Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What is an Anarcho Traditionalist, anyway? (AT Manifesto I)

I really think the heavier lifting of dissertation writing is already behind me, remaining just a couple finishing touches here and there that can be done at a more leisurely pace, which has given me a bit more time to peruse the web and explore a bit more of its wonderful depths (or rather, not so wonderful shallows, you never know how attuned to irony the scarce readers of these lines may be). One of the areas I’ve been dabbling in is the vast expanses of the neoreactionary movement(Neo Reaction), where you can find people sporting labels that sound dangerously similar to the one I chose for my own political philosophy some years ago, and seemingly sharing a distaste of the progressivism of traditional left-wing policies that I could also easily identify with. I’ve been thus reading anarcho-monarchists (Anarcho Monarchist), national-anarchists (National Anarchists) and flat out anti-democrats (AntiDemocrat) which consider the Republican party of the USA a bunch of “cuckservatives” that ineffectually pretend to try to stem the growing avalanche of corruption and degeneration that summarizes most of modern  society whilst they really facilitate their advance, and thus even more deserving of their scorn and contempt than their traditional leftist enemies (vaguely and derisively called “liberals”, “progressives” and some more colourful made terms like “demotists” or, horror of horrors, “SJW’s”).

Well, thankfully the precise label of anarcho-traditionalism doesn’t seem to have been claimed yet, which suits me fine, as I consider I’m fully Marxist in that respect (of Groucho’s persuasion, of course, never Karl’s), and “would never belong to a club that accepted people like myself”, so had I found some anarcho-traditionalist around I would have had to review how I defined my own position. Not that I find all the views I’ve been acquainting myself with of late entirely abhorrent (I can sympathize with some elements of their ideology, and some proponents seem more intelligent/ interesting/ astute than others, although I find their jeremiads and overtly apocalyptic tone not much to my liking), but again I find substantial differences with my Weltanschaaung, and that has led me to think it would be good to stake out my own position, so if in later times the always protean anarchist (or traditionalist) movements honor their tradition of accelerated mutation and production of spinoffs, I will be able to correct whoever claims to be an anarchotraditionalist and to show that I thought of the term before, and that whatever it is he or she understand by it is woefully incorrect.

What better, then, than to define in this and some following posts the full Anarcho Traditionalist Manifesto (ATM). Damn, the acronym is already taken, so I’ll need to think in something else. But in the meantime, let’s get on with the action

Anarcho Traditionalist Manifesto. Because a) current society sucks, and b) why not?

A spectre haunts the developed world - the spectre that, although not awful by historical standards, things could be much better than they are.  Society produces unheard of quantities of material goods, but millions teeter at the verge of poverty and destitution, and even between those well-sheltered, well-dressed and well-fed the lingering doubt of what may become of them if the business climate takes a turn for the worse keeps them awake at night, and unable to rest or truly relax.

Periodic crises rock the economic sphere (while the mouthpieces of the powerful try to convince the masses that such crises are something of the past, and that the last one will not be repeated in our lifetimes) and consign increasing numbers to joblessness and despair (even in the countries with more generous safety nets, as such joblessness is everywhere a searing stigma, not be lightly borne). The threat of loosing one’s job keeps the workers in line, so that in every upswing most of the increase in income, security and wealth flow to a minority who is already rich beyond any historical precedent.  
The mechanism that makes the many participants and accomplices in their own subjection is transparent enough for everybody to see: a socially sanctioned rationality that maintains that

1.       the ultimate and only reason for acting, the true end of any human life, is to satisfy desires
2.       there is only one desire: to improve one’s position in the social hierarchy. Every other thing apparently desired is so to the extent that it can be shown to the rest of the social body and boasted about
3.       there is only one measure of such position: the possession of material goods and the access to experiences that can be ranked and valued by the amount of money spent on them
Such rationality has developed historically as the product of competing societies embodied in different (and opposed) Nation States born after the peace of Westphalia in Europe in 1648. The societies that adopted the 3 articles of faith more thoroughly outcompeted the rest, produced more goods, equipped better armies and fleets, and dominated the world in ever more comprehensive ways. Starting by the Dutch from roughly 1650 to 1770, the British from 1770 to 1900 and finally the Americans from 1900 until Today. The Americans have completed the “manifest destiny” of such rationality extending its sway to the whole globe, so nowadays every single society believes equally in the 3 articles, and they compete to indoctrinate both their youth and their elders more fiercely in them so they keep on producing more material goods in a zero sum game that is wreaking havoc with the environment and with the psychical and spiritual well being of their citizens, ever more pressed to devote all their energies to such game.

