Defining left libertarianism

I occasionally contribute to the editing of Wikipedia pages, including those relating to left libertarian political traditions. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of cranky libertarians involved in Wikipedia, so pages you  edit there get swiftly re-edited. For example, the page on left libertarianism insists that said ideology is some odd US free market scene:

It later became associated with free-market libertarians when Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess reached out to the New Left in the 1960s.[3] This left-wing market anarchism, which includes mutualism and Samuel Konkin III‘s agorism, appeals to left-wing concerns such as feminism, gender and sexuality,class, immigration, and environmentalism.[1] Most recently, left-libertarianism refers to mostly non-anarchist political positions associated with Hillel Steiner, Philippe Van Parijs, and Peter Vallentyne that combine self-ownership with an egalitarian approach to natural resources.[4]

I think most people I know who call themselves left libertarians, certainly in Europe, would find that description hard to recognise. Here’s an old version of a section on libertarian socialism, that got deleted recently, which seems to me roughly right:

Libertarian socialism is a political philosophy that promote a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic society without private property in the means of production. Libertarian socialism is opposed to coercive forms of social organization. It promotes free association in place of government and opposes the social relations of capitalism, such as wage labor.[note 1]

The term libertarian socialism is used by some socialists to differentiate their philosophy from state socialism.[7]

For some writers, libertarian socialism is seen as synonymous or overlapping with the terms social anarchism[8][9][10], left anarchism.[8][9][11] and even left libertarianism.[2][12]

Political philosophies commonly described as libertarian socialist include most varieties of anarchism (especially anarchist communism, anarchist collectivism, anarcho-syndicalism,[13] and mutualism[14]) as well as autonomism, Communalism, participism, libertarian Marxist philosophies such as council communism and Luxemburgism,[15] and some versions of utopian socialism[16] and individualist anarchism.[17][18][19] There have also been libertarian socialist currents in the mainstream labour and socialist movements.

[Footnotes below]

There has also been a section on green left libertarianism, again recently re-deleted. A recent version looked like this:

The Green movement has been influenced by left libertarian traditions, including by anarchism, mutualism, Georgism and [[individualist anarchism. Peter Kropotkin provided a scientific explanation of how “mutual aid” is the real basis for social organization in his Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution. New England Transcendentalism (especially Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott) and German Romanticism, the Pre-Raphaelites, and other “back to nature” movements combined with anti-war, anti-industrialism, civil liberties, and decentralization movements are all part of this tradition. In the modern period, Murray Bookchin and the Institute for Social Ecology elaborated these ideas more systematically. Bookchin was one of the main influences behind the formation of the German Green Party – the first green party to win seats in state and national parliaments.[citation needed]Modern Green Parties attempt to apply these ideas to a more pragmatic system of democratic governance as opposed to contemporary individualist or left anarchism.

Thus the Green movement, or left-facing sections of it, is often described by political scientists as left libertarian.[84] Often referred to here are European political parties, such as Ecolo and Agalev in Belgium, the German Green Party, or the Green Progressive Accord/GreenLeft in the Netherlands. Political scientists see these parties as coming out of the New Left and emphasising spontaneous self-organisation, participatory democracy, decentralisation and voluntarism, and therefore contrasting to the “traditional left”‘s top-down, bureaucratic or statist approach, hence the term “left libertarian”. Other similar non-socialist radical left political parties, such as the Italian Radicals, are often described in similar terms.[85] These parties situate themselves on the left of the political spectrum, and therefore tend to ally electorally with left parties (e.g. in the Rose in the Fist coalition in Italy), while being pro-market and strongly supporting a civil libertarian agenda, and hence are called left libertarian.

[Footnotes below]

What do you think of when you think of left libertarianism? What would you include in an article?

I think of a tradition described in David Goodway‘s book Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow, which includes the likes of William Morris, John Cowper Powys, Alex Comfort, Herbert Read, Colin Ward and Maurice Brinton.

From William Morris to Oscar Wilde to George Orwell, left-libertarian thought has long been an important but neglected part of British cultural and political history. In Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow, David Goodway seeks to recover and revitalize that indigenous anarchist tradition. This book succeeds as simultaneously a cultural history of left-libertarian thought in Britain and a demonstration of the applicability of that history to current politics. Goodway argues that a recovered anarchist tradition could—and should—be a touchstone for contemporary political radicals. Moving seamlessly from Aldous Huxley and Colin Ward to the war in Iraq, this challenging volume will energize leftist movements throughout the world.

