else, it distances the entire notion of Third Positionism from Anarchism and the classical understanding of Libertarianism outside of the US. It is ideologically impossible to claim any lineage to Anarchist thought without the idea that social inequality is to some extent a social construct.

The State

There is no doubt that old leftist ideas have gained popularity amongst western industrialized states. Public education and universal healthcare are just two examples of leftist ideas practiced by the state. This does not, however, place leftism firmly in the statist sphere of political belief. National Socialism, a clearly right-wing ideology, has seen itself manifested in the state. The state is not particular to ideology, but is instead a tool of ideology. Preston, to his credit, does understand the unique capability of the state.

“The state has unique powers of physical coercion and claims on a monopoly of violence that other kinds of institutions…do not have.”

On the left there is and has been an ongoing divide on the issue of the state. Most leftists, adhering to the conflict theorist understanding of social inequality, believe that the state is a tool that can be used to minimize or destroy social inequality, whereas libertarians and Anarchists believe that the state is a power structure in and of itself. Similarly, most of the right sees the state as a way to ensure that a system of stratification is as functional as possible, while as a recent occurrence people like Preston have come to understand that there are avenues outside of the state. The New Left is intensely critical of authoritarian statism (as Paris 1968 demonstrated), but does not leave behind old understandings of authority (class oppression, gender oppression, racism, etc.). If nothing else, Third Positionism does not lay in the same historical bed as Anarchism, it’s not even in the same bedroom. While there may be right-wing thinkers that see the state as a mechanism to ensure the functionality of a society and others who see it as a roadblock, neither the left or right necessarily see it as a tool that must be used. Without the understanding that social stratification is to some extent socially constructed, Third Positionism and ATS are squarely on the right of the ongoing political discourse, accepting that social inequality is inevitable.

This does not exclude Market Anarchists or Individualist Anarchists from the Anarchist movement (although it most certainly does exclude “Anarcho-capitalists”). The market, like the state, is a tool, a forum, a method. It is a tool by which Anarchists seek freedom from hierarchy and those on the right use to legitimize it. The Anarchist would claim, “The market will liberate all individuals from hierarchy,” while only the rightist would claim, “Any hierarchy as a result of the market is legitimate, fair, or natural and must be accepted since it is a result of the market.” The left seeks to reform or destroy hierarchy; the right seeks to legitimize it. The tools they use depend on the individuals.

The reason Third Positionism, the populist right in the USA, and other right-wing ideologies have recently become anti-state or at least garner harsh feelings toward the idea of government is easily understandable in a historical context. It is a relatively new phenomenon from my understanding that the right can be associated with anti-state sentiment at all. As the left gained support in the government via the labor movement, black power movement, feminist movement, etc. the government has adopted some ideas from the left while maintaining social stratification. Public education and healthcare are two examples of this. In this sense, the right is opposed to government because the government has adopted ideas that are diametrically opposed to its traditional beliefs. Inasmuch as the right opposes the current trend of governments, the alliance between Anarchists and the “libertarian” right is faulty at least, and most likely hazardous.  ATS’ Statement of Purpose legitimizes and says it accepts the following schools of thought:

“anarcho-monarchism, anarcho-feudalism”

Being that some of the first Anarchist thinkers, let’s just use Proudhon and Baukunin as examples, lived in societies that had feudal, monarchist states it becomes increasingly hard, and as any further thought will prove impossible, to reconcile the term “anarcho-monarchism.” If Anarchism as a philosophy was first articulated in the face of Monarchist/feudal systems, how then could it have progressed towards them? Without retroactive defining that is completely delineated from Anarchism, it is impossible to give anarcho-monarchism any credibility. Still, Preston stated:

“(Regarding the assertion that Anarchism is opposed to all forms of authority) I regard this as a revisionist definition of anarchism and one that is difficult to glean from the writings of the founding fathers of anarchism given a proper understanding of their ideas in relation to the context of their times.”

It is not as hard as one might think.

Community, Solidarity, and Social Revolution

As I stated earlier, the past has seen Anarchists taking action with the understanding that the social and political are one in the same. Third Positionism and ATS states that this is not the case, and that it is of practical concern to create a broad alliance of all anti-state ideologies. Preston:

“all issues and matters of controversy must be evaluated on their own terms”

This is, perhaps, an agreeable condition for most Anarchists. There is, indeed, a plethora of Anarchist thought concerning how things should actually be done, and none should be disregarded before any other. However (and what an ominous word that can be!), when the “matters of controversy” are ideologies, or, people supporting and espousing ideologies that are diametrically opposed to those held by Anarchists it becomes an entirely different matter. It is simply illogical to fight alongside some one who may very well want to murder, beat, or rape you post-revolution. Perhaps the words “murder,” “beat,” and “rape” seem extreme, but they most certainly are not, especially when one places “Anarcho-nationalism” in-line with Anarchism. Nationalists across Europe, and fascists all over, have indeed murdered, raped, and beaten Anarchists throughout history inside and outside of the state. The idea behind Third Positionism is that two communities that oppose each other will not live together and go on to their respective communities post secession, but assume for a moment that these two hypothetical groups live in the same neighborhood. By the “anarcho-nationalist” point of view, if that neighborhood is rightfully theirs (say the majority of the neighborhood is anti-Semitic) then there is absolutely nothing to stop them from murdering, raping, and/or beating their Jewish neighbor.

The problem is that Third Positionism is utterly useless to those on the left and amazingly powerful for those on the right. Since Anarchists (leftists) all have a general consensus about what they are against and the only legitimate quibbles are about what they are for, there is no real reason to call for a broad alliance of them since it already exists. Instead of opposing forms of authority that the left has always been against, Third Positionism relegitimizes them and gives those on the right rhetoric by which they can legitimize their oppressive ideologies under the guise of free association and voluntarism. But this will be discussed later.

Let me now extrapolate.

Anarchists see the social and political as inseparable because the social dictates the political. In a community that has a violent group of racists that identify as members of this hypothetical community, call it community A, as well as a population of people of color (as many ghettos in the USA do) then without a social revolution accompanying the political revolution in Community A there is absolutely nothing stopping this violent group of racists from murdering, raping, or beating people of color. Yes, we should strive for civility in our discourse, but in order to do that we would even need a social revolution. The use of legitimate violence would have to be reexamined in order to ensure that racists and those they hate can have civil discourse. Moreover, when one group’s ideology is that the other is the scourge of the earth and must be destroyed, how can civil discourse occur? And if we’re going to go as far as a social revolution that creates civil discourse, why not create one that eliminates hatred based on unsound, ideological grounds? This situation is wrought with conflict because both groups identify as members of Community A, and both oppose each other. It is absolutely necessary that our social understanding be altered along with our political relationships. It is of the utmost importance that while fighting the political systems of oppression we see in the state, that we fight the economic systems of oppression we see in capitalism, and the social systems of oppression we see in sexism, racism, and the like. This now brings me to the necessity of understanding two key terms: community and solidarity.

