The Rudder of the Commons

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Within libertarian communist circles, there is agreement on the necessity of a commons of some form. However, actual decision making rules and rudders of the commons are not thoroughly discussed. This leaves our commons without a rudder. Directly Democratic assemblies are not just a rudder for a commons, but that which has the ability to bring the commons into existence.

Common owned property allows for communities to directly manage their own affairs. Worker control over means of production is often over emphasized within the left. Worker ownership of the means of production can be compared and contrasted to community ownership over the means of production. The proletariat should have self management rather than rule over the economy. In fact, people should be liberated from toil through automation. Non-authoritarian collective property should exist, but not at the expense of common property. To do nothing more than put workers in charge of workforces is to leave us with an economy but not a polity. Anarchists who are critiqued as “economic reductionists” are often critiqued as such due to their analysis of what is, but a critique of economic reductionists should also encompass what economic reductionists think ought to be. We do not want the community controlled by workers but by commoners.

If we are going to have a commons we need a decision-making process and body. This should not be in the hands of private/state and even worker control. All of which would centralize decision-making power to various degrees. Worker control over the community is far less centralized than state and private ownership, but centralized nonetheless when compared to the alternative of municipalized economies. Constitutional Direct Democracy would prohibit rulership, find out what people’s preferences are, dialogue about various preferences, find compatibilities and incompatibilities between preferences, and resolve incompatibilities by a majority decision that leaves people free to disagree/stay in the association yet not partake in that decision/move uninhibited by hierarchical relations, protest, debate the issue, and re-appeal.

We are not all going to agree on every decision everyone makes anytime anyone makes any decision about anything on a sub-municipal/municipal/confederal level. The question then becomes how we resolve such disagreements. A non hierarchical constitution will ensure that the disagreements that happen are not based on questions of rulership, but questions of different options for managing common pool resources and cities.

The process of creating and maintaining a commons will require a policy making body of some form that is capable of existing with disagreements, while remaining non hierarchical. The face to face relations will create a community setting where we can be accountable for our decisions, collaborative, and potentially foster communion within the community that allows for a reduction in authoritarian relations of any kind. The idea that we will have a commons before we have community institutions is rather foolish, and if we leave the community institutions as a project for after the commons already exists, the commons will not be claimed in the first place.
There are a few regressive tends that remain dominant within anarchism. There is the anti organizational tendency, which often is not merely against organization when it comes to means, but can also be against organization when it comes to ends. There is economic reductionist and non-political variety of organization, which is for organization, but in the economic sphere. There is also activism that is based on procedural unanimity at the expense of the principles of direct democracy.

One of the contradictions that I have seen within people is a “pro-commons” yet anti organizational tendency. These people advocate a lawless commons. In rebellion against hierarchical institutions, they have rebelled against institutions full stop. According to these anarchists, hierarchy arises from organization, making organization closer to the root problem than hierarchy itself in their eyes. In this sense they are anti organization more so than they are against hierarchy. Other people are for some kind of organization just “after the revolution”. In this sense, they are against the very institutional forms that could create the revolution until after the revolution. Revolutions will not come through mere periodic and informal actions and organizations.

If people are going to be in favor of common-pool-resources, then they ought to be for some kind of rudder. Or they can drift off into anarchism without a commons, an amorphous blob without the conditions and relationships required for freedom. Or people can drift off into a procedural unanimity, where the solution to disagreements is to make sure disagreements do not happen. Or we can drift off into the workerism and economic reductionism that many anarchists have rightfully tried so hard to escape from. Unfortunately, the way many have tried to escape from economic reductionism is through various degrees of anti rational solutions.

Let me stress that the commons cannot be static nor brief and periodic; It must be maintained, it must develop in a liberatory direction, it must be steered. To give up on institutions is to give up on the commons and by extension the dream of a libertarian communist society. The commons does not develop rationally without decision making bodies and without decision making processes. Purely informal organizational and non organizational means for formal organizational ends are insufficient. The idea that a commons will exist in anything but a primordial form before community assemblies exist puts the “cart before the horse” as we strive towards a better society.

Periodic community based activism and community technology projects can serve as “gateway drugs” to a community assembly and a commons. However, a “primordial commons” and a “primordial community assembly” created through such means will not become a vessel for societal change until these practices are institutionalized. Periodic direct action should not be confused with institutionalized direct action despite important relations between the two and similarities.

Common property ought to be based on use. Rather than a form of ownership of that which a community does not use, common property ought to be bounded by usufruct. If we overcome private property and state property only to have a common/collective/personal property system divorced from use, we have not actually solved the problem of ownership at the expense of usufruct, merely minimized it. Ownership at the expense of usufruct can lead to ecological disaster.

The process of maintaining a commons becomes a means towards post-scarcity. Knowledge shares, skill shares, tool shares, community programs to create a guaranteed minimum, and municipalized production and distribution allow communities to become more resilient in the present as people aim towards a larger project. We do not need to wait until after the revolution to begin the very process that is capable of leading to a revolution.

