Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Panarchist Solution to a World Divided

In these days of epic collapse, with the established order rapidly disintegrating before our very eyes, mankind seems to be tearing apart at the seems and resorting to the bipolar extremes of the far-left and the far-right. And why the hell not? Poor people across the globe have grown weary of the false promises and bald faced lies of the so-called moderates. The one thing the warring camps of extremes seem to agree on is that the mass democracy of neoliberal globalism is an epic wash. A rigged shell game that only pays out to the house, and now the house is on fire.

So we witness the spectacle of populism on both the left and the right. Record numbers of young people embracing the once tainted label of socialism while the kind of xenophobic nativism which was once only uttered in hushed tones at the far corners of church potlucks has now become mainstream fodder, openly brandished like Hermann Goering's revolver. These are the times that we live in but we've seen them before. Whenever empires crumble and the fixed markets of state capitalism find themselves in peril. The people who stand to gain the most from the cataclysm find themselves divided on the opposite ends of the barracks. Stalinists and Brown Shirts. Antifa and the Alt-right. It's times like these when the call of Samuel L. Jackson's prophetic DJ in Spike Lee's classic dissection of urban upheaval, Do the Right Thing, rings like tinnitus through my eardrums. "Can we live together?! Together, can we live?!!" I've spent my life in search of an answer to that existential question. I believe I'm getting closer.

I've always found myself on the far-left end of the barracks, even while the proletariat was still drunk on the delusions of progress that came with a first black president and Apple Store commodity fetishism. I discovered Marx young and Chomsky shortly after. I spent the lion share of my teens flirting with a caraselle of Libertarian Socialist ideologies, Chomsky's Syndicalism, Red Rosa's Council Communism, Subcomandante Marcos' Zapatizmo. All set to a hard driving soundtrack of Billy Bragg, Joe Strummer and Zack de la Rocha.

By my late adolescence, I found myself under the spell of more statist genres of leftism, brought on by the unexpected revival of Bolivarianism in Hugo's Venezuela and Evo's Bolivia. I eventually came to embrace Third World Communism as a bulwark against Northern attacks on these democratic social experiments. I came to see Fidel Castro's harshly undemocratic measures to protect the Cuban Revolution in the wake of Kennedy's terrorist campaign against it as the only solution to imperialism. But my appetite for history wouldn't allow me to hold on to that delusion for very long. Upon further studies, I came to the conclusion that the state itself was the cancer and it mattered little how benevolent its managers were. It was always a wicked contraption designed to oppress before it self-destructs. I turned back to anarchism but contradictions continued to haunt me.

The biggest problem with nearly every school of leftism is its almost messianic assumption that mankind can be united in internationalist harmony beneath the banner of a single way. As much as I may believe that my own brand of Post-Marxist Syndicalism is the ideal model for a truly democratic society, I had trouble convincing myself that someday mankind would reach a singular collective consciousness and fall in love with the guild. Frankly, as an anti-imperialist, I've always been uneasy with these sort of notions of internationalism.

Assuming that some 19th century factory workers in industrial Western Europe had all the answers for my friendly neighborhood primitivists in the Amish community, let alone the tribes of Borneo or the Kalahari, just smacks bitchingly of colonialism. With a world so beautifully complex, how could there ever be just one way? This seemed like the same trap that lead our Founding Fathers to set the stage for the neoliberal hellhole of global capitalism, only ours was an egalitarian Manifest Destiny. I believed very strongly in the ideals of Murray Bookchin and Rudolph Rocker, but these contradictions kept me from seeing even my own anarchism as anything more than a distant pipe dream. That is, until I discovered the philosophy of Panarchy.

One of the biggest misconceptions about anarchism is that it is defined by the absence of government. Such notions are patently absurd. Governments have, do and always will exist. A government is any gathering of individuals brought together to make collective decisions. Technically speaking, three stoned roommates debating over pizza topping is a government. Anarchy is defined by the absence of the state, a permanent government micromanaged by a class of professional politicians, be they corporate board members, congressmen or monarchs. The very existence of this managerial class is what makes a simple government a state. Anarchy, in all its forms, seeks to abolish this hierarchy and replace it with an entirely civilian government. Panarchy is the recognition that in our world, in this diverse cultural landscape known as mankind, there is no singular answer to the scourge of the state. Anarchy can only exist outside of manifestos and punk rock venues when it is free to take on any form, regardless of adjectives, as long as it does so voluntarily and free from force.

