Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Deadly Anarchism

By Bionic Mosquito

Many people can be against the same thing, yet be for very different things as their preferred solution.  This is why the revolution is successful far more often than the aftermath.  I see examples of this in many on-line discussions and writings. For example: How many people complain about
central banking, only to call for some other centralizing or non-market solution?

Charles Burris posted an interview / dialogue at the LRC blog: The Prime Directive

In the above edition of the Roundtable, James Corbett, Sibel Edmonds and Peter B. Collins welcome Andrew Gavin Marshall for a discussion of his recent podcast on ‘Anarchy, Socialism and Free Markets.’

This dialogue offers an interesting example of the point made in my opening sentence. Marshall, apparently often good on power-elite analysis – and describing himself as an anarchist – in this discussion focusses on expanding upon his vision of anarchy.  We see similar causes of the problems in this world (at least superficially); we both use the term “anarchy” to describe at least some portion of our vision for a better world.  Yet, we might as well be speaking in two different languages.  Let me explain.

I listened to about 50 minutes of the 77 minute discussion; I offer my thoughts as these occurred to me while listening.  By the time I get through this, perhaps you will understand why I didn’t listen to the rest.

Marshall began the discussion speaking quite a bit about anarchy.  Yet, even 15 minutes in, it wasn’t completely clear to me just what he meant by the term (I am not terribly familiar with his work) – or maybe I initially just wasn’t taking him at his word (perhaps I was a little fooled by the fact that the interview was posted at LRC, albeit for a different purpose as suggested by Burris).

He spoke of society with no hierarchy of any kind; he referenced Bakunin as one of the great thinkers on anarchy. 

Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin; (30 May [O.S. 18 May] 1814 – 1 July 1876) was a Russian revolutionary anarchist, and founder of collectivist anarchism. He is considered among the most influential figures of anarchism, and one of the principal founders of the "social anarchist" tradition.

Bakunin's socialism was known as "collectivist anarchism", where "socially: it seeks the confirmation of political equality by economic equality. This is not the removal of natural individual differences, but equality in the social rights of every individual from birth; in particular, equal means of subsistence, support, education, and opportunity for every child, boy or girl, until maturity, and equal resources and facilities in adulthood to create his own well-being by his own labor."

Collectivist anarchism advocates the abolition of both the state and private ownership of the means of production. It instead envisions the means of production being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves.

Knowing what I know about Bakunin (not a lot, but enough), I might have stopped listening at this point. 

Marshall offered as an example the “anarchy” that helped provide many solutions during disasters like Hurricane Katrina (although even such voluntary efforts required some form of order and hierarchy and private ownership of property).

When asked by Sibel Edmonds for successful longer term examples, Marshall pointed to the Spanish Civil War and the success of the anarchists in organizing life in the area of Barcelona.  I cannot imagine a more revealing answer.

The anarchists during the Spanish Civil War were murderers, as were the communists with whom they were aligned and the fascists against whom they fought.  The anarchists and communists took great pleasure in killing the clergy and nuns, and destroying and looting the physical structures of the church; they hunted and killed anyone who was a business owner, banker, or entrepreneur.  They also had a hierarchy (big surprise, I know).

I have written about this war before, via what has been described to me as the most authoritative and accurate set of books on the subject – accurate if one wants to capture the drama, emotion and pain of the time.  This story is to be found in a set of three novels by Jose Maria Gironella.  It is centered on a family in Gerona, within the governing region of Barcelona – the exact location of Marshall’s so-called anarchist success. 

The first book of the trilogy is entitled The Cypresses Believe in God; from my review:

Gironella paints a picture of the chaos, turmoil, and terror when one is faced with a situation from which there is no escape – when no avenue offers safety, when no side can be chosen because all sides are violent and repressive, and choosing the wrong (losing) side is just as likely as choosing the right (winning) side; and the “right” and “wrong” sides can change claim to the seat of power, at times even day-to-day.

An example of the fate awaiting the priests (as well as anyone deemed an enemy of the Spanish anarchists) is offered through the life of César:

Unfortunately and initially undetected, César the seminarian leaves the house, never to be seen by the family again.  He was one who was rounded up in the jail, and later marched out at night to meet his fate:

A volley rang out, and César felt something gently pierce his skin.

