The other side of the story

18 05 2011

What happens in those off-shore compounds is rarely told from the perspective of those living in them.  More often than not, it’s the large commercial media organisations and various politicians attempting to appeal to base national sentiments.  The ABC have recently published a statement on what occurred recent on Christmas Island written by a refugee.  It is a must read for anyone look for the other side of the story.

Around four or five months ago there was a protest on Christmas Island, which around 250 detainees took part in, in the form of a hunger strike. They were protesting against the unfair system of claim processing by the immigration department.

The protest went on for a week, and after a week some people from the Ombudsman came to listen to detainees’ complaints. They came and sat down with clients’ representatives, and promised that they would pass on detainees’ concerns to the Department of Immigration. However, after a couple of months no one noticed even a slight change in Immigration’s way of processing the cases. Instead of implementing a change, they started to promise detainees that everything would be better in March, and that there would be a lot of noticeable changes, such as a speed up in the processing time for cases, and many other promises.

When March came, however, not only had nothing special happened, but also many people started to get rejected for a second time. For the first 10 days of March many rejections were handed out. This caused even more anger and frustration for detainees, because of the false promises from Immigration, and vows that were never fully met.

Finally, the tension and dissatisfaction boiled over, and around one month ago some detainees broke out of the centre. Around six or seven hundred asylum seekers, in a sign of protest, headed towards the Christmas Island airport in a desperate hope that someone might hear their voices. For two days, from March 11, after bringing down fences, hundreds of asylum seekers freely came and went from the detention centre. Immigration Department spokespeople repeatedly described the events as peaceful. However on Sunday afternoon, Serco decided there had to be a “show of force”. A “snatch and grab” operation was approved by the Department of Immigration, and eventually they captured twenty people, whom they named as ringleaders of a peaceful protest.

This not only did not help to calm the situation down, but created more anger and frustration among other detainees, as when they asked their friends from Serco staff, the staff flagrantly lied to them and told them that all 20 people had been transferred off the island.

However they had in reality gone nowhere but inside a high security compound called Red Compound. Not surprisingly, other detainees responded to the arbitrary arrests, and broke into the high security Red Compound in an attempt to free the 20 people who had been taken away in handcuffs. It was then that the police used tear gas and fired beanbag rounds. Such was the brutality of the police action that some three asylum seekers were trapped inside the Red Compound as they were shooting tear gas, and because their window was half broken the smoke got in and they were about to suffocate inside before one of the Serco staff managed to let them out just in time. Another asylum seeker’s leg was broken by the police beanbag rounds. When we talked to him and asked him what had happened, he said it was a real bullet that caused it, since he could see a hole the size of a 10-cent coin in his foot. Beanbag round bullets are not capable of causing such severe injuries.

The very next day, government decided to send an independent group to listen to detainees’ concerns. The group consisted of three people. During a meeting they had with around 200 detainees, they promised to pass on asylum seekers’ concerns to the minister of immigration via phone while they were on the island. They asked detainees to be calm while they were negotiating with the minister. All detainees agreed, but they stated that they would continue their peaceful protest whilst the negotiations were happening.

The next night, asylum seekers assembled in peaceful protest. They carried white sheets and strips of toilet paper as white flags. They even had flowers to give to the police, but the protest was again met with tear gas. Events escalated from there. This behaviour from the police enraged the crowd, and some lost their control and started to cause property damage by setting some tents and canteens on fire and smashing CCTV cameras.

Fires destroyed the tents and some canteens in the Aqua and Lilac compounds, while police flooded the detention centre with more tear gas and fired more beanbag rounds. All this vandalism was strongly condemned by most of the protesters, and some fights even broke out between peaceful protesters and those who were damaging the place. The protest was condemned and violent, however no one from Serco, the police or the detainees were injured. It is the asylum seekers who were victims of police violence. One asylum seeker had his chin torn up after being shot in the chin by a beanbag round. There were many more who got shot in their face and arms.

