Bay Area National Anarchists: An Interview with Andrew Yeoman, Part 1
TOQ Online: Anarchism is an idea familiar to all but understood by only a few. The term conjures up images of foreign-looking people hurling spluttering cherry bombs at Tsars and industrialists. What is anarchism, and in what sense are National Anarchists anarchists?
Andrew Yeoman: In my opinion anarchism is most easily understood in terms of the Greek origin of the word: anarch. An anarch is defined as a sovereign individual. Ernst Jünger used a famous analogy, “the Anarch is to the anarchist, what the monarch is to the monarchist,” to describe this idea. So anarchism is about the pursuit of sovereignty, individual and collective.
Classical anarchism has evolved into anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-capitalism, green anarchism, anarcho-primitivism, etc. All of these tendencies hold that government and capitalism do more harm to people than good. Thus anarchists are united in attempting to envision an organic form of society without the state. Note also that nearly all of these form of anarchism focus on alternative ways of organizing the economy.
TOQ Online: In what sense is National Anarchism nationalist?
Andrew Yeoman: While ideologically a National Anarchist agrees with the anarchist criticism of government and capitalism, what makes us different is that economic concerns are of secondary importance to the individual’s primary loyalty to his or her cultural, ethnic, and ethical identity. In the context of the vast social pathologies of global capitalism National Anarchism provides tactics and strategies to foster autonomy amidst adversity.
Another way of think of National Anarchism is in terms of a tribal society. A tribal society upholds certain values, ways of life, and territorial integrity that are inviolable. The community bonds of a tribal society are stronger than capitalism due to the fact that the primary activity of society is not solely based on buying and selling commodities but realizing the higher value of religious, traditional, or political aims.
There are certain principles however that must be held to promote the National Anarchist path of ethnic survivalism: demanding a decentralization of political power, refusing to support government mandated multiculturalism, advocating the autonomy of all nationalities, and morally supporting freedom of association for all people that do not act to harm other people.
This cultural imperative makes National Anarchism different from both anarchism and nationalism yet brings both traditions together in a way designed to genuinely respect other tribes, embrace one’s own, and provide the community necessary to help individuals rediscover a lost cultural heritage.
TOQ Online: When and where did National Anarchism first appear? Who are its creators?
Andrew Yeoman: National Anarchism developed in the late 1990s, and the term was used simultaneously by Troy Southgate (England), Peter Töpfer (Germany), and Hans Cany (France). Richard Hunt is also an early influence on what was to be called National Anarchism in the 1980s.
The most well-known ideologist of National Anarchism is Troy Southgate, who had a long career in the National Front in the 1980s and other organizations including a role with the Third Positionist movement. Southgate was the first to take the ideas of the French New Right developed by Alain de Benoist and others and apply them to creating a vision of a society that does not rely on capitalism or traditional nationalism (which is primarily motivated by loyalty to the nation-state) to achieve the goal of ethnic and cultural survival.
National Anarchist ideas also came to fruition in the atmosphere of intense persecution for racialist beliefs in Europe, and an important side benefit of the ideology was to provide a solution to the extremely restrictive debate allowed on issues of race in European countries. Besides developing the means of avoiding government prosecution, the ideology encourages a more positive or diplomatic approach with other nationalities on common goals.
The National Anarchist movement existed mostly online, except for a small group in England called the National Revolutionary Faction which disbanded in 2000. National Anarchists were involved in street demos in London in 1999, which took the form of a protest against a proposed cinema multiplex in Crystal Palace, where the National Anarchists infiltrated a group of radical greens.
The most influential National Anarchist street protest was led by Welf Herfurth in Australia in 2007 at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) demonstration in Sydney. For the first time in 30 years a nationalist contingent made a presence at a street protest in Australia which has been dominated by Left wing organizations for as long as anyone can remember.
