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The Cooperative

By Punkerslut

Image from WikiMedia Commons
Image: Based on the statue Besteckschleifer-Denkmal
in Mettmann, Sketch by Punkerslut

Start Date: October 12, 2009
Finish Date: October 12, 2009

Part 1: The State is a Force of Domination

"...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 R. Tucker, 1888
          "State Socialism and Anarchism"

     The state, by definition, is the most violent, coercive force in society. It exists only in the form of domination and control -- behind each law, there is a bullet or prison cell ready to enforce it. It is always present in all social relationships. It is there in the relationship between employer and employee, between the citizen and their land, and between the lover and the unconventional love. The law makes itself heard everywhere the individual thinks.

     The state has legitimized the massacre of minority groups, whether it was the Huguenot Protestants in France, or the Jews in Europe, or the indigenous people of the Americas. Where one social group seeks its own interest by controlling another social group, it will use the state. This has been true of the priesthood in the Middle Ages, the upper-castes in India, the aristocracy and nobility of Feudal nations, and the bureaucracy of the Socialist state.

     Governments have legalized plunder, moralized robbery, and instructed repression. Some say that they have made laws that are genuinely good for the people, such as Civil Rights in the United States or the Eight-Hour Day. But these were never given to the people by their masters. Those "laws" were written with the blood of the people -- signed in the streets by crowds of "rabble" who have become infuriated with violence against the people. The state did not make liberties or rights for the people; it only submitted when under siege by the immense power of organized and angry masses.

     The law, then, has never been a progressive institution, improving the condition of humanity and guarding liberty. It has only been a dominating force, producing oppression where it claims to be creating social harmony. Those of us who want to look towards a cooperative society must abandon the state and the law -- we must seek out a different type of relationship than one of ruler and subject. The only inverse of the state, or complete domination, is anarchy, or complete liberty.

Part 2: Ways and Means of Civil Defense

"Place on one side fifty thousand armed men, and on the other the same number; let them join in battle, one side fighting to retain its liberty, the other to take it away; to which would you, at a guess, promise victory? Can democracy prevail? Which men do you think would march more gallantly to combat -- those who anticipate as a reward for their suffering the maintenance of their freedom, or those who cannot expect any other prize for the blows exchanged than the enslavement of others? One side will have before its eyes the blessings of the past and the hope of similar joy in the future; their thoughts will dwell less on the comparatively brief pain of battle than on what they may have to endure forever, they, their children, and all their posterity. The other side has nothing to inspire it with courage except the weak urge of greed, which fades before danger and which can never be so keen, it seems to me, that it will not be dismayed by the least drop of blood from wounds."
          --Étienne de La Boétie, 1548
          "Discourse on Voluntary Servitude"

     But endless objections come up when you mention anarchy. If we do not impose authority against people, how will we stop murderers? How will we set up agencies for testing forensic evidence and investigating rape? If there is no method of imposing force, no system to guarantee protection, then how can civilization continue? How will scientists invent, where they are threatened by gangs? How will artists create, where daily existence is one of fear and uncontrollable violence? These are all honest questions.

     A genuinely cooperative society is one where all social relationships are made on a voluntary basis. That no person can expect anything from others, except by a free agreement. If a person in this society was attacked by another, would they not have the right to self-defense? Would they not have the right to protect themselves? No one would deny this. The common argument brought up, though, is that each are not strong enough to resist powerful tyrants.

     If each person has a right to defend themselves, then they each have the right to make a cooperative defense organization. Consider two neighbors in anarchy. Since both tend to their own business, it is likely that they would form a mutual and reciprocal pact. They would guard each other's property and security, one protecting the other if attacked, and vice versa.

     Their reasoning would be natural, and self-serving as much as it was altruistic. If a conquerer came for their neighbor today, they would be on the menu the next day. Also, they would see that one defending themselves against an intruder is very dangerous -- but two, working together to defend against one invader, is significantly less risky.

