Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tired ideas for would-be radicals

Naomi Wolf’s Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries follows up last year’s The End of America, her belated warning of a “fascist shift” in the U.S. For radical libertarians, The End of America was pretty pedestrian, revelatory only to readers who never graze much beyond the bestseller list.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist grabbing Wolf’s new political handbook, since I’m always on the lookout for a modern how-to to rival Saul Alinsky’s 1971 classic Rules for Radicals. But unlike the late Alinsky, Wolf is neither an out-of-the-box thinker nor particularly radical. So Give Me Liberty is a mixed and largely uninspired bag of left-centrist polemic against the usual suspects (Bush, Cheney, et al.), battle cry rhetoric, and sketchy advice on writing press releases, arranging town hall meetings, launching blogs, petitioning our masters and, of course, getting out the vote (especially after we dump that pesky ol’ Electoral College). Early on in the book, Wolf writes that she was recently startled to discover that the Declaration of Independence is a radical document that exhorts the right to revolution. Egad! Too bad her definition of revolution is limited to working the system and playing electoral politics. “There are concrete laws we must pass to restore liberty,” Wolf writes. When she discusses the Bill of Rights, her only comment on the Second Amendment is that it “protects the right to own guns, at least in certain circumstances.” Now that’s revolutionary thinking. Not.

In the book’s “user’s guide,” Wolf is joined by other activists — what she calls her “citizens’ council” — including Trevor “Oyate” and Raymond D. Powell from Ron Paul’s camp, neither of whom have much to say. In her introduction to this section, Wolf explains, “We compiled a wish list at the end for laws, entities, and practices that we need to brainstorm about, create, enact, or build.” All of the items on that wish list, not surprisingly, are about making political elections fairer, more inclusive, and even making election fraud a “major felony.” One of Wolf’s cohorts, broadcaster-activist Curtis Ellis, suggests “making voting mandatory, with fines for not voting. When you renew your auto registration or file your taxes, you should have to show that you voted in elections.” Thanks, Curtis. You’ve just offered us one more good reason to avoid vehicle registration and evade taxes.

Give Me Liberty is of little use to Libertarian Leftists. There’s still a valuable activists’ how-to that needs to be written. Maybe one of these days, I’ll write the damn thing myself.

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At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so there is nothing to recommend besides rules for radicals for guides to action? i've read rules and didn't like it. it was boring for one. maybe i need to try again. have you read harry boyte's backyard revolution? or any of his other works? i believe he has some connection to alinsky.

i think agorists could benefit from participating in community organizations that would tend to be populated by other leftists especially green and other decentralist leaning types. of course ACORN-type get out the vote organizations are not worth our time, but others might be if they are sufficiently non-political. i'd be interested to know if the kinds of local organizations, if any, left libertarians participate in - its something thats been on my mind w/plans of moving.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...


The Saul Alinsky book remains for me the radical handbook for others to aspire to. Alinsky was a real community organizer and street-fighter, and his book is filled not only with nitty-gritty how-to but with plenty of material on ethics, attitude, etc. Nothing else compares. As for Rules for Radicals being boring, well, dunno how to respond to that. I find it stirring.

That said, I might mention that Claire Wolfe's The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook, first published by the late Loompanics, is still available from Paladin Press (or via Amazon). It has a LOT to offer, as well.

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To make every vote in every state politically relevant and equal in presidential elections, support the National Popular Vote bill.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 21 legislative chambers (one house in CO, AR, ME, NC, and WA, and two houses in MD, IL, HI, CA, MA, NJ, RI, and VT). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring this legislation into effect.



At 7:37 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...


You seem to have missed the point that I disapprove of electoral politics. But thanks for the info anyway.

At 12:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its in storage right now, but i will read rules for radicals again soon. i dont know why it didnt click for me and i dont remember enough about it to make anything worthwhile observations. i do want to read the claire wolf book you mentioned as well. thanks. love the blog.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger The Atomic Rockhound said...

End of America was one of the first books I ever read concerning libertarian thought. It was pretty radical for me, then a virgin to these ideas.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Reformed Patriot,

I don't see The End of America as particularly libertarian -- more social democratic, IMHO -- but if it brought you into the libertarian fold, terrific! Welcome!

At 2:10 PM, Anonymous sex shop said...

I read really much worthwhile data in this post!


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