The Clare Spark Blog

February 12, 2014

Is most work alienating and boring?

Sisyphis2Pundits have been lauding the wonders of “hard work” for eons, without asking the questions posed by Marx, the anarchists, or other radical critics of “civilization.” The President’s latest move in the debates over the projected loss of employment due to the Affordable Care Act, has been to celebrate the emancipation of workers (including single mothers with jobs) from boring work, so that they may follow their bliss (as Joseph Campbell used to say).

This is a development that should astound the left, preoccupied as leftists, old and new, have been by 1. The expected liberation from toil that would result from advanced labor-saving technology; and 2. The expanded freedom of choice to pursue one’s interests resulting from the elimination of capitalism and its alienated labor, where workers and machines are held to be interchangeable and equally disposable, and where employers allegedly provide a minimum of subsistence in the “wage-slavery” they impose.

Enter those punk rock bands and other cultural manifestations that look back to a pre-machine age where labor was more skilled and where machines had not displaced the artisan. Melville was full of such thoughts, and especially lamented the lot of the weavers in Britain, and their replacement by exploited, overworked, and underpaid women and children in body-crushing factories. Indeed, Pacifica radio stations used to sponsor Renaissance Fairs where hippie artisans sold their hand made wares, and lovely many of them were too. Such craftsmanship was held to be crushed by the rule of money and a generally materialist outlook.

Marx himself, in his early period, used to ruminate about the choices available to humanity after the rule of finance capital had been replaced by an updated old order, described in utopian terms. All of us, smart or dumb, male or female, would have the choice of hunting, herding, or farming in the morning, while being a critical critic at night. Somewhere in there, lurked the arts, though they were not mentioned in the Marxian reveries. Was the grand old man of the Left nostalgic for the primitive stages of mankind?

So what has our President done? Has he revealed himself as a closet revolutionary, or has he, in a typical social democratic gesture, skillfully co-opted the Marxist program that would abolish so-called alienated, exploitative labor?

workers

I close with a word on dumbing down: Harry Braverman famously wrote about the loss of mental capacity that resulted from de-skilling labor in the industrial age.  Was he, or the other antimoderns, idealizing life in the Middle Ages or in other pre-capitalist societies? Is all labor dignified, as the medievalists would have it?

Capitalists and neoconservatives have yet to address this pressing issue, leftover from the 19th and 20th centuries. No reform in education has meaning, nor does our evaluation of women’s work escape from these hard questions. In an interdependent, yet unevenly developed world, for whom and for what are we working?

Are we looking forward or looking backwards? And are we looking at all?

ilovehardwork

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December 9, 2012

Holiday blues, Unhappy families

norman-rockwell-coupleOne of Freud’s primary themes in treatment of his patients was the separation of (idiosyncratic) neurotic anxiety from objective anxiety. Since anxiety disorders (along with depression and post-traumatic stress disorders) are widely present in our culture, I thought that the general subject was worthy of focus and exploration.

Keep in mind that many of Freud’s original writings were published before the events of the 20th century, with horrors such as the Great War leading to innovations in his repertoire, for instance “the death wish” or a general pessimism regarding the human condition (“everyday unhappiness”), not to speak of his attack on all religion as infantile regression in The Future of An Illusion (1928). But the Freudians today are few and cater to an older, usually moneyed urban clientele, while it is the Jungians whose influence has penetrated into popular culture and even school curricula, owing perhaps to Jung’s postulation of a racially-specific unconscious that blends well with racialist theories of multiculturalism. (For my numerous blogs on Jung and Jungians, see https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/.)

It is more often the case that Freud’s influence, if any, is filtered through the structural functionalism of Talcott Parsons and similar social theorists who are more interested in adjustment and functionality (stability in interpersonal and international relations), than in the tracking of personal traumas and intertwined social traumas that lead to troubling “symptoms” such as the anxiety disorders. Indeed, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  has been funded by liberals and their foundations and related organizations, including the MacArthur Foundation, U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, and the American Psychiatric Association. Their approach is managerial, as opposed to an orientation to cure, for that could lead to radicalization or other postures deemed destabilizing to social order imagined by the moderate men.

NPR recently interviewed a psychiatrist in the know about changes to DSM-V, the diagnostic manual used by physicians of every kind in labeling and prescribing treatment for their patients. This psychiatrist stated that it was likely that grief (a subject that has not been previously “medicalized” as abnormal) would be limited to two months, after which antidepressants might be indicated. (For a general summary of proposed changes in DSM-V see http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/controversy-changes-dsm-diagnosis-1205127, posted December 6, 2012.)