Let’s start with a quote from Preston:

“A Tibetan Buddhist monastery is certainly “authoritarian” by left-anarchist standards, but membership in such an institution is purely voluntary, and therefore not a matter of political concern. A hospital certainly has a “hierarchy” and rightfully so. Surgeons do not consult with janitors and parking lot attendants on how to operate on patients. The opinions of a first year nursing student on how to treat diseases is fortunately not weighed equally with that of physicians with decades of training or experience.”

The latter example, that of the hospital, is simply a matter of defining authority, a matter that goes far beyond the scope of this already lengthy article. A doctor obviously has more understanding of how to treat patients than the janitors. That is not to say the janitor might not have an interesting insight, but for the most part the doctor does know best. Such is a result of his training, not any kind of unalterable social relationship. It is a quantifiably explainable fact. The doctor knows more on the subject and is logically the one who is consulted on the subject before the janitors. The first example, that of the Buddhist monastery, is what I’ll be dealing with more in-depth.

It is true that plenty of Buddhist monasteries are hierarchical as a result of the group’s social status. That is not, however, of any concern to Anarchists if they do not identify as both Buddhist and a member of a particular hierarchical Buddhist monastery. Buddhism, as an ideology, does not have a history of domination or expansion, or rather there is not an historical trend that suggests a Buddhist community will dominate and control the community in which it exists. Buddhists have historically voluntarily moved away from the communities in which they sprung up with no intent on overtaking that society. When a state (China) tried to make a claim to being the only legitimate authority on Buddhism a faction of them moved away and continued to practice in opposition to, but not violently, that state. The Tibetan Buddhists have identified as Buddhists before Chinese and Tibetan before Chinese. Herein there lies no conflict. Other religious factions throughout history, including Christianity, have seen the same trend in separate factions.

The problem arises with the Third Positionist lack of understanding of community and solidarity. Let us first examine community. A general understanding of location in relation to culture is what gives rise to the concept of community. Anarchists in Barcelona identified as Barcelonians as much as the fascists did, or rather the fascists identified as Spainiards, an identity including the domination of Barcelona. This is where the Third Position’s idea of a common goal becomes faulty. Imagine that the fascists did not seek to take control of the government in Spain, but instead sought an anti-state method of gaining prominence in Spain as the Anarchists did. Would this have stopped the Anarchists from revolting? Would this have stopped any fighting between Fascists and Anarchists? Of course not. The two ideologies are diametrically opposed, and while the Anarchists sought the liberation of their communities alone, the fascists sought to dominate as they always have throughout history. It is integral to fascist ideology. There is probably racism, sexism, and classism in an Anarchist’s given community and it is within their community that they fight it. It may be worrying to an Anarchist that there is a hierarchical monastery in Tibet, but being a squarely anti-colonial ideology, there is little reason for an Anarchist outside of Tibet to infiltrate the monastery in hopes of creating a revolution there. This brings us to solidarity.

Say there is a Tibetan Anarchist who was dropped off at this Monastery as a child. He/she now identifies with the community he/she lives in, but cannot help his belief that the organization of the monastery is wrong. He/she talks about it with some friends and they all agree. Soon, there’s a faction of Buddhist monks that wish to reform the organization of their monastery. Does an Anarchist across the planet now turn the same indifferent eye towards the monastery?

Hell no.

Solidarity is a key concept of the left. It does not imply colonial intervention outside of one’s environment, nor does it imply blind adherence to anything under the same label. It provides a system of connection between two parties, individuals or groups, which benefits both of them through mutual support without compromising the beliefs, values, or social relationships of either. Anarchists show solidarity as a gesture of mutual understanding. The fight against oppression is international, local, and individual.

Now imagine for a moment that ATS called for solidarity with anarcho-monarchists instead of a “broad coalition” of anti-statists. It would be laughable. This may seem contradictory, the notion that Anarchists fight for their liberation (communal, individual, or otherwise) while ignoring others, but should show solidarity beyond their environment while rejecting those who have some similar ideas (such as anti-statism). Coming back to the earlier part of this article (that is, if you’re still reading), solidarity as a tactic becomes much clearer. Those on the right accept social inequality, reject the notions of authority that the left has, and usually wish to dominate and suppress leftist struggles. Those on the right are not fighting the same fight. The left should not be concerned at all with the fate of an anti-state white supremacist group, and should act against them if it threatens them. To due away with one problem, the state, while providing legitimacy and support for all the others (and there are many) is counter-active. As I stated, the state is a tool. Imagine a murderer that is against the use of guns as murder weapons favoring the slow, painful stabbing and twisting of a knife, and a pacifist that is completely against violence (including the use of guns). Should the two then work together and show solidarity for one another? No, of course not. Here’s another metaphor including ideologies that ATS has stated should work together: say you’re an anarcho-syndicalist, and you and some baker friends occupy a bakery. In return the capitalist owner offers you a cake. This brings us to one of my favorite Anarchist sayings,


An Impractical SynthesisPreston noted that leftists are generally the ones to dismiss the Third Position while those on the right understand and accept it.  I paraphrase as technical issues mean I cannot locate the original quote. The reason for this is simple. The Third Position offers no utility to the left. While the right may have a more rigid understanding of what authority is, the left has an understanding of oppression that spans far beyond the state and stands in opposition to the anti-state right.

The Third Position allows the right to delineate itself from the right-wing movements of the past. Hiding behind the guise of libertarian rhetoric, an anti-government National Socialist could espouse their oppressive ideology without much reference to Hitler or the actions of the Nazi states of the past despite having a direct ideological lineage to those states. Meanwhile, the left explicitly opposes the ideologies that Preston has asked us to align ourselves with. The coalition adds nothing to the left. The right gets to add new rhetoric to their ideology and hide some of its ugly history while the left would have to give up some of its core principals in order to accept the alliance offered by Third Position. An “anarcho-nationalist” could claim a philosophical lineage to the Anarchist resistance of fascism in WWII and place itself in opposition to its own history. Clearly, nationalism draws much more from the fascist states of the 20th century than it does from those who opposed them.

