This week in political theater has been bizarre enough with the government shutdown on October 1st. The Democrats and Republicans are squabbling over funding the Affordable Care Act, and in turn, over 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or forced to work without pay. Besides that, we’ve seen some other weird things happen in Washington DC. First an unarmed black woman, Miriam Carey, was shot to death by police in front of Capitol Hill after a car chase. Carey apparently had a small child in the car with her.
Then yesterday, an African-American male from DC self-immolated in the middle of the National Mall before bystanders rushed over to put the flames out. The man apparently yelled something before lighting himself on fire, and bystanders said they thought it was something to do with voting rights. He was taken to the hospital and died 24 hours later.
Both of these incidents are tragedies, but there’s something equally as tragic taking place in Washington DC right now, on a purely ideological and rhetorical level. The political discourse in the United States is unique and interesting for several reasons. One of those reasons is that this seems to be the only country in the world where a Harvard Law School graduate can brazenly toss around buzzwords to use against political opponents without actually having to defend their word usage. It’s incredible that elected officials with such high-esteemed education credentials could spout the most uneducated and misinformed tripe about something political. What I’m referring to is a couple of Democrats: Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren who have referred to the Tea Party faction of the GOP as “anarchists”. No, that’s not a typo, they really said this.
First let’s begin with Harry Reid’s quote, which is in reference to the Tea Party: “It is embarrassing that these people who are elected to represent the country are representing the tea party, the anarchists.“
In fact, this is not the first time Reid has referred to the Tea Party as anarchists. He did it again last month. I won’t bother with all the quotes, because I’m sure you can get the idea. Thankfully, this caused enough of an uproar from actual anarchists for someone to respond, which Nathan Schneider from the Huffington Post did with this piece: “The Government Shutdown: An Anarchist’s Dream?” — The article is very well-written and I recommend everyone read it.
I’m not exactly sure if Harry Reid doesn’t understand anarchism, the Tea Party, or if he actually understands both, but is just engaging in deliberate disinformation for the sake of scoring political points. I’m guessing it’s the latter. I’m also guessing it’s the same with another Democratic politician, who borders on Social Democracy, Elizabeth Warren.
Warren said just today:
“The anarchy gang is quick to malign government, but when was the last time anyone called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children’s toys, or for food inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery store is crawling with deadly bacteria, or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause horrible deformities in little babies? We never hear that.”
Being the ultra-statist and liberal that Warren is, she gave a fiery defense of the state during this speech as she blasted the rightist Tea Party for shutting down government services. But her rhetoric was not only intellectually irresponsible, it was quite deplorable. Warren resorted to accusing the Tea Party of being ‘anarchists’ without first defining what that term means. Therefore, Warren and Reid are deliberately distorting the meaning of anarchism to fit their political narrative. If you notice, their accusations against their political opponents don’t even fit the definition of ‘anarchism’ whatsoever.
But this does warrant an explanation of true anarchism (from an actual anarchist). If you ask most people what anarchy is, they will likely tell you it’s a political ideology based on random violence and blowing things up. Images of angry youth tossing Molotov cocktails and smashing police cars seem to overshadow the works of Erricco Malatesta, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Nestor Makhno, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and the like. Hoping to see anarchism properly defined in the mainstream media is a bit of a lost cause. We must do it all ourselves on the grassroots level. It is not a trivial matter to recapture a language that has been co-opted by those that have capital.
First off, let’s understand something. The Tea Party and anarchists couldn’t be further apart ideologically.
A quick search into google will direct one to wikipedia, which defines anarchism as the following: Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies based on non-hierarchical free associations.Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unsustainable, unnecessary, or harmful.While anti-statism is central, some arguethat anarchism entails opposing authority or hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations, including, but not limited to, the state system.
The key word here is non-hierarchichal. Although the state is the ultimate expression of authoritarianism and hierarchy, there are many forms of hierarchy that can manifest outside of the state. For example, the Tea Party often springs into political action based around right-wing populism which involves a number of issues, including immigration.
In case you’re unsure of the Tea Party’s position on immigration, I would just advise you to read some of their poorly-spelled, horribly punctuated signs they carry to protests. They practically worship Sherrif Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who has ties with Neo-Nazi thugs and is notorious for going well beyond what the feds are able to do about illegal immigration. The Tea Party is in favor of strict border security, building fences, denying migrant workers the right to become legal citizens, the list goes on and on. Their agenda on immigration is to “keep America American”. This can be translated roughly into keeping America a place where white protestants remain the majority. This is because the Tea Party consists of nationalists.
