The Libertarian Forum, Vol. 1, No. 6, June 15, 1969
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A Semi-Monthly Newsletter
|Joseph R. Peden, Publisher
||Washington Editor, Karl Hess
||Murray N. Rothbard, Editor
|VOL. I, NO. VI
||JUNE 15, 1969
MASSACRE AT PEOPLE'S PARK
Sometimes it is difficult to escape the conviction that there
is a sickness so deep in the soul of the American people
that they are beyond redemption. On May 15 and in ensuing
days the massed armed might of the State, local police,
state police, National Guardsmen, zeroed in on a few thousand
unarmed citizens of Berkeley, California, who were doing
what? Who had taken a muddy lot and transformed it lovingly
into a "people's park". For this crime, and for the crime of
refusing to move from this park which they had created with
their own hands, the brutal forces of the State, led by
Governor Reagan, moved in with fixed bayonets; shot into
the unarmed crowd, wounding over 70 people and murdering
the innocent bystander James Rector; flew a helicopter over
the crowd and sprayed a super-form of mace over everyone
in the area, including children and hospital patients; rounded
up hundreds of people and humiliated and tortured them in
the infamous Santa Rita concentration camp—one of the
major camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II.
All this has happened in our America of 1969, and where oh
where is the nationwide cry of outrage? Where is the demand
for the impeachment of the murderer Reagan and all of the
lesser governmental cohorts implicated in this monstrosity?
Sure, there are a few protests from liberals who feel that
the use of force was a bit excessive, but one gets the
distinct impressive [sic] that for the great American masses the
massacre was a pretty good show. There is our pervasive
sickness. Why this range of reaction from indifference to
enthusiasm for this terrible deed? Because the Berkeley
park-creators were apparently longhairs and "hippies", and
therefore subhuman with no rights or liberties that need to
be respected. There are apparently tens of millions of God-fearing
Americans who favor the genocidal destruction of
hundreds of thousands or even millions of young people
whose only crime is to persist in esthetic differentiation
from the mass of the populace.
The American soul-sickness is also manifest in the
pervasive reaction to the problem of "violence" in America.
Mention "violence" and the average person begins to fulminate
against isolated muggers, against Negroes who burn
down stores, and against students who blacken a few ashtrays
in university buildings. Never does this average
American, when he contemplates violence in our epoch,
consider the American army and its genocidal destruction
of the people of Vietnam, or the American police in their
clubbing at Chicago, or their murdering and gassing at
People's Park. Because apparently when the State, the
monopolizer of violence, the great bestial Moloch of mass
destruction, when the State uses violence it apparently is
not violence at all. Only virtually unarmed citizens using
force against the State, or even simply refusing to obey
State orders, only these citizens are considered to be
"violent". It is this kind of insane blindness that permitted
President Johnson to trumpet that "we shall not tolerate
violence, no matter the slogan", and President Nixon to
denounce student violence while lauding the military-industrial
complex, and not be laughed out of office.
The cry has gone up that all this was necessary to defend
the "private property" of the University of California. In
the first place, even if this little lot was private property,
the bayoneting, gassing, torturing, and shooting of these
unarmed park-developers would have been "overkill" so
excessive and grotesque as to be mass murder and torture
and therefore far more criminal than the original trespass
on the lot. You do not machine-run [sic] someone for stealing an
apple; this is punishment so far beyond the proportion that
"fits the crime" as to be itself far more criminal than the
original infraction. So that even if this property were
legitimately private the massacre is still to be condemned.
Secondly, it is surely grotesquerie to call the muddy lot
"private property". The University of California is a governmental
institution which acquires its funds and its property
from mulcting the taxpayers. It is not in any sense private
property then, but stolen property, and as such is morally
unowned, and subject to the libertarian homesteading principle
which we discuss below. The people of Berkeley
were homesteaders in the best American—and libertarian—tradition,
taking an unused, morally unowned, muddy lot,
and transforming it by their homesteading labor into a
pleasant and useful people's park. For this they were
This is it; this is an acid test of whether any person can
in reason and in conscience call himself a "libertarian".
