A bomb went off. Bombs actually, the plural, there were two of them, multiple blasts. This means war, of course, another one where we will create tomorrow’s bombers and arsonists, terrorists for the next generation. This war will cover even more ground than the last one, truly a blanket generalization of all things not us, terror, engineered xenophobia.Or maybe this war will be engineered against the citizens themselves, a sort of Cold-Civil War. Between the TV, the internet, our cell phones, all live feeds are flooded.
Because of this interconnectedness, this “globalization”, the whole world gets to feel the reverberation of the bomb blasts. Events like this cause a shift in the cultural consciousness; it is an almost visible movement away from before, in this case before the bomb, to after. The same phenomenon can be observed with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 9/11, it happens quicker now though; the pace has shifted with our consciousness. Because of this “globalization, the power of words and images in succession, the illusions of control, many more people can be affected by just one big event, just another way technology has made our lives cleaner and more efficient.
Hear that plane turning just a little too quick, engine sounds rising to sharpness rather than the dull roar of just another aircraft. Our eyes shift up, we don’t hide under our desks anymore when there’s a threat because we know it all now, know that if the bomb went off, if the plane hit, if the gun fired, that it wouldn’t really matter. We are the New Cold War Kids, and our paranoia is deeper and darker than that of the last. We understand now the implications of real life destruction. We understand that we no longer have all those other governments to fear but our own as well.
Things like this happen in Afghanistan and Iraq, places like Syria, every day. Some fire chief in Boston says something about only seeing things like this in the middle of a war. THIS IS A FUCKING WAR! It just doesn’t happen at home, only through the safe distance of our T.V. screens, our cell phone screen, our computer screens. We get the American version of war, like popcorn and watching the televised initial invasion and bombing of Baghdad way back when. Remember that? Of course you do. Just like we got to watch live as Saddam Hussein was hung from his neck until death, fantastic, justice has been served.
We have lost three innocent lives today. But thousands more innocent people will pay for these deaths with their own lives. Another eleven year war, hell let’s make it fifteen. No one has taken responsibility yet and no one has been blamed, but I rest knowing that whoever it ends up being, or whoever ends up getting framed, there will be retaliation. A violent backlash. The live feeds light up with phrases like someone must pay for this. We recall Bush’s ground zero speech; Obama gives a speech looking like a soul empty political cynic.
We are the New Cold War Kids, our fear is deeper, our anger is deeper, and our paranoia is stronger. We understand the implications of this. We understand, or we think we do, with pupils dialed black and faces awash in blue computer light from our tvs, our computers, our cell phones.
TL;DR: Very entitled.
Over the past few years there has been a growing consensus, especially on the Right, that “entitlement culture” is exploding around the world. The meaning of “entitlement culture” generally is an allusion too the growth of social democracy; particularly among the mainstream Left in the United States and the long existent social democracy in Western Europe. This rejection of “entitlement culture” is parallel to the revival of ‘libertarian’ thought streams within the same regions. For this reason, and because of the bourgeois nature of ‘libertarian’ thought; this rejection of “entitlement culture” has taken a decidedly bourgeois nature.
Clearly, no one wants to be “shafted”. No one wants to live in a society where some willingly abuse the existing framework to receive undue compensation. This is one reason I am a socialist. I do not wish to live in a society where a ruling socio-economic class extracts a lavish lifestyle off the 99.9% of the world’s toiling population. Obviously, there are for more significant reasons for my socialism than just preferential moralism; however, it is quite clear that the right-wing interpretation of “entitlement culture” has no interest in examining the growing entitlement the bourgeois feel.
We all hear the rhetoric about “welfare queens” and other decidedly conservative condemnations of those on public assistance, but what about the growing bourgeois sense of entitlement?
The clear message of this graph is that even though the working class is continuing to produce more commodities, their share of the ‘social pie’ is falling. Contrary to many Austrian beliefs regarding value in the economy, profits and value do not fall out of the sky. If the working class is getting less and less of the ‘social pie’ logically this implies other classes are gaining more.
The conclusion is quite simple, the bourgeois are growing their share of the ‘social pie’ at a faster pace than the other classes.
The question now is why?
I do not intend the answer to be some sort of Post-Keynesian social commentary on income inequality. The answer really has to do with the nature of capitalism itself. Something that cannot be fixed by rearranging the twigs i.e. playing rodeo with interest rates. The answer has to do with the ethics of capitalism itself, or the lack thereof. The industrial revolution was a dynamic time for humanity, especially with new social relations molded through systemic wage labor. With these new social relations developed a parallel interpretation of ethical action among economic agents:
“It (the bourgeoisie) has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”.” Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
This ‘naked self-interest’, as Marx calls it, became the accepted ethical hegemon in Europe and the United States from the Industrial Revolution up until WWII. The devastation of imperialist war had an interesting impact on the interpretation of political economy, even within capitalist countries. While the US and Western Europe by no means abandoned the capitalist property relations, they hoped to give the system some ethics with a push towards social democracy. In the United States, “business ethics” became popular around the 50′s where even Barry Goldwater would later describe how his petty bourgeois family sacrificed personal compensation to keep workers employed. This “business ethics” was based largely on a traditionalist and reactionary application of patriotism and social responsibility. It was the responsibility, even of the bourgeois, to contribute to the prosperity of the nation as a whole through various social programs and aggressive income taxation.
Then came neoliberalism. “Business ethics” was abandoned for a re-glorification of ‘naked self-interest’. The idea that production has no social nature and the individual is solely responsible for his holdings whether it be a country cabin or every Walmart on earth. This lead to a growth in the anti-Tax movement and accompanying right-wing sub-movements such as the Tea Party. Capital is essentially turning full loop. Back when labor was fixed and the national bourgeois has to pretend to appreciate the working class, we saw much different rhetoric. Now that the global labor market has opened up, the mask is off and “capitalism with a smile” is once again just capitalism.
Now more than ever, the bourgeois feel entitled. They see themselves as “job creators”: our socio-economic lords and virtuous saviors. Rather than pretending to be “one of us” they assert their self-righteous dominance as the ruling class of our capitalist society. Even though their role in social production continues to fall, their sense of entitlement continues to grow. They demand less taxes, less regulation, more deductions, less rights for workers etc. All the while criticizing those who receive less than $400 a month in food assistance as members of the “entitlement culture”.
So, who is really entitled? Those who suggest their meager wages be supplemented or those who demand more of a stake in the ‘social pie’ despite the fact they are statistically becoming less responsible for that same pie. This bourgeois sense of entitlement becomes especially sickening when considering their entire existence depends on manipulating the labor of others.
Before a Mises’ junkie writes that the bourgeois claim to “job creation” is true, think of this: why are there few car dealerships in Sub-Saharan Africa? The answer lies in the comparatively low disposable income in Sub-Saharan Africa relative to say the United Sates. Capitalism thrives off a large middle class that can purchase all of the useless commodities churned out by the consumerist industrial infrastructure. Without consumer demand, there would be no jobs within capitalism. Even many marginalist economists recognize that the role of the capitalist is to simply meet that demand through effective application of the means of production and labor. The bourgeois do not “create jobs”, even in the classical sense.
For fear of appearing as a Post-Keynesian, reminiscing the days of “shared sacrifice”, I will reaffirm that the “business ethics” of post-WWII United States and Europe was a pitiful attempt to moralize a system beyond moralization. The property relations hardly changed, even as Labor grew in power relative to Capital. The capitalist class still ruthlessly exploited the working class and began to examine its prospects in the would-be Third World. The difference was that the capitalist class then was for more effective in Public Relations. By shifting the discussion from class struggle to national struggle, they were able to divide and conqeour the international proletariat and take the spotlight off themselves. Interestingly, we see similar rhetoric today from the anti-China crowd of the national bourgeois. Paraphrased: our economic crisis has little to do with the internal contradictions of capital accumulation, but really because the Chinese are some shifty bastards. Essentially, the bourgeois were telling us to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Now, with no vested interest in any single national labor force, their true colors have began to show once again.
Truth be, there can be no peace between the exploiters and the exploited. The capitalist feels himself entitled to a lifetime of labor from others and uses this wealth to entrench himself even further against proletarian interests. While the Right-wing pundits in the US media accuse their detractors of “class warfare”, one must realize that this is simply the nature of reality. The bourgeois have been struggling against the interests of the international working class for centuries and the retaliation is far overdue.
So how do we end this “entitlement culture”? First, we need an economic system where individuals can work full-time and not have to beg the state for more assistance or periodically spend hours in unemployment lines. Second, we need a cooperative organization of economic structures that replace capitalist competition and bourgeois entitlement with solidarity among all toiling people. Where no person extracts a living off the backs of others. The mental and physical division of labor must be crushed; the working class must take the full future of social production into their own hands. We need socialism. Capitalism cannot be fixed. The system contains internal contradictions that will always produce crisis, general inequality, and all manner of excess. No amount of social democracy, federal oversight, or reform bills will ever change the fundamental nature of a system that exists only through inequality and exploitation.
A society where freedom is not a right but a privilege is no society worth defending.
Comandante Chavez, hasta siempre. Todos somos chavez.
The word authoritarian is thrown around in leftist circles quite frequently; and, for good reason. The presence of authoritarianism is quite prevalent throughout all class societies; whether it manifests as a genocidal “National Socialist” party or the United Fruit Company.
However, there also exists an equally prevalent hatred for an abstract conception of authoritarianism; this detest for authoritarianism, as an abstraction, became especially obvious following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
In the hours following the Comandante’s death, anarchist circles such as r/anarchism and various online groups were pouring out condemnation of Chavez as an authoritarian tyrant, not fit for the support of socialists. This presents an interesting question to the socialist left:
What does it mean to be ‘authoritarian’ and in what way do we apply this to our critical theory?
Before I attempt to answer this question with some relevance, allow me to be frank. I brutally detest this condemnation of Chavez as an ‘authoritarian’. Even on the most objective level, looking at the facts of Venezuelan democracy, we know this condemnation to be baseless. Venezuela has begun to establish a proletarian democracy in the truest sense of the phrase. Local and direct participation from the masses of working people are developing Venezuelan anti-capitalism in a way never seen before. Tens of thousands of cooperatives and community councils have been established as the power organs of this Bolivarian Revolution, yet, the bourgeois individualists are not satisfied. This is because the Chavistas realize, as revolutionaries before have, that the democracy of the working class must exclude the democracy of the exploiters. The national and international bourgeois who seek to exploit Venezuela’s rich resources must be crushed and the revolutionary democracy must reflect this necessary exclusion.
Why should we socialists give a single damn about how the bourgeois are being systematically crushed in Venezuela? This appeal to some ‘individual liberty’ being stolen from the Venezuelan bourgeois is straight from the depths of liberalism.
So, can we conclude Chavez was an authoritarian?
Absolutely. To the bourgeois who seek to create a fortune subjecting millions of Venezuelans to deplorable conditions, Hugo Chavez was a ruthless authoritarian. To the petty bourgeois who did not wish to embrace the class struggle but remain indecisive about the brutality of imperialism, he was the devil incarnate. This the paradox of authoritarianism.
Truth be, all class systems are authoritarian in some way. As Marx pointed out, in the early stages of socialism, the class system will still exist. However, the Dictatorship of the Bourgeois will be replaced by the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The influence of the capitalist class will be ripped from the power organs and replaced by the interests of the toiling and oppressed peoples. This important distinction is one that is either misunderstood or blatantly rejected by many ‘anarchists’.
The idea that we can somehow successfully resist authoritarianism in the abstract is simply infantile. When one begins to understand the class nature of society, one understands that the class struggle pervades every crevice of socio-political existence.
Many will point out how proper anarchism resists all forms of illegitimate authority, especially within state organs. This is no doubt true, but the material reality of the situation is often reflected through history. Take for example, the anarchist movement in the Spanish Civil War. Were these anarchists authoritarian? In some sense, no doubt. The anarchists were violently hostile towards the fascist capitalist class as well as its allies within the clergy. But is this authoritarianism “bad”? From a Marxist position, absolutely not. More power to them! The bourgeois were rightly crushed and the interests of the Spanish worker were finally realized through the power organs established by the anarchists of Spain. Understanding how authoritarianism is also subject to the class nature of social relations is essential to move beyond this infantile naivety which rests not in proletarian theory but bourgeois liberalism.
With this understanding, let us return to the original question.
Answering the Question
“What does it mean to be ‘authoritarian’ and in what way do we apply this to our critical theory?”
If we are going to be intellectually honest we must conclude that we socialists of the Left are indeed authoritarian. We wish to rid the world of capitalism, imperialism, and all manner of alienation against the interests of the propertied classes. To those privileged classes, we are the epitome of authoritarianism. Thus, to be an ‘authoritarian’ is a fact of the conditions; a fact of the class struggle.
There are plenty of discussions to be had about possible ethical differences between ‘authoritarian’ and ‘non-authoritarian’ socialists but at the end of the day we are socialists. We are united against the hegemony of Capital and stand strongly with Labor. Our differences in ethical preferences cannot supersede our solidarity as revolutionaries.
Instead of of dividing ourselves between ‘authoritarians’ and ‘non-authoritarians’, I encourage the socialist Left to have fruitful discussion about praxis and the ethics of such revolutionary action without creating more enemies. There is nothing wrong with having a preference towards one form of socialist action than another. It is, however, wrong to make enemies of fellow socialists because of these preferences, which, are usually determined by material conditions more so than free will.
For ‘anarchists’ to condemn Chavez as a tyrant and likening him to a dictator is frankly embarrassing What good does it do to draw even more arbitrary lines in an already sectarian and marginalized movement? The fact that a socialist thread does not meet your narrow and dogmatic definition of “socialist” does not make it “bad” or “authoritarian”; it simply reconfirms the fact that as individuals we all hold personal preferences.
It pains me to see the anarchists who once fought for the liberation of the working class to be tainted by bourgeois liberalism to the point of petty sectarianism.
comrade, work and fight for the revolution
We must ask ourselves, where do we stand? For what class do we fight? Are we socialists or ‘anti-authoritarians’ in the abstract? Above all else, I am a socialist. My allegiance will forever be with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world. To crush the capitalist as a class and begin an era of liberation from every type of alienation.
If you are truly against authoritarianism, as it exists abstractly, you must dedicate yourself to the class struggle. Only once the capitalist property relations that condemn the vast majority of the world to poverty and alienation are removed can the class system begin to dissipate. Only once the class system has been forever banished and tossed onto the trash heap of history can authoritarianism, as an abstraction, truly be non-existent.
Hecho en memoria de Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias. Viviras en nuestros corazones para siempre. Hasta siempre, Comandante. Descansa en poder.
Growing up in the United States public education system, one is taught to revere the philosophies and days of old. In every classroom, the walls are decorated with pictures of the founding fathers and with posters of the “core democratic values”. Children sing songs commemorating the ideology of liberalism and patriotism. We were taught the importance of the constitution and looked at its writers as almost god-like figures; held to a standard above reproach.
Even in the adult realm of social theory and political economy, it seems as though the Enlightenment principles and philosophies, to which we broadly consider as becoming Liberalism, dominate every aspect of our socio-politics.
Certainly, there are many things about the Enlightenment that we can all feel warm and fuzzy about. The Enlightenment gave birth to ideas of a representative government, of freedom of speech and religion, and of the right to assembly and petition. Enlightenment philosophers also developed the epistemology of rationalism and empiricism, which have grown to encompass all of our scientific and academic advancement.
More importantly, the Enlightenment took a unique class character, one of the early bourgeoisie. It was this class character which, at the time, was termed by the landed aristocracy as “new money” that would in the next century swallow Europe in a period of industrialization and rapid economic growth never before imagined. This bourgeois thought also challenged the existing institutions of class suppression such as the Catholic Church; and would eventually destroy absolutist monarchy and feudalism in its quest for social domination.
