Readers may have noticed that I have not been posting articles lately.The reason for this being I have decided to leave Gonzo Times for political reasons that I will explain further.
First, allow me to say that I will not stop writing, in fact I will continue to write on a Marxist-Leninist site that all are welcome to visit.
Second, let me say I am only grateful for the opportunity to have written on such a great medium and how supportive and helpful everyone in the Gonzo community has been. I hold no ill will against anyone who writes for or reads the great stuff that comes out of Gonzo Times.
From my studies of Marxism, Maoism-Third Worldism seems to the be the logical conclusion following an honest analysis of the class struggle and consistent application of Marxist theory.
But, like many, I was initially hostile to Maoism-Third Worldism. I thought it was ‘anti-white’, divisive, and ignorant.
I even tried critiquing it from a Marxist position, to which I intended to write an article at some point.
My change came only after I tried to pick apart M-TW from a Marxist position. The more I read the more I came to the same conclusions as the very people I was trying to criticize. At first it was frustrating, and then I began to become critical of my own positions and truly attempt a completely objective analysis that was properly scientific and void of any undue bias.
“Communists must always go into the why’s and wherefore’s of anything, use their own heads and carefully think over whether or not it corresponds to reality and is really well founded; on no account should they follow blindly…” – Mao Tse Tung
What I found was this: not only is Maoism-Third Worldism a completely legitimate and logical reassertion of Marxism, but also answers many questions contemporary Western Marxism has failed to answer.
Questions like who are the proletariat? Who are the exploiting classes? What does it mean to be exploited? What is the relationship between the ‘First’ and ‘Third’ worlds? What does it mean to be ‘anti-imperialist’?
All of these questions answered scientifically within the context of our modern age of global capitalism.
Clearly, with the short time given, I cannot sufficiently elaborate all that should be elaborated upon. However, I can give a few examples and provide resources for further study.
E.g. ‘what does it mean to be exploited’?
According to Marx, exploitation comes from being paid a wage below the value of labor for the purpose of the private accumulation of capital. Essentially surplus value as it is classically understood.
No one should be surprised by this.
But what does this mean today as compared to 160 years ago when Capital was first drafted?
The Western left has actually drifted away from this understanding of exploitation or at least its scientific understanding. This is because many of the ‘workers’ in the First World not only perform unproductive labor, as it is termed, but are not even exploited. This is because many ‘workers’ in Amerika and Europe already receive wages above the value of their labor. This phenomena has created not only a labor aristocracy (the higher rungs of the working class), and a false consciousness, but a labor nobility. Meaning ‘workers’ who, by definition, are net-exploiters. Their lavish standard of living is quite literally built on the exploitation of the global proletariat. This difference in the price of labor power is what is called ‘imperialist rent’. Meaning these ‘workers’ within the imperialist nations are direct beneficiaries of capitalist exploitation and in fact may hold little material interest in an actual world socialist revolution.
Now, upon hearing this, many people, even socialists, may get offended. No one here is implying that those in the First World do not “work hard”. For the most part First Worlder’s take pride and effort in their work. The question is not one of effort, it is the question of contradiction. The contradiction between the core and periphery nations. That the price of labor power with identical productivity is significantly lower in the periphery than in the core. As we know, profit is made not at exchange, but during the labor process. Meaning that if one group of workers are receiving more, others are receiving less. This is a contradiction that socialist revolution would solve in the most proletarian of ways: by compensating labor to a wage conceived under a common plan. This entire analysis is illustrated below:
This is only one example of how M-TW answers questions that the establishment Western Marxists have left untouched.
Now, regarding some of the more common criticisms of M-TW coming especially from the Western Marxists. The assertions of racism, chauvinism, and revisionism surrounding M-TW are simply baseless.
First, the perceived ‘anti-White’ analysis of M-TW is not some racial supremacy garbage but a factual understanding of how Whiteness functions socially and the ‘White proletariat’ are privileged above international non-’whites’(see this for more information). It is factual, not racist, to point out that ‘white’ families have as much as ten times the net worth of Black families in Amerika. It is correct, not biased, to point out that ‘whites’ comprise a vast majority of the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois in Amerika. These claims of racism are reactionary defensive mechanisms based on a false conscious; ignoring material conditions, class struggle, and accepting a completely bourgeois identity rather than realizing a proletarian solidarity. The real racism comes from trying to make Amerikan ‘whites’ into the exploited masses; creating an entirely false racial identity and class character.
Second, there is no chauvinism in M-TW. There is chauvinism in suggesting that a select minority of the worlds populace should live lavishly while the rest of the world anguishes. The opulent life-style of the Amerikan consumerist cannot be safely replicated internationally. Suggesting that the worlds resources serve the use-values of the world’s toiling masses is not chauvinism but actual socialism. The idea that some First World college students are the center of revolutionary potential while half the world lives on 2 USD a day is complete and utter nonsense. To accept this bourgeois individualism means rejecting proletarian internationalism.
Third, M-TW is not revisionist, rather it is only a reassertion of the already established Marxist-Leninist line. Fundamentally there are no new contributions brought out by Maoist-Third Worldists. Maoism-Third Worldism should properly be called Marxism-Leninism or simply Maoism as it only reanalyzes the contemporary world under the same line; paying close attention to the class struggle and the inner mechanisms of global capitalism-imperialism. The goal remains the same. To promote proletarian internationalism, national liberation, and socialist revolution. With all of this said, M-TW can be understood as the truly consistent and non-revisionist application of Marxism.
If you were skeptical as to the nature of Maoism-Third Worldism, hopefully I have at least piqued your interest. If you are lamenting my change in position, all I can give you is an apology. However, I remain convinced to the legitimacy of Maoism-Third Worldism and the resulting conclusions.
I know that Gonzo Times is a self-described ‘anti-authoritarian’ website and I respect this disposition and that of the readers. I realize that my political stances are becoming increasingly “authoritarian” and this is why I want to carry on my work elsewhere. In any sense, I appreciate all the support I have had over the past several months.
Check out my future writings as well as those of Comrade Klaas, and Comrade Josh on our website.
Also check out Comrade Nikolai Brown and his website that remains the most enlightening in the realm of Maoism-Third Worldism and Anti-Imperialism.
TL;DR: Very entitled.
Over the past few years there has been a growing consensus, especially on the Right, that “entitlement culture” is exploding around the world. The meaning of “entitlement culture” generally is an allusion too the growth of social democracy; particularly among the mainstream Left in the United States and the long existent social democracy in Western Europe. This rejection of “entitlement culture” is parallel to the revival of ‘libertarian’ thought streams within the same regions. For this reason, and because of the bourgeois nature of ‘libertarian’ thought; this rejection of “entitlement culture” has taken a decidedly bourgeois nature.
Clearly, no one wants to be “shafted”. No one wants to live in a society where some willingly abuse the existing framework to receive undue compensation. This is one reason I am a socialist. I do not wish to live in a society where a ruling socio-economic class extracts a lavish lifestyle off the 99.9% of the world’s toiling population. Obviously, there are for more significant reasons for my socialism than just preferential moralism; however, it is quite clear that the right-wing interpretation of “entitlement culture” has no interest in examining the growing entitlement the bourgeois feel.
We all hear the rhetoric about “welfare queens” and other decidedly conservative condemnations of those on public assistance, but what about the growing bourgeois sense of entitlement?
The clear message of this graph is that even though the working class is continuing to produce more commodities, their share of the ‘social pie’ is falling. Contrary to many Austrian beliefs regarding value in the economy, profits and value do not fall out of the sky. If the working class is getting less and less of the ‘social pie’ logically this implies other classes are gaining more.
The conclusion is quite simple, the bourgeois are growing their share of the ‘social pie’ at a faster pace than the other classes.
The question now is why?
I do not intend the answer to be some sort of Post-Keynesian social commentary on income inequality. The answer really has to do with the nature of capitalism itself. Something that cannot be fixed by rearranging the twigs i.e. playing rodeo with interest rates. The answer has to do with the ethics of capitalism itself, or the lack thereof. The industrial revolution was a dynamic time for humanity, especially with new social relations molded through systemic wage labor. With these new social relations developed a parallel interpretation of ethical action among economic agents:
“It (the bourgeoisie) has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”.” Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
This ‘naked self-interest’, as Marx calls it, became the accepted ethical hegemon in Europe and the United States from the Industrial Revolution up until WWII. The devastation of imperialist war had an interesting impact on the interpretation of political economy, even within capitalist countries. While the US and Western Europe by no means abandoned the capitalist property relations, they hoped to give the system some ethics with a push towards social democracy. In the United States, “business ethics” became popular around the 50′s where even Barry Goldwater would later describe how his petty bourgeois family sacrificed personal compensation to keep workers employed. This “business ethics” was based largely on a traditionalist and reactionary application of patriotism and social responsibility. It was the responsibility, even of the bourgeois, to contribute to the prosperity of the nation as a whole through various social programs and aggressive income taxation.
Then came neoliberalism. “Business ethics” was abandoned for a re-glorification of ‘naked self-interest’. The idea that production has no social nature and the individual is solely responsible for his holdings whether it be a country cabin or every Walmart on earth. This lead to a growth in the anti-Tax movement and accompanying right-wing sub-movements such as the Tea Party. Capital is essentially turning full loop. Back when labor was fixed and the national bourgeois has to pretend to appreciate the working class, we saw much different rhetoric. Now that the global labor market has opened up, the mask is off and “capitalism with a smile” is once again just capitalism.
Now more than ever, the bourgeois feel entitled. They see themselves as “job creators”: our socio-economic lords and virtuous saviors. Rather than pretending to be “one of us” they assert their self-righteous dominance as the ruling class of our capitalist society. Even though their role in social production continues to fall, their sense of entitlement continues to grow. They demand less taxes, less regulation, more deductions, less rights for workers etc. All the while criticizing those who receive less than $400 a month in food assistance as members of the “entitlement culture”.
So, who is really entitled? Those who suggest their meager wages be supplemented or those who demand more of a stake in the ‘social pie’ despite the fact they are statistically becoming less responsible for that same pie. This bourgeois sense of entitlement becomes especially sickening when considering their entire existence depends on manipulating the labor of others.
Before a Mises’ junkie writes that the bourgeois claim to “job creation” is true, think of this: why are there few car dealerships in Sub-Saharan Africa? The answer lies in the comparatively low disposable income in Sub-Saharan Africa relative to say the United Sates. Capitalism thrives off a large middle class that can purchase all of the useless commodities churned out by the consumerist industrial infrastructure. Without consumer demand, there would be no jobs within capitalism. Even many marginalist economists recognize that the role of the capitalist is to simply meet that demand through effective application of the means of production and labor. The bourgeois do not “create jobs”, even in the classical sense.
For fear of appearing as a Post-Keynesian, reminiscing the days of “shared sacrifice”, I will reaffirm that the “business ethics” of post-WWII United States and Europe was a pitiful attempt to moralize a system beyond moralization. The property relations hardly changed, even as Labor grew in power relative to Capital. The capitalist class still ruthlessly exploited the working class and began to examine its prospects in the would-be Third World. The difference was that the capitalist class then was for more effective in Public Relations. By shifting the discussion from class struggle to national struggle, they were able to divide and conqeour the international proletariat and take the spotlight off themselves. Interestingly, we see similar rhetoric today from the anti-China crowd of the national bourgeois. Paraphrased: our economic crisis has little to do with the internal contradictions of capital accumulation, but really because the Chinese are some shifty bastards. Essentially, the bourgeois were telling us to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Now, with no vested interest in any single national labor force, their true colors have began to show once again.
Truth be, there can be no peace between the exploiters and the exploited. The capitalist feels himself entitled to a lifetime of labor from others and uses this wealth to entrench himself even further against proletarian interests. While the Right-wing pundits in the US media accuse their detractors of “class warfare”, one must realize that this is simply the nature of reality. The bourgeois have been struggling against the interests of the international working class for centuries and the retaliation is far overdue.
So how do we end this “entitlement culture”? First, we need an economic system where individuals can work full-time and not have to beg the state for more assistance or periodically spend hours in unemployment lines. Second, we need a cooperative organization of economic structures that replace capitalist competition and bourgeois entitlement with solidarity among all toiling people. Where no person extracts a living off the backs of others. The mental and physical division of labor must be crushed; the working class must take the full future of social production into their own hands. We need socialism. Capitalism cannot be fixed. The system contains internal contradictions that will always produce crisis, general inequality, and all manner of excess. No amount of social democracy, federal oversight, or reform bills will ever change the fundamental nature of a system that exists only through inequality and exploitation.