And where is the left in this? The idea is that after all these independent communities secede we will go on to work out our internal conflicts. The problem is that if an Anarchist must align himself or herself with those in the community that oppose their beliefs, the ensuing conflict afterward will be magnified. It will bolster both the Anarchist’s and the Nationalist’s identity as members of that particular community. After fighting for independence both will feel they have given something to the community and both will want something back. This broad alliance gets us nowhere. By claiming that the state in its uniqueness is a problem that must be dealt with before anything else, Third Positionism gives credibility to the power structures that already exist beyond the state. I do not know why this is the case, but my hunch is that there is a general lack of understanding about what power and authority is. While the exclusive right to use force is one way in which power can be manipulated, the Third Position and right-wing ignore the ideas of exploitation, manipulation, segregation, brainwashing, media influence, and all other systems by which one can influence the greater society’s thoughts and actions.

While I do not know enough about Preston to say he is for sure right-wing, he seems to be, and regardless of his own beliefs, Third Positionism creates opportunity for the right while asking for compromise on the left.

It is no surprise that the left has been unreceptive.

Q.E.D. (Quite Easily Done)

As I write this, I realize a particular bias towards the collective understanding of Anarchism. I by no means wish to disregard individualist Anarchism or its thoughts. I come from the collectivist/syndicalist tradition, so I realize my rhetoric favors that tradition.

This article has been lengthy. I have no interest in getting sucked into some internet flame war hiding behind a façade of philosophical discourse, and I think I have succeeded. The reason I have written such a lengthy response with such an in-depth (and honestly the rabbit hole goes so much deeper) analysis of the historical origin, the past struggles, and the implications of Anarchism, is because I want to nip this in the bud.

The community I organize in has yet to see Nationalists hiding behind Anarchism, and the nazi punk scene has been relatively quiet. I would like to keep the debate an exchange of ideas. I know what the nationalist scene can do. I know what they have done. By giving them a way to hide their true face, the Third Position directly threatens what I do in the place I live. Third Positionism obscures the ideas behind Anarchism and the historical context in which it was and has been articulated. It paints us all with the same brush, implicating that the relationship between right and left can be beneficial. While there may be Anarchists who are more to the left or more to the right in relation to each other, in the grand scheme of things Anarchism lies to left. It’s in “the mountain.”

We should not lose sight of our ideological heritage. The Third Position may not be inherently right wing, but it provides a rhetoric by which the right may align itself with our movement in a way that is beneficial to them, at least useless to Anarchists, and probably detrimental to all the strides we have had.

Comrade Equus

Fistycuffs with a petty demagogue in a black satin dress

16 01 2011

I was on the verge of deleting this blog as I have no time or patience in maintaining it no more.  And then I got into a prolonged scuffle on the LeftLibertarian forums with Jeremy Weiland who identifies as a “Left Libertarian” and hosts, for free, mind you.  Naturally, fate intervened when Keith Preston, who was the subject of much debate in that thread, picks up my post, publishes on ATS (without accrediting me at all mind you) and then tries to haul me over the coals in front of his Third Positionist buddies.  All I have to say is that if Preston felt threatened enough by a forum post to rebut it to a post published on ATS, and in such a condescending manner, then I must be doing something right.

Plans change.

It is necessary to elaborate a little on the context of my original post, to which Preston responds.  After a prolonged back and forth between Jeremy, myself and some others, the post itself was directed at ctmummy and summarised my overall arguments.  Material, such as the quote from Staceyann Chin, was included in the context of elaborating on certain principles to a fellow LeftLibertarian using the words of a radical LGBT activist rather than my own and was not, in itself, an argument against Preston and his ideology.

You can read my original post and Preston’s full response here.

So let’s get down to brass tacks.

The Label

As per usual, Preston begins his response by defining Anarchism on his terms, citing dictionary definitions of “Anarchism” and “rulership”.

Preston said:

‘From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Anarchism /’an-er-,kiz-em/ noun (1642) 1. a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups. 2. the advocacy or practice of anarchism.

From the Oxford Dictionary: ruler 1. a person or agent exercising government or control

The critic offers no explanation of how “rulership” is to be differentiated from “the state” or “government.”’

So “critic” (i.e. me)(I mean honestly, I don’t even get a proper noun?) apparently provides no explanation for how my conceptualisation differs.

I wrote,

“…as has been said more than once here, Anarchism has never been reducible to “anti-statism” and is much broader, having declared it’s opposition to all forms of rulership.”

But interpretation is a tricky thing and you can hardly blame someone for not taking the time to really come to grips of another’s reasoning.  So, at the risk of being drawn into a “my Anarchism is bigger than yours”, let’s clear some things up: Anarchism is the rejection of the right to rule over others and the rejection of the right for others to rule over you.  And to make it abundantly clear, ‘rulership’ is given a broad definition to encompass all forms of rulership.  This includes all specific forms of rulership including government and state, but also, importantly, those behaviours which reduce one individual to a position inferior to another on the basis of some abstract marker of identity. In short, it is opposition to all forms of authority. Another contributor to the LeftLibertarian forums writes in this regard:

There is a difference. Michel Foucault articulated the main idea here better than I can in An Archaeology of Knowledge, but essentially the right is only anti-establishment if we rework what the establishment has been throughout history. Any concept of the libertarian right requires knowledge and situations that did not exist during the inception of the Right/Left dichotomy. The Libertarian Right is a term that is retroactive in its historical placement. It takes the anti-government (meaning this government, the one that empowers minorities and poor people more than most have in the past) feelings of the right today and then tries to place them in-line with the anti-government (meaning all governments) ideas of the past.

Declaring oneself to be ‘anti-establishment’ does not an Anarchist make and yet Preston ties his “Anarchism” specifically to the exercise of the institutionalised power of the state.  He constructs his “Anarchism” with a narrow interpretation of ‘rulership’.  His “Anarchism” ends at this point and goes not much further.

In my original post I wrote that Preston’s whole approach to discrimination and oppression is pragmatic; he aims to convince the Left to join his alliance by saying that oppression such as racism can be dealt with after the revolution (FYI, when there are 1000 governments operating instead of 1).  Elsewhere in his response, Preston responded by dismissing this and making irrelevant claims about how he has read widely the works of writers belonging to Indigenous rights activists, marginalised minorities and anti-globalist’s aiming their pens at the “American Empire”.  In answer, I point out that just because Preston has read widely and cherry-picked ideas from marginalised peoples which reinforce his ideological stance is of no consequence to the argument itself. The point still remains; for  Preston there is nothing else, all that should be opposed is tied to the state, if it is not, it is valid and legitimate and “natural”.