     There are a few military campaigns where a smaller army crushed a larger one, such as the defense of ancient Greece from the Persian Empire. But these only stand out because the general rule is that war is a numbers game. Who fires the most bullets, who has the most troops, who is the most prepared, is likely to be the winner. In the "two defenders against one invader" scenario, there is a large benefit to a cooperative defense.

     Take this free contract between two neighbors, and multiply it by five hundred neighbors. Instead of making an occasional check for burglars, a small village could organize and sustain a regular militia. The one thousand neighbors, pooling their resources, could easily provide the housing, the food, and weapons necessary for such a cooperative defense. And this organized form would be more effective than each villager individually defending their property and security.

     Most would certainly agree that only a few people are inclined to make a living by robbery, violence, and deception. The whole lot of people, as much as they may be selfish or intolerant at times, are mostly concerned with themselves. Of course the great mass of people do not have inherently violent or cruel tendencies, but it is the very few who want to live off of pillage and murder. The great majority, against one or two individuals, would certainly be victorious. Cooperative organizations do not arise to do violence to minority groups, as states have done. The Ku Klux Klan was no cooperative organization based on free agreement -- its lynching was always pardoned by the police.

Part 3: Voluntary Organization is the Ideal

"After having striven long in vain to solve the insoluble problem--the problem of constructing a government 'which will constrain the individual to obedience without itself ceasing to be the servant of society,' men at last attempt to free themselves from every form of government and to satisfy their need for organization by a free contract between individuals and groups pursuing the same aim. The independence of each small territorial unit becomes a pressing need; mutual agreement replaces law, and everywhere regulates individual interests in view of a common object."
          --Peter Kropotkin, 1892
          "The Conquest of Bread," Chapter 3, Part II

     All violence, all injustice against the people, has come out of authoritarian structures of domination. The real terror against humanity comes from those who follow orders, often out of fear of what might happen if they refuse. Where cooperative organization reigns as the social decision-making method, violence and cruelty based on prejudices must decline. Violence is naturally repulsive to human senses, and it is only through intensive, state indoctrination that it becomes a norm, or even an enjoyment.

     A cooperative organization is valuable because it is organized according to those who are cooperating. One participant cannot force others to behave this or that particular way. It is all mutual and reciprocal; one receives according to how much they give, and where they do not, they can always withdraw from the agreement. Since it is cooperative, it lasts as long as the involved people want it to last. And since it is the members of the organization who must suffer to pay contributions, it is in their own self-interest to direct the group towards the good of the whole -- otherwise it will be in their interest to quit, and this will hurt the others, who must now organize with fewer contributions.

     Where someone organizes, with the specific interest of burning down homes, with orphaning children, with building and maintaining filthy and degrading prisons -- where someone tries to organize cooperatively along these lines, they will always repulse and disgust the masses. Such violence is not completely eliminated by the anarchist society entirely. But it is the only kind of social order that produces the greatest, natural difficulties to violence, coercion, tyranny, murder, exploitation, and oppression.

     The frictions of these social groups, that lead to thoughts of hate and bigotry, are also significantly eased. These are cooperative organizations. Individuals enter into and out of them on the terms that they desire -- and this means that an association of mutual defense, to guarantee that everyone contributes, would have a requirement of contributions. There is no self-interest in organizing mutual defense, where one person contributes and others do not. And an association would have every right to refuse entry to those who did not contribute. It is cooperative, which means it is based on the free and voluntary agreement of its members; and these agreements can require contributing to others where they contribute to you.

Part 4: Cooperatively Organizing All of Society

"In the kingdom, the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people; the more implements to add to their profit that the people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves and robbers there are."
          --Lao Tzu, ~ 600 BC
          "Tao Teh King," Part 2, Chapter 57, Section 2

     Take this method of cooperative organization, this form of mutual and reciprocal behavior, and use it as the basis for all social relationships. This becomes the truly cooperative society, or the anarchist society. The people will also need a system of education -- to give nourishment to the minds of their young and growing. The many will certainly have a desire to contribute to this type of organization. They will naturally be benefited by specialized labor -- as a group of individuals will produce more per-person than any single individual.

