I am an anarchist.
That may come as a surprise to many who have heard me criticize Arvin Vohra’s comments on our military, but yes…at the root, he and I actually have a lot in common politically. I share his goal of a world where the military is no longer necessary and thus does not exist. While my methods towards achieving that end may be a bit more pragmatic than his, I too believe in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without force or compulsion. And like Arvin (perhaps ironically for us both as anarchists), I also belong to a political party: The Libertarian Party.
Despite numerous pockets of various shades of anarchists, the Libertarian Party is largely a minarchist political party. ACE Electoral Knowledge Network defines a political party as “as an organized group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions, that seeks to influence public policy by getting its candidates elected to public office.” The party itself acknowledges the “proper role of government” in its Platform, and runs candidates for public office at every level, every year.
On its face, being active in a political party would seem like the last place one would expect to find people who believe the government shouldn’t exist.
The beauty of the Libertarian Party, however (as opposed to say the Republicans or Democrats) is that there is room for anarchists who wish to work within the political system we currently have. In fact, there’s room for us to not only to be “in the tent” so to speak but as Arvin himself demonstrates, to actually be leaders in the party. As it stands now, we help define what the party stands for and chart its course on a daily basis. From the humble beginnings of America’s third largest political party right up through the present day, you’ll find anarchists’ fingerprints across the entire history of the Libertarian Party. We are the party’s “soul”, or at a minimum, its conscience.
However, despite clear anarchist superiority (wink, wink…but seriously), ours is not the only political philosophy prevalent inside the party. Indeed, by all accounts there are considerably more minarchists in the party than there are anarchists. Objectively speaking, we have no more of a right to define what one must believe to be a member of the Libertarian Party than they do. This is why messaging matters, and why what Arvin’s been saying as Vice Chairman of the LNC is so harmful. It simply doesn’t accurately reflect who we are as a whole, as he doesn’t accurately reflect the beliefs of the majority of our party. We wouldn’t let a Republican or Democrat come in and define our party as something it’s not. We shouldn’t let one of our own do that either.
Of course, such definitions shouldn’t even matter to any of us at this point. The minarchism vs. anarchism debate can easily wait until we’ve made progress in our shared battle against authoritarianism. With where we are today, it should make no difference if you are an anarchist or a minarchist…or hell, even a pissed off classical liberal/constitutional conservative for that matter. If you want less government and more freedom, we should be working together where our interests align. As long as you adhere to our Statement of Principles (forged in a rare show of unity between anarchists and minarchists some 44 years ago), there should be a seat at the table for you.
Libertarian journalist (and fellow anarchist) Thomas Knapp put it best: “The Libertarian Party is a train that is going in my direction…I don’t have to be a minarchist or constitutionalist or disgruntled paleoconservative or anti-authoritarian liberal in order to work with people who are. Nor should they have to be anarchists to work with me.” That is messaging we should all be able to get behind. It best reflects the broad coalition we have and hope to continue to build.
A coalition that, incidentally, will be absolutely necessary if we are ever to get this train to its final destination. Whatever each of us may envision that to be.
You can read more from Matthew McGowan on Think Liberty here.