[First published in the Libertarian Forum, August 15, 1969.]Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), late 1960s
This open letter is addressed to the libertarians attending the YAF national convention in St. Louis this Labor Day weekend. Notice I said the libertarians in YAF; I have nothing to say to the so-called "traditionalists" (a misnomer, by the way, for we libertarians have our traditions too, and they are glorious ones. It all depends on which traditions: the libertarian ones of Paine and Price, of Cobden and Thoreau, or the authoritarian ones of Torquemada and Burke and Metternich.) Let us leave the authoritarians to their Edmund Burkes and their Crowns of St. Something-or-other. We have more serious matters to discuss.
In the famous words of Jimmy Durante: "Have ya ever had the feelin' that ya wanted to go, and yet ya had the feelin' that ya wanted to stay?" This letter is a plea that you use the occasion of the public forum of the YAF convention to go, to split, to leave the conservative movement where it belongs: in the hands of the St. Something-or-others, and where it is going to stay regardless of what action you take. Leave the house of your false friends, for they are your enemies.
For years you have taken your political advice and much of your line from assorted "exes": ex-Communists, ex-Trots, ex-Maoists, ex-fellow-travellers. I have never been any of these. I grew up a right-winger, and became more intensely a libertarian rightist as I grew older. How come I am an exile from the Right-wing, while the conservative movement is being run by a gaggle of ex-Communists and monarchists? What kind of a conservative movement is this? This kind: one that you have no business being in. I got out of the Right-wing not because I ceased believing in liberty, but because being a libertarian above all, I came to see that the Right-wing specialized in cloaking its authoritarian and neo-fascist policies in the honeyed words of libertarian rhetoric. They need you for their libertarian cover; stop providing it for them!
You can see for yourselves that you have nothing in common with the frank theocrats, the worshippers of monarchy, the hawkers after a New Inquisition, the Bozells and the Wilhelmsens. Yet you continue in harness with them. Why? Because of the siren songs of the so-called "fusionists" — the Meyers and Buckleys and Evanses — who claim to be integrating and synthesizing the best of "tradition" and liberty. And even if you don't quite believe in the synthesis, the existence of these "centrists" as the leaders of the Right gives you the false sense of security that you can join a united front under their aegis. It is for that very reason that the fusionists, those misleaders, are the most dangerous of all — much more so than the frank and open worshippers of the Crown of St. Wenceslas.
For note what the fusionists are saying behind their seemingly libertarian rhetoric. The only liberty they are willing to grant is a liberty within "tradition," within "order," in other words a weak and puny false imitation of liberty within a framework dictated by the State apparatus. Let us consider the typically YAFite-fusionist position on various critical issues. Surely, you might say, the fusionists are in favor of a free-market economy. But are they indeed? The fusionists, for example, favor the outlawry of marijuana and other drugs — after some hemming and hawing, of course, and much hogwash about "community responsibility," values and the ontological order — but outlawry just the same. Every time some kid is busted for pot-smoking you can pin much of the responsibility on the Conservative Movement and its fusionist-Buckleyite misleaders.
So what kind of a free market position is one that favors the outlawry of marijuana? Where is the private property right to grow, purchase, exchange, and use? Alright, so you know the Right-wing is very bad on questions of compulsory morality. But what about the hundreds of billions of dollars siphoned off from the producers and taxpayers to build up the power of the State's overkill military machine?
And what of the state monopoly military-industrial complex that the system has spawned? What kind of a free market is that? Recently, National Review emitted its typical patrician scorn against leftist carpers who dared to criticize the space moondoggle. $24 billion of taxpayers' money of precious resources that could have been used on earth, have been poured into the purely and totally collectivistic moondoggle program. And now our Conservative Hero, Vice-President Agnew, wants us to proceed on to Mars, at Lord knows what multiple of the cost. This is a free-market? Poor Bastiat and Cobden must be turning over in their graves!
What has YAF, in its action programs, ever done on behalf of the free market? Its only action related to the free market has been to oppose it, to call for embargoes on Polish hams and other products from Eastern Europe. What kind of a free-market program is that?
YAF, the fusionists, and the Right-wing generally, have led the parade, in happy tandem with their supposed enemies the liberals, in supporting the Cold War and various hot wars against Communist movements abroad. This global crusading against the heathen is a total reversal of the Old "isolationist" Right-wing of my youth, the Right-wing that scorned foreign intervention and "globaloney," and attacked these adventures as statist imperialism while the Nation and the New Republic and other liberals were berating these Rightists as tools of the Kremlin.
But now your Right-wing leaders embrace every socialist, every leftist with a 100% ADA voting record, every Sidney Hook and Paul Douglas and Thomas Dodd, just so long as they stand ready to incinerate the world rather than suffer one Communist to live. What kind of a libertarian policy, what kind even of "fusionist" policy is it that justifies the slaughter of tens of thousands of American soldiers, of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese peasants, for the sake of bringing Christianity to the heathen by sword and brimstone? I can understand why the authoritarians applaud all this, they who would like nothing more than the return of Cotton Mather or Torquemada. But what are you doing supporting them?
Surely every libertarian supports civil liberties, the corollary and complement of private property rights and the free-market economy. Where does the Right-wing stand on civil liberties? You know all too well. Communists, of course, have to be slaughtered or rounded up in detention camps. Being "agents of the Devil," they are no longer human and therefore have no rights. Is that it?
