Preface to Against the Left: A Rothbardian Libertarianism, by Llewellyn H Rockwell Jr. (Rockwell Communications LLC, 2019).
by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Every person, including identical twins, is unique, different from and unequal to all other persons. Everyone is born at a different time and/or place. Everyone has two different, older and unequal biological parents, a male father and a female mother. Every person, throughout its entire life, faces and must act in a different and unequal environment with different and unequal opportunities and challenges, and every person’s life, its accomplishments and its failings, its joys and satisfactions as much as its disappointments, sorrows and sufferings, then, is different from and unequal to that of everyone else. Moreover, this natural inequality of any and all human beings is still greatly amplified with the establishment of any and every society based on the division of labor.
The Left and socialism generally has always felt offended, enraged and scandalized by this natural inequality of man and has propagated and promoted instead a program of “equalization” or “egalitarianism,” i.e., of “correctively” reducing, minimizing and ultimately eliminating all human differences and inequalities. Aptly, Murray Rothbard has identified this program as “a revolt against nature.” This verdict notwithstanding, however, support for egalitarian ideas and promoters has never been in short supply as there are everywhere and always will be plenty of people clamoring that they have come up short in life as compared to others.
Hence, in order to advance their egalitarian utopia (or rather dystopia), every human characteristic, condition and institution smacking of difference and inequality, then, has been taken under attack by the Left in due course. Down with human excellence and all ranks of human achievement, because no person is to be more excellent than any other. Down with private property as it implies the distinction between mine and thine and thus renders everyone unequal. Down with all income differences. Down with the family as citadel of inequality, with a male father and a female mother and their common, young and dependent children. Down in particular with men and especially white men as the most unequal people of all. Down with marriage because of its exclusivity, and down with heterosexuality. Down with discrimination and individual preferences of and for one person over another. Down with free association and disassociation. Down with all covenants, and down with any and all borders, fortifications or walls separating one person from another. Down with exclusive, bi- or multi-lateral private contracts. Down with employers and landlords as unequal and different from employees and renters, and down with the division of labor in general. Down with the biblical notion that man is to rule and be the master of nature and rank above all animals and plants – and always down with everyone dissenting from the egalitarian leftist creed.
In Against the Left, Lew Rockwell, outstanding student of economist-philosophers Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, prolific author and, with the establishment of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, foremost promoter and intellectual entrepreneur in the contemporary world of all matters and ideas “libertarian,” i.e. of private property rights and human freedom, presents a detailed and vivid account of the leftist revolt against nature. He describes and analyses the successive advances and growing influence of leftist ideas, in particular in the U.S. but more generally also in the entire so-called Western world, and he explains and lays bare the disastrous or even horrifying effects, both morally and economically, that the steady leftist “progress” has had on the social fabric. Above all, as Rockwell explains, the price to be paid for the relentless revolt against human nature, for the stubborn pursuit of a goal that plainly cannot be achieved, is the rise and growth of an increasingly totalitarian State, controlled and run on a permanent basis by some small, exclusive elite of ruling “equalizers” standing above, separate and unequal from everyone else as their subjects and to-be-equalized human “material.”
Rather than repeating what is stated and explained with utmost clarity by Rockwell in the following pages, I shall add only a few historical observations that may be helpful to the reader in gaining a better background understanding of the present age, brilliantly described then by Rockwell. They are observations from a European and still more specifically German perspective, the very countries where modern socialism first sprung up in the course of the 19th century and that have since had the longest experience with it, and they concern the different strategies and strategic changes that the Left has adopted to reach its present “high.”
The “orthodox” strategy for socialist transformation, advocated by Marx and the followers of his so-called “scientific” socialism, was a revolutionary one. The Industrial Revolution in England and Western Europe had brought about a steadily growing number of industrial workers, i.e. of “proletarians,” and this growing mass of proletarians, then, united by a common class-consciousness, was to expropriate all private owners of the means of production, i.e. the capitalists, in one fell swoop so as to supposedly make everyone an equal co-owner of everything. This would require a “dictatorship of the proletariat” as a temporary measure, but this transitory phase then would soon give way to a classless society and a life of equal plenty and happiness.
