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Posts tagged Karl Hess

A Left-Libertarian Primer: Karl Hess documentary is now online

Many thanks to Wally Conger (2007-04-04) for pointing this out. The 1980 short documentary Karl Hess: Toward Liberty can now be watched in three parts on YouTube. It’s a fascinating and sympathetic look at Hess — once a Republican columnist and speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, who after 1964 became, by turns, a movement libertarian, anti-war radical, tax resister, anarchist revolutionary, and advocate of decentralism and what we might now call sustainable technology. It’s also a great primer on many of the ideas behind individualist anarchism and left-libertarianism.

My favorite bit from the documentary comes in part 2. Hess says something really profound here which I want to say something about sometime soon. I don’t have all the words for it yet, but I think that this has a close connection — probably a much closer connection than even Hess himself realized — with the solution to the problem that he mentions in another of my favorite Hess quotations — this one from 1982 documentary Anarchism in America. I hope I’ll have more to say about this later, or maybe even sooner.

The ideological revolutions, the kind that we’ve mostly had lately, have as their purpose to seize power. It occurs to me that the really American revolution, would be to destroy power. See, I don’t think of society as some big thing… society is people together making culture, and I think the most crucial part of all the considerations about social matters, is scale: society, in fact, is neighborhoods, and I think it should be that in practice.

–Karl Hess, interviewed in Karl Hess: Toward Liberty (1980)

Anyway, enjoy!

Further reading:

Karl Hess on the Country, the State, and a new language of patriotism

Thanks to Netflix, L. and I enjoyed Anarchism in America the other day. No, not the condition (alas!); the 1982 documentary by Steven Fishler and Joel Sucher, recently reissued on DVD by the folks at AK Press. It’s well worth watching if you can get your hands on it. Here’s one of my favorite parts, from the interviews with Karl Hess (for those of you following along at home, it’s about 56 minutes into the film, after the segment with the truck driver Li’l John):

Well, I think there’s an implicit anarchism in any of the American tendencies that have organized people in opposition to the State. I think co-ops might have reflected this notion, organizing people not only in opposition to the State in effect, but in opposition to the major economic movement of the time. I think, as a matter of fact, just in the romantic view of the American character, there’s an anarchist tendency.

It is flawed by one thing: the abstraction of patriotism. People who will damn the government from morning till night, and oppose the State in a million and one ways will, at a time of national crisis, become incredibly patriotic, and begin to say they will do anything for the State. And they begin to talk of duty, service, sacrifice … all of the words that are the worst words in the world, it seems to me, in a human sense. … I don’t know why this is, unless it is that these are such good-hearted people that they really believe that the American state is totally different from any other state–and it’s certainly somewhat different. And they feel that it is important to preserve–they feel they’re preserving the country, but the only language that’s available is, to preserve the State. I have an idea that one of these days, there will be another language, in which we can talk about preserving the country–the landscape, the neighborhoods, the people, the communities–without talking about preserving the State. At which point there will be a lot of radical farmers, factory workers, and small-town residents in this country.

— Karl Hess, interviewed for Anarchism in America (1982)

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