ournalist Alexander Cockburn has died after a painful battle with cancer at the age of 71. Cockburn wrote for The Nation and co-edited Counterpunch, my favorite radical leftist website. Whenever I talked about there being hope on the left, I was mainly thinking about people like Cockburn.
Cockburn embodied the admirable concerns of leftism—good conditions for workers, anti-racism, social equality, good living standards for the masses. But he was no blind supporter of the state. Far from it. He supported gun rights, was skeptical of regulation, and favored Ron Paul over Barack Obama in 2008—with very few reservations. He was almost alone among the left in his outrage at the Clinton administration for the siege that took over seventy lives near Waco, Texas, in 1993. He did not fall for the Brown Scare tactics of the establishment left. He was very skeptical of global warming alarmism. He occasionally wrote stuff a libertarian would disagree with, of course, but most of what he wrote was more critical of the establishment, the warfare state, and even domestic leviathan than much of what you’d find almost anywhere else.
I met him once, at a peace conference hosted by the Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the summer of 2008. The first thing I said to him was, “You’re my favorite commie.” He smiled and knew and did not take it the wrong way. He gave a great talk appealing to the largely libertarian crowd in which he skewered the absurdity of government recycling mandates and the Obama cult. He was always willing to associate with free-marketers and conservatives in opposition to the bipartisan empire.
It is the end of an era. Cockburn’s idiosyncratic, anti-authoritarian leftism was nearly unique, and became increasingly rare in the age of Obama. I will miss his work a great deal.
In 2000 Alex participated in an Independent Institute policy forum on the drug war.