Part Two: (Nick) Land, Capital and Labor (Theory)
Clever Monkey’s argument against the accelerationists seems to rest on a precise formulaic incantation repeated over and over: the only accelerationism possible is Nick Land’s accelerationism. Thus accelerationism itself is merely a virulent subform of neoliberalist ideology that advocates commodification of all human relations. Which is to say all talk of accelerationism must lead us to embrace anarcho-capitalism, the Thought of Murray Rothbard, and the good folks at the Mises Institute.
Tags: accelerationism, Anarcho-capitalism, “Wertkritik”, benjamin noys, Bertell Ollman, Deleuze, Frederick Engels, Guattar, Joshua Johnson, Karl Marx, Keynesian economics, Labor theory of value, lyotard, neoliberalism, nick land, Occupy the Marxist Academy, ray brassier, shorter work time
Part One: The Grammar of Left Fascism
Twice in the past couple of weeks I Have been accused of being infected with an ideology known as accelerationism. To be honest, I had no idea what accelerationism was and never heard of it until the accusation was made. Nevertheless, I do accept the argument that ignorance of an ideology is no proof of innocence — at least insofar as people will make the accusation based on their criteria, not mine.
It turns out accelerationism is the idea that capitalist development can be sped up and the entire epoch brought to a close more rapidly than it would otherwise by pursuing measures designed to the end. Intrigued by this idea, I spent a few days trying to understand the concept, poring over the criticisms of those who oppose it, and thinking about the relation of this ideology to anything remotely suggested by labor theory.
What follows is my first take on the notion of accelerationism through the argument of one of its fiercest critics, Benjamin Noys, an editor at the venal academic paywall, Historical Materialism.
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.
‘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.
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.
Comment, like and share this article! Drop me a message on Facebook or on Reddit (communistcritic).
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.
So, before I get deeper into this one, there have been some objections raised to the previous installment. Some of it has some merit, like this one…
“There are LEGITIMATE forms of anarchism that are “pro-market“”
There are, of course, forms of anarchism that believe in using “market forces” to create change and to meet the needs of the people. Mutualism and Proudhon come straight to mind. So, straight from some Mutualist sources, thought I would include, “What is Mutualism”…
“A Social System Based on Equal Freedom, Reciprocity, and the Sovereignty of the Individual Over Himself, His Affairs, and His Products, Realized Through Individual Initiative, Free Contract, Cooperation, Competition, and Voluntary Association for Defense Against the Invasive and for the Protection of Life, Liberty and Property of the Non-invasive.” – Mutualism.org
“Mutualism is an economic theory and anarchist school of thought that advocates a society where each person might possess a means of production, either individually or collectively, with trade representing equivalent amounts of labor in the free market.” – WiKi
A summary of Proudhon’s mutualism by G. Ostergaard:
“… he argued that working men should emancipate themselves, not by political but by economic means, through the voluntary organization of their own labour–a concept to whch he attached redemptive value. His proposed system of equitable exchange between self-governing producers, organized individually or in association and financed by free credit, was called ‘mutualism’. The units of the radically decentralized and pluralistic social order that he envisaged were to be linked at all levels by applying ‘the federal principle’.” – Mutualism.org
And other forms and strains of anarchism could also be included in the “pro-market” category, but it seems to be mainly the mutualists that are opposed to the “free-market” part of my initial argument. But again, this is about definitions. When mutualists say “free-market” they aren’t talking about a commodity market that allows for and is dependent on the centralization of wealth. The opposite of capitalist markets. But since this isn’t about Mutualism, time to move on…
The next objection was one that is common and seems to be the whining pleas of marginal individuals that are attempting to somehow “prove” that they belong within the larger anarchism movement. It goes something like this…
“Why are you trying to marginalize people that want the same thing as you? All this does is alienate potential allies. If I say I am an anarchist because I oppose the government and you say I am not an anarchist, it means you don’t care about anarchy.”
There were more along those lines, but that is the general sentiment. Lots of “Free-Market Anti-Authoritarians” repeat these arguments like they are religious dogma. Their identity depends on being able to piggy-back their beliefs to the political movement that is “anarchism”. I will quickly address those three sentiments above, but will get more into some of their arguments later one.
First, what makes these folks think we “want the same thing”? It is precisely because they choose to use the bourgeois definition of “anarchy” and “anarchism” that they even believe that we want the same thing. Anarchists are opposed to the state because it is the tool that maintains and “legitimizes” hierarchical relationships to “private property”. Where mutualists and other “pro-market” anarchists oppose the state for those very reasons, the Free-Market Anti-Authoritarians oppose the state because they see it as a competitor in the capitalist markets. They aren’t opposed to hierarchical relationships to property, only to the state being able to determine the extent of those relationships. They don’t oppose the state provided services so much as they are opposed to the state providing them. They don’t have a problem with a police force that will protect “private property”, which serves only to continue society as “more of the same”. As Marx put it, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” and an armed force to protect the “have’s” from the “have not’s” is the perpetuation of those class struggles. Nothing new to see here folks, so lets move along…
Are these people “potential allies” who myself and others are just alienating? There are lots of people opposed to “the state”. Every couple of years there are election battles between groups of people who, supposedly, represent a majority of the population. All those people running for office and voting because they “oppose the state”, at least in it’s current make-up. That doesn’t make them “allies” or even “potential allies” with a political movement that wants to end class division.
Finally, what about the idea that if I don’t accept that someone is an “anarchist” just because they say they are, I hate anarchy. Well, give me a break. Anyone can say they are anything they want to call themselves. Someone can walk around and call themselves and elephant. But when I say, “Hey, you aren’t an elephant” it isn’t because I am trying to limit their freedom or that I hate elephants. And to top it off, they might like to repeat the oft repeated phrase from these right-wingers in anarchist clothing, “That is a logical fallacy, NO TRUE SCOTSMAN!”, to which I can only say, if you ain’t a Scot, you ain’t a Scot. If you ain’t an elephant, you ain’t an elephant. The logical fallacy is thinking you are any of those things, claiming you are any of those things, and yet not meeting the basic criteria to be any of the above.
That done, lets move on to one of the conversations….
Free-Market Anti-Authoritarian (FMC) – You commies don’t know anything about economics.
Kom-E Ron (ME) – Love how rightwingers think you have no concept of economics if you don’t accept the teachings of their savior Ron Paul and their saints of the “free-market”. And yet they can’t see that the state and capitalism are twins. They are the centralization of power. While they invite us to take a Mises course, they don’t even grasp the basic concepts of what they advocate, capitalism. Even given cute names like “free-market”, capitalism is a very specific thing.
Capitalism is the centralization of capital for the purpose of investment in search of future profit.
Profit is the amount left over after all costs for production and distribution have been met.
You can tell capitalism by its defining feature, the private ownership of the means of production, enforced through “private property rights”. Yes, enforced. Without the threat of violence or force, there is no such thing as private property. One of the pillars of “private property” is the threat of force in the name of “defense”. The form that threat takes is irrelevant, since only the threat of force is enough to keep any super-power in place, be it a state or a king or a land baron.
You can tell socialism and communism by their defining feature, equal access to the means of production. Anything that denies access to the means of production is NOT socialism or communism, no matter what cute name they give it. Private control of access to the means of production is capitalism, no matter what propaganda you have swallowed.
Capitalism and profit are two of the words that the Free-Market Anti-Authoritarians like to “redefine”. They like to give off the idea that “capitalism” is nothing but a means of paying labor and that “profit” is nothing more than feeling like you made an advantageous trade. The biggest problem with the redefining of these words to fit their purposes is that they use these new definitions to try and portray their belief system as nothing more than the simple, inevitable, trade that goes on between individual producers. But capitalism and profit belong firmly within the sphere of class division. They are dependent on the separation of labor from the means of production, through “private property rights”, enforced through force; the threat of force; or the actual use of force.
One last thought in this piece. Someone said, “Isn’t it interesting that all arguments on the internet come down to “definitions“? Well, first and foremost, you can’t have a discussion at all unless you can come to an agreement on the definition of words. Before you even make your argument, you must define what the words to that argument mean. Then those definitions have to be acceptable and understood by everyone in the discussion. Without that consensus there can be no discussion or argument.
Coming up – “Kom-E Ron, why you hate “private property”?
Today, while browsing around various debate sites, this article (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100127395/crony-capitalism-is-failing-lets-try-the-real-thing/) was brought to my attention by yet another right-winger trying to persuade me of the supposed virtues of ‘real’ or ‘free market’ capitalism. This was just one of many similar encounters I’ve had recently, in which the system we currently have is continually referred to as either ‘crony capitalism’ or more often, ‘corporatism’ – this is however an argument that is suddenly dropped when they want to talk about the ‘achievements/prosperity of capitalism’.
What many socialists tend to do in this kind of debate is accept their opponent’s stance as an advocate of ‘free market capitalism’ and debate that, usually from a moral perspective. I feel this is a mistake. While I totally agree that such a system would be unjust and wrong, this argument requires much more time, effort and more complex philosophical discussion – especially with establishing certain concepts, such as what socialists mean by ‘private property’. The much simpler argument to make is whether such a system as ‘free market capitalism’ is even possible.
Free-marketeers generally accept the problems of corruption, state-granted privilege, etc, that exist in the current system, but here the problems begin. Their solution to these problems is generally simply something along the lines of ‘get rid of them’ so that we could then have some sort of perfect ‘free market’. However, they have no real plans of how to do this. The few ideas that they do have generally involve working within the state system. Murray Rothbard, the founder of ‘anarcho-capitalism’, could come up with no better idea than to campaign for ‘smaller government’. In recent years, many on the ‘free market’ right, particularly in the United States, have taken up the cause of Ron Paul as the supposed answer to all problems, but there are many ‘anarcho-capitalists’ who reject even this weak way of trying to achieve a cause. Their reason behind not backing Paul or other ‘libertarian’ candidates is that they consider voting to be a mark of supporting the state, which is fair enough, but leaves them with precisely nothing in the way of strategy. Many of this group of pro-capitalists seem to be under the impression that simply being against the state and providing arguments as to why is somehow beneficial to the cause of liberation from the state.
But that’s enough about the advocates of free markets for now, let’s discuss their actual feasibility. There are two main proposals for their existence. The first is the type of society advocated by people such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises; a ‘minimal state’ that would merely handle law and order, while the rest would be left to the market with no state intervention. A cursory glance at history indicates no such society has ever existed or come close to existing. And it doesn’t take much to figure out why. Advocates of free markets are often very quick to tout the supposed miracles of the ‘profit motive’ and ‘risks of investment’, but fail to recognise that its exactly these concepts which cause state intervention in the first place – businesses believe certain state action will bring them greater profits, and view their contributions to politicians and media as investments. This business-state collusion has occurred all the way through history.
The second proposal for ‘free market capitalism’ is that proposed by Murray Rothbard and the ‘anarcho-capitalists’. They propose that the potential for the state to be corrupted, as highlighted above, can be removed by removing the state from the picture altogether. This is a less obviously problematic scenario, but it still has its problems. For a start, the market. As David Graeber in his fantastic book Debt: The First 5,000 Years, market economies historically originated as a result of certain state action, usually to do with having to have large amounts of professional state employees (usually soldiers). As he put it in an interview about the book on RT (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnOqanbHZi4), “Societies that don’t have states generally don’t have markets.” So a ‘free market’ stateless society seems unlikely.
Also, property. This is an endless source of disagreement in arguments about capitalism, but suffice it to say for now that there are certain forms of property relations that only occur within state societies. One of the pillars of capitalism, private ownership of land, is one of these. Stateless societies generally do one of two things with regard to land ownership:
1. Consider the land owned by either ‘no-one’ or ‘everyone’.
2. Consider land owned by certain individuals, but unlike in state societies, make no distinction between the owner of the land and the occupier or farmer of it.
With that in mind, ‘free-market capitalism’ would also seem to be impossible in a stateless society.
Earlier, I noted the problems of the strategy, or rather lack thereof, of the free market right. This may not seem too much of a problem to the anarchist movement – maybe ‘anarcho-capitalists’ and the like have got it wrong, but surely they can still be of use in the battle against the state? No, far from it. They fail to realise the power structures inherent in the state, preferring to see the state as some sort of unfortunate accident that humanity has stepped into. Many will indeed acknowledge that big businesses and the finance industry are in bed with the state, benefit hugely from state intervention and are huge supporters of the state. However, when the obvious next step that these business powers that prop up the state are just as worthy a target of our anger as the state itself, they suddenly jump ship and become apologists for big business. If we take that attitude, we can never hope to eradicate power.
Thanks for reading.
Because at the end of the day, there are way more poor people who’ve been oppressed by capitalism for way too long than there are anarcho-capitalists. Is your propertarian ideology really worth being put up against a wall for?
First, a disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an anarcho-capitalist, but I have a fair number of friends who do. I’m fairly well-versed in ancap theory as well as theories from which it sprung forth (traditional anarchism and classical liberalism) as well. I’m approaching this subject from an anarcho-capitalist perspective in order to critique some common statements made by self-professed anarcho-capitalists, and address what I see as one of the core problems of ancap theory and one of the most common ways in which ancaps tend to contradict themselves, as I value intellectual consistency in general.
