History

James J. Martin, RIP

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I am informed by Jason Perry, a young scholar working on a master's thesis on Josiah Warren, that James J. Martin, the foremost scholar of 19th century American individualist anarchism, died in the past week. (Perry had met and befriended Martin recently while researching his Warren thesis.)

Martin's book Men Against The State: The Expositers of Individualist Anarchism in America, 1827-1908 (1953) is one of less than a handful, and the most thoughtful and thorough, of accounts of the anti-state thinking of such American individualists as Warren, Ezra Heywood, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker, as well as some of their even lesser known brethren.

While many of these thinkers were looked upon as forefathers by such postwar American libertarians as Murray Rothbard, and more recently Wendy McElroy, they have to a large degree been forgotten by both libertarians and students of American intellectual history in general. Martin's great book is now and will probably for a long time be the place to start in rectifying that neglect.

Martin ran the publishing house Ralph Myles Publisher, which kept in print his own books as well as individualist classics by the likes of Spooner and Etienne de la Boetie.

Martin's other major intellectual interest was the politics and ideology of American warmaking, particularly as they played out in World War II. He wrote a painstakingly detailed account of the shifting attitudes of American liberal intellectuals toward questions of foreign policy and war in the decade leading up to World War II, American Liberalism and World Politics, 1931-1941 (1964), in two volumes. He became a foremost spokesman of the Charles Beard/Harry Elmer Barnes tradition of revisionist history of that war, analysis that looked askance at the motives, conduct, and results of the Allies in World War II. His Ralph Myles-published Revisionist Viewpoints: Essays in a Dissident Historical Tradition (1971) contains fascinating reporting on some largely forgotten anti-war activism in American during World War II, and some tales of less-than-purely-heroic actions on the part of Allied troops and commanders.

In trying to judge the motive and conduct of the Allies more objectively than did nationalist propaganda, Martin did slide distressingly into downplaying the crimes of the Axis. In later years his World War II revisionism shifted into Holocaust revisionism, and he joined the editorial board for the Institute for Historical Review. This sort of unsavory association will in the eyes of many discredit all his work, but it ought not. His historical writings on World War II were viewpoint-driven, of course, but he made that clear. He was also trying to make clear that the standard triumphalist historians of the war were also viewpoint-driven, not purely objective. And putting his World War II writings aside, his research and interpretations of the individualist anarchists were groundbreaking at the time and remain unsurpassed to this day, and helped keep alive a too-often ignored aspect of America's libertarian ideological heritage.

NEXT: Take This Leak and Shove It

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  1. “Individualist anarchism”?

    Ha ha ha.
    Give a teenager a bottle of whiskey and the car keys. That’s “individualist anarchism.”

    (With apologies to Dave Barry)

  2. It is a time honored tradition here to correct others on a technecality even when we know exactly what they mean.

    It is P.J. O’Rourke you need to apologize to.

  3. Brian writes: “In later years his World War II revisionism shifted into Holocaust revisionism, and he joined the editorial board for the Institute for Historical Review. This sort of unsavory association will in the eyes of many discredit all his work, but it ought not.”

    Well Brian, I’m currently feeding my misanthropy by rereading Goldenhagen’s “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.” I’m on page 232, where a sickening examination of Police Battalion 101 is in full flush– this battalion was made up of middle-aged German regular guys who had been fed the mother’s milk of virulent, race-based anti-Semitism. The reader is to contemplate forcing Jews to dig mass graves and then making men, women and even infants lie in them while German’s and local conscripts drink and, more or less happily, shoot the “vermin,” not always efficaciously. The next group is forced on top of the sometimes still writhing and screaming bodies, layer upon layer, until the whole only partially dead human mass is buried. The photos are…informative.

    So, right now, I am particularly disinclined to extend latitude to a Holocaust denier who thought WWII, and stopping the Third Reich, was not a just cause. These are reasons why I am careful when identifying as a libertarian. At certain extreme points, common humanity impels action, like when force is initiated against others to such a heinous degree.

    –Mona–

  4. TWC

    Kudos.
    I read that book and still I got it wrong.

