Saturday, October 21, 2006

The psychology of comradeship

There’s been a lot of blogging and e-traffic lately, particularly on the Left Libertarian e-list, about a proper definition of “Left Libertarianism.” Being rather simpleminded, I’ve been content for years with Samuel Edward Konkin III’s explanation of the term, offered in his classic pamphlet Introducing the Movement of the Libertarian Left:

“ ‘Left,’ from earliest political times, has meant ‘anti-establishment.’ Consistent libertarians wish to abolish the State and its parasitic class of bureaucrats, politicians, subsidized businessmen, privileged labor leaders, and military mass murderers. This puts us, in most political lexicons, on the Left; since it is anarchist, it places us on the Far Left.”

But I’ll admit that if libertarians want to build alliances with more traditional Leftists and even someday lead the Left, this perspective isn’t enough. Libertarians must shift their mindset and start darting down new reality tunnels. As Jerome Tuccille wrote 36 years ago in Murray Rothbard’s Libertarian Forum, “On the rapidly changing American scene, the distinction between Left and Right is becoming more and more a question of personal psychology.”

Quoting further from Tuccille’s “The Psychology of Opposites” (LF, February 1, 1970):

“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 human beings 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.”

In closing his article, Tuccille submitted a “call to arms” that’s as valuable today as it was in 1970 to those of us working to build a synthesis of all libertarian strains, whether Left or Right:

“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.”

During his years in the movement, Jerome Tuccille flip-flopped conservative to libertarian to conservative. But I think his article offers a key to bridging differences between all of us in This Movement of Ours.


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