So first, let’s talk a little bit about some legitimate and illegitimate actions when a tenant with whom you’ve contracted to pay you rent in exchange for use of a structure you built fails or even passively refuses to do so.
Legitimate actions when someone ceases to pay you “rent”:
- Cease to provide services which you provided such as maintenance/repairs.
- Cease to provide third-party services which you had provided prior, such as utilities or trash removal.
Illegitimate responses to someone failing to pay you “rent”:
- Use force to kick them from their home because you claim “ownership” over it.
- Contract with the state or some other entity capable of greater force than you are personally capable of to do so.
- Initiate force or coercion in any other manner.
See, initiating force and coercion are, by my libertarian standards, a bad thing. I often refer to myself as a libertarian anarchist because I value the core belief of libertarianism: the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle clearly states that one should not initiate force or coercion. Pretty simple, straight-forward stuff there. By any sane definition of libertarianism, the act of eviction; that is, of using force to remove someone from their home because they have failed to pay you for use of their home, is absolutely unlibertarian. The notion that such a failure (or even passive refusal) to pay constitutes an initiation of force is an absurd notion, with no basis in reality.
Given the standard anarcho-capitalist rhetoric regarding property rights and self-ownership, it strikes me that ownership of one’s own self (inclusive of body, mind, etc) is by far the most critical property right and the one from which all others spring forth. This makes a great deal of sense, as an inability to hold ownership over yourself – your own free will, that is – essentially invalidates any other rights you may have, including any property rights.
Thus I am unable to escape the conclusion that even by their own logic, anarcho-capitalists are unable to support the notion of forcible eviction of tenants who fail or even passively refuse to pay rent. Since the bodily autonomy of the tenant is related to their self-ownership, while the absentee ownership claims made by the landlord over the rental property are far removed from the landlord’s own bodily autonomy and self, clearly the bodily autonomy of the tenant must receive a higher priority in terms of what rights must be respected by others and hence take precedence in such a case. This seems pretty cut and dry to me, but maybe it isn’t to everyone. Maybe some folks who believe in property rights actually value absentee ownership claims over bodily autonomy in such a case. Fair enough.
So let’s look at this from another critical perspective, as well. Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty states that responses to violations of one’s rights must be proportional. If I snag a cheap spoon from your house, you can’t cut off my hand; you can simply demand recompense in the value of the spoon or something else effectively proportional to the value of the spoon which I wrongfully took from you. If I slap you across the face, leaving only very temporary harm, you can’t permanently maim me in response (such as to crush my skull), you can simply take action proportional to a face slapping. Seems fair and reasonable, right? Rothbard’s statement obviously applies to property rights, as well, however. Thus when someone violates a rental contract by failing to pay, certain measures are, by Rothbard’s own assertions, absolutely justified. As above, one may cease providing maintenance or other services that were specified in the rental contract. That said, the initiation of physical force in order to remove the tenant from the property is clearly not proportional to a simple failure to pay rent in accordance with a contract. Claiming that physical force is an appropriate and proportional retaliation to failure to uphold a business agreement would quickly lead to usurers with scimitars chopping off hands – and human history does speak of such people, justified by societies which felt violence was an appropriate response to failure to meet contractual obligations monetarily.
Therefore, based on one or both of these arguments, I don’t see how any anarcho-capitalist can feel justified in claiming that evictions for passive non-payment of a contractual obligation are a legitimate response.
Finally, let me leave you all with this gem: Hooker Visits the Rich Capitalist
Anarcho-Capitalism and many right libertarians find the basis for their philosophy in propertarian absolutism. I choose the two words ‘propertarian absolutism’ intentionally. To claim that because I oppose property absolutely would be inaccurate under many definitions of the term property. I wrote previously about the dual meanings of the terms property and gave a few examples of the problems with certain forms of property.
The first issue with the propertarian view is that of misunderstanding a stance against property held by others. I often hear arguments which claim that to oppose what the propertarian views as property will lead to mass theft, contamination of water supply and many other terrible outcomes. A reaction I often get is that if I am not all for every definition of property defined by their terms then I oppose all they define as property, which is an inaccurate conclusion based on a preconceived bias. Some have claimed that my opposition to their definition and absolutism of property rights means that I wish for someone to pee in my water supply. The responses are more accusations that rely on this black and white idea that if one does not support absolute sanctity of property rights then they are in support of invasion, state, force or worse. This is simply an error if inductive reasoning. Absolutism in general can easily fall into the trap of inductive reasoning. To say there are no absolutes is an absolute within itself, so I will simply say that absolutes are rare.
Property rights is often seen as so sacrosanct that they can be used to trump any form of freedom. This is the absolutism found within in the philosophy. It is not all who hold to these market ideas, but a select few. Property and liberty are redefined by this absolute capitalist rule philosophy. In the philosophy liberty is defined as property, they are perceived as synonyms.
Another specific argument by one who used property as an absolute jumped to many false conclusions regarding an opposition to property as an absolute:
You don’t see anything odd, immoral, or illogical about the idea that someone who mixes their labor with an unowned thing does not have a higher degree of right to it as any stranger who comes along?
So one who has spent years cultivating, living on/off of, building, repairing, plowing, et cetera land has no more right to it as random strangers who come along and do none of this? Really?
Here we are conflating many different aspects of ownership, use and possession with the term property. Everything under the sun is grouped together as ‘property’ ignoring the current reality of property in a claim that liberty is property. Proudhon said, Property is liberty, but on the reverse side just as property is theft. This is not to say that liberty is property. To realize this is vital. To fuse a traditional state property with ownership, use rights or possessions is essential to the propertarian philosophy and argument. Without this tactic the argument falls apart. A refusal to acknowledge any difference is part of the strength.
Property is liberty but liberty is not property in the same sense to say that Bob is a man yet not all men are Bob. It is one aspect in a certain context. In the historical context of property to which Proudhon wrote ‘Property is theft’ he was writing in reaction to the reality of the exploitation of power granted through property over others. Property allows a certain liberty of the proprietor over the property.
To realize what is being opposed as property is vital This is a direct opposition to property which stems from the concept of property originally found under roman law which is property that is defined by a state. This is a form of state granted ‘property’. There is often an attempt by the propertarian or the capitalist to perpetuate this form of state property outside of the confines of a state. This is maintaining the power of the state as one abolishes the state. It simply is a shift of state power from what is termed the state to a corporate power that is justified by the illusion of liberty found in the misconception that liberty is property.
By simply stating that ‘Property is Theft’ we realize that something is indeed owned, possessed or someone has right of use or occupancy, for without some sort of ownership which the properiterian would label property how could we have theft? As stated in the beginning, the problem we find is when the properterian conflates property under an oppressive state system with ownership, right of use or occupancy etc…
Property which is derived solely from the right of first use can lead to tyranny. It can lead to the accumulation of land which one claims absolute dominion over. It has been the historical place of the state to enforce such claims to property or the buying and selling of land and the absolute dominion over said land. To claim that property rights will not lead to a capitalist tyranny is a denial of what occurred in history. To maintain this power the state or an alternative with the same function of the state must be put in place.
To confuse ones house, bed, toothbrush, farm the product of ones labor or means of production with the acquiring of thousands of acres of land by a sole individual is a misrepresentation of possession, ownership, occupancy and property. A system of capitalist rulers is still not a system of no rulers. Anarchism translates most literally to ‘no rulers’. One comment to the previous post yesterday put it nicely:
Perhaps if we were to live in a free society, property ownership could work. One could only own as much as they could produce off that land. This of course, will stop a man from owning 5000 acres. Because without wage slavery, he could not produce off this land by himself.
Holding to property as an absolute gives all power to the property owner. It is only liberty to a select few and gives power of some over others. It is something that is ambiguous. The ambiguities are often overlooked by the propertarian. When is property abandoned and available to be homesteaded? Land itself is not the product of labor. One can have ownership of the product of their labor. One can have the right of occupancy or use of land for production.
One seeks a definitive to define where the lines are and that is not a black and white answer. It is something that will vary in society. It requires acknowledgment of society. As we form federations, syndicates, communities and many other diverse stateless solutions to structure society we will see that the definitions of property will continue to vary. Each may define property and possession differently. Litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution will occur when conflicts arise. The way for some may not be the way for all.
Using property as a catch-all requires all to submit to the defined concept of property by one group. This can not be done without a rule of this group. Property is not absolute. It is ambiguous.
“Well, what point of view would you expect to come out of this?” Noam Chomsky
In his mutualist economic work, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Carson asks us to consider two questions:
“1) if the “historical process” of primitive accumulation involved the use of force, how essential was force to that process; and if force was essential to the process, does it not follow that past force, as reflected in the present distribution of property, underlies the illusion of “free contract”; 2) how is it possible for employers to consistently pay a price for labor-power less than its product, if labor is free to bargain for the best possible deal? (Recourse to vague ideas of “social power” or “market power,” without an explicit examination of their nature, is not a satisfactory explanation.)”
With these questions, Kevin is actually throwing dust in our eyes to blind us; this is clearly some kind of literacy test for dumb Marxists:
Taking the second question first, in Marx’s actual theory the worker is never paid “less than her product”, since the only “product” in her possession is her labor power. There is no reason to explain how she is compelled to receive less than the value of this commodity; there is no need to appeal to vague nonsense phrases like “social power” or “market power” to explain profit — but then again, at no point in Marx’s theory does Maurice Dobbs or Benjamin Tucker make an appearance inform the parties how the law of value is supposed to function. In Marx’ model, competition between and among the capitalists and workers does not give rise to the value of labor power — this competition plays no role whatsoever in deciding how labor power will be priced. Rather, only after labor power becomes a commodity, and, thereby, acquires a value, does the universal competition between and among capitalist and workers arise. Competition does not explain wages, wages explain competition.
As is normal for a free market, the worker is entirely free to shop her labor power for the best deal; so, she always receives the full value for it. And, as Carson should already realize, there is not one act in this process but two as in any such exchange — an exchange of money for a commodity and its actual use — neither of which is, in any fashion, given by the other.
First, we have the exchange of wages for the labor power — an act, as Carson informs us, that is entirely innocent of all exploitative features, and not in any fashion to be regarded as threatening. As in any other commodity exchange we have to assume the capitalist and worker agree on a set price for this commodity, each with an eye to maximizing their gain by the transaction. The worker has to consider all the elements that go into the value of her labor power directly and indirectly — food, clothing, shelter, medical care, a Facebook page of her own, etc.; the capitalist approaches the transaction as he would any other business investment, with an eye to a return on his investment in the particular commodity negotiating the terms of its own purchase across the table from him. The question is: How much is the capitalist willing to offer for this labor power? While Carson has no difficulty understanding how a plot of virgin land containing a seam of coal might acquire a value in the market, with labor power, how it comes to acquire a value quite different than what it can produce seems altogether a mystery to him. However, as in the case of coal and land, the capitalist values this object as he does any other: by what he might gain by employing it as capital.
Carson argues, but never demonstrates, why this labor power should have its price determined by anything other than the same laws that determined the prices of any object. Yes, as Carson states, unlike the worker, coal does not require coaxing to give up its heat; but, by the same token, coal cannot be coaxed to pull itself out of the ground by flights of fancy of a better life in a furnace. A Mexican peasant, however, might be encouraged by such visions to leave her small plot of land to pick lettuce in one of the many agricultural factories in the United States. Even if we assume this job is unpleasant and avoided by Americans, we can easily imagine that purely economic interest might encourage the Mexican peasant to uproot herself from her small plot and make a remarkably dangerous journey to the United States in search of better economic opportunities. All we have to assume in this case is that the peasant obtains a material advantage over her present circumstances as a small-holder in Mexico by voluntarily selling herself into wage slavery in America. As Engels argued against Duhring, no force is necessary for this purely economic transaction; yet, the peasant voluntarily abandons her independent means of labor to become a wage slave precisely because she can improve her economic circumstances by doing so. Having separated herself from her independent means of labor to cross into the United States, the worker finds her labor power is now entirely useless to her, and, for this reason, is without any value at all unless she can find a buyer who has a use for it. But, it is useful to the capitalist only insofar as he can employ it as capital and produce a profit over the wage he has paid for it.
What is significant about this transaction, however, is this: until the transaction actually takes place, the labor power has not produced anything — it is merely a potential investment by the capitalist who hopes to employ it afterward to create a profit. For the moment, this is only a hope on the part of the capitalist. Whether this hope is realized is of no concern to the worker, who wants only to be paid the full value of her labor power in its present pristine form, unsoiled by the act of labor. So, when Benjamin Tucker sticks his nose into this private transaction to warn both sides that labor power is entitled to its full product, both sides tell him to go to hell, since, they agree, the labor power has not produced anything, and is itself the “product” being discussed. Asking Mr. Tucker to leave the room so they can finalize their agreement, they proceed to agree on a price. The first act of the transaction is complete — the labor power was purchased at it value, and all parties are satisfied with the deal. At no point was it necessary for either party to call in the State to sign onto the agreement “in letters of blood and fire.”
