The Challenge of National-Anarchism
(Originally published in Tribes Magazine, 2018)
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination.”
– Attributed to William Paley
In approaching a term as contentious as ‘National-Anarchism’, I’d suggest beginning by taking a moment to consider the subjectivity inherent in the act of conceptualisation. In spite of having pondered this subject a good deal since having it brought to my attention around the age of 18, I still find it necessary to remind myself on a regular basis of the following fact: that the concepts I’ve evolved through the course of my lifetime, through calibrating inherited linguistic structures with my own experience, may well have precious little correspondence with the concepts that another person employs precisely the same words to describe.
Further, that this can only be the case, since no two human beings’ experience is alike, and therefore each of us will have a different contextual substrate from which our respective concepts were shaped. And subsequently, that I should never allow myself to assume that the concept I intend to transmit through the use of a word is the one that will be received in the mind of another. Hence, if one wishes to honestly approach the question of ‘what is National-Anarchism?’, then, I propose, these things must first be taken into account. And it is through inquiring further into the nature of this dynamic that I hope to shed some light on the term itself.
The extent to which such conceptual divergence occurs is subject to a number of factors, many of which are extremely subtle; it would nonetheless seem reasonable to expect that where culture (by this I mean both way of life/material culture, and cosmology/nonmaterial culture), and genetics are shared to a greater extent, the amount of variation in conceptual ideation between individuals will be lesser compared to where culture and genetics differ. And while the influence of culture is fairly self-evident (‘nurture’), the contribution made by genetics (‘nature’) might be harder for some to grasp. If, however, we posit the possibility that one’s ancestral experience is somehow encoded within and inherited through the DNA, then we may acquire a means of orientating ourselves within the murky realm of ‘ethnicity’. In addition to these factors, we should also acknowledge the role of ‘individuation’ – a subject I’ll return to later.
The critical element here seems to be that those who belong to an ‘ethnic group’ – to varying degrees, depending on how the term is defined – share a commonality of experience, and so possess a shared context from which to communicate about their situation. Thus, the extent to which the culture of one ethnic group differs from the next, and to which the group either keeps itself isolated from or intermarries with culturally distinct neighbouring groups, will be a major factor in informing the degree of similarity of ‘experiential substrate’.
And even in cases where members of discrete cultures regularly mixed, incomers would still be brought into what might be described as the collectively-held informational field that constitutes the cultural inheritance of the group they’ve joined; while their offspring will likewise receive the genetic inheritance through the other parent. Hence, the defining characteristics of an ethnic group’s culture are resilient to a certain amount of influx of ‘new blood’. Nonetheless, it must be emphasised that instances of the mixing of completely disparate cultural-ethnic groups on the scale of what we see today would have been previously unimaginable – not least because the large discrepancies in the range of knowledge and skills required to survive in the places inhabited by different cultures would’ve meant that most people would have been completely out of their depth if transplanted to an unfamiliar bioregion, among unfamiliar people and languages. Rapid urbanisation and globalisation have of course now significantly altered this terrain.
In times of yore, the sociopathic personalities that sought to appropriate the resources of autonomous peoples came to learn that in order to be effective in their goal, they needed to combine the use of physical force with a justificatory narrative that was well-tailored to the conceptual framework of the group in question. Whilst the uptake of this narrative might not have initially been great, pomp and bombast, combined with ongoing capture of slaves, brutalisation of dissenters and indoctrination of subsequent generations could broadly be relied upon to create a manageably docile citizenry over time. The nature of this dynamic is portrayed very clearly in James C. Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed, a study of southeast Asian hill tribes’ relationship with valley civilisations, where he describes both the pivotal role played by the wholesale kidnapping of hill peoples into slavery in the valleys, and the ongoing attempts of captives to return to the hills where a less coercive existence was possible.
And yet, for the more enterprising empire builders, the limitations of this approach would soon become apparent, since the peculiarities of diverse cultures would require that a ‘bespoke’ narrative be created in each case – for example concocting a genealogy for the new ruling class which portrays them as being descended from the ancestral spirits of that people. To have to do so for each new group subsumed into the empire would be something of a strain on its resources, and given that those resources were all requisitioned from its conquered peoples, they would need to employ them judiciously to prevent the entire Ponzi scheme from collapsing (something that nonetheless happened on a regular basis). Far easier, hence, to seek to standardise and homogenise the cultures and ethnicities in question to the point where an abstracted identity could be used to make overtures to an entire administrative area, rather than only to a few related tribes.
