An Essay in Autonomous Economic and Social Theory...
Introduction -- Definitions and Defenses
As much as the idea of communism, socialism, and collectivism can stand for revolution and the fighting struggle against an oppressive force, it also represents the new world that these Leftist thinkers are trying to build. The message in our journals and publications is clear. The world that the authoritarian systems has brought to humanity is a bitter, bleak existence, full of misery and counter to the interests of the good of the public. This has been the cornerstone to all Leftist revolution and activism. In the matter of economics, the authoritarian system of Capitalism, a "work or die" order to every citizen by denying them food, Communism has been called out as the savior. Some people prefer to use different language. Some call it Socialism. Terms like "Collectivism" are generally attempts to make it sound humble. It is the idea that the economy, or society's policy on the distribution of wealth, should be maintained by and for the people. The interest of the economy should be to satisfy the will of the people -- not the interests of a few, small, "socially elite" minority. The building a nation produces, the products it makes, the food it grows, everything should be directed with the interest of people in mind. Every revolutionary theory will explain the social origin of the people's misery and a method or manner to remove such problems.
It is important to fight the status quo. It will always be important to jostle the established understanding, to question validated truths, and to make the professors and scholars of the land explain why this way of living is the best way of living. There have been so many Leftist and Socialist movements that were banned, arrested, and persecuted by unfriendly governments. The state, possessing the sole monopoly of coercive power, has made itself strong allies with privatized commerce, those responsible for for building and fitting the chains on society. Wealth marries itself to power. That is the one established and unarguable truth of history when it comes to the behavior patterns of society's powerful and elite. To say that those with "legitimized control of force and authority" would refuse to bargain or trade privileges with the wealthy is very innocent, given all that history has taught us in civilization's power wars. To say that those with wealth would have no interest, no desire, and no ambition to use their established affluence to support a government that protects them is, similarly, a willful denial all of the given facts of understood social behavior.
A Communist Revolution, or a riddance of the Capitalist class from the burden of society, will not relieve the workers of the state; and further more, an anti-Statist Revolution will only rid the people of those who delegate and oversee the slavery of nations, their statesmen. The only type of Anarchist philosophy that will properly interpret history and what is necessary of the working class to liberate themselves is a class-struggle-focused Anarchism. Being consciously aware of the class-struggle, the influences of capitalism in morphing culture, the intercourse of power elites, the wealthy evading the law on account of their social positions, the poor constantly attacked and scapegoated by the police and then the press -- understanding the involved nature of a Capitalist-sanctioning government is necessary to its overthrow and creating a world where such a system could not re-enter.
In that sense, more than just a mere anti-Statist Anarchist, we are class-struggle Anarchists, subdividing into classes of Anarcho-Syndicalism, Anarcho-Communism, Libertarian Socialism (or "Revolutionary Socialism"), and Anarcho-Primitivism, among other breeds and species of this political thought. Since we oppose the Capitalist system as much as we oppose the state, for the same reasons and with the same end in mind for both, we are very different from Conservative Libertarians, Anarcho-Capitalists, and others. Their theory is to abolish the state as a means of alleviating our social ills. But in a system where wealth is power, to abolish the state and allow Capitalism to exist would simply cause the CEOs and masters of industry to become the new state. The poor, the working class, and the others outside the power elite would lose what small voice that organized hierarchy (their "government") had allowed them in influencing their own communities. If abolishment of oppression, persecution, censorship, war, and poverty is truly our concern, then we must abolish all power, whatever form it may take: whether it comes from millions of soldiers or a monopoly ownership of all the farms and factories in a country.
Those who would choose Communism without Anarchism, or Anarchism without Communism, are making serious mistakes. There are various theories of Communism, all ranging from vague collectivist ownership of the land to an economy where each person works according to their ability and is paid according to their need. When I use the word Communism in my statement concerning its relation to Anarchism, I am simply implying the most bold and admired aspect of this economic theory. It states the abolishment of private ownership of the means of production. In our new world, no one person will own the factories, or the farms, or the mines, and no one person will direct the laborers in those institutions. If Communism were enacted with Democracy or Anarchism in spirit and heart, then it would be a system where each person will have an equal voice in determining the collective's direction in matters of cultural development, education, distribution of labor and wealth, and every other matter.
