We are trapped in the middle of a street war between two breeds of pigs, the police and the New Left. In Berkeley, Cambridge, Madison, Isla Vista, the battles flare. It goes something like this. Student leftists gather; windows are broken; trash fires are started; squad cars of police arrive; they eye the crowds; they begin to clear the street; the fires are put out; the crowd regroups; the police are stoned; more police arrive, perhaps several hundred, in riot gear; they charge the crowd; several bloody scuffles break out between police and rioters; as the crowd retreats they smash more windows; gasoline fires are set in two banks; looting begins; some students follow the retreating rioters, putting out the fires; one of these students is shot by a policeman, others are gassed indiscriminately as police heave canisters off roaming troop trucks; two squad Cars are overturned and burned.
Such is a typical scenario of student/police riots in America: animal farm 1970. In George Orwell's Animal Farm, you'll recall, the animals who lusted after power over the other animals were the pigs. In the increasingly common confrontations as described above, who are the pigs, the police, as the New Left claims, or the New Left, as the cops claim? Most social commentators talk as if a sane man's only choice was to side with either the police or the "dissenters." This is not the case. It is not a matter of choosing the "correct" side, but of determining if either side is correct. In fact, neither side is correct.
It is not a matter of the pigs against the kids (Ramparts magazine version), nor of the police against the pigs (police version), but of the pigs against the pigs. Both the left and police either initiate or threaten to initiate physical force, the essence of power.
In his impassioned pleas for revolution, Karl Hess offers us this principle: if it Oinks, it's your enemy. But when all oink, when from both sides of flaming barricades come shouts of powers, who is your friend? The sane man's answer is: no one; his course of action: an independent one, unstained by the mud of the sty.
We are witnessing the first phases of a war that will in all probability end in totalitarian enslavement of the American people. The public should not be fooled into thinking that it is a battle of right against wrong.
A struggle to achieve justice it decidedly is not. Instead it is a struggle of evil against evil, for control of the apparatus of power, the state. Part of the purpose of the participants is the establishment of totalitarianism, part, its control. It may be that most of those doing combat in the streets do not realize that dictatorship must be the logical result of their actions (although this is hard to believe), but dictatorship will be the result nonetheless. Z will come to America.
Doesn't anyone see? The street fighting and attendant legal action is all a replay of an age-old game of decoys probably devised by the very first pigs, to whom it occurred that one of the best ways to get a freedom-loving people to accept increasing displays of organized power would be to convince them they face imminent death and destruction at the hands of a foreign or domestic enemy, against whom the people must do battle if they hope to survive. Never mind what civil liberties slip by the wayside during the war. (That is the whole point: while the people do battle against the supposed enemy, behind their backs, their real enemy forges chains and his schemes to use them.) So the totalitarian draft is justified; it is needed to defend America from impending invasion from the Vietcong.
So too on the domestic scene. Both revolutionary left and counter-revolutionary police play for the sympathy and support of various segments of the populace, pointing to the coercive nature of the other as justification for their own acts of coercion. The logical result of this is a sharply escalating level of hostilities, a kind of ping pong effect.
The New Left points to the draft and the Vietnamese (Cambodian? Laotian?) war as a justification for their seizure of university property. If campus officials are incautious enough to call in the police to clear demonstrators, the cops often (not always) use the bust as a handy excuse to beat heads—or worse. Whereupon, the students, to protest the bloody bust, initiate a downtown rally just designed to provoke the cops. Maybe a few bricks have to be tossed, a few cars burned, but somehow the "radicals" (the pigs in bell bottoms) manage. Not that it takes much to egg on some cops to beat the hell out of a college age, long haired, blue jean clad SDS hippy type. Hardly.
The police point to broken windows and overturned autos and proceed to roll up the town with riot guns and tear gas bombs. (They call this a curfew.) The New Left points to the constant harassment the far left suffers at the hands of the cops (including, they claim, an organized attempt to snuff out the Black Panthers) as defense for acts as insane and violent as skyscraper bombings and police murders. Such swinishness sets off a predictable chorus of oinks from capital hill and precinct-house type pigs: "Rap Brown" (antiriot) laws (and the likes) and Panther killings. After a certain point (a point, sadly, long ago reached), neither side bothers with specific charges, engages instead in kind of a indiscriminate genocide. "Off the pigs," urges subway graffiti. "America—love it or leave it," ominously advises the bumper sticker on a policeman's shiny Chevy.
How will it all end? In coming months and years, the state will use the left's militancy (and the rising "non-political" crime rate, of course) in its bid for complete power. To this end, increased police power is already being talked about or initiated.
No-knock, wiretapping, indoctrination of children (see recent report to Nixon), concentration camps (during Berkeley riots, temporary use of an army camp for detention purposes was reported), censorship and executions are all already either reality or distinct possibility. We can expect in response a widening circle of terrorism and "public" and "private" sabotage that will make the economic/technological collapse depicted in Atlas Shrugged seem rather calm and slow.
Such sabotage, coupled with establishment repression and a host of troubles predicted by futurists, will create a nation few of us will be willing—or able—to live in. It is critical, then, that strife in the streets be terminated—fast. Shortly it will be too late. The pigs have virtually full control of the streets today and, unless Americans do some quick—and careful—thinking now, within a few years, the swine (whichever group) will have total control.
