Not every Anarchist is a Communist, but every Anarchist is a Socialist, at least to the extent that inequality in power dynamics is immoral or unwelcome. [Expanded version]
June 13, 2012 Posted by Black Red Media Edit
“This brings us to Anarchism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished.”
– Benjamin Tucker
EVERY Anarchist is a socialist, at least to the extent that absentee property rests on authority and inequality in power relations.
Not every Anarchist is a Communist. Anarchist Communists are true comrades along with our Individualists and Syndicalists, but historically socialism merely meant that the people controlled their own lives, that their homes and tools were their own, and that they were not reduced to serfs or wage slaves living and operating in someone ELSE’s property. Communism therefor might be a form of socialism, but there are other models of worker/citizen control that are less centralized and may include both reciprocation as well as Mutual Aid.
But every Anarchist is a socialist when it comes to power dynamics and the self management of the people. This control can be EITHER individual or collective (usually mixed), but what is rejected is a separation of renters/land-barons and Bosses/Wage-Workers.
“We are here, on earth. Not one of us has any right to the earth.” Benjamin Tucker
In regard to the self management of the people, this is not to say that a temp worker automatically gets half your personal workshop if they show up for a day. What we mean instead is probably closer to a traditional guild system, before the artisan was reduced to the factory line. To make the factory egalitarian, it must be worker controlled.
Here we see Benjamin Tucker making a case for individual personal and exclusive possession for the tools of one’s OWN creation. “since successful society rests on individual initiative, [it is necessary] to protect the individual creator in the use of his concrete creations by forbidding others to use them without his consent”.-Tucker
However, he balances this with an attack on patents, interest, absentee ownership and land monopoly. Tucker would choose to operate outside of the confines of Communism, but within free associations which are socialist to the extent that all privilege and usury has been abolished.
“interest is theft, Rent Robbery, and Profit Only Another Name for Plunder.”-Benjamin Tucker
The case against ‘profit’ is that it is in contrast to fair trade and even exchange. To ‘profit’ is to take something greater in exchange for something lesser. In this regard; any economy based on speculative currency with wage slavery and subjective value is simply passing on the exploitation like a hot potato, with the poor and common workers getting burned by it. One can live well by producing and exchanging their own product, whether as individuals or as a cooperative, but to profit from exchange is to cheat somebody by offering them less than they are giving you in return…..We only feel this is justified because everyone else is doing the same to us in mutual robbery, but in an egalitarian society such behavior would be viewed as the actions of a scoundrel.
“The possessions of the rich are stolen property.”-Proudhon
The problems ‘inherent’ in market relations can be somewhat remedied by models of exchange that are based on even exchange. During the Anarchist uprising in Spain the Syndicalists there, who were largely influenced by Mutualism at the time, in some locations created mutual credit that was backed by the objective standard of equalized ‘work hours’. Products were calculated and negotiated by the unions, factoring everything from harvest to transport to production and the replacement of tools. Instead of bartering real goods against a speculative currency they were instead exchanging their labor. By exchanging their productive energies within a mutual network, they avoided the problems of usury and wage exploitation. They were socialist despite having markets because the workers unions controlled the factories directly, though small business was not forced to collective or necessarily forced to accept the labor credits (they generally did, since that is how the factory goods were being traded in those areas). [Note: This is ONE model, not the only model of even exchange]
The existence of trade did not contradict mutual aid or gift economy. Rent was abolished and there were huge efforts to take care of their sick and elderly and poor. The privileged classes were eradicated, but one could still live as an individualist, or as a Syndicalist participating in markets, or as a communist who entered into a free and voluntary agreement of mutual support…..It is regrettable that the Spanish Anarchists were not as successful militarily as they were economically and socially!
Personal projects do not need to be collectivized, but fleets of factories and outlets are not a ‘personal project’, and should not be controlled by an absent minority who do not labor inside the shop. That which you produce with your own hands is the product of your labor, though the privileged classes primarily profit by exploiting the labor of others. If you use the tools of another then you should compensate them for the repair and upkeep…..help clean up, if you use something up replace it, chip in to replace or sharpen a saw….but to claim others product as your own for ‘profit’ is in fact a form of exploitation that would generally not be tolerated in a family or village or tribe…..so why should we tolerate abusive employers do not respect us?
Hegal (an early socialist) felt that property was a ‘natural right’ of the people, and that their fundamental rights were violated if they were not in direct possession of a means of livelihood and production…..Many Anarchists challenge the notion of property and natural law itself, but nonetheless advocate a model where nobody is under the thumb of another and where we all have dominion over our home/work and life.