This is evident where Preston writes:

Instead, it means that all issues and matters of controversy must be evaluated on their own terms, with an attitude of civility towards all but the incivil, and a fair hearing for all contending points of view, on which no one is to have the last word…

…sexual minorities who claim they are oppressed by sodomy laws, legal repression of gay-oriented businesses, or violent crimes by private individuals who target them on the basis of their gender or sexual identity are legitimate within the anarchist paradigm. Neo-Nazis who claim they are oppressed by the mere existence of Jews are not legitimate. Racial separatist whites (or of any other race/ethnicity) who claim their rights of property and association are being violated by discrimination prohibition are legitimate. Feminists who would legally require churches to accept women into the ranks of the clergy are not as this violates the associational and religious liberties of others. At the same time, there would be nothing inherently un-libertarian about feminists within a church organization agitating for altering church policy regarding gender exclusivity in the clergy if they so desired.

Under this construction, racism, sexism, gender discrimination and bias only become relevant issues to be targeted and challenged when they are institutionalised as acts of state power.  His first sentence asserts that it is necessary for marginalised people to allow those with privilege to adjudicate over whether those who are marginalised are oppressed in the first place.  After all Preston does not recognise the existence of privilege, for that would be “Marxist” and “Leftoid” and if he does, he does not see any need to challenge it, demonstrated in the following  quote:

I share most of the political and philosophical presumptions Paul enunciates: natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness, the superiority of organic forms of human organization over social engineering, rejection of vulgar economism, and a tragic view of life.

Despite repeated assertions that he does not support racism and the like, Preston’s shared assumption that there is ‘a natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels‘ only has a limited number of interpretations, and, just to make it abundantly clear, all of them are bad.  Use of the qualifier “natural” to allegedly justify a belief that, for example, “those little brown people have lower IQ’s than us, civilised white men” is hardly consistent with Anarchism as a political philosophy.

To translate, the rest pretty much states an opposition to egalitarianism of any kind, opposition to multiculturalism  and asserts an absolute freedom of association which acts as a limit on other freedoms.  In short, his ideas match up squarely with “National Anarchism” and Third Positionism.  But most who have had an encounter with “National Anarchists”, Third Positionists and ATS know this and would be familiar with the whole spiel which involves invoking the discussion of various reactionary Nationalist movements and a brief discussion of economics.

Preston concludes:

Here’s a good way to look at it: Libertarianism is neither left nor right in that it opposes both conservative as well as leftist forms of statism. There are also anti-capitalist and pro-capitalist forms of libertarianism. Likewise, Third Positionism is neither left or right in that it opposes both capitalism and communism, and there are statist and anti-statist variations of third positionism. So a technically proficient application of political language would indicate that I am both a libertarian and a third positionist, given my radical anti-statism and my free-market syndicalist-mutualist-distributist-communitarian economic outlook.

Of course this conclusion is ridiculous.  It again commits a logical fallacy.  Just because there are similarities on certain points between two political position, it does not follow that those two positions are politically compatible.  As I said in my initial “critique”: Milk is white.  Chalk dust is white.  Would you drink a glass of chalk dust?  It should be noted that responding to this point in my original post (not that there is really a response to basic logic) Preston took the opportunity to preach to the faithful.

However, this all assumes that Preston only rejects “Leftist cultural orthodoxy” when it is involved with Government and the State.  Fact is, Preston regards “Leftist cultural orthodoxy” as “totalitarian” and rejects it irrespective of whether it is “in power” or not.  As Johanna pointed out during an exchange with  Jeremy Weiland:

My impression was that Preston’s idea is that leftist cultural “orthodoxy” (not clear what that means) is totalitarian. IIRC, someone asked him this point blank on some forum (may have been LL2, but I don’t really remember now) and he answered with an unequivocal “yes”. No need for the “in the service of the state” business to pretend that this is necessarily an anti-state position.

and later:

It was intended to nail him down on whether the “totalitarian humanism” he’s talking about is, for instance, hate-speech laws where the state is enlisted and then the word “totalitarian” is doing something in his formulation, or cultural leftism itself where humanism=totalitarianism. Being it’s the latter, then TH is nothing more that “Preston hates lefties”…

And if that doesn’t do it for you, consider the following quote:

The real enemy is those who actually hold state power, not exotic cults despised by the wider society. As for movements that are currently out of power, the greatest potential threat in posed by an insurgent Islam made possible by demographic change in the West. This the primary reason why I endorse the European New Right as the best available metapolitical framework for present day anarchists. More than any other contemporary intellectual current, the ENR has developed a critique of the philosophical underpinnings of totalitarian humanism, as well as a rational response to the question of threats posed by demographic transformation.

Preston’s narrow interpretation of rulership combined with the use of this logical fallacy promotes “Third Positionism” by rendering any connection to “Anarchist” political philosophy so tenuous that it’s very use can only be considered a form of propaganda, especially when coupled with an inversion of the terms “Left” and “Right” that retroactively alters their use and applied meaning.

Third Positionism as Fascism

Time for a little history:

The origins of Third Position are in National Bolshevism, which originally referred to Communists who sought a national (rather than international) revolution. It soon came to refer to Nazis who sought an alliance with the Soviet Union. The most important of these was “left-wing Nazi ” Otto Strasser, a former Socialist who advocated land redistribution and nationalization of industry. After criticizing Hitler for allying with banking interests, he was expelled from the party. His brother, Gregor Strasser, held similar views but remained a Nazi until 1934, when other Nazis killed him in the Night of the Long Knives.

A number of postwar fascists continued this train of thought, including Francis Parker Yockey and Jean-François Thiriart. They saw the United States and liberal capitalism as the primary enemy, sought an alliance with the Soviet Union, and promoted solidarity with Third World revolutionary movements, including Communist revolutions in Asia and Latin American, and Arab anti-Zionists (particularly those with whom they shared antisemitic views). Thiriat’s followers in Italy formed a sect of “Nazi-Maoists” based on these principles, and after a gruesome August 1980 bombing in Bologna which killed 85 people, 40 Italian fascists fled to England, including Robert Fiore.

Fiore was sheltered by National Front member Michael Walker, editor of the Scorpion. This paper subsequently spread Third Position and New Right ideas into Britain’s National Front, and Troy Southgate openly credits it as a major influence. Third Position ideas also spread through the National Front via the magazine Rising. After a 1986 split, this new influence resulted in a reconfiguration of the party’s politics. Prominent members visited Qadafi’s Libya, praised Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and forged links with the Nation of Islam in the United States.

…National-Anarchists retain the two main philosophical threads of Third Position. The first is the notion of a racist socialism, as a third option between both capitalism and left-wing socialism like Marxism or traditional anarchism. The second is the stress on a strategic and conceptual alliance of nationalists (especially in the Third World) against the United States. Just as the National Front praised the Nation of Islam and Qadafi, the National-Anarchists praise Black and Asian racial separatist groups, and support movements for national self-determination, such as the Tibetan independence movement. Unlike many White Nationalists (such as the British National Party), National-Anarchists are pro-Islamist —but only “if they are prepared to confine their struggle to traditionally Islamic areas of the world.”

As Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons note, Third Position fascism influenced U.S. groups such as the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), the American Front and the National Alliance; Christian Identity pastor Bob Miles also held similar views. Often overlooked by commentators is the American Front’s affiliation with Southgate’s NRF, which he boasted of for years. Like the National Front, U.S. fascists Tom Metzger and Lyndon LaRouche also forged ties with the Nation of Islam. More recently, the National Alliance has incorporated Third Position politics. They attempted to cross-recruit left-wing activists by launching a fake antiglobalization website, and, in August 2002, held a Palestine Solidarity rally in Washington D.C.

Matthew N. Lyons writes a good introduction to fascism here while Roger Griffin writes in a draft for a chapter that appeared in the book, Fascism and Theatre: The politics and aesthetics of performance in the era of Fascism that at their core, all fascist ideologies are driven by a definitional “palingenetic ultra-nationalism”.

Palingenetic’ refers to the myth of `rebirth’ or `regeneration’ (the literal meaning of `palingenesis’ in Greek). Clearly, the triumph of a new life over decadence and decay, the imminent rebirth from literal or figurative death, is a theme so universal within manifestations of the human religious, artistic, emotional and social imagination throughout history that it is in itself inadequate to define a political ideology…  The adjective`palingenetic’ first acquires a definitional function when it is combined with the historically quite recent and culture-specific phenomenon of `nationalism’, and only when this takes a radically anti-liberal stance to become ultra-nationalism. Fascism thus emerges when populist ultra-nationalism combines with the myth of a radical crusade against decadence and for renewal in every sphere of national life. The result is an ideology which operates as a mythic force celebrating the unity and sovereignty of the whole people in a specifically anti-liberal, and anti-Marxist sense….

what all permutations of fascism have in common (i.e. the `fascist minimum’) is that their ideology, policies and any organisations are informed by a distinctive permutation of the myth that the nation needs to be, or is about to be, resurrected Phoenix-like from the forces of decadence, which, without drastic intervention by the forces of healthy nationalism, threaten to extinguish it for ever.

Both Third Positionism and National Anarchism are a reworking of WWII era fascist ideologies, that conform to the definitional structure set out by Griffin.  This is necessary to note as both terms are often used interchangely and Preston explicitly identifies as a “fellow traveller” of National Anarchism.  Third Positionist’s generally outright reject both Marxist ideas liberal ideas.  Preston is no different in this regard (Preston refers directly to Jacobin, Marx and Marcuse in particular), but, like his use of the Anarchist label and libertarian terminology, he incorporates “classical liberalism” to the extent it frames and validates his strategy of “pan-secessionism”.  Similarly, the idea of Preston promotes a concept of a greater, abstract ultra-nationalism, which he  from which all individuals spring, an aspect of his philosophy that remains the domain of the Right.  The ultimate aim of rebirth is  expressed through a network of racial and ethnically pure communities where property is distributed evenly among members, free of interference from the “Left” which is characterised as having held down society with their “totalitarian humanist” views.

A look at the agenda for the American Revolutionary Vanguard (ARV) reveals two other notable characteristics common to fascist movements the world over: it is leader-focussed in the sense that a Third Positionist revolution depends on the leadership of the Vanguard guiding the average person who is considered too “simple” to understand ideas like feminism.  In a comment section on another post, Preston writes, I think we need for leaders to emerge in the various anarchist factions as well as overlapping and allied movements that are committed to the common plan of action we’ve outlined.

Secondly and just as importantly, ARV/ATS maintains a heavy focus on recruiting the youth or young people to the cause.

To quote the agenda:

5. Recognizing that youth are the future, American Revolutionary Vanguard focuses its primary recruiting efforts towards intelligent, committed and capable young men and women who will naturally develop into the leadership corps of the struggle to come.


6. American Revolutionary Vanguard supports the establishment of special clubs for youth oriented towards various forms of fashion, music, entertainment, sports and other features of youth culture along with the parallel provision of sound political education and training in firearms safety, competency and civilian defense techniques.

It is from this analysis that any claim by Preston to have transcended ideology is farcical.  The concepts being promoted are rooted firmly in far-Right ultra-nationalist ideology.  The “synthesis of ideas” Preston claims does not exist and are merely cherry-picked thoughts grafted onto a far-Right ideology.  More importantly, despite claiming to distance himself form European neo-fascists, his “Third Positionism” is not much different and meets, to borrow a phrase of Griffin, ‘the fascist-minimum’.

I hardly expect Preston to respond to this in any great detail.  He has written before about how he is not a fascist.  I will leave that up to the reader to decide.

A petty demagogue

Preston is of course correct when he notes that populism in and of itself does not explicitly belong to the Right and there is no direct relationship between Fascism, the Right and populism.  Populism, after all, is a tool that can be employed by the Right or the Left.  However, Preston’s response does nothing to answer any real questions and instead dodge the argument entirely.

Preston’s populist rhetoric, his embracing of the ultra-nationalist doctrine of Third Positionism as outlined above, over-emphasis on the American Empire as the only real oppressor and his narrow definition of rulership from which he constructs his “Anarchism” is an issue of serious concern to any Anarchist, any outsider and any individual belonging to a marginalised or alienated minority.  It is a means by which people are gradually introduced to attitudes and behaviours which they would normally reject.  These attitudes and behaviours then become normalised and the individuals identify increasingly with the Right.

Couple this with common techniques of propaganda and spin and a more developed picture emerges.  There is a tendency of Prestons to equate or use interchangeably the terms, Anarchist, Radical, Libertarian and Conservative which, though a curious aspect of American political discourse, is imprecise, misrepresentatitve and breeds confusion.  Further, in my original post, I noted the use of common techniques of propaganda and spin, which I called out.  These include appeals to “everyday people” and stating that “most people agree,” to stand in for coherent arguments.  Likewise, when I noted and called out Preston’s selective name-dropping of Kropotkin to give credibility to his “classical Anarchist” credentials, he responded:

Kropotkin’s strategic outlook regarding anarchist organizing among common people was the same as mine. For instance, he opposed trying to teach peasants about things like atheism, rationalism, Darwinism, etc and instead favored respecting their cultural and religious traditions while offering assistance on their own issues of concern like economic oppression and exploitation by the state and feudal landlords. And, if this means anything, Kropotkin’s daughter Alexandra actually immigrated to the USA and became a Goldwater supporter while continuing to claim her family’s anarchist heritage.