The orthodox strategy of socialist transformation turned out an utter failure. In the industrialized or industrializing countries of Western Europe, the growing proletarian masses showed little if any revolutionary fervor. They apparently felt that they had more to lose from the violent overthrow of the ancien regime and its old elites than only their chains. Instead, contra Marx, the revolutionary approach succeeded only in predominantly rural and agricultural Russia, with lots of peasants but no industrial proletariat to speak of. There, in the aftermath of a lost war, with the help of a strategic lie, i.e. the quickly broken socialist promise of liberating the Russian peasants from all feudal bonds and distributing all feudal landholdings as private property among the peasantry, and by means of massive and ruthless violence, of murder and mayhem, the Czar and the old ruling elites were overthrown and a dictatorship of the proletariat established. But this dictatorship did not then give way to a classless society of equal plenty. To the contrary, as Mises had predicted from the outset, it resulted in the loss of all human freedom and in economic disaster. Without private property in land and other factors of production, everyone was rendered directly and immediately subject to the commands of the proletarian dictators; and these dictators, then, without private ownership of capital goods and hence without capital goods prices, were rendered incapable of economic calculation, with the inescapable result of permanent resource misallocation, economic waste and capital consumption. After about 70 years, the socialist “experiment” in Soviet-Russia imploded in a most spectacular fashion under its own weight, leaving behind an economic wasteland and a demoralized, deracinated and impoverished population
The alternative, “revisionist” strategy of socialist transformation, largely adopted in the countries of Western Europe, was a reformist or gradualist one. With the steadily growing number of proletarians, it was only necessary under the given conditions to promote the already popular egalitarian idea of democracy and agitate for the systematic expansion of the franchise. Then, with the spread of democracy, a “peaceful” socialist takeover would become only a matter of time. And indeed, with the “right to vote” increasingly distributed “equally,” to ultimately everyone, egalitarian motives and desires everywhere were systematically encouraged and strengthened all-around. The popularity of explicitly socialist parties steadily rose and all other, rival parties or ideological movements, including also the classical liberals, drifted increasingly leftward as well. At the end of World War I, then, with the legitimacy of the old regime and its ruling elites severely damaged by the devastations brought on by the war, the socialists appeared on the verge of victory. They failed, however, because of a fundamental misjudgment that had already become apparent with the onset of the Great War.
The revisionist socialists, not different from their orthodox comrades in this regard, were “internationalists.” Their slogan was “proletarians of all countries unite.” They believed in the solidarity of all workers, everywhere, against their common capitalist enemy. The war was proof that no such international worker solidarity existed. German workers willingly fought against workers from France, England, Russia, etc., and vice versa. That is, national attachments and national solidarity proved to be much stronger than any class attachment.
For this very reason also, and against the often violent resistance of the (internationalist) socialists, then, it would not be they who came to power, but rather explicitly nationalist socialist parties. All across Western Europe egalitarian sentiments were rampant. But the egalitarianism generally only went so far. It stopped when it came to foreigners, the people of other nations, especially when they were perceived as less wealthy than one’s own. In addition, the triumph of nationalist socialism over international socialism in most of Western Europe and for the entire interwar period, was further assisted by the increasing spread of news from Soviet-Russia. The socialists in the West generally looked with great sympathy upon the “great experiment” conducted by their comrades in the East, and as Soviet sympathizers, then, their popularity profoundly suffered, the more information spread to the West about the ruthless cruelty of the Soviet dictators and socialist Russia’s desperate economic conditions, with widespread hunger and starvation. Moreover, not least in light of the Soviet experience, the nationalist socialists did not aim to expropriate all capitalists and nationalize all factors of production. Rather, more “moderately,” they would leave all private property nominally intact and make sure “only” that it would be employed as the ruling nationalist socialist dictators saw fit, according to their motto that the “common good” always trumps any “private good.”