  5. Anyone seen Tom Marshall?

  6. Did he host Hollywood Squares?

  7. I met James Martin in 1969, and read several of his books and articles over the years. I reviewed his book “Revisionist Viewpoints” for a small magazine, and have read a number of his articles.

    While he did write about individualist anarchism, his affinity for the neo-Nazi crowd was pretty strong. In articles for the Journal of Historical Review, he praised prominenet Europeans who had open fascist affiliations.

    He wrote a book published by IHR titled “The Man Who Invented Genocide.” This was not about someone who first organized the mass murder of a racial group – it was an attack on the man who, during World War II invented the term genocide to describe the Nazi policy of mass murder.

    It is easy to understand the alienation any real individualist must feel. But James Martin allowed his alienation to develop into a dismissive attitude toward the human race that was all too compatible with the neo-Nazis he associated with.

  8. Did he host Hollywood Squares?

    No, that was Jeremiah Johnson.

  9. “they have to a large degree been forgotten by both libertarians and students of American intellectual history in general.”

    Not by our own Kevin Carson, though. Take a bow for keeping the flame alive, Kevin.

  10. Well, I do not call for Brian’s resignation, but I do want to register my strong opinion that he majorly f*cked up posting a lengthy lionization of a “scholar” about whom he saw fit to offer a rather tepid qualification regarding the man’s Holocaust denial.

    Libertarians, including those at Reason, do not need this linkage, as we already have a difficult enough time overcoming our “kook” reputation. Holocuast deniers and apologists for the Third Reich are vile. Period. I want no association with them.

    One can see, however, why isolationist libertarians would dislike the WWII period of history, because very few decent human beings are willing to argue that it was wrong to stop a regime that was engaged in the genocide of European Jews, and was doing so efficiently and with zeal. (It was, of course, also eradicating other “diseugenic” races.) Stopping the expansion of a filthy, obscene regime such as Hitler’s is morally sound, if not morally compelled. If the moral claims of millions of those murdered by racist fascists poses a strong challenge to conventional libertarian foreign policy analysis, there is indeed a temptation to flee to the deniers and Nazi apologists. But they should be repudiated utterly, no matter their other, pristine libertarian credentials.

    –Mona–

  11. Mona,
    Can we be sure we would have tried to stop those evil Nazis in Europe from killing the Jews if Imperial Japan hadn’t bombed Pearl Harbor?

    We entered WW2 becuase we were attacked directly, not for humanitarian reasons.

    If that were the case, we would have fought alongside the Brits in ’39 while they were getting their butts kicked, and the puppet Pol regime moved all Jews into isolated areas.

    But we didn’t.

  12. shanep: You are certainly correct in your history. Isolationist fever in the U.S. rendered it untenable for FDR to give much more than Lend Lease aid to the British, until Pearl Harbor. The hideous policies Hitler was directing at Eastern European Jews was downplayed, excused and even denied by some isolationists. Even if true, said some, it wasn’t our problem.

    –Mona–

  13. This sort of unsavory association will in the eyes of many discredit all his work, but it ought not.

    Why not? A person who engages in Holocaust denial has demonstrated a willingness to ignore both the overwhelming cultural consensus and mountains of physical evidence in order to promote a hateful idea. How can a reasonable person trust *anything* a Holocaust denier has *ever* written? Yes, he might be telling the truth when he discusses other subjects, but if you have to fact-check and cross-reference everything he says, what’s the point in reading him at all?

    Phrased differently — he might be right about the history of “individualist anarchism”, but I see no reason to believe he is. Point me to a historian who isn’t a depraved, evil, lying son of a bitch.

  14. Look, no sane person will defend the Nazis…that’s obvious. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. should have gotten involved in WWII. There’s plenty of evidence that suggests FDR baited Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor, using it as an excuse to get us involed in the war (as Mona points out “isolationist fever” in the U.S. perhaps prevented him from entering the war without a direct threat to the U.S.).

