Friday, December 23, 2005

State-less Socialism

I get called an oxymoron (which I guess is better than being called just a moron, by Warren Kinsella) for using the term Libertarian Communist.

When I pondered the title of this page I could have called it an anarchist, or anarcho-syndicalist, or autonomous marxist or a libertarian socialist,
or left communist. But I decided to use the contradictory phrase libertarian communist. Which to me is embraces all these the ideas and those of the Anti-Parlimentary Communists, which included Sylvia Pankhurst, James Connolly and Guy Aldred.

My, my all these terms which are really interchangable. They really are only terms used for what Kropotkin orginally said of anarchism, 'we are the left wing of the socialist movement'. Why I use the term Libertarian Communist rather than Anarchist Socialist could be best illustrated by comparing the ideas of Marx and Benjamin Tucker .

Not to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and secure to every man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism. What Anarchistic Socialism aims to abolish is usury. It does not want to deprive labor of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not hold that labor should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired at usury. Benjamin Tucker

This is what I call distributist economics, that is the idea that the problem with the market place is distribution of goods rather than the social relations of production. Tucker was influenced by Prodhoun in this and it is the idea that the problem with capitalism is usury and monopoly, and could be summed up as a fair days wage for a fair days work.

In fact it is exactly that phrase which we get from the old labour movement of the time the American Federation of Labor, which was influenced by another 'anarchist socialist' Joe Labadie. Both Labadie and Tucker represent this American school of anarchist socialism.

Whereas the IWW took as their watchword
Abolish the wages system. from Marx's essay Value, Price and Profit.

And for good reason, wages will never reflect thre real value of labour, merely its exchange value, the price paid for a good. In this Marx was using the original idea of gift economy, where the intrinsic value of the goods exchanged were determined socially, by prestige or importance of the person giving them, rather than their value as appraised in money or exchange value. Thus the call to abolish the wage system is a call to also end wage slavery, which is the source of all capitalist profit.

It is not a question of wages or prices; these are but the reflections of the social relations of capitalism. K. Marx

And this is where the Anarchist Socialist school of Labadie and Tucker diverges from what I call Libertarian or Anarchist Communism. Labadie and Tucker were the percursors of todays Libertarian movement, and still are. Whereas my position is closer to that of the older Anti-Statist Socialists and Communists.

Too often today Libertarianism is equated or associated with Ayn Rand, Objectivism, neo-conservatives, the Austrian School of Economics, and a host of other right wing theorists. The knee jerk reaction of many so called right wing libertarians (because they follow neo-liberal regulation economics I refer to them as liberaltarians for accuracy) I read or who occasionally post here, is to immediately equate ALL socialism as STATE socialism.

Idealistic socialists consider the socialism under Stalin’s state to be a far cry from what they want, which, if I understand their paradoxical philosophy correctly, is actually some form of voluntary socialist anarchy –In the end, state capitalists and state socialists will always find enough common ground to work together. They’ll continue to advance a corporate state socialism that no peaceful, freedom-loving individual wants. And so the rest of us, who reject the state and are willing to put all our other nominal differences aside, must stick together, at least in our attempts to push back the wave of statism imposed on us by the authoritarian socialists and state capitalists of all parties and all stripes.

Corporate State Socialism by Anthony Gregory

And this is their major failure in understanding the history of the socialist movement, which is where their libertarianism (anarchist socialism) originates from. They continue to mistake state capitalism (a historic evolution of capitalism) with socialism.

However there are some who you will find listed in the sidebar either under Blogs I Read, or A little Anarchy who are evolving a new debate amongst those of us that are Anti-Statists, Left Libertarians.

"Tom Knapp, you see — like Kevin Carson, myself, Professor Roderick Long and the Libertarian Left in general — holds that free-market anarchism is, in all essentials, fundamentally compatible with and/or identical to a genuinely voluntary, anti-state socialism." Brad Spangler

And it is not just the right that suffers from this knee jerk reaction, the left wing anarchists do as well. They like to dis and dump on Marx, Engels as well as the socialist and communist movements, as if the old fights over the First International of Bakunins day occured mere moments ago.

In doing so they often throw Marx out with the bath water, something even Bakunin wouldn't do, since he admonished anarchists to read Marx's writings. Their dispute was political, over the practice and formation of the revolutionary organization of the workers movement. Bakunin was fascinated with secret societies, as well as unions and direct action. Marx and Engels argued for public mass workers political parties, to win sufferage and democratic reforms of the state.

The anarchist movement was very broad, as broad as the entire socialist movement itself. It carried the seeds of the gay and womens movement in it in England, where anarchism and socialism were united in William Morris's Socialist Labour Party.