Globalism has brought on nothing but colossal super-states. The tyranny of bigness, big government, big business, big race, big religion. This problem cannot be solved by hijacking these systems and rebranding them as internationalism. The only valid solution to this mass tyranny is localism and that's precisely what Panarchy embraces, the idea that government can only succeed on the same grounds as any other relationship, through reversible contracts between consenting parties committed to voluntaryism and non-aggression above all else. These could be mutual aid societies, autonomous communes, democratic syndicates, tribal orders, a quilt-work of endless Utopian experiments competing peacefully for their citizenry's patronage with individuals free to opt out and collectives free to succeed at anytime. Ideally, these governments would exist like social clubs with benefits, completely untethered by geography. Making it entirely possible for six stateless nations to exist on a single square block.

What's the catch, you ask? And there is always a catch. The catch is that freedom of society exists under the same parameters as freedom of speech. Panarchy doesn't just protect the societies you like, it protects the societies you hate. Under the grand contract of a confederal constitution, people would be free to build societies based around any ideology as long as they remained peaceful and voluntary. That means societies based on Mutualism, Syndicalism, Capitalism and Communism. But that also more than likely means peaceful nations governed by ideologies like Religious Fundamentalism, Geographic Integralism and even Racial Separatism. Allowing such societies to exist does not mean condoning them anymore than freedom of speech means condoning hate speech. It's a matter of excepting the reality that true liberty means respecting the decisions of others, however misguided, to live voluntarily however they damn well please, provided they do so peacefully, much like my clannish Amish neighbors who peacefully coexist with wicked English trannies like me.

This philosophy runs anathema to the current culture of both the far-left and the far-right, who both seem to define themselves by their guttural opposition to the others very existence. But I see this catch as the solution to a proletariat that will always remain divided across complex cultural lines. When they lack the nifty shield of persecuted victim-hood, the Fascist right tends to lose its appeal to the masses. Every time one of those goosestepping pricks gets hammered by Antifa, there book sales go through the fucking ceiling. I have to believe in the Kropotkinite theory that free mutual aid leads left towards true egalitarian evolution. When free to compete peacefully, the more malignant fear-based cultures will dwindle while the open communal ones will thrive. The beauty is that the far-right is free to believe the very same thing about my Queer Syndicalist Tribe. They get the opportunity to prove me wrong just as I do them, but the both of us will be too small to waste our energy on combat. Micro-nations make any form of sustained warfare an act of mutually assured destruction. Coexistence becomes the only sustainable way to exist.

And this is how I believe we can live together, Communists, Nationalists, melting pots and Isolationists, together we can live. Behind every apocalypse hides an opportunity for Utopia. The Panarchist says why not a thousand? Why not? Tis the season after all....

Peace, Love & Empathy- Nicky/CH

Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post.

*  Fight the Power by Public Enemy
*  Shell Game by Bright Eyes
*  That's When I Reach For My Revolver by Mission of Burma
*  California Sky by Billy Bragg & Wilco
*  Times Like These by Foo Fighters
*  Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash
*  People Of the Sun by Rage Against the Machine
*  Stay With Me by the Faces
*  Shoplifters of the World Unite by the Smiths
*  Private World by New York Dolls


  1. My take on this is that anarchy really is the same thing as panarchy. If you have an anarchistic society where nobody is violently aggressive against anyone else, there is simply no mechanism for preventing any voluntary associations, contracts and agreements people wish to make with each other. From a political standpoint, there is no difference between anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-socialism. The only difference is in what the adherents would do with their liberty.

    You describe very well the current situation with the statist left and the statist right today, the goal of each is a total elimination of the other. A sad state of affairs indeed. If people could get beyond the psychological need for total domination of others, we would live in a much kinder world.

  2. Life is ultimately based on the competition for resources that sustain life. Nested within that competition is cooperation, but ultimately it is competition. When resources are scarce, competition is much more likely to turn violent, because violence is the sure way to increasing resource availability to those who are better at violence, risk notwithstanding. Given this, the capacity for violence is a hallmark of genetic fitness.