One should also note, for fairness’ sake, that from time to time, benevolent beings have come into positions of influence within this impersonal expropriating machine, and striven to improve the lot of the wretched, stunted creatures that it holds under its sway, perhaps partly as a result of having themselves taken at face value the ‘noble lies’ that empires spread amongst their subjects – a phenomenon which, conversely, lends undeserved legitimacy to the whole endeavour. But that ultimately, the effect of such interventions is severely limited by the fundamental disjuncture between what we might dare to call ‘natural laws’, and the anti-natural, cancerous basis upon which centralised empires are founded. Equally, an understanding of this fact periodically arose among larger segments of the subjugated, leading to wholesale ‘reversions’ to simpler lifeways. However, such manifestations either leave little mark on history, or suffer the iniquity of having their insights distorted into ‘mysticisms’ and are thereby co-opted into the canon of civilisation – Taoist teachings being a case in point.
Thus, these empires – built by uprooted peoples – rose and then fell, often taking entire ecologies with them in the process, whilst creating widespread social turmoil in which the capacity for ruthlessness was often a prerequisite of survival for those in the areas affected. When the tide had receded, people once again regrouped into smaller, more autonomous units, albeit carrying the scars and traumas of what had come before. And with each ebb and flow, the boat of human consciousness was carried to new vistas both high and low, experiencing both insights and ruptures never before known. Wave after wave of empire building was somehow weathered by our forebears, whose cultures and genes we’ve inherited. Such were the forces that sculpted the languages that we speak; we must not forget that the substrate for our very thoughts was brought into being on an anvil of strife; percepts hammered into concepts, themselves forged into new hammers in an accelerating cycle of adaptation and maladaptation. One might take a moment to stop and ask oneself how many of our inventions have been created to address the problems caused by previous inventions? But I digress…
What is significant is that with each turning of this cycle, the potential for the diversification of the psyche has increased. Novel environments, combined with novel means for the dissemination of narratives, creating endless bifurcations of culture: from oral transmission to vellum, parchment, printing presses, and so forth – continuing to create new permutations, with the employment of propaganda technologies since the 20th century leading to untold follies and brutalities.
With the increasingly all-encompassing reach of digital media, I sense that aside from the very noticeable way in which the elites of the nascent globalist empire are using them to remould their debt-slave subjects into entirely rootless, mindless, emotionless, genderless automata (‘homo economicus’), it seems that the primary drivers of our degeneracy may now be the technologies in and of themselves. Having perhaps inadvertently enabled some of us to gain a breadth of insight never afforded to our ancestors, and come into contact with those of like mind who one might otherwise never have known of, these communications technologies now also threaten to undermine that which makes us human.
Hence, once you have ‘found the others’, as the (very likely intelligence-service directed) counterculture phrase goes, what should you do with them? Some, it seems, direct their collective energies towards attempting to identify the defining characteristics of those that currently hold the reins of empire, which, depending on the colour of one’s ideological lenses might be any combination of ‘Whites’, ‘Zionists’, ‘Capitalists’, ‘Fascists’, or ‘Liberals’, to name but a few. Such activity, however, seems in many cases to issue from the fallacy that ‘the righteous people’ (whoever those might be within a given belief system) could somehow assume control over the current highly centralised structures and steer them in a manner where their enormous concentrations of power wouldn’t be abused.
Entertaining such a supposition seems to be the primary means by which one can avoid having to examine a fundamentally flawed article of faith: that a centralised civilisation is in any way a viable proposition. I would suggest, meanwhile, that the only means by which true, rather than token sovereignty and dignity can be achieved, is through the development of a radically different culture – one that has decentralised autonomy at its foundation. It would appear, however, that for the vast majority, entertaining the fantasy of imposing their preferred political system through the agency of the state is preferable to embarking upon the long, hard road of building such autonomy. We must, therefore, ‘find the others’ who have come to a point where they are ready to commit themselves to such an undertaking.
