National Autonomous Zones: Castles Without Walls

June 26, 2009

by Bay Area National Anarchist

The subject of creating, discovering, or reestablishing spaces outside the domination of the State and capitalism has led authors like Hakim Bey to promote the concept of “autonomous zones(*)”.  In their beginning, Bey describes “temporary autonomous zones” as the meeting of a group to partake in a non hierarchical social activity for the benefit of it’s participants without authorization by the government or condoned by the capitalist system of economic mechanics.  

Under certain conditions Bey writes that these zones can turn into “permanent autonomous zones” beyond the control of those forces and are for all intensive purposes, liberated.  To Bey, this is the highest development of anarchist social organization.  Bey has at different times promoted (to various degrees of success) examples of ravers, Burners, Caribbean pirates, Chinese Tong’s, Islamic “Assassin’s”, and Indian Thuggee, as anti-authoritarians archetypes.  

In this essay I will argue that creating a national autonomous zone (NAZ) is not just possible but the most likely path of development for communities that either 1) quickly find themselves in a vacuum of State authority structures, or 2) as a community takes it upon themselves the responsibility of living as self-reliantly as possible.  

Without a State authority governing it’s existence the national autonomous zone functions like a castle without walls.  

A “castle without walls” is not to say “without” laws or regulations concerning behavior.  Or that a NAZ is equal tofeudalism in form and function.  It’s similarity to feudalism is in respects to it’s pledge of loyalty directly to individuals to whom they serve with (not merely, “for”), and the service that members obligate each other to perform for community survival. That is where the similarities end.  

Unlike a fief of feudalism, a NAZ does not exist from the benefit of a monarchy, for the piece of paper called a title or charter, it’s warrior caste, but rather for the desire of all who support it’s continued existence.  

The true legal classification of a NAZ when the state is defeated is allodial.  Using the Webster’s first dictionary (1825 edition),  allodium is a “land which is absolute property of the owner, real estate held in absolute independence, without being subject to any rent, service, or acknowledgement to a superior. It is thus opposed to feud.“  For the purpose of this article, the owner of a NAZ is defined solely by the community that inhabits it.  Precisely how such a community is to be organized is beyond the scope of this essay(**).  

A NAZ can contain several distinct characteristics some of which may contain one or more of the following traits:

* a homogeneous representation of spoken language, culture, religion, and ethnicity.  
* the organized delegation of tasks and economy.
* a pre-defined relationship regulating behavior with outsiders of the NAZ.
* a system of standard operating procedures for self-defense.
* collective and informal decision making processes.

Needless to say, the existence of a NAZ is likely to be challenged by a variety of State and non State actors concerning it’s very existence.  

In Western countries in this day and age various schemes of government eminent domain preclude any possibility of a NAZ openly forming without coming into direct competition with the State.  Furthermore, non State actors may attempt to undermine a NAS due to a variety of motivations.  

This reality necessitates a secret, or semi hidden, method of operations until such a time when it is no longer necessary.

To understand why this is so it is necessary to examine the motivations for forming a NAZ.

The first and probably most obvious for some is mutual defense.  In times of widespread social and moral decay (of which it is inarguable that such is the case today), the safety of family and kin is paramount to all people.  It is the next logical step to believe that security is more likely to be had in a community similar to the one in which an individual most strongly identifies with.  In most cases, that will be people who speak the same language and resemble themselves the most (however this author readily admits that this is not the strict case for all people in all times).  The liberal (and by extension, anarchist) notion that such a preference is morally indefensible is not tenable with threats to physical existence.

Secondly, small groups of people may see the benefit and economic advantage of pooling their resources to achieve a degree of personal latitude then what would be possible if they pursued their aims separately.  With the dismantling of the middle class I expect to see more people consider this as a reasonable choice to pursue (and especially to see the continued development of the twin polarizations of class alienation on the United States of gated (authoritarian) communities and land trusts (libertarian) as society polarizes in this time of crisis).

Thirdly, their may be ideological aims or desires to live the kind of life they wish to live beyond what the capabilities the current socio-economic system is capable of providing.  Personally I see this more and more with even basic public services failing with increased regularity.

The last motivation we will consider is that a person or group of individuals who no longer have a choice but must act in concert with a group to because they might not have any other alternatives.  Although tragic, this example has happened and will always happen throughout all of history and may be due to natural, man made, or personal disaster from which there is no escape.  With widespread environmental degradation and likelihood of other calamities the BANA network regrettably predicts that the frequency of such occurrences will only increase in time.

This begs the question, what would a castle without walls look like?  For the answer I will turn to history.  Late in World War I, the German forces realized that holding a line of trenches hundreds of miles long was an incredible waste of resources they didn’t have(***).  So what they did instead is rebuild their lines into a series of fortified positions spread over space from which each point could aid in the defense of another.  When assaulted and no longer able to hold their position they would abandon their positions and trade space for time.  In some cases they would allow themselves to be surrounded and escape in the night back to friendly lines.  Instead of the makeshift fortifications of the forward lines of an imperialist design, I foresee this castle developing heterogeneously amidst a wide range of space including farms, towns, individual buildings, and geographical features.   Decades after WWI the Vietnamese used the same idea and developed it further to include fortified villages.  Many of these villages were connected by subterranean tunnels that could protect the people from bombardment and move personal and supplies across space.  These tunnels are known to be over a hundred kilometers long in some instances and were completely unknown by the American forces.  The Vietnamese perfected a system of concealment and communication that was able to remain hidden and protected from the overwhelming firepower of the American invaders.  Extremely similar systems were used by the mujahideen in the 1980s against the invading Russian Soviets and even a couple years ago with the well known case of Tora Bora in Afghanistan.  

While the German, Communist, or Islamic examples above may not be the entire definition of an anti-authoritarian NAZ conceived by National Anarchism, these are examples used by people to survive and flourish in the face of severe adversity.  It is likely that the course of development of a NAZ will be similar to these kinds of developments in time.

A NAZ will always have humble beginnings.  This will be in the homes, land, and resources of a group of people whose loyalty to themselves (for whatever reason) will enable them to support each other over various distances and provide for their own own material needs even with the adversity of hostile actors.  It is the developmental goal of such a system to be able to trade space (areas of residence) for time (the ability to operate) when hostility is too great(****).  When the time, economy, and resources of the NAZ strengthen to the point of controlling local political authority the revolution will be on a non stop course to absolving the political domination of the State and capitalism with the strengthening of the NAZ as it expands into further areas of operations.

To conclude, this is how I believe autonomy amidst adversity can be achieved.  It requires a number of actions by people on a regular basis to make it a reality.  This includes, in part, the need and acceptance to a large degree of self-discipline, sacrifice, good planning, organization, diplomacy, and a lot of preparation in order to make it happen.  

** The theory National Anarchism presents a series of principals and areas of recommendation on how to conduct relations within a community, and with outsiders, but makes no specific demands as to what those formulations should be or that it adhere to a particular political ideology.
*** The Tiger’s Way by H. John Poole
**** It is safe to conclude that the current plight of the FLDS was (is) due to their inability to trade space (area of residence and jurisdiction of the State of Texas) for time (freedom from State oppression) effectively.

Source: BANA


One Response to “National Autonomous Zones: Castles Without Walls”

  1. DOUG BRADER on July 6th, 2009 11:25 am