Twelve months ago, 150 years after the term Libertarian was first used in a political context, the UK Libertarian Party came into existence, clearly taking their name and aesthetic from an American counterpart.
There has been great controversy over the ‘true’ definition of the term ‘Libertarian’, generally divided between the Capitalist (generally north American) and Socialist (generally European) schools of thought. As interesting as such debates are, what concerns us here is the specific issue of free migration. Here there is no debate, belief in free migration is a basic part of being a Libertarian.
Anyone who believes in freedom of action and thought could never advocate the right of governments to use violence against people for doing what people have always done: move. This basic tenet is core to the values and principles of every strand of Libertarian thought, transcending the capitalist / socialist divide. The Solidarity Federation, one of several organisations based in the UK that advocate Libertarian Socialism, is typical of such groups on this issue:
“The point is that freedom of movement is a basic right and migration to escape poverty is completely legitimate.”
The Libertarian Party of the United States, the foremost Libertarian Capitalist organisation in the world makes its position very clear in its platform:
“Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries.”
Though they are quicker to add caveats and qualifying statements to their principled defence of liberty than their socialist counterparts, there can be little doubt as to the commitment of such a group to the concept of freedom of movement as central to the existence of a free society.
However, there appears to be a number of organisations and individuals who purport to be Libertarians yet advocate government control over the movement of people. Some of these push more extreme and potentially murderous positions than even the current UK government, and appear to have more in common with the immigration policies of marginal racist groups than they do with any Libertarian current. UK Libertarian Party policy on migration includes such extreme authoritarian positions as:
“Asylum Seekers must present at a UK border otherwise their claim shall not be accepted. Those refusing to declare originating country and accept that denial of their application will result in their return shall be denied entry, and any right to seek asylum will be refused outright without appeal.”
These unworkable and unrealistic demands on people who are fleeing oppression are clearly designed to spurn the needy. Of course opposition to any form of welfare or help for the poor is very common amongst Libertarian Capitalists, however, another of the UK Libertarian Party’s policies is particularly stomach churning:
“End automatic access to education and resources for any child who presents itself to the authorities, i.e. vouchers will not be available.”
Quite simply, despite their name, this party is patently NOT Libertarian. Not because we disagree with them on one of the many issues that Libertarians argue over, such as the privatisation or collectivisation of public services, but because their policies fly directly in the face of fundamental Libertarian principles. The UK Libertarian Party are not unique in their hypocritical stance on this issue, it has been the subject of much debate within their movement. This so-called ‘Paleolibertarianism‘ has led to the the Libertarian ‘brand’ slipping even further as UKIP, one of the most authoritarian political parties in Britain today, cynically attempt to tout themselves as ‘Libertarian’.
We believe in freedom: freedom of thought, expression, association, assembly and movement. That makes us Libertarians. We also believe that without equality, any freedom is limited to the few, if that makes some label us socialists, so be it. Furthermore we are not convinced liberty can survive the ravages of capitalist exploitation, relying on the market to organise society’s needs merely creates a new set of authoritarian masters. For a truly free and equal society we must destroy both authoritarianism and capitalism. Though not going as far to claim that all free market Libertarians are the enemies of freedom, their ideology holds within it several inherent contradictions.
Freedom of movement is one of the most urgent and important issues of our time. Supporting people victimised by the border regime and advocating the end to migration control must be one of the fundamental activities of any friend of liberty. We are sure there are many people who consider themselves genuine libertarians and are either supporters or members of groups like the UK Libertarian Party. Indeed, we are aware of several outspoken and articulate right wing libertarians who maintain a coherent adherence to the core princples of personal freedom, we encourage them to pressurise their organisations to stand by the the only true Libertarian position on migration: Freedom of movement for all!