And so, finally, on to the question of the word ‘nation’ in National-Anarchism. I would hope that by this point, the reader might be prepared to accept the possibility that it may not mean what they first imagined it to mean. The significance of the word ‘nation’ in this context is a common cause for confusion, which one might argue also functions as a filter for those in whom presumption outweighs curiosity. Whilst a name is ultimately of little significance – for it is the ‘how’ that matters, not the ‘what’ – nonetheless a name is needed to articulate a concept that is foreign to modern minds.
Thus to clarify: in my own conception, and seemingly in the minds of a number of others with whom I associate under the banner of N-AM, the words ‘nation’, ‘folk’ and ‘tribe’ are largely synonymous. The indigenous tribes of North America, for example, employ the term ‘nation’ in this very manner. Meanwhile, the more commonly conceived of idea currently associated with the term, that of ‘the citizens of a nation-state’, is a result of the term having been appropriated by the empire-building impulse described above.
It should quickly become evident to anybody that takes a few moments to engage with our community that we wholeheartedly reject the latter term and all it implies, whilst underlining the critical role of ‘national’ or ‘tribal’ consciousness in human relations. The word nation derives from ‘natio’: to be born (from which we also get the word ‘nature’) and hence points to the fact that the bonds of kinship are far stronger than that of any abstract ideology that centralising elites may foist upon the masses. For they are wrought of the love and respect that in normal conditions, will exist between family members – the frequent absence of which in today’s times is surely a consequence of the wedges which the architects of empire have managed to drive between us.
We appear to find ourselves at a point of transition between two civilizational narratives: the ‘old world order’ of so-called ‘traditional’ authority structures – what was initially simply a sense of duty to one’s kin, over time becoming increasingly coercive with allegiances transplanted onto ruling elites, religion and the state, and enforced by the physical suppression of dissent; and the presently encroaching globalist ‘new world order’ of self-centred, instant gratification and resultant pernicious debt-slavery, brought about through seduction.
Today there are many who strive for a restoration of ‘old world order’ values, whilst seemingly failing to notice how those values constitute a corruption of what they once signified, or indeed how changes in human consciousness have made their corruption inevitable. Meanwhile, those who oppose them usually likewise fail to see how the ‘new world order’ values that they typically espouse amount to much the same thing, albeit in a different flavour: a narrative employed to justify oligarchy – and thus the heart of the matter is never addressed. As Ezra Pound reputedly pointed out, “the technique of infamy is to invent two lies and to get people to argue heatedly over which one of them is true.”
The reason I’ve decided to associate myself with National-Anarchism is because it is the only branch of political discourse I’ve come across prepared to earnestly broach the subject of the role that culture and ethnicity play in how mutualistic associations of sovereign individuals, assembled in the spirit of enlightened self-interest, can organise themselves in resistance to the state-corporate-usury complex. I view the combination of the terms ‘nation’ and ‘anarchy’ as a form of what Hakim Bey calls ‘poetic terrorism’, employing the cognitive dissonance it elicits to reflect on the manner in which political ideology has fragmented the wholeness of the human social ideal. For there is no reason that these principles should be divorced, other than our own rigid preconceptions. One could also see such a juxtaposition serving as a verbal equivalent of the fearsome spirits placed at the entrances of Eastern temples, to deter those whose motivations are insincere; persevering in one’s attempts to understand the significance of the words is a key to uncovering the riches that lie within.
What is being proposed here is much more than simply another form of collectivism. It is a recognition of the inherent need in human beings to both freely associate with others, and to possess a socio-cultural identity. Or, to come at it from another direction, that the co-operation of individuals within communities is a prerequisite for their attaining any degree of autonomy from coercive systems. Further, that in order for these communities to meet their members’ needs, they must seek to uphold the sovereignty of individuals, whilst providing the individuals of which they are made up with a sense of shared destiny. Yet, in our strange times, such a line of enquiry is considered taboo by many who would consider themselves ‘respectable’. It seems that the mere mention of these ideas is sufficient to scramble the mind of such a person, and especially if the community in question is made up of people of European extraction.
With this said, the truth is that making the transition from an atomised, alienated modern existence to one that relies on extensive co-operation with others is no small task. What, then, will it take to midwife such associations into being in this age, given the decay of kin-based social structures and authentic group identity? It has been said in the context of contemporary identity politics that “our macro-politics have gone tribal because our micro-politics are no longer familial.” 1 It might serve to inquire into this statement. An ever larger number of people have grown up in broken families, which in many cases have buckled under the strain of economic pressures and socio-economic propaganda (although, it should be emphasised that in many cultures, the rot had set in a long time prior). As such, a vanishing number of us have a relationship to our extended families that involves significant degrees of economic co-operation, and therefore lack any real understanding of what a strong family unit looks like – the decline of family trades being but one example of this.