     Schooling requires teachers, textbooks, classrooms, chalkboards, computers, desks, buildings, faculty, and many other expenses. Every child has a right to be educated and to choose how they are educated, as well as choosing how much the school is involved in their education. For many, the library is a thousand times better, the museum a million times more enlightening -- an educational organization that seek voluntary cooperation do better in uplifting their students. Schools and libraries naturally must provide a service that fulfills their cause, otherwise they would be abandoned by their patrons and visitors.

     A cooperative organization, then, allows both the individual to withdraw from the association, as well as the association to exclude the individual. By the right to join or leave as freely as you like, this provides the association with the motivation for satisfying the people. It could be creating a community defense or educating learners -- it could be as simple as a cooperative effort at paved or stone roads, or as complicated as industrial research projects spanning thousands of workers.

     Where the individual, or an association of individuals, can leave the larger association, this puts a strong influence on everyone involved. They each have the self-interest of the association's benefits. So they understand that if they weaken or mislead or waste the advantages of the organization, they would be hurting the community effort. And there is little that is as shameful as stopping a group of people cooperatively doing good for themselves.

     In virtually all cultures, the masters of tradition were not powerful enough to make enemies out of those who mutually improved their own conditions, but there is always the exception. For example, the Levellers in the 1600's in Britain sought a free society where the land was collectively owned, but they were violently oppressed by the state.

     It is not likely that an engineer would bring up their religion at a meeting about the progress of a dam. It is not likely that teachers would bring up their bigotry during a public gathering about education. And it is not likely that an organizer of the militia is going to bring up racial prejudice during an assembly. Well, all of these things are unlikely, where all the individuals participating are their only on their free will. But where there is a state, all of these things are commonplace, and hence the dominating social organization -- law and government -- is naturally opposed to the interests of its subjects.

     With cooperation, there is pressure for those developing the organization to meet the needs of the people. And, likewise, there is pressure on the members of the organization to fulfill their duties to the common whole. One relies on the other, based on their cooperative and mutual agreement. It is the right to end the agreement at any time that guarantees the good faith of the individual as well as the association.

Part 5: Political Domination Seen in the Light of Cooperation

"...members of parliament are chosen for a fixed number of years; only at the polls are the citizens masters—on this one day when they choose their delegates. Once this day has passed, their power has gone and the delegates are independent, free to act for a term of years according to their own 'conscience,' restricted only by the knowledge that after this period they have to face the voters anew; but then they count on catching their votes in a noisy election campaign, bombing the confused voters with slogans and demagogic phrases. Thus not the voters but the parliamentarians are the real masters who decide politics. And the voters do not even send persons of their own choice as delegates; they are presented to them by the political parties. And then, if we suppose that people could select and send persons of their own choice, these persons would not form the government; in parliamentary democracy the legislative and the executive powers are separated. The real government dominating the people is formed by a bureaucracy of officials so far removed from the people's vote as to be practically independent."
          --Anton Pannekoek, 1938
          "General Remarks on the Question of Organisation"

     In anarchy, the individual influences others by the ability of withdrawing from a contract. This is exactly not the case in elective parliaments, where the people get to pick their leader once every two or four years. Everyone knows the gigantic show that every political candidate puts on at just that time of year -- but few see a way around it.

     Once the politicians have been elected, they are out of the hands of their electors, and free to do whatever they want. They sell off conservation lands, lay off employees, hike tax rakes, waste money, and legalize the robbery and exploitation of the masses by the Capitalist system. Then when time comes again, so does the show, and a bought-and-sold media print whatever the wealthy and the politicians feed them. These evils are brought on by the fact that the people do not always possess a control over their relationship with elected masters.

