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47


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 47, May 30, 1999

You Say You Want a Revolution?

by Thomas L. Knapp
tknapp01@mail.orion.org

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

          The libertarian movement is a frictious and fractious cauldron of people and ideas. On the one hand, we have a small but increasingly effective political party, seeking positive change through the institutions that have served the United States well (and sometimes not so well) for over two centuries. On the other hand, more and more people are harkening back to the slogans of the sixties and simply seeking to "drop out" -- out of a society that makes insupportable demands on their resources and attempts to alienate them from the rights they consider inalienable, and hopefully out of sight of a government that attempts to enforce those demands and that alienation.
          And then there are the revolutionists.
          It may be too soon to mark this group as a separate class. We still see them, well above ground, urging the Libertarian Party to greater purity and helping the dropouts to implement their programs. But, increasingly, talk turns to the possibility, then the probability, then the inevitability, of armed struggle.
          These are weird days. Claire Wolfe's appraisal may go down in history as prophetic: "It's too late to work within the system, and too early to shoot the bastards." The Party faithful are on the near side of Wolfe's dictum. The dropouts take it as self-evident.
          The revolutionists are watching their clocks. They're keeping their powder dry. They're taking target practice, and they're more likely studying Lenin's "What is to be Done?" than Browne's Why Government Doesn't Work.
          But revolutionists are, of necessity, gravy-trainers. The American independence movement had no chance of success until George III's troops started acting stupid. The abolitionists of the North had to wait for the South to secede and hijack an unjustifiable war to accomplish the one reform that history uses to justify it. The Kaiser made the Russian Revolution, and Mao would have died a disappointed peasant without Hirohito.
          What will it take to give viability to a revolutionary libertarian program in the United States circa 2000 A.D.? Any revolution stands on three legs: a frustrated reform movement, an increasing tendency to secede -- in action if not with full knowledge of the implications -- from the institutions that support the current state, and an entanglement that prevents the state from resisting to its full capacity. The Libertarian Party and the dropouts (libertarians and the apathetic alike) are doing a bang-up job of giving our crippled monster, this revolution-in-embroyo, two legs to stand on. The government of the United States of America is doing its damnedest to complete the pyramidal structure.
          The entanglement could be foreseeable. It may stem from our increasing tendency toward military intervention. Could the current political system survive another Vietnam, played out in the Balkans or the Middle East? Would a return to conscription (ordered by a man who seceded from that institution himself many years ago) bring out the solidarity of the sixties, this time backed by a viable alternative instead of the tired old socialist crap characterized by the revolutionary movements of that time?
          If the Y2K scare turns out to be all that even the most paranoid of our paranoids could ever ask for, might the de facto mass secession of the populace from institutions that aren't even maintaining a facade of functionality become permanent when next the taxman comes knocking?
          What if, what if...
          It could be something unforeseeable. Perhaps someone will slip LSD into the water glasses of the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, and they'll suddenly precipitate crisis by reading the Constitution before handing down an important ruling.
          Perhaps the Cali Cartel will make a wise business decision and run a Try It Free for a Year promotion.
          Perhaps Janet Eichmann Reno will pull another Waco, and find her storm troopers surrounded and massacred by a local populace that didn't know they had it in them.
          To paraphrase a friend, there is one motherfucker of an explosion coming. Who, when, where, why and how are TBA, probably by some journalist working up his five-point lead the morning after.
          Which leads me to the question I've been aching to pop.
          Are you ready?
          I'm not talking about a musket, a cartridge box and forty rounds. I'm not asking if you have your gas mask handy. I don't care if you've been doing your calisthenics.
          It's not about that.
          It's about having the guts to appraise the situation, decide that not only is enough enough but that its now or never, and start taking the slack out of the trigger. Its about letting go of the forlorn hope that Bubba or his successors or their cohorts will let real change take place on their watch, that they'll give up the house edge and play fair, and that the meek shall inherit the earth. Because when the fecal matter intercepts the oscillating blades, it is not going to be a pretty sight.
          Can you kill a man? Not because he's in your house and threatening your life, but because he's continually asserted his right to, and because he's done it to others? Not because he's holding a gun to your head and demanding your wallet, but because he's holding a gun to your bank account and demanding a cut? Not because he's raping your wife, but because you paid him to protect her from rapists and he's using your money to track down dope-smokers instead? And because the opportunity has finally presented itself to do it and make it stick?
          Think real hard.
          Yes, I know you have that surplus SKS down in the basement and you can hit a dime-sized group at a hundred meters. Yes, I know you never miss a Tax Day protest or an LP committee meeting. Yes, I know you hate these sons of bitches with a passion. That's not enough. If you're not willing to aim in and squeeze, it never will be. If you're not willing to watch for the target of opportunity, to seize day, even against the possibility of failure, you're urinating into the gale.
          Revolution has a great reputation as a game. Its fun to be in the vanguard. Its fun to toss around what-ifs and why-fors and to look forward to Der Tag, safely tucked away in the future of Keynes long run. The militia movement that was so active earlier in this decade learned the hard way what happens when you talk the talk but refuse to get out of your easy chair and go for a stroll.
          Its time to shit or get off the pot. Those who envision change by political means may be right and they may be wrong, but they are working within a system where the rules allow them to feel confident that their existence, if not their success, is assured. The dropouts live a little closer to the edge, facing harassment and persecution for acting on their beliefs -- but they're unlikely to perform their last dance at the end of a rope if they fail in their attempt to.
          The revolutionist plays a more dangerous game. If you think you want a revolution, put down that Stephen King novel and pick up Nechayev. If you think that being in the vanguard means discussing theory over a couple of cold ones, track down one of the survivors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade or the Warsaw Gehtto or Tiananmen and take a good long listen.
          Still think you have the cojones for it? Well see. Because the last and best hope of avoiding it is developing a surplus of people who do.


Thomas L. Knapp thinks he can write, and spends a great deal of time inflicting the product of this delusion on others.


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