THE MOVEMENT GROWS
The libertarian movement, bless it, is on the march. For the first time in memory, there is now a nationwide libertarian organization in existence, the Radical Libertarian Alliance. It was born on May 17, on the occasion of the third meeting of the Libertarian Forum in New York City.
Until this year, the libertarian movement was pitifully small and beleaguered, and any talk of any sort of libertarian organization or even occasional meetings was hopelessly Utopian. But now the movement has been escalating with extraordinary rapidity. In the old days, there would be one new convert a year, and he would be worked on with painful slowness before his conversion could be complete, But now we keep running into kids, some college freshmen, who are not only libertarians, but full-fledged and self-converted, with the "correct line" on everything, from competing private defense agencies to private property rights to war revisionism to alliance with the New Left. It has all been very gratifying.
Compare the state of the movement now, say, to that of a year ago. One year ago the New York movement contained about half a dozen people; now, for the first time in living memory it has escalated to far beyond the capacity of one person's living room. It was for that reason that Joseph Peden and Jerry Woloz dedided to found the Libertarian Forum, basically conceived as a way for the whole New York movement to meet periodically in the confines of one room. We met for the first time on January 31 at the Great Shanghai restaurant in New York City. We expected about 20 people to appear; we got over seventy. It was a glorious moment. People came from as far away as South Carolina and Buffalo for the occasion. The editor spoke about the necessity for thinking in revolutionary terms.
The next meeting was on April 11, when Karl Hess, our most recent and our best-known convert, spoke on the need to avoid letting a sectarian emphasis on economics block our alliance with other, New Left, groups which are overall libertarian in thrust without being sophisticated in economics. The attendance at this meeting was again over seventy. The atmosphere at both meetings was highly enthusiastic, and several on-the-spot conversions were made to the cause. The "Devil" was represented in both cases by his advocates in the form of assorted Randians and red-baiters, who served as useful foils for spirited argument.
The spirit and the attendance at the Forums gave rise to much agitation to progress beyond these simple meetings, and to advance toward a wider and better-organized movement. Our best organized group had been the Fordham Libertarian Alliance, which led the sit-in at the once conservative Fordham campus demanding the ouster of the military cadre known as ROTC from the campus. The FLA had begun only in this academic year, with Gerald P. O'Driscoll, Jr., who graduates this spring with honors in economics, as its dynamic leader. Two years ago, Jerry was a bright young right-winger and ROTC leader, who favored the war in Vietnam. Now he stands as one of the leading spirits of anarcho-capitalist youth. Jerry will proceed next year to graduate work in economics at UCLA, leaving FLA in the capable hands of Frank X. Richter, Dave Hagner, and a host of others.
An important anarcho-capitalist group has also rapidly emerged at Wesleyan College, phenomenal in that it consists almost exclusively of freshmen, led by John Hagel III. Hagel and his remarkable colleagues have already seized control of the Free University at Wesleyan, at which John is already teaching a course in anarchism, and have done extensive organizing work in colleges and prep schools throughout the New England and even Middle Atlantic states. The Wesleyan group also helped lead an anti-ROTC sit-in at the Administration Building there. Adopting the principle of alliance with the New Left, the entire Wesleyan group formed the Earl Francis Memorial Chapter of SDS, and will battle within SDS against the Marxist forces. (Earl Francis was a heroic individualist martyr to the U.S. government; the government refused to recognize his homesteading claim to a gold mine on U.S. land on the grounds that the mine was too small, and ordered him off the land and his house blown up; Francis complied, blowing himself up along with it.)
At State University of New York at Buffalo, Roy A. Childs, Jr. has made the paradigmatic progressive transition from Randianism to Lefevrian pacifism to revolutionary anarcho-capitalism, and has been writing a column in one of the college newspapers and been heard on Buffalo radio.
In the meanwhile, at Stanford University Professor Ronald Hamowy of the history and contemporary civilization departments has been carrying on radical libertarian activities of his own. To old friends, the emergence of the former moderate Ronald as revolutionary is one of the joyous surprises of this age of polarization. Last year, Ronald Hamowy was one of the two or three Stanford professors to support the sit-in for university reform. In the course of his radical activities there, he gave a notable speech, carried in the Stanford paper, which sharply criticized the rigidly non-violent tendency of the draft resistance movement of that era. This year, it was Ronald who suggested the sit-in tactic employed by the student rebels against military research at the Stanford Research Institute, and he sat in for the week-long demonstration. Then, when a court injunction threatened to be employed against a second group of sit-ins, Ronald organized an open letter to the Administration threatening a faculty strike—i. e. refusal to hand in grades—should any student be jailed for violating the injunction against them from even attending their own classes. Not only has Stanford been threatening to fire the signers of this letter, but there have been mutterings that Ronald by his action is trying to "intimidate" the court and is therefore in a state of contempt of court and could be immediately jailed. Such is just one aspect of the repression that is growing and accelerating against the dissenters in this "free" country. (In the old days, libertarians always used to be asked the question: "Well, after all, what liberties have we lost?" No one has asked this question for a long while; the repression is too obvious.)
Speaking of repression, a little whiff of it was felt at the third meeting of the Libertarian Forum at the Jager House in New York, when the libertarian scholar and activist Leonard P. Liggio spoke on the libertarian nature of the New Left. Less than twenty-four hours after the end of this harmless meeting, we heard from unimpeachable sources of someone who had read the report in sextuplicate of a cop spy at the meeting, the other carbons going to other cop organizations. And yet, countless libertarian-conservatives still revere and identify with the polizei! It seems that there were SDS members—horrors!—at the Forum meeting, and that many SDS people are tailed wherever they go by some form of undercover cop.
At any rate, out of that Forum meeting emerged the Radical Libertarian Alliance. In keeping with its libertarian nature, it is envisioned that RLA will be organized in the form of strictly autonomous chapters. At the beginning, most of the chapters will be in various colleges, but there are also several non-campus chapters. There are regional organizers, and there will be meetings in the various regions. The national functions are ones of service: education and coordination. There will be a national Speakers' Bureau, which will send speakers around to the various chapters for purposes of education and inspiration and a national Publications Bureau to print leaflets and other material. The first material to be issued by the Publications Bureau will be a founding statement of aims and principles, a statement which defines the goals, the strategy, and the principles of the Radical Libertarian Alliance. All who agree with this statement will be admitted to the individual chapters.
Officers of RLA are as follows: Regional Coordinators: John Hagel III for New England and for Prep Schools, Wilson A. Clark, Jr. of the University of North Carolina for the South, and Gerald O'Driscoll as the "missionary" coordinator for California. Overall North American Coordinator is Karl Hess, 1085 National Press Building. N.W., Washington, D.C. Treasurer is Walter Block, 380 Riverside Drive, New York, N.Y. Anyone who wants to send funds to RLA should send them to Walter. The key post of corresponding secretary has gone to Roy A. Childs, Jr., 109 Wende, Buffalo, New York 14211. Anyone who wants information or advice on joining the organization, forming chapters, getting speakers, etc. or who wishes to send news to other members, should contact Roy Childs.
It is estimated that already, when RLA has hardly been formed, there are at least 26 college chapters alone. The potential for rapid growth is enormous, beginning this fall, especially on those campuses where SDS has come under the control of Marxist elements and where RLA could fill an immediate libertarian vacuum.
Onward and upward!