A society where freedom is not a right but a privilege is no society worth defending.
Okay, so this is not going to be the usual examination on the topic of wage labor, capitalism or communism. Sometimes when you run into a conceptual brick wall it helps to completely change perspectives. I am trying to find a new way to describe why and how capitalism itself anticipates communism without producing a predictable 20th century Marxism argument.
CAVEAT: Of course, this just might fall completely flat, but thems are the breaks. So you can be skeptical of the result, since I am just attempting a thought exercise.
Comandante Chavez, hasta siempre. Todos somos chavez.
The word authoritarian is thrown around in leftist circles quite frequently; and, for good reason. The presence of authoritarianism is quite prevalent throughout all class societies; whether it manifests as a genocidal “National Socialist” party or the United Fruit Company.
However, there also exists an equally prevalent hatred for an abstract conception of authoritarianism; this detest for authoritarianism, as an abstraction, became especially obvious following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
In the hours following the Comandante’s death, anarchist circles such as r/anarchism and various online groups were pouring out condemnation of Chavez as an authoritarian tyrant, not fit for the support of socialists. This presents an interesting question to the socialist left:
What does it mean to be ‘authoritarian’ and in what way do we apply this to our critical theory?
Before I attempt to answer this question with some relevance, allow me to be frank. I brutally detest this condemnation of Chavez as an ‘authoritarian’. Even on the most objective level, looking at the facts of Venezuelan democracy, we know this condemnation to be baseless. Venezuela has begun to establish a proletarian democracy in the truest sense of the phrase. Local and direct participation from the masses of working people are developing Venezuelan anti-capitalism in a way never seen before. Tens of thousands of cooperatives and community councils have been established as the power organs of this Bolivarian Revolution, yet, the bourgeois individualists are not satisfied. This is because the Chavistas realize, as revolutionaries before have, that the democracy of the working class must exclude the democracy of the exploiters. The national and international bourgeois who seek to exploit Venezuela’s rich resources must be crushed and the revolutionary democracy must reflect this necessary exclusion.
Why should we socialists give a single damn about how the bourgeois are being systematically crushed in Venezuela? This appeal to some ‘individual liberty’ being stolen from the Venezuelan bourgeois is straight from the depths of liberalism.
So, can we conclude Chavez was an authoritarian?
Absolutely. To the bourgeois who seek to create a fortune subjecting millions of Venezuelans to deplorable conditions, Hugo Chavez was a ruthless authoritarian. To the petty bourgeois who did not wish to embrace the class struggle but remain indecisive about the brutality of imperialism, he was the devil incarnate. This the paradox of authoritarianism.
Truth be, all class systems are authoritarian in some way. As Marx pointed out, in the early stages of socialism, the class system will still exist. However, the Dictatorship of the Bourgeois will be replaced by the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The influence of the capitalist class will be ripped from the power organs and replaced by the interests of the toiling and oppressed peoples. This important distinction is one that is either misunderstood or blatantly rejected by many ‘anarchists’.
The idea that we can somehow successfully resist authoritarianism in the abstract is simply infantile. When one begins to understand the class nature of society, one understands that the class struggle pervades every crevice of socio-political existence.
Many will point out how proper anarchism resists all forms of illegitimate authority, especially within state organs. This is no doubt true, but the material reality of the situation is often reflected through history. Take for example, the anarchist movement in the Spanish Civil War. Were these anarchists authoritarian? In some sense, no doubt. The anarchists were violently hostile towards the fascist capitalist class as well as its allies within the clergy. But is this authoritarianism “bad”? From a Marxist position, absolutely not. More power to them! The bourgeois were rightly crushed and the interests of the Spanish worker were finally realized through the power organs established by the anarchists of Spain. Understanding how authoritarianism is also subject to the class nature of social relations is essential to move beyond this infantile naivety which rests not in proletarian theory but bourgeois liberalism.
With this understanding, let us return to the original question.
Answering the Question
“What does it mean to be ‘authoritarian’ and in what way do we apply this to our critical theory?”
If we are going to be intellectually honest we must conclude that we socialists of the Left are indeed authoritarian. We wish to rid the world of capitalism, imperialism, and all manner of alienation against the interests of the propertied classes. To those privileged classes, we are the epitome of authoritarianism. Thus, to be an ‘authoritarian’ is a fact of the conditions; a fact of the class struggle.
There are plenty of discussions to be had about possible ethical differences between ‘authoritarian’ and ‘non-authoritarian’ socialists but at the end of the day we are socialists. We are united against the hegemony of Capital and stand strongly with Labor. Our differences in ethical preferences cannot supersede our solidarity as revolutionaries.
Instead of of dividing ourselves between ‘authoritarians’ and ‘non-authoritarians’, I encourage the socialist Left to have fruitful discussion about praxis and the ethics of such revolutionary action without creating more enemies. There is nothing wrong with having a preference towards one form of socialist action than another. It is, however, wrong to make enemies of fellow socialists because of these preferences, which, are usually determined by material conditions more so than free will.
For ‘anarchists’ to condemn Chavez as a tyrant and likening him to a dictator is frankly embarrassing What good does it do to draw even more arbitrary lines in an already sectarian and marginalized movement? The fact that a socialist thread does not meet your narrow and dogmatic definition of “socialist” does not make it “bad” or “authoritarian”; it simply reconfirms the fact that as individuals we all hold personal preferences.
It pains me to see the anarchists who once fought for the liberation of the working class to be tainted by bourgeois liberalism to the point of petty sectarianism.
comrade, work and fight for the revolution
We must ask ourselves, where do we stand? For what class do we fight? Are we socialists or ‘anti-authoritarians’ in the abstract? Above all else, I am a socialist. My allegiance will forever be with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world. To crush the capitalist as a class and begin an era of liberation from every type of alienation.
If you are truly against authoritarianism, as it exists abstractly, you must dedicate yourself to the class struggle. Only once the capitalist property relations that condemn the vast majority of the world to poverty and alienation are removed can the class system begin to dissipate. Only once the class system has been forever banished and tossed onto the trash heap of history can authoritarianism, as an abstraction, truly be non-existent.
Hecho en memoria de Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias. Viviras en nuestros corazones para siempre. Hasta siempre, Comandante. Descansa en poder.
Growing up in the United States public education system, one is taught to revere the philosophies and days of old. In every classroom, the walls are decorated with pictures of the founding fathers and with posters of the “core democratic values”. Children sing songs commemorating the ideology of liberalism and patriotism. We were taught the importance of the constitution and looked at its writers as almost god-like figures; held to a standard above reproach.
Even in the adult realm of social theory and political economy, it seems as though the Enlightenment principles and philosophies, to which we broadly consider as becoming Liberalism, dominate every aspect of our socio-politics.
Certainly, there are many things about the Enlightenment that we can all feel warm and fuzzy about. The Enlightenment gave birth to ideas of a representative government, of freedom of speech and religion, and of the right to assembly and petition. Enlightenment philosophers also developed the epistemology of rationalism and empiricism, which have grown to encompass all of our scientific and academic advancement.
More importantly, the Enlightenment took a unique class character, one of the early bourgeoisie. It was this class character which, at the time, was termed by the landed aristocracy as “new money” that would in the next century swallow Europe in a period of industrialization and rapid economic growth never before imagined. This bourgeois thought also challenged the existing institutions of class suppression such as the Catholic Church; and would eventually destroy absolutist monarchy and feudalism in its quest for social domination.
So what about the Enlightenment is not properly understood or applied in the West particularly?
First a quick lesson in Marxism: Through Dialectical Materialism we understand the nature of how social forces moving and conflicting develop new social orders. Through Historical Materialism we understand the sum of history can be understood as a class struggle. With these understandings, we can view the Enlightenment as taking a specifically bourgeois class character. The West would like to paint the Enlightenment as a fixture of human advancement, owning no character but instead representing the timeless virtue of a liberal state. This, as we have come to understand, is completely fictitious and contradicts what we understand as Dialectical Materialism.
All of this begs the question: why is this important?
Well, similar to how the bourgeois dominate the legal interpretations of property and more importantly, physical property relations; bourgeois thought also dominates social discourse. We have allowed Enlightenment principles to impede our own judgement and prevent the development of new and revolutionary thought systems based on an ever-changing material condition. Rather than analyze a situation freely we have trapped ourselves in the intellectual stalemate of identifying the proper Liberal analysis and then applying it as if it was our own.
Let us take a rather simple example, study this photo for a moment:
What are some of the first things that come to your head? If you were raised anything like me, then you would first jump to criticize this picture as implying there is something wrong with income inequality (and we all know the importance of social inequality!). But why would we do this? The reason is we have been educated into a fixation with the idea of “individual liberty”, whether or not this concept makes sense, whether or not it applies to the hedge fund manager making billions of dollars, we immediately assume this must be an attack on his individual liberty; and then we make the even more peculiar conclusion that this is “bad”.
A very interesting question to ask would be, why should I care about his “individual liberty”? Why would it be “bad” if we were to seize all of his assets? If the ethics of capitalism produce a system where one man can hoard enough wealth to feed millions, then that interpretation of “individual liberty” is essentially useless to me; and until anyone proves otherwise, it should be considered useless as a priori ethics should have no weight without good reason.
Also, note how the picture ends with a very petty bourgeois punchline. It begins with what seems to be a critical inquiry into the ethics of inequality, and ends with a DNC slogan about capital gains tax. This is another example with our contemporary fixation with the Liberal principles of the Enlightenment, one of them being the nature of taxation in a republic. Why can we not criticize the system that allows him to pile up so much wealth without acting within that system’s framework?
If we truly want to find solutions, we must ask tough questions. Perhaps ”individual liberty” can be founded on something other than private property and the right of increase? Perhaps “individual liberty” can adopt a revolutionary and proletarian character; one that adopts an interpretation of “liberty” that does not encompass the freedom to exploit? Perhaps we could have a discussion about the nature of inequality itself without having to end that discussion with a Liberal punchline?
Essentially, the Western fixation with Liberalism (in the classical sense) has destroyed the audacity we need to develop truly powerful answers to our toughest questions. Answers that may go outside what is deemed “acceptable” by the establishment politics. If we do not crush these sentiments towards Liberalism then we cannot ever hope to have an honest discourse with any fruitful results.
Debunking Liberal Ethics
Locke’s Austrian bastard child
Back on the issue of the picture above, what would be a genuine liberal (right-libertarian in the US) response to that image?
While we do not have a case-specific response, we can deduce an answer by examining the following*:
“The key to the theory of liberty is the establishment of the rights of private property…”Crime” can then be defined and properly analyzed as a violent invasion or aggression against the just property of another individual.” – Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
In a phrase, more of the same. It is wrong to talk about action against income inequality because that means violating a person’s property, which is a violation of self-ownership etc. etc.
Allow me to dispel a Liberal myth for a moment, one that is vaguely implied by the excerpt above. This myth is that “liberty” gave birth to capitalism. That, essentially, an ethical framework that protects “liberty” produced what we now consider capitalist social relations and this is why current property relations are A) inevitable and/or B) justified in someway. Think back, even to your schooling, if you were raised in the United States this most likely resonates strongly as this is what is drilled into children. That “liberty”, as a principle, will produce what we now call capitalism.
This is entirely false and hinges on some non-materialist almost quasi-spiritual interpretation of the word “liberty” as if it were the one ethical principle to rule them all.
The truth is that capitalism has no ethics, it has no morals, it has no reason or judgement. It is a system. A system defined by exploitation of the inequality of exchange and perpetuation through capitalist property norms. A system where half the world anguishes in unimaginable deprivation to create market value for a select few. What we now consider “capitalist ethics” is merely an attempt to morally justify what was already taking place at an alarming rate in the late 18th century.
Thus there should be no intellectual qualms about discussing “unethical” remedies to the situation when the ethics in violation are about as redeemable as any other ethics.
What we must understand is that there is no objective definition of “freedom”. There is no right or wrong way to interpret “individual liberty”. There is nothing wrong with strongly criticizing the idea of bourgeois democracy in a “republic” and analyzing a contemporary situation outside of the intellectual box invented two centuries ago. In fact, we must struggle against bourgeois thought; it is an inevitable and incredibly important component to the class struggle.