It should also be acknowledged that the flight from family-based living situations has been driven by a genuine need for freedom of self-expression in people who are increasingly individuated and therefore at odds with their family’s or culture’s worldview; often manifesting in a seeking out of new opportunities and increased anonymity offered by urban life. Equally, the reality for many has been that their naïveté and vulnerability have been exploited by a ruthless capitalist class, resulting in widespread debt-slavery and alienation, and a culture of mercantile nihilism. And so we find an uncomfortable tension between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ – out of the pan, and into the fire, as it were. It may be that only once we have experienced the degradation of so-called ‘independent’ living for ourselves that we can be truly motivated to realise the potential of a restoration of community, though one built up along somewhat different lines to what we have ourselves known.
If I’m proposing that certain aspects of tribal life are called for in response to our current predicament, then which aspects do I have in mind, and how would one go about putting them into practice? To get right to the root of it, it’s worth pointing out what is likely the most challenging aspect of this question for Westerners: that living as a ‘nation’ demands a strong commitment to the future prosperity of the group and its environs, to the degree of possessing a willingness to place the needs of the ‘nation’ above those of the individual when it is called for. It is likely the case that the inability to make such sacrifices accounts for the failure of most modern ‘intentional communities’, which are overwhelmingly bourgeois or utilitarian in their ethos. In other words, they lack a uniting principle that their members are willing to sacrifice themselves for.
It is quite understandable that this statement may evoke discomfort in some, especially given the manner in which such instincts have historically been exploited by ruling classes. However, what may be most significant here is scale. The notion of ‘Dunbar’s number’ – of 150 being the maximum number of stable human relationships that an average human can sustain, beyond which it is believed that far more regulated forms of social structure are necessary – points to the possibility that human social dynamics are very different when one lives among people to whom one feels a close bond (and presumably, likewise shares a culture with). This doesn’t mean that everyone must be best of friends or indeed self-sacrificing all of the time; simply, that when conflicts or demands do arise, the principle of group unity will tend to give precedence to feelings of animosity or selfishness, since for a sufficient proportion of the group, group unity is of utmost value.
Herein lies the ‘anarchy’ of our ‘nations’: through living in appropriately sized social groups informed by anarchist ethics, we remove the need for rigid hierarchies, thereby allowing individuals to freely find their own niches within the group – including that of the fringe-dweller! It is only in an environment where human social organisation is in alignment with ‘natural order’ (which, I contest, we can only guess at, given our current state of alienation therefrom) that innate intelligence and co-operation can truly unfold, and any kind of effective response to our current predicament ensue. Hence, the answer to all of the other ‘what-if’? questions that are posed in attempting to imagine what such a world would look like on a larger scale is singular: we strive to create conditions that facilitate human intelligence and co-operation, and through this, to increase our ability to respond to whatever challenges we may encounter in the future. Without coherent social units, all other human endeavour is doomed to failure. Whereas if a means is found by which to successfully rebuild community, then it will be a resource available to all. Effective innovations spread rapidly.
The accusations one can expect to be levelled at such an outlook are that it is parochial, insular, inward-looking, small-minded, sectarian, and so on. ‘Tribal’ has become a dirty word; the corollary to this being the idea that more ‘enlightened’ folk have the interests of all of humanity at heart. In most cases, what this amounts to in practice is looking after number one while cheerleading for the murderous globalist project, and feeling a sense of moral superiority in doing so. After centuries of failed utopian politics, enacted in the name of religion, state, or nowadays, ‘the global community’, it would seem to me that what is needed first is to ensure that one’s own house is in order, so to speak, before looking further afield. ‘Anarchy begins at home’.
