11/10/2011 11:12 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

The New Anarchists

At the same time that many Republicans are calling President Obama a Socialist, the Grand Old Party is becoming indistinguishable from the most radical revolutionary movement in world history.

I refer to Anarchism, the political theory that holds the state to be unnecessary and invidious, a constraint on the freedom of the individual. Sound familiar? You bet it is. The anti-government policies being proclaimed today in the halls of Congress, during Republican Presidential debates, and on the stump, are virtually indistinguishable from those once held by the Anarchists. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain, shake hands with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin.

The word Anarchism derives from the Greek "anarchia" or "anarchos" which means being without a ruler. Anarchists are driven by such fervent hatred of government that they have often practiced political assassination as an extension of their political theory. It was an Anarchist named Leon Czolgosz who shot President William McKinley in 1901 for being an enemy of the people (defending Czolgosz, the Anarchist Emma Goldman compared him to Marcus Junius Brutus, who helped kill Julius Caesar in the Capoitol!).

In much the same way, the Republican party has now become dominated by fanatics who would cut the link between constitutional democracy and individual freedom, and let the government float out to sea. The party of Abraham Lincoln has now abandoned the social conscience that helped it end slavery in the 19th Century, and that impelled it to collaborate in the 20th with Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson in devising programs for the needy. This fall from moderation is an obvious attempt to placate those latter-day Know-Nothings known as the Tea Party, who, again like the Anarchists, have few positive policies, only negatives ones. How else to explain the current Republican craze to slash entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security while doing nothing whatsoever to help Obama provide the jobs that would help do away with entitlements?

Obviously, these New Anarchists are no longer representing the working classes, or even the middle classes, but rather a considerably smaller group of the leisure classes. Right-wing and left-wing are now descriptive more of geographic directions than political positions. Indeed, even the Occupy Wall Street movement, for all its worthy impulses, has Anarchist impulses in its leaderlessness and its absence of specific purpose. Still, right-wing and left-wing Anarchism share the same goals. Government must be prevented from any serious oversight of its citizenry, not to mention of banks and corporations, and (in the case of the New Anarchists) the wealthy must be protected against any threat to their coffers in the form of regulation or taxation. Government entitlements, in short, should now go to the rich rather than the poor, and any executive measures that do not satisfy corporate interests should be scrapped. (Even a one-time moderate like Mitt Romney is now calling for the end of the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment of the Humanities, and Public Broadcasting -- among the few government initiatives promoting free expression, and therefore inevitably the most meagerly supported programs in the entire budget).

The New Anarchists can hardly boast the intellectual power of Proudhon and Bakunin. But they are motivated by the same zeal and, shall we say, the same self-delusion? There is a character in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh named Hugo Kalmar, described as "a one-time editor of Anarchist periodicals." He claims to love only the proletariat, the "leedle peoples," and speaks of providing them with free hot dogs and wine under the willow trees. In a drunken moment, however, he blurts out, "I vill lead them! I vill be like a Gott to them! They vill be my slaves."

O'Neill was an expert on illusions. What would he have said about these new radicals in our midst, and their pretense to be representing the anti-government impulses of the American people while serving only corporate interests and their own thirst for political power?

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