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Examining the pro-state problem of American anarchists

from Rhyd Wildermuth

For any anti-capitalist and anti-state leftist who has been in this thing for longer than a decade, the last few days of social media has been kind of a trip. In only my short self-imposed allotment of weekly social media time (90 minutes, up from a fasting diet of only 30 minutes a week), I’ve encountered more apparent insanity than I think I had in the last six months, all of it about the “terrorists” and “fascist threat” of the idiots who interrupted congress last week.

The particular madness right now is, of course, the insistence by many otherwise staunchly anti-capitalist and anti-state leftists that 1). the actions of Twitter and other social media companies to ban accounts of Trump and others should be supported and 2). the American police and military apparatus needs to immediately and harshly hunt down the people who protested and rioted in the Capitol as well as those vowing to do so again.

It’s a weird position for people whose politics are supposedly anti-state and anti-capitalist. Praising and celebrating the increased power of capitalist Social Media corporations to decide who and who cannot speak on their monopolistic platforms is, well, rather pro-capitalist; more so, calls to increase and heavily wield police violence and surveillance to stop a group of people we don’t like isn’t exactly consistent with all the previous calls to defund police departments or to dismantle the state monopoly on violence.

Both of these positions, each of which run deeply counter to the entire point of anarchism, appear suddenly to be “the” anarchist positions, the only stance a true anarchist could possible take in the face of the emergency threatening American Democracy.

How did this happen? How did anarchists become statists and find themselves willing cheerleaders for massive capitalist powers?

The answer, of course, is the spectre of “fascism,” or a particular (and wrong-headed) understanding of fascism that arose in the American mind through social media and the growth of Antifa in the last five years.

First, we should remember that Antifa in the United States–unlike in Europe–isn’t necessarily a leftist movement. While many leftists do consider themselves Antifa or engage in Antifa-branded actions, the actual institutions which also compose the movement (it is not as distributed as we like to pretend) are not only not leftist but are often hostile to leftist thought. In fact, the two largest organizations (SPLC, ADL) that have acted as clearing houses of information on far-right groups are both squarely pro-capitalist and pro-state, and news outlets like Vice, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, and the New York Times which all propagated countless articles about the rise of first the alt-right and now “fascists” are all capitalist propaganda engines.

In the lead up to Trump’s first election, when there were idiots like Milo and Richard Spencer trotting out their ridiculous ideas, Antifa and these “centrist” organizations began to meld. While that made more centrist people a tiny bit more radical, it really pulled most leftist discourse towards the center and towards a pro-state position.

Consider: a leftist (anarchist, communist, etc) stands opposed to capitalism and the capitalist state as their primary position. Traditionally, they see fascists as an ally of these two things (there can be no fascism without capitalism or the state).

These other groups, on the other hand, see fascism as a threat to the state, which in their position is a sacred institution that protects people from enemies foreign (especially the ADL, which is hyper pro-Israel and often very anti-Islam and anti-Arab) and domestic (anti-semitism, southern racist movements). For the capitalist media companies, reporting on the rise of “fascism” meant extra ad revenue, increased clicks, more attention, and thus more profit. Though individual writers may absolutely have been traditional leftists, their publishers and owners most certainly are not.

Because of this sudden alliance, we now see in American leftism an alarming trend to support the state and the capitalists’ actions whenever those square with a general anti-fascist trend. Twitter’s bans on Trump’s accounts, for example, are seen as victories without any acknowledgment that Twitter has also banned leftist speech. Let’s also remember that not too long ago Facebook censored the two largest anarchist publications in the world (CrimethInc and It’s Going Down) on the same day they banned many of the QAnon groups that are said to have been breeding grounds for fascists.

The problem is that these actions strengthen both the state and the capitalist class, especially in the support for social media corporations with monopolies over speech. There isn’t anywhere else besides Twitter and Facebook to go if you want to use social media to increase the reach of your words: these two capitalist companies own the means of production, not individuals, and not other capitalist competitors. Like the state’s monopoly on violence, these two capitalist entities posses a monopoly on meaning, a position not much different from the Catholic Church’s position in medieval Europe.

Likewise, it seems almost completely forgotten that massive protests against the murder of Black individuals by police officers led to severe repression of movement, speech, and even life by the state in reaction to those protests. There were calls to label rioters “terrorists” and criminals, and also calls for the government to increase their surveillance of activists and especially people associated with Antifa or anarchism in order to stop their threat to “democracy.”

While those calls came from people we would consider right wing, the new calls to do exactly the same thing to the Trumpist idiots now come from leftists with absolutely no sense of irony. In fact, the utility of state violence and capitalist power against enemies (“fascists”) is presented as the obvious leftist position, nevermind that it’s actually an imposed position from the pro-state centrists with whom they aligned through Antifa action and who became their primary intellectual sources through capitalist journalism.

American leftists have forgotten that there cannot be fascism without a state. Fascism is capitalist and statist. It is a mass populist movement to consolidate the capitalist class and the state and to strengthen their power over minorities, perceived threats, the everyday lives of people, and especially over dissent and “dangerous speech,” The social media bans on anarchist groups was a move towards fascism, but so also was the ban on Trump and QAnon. The massive police repression of Black Lives Matter protests and surveillance of activists were steps closer to fascism, but so to are calls to create new Domestic Terrorist laws and “hunt down the insurrectionists” who sat in Nancy Pelosi’s chair and made a mockery of American Empire.

American leftists–especially anarchists–have been acting as if the rise of fascism is a state of emergency so great that allying with the state and the capitalists is the only solution. The problem is that this solution is the actual emergency and what will eventually lead to actually-existing fascism with its own particular kinds of solutions for dissent.