The resurgence of the Libertarian movement in Britain occurred in the late 1970s under the direction of Chris Thame who’s life was tragically cut short in 2006. During his life he was the key person in organising the Libertarian Alliance, which aimed not to repeat what it saw as the errors of American Libertarianism. Firstly it would not contest elections believing these to be a waste of time and effort serving only to divide the movement and exhaust the movement over matters of triviality. Secondly, the Libertarian Alliance sought to avoid the conflict endemic in the Libertarian movement such as the conflict between Objectivists and Austrians and provide a forum for genteel debate.
The Libertarian Alliance saw its role as not engaging with the masses but in targeting the intellectuals – the 5% of the population that were interested in political ideas. Taking its cue from the Fabian Society, it published scholarly articles, organised conferences, spoke at University and appeared on radio debates in the expectation that these ideas would eventually be picked up by the political classes and implemented, much like the ideas behind the Institute of Economic Affairs were eventually picked up and became the template of thatcherism.
Needless to say it didn’t, the Libertarian movement in Britain which peaked in the early 1990s has been in decline ever since with its aging membership not being replaced with young members, to the point where the pessimistic amongst them predict that eventually there will be too few living libertarians to sustain a movement and it might die just as Libertarian ideas were dead through much of the twentieth century. This decline prompted Sean Gabb in conjunction with Chris Thame to resurrect class analysis, which for many has been regarded as the preserve of marxism. They concluded that Libertarian ideas whilst true were not being given the light of the day because they were a threat to the wealth, power and status of the class of individuals who draw, wealth, power and status from an activist state.
The Libertarian Alliance, in spite of this analysis continues its strategy of courting the intellectuals even though their ideas is not in the self-interest of the many statist intellectuals suckling at the states teat. The National Libertarian Front argues that radical political change cannot be achieved by publishing a few more pamphlets rather it must engage in the sorts of visible activism traditionally associated with the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’.
Posted by KJ at 10:43
- Jock Coats said…
- The National Libertarian Front argues that radical political change cannot be achieved by publishing a few more pamphlets rather it must engage in the sorts of visible activism traditionally associated with the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’.
I think it’s fair to say that this is slowly happening here. Many are realizing that we need real life examples of doing without the state. You will probably appreciate that we don’t go in much for “revolutionary” agitation here!
So my focus, for example, is in creating a local “sterling free” trading network for business-to-business and business-to-customer use in my county, and market based affordable housing projects without state subsidy, as a visible example of ways in which people can work fre of the state.
In that, it’s much more of a “mutualist” (see your article on Kevin Carson later) approach of building the institutions that will one day replace the state “organically” rather than trying to persuade a naturally not very revolutionary or activist population to decide on one big momentous change (at the ballot box or otherwise).
Time will tell – people do say that gradualism is a recipe for failure, but equally, our “Overton Window” approach is well enough established.
- 11 July 2009 18:01
- Sean Gabb said…
- An interesting analysis. A brief correction: the correct spelling is Tame, not Thame.
On the matter of our strategy, we still see our purpose as providing the intellectual underpinnings for any mass movement that may one day emerge.