     There is tremendous social friction in monarchy, because the individual is in a relationship with a government and has no right to leave. There is a little less friction in republics, because the individual can at least vote -- they get a show with their prisons and police. But even with the right to vote, the individual is alienated from the social relationship; they have no right to withdraw, and therefore, no real right to guarantee good behavior on part of the government. They can vote for someone else, but in the history of governments, someone else will be just as evil.

     Where a citizen is in a relationship with its government, they have no right to withdraw. This means that this social organization always tends towards antagonism, violence, coercion, bigotry, and hate -- it creates the intense heat of friction without any form of release. The right to withdraw from an organization really means a right to the decision-making process of the organization. It is the realization of the Democratic ideal without the arbitrary fiction of ballots, candidates, and constitutions.

Part 6: Economic Domination Seen in the Light of Cooperation

"It is true that the capitalist has no title to your bodies; but he is the master of your jobs; he controls the employment upon which your lives depend; he has it in his power to decide whether you shall work or not; that is to say, whether you shall live or die. And the man who has the power of life and death over you, though he may not wear a crown or be hailed a king, is as completely your master and your ruler as if you were his chattels and subject to his commands under the laws of the state."
          --Eugene Victor Debs, 1905
          "Class Unionism"

     Capitalism exists on the same exact basis as government. The worker, to feed themselves, must labor. Today, all productive labor is social labor -- it is done in cooperation with others, requiring exchange with those who create the means of life and the tools of production. This means that the individual must have the agreement of those who possess the factories and the bread -- they must be employed with the the wealthy, capitalist class. The worker must make an agreement with their employer, if they want to feed themselves.

     But if the worker doesn't like the agreement, they can leave and starve. Or, they can find another employer -- but all employers are equally evil. Just a switching a politician of government does not create liberty, changing a master of industry does not create good standards of living and working. It is the fact that the relationship is based on domination that produces the social ills. Those who make up the laboring part of the organization cannot influence the decision-making process of it at all. The workers are at the mercy of their industrial masters, even though wealth would not be possible without laborers.

     Yes, the workers can refuse to work, if they'd like, until good conditions are met, but the solitary worker has nothing, and the capitalist has everything -- including others who are even poorer and more willing to work. The individual laborer, then, is left in a position where they have absolutely no control over their lives. Submit to the Capitalist's demands, or starve: this is the freedom of private property. The social ill of capitalism then, lies in the fact that the employment relationship is determined by a very few, while the majority have no control at all. This is the Capitalist system, and it is completely incompatible with a cooperative society, or the anarchist world.

     In Sexism, the cure is naturally found in Feminism; and in Racism, the solution is found in Social Equality. The answer to a social ill is found in its inverse. Where the problem is private ownership of the productive wealth, the solution is in collective ownership. To create a social order, where each individual enters into agreements with others on equal footing, each person must have a right to the land, to the accumulated productions of past generations. In older ages, the masses were absolute slaves, and if they could have had one hope about the factories and mines they built, it was that their children would one day be the owners. That one day, we would be masters of our own fate -- Anarchy is the realization of every slave's hope, the substance of every exploited worker's dream.

     Where everyone has the right to productive wealth, they can enter into cooperation or competition with whomever they like. If they decide to end a relationship because they felt they were being cheated, they would suffer temporarily just as would their partner. But neither would necessarily starve. By still possessing some means of production and having access to a market, they can continue to feed themselves.

     This relationship is a free market with strictly worker-managed and worker-owned cooperatives. It produces social relationships where individuals can enter into economic agreements with each other at their own will, and not at the constant threat of starvation or homelessness. It is the social organization with the greatest advantage in producing a relationship that fairly satisfies each participant, and according to each participant's own judgments, as well.

     Anarchism has to come with equal access to society's productive wealth. Otherwise, it would not be cooperative, and it would be undeserving of the title Anarchy. Where the right to land has been asserted, by the governments of the world, they have always stolen the land of their neighboring nations, and created slaves of foreign people.

