Authoritarianism at the Gates
The Growth of Libertarianism & Its Metamorphosis Into Reaction
By Mauro Gonzalez
This text was written as part of the LSC Pamphlet Program: as such, it is also available in a format for online reading and one for printing. The post reflects only the opinions of the author(s) and not the consensus of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus. Please print and share as far and wide as you can!
THE FIRST CHARGE
On March 23rd, 2018 the creators of South Park, Trey Parker & Matt Stone revealed to a crowd after winning a Freedom Award from the left-wing 1st Amendment advocacy group - People for the American Way - that they are Republicans. Some have raised a red flag in alarm over this, but can one truly be shocked? Since the first episode aired in the mid-season of Bill Clinton's presidency in 1997, no institution standing has had a piss taken upon by the TV show. Islam, censorship, Trump, Clinton (both), Christianity, & so forth, have all been endlessly mocked by the creators, writers, and animators of this show. And in doing so - in mocking both sides, but praising a valiant middle - you leave an entrance for the development of new politics. But first, we need to take a step back, to 2014.
As an acquaintance on a Discord group I'm on mentioned: there's been a politicization of a 'traditionally' non-political group - well in theory - that of Gamergaters. Those who have let their egos & fragile masculinity run amuck, attacking women in all theaters of the gaming industry. But remember how it started out - as the Youtuber, games journalist, & video-essayist Noah Caldwell-Gervais explains in one video titled Depression Quest and the Rhetoric of Gamer Identity;
It started with Depression Quest; a game made to demonstrate what living what depression was like with no sugarcoating -
"Depression Quest was created by an indie developer in her late 20s named Zoe Quinn, within a few weeks of the game's release Quinn's ex-boyfriend - Eron Gjoni - released a 10,000-word blog post accusing Quinn of extreme personal and professional misconduct. People were enraged by the manifesto, and immediately demanded Quinn be held accountable for all the charges listed in the post. When their threads, which were filled with some really vile hate-speech, were deleted and editors were slow to take an aggrieved ex's self-indulgent slam piece as legitimate whistleblowing, Quinn's detractors who organized under the hashtag 'Gamergate' - and yes they are completely serious in comparing Quinn's misconduct to presidential fraud - cried conspiracy…"
And we see here the start of the development from non-ideology to ideology. These Gamergaters see themselves as wanting to restore justice to the system - in their eyes wanting an equal playing field for men and women, an egalitarian system - they see themselves as the natural average, and defender of the layman. It's exactly this reason why there was this shift: when you criticize everyone, claiming that both sides have gone mad with power and countless other reasons why one should support neither, along with a slew of complaints, and reasons to remain apathetic, it's easy to have full political removal, but it can also have the opposite effect: this can get one entwined in politics.
While back in 2014, these Gamergate folk often didn't have any political association. Too left to be considered mainstream right, too right to be mainstream 'left' - or just hadn't thought about their politics a lot. But now realize how truly absurd it is to have someone from their ranks, e.g. Paul Joseph Watson, who pedals man-pills, snake oil, and other fake supplements, vying on the shaky self-confidence & fragile masculinity of men in their 20s, and has spread the terms 'soy boy,' 'cultural Marxist,' 'cuck,' 'beta,' etc. far and wide as if it was given by God himself, is an editor of a 'news' organization - Infowars - in 2018. Of course, it's highlighted by the mad, shrill ravings of a middle-aged white man, fond of trying to expose the New World Order of its lies, and dangerous subplots to continue its domination over us. But for the longest time, folks that consume these pills and write angry comments on 'Feminazis' primarily didn't really have political associations. Their crusades were lone-wolf campaigns, aiming to fix both sides of the system, but we see now how for them, the GOP is the way forwards.
How did this happen then?
DEATH OF IDEALISM
For many, the milquetoast liberal elite has become a demon in American democracy. Up there in their high-castle, much rather willing to spend their days on recycling programs than ending the vicious cycle of poverty. They pretend to care about the layman, but would rather sit back in their chairs and let the profits flow in, with their comrades from Goldman Sachs and various other financiers at their side. They claim true American freedom - white picket-fence and all, but American democracy is a pet project - a vanity affair to spend their time on now. They're robots - they speak the usual lines, smile to the camera, shake hands & look wise, but at the end of the day, they are nothing but corporate shills. The layman looks warily on, grasping for good times, before the '08 Recession - where things weren't perfect, but were better than now.