Here the issues are clear and simple; here there are no
complicating factors. There is no alleged "national security"
involved; there is no "international Communist conspiracy"
at work; there are no stores being burned; there are no
solipsistic students bellyaching about classes being suspended.
The issues are crystal-clear: the armed, brutal,
oppressive forces of the State stomping upon peaceful,
unarmed, homesteading citizens. Anyone who fails to raise
his voice in absolute condemnation of this reign of terror,
anyone who equivocates or excuses or condones, can no
longer call himself a libertarian. On the contrary, he
thereby ranges himself with the forces of despotism; he
becomes part of the Enemy.
TO OUR READERS:
After we had launched The Libertarian, we discovered
that a monthly mimeographed periodical with the same
name emanating from New Jersey had been publishing
for several years. To avoid confusion with this publication,
we are hereby changing our name to The Libertarian
Forum; no change is involved in policy or format.
||The Libertarian Forum, June 15, 1969
Libertarianism is clearly the most, perhaps the only truly
radical movement in America. It grasps the problems of
society by the roots. It is not reformist in any sense. It is
revolutionary in every sense.
Because so many of its people, however, have come from
the right there remains about it at least an aura or, perhaps,
miasma of defensiveness, as though its interests really
center in, for instance, defending private property. The
truth, of course, is that libertarianism wants to advance
principles of property but that it in no way wishes to defend,
willy nilly, all property which now is called private.
Much of that property is stolen. Much is of dubious title.
All of it is deeply intertwined with an immoral, coercive
state system which has condoned, built on, and profited from
slavery; has expanded through and exploited a brutal and
aggressive imperial and colonial foreign policy, and continues
to hold the people in a roughly serf-master relationship
to political-economic power concentrations.
Libertarians are concerned, first and foremost, with that
most valuable of properties, the life of each individual. That
is the property most brutally and constantly abused by state
systems whether they are of the right or left. Property
rights pertaining to material objects are seen by libertarians
as stemming from and as importantly secondary to the right
to own, direct, and enjoy one's own life and those appurtenances
thereto which may be acquired without coercion.
Libertarians, in short, simply do not believe that theft is
proper whether it is committed in the name of a state, a
class, a crises, a credo, or a cliche.
This is a far cry from sharing common ground with those
who want to create a society in which super capitalists are
free to amass vast holdings and who say that that is ultimately
the most important purpose of freedom. This is proto-heroic
Libertarianism is a people's movement and a liberation
movement. It seeks the sort of open, non-coercive society
in which the people, the living, free, distinct people may
voluntarily associate, dis-associate, and, as they see fit,
participate in the decisions affecting their lives. This
means a truly free market in everything from ideas to
idiosyncrasies. It means people free collectively to organize
the resources of their immediate community or individualistically
to organize them; it means the freedom to have a
community-based and supported judiciary where wanted,
none where not, or private arbitration services where that
is seen as most desirable. The same with police. The same
with schools, hospitals, factories, farms, laboratories,
parks, and pensions. Liberty means the right to shape your
own institutions. It opposes the right of those institutions
to shape you simply because of accreted power or gerontological
For many, however, these root principles of radical
libertarianism will remain mere abstractions, and even
suspect, until they are developed into aggressive, specific
There is scarcely anything radical about, for instance,
those who say that the poor should have a larger share of
the Federal budget. That is reactionary, asking that the
institution of state theft be made merely more palatable by
distributing its loot to more sympathetic persons. Perhaps
no one of sound mind could object more to giving Federal
funds to poor people than to spending the money on the
slaughter of Vietnamese peasant fighters. But to argue such
relative merits must end being simply reformist and not
Libertarians could and should propose specific revolutionary
tactics and goals which would have specific meaning
to poor people and to all people; to analyze in depth and to
demonstrate in example the meaning of liberty, revolutionary
liberty to them.