Those who choose Communism and accept any Authoritarianism that might accompany the philosophy make grave mistakes. They are thinking that an economy of organized Communism, even with authoritarianism, will produce leaders who are inspired to serve and aid their people. But authoritarianism will always corrupt government and deter Democracy. Stalin, Lenin, and Mao, all under the guise of "defending Communism," slaughtered millions of people. The fact that "Communism" was an intrinsic part of these dictatorships does not change how much these leaders oppressed their people. One would be living under nearly identical political, cultural, and social situations had they lived in Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Fascist Italy. Communism, as defended by Statists, has been a banner of government expansion, infiltration, militarization, imperialism, and finally, authoritarianism and totalitarianism. And in this sense, Statist-inspired Communism, and to a lesser extent, Socialist and labor political parties, will always fail their people's desire for liberty to choose their own economy, their own culture, and their own laws. It is a matter of autonomy. This is the principle core of Anarchism.
A Communist order, without democratic or anarchist spirit, will always find itself buried in the bones of the working class, the so-called "target of our compassion." Without a working class that is enabled to make decisions to shape and form their world, Communism will just be another codeword for "manipulation of the masses by making them believe they have what they want." Anarchists thus find themselves constantly at war with the following Communist groups: Stalinists, Leninists, Maoists, Trotskyists, and all Statists. Communism means nothing if the people have no right to shape, form, mold, and democratically choose their own economy. Similarly, those who would choose Anarchism without Communism are making another mistake. For in such a system, it can only be assumed that the Capitalists would rename themselves the new state, using their powers and authorities to ensure their own interests and to threaten those who would offer any opposition. These power struggles have been an intrinsic part of mankind's history since the dawn of government. Instances of governments siding with the rich against the poor has become the rule of history; and those very few instances where a government enacted a just law to protect the meek and innocent, it was only at moments of social unrest, where of millions were piling in to the streets, fighting the law enforcement of their oppressors, and destroying everything relating to the culture of their enemy. On occasions, there are small, dedicated, and intelligent groups of reformers and revolutionaries capable of sparking flames at the feet of slavemasters. To say that government's primary function is to balance the interests of all social classes is to admit ignorance of history. To quote some history that is over two thousand years old...
Only sentences later, Aristotle defends the greatest leader of his people, saying, "A man who was so moderate and public-spirited in all his other actions... is not likely to have consented to defile his hands by such a petty and palpable fraud." Authors all throughout history have always paid respects and compliments to the monarchs of their land, some out of an inherent bias of their own country over others, some out of a fear of persecutions, secret police kidnappings, and distant labor camps. I can only assume that Aristotle's defense of Solon comes from bias; the only evidence he presents against the accusation is that Solon was a man of too high moral character. As much as can be said about Solon, he provoked war for the sake of profit where there was once peace and created lasting slavery. If, in fact, we wish to go even earlier, to the very first written, legal document, we would find the Code of Hammurabi, suggested to have been written in 1700 BC. To quote only a small passage from the earliest code of law...
The phrase "an eye for an eye" has been frequently quoted from this text, and it has been advanced as a sound balance for the proper functioning of government, or in how it regulates behavior between different members of society. At least, that is the argument of many social and political conservatives. The law of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" only directly applied to individuals who were considered equals. Both men would have to be slaves, free, or elite-class. If a person of a lower class were to injure someone of a higher class, the punishment is increased significantly, whereas if a person of a higher class were to injure someone of a lower class, the punishment is reduced quite a bit. We see that the rich only paid money in order to evade punishment, while the poor were subjected to physical torture. For a document that has been hailed as a forefather to all legal systems and codes of law, this one little fact seems to be absent in most textbook summaries. Several passages suggesting that government is easily corruptible and commonly functioned to benefit the wealthiest classes can be found in one of philosophy's most revered works. To quote Plato's work, The Republic...
