Freedom: Not so Much

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There have been thousands of articles and blogs talking about the government-forced lockdowns. I live in a city of 520,000 in Ecuador. We have been under a very tight lockdown for 60 days. While the lockdown in most of the country will be relaxed on Monday, the city I live in will not be included. Getting my head wrapped around this took some time. During my cool down period, the following quotes came to mind:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Benjamin Franklin

“We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto

The actions (lockdowns, forced to stay at home, forced closures of businesses) the western countries have taken to mitigate and contain this virus has been nothing less than authoritarian. I am 63 years old now and I cannot — no matter how hard I try — see the people allowing this to happen 50 years ago in the U.S., my birth country. Back in the 1970s, the people would have burnt the cities to the ground if a government attempted such an authoritarian over-reach. (Example: the anti-war protests, the Kent State massacre)

It seems to me that many of the so-called democratic western countries need to be reminded through direct action that governments answer to the people … not the ass-backwards way it is now.


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World Socialism on Common Ownership

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By common ownership we don’t mean state property. We are not proposing the science-fiction nightmare of all the Earth’s resources being owned and controlled by a single World State. We mean the opposite: that there should be no private property or territorial rights over any part of the globe. The Earth and its natural and industrial resources should not belong to anybody – not to individuals, not to corporations, not to states. They should simply be there to be used by human beings to satisfy their needs.

World Common Ownership is not a new concept. When in the 1970s they were discussing dividing up the seas among States and individuals in the same way that the land has been, the idea of ‘global commons’ was put forward. And you had, of all people, President Nixon talking about making the seas ‘the common heritage of all mankind’. The idea was that there should be no private property and territorial rights over them. The same has been proposed for Antarctica and the Moon.

What we are proposing is that this should apply to the Earth as well – that private property rights and territorial rights over any part of the planet should be abolished. This is the only basis on which we as the human species can set about arranging our relationship with the rest of Nature in a rational and ecological way so that the planet becomes a habitable place for all of us.

Due to the development of the world market economy, the relationship between humans and the rest of Nature has now become a relationship between the whole human species and the biosphere as a whole. Which is a point that some Greens overlook when they propose going back to local small-scale self-sufficient communities.

Just look at the sort of problems that have been discussed at the various Earth Summits that used to be held: global warming, tropical deforestation, the thinning of the ozone layer, acid rain. All these are world problems – problems that ignore the artificial frontiers which crisscross the globe, problems which concern the whole human race.

The calling of so-called Earth Summits and other meetings to deal with climate change are a recognition that there are no national or local solutions to these problems. But these meetings have been failures, and were bound to be, because solutions were sought within the framework of the present, profit-driven, capitalist world economic system. The leaders of states, driven by the system to engage in a competitive struggle for profits against each other, were expected to cooperate to solve ecological problems – problems caused by the competitive, profit-seeking system they support and uphold.

While it is clear that a question which concerns the whole world such as the possible consequences of global warming can be effectively dealt with only by unified action at a world level, it is equally clear that this is not going to happen under the profit system. The different states into which the world is divided have different – and clashing – interests. At most, all that can happen under the profit system when a global problem arises is ‘much too little, much too late’.

The profit system, the world market system, must go before we can tackle these problems in a constructive and permanent way. It must be replaced by a global system of common ownership and democratic control. We must organize to take the Earth back from those who currently own and exploit it, and must make it the common heritage of all.

Source: World Socialism

World Socialism on Leaders

One of the main arguments of the opponents of World Socialism is that which accuses us of being “dreamers” because we claim that the working class are intelligent enough to establish socialism without the use of leaders.

In actual fact, World Socialists not only deny the necessity of leaders in the socialist movement but declare that World Socialism cannot be established until workers have dispensed with the notion of leadership. The legend of leadership is as old as society. Throughout the ages, men in their struggle for survival have continually turned to the strongest and the wisest among them for inspiration and courage in their battles with nature and with each other. Today, however, when all men have access to the knowledge needed for the achievement of socialism, and the necessities of life are produced in abundance, there is no longer any need for “chieftains” and “kings.” The minimum knowledge that a wage slave requires before he is fitted to take his place in the revolutionary struggle is easily obtained, and well within the range of working class comprehension.

A worker must know he is poor and why, and he must then find the solution to his economic problems. What does this imply? The knowledge of a Marx, an Engels or a Hegel? Certainly not! and it is sheer impudence and indeed megalomania, when politicians claim that by trusting them, the workers will in consequence become free men. World Socialists continually attacked and exposed these “pseudo-Socialists,” who are among the working class’s greatest enemies.

We have stated that the workers must emancipate themselves, and establish the new society, not with the aid of “leaders,” but in spite of them!

A worker must know he is poor because he sells his labor power to a master for wages; which at all times are at a subsistence level. He must know that in capitalist society wealth is produced for sale at a profit. He must realize that the capitalists are able to live in abundance because of the poverty of the masses, and that the latter are dispossessed of the goods they produce by masters who in the main take no part in production, but who nevertheless own and control all wealth.

When he assimilates that basic knowledge he will then have the mental equipment to immunize himself to the false slogans mouthed by the so-called political and religious leaders. He will treat with contempt the rogues and fools who said he was too ignorant to know the solution to his own social problems.

