By Nick Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
“Libertarians regard the state as the supreme, the eternal, the best organized aggressor against the persons and property of the mass of the public”
So a Marxist walks into the DMV and joins the Libertarian Party… No, that’s not the set up to an impossibly wonky dad joke, that’s the the story of my life, or at least it was last summer. It was a simpler time. A time before COVID, when the cops were only brazenly shooting Black children in the back every other week. That sunny day in July, I put on my best crack-whore-red lipstick and my biggest Jackie-O sunglasses and made my way down to the local Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my license with a special side mission motivating me to actually show up before the last possible second this time. After strutting past the usual throngs of sullen teens and sexy foreigners with the riff from “Rebel Rebel” on repeat in my skull, I approached an angry little man in a clip-on tie, took a horrific picture, swallowed a mouth full of stomach acid when the little prick misgendered me, and became the first self-declared Marxist in Pennsylvania history to join the Libertarian Party. I got a bumper sticker and everything, and I have every intention of voting for Jo Jorgensen this November.
But why? You may ask. What in the name of god’s green dick could inspire a person to do such an absurd thing? Am I just trying to piss off and confuse people at this point? As if my calamitous gender identity wasn’t enough. How could any sane Marxist join the party of Ayn Rand and the Koch Brothers? Well, maybe that’s just it. I’m not a sane Marxist by any stretch of the imagination. Not literally or figuratively. While I thoroughly believe that history is defined by cycles of class exploitation and that a lack of equality in the distribution of power over the means of production is the source of most if not all human oppression, I am very far from an orthodox Marxist, or an orthodox anything for that matter. I have no time for stagnant dogma and little patience for long-winded theory. I was turned on to Marx in the 7th grade because the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto filled me with the same kind of fire as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. The words exploded off the page with such cataclysmic fury and righteous indignation, condemning all the stupid little terrors from my Catholic childhood that my latent genderqueerness proved to be a lie. Jesus didn’t want me for his sunbeam, but roaring fires were made of sparks like me.
But for the most part, like any true lumpenproletariat, I’ve always preferred cliff notes and history books to pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, and with the exception of a brief and painful dalliance with Third World state socialism, my Marxism has always been tempered by a devotion to anarchism, making it downright libertarian in nature. I’ve always preferred the Sorelian and Luxemburgist schools of thought, the ideas championed by Friedrich Engels after Karl’s death with his daughter Eleanor and dear Mr. William Morris of the Socialist League, that crazy notion that the state itself is the fucking problem, that working people don’t need wonky professors or vanguard parties or bloated bureaucracies to free themselves from the chains of class oppression. In fact the thing that finally pushed me over the edge from libertarian Marxist to Marxist Libertarian was the sobering realization that the state itself, any state at all, regardless of intention, is simply another class hierarchy in red clothing.
I came to this conclusion after watching the painful implosion of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. In spite of everything he did and everything he sacrificed, in spite of doing everything right and revolutionary and democratic and constitutional, Hugo Chavez couldn’t prevent his nation from becoming another managerial thug state, much like the one he replaced. Once Hugo died under mysteriously abrupt circumstances, it took his Dengist successor, Nicholas Maduro, and and his Yanqui antagonists less than a year to tear the whole thing down in ribbons. Everything that is, but the favela collectives that predated the Bolivarian government and inspired Chavez to embrace democracy in the first place. These councils didn’t require a state to be constructed and they didn’t require a state to survive. They are what Marxism is supposed to be about, and they help expose what I see as the philosophies greatest contradiction.