Crucially, some of these people are anarchists – but not all are. Left libertarianism clearly stretches on the one side towards the anarchism of Colin Ward but also towards the democratic socialism of Orwell or the Marxism of Morris and EP Thompson, who all feature in Goodway’s book. As Bernard Crick puts it regarding Orwell: “He was an English Socialist of the classic kind, in the same mould as Michael Foot and Aneurin Bevan – left-wing, but also libertarian, egalitarian and hostile to the Communist Party.” Similarly, Thompson started off a Communist, but became sharply anti-Stalinist.

As this excellent review of Goodway’s book by Martin Heggarty describes, the title of the book comes from a novel by Ignazio Silone, which strongly influenced Colin Ward’s turn to anarchism. Silone, however, was not an anarchist, but an anti-Stalinist socialist.

We could take Goodway’s history into the 1960s and 1970s, with groups such as Big Flame and Solidarity, as described in this reading list, as well as people like Ken Coates. Moving past the 1970s, it becomes a little less clear.

That history is, of course, anglocentric, but I am sure a Francophone version of it could be written (including Victor Serge, Daniel Guerin, Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort) or an American version (including Mother Jones, Paul Goodman, Nancy and Dwight MacDonald, Murray Bookchin and Noam Chomsky). Those lists are quite white and male, and would need to be re-written to make them less so.

What do you think?

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East London Big Flame! 1970s activism and autonomy

A new fantastic resource online: an archive of East London Big Flame in the 1970s. From the Who We Were page:

We were a fluid group of about a dozen young women and men who came together in east London. We probably would have described ourselves as left libertarians. We organised in the community, in workplaces, around class, racism, women’s and men’s issues, for personal change/self-help therapy, and against bias in the media. We saw ourselves not as outside, but as part of these struggles, and saw the links between these different issues as embodying politics in everyday life.

From 1973–5 we belonged to a nationwide grouping called
‘Big Flame’ (www.bigflameuk.wordpress.com). Our projects carried on until the early 1980s, and after that we dispersed and took our ideas and values into different areas of work (teaching; architecture; psychotherapy; archaeology; local government;  film-making; writing) as well as into continuing political and community activism.

East London Big Flame   HomeHere are links to the sections: (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 11:27 am  Comments (2)  
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From the archive of struggle, no.41: Anarchist poster special

Today’s feature is the Just Seeds Visual Artsts’ Co-op.

18Pesadilla_170.jpgRafael Baca
Nuestro Mas Hermoso Sueño es tu Peor Pesadilla/Our Most Beautiful Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

ElMaizEsNuestro_170.jpg Favianna Rodriguez
El Maíz Es Nuestro

Dill170.jpg Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia: Art & Politics in Jazz-Age Chicago.

rio170.jpg Favianna Rodriguez
Rio

16PINK_170.jpg Lapiztola
Emiliano Zapata silkscreen

02emmag_170.jpg
Ben Rubin
Emma Goldman

From the archive, below the fold: (more…)

From the archive of struggle, no.40: Yale Yiddish special

Following on from my YIVO special, here are some more Yiddish archival treasures. Below the fold, the usual round up of newly available radical material.

Our focus today is the Yale Judaica collection. Below are some exhibitions. Clicking on the images enables you to see them in context.

And You Shall Tell Your Children, Passover Haggadah exhibition:

Kibbutz Haggadah

Yiddish Sheet Music:

The Striker

Illustrated Yiddish Books:

These illustrated books date from the post-revolutionary period, the golden age of Soviet Yiddish, when Russian plebian culture and Jewish folk culture, avante-garde graphics and radical politics, all worked together powerfully. -P.

Avant-garde Maquettes (1929):
Avant-garde maquettes for Jewish-Communist wall posters in Yiddish (1929): Leaf One

Ink and watercolor manuscript, possibly a mock up for publication, consisting of two leaves (28 x 19 cm.) mounted side-by-side in a contemporary mat. This poster contains the phrase “Proleṭarier fun ale lender, fareyniḳṭ aykh!” [Proletariat of all lands, unite!] and large lettering with the words “Arbeṭ un ḳulṭur” [Labor and culture] across an illustration of a hammer and sickle topped by a red star.

Avant-garde maquettes for Jewish-Communist wall posters in Yiddish (1929): Leaf TwoThis poster has the heading “Ḳegn Goṭ un shṿindl” [Against God and swindle] above a paragraph urging Jews not to be duped into the backward religious practice of attending high holiday services. It is signed אמכא–Amkha, a deliberately misspelled version of the Hebrew word עמך — Amkha [Your People].

