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How Libertarians plan to reclaim the Left

The ground seems fertile for libertarians to forge alliances with the
Left. And who knows? We might even "outflank" the socialists eventually and
reclaim the Left for libertarianism!
From Why Not Reclaim the Left?
by Tom Wheeler, 26 June 2002

Is there, today, enough common ground between Leftists and libertarians to
build a brand new coalition to smash Corporate Leviathan? Well, the Left's
"official" leadership is now a toothless lapdog to the Democratic Party, on
the verge of hanging its "out of business" shingle. The commies are out of
the picture. But a "Newer" New Left is growing, made up mostly of young
anarchists. A new anti-war movement is flowering on campuses in response to
the current War Without End. A mass anti-IMF/World Bank movement has been up
and rolling for a couple of years. (Remember Seattle, Quebec, Washington,
DC?) As Raimondo writes: "[The Left] is where all the vitality, the
rebelliousness, the willingness to challenge the rules and strictures of an
increasingly narrow and controlled national discourse resides."

One group of radical libertarians has been laying the groundwork for a day
of reconciliation with the Left since 1978. And they've actually made
inroads. The Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL) was founded by Samuel
Edward Konkin III with this goal: to develop a coherent, long-term,
non-political, anti-party strategy consistent with hard-core Rothbardian
theory. Konkin and other Libertarian Leftists now interact regularly with
New Leftists like Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens, Carl Oglesby,
Jon Rappoport, and Noam Chomsky. MLL has a web page, a busy e-list, and
newsletters and pamphlets appear frequently under its banner.

So the ground seems fertile for libertarians to forge alliances with the
Left. And who knows? We might even "outflank" the socialists eventually and
reclaim the Left for libertarianism!

Now, how do we approach the Left? And who do we approach specifically?
Obviously, we shouldn't bother with lefties whose goals are generally
hostile to individual freedom. But I think we can work with a growing number
of today's young Left anarchists, with one proviso: abolition of the State
must be their primary focus. Much contemporary anarchist literature, sadly,
suggests that smashing governments is secondary to destroying businesses and
shaping communal utopias. As the hardest of hard-core anarchists, we can't
waste time with such socialist sentimentality. Our first duty is to stamp
out all political power. But keep in mind that since we radical libertarians
consider corporations creatures of the State and would abolish them to free
the market, some of our laissez-faire ideas might intrigue and even persuade
potential comrades on the anti-market Left.

We should, jointly and individually, dedicate ourselves to studying diverse
Leftist movements--animal rights radicals, feminists, poverty crusaders,
AIDS activists--to determine with whom we have points in common, or with
whom we at least share some issues. This means we must tirelessly monitor
Leftist magazines, journals, newsletters, and websites. The Nation, Z, and
CounterPunch are a good start.

Opposition to war, the undeniable health of the State, is the one barometer
we can rely on to judge suitable allies. We should feel free to stand
shoulder-to-shoulder with any Leftists at anti-war demonstrations, seminars,
teach-ins, film festivals, etc. The anti-war issue is fundamental to our

This may sound elementary, but we should take time to study or refresh
ourselves in the insights of Etienne de la Boetie, the civil disobedience of
Thoreau, and the non-violent resistance tactics of Gandhi. These ideas are
fundamental to consistent non-political libertarian strategy. Possessing a
"leftist hue," they also offer good common ground for reaching out to the

Principled libertarians now stand at a crossroads. The Cato Institute and
the so-called "Libertarian" Party, now mere front groups for the
warmongering right-wing, have hammered a wedge into the libertarian
movement. So I applaud Justin Raimondo's call for a libertarian
rapprochement with the Left. We have a lot to talk about, and I look forward
to the coming dialogue.

In the meantime, those afraid to make a sharp left turn and join us should
heed Samuel Edward Konkin III's suggestion to "wake up and smell the tear
gas!" And to those courageous enough to shrug off the right-wing, unite with
other staunch enemies of the State, and reclaim the Left for libertarians, I
say, "Forward to liberty!"

