It was about five years ago when I first heard of libertarians.
Then, my on-line self used to frequent most often atheist forums. (Given that atheism entails not a single one, just the lack of one belief, people would discuss anything, with the luxury of disagreement without others' expectation of agreement.) The guys I first debated invariably were of the following kind: rabidly anti-social-spending and pro-business, rabidly anti-domestic-regulations but pro-draconic-immigration-regulations, rabidly anti-international-treaties and hence pro-Israel, rabidly pro-US-Security-State (and as it could be guessed, all Americans). These guys were stauch strong atheists, yet criticised President-(not-yet)-Selected Bush from the right! I then concluded libertarianism is fascism in new guise.
How I erred.
Of course, what changed it was discovering the Antiwar.com
site during the run-up to the Iraq war. I not only read the news but the commentaries too - only then did it dawn on me that this is a site run by anti-war libertarians
. While disagreeing with arguments or the slant at places, elsewhere I found points stated forcefully which most of the anti-war Left ignored or slipped over - in particular, their focus on parallels to and consequences of past US imperial crimes, and monstrous disasters borne out of all the good intentions. (On my blogroll, tex
represents them.) And I didn't yet know Justin Raimondo will vote for Nader
Yep, as Trotsky said
, march separately, strike together. But I'd like to go a bit further.
Here am I. I am kind of a political homeless, tough on the British side of the street. Growing up in a 'communist' dictature, one's first ideological experience is the discrepancy between propaganda and reality - so one either cynically throws away all the seized-upon ideals too, or keeps some in spite. The environment (ignored and destroyed by the architects of planned economy) and public transport being so important to me, my political awakening happened under a green sun. The reasons for my non-assimilation seem now pre-historic; of present-day Greens in politics (whom I would vote for if they would be organised enough to be on offer here...) and in public life, my criticism would be that in "think global, act local", the first half or first quarter seems sometimes lost.
Next I found myself in the tailwater of liberalism, whose (East) European branch in the rosy post-fall-of-communism times still had a social-liberal branch (one strong about minority rights and inequal opportunities), which unfortunately died away in the shade of populism and nationalism and its cancerous twin, neoliberal elitism.
Later, as the nineties economy-nonsense bubble grew, and the Centre-Left took another dive globally with the ascent of NuLab and those it inspired, the arrival of the 'anti'-globalisation movement[*] moved me toward the (European) Far(?) Left. It's no accident the provocatively titled Lenin's Tomb
is currently my favourite blog. It seems to me these modern socialists are the most willing to think hard today.
Now if I want to specify what exactly separates me from a their kind of socialist, I get into troubles. I would stress I don't want to do away with all competition between economic entities, but from what little I know, even anarcho-syndicalists allow for competition between their autonomous producing communities (tough not an existential one). I would stress many if not most people are ignorant of their class interests when it comes to politics, or indeed that both aspiring for power and following a leader are parts of human nature[+] - but 'agitation' is a really really old keyword for them. I would also stress that I can't accept a moral worldview solely based on human beings, then again Western socialists progressed well beyond the blunt everything-else-is- means-of-production mindset I so hated from our past 'communist' dictature.
Maybe it's just that well-versed enough in their favoured authors to decide?
Maybe it's something else. Let's get back to the libertarians: there are some eerie parallels between the ideal world of libertarians and communists/socialists. Both imagine the state abolished and replaced reason-based interaction of autonomous units (whether individuals or communes), just one sees the State as the main roadblock to there, the other capitalism/MCM. As mentioned above, the latter allow for competition after all, while the others think a market of rational people would end exploitation.
Strangely enough, the better-versed libertarians don't like corporate capitalism that much either, and there is even this: a pro-free-market attack on neoliberal economics
! And it happens I see a libertarian and a leftist railing against the same politicians for the same idiocies, but where one sees another sign of the State's failure, the other sees another sign that capitalist interests shouldn't have a hand in decisions.
Also, while I'm probably not the only leftist giving more thought to the libertarians' argument that good intentions won't make a decision immune against becoming the source of even greater disaster, some anti-war libertarians could see that even a corrupt UN is better than a bound-loose imperial State.
What this all boils down to is NOT some wishy-washy we're-all-the-same-deep-down New Age mumbo-jumbo, but that some differences are down to perspectives and language
rather than categorical differences. From which follows, for the Left, that when marching separately, it may be wiser to confront libertarians (and others
striking together) in a more nuanced way, it can be worth to listen. (And the Other Side is already trying
(This post was in part inspired by the discussion that followed Robert Lindsay's rant against libertarian economics
, which started with my enthusiastic approval.)[*] Not the hundreds throwing stones, sometimes orchestrated by Berlusconi sometimes not, but the hundreds of thousands protesting and discussing while CNN talking heads dismiss their own field reporters' reports... [BTW, I almost never watch CNN; anyone seen Alessio Vinci on-screen recently?]
[+] To cut through the underlying sillyness of the nature vs. nurture arguments some readers might see implied here: I think these parts of human nature are things to anticipate and sidetrack (nurture changes the effect of nature), rather than either deny them or declare that what is is what should be. For example, imagine if 90% of people would restrict followership to dancing at the tune of some musician or sports games, while they would vote or protest after criticising each alternative (and news source)?