Some passages from the Introduction to DSM-IV bear quoting, especially as they are not only as indecipherable as Parson’s own famously awful prose, but are careful to avoid positing dualisms between mind and body, or labeling suffering “individuals”:

“In DSM-IV, each of the mental disorders is conceptualized as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom. In addition, this syndrome or pattern must not be an expectable and culturally sanctioned response to a particular event, for example, the death of a loved one. Whatever its original cause, it must currently be considered a manifestation of a behavioral, psychological, or biological dysfunction in the individual. Neither deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of dysfunction in the individual as described above.” [I have not yet found a definition of “the individual”; rather, progressives are careful to define the “individual-in-society.”  See https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/. CS]

[DSM-IV, cont.:]  “A common misconception is that a classification of mental disorders classifies people, when actually what are being classified are disorders that people have. For this reason, the text of DSM-IV (as did the text of DSM-III-R) avoids the use of such expressions as “a schizophrenic” or “an alcoholic” and instead uses the more accurate, but admittedly more cumbersome, “an individual with Schizophrenia” or “an individual with Alcohol Dependence.” ( my emphasis, pp. xxi-xxii)

This is the language of progressivism, pretending that these experts believe in the discrete, unique individual, while all along using quantification and statistics that attempt to describe disruptive (mal-adjusting) group behaviors: “disorders that people have.” Moreover, their language is so vague and abstract that I for one, can barely decode their language. But I suspect that “defiant” individuals (who have their own section in DSM-IV) are deemed dysfunctional no matter how rationally based their nonconformity may be. (I was considered to be “defiant” or excessively “experimental” in graduate school by leading professors, sometimes in private, sometimes in public. See https://clarespark.com/2012/12/22/my-oppositional-defiant-disorder-and-eric-hobsbawm/.)

The language that I have quoted is so abstracted from the real life experience of classes, genders, or other groupings that one wonders if the suspicions of the anti-psychiatry theorists are not themselves more rational than the mental health practitioners who rely upon DSM’s diagnostic codes to prescribe pills and other remedies for symptoms that are imposed by the concrete life experiences of soldiers, abused and neglected children, or simply members of families that do not meet their individual emotional and biological needs.

But as I read the section in DSM-IV on post-traumatic stress disorders, I was struck by the usefulness of these causal situations to current day problems that are often global in nature: the direct experience of war and falsifying propaganda; the demoralizing teaching of history as non-stop atrocity; the hyper-sexualization of American culture that exposes children to sexual scenes at early ages; the crime shows on television or in the movies that are graphically violent and sexual in nature; the constant broadcasting of apocalyptic scenarios that blame industrialization for the imminent end of life on our planet; “rage against the machine” by rock bands and other counter-culture wannabe stars; gangsta rap; the barrage of images of the happy gift-giving, problem-solving family (especially from Thanksgiving on through Christmas)–families untroubled by generational conflict, misunderstanding, or sibling rivalry.

While I object to the introductory material that I have quoted, the many social-cultural-political sources of PTSD are useful to the understanding of “objective anxiety.”

How neurotic are we, or are most of us rationally reacting to an objectively terrifying world? (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/. For a description of the controversy surrounding revisions of DSM-IV, see http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/12/inside-controversy-over-bible-mental-disorder/59849/.)

Why does Norman Rockwell have a German helmet circa WW1 perched on top of his easel?

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

September 14, 2012

Ron Paul: Anarchist-in-Chief

This is a guest blog by Phillip Smyth that logically follows the series of recent blogs of mine that describe, in broad strokes, populist demagoguery and its role in the current campaign for President. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/09/10/index-to-blogs-on-populist-demagoguery/.)  I have been interested for years in the overlap between anarchism of the Left and Right, for both had a strong presence at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, the local Pacifica Foundation radio station. Perhaps the most salient characteristic of the radio station and Pacifica stations in general, was the overwhelming “rage against the machine”. By this, I refer not only to an aversion to technocratic society and to scientific expertise, but to the very notion of equality before the law. Lawlessness (anti-statism, anti-Americanism, anticapitalism) was the very air we breathed, and that I, as Program Director,  could only weakly resist, given the composition of our programmers and the counter-culture audience. Was it a coincidence that I was purged while preparing for a defense of science?

Phillip Smyth is a journalist and researcher. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, Haaretz, Middle East Review of International Affairs, National Review Online, and PJ Media. His essay follows:

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to government, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In forming a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” –James Madison, The Federalist No. 51

An Anarchist By Any Other Name

Ron Paul has had a number of titles attached to his name and his campaigns for president; “true conservative”, “libertarian maverick”, and according to the Week Magazine he is a, “self-described ‘strict constitutionalist’”.  Rarely, is the term “anarchist” applied to the ideology and philosophical base of the Paul campaign.

In 2007, Dean Barnett called Paul the “crank-in-chief” and wrote that, “he’s as close to an anarchist as we’re likely to see in presidential politics.” Barnett was correct, actual anarchist philosophy runs deep in the Paul movement. Though, Paul’s anarchists are not just a motley crew of naïve kids wearing black T-shirts with red “circle-A” symbols. Often broadly referred to as anarcho-capitalists, these anarchists are part of a small and radical wing in the libertarian movement and their influence on Ron Paul has been monumental.

