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Putting It To Rest: What You Want Isn’t Anarchism

The last bastion for anarchists who don’t organize is to write.  The three editors of Anti-Fascist News have stayed committed to not falling into this pattern as we know how a “managerial class,” as recent commentators have referred to it, is antithetical to anarchist visions of directly run social systems.  Keith Preston, who runs the National Anarchist website Attack the System, does not share this commitment as his politics lie in wait only in the theoretical.  This is why we do not take his assertion that pan-Secessionism, and his idea of the revolutionary potential of the radical right, very seriously.

Preston has, of course, released response to response to response.  We are going to keep this short only because there is actual organizing we are trying to make this a resource for.

One quick introductory note on the use of names.  All contributors and the website’s three editors come under the same name “antifascistfront(We literally say where many of the contributors come, so it is clear the range of authors that are in place).”  For someone who attempts to bastardize the history of Anti-Fascist Action, Keith should probably know the utility of a uniform “common front” where by names and faces are united so as to engage in a common purpose.  This is in line with the use of free association(we know you are aware of that part of anarchist theory) and direct action.  This comes out of Autonomen and Autonomist factions where by anarchism influence Marxist economic theories.  The exchange between anarchism and Marxism has been complex and ongoing, yet this idea that Marxism has infiltrated anarchism and that is why it has adopted socially left values is not just bizarre, it has zero basis in fact.  Today, Marxist factions, as small and scattered as they are, are continually a socially conservatizing force and several steps behind in these struggles.  This has always been true in older periods of Marxism where struggle is centrally set on a united working class along economic lines, not along lines of other oppressed identification.  The idea is then proposed by neo-fascists that the Frankfurt School completely reshaped all social struggles on every level so that anti-racism and anti-patriarchal struggles would supplement class struggle.  The main purpose of this conspiracy theory is to create a narrative where by it is actually Jewish philosophers that have started this process and, therefore, must be only done for Jewish domination.  There are literally no Marxist academics or organizers that would agree with the radical right’s estimation of Marxism as the driving force towards social progress through the Frankfurt School.  The struggle between communist countries or dominant sub-sections and fascism is due to the size of communism as a left-ideology in militant areas during the interwar period.  The assertion that Preston makes is that Antifa really draws its history from the German Communist Party(KPD) in the mid-1930s is dubious, the only real connection is the symbology that most of us identify under the auspices of a “united front.”  The allegations of nationalism in the KPD is bizarre as it lacks the ideological racialism that most identify with nationalism as such, but you are right about one thing: none of us would support KPD politics in the 21st century.  Instead, we cite the long history of anti-fascism that is united along anti-racist, and broad-based anti-fascist politics.  Today, Antifa is actually drawn from the creation of Anti-Fascist Action in Britain in 1985.  This concept came out of a period when anarchism was shifting towards dominance in the larger left, only because of the historic failure of state communism.  More than this, it is the failure of simple labor-centric politics to have the tools necessary to confront the ways that people actually experience oppression, as well as the need to attack cultural power on multiple fronts.  To say that the KPD “invented” anti-fascism is a right-wing delusion where by you boil literally hundreds of independent and intersecting movements just down to one group who made a flag.

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Other anti-fascist images, such as the downward sloping three arrows, comes from the social democratic Iron Front who hardly share the hard-line state Marxism.  The KPD, the failed German Revolution, and the position of racism within their party is a history that fails to have a connection to modern anti-fascist organizing since the dynamics of state allied communist parties is past, but it does actually show the degree to which Marxism fails to address issues like racism, patriarchy, and queer liberation.

Ideologically, the anarchist project of modern times owes so little to Marxism in all the ways that most people understand Marxist theory.  Marxism does not see the power dynamics that are central to interpersonally identified oppressions, such as race or gender, as foundational.  Instead, economic relations act as the base to the larger superstructure by which other forms of oppression can rest alongside disparate pieces of culture.  This runs counter to most contemporary anarchist’s conception of oppression, where anything beyond class struggle would have to be secondary.  The influence of Marxism on anarchism is in much of the critiques of capitalism, which you would see in the work of people like Wayne Price(We are guessing you remember him).  The Marxism that does tend to maintain some types influence in anarchist circles are, ironically, the Marxists that you cited to make your point.  There is differing opinions about the work of Negri and Hardt among our editorial collective, especially as it comes to the de-emphasis of the nation state, yet this disagreement is within a particular framework: namely, the discussion of politics leading towards liberation.  If anything, anarchism has influenced Marxism more on social issues than the latter as you can see the emergence in most of the ideas in many of the anarchists Preston sites, such as Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman.  The issue Preston takes up is if reactionary counter-cultural movements, from neo-Nazis to Mormon Fundamentalists, can be united to challenge the global hegemony of capitalist power.  The reality is that with visions so radically different, as well as analysis about power and oppression so different, they hold little tactical or ideological virtue in each other.  Simply put: we don’t want the same things, and even in challenging the state we would engage with it in such radically different ways that we do not hold stake in each other’s success.  We believe in dual power and, only to some degree, prefiguration of the world we want to see.  In doing so, we engage in anti-oppression politics inside of the methods we use towards larger movement building, which we hope are cumulative moves towards revolutionary struggle.

