This weekend white nationalists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the City of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee.
Several hours into the “Unite the Right” rally 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. rammed his silver Dodge Charger into a crowd of protesters twice, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 20 other protesters.
The rally turned violent well before the murder. City and state police largely stood by and watched as protesters and counter-protesters beat the crap out of each other. One team of reporters covering the rally observed, “Several times, a group of assault-rifle-toting militia members from New York State, wearing body armor and desert camo, played a more active role [than police] in breaking up fights.” After the rally Cornel West told the Washington Post that “the police didn’t do anything” to protect the counter-protesters. “If it hadn’t been for the anti-fascists protecting us from the neo-fascists,” he said, “we would have been crushed like cockroaches.”
(If you’re a fan of direct action, here’s a good post on how to help non-violently.)
It’s galling to watch police sit back when white supremacists march, knowing that when black protesters march against police violence, police respond with tear gas and rubber bullets against both protesters and journalists. Assault-rifle-toting militia members also protected journalists covering the Ferguson protests from police violence.
Promoters including Jason Kessler claimed the “Unite the Right” rally was about free speech. The right loves to use “free speech” as a fig leaf for bigotry. Few of the people who complained that Google firing the memo guy is “suppressing viewpoints” complained about the white nationalist getting fired by a libertarian hot dog stand for participating in the Unite the Right rally. The same thing happened with Milo Yiannopoulos, who was a free speech hero while saying things the right could admit to agreeing with, but was summarily dismissed once his rhetoric strayed outside of acceptable rightwing groupthink.
One thing I want to discuss briefly is a thread about a vigil for Heather Heyer in which @copcemetery writes of “liberals,” “line em up against a goddamn wall.”
My first point is that Nazism is against private profit and private property.
For more than seventy years the German professors of political science, history, law, geography and philosophy eagerly imbued their disciples with a hysterical hatred of capitalism, and preached the war of “liberation” against the capitalistic West.
So it’s odd to see antifa acting as if Nazism and capitalism are one and the same.
Nick Land, a forefather of neo-fascism, admits in a recent blog post that “‘Liberalism’ is the most profoundly corrupted word in political history.” I assume “line em up against a goddamn wall” would agree with Land’s definition of liberalism:
Liberalism, from this point forward, means nothing at all like state-happy progressivism. It is defined, instead, as the polar opposite of socialism. Its sole commanding value is liberty. It is individualist, only ever guardedly traditionalist, commercially and industrially oriented, strategically neglectful of care, skeptical in respect to all purported public agencies, and rigorously economical in respect to every dimension of government.
Land also seems to use “libertarian” and “liberal” interchangeably. To the extent that @copcemetery means “libertarian,” I’m sympathetic.
Libertarians are a funny bunch. They are not a monolith, of course. But there are themes. For example, they call the Google firing “tyranny,” but fight to protect employers’ right to discriminate for employment on the basis of gender and race. Wait, do employers have the right to free association or not? Reasonable person: Can rights also be tyranny? Libertarians if they had a shred of self-awareness: Only if I disagree with how they’re being utilized!
Yet libertarians are also the only people who are going to defend Milo Yiannopoulos’ legal right to advocate child molestation.
Libertarians are currently claiming that groups like Black Lives Matter “asked for it.” As in, they brought the violence of white supremacy upon themselves.
When people ask to stop being stripped of their humanity on the basis of their demographics, libertarians deride it as “identity politics.” You can only claim that non-whites invented identity politics if you ignore white supremacy.
“Through picnics, lunches, and cross burnings, these white women rallied around racist immigration laws, anti-miscegenation, and segregation,” it’s white supremacy in action that libertarians refuse to recognize white supremacy as violent collectivism.
White supremacy began with violent collectivism, endured through violent collectivism, and is experiencing what I hope is its death throes in America with violent collectivism.
Of course white supremacy will respond with violence toward “others” gaining any semblance of equality. Of course they will see the relative decrease of their unearned power as violence because that’s how they got their power to begin with.
And to blame the victims of violent white supremacy for their own murders, the idea that to advocate for your humanity one should expect, and be blamed for, a violent response, is itself a manifestation of white supremacy.