Around two or three days after the riot, police decided to retaliate by intimidating and humiliating Iranian detainees by locking up about 200 of them in the centre gym on their new year’s eve. They even threw firecrackers inside the gym, and after doing so police and Serco staff started laughing at detainees’ fright caused by the blast. After locking the detainees in the gym for the night, the next day some of the Serco officers, with a group of around 60 police guards, came to the gym and picked different people according to a book that Serco had provided. The book was designed by Serco which in it they had detainees’ photos who they believed were the rebels and rioters. The way they took people, handcuffed, with another police guard filming the whole scene, was so downgrading and humiliating that the pain felt was much more painful than even the pain caused by bean bag rounds. Any physical scar will eventually go away, but a scar on a person’s mind and spirit will stay for a long time, and the effect of it will likely cause all sorts of psychological disorders and traumas.

The same story of humiliating detainees was happening in other compounds also. Police guards, with the help of Serco, went to the rooms of people whose names were in their book. Police raided the rooms very early in the morning with guns in their hands, pointing at people and asking them to go with them. They even smashed the table that Iranian detainees had decorated for their new year’s day, and threw away the things on the table.

By selecting about 100 detainees and taking them to a compound called White 1, they (Serco and Police) wanted to demonstrate to other detainees that they were the troublemakers who caused all the damage. Around six to 700 detainees were involved in the protest, however because of lack of management by Serco and police, and also lacking a system to track people who had caused the damage (despite all the sophisticated security systems and CCTV cameras), they took the dignity of some innocents away without any solid evidence, and proof based solely on Serco’s fantasy and assumptions. They locked them up inside White 1, and did not give them their personal possessions. They didn’t provide people with any blankets or sleeping sheets. They used every way they could to provoke the people inside White 1 Compound to take some desperate action. In this case, they could easily stick the label of troublemakers and rebels much more easily to them, and prove to other detainees and to the government that they had caught the right people.

After keeping the people inside that compound for 15 days, without proving their crimes, and without any individual approaching them and telling them why they were being locked up, the tension rose to the point that one Kuwaiti detainee tried to hang himself inside the toilet but was very lucky to be noticed by his mates and they saved him.

Another some 50 decided to do a mass self harm.  Having heard the news, a representative from Serco and DIAC came to talk to detainees in White 1 Compound, bringing with them a list with the names of 10 people who were to be transferred to the mainland. Some of those were the representatives of the people in White 1. Again, the way they transferred them out of the island was another example of character assassination and humiliation for a crime and offence that was not proven. They were escorted by about 30 Serco officers ad some 20 AFP undercover police. When they were boarding the plane, some people were filming the whole scene in order to show to the Australian public that the main instigators of the riot were transferred away from the island. When they arrived in the Sydney detention centre, they were forced to sign a paper by Serco staff stating that “We are alleged to be the main instigators of the disturbances on the island”. When some people said that they needed to talk to their agents about it, Serco staff didn’t allow them, explaining that if they did not sign the paper they would be taken to a worse place.

Is this called justice here in Australia? Is this the way people get treated in a country that boasts about its humanitarian efforts? Accusing people of an offence that they haven’t committed, without any solid proof or evidence, is something that happens in dictatorship governments. Does this country follow the same dictatorship system as our own countries?

On Libya

14 03 2011

A friend recently asked me my thoughts about the African and Arab uprisings and whether or not they will lead to more dictatorship.  I responded with the following:

I’ve been following what’s been happening in the Arab world since reports starting coming in about the demonstrations in Egypt. Everyone here, much like the rest of the world, barely heard about Tunisia until it happened.  It wasn’t even rated as a news story.

These are very significant events in the history of the post-colonial world, and the tendency for the news media, except maybe, Al Jazeera, to gloss over them or badly report them is a crime.  The same can be said for the international community that has been working very hard to find out what each uprising means for them and their interests before trying to decide how to turn the situation to their benefit.  It is destroying the huge potential of these uprisings.

Colonialism never truly died in these countries. The colonial powers formally relinquished control, but their presence remained. The eager revolutionaries and organisations that took their place instituted authoritarian rule, and the same Western powers that once colonised these countries for their resources or strategic military value, simply made friends with the dictator to open the doors to commerce. Large corporations then moved in to extract resources from the country, export them home, and pay the dictator millions of dollars while the people remained in poverty.