These acts of resistance, of rebelling, fighting, protesting, rioting, and activism, these struggles of organized revolutionary aggression against authoritarian regimes, all of this has no meaning without an end to change. This introduction was simply to provide my reader with the necessary background to the theory of Anarchism and its defenses. I thereby conclude this brief definition and defense of Anarchist-Communist political, social, and economic theory. With these ideas fresh in the reader's mind, I now proceed on to the technical matters of Communist, or Collectivist, organization methods of the economy.
Collective Ownership of the Means of Production
There is an advantage in each person specializing in one skill and trading the produce of that ability for their sustenance. By reducing the total amount of labor required, the people find their wants better supplied. Trade is the natural precursor to this division of labor. Where people are not exchanging items, there could be no use in one laborer accumulating a vast quantity of any one commodity. Trade developed as the most logical way of individuals obtaining their needs and wants. Wage labor was the result of the industrial revolution. It was a change in the organization of society, requiring that an individual possess an expensive, costly means of producing value to compete in the open markets. In order to produce and distribute a commodity profitably, an individual must possess a productive force, such as a factory, a farm, or a mine. Where an individual does not have such possession, even if they were to attempt production of an item that had an exchange value, they could not compete with large-scale businesses. Their competitors have a technological advantage that allows them to create the commodity without nearly as much labor or cost. The original foundation of economy divided labor so that each person specialized in a craft and exchanged the fruit of their labors for those produced by others. In the reorganization of economy by industrial Capitalism, enjoying the fruits that other laborers created requires laboring for a wage, as opposed to creating an end product to be sold.
In the capitalist organization of labor, an individual must support themselves by their own means. To the majority, this translates to offering the only commodity they possess, their labor, in exchange for their sustenance. To a few, this means possessing and profitably operating the means of production as a method of obtaining their wants. There are also many individuals who may fall in between these two classes, such as the self-employed who own and labor in their own business, or hired managers and supervisors who receive some power to control the productive forces of society. When the working class approaches the possessors of wealth, to exchange their labor for wages, one side is in greater, immediate need than the other. The worker must think of their need for food, housing, and shelter, and the need to provide these to their family. Quoting Mikhail Bakunin, "The capitalist is not threatened with hunger when he comes to the market; he knows very well that if he does not find today the workers for whom he is looking, he will still have enough to eat for quite a long time, owing to the capital of which he is the happy possessor." [*4] The worker is in an unequal position when seeking an agreement to secure their benefits from laboring. As the Capitalist is brought to the market by their love of profit, they will use the needs of the worker to secure low wages. This results in little other than a decline in living and working conditions of the wage laborers. Those who created the social product become manipulated and controlled by their dependence on the possessors of wealth as a means of subsistence.
Where the means of production are owned and operated according to private interest, the laborer's bargaining power is limited by their own need for sustenance, as well as the employer's ability to sustain themselves. It is this strength and influence over the economic situation that grants the capitalist their right to the bounty of another's efforts. The absence of being able to direct the terms of this agreement, to exchange labor for sustenance, puts the worker into a perpetual, nearly inescapable situation. The only way an individual could flee the terms of this contract would be to leave society and produce for themselves alone, or to join the ranks of the possessors of capital. In every society where the means of production are owned by a minority and the majority must labor at the direction of this minority, the distribution of wealth will favor the owners of capital. The liberty of the individual to enjoy the produce of their own labors is restricted by this form of social organization. It is true that the worker is not seeking to only enjoy the commodity they personally produce; the bricklayer requires clothing from the spinner's manufacturing, as the carpenter needs food from the farmer's harvest. Specialized labor is still an aspect of the economy. Before the advent of machinery, when each person labored in the creation and trading of their own commodities, there wasn't this enormously unequal footing between those who labored and those who possessed property. The seller, who was also the producer and worker, could have a hope of exchanging their product for something of equal value. But the wage laborer can never trade their product, which is their sweat and blood, for something of an equal value. The productions of their labor are divided between themselves and their employer, or the possessor of the mines, the farms, and the factories. The worker must give their hours of toil to support their own needs, but they must give beyond that to supply the needs of the capitalist. What the laborer gives to their employer is worth more than their wages. The worker ceases to enjoy the fruit of their own labors, as their wages cannot purchase them commodities of equal value to the work they sold to the capitalist class.