Only now do we get to the second act: the exploitation of this labor power by the capitalist. Carson wants the worker to be paid the full value produced by the actual consumption of the labor power; but, as we can now see, when the labor power is actually being exploited, it is no longer the property of the worker — it belongs to the capitalist who purchased it. The exchange of money for the commodity was only the first step and has been completed. It is now the property of the capitalist — although it still physically stands before him in the body of the worker. The labor power is not put to work until the capitalist has closed the deal to the satisfaction of both parties. Carson is entirely correct to say that the value of the labor power is its product, but this value is determined by the use to which its owner will now put it. Carson wants to skip over this observation, or treat it as inconsequential to the discussion; but it is, in fact, the heart of the matter. When the laborer puts her own labor power to use as an individual producer, its usefulness for her is directly realized in the product her labor can produce. If we could speak of value (wage) in this context (which, of course, would be silly) the “natural wage” of this labor would indeed be its product. This does not change one iota if we now assume the labor power is employed, not by the direct producer, but by the capitalist: the same condition holds: the usefulness of the labor power for the capitalist is directly realized in the product it produces.
Is there anything in this latter act of exploitation that requires State intervention? Is there anything in the latter act that requires unequal exchange in the former? Is there any reason why just this sort of exchange cannot happen completely as described in the absence of the State? Carson should answer these questions carefully, because he has made the argument that just such a transaction is benign, and is entirely consistent with his vision of a petty bourgeois market socialism. As a libertarian, he also believes a property owner has the right to employ his property as he sees fit without State interference or subsidy. The only difference between Carson and Marx in this above described scenario is that Marx states this is all that is required for exploitation, while Carson swears it to be the basis for market socialism.
Turning to the first question, an answer to which Carson demanded, we can now understand how Engels could argue that, in theory, the entirety of the premises of capitalism could arise by purely economic means without any appeal to the process of primitive accumulation Marx graphically describes in both the German Ideology and Capital. Indeed, in the very text cited by Carson with regard to Marx description of primitive accumulation, Marx himself refers to it as an artificial (i.e., not natural) means of abbreviating the transition from feudal to capitalist relations of production:
The system of protection was an artificial means of manufacturing manufacturers, of expropriating independent labourers, of capitalizing the national means of production and subsistence, of forcibly abbreviating the transition from the mediaeval to the modern mode of production.
Moreover, Marx in describing primitive accumulation notes that, side by side with primitive accumulation, the disintegration of the old society is already preceding apace:
The economic structure of capitalist society has grown out of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of the latter set free the elements of the former.
The immediate producer, the labourer, could only dispose of his own person after he had ceased to be attached to the soil and ceased to be the slave, serf, or bondsman of another. To become a free seller of labour power, who carries his commodity wherever he finds a market, he must further have escaped from the regime of the guilds, their rules for apprentices and journeymen, and the impediments of their labour regulations. Hence, the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-workers, appears, on the one hand, as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians. But, on the other hand, these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.
The industrial capitalists, these new potentates, had on their part not only to displace the guild masters of handicrafts, but also the feudal lords, the possessors of the sources of wealth. In this respect, their conquest of social power appears as the fruit of a victorious struggle both against feudal lordship and its revolting prerogatives, and against the guilds and the fetters they laid on the free development of production and the free exploitation of man by man. The chevaliers d’industrie, however, only succeeded in supplanting the chevaliers of the sword by making use of events of which they themselves were wholly innocent. They have risen by means as vile as those by which the Roman freedman once on a time made himself the master of his patronus.
There is, Marx notes, a two-sided process taking place — not simply the primitive accumulation occurring under the influence of emerging capitalist relations, but also a disintegration of the old feudal relations of production which sets the elements of these new forces free. Carson makes the argument that employment of these artificial means, even if they were limited only to that ugly period of human history, nevertheless taints the relations of productions down to the present day:
As for the fact that the pre-existing economic means must have been gotten by someone’s labor, once again, so what? Who said that force created production? One might as well say that the pre-existence of a host organism negates the principle of parasitism. And Engels himself admitted that the economic means might be in the hands of the ruling class as a result of past force. If the means of production under their control may indeed be the result of forcible robbery, what becomes of Engels assertion of these pre-existing means as a telling point against the force theory? In any case, it is quite consistent to posit a process in a series of stages, in which the progressive accumulation of capital, and the increasing exploitation of labor, are a mutually reinforcing synergistic trend, with force as still the primary cause of exploitation. In every case, the accumulated economic means that make heightened exploitation possible are the result of past robbery. As the Hindu theologian said of turtles, it’s force all the way down.
Carson makes a powerful argument here that an event precipitating a historical process expresses itself in the relations established long after the event has passed into history. Capitalist relations of production, even if they were not today influenced by continuous State intervention to maintain the system of exploitation, owe their existence to the ugly use of violence at the earliest moments of its emergence. However, as we have seen in this chicken-versus-egg farce of an argument, Capital is only the final stage of an historical process whereby the direct laborer is separated from the objective means of production — a separation that in no way begins with force, but with the material gain of the ancient family group when it replaced communal ownership with individual property relations under the encouragement of the earliest instances of commodity exchange between neighboring family groups. Rather than force all the way down, it has been just as Engels stated: material gain all the way down.
Thus, Marx provides us with the critical key to understanding what neither the Anarcho-Capitalist and Marxist critics of the Fascist State can explain, nor can be explained by the liberal and conservative apologists of Capital: not the use of force in exploitation, but consent within the democratic republic founded on universal suffrage to this exploitation, and particularly the role this universal suffrage plays in emergence of the Fascist State. Anyone trying to understand the argument of Marx and Engels by reading Maurice Dobbs or Paul Sweezy has already led himself into a theoretical cul-de-sac. Marx and Engels never assume the laborer is paid less than her product; rather, they assume precisely the opposite: the worker gains materially by entering into wage slavery with an utterly rapacious, vile, detestable parasite on the body human. This material gain need only be just significantly better than that which could be realized if the Mexican migrant instead remained on her small-holding.
What really has to be explained by any theory of historical development is why the numerically vastly superior mass of laborers, despite this Fascist State role, and despite the obvious consequences of this role, nevertheless voluntarily reproduce the relationship through their suffrage. To use one of Carson’s own analogies as the basis for furthering my argument:
Engels still did not show that exploitation was inherent in a given level of productive forces, without the use of coercion. He needed to show, not that parasitism depends on the preexistence of a host organism (duh!), but that it cannot be carried out without force. Every increase in economic productivity has created opportunities for robbery through a statist class system; but the same productive technology was always usable in non-exploitative ways. The fact that a given kind of class parasitism presupposes a certain form of productive technology, does not alter the fact that that form of technology has potentially both libertarian and exploitative applications, depending on the nature of the society which adopts it.
Carson employs the case of a parasite to argue against an alleged fallacy beneath Engels’ position that force presupposes material relations of production and does not create them. Carson explains that the existence of the host body does not, of itself, presuppose the parasitic infection. This is a good analogy since medicine has for the last 80 years actually introduced deadly live organisms into the human body under controlled circumstances precisely to inoculate humans from illnesses spread by these organisms. While the existence of the human body does not imply the existence of a parasite, the mere existence of the parasite in the human body does not imply an illness. In the case of inoculation it actually implies resistance to the illness caused by the parasite. You cannot argue that one condition necessarily implies the other — that coexistence of the use of force with exploitation implies the latter is dependent on the former, or vice versa. The two occur side by side throughout history, and, moreover, both influence and reinforce each other, and, at other times, altogether appear at loggerheads. Indeed history is replete with the use of force precisely aimed to overthrow existing modes of exploitation, and against the states that enforced these modes — our own Paris Commune is just one such instance.
The logical insufficiency of Carson’s force argument in this case is revealed when we inquire into how the most democratic of all republics — the United States — nevertheless appears most completely in the grip of monopoly interests. The State, in Carson’s argument, is constantly intervening in the market to enforce conditions of unequal exchange. Carson argues the intent of this intervention is to produce a material gain for monopoly:
Of course the use of force is aimed at the benefit of the user–who ever denied it? Who in his right mind would claim that exploitation is motivated by pure E-vill, rather than material gain? And since, by definition, means are always subordinate to ends, the ends are always more fundamental.
This reasoning appears to present no difficulty in certain previous incarnations of the State — the slave, for instance, did not enjoy universal suffrage — but, it’s actual practical failure as an explanation is revealed when it comes to explaining the democratic republic as the very instrument for enforcing the ruthless exploitation of the mass of society by a numerically small group of parasites. Having dispatched the materialist view of history, Carson should at least be required to offer an opinion on why a State based on universal suffrage, clearly dominated by a proletarian majority, might come to enforce circumstances where this proletarian majority are systematically robbed of their “natural wage” through unequal exchange with their own consent? What we have to explain is not, “pure E-vill” but, rather a complete lack of material gain to the majority of voters under the existing political relations of society.
Once you introduce the idea that capitalist exploitation is based on unequal exchange, you must now explain why the democratic republic continuously enforces this unequal exchange despite a obvious lack of material gain for the proletarian majority, and even at their expense. The easiest way to explain this, of course, is by identifying an obvious defect in existing political relations themselves — that, somehow, democracy is also infected with the parasite — that, in the words of Noam Chomsky, this consent is in some fashion manufactured, as he describes in a 1992 interview:
QUESTION: You write in Manufacturing Consent [(Pantheon, 1988)] that it’s the primary function of the mass media in the United States to mobilize public support for the special interests that dominate the government and the private sector. What are those interests?
CHOMSKY: Well, if you want to understand the way any society works, ours or any other, the first place to look is who is in a position to make the decisions that determine the way the society functions. Societies differ, but in ours, the major decisions over what happens in the society — decisions over investment and production and distribution and so on — are in the hands of a relatively concentrated network of major corporations and conglomerates and investment firms. They are also the ones who staff the major executive positions in the government. They’re the ones who own the media and they’re the ones who have to be in a position to make the decisions. They have an overwhelmingly dominant role in the way life happens. You know, what’s done in the society. Within the economic system, by law and in principle, they dominate. The control over resources and the need to satisfy their interests imposes very sharp constraints on the political system and on the ideological system.
QUESTION: When we talk about manufacturing of consent, whose consent is being manufactured?
CHOMSKY: To start with, there are two different groups, we can get into more detail, but at the first level of approximation, there’s two targets for propaganda. One is what’s sometimes called the political class. There’s maybe twenty percent of the population which is relatively educated, more or less articulate, plays some kind of role in decision-making. They’re supposed to sort of participate in social life — either as managers, or cultural managers like teachers and writers and so on. They’re supposed to vote, they’re supposed to play some role in the way economic and political and cultural life goes on. Now their consent is crucial. So that’s one group that has to be deeply indoctrinated. Then there’s maybe eighty percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not think, and not to pay attention to anything — and they’re the ones who usually pay the costs.
Innumerable variants of this silly thesis are employed by Libertarians, Anarchists and Marxists to explain how a Fascist State so clearly operating at the expense of the mass of society nevertheless enjoys their continued support or, at least, their apathy in the face of its ravages and predation. Marx’s theory, on the other hand, predicts precisely political support for the existing mode of exploitation, since he never assumes existing political relations are founded on anything other than the law of value, equal exchange, and material advantage accruing to both exploiter and exploited. It is the operation of the law of value itself, which encourages the small-holder to convert herself into a wage slave, that also ensures its continued existence, despite the obstacles Capital places in its own way, through the continuous intervention of the Fascist State.
The conclusion arrived at by Marx’s theory should be sobering for critical communist theory– the worker does not merely sell herself into slavery willingly, she also assures, through her political activity, that the conditions for her enslavement are maintained despite her exploitation. This conclusion cannot be ignored or jury-rigged out of existence by means of silly arguments based on alleged “social power”, unequal exchange, or manufactured consent. They must be faced squarely by critical communism. In this task, Carson’s mutualist synthesis of the dominant streams of critical communist theory is an utter failure.
Tags: Anarcho-capitalism, Benjamin Tucker, capital, compulsory labor, Eugen Duhring, Fascist State, Frederick Engels, Karl Marx, Kevin Carson, labor, labor power, Marxism, Mutualism, Paris Commune, primitive accumulation, Stromberg, surplus value, The State, wage slavery
“…an ingredient in someone’s soup.” –Rod Serling
According to Carson the arguments of the Anarcho-Capitalist and Marxist variants of critical communist theory identify a movement of large-scale, organized capital to obtain its profits through state intervention into the economy, although the regulations entailed in this project are usually sold to the public as progressive restraints on big business, which creates, “a system of industrial serfdom in which politically connected capitalist interests exploit workers and consumers through the agency of the state.”
It should have been obvious to Carson at the outset that this argument by Anarcho-Capitalism and Marxism was always suspect, since it is just a simplistic inversion of the argument of “mainline ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’” that the Fascist State acts to restrain “the power of big business” by means of “Progressive and New Deal programs forced on corporate interests from outside, and against their will.” It doesn’t take any particular genius to see that the social class most advantaged by existing political relations might find it in their interest to portray these relations, not as advantages, but as limitations or constraints on their social power. That, this realization should be seen as an analytical accomplishment in the 21st Century is not just curious on its face, it is a commentary on the pathetic state of critical communist theory.