But it is not only on the Communist question where the conservatives are despots; don't think this is just one flaw in their armor. For in recent years, American politics has instructively begun to focus on very crucial issues — on the nature of the State and on State coercion itself. Thus, the cops. The cops, with their monopoly of coercion and their overwhelming superiority of arms, tend to brutalize, club, and torture confessions from people who are either innocent or have not been proven guilty. What has been the attitude of the Right-wing, and your fusionist leaders, toward this systematic brutality, or toward the libertarian decisions of the Warren Court that have put up protections for the individual rights of the accused? You know very well. They hate the Warren Court almost as much as they do Reds, for "coddling criminals," and the cry goes up everywhere for all power to the police. What can be more profoundly statist, despotic, and anti-libertarian than that?
When Mayor Daley's cops clubbed and gassed their way through Chicago last year against unarmed demonstrators, the only libertarian reaction was to revile Daley and the cops and to support the rights of the demonstrators. But your fusionist leaders loved and applauded Daley, with his "manly will to govern," and the brutality unleashed by his cop goons. And take the massacre at People's Park at Berkeley this year, when one unarmed bystander was killed, and hundreds wounded, and thousands gassed by the armed constabulary for the crime of trying to remain in a park which they had built with their own hands on a state-owned muddy lot. Yet your "fusionists" denounced People's Park and hailed Reagan and the cops.
And then there is the draft — that obnoxious system of slavery and forced murder. There is nothing anyone even remotely calling himself a libertarian can say about the draft except that it is slavery and that it must be combatted. And yet how namby-pamby YAF has been on the draft, how ambiguous and tangled the fusionist leaders become when they approach the subject? Even those who reject the draft do so only apologetically, and only on the grounds that we could have a more efficient army if it were volunteer. But the real issue is moral. The issue is not to build up a more efficient group of hired killers for the US government; the issue is to oppose slavery as an absolute moral evil. And this no fusionist or Rightist has even considered doing. And even those who reject the draft as inefficient love the army itself, with its hierarchical despotism, its aggressive violence, its unthinking obedience. What sort of "libertarians" are these?
And what of the nation's educational system in which so many of you have been enmeshed? For years, I heard your fusionist leaders condemn in toto, the American educational system as coercive and statist, and, when in their cups and heedless of their political status, even call for abolition of the public school system. Fine! So what happens when, in the last few years, we have seen a dedicated and determined movement to smash this system — to return control to the parents, as in Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn, and take it from the entrenched educationists — or, as with SDS and the colleges, to overthrow the educational rule of the government and the military-industrial complex?
Shouldn't the fusionists have hailed and come to the support of these educational opposition movements? But instead, they have called on the cops to suppress them.
Here is surely an acid test of the fusionists' alleged love of liberty. Liberty goes by the board as soon as their precious "order" is threatened, and "order" means, simply, State dictation and State-controlled property. Is that what libertarians are to end up doing — fronting for despots and apologists for "law 'n' order"? Our stand should be on the other side — with the people, with the citizenry, and against the State and its hired goon squads. And yet YAF's central theme this year is its boasting about inventing tactics to call in the judges, call in the cops, to suppress SDS opposition — opposition to what? To the State's gigantic factory for brainwashing? What are you doing on the barricades defending the State's indoctrination centers?
It's pretty clear, or should be by now, what they're doing there, the fusionists. They're right where they belong, doing their job — the job of apologists for the State using libertarian rhetoric as their cloak. And since, in recent years, they have snuggled close to Power, these apologetics have become more and more blatant. Fifteen, twenty years ago, the "libertarian-conservatives" used to hail Thoreau and the idea of civil disobedience against unjust laws. But now, now that civil disobedience has become an actual living movement, Thoreau is only heard on the New Left, while the Right, even the "libertarian" or fusionist Right, talk only of law-n-order, suppression and the bayonet, defense of State power by any and all means necessary.
You don't belong with these deceivers on the political make. I plead with you to leave YAF now, for you should know by now that there is no hope of your ever capturing it. It is as dictatorial, as oligarchic, as close to fascism in structure as is so much of the content of YAF's program.
There is no way that you can overthrow the Jones-Teague clique, for this clique is entrenched in power. And behind this clique lie the fusionist gurus: the Buckleys, and Rushers, and Meyers. And behind them lie the real power in YAF — the moneybags, the wealthy business men who finance and therefore run the organization, the same moneybags who reacted hard a few years ago when some of your leaders decided to take a strong stand against the draft.
When YAF was founded, on the Buckley estate at Sharon, Connecticut, there was heavy sentiment among the founders against the title, because, they said, "freedom is a left-wing word." But the "fusionists" won out, and freedom was included in the title. In retrospect, it is clear that this was a shame, because all that happened was that the precious word "freedom" came to be used as an Orwellian cloak for its very opposite. Why don't you leave now, and let the "F" in YAF stand then for what it has secretly stood for all along — "fascism"?
Why don't you get out, form your own organization, breathe the clean air of freedom, and then take your stand, proudly and squarely, not with the despotism of the power elite and the government of the United States, but with the rising movement in opposition to that government? Then you will be libertarians indeed, in act as well as in theory. What hangover, what remnant of devotion to the monster State, is holding you back? Come join us, come realize that to break once and for all with statism is to break once and for all with the Right-wing. We stand ready to welcome you.
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