    On a related note, I thought the philosophical basis for libertarianism was the “non-aggression axiom.” It seems like conscripting Americans to fight and die by the thousands in a war half-way around the world violates the non-agression axiom since Germany did not threaten the U.S. Of course, nothing would prohibit volunteers from offering their services to the allies for fair compensation.

  15. Matt: Yes, there are those who argue FDR baited Japan into atacking the U.S. I personally doubt that was the sole or primary reason for Pearl Harbor, but whatever.

    I adhere to the “non-aggression axiom.” However, I do not think it applies only when my American tribe is under attack. Call me crazy, but I think the hideous aggression Hitler was committing against the Jews, Poles and other “sub-human” races is sufficient reason to stop him. Not with conscripts — I oppose that. But genocidal maniacs need to be stopped by the willing, even when millions of Americans are not being sent to ovens, shot and dumped into mass graves, and even when our infants are not being held up by a leg and bayoneted or shot. That is aggression and calls for a response from the able, by any morality worth the name.

    –Mona–

  16. I don’t see what is wrong about saying “X wrote some pretty interesting stuff, before he went completely evil!” Just be really adamant about the evil bits.

    Should we throw away all of Nietzsche, what Henry Ford showed us about mass production, George Lucas’ work before Phantom Menace? [ 🙂 ] Of course not. That someone can be sensible and fall into the trap of something like revisionism should be a cautionary tale for all of us, though.

    Evil. It’s bad.

    Kevin

  17. For attacking Holocaust deniers and other idiots, miscreants, and whim-worshippers, I say “bravo.”

    Just because Martin wrote some interesting individualist history in his earlier years does not mean his later years, devoted to Holocaust-denial, have anything praiseworthy. In fact, I see James Martin as essentially an intelligence gone mad, quite mad (as in loony) – all too common in those who lack COMMON SENSE.

    Didn’t the individualist Tom Paine write that book?

    Alan R. Weiss
    Austin

  18. Kevin writes: “I don’t see what is wrong about saying “X wrote some pretty interesting stuff, before he went completely evil!” Just be really adamant about the evil bits. ”

    All well and good, but inapplicable to the present situation. Brian posted a eulogy that commends libertarian (near) veneration of this man who promoted evil. The overal thrust was: “God bless him, he was a great mind in our cause and midst, and, oh, there was that litle problem with the evil stuff.” In my strong view, decent people and smart libertarians distance themselves utterly from such depraved persons.

    Kevin adds: “Should we throw away all of Nietzsche, what Henry Ford showed us about mass production, George Lucas’ work before Phantom Menace? [ 🙂 ] Of course not. That someone can be sensible and fall into the trap of something like revisionism should be a cautionary tale for all of us, though.”

    Do we reverently eulogize Nietzsche and Henry Ford?

    –Mona–

  19. brian, all that post does is put you in league with holocaust deniers, and discredits everything you’ve ever done or said

    sorry, but that is just like apologizing for stalin. Sympathyzing with or apologizing for Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc completely and forever anathemizes you until you recant.

    You really shouldn’t be writing here anymore, and I’ll be demanding your resignation in the real world. IHR is not “sort of unsavoury”, it is evil. Writing a revisionist version of WWII where the allies are the bad guys and hitler good… sorry, you have no place at this magazine, or working anywhere in the US outside of IHR, Al-Quaeda, or the Klan.

  20. Mona,

    You seem to agree with me about conscription, so we I think we’re pretty much in agreement (although from what I’ve read the evidence is pretty convincing that FDR orchestrated Pearl Harbor to get the U.S. involved in the war).

    I’m all for people volunteering to help fight tyrants (and perhaps morally it’s the correct thing to do)…I just don’t believe the government should force you to do so.

  21. I gotta learn to proofread more carefully….

  22. Matt: I do not believe in conscription under any circumstances. However, I do believe it is just and moral for our government to deploy a volunteer army to stop a rapacious megolomaniac who is murdering millions of human beings, and invading other countries where the genocidal hunger will continue to be fed. A world in which Europe is largely controlled by the likes of Hitler would be ghastly. And if anyone thinks he would not have eventually tried to engulf us — after solidyfying his European holdings — they are nuts. People like that need to be stopped early and well before they have a genocidal machine rolling through Eastern Europe and have taken France.