The simplistic mirror imaged world view of the conservative and liberal pundits is mirrored again in the simplistic conclusions of its Anarcho-Capitalist and Marxist critics, and the superficial analysis of the critical camp as a whole is itself merely the mirror image of the superficial analysis of the mainstream camp. The common conclusion of both critics and the mainstream is that the State is the autonomous author of political-economy, and economic players merely act out a script that emerged full blown from the central plan of society’s general manager. All agree — to one extent or another — that the role of the Fascist State has nothing at all to do with the relation between capitalists and the wage laborers as antagonistic poles of Capital and absolutely dependent for their existence as opposing classes on this relation. On this basis, Carson argues there is no antithesis between property and labor as such — that wage labor can coexist with property, if the State, which dominates both in the interest of monopoly, is abolished.
Kevin Carson’s attempt to synthesize the arguments of Anarcho-Capitalism and Marxism was always a fool’s errand. He produces a mash up of a critique of Capital from the viewpoint of the capitalist and from the viewpoint of the laborer, when what was really called for from him is a critique of capitalist labor itself — of the relation between these two classes and the implications this relationship has on the emergence and development of the Fascist State. We are led to believe that the relation between property and wage labor is entirely innocuous save for Fascist State intervention. Thus, Carson makes the assertion that wage labor can exist in a non-exploitative society without ever investigating the nature of wage labor itself as a historical social form. He essentially treats the worker as a self-owned commodity and applies to the labor market the same analysis he applies to the market in shoes.
Is this possible? Marx, who before he even begins to consider the commodity in circulation, and before he considers it as an essential element of the capitalist mode of production, takes the time to consider the commodity in its own right as an object. He begins by noting that every commodity has a two-fold character — that, for the producer, it satisfies no need for her and exists for her only as an object to be exchanged, a social use value. Without these two together, it is not a commodity:
A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity. Whoever directly satisfies his wants with the produce of his own labour, creates, indeed, use values, but not commodities. In order to produce the latter, he must not only produce use values, but use values for others, social use values. (And not only for others, without more. The mediaeval peasant produced quit-rent-corn for his feudal lord and tithe-corn for his parson. But neither the quit-rent-corn nor the tithe-corn became commodities by reason of the fact that they had been produced for others. To become a commodity a product must be transferred to another, whom it will serve as a use value, by means of an exchange.) Lastly nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.
Understand what is going on here in Marx’s analysis: the commodity has no usefulness to the individual producer, but it must have a usefulness for others. This appears altogether benign in relation to object like a sack of potatoes or shoes (although, as I will show, even here Marx argues it is surprisingly malignant) but, in relation to the human capacity to labor, it implies her productive capacities are entirely useless to her. Her own body is not her self, but a detachable object that exists only to be exchanged for money. Before he even begins to consider this object in the context of the capitalist mode of production, and its vital role in this mode, Marx has already demonstrated how for the laborer her own qualities as a human being no longer exists for her except as means. And, to be absolutely clear on this point, throughout all of Capital, labor power is the only commodity Marx is discussing — even when he uses quantities of coats and tons of iron as his practical examples. In his dry sarcastic academic style Marx is painstakingly describing precisely what it means to reduce a human being to a commodity.
He is discussing the capitalist mode of production and he is only speaking of the inherent qualities of the commodity that is specific to this mode of production — qualities it shares with other commodities, but which have quite unique results when applied to this one in particular. The pathetic abortion that passes for Marxism has no inkling of this fact. And, Carson, because he uncritically accepts the assumptions of the Marxist and Anarcho-Capitalist analyses of the capitalist mode of production, never ventures into an analysis of labor power on his own. As a result he offers nothing new in this regard, and fails to address the critical objection raised by Marx to the very idea that human capacities can simply be treated as another commodity for sale. Instead we get from Carson only that the value of this commodity consists in what it can be compelled to produce:
“[T]he natural wage of labor in a free market is its full product…”
The only thing differentiating one set of human capacities from another are not the uniquely human desires and wants of the individuals concerned, nor how these unique desires and wants are expressed in their activities, but the impersonal exchange value contained in each as expressed in so many ounces of gold. Thus, human beings can be compared to each other as one might compare linen and coats. This corrosive force, introduced into our very concept of what it means to be a human being by the capitalist mode of production and exchange, is never examined by Carson — as it is never examined by the Anarcho-Capitalist or the Marxist, nor by mainstream political-economy — but generally accepted among both apologists and critics of capitalist society as a fact.
This brings us to the refutation of Eugen Duhring by Frederick Engels — and to Carson’s objection to the views expressed by Engels in this debate:
Engels, to render the Marxian theory consistent (and to deflect the strategic threat from the market socialists mentioned above), was forced to retreat on the role of force in primitive accumulation. (And if we take his word on the importance of Marx’s input and approval during his writing of Anti-Dühring, Marx himself was guilty of similar backpedalling). In Anti-Dühring, Engels vehemently denied that force was necessary at any stage of the process; indeed, that it did little even to further the process significantly.
Every socialist worker [like every British schoolboy?]… knows quite well that force only protects exploitation, but does not cause it; that the relation between capital and wage labour is the basis of his exploitation, and that this arose by purely economic causes and not at all by means of force [emphasis added].
This raises the question of to what extent the legal system is presupposed in even “purely economic” relations, and whether more than one “purely economic” state of affairs is possible, depending on the degree of such state involvement. For example, are combination laws, laws of settlement, and laws on the issuance of credit without specie backing essential to the process of free exchange itself, or only to the capitalist character of such exchange?
Engels stated the case in even more absolute terms later on, denying that force was necessary (or even especially helpful, apparently) at any stage of the process.
…even if we exclude all possibility of robbery, force and fraud, even if we assume that all private property was originally based on the owner’s own labour, and that throughout the whole subsequent process there was only exchange of equal values for equal values, the progressive development of production and exchange nevertheless brings us of necessity to the present capitalist mode of production, to the monpolization of the means of production and the means of subsistence in the hands of a numerically small class, to the degradation into propertyless proletarians of the other class, constituting the immense majority, to the periodic alternation of speculative production booms and commercial crises and to the whole of the present anarchy of production. The whole process can be explained by purely economic causes; at no point whatever are robbery, force, the state or political interference of any kind necessary.
You can see Carson’s brain smoking here. How can exploitation occur when obviously the value of wages must be equal to the value of its product — yet, as a practical matter it does not? Indeed these are Engels words, and, moreover, they are fully consistent with the conclusions reached by Marx in his analysis — indeed Marx himself contributed an entire section to Engels polemic against Duhring. But, even if Marx had not made such a contribution, Engels words stand on their own as an exemplary piece of historical materialist argument. So let’s parse Engels argument.
Is Engels denying the role of force in history? Obviously not. He explicitly states force has been employed to enforce existing social relations throughout history, and that the capitalist mode of production was no exception to this role. So, although differing on a lot of fundamentals with Kevin Carson, Marx and Engels did not differ much with him on the historical record of the State; which is what makes the points on which they differ both significant, yet entirely beside the point: Kevin Carson believes exploitation cannot happen without the State; however, Marx and Engels are discussing an altogether different subject!
To do this, they document a number of then known instances where pre-capitalist forms of private property emerges without State action directly out of communal ownership. Engels shows how, in documented cases, the commons themselves were dissolved through the emergence of commodity production. Private property emerges spontaneously, and without any action by the State — gradually the commons is converted into a community of small-holders because the members see a material advantage to the dissolution of the commons:
Private property by no means makes its appearance in history as the result of robbery or force. On the contrary. It already existed, though limited to certain objects, in the ancient primitive communities of all civilised peoples. It developed into the form of commodities within these communities, at first through barter with foreigners. The more the products of the community assumed the commodity form, that is, the less they were produced for their producers’ own use and the more for the purpose of exchange, and the more the original spontaneously evolved division of labour was superseded by exchange also within the community, the more did inequality develop in the property owned by the individual members of the community, the more deeply was the ancient common ownership of the land undermined, and the more rapidly did the commune develop towards its dissolution and transformation into a village of smallholding peasants. For thousands of years Oriental despotism and the changing rule of conquering nomad peoples were unable to injure these old communities; the gradual destruction of their primitive home industry by the competition of products of large-scale industry brought these communities nearer and nearer to dissolution. Force was as little involved in this process as in the dividing up, still taking place now, of the land held in common by the village communities [Gehöferschaften] on the Mosel and in the Hochwald; the peasants simply find it to their advantage that the private ownership of land should take the place of common ownership. Even the formation of a primitive aristocracy, as in the case of the Celts, the Germans and the Indian Punjab, took place on the basis of common ownership of the land, and at first was not based in any way on force, but on voluntariness and custom. Wherever private property evolved it was the result of altered relations of production and exchange, in the interest of increased production and in furtherance of intercourse—hence as a result of economic causes. Force plays no part in this at all. Indeed, it is clear that the institution of private property must already be in existence for a robber to be able to appropriate another person’s property, and that therefore force may be able to change the possession of, but cannot create, private property as such.
Engels is not here discussing hypothetical scenarios of exploitation; rather he is discussing actual evidence from documented research of contemporary scientists into historical and contemporary communities. Moreover, he was an acknowledged expert in his on right on the subject he is discussing. In this research, he notes, there is compelling evidence to support the hypothesis that pre-capitalist private property spontaneously emerged from communal ownership, disintegrating this ownership, not due to force and violence, but due to the material advantages it offered over communal ownership. To what in this argument can Carson possibly object? Is Engels distorting or fabricating the research of these scientists? Is he spinning this evidence in a way that throws the best light on his own hypothesis? Is he concealing other exculpatory evidence that proves these communities broke, not on their own volition, as Engels states, but due to the force and violence of previously undisclosed players? This is a pure and simple presentation of the historical record, which cannot be refuted simply by dismissing it out of hand — as Duhring does — but must be met with equally persuasive evidence to the contrary, or with evidence Engels is making an erroneous interpretation of the facts.
Nowhere does Carson offer any such evidence.
The separation of the laborer from the objective conditions of labor is by no means accomplished all in one leap as Carson would have us believe, but is a process lasting thousands of years, beginning with the dissolution of the early human communities founded on common ownership. The emergence of commodity production and exchange, and private property with it, directly out of the commonly held property of the community was the initial step by mankind on the long road leading to the complete separation of the laborer from the means of production — an act only finally completed with Capital, when the laborer herself is turned into a commodity. True, in its earliest moment of development, this separation is only rudimentary; however, in a community founded on common ownership of the means of production, all members had access to all of these commonly owned means. The separation of the producer from the means of production begins exactly with the division of this common property into private hands, when the individual’s access to the now privately held property of the community can only take place on the basis of exchange. The individual is now in possession of his own individual means of production, but he is, by the same token, severed from the greater portion of the total communal means of production which now are the property of other members of the community. On the one hand, with the disintegration of the community, the total communal means of production is now divided into privately held properties, and, on the other hand, the producers are themselves divided from the mass of total communal means. This world historical separation, of course, is simply the outcome of a process that begins with the producer’s own act of commodity exchange — an act which is nothing less than a separation of the individual act of labor from satisfaction of the needs of the producer.
Engels is not discussing exploitation; he is discussing how society itself, and our conception of ourselves as human beings, is being transformed by the way we go about our productive lives. A transformation that, as I will discuss in the final part of this series, culminates in the emergence of a completely unique circumstance: exploitation based entirely on equal exchange of value within the world market.
Tags: Anarcho-capitalism, Benjamin Tucker, capital, compulsory labor, Eugen Duhring, Fascist State, Frederick Engels, Karl Marx, Kevin Carson, labor, labor power, Marxism, Mutualism, Paris Commune, primitive accumulation, Stromberg, surplus value, The State, wage slavery
“woeful work they have made with it…”
Kevin Carson asserts Marx held to the idea the abolition of the system of wage slavery could not occur until the productive forces it represents had reached their fullest possible development. According to Carson, Marx made the argument that an attempt to create a society free of exploitation before technical and productive prerequisites for it had been achieved would be unwise. This argument is vital for Carson, because he intends to assert on the basis of this alleged error by Marx that, absent State coercion, a market in wage labor would not spontaneously give rise to a system of wage slavery. According to Carson, State coercion is the necessary condition for exploitation of the worker to take place. Without this State coercion, the worker cannot be reduced to a wage slave simply by the act of selling his labor power. Quoting Benjamin Tucker, Carson states, “the natural wage of labor is its product.”
But, by raising the charge against Marx, Carson is, in fact, changing the entire nature of his argument. Instead of sticking strictly to a historical argument, he now switches to a hypothetical one. He is asking the question: “In theory, is it possible for free and non-exploitative social relations from replacing the State before all of the technical and productive prerequisites are in place?” He asserts, without offering any evidence, that Marx answers this question with a negative. So, I have to pause for moment to disprove Carson’s charge.
The first problem with this hypothetical question is that Carson never details, on the basis of Marx’s argument, the technical and productive prerequisites for a free and non-exploitative society — that is, he never describes what the phrase “fullest possible development” of wage slavery means. And, the reason for this failure is obvious: Marx assumed Capital had already created the basis for the voluntary association of labor, by creating modern industry, the world market and a mass of individuals in all the most developed nations who had all the attributes necessary to effect this association.
In the German Ideology, Marx explains that Capital has already rendered a great mass of society propertyless, and produced great wealth and culture, based on a great increase in productive power of labor. It had already developed the productive forces and brought about universal competition within society; which produced a global labor force of wage slaves, made each nation dependent on the revolutions of the others, and effectively created a perverse sort of global community founded on wage slavery.
