There’s an old military term, not used much nowadays, called “counter-scorch”. Counter-scorch operations were traditionally conducted by small units sent behind enemy lines not to destroy things but to preserve them from retreating armies, or vengeful mobs, bent on a scorched earth policy or just mindless destruction. A squad of paratroopers, for example, would be air landed to seize a strategic bridge before it got blown up or an armoured column sent ahead to protect a site of particular cultural or historical significance. In our age of “creative destruction”, however, such considerations are rarely taken into account unless it coincides with the interests of war profiteers. Oil ministry buildings are protected while museums and archaeological sites are allowed to be looted.
As National Revolutionaries, we face a similar conundrum: which institutions do we preserve and which do we allow to be razed to the ground? Do we allow neo-liberal Shock Doctrinarians to gut public institutions and enclose what is left of the commons, or do we fight back with a counter-scorched earth campaign?
Some revolutionaries of a more libertarian persuasion have replaced the outdated left/right dichotomy with an equally Manichaean concept of “statist/non-statist”, the former being absolutely evil and the latter completely desirable & good. Personally, I think the “statist/non-statist” distinction is as useless as the “left/right” one because it doesn’t acknowledge the nuanced blend of possible & existing solutions.
For decentralization to make any sense at all- and libertarians claim an affinity for local solutions- you have to acknowledge the possibility that people of a given locality or region may freely choose a different political or economic model than pure anarchism/libertarianism. All over the world, there are genuine grassroots movements opposing privatization, especially of water supply, transportation and energy grids. In my own area, folks have mobilized against the selling off of a publicly-owned regional bus line. I suppose that makes them “statists” in a narrow sense but local history, culture, geography & environment, as well as sheer practicality, may dictate that a “public option” is the best solution for a particular problem in a given area.
As the modern state becomes less coherent and unified, it would be a mistake to equate a government bureaucrat charged with providing, say, low-income housing or free medical care with another engaged in secret police work. But to libertarian or anarchist puritans, both are equally evil and no grey areas are to found between. That’s why libertarians who have migrated en masse to New Hampshire for their Free State Project have been known to harass elderly school-crossing guards or subject low-level municipal employees with endless frivolous lawsuits. With their sense of proportion completely out of whack- equating town clerks with SWAT team members- they begin acting like obnoxious West Bank settlers, pushing their weight around and alienating the local native population. A small minority of tone-deaf libertarians, anarchists, “sovereign individuals”, “freemen” etc… have replicated this behaviour in other parts of North America, much to the disservice of the majority who tend to be cool individuals with a truly libertarian “live-and-let-live“ attitude.
What is missing from the statist/anti-statist debate is the possibility of a “third way”: namely a “staggered collapse” of the System. The Nation of Islam, for example, is well known for its hostility towards the US Government & its imperialist policies at home & abroad. Yet an NOI-affiliated security company worked under contracts funded by the department of Housing and Urban Development, showing that Black Muslims- unlike some extreme libertarians- can actually differentiate between HUD and Delta Force or a social worker from an FBI agent!
Black Muslims want to cushion their people from the System’s collapse, not send elderly grandmothers and cancer patients into the streets in the name of ideological purity. The state has many legs and Revolutionary Preservationists such as the NOI selectively kick those legs that form a clear & present danger and bypass those that don’t. Sort of like “island hopping”, to use another military analogy… In some ways, Revolutionary Preservationists are similar to the “retro-progressives” of the Great Depression era who supported the domestic New Deal but were also staunch isolationists opposed to FDR’s warmongering.
Coincidently, this is exactly the opposite position taken by “small government” neocons & Tea Party types who love overseas & military ‘pork barrel’ spending but begrudge spending a single dollar on internal improvements or on a civilized social safety net. I once heard an especially odious neocon radio host say that he strongly supported wasting billions of dollars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan because that ultimately meant less for Americans at home… all based on the Calvinist logic that this deprivation would somehow make wicked & lazy US citizens more ‘virtuous’.
This harsh, punishing Calvinist mentality also infuses the thinking of those who believe desperate conditions would actually further the revolution; that social cuts will get people off their asses and into the streets. Yet this is not often the case. Revolutions tend to occur in times of rising expectations, when conditions improve somewhat and people feel more empowered. In her memoirs, former Empress of Iran Farah Pahlavi wrote about how stunned she was that improvements in living standards and other concessions actually incited more revolutionary fervour and led to the eventual downfall of the Shah.
If looked at fairly, national-revolutionaries are not really poles apart from genuine, thinking libertarians. Neither of us want individual expression suppressed nor do we want a huge monolithic nanny state poking its nose in all our affairs. But sometimes libertarians suffer from a lack of imagination on both potential threats and potential solutions.
On the threat side, they often downplay the insidious role of corporations because, to them, private is always “good” and public is always “bad”. But even staunch libertarians like the great Murray Rothbard was forced to concede that multigenerational financial & corporate elites are the true power behind the State’s throne. Neo-liberal moves to further deregulate, privatize and outright seize public institutions (i.e. the Kelo decision) can be seen, as Naomi Klein pointed out in The Shock Doctrine, as the final accumulation of corporate power over the lives of the people.
On the solution side, this lack of imagination manifests itself in the inability to admit how often the privatization and deregulation of public institutions leads to higher costs, reduced service and damaging job loss. The market isn’t always right: the classic example of this being the infamous Montana Power Debacle , when a stunningly successful public utility was thrown to the corporate wolves in the 1990s. A mixed economy with a robust social safety net need not infringe upon individual rights- indeed, it may enhance them! Guaranteed annual income schemes- advanced not only by hardcore socialists & other lefties but also by a lone right-libertarian, Charles Murray- could provide both economic justice for all and a climate conducive to entrepreneurial risk taking– as well as eliminate the need for big welfare bureaucracies and their culture of dependence.
So as Revolutionary Preservationists we recognize that the system can be collapsed in a staggered, ad hoc manner. Certain benign state institutions- according to the popular will- can & should be preserved, while harmful ones ought to be disbanded or attacked. Nuanced and realistic solutions are at the core of decentralization, not ideological combat over statist vs. non-statist. A solution has to work for real people, not for the sake of some abstract ideology of either left or right.
Don’t forget to order a copy of Alexander Dugin’s new book Fourth Political Theory from our store if you’d like to show support for our work here at Open Revolt! If you have a copy already, don’t worry, there’s all sorts of other work of interest for today’s revolutionary!