Wednesday 23 June 2004

The Case for Revisionism (and Against A Priori History)

"History is written by the victors."

By Murray N. Rothbard

What has revisionism to do with libertarianism? Many libertarians see no connection. Steeped in the theory of the non-aggression axiom, and that the State has always been the major aggressor, these libertarians see no need to concern themselves with the grubby details of the misdeeds and interrelations between Germany, Russia, Britain, the United States, and other particular states. If all States are evil, why worry about the details?

The first answer is that theory is not enough in dealing with the con­crete world of reality. If all States are evil, some are more evil than others, some particular States have engaged in enormously more aggres­sion, both internally against their subjects, and externally against the citizens of other States. The State of Monaco has committed far less aggression than the State of Great Britain.

If we libertarians are to un­derstand the real world, and to try to bring about the victory of liberty in that world, we must understand the actual history of concrete, existent States. History provides the indispensable data by which we can unders­tand and deal with our world, and by which we can assess the relative guilt, the relative degrees of aggression committed by the various states. Monaco, for example, is not one of our major problems in this world, but we can only learn this from knowledge of history, and not from a priori axioms. But of course to learn about concrete reality takes work, not only a substantial amount of reading, but also reading with the basic elements of revisionism in mind. Work that investigates the complexities of history, and that is not easily reducible to catch phrases and sloganeer­ing.

Revisionism is an historical discipline made necessary by the fact that all States are governed by a ruling class that is a minority of the population, and which subsists as a parasitic and exploitative burden upon the rest of society. Since its rule is exploitative and parasitic, the State must purchase the alliance of a group of "Court Intellectuals," whose task is to bamboozle the public into accepting and celebrating the rule of its particular State. The Court Intellectuals have their work cut out for them. In exchange for their continuing work of apologetics and bamboozlement, the Court Intellectuals win their place as junior partners in the power, prestige, and loot extracted by the State apparatus from the deluded public.

The noble task of Revisionism is to de-bamboozle: to penetrate the fog of lies and deception of the State and its Court Intellectuals, and to present to the public the true history of the motivation, the nature, and the consequences of State activity. By working past the fog of State deception to penetrate to the truth, to the reality behind the false appearances, the Revisionist works to delegitimate, to desanctify, the State in the eyes of the previously deceived public. By doing so, the Revisionist, even if he is not a libertarian personally, performs a vitally important libertarian service.

Hence, the Revisionist historian performs crucial libertarian tasks regardless of his own personal ideology. Since the State cannot function, cannot command majority support vital to its existence without imposing a network of deception, Revisionist history becomes a crucial part of the tasks of the libertarian movement. Crucial especially because Revisionism goes beyond pure theory to expose and reveal the specific lies and crimes of the State as it exists in concrete reality.

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