The Gender Fascists of the Dark Enlightenment

The antifeminist pick-up artist Roosh V made headlines this week after announcing worldwide rallies to “Make Rape Legal” in at least 43 cities. These rallies, part of the Men’s Rights Movement, are an effort to unite the various tendencies of the neoreactionary manosphere in the real world.

The Men’s Rights Movement is the name given to the latest incarnation of the antifeminist movement, the gender faction of the white male Protestant culture that has been at the heart of America’s foundation. Since the early days of the suffrage movement, there’s been a reactionary backlash to counter the calls for women’s liberation.

In the 2010s, the growth of the internet has given rise to a network of virulently antifeminist, jingoistic, racist and misogynistic websites. Men from all over the world post their darkest violent rants about their hatred of women. Some of these threads lead to the creation of gunman Elliot Roger who targeted a sorority. Other sites provide an intellectual backing to the whole ideology of neomasculinity.

Roosh’s flagship site, Return of Kings serves as his personal blog to advocate his ideology and recruit followers. Thanks in part to Trump and the past two years of misogynistic backlash, it is now one of the fastest growing pop-fascism sites on the web.

With articles demeaning women, jingoistic racism, apologies for colonialism, and blatant transphobia, the site has become the refuge for openly-bigoted opinions of the hard right. Return of Kings is so racist that it even has a eugenics report of Germanic Tribes written in the style of a Roman conqueror’s traveling diary. Their politics section focuses on support for Western culture and triumph of civilization over the lesser peoples. They posit that rape culture is a product of Eastern civilization. Most contributors hold an admiration of the Roman empire, while others advocate a conservative-libertarian philosophy. All seem to reject more mainstream politics, though many sympathize with the Trump campaign.

All of this press attention may actually backfire against the MRA movement as many of the target cities have announced counter-demonstrations against Roosh’s rallies.

“We want to bring attention to the fact that this group is advocating rape and violence against women, and we don’t want their horrible views to gain any kind of foothold in Australia,” said Jennie Hill, an organizer with an Australian feminist group. “There are people all over the world who are very upset about what they are trying to do.”

The MRA’s responded by saying they will film and dox any “crazy feminists” who try obstruct their freedom to assemble and speak.

Roosh V and his hypermasculine cohorts are just part of the larger neoreactionary movement that has blossomed in the past twenty years. Coalitions of Christian evangelicals, survivalist militiamen, and xenophobes organized by the GOP over the past 30 years have paved the way for an alternative rightwing intelligentsia to claim leadership over these foot soldiers. Just as anarchists and communists have a tenuous relationship with the liberal Left, the alt-Right view their Republican allies with contempt for being beholden to what they perceive as the “cultural Marxism” of mainstream politics.

Termed the Dark Enlightenment by philosopher Nick Land, this new theoretical movement rejects democracy advocating a form of monarchy based off intellectual racism, libertarian economics, technological transhumanism, traditional gender roles, and aggressive promotion of Western values. The MRAs, with their embrace of technology and advocacy for “old world values,” definitely fall into this larger reactionary trend. The name “Return of Kings” clearly alludes to the restoration of monarchy and features explicit critiques of democracy.

Granted, the backlash against Roosh shows that the pro-rape crowd is still a minority. But recent fascistic trends in American culture have emboldened them to take a more active approach in furthering their agenda.

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Wedded to the State: The Triumph of Homonormativity

“If we are to imagine queer futures that don’t replicate the same violence and oppression many of us experience on an everyday basis as queer and trans folks…we must fight the rhetoric of equality and inclusion in systems of domination like marriage.”
—Ryan Conrad of Against Equality

Today, Friday June 26th 2015, the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling effectively legalizing same-sex marriage across the land. A campaign 25 years in the making has come to an end as LGBT couples are now legally allowed to marry in all 50 states. Post after post affirms that today should be a historic moment of celebration. But what exactly are people celebrating? Does anyone stop and critically question what marriage actually is? Slogans like “Support Love”  and “Love Wins” miss the point about what the legal institution of marriage has historically represented.

Its not about love, its about economics privileging couples, primarily wealthy whites, over everyone else who identifies as queer. It discounts the history of struggle that birthed the queer liberation movement. It obscures the fact that Stonewall was a riot against police brutality, that the HIV epidemic primarily afflicted the poor, that transwomen face disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination as well as representing prime victims of mass incarceration, and that the queer youth homeless rate is 50%. Liberals say, yes, they understand there is a lot of work that still needs to be done but we should celebrate the victories. Victory for who?

Historically, marriage was an arrangement between nobles and merchants to form business pacts and create political alliances. Fathers would sell their daughters to the richest suitor, without her consent of course, to extend the wealth and influence of their family in essence expanding it like a cartel. Really, the way mafia organizations use the term family is not that different than the purpose it originally served. Over the centuries, the social norms concerning marriage switched from being a forced arrangement to a mutually voluntary agreement, though still retaining the form of a business contract. Despite the liberalized version we have today, marriage cannot be divorced from the cultural baggage of 7000 years of patriarchy that it comes with. Moreover, when marriage became a way for two people to prove their love with each other it could only be formally confirmed through the legal recognition of the state. This begs the question, if marriage is about love, why do we need the government’s permission?

Marriage is about celebrating your commitment to the state, to say “Thank you, America! I can finally express my love for you!” Nothing illustrates this more than the meme of the Supreme Court Building with rainbow colored columns. This image says that marriage equality was something granted by the government, a coronation of the worthy few to join the halls of privilege, rather than something fought for by activists. And now with the formal recognition of legal equality, the merger between gay identity and straight culture is complete. The white gay couples have proven, Booker T. Washington style, that they can behave respectably and enthusiastically engage in the consumerism, the xenophobic patriotism, and the exploitative nature of American culture just as well as any straight couple. We didn’t queer marriage, it straightened us.

Two days ago, an undocumented transwomen was booed and dismissed by President Obama and his devout followers. Jennicet Gutiérrez stood up to the President and broke the spectacle of celebration by affirmatively asking for an end to deportations and release of all LGBT immigrants currently in detention. Instead of debating her, like Obama has with previous hecklers, he shamed her and had his thugs escort her out of the White House. The cheers from the crowd for Obama’s actions brought to mind images of Hitler addressing enthusiastic crowds in Berlin. They celebrate liberal accomplishments like marriage to distract themselves from the fact that the country they inhabit is one of the most deadly and destructive empires in human history. They don’t want to know about the 800 military bases established oversees. Nor do they care about transwomen of color in prison or the violent deportation and detention of LGBT immigrants. These bourgeois gays only care about assimilating into this inherently oppressive power structure, celebrating its symbols, and affirming their patriotic allegiance to the state.