The capitalist is brought to the market by their interest in profits. The capitalist then has a motive to make the productivity of labor increase, to make the cost of labor decrease, and to make the market demand for their commodity or service increase. Whatever action that can reduce cost and increase income is regarded as the sole motivation for the employing class. The right of a laborer to receive wages of an equal value to their labor is revoked on account of the social situation: the immediate need to subsistence by the masses and the possession of the farms, the factories, and the mines by a few. The true freedom of the individual to possess the fruit of their labors is restricted, regulated, and controlled in order to sustain the pleasures of an idle minority. This motive has created an exploitation of the social situation for profits. Henry Demarest Lloyd writes in the late 1800's, "One of the sights which this coal side of our civilization has to show is the presence of herds of little children of all ages, from six years upward, at work in the coal breakers, toiling in dirt, and air thick with carbon dust, from dawn to dark, of every day in the week except Sunday. These coal breakers are the only schools they know. " [*5] In 1906, Mary Van Kleek writes, "...it is by no means uncommon to find young girls in the factories of New York working twelve, thirteen, even fourteen hours in a day." [*6] In 1903, Fred S. Hall writes, "For four, five, and in some cases, six hours, they stood there -- two hundred children crowded into a superheated room intended for less than fifty." [*7] In 1815, Simonde de Sismondi writes, "In some trades, the workmen are obliged to live in mud, exposed to continual nausea; in others, the labour engenders painful and inevitable maladies; several stupify the senses, degrade the body and the soul; several employ none but children, and after introducing into life, abandon to a horrible indigence the being they have formed." [*8] If it creates profit, the capitalist will not hesitate to improse vicious working and living conditions.
The structure of Capitalism is so organized that the liberties of the individual are sacrificed to create the powers of a very few. If society were to rid itself of the state and authority, it would be illogical to persist in the form and method of Capitalism. It creates a social authority with the power to deny the people access to food, housing, and shelter; the existence of this economic authority causes the individual to lose their liberty and security. It would be pure contradiction to abolish the state, only to suffer the tyranny of those who possess the greatest wealth. To quote Anacharsis, "...written laws, which were like spiders' webs, and would catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but easily be broken by the mighty and rich." [*9] Even without the state, the people would certainly find themselves enslaved to new masters and in new chains. This situation is perpetually created by the needs of the people in their interdependent economic relationships.
Economic tyranny is created by this private ownership of property; or, at least, private ownership of the wealth-producing property. Where the productive forces are collectively owned by the people, then each individual holds a right to direct the ends of the economy. No longer does the private interest of the landowner and the investor determine the rate of wages, the hours worked per day, or the allocation of resources and labor to certain industries. These decisions will be made by the public, as there is no other body so sufficiently capable of looking after its own interest as the people. With that power enabled, the worker and the consumer will no longer be the prey of some private, malicious industrialists' scheme. Just as in any democratic organization of society, it will be up to the people to determine and apply their own interests; with socialized control over industry, this type of people's control will allow them to choose how businesses function, as well as how wealth is distributed to the people. If the solution to the excesses of a king's power is to give each person an equal share in the decision-making process, then the solution to the excesses of a capitalist is to give each person an equal right to determine the operation of the factories, the farms, and productive forces of society. Quoting Henry Demarest Lloyd, "Government by the people is only a half truth; the other half is industry of, by, and for the people. If brotherhood is the true 'spirit of the hive' here, it must be so there." [*10]
Many of the present laws that govern and regulate economic behavior are just the beginning touches of public control over industry. There is still private property, but it is restricted in its motions. There are controls set by OSHA and other agencies, which require safe and hazard-free work environments. Some of these regulatory bodies investigate mines and factories to guarantee that laborers don't face the threat of being maimed, crippled, or killed. Minimum wage and working-hours laws provide a secured minimum of income and compensation for overtime. The first national law requiring businesses to impose no more than eight hours of labor a day came after the CNT-FAI, the anarcho-syndicalist labor union, won a general strike in Spain, 1919. There are countless laws and restrictions that require safe production, transportation, and distribution of the food that people consume. Some of the first food inspection laws came about when the socialist Upton Sinclair wrote "The Jungle," a novel that told the story of immigrant workers and murderous machinery. Before this, human blood was tainting canned foods all over the United States. There are laws prohibiting children from working with heavy machinery or in dangerous mines, as well as restrictions against persecuting workers for attempting to organize. The interests and desires of the worker have slowly been incorporated into the formal law; but at first, they were not recognized or supported. On the contrary, they were often trampled by the ruling class. Great progress has been made in the organization of the productive forces and the distribution of the social product. It was not something given to the laboring masses. It required their suffering, their endurement of brutality, their persistence in the face of tyranny, and for some, it cost their lives. The change of economy here came from the people themselves demanding greater protections. Speaking of the state, Emma Goldman writes, "Whatever changes it undergoes are always the result of pressure exerted upon it, pressure strong enough to compel the ruling powers to submit peaceably or otherwise, generally 'otherwise'..." [*11]
Where the individual must question the security of their livelihood and their access to life's necessities, on a perpetual basis and against the most untouchable social group, there is no true liberty. Capitalism creates a social power used by the few to manipulate and control the majority, in order to satisfy their profits; the resulting model is nothing more than one of merciless exploitation. Adam Smith, the well-regarded economist, wrote in the eighteenth century...
