From the Archives: "The Ten Points of the Libertarian Party Abolitionist Caucus"
By Bryan Caplan
In “Cato Memories,” I recalled the joy of cleaning the archives:
In a footnote in Why Americans Hate Politics,
E.J. Dionne wrote: “My thanks to Ed Crane and David Boaz of the Cato
Institute for letting me read through their excellent files of
clippings on libertarianism… To their credit, the libertarians save
everything and not just the flattering stuff.” I found this very funny
because the files that E.J. Dionne perused had been cleaned out years
earlier… by me! In the process, I discovered a lot of obscure
libertarian history. The most striking was the 1980 (?) platform of
the Libertarian Party’s Abolitionist Caucus. While it was a strident
anarchist tract, it insisted (contra the Rothbardian Libertarian Party Radical Caucus) that the American public’s fear of the Soviet Union was entirely reasonable.
By sheer coincidence, I recently stumbled across my copy of “The Ten Points of the Libertarian Party Abolitionist Caucus,” which was indeed written in 1980. It’s an interesting read. The manifesto’s anarcho-capitalist authors (Richard Slomon the only one who googles) had a strange urge to mimic turgid Marxist prose:
Partially as a result of this “radical” opportunist cowardice, the Party has no consistent or coherent ideological position. Lacking a clear abolitionist perspective, there can be no long-run strategy or motivation to evolve a theory of transition to a stateless society. All that the Party has now are unsupported generalities and empty catch-phrases in place of an organically evolving ideology. Nothing is explained in concrete actualities.
The abolitionists also threw out random ad hominems against the bourgeoisie. When overwhelmingly middle-class Marxist intellectuals selected “bourgeois” as their favorite epithet, it was at least consistent with their aspirations. For libertarians to emulate them is truly odd:
The burden of excess baggage left from the bourgeois, nineteenth-century “classical liberalism” will never permit us to cross the seas of mass apathy and delusion to a stateless society.
The opportunist factionalism which now divides the Party on the left is matched by an equally acute deterioration on the right. On this side the problem is not so much an intellectual battle as one of middle-class domination and paranoia.
The most intrinsically interesting part of “The Ten Points” – and the one that stuck with me – was its bitter attack on Rothbard’s Cold War revisionism:
The Abolitionist Caucus strongly rebukes the left-opportunist tactics of the LP Radical Caucus [Rothbard’s faction] for assigning the major burden of guilt to U.S. foreign policy for the Cold War. Our opposition to interventionist foreign policy and aggressive war preparations must take care not to condemn the justifiable mass desire for effective strategic defense against the obviously single-minded aggressive imperialist strategy of the USSR. Soviet imperialist expansion, war preparations and mass oppression have been major realities of global geopolitics for decades. The suspicion of the American people on Soviet motives is largely justifiable. Our desire to abolish and dismantle the American State must never obfuscate the fact of the irreconcilable enmity of the Communist regimes for an Anarcho-capitalist revolution. Left opportunism, and the current fashion of “anti-anti communism” among repentant bourgeois “radicals” currying favor from left collectivist circles, must never blind us to be the inadvertent pawns of KGB disinformation…
The next section goes on to attack Rothbard’s sympathetic take on “national liberation” movements:
Our quest for securing individual rights is not necessarily advanced by proliferation of national chauvinist movements unless the movement is decidedly libertarian in character. A small state — as we have seen in Kampuchea (Cambodia) — can be more violently oppressive than a large multinational empire. Because a large, repressive, multinational state is disintegrating into several ethno-linguistic states is not automatically a reason for jumping on the bandwagon of minority chauvinism…
The subtext of the whole piece is, “Eight pages of dense ideological prose will change the world.” So false, yet so charming in its own peculiar way.