The conclusions he will draw are socialist conclusions, and he will realize the necessity of organizing for political action within the ranks of the workers by capturing control of the State machine, workers will abolish private property, and convert the means of producing wealth into the property of society as a whole. This will end for all time poverty, social degradation and war. Such, then, is the minimum knowledge that the exploited class need to acquire. With it, socialism will be something easily understood, enthusiastically acclaimed; and the worker will laugh disdainfully at the futile and absurd idea of the “necessity of leaders.”

Source: World Socialism (Adapted)

Common questions and answers on leadership

Q: You say there is no place for leaders in the socialist movement, but why do you attack the whole idea of leadership just because some leaders are enemies of the working class?

A: We don’t object to leadership because we want to be cussed, but because we see it as one of the biggest obstacles to the spread of socialist ideas. Capitalism has developed to the point where workers (all whose livelihood depends on selling their energies) run society from top to bottom. Owners of capital need not play the smallest part in the undertaking which produces their rent, interest or profit; they can even have their wealth added to while in a lunatic asylum. Yet still most workers haven’t seen the possibility of a world without masters, a world which would be run in the interests of all mankind instead of those of a capitalist or “leading” class. There are no leaders in the socialist movement because there will be no leaders under Socialism—there can be none in a society based on equality of status and the willing cooperation of all in production solely for use.

Q: But surely there have always been leaders in all forms of society? What makes you think that under Socialism it will be any different?

A: Leadership only makes sense when there is a ruling class and a ruled class, and it implies that most people are incapable of organizing affairs in their own interest and so must accept the dictates of a few. Ours differs from all previous revolutionary movements in that it doesn’t aim to replace one ruling class by another but to abolish classes altogether. You say there have always been leaders, but you must realize that their existence has been and is bound up with the institution of private property. All leaders are placed in a privileged position by their followers, who either agree with the policies laid down or think they can do nothing about them. By contrast, socialism means that nobody will be placed in a position of governing others.

Q: Don’t you think that those who have qualities of leadership can help to build up a following for the socialist movement? What’s wrong in doing that?

A: Leadership does not work out that way. But the fact is only those can help to establish socialism who understand their class position in society and are determined to end it. If there are leaders then there must be the led, but there cannot be much difference between their ideas, since a leader can only offer to lead where he is likely to be followed. He is not really in advance of his followers, as you seem to think, because if he stops leading them in the direction they think is the best open to them they will soon desert him for another who will. People who are easily persuaded to think one way by a powerful personality can usually be persuaded by a more powerful one to change their minds. Socialist ideas do not depend on such barren methods for their propagation.

Q: It’s obvious that most people prefer to leave political thinking to others. How else than by leading people, in the sense of showing them the way, do you expect to get them interested in socialism?

A: One of the main reasons for people acquiescing in the continuation of capitalism, is that they are led to believe it is the only possible system. It is just because they are so used to being told what is good for them that they are often puzzled when we say “We can’t lead you to socialism—you must understand and build it yourselves.” The blunt truth is that if people want leaders they want class society, and if they want class society they cannot want socialism. But more and more of them will become interested in Socialism because they are faced with the same problems as we are, and failure to solve them within capitalism will eventually lead them to see the necessity of abolishing it. We do our best to point out the road to socialism and to encourage others along it, but there can be no substitute for their knowledge of what is needed to achieve the goal.

Q : Don’t you think it would be a good thing if you could work out a definite plan for socialism that people could easily understand? That way you would give a lead to others without giving power to individual leaders.

A: We are always eager to help people to understand our case and to discuss with them the difficulties and objections they have concerning it. From our understanding of the past and the needs of the present we try to show what the future classless society will look like. But what you propose is that we should work out all the details in advance, and present them to the as yet non-socialist majority as a sort of pill to be taken for their sufferings under capitalism. If we did that, however, we should be acting no differently from the reformers who offer to lead the working class to better conditions and consistently fail to do so. The lesson is that no matter how well-meaning you may be, once you are given political power you must follow where events lead and, without a majority of socialists, that cannot be to socialism.

Q: You admit you’ve got to send delegates to Parliament before you can overthrow capitalism, so why bulk at having democratic leaders now?

A: You have only to look at the Labour Party (Great Britain) to see why. In its early days quite a few of its leaders were no doubt sincerely in favor of abolishing capitalism. But they thought that the working class would have to be led to it, and the means they adopted were those of getting into Parliament on the votes of reformists in order to advocate socialism. So they stood for Parliament, but when they were elected the means (political power) became the end in itself. Thus we see that as such leaders push themselves forward their “socialism” recedes farther into the future and is eventually lost altogether. You must not confuse such leaders of the working class with the delegates the socialist movement chooses to carry out its will. The former have no mandate to abolish capitalism even if they wished to do so—the latter are the instruments the majority in society will use to institute socialism. To think in terms of political power without political knowledge on the part of those who make up that power is to oppose all that socialism means.

Source: World Socialism (Adapted)

Theory of Anarchy

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By Edward Abbey

The bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. But what is the essential meaning of money? Money attracts because it gives us the means to command the labor and service and finally the lives of others—human or otherwise. Money is power. I would expand the biblical aphorism, therefore, in this fashion: the root of all evil is the love of power.