Unlike most anarchists of the left, the anarcho-capitalists utilize a number of different methods to win recruits and are willing to accept slowly phasing their radicalism into the mainstream. Just because anarcho-capitalists aren’t lobbing Molotov cocktails into a Banana Republic, that doesn’t mean their views are any less insidious or radical than their more violent leftist cohorts.  This minor yet extremely vocal faction of libertarianism embraces a near pathological hatred of any form of the state, even in the most minimal form; abounding in all varieties of anti-Constitutional, anti-limited government, and anti-conservative manner of thought.

Rothbardian Influences

Enter “Austrian-school” economist Murray Rothbard, founder of modern “anarcho-capitalist” theory. Paul’s connection to anarchy begins with the late Rothbard. Rothbard was no fan of even the most limited government, noting in his book, “The Ethics of Liberty” that there were, “fatal flaws and inconsistencies in the concept of limited, laissez-faire government”.

Paul called Rothbard a “down-to-earth genius” and in an action of hero worship reminiscent of Maoist China or Stalin’s Russia, hung a portrait of Murray Rothbard in his congressional office. Following his 1995 death, Rothbard was described by Ron Paul in an obituary as one of America’s “greatest men”. Paul recounted that, “[Rothbard] told me he enjoyed meeting a Congressman who had not only read his books, but used them as a guide in his votes and legislation … he urged me to run for office again … he said, our side [my emphasis] needs an uncompromising anti-statist voice in Washington, D.C.” By “anti-statist”, Rothbard meant the term to convey complete sense of an anarchist.

In keeping with the anarchist narrative, traditional and extremely influential conservative economists have been written-out by the Rothbard-influenced Paul. The Economist wrote that Milton Friedman was “a revered figure in right-of-centre circles”—Not so for Ron Paul. Frum Forum’s J.D. Hamel took issue with Paul’s removal of Milton Friedman from Paul’s new narrative of conservatism, in favor of the anarcho-capitalist views of the marginal Murray Rothbard. For Paul, Rothbard is to his ideology, what Mao is to Maoism.

Penetrating the Fringe

Rothbard’s methods for achieving his “libertarian” anarchist utopia were broadly outlined in one confidential memo, where he praised Leninist methods of spreading their ideals. Rothbard wrote: “[w]e are, in this sense, revolutionaries–for we are offering the public a radical change in their doctrinal views…Our objective is, of course, to advance our principles—to spread libertarian-individualist [anarchist] thought (from now on to be called “libertarian” for short) among the people and to spread its policies in the political arena.” (P.20)

Rothbard continued, saying that a hardcore of anarchists needed to be groomed and infiltrated into slightly similar groups: “For one of the reasons behind the idea of ‘infiltration’ is that we can probably never hope to have everyone a hardcore man, just as we can never hope to have everyone an intellectual. Since the hard core will always be relatively small, its influence must be maximized by giving it ‘leverage’ through allied, less libertarian ‘united fronts’ with less libertarian thinkers and doers.”

Thus, Rothbard was making an argument similar to the proverbial, “Throwing as much muck against the wall to see what sticks”. This method was combined with infiltration of quasi-like-minded groups. Whatever stuck could be used by the vanguards of anarcho-capitalism in an effort to further their ideology—Slowly changing the ideological make-up of the groups they had influenced. In an effort to spread the anarcho-capitalist gospel, Rothbard also endorsed and supported a litany of candidates. For Rothbardians, pragmatism is a primary tactic to push their brand of radicalism.

In July 1992, Rothbard, the founding father of anarcho-capitalism endorsed George H.W. Bush. Ron Paul’s official blogger, Jack Hunter wrote, “does anyone think that because Murray Rothbard endorsed President George H.W. Bush in ’92, that everything else Rothbard stood for, wrote and believed simply evaporated? Does anyone think Rothbard endorsing Bush represents the be-all-end-all of his political legacy?” And Rothbard did not.

Rothbard and Paul have also reached out to white supremacists, who needless to say, are hardly libertarian.  Earlier in January 1992, Rothbard backed white-supremacist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semite, David Duke. Duke ran as a Republican for governor of Louisiana in 1991, leading to President George H.W. Bush to say he would vote for the Democratic candidate. When Duke tried to run for president on the Republican ticket in 1992, party officials tried to block him out. Rothbard claimed his backing of Duke rattled “the Establishment” and that “Right wing populism” should be supported:  “for the entire Establishment”, said Rothbard, “the ruling elite, was at stake, and in that sort of battle, all supposedly clashing wings of the Establishment weld together as one unit and fight with any weapons that might be at hand… [T]he proper strategy of libertarians and paleos [paleoconservatives] is a strategy of ‘right-wing populism,’ that is: to expose and denounce this unholy alliance, and to call for getting this preppie-underclass-liberal media alliance off the backs of the rest of us: the middle and working classes.”

