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The Still-Ongoing Self-Styled Anarchist-Led Outrageousness in Portland, Oregon by George Fish
Anarchism vs. Anarchistic Nihilist Chaos:
Two Blog Entries on the Still-Ongoing Self-Styled
Anarchist-Led Outrageousness in
The still-ongoing outrageousness of the self-styled anarchist-led alleged “protests” in Portland, Oregon, which are drawing the ire of ordinary working people there, are a grim reminder of just how fragile our polity can be today, and also a proper comeuppance to our left of today that not all self-proclaimed “radicals” are our friends, or even comrades we can work with, even as we disagree with them. “Anarchy” can have two meanings, and one of them is “chaos, chaotic nihilism, where there is no authority to protect the weak, the powerless, and the just plain put-upon from the harassment, violence and bullying of others. These two blog posts from my “Politically Incorrect Leftist” BlogSpot blog, both written in April 2021, explore just that, and the political issues involved—GF
A Righteous and Just Excoriation of “Woke Left” Anarchistic Nihilism
(originally published on April 23, 2021)
Bret Weinstein, the egregiously, horribly, railroaded former professor of biology at Evergreen State College, and a Bernie Sanders supporter, who spoke out against an action of de facto segregation promulgated by “woke” black student activists at Evergreen, has just spoken out on the British Unherd (https://unherd.com/2021/04/how-anarchists-captured-portland) against the “woke” chaos now being perpetrated in his newly-adopted home city of Portland, Oregon, where he and his wife Heather, also ostracized from Evergreen, now reside—and criticizes the “woke” from a standpoint that can only be described as concerned, social-democratic left, not neoliberal right.
While he calls those promulgating violence, looting and harassment of ordinary citizens in Portland as “anarchists,” he’s not necessarily implying that they are political or philosophical anarchists; merely nihilists of the “woke left” who’ve latched onto the slogans promulgated by Black Lives Matter and concerns over the still-prevalent racism in US society to garner sympathy and support for what he calls only the ceding “by voices of reason on the Left to extremists who deliberately conflate a demand for racial justice with a desire to burn civilisation [British spelling, as Unherd is British—GF] to the ground” and ruefully, ironically, cries out, “Welcome to Portland; the progressive dream that has turned into a nightmare.”
Weinstein is scathing throughout in his denunciation of these new nihilists: he pointedly notes of this “movement’s” origins, “suddenly last summer, with the confluence of the George Floyd protests and the Presidential election, Portland came unmoored,” calls these activists, “a small but violent mob of misanthropes” perpetrating a “current wave of terror, and, due to the deliberate inaction against these mobs of “woke” by both Portland’s Mayor and police force, alleges directly, “anarchists have gained a strange kind of control over the city in their fight against Nazis and white supremacists they appear to have conjured in a quest to give their anger meaning.” (However, Weinstein pointedly notes that, in progressive Portland, these supposedly everywhere hordes of Nazis and white supremacists are, in the famous words of Mark Twain commenting on his supposed death as published in a newspaper’s obituary, “greatly exaggerated.”)
But we of the “voices of reason on the Left” have dealt with this kind of pernicious nonsense before, famously in the case of Weatherman in the late 1960s, early 1970s, a group that, despite its florid adoption of Marxist-Leninist and Maoist rhetoric, were really, just as are the “woke” of Portland, “neo-anarchist terrorists” who only gave grist to the right-wing mill all too eager to silence those “voices of reason on the Left,” and who, under both Nixon and Reagan, succeeded masterfully, and shifted the country not to the left, but to the right (especially in Reagan’s case, to the far right, as this Great Communicator ran successfully for President twice on being against the New Left, and as a bulwark of safety against anarchy, terror, and Weatherman’s random bombings). Thus, are there enemies of the Left clearly on the supposed left: the “propaganda of the deed” denizens, the ultraleftists who have no idea of what is actually and actually not feasible, and the Blanquist small coteries of cadres who, by military-minded conspiracy, bring about “socialism by insurrectionary coup.” [Blanquism is named after Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), a French revolutionary socialist who called for socialism to be achieved by small, armed groups leading insurrections. The similarities between the “woke” of today and Blanqui’s small cadres provoking revolutionary violence are obvious—GF] Much the same happened to the Weinsteins at Evergreen State; but it no more ushered in the Olympia, Washington Commune [Olympia is the home of Evergreen State—GF] than it has the Portland Commune. All it has done is cause fear among small business owners whether their businesses will be trashed by looting, as has happened to so many other Portland businesses; and ushered in anger among ordinary working people, who are awakened from sleep by chanting mobs demanding, “Wake up, motherfuckers, wake up!” Thus, do ill-conceived tactics, and a general sense of nihilism masquerading as activism directly undermine the cause of the left, not enhance it—and make meaningful and extensive social change that much more difficult to achieve and attain.