So what about the Enlightenment is not properly understood or applied in the West particularly?
First a quick lesson in Marxism: Through Dialectical Materialism we understand the nature of how social forces moving and conflicting develop new social orders. Through Historical Materialism we understand the sum of history can be understood as a class struggle. With these understandings, we can view the Enlightenment as taking a specifically bourgeois class character. The West would like to paint the Enlightenment as a fixture of human advancement, owning no character but instead representing the timeless virtue of a liberal state. This, as we have come to understand, is completely fictitious and contradicts what we understand as Dialectical Materialism.
All of this begs the question: why is this important?
Well, similar to how the bourgeois dominate the legal interpretations of property and more importantly, physical property relations; bourgeois thought also dominates social discourse. We have allowed Enlightenment principles to impede our own judgement and prevent the development of new and revolutionary thought systems based on an ever-changing material condition. Rather than analyze a situation freely we have trapped ourselves in the intellectual stalemate of identifying the proper Liberal analysis and then applying it as if it was our own.
Let us take a rather simple example, study this photo for a moment:
What are some of the first things that come to your head? If you were raised anything like me, then you would first jump to criticize this picture as implying there is something wrong with income inequality (and we all know the importance of social inequality!). But why would we do this? The reason is we have been educated into a fixation with the idea of “individual liberty”, whether or not this concept makes sense, whether or not it applies to the hedge fund manager making billions of dollars, we immediately assume this must be an attack on his individual liberty; and then we make the even more peculiar conclusion that this is “bad”.
A very interesting question to ask would be, why should I care about his “individual liberty”? Why would it be “bad” if we were to seize all of his assets? If the ethics of capitalism produce a system where one man can hoard enough wealth to feed millions, then that interpretation of “individual liberty” is essentially useless to me; and until anyone proves otherwise, it should be considered useless as a priori ethics should have no weight without good reason.
Also, note how the picture ends with a very petty bourgeois punchline. It begins with what seems to be a critical inquiry into the ethics of inequality, and ends with a DNC slogan about capital gains tax. This is another example with our contemporary fixation with the Liberal principles of the Enlightenment, one of them being the nature of taxation in a republic. Why can we not criticize the system that allows him to pile up so much wealth without acting within that system’s framework?
If we truly want to find solutions, we must ask tough questions. Perhaps ”individual liberty” can be founded on something other than private property and the right of increase? Perhaps “individual liberty” can adopt a revolutionary and proletarian character; one that adopts an interpretation of “liberty” that does not encompass the freedom to exploit? Perhaps we could have a discussion about the nature of inequality itself without having to end that discussion with a Liberal punchline?
Essentially, the Western fixation with Liberalism (in the classical sense) has destroyed the audacity we need to develop truly powerful answers to our toughest questions. Answers that may go outside what is deemed “acceptable” by the establishment politics. If we do not crush these sentiments towards Liberalism then we cannot ever hope to have an honest discourse with any fruitful results.
Debunking Liberal Ethics
Locke’s Austrian bastard child
Back on the issue of the picture above, what would be a genuine liberal (right-libertarian in the US) response to that image?
While we do not have a case-specific response, we can deduce an answer by examining the following*:
“The key to the theory of liberty is the establishment of the rights of private property…”Crime” can then be defined and properly analyzed as a violent invasion or aggression against the just property of another individual.” – Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
In a phrase, more of the same. It is wrong to talk about action against income inequality because that means violating a person’s property, which is a violation of self-ownership etc. etc.
Allow me to dispel a Liberal myth for a moment, one that is vaguely implied by the excerpt above. This myth is that “liberty” gave birth to capitalism. That, essentially, an ethical framework that protects “liberty” produced what we now consider capitalist social relations and this is why current property relations are A) inevitable and/or B) justified in someway. Think back, even to your schooling, if you were raised in the United States this most likely resonates strongly as this is what is drilled into children. That “liberty”, as a principle, will produce what we now call capitalism.
This is entirely false and hinges on some non-materialist almost quasi-spiritual interpretation of the word “liberty” as if it were the one ethical principle to rule them all.
The truth is that capitalism has no ethics, it has no morals, it has no reason or judgement. It is a system. A system defined by exploitation of the inequality of exchange and perpetuation through capitalist property norms. A system where half the world anguishes in unimaginable deprivation to create market value for a select few. What we now consider “capitalist ethics” is merely an attempt to morally justify what was already taking place at an alarming rate in the late 18th century.
Thus there should be no intellectual qualms about discussing “unethical” remedies to the situation when the ethics in violation are about as redeemable as any other ethics.
What we must understand is that there is no objective definition of “freedom”. There is no right or wrong way to interpret “individual liberty”. There is nothing wrong with strongly criticizing the idea of bourgeois democracy in a “republic” and analyzing a contemporary situation outside of the intellectual box invented two centuries ago. In fact, we must struggle against bourgeois thought; it is an inevitable and incredibly important component to the class struggle.
In the same way that the capitalist transformation of the means of production produced bourgeois thought, socialist transformation of the means of production will produce proletarian thought. Socialist thought that will provide an answer to the questions I asked earlier; and every person dedicated to a new social order must become a catalyst for this new thought. What we cannot be is enslaved to the Enlightenment, we must realize that Liberal intellectual conceptions are not timeless tools of socio-political measurement, but a bourgeois tool of dominance; a tool we must resist.
Liberation begins when you realize you’re a slave.
The question of Women’s Liberation has always been one of a strenuous nature. Even amongst the broader Left, the role and function of Women’s Liberation has varied greatly. I will set the record straight by first not using the phrase ‘Women’s Rights’; I find this terminology highly frustrating because it tends to assume that women can reach some form of social worth within the existing capitalist framework. Functionally, this is not possible. As capitalist social relations serve to exploit and commodify the toiler, so do they women. Thus, the question is not one of furthering Women’s Rights but achieving Women’s Liberation.
First, let us establish what we mean by Women’s Liberation. What are they being liberated from? Similar to how Labor has been subjected to Capital, women have been subjected to the interests of men; for the former, the course of capitalist social relations, however, the latter has been a subjugation for millennia.
“Bourgeois democracy is democracy of pompous phrases, solemn words, exuberant promises and the high-sounding slogans of freedom and equality. But, in fact, it screens the non-freedom and inferiority of women, the non-freedom and inferiority of the toilers and exploited.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
“Worst of all, it is women who usually have to do, usually alone, all the dirty work of the kitchen and household, work that is unimportant, hard, tiresome, and soul-destroying” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
The alienation experienced by literally billions of women today is difficult to swallow. Skeptics will point to the relative advances of women in the 1st World, ignoring the brutal conditions that exist for women in the vast majority of the Earth. Even with these relative advances the position of women still remains one of subservience to male interests in much of the world. World politics, social commentary, and economic action is largely dominated by white wealthy men. Although women perform around 60% of the world’s labor, they own about 1% of the world’s property (source: UNIFEM). This incredible inequality is only compounded upon the dredging social position women are chained to.
Women, throughout history, have largely been treated as little more than glorified cattle by the establishment males. Even the Bible illustrates stories of how women were traded as property between men, married off in the young teens, and victims of horrible sexual atrocities during war and peace time. To be a woman in this world is a daunting task.
This alienation has created a learned helplessness in so many women; where “male leadership” becomes the normative route of escape for many alienated women. This can lead to a life filled with chronic depression, general anxiety, and no hope for self-actualization. In this sense women, even if they in the 1st World have reached some level of material comfort above their 3rd World counterparts, are still normally treated as property of men and suffer the mental and emotional damage that comes with being viewed as a commodity and not a human being.
Now that we recognize the oppressive conditions to which so many women are subjugated, we must begin to explore the nature of this liberation from said conditions. No doubt this means the destruction of gender roles as we know them today. Gender roles must be replaced with a cooperative arrangement of social stewardship and childcare that maximizes effective techniques and respects the equality of men and women.
The key to liberation, whether from capitalist property relations or gender roles, requires us to understand the forces that necessitate these relationships. Similar to feudalism, capitalism established a very dominant male role within society to ensure its own survival. Why male dominance? There are a few reasons for the establishment of male dominance, especially in early industrial capitalism. First, so that property and property rights could be passed through a patrilineal scope. Second, so that the male could be freed to do more labor for the capitalist (and also so the wealthier wives of capitalists could manage the affairs of the household for the male.). And thirdly, so that the means of sexual reproduction could be externally controlled in the favor a comfortable labor supply. All of this begins to explain why as society’s become more ‘affluent’, the clamor for women’s liberation begins to grow. The role of patriarchy within capitalism has degenerated with the course of the Law of Value. Production is no longer so reliant on an expansive growth in labor, namely large families; thus women are beginning to find freedom outside of these gender roles that have dominated their lives for centuries.
Some will say this analysis trivializes the situation of women to be a symptom of socio-economic relations. This criticism, although perhaps partially true, ignores a couple critical elements. First, ALL systemic exploitation within the realm of capitalism can be attributed to the functions of capitalist property relations. Second, the idea that women’s liberation is actually a quest for sexual control illustrates women as static monoliths of history that can only be consumed by a single-issue. This fixedness upon the sexual nature of women is an intellectual dead end. Women must be liberated FROM the defining nature of their reproductive organs in the same way that workers must be liberated FROM their function as cogs within the capitalist machine. This crucial understanding paints the goal of Women’s Liberation to be as vital to the revolutionary movement as the liberation of the working class.
“There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be “equality” between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the exploited and the exploiters. There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be real “freedom” as long as there is no freedom for women from the privileges which the law grants to men, as long as there is no freedom for the workers from the yoke of capital, and no freedom for the toiling peasants from the yoke of the capitalists, landlords and merchants.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
Understand, this does not mean we wish to replace the female reproductive process with some ludicrous pseudo-science as is portrayed in the dystopian Brave New World. Rather, we wish to reinvent the process of childrearing and stewardship, functions of the female gender role, as cooperative and just processes that reflect the socialist nature of the productive reorganization of society. A reorganization that smashes gender roles and looks upon men and women as human beings, not machines, embodied with a social value that exists outside of their alienating functions within gender fixedness.
The ‘Agent’ of Liberation?
Obviously the question must arise as to who shall do the liberating? As the goal of workers and women’s liberation’s are uniquely related, so is the nature of this agent. In the same way that the toiling class must be the engine of their emancipation, so must women be at the forefront of Women’s Liberation. This should not mean that women fall prey to the Liberal fixation on reproductive rights. There is no doubt, that matters of abortion, contraception, and family planning are of incredible importance to the movement. Yet, women must seek to advance themselves in all points of society, especially in socio-economic relations. This begins with the ultimate goal, the destruction of capitalism.
The importance of women in their liberation cannot be stressed enough. More than a practical point of organizing and mobilizing, the struggle of women, for women, ensures that there is no presence of bourgeois male ‘heroism’ as we saw for so long (and still see) in the sexist Disney movies. Where the heroic and courageous man saves the helpless, ‘damsel in distress’. How disgusting. This false ‘heroism’ must also be resisted in all liberation movements for marginalized peoples. Including depictions of Black Liberation, especially in recent movies such as Spielberg’s Lincoln where the black population is depicted as static and helpless in the face of white oppression; where only white people could save them.
Although, this does not mean that the male feminist has no role in his female comrade’s campaign. The male feminist finds himself in an important position as well. He must not only support women in their liberation, but fight for the original premise of feminism, the equality of the sexes; thus, he must set out for the destruction of gender roles. The male feminist, then, must embody this spirit of cooperation and solidarity in a collective struggle with his female comrades against women’s exploitation; in all facets of society, including his personal life.
Thus the most controversial aspect of Women’s Liberation arises: how personal relationships function within the umbrella of the movement?
Some have suggested polyamory and similar “free love” movements as appropriate models for this movement. The decision to identify with the “free love” community or a polyamorous relationship is a personal one and one that should be respected like all other relationships between consenting adults. However, the fallacy here is to believe that “free love” and polyamory are by nature, aligned with the movement for Women’s Liberation. Similarly, not all monogamous relationships are identified against the Women’s Liberation movement. Let us not confuse a very intimate and personal choice between consenting adults with an attitude towards revolutionary change. Polyamorous men can still be manipulative and oppressive, men in the “free love” community can still be misogynist and sexist. A guiding principle for the male feminist should be the famous quote, “women hold up half the sky” (and according to world labor reports, a bit more than half). The way a male feminist treats his female comrades should always be tempered with the same respect that he treats his male comrades. Especially in an emotional relationship. An attitude of bilateral (or multilateral) cooperation should always supersede some machoist conception of “male leadership”.
What we cannot accept is this tongue-in-cheek mocking of Women’s movements by those on the Left; especially by the so called “manarchists”.
What a joke. A bunch of coffee-shop revolutionaries who come together to discuss how men are so unfairly dominated by a sense of “male disposability”, forgetting the literal millennia of oppression women have faced: socially, economically, politically, and legally.
There is no question that the male gender role must also be destroyed, but the neo-social conservatism of these “manarchists” is detestable. They have taken the right-’libertarian’ stance against social justice and concluded that all feminist movements must be dominated by “white knights” and misandry. This is not the proper way men should articulate arguments against male gender roles. Rather than find solidarity with the feminist movement they would engage in all sorts of subtle misogyny like “slut shaming”. Disgusting.
But unlike the “manarchists”, the traditional social conservatives actually hold influence outside of 4chan.
This is where the fight for Women’s Liberation begins, the social arena. It is the duty of all feminists to bring gender roles into the general public discourse and to propagate the values of a cooperative and truly emancipated society. More so than discourse, grass roots action against misogyny must be waged in every strata of socio-economic and political life. This is the struggle that lays ahead of us and must only be intensified.
“Freedom and equality for the oppressed sex! Freedom and equality for the workers, for the toiling peasants! A fight against the oppressors, a fight against the capitalists…That is our fighting slogan, that is our proletarian truth, the truth of the struggle against capital, the truth which we flung in the face of the world of capital with its honeyed, hypocritical, pompous phrases about freedom and equality in general, about freedom and equality for all.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
Update: Personal obligations have kept me at bay, temporarily preventing me from extending upon my series of articles against Austrian Economics. Rest assured, these articles will return in the following week.
The history of the Communist Party is one as fluctuating as the history of the Left itself. The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) was once a militant and working class party devoted to proletarian internationalism and class struggle. Now the CPUSA is not even a shell of its old self. Whether through deliberate liberal hijacking or simple naivity, this once great organization is now an embarrassment to the Socialist Left everywhere.
Before those on the Right accuse me of the ‘No True Scottsman’ fallacy, lets put things into context. There are many militant socialist organizations present in the United States. Yet, because of the simple fact the CPUSA has the most recognizable name, it attracts the most attention. Even though the ‘party’ itself has blatantly given up on the idea of world revolution and armed struggle. In fact, there is nothing remotely Marxist about the party, and I say this with a great deal of shame. Almost every ‘congress’ this party holds is actually just a Democratic Party fundraiser and the ‘party’ might as well rename itself the Political Action Committee for Democrats Who Like the Color Red.
I do not want to come across as petty or juvenile in my criticism of the CPUSA. All of my criticisms are based on strong convictions towards Marxism and my conclusion that the CPUSA only damages the image of actual socialists. This is why an open denunciation, such as the title of this article, is necessary.
right-wing extremists from the NRA
In one of my previous articles I wrote against the idea of Gun Control from a Marxist perspective (see Marxism Against Gun Control: Why Marxists Should Oppose Gun Control) .
I thought that the evidence I provided, including a direct quote from Marx himself, would set the record straight. Unfortunately, I awoke yesterday to find a news headline about the CPUSA’s support for Gun Control and especially President Obama’s recent measures. I knew that the CPUSA was increasingly becoming a schill organization for Obama, but I had not known the true depth of this revisionist idiocy.
