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Summit crashing of the Libertarian Left: bringing market anarchy to the Twin Cities RNC Welcoming Committee

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 16 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.

A call to action from Soviet Onion on the a3-discuss listserv:

Hello everyone, my name is Soviet Onion. I’m a big proponent of Agorism, left-libertarianism and market anarchism, and a partisan to liberty in general. I’m also a concerned one. Radical libertarianism, as a social movement, still barely exists. Our present state of affairs seems to be one of isolation and atomization, even at the local level. Whatever activism does take place mostly piggybacks on whatever political reformism the Libertarian Party or assorted small government conservatives are involved in (seen by partyarchs as the alternative to doing nothing). We’ve seen this recently with the Ron Paul phenomenon.

You’ll have to excuse this young anarchist, but this all seems terribly inappropriate. For a libertarians, and libertarian anarchists especially, political success is less of matter of directing the state toward certain favored ends and more a matter of blocking it from wreaking more evil. Directly and immediately. The point is not to scribble libertarian amendments into the Constitution but to make un-libertarian laws unenforceable, to make civil society ungovernable. With that in mind, and to kick start some much needed organization, I propose that we converge on the coming Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The anarchist Welcoming Commitee has been organizing a series of actions for over two years. Their primary of objective is to halt the convention before it begins by blockading the major streets and bridges around the Xcel Energy Center, sealing it off before the delegates arrive. A detailed account of this strategy, and the reasons for selecting it, can be found here. Those concerned about the residents’ welfare should note that the Feds are shutting down the city anyway, so a blockade won’t cost merchants and residents any business or block any movement that hasn’t already been taken from them by the Republicans. The only people we’d be impeding are the delegates.

Summit hopping has it’s secondary benefits, as the social anarchists have noted over the years.
One of which is that it allows activists from distant locations to meet and devolop a geographic sense of each other. As a currently dispersed and highly atomized tendency, there’s nothing we need more. The Twin Cities will make an ideal focal point for that, do our part beside other members of the RNC Welcoming Commitee in disrupting the political class, to distribute and disseminate agorist ideas at the convergence spaces, and as an opportunity for members of our currently far-flung milieu to meet and communicate face-face. Even if the proposed blockade fails, going there together would be a boon to ourselves.

Eight months ago, this call was placed on the LeftLibertarian2 listserve by William Gillis, exhorting us to join the opposition:

Hey folks, my name’s Will and I’m a big fan of Agorism, the Libertarian Left and Market Anarchism in general. I’m also founding member of the RNC Welcoming Committee (a broad, non-sectarian coalition of anarchists and anti-authoritarians in the Twin Cities working to give the Republican Party a Minnesota-nice welcome to our state).

For over a year now we’ve been working to facilitate a diversity of tactics by Anarchists in responding to and overshadowing the Republican National Convention being held next year in St. Paul. The convention is a big propaganda show and it’s important that anarchist voices are distinctly represented in the opposition. On the one hand whatever we do it’s a sure thing that anarchists from around the country will flock to the Twin Cities with the intent of pulling militant and dramatic direct action. On the other hand we have to live here and it’s not enough simply to disrupt the political class, we have to sustain long-term projects towards autonomy and self reliance in or communities. In part that means counter-economic organizing to create an infrastructure for the anarchist response, but it also means respecting every perspective and not trying to impose one set of solutions. We’re a diverse bunch of primitivists, insurrectionaries, individualists, class-war reds, cyberpunks and generally uncategorizable anti-authoritarians. (You can read our broad points of unity here <http://www.nornc.org/who-we-arepoints-of unity/> and be sure to check out the definition of capitalism.)

A recently formed national network called Unconventional Action has called for a specific strategy of Direct Action to block off the Convention on the fist day and ideally prevent any delegates from arriving. But regardless of whether we succeed in denying the Republicans access to our city (a city whose government has rolled over and coughed up millions of tax dollars and public property for this charade) it’s important that we eclipse the convention. The plan is to have plenty of events simultaneously and beyond direct resistance demonstrate to the world by example how a better world is possible. In doing both we’ll crash their little staged show!

