Early 1960s: From Right to Left
Chapter 13 of The Betrayal of the American Right
by Murray N. Rothbard
total break with National Review and the right wing, my final
emotional divorce from thinking of myself as a right winger or an
ally of the Right, came around 1960. The break was precipitated
by Khrushchev’s visit to the United States in late 1959. During
the torpid Eisenhower years of the late 1950s, when foreign affairs
were in a frozen deadlock and when the American Left had all but
disappeared, it was easy not to put the peace issue at the
forefront of one’s consciousness. But the Khrushchev visit was,
for me, an exciting and welcome sign of a possible detente, of a
break in the Cold War dike, of a significant move toward ending
the Cold War and achieving peaceful coexistence. Hence I enthusiastically
favored the visit; but at the same time National Review became
hysterical at the very same possibility, and in conjunction with
the still-secret John Birch Society, tried desperately to whip up
public sentiment to disrupt the visit.
The New Rightist
clamor continued in opposition to the summit conference of early
1960, which I had hoped would build on the good will of the preceding
Khrushchev visit. I was particularly incensed at the demagogic argument
used by National Review that we must not Shake the Hand of
the Bloody Butcher of the Ukraine (Khrushchev); in a tart exchange
of letters with Buckley, I pointed out that National Review had
always revered Winston Churchill, and was proud to Shake His Hand,
even though Churchill was responsible for far more slaughter (in
World Wars I and II) than Khrushchev had ever been. It was not an
argument calculated to endear me to National Review: libertarianism
was threatening to expand from discussion of fire departments to
war and peace!
By this time
the New York libertarian movement had been virtually reduced to
two: Leonard Liggio and myself; and I was even more isolated than
when the decade had begun, for now the entire right wing had been
captured from within by its former enemy: war and global intervention.
The old Circle Bastiat had disappeared of attrition, as some members
left town for graduate school and others surrendered to the blandishments
of the New Right. And whatever libertarians remained in isolated
pockets throughout the country were too benumbed to offer any resistance
whatever to the New Right tide.
It was time
to act; and politically, my total break with the Right came with
the Stevenson movement of 1960. In 1956 I had been for Stevenson
over Eisenhower, but only partly for his superior peace position;
another reason was to try to depose the Republican "left"
so as to allow the Old Right to recapture the party. Emotionally,
I was then still a right-winger who yearned for a rightist third
party. But now the third party lure was dead; the Right was massively
Goldwaterite. And besides, Stevenson’s courageous stand on the U-2
incident his outrage that Eisenhower had wrecked the summit
conference by refusing to make not only a routine, but a morally
required apology for the U-2 spy incursion over Russia made
me a Stevensonian. Politically, I had ceased being a right-winger.
I had determined that the crucial issue was peace or war; and that
on that question the only viable political movement was the "left"
wing of the Democratic Party. By consistently following an antiwar
and isolationist star, I had shifted or rather been shifted
from right-wing Republican to left-wing Democrat.
It was, of
course, a mighty emotional wrench for "right-wing libertarians"
to make; and as far as I know, there were only three of us who leaped
over the wall to emotional left-wing Democracy: myself, Leonard
Liggio, and former Circle member Ronald Hamowy, who had gone on
to graduate school at the University of Chicago.
I was not politically
active in the drive for the Stevenson nomination, but a strange
concatenation of events was to thrust me into a prominent role among
Stevensonians in New York. After Kennedy was able to scotch the
Stevenson drive for the nomination at the Democratic convention,
I saw a tiny ad in the New York Post for a Stevenson Pledge
movement: an attempt by particularly embittered Stevensonians to
try to force Kennedy to pledge that he would make Adlai Secretary
of State. On going to the meeting, which included the eventually
famous campaign manager Dave Garth, I suddenly found myself a leader
in a new political organization: the League of Stevensonian Democrats
(LSD), headed by the charismatic John R. Kuesell, who was soon to
become prominent in the Reform Democratic movement in New York.1
We held out for a Stevenson pledge as long as we could; and
then, when not forthcoming, we took our stand firmly for Kennedy
against Richard Nixon, a political figure whom I had always reviled
as (a) a Republican "leftist," (b) an opportunist, and
(c) a warmonger, if not, however, as consistent and dedicated a
warmonger as the New Right.2
incident symbolized my political shift from Right to Left, while
continuing to advance libertarianism. Wearing my extreme right-wing
hat, I published a letter in the Wall Street Journal urging
genuine conservatives not to vote for Richard Nixon, so as to allow
conservatives to regain control of the Republican Party. When Kuesell
saw the letter, he reasonably concluded that I was some sort of
right-wing spy in the LSD, and was set to expel me from the organization.
