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Anarchism versus Right-Wing 'Anti-Statism" article (fwd)

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  • Jamal Hannah
    ... Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2000 17:38:27 -0600 From: Brian O. Sheppard To: jah@iww.org Subject: Anarchism versus Right-Wing Anti-Statism
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2000
      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2000 17:38:27 -0600
      From: Brian O. Sheppard <bakunin@...>
      To: jah@...
      Subject: Anarchism versus Right-Wing 'Anti-Statism" article

      Anarchism vs. Right-Wing 'Anti-Statism'

      By Brian Oliver Sheppard (bakunin@...)
      Copyright (c) 2000

      It is currently fashionable to claim to hate the government. One could say
      it is the general, default position of most you talk to. But it is not
      clear why this is so. While you might think a popular hatred of government
      would mean the ranks of anarchists are swelling, it actually isn't the case.

      ANARCHIST RHETORIC GONE MAINSTREAM

      Over the past two decades something interesting has occurred that the
      anarchist movement has yet to adequately address. Rhetoric is coming from
      the mouths of politicians that a hundred years ago (if not more recently)
      would have branded them as "anarchists" or as seditious traitors. Though
      the politicians employing this type of rhetoric are most consistently
      Republicans, "big government liberals" in the Democratic Party have also
      been drawn to this style of speaking.

      The idea they are voicing is a simple one: government is bad. The bigger it
      is, the worse it gets. The smaller we make it, the better for all. We don't
      want government butting into our affairs, and we don't want government
      regulating us right and left. And, unlike anarchists who in the 19th
      century were saying essentially the same thing, the politicians who endorse
      this view are not slaughtered en masse by the National Guard, or framed up
      on anti-patriotic conspiracy charges, but are instead elected into that
      institution they claim to hate - the government.

      Many are the politicians - sitting in the halls of congress and living a
      life unknown to many working Americans - that claim to hate government.
      They paint opponents as "big government insiders," and vow to get in office
      to fight for you, the commoner, who has a distrust of all those cheating
      politicians and of government in general. A huge amount of politicians ride
      into office on campaigns with such themes as "eliminating government" or at
      least "shrinking" it. "He wants to increase the size and the scope of the
      federal government," George W. Bush said about Al Gore during his campaign
      for President in the 2000 election. Vice President Al Gore countered, "I'm
      for a smaller, smarter government that serves people better, but offers
      real change."

      If both sides are honest and are in fact committed to shrinking government,
      then this must mean we are tremendously close to living in a truly free,
      stateless society where there is no government at all, right?

      Well, no. In fact, just the opposite is occurring.

      SELECTIVE SHRINKING, SELECTIVE EXPANSION

      Politicians on the Right have co-opted a very long tradition of
      anti-government sentiment and are using it, ironically, to boost themselves
      into power and eliminate areas of government that benefit the poor. This is
      occurring while they actually increase government in such areas as military
      spending, prison spending, corporate welfare, the size of police forces,
      and the like. In the twisted Ideology of the Right, hating that most
      dastardly of all enemies, the Federal Government, means hating, in reality,
      only certain, selective portions of it: the parts that interfere with the
      untrammeled operations of private corporate power, the parts that provide
      respite from wage slavery (such as Social Security or unemployment
      insurance), the parts that help underprivileged kids go to college, etc.
      This is what "big government" is to them. "Big government" somehow does not
      include subsidies to the military industrial complex, subsidies to the
      prison industry, bailouts to troubled mega-corporations, the banking
      industry, or any of these things. These are conspicuously off the radar
      screen of anyone who rails about the evils of "big government."

      Now, historically, when anarchists spoke of eliminating government, it was
      not a ploy to get into government and perpetuate the evil of it, as it
      seems to be with our tough-talking Republicans. Hating government meant
      hating tyranny and hating the authority of any other human to be able to
      tell you what to do. Anarchists literally got killed for thinking this way.
      "Hating government" now, however, seems to be code for hating things like
      affirmative action or Medicaid. It doesn't seem to mean hating police
      officers, hating war, or hating a defense budget that gets 50% of every tax
      dollar. Somehow this extremely substantial part of government is let off
      the hook (and is in many cases venerated). This is what constitutes "hating
      government" in this era of doublethink - not hating government really, but
      in fact loving its most brutal and violent side in the form of the military
      and the police, the courts and the prisons, and disliking anything that has
      to do with social spending.