Part of the reason these authoritarian regimes have been able to come to power is because the people of these former colonies have never had a chance to “birth” a new national identity, one based on honour, respect and equal rights.  Colonial rule ended suddenly, and the institutions that lead to oppression under colonialism, generally, remained in place.  As such, no new identity was born.  While the French were able to do it in the face of their monarchy, and the Americans did it in the face of Britain, the colonial power, in the countries now experience unrest there is simply a perpetuation of the privilege, humiliation and abuses that occurred under colonialism.  These uprisings are the next step in the process, where the people rise up, kick out their petty tyrants and establish an identity that is not based in humiliation and subjugation. This is why all these uprisings have had a nationalist bent — and while I’m against nationalism as an oppressive, divisive concept often aimed at achieving conformity and suppressing difference, I accept the nationalism of these uprisings as an attempt to re-express an identity.

It is a fundamentally good thing.

The next thing that is necessary to consider is that not all country’s in Africa and the Middle East are the same.  Tunisia and Egypt were similar because both governments tried to maintain a thin veil of legitimacy to the international community and world.  They were also strong Western allies.  So when the people no longer feared the para-state security apparatus that Ben Ali and Mubarak had created, it was easier to force them out of the country.

Libya was the next in the chain, particularly given that it sits right between Egypt and Tunisia.  Unrest had spread to many countries, but you could tell Libya would be next.  The only problem is that Gaddafi would never step down.  He has less to lose than Ben Ali and Mubarak did.  Better yet, he never tried to maintain a veil of legitimacy to deal with the rest of the world.  People know he’s a brutal authoritarian ruler and they engaged him anyway.  That they are now saying “OMGz What are you doing to your people?” is really a farce.  Further, the internal structures and institutions of Libya are different to Tunisia and Egypt in that Gaddafi did his best to marginalise the military to prevent a coup, so it’s little wonder many in the military have defected, play the tribes off against each other and therefore keep the people subjugated.

There is this point you will find in all these uprisings where the reports you read will cause fear.  You can see the videos of what is happening in the street, read the twitter feeds giving on-the-ground accounts and then you read the news reports.  There is that point where you fear for the people and think, maybe, just maybe, their momentum is finished and the State may now crack down, hard.  Your first thought is that there will be blood.  There was that moment in Egypt, but the protesters made one final push, with the help of the military, and Mubarak was gone.  In Libya, there was that moment exact same moment, but unlike in Egypt, the protesters in Libya faced far heavier repression.  The Egyptian security forces would try to run down demonstrators in the street but the army never opened fired on demonstrators.  The servants of the Libyan state shot protesters dead.  In dozens.  Indiscriminately.  With RPG’s and bullets all too often, aimed at the head.

It is not hard to see the lies and great efforts the regime in Libya has gone to in order to hide their brutality.  I watched a video just the other day, where a reporter went into a town recaptured by Gaddafi forces.  In the centre, the week before, there were 19 bodies that were buried.  These were people killed in the uprising.  The graves had been demolished, and apparently a bull dozer had been brought in to remove the bodies.  A coffin lay smashed open on the ground.  Relatively peaceful protests, as seen in Egypt, never had a chance.

I also do not think it is right to call what is going on a ‘civil war’.  The “rebels”, as they have been called in the media, have no organised army or weapons, except that which has been liberated from Gaddafi’s security forces.  What we are seeing is a continuing response to the brutality of the crackdown on an attempt at a relatively peaceful protest and revolution.  The people picked up guns liberated from the security forces and rushing to help protect others in neighbouring towns because it is their only choice.  Libya is in revolt.  For those who began the revolt, everything is on the line and if Gaddafi is able to reassert control over the country there will be a continuing, brutal repression against anyone who was involved.

Make no mistake about it.  People have disappeared.  The injured have been removed from hospitals, the young have been arrested and dissent has been crushed in many places.

Too many pessimists are already saying nothing good can come from these events.  I disagree.  Strongly.  I am optimistic about what these revolutions, if successful, will achieve.  As I pointed out earlier, the capacity for a people to stand up from a long period of subservience and humiliation to establish a new identity is inspiring.  It is a positive thing and may very well yield positive result.  But in saying that, you can never know with revolutions.  Uprisings, rebellions and revolutions are fickle creatures.  Often the question is not whether you will be successful against the forces of great evil, but whether or not you will become them yourself.  Those who start out fighting for honour, dignity, integrity and justice all too often end up becoming what they hate.  But this is not to say that revolutions should not be fought or attempted, it is just that you cannot know the future until you’re living in it.