Coming in to see him, I was prepared to give him an hour lecture
on libertarianism, on my hegira from right to left, and so on. As
it happened, I was only able to get a few words out of my mouth.
"You see," I began, "I’m a . . . ‘libertarian’."
Kuesell, always quick on the mark, immediately cut in. "Say
no more," he said, "I’m a libertarian, too." He immediately
showed me a pamphlet he had written in high school, Quo Warranto?,
challenging government on their right to interfere with people’s
lives and property. Since the word and concept of libertarian were
scarcely household words, especially in that era, I was utterly
astonished. From then on, Kuesell and I worked in happy tandem in
the LSD until it withered away after the start of the Kennedy administration.
This experience confirmed my view that left-wing Democracy rather
than right-wing Republicanism was now the natural field for libertarian
As one of the
theoreticians of the League of Stevensonian Democrats, I became
head of its National and International Affairs Committee, and as
such managed to write and push through a platform for the League
that was totally libertarian, since I concentrated on civil liberties
and opposition to war and conscription.
libertarianism itself was essentially isolated and "underground."
Harry Elmer Barnes could publish his call for revisionism of all
world wars, including the Cold War, only in the pages of the obscure
left-pacifist magazine Liberation during 1958 and 1959; on
the basis of this I struck up a correspondence and friendship with
Barnes that lasted to the end of his life. In Chicago, former Circle
Bastiat members Ron Hamowy and Ralph Raico helped found a new student
quarterly, New Individualist Review, in early 1961, which
quickly became the outstanding theoretical journal in the student
conservative moment; however, its whole modus operandi was
a commitment to the now-outmoded conservative-libertarian alliance.
Hence it could not serve as a libertarian organ, especially in the
crucial realm of foreign policy.
however, managed to publish in NIR a blistering critique
of the New Right, of National Review, its conservatism and
its warmongering, in a debate with Bill Buckley. Hamowy, for the
first time in print, pinpointed the betrayal of the Old Right at
the hands of Buckley and National Review. Hamowy summed up
his critique of National Review doctrines:
be summed up as: (1) a belligerent foreign policy likely to result
in war; (2) a suppression of civil liberties at home; (3) a devotion
to imperialism and to a polite form of white supremacy; (4) a
tendency towards the union of Church and State; (5) the conviction
that the community is superior to the individual and that historic
tradition is a far better guide than reason; and (6) a rather
lukewarm support of the free economy. They wish, in gist, to substitute
one group of masters (themselves) for another. They do not desire
so much to limit the State as to control it. One would tend to
describe this devotion to a hierarchical, warlike statism and
this fundamental opposition to human reason and individual liberty
as a species of corporativism suggestive of Mussolini or Franco,
but let us be content with calling it "old-time conservatism,"
the conservatism not of the heroic band of libertarians who founded
the anti-New Deal Right, but the traditional conservatism that
has always been the enemy of true liberalism, the conservatism
of Pharonic Egypt, of Medieval Europe, of Metternich and the Tsar,
of James II, and the Inquisition; and Louis XVI, of the rack,
the thumbscrew, the whip, and the firing squad. I, for one, do
not very much mind that a philosophy which has for centuries dedicated
itself to trampling upon the rights of the individual and glorifying
the State should have its old name back.3
characteristic fashion, replied by stressing the primacy of the
alleged Soviet threat, and sneered at the libertarian "tablet-keepers":
"There is room in any society," Buckley wrote,
whose only concern is tablet-keeping; but let them realize that
it is only because of the conservatives’ disposition to sacrifice
in order to withstand the enemy, that they are able to enjoy their
monasticism, and pursue their busy little seminars on whether
or not to demunicipalize the garbage collectors.4
Buckley concluded by accusing Hamowy (incorrectly, if that matters)
of being a member of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE).