On January 18, Rick Nagin of the People’s World, the press arm of the CPUSA, published the following: Fight to end gun violence is key to defending democracy. The name alone piqued my interest and after reading it several times I decided it was necessary to take the time to fully chastise the position of this article.
See the article here
First, let us just examine the title and the intended connotations behind it. Fighting gun violence is certainly something worthwhile. Fighting all needless violence, especially that brought about by systemic inequality, is a noble cause. However, this does not need to imply gun control. Many highly educated and peaceful societies also allow the free access of the common man to firearms. If you want to truly fight gun violence, we should eliminate the conditions which make gun violence inevitable. Conditions which put millions of uneducated and unemployed persons into a state of desperation, where violent crime becomes a course of survival. This, at least, would be the proper way to go about reducing gun violence; not the gun control proposed by the revisionists at CPUSA.
These people need to realize they are a threat to our children.
Now, let us examine the second part of the title, the ‘key to defending democracy’.Perhaps more so than the first phrase, I find the second quite troubling. The necessary implication here is that democracy exists in the United States. What a slippery slope the CPUSA has set itself upon. If we exist in a real democracy then what is the need for revolution, or a revolutionary programme? The fact is that the United States is not a democracy, not even in the bourgeois sense. It is a constitutional republic. Thus, the entire premise that the CPUSA sets forth is either intentionally dishonest or unintentionally false.
With all of this said, let us examine the actual content of the article. The article reads like a New York Times editorial, not surprising given the recent path of the CPUSA. The article paints Obama as the rational warrior against the right-wing extremists of the NRA and their neocon allies. Some of this may be true. The NRA is for all intents and purposes, a fringe organization that has, in the past, supported racist legislation. Is there some truth to the idea that the fringe right-wing is manipulating the original intent of the Second Amendment to propagate their idiocy? Perhaps. However, the history of the Second Amendment, to a supposedly Marxist organization, should be irrelevant on the issue of gun control. The goal of any Marxist or revolutionary organization should be to empower the working class and all oppressed peoples; one of the means for such empowerment is to ensure that they are armed to protect their class interests as well as their individual well-being.
“The amendment was adopted as a means to enable the new American republic, lacking a standing army or state national guards, to muster militia to put down domestic uprisings, including slave revolts, to repulse any attempted return by the British and to deal with clashes with Native Americans on the expanding frontier. These issues vanished long ago…”
Most of this is definitely true. Yet, Mr. Nagin goes onto write,
“The Second Amendment is obsolete and now has been twisted to threaten the basic safety and security of all Americans… No government, especially one that is new and fragile, has ever authorized citizens to arm themselves against it.”
His following paragraph makes a couple critical errors. First, it assumes that if the Second Amendment is ‘obsolete’ that means the right to possess firearms is irrelevant; this is a complete non-sequitur. Even if much of the original intent of the second amendment to the Constitution is irrelevant now, that does not mean that we should campaign against gun ownership.
Secondly, the phrase ‘No government…has ever authorized citizens to arm themselves against it.’ is at least partially false and most definitely obtuse. Early workers’ states such as Cuba and Mao’s China armed the masses as a means of preserving the revolution. The intent was that if the workers’ state was to ever be corrupted, or the revolution threatened, that the masses could rise to defeat the reactionaries. So in a sense, no, no government ever handed out guns saying “shoot us if something goes awry” but the principal intent of a Working Class movement should be to empower the masses to carry on the revolution and defend it from reactionaries, internally and externally.
Look at the hatred and ignorance in their eyes.
Once again, we see the CPUSA’s elitist demeanor displayed in their subtle disgust for working class militancy. If we are for mass power and the power of the toiling classes, then why strip them of a critical tool in waging struggle?
“It is not only, as Vice President Joe Biden said, “a moral obligation.” We must rally behind President Obama to protect our safety and security and our basic democratic rights.”
What a dumbfounding declaration. It is our ‘moral obligation’ to support Captain Capitalism in his quest to marginalize the power of the working class? How disgusting. President Obama is a man who has rather openly continued Capital’s struggle to retain political, economic, and military hegemony in the world. In fact, there is not a sphere of influence in which he has advanced the interests of the proletariat. At the very best, he has helped entrench the discourse in a battle between petit bourgeois ‘ethical capitalism’ and fringe right-wing Laissez-Faire; and at the worst intensified the struggle against working class power, domestically and abroad. For the CPUSA to suggest we rally around this man to ‘protect…our basic democratic rights’ is frankly shameful.
They should just call the police.
And what exactly does Mr. Nagin mean by ‘our basic democratic rights’? The right to participate in the ongoing left/right political masquerade? The right to live in a police state? The right to forever be subservient to Capital? The incredible amount of bourgeois liberalism seeping out of the People’s World is truly frustrating.
Perhaps the most upsetting part of this ordeal is the fact that the CPUSA is seen as the American representative of the Marxist/Socialist/Communist movement. This could not be farther from the truth. I have yet to personally meet a single socialist/marxist/communist who associates with the CPUSA. Beyond that, as I mentioned earlier, the CPUSA has forfeited the idea of world revolution and armed struggle(which came with their abandonment of Leninism). So what exactly are they? Who knows. They seem to be a body of naive bourgeois liberals but I like to think that deep inside the ‘party’ lies a group of actual Marxists/Socialists. If that is the case, I encourage them to seize control of their party and begin to actually represent the Working Class once again.
In the meantime, I urge all of our comrades to distance themselves from and denounce the CPUSA. It is crucial to educate the public on real revolutionary movements and not this liberal ‘reformist’ nonsense. We rally behind the Working Class, behind revolution, justice, and equality; not President Obama.
“no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary” – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
As Murray Rothbard explains in his Ethics of Liberty, complete self-ownership is absolutely essential to a propertarian ethics. This is precisely why I extend on my criticism against propertarian (specifically anti-state pro-capitalist) ethics on the point of self-ownership.
“If a man has the right to self-ownership, to the control of his life, then in the real world he must also have the right to sustain his life by grappling with and transforming resources; he must be able to own the ground and the resources on which he stands and which he must use. In short, to sustain his “human right.” – Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
“something, something, markets, something”
So from a Marxian perspective, what is troublesome about the concept of self-ownership? After all, isn’t it axiomatic, as Hoppe and other Austrian theorists would contend?
As with all things, context matters. If the concept of self-ownership is applied to argumentation then a more acceptable standard would be not an axiomatic condition of self-ownership, but rather a recognition of self. I cannot own my arm because my arm is me. It is one part in a unique composition of physical elements and properties that define my being.
The real problem with self-ownership lies in the word ownership. I cannot technically ‘own’ my arm or any other part of myself because it is myself. Even on the most basic level, there is no agent to hold the ownership. In addition to the logical inconsistencies of self-ownership, it opens up a realm of ethics where even the most obvious and detestable exploitation can be masked by ‘rational’ self-interest. The foundation of self-ownership allows Austrian theorists to construct a palace of socio-economic oppression and alienation and with a bit of moral ‘wiggle room’. Perhaps it is not the fact that Austrians seek to explain the nature of capitalism and all its strata that sparks my distaste for them. In this sense alone, their mission is not all that dissimilar from an individual who seeks to explain capitalism from a Marxian perspective (ignoring the completely different philosophical underpinnings). The threshold of my distaste is reached when Austrians try to justify the brutal nature of capitalism even to the point of moralizing the economic structure and its elements as ‘just’ and ‘natural’ (precluding naturalistic fallacy) or how they enshrine the entrepreneur as a hero among idlers. This twisted reasoning is why I have taken to describing all the branches of propertarian thought as suffering from the ‘poverty of ethics’. This attempt to understand human action divorced from context and material reality can only produce a blanket of petty moralization’s and lofty ideas.
It’s all smiles at self-ownership inc.
Let’s look at the self-owning folks over at Foxconn. Despite the brutal work conditions, terrible pay, and incredible alienation, it is still a sought after position to work in such a sweatshop. Why? Rational self-interest, of course. I say this in complete seriousness. It is clearly the most rational option (acting within the given framework) for the laborer at Foxconn to accept his meager existence day after day.
This does NOT mean there is not terrible exploitation afoot; there most definitely is. The obvious problem with my analysis above is that it ignores any contextual factors that produce this rationality. If we seek to understand why a person acts a way he/she does and what this means for ethics, we must first understand material conditions. The laborer seeks to better themselves, more importantly, to eat and help his/her family eat. To achieve this he/she must sell their labor-power to a capitalist in order to make a wage and reproduce their existence. They must do this due to a preexisting inequality of exchange rooted in capitalist property relations. Where the capitalist owns the means of production and thus the dominant social device by which an individual produces his/her existence. Thus, the most rational option is to sell ones labor-power to the highest bidder. On face value, however, this explains nothing. It only reaffirms what we already know. Reason is only a form of epistemology or in the realm of political economy, the most rational course of action. Rational self-interest can only determine a route of action given an existing framework, it does not at all explain the condition in which that decision exists let alone provide a moral justification for exploitation. Only a dialectical materialist understanding of human relations and material conditions can begin to describe, with accuracy, the course of socio-economic action and postulate on ethics.
In the Austrian realm, however, self-ownership displaces the nature of an action entirely within the agents acting. This a wholly reductionist methodology that ignores all the crucial context of that action. The concept of self-ownership only helps to “blame the victim”.
We all know this is just a depraved and awkward attempt to shame the toiler into accepting his/her conditions as inevitable. Material conditions are not defined by rational self-interest, rational self-interest is defined by material conditions. This important sequence is one that is not fully absorbed by the Austrian community.
Back onto meaning of ‘ownership’ in self-ownership, the clever usage of this word denotes something rather alienating. If it is possible for me to own my body, this means that my body may be treated like property: used and abused. If my body can be owned by myself, it does not take much time before institutions such as slavery are developed, where persons can be owned by other persons; or in relation to capitalism, wage slavery. This means that labor-power is not valued as an extension of ‘being’, but something that can be rented or sold. Effectively in self-ownership, humans become things, things to be owned by themselves, but in more cases, by others. Things that can be traded on the market, rented in the workplace, and sold to others. More importantly, humanity which produces ‘things’, becomes subjected to ‘things’. Thus begins the long history of capitalism and capitalist social relations. Where physical relations between people become social relations between things. Where a human life can be weighed, valued, or thrown away. Where dead labor decides the course of living labor. Where pieces of paper carry the weight of life and death.
Ultimately by owning oneself, oneself may be owned.
This is the dangerous path that Austrian ethics marches down. Perhaps it is not so much a danger as it is a justification for the brutality that already exists. Capitalism already subjects a vast majority of the world to toiling in alienation for no more than the minimal existence that can be afforded. Ideas such as ‘self-ownership’ only insult those exploited persons who have spent a life time being shuffled from one master to the next.
All of this begs the question, if one does not own oneself, who does?
At the risk of delving too far into humanist philosophy, I will say humans should not be owned by anyone. Ownership is a condition of privilege, extreme privilege. The privilege to use or abuse as one sees fit. In this sense, ownership of humans by themselves or other humans can only be an oppressive relationship. One that exploits existing inequalities or the intrinsic nature of one agent for the benefit of the other. Self-ownership really means that we can sell or rent our labor-power to others. It grants no benefit unto us. Even the light conception of ‘freedom’ or ‘individualism’ granted by Austrian ethics, founded upon self-ownership, is completely illusory. Thus, a possible Marxist antithesis to self-ownership might be a ‘free development of self’. So that humans might be able to associate and develop among each other but not own each other. The primary difference beyond the obvious antithesis would be that the ‘free development of self’ is inextricably tied to social production and material conditions in a dialectical manner; as are most things.
It is with this understanding that one might realize why Marxists favor cooperation over competition, democratic processes over private forms of unilateralism, mass participation over mass pacification.
All of these ideas help us formulate what a liberated humanity could look like, but more importantly, the path we take to arrive there. Bourgeois ideas like self-ownership can be of no use to a revolutionary. They only help to justify brutality, mask the chaos, and displace the fault. Self-ownership is useless bourgeois sophism that bears no weight to the vast majority of the planet’s population. This is, once again, the poverty of ethics. What is a phrase like ‘self-ownership’ to a man with nothing to eat? Empty words fall deaf on an empty stomach.
Full disclosure: I have known Lauren Smith, one of the subjects of this blog post, for over five years. We are online friends, and I first “met” her through a feminist community I once co-moderated.
An estimated 22 anti-capitalist protesters were arrested on Saturday after police clad in riot gear violently disrupted their march against colonial genocide, which is celebrated each year on Columbus Day. This was the second day of four days of action deemed, “decolonize the new world,” which is aimed at disrupting Columbus Day celebrations.
More than 100 people gathered at Bradley Manning plaza at around 2PM, before taking the streets of San Francisco’s deserted financial district at around 3PM. In between chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Columbus Day has got to go!” and “No justice, no peace! Fuck the police!” officers were splattered with paint. — Political Fail Blog
According to San Francisco police, members of the group were threatened with arrest because they did not ask for permission to protest on public streets and members became violent. (“Officers arrived in the area and were immediately struck by projectiles thrown by members of this group. One officer was struck in the head and sustained non-life threatening injuries.” — SFPD press release) Sympathetic sources argue that the police instigated any violence that occurred during the protest. Personally, I am far more inclined to agree with the protestors than with the cops. Even assuming that some of the protestors were lobbing rocks at the police, it appears that many — if not all — of the cops were wearing riot gear. They were more than protected from a few pebbles or paint in Ziploc bags. As per normal, the police responded with physical violence against the protestors, many of whom were protected only by sunglasses and bandannas.
But hey, it makes sense to me. Rocks win against helmets, while bandannas form an impenetrable forcefield against nightsticks and pepper spray, amirite?
Yes, it is very easy to find out Lauren’s Twitter info and our mutual friend’s info, but I’ve redacted it for my own reasons.
In between then and now, the police and the DA’s office are in the process of fighting with Twitter to get Lauren Smith and Robert Donohoe’s information, tweets released to them, as well as the political affiliations of everyone they are affiliated with, have ever contacted on Twitter, etc. As Lauren tweeted in the above screencap, this is an obvious ploy to create a network of information to use as a tool of political repression against anarchists, anti-capitalists, and other political dissidents.
Crazy talk, amirite?
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is, of course, skirting the real issue at hand, claiming that, “I don’t think that you have a right to privacy when you’re engaged in that type of criminal behavior.” (Because it’s not like that is a pretty fucked thing to say when you work in the damn criminal justice system.)
Smith and Donohoe have filed to quash the subpoena. In the meantime, a support group (Support the ACAC 19) has provided a form fax/email and a script for phone calls. That info is accessible right here. Please, share this link and fax, call, or email the SF DA’s office to pressure them into dropping the charges against the ACAC 19; also, if you have any cash to spare, you can donate to legal funds right here.
(Addendum: You can also email the Misdemeanor Managing Attorney at Wade.K.Chow@sfgov.org and this guy, James.E.Thompson@sfgov.org, who is handling the case for Laura Claster while she’s out of town.)
Whether you are a market anarchist, a communist, or a two party person, I’m sure you can see the frightening implications here. This is a clear move by the state to frighten people out of associating with dissidents, let alone subscribe to those views themselves. This is the exact type of shit that we — as Americans — like to tell ourselves doesn’t happen. Not here, not in this country. We live in a free country, damnit, not Communist China! I’m not somebody who typically shrieks “police state” every time I turn around, but can you really blame someone for thinking we live in a police state?
The horrific tragedy that took place on Friday, December 14th 2012 cannot be expressed in words. The actions of one gunman forever altered the lives of countless families and the discourse surrounding gun control in the United States.
