L. Neil Smith's
Number 329, July 24, 2005

"You've GOTTA be kidding"

My Rebuttal to Chris Claypoole's Rebuttal of My Rebuttal of His Rebuttal of the LP'S "Exit Strategy For Iraq"
by Thomas L. Knapp

Special to TLE

Chris Claypoole's second article on the Libertarian Party's "exit strategy" concentrates on two things: The meaning of words and my alleged "blurring" of those meanings.

I do not regard myself as having "blurred" the meanings of words, but rather as having pointed out that when words are put together and made into a political platform, different groups within the party promulgating that platform are likely to have different views both of what that platform means and what its purpose is. These different perspectives are themselves aspects of different perspectives on what the party itself is, what it is for, and how it should act.

Some questions (with my provisional answers):

Q: Is the Libertarian Party a political party, an ideological party or a revolutionary party?

A: In my view, the Libertarian Party has, for many years, been torn between an ideological approach and a political approach. Only a few of us fringe types have advocated a revolutionary approach.

Q: How does what type of political party the LP is affect how its platform should be interpreted?

A: A revolutionary party announces its platform and then proceeds to implement it by every means at its disposal, within the bounds of its members' convictions.

An ideological party announces its platform, then hops up and down on one foot screaming at people who don't agree with that platform to come to Jesus, start believing, and implement the platform with no transitional forms, with no deviations and with no inconvenient questions asked.

A political party works within whatever institutions already exist to implement as much of its platform as possible at any given time. This may require (but does not necessarily require) compromise. It will certainly require an incrementalist approach, which is an entirely different thing from compromise (in a "compromise," both parties give something up; in "incrementalism," one party moves the ball in the direction it wants to go—possibly, but not necessarily, with an accompanying compromise somewhere else on the field).

Q: What does the "Exit Strategy" portend for the LP?

A: It portends the LP jettisoning its ideological faction and becoming a political party. So far, it is engaging in incrementalism, but not compromise. This rubs the outgoing ideological faction the wrong way, because they regard accepting anything other than an instantaneous jump to the final state envisioned in the platform as a "compromise."

The LP may experience increasing political success, or abject failure, if it begins to actually operate on a political model. But at least it will have the chance to succeed or fail instead of simply being held back from doing either (and thus failing by default).

It is possible that the ideological wing may be able to pull the political wing back from the edge of following the course it has obviously set for the party, which would mean a return to the status quo ante, albeit in a weakened position with respect to credibility. Parties of any type don't release plans, and then denounce themselves for what they've just done, if they want to be taken seriously; sometimes you just have to have some balls and forge full speed ahead even at the expense of schism.

Q: What does the schism thus far described portend for the disenfranchised ideological faction?

A: It could portend any number of things.

The ideologues could stay and continue to fight for control of the national LP. I'm not sure why the ideologues want the national LP's tiny membership base, less-than-stellar financial situation, Watergate lease obligation, bales of obsolete brochures, latest $100,000 software boondoggle that "will fix everything," and so forth, but hey ... different strokes for different folks.

The ideologues could found an ideological party which is designed from the start not to be thwarted by the existence of a politically oriented faction, thus leaving themselves free to more effectively hop up and down on one foot, etc.

The ideologues could merge with the revolutionists in a new party and begin actually building a libertarian society or societies. The hopping up and down on one foot would serve as a good meter of principle, and some of the hoppers would likely occasionally stop hopping for long enough to get something done.

I happen to like certain things about all three approaches (political, ideological and revolutionary), and hope to participate in all three approaches. I regard the ideological and revolutionary approaches as best fitted to travel in a single vehicle—and the political approach as requiring its own vehicle.

I propose a congress, sometime in early- to mid-2006, of ideological and revolutionary libertarians, for the purpose of proclaiming and creating the North American Confederacy. I suggest that said Congress take place partially online, and, to the extent that it occurs in meatspace, that it be held in the central US. The most obvious place would be Denver or Fort Collins, CO, or southern Wyoming, but as far east as Chicaogo might work.

I will gladly work with others who would like for this to happen, in order to make it happen.

Res Publica Delenda Est!

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