Tuesday, March 28, 2006

MLL: we endorse direct action

Beginning this summer, chapters of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) plan a nationwide “Harass the Brass” campaign of fly-by sit-ins and lockdowns on military recruitment centers, private military companies, military research facilities, congressional offices, and pro-war corporate media outlets. Quoting the SDS announcement:

“We are standing at a crossroads. The antiwar movement is caught under the weight of liberal tactics, fighting to end a war that can only be stopped through radical action. ... It’s time for a change. If the administration won’t end the war, we must end it for them.”

Already, a handful of us from the Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL) have added our names to an endorsement of the SDS “Harass the Brass” campaign. You can sign that endorsement here.

I’ve heard it argued recently that we libertarians who align ourselves with the Left and support direct-action tactics are playing into the hands of collectivists and closet-statists. In response, let me offer this anecdote from Samuel Edward Konkin III, which appeared in the May Day 2001 issue of Tactics of the Movement of the Libertarian Left (the last issue of that newsletter, incidentally, and the only one produced under my editorship):

“In October 1969, three Wisconsin ex-YAF Libertarian Caucus anarchists, including me, attended the first ever Libertarian Conference in New York City at the Hotel Diplomat. Refugees from SDS, such as the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition (U. Michigan), joined us ex-YAFers. Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess were the stars that drew us there. Sadly, they fell out when Hess led most of the ‘Left’ to join a March on Fort Dix, while the rest of us stayed behind to hear Rothbard, Liggio, Peden, and other early Libertarians argue philosophy, economics, and revisionist history. Hess was dressed as a Black Panther and, in an early Left-Right joint action, Mary Forham of the Phoenix Coalition and I led a folk song medley, making fun of Karl’s pretensions. So when he said, ‘If [Libertarians] aren’t on the barricades with the rest of the Left, after the Revolution, they won’t be asking us for our input,’ we had smart-ass retorts like ‘Why do you think they’ll ask for our input after they win anyway?’ and ‘Who do you think will contract to build the barricades?’

“But Hess took our worst and went out, and he came back dripping of tear gas as a badge of honor. A year later, I was hit by a pepper gas grenade at the University of Wisconsin, my black flag a target for the National Guard (this was the same weekend as Kent State) as I dodged Maoists who had decided I was a threat to their recruiting.

“Libertarians had a fear of being ‘used’ by the Left, especially those damned commies, by attending, participating, and even organizing demonstrations. Many young, new — and even older — Libertarians remain reluctant to dive in and confront the State. Arguments come easily: Why help the commies? We’ll be dupes! We don’t know what we’re doing; they are experienced, we’re not; the State may arrest, shoot us with tear gas or bullets, or even kill us!

“Well, the commies are gone; the leading ‘Newer’ New Left are acknowledged, even by the reluctant Establishment Media, to be anarchists. Since we’re even harder-core anarchists, they’ll be our dupes. Many of us do know what we’re doing and have more experience than the current demonstrators, so follow us!

“And, guess what, the State may arrest, shoot us with tear gas (or pepper gas — I’ve been shot, remember?) or bullets, or even kill us...in our homes, where we cower. I made the mistake in 1969 of staying with Murray instead of following Karl into glory. I haven’t made that mistake again.”

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