The influence on anarchism over the second half of the 20th century came instead from anarchism’s ability to adapt to different ideas it comes in contact with during periods of struggle.  This means its connection to the Civil Rights Movement, Radical Feminism, Radical Ecology, the anti-nuke movement, Animal Rights, and a whole other range of actual social movements that allowed anarchism this evolution.  This really comes from the notion, which is primary in anarchist thought from the start, that anarchism is a struggle against oppression on multiple fronts.  Anarchism’s opposition fundamentally to hierarchy means confronting all the places that oppression seeps into people’s experiences, and confronting that as a unique place of struggle.  This is the point by which intersectionality influenced the modern movement, coming out of the Combahee River Collective in Boston in the mid-1970s where it came from the combined experiences of both racism and sexism experienced by women of color.

The real key issue that Preston’s arguments here rest on(possibly all of his stale arguments, in general) is whether or not things like racism and sexism actually exist as significant forms of oppression and if all these completely unrelated and antagonistic ideological forces can basically be called the same thing.  There are literally stacks of books about this issue, but we are simply going to refer you back to our previous article about anarchism and its ideological position as the direct opposition to fascism broadly understood.  There are core values underlying the anarchist tradition, such as unmediated democracy and radical anti-hierarchical egalitarianism, on which the political and social ideas rest.  We believe that “any cook can rule,” that people are very different while all being equal in value, and that direct participation is crucial to a fully realized existence.  These assumptions are not shared in your right-wing libertarian variants, even if they both find value in the larger anti-authoritarian tradition.  Even though we do not think that these ideas are ultimately liberatory, we would not get into a tit for tat argument with you about whether anarcho-capitalism or N-A could be broadly understood to be anti-authoritarian.

One thing that Preston mentions both in his last article and in much of his larger work is a critique of Political Correctness.  He often joins in with the narrative that PC culture is the grand leviathan that controls the culture, which is ideologically pre-school in nature.  The notion that liberal social norms are somehow equal to capitalism, the church, the communist party, or the corporation in different times and places is ridiculous.  We want to add, however, that we also oppose things like Political Correctness and call-out culture.  Much of what you lump together with contemporary anarchism or Marxism you bring over from mainstream liberalism, which are exactly many of the points at which the radical left breaks away.  We do not, however, see these as grand travesties that are the equal to the violence implicit in racial nationalism.

Preston does make it clear that he does not see the oppression faced by people of color, women, and queer folks as being significantly dominant and therefore they are more of a battle amongst interest groups.  White nationalists love this line as it gives them the excuse to say that they are just fighting for white interests just like other groups fight for their own interests.  The reality is that racism is real, just as rates of job hiring, incarceration, police violence, and pretty much all areas of social life can be seen as disparate between whites and racial groups of color.  Women are the victim of misogynist violence at rates so systemic that their own home is one of the most dangerous places they can be and pregnant women are more likely to die from homicide than in any other way.  Rape, assault, and harassment are daily threats for non-male members of our society, and the notion that a straight white man can pontificate about how this oppression is just a thing of the past is breathtaking.

We have gladly engaged in some jabs your direction, but we do want one thing to be taken incredibly sincerely.  The idea that ideological positions that hold almost no connection rather than opposition to the state(We would guess that you do not even agree with us as to what a state actually is.) do not have any business being discussed as the same project.  When you stand with neo-fascist organizations(even though we are sure that you will dispute that description) you empower their revolutionary vision, one that necessitates our failure.  In times of crisis and collapse there is a lot of revolutionary potential, both on the right and the left, so the challenge of anarchism is to present liberatory potentials opposed to the rise of reactionary forces.  The fringes of these movements do not hold similar enemies since our politics are a tool for achieving specific values.  National Anarchism seeks to build up the idea of the ethnic nation as a viable unit of identity and resistance, but we want to counter that notion with the idea that working class unity and broad community is both more functionally successful in terms of struggle and more inspiring to the human soul.  Ethnic struggle is one that has been successful on the left only in that it opposes the oppression from the dominant groups in the society, but to say that white nationalism and black nationalism are the same thing is to lack an understanding of what ideologically motivates the two groups.  Instead, our anarchism is something that runs so much deeper than the surface ideas you throw around, ones that will never be reconciled with your ideas.

3 thoughts on “Putting It To Rest: What You Want Isn’t Anarchism”

  1. It is flattering to be cited in an article in Anti-Fascist News. But maybe not so much in the context of response to a fascist who presents himself as an “anarchist.” (Of course you are not agreeing with him but refuting his nonsense.) I agree with you-all that the main usefulness of Marxism for anarchists is in its analysis of how capitalism works. Its program for a new society–not so useful. Still I do not think that anarchists should be defensive about learning from non-anarchists, including not only Marxists, but also liberals, feminists, the ideas of Malcolm X and other African-American thinkers and activists, LGBT activists and theorists, radical Freudians, and so on, all of whom certainly influenced me. I worked to find ideas that were useful and to incorporate the good ones into an overall anarchism. One thing I love about anarchism is its openness and flexibility. But openness does not mean that your head has to be empty, such as incorporating fascist conceptions.

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    1. We agree completely, which is why we especially appreciated The Value of Radical Theory and your contribution in The Accumulation of Freedom. We mainly mentioned your work as Preston, given his background with WSA and Love & Rage, most likely made him familiar with it. What decentralist fascist like him like to do is ascribe anarchism’s left cultural issues, which are certainly influenced from everywhere such as LGBT organizing to feminism, to Marxist, therefore tying their analysis to older anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Bolsheviks and the Frankfurt School. In reality, I think the Marxist influence on anarchism has been much more in economics, while the socially “left” qualities have actually flowed between the two tendencies in the other direction.

      We also appreciate the distinction you make about how open anarchism is. The ability to shift, adapt, and grow is what gives anarchism such a great revolutionary character, but that doesn’t make it anything or everything, a point that National Anarchists seem to want to bury.

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