As with David Duke, Paul and the anarcho-capitalists continued to back fringe players and establish more links. As an extension of Rothbard’s support for “Right wing populists”, Paul also did work for Pat Buchanan. In 1992 he served as the chairman for Buchanan’s Economic Advisory Committee. Buchanan is/was well-known for his anti-Semitic views. William F. Buckley addressed Buchanan’s anti-Jewish demagoguery in a seminal essay (which later became a book) in 1991.

Salon’s Steve Kornacki mentioned the Buchanan-Paul connection: “When Buchanan ran in ’92, he embraced a Paul-like platform — vehemently anti-tax and heavy on warnings about unsustainable empire and encroaching world government — although the two men differed (and continue to differ) in some policy areas. ‘It was the ‘Come home, America,’ message,’ Buchanan recalled in an interview this week. ‘George McGovern was out there saying it in 1972, but it was the right thing to do in ’92.’”

The connection to the white-supremacist fringe has been a constant in Ron Paul’s clique. In fact, a major split in libertarianism—One which led to the Cato Institute to disassociate itself from Paul—was caused due to Paul and his supporters courting of white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations. Speaking to the New York Times, the founder of the Cato Institute said, “It was just something that we found abhorrent, and so there was a huge divide”.

Paul’s infamous newsletters were replete with praise for David Duke, placed blame for the 1993 Islamist bombing of the World Trade Center on Israel, and racist statements about blacks. Additionally, some Paul associates told the Washington Post that Paul actively signed off on the documents. Paul also took donations from white supremacists and was unwilling to reject the money. While Ron Paul attempted to publically distance himself from appearing to kowtow to white-supremacist interests, it was later revealed that his connections to these types ran deep.  In February, 2012, the hacker-group Anonymous released E-mails showing extensive connections between the white-nationalist American Third Position and Paul’s campaign.

Paul’s connection to the Constitution Party (CP), a firmly paleoconservative entity, is another vestige of Rothbard’s “Right Wing Populism” path (note: the CP absorbed the segregationist American Independent Party).  After Paul dropped out of his 2008 race for the Republican Party’s nomination, he endorsed Chuck Baldwin, who became the CP’s 2008 Presidential candidate.  Baldwin, a New World Order conspiracy-theory promoter, was also a former staffer for Ron Paul, and had originally endorsed Paul in 2007.

When held up to Nazi-types, Paul’s connections to the Libertarian Party (LP), and general definition as a “Libertarian” stand in stark contrast. Paul was the 1988 LP candidate for president and still maintains a very loyal following inside the party. After the 2012 Republican National Convention, Paul’s supporters, ignoring the fact that the LP had already held their convention, selected Gary Johnson as their nominee, and that such a move would go against the bylaws, attempted to get the LP to make Paul their presidential or vice presidential candidate . When asked about Johnson’s campaign, Paul stated he, “can’t imagine endorsing anyone else.” Though, Paul’s campaign staff later announced that he, “[W]ill not endorse Gary Johnson”.

Paul has also reached out to the conspiracists at the John Birch Society (JBS), maintaining close links to the group. In 2011, Paul spoke at the 50th Anniversary for the JBS and also appeared in a 1990 JBS “documentary” about a UN plot to take over the U.S.

Beyond the paleoconservative, racist, and right-wing conspiratorial, Paul has reached out to other third parties. In 2008, Paul called together Cynthia Mckinney, Ralph Nader, and Chuck Baldwin to issue statements critical of the two-party system. Paul had the trio agree to a neo-isolationist foreign policy, a push to audit the Federal Reserve, and a number of other widely held views Paul had been pushing for years. It is important to note that McKinney and Nader can hardly be described as conservative—Both espoused far-left ideologies.

Infiltration of the G.O.P.

The theme of infiltrating and transforming the Republican Party was a regular occurrence with Ron Paul’s campaign and among his supporters. Before ceasing his 2012 run for president, Paul held a rally in Florida announcing, “We are the future [of the Republican Party]”.  Paul’s attempt to become the GOP’s nominee shined a light on how deeply his members had burrowed into the Republican apparatus and how they felt their convictions needed to become those of the big-tent Republican Party.

Take the case of Virginia state Republican delegates who were slated to vote during the Republican National Convention. Many of those delegates were Ron Paul supporters and refused to vote for Mitt Romney despite Paul’s clear loss, state party rules, and a pledge they signed.  Adam Cassandra, Chairman of the Fauquier County (Virginia) Republicans rejected the Paul-supporters underhanded disavowal of the rules, stating they, “did a disservice to the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) and have betrayed the members of their districts who elected them.” For diehard Paul supporters, their leader’s ideology was more important than an electorate or the rules.