    Natural law favors genetic fitness over genetic weakness.

    Given these facts of Life, what would make a life-affirming person hang their hat on a non-violent ideology that runs contrary to natural law?

    Denial and/or fear, presumably, if it is not merely a simple lack of understanding of what life is.

  3. Cultural anthropology is the key to understanding human life under natural law compared to human life under institutional law. In his prime the Michael Jordan of cultural anthropology, Marvin Harris, wrote the most important book that I have ever read, called 'Cannibals and Kings.' If you have not read it then I tell you that you will come to find the truths in it indespensable to a mature understanding of anarchy.

    If primitivism triggers you then knowing that is half the battle, and asking yourself why would be the first step towards winning the other half.

    We're a long way from home.

  4. We have to be structuralists. Everything real has structure.

    The reason I harp on structural surpluses all the time is because structurally they are the tipping point away from anarchy and towards hierarchy. Surpluses are the original form of coinage that enabled economic markets. Surpluses, coinage, and markets have never existed in anarchist societies because they cannot, because they are institutions in and of themselves that require specialized management and therefore hierarchy.

    Beyond the people world effects of these institutions, they are not anarchist because obtaining structural surpluses year over year requires growth, and continual growth creates a hierarchy between man and ecology.

    The reason that all anarchist societies were and are animist is because animism does not culturally allow for man's dominion over nature.

    Anarcho-capitalism, -syndicalism, -etc, these are figments of imaginations that do not understand the structural realities. All these ideas have been promulgated by people who don't understand natural law because their lives have not been privy to the ecological feedback that is privy to lives living off the land.


    1. ben, anarchy does not mean or require no structure, nor even no hierarchy. It simply means "no rulers". There is plenty of room in an anarchist society for structure, hierarchy and rules, even possibly enforceable laws. The difference is that in anarchy, no one is forced through violence to sacrifice their own values for the sake of others. Any "force" present is only there to keep people from violating their contracts and promises, and otherwise not harming each other. And nobody is in a position to set the rules for everybody, i.e. - there are no rulers.

      While there may be a significant number of people who would desire less structure and hierarchy, they could certainly set up their communities with that in mind, they simply could not force people to participate in their ideal type of arrangements.

      I am one who would desire at least a partial market environment, because, in my opinion, it is the only way I could survive, as I require sophisticated medical treatment, including medicines, the production and provision of which would require a high level of economic activity and trade. "Living off the land" is not an option for me. Without my medicines, I would be dead within weeks, and it would be a horrible death where my last days would be plagued by psychosis, severe depression, and total paranoia and terror.

      Without any rulers, markets would exist because there would be nobody to do violence against you to prevent you from trading with others. While there would be "inequality" in that some people would be wealthier than others, there would be no society like the near total kleptocracy we see today, where there is abject poverty in parallel with the crony capitalism which feeds the .01%.

      I don't know exactly what an anarchist society would look like, and, that's the beauty of it, that, whatever emerged from a process that was more just than today, would be acceptable to me, whether my vision dominates, or someone else's does.

      First, get rid of the State, which is an inherently unjust and violent institution. By the laws of Karma what resulted would be much more pleasant than what we have today, even if your choice is to live off the land while mine is to be someone's employee. Working for a living wouldn't be so bad if one hour of work per day could take care of my necessities, leaving everything else as gravy. The State is the great destroyer of both lives and material wealth, and comrade hermit is absolutely correct: we can all get along (literally) without it.

    2. Thanks The Borg.

      You are correct. Anarchy allows for the structure and hierarchy and social rules as present in natural law throughout nature. That is the whole point of anarchy - to live naturally.

      Structural surpluses -- food surpluses -- are quite unnatural. As with any life form, the population grows to meet the available food supply, and if the social policy is to generate surpluses, then the effective goal of the culture is to strip its environment of its resources until it outgrows its resource base and collapses.

      All high technology comes from societies running structural surpluses. Your illness does not justify the continued raping and pillaging of the planetary ecology, especially when your illness is the direct result of the rape and pillage culture. Actions have consequences.