(One Buckleyite wag wrote at the time: "I hear that Ron Hamowy
is in-SANE.")5 In his sparkling rebuttal, Hamowy
appear ungrateful of me, but I must decline to thank Mr. Buckley
for saving my life. It is, further, my belief that if his viewpoint
prevails and that if he persists in his unsolicited aid the result
will almost certainly be my death (and that of tens of millions
of others) in nuclear war or my imminent imprisonment as an "un-American."6
the libertarian-conservative foreign policy split on New Individualist
Review, however, the editors agreed among themselves, as a result
of the furor surrounding the Hamowy-Buckley debate, that nevermore
would any statement whatever on foreign policy be published
in the magazine. There was thus still no publishing outlet for an
In early 1962,
my last ties were cut with anything that might be construed as the
organized right wing. The William Volker Fund, with which I had
been associated for over a decade, and which had quietly but effectively
served as the preeminent encourager and promoter of conservative
and libertarian scholarship, suddenly and literally collapsed, and
moved toward virtual dissolution. One of the formerly libertarian
members of the Volker Fund staff (Dr. Ivan R. Bierly) had become
a fundamentalist Calvinist convinced of the need for an elite Calvinist
dictatorship, which would run the country, stamp out pornography,
and prepare America for the (literal) Armageddon, which was supposedly
due to arrive in a generation. Bierly managed to convince Harold
Luhnow, the head of the Fund, that he was surrounded on his staff
by a nefarious atheist-anarchist-pacifist conspiracy. As a result,
the president dissolved the Fund one day in a fit of pique.7
of the William Volker Fund had even more fateful and grievous consequences
than appeared on the surface. According to the terms of its charter,
the Fund was supposed to be eventually self-liquidating, and so
in the winter of 1961–62, the Volker Fund decided to take its $17
million of assets and to liquidate by transferring them to a new
organization, the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), a scholarly
libertarian think-tank to be headed by Baldy Harper. For the first
time, then, a libertarian research organization would be endowed,
and would not have to expend its energies scrambling for funds.
When Mr. Luhnow had his sudden change of heart before the decision
was made final, and closed the fund down, IHS, with Harper at the
helm, was suddenly out on the street as a pure and lovable libertarian
research organization devoid of funding. For the rest of his life,
Baldy Harper struggled on as head of IHS.
we were in New York, and having broken with the Right, Leonard Liggio
and myself had plenty of time to re-examine our basic premises,
especially in relation to where we really fit on the ideological
spectrum. The lead was taken by Liggio, a brilliant young historian
with a remarkably encyclopedic knowledge of history, European and
American. Actually, Leonard had always been more astute than I vis-à-vis
National Review. When the first issue of NR appeared,
featuring an article by the notorious "Senator from Formosa,"
William F. Knowland, Liggio resolved to have nothing to do with
In the first
place, we began to rethink the origins of the Cold War that we had
opposed for so long; we read the monumental work of D.F. Fleming,
The Cold War and its Origins, and the seminal books of the
founder of New Left historiography, William Appleman Williams, The
Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959) and The Contours of
American History (1961). And we concluded that our older isolationism
had suffered from a fatal weakness: the implicit acceptance of the
basic Cold War premise that there was a Russian "threat,"
that Stalin had been partly responsible for the Cold War by engaging
in aggressive expansion in Europe and Asia, and that Roosevelt had
engaged in an evil "sellout" at Yalta. We concluded that
all this was a tissue of myth; that on the contrary Russia had not
expanded aggressively at all, its only "expansion" having
been the inevitable and desirable result of rolling back the German
invasion. That, indeed, the United States (with the aid of Britain)
was solely responsible for the Cold War, in a continuing harassment
and aggression against a Soviet Union whose foreign policy had been
almost pathetic in its yearning for peace with the West at virtually
any price. We began to realize that, even in Eastern Europe, Stalin
had not imposed Communist regimes until the United States had been
pressing it there and had launched the Cold War for several years.
