So I took a bit of a spontaneous vacation from The Picket Line to take care of some things off-line. Some of what I was up to was working with some people who are planning a protest action for — I’ll have more on this later, when there’s more solid news to report.
The protest is a coordinated effort of a group of war tax resisters and an assembly of groups that have organized around opposition to the war in Iraq and to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The groups have some ideological and style differences, but are putting those aside and working well together so far.
I’m trying to push this incipient solidarity even further and see if we can also bring in the local Libertarian Party activists, who also traditionally do an demo. It’s an uphill battle. I haven’t been very successful at convincing the leftish core of our demonstration planners that they have much in common with the Libs — and I haven’t even started trying to convince the Libs that they’d be interested in going to a protest organized by a bunch of lefties.
Myself, I see a lot of advantages in such an alliance, but I’m not the one who needs convincing. The local Libertarians are a small group that barely registers on the political radar. They might gain from an alliance with the much larger leftish coalition. Also, if they crafted their message well, they could reach out to and influence a Left that libertarian activists have sadly abandoned in recent years.
(I’m not the only one to mourn the stubborn association of libertarianism with the American right-wing. For instance, there’s been a discussion over at Liberty & Power this week on the subject.)
The San Francisco peacenik left could also gain from such an alliance. We often talk about bringing a broader group of dissatisfied Americans into the active opposition, but if we can’t even reach out to Libertarians — who are already with us, by and large, on the war and aid-to-Israel issues, and who have already given up on business-as-usual — what are the odds we’ll ever reach Joe Sixpak?
And for that matter, the libertarian critique of coercive state power is a good one and the Left would gain from confronting it honestly, addressing it well, or (dare I hope?) adopting it for its own. Too many people on the Left think that the state is on our side — that it can be tamed and turned into our defender and our helper. In all times and all places, the state has been a mechanism to give money and power to unethical people who already have more than their share — it’s about time that the Left recognize that the state isn’t their friend and isn’t going to be.
(As a tax resister, I’m also interested in reaching out to the Libs because they seem like good candidates for tax resistance — they already hate taxes but might benefit from a little practical assistance in learning how to put their money where their mouths are. The leftish war tax resistance movement knows what it’s talking about in this regard, and libertarians would be smart to listen-up.)
A friend read my Picket Line entry from about why libertarians are frequently caricatured as ideologically rigid, self-centered greed-heads, and to what extent this caricature is a hard-earned reputation and to what extent it’s a stereotype. He asked why I hadn’t given up on libertarianism yet:
Once thing I find a little weird though, is that since your criticism of the SS Libertarian is so spot on, why you bother identifying with the libertarian community at all. Despite that I have a lot in common with libertarian thought, every time I delve into the libertarian community, I leave with the same conclusions: what a bunch of self centered, adle brained, intellectual poseurs. And I too read Ayn Rand at an impressionable age.
I told him that there were two reasons I haven’t given up on libertarians yet: 1) The lefties can also be a bunch of difficult-to-get-along-with people (in other words, mavericks and freaks like me) with simplistic political views — if I can’t get along with libertarians or lefties, I’m gonna get mighty lonely on the barricades. 2) The folks who most seem to “get” what I’m doing with tax resistance, culture jamming, and such have been from the individualist anarchist and libertarian traditions: folks like Wendy McElroy and Claire Wolfe, for instance.