I will not spend any time trying to dissect the motives or nature of the gunman; I am not a psychiatrist. It would be futile for me to attempt to do so.
So many innocent lives were taken so quickly all we can do is hope that such horrible atrocities are never seen again. I can only give my condolences to all those effected by such an awful tragedy which brought incalculable pain to so many.
The rifle most likely used by the gunman.
One issue, however, is getting more press coverage than ever: gun control. Following the massacre in Aurora, we saw a surge in discussion over possible gun control measures. Now, many individuals with good intentions are wrongly pursuing such policies once more.
Allow me to clarify a few issues before I elaborate further. First, no one wants to see his children grow up in a world of AR15′s and AK47′s. The sheer volume of death machines in the United States is frightening on any level. A world without any weapons is easily preferable to one so dominated by death and its instruments. The truth of the matter, however, is that at least 270,000,000 guns exist in the United States. Effective gun control would be impossible in these conditions and the only persons that would be affected would be working families who do not want to risk their livelihood by breaking the law.
Second, I am not a ‘gun-nut’, a member of the NRA, or even remotely conservative. I do not believe that guns have mystical qualities or that they grant the owner access to abstract conceptions of honor, courage, or bravery. Guns are only tools of death. A tool I would not want to be monopolized by the capitalist state.
The above statement easily summarizes my entire position. A position founded upon a recognition of class war and the extent of that struggle. To base the protection of gun ownership on a principle of ownership is to set your foundation in erosion. These lofty abstractions are meaningless; especially when they do nothing to challenge the material existence of the status quo. Talking aimlessly about natural rights of gun ownership only reaffirms the poverty of ethics. At most such abstractions are petty bourgeois talking-points with no sense of direction, and thus can be of no service to a revolutionary.By allowing the bourgeois state to monopolize the ownership of these tools, we only hurt the working class. The liberation of the working class must be our utmost priority, for without it, a truly ethical system is unreachable and humanity will forever be subjugated. It is for this reason, not for a love of guns, that Marx writes:
“… the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition… Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. ” – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
Marx realized that class struggle means giving the working class every possible tool to ensure its victory. By concentrating the ownership of firearms into the propertied class, or its state organs, one is only stacking the odds against the working class. It will be argued that this quote from Marx is outdated and refers specifically to the conditions of the workers in Britain. Such an analysis fails to realize that the class war has not yet been won. Yes, times have changed, the mode of production has evolved, but it still remains firmly in the hands of the capitalist class. Any hint of socialist policies progressing in our society is illusory. Any concessions made to labor have only reaffirmed the victory of Capital and made more resolute the bourgeois position against social revolution.
Capital remains firmly in command.
As long as Capital dominates property relations, so too will bourgeois interests dominate the socio-political realm. This brings me full circle to a previous article of mine (see: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principe). My primary argument being that socio-political action divorced from a contextual understanding of property relations will always serve to reproduce those same relations. Meaning (at least in this context), it is nearly impossible for a conscious directive from the bourgeois state to damage the interests of the capitalist class. This is one of the primary reasons why reformist actions have only served to re-entrench the bourgeois as the dominant class and co-opt the genuine class struggle.
Historically, this is becomes even more obvious. From a historical materialist perspective, gun control, among other weapon bans, has been utilized by the ruling class to consolidate power and crush resistance. Nearly every fascist leader has restricted gun ownership of the working class and used such leverage to execute unspeakable atrocities against those who would stand in resistance to their tyranny. Likewise, a gun ban or severe gun controls in the United States could only hurt revolutionaries and working class people, by making resistance to neoliberal policies illegal and violence against the masses impossible to mitigate.
Thus, the whole of the Marxist position on gun rights can only be a pragmatic one that exists to move the working class towards victory. This is also an important difference between a Liberal (as known in the American political realm) and a Marxist. A Marxist seeks to liberate humanity, to change the world. A Liberal seeks to propel bourgeois abstractions, to reinterpret the existing world. Unfortunately, petty bourgeois principles that ignore material conditions are just that, petty.
A completely separate question is whether or not such a wide possession of firearms will exist in a socialist society. To give my brief opinion, yes; however, in a much different circumstance and purpose than that possession exists today. Today, gun possession should be utilized to protect the worker from exploitative advances. In a socialist society, gun ownership would be maintained by the organized proletariat as a socially necessary tool to remain firmly in power. Gun controls might also be introduced, in a socialist society, against counter-revolutionaries, fascists, or belligerent class enemies who seek to restore capitalism. This, however, is a totally different issue for a totally different article.
In truth, no one want to see more children die. No one wants to see more innocent lives lost. Yet, we must recognize that gun control is not the answer, and as Marxists, resist such attempts to hurt the working class. Only then can we realize a truly safe world. Safe not only from crazed gunmen in our schools but from the masked insanity of capitalist accumulation that threatens the well-being of our entire reality.
‘Hitler was a National Socialist. Get that? Socialism is Nazism.’ - generic Jim, the right-wing nut
Without a doubt, any individual with a rudimentary knowledge of history could tell you that Hitler co-opted the socialist movement to seat himself in power. The right-wing obsession with the word “socialism” in National Socialism has become more apparent to me as time goes on. Lacking any critical inquiry into the nature of Nazi Germany, they jump to the conclusion that socialism must be related to Nazism. Thus, if you are a socialist (marxist or otherwise), then you are no better than a Nazi.
Pretty ridiculous right?
The reason I address this issue is because yet another “Anarcho” – Capitalist cretin tried claiming that advocating voluntary forms of socialism is no better than advocating for “voluntary nazism”
Difficult to see, more for provable documentation.
How common is this gross misconception among the right-”Libertarians”? It is difficult to say with certainty. However, what can be said is this sort of misconception has fallen over the fence of ridiculousness and now swims in a sea of absurdity.
Before, I believed it was totally unnecessary to draw obvious distinctions between Marxism and Nazism; now it seems that the utter historical negligence from the right-wing will force me to do so.
A clear understanding of Nazi theory would illustrate the clear hatred for Marxism as a ‘weak ideology’ of ‘Jewish’ elites. Furthermore, a basic understanding of Nazi policies would show that Marxists and other socialists were the first members of Hitler’s concentration camps. In addition, there are absolutely no similarities between Nazi “ethics” and what is proposed by Marxists. Nazis were able to justify mass murder and genocide by clinging to a far-right ideology of domination where one race of humans was inherently superior to another. Marxism has always been of the internationalist paradigm and has criticized racism, nationalism, and all other reactionary conceptions as ideological weapons wielded by the propertied classes.
Perhaps I will extend more on the issue if some believe it is necessary but for now I will let readers feast on this episode of absent minded rhetoric.
By: Zak Drabczyk | Dec 10, 2012 The Commune
I want to take a moments break from the theory and debate to issue a strong message of solidarity with those workers who will be gathering in the Michigan State Capitol of Lansing tomorrow.
Being a Michigan native I know the price that is paid when unions are smashed, wages plummet, and jobs are shipped to more easily exploited states and nations. My father was a union member and it is because of his adequate compensation that I was able to live a fairly comfortable life and get the education that I use today.
This is a fight for workers rights and it extends deeper than the plots of the fascist Rick Snyder and anti-labor pundits. This is a global fight for the working class that should resonate with every person who has ever had to sell themselves to make a living or fight for what is theirs. This is that moment where we stand up and say “Ya Basta!”. Enough already! We are sick of bending over backwards so that the fatcats can get fatter while those of the working class are left to anguish. Its time for the working people of Michigan and the world to take their future into their own hands!
Fuck Rick Snyder, solidarity with Michigan workers and workers around the world! Workers of the world, unite!
I received plenty of feedback in my last article (See: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principle), some positive, some negative. A popular request was to review a few Austrian (I use ‘Austrian’ here as a popular reference to the Austrian School of Economics) works which challenge the Marxist interpretation of classes and exploitation. I accepted the request.
This is a critical response to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis (all excerpts used are directly quoted from the work).
Time Preference and the Austrian Critique of Marxist Analysis
Hoppe’s intention for his work is demonstrated quite simply in the introduction:
“I want to do the following in this paper: First to present the theses that constitute the hard core of the Marxist theory of history. I claim that all of them are essentially correct. Then I will show how these true theses are derived in Marxism from a false starting point. Finally, I will demonstrate how Austrianism in the Mises-Rothbard tradition can give a correct but categorically different explanation of their validity.”
Hoppe then goes onto make fairly accurate descriptions of core Marxist beliefs surrounding historical materialism, the labor theory of value, and class antagonisms. He then tackles the issue of surplus value and its exploitative properties with a criticism of Marx’s analysis:
“What is wrong with this analysis? The answer becomes obvious once it is asked why the laborer would possibly agree to such an arrangement! He agrees because his wage payment represents present goods while his own labor services represent only future goods-and he values present goods more highly. After all, he could also decide not to sell his labor services to the capitalist and then reap the “full value” of his output himself”
The classical answer to any Marxist conception of surplus value/labor: time preference. Hoppe continues to expand upon his previous criticism:
“…he [Marx] does not understand the phenomenon of time preference as a universal category of human action.’ That the laborer does not receive his “full worth” has nothing to do with exploitation but merely reflects the fact that it is impossible for man to exchange future goods against present ones except at a discount. Unlike the case of slave and slave master, where the latter benefits at the expense of the former,the relationship between the free laborer and the capitalist is a mutually beneficial one. The laborer enters the agreement because…he prefers a smaller amount of present goods over a larger future one.”
Hoppe’s criticism rests firmly on two conjectures. Firstly, time preference as an explanation as to why surplus value exists within the realm of ‘clean capitalism’. Secondly, the relationship between the laborer and capitalist is ‘mutually beneficial’, void of any exploitation.
Let’s start with time preference. First, Hoppe’s commits the fatal error of ignoring context. As I pointed out in my previous article, the greatest failure of any libertarian philosophy surrounding socio-economic action is that it divorces action from the material conditions it exists in. The only way to understand why a person acts is to understand the environment which shapes that action. Thus, time preference can only be seen as a valid explanation if you presume the legitimacy of private ownership.
Marx’s entire premise regarding capitalist property relations is that they exist to reproduce a material condition which legitimize private property. Giving birth to the circular logic of Capital. Time preference can only exist because the laborer exists in a property relation where his only choice is to sell his labor-power. The material conditions of depravity that pressure the laborer to sell his labor-power do not affect the capitalist who owns the means of production (aside from the obvious duty of a capitalist being to produce and sell commodities). The capitalist class is the sole class with any feasible sense of flexibility as they exclusively access the means by which one may subsist. Therefore the statement that “After all, he could also decide not to sell his labor services to the capitalist and then reap the “full value” of his output himself” is utterly nonsensical.In capitalism, time is money and the worker cannot afford to wait. To reproduce his existence, he must sell his labor-power; even if this means being exploited. With this understanding it becomes obvious that there is little ‘decision’ to be made. The choice of Capitalism is illusory. Where before the slave/serf would be bound to a master/lord, the laborer is only bound to material conditions which force him to hunt for a capitalist in which he can sell his labor-power.
Capitalism is based on an inequality of access and economic actions within its realm only serve to reproduce the existing conditions. Therefore, the principle of time preference is an insufficient attempt to legitimize (and trivialize) an inherently unequal and exploitative property relation.
Next, there is the issue of “mutual benefit”. Hoppe draws distinction between capitalist property relations and those that existed in forms of feudalism and chattel slavery. As I stated above, there are clear distinctions. However, to suggest that capitalism somehow uniquely proposes mutual benefit compared to previous property relations, is ridiculous. Capitalist property relations are mutual only insofar as they allow the capitalist to prosper and provide the worker with subsistence, paid piecemeal. This is not wholly different than previous forms of property relations where the slave/serf was (meagerly) fed and subsisted in a life of servitude to the master/lord. Engels points out the differences between the social existence of slaves and workers:
“The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence. This existence is assured only to the class as a whole.” – Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism
In this sense, the system of capitalism can hardly be considered “mutually beneficial” as Hoppe might intend the phrase. The entire property relation and all action therein (including conceptualizations such as time preference) is based on a system of brutal inequality and deliberate exclusion from the means of production. Therefore, the system of capitalism is still a system of exploitation.
‘Socialized Production’, Ownership, and Capital
“Under a system of socialized production, quite contrary to Marx’s proclamations, the development of productive forces would not reach new heights but would instead sink dramatically…”
A classic Austrian objection to social ownership of the means of production. He continues:
“For obviously, capital accumulation must be brought about by definite individuals at definite points in time and space through homesteading, producing, and/or saving…”
Let’s see how he attaches this to his objection against social ownership:
“In the case of collectively owned factors of production, an actor is no longer granted exclusive control over his accumulated capital…for him of the expected income and hence that of the capital goods is reduced.”
Hoppe presents a rather interesting criticism of social ownership, different from the cliche ‘calculation problem’.
First, let’s unpackage the language of his argument. He starts by identifying the source of wealth, or capital accumulation, as individual action. He does this so he can use ‘libertarian’ philosophy, posited by this interpretation of individual action, as a legitimization of private property. His mistake is in the subtle acceptance of the ideal abstraction of labor that overemphasizes individual production of capital; which can then be interpreted as an individual product. The real nature of capital is described by Marx and Engels:
“..capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society,which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character.” – Capital Volume III, Chapter 48, The Trinity Formula
Hoppe’s entire objection revolves around the idea that capital accumulation and the value of capital goods can be interpreted solely through an individual’s exclusive ownership, and likewise that this subjective interpretation holds the key to productive forces (which there is no reason or analysis given as to why). The truth is much different. The entire system of capitalism is based on a social context, an interrelated conundrum of values and productive units. In fact, exchange value, the locomotive of market interaction, is dependent on society as it is a social expression. This is because the exchange value of commodities is impossible to determine unless contrasted against other commodities. All production in capitalism is social, and likewise so is all consumption.
Ergo, the entire premise of Mr. Hoppe’s objection falls flat on its face. If we can recognize accumulation as a consequence of social production we can destroy any reasoning behind a “sinking” in productive capacities under social ownership because of a lack of “exclusive control”.
Moreover, Hoppe misinterprets the entire structure of social ownership. Genuine social ownership seeks to empower the worker by including him in a direct control over the product of his labor and the fixed capital he employs. The course of production, consumption, and the fate of his labor will be firmly in the hands of the worker, defeating any logic about there being a lack of “control” (especially when realizing all production as social production, see above).
Austrian Theory of Exploitation
“The starting point for the Austrian exploitation theory is plain and simple…Exploitation occurs whenever a person successfully claims partial or full control over scarce resources he has not homesteaded, saved, or produced, and which he has not acquired contractually from a previous producer-owner.”
It is interesting that Hoppe’s definition of exploitation readily includes so called ‘clean capitalism’ before the insertion of the phrase “acquired contractually from a previous producer-owner”. We know that in capitalism, the worker labors, the capitalist subtracts. If we were to simply remove the phrase in question, a much more agreeable definition of exploitation might be reached. The moral livelihood of capitalism hinges on the the interpretation of words such as “voluntary” and modifiers like “contractually”. So much so that these words and modifiers must first be divorced from a social context as to eliminate any doubts about the honesty of their application. The Austrian theory would like to paint billionaires as victims of exploitation via taxes or sweatshop owners as victims of unions or some other bourgeois interpretation of what it means to ‘aggress’. Which is really the cornerstone of Austrian ‘ethics’, being bourgeois reaction (see: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principle). The propertied classes need to redefine the meaning of ‘ethics’, or rather, co-opt its usage to protect private property and the right to it. This pandering is a natural political necessitation coming from a class that exists through and for the leverage of property.
