By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
Lysander Spooner was an abolitionist. He was also one of the great American anarchists whose legacy remains so toweringly influential that capitalists and socialists alike routinely bitch each other out on message boards over which tribe of wonks lays claim to his allegiance. But above all else, Lysander Spooner was an abolitionist and a militant one at that. Few white men in nineteenth century America were more committed to annihilating that grotesque institution known as slavery than Mr. Spooner.
He was a brilliant and fearlessly radical lawyer who would have given William Kunstler a run for his money when it came to turning the courtroom into a revolutionary battlefield. He used the arsenal of his legal expertise like an insurgent, publishing pamphlets for escaped slaves on how to break the system with tactics like jury nullification and offering his services directly to fugitives who couldn’t read them free of charge.
Lysander Spooner also put his rifle where his mouth was, backing up his bombastic legal activism with direct action. He was a close friend of the great John Brown and actively conspired with the most notorious abolitionist revolutionary in American history to promote violent insurrection in the Antebellum South. Even after Brown was locked up for leading his brazenly quixotic uprising in Harper’s Ferry, Spooner participated in an aborted plot to liberate his doomed comrade from the gallows.
Lysander Spooner was a fucking abolitionist alright. He was a freedom fighter with fangs who wasn’t afraid to bite. He was also an equally ferocious opponent of the Civil War. This may sound like a contradiction to some but to Spooner the right to secession, even for an institution he committed his life and safety to violently smashing to bits, was a pivotal manifestation of a government-by-consent that originated from the same wellspring of natural rights which also afforded slaves their right to liberty. Neither of these rights could be broken without declaring war on God herself.
Lysander Spooner also understood that these rights and all rights for that matter could never be granted by violent authoritarian institutions like the Union, who sought only to usurp agrarian chattel slavery to replace it with their own superior industrial slavery of wages. Real rights were those that could only be achieved through the direct democracy of popular self-determination. In no document does Spooner make this fact clearer than he does in his incendiary manifesto “Plan for Abolition of Slavery” in which he calls for nothing short of guerrilla warfare against all slaveholders by a stateless front of Black slaves and landless southern rednecks with nothing but aid and solidarity from northern abolitionists. Needless to say, many northern academics didn’t like being cut out of the excitement of playing the white savior to the darker sheep in their flock.
But what Lysander Spooner’s more condescending northern white critics couldn’t seem to grasp was that he only opposed “liberating slaves” because he knew that slaves would never be truly free until they liberated themselves and that their right to secede from any union was a necessary component of this liberation. It was a radically iconoclastic position for any century, and it was one that spoke very deeply to me as a young genderqueer Marxist raised on similar ideas propagated by modern-day revolutionaries like Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara. But it was Lysander Spooner’s school of hands-on abolition that made this libertarian socialist a secessionist and this is why I am not ashamed to support and encourage the right for the self-proclaimed Republic of Texas to secede from these United States of Hysteria.
At the latest biennial convention of the ruling Republican Party of Texas, those unhinged psychopaths approved an equally unhinged and psychopathic platform. A platform that obnoxiously declares Joe Biden to be an illegitimately elected president and homosexuality to be an abnormal lifestyle choice amongst other hysterics. Most of this fascistic little temper tantrum is nothing new. The platform of the Texas GOP has long been a veritable casserole of juvenile shock tactics designed to turn on their notoriously reactionary base by appalling mommy and daddy back in Washington.