In the same way that the capitalist transformation of the means of production produced bourgeois thought, socialist transformation of the means of production will produce proletarian thought. Socialist thought that will provide an answer to the questions I asked earlier; and every person dedicated to a new social order must become a catalyst for this new thought. What we cannot be is enslaved to the Enlightenment, we must realize that Liberal intellectual conceptions are not timeless tools of socio-political measurement, but a bourgeois tool of dominance; a tool we must resist.
Liberation begins when you realize you’re a slave.
The question of Women’s Liberation has always been one of a strenuous nature. Even amongst the broader Left, the role and function of Women’s Liberation has varied greatly. I will set the record straight by first not using the phrase ‘Women’s Rights’; I find this terminology highly frustrating because it tends to assume that women can reach some form of social worth within the existing capitalist framework. Functionally, this is not possible. As capitalist social relations serve to exploit and commodify the toiler, so do they women. Thus, the question is not one of furthering Women’s Rights but achieving Women’s Liberation.
First, let us establish what we mean by Women’s Liberation. What are they being liberated from? Similar to how Labor has been subjected to Capital, women have been subjected to the interests of men; for the former, the course of capitalist social relations, however, the latter has been a subjugation for millennia.
“Bourgeois democracy is democracy of pompous phrases, solemn words, exuberant promises and the high-sounding slogans of freedom and equality. But, in fact, it screens the non-freedom and inferiority of women, the non-freedom and inferiority of the toilers and exploited.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
“Worst of all, it is women who usually have to do, usually alone, all the dirty work of the kitchen and household, work that is unimportant, hard, tiresome, and soul-destroying” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
The alienation experienced by literally billions of women today is difficult to swallow. Skeptics will point to the relative advances of women in the 1st World, ignoring the brutal conditions that exist for women in the vast majority of the Earth. Even with these relative advances the position of women still remains one of subservience to male interests in much of the world. World politics, social commentary, and economic action is largely dominated by white wealthy men. Although women perform around 60% of the world’s labor, they own about 1% of the world’s property (source: UNIFEM). This incredible inequality is only compounded upon the dredging social position women are chained to.
Women, throughout history, have largely been treated as little more than glorified cattle by the establishment males. Even the Bible illustrates stories of how women were traded as property between men, married off in the young teens, and victims of horrible sexual atrocities during war and peace time. To be a woman in this world is a daunting task.
This alienation has created a learned helplessness in so many women; where “male leadership” becomes the normative route of escape for many alienated women. This can lead to a life filled with chronic depression, general anxiety, and no hope for self-actualization. In this sense women, even if they in the 1st World have reached some level of material comfort above their 3rd World counterparts, are still normally treated as property of men and suffer the mental and emotional damage that comes with being viewed as a commodity and not a human being.
Now that we recognize the oppressive conditions to which so many women are subjugated, we must begin to explore the nature of this liberation from said conditions. No doubt this means the destruction of gender roles as we know them today. Gender roles must be replaced with a cooperative arrangement of social stewardship and childcare that maximizes effective techniques and respects the equality of men and women.
The key to liberation, whether from capitalist property relations or gender roles, requires us to understand the forces that necessitate these relationships. Similar to feudalism, capitalism established a very dominant male role within society to ensure its own survival. Why male dominance? There are a few reasons for the establishment of male dominance, especially in early industrial capitalism. First, so that property and property rights could be passed through a patrilineal scope. Second, so that the male could be freed to do more labor for the capitalist (and also so the wealthier wives of capitalists could manage the affairs of the household for the male.). And thirdly, so that the means of sexual reproduction could be externally controlled in the favor a comfortable labor supply. All of this begins to explain why as society’s become more ‘affluent’, the clamor for women’s liberation begins to grow. The role of patriarchy within capitalism has degenerated with the course of the Law of Value. Production is no longer so reliant on an expansive growth in labor, namely large families; thus women are beginning to find freedom outside of these gender roles that have dominated their lives for centuries.
Some will say this analysis trivializes the situation of women to be a symptom of socio-economic relations. This criticism, although perhaps partially true, ignores a couple critical elements. First, ALL systemic exploitation within the realm of capitalism can be attributed to the functions of capitalist property relations. Second, the idea that women’s liberation is actually a quest for sexual control illustrates women as static monoliths of history that can only be consumed by a single-issue. This fixedness upon the sexual nature of women is an intellectual dead end. Women must be liberated FROM the defining nature of their reproductive organs in the same way that workers must be liberated FROM their function as cogs within the capitalist machine. This crucial understanding paints the goal of Women’s Liberation to be as vital to the revolutionary movement as the liberation of the working class.
“There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be “equality” between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the exploited and the exploiters. There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be real “freedom” as long as there is no freedom for women from the privileges which the law grants to men, as long as there is no freedom for the workers from the yoke of capital, and no freedom for the toiling peasants from the yoke of the capitalists, landlords and merchants.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
Understand, this does not mean we wish to replace the female reproductive process with some ludicrous pseudo-science as is portrayed in the dystopian Brave New World. Rather, we wish to reinvent the process of childrearing and stewardship, functions of the female gender role, as cooperative and just processes that reflect the socialist nature of the productive reorganization of society. A reorganization that smashes gender roles and looks upon men and women as human beings, not machines, embodied with a social value that exists outside of their alienating functions within gender fixedness.
The ‘Agent’ of Liberation?
Obviously the question must arise as to who shall do the liberating? As the goal of workers and women’s liberation’s are uniquely related, so is the nature of this agent. In the same way that the toiling class must be the engine of their emancipation, so must women be at the forefront of Women’s Liberation. This should not mean that women fall prey to the Liberal fixation on reproductive rights. There is no doubt, that matters of abortion, contraception, and family planning are of incredible importance to the movement. Yet, women must seek to advance themselves in all points of society, especially in socio-economic relations. This begins with the ultimate goal, the destruction of capitalism.
The importance of women in their liberation cannot be stressed enough. More than a practical point of organizing and mobilizing, the struggle of women, for women, ensures that there is no presence of bourgeois male ‘heroism’ as we saw for so long (and still see) in the sexist Disney movies. Where the heroic and courageous man saves the helpless, ‘damsel in distress’. How disgusting. This false ‘heroism’ must also be resisted in all liberation movements for marginalized peoples. Including depictions of Black Liberation, especially in recent movies such as Spielberg’s Lincoln where the black population is depicted as static and helpless in the face of white oppression; where only white people could save them.
Although, this does not mean that the male feminist has no role in his female comrade’s campaign. The male feminist finds himself in an important position as well. He must not only support women in their liberation, but fight for the original premise of feminism, the equality of the sexes; thus, he must set out for the destruction of gender roles. The male feminist, then, must embody this spirit of cooperation and solidarity in a collective struggle with his female comrades against women’s exploitation; in all facets of society, including his personal life.
Thus the most controversial aspect of Women’s Liberation arises: how personal relationships function within the umbrella of the movement?
Some have suggested polyamory and similar “free love” movements as appropriate models for this movement. The decision to identify with the “free love” community or a polyamorous relationship is a personal one and one that should be respected like all other relationships between consenting adults. However, the fallacy here is to believe that “free love” and polyamory are by nature, aligned with the movement for Women’s Liberation. Similarly, not all monogamous relationships are identified against the Women’s Liberation movement. Let us not confuse a very intimate and personal choice between consenting adults with an attitude towards revolutionary change. Polyamorous men can still be manipulative and oppressive, men in the “free love” community can still be misogynist and sexist. A guiding principle for the male feminist should be the famous quote, “women hold up half the sky” (and according to world labor reports, a bit more than half). The way a male feminist treats his female comrades should always be tempered with the same respect that he treats his male comrades. Especially in an emotional relationship. An attitude of bilateral (or multilateral) cooperation should always supersede some machoist conception of “male leadership”.
What we cannot accept is this tongue-in-cheek mocking of Women’s movements by those on the Left; especially by the so called “manarchists”.
What a joke. A bunch of coffee-shop revolutionaries who come together to discuss how men are so unfairly dominated by a sense of “male disposability”, forgetting the literal millennia of oppression women have faced: socially, economically, politically, and legally.
There is no question that the male gender role must also be destroyed, but the neo-social conservatism of these “manarchists” is detestable. They have taken the right-’libertarian’ stance against social justice and concluded that all feminist movements must be dominated by “white knights” and misandry. This is not the proper way men should articulate arguments against male gender roles. Rather than find solidarity with the feminist movement they would engage in all sorts of subtle misogyny like “slut shaming”. Disgusting.
But unlike the “manarchists”, the traditional social conservatives actually hold influence outside of 4chan.
This is where the fight for Women’s Liberation begins, the social arena. It is the duty of all feminists to bring gender roles into the general public discourse and to propagate the values of a cooperative and truly emancipated society. More so than discourse, grass roots action against misogyny must be waged in every strata of socio-economic and political life. This is the struggle that lays ahead of us and must only be intensified.
“Freedom and equality for the oppressed sex! Freedom and equality for the workers, for the toiling peasants! A fight against the oppressors, a fight against the capitalists…That is our fighting slogan, that is our proletarian truth, the truth of the struggle against capital, the truth which we flung in the face of the world of capital with its honeyed, hypocritical, pompous phrases about freedom and equality in general, about freedom and equality for all.” – Vladimir Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women
By: Resistance Transmissions | Feb 1, 2013 Featured
Is it a coincidence that as peoples’ trust in capitalism wavers we see a surge in religious fundamentalism? I don’t think so, and I think the people running this world… well, they don’t just know this is not a coincidence, they are pulling the right strings and pushing the right buttons to foster more of it. What that ol’ saying, ah yes capitalism makes strange bed fellows.
Capitalism has failed us all. It could have maybe evolved along side us, but it didn’t. We trusted our leaders and didn’t heed the warning signs. Ultimately though I’ve convinced myself that even if the alarm rang out and the people took a stand demanding reforms to the economic system, they would have been temporarily pacified and the men behind the curtain would have continued down this path of destruction fully aware of where they were leading us. Back in the years when we could have stopped this train wreck we were too gullible and too distracted, we didn’t realize just how organized they were… and I don’t think most of us get it now either. I guess this was sorta their plan all along hoard as much as possible so when the crash comes they can ride out the storm. A selfish plan but when all they know how to do is be selfish and self-righteous should we expect anything else from them, nah of course not. Meanwhile the rest of us continue on and we start to see that the world is beginning to change, a change for the better possibly… hopefully. This change is happening regardless of if we have the courage to unite and steer our future or not, this status quo of comfort we cling to now won’t be here much longer. If this monumental period of change thrusts us back a step or gives birth to a more aggressive capitalism well, that would be humanity’s suicide. We will just be another civilization to rise and fall and to have future historians and archeologists pine over our books and bones filing in the puzzle pieces. I imagine though, that in the face of real chaos and undeniable doom, when the bodies start to pile up in the rich nations we will see a solid effort to try and save ourselves. The complete abandonment of capitalism will be part of that solution but until then capitalism is definitely going down swinging. People are becoming more aware of the capitalism’s failure daily and not just the activists and the open minded who have the ability to dream of a something better, but the business analysts, bank managers, investment brokers, and the like, they are waking up to this fact as well. To be successful in their line of work they need to stay ahead of the trends, the report > there is wavering trust in capitalism as a whole beginning to bubble up. Their solution, reform and evolved the system now… they have started to debate how this could be done. Is it even possible, I don’t know. I think it will be too little to late. If they agree on something with a lot of flexibility it could help easy the pain of transitioning to a new system, that might be a more realistic goal… meh, time will tell.
This change I’ve been rambling about isn’t going to affect us like the invention of the wheel, the steam engine, or the telegraph. This is will be our day to day lives and the world as a whole reshaping into something very, very different. These changes are being driven by: huge demographic shifts, huge leaps in scientific and technological advancements as well as the merging of technology and science, huge social shifts (everything from how we communicate around the planet to the dissolving nuclear family), a global financial crisis that will need to be dealt with, the health crisis of the planet and the mass extinction of the species that reside here, and lastly the collective consciousness of humans. Now before any of you roll your eyes and stop reading. Let me state for the record, NO I will not be preaching any new age guru babble on you. I will however, need to lay the basis of how scientifically speaking the collective consciousness works because it helps build my point.
