Posts Tagged: socialism

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This booklet contains three provocative letters on socialism, government and property by the French mutualist journalist and historian Ernest Lesigne; three letters which constitute theses on freed-market anti-capitalism, and three defenses of a smallholder, co-operative economy as the only liberating solution to the social problem. The three letters in this collection are:

“There are two socialisms…”

“Property is liberty…”

“Socialism is the opposite of governmentalism…”

These “Socialistic Letters” are selections from a series of twelve letters published by Lesigne in the French paper Le Radical during 1887. The three appearing here in English were translated by the American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker, and re-printed in his newspaper Liberty in the same year.

“The entire code of law is the book of guarantees imposed to prevent property, the means of production, the instru­ment of liberty, dignity, equality, from passing out of the hands of the primitive monopolist into those of the con­tem­p­o­r­ary producer; the Code is the isolation of servants con­front­ed with the coalition of masters; it is the pro­hib­it­ion of real con­tract between employer and employee; it is the constraint of the latter to accept from the former exactly the minimum of wages indispensable to sub­sist­ence; and in any case where all these guarantees may have been vain, where a few laborers, by a fortunate stroke, may have succeeded in accumulating a little cap­it­al, the Code is a trap set to catch these little savings, the canal­iz­ation ingeniously organized so that all that has tem­por­ar­ily left the hands of the monopolist may return to them by an adroit system of drainage, — so that the water, as the saying is in the villages, may always go to the river… .”

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This booklet collects five essays from the individualist anarchist Benjamin R. Tucker on the nature of competition, labor, pay, stateless markets and the ideal of socialism. Included are: (1) “Socialism: What It Is,” (2) “Armies That Overlap,” (3) “Should Labor be Paid or Not?” (4) “Does Competition Mean War?” and (5) “Competition and Monopoly Confounded.”

“To-day (pardon the paradox!) society is fundamentally anti social.The whole so-called social fabric rests on privilege and power, and is disordered and strained in every direction by the inequalities that necessarily result therefrom. The welfare of each, instead of contributing to that of all, as it naturally should and would, almost invariably detracts from that of all. Wealth is made by legal privilege a hook with which to filch from labor’s pockets. Every man who gets rich thereby makes his neighbor poor. The better off one is, the worse off the rest are… .

“What’s one man’s meat must no longer be another’s poison; no man shall be able to add to his riches except by labor; every increase of capital in the hands of the laborer tends, in the absence of legal monopoly, to put more products, better products, cheaper products, and a greater variety of products within the reach of every man who works; and this fact means the physical, mental, and moral perfecting of mankind, and the realization of human fraternity… A large number of people, who see the evils of usury and are desirous of destroying them, foolishly imagine they can do so by authority, and accordingly are trying to abolish privilege by centering all production and activity in the State to the destruction of competition and its blessings, to the degradation of the individual, and to the putrefaction of Society. Their efforts are bound to prove abortive. But the very reasonable and just criticisms of the individualists upon State Socialism, when analyzed, are found to be directed, not against the Socialism, but against the State… . Liberty insists on Socialism — on true Socialism, Anarchistic Socialism: the prevalence on earth of Liberty, Equality, and Solidarity… .” — Benjamin R. Tucker

Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939) was an incredibly influential market anarchist active from the 1870s through 1908. He is best known as the publisher and chief writer for Liberty, a leading anarchist newspaper published at Boston, and for his work as a translator and publisher of avant-garde literature and radical texts from Europe. Tucker prepared and published the first English translations of key works by Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and Stirner; he also played a major role in introducing the works of Ibsen, Hugo, and Nietzsche to American literary audiences.

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"What I wish for is not an end to terminology. After all, it is terminology that affords us as humans a heightened capacity for communication to that of other animals. Rather I feel it is crucial for people to recognize that, in the grand scheme of things, all individuals have a common drive towards liberty above all else. This is true whether or not they quibble over the semantics of this statement. Thus, all such philosophies are driven by an innate sense of direction towards personal liberty. As such, one should enter discourse with this understanding and, rather than bickering over semantics, try to discover where the semantic disagreement occurs and learn how to speak the language of the other. Where there is a common thread of dissent with the status quo, and a common drive toward liberty, there should be a great enough level of concurrence to move forward together in changing the world toward an agreeable future."

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A sharp look, from a radical and libertarian socialist perspective, at the limitations of conservative trade-unionism and business union reformism. The essay first appeared as a three-part serialized review of George Gunton’s book Wealth and Progress, written for the Boston radical newspaper Liberty, . This edition collects the serialized articles together in print for the first time.

“FOR A SHORT TIME IT REALLY SEEMED AS IF THE DAY OF conservative ‘labor reform,’ trades-unionism, strikes, and boycotts, was over, and the emptiness of the talk about ‘fair wage,’ ‘harmony between capital and labor,’ arbitration, profit-sharing, and ‘the American way of adjusting difficulties’ demonstrated beyond a doubt. Today the fact which most impresses every student of the labor movement is that nearly all the able and influential leaders and tribunes of organized labor are, if not professedly Anarchistic or Socialistic, at least very pronounced in their tendencies and inclinations to either one or the other of these schools of radical and revolutionary reform … . Little is now heard about ‘fair wages,’ but the propositions that labor is entitled to its full natural reward, that usury must be abolished, and that capital must be dethroned, are everywhere being discussed.”

