“I have never felt comfortable with the horizontally-based arrangement that defines political thinking along a ‘Left’ to ‘Right’ continuum,” wrote Butler Shaffer yesterday in his essay “No Room on the Spectrum.” Added Butler:
“I know this designation arose from the seating order in the old French parliament, but this only adds to our confusion. We have structured our minds to believe that ‘communism’ and ‘fascism’ are polar opposite political systems, and that those desirous of avoiding the vicious ‘extremes’ of either are invited to seek refuge in the safe harbor of the ‘middle’ of the spectrum. In such ways has the state continued to expand its powers, advising the uncritical booboisie to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils.’ ...
“...along the ‘Left/Right’ spectrum are to be found the various franchises of statist behavior that have conspired to plague mankind with the horrible nature of all political systems. The parliamentary origins of this concept ought to have been a tip-off that human freedom was not to be part of the equation defining positions along the spectrum.”
proposes an alternative to the Left-Right spectrum, substituting vertical “up” and “down” designations. With complete individual liberty at the upper end and total statism at the lowest end, the arrangement might be:
- Libertarianism (classical "limited government" liberalism)
- Modern liberalism
- Limited state-socialism
- Expansive state-socialism
Seems to me that if you just knock this vertical model over on its side, with anarchism falling on the far left and both fascism and communism falling on the far right, you’ve got the cleaner, more historically correct Left-Right spectrum championed long ago by Murray Rothbard (“Left and Right: the Prospects for Liberty”
) and Karl Hess (Dear America
’s vertically-described system is appealing. It reminds me of my old friend, author-teacher-futurist F.M. Esfandiary (aka FM-2030).
Years ago, F.M. used to hold wonderful Rothbard-like salons at his Westwood apartment near UCLA that would always run into the wee hours. The conversations were civil and mind-expanding. The wine and food were top-notch. F.M. died five years ago. I miss him and
Anyway, in the 1970s, F.M. wrote a trilogy of nonfiction books on the future, all of them now unfortunately out of print. The middle tract, published in 1973, was titled Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto
. In that book, F.M. explained that Right and Left were “traditional frameworks predicated on traditional premises striving in obsolete ways to obtain obsolete goals.” In an era of rapid technological, scientific, medical, and cultural breakthroughs, the liberal and radical Left were the “new gradualists — the new conservatives.” He wrote: “I stress the point because this liberalism and Left radicalism masquerading in the name of progress are putting up the strongest resistances to the newest breakthroughs.” These breakthroughs “are outside the range of all the traditional philosophical social economic political frameworks. These new dimensions are nowhere on the Right or on the Left. These new dimensions are Up.”
Maybe we anarchists should
follow Butler Shaffer's advice, adopt an Up-Down philosophical model, and start referring to ourselves as Up-Wingers
. Wouldn't that
draw attention to our movement?