Today, activists also held the 11th Trans Day of Action in New York to call attention to the plight of transfolk in America and making a plea to the larger LGBT movement to seriously examine the material conditions of everyday queer youth, not just the rich ones. The march brought together a diverse group of trans and other gender non-conforming activists who shared the belief that the New York Pride March didn’t represent their interests. They held signs reading “Fuck Marriage,” “Abolish Marriage,” and “Trans Lives Matter.” They chanted “Fuck your assimilation, we want our liberation” and echoing Gutiérrez, “Not one more deportation!” The RSCC and Socialist Alternative had a presence, as well as numerous anarchist groups, DREAMers, radical bands, Black Lives Matter comrades and other gender subversives.

Whereas the Pride March was dominated by bourgie white males, the Trans Rally was mainly represented by transwomen of color. Whereas the Pride March addressed a single issue, the Trans Rally addressed the root causes of oppression linking their experiences with the intersecting systems of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. Octavia from the Audre Lorde Project proclaimed, “I do not advocate respectability politics.” She went off script saying, “Its absolutely unacceptable to see the President publicly shame [Jennicet Gutiérrez] and dismiss her concerns regarding the plight of undocumented queer latinas” as her comrades chanted, “Hey, Obama stop the shame!” Transwomen, especially latina transwomen are being systematically murdered by police and military forces, the same forces mainstream gays want to assimilate into. The prison system disregards the lives of American citizens but it utterly decimates the lives of undocumented transwomen through social death. They are not human in the eyes of the state. She closed her impromptu soap box calling for a cultural revolution seeking full gender liberation. Anything less is counterproductive.

See, queer by definition means weird. Folks all across the gender spectrum use the term queer to differentiate their uniqueness, to say that they are not “normal” in the bourgeois hetero sense of the term. Queering necessarily meant a “fucking up” of identity so to speak. From the humble beginnings of the transliberation movement, people defined themselves as queer precisely because they did not want to conform to cultural normativity that forced people to assimilate within the dominant gender binary.

Marriage, by its very nature, excludes these queers. The state subsidizes marriage through tax breaks, health care access, and other benefits to promote patriarchal forms of organization, in essence, to force people to organize into nuclear families. Meanwhile, transfolk can’t even get housing or work. Finding a “life partner” to settle down with a drink lattes with is literally the last thing on their minds. We shouldn’t even be coupling ourselves in such a fashion anyway. We should live collectively, what’s wrong with having multiple partners, in essence making the village and your family one and the same? Homonormativity has now become an accepted position within mainstream society, yet instead of a measure of progress, this ideology is being used to marginalize voices of the people most impacted by the dominant culture.

As the Trans Rally marched toward the Stonewall Inn, activists shouted “No justice, no peace, no transphobic police” as well as “Don’t you deny it, Stonewall was a riot!” Upon arriving at the historic landmark, the trans march was shocked to discover the police had sectioned off the site with barricades. They physically separated the transmarch from the pro-marriage New York Pride rally. The Stonewall Riots were initiated by drag queens and transwomen. They have been an integral part of the LGBT movement, yet mainstream gays refuse to acknowledge their contributions. Instead, they want the dispossessed to celebrate their achievements, goals that were never part of the larger queer liberation struggle. Now, a sharp division has been driven between LGBT activists. Gay refers to those who seek assimilation into the hetero way of life, while queer refers to the transfolk and others who wish to liberate themselves from a culture they want no part in. The mainstream gays do not want free universal healthcare that would overwhelmingly assist people with their transitions. They turn a blind eye to the millions behind bars in the American gulags. They do not care about Chelsea Manning rotting behind bars.

No, today is not a moment to celebrate. Its a moment to recognize who our enemies are and to forge alliances with the transwomen and other queer folks that see beyond the gilded veil created through cultural spectacle. Today, transfolk declare war on the United States and will not rest until the prison-industrial-military complex has been dismantled and all queer-identified and gender non-conforming people have been liberated.

In Solidarity with Yourself: Allyship without Action

Throughout the manicured lawns of college campuses and the anti-oppression trainings in activist classrooms, a stark divide has developed between those who have agitated against systemic oppression since the 1960s and those who self-identify with what has come to be known as the Social Justice Movement. Activist organizations, once the hallmark of the Civil Rights movement, became institutionalized as 501(c)(3) tax deductible organizations serving as vanguards of grassroots movements. With these organizations came a new language to classify and sectionalize people to the point that they could no longer effectively organize unless they worked with these new self-appointed professional activists.

For lack of a better term, throughout this post I will describe this rhetoric employed by the social justice movement as “identity politics”, “privilege politics” or “allyship.”

Granted, recognition of privilege is a key part of understanding complex intertwining systems of oppression. As liberal commentators note, all politics are in fact identity politics. Its naïve to think that we can somehow move beyond the identities constructed within the spectacle that socialized us. There are no postmodern conceptions of gender or race that could be achieved, especially under the current structures in which we operate. Yet, the individualistic nature of these identity-orientated politics seem to reinforce oppressive systems and modes of exploitation rather than working to dismantle them.

Allyship revolves around the idea that life experiences are derived from people’s perceived identities, not their environment. The thinking goes that someone with a privileged identity can never understand the experiences of someone with an oppressed identity. However, there is nothing essential to the experience of any of these oppressed “categories.” As stated by the pamphlet Revolutionary Solidarity, “Oppression runs along countless axes, and the subtleties of our experiences are irreducible—which makes a strong case for listening to and trusting each other wherever we possibly can.” Its impossible to section off and fractionalize people along these arbitrary definitions since having multiple identities creates a unique experience of oppression for everyone. Yet, the very way allyship is employed by activist non-profits seeks to further cement division and disempower the oppressed by centering all activist agency on the privileged.

If You Have Come Here to Help, You’re Wasting Your Time

Let’s start with the fact that these anti-oppression trainings are led by and for the benefit of white people. While well-intentioned, the desire of white activists to seek solidarity with a struggle in the form of anti-oppression politics shifts the focus from the experiences of the oppressed to the experiences of whites. The focus becomes how white activists relate to the struggle through the lens of their identity rather than expressing solidarity with black folks who rose up against the state and figuring out how to support their struggle. In this way, ally politics seek to reaffirm white supremacy by robbing people of color of their agency.

Another strange ritual within social justice circles involves white activists stepping forward and declaring “I have X privilege.” These confessionals never really have a point other than seeking some type of activist salvation like a person confessing their sins before a priest. Activism isn’t missionary work. The oppressed are not there to be “saved,” they’re simply looking for people to work with them to achieve liberation. However, the self-centered individualism of “savior” allies not only dilutes the complex understanding of systemic oppression but also turns activism into a game of who can become the most oppressed. Activism then structures a hierarchy in which the “most oppressed” are put at the top, a tactic those from the Occupy circles will recognize as “stacking.” From this, the goal doesn’t seem to be dismantling oppression at all but rather seeking self-reflection so that everyone operates within the tyrannical superstructure while collectively feeling miserable about the horrible atrocities brought about by their positions in society.