“The human brain is a network of approximately 100 billion neurons. Depending on which neurons are getting stimulated (used) certain connections will become stronger and more efficient while others will become weaker. This is called neuroplasticity and it means that any talent or skill can be created through training. Whatever you are doing at any given time you are physically modifying your brain to become better at it. Since this is such a fundamental mechanism of the brain being self-aware can greatly enrich your overall life experience.
Our beliefs have a profound impact on our body chemistry. Specific neurons and neurotransmitters trigger a defensive state when we feel our thoughts need to be protected from the influence of others. Once we are in this defensive state, if we are confronted with differences of opinion the chemicals that are released in the brain are the SAME as the ones that are released to try and insure our survival in dangerous situations. The limbic system then knocks out our short term memory and allows the primitive part of the brain take over, making it impossible to think rationally. This physically causes ‘narrow mindedness’ … this is used in the politics of fear. On the neural level the brain can’t not process rationally when we feel threatened, even if that threat comes from harmless opinions or facts that we would otherwise find helpful or could rationally agree with. Social validation on the other hand increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin released in the brain. The basic human need to fit it is called the normative social influence. Our moral and ethical compass is almost entirely forged by our environment so our actions are often a result of the validation we receive from society. Our experiences are constantly changing our neural connections and physically altering the parallel system that is our consciousness.
Recent neurological research has confirmed the existence of empathetic mirror neurons. When we experience an emotion or perform an action specific neurons fire BUT when we observe somebody else performing an action or even just imagine it many of the same neurons will fire again, as if we were performing the action ourselves. These empathy neurons connect us to other people. Allowing us to feel what other feel and since the neurons respond to our imagination we can experience emotional feedback from them as if they came from someone else. The mirror neuron doesn’t know the difference between it and others. It is the reason we are dependent on social validation, and it is also the system that allows us to self reflect. When we use our mirror neurons to look at ourselves we may can construct the idea of identity… but when we observe this with our scientific understandings we something completely different. The neural synergies that produce our oscillating consciousness go FAR beyond our own neurons. We are equally the results of our cerebral hemispheres interacting electro-chemically as we are of the senses connecting our neurons to other neurons in our environment, nothing is external. This is the basic property of mirror neurons and it allow us to understand ourselves through others. Seeing this neural activity as your own and excluding your environment would be a misconception. Human characteristics are perceived through the false paradigm of identity, instead of through the scientific version of what we are. We are a momentary expression of an ever changing unity of simultaneously firing neurons with no center. We are a global network of neurochemical reactions and the self amplifying cycle of acceptance and acknowledgment sustained by the daily choices in our interactions. *This is the chain reaction that will ultimately define our collective ability to overcome our imagined differences.”
With this knowledge it is possible to understand how emotions transfer virally through society, or what some referred to as the collective human consciousness. If we were to survey the population and ask what is the most common emotion they feel is, the overwhelming majority would answer anxiety and/ or fear. No one wants to live with anxiety or in a state of fear. So what is causing it? It’s mostly due to financial instability, utter poverty, lack of human rights, lack of justice, and war. At a glance they appear to be different causes but at the root they are simply, capitalism and religious fundamentalism.
These two destructive forces have a lot in common, so much so that they’ve developed a truly mutualistic relationship. The religious fundamentalist need poverty, fear, and political hate, the capitalist creates it ~ capitalist needs war for control and to fuel the war economy, the fundamentalist will create it by believing that a nation can have god on it’s side, or by accepting that its ok to send there children off to fight in a war they don’t understand, or by instigating political instability, or by providing a perceived threat for the propaganda machine to run with.
….Anyway, just to be clear I’m calling out all of the big three: Christian, Jewish, and Islamic fundamentalist. Whether or not you believe it was a divine well spring of knowledge that inspired a given religious scripture to me is irrelevant when talking about fundamentalist thought. The text themselves are the products of human hands. A person who believes in a their literal translation and then uses those beliefs to proclaim they are a chosen one, one who has access to “the truth”… well that’s one thing(sigh), I’m not so much referring to those fundamentalists. When a person proceeds to step it up and declare that others who do not accept their “truth” doctrine are somehow subhuman and deserving targets of their aggression, this is who I’m referring to… the ones who cross the line into more of the zealous and fanatical fundamentalist category (uuuh, not 100% sure actually, they might be one in the same). Especially given the fact most of that aggression and frustration if not all of it, is derived from within their own brain. It is electro-chemically created when you hold two contradictory ideas, it’s called cognitive dissonance. As we process our day to day experiences, both the good and bad times, we are sometimes confronted with a situation where our preconceived beliefs about reality and our observable reality can’t be reconciled. When this happens we feel a sense of frustration. It’s purpose is to give us the will to redefine and adjust our preconceived beliefs. If we can not reconcile our thoughts and we choose to deny reality we actually remain in that state of cognitive dissonance. We won’t continually feel the chemically charged emotions because we are constantly in a state of change (hunger, etc.) but if we return to the thoughts that created it, it will be triggered instantly.
Herein lies the trap, children are raised by the good intentions of their parents who hold the eternal salvation of their offspring’s souls in their hands. They teach them to believe in whatever religion happens to be the most popular in the land they were born on or whatever religion runs in their family tradition. Along comes financial disparity and or war, they start to recognized the multitude of injustices around them and across the world, they begin to cling to their faith, they start to experience cognitive dissonance, there is a real or perceived threat of war and death around every corner (thanks capitalism), and they become fearful. Both real and imagined fears (thanks to our mirroring neurons) will shut down the limbic system effectively creating a physical state of narrow mindedness (neat). In comes someone who recognizes this vulnerability and feeds them a manipulated version of their religion based on hate (and fear). It is often easier to hide behind blind certainty and accept a position of defense than it is to try and search out your own understanding of the complexities that this world dishes out. Add to that the fact that they are chemically being provided with the comfort they crave (dopamine and serotonin) with the social validation the receive from the group.
I tried to keep that explanation general, I hope you can see my point. Life can be hard enough as it is and in it’s own way choosing to subscribe to a fundamentalist view of the world is just easier for some people. They are recruited to join someone else’s crusade and convinced it is their own, in actuality they are just helping to advance the personal agenda of someone else. A quest to accumulate money and power. The longer a leader can keep up the facade the more they can accumulate. These groups need people or society in general in a state of desperation and instability in order to thrive and grow their power.
These are the same reasons people defend capitalism, they deny their slavery because it is easier. These are also the same conditions that the capitalist class need society to be in, desperation and instability. This is when they grow their power… it’s the same. So even though in order for one side to gain power the other must give up power, which neither side wants to do. They are still benefit each other by there very existence, if you watch from a distance keeping this perspective you can see it’s like a choreographed dance.
There are slightly different versions of capitalism around the world but essentially the whole world is subscribing to the capitalist philosophy of: money/celebrity worship, profit motivation, and class division (the capitalists and the workers). At a glance, capitalism isn’t a hard sell, there is that luxurious allure of capitalism… the gold rush, the american dream so to speak. On a closer inspection you see: the destruction of the planet, mass extinction, 80+% of humans living in desperate poverty, the dollar is a joke, and there is a general sociopathic nature to it’s philosophy in practice. These things alone are definitely enough reason to abandon this system. However, there is more reveled when you ask things like ~ Who is profiting? When you follow the money trail, right away you notice, every successful politician and their friends and families are profiting… coincidence? …or corruption? It’s NO coincidence. The justice systems should be there to put a stop to this. There are laws against things like conflict of interest but because of democracy is also a corrupted system, the judiciary doesn’t really have the power to rule against the ruling class and well.. actually, that’s not really true… sometimes they do, but still it doesn’t have the power to enforce it’s judgement. Sure, they might make an example out of someone once in awhile, but no big fish get caught. Concentrated cash in the pockets of politicians alone is not proof of corruption. Personally adjusting policies/ laws and then championing their advancement to reap in financial benefit , via campaign donations and a bump up in their own stock portfolios however is (which is common). Another strange aspect to capitalism is the fact that fortunes tend to increase when things go bad. A health pandemic, and the drug companies make huge profits. An oil spill, or any disruption in oil supplies and profits skyrocket. A storm or drought, and food prices balloon on speculation = profit. Supply and demand you say… well yes, essentially. But the point remains, the point being that the Military Industrial Complex feeds off of war. War is huge business and therefore there is a huge economic incentive to keep countries unstable, to keep everyone fighting, AND worst of all when the politicians themselves have investments in this Military Industrial Complex we being to see them pushing forward policies to trigger wars. How are we supposed to move forward into a free and peaceful world with this amount of systemic corruption, answer > we can’t.
I figure this is why the capitalist class must truly love all the religious fundamentalist out there who are doing their part to spread hate and fear. It’s great for the capitalist’s public relations campaign, takes the heat off their back room deals, everything can be chalked up to secret intelligence and national security. The population remains anxiety ridden, can’t think… and so continues to leave all that hard thinking up to our trustworthy politicians.
It’s a fact that when it’s convenient the elite will cooperate with a lot of shady groups to meet their end goals…. hell, who’s kidding who the elite are the shadiest group around of course they’ll work with there cohorts. So is it maybe possible to that when they assassinate a sovereign nations leader, throw crippling sanctions on civilians, and ya know all around infiltrate and throw counties into chaos. Is this their way of saying, I love you to the young aspiring militias and rebel groups who are just learning how to play the game. I should give a special shout out to American here too for drone bombing the hell out of innocent civilians, and oh, oh, wait.. lets not forget > keeping Guantonamo Bay open. Is this their secret code way of saying I love you to the Islamic fundamentalists because I’m sure when they recruit it’s part of the “come fight on our side” shpeal. Speaking of America, is it possible that this backsliding of women’s rights and the fact that there is a debate over whether or not to teach creationism in their public education system the governments way of saying we love you to the Christian fundamentalists within their boarders, and subliminally asking them to keep raising the god fearing patriots so they will enlist to fight for the country that loves them so much. Is it possible that when the super powers’ turn a blind eye to the war crimes committed against Palestine, and allow Israel to hypocritically hold stock piles of nuclear weapons unchecked.. is their way of saying we love you to the Jewish fundamentalists, and letting them know they have secret admirers.
…. the fact that we can even consider those statements to be a real possibility does speak volumes to the global situation. Is it possible that this is a love affair? …I’d say so.
There was a knock at the door, Capitalism got up to answer it. As she pulled the door back a rusty creek from the old door hinge slowly filled the silence. Their eyes met, it felt like it wasn’t the first time. “Capitalism?”, said the dangerous looking man with the black hat. “Yes.”, she answered. “I’m afraid I have some bad news…” he replied. She grabbed his arm, “Please, come inside”…as he entered her empty cold mansion, he began to tell her about the freedom virus that had gotten into the water supply. “Folks like us, we don’t have long to live, the doctor says we’ll be dead by morning”. Shocked at first she started to tremble, she looked at the man, he had a crazy twinkle in his eye, her shock gave way to relief. Suddenly she knew it didn’t matter, nothing mattered… but the comfort she found in his arms. She looked into his eyes one more time and spoke softly as if somebody might be listening “If this is our last night on earth we shall treat it as such, lets dance our last night away together, baby let’s dance until dawn” …The words were like music to his ears and the dance begun. <> yup, just like that
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.
The horrific tragedy that took place on Friday, December 14th 2012 cannot be expressed in words. The actions of one gunman forever altered the lives of countless families and the discourse surrounding gun control in the United States.
I will not spend any time trying to dissect the motives or nature of the gunman; I am not a psychiatrist. It would be futile for me to attempt to do so.
So many innocent lives were taken so quickly all we can do is hope that such horrible atrocities are never seen again. I can only give my condolences to all those effected by such an awful tragedy which brought incalculable pain to so many.
The rifle most likely used by the gunman.
One issue, however, is getting more press coverage than ever: gun control. Following the massacre in Aurora, we saw a surge in discussion over possible gun control measures. Now, many individuals with good intentions are wrongly pursuing such policies once more.
Allow me to clarify a few issues before I elaborate further. First, no one wants to see his children grow up in a world of AR15′s and AK47′s. The sheer volume of death machines in the United States is frightening on any level. A world without any weapons is easily preferable to one so dominated by death and its instruments. The truth of the matter, however, is that at least 270,000,000 guns exist in the United States. Effective gun control would be impossible in these conditions and the only persons that would be affected would be working families who do not want to risk their livelihood by breaking the law.
