Sunday, 29 November 2015

RADIO INTERVIEW: Josie the Outlaw - Anarchism: Speaking Out Against Tyranny

Josie the Outlaw is an anarchist, activist and promoter of the ideas of voluntarism, self-ownership and a stateless society. Her YouTube videos have reached more than 200,000 viewers in just a month. Her philosophy states that "Living outside the confines of unjust laws is necessary to living a just life." We'll discuss her work partnership with Larken Rose, their current project and the rise of true anarchism across the globe. She explains her philosophy of being an outlaw. We also question why there are so few outspoken female anarchists. Other topics we discuss include law, taxes, gun control and police brutality. As an anarchist, she shares her approach to mandatory licenses, insurance and permits. Josie explains why it is our duty to speak out against tyranny. We'll also discuss the ridiculous notion of the "greater good" and the rise of socialism. Only a stateless society is logically or morally compatible with non-aggression, self-ownership and voluntaryism because government is always coercive and violent.

RADIO INTERVIEW: Attie Schutte - Post-Apartheid South Africa & Afrikaner Self Determination

Attie Schutte is an Afrikaner blogger and political activist who lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. His interest varies from self-sufficient localism and Ethno-Nationalism to Austrian economics and the various schools of Anarchism. He’s a member of the Orania Movement. We’ll discuss never spoken of events in South Africa that concern colonialism, Apartheid and post-Apartheid life. Attie also shares some history of early Europeans in South Africa. What is life like in South Africa’s “rainbow nation” How is the White minority treated in South Africa Attie tells about violence against White South Africans and why the media doesn’t report it. We’ll discuss healthy segregation verses government intervention and how government is always a force behind genocide. Attie speaks against government policy involving discrimination and race based conflicts. Government always creates more problems. We’ll talk about one Afrikaner self determined community called Orania that refuses to be part of South Africa’s “rainbow nation” and how they’re labeled racists for propagating Afrikaner culture in solitude. Orania is the only hope of survival for the Afrikaners wanting their own government, in their own territory. We talk about the healthy aspect of separate homelands for every ethnic group and how it can bring the most amount of peace. Later, we discuss the current colonization of Europe, the failure of democracy and the idea of Free Market Nationalism.

SEE ALSO: Reggie Yates: Extreme South Africa - White Slums (S01E01)

RADIO INTERVIEW: Cody Wilson - 3D Printed Guns, PC Hacktivism & Cultural Terrorism

Cody Rutledge Wilson, a student of law, political philosophy, and social theory, is a USA crypto and free-market anarchist. He is best known as a founder/director of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organization that develops and publishes open source gun designs, so-called "Wiki Weapons," suitable for 3D printing. USA Carry named Wilson one of America's "30 Influential Pro-Gun Rights Advocates," and Wired Magazine's "Danger Room" has named him one of "The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World." 

Cody speaks of his conservative southern Christian upbringing and what brought the power of anarchy to his awareness. He explains his impetus for creating the world’s first 3D printable gun and the State Department static he has encountered since making the plans available on the worldwide web. Cody touches on the filament modeling process and the printing of bullets, and we talk about these schematics getting into the wrong hands. We also consider the European migrant invasion that is bringing with it firearms into unarmed countries. Then, we discuss the potential for anarchism to embrace primordial traditionalism in breaking from hegemonic modernity. We get into the changing demographics of the US and what a majority minority means for politics in the country. Cody talks about how certain forms of new technology are being suppressed by the SJW political system and likens this conformist catering to an outgrowth of the Cold War. We discuss hacktivism, alternative payment processing, and the obstacles in separating from the capitalist banking system. Later, Cody gives his take on Trump, who he calls the “avatar of anti-politics,” and he shares what it’s like to live in the racially realistic south as neo-liberals fight to whitewash Confederate history and eradicate southern culture.


RADIO INTERVIEW: Keith Preston - 21st Century Anarchism: Anarcho - Pluralism, Radical Localism & Effective Resistance

Keith Preston received a B.A. in Religious Studies and an M.A. in History with additional graduate study in Sociology and Criminology. He is a former instructor of sociology, a former regional delegate for the Industrial Workers of the World and a former member of the National Committee of the Workers Solidarity Alliance. He is the founder and director of American Revolutionary Vanguard and the chief editor of He is also the host of the "Attack the System" online podcast series. We’ll discuss what Keith calls Anarcho-Pluralism and Pan-Secessionism. He’ll talk about the core strategic efforts for the pan-anarchist movement. The idea is to work to abolish the central state and give every political interest group its own territory to create whatever kind of society it wishes. How do we go about dissolving the state? What are the methodologies for practical implementation of anarchism? What are the problems perceived in the mainstream of the anarchist milieu? How has mainstream Libertarianism failed? Keith explains how various types of anarchists can work together to crush the state and become an effective resistance. He will explain the real threat currently facing anarchism: totalitarian humanists, liberal humanism, progressive imperialism, cultural authoritarianism, tolerance of repression and political correctness have waged war on freedom. We speak more on how “radical localism” is the best possible method of avoiding tyrannies and abuses of Leviathan states. Anti-statism sentiments in America are becoming the norm. Will 21st century anarchists succeed in their efforts, or are we destined for tyranny?