The white allies participating in this savior mentality are sinisterly just trying to use interpretations of identity and privilege to feel oppressed. Oppression is not an experience ranked depending on one’s privilege. To understand the sheer scope and trauma brought upon by oppression we must understand one’s experiences. Ally politics work off the assumption that material relationships don’t exist. That some how its only individual biases that reproduce structural oppression. The one-sided focus on interpersonal dynamics suggest that oppressive systems such as racism and misogyny originate within isolated bigots rather than acknowledging the historical and cultural apparatuses that produce these injustices. Furthermore, through the assumption that there are fixed groups of people who are structurally oppressed in our society, the conclusion becomes how members of these separate, atomized groups can work across these differences to achieve equality for all. Through the “stacking” concept, this responsibility falls to those from the most privileged groups.

In a truly perverse fashion, the very agency these activists rob reflects a dependency on the white ally. They become the focal point of the struggle and suggest that without their presence the “assistance” to the masses of color could not occur. Allyship becomes an identity in and of itself. White activists then come to the rallies and demonstrations with a “I’m here to help!” attitude that comes across as downright patronizing. The problem with these concepts is that, as stated in Revolutionary Solidarity, “Communities of color are not a single, homogeneous bloc with identical political opinions. There is no single unified antiracist, feminist, and queer political program that white liberals can somehow become ‘allies’ of, despite the fact that some individuals or groups of color may claim that they are in possession of such a program.”

Most of the time, when professional activists claim of such a program, their intention is really to de-escalate mounting tensions toward the power structure and channel the rage into “constructive” behaviors such as voting and supporting the Democratic Party. From this perspective, most of the work non-profits engage in is profoundly Orientalist in nature seeking to assimilate oppressed peoples into a dominant culture by essentializing complex identities into easily digestible categories.

As Andrea Smith of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence explains:

“There is no sharp divide between those who are ‘oppressed’ and those who are ‘oppressors.’  Individuals may find themselves variously in the position of being the confessor or the judge of the confession depending on the context.  Rather, the point of this analysis is to illustrate the larger dynamics by which racialized and colonized peoples are even seen and understood in the first place.

The presupposition is that Indigenous peoples are oppressed because they are not sufficiently known or understood.  In fact, however, this desire to ‘know’ the Native is itself part of the settler-colonial project to apprehend, contain and domesticate the potential power of indigenous peoples to subvert the settler state. As Mark Rifkin has argued, colonial logics attempt to transform Native peoples who are producers of intellectual theory and political insight into populations to be known and hence managed. Native struggles then simply become a project of Native peoples making their demands known so that their claims can be recognized the by the settler state.  Once these demands are known, they can they be more easily managed, co-opted and disciplined.”

Prioritizing the actions of some people over others also overlooks the oppression those actors have to deal with. A common ally tactic suggests that white activists should form a wall around people of color since their white privilege affords them less severe repercussions from arrest. On the surface this may make sense, but tactically its counterproductive especially if some of those white activists have prior arrest records or are transwomen who also experience disproportionate police violence. The effort to so clearly define and focus on how white people relate to the struggle marginalizes the voices of those they are trying to help leaving everyone involved feeling helpless. Instead of challenging the nature of oppression we are made to celebrate its ever gripping hold over our lives.

As the zine blog Escalating Identity succinctly put it:

“We are told that resistance lies in ‘speaking truth to power’ rather than attacking power materially. We are told by an array of highly trained ‘white allies’ that the very things we need to do in order to free ourselves from domination cannot be done by us because we’re simply too vulnerable to state repression. At mass rallies, we’re replayed endless empty calls for revolution and militancy from a bygone era while in practice being forced to fetishize our spiritual powerlessness.”

We relinquish our collective power by refusing to work with each other out of a fear of forcing innate oppression just by interacting. This behavior demonstrates the sheer lack of understanding of how colonialism actually works and in the long run ensures that we can never truly confront the power structure as it stands. The ideology of the non-profit industrial complex becomes clear upon examining the class privilege of the sector’s leaders.

Radical Intersectionality

The question becomes, if allyship and identity-orientated politics don’t work, what will? Well, indigenous activists have paved the way for methods to struggle together that don’t reinforce privilege or oppression. We need to understand that we live in a multi-racial multi-gendered white supremacist patriarchal society. We live in a society where gay Latino men run Fortune 500 companies and feminist nonprofits are staffed with unpaid interns. The belief that “essential” people of color or “essential” women can operate systems of power without reproducing the oppression that radiates from those systems is to be ignorant of history and the nature of how the dominant culture maintains itself. Since liberal notions of intersecting identities reaffirm this essentialism by emphasizing individuality, it’s necessary to build a more holistic understanding of how we as people with complex identities relate to each other that doesn’t reinforce oppressive structures of power.

There’s a reason indigenous activists have such clear understanding of empire and colonialism. They’ve been fighting it for over 500 years. They’ve advocated autonomous organizing for the precise reason that these struggles have been occurring for millennia. As they’ve noted, the enclosure of land, the enslavement and genocide of non-Europeans and the 7000 years of patriarchal structuring will require “revolutions within revolutions.” Such a transformative struggle will require a profound reorientation of identity and the very nature of how we relate to each other. The scope of what is possible seems very limited within the liberal conception of ally politics. Indigenous activists aren’t seeking “more rights.” They want to do away with the entire idea of the nation-state altogether and instead create a new conception of community that recognizes the agency of its people and the sanctity of the land in which they reside.

There’s plenty of historical examples to support these claims. Look at the ethnic make up of Seminole tribes in Florida that resisted US colonial expansion. The Seminoles themselves formed as a rebellious splinter to the American-friendly Creek natives that sought assimilation. When these indigenous rebels fled to the marshlands of Florida they came across maroon communes, ex-slaves who had escaped captivity and lived in areas free of colonial control. The maroons, Creek rebels and disillusioned European settlers all fled from formal American civilization to live together into what would eventually become the Seminole tribes. These tribes led the resistance to Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Florida.

The whole idea of native identity was a Western conception that pretty much just classified anyone who didn’t conform to the European cultural standard as “Indian.” One of the best examples of this is the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The mainstream narrative suggests that a local native tribe, Croatoan, had kidnapped and murdered the colonists of the small English colony. What never seems to dawn on writers of the history textbooks is that the starving Europeans simply ditched the colony to go live with the people who knew the land. They assimilated into the Croatoan tribe. Europeans were never able to recognize them because their cultural classification mindset prevented them from seeing this reality. All they saw were Indians, and the nuances of skin color, body shape, and dialect were lost.