Paul supporters didn’t stop there when it came to promoting their particular candidate. Three Ron Paul-backing Republican electors for the Electoral College (the body which states send to Washington, D.C. in order to formally elect the President and Vice President) announced they would refuse to vote for Romney, even if he won the states they represent. On September 14, 2012 one Paul supporting elector resigned her position in protest. The Associated Press (AP) noted, “The defection of multiple electors would be unprecedented in the last 116 years of U.S. politics.” The AP added, “In Nevada, for example, Paul’s forces seized control of the state convention and won a majority of delegates. They also placed four Paul supporters among the state’s six electors.”

Bedecked In Confederate Grey

Another unusual connection for Paul and the anarcho-capitalists has been their links to neo-Confederates. Neo-Confederates often push apologetics for the short-lived Confederate States of America (CSA), bash the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and some have even called for a revival of the CSA. Ron Paul and his ideological cohorts have hardly masked their admiration for the Confederacy. Paul even gave a speech offering revisionist history regarding the Civil War while standing in front of a Confederate battle flag—also mentioning Lysander Spooner (see the “History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective” section below).

If connections to quasi-fascistic entities, racist groups, paleoconservatives, libertarians, and far-leftists was not enough to demonstrate the anarcho-capitalist’s odd alliances, why would a collective of people who identify with the semi-libertarian, individualist-anarchism, back the side which fought for the preservation of slavery? Moreover, would the backing of the CSA not amount to encouraging the formation of another government entity?

For some, the Paul/anarcho-capitalist love of southern secessionism and hatred of Lincoln demonstrated a deep-seeded racism within Paul’s ranks. Of course, this would be logical with the connections Paul shared with numerous racist figures and publication of offensive newsletters. In their report on Ron Paul’s invitation of Thomas DiLorenzo—a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist writer—to testify on Capitol Hill, the Southern Poverty Law Center highlighted DiLorenzo’s publications and his membership in certain organizations to demonstrate his “[E]xtremist connections”. The Daily Kos pinned most criticism on Paul’s, “long history of wacky, racist views.” Writing for The New Republic, James Kirchick assessed that, “Paul’s alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race.”

However, the base analysis that racist-links were the main reason for Paul and his fellow ideologues had for embracing the Confederacy, misses the very anarcho-capitalist philosophy Paul has embraced. For the anarcho-capitalist, secessionism is key for the completion of their goals. Hans-Herman Hoppe, an anarcho-capitalist heavyweight, pushed for a second American revolution through secession.   Hoppe notes that the experience of the CSA is a negative example in terms of achieving eventual anarchic goals noting,

“[I]t appears strategically advisable not to attempt again what in 1861 failed so painfully — for contiguous states or even the entire South trying to break away from the tyranny of Washington, D.C. …Rather, a modern liberal-libertarian strategy of secession should take its cues from the European Middle Ages…Europe was characterized by the existence of hundreds of free and independent cities…By choosing this model and striving to create an America punctuated by a large and increasing number of territorially disconnected free cities — a multitude of Hong Kongs, Singapores, Monacos, and Liechtensteins strewn out over the entire continent — two otherwise unattainable but central objectives can be accomplished. First, besides recognizing the fact that the liberal-libertarian potential is distributed highly unevenly across the country, such a strategy of piecemeal withdrawal renders secession less threatening politically, socially, and economically. Second, by pursuing this strategy simultaneously at a great number of locations all over the country, it becomes exceedingly difficult for the central state to create the unified opposition in public opinion to the secessionists that would secure the level of popular support and voluntary cooperation necessary for a successful crackdown.”

Thus, a more positive memory of the CSA would be required in order to establish a historical precedent to encourage further secessionist actions. The ideological thinking behind this process, was that when completed, the smallest entity would be the individual, “self-governing” him or herself—anarchy. Hoppe wasn’t alone in his support for an anarchist future via secessionism. Writing for Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Clifford Thies proclaimed in a 2009 piece entitled, “Secession Is in Our Future”, “[T]here no longer is any pretense of federalism in which domestic policy is left to the states of the Union.”

Murray Rothbard also explained this belief in his piece, “Nations By Consent: Decomposing the Nation State”: “A common response to a world of proliferating nations is to worry about the multitude of trade barriers that might be erected. But, other things being equal, the greater the number of new nations, and the smaller the size of each, the better.” (P.6)

The Ludwig Von Mises Institute, the most prominent anarcho-capitalist think-tank, has its webpage littered with numerous articles both backing the Confederacy and pushing for secessionism. The search-term “Secession” provides 1,430,000 results. Included is a collection of essays, “Secession, State & Liberty”. In a way to obfuscate from the clear pro-slavery of the South during the Civil War, the narrative of abolitionists backing the Confederacy is promoted.