RADIO INTERVIEW: Craig Fitzgerald - NATA & Multicultural Madness

Craig Fitzgerald is one of the founders of the National Anarchist Tribal Alliance of NewYork. We’ll discuss the national anarchist movement and how it can be a solution to the problems we’re facing. We’ll discuss what a nation is and how it has nothing to do with government. As multiculturalism is being forced onto the west, we’ll talk about the madness of mass immigration, cultural genocide and the government’s involvement. Who is out to destroy western civilization? Craig elaborates on the culture wars and talks about radicalized extremists out to destabilize Europe. In the days of diversity being pushed down our throats, we’ll talk about how true diversity comes with de-centralization and voluntaryism. We’ll talk about the need for Europeans to move beyond the eastern Abrahamic religions and find their true heritage and roots found in Europe. Craig presents the idea of forming local communities and sovereign enclaves with like minded people to combat globalization, homogenization and government tyranny. Later, we talk about government infiltration of White nationalist groups. We’ll also talk about the violence and hypocrisy of Antifa, a collective of militant so called anti-fascists. We’ll end the hour on suppressed American history and megalithic sites that are hardly spoken about.  

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Anarchism: Its Rational Basis

Anarchism, far from being irrational and naively optimistic, may be our only hope.

Mikhail Bakunin, the founder of modern anarchism, though unsystematic, was a most prescient thinker.

Long before Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek Bakunin warned that no “group of intellectuals no matter how great their genius” could “understand the plethora of interests, attitudes and activities” needed to centrally plan and administer the rational allocation of preferences in a modern industrial economy.

The anarchist origin of this critique of central planning is just about universally ignored precisely because its neoliberal variant, which is crucial to the legitimacy of contemporary economic policy, claims a monopoly on rationality and efficiency.

It is often said that anarchism is an irrational way in which to organise a modern industrial society, and this argument is presented by serious minded critics as the most forceful against anarchist arrangements.

Anarchism is a doctrine for the warm hearted romantic, not the hard headed rationalist, we are told by those who possess the cynicism of the sophisticated.

One of the more well known dismissals of the “naive optimism” of anarchist thought and practice, that due to James Joll, observed that “mass production and consumption and large scale industry under a centralised direction, whether capitalist or socialist, have, whatever one may think about them, become the characteristic forms of western society and of the newly emergent industrial countries elsewhere.”

Anarchism swims against the tide for “the basic assumptions of anarchism are all contrary to the development of large scale industry and of mass production and consumption” so “for this reason, much anarchist thinking seemed to be based on a romantic, backward looking vision of an idealised past society of artisans and peasants, and on a total rejection of the realities of twentieth century social and economic organisation.”

The argument is an intriguing one for it presupposes that there is a necessary correlation between rationality and centralised modes of economic and political organisation, and the only defence offered for this presupposition is that is how matters are currently arranged.

The mere existence of centralised modes of organisation imply their rationality.

The reality, and necessity, of centralised modes of organisation is one of the charges that some Marxists continue to make against anarchist thought. Certainly Marxists would not disagree with Joll regarding present realities for, as related in The Communist Manifesto, capitalism “has agglomerated population, centralized the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralization.”

Marxists, crucially for our present purposes, have tended to argue that this centralisation is an historical stage that civilisation must traverse for the advent of production for surplus, and its underlying productive basis, make communism possible in a modern setting.

One of the reasons why the Bolsheviks ruled via the iron hand of the state was because they sought to amass capital, especially at the expense of the peasantry, so that Soviet society could pass through this necessary stage of industrial development upon the road to communism.

One may accuse Lenin and Stalin of many a thing but surely “naive optimism” be not one of them.
The last thirty to thirty five years has witnessed a one sided class war waged against the working classes by the corporate elites and the states to which they are tightly connected.

This attack on the population, dressed in the garb of neoliberal theory, has to no small degree been justified on grounds of rationality and efficiency. From “free trade” to labour market deregulation the market has been unleashed for the mantra has it that the market can ensure the rational production, allocation and distribution of resources. Behind the scenes, in the meanwhile, corporations derive benefit from state tutelage whilst the working classes are subject to its disciplining rigours.

A key argument made by neoliberals, following on from the socialist calculation debate, is that market based societies alone are rational or efficient allocators of resources because of their highly decentralised nature. The panoply of buyers and sellers operating in markets incorporate all available information needed to ensure the rational allocation of preferences. That information is reflected in market prices.

The most graphic, and most intellectually bankrupt, application of this doctrine is the efficient market hypothesis which asserts that capital market prices incorporate all available information regarding future capital earnings. This means that market prices are rational and based on economic fundamentals, rather than manias, irrational exuberance and the like. Given that it is via capital markets that investment is made in capitalist society there exists a strong tendency toward the rationality of investment and the allocation of capital.

The link drawn here, intriguingly, was one between rationality and decentralisation, yet it is the decentralised aspect to anarchism that makes it “naive optimism.”

The reality of financial market instability, most especially the manic driven cycles of boom and bust, demonstrate that capital market prices cannot be reflective of the rational processing of all available information regarding future earnings. This fact is of no small moment as the Chernobyl scale meltdown of financial markets and the resulting misallocation of capital sits at the core of the global financial crisis.

We all know that investors and speculators spend a great deal of time hunting for information prior to taking a position in capital markets. If capital market prices incorporated all available information such activity would not be necessary so the fact that it occurs, and that upon a large scale, suggests that markets in fact are quite inefficient.

The purported rationality of markets, despite the grim reality, is neither utopian nor naively optimistic. To the contrary, neoliberal policy making continues to frame our age.

A centrally planned economy cannot possibly incorporate all available information, the neoliberals told us, and we are told that only they told us, for the central apparatus of the state cannot possibly possess the information needed to ensure a rational allocation of goods and services.

Mikhail Bor, a Soviet central planner, observed in the 1960s that “the planned organisation of the economy in the USSR allows for the rational use of labour in the interest of the whole of society.” Similar sentiments applied to other sectors of the economy.The expectation was raised that advances in mathematical modelling, made by possible by supercomputing, linear programming and cybernetics, would make central planning yet more rational.