      Our genes are pretty degraded by now, as our our actions. How about we don't push political fantasies in which all the perks of empire we like and totally depend on we get to keep while jettisoning the ugly stuff, as if they're not interconnected, LOL.

    3. "How about we don't push political fantasies in which all the perks of empire we like and totally depend on we get to keep while jettisoning the ugly stuff, as if they're not interconnected, LOL"

      I am not one cent wealthier because my ancestors owned slaves, killed natives, or, more recently, bombed much of the world into the stone age. Every honest person is poorer, materially and spiritually, than they would have been had these things not occurred. This is true regardless of race, ethnicity, or national origin.

      Militarism and markets are eternal enemies. Markets create wealth, militarism destroys it. We not only do not need militarism and empire to prosper economically, we need to eliminate them to prosper at all.

      We have plenty of food, or at least could have, here in the USA, but our birthrate is not even sufficient, even with current levels of immigration, to sustain a growing population. That fact would tend to rule out your (unfounded, in my opinion) assertion that our population will continue to grow without end as long as the food exists to feed us.

      Material wealth is potentially unlimited, limited only by the ingenuity of the human mind. While there is some wealth inherent in many types of natural resources, the vast majority of wealth is created by human effort and is many, many orders of magnitude greater than the wealth inherent in the resources it is produced from. We need never run out of natural resources.

      What you imply is "greedy and selfish" of me is my desire to live and live comfortably. We needn't destroy the world to achieve that, we need only quit aiming and firing guns at people with different value systems than ourselves. Live and let live should be our motto.

      You profoundly lack knowledge about organic mental illnesses. They are not caused by "rape and pillage", they are brought about by processes no different in nature than ALS or sickle cell anemia. My boss Kevin has 7 siblings. Four of them were either bipolar, schizo-affective, or both. How did that happen by "rape and pillage?" I would think genetic tendency and physiology had more to do with it.

      I will not apologize for wanting to live and live comfortably. This could be the state of the entire world if we could just think long enough to put our guns and bombs away and make some effort to achieve both local and international peace.

    4. ben said: "Your illness does not justify the continued raping and pillaging of the planetary ecology"

      I reject your premises. Essentially, what comes through though, is "die, weakling!" Very compassionate of you.

    5. "I reject your premises. Essentially, what comes through though, is "die, weakling!" Very compassionate of you."

      Why do you reject my premises? They are well established by the mature field of cultural anthropology. Until further notice I can only assume you do so out of convenience, because you live a life of convenience.

      I am not telling you die, weakling. I do not revel in the coming bottleneck but I do honor it by reorganizing my life so as to try to do my part to be the adaptive creature we were created to be.

      By promulgating political fantasies you are in the bargaining stage of grief over the coming collapse, and you are not doing anybody any favors. The sooner you stop bowing to your ego's fear of death, the sooner will you find acceptance. Upon acceptance, you can begin to think clearly again.

      I have challenges myself. I am hypothyroid. I raise livestock in part so that I can harvest their thyroids for my consumption.

      Good luck to you, sir.

    6. I'm something of a doomer myself. But I refuse to believe that we can't prepare for survival in times of collapse while still holding on to our humanity. At the end of the day, it is only tight knit communities that evolve (apes, dolphins, whales, humans) and it is only tight knit communities who will survive. I am a Queer person, and my tribe means everything to me. Everything I do, is part of a struggle to save my people. If I die doing that, than I accept that fate. But to quote T2, there is no fate but the one we make. Be prepared, but live in hope.

    7. "I'm something of a doomer myself."

      And I, under the present circumstances, am certainly no optimist. But nuclear holocaust is not inevitable, and, without empire, neither is ecological catastrophe. The societies with the most sophisticated levels of technology and the most advanced economic development are precisely those which most easily avoid overpopulation or other causes of resource depletion. The fact that one of those societies, the one we live in, is also the one with the biggest empire, should not cause a blanket indictment of its prosperity as these things are certainly not joined at the hip. As I often point out, the economic prosperity of a nation is at odds with empire, the two cannot coexist in any permanent fashion. Wealth need not serve empire, if it weren't for the existence of the State, it simply wouldn't.