Three apparently opposed political movements share a kinship.
He had the charisma. He had the looks. He smelled, well, he smelled as nature intended. And that was no disadvantage in his position.
He was a leader in a small university anarchist group. A leader? No, he was the leader. He wielded more power than any leader in the other political clubs. What distinguished this small anarchist club from all the other political clubs in the university was that it managed to be at once the most ruleless and the most inegalitarian. And that goes for all anarchist organisations.
Anarchy, like all political theories, has many particular visions of its ideal state. But in the broadest terms it seeks to abolish the state, bureaucracy, and capitalism and replace these with local councils, self-organisation, and direct democracy.
The means to achieve these ends and the form of actual self-organisation are heavily debated by anarchists. But most share an emphasis on consensus and collective decision making.
Other political clubs and organisations are constrained with by-laws, regulations, and customs. The people who tend to lead these organisations are the type of people who succeed in our corporate and statist bureaucratic life. They are the toadies and the schemers.
Their time in university political clubs and student unions prepares them for a life of backstabbing, rule pedantry, and conniving. The people best attuned to this pathetic life become lawyers. This gives them a formal training in the field, and creates the most miserable bastards of all – as we all know.
This is, in part, why the leadership cadre in Western countries is so appallingly insincere, unctuous, and spineless. Russia and China at least have engineers or military men to temper the rule of lawyers, though anyone who reaches a high position in these societies will be subject to roughly the same manipulative outlook that exists in any bureaucratic society.
Anarchists, by contrast, tend to be led by what TE Lawrence called the “dreamers of the day”. These men rise to positions of leadership because all the laws and regulations of usual political organisation have been swept away. They are men with a romantic vision, but they are still practical and forceful enough to see that actual events happen in the world.
Anarchism’s anthropology is not true. Anarchists hold that society and the state pervert man from his natural inclination towards non-hierarchal, ultra democratic, and consensus driven forms of social organisation.
Remove the state, the anarchists claim, and – with a little aid from mutual self-help organisations – a semi-spontaneous non-hierarchical order will emerge.
Humans are not like that. When the rules and regulations are removed, the old hierarchies disappear. This is true. The petty lawyers and backstabbers disappear. They require the intricacies of bureaucracy, laws, and rules to thrive.
What emerges, however, is a new hierarchy. It is a hierarchy that is closer to nature. This is the nature of spontaneous order: a hierarchy based on force of will.
The consensus decision-making procedures adopted by anarchists allow the minority to block decisions. This, combined with the absence of highly codified and overtly hierarchical structures, usually allows anarchist organisations of be dominated by the most charismatic, forceful, and aggressive member. An occult hierarchy forms around this figure.
The dreamer of the day can give full force to his visions in the context provided by anarchism. He is cut down in most organisations by petty sniping and treacherous conspiracies. He is not a man who does well with particulars and details, and so he is poorly suited for lawfare.
He is frankly spoken and up front. You can, once bourgeois deodorant has been removed (such an advertising fraud!), smell his funk. This is more significant than many people would believe. Why else do girlfriends take a favourite shirt from their boyfriend to wear? Scent is a powerful remembrance and a token of potency.
Our perfumed and deodorised bodies conceal a useful means to sniff out vigorous individuals, and this is underappreciated in our age. The anarchist, who breaks social rules because these are rules, is awakened by the, quite literal, smell of power.
The anarchist organisation becomes more primal. It becomes more biological than everyday politics. Without the ability to appeal to by-laws and regulations, the weaker members of the group find themselves outclassed by the most charismatic member of the group.
The feel is atavistic. It is a return to our apish state.
The entire set up makes it easier for those with force of personality and will to impose themselves on other people. This, in turn, explains why anarchists are more predisposed to violent and direct political actions than other groups. The anarchist concern with everything emotional and primal leads to a contempt for the processes that slow down action.
“Enough talk while people die in imperialist wars and capitalist sweatshops!”