Critique of a “Resource Based Economy”, The Venus Project, and The Zeitgeist Movement from the perspective of a Libertarian Municipalist who is for Post Scarcity Economics by Hagbard Celine33

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(A Rough Draft)

Critique of a “Resource Based Economy”, The Venus Project, and The Zeitgeist Movement from a the perspective of a Libertarian Municipalist who is for Post Scarcity Economics

The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement have put together some useful information about economics. However, the movement falls short on its ends and means. This is in part due to a lack of political vision of an RBE, which is reflected in the lack of political practice put forward by TVP/TZM.
Before I begin the critique I would like to mention a few things to ground my critique in a charitable and honest frame: TVP/TZM have some important economic, technological, and behavioral insights that most people into socioeconomic systems can learn from. TVP/TZM is strictly educational. Many people critique TVP/TZM for being purely educational rather than the education they provide. I think both critiques are valid. TVP/TZM doesn’t even have a broad idea of how to create the new society in the shell of the old, however it is clear there is a desire to do this within both organizations. TVP/TZM focus on ends rather than means. It is when means and ends meet in harmony that we are able to actually achieve desired ends. I have been active in TZM for many years up until recently. I have met a lot of good people within TZM, and think it does a lot of good things education wise. But aspects of the vision of an RBE are flawed, and the “educational reductionism” of TVP/TZM is flawed.
I want to critique the “train of thought” (RBE), and the practice of TZM/TVP. These critiques will be separate yet interconnected, for practice and theory are intertwined.
Critique of RBE:
When RBE advocates say they are antipolitical or apolitical you should believe them. They do not advocate for any political structure. In fact they both rely on the economic reductionism that is throughout Marxist analysis. The economic foundationalism (rather than a foundherentism of politics/economics) is throughout the entire analysis. It does not just reject the state, it rejects politics. The decision making process for when there are incompatible preferences has been missing from TZM before and after Peter’s economic calculation lecture. The delegation of power towards engineers and specialists doesnt even have a political assembly that can delegate such a council, which is in part why people often assume engineers/specialists would control such a society. Given the lack of politics in an RBE’s prescriptions, we are left with vague decision making processes. And no Peter’s lecture does not solve this issue at all. It showed multi hours of avoiding the question of political decision making processes. RBEs are economies without polities. There is an inconsistency with the prescription of “no laws” +  outlawing the market and the state. This is a “meta-political law” against political laws except itself. We must separate hierarchical “politics”(statecraft) from non hierarchical politics. They are incompatible and antithetical to one another. TVP/TZM members and anti political anarchists often conflate statecraft with politics, and in doing so conflate the non hierarchical management of the city by the citizens to hierarchical management of the city by some form of rulership.
Jacque Fresco has often advocated for “no laws” and says that laws do not solve social problems. Jacque is on to something in the sense that no law in and of itself ensures the preconditions for that law to be followed. However, this is not why we need no laws, but a plurality of laws that harmonize to create conditions of freedom. Laws such as “no markets, no states, no revenge” are only successful to the degree that the preconditions needed for them are allowed to flourish. This is not a reason to give up on law, but to embrace the concept of laws and find out what laws make sense for a non hierarchical society. We need laws to bind our political decisions so that conditions of freedom are generated, maintained, and made more resilient. The theory of law and political decisions are absent throughout the theory of an RBE. To be fair, A “Resource Based Economy” is just that: An economy. There needs to be a polity, political decision making processes, and political laws that come into unity with a post scarcity economy rather than an economy in a vacuum.
In an RBE, there is an interactive resource calculator that allows people to makes demands within economic limits or laws that are guided by ecological principles. This is rather inconsistent with the “no laws” prescription but it is clear that a RBE advocates economic laws but not political laws. However there are issues with this interactive resource calculator: What if there are incompatible preferences? Certainly the use of liberatory technology and a value system shift away from conspicuous consumption and resource library systems would minimize such incompatible preferences, but they will still come up. Also there are decisions that are not purely economic; There are questions that are political. What will the city look like? How will we maintain the city? What will the relationship be between the polity and the economy? What laws should we have? What institutions will govern the commons? How? The polity should be entirely integrated with the economy. Confederated sub municipal and municipal assemblies that are directly democratic can be used to make and administer non hierarchical laws, determine preferences that are compatible and incompatible, and find out how to solve incompatible preferences.  This polity would then decide how to manage areas of the city held in common as well as the resources that are held in common through a common usership system bounded by ecological principles. This would compliment the post scarcity economy, and allow for non hierarchical power to come into existence as opposed to ignoring the question of political power altogether, or even worse wanting to do away with it. Rather than trying to abolish political processes (processes for management of the city by the citizens) and by extension ignoring the question of power, we should ask “what kind of political processes are consistent with non hierarchical principles?”
Not every decision is purely quantitative. Not every decision is purely economic. Decision making can be assisted by experts in relevant fields and computers rather than taken over by them. Optimum technology and placement of technology for various metrics should be available to people making decisions. Also, there are different desirable metrics, and we are going to need to choose between them sometimes as much as we might desire every single one of them to be made as optimal as possible. Majority preference within free associations allows us to solve disagreements in a way that doesn’t allow everyone to have the equal right to be dictator over every decision being made, and in a way that makes it so power flows from the bottom upwards, rather than from the top downwards.
The qualitative freedom created by non hierarchical constitutional direct democracy is more important than vague concepts of “maximized efficiency” (as important as technical efficiency and “resource efficiency” is) considering such an end is even attainable. Policy decisions should be in the hands of the people, and since many RBE advocates think so as well, these concepts should not be considered incompatible with their desired ends.
Constitutional direct democracy, far from the mere “least bad” way to organize, is a realm of freedom. It allows people to make decisions over their lives and their city bounded by certain rights and obligations without rulers. It is a realm of deliberation, education, consociation, and community. It is also developmental in the sense that it doesnt call for some magical end to political disagreements. It calls for an ongoing political process that doesnt have a final ending.