And power attracts the worst and corrupts the best among men. It is no accident that police work, for example, appeals to those (if not only those) with the bully’s instinct. We know the type. Or put a captain’s bars on a perfectly ordinary, decent man, give him measure of arbitrary power over others and he tends to become–unless a man of unusual character–a martinet, another petty despot. Power corrupts; and as Lord Acton pointed out, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The problem of democracy is the problem of power–how to keep power decentralized, equally distributed, fairly shared. Anarchism means maximum democracy: the maximum possible dispersal of political power, economic power and force–military power. An anarchist society consists of a voluntary association of self-reliant, self-supporting, autonomous communities. The anarchist community would consist (as it did in preagricultural and preindustrial times) of a voluntary association of free and independent families, self-reliant and self-supporting but bound by kinship ties and a tradition of mutual aid.

Anarchy is democracy taken seriously, as in Switzerland, where issues of national importance are decided by direct vote of all citizens. Where each citizen, after his period of military training, takes his weapon home with him, to keep for life. Anarchy is democracy taken all the way, in every major sector of social life. For example, political democracy will not survive in a society which permits a few to accumulate economic power over the many. Or in a society which delegates police and military power to an elite corps of professionals. Sooner or later the professionals will take over. In my notion of an anarchist community every citizen–man or woman–would be armed, trained, capable when necessary of playing the part of policeman or soldier. A healthy community polices itself; a healthy society would do the same. Looters, thugs, criminals may appear anywhere, anytime, but in nature such types are mutants, anomalies, a minority; the members of a truly democratic, anarchistic community would not require outside assistance in dealing with them. Some might call this vigilante justice. I call it democratic justice. Better to have all citizens participate in the suppression and punishment of crime–and share in the moral responsibility–than turn the nasty job over to some quasi-criminal type (or hero) in a uniform with a tin badge on his shirt. Yes, we need heroes. We need heroines. But they should serve only as inspiration and examples, not as leaders.

Government is a social machine whose function is coercion through monopoly of power. Any good Marxist understands this. Like a bulldozer, government serves the caprice of any man or group who succeeds in seizing the controls. The purpose of anarchism is to dismantle such institutions and to prevent their reconstruction. Ten thousand years of human history demonstrate that our freedoms cannot be entrusted to those ambitious few who are drawn to power; we must learn–again–to govern ourselves. Anarchism does not mean “no rule”; it means “no rulers”. Difficult, but not utopian, anarchy means and requires self-rule, self-discipline, probity, character.

At present, life in America is far better for the majority than in most (not all) other nations. But that fact does not excuse our failings. Judged by its resources, intentions and potential, the great American experiment appears to me a failure. We have not become the society of independent freeholders that Jefferson envisioned; nor have we evolved into a true democracy–government by the people–as Lincoln imagined.

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Instead we see the realization of the scheme devised by Madison and Hamilton: a strong centralized state which promotes and protects the accumulation of private wealth on the part of the few, while reducing the majority to the role of dependent employees of state and industry. We are a nation of helots ruled by an oligarchy of techno-military-industrial administrators. 

Never before in history have slaves been so well fed, thoroughly medicated, lavishly entertained–but we are slaves nonetheless. Our debased popular culture–television, rock music, home video, processed food, mechanical recreation, wallboard architecture–is the culture of slaves. Furthermore the whole grandiose structure is self-destructive: by enshrining the profit motive (power) as our guiding ideal, we encourage the intensive and accelerating consumption of land, air, water–the natural world–to which the structure depends for its continued existence. A house built on greed will not endure. Whether it’s called capitalism or socialism makes little difference; both of these oligarchic, militaristic, expansionist, acquisitive, industrializing and technocratic systems are driven by the same motives; both are self-destroying. Even without the accident of a nuclear war, I predict that the military-industrial state will disappear from the surface of the earth within a century. That belief is the basis of my inherent optimism, the source of my hope for the coming restoration of a higher civilization: scattered human populations modest in number that live by fishing, hunting, food gathering, small scale farming and ranching, that gather once a year in the ruins of abandoned cities for great festivals of moral, spiritual, artistic and intellectual renewal, a people for whom the wilderness is not a playground but their natural native home.

New dynasties will arise, new tyrants will appear–no doubt. But we must and we can resist such recurrent aberrations by keeping true to the earth and remaining loyal to our basic animal nature. Humans were free before the word freedom became necessary. Slavery is a cultural invention. Liberty is life: eros plus anarchos equals bios.

Two cheers for anarchy.
Long live democracy.

Source: The Anarchist Library  |  Condensed

Socialist Principles

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The basic principles of World Socialists are that reforms (‘palliative measures’) will not change the position of the working class; that the goal is the abolition of all classes; and this can be achieved by the organized working class seizing power, expropriating the capitalist class, and socializing the means of production. Socialists hate capitalism with our heads and with our hearts because we see in it an outdated social system, an anomaly in our present world, holding back that wonderful development of technology and resources that the present state of our knowledge could turn to the well-being of the people. We see in it a social system that carries within itself slumps and wars, poverty amid plenty, exploitation and oppression. All of us in the World Socialist Movement want to end it as soon as possible. Our aim is replacing the present capitalist system by socialism, understood as a society where there will be common ownership of the means of production and distribution. Socialism is a society where the means of production and distribution are socially owned, in the hands of the working people.