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).

Solidarity with the Roma

5 09 2010

Massive protests have taken place across Europe against the French government’s deportation of Roma.

Al Jazeera:

Thousands of people have attended demonstrations in Paris and other French cities to protest against tough new security measures introduced by the government which they say are being used to target the country’s Roma community.

France began clearing large numbers of illegal Roma camps in July, after Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, announced a series of measures to fight crime.

Police said about 12,000 people had demonstrated in the French capital but organisers put the total nearer to 50,000.

Human rights, labour unions and leftist political parties accuse Sarkozy of stigmatising minorities and seeking political gain with the security crackdown.

They also say he is violating French traditions of welcoming the oppressed, in a country that is one of the world’s leading providers of political asylum.


Thousands of people have attended rallies in Paris and 130 other French towns to protest at the government’s policy of deporting Roma people.

Police say turnout across France was slightly more than 77,000 while organisers put the figure nearer 100,000.

With polls suggesting at least 65% of French people back the policy, the government played down the protests.

The EU parliament is to debate the Roma situation in Europe next week.

About 1,000 Roma (Gypsies) returned to Romania and Bulgaria from France last month, while official figures record that 11,000 Roma were expelled from France last year.

The League of Human Rights, which called for the demonstrations, said it wanted to counteract government “xenophobia” and what it described as the systematic abuse of Roma in France.

The rallies were backed by the opposition Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), France’s second largest trade union confederation.

‘Pushed away’

Trade unionists, students, anarchists, illegal immigrants and others turned out in Paris to the sound of whistles and drums.

The actions of the French government are nothing short of racism, targeting a under-represented impoverished minority because it is easy.  And what happens when the Roma are gone?  Who will the French government turn their attention on next as part of their nationalist agenda?

Even though I cannot physically attend the rallies, this is a declaration of solidarity with the Roma people.

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’.

Reality Check on the Refugee Debates

25 10 2009

Xenophobia and Nationalist sabre rattling take up most of the debate about refugees.  All to often these people, who for whatever reason have decided to uproot and leave their homes for greener pastures, are portrayed as sub-human, without the appropriate paperwork, they have no soul.  Every Australian should be aware at the outrage and shock horror our most patriotic citizens have felt at the recent arrivals of boat people, the positions our politicians are taking, the cries against this horrible crime made by mostly Conservative, wealthy members of the community and the shear amount of rhetoric being used to score a few political points.

About a week ago I was with some friends and a few others.  People were talking and the subject of refugees came up.  I couldn’t believe my ears as I listened to these others talk of refugees as if they were sub-human.  The conversation had quickly become polarised between two positions; a Conservative and a Liberal.  The Conservative started smiling while announcing to the rest of the group that these refugees should all just be turned back in their boats.  I asked why, and he happily explained that the more we let in, the more our lives would become, ‘shit’.  I wanted to explore this thought further, but I could already guess the answer, ‘we only have so many resources and so much space, not to mention that these refugees will all, immediately, start taking Centrelink cheques’.  In other words, ‘my million dollar house in an exclusive suburb will be at risk if we allow too many to enter and they’ll live on welfare’ — which was surprising coming from an Italian whose own ethnicity faced the same discriminatory responses when they began arriving in this country.  I didn’t even know where to begin to tackle this absurdity that is just one step away from ‘they’re destroying our nation’s identity!’  It more or less relied on at least two basic assumptions; refugees are here to mooch and they have nothing to offer society. Never mind that the forces which make a person uproot and risk life and limb to relocate themselves and their families somewhere else means that they want to work because they want to live.  They are leaving their homes because it was so bad that they can no longer live as they wish.  Refugees, at least the ones I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, have never wanted to live off welfare, precisely because they want to live.  And again, all this makes me wonder about whether or not the same criticisms would be levelled against a large number of white refugees.  Would they be welcomed with open arms, or would they be round up and sent back home?