Thus, in 1845, Marx argues, the premises for a voluntary association were already in existence. These developments, in Marx’s opinion, not only made a free and non-exploitative society possible, they made its eventual emergence inevitable. By buying into the argument of Benjamin Tucker with regards to Marx’s theory, Carson is forced to ignore Marx’s own writing on this question in the German Ideology — an error which, apparently, is not difficult for Carson, since, as we have seen, he already failed to find any reference to primitive accumulation in the very same text.
In that text, Marx writes:
Thus things have now come to such a pass that the individuals must appropriate the existing totality of productive forces, not only to achieve self-activity, but, also, merely to safeguard their very existence. This appropriation is first determined by the object to be appropriated, the productive forces, which have been developed to a totality and which only exist within a universal intercourse. From this aspect alone, therefore, this appropriation must have a universal character corresponding to the productive forces and the intercourse.
The appropriation of these forces is itself nothing more than the development of the individual capacities corresponding to the material instruments of production. The appropriation of a totality of instruments of production is, for this very reason, the development of a totality of capacities in the individuals themselves.
This appropriation is further determined by the persons appropriating. Only the proletarians of the present day, who are completely shut off from all self-activity, are in a position to achieve a complete and no longer restricted self-activity, which consists in the appropriation of a totality of productive forces and in the thus postulated development of a totality of capacities. All earlier revolutionary appropriations were restricted; individuals, whose self-activity was restricted by a crude instrument of production and a limited intercourse, appropriated this crude instrument of production, and hence merely achieved a new state of limitation. Their instrument of production became their property, but they themselves remained subordinate to the division of labour and their own instrument of production. In all expropriations up to now, a mass of individuals remained subservient to a single instrument of production; in the appropriation by the proletarians, a mass of instruments of production must be made subject to each individual, and property to all. Modern universal intercourse can be controlled by individuals, therefore, only when controlled by all.
This appropriation is further determined by the manner in which it must be effected. It can only be effected through a union, which by the character of the proletariat itself can again only be a universal one, and through a revolution, in which, on the one hand, the power of the earlier mode of production and intercourse and social organisation is overthrown, and, on the other hand, there develops the universal character and the energy of the proletariat, without which the revolution cannot be accomplished; and in which, further, the proletariat rids itself of everything that still clings to it from its previous position in society.
Again, not to put to fine a point on this, in 1845, Marx states explicitly that this voluntary association of labor results “from the premises now in existence.”
So, in complete contradiction to Kevin Carson’s assertion, and to the muddle-headed arguments of the Marxist, Marx himself argues in 1845 that all the conditions for a voluntary association of labor had already been achieved by society. On this basis, any charge made against him that the system of wage slavery had to reach “their fullest possible development,” is both an egregious distortion of the facts, and a lie. It follows from what I have said, that Marx greeted the Paris Commune — led, as it was, by Anarchists/Libertarians — as an authentic communist attempt to realize a voluntary association of labor and put an end to wage slavery.
Even if we consider Carson’s assertion that
Just social and economic relations are compatible with any level of technology; technical progress can be achieved and new technology integrated into production in any society, thorough free work and voluntary cooperation.
we only arrive at the conclusion that in all epochs men and women have struggled to put an end to the exploitation of their labor under whatever were the prevailing conditions of its extraction and realize a society in which they were not treated as the property of another in one guise or another. Marx makes no argument against this assertion, except to state that, owing to the conditions of society up to Capita,l all of these attempts merely end in new fetters on the individual. While the existing mode of the exploitation of labor is abolished, it is merely replaced by a new mode of exploitation. He does not offer a theoretical response to Carson’s hypothetical argument, but a historical one, in which men and women replace one limited mode of existence with another.
Carson, however, is not satisfied with this answer, so he further argues:
Had not the expropriation of the peasantry and the crushing of the free cities taken place, a steam powered industrial revolution would still have taken place–but the main source of capital for industrializing would have been in the hands of the democratic craft guilds. The market system would have developed on the basis of producer ownership of the means of production.
The point of Carson’s argument is, of course, that the market in wage labor need not result in a system of wage slavery. However, Marx never once argued development of the productive forces could not take place within a producer owned context; he only argued that the actual historical development of productive forces took place in opposition to peasant property and the free cities. Far from making the patently absurd argument that development of the productive forces could not take place within the context of producer control over the forces of production, Marx made the argument that, with the system of wage slavery, producer control of the productive forces could be achieved only through their voluntary association and the means of production made the common wealth of society — there was no other possible route to ownership and control over the means of production by the great mass of propertyless wage slaves other than by establishing this control in a voluntary cooperative union.
Moreover, Marx argues the system of wage slavery was itself the drag on the development of the productive forces. The productive power of social labor would never be truly realized as long as wage slavery existed. The system of wage slavery, he argued, increasingly demonstrated its senility as it proved unable to overcome the obstacles placed in the path of the development of the productive forces created by the system of wage slavery itself.
Thus we find, in the previously cited Capital, Volume 3, Chapter 15:
On the other hand, the rate of self-expansion of the total capital, or the rate of profit, being the goad of capitalist production (just as self-expansion of capital is its only purpose), its fall checks the formation of new independent capitals and thus appears as a threat to the development of the capitalist production process. It breeds over-production, speculation, crises, and surplus-capital alongside surplus-population. Those economists, therefore, who, like Ricardo, regard the capitalist mode of production as absolute, feel at this point that it creates a barrier itself, and for this reason attribute the barrier to Nature (in the theory of rent), not to production. But the main thing about their horror of the falling rate of profit is the feeling that capitalist production meets in the development of its productive forces a barrier which has nothing to do with the production of wealth as such; and this peculiar barrier testifies to the limitations and to the merely historical, transitory character of the capitalist mode of production; testifies that for the production of wealth, it is not an absolute mode, moreover, that at a certain stage it rather conflicts with its further development.
He later adds:
Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale.
The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself. It is that capital and its self-expansion appear as the starting and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production; that production is only production for capital and not vice versa, the means of production are not mere means for a constant expansion of the living process of the society of producers. The limits within which the preservation and self-expansion of the value of capital resting on the expropriation and pauperisation of the great mass of producers can alone move — these limits come continually into conflict with the methods of production employed by capital for its purposes, which drive towards unlimited extension of production, towards production as an end in itself, towards unconditional development of the social productivity of labour. The means — unconditional development of the productive forces of society — comes continually into conflict with the limited purpose, the self-expansion of the existing capital. The capitalist mode of production is, for this reason, a historical means of developing the material forces of production and creating an appropriate world-market and is, at the same time, a continual conflict between this its historical task and its own corresponding relations of social production.
From these passages, it is clear that Marx could not have believed that a non-exploitative society had to wait until the productive forces created by wage slavery reached their fullest possible development, because he believed the system of wage slavery itself created barriers to development of the productive forces. It follows from the evidence I have offered here that, for Marx, it was not a matter of tolerating the system of wage slavery until it has reached its fullest possible development, but precisely the opposite: without abolishing the system of wage slavery the productive forces of society could not reach their fullest possible development!
How Carson manages to stand Marx’s argument on its head, and to level this charge against him is simply incomprehensible to me, but is not the least bit surprising, since Carson sets out, not to disprove the arguments of the Anarcho-Capitalist and Marxist variants of critical communist thinking, but to synthesize their arguments with his own mutualist argument that a market in wage labor is consistent with a non-exploitative society. He therefore, ends up appropriating both the theoretical blunders of the Anarcho-Capitalist and the Marxist along with their insights.
I will turn to this angle in my next post.
Tags: Anarcho-capitalism, Benjamin Tucker, capital, compulsory labor, Fascist State, Karl Marx, Kevin Carson, labor, labor power, Marxism, Mutualism, Paris Commune, primitive accumulation, Stromberg, surplus value, The State, wage slavery
Even when it was laissez, it wasn’t faire
If it were merely a historical question of the material role the State played in the emergence of Capital, and the role it continues to play in Capital’s own development even now, Kevin Carson and Karl Marx would be in complete agreement on the facts. Even if we extended Carson’s argument to include the idea that every step in the development of Capital has required State coercion and violence, Carson would get no argument from Marx. Finally, Marx would entirely agree with Carson’s argument that the present system is exploitative; and that its exploitation depends solely on the state.
The disagreement between Marx and Carson is not with these historical and material facts, but with the question raised by them of, which, the State or Capital, is the driving force in this development. While Carson believes the State is the autonomous actor in the development of capitalist exploitation, Marx believed the State’s absolutely essential role in the development of Capital results from inherent internal barriers created by the capitalist mode of production itself. In support of my assertion on these points, I offer no other evidence than Marx’s own words as written in Capital, Volume 3, Chapter 15:
“If, as shown, a falling rate of profit is bound up with an increase in the mass of profit, a larger portion of the annual product of labour is appropriated by the capitalist under the category of capital (as a replacement for consumed capital) and a relatively smaller portion under the category of profit… Furthermore, the mass of profit increases in spite of its slower rate with the growth of the invested capital. However, this requires a simultaneous concentration of capital, since the conditions of production then demand employment of capital on a larger scale. It also requires its centralisation, i.e. , the swallowing up of the small capitalists by the big and their deprivation of capital… It is this same severance of the conditions of production, on the one hand, from the producers, on the other, that forms the conception of capital. It begins with primitive accumulation…, appears as a permanent process in the accumulation and concentration of capital, and expresses itself finally as centralisation of existing capitals in a few hands and a deprivation of many of their capital (to which expropriation is now changed). This process would soon bring about the collapse of capitalist production if it were not for counteracting tendencies, which have a continuous decentralising effect alongside the centripetal one.”
In this sketch of the contradictions inherent in Wage Slavery, Marx demonstrates why continuous state intervention is necessary not merely at the earliest periods of the emergence of the social relation, during the period of primitive accumulation, and in its latest period of development, a period of absolute over-accumulation of capital, but why state intervention in the social process of production is required during the whole of the capitalist epoch. On its own, the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production itself would drive it to rapid extinction.
As with Carson’s Mutualist analysis, there is in Marx’s theory no period of laissez-faire political relations in which “the… character of the system was largely… a “neutral” legal framework…” This much should already be obvious, since, in 1848 — six years before Benjamin Tucker was born, more than two decades before he became an Anarchist, and nearly three decades before his first published work — Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”
Precisely when the mainstream historian, the Anarcho-Capitalist and the Marxist propose the State operated as a neutral legal framework, and not to enforce the system of Wage Slavery — and, precisely when each proposes Capital was in its alleged “competitive”, as opposed to its alleged “monopoly”, phase — Marx was describing the State in exactly these terms. Historical materialism has never proposed any other relation between the State and the total social capital than the one cited above — that the State, insofar as it can be considered a distinct entity in capitalist society, acts as the general social manager of the mode of production.
However, even if we go beyond the merely formal distinction between Capital as a form of private property and the State as the general manager of the interests of these private capitals — i.e., as the general manager of the system of Wage Slavery — and assume the State has acted throughout history directly on its own behalf as the social capitalist, it is still obvious that the inherent contradictions of the capitalist mode of production impose on the State-Capital entity precisely the same laws as are imposed on the total social capital when it is formally operating independent of the State. The entirely formal distinction between the State, on the one hand, and the total social capital, on the other, has absolutely no impact on the influence of the relations of production on political relations generally, but only on the ways this influence is expressed in actual political events.
This is because, in historical materialism, the State, whatever its relation to the existing mode of production prevailing in society, is nevertheless only a body composed of members of society carrying out the particular public functions of the State. It is a part of the general division of labor prevailing in society, and not, as mainstream political-economy would have us believe, an entity standing outside this division of labor. It does not matter in the least whether politics forms a sphere separate from the direct exploitation of labor power in the capitalist mode of production — as, for instance, is said to prevail in the United States — or is entirely fused with this direct exploitation of labor power — as might be argued in the case of the People’s Republic of China at present — the contradiction arising from the process of production of surplus value itself gives rise to the same necessities.
Moreover, in every historical epoch known to us, the State is not, and has never been, anything but a given quantity of surplus product of the existing mode of exploitation of labor organized in the form of the State. Since, in all epochs for which historical records are available, it is composed of men and women who are, by definition, unproductive drones within society, wasting the productive capacity of society on efforts, which, under any and all previous epochs, are entirely superfluous to human needs, it follows that its entire constitution depends on the productive labor of the remaining portion of society, and on the actual mode of production of surplus product prevailing in the society, however historically determined. For the State to be otherwise, it would no longer be the State, but a particular element of the productive capacity of society itself.