This is the cry of the anarchist who has just put a waste bin through the window of a Starbucks. But it is also the cry of a fascist who has smashed up a Jewish shop. The cry is the same, “Action! Enough lying talk! Action! Speed! Instinct!”
The direction of action does not particularly matter. This is because the fascist and anarchist are driven by emotion. Calculation, talk, and discussion merely confuse the matter, so they believe. This is why the targets for fascist and anarchist violence are often arbitrary. The Starbucks may be smashed up on a demonstration against an international government meeting to plan for war. It is only tangentially connected to the meeting, but it is hated as a symbol of technology, economics, and corporate power.
It should now be apparent that the anarchist organisational style matches the fascists in many respects. A strong, emotional, and charismatic leader will dominate both groups. There is a common hatred of apparently petty rules and the so-called talking shop of the parliamentary process. These are movements of emotion and apparently pointless violence. Reason is held as suspect because it leads to the petty conspiracy of the lawyers.
They are both anti-human in that they do not conceive the human race as being apart from the animal kingdom. It is our estrangement from our animal nature that makes us suffer, according to anarchists and fascists. Technology, law, the state, and corporate capitalism are held responsible – reason and talk are the common points that unite these entities.
This is why anarchists and fascists are both very concerned about animal welfare. They are not concerned with animals in strictly utilitarian terms, which attempt to assess the degree of pain felt by an animal in order to decide if its treatment by a human is moral. Rather, the anarchists and fascists tend to see the treatment of animals in spiritual terms.
The offence of the factory farm is that it has deprived the animal of its dignity. The fascist and anarchist are fine with suffering and violence as it occurs in a natural state. What disturbs themes is industrialised, utilitarian, and technology-based slaughter and experimentation on animals. They are not interested in the ‘rights’ of animals, which they see as a mere extension of there system they wish to destroy. They want to see animals back in nature red in tooth and claw.
People are often puzzled has to how a manifestly evil man like Hitler could care so much about animals, notably dogs. The Nazis banned vivisection on coming to power in keeping with his concern for animals.
He was – as many brothers have teased an ethically awakened sister – a vegetarian.
We assume, somewhat mistakenly, that people who love animals are humane generally. But we are all familiar with the type of person who loves their cats or donates their money to the donkey sanctuary while simultaneously despising small children and people in general.
This anti-humanism again relates to the honesty and straightforwardness of animals. The person who rejoices in frank, blunt, and straightforward talk hates the bureaucrat, the politician, and the lawyer. They hate dissemblance in human beings. The dog might bite you, but there is honesty in his bite. He does not pretend love before he does so.
Diogenes of Sinope, the Ancient Greek philosopher and proto-anarchist, called his philosophy cynicism after ‘cynos’, the Ancient Greek word for dog. He saw himself as being like a dog that bit enemies and nuzzled friends. His straightforward and guileless nature was possible because he abandoned the hypocrisies of society.
We see echoes of Diogenes in fascism and anarchism’s affection for animals. This is brutal honesty. Society may involve hypocrisy, but polite hypocrisy spares us from much viciousness. The fascist and anarchist would have to put in the open. It also recalls Nietzsche’s invocation to speak then truth firmly as one sees it, along with his hysterical reaction to witnessing the mistreatment of a horse. Nietzsche’s thought was not formally political, but his radical individualism was a kind of anarchism, and he was looked upon favourably by the fascists. It is another meeting point.
This total ecosystem approach, a kind of paganism, common to fascism and anarchism contributes to a gamekeeper’s view of the the world. The world is, on this view, destroyed by technology and human overpopulation. Green anarchists are quite prepared to discuss the need for a ‘cull’ of humans to preserve balance in the ecological system.
It was a view found in the ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski, who pursued a bombing campaign against technologists from his rural hut, and the Finnish deep ecologist Pentti Linkola, who said: “”If there were a button I could press, I would sacrifice myself without hesitating, if it meant millions of people would die.”
