Recently, in our blog looking at the National Policy Institute we mentioned that their line-up included former anarchist Keith Preston. As we mentioned in the article, Preston used to be a member of the anarcho-syndicalist Workers Solidarity Alliance and was at the founding convention of the Love and Rage Anarchist Federation. It should also be mentioned that he was a member of the syndicalist union the Industrial Workers of the World. The reason that this is relevant, as we will get to later, is that Preston came from organizations associated with the broad anarchist tradition and not just countercultural “scenes” associated with anti-authoritarian tendencies.
According to Preston’s own descriptions of himself, after disagreements over what he saw as identity politics and the “cult of antiracism” in Love and Rage, he started looking towards Libertarianism and Anarcho-Capitalism. He later got involved in just about every disparate ideological strain that could vaguely be associated with anti-statism, then working to find ways for collaboration for these groups, left, right, and center. He himself argues for a concept call “pan-secessionism” or “anarchy-pluralism,” where by these “different anarchist tendencies” can collaborate in creating regional communities in a decentralist grid. It needs to be stressed, however, his idea of what different anarchist tendencies includes strange right-wing constructs that no one in the anarchist camp would include including such charming ideas like anarchy-monarchism, national anarchism, anarchy-capitalism, and anarchy-fuedalism.
Keith picked up our article to giggle about the reference to him speaking at the NPI conference, where he has spoken in the past. After first quoting us and then going onto mention Alexander Reid Ross’s expose series on Michael Schmidt, he went on to address claims that he is a “former anarchist.”
Whether these guys like it or not, I’m still an anarchist who embraces the entire range of anarchist and decentralist thought. Sorry if that if upsets anyone.
He goes on to make jokes about people’s shock at an anarchist’s support of secretive ideas about racism and genocidal fascist traditions. Yeah, it certainly was pretty funny.
The question about whether or not what Keith Preston considers anarchist is one that has been explained at length over and over again, especially about the so-called “anarchy-capitalism.” Preston’s ideas are based solidly on the idea that ideologies that literally have no historical or ideological connection can still be said to be the same thing. Libertarianism, which is a completely deregulated form of capitalism, is a tradition that really did not exist in any meaningful way(We already know that you will probably dispute this Preston, but that is only grasping at straws) before the 1980s where people like Murray Rothbard vocally tried to take the “anarchist” title as a way of undermining the historic libertarian tradition. Rothbard, working with people like Lew Rockwell, produced work throughout the 1980s that by today’s standard might even be seen as white nationalist, but not to mention hideously vile to working class people and minorities. We are not going to go into the volumes and volumes of literature that outlines why “anarchy-capitalism” has no connection to anything understood to be anarchism, but we will go into just a few areas of this.
Literally, every single traditional anarchist that Preston likes to prop up on his website, Attack the System, consider themselves primarily of an anti-capitalist tradition. Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, and even Pierre Joseph Prodhoun and Max Stirner, were all violently anti-capitalist. Bakunin’s first formulation of contemporary anarchism came out of a split in the first meeting of the International Workingman’s Association with Karl Marx, where Bakunin saw the communist tradition better served by an anti-statist tendency. It was not simply that socialism was a part of the anarchist tradition, it was the foundation of it. Kropotkin fueled this even further by developing the very basis on which the ideas of modern anarchism rested, which is today known as Anarcho-Communism. While many traditions have split from the surface political forms of this, the foundational ideas have remained the same. Rudolph Rocker brought these ideas into the workplace, Emma Goldman elaborated them into gender and sexual liberation, and as they came up through the 20th century they adapted to the struggles against oppression from different oppressed identities.
What anarchism never did, however, was become a tool for those who own capital to justify a complete release of any constraints for their cruelty. Anarchism, at its core, has always been an idea about the smashing of social and political hierarchy, embedded in capitalism and enforced by the state. It is not that anarchists are opposed to the state just because it is a bureaucratic machine, but instead because it enforces ruling class interests and are created in the image of that class. To be opposed to the state is because of its role in capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. There is literally no connection then to “national anarchist” ideas that are based around the idea that white people are somehow an oppressed class, which is against all common understanding of power and history. There is no role for bigotry, anti-Semitism, the oppression of women and queer people, or for the rich to maintain their wealth. No Keith, there is literally no connection between what anyone in anarchism actually thinks and does and what you espouse on your silly platforms.