In this clip we see Ron Paul backing the right of secession (linked to the Wilsonian idea of “self-determination”): http://youtu.be/2_NP7ikl7Ps

“True” Constitutionalists

Rothbard’s anarchism also extended to his trashing of the Constitution, stating it “has been a hollow shell and mockery for many decades.” In another piece, where Rothbard came out in support of the “direct democracy” the Founding Fathers abhorred, he described the Constitution as “quaint and obsolete”.  Despite Rothbard’s 1995 death, his microscopic movement did not end. The anarchic ideological base he helped create is the core of many Paul-affiliated groups. This core mainly finds its intellectual home among those of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Ron Paul’s chief of staff from 1978-1982, editor (and possible author) of the racist Ron Paul newsletters, and maintainer of the eclectic LewRockwell.com, Llewellyn “Lew” Rockwell, has been called a close friend and has served as an adviser to Ron Paul for decades. It should come as no surprise that Rockwell is an avid supporter of Paul’s bid for the presidency. This is despite the fact that this proud anarchist once penned:

 “[t]he presidency must be destroyed. It is the primary evil we face, and the cause of nearly all our woes… The presidency — by which I mean the executive state — is the sum total of American tyranny. The other branches of government… are mere adjuncts.”

During his twenty minute speech at the 2008 Ron Paul sponsored “Rally For the Republic”, Rockwell stated, “there comes a time in the life in every believer in freedom when he must declare without any hesitation to have no attachment to the idea of conservatism”.

Paul can claim many appearances on Rockwell’s radio show and his innumerable amount of articles on Rockwell’s website. In addition to being an anarchist, Rockwell is an anti-Constitutionalist.  He once noted in a piece praising fellow anarchist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “what was the effect of the Constitution? To restrain government? No. It was precisely the opposite”. Statements such as this are nothing new in the Paul campaign; they’ve just been overlooked or obscured in the interconnected web of Paul supporting websites and articles.

In the view of mass media, Paul shrugged off his anarchist supporters. During a 2007 ABC News interview, the then 2008 presidential candidate indicated that his, “typical supporter is non-descriptive…I liked to kid that we get a few anarchists that come to our rallies”. Nevertheless, around his diehard clique, Paul allowed his true base-anarchistic ideals to be known. In a 2009 interview with the anarcho-capitalist/libertarian Motorhome Diaries, Paul was asked by an interviewer, “I know you stand for the Constitution, but what do you say to people who stand for self-government [another term for individualist-anarchism] rather than a return to the Constitution?” Paul followed-up with, “I think that’s really what my goal is…If you have a government, they will want us all to be socialistic.” Ron Paul has also described himself on Russia Today’s pro-Paul “Adam vs. the Man” program as a voluntaryist. “One of the most significant signs to the Anarchist is the steady growth of the principle of voluntaryism” noted the early 20th century anarchist publication, Free Society. To the voluntraryist, taxes, voting, laws, and even the Constitution aren’t voluntary because individuals didn’t agree to them.

Pushing the Agenda

There have been a number of spinoff groups created via Paul’s largess. One of these groups includes a youth-wing called the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), formerly known as Students for Ron Paul.  Additionally, the Campaign for Liberty (often referred to as C4L) was also founded in the wake of Paul’s 2008 run for president.

Anthony Gregory, a noted anarchist from the Independent Institute serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the C4L. The C4L claims that neither major political party, “treats the Constitution with anything but contempt”. However, the C4L’s hypocrisy regarding the Constitution is evident by the featuring of articles and speeches from anti-Constitutionalist anarchists such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Gary North. and wrote that the Constitution, “rather than being a legitimate source of pride” was instead a, “a fateful error”.  North claimed in his book, that the framers of the Constitution were simply out to centralize government and take power from the people, noting, “what they did was illegal”.

The YAL claims in their mission statement, they “welcome limited government conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians.” Yet they also concede their anarchic ideological purpose by stating in the same document that, “government is the negation of liberty”. Taking this statement to its logical extreme automatically opens the door for anarchist thought.

Despite the claim of being a conservative open-tent, the YAL is full of pro-anarchist commentary critical of the Constitution. Instead of being a haven for conservatism, classical liberalism, or even limited-government libertarians, YAL hosted speakers such as anarchist economist Robert Murphy and Thomas E. Woods, a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Woods authored a June 15 article on Rockwell’s site entitled, “Why Even An Anarchist Should Vote for Ron Paul”. In the YAL official magazine, the Young American Revolution, anarchists such as David Gordon find space for their views. In one article anarcho-capitalist Walter Block is referred to as a “titan of the freedom movement”. Matt Cockreill, the host of the official YAL internet based radio show, the “Matt Cockerill Show”, has stated that, “the only practical libertarian system—is anarcho-capitalism.” The vast majority of the figures the show has played host to are fellow anarchists including, Walter Block, David Henderson, Stephan Kinsella, Mary Ruwart, Justin Raimando, and even the ultra-leftist anarchist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky was described in the show as a, “world renowned academic and social activist”.

Ironically, in 2009 the YAL claimed that Constitution Day was our largest national event to date!” In October of that same year the YAL interviewed (and continues to laud) Stephan Kinsella, the same man who asked people to dawn black armbands for Constitution Day and proclaimed “Down with the Constitution.”