We also began to see that, far from Roosevelt "selling out"
to Stalin at Yalta and the other wartime conferences,9 that
the "sellout" was the other way around: as Stalin, in
the vain hope of seeking peace with an implacably aggressive and
imperialistic United States, repeatedly sold out the world Communist
movement: scuttling the Communists of Greece in a sellout deal with
Churchill; preventing the Communist partisans of Italy and France
from taking power at the end of the war; and trying his mightiest
to scuttle the Communist movements of Yugoslavia and China. In the
latter cases, Stalin tried to force Tito and Mao into coalition
regimes under their enemies; and it was only the fact that they
had come to power by their own arms and not in the wake of the Soviet
Army that permitted them to take over by telling Stalin to go to
In short, we
had come to the conclusion that the most astute analysis of the
events of World War II and of the Communist movement was that of
the Trotskyites; far from expanding vigorously in Europe and Asia,
Stalin, devoted only to the national security of the Soviet Union,
had tried his best to scuttle the world Communist movements in a
vain attempt to appease the American aggressor. That Stalin
had wanted only national security and the absence of anti-Soviet
regimes on his borders was shown by the contrasting developments
in Poland and Finland; in Poland, aggressive anti-Sovietism had
forced Stalin to take full control; in Finland, in contrast, there
had emerged the great statesman Paasikivi, who pushed a policy of
conservative agrarianism at home and peace and friendship with the
Soviet Union in foreign affairs; at which point Stalin was perfectly
content to leave Finland at peace and to withdraw the Soviet army.
to the uniformly peaceful and victimized policies of the Soviet
Union, we saw the United States using World War II to replace and
go beyond Great Britain as the world’s great imperial power; stationing
its troops everywhere, presuming to control and dominate nations
and governments throughout the world. For years, the U.S. tried
also to roll back Soviet power in Eastern Europe; and its foreign
policy was particularly devoted to suppressing revolutionary and
pro-Communist movements in every country in the underdeveloped world.
We saw too that the Soviet Union had always pushed for disarmament,
and that it was the U.S. that resisted it, particularly in the menacing
mass-slaughter weapons of the nuclear age. There was no Russian
"threat"; the threat to the peace of the world, in Europe,
in Asia, and throughout the globe was the United States Leviathan.
For years, conservatives and libertarians had argued about the "external"
(Russian) and the "internal" (Washington) threats to individual
liberty, with libertarians and isolationists focusing on the latter
and conservatives on the former. But now we Leonard and I
were truly liberated; the scales had fallen from our eyes;
and we saw that the "external threat," too, emanated from
I were now "left-wing Democrats" indeed on foreign policy.
But still more: we were chafing at the bit. Why was SANE ever so
careful not to discuss imperialism? Why did it clearly favor
the U.S. over the Soviet Union? We were now not only looking for
an isolationist movement; we were looking for an anti-imperialist
movement, a movement that zeroed in on the American Empire as the
great threat to the peace, and therefore to the liberty, of the
world. That movement did not yet exist.
to our re-evaluation of the origins and nature of the Cold War,
we engaged in a thorough reassessment of the whole "left-right"
ideological spectrum in historical perspective. For it was clear
to us that the European Throne-and-Altar Conservatism that had captured
the right wing was statism in a virulent and despotic form; and
yet only an imbecile could possibly call these people "leftists."