We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of. [*12]
Criticism of the Capitalist system can be found where any rational mind is confronted with a vicious and unrelenting social organization. It is no difficult task to discover the source of so much misery than to examine the mechanics of the Free Enterprise system. The solutions offered to this problem are wide and varied. It is only by giving each person an equal right of ownership to society's productive forces that we can expect the abuses of Capitalism to cease. An equal right to this type of ownership guarantees that each person can direct and guide the economy. This direction will come from the working people themselves, removing the common, social obstacle that has created inhumane working and living conditions. When the workers are in control, there could be no motivation to guide the economy in an exploitive manner. The people will be free from living in unforgiving conditions, as their right to contribute to the social product and to receive a fair exchange for labor will be secured. And there is nothing that could secure such a right, except by collectivizing the ownership of the means of production. There is no other group, but the people, who can determine the ideal organization of their own economy. To put this power into the hands of a few, no matter which few, is to create a social situation ripe for abuse and exploitation.
Anarchism -- The Revolution of Democracy
The theory of Socialism as it has been presented by various thinkers in history is rather admirable. The works of Marx and Engels may have been a bit dry and otherwise too focused towards the capitalist understanding of economics. There were many other thinkers who came before them, like Saint-Simon, who advocated a social utopia through scientific progress, or Robert Owen, an industrialist who created and founded a socialist work colony. Among those who Marx is very humbly indebted to, there stands William Godwin, the first of Western writers to suggest the complete abolishment of private property in favor of communal ownership of the means of production. It was in the late 1700's, only several years after Thomas Paine made his vicious assaults on the system of monarchy, when Adam Smith outlined the very basics of economic theory in his groundbreaking work. It will take very little to draw the mind of an individual to Socialist theory. The world, as it has been blueprinted and built upon by Capitalist design, became the greatest cause of suffering for those with nothing, which turned out to be the teeming, vast majorities. From this conformity in desperation for the needs of life, there came theft crime, political and social corruption, drug addiction, prostitution, and a thousand slaveries built up upon each other. By this new organization of landed property, humanity was put at conflict with a society that was inescapable, as well as put into conflict with ourselves and what each of us need. In this new world, the relationships between human beings became necessary for means of sustenance. It was a situation waiting for an exploiter. To suggest the abolishment of the system that created these conditions is only an honest response to the situation at hand.