Finally, it is an obvious conclusion that whatever the social relations under which the surplus product of society is produced in an epoch, these social relations are of paramount importance to the State, precisely because it has bearing not only on private interests bound up with the mode of production, but with the interests of the State itself. If this relation between the State and the prevailing mode of extraction of surplus product had not been already explicitly argued for by centuries of observers, it could be easily deduced from historical experience. Thus, for example, Wikipedia tells us, in the literature of Ancient Greece, the only basis on which utopian society is organized without a slave population is that where labor itself has been abolished:
The Greeks could not comprehend an absence of slaves. Slaves exist even in the “Cloudcuckooland” of Aristophanes’ The Birds as well as in the ideal cities of Plato’s Laws or Republic. The utopian cities of Phaleas of Chalcedon and Hippodamus of Miletus are based on the equal distribution of property, but public slaves are used respectively as craftsmen and land workers. The “reversed cities” placed women in power or even saw the end of private property, as in Lysistrata or Assemblywomen, but could not picture slaves in charge of masters. The only societies without slaves were those of the Golden Age, where all needs were met. In this type of society, as explained by Plato, one reaped generously without sowing. In Telekleides’ Amphictyons barley loaves fight with wheat loaves for the honour of being eaten by men. Moreover, objects move themselves—dough kneads itself, and the jug pours itself. Society without slaves is thus relegated to a different time and space. In a “normal” society, one needs slaves.
What is particularly offensive in this regard, is the implication made by Kevin Carson, that somehow, Marx held to the same conclusion as the ancient Greeks, namely, that the system of Wage Slavery could only be abolished given the abolition of labor itself. Carson argues:
A second failing of Marxism (or at least the vulgar variety) was to treat the evolution of particular social and political forms as natural outgrowths of a given technical mode of production.
No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society. Mankind thus inevitably sets itself such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. (169)
For the Marxists, a “higher” or more progressive form of society could only come about when productive forces under the existing form of society had reached their fullest possible development under that society. To attempt to create a free and non-exploitative society before its technical and productive prerequisites had been achieved would be folly. The proper anarchist position, in contrast, is that exploitation and class rule are not inevitable at any time; they depend upon intervention by the state, which is not at all necessary. Just social and economic relations are compatible with any level of technology; technical progress can be achieved and new technology integrated into production in any society, thorough free work and voluntary cooperation. As G. K. Chesterton pointed out, all the technical prerequisites for steam engines had been achieved by the skilled craftsmen of the High Middle Ages. Had not the expropriation of the peasantry and the crushing of the free cities taken place, a steam powered industrial revolution would still have taken place–but the main source of capital for industrializing would have been in the hands of the democratic craft guilds. The market system would have developed on the basis of producer ownership of the means of production. Had not Mesopotamian and Egyptian elites figured out six thousand years ago that the peasantry produced a surplus and could be milked like cattle, free people would still have exchanged their labor and devised ways, through voluntary cooperation, to make their work easier and more productive. Parasitism is not necessary for progress.
Is this right? Is Marx making the absurd statement that Wage Slavery could not be abolished until the productive forces founded on Wage Slavery “had reached their fullest possible development under that society.” Carson offers not one bit of evidence to support this outrageous claim, and is demonstrably wrong on it.
I will examine this absolutely incomprehensible charge in my next post.
/edited for terminology — JRE
Tags: Anarcho-capitalism, capital, cartelization, colonization, compulsory labor, Conservatism, Fascist State, Jim Crow, Kevin Carson, labor, labor power, Liberalism, Marxism, monopoly, Murray Rothbard, Mutualism, poor laws, primitive accumulation, Racism, soviet union, Stromberg, surplus value, The Constitution, The State, vagabondage, vagrancy laws, wage slavery
Our friend, Moneybags, must be so lucky…
I apologize to readers for the mind-numbingly extensive quotes in the previous post, but I wanted it to be absolutely clear that the historical record demonstrates Carson is entirely on firm footing when he asserts Capital — that is, Wage Slavery — would be impossible without the State — not just presently, but in the earliest moments of its emergence as well. I now want to be equally clear that Marx himself acknowledges this to be a fact, when he writes:
For the conversion of his money into capital, therefore, the owner of money must meet in the market with the free labourer, free in the double sense, that as a free man he can dispose of his labour-power as his own commodity, and that on the other hand he has no other commodity for sale, is short of everything necessary for the realisation of his labour-power.
The question why this free labourer confronts him in the market, has no interest for the owner of money, who regards the labour-market as a branch of the general market for commodities. And for the present it interests us just as little. We cling to the fact theoretically, as he does practically. One thing, however, is clear — Nature does not produce on the one side owners of money or commodities, and on the other men possessing nothing but their own labour-power. This relation has no natural basis, neither is its social basis one that is common to all historical periods. It is clearly the result of a past historical development, the product of many economic revolutions, of the extinction of a whole series of older forms of social production.
So, too, the economic categories, already discussed by us, bear the stamp of history. Definite historical conditions are necessary that a product may become a commodity. It must not be produced as the immediate means of subsistence of the producer himself. Had we gone further, and inquired under what circumstances all, or even the majority of products take the form of commodities, we should have found that this can only happen with production of a very specific kind, capitalist production. Such an inquiry, however, would have been foreign to the analysis of commodities. Production and circulation of commodities can take place, although the great mass of the objects produced are intended for the immediate requirements of their producers, are not turned into commodities, and consequently social production is not yet by a long way dominated in its length and breadth by exchange-value. The appearance of products as commodities pre-supposes such a development of the social division of labour, that the separation of use-value from exchange-value, a separation which first begins with barter, must already have been completed. But such a degree of development is common to many forms of society, which in other respects present the most varying historical features. On the other hand, if we consider money, its existence implies a definite stage in the exchange of commodities. The particular functions of money which it performs, either as the mere equivalent of commodities, or as means of circulation, or means of payment, as hoard or as universal money, point, according to the extent and relative preponderance of the one function or the other, to very different stages in the process of social production. Yet we know by experience that a circulation of commodities relatively primitive, suffices for the production of all these forms. Otherwise with capital. The historical conditions of its existence are by no means given with the mere circulation of money and commodities. It can spring into life, only when the owner of the means of production and subsistence meets in the market with the free labourer selling his labour-power. And this one historical condition comprises a world’s history. Capital, therefore, announces from its first appearance a new epoch in the process of social production.
From this passage we can see that Capital, that is, Wage Slavery was, in Marx’s opinion, not a result of nature, nor was it the mere product of preexisting social development. Rather, it was a rupture — a world historical occurrence — in pre-capitalist social relations. Even with the appearance of commodities, trade, money, etc. the emergence of capitalist social relations is not a necessary outcome. It occurs in history only when the owner of the means of production and subsistence enters into a specific relationship with another who has the “freedom” to sell her capacity to labor and is, moreover, compelled by circumstances, on pain of starvation, to sell this capacity. However, as was shown in the previous post, even facing starvation, it still took relentless state violence over many decades — centuries — for this mass of pitiful sub-humans to be broken to a life of wage slavery.
Wage slavery is no natural state for any human being. Despite the violence of the State and the efforts to starve them into submission, domesticating human beings to the routine of modern wage slavery was nowhere near as clean and elegant as is implied by the supply/demand curve of the simple-minded economist. It was — and remains today — an arena of constant violent aggression within society against the worker, in which every means available — political, military and economic — are brought to bear to compel her submission. The neglect of this fact is all the more to be denounced, since, in the Fascist State, the wage slave is routinely portrayed as the willing partner in an otherwise unremarkable market transaction — the Fascist State is all too ready to deny the paternity of its bastard offspring, and swear them all to be the product of Virgin Birth.
Kevin Carson may be polite, and keep this discussion on an intellectual plane, but I am not so polite; I am willing to thrust the face of the Anarcho-Capitalist in the shit that is the history of Capital. As the Anarcho-Capitalist drones on and on about the “Rights of Englishmen”, and “Taxation as a form of Involuntary Servitude”, this nonsense can be brought to a sudden halt merely by asking him to consider how long the wealth of one would be safe, if the State could not be called upon to protect his property rights from the anger of the remaining 9,999 living on the edge of existence. Nothing converts a Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalist into a model Fascist Citizen so quickly as the possibility of Voluntary Association of the laborers and the eradication of Wage Slavery.
On the other hand, we have the Marxist, who, despite his self-identification, could not pick Karl Marx out of a crowd of well shaven Keynesian economists. Unlike the Anarcho-Capitalist — who, reflecting his social base, decries the imposts of the Fascist State on the meager wealth of the petty capitalists, marginalized from productive employment of their capital by the progress of Capital itself, and forced to scurry about in various speculative enterprises to protect it from inflation — the Marxist is a poseur, who advocates on behalf of the wage slave — but only so far as she remains a slave of the State. Reduction of hours of labor to end unemployment forever? The Marxist has never heard of such nonsense, despite having read Capital, where Marx explicitly referred to it as the “modest Magna Carta” of the working class. In any case, the Marxist explains, we need the Fascist State to “invest” in “infrastructure” and “green jobs”, so the active laboring population must be worked to its absolute limit and the unemployed left to starve, so that the Fascist State may have the resources it needs to accomplish this. (Taking a page from the talking points memo of Fascist economists like Paul Krugman, the Marxist has taken to referring to wasteful Fascist State expenditures as “investments”.) If, by some fantastic chance, working people should overthrow this Fascist State, the Marxist explains, even then compulsory labor cannot be done away with. The workers is not prepared intellectually to manage her own affairs without the despotism of the party-state, which alone has the foresight and vision to manage society on her behalf until such time as she is deemed capable. When might this be? The party-state will know it, when the time arrives, of course.
Carson is not only right to take both Anarcho-Capitalists and Marxists to task on this point, he has the entirety of the bloody history of Wage Slavery on his side — a history both the Anarcho-Capitalist and the Marxist wish to ignore; which they wish to prettify by blaming its results either on the State, as the Anarcho-Capitalist does, or on Capital, as the Marxist does. The true facts are these: the Wage Slave was bludgeoned by decades of State violence, even as she was starved out by the monopoly owners of Capital, in an efforts to make her submit to the very conditions of life we now take as the natural state of society. If, Kevin Carson is to be criticized for anything in this regard, it is that he did not treat these critical communist trends with the contempt they deserve — that he did not call them out on their nonsense, and expose their muddle-headed arguments as such. I think there is a reason for this; and, I believe that reason lies in the flaws of Carson’s own argument regarding both Capital and the State — a flaw he shares with both communist trends.
I will turn to this in my next post.
Tags: Anarcho-capitalism, capital, cartelization, colonization, compulsory labor, Conservatism, Fascist State, Jim Crow, Kevin Carson, labor, labor power, Liberalism, Marxism, monopoly, Murray Rothbard, Mutualism, poor laws, primitive accumulation, Racism, soviet union, Stromberg, surplus value, The Constitution, The State, vagabondage, vagrancy laws, wage slavery
Capital, or, Slavery by Another Name
Kevin Carson’s “Austrian & Marxist Theories of Monopoly Capital: A Mutualist Synthesis” states his Mutualist position in opposition to both the anarcho-capitalist Libertarian and Marxist theories of monopoly capitalism. The theories of the Anarcho-Capitalist camp and the Marxist camp are, in turn, set in opposition to mainstream liberal and conservative arguments.
According to Carson, mainstream liberals and conservatives argue the Fascist State acts as a constraint on Capital. Though differing on whether this constraint operates in favor of society or against, both wings of the dominant consensus hold to this view:
Both mainline “conservatives” and “liberals” share the same mirror-imaged view of the world (but with “good guys” and “bad guys” reversed), in which the growth of the welfare and regulatory state reflected a desire to restrain the power of big business. According to this commonly accepted version of history, the Progressive and New Deal programs were forced on corporate interests from outside, and against their will. In this picture of the world, big government is a populist “countervailing power” against the “economic royalists.” This picture of the world is shared by Randroids and Chicago boys on the right, who fulminate against “looting” by “anti-capitalist” collectivists; and by NPR liberals who confuse the New Deal with the Second Advent. It is the official ideology of the publick skool establishment, whose history texts recount heroic legends of “trust buster” TR combating the “malefactors of great wealth,” and Upton Sinclair’s crusade against the meat packers. It is expressed in almost identical terms in right-wing home school texts by Clarence Carson and the like, who bemoan the defeat of business at the hands of the collectivist state.
The conventional understanding of government regulation was succinctly stated by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the foremost spokesman for corporate liberalism: “Liberalism in America has ordinarily been the movement on the part of the other sections of society to restrain the power of the business community.” Mainstream liberals and conservatives may disagree on who the “bad guy” is in this scenario, but they are largely in agreement on the anti-business motivation. For example, Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business Review lamented in 1968: “Business has not really won or had its way in connection with even a single piece of proposed regulatory or social legislation in the last three-quarters of a century.”
Carson has this to say of the critical communist theories of Anarcho-Capitalism and Marxism:
Stromberg’s argument is based on Murray Rothbard’s Austrian theory of regulatory cartelization. Economists of the Austrian school, especially Ludwig von Mises and his disciple Rothbard, have taken a view of state capitalism in many respects resembling that of the New Left. That is, both groups portray it as a movement of large-scale, organized capital to obtain its profits through state intervention into the economy, although the regulations entailed in this project are usually sold to the public as “progressive” restraints on big business. This parallelism between the analyses of the New Left and the libertarian Right was capitalized upon by Rothbard in his own overtures to the Left. In such projects as his journal Left and Right, and in the anthology A New History of Leviathan (coedited with New Leftist Ronald Radosh), he sought an alliance of the libertarian Left and Right against the corporate state.
