Thursday, July 28, 2005

The psychologies of Left and Right

Ah, the valuable, long-lost gems I’m finding in the Libertarian Forum archive!

The latest is an article by Jerome Tuccille (he who wrote Radical Libertarianism and It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand). It’s titled “The Psychology of Opposites” and appears in the issue dated February 1, 1970. For those of us who enjoy debating what’s Left and what’s Right, Tuccille offered some interesting thoughts.

“On the rapidly changing American scene,” he wrote shortly before the U.S. broadened its Vietnam War into Cambodia and four Kent State students were killed by National Guard in Ohio, “the distinction between Left and Right is becoming more and more a question of personal psychology.”

At the time of this piece, Tuccille (who for years flip-flopped conservative to libertarian to conservative) obviously thought of himself as a man of the Left. He wrote:

“The New Left — the radicals, the revolutionaries, the students who are turning against their social democratic parents — are driven by outrage; they are obsessed with a mania for justice because other human beings are victimized by racism, because fellow human beings are imprisoned in rotting tenements riddled with filth and rats. They see the injustice that exists around them and they are incensed because they have the capacity to identify with the victims of an unyielding and thoroughly unresponsive superstructure, a system controlled and operated by insatiable racketeers and their political puppets who will never give up power until they are smashed out of existence.

“The Left bleeds for people.

“While the Right — even our anarchist friends recently separated from YAF — concern themselves with abstractions. They are more upset over the fact that their free market principles are not given a chance to operate than they are because fellow humans are trapped in overcrowded schools and ghettos. They seem to be incapable of empathizing with suffering individuals and dismiss all such concern as misguided altruism. Their notion of justice is one which involves only themselves, and they fail to see that they will never enjoy personal freedom until all men are free of injustice.”

Finally, in a “call to arms” that speaks as stirringly today as it did 35 years ago to those of us who seek a synthesis of all libertarian factions, whether Left or Right, Tuccille concluded:

“The philosophical division between free market anarchists and voluntary communists is growing less important in light of the current struggle to free the neighborhoods from outside control. The purist ideals of total communal sharing and a totally free market of individual traders are important in themselves as ideals, as logical ends of different though consistent processes of reasoning. But the most important factor in the rough-and-tumble struggle for survival, the war to secure the right of flesh-and-blood people to control their own affairs, is the psychology of comradeship. It is the ability to identify with the actual victims of injustice that cements the bond uniting revolutionaries on the Left, whether they call themselves anarcho-communists, free market anarchists, or just plain radicals.

“Terminology has ceased to be important. As we enter a period of overt repression it is this crucial psychological attitude toward our fellow human beings that will determine on which side of the political fence each one of us will stand.”

I think Karl Hess called this attitude “anarchism without hyphens.” What a concept!

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At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Brad Spangler said...

Hess was echoing several prominent people who have (broadly speaking) referred to this for a long time as "anarchism without adjectives".


At 10:09 AM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Whether you call it "anarchism without hyphens" or "anarchism without adjectives," it places hatred of the State front and center, before economic doctrine. Methinks that's a good thing.

At 1:19 AM, Blogger Lloyd Miller said...

Naw! A foolish call to sink into an emotional abyss and lose track of cause and effect.


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