Augustus Invictus is a libertarian, you see — you can tell by his name.
The august and invincible politician is representing the Florida Libertarian Party in his run for Marco Rubio’s US Senate seat.
Invictus first entered the media spotlight in October 2015 when details of his hobbies came to light: The libertarian politician has been accused of supporting eugenics and of being expelled from a cult for “sadistically dismembering a goat in a ritualistic sacrifice.”
Nothing to see here, you know, just that typical libertarian drama — eugenics and animal sacrifices.
In March 2016, Canada barred Invictus from entering the country because of his ties to neo-Nazis. A 32-year-old lawyer, Invictus represented Marcus Faella, the former head of the neo-Nazi group American Front, in court on domestic terrorism charges.
“What is a libertarian doing defending a notorious neo-Nazi leader?” one might wonder. A glance at Invictus’ official campaign website might raise a few more questions:
Yes, the symbol Augustus Invictus openly uses on his site is a bird perched atop the fasces, the Imperial Roman weapon used by founder Benito Mussolini to symbolize fascism.
The world is witnessing the dangerous rise of a new — or perhaps not so new — libertarian-fascist alliance. Invictus is by no means the only example.
Investigative journalist Jane Mayer caused quite a stir in January 2016 when she revealed that Fred Koch, the father of libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch, helped build the third-largest oil refinery in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. His project was personally approved by Adolf Hitler, and the oil refinery fueled German planes, helping the Nazis carry out a campaign of genocide and destruction across Europe.
Mayer’s book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right also divulges that Fred Koch was such an admirer of Nazism, he “hired a fervent Nazi as a governess for his eldest boys,” as the Washington Post puts it. The newspaper of record describes libertarian leader Charles Koch as having been “toilet trained by a Nazi.”
As I detailed in an article about the Koch-Nazi collusion, Koch senior joins a long list of US business elites and corporations — many of whom are libertarian-leaning, naturally — who have worked directly with the Nazis.
Other examples abound. In June 2014, shooters in Las Vegas shot and killed two police officers before leaving a swastika and a “Don’t tread on me” flag on their bodies. The latter is of course the infamous Gadsden flag, a prominent sign of libertarianism. The fact that the shooters willingly juxtaposed the two symbols does the work for us.
Again, this raises the question: What are libertarians doing aligning themselves with Nazism? Libertarians (and I use the term “libertarian” here in the American sense, which is invariably right-wing, not in the ostensibly left-wing European or Latin American sense) are — or at least purport to be — opposed to state tyranny, and fascists embrace it, the trope goes. How, then, are these views reconciled?
Part of it can be explained by reducing the alliance to realpolitik, to a congruence of right-wing interests, to the finding of a common enemy in the Left.
Another case study involving the Kochs is instructive here.
Journalist Mark Ames detailed in an investigation for Pando how, in the 1970s, the libertarian publication Reason repeatedly gave a platform to Holocaust deniers and Nazi sympathizers. The Koch Brothers have given millions of dollars to the Reason Foundation, and David Koch sits on its board of trustees. Moreover, an article by Charles Koch appeared next to one by Holocaust denier James J. Martin in a 1976 issue of Reason, Ames revealed.
In previous reports, Ames also documented how Charles Koch funded a libertarian school called the Rampart College, where the Holocaust-denying Martin taught pseudo-history, euphemistically referred to as “historical revisionism.” The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum notes on its website that the Koch-funded libertarian school’s publication Rampart Journal published articles “claiming that the Allies overstated the extent of Nazi atrocities in order to justify a war of aggression against the Axis powers.”
Despite its putative anti-government ideology, Reason and many in the libertarian movement have ahistorically characterized the mass-murdering Nazis as supposed victims in World War II because of their brutal defeat at the hands of the Soviet Union. For much of the war, historian Richard Vinen notes “the eastern front was the scene of almost all the serious fighting,” and, between 1941 and 1943, Soviet “troops were the only ones to fight German forces on European soil.” Vinen estimates that it was in fact the Red Army, not the U.S. or the U.K., that was responsible for approximately 75 percent of the Nazi soldiers killed, wounded or captured in World War II. Right-wing historical revisionists like Martin portray the crushing of Nazism as a crime of communism.