Critique of TVP/TZM:

 

Due to a lack of directly democratic political theory, TVP/TZM lacked a directly democratic structure. It had a structure of volunteer work, and the equivalent of a confederal council of admins. The confederal councils were not appropriately delegated from the bottom up. To this day there is no directly democratic body to delegate such power. Policy decisions are not made at the lowest levels within a platform(or agreed upon principles), instead there is nothing but a platform, volunteer work, DIY projects, and a confederal council.
TZM/TVP focus on educational tactics. Many people will critique education in and of itself as a tactic rather than the content of TVP/TZM’s education (critique of the actual theory rather than the theory of spreading theory). Many people in “radical” communities will be against education. I have had many post rational anarchists tell me how “theory is not radical” regardless of the content of the theory. I find this to be an error in their thinking through creating a false dichotomy between theory and practice. However, if there is nothing but educational projects without any political process for both means and ends, then there are no material changes directly part of the organization. The only material changes will be indirect through inspiration.
TVP/TZM rely on an educational reductionism. The content they put out, outside of the lack of political systems, is useful. Information on human cognition/behavior, flaws of markets/states, the alternative of a post scarcity economy are all sound ideas.
A post-scarcity group should be a dual power (or strive to create a dual power) created to decenter power while meeting needs, and building the very institutions that can exist during and after a transition from hierarchical to non hierarchical systems. This process would be demonstrative and educational for those involved and those not involved. Even if TVP/TZM would have failed at creating a directly democratic structure within communities, they could have at least created a microcosm of what a directly democratic structure would look like within the movement (and they could have helped be educational platforms for spreading such constitutional directly democratic politics).

Theory Laden Practice by Hagbard Celine33

Theory-Practice

Kuhn and Popper have revolutionized our understanding of science. Both of their work shows how our observations are theory laden. Our metrics for what qualifies as evidence are theory laden. And our understanding of our observations being theory laden adds to our theory. This helps us to know both how we gain knowledge, and what the limits of knowledge are.

Observation is not the only thing that is theory laden. Our practice is theory laden. The actions we do or do not do are informed by our theory. This understanding has profound implications for the importance of theory in circles seeking social change.

Sometimes theory and practice are seen as opposed within circles seeking social change. Some people lean heavily towards one or the other, and by extension are missing practice that can help their theory, and theory that can help their practice. Perhaps the reason some tactics are ineffective is because our theory that informs what tactics we should and shouldn’t use is wrong. Theory doesn’t just inform us about what we should do, but where we want to go. Through understanding the limits of knowledge and the fact that we can almost always get closer approximations to the truth (and by extension better tactics for achieving desired ends, and better desired ends), we should realize that theory plays an important role.

Frameworks for viewing human cognition, behavior, relationships, systems, and development are extremely important for anyone concerned about changing human cognition, behavior, relationships and systems. The relationship is symbiotic, our practice (and observation of our practice) is informed by our theory and our theory is informed by our practice (and our observation of our practice).  To ignore the dialogue between theory and practice, is to lessen our understanding of both.

Listen, Mutualist! by HagbardCeline33

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This is a response essay to Kevin Carson’s essay in response to libertarian municipalism. Here is a link to Kevin Carson’s essay so you can see what I am responding to. I wrote this essay within a day and will probably continue to revise it as I usually do with my writings. Hope this creates dialogue.

A link to Kevin Carson’s essay: http://c4ss.org/content/36761

In regards to anarchism and technology:

It is always interesting to see someone praise Bookchin’s essay “Towards a Liberatory Technology” and then continue to advocate for markets. It is one thing to be ignorant of our technical context that makes markets obsolete, it is another thing to claim this technical context is a fantasy, and it is another thing altogether to know about the technical context that makes markets obsolete exists but still think that we should have markets. If things people need are for sale, then by extension people are for sale. We have the technical ability to have free food/water/shelter/energy for all. Supplying people with such resources for free would be bad for maximizing money. A great way to maximize money is by selling that which people need, and living in a society where the very basics of what people need are for sale. Aeroponic skyscrapers, agroecology, geothermal/wind/solar/wave/tidal energy/hemp energy, water purification systems, hempcrete houses, hemp based plastics/paper, the ability to produce ad distribute everything simpler than an automobile, maglevs, and various other forms of liberatory technology can free us from artificial scarcity. This context makes markets obsolete. To make this liberatory technology for sale as opposed to something accessed by communities, collectives, and individuals, is to turn liberatory technology into less liberatory technology(at best), and ensure scarcity that is needed and generated by market systems.