Second, I am not a ‘gun-nut’, a member of the NRA, or even remotely conservative. I do not believe that guns have mystical qualities or that they grant the owner access to abstract conceptions of honor, courage, or bravery. Guns are only tools of death. A tool I would not want to be monopolized by the capitalist state.
The above statement easily summarizes my entire position. A position founded upon a recognition of class war and the extent of that struggle. To base the protection of gun ownership on a principle of ownership is to set your foundation in erosion. These lofty abstractions are meaningless; especially when they do nothing to challenge the material existence of the status quo. Talking aimlessly about natural rights of gun ownership only reaffirms the poverty of ethics. At most such abstractions are petty bourgeois talking-points with no sense of direction, and thus can be of no service to a revolutionary.By allowing the bourgeois state to monopolize the ownership of these tools, we only hurt the working class. The liberation of the working class must be our utmost priority, for without it, a truly ethical system is unreachable and humanity will forever be subjugated. It is for this reason, not for a love of guns, that Marx writes:
“… the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition… Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. ” – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
Marx realized that class struggle means giving the working class every possible tool to ensure its victory. By concentrating the ownership of firearms into the propertied class, or its state organs, one is only stacking the odds against the working class. It will be argued that this quote from Marx is outdated and refers specifically to the conditions of the workers in Britain. Such an analysis fails to realize that the class war has not yet been won. Yes, times have changed, the mode of production has evolved, but it still remains firmly in the hands of the capitalist class. Any hint of socialist policies progressing in our society is illusory. Any concessions made to labor have only reaffirmed the victory of Capital and made more resolute the bourgeois position against social revolution.
Capital remains firmly in command.
As long as Capital dominates property relations, so too will bourgeois interests dominate the socio-political realm. This brings me full circle to a previous article of mine (see: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principe). My primary argument being that socio-political action divorced from a contextual understanding of property relations will always serve to reproduce those same relations. Meaning (at least in this context), it is nearly impossible for a conscious directive from the bourgeois state to damage the interests of the capitalist class. This is one of the primary reasons why reformist actions have only served to re-entrench the bourgeois as the dominant class and co-opt the genuine class struggle.
Historically, this is becomes even more obvious. From a historical materialist perspective, gun control, among other weapon bans, has been utilized by the ruling class to consolidate power and crush resistance. Nearly every fascist leader has restricted gun ownership of the working class and used such leverage to execute unspeakable atrocities against those who would stand in resistance to their tyranny. Likewise, a gun ban or severe gun controls in the United States could only hurt revolutionaries and working class people, by making resistance to neoliberal policies illegal and violence against the masses impossible to mitigate.
Thus, the whole of the Marxist position on gun rights can only be a pragmatic one that exists to move the working class towards victory. This is also an important difference between a Liberal (as known in the American political realm) and a Marxist. A Marxist seeks to liberate humanity, to change the world. A Liberal seeks to propel bourgeois abstractions, to reinterpret the existing world. Unfortunately, petty bourgeois principles that ignore material conditions are just that, petty.
A completely separate question is whether or not such a wide possession of firearms will exist in a socialist society. To give my brief opinion, yes; however, in a much different circumstance and purpose than that possession exists today. Today, gun possession should be utilized to protect the worker from exploitative advances. In a socialist society, gun ownership would be maintained by the organized proletariat as a socially necessary tool to remain firmly in power. Gun controls might also be introduced, in a socialist society, against counter-revolutionaries, fascists, or belligerent class enemies who seek to restore capitalism. This, however, is a totally different issue for a totally different article.
In truth, no one want to see more children die. No one wants to see more innocent lives lost. Yet, we must recognize that gun control is not the answer, and as Marxists, resist such attempts to hurt the working class. Only then can we realize a truly safe world. Safe not only from crazed gunmen in our schools but from the masked insanity of capitalist accumulation that threatens the well-being of our entire reality.
‘Hitler was a National Socialist. Get that? Socialism is Nazism.’ - generic Jim, the right-wing nut
Without a doubt, any individual with a rudimentary knowledge of history could tell you that Hitler co-opted the socialist movement to seat himself in power. The right-wing obsession with the word “socialism” in National Socialism has become more apparent to me as time goes on. Lacking any critical inquiry into the nature of Nazi Germany, they jump to the conclusion that socialism must be related to Nazism. Thus, if you are a socialist (marxist or otherwise), then you are no better than a Nazi.
Pretty ridiculous right?
The reason I address this issue is because yet another “Anarcho” – Capitalist cretin tried claiming that advocating voluntary forms of socialism is no better than advocating for “voluntary nazism”
Difficult to see, more for provable documentation.
How common is this gross misconception among the right-”Libertarians”? It is difficult to say with certainty. However, what can be said is this sort of misconception has fallen over the fence of ridiculousness and now swims in a sea of absurdity.
Before, I believed it was totally unnecessary to draw obvious distinctions between Marxism and Nazism; now it seems that the utter historical negligence from the right-wing will force me to do so.
A clear understanding of Nazi theory would illustrate the clear hatred for Marxism as a ‘weak ideology’ of ‘Jewish’ elites. Furthermore, a basic understanding of Nazi policies would show that Marxists and other socialists were the first members of Hitler’s concentration camps. In addition, there are absolutely no similarities between Nazi “ethics” and what is proposed by Marxists. Nazis were able to justify mass murder and genocide by clinging to a far-right ideology of domination where one race of humans was inherently superior to another. Marxism has always been of the internationalist paradigm and has criticized racism, nationalism, and all other reactionary conceptions as ideological weapons wielded by the propertied classes.
Perhaps I will extend more on the issue if some believe it is necessary but for now I will let readers feast on this episode of absent minded rhetoric.
video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_F3oev06i
I am sure by now most of you have seen the video from which the image above is cited. The video depicts all sorts of heavily edited footage by the far-right Christian fundamentalist and comedian Steven Crowder as he attempts to rile up some of the union protesters outside of the Lansing capitol building in my home state of Michigan. The video shows Crowder engaging in his usual sophistry, until one gentleman clearly has had enough with Mr. Crowder and gives him a stiff one-two that left Crowder whining on twitter for hours; demanding the assailant be apprehended.
Having watched Crowder’s YouTube videos for quite sometime (even before I became a Marxist) I am not surprised this has finally happened to him. He has quite a knack for poking the bear. Anyone who watches any of his videos regularly will understand this. Moreover, the exact context of this fight is yet to be understood. Could the union man simply be upset? Quite possibly, and understandably so. Was Crowder provoking the man? Easily as possible as the former. Unfortunately, because the Cult of Breitbart has no intention of ever honestly editing video it is unlikely we will know for certain the entire context of the scuffle. What is important is that Crowder got what he deserved.
Severe battle wounds sustained whilst battling the evils of organized labor.
Before the hordes of cretins pile upon me for supporting aggression, I view this more as self-defense.
Mr. Crowder came to that event hoping to inspire outrage. That is his motive with these videos. He does not fly to the working class regions of Michigan, away from his cozy suburban existence, so he can reach a level of fraternity with the locals. He goes to upset, to agitate, and to provoke. The working man depicted in the video was only striking back against what he felt was an unacceptable aggression from the yuppie Crowder.
On a deeper level, this conflict is just a more personal expression of the ongoing conflict in Michigan, the United States, and across the globe. It is a conflict between conscious labor and their advocates against bourgeois reactionaries. Crowder is a disgustingly obvious yuppie and a bourgeois reactionary who takes pride in subjecting other humans to a calculating political economy that he moralizes through ‘compassionate conservatism’. He has not the faintest idea what it means to be alienated (in the proletarian sense), to be exploited, and to struggle for what is yours.
What Mr. Crowder hopefully learned is this: life is brutal, and class struggle is real. The nature of the market is not defined by elegant nothings and lofty notions, it is defined by bloody and physical struggle in a cold land with all forms of emotion. Market mechanisms do indeed exist outside of a Reagan quote book, they exist in the mind of every worker who felt detached, every mother who struggled to feed her child, and every revolutionary who ever lived. The impacts of neoliberal policy leave a physical mark on a material world. I doubt if Mr. Crowder could ever really understand this. To him, and so many other bourgeois proponents, life is just a game where the winner is certain, the rules are clear, and the wrong is wrong. They cannot begin to imagine the material pressure these market forces exert on working people so far as to drive them into the streets in protest.
The conservatives will call us hateful for stating the obvious and thugs for acting on our principles. What does that make them then? The bourgeoisie have oppressed the working class for centuries; we seek only to end that. The capitalist social order has produced a world of starvation as Steven Crowder sips a latte, going on about about ‘union thugs’; we seek only to correct this. The vast multitude of humanity anguishes in unimaginable conditions, whilst bourgeois apologists like Mr. Crowder champion the ideals of this twisted system. Who really is hateful? Who really is destructive? The strongest quality of a revolutionary is love, and our love of humanity lead us to move against this lust of the almighty dollar.
Mr. Crowder will draw upon popular quotes, ones of inspiring language like those of “liberty” and “justice”. What is liberty to a woman who has to choose between baby diapers or a warm meal? What is justice to the man who has lost the job he worked tirelessly for? Words are only words when applied like cheap makeup to the grotesque nature of capitalism.
It is with this that I wish Mr. Crowder a farewell. He is not welcome in working class communities or the state of Michigan. The working people of Michigan have spent enough time on their knees, now they fight back. I urge all working people reading this to rise against their oppressors. Drive out the bourgeois. We are workers, we built this world and all the wealth it holds, it is time that we seized the hour and crushed the organs of our oppression.
The only thing we have to lose is our shackles.
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
The Left today is a broad conglomeration of socialist, liberal, and socially democratic groups and tendencies. Deep within the Left lurks a tendency most would believe to be dead. The truth is that Stalinism is still alive and well within the Communist Left. Given, at least most of the modern day Communists are either critical of Stalin or non-associative towards his ideas, there are some who still cling to this backward tendency.
I am not one for sectarianism. I have said this many times before. The reason I reject Stalinism is because I see it as a reactionary tendency that does not deserve to be grouped with the Left.
The point of this article will be to demonstrate why Stalinism is patently non-Marxist and in fact, reactionary. Allow me to begin with the ‘achievements’ of the Soviet Union under Stalin.
1) Stalin industrialized the Soviet Union and turned it into a prosperous country.
No doubt, under Josef Stalin the Soviet Union successfully reached the point of being considered an industrialized nation. The problem herein lies in the way it was accomplished, and the quality of this ‘achievement’.
First, the industrialization of the Soviet Union is a hard thing to measure without looking at the quality of that being industrialized. Most of the Soviet Archives measure the industrialization in Rubles. The obvious problem here is that the Ruble was a highly inflationary currency that struggled to maintain any sort of value. Even if you measure the industrialization in tons of output, the quality of that output was not on par with what it could have been. Consumer goods still lagged far behind those of Western nations. But more importantly, the living standard of the average worker stagnated or fell while his work week piled on.
Is that the ‘achievement’ of a ‘socialist’ nation? That industrialization brutally subjugates the working class to intensive and menial labor while their living standard stagnates?
This is not much of an achievement, especially when considering that the entire process of central planning and factor production had to be reorganized around a caricature of capitalist social order. The elected managers of the factories, or the elected directing boards were replaced with appointed single-man managers who answered directly to the bureaucracy and were tasked with quotas all but achievable.
As Trotsky puts it in his Revolution Betrayed the difference between the capitalist and the bureaucracy to the average worker was nil. Both were unaccountable and uncontrollable slave drivers, one just called itself ‘socialist’.
2) Stalin helped women gain more freedom.
This is decidedly false. Women under the early Bolshevik state were granted the right to abortion and fault-free divorce. Anything good for Women’s Rights that happened under Stalin’s regime was already in place before he took power. There were some large changes for women under Stalin, however.
Women, who under the Bolshevik state, were given access to quality childcare and permitted to stay at home and raise their children were now compelled to serve in a stratifying and dangerous factory. Also, a woman’s right to an abortion was severely curved under Stalin who practiced a policy of rapid population growth. Effectively women became more commodified as tools of the state under Stalin than anytime in Soviet history.
In addition to his commodification of women, Stalin was a homophobe and his policies reflected that. Under the early Bolshevik state, homosexuality was legalized. Under Stalin, homosexuality was outlawed and homosexuals could face a 5 year prison sentence. Stalin was clearly a social conservative who viewed social relations not as a liberating point of the human experience but a tool of the bureaucracy that could be manipulated to supposedly enhance productive capabilities.