Even if it’s Ron Paul at the podium instead of Giuliani, it’s vital that the political class is not afforded a moment or an iota of legitimacy.

Beyond direct action (whether it be conventionally non-violent & passive or involving the aggressive rejection of oligarchical property’s legitimacy) it’s important to use this opportunity to build our movement, both within and without. The Welcoming Committee has been doing serious work and the 08 RNC is gearing up to be a major event in activist history. That we Anarchists are the ones best prepared and most visible of everyone organizing for the RNC (while the various liberal and socialist groups are still floundering) speaks volumes.

While I can’t presume to personally speak for the Welcoming Committee, a Libertarian Left presence at the counter-convention would be fondly appreciated. Any support you’d like to individually or collectively (A3! ) contribute would be absolutely wonderful. Whether it’s just a statement, participation in the actions (agorist affinity groups?!), a separate project, setting up a symposium during the festivities, propping up a book cart in front of a convergence space, or lending some mutual aid and helping us build the infrastructure needed to feed, shelter (etc) the thousands upon thousands of anarchists descending on our fair cities. (Black Markets can also be Gift Economies… hint, hint)

When I was in Seattle in ’99 there was one loud guy shouting above the din of the crowd that the WTO was impeding Free Trade and globally raising cost-of-entry to the market, and that was it’s crime! That one crazy guy had something of an effect upon me. Imagine how great it would be if there was an entire bloc of them! ;)

This is our Call To Action: http://www.rncwelcomingcommittee.org/2007/09/30/crash-the-convention-2008-call-to-action/

Please take a look at it and consider participating however you feel comfortable. I guarantee you’ll have a friend in the committee.

-William Gillis

Transport and housing lists will available on the Welcoming Committe website, but won’t be fully fleshed out about until a month beforehand… sorry, that’s the best they can do. The good news is that for anyone under 25 and vaguely student-ish, Macalester SDS can provide literally unlimited space (bring a sleeping bag and maybe a tent, whatever you need to be comfortable). Registration is ongoing at http://minnesotasds.org/.

Those who are interested are invited to head over to this thread on the newly formed LeftLibertarian forums, where we’ll discuss the tactics, group organization and ideal placement within the greater range of activities. Even if you’re unable to come, you’re still welcome to drop by and help us plan.

Give it some thought. If you know anyone else who might be interested, please pass the message along to them. I’ll also be posting this message on some of the more public market anarchist venues.

I look forward to hearing from you all.

Soviet Onion

Update 2008-05-28: Soviet Onion adds some more notes on the action and some important links in comments below.

15 replies to Summit crashing of the Libertarian Left: bringing market anarchy to the Twin Cities RNC Welcoming Committee Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. LadyVetinari

    RadGeek, since you’re talking about outreach to those who don’t agree with you in this post, I wonder if you would be willing to answer a question. Would left-libertarians disapprove of vigilante justice as such?

    I’m inclined to say not, because if you don’t think the state is legitimate then obviously a citizen should have as much right to restrain/punish a murderer than the state. I presume you also wouldn’t think the issue of social approval and acceptance is important?

  2. Natasha

    I got the same message in my email inbox, but I wasn’t sure whether it was a mass mailing or not.

  3. Rad Geek


    Thanks for the questions.

    Would left-libertarians disapprove of vigilante justice as such?

    Left-libertarians aren’t necessarily anarchists (although, in fact, almost all of the people I know who identify as left-libertarians are also anarchists). A minarchist might have objections to vigilante justice, just as such. But anarchists (including myself) generally don’t.

    Speaking only for myself here, I think that vigilante self-defense and neighborhood defense are often much better propositions for historically oppressed people than relying on government cops and the government criminal justice system, which typically alternate between abandoning oppressed communities, or else acting as a violent colonizing force against them. And I would encourage everyone on the Left to look into the ideas and practice of radical movements (like the Black Panther Party) which incorporated it into their program. The one note of caution I’d want to add is that it’s important to look at all approaches to self- and community-defense, and not just to fetishize a handful of groups for their radical-chic gun-toting swagger. (So, yes, definitely study the Panthers, and the Young Lords, and the Zapatistas, and the Pink Pistols; but also study Gandhi’s village-based Shanti Sena, and Take Back the Night, and any number of other things.)

    I presume you also wouldn’t think the issue of social approval and acceptance is important?

    It may be important strategically, in the sense that you may need a certain degree of consensus within the community, or else a strong enough network of cooperating supporters, to successfully pull off that sort of thing over any significant period of time without getting yourself shut down or killed. But I don’t think that it matters, morally speaking, to the legitimacy of the action.

    On my view, vigilantism is legitimate if it involves a genuine and proportional act in defense of self or others, and illegitimate if the vigilante action is aggressive in itself, or disproportionate to the crime being defended against, or ends up infringing on the person or liberty of innocent third parties. All of which can be determined independently of whether or not you have approval from your neighbors, much less the government.

    Does that help clarify?

  4. JOR

    It is also somewhat important to distinguish between vigilante justice meaning violent corrective action that is unlicensed by the state, and violent corrective action without due process. The latter is a dangerous thing to permit, but is something quite different from the former.

  5. LadyVetinari

    Thanks, yes it does clarify, and JOR’s distinction is a good one as well.

    If you’ll indulge me for one more question, what do you say to those who make a sort of “slippery slope” argument that says condoning vigilante justice means accepting that anyone can just go around killing anyone they think deserves it? Or maybe “slippery slope” isn’t the term I’m looking for; maybe it’s “moral equivalency,” wherein people argue that it’s somehow hypocritical to condone someone helping free a slave while condemning someone who bombs an abortion clinic because then you’re just excusing vigilante justice that you happen to like.

  6. Soviet Onion

    Thanks for helping to spread the message, Charles.

    A couple of my hyperlinks didn’t carry, so I’ll repost them now for reference.

    RNC Welcomming Committee’s site is here.

    Their call to action is here.

    A detailed explication of the blockade strategy and the reasoning behind it is here.

    I originally linked to a thread at the LeftLibertarian message board, but activity there is still is low and people have yet to show up. I’m thinking that we need a better venue for discussion. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

    One other thing I’d like to mention. If you’re looking for other ways to contribute, the WC is currently trying to rent a massive convergence space in or near downtown St. Paul. Market anarchist propaganda tables, bazaars and other projects would be welcome there, but rent for a reasonably sized space (given other precedents) is going to be at least 40,000 dollars. We’re going to cut corners, but we need donations and fundraisers really, really bad.

    As an update from earlier events, it looks like the RNC is going to be the inaugural action of the Chicago All, although at this point it’s more like a Southern Wisconson/Northern Illinois chapter, running from Milwaukee and Madison down to Rockford and the Chicagoland area. We’ll find a real name at some point ;)

  7. JOR

    Someone who holds that vigilante justice is legitimate may well think that bombing an abortion clinic is wrong, whereas freeing a slave is right, because he believes the latter is vigilante justice whereas the former is vigilante injustice. In other words the anarchist here holds that what matters is whether an action is just or unjust, not whether it is sanctioned by some central authority or majority.

    It is true that someone who holds this position could not coherently appeal to customs or consensus in making his case for or against bombing abortion clinics, or for or against violently freeing slaves.

  8. Rad Geek


    Well, the straight answer is that I think principles of right are objective and discoverable by human reason, so the question isn’t what forms of vigilantism I like, but rather which cases of vigilantism are in genuine and proportional defense of the innocent, and which cases are aggressing against the innocent–which is something that I take to be fixed independently of (1) the contents of positive law, (2) social conventions, and also (3) my personal likes or dislikes. If asked to distinguish between the John Browns and the Eric Robert Rudolphs of the world, I’d do so by trying to give an argument demonstrating why abortion providers have a right to be left in peace to perform abortions for willing patients, whereas slaveholders have no right to go on enslaving people. If the argument is a good one, it can be understood and accepted on its own merits, independently of what the government or me or my neighbors might like.

