Antonio Gramsci Libertarians
Antonio Gramsci Libertarians
We must be wary of the shift in libertarian circles that has broadened the word into a general spirit of setting the individual free from all social and cultural restraints. It serves a leftist purpose under the social mood of our time.
I continue on my exploratory journey of various hyphenated libertarians. Working through all that was required to write my most recent post on this topic was most helpful to me in this regard.
I offer again my summary thoughts from this post, regarding self-identified “left-libertarians”:
This social agenda need not be embraced by all who carry the name “libertarian.” It is perfectly “libertarian” to peacefully picket for either the gay couple or for the baker. Libertarian theory and the NAP does not offer guidance beyond the respect for property. When push comes to shove, however, I contend that all libertarians must fall on the side of property rights. Absent property rights, there is no NAP; absent the NAP and you can remove the word “libertarian” from “left-libertarian.” Recalling the history of the movement, you end up with the Marxist strain. Keep that in mind when you are told by a so-called libertarian about the social causes you must support.
I know that there are libertarians who hold what would be described as conservative or traditional cultural views – to include what would be described as traditional Christian views. On many topics of culture, I am one of these; needless to say, I come to these outside of and apart from anything derived via libertarian theory.
The individual of who I am most aware within the libertarian community who writes rather strongly about such cultural aspects is Hans Herman Hoppe. To my knowledge, he does not mandate or suggest that individuals must or should adopt these views as libertarians. I have read and heard him speak of such things via practical / logical arguments. In any case, if he conflates his cultural views with libertarian theory, I would disagree with the connection.
To be fair, I haven’t read much of Hoppe’s work on this subject, however. So I went poking around, and look what I found:
What’s with the socially conservative strain of anarcho-capitalism coming out of the Mises Institute and Hans-Hermann Hoppe?
It is a brief post at the Center for a Stateless Society site – the same site that I visited for my above-mentioned post regarding left-libertarian thinking!
If you’re an outsider to the libertarian tradition you might be baffled by some of the positions of some of the libertarian anarchists like Hans-Hermann Hoppe at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
I would only be baffled by this if I thought that libertarian theory had anything to say regarding such cultural questions. Libertarian theory does not; it merely addresses the proper use of force.
Liberty is about the emancipation of humans from oppressive forms of organization, so what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks queer influence is a net negative for society?
I will avoid for today digging into whatever might be meant here by the phrase “oppressive forms of organization.” As to the rest – imagine any of the following:
…what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks a high rate of divorce is a net negative for society? …what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks children born out of wedlock is a net negative for society? …what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks use of recreational drugs is a net negative for society? …what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks alcoholism is a net negative for society?
There is no “deal.” As a libertarian, any of the four could be reasonable concerns, and to hold any of these as concerns does not violate libertarian theory. Of course, the same is true regarding “queer influence.”
Don’t believe me? Ask C4SS…from the same post:
Imagine anti-authoritarian politics as consisting of two levels: at the foundational/methodological level we are all unified by a commitment to create space for diverse decentralized communities to make value decisions for themselves. Above this foundational level are the ideological preferences of the community one would like to be a part of.
“Diverse decentralized communities” making “value decisions for themselves.” This is an idea fully compatible with libertarian theory – precisely because libertarian theory does not pretend to address the infinite number of “value decisions” that individuals will make in order to find a place of comfort. This is identified as “foundational.”
As Ross Kenyon writes, “Some communities will operate within the gender binary, be strictly vegan, be members of a certain religion, be different or no degrees of collectivized, allow or disallow firearm possession amongst countless other value decisions. This is the beauty of the voluntary association principle enacted: no one person or group of people has all the information necessary to coordinate everyone else.
It’s in the same post (and I know I am repeating myself, and now even yelling). It seems every type of community experiment is acceptable within the libertarian framework of C4SS except for the “socially conservative strain…coming out of the Mises Institute and Hans-Hermann Hoppe” that considers “queer influence” to be a net negative for society.
It sounds more like an agenda than a wholly consistent theory.
So what does any of this have to do with what’s his name…Antonio Gramsci?
Antonio Gramsci; 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist theoretician and politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how states use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies.
Now don’t get all worked up in an angry sweat; I am not saying that left-libertarians are Marxists or anything like that. After all, Gramsci was no Marxist (from Gary North):
Original Marxist theory placed the mode of production at the center of social development throughout history. Virtually all forms of socialism, whether Marxist or non-Marxist, have adopted this basic idea. The one major exception to this was the supposedly Marxist Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, who in fact was the most important anti-Marxist theorist ever to come out of the Marxist movement. Gramsci in the 1930s acknowledged that Western society was deeply religious, and that the only way to achieve a proletarian revolution would be to break the faith of the masses of Western voters in Christianity and the moral system derived from Christianity. He placed religion and culture at the base of the pyramid.
Gramsci argued, and the Frankfurt School followed his lead, that the way for Marxists to transform the West was through cultural revolution: the idea of cultural relativism. The argument was correct, but the argument was not Marxist. The argument was Hegelian.
