Murray Bookchin – The Real Roots of Traditional Libertarianism
Murray Bookchin – The Real Roots of Traditional Libertarianism
Murray Bookchin ( 1:05 ): “In fact, the word ‘libertarian’ was invented literally by Élisée Reclus in the 1890s when the word ‘anarchist’ became illegal in France because of terrorist activities.”
«In Déjacque, on the other hand, we meet the true ancestor of the theorists of propaganda by deed, and of the ascetic assassins of the 1890’s. But we meet also a man to whom the paradox of a natural order arising out of disorder was as provocative as it had been for Proudhon. Like Proudhon, Déjacque was a manual worker — an upholsterer — and like him he had an original mind, a natural power of writing, and a considerable self-taught erudition. He called himself a “social poet,” and published two volumes of heavily didactic verse — Lazaréennes and Les Pyrénées Nivelées. In New York, from 1858 to 1861, he edited an anarchist paper entitled Le Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement Social,* in whose pages he printed as a serial his vision of the anarchist Utopia, entitled L’Humanisphére. And he expounded his “war on civilization by criminal means” in a treatise entitled La Question Révolutionnaire, which was written in 1852 among the peaceful gardeners of Jersey and read to a unanimously disapproving audience at the Society of the Universal Republic in New York before eventually being published in that city during 1854.
*Sébastien Faure, who founded Le Libertaire in 1895, is often credited with having invented the word libertarian as a convenient synonym for anarchist. However, Déjacque’s use of the word as early as 1858 suggests that it may have had a long currency before Faure adopted it.»
Murray Bookchin ( 1:36 ): “So he invented the word ‘libertarian’, and since it has been expropriated, or appropriated if you like, by the right-wing. We have to reclaim that word again because it has much richer history and much richer meaning.”
«The first anarchist journal to use the term “libertarian” was La Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement Social. Somewhat ironically, given recent developments in America, it was published in New York between 1858 and 1861 by French communist-anarchist Joseph Déjacque. The next recorded use of the term was in Europe, when “libertarian communism” was used at a French regional anarchist Congress at Le Havre (16–22 November, 1880). January the following year saw a French manifesto issued on “Libertarian or Anarchist Communism.” Finally, 1895 saw leading anarchists Sébastien Faure and Louise Michel publish La Libertaire in France. [Max Nettlau, A Short History of Anarchism, pp. 75–6, p. 145 and p. 162]
It should be noted that Nettlau’s history was first written in 1932 and revised in 1934. George Woodcock, in his history of anarchism, reported the same facts as regards Déjacque and Faure [Anarchism: A History of libertarian ideas and movements, p. 233] Significantly, Woodcock’s account was written in 1962 and makes no mention of right-wing use of the term “libertarian.” More recently, Robert Graham states that Déjacque’s act made “him the first person to use the word ‘libertarian’ as synonymous with ‘anarchist’” while Faure and Michel were “popularising the use of the word ‘libertarian’ as a synonym for ‘anarchist.’” [Robert Graham (Ed.), Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, p. 60 and p. 231]
Which means, incidentally, that Louise Michel is linked with anarchists both using the term “libertarian” to describe our ideas and with the black flag becoming our symbol. Faure subsequently wrote an article entitled “Libertarian Communism” in 1903.
Actually, Benjamin Tucker was already using the word ‘libertarian’ much earlier, in 1887:
«Liberty, of course, had something to do with the writing of Progress and Poverty. It also had something to do with the framing of divorce laws as a relief from indissoluble marriage. But the divorce laws, instead of being libertarian, are an express recognition of the rightfulness of authority over the sexual relations. Similarly Progress and Poverty expressly recognizes the rightfulness of authority over the cultivation and use of land. For some centuries now evolution has been little else than the history of liberty; nevertheless all its factors have not been children of liberty.» — Benjamin R Tucker. Economic Empiricism. Liberty (November 5, 1887) vol. 5 (7) (whole no. 111) pp. 4-5 [document no. 720-721]
Article reprinted in 1893 under the title “Liberty and the George Theory”: (p. 320)
«There are two Socialisms.
One is communistic, the other solidaritarian.
One is dictatorial, the other libertarian. »
— Benjamin Tucker.