The most relevant example of individual solidarity would be the white Christian evangelical abolitionist John Brown. Here was a man, so driven by his faith, that he took up arms against to the state with the sole goal of eradicating slavery. Fredrick Douglass didn’t tell Brown to check his privilege. Nor did Brown confess his white guilt to his comrades. He simply saw a grave injustice occurring within the society in which he lived and believed direct action was the only way to rectify this.

Friends Make the Best Accomplices

“Whereas ally politics suggest that in shifting one’s role from actor to ally one can diminish one’s culpability, a liberating approach presumes each person retains their own agency while also accounting for and responding to others’ desires, revealing how our survival/liberation is fundamentally linked with the survival/liberation of others. This fosters interdependence while compelling each person to take responsibility for their own choices, with no boss or guidance counselor to blame for their decisions.” – Accomplices Not Allies

Those burdened with the toxic guilt of their perceived privilege would be more useful in building solidarity with the struggle rather than constantly affirming their relationship to the power structure that forced this struggle to coalesce in the first place.

Solidarity is an old term used by activists for centuries, originating from the 19th century labor movement. Over time, the word lost its meaning and has become the Leftist equivalent of saying “I’ll pray for you,” making it no more useful than the concept of allyship. Still, the original intent of solidarity meant acting on behalf of an exploited identity for a common interest and is actually where modern ally politics derive. Back then, labor activists used ‘comrade’ to express their solidarity with fellow workers. However, this term also proved problematic when the idea of worker seemed to exclude women and non-Europeans. As different labor factions competed to form hierarchical governing structures, the term became less effective at describing worker solidarity. By the time titles such as Comrade Stalin emerged, it lost whatever notion of equality had been attached to it.

Instead of ‘ally’ or ‘comrade,’ a more accurate description of activist solidarity can be the term accomplice. Like the dictionary definition explains, an accomplice is someone who helps another commit a crime. In the context of struggle, it means engaging in mutual risk through actions that seek to dismantle structures of oppression. Accomplices operate off the values of mutual aid and affinity. Mutual aid means that we all have a stake in each other’s liberation, and that when we act from that interdependence, we share the outcomes of that struggle together. Affinity means we can work most easily with people who share our goals, and that our work will be strongest when our relationships are based in trust, friendship, and love.

So, instead of reinforcing mutual powerlessness through the declaration of privileged identities, we can reclaim our respective agency by taking action against the system that creates those privileges. This may even require to move beyond previous conceptions of activist identities altogether. Instead of building alliances, we should build friendships. After all, what is the point of struggling against oppression if we can’t have fun? What just world are we fighting for if we’re not even going to hang out afterwards? To declare friendship as the basis of activist struggle is to totally negate that activism has traditionally represented a form of work separated from other life routines. Friendships are based in reality, they are the basis of our lived experience. In that regard, accomplice doesn’t even adequately describe this political relationship, unless it becomes commonly understood that our friends are our accomplices every step of the way as we struggle through this oppressive and complicated world.

Further Reading:

Nothing Short of Liberation
Why the Right Loves Privilege Politics
How to Uphold White Supremacy by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion
Creating an Anarchist Theory of Privilege
‘We’re Here, We’re Queer:’ The Nature of Identification and Subjectivity Among Black Blocs

 

10 Myths About Voting in America

As the 2016 presidential election season starts to kick into high gear, I’m reminded of a particularly humorous incident during the last presidential cycle. In October 2012, students at my alma mater set up a voter registration table outside our student union building for the upcoming election. One student volunteer in a ROTC uniform called out to me asking if I had registered to vote. I told him I had done early voting, casting a protest vote for Jill Stein. I told him my vote was meaningless in a blue state and the election was a bourgeois fraud. I must have struck a nerve with the kid, as he began arguing with me over the importance of voting. I reiterated a point I’ve always made to folks that voting in local municipalities and regional elections is important, especially when it comes to supporting referendums but the federal election system, particularly with regards to selecting the President is completely out of our hands. The redneck actually felt insulted by this, like I had shit on his granddaddy’s grave. This episode demonstrated a bunch of misconceptions that people have regarding voting in Federal elections. Its not just fratty soldier types but also co-workers, friends, and flirts at the bar that view abstention as an affront to their very existence. Frankly, folks should try to learn some fundamental reasons as to why people don’t vote. Here’s some voting myths that need to be utterly smashed:

1. Voting is the most important part of the political process

Especially in the United States, policy wonks tout this about like its common knowledge. In doing so, they’re rejecting every other aspect of political participation and essentially narrowing the possibilities of what actually constitutes politics. Organizing, building political coalitions, lobbying, community empowerment, conscious raising, striking, sabotage, civil disobedience, and armed struggle are all various ways to practice politics. All of them, including voting, are necessary to certain degrees in order to accomplish political goals. Putting any of these methods on a pedestal and saying this is the one everyone truly needs to care about delegitimizes the potential power of other forms of political expression. Politics work best when you use everything in the toolbox.

2. Voting is the most effective way for the public to influence the political establishment

Like the previous myth, this one essentializes voting as the only meaningful way to exercise political power. In fact, voting is the least effective way to influence the political elite. Even letter writing is more effective since it directly addresses concerns to the representative. The best methods to influence politicians have always come from outside the traditional political process. Mass social movements and general strikes do more to propel change than any ballot since they make use of labor power’s revolutionary potential. In periods of upheaval, political leaders are forced into supporting progressive legislation out of fear that the guillotines might make an appearance if they fail to do so. Six police officers were arrested and charged for the murder of Freddie Gray not because anybody voted. The only reason the nation even heard about the case was that a handful of angry youth donned black bloc gear, took to the streets and burned shit to the ground. Likewise, the NYPD implemented a virtual work stoppage only after two of their own were gunned down in a squad car. The latter case was pretty extreme and circumstantially unjustified but the former demonstrates a profound truth about civil resistance: riots work.

3. Voting is a basic human right

This differs from the statement that voting should be a human right. If we examine voting trends in the US, we realize this isn’t true at all. Last year, a horde of Republicans successfully passed voter ID laws in their states restricting access to the ballot box based on immigration status and property ownership. These laws disproportionately affect poor people of color. Also, most states enforce harsh incarceration laws that strip the right to vote from anyone who has been convicted of a felony. The fact that we even have to register in order to be eligible to vote is completely absurd. We receive a social security number as soon as we’re born but we need to opt-in to the voting system? Combine this with difficult access to polling places, Kafkaesque citizenship qualifications, and the realization that there’s only a short window of time to cast your ballot on a workday then voting seems more like a privilege than a right. The rights model in general presents a deep flaw within liberal republics. Rights can only be granted by the state and the list the state gave us seems pretty limited; the whole idea that they’re natural is a complete myth. To overcome this, we should just demand infinite rights. Let everyone vote without any restrictions!