Markets ration resources through money, putting cost efficiency before ecological usage of resources, liberatory technology, and human needs whenever doing so makes sense in the realm of market competition. Market economies are based on an all out economic war, where a game of economic musical chairs(artificial scarcity) is created. Carson advocates for a “thou shalt not privately own the means of production” rule on top of a market economy. The best way to maximize money in a market system is to privately own the means of production other people use and then extract surplus value from them. There is a contradiction in the incentive system within a market economy to make money, and a law prohibiting the most effective way to maximize money.

One of the most interesting lines written by Carson in his essay on Bookchin, is Carson claiming that the line between individualist/market anarchism and social anarchism is permeable. Statements like these express an ignorance of the differences of advocating for freedom of markets and freedom from markets. To act as if those two broad strains of economic thought have a permeable line that separates them is to miss the point of social anarchism entirely and degenerate anarchism into a vague “anarchism without adjectives”. There is a reason various adjectives have emerged within anarchist thought; Anarchism(genuine strains of it) are unified by “freedom from capitalism/statecraft, and tactics used outside of capitalism/statecraft”. Mutualists, Labor Voucherists, and Communists disagree in regards to what kind of economy we should have. And underneath each of those broad labels there are disagreements within each camp in regards to what kind of society we ought to have and what kind of decision making processes should exist(or not exist) and what kind of tactics we ought to use to get towards freedom. These differences are not trivial and superficial, in fact there are tons of opposing views(to the degree that putting all these strains under the term anarchism causes lots of confusion within and outside the anarchist movement). Anarchism without adjectives is extremely broad, and seems to be what Carson is proposing. It reminds me of “Anarcho” Capitalists when they advocate for forms of communism within the boundaries of privately owned means of existence and their system. Carson is saying is that what libertarian municipalists want ought to happen, within the limits and rules of market systems. However, the limits and rules of market systems prohibit mutualist moral impositions of “thou shalt not privately own the means of production”, as well as libertarian municipalist ideals of community assemblies and a society that has evolved beyond markets and artificial scarcity.

Carson claims that, “The large monopoly capitalist enterprise grows at the expense of society, in cooperation with its “rivals.””. This statement is true to a degree. A great strategy within capitalism is to cooperate as a mechanism to maximize profit and compete with others. However, sometimes competition with rivals and others can be a great mechanism for maximizing profit. Mutualism advocates for cooperation being used to maximize money and compete with others within a market economy.

A critique of Carson’s critique of Bookchin’s strategy:

Critiquing the idea of building a mass movement of municipal assemblies to achieve liberatory ideals, Carson advocates a gradual transition out of capitalism and the state through rationing resources within the market context seeing technological fixes and markets as capable in and of themselves of transitioning us to a better society. Bookchin critiqued worker co-ops within the context of a market system, noting that they either had to adapt to the market and become money seeking, or implode because of market pressures. The community assemblies advocated by libertarian municipalism 1. meet people’s needs in the present 2. decentralize power 3. create institutions that can exist during and after a transition to a stateless/marketless society. This is able to create a mass movement, of the people, by the people, and for the people, and with the help of people educated in participatory democracy.

Carson claims the approach based on mass movements based on municipal assemblies is not needed. I can only assume that what Carson is doing here is advocating for small movements using less liberatory methods/forms than community assemblies.  Carson then advocates for the “techno fix” the idea that technology alone will allow us to transition, as well as claiming the coordination of community assemblies is obsolete given this new technology. How does the advancement of technology make communal decision making processes and institutions obsolete? That is a question left unanswered. Liberatory technology can assist us with decision making, but should not replace decision making which ultimately needs to be held by the people. What does Carson want in the place of community assemblies? Market Mechanisms? This is left unclear, we are left with an assertion that a mass movement of community assemblies is obsolete with no evidence backing it.

Carson critiques the idea of a big movement, not realizing that a big movement can have a platform that provides it structure while allowing for diversity to thrive within that platform. The preferences of different people can vary greatly while keeping the basic forms of freedom of municipal assemblies.

Carson displays 6 reasons that supposedly make a mass movement of community assemblies obsolete, none of which do so individually, or when grouped together holistically.

1. “Technological advances are making small-scale, high-tech craft production with computerized machine tools far more efficient than high-overhead factory production.” – Carson

Just because technology is advancing does not make communal directly democratic systems of governance obsolete, if anything it just makes them more liberatory if managed in an educated way.

2. “The radical cheapening of such tools is bringing them within the price range of skilled laborers.” – Carson

This process is also making it so people compete with their tools to survive unnecessarily. Technological unemployment under the influence of the market is able to take technology that could emancipate us from labor, and put it in competition with laborers. Ephemeralization under the influence of the market an the state is the ephemeralization of turning life into non life in order to maximize gains.

3. “Self-provisioning and subsistence production within the household, informal and social economies is becoming increasingly necessary to meet a growing share of consumption needs, because of increasing levels of unemployment and underemployment.” – Carson

His third point is unintelligible to me. He claims there is the need for new “social economies”, which is an extremely vague way to advocate whatever he is advocating for. Part of the point of community assemblies is to meet people’s needs in the present. How this “social economy” Carson advocates makes a mass movement of community assemblies obsolete is a mystery to me.