Rothbard treated the “war collectivism” of World War I as a prototype for twentieth century state capitalism. He described it as
a new order marked by strong government, and extensive and pervasive government intervention and planning, for the purpose of providing a network of subsidies and monopolistic privileges to business, and especially to large business, interests. In particular, the economy could be cartelized under the aegis of government, with prices raised and production fixed and restricted, in the classic pattern of monopoly; and military and other government contracts could be channeled into the hands of favored corporate producers. Labor, which had been becoming increasingly rambunctious, could be tamed and bridled into the service of this new, state monopoly-capitalist order, through the device of promoting a suitably cooperative trade unionism, and by bringing the willing union leaders into the planning system as junior partners.
In this article, which is a review of the literature, Kevin Carson attempts to synthesize the view of the two critical communism theories. Carson takes on both the opportunism of Anarcho-Capitalism and Marxism, with regards to capitalist property and the State, respectively. He attempts to demonstrate what these critical communist theories have in common, but also how their differences leads them into errors.
He argues, rather persuasively, that capitalist social relations are impossible without the State. His argument refers not just to present day Capital — during this period of over-accumulation — but also to the very beginning. So, he is making the argument that Capital itself arose on the basis of violence and state-sponsored primitive accumulation. He is, therefore, not making a hypothetical argument, but a historical one – which argument can be actually confirmed by historical records.
While we can make hypothetical arguments against his position, the real question is: “Does his argument hold water as history?” The answer to this can only be, “Yes.” So, that being the case, my own review begins with acknowledging this historical fact. So far as I can see, Marx and Carson agree on this point. Even though Carson asserts Marx disagrees with him in the German Ideology. Marx does not. He writes of the bloody violence unleashed on the floating population of England under Henry VIII, and, moreover, the history of plunder and colonization, and intensified inter-state conflict that accompanied the rise of Capital:
With guild-free manufacture, property relations also quickly changed. The first advance beyond naturally derived estate capital was provided by the rise of merchants whose capital was from the beginning movable, capital in the modern sense as far as one can speak of it, given the circumstances of those times. The second advance came with manufacture, which again made mobile a mass of natural capital, and altogether increased the mass of movable capital as against that of natural capital.
At the same time, manufacture became a refuge of the peasants from the guilds which excluded them or paid them badly, just as earlier the guild-towns had [served] as a refuge for the peasants from [the oppressive landed nobility].
Simultaneously with the beginning of manufactures there was a period of vagabondage caused by the abolition of the feudal bodies of retainers, the disbanding of the swollen armies which had flocked to serve the kings against their vassals, the improvement of agriculture, and the transformation of great strips of tillage into pasture land. From this alone it is clear how this vagabondage is strictly connected with the disintegration of the feudal system. As early as the thirteenth century we find isolated epochs of this kind, but only at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth does this vagabondage make a general and permanent appearance. These vagabonds, who were so numerous that, for instance, Henry VIII of England had 72,000 of them hanged, were only prevailed upon to work with the greatest difficulty and through the most extreme necessity, and then only after long resistance. The rapid rise of manufactures, particularly in England, absorbed them gradually.
With the advent of manufactures, the various nations entered into a competitive relationship, the struggle for trade, which was fought out in wars, protective duties and prohibitions, whereas earlier the nations, insofar as they were connected at all, had carried on an inoffensive exchange with each other. Trade had from now on a political significance.
With the advent of manufacture the relationship between worker and employer changed. In the guilds the patriarchal relationship between journeyman and master continued to exist; in manufacture its place was taken by the monetary relation between worker and capitalist — a relationship which in the countryside and in small towns retained a patriarchal tinge, but in the larger, the real manufacturing towns, quite early lost almost all patriarchal complexion.
Manufacture and the movement of production in general received an enormous impetus through the extension of commerce which came with the discovery of America and the sea-route to the East Indies. The new products imported thence, particularly the masses of gold and silver which came into circulation and totally changed the position of the classes towards one another, dealing a hard blow to feudal landed property and to the workers; the expeditions of adventurers, colonisation; and above all the extension of markets into a world market, which had now become possible and was daily becoming more and more a fact, called forth a new phase of historical development, into which in general we cannot here enter further. Through the colonisation of the newly discovered countries the commercial struggle of the nations amongst one another was given new fuel and accordingly greater extension and animosity.
Beyond Marx himself, further support for Carson’s position is found on the website, Spartacus Educational, regarding the bloody history of the emergence of wage slavery:
Poverty in Tudor Times
In Tudor England about a third of the population lived in poverty. Their suffering always increased after bad harvests. A shortage of food resulted in higher prices. This meant that poorer families could not afford to buy enough food for their needs.
Wealthy people were expected to give help (alms) to local people suffering from poverty because they were old, blind, crippled or sick. Some wealthy people were generous while others were mean. This meant that poor people in some villages were fairly well cared for while others died of starvation.
Unemployment was a major cause of poverty. When large landowners changed from arable to sheep farming, unemployment increased rapidly. The closing down of the monasteries in the 1530s created even more unemployment. As monasteries had also helped provide food for the poor, this created further problems.
Unemployed people were sometimes tempted to leave their villages to look for work. This was illegal and people who did this were classified as vagabonds.
A law passed in 1536 stated that people caught outside their parish without work were to be punished by being whipped through the streets. For a second offence the vagabond was to lose part of an ear. If a vagabond was caught a third time he or she was executed.
In 1550 Parliament passed a law stating that every parish had to build a workhouse for the poor. Edward VI set an example by giving permission for Bridewell Palace in London to be used as a workhouse. In exchange for food and shelter, the people who lived in the workhouse worked without wages. If people without work refused to go to the workhouse they were to be treated as vagabonds.
To pay for these workhouses, vicars were given permission to ask everyone in the parish to give money. If people refused, the vicar had to report them to his bishop. Workhouses did not solve the problem. It has been estimated that in 1570 about 10% of the population were still wandering around the country looking for work.
In 1576 a new Poor Law was introduced. Each parish had to keep a store of “wool, hemp, flax, iron or other stuff that was to be handed out to the unemployed. In exchange for the goods that they produced, the parish gave them money. In this way, the poor could continue living in their own homes. This new law also introduced fines for those who refused to pay money to help the poor.
This was followed in 1601 by another Poor Law. Workhouses now had to be provided for people who were too old or ill to work. People who refused to contribute money to help the poor could now be sent to prison.
The website offers the following documentation of its assertions:
Thomas More, Utopia (1516): “The landowners enclose all land into pastures (for sheep)… the peasants must depart away…. And when they have wandered… what else can they do but steal or go about begging.”
In 1566 Thomas Harman wrote a book about vagabonds: “They are punished by whippings. Yet they like this life so much that their punishment is soon forgotten. They never think of changing until they climb the gallows.”
In 1594 William Lambarde made a speech about poverty in England: “There were always poor lepers, aged poor, sick poor, poor widows, poor orphans, and such like, but poor soldiers were either rarely or never heard of till now… They lead their lives in begging and end them by hanging… They fight our wars… enduring cold and hunger when we live at ease, lying in the open field when we are in our beds.”
Letter sent by the citizens of London to Edward VI (1553): “It was obvious to all men that beggars and thieves were everywhere. And we found the cause was that they were idle; and the cure must be to make them work… by providing work ourselves, so that the strong and sturdy vagabond may be made to earn his living. For this we need a house of work… And so, we ask for the king’s house of Bridewell.”
Law passed by Parliament in 1576: “So that youth may be accustomed and brought up in labour and work, and so they do not grow to be idle rogues… it is ordered… that in every city and town within this realm a large stock of wool, hemp, flax, iron… shall be provided.”
Report on a survey carried out in Norwich in 1571: “Many of the citizens were annoyed that the city was so full with poor people, both men women and children, to the number of 2,300 persons, who went from door to door begging, pretending they wanted work, but did very little.”
Law passed by Parliament in 1597: “Every vagabond or beggar… shall be stripped naked from the middle upwards and publicly whipped until his or her body be bloody, and forth with sent to the parish where he was born… If any vagabond or beggar return again, he shall suffer death by hanging.”
Wage slavery was born of violence, and violence has accompanied it during its entire reign. Capital is the mother, the State is its father. The wage slave is the bastard offspring of both. And, this antihuman union has been quite fertile. The connection between the state and compulsory labor is so seamless that even the Workers’ Paradise had laws against “flitters, loafers, absentees, and grabbers”:
In the Soviet Union, the workers work not for capitalists, but for themselves, for their socialist state, for the good of all humanity. The overwhelming majority of laborers and office workers honorably and conscientiously work in enterprises, transport, and establishments, take a professional attitude toward work, offering models of Stakhanovite valor, strengthening the might and defense capabilities of the motherland..
But side-by-side with honest and conscientious workers, there are still scattered unmotivated, backward, or dishonorable people — flitters, loafers, absentees, and grabbers.
With their second-rate work, absenteeism, lateness to work, aimless wandering about the factory during work-time, and other violations of the rules of internal work organization, and likewise with individual capricious migrations from one establishment to another, these people disrupt labor discipline, and bring great losses to industry, transport, and all of the national economy.
They try to give as little work as possible to the state, and grab as much money as possible for themselves. They abuse Soviet labor laws and reles, using them for their selfish interests. They do not work fully even druing the established hours of the working day; often they work only 4 or 5 hours in all, wasting the remaining 2-3 hours of working time. With this, the people and the state lose every year millions of work days and billions of rubles.
When flitters and loafers are fired, they start filing lawsuits, and, not working, win payments for supposedly involuntary unemployment. Dismissal from an establishment for violating labor discipline, as a rule, is no sort of punishment at all for truants, since in the majority of cases they quickly find work in other establishments.
Using current regulations about granting vacations, according to which the right to vacation is granted after 5 1/2 months of work in a factory or institution, flitters and loafers, running from one establishment to another, contrive to get two vacations in one year, ending up in a preferred position over conscientious laborers and office-workers.
In housing projects, built by factories for their laborers and office workers, apartments are often occupied by persons who either voluntarily quit work in these establishments or were fired for violating labor discipline; because of this laborers and office workers, who have worked long and honorably in one establishment, are entirely deprived of necessary living-space.
In distribution of trips to rest homes and sanatoriums, flitters and truants enjoy the same rights as honestly working laborers and office-workers. In the same way, both in payment of insurance awards for temporary infirmity, and in the awarding of pensions, the necessary sharp distinction is not made between conscientious workers with long uninterrupted terms of service in a given factory or institution, and violators of labor discipline — flitters, running from some factories and institutions to others.
Some trade-union, managerial, and even judicial organs show an inadmissible, antisocial, complaisance toward violators of labor discipline and even connive with them — against the interests of the people and the state, — often deciding questions about reinstatement at work, about payment of insurance for temporary inability to work, about eviction from factory apartments, etc. in favor of flitters and truants.
All this leads to a situation, where dishonorable workers, laboring little, can live at the expense of the state, at the expense of the people. This evokes just protests from the majority of laborers and office workers. It demands the introduction of various changes in current rules of internal labor administration and in the norms of social insurance, so that in the future there will no longer be the same treatment for conscientious workers as for loafers and flitters; so that encouragement will be offered only to honestly working laborers and office workers, and not to those who subvert labor discipline and skip easily from one establishment to another.
Major abuses are found also in the practice of using leave for pregnancy and birth. It often happens that some women, seeking by deceitful means to live at the expense of the state, go to work in factories or institutions soon before giving birth only in order to receive the 4-month paid leave, and never return to work. The interests of the state demand an immediate end to this abuse..
Moreover, laws against vagabonds are still on the books in the United States today. According to one writer, it was not unusual for these laws to be used against Black men even into the 1950s in Birmingham. Police would sweep up all men who appeared to be without jobs. Once convicted, they would be hired out the mining companies. Carl V. Harris writes of this practice in his 1972 book, “Reforms in Government Control of Negroes in Birmingham, Alabama, 1890-1990″
“When the newspapers announce that the ever alert Sheriff and his trusted deputies rounded up some twenty or thirty negroes in the woods, wounded two or three and landed the balance in the county jail for crap shooting, does anybody believe that the peace of the county is being conserved, or does every man know that the syndicate is trying to reimburse itself for its campaign expenditures?” Thus did Walker Perry, chief attorney for the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company, denounce in 1912 the oppressive fee system, under which the Sheriff’s “syndicate” in Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama, allegedly earned $50,000 per year in fees by energetically arresting Negroes on petty gambling charges. Perry, as chairman of a reform crusade to abolish the fee system in Jefferson County, was one of many reform movement leaders who between 1890 and 1920 sought to remedy defects in the local government’s methods of controlling Negroes.
Most Birmingham whites believed that their local government should exercise vigilant control over the Negroes who composed approximately 40 percent of the population of their city. In 1889 the editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald declared: ‘The negro is a good laborer when his labor can be controlled and directed, but he is a very undesirable citizen.” In 1906 the editor of the Birmingham News said: ‘Anyone visiting a Southern city or town must be impressed at witnessing the large number of loafing negroes… They can all get work, but they don’t want to work. The result is that they sooner or later get into mischief or commit crimes.” The editor believed that such Negroes were “not only a menace to the public safety” but also “to some extent a financial burden upon the taxpayers.”
The Constitution actually allows this practice in the very amendment that outlawed slavery:
Thirteenth Amendment – Slavery And Involuntary Servitude
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
For decades this amendment was used to justify state action that in essence, reproduced all the vilest practices of slavery. How soon will it be before these laws are applied to the 99er population?