Moments later he heard a voice saying: “I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” a voice coming nearer and repeating: “I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  And he also heard groans.  He opened his eyes for a moment. He saw a militiaman kneeling and taking tiny communion wafers from his wrist watch and putting them into the mouths of his fallen neighbors.  In the militiaman he recognized Mosén Francisco.  César’s eyes closed. He felt a kiss on his forehead.  Then his heart closed.

César the saint, who previously sensed his fate, met it quietly.

This was the success of the Spanish anarchists in Barcelona.

In my reading, I have found many examples of significantly decentralized societies.  One of the longer term and more successful examples can be found in the Germanic tradition of the Middle Ages.  I have written extensively about this time.  There are also examples to be found of people who purposely chose to live outside of the state, when such an alternative was available.

I have never, not once, found an example of a successful social order that had no hierarchy of any kind.  Not one.  Marshall’s pointing to the anarchists of the Spanish Civil War offers evidence that I need not waste any time looking for such a success story.  It must not exist if this is the best example that can be offered.

I still listened: there was one specific question I wanted answered.  I hoped that one of the other three participants would ask it.

Marshall (paraphrased, min 26): Imagine where we had a construct where the daily necessities of life were not a concern.

Now we are getting somewhere – the language of a communist.  No wonder he considers Bakunin (and not Rothbard) as the leader in anarchist thought.

Sibel Edmonds asks the money question thirty-six minutes in, the question I have been waiting for: what if voluntary hierarchies are formed, and even desired? Andrew’s answer: I have no idea….ultimately, I have no answer to this question.

But this gets to the root – why can’t people voluntarily choose such a circumstance? Why can’t Andrew’s answer be – “if they choose this, they choose this”?  His inability to mutter these simple words erases all doubt as to where he stands. 

He can’t answer it because he does not want to say that he will use force – even deadly force – to crush it, just as his heroes did in Spain.  A murdering anarchist; the kind of anarchist that gives peaceful anarchists like me a bad name. 

Now, I don’t suggest that Marshall himself will be the one pulling the trigger – he seems like a nice enough guy.  But ideas have consequences, and the teachers of such ideas also bear guilt.  We can see first-hand the consequences of Marshall’s ideas – he even told us where to look; the Spanish Civil War!

Again I return to Gironella and the Marshall’s utopian world of Spanish anarchism, this time through the second book of the trilogy, One Million Dead.  Ignacio, the brother of the murdered seminarian César, confronts David and Olga – socialist teachers that have taken up sides with the communists and therefore anarchists.  He lays the blame of the murders ravaging the city and region at their feet:

“You’ve spent years laying down the rules in the district and almost throughout the city.  Your attitudes are the law to many; they were to me in the past.  So that if Olga strikes a nun in the Rambla, then poor Santi, and with him all the poor Santis in Gerona – and they are legion – automatically discovers not only that nuns can be slapped, but that it must be healthy to do it, a sign of security. And so the chain begins…”

Ideas have consequences.  Marx cannot disclaim Stalin.

By this point, it is close to the 50 minute mark; it is enough.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so they say.  In war, in life and death situations, this may be appropriate.  The anarchists and communists of Spain knew this – in war they could be allies, but if they won (they did not, of course), they knew that they would have to turn on each other.  What they had in common was the desire to tear down the existing power structure (more accurately, to turn the existing power structure to their desired ends).  If successful, they each had their own version of hell to offer humanity. 

Both claimed no hierarchy within their respective philosophies, yet – if victorious – each wanted to sit on top.  Imagine that.

Too often, the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy.  Marshall and I may both look at power elite analysis as a useful tool; we may both describe our view as anarchist.  But in the end he is just another enemy.

The above originally appeared at Bionic Mosquito.


  1. Whereas I believe states have a right to succeed from the union this is why I don't get too excited about my state doing so again. In my case I would only end up trading masters in Washington for masters in Austin. And having seen how given over to authoritarianism and statism Texans are (inspire of all the rhetoric to the contrary) I have little hope we would not eventually follow in the steps of DC.