In a recent presentation at NPI, Preston embarrassed himself as he went on to show how white nationalism was compatible with anarchism. In his stuttery twang, he spit out his idea of “totalitarian humanism,” which is one of his charming notions that the left forces their ideology of “humanism” on the right. His use of these types of labels is a way of creating a mirage about the fact that he is playing with pre-school ideas about how the world works, where by any attempt to confront racism and domination is somehow the real oppression. To do this it doesn’t require any deeper analysis about white supremacy, heteronormativity, or what people of oppressed classes have actually experience in their lives. Instead, Preston can rail against Political Correctness as the true evil, which I’m sure is much worse than the crisis of sexual assault happening against women worldwide or the vicious cruelty of de-regulated capitalism on the working class.
What is really at the core of anarchism? It was never just liberty for liberty’s sake, but understanding that true freedom for the individual comes from challenging oppression, authority, and hierarchy. The analysis looks at the role that capitalism and the state have in suppressing most of the world for the benefit of the few, and intersectionality has helped to draw out the way that other oppressed identities can create a more complete matrix. Anarchist do not oppose the state because it forces equality, it limits capitalist accumulation, or it is to “modern.” They oppose it because it does not allow for equality, because it is a tool of capital, and because it is a brutal machine for the interests of the ruling class. These are not just the ideas of “one strand” of anarchism, but literally all strands of anarchism. While anarchists may disagree about the methods and the tools, they never disagree on the basic ideas about capitalism and oppression. What you describe are a series of right-wing ideas that you are trying to provide a venue for on the radical left.
More importantly, Preston has worked hard to create a space for some of the most vile fascist and white nationalist strains in the U.S. He is supporting a conference October 31st, 2015, that will discuss explicit anti-Semitism(Kevin McDonald), that will have silly misogynist rants(Jack Donovan), that will argue for an ethnically cleansed “ethno-state”(pretty much the rest of the speakers), and will be a meeting space for people associated with just about every single major player in the “white right.” He has been published and/or interviewed in places like Alternative Right, Red Ice Radio, Radix Journal, and Counter Currents. He is right along side people making claims that African descended people’s are degenerates with lower IQs than whites. He is paired next to people who deny the holocaust, who think the world is run by a secret cabal of Jews using pornography and banking to destroy the white race, and who state that major world events are Jewish conspiracies. He stands next to those who think that rape is just a social construct, that white people need to rid their continent of people of color, that we need to re-establish a fascist(and yes Keith, we mean fascist by any broad definition of political fascism) world order. Fascism is the core flip side of the anarchist project, where by they intend to enforce hierarchy, social authority, and inequality. Fascism, and all of its various “strands”(We are sure you will love that term, Keith.) is the political opposite of the anarchist project, where there is literally no crossover and anarchism requires the explicit failure of all of these traditions.
In Preston’s most recent book, named Attack the System, after his own website, he put a big American flag on the cover alongside a few bullets. Do you think that anarchism is unique to America as a country? Do you think that the imperial state of the U.S., built on slavery and exploitation, and crystalized in the flag, is somehow anarchist? What do you think most anarchists would see when they see your claims of a “new anarchist perspective” emblazoned in front of the American flag?
Plainly put, you serve a different community, not the one you claim.
As Preston likes to lament, he is going to continue to call himself an anarchist despite his detractors. Feel free to do that Preston, but you know as well as we do that there is nothing in your simplistic idea about the world that can fit in anything that anarchism was built on. Do you actually think that any of the traditional anarchist voices you like to toss around would have supported your various capitalist and racial separatist ideas? I’m sure that these are backflips that you have to do mentally while you realize that you are more welcome in circles full of swastika tattoos and shaved heads than the anarchist movements that are growing internationally.
So no, Keith, you are not an anarchist, but you can keep putting it on as a Halloween costume so you do not have to confront the fact that you have joined hands with racists, sexists, and homophobes. We would call this shameful, but it is pretty clear that this is the only community that will have you at this point.
Keith Preston is likely to respond to this blog, and he will mention all of these different “anarchists” that support his anarcho-pluralism, yet your pack of fringe “dissidents” mean very little to people involved in the actual anarchist movements. He will likely use white nationalist buzzwords like “cultural Marxist” to describe us, which is just a silly anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in an attempt to say that Frankfurt School Marxism has had more influence than it has had because of its “Jewish character.” He will probably call us authoritarians, because to angry white men being told that their opinion does not matter is just as oppressive as Jim Crow. We want to say up front that Preston’s opinion on our anarchism because what we are saying here is not a fringe idea, but what anarchists along vast sets of traditions will agree on.
So Preston is set to humiliate himself even further on Halloween as he begs the pseudo-intellectual racists at NPI to be in their club, and they will be more than willing to take his “island of broken toys” into their camp of violence, nationalism, and reactionary anger. We, for one, would like to write you a letter of recommendation for your entry into the Alternative Right.
You are one of them, not one of us.