      HATE THE GOVERNMENT, LOVE YOUR COUNTRY

      "I hate the government, but I love my country," is a sentiment you will
      hear a lot amongst the Right these days. The idea seems to be that the
      government up in Washington has become overrun with a politically correct,
      neo-Socialist cabal that wants to punish the white man for his natural
      success, and reward the failures of ethnic minorities, gays, radical
      feminists, etc., through increased taxation upon him. This has led to many
      "militias" being established by bitter people who feel that the USA is
      dangerously off course, that it is no longer a land of the free and the
      brave, but is in fact a virtual slave state at the beck and call of the
      United Nations, wealthy Jews, rich politicians (usually Democrat), and the
      like.

      The goal of the right wing militias and those who have similar ideas is not
      to abolish authority, the tyranny of capital, or any other oppressive form,
      but rather to simply get the USA back on the "right track." The American
      system is not fundamentally flawed, they say - it is just that those at the
      helm of the ship right now are steering it in an unpatriotic direction.
      Hating the government as it exists now, then, is the best way to express
      one's true patriotism.

      In a 1995 interview conducted not too long after the bombing of a federal
      building in Oklahoma City, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky summed up the
      situation in these words:

      "[T]ake the angry white males who are maybe joining what they mistakenly
      call militias, [but which are actually] paramilitary forces. These people
      are angry. Most of them are high school graduates. They're people whose
      incomes have dropped maybe 20% over the last fifteen years or so. They can
      no longer do what they think is the right thing for them to do, provide for
      their families. Maybe their wives have to go out and work. And maybe they
      make more money than they do. Maybe the kids are running crazy because no
      one's paying any attention to them. Their lives are falling apart. They're
      angry. Who are they supposed to blame? You're not supposed to blame the
      Fortune 500, because they're invisible. They have been taught for 50 years
      now ... that all there is around is the government. If there's anything
      going wrong, it's the government's fault. The government is somehow
      something that is independent of external powers. So if your life is
      falling apart, blame the government."

      "There's a reason why attention is focused on the government as the source
      of problems. It has a defect. It's potentially democratic. Private
      corporations are not potentially democratic.... [The militia movement] is
      not the kind of populism that says, 'Fine, let's take over the government
      and use it as an instrument to undermine and destroy private power, which
      has no right to exist.' Nobody is saying that. All that you're hearing is
      that there's something bad about government, so let's blow up the federal
      building."

      Politicians advance their pro-corporate agenda by consciously manipulating
      the popular discontent with the state of things. Public anger can be
      channeled into a hatred of "big government programs" that big business
      wants to see dismantled anyway. For example, private insurance corporations
      would gladly step in and take over and administer the Social Security
      system. It was not until workers began dying from starvation and holding
      mass riots that anything like Social Security ever got established, and
      ever since then it has been mercilessly targeted by corporations who see it
      as a barrier to their ability to expand markets. In the logic of people on
      the Right whose campaigns are funded by big insurance companies, Social
      Security is a "big government program." So, hey, if you hate the
      government, elect me, and I'll eliminate government - I'll hand it over to
      private power. This is, in effect, all that anti-government sentiment means
      to the Right - handing government functions over to democratically
      unaccountable private tyrannies. This isn't eliminating government,
      however. It is merely changing its nature.

      Now, if a hatred of government were really a hatred of government, one
      would expect to see police forces slashed, jails and prisons torn down,
      laws that provide for the establishment of corporations eliminated, and
      other things. This never occurs, because this is actually the part of the
      State the "anti-government" Right wants strengthened. As of the year 2000,
      more than 2 million Americans are in jail. At least 6.5 million are under
      some form of correctional supervision nationwide. This means 1 out of every
      32 citizens are under some form of direct government supervision. And this
      means that the State is present in our daily lives to a degree unknown to
      any previous generation. Where are the anti-government populists who will
      rail against this? Answer: They are busy writing legislation to get "tough
      on crime" and make sure even more prisons are built, even more drugs are
      outlawed, even more money is given to law enforcement to increase the power
      of the State, and worse. No one seems to see the irony here. Far from
      wanting to eliminate the government, the Right wants to increase the powers
      of the State and roll back whatever civil liberties we may have remaining,
      and to abolish any sort of social safety nets that previous generations of
      workers fought to achieve.

      Writer Tim Wise commented, "Amazing isn't it, that the same folks who view
      government so cynically when it comes to taxes, mail delivery, road
      construction, education, or health care, and insist the state is incapable
      of addressing these issues with equanimity and fairness, somehow find it
      possible to believe this same state can dispense justice, and even the
      ultimate punishment [of death], without a hint of impropriety, bias, or
      error."

      The ultimate goal of the Right is a strong police state. A merciless and
      unforgiving state that punishes swiftly and surely. A State that rewards
      patriotism and nationalism and punishes failure and disobedience. This
      isn't eliminating the State. This is making the State ever more powerful.

