The word neoconservative or ‘neocon’ gained prominence during Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential run. Since 2012 however, ignorant people have used the word to describe everyone they don’t like in the political sphere. This sadly includes a great many libertarians. Calling everyone from Rand Paul to Walter Block neocons. This is a wholly inept use of a term that has important historical context and meaning. The misuse of the term only weakens it’s meaning and hurts libertarians.
So just where did this term and the associated ideology come from? Let’s describe where the term originated first. Neoconservative. Neo from the Greek meaning new, and conservative a colloquial political designation, typically meaning someone on the right. So slap them together and you have New-Conservative, Neoconservative, or just Neocon for short. In 1973, Michael Harrington, a well known democratic socialist, coined the term as a pejorative to describe hard left politicos, namely Irving Kristol (who literally wrote a book titled “Neo-conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea”)
and others, who were disaffected by the democratic party’s less interventionist foreign policy but who still held domestic policy views very closely aligned with the left. This however, is not where this philosophy originated, even if the term hadn’t appeared until the 1970’s.
Looking back through history we can see obvious influences in where this ideology was born and it was born with a man named Leon Trotsky. Trotsky, a Marxist communist and political theorist was distinguished from other communists in three distinct ways:
- Support for a strategy called “Permanent Revolution” in which countries could be overthrown and instituted with values of the communist proletariat.
- Support for a social or cultural revolution, rather than a vanguard led revolution.
- Support for internationalism
Neoconservatives today all share the same these same views, though they aren’t exactly described as such.
- Neocons support foreign intervention to spread “democracy” to countries that don’t share our values, up to and including preemptive wars.
- Neocons support spreading cultural beliefs in law.
- Neocons support participation in the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations.
- Support of larger government
So I’m sure you’re asking how Marxist communist beliefs entered American politics. Well looking back at Americans in history that Trotsky carried favor with, one notable American stands out above all the rest, Woodrow Wilson. Yes, the 28th president of the United States was either a communist sympathizer or a communist himself, at one point giving Trotsky an American passport to travel freely abroad.
So how did Trotsky have an influence on American politics and specifically Woodrow Wilson? Well Wilson was the first real internationalist president, he started the League of Nations (which failed spectacularly) but later gave rise to the United Nations and NATO. This idea comes directly from Wilson’s fourteen points plan, and what I see as an American communist manifesto.
I’m going to summarize them here:
1. No private alliances, only international covenants.
2. No privately held territorial waters, all oceans are public use.
3. Promotion of trade agreements
4. Complete disarmament
5. Establishment of territory for an international body (league of nations)
6-13) All revolve around demanding specific actions by other governments in order to spread democracy.
14) The establishment of the league of nations.
As you can see there are a lot of similarities in the approach that Wilson and his friend Trotsky take to political affairs. So now that you know the connection there, let’s talk a little more about Irving Kristol. Irving Kristol was born January 22, 1920 to two eastern European immigrants, just a year before Wilson left office in 1921. Kristol was an avowed Marxist and later and avowed trotskyist. Yes, you read that right, the man who founded Neo-conservatism was a self avowed trotskyist. There is no surreptitious conspiracy here, this is just a fact. Even the Washington Post agrees that this is simply the way neoconservatism came to fruition.
Now consider that Irving Kristol is credited as an influence for talking heads like his son Bill Kristol, fox news analyst Charles Krauthammer, Former president George W. Bush, Senators John McCain and Lyndsey Graham and you can start to see a pattern.
So being a libertarian I can’t help but link this reality with the common libertarian generality “the two parties are the same.”
So how and why are they the same?
I would think this bit to be a tad obvious by the time you’ve gotten this far into the piece but for the sake of clarity let’s spell it out. Leon Trotsky was famous for a political tactic called Entryism, in which political devotees of a particular group infiltrate and turn the the positions of another opposing group in order take over that group and expand opposing ideas from within. Think of it like a virus, rather than a bullet. Trotsky made this strategy famous in France.
Now take into consideration the Republican party’s fall from the Taft / Goldwater era republicanism into full blown anti-constitutional pro-big government neoconservatism and you can see why it’s obvious to me that this was Irving Kristol’s plan all along. This is why today there are so many disparate factions in the Republican party. You could easily even credit this with the creation of the alt-right, as the alt-right arose from the abandonment of classical conservative values within the Republican party.
So the next time you see someone calling another person a neocon refer them to this article if they aren’t pointing the finger at the right people. Especially if those people they’re pointing a finger at are libertarians or paleo-conservatives. It’s time we ended the improper use of this term, once and for all.