By Walter Smolarek
JUNE 29, 2011
Libertarian ideology is a dead end for working classFather and son political duo Ron and Rand Paul have been capturing increasing attention across the country as major figures in the extreme right-wing Tea Party movement. Ron Paul is a long-time congressman from Texas and perennial presidential candidate, while his son Rand is a newly elected senator from Kentucky. From their positions of power, both have promoted racism and advocated brazen attacks on working people.
The Pauls are associated with an ideology called Libertarianism. Libertarians oppose government social programs and restrictions on the capitalist market . They advocate hyper-individualism, viewing any kind of solidarity as a form of much-despised “collectivism.”
By railing against “big government,” libertarians are able to capitalize on a mistaken tendency to view the abuses of the capitalist state as simply examples of overreaching authority rather than a concerted assault by the capitalist class. On certain issues, like the Patriot Act, the war on drugs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ron and Rand Paul can even seem progressive. However, Libertarianism represents a deadend for working people and distorts the key political questions facing oppressed people.
Racism is a key component of the Pauls’ politics. During Ron Paul’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, a scandal erupted around racist articles written in his monthly newsletter. Although Paul claims that he did not personally contribute to the publication, the articles were written in the first person and featured his face and name on the masthead.
Some of the most disgusting statements were made in the newsletter published shortly after the 1992 Los Angeles uprising triggered by the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. He stated, “Our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists—and they can be identified by the color of their skin.” He went on to claim that, “I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city [Washington, D.C.] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” The newsletter also called the national holiday celebrating Martin Luther King an “outrage” and an “infamy.”
A similar scandal almost derailed Rand Paul’s 2010 senatorial campaign. In an interview, Paul said that he opposed Title Two of the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of race. For Rand Paul and like-minded capitalist ideologues, business owners’ property rights trump equal rights for the oppressed.
Accelerating attacks on working people
Both Ron and Rand Paul strongly support a number of anti-worker measures considered extreme even by much of the capitalist establishment. Earlier this year, Rand Paul introduced legislation that would institute a “right to work” policy on a national level. This misleadingly named proposal would severely weaken unions by banning collective bargaining agreements that automatically apply to all employees at a workplace.
The Pauls are opposed to the current tax system and believe it should be replaced by a structure even more slanted toward the wealthy. Rand has cautiously supported a so-called fair tax that would gather revenue by replacing the income tax with a consumption tax, disproportionately affecting poor and working people.
Ron and Rand support wide-ranging privatizations, handing everything from social security to the post office over to capitalists who would invariably gouge prices and exploit workers even more intensely to maximize profit.
Libertarians and the anti-war movement: missing the point
At almost every major anti-war demonstration, there is a small but obnoxious contingent of Ron Paul supporters, pedaling conspiracy theories and harping about the unconstitutional nature of the wars. Although they may oppose military intervention, their orientation is contrary to the basic principles of the anti-war movement.
The Pauls’ libertarian supporters oppose the wars either on the procedural grounds that constitutionally mandated steps were not carried out prior to the declaration of war or that the Pentagon’s budget is an example of big-government largesse. The plight of the people’s suffering under occupation and their right to self-determination are marginalized or completely ignored.
Contrary to this position, true anti-imperialists recognize that the struggles of working people around the world are inextricably linked with the struggles of the working class in the United States. While principled anti-war activists do strongly oppose the outrageous amounts of money spent on these conflicts, we believe that these resources should instead be used for housing, health care, education and other human needs.
Rand Paul introduces reactionary legislation
Rand Paul is cosponsoring the Life at Conception Act which would declare that a person’s life begins at conception. By declaring fetuses to be legal persons protected under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the laws, Roe v. Wade would in essence be overturned.
Rand Paul is is also helping to introduce a resolution that would amend the Constitution to prevent children born to undocumented immigrants from gaining automatic citizenship. Under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment, citizenship is given automatically to anyone born on U.S. soil.
Wrong on the most important question
The fundamental ideological folly of Ron and Rand Paul’s libertarianism is their basic and intentional misunderstanding of the nature of the state. They promote the perspective that it is an independent social force that is not necessarily beholden to the interests of a particular class.
In fact, the state is an instrument for the ruling class to carry out its political will. The recent bank bailouts and budget cuts to vital social services are testament to the accuracy of this analysis.
The choice facing the working class is not between more or less government. The real question is a government for which class. Poor and working people should reject and combat the backwards ideology of libertarianism and fight for a people’s government committed to building a socialist society.