      THE APOLITICAL, 'SICK-OF-IT-ALL' VOTER WHO VOTES FOR THE RIGHT

      It is hard to observe the profuse cynicism regarding the government, the
      immediate skepticism regarding the integrity and sincerity of politicians,
      and then watch people head to the polls to vote for them time and again,
      and not think something is terribly amiss. It seems people claim to hate
      the government as part of their public front of being irascible, skeptical,
      iconoclastic thinkers. No one wants to feel like they are being "duped" by
      politicians, apparently, so they claim that they distrust government
      officials as a matter of necessity. They don't, however, want to do much
      with their distrust in reality other than trudge back to the ballot box
      every two or four years and repeat the same staid ritual of plugging in
      their choice for one ruler or the next. And it seems in practice that those
      who are teh most vocally cynical of Washington are in fact the ones who
      vote for the most reactionary and extremist right wing candidates.

      British fantasy and science fiction author Michael Moorcock commented on
      this phenomenon: "My experience of science fiction fans at the conventions
      which are held annually in a number of countries (mainly the US and
      England) had taught me that those who attended were reactionary (claiming
      to be 'apolitical' but somehow always happy to vote Tory and believe Colin
      Jordan to 'have a point')." The Right has somehow managed to convince
      people that if you hate politicians, you should vote for them. Somehow
      politicians on the Right are not seen by many as "politicians" in the sense
      that "politician" signifies someone who is by nature a fast-talking crook.
      No, politicians on the Right are exempt from a critique of government or
      politicians in general. Voting for them is not voting for a "politician" or
      for "government."

      The Democratic Party, traditionally seen as the party of big government
      programs and of "tax and spend liberals," was compelled by the prevalence
      of anti-government sentiment in the 90s to remake its image. And under "New
      Democrats" like President Bill Clinton they swung to the right in adopting
      the same sort of anti-government rhetoric while continuing to increase
      prison populations, military spending, overseas intervention, and actually
      build up State power. Nevertheless, in a 1996 speech to Ohio Democrats,
      Clinton could boast, "I want a government that is smaller and less
      bureaucratic. We have given you the smallest government, not the other
      party ... in thirty years, and the biggest reduction in regulations."

      THE SHAM OF RIGHT WING 'ANTI-STATISM'

      It is clear that people are angry and dissatisfied with the way society
      operates. The Right has simply succeeded in capturing this anger, reflected
      it in their speeches, and has capitalized on it to boost themselves into
      office. 'Okay,' they say to their constituents, 'we are in office now, and,
      yes, we will eliminate government since it is an evil thing you have
      elected us to combat. First up, we'll hand over increasing chunks of the
      school system to private corporations.' This is what 'eliminating'
      government amounts to - placing it into the hands of CEOs and wealthy
      investors who can run it how they see fit, effectively removing it from the
      arena of potential democratic accountability. In the meantime, the actual
      power of the State is increased as the prisons swell and as the law clamps
      down harder on petty criminals. With social safety nets eroding and
      millions more falling into poverty, an expansion of the prison system
      should be expected, as some method of dealing with all these 'superfluous'
      people has to be found. And the prisons can be privatized, too.

      Anarchists oppose the State because it is one of the principle expressions
      of authority of man over man. Property in the means of production and in
      the means of subsistence is likewise another authoritarian institution.
      States exist to protect these institutions and thus they largely serve as a
      defense mechanism for the rich against the poor. This does not mean workers
      might not become so unruly as to force some form of seemingly charitable
      concession from the State (like, say, OSHA), but in the end such
      concessions are employed to defuse outright revolutionary fervor. A wealthy
      man who owns vast amounts of land and who hates paying property taxes, and,
      due to his soreness, comes to have an intense dislike of the government, is
      not an anarchist. An anarchist is someone who recognizes that if it were
      not for the State such a man would not be able to exclusively own land to
      begin with, and would not be afforded legal protection (at public expense)
      for keeping it. He thus would not be able to exercise despotic rights over
      a given territory.

      So it is that anarchists ultimately agree with the classical liberal
      thinker Adam Smith - ironically held to be a great classical exponent of
      laissez faire capitalism - when he says that 'Civil government, so far as
      it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for
      the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some
      property against those who have none at all.' The right-wing
      'anti-statists' who might otherwise venerate Smith cannot bring themselves
      to admit this fact. While seeking to enable private power to run government
      institutions more openly, they do not undermine the State's power but
      merely make sure it fulfills its classical role.



      ------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Brian Oliver Sheppard Industrial Union 450
      Industrial Workers of the World ph: 1-877-871-7600 EXT. 776
      x349393 fax: 1-877-871-7600 EXT. 776
      bsheppard@...
      or bakunin@...

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