Fortunately, we don’t have titled aristocrats in modern Western societies, or where we still do, they are toothless. What “privilege” is it that we alternative anarchists are defending? The critic gives no examples or illustrations. Are we defending the military-industrial complex? Seeking to uphold the American empire? Are we Ayn Randian-fans of the corporate overlords? Are we apologists for the bureaucratic overlords of the New Class? Do we heap praise on the elites of the media and the world of academia?  Do we going around displaying slogans like “Support the Troops” or  “Support Your Local Police”? Not that I can tell.

Both these responds to two separate sections of my overall argument do not address the issue at all.  Instead they raise the volume in a direct appeal to emotion and deliberately deflect the question.  The point is that,  Kropotkin recognised his privilege as an aristocrat afforded to him as part of a feudal system and rejected it in an act of solidarity with the peasantry.  Importantly, Preston makes an assertion about Kropotkin’s attitudes and behaviour towards the peasantry without citation or reference which would enable a reader to check context and exact wording.  All we have is Preston’s word and his particular phrasing that this is the case.  Even still, looking at Kropotkin’s life, though he remained insulated from the peasantry and romanticised them, that he rejected his aristocratic privilege to the greatest extent possible for a man of his time and historical context, is an impressive feat.  In  a modern context that understanding of privilege goes further to other critical theories of gender, race and sexuality.

Later in his response, Preston concludes by insulting me and calling me ignorant of political history and political terminology.  This is despite Preston’s claim to be a “classical Anarchist” and “fellow traveller” to NA while self-identifying as a “Third Positionist” which is about as good attempt as any at obfuscation which relies on the contradictory use of technical political terminology to create confusion.  Then Preston apparently has no grasp of the concept of “privilege” as it relates to social inequality (I guess I took that for granted) but then, even if he does, he is playing games because it doesn’t exist in Preston’s ideological world view.  All talk of ‘privilege’ is “Marxist” and therefore evil.  Where he does acknowledge privilege however is where it remains consistent with the overarching narrative of the Great American Empire to the exclusion of any other form of oppression:

…Most of us are certainly privileged compared to our counterparts in many other parts of the world.  Fortunately, most of us are also stridently opposed to the oppression inflicted on people of other nations and civilizations by our own ruling classes such as people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Columbia, Latin America, Iran, northern Africa, Southeast Asia, etc.

Importantly, Preston again employs a favourite rhetorical technique of propaganda throughout his response; the labelling of opposition as “Politicly Correct” or  “Leftoid Marxists” in an attempt to create and designate an enemy.  Anyone who is too vocal about oppression or who too enthusiastically voices dissent is given either label, characterised a certain way and derided for ‘the reflexive dogmatism and cultic psychology common to so much of the Left.’  Never mind existential Absurdism tends to inform my philosophical background more often these days, but whatever.  Any discussion of racism or bigotry is derailed most frequently and most expertly.  In the comments section and the response itself, I’m characterised as a “Leftoid Anarchist”, or words to that effect. This is scapegoating and is yet another disturbing feature about Preston and ATS.  The Left-bashing that occurs so frequently, while another glaring factor that roots Preston’s ideology firmly in the Right, treats the Left as the great Other, the unifying factor around which the “Alternative Right” can gather.   The Left is repeatedly constructed as the oppressor, the great evil that threatens the narrative being spun by Preston:

The present day ruling class paradigm is a synthesis of classical bourgeoisie liberalism and socialism (i.e. a capitalist/social democratic hybrid) and the institutionalization of the values of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Therefore, the Left is indeed “in power.”

Behind his attempts to demonise “the Left”, there is the overwhelming sense that Preston and others genuinely believe that all those associated with “the Left” are only “following party lines” and are essentially feigning their commitment to dealing with and resolving serious social issues.  There is no “party line”.  There is no centralised cadre or leadership (unlike Preston’s vision for his own “movement”).  Those who adopt the LeftLibertarian label generally have formed a broad interpretation of rulership and so declare their opposition to all forms of rulership.  After all, self-liberation is the ultimate goal of Anarchism and Left-Libertarianism and no individual wants to live in a world where they know, that if they walk over the hill to a homogenous self-segregated community they are going to be lynched because of their identity, because they were simply being themselves and happened to violate a term stipulated by some local tyrant.

Preston’s conclusion reinforces this scapegoating and attempts to reinforce his legitimacy by falsely invoking historical struggles and drawing false parallels between them, himself and his ideas:

ARV/ATS… recognize(s) the dangers posed by authoritarian leftism (in spite of the history of bloody conflict between anarchists and left-statists). This is simply a replay of the battle between Bakunin and Marx, between the Kronstadt rebels and the Bolsheviks, or between the Spanish anarchists and the Stalinists.

So far this analysis has taken up almost 4000 words, and this is without going into explicit detail regarding how the Third Positionist and National Anarchist goal of “pan-secessionism” does not act as a “realistic” solution to racism or discrimination.  The very notion of forming alliances with the reactive Right to bring about any real, functioning Anarchism remains a downright absurd notion.  However, Preston frames any debate on the subject by discussing the need to build big tent coalitions between tendencies in order to achieve any real change and then immediately leaping to the conclusion that such an alliance must include the far Right.

Anarchists and Left-Libertarians have long recognised the need to work with and build large coalitions composed of all groups fighting oppression in some form, but this does not mean they should they form these alliances with reactive forces who outright reject any attempts to combat oppression against minority groups, or at least do so under the guise of “pragmatism” and “realism”.  These groups, treat certain identities as a virus and under certain far-Right ideologies are either to be crushed (i.e. White Nationalism) or can be told to “like it or leave it” in the form of “self segregation” (i.e. Third Positionism and National Anarchism).  Better yet “pan-secessionism” combined with self-segregation (absolute freedom of association as a express or implied limit on other basic freedoms) are said to be the only “realistic” means of solving oppression.  Otherwise it is argued that the average person is too stupid to understand such ideas that “women/people of colour/indigenous people/gay/lesbian/transgender people are people too” or that oppression and privilege is so ingrained in people that it is “unrealistic” to try to change it and any attempt to do so is that evil “Leftistism” or “Leftoidism”.  If anyone dares challenge this logic, the word “realistic” is thrown about like water and then a strawman is invoked in the sense that you are “Leftist” and you want to “shoot anyone who opposes you”, another condescending, melodramatic strawman.  Well, either this or you are some “evangelist Leftoid” promoting universalist values, because somehow it is feasible that just because everyone has different understands of what is “good” or “evil”, we must allow our neighbourhoods and spaces to be transformed into conversative theocracies or racially homogenous no-go zones for the rest of humanity.