Instead of “Cultural Marxism,” it seems the proper terms to use would be “Cultural Gramsci-ism.”
While firmly committed to global Communism, [Gramsci] knew that that violence would fail to win the West. American workers (proletariat) would never declare war on their middle class neighbors as long as they shared common Christian values. So the Italian communist — a contemporary of Lenin — wrote an alternative plan for a silent revolution. The main weapons would be deception, manipulation and infiltration. Hiding their Marxist ideology, the new Communist warriors would seek positions of influence in seminaries, government, communities, and the media. Gramsci himself rejected Christianity and all its transcendent claims. Nevertheless, he knew Christian culture existed…. For that was the force binding all the classes… into a single, homogeneous culture. It was a specifically Christian culture, in which individual men and women understood that the most important things about human life transcended the material conditions in which they lived out their mortal lives.
Gramsci was open to alliances with all leftists:
The first phase in achieving “cultural hegemony” over a nation is the undermining of all elements of traditional culture. Whereas conventional Marxist-Leninists were hostile towards the non-Communist Left, Gramsci argued that alliances with a broad spectrum of leftist groups would prove essential to Communist victory. In Gramsci’s time these included, among others, various “anti-fascist” organizations, trade unions, and socialist political groups. In our time, alliances with the Left would include radical feminists, extremist environmentalists, “civil rights” movements, anti-police associations, internationalists, ultra-liberal church groups, and so forth. These organizations, along with open Communists, together create a united front working for the transformation of the old Christian culture.
So what does Gramsci have to do with left-libertarians as presented by Kevin Carson? From his post, What is Left Libertarianism?, a quick refresher:
Any left-libertarian agenda worthy of the name must also include a concern for social justice and combating structural oppression. That means, obviously, an end to all state-enforced discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. But it means much more. True, as libertarians we oppose all legal restrictions on freedom of association, including laws against discrimination by private businesses. But we should enthusiastically support direct action to combat injustice in the social realm. Paying special concern to the intersectional needs of the least privileged comrades in each justice movement — women and people of color in the working class; poor and working women, women of color, transgender women and sex workers within feminism; women and poor and working people within the racial justice movement; etc. — does not divide these movements.
Carson, like Gramsci, actively proposes the breakdown of traditional cultural views; both are on the left and Gramsci welcomes broad alliances with other, non-communist, leftist organizations.
“Oh, bionic, you are just making all of this up, inventing connections where none exist.”
Well, let’s see what Kevin Carson has to say:
The best strands of recent Marxist thought, on the other hand — like for example autonomism — all involve the idea of prefigurative politics and “exodus.” That is, they see the transition to a post-capitalist society not as some sudden and large-scale event in which all the powerful institutions are captured and put under new management. They see it as a prolonged transition from one historical epoch to another like that from feudalism to capitalism, in which the successor society grows out of a whole host of seeds within the old system. This is an approach that coincides in many ways with that of the free market Left.Like libertarian communists, we envision a society in which new technologies of abundance and liberation render state’s artificial property rights and artificial scarcities — and the capitalist rents on them — unenforceable. At the same time, the interesting and truly progressive forms of Marxism are centered on the idea of exodus…. This, too, is an idea that the free market left shares with libertarian communists.
“Yeah, bionic…Kevin might have said ‘Marxist’ but he never said ‘Gramsci.’”
Look, how explicit do you expect Carson to make this?
The combination of prefigurative politics and exodus is in many ways similar to Gramsci’s “war of position,” in which the workers’ movement achieves victory not by storming the ramparts of the old system (a “war of maneuver” in his terminology), but within the larger culture and economy itself. Only after we have shifted the overall correlation of forces in society at large can we launch the final assault on the institutional commanding heights of the old system.
I would add emphasis, but it would pretty much cover the entire paragraph.
At least you doubters in the audience can have one thing to hold on to….
But our approach differs from Gramsci’s in one important respect: we don’t ever need to launch that final assault.
In Carson’s case, once traditional socially-conservative culture is destroyed, the pieces will fall into place for his diverse communities of economically ignorant left-libertarians. Of course, Gramsci believed it would usher in communism.
So, I label this strain of left-libertarians as Antonio Gramsci libertarians. They share the objective of destroying traditional culture.
I wish I could end it there. But it gets better…or worse, I guess. Returning to the original C4SS post:
In short, not everyone will share one’s values in a free society. Some people are going to retain traditional values with regard to the family, sexuality, religion, etc. So long as they don’t purposefully constrict their offspring so that they are unable to make value decisions regarding how to live (possibly providing a rumspringa, etc.) we should essentially respect the discovery process inherent in decentralization while encouraging those we view as oppressed to reject the social relations they are participating in.
I think this statement requires no comment.
About the author
Jonathan Goodwin blogs under his alias Bionic Mosquito and you can find everything he has written at bionicmosquito.blogspot.com