Every business in the chain of Capitalism takes a big cut and the end consumer ends up paying the bill for it; they pay in their living conditions, they pay in lack of sufficient or available healthcare, they pay for it in a poorly-trained and brutal police force, and they pay for it with their constant hours of stress, frustration, and pain, all just to continue their miserable existence. Suicide is something unheard of to any species, except for that civilized mankind. The schools and universities are all formed around instilling an early response to authority in our youth. The church and state have married each other in law and policy. Our government sacrifices our freedoms and then threatens us with its unending group of thugs: the police, the intelligence agencies, the departments of congress, the military. That is America's firm and bold ideal of society as it stands today. The message permeates all of our social institutions. Museums that portray anti-religious ideas are banned from tax funding[*13], professors who perform counter-establishment research are expelled from universities[*14], the dorm rooms of socially aware students are bugged and wiretapped, and leftist groups are monitored by corporations, right-wing groups[*15], and federal authorities. This attitude that society's power elites have about freedom and civil rights is appalling. The message of oppression leaks through all forms of media; it is on the radio, the television set, the internet, movies, billboards, posters, in the sky, and on the currency we carry. There is nowhere in society or our culture we can look to find something unmolested and uninjured by those at the top of society's food-chain. Those who doubt the status quo are obscure in the eyes of conformists. We become something that others have difficulty connecting with. We are inheriting a philosophy and an ideal from generations of the dead, and all that we know of our heroes might be through a book. A passage from La Marseillaise, the French anthem of revolutionary zeal...
The state is the most clear and undeniable piece of evidence that society continues to exist with class conflicts. Many Socialist and Communist groups hope to establish the rights of the working class by creating a state that would persecute and behead on their behalf; they do not consider, though, that the transition of authority over economy from capitalist class to the state is still just another power transition between human factions. The purpose of the state is to create a legitimized form of control, regulation, and coercion through authority. Such an institution can only draw the influence of society's leading elite class. The state only needs to exist in a society where class antagonism still exists.
It is a well-known fact that wild dogs will always viciously defend their food, even at the slightest suspicion that someone could be watching them. Even with the most rigorous training methods, it can be a difficult habit to break. I do not suspect that Capitalism has had a similar conditioning effect on the working class. Instead of realizing our potential in what we could be, Americans are obsessed with wealth, money, and power. We fight among each other, because we feel it is helpless to fight this very reactive and oppressive regime.
Capitalism is a world full of tyrants. Every lord of industry viciously protects their territory at all costs. They will never willingly give up a piece of their social control. Their profit is their means by which they maintain their lavish existence, by which they are excused from the chronic and unending misery that comes with being a day laborer. We're living in a highly competitive world, a world where there are too many noblemen for our people; their warring over profits has only given us social and environmental casualties. Confronted by this system, people panic and believe that the only way to attain their freedom from servitude is to become a tyrant. With these two options, people sometimes pour their entire life into becoming an economic elite, with powers and controls. Human beings have gone to unbelievable, almost insane lengths in order to be excused as a day laborer. The Gold Rush to California was one example. An entire generation dropped their tools and left their families in order to dig for gold. The conditions under which they worked and lived were brutal. In Free Enterprise, human beings will act worse than the animal kingdom, robbing and killing in order to satisfy their needs. There are lotteries, pyramid-schemes, and every offer to "start your own business" always translates to selling someone else's product. To be free from constant toil is a deep-rooted passion in the mind of worker under Capitalism. Naturally, those in power over the economy are taking advantage of that desire. It is easy to see this system and to genuinely believe that a world of interchanging masters and slaves is unfair. The pervasive attitude of this culture stems independent thought and suffocates doubt. People become convinced that they will never rise above the rules of the system; they believe they can only rise above each other.
A new world can be built. Labor does not need to be exhaustive, emotionally and physically debilitating, or constant, in order to satisfy even some of the most luxurious and elegant of mankind's desires. People do not need to be split between the powerful and the powerless based on their financial standing. There does not need to be an overpowerful, overambitious government to defend the security of the people. None of these need to be the way they are. Every person should have an equal obligation to contribute to the social product. In a society where the farms, the mines, and the factories are owned and operated by the people, then there will be true justice and equity. An individual will work according to their intake. Those who were landlords, CEOs, businessowners, lawyers, judges, statesmen, police, soldiers, or any other component of the capitalist-statist chain, will only be given their sustenance in this new world if they labor. By abolishing profit, we are giving to the workers the fruit of their own labors. Privilege means nothing if there is tyranny, so we must also destroy the state. When we remove all hierarchical, coercive groups, we will have established a democratic order in which every worker has a voice in their community. This is the world of Anarchist-Communism, through the people and for the people.
1. "The Athenian Constitution," by Aristotle, Section 6.