I, for one, earnestly beseech such thinking from my
The proposals should take into account the revolutionary
treatment of stolen 'private' and 'public' property in libertarian,
radical, and revolutionary terms; the factors which
have oppressed people so far, and so forth. Murray Rothbard
and others have done much theoretical work along
these lines but it can never be enough for just a few to
shoulder so much of the burden.
Let me propose just a few examples of the sort of specific,
revolutionary and radical questions to which members of
our Movement might well address themselves.
—Land ownership and/or usage in a situation of declining
state power. The Tijerina situation suggests one approach.
There must be many others. And what about (realistically,
not romantically) water and air pollution liability and prevention?
—Worker, share-owner, community roles or rights in
productive facilities in terms of libertarian analysis and as
specific proposals in a radical and revolutionary context.
What, for instance, might or should happen to General
Motors in a liberated society?
Of particular interest, to me at any rate, is focusing
libertarian analysis and ingenuity on finishing the great
unfinished business of the abolition of slavery. Simply setting
slaves free, in a world still owned by their masters,
obviously was an historic inequity. (Libertarians hold that
the South should have been permitted to secede so that the
slaves themselves, along with their Northern friends, could
have built a revolutionary liberation movement, overthrown
the masters, and thus shaped the reparations of revolution.)
Thoughts of reparations today are clouded by concern that
it would be taken out against innocent persons who in no way
could be connected to former oppression. There is an area
where that could be avoided: in the use of government-'owned'
lands and facilities as items of exchange in compensating
the descendants of slaves and making it possible
for them to participate in the communities of the land,
finally, as equals and not wards.
Somewhere, I must assume, there is a libertarian who,
sharing the idea, might work out a good and consistent
proposal for justice in that area.
Obviously the list is endless. But the point is finite and
With libertarianism now developing as a Movement, it
earnestly and urgently requires innovative proposals, radical
and specific goals, and a revolutionary agenda which can
translate its great and enduring principles into timely and
commanding courses of possible and even practical action.
"What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are
not warned from time to time that their people preserve the
spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
—Thomas Jefferson, 1787
|The Libertarian Forum, June 15, 1969
CONFISCATION AND THE HOMESTEAD PRINCIPLE
Karl Hess's brilliant and challenging article in this issue
raises a problem of specifics that ranges further than the
libertarian movement. For example, there must be hundreds
of thousands of "professional" anti-Communists in this
country. Yet not one of these gentry, in the course of their
fulminations, has come up with a specific plan for de-Communization.
Suppose, for example, that Messers. Brezhnev
and Co. become converted to the principles of a free
society; they than [sic] ask our anti-Communists, all right, how
do we go about de-socializing? What could our anti-Communists
This question has been essentially answered by the
exciting developments of Tito's Yugoslavia. Beginning in
1952, Yugoslavia has been de-socializing at a remarkable
rate. The principle the Yugoslavs have used is the libertarian
"homesteading" one: the state-owned factories to the
workers that work in them! The nationalized plants in the
"public" sector have all been transferred in virtual ownership
to the specific workers who work in the particular
plants, thus making them producers' coops, and moving
rapidly in the direction of individual shares of virtual
ownership to the individual worker. What other practicable
route toward destatization could there be? The principle in
the Communist countries should be: land to the peasants and
the factories to the workers, thereby getting the property
out of the hands of the State and into private, homesteading
The homesteading principle means that the way that
unowned property gets into private ownership is by the
principle that this property justly belongs to the person who
finds, occupies, and transforms it by his labor. This is clear
in the case of the pioneer and virgin land. But what of the
case of stolen property?
Suppose, for example, that A steals B's horse. Then C
comes along and takes the horse from A. Can C be called
a thief? Certainly not, for we cannot call a man a criminal
for stealing goods from a thief. On the contrary, C is performing
a virtuous act of confiscation, for he is depriving
thief A of the fruits of his crime of aggression, and he is at
least returning the horse to the innocent "private" sector
and out of the "criminal" sector. C has done a noble act and
should be applauded. Of course, it would be still better if he
returned the horse to B, the original victim. But even if he
does not, the horse is far more justly in C's hands than it is
in the hands of A, the thief and criminal.