Alternative Press Review - www.altpr.org
Your Guide Beyond the Mainstream
PO Box 4710 - Arlington, VA 22204

homepage: homepage: http://csf.colorado.edu/forums/pfvs/2002II/msg00788.html

Nice ideas 28.Apr.2003 00:42


As unconvinced as I currently am over the "libertarian left" movement, nevertheless it sounds very compatible with what many of us Indymedia-minded folks are fighting for. The MLL is a bit of confusion for me because the term "left-libertarian" sometimes refers to libertarian socialism, that is, socialism without a government to guide it. Then there are the right-libertarians who are willing to use the power of law enforcement to protect the wealth and property of the power-elite. This "third way" may have at least some important elements to contribute to leftist thought. After all, why not? If you go back to David Nolan's famous "Nolan Chart" which has been modified many times over to accomodate political anomalies, you will see how both fascists and totalitarian "communists" are very close together on the chart (dictatorship with a planned economy) while being called "extreme left" and "extreme right." I wonder if at the opposite end of the authoritarian-libertarian spectrum, the left and right would similarly converge, being the difference between Objectivists and Agorist-anarchists. If so, then perhaps it isn't a "line" or a "circle" that describes the spectrum of thought, but rather a figure-eight.

Right on 28.Apr.2003 00:47


Right on, to a large degree. However, I disagree with "outflank the socialists and reclaim the left for libertarianism." Why not the other way around?

Why not have the left rescue libertarianism from the right-wingers? Why not libertarian socialism? After all, the libertarian-fascist social continuum is separate from the left-right economic continuum. [See The Political Compass (www.politicalcompass.org) for more on this.]

Excellent article 28.Apr.2003 00:49


There is alot of common ground between Libertarian and Anarchist ideas. When you get right down to it, todays anarchist is promoting a 'free market' model where individuals and small groups interact/trade/share resources in mutually beneficial agreed upon ways.

What is being called the 'free market' is actually nothing of the sort. To a great degree, what we really have is socialized costs and privatized profits where large corporate entities are given huge subsidies of individuals tax dollars and then that corporation reaps the rewards. When an entrenched industry is given vast sums of corporate welfare, innovative ideas do not have a fair chance based on merit.

Linux is an example of a free market at work. Microsoft is not. With Linux, anyone around the world can help develop the code. If someone wants to take the code and customize it to their own use, they can. They can keep those changes to themselves if they wish, but what they cannot do is prevent others from using the general codebase, or happening to develop the same changes. Everyone can have what they want, without dominating others. Obviously I do not need to go into Microsofts monopolistic practices.

The general problem with the common Libertarian viewpoint, is the failure to recognize that the massive corporate structure is in effect another form of government. Today, you cannot criticize the government without also examining the corporation. They are intertwined and essentially two facets of the same structure.

When the balance of power between citizen and government or citizen and corporation becomes so great that the large institution can pretty much ignore the wishes and interests of the citizen, then you do not have a free market or a sane and sustainable society which respects individual freedom. What you end up with is a repressive society and the soil in which the totalitarian mentality can become ascendant.

Libertarians Want to Colonize the Left 28.Apr.2003 00:55


This article shoudl be retitled how Libertarian Capitalists want to colonize the Left.

Apparently, these Libertarians (like antiwar.com) feel they have no future trying to insinuate into and colonize the Conservatives so they are looking at a WEAKER TARGET like the Left as a candidate for a potential Hostile Political Takeover.

What the Liberatarians fail to realize is that their
worshipping the Market as the ultimate God and arbiter of politics is absolutely hostile to the anti-Capitalist sentiments of much of the left. Indeed, the Libertarians are attempting to disguise this fact by hiding behind the cover of opposing Corporations--but not the Capitalist system itself. What the Libertarians seem to be advocating is a Decentralized Capitalism, as opposed to a Centralized Corporate Capitalism.

This is about the worst thing that could happen. The uncritical worship of the Market means the free reign of Capital to rape and pillage around the world--freed from all contraints of Government, State, Nation, community, or any other form of resistance.

Justin Raimondo is a Lefty? 28.Apr.2003 01:07

anti-libertarian, pro-humanitarian

This is how the Libertarians would reclaim the Left -- makes you wonder about the beliefs of those who find comfort with Libertarian politics...

TITLE IX -- Okay, so Santorum hates queers. Take it from me, bub: the feeling is mutual. We had to listen to this nonsense all last week, but we haven't heard very much about Santorum's proposed amendment to Title IX of the Higher Education Act that would enshrine "ideological diversity" as well as "sexual equality" in education as a condition for federal funding. Just a few articles, here and there. Yet this is the most unbelievably sleazy, underhanded stealth operation launched by Israel's amen corner since the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, as the point is to ensure that universities that engage in or permit criticism of Israel face cuts in federal funding...