    –Mona–

  23. “In trying to judge the motive and conduct of the Allies more objectively than did nationalist propaganda, Martin did slide distressingly into downplaying the crimes of the Axis.”

    There is a lesson here for anti-war libertarians.

  24. Puh-leeze. I was pro-war, sort of, & i can easily see see the vast difference between the ANSWER/holocaust denier anti-war types and the anti-war libertarians here.

  25. I’m not sure if hey is kidding or confused. Brian Doherty did not “[s]ympathyz[e] with or apologiz[e] for Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.” Nor did he “[w]rit[e] a revisionist version of WWII where the allies are the bad guys and hitler good.” What he did was say that James J. Martin wrote some good history about 19th century individualist anarchists, and also some pieces that denied the Holocaust and whitewashed other Axis crimes.

  26. “No, that was Jeremiah Johnson.”

    The mountain man?

    “There is a lesson here for anti-war libertarians.’

    Actually, there’s a lesson for anyone tempted into “enemy of my enemy” thinking.

  27. Jeez, thanks, SM.

    Here are some good Martin links.

    Two chapters of Men Against the State online:
    Chapter 5 http://www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/matschap5.html
    Chapter 6 http://www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/matschap6.html

    Martin’s bibliographical essay on individualist anarchism:
    http://www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/matsbibl.shtml

    “A Beginner’s Manual for Apprentice Bookburners” (bibliographic essay on revisionist history)
    http://www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/bookburn.html

  28. Mark S,

    The quote applies nicely to “individualist anarchy”, too, don’t you think?

  29. SM: Puh-leese back to you. I didn’t say it applied to ALL anti-war libertarians, but it might apply to some. I remember libertarians cheering the Vietcong and Khomeini in the 1970s for cripes sake! I just hope they learn from the mistakes of others.

  30. Nobody: If I remember the quote correctly, O’Rourke used that analogy to describe GOVERNMENT, not anarchy.

    “Giving money and power to government is like giving whisky and car keys to teenagers.”

  31. The mountain man?

    Yeah.

    A few decades back, when libertarians were young and all else old, there was much discourse on how to effect a moral, free existence. Hence, VONU.

  32. Not to put to fine a point on this, but I remember reading that there is a cross section of historians who believe that major aspects (not necessarily, or only the number of those murdered) of the prevalent history of the Nazi Holocaust are incorrect, yet still support the American government’s war against the Nazis.

    So there are Holocaust revisionist historians who are not racists, such as Martin, and there are also those who are not isolationists. There are also Holocaust revisionists who are racists and who argue for WWII Isolation from that motivation. And of course we have WWII isolationists who are not Holocaust revisionists.

    Ok I think that I’ve covered all the possible permutations here. How does next Friday sound for a quiz?

  33. Mona:

    Regarding Brian’s mild reproof of revisionism, I did advise that we should be adamant about reproving the evil. Throwing away what was good in the work of someone who went off his trolley seems like a waste of perfectly good memes, however.

    If one restricts one’s study to the history of business, some do treat Ford with respect and awe. Once he crosses into international relations and his loopy anti-semitism, he loses reasonable people. Ford put the U.S.A. and much of the world behind the wheels of motorcars, which was a good thing. It doesn’t absolve him of his cranky views outside his field of expertise.

    Nietzsche is still studied by philosophers, but we know he went insane at the end. Many blame the philosopher’s sister and guardian, Elisabeth F?rster Nietzsche, for muddying his reputation while he was ill, and after his death.

    Kevin

  34. When the United States entered WWII, Hitler’s worst crimed had yet to be committed. Stalin had already murdered millions, including more Jews than Hitler had by that point killed. Sure, Hitler invaded Poland, but so did Stalin, who also annexed other countries as well. Clearly the motivation of U.S. entry wasn’t humanitarian.

    Beyond that, the United States helped Stalin take over Eastern Europe, and capitulated to his conquering of an area and population that far surpassed the area and population Hitler ever controlled.