But this meant that our old simple paradigm of the "left Communist/total
government . . . right/no government" continuum, with liberals
on the left of center and conservatives on the right of center,
had been totally incorrect. We had therefore been misled in our
basic view of the spectrum and in our whole conception of ourselves
as natural "extreme rightists." There must have been a
fatal flaw in the analysis. Plunging back into history, we concentrated
on the reality that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
laissez-faire liberals, radicals, and revolutionaries constituted
the "extreme left" while our ancient foes, the conservatives,
the Throne-and-Altar worshippers, constituted the right-wing Enemy.
then came up with the following profound analysis of the historical
process, which I adopted.
dominant in history, was the Old Order, the ancien régime,
the regime of caste and frozen status, of exploitation by a war-making,
feudal or despotic ruling class, using the church and the priesthood
to dupe the masses into accepting its rule. This was pure statism;
and this was the "right wing." Then, in seventeenth-and
eighteenth-century Western Europe, a liberal and radical opposition
movement arose, our old heroes, who championed a popular revolutionary
movement on behalf of rationalism, individual liberty, minimal government,
free markets and free trade, international peace, and separation
of Church and State and in opposition to Throne and Altar,
to monarchy, the ruling class, theocracy, and war. These
"our people" were the Left, and the purer their
libertarian vision the more "extreme" a Left they were.
So far, so
good, and our analysis was not yet so different from before; but
what of socialism, that movement born in the nineteenth century
which we had always reviled as the "extreme left"? Where
did that fit in? Liggio analyzed socialism as a confused middle-of-the
road movement, influenced historically by both the libertarian
and individualist Left and by the conservative-statist Right. From
the individualist Left the socialists took the goals of freedom:
the withering away of the State, the replacement of the governing
of men by the administration of things (a concept coined by the
early nineteenth-century French laissez-faire libertarians
Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer), opposition to the ruling class
and the search for its overthrow, the desire to establish international
peace, an advanced industrial economy and a high standard of living
for the mass of the people. From the conservative Right the socialists
adopted the means to attempt to achieve these goals: collectivism,
state planning, community control of the individual. But this put
socialism in the middle of the ideological spectrum. It also
meant that socialism was an unstable, self-contradictory doctrine
bound to fly apart rapidly in the inner contradiction between its
means and its ends. And in this belief we were bolstered by the
old demonstration of my mentor Ludwig von Mises that socialist central
planning simply cannot operate an advanced industrial economy.
movement had, historically, also suffered ideologically and organizationally
from a similar inner contradiction: with Social Democrats, from
Engels to Kautsky to Sidney Hook, shifting inexorably rightward
into accepting and strengthening the State apparatus and becoming
"left" apologists for the Corporate State, while other
socialists, such as Bakunin and Kropotkin, shifted leftward toward
the individualist, libertarian pole. It was clear, too, that the
Communist Party in America had taken, in domestic affairs, the same
"rightward" path hence the similarity which the
"extreme" red-baiters had long discerned between Communists
and liberals. In fact, the shift of so many ex-Communists from left
to the conservative Right now seemed to be not very much of a shift
at all; for they had been pro-Big Government in the 1930s and "Twentieth
Century American" patriots in the 1940s, and now they were
still patriots and statists.
From our new
analysis of the spectrum we derived several important corollaries.
One was the fact that alliance between libertarians and conservatism
appeared, at the very least, to be no more "natural" than
the older alliance during the 1900s and 1920s between libertarians
and socialists. Alliances now seemed to depend on the given historical
context.10 Second, the older intense fear of Marxian
socialism seemed inordinate; for conservatives had long ignored
Mises’s demonstration of the inevitable breakup of socialist planning,
and had acted as if once a country had gone socialist, then that
was the end, that the country was doomed and the process irreversible.