But liberalism and libertarianism are not one and the same. Libertarianism, according to Land, is a little corner of the far right where liberals bunkered down after immigrants and women gained electoral power and grew government out of control. (He’s empirically right about women, but the evidence on immigrants is very weak.) Liberalism, says Land, “had a truly terrible 20th century, and right now things aren’t looking any better.”
There’s a reason the alt-right has drawn so much of its participants from libertarianism. Three of the listed speakers at the United the Right rally used to identify as libertarians: Mike Enoch, Augustus Invictus, and Christopher Cantwell.
Until the alt-right, libertarianism was the best fit for radical white identity politics.
As Jonathan Blanks put it on Sunday:
The United States was founded as a country with an economy based on racist exploitation. Libertarians, as a group of people dedicated to the ideals–not the reality–of the Founding, must recognize the difference and come to terms with the hypocrisy of the era. Moreover, in the past half century or so, libertarian ideas have been the intellectual window dressing for modern racist practices and politics. As people devoted to liberty, today’s libertarians must separate themselves from these ignoble traditions.
Effective American advocates for liberty must understand and face the real barriers to economic and personal liberty that remain present in the United States. This administration’s actions, policies, and words are anathema to the expansion of liberty and the flourishing of human freedom. It is a daily disgrace and an ongoing American tragedy.
If self-described libertarians cannot recognize that, I don’t know what good they are doing for anyone.
And here, we get to Land agreeing with Mises. The word fascism “in its cold, technical sense, the word fascism] is not even merely convenient, but even invaluable. It literally means the politics of bundling. Fasces are sticks bound together. Liberals are essentially defined by their dissent from that.”
John Quiggin writes of an “important shift” of libertarianism to the left in the US. Jonathan Blanks is an example. He cites Liberaltarianism. I would cite neoliberalism as well. Both are explicitly pro-capitalist, pro- social-welfare, and anti-fascist.
I think several things are really important now, especially for leftists.
I’m not asking for sympathy, only accuracy. I think we’ll get less fascism if we recognize the difference between the right, the alt-right, libertarians, and (neo)liberals.
Broadly speaking, the alt-right is fascist, which is to say supportive of the politics of bundling. They are fundamentally tribal. They oppose free trade, immigration, multiculturalism, ethnic blending, individualism, and free speech. They support what they consider to be tradition, a large role for the state in the economy and a generous social safety net for white citizens. They are anti-capitalist.
Libertarians are in the middle. Many self-described libertarians oppose immigration, multiculturalism, ethnic blending, a large role for the state in the economy, and a generous social safety net for anyone. They support what they consider to be tradition, free trade, individualism, and free speech. They are pro-capitalist. Many libertarians explicitly oppose fascism. Many more don’t.
Neoliberals, on the other hand, are explicitly opposed to the politics of bundling. They are individualist and pro-capitalist, and do not seek a large role for the state in the economy except for a generous social safety net for everyone. They support multiculturalism, ethnic blending, free trade, immigration, and free speech. They do not particularly support what they consider to be tradition. They readily admit that the United States was founded as a country with an economy based on racist exploitation.
As satisfyingly easy as it may be to lump everyone who you dislike in together, Liberal Currents is not the Quillette. The Niskanen Center is not the Cato Institute. Hell, the right is not the alt-right. These distinctions matter because fascism is real and it’s killing people in America right now so we really need to get along and work together to fight it.
Peri Dwyer Worrell
Funny, I would reverse your definitions of “neoliberalism” and “libertarianism.” I agree that the alt-right became a hiding place for white supremacists and racists for a while, and I am delighted to see them distancing themselves.
I have seen far more libertarians affirming Google’s right to dismiss Damore (while pointing out that Google’s being prosecuted for discrimination led to some of the policies that Damore saw as irrational) than I have seen condemning the firing as tyranny.
I think it’s good for the libertarian movement to be pruning out those who gravitated to it because it defended their right to say racist, sexist, anti-homosexual, or otherwise hateful things, and they mistook that for endorsement of those things. At the same time, I refuse to throw the baby of free speech out with the bath water of government-enforced speech. And I refuse to deny my own lived experience of being the target of black racists’ physical and sexual violence because I live in a nation which once codified white racism into law.
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