Anarchism vs. Anarchy
(originally published on April 27, 2021)
This is a follow-up blog to my last blog on Bret Weinstein and the anarchistic nihilism of the violence and looting in his home city of Portland, Oregon. I want to elaborate more on the distinctions between anarchistic nihilism and political and philosophical anarchism, or, in other words, the crucial difference between anarchism and anarchy. Not that I’m particularly sympathetic to either political or philosophical anarchism. As socialist Hal Draper has pointed out, under anarchism it would be like the Wild West, for there would be no intervening body such as a state to protect the weak and defenseless from the bullying strong. For to have such would be to restrain the “freedom” of the bully! Also, I read an account of how anarchism would supposedly work in practice, through a series of interlocking autonomous local communes—where the communes themselves, and their mechanisms of cooperation among themselves would clearly resemble—state mechanisms! Thus, to me, the state is a tautology: it exists out of necessity, it has needed functions to fulfill, it is there because needed regulation and management, even repression of evil and malevolence, are called for under human social arrangements; even purely local ones, as there simply is no automatic “invisible hand” to spontaneously regulate, neither in the market, nor in other vital social functions. When both Marx and Bakunin wrote, in the 19th Century, one calling for the gradual “withering away of the state,” i.e., gradual anarchism, while the latter wished to abolish the state immediately, the modern welfare state was not only not in existence, it was even unheard of. It didn’t come about until the 1890s, after the deaths of both Marx and Bakunin, and near the death of Engels (who died in 1895). In the 1890s, that wily conservative Otto von Bismarck, as leader of a united Germany, passed the Anti-Socialist Laws, which forbade the German Social-Democratic Party from propagandizing the socialist cause, while, simultaneously, providing for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance—thus appeasing the working class. Prior to that, the state was neoliberal, if not openly repressive, and carried out no welfare measures. So, it was thus impossible for either a Marx or a Bakunin, or their followers, to envision a different kind of state, and the states when then existed were hostile not only to the working class, but to ordinary citizens as a whole; and viewed its function as a state in purely negative terms—to restrain in the name of “freedom,” and to control from the top-down.
As a socialist I engaged in an anarchist-socialist dialogue through two book reviews for the hard-copy socialist journal New Politics of two books from anarchist publisher AK Press: the first, from 2010, of Noam Chomsky’s Chomsky on Anarchism, Chomsky, Anarchism, and Socialism - New Politics, the second from 2013, of the anthology The Accumulation of Freedom, Anarchist Economics and the Socialist-Anarchist Dialogue - New Politics. The Chomsky review is especially relevant here, for Chomsky, a self-professed anarchist, is often derided by other anarchists as a “reformist.” For example, while he believes, rightly, that all authority should be questioned, interrogated, he concludes that not all authority is bad; indeed, some is necessary and beneficial. Similarly, Chomsky holds that a major problem besetting the Third World is too little government, state power and intervention—that too much authority and power there is in private hands, is controlled by neoliberalism in the service of neoliberal capitalist interests against the needs and wishes of the people. On these, we socialists and political and philosophical anarchists can agree.
What we can’t agree on is the nihilism engendered by anarchist acting out; it’s descent into mere anarchy, not political anarchism in any meaningful or constructive sense. While I can certainly positively hold with anarchists on the need for individual autonomy, even against the “popular masses,” and the generally beneficial achievement of such anarchism in the arts, where the freewheeling artist creates compelling freewheeling art, beyond that, as a socialist, there’s little in anarchism I can accept; and when it comes to anarchy, there’s nothing I can accept. As a prime example of both, consider the Sex Pistols’ song, “Anarchy in the U.K.” I certainly can embrace the opening words of brazen statement in the song, “I am the anti-Christ/I am an anarchist,” but cannot accept, embrace, the later statement in the song, “I want to destroy.” For the act of revolution, of successful social transformation, is constructive more than it is destructive. As an example, when we destroy the rotting, decrepit shed on the weed-strewn lawn, we must also construct not only a new edifice on the property, but also cleanse it of its weed-infested, unsightly nature, or else our work will become as naught. Social change that lasts is constructive, not merely destructive of the old order; and, as Bret Weinstein pointed out, the destruction in rampant anarchy presently going on in Portland, Oregon, is not revolution of a positive sense, but negative, nihilistic anarchy which is only destructive, and alienating of the very people we need to reach.