Socialism is a society where material wealth will be in the hands of those who produce it, where the exploitation of man by man will be ended, where production will be used not for private profit, where a new relationship of fraternity will develop between peoples based on equality, where individual men and women will find totally new possibilities to develop their abilities. Although we strive to replace capitalism by socialism, we believe that it is both possible and essential to fight now, within capitalism to defend and improve the immediate lot of the working people. We understand therefore the great importance for the World Socialist Movement which is working for a new social order to give their support to those organizations of the people whose main present concern is improving conditions under the existing social order. We therefore support such organizations as trade unions and community organizations. We see both the need and the possibility to win the overwhelming majority of the population for the fight against capitalism and for socialism and see the working class as the driving force in the advance to socialism. Marxists and the practical experiences of the international working-class movement has shown that without the winning of political power and the transformation of the state, no successful advance to socialism is possible. We Marxists believe that this has always been and remains true. This after all is the essence of the old conflict of revolution versus evolution, because revolution means a change of political power.

As Marxists we do not believe that any single country is different from the state in any capitalist country. We do not believe that it is neutral or above classes, and we do believe that in order to advance to socialism it is necessary for the working class majority to take political power out of the hands of the capitalists and to transform the State so that it becomes an instrument of the will of the majority in expropriation of the capitalists and the abolition of capitalism. We do not stand for violence, but if violence should be used by the old ruling class against the people, then the people themselves will, with all legitimacy behind them, must find appropriate methods to deal with it. The enemy is modern capitalism. Capitalism is the oldest, most cunning, most skilled, most experienced economic system in the world. It is no mean enemy to overcome and we would do wrong in any way to underestimate it. To defeat capitalism, we need all our resources, and the issue of the moment is how best to bring them together in unity for the common struggle.

The majority of left-wing, labor and self-proclaimed socialist parties possess a platform that is reformist when the task is revolutionary — that is, socialist. While capitalism is moving out to slash the many gains already won, straight-jacketing organized labor with anti-union laws, cutting down on social legislation, they talk in terms of the affluent society and the amelioration of class conflicts. They project a perspective of merely removing what they present as minor defects in the existing capitalist order of things, of patching capitalism up and making it more tolerable, instead of a perspective of fundamental change with a leadership preaching conciliation, peaceful co-existence with capitalism, not class struggle against it. In desperation they are attempting to shore up the system. Capitalism promises the people not amelioration of conditions but austerity, oppression, and either nuclear destruction of mankind or the environmental destruction of humanity. Only through an irreconcilable struggle against capitalism, towards its elimination and the establishment of socialism, will the people of the world find the full freedom, equality and democracy for which they aspire. Despite the campaign of lies and distortions about the socialist viewpoint, we are confident that developing realities, together with the conscious participation of all who consider themselves socialists will offer the people the powerful leap forward on the march to a socialist world.

Source: Socialist Courier | Adapted

Anarchism Applied to Economics

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by Laurence Labadie  /  1933

Value is exchange equivalency of something measured in terms of another thing. The fundamental quality upon which value depends is utility in satisfying desire. In economics, utility doesn’t mean the ‘real’ or ‘actual’ ability of a thing to accomplish or assist in accomplishing a result, but means the human estimate of the ability of a thing to satisfy desire. This estimate may be erroneous but it is in effect the measure of the desire for it. In economics, therefore, desire and utility may be considered convertible terms.

Now in procuring anything, there is a hardship to be overcome. Without this hardship nothing would possess value for no one would exchange one thing for another thing which could be had without effort. So two factors are necessary in order for a thing to have value, desire and effort to be overcome, – utility and labor. Value may be enhanced by stimulating desire or by creating an artificial hindrance to production thereby affecting the equalizing forces of the law of supply and demand under competition.

Now presupposing effort to be necessary for the acquirement of two things of exchange, will they not be exchanged of the basis of equal effort? Not necessarily, for if A can produce one thing with effort of 10 and another thing for effort of 20, and the measure of effort for B to produce the things is in inverse ration, it will be to the advantage of both to produce and exchange in any ration between the limit of which means a decreased effort for both parties. If A gains 10 times as much as B it is still to B’s advantage to exchange as long as he gains, because of reduced effort, in acquiring what he ultimately wants. The actual ratio of exchange would be determined by psychological and material conditions.

But when producers increase in numbers there arises competition in offering articles in exchange to benefit by the decrease of effort due to the division of labor. And presupposing enough producers of each commodity to satisfy the respective demands for them, competition will tend to make them exchange on a basis of labor time or effort necessary to overcome the obstacle of production.

For, should the demand for any article be more than the supply of this article offered for exchange, the probability is that a rise in the price or value will ensue. And presupposing a number of marginal workers, that is, producers whose aptitude is producing different articles is approximately equal, there will be an influx of capital and labor into production of the article which as increased in exchange value.

So it may be said that, granting free competition, that is, free and equal access to the means of production, to the raw materials, and to an unrestricted market, the price of all articles will always tend to be measured by the effort necessary for their production. In other words, labor as factor in measuring value will become predominant.

Should there be any restrictions, however, to these phases necessary to free competition, the desire or utility factor will tend to become more prominent as a factor in the exchange value of those things to which artificial hindrances to production have been applied.

From the Anarchist standpoint, these artificial hindrances which are the cause of three main forms of usury – interest, profit, and rent, are, in the order of their importance, monopoly in the control of the circulating medium – money and credit private property in land not based on occupancy and use, patent rights and copyrights, and tariffs.