    1. It is secede not to succeed, given its context.

      Otherwise, I agree with sentiment. But ... at least, the government we have to put up with will be much more reachable than the one in D.C. Plus, the Republic of Texas will not be sending armies abroad. OK, maybe there will be border skirmishes with Mexico.

  2. How a Former Senior SEC Official Manipulated the System for His Clients' and His Own Benefit

    Two years ago, Spencer C. Barasch, a former high-ranking Securities and Exchange Commission official based in Fort Worth, Texas, paid a $50,000 fine to settle civil charges brought against him by the United States Department of Justice for allegedly violating federal conflict-of-interest laws. The Department of Justice had alleged that Barasch, as a private attorney, had represented R. Allen Stanford, a Houston-based financier who was later found to have masterminded a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Barasch had done so even though he'd played a central role at the SEC for years in overruling colleagues who wanted to investigate Stanford’s massive fraud. Federal law prohibits former SEC officials from representing anyone as a private attorney if they played a substantial or material role in overseeing the individual's actions while in government.
    In part because of that episode, Barasch, rightfully or wrongfully, has served as an example for critics of the SEC who say that it—and the US government as a whole—has done too little to hold accountable those financial institutions responsible for the 2008 financial crisis and other corporate wrongdoers.
    Quite simply, American investors can no longer expect the protection they once did, and powerful Wall Street executives who have violated the law will continue to go unchecked.

    A three-month investigation by VICE has uncovered evidence of numerous similar instances of misconduct and potential violations of federal conflict-of-interest regulations and law by Barasch since he left the SEC.
    hmmm.....cftc, occ, finra, ferc, seems out of order?

  3. To be fair, I see more and more libertarians/anarcho-capitalists cheering on violence nowadays. Sure, they're against violence committed by government, but a violent revolution? That's a-ok to many. The justification usually goes something like "the government initiated the use of force and we're just defending ourselves." This is where the NAP falls flat on its face: violence begets violence. The forceful defense of one is the forceful offense of another; hence, the cycle continues. Many will sneer at non-resistance and the martyr's witness, but the only way to break the bondage of the devil is not to play his game. So saith the Lord, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."

    "For what difference is there between provoker and provoked? The only difference is that the former was the first to do evil, but the latter did evil afterwards. Each one stands condemned in the eyes of the Lord for hurting a man. For God both prohibits and condemns every wickedness. In evil doing, there is no account taken of the order...The commandment is absolute: evil is not to be repaid with evil." - Tertullian

    1. I really like your commentary in terms of its intellectual depth.(not that I agree though)

      Setting aside the concept of God for a moment(which I know might be tough for believers to do, but bear with me), what is the incentive for aggressors to stop aggressing(word?) if the people they are doing it against do not resist?

      Those that are consistently violated the NAP are devoid of conscience, so if there are no ramifications in the way of resistance to them why would they ever stop?

      Even "civil disobedience" contains resistance as a characteristic. What is an example of "non-resistance" as you put it being successful? (I'm not aware of any, this is truly an honest question as I might be unaware of such a time/place)

      By the way, this being said, I'm not for doing a "Kokesh" or anything of that manner in terms of resistance...I think tactically it's a mistake(If you're reading this Adam I like a lot of your work anyway outside you getting pounded by gov't)...I'm really in the Wenzel camp on trying to remain on the battlefield so to speak and not do anything to attract the proverbial stomping foot of the government monster. I like covert subversion.

    2. @ Anonymous 8:43AM:

      With many words, this tells us that self-defense is evil. This is the message of Christianity. Turn the other cheek. Love your enemy.

      Religion is the handmaiden of tyranny. It teaches the victims of tyranny the 'virtues' of self-sacrifice and faith (faith being the most fundamental form of self-sacrifice). These are the virtues that tyrants need in their victims.

      Until people realize that Ayn Rand was right about both the virtue of selfishness and the Non-Aggression Principal - and not just the NAP, they will be doomed to ever-growing viciousness on the part of their rulers. Government is a progressive disease. It progresses unless it is resisted. The pen is not mightier than the sword. All the world is proof.

