Make Anarchism Great Again: A Call for a Stateless Form of Populism

Something very stupid is happening in America. People have never been more disgusted with their bullshit form of government and yet they’ve never been more devoted to engaging in the partisan bullshit that defines it. It is a weird hot mess of bipolar enlightenment and social lunacy that quite frankly baffles me. Poll after poll after poll shows voter disenchantment with America’s rust-rotten two-party oligarchy to be at an all-time high, especially among young voters, and yet voter turnout in recent elections has been higher than it’s been in decades, especially among those same wisely disenchanted young voters.

What in the high holy fuck is going on here? The state has clearly flunked every existential test of faith you can possibly conceive of, from Covid to climate change, but the same kids with a front-row seat to these epic gorings just keep on lining up to ride that feral bull. This is precisely the kind of polluted ecosystem that should be ripe as rabies for another rise in anarchism, but no one can seem to relate to salvation. So, they lose themselves in the electoral market for saviors instead.

Some of this sickness is just good old-fashioned partisan hysteria. While people may be increasingly aware that both parties are in league with psychopaths, as long as one party can convince them that the other party is just a little bit more psychopathic than they are then they can frighten them into voting to stop the other guy’s serial killers with serial killers of their own, so long as they can convince them that their own serial killers have a slightly lower body count. It’s a degenerative mental disorder in the form of a time-honored American pass time known as the lesser of two evils. Vote Bundy and keep that rancid cannibal Dahmer out of the White House!

But even this national disease isn’t quite malignant enough to explain America’s growing gulf between disenchantment and engagement. To grasp this maddening conundrum, you really have no choice but to consult the American voter’s mortal enemy- history. America isn’t the first liberal democracy to go down with the ship of a failed state with dry land in sight. This is pretty much what liberal democracies do, but they usually require the narcotic of authoritarian populism to keep their passengers sedated as they drown. The pop historians on the New York Times Review of Books junket would have you believe that authoritarian populism is some kind of rejection of their precious liberal values, but the truth is actually quite the opposite.

Liberalism is little more than a grand authoritarian illusion itself. You keep a nation of perpetual children so dazzled by such a wide array of shiny choices that they fail to realize that every door leads to the same prize of total state control. It’s just fascism in a wide variety of festive colors to match your mood. At the end of the day, it is always the same cartel of elitist pigs on top while we the people are free only to decide from a diverse array of scraps at their feet.

When people finally catch on to this charade and sooner or later, they almost always do, the illusion of safety is always the first fairy tale to fall. People realize that there is no real invisible blue line to keep them from knocking off the local liquor store and things get a little nuts before they can eventually stabilize. The ensuing chaos, however temporary, mixed with the recognition of liberal impotence that fostered it tends to leave desperate people thirsty for supermen to save them from what the state has groomed them to fear most- themselves.

It is from this primordial gumbo of shattered dreams that the authoritarian populist arises to save the day, usually in the shape of some folksy messiah preaching about the need to show those evil elites who’s boss. They can come from the right or the left. They have taken the form of fist-swinging daddy figures like Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini, and they have taken the form of softer patriarchs like FDR and Bernie Sanders. But here’s the rub- they are all owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by the same goddamn elites that they pretend to confront while the cameras are rolling.

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but this is how they all magically rise to power through the same crooked system they supposedly oppose, and this is why their solutions to a failed state always seem to take the form of consolidating more power into that same fucking state. When the illusion of democracy fails, the elites double down on the authoritarianism that has always lurked quietly just behind its facade, and they use the language of populism to convince the masses that this was really their idea all along.

But this isn’t to say that language is bad in and of itself. Populism at its very core is essentially just a form of class consciousness that exists beyond the confines of the left-right paradigm. It is an untapped well of righteous rage that comes from generations of being robbed and just because the state has become adept at tapping into this raw fury doesn’t mean that it can’t or shouldn’t be tapped into for the purposes of smashing that state. In fact, I believe that the failure of anarchists to do just that is precisely why we have been effectively rendered into such a tragically marginal force. It didn’t use to be this way.