4. Voting is democratic

Remember, the Founding Fathers abhorred democracy. They specifically designed the federal election system not to be democratic. Despite all the hoopla over civic participation, the President isn’t even popularly elected. The Electoral College consists of a finite number of electors (mystery suit-wearing G-men) chosen based on the number of votes from a given state determined by its population. Yet, each state’s electoral process is based on a winner-take-all system so even if a state is split 51%/49% the winner receives all electoral votes. This system completely rejects the popular will of the country. The Electoral College is also the reason why only two political parties maintain dominance over the electoral process. Nevermind that presidential debates are controlled by a bipartisan commission, the winner-take-all set up means that third parties will never be able to gather enough support to compete. Between the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision and the legal bureaucracy set up to bar non-millionaires from running, its clear that the national election system is not meant to serve the interests of the people. In fact, a Princeton study last year concludes that mass wealth inequality, revolving door lobbying, and campaign fundraising transformed the electoral process into an oligarchy.

5. People died for your right to vote

This myth is extremely disingenuous and downright insulting to people who gave their lives to create a freer society. Were activists killed during the Mississippi Freedom Summer voting drive? Yes. Did protestors die during the Selma march for the Voting Rights Act? Yes. But to suggest that securing voting rights was the only reason these people put their lives on the line obscures the larger goals of the Civil Rights Movement as well as divorces it from the counterculture revolution of the 1960s. We could very well make the claim that people died for our right to strike and form a union or people died to make sure we never go to war again, yet as activists in the current era, we’ve pretty much dishonored those memories. Again, people make this statement to guilt trip abstainers and further emphasize the essentialism of voting as the only means to affect political change.

6. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain

George Carlin already has a great response to this statement. Political Science professors usually like to tout this claim, virtually shutting down debate in the classroom. This cliché assumes that abstainers don’t vote out of apathy or ignorance rather than from legitimate political or moral concerns. If anything, it shows a lack of imagination concerning the scope of political action people could actually take. Its also fucking arrogant. Quite the contrary, as Carlin suggests, if you actively support and elect a war criminal, then you’re responsible for all the horrible atrocities that person commits. Or maybe its that they believe so much in this claim that in order to criticize Obama’s drone policy they need to vote for him. We need to flip this whole concept on its head. If you don’t riot, you have no right to complain.

7. Every vote counts

As I pointed out above, the structural set up of the electoral system utterly prevents meaningful participation. Republicans and Democrats divvied up the country into red states, blue states, and a handful of battleground swing states where the election is actually decided. In the winner-take-all system, the loser’s votes become void. A Republican vote in New York will never have an impact in the general election. And with the argument that voters in swing states matter? Well, the majority of Americans don’t live in swing states. Therefore, the majority of votes don’t matter. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have significantly more influence over the outcome of the election cycle than voters in any other state just because they host early primaries. By the time Super Tuesday rolls around, half of the candidates dropped out and most Americans never had a chance to choose. Circling back to that Princeton Study, the researchers found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” All votes matter, but some votes matter more than others.

8. Voting Third Party helps increase their chances of winning

Third parties will never significantly compete in a federal election without institutional support. Under the current set up, voters would be lucky to have even heard of alternative third parties. The Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties are the three most active and established third parties in the United States. However, the Commission on Presidential Debates excludes third party candidates from nationally televised debates. Republican and Democratic delegates jointly manage the CPD along with the Federal Election Commission and the major media news outlets. Six conglomerates control every major media project. Each mainstream news channel pushes a particular agenda, warping viewers’ opinions and purposefully excluding coverage of third party campaigns. With no media exposure, most of the country remains ignorant to the existence of third parties. Though, third party influence is strong in major metropolitan areas. Third parties can compete easier on a local level and can even win seats in state assemblies. Yet, without strong media support and financial backing, third parties will never be able to take on the two party establishment on the national level. My vote for the Green Party will never impact the general election.

9. Voting is your patriotic duty.

In a last ditch effort to convince you to vote, these ROTC fucks question your loyalty to America. Again, if we’re going to attach civic participation to voting, then the same level of enthusiasm and celebration needs to be attached with other forms of politics. Is it our same patriotic duty to call a general strike or firebomb fossil fuel plants spewing greenhouse gas emissions? This claim reaffirms that voting is part of the American civic religion. Wave the flag, recite the Pledge, and kill ragheads for Jesus. Equating voting with patriotism just proves how much the ritual has become a tool for the ruling class. Once a year, voters exercise their most cherished right only to meld back into passive conformity for 364 days. And that’s just the most active voters. Most of them only vote for President. So, pretty much once every four years, Americans pretend that they’re participating in democracy or freedom or justice or some other vague hollow concept as they pull a lever selecting one of two wealthy sociopaths to wreak havoc over the world and keep oppressed  masses under their thumb. Cops love using this line on protestors, which says a lot right there. Attaching patriotic virtue to voting is really just a coded way of saying “Stop demonstrating, shut up, and get in line.” Patriotism is the cudgel used by the warrior class on the rest of the citizenry. Its the societal institutionalization of frat culture. Its not even like soldiers, cops, and other state thugs really care about your rights, they just want you to support the empire. The ROTC fuck that argues for your right to vote is the same meathead who will shoot you in the head if you exercise your right to burn an American flag in front of his face.

10. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just vote.

This myth speaks profound truths about what these gung-ho election volunteers actually want. The douchebag ROTC kid made this his main argument. First of all, even from a voting standpoint it definitely matters who you vote for. Did he actually think Obama voters would accept a Mitt Romney presidency without objection? The motherfucker doesn’t even believe mass incarceration exists. He openly talked shit on half of the population. Of all the horrible policies enforced by Obama, a Romney presidency would certainly have been worse. Yet, the fact that people make this claim so often reflects a deeper psychological acceptance that the two major political parties are not too different in general policy. To say this really strikes at the core of why the political elite spend billions of dollars to convince common folk to participate in this ritual every four years.