3) Stalin turned the Soviet Union into a socialist country!
Perhaps the most audacious claim could also be considered the most dishonest.
The 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union, engineered by Stalin and the party bureacracy, boldly claims that
”The socialist system of economy and the socialist ownership of the means and instruments of production firmly established as a result of the abolition of the capitalist system of economy, the abrogation of private ownership of the means and instruments of production and the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, constitute’ the economic foundation of the U.S.S.R.”
Socialist? In an economic system where factories are run by capitalist-styled, unelected managers, peasants are forced into bureaucratically ordered collectives, and the whole of society is subjected to the will of a minority, how can this be Socialism? The Stalinists will defend this with their subtle redefining of “socialism” as “the abolition of the exploitation of man by man”.
Even if we accepted this partially true understanding, the Soviet Union, under Stalin, did not meet the criteria. Even if there was no Capitalist class, there was a class of opportunist, unaccountable, and unelected bureacrats who prospered off the backs of the working class. The working people saw little material or social improvement in their lives and commodity production was never abolished. If this is the criteria for a “socialist” society then even some of the most backward fascist regimes, like Nazi Germany, might also qualify as “socialist”.
Stalinists will also bring up the electoral provisions of the 1936 Constitution as further evidence of the Socialism that existed under Stalin. These provisions included an expansion of ‘democracy’ (meaning many former kulaks, capitalists, or Tsarists could vote) and the implementation of a secret ballot.
Let’s get two things straight about these electoral provisions. First, there is absolutely no evidence that Stalin had anything to do with these provisions and in fact there was no mention of them from him up until after the ratification of the constitution. Second, these provisions were largely inconsequential. Stalin would go on in 1936-1939 to purge the Party of a majority of the original Bolsheviks as well as any dissenters (including those who had supported Stalin initially, like Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev) . It mattered not who voted, because in the end there was only one choice on the ballot. The bureaucracy’s candidate. There was no room for criticism or question. Stalin’s rhetoric about “fighting bureaucracy was just that, rhetoric. There was plenty of talk in the Soviet Union about getting tough on the privilege and bureaucracy but ultimately nothing was done about it. The degeneration was in full swing and this ugly and deformed worker’s state went onto its destruction.
Now that we have debunked some common myths about Stalin, let us examine how his practice and theory culminate into a heap of un-Marxist drivel.
“Socialism in One Country”
Central to Stalinism and later Stalinist leaning regimes was the idea of “Socialism in One Country.”
The theme here is that international revolution is not needed, that socialism can be built in one country and exist in the same world as capitalist nations. For revolutionaries, living in the post-1919 failed German revolution, this could seem promising. There are, however, serious pitfalls to this theory that lead to even more tragic practical consequences.
First, a focus on building socialism in a single country inevitably breeds fascism and hyper-nationalism. This can be seen in Stalin’s glorification of the “Russian character”. This hyper-nationalism is totally incompatible with a Marx who said “the proletariat has no country”. The struggle for socialism, the struggle for communism, is not one to be waged by a national party from a single country. It is a concerted effort for international socialism that recognizes the insignificance of bourgeois conceived nationalism and embraces the centrality of proletarian internationalism. Stalin’s “socialism in one country” represented a decided shift away from this Marxian concept towards a more conservative, and nationalistic approach.
In addition, a lack of an international sentiment and paradigm means that the revolution is more susceptible to corruption. The more concentrated the politics, the more likely that they will reject external criticism, ignoring the conditions of all oppressed peoples and hiding behind a thin veil of self-criticism that never materializes. One needs only look at the list of ‘socialist’ nations that have embraced this theory. Most of them have become isolated hermit kingdoms that restrict even elementary freedoms of Capitalist nations just to maintain a position in international power relations.
This is not socialism. This is not proletarian internationalism. This is petit bourgeois nationalism that will inevitably produce fascism.
Stalin’s conceptualization of class struggle meant that even after a revolution took place, there was an intensification of the class struggle between the bourgeois and the proletariat.
This theory is more or less adhoc reasoning for the incredible amount of suppression that went on in Stalin’s Russia and other Stalinist regimes. The open, democratic, and transparent socialist systems envisioned in the early 20th century gave way to secret police, torture, intimidation, and violent suppression of dissenters. This is the legacy of Stalinist conceptions of class struggle.
Beyond the obvious practical consequences of such a position, it is also not grounded in Marxist philosophy. The revolution, the point at which the Proletariat seizes power, is the point at which classism begins to subside as the socialist transformation begins.
Will the bourgeois exist after the beginning of an international revolution? Of course.
It is unlikely, however, that this class struggle will ‘intensify’ like the Stalinists claim. For their to be a revolution in the first place there must be significant mass support. In addition, the point of revolution is the expropriation of state power and the means of production. If the bourgeois are seized of what makes them, bourgeois, it is hard to imagine that the class struggle could intensify much beyond the peak points of said revolution.
The whole reconceptualization of class struggle is designed to allow Stalinists to commit horrible crimes against dissenters in an effort to consolidate power masked under the veil of socialist transformation.
This does not mean there is not room for suppression in a Proletarian Dictatorship. There most certainly is. The difference is that this process of rooting out counter revolutionaries and bourgeois influence must be a transparent and democratic process that rests control firmly within the Proletariat. Stalin’s purges were none of that. They were deliberately hidden and undemocratic operations designed to consolidate political power into a small and privileged bureaucracy.
Class war remains a central theme to the revolutionary struggle but the way in which Stalinists revise this theme is incompatible with Marxism.
The history of Stalinism is one riddled with opportunism, bureaucracy and political maneuvering To answer all of the myths put out by Stalinists would be impossible for the sake of time.
What is obvious is that what Marx, or even Lenin, envisioned for Socialism, was not what Josef Stalin brought to the Soviet Union. Marxist criticism was stifled, party democracy was stamped out, proletarian internationalism gave way to bourgeois nationalism factories became modeled on the Capitalist West and the working class took a back seat to the state apparatus. This is not Socialism, and it does not represent Marxism.
Debunking Stalinism will continue in Part 2
For the FMAA crowd, “private property” is a sacred right that comes from nothing other than being born. Their thinking is that if you “own” yourself, than anything you do becomes and extension of your “self”. They have seized on the idea that a person should keep the “full product of their labor”, which of course we all agree with. But how they apply that is to call the product of their labor “private property”, something that can be exchanged for and hourly wage, with that wage being the ACTUAL product of their labor. For some people an “hourly wage” IS the only product they are producing. They are in jobs were no actual “product” is created. They are nothing more than a cog in the capitalist machine, dong “busy work” just to further the extent of power their employers hold within a capitalist system.
From Marx – “But does wage labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labor, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labor for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labor.”
So, as (probably) Marx put it, wage labor doesn’t create “property”, it creates capital. That capital might be exchanged for the product of someone else’s labor, and in a modern capitalist society that “property” is most often from the hands of some other exploited worker, often in areas that are most devastated by capitalist and state intrusion into the lives of the workers. A wage laborer (or more to the point, a wage slave) creates capital for their employer and gets a small piece of that to continue the class antagonism between capital and labor. The FMAA crowd falsely believes that they are creating “freedom and liberty” for themselves by being able to aquire property and meet their needs in a capitalist system. But “capital” is always in opposition to labor, freedom, and liberty. It is a social construction and nothing more, and it’s sole purpose is to divide the worker from the “product of their labor”. Far from getting the “full product of their labor”, the wage laborer receives only the minimum that their employer thinks will keep them from taking some kind of stand.
For the FMAA crowd, everything they purchase with the capital from their wage labor is “private property”. But “private property” only exists as a social construct. What the FMAA crowd considers “private property” is really nothing more than the representation of capital, and only a small slice of the capital created by their labor. These meager possessions are the “hard won” possessions of the worker that Marx addresses in dealing with the idea of “property”…
“Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.”
That “self-earned property” stands in opposition to the “private property” of bourgeois society…
As Marx stated, “”But does wage labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labor, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labor for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labor.”
So the difference between “possessions”, which is that hard won, self-earned “property” of the worker, stands in contrast to the “private property” of the bourgeoisie class. That “private property”, the property which “exploits wage labor, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labor for fresh exploitation” is the only thing we are concerned with, or even call private property. Like I tell people all the time, “no one wants your damn shovel”. When Proudhon famously said, “Property is Theft!” he was talking about the private property of the bougies, which is in stark contrast to the “hard won” property he was talking about when he said, “Property is Liberty!”.
So on with the show….
FMC – “ron whats wrong with private property rights”
The first problem is, what are “rights”? They are nothing but an agreement between certain individuals to behave towards each other in a certain way. They are not some universal “rule”. They are, when enforced against people who didn’t agree to be bound to those “rights”, nothing but another form of exploitation and enslavement. But the main problem is the disconnect of the idea of “property” with “possessions”. This falls back on the extreme lack of understanding of the anti-authoritarian (leftist) movement as a whole.
Private Property is property which can be used to exploit someone for “profit”. Possessions are those items you use to meet your needs. This might include just about anything, unless it is used in the process of exploitation of labor.
Sovereignty =/= freedom or liberation. Just gives the “sovereign” the self-proclaimed “right” to act in any arbitrary way to anyone they want.
“The proprietor, the robber, the hero, the sovereign — for all these titles are synonymous — imposes his will as law, and suffers neither contradiction nor control; that is, he pretends to be the legislative and the executive power at once . . . [and so] property engenders despotism . . . That is so clearly the essence of property that, to be convinced of it, one need but remember what it is, and observe what happens around him. Property is the right to use and abuse . . . if goods are property, why should not the proprietors be kings, and despotic kings — kings in proportion to their facultes bonitaires? And if each proprietor is sovereign lord within the sphere of his property, absolute king throughout his own domain, how could a government of proprietors be any thing but chaos and confusion?” – Pierre Joseph Proudhon
Marx called the group who wants their little “private property” the petty bourgeoisie. And pointed out that they were never revolutionary, always reactionary, because all they care about it their future prospects of “making it”. And because they could never produce enough on their own to wield any type of real power, they would continually be ground under the boot heels of whatever state or ruling class came along. That they are the precursors of fascism, because they have to basically become a reactionary force to their reality of loss and no REAL ownership or means of “making it”. Their fear is based on the reality that if they lose their “private property” they will end up back to being exploited by the ruling class. So they are a reactionary force to that. They claim “defense” of property as the basis of their use of violence, but again, that is based on “property rights” that they grant themselves.
Conversations with “Free-Market Anti-Authoritarianism” – Part 1
First, I should probably lay some groundwork. What is a “free-market anti-authoritarian”? The reason I might need to explain what they are to some is that you are very unlikely to run into one anywhere but on the internet, and if you do they might go by several different monikers. One of them is “anarcho-capitalists”, but a lot of them hide from that label and choose a myriad of different things to try and distance themselves from it, some even to the point of trying to call themselves socialists. Most will call themselves anarchists though, and with a straight face. This stems from a specific tendency they seem to share, attempts to re-define language. Some do it on purpose, the majority do it because they are reciting definitions exactly as they have been presented to them. In creating a unique language they are able to present a fairly convincing argument for their positions to the uninformed and easily influenced.
This basic critique is sure to raise their ire, and I will point to the reason why shortly. But it is something easily backed up.
For most of us reading this, “anarchism” is a socialist political movement that has been taking place for centuries. It has been plagued by demonization of it’s beliefs and adherents because it stands in opposition to hierarchical relationships. Needless to say this idea has been a thorn in the side of the ruling class since the dawn of “wealth”. But sometime between then and industrialization the serfs, the peasants, became politically and socially aware. They became aware that the division of labor wasn’t equal to the division of power. They became aware of the “classes” and their relations to means of production, first in land and natural resources, and later in the industrialization of cities and factories. For anarchists names like Kropotkin; Most; Bakunin; Goldman; Proudhon; Déjacque; Makhno; Bookchin; Magón; and Marx conjured images in our minds of how society could wipe out those hierarchical relationships between the classes. From those minds a socialist revolution began, a revolution of the people against class. Class warfare was ignited. Anarchism was born.