Another interesting point here is the inclusion of the conjunction “and”; as if the property barons of today not only obtained their power through socio-economic coercion (I mean contractual agreement) but also through their own personal saving, producing, or homesteading. Such a nonsensical interpretation of capitalist accumulation really draws Mr. Hoppe’s perspective into question.
Nature and Development of the State
“And in the course of economic development, just as producers and contractors can form firms, enterprises, and corporations, so can exploiters create large-scale exploitation enterprises, governments, and states. The ruling class…is initially composed of the members of such an exploitation firm.”
Hoppe here is referring to the development of a state or a similar tool of suppression. Notice the distance he draws between your everyday, average, ‘nothing-to-see-here’, producers (bourgeoisie) and the ‘ruling class’. Interestingly enough, this is a common theme among Austrians. Precisely so because Austrian theory would have observers believe that capitalist property relations can exist separate of a form of institutionalized violence (e.g. the state). Admitting that the same bourgeois, drawn here as distinguished from the ruling class, are indeed the ruling class, would be catastrophic to Austrian theory. This is, however, the historical truth on the matter. The state is a tool of suppression, having evolved in modern society as a institution the capitalist class utilizes to suppress opposition and enforce their privilege. The bourgeois property rights proposed by Austrians, is the same property rights that necessitated the existence of a state.
“…with a ruling class established over a given territory and engaged in the expropriation of economic resources from a class of exploited producers, the center of all history indeed becomes the struggle between exploiters and the exploited.”
Once again, we see the same attempt at distancing property holders from the ruling class. Now, Hoppe goes as far as to mimic Marx’s famous “history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle” with his reinvented “center of all history…the struggle between exploiters and exploited”. A bold claim indeed, but does it stand true? In the blunt reading of the phrase, yes. With an actual analysis of what Hoppe means by “exploited” and “exploiters”, using the Austrian theory of exploitation, the answer is no. Hoppe is almost likening himself with modern day GOP pundits by painting the chilvary of private business against the tyranny of the state. The truth is much different. The state serves to protect the interests of the capitalist class, not exploit them. A quick reading of US Presidential history will make that very clear. Even small business interests are not exactly pitted against those of the state. Many small business owners enjoy a predictable rate of profit and market stability. The state through its suppressive functions helps maintain both a constant pool of uneducated and unemployed persons, as well as a stable market environment with minimal competition. All the factors necessary for a moderately successful capitalist enterprise. Austrians will point to the ‘red tape’ and excessive regulation coming from the state as proof of this antagonism, this is no proof at all. Given, some grievances exist about the quality of state administration, no grievances exist about the actual existence of these functions. This is why even the petit bourgeois anarcho-capitalist still supports private institutions of violence such as ‘private defense forces’ against none such institutions at all. This is because they recognize, subconsciously perhaps, the need for a violent and suppressive tool which can essentially mimic most of the functions of the modern state; only then more tailored to their preference. Thus, Austrian theory cannot clean the house, only reorganize the mess.
“While productive enterprises come or go because of voluntary support or its absence, a ruling class never comes to power because there is a demand for it…”
Perhaps this is only my rudimentary understanding of modern economics speaking, but for something to be produced, must not there be a demand for it? The demand is clear and present, and my analysis has shown that this demand comes precisely from the propertied classes.
Now Mr. Hoppe goes onto describe a society free of exploitation:
“Contrary to Marxist claims, this society will not be the result of any historical laws…Nor will it be the result of a tendency for the rate of profit to fall with an increased organic composition of capital…Just as the labor theory of value is false beyond repair, so is the law of the tendency of the profit rate to fall, which is based on it…”
The Labor Theory of Value is such an incredibly spacious concept, as its its conflict with Austrian theory, I will not elaborate too much on this final point.
The disagreement I will draw is with the denial of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. The tendency for the rate of profit to fall is a critical measure of understanding the internal contradictions within capitalism and attempting to denounce it in a brief conclusion did Hoppe no good. Without anymore analysis, allow me to cite some empirical evidence to the contrary:
Also, an interesting paper on the subject:
Overall, Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis was an entertaining read. Despite all the false interpretations, misperceptions, and the predictable assortment of Austrian theory punch-lines, it was one of the more polished criticisms of Marxist theory I have read. Marxist theory, however, far exceeds Austrian theory in class analysis and I hope every reader may come to understand this.
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Tags: Anarchism, Anarchist, Anarcho-capitalism, Austrian Economics, Capitalism, communism, communist, hans-hermann hoppe, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Marxism, marxist and austrian class analysis, mises, Rothbard, socialism, voluntaryism
Disclaimer: This post references the usage of offensive and racist language.
This weekend I was poised to release a detailed and critical response to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis; that was before my Facebook account was banned.
I awoke yesterday morning to an unpleasant message telling me that my email belonged to no existing account and I was unable to login. According to many of my friends, my account is still visible to some extent, but I have no way of accessing it.
Which leads me to two theories. A) My account has been summarily banned by Facebook or B) I was hacked and the hacker changed my password and email.
Perhaps some of my rhetoric violated the community guidelines, but take a look around. I was in highly politicized groups alongside open racists and degenerates who used all sorts of extreme language but were untouched by Facebook administrators. What is the purpose of this? Calling for socialism and revolution is violent and unacceptable but using horribly offensive and demeaning words like “nigger”, “spic”, “zipperhead”, and “faggot” are totally acceptable? Fashbook, as it should be properly known, is an embarrassingly apologetic corporate agent that sees more of a threat in activists than racists.
The whole issue is very frustrating because I use Facebook as a genuine means of communication with many comrades from all over the internet. This is pivotal to writing articles that can be quickly circulated and organizing in general. Although I have no evidence, I do find it quite ‘coincidental’ that after I write easily my most controversial article I am banned/hacked out of my Facebook account.
In any case, this derailment is that, a derailment. I have a new account, which all those reading can add just search “Zak Drabczyk” and look for the account with an incredibly low amount of friends and little personal information. My account will be more developed hopefully by the end of this week and I hope to release my latest article sometime this week as well. Thank you for your support.
Ethics is defined as:
“a system of moral principles.”
“the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular classof human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.”
The question is, what role should ethics play in human interaction and the human experience? Ethics has an important place in directing human interaction towards mutually beneficial and cooperative engagement. However, there are clear and poignant reasons why property based ethics or ethics enshrined as absolutely objective should be rejected if not contested.
The Non-aggression Principle
A common ethical point, the Non-aggression Principle (NAP), briefly mentioned in my previous article (see The Free State Project: The Future of White America), has become a centerpiece of the bourgeois moral framework in the ‘Liberty Movement’. The NAP has been praised by modern Voluntaryists such as Stephan Kinsella and others within groups like the Free State Project.
Murray Rothbard, a leading theoretician among ‘Anarcho’ – Capitalists and Voluntaryists writes of the NAP:
“No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.” – War, Peace, and the State
Proponents of the NAP
Proponents of the Non-aggression Principle will laud around a few benefits that might exist in a world absent of how they define ‘aggression.
First, there is the issue of victim-less crimes. Proponents would argue that in the world where everyone adheres to the NAP, illegitimate coercion could not exist and the modern corrupt ‘justice’ system would be done away with. What is important to realize is that this is only partly true. The NAP does not seek to eliminate ‘force’ but simply change the agent(s) of force and redefine what it means to ‘aggress’. Victim-less crimes like squatting could be considered heinous trespasses in the world of the NAP and the property owner would have every right to dispose of those who would trespass on his property. This also extends to the use of absentee land or resources. If an individual were to use water from a river ‘owned’ by Mr. Voluntary, that resource is an extension of himself and Mr. Voluntary would be in his right to deal quick ‘justice’ to any of those who use ‘his’ property.
Proponents also suggest the NAP could solve (or rather, mitigate) the social constraints inflicted by the state. Many of these restraints include taxes, excessive regulation, cronyism etc. The real issue here is that the NAP focuses only on the symptoms, not the disease. The institution of the state is only a tool used to enforce class dominance. It was the bourgeois revolutions of the late 18th early 19th centuries that gave birth to the regulatory state we know today. Only by tackling the estrangement of humans through dismantling capitalist property relations can we hope to rid ourselves of the state and its mechanisms of suppression. Unfortunately, the proponents of the NAP are entirely ignorant of this and thus possess no way of actually solving for the oppression in the status quo.
As seen before in history, as long as Capitalism exists in some form, so will a way to enforce private ownership. The abject rejection of the state will only transform current state mechanisms into more socially acceptable, yet equally brutal, tools of class domination.
So in all actuality, NAP proponents do not seek to change the social structure, but rather reinterpret what it means to ‘aggress’ and shift the weight of institutionalized violence to more private and subtle agents.
Overall, the NAP is a heavily loaded concept. Allow me to unpack the NAP in a Marxian fashion.
First and foremost, there is the issue of property. In ‘Libertarian’ philosophy, private property is considered an extension of self-ownership, which is key to rational self-interest wherein lies the locomotive of all other ‘Libertarian’ discourse. The reality of private property is much different. Private property, or the exclusive holding of productive means or instruments, is the cornerstone of Capitalism. Thus, the entirety of the NAP can be broken down into a clear and obvious reaction towards tenets of social ownership or those that preclude expropriation.
This is essential to understanding the classes that benefit from the NAP; clearly, the capitalist and bourgeois classes that already have a strangle hold on the means of production. The NAP is just a tool for them to exert their class dominance over those who lack capital and must sell their labor-power to subsist. The anti-state reductionism only distracts observers from the real genus of social antagonisms, which is the capitalist property relations. The NAP legitimizes such unconscionable exploitation (or all action that is considered ‘voluntary’) by separating socio-economic action from the context of material conditions. In doing so, the physical resistance to the hellish alienation perpetuated by Capital Hegemony, the only rational conclusion in this brutal class conflict, is made the ‘other’.
This is the poverty of ethics.
It simply becomes a tool for class dominance. Obviously, there is a clear need for ethics, but an ethics that recognize property as equally valuable to human life, is one that will only serve to enslave humanity. The subordination of people to ‘things’ is the absolute pinnacle of capitalist alienation and is only made moral through ethical interpretations like the NAP.
This does not mean to say there is no moral or ethical duty to non-aggression. In a dialectical sense, the point of Communism is to realize a stateless and classless society without the alienation of previous systems. This would have to preclude some sort of condemnation for unwarranted aggression. The difference lies in the nature of a Marxist or liberation ethics vs. property ethics. A Marxist ethics would presume a dialectical nature. Meaning that the goal of human liberation would be unchanging, the axiom of ‘good’ whereas interpretations of ethical action outside of that axiom would necessarily fluctuate to accommodate the change in material conditions. The context of this ethics is supremely important as well as the philosophic foundations from which it emerges.
E.g. Murray Rothbard was a chief proponent of the NAP, he also co-founded the CATO Institute with billionaire Charles Koch who continues to use both CATO and libertarian ethics to justify things like sweat-shops.
One reason why Marx spent so little ‘moralizing’ (besides the subtle denouncements of alienation and exploitation) was because it easily distracts observers from the genus of ‘wrong’.
The primary goal of a revolutionary should be not to interpret the world, but to change it. To change the material conditions and social structures that dominate the landscape. This means destroying Capitalism and with it the source of most of the ‘wrong’ and social excess that exists today.
A world without aggression would certainly be a better one. A world without ‘aggression’ as interpreted by the capitalist class looking to preserve their privilege is one that cannot be much different (or better) than the status quo.
The primary message of this article should be don’t be distracted by a bourgeois attempt to detract from the moral imperative of resisting Capitalism.
The NAP more than any ethical point I have seen, expresses all the familiar nuances of class domination and legitimizing overt oppression. It is for this reason that I wish to denounce the NAP as being no more than a tool of the capitalist social order. A social order which seeks self-preservation even if it means adopting a cloak of ‘liberty’ and ‘voluntary exchange’ which will always be alien in the universe of private property.
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” – Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
When one takes a drive through Keene, New Hampshire, one can see the city is populated with a host of young white middle-class “anarchists” who call themselves the Free State Project.
What is the Free State Project? From their website:
“The Free State Project is an effort to recruit 20,000 liberty-loving people to move to New Hampshire. We are looking for neighborly, productive, tolerant folks from all walks of life, of all ages, creeds, and colors who agree to the political philosophy expressed in our Statement of Intent, that government exists at most to protect people’s rights, and should neither provide for people nor punish them for activities that interfere with no one else.”
What the website leaves out is that this group of bourgeoisie is also at the forefront of the “Anarcho” – Capitalist and ‘Voluntaryist’ movements.
As expected from a movement that bases the whole of its “radical” philosophy on Ron Paul throwbacks and small business angst, the sales pitch for this Murray Rothbard caricature of Jonestown reads:
“Are you frustrated at the loss of freedom and responsibility in America, while the growth of government and taxes continues unabated? Do you want to live in strong communities where your rights are respected, and people exercise responsibility for themselves and in their dealings with each other? If you answered “yes” to those questions, then the Free State Project has a solution for you.”
Their solution? Escape to the capitalist heaven of New Hampshire where there is no general sales tax and barely any pesky minorities. If that hasn’t convinced you let’s read some more reasons to move to New Hampshire from the FSP’s own ’101 Reasons to Move’:
“New Hampshire is one of only four states that places no helmet restrictions on motorcyclists…New Hampshire is one of the few states that very lightly regulates raw milk sales…New Hampshire is the only state with no laws restricting knife ownership… New Hampshire’s median household income of $63,942 is the highest in the country…New Hampshire has no capital gains tax…”
So if you like flailing unregulated knives, helmet-less, on a motorcycle you paid for with tax-free capital gains, then New Hampshire is the place for you!
If all of this still doesn’t convince you, they have explicit support from both Ron Paul and John “Captain Racism” Stossel.
Beyond the humor this is all a very sad expression of the core of the Voluntaryist movement. A movement of white middle-class males who feel alienated by taxes and poor people.
Not much more needs to be said to prove the point about the Free State Project. They seem to explain it themselves. Anything redeemable about this wholly reactionary organization is easily flushed away in a hysteria of anti-state reductionism and bitcoins.
My real criticism lies in the audacity of the Free State Project to associate itself with Anarchism. The sheer idiocy of such a comparison is masked by an equally dumbfounding ignorance of those in the Free State Project to realize they are indeed not Anarchists. Being a rich privileged white male who escapes the confines of income taxes to realize his full rate of surplus value does not qualify one as an Anarchist. It qualifies one as a privileged schmuck who at most is a coffee shop ‘revolutionary’ trading bitcoins for raw milk.
Many will know I am a Marxist; however, I have a great respect for the Classical Anarchist thinkers and their contributions to anti-capitalist and anti-state theory. These modern day ‘Anarchists’ would leave Proudhon rolling in his grave.
A more glaring issue with this all is: what is the point? Most of the members of the Free State Project are of the heavily privileged classes of the petit bourgeois and I have yet to see any of them that come from an actual Proletarian background. They already enjoy the luxuries that the majority of Americans, little alone the vast majority of the world, ever enjoy. Furthermore, most do not have to suffer the alienating qualities of wage labor that plagues the working classes.
The Free State Project is really about the realization of a shitty ethical framework that prioritizes man’s relationship (or rather, subordination) with property higher than any concept of human liberation. They hide this framework behind lofty acronyms like the NAP (Non-aggression principle) which basically sanctions any sort of economic aggression against a “willing” subject and forbids any physical resistance as the utmost heresy towards the Gospel of Private Property. The failure here being that ‘free will’ is highly deterministic in a world where the means of subsistence are held privately and operated for a profit. Physical resistance becomes the only option other than utter ontological destruction; yet it also becomes the only thing that is more reprehensible to ‘Anarcho’ – Capitalists than the tenets of social ownership.