Let us now apply our libertarian theory of property to the
case of property in the hands of, or derived from, the State
apparatus. The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang of
organized criminals, who live off the theft called "taxation"
and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push
people around. Therefore, any property in the hands of the
State is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated as
quickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates such
property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State,
is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the
cause of liberty. In the case of the State, furthermore, the
victim is not readily identifiable as B, the horse-owner. All
taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been
mulcted. How to go about returning all this property to the
taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific
tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at
the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of
de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership
on the person or group who seizes the property from the
State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the
ones who are already using the property but who have no
moral complicity in the State's act of aggression. These
people then become the "homesteaders" of the stolen
property and hence the rightful owners.
Take, for example, the State universities. This is property
built on funds stolen from the taxpayers. Since the State has
not found or put into effect a way of returning ownership of
this property to the taxpaying public, the proper owners of
this university are the "homesteaders", those who have
already been using and therefore "mixing their labor" with
the facilities. The prime consideration is to deprive the
thief, in this case the State, as quickly as possible of the
ownership and control of its ill-gotten gains, to return the
property to the innocent, private sector. This means student
and/or faculty ownership of the universities.
As between the two groups, the students have a prior claim,
for the students have been paying at least some amount to
support the university whereas the faculty suffer from the
moral taint of living off State funds and thereby becoming to
some extent a part of the State apparatus.
The same principle applies to nominally "private" property
which really comes from the State as a result of zealous
lobbying on behalf of the recipient. Columbia University, for
example, which receives nearly two-thirds of its income
from government, is only a "private" college in the most
ironic sense. It deserves a similar fate of virtuous homesteading
But if Columbia University, what of General Dynamics?
What of the myriad of corporations which are integral parts
of the military-industrial complex, which not only get over
half or sometimes virtually all their revenue from the
government but also participate in mass murder? What are
their credentials to "private" property? Surely less than
zero. As eager lobbyists for these contracts and subsidies,
as co-founders of the garrison state, they deserve confiscation
and reversion of their property to the genuine private
sector as rapidly as possible. To say that their "private"
property must be respected is to say that the property
stolen by the horsethief and the murdered [sic] must be
But how then do we go about destatizing the entire mass of
government property, as well as the "private property" of
General Dynamics? All this needs detailed thought and inquiry
on the part of libertarians. One method would be to turn over
ownership to the homesteading workers in the particular
plants; another to turn over pro-rata ownership to the
individual taxpayers. But we must face the fact that it might
prove the most practical route to first nationalize the
property as a prelude to redistribution. Thus, how could the
ownership of General Dynamics be transferred to the
deserving taxpayers without first being nationalized enroute?
And, further more, even if the government should decide to
nationalize General Dynamics—without compensation, of
course—per se and not as a prelude to redistribution to the
taxpayers, this is not immoral or something to be combatted.
For it would only mean that one gang of thieves—the government—would
be confiscating property from another previously
cooperating gang, the corporation that has lived off
the government. I do not often agree with John Kenneth
Galbraith, but his recent suggestion to nationalize businesses
which get more than 75% of their revenue from government,
or from the military, has considerable merit. Certainly it
does not mean aggression against private property, and,
furthermore, we could expect a considerable diminution of
zeal from the military-industrial complex if much of the
profits were taken out of war and plunder. And besides, it
would make the American military machine less efficient,
being governmental, and that is surely all to the good. But
why stop at 75%? Fifty per cent seems to be a reasonable
(Continued on page 4)
||The Libertarian Forum, June 15, 1969
CONFISCATION — (Continued from page 3)
cutoff point on whether an organization is largely public or
And there is another consideration. Dow Chemical, for
example, has been heavily criticized for making napalm for
the U.S. military machine. The percentage of its sales
coming from napalm is undoubtedly small, so that on a
percentage basis the company may not seem very guilty; but
napalm is and can only be an instrument of mass murder,
and therefore Dow Chemical is heavily up to its neck in being
an accessory and hence a co-partner in the mass murder in
Vietnam. No percentage of sales, however small, can absolve
This brings us to Karl's point about slaves. One of the
tragic aspects of the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in
1861 was that while the serfs gained their personal freedom,
the land—their means of production and of life, their land
was retained under the ownership of their feudal masters.
