Black Agenda Report places much of its attention on the Democratic Party, and for good reason. The Democratic Party has held the US left in ideological captivity for decades. Over this period, Democratic Party influence has sent movement after movement to its eventual death. Black America has been the principle target of the Democratic Party’s ideological and political assault, which is meant to keep the most progressive and revolutionary force in the history of the United States far away from the struggle for peace and social justice.
By Danny Haiphong
Published on BAR, July 8, 2020
Libertarianism, like all capitalist ideologies, is bound with white supremacy.
“Mass characterization of the partial ‘lockdowns’ in cities across the U.S. as ‘medical martial law’ deflected from the very real dangers of the U.S.-response to COVID-19.”
Black Agenda Report places much of its attention on the Democratic Party, and for good reason. The Democratic Party has held the US left in ideological captivity for decades. Over this period, Democratic Party influence has sent movement after movement to its eventual death. Black America has been the principle target of the Democratic Party’s ideological and political assault, which is meant to keep the most progressive and revolutionary force in the history of the United States far away from the struggle for peace and social justice. The events of the last three plus months have exposed another political trend to be wary of. COVID-19’s devastating impact on the United States coupled with an economic collapse and a mass uprising against racist policing has activated a long-standing political tendency within the imperialist world: libertarianism.
Libertarianism is often viewed as an anti-government, pro-capitalist ideology that worships the free market doctrine of Adam Smith. However, such a definition does not consider the racist context of the United States. Libertarianism, like all capitalist ideologies, is bound with white supremacy. Libertarians oppose the predations of monopoly capital in words but become most active in their hatred for Black people. While neoliberal Democrats and corporate “resistance” forces have decried the rise of the so-called alt-right throughout the Trump era in part to avoid accountability for their role in the American Nightmare, libertarian forces have played a problematic role in promoting political confusion and racist demagogy over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic with little fanfare.
“The events of the last three plus months have exposed a long-standing political tendency within the imperialist world: libertarianism.’
Trump’s perceived identity as an “outsider” who mixes anti-war, anti-globalization politics with racist red meat ideology no doubt attracted the growth of libertarian sentiment in the United States. When the COVID-19 pandemic began killing people in the in the U.S. by the thousands, libertarians led the way in accusing billionaires Bill Gates and George Soros, China, and the federal government as a whole for concocting the virus from thin air and exaggerating its impact. COVID-19 was, according to these forces, a larger plan to socialize “lockdown” and purge the U.S. and the West of their grand rights to “free speech” once and for all. Once hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets in protest of the police murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, libertarian tendencies within the movement sounded the alarm that George Soros was pulling the strings of the incipient movement to start a “color revolution.”
Libertarian ideology is more evident across the US political spectrum because it has been intentionally spread by the ruling class. Forty-plus years of the duopoly’s evisceration of the last vestiges of the social safety net was carefully imposed alongside anti-poor racism. The contradiction of vicious austerity coupled with the consolidation of military and police repression inevitably confused a large section of the U.S. population eager to find an easy scapegoat for systemic problems. Understandable resentment toward the government and the banks increased over this period, but it was largely without the guidance of a proletarian-oriented movement led by Black Americans or the oppressed writ large. Rightwing and libertarian ideas have thus been able to thrive on the political vacuum left by the two-party consensus of endless war and austerity.
“Trump’s racist red meat ideology no doubt attracted the growth of libertarian sentiment.”
Rather than an organized movement, libertarianism is more of a dormant force within the ideological disposition of white Americans on the left and the right which has been activated amid the crises precipitated by COVID-19. Confusion has been the only result. Mass characterization of the partial “lockdowns” in cities across the U.S. as “medical martial law” deflected from the very real dangers of the U.S.-response to COVID-19 that led to a literal massacre of Black and Native communities . Speculation about how ‘lockdowns” were killing more people than the virus distracted from the very real need for state intervention as was seen in China and Cuba , two nations where the needs of the people were taken care of while more research and work was done to mitigate the impact of the virus. And blaming Soros and outside agitators on the mass protest of racist policing negated Black political agency and delegitimized a much-needed analysis on the impact of non-profit organizations and NGOs on social movements.
