Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rothbard on building alliances has made available, after more than three decades, a wonderful old interview with Murray N. Rothbard, first published in early 1972 by The New Banner. The entire interview is worth reading. But what I found especially intriguing were Rothbard’s remarks on his efforts to ally libertarians with the New Left during the 1960s. It explains much about past and current challenges in This Movement of Ours, and also shows just how it’s possible that many of today’s “libertarians” ally themselves with Bush’s war. A couple of choice quotes:

“I was one of the people who originated the idea of an alliance with the New Left ... I didn’t think of an alliance with the New Left as living in communes with the Black Panthers. I thought of it as participating with the New Left in anti-draft actions or in opposition to the war. I conceived of a political rather than an ideological alliance. While we are both against the draft, let’s have our joint rallies to attack it, or something like that. ...

“This incidentally has been a problem with libertarians for a long time. Both in the old days when they were always allied with the right-wing and now when they tend to be allied with the left. You start allying yourself with a group and pretty soon you find yourself as one of the group. In other words, the alliance slips away. Start with the idea that we are going to work with either conservatives or radicals for specific goals and somehow they start spending all their time with these people and they wind up as either conservatives or radicals. The libertarian goal drops away and the means become the ends. This is a very difficult problem because you don’t want to be sectarian and have nothing to do with anybody. Then you’re never going to succeed at all. I think that one of the answers is to have a libertarian group which is strong enough to keep reinforcing the libertarianism of our members. ...

“I don’t agree with the sectarian idea that you have to agree on everything before you can act on anything. In other words, that you have to agree on A is A, free will, modern art, or whatever. I don’t buy that, I think it’s unrealistic. On the other hand, simply saying that you will unite on anything if you agree on ‘Smash the State,’ on a couple of slogans, is very dangerous, too. It depends upon the goal of your action or activity. If you are engaging in an ad hoc sort of thing like an anti-draft rally, then I don’t see anything wrong with having speakers or common activity with all anti-draft people regardless of their original premises. If you are going to have a libertarian organization carrying on all sorts of activities, conferences, journals and things like that, you want to have much more full agreement.”

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