Such be a species of “naive optimism.” But one of no small moment as the travails of the Soviet economy were used to buttress the case made for the rationality of markets in the advanced industrial societies. The failure of Soviet central planning added impetus to the next, post cold war, phase of the neoliberal offensive on society. Alternative critiques, to the extent even addressed, could be dismissed as naïve optimism.

Ours is a society dominated by large corporations whose highly hierarchical and centralised systems of management plan the production, allocation, and distribution of goods and services. As Alfred Chandler observed “in many sectors of the economy the visible hand of management replaced what Adam Smith referred to as the invisible hand of market forces.”

It should be stressed that these visible hands are quite centralised and hierarchical. Ours is an economy composed of strategic alliances between connected islands of centralised economic and political power.

Interestingly Chandler argued that in the domain of consumption market dynamics still apply, but even here one must be cautious. The vast public relations industry, through highly crafted propaganda, plays a very important role in shaping the pattern of consumption, and this is done from cradle to grave twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

Information asymmetries are endemic to corporate dominated societies for there is much that the visible hand of management knows that other hands do not. When there exist asymmetries in the possession of power so there must exist asymmetries in the possession of information. When asymmetries of information exist within markets then the misallocation of resources follows, and so we get, often colossal, market failure.

Markets have the tendency to encourage the central agglomeration of capital as they evolve with respect to time so this is an inherent tendency to any market based society.

Anarchism, at least its traditional left wing variants of anarchist communism and anarchosyndicalism, is a vision of a modern industrial society that is highly decentralised.

The vision is of a society that consists of a decentralised federation of worker owned and managed enterprises and that, for anarchist communists, distributes and remunerates production upon the basis of need.

The planning decisions of these enterprises would account for the production, distribution and allocation of resources.

These enterprises would be non hierarchical and non authoritarian. That is, their management would be based on principles of participatory democracy so therefore all economic agents would be managers involved in the framing of economic decisions. There would, thereby, exist a robust degree of equality among the participants of such an economic order.

One of the main arguments for democracy is epistemological. Democracy, unlike other systems of governance, has epistemic virtue for when all participate in the framing of decisions it is possible through free and equal deliberation to incorporate all the accessible information needed for a relatively rational allocation of preferences.

There is nothing inherent to economic governance that renders less force to this argument as when applied to the political domain.

A decentralised federation of worker owned and managed industries would be best at incorporating all accessible information needed for a relatively efficient production, distribution and allocation of resources because it would be thoroughly democratic. That is not to suggest that such a society would be a rationalist heaven in some absolutist Laplacian sense for such a society would be required to confront the pervasive effects of uncertainty like any other.

So we might say that of Marxist centralised systems of planning, corporate dominated society, free market nirvana, none would be more rational than anarchism for none is nearly as participatory.

Feel free to call this naïve optimism if you like. To paraphrase Princess Leia, it's our only hope.

What Is Anarchism All About?

Whenever public protests ignite into violent behaviour, the mainstream media are often quick to refer to “anarchy” and to “anarchists”. Those who are referred to as anarchists are protesters who burn tyres or engage in battles with the police. In this narrative, anarchists are lawless hooligans and anarchy is about chaos and pointless violence.

The latest example is the Million Mask March in London on November 5. This event was indeed organised by a number of anarchist groups – and there were limited outbreaks of violence – but the equation of chaos and violence with anarchism is about as productive as the equation of circles with squares. It is a crude and bizarre misrepresentation.

What is anarchism anyway? It is a radical and revolutionary political philosophy and political economy. While there are many definitions and many anarchisms, most would agree to the definition formulated by PeterKropotkin. This definition is in an article which Kropotkin was invited to write for the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

According to Kropotkin, anarchism: “is a name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government – harmony in such a society being obtained, not by the submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being.”

Free society of free individuals

Let’s unpack this a bit. The etymology of the term traces back to the Greek word “anarkhia”, which means “without rulers” or “without authority”. It stands for the absence of domination, hierarchy and power over others.

Anarchism is a process whereby authority and domination is being replaced with non-hierarchical, horizontal structures, with voluntary associations between human beings. It is a form of social organisation with a set of key principles, such as self-organisation, voluntary association, freedom, autonomy, solidarity, direct democracy, egalitarianism and mutual aid.

Based on these principles and values, anarchism rejects both a capitalist economy and a nation state that is governed by means of a representative democracy. It is a utopian project that aspires to combine the best parts of liberalism with the best parts of communism.

At its heart is a mix of the liberal emphasis on individual freedom and the communist emphasis on an equal society. I particularly like the definition of Cindy Milstein about anarchism being a “free society of free individuals”.

Long history

The political philosophy of anarchisms emerged in the mid-19th century – as part of the thought of Enlightenment. Key anarchist thinkers include Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, William Godwin, Peter Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, Emma Goldman, and Max Stirner. Proudhon is credited as the first self-proclaimed anarchist and is often seen as the founder of classic anarchist thinking. In particular, he developed the concept of spontaneous order in society, where organisations can emerge without central or top-down coordination.

In fact, Godwin developed his anarchist theory half a century earlier – without ever using the term. His writings are a profound critique of the state and its structural violence, arguing that the state and its government has a bad influence on society in that it produces unwanted dependency. He has also pointed out that law and legislation is created by the rich and powerful. Sound familiar?

However, it is also important to emphasise that most anarchist principles, convictions and moral positions are not at all an invention of modern anarchist theory – they are as old as human civilisation. And due to the rather different political philosophies of liberalism and communism, anarchist theory – like most political ideologies – is not a consistent and homogeneous concept. It evolves as different people articulate its core ideologies in different ways.