When those that talk of nationalization, without speaking of workers ownership of the means of production, they are speaking of state capitalism, not socialism.

The influence of anarhco syndicalism on the communist left and the socialist movement cannot be under estimated. Along with the workers councils (soviets) that arose in 1905 in Russia and again during WWI in Russia and Italy showed that workers could run production by themselves for the good of all.

It gave a model of real socialism, not state socialism, not nationalization of capitalist industry and not Prussian War Socialism which the Bolsehveks degenerated into. Rather it opened a door on a future socialism that was not parlimentary, but revolutionary, and not middle class; the social welfare state.

Here are some quotes from the radical socialist movement which sound like they lept off the pages of the Libertarian movement in their criticism of the State and State Socialism.

Man will be compelled, Kropotkin declared, "to find new forms of organisation for the social functions which the State fulfils through the bureaucracy" and he insisted that ''as long as this is not done nothing will be done."
Anarchism as a Theory of Organization Colin Ward (1966)

On the other hand the State has also been confused with Government. Since there can be no State without government, it has sometimes been said that what one must aim at is the absence of government and not the abolition of the State.

However, it seems to me that State and government are two concepts of a different order. The State idea means something quite different from the idea of government. It not only includes the existence of a power situated above society, but also of a territorial concentration as well as the concentration in the hands of a few of many functions in the life of societies. It implies some new relationships between members of society which did not exist before the formation of the State. A whole mechanism of legislation and of policing has to be developed in order to subject some classes to the domination of others.

The State: Its Historic Role
Piotr Kropotkin

For ourselves, we consider that State is and ought to be nothing whatever but the united power of the people, organized, not to be an instrument of oppression and mutual plunder among citizens; but, on the contrary, to secure to every one his own, and to cause justice and security to reign.

The State
Frédéric Bastiat

Finally, in its struggle against the revolution, the parliamentary republic found itself compelled to strengthen, along the repressive measures, the resources and centralisation of governmental power. All revolutions perfected this machine instead of smashing it. The parties that contended in turn for domination regarded the possession of this huge state edifice as the principal spoils of the victor.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
Karl Marx

Socialism properly implies above all things the co-operative control by the workers of the machinery of production; without this co-operative control the public ownership by the State is not Socialism – it is only State capitalism.

Schemes of state and municipal ownership, if unaccompanied by this co-operative principle, are but schemes for the perfectioning of the mechanism of capitalist government-schemes to make the capitalist regime respectable and efficient for the purposes of the capitalist; in the second place they represent the class-conscious instinct of the business man who feels that capitalist should not prey upon capitalist, while all may unite to prey upon the workers. The chief immediate sufferers from private ownership of railways, canals, and telephones are the middle class shop-keeping element, and their resentment at the tariffs imposed is but the capitalist political expression of the old adage that “dog should not eat dog.”

It will thus be seen that an immense gulf separates the ‘nationalising’ proposals of the middle class from the ‘socialising’ demands of the revolutionary working class.

State Monopoly versus Socialism
James Connolly
Workers’ Republic, 10 June 1899

There is not a Socialist in the world today who can indicate with any degree of clearness how we can bring about the co-operative commonwealth except along the lines suggested by industrial organization of the workers.

Political institutions are not adapted to the administration of industry. Only industrial organizations are adapted to the administration of a co-operative commonwealth that we are working for. Only the industrial form of organization offers us even a theoretical constructive Socialist programme. There is no constructive Socialism except in the industrial field.

Here is a statement that no Socialist with a clear knowledge of the essentials of his doctrine can dispute. The political institutions of today are simply the coercive forces of capitalist society they have grown up out of, and are based upon, territorial divisions of power in the hands of the ruling class in past ages, and were carried over into capitalist society to suit the needs of the capitalist class when that class overthrew the dominion of its predecessors.

What the Socialist does realize is that under a social democratic form of society the administration of affairs will be in the hands of representatives of the various industries of the nation; that the workers in the shops and factories will organize themselves into unions, each union comprising all the workers at a given industry; that said union will democratically control the workshop life of its own industry, electing all foremen etc., and regulating the routine of labour in that industry in subordination to the needs of society in general, to the needs of its allied trades, and to the departments of industry to which it belongs; that representatives elected from these various departments of industry will meet and form the industrial administration or national government of the country.

In short, social democracy, as its name implies, is the application to industry, or to the social life of the nation, of the fundamental principles of democracy. Such application will necessarily have to begin in the workshop, and proceed logically and consecutively upward through all the grades of industrial organization until it reaches the culminating point of national executive power and direction. In other words, social democracy must proceed from the bottom upward, whereas capitalist political society is organized from above downward.

