[This article was originally written and published as a Movement of the Libertarian Left pamphlet by the late Samuel Edward Konkin III (1947-2004) in the early 1980s. In 2005, I minimally updated and edited the pamphlet, then reissued it for political outreach to both collectivist Leftists and disgruntled Libertarian Party members. It is that version which appears here.]

Whether you oppose the War or still support your country, you have been given a false alternative. For many who struggle against the War, you have been told that only some form of social control will end war and prevent it in the future. For many who feel their country is threatened and needs their support, you have been told that you must now accept “temporary wartime restrictions” such as censorship, rationing, and conscription to the eventual end of peace and liberty.

Reality dictates otherwise. History is replete with examples that show those with more Liberty defend themselves with zest and fervor. If they are to lose by overwhelming odds, no amount of self-imposed slavery would save them.

Nor has any form of social control — such as State socialism — prevented war. History is rapidly filling up with examples of intra-socialist wars — not just between Social Democrat and Communist states but between Communist states, between Social Democratic States, and between other variants and between all of the above.

We all know you must fight for your freedom or lose it. But most (though not all) of the Socialist Left and Conservative Right believe the same thing: “The State must fight for your freedom or you will lose it.” They simply make opposite choices seemingly allowed them.

War and Slavery

History is unkind to the perpetuation of the “War or Slavery” myth. Countries such as the United States, whose territory was untouched by “enemy” states, experienced intense repression. That is, Americans were conquered and enslaved by their own state. Remember the suspension of habeas corpus by Lincoln in 1861; the mass censorship of 1917 and the Palmer Raids of 1919; Roosevelt’s wage and price controls and nisei concentration camps in 1942-45; Truman’s Emergency Powers Act in 1950, which “allowed” the Intelligence Community to run amok throughout the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s; the Chicago Conspiracy trials and Kent State shootings during Johnson & Nixon’s Vietnam war; and now? Bush’s Patriot Act and its offenses against American freedoms during the U.S. State’s unending “war on terror” is but an opening salvo of the government on its people.

Randolph Bourne said it so well so long ago: “War is the health of the State.”

The best way to lose your freedom is to enslave yourself. Can anyone reasonably dispute that? Yet for whom will, say, an American “suspend his liberties” for the duration: a bureaucrat speaking Arabic or 100% American English? And which will the Saudi more likely obey?

Foreign conquest is difficult and expensive. Studies of European colonialism of pre-World-War Africa show total balance books of enormous economic loss made up by the European taxpayers. German occupation tied down several divisions of the Wehrmacht for years in countries which fell in days when their states “defended” them. Only where the conquered accepted their own state as still legitimate (Vichy France, Quisling Norway) were few Germans present or needed to maintain wartime allegiance.

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union supported puppet regimes unacceptable to Poland and Afghanistan and thus had divisions of troops either tied down in occupation or tied down to maintain a threat of imminent invasion. Yet Armenia and Georgia, at that time rife with “capitalist corruption” (i.e., a thriving, nearly open, Counter-Economy) and with a historic racial enemy nearby they feared more than the Russians (though the Poles had Germany and the Afghans had India), required no threats or occupying force. The more freedom, the greater the loyalty and dependency.

If Russian troops had overwhelmed the American Army in the ’80s, could anyone have imagined the Russian bureaucracy administering the American Economy? Consider the tens of millions of tax evaders, dope dealers, CB speed-limit evaders, sex saleswomen (and men), alien workers, midwives, smugglers, and couriers who thrived under the U.S. State at the time. How could a Russian occupying force even have understood what was going on around them (computer theft? old girls’ networks? off-the-books and expense accounts?), let alone control it? Note that the Soviets couldn’t in those days even control their own Counter-Economy, the black-market, “left-hand” nalevo!

And, it should be added in fair balance, U.S. attempts to occupy Russia in 1920 were no more successful, nor would they have been in the 1980s.

The Causes of War

Threats of foreign domination, ideological and religious differences, and loss of international “face” and prestige are justifications for War; they are useful to swing popular support behind the State’s Higher Circles’ (or power elite’s or ruling class’) decision to fight a War — or rather to have someone else, volunteers or conscripts, fight a War for them. There has always been one major reason for war — plunder. And that is what taxation is. The mechanism for institutionalized plunder is The State, whether at home or abroad. Hence, the true enemy of War is necessarily the Enemy of the State.

There are partial solutions that were derived over a period of time by worthy and honorable proto-libertarian radicals. Since war causes are so economic, Free Trade is a great deterrent to war while “protectionism” — tariffs and import restrictions — contribute to war. As one such thinker put it, “If goods and services cannot cross borders, armies will.”

A restrained or limited State should be less likely to engage in war (and taxation) than a more powerful (i.e., more sanctioned by its subjects) one. In foreign policy, a limited State is known as Isolationist; a relatively unlimited one is Imperialist. Thus Isolationism and Free Trade are the classical liberal answers to prevent war. (Note how often these complementary positions are put in false opposition!) Switzerland has pursued both these policies for several centuries — several centuries of Peace and Prosperity.

But Isolationist America became Imperialist America over time. Free Trade England became the British Empire and ruled the globe — until exhausted by constant warfare. Its last “victory” devastated the mother country and disintegrated its Empire.

As long as a State remains, War will remain. The fundamental choice is between a State, servitude, and mass murder on the one hand, and Anarchy, freedom, and peace on the other.

What Can You Do About It?

On the individual level, you can do a lot to deal with War and the State, without awaiting the emergence of mass movements, changes of heart in politicians, or a full-scale revolution. The Movement of the Libertarian Left advocates participation in Counter-Economics that weakens or counteracts the war machine and war propaganda, such as:
• Tax Rebellion (not just “avoidance”)
• Draft Resistance
• Smuggling (increase Free Trade!)
• Wage & Price Control Breaking
• Censorship Evasion
• Networking with like-minded freedom fighters and peace activists
• Dissemination of the revelations of Revisionist History — exposing the dirty little manipulations of statists to drag us into war after war
• Loosing lips and sinking ships.

Break free of the false dichotomy of Socialist Slavery “peace” or Capitalist War “freedom.” Enter the agora (true, open free market) via Counter-Economics. Educate yourself and your friends about the anarchist alternative to statism.