    3. Thanks, Anon 8:43am, for your hypocritical claptrap.

    4. @Anon 2:29

      Nothing the other Anon said was hypocritical.

  4. It is a fallen world full of flawed people. Man cannot create heaven on earth. If he should try, he will create hell instead.

  5. Many issues with this article:
    1) Using a novel to document the situation, circumstances and parties to a civil war is beyond laughable: How about you use a trained journalist's opinion who was there, on the ground, during the war--George Orwell. He described in great detail the rather distinct difference between the communist revolutionaries and the anarchist revolutionaries during the Spanish Civil War.
    2) Mr. Mosquito extrapolates a violent reaction to a choice for a voluntary hierarchy from Marshall's rather honest answer that he hasn't, or can't, imagine an anarchist-ish world where people would voluntarily choose their structure. Miraculously Mr. Mosquito takes Marshall from "I don't know, I can't imagine it" to "I'll kill anyone who tries that." Stupefying logic, at best.
    3) "Marx cannot disclaim Stalin." The pure zenith of idiocy. Does this mean that Jesus can't disclaim Timothy McVeigh, or the Spanish Inquisition? Ideas have consequences, ya know.

    Anarchy is a concept. To say that there is only one way--the An-Cap way--is ridiculous and counterproductive.

    1. The An-Cap way is the only correct way since only it precludes violence. If that is ridiculous and counterproductive, please explain what is sensible and productive.

    2. Is it so inconceivable that a society that precluded violence could be developed without money transactions being the bedrock of human inter-action? Perhaps I just have a good imagination.

    3. Perhaps you just change the subject when asked a relevant question. The preclusion of violence has nothing to do with whether people trade or how they trade. Money is just a handy and popular tool that facilitates trade. I'd ask what's your alternative, but you'd probably use your good imagination to change the subject again.

      Now that you've sneered at non-violence and money, do tell us what you imagine is better.

  6. @Martin

    Novels are excellent and often more insightful than what paid hacks and party flacks will write.
    In any case, journalists do describe the anarchists as violent.

    Even anarchists admit it:

    Here the anarchists, 'socialists', Stalinists and the neo-Trotskyists worked together. Moreover, many of the workers attacked their old enemy, the Catholic Church, and convents and some churches were burned down; a few nuns said they had been raped and the Bishop's Palace and much of the University of Oviedo was destroyed. Several unpopular priests were shot

    Is Hugh Thomas a good enough expert for you? Read his account.

    1. Even Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, mentions the violence visited upon the clergy class at the outbreak of the Spanish civil war. I was not denying that historical event, only questioning the usefulness of using a work of fiction to analyse the complex interplay between less than tight-knit groups orchestrating a revolution. As John Howard (above) notes, religion is, or rather, can be the handmaiden of tyranny. While it's certainly not justifiable, I can understand the anarchists, and other revolutionaries, at the time punishing the clergy-class after their stalwart defence (aided by Rome, no doubt) of the monarchy and the coup--that is to say, the dictator Franco.

    2. @Wrong again?
      Authoritarianism (not the same as authority) is greatly to be preferred to totalitarianism and has historically been a bulwark against it
      Will Grigg:

    3. It's difficult to comment on this sort of stupidity. Please talk to a Catalan about Franco before you continue passing off shit articles--based solely in religious hocus pocus--about how he saved anyone.

      Calling Franco a savior is a new, lower, level of idiocy.

    4. “…beyond laughable, Stupefying, pure zenith of idiocy, stupidity, shit articles, religious hocus pocus, lower level of idiocy”

      Thank you for raising the intellectual level of the conversation. Very revealing.

      I thank John Howard, and especially Lila Rajiva for their comments / responses.

      I will add:

      1) Please point to Jesus’ teachings that might lead to such results.

      2) Please identify a successfully implemented political movement that advocated the abolishment of private property and “where the daily necessities of life were not a concern” that did not result in murder.

      3) Perhaps you should try reading novels. The best ones add color that is never captured by reporters. It makes the criminal acts seem more personal, in this case. Empathy might even result. Take a chance.

