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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, January 26, 2006

SEK3 on Libertarian History

Brad Spangler links to (the late, alas!) Samuel Edward Konkin III's account of the history of the libertarian movement. It's especially good on the splits in SDS and the YAF, and Rothbard's and Hess' abortive project of a New Left-Old Right coalition against the corporate state.

While we're resurrecting SEK3's libertarian history, here's his brief history of the Movement of the Libertarian Left, from the LeftLibertarian archives:

....we take our name from the synthesis of two sources. Murray Rothbard defined himself as the "sane. sober, anarchist center"during the rise of the Libertarian Movement (1968-1973, well before the LP), and those who opposed his "plumb line" did so from the Right (conservative, minarchist, less anti-statist, less historical-revisionist, etc.) or the Left (radical, anarchist, more anti-statist, more anti-power-elite, etc.).

It's certainly true that the Libertarian Left tended to (and still does) prefer Rothbard's alliances with SDS (1965-69) than, say, the paleoconservatives (1989-95), but in both cases, we prefer Left AND Right against the totally-statist, utterly unredeemable, political (archist) Center.

And we're all free-market here. Agorists believe only the Counter-Economy has a chance of approaching a pure free market, from the "underground" or beyond the frontier. I debated this with Murray Rothbard after the publication of New Libertarian Manifesto and his criticism (and my defence) of it in the 1980s. A few copies are still available.

During the formation of the LP in 1972-74, we were involved in re-organizing the Student Libertarian Action Movement (SLAM), mainly in New York and Arizona. But we decided to confront the Free Libertarian Party (in New York, they couldn't just call it the "Libertarian" Party because the courts ruled the mindless rednecks of New York City would confuse it with the "Liberal" Party --- two oxymorons right there) and see if we could abort it from within.

The original Radical Caucus, for which I take responsibility, began when the outgoing Chair (Ed Clark) and incoming Chair (Jerry Klasman) invited me to join, not only the FLP, but the Executive Council. I told them I would work to destroy the Party, they accepted on those terms, and I did.

At its peak, the FLPrc claimed about a quarter of the membership, and through alliances with Reform minarchists from upstate, had a majority by the time of the 1974 convention. I then walked out to prevent that happening, and the Convention went into chaos, with different sides winning different offices and points. Murray Rothbard, in exasperation, pointed to me sitting outside the meeting hall at my New Libertarian magazine table, and called out, "Is he the only one who understands what is going on?"

Our RC members had already gained delegate status for the national convention in Dallas (we had first appeared in Cleveland the previous year and started national recruiting). Again, we allied with Reform minarchists (like E. Scott Royce, who writes an excellent political column for NL to this day) and claimed about a third of the vote. Then we walked out for good, forming the New Libertarian Alliance (NLA).

There's a lot more, including the purging of eight state newsletter editors by the LP's own Stalin, Ed Crane, for so much as mentioning our existence, but I"ll skip ahead. In 1978, it looked like the U.S. was going to start another "Viet Nam" in El Salvador and the NLA divided over whether to participate in above-ground coalitions to stop the war. Most went underground; I started The Agorist Institute to defend counter-economists (we actually got IRS recognition in 1986) and, for anti-imperialist coalitions, the Movement of the Libertarian Left.

The second source (remember, I mentioned two sources a few paragraphs back) was due to my observations of the Euro political scene. Communism was swinging right and forming parliamentary coalitions. In France, a Union of the Left (Union de Gauche) formed to challenge the Gaullists and Independent Republicans. It consisted of the Communists, Socialists, and the Mouvement des Radicaux de Gauche (MRG) or "movement of left radicals", which had split from the Radical Party that allied itself with the Gaullists and Centrists. Although the MRG were parliamentary, and the RC (SLAM-NLA) are anti-parliamentary, the "Movement" name sounded perfect to distinguish us from the "libertarian" Party.

So we became the Mouvement des Libertariens de Gauche/Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL).

Aren't you glad you asked?

We promptly joined both the anti-nuclear coalition and the CISPES-led U.S. Out of El Salvador groups.

We refused to support either the Sandinistas or the Contras in Nicaragua, but did come out for the Terceristas and its Commander Zero, Eden Pastora. He returned the favour in 1994 by speaking to the Karl Hess Club, an MLL front if anyone still was wondering, and announcing his candidacy for president of Nicaragua, running against both sides, with a ringing endorsement of . . . Thomas Jefferson.

So I guess you can say... that two Left Libertarians are Eden Pastora and Thomas Jefferson. Actually, they sort of define our "far right wing" in that they still muck about with voting and elections. On our other side, I would include anagoric (non-market) anarchists who willingly work with us, such as Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn (who I take some credit for recruiting), Ursula K. LeGuin and Michael Moorcock (at least while he was still an anarchist.)

We received a strongly positive portrayal in old SDSer James Weinstein's "In These Times" around 1988, in the same article that trashed the LP. Yeah!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this is tangential to the gist of the quote, but I lived in Nicaragua for five years, and can't think of one good thing to say about Eden Pastora (beyond his evident personal bravery). Many of the Nicas I knew there consider him an opportunist and quite likely mentally unstable.

As for the Sandinistas and the contras, the contras were barbarians... not by nature, but because that's how the CIA trained them to be. I knew a good number of ex-contras, and they were decent people, except when it came to their blind spot about the Sandinistas. For their part, the Sandinistas were almost as blind about the contras. They were very statist, althought at least in the first few years, they really did try to empower the grassroots. They taught over a third of their population to read in a single year, a statistic no other nation has ever come close to.

Over the years, the Sandinistas became more and more entrenched, as readers of this blog probably know. Since 1990, members both prominent and obscure have steadily peeled away from the FSLN, leaving Daniel Ortega more and more isolated and insulated, and frankly, the laughingstock of the left.

There is nothing resembling anarchist consciousness in Nicaragua. The closest you'll find is the Green Party, now in an alliance with dissident Sandinsta Herty Lewites. In my years there, I took pains to explain to the leader of the party there how Greens are the only party that identifies with the libertarian left (based largely on politicalcompass.org), and how the reducto ad absurdum of Green philosophy is not state socialism, but libertarian socialism. There is the obvious paradox of being a political party on the libertarian left, but if we can grapple with that up here, they can grapple with it down there.

January 26, 2006 9:30 PM  
Blogger alan said...

As a Social Christian Democratic Civic Republican (am I the only one???...;)....lemme say that you mutualists are having way too much fun with this Old Right/New Left thing. It's much more fun than the endless accounts of Marxist sectarian positioning.

Keep up the good work and speak a little truth to power.

January 27, 2006 6:01 AM  
Blogger troutsky said...

Before I got mixed up in leftist politics I thought environmentalists were hard to organize! Ha.

It also occurs to me that the central american experience of "the state" is somewhat different from our experience.other than Costa Rica it has been an amorphous and fleeting institution.

January 27, 2006 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Before I got mixed up in leftist politics I thought environmentalists were hard to organize! Ha."

You should try herding cats.

No, really, I'm a sex worker rights activist. We really are trying to organise cats. It's kind of like organising right-libertarians, except libertarians aren't so incapable of collective action. Or it's like organising punk anarchists, except anarcho-punks aren't quite so likely to mistake social protest for showing off.


On a serious note, please support the decriminalisation of prostitution and sex worker pride! We're fighting right in the teeth of the state, and some of us seem to be among the last self-employed individuals on this corporate planet. And remember, we are workers too!

Ladt Aster

January 29, 2006 1:48 AM  

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