    The end of the Nazi regime was a good thing, and no sane libertarian or human being would deny it. The libertarians I know who think U.S. entry into the war was bad argue that once the Winter of 1940 set in, the USSR could have handled Germany themselves (3/4 of all fighting in the war was on the Eastern Front, after all) especially with the help of Britain, who would have had more than adequate forces to deal with the Nazis if it had pulled their military home from their colonies such as in India, which Britain itself had conquered in its own imperial ambitions.

    We should never understate Hitler’s terrible crimes, but we must also not forget about the millions of people that FDR and Truman allowed Stalin to oppress and murder, most notably in Operation Keelhaul, during which the United States helped to round up two million refugees — who had escaped Communist Russia and made it into the relatively free parts of the world — only to force them by gunpoint into boxcars and send them to Stalin who in turn shot them dead. Two million is more than a simple “unfortunate mistake” of U.S. foreign policy. It ranks up there with the greatest government atrocities of the 20th century.

    Anthony

  35. I think it would be splendid if some of the posters above who are loudly proclaiming James J. Martin’s “evil” and “madness” were to actually read some of his books. I for one would be particularly interested in seeing them produce even ONE example of “holocaust denial” or “support of the Nazi regime” on Martin’s part. They won’t be able to produce even that one example, however, because it doesn’t exist. James J. Martin was an intransigent opponent of authoritarian government, including the one that terrorized Germany and much of Europe during the 1930s and ’40s. The only “evidence” that exists for calling him a “Holocaust denier” is guilt by association — the fact that he published some articles and one book with the Institute for Historical Review and spoke at some of their conferences. He himself never wrote anything about the Holocaust, however. Nor did he ever write anything defending the Nazi regime. I suspect that the posters above who are busily denouncing Martin’s supposed “Holocaust denial” have not only read nothing by Martin, but have also never read any of the literature produced by IHR. If they had, they would know (a) that none of it “denies” the Holocaust, but only raises questions about certain details of the conventional story; and (b) that much of it has nothing at all to do with the Holocaust, but deals with entirely separate historical issues.

  36. Thanks, Jeff, for your spirited defense of J.J.M. The fact that even self-described libertarians would participate in a Three Minute Hate against a scholar of Martin’s stature is an unhappy sign of the extent of State-induced mass hysteria.

    By the way, Dr. Martin was interviewed in Reason about 30 years ago and sounded quite pessimistic about converting the masses to libertarianism. Judging from this Reason forum, his pessimism was well founded.

    Regards,
    Charlotte Corday

  37. I was in close contact with Jim Martin for over
    20 years, not in touch the last 14 years.
    He was a great scholar and the attacks by people
    such as Mona and Gene Berkman are totally off the
    wall.
    First, the Goldhagen book is a piece of garbage
    that has been totally dissected and demolished
    by the son of Holocaust survivors and prominent
    anti-Zionist scholar, Norman Finkelstein. You can
    check it out on his website.
    Second, the Holocaust Revisionists are largely
    correct. There is legitimate dispute about the
    six million figure, the gas chambers, the idea
    of a centrally-planned extermination of Jews,
    the meaning of the Wannsee Conference, the Anne
    Frank Diary, the lampshade stories and much more.
    Read than regurgitate the same old questionable
    atrocity stoies people should read Butz, Faurisson, Rassiner and several other authors.
    Noam chomsky questioned much of the inflated
    Pol Pot figures so the idea that if one questions
    atrocity stories it makes you a partisan of the
    Reds or the Browns is nonsense.
    Many leftists claim 100 million Africans and 35
    million Indians were killed by US imperialism in
    additon to millions of Indochinese, etc.
    We can’t look critically at such claims ?
    Mona, your feelings are irrelevant to intellectual debate.
    Gene Berkman, you kissed Martin’s ass whenever
    he was in southern California in the 70s. Your
    weasel words now indict only yourself.
    Jeff Riggenbach, thanks. As usual you are on the
    mark.