     The right to land, then, is really a pretend right. And while claiming everything from the topsoil to the center of the earth, one may as well claim all the air on the planet and parts of the universe. Those who support this pretend right, the right to property of the land by a few, have been governments and the wealthy. But they have never defended this right. All European nations have claimed foreign lands as their property, whether you're discussing France, Spain, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, or Italy.

     This right to land allows the first person to claim property as their own by simply being the first to do so. It is such a pretend right, that every government who has preached it has also violated it. It comes from those who are so ready to take the property and land of the poor and hand it over to the wealthy. Even today in a recession, this is the effective policy of the United States' Bailout For Capitalists, Paid For By The Poor.

     Private ownership of land provides nothing to the lone person to guarantee them the full development of their individuality; it has only consecrated the evils of state violence and capitalist abuse. The only thing that can uplift the individual is the right to society's means of production. And if we want to create a society of individuals who form relationships according to their own will, everyone must have a right to productive property.

     Such free agreement, between individuals and associations, exists only where there is Socialism. Anarchism, by its definition of cooperation, is necessarily Anti-Capitalist. Some confuse Capitalism with ideas such as free market, or free trade. They do not look at the word for how it is spelled: Capitalism, or the ISM of Capital, the idealization and worship of capital, or the possessors of the productive wealth of society, the Capitalists.

     Therefore, Capitalism is a broad term, encompassing all social systems based on the domination of the few wealthy against the poor many: the Mercantilist policy of imperialist nations like Britain; the Corporatist economy of Fascist and Nazi governments; and the feudal era of Europe, Russia, and Japan, where the majority of people were serfs owned by landlords. Even so-called "Communist" China and self-described "Socialist" Cuba have this exact makeup: the owner of the land, the Communist Party, is an idle class of exploiters, who maintain their control through laws, courts, and prisons.

Part 7: Anarchy is the Final Goal

"... concentrated power can be always wielded in the interest of the few and at the expense of the many."
          --Lucy Parsons, ~ Late 1800's
          "The Principles of Anarchism"

     In every age, the state has been a force of domination and control. Liberty and material sustenance are the source of human happiness. Therefore, it is government and its privileged class that produces the greatest suffering. What kind of system can be made to remove the law? In terms of civil defense, the most natural and obvious organization would be voluntary and cooperative militias.

     In such types of organization, we find the ideal mechanisms sustaining social harmony. Since each person only benefits when others contribute, associations would require each to put something forth -- and since putting something forth costs something, this puts pressure on the association to fulfill its purposes. Both the lone individual and the massive group have pressure on them to fulfill their duty, and it is a pressure based on self-interest -- the one thing that can absolutely be found common to all cultures and civilizations of humanity.

     Applying this type of organization to the whole social order is the essence of anarchy. If a militia can do better than a top-down army, then shouldn't we do the same type of organizing with the rest of society? Public associations of education for libraries and museums, or cooperative groups for developing industry, open markets, and reaching full employment. These associations do far better where they organize for themselves than where they are organized for by some master.

     Where cooperative and voluntary society is understood, government becomes the greatest evil. Republics and monarchies alike alienate their citizens, oppress and exploit their workers, imprison minorities and sacrifice a few individuals, or sometimes entire races. Capitalism organizes itself along similar lines. Just as the government dominates the citizen, so does the Capitalist dominate the laborer. In a truly cooperative society, there will be neither a republic nor a monarchy nor laws -- and every individual will own the tools that they labor upon.

     The law enables those who want to do violence; liberty empowers those who can create good.

     The opposite of domination is cooperation. No free agreements of the people would ever be laws. There would be no voting or vetoing. Society would become strictly free, cooperative arrangements between individuals or associations. It would be real Anarchism, with neither master nor subject, neither employer nor employee -- but only liberty, cooperation, and order.


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