We can at least distinguish between two rather different schools: social anarchism and libertarian anarchism (or free market anarchism). While social anarchism puts emphasis on society and often supports a political economy that socialises the means of production, libertarian anarchism is mostly concerned with ensuring the maximum amount of liberty for the individual. Here, the will of the individual is considered to be more important even than a harmonious and egalitarian society.

Anarchism and activism

Over the past two decades or so, anarchist practice has enjoyed a significant revival. This is particularly visible in new social movements that have been influenced by anarchist forms of organisation with horizontal structures and non-representative decision-making processes.

Anarchist forms of resistance have also largely informed the alter-globalisation movement – which believes in the benefits of global thinking but rejects economic globalisation. The 1999 battle of Seattle was perhaps the first moment of a reinvigorated anarchism. It has been followed my many other movements and forms of resistance such as Reclaim the StreetsEuroMayDay, various environmental movements, and more recently the Occupy movement and the hacktivist group Anonymous. And they are having quite an impact. One could easily argue that anarchist forms of resistance are now outperforming the more socialist and hierarchical forms of resistance.

Oscar Wilde, a libertarian anarchist, is widely associated with the following bonmot: “The problem with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.”

An anarchist world?

But questions must be raised about the feasibility of anarchist practice. While anarchist organisation clearly can work on a local level, on the level of small communities and on a rural regional level (see the Zapatistamovement or large parts of Kurdish rural regions) the jury is still out on whether anarchist social organisation can be embedded in large urban areas, or on a national or global level.

How can forms of direct democracy, such as the general assembly of the Occupy movement, be built and maintained in settings with large populations? At first glance, this seems rather unlikely. Then again, digital technologies might open up new possibilities for large-scale forms of anarchist organisation. Certainly, anarchism is on the rise.

Monday, 2 November 2015

So many people spend their lives doing jobs they think are unnecessary

David Graeber interview: ‘So many people spend their working lives doing jobs they think are unnecessary’

The anarchist author, coiner of the phrase ‘We are the 99%’, talks to Stuart Jeffries about ‘bullshit jobs’, our rule-bound lives and the importance of play.

A few years ago David Graeber’s mother had a series of strokes. Social workers advised him that, in order to pay for the home care she needed, he should apply for Medicaid, the US government health insurance programme for people on low incomes. So he did, only to be sucked into a vortex of form filling and humiliation familiar to anyone who’s ever been embroiled in bureaucratic procedures.

At one point, the application was held up because someone at the Department of Motor Vehicles had put down his given name as “Daid”; at another, because someone at Verizon had spelled his surname “Grueber”. Graeber made matters worse by printing his name on the line clearly marked “signature” on one of the forms. Steeped in Kafka, Catch-22 and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Graeber was alive to all the hellish ironies of the situation but that didn’t make it any easier to bear. “We spend so much of our time filling in forms,” he says. “The average American waits six months of her life waiting for the lights to change. If so, how many years of our life do we spend doing paperwork?”

The matter became academic, because Graeber’s mother died before she got Medicaid. But the form-filling ordeal stayed with him. “Having spent much of my life leading a fairly bohemian existence, comparatively insulated from this sort of thing, I found myself asking: is this what ordinary life, for most people, is really like?” writes the 53-year-old professor of anthropology in his new book The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy. “Running around feeling like an idiot all day? Being somehow put in a position where one actually does end up acting like an idiot?”

“I like to think I’m actually a smart person. Most people seem to agree with that,” Graeber says, in a restaurant near his London School of Economics office. “OK, I was emotionally distraught, but I was doing things that were really dumb. How did I not notice that the signature was on the wrong line? There’s something about being in that bureaucratic situation that encourages you to behave foolishly.”

But Graeber’s book doesn’t just present human idiocy in its bureaucratic form. Its main purpose is to free us from a rightwing misconception about bureaucracy. Ever since Ronald Reagan said: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help”, it has been commonplace to assume that bureaucracy means government. Wrong, Graeber argues. “If you go to the Mac store and somebody says: ‘I’m sorry, it’s obvious that what needs to happen here is you need a new screen, but you’re still going to have to wait a week to speak to the expert’, you don’t say ‘Oh damn bureaucrats’, even though that’s what it is – classic bureaucratic procedure. We’ve been propagandised into believing that bureaucracy means civil servants. Capitalism isn’t supposed to create meaningless positions. The last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.”

[Left] Radical heritage … David Graeber

Graeber’s argument is similar to one he made in a 2013 article called “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”, in which he argued that, in 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by the end of the century technology would have advanced sufficiently that in countries such as the UK and the US we’d be on 15-hour weeks. “In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. Huge swaths of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they believe to be unnecessary. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.”

Which jobs are bullshit? “A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble. But it’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.” He concedes that some might argue that his own work is meaningless. “There can be no objective measure of social value,” he says emolliently.

In The Utopia of Rules, Graeber goes further in his analysis of what went wrong. Technological advance was supposed to result in us teleporting to new planets, wasn’t it? He lists some of the other predicted technological wonders he’s disappointed don’t exist: flying cars, suspended animation, immortality drugs, androids, colonies on Mars. “Speaking as someone who was eight years old at the time of the Apollo moon landing, I have clear memories of calculating that I would be 39 years of age in the magic year 2000, and wondering what the world around me would be like. Did I honestly expect I would be living in a world of such wonders? Of course. Do I feel cheated now? Absolutely.”