There’s also an almost never ending stream of pro-anarchy posts found on the official YAL blog. Even Bonnie Kristian, a self-proclaimed minarchist and YAL communications director, “also identif[ies] with Christian anarchy.”

History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective

In Paul’s books, The Case for Gold: A minority report of the U.S. Gold Commission, Liberty Defined, Freedom Under Siege, and even on Fox News he has paid homage to a little known 19th century abolitionist, anarchist, and member of the Karl Marx led First International, Lysander Spooner. One of Spooner’s most famous writings was entitled “No Treason” where he attempted to make the case (in a post-Civil War environment) that Confederate soldiers had not committed treason. Like modern-day anarchists Spooner didn’t just disregard the Constitution, he threw it away. Spooner wrote that, “The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation … And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago.”

In Liberty Defined, Paul writes that Lysander Spooner’s argument (interestingly quoting from the Mises Institute’s compilation on Spooner, Let’s Abolish Government) about the nullity of the Constitution as, “an interesting argument, but it’s not likely to make much headway at this stage in our history. Enforcing the Tenth Amendment is a big enough challenge to us now.” For a so-called Constitutionalist to write positively and bestow legitimacy on such an argument’s goals is rather odd. It’s not hard to interpret Paul’s implication he accepts Spooner’s arguments and is instead arguing for a more incremental approach to an anarcho-capitalist Shangri-La.

Conclusion: Sly Indoctrination

John Samples of the Cato Institute told the Houston Chronicle that, “In his two presidential campaigns, Ron Paul ran to educate”. This new education is attempting to alter the meaning for traditional terms such as “libertarian”, “conservative”, “liberty”, and “constitutionalist”.    If “education” is the goal and the lessons potential new conservatives and libertarians are receiving is actually one in anarchism. That outcome doesn’t look positive.  While it is [highly] unlikely that the Rothbardian utopia will be reached, its legitimization by mixing it with classical concepts in American governance and conservative philosophy will result in more misinformed, highly ideological followers, whom have no concept of the “ordered liberty” of the Founders, extol radical anti-state values, and praise nihilistic concepts of amorphous liberty.  It may be hard to contemplate that a septuagenarian with a Texas drawl might be a chameleon launching a radical crusade, but it is imperative for mainstream libertarians and the broader conservative movement to put Paul with other anarchists: In a distant dustbin of history. [Clare: for a video demonstrating the confusion of a Paulbot who thinks that Tom Morello sponsors his faction, see http://www.dailypaul.com/213503/tom-morello-gives-ron-paul-a-thumbs-up-video. I find this video alarming.]

Paul, Browne, Rothbard

August 16, 2012

Marx, anarchist rivals, and our enigmatic President

[For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2012/04/06/diagnosing-potus/. Also, https://clarespark.com/2012/09/14/ron-paul-anarchist-in-chief/]

Because the history of radical thought is rarely taught objectively, if at all, in the universities, much of the electorate is at the mercy of any anti-statist conservative who takes it upon himself to write a book about his political enemies, tarring them with the brush of either communism, fascism, or “totalitarianism” (the latter conflating communism and Nazism/ fascism, which have differing political genealogies, and differ sharply with respect to the Enlightenment).

We remain in an attenuated political culture, because leftists and liberals alike dominate the teaching of the humanities in the public schools, and elite universities (both private and public). Right wing protest attempts to overcome the leftist monopoly with largely religious claims that are often flawed, for instance, holding “atheism” or “materialism” or “science” or “technology” or “feminism” or “gays” responsible for the perceived decadence of our times.

At the same time, many vocal post-60s leftists refuse to acknowledge that this is a big country, with diverse belief systems. Hence their political tactics may be intolerant and lacking in empathy for those who find purpose and meaning in Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, etc. Enter the fiercely argued culture wars, where “secularism,” to take one example, has been transformed from the separation of Church and State to “godless Communism.” Do we enjoy Ayn Rand’s novels? She must be the devil, for she was a materialist who lauded creative achievement in this world. What we may not do is view her as the product of a particular moment in history, when collectivism (either Soviet Communism or the New Deal) was justified as the realization of altruism, a quality held to be lacking in dog-eat-dog hyper-individualistic industrial society, controlled by “economic royalists” as FDR named his opponents. At a moment when social bonds were mystical (as envisioned by either the corporatist liberals or the Soviets), Rand defended science, technology, and the materialist Enlightenment:  for Rand social bonds were rational and based on competence in manipulating the materials of this world.

What to do when there is no common basis for agreement regarding fundamental values, let alone the application of the Constitution to an industrialized or post-industrial society such as our own? My personal solution is to defend scientific method, political pluralism (on “cultural pluralism” see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/26/cultural-pluralism-vs-multiculturalism/), and creative freedom against all authoritarian tendencies, whether these emanate from the Left, the “moderate men,” or the Right. That is the purpose of the website, and decades earlier, was the project of my radio programs on KPFK-FM, Los Angeles. Whereas “leftists”(including anarchists) claim to stand with “the oppressed,” I stand with artists, the unleashed imagination, and the creative spirit in general, which I believe each one of our species possesses.