It is also the claim of anarchists that government and States are involuntary and invasive institutions originated and maintained for the purpose of protecting and enforcing antisocial rights. They claim that the very first act of governments, the compulsory payment of taxes, is not only a denial of the right of the individual to determine what he shall buy and how much he shall choose to offer, but is nothing more than adding insult to injury when the very money extorted from him should be used to his disadvantage. They therefore attempt to instruct people in the belief that government, whether it be the rule of the mass by a few or of the minority by the majority, is both tyrannical and unjust, that any form of ruler-ship is bound to redound to the detriment of the ruled.

How the government protects the privileges by which usurious exploitation is made possible is easily seen upon investigation. Money interest is due to the privilege attributed to a certain kind of wealth, gold to be used as a basis for the reissuance of money, thereby putting the control of the monetizing of other kinds of credit indirectly into the hands of those holding this kind of wealth. Interest, therefore, is simply a royalty paid to the privileged class for the right to monetize one’s credit. And the rate of interest on money fixes the rate of interest on all other capital the production of which is subject to competition. The rate of interest is an index to the ‘use value’ of money and bears no relation to the labor cost of furnishing money because competition in the right to monetize wealth has been restricted to the holders of a certain kind of wealth. 

Interest is nothing more than a tax and like all taxes is prohibitory in nature. In all productive enterprises as in all individuals there are grades of efficiency. Because of this slight inequality of natural abilities and on account of previous exploitation there have developed individuals and combinations possessing different aggregations of wealth. Now let us see how it is that the rate of interest on money determines rate of interest (i.e. capital returns or that portion of profit not due to increased efficiency) on all other capital the production of which is subject to a competitive supply. By the latter is meant buildings, machinery, and products such as groceries, clothing, hardware, amusements, etc. The larger producer of these things is fortunate enough to own the capital he employs while the smaller producer finds it necessary to monetize some of his wealth, that is to use his credit, in order to produce on a scale commensurable to reap some of the benefits of a larger scale of production. Now he has, in addition to the unhampered natural cost of production, an additional cost which is payment for the allowance of monetizing his wealth. As the price which both producers get for their goods is the same, it is evident that the producer who is not indebted for any of his capital raps a profit equal to rate of interest plus that which is due to increased efficiency or to the decreasing cost due to large scale production. A similar occurrence obtains that in all things subject to competitive supply. Interest, by far the most potent force for the acquisition of unearned income, continually squeezes out the little fellow and causes vast amounts of wealth to accumulate into fewer hands. Without it, all great enterprises could not be accomplished except by the joint subscription and cooperation of a large group of persons. The Anarchist position for the abolition of interest is the repudiation of all laws prohibiting mutual banks and the abolition of all restrictions to free trade.

Rent is the tribute paid by the non-owning users of land to the non-using owner. It is quite evident that ownership in and by itself cannot and does not produce anything. It is only the use of land and things, only by labor, that anything can be produced. Therefore he anarchist denies the right of ownership of land if that ownership is not based on occupancy and use of land. No one should be allowed to hold land out of use because it is a denial of the first requisite of Anarchism, the equality of opportunity.

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The other restrictions to free production and distribution are patents, copyrights, and tariffs. Anarchists deny the right of property in ideas or processes, and deny that any individual or combinations of individuals shall be restricted in exchanging their products when and where they please. They claim that all restrictions are in form of a tax and that all taxes are ultimately paid by the consumer and insofar as the consumer is at the same time a producer, if the producer is not at the same time an owner, exploitation naturally ensues.

This concise statement of the position of the anarchist should be evident and even trite to any reflective person. While Anarchism is, in one sense, not a constructed philosophy, that is, not a “system”, anarchists stand firm “constructively” in the position above stated. What form voluntary associations which anarchists contemplate will take, remains for the future to evince. Anarchism primarily, is not an economic arrangement but a social philosophy based upon the conclusion that man is happy and independent in proportion to the freedom he experiences and can maintain.

In a world where inequality of ability is inevitable, anarchists do not sanction any attempt to produce equality by artificial or authoritarian means. The only equality they posit and will strive their utmost to defend is the equality of opportunity. This necessitates the maximum amount of freedom for each individual. This will not necessarily result in equality of incomes or of wealth but will result in returns proportionate to service rendered. Free competition will see to that. To base society on the supposition “that the laborer of great capacity will content himself, in favor of the weak with half his wages, furnish his services gratuitously, and produce for that abstraction called society,” in the words of Proudhon,” is to base society on a sentiment, I do not say beyond the reach of man, but one which erected systematically into principle, is only a false virtue, a dangerous hypocrisy.” A hypocrisy, unfortunately, eagerly subscribed to by a weak, downtrodden, and misguided proportion of the populace.

Source: The Anarchist Library

Capitalist Wealth or a Commonwealth?

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Most workers find it hard to imagine how mankind could possibly live without money. Some argue that we must have money because we have always had money. Men have therefore become obsessed with money, which has attained the position of a god, since it is money which, in the capitalist system, becomes the real life power. Without it men and women must starve. But what of money in the next stage of human evolution — Socialism? Why should it not still be required? When men produce for their own needs, and not for the benefit of a handful of exploiters as they have done since primitive times, when national boundaries disappear and the world’s wealth is owned in common, when competition gives way to cooperation, then exchange relationships disappear. And so, as money can only exist in a private society, it must vanish with private property.

