You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Lee Atwater – Former Republican Party Strategist
In Britain, there’s been a similarity in the way the right have shifted the language around racism. Making it more abstract, pitching yourself as respectable enough for middle class people to vote for you, and then the face-palm moment as one of your members goes off message with a live mic on…
The latest shift of the far-right into the Libertarianism ideology, with UKIP, is another way we’ve mirrored the US in this regard. Several similarities can be identified between UKIP and the Tea Party movement, which are so obvious I shall not insult your intelligence by pointing them out.
No, the thing that interests me is how these parties (I’ll refer to the Tea Party as a party because the US system does basically mean the Republicans and Democrats have parties within them… plus, you know; Tea *Party*…) is how (sorry if that big bit of dialogue in brackets threw you there) they’ve co-opted (I did it again, didn’t I) the Libertarian ideology for their own purposes. (Sorry.)
I’ve always liked to describe myself as a Libertarian Socialist. I’m very left-wing, very liberal, and in a perfect world would like to see a utopian anarchist society where we all go around helping each other out of mutual benefit rather than for material gain, and where we can all just sit in the park drinking cider til three in the morning… (At 3am you break out the hard liquor…)
My view of Libertarianism has always been one akin to anarchism. It either involves no government, or a government that withers away to allow an anarchist society to form. My Libertarianism is about getting rid of the state altogether, and is based on community and people coming together of their own volition to replace the functions of the state.
The right-wing version of Libertarianism however, is based on a state that exists, almost solely to provide protection for private property. Everything else is ignored. The only good, it is supposed, is the protection of the property that a few people hold, from the many. That’s not libertarianism… that’s legalised, institutionalised, theft from the community.
But enough of my gripes with the ideology. At least true libertarians of this variety usually agree on social issues being up to the individual. They’re often against the death penalty, in favour of letting people do what they want in regards to sexuality and reproductive rights, ‘just leave me and my property alone, otherwise, do what you like.’ I may not agree with that philosophy, but at least it has a logic.
So, the ‘Libertarianism’ that the Tea Party and UKIP advocates, where anti gay marriage, abortion, freedom of movement (immigration) (a basic human right surely?) and pro capital punishment views reign supreme seems odd to me, and re-enforces the central fact here; this isn’t about a more free society, or a society where the powers of the state are limited to maximise the freedom of the individual. This is a system where the government is set up to protect the rights and enforce the views of a minority on the majority of a population.
And this is where their popularity comes from: White men, harking back to times gone by. In this regard, they are the same as every far-right party that has come before them, and (I can only assume) all the ones that will follow. Because this is what the political spectrum boils down to: Progressives and Conservatives, Radical Revolutionaries, and Radical Conservatives who want to turn the clock back. Progressives inevitably want a society different from the one we have now, better than the one we have now, with greater equality of opportunity to all – regardless of wealth or ethnicity. The Conservative position aims to hold society still, maybe rein it in a bit, and the far-right aim to take us back in time altogether.
If you’re a white man who feels disaffected from the political process, a party which offers to turn back the clock to a time when men were the breadwinners, and women their servants, the only people in the office were white, and black guys were good only for shining your shoes, may seem appealing. A simplistic view, yeah, but ultimately what it comes down to.
So what does all that have to do with Libertarianism? Well, nothing, obviously. Except, to take us back to that quote at the top of the article, that the tactics used for making racism more abstract now extend to the size of the state.
A ‘big government’ (as libertarians would call it) redistributes more money than a smaller state. Not only through welfare, but through jobs, public services and legislation which impacts on the private sector. This is inevitably to the benefit of those lower down the pecking order in a given society. Not just in terms of income and wealth, but in terms of societal means as well. Legislation guaranteeing a certain number of women or ethnic minorities in certain positions for example ensures key institutions don’t become preserves of white men and institutional sexism and racism.
Remove the state from helping the poorer and protecting rights, and white men are free once again to hire who they want, based on whatever criteria they decide upon.
In this way, I suggest the ‘Libertarianism’ banner has been co-opted by the Tea Party and UKIP as a more abstract move to implement their policies which boil down to nothing more than the racism, sexism and division of what the BNP offer, just with better window dressing. Who would back Fascism & Nazism in this day and age? (Rhetorical question.) Libertarianism on the other hand, has a nice ring to it – getting the darn government and those corrupt politicians off our backs… yes…
Anyhoo: A small state benefits only those with wealth, and should be viewed as a direct assault on the poor, on women and on ethnic minorities. The fact that this isn’t a genuine Libertarian movement and cover only for another far-right party to manifest itself in a manner where it can shamelessly refute the ‘racist’ tag, means we’re facing the same direct assault, but with a genuine malice behind it as well.