Help Us Develop “Even Lower Rings Of Hell”

This week we celebrated the 12th anniversary since the founding of the Center for a Stateless Society. It’s been a wild ride, with many ups and downs. But somehow we’ve managed to build one of the most successful sites of anarchist discourse since the journal Liberty shuttered in 1908. We have become, as weird as it is, something of an institution.

A weird and fractious institution filled with quite varying perspectives — as the symposiums we have hosted on property, democracy, and antifascism only highlight. But a convivial institution nonetheless. I like to think of us as a walled monastery where defectors from ideological war machines can escape to, to collaborate in wide discussion while keeping our principles and conscience.

There is an unspoken mantra particularly popular in this era that goes something like this,

There are only two teams and the enemy team can never have or stumble upon good ideas or valid critiques. Anything that pisses off the enemy team is good, and the more it pisses them off the better it is. Any point that could be used rhetorically by the enemy team is bad.

We dissent.

Two years ago, while we were celebrating our ten year anniversary, a self-proclaimed “libertarian” organization released a video of a talk wherein Walter Block, a founder of “Libertarians for Trump” and apologist for eminent domain[1], declared that we deserved “an even lower ring of hell” and the “race realist” Hans Hermann Hoppe proclaimed us to their audience as, “Our biggest enemies.”[2]

We deserve such virulent condemnation and focus, they argued, because of our apostasy, because we had the gall to read their holy books and still find them wanting, to continue the investigations of certain historical figures beyond where they stopped. Such ire is hardly new, but has rained constantly upon us over the last decade from reactionary elements in both the tribes of libertarianism and the left.

One doesn’t have to reach very far to find absurd denouncements of us as fascists or bolsheviks because we have the temerity to consistently oppose power regardless of the flag it flies. We pose a danger precisely because our mere existence overturns the false dichotomies so many wish to impose.

We think more is needed to cultivate and undergird a freed society than a simplistic checklist of obvious property violations. We think compassion and intolerance for all modes of exploitation or domination obliges solutions coherent with those values, never through the guns of the state. We believe in markets not out of some elaborate self-delusion that the privileges and norms of our economy would continue and be strengthened without the subsidy of the state’s systemic violence, but because the entire promise of markets is their unparalleled capacity to satiate and fulfill all. We believe in egalitarian relations not out of some leveling collectivism that would discard and ridicule individual liberty in the interest of simplistic abstract conflicts and their would-be managers, but precisely because we recognize the interdependence of our freedom with that of others.

We are apostates, loudly denounced as corruptors and entryists by all sides. And yet we are winning.

On March 20th, 2003, while locked down to a bridge protesting the invasion of Iraq, I took the time to engage with a nutty counter-protester from the Free State Project wearing a sandwich board. While the cops endlessly circled preparing to bust heads the two of us argued into the wee hours of the morning. While he was wrong on many issues, I engaged with him in good faith and ultimately came away unsettled by some of his points. I thought myself a good leftist, a good anarcho-communist, but I was infected by a need to turn into the uncomfortable, to hold my beliefs to the flames of contrary perspectives, even those of the most absurd out-group. And so when I got home I stayed awake the whole night reading the texts of the Out Group. And suddenly I was reading Hayek and Mises and Coase and Ostrom and Rothbard and Friedman and Konkin and so on. Hungering to find new hard questions to ask myself from every angle. When I finally emerged from that crucible I found myself without a home. If few on either side had taken it upon ourselves to sneak across ideological borders and trade ideas with The Enemy, fewer still had survived the patrols, the immigration police, and the wall-builders.

In the years since I’ve watched a handful of solitary exiled voices marooned in the wilderness find each other and then become a community of dozens and then a broader milieu of thousands.

The Center for a Stateless Society has become the flagship of this renegade fleet, a symbolic center for an ever growing centerless network.

On average we take in no more than a few hundred dollars each month from small donations.

But we spend that money producing features and editorials every month. We’ve built contacts and respect that has gotten our editorials published in countless newspapers in countries around the world. We do translations into 15 other languages and publish regular original commentary in Portuguese and Spanish, with a full translation of Studies In Mutualist Political Economy just released. Markets Not Capitalism was published seven years ago and in the time since has had a significant impact upon radical political discourse; today we have nearly half a dozen other books in production. We publish lengthy detailed studies and facilitate symposiums. We mass produce zines and booklets for distribution and table at activist and academic events around America. We give talks and serve on panels at countless conferences.

We do all this on next to nothing.

Imagine what we could do with more.

Political discourse right now is hopelessly tribal. Good ideas get locked up in protective fortresses and echo chambers, suspicious and hostile to anything that smacks of The Other. We have one of the most astonishing track records in the world at tearing down these walls and in their remains cultivating the best insights from either tradition, growing a sprawling garden toward liberty.

Every month we scrimp and cut corners, our core staff sometimes paying what they can out of their own cobwebbed pockets to keep the ship afloat. We’re not going anywhere. But every dollar donated allows us to go that much further. We’re working hard to get central texts translated into dozens of languages where left market anarchism or even anarchism have no real presence. We’re working to get our books into libraries around the world. And we’re working to pull in more diverse or international contributors and facilitate conferences and seminars. There are different ways you can volunteer or contribute, but many of these undertakings fundamentally require money.

If you like the work that we do, if you want to see radical politics unafraid of discourse and engagement outside tightly policed tribes, but still capable of drawing consistent principled lines, please consider donating today. We have a lot of exciting new projects lined up, but a lot more that we could take on with the right funding.

1. https://c4ss.org/content/36897

2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzfm9O7TcW8

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist