Those who refer to MAGA Republicans are mistaken. MAGA is not Republican. MAGA is right-wing anarchy. Historically, anarchists have been associated with the political left-wing; indeed, there are avowed left-wing anarchists. However, the left- and right-wing meet at their extremes, and both are subject to forms of anarchy that directly lead to authoritarianism.
MAGA’s anarchy was on full display January 6, 2021, the storming of our nation’s capital by a violent mob. This act of insurrection was not wholly successful, nor was Trump’s attempt to retain control over our government. Although Trump and his minions temporarily disrupted the peaceful transfer of power, and Trump tried to overturn the election through efforts to coerce state officials like Brad Raffensberger in Georgia, the MAGA revolution stalled. Lacking support from the military and without any real administrative plans, Trump’s MAGA-Anarchy was doomed to failure. We have not reached the end of this spectacle, however.
At its core, anarchy advocates personal freedom as an absolute, extreme libertarian view, and rejects control of individuals by the state or any of its institutions. It’s roots run deeper, though, because freedom is a natural trait of all animal life.
Within environmental and physical constraints, all animals are inherently free to move, act, communicate, and pursue their natural “right of survival.” Accordingly, the animal world is generally in a state of anarchy, which is to say, subject to the independently free actions of living things and their interactions with each other and the environment. Even non-animals behave this way; both bacteria and viruses embody natural freedom to “do their own thing”; think Covid-19. In the case of human beings, freedom includes thought, imagination, and intellect, and it is from this rational side that anarchy as a philosophy emerged.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, both individuals and political parties identified themselves as anarchist. This was, in part, a reaction to the results of rapid industrialization and its effects: the designation of a working class – labor – and the rise of capitalism as a dominant economic political order. It was in this environment, combined with the growing impacts of scientific materialism, that in Das Kapital Karl Marx identified class struggle over the control of the means of production as the engine of history; his observations mirrored the rise of the bourgeoisie, what we call capitalists. Originally the anarchist movements became closely identified with the communist revolution but were subsequently rejected and ejected by the communist state’s growing bureaucracy and its demand for absolute power.
In large part, the anarchist movements were reacting to increasingly dehumanized conditions brought about by technology, industrialization, and the fragmentation of society. Increased reliance upon material wealth – commodities – engendered its own social and psychological problems; the separation of people from the land, meaningful work, and kinship communities, combined with strict adherence to “clock time,” commodification of labor, and life within filthy, crowded cities bred widespread unhappiness, loneliness, and crime.
It was in light of these conditions that Sigmund Freud published Civilization and Its Discontents in1930, an examination of the psychological price paid for repressing personal drives and freedoms to conform to the demands of civilization. And yet, “Most people do not really want freedom,” he observed, “because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
The psychological price of modernity remains an ongoing issue. Guy Debord, in his 1967 book Society of the Spectacle, described the way modern industrialized society turns humanity to spectators, disconnected and separated from the activity of real life and each other. The resultant “spectacle” he noted, fabricates power of its own which imposes a false reality upon culture, one that completely captures attention and creates its own truth, imposing itself “as the tangible par excellence….the world of the commodity dominating all that is lived.” So much, he concludes, for freedom; and it has only gotten worse.
Eric Fromm, in 1994, examined some of the same ideas in his book, Escape From Freedom. In it, he examined the ways in which freedom creates great psychological and emotional difficulty in people; for many, coping with freedom produces such powerful anxiety that they instead turn to authoritarians for relief. His book clearly explains our current situation; “…modern man,” he wrote, “still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds.”
Today’s anarchists are split between anarcho-primitives like left-wing authors Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan, who explicitly advocate the dismantling of civilization and a return to an agrarian, land-based culture of cooperation, versus the MAGAist Manifesto of Roger Stone, Steve Bannon and Ron Desantis’ and its right-wing, mythological interest in dismantling “the deep state” and replacing it with a modern form of populist tyranny.
MAGA, a revolutionary anarchist movement devoid of any coherent political philosophy or leader other than the four-time-indicted, largely incoherent, malignant narcissist Donald Trump, expresses behaviors typical of extreme emotional and psychological discontent. Like most revolutionary movements – poorly focused, ill-informed, feelings-driven, and cult-like in habit – the MAGA revolt embodies a lethal combination of humiliation, anger, and blame. It is decidedly not Republican nor conservative, and clearly anti-democratic. As such, the MAGA-Anarchist revolution presents a clear and present danger.