L. Neil Smith's

Number 9, June 1996

What's a Nice Anarchist Like You
Doing in a Dive Like This?

by Don L. Tiggre

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Okay, so my title tells you that my feelings on this subject are not completely neutral. But I'm always suspicious of people who assure me that their objectivity is pure, so I thought I'd let you know how I feel up front. Just the same, this is not a hate-piece, nor is my intention to smear anyone.
         And just what, you ask, is the subject?
         The subject is the that of an informal poll I took in various internet groups I lurk in: does the libertarian movement need a Libertarian Party?
         Granted, there might be more precise ways to get at the information I wanted (and actually, I did ask my question in several ways), and my poll was about as scientific as tossing an accused witch into a lake to see if she floats... But still, the results were rather striking:
         No self-respecting anarchists -- or anarchists of any other kind -- even tried to convince me that we need an LP.
         Well that's silly, you might say, they're anarchists! And you'd be right, of course...but hold on a moment. Most anarchists I know vote...and are members of the LP...and get upset when yet another LP candidate is trounced into obscurity.
         For now, the LP seems to be the only way to go for the concerned and rational anarchist who actually wants to do something. And that is what I want to talk about.
         Besides, I asked a few minarchists too, and, while they all seemed to have reasons why they thought the LP is of value, no one even tried to demonstrate why the movement needs it. I was looking for someone to come up with a believable reason why, if there were no LP, the libertarian movement would fail. No one supplied one.
         So, why do nice anarchists hang out in the LP?
         Well, some of them seemed to enjoy using whatever minuscule results they could eke out of LP participation in the electoral process as a sort of cattle prod on the complacent statists they dislike so intensely. I can understand that feeling, but it doesn't do much to show the need for an LP.
         One person I corresponded with said something rather interesting:

DLT: Does the libertarian movement need a Libertarian Party?
DF: No.
DLT: Is the utility of pursuing an electoral strategy greater than that of pursuing other kinds of political action?
DF: For whom? Different people have different tastes and abilities.
For me, other strategies are more productive. For some other people, the electoral strategy is probably the most productive.

         What is interesting to me about this is that, while David seems to agree that the LP is not necessary, he makes the point that it may legitimately seem so to some people. Interesting is good, but there's no proof of need for the movement here.
         Other people essentially said that the LP is the only game in town, so -- no matter how unlikely LP success may seem -- people of good conscious must play along. Anything else would be a default of responsibility. I've made suggestions for alternative strategies elsewhere, so I won't repeat them here, but I do want to say that this is not a proof of need. Surely libertarians who want to create a better future must pursue some kind of strategy, but this doesn't mean that a bad one will do. You can ask any little kid who's been ruffed up by a bully whether playing by the bully's rules is a good strategy for being left alone.
         Still others argue that it is strategy. They claim not to really believe in the electoral process' morality or utility, but that achieving electoral success is the best way -- at least at the present time -- to bring about a freer society. I have seen many different explanations why the LP is a great way to introduce people to the principles of freedom and other more complicated notions of why the LP is good strategy. But none of these show that it is a strategy that must be pursued.
         The scarier LP-strategists are the ones who actually want to win. I'm not going to even discuss the one for whom winning has become more important than adherence to principles; they are an obvious corruption and not worth the ink. No, I'm more concerned about those who understand and want to abide by the principles. They seem to me to be so angry, horrified, and desperate about the ever increasing pressure of the governmental boot treading upon their necks, that they convince themselves that some of the more...um...non-expedient principles need to be bent -- or "temporarily" set aside. Here again, I understand that the desire for action, even obviously futile and immoral action, but I think it does more harm than good to the advancement of liberty.
         The last grouping of responses to my "poll" were from people who flat-out said that the electoral process is immoral. To vote for laws and rulers to be imposed on the non-consenting is an act of aggression, a violence that should not be made to appear legitimate by the capitulation of individuals of good will.
         I find myself in agreement with this sentiment, with one caveat: participation in the electoral process that delegitimizes it (and perhaps serves to educate the populace as well) seems to me to be a fair more. It is a kind of violence in self-defense against those who would impose their will upon us. It also has a better chance of destabilizing the system, and slowing it down, than trying to play by the rules that have been stacked against those who would dare to be free.
         Along these lines, I've found myself voting libertarian because it shakes the ground underneath the plodding feet of complacent statists. Voting for NOTA, Mickey Mouse, or Olongo Featherstone-Haugh are also good ways to achieve the same end.
         This is probably all I need to say, but I want to share with you a tidbit I found on the FRONT PAGE of my local newspaper last week. It was a story about the state libertarian party "giving the boot" to a "loose cannon" candidate. The full color photo of the excommunicated activist showed him in the 19th century garb he has been campaigning in -- a ploy which had gotten him a lot of attention. This man, whom I will not claim did no wrong, was given the boot for one technical reason and because he was: "a libertarian flasher," "an embarrassment," and "a court jester." In explanation, the executioner -- I mean, the State Chair -- said: "We are just becoming a mature political party. People who violate our principles cannot be tolerated."
         I don't know if any principles of the party were violated, but I was impressed by the spectacular amount of energy and time spent in maneuvers at our state convention. These maneuvers related to the bitter internal warfare that resulted in the expulsion of a long-time, extremely dedicated activist. In my opinion, this sorry spectacle is exactly the kind of result one should expect when one dabbles in electoral politics. It is a dirty business. It is a corrupting business. Our most caring and active fellow travelers are the first casualties of pursuing this strategy.
         How many libertarians do you know who are no longer talking to each other?
         I'm thinking that I've had just about enough of this wasteful and (probably) misguided strategy. I'm thinking I'd like to see a new organization created. An organization for those who value their integrity too highly to enter the political arena, as well as those who are not content to sit around and wait for the Cato Institute to talk the bad-guys to death.
         I'm thinking the time is right for a grass-roots activist organization, on dedicated to a non-electoral strategy of political action. One with the kind of creative leadership who can design activities for the informed and committed, activities that will catch media attention and teach lessons...especially the lesson that government is necessarily evil.
         Anyone have any ideas?

"Don L. Tiggre is a grant-writer and a would-be author of fiction. He lives with his three sons, who teach him daily lessons in effective ways to resist tyranny. Having just barely survived 16 years of 'education', Mr. Tiggre is doing his best to study the human animal in it's natural habitats."

Pallas, the new sci-fi adventure novel by L. Neil Smith is out in paperback from Tor. Is there room for a socialist utopia on an individualist asteroid?
Now available at good bookstores everywhere!

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