“SOCIALISTS KNOW THAT THE PRESENT CONFLICT BETWEEN capital and capital and capital and labor, this three-cornered fight, is the inevitable and direct effect of the inherent and fundamental vice of usury, which dooms the capitalistic system to an early
extinction. Because of this knowledge they pronounce all ‘moderate’ measures futile and ridiculous, and regard eight-hours and kindred remedies as about as efficacious as fasting and prayer. Socialists arrive at the conclusion that usury and equity, capitalism and social order, reward of capital and justice to labor, are mutually exclusive. Consequently they do not flatter, delude, or ‘pacify’ the laborer; neither do they waste any efforts on the humanization of capitalists. They declare that the capitalistic order must be wiped out. And all who desire progress without poverty must prepare to bury the whole system of usury forever. And labor, to secure equity, needs freedom, full freedom, and nothing but freedom… .”

Victor S. Yarros (1865–1956) was a Russian-American anarchist, one of the most prolific writers and speakers of the American individualist anarchist milieu. Yarros was originally attracted to communist anarchism but later became an individualist, stressing Spencer’s evolutionary theory and ‘law of equal liberty.’ Yarros was a close friend and co-worker of Benjamin Tucker’s, an editor and popularizer of the works
of Lysander Spooner, and sometime co-editor and frequent contributor to the individualist anarchist newspaper Liberty.

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 For every copy of Charles Johnson’s “Socialize, Don’t Privatize" that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage.

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Capitalism: Yes and No

… Freedom Versus Tyranny

The issue, I repeat, is not between socialism and capitalism, in any meaningful sense of the words. In the broadest sense, it is between freedom and tyranny. As regards capital, it is between whether men shall be able to keep the fruits of their labor and dispose of accumulations of it as they think best, or have it confiscated and used for politically determined ends. It is between the free market and the hampered market. It is between free enterprise and state-controlled activity under the direction of a vast bureaucracy. It is between dispersed wealth under individual control and concentrated wealth used to augment the power of the state. It is between the right to private property and the might of centralized government thrusting for total power. There are other dimensions, moral and social, to the contest, but the above are the major economic ones. Capitalism, as currently used, tends to act as a red herring to draw us off the scent and draw attention to largely extraneous issues. …

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Socialism revisited

… Beyond Semantics

So, in short, I’m not sure that using “socialism” as the label for a particular sort of market anarchist project, or of “capitalism” for what that project opposes, has to be seen as just an exercise in semantic game-playing.

1. Emancipatory intent. For instance: labeling a particular sort of market anarchist project “socialist” clearly identifies its emancipatory intent: it links that project with the opposition to bossism and deprivation that provide the real moral and emotional force of socialist appeals of all sorts.

2. Warranted opposition to “capitalism.” Thus, identifying one’s project as “socialist” is a way of making clear one’s opposition to “capitalism”—as that term is understood by an enormous range of ordinary people around the world. The “socialist” label signals to them that a market anarchist project like Kevin’s is on their side and that it is opposed to those entities they identify as their oppressors.

3. Forcing the state-socialist to distinguish between her attachment to ends and her attachment to means. A final rationale: suppose a market anarchist like Kevin points out to the state-socialist—by sincerely owning the “socialist” label—that she or he shares the state-socialist’s ends, while disagreeing radically with the state-socialist’s judgments about appropriate means to those ends. This simultaneously sincere and rhetorically effective move allows the market anarchist to challenge the state-socialist to confront the reality that there is an inconsistency between the state-socialist’s emancipatory goals and the authoritarian means she or he professes to prefer. It sets the stage for the market anarchist to highlight the fact that purported statist responses to bossism create more, and more powerful, bosses, that the state is much better at causing deprivation than curing it.

Thus, the market anarchist’s use of “socialism” creates an occasion for the state-socialist to ask her- or himself, perhaps for the first time, “Am I really more attached to the means or to the end?” I realize that what I intend as a rhetorical question may not—if the state-socialist cares more about power than principle—elicit the intended answer. But it seems to me that, for many state-socialists, the recognition that the left-wing market anarchist sought socialist goals by non-statist means provides the state-socialist with good reason to rethink her attachment to the state, to conclude that it was pragmatic and unnecessary, and that her genuinely principled attachment was to the cause of human emancipation.

This means there’s a meaningful opportunity for education—to highlight the existence of a credible tradition advancing a different meaning of “socialism.” …

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“Socialism” for Left Liberty

… State socialism has attempted to realize socialism through the power of the state. Not surprisingly, given everything we know about states, state socialism has proven in most respects to be a disaster. Coupled with the economic inefficiencies associated with central planning, the secret police, the barbed wire fences, and the suppression of dissent are all elements of state socialism’s disastrous record.

If you want to define socialism as state socialism, be my guest. Many people do so. But the history of the term makes clear that many people have not meant state control or society-wide ownership of the means of production when they have talked about socialism.

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The Star Fraction - Introduction to the American Edition

… History is the trade secret of science fiction, and theories of history are its invisible engine. One such theory is that society evolves because people’s relationship with nature tends to change more radically and rapidly than their relationships with each other. Technology outpaces law and custom. From this mismatch, upheavals ensue. Society either moves up to a new stage with more scope for the new technology, or the technology is crushed to fit the confines of the old society. As the technology falls back, so does the society, perhaps to an earlier configuration. In the main stream of history, however, it has moved forward through a succession of stages, each of which is a stable configuration between the technology people have to work with, and their characteristic ways of working together. But this stability contains the seeds of new instabilities. Proponents of this theory argue that the succession of booms and slumps, wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions, which began in August 1914 and which shows no prospect of an end, indicates that we live in just such an age of upheaval. …