Below the fold, the archive of struggle no. 40.

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Graphic Witness

This is wonderful: Karl Marx’s Capital in lithographs, by Hugo Gellert, from 1934, reached via Hak Mao. Gellert illustrated Max Eastman’s The Liberator too. File:Liberator-cover-1803.jpg

Below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle, no.31. I think this edition is almost completely stolen from Entdinglichung.

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On this day: 7 August

At the bottom of the post, below the fold, book notes and the archive of struggle.

On this day, from Anarchoefemerides:

On this day in 1900, in Mexico, Regeneración: Periódico Jurídico Independiente was founded by Jesús Flores Magón,  Antonio Horcasitas, and Ricardo Flores Magón. This was a key event in Mexican anarchism and in starting the Mexican revolution. Read more here, here and here.

On this day in 1894, in Gijón in Asturias, Avelino González Mallada was born. He died earlier this month. Orphaned when he was six, he was brought up by his grandmother, and started work at a factory aged 11. In 1911 he joined the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) and was fired shortlywards. After a spell in Paris, he returned to Spain and, blacklisted for his politics, worked in the anarchist movement, editing periodicals likeVida Obrera and Solidaridad and teaching in libertarian schools. y, luego, de CNT de Madrid. During the Civil War, he supported the Popular Front and was active in its military defence, in the Provincial Committee of the Popular Front in Oviedo and later the Defense Committee in Gijón and the Commissariat of War on behalf of the CNT. On October 15, 1936, he was elected mayor of Gijón. In 1938, he was appointed special delegate of the General Council of the International Solidarity Antifascist and moved to United States to seek help. There he died in a car accident on March 27, 1938. [Source/Source]

On this day in 1927, there were global demonstrations against the execution in the US of the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. In Paris, 200,000 supporters marched. More on Sacco and Venzetti from the People’s Informative.

Continue reading for reviews of books on Mandel, Silone, Orwell and Berlin and for archival material on Brinton, James, Dunayevskaya and others.

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Poumatia

Alternative histories: Haile Selassie’s plea.

Tragic presents: The coup in Honduras – Larry Gambone’s take, the Libertarian Communist Organization of Chile.

From the archive of struggle, no.25, after the fold

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Poumatic

Orwellia:

Hitchens on Orwell and 1984. Truth tellers. Rosie’s flowers.

Ken Loach ad absurdum:

Principia Dialectica on the Ken Barlow of film again

Marxist theory:

Moishe Postone/Paul Mattick.

Iberica/Judaica:

Barack Obama, Moses Maimonides and Roger Garaudy in Cordoba. Asymmetrical parallels between Is/Pal and republican Spain.

From the archive of struggle, no.21:

Hal Draper: How to Defend Israel (1948)
Hal Draper: Karl Marx and Simon Bolívar (1970)

Max Farrar: The Libertarian Movements of the 1970s. What can we learn (1989, pdf)

Obituaries/appreciations:

Entdinglichung plays dub for Walter Rodney. Adam Kirsch on IF Stone on Zionism and Communism.


Poumerouma

The libertarian socialist tradition

New blog: Big Flame, on the history of this UK radical group of the 1970s.

Why Philosophy? Why Now? On the Revolutionary Legacies of Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James and Anton Pannekoek, By David Black at The Hobgoblin

Andre Gorz, or the Ecological Demand, by Serge Audier at Principia Dialectica.

Anarchist Studies: Perspective 2009. On the legacy of Murray Bookchin.

Poster art, folk song and historical memory

More from BCNDesign: The everyday comes to Santa Coloma: Local things for local history. Graphic design in 1930s Spain.

History Today: The Mexican suitcase. British volunteers and Republican posters.

Rio Wang: Russian poster design and the war on coca-cola. Carlos Gordel and the zorzal.

George Szirtes: Fado da Tristeza.

Polish gentile, Jan Jagielski, chief archivist at the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, to receive the Irena Sendler Memorial Award from the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

The extraordinary anti-Nazi photo-montages of John Heartfield.

Scoop Review of Books: Kiwi Compañeros: NZ’s anti-Franco volunteers. See more in TNC‘s comment here. Which led me to these two great older posts: Fieldtrip to the International Center for Photography (Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Francesc Torres and poster art). ¿Viva la Insurgencía?: The Spanish Civil War and the Legacy of the Totalitarian International Brigades. There’s plenty more TNC posts on memory and archives and on Communism.

Watch Land and Freedom at A Complex System of Pipes.

From the archive of struggle, no.14 (below the fold) (more…)