4. “Networked communications technology is destroying most of the transaction costs of coordinating human activity horizontally, and enabling peer networks to run circles around the old bureaucratic hierarchies of corporation and state.” – Carson

It is also enabling new more cost efficient/profit efficient bureaucracies to take the place of less cost efficient/profit efficient bureaucracies. This is just the market maximizing profit, and does not make community assemblies as a transition or as an end goal obsolete.

5. “Peak Oil and other resource crises, and the fiscal crisis of the state, are making it impossible for the state to provide the massive and growing levels of subsidized inputs that capitalism depends on.” -Carson

Resource crises are destroying the foundation that human and non human life depend upon as well. How this makes a mass movement of community assemblies obsolete is a mystery to me.

6. “The plummeting capital requirements for production eliminate the technical basis for the factory and the large corporation, so that the only way they can maintain their relevance is to rely on entry barriers and monopolies (like “intellectual property”) to suppress small-scale production or coopt it within their institutional control; but the hollowing out of the state, and the proliferation of liberatory technologies like file-sharing and encryption, make it increasingly impossible to enforce them.” – Carson

This techno fix in and of itself, outside of radical systemic change, leaves capitalism/the state in place. The idea that we do not need a mass movement of community assemblies because of file sharing and encryption is truly an enigma. It is a claim without evidence.

Carson ends his 6 components of why mass movements of community assemblies aren’t necessary with a smug “no vanguard movement required” line. This is probably to create associations with authoritarian vanguardism as practiced by state socialists. Bookchin advocates for intelligent people to help foster education about libertarian municipalism, but does not advocate for an authoritarian vanguard. I think the goal of that line is to create an association in the mind of Carson’s readers between Bookchin’s views and state socialism. This is either ignorant or dishonest.

Critique of Carson’s critque of Bookchin in regards to the restoration of the polis:

Carson claims that directly democratic political institutions with anti authoritarian rules and enforcement thereof as “an example of authority and domination”. Yet when it comes to decision making, Carson sees the market as some quasi religious principle that can take the place of the democratic polis advocated by libertarian municipalism.

Carson starts talking about how he believes in the non aggression principle, a principle that sounds pleasant on the surface, but is merely a rationalization of private property rights. Does Carson believe that the definition of “legitimate property rights” should be changed to not include private property? Or does Carson believe that it is up to the private owners of the means of production to voluntarily hand over the means of production? If Carson advocates the latter, then Carson is advocating for capitalist property relations as a framework through which socialist property relations can flourish. If this is the case, than this is tied for the most absurd transition strategy to socialism that I have ever heard (perhaps tied with state socialist transition strategies). As far as I know the non aggression principle was first advocated by Ayn Rand, and then adapted to an “anarcho” capitalist perspective by Murray Rothbard. Randian Mutualism is even less liberatory than mutualism.

Libertarian municipalism advocates municipalities linking up into confederations, giving each person a position in creating policy, especially within their own municipality. Libertarian municipalism also advocates for constraining democracy to a set of rules/a constitution/”social compact” that protects free association and prohibits authoritarian relationships. Under libertarian municipalism, people can leave their municipality and go to other municipalities, uninhibited by economic coercion from the market. The confederations are free associations of free associations(bounded together by rights and responsibilities). Direct democracy can be used to see if there is an organic consensus, if different preferences are compatible, and how to resolve different preferences that are incompatible. Liberatory technology and a culture that is not based on conspicuous consumption (amongst various other “checks and balances”) would change the degree of incompatible preferences.

Carson thinks that the state and capitalism will “hollow out and retreat from social life”. This is a child’s fantasy at best, and a viewpoint that will allow capitalism and the state to continue unchallenged at worst. It is a viewpoint that sees no reason for a mass movement of liberatory municipal institutions during a transition to a better society. Carson’s adjectiveless form of Randian Mutualism being put forward doesn’t prescribe institutions for after the revolution. This vagueness is part of the reason why Bookchin stopped identifying with anarchism. The pure negative liberty of freedom from the state and freedom from capitalism are necessary conditions for freedom and wellbeing of all, but not sufficient conditions. We ought to expand negative liberty to include freedom from markets. We also ought to have positive liberty that we advocate for, such as people being free to participate in decision making on an equal footing when they are involved in associations with others, the freedom to use liberatory technology, the freedom to perform scientific, philosophical, and artistic work, the freedom to participate in one’s municipality, etc etc etc. The idea that community institutions/rules/enforcement thereof are just optional components of anarchism, reduces anarchism into structurelessness.

Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview

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Perhaps the greatest single failing of movements for social reconstruction — I refer particularly to the Left, to radical ecology groups, and to organizations that profess to speak for the oppressed — is their lack of a politics that will carry people beyond the limits established by the status quo.

