In the immediate days after the Arizona massacre, Mark Potok appeared on MSNBC to rant on an on about the dangers of Ayn Rand and subversive ideas within “the radical right.” Potok never suggested banning or burning Rand’s books, but he clearly suggested that Rand’s ideas were threatening to his visions for what America should and should not be. But, Potok is wrong in blaming the right and in blaming Rand for her “dangerous ideas.”
The theme of the State versus the individual has its genesis in World War I protests. These anti-war and truther protests were led by leftists and anarchists. The idea of the individual versus the State, ironically, starts with the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union. This organization’s core message is that the State has no right over the bodies and lives of people. The organization rose as the result of the founder’s protests against World War I.
The Department of Justice and J. Edgar Hoover went after the pacifist professor Alexander Baldwin, who was the director of the Civil Liberties Bureau. After he refused to submit to the draft, Baldwin was charged, found guilty, and then sentenced on October 30, 1918 to one year in an Atlanta, Georgia federal prison. Before he was sentenced, Baldwin addressed Judge Julius M. Mayer with:
“The compelling motive for refusing to comply with the Draft Act is my uncompromising opposition to the principle of conscription of life by the State for any purpose whatever in time of war and peace.”
Baldwin in essence argued that the State does not have the supreme power over the individual. He spoke about freedom and was opposed to the “autocratic industrial system, with its wreckage of poverty, misery, crime, childhood robbed of its right to free growth ….”
After Baldwin got out of jail, he became the first director of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. J. Edgar Hoover kept a file on Baldwin after his release and resumption of activities in the cause of individual freedom.
Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, anarchists, formed the No Conscription League, which stood in opposition to “all wars waged by capitalist governments.”
In her article “Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty” that appeared in the 1917 issue of Mother Earth, Goldman stated:
“The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism. The very moment the latter is undermined, capitalism will totter.”
In Goldman’s view, and in the view of the nation’s other anti-war protest groups, conscripted soldiers on both sides were just butcher’s assistants in the service of affluent industrialists with property and commercial interests.
Ironically, people like Baldwin, Goldman, and Berkman – leftists and anarchists – were the intellectual forefathers of the modern individualist, sovereign citizen, and truther that so upsets the establishment. Potok has it wrong, which is why mainstream media outlets like MSNBC undercut their credibility each time he appears to present his skewed take on the nation’s pulse beat and political landscape.
Potok might want to revisit the writings of Benito Mussolini. Under Mussolini’s fascism, the State creates the nation—not the other way around. And, man exists for the totalitarian state. The nation and people find their expression through national syndicates called corporations, which society creates through legislation. Mussolini’s fascism was opposed to humanism, liberalism, individualism, democracy, socialism, and the notion that the pursuit of happiness is a right. Potok is advancing patriotic fascism, not liberty and freedom that the overwhelming majority of Americans value.
Excerpts drawn from Peter Hebert’s Predator Nation, coming in late Spring or early Summer 2011.