It will be seen that this conception of Socialism destroys at one blow all the fears of a bureaucratic State, ruling and ordering the lives of every individual from above, and thus gives assurance that the social order of the future will be an extension of the freedom of the individual, and not the suppression of it. In short, it blends the fullest democratic control with the most absolute expert supervision, something unthinkable of any society built upon the political State.

Industrial Unionism and Constructive Socialism
James Connolly
From Socialism Made Easy, 1908.

Trade Unionism has conquered social power and commanded influence in so far as it satisfied and arose from the social necessities of the capitalist epoch. Because it has answered capitalist needs, the Trade Union has qualified for its modern position as the sign manual of skilled labour.

But the growth in social and political importance of the Trade Union leader has not menaced the foundations of capitalist society. He has been cited more and more as the friend of reform and the enemy of revolution. It has been urged that he is a sober and responsible member of capitalist society. Consequently, capitalist apologists have been obliged to acknowledge that he discharged useful and important functions in society.

This admission has forced them to assert that the law of supply and demand does not determine, with exactness, the nominal - or even the actual price of the commodity, labour power. Hence it has been allowed that Trade Unions enable their members to increase the amount of the price received for their labour-power, without being hurtful to the interests of the commonwealth-i.e. the capitalist class-when conducted with moderation and fairness.

Modern Trade Unionism enjoys this respectable reputation to a very large extent because it has sacrificed its original vitality. This was inevitable, since, in its very origin, it was reformist and not revolutionary. Trade Unionism has sacrificed no economic principle during its century's development. It has surrendered no industrial or political consistency. But it has not maintained its early earnestness or sentiment of solidarity. Had it done so, it would have been compelled to have evolved socially and politically. Instead of stagnating in reform, it would have had to progress towards revolution.

Our Trade Unionist friend, with his loose revolutionary violence and threatening, as opposed to a sound revolutionary activity, finding himself either consciously or unconsciously on the side of bourgeois society, will insist that there must be representation and delegation of authority.

To this I reply with the statement of Marxian philosophy, that every industrial epoch has its own system of representation. The fact that minority and majority rule find their harmonious expression in the political bureaucratic autocracy of capitalism signifies that its negation in the terms of Socialism shall embody a counter affirmative which embody the principle of true organisation and freedom of the individual idiosyncrasy. What the details of that organisation will be shall be made the subject of discussion in another essay. That it will not be "a Socialist majority" can be' seen from the fact that democracy usually signifies the surrender of majority incompetence and mis-education to the interests of minority expertism and bourgeois concentration of its power over the lives and destinies of the exploited proletarians, no less through the medium of the worker's Trade and Industrial Union, than through that of the Capitalist State.

Marx truly conceived of the bourgeois State as being but an executive committee for administering the ~affairs of the whole bourgeois class, which has stripped of its halo every profession previously venerated and regarded as honourable, and thus turned doctor, lawyer, priest, poet, philosopher, and labour leader into its paid wage workers. The Trade Union becomes daily more and more an essential department or expression of the bourgeois State.

Out of the class or property social system there cannot emerge a "representation" which signifies an honest attempt to secure just exposition of principles and expressions of antagonistic interests. Where there is no social or economic equality, there can be no democracy and no representation. The barren wilderness of money- juggling "freedom" cannot secure real personal liberty of being to any citizen. True organisation like true liberty belongs to the future - and the Socialist Commonwealth, or, as I have termed it elsewhere, the Anarchist Republic.

Trade Unionism and The Class War (1911)
Guy Aldred

Thus, economically, politically, and psychologically the whole of the trend of social evolution shows that Socialism can only have its social expression in an era of freedom, and its political expression in a State which shall treat of the management of production instead of the control of persons*. The psychological guarantee against expertism will be found in the contempt with which all men will regard it, and the tendency to excellence of administration ~ill be reposed in the admiration which all men will have for efficiency Should this possibility still meet with opposition on the ground that such a central directing authority finding its embodiment in a collective will, would not find legal oppression incongruous with its industrial basis, one cm only conclude that either humanity is inherently bad and progress an impossibility or else that in a system of absolute individualism must humanity's hope lie.

*Here the term 'State' is used in a sense entirely unhistorical. Such a political order is Anarchy and can only be termed a state in the sense of being a social condition

Well thats all well and good and I could find more quotes to make my point but that is the past what about the future. Could we organize ourselves into self governing associations and federations? Could we replace the state with self governing anarcho communism? Why heck sure we could cause you are online in a libertarian communist gift economy right now.