The most important discovery we can make is our enemy's precise identity—and what it is that makes him our enemy. If we recognize that it is not the New Left militants alone, nor the police alone, but both, we will have come a great distance towards saving the country.
The basis of a sane, stable, free society is voluntary association and mutual respect for individual rights. Neither the police nor the New Left speak or act as if they comprehend this—or care.
For example, the left's opposition to the draft is (generally) one based upon opposition to the war, not upon man's inalienable right to control his own life (war or no war). Conversely, any cop. will tell you that laws must be enforced if chaos is not to reign. The function of police, then, is to establish and maintain a condition the police call "order" (non-chaos). No reference to rights. Just "order." (Incidentally, a man who turned out to be an ex-narc struck up a conversation with me on the subway a few nights ago and I was utterly amazed how precisely his personality and ethical views conformed to the mental picture I had previously constructed of the mixed economy, socialized cop. How revealing his facial expressions when I used the term "individual rights!")
If members of neither group speak as though the concept of rights was valid, they certainly don't act as though it was. The massive trampling voluntarism receives at the hands of both is legendary in the journals of the libertarians.
Neither group can be absolved from guilt for the street fighting, yet neither group is completely without justification. The left has no right to block the (government owned) streets, yet the police have no right to maintain state possession either. Public property has no valid claim to existence; it always represents either stolen goods or the product of theft (by taxation or expropriation). Those who defend the prerogative of the police to control the streets would appear to be defending the right of thieves to determine what they'll do with their stolen goods, a oddly non-libertarian position.
Some supposedly libertarian observers, such as Jeffery St. John, seem to view the police as morally neutral despite their voluntary enforcement of coercive laws, an attitude terrifyingly reminiscent of many Nazi Germans' ("They were only following orders…").
But in fact, because cops are cops by choice and are not forced into the profession, they cannot possibly be morally innocent of their own actions. Pigs is pigs. "Someone, though, has to enforce the laws," replies our "conservative" (who apparently desires to defend the pigs' inalienable right to be pigs). Perhaps. But not all the laws, certainly not those that violate the rights of man. Why should the "conservative" want those laws enforced…unless he was on a power trip?
The central role police play in maintaining the (political) stability of the welfare state (which the "conservative" despises so loudly) should not be overlooked. If any significant portion of the cops made a well organized, publicized refusal to enforce some repressive statute of cultural importance (say narcotics), that law, I'm certain, wouldn't stand very long.
In Countdown to Chaos, Jeffery St. John's book describing the Chicago riots, absolutely no mention is made of the critical consideration that most of the strife occurred either on government-owned streets or parks. The tumult, then, represented not simply a "challenge to authority" (police version), nor "organized repression" (revolutionists' version), but a very real conflict in, as Tibor Machan has put it, "spheres of influence," in which both contestants were, due to the conflict's nature, at the same time right—and wrong.
Because "public property" is obtained through those peculiar forms of theft known as taxation and eminent domain, actual ownership is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Legitimate usage, then, is equally difficult to stipulate. Any guidelines set for usage must be arbitrary and violative of the rights of the actual owners (the indians?). In short, the streets may not belong to the people, but they sure don't belong to the cops either.
The shallow rhetoric of Countdown, however, has no room for finely tuned reasoning or precisely ascertained blame. Accordingly, apparently the police should be free to decide how and by whom streets and parks will be used. In other words, the thieves should determine who gets to help loot the property they have stolen.
Even if the police have no moral right to prevent the New Left from peaceful congregation on public lands, the New Left can not be condoned for its impromptu parades, parties, and rallies, which are clearly devised not as proper challenges to the concept of public property and the power of the state, but essentially as nihilistic acts of disruption ("we tied up traffic for hours…") and, I believe, expressions of their desire to rule—or be ruled. Getting beaten up in the streets by the police will not liberate those streets; quite the opposite: it will only allow the state's menials to exert even greater control. Those who applaud the Weatherman as America's first line defense against the Mitchells and Agnews of the world should know better (and probably do). I can't think of anything the state likes better than a good riot (except maybe a good war). Martial law, curfews, riot police, state troopers, National Guard, anti-personnel weapons, tear gas, megaphones, neat-looking uniforms, emergency strategy sessions, acts of Congress—man, what a power trip! (As much fun as taking over a university, I'll bet!)
Nothing is more ill-suited for smashing the state than a riot. The state co-opts riots; they are its rationale. (Order, order, order, remember?) Faster than almost anything else, they step up the timetable for totalitarianism. The state thrives on emergency (see Piekoff), and what more than riot creates a condition and atmosphere of total chaos and, thereby, cultural acceptance of the: inevitability of and need for a strong man?
As sad as it may seem, there are simply no heroes in the war for the streets. "Kill a commie for Christ," cries one side (and four at Kent State die). "Off a fascist pig for Marx," cries the other (and black snipers in Cleveland down four cops). Kill, kill, kill.
And kill they will, themselves and us, unless libertarians and the general public devise some means to de-escalate the battle. It will be no simple job. For starters, the "justifications," to the extent they are real injustices, must be removed. The Vietnam war must be ended, the draft abolished, drug laws repealed, the police collared, (or converted) and a host of reforms initiated. On the other side, some way must be found to morally disarm the violent of the left and win over the non-violent.
I invite suggestions.