on Beginnings

On March 19, 2007, the Alliance of the Libertarian Left (ALL) made its public debut, in a flurry of activity fueled by schism and in-fighting among partisans and allies of the agorist Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL). From the main website:

The Alliance of the Libertarian Left is a multi-tendency coalition of mutualists, agorists, voluntaryists, geolibertarians, left-Rothbardians, green libertarians, dialectical anarchists, radical minarchists, and others on the libertarian left, united by an opposition to statism, militarism, and the prevailing corporatist capitalism falsely called a free market, as well as by an emphasis on education, direct action, and building alternative institutions, rather than on electoral politics, as our chief strategy for achieving liberation.

The particular family feud that started the ALL rolling isn’t of much importance now. Radicals of all stripes experience more than their fair share of that sort of thing. And it is perhaps not unforgivably trite to want to build an alliance around, well, alliance, and not schism. Proclaiming the ALL was, after all, little more than naming something which had been building for some time, a “more-than-agorist coalition that has grown out of the original MLL listserv (now succeeded by LeftLibertarian2), and broadened further in the Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left (BLL).” Samuel Konkin III had been a gracious host to quite an odd assortment of other-than-agorists, and particularly to mutualists and geolibertarians. He had, in any event, insisted that a key point of MLL “orthodoxy” was that “everyone here disagrees.” After his death, Knappster‘s BLL marked a new stage of left-libertarian hospitality, and it was this, actually, that really cemented my move into the blogosphere. (I’ve talked a bit about my online history and my late-adoption of the blogform elsewhere.) Graciousness and hospitality may notnecessarily be the first words that come to mind when one thinks of anarchists, and particularly of market anarchists, anarcho-“capitalists,” etc. But the crisis that led to the formal announcement of the ALL was, in many ways, a crisis of hospitality, provoked in large part by the presence of us pesky other-than-agorist mutualists and such. And no “multi-tendency coalition” can long escape the difficulties of maintaining a space of hospitality and of tolerance, within which differences in beliefs, assumptions, vocabulary and such, can be explored.

Anyway, on to the matter of this “periodical letter” (with apologies to Josiah Warren.) I can probably claim to have done my share of work in preparing the space into which something like the ALL could emerge. Since March 19, however, I have to confess a certain lack of effective action in support of the alliance which I helped to bring about. I come armed with all the best excuses, not the least of which is that I have been engrossed in work—research, writing, archiving—which I hope will serve, in the long run, to support and sustain this still largely virtual, in some senses merely nominal, coalition. But there’s no point in looking to the past and the future, while neglecting the present. And I believe, quite strongly, that the Alliance of the Libertarian Left is the sort of thing that the present needs rather badly. That belief may be a little hard to fathom, particularly for my old friends and allies in the broader anarchist movement, outside of mutualist or market-anarchist circles. Thus the need to explain myself, to attempt to articulate my thoughts specifically on the subject of alliance, and to make those explanations both to allies already under the ALL banner and to others who “hate the state more than the market” and who might make common cause. Because I am me, the anarchist historian, there will undoubtedly be some history here, and some exploration of the precedents for the coalition, but there will be more as well, much of it in a voice not so familiar even to old friends and allies. I don’t pretend to speak for the ALL, or for anyone but myself. I welcome comments and contributions.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2607 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.