But if ours and Mises’s analysis was right, then socialism
should fall apart before too many years had elapsed, and much more
rapidly than the Old Order, which had had the capacity to last unchanged
for centuries. Sure enough, by the early 1960s we already had seen
the inspiring development of Yugoslavia, which after its break from
Stalin had evolved rapidly away from socialism and central planning
and in the direction of the free market, a course which the rest
of Eastern Europe and even Soviet Russia were already beginning
to emulate. And yet in contrast, we saw to our chagrin that even
the most economic-minded of the New Right were so caught up in their
hysterical anti-Communism that they refused to greet or even acknowledge
the breakup of socialism in Eastern Europe. This blind spot was
obviously connected with the conservatives’ long-time refusal to
acknowledge the corollary breakup of the international Stalinist
monolith within the Communist movement; for both of these insights
would have weakened greatly the Right’s characteristic campaign
of hysteria against the supposedly invincible and ever-expanding
Communist world an expansion that could, in its eyes, be
checked only by nuclear war.
was greatly bolstered, moreover, by our becoming familiar with the
work of domestic revisionism of an exciting group of historians
who had studied under William Appleman Williams at the University
of Wisconsin. Williams himself, in The Contours of American History,
Williams’s students who founded Studies on the Left in 1959,
and particularly the work of Williams’s student Gabriel Kolko in
his monumental Triumph of Conservatism (1963), changed our
view of the twentieth-century American past, and hence of the genesis
and nature of the current American system. From them we learned
that all of us believers in the free market had erred in believing
that somehow, down deep, Big Businessmen were really in favor of
laissez-faire, and that their deviations from it, obviously
clear and notorious in recent years, were either "sellouts"
of principle to expedience or the result of brainwashing and infusing
of guilt into these businessmen by liberal intellectuals.
This is the
general view on the Right; in the remarkable phrase of Ayn Rand,
Big Business is "America’s most persecuted minority."
Persecuted minority, indeed! To be sure, there were charges aplenty
against Big Business and its intimate connections with Big Government
in the old McCormick Chicago Tribune and especially in the
writings of Albert Jay Nock; but it took the Williams-Kolko analysis,
and particularly the detailed investigation by Kolko, to portray
the true anatomy and physiology of the America scene. As Kolko pointed
out, all the various measures of federal regulation and welfare
statism, beginning in the Progressive period, that Left and Right
alike have always believed to be a mass movement against Big
Business, are not only backed to the hilt by Big Business at the
present time, but were originated by it for the very purpose of
shifting from a free market to a cartelized economy. Under the guise
of regulations "against monopoly" and "for the public
welfare," Big Business has succeeded in granting itself cartels
and privileges through the use of government.
As for the
liberal intellectuals, their role has been to serve as "corporate
liberals," as weavers of sophisticated apologies to inform
the masses that the rulers of the American corporate state are ruling
on behalf of the "common good" and the "general welfare."
The role of the corporate liberal intellectual in justifying the
ways of the modern State to man is precisely equivalent to the function
of the priest in the Oriental despotisms who convinced the masses
that their Emperor was all-wise and divine.
I also focused anew on the crucial problem of the underdeveloped
countries. We came to realize that the revolutions in the Third
World were not only in behalf of national independence against imperialism
but also, and conjointly, against feudal land monopolists in behalf
of the just ownership of their land by the long-oppressed peasantry.
Genuine believers in justice and in private property, we concluded,
should favor the expropriation of the stolen and conquered lands
of Asia and Latin America by the peasants who, on any sort of libertarian
theory, were and still are their proper and just owners. And yet,
tragically, only the Communists have supported peasant movements;
American or native "free enterprisers," when they did
not ignore the crucial land problem altogether, invariably and tragically
came down on the side of the oppressive landlords in the name of
"private property." But the "private" property
of these monopoly landlords is "private" only by virtue
of State conquest, theft, and land grants; and any genuine believer
in the rights of private property must then side with the drive
of the peasants to get their land back. The peasants of the world
are not socialists or communists; instinctively, they are individualists
and libertarians, consumed with a perfectly understandable passion
to reclaim the right to own their own lands. The Zapata revolution
in Mexico and the Reies Tijerina movement in the Southwest, are
only the most clear-cut examples of the profoundly libertarian struggle
of peasants to defend or reclaim their just property titles from
loot and conquest at the hands of the central government.11
alone, Leonard Liggio and I nevertheless set out on what seemed
to be a superhuman threefold task: to advance the minuscule and
scattered libertarian, anarcho-capitalist movement; to convert these
libertarians at least to a solidly isolationist position; and finally,
to try also to convert them to our newfound anti-imperialist and
"left" or "left-right" perspective. On the libertarian
front, there was one bright ray of hope: pacifist-individualist
anarchist (who calls himself an "autarchist") Robert LeFevre
had established a Freedom School in the Colorado Rockies in 1956,
to supply intensive two-week summer courses on the freedom philosophy.