Promises have made by countless big-government supporters from the Democrats about how this nation can rebound. A new age, with a new FDR, with a new New Deal, and all the usual laid down by the Democrats. But this has failed - the economy may be strong and in good health, but the average person isn't. Money is drying up, as everything becomes more expensive, and the top dogs will continue their usual vague promises, but nothing will ever get delivered. There is no distinction between the urban and rural poor - everyone's been hit hard. Businesses close their doors, factories stop producing, college graduates are sent into battle royales over which poor bastard is the most overqualified to flip burgers in places that smell of grease to get a few dollars thrown at your face every hour while rents go up and up and one can barely survive anymore. Who has time for a family, kids, a relationship, when you're struggling to get to your minimum-wage non-unionized job you spend sunrise to sunset at? Those with good paying jobs are berated by older co-workers, as they crunch numbers and feel no more than a cog in a vile machine. And what are the politicians looking at - goddamn bike paths‽
As many became more disenfranchised with the Democrats, they started to see the system as broken - and why wouldn't they? Promises weren't being delivered, and they were still suffering. This generation's environment is harder to live in than what one's parents have gone through. What hope is there to be found? The college liberal elite continue on their own decadent moral crusades, the Democrats turn their attention away from rights and towards the usual politicking - gerrymandering, racist and classist zoning, the usual - or simply benign subject matter. (Remember the million dollar bus stop in Arlington? Funded by the Democrats there.) The people who these 'reformists' defend - or at least have some empathy for: queers, Latinos, blacks, etc. - there's a sense of being left out - what about us? Especially if preset notions and beliefs are in the mix. Deep-rooted fears of the outside in Anglican America stretch deep. The Southern Italians & Irish were considered something besides white - degenerates, due to language, culture, and their Catholicism. Damn Papists!
"Here we are - regular Americans, left by the wayside. Why should I care about these people? My community has seen all our economic prosperity decline. Fewer and fewer jobs, people moving out, what is there to do? The big cities being taken care of, looking all nice and clean. what about us in the small towns? In real America?..."
ENTRANCE OF LIBERTARIANISM
With the foundations of a large segment of the populace wary & skeptical of the current system of Democratic dominance, this leads to a simple fact for many: the system is broken. It's been built up for liberals and their friends, while everyone else is left to suffer. The whole 'big government reformist' shtick wasn't working out for them: at all. Big government wasn't serving them well, instead focusing on other benign subjects, or getting corrupted: government could not be trusted. Any move they do could be them trying to seep into our lives, trying to dominate over us. Under those big grins and friendly demeanours are ulterior motives - trying to pounce on the common man and his dealings. The system has become oppressive; everyone is suffering. The Democrats maybe celebrate with fanfare their victories for the rights of God knows what group, but what do they do for us?
In simple terms: the system is broken, and no one is going to fix it.
Thus, with big government betraying the trust of many Americans, people go onwards to the other alternative: small government. If government isn't going to take care of us, we will. The individual is the key to might - and if someone wants to succeed in life, one shouldn't receive boosts from the people in office, they should just do it by themselves. Are we not all equal? Then why should some groups get bonuses that us regular, good-willed folk don't?
And so we see this shift with the Gamergate & South Park types. They critique both sides for relentlessly pushing their broken systems and giving unfair advantages for the home team, so instead of treating us humans as spoils-of-war, demonstrate that one can defend oneself. Prove to all of us regular people that you're capable. I have a friend myself who identifies as Libertarian and is critical of his own ideological core, Republicans, Democrats, etc. He tends to vote Libertarian or moderate Republican, and I can see this exact manifesto in politics. There is a deep distrust of all types of authority, as so many in those positions of power have failed him and many others.
One shall fend for themself - the system is broken, and there's no way of penetrating it. Leave the institutions to rot by themselves - and reject anything from them; God knows what they'll do. They're coming for the rights of us, real, regular Americans. Our guns, culture, etc. You have many Libertarian survival preppers, for instance, relying solely on what the individual can do, and rejecting whatever systems are already in place. And it's this mania over when the next time the government will strike leads individualistic approaches into that of group-conformity.