With the outcome of World War II, the world dramatically changed and socialists of all stripes found themselves confronted with new and radically different challenges. The U.S. emerged from the war as the world’s dominant superpower and Western Europe was essentially turned into a vast region of vassal states. Most importantly, (West) Germany as the principal European enemy country was placed under direct U.S. control.
Nationalist socialist sentiments in Western Europe did not disappear on account of this development – and they remain popular to this day. Indeed, national socialist tendencies in the meantime had also taken hold in the U.S. The economic agenda and so-called social policies implemented by Roosevelt with the New Deal were essentially the same as those also pursued by Mussolini and Hitler. But the label nationalist socialist had to go down in infamy. By no means had all nationalist socialist movements or parties during the interwar period in Western Europe been tinged with racism or imperialism. But the especially odious example of defeated national socialist Germany had forever tarred the name, and all national socialist or fascist movements henceforth had to sail under different labels. Whatever their new names, however, their program now would typically entail also a good dose of anti-Americanism.
Other challenges arose for the internationalist or “left” socialists. With the onset of the Cold War between the U.S. and its erstwhile Soviet allies who had expanded its control over most of Central Europe as a result of the war, the Left in U.S. dominated Western Europe came under increasing pressure to distance itself from its comrades in the East. As well, similarly disastrous economic consequences in the Soviet dominated countries of Central Europe as those experienced in Russia before compelled the left socialists to successively abandon their original goal of the socialization of all means of production. As their nationalist socialist arch-enemies before, they would not eliminate private property and the private ownership of capital goods. Instead, they would allow for “as much private property and market as possible,” but assure at the same time “as much State as necessary,” with the decision as to what was “possible” and what was “necessary” made by the leadership of the socialist parties (just as the decision about how much “private good” and how much “common good” to have had been made previously by the national socialist leadership). As representatives of the industrial working class, the socialists would then use this decision making power to equalize first “incomes” and then “opportunity” by means of taxation and legislation. And they would determine how much taxation and legislation was required to reach or approach this goal.
With this program the Left would ride to power in many countries across Western Europe. To achieve this success and in particular to maintain it, however, another strategic turn was required. In the course of European economic development, the number of industrial workers, i.e. the traditional “blue collar” working class, that made up the great bulk of the socialist voter base gradually but steadily declined. In order to stabilize and expand their voter base, socialists would have to shed their public image as the “party of proletarians” and appeal also to the steadily growing class of “white collar” workers and of service-industry employees. With the power to tax and redistribute private property and income, they would have to systematically increase the number of tax-funded “public sector” workers, i.e. of State-dependents, and in particular of workers in the so-called “social services” industry. Most importantly, in order to acquire an aura of intellectual respectability and authority, socialists would have to expand, infiltrate and ultimately take-over the entire system of “public education,” from the universities on down to elementary schools and even kindergartens. The strategy worked. In particular, all across Western Europe universities and schools were brought under control of the egalitarian Left, and their increasing dominance of all of public debate, then, brought about a systematic leftward shift throughout the entire spectrum of political parties and movements.
Last but not least, new and different challenges for the socialists arose in the area of foreign affairs. As an internationalist movement, the Left aimed at establishing socialism everywhere, ultimately throughout the entire world, and they were supportive of attempts at political centralization as a means for the goal of supranational equalization. But they were also anti-colonialists, anti-imperialists and anti-militarists. Every country was supposed to liberate itself from its own foreign or domestic oppressors in order to then join in the international brotherhood of man on its own account.