From a Marxist perspective, one can always disseminate the heart of a movement by the class it bases itself upon. In the case of the Free State Project, it is based upon the privileged upper-middle class and business owners who fear impending social revolution or just wish to maximize their profits. It is with this class analysis that we can deduce the only logical conclusion about the Free State Project: complete bourgeois reaction.
The Future of White America
One thing I have left out of my ramblings is that the Free State Project is rather insignificant Even in New Hampshire, where the movement is concentrated, Free Stater’s, have minimal influence, outside of a few legislative seats and PorcFest (the annual gathering of cretins). Even with their minimal influence, this concept of anti-state bourgeois reaction is appearing more streamlined throughout the United States.
In the past, we have seen phenomena such as gated communities and ‘White Flight’ that characterize bourgeois reaction to both social change and the internal contradictions of Capitalism. With the Free State Project, we see an even bolder step in that direction that challenges previously unchallenged concepts key to neoliberal governmentality including the ‘social contract’. It is hard to decipher what exactly this means for the future, but the trend seems to be clear.
The future of ‘White America’ will most likely be centered around escaping revolutionary conditions or the grueling social stratification that Capitalism produces in its life-cycle. With movements like the Free State Project, the Capitalist class can take refuge in these nearly white separatist tax havens and exert their dominance on the ‘lay’ persons from the comfort of places like Keene, New Hampshire. This hyper-privileged apartheid can only further alienate the working class and destroy any hope of social justice within the system.
At best, the Free State Project is just a conglomeration of gravely misdirected petit bourgeoisie hoping to escape the evils of the society they helped stratify. At worst, the Free State Project represents the Versailles of bourgeois reaction in the United States. The distancing of the bourgeois, both physically and ideologically, from the conditions the capitalist social order produced. The same order they try to uphold.
The task of revolutionaries is always to struggle against Capitalism for the liberation of humanity. It is insufficient to base a radical movement on the negation of an institution. One must also struggle for affirmation of more than the negation. In this case revolutionaries must struggle for the negation of Capitalism for the affirmation of human liberation. For a Marxist, this means empowering the toiling classes to throw off the shackles of subjugation and experience life through the struggle of Communism outside of systemic alienation. For a genuine Anarchist it means what it must. In general, all of us as comrades, must unite against this system of oppression and against the bourgeois.
This also means a struggle against the Free State Project, but not a violent one. Or even one that approaches physical confrontation. A struggle against the Free State Project means a struggle for human liberation in the destruction of these false ‘ethical’ frameworks. Frameworks that subordinate labor, to products of labor. Frameworks that allow the Capitalist class to eat as the rest of the world starves. In essence we must resist the co-option of radical movements by the bourgeois apologists who seek to inspire counter-revolution and enshrine the traditional values of private property that have enslaved humanity for centuries. Socialism must win the struggle in the minds of the working class before it can ever win the battle in the factories, in the fields, in the workshops, and for the future of humanity.
“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?” – Opening lines of the Communist Manifesto
In the early 1840′s the Communist Manifesto was written as a way to bring together people of a certain political inclination, the Communists. It formed the basis for a polical movement of these same communists in which they sought to take some of the power held by the 1% of their day through means of organized politics. It was a way to lay out an idea of class struggle and to present a history of capitalism along with what the problems of capitalism are and how they manifest in the lives of everyday people. What it DIDN’T do is predict what communism would look like. It DID present a socialist approach to dealing with those problems though.
Actually communism is the period in history AFTER socialism. A place in time when we see a stateless, classless society. An end to hierarchial relationships to people and to property. But, like Marx and Engels said, “Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?”
The FMAA crowd is no different. They have a fear of communism and seemed determined to remain ignorant on the subject. If you really want to baffle them, bring up anything by Marx. The declare their anti-intellecutalism on the subject with pride and are on the front line in their opposition to communism, while at the same time declaring their admiration for a “stateless” society. And like all reactionary movements, they fall goose-stepping in line with all other facsist fronts.
And when you give them the information, attempt to enlighten them as to what communism actually is….
FMC – “communism is another word for it, but that term refers to state ownership.”
Kom-E Ron – Reactionary propaganda. Just because it has been granted that label (incorrectly) for a long time doesn’t change what communism is. Marxists tended to believe that seizing control of the means of production and centralizing production would be a good strategy to REACH communism, but that isn’t communism. It is Marxist Socialism, a revolutionary step on the way to creating a communist society. As a matter of fact, the communism of Marx can best be described as a utopian idea, because it has yet to exist. Marx, along with all other communists, see communism as a stateless, classless society, with “ownership” of the means of production being communal. And while Marxists see a transitional period from capitalism to communism, socialism, that is far from the ONLY train of thought on the matter. Lots of us see their “transitional phase” and their vanguard-ism as counter-productive and unnecessary. After all, the centralization of wealth/power is ALWAYS the enemy of freedom.
And they always revert back to their previous belief systems. Something that if they put a minute of effort into actually understanding, they would know has already been addressed.
FMC - “where is the incentive to perform well for the talented people if everyone is equal in the end? if humans lived this way we would never have evolved! cottage industries that provide services to a community in exchange for other services, goods or currency are our best bet for a society where wealth follows merit.”
Kom-E Ron – Where was the “incentive” to “evolve” before capitalism? Why do enterprising people often provide their goods or services free (anti-ip)? Why do people develop products, never knowing if they will ever sell one?
And again, when you refer to “cottage industry”, this is the petty bougies, a reactionary force when they feel they need to “defend” what is theirs.
People will work. If you have ever spent time on the disabled list, you know that sitting around is the worst thing in the world. Now imagine a society where someone can try their hand at whatever tickles their fancy. Instead of being forced to perform like monkeys just to meet their basic needs, they are free to pursue those things which interest them. Of course we all have to work to meet our basic needs, one thing that can’t be changed. But how we do that and how much time we spend doing it is very flexible. How many farmers would there be if they could farm without being forced out of the market? How many fishermen? How many teachers?
But this too was already addressed by Marx, which even a cursory examination of Marx or the Communist Manifesto would point out…
“It has been objected that upon the abolition of private property, all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us.
According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work, acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything do not work. The whole of this objection is but another expression of the tautology: that there can no longer be any wage-labour when there is no longer any capital.
All objections urged against the Communistic mode of producing and appropriating material products, have, in the same way, been urged against the Communistic mode of producing and appropriating intellectual products. Just as, to the bourgeois, the disappearance of class property is the disappearance of production itself, so the disappearance of class culture is to him identical with the disappearance of all culture.
That culture, the loss of which he laments, is, for the enormous majority, a mere training to act as a machine.
But don’t wrangle with us so long as you apply, to our intended abolition of bourgeois property, the standard of your bourgeois notions of freedom, culture, law, &c. Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class.
The selfish misconception that induces you to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms springing from your present mode of production and form of property – historical relations that rise and disappear in the progress of production – this misconception you share with every ruling class that has preceded you. What you see clearly in the case of ancient property, what you admit in the case of feudal property, you are of course forbidden to admit in the case of your own bourgeois form of property.” – Marx by way of the Communist Maifesto.
For the FMAA crowd, “private property” is a sacred right that comes from nothing other than being born. Their thinking is that if you “own” yourself, than anything you do becomes and extension of your “self”. They have seized on the idea that a person should keep the “full product of their labor”, which of course we all agree with. But how they apply that is to call the product of their labor “private property”, something that can be exchanged for and hourly wage, with that wage being the ACTUAL product of their labor. For some people an “hourly wage” IS the only product they are producing. They are in jobs were no actual “product” is created. They are nothing more than a cog in the capitalist machine, dong “busy work” just to further the extent of power their employers hold within a capitalist system.
From Marx – “But does wage labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labor, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labor for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labor.”
So, as (probably) Marx put it, wage labor doesn’t create “property”, it creates capital. That capital might be exchanged for the product of someone else’s labor, and in a modern capitalist society that “property” is most often from the hands of some other exploited worker, often in areas that are most devastated by capitalist and state intrusion into the lives of the workers. A wage laborer (or more to the point, a wage slave) creates capital for their employer and gets a small piece of that to continue the class antagonism between capital and labor. The FMAA crowd falsely believes that they are creating “freedom and liberty” for themselves by being able to aquire property and meet their needs in a capitalist system. But “capital” is always in opposition to labor, freedom, and liberty. It is a social construction and nothing more, and it’s sole purpose is to divide the worker from the “product of their labor”. Far from getting the “full product of their labor”, the wage laborer receives only the minimum that their employer thinks will keep them from taking some kind of stand.
For the FMAA crowd, everything they purchase with the capital from their wage labor is “private property”. But “private property” only exists as a social construct. What the FMAA crowd considers “private property” is really nothing more than the representation of capital, and only a small slice of the capital created by their labor. These meager possessions are the “hard won” possessions of the worker that Marx addresses in dealing with the idea of “property”…
“Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.”
That “self-earned property” stands in opposition to the “private property” of bourgeois society…
As Marx stated, “”But does wage labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labor, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labor for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labor.”
So the difference between “possessions”, which is that hard won, self-earned “property” of the worker, stands in contrast to the “private property” of the bourgeoisie class. That “private property”, the property which “exploits wage labor, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labor for fresh exploitation” is the only thing we are concerned with, or even call private property. Like I tell people all the time, “no one wants your damn shovel”. When Proudhon famously said, “Property is Theft!” he was talking about the private property of the bougies, which is in stark contrast to the “hard won” property he was talking about when he said, “Property is Liberty!”.
So on with the show….
FMC – “ron whats wrong with private property rights”
The first problem is, what are “rights”? They are nothing but an agreement between certain individuals to behave towards each other in a certain way. They are not some universal “rule”. They are, when enforced against people who didn’t agree to be bound to those “rights”, nothing but another form of exploitation and enslavement. But the main problem is the disconnect of the idea of “property” with “possessions”. This falls back on the extreme lack of understanding of the anti-authoritarian (leftist) movement as a whole.
Private Property is property which can be used to exploit someone for “profit”. Possessions are those items you use to meet your needs. This might include just about anything, unless it is used in the process of exploitation of labor.
Sovereignty =/= freedom or liberation. Just gives the “sovereign” the self-proclaimed “right” to act in any arbitrary way to anyone they want.
“The proprietor, the robber, the hero, the sovereign — for all these titles are synonymous — imposes his will as law, and suffers neither contradiction nor control; that is, he pretends to be the legislative and the executive power at once . . . [and so] property engenders despotism . . . That is so clearly the essence of property that, to be convinced of it, one need but remember what it is, and observe what happens around him. Property is the right to use and abuse . . . if goods are property, why should not the proprietors be kings, and despotic kings — kings in proportion to their facultes bonitaires? And if each proprietor is sovereign lord within the sphere of his property, absolute king throughout his own domain, how could a government of proprietors be any thing but chaos and confusion?” – Pierre Joseph Proudhon
Marx called the group who wants their little “private property” the petty bourgeoisie. And pointed out that they were never revolutionary, always reactionary, because all they care about it their future prospects of “making it”. And because they could never produce enough on their own to wield any type of real power, they would continually be ground under the boot heels of whatever state or ruling class came along. That they are the precursors of fascism, because they have to basically become a reactionary force to their reality of loss and no REAL ownership or means of “making it”. Their fear is based on the reality that if they lose their “private property” they will end up back to being exploited by the ruling class. So they are a reactionary force to that. They claim “defense” of property as the basis of their use of violence, but again, that is based on “property rights” that they grant themselves.
Anyone that has spent any time doing nothing knows that doing nothing is boring as hell. I prefer a non-hierarchical society or community that is based on the idea of, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” People so in-trenched in the idea of capitalism, sometimes even those people who don’t particularly care for capitalism, often offer the argument that in a communist society “people just won’t work”. Those people have never sat on their ass with absolutely nothing to do. Not to mention, they don’t fully understand what that saying actually means. But I digress…
The air-lines and wiring that had burnt were all repaired. As far as I could tell, being that I am not much of a mechanic, everything was good to go. The bus was running good, there was no smoke coming from anywhere, and the brakes were fully functional again. And we were still out of funds. And the title loan on the car had come due. And…And…And…
Well, really, “and” nothing. We knew we weren’t taking the car with us on the road, towing a vehicle is just out of the question for us right now anyway. Even if it was something we wanted to do, which we really didn’t, the extra cost made it out of the question anyway. And money is already an issue, one that I don’t see getting any better. Watching the car go was a trip though. It was the last connection to anything outside of the bus. From this point forward, our entire lives were contained in one old sixty passenger school bus. The entire logistics of life have changed. And still we sit.
When you are sitting around the RV park, with time on your hands, you find stuff to do. The kids scour the park and lake for trash. The bus is clean. The dogs have plenty of exercise. And there are only 20 more hours in the day left to fill. There is no television reception, so sitting around rotting our brains is out of the question. Lots of reading gets done. Doing “school-work” with the kids is full-time, but not time consuming and always a blast. You can also find out that, despite how it might feel, we aren’t the only people to take to a life on the road.
With time to spare you rediscover a long lost tradition, probably the most important tradition for humanity, talking to your neighbors. Our neighbors here in the park are transient, like us. Sure you get the people who pull in for the night, or for the day, or for the weekend, but you also have the other people that live full-time on the road. Most of them skip around between parks and campsites, staying till the scenary gets stale, and some of them are parked for the long haul. There is a guy named Al here that worked here at the campground for many, many years. He pulled his RV into the camp a few years ago when his health failed and he was forced to retire. He spends his time now fussing over details about the place with Gilbert, the guy who is in charge of the place now.
There is also Daryl, a disabled veteran who until a few years ago was in the same shape as a lot of veterans, living on the streets and trying to fight to get benefits. After five years on the streets, bouncing between homeless shelters and VA hospitals, he finally got back benefits and ended up with enough money to buy an RV. He traveled after that, hitting the National Parks and other cheap and off-grid campsites, until the price of fuel and food combined to slow his travels to a crawl. And so he sits, waiting. I am not sure what he is waiting for, I am not sure he knows what he is waiting for.
The sitting is a killer though. It is nice to have some idle time, and hard as hell to fill it up and not go crazy. The whole idea behind the experience is to find places full of people actually doing something. To find places where the idea of from each/to each is actually in action. To find the “real left” on the move. But for now, we are sitting.
“Don’t you know that without a strong central committee to oversee production and government functions immediately after revolutions, they are doomed to fail? Romantic dreamers.” – Karl
- Kom-E Ron – All successful revolutions have started organically. Any successful society after revolution would have to develop along the same lines. All centralizations of power tend toward class society, which is why even after “successful” peoples revolutions occur, the forces of centralization begin to divide power.
- Punk Johnny Cash – That’s interesting, because the failure of the Soviet Union was exactly that, a strong central committee to oversee production and Government functions. The Russian revolution was headed in a positive direction until the Bolsheviks came in and did exactly that. One central power is pretty much a capitalist business structure. One President, board, CEO etc.. overseeing all production. Sounds more like someone is trying to apply capitalist business structure to everything in our lives.
- Kristian Poul Herkild - It is rather odd that some people believe a strong central government is required to protect the revolution against a strong central government. So far it has failed miserably. The bolshevik “revolution” in Russia was basically a counter coup. While the anarchists and various non-bolshevik socialists were busy taking over soviets and factories and what not, the bolshevik were busy taking over the state apparatus. As far as I can tell the success of a revolution depends on removing all remnants of the state apparatus rather than taking over said apparatus.