This phenomenon is not isolated to the US. Dutch demagogue Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom, along with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria and UK Independence Party, among others, all employ libertarian rhetoric. More and more self-declared libertarians want their respective states to harshly crack down on (non-Western) immigration, deport “undesirables,” and systematically discriminate against Muslims — all in the name of “protecting freedom.”
Nor is the West alone. In India, one sees another prominent example of the burgeoning libertarian-fascist alliance in figures like Narendra Modi, a simultaneous diehard neoliberal and Hindu nationalist.
Yet the problem runs even deeper than this. It is not just that fascism and libertarianism share a common enemy; actually existing libertarianism ultimately strives for the same, or at least similar, social relations endorsed by fascists.
Fascism, in a nutshell, is the wielding of the bourgeois state in order to crush the progressive elements of liberalism (e.g., capitalism’s inherent tendency toward globalization and the destruction of feudal relations), replacing liberal capitalism with an authoritarian capitalism that embraces capitalism’s most reactionary elements.
Fascists seek to return to a capitalism unblemished by liberalism, one that wholeheartedly embraces its roots in white supremacy (or, in the case of India, Hindu supremacy) and patriarchal right, in which white men can exercise their “superiority” and face no resistance from more highly skilled immigrant workers, from better educated women, from exploited laborers in the Global South who will do the same work just as well for significantly less pay.
The notion that libertarians are actually, in principle, opposed to state tyranny rests perilously on a false presumption.
In US reality, actually existing libertarianism similarly opposes the progressive elements of liberalism enforced by the bourgeois state. The hatred of both the fascists and actually existing libertarians is ultimately directed at the bourgeoisie, not the bourgeois state, because the former is the defender of liberalism.
The means by which this phenomenon works itself out differs, but produces the same results.
Fascists hate the bourgeoisie because it is imposing liberalism upon the masses, while libertarians hate the bourgeoisie simply because it is imposing something on capital — yet, at the end of the day, both hate the bourgeoisie, even if for distinct reasons.
More basically, then, from a pragmatic perspective, libertarian ideology conveniently grants the fascist just the alibi they need. A fascist can justify their desire for a segregated, white-only community with an appeal to libertarian principles (“It’s our right to do so; if you try to stop us it’s aggression, force, tyranny”).
Gun-toting white separatists can build their communes and rail against government tyranny when it tries to stop them. They can organize their “decentralized” Patriot paramilitaries (the quintessence of the libertarian-fascist alliance) to hunt down Latina/o workers who are crossing the border in search of a job, because neoliberal policies destroyed both of their respective local economies on behalf of international capital.
Murray Rothbard, the founder of so-called “anarcho-capitalism,” exemplifies how this intersection of interests and ideology works itself out.
As he worked his ideas out more and more over the years, Rothbard eventually came to identity as a “paleolibertarian” — that is to say, a libertarian who openly rejects the progressive elements of liberalism and fervently embraces the most reactionary elements of capitalism.
Rothbard idolized individualist anarchist (the uniquely American strand) Lysander Spooner, who was an abolitionist yet simultaneously insisted the revolutionary war against slavery led by Abraham Lincoln was one of “militarism, mass murder and centralized statism.” The Austrian School libertarian hero associated himself with white supremacists and fascists.
As the New York Times put it, “Rothbard applauded the ‘right-wing populism’ of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan member [and leader] who ran for governor of Louisiana, and ridiculed ‘multiculturalists,’ lesbians and ‘the entire panoply of feminism, egalitarianism.'”
In his 1992 essay “Right-Wing Populism,” libertarian founding father Rothbard spoke highly of the fascist David Duke and articulated an eight-point program. Point 4 follows:
Take Back the Streets: Crush Criminals. And by this I mean, of course, not ‘white collar criminals’ or “inside traders” but violent street criminals – robbers, muggers, rapists, murderers. Cops must be unleashed, and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error.
This is actually existing libertarianism in action.
To the fascist and the libertarian, the Left is trying to combat this tyranny of capital, so the Left is the enemy.
In both fascism and actually existing libertarianism, it only capital that has rights. In Western white fascism, it is only white men who have capital; in actually existing libertarianism, it is preponderantly white men who control the vast majority of capital.
The means by which the tyranny of capital manifests itself in each system differs, in form, but the same social relations exist, in essence.
Just as capitalism degenerates into fascism in times of crisis, so too does libertarianism.