Capitalism may sometimes be depicted as civilised, but it is by nature predatory and cannot be tamed. Capitalism has long functioned without a conscience. The basis of capitalism is the ceaseless struggle between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Socialism embodies a future more humane and liberating than what many imagine possible.

Rather than changing the configuration of the pieces creating the climate problem, change the world instead. The problem is capitalism, not corporations per se. And the problem with capitalism is political, not technological. Geo-engineering solutions to climate change address the problem in isolation and provide no indication that the unsolvable problem of unintended consequences is understood.

World Socialists are often accused, when we argue with the Left and reformers, of splitting the workers. They claim it would better serve the interests of socialism if we stopped being puritans and joined them in the day-to-day campaigns. Our answer to these assertions is, and always has been, that we will join with any organisation provided it devotes its activities entirely to socialism. For us socialism can have only one meaning; i.e., a system of living under which the means of production-land, factories and machinery, etc., are in the COMMON holding of the WHOLE community. The wages system will cease to exist, there will be no classes, and instead of buying and selling for the profit of the few, goods and services will be freely available for USE by all. We further hold that this can only arise as the result of the conscious political triumph of the world working-class in their struggle against their only real enemy, the world capitalist class.

While the left wingers clamour for a change of government, we concern ourselves with what really matters, not a change of office boys, but a change of system.We maintain that the wages system the world over is proof of workers being exploited, either for the benefit of private shareholders or government bondholders. It is a fundamental difference between ourselves and all other socialist organisations that they embrace LEADERSHIP while we reject it. Workers only need leaders while they do not, know either the objective or the method; no “spearhead” or “thinking minority” can ever lead the working-class to Socialism, because leadership implies the ignorance of the followers. Like Marx and Engels, we have always maintained that the movement for Socialism is the “conscious movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority.” (Communist Manifesto).

We find our work of propagating Socialism made very much harder by the confusion spread amongst workers by these “left wingers.”

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“Freedom” has been the battle cry in countless revolutions and revolts throughout the ages, and recent events across the World but presently in the situation of the Kurdish against Turkey must have recalled past sacrifices immortalised by poets, such as Byron’s “Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn but flying, streams like the thunderstorm against the wind.” At the present time the conscience of the world is being stirred by the heroic but unequal struggle of the Kurds against the might of the Turks. The iron fist closes and the rebels drown in their own blood as another paragraph is completed in the history of Middle East —another event in a chapter of foreign invasions. Western media have mostly made statements sympathetic to the rebels. The tragic bravery of the Kurdish should not blind the workers to the fact that it is not in their interest to support the struggle of either.

We believe that you share our concern for the well-being of people in our society, and for the welfare of the planet itself. As members of a long-established independent democratic movement which seeks by persuasion and world-wide peaceful political organisation to transform our present society into one fit for humankind. we say the problems of our world cannot be solved within the existing structures of production and government. Our world is divided into national areas dominated by class minorities in each country, which, either by private or corporate ownership or by state bureaucratic parties monopolise the means of production. These ruling classes and their political representatives, by reason of a combination of historical circumstances, governmental, military and ideological control or influence, are able to keep the majority of the world’s population in subjection. In the decisive areas of the world this domination takes the form of people being denied access to the means of living except on the basis of working for a wage or salary. In the major countries of the world, the people who, in the widest sense, produce what we need to live, are wage-slaves.

Our access to food, clothing, shelter and other needs is rationed by money. It is a world-system based upon the class monopoly of the means of production where things are produced and services rendered as commodities for sale at a profit. Labour-power also is a commodity: its price is what we receive as a wage or salary. Each enterprise or grouping of capitalism, in competition with others in the market, must strive to increase the profit surplus which it makes after the investment of capital. If it fails to achieve sufficient profit to re-invest in new machinery and techniques it will lose out to more powerful groupings or nations.

The class interests, values and drive for profit of the world-system have been the underlying reasons for the unprecedented destruction of life and resources throughout this century. This appalling process, made worse by new forms of pollution, including the spread of artificial radio-activity and the cutting-down of the rain forests, to say nothing of the possible effects of secret weapons, the existence of which it is reasonable to assume. This uncontrolled madness will continue unless we take the necessary democratic action to transform our way of life throughout the planet.

We believe that socialism can only be brought about by an overwhelming majority of the population, a majority which understands why capitalism must be replaced by socialism. If we are to bring into being production solely for use where needs are self-determined, we must have a clear idea of how such a society could be established, organised and sustained. We must also ensure that the values and methods of the World Socialist Movement are fully consistent with its aims.

Socialism is a new world society where the means of production are commonly owned and where governments and systems of exchange, whether barter or money, have been replaced by democratic administration at local, regional and world levels: a society where there could be decentralised co-ordination of production with free access according to need.

Source: Socialist Courier  |  Adapted

Daniel Guerin and Libertarian Communism

An article by Katya Pavlichenko on Daniel Guerin’s ideas on the synthesis between Marxism and anarchism.