METAMORPHOSIS INTO GROUP-CONFORMITY
"...people grow up unable to conceive as possible to them a state of total disregard of other people's interests. They are under a necessity of conceiving themselves as at least abstaining from all the grosser injuries, and (if only for their own protection) living in a state of constant protest against them. They are also familiar with the fact of cooperating with others and proposing to themselves a collective, not an individual, interest as the aim (at least for the time being) of their actions. So long as they are co-operating, their ends are identified with those of others; there is at least a temporary feeling that the interests of others are their own interests."
- John Stuart Mill, 'Utilitarianism'
In the course of around 100 years - beginning in the 1850s and being cemented in the 1960s, before surfacing in the 1970s as the clear workings of the two-party system and no foreseeable way to go back, the Republicans have become the conservatives and Democrats the reformist-minded types. And the GOP is the perfect party to attract the individualist-Libertarian types fed up with the current broken system, and why wouldn't it?
Ever since the post-Civil War Era, it had attracted big businessmen. It rejects strong regulation on the market economy, rejects social progress, and feeds into the deep-rooted fears and superstitions of the Libertarian-centrist types. These Libertarians, and the constant critiquers of both ends of the aisle, have gotten into the mentality of themselves being the average American - a true American at that. They see their duty to protect the rights and rituals of the true American from the vampires of the governmental systems, or as someone above petty politics, transcending political boundaries with the ideology of non-ideology. With the GOP's bogeyman being minorities, queers, gays, etc. you invite these types of folks in. You reinstill this fear, and the war sirens blare, talking about how they're going for your guns, rights, whatever. Thus, you see the need to prevent this from happening. Individualists turn to group-conformity, to fight the liberal uniformity.
"The liberals are coming to nationalize the industry! Take our guns! Restrict our rights! We have to get at them before they get to us!"
The full-blown individualism morphs into a "strength in numbers" situation. By dominating with your fellows - the "Free Americans," white, Christian, cis-hetero, usually - and making sure you're in power, and fully dominating over politics, that's when you have fully guaranteed freedom. By making sure you're the only ones around or important, you've made a golden land of freedom to last centuries.
As the Stuart-Mill quote reads above, it's hard for people to completely shake off all other people's interests. It's the course of human interests to unify as one - but how true will your original word stay intact? Centrism and libertarianism come theoretically from a place of egalitarianism, but as one evolves, the egalitarian principles become less & less important to the overall ideology. Unifying is one thing, but even if your ideology originates from a place of theoretical liberation, when you take that both sides are nothing but rabble-rousers, when you lower their importance and demands, and don't take it into consideration, you elevate yourself. And by elevating yourself and your peers, you begin to see only yourself as important, you create this savior complex, where you are the liberators for your kind - no one else's. Others must try and prove their worth, but that's bound to fail. You disregard other's egalitarianism, mark it up as something too PC, something only SJWs would fight for.
"Only my egalitarianism is important. Travelling any further down that path is authoritarian. By respecting these protocols, we tie ourselves up, restricting our freedoms…"
This argument is used in cases of trans rights, oftentimes. Hard-liner Libertarianism will abandon any form of egalitarianism, and instead of "It's your business, I don't give a damn," will use the usual tirade of insults and half-baked arguments trans & queer people have gotten used to. They promote the current freedoms of people; a sort of status-quo. While the Democratic party has failed many times in trying to take care of working people, they still push for the rights of oppressed minorities. But since this is part of "big government" it must be rejected. Any sort of guarantees are to be vague and not enforced, since enforcing any more violates "NAP" law, and thus creates tyranny. The walls are always closing in - tyranny at every corner. How do you avoid it? Via little enforcement. And is that not what capitalistic libertarianism is? By not enforcing these freedoms - only respecting the ones that guarantee non-restriction, which directly supports white, conservative men in more privileged positions, already higher on the socioeconomic ladder who will be able to enforce their ideology with free-will & little percussions.