LeFevre had previously worked in New York for Merwin K. Hart’s National
Economic Council, rising to vice-president, and then, in 1954, had
moved out to Colorado Springs to be editorial page editor for R.C.
Hoiles’s anarcho-capitalist daily Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph.
Over the years, since 1956, LeFevre had built a remarkable record
of converting a great many people, and especially young people,
to the libertarian creed. And so, slowly, throughout the country,
a growing libertarian cadre, graduates of the Freedom School, were
emerging. As a dedicated pacifist, LeFevre was of course opposed
to the war drive of the New Right, and said so in a 1964 leaflet,
Those Who Protest.
With the help
of a base of Freedom School graduates, we were able to rebuild a
small circle in New York, this time dedicated to the "left-right"
analysis. There was Edward C. Facey, Robert J. Smith, who had been
influenced by the Volker Fund and the Freedom School, and Alan Milchman,
whom we had managed to convert from his post as head of Brooklyn
College YAF. And then there was the "first generation"
of the libertarian youth movement at the University of Kansas, headed
by Bob Gaskins and David Jackman. Gaskins and Jackman had been anarchists,
but politically they had been "right-wing" laissez-fairists
and they edited a magazine called The Standard. When
Gaskins and Jackman moved to New York in late 1962 we were able
to convert them to our perspective, and the result was an all-peace
issue of The Standard, April 1963, which included antiwar
reprints from Chodorov, Mises, and others, and an article of my
own, "War, Peace, and the State," which greatly expanded
and more firmly grounded my old Faith and Freedom derivation
of isolationism and anti-imperialism from libertarian theory.
In the winter
of 1963–64, LeFevre organized a winter-andspring long "Phrontistery"
at Colorado to pave the way for transforming Freedom School into
a Rampart College. To the Phrontistery flocked some of the nation’s
leading young libertarians, including Smith, Gaskins, Jackman, Peter
Blake, and Mike Helm, many of whom formed for the first time in
public an aggressive "Rothbardian" block that stunned
the visiting conservative and laissez-faire dignitaries who
had been invited to teach there. For the first time in public some
of the group also unfurled the "black-and-gold flag,"
the colors of which we had all decided best represented anarcho-capitalism:
black as the classic color of anarchism and gold as the color of
capitalism and hard money.
on the larger political scene, things grew more dismal as the National
Review game plan finally succeeded, and Barry Goldwater won
the Republican nomination. I personally grew frantic; at long last,
the fingers of my old National Review associates were getting
close to the nuclear button, and I knew, I knew to my very
marrow that they were aching to push it. I felt that I had to do
something to warn the public about the menace of nuclear
war that Goldwaterism presented; I felt like a Paul Revere come
to warn everyone about the threat of global war that these people
were about to loose upon the world.
Second, I tried
to hive off some conservative and libertarian votes from Goldwater
by recalling to them their long-forgotten libertarian heritage.
In contrast to many "fair-play minded" liberals, I was
not at all horrified at the famous Democratic TV spot showing a
little girl picking flowers while a Goldwaterite nuclear explosion
loomed to annihilate her. On the contrary, I rejoiced at what I
believed to be, at last, a zeroing in on the true dimensions of
the Goldwaterite menace.
I could, however,
play only a very small direct role in the stop-Goldwater crusade.