...An idea that has been pushed by neocon propagandist and professional ex-commie David Horowitz, affirmative action for campus conservatives, is being used to accomplish two goals: 1) The suppression of views the Amen Corner finds threatening, such as the movement to divest universities of stocks that invest in Israel, and 2) The promotion of the politically correct neocon line on every topic, from Israel to immigration, with specific conservative groups - i.e. Horowitz's "Center for the Study of Popular Culture" - to reap the material and political benefits.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION -- Consider the consequences of capitulating to the affirmative actionists in this way: every college professor (and presumably every student) would be given a political vetting by government bureaucrats, educators, and the courts. Unlike most racial minorities, or at least the official racial victim groups, members of discriminated-against ideological minorities are not so readily identified. Each candidate for a professorship, and, to be consistent, each and every student applicant, would be forced to undergo a full interrogation by political commissars...

...Barry Goldwater and other libertarian-oriented conservatives of the fifties and sixties were right to oppose "civil rights" legislation as a fundamental violation of individual rights. Under a system consistent with property rights, there can be no valid legal obligation that forces an individual to associate or do business with someone not of his choosing. This is the traditional conservative position, one upheld in the old days by traditionalists like Russell Kirk and quasi-libertarians such as Frank S. Meyer, no matter what their other differences.


THE NEW DEAL -- The leftists of today think of Richard Nixon and Bush the Younger as not only incipient tyrants but pioneers in the presidential prerogative of obsessive secrecy and outright duplicity in wartime. On this score, however, FDR had both beat by a mile. Nixon, after all, openly proclaimed his intent on "regime change" in Hanoi, as did Bush 43 in Baghdad. On the other hand, FDR vowed not to get us into the European war, and
interpreted this as a license to get us into that war
through the Asian back door: he had secretly agreed to defend Britain's Eastasian colonies, ensuring that Japan would become the third spoke in the wheel of the Axis. On the civil liberties front, it has to be said that Nixon never even considered locking up all Vietnamese-Americans in concentration camps, and there is probably no truth to the rumor that Susan Sarandon is about to be cast in the role of an "enemy combatant."

OLD-FASHIONED CONSERVATISM -- The renaissance of the Old Right revival owes a debt of gratitude to Bruce Ramsey, whose introduction to the present volume correctly fits Garrett's life and ideas into the paradigm of an authentic American nationalism that manages to retain its libertarian core values without too much contradiction. Ramsey points to Buchanan and the paleoconservatives, as well as congressman Ron Paul and us libertarians, as Garrett's heirs and legatees.


You need to understand 28.Apr.2003 04:09

Mike stepbystepfarm@shaysnet.com

SOME of the people who self identify as "libertarians" are anarchists of the "idividualist" type. That means that although they are usually found in association with other sorts of "libertarians" (matching the description most of you think of when you hear that term) they are actually reasonably close to SOME of the anarchists of the left.

In other words, the only difference between SOME of the anarchists on the right and SOME of the anarchists of the left is the size of the "primary group" they would prefer living and working with (as an economic unit). To understand this, consider that SOME of the extreme "individualists" wouldn't even consider the biological family as an economic unit while some would -- and at the same time on the left SOME would consider only very small "communes", "clans", etc. optimum while others larger units.

By and large the "vision" (for how we ought to live) on both sides would at least tolerate those who (perversely) had a different preference. In other words, most "left" anarchists who picture people living organized into small face to face "collectives" don't have any problem with (odd) folks who prefer to live in isolation and most "right" anarchists don't have any problems with people who for some peculiar reason want to waste time coming to consensus << NOTE -- I am of course trying to express this neutrally -- each DOES think the other a bit odd in their preference >>

Crazy liberatarians 28.Apr.2003 08:52


You crazy libertarians. Shucks.

Libertarian party USA has stolen the term libertarian and turned it into this capitalist creepy thing going on. Definition of libertarian coming up from www.dictionary.com

libertarian : 1. One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.
2. One who believes in free will.

I dont really think that capitalism has anything to do with that definition at all. Capitalist does not = free will. Capitalism does not try to maximize most individuals rights. So this creepy Libertarian party is trying to put individual rights with capitalism and that just doesnt work. it gives individual rights to the rich and screws everyone else.

Huh? 28.Apr.2003 10:11


I guess it may seem like a small thing to some, but the abolition of private property is (to my thinking) absolutely essential to anarchist ideology. While undoing state power is an obvious, and equally important, step to achieve social liberation, there are other avenues for power to be accumulated by individuals/groups, and used to ends that are antithetical to mutual liberty. This is where anarchism has to have real answers.