All over the annals of history we've seen this metamorphosis of egaliatarism to tyranny; National Bolshevism developed out of the anarcho-syndicalist tendencies of the Communist Party of Germany in the 1920s; the Bolsheviks who arguably caused the authoritarian-libertarian divide under Lenin; fascism growing out of elements of Italian socialists; 1848 with Garibaldi & the Frankfurt Conference morphing into Cavour and Bismarck; Robespierre's reign of terror; the libertarian & Enlightenment underpinnings of the American Revolution turning to empowering the Southern plantation-northern manor house system of governance; in times of crisis, some libertarianism has morphed into group-conformity. The fires of those outside the main political spectrum attacking those within it with their own group-conformity. Now we see this in elections all over the Western World, with those who have endlessly critiqued the mainstream, or outside of it, climbing their way through the ballot box.
POLITICIANS OF A NEW MILLENNIUM
Of course, when discussing anti-establishment sentiments in the new millennium - particularly amongst the right, it always comes down to one source of vile hatred in this country: Donald Trump. Everyone's seen a million editorials and a million pundits discuss every aspect of his demeanor and ideology, and it's to be expected - it's profound about how the New York reality star stumbled his way into the White House, and has caused great divide within politics the world over. But, at the end of the day, two points stand:
- Trump is an anti-establishment figure.
- He does not care about what you or anyone else thinks.
Trump is a vile man, with no concern for anyone around him. He does things to the shock-horror-surprise of his advisors, sexually abuses many women, and the list goes on. He's a individualist in this respect, going back to the golden days of yore in the 90s, with his real estate business booming: the game is whoever can generate money the quickest - no matter what sort of dubious morals you follow - you win. And this is what capitalistic competition is at the end of the day. "Who can generate enough profit, wins: we don't care who you exploit, degrade, or let fall under your watch, all that matters is that paycheck in your hand" He has consistently shown his disregard for other people, and will get to his bottom line, no matter what. Feelings are secondary, morals are secondary, anything that isn't what he believes is secondary. This is what people feed on.
When compared to Clinton, the difference is night & day. People are sick of career-politicians. As mentioned in previous sections, the Democrats have time & time again failed to appease working class voters, with this especially being seen in 2016 with the losses of the Rust Belt states. Hillary Clinton is the embodiment of what many have come to hate in reformists: a few decades worth of political baggage, isolated from the average person, uncharismatic, etc. This boogeyman can be extended to the GOP party lines as well, too many establishment figures, who have played the game for far too long, going beyond what's tolerable. People are tired of the broken system and want someone who understands that, wants someone who shares their cynical viewpoint of how the system operates and favors others. Cynical men for a cynical world.
This pattern is seen outside of the US, with politicians - those both with & without much political experience have come out of the woodwork, the outer rims of politics and have come into power & prominence. Workers & voters all over Europe & America have thrown off the main-run politicians and have brought those at the edge of power in, grasping for something new, outside the norm - someone who will understand the failures of the system.
In Germany, Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats lost 65 seats in the 2017 Bundestag elections. The traditional left-opposition; the SPD lost 40 seats. The big winners of the election? The right and center. The AfD - a hardcore, right-wing xenophobic party founded in 2013 has gone from 0 seats to 94, making them the 3rd largest party in the Bundestag. Co-party chair Alexander Gauland moved through state politics in the late 80s and early early-mid 90s before switching to media and staying out of any sort of political office before the foundation of the AfD. The other co-chair, Alice Weidel (a lesbian who supports gay civil unions but prefers no to teach sexuality & other subjects to pre-pubescent children) has had no political experience whatsoever before the foundation of the party in 2013. The other big party gains belong to the the Free Democratic Party, a liberal-centrist party founded in post-war Germany, chaired by Christian Linder who got involved in politics in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the tail end of the 90s. The same year, France saw its final two Presidential contestants being the hard-right Le Pen whose first political office she took in 1998, and the centrist Macron, who worked he way up the bureaucracy since 2004, becoming Deputy Secretary General to the President between 2012-2014, followed by becoming the Economics Minister for two years after that. In the French legislative elections, the Presidential majority parties gained 350 seats, while the center-leftist coalition lost an outstanding 286. In Italy, the reactionary coalition; ranging from the center-right to the heirs of the Italian Fasci, gained 138 seats in the Congress, & 20 in the Senate. The populist, big-tent Five Star Movement (founded in 2009) won 114 Congressionals, and 24 Senatorials. The center-left coalition led by the former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lost 227 Congressionals, and 65 Senatorials.