But what happened between the Apollo moon landing and now? Graeber’s theory is that in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was mounting fear about a society of hippie proles with too much time on their hands. “The ruling class had a freak out about robots replacing all the workers. There was a general feeling that ‘My God, if it’s bad now with the hippies, imagine what it’ll be like if the entire working class becomes unemployed.’ You never know how conscious it was but decisions were made about research priorities.” Consider, he suggests, medicine and the life sciences since the late 1960s. “Cancer? No, that’s still here.” Instead, the most dramatic breakthroughs have been with drugs such as Ritalin, Zoloft and Prozac – all of which, Graeber writes, are “tailor-made, one might say, so that these new professional demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally, crazy”.

His bullshit jobs argument could be taken as a counterblast to the hyper-capitalist dystopia argument wherein the robots take over and humans are busted down to an eternity of playing Minecraft. Summarising predictions in recent futurological literature, John Lanchester has written: “There’s capital, doing better than ever; the robots, doing all the work; and the great mass of humanity, doing not much but having fun playing with its gadgets.” Lanchester drew attention to a league table drawn up by two Oxford economists of 702 jobs that might be better done by robots: at number one (most safe) were recreational therapists; at 702 (least safe) were telemarketers. Anthropologists, Graeber might be pleased to know, came in at 39, so he needn’t start burnishing his resume just yet – he’s much safer than writers (123) and editors (140).

Graeber believes that since the 1970s there has been a shift from technologies based on realising alternative futures to investment technologies that favoured labour discipline and social control. Hence the internet. “The control is so ubiquitous that we don’t see it.” We don’t see, either, how the threat of violence underpins society, he claims. “The rarity with which the truncheons appear just helps to make violence harder to see,” he writes.

[Left] Occupy Wall Street protests in New York in 2011

In 2011, at New York’s Zuccotti Park, he became involved in Occupy Wall Street, which he describes as an “experiment in a post-bureaucratic society”. He was responsible for the slogan “We are the 99%”. “We wanted to demonstrate we could do all the services that social service providers do without endless bureaucracy. In fact at one point at Zuccotti Park there was a giant plastic garbage bag that had $800,000 in it. People kept giving us money but we weren’t going to put it in the bank. You have all these rules and regulations. And Occupy Wall Street can’t have a bank account. I always say the principle of direct action is the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.”

He quotes with approval the anarchist collective Crimethinc: “Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the nature of habit, law, custom or prejudice – and it’s up to you to create the situations.” Academia was, he muses, once a haven for oddballs – it was one of the reasons he went into it. “It was a place of refuge. Not any more. Now, if you can’t act a little like a professional executive, you can kiss goodbye to the idea of an academic career.”

Why is that so terrible? “It means we’re taking a very large percentage of the greatest creative talent in our society and telling them to go to hell … The eccentrics have been drummed out of all institutions.” Well, perhaps not all of them. “I am an offbeat person. I am one of those guys who wouldn’t be allowed in the academy these days.” Indeed, he claims to have been blackballed by the American academy and found refuge in Britain. In 2005, he went on a year’s sabbatical from Yale, “and did a lot of direct action and was in the media”. When he returned he was, he says, snubbed by colleagues and did not have his contract renewed. Why? Partly, he believes, because his countercultural activities were an embarrassment to Yale.

Born in 1961 to working-class Jewish parents in New York, Graeber had a radical heritage. His father, Kenneth, was a plate stripper who fought in the Spanish civil war, and his mother, Ruth, was a garment worker who played the lead role in Pins and Needles, a 1930s musical revue staged by the international Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

Their son was calling himself an anarchist at the age of 16, but only got heavily involved in politics in 1999 when he became part of the protests against the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle. Later, while teaching at Yale, he joined the activists, artists and pranksters of the Direct Action Network in New York. Would he have got further at Yale if he hadn’t been an anarchist? “Maybe. I guess I had two strikes against me. One, I seemed to be enjoying my work too much. Plus I’m from the wrong class: I come from a working-class background.” The US’s loss is the UK’s gain: Graeber became a reader in anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2008 and professor at the LSE two years ago.

His publications include Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004), in which he laid out his vision of how society might be organised on less alienating lines, and Direct Action: An Ethnography (2009), a study of the global justice movement. In 2013, he wrote his most popularly political book yet, The Democracy Project. “I wanted it to be called ‘As if We Were Already Free’,” he tells me. “And the publishers laughed at me – a subjunctive in the title!” But it was Debt: The First 5,000 Years, published in 2011, that made him famous and has drawn praise from the likes of Thomas Piketty and Russell Brand. Financial Times journalist and fellow anthropologist Gillian Tett argued that the book was “not just thought-provoking but exceedingly timely”, not least, no doubt, because in it Graeber called for a biblical-style “jubilee”, meaning a wiping out of sovereign and consumer debts.

At the end of The Utopia of Rules, Graeber distinguishes between play and games – the former involving free form creativity, the latter requiring participants to abide by rules. While there is pleasure in the latter (it is, to quote from the subtitle of the book, one of the secret joys of bureaucracy), it is the former that excites him as an antidote to our form filling red-taped society.

Just before he finishes his dinner, Graeber tells me about the new idea he’s toying with. “It’s about the play principle in nature. Usually, he argues, we project agency to nature insofar as there is some kind of economic interest. Hence, for instance, Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene. I begin to understand the idea better– it’s an anarchist theory of organisation starting with insects and animals and proceeding to humans. He is suggesting that, instead of being rule-following economic drones of capitalism, we are essentially playful. The most basic level of being is play rather than economics, fun rather than rules, goofing around rather than filling in forms. Graeber himself certainly seems to be having more fun than seems proper for a respected professor.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Anarchism could help to save the world

State socialism has failed, so has the market. We need to rediscover the anarchist thinker Peter Kropotkin

Ed Miliband’s late-night pilgrimage to Russell Brand’s loft apartment, days before the last election, was seen by supporters as a canny bid for the youth vote, and by critics as a cringe-worthy attempt to harness the Shoreditch Messiah’s charisma. Yet neither view captures its real significance as a sign of the profound weakness of mainstream social democracy and its desperate efforts to co-opt the energies of the most dynamic element of today’s left: anarchism. In their eagerness to ridicule Brand’s “ramblings”, commentators have ignored his strong identification with the left-anarchist tradition. For among the works he has recommended to his followers is a collection of writings by another charismatic figure who sometimes lived in London, the father of anarchist communism: Prince Peter Kropotkin.