If the state is abolished society loses an entity that, for all of it's evils, also (OSTENSIBLY, but often times functionally...be honest:?) serves to limit the occurence of unaccountable authority raveging the populace. I like this to be called "the thug with the most guns" rule. You don't have to look far for examples of this actually existing; Sudan, Afganistan, Haiti, the D.R.C., Myanmar, etc.. In the "vacuum of a failed state" (to borrow Bush and co.'s mourneful slogan), there is an abundance of "power" left unclaimed in the form of weapons, essential commodities, or the real dependency on civil management that the better part of socity has developed. When this stuff falls into the hands of those who would achieve power, but lack either the political sophistication needed for, or interest in, the long term stability of their authority structure, the outcome is readily clear; in the short run, brutal coersion is the easy way to squeeze obedience out of most human cultures (Generally this eventually developes into a working dictatorship, but not always, and I guess it's beside the point anyway). So, the question becomes how do you prevent the accumulation of power?

Property is, along side religion maybe, the quintessential material of power, and without state controls such as LAW(!!), anti-trust regulations, labor standards, soviets, taxes, or whatever, we have no protection but ourselves. The various strains of anarchism provide several answers to this dilema, the anarcho-capitalist one being next to last (after primitivism) in my list of favorites. The idea is that people's rational self interest is inherently good [ argued by Objectivists (the dumbest and most arrogant name of all time) as well as anarcho-cappies] and sufficient within the context of truly free market economics, and it's built-in ability to balance, to maintain liberty. Such a world would be a nightmare that boggles imagination. Property is really an abstact idea, supposedly extended from native propriety into legislation by a legitimate body. How do you prevent the accumulation of property and still get away with calling it capitalism? The management of property without law still requires an immense, I would say incredible amount of coersive power to remain latent within society, so much so that I fail to see it as a possibility.

As far as the Left goes, well if they are simply left alone they have an amazing ability to do themselves in with their psuedo-dialectics fortune telling and long history of back-stabbing deceit. They are pretty marginilized, just don't forget how they got that way (this means you "freedom" socialists...descended from the bolshevicks indeed!). I've never felt comfortable with anarchism's continued association with leftism. It doesn't make sense, and beside that, the Left has a habit of "getting rid" of us as soon as they have power (again, that's you freedom socialists!).

why no black libertarians? 28.Apr.2003 11:37

GRINGO STARS gringo_stars@attbi.com

How it is.
why no black libertarians?
why no black libertarians?

Two-axis politics 28.Apr.2003 11:52

Bison Boy

The traditional description of political movements as left or right wing is useful for talking about economic stance, but is of limited usefulness when discussing issues of liberty and control.

Check out www.politicalcompass.org for a highly relevant alternative view.

left/right wrong metaphor 28.Apr.2003 14:43

jest thinkin'

I agree with the libertarian position on personal freedom -- really no different than the anarchist or Jeffersonian viewpoint-- the state has no right to tell an individual what to do, except to the degree of preventing harm of another person. Libertarians tend to favor an end to drug prohibition and laws that shape morality, and I agree with those positions.

But the view that personal liberties apply to corporations is one of the worst ideas to hit western civilization since, jeez, since ever. The shift to corporate personhood in the late 19th century has left society at the mercy of corporate criminals who are still plundering the world without anyone to stop them. Libertarians tend to be corporate apologists, believe in less restrictions on corporations, and I can't buy into that viewpoint.

So do my views make me left or right? I'm right wing in my positions on personal liberty, but left in the sense that I think a proper function for government is to check and control the power of corporations. I believe in welfare for poor people but not in gun control, abortion rights but not corporate rights. Frankly, I'm tired of the whole left/right metaphor. It says almost nothing about what one really believes.

the libertarian left 28.Apr.2003 16:55

dj tubesteak

I thought the Libertarian Left began with Bakunin, not Samuel Konkin. But whatever. He's right.

Justin Raimondo's a tool, don't pay him too much mind. Anyone who's seriously and genuinely concerned with maximizing individual autonomy will recognize the threat that corporate hegemony poses to that goal. If libertarians of both wings are uniting around opposition to U.S. imperialism, then enough of them will soon be questioning the idea that 'Free Trade' requires the subordination of democratic political institutions' authority to unelected oligarchic cabals of corporate executives (and I mean the WTO directorate, not the Bush administration).

How does that slogan go--"Si la Vida, no al Capitalismo"?