Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In defense of revolutionaries

James Leroy Wilson’s Independent Country has become one of my first blog stops each morning. His posts are always contemplative, always thought-provoking. Yesterday, to clarify his affiliation with the Libertarian Left, he distinguished radicals from revolutionaries. Since the Left “is often portrayed as revolutionary,” he wrote, “I should point out that I consider my ideology radical, but not revolutionary.”

I recommend that all thoughtful Libertarian Leftists reflect on James’ nine points of difference between radicals and revolutionaries. I can’t argue with his reasoning. But I do quibble with his seeming dismissal of the term revolutionary. Wilson’s “revolutionary” is what Rose Wilder Lane called an “Old World revolutionist” more than 60 years ago in her classic The Discovery of Freedom. Lane wrote:

“From Nebuchadnezzar to Hitler, history is one long record of revolts against certain living rulers, and revolts against kinds of living Authority.

“When these revolts succeed, they are called revolutions. But they are revolutions only in the sense that a wheel’s turning is a revolution. An Old World revolution is only a movement around a motionless center; it never breaks out of the circle. Firm in the center is belief in Authority. No more than a Communist or the National Socialist (Nazi) today, has any Old World revolutionist ever questioned that belief; they all take it for granted that some Authority controls individuals.”

But Lane also recognized True Revolutionaries who operate beyond the false revolutions of Old World power-seekers. These revolutionaries, rather than repeatedly replacing one despot with another, seek true human freedom freedom that does “break out of the circle.” These revolutionaries do question the Old World belief in Authority over individuals.

The great Bob LeFevre expanded on Lane's ideas of revolution some two decades later. And as Karl Hess wrote in The Libertarian Forum (Vol. I, No. VI, June 15, 1969):

“Libertarianism is clearly the most, perhaps the only truly radical movement in America. It grasps the problems of society by the roots. It is not reformist in any sense. It is revolutionary in every sense.”

For that reason, I consider my ideology both radical and revolutionary.

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At 8:16 AM, Blogger B.W. Richardson said...

I can't disagree with either you or James. You're just using different definitions of "revolutionary." He wanted, I think, to find a way to differentiate his philosophy from that of folks who want to seize the government, which is choking our freedom from the top down, and replace it with a government that enforces a different top-down philosophy on us. Your idea of revolution is a little more user friendly. I agree you gotta love his nine points.


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