Sunday, June 12, 2016

Anarchism is a Psychological Type, not a Political Philosophy

Self-proclaimed "anarchist" Christopher Ketcham says he is voting for Trump:
The historic opportunity of the 2016 election is one which Bernie Sanders likely will not have the courage to embrace: The burning to ashes of the corporatist Clintonite neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party.

The scenario ideally plays out with Sanders contesting the nomination all the way to the convention and then running as a third party candidate, say on the Green Party ticket, siphoning away the base that Clinton needs to win. This will hand the election to Donald Trump, and force the Democratic establishment to realize it’s doomed unless it pivots sharply to the left.

The Clintons will disappear into the toilet where they’ve always deserved to be flushed. We can then look forward to 2020 after four years of Trump and—what? Who knows. He’s truly a wild card.

I went for Sanders in the primaries, even gave several hundred dollars to his campaign. But there’s no way I’ll pull the lever for Clinton, because I know what a Clinton presidency bodes. More of the same neoliberal plundering with a friendly Democratic smile to quiet the left.

It happened under Obama: the warfare state and Wall Street reigning supreme while we all sing kumbaya because a black man has stamped his imprimatur on an intolerable status quo. It will happen again under Hillary.

What’s needed now in American politics is consternation, confusion, dissension, disorder, chaos — and crisis, with possible resolution — and a Trump presidency is the best chance for this true progress. This is a politics of arson. I’d rather see the empire burn to the ground under Trump, opening up at least the possibility of radical change, than cruise on autopilot under Clinton. . . .

It may be that a Trump presidency, as Andrew Sullivan predicts in New York Magazine, will usher in the end of the democracy, the death of the republic, the rise of the hard totalitarian state. Given that we are already living in what Princeton political scientist Sheldon Wolin calls a soft or inverted totalitarian system, an illiberal democracy, the transformation feared by Sullivan will be welcome, clarifying, a fresh breath of honesty, in which the trappings are tossed aside and the ugly reality is revealed. Such a revelation, as the republic degenerates into tyranny, may inspire real resistance.

Or not. It’s the risk of the wild card. TRUMP! Let the fire burn how it will.
If you believe that politics is a more-or-less rational activity designed to choose how society is governed, this is utter nonsense. Suppose, for example, you want America to have a Social Democracy like Denmark, which was the explicit basis of Bernie Sanders' campaign. Well, there are lots of corporations in Denmark, quite a bit of capitalism, and lots of worry about increasing inequality (which is a worldwide phenomenon). If you are disposed to see things that way, I'm sure you will find lots of "neoliberal plundering" in Scandinavia; Scandinavian anarchists certainly think they have way too much of it. Insofar as the word "anarchism" has any meaning, support for Bernie Sanders is completely at odds with it. Sanders talks flamboyantly about revolution, but his political hero is Franklin Roosevelt, who did as much as anyone to make the world safe for capitalism. One of the main tenants of anarchism as I understand it is opposition to the bureaucratic, impersonal nature of our power structures, but if Ketcham thinks life in Scandinavia is less bureaucratic than in America, he might be surprised. If what you want is a radically different world, then Sandersism won't get you there; because really life in Denmark is not radically different from life in the U.S.

But I think it is a mistake to see Ketcham's political program as having anything to do with governing. What he wants is "consternation, confusion, dissension, disorder, chaos", for their own sakes. Ketcham does not want to shake up the system because he imagines a better future, except as a vague utopian dream. He wants to shake it up because he wants to enjoy the shaking. He wants something burned to ashes. He is sick of normal life, getting up and going to work and buying groceries and so on. He wants to wake up in a completely different world, where the dreary routines of existence have been shattered.

Hence his attraction to Trump, who might, for all we know, really cause a lot of chaos. But to think that such a disaster would get us closer to Social Democracy is just plain silly.


G. Verloren said...

Some people just want to watch the world burn.

G. Verloren said...

"One of the main tenants of anarchism as I understand it is opposition to the bureaucratic, impersonal nature of our power structures, but if Ketcham thinks life in Scandinavia is less bureaucratic than in America, he might be surprised."

I'm utterly convinced that the main (perhaps even sole) tenet of Anarchism is opposition, period. In their worldview, the ends are the means and the means are the ends. The goals they ostensibly champion at any given moment simply don't actually matter except to serve as a justification for the conflict they eternally crave.

Their philosophy is simple and cyclical. However things currently are is always bad. Anything that seeks to overthrow the extant system is good, but only until it finds victory and becomes the new establishment, at which point it becomes bad again, with the typical explanation for this being that the cause has been somehow betrayed or corrupted in the course of coming to power, and now a new cause must be rallied behind to overthrow the previous one.

Nothing actually matters except the constant struggle - the quest for unceasing change purely for the sake of change. They are literally agents of chaos - they are the mythical Adversary, existing only to oppose whatever order they come across. They don't want to accomplish anything - they only want to drive conflict. It takes a certain kind of terrible psychology to be a true Anarchist.