Libertarianism is an attractive right deviation within a decaying empire bereft of an organized left. Libertarianism claims to be anti-government and anti-finance capital, at least on the surface. However, libertarianism is still a white supremacist ideology that does not recognize the humanity of the oppressed and the “wretched of the earth.” It ignores the fact that Black Americans marching in the streets of Minneapolis were the catalyst of the nation-wide rebellion that has ensued around police brutality. It ignores the fact that the People’s Republic of China has demonstrated to the world what a successful pandemic response looks like. And it ignores the fact that the economic crisis of capitalism cannot and should not be resolved by “reopening” capitalism; it can only be resolved through the overthrow of the parasitic capitalist class and the reorganization of society around humanity’s right to a living wage job, a livable environment, and all of the necessities that secure the right to life.
“Speculation about how ‘lockdowns” were killing more people than the virus distracted from the very real need for state intervention.”
We on the real anti-imperialist and Black left are familiar with libertarians within anti-war spaces. There are times when libertarians openly oppose the system of mass incarceration and endless war. But this does not change how the ideology operates in this moment of crisis as an additional hurdle in navigating the multifaceted crisis of imperialism. Corporate Democrats and Republicans certainly shoulder the institutional blame for the crisis. However, at the level of the grassroots, libertarian tendencies have made up fake conspiracies to cover for real ones and thus have done more harm than good.
Take, for example, Bill Gates. Bill Gates is a capitalist mogul whose Microsoft corporation is at the forefront of the U.S.-backed genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has killed over six million people since 1996. Furthermore, his philanthropy has been tied to the privatization of healthcare in West Africa and the pauperization of African agriculture through the subsidization of Monsanto-produced seeds. The Gates Foundation has been in the vanguard of the privatization of education in the United States and recently received a sweetheart deal from liberal darling Andrew Cuomo to use the pandemic as a pretext to accelerate the end of public education as we know it. None of these legitimate issues can be tackled, however, when Gates is used as a foil to delegitimize the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Black America.
“Libertarian tendencies have made up fake conspiracies to cover for real ones.”
And then there is the claim that Black Lives Matter is a “color revolution” designed to overthrow the United States government at behest of . . . George Soros? This so-called libertarian anti-establishment theory completely bastardizes the very real outrage in the U.S. toward police departments that sport homicide totals of around one thousand people annually. It also completely undermines any real analysis of actual U.S.-backed “color revolutions” in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere. “Color revolutions” are largely intelligence operations with the direct intent of overthrowing a sovereign government in service of an alliance of imperialist powers. The 2014 “color revolution” in Ukraine placed neo-Nazis into state power and facilitated a brutal civil war that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people. Equating Black Lives Matter with a “color revolution” actually justifies the repression of the movement, since “color revolutions” worldwide are most beneficial to imperialists.
Just as the left should reject the Democratic Party’s attempt to establish the façade of “normalcy” in a period of crisis while offering nothing to improve the lives of the people, so too should it guard against any right deviations that only threaten the integrity of the movement. Many challenges lay ahead which neither libertarianism nor the totality of ruling class ideology can possibly resolve. Deadly pandemics, economic crises, and racist institutions cannot be wished away. The U.S. imperial state has been thoroughly exposed in a matter of four months as completely incapable of providing for the needs of the exploited and the oppressed. Another state, a socialist state, must take its place, and that means the left must struggle for power and oppose any ideology or activity that disorganizes people from taking on this immense task.
“Guard against any right deviations that only threaten the integrity of the movement.”
Much work must be done toward building the power of the people to not only imagine but also to create the political infrastructure for a revolutionary moment here in the belly of the empire. There are demands put forward by Black Alliance for Peace and the Black is Back Coalition that are worth adopting, including:
-Community control of the police
-Abolish the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) stationed in all but two African countries
-Full employment, universal housing, and universal healthcare
-End the 1033 program, which provides military weaponry to local police departments
-Close all U.S. military bases
This only scratches the surface of the demands put forward by revolutionary forces within the broader movement. These demands should shape the terms of debate within the movement, not libertarianism or any ruling class ideology.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News–From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @spiritofho, and on Youtube at The Left Lens with Danny Haiphong.