Voting legitimizes the political system. By voting at all, no matter if you pull a lever or write-in ‘Mickey Mouse,’ demonstrates tacit approval with the general processes and technocracy of the deep state. Imagine if a critical mass of voters abstained from the 2016 election. It would scare the shit out of the political class for it shows that a majority of Americans refuse to recognize the authority of the government. This is the essential point volunteers make at these voter drives. We don’t care what you do in that voting booth, we just need you to do it in order it to demonstrate your faith in the system. The real reason they hate abstainers so much is that we represent a negation of that system. When electioneers see non-voters establish protest camps in parks, demonstrate against police brutality, and organize mass strikes, it presents an existential threat to their authority. These same voter drive politicos say shit like “No matter who is elected, we have a responsibility to respect the Head of State,” which is borderline fascist. If we truly want to politicize the American populace, we need to preach the mantra that no matter who is elected, we have a responsibility to hold their feet to the fire.

Fight for $15…or More

“Today they want $15. Tomorrow they’ll want $30. Pretty soon they’ll demand Full Communism!” – The Bourgeoisie

Every year, Americans dread April 15th for its association with National Tax Day. However, this year workers in cities across the country took to the streets to demand raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. In New York, city unions came together for a large permitted rally on Central Park West that fired off a march toward Time Square. Although the permitted march was the main attraction, a smaller group of workers shut down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn earlier in the day. Still, the 6:00pm march drew thousands of workers and community members all demanding a radical increase in basic wages. Speeches were made by the usual union bosses and city council members, and with the jumbotrons, musical performances, marching bands, and massive police presence, the march felt more like a parade than what organizers were labeling as a “strike.”

Despite this pacification, which has become normalized with most activist gatherings these days, the fact that these mainstream unions were endorsing the call for $15 rather than $10 shows that grassroots radical demands do eventually make it to the public consciousness. This could also be a reflection of how incredibly unequal American society has become with rank-and-file workers tired of political pandering at the expense of their decreased living conditions.

“Fifteen isn’t enough,” exclaimed one member of the AFL-CIO affiliated Hotel Trades Council who asked for anonymity. He ranted against the wealth of the One Percent and how gentrification destroyed local businesses for the benefit of the big box stores. “A friend of mine used to own an office supply store on Lenox Avenue. A Staples moved in around the corner and ran him out of business. Fuck Staples, don’t buy from Staples!”

Other radical sentiments were shared between rank-and-file members, many of whom longingly desire for a new political organization that could truly agitate on their behalf. This sentiment probably explains the success of groups such as Socialist Alternative who have been at the forefront of minimum wage organizing through their 15 Now affiliate and who have seen electoral success with Kshama Sawant in Seattle’s city council. Other activists see the intersections between economic exploitation and other social justice issues, which is why Black Lives Matter groups also turned up for Wednesday’s minimum wage actions.

While the American Left is slowly being rebuilt, we should understand that this country is no where near the level as other nations with leftwing coalitions such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain making large electoral gains as well as mass militant demonstrations from Ireland to Québec. While race struggles seem pretty radical in the current moment, the labor and feminist movements in this country are stifled by liberal reformists who either fail to see larger sociological forces at play or flat out reject the radical demands advocated by grassroots activists. Its important to support activist struggles of all varieties but we still have a long way to go before we will see marches like this.

This is How You Celebrate Spring

When the weather warms up, people hit the streets. Nothing could exemplify that statement more than the vigorous rebirth of Black Lives Matter for the #ShutDownA14 action that took place Tuesday. Organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, the rally drew approximately 400 people out on a cloudy afternoon as speakers from the Revolutionary Communist Party took turns calling for an end to the prison-industrial complex. When Dr. Cornel West took the stand he decried the 500 year violence against black bodies and reminded the crowd to not “trust black faces in high places.” The President, the Attorney General, and Director of Homeland Security, all black, have done very little to reign in police terror. The rhetoric at this rally seemed much more militant than previous actions during the winter probably fueled by the recent medical neglect of Mumia Abu-Jamal in Pennsylvania and the killing of Walter Scott in South Carolina.

The march took off down Broadway led by a large canvas tent dislaying the portraits and names of police violence victims including Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Akai Gurley. Marchers chanted “Fuck the Police,” “Fist Up, Fight Back,” and likened the NYPD to the KKK. The protest snaked through Manhattan engaging in die-ins at various intersections before eventually reaching One Police Plaza.DSCN0716 At this point, activists dispersed in multiple directions storming the plaza and occupying the streets around City Hall. Officers panicked as they struggled to maintain order and predict the spontaneity of the crowd. Wrapping around the corridors of the plaza, the march spilled back into the street and engaged in pitched battles with the cops over control of the Brooklyn Bridge. Activists scaled a fence to reach the Bridge walkway then shut down the Manhattan-bound traffic. The march split between those on the street and those who remained on the walkway to keep tabs on the police.

We ran ahead to the Brooklyn side of the bridge to discover two lines of stormtroopers goose-stepping through traffic toward comrades on the street. The police wasted no time exacting brutal arrests of protestors as many scaled the 12 foot high barrier to escape the melee. A 14-year old girl was reportedly slammed to the pavement and an undercover officer allegedly drew his gun on activists throwing bottles at the police. The arrested were herded into police vans at the base of the bridge.

The remaining protestors regrouped then blockaded the police vans demanding release of their comrades. The police took formation and steadily pushed protestors back arresting stragglers who fell to the ground. Activists dragged traffic cylinders and trash cans into the street but proved to be ineffective as the mass wall of cops broke the blockade dispersing the protestors.

The protestors regrouped downtown and then led a sizeable march down Flatbush Avenue toward the Barclays Center. Activists continued to denounce the NYPD as racist and militant Black Panther chants caught on with the larger contingent. The police attempted to reign in the protest with orange netting multiple times but the fluidity of the march denied them that success. However, the gloves came off as the march neared Grand Army Plaza and the police pulled out all their tactics to disperse the crowd.

An army of police supported by vans and cruisers chased the protestors onto the sidewalk where they then targeted specific individuals for arrest. Batons came out as officers ruthless assaulted livestreamers, organizers, and militant activists. Police slammed a young man into the window of a gym as another officer threw a young woman to the ground breaking her ribs. That woman was later taken to hospital without arrest. The police continued to isolate, assault and arrest activists of their choosing even those who lawfully obeyed orders to remain on the sidewalk. By 7:00pm, the protest numbers had dwindled significantly.

A handful of activists came together and confronted the  police outside the 78th Precinct on Bergen Street. The confrontation lasted well into the night as protestors showed solidarity with their arrested comrades demanding their immediate release and denouncing the violence committed against the march that day.

Overall, the action was successful in shutting down sections of the city, disrupting business as usual and garnering ample media coverage. It should be noted that the march was completely nonviolent and protestors did not fight back until the police began assaulting and brutalizing activists. For many veteran activists, the level of violence brought back memories of Occupy and the targeting of specific protestors and journalists shows that the NYPD is upping its game in its quest to quell the Spring resurgence of Black Lives Matter. The most significant observation remains that this march, along with smaller actions earlier in the month, was much more militant and angrier than previous actions especially those organized by the Justice League. This shows that the grassroots are much more radical and have a clearer sociological imagination than the black misleadership class that purports to represent the movement. It will be interesting to see how these tactics evolve and expand as the Black Lives Matter protests continue into the Summer.