For the ruling class, the bourgeoisie this was a problem. They had to sell themselves to the masses as the keepers of peace and order. The idea of anarchism had to be presented to the masses as the forces of chaos and disorder. Hierarchical relationships between people and the means of production had to be presented as normal and necessary even god given. And if all these things were the “way of the world” and represent harmony, then anarchism was the opposite of those things. It was chaos. The very definition of the word “anarchy” became “chaos”. But the further definition also came to hold the germ of truth, “no leaders”.
Well, anarchists know that anarchism is a political movement and not just a state of being. But those definitions are good enough for the reactionary masses. And it is from those reactionary definitions that other reactionary forces attempt to link themselves to anarchists. After all, they don’t believe in “the state”, therefore they don’t believe in leaders, therefore they are “anarchists”. So, in using the definition provided by the ruling class, instead of linking it to the actual political movement, they are able to self-identify. The fact that their identity depends on being tied to the bourgeois propaganda against anarchism doesn’t seem to be a problem in the least. And really, turns out to be the least of the problem anyway. The main problem comes from this proclivity to redefine.
The pieces that will follow are from actual conversations with some of these folks…
Next Article – “Conversations with “Free-Market Anti-Authoritarianism” – Part 2: You Damn Commies Don’t Know Nothing!!!”
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.
This May Day, as in all previous May Days going back almost to its establishment, will be marked by the indifference of the working class, at least in the United States, to its arrival. The odd thing about this is that May Day was born here in the United States as an expression of working class power and its determined struggle for the reduction in hours of labor. Yet here, more than in any other country, it passes almost unnoticed by the very class that created it through its own independent power. That it should be met with indifference here in the country of its birth is a paradox that requires explaining — if for no other reason than it points to a fundamentally troubling aspect of communist theory in its orthodox Marxist and anarchist variants: the apparent failure of the working class to rise to its historical mission as gravedigger of capitalism, to acquire what is commonly referred to as a class consciousness.
Part of this paradox can be explained by visiting a paper recently published by Alberto Toscano on the problem posed by Post-Workerism interpretations of Marx’s and Engels’ argument in which a worker, Nanni Balestrini, complains:
Once I went to May Day. I never got workers’ festivities. The day of work, are you kidding? The day of workers celebrating themselves. I never got it into my head what workers’ day or the day of work meant. I never got it into my head why work should be celebrated. But when I wasn’t working I didn’t know what the fuck to do. Because I was a worker, that is someone who spent most of their day in the factory. And in the time left over I could only rest for the next day. But that May Day on a whim I went to listen to some guy’s speech because I didn’t know him.
As I stated in a recent interview:
What I find interesting about this quote is that, obviously, May Day does not “celebrate work”, but celebrates a victory in the working class’s struggle for a reduction of hours of labor. What began as a celebration of a victory marking a step toward the abolition of labor became, over time, redefined as the celebration of the thing to be abolished, labor. But what is equally interesting about the quote is that the worker quoted, while apparently ignorant of this history, recognizes the idiocy of celebrating wage slavery. Even without realizing it, the worker reestablishes the original significance of the day.
This is an observation that seems lost on the critics of the Occupy and Tea Party movements.
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?
By: Jad Davis | Aug 20, 2011 Featured
Originally posted at the jVerse
One of the many things that swing out of the mainstream from time to time to knock a bit of reality into my delightful pocket of anarchism is the political left’s inability to abandon, or even critisize, capitalism.
Capitalism, corporatism, crony/state capitalism, call it what you will–I’m referring to the economic system that has always obtained in these glorious united states. In this system, concentration of capital–purchasing power and means of production–use the legitimized violence of political institutions* to increase their wealth in ways that would otherwise be impossible**.
This, in turn allows capital to concentrate in greater amounts and at a greater rate providing additional resources to create favorable monopolies, governing/regulating bodies, tax structures, and foreign policy (i.e. war). Which, in turn results in further abnormal and absurd profits, and so on and so forth.
Eventually, the oligarchs of accumulated wealth in this country have even won control of the printing of money and the issuance of debt (at interest rates set by their own cartel!). They’ve been awarded mineral rights around the globe by puppet regimes–mineral rights protected by the largest and deadliest military the world has ever seen. Their property and means of production in the home country are protected by a legion of police only slightly less well armed than the hordes sent abroad.
The reason they can do this is that they get it all for free! Certainly they pay some taxes, but in return they have access to assets on the order of trillions of (public) dollars to protect “their” property, mineral rights, even the pictures, sounds, words, and ideas that their workers develop for them.
Their employees’ retirement pensions and eventual healthcare are paid for, not by them, but by the public. The people that work for them are educated by the public. Goods flow in and out of their warehouses on public roads. Their merchant fleets shuttle cheap goods from poor countries with brutal leaders installed with public dollars to keep their people poor and compliant and working for nothing. Those fleets are protected by an awe inspiring navy under the watch of thousands of navigation and communication satellites. None of which is purchased, built, or placed by the majority beneficiaries.
Capitalism is the way by which the wealth and well-being of the 99% are trapped, extracted, and collected to benefit the interest of the tiny remainder. The entire nation-state is bent toward taking money and labor stolen from the workers and building armies, police, infrastructure, and regulation that benefit the people who built the nation-state for just that purpose.
As the inestimable Dennis Perrin points out:
Liberal groups bemoan the class war, but do little to oppose it. For one thing, they’re not opposed to capitalism — though what we’re enduring is beyond supply-and-demand definitions. Modern capital has its own language, its own currency, its own country. Liberal commentary rarely touches on this. They believe that modern capital can be bent in a progressive direction. By who or how is fuzzy. But it can be done. First, we need to elect better Democrats; and then etc. etc.
The democrats, individually and as a party, benefit mightily from serving accumulated capital. They will not take actions that threaten their share of power; if that means supporting wars, prisons, torture, a police state, the slashing of social spending, so be it.
The hacks on the political left benefit from the trickle down from the democrats. They can make a living reading, writing, speaking, and anlyzing as long as their conclusion is that:
- The structure of capitalism must remain unchanged and unchecked***.
- The democratic party, not a third party, and certainly not an alternative social structure is the means to social progress using the structures of capitalism; as Dennis says, “by who or how is fuzzy, first we need to elect democrats.”
This puts the party hacks in a weird and convoluted position. All of the traditional left-wing recommendations for real improvement in people’s lives and society at large–legalizing local organizations to compete with corporate monopolies, absolving bogus debt and laughable absentee property claims, the closing of prisons, the ending of wars, and the end of legal statute enforcing morality and social norms. . . the party hacks can’t really use any of it. They’re left cheering when the stock market goes up because maybe some of the newly appropriated corporate billions can be used to buy catfood for the elderly; or trap children in the mind-numbing prison camps of public education for 10 more days a year, or create jobs by increasing the ranks of homeland security.
It’s a testament to their intelligence that they can form a cohesive narrative and defend it at all.
* After, if necessary, creating said institutions.
** If you’re unfamiliar with that what of I speak, I recommend Gabriel Kolko’s The Triumph of Conservatism, or anything by Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky.
*** Other than, perhaps, regulation further insulating some corporations against competition from some others; enshrining political favorites as indefinite rulers of a sector of the economy.
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
In his thought provoking essay, Capitalism vs. Communism Challenging The Paradigm, I think PunkJohnnyCash has posed exactly the right question for our times:
Can the Capitalism vs. Communism paradigm be challenged just as so many of us have found the flaw in a left-right paradigm?
To my mind, this is the most important question of the year as it closes and we begin 2011.
What I have tried to argue in my posts, What help for the 99ers?, and on my blog for some time, is that the demand of the Left for the abolition of Capital and that of the Right for abolition of the State are the mirror forms of the same demand for the abolition of unnecessary Labor. Capital is a mode of production of surplus value based on the continuous extension of labor time beyond that duration necessary to satisfy human need. The State is nothing more than this same mass of superfluous labor time congealed into the form of a repressive, expansionist machinery of political, economic, legal and military coercion.
In economic terms, the State is the necessary companion of Capital, because it provides the types of superfluous expenditures which become increasingly important to Capital. As the mode of production achieves an extraordinary high level of development, the unprecedented productivity of labor itself becomes a barrier to profitable investment. The enormous and growing quantities of goods issuing from industry rests on the productive activity of an ever shrinking number of productively employed laborers. At the same time, an ever increasing mass of laborers are utterly cut off from any productive employment, and would be cut off from all employment were it not for the direct and indirect expenditures of the State.
At the same time, in Capital, the State — long a vile, unspeakably filthy, grotesque pustule on the body of human society — found a new source of superfluous economic nourishment on which it could feed; enlarging itself, establishing new tentacles deep into the interior of society and reaching beyond its local place of birth to feed on an ever widening circle of nations with the establishment of military bases, gained through uninterrupted imperialist adventures — at once, gorging itself on the superfluous labor of society and expanding the scale of its production. With the increase in the productivity of labor resulting from Capital’s desire to maximize profits, an even more rapidly increasing portion of all economic activity fed this parasite on society. Millions of laborers who would otherwise be unemployable found positions in the State as functionaries, bureaucrats and paper-pushers of every conceivable sort — rivaled only by the domestic industry of advocates, lobbyists and frauds, who daily discover new threats, domestic or foreign to the national interest; new, previously unknown, social maladies that require urgent government intervention; new reasons to tax some substance or regulate it, or require a prescription for it, or jail those who use it; new reasons to raid the public coffers, shake down the taxpayer, or further expand the nation’s debt to the banking houses on Wall Street, and, of course, a massive cottage industry of defense, police, intelligence, and penal contractors, manufacturers, and support services.
As PunkJohnnyCash has pointed out the Capitalism versus Communism paradigm is as false and misleading as the Left-Right paradigm. Capitalism offers nothing to society but more of what I have described above, and communism has no positive vision of a new society: understood properly, and not in the caricature of the vulgar Marxist, “Philosophically,” states the French philosopher, Alain Badiou, “communism has a purely negative meaning.”
Marx, in his own words, simply described communism as an event — a revolutionary movement of society — an “alteration of men on a mass scale” … “in which, further, the proletariat rids itself of everything that still clings to it from its previous position in society.” He offered little on what society would look like in the aftermath of such an event beyond this:
Only at this stage does self-activity coincide with material life, which corresponds to the development of individuals into complete individuals and the casting-off of all natural limitations. The transformation of labour into self-activity corresponds to the transformation of the earlier limited intercourse into the intercourse of individuals as such. With the appropriation of the total productive forces through united individuals, private property comes to an end. Whilst previously in history a particular condition always appeared as accidental, now the isolation of individuals and the particular private gain of each man have themselves become accidental.
What would this society look like? To the ill-placed frustration of many, Marx never speculated on this question, only that this event marks both the ridding of the old “muck of ages”, and the founding of a new society. Moreover, he decidedly separated himself from those who constructed plans or schemes for a new society.
And, there is a reason for this: under the conditions described by Marx, there are no longer any external constraints — natural or man-made — on the actions of the individual. This would be true for two reasons: first, assuming sufficient development of the productivity of labor, we are freed from the requirement to work — which becomes a matter of personal preference, and, therefore, expresses only the innate human need to be productive and creative. On the other hand, with the end of unnecessary labor, the State is entirely discarded and replaced with the free, voluntary, association of individuals.
Under these circumstances, there are no necessary principles on which to found our relationships with other members of society — in the sense of a set of external economic or political laws or constraints on our activities and relationships — and, thus, no possible way of conceiving what society might look like in the aftermath of such an event.
Although I can be very wrong on this, what I have concluded from Marx’s writings on communism is this: far from being the anti-pole of capitalism, in the writing of Marx, at least, communism is not a “new society” that can be counter-posed to capitalism, as the Soviet Union was counter-posed to the United States as great powers during the Cold War, communism is, instead, the concluding event of capitalism itself — an event in which the members of society put an end to the State, Labor, and Capital; and replace them all with their voluntary association.
I am very eager to hear what others have to say on this.
Can the Captialism vs. Communism paradigm be challenged just as so many of us have found the flaw in a left-right paradigm? I was once like most Americans, I opposed socialism and communism. I knew that capitalism was the only way because that was just a fact. It was one of those unquestioned facts. Just as some fall into the ‘capitalism is evil’ or ‘free markets are evil’ I was doing the ‘socialism is evil’. As I expanded my philosophy to reject the state completely I began to look at other concepts. I started to see flaws in capitalism. I started to look at ideas within socialism. I was adamant about bashing on the left – right paradigm, but the free market – socialist paradigm was sacrosanct.