      4) This is interesting: “I can understand the anarchists, and other revolutionaries, at the time punishing the clergy-class….” Punishing a group as a class? And you call my logic “stupefying” for pointing this out?

      5) “Please talk to a Catalan about Franco….” Of course, by throwing out this challenge (of a sort), you inherently are excluding the recommended dialogue to include Catholics, businessmen and bankers, among many other Catalan victims of your brethren. I guess they don't count.

      Keep up the good work. With your approach you will win many to your cause.

    5. Mosquito:
      You have a terrible understanding of Stalinism. He perverted one of the main points of Marxism by advocating "socialism in one country." Stalin was nothing more than a national socialist. The point is that people, who come generations after the original conception of an idea, can pervert that idea for their own uses. This does not make the originator of the idea responsible in any mystical manner for the actions of a person living after them. Your comment that Marx cannot disclaim Stalin comes from ignorance and stupidity.

      2) Murder, even in our fanciful an-cap world would, still exist. This prompt is useless

      3) I read quite a few novels, thanks.

      4) Would you consider the police/paramilitary police in America a class of people who are implementing the oppression from DC? IF there were a wide-spread revolution in America, would you expect the revolutionaries to leave the implementors of such oppression alone, simply cause they're a class, or because they were only doing their job? As a US Marine in Iraq, I understood that the Iraq people were shooting at me because they were being oppressed by DC. Similarly, the revolutionaries in Spain perceived the clergy as the implementors of the oppression coming from Rome and Madrid. Of course, you'll reply that the Catholic church isn't the same because they don't use guns to oppress, only doctrine. But then again, most an-caps aren't sophisticated enough in their understanding of power and ideology to realize that power is not sourced exclusively by the muzzle of a gun.

      5) Franco orchestrated decades long, systematic programmes against Catalans and Catalan business people, including abductions, torture and executions. He also used his position as dictator to outlaw the Catalan language. It was a scheme designed to eradicate an entire people's history, language and way of life. He was an imperialist during his time as leader of the North Africa Corps as he was an imperialist when he was the supreme leader of Spain. The fact that any of you an-caps would ever speak a favorable word about Franco is an indication of the shortsightedness of your misinformed ideas.

      and to Lila,

      The ridiculous, religiously-based and biased article you posted as some sort of third party refutation is titled "Spanish Savior". I did not call Franco a savior, you did, by degree.

      It is unsurprising that SPANISH people in spain liked Franco. If you understood Spain from any point of view other than the Madrid-centric one, you would know that Spain was, is and always has been an empire based in Madrid. There are millions of people who live within the internationally recognized borders of Spain who do not consider themselves Spanish in any way--expect by passport (that is, the Catalans, the Basques and the Galatians). These groups all have their own language and a date to remember when the Castillianos conquered them.
      Now, it should be more apparent to you that you, as well as the author of the article you linked, are taking the side of an imperialist. Of course, the author was A-OK with that because he was writing from a perspective that prioritized the maintenance and advancement of "Christianity" above all other things. This is why it is an argument build on hocus pocus.

    6. 1) “Stalin was nothing more than a national socialist.” He was Georgian. Please define “nationalist,” and then explain this to the people of Eastern Europe…made up of more than Georgians, and more than even Russians (to be generous to your interpretation).

      2) You must be purposefully ignorant to reply to my comment as you did.

      3) I have looked back at my references to this novel in my post, the ones you took such exception to; are you suggesting that priests were not murdered by anarchists and communists? Are you suggesting that ideas do not have consequences? These were the only two references I made.

      4) But the nationalists did not travel half a world away to fight the republicans. Your example falls on its face.

      5) Point to one favorable word I have written about Franco. Please refer to the context when you do.

  7. @Martin

    1. I didn't call Franco a savior. You did. I said authoritarianism has been a bulwark against totalitarianism.

    2. I know dozens of Spanish people who feel the same way, am well-traveled in Spain, and apparently had my facts in order.

    3. Name-calling. "Shit," "hocus-pocus."
    I rest my case just there.

  8. And here. Helps to read, you know.

    Kind regards and take care.