Reclaiming Libertarianism

Its strange how in the United States libertarianism denotes a right-wing ideology commonly understood to represent advocates of minimal state intervention in the economy. In America, libertarianism is associated with a free-market capitalist philosophy revolving around this utopian supremacy of the individual as the basic unit of life. Today’s libertarians associate themselves with the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, two extraparliamentary organizations whose goal is to dismantle institutions of state power and replace them with hierarchical corporate systems. This is a strange development unique to the United States because for the rest of the world, especially in Europe and Latin America, libertarianism has been historically associated with the exact opposite.

The first public intellectual to call himself a ‘libertarian’ was Joseph Déjacque, a proponent of a revolutionary form of socialism which would eventually come to be called anarchist communism. In fact, Déjacque’s views on liberty were so radical he critiqued self-professed anarchist Pierre Joseph-Proudhon for his reactionary views on women’s liberation. For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the term libertarian referred to ‘anti-authoritarian socialists‘ in the labor movement. The term has its origins in the split within the First International over the role of the state during a worker’s revolution. Council communists, revolutionary trade unionists, autonomous Marxists, mutualists, radical social democrats, and anarchists all referred to themselves as libertarians to distinguish themselves from the socialists who sought state power as a road to a revolutionary society. The term ‘libertarian revolution’ usually describes worker uprisings where the masses liberate themselves through prefigurative construction of a communist society without the direction of political leaders. Worker revolts from the Paris Commune to Spanish Catalonia have been described as libertarian revolutions.

In Europe, libertarians have scared conservatives and socialists alike because of their adamant rejection of authority and desire to truly bring about a revolutionary society. These anticapitalist libertarians have often been derided as ultra-left, whose desire to be liberated not just from capital but also from labor itself, were often characterized as being incompatible with the centralized-state “socialism” of the Soviet Union and Maoist China. From 1919 to 1921, a Third Russian Revolution challenged the rule of the Bolsheviks who they viewed as having betrayed the communist revolution.

Libertarianism Without the Liberty

Today, libertarianism seems to have lost its original meaning. Liberty has come to be defined as freedom from government regulation. Its seen as something akin to the concept of rights, rather than a perpetual state of being obtained through constant and repeated struggle. The foundations of modern American libertarianism have their roots in the teachings of Milton Friedman in the Chicago school of economics as well as the more extreme economists in the Austrian school. According to Friedman, the inequality and oppressive nature of American society stems from government interference in the free-market economy. Friedman argues that under conditions of a completely unregulated economy, the market can provide for the health and well-being, security, and general welfare of the public as well as provide the net benefit of prosperity. The problem with this assessment is that its assumptions are completely false. What Friedman called “the free market” doesn’t exist and in fact has never existed in any human society. Quite the contrary, markets and states grew in tandem to each other.

The first market-oriented economies can be traced back to early Mesopotamian civilizations. Many of these societies revolved around territorial conquest and as more land fell under control of these empires, their armies grew larger. In order for the Kings to convince such a substantial number of soldiers to fight for them, they devised a system of taxation on the territories. Currency was distributed to villages and towns which residents could use to trade goods and services. Any profits that accumulated were then collected to pay soldiers. This history shows that markets never existed independently of states. States created markets to support  territorial expansion. Markets need states to survive. Essentially, markets derive from a system originally meant to sustain conquering armadas which means that capitalism is fundamentally based on the perpetuation of violence. There is nothing “voluntary” or “non-aggressive” about it.

Libertarianism as Fascism

American libertarianism is nothing more than a theoretical exercise in the academy that has no tenability in the real world. Upon examining how libertarian programs are implemented in practice, it becomes quite clear that the creation of a free society is not part of the agenda. Just look at how Friedman’s teachings were implemented in Chile after the 1973 US-backed military coup that replaced the democratically-elected government with a quasi-facist dictator. Shortly after seizing power, Augusto Pinochet employed a team of Chilean economists who studied at the Chicago school in America and began implementing neoliberal “reforms.” Pinochet’s new economic program resulted in the wholesale destruction of unions and progressive political parties, creation of a mass carceral state, and an ethnic cleansing campaign of the Mapuche natives all the while enriching a few privileged Chilean elites. The Chilean experiment was the test model that would be exported to the rest of the world in the 1980s.

Libertarianism as Racism

Libertarianism is a product of the 1960s counterculture fusing with the highbrow elitism of Wall Street. It took off as a mass movement in the 1970s, just as neoliberalism began to enter the academic and political sphere. Friedman even admits his philosophy’s conservative origins arguing that libertarians like himself could defend orthodox social values such as anti-abortion and even opposition to civil rights as long as these views were kept within the mind of the individual. The problem with this assessment is that it shows exactly where Friedman and his peers were coming from intellectually. As the counterculture movement made traditional bigotry unacceptable in the public sphere, advocacy for individual rights became a euphemism for discrimination. Libertarians began to argue that the Civil Rights Act violated business owners’ rights to refuse service to people they didn’t like. In fact, much of libertarian debate over the next three decades would focus on the rights of businesses to discriminate over the rights of individual workers to be secure in their health and safety. Just look at the heroes described in Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, praising pimps, drug dealers, blackmailers, corrupt policemen, and loan sharks as champions of liberty ignoring the sex workers, addicts, and poor communities these people prey upon. Furthermore, both Walter Block and Robert Nozick have argued in defense of voluntary slave contracts as legitimate arrangements undertaken with the consent of the parties involved. This completely ignores any social environment in which people’s prospects for advancement are so poor they are forced to sell themselves into slavery. They assume everyone starts out on a level playing field. Additionally, Block’s description of chattel slavery as “not so bad — you pick cotton and sing songs,” as well as his assertion that blacks and women are paid less because they are “less productive” than white men further shows the underlying racism that libertarian thought emerges from.