  38. I highly recommend Jeff Riggenbach’s excellent tribute to Doc, reprinted here.

    The Man Who Invented Genocide is a brilliant deconstruction of the largely misunderstood UN Convention, examining its origins, historical context, interpretations, and consequent selective implementations. Yet another example of Doc’s relentless efforts to expose hypocrisy wherever he may have found it.

  39. Hello,

    I?m not from these parts; I found this thread on Google, and it has been very interesting. I?ve done a lot of research into Holocaust denial and the IHR, and would just like to add that if you look at some of Martin’s letters and book reviews that were printed in IHR’s Journal of Historical Review, it is clear that he was a Holocaust denier. Here are a few quotes:

    JHR vol. 15 no. 3 (May / June 1995), pg. 46: In a letter, Martin writes, “Personally, I am about brimful (sic?) on ‘gas chambers’ and may stop reading about the subject. As I have mentioned, I classify them with unicorns; for centuries Europeans have believed tenaciously in the latter since at least the time of Aristotle, but in all that time never came up with one. Maybe there will be centuries of belief in ‘gas chambers’ with the same consequences. I am sure the ‘hoax Establishment must stick by this fantasy, for to admit that it is all smoke would seriously undermine faith in anything else they allege. However, they did slink off from the fable of soap made from Jewish fat…” Note that this letter is not posted in full on the IHR Web site, but the title of the letter (“Unicorns and Other Fantasies”) is listed in the TOC for JHR vol. 15 no. 3.

    One letter of Martin’s which is available online appeared in JHR vol. 12 no. 2 (Summer 1992), pg. 251). In a letter entitled “Reflections on a Death,” Martin writes about the Holocaust, “…the Holocaustians have turned the whole thing into a new religion anyway. To me there is a close relation between a racket like this one and spiritualism, for example. Holocaust zealots trap their revisionist critics in much the same way that the spiritualists treated their scoffers during their heyday…The ‘Hoaxers’ do much the same thing: the more outrageous of the Holocaust atrocities they endlessly circulate don’t have to be proven. Instead, it is up to those who deny they happened to prove they did not…One of these days I should try to get a foundation to underwrite a trip to central Africa. After returning I would announce that I had encountered a tribe of talking monkeys, and then challenge anyone who does not believe me to prove otherwise.” (See: http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v12/v12p245_Letters.html#Martin)

    Reference has already been made to Martin?s rather bizarre attacks on Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word ?genocide.? Check out Martin?s 1981 JHR article on the subject at: http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v02/v02p-19_Martin.html. The way I read it, it sounds like Martin was trying to vindicate or at least defend the Nazis from the genocide charge. He engages in some more WWII Axis-Allies moral relativism in an essay at: http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v05/v05p349_Martin.html.

    Thanks. -Aryeh

  40. Hardesty, I still see you’re spouting hate.

  41. This thread, with the exception of Jeff Riggenbach and others, have reinforced my preconceptions about the “libertarian” crowd at reason. Brian doherty is about the only respectable one of the whole group.

    Look at every war that has been fought over the last couple centuries by the criminal gang claiming right to our lives called the US government and you will find lies at every part. Started for lies and atrocity propaganda about the other side to gin up continued support. Think of how many entrenched interests have a stake in the idea of Hitler as synonymous with evil. The colony in Palestine is the least of it. All of US hegemonic foreign policy rests on the idea of WWII (the whole thing is the real holocaust) as a war of good vs evil instead of what it really was. A bunch of psychotic killers on both sides sacrificing others lives for political and financial gain.
    The pro-government people who are against the anarchist (real) libertarians should try and thing of another institution that could accomplish death and destruction on such a scale as WWII other than the state.

    And by the way, Britain probably has the most responsibility for starting WWII and eventually dragging the US along, as in WWI, and if it wasnt for the vindictive treaty of Versailles being thrust on the beleaguered Germans it would of been easier to avoid.
    Discrediting the idea of WWII as a war of good against evil would be one of the best steps toward achieving a more free world we could ask for.
    It was a war of evil vs evil but hitler didnt want war. Most of his goals were to regain land (leibenstraum?) that had been stolen 20 years before when Germany was not the aggressor and was subject to a holocaust of her own by Britain and the US et al.

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