Anarchy is back

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Anarchy is back, Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) says:

Anarchists, who are the cannon fodder of the extreme left, are sending the message that the Old Leftist politics has failed and the time has come to double down. They do this by manifesting an “anger” and “outrage” which the parliamentarians cannot. The British Pakistani Leftist Tariq Ali recently wrote a book entitled The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad in which he claims that people like Obama are “incapable of dealing with the right”. His point is that Obama, like Nick Clegg in Britain, is regarded as the symbol of the leftist politics that has sold out. They aren’t radical enough, and what the Left needs more than ever is men of principle, the purest and most uncompromising of which are the anarchists.
Rectification is not an electrical term. On the Left it means “power struggle” or purge. In the beginning will take exactly the form we are witnessing now: a signaling exercise on the Left ostensibly directed at the mythical right but essentially aimed at sending a message to leftist politicians and semi-respectable activists that they haven’t been militant enough. It is an open political letter from one faction to the other. In the case of Greece the message is simple. Keep spending, the hell with austerity. The warnings to get clear of bombs suggests the “anarchists” still regard their targets as broadly fraternal, but the subsequent real explosions say their forbearance will not last forever unless the moderate left gets serious. The USA Today article continued, “”Anarchists-insurrectionists work to try to raise the level of clashes when there are problems’ said Marco Boschi, a criminologist who teaches a course on terrorism at the University of Florence”. The anarchists themselves are ineffectual but provide the symbols around which the larger Left can rally.
In fine anarchists are Red Guards of the European Left, a collection of dupes formed inside the vast and creaky infrastructure of Marxism to advance the interests of one faction against another faction. It is impossible to understand the politics of the Left without grasping that it is all about deniable intimidation. The real problem European anarchism solves is how to send bombs without seemingly sending them, or how to trash the Tory party headquarters in London without really doing it.

Just as Mao’s Red Guards were never about themselves, always about Mao, anarchists are about a larger political question: what is the correct political line? Once the Red Guards of China had resolved that in Mao’s favor they were allowed to rampage for a time to bring hatred down upon themselves and subsequently suppressed, hapless tools to very end.

He follows up:

The problem with anarchy is rooted in its inability to escape from the traditions of the Left. People calling themselves “anarchists” opposed the Jacobins and were suspicious of the revolutionary state. Throughout political history they’ve found a resonance among those who have felt the revolution betrayed. And it is always, always betrayed.

But their mode of organization, which emphasized communalism and mutualism, continually undermined them. The resort to committees, meetings, agitation — in other words the clanking apparatus of the Left — made any kind of action cumbersome and opened them to takeovers by the Bolsheviks. In a fight between the ‘noble’ individual — Camenisch for example, who seems a genuine tough guy — and conspiracy, conspiracy usually wins.

The Bolshies normally eat the anarchists up alive.

The anarchists had a good idea, which was suspicion of the state. They were hampered by two notable deficiencies: the lack of appreciation of the role the market could play in off-loading price signaling to the individual and the use of limited government as a defense against despotic government.

You can make the argument that the Founding Fathers were the ultimate practical anarchists. Their goal was to minimize the necessary government in order to prevent a collapse into either chaos or despotism. And they largely succeeded because they enshrined property — which is the bulwark of individualism — and limited government, in part through the “trick” if you want to call it that, of deriving legitimacy direct from an external non-human source. Whether the Founding Father types can survive the Jacobins and their Bolshie heirs is an open question, but they have been the most successful so far.

Modern European anarchists are descendants of a far weaker model and are no longer serious competitors to the traditional left.

They are tolerated for color on its fringes for their ‘purity’. From time to time it is useful for the Left to trot them out for theater before the apparatchiks reel them in again.

Somehow these revival moments keep cropping up in human history. It is interesting to compare anarchism to the “anti-sacerdotal” Cathars or Albigensians, who were interested in practicing a purer form of Christianity than was possible with a clergy. In their view, the doctrine of Christ had been corrupted by the bureaucracy, and their message struck a chord. The Cathars were eventually suppressed, but like the anarchists, the memory of the dream lives on, in the Church as the Dominicans. In the Leftist traditions in these strange fools for the communal dream are given their little corner in the political playroom under the supervision of far more ruthless men than the “right wingers” they suppose to be their enemies.

Back in the day I remember how Eco’s In the Name of the Rose, in which the Cathars play cameo, resonated with members of the underground who were fighting against both the Marcos regime and the party. Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus. We hold only empty names.

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