Sunday, November 16, 2014

States: No Substitute Has Been Proven Yet

Many leftists are anti-statists, often using the label Anarchist, but strongly distinguished from the rightist propertarian version of anarchism sometimes seen today.

Left anarchism, most often technically understood as anarcho-syndicalism, proposes collective ownership of the means of production through co-ops and collectives which themselves cooperate without an overlord.

Tribal collectivism (small scale anarcho-syndicalism) was the human way until the invention of Agriculture.  Since then, society became hierarchical then privatized--the opposite of collectivism.

So you can't say collectivism is unnatural to humans.  But it has been taken away by the arc of history, but restored in various ways in various places.  Adapted to modern circumstance, anarcho-syndicalism is the most complete modern form of anarchistic collectivism suitable for an industrial or post-industrial society, in which people work in complex organizations, which become the locus of medium to large scale collective ownership and control, but without higher levels of top down control, such as modern states.

Collectivism has only been attempted at state level in name only, such as USSR, or in limited forms, such as Social Democracy.  But I have no doubt that full state democratic socialism is possible, despite a few failed examples.  And I continue to believe in Marx's concept: first socialism, then communism.  The ultimate communism that Marx discussed was indistinguishable from anarchism, everything just happening so that all needs are met, and all abilities tapped.

Whether socialism comes first or not…the best world with anarcho-syndicalism is the one with anarcho-syndicalism everywhere.

Anarcho-syndicalism has been seen in scales up to regions of modern states, such as region of Mondragon in Spain.  It's not proven that it would work in even larger scales, where collectives themselves would have to cooperate.  The most detailed theory about how anarcho-syndicalism could work on larger scales is Participatory Economics.  I admire many concepts of Participatory Economics, which ought to serve as a compass for designers of the future, but likely not a blueprint--it's sufficiently complex and different from modern society that one imagines that considerable adaptation may be required to form an actual successful society, and the inventors of PE admit as such.

The same could be said of "true communism".   The thing commonly called Communism isn't really communism as Marx or most modern communists would define it.  (Noam Chomsky does the best job of disproving the claim that the USSR was actually socialist as it claimed.)  The "really existing communist states" of China (as it existed from 1949 until about about 1980 when it pivoted to capitalism), Cuba, and the former USSR were not communist other-than-in-name even by generous stretching of the definition (based on collective ownership of the means of production, and worker democracy on all scales).  The correct and yet polite way to refer to such states would be Social Fascist.  So the largest scale on which true communism has been demonstrated is identical to that of anarcho-syndicalism, because at the level of a single or small number of cooperating collectives they are identical.  So Mondragon is both the largest example of both anarcho-sydicalism and true communism.  The original Mondragon collectivist society was crushed by Franco and I'm not sure how much the current one (the Mondragon Corporation) is comparable.

Meanwhile, the human population of the world has continued to grow further beyond that scale, and at least since World War II bourgeois democracy (of, by, and for the capitalists) has reigned supreme, along with often forgotten tens of millions of deaths and other atrocities it has required to continue that reign amidst many challengers.

Socialist elements have by necessity and struggle been added to bourgeois democracy.  If these elements had not been added, likely Marx's forecast of the demise of capitalism would have already happened.  The resulting form is called Social Democracy (actually, social bourgeois democracy), which is now ubiquitous, but also highly variable.  The United States of America used to be a progressive leader in Social Democracy, with spirited leaders such as Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, but at least since the 1970's it has been a leading laggard--tending mainly toward pulling the whole thing down.  Denmark and Norway are the best examples of Social Democracy, and not coincidentally states where poverty has most nearly vanished.

Thus, socialism as it best really exists today (and not in name only) is actually tied to capitalist states, an ironic but not unforeseeable development--in fact it was exactly predicted and encouraged by Marx as the way forward, even if he might not have foreseen it enduring so long.

So lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Liberal bourgeois states, even the USA, have within them the some means for reform by and for the people, and those means, including representational voting mass demonstration, are the best available for the foreseeable future.  And not "Revolution," which has a proven tendency to go the wrong way.  One might hope for a good revolution eventually, under circumstances that are inconceivable today--such as mass awareness of the evils of capitalism and  universal understanding of their roots in property (property is theft, all forms of wealth are coercion, capitalism is atomized slavery ultimately to itself), and the withering away of the capitalist control apparatus to nearly if not entirely nothing.  But meanwhile, if you meet a Revolutionary today, the worst thing is to follow him.

I'm worried about the fostering of an anti-statism which precisely exists to remove the socialist elements from modern bourgeois democracy.  That's clearly the thrust of American Libertarianism, for example, which has broad appeal to a certain segment of US society (including most Republicans), and American Libertarianism is a great example of a movement with plutocratic backers and which serves plutocratic and oligarchic ends, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

Anarchists with left leanings should be wary of being used as tools by these people, or as tools of the many self-described Anarchists (anarcho-capitalists) who are really Propertarians.  As I see it, the ultimate ideal anarchist/communist society is so far away as to be hardly worth thinking about, and that won't change until such time as nearly everyone knows it has.  Meanwhile, the task at hand is restoring, maintaining, and improving social democracy, as well as illuminating the fundamental evils of capitalism.

States are now and for the foreseeable future the best maintainers and supporters of Social Democracy.  State power is the only useful (even if decreasingly so) power to counter the power of global capitalism.  Sure, the left wants to see global people power supreme, but many things are in the way of that, none the least the power apparatus of capitalism itself, now both state and global.  Global people power must continue as it has in the last 100 years, primarily as an influence, never correctly a wielder of state power.

Particular states, such as the United States of America, may be hated more for their imperial adventurism and authoritarian than their internal affairs--which still have a significant social democratic element.  The way to counter Imperialism is through direct anti-imperialism, not a universal anti-statism.  It's true that USA's imperialism backs global capitalism, and that opposing and ending that imperialism is one of the most urgent tasks today.  But how does that fit with a broad anti-statism that would apply to the many states that are not imperialist but more the victims of US imperialism?  Many conservatives believe that capitalism remains possible without US imperialism.  I actually suspect that is true, and just as with the rise of Social Democracy in the 1900's, it would be an improvement on the present day capitalism.  Anyway, why not work with those conservatives in the anti-Imperialism movement.  But not in any movements that roll back social democracy, such as the anti-statist ones.

Only when and as freed from capitalism first can we be universally anti-statist.

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