- Joe The Plunger – It seems to me there’s always a ‘turn a blind eye scenario’ of some shape or form taking place, forcing the too little too late for remedy any situation, so revolution ends up been inevitable in most cases…
- Resistance Transmissions – …implying they are ‘all’ doomed to fail? Based on the fact that ‘all’ revolutions are chaotic, violent, and shortsighted (surround the castle behead the king and… replace him with another king)? History may support this claim but that doesn’t mean history is 100% doomed to repeat itself till the end of time! Some recent revolutions have been rebirths of old revolutions and some nearly spontaneous but quickly you see influences trying to confused, manipulated and take advantage of the movement so that the end result is ‘similar shit different pile’… rarely are the rules rewritten. This is just begging for continued rebirth of the same revolution or maybe better >a new approach to it. The revolution itself is evolving, its a whole new game now. We can see what is happening around the world and learn from it. The force of a global revolution could remove the chains that keep dragging us down, back into the same rut. Granted the people holding power now aren’t just gonna give it away, but maybe we don’t need to force it from their hands. Maybe we don’t need to bow down to the idea that there needs to be a ‘strong’ centralized power structure playing any transitional role after a revolt. Really, how hard would it be exactly… running the public schools, mail, roads, judicial systems, etc. and are those institutions even run in a way that best serves us… should we scrap em’ (~yes) and start over? All we really need is formula for the immediate transition and the will of the people supporting it. Our revolts so far haven’t necessarily resulted in our freedom but progress is being made. Doomed to fail… I don’t think so. Romantic dreamers maybe… but just because these are tough times for dreamers doesn’t mean dreamers should be scoffed at, we are trying to fuck shit up as fast as we can. To have no dream is to be defeated and truly doomed.
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The work on the bus was going slow. The desire to hit the road was growing strong. So just like the typical voter, we suspended reason and took a leap. No, the plumbing wasn’t done. No, the electrical hadn’t been completely finished. But we could live with the small inconveniences those things presented and just work on things as we went. The first few stops on the trip were going to be parking outside different family members homes, so the few odds and ends that weren’t done would be no problem. Everything was going to work out fine and we were going to live happily ever after, roaming the roads, meeting new people, and hopefully networking with other like minded individuals and groups. And also, just maybe, Obamaney would be the President of the USA and world peace would reign supreme. Just suspend reason and everything will be just fine.
We hadn’t registered the bus yet either. For years I had gone with no drivers license, no insurance, no registered vehicles but hitting the road full time would be a pain in the ass if every time we got pulled over and asked for “our papers please” we didn’t have government permission to be on the roads, it would make for a hell of a problem. Experience has shown that it is always a very expensive problem too. I have had cars towed away by the police, not to mention being thrown in the back of cop cars for various stupid excuses that they like to throw in the mix when I interact with the cops. So I secured the stuff on the bus and hit the road, bound for the DMV.
The dread of dealing with government officials was the only thing on my mind as I started down the long dirt road that led to our house. That is until smoke started pouring out of the dash and the bus died. For a few seconds I just sit there as a wire from the ignition to the solenoid smoked and bubbled and fizzled into nothingness. Being the eternal pessimist I began to see all my plans go up in smoke. We were going to be stuck forever in the box, trying to scrape by and hoping to make it through another winter in the high deserts of New Mexico.
Once the immediate feeling of panic passed, I got down to the business of replacing the wire that had burnt. At least, replacing the obvious wire that had burnt. I did a quick trace of the ones around it and replaced or repaired them as I found them and when I thought they were all fixed up I fired up the bus and started down the road. There was a whistling sound coming from under the dash and it didn’t take me long to realize that one of the hoses running to the air brakes had been burnt through too. Now back to panic mode. If I missed that, what else did I miss? Just a couple more miles down the road the bus died again. No smoke this time, just no fire to the plugs. And this time, instead of breaking down on a nice wide open stretch of road where everyone could see me, I was broke down in a blind curve on a back road where everyone thinks the speed limit is 80 instead of 35.
When we first moved to this area we had big plans. We had ideas for a couple of small businesses that would allow us to spend time together and pay the bills. We left Albuquerque for this country setting, were we thought people would be easier to get along with and a person might be able to spread their wings a little bit without too much interference. A place were the friendly locals would welcome organic farming and massage therapy. We had talked with a landlord in town and he had a house we could move into on Monday, and so we left the big city on Friday with plans to camp for the weekend out in the National Forrest and move into our new house after a fun weekend in the mountains. The weekend was fun, but come Monday the landlord had already rented the house to someone else. So, homeless, we returned to our camping spot out in the woods to try and figure out what our next move would be. The place we were camping is a rugged place. There are no kind of amenities there, other than an outhouse type bathroom. Despite the misleading name of “Water Canyon” this is no water there, not even in the campsites. No running water of any kind. The nearest place to get water was 15 miles away and you better be prepared to pay out the nose for it. One day we asked someone who owns a hotel there if we could fill up an empty gallon jug with their water hose. You would think we had asked to eat their children, and they looked at us like that might have been our real intention. With a pound of disdain in her voice the lady told us that water was too expensive to spare any. Should have been a sign. And to top off all of that, you are only allowed to stay in those campsites for fourteen days. We knew we had to get out of the forest but we still needed somewhere stay. By this point the money we had set aside to get into a new house was near the zero mark. We packed up our camp and started into Socorro to see what we could find out.
On the edge of Socorro there is a little “town” called Escondida. And in Escondida there is a little pond that they call a lake. And on the edge of that “lake” there is a small campground. We pulled in there and met the lone worker at this county owned facility, Gilbert. He showed us to a camp spot and asked us if we needed anything and then helped us set up our tent. That tent, on the edge of that lake, became our home for the next two months as we started the process of saving up what little money we got in and working towards getting into a house before the cold desert winter hit. Incredibly it was one of the best times of our lives. It also planted the seed that maybe, just maybe, we could live on the road. And maybe, just maybe, we could do that in a bus.
Nearly two years later, I am sitting in a broke down bus, in a blind curve, across the field from Escondida Lake. And too the rescue comes Gilbert. He towed the bus to the campground, asked if we needed anything, and sat and reassured us that everything was going to work out.
So, here we sit. Right back were we started in this area, but a little better off then when we got here maybe. Still broke and broke down, but eventually getting there. Although, I still haven’t found the short in the electrical, we did get the brake lines fixed and can at least get the bus started, now we just have to get more money in the coffers to try and start out again.
I have always been in love with the desert. The solitude is actually awe inspiring when you are looking for it. You can leave the “city” and be out in the middle of nowhere in minutes. When artificial light is out of the picture, the moon is a great source of light.That is one of the things that people who go out into the desert notice. For most of the month, you can see good enough to get things done outside. Of course the most likely thing you get done is opening a beer, passing a bowl, and talking with friends.
On August 12 we were all excited about the Persied Meteor Shower. We had the bus sitting in the driveway and decided to head out to it and spend the night watching the show. Nothing had really been “converted” on the bus so spending the night on it consisted of taking out a couple of blankets and staring out the windows at the sky. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the end of living in the house for us.
Living out in the middle of the desert it is hard not to become a sky gazer. Some people might get the impression that we spend a lot of time “staring at the sun”, and we have actually done our fair share of that. We had a front row seat to the eclipse earlier in the year. Saw the transition of Venus. And a couple of UFO’s. By the time Persied came along we were all pretty excited. The decision to move onto the bus had already been made, but we didn’t have a timetable for it. As with most other things it was going to be a “get around too it” kind of thing. That night the time came.
What hadn’t come yet was the money to get it done. And by the looks of things, it was never going to come. Every penny that came in went straight to the business of paying the bills and raising the kids. Three growing boys like to eat. All the time. So if we were going to get it done, and get on the road, we were going to have to be creative. Luckily living below the poverty level for most of our lives had prepared us for being creative at being poor. We started dragging home pallets. We took apart an old dog house. We took apart the raised beds in the gardens, which were also made from materials we had previously scavenged. One day we got lucky and found an old beat up RV from 1959 that one of the neighbors was using for a storage shed. They didn’t need the stuff in it, they just wanted the box. Apparently, things made in 1959 were pretty well built. Definitely not the cheap, throw away crap made for a disposable consumer society.
We did make some financial sacrifices out of the ordinary though. Our plan is to be able to camp without being hooked into the grid, as much as possible. That was our plan for when we lived in the box too. We wanted to go solar. To use a hand pump for water and make it be gravity fed. Permaculture was going to be our life. We wanted to build an Earthship. And everyday that we thought about it, the costs just keep going up and up and up. Solar power might be the cure for the destruction being wrought on the Earth by non-sustainable energy sources, but it sure as hell isn’t cheap. Permaculture probably can cure the need for feeding ourselves outside of the capitalist system, but it isn’t something you can do in a rented trailer house with a landlord that doesn’t want you to mess up their junk piles. And Earthships definitely can elevate us by becoming a living vessel that helps us meet our very basic needs, but the amount of work and time, not to mention owning the property to build one on, seem perpetually out of our reach. But we didn’t want to abandon our beliefs, so we “splurged” and went with a solar charging system for the bus. The materials in the bus are reclaimed/recycled. But it still wasn’t enough. We tried selling our car to raise some of the money, but after trying to get rid of it for a couple of months and not being able to get anything for it, we gave up trying to sell it. We did a title loan on it though. Not really going to miss it when it’s gone.
But even with all of that, I kept dragging my feet. Fear played a role, still plays a role. But I like to lie to myself and say that I am going to miss the wide open skies. That the reason I didn’t just jump into the great unknown was because I love to watch the falling stars. But there is an old saying. A saying I think would make the world a better place if only we could all adopt it. “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Come hell or high water, we were going to make changes.
Previous Article – On The Bus: How Far Ken?
When I was pretending to grow up, one of the biggest influences on me was my perception of Ken Kesey. I say my “perception” because of course I didn’t know the Kesey of reality, only the Kesey of my reality, filtered as it was through stories, articles and his own writings. And more importantly through my own imagination.
Kesey was a man out of time. By that I mean, well, he said it best, “I was too young to be a beatnik, and too old to be a hippie”. That was exactly how I was feeling. Well, not exactly, but the feeling that the society I lived in was not the society I belonged too. A feeling I have described as “missing the bus”, to which I was usually greeted with strange looks and that little smile you give when talking to a crazy person. The reason it was an inside joke is because the community I belonged too would have no reason to associate me with anything about Kesey, even if they might have had some peripheral knowledge of who he was. When someone asked where I was going and I said “Further”, they just ignored it.
I was already in my mid-twenties when I met someone that knew where I was coming from. He was a hippie back in the day, after involuntary servitude to the flag, of late transformed into your everyday worker under the rigors and demands of the capitalist system. His name was Mike and I could wax poetic on the many conversations we had, but those images are mine. My last image I will share. It was Mike, standing next to a bus, with the worlds biggest smile on his face. He was hitting the road.
Even though I was in my twenties at the time, I actually already had quite a bit of life experience of “life on the road”. Years worth of experience as a matter of fact. So much experience that it was hard wired into who I was, even before I was hard wired into who I was. At the end of my fifth grade my parents hit the road. Kids in tow.
I am still not 100% sure what sent my parents onto the road. Also in my fifth grade year I discovered marijuana, so there seem to be long stretches of my life where I wasn’t really sure what was going on around me. Actually, now that I try to think about it, I am not even sure it was my fifth grade year. But, for the sake of ever getting around to spitting out the story, lets call it fifth grade.
I have a pretty good idea today of some of the problems that might have made it an attractive alternative. The economy of what was once my hometown was crap. My dad was a carpenter and chasing work was a big thing for construction work at the time. We went from the deserts of New Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. I still remember the cool breeze coming off the Gulf early in the morning as the sun rises. The smell of salt was heavy and the air was wet. It was amazing.
I could go on forever on all the places we “lived” over the next several years. I could tell stories of good times and bad times, fun times and scary times. What matters from those stories will surely be told again. But those stories, like those images of Mike, are all stored up in my head and sometimes I am jealous with them. Besides, this isn’t about those stories. This is about new stories. My new stories.
The other day a couple of years ago I finally realized that society at large had little use for me and that I felt pretty much the same way about it. I have blown a fortune trying to be part of society, all along knowing that there was nothing in the concept (as far as I understood and understand it) that appeals to me. There were things that had me tied to that concept, but the main chains holding me down were just in my own perceptions. I could easily say, “Well, the kids need stability. They need school and friends and blah blah blah.”, because it is easy to blame things on the kids. And just like for everything else in life, there just isn’t enough money. There is this really good job that makes it just possible to be high enough above the poverty level that you can’t catch a break, but not high enough above it to be able to afford luxuries like healthcare and food.
Work your fingers to the bone so you can send your boss on vacation. Give up part of it to send your politicians over to scout out countries to invade. Spend a few hours numbing your mind in front of the T.V., trying to convince yourself that your crap is as good as the crap in the commercials. Waiting for the late-night comics to come on and hopefully send you to bed with happy thoughts. Rinse and Repeat.
Despite having worked hard, and having made several attempts at living the dream, I was never quite able to “own” that little piece of heaven that would fulfill my soul and make me grow healthy roots into society. I was pretty much always a “renter”.
Most of the places I could manage to afford were not what most people would want to call home. Roach infestations. Faulty wiring. Nasty water. Bitchy neighbors. Slumlords. Mice. Anything needed repaired, better whip out the tools and get busy. And in my mind, I dreamed of getting out into the country and raising a garden and some animals and living off the land. But once again, money was an issue. The same problems with housing in the city was actually even worse in the country. Some rundown part of the country, probably next to the dump. Where nothing but stickers can grow. And still the tentacles of society start to strangle you.
And always, the road was calling me home.
So finally one day, I started getting rid of all my crap. I quit worrying about the kids having roots in “society”. I quit caring if the landlord was going to come fix the dripping water under the trailer house that was attracting local wildlife. I re-defined what “poor” means. I started to set my priorities straight. I really realized what “dropping out” could mean and why some, not that long ago, had considered it a revolutionary act.
And I bought a bus. I named it “How Far?”…
Next Article - On The Bus: Falling Stars
Or, why Zizek believed, ‘We must not succumb to the temptation to act’
Between Kliman’s critique of the Occupy movement, Ollman’s critique of Marx on working class consciousness and Zizek’s critique of Negri, I notice something of a pattern. Ollman in his piece, which I examined in my last blog, argues “between determining conditions and determined response is the class consciousness of the actors”. Action without this class consciousness is insufficient to accomplish the revolutionary project.
Similarly, in his 2001 critique of Negri, Zizek warns us not to yield to the temptation to act without questioning the hegemonic ideological coordinates because, as he argues,
“If, today, one follows a direct call to act, this act will not be performed in an empty space”.
The space within which we act is dominated by the “liberal-parliamentary consensus” where the only rule is “say and write whatever you want-on condition that what you do does not effectively question or disturb the predominant political consensus.” To act against existing social relations without calling into question the political expression of these social relations is not sufficient.
Zizek makes a point with which it is hard to raise an objection: democratic politics is by its very nature always ready to listen to and accommodate the political demands of the working class, thus depriving them of their proper political sting. Liberal parliamentary democracy is willing to accommodate even a demand for its own abolition as a discrete political position within itself. Capital as a totalizing social process must, of course, include even the possibility of its own abolition as a part of this process. Zizek makes the quite convincing argument that between our experiences and our action we must insert critical thought that questions the limits of the liberal parliamentary consensus. Zizek demands a “serious attempt to imagine a society whose sociopolitical order would be different.” It is this imagining which should precede our actions within a space dominated by the ideological hegemony of liberal democracy. This, Zizek argues, is the failure of Negri’s analysis in Empire.
But, Zizek fails to explain why an attempt by society to imagine itself in a form that does not as yet exist would be an improvement. Against Negri’s demands that “fluctuate between formal emptiness and impossible radicalization” he proposes his own pre-Marx alternative: A radical slogan that is both empty and impossible:
The first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to directly intervene and change things…
Zizek is not shy about this demand. He fully admits this statement reverses Marx’s Theses — privileging thought over action. Unlike Ollman, who does the same (yet blames Marx for it), Zizek has the strength of character not to accuse Marx of inconsistency. He simply accuses Marx of being an anachronism, by quoting Lenin:
About this, Marx and Engels said not a word.