During the Sixties, the New Left created a new form of radical politics: anarcho-communism. Above all, the Situationists and similar groups believed that the tribal gift economy proved that individuals could successfully live together without needing either the state or the market. From May 1968 to the late Nineties, this utopian vision of anarcho-communism has inspired community media and DIY culture activists. Within the universities, the gift economy already was the primary method of socialising labour. From its earliest days, the technical structure and social mores of the Net has ignored intellectual property. Although the system has expanded far beyond the university, the self-interest of Net users perpetuates this hi-tech gift economy. As an everyday activity, users circulate free information as e-mail, on listservs, in newsgroups, within on-line conferences and through Web sites. As shown by the Apache and Linux programs, the hi-tech gift economy is even at the forefront of software development. Contrary to the purist vision of the New Left, anarcho-communism on the Net can only exist in a compromised form. Money-commodity and gift relations are not just in conflict with each other, but also co-exist in symbiosis. The 'New Economy' of cyberspace is an advanced form of social democracy.



angryroughneck said...

Your writing abilities are compelling but your premesis being wrong gurantees your faulty conclusions (rationalism is your philosophical school-- it is no coincidence you can speak French).

Entrepeneurs biggest problems are not distribution but rather "WHAT do distribute" and "how to most efficiently allocate the resourses neded to produce the chosen product". Leftism always associates production with its physical aspects (the idea that the toughest part of building the skyscraper is the placing of bricks and concrete--no doubt formidable but paling in comparison to what the original architect acheived). This linking of production to only its physical componenets is called materialism and ignores the importance of the role of mind in production. It says the most complex aspect of lightbulb is its assembly ignoring the contribution of Edison and in fact villanizing his mental efforts.

One last thought. In a free world which is compatible with capitalism you are free to arrange yourself in any social or working arrangement you choose to. This leaves you free to start communal businesses and anarchist orginizations (publications)without any fear of persecution. In your world what is my destiny? I am free as long as I want to be an interchangeable clog in your machine. As soon as i vote to vote against this conformity you will have no option other than silence me. Call me a dissenter and for the good of the people send me to the gulag. Worse what if me and a hundred others decided to quit the commune and form a company with a hierarchal structure based on voluntary contracts then what would happen? Would you allow us to live as we choose? I am powerless to determine your values in a capitalist world and yet you hope to create a world based on the premise of freedom by first inscribing mens proper values?

eugene plawiuk said...

If your guild or corporation or 'free association' was based on voluntary contracts then it would not be a heirarchy, since heirarchy's by their nature exist through force or coercion.

So I don't think ahyone would be joining your hierarchical organization 'volunatarily' unless they were into S&M which is also consenual.

And in a society of 'freely associated producers' you would be free to organize as you please in any voluntary non coercive way.

Much like the prairie farmers during the depression who formed coops, the Wheat Board and their own insurance company; the Investors Group.

And in fact there would be no need for contracts as we would have abolished wages. Distribution would be to the mutual benefit of all, since we can even now produce an abundance of goods. If you need some 'system' to register distribution I would suggest energy credits ala technocracy, rather than price or labour credits.

Brad Spangler said...

If your guild or corporation or 'free association' was based on voluntary contracts then it would not be a heirarchy, since heirarchy's by their nature exist through force or coercion.

I'm not sure that I entirely agree with that, as it seems to me that small, temporary and meritocratic hierarchies ought to be able to emerge naturally without coercion. I suspect they would tend to be no more than two or three layers deep and dissolve once their members found them no longer useful for a shared purpose.

eugene plawiuk said...

Brad you raise an interesting point however I would say that meritocracy was based on the old skilled trades traditions and Freemasonry is an excellent example of this as well. Such associations would exist. However as Josiah Warren pointed out most 'trades' or 'craft' training could abolish the roles of apprenctice, indentured servant, and journeyman and be reduced in training time. On the other hand I could see merti based societies and fraternities such as Masonry continuing to exist, though open to all not as they are consitituted now as mens clubs.

cxx_guy said...

You say that you want to "deprive capitol of it's reward". So let us imagine we have a dirt farmer. He has a house and clothes, he digs in the ground with his hands because he has no tools. He scatters seeds which he collects from somewhere. He gathers his crops with his hands, and he grinds the grain by rubbing it on a rock (which could be called land, rather than capitol if it was sufficiently large). He decides that he wants to use a digging stick, rather than his hands, to dig. But, oh horror, were he to do so, he would be gaining from capitol: a means of production. So how does your society without a government to club him to death and confiscate his stick, prevent him from realizing his evil scheme to get his ill gotten benefits of capitol?