Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Apolitical Punk Rockers Are Like Vichy France

To all my fellow punk rock and metal aficionados, I open with this message: if the title of this rant offends you, I’m well pleased with my work and will now defend the simple statement which brought you angrily to this page and ultimately raised my Google ranking.

We all know, or should know, what Vichy France is famous for: surrender and collaboration during World War II.  I am by NO means calling punks Nazis or Nazi sympathizers.  What I am doing is criticizing their apolitical tendencies.  So many people in the punk and metal music scenes are avowedly apolitical.  They’re convinced “the system” is completely rigged (which it largely is) and they refuse to participate in the system or the “political machine.”  Many of them also advocate anarchy.

The problem in the punk scene is that most anarchists’ understanding of anarchy itself and spontaneous order is very superficial, which ultimately makes their belief in anarchy superficial as well.  Recall that the fascist French State’s existence resulted from a surrender of the French armed forces in the early battle for France and a desire to spare the French people and infrastructure from German destruction.  Many French cities, towns, and landmarks were destroyed in World War I as the Germans advanced through much of France.  Paris itself would have become a trench battlefield had the U.S. Marines not pushed the Germans back at Belleau Wood.  The widespread destruction of the First World War was not forgotten, and the French people had no desire to see their country destroyed again.

The French did not surrender or collaborate because they particularly liked the Germans or fascism.  They felt they had lost the war and they gave up, settling for what they thought was the lesser of two evils to avoid total destruction as a nation and people.

The majority of the French people equally despised the Vichy French government and the Third Reich.  Still, they tolerated daily life under the puppet government and the German occupiers.  They tolerated the military and police checkpoints and kept their mouths shut in order to avoid arrest.  They had very little, if any, say in governmental affairs and mostly lived an apolitical life, simply trying to survive with their families.  They figured they were screwed, so they gave up.  The fact that they lived outside of the system did not make the Vichy French government or the Third Reich any weaker, nor did it create any difficulties for the oppressive fascist authorities.

This same apathetic defeatism towards the political process is rampant in the punk scene.  Punks are convinced that nothing they do will matter so they’re better off just staying outside of politics.  There’s a fatal flaw in their logic: the resignation of the people in Vichy France neither rolled back the German invaders nor stopped the authorities from arresting random people and killing Jews.  So too the non-participation of punks in politics doesn’t scale back the size and reach of oppressive government nor does it prevent it from over-taxing the working people, sending people to prison for marijuana, or waging undeclared wars abroad.

However, while they may be apolitical, most punk rockers hold onto some kind of political ideology or personal philosophy which shapes their worldview.  Many people in the music scene are in love with Karl Marx’s lofty-sounding ideas even though they’re highly self-contradictory and inconsistent with human nature.  According to Marxist theory, there are three stages of history remaining: capitalism, with bourgeois government that favors the so-called 1%; socialism, which demands a huge proletarian government to take over all sectors of the economy and civil society; and communism, with no government, no monetary system, and total harmony among humankind.

If the punks and metal heads shouting “Anarchy!” were familiar with the groundbreaking work of Murray Rothbard, the greatest anarchist intellectual and one of the greatest libertarians who ever lived, they would find their entire worldview radically changed for the better.  In “The Death Wish of the Anarcho-Communists,” Rothbard explains that even though anarcho-capitalism and anarcho-communism advocate libertarian ideas, the latter is doomed to fail while only the former can succeed.

Anarcho-communism can’t exist because the maximum liberty talked about in the theory actually breaks down and disappears during the socialist stage of history.  After all, how can there be liberty when the government is very large, the state runs all parts of society, and all members of society are servants of the state?  Not only is there a lack of freedom, but no one is allowed to make a profit or any kind of gain over anyone else, which destroys people’s incentive to work hard and excel.  All of this kills progress and prosperity.  This is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union.  People like to blame Stalin for killing socialism’s big chance to succeed, as if Soviet socialism was a warped product of Stalin.  In reality, Stalin was merely a product of the easily corruptible Marxist system, just as Jim Crow was the product of harsh Reconstruction and today’s incomprehensible Ozzy Osbourne is the product of too much substance-enhanced partying.

Murray N. Rothbard
Murray Rothbard makes a strong case for anarcho-capitalism and libertarian ideas.  Aside from his monolithic books, Rothbard has penned hundreds of groundbreaking essays and articles that would serve as excellent portals into the libertarian and anarchist philosophy.  A great article of his and an equally great starting point for new libertarians is “War, Peace, and the State” which explains the libertarian non-aggression principle—as free individuals, I agree not to hurt you if you agree not to hurt me—and how war and plunder are necessary for the health of the oppressive state.

Rothbard’s essay “Anatomy of the State” (also published as a short book) expounds on the predatory nature of governments and “the state” against individuals and their liberty.  Especially compelling is the way he portrays “government” as small, elite collections of individuals using the broad powers of a legal fiction called “the state” to oppress and prey on other individuals.  Left, Right, and the Prospects for Liberty” shatters the narrow illusion of the political left and the political right.  The illusion to which I refer is familiar to everyone: even if a person is neither “Democrat” nor “Republican,” they’re still expected to belong either to “the left” or “the right” of the political spectrum, as if there was no middle ground or third alternative.  “Left, Right” continues in making a case for libertarianism and maximum liberty for the individual as the third alternative.  Such would be the ideal system for punks and others in the music scene, since rock ‘n’ roll itself symbolizes a rebellion from the conventional norms of mainstream society and the desire of rockers to govern their own lives and determine their own destiny.

Most punks and others on this side of the rock ‘n’ roll macro-community are determined to remain apolitical and not participate in the political process.  They fail to understand, however, that the political process is not at all limited to the voting booth on Election Day.  The political process includes activism and education in order to change people’s minds and attitudes, enacting change in the national dialogue, eventually enacting change in public policy (i.e. law and government actions).