When, already shortly after the war, the process of “European Integration” was launched, that would eventually lead to the “European Union” (in fact, a membership cartel of national State governments, with Germany as the economically strongest but political weakest member), the Left showed itself overwhelmingly supportive. The process was defective in that it started and proceeded under the tutelage of the U.S., but it also offered the opportunity of expanding egalitarian socialist power ultimately all across Europe. Less enthusiasm, and indeed considerable opposition from the Left encountered another U.S. project: the establishment of NATO. As an international military alliance under supreme command of the U.S., many perceived and opposed NATO as a militaristic enterprise. But in light of the “Soviet Threat,” i.e. the systematically popularized and over-dramatized danger of a military takeover of Western Europe by the Soviet Union, any serious opposition would be quickly silenced and NATO membership was embraced by the Western European Left as well.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Empire in the early 1990s, a similar challenge again arose for the socialists. With the disappearance of the Soviet threat and the end of the Cold War, NATO had accomplished its goal and apparently no longer fulfilled a purpose. Yet NATO was not dissolved as most (but not all) of the Left wished it would. To the contrary.
After some momentous victories of the egalitarian Left in the U.S. since the 1960s, with the so-called Civil Rights movement and legislation, its power had been eclipsed in the meantime by that of the “neo-conservatives,” a movement inspired and led by a group of former Trotskyite intellectuals, who proposed to combine a “Welfare-State” at home, also called “democratic capitalism,” with U.S. imperialism abroad and the drive toward world-domination. Under the influence of the “neo-cons,” then, NATO was not only not abolished but further upgraded and expanded instead. Post-Soviet Russia was increasingly encircled by NATO troops, and the U.S. attacked and waged war against one country after another – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Serbia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria – orchestrated coups (Ukraine, Egypt), or imposed economic sanctions and blockades against other countries (Iran), for little more reason than their unwillingness to take orders from the neo-cons in charge of U.S. foreign policy. The European Left, with its traditional anti-imperialist stance, should have been appalled and vigorously resisted these policies. But instead, through U.S. economic pressure, threats and bribes, most (though not all) European parties of the Left swiftly relented and became willing accomplices in these imperialist endeavors. And this, by its own standards treacherous change in the policy of the European Left, then, would in turn lead to yet another momentous strategic twist in its agenda.
Whether intended or not, the result of U.S. imperialism, the bloodshed, social turmoil and economic devastation it caused, generated a continuously growing flood of people from the Balkans, the Near- and Middle East and northern Africa trying to make their way into the countries of democratic socialist Western Europe. The national or “right” socialists, in accordance with general public sentiment, opposed and tried to resist this threat of an invasion by millions and millions of foreign “immigrants.” The socialist Left on the other hand, taking a leaf from the U.S. Left in this regard, perceived and portrayed mass immigration as an opportunity for another great leap forward in its egalitarian agenda and accordingly did little or nothing to prevent it or even promoted it. Regrettably, it would put downward pressure on domestic wages and thus endanger the support from its own traditional working-class voter base. More importantly, however, it would be instrumental in breaking up any and all resistance against the further centralization and concentration of socialist powers in the EU headquarters of Brussels, whether from national socialist forces or more radically and fundamentally from the side of right libertarians. Through a policy of “free immigration,” in mixing, on the same territory, in immediate proximity, people of different nationalities, ethnicities, languages, cultures, customs, traditions and religions, of different histories, upbringings, value systems and mental makeups, increasing social fragmentation would result. All still existing personal affiliations other than those or even ranked above those to the central State and thus standing in the way of the further expansion of State power, i.e. affiliations to one’s own nation, ethnicity, religion, region, town, community or family, would be systematically weakened. Everyone would be increasingly “equalized” in universal and ubiquitous dis-unity, social strife and conflict, and be equally left at the sole mercy of the all-mighty State and its socialist rulers. And to this end, then, every dissenter would have to be systematically denounced by the dominant class of leftist intellectuals in the strongest possible terms, as some despicable and vile outcast best to be forever silenced.
In the following, Lew Rockwell lays bare the horrifying progress that the socialists of all stripes, whether of the “rightist” or the “leftist” kind, have made already in the pursuit of their egalitarian agenda, and he draws out the lessons to be learned from this for libertarians.