If you want to talk realistic, discrimination and marginalisation caused by ultra-nationalist tendencies reinforces abstract concepts which define individuals and inevitably manifests conflicts that wouldn’t otherwise occur.  The marginalisation of the Japanese people and discrimination against Japanese migration (particularly to Australia) on the basis of race prior to WWII actually facilitated the rise of Japanese militarism.  The repeated humiliation and sense of inferiority inflicted upon the Japanese by European countries and Australia with their own nationalist policies for maintaining homogenous “White” societies actually helped to birth Japanese ultra-nationalism. Cyprus is another good, complex, multi-dimensional example of the dangers created by abstract ultra-nationalism and proposed “self-segregation” (I could write an entire series on the subject and it would take only the first chapter of the first volume to show Preston’s ideology to be silly).

After all this, I can only conclude that Keith Preston is little more than a petty demagogue in a black satin dress.

(and just in case there are any issues regarding interpretation, yes the “black satin dress” is a metaphor for Preston’s false appropriation of the label “Anarchist” and his particular method of dealing)

First off, and for the record, let me give you my original post which was written in response, not to Jeremy Weiland, but to a third party poster on the forum to whom I was trying to demonstrate that Keith Preston is a Third Positionist (before BrainPolice astutely pointed out it says so on his facebook page).

Thinking aloud on nationalism

14 03 2010

Recently, I told a self-confessed socialist that I opposed ‘nationalism’.  Her jaw dropped.

The same day I somehow found myself in an argument with a person who can only be described as ultra-nationalist over the topic of refugees and asylum seekers.  I told him ‘nationalism’ was absurd and I rejected it.  His jaw dropped and he stared at me for a good 10 seconds.

Such comments seem to shock people, particularly when I inform them I don’t regard myself as ‘Australian’.  However, most people are then pushed to ask whether or not identify as some other nationality.  I tell them my ethnic/cultural heritage and then tell them that I don’t identify with any of these either.  I have no interest in joining one team or another, and this is what seems so shocking to people.

‘Citizenship’, for me, is just a legal document that has no real meaning except that it is a hoop erected by the State for me to jump through in order to do certain things.  It’s necessary in this regard only.

‘Australia day’ is ‘invasion day’, because that’s what it was.  I have no interest in perpetuating ‘Australia Day’ as a celebration of the ‘founding of the nation’ and a collective celebration of ‘Australianism’, when that ‘Australianism’ was founded upon the blood and bones of the indigenous inhabitants of this continent.

My understanding of ‘Self’ is all important in this.  It’s how I identify and clearly my understanding differs from the vast majority of people or I wouldn’t shock them when I mention it.  But why does mine differ other peoples?

We create a particular stereotype by defining ourselves by what we are not.  We then draw arbitrary lines to divide ‘us from them’ in order reinforce that stereotype and perpetuate it.   But little do we realise that what this creates is a bunch of ideas and nothing more, because these ideas are abstract and not based on in reality.  What makes a thing or a person the ‘other’ is make-believe.

However the damage is done. We have created an idea of what we ought to be, or what we ought to do to be ‘Australian‘.  Governments are the catalyst in this process as they mould it, expanded it and promote it because they profit from it.  It allows them to inspire us to band together, to play as a team for the good of the nation, to go fight and die for some concept of this shared, national identity.

Once a particular way of ‘being’ is created, a pressure is exerted upon every individual to conform to that vast collection of memes; to be Australian.  But in reality, that stereotype is false.  It doesn’t exist.  Remove ‘what we are not’ and parts of ‘what we are’, are removed with them.

It’s this that I oppose because the individual tries to be something.  They are trying to ‘be Australia’ when the entire concept of what an ‘Australian’ is doesn’t exist.  Ask anyone to define what, exactly, is ‘Australian’ and then compare it to reality and you find that it’s indefinable.  Thongs, shorts, shrimp on the bare-e, green and gold and singlets may be the ‘average Australian’ to many — and many people try to ‘be’ this, because it is what they think being ‘Australian’ is.  But all it takes is to look around you at the people who pass you in the street to see just how wrong it is.  Even the idea of Australian’s being ‘layed back’ and ‘larrikins’ is a farce.  They may be personality traits for some, but I know many who are highly strung, humourless and depressed.

So then, the individual in pursuit of that identity of ‘Australian’, over compensates.  They alter their behaviour to conform to what they believe is ‘Australian’, when really it doesn’t exist.  A person with black skin may see being ‘white’ as a requirement for being Australian and so bleach their skin to gain acceptance.  In the statement, ‘I am Australian’, the ‘Australian’ part is meaningless and the statement becomes, merely, ‘I am.’  Anything after that is bullshit.  This same thinking can be extrapolated to all sorts of thought processes that designate ‘us’ and ‘them’, and ultimately ends in destroying the ‘other’ or an individual fundamentally changing their ‘Self’ to gain acceptance.

Nationalism then, is simply a weapon for Governments who can increase their control by propagating this idea that somehow ‘our team’ is better and/or under threat from ‘their team’.

However, the biggest issue at hand then, is how to square with ‘positive’ nationalist movements which help to re-establish a marginalised or suppressed identity, such as indigenous peoples from around the world.  After all, these movements are positive in that they create a sense of solidarity among minorities and help them talk back to the privileged majority.  Nationalism re-establishes the oppressed as a cohesive unit and says, ‘we exist and you won’t walk over us.’  How could an anti-nationalist, such as myself, recognise, support and even work with nationalist movements such as these that seek to protect and established an oppressed minority as equals?

To be sure, there seems to be a contradiction.  But, I think, it needs to be recognised that such nationalist movements are positive and present a benefit to those they try to help.  That should be supported, but there is a limit on that support, as nationalism as a theory is not an ends in itself.  As a matter of course, nationalism requires the individual to bend and change the Self in order to accommodate it.  A person will over-compensate in order to gain acceptance and prove that they are more, to use previous examples, ‘Australian’ than you or the other, and I believe this is where the limit lies.  Acceptance is a powerful tool and weapon.  When a movement changes from re-establishing and fighting for the fair treatment and safety of a minority, to being one where the granting or removal of acceptance becomes contingent on the individual trying to ‘be‘ something more than themselves (eg, more hardcore than you), than support should be withdrawn.  Equally, when those movements call for the hatred or destruction of the other, support should be withdrawn.

No support should be given to any movement, organisation or theory from a point where it demands that a person hates their Self and attempts to destroy their Self for acceptance or where it demands that a person hate and destroy their friends, loved ones and supporters on the basis that they belong to ‘the Other’.