Once a person thinks in terms of a total ecosystem, it is short move towards thinking about the difference between races and eliminating the unity of mankind. Good stewardship requires pruning of certain animals, and if those animals happen to be human…
This raises the uncomfortable question of which humans will be culled and by whom. Green anarchists usually leave this ambiguous, while fascists have extensive cull lists ready to hand. Another word for cull, when applied to humans, is, of course, genocide.
And, indeed, the Nazis conceived their political project and mass killing in terms of stewardship. Recall that Himmler, the head of the SS, was trained as a chicken farmer. He conceived his mass killings as the ‘humanitarian’ disposal of weakened animals.
It is easy to see how the very determined green anarchist could see fascism as a solution to the environmental crisis, and would also hold that this solution was in accordance with the natural world. The leap required is to claim that human laws, technology, and ethics are somehow an aberration from what we are, rather than fundamental to our condition.
It is curious to believe, but the Nazis conceived themselves as defenders of liberty. This seems ridiculous given the conformists, lock-stepped, goose-stepping nature of their organisation. But it was so in a particular way.
The Nazi saw himself as a knight errant. Himmler described himself as a ‘freebooter’, a mercenary or adventurer. The knight travelled with other knights and fought with them, but he retained a sense of being a freewheeling individual who thought in his own way and retains his individuality. In this particular militaristic sense, fascism can be a movement of liberty. And it is a liberty that is similar to the bomb throwing anarchist who assassinates or terrorises as his will pleases him.
When we see the anarchist Black Bloc riot, it does so with a strict discipline and order that would make a fascist proud. Indeed, as they charge a street in their black uniforms it is hard to tell whether one is looking at anarchists or the SS.
Considering the above, it is no surprise that the political colour of fascism is the same as the political colour of anarchism: black. The communistic anarchists mix black with red and the capitalist anarchists mix it with yellow. The fascists, along with some anarchists, take black straight up. The common colour is always black.
Sir Oswald Mosley had his black shirt street fighters. Hitler had his SS in black uniforms. And the anarchists of today have their Black Bloc to riot on demonstrations. Symbols are vital to the organisation of human life. Blackness is, in this case, a demonstration of an unconscious unity in political ideas.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” observed Pascal. This profoundly conservative insight cuts against anarchism and fascism, which seek ceaseless action almost for the sake of action. Conduct that, on a conservative reading where any change is for the worse, is anti-conservative.
Fascists and anarchists are conservative revolutionaries. They give priority to a biological hierarchy, and are prepared to smash everything in order to achieve this aim. They destroyed the civil and traditional order that conservatives value. In doing so, they amputate part of what makes us human: our ability to create. They are, above all, uncivilised.
Libertarians represent a type of anarchist capitalism whose thought starts from property relations and moves to demand an almost complete roll back of the state, except for basic security functions.
The libertarians represent a slightly dissident stream in anarchism insofar as they hold that capitalist relations will prove to be the main emancipatory force against the state. Their spontaneous order, once the state has been neutered, imagines the individual rather like the frontiersman in early America. In this respect, they match the fascist and anarchists in worshipping man’s primitive state. The frontier was a place of frank talking and tobacco spitting, if Hollywood is to be believed.
Libertarians want to escape civilisation and return to the frontier. It is a world of coarse and violent men who, like the anarchists, do not wash often.
Their frontier is an individualistic utopia filled with saloon keepers, cowboys, and ranchers. The cowboy evokes the heroic and the romance of death, which form a central part of the fascist mythos. Libertarians love the right to keep and bear arms. They idolise an instrument of death, it’s a sort of parallel to the fascist death’s head or the fasces itself.
The frontier is not the communistic, propertyless utopia of the anarchists, but it is a primitive utopia. It is a Darwinian utopia based on property.
The libertarians and anarchists share common enemies despite their differing views on capitalism. The libertarian is against the big corporation (subsidied and directed by the state) as is the anarchist. They both stand against the managerial and bureaucratic state. They both stand against imperialism.
