Attempts to forge libertarian-leftist alliances predate ‘Occupy Wall Street’

Christopher Bedford Senior Editor, The Daily Caller
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While the sight of “End the Fed” signs at Occupy Wall Street protests may seem odd at first glance, relationships between rigid capitalist and anti-capitalist ideologues are nothing new.

The two divergent groups’ sometimes strange and often contentious common cause goes back to another tumultuous time in American political history: the late 1960s.

One of the most prominent libertarians searching for common ground with Occupy Wall Street has been “Freedom Watch” host Judge Andrew Napolitano.

When Napolitano welcomed “our favorite protester” Danny Panzella onto Fox Business, the theme was a search for common ground.

“In an effort to find common ground between the libertarian protesters, of whom you are one, and the big government protesters which seems to embrace the values of most of the crowd,” Napalitano began, “we made a couple of suggestions … and I’m interested in your thoughts … whether you think this would be common ground: End the fed, end the wars, end the IRS. What do you think?”

“Absolutely,” Panzella responded. “I think the Fed is the number one issue.”

The movement he is participating in, however, may disagree.

Though mention of the Federal Reserve is not lacking in the thousands of “OccuList” emails obtained Monday by The Daily Caller, it is not mentioned in any of the movement’s loosely proposed demands, which are collaboratively assembled through extensive “general assembly” meetings. More typical demands include free housing, and end to student loan debts and an increase in the minimum wage.

Conservative activist and activism historian Wayne Thorburn told The Daily Caller that the present has parallels in the past, particularly with political movements of the 1960s. (RELATED: Occupy DC swarms Union Station, releases balloons to protest event featuring Wal-Mart’s chairman)

“There was a small move in the late ’60s to join libertarian–anarchists with some of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) ‘New Left’ types,” Thorburn said. “[Anarcho-capitalist philosopher] Murray Rothbard and [libertarian writer] Karl Hess were the most prominent on the right … [who] thought a right-left alliance was possible.”

The feeling in 1969 that center-right activists could work with radical collectivists led to conflict in one of the nation’s largest conservative activist organizations, Young Americans for Freedom. Though a small number of libertarians and anarchists left YAF over the conflict,  Thorburn told TheDC that “basically … none of this attempted alliance ever amounted to anything.”

Thorburn equated the unlikely alliance to another, between “ultra traditionalists or paleo-conservatives” such as “Pat Buchanan and The American Conservative crew” and libertarians “who maintain that individual liberty is their priority.”

“I guess it’s simply a case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,'” Thorburn said.

“Some libertarians think they can co-opt Occupy Wall Street,” former YAF member and historian David Pietrusza told TheDC. “They are delusional.”

Pietrusza, however, observed that “Ron Paul’s greatest fire-and-brimstone during the debates … has not come from angst over the Obama administration. It’s the Fed. It’s foreign policy.”

While many of the GOP presidential candidates have condemned Occupy Wall Street, Rep. Paul has not.

Napolitano asked Panzella protesters “who would prefer Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader in the White House” would ever “share the values and the argument … about the ills spawned by the Federal Reserve.”

“When we first came down here and started saying, ‘End the Fed,’ most of the left-leaning protesters took that as, ‘End regulation, let the banks do whatever they want,’” Panzella replied.

“We’ve been trying to educate them what ‘end the Fed’ means is ‘end the banking monopoly, end the corporate control over our government.’ And when we really explain that, they get on board.


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