In these nations, we see that voters have been swung towards those who have gotten sick of the lead reformists in their nations - promising change, but keeping in line to the same capitalistic tendencies. In all of these elections, social democrats and like-minded ideologues have seen the biggest losses. And voters in turn - who know nothing but the capitalistic system, with a century's worth of smear campaigns against Marxism, turn to those 'individualistic' (group-conformist) people who remain in the scope of capitalism, who have largely remained outside of the main spectrum of reformists, who are embedded in that cynicism - seeing only their people -'regular people'- as the ones worth protecting. And now, with the flood of refugees from the Middle East (or Latinoamerica for Americans) these brown people, outside of their culture group, they have become afraid, they want protection for themselves, no for those other people. Each must fulfill their own need, not the other. But in turn, we're starting to see the rise of the opposite side of the coin, the rise of the libertarian left.
Out of the nations above, I left out the United Kingdom, as it seems to not exactly follow the right-wing trend. Of course there was Brexit - captured like lightning in a bottle by the right before it fizzled out as the visions of the bureaucratic nightmares that will be the next few years entered into the minds of the nation's leaders and became true. And neither is the UK any sort of leftist paradise; a millennia-old monarchy still exists within the nation, causing crisis & general messes with its ties to church and the Parliament. But, with the 2017 Parliamentary elections - called by Prime Minister May as a way to grab more seats for the Tories - the plans went horribly wrong for her and the right. UKIP - those men & women who fought so hard for Brexit - lost its only seat, with their vote going from 12.6% in 2015 to 1.7%, and the Tories lost 13 seats, lowering their majority in the Commons as the storms of trouble come sweeping in. The center-leftist SNP lost 21 seats, as well. The biggest winner? Labour, with the previous dark-horse Corbyn commandeering the gain of 30 seats.
While Corbyn is no means some sort of new politician like the AfD chairs or Macron, having held the same seat in Parliament for nearly 35 years now, he is someone outside the establishment; dangerous to the main capitalistic dogs of Labor. Opposed to identifying as a social democrat, he calls himself a democratic socialist, fighting against interventionism, has worked his way through the trade union bar in his younger years, so on and so forth. This is dangerous to folks like Tony Blair, who entered into Iraq. But alas, in the Labor leadership elections he won a landslide victory, with 59.5% of the vote to the next biggest candidate - Andy Burnham with 19%. In the 2016 leadership elections, Corbyn won nearly 62% to a bit more than 38% for Owen Smith - another landslide for the previous dark horse.
We see similar back in the United States, once again, the opposite of the right-wing, with Bernie Sanders & the DSA. While Corbyn, Sanders, the DSA, etc. are more reform-minded than the Libertarian Party, we still see this rise in the lesser-authoritarians (or at least initially, as talked about before, right-libertarianism can easily slip into the authoritarian-right) in reaction against to the broken centrist system. Sanders - another dark horse candidate - although he lost, has revolutionized American progressivism. Or at least altered the game. People now realize there's an alternative to varying degrees of market liberalism, there's a way out. And while Sanders is a fairly soft socialist, he brings new tidings to the States. People have began to react and turn leftwards, as with the DSA. The multi-tendency party now supports over 30,000 members, many of whom have come in the wake of Sanders, and have progressed further to the left. We have the Libertarian Socialist Caucus, attracting anarchists (and as the name suggests, libertarian socialists) of all stripes.
The system has revealed itself as broken for many, and now many search for meaning. Some, in retaliation towards reform fend for themselves or their socioeconomic class, morphing into reaction. Others, moving past the centuries' worth of propaganda and smear campaign an turn towards the left; seeing in part, at least in part, the collectivization of the wealth and industries as necessary.
The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty will have no more to do with it. Instead they believe with Stirner that man has as much liberty as he is willing to take
- Emma Goldman, 'Anarchism: What It Really Stands For'