State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, And Wherein They Differ. Instead of a Book by a Man Too Busy to Write One: A Fragmentary Exposition of Philosophical Anarchism. Benj. R. Tucker, Publisher (1893, 2nd ed. 1897). (p. 16)
So the American libertarians of the second half of the 20th century could have picked the word from the work of Tucker or perhaps other early American Individualist anarchists. For instance, Murray Rothbard wrote about Tucker and other american individualist anarchists, and he considered himself a continuator of that American Individualist anarchist tradition:
« Individualist anarchy can be clearly observed in American writers such as Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker, Albert Jay Nock and Murray Rothbard. Rothbard does not fit so easily within this category on account of his particular obsession with capitalism. Although individualists differ markedly on many issues, the common thread that holds them in an uneasy alliance is their rigorous commitment to the sovereign individual, and, in many cases, their affirmation of the central importance of individual liberty. In the American tradition there is also an assertion of the value of private property. However, their firmest commitment is to a pristine individualism.14 Beyond this, disparities arise. Apart from the central importance of the individual, the ideas of Max Stirner do not fit very easily with other individualist anarchists (see Leopold introduction to Stirner 2000).» …
(p. 119) _«Again, Jerry Gaus and John W. Chapman have suggested that not only should ‘anarcho-syndicalism’ be ruled out, but also individualist ‘anarcho-capitalism’ (Gaus and Chapman in Pennock and Chapman eds 1978, xxv). This point is repeated in an essay later in the same volume by David Wieck, who comments that the latter movement is ‘entirely outside the mainstream of anarchist theoretical writings’ (Wieck in Pennock and Chapman eds 1978, 215). Those within the communist anarchist movement have been particularly keen to expunge individualist anarchists, such as Rothbard. It is obviously uncomfortable to find themselves as bedfellows with such antipathetic ideas.
Rothbard himself did not appear to be worried by this critique, and clearly saw his own affinities as lying squarely within an individualist libertarian anarchism. »_
– Vincent, Andrew.
Modern Political Ideologies. Third Edition. Wiley-Blackwell (1993, 3rd edition 2010). ISBN-13: 978-1405154956.
Excerpt from an article appeared in 1975 in a newsletter edited by Murray Rothbard:
«These same premises, in one form or another, were bandied about by the 19th Century native American individualist anarchists. Since today’s libertarians are more or less their direct descendants, it will be enlightening to examine their disputes about the homesteading and self-ownership axioms.
Probably the two most famous of the American anarchists of the last half of the 19th Century were Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner. Fortunately for US, Spooner’s writings have been preserved and reprinted. Although Tucker was not a book writer, his thought has been carried down to us through his writings in his periodical LIBERTY (1881- 1908). As we will see, some of their ideas are yet in accord with our contemporary libertarian thought. »
FWIW, Benjamin Tucker was clearly a “propertarian”. E.g.,
« The Anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats. They believe that the best government is that which governs least, and that that which governs least is no government at all. Even the simple police function of protecting person and property they deny to governments supported by compulsory taxation. Protection they look upon as a thing to be secured, as long as it is necessary, by voluntary association and cooperation for self-defence, or as a commodity to be purchased, like any other commodity, of those who offer the best article at the lowest price. In their view it is in itself an invasion of the individual to compel him to pay for or suffer a protection against invasion that he has not asked for and does not desire. And they further claim that protection will become a drug in the market, after poverty and consequently crime have disappeared through the realization of their economic programme. Compulsory taxation is to them the life-principle of all the monopolies, and passive, but organized, resistance to the tax-collector they contemplate, when the proper time comes, as one of the most effective methods of accomplishing their purposes.»
This way of thinking fits well into the characteristics of the individualist anarchist variant and the anarcho-capitalist philosophy described by Andrew Vincent in his book:
«The question as to why anarchism developed from the 1860s and 1870s is complex, the answer often being specific to particular societies. For example, the reasons for the development of Russian anarchism might be very different to the reasons for the development of the American, Spanish or French variants. To some extent there is also an intellectual dimension to the origin of different forms of anarchy, a point that will be discussed in the next section. Thus the origin of individualist anarchism has closer intellectual affinities to classical liberalism, whereas communist and collectivist anarchism were forged in the heated intellectual debates with Blanquism and Marxism in the International. From the 1880s onwards, anarchisms appeared in all European societies, as well as in India, South America, Japan and the USA (see Marshall 1993, 496ff).»
… (pp. 128—129)
« The American individualists thus endorse a very much more rigid application of a free market. The difference between individualist anarchists and minimalist classical liberals is slight on this point, namely, that many classical liberals believe that human beings are egoistic and self-interested and cannot be trusted in a completely unregulated forum. In addition, given that each ego recognizes this, it is rational that individuals would agree on a minimal state apparatus to perform certain public functions. Certainly this was the direction of liberal writers such as Robert Nozick and James Buchanan. On the other hand, individualist anarcho-capitalists suggest either that humans will adapt to a purely unregulated condition or that individuals will hire out services (previously performed by governments) on the free market, including policing and judicial work. »