For a moment we should discuss the differences in how a Marxist-Leninist defines socialism vs a more traditional view of socialism that Anarchists share. For Carl Marx, “socialism” is when a party vanguard takes over the state, or through insurrection creates a dictatorship of the Communist party…..Sadly, only the industrial workers are truly valued, and they invented degrading terms for the serfs and people of the countryside, such as “lumpenproletariat” or “rogue proletarian”…..The very same “rogue proletarian” who waged a successfully Anarchist-Communist rebellion in the Ukraine. Lenin, the man without any principles, one-ups Carl Marx in the manipulation of language and then describes ‘taking over the state’ as “lower phase socialism”, and the withering away of the state (think 1984) as “higher phase socialism”….This sucks because it completely misses the point of socialism in its original context, suggests that you cannot be socialist unless you are a Communist, and even implies that popular movements must be co-opted by a central party vanguard since they are all just at a ‘lower phase’ on the path to their model. Certainly we would evolve beyond the initial revolutionary conditions to greater things, but not necessarily according to their model.
“Lenin is not comparable to any revolutionary figure in history. Revolutionaries have had ideals. Lenin has none.” -Kropotkin
“Leninism is for the Vanguard, Anarchism is for the People!”-Matt Harris.
“equality does not mean an equal amount but equal opportunity. . . Do not make the mistake of identifying equality in liberty with the forced equality of the convict camp. True anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that every one must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse in fact.” -Alexander Berkman
It is worth noting that since the ‘Third International’ there are some brands of Marxism that have taken more positive forms, such as the council Communists and Situationists. They remove many of Lenin’s ‘contributions’, and radically reinterpret Marx’s idea of Vanguard and ‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ to mean the entire people as a unified class, rather than a small party Vanguard who rules ‘for’ the people. These Libertarian and Post-Marxists are much closer to the Anarchist position, though Anarchists are still radically more Libertarian in that they favor the de-centralism of peer based networks and not just equality within them.
“[the] most perfect Socialism is possible only on the condition of the most perfect individualism.”-Benjamin Tucker
Malatesta offers this wonderful commentary explaining why the Anarchist-Communist model does not imply forced Communism or that there would not be alternatives to Communism, but that there could be societies that prefer to retain a degree of trade/markets but tempered with Mutual Aid. There would be a place for Individualists and a variety of alternative models, and we can all coexist within a larger federation of free societies allied in mutual cooperation and defense.
“Communism is a free agreement: who doesn’t accept it or maintain it remains outside of it . . . Everyone has the right to land, to the instruments of production and all the advantages that human beings can enjoy in the state of civilization that humanity has reached. If someone does not want to accept a communist life and the obligations that it supposes, it is their business. They and those of a like mind will come to an agreement . . . [They] will have the same rights as the communists over the natural wealth and accumulated products of previous generations . . . I have always spoken of free agreement, of free communism. How can there be liberty without a possible alternative?”
Rudolph Rocker gives another excellent commentary on the principles of free association within a well organized egalitarian society.
“a far greater degree of economic equality . . . would . . . be no guarantee against political and social oppression. Economic equality alone is not social liberation. It is just this which Marxism and all the other schools of authoritarian Socialism have never understood. Even in prison, in the cloister, or in the barracks one finds a fairly high degree of economic equality, as all the inmates are provided with the same dwelling, the same food, the same uniform, and the same tasks . . . [this was] the vilest despotism . . . the human being was merely the automation of a higher will, on whose decisions he had not the slightest influence. It was not without reason that Proudhon saw in a ‘Socialism’ without freedom the worst form of slavery. The urge for social justice can only develop properly and be effective, when it grows out of man’s sense of personal freedom and is based on that. In other words Socialism will be free, or it will not be at all. In its recognition of this lies the genuine and profound justification for the existence of Anarchism.”
Those who reject egalitarianism and self management cannot truly consider themselves to be Anarchists, anymore than patriarchy or racial supremacy is compatible with Anarchism or egalitarian society. If you do not believe that inequality in power dynamics is immoral, or at least unwelcome, then opposing the state and state taxes will not be enough to qualify you as an Anarchist.
Equality and Egalitarianism is the foundation of Anarchism, not a mere accessory or extension to it. If anything, abolishing central hierarchical authority (the State) in favor of more participatory structures is an extension of our practices and values, rather than the other way around. Simply toppling a state government and hoping for the best will not produce a lasting ‘Anarchism’, unless we can self organize into peer based networks to make sure that an absence of hierarchy remains as such. Of course there are different opinions regarding the question of how to get there.
“We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality”-Bakunin”
“For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility of every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities and talents with which nature has endowed them, and turn them to social account.” -Rudolph Rocker
All power to the people, collectively and individually!
“The great are only great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!”-Proudhon
Article by -Nick Djinn