Their affection for the small businessman places the libertarians in sympathy with the Nazi cult of the small craftsman. This affection for the small business also makes them parochial in outlook. They do not care so much for international commerce, though they accept it must take place. They despise the large multinational corporations that have abandoned tooth and claw capitalism to suck on the government’s tit. They see these as mere adjuncts to the state.
The affection for small business, and a suspicion of fiat money also makes the libertarian suspicious of banks and international finance. This makes them immediately susceptible to the old fascist canard about ‘the Jews’ running the banks and world financial system to the disadvantage of local peoples.
Further, the libertarian, strict in his belief that a man may dispose of his property as he sees fit, has no time for a state that impinges on free association. When conservatives and libertarians speak of free association it sounds very noble. Freedom always does. But they mean that a man should have the right to hang a sign “No blacks allowed” in his hotel window, if he so chooses.
Far from all libertarians are racial bigots, but all racial bigots are libertarians – if they wish to exercise their bigotry without penalty from the state.
The libertarians will support your right to be free from other people, if that is your wish, and that means allowing people to form groups that exclude women, whites, Jews, soldiers, men, Evangelicals, heterosexuals Muslims, Catholics, or whatever group they wish. This is generally not currently allowed in most of the Western world. It would take a certain amount of anarchy to allow people to exercise their prejudices freely.
The consistent libertarian tends to think like a rational calculator. The YouTube commentator Stefan Molyneux is a useful example of this trend. He is a man who prides himself on his rational approach to political issues, and eternally reminds his viewers to take facts over feelings in any debate.
There is something of the autist about the libertarian. They look at the problem of organising society from the point of view of rational economic calculators. This is possibly because their beliefs owe much to the influence of Austrian Economics and mathematical approaches to demonstrating the impossibility of socialism. There is very little anthropology or psychology to libertarianism.
But, even if libertarians are rational economic calculators themselves, most people are not. Rational men are always in a tiny minority everywhere. And, as David Hume observed, our rational sentiments are usually directed by emotions.
Libertarianism can be a gateway to fascism for people who are less inclined towards an austere, computer-like model of human behaviour – or have simply observed that people are not like that, even though they agree with libertarianism. Libertarianism is a solvent that dissolves a person’s belief in our current hybrid state-corporate capitalism while simultaneously highlighting the totalitarian nature of the left and the value of local businesses.
This allows a person to enter a highly repressive movement on the grounds that it preserves maximal liberty. But, as with Himmler, this is not actually an unusual way for fascists to see themselves. It is only people who have followed this highly intellectual and abstract route who come to this conclusion. Ask the man on the street if he thinks fascists preserve liberty, and you will receive a common sense answer: “I don’t bloody think so, mate!”
The movement from libertarianism to fascism could also be looked upon as a counter reaction to an overly dry, rational, and emotionless worldview. Humans often bounce from complete renunciation to complete indulgence. It is no different in politics. Anarchistic capitalism provides an intellectual bridge between the pure reason of libertarianism and the pure emotion of fascism.
Libertarianism is an ideological gateway to more organic and fascistic styles of politics, especially for people who understand that human beings are not simply rational economic calculators, and who consequently believe that libertarian ideals are unique to particular ethnic, cultural, or racial group.
This explains why certain US libertarian magazines published articles in support of apartheid South Africa during the 1980s. These articles were written by libertarians who had completed the intellectual journey described above, and concluded that a property owning society of liberty was probably incompatible with black African social structures.
Alt right figure Richard Spencer started as a libertarian before moving to his current position. There are probably others who trod this path in the last decade. With its cult of the frontier, libertarianism served as the closest thing to an American nationalism until Steve Bannon pitched up.
This intellectual move is not made by all libertarians, and it often leads to confusion among those opposed to libertarianism and libertarians themselves. This is because, on many issues, libertarians superficially resemble the socialist left (anti-imperialism) and liberal left (drug legalisation, race issues, and sexual minorities).
