Dan Keizer is an anarchist who is somewhere on the market friendly spectrum of the libertarian left. He was kind enough to talk to me about his participation and ideas about OWS and anarchism knowing that this was from a more left-ward perspective.
Skepoet: Why do you describe yourself as an anarchist?
Dan Keizer: I describe myself as an anarchist because I think most of the world’s major problems are caused by states or by individuals engaging in statist operations. I believe that if forced interactions were not so prevalent and even accepted in modern society and if individuals were not restricted by state constructs then the average person would have a lot more potential to be happy and prosperous.
Skepoet: What anarchist tradition do you work with?
Dan Keizer: My journey through anarchist political philosophy had me starting as a right libertarian, though I have had a distaste for authority and corporatism since I was pretty young. I think a lot of my fellows still consider me to be an anarchocapitalist but I don’t think of myself as one, and these days I find myself butting heads with ancaps as often as I do left libertarians. On one of my favorite libertarian forums, freesteader, they mockingly call me a Keizerist because my conclusions on issues don’t really match up with the usual platforms of ancaps or leftists. I don’t really have a traditional background as I haven’t spend much time reading the works of the usual anarchist philosophers of old, there are some great minds out there today such as Alex Strekal, Derek Wittdorf and a bunch of others that do plenty of writing and I feel like I learn enough from them and they are still alive and all. I also don’t care for the application of labels as they almost always cause bad assumptions. So if somebody asks me what sort of anarchist I am, I say that I advocate free interaction and the individual retaining the product of his labor as property and if further clarification is needed then so be it. If anything I think of myself as an agorist, but then again that is more of a plan of action against the state than a system of political principles. I think any sort of libertarian/anarchist can be an agorist.
Skepoet: Have you been working with #Occupy?
Dan Keizer: I live just outside Detroit and an old roommate of mine has been staying down at Grand Circus Park for the last few weeks. I have been down there to see how he is and bring him something to eat, but I am a full time parent and cannot really put in the time and dedication that him and others are down there. But as long as they are at it I will continue to support them in what capacity I can. The word on the streets is that Occupy Detroit is looking to adopt one of the many abandoned buildings downtown with the cold weather approaching, which is something I thought they should have done in the first place.
Skepoet: I suppose I should ask you a question: what do you see as agorism relationship to left anarchism?
Dan Keizer: Well as I said I see agorism as more of a form of activism against the state rather than as a branch of political philosophy. So a left anarchist could very well practice agorism so long as they are engaging in “black market” activities that are acceptable interactions withing the boundaries of their ethics. Food Not Bombs could very well be named as an example of left anarchists practicing agorism.
Skepoet: Do you see capitalism and the “free” markets as the same thing?. If you don’t, why not?
Dan Keizer: If you ask me I will probably define capitalism as the free exchange of privately owned goods and services, which is what I would also think of as, “the market”. However, as most people on the planet associate capitalism with the pro-corporate government involved economic system we have here in the United States I don’t see the point of arguing about definitions. I may be a MANOWAR fan but I’m not about to fight the world. Aside from that, I also make the distinction between capitalism and the market where in the former the private property would include property based on claim and other state-backed concepts and the latter would have private property simply be, “the product of the individual’s labor” and limited only to that.
Skepoet: Do you find left anarchists more willing to work with you these days now that you have moved from an-cap to something akin to agorism?
Dan Keizer: (Laughs). No, I think it has only made me quirrel with ancaps more. I feel like I still like I don’t get along with leftists much. Actually I think any of my brethren that I am on friendly terms with have just come to accept our differences in opinions. I stopped wanting to agree with people on everything a long time ago because even the couple people that I think are pretty close to me in terms of their political views seem to have a couple significant differences.
Skepoet: So what are your opinions on #Occupy at the moment?
Dan Keizer:I’m happy that there are people coming together and being active in a way that has lasted for a while and gotten attention, unlike other mass protests that have been proposed in recent years. Still, it seems to be something that does not really have a clear goal, nor is it clear what exactly is being protested. So far I think the only clear success on their part has been to prove that the general population is disgruntled enough to begin waking up and demanding some real change, though it looks like they are far from being unified as to what the problem is and what is to be done about it. I hope that the Occupy movement stays around long enough to develope a more clear identity with clear tactics and clear goals. I am also happy that the demographic of the protesters seems to be a wide variety of people with different ages, races and backgrounds. I feel like usually such things are much narrower where you have a group of hippies or maybe crust punk anarchists out there carrying signs, now it appears that more of the general population is being represented. That’s actually a huge thing going for occupy because when a person turns on their television and sees a person from their peer group they are much more likely to sympathize instead of saying, “It’s just a bunch of angry misfit kids,” or whatever the case may be.
Skepoet: Do you think there are problems with not having specific demands?
Dan Keizer: Yeah. I know that there are a few main themes as far as what is being protested and I’m sure everybody down there has their own outcome they would like to see out of it, but I don’t think there is one main issue that they are united under. If that is the case then the problems would be that they may not be able to accomplish any one thing as a group or as a movement, also those watching will not have a clear view of what exactly the conflict is so they will be less likely to take a stance regarding the protesters one way or another.
Skepoet: What do you think ideally the goals should be?
Dan Keizer: Well as an anarchist for me the ideal would be to take steps towards some anarchist end. They could build upon what they have already developed, where within the Occupy sites they kind of have their own little community and even their own economy and social structure, and strengthen it by taking things further. Those protesting the banks and the federal reserve might use Occupy as a center of trade that doesn’t use the dollar. Those looking for work could form some co-op business within Occupy. As I said, Occupy Detroit was considering seizing an abandoned building downtown, rent-free housing would be a great way to address the mortgage situation that was among the things originally being protested. I guess to put it shortly I would ideally see them do something proactive where they are dealing with all these issues within their own means rather than demanding change outside Occupy.
Skepoet: I see the issues there. So what do you think is the correct response to police violence?
Dan Keizer: I don’t know, that’s a hard situation. Basically, the two choices are submit or resist. Nobody wants to submit because it compromises position, and nobody wants to resist because obviously there are some pretty stiff penalties for doing so. A lot of people would like to see the cops burn in a lake of Molotov cocktails, but then one has to remember that a police officer is a man that has a personal life and a family and is really not that far removed from the average person. As far as them being tools of the state, they are really pretty low on the institution’s totem pole. It’s never a good idea to cheapen life if you can help it.
I guess forms of passive resistance that have been successful in the past are the best, it’s probably the way to make the most impact without risking one’s life or harsh penalties. You can’t win if you physically fight back and while a protester or sympathizer might be inspired by that kind of resistance, I don’t think the average outsider would feel that way so any intangible benefit by doing so would not really be widespread.
Skepoet: Anything you’d like to say in closing?
Dan Keizer: No, not really. I guess I would like to encourage my fellows to be active in little ways in their everyday life on their own because I think a lot of us have a habit of waiting around for some revolution to happen No, not really. I guess I would like to encourage my fellows to be active in little ways in their everyday life on their own because I think a lot of us have a habit of waiting around for some revolution to happen