Comparisons between Kropotkin and Brand may seem strained. Kropotkin’s background as the scion of one of the grandest and most ancient Russian aristocratic families is far removed from Brand’s humbler origins. Kropotkin was a highly educated polymath, while Brand – though undeniably intelligent – has played the part of popular entertainer and motor-mouth wit.

Yet, like Brand, the exiled Kropotkin became a fashionable figure in London, lauded by the late-Victorian artistic and intellectual avant garde – from William Morris to Ford Madox Ford. In a weird prefiguring of the Miliband-Brand wooing, he even received the first Labour Party leader Keir Hardie at his Bromley home. And just as satirical comparisons are made between Brand and the son of God, so Oscar Wilde described Kropotkin as a “beautiful white Christ”.

It is no surprise that anarchist sages and prophets should be so fashionable, both then and now. In Europe before the first world war, those varieties of socialism that placed their faith in state-led social reform – social democracy and Marxism-Leninism – had not yet begun to eclipse their anarchist competitor. But now that era of statist optimism is over, a left reinvigorated by the current crisis of globalised capitalism is searching for alternatives more suited to our individualistic era.

Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin, born in 1842, came of age in troubled times. Humiliated by his defeat in the Crimean war in 1856, Alexander II set out to reform Russia’s archaic aristocratic order while preserving its fundamentals, and the Kropotkins were stalwarts of the old system. As a youth, Kropotkin trained for the army in Russia’s most elite military academy, and his intellectual distinction even ensured that he was chosen as a page at the tsar’s court. He soon came to despise the status-obsessed cruelties of the ancien regime, identifying not with the nobility but with the peasants who had cared for him as a child.

This alliance of sympathy for the poor with commitment to the life of the mind, especially science, came to define Kropotkin’s career – whether in the service of the tsarist state, or in pursuit of anarchist revolution. Posted to Siberia by the military, he sought to improve the lives of convicts, while also leading pioneering geographical expeditions. And once in exile from Russia (persecuted for his revolutionary activity), he devoted himself to reconciling his deep moral outrage at social inequality with his love of science by developing a coherent anarchist vision – marking him out from his less intellectually ambitious anarchist predecessors, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin.

Kropotkin’s synthesis can be found in two of the most important – and readable – texts of anarchism: The Conquest of Bread (1892) and Fields, Factories and Workshops (1899). Society, he argued, could be run along the lines of the peasant communities he saw in Siberia, with their “semi-communistic brotherly organisation”, free of domination by either the state or the market. And this, he insisted, was not mere nostalgia or utopianism, for new technology and modern agriculture would make such decentralised development highly productive. But Kropotkin was mindful, too, of the needs of the environment, an awareness born of his geographical and scientific interests, and he is rightly considered one of the pioneering theorists of Green politics.

He also rooted his anarchism in evolutionary science. Mutual Aid (1902) argued that communities founded on radical equality and participatory democracy were feasible because human nature was innately collaborative. Unlike Social Darwinists such as Herbert Spencer, who argued that all forms of life were driven by a competitive “struggle for existence” between organisms, Kropotkin insisted that another type of struggle was more important – between organisms and the environment. And in this struggle, “mutual aid” was the most effective means of survival.

Between the 1880s and the 1920s, Kropotkin’s communist anarchism competed for influence with a more statist Marxism, and won many converts among intellectuals, peasants and working class communities, especially in southern Europe and the United States (including the “Wobblies” – the Industrial Workers of the World). In Asia, too, anarchism infused the thought of the early Chinese Communist Party, and underpinned the Indian civil disobedience campaigns of Gandhi – though he was closer to Tolstoy’s more religious anarchism.

But the anarchists’ own struggle would be lost, partly because their commitment to democratic participation undercut their capacity to sustain stable mass organisations, and because they were undermined by the violence espoused by some anarchist groups (against Kropotkin’s advice), which provoked ruthless state repression. In the end, though, their fate was sealed by a broader intellectual shift, as the prestige of states rose in the wake of total war – especially in the 1950s and 60s, when both communist east and capitalist west presented rival visions of state-led “progressive modernisation”.

But now states have yet again fallen in popular esteem, damaged by the crisis of Keynesian and communist economics since the 1970s, and by the rise of “60s” values, which prize individual self-expression and personal fulfilment over loyalty to nation states and other centralised institutions.

This individualism is particularly strong among the educated and the young, just as it was among the Bohemians of Victorian England. And it is no surprise that anarchism should have become important again on the left in recent years – from the “anti-globalisers” of the late 1990s, to the 2011 Occupy movement. Indeed Occupy’s principal theorist, David Graeber, is a Kropotkin enthusiast.

Anarchism’s challenges remain much the same as they were in Kropotkin’s day. How can a group so suspicious of established institutions build an effective movement for the long term? How can it win over a majority addicted to endless growth and ever higher living standards? And how can its ideal social order, founded on local participatory democracy, control the enormous concentrations of power in states and international markets?

