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… .”

Support C4SS With Ernest Lesigne’s “Socialism Without Statism”

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Socialism revisited

I’d like to try to tie together and expand my observations re. the great “socialist”/“capitalist” terminological debate that’s been proceeding at C4SS and AAE.

“Socialism” as Genus; “State-Socialism” as Species

I think there is good reason to use “socialism” to mean something like opposition to:

  1. bossism (that is to subordinative workplace hierarchy); and
  2. deprivation (that is, persistent, exclusionary poverty, whether resulting from state-capitalist depredation, private theft, disaster, accident, or other factors.

“Socialism” in this sense is the genus; “state-socialism” is the (much-to-be-lamented) species.

Indeed, using the “socialist” label provides the occasion for a clear distinction between the genus “socialism” and the species “state-socialism.” Thus, it offers a convenient opportunity to expose and critique the statist assumptions many people reflexively make (assumptions that make it all-too-easy for political theory to take as given the presupposition that its subject matter is the question, ‘What should the state do?’).

I am more sympathetic than perhaps I seem to the claims of those who object to linguistic arguments that they fear may have no real impact on anyone’s political judgment. I wouldn’t dismiss as silly someone who said that no market anarchist could employ “socialist” without creating inescapable confusion.

“Capitalism”: Seemingly in the Same Boat …
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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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Socialism on One Planet

… Neither ‘socialist’ governments nor ‘communist’ regimes have ever brought society a day nearer socialism or communism. There are many reasons why not, but the basic reason is simple. Production for exchange can’t be gradually reformed into production directly for use. Nor, in a world where almost everything is produced as part of a global division of labour, can it be abolished locally in one community, or one country, or one continent. It’s all or nothing.

Closely related to that reason is another. A society of conscious and voluntary co-operation can’t be established unconsciously or unwillingly. It can’t be imposed from above or from outside or from behind our backs. Many will agree, if pressed, that the world cooperative commonwealth can be thus established eventually, but not now. In the meantime, they want something else: a society called socialism which retains wages, price, and profit but keeps them in the hands of the state and the state, they hope, in the hands of the workers, which all too often means the hands of the workers’ party, which all too often means in the hands of the correct leaders of the workers’ party. They want that, or they want steps in that direction. The cooperative commonwealth itself is, they insist, for the distant future. …

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“Socialism” for Left Liberty

… 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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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… .”

Support C4SS With Ernest Lesigne’s “Socialism Without Statism”

Photo

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… .”

Support C4SS With Ernest Lesigne’s “Socialism Without Statism”

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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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