The Standard was now defunct, and so the most I could do
was to write in the Southern California anarcho-Randian newsletter,
The Innovator, warning the readers of Goldwaterite war and
fascism (which can be defined, after all, as global war, anti-Communist
crusading, suppression of civil liberties, and corporate statism
disguised in free-market rhetoric which delineated the New
Right). I succeeded, however, only in alienating the stunned readership.12
I also addressed a group of veteran disciples of Frank Chodorov
the "Fragments" group just before the election,
denouncing Goldwaterism, and unaccountably found myself engaged
in a lengthy defense of the foreign policies of Communist China
as being pacific and nonaggressive for wasn’t there at least
a "Chinese menace"? The only result of my endeavors was
to have half the audience brandishing their canes in my direction
and shouting, "We haven’t voted in thirty years, but by God
we’re going out next Tuesday and voting for Barry Goldwater."
My only success was in greatly weakening the Goldwaterite enthusiasm
of the Queens College libertarian movement, headed by Larry Moss
and Dave Glauberman. Looking around also for some periodical, any
periodical, in which to publish a critique of the transformation
of the American Right from Old to New, from isolation to global
war, I could find only the obscure Catholic quarterly Continuum.13
For the Left was still defunct in America.
one of the leaders of the League, economist Art Carol, has in
recent years become a laissez-faire libertarian, and now
leads the libertarian movement at the University of Hawaii.
- On Nixon,
there was a division in National Review; the more pragmatic
and opportunistic types, such as Buckley, Rusher, and Burnham,
were ardently for Nixon once the nomination was secured; but the
more principled types, such as Meyer and Bozell, were always reluctant.
- Ronald Hamowy,
"‘National Review’: Criticism and Reply," New
Individualist Review 1, no. 3 (November 1961): 6–7.
F. Buckley, Jr., "Three Drafts of an Answer to Mr. Hamowy,"
ibid., p. 9.
I attended one meeting of SANE around this time, in my search
for a left-peace movement, and refused to join, rejecting it for
its moderation, its concentration on such important but superficial
issues as nuclear testing, and its egregious red-baiting. It was
clear to me that SANE was not really opposed to the Cold War and
certainly not to American imperialism. By this time, of course,
I had given up even voluntary red-baiting; for if the Communists
are opposed to nuclear weapons and atomic war, then why not join
with them and anyone else in opposing these evils? Since the New
Right favored these measures, was-n’t it more of an Enemy than
"‘National Review’: Criticism and Reply."
- There was
a fitful attempt to revive the Volker Fund on the new ideological
basis, but apparently the president began to be repelled or frightened
by the new tendency, and the Fund ceased all activity. Because
of publishing commitments, the splendid Volker Fund book series
at Van Nostrand continued to be published into 1964.
- The Knowland
tie-in presumably reflected the pervasive influence of Alfred
Kohlberg, China Lobbyist and a close friend of the magazine.
- The situation
at Yalta involved East European territory that was not ours to
control; we of course did not condone the monstrous agreement
to ship anti-Communist POWs held by the Germans back to the Soviet
bloc against their will, or endorse the mass expulsion of Germans
from Poland or Czechoslovakia.
- The relevant
spectrum will, of course, differ in accordance with the critical
issues that may be at stake in different historical situations.
Thus, while near each other on the ideological spectrum on the
issue of statism and centralized government, the individualist
is at opposite poles from the left-wing Bakunin-Kropotkin anarchist
on such an issue as egalitarianism and private property.
- For a definitive
history of the Zapata revolution, incidentally making clear its
libertarian goals, see John Womack, Jr., Zapata and the Mexican
Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1969).
- Among the
Rightists, again it was doughty Felix Morley who, virtually alone
and unheeded, denounced the Goldwater movement in no uncertain
terms as akin to the early days of the Nazi movement, as he had
observed it in Germany.
- Murray N.
Rothbard, "The Transformation of the American Right,"
Continuum 2 (Summer 1964): 220–31.
of Contents: The Betrayal of the American Right
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