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, anarchism wasn’t just a force to be reckoned with, it was the force to be reckoned with. For about forty years, we were the premier threat to elite omnipotence worldwide and we embodied this threat because we embodied the voice of the poor. Anarchists dominated the Labor Movement back when it was still a black-market phenomenon. We went to war with the coal barons of Appalachia and gave their National Guard goons a run for their money at Blair Mountain. We walked autocrats across the expanse of every colonial powerhouse in the Western World and the threat we posed to the system is the only reason why workers in this country are afforded any human rights whatsoever. The elites had to fork over the eight-hour workweek just to keep their necks out of the guillotine. So, what fucking happened?

A couple of things. The first was that the state hijacked populism and the second is that anarchists gave it up and turned the revolution into a hobby rather than a struggle. Today’s average American leftist gives credit to the Teamsters and Franklin Delano Roosevelt for everything working-class anarchists died to achieve, but all these thugs really did was Disneyfy the Labor Movement and make it just another flaccid appendage of the state that it was built to burn. Sure, factory workers were given tokens of state privilege like health benefits and basic human dignity but how long did that last? Just long enough for the Labor Movement to lose its fangs by the time FDR’s conveniently centralized state sold their jobs to China while the Teamsters stood by whistling with their fists in their pockets.

In the meantime, anarchists lost all touch with the poor as we slowly lost ourselves up our own assholes in the echo chambers of academia. Let’s face it dearest motherfuckers, today’s average self-proclaimed anarchist is a snot-nosed college brat who is more concerned with the abstractions of theory and dogma than how any of that shit is ever supposed to translate on the streets where it can do any real damage. We need to drop the fucking thesaurus and get back to the basics here. I love knocking out the teeth of Proud Boys as much as the next genderfuck faggot but without proper context, this just amounts to little more than schoolyard larping.

The first thing that anarchists need to realize is that they don’t need to radicalize the poor, if anything, we need to let the poor radicalize us. Your average blue-collar trailer park urchin and the inner-city round-the-corner girl don’t need to be told that they’re getting fucked and could care less about feckless labels like anarcho-capitalist or anarcho-communist. Your average all-American peasant smokes dope, carries a gun, cheats on their taxes if they pay them at all and openly dreams about shooting their boss and lynching their landlord. In other words, your average American peasant is already a fucking anarchist. The only thing initiated brats like me really need to do is wake them the fuck up to this fact and get them to realize that they are the only master they will ever need to throw the illusion of state power off their backs once and for all.

The second thing that anarchists need to realize is that the age of the proletariat is over. Between automation and offshoring, the American factory worker is an endangered species that no longer represents the needs of the unwashed masses. America is rapidly becoming a two-class society and the only other class besides the bourgeoisie is the lumpenproletariat- the underemployed and unpoliticized outsider- your drifters, fry cooks, basket cases, unhoused and ex-cons. The biggest issue to organize this class around is not labor but housing or rather the lack thereof.

There are millions of voiceless Americans experiencing homelessness in this country and millions more like myself who are perpetually just one crisis away from joining them on the streets. This is a growing community with nothing left to lose and everything to gain. Let’s arm them to the teeth. Let’s organize militias, autonomous tent cities, free stores and squats. Let’s target slumlords, real estate moguls, gentrification and eminent domain with the same righteous ferocity that we do the Alt-Right. And as the rest of the subjects of this rapidly disintegrating empire inevitably finds themselves inching closer to the black hole of the housing crisis, let’s watch Donald Trump and John Fetterman try to convince them that the state is a vehicle for populism that isn’t headed off a fucking cliff.

Let’s embrace the stateless side of populism and make anarchism great again, dearest motherfuckers, because the American system is already fucked and all we’ve ever really had to survive it is each other and that’s what anarchism is really all about, that heavy love of the masses against those bastard elites who play us for chumps. We’re the only ones who can show them who’s boss but we’re never going to do it unless we burn down the factory itself and build something better on the ashes.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.