Over time I would discover Proudhon and the concept of Mutualism. I began to associate more with Mutualism than with the capitalist – communist paradigm. I want to challenge all of those. I do not want to outright reject any, but I do wish to look at each one for it’s merits and flaws as we should. Can or will I pull out every merit or flaw in this article? No, that is not possible. I simply wish to guide the conversation in new directions. At this point I am really liking the two terms ‘Free Market Socialist’ or ‘Free Market Syndicalist’.
I love some ideas that come out of the Anarcho-Capitalist camp. They offer many practical solutions. Often these solutions can be used outside of a rigid Capitalist situation. These groups tend to overlook the hierarchy and power over others that is made possible in a Capitalist society. There is potential in the power side of the free market for power to corrupt. This is true for any form of power. This is also true of a socialist system. Every example we currently have of socialism or capitalism is within the confines of the state. So looking to history for the answers is not what we are doing. History has pitted these two against each other aggressively.
Now up to this point I have loosely used socialism and communism interchangeably as well as capitalism and free market interchangeably. I would like to say that there are real differences, but I am trying to speak more on lines of this paradigm that seems to exist between two polarized sides. The Free marketer is often the capitalist friendly and the socialist is also often communist friendly. This is not always the case. I do acknowledge vast differences.
We should look at the positives and benefits of each system and use what works. It’s that simple. If we are constructing a stateless society who is to say that there will be one way everything is ran to begin with? In our construction of a stateless society why can we not build diverse alternatives and drift towards the systems that work? So, to pick elements of a free market that are positive and to pair them up with elements of socialism would tend to make sense. Pruning what is counter productive to our goals or what is contrary to our means will be a process. When I say ‘our means’ I most specifically refer to non-aggression as the critical means, but also an absence of rulers, domination of others or hierarchy.
I am not going to get into tearing down capitalism, communism, free markets or socialism. I do wish to point out that each has it’s critics and each points to a potential of each becoming counter to the means we seek to work within. Each points out potentials of forming tyranny or hierarchy and other such fearful situations. There are some who would focus on the ownership and power present in state capitalism. They would point to the potential for landlords as well as wage slavery and other potential abuses by those who have used a capitalist system to gain power over others. Is seems that many of it’s defenders would take a stance that is the market is a form of power in the ‘voting with dollars’ concept. The consumer is empowered to end the company. The later I stand by firmly. The element I feel we can take most specifically from the free market is the power of the consumers, or the people to dictate the survival or success of a corporate entity. The empowerment of the common worker is the element we can pull from a free market. How can that fit with socialism?
I want to now go to the idea of property rights. This is one idea that people will fight over for generations, possibly even in our stateless society. I am going to look at the basic idea that the product of ones labor is their property. The worker owns their property. Under this idea I feel that the basic form of a company or corporate entity that we should try to build towards should by a syndicate. It seems to me that if the product of our labor is ours then we can best represent property rights through a socialist form of syndicates on a free market. To gain through basic wage labor is to benefit from the property of another. In this manner I can agree that this is one way property can be theft as Proudhon stated. The positives of a free market focus should not be to gain power for one over others, but to return power to each and every one of us essentially ending power over one another.
This is all very basic at this point, and I wish to expand on much of this in the near future, but there are a few other ideas I want to throw into the mix here. The first being a divide in property rights philosophies. When we achieve a staeless society it is Utopian to believe that we will all suddenly agree on the definition of natural rights, property rights or any of the other concepts that divide will suddenly be agreed upon. To take a realistic approach on these we will have to accept the idea that people will remain divided. Under this reality it is safe to assume that different solutions will be present falling under each of these divergent philosophies, and that over time they will work through forms of litigation to iron out the differences in how to cooperate in a stateless society.
My neighbor on the right could be a part of a syndicate that creates cars on an assembly line for people. This system could have socialized resources for protection, health, defense and other such needs being met through that syndicate. My neighbor on the left could be a potter. His trade is not one where he works in a large group, and this has found his needs through a market that is free in that manner that if offers many choices to suite the needs of most concievable situations. He could go to co-ops and other socialized resources that have risen in the community to meet such needs, or he could have shopped around to fins a company or syndicate that provides those needs at a fair market price. Through a process of achieving this stateless society we iron out the specifics necessary to meet needs of people and to provide to fit the needs of all. There is no one solution for anyone, after all this is Anarchy. Anarchy, not chaos, so the forming of a social structure that honors non-aggression. Without rulers we are free to meet our needs and be liberated by those who would take our property, opportunities and livelihood.
We must not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ when it comes to any concept of the structure of society. We must not measure them by the ideas of the past, but look to the possibilities of the future. Why would we throw out every idea of socialism or a free market? Why not look at what parts seem to be positive and what is negative and focus on the liberty afforded in a voluntary society to create what it is we are able to create? If we can begin to think outside of the state why can’t we think outside of the economics of the state also? I am declaring that under economic structure we should be willing to criticize every structure and form that exists just as some of us would criticize every form of state and power. We should also not be naive enough to throw out realities and true solutions.
I’m going to do some more reading and research and I will get back to this topic.
I think the first book I am reading in search of some clarification on this topic is one by Kevin Carson, Studies In Mutualist Political Economy. You can read it with me and follow me down this path. I am interested in seeing what he has to say about a Political Economy. I’ve read Marx, Rothbard, and some Proudhon and my fill of Austrian economists.
Tell someone you want to get rid of government, and they will immediately ask you about police, firemen and teachers — you’ve just branded yourself as a proponent of crime, chaos and ignorance.
Tell them you want to get rid of property, and they will immediately label you a Bolshevik intent on reducing the entire society to poverty and totalitarianism.
Tell them you want to get rid of labor, and they will ask, “But, how will we make things. Where will our food come from?” The very suggestion to them that we can live without labor almost always comes down to, “But who will do things like collect garbage.”
People have a real hard time with garbage collection.
Everyone is anti-statist to one extent or another; they are conditional or arbitrary statists who take exception with one or another feature of modern society.
Marxists, for example, hate inequality, private property, and the concentration of wealth. So, they see no problem taxing wealth away, and even confiscating it. Libertarians, are advocates of property and have an intense dislike of all government interference in individual property rights. So, they are not averse to eliminating the minimum wage, public education, unions (especially public unions) and so forth.
Both Libertarians and Marxists share some common features, however. If you really press a Marxist, soon you will find she is hostile not to property in general, but only private property. She will cogently explain to you why this private property must be replaced by public ownership of the means of production. And, if you really press a Libertarian, you will soon find out he is probably not against all government but just those functions identified with “the welfare state’, i.e., the social safety net erected after the Great Depression to protect society from the booms and busts of the business cycle, and from the greed of the wealthy.
Each, despite a hostility to the agenda of the other, nevertheless wants to retain some features of the existing society expressed in the others ideology.
There is another feature both sides agree on: in my experience both seem hostile to the idea of ridding society of labor itself. While a Marxist might be willing to adjust labor on the margins — say, by some minimal reduction of the work week or flexibility in those hours — the idea that labor itself can be done away with entirely appears to her altogether a fantasy. A Libertarian, if he thinks about labor at all, only thinks of it when he considers the impediments to the freest possible exercise of the property owner’s rights — in other words, only when he advocates to eliminate the minimum wage, unions, mandatory overtime pay, and workplace safety regulations.
For the Marxist, there is some willingness to consider a reduction of hours of work, but only on condition that wages remain unchanged. For the Libertarian, there is some willingness to consider a fall in wages as long as there is no limitation on hours of work. The idea that both wages and hours should go to zero — that all paid work should be abolished — is so inconceivable as an option for society, that even the most determined and radical opponents of the present order find it, at best, Utopian, and, at worst, a recipe for social collapse.
Both ideologies, however, have a profound hostility to empire. militarism, and the imperial adventures of Washington. While they may violently disagree with each other in terms of their positive program for the reorganization of society, they tend to be on the same side with regards to many issues related to the empire and its global machinery of war and repression. I recently came across a Marxist in the ‘net who initially became radicalized under the influence of Libertarianism at a very young age. He tells a fairly incredible story about how he and a friend once invaded a Republican Party meeting to introduce one resolution after another against US involvement in Central America:
… before I was an anarchist, I was a libertarian. As in the Libertarian Party. As in Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Murray Rothbard. As in the Koch brothers who fund the Tea Party. I was raised in a left-liberal academic family, attended anti-war demonstrations as a kid, generally identified with anti-colonial struggles around the world, at the age of 9 cheered AIM when they seized Wounded Knee, read Malcolm and Che in junior high, and got involved in anti-nuclear power activism and the Citizens Party (an early version of the Greens) in High School. And then at 16 I became a libertarian and got deeply into that for the next several years.
I was more or less done with the libertarians when on a lark I convinced a friend to attend a Republican precinct caucus with me in the early years of the Reagan administration. We combed our spikey hair down, wore ill-fitting suits that we had bought at church sales and even a couple American flag pins and I introduced resolution after resolution in solidarity with the Nicaraguan Revolution, the armed struggle in El Salvador, the ANC and so on with my buddy seconding them and forcing a debate before each one was voted down 38 to 2. When the time came to elect delegates, my friend nominated me and some other guy seconded after explaining that while he disagreed with everything I said he was just glad to see young people “getting involved.” There were ten nominees for ten seats, five delegates and five alternates. I came in tenth, making me the last alternate. That proved good enough to get me called to attend the County Republican Convention where there was a big fight between the grassroots anti-tax crazies and the more respectable moderates. There was a rabid anti-tax resolution and the moderates were offering a modest amendment of support for law enforcement charged with enforcing existing tax laws, a matter on their minds in the wake of a recent local shootout between some far right anti-tax activist and the FBI. I rose to speak against the amendment, arguing that as our taxes were going to support U.S. policy in Central America we should applaud any actions that would starve the imperialist beast, suggesting incongruously that the posse comitatus nut was some sort of anti-imperialist hero. After I had spoken, a few of the anti-tax people came up to me and urged me to go back and run for precinct captain, but I wasn’t prepared to take that particular stunt any further.
My own story is similar to this person’s, except I was moving from the other direction: I was a Marxist who was strongly influenced by the “anti-tax crazies” in the late 1070s and early 1980s. Although I could not put into words what puzzled me about this movement, I knew they were on to something and the Marxists were missing an important opportunity. It was only in conversation with another Marxist, as I tried to argue for the importance of the anti-tax movement, that it suddenly dawned on me why it was significant: “Why do you care whether they are against paying more in taxes?” I asked her, “It isn’t your government; it isn’t your state — it’s the capitalist state and people hate it.”
That conversation sealed a moment for me. All of a sudden I could see the hidden connections between the arguments both the Left and the Right were making against government in a way, I believe, did not confine me to the ideological prejudices of either side. It has not been easy — honestly it has taken another 20 years to shake off the muck of ideology and realize both what the Left and Right have in common both in positive terms and negative.
Today, for me, the question has become: “What does it take to create a humanist anti-politics?” I want you to notice that I deliberately write the term, humanist anti-politics”, in lower case letters, here. I am not talking of, nor imagining, a movement toward something greater than us as individuals, but something completely subordinated to us — its only over-arching theme is that it has no theme and seeks only to let each of us create our own particular theme alone or in free voluntary association with others. It is movement which puts people — as individuals — in place of things.
A humanist anti-politics doesn’t ask for amnesty for illegal immigrants because governments do not own the earth, we do, and no government has the right to control our access to it.
A humanist anti-politics doesn’t argue for the right tax policy or the right fiscal policy or the right monetary policy for the economy, because we care only about what is right for people not the economy.
A humanist anti-politics doesn’t ask how Washington can protect us from terrorism, but asks how we can protect ourselves from the terrorism of governments around the world.
A humanist anti-politics doesn’t ask how government can create jobs to end unemployment, but how we can end wage slavery.
A humanist anti-politics doesn’t ask how government can improve the education system, but how individuals can be freed from Labor, Property and the State to develop their own capacities as complete human beings.
Humanist anti-politics is humanist because it seeks everywhere to put the liberation of society, as individuals, at the center of social discourse; it is anti-politics because it asks for nothing from government except that it cease to exist.
Is this possible? Can a consistent anti-statist movement be built out of the competing ideologies who each seek to impose their vision of the future on us?