L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 48, June 15, 1999
The Anti-War Movement, An Anti-Statist Model
by Michael R. Allen
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Many libertarians and their fellow travelers are tired with organized
politics. The Libertarian Party has not won any federal elections,
and its leadership is not trusted by the hard-line contingent.
Think-tanks dedicated to the free market have not been very forceful
on unpopular issues, and have appeared to approve the careless
half-steps and misfires of the Republican party.
Is it time those who still vote start fresh, with a new political
One looking for an example of a successful ideological venture that
goes against statism without creating a new formal political
organization need only turn to the contemporary anti-war movement.
This movement has galvanized as the war, er peace-keeping mission, in
Serbia continues, and has attracted not only non-interventionist
libertarians. Notably, leftists of the sort who read the Nation and
many grassroots conservatives have also included themselves in this
movement -- some even opposed the 1991 Gulf War.
This is not the anti-war movement of the 1960's. Vietnam War
protesters do comprise some portion of this new movement;
Antiwar.com's webmaster Eric Garris resisted the draft then. And
left-wingers who still distrust "New Democrat" politics are on board
to some extent. However, many of the draft-dodging, card-burning
radicals of the past are now fully in support of US involvement in
The anti-war movement isn't crankily anti-Clinton (at least not
without good reason), nor is it united behind a single organization.
It is simply a collection of people who agree that bombing a nation's
innocent citizens is immoral. No one has to sign a pledge card to
join this movement, or pay dues, or even tell anyone about their
In brief, the new anti-war movement comprises individuals who agree
on one major issue.
On June 5, rallies against the US-NATO bombings of Serbia were held
around the world. In Washington, DC, thousands of protesters arrived
to march from the Vietnam Memorial to the Pentagon. This was the
largest, most diverse rally against the military state in over
twenty-five years. Speaking to the crowd was the old radical Tom
Hayden, as well as the paleo-conservative editor of Chronicles, Tom
Fleming. Catholic social justice advocates, libertarian
anti-statists, left-wingers, hard-line conservatives, and other
groups were represented there, all united to oppose the war.
Might such a coalition be impressively broad but dangerously shallow?
Of course. This anti-war coalition has only grown rapidly in the last
few months, and has not yet proven its durability. In San Francisco,
the International Action Center socialists are openly hostile to
right-wing partnership. Z Magazine's Michael Alpert is downright
surly in its attitude: "I don't think left opponents of the bombing
have any reason to spend much time ... trying to organize [the
However, the noninterventionist right has been open to working with
anyone who will reciprocate. Without the support of mainstream
conservative outlets like National Review, noninterventionist
right-wingers have utilized talk radio, the internet, and rallies to
disseminate their message. Help from the left on these projects is
more than welcome, at least to right-oriented outlets with which I am
familiar. Where the IAC and Z disappear, others have stepped in.
The coalition has a strong alternative media presence. It has
organized great rallies. It has even had some of its spirit read into
the Congressional Record by firebrand Representatives Ron Paul
(R-TX), Tom Campbell (R-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA). To accomplish
these worthy goals, no political party was needed -- but more
importantly, strong beliefs were.
As Justin Raimondo wrote in his essay "Defenders of the Republic,"
(featured in The Costs of War), noticeable is "the primacy of
foreign-policy views in determining the ultimate political stance of
a given individual or movement." Allies libertarians win working on
the anti-war front have already questioned the most puissant part of
the federal State: the military empire. Such opponents of empire may
never become pure anti-statists, but will be more radical than those
who merely join political organizations to effect change.
Radicalism is a highly desirable trait in the fight against American
foreign policy; the stakes are high, and restoring the Republic is an
urgent matter. For decades, the American military complex has built
itself up. Presidents have gradually taken all of the legislative
abilities to wage war. Military conscription, though not currently
active, has been used to steal citizens to fight war. Reversing all
of these trends is not something that can be done lightly.
Leftists and cultural conservatives join libertarian anti-statists in
emphatically declaring opposition to the military complex. Their
domestic stands are assorted, but their resolve on military matters
displays an eagerness to at least end the worst aspect of the current
The anti-war movement is not a formal organization -- and that is why
it succeeds. It is charged with the importance of its mission, not
the sustenance of its own organization. While the movement is far
from perfect, and has not ended the present war, it has accomplished
more for liberty than any formal political organization.
Michael R. Allen spends too much time editing SpinTech Magazine
Rosie says: "Self-defense is icky! Guns make noise, secondhand smoke,
and require more intelligence and self-discipline than I'll ever
have! Do what works for me: whenever I hear a burglar, I hide my tiny
little Cretaceous head, with its primitive ganglionic cluster, under
the sofa, and let him think my big fat ass is a bean-bag chair!"
-- L. Neil Smith
to advance to the next article, or
to return to the previous article, or
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 48, June 15, 1999.