“Anarchist Objections to Law and State”

11 11 2009

I just wanted to share with you the following, taken from a Legal, Jurisprudence Textbook. It has to be one of the most objective overviews of Anarchism I’ve seen around, which is surprising considering the extract was contained in a textbook intended for potentially hostile audiences — law schools.

The Limits of Law: Anarchist Objections to Law and State

Laws, decrees, edicts, ordinances, resolutions, will fall like hail upon the unfortunate people.

Third philosophical thesis: We are not cabbages

All of which is to say that, beyond being boring, jurisprudence is about the ways that all sorts of laws which define our society, our political agendas, our sexuality, our visions of reality and our day-to-day struggles intersect.  Is law, then, simply a repressive agent from which we need to be freed in order to recover, or discover, our true selves? As I noted, one of the interesting things about Foucault’s Chinese encyclopaedia is that it demonstrates to us the limitations of our own thought processes. Is law only a distortion or reduction of what could otherwise be? Does it suppress our individuality and freedom?  DH Lawrence thought so. In his Study of Thomas Hardy, he wrote that under the influence of too many laws people are like “the regulation cabbage” — going rotten at the centre instead of blooming.

DH Lawrence

Study of Thomas Hardy

[Making laws] is like protecting the well-being of a cabbage in the cabbage patch, while the cabbage is rotting at the heart for lack of power to run out into blossom.  Could you make any law in any land, empowering the poppy to flower? You might make a law refusing it liberty to bloom. But that is another thing. COuld any law put into being something which did not before exist? It could not. Law can only modify the conditions for better or worse, of that which already exists.

But law is very, very clumsy and mechanical instrument, and we people are very, very delicate and subtle beings.  Therefore I only ask that the law shall leave me alone as much as possible. I insist that no law shall have immediate power over me, either for my good or for my ill.  And I would wish that many laws be unmade, and no more laws made.  Let there be a parliament of men and women for the careful and gradual unmaking of laws.

… we are like the hide-bound cabbage going rotten at the heart. And for the same reason that, instead of producing our flower, instead of continuing our activity, satisfying our true desire, climbing and clambering till, like the poppy, we lean on the sill of all the unknown, and run our flag out there in the colour and shine of being, having surpassed that which has been before, we hang back, we dare not even peep forth, but, safely shut up in bud, safely and darkly and snugly enclosed, like the regulation cabbage, we remain secure till our hearts go rotten, saying all the while how safe we are.

There may be much value in what Lawrence says. Insofar as laws (of society, thought, the legal system) provide us with a way of existing without giving too much thought to what comes next, and without having to make difficult decisions or reflect upon the assumptions we are making, they can be a deadening influence which both capitalise on our desire for safe answers and encourage complacency.  But, as we have seen, law is also arguable the basic condition of meaning: law defines, categorises and sets conditions for communication.

Lawrence’s sentiments raise the question of whether law is necessary to human society at all, and — supposing that it is necessary — what form it should take. These are the questions which have not traditionally been central to legal theory, so persuaded are we that law is a necessary and (probably) a positive element of social existence.  However, political philosophers and, in particular, anarchists, have challenged the traditional acceptance by Western cultures of the state and its associated concept of law imposed by a sovereign.  Although anarchist thought has never been regarded as “belonging” to legal philosophy, it does in my view offer some interesting contributions to an understanidng of law.

This neglect of anarchist thought is hardly suprising: law is typically regarded by legal theorists as imposing order on a society, while anarchism is frequently associated with chaos and disorder.  However, while the “anarchist” label is sometimes adopted by people wishing to reject order altogether, that is not the primary use of the term is political philosophy.  Anarchist theory does not reject order as such, but it does reject order imposed on a society by a centralised hierarchical authority such as a state.  The political motivations behind this rejection vary considerably between anarchists: broadly speaking, some are libertarians or anarcho-capitalists who see the state as an obstacle to radical individualism or a completely free market; others hold communitarian ideals, and regard the state as a violent institution which creates inequalities between people (through institutions such as private property), which prevents people from taking responsibility for ordering their own communities, which obstructs human potential and mutual co-operation, and which perpetrates more violence and war than it prevents.

Early anarchists tended to identify the concept of law with state-based authority, meaning that their rejection of the state also entailed a rejection of law.  For instance, Peter Kropotkin observed that law is seen to be remedy for all evils: “Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. — A law about fashions, a law about mad dogs, a law about virtue, a law to put a stop to all the vices and all the evils which result from human indolence and cowards.”  In placing our reliance on laws given to us by the state, according to Kropotkin, we fail to exercise our own judgement and initiative in ordering our existences, and become subservient to both the law and the state.  Reliance on the state prevents us placing reliance on ourselves and from forming co-operative relationships with others.  Similarly, Leo Tolstoy, a Christian anarchist, defined laws as “rules, made by people who govern by means of organised violence for non-compliance”.  Rather than representing the will of the majority, for Tolstoy, law represents the subjective wishes if a few privileged people, who create laws which server their own interests and protect their private property.  Tolstoy argued that the violence of law cannot be justified: if people are irrational and need violence to exist, then everybody must have the right ot use violence, not just the few who have power; if, on the other hand, people were (as he thought) rational, “then their relations should be based on reason, and not on the violence of those who happen to have seized power”.

Any anarchist rejection of law is, however, tied to its rejection of the state.  Anarchism does not entail a rejection of law as such, as long as it is possible to disengage the concept of law from the presence of a state.  In other words, law may be acceptable, necessary, and even positive for anarchists, as long as it is not arbitrarily imposed by a superior and oppressive institution such as the state.  Such a non-state law may be difficult for modern Western lawyers to envisage: after all, our very concept of law tends to assume the existence of state coercion.  But anarchists have argued that we do not need to think of laws as a hierarchical institution which forces its subjects into compliance.  Nor should law necessarily be regarded merely as a set of rules or static limits.  Rather, it might be “a design, an experiment, and a learning process”.  More practically, it could be created and enforced by consensus and with the co-operation of all members of a society.  Such a law may seem idealistic, impracticable, even impossible. (Though when we think that something is impossible it is important first to remember Foucault’s Chinese encyclopaedia.  Is the object impossible, or are we simply limited in our imagination?)  Clearly, a greater awareness of the law of non-Western and indigenous cultures has led in recent years to some acceptance of broader concepts of law, which are not based upon the presence of centralised state authority…

All citations have been left out — it took me long enough to re-type the whole passage. (my apologies for any errors)  Extract taken from Margaret Davies, “Asking the Law Question” (3rd ed, 2008).  It should also be noted that the opening quote is taken from PJ Proudhon’s General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, page 132.