    The more polemical response would be to ask how the case with vigilantism is any different from the case with government. After all, there have, historically, been both just laws and unjust laws on the books. Is it somehow hypocritical to condone government for enforcing some laws (say, arresting abortion clinic bombers for assault or murder), while condemning government for enforcing other laws (say, the Fugitive Slave Act)? Is that just excusing government justice that I happen to like?

    Very few people are actually willing to defend the totalitarian position that government ought to enforce absolutely any law that is on the books, no matter what the justice of the content of that law (the Fugitive Slave Act? the Nuremberg laws? etc.); most hold that there are at least some standards of justice which are independent of, and higher than, the contents of the positive law. But if those kind of standards can be employed to judge and make distinctions between government actions, they can just as easily be employed to judge and make distinctions between the actions of private vigilantes.

    If, on the other hand, one is willing to endorse the position that government ought to enforce absolutely any law that it chooses to put on the books, well, I’d say that that sort of belief is just as pernicious as the belief that private vigilantes ought to enforce absolutely any vendetta that they may choose to pursue. In either case the problem is a will to use force unrestrained by any considerations of justice.

    Similarly, if someone makes the slippery slope argument that advocating vigilantism in one case, even if justified, would set a dangerous precedent and lead to widespread violence, well, I’d say that government policing is demonstrably dangerous and leads to widespread and unchecked police brutality. And I’m much more worried about the latter than the former, because government policing involves concentrating all the firepower in the hands of a fixed and legally privileged class, with little or no effective recourse available to the victims of their abuse.

  9. Black Bloke

    “…I think principles of right are objective and discoverable by human reason…”

    I agree, but I’d love to read anything you may have written on the topic, or anything that you recommend I read on the topic (that’s freely available online).

  10. David Houser

    Black Bloke,

    There’s Spooner’s Natural Law: http://praxeology.net/LS-NL-1.htm

    Not sure that I quite buy into it, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

  11. LadyVetinari

    RadGeek and JOR, thanks a lot. That’s very helpful and interesting. In case you were wondering about the context this question arose from, it was a discussion about the TV show Dexter on Showtime, which explores a lot of issues relating to vigilante justice.

  12. Black Bloke

    Thanks for that suggestion Mr. Houser. I’ve read much of Spooner’s work, with particular attention to mentions of Natural Law, Natural Justice, and Natural Rights, but I can never seem to get much in terms of basic details from readings. I suppose being about a century and a half removed from the time in which he wrote is part of the difficulty in understanding Spooner, but I think more than that keeps me from “getting it” completely.

  13. Jeremy

    “…I think principles of right are objective and discoverable by human reason…”

    I disagree, but I’d still love to read anything you may have written on the topic, or anything that you recommend I read on the topic (that’s freely available online).

  14. quasibill

    I’m going to third the suggestion that the issue of objective ethics is one that deserves more discussion. We briefly discussed this previously, with me retiring for further study.

    I think, at this point, I’m closer to Jeremy’s side of this debate: ethics are objective only once we start with a subjective assumption (even if it is one, like self-ownership, that the vast majority of human beings subscribe to to some degree). Hoppe’s “argumentation ethics” don’t work for me, and neither does Rothbard’s “hit you with a chair”. Likewise, Spooner hasn’t convinced me. Interestingly, it was left-libertarians like Shawn Wilbur that really exposed this flaw to me with their criticisms of the concept of “ownership” in its own right.

    As noted, I think that once you stipulate to a subjective moral assumption, such as the golden rule, or self-ownership, or whatever, the ethics that flow from it are largely objective (depending on whether you stipulate to other subjective ethical moral assumptions, and the relative weight you assign each). But I have yet to be convinced that these fundamental assumptions are objective in any manner.

  15. Black Bloke

    I’m personally partial to the explication of Aristotelian virtue ethics that Dr. Long puts forward.

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