Introduction

Daniel Guerin has remained relatively unknown as a thinker and revolutionary, despite the enormous contributions that he made throughout the decades that he was active. As well as the spending his life as a dedicated revolutionary communist, Guerin was also an active participant in the anti-colonial movement and the gay liberation movement. Originally beginning his political career as an anti-Stalinist Marxist, and eventually gravitating towards Trotskyism, Guerin eventually moved away from authoritarianism after reading a collection of writings by Mikhail Bakunin. His anarchism grew to incorporate what he considered to be the best aspects of Stirner, Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Malatesta, though never without critiquing what he saw as the shortcomings of these thinkers. In the last decades of his life, he moved towards what he considered to be a synthesis of “old, fossilized anarchism” and “degenerate, authoritarian Marxism” into a political project which he called libertarian communism. The libertarian communist project that he set out to create is not without its own shortcomings, but nevertheless offers us a new way forward in the struggle against capital and the state.

The Rehabilitation of Anarchism

Fairly early in Daniel Guerin’s political development, he was drawn to what he referred to as “anti-Stalinist Marxism” in the context of the 1930s and 1940s, this meant Trotskyism. In fact, he met Leon Trotsky in 1933 and went on to become a member of the 4th international. However, after the war, Guerin found a collection of Bakunin’s works. After reading Bakunin, Guerin would go on to split from Trotskyism, and leave authoritarian socialism behind for the remainder of his life. He went on to read Stirner, Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Malatesta, and entered into what has been called his “classical anarchist phase”.

To Guerin, Max Stirner was the father of anarchism. His writings on revolting against bourgeois society, the church, and morality itself, particularly resonated with Guerin as a closeted gay man. With Stirner as a foundational thinker, Guerin’s anarchism was one of visceral revolt against bourgeois society and the state. The anarchist, to Guerin, is one that frees themself from the shackles imposed upon them by society, and in doing so wages war against everything that the ruling class holds sacred. As such, the anarchist is also one who embraces all nonconformists, all outlaws, and all outcasts. Naturally, as Bakunin and other anarchist thinkers pointed out, the anarchist is one who wholeheartedly sympathizes with the plight of the lumpenproletariat, and does not cast them aside as many Marxists have historically done.

However, anarchism also has a social and creative character, which is inseparable from its more negative and destructive characters. Because of this, Guerin praised Proudhon, and went as far as to call him the father of self-management. Though a pacifist and a reformer, Proudhon’s vision for workers’ self-management has had a profound influence on the entirety of the anarchist movement, carrying over into the class-struggle-based and revolutionary currents of anarchism. The modern anarchist movement seeks social revolution, that is to say, a process of social transformation in which all oppressive social relations are broken down and replaced by directly-democratic free associations in which the individual can truly blossom. This transformation, the anarchist movement argues, has to be the result of the spontaneous work of the masses themselves in a self-organized struggle against capital and the state. This is contrasted with the Marxist movement, which rejects the creative power of the masses in favor of vanguardism.

The Synthesis

In the later years of Guerin’s political life, he and his comrades diligently tried to synthesize what they considered to be the best aspects of the anarchist movement with what they considered to be the best aspects of the Marxist movement. This synthesis was originally called libertarian Marxism but eventually came to be called libertarian communism. To, Guerin, libertarian communism has its origins in the spontaneous action of the masses, and, based on his observations of the socialist movement in the 19th and 20th centuries, the reality that any truly social revolution would be a libertarian revolution.

Because of the reality that libertarian ends can only be achieved by libertarian means, the libertarian communists have neither time nor sympathy for political parties which seek to co-opt the working-class movement. Any revolutionary action has to be the result of the self-organized action of the masses. Borrowing heavily from anarchism with respect to the role of the revolutionary organization, libertarian communists hold that the role of the organization is to aid in the working-class movement as rank-and-file members, never trying to wield authority over or co-opt the movement. Libertarian communists see electoral politics as a hindrance to the working class movement, and oppose it. Having transcended the limits placed upon them by electoralism and reformism, the libertarian communists are always directly struggling against capital, never falling into the traps set by bourgeois political parties, and always militantly educating, agitating, and organizing.

Libertarian communists employ the methods of analysis developed by Marx, the dialectical method and historical materialism. To libertarian communists, the anarchist critique that historical materialism is deterministic and fatalistic does not hold up to scrutiny. Libertarian communists employ these methods as a guide to understand the world around them, and as a guide to action. After all, the development of productive forces may be the primary driver of history, but it is the masses which make history through their movement and their will.

As with the role of the organization, libertarian communists are influenced by anarchism by their adoption of the principle of federalism. Libertarian communists, much like council communists, conceive of a dictatorship of the proletariat which is a confederation of workers’ councils. As such, libertarian communists do not believe in the establishment of a so-called workers’ state, and see any attempts to do so as a threat to social revolution.

Conclusion

Because, to paraphrase Errico Malatesta, anarchists follow ideas and not men, the point of this article is not to praise Daniel Guerin and zealously uphold everything he ever said or did, but to elaborate on his answer to one of the biggest questions that continues to face the socialist movement: Marxism or anarchism? The point of this article is not to give a lesson on “left unity” or “non-sectarianism” but rather to explain the shortcomings of both Marxism and anarchism that Daniel Guerin saw, and how he transcended them. Many people on the left today may see shortcomings with anarchism or Marxism today, but, because they are more concerned with ideological labels and petty rivalries than truth, are too afraid to look to other schools of thought to find ways to work through these shortcomings. This is a mistake, it is conceited to believe that the ideological label one chooses to associate one’s self with has a monopoly on truth.