Tags: Anarcho-capitalism, capital, cartelization, colonization, compulsory labor, Conservatism, Fascist State, Jim Crow, Kevin Carson, labor, labor power, Liberalism, Marxism, monopoly, Murray Rothbard, Mutualism, poor laws, primitive accumulation, Racism, soviet union, Stromberg, surplus value, The Constitution, The State, vagabondage, vagrancy laws, wage slavery
The state realizes that if it can address an issue it can profit from the issue. Let us take a bill here on the ballot in November. It is being sold as a way to ‘stop puppy mills’. The state has found a villain that many can oppose. In response the state proposed a new tax on these puppy mills. This has given them a new source of income. Under the context of a state I am not outraged that a puppy mill will be taxed. If I believed in a government I may be for such a thing. However I do not. The deception here is how it is being sold. People are rallying under the concept that a puppy mill will be stopped. In reality these puppy mills are not being stopped they are simply becoming a new source of revenue for the state.
Stopping puppy mills or addressing the conditions in such places will not be solved with taxes. This puts them in the same category as tobacco. The state demonizes to justify taxation and gain more wealth. They have not stopped either one.
We must look at what enables this. It is the same thing that enables most ‘law’. There is a need or a perceived need. We claim often as libertarians and anarchists that we have solutions for many of these issues. We see abuses all around and what do people hear from us? End government! For the most part they then hear a bunch of economists doing the cost benefit analysis of a certain situation. We claim to be liberal often in certain social areas and then we fall to economics. We often discuss markets and give little to few answers for many issues that people struggle with. Often when we have solutions and give one word answers as if fixing these problems are that simple.
It’s time we broke out of our rut. It is time we began to do more than just scream about how the state is violence. We must begin to address the issues that concern people. We need to offer up our solutions. We need to expand on stateless solutions and begin to put as many of them into practice as possible. The beauty of it is that we are not a state bound by laws. We are free to do as we wish. A state may not always like it, but that is reality. If we begin to address these issues we will begin to win more over. How do we grow our movement? By actively doing what we claim we can do.
We need more than economists. We need people who are facing the social issues that others care about from an anti-state perspective. The beauty of this is that this is also a part of our coming revolution. The revolution is here and it is coming at the same time. We have made our first steps and we will only expand it by action in these areas that matter to people.
If the state ceased to exist tomorrow we may be in a bad place. Many service providers will not exist. We need to build up alternatives. If social security, Medicare, HUD or many other welfare providers disappeared we would have many people hurting. We need to provide alternatives that are more sufficient than the state. By building up what we can provide for others we will be working towards the phasing out of the state.
We are part of a movement that is working towards a new era in human history. We hold the key to the future of human social evolution in a stateless society. We must not be complacent by vegging out in front of a television complaining about news and the narrative the mass media is feeding us. We must be active in creating the alternatives. Look to what area you are going to make the difference or bring about the future and become active. If we infuse ourselves in our neighborhoods and cities showing that we are bringing about a new way we will reach many others.
We must also open the dialogue on many social issues that we all too often have kept our mouths shut about. This will start with our listening to others concerns and needs. Maybe that doesn’t mean always cramming our philosophy down another’s throat, but it may mean that we learn from others who do have an opposing view. This will be helpful to see where we need to build up our movement especially.
So, go out and do. Open your ears and listen, and let’s open up dialogue on the issues that impact others we may be overlooking.
Many choose either businesses and corporations or the government to oppose seeing the other as acceptable despite its flaws. Which is bad, the government or the corporations? The liberal screams against the evil corporate businesses and the greedy. The conservative cries against ‘big government’ and often extols the virtues of corporations. Capitalism is evil! Socialism and Communism is dangerous! We take sides against concepts. There is some truth to both sides and there is a great deal of Bullshit too. We can argue all day long of which we should choose over the other and many utilitarian arguments may lead to a conclusion that one is to be preferred for certain reasons. In the end it’s all bullshit and ignoring certain realities.
What difference does it make if the asshole tyrants call themselves Wal-Mart or the United States? Someone lied to the Capitalists and told them that corporations are good and free market. Someone lied to the Socialists and told them the government is benevolent. They are both corporate entities and guilty of the exact same iniquities.
What is Corporate?
In the United States a Corporation is anything but a Free Market concept. It is a collective given rights. Rights of the collective was something Rothbard wrote against. He specifically wrote of the collective of society in a manner he saw as ‘socialist’. There are many definitions of corporate. one being: formed into an association and endowed by law with the rights and liabilities of an individual. We often apply this to what many conceive as modern state capitalism, but such can be applicable to social and communal organizations even more so. I would say that often a corporate power does have more rights than an individual. We see this in the case of the U.S. government. A corporate power that remains exempt from the non-aggression axiom. With the government we see a conglomerate that fits another definition given by Merriam Websters: of, relating to, or being the large corporations of a country or region considered as a unit. This corporation that is the United States is given rights that we would not be willing to give an individual outside of the corporation. It can murder, steal, and buy without limit. It can even print money to buy with. If any individual were to attempt any of these acts that maintains the power and authority of the corporate state nobody would question if they were a criminal, but for some reason we seem to give the corporate structure the powers we oppose others holding.
In the long run the state is not different from a corporation except for a few points that make it a little worse.There are some in this corporation that have benevolent intentions, but they are still intentions of a corporation that uses violence and force as the means to obtain it’s end.
I am asked often what if a group or for lack of a better term corporation decides to take control in a stateless society. This question often baffles me. This is what I oppose. This is the crux of my argument. A corporation has taken control. We live in occupied areas. This corporation monopolizes resources and services by militarized power. If one is fine with the state then a corporation taking control with force is something one already condones. To ask such a question out of fear of the domination of a corporate power one is failing to see that has happened and it is what should be opposed.
The state only differs in force. The state uses a gun to assert it’s authority over other corporations. Corporations are seen often as limited to state capitalism. This is an inaccurate assumption. The corporation can be in a capitalist form, a communist form or a socialist form. All of these are subject to the same flaws. But, capitalism is greed! We hear often how the downfall of a capitalist corporation is greed. The matter of greed is human, not capitalist. I am not trying to support an anarcho-capitalist society at all. I am however going to point that a socialist corporate structure or a communist corporate structure will also have the downfall of greed. Collective ideologies are even more so corporate than individualist ideologies for corporate is relating to, or formed into a unified body of individuals(Merriam Webster). Any power that is given over others will be influenced by this greed that many see as the evil of capitalism.
Corporate structures will most likely exist in one form or another. Society as a whole will seek to maintain some form of order. This can be from a collective to an individualist form, but it will most likely occur in some form or another. When we accept one corporate power over all others we have put ourselves in a bad situation. There is no alternatives or options when the corporate power begins to fail us. So, this brings us to that question. What if corporations gain too much power?
Let me turn this around. What about democracy insures that a corporate power does not gain too much power? Nothing. We can create guidelines and rules in a democracy but as we see most often it is exploited to perpetuate that monopolization of power. If we see a corporation be it a communist socialist or free market system in a stateless society we will have alternatives to turn to. A stateless society does not leave us under the tyranny of a corporation, a state does. In a stateless society we are to structure many alternatives giving us a swift exit from abusive corporate powers.
Now we ask what is the danger of any corporate form? There is first the danger of a collective being granted rights over a human being. This danger is seen as a threat by the right only in what they interpret as ‘socialism’. The left also sees this danger as what they see as the ‘evil corporations’. They both have a valid argument that is not distributed equally. Rothbard wrote of how giving power to the collective over an individual is a threat.
Corporate structures may always exist in some form. They will exist out of our need for social dependence. This will create corporate structures in freed markets, communism or socialist alternatives. We must realize see the power of a majority that can be born out of a corporate structure. This is why I often preach competing solutions. Since most forms will be corporate in some form we must have the ability to freely leave the power of a corporate structure in favor of an alternative. We must have an option if that corporate structure no longer works for us. In the case of the state and many businesses with massive power this is not possible today. We continue to feed Monsanto & the other corporate giants. We can not leave the state for a more just system. We are simply stuck with government, state-capitalist and state-socialist corporate powers that will continue to exploit us.
Then there is you. One individual. Your needs, wants, desires, loves and passions are the drive of your life. These powers wish to assert their wills and desires over your rights. Each individual matters. This I see as the crux of the non-aggression axiom. Each life is important. Would one ever be justified in the taking of your life or your rape for a ‘greater good’? NO! It is completely unacceptable. So really for me the discovery of the non-aggression axiom and the pursuit of anarchism is this pursuit here. It is the pursuit for the human being and their right to not be aggressed upon. All corporate structures will hold this potential threat. We must remain aware and create competition in the options we have so that we can keep as far away from this exploitation and tyranny as possible.
The Government does not hate you. The Government does not like you. It is indifferent. The Government is not an entity with feelings, remorse, ethics or conscious. It is a collective of individuals working according to rigid flawed guidelines. The government is not an individual therefore the government as a whole has no rights whatsoever. People can have rights, this corporate entity called the United States has no rights. It functions to take rights and to oppress. There are often individuals within the government who wish to ‘do good’ but overall that is impossible. The nature of government prohibits any good for the very means of which the state reaches its ends is immoral.
Individuals who work within the government or are employed by the government may have rights, but no more than any other individual. This makes the actions of many of the states employees criminal by the very nature of their jobs. Marines and Soldiers often engage in murder and invasion. They justify this by stating that the non-individual ‘the state’ is responsible. What is the state? It is nothing more than these individuals acting in a criminal manner to assert force and control over other human beings. If a gangster claims they have the right to murder because the gang they belong to calls for this murder, do we accept that as a justified?
Police by the nature of their job simply defend the will of the state with force. They partake in what would be seen outside of the context of the state as extortion, theft, murder, assault and kidnapping on a daily basis. This is simply justified by stating ‘they were just doing their job.’ Even the youngest elementary school child is taught this is wrong. “Would you jump off a bridge if Jimmy told you to?” We learn that just because someone tells us to do something it is not justified. Somehow statist apologetics seem to defy those simple ethics.
These people who have committed crimes against humanity under the titles the government provides them would still exist in a system without government. The aim of eliminating government can be seen as an aim to end the unethical nature of the state. By eliminating the crux of the state which is the power of the Police and Military that uses force to obtain it’s will and command over others. The average person sees these as necessities for order. To bring up alternatives for order in a more ethical manner tends to bring up doomsday scenarios and a debate that compares anarchism to a certain utopia they have even failed to obtain through their force. As an anarchist I do not seek utopia, but to reject a system that is every bit as criminal as what it claims to oppose. I seek to oppose hierarchy, power over others and oppression. To claim that we must accept oppression on one level to avoid oppression on another level is inaccurate. This returns to the statist mindset that in order to end crime we must also partake in those crimes under the title of ‘Police.’ I am not asking for oppression or crime on any level, rather pointing at how we accept it on one level for a ‘greater good’ justified by ‘the will of the people’ or the ‘divine rights of kings.’
If you have faith in these people to keep order and to find solutions with coercion why then do you not believe that this order can not be found outside of criminal means?
Those in the state that seek to keep order are just people. Individual human beings preforming a job under a misguided ethic. Once we have eliminated the hierarchy and oppression of the state it will still be people or individuals in non-coercive entities and through voluntary means providing similar services. There is a misunderstanding that somehow order is only found with these people if the state exists. The only tool for order is often seen as the state. This is partially because the state has educated us to believe such. Individuals have a difficult time perceiving a system outside of the systems that they have always known.
I am not one to say that a Dispute Resolution Organization (DRO) or Voluntary Contractual Arrangements are the definitive answer. In a truly non-coercive system we would see all and more. We would see amalgams of these as well as other concepts for protection defense and order. To state that we must choose one is the flaw of the statist. I n a truly liberated society I am not forced to choose between Mutualism, Anarcho-Syndicalism and Anarcho Capitalism, but I am free to join in the systems of order I find most effective or appropriate. To cling to only one is the way of the state. This keeps the flaws of the system choose also with no option and no way out.
Society like the government is not an individual or an entity with rights to supersede the rights of the individual. Society however is a reality. We may each be individuals with rights but we often find we are interdependent. This interdependence creates society, markets, syndicates and all forms of interaction. To say that one solution is sufficient for all needs is to oversimplify reality. To embrace anarchism is to embrace the reality that there is no one perfect way to interact and to embrace that there are flaws in systems. To embrace the state is to embrace one way that is believed to be the only solution and to enforce that belief and way upon others.
The expectations of statists for anarchism are far above that which they have achieved with statism. It is the statist who will ask for a solution to a problem and when given one they are restricted to the statist idea that this is the only solution. They will then ask impossible tasks that they have even failed to find effective solutions for. One example is defense. The statist sees the state as the only solution. When one looks at anarchist solutions we see many options. The anarchist will often start with prevention and move to other solutions from there. The statist is limited to the government they grant a monopoly over the industry of aggression.
In closing I will state that to reject the state is not to stand in opposition to order or to ignore problems that exist, but to embrace the reality that there is no one way that will be the answer to all. We embrace that fact that people can bring solutions and that they should not be disregarded because they do not lead to utopia.