“The goal of Anarcho-Syndicalism is not to destabilize our infrastructure then let people fend for themselves, but to create new power structures that are run by the people from the bottom up within the shell of the old society. This will replace need for things provided by hierarchical institutions. The goal is worker control of the means of production and resident control of our housing and community infrastructure.”
A king by any other name is still a king. The Czar was a Russian Caesar. I saw this on the Facebook page of a friend who is dead sure the answer is some sort of secular, anarchistic, socialist utopia. The full flowering of a topsy-turvy world where the gods are each of us and we can fully follow our every whim and bliss safe from offense, triggers, or aggressions. Nobody will be a wage slave. Everything will be owned in common, there will be no more poor or rich, and it’ll be Mao’s Cultural Revolution without the genocide or vicious persecution of dissenters. It’ll be huge.
It’s a fantasy of some, that letting the proletariat be the philosopher king will remove their misery and thus solve the perceived source of the troubles. I’ll get to why that’s a problem in a bit.
If everything is beige, everyone has the same house, the same car, the same clothes, has memorized a 50 page manifesto setting forth a vision of a perfect society written by that peasant philosopher king it’ll be the Kingdom Resurrected promised in Revelations without all that annoying religiosity.
Hello. My name is Alan Webb and I am an asshole. I have friends. We don’t give a flying fuck about your bleeding heart desire to flatten our Technicolor, fucked up world into something more amenable to you. We are deeply suspicious of your idea of making one of us your ideal, philosopher king. Our Solomon will be doing a hard 15 years for tormenting a tweener kept captive by forcing the child to become a heroin addict after he gets out of the infirmary. Our world went to shit somewhere around age 3 and has not improved. Much money was spent on us treating our mental illness. We have our meds. We don’t always take our meds. We do have them. We did John Bradshaw and got our bronze 12 step medal. Then we relapsed and spent a few more months in county jail for maliciously wounding Solomon.
We know something about your itches for a more perfect world. They fail. They fail because of us. They fail because the leadership assumes the source of the world’s ills are external to the spiritual condition and character of those who live in it. It’s the white man who is oppressing the black man. It is men who are oppressing women. It is evil rich who have too much so there isn’t enough for that doe-eyed child on TV who just wants a cup of rice. The doe-eyed child who was on TV in 1975 and I was 16. It is the banks, it is the corporations, it is the government, it is some other that is the cause of the miseries and if we could just fix that other we would be fine.
We have a name for your explanation of the cause of evil afoot in the world: codependency. My favorite definition of codependency is demanding that some other must be ok in an amenable manner so that you can be ok. I and my friends are not ok and not going to be ok in any amenable way. You are not going to be ok if your ability to be ok depends on us.
The Romans killed Jesus of Nazareth at the request of Jesus’ church leadership. His own rabbis demanded his death. The narrative of the Old Testament is of a loving God who tries everything to get his people to come correct. He gives them judges, he gives them a king, a string of kings, he sends prophets, many of whom his people kill (murdering the messenger is an old tradition), he sends them into Egypt to weather out a famine and then when they become enslaved, he frees them. Everything God tries to get his people to be loving, servant folk is effective up to a point. There is always that consistent minority of hot messes who keep fucking up–us.
The last thing left is grace. The only path forward is forgiveness. God could not get us to behave in an amenable manner. His only choice was to forgive, to die for our sins and begin again with a ragtag bunch of dissident Jews. Do you really think that a political philosophy based on a few sentences in the book of Acts, denuded of its context, is the more perfect world you seek? It’d be like castrating a man, eating his testicles and expecting to become pregnant. It’s kind of how you get pregnant. His semen is in you. But in the wrong place and being consumed as food. Socialism, anarchism, and such, are foolish attempts at creating a utopia without God, without love, without 5,000 years of wisdom in the Bible. It’s kind of how you build a better society but in the wrong place and denuded of the things that make it work.
The hard truth is this. Any political system, whether bottom up or top down, is going to need decision makers who will arbitrate disputes and award resources. These become kings and barons regardless of what you call them or which caste they were drawn from. They hold power over resources and pick winners in disputes. They must of necessity set policy which gains the weight of law. I don’t care whether your community coordinator is a gal who is lesbian, latino of Nigerian and Mayan ancestry and a life time member of the Revolutionary Communist Party or a star in the Young Republicans. Dynasties that carefully manage who rises to the throne still encounter randomness and kings (queens) who turn out to be assholes.
The demands of the position will mean that they will face impossible choices which will attract dissent. The problem isn’t the leader or the political system. The problem is us. These appointed community coordinators (barons) are broken like me and my friends. We love to say that the position does not make the man. The character of the man, his heart, is crucial. I’m no fan of Jacob’s Ladder, of 19th Century ideas about manifest destiny and piety equating to social standing. The primitive man who turns out to be wise and the high caste idiot are both well-known archetypes. We have a Harvard Law professor for a president who was given every advantage and is every bit a brown skinned blue blood. He is the penultimate Messiah for the left. His answer has been to become a bigger, more authoritarian pimp daddy.
I hear the itch to take a member of the proletariat, an unwashed mass, and make him a king. It’s not the bloodline or the education that makes a good community coordinator. It’s the heart of the man. If you take someone like us, the hot messes, and leapfrog them up the ladder with their mess, you don’t get a clean leap. The mess comes with them. Then, shocker, their leadership is reflective of not just them, it is also reflective of their mess, just more of it. It is a fantasy of fools that somehow it’ll be better if you take the kinda scary and snarky cab driver you met last night on the way home from the bar and make him a king. That snarky cab driver and his hard life lived fast and loud, isn’t improved by putting him in charge of the harem and the pantry. Yes, he’ll have more pussy and more food and more of whatever, but . . . all that does is crank up the volume on the things that make him snarky.
What was so genius about Christ is that he realized the answer lay within our hearts. It is the most democratic answer possible. Don’t worry about changing the body seated on the throne or the governing political philosophy or the law. Change the hearts of everyone. Get them to adhere to some simple, timeless ways of life.
But . . . whatever. Diddling around the edges with a few policy changes and making a member of the proletariat the king will just perpetuate the monster we have in our current government. “create new power structures within the shell of the current society” are pretty words written on wind and water. They are all emo and feel great. As a strategy for making America great the way you want it great they are smoke & mirrors. And the king said, “Baby I love you,” and we believed him. We know how that goes.