The land should have gone to the serfs themselves, for
under the homestead principle they had tilled the land and
deserved its title. Furthermore, the serfs were entitled to a
host of reparations from their masters for the centuries of
oppression and exploitation. The fact that the land remained
in the hands of the lords paved the way inexorably for the
Bolshevik Revolution, since the revolution that had freed the
serfs remained unfinished.
The same is true of the abolition of slavery in the United
States. The slaves gained their freedom, it is true, but the
land, the plantations that they had tilled and therefore
deserved to own under the homestead principle, remained in
the hands of their former masters. Furthermore, no
reparations were granted the slaves for their oppression
out of the hides of their masters. Hence the abolition of
slavery remained unfinished, and the seeds of a new revolt
have remained to intensify to the present day. Hence, the
great importance of the shift in Negro demands from greater
welfare handouts to "reparations", reparations for the years
of slavery and exploitation and for the failure to grant the
Negroes their land, the failure to heed the Radical abolitionist's
call for "40 acres and a mule" to the former slaves. In
many cases, moreover, the old plantations and the heirs and
descendants of the former slaves can be identified, and the
reparations can become highly specific indeed.
Alan Milchman, in the days when he was a brilliant young
libertarian activist, first pointed out that libertarians had
misled themselves by making their main dichotomy "government"
vs. "private" with the former bad and the latter
good. Government, he pointed out, is after all not a mystical
entity but a group of individuals, "private" individuals if you
will, acting in the manner of an organized criminal gang.
But this means that there may also be "private" criminals
as well as people directly affiliated with the government.
What we libertarians object to, then, is not government
per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal
property titles; what we are for is not "private" property
per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property.
It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that
must be our major libertarian focus.
Liberation. Until recently, this monthly magazine was a
rather boring pacifist journal, with endless articles
about peace ships and nuclear fallout. Now, under
the de facto editorship of Dave Gelber, it has become
an exciting New Left magazine. Particularly recommended
is Ron Radosh's scholarly dissection of the
phony radical Norman Thomas, in his "Norman
Thomas and Cold War Socialism" (February, 1969)
and his debate with the pacifist David McReynolds
(May, 1969). Liberation is available for 75 cents
per issue or $7.00 per year at 339 Lafayette Street,
New York, N. Y. 10012.
Journal of American History (June, 1969). This issue
of the official journal of the Organization of American
Historians has three important articles:
Charles W. Roll, Jr., "We, Some of the People",
studies the apportionment of the state conventions
that ratified the American Constitution, and concludes
that there was significant malapportionment
that favored the pro-Constitution forces, especially
in South Carolina, New York, and Rhode Island, and
that this malapportionment played a crucial role in
pushing through the Constitution. An important
reinforcement of the Beardian view of the Constitution.
Thomas G. Paterson, "The Abortive American
Loan to Russia", is a highly useful contribution to
Cold War Revisionism, showing how the U. S. used
the carrot of a proposed loan to Russia during and
after World War II to try to wring massive political
concessions. The article whets one's appetite for
Professor Paterson's recent doctoral thesis, "The
Economic Cold War: American Business and Economic
Foreign Policy, 1945-50" (U. of California,
Berkeley, 1968), available from University Microfilms,
Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Gordon B. Dodds, "The Stream-Flow Controversy".
Good article debunking the scientific claims
of conservationists, particularly the theory that
deforestation causes floods.
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