In the end, history will prove Daniel Guerin right or wrong. As with the thinkers that he criticized while learning from, Daniel Guerin was also a fallible human being that can and did make errors in his work. In this respect, he should be treated by the anarchist movement how he treated those figures. That is to say, he should be read and learned from, but not worshiped like some infallible figure who could do no wrong. The most important lesson that can be learned from Daniel Guerin and his life is that one should think for themselves and never be satisfied with the labels that society puts on them.

Source: libcom.org 

A Manifesto for World Socialism

Photo by Stephen Philpott on Unsplash

Yet every day our cause becomes clearer and the people more clever.”
Joseph Dietzgen, Social Democratic Philosophy

Capitalism is a system of violence. Poverty is built into its operation. The struggle for a livable planet is a life-and-death issue. Corporate greed has polluted our air, turned our soil toxic and poisoned our waters. Our survival necessitates social control of technology and production and the elimination of the blind consumerism that causes us to squander so many of the world’s resources needlessly. The environmental movement holds revolutionary potential. The threat to the environment touches everyone. The need to deepen their understanding of the relationship between humanity and the rest of nature. People will have to change how they live and how society is organized. We believe in a socialism where fulfillment will be found in the relationships among people and not in the consumption of things. Only conscious socialist planning by all of society can make this a reality.

Without revolutionary organization, we cannot advance the revolutionary movement. As working people, we need our own party to fight for our interests, to help unify our struggles and to enable us to bring about socialism. The job of World Socialists is to continue the work of socialist propaganda at all times without fear or compromise. We point our fellow workers to a new world, the cooperative commonwealth. When they want it is within their grasp. If they have to fight for it with only a fraction of the courage, sacrifice and determination they fight the quarrels of their masters, then no combination of powers, even were they a thousand times more powerful than they are, could stand against it. New movements will arise which promise an easy road to the new world. There will be disappointments and setbacks. But out of the struggles and their lessons there will be some who will learn, and they will add to the strength of the socialist movement, preparing the way for the inevitable time when masses must accept the socialist message. Historically, the stage has not yet been reached when workers in large numbers grasp the socialist’s message. But it can be hastened the more our message is spread. It is the business of all socialists to work for this end. It is your job if you are a socialist, to lend a helping hand in every possible way and so assist the movement to take all the shocks and use all the opportunities that the future may hold for it. Socialism is an historical necessity thrown up by the economic and social development of centuries. The alternative to it is chaos and conflict. As socialists we are conscious agents of the process of history.

The aim of World Socialists is to abolish poverty. That can be done only by abolishing the system based on class division—those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

The reformer does not want to abolish poverty in the only way in which it can be done. Instead he wants to diminish poverty or remove some of the features that result from poverty. The most fatuous form this desire takes is to be found in the recurrent schemes for keeping rich and poor but mixing them up a little—just as a defender of slavery might dwell on the beautiful thought of occasional friendly gatherings of slaves and slave owners.

There is, however, no indication that our rulers can cure unemployment. The capitalist employs a person for the purpose of producing a profit. If he or she can make no profit, he will not hire the worker, but will fire him or her, and so the unemployed army is created and will number millions, as our experience has shown us.

The socialist way is to cure unemployment by socializing the means of producing products and services so that no man or woman can be hired or fired by a capitalist owner, who now is solely concerned with a profit. Under Socialism, there would be no private owner to dictate to labor, and as a corollary there would he no profit. A man would have the right to work and the right to live. There would be no inequality of income, no money required to buy goods, and the wealth produced would be freely consumed by its creators, that is, the entire population. The workers alone have the power to change the world, provided they understand and apply the socialist remedy, i.e., of expropriating the means of producing products and services from their masters and converting them into social property.

World Socialists do not waste time and energy chasing reforms. It seeks political power for the sole purpose of abolishing capitalism. The socialist ideal is, of course the substitution of collective ownership and control for capitalistic ownership and control with the consequent extinction of exploitation altogether. The Left are for state capitalism or collective exploitation. We are not concerned with state capitalism. We are concerned with socialism which is the negation of capitalism. Consequently, state capitalism cannot be the ideal of any socialist. Ergo those who preach state capitalism or collective exploitation are not socialists.

It has always been the contention of World Socialists that:

1. Capitalism, wherever it operates, despite differences in climate, language and culture, produces the same set of conditions from which inevitably flow the same problems. This is not to say that conditions are everywhere identical under capitalism; different areas are often undergoing different stages of capitalist evolution, depending on historical background. However, when industrialism comes, late or early, capitalism comes with it: they are bound up in each other.

2. Capitalism, desiring always a submissive working class, seeks everywhere to condition the people: through religion, universities, the media of disseminating thought and ideas.

3. Despite the constant effort in this direction, there exists, invariably in capitalist society, groupings that contradict and are in opposition to capitalist society (where it hurts them) and towards one another.

Don’t like the world as it is? Imagine something different. The proposed alternative society to capitalism can only be socialism. What is involved is suppressing the production of exchange values for the benefit of the capitalist minority and replacing it with the production of use values for the satisfaction of real human needs, democratically determined. There is no other possible choice, no other possible alternative to this mode of production.

Source  |  Socialist Courier  |  Adapted