Yet much has changed to anarchism’s advantage. A more educated society is becoming ever less deferential and possibly less materialistic. Meanwhile, the failures of both state socialism in 1989 and global capitalism in 2008, and their glaring inability to deal with environmental degradation, demand that we question the way we live as never before. Kropotkin is no messiah, but his writings force us to imagine a politics that might just help save the world.


RADIO INTERVIEW: M.K. Lords - Agorism, Bitcoin, Libertarianism vs. Anarchism

M.K. Lords is the office manager at Roberts & Roberts Brokerage and a part time agorist. She is committed to building bridges with a variety of activists to create a freer world. When she’s not busy expressing her own freedom through spoken word poetry or fire dance, she is busy educating others about the effectiveness of counter-economics as a way to redistribute power back into the hands of the people. Her articles have been featured in Bitcoin Magazine, Freedom’s Phoenix and Attack the System. M.K. will explain the political philosophy known as agorism, named by Samuel Edward Konkin III. Agorism encourages people to withdraw their consent from the state by devoting their economic activities to black market and grey market sources, which would not be taxed or regulated. M.K. discusses how via revolutionary market anarchism, we can achieve a free society. We’ll also discuss Bitcoin and Dark Wallet. Then, we’ll talk about political correct madness as Bitcoin has been accused of being racist and sexist. Also discussed is the Libertarian Party’s view of limited government vs. the anarchist view of no state. Is America heading for more govn’t tyranny or will the younger generation rise up and fight the state?

Welf Herfurth Speaks In Ecuador!

German National-Anarchist, Welf Herfurth, recently had an opportunity to discuss our ideas at a conference in Ecuador. Please devote just 90 minutes of your time to hear what he has to say. And if you like it, please share it. Many thanks. 


Preserving Your Way of Life Does Not Make You Racist

The below article looks at both pluralism and the notion that "non-aggressive nationalism", similar to ideas being promoted by National-Anarchists, first originated in the work of Johann Gottfried Herder. 


Wanting to Preserve Your Way of Life Does Not Make You Racist or Fascist

I have been trying to find the language to express my discomfort with the presumption that anyone who does not welcome very large numbers of refugees into Europe with widely opened arms is somehow resurrecting the ghost of Hitler. Or the right language to express the proscribed thought that those in Eastern Europe who want to settle only Christian refugees might have appropriate reservations about the very real difficulties of integrating very different cultural and religious practices into their distinct way of life.

According to the OECD, Europe is expected to receive up to 1 million asylum applicationsthis year. The European Union's 500 million-strong population can surely absorb such numbers that may be small in the overall frame. But many communities are impacted in a concentrated way. By most accounts, today's refugees from the savagely war-torn Middle East or Africa are looking for a permanent place, preferably in Germany -- which expects 800,000 applicants this year -- or Sweden, to plant their future.

[Left] A member of global civic organization Avaaz wearing a caricature head of France's Hollande performs a satirical sketch related to welcoming refugees.

I have found that language not on my own tongue, but through the words of the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, famous for his provocative stance that we should engage in "obscene solidarity" instead of patronizing "political correctness" that tip toes around hard realities by using "pretty language."

But before I get to Žižek, let me take a detour that lays the ground of what we mean -- or at least what we have meant historically -- by cultural pluralism.

Some years ago I published a conversation with the great pluralist thinker IsaiahBerlin in the New York Review of Books entitled "Two Concepts of Nationalism." In that discussion we addressed the attachment to one's way of life as the very stuff of cultural pluralism that liberal civilization is meant to protect.

After examining aggressive nationalism of the kind we associate with Nazism that results from the wounds of humiliation -- "like a bent twig, forced down so severely that when released, it lashes back with fury" in Berlin's phrase -- we spoke about "non-aggressive nationalism." Here is what Berlin said:

Nonaggressive nationalism is another story entirely. I trace the beginning of that idea to the highly influential 18th-century philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder.

Herder virtually invented the idea of belonging. He believed that just as people need to eat and drink, to have security and freedom of movement, so too they need to belong to a group. Deprived of this, they feel cut off, lonely, diminished, unhappy. Nostalgia, Herder said, is the noblest of all pains. To be human means to be able to feel at home somewhere, with your own kind.

Each group, according to Herder, has its own Volksgeist -- a set of customs and a lifestyle, a way of perceiving and behaving that is of value solely because it is their own. The whole of cultural life is shaped from within the particular stream of tradition that comes from collective historical experience shared only by members of the group.

Thus one could not, for example, fully understand the great Scandinavian sagas unless one had oneself experienced (as he did on his voyage to England) a great tempest in the North Sea. Herder's idea of nation was deeply nonaggressive. All he wanted was cultural self-determination. He denied the superiority of one people over another. Anyone who proclaimed it was saying something false. Herder believed in a variety of national cultures, all of which could, in his view, peacefully coexist.

Each culture was equal in value and deserved its place in the sun. The villains of history for Herder were the great conquerors, such as Alexander the Great, Caesar, or Charlemagne, because they stamped out native cultures.

Only what was unique had true value. This was why Herder also opposed the French universalists of the Enlightenment. For him there were few timeless truths: time and place and social life -- what came to be called civil society -- were everything.

. . . In Herder, there is nothing about race and nothing about blood. He only spoke about soil, language, common memories, and customs.

Berlin then went on to express his own views:

Like Herder, I regard cosmopolitanism as empty. People can't develop unless they belong to a culture. Even if they rebel against it and transform it entirely, they still belong to a stream of tradition. New streams can be created -- in the West, by Christianity, or Luther, or the Renaissance, or the Romantic movement -- but in the end they derive from a single river, an underlying central tradition, which, sometimes, in radically altered forms, survives.

