Feb 2, 2004: Our Nonviolent Revolt

From the very beginning, we have noted and criticized the weak leadership and inactivity of the various factions we have termed collectively as the “coalition of liberty”. These conservatives, libertarians, and liberals have been upbraided by us for the narrowness of their vision and their inability to act based on their own self-declared principles. Instead of driving to the heart of the question and taking advantage of the present conditions, to focus with what might be called a religious devotion on their own freedom, to explore what paths might be beaten to attain a free society, our ideological friends and allies have opted for taking easy pot-shots at the current government or taking other painfully obvious positions such as opposition to the war or to greater federal spending. But, what will they do to stop the government?

Nothing, it seems. They are completely silent on the question of action. They completely lack a positive political message. They argue for a radical alternative to the current order but find themselves curiously unable to describe this order other than in generic general terms. If they tend to the anarchist position and claim that their lack of a political message is inevitable, they are still strangely silent about what social order would arise from an anarchic philosophy. We currently live in a mass society in which the government assumes enormous social, economic, and military powers and responsibilities. To bring about a fundamentally individualistic order, would this not require a radical socio-economic revolution in which people are prepared to assume more responsibility for themselves and to create new, voluntary social institutions and morals to sustain such a free society? Would this not require the rise of a new kind of citizen, a new kind of man, for which there is very little precedent? But, what are we doing to get there?

You know the answer. When one gazes on the vast chasm between our movement’s rhetoric and principles on the one side and our inaction and lethargy on the other, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than that the bulk of this movement is not prepared to act and has little more than a passing interest or curiosity in freedom. That is to say, we cannot expect any “mass action” (if there are even enough of us to form a “mass”) on the part of the coalition of liberty, even in the form of the most token resistance. And, so, as an alternative to broad, mild, and gradualist resistance from the main of the movement, liberals must begin to think and operate outside of the libertarian middle. We must consider the possibility that, in order to live up to our own principles, we may have to take radical action on an individual basis, with little coordination or assistance from sympathetic organizations.

In considering revolutionary action, we must first of all recognize that all liberal action must be, at heart and in reality, non-violent. Provocative, defiant, and non-violent. It cannot grant any quarter to sentiments that would deliberately harm anyone. While a revolution is inherently disruptive and unsettling, it must be clear that violence against persons or property is inconceivable to the liberal and that this extends even to such action as deliberately disrupting the daily lives of others (for example, blocking roads in order to bring attention to one’s cause). We would even go so far as to affirm, along with the two most famous civil resistance leaders of the last century, that this necessitates the assumption of an internal disposition to love or compassion that may be found, if imperfectly, in all of the great religions of the world.

Liberalism and non-violence are ultimately inseparable. We claim our inalienable right to self-determination, and in doing so, we affirm that all social action must be voluntary. It is impossible to establish a liberal, voluntary order that is founded on a victory of physical force. However unjust it may be for others to use force against us to aggrandize themselves at our expense, by allowing their principle of power to infect our cause, we will, as has so often been pointed out, merely become like them.

There are numerous practical reasons to shun violence, of course, and one may suspect that it is such reasons that prevent the more bellicose libertarians and anarcho-capitalists from taking any action at all. For example, the government has a near monopoly on force. The whole world knows the physical power that the United States government is able to muster and the devastating decisiveness with which it is prepared to exercise that power. Aside from that, however, there is the propagandistic power of the government to contend with as well. By resorting to arms, the government could easily categorize such a movement as criminal, extremist, and terrorist.

And, violence will only breed fear and hate among those which we wish to convince. The fact is that the myth that the constitutional order is founded on the consent of the governed is enormously powerful, and the taking to arms by libertarian extremists would actually appear as an assault on the principle, not the myth. Violence would become a barrier to our aim of a voluntary society. The goal of a society based on peaceful, voluntary cooperation would be damaged by the hate, distrust, and militarism that violence would bring about.

Moreover, the thorough radicalism of the philosophy which we espouse does not allow for a sudden transition to a free society. There has been no absolutely liberal order in the history of man, and the great shift of responsibility from mass society embodied in the majoritarian government to individuals and consensual government would require a social and economic restructuring that simply cannot be fully conceived. The idea that our society is somehow a monster that only needs its head (i.e., the government) to be lopped off is irresponsible and unspeakably dangerous. A liberal order can only be established gradually, because it is a revolution in all aspects of life, not merely the rather easy abandonment of economic regulation that too many libertarians seem to dream of.

Finally, one must consider the effect that violence and war would have on the liberal movement itself. War and violence are all-consuming and cannot help but give rise to hate, paranoia, cruelty, and the worst forms of inhumanity. One no longer can focus on the path of self-determination that is the nominal cassus belli, but instead must obsess over how to trick, harm, and maim one’s enemy. The leadership of such a movement would come to be dominated by the cleverest and most ruthless sorts, not the bravest and most liberal. By relegating the “opponents” of liberty to the category of “enemy”, we would necessarily undermine the consensual foundation of the society we wish to establish and dehumanize those with whom we must ultimately cooperate. The “enemy” could never be trusted or compromised with; the result would be a society viciously divided. Supposing that the “liberal” faction could win such a war, how could a consensual society then be established?

No, we must reject, not only the seduction of violence, but the hate that will give rise to such violence in times of great stress and chaos as confrontation with the government escalates. Violence and hate are full-time jobs that will not permit the development of the fullness of our human nature, the very reason why we have insisted on the right to self-determination in the first place. Those libertarians who would, if given the opportunity, resort to violence have a more doubtful interest in the cause of liberty than the most doctrinaire communist who unflinchingly follows the path of non-violence.

February 2, 2004

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