It comes, therefore, as a shock to see people moving from libertarianism to fascism, but the connection is merely obscured by an openness to a certain amount of easy-going, live and live thinking among libertarians. There is probably more ideological distance between a socialist and a libertarian than a libertarian and a fascist on the ideological level, if not on superficial policies regarding social liberalism.
Anarchism allows people with an anti-capitalist and socialist orientation to move towards fascism by awakening them to a spiritual and instinctual politics, an approach that leads a person to think in terms of tribe, ethnic group, and race. These ways of thinking are anathema to the socialists and communist who opposes capitalism, and with whom an anarchist has a superficial common ground – often grounded in a borrowed Marxian analysis of captialism. Libertarianism awakens people, perhaps already inclined towards a localism, to the negative aspects of corporate capitalism that are usually celebrated by mainstream liberals and conservatives.
I am not suggesting that every person who becomes and anarchist or libertarian is on the road to fascism. Rather, it is the case that these ideologies inhabit roughly the same political territory, although their concrete views of the ideal political settlement differ somewhat.
Similarly, there are fascist and nationalist groups that have moved towards anarchism – a national anarchism, as they put it – in response to globalised world that seems to frustrate fascist organisation on the basis of the nation. The National Anarchist Movement represents one attempt in recent years to marry anarchism and elements of fascist thought in an explicit way.
People may prefer a society of law, which will be stable, reasonably comfortable, and regulated but filled with hypocrisies, sordid compromises, and pettiness.
They may prefer a society of action, which will be unstable, violent, and arbitrary but filled with adventure and frankness.
Personal preference probably depends upon where or not a person is spiritual or material in orientation.
A spiritual outlook is connected to an interest in confronting death. It is connected with adventure. And people close to death are liable to be frank. There’s no time for niceties.
People with a sense of adventure often end up in anarchist and fascist groups for this reason. It would be better if they climbed mountains, although, quite possibly, the man who climbs mountains is also likely to be a fascist or anarchist because this activity implicitly endorses that outlook.
The philosophical materialist values comfort, security, and smallness. The spiritual person values pain, danger, and grandness. It is not possible to attenuate either aspect to human nature, although a certain unity is, perhaps, possible.
It is the unity exemplified in The Lord of the Rings, a story where the parochial and comfortable hobbits engage in a grand foray into danger and adventure. They are never the same afterwards, though they return to their parochial world when the adventure ends. It is the characters overtaken by evil who remain permenantly in the Wagnerian world of high adventure, or who are too stuck in the rural idiocy of the hobbits’ Shire home to offer resistance to invasion.
The question is one of reconciling these two tendencies: the tendency towards cowardice and the tendency towards excess. This is easy to write, but extremely hard to do. The man doped on anti-depressants and booze is the flip side of the wild anarchist smashing windows. Neither is desirable, but both represent perpetual a aspect of the human.
The anarchist and fascist challenge will always be defeated. The fascists and anarchists are very vital political forces, but they cannot compete with the bureaucratic state, managed capitalism, and socialism. Anarchist and fascist movements can cause considerable destruction, as witnessed in the Second World War, but they cannot prevail over industrial and post-industrial society. Their wild and spirited approach to politics is atavistic, and the spirit alone cannot prevail over mass industrial organisation. The libertarians, meanwhile, are too weak in rhetoric and emotion to win the masses to their viewpoint.
These movements will always find recruits, if only for the simple reason that being good is boring. Running a state based on lawyers, laws, and hypocrisies is also boring and spiritually trying. But the boredom and frustration are better than the alternative.
There is scope for adventure, spirituality, primal energy and radical liberty in human affairs, but that is for the mountain climber and the artist. These are the ventures of the limited few. The political projects, like fascism and anarchism, that seek to make every man into an adventurer are the most dangerous, for not every man has the capacity to become so.
The frustrated adventurer will soon enough find a scape goat for his own spiritual catastrophe, whether it is ‘the capitalists’ or ‘the Jews’.