Politics today means duels between top-down bureaucratic parties for electoral office, that offer vacuous programs for “social justice” to attract a nondescript “electorate.” Once in office, their programs usually turn into a bouquet of “compromises.” In this respect, many Green parties in Europe have been only marginally different from conventional parliamentary parties. Nor have socialist parties, with all their various labels, exhibited any basic differences from their capitalist counter parts. To be sure, the indifference of the Euro-American public — its “apoliticism” — is understandably depressing. Given their low expectations, when people do vote, they normally turn to established parties if only because, as centers of power, they cart produce results of sorts in practical matters. If one bothers to vote, most people reason, why waste a vote on a new marginal organization that has all the characteristics of the major ones and that will eventually become corrupted if it succeeds? Witness the German Greens, whose internal and public life increasingly approximates that of other parties in the new Reich.

That this “political process” has lingered on with almost no basic alteration for decades now is due in great part to the inertia of the process itself. Time wears expectations thin, and hopes are often reduced to habits as one disappointment is followed by another. Talk of a “new politics,” of upsetting tradition, which is as old as politics itself, is becoming unconvincing. For decades, at least, the changes that have occurred in radical politics are largely changes in rhetoric rather than structure. The German Greens are only the most recent of a succession of “nonparty parties” (to use their original way of describing their organization) that have turned from an attempt to practice grassroots politics — ironically, in the Bundestag, of all places! — into a typical parliamentary party. The Social Democratic Party in Germany, the Labor Party in Britain, the New Democratic Party in Canada, the Socialist Party in France, and others, despite their original emancipatory visions, barely qualify today as even liberal parties in which a Franklin D. Roosevelt or a Harry Truman would have found a comfortable home. Whatever social ideals these parties may have had generations ago have been eclipsed by the pragmatics of gaining, holding, and extending their power in their respective parliamentary and ministerial bodies.

It is precisely such parliamentary and ministerial objectives that we call “politics” today. To the modern political imagination, “politics” is precisely a body of techniques for holding power in representative bodies — notably the legislative and executive arenas — not a moral calling based on rationality, community, and freedom.

A Civic Ethics

Libertarian municipalism represents a serious, indeed a historically fundamental project, to render politics ethical in character and grassroots in organization. It is structurally and morally different from other grassroots efforts, not merely rhetorically different. It seeks to reclaim the public sphere for the exercise of authentic citizenship while breaking away from the bleak cycle of parliamentarism and its mystification of the “party” mechanism as a means for public representation. In these respects, libertarian municipalism is not merely a “political strategy.” It is an effort to work from latent or incipient democratic possibilities toward a radically new configuration of society itself-a communitarian society oriented toward meeting human needs, responding to ecological imperatives, and developing a new ethics based on sharing and cooperation. That it involves a consistently independent form of politics is a truism. More important, it involves a redefinition of politics, a return to the word’s original Greek meaning as the management of the community or polis by means of direct face-to-face assemblies of the people in the formulation of public policy and based on an ethics of complementarily and solidarity.

In this respect, libertarian municipalism is not one of many pluralistic techniques that is intended to achieve a vague and undefined social goal. Democratic to its core and nonhierarchical in its structure, it is a kind of human destiny, not merely one of an assortment of political tools or strategies that can be adopted and discarded with the aim of achieving power. Libertarian municipalism, in effect, seeks to define the institutional contours of a new society even as it advances the practical message of a radically new politics for our day.

Means and Ends

Here, means and ends meet in a rational unity. The word politics now expresses direct popular control of society by its citizens through achieving and sustaining a true democracy in municipal assemblies — this, as distinguished from republican systems of representation that preempt the right of the citizen to formulate community and regional policies. Such politics is radically distinct from statecraft and the state a professional body composed of bureaucrats, police, military, legislators, and the like, that exists as a coercive apparatus, clearly distinct from and above the people. The libertarian municipalist approach distinguishes statecraft — which we usually characterize as “politics” today — and politics as it once existed in precapitalist democratic communities.

Moreover, libertarian municipalism also involves a clear delineation of the social realm — as well as the political realm — in the strict meaning of the term social: notably, the arena in which we live our private lives and engage in production. As such, the social realm is to be distinguished from both the political and the statist realms. Enormous mischief has been caused by the interchangeable use of these terms — social, political, and the state. Indeed, the tendency has been to identify them with one another in our thinking and in the reality of everyday life. But the state is a completely alien formation, a thorn in the side of human development, an exogenous entity that has incessantly encroached on the social and political realms. Often, in fact, the state has been an end in itself, as witness the rise of Asian empires, ancient imperial Rome, and the totalitarian state of modern times. More than this, it has steadily invaded the political domain, which, for all its past shortcomings, had empowered communities, social groupings, and individuals.

Such invasions have not gone unchallenged. Indeed, the conflict between the state on the one hand and the political and social realms on the other has been an ongoing subterranean civil war for centuries. It has often broken out into the open — in modern times in the conflict of the Castilian cities (comuneros) against the Spanish monarchy in the 1520s, in the struggle of the Parisian sections against the centralist Jacobin Convention of 1793, and in endless other clashes both before and after these encounters.