If the wannabe anarchists in the music scene read Rothbard’s groundbreaking works, they would find not only a solid foundation for establishing deep beliefs, but they would also be moved to become politically involved. Their involvement in the political process as agents of change could start a chain of events that would eventually rollback and repeal layers of government, giving maximum freedom to the individual.  In this digital age where media, communication, and networking are easily done with a click, punks have more power than they’re willing to give themselves credit for.

Going back to World War II, most of the French may have given up and tolerated the Third Reich and its puppet Vichy government, but there was a core of noble people who didn’t.  Small groups of passionate men and women with firearms, contraband publications, and intelligence networks formed the noble French Resistance.  It was these loosely coordinated groups of courageous people who fought with everything they could and made life difficult for the fascists.  Had it not been for these people, the invasion and liberation of France by the Allied forces would not have been nearly as successful.  Had the Resistance not performed during their finest hour, the Allied advance through France and Western Europe would have been significantly slower, many more Allied troops would have been killed, and the Holocaust wouldn’t have been stopped until much later.

Members of the Resistance taken prisoner by the fascist Milice
Many punks use the corruption of the American political process to justify their nonparticipation.  Even though our government today is guilty of committing the same grievances the founding fathers had against Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution, we have not been forced to take up arms for violent revolution.  Today we’re incredibly lucky that we have the privilege of engaging in a peaceful revolution already in motion on the political scene.  It’s now possible and essential for as many people to be involved in politics as possible.  Our battlefields are the street corners, the talk shows and blogs, and the ballot box.  Those who are involved are the lifeblood of our unique American democracy.

Those who choose not to participate make it easier for democracy to be hijacked by special interests who write laws in their own favor, especially by government entities that grow themselves and grant themselves infinitely more power.  American democracy must be preserved in order to roll back government and restore maximum individual liberty.  Whether a person believes in limited government or anarchy—no government at all—it’s irresponsible to simply proclaim an idea without doing anything whatsoever to help make it a reality.

Hence, whenever I wear my Ron Paul t-shirt to a show and some nitwit throws up his fist and shouts “Anarchy!” I can only do a face-palm to occupy my hand, which otherwise would have been used to slap him for his ignorance.  After all, that nitwit’s become no different from the pseudo-intellectual hipster who throws around names like Jean-Paul Sartre and Noam Chomsky without having a true understanding of their ideas (but that’s a whole other rant for another day).  Where I come from we call these pseudo-intellectuals “phonies.”

Ron Paul—a member of the Republican Party, of all parties!—is the first great statesman in modern-day America to bring lofty ideas of limited government and maximum individual liberty to the table in an inspiring manner.  His run for the Presidency truly changed the national dialogue.  For the first time, people of all ages and political persuasions are discussing abolishing the Federal Reserve banking cartel, ending the War on Drugs, and rolling back the American Empire by bringing all troops home and not policing the world.

"Dr. Ron Paul" by Caleb O'Connor
Paul’s ideas resonated with a lot of people.  Between the combined primary election and caucus votes across the country, Paul’s platform of liberty and tolerance earned over 2 million votes.  Paul may not have won the GOP nomination, but he inspired at least 100,000 college students to share his ideas and sign up to become activists who will inevitably achieve a snowball effect in popularizing libertarian ideas.  Many of these young activists have joined the Republican Party and are currently swinging its platform from an oppressive neoconservative one to a libertarian one.

Better yet, Paul’s ideas are becoming increasingly mainstream, even penetrating the music scene.  Celebrity musicians from all genres are subscribing to libertarian ideas.  Pop singers Kelly Clarkson and John Mayer endorsed Ron Paul.  ANTiSEEN’s Joe Young has made libertarianism his philosophy, as well as blues guitarist Jimmy Vaughn and country star Dwight Yoakam.  Perhaps the most famous libertarian punk rocker is former Misfits front man Michale Graves, a passionate Ron Paul supporter who continues to advocate libertarian ideas.  Graves will soon be touring to promote his new “Vagabond” album.

If one man managed to convince millions of voters, inspire hundreds of thousands of activists, and change the national dialogue, what is every punk rocker’s excuse for not participating?  Murray Rothbard wrote and educated.  Ron Paul ran for office and inspired large masses.  You and I must carry the ideas of maximum liberty and rugged individualism into civil society and to the ballot box.

What the apathetic people in the music scene are failing to grasp is that American democracy does not have to be top-down.  Federal elections may be easily corrupted, but the same isn’t true for city council elections.  How difficult is it to rally around a level-headed member of the community?  One who believes the police are better utilized going after burglars and robbers than pot smokers, who thinks the local school board ought to have more sway over the curriculum than the lobbyist-owned bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Education, and that a permit shouldn’t be required every time more than two people want to practice their First Amendment right in public…  Such people exist, but they’ll never be found as long as we in the punk and metal communities (and all other communities) maintain apathetic attitudes.

Now that you’ve read this you must ask yourself: will you be like Vichy France or will you join the peaceful resistance?

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Anarcho-capitalism image obtained from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain. Anarcho-communism image was obtained from via CC BY 3.0 license. Rothbard portrait obtained from Wikimedia Commons courtesy of via the same license.

French Milice and Resistance POWs photo courtesy of Sammlung von Repro-Negativen (Bild 146) through the German Federal Archives. It was obtained from Wikimedia Commons and used via CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Ron Paul painting is the work and property of Caleb O'Connor.  Use of the image does not necessarily mean Mr. O'Connor endorses the views in the article and is used primarily to promote Mr. O'Connor's work.  See more of his excellent paintings at

I originally submitted this article for the Mises Daily but the editor at blew me off twice.  Poo on you, sir.