Yesterday, I promised my Facebook friends that I would try to write a blog distinguishing between Karl Marx and his anarchist rivals. Looking over the various Wikipedia biographies of the major actors in this (anarchist) trend in European history (see below), I was daunted, even floored. But I did discover that Noam Chomsky admired such anarchist thinkers as Bakunin (add Perry Anderson to that list), while Martin Luther King, Jr. is better seen as a descendant of Tolstoy.

As for Marx versus Lenin versus Mao-Tse-tung, I will summarize all too briefly what their differences were here (and note that I am drastically oversimplifying, and everything I write will be seen as reductionist and dumb by those who are intellectuals in the many left-wing sects):

  1. Marx was  hardly the sole critic of industrial society, but it is his apocalyptic prophecies of socialist revolution that distinguish him from his rivals. He believed that the working class would become immiserated, and that portions of the bourgeoisie would desert their class to join with the workers to “expropriate the expropriators.” This could  only happen in advanced industrial societies where the working class comprised the majority. Marx had little use for petit-bourgeois radicalism  (such as utopian socialism advanced by many of his contemporaries, including Robert Owen and the Fourierites in America). And he famously despised “the idiocy of rural life” and societies he considered to be backward, which aroused the fury of such as the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist Edward Said, along with other primitivists and antisemites. Most controversially, Marx predicted the withering away of the state after a relatively brief period of working class dictatorship. In his fantasies, the creative spirit soon would be enjoyed by everyone, once the commodifying capitalist boot was lifted from the necks of hapless workers.
  2. Soviet Communism. It was not supposed to happen in a backward country, but Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades took advantage of the Great War and Russia’s defeat to mount a  coup and a separate peace. Lenin was deeply influenced by J. A. Hobson, and one emphasis was breaking the stranglehold of finance capital (“the Jews”). Rather than allowing worker’s councils (as had sprung up in numerous locales), he supported “war communism” and “bureaucratic  centralism” that easily was transmuted by Stalin to “socialism in one country.” Meanwhile, Trotskyists broke with Stalinism to foment international revolution, while I. N. Steinberg, leader of the Left Social Revolutionaries, fled for his life.
  3. Maoism. The Chinese Communists broke with Moscow from about 1958 onward. Mao’s theory that the peasants were the revolutionary class in China appealed to many radicals  with an agrarian bias. Such incendiary radicals as H. Bruce Franklin,  however, managed to defend Stalin while advocating Third World revolution  in the 1960s. Here is where the New Left and the anti-urban, libertarian, anarchistic “counter-culture” could join hands. “Old Guard” members of SDS finally lined up with the Democratic Party, while some of the “direct action” folk blew themselves up and their ideological offspring can be found in parts of the Occupy Wall Street, anti-globalization demonstrations. In pop culture they may “rage against the machine.”
  4. The irony of Marxism. For true Marxists, the bourgeoisie was a progressive class. This is basic, for without Adam Smith and Company, there would be no industrial society that could lead to a utopia that would eliminate toil and drudgery for the majority of humanity. For the others mentioned here and below in the biographies of the most important European anarchists, the bourgeoisie was evil, amoral, and thieving of the labor of workers and peasants. Nihilistic  gangs such as Baader-Meinhof or the Weathermen (as embodied in Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers) hold to the violence of George Sorel. To what extent their beliefs have penetrated youth culture I cannot say for certain, but it should worry us all.

Bernadine Dohrn

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectical_materialism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proudhon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakunin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Tolstoy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Kropotkin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Sorel

Finally, given the intricacy of these European social movements and their chief ideologues, I hesitate to apply them willy nilly to American political figures. We are too given to easy labels, without nuance and without knowledge of revolutionary theories that were developed on crowded continents with autocratic ruling classes. There is no substitute for studying the labor movement in America. Let the intellectuals fret over “Why there is no socialism in America.”  We might do better to study shifting coalitions in American political parties as they existed in the past and in the campaign year of 2012. Are the varied components of either the Democratic or the Republican parties compatible with each other, or are they at odds? And does or does not this internal incoherence complicate our picture of the often enigmatic Barack Obama and his challengers?

[Illustrated: Isaac N. Steinberg, briefly in a coalition government with Lenin, leader of the Left Social Revolutionaries, and author of Workshop of the Revolution, that denounced the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and the suppression of the mutinous Kronstadt sailors. Steinberg and his family–including his son Leo who went on to be a great and revered art historian–fled the Soviets in 1923. Steinberg went on to search for a homeland for the Jews that would not make them vulnerable to a sea of Arab neighbors.]

I.N. Steinberg

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