The Other Libertarianism

For centuries, libertarianism has meant freedom from inequality and hierarchy. This understanding of libertarianism is synonymous with anarchism. As Alexander Berkman, perhaps the brightest mind of US anarchists, noted in Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism (1929), “the greatest teachers of Socialism – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – had taught that Anarchism would come from Socialism. They said that we must first have Socialism, but that after Socialism there will be Anarchism, and that it would be a freer and more beautiful condition of society to live in than Socialism.” Of the Bolshevik movement he wrote, “their greatest teacher, Lenin, had said that Anarchism would follow Bolshevism, and that then it will be better and freer to live.”

(Unfortunately, the Revolution was from the beginning put on the defensive by capitalist encirclement and invasion, forcing it into a siege socialist posture, and then betrayed by reformers before it arrived at communism. Capitalists had to make sure that the Soviet Union did not succeed in the long run because they knew that not only did socialism work, but that its end game, communism, would mean the end to the capitalist life of living off the work of the people.)

Berkman said these things because he knew that anarchism and communism are in essence the same thing: people controlling their own lives without classes and the state. To make sure people understood this, he and many others called themselves anarchist communists or communist anarchist. These terms, along with the most recent libertarian socialism, have the same meaning as the term democracy in its non-restricted sense, namely rule by the people.

But in order to move towards democracy, the working class must recognize the limitations of liberal (bourgeois or capitalist) democracy and then struggle to replace it with a libertarian order, i.e., proletarian democracy. One of the barriers to this is propaganda that confuses the people about the meaning of words. “Libertarianism” as is currently used by bourgeois politicians and the media is really one rhetorical aspect of a propaganda strategy adopted in the 1950s by the enemies of the “New Liberalism” (limited social democracy) of Roosevelt and the New Dealers. This attack was led by such social darwinists as F. A. Hayek at the intellectual level. Today, states rights conservatives such as Ron Paul claim to be libertarian.

Those who study political and economic history and theory, and who are truthful about such matters, know this is not what libertarianism means. After all, Ron Paul’s beliefs are antithetical to liberty. If you wish to speak truthfully, and not talk in spin, then you don’t use “libertarianism” to refer to the philosophies of authoritarian capitalism or social darwinism. These philosophies and practices are fundamentally opposed to liberty.

The right-wing intellectuals and politicians presenting themselves as libertarian are in really anti-libertarian. Indeed, they are an authoritarian. Such is the state of the Orwellian world in which we live. They support capitalism, which is a system of controlling people for profit. Capitalism, like slavery and feudalism, is a hierarchy of control. Libertarianism, in contrast, is about individual freedom, and such freedom can only come when there are no hierarchies of control.

Here’s the hard truth of the matter: The capitalist class is a parasitic social stratum that must be eliminated in order for liberty to exist in its fullest sense. People cannot be free where the few exploit and control the many. No person who is forced by unequal and unjust circumstances to rent himself to survive is free. Any person who profits from a situation in which other persons are forced by unequal and unjust circumstances to rent themselves to survive is a parasite. Capitalists must be dispossessed of their control over the means of production and come work alongside the people who actually reproduce the world everyday. Capitalists and their managers must be metamorphized from parasites to contributing members of society. There are no vampires in a free world.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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