The Iroquois confederacy provides but one known historical precedent for how decentralised tribal units can co-operate in a broader context; while Proudhon’s ideas for federalism give further hints at how the bigger picture could look. I for one do not propound the fallacy of ‘closed systems’, since they do not appear to exist in a natural state. Meanwhile, natural systems strive for resilience through building diversity and redundancy; I’ll leave it to the reader to determine whether the multiculturalism of the industrialised West constitutes a true diversity or simply a prelude to monoculturalism. What is being sought here is an arrangement which puts the individual, their community, and ‘the world’ in right relationship. I am not suggesting that we ought to mimic tribal lifeways in all areas – only where they constitute an ‘appropriate technology’. And yet, it must be said that we may find that if we allow ourselves to engage with such an avenue of inquiry, the insights may reach further than we had anticipated – Pierre Clastres readers, take note.
Inasmuch as anything is clear with regards to the ‘how’ of this challenge, it seems that the only way I can make any inroads into it is to cultivate real-life relationships with those with whom I share an affinity of culture and values, and likewise very practical things such as dietary requirements (which I might add, are very much influenced by one’s ancestry2), as well as a desire to increase autonomy from the ‘tech-debt-slavery system’. As for how this relates to identity, my own ancestry is spread over a large expanse of northern Europe, and hence no historical identity correlates well with my individual sensibilities. While I feel a strong connection to the broader bioregion and its cultures, having grown up in a repulsive megapolis, there’s no place I can truly call ‘home’. Given that so many of us today are either displaced former or alienated current urbanites, the question of ‘where?’ will in many cases require a good deal of consideration. It’s likely best that this be something of a non-analytical process, to be pursued by divining the degree of resonance between the coalescing group and the places, peoples and cultures that it considers locating itself amidst, through which in turn, a new type of relationship to place can begin to develop.
Furthermore, the group will need to reach a strategic consensus on its economic arrangements – how the provision of its needs is to be achieved and resources delineated, and likewise, depending on the degree of independence sought between individuals or family units, what means it will employ for assigning roles and responsibilities, and resolving conflicts that may arise. My feeling is that there is much to be learned from how anarchic outlaw communities such as pirates and Cossacks managed themselves through vesting authority in ‘codes’, or ‘articles of agreement’. If this worked for the most hot-blooded of men (apart from when it didn’t!), then it might also work for our groups. Historically effective ways of managing collectively-held resources, or commons, should also be studied (see the research of Elinor Ostrom for abundant examples), while the establishment of land trusts is a way of removing land from the realm of market speculation.
As the industrial system that most of us still depend on for survival begins to falter under its own weight (while jettisoning humans in favour of robotics), and our health continues to be eroded through exposure to its pollutants, there is no time to waste. We need to learn how to restore vitality to both our bodies and soils, so that we can access proper nourishment for ourselves (most agricultural soils, even those under organic management, are increasingly bereft of nutrients), and likewise restore habitats for the wild creatures on the lands that we steward. Further, since many of us are already poisoned to varying degrees, it’s crucial to gain an understanding of which toxins have been released into the environment, and how to remove them from the body. The same applies to the mental pollutants and traumas that many of us have taken on. My advice is this: find a way to live and create livelihoods with those that you hold dear, and if you can, do so far enough away from large cities to be in with a decent chance of protecting what you build should the breakdown of society progress rapidly. Developing a shared sense of the sacred is likely essential. And do try to retain your sense of humour as you go about it – it may be one of our most valuable assets.
Territory, shelter, nutrient-dense food, unpolluted soil and water, community, and meaning – all to be protected, cultivated, and passed down the generations. If anything of value is to have a chance of surviving the rising tide of insanity, then such ‘refugia’ must be established rapidly. In all probability it is those that are committed enough to their objective of living as a group, yet flexible enough to question their assumptions around how to attain it who will have most success. Further deteriorations in the quality of life will likely only serve to reinforce the need for such endeavours. And should the Fates smile kindly upon foolhardy humanity and permit us to continue inhabiting this planet, then perhaps such places can provide a seed stock for the proliferation of saner ways of life in times to come. While the detractors of National-Anarchism continue to waste their energies on attempting to discredit us based on intellectual positions that some of our number may or may not have once held, I propose that engaging with this process must be the primary undertaking for those of us who practice the alchemy of continuously transforming our understanding, then applying it to the circumstances at hand. As the alchemists say, ‘festine lente’ – ‘make haste slowly’.
- The Primal Scream of Identity Politics by Mary Eberstadt
- Food, Genes, and Culture: Eating Right for Your Origins by Gary Paul Nabhan