Starting in 2007, the Bay Area National Anarchists began street protests in California in support of anti-war campaigns, against child endangerment, illegal immigration, Israel, and other issues. Although there was an initial wave of interest in National Anarchism in the late 1990s up until 2001, it was not until BANA began a sustained campaign of street protests that the movement came to exist in North America beyond the internet.
In 2008 Troy Southgate agreed with my proposition that “Tribal Anarchism” is a slightly more accurate description of the goals of the movement. However the term National Anarchism continues to be the most common way of describing the movement.
TOQ Online: For more than a century now, the left has had both statist and anarchist tendencies. It strikes me that the primary focus of left anarchists has been the creation of new forms of community while the focus of the statists has been the seizure of state power, either through overthrowing the state through revolution or by gaining representation through electoral means. For the statists, all forms of social organization under the present system are subordinated to the goals of acquiring state power.
Within nationalist circles, the main focus is certainly on the acquisition of state power, by election or revolution. How do National Anarchists respond to the idea that the primary focus should be the acquisition of state power, and that creating new forms of community within the present system is a waste of time unless it is all directed toward the goal of acquiring state power?
Andrew Yeoman: There are a number of important points to consider about power and state power in particular. For the purpose of this question will assume Lenin’s view that the state is a weapon of collective will.
The important thing to remember that state power is not the only weapon available. Since state power is not the only form of power, other forms of community organizing must be understood and acquired. There are, for example, cultural power, economic power, and institutional power. Traditionally these have been more powerful than the state, if only because they are more effective at achieving social cohesion.
For the ideology of National Anarchism the short answer is that the power of the state is less important to us than other forms of power, and the acquisition of state power is essentially unimportant to the success of turning the tide of forces arranged to enslave our people. National Anarchists believe that the current system is corrupt beyond hope of salvation.
On the basis of this belief it is clear that the focus should not be representation in the state but strengthening the communities of like-minded people who believe in these ideas and who see their survival as incompatible with the existence of the current forms of government representation.
National Anarchists see no evidence that the previous 40 to 60 years of nationalist positions on political issues will be achieved within the current liberal democratic system. For someone with a political agenda to say they want state power, yet they have no means of achieving that power, reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how political processes work.
For us in the Bay Area the choice is clear: if we want to achieve any success among a rapidly declining demographic group we must seize the initiative on the cultural front, which means creating a social movement in which achieving power outside official government channels. Building a social movement is the necessary precondition to any sort of influence in the communities we live in.
With this strategy we disregard the state in all our affairs, except for those policies which we criticize in order to subvert the support for the state in our area. We work to establish zones of influence, so-called National Autonomous Zones, that create the time and space where our ideals are put into practice with the people with whom we consider kinsmen. When enough people organize themselves with a will to act collectively without the approval of the state, government power becomes essentially meaningless.
The goal of National Anarchist community work is to inspire our people to act in a constructive, meaningful, and social manner that gets the consent of our people to legitimately speak on behalf of the communities we represent. This is where old school nationalists, for a variety of reasons, have failed to make their cause appeal to a wider audience.
There are also fundamentally deeper reasons to not care about seizing government power based on recent trends of metapolitical warfare. The reasons for this are the proliferation of non-state actors in a globalized world socio-economic system.
Different thinkers have come to recommend different strategies in order to respond to these contingencies. People like Troy Southgate in England advocate that individuals quietly develop invisible or black economies and networks of influence in local communities. In America the Bay Area National Anarchists have made a name for ourselves through noisy protests.
Seeking political power through election or revolution this is actually the path of failure. As intelligence analyst John Robb recently commented on Maoist insurgencies:
Stay on the twentieth-century path of insurgency that demands: political cohesion, control of land, replacement of the government with another government, and you will eventually fail. Go commercial, black market, open source, focus on disruption, etc. and you will thrive.
I believe this is the correct strategy. Make the objective to disrupt the status quo through an increasing number of campaigns and demonstrations of militancy while at the same time building our own cultural, economic, and institutional power, until the policies of the system can be reversed locally, either openly or discretely, to our folk’s benefit.