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Our Path Forward
Miscellaneous Observations on Hans Hoppe, Marxism, and Strategy
CJay Engel comment 0 Comments access_time 8 min read

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a libertarian par excellence, embodies the tendency I tried to articulate in my essay on Tory Anarchism. There, I wrote:

The tory anarchist then is one who not only takes up a radical position on the nature of the state (as well as its right to exist), but he also carries with it a demeanor of caution and concern over a western world in cultural revolt. Looking out across history at the development of western culture and mannerisms, he laments the fall of Old World conventions and traditions. He is aware of the relationship that traditional cultural habits and norms have with a thriving society and he sees in the tides of modern leftism a wave of social revolution.

Hoppe is a radical– his goals are idealist and precise and require a systematic and foundational uprooting of the entire current system. Being a hardcore Misesian, he also understands that culture (including the culture of political activity), is preceded by and depends upon the ideas held by individuals. Society is ultimately a reflection of ideas assented to. Men act on what they believe. Thus, in order to achieve the ideals, which perhaps will never happen perfectly, education (though not necessarily academics) will forever be a prerequisite.

Hoppean radicalism, a total declaration of intellectual war against the entire socio-political world regime and the ideologies and mentalities on which it depend, is uncompromising and unforgiving. It aims at private property in the absolute, but with its endorsement of private ownership, comes a component of the definition of ownership that is far too often neglected– the exclusive right to control. In this way, the Hoppean understanding of a true system of private property lays waste to the alleged historical presence of “private ownership of the means of production” as characterized by the Orthodox Marxists when they critique the Soviet Union, North Korea, etc.

For so many political ideologies that have swept the world, ownership simply meant to hold the property title. But Hoppean thought (relying on the Rothbardian School) is more precise and fleshes out the internal contradiction of a system of interventionism, as well as German-style socialism: namely, in both of these systems, private ownership is only present nominally, but since a non-owner (the state) is the ultimate permission-giver or determining party of what the “owner” can and cannot do with his property, private ownership is both undermined and incomplete.

The reason this is important is that Hoppean radicalism has the mirror opposite end-game of Orthodox Marxism, though it reflects some strategic similarities. It is imperative that the reader understands my use of Orthodox Marxism, as distinct from socialism as a broader phrase. Hoppe’s background, fascinatingly, is in the world of Marxism. Yes, he was a Marxist before he was introduced to Mises and became an ardent anti-Marxist.

This is why he understands it so well and why he has leveraged some of its themes in several reconstructions of Austro-Libertarian doctrines. In regards to theory, Hoppe reconstructs the Marxian claim that there exists a class of exploiters (capitalists) and exploited (workers) by naming the state and its bureaucrats as the exploiters and the rightful owners of private property as the exploited. Regarding strategy, Hoppe took the Leninist call for strategy, titled What is To Be Done?, and, in turn, titled his own essay on strategy What Must Be Done. In my opinion, this reflects Hoppe’s understanding that libertarianism, if it is to be implemented and achieved, must, as was Marxism, be pursued holistically, radically, and in an effort to undermine the systematic injustice of the present paradigm.

For the Orthodox Marxist, the system cannot simply be reformed, it must be overcome and replaced by something new entirely. In this way, the Orthodox Marxists oppose the Reformism of those socialists who merely want to get into office and change things over time, slowly but surely, via the very same mechanisms that allowed things to develop as they have. Thus, while in a broad and vague sense, and because phrases shift in their meaning over time, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, could be considered “socialistic,” the Orthodox Marxists constantly maintain that they are mere reformers of the present arrangement. They merely want to make the system kinder and gentler toward the exploited, the workers, the social victims of hierarchy and capitalism. They are reformers, not revolutionaries. Thus, all their efforts will fail. The system will overcome the efforts and no long term change will ever be able to stick.

In the same way, for the Hoppean libertarian, the solution is not merely to go to Washington, to build coalitions at the Federal level, to get “better people” into office. One can here see the radicalist opposition to beltway libertarians, the libertarian reformers who want to make DC nicer, or more “liberal” in its acceptance of various aspects of American habits and trends (especially related to drug, immigration, and LGTB issues). No– this won’t do at all, observes the Hoppean. Rather, as Hoppe writes,

Every political centralization must be on principle grounds rejected. In turn, every attempt at political decentralization—segregation, separation, secession and so forth—must be supported. […]

Once the number of implicitly seceded territories has reached a critical mass, and every success in one little location promotes and feeds on the next one, it will become inevitably further radicalized to a nationwide, municipalization movement, with explicitly secessionist local policies and openly and contemptuously displayed non-compliance with federal authority.

Reformism at the Federal level, while not entirely worthless, is not the ideal or most useful radical strategy. Within the socialist movement, there have been radicalist groups and reformist groups. It is the same in libertarianism. And of course, radicalism doesn’t mean revolutionary in the physical sense. The Hoppean does not endorse an armed storming of the gates. He does not praise efforts a la the French Revolution, to take the reins of the central power and run things in a more libertarian way. Rather, by continuing the dispersion of the message, of the doctrines of our cause, the radical libertarian first emphasizes the intellect, getting people on board with the program. From here, we turn our attention away from Washington, from the manufactured problems of the capital, and toward our communities and localities. We secede and nullify, first mentally, and then physically. We don’t overtake the power, we walk away from it.

And as the Orthodox radical Marxists interpreted the entire world’s system as being basically capitalistic because it relied on the presence of the private ownership of production, the libertarian takes the complete opposite interpretation: ownership means nothing if the alleged owner does not have the exclusive legal right to be the final determiner of the use of that property. Thus, the entire world is not properly capitalistic– it is a system of State control and oversight, in some jurisdictions it is worse than others, but in any case the solution is the expansion of the freedom of private property owners to do as they will in accordance with the stipulations inferred by libertarian first principles.

Private property is a prerequisite to a thriving civilization, but to the extent that it is bastardized and squelched, to that extent problems arise at a systematic level. The socio-economic problems of the world, in direct opposition to the narrative of the Marxists, has to do with the lack of, not the presence of, private property rights. To be a radical, to pursue a situation that is truly economically and ethically ideal, we must recognize the extent to which statism has swept the earth.

We must oppose everything from government interventionism to war to egalitarianism to subsidized immigration to political centralism to public-controlled education to the entire plethora of agencies that, in their own way, hamper the free market. Especially, we must work to intellectually undermine democracy, which is the transfer of decision making power away from property owners to the masses, who are often swept up by the pleasant-sounding words of politicians and anti-capitalistic government demagogues. We must intellectually reconstruct every problem in terms of the private property alternative and wage total and absolute intellectual war against both the state itself, as well as the proponents of any action which undermines the true meaning private property ownership.

And in taking on the system at a strategic, meaningful level seceding from it is the best path forward. Marxists aim to reconstruct the world. Libertarians aim to reconstruct their communities.