Today, with the increasing centralization and concentration of power in the nation-state, a “new politics” — one that is genuinely new — must be structured institutionally around the restoration of power by municipalities. This is not only necessary but possible even in such gigantic urban areas as New York City, Montreal, London, and Paris. Such urban agglomerations are not, strictly speaking, cities or municipalities in the traditional sense of those terms, despite being designated as such by sociologists. It is only if we think that they are cities that we become mystified by problems of size and logistics. Even before we confront the ecological imperative of physical decentralization (a necessity anticipated by Frederick Engels and Peter Kropotkin alike), we need feel no problems about decentralizing them institutionally. When Francois Mitterand tried to decentralize Paris with local city halls a few years ago, his reasons were strictly tactical (he wanted to weaken the authority of the capital’s right-wing mayor). Nonetheless, he failed not because restructuring the Large metropolis was impossible but because the majority of the affluent Parisians supported the mayor.

Clearly, institutional changes do not occur in a social vacuum. Nor do they guarantee that a decentralized municipality, even if it is structurally democratic. will necessarily be humane, rational, and ecological in dealing with public affairs. Libertarian municipalism is premised on the struggle to achieve a rational and ecological society, a struggle that depends on education and organization. From the beginning, it presupposes a genuinely democratic desire by people to arrest the growing powers of the nation-state and reclaim them for their community and their region. Unless there is a movement — hopefully an effective Left Green movement — to foster these aims, decentralization can lead to local parochialism as easily as it can lead to ecological humanist communities.

But when have basic social changes ever been without risk? The case that Marx’s commitment to a centralized state and planned economy would inevitably yield bureaucratic totalitarianism could have been better made than the case that decentralized libertarian municipalities will inevitably be authoritarian and have exclusionary and parochial traits Economic interdependence is a fact of life today, and capitalism itself has made parochial autarchies a chimera. While municipalities and regions can seek to attain a considerable measure of self-aufficiency, we have long left the era when self-aufficient communities that can indulge their prejudices are possible.

Confederalism

Equally important is the need for confederation — the interlinking of communities with one another through recallable deputies mandated by municipal citizens’ assemblies and whose sole functions are coordinative and administrative. Confederation has a long history of its own that dates back to antiquity and that surfaced as a major alternative to the nation state. From the American Revolution through the French Revolution and the Spanish Revolution of 1936, confederalism constituted a major challenge to state centralism. Nor has it disappeared in our own time, when the breakup of existing twentieth-century empires raises the issue of enforced state centralism or the relatively autonomous nation. Libertarian municipalism adds a radically democratic dimension to the contemporary discussions of confederation (as, for example, in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia) by calling for confederations not of nation-states but of municipalities and of the neighborhoods of giant megalopolitan areas as well as towns and villages.

In the case of libertarian municipalism’ parochialism can thus be checked not only by the compelling realities of economic interdependence but by the commitment of municipal minorities to defer to the majority wishes of participating communities. Do these interdependencies and majority decisions guarantee us that a majority decision will be a correct one? Certainly not — but our chances for a rational and ecological society are much better in this approach than in those that ride on centralized entities and bureaucratic apparatuses. I cannot help but marvel that no municipal network has been emergent among the German Greens, who have hundreds of representatives in city councils around Germany but who carry on a local politics that is completely conventional and self enclosed within particular towns and cities.

Many arguments against libertarian municipalism — even with its strong confederal emphasis derive from a failure to understand its distinction between policy-making and administration. This distinction is fundamental to libertarian municipalism and must always be kept in mind. Policy is made by a community or neighborhood assembly of free citizens; administration is performed by confederal councils composed of mandated, recallable deputies of wards, towns, and villages. If particular communities or neighborhoods — or a minority grouping of them choose to go their own way to a point where human rights are violated or where ecological mayhem is permitted, the majority in a local or regional confederation has every right to prevent such malfeasances through its confederal council. This is not a denial of democracy but the assertion of a shared agreement by all to recognize civil rights and maintain the ecological integrity of a region. These rights and needs are not asserted so much by a confederal council as by the majority of the popular assemblies conceived as one large community that expresses its wishes through its confederal deputies. Thus policy-making still remains local, but its administration is vested in the confederal network as a whole. The confederation in effect is a Community of communities based on distinct human rights and ecological imperatives.

If libertarian municipalism is not to be totally warped of its form and divested of its meaning, it is a desideratum that must be fought for. It speaks to a time — hopefully, one that will yet come when people feel disempowered and actively seek empowerment. Existing in growing tension with the nation-state, it is a process as well as a destiny, a struggle to be fulfilled, not a bequest granted by the summits of the state. It is a dual power that contests the legitimacy of the existing state power. Such a movement can be expected to begin slowly, perhaps sporadically, in communities here and there that initially may demand only the moral authority to alter the structuring of society before enough interlinked confederations exist to demand the outright institutional power to replace the state. The growing tension created by the emergence of municipal confederations represents a confrontation between the state and the political realms. This confrontation can be resolved only after libertarian municipalism forms the new politics of a popular movement and ultimately captures the imagination of millions.

Certain points, however, should be obvious. The people who initially enter into the duel between confederalism and statism will not be the same human beings as those who eventually achieve libertarian municipalism. The movement that tries to educate them and the struggles that give libertarian municipalist principles reality will turn them into active citizens, rather than passive “constituents.” No one who participates in a struggle for social restructuring emerges from that struggle with the prejudices, habits, and sensibilities with which he or she entered it. Hopefully, then, such prejudices — like parochialism — will increasingly be replaced by a generous sense of cooperation and a caring sense of interdependence.