Libertarianism as Domination

Granted, not all libertarians subscribe to these specific beliefs but all libertarians do emphasize the supremacy of property rights, the subjective theory of value, and the authority of bosses over the values of human life and human liberty. Libertarianism is really just a safety mechanism to discredit any and all criticisms of capitalism. Its works perfectly as part of neoliberalism’s plan for total enclosure of the Earth and its culture. The primary project of neoliberalism has been convincing the world that capitalism is the only possible economic system rather than transforming capitalism into a viable long-term economic system. In university economics departments, professors repeatedly emphasize the “rationality” of neoclassical economics. This tactic shuts down all debate about alternative economic proposals. By claiming that those who subscribe to capitalist economics are rational, they can discredit any critics by simply calling them crazy. Even the rise of so-called “anarcho”- capitalism is an attempt to destroy all criticisms of the economic system. The term necessarily denotes that even anarchism, the most radically leftwing political ideology, isn’t safe from market enclosure. Indeed, we see many libertarians claiming individualist anarchists as part of their historical inspiration despite the fact that many individualists were huge critics of both property and capitalism. Max Stirner’s egoism was a rejections of all “spooks,” including the state, property, labor, society and civilization itself. Much of Josiah Warren’s work focused on the creation of alternative business models to a profit-driven economy. And Benjamin Tucker even described his philosophy as Anarchistic-Socialism. When you take extreme libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism to their logical conclusions the society that enfolds bares an awful lot of similarities to Medieval feudal kingdoms. And that strikes at the heart of the libertarian goal: The complete utter dominance of all life, land and existence by a privileged elite.

Deregulation Means More Regulation

Libertarians’ main critique of the state focuses on bureaucracy. They always deride any criticism of capitalism as faults of state bureaucrats who impose a bunch of rules that make corporate actions inefficient. Their solution is then to deregulate state agencies and limit the number of bureaucrats. Again, this solution is based on false assumptions. As David Graeber points out in his book The Utopia of Rules, bureaucracy is actually a feature of corporations. It has its roots in the Victorian Gilded Age as the creation of large multinational corporations necessitated the formation of top-down management systems to administer large populations. It wasn’t until the New Deal that bureaucracy began to be associated with government administrations. The New Deal was pretty much the application of corporate governance techniques to state agencies so this makes sense. But the libertarian assertion that deregulation of state agencies will limit the number of bureaucrats in the market is also a gross misunderstanding. History proves that the opposite occurs. Graeber’s Iron Law of Liberalism states that, “any market reform, any government initiative intended to reduce red tape and promote market forces will have the ultimate effect of increasing the total number of regulations, the total amount of paperwork, and the total number of bureaucrats the government employs.” Our current age of hypercapitalism proves this to be true. In a world where much of the Keynesian economy has been deregulated and privatized, every aspect of our lives is dominated by bureaucracy. University administrations are often quite larger than faculties and non-profits, state agencies, and business start-ups all employ legions of middle managers. The fusion between the public and private spheres has become so entrenched that describing American political life as a corporate state isn’t just appropriate, its accurate. That’s what America has essentially become.

Bureaucracy is a very American phenomenon. When the United States remained the sole superpower at the end of the Cold War, it attempted what no other power had done before. The United States began to administer the world. The creation of the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF and a plethora of trade deals created a global bureaucracy whose role involved extracting wealth from Third World nations by sacking them with unpayable debts. Administrators are the light-bearers of power in the neoliberal world and are probably what make this type of capitalism so incredibly authoritarian. As more and more spheres of life become privatized, our ability to organize freely, speak freely, and even think freely become diminished. It is virtually impossible to navigate the world without filling out forms, making phone calls to numerous disembodied voices, and having your fate dictated by people you will never meet.

Toward an Egalitarian Concept of Liberty

With the Left regaining its place in the world, old terms and concepts seem outdated for the current era of struggle. As transfeminists and queer anarchists have noted, the term “equality” has been co-opted by liberals to mean assimilation into a power structure that is inherently unequal. So, the time has come again to focus on reimagining a new concept of freedom, one that could foster egalitarian social relations while simultaneously respecting individual sovereignty. However, we must realize that certain terms can no longer represent the ideas we advocate due to co-optation by conservative interests. Whereas Leftists used “libertarian” to reclaim agency from autocrats that tainted the term “socialism,” we must again invent new language to reclaim liberty from its association with corporate tyranny. Given the history of resistance from oppressed peoples and the goals of the Left, I feel calling for “Liberation” and “Abolition” are good alternatives to the term “liberty.”

At its core, the Left has historically been an anti-bureaucratic movement focused on human liberation. When the Soviet Union discredited the revolutionary strategy of the Old Left, students and intellectuals formulated new ideas about how to reconcile individual liberty with collective organization. One of the most interesting developments to come out the 1960s was the revival of the Ultra-left. This was best exemplified in the French general strike of May 1968. Students organized through the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France took to the streets with over 11,000,000 workers bringing the French economy to a grinding halt. Not only were they protesting capitalism but also advocating for the liberation of the human mind from cultural spectacle. Whereas old Marxists valued labor, these new revolutionaries valued play. They saw that the culture promoted by the capitalist economy was just as alienating and destructive as capitalism itself. Much of the thought to come out the strike was heavily influenced by the Situationist International.

An American situationist collective called For Ourselves best described this philosophy as “egoist communism.” The collective synthesized Max Stirner’s critique of society with Karl Marx’s critique of political economy. They understood it was impossible to escape enclosure so they essentially challenged the system by demanding the impossible. “Greed in its fullest sense is the only possible basis of communist society,” they argued. Basically, the only way to bring about egalitarianism in an advanced capitalist society was to demand infinite rights and perpetual freedom. Everyone has a right to everything all the time forever. In being such a radical and ridiculous demand, the Situationists provided one of the most substantive critiques of liberal society. Its impossible to guarantee equal rights for everyone. Liberal society is constructed in such a way that there will always need to be a large pool of people at the bottom to be exploited for the maintenance of that society. The political thought of May 1968 has been extremely influential on the Left today with concepts such as culture jamming, occupation, and communization characterizing modern radical movements. Its through this thought that we can reclaim both physical and cultural spaces from the tyranny of capitalist bureaucracy.

The Oppressed’s Perpetual Demand for Freedom

Another case for advocating liberation rests on the experiences of historically marginalized groups of people and what they were actually fighting for. Let’s take Black Americans for example. For over 500 years, the black struggle has been characterized by its resistance to relentless oppression and exploitation. If your historical condition has its roots in escaping from slavery, then naturally liberation seems to be the most relevant value of your struggle. In fact, Assata Shakur and Ta-Nehisi Coates both make this same assessment. It should also be noted that most leftwing social movements started with abolition of slavery. The fact that so many movements often describe oppression in relation to slavery further proves this. Feminists talk about bondage to man just as socialists describe working conditions as wage slavery. Thus, the critique of the system rests on its ability to control and our resistance to it can be characterized as breaking free from that control. The New Left brought about this conception in all social movements. Black liberation, women’s liberation, and gay liberation replaced calls for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights respectively.

So, maybe equality isn’t really the goal and perhaps it never really was. Instead, let’s advocate liberation by calling for the abolition of all oppressive institutions. Then we could finally experience the true liberty that everyone Left, Right, and Center seems so keen on achieving.