Thursday, June 09, 2005

More from Hess

Wally Conger left a comment in my last post concerning Karl Hess about an interview that appeared in Playboy magazine that I was unaware of. I found out via Google that it appeared in the July 1976 issue and that it was unfortunately not available online, at least to my knowledge. I got my hands on a microfilm copy of that issue while on a work break yesterday and photocopied it, which set me back $3.60 since making copies off of microfilm is so darn expensive. It was worth it though since it is a great interview. It was also fun to fast forward through the film to get to the July issue, stopping every once in a while to check out the scenery in the January through June issues.

While I can't offer up the whole thing on my blog, I can provide some choice excerpts from this lenghty interview:

On the difference between Presidents and kings:
Presidents achieve power by hoaxes and handshakes, while kings take the far less tiring route of being born. That is the only difference I can discern.

On the sexual aspect of the campaign trail (this is a Playboy interview, ya know):
It's so sad. Women are used as trade goods in a political campaign. The rich and powerful require a lot of solace and don't have much time, so their approach to getting their rocks off is the same as their approach to getting a haircut. The barber comes to them, the tailor comes to them and sex comes to them, too. Women are assigned, like jets and limousines.

After Hess explained that Goldwater viewed religion as being the primary difference between the US and the Soviet Union, he had this to say:
Yes, and since I'm an atheist, I didn't consider his position wholly satisfying. But I think it turns out that the entire Cold War didn't make sense without religion. Nelson Rockefeller doesn't make sense without religion - not that Nelson Rockefeller makes much sense with religion. But what other differences are there? As James Burnham pointed out in 1941, inThe Managerial Revolution, the similarity between the Soviet state and the American corporation is striking. So to find a difference worth dying for in opposing the Soviet Union while supporting General Motors requires a theological position.

Hess explaining his position regarding power and it's alternative:
I am in total opposition to any institutional power. I favor a world of neighborhoods in which all social organization is voluntary and the ways of life are established in small, consenting groups. These groups could cooperate with other groups as they saw fit. But all cooperation would be on a voluntary basis. As the French anarchist Proudhon said. "Liberty [is] not the daughter but the Mother of Order."

After interviewer Sam Merrill responded with a "pie in the sky" remark and questioned whether or not such societies ever existed, Hess had this to say:
The precedents I look to were the participatory democracies of the Greek city-states, many Irish cities up until the British occupation, some Indian villages under Mahatma Gandhi and the town meetings right here in America. Each of those anarchist societies produced great and honorable cultures. There is no way to achieve a free society that is national. The concept of a nation requires the subordination of the citizen because you must let someone else represent you. So your freedom is being exercised by another person. In a truly free society, there is no subordination of any citizen. Every citizen represents himself.

Merrill later brings up the common criticism concerning the possibility that humans are basically evil. Hess replied with:
In that sad case, it would be even more imperative to avoid the nation-state, because then a basically flawed individual would be invested with the greatest possible power. The anarchist - although he believes man is good - says that whether man is, in fact, good or evil, the nation-state is an abomination.

While talking about the IRS, Hess had this to say:
It is curious to note that when for reasons of conscience, people refuse to kill, they are often exempted from active military duty. But there are no exemptions for people who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to financially support the bureaucracy that actually does the killing. Apparently, the state takes money more seriously than life.

On FDR, the fascist:
Roosevelt wanted to do good for the common folk without permitting the common folk to do good for themselves.

He believed it was better for people to be alike than for them to be different and it was better for people to be led than for them to be self-reliant. The term fascist seems appropriate because the most essential tenet of fascism views the state as the people, rather than the other way around. Both Hitler and Roosevelt began by nationalizing the people.

But one crucial similarity between those two fascists is that both successfully destoyed the trade unions. Roosevelt did it by passing exactly the reforms that would ensure the creation of a trade-union bureaucracy. Since F.D.R., the unions have become the protectors of contracts rather than the spearhead of worker demands. And the Roosevelt era brought the "no strike" clause, the notion that your rights are limited by the needs of the state.

When Merrill brought up the fact that many historians claim that the poor would have starved without Roosevelt, Hess answered with this gem:
What a terrible thing to say about poor people. The alternative view is that without Roosevelt, the poor would have organized.

When asked if he had any political heroes, Hess had this to say:
Gandhi is one. He was the first great spokesman for the neighborhood. His notion was that the world is composed of neighborhoods - a breath-taking perception.

Hess's view of the Presidency:
The Presidency doesn't mean shit to me. But it means everything to most people, which is sad. Thomas Jefferson once had to go out to eat because the boardinghouse he was staying at stopped serving dinner at a certain time. Sounds like the folks then understood that what they had was an elected officer, not an elected deity.

On the Declaration of Independence:
The Declaration is so lucid that we're afraid of it today. It scares the hell out of every modern bureaucrat, because it tells us that there comes a time when we must stop taking orders and start taking our lives back into our own hands. That's why the Constitution is so diligently taught in every schoolroom, while the Declaration is largely ignored.

On Presidents, bureaucrats, and other managers:
It's not so much that I don't like them but that all managerial functions are the most exalted and least important functions in our society. I mean, being a manager requires a fairly low order of skill. A lot of hard-core unemployed who have no useful skills such as carpentry have all the qualifications necessary to manage things. You know, look at the lists and make sure the paper clips arrive on time. I'm not saying managers don't do anything. I'm just saying they don't do anything a chimpanzee couldn't do equally well. Or a pidgeon. Pidgeons can do simple repetitive tasks, especially if they're color coded.

I'll finish this post off with his vision of the perfect anarchist:
A good friend, good lover, good neighbor.


Blogger Wally Conger said...

You're providing a great service by offering these quotes. Now, if only we can get someone to post the Playboy interview with Hess online!

3:28 PM  

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