Then there was the Liberal, who otherwise lived in a fantasy world.  Granted, she took a position defending the refugees against the Conservative, but it was the manner in which she did so; she argued that the Australian economy was big enough to allow anyone in.  In short, she made such a weak argument against the Conservative that she was shot down in seconds and made it impossible for the Anarchist in the room to point out not only the intrinsic racism in the arguments of the Conservative but also the particularly arrogant assumption underlying all calls for increased, ‘hard-line’ border security that the world will get up and move to Australia if we just open the borders.  After all, people can’t resist coming to Australia even when there’s no reason to ‘begin again’ in their own country — and it should be well known that the energy and time needed to begin life over again, from nothing, is huge.  It’s a huge commitment but that only becomes absolutely necessary when your world collapses around you and prevents you from providing that better world for your partner and your children or your Self.

And so I woke up this morning, ate my cereal, started making myself coffee and turned on the TV. The glow bathed the living room and the familiar breakfast TV voices echoed in my ears. The presenters are interviewing a 60 Minutes reporter on a piece that will be aired tonight regarding refugees and they all seem to be talking, in depth about the business operations of those that bring the ‘boat people’ to our shores.

The Reporter was smiling and talking while the presenters asked him questions.  In short, he pointed out that the ‘boat people’ are ‘genuine’ refugees and he talked about those that bring the refugees to Australian shores.  He explained that these were mostly fishermen who found they could make a better profit by taking people to Australia instead of fishing.  It was pointed out that these people do not expect or even want to get to Australia; it is too dangerous.  They hope to be picked up by the Australian border guards so the people they are transporting will be taken to Christmas Island, they will be given a decent meal, kept warm and then given a plane ride home.  Are these people the evil monster’s that Kevin Rudd called them back a few months ago?  Are they profiting of human misery?  Sure, if you look at it from the perspective of, ‘Poor refugees, but they should wait in line while their world collapses around them instead of being goaded into doing something stupid be evil monsters’.  But this perspective doesn’t quite sit well with reality.  People want to get out and they want to get out now.  For whatever reason, they are willing to take the risk of coming by boat to Australia because they need to leave.  The ‘evil monster’ they turn to is a fisherman, just trying to make a living meanwhile the people, those poor refugees, are able to avoid much of the bureaucracy that may endanger their lives.  What these refugees are doing is something courageous and what the people who take them are doing is something heroic.

Then there is the fact that most people miss.  While crying ‘poor exploited boat person refugee who should have waited in line’ they ignore the fact that most of Australia’s refugees arrive by plane.  I would even go so far as to hazard the assertion that all those who treat ‘boat people’ as subhuman (evidenced in the very titled afforded them), should really think twice about their position on the basis that it may, one day, come back to haunt them.  After all, what happens if the lifestyle enjoyed in most of Australia suddenly goes to hell and many Australians look to escape?  Will they want to wait in line?  Will the rest of the world accept them or turn them back?

Borders and Border Protection are just codewords for xenophobia and do nothing but increase human suffering.  The more people call out for ‘regulation’ and ‘tougher laws’ to ‘combat’ the arrival of ‘boat people’, we will be helping to increase human suffering and misery.

EDIT:  Less than five minutes after posting this, I found the following:

Greens leader Bob Brown has told Channel Nine that if the Government wants to pursue a so-called “Indonesian solution” to deal with asylum seekers, it must seek assurances from the Indonesian government.

“I hope that Prime Minister Rudd will be calling on his Indonesian counterpart in Thailand to sign the international refugee conventions which guide basic ground rules for fast processing of asylum seekers,” he said.

Mr Brown says the Federal Government should be trying to improve detention conditions for asylum seekers in Indonesia.

“We’ve looked at the Australian-funded holding place in Indonesia, it’s got no power, it’s got none of the amenities we would expect for a decent jail, let alone a decent holding place,” he said.

“Some people are being held there for many years – five to 10 years – and that’s not acceptable.”

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has also defended the move, amid claims of extremely harsh conditions and beatings in Indonesian asylum seeker camps.

“We have carried out all of our obligations and continue to carry out all of our obligations,” Senator Conroy told Network Ten.

He says Australia has contributed almost $8 million this year towards improving conditions for asylum seekers being held in Indonesia.

So we’re taking people who have escaped one hell and thrown them into another.  Three cheers for Nationalism!