Nationalism is inherently hierarchical. It holds the citizens of a particular nation or racial identity as superior to others. A good example is American exceptionalism. The great irony about this is that the Tea Party actually calls for more state intervention when it comes to immigration! Some anarchists they must be!
The anarchist position on immigration? Well by first understanding that nation-states and borders are simply an arbitrary invention stemming from class society, we reject the notion of borders altogether. We see borders as pure class oppression. Why should the rich subjugate us into designated territories, treating us as property, imposing regional laws, economic conditions and customs on us? Borders only exist for the protection of property and markets, two concepts anarchists also reject.
Good try Harry and Liz, but you’re not even fucking close on this one.
But let’s discuss the state itself. I mean the implication from Warren and Reid is that since the Tea Party opposes social welfare and Keynesian spending policies, that they must believe in no government at all. That is actually a massive jump in logic even if we were to accept this flawed definition of anarchism. The Tea Party does not reject government, nor do they reject authority. They make this clear when they accept the economic model of capitalism and private ownership. While they may spout right-wing populist disdain for bureaucrats and excessive regulations, they believe in the right for property owners and corporate capitalists to act as the bureaucracy, with blatant oppression, exploitation and robbery of labor. While demonizing labor unions and regulations, the Tea Party’s economic platform essentially boils down to a transfer of power from state and financial capital to private industrial capital. They do not seek to abolish all forms of hierarchy and class society, but rather to restore power to who they perceive to be a favorable section of the corporate elite.
Anarchists see the state not as an impediment to corporate profits, but as the enforcer of this class society. It is the strong-arm of the capitalist class. Police, armies, courts, laws, and the like exist to protect and serve the interests of capital. The entire political system itself exists in the shadow of big business. We see the state as an illegitimate institution based on class domination and seek to abolish it along with all forms of domination. Capitalism, racism, homophobia, sexism, classism — all of which are endorsed by the right-wing Tea Party. Don’t believe me, look up the voting records of the Tea Party-backed members of congress. They have repeatedly voted against women’s rights, minority rights, social programs for the poor, etc.
These people are stooges for capital in a very old school rightist sense. Their tendencies gravitating towards racism and homophobia represent a clear urge for a return to the 1950’s. A time before social and racial progress had come along and given us things such as desegregated schools. The Tea Party does not seek less authority and hierarchy; quite the opposite. They want more of it. They want an even more brutal form of class oppression than we see today.
Now that we’ve gone through the differences, let’s get back to the Democrats. The Democratic Party represents illusions and delusions of the worst kind. First there’s the illusion that workers and the poor can find some form of salvation in this party. The idea that the Republicans are these big bullies that only care for big business and the Democrats are the ones sticking up courageously for the little guy. Standing with labor in the face of capital, standing with the poor in the face gentrification, standing with immigrants searching for a new life in the face of racist immigration cops, etc. The positive thing is that this delusion has worn off quite a bit since the early 1990’s, when the DLC took over the party and moved their platform drastically to the right. Bill Clinton disillusioned much of the left-leaning base during his tenure in office by destroying welfare in 1996, deregulating Wall Street, signing NAFTA, and discriminatory policies such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law. Also note that Clinton continued the Democratic tradition of waging wars for profit, bombing countries like Iraq, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, and Sudan (but remember, since it’s a Democrat, we aren’t supposed to talk about it!). If you understand how the political system is simply a representation of economic capital, then you understand the delusions promoted by the entire charade of “democracy” itself, and the implications that will have on the political establishment.
Elizabeth Warren and Harry Reid are members of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. They do their bidding for their section of the ruling-class. The soundbites they produce from time-to-time can sound pretty damn crass. Although, it seems when they slander a political opponent with a left-wing ideology, it’s an easy way to discredit them and score political style points. No one in the mainstream corporate media is willing to call them out on this. The same happened with the Republicans repeatedly accusing Barack Obama of being a Marxist. Former Florida representative Alan West even went as far to say that 80 members of the Democratic Party were communists! This is absolutely absurd and it’s almost like we’re seeing a reemergence of the red scare. Anyone associated with an idea that challenges the status quo is a conspiracy theorist, a nutcase, a sociopath, and now, an anarchist! Because there must be something wrong about that!
So Harry and Liz, while you will undoubtedly fool some with your absurd misinformation and propaganda, there are some people who can read a fucking book. It is an insult to those of us out there who stand for true social and economic liberation, and even more insulting to those who fought and died for that cause, to be equated with ultra-nationalists doing the bidding of the corporate capitalist class. Perhaps you elitist pigs will understand anarchism when we fly a black flag over the remains of your crumbled empire. Fuck you. Fuck every bit of the oppression and exploitation you work tirelessly to enforce. Long live anarchy!