Which is to say, up until 1914 the whole of human history was essentially practical critical activity of society but no longer. With the “politico-ideological collapse of the long era of progressism in the catastrophe of 1914″ Lenin stepped forward to reinvent history. That, for Lenin, this reinvention does not appear as a reinvention but a restatement of Marx’s Theses, doesn’t appear to concern Zizek. And this is the question posed by Zizek inadvertently: Was Lenin’s ideas a “restatement” of Marx’s Theses — as Lenin himself believed — or a “reinvention”?
If we could channel Lenin’s ghost to pose this question, he would no doubt respond:
Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity.” —Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1902),
Clearly Lenin sides with Ollman and Zizek against those who act without the aid of a critical analysis of the limits set by liberal democratic politics. By contrast I have yet to find a single quote in Marx where he stated: “You have to understand my theory to make revolution.” If Zizek, Ollman or any other member in good standing within the Marxist Academy knows of such a citation I would be glad to read it — until then, kindly take your fucking critical theory and shove it up your ass.
Perhaps no one is better equipped to undertake this empty and impossible “radical” task than our Professor Andrew Kliman, who, in his recent critique of David Graeber, confirmed his reputation for what one tweep called “tedious sectarianism”. I have to confess I really tried to understand Kliman’s point on “prefigurative politics”, but failed miserably.
In the proper sense of the term, “prefigurative politics” refers to practices that foreshadow and anticipate a different world a world that does not exist.
However, according to Kliman, Graeber’s prefigurative act,
… refers to practices that make believe that this different world already exists in embryo within the existing one.
Let’s parse this stupidity.
In Kliman’s sense of this term, we are imagining or acting on ideas having no concrete material reality, while, according to the professor, Graeber’s argument at least has the validity of acting on something he believes does exist, however embryonic this existence. Professor Kliman prefers to “foreshadow” the non-existent, and derides Graeber for asserting the thing foreshadowed in action already exists in embryo. The thing said to exist only in imagination in Kliman’s sense, but actually already present in embryo in Graeber’s sense is “freedom”. And, on this point, Kliman appears to have scored points against Graeber: In the first place, we are no more “free” than the African slave. In the second place we are not free in relation to the circumstances within which we act, which are historically given. In either case, pretence to freedom is a fallacy that can only result in catastrophe.
It is on these grounds Kliman concludes,
The Zuccotti Park occupation was a dismal failure. The functioning of Wall Street was not disrupted. Occupy Wall Street never occupied Wall Street. Even Zuccotti Park was “occupied” only with the consent of the mayor of New York City, and it was cleared out the moment he withdrew that consent. In the end, no autonomous space was reclaimed. The effort to remake society by multiplying and weaving together autonomous spaces is back to Square One. Even worse, precious little progress was made during the occupation in articulating and working out what the movement is for, or how to solve the serious social and economic problems we now confront.
He blames this failure, not on the occupiers themselves, but on the “leadership” of the occupation. Blaming the failure on the occupiers, would, of course, treat them as adult men and women capable of making their own decisions including who they look to as their leadership. However, in the Marxist paradigm, they are not adult men and women making their own decision, they are hopelessly retarded children who must be led by a self-annointed vanguard sufficiently theoretically developed to uncover the path mankind must take to freedom. Every other ruling class has succeeded to power through its own actions, but proles are imbeciles incapable of discovering their own wants.
The point to be made here is not whether Graeber is wrong, but that the occupiers must be wrong to have chosen him as their leader and suffered a defeat as a result. Ultimately, the failure of the Occupy belongs to them, not Graeber; despite Kliman’s weak ass attempts to separate the two. Kliman’s argument comes down to this: the proles pretended they were already free in embryo, and appointed Graeber to express this delusion. Since we must operate with the assumption that proles are not retarded children incapable of making their own decisions, this is where the blame lies. Kliman is being disingenuous when he tries to ascribe the “failure” of the Occupy movement to Graeber. If, as Kliman argues, the Occupy has failed, it is the fault of the occupiers, and Kliman should “man up” and tell them so. His attempt to lay the blame on Graeber is bullshit and Kliman knows this.
If we try to scale up Kliman’s argument to explain other historical failures of working class political activity, we would be trying to explain Auschwitz in terms of the failure of German Marxists. Kliman treats failure as some personal moral deficit, when in fact the political action of the proletariat is always supposed to fail. Even the most successful union negotiation is all about the terms and conditions of the enslavement of the workers. The fucking fallacy in the negotiation is that the workers approach it as if they are free to negotiate the terms and conditions of their enslavement. In fact, they are not free; they are slaves. Even when they win, they remain slaves. Even when they impose their will on the capitalist, they remain his willing slaves. On the basis of Kliman’s “radical” critique of our unfreedom, the workers should not even enter negotiations. Every political action rests on this fallacy, not just the Occupy — and it does not take an overt defeat of the class to be an essential defeat. In the same Graeberian sense that Occupy acts as if they are free, every fucking union acts as if it is free.
So what the fuck of it? Should the proletariat now stop fucking acting as if they are free because fucking Kliman doesn’t approve of the logical fallacy of this position?
I am trying to imagine Kliman writing “Class Struggle in France”, or “Civil War in France” — I just don’t see it. All we would be able to glean from his argument is that the communards were imbeciles for following the Prudhonists. The Commune ended in catastrophic defeat after barely 60 fucking days and got a lot of people killed — in the end the association had to submit to the state.
Overlooked in this “history” is the fact that the Commune, even led by the Prudhonists, demonstrated a new form of social organization of society. The Communards acted as they should have acted: not imagining a new social organization of society in theory, but creating it in practice. And they could create this new social organization of society, not because they had already perfected it on paper, but, as Marx observed, they were already this new social organization of society themselves.
So, yes. In the Graeberian sense of prefigure, Occupy was already “free” of the class divisions of society, not because they could abolish the other classes in society by fiat, but because they already are a class that is no longer a class in any meaningful sense of that terms.
What Kliman, Zizek, Ollman and the rest of the academy seem to be unable to get through their thick skulls is that all politics is bourgeois. The working class is in itself already constituted as the new society, it does not need politics no matter how illuminated by theory. If Marx had never written a damn word, this class would still make its revolution, because, as Marx stated: this is what the Proletariat is. It is not revolutionary because Marx said it is, Marx said it was revolutionary because it already was.
You fucking Marxists need to take your goddamned books and burn them all.
Darwin did not invent the laws of evolution. Einstein did not create the laws of the physical universe. And Marx did not create the laws of the social revolution. Proletarians do not need to ask permission from Kliman, Ollman, Zizek, or the rest of the fucking Marxist Academy to act.
So, FUCK YOU, Professor Kliman! And fuck Zizek too. Fuck you all and the fucking horse you rode in on.
Wayne Price’s “Marx’s Economics for Anarchists” makes the fatal error of treating Marx’s Capital as a description of how the economy works. This mistake Price makes is on the order of treating Einstein’s Theory as a description of how H-Bombs work. I suppose, in some limited fashion, Marx does give something approaching a description of “how capitalism works.” But, this was neither his project, nor even the most significant aspect of his life works. Even from the point of view of an anarchist like Price and his audience, what Marx explains in Capital of economic interest is insignificant.
As Anitra Nelson points out, Marx ignores significant features of Capitalism even in his own day. Already in Marx’s time the credit system was of far more importance in the economy than gold (commodity) money. Although Marx argued credit money was a “higher form” of money than gold, he almost entirely ignored it, and its technical details. If his project was to explain how a capitalist economy worked, this fact would be completely inexplicable.
To understand what Marx’s project was in undertaking Capital, you have to look at the questions Marx was trying to answer before Capital. Marx was solely concerned about the historical process by which “man returns to himself.” To try to yank Marx analysis of the process of capitalist production and exchange from this context is to grasp hold of the shit end of his project. I want state at the outset that I do not mean to imply his theory as written in Capital isn’t relevant. I am just trying to explain why Marx wasn’t an economist. Wayne Price makes the argument that Marx is relevant to anarchists because of his economics, not his politics, but this is an error. Actually, Marx’s relevancy has nothing to do with his economics or his politics. His real contribution was to lay out the historical process by which we regain ourselves as social creatures.
One common form of misunderstanding of Marx’s Capital goes like this:
“Marx proved/showed how the capitalist exploited the worker.”
This statement is something akin to the myth that folks in Columbus’ day thought the earth was flat. It was, in fact, common knowledge in Marx’s that labor was the source of wealth. Marx did not need three volumes of Capital – perhaps more – to explain that the capitalist gained his profits from the labor of the worker. Surplus value or Profit were not all that much of a mystery. (In fact, Marx theory was reproduced independently by a self-educated worker, Joseph Dietzgen.)
Marx’s object with Capital was not to lay out a detailed description of how a capitalist economy works nor did he intend simply to explain to the worker how she was exploited. Rather, his intent was to examine the historical process by which we as human beings would regain ourselves as social individuals. Wayne Price although providing, I think, a service to his anarchist audience by offering a review of the laws of capital Marx disclosed, perhaps does a greater disservice to them by taking Marx examination of Capital from its context.
Anitra Nelson, who, in the introduction to her book, Marx’s Concept of Money, rejects Marx as inadequate, actually does a greater service to the reader by detailing what she believes is the inadequacy of Marx’s concept of money. One statement in particular that I like of Nelson’s argument is that Marx’s concept of money is less a technically useful analysis of money, and more a philosophical-political argument lacking technical details — a lack she thinks continues through his entire works. Nelson writes:
Marx’s perception and analysis of money is conducted at a very high and all- encompassing level of abstraction.
At another point she states:
It seems easier to relate to a quasipolitical and esoteric Young Hegelian intellectual context than to ordinary economic theories of money or finance.
Nelson believes she is calling Marx’s analysis of money into question in this passage; but, what she is really calling into question is the accepted interpretation of Marx’s intent in his examination of money. This accepted interpretation is expressed in the two schools of thought regarding Marx’s argument about money: nominalist versus commodity. The first school holds to the idea that Marx’s argument on money must lend support to those who think money is an idea, whose value is determined by value consciousness. The second school holds that money for Marx is a commodity — gold or some other commodity.
Because Marx’s writings are so vague, sociological and philosophical here, one can only say at this point [the middle 1840s] that he could develop a nominalist theory of money without contradicting much of what he has already said about it. Equally he could say all that he already has and still regard ‘proper’ money as a commodity, say gold.
She concludes, erroneously:
What seems most probable is that he has adapted Young Hegelian phraseology without at this stage being conscious of its rather nominalist tone. He is not yet steeped in the traditional economic literature of monetary theory which is divided between nominalist and commodity theories of money.
Although I disagree with the general characterization here, I think Nelson is correct to state Marx was neither a nominalist nor a believer in commodity money — he really did not give a fuck. What served as money was not his interest at all — money itself was his interest: What role did money play in the social process of man returning to himself as a social individual?
This historical process had to go through money, because only by passing through money did the private activity of individuals become social. People did not directly exchange their labor, they exchanged the products of their labor, and money was the mediator of this exchange. The emergence of the social individual, an individual who engaged in directly social labor, passes through money as a historical phase. Money becomes the god of practical activity, because only through money do the material advantages of social cooperation get realized. The historical process, as Marx observed in the German Ideology, is continuous: money arises out of exchange, and becomes a power ruling over society with its conversion into Capital — self-expanding value. All of this insight is lost if we take Marx out of context and treat him as just another economist, no matter how infamous or extraordinary.
At another point, Nelson points out the lack of technical detail in Marx’s treatment of the credit system:
[Marx] fails to treat or recognise some of the special characteristics of credit or credit monies, regarding only a pure paper currency as possible, and not a pure paper money.
What I find so interesting about this statement is that Nelson rightly calls into question Marx’s entire notion of money in this observation. Marx argues money must, in the final analysis, be gold or some other commodity; yet not one significant money today is based on a commodity. Marx really looks like a clown on this one — a rank amateur who got one of the most important categories of political-economy wrong.
The other possible conclusion is quite breathtaking: money was actually abolished during the Great Depression by all nations within the space of a couple of years; which is to say, money no longer exists.
This is a dividing line: either Marx was a clown and got money wrong; or money no longer exists. You cannot have it both ways on this subject. Yet, folks who call themselves Marxist economists treat the dollar as if it is money. And, they try to twist Marx’s statement to fit the reality of modern post-Great Depression currencies. So, which is it? Okay, so let’s not rush into any conclusion on this — perhaps there is the third choice, I don’t know about.
Well, then we have to look at another observation of Marx regarding money: in a money system the real need to be satisfied is money. Nelson writes:
Money ‘mediates’ between the need and its fulfilment, between the natural and the social, between one [person] and another.
She also states:
As the means to purchase, money gives access to all objects and becomes the ‘only’ and the ‘true need produced by the economic system’.
While people engaged in a collective act of production to meet their needs as individuals, the use of money as mediator of their activities has the effect of turning the billions of discrete particular individual needs into the single over-riding general need in society for money. On the one hand, all individual need becomes, as a practical matter, the need for money; not food clothing or shelter, but money to buy them. All the particular needs of individuals, which are really singular and incommensurable become, in money, values relative to each other. The particular useful qualities of these objects serve no role or function in the economy, but exist for the economy only as exchange values. In their place is one need ruling over the actions of all individuals: MONEY.
But, at a certain point in history this money is replaced by an instrument of exchange controlled exclusively by the state and monopolized by it. In the money system all real, material, specific and noncomensurable needs of individuals is reduced to its most abstract form: money need. In the post-Great Depression system, this money need is further reduced to the rule of a totally capricious and arbitrary political regime.
Anyone who misses this implication of Marx’s theory, knows nothing of the argument he is making. When Marx argues money must be a commodity he is not simply making an argument about money, but also about the implications of its abolition: the abolition of money within the confines of the capitalist mode of production converts money need into an unregulated fascist state power. This is not a power that can be regulated or constrained by society through mere political means, since is presupposes absolute dependence of society on the very power it is trying to regulate and constrain.
So, in the 1840s, before he has become an anarchist, before he has become a communist and before he has become enshrined as the founder of that complete waste of human effort known as “Marxism”, Marx has already explained everything about capitalism that is necessary to understand about it: the premise of the worker’s existence is her absolute dependence on the very thing that destroys her as a human being.
Antistatists who base their argument against the state on moral grounds of “opposition to coercion”, don’t really understand the problem posed by the fascist state in this regard. The problem is not coercion, but the universal dependence of society on this indifferent, impersonal, power that determines the material premise of society. Even if we assume no employment of coercion in the exercise of political power, the state would not be a whit less of an intolerable power.
Remove the police, remove the military, remove all regulatory functions from the state, and this power will still be intolerable.
This is because the intolerable power is not and has never been constituted by force — although coercion often accompanies it in history. Anarchists like Wayne Price who want to discount Marx’s pre-Capital insights, and his post-Capital arguments with anarchists like Bakunin will simply never understand this: the intolerable power is constituted by the individual herself; it is the content of her activity. It is not imposed on her, it is not forced on her, it does not insert itself into her life from outside — the intolerable power is her own activity, which has become intolerable to her.
This is why she makes the social revolution — not to overthrow the state, property, money, corruption, etc.; but to overthrow her own previous mode of activity, wage labor, which daily and hourly constitutes and recreates the former. This is what is so significant about the Tea Party and the Occupy movement: we are looking for forms within which our self-activity is directly social; of association based on individual needs
I think Wayne Price has done a lot of good by publishing his book, and I applaud it — I urge folks to read it at Anarkismo.net. If it gets anarchists to take another look at Marx, this cannot be bad. However, it should be read while keeping in mind what I have stated above.