So the first step to get to a better society, to the society that the technological level of development would allow us to inhabit, is to denounce that kind of rationality, and to unmask the chorus of sycophants that defend it by maintaining its supposed universality and alleged support by “human nature”. It is but a contingent and accidental development, whose sole justification is that it helped past societies in a scenario of international competition to manufacture more muskets and more gunpowder than their neighbors. But in the same way than helping our ancestors to have more babies is no rational reason to adopt a maxim of morality (and thus a morality based on evolutionary psychology in the end undermines itself, and can be understood only as a consequence of the warped dominant reason we hare thereby denouncing), helping our forebears to equip stronger armies is no rational reason to pledge our allegiance to a self-destructive set of principles for organizing social life.

It is high time then to discard those principles and replace them with alternative ones that allow for greater human flourishing, that do not force us to choose between an economic development that transforms the whole Earth in a filthy dump and a “degrowth” agenda that condemns untold millions to a life of squalor and underdevelopment, that allows for the sensible enjoyment of the fruits of technology and of the art and culture that past generations have bequeathed to us. We group those alternative principles under the banner of Anarchotraditionalism, as they are animated by two underlying visions:

·         Liberty and freedom, respect for individual preferences, and minimal interference with the choices every person makes regarding how to conduct their lives and what ends to pursue are transcendent principles to be respected as long as they do not impinge in the equally transcendent dignity to be accorded to any rational being. We do believe historical anarchism has been the most coherent and combative representative of that tradition, never compromising in its pursue of maximum autonomy and lack of constraints (thanks in part to the fact of never having been entrusted to actually govern any polity of any size beyond a few months of revolutionary fervor, having always been crushed by forces which ended up reasserting statism and control)
·         As much as the Enlightenment attempted to reinvent moral rules ex novo and recognized as legitimate only those maxims that could be ideally reached by every lone individual by himself, regardless of history or particular circumstances, we consider that attempt necessarily bound to fail and end in utter relativism, skepticism and paralyzing doubt. Men and women are reared in rich traditions, out of which they are incapable of assigning values, and value assignment is indeed the most defining feature of rationality (see rationality as value assignment (and sex dolls)). So rather than rejecting tradition and attempting to rebuild our ethical maxims from scratch, something that will never work (and that is in the end contrary to reason, forcing reason to do violence to itself), we advocate embracing such tradition (including the Western literary and philosophical canon, classical music, classical institutions and Christian religion) and making it an integral part of what the good life consists in
Now just wishing things to be so will not make almost four centuries of folly, greed and unbridled ambition to vanish in the air. The coming of Anarchotraditionalism will require a long, protracted struggle to dislodge the false beliefs that today reign in the hearts and spirits of people without them even noticing, and just preaching about the evils of their ways and the utopian bliss of what may lie ahead never changed anybody’s mind (not to the better, at least). This is why we have written the present tract, the ATM, to spell out in detail the program to upend the current way of organizing society, not for ourselves or for our own enjoyment, but for that of our children, and of our children’s children. We will construct it from the ground up, starting with what we understand about man (in a Kantian sense: what can we know? What can we expect? And how should we act?), following with the kind of society we should live in (what minimal set of rules should we strive to enact to balance the best of our tradition with the maximum decentralization and freedom) and finishing with how we should organize the production and distribution of goods and services so the differential ability to exclusively command them stops being the only worthy goal of a live well lived.

But we will do that in subsequent posts, as this one is already long enough. 

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