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In Defense of Anarchism, Rothbard and the Left

May 26, 2005

In an article On Left and Right published on Antiwar.com yesterday, Robert Paul Wolff, avowed Marxist and professor of Afro-American Studies, issues a call for leftists and libertarians to work together against the imperialist state. Interesting, but so what, right? Well, there's a story here.

In 1970 Wolff published a short (80 page) book called In Defense of Anarchism. Rothbard and others sent him notes praising the book. In a new preface to the 1998 edition of his book, he refers to these notes from "right-wing" anarchists (he does not name Rothbard in the preface), and how he was shocked to receive them. In fact, he was so uncomfortable with the thought of having ended up at a position in some sense consonant with these "right-wingers" that he seriously reconsidered his position.

Well in this new article we see a bit of fruit from that seed that Rothbard planted 35 years ago. Wolff writes:

Thirty-five years ago, when I published In Defense of Anarchism, I was chagrined to receive congratulatory notes from the likes of Murray Rothbard...

I am [now] united with my libertarian brethren in a hatred of the imperial state, and in my disdain for the dishonesty, self-delusion, and wanton profligacy of this nation's policies in the Middle East. I am one with them, also, in my dismay at the erosion of such individual liberties as survived the post World War II era.

Though his article doesn't indicate that he has had any second thoughts about his hostility to the free market (or that he even understands the crucial distinction between our present mercantilist system and the free market) nevertheless his willingness to work together with his "libertarian brethren" against the state is a hopeful development. See John Payne's article in the new JLS: "Rothbard's Time on the Left"

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