But if the streams dry up, as for instance, where men and women are not products of a culture, where they don't have kith and kin and feel closer to some people than to others, where there is no native language -- that would lead to a tremendous desiccation of everything that is human.

Enter Žižek:

"One of the great Left taboos," he writes, "will have to be broken here: the notion that the protection of one's specific way of life is in itself a proto-Fascist or racist category. If we don't abandon this notion, we open up the way for the anti-immigrant wave which thrives all around Europe."

In this regard, one should note that the largest party in Sweden today in the wake of the refugee crisis, according to polls, is the anti-immigrant DemocratParty

Žižek continues:

The standard Left-liberal reaction to this is, of course, an explosion of arrogant moralism: The moment we give any credence to the "protection of our way of life" motif, we already compromise our position, since we propose a more modest version of what anti-immigrant populists openly advocate. Is this not the story of last decades? Centrist parties reject the open racism of anti-immigrant populists, but they simultaneously profess to "understand the concerns" of ordinary people and enact a more "rational" version of the same politics.

While there is a kernel of truth in these moralistic complaints that Europe has lost empathy and is indifferent towards the suffering of others, Žižek argues that this is "merely the obverse of the anti-immigrant brutality":

Both stances share the presupposition, which is in no way self-evident, that a defense of one's own way of life excludes ethical universalism. One should thus avoid getting caught into the liberal game of "how much tolerance can we afford." Should we tolerate if they prevent their children going to state schools, if they arrange marriages of their children, if they brutalize gays among their ranks? At this level, of course, we are never tolerant enough, or we are always already too tolerant, neglecting the rights of women, etc. The only way to break out of this deadlock is to move beyond mere tolerance or respect of others to a common struggle.

Žižek then proceeds to the proper framing of Europe's refugee crisis:

One must thus broaden the perspective: Refugees are the price of global economy. In our global world, commodities circulate freely, but not people: new forms of apartheid are emerging. The topic of porous walls, of the threat of being inundated by foreigners, is strictly immanent to global capitalism, it is an index of what is false about capitalist globalization. While large migrations are a constant feature of human history, their main cause in modern history are colonial expansions: Prior to colonization, the Global South mostly consisted of self-sufficient and relatively isolated local communities. It was colonial occupation and slave trading that threw this way of life off the rails and renewed large-scale migrations.

Then he draws the lesson from this new reality:

The main lesson to be learned is therefore that humankind should get ready to live in a more "plastic" and nomadic way: Rapid local and global changes in environment may require unheard-of, large-scale social transformations. One thing is clear: National sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new levels of global cooperation invented. And what about the immense changes in economy and conservation due to new weather patterns or water and energy shortages? Through what processes of decision will such changes be decided and executed? A lot of taboos will have to be broken here, and a set of complex measures undertaken.

And the solutions:

First, Europe will have to reassert its full commitment to provide means for the dignified survival of the refugees. There should be no compromise here: Large migrations are our future, and the only alternative to such commitment is a renewed barbarism (what some call "clash of civilizations").

Second, as a necessary consequence of this commitment, Europe should organize itself and impose clear rules and regulations. State control of the stream of refugees should be enforced through a vast administrative network encompassing all of the European Union (to prevent local barbarisms like those of the authorities in Hungary or Slovakia). Refugees should be reassured of their safety, but it should also be made clear to them that they have to accept the area of living allocated to them by European authorities, plus they have to respect the laws and social norms of European states: No tolerance of religious, sexist or ethnic violence on any side, no right to impose onto others one's own way of life or religion, respect of every individual's freedom to abandon his/her communal customs, etc. If a woman chooses to cover her face, her choice should be respected, but if she chooses not to cover it, her freedom to do so has to be guaranteed. Yes, such a set of rules privileges the Western European way of life, but it is a price for European hospitality. These rules should be clearly stated and enforced, by repressive measures (against foreign fundamentalists as well as against our own anti-immigrant racists) if necessary.

Clearly, the world of Herder's enclosed volksgeist, which still lives on in the reticent souls of those Europeans uneasy with the "plastic" reality of globalization, must give way to the world of Žižek. But in the transition, let's be careful not to affix a politically correct label to the nostalgia that authentically worries about "desiccation of everything that is human" as something other than it is.

[Left] A poster depicts Merkel wearing a veil during a demonstration of the Legida anti Islamization movement, an offshoot of Pegida.


EVER since its emergence in the late-1990s, first as a developing tendency and then as a fully-fledged movement, National-Anarchism has been growing steadily and motivating people with its message of political, social and economic self-determination. In this volume, the sixth in our series, we focus on some of the key writers and dissidents who have contributed to the overall development of our beliefs and objectives. As a result, therefore, we have asked some of our leading activists and supporters to introduce a specific Anarchist text that has inspired them in some way. Among the material discussed is The Anarchist Revolution (Nestor Makhno), The Theory of Alternative Green (Richard Hunt), Why Revolution? (Alexander Berkman), State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree and Wherein They Differ (Benjamin Tucker), Prisons: a Social Crime and Failure (Emma Goldman), The Kronstadt Commune (Ida Mett), Reply to the Platform / Synthesist (Several Russian Anarchists), The Wage System (Alexander Berkman) and The Tyranny of the Clock (George Woodcock). The contributors are Troy Southgate (Editor), Keith Preston, Wayne John Sturgeon, John Howells, Josh Bates, Nora Gillespie and Nathan Wild. It is hoped that some of the leading ideologues and philosophers of Anarchism will motivate and inspire you in the same way, causing you to reject nation-statism and share our dream of establishing village communities based on free association, mutualism, autonomy and organic principles. 

To order this title please visit the Black Front Press website here.