Municipalizing the Economy

It remains to emphasize that libertarian municipalism is not merely an evocation of all traditional antistatist notions of politics. Just as it redefines politics to include face-to-face municipal democracies graduated to confederal levels, so it includes a municipalist and confederal approach to economics. Minimally, a libertarian municipalist economics calls for the municipalization of the economy, not its centralization into state-owned “nationalized” enterprises on the one hand or its reduction to “worker-controlled” forms of collectivistic capitalism on the other. Trade-union control of “worker controlled” enterprises (that is, syndicalism) has had its day. This should be evident to anyone who examines the bureaucracies that even revolutionary trade unions spawned during the Spanish Civil War of 1936. Today, corporate capitalism too is increasingly eager to bring the worker into complicity with his or her own exploitation by means of “workplace democracy.” Nor was the revolution in Spain or in other countries spared the existence of competition among worker-controlled enterprises for raw materials, markets, and profits. Even more recently, many Israeli kibbutzim have been failures as examples of nonexploitative, need-oriented enterprises, despite the high ideals with which they were initially founded.

Libertarian municipalism proposes a radically different form of economy one that is neither nationalized nor collectivized according to syndicalist precepts. It proposes that land and enterprises be placed increasingly in the custody of the community more precisely, the custody of citizens in free assemblies and their deputies in confederal councils. How work should be planned, what technologies should be used, how goods should be distributed are questions that can only be resolved in practice. The maxim “from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs” would seem a bedrock guide for an economically rational society, provided to be sure that goods are of the highest durability and quality, that needs are guided by rational and ecological standards, and that the ancient notions of limit and balance replace the bourgeois marketplace imperative of “grow or die.”

In such a municipal economy — confederal, interdependent, and rational by ecological, not simply technological, standards — we would expect that the special interests that divide people today into workers, professionals, managers, and the like would be melded into a general interest in which people see themselves as citizens guided strictly by the needs of their community and region rather than by personal proclivities and vocational concerns. Here, citizenship would come into its own, and rational as well as ecological interpretations of the public good would supplant class and hierarchical interests.

This is the moral basis of a moral economy for moral communities. But of overarching importance is the general social interest that potentially underpins all moral communities, an interest that must ultimately cut across class, gender, ethnic, and status lines if humanity is to continue to exist as a viable species. This interest is the one created in our times by ecological catastrophe. Capitalism’s “grow or die” imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other — nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society, or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Will this ecological society be authoritarian, or possibly even totalitarian, a hierarchial dispensation that is implicit in the image of the planet as a “spaceship” Or will it be democratic? If history is any guide, the development of a democratic ecological society, as distinguished from a commend ecological society, must follow its own logic. One cannot resolve this historical dilemma without getting to its roots. Without a searching analysis of our ecological problems and their social sources, the pernicious institutions that we now have will lead to increased centralization and further ecological catastrophe. In a democratic ecological society, those roots are literally the grass roots that libertarian municipalism seeks to foster.

For those who rightly call for a new technology, new sources of energy, new means of transportation, and new ecological lifeways, can a new society be anything less than a Community of communities based on confederation rather than statism? We already live in a world in which the economy is “overglobalized,” overcentralized, and overbureaucratized. Much that can be done locally and regionally is now being done largely for profit, military needs, and imperial appetites — on a global scale with a seeming complexity that can actually be easily diminished.

If this seems too “utopian” for our time, then so must the present flood of literature that asks for radically sweeping shifts in energy policies, far-reaching reductions in air and water pollution, and the formulation of worldwide plans to arrest global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer be seen as “utopian.” Is it too much, it is fair to ask, to take such demands one step further and call for institutional and economic changes that are no less drastic and that in fact are based on traditions that are deeply sedimented in American — indeed, the world’s — noblest democratic and political traditions?

Nor are we obliged to expect these changes to occur immediately. The Left long worked with minimum and maximum programs for change, in which immediate steps that can be taken now were linked by transitional advances and intermediate areas that would eventually yield ultimate goals. Minimal steps that can be taken now include initiating Left Green municipalist movements that propose popular neighborhood and town assemblies — even if they have only moral functions at first — and electing town and city councilors that advance the cause of these assemblies and other popular institutions. These minimal steps can lead step-by-step to the formation of confederal bodies and the increasing legitimation of truly democratic bodies. Civic banks to fund municipal enterprises and land purchases; the fostering of new ecologically oriented enterprises that are owned by the community; and the creation of grassroots networks in many fields of endeavor and the public weal — all these can be developed at a pace appropriate to changes that are being made in political life.

That capital will likely “migrate” from communities and confederations that are moving toward libertarian municipalism is a problem that every community, every nation, whose political life has become radicalized has faced. Capital, in fact, normally “migrates” to areas where it can acquire high profits, irrespective of political considerations. Overwhelmed by fears of capital migration, a good case could be established for not rocking the political boat at any time. Far more to the point are that municipally owned enterprises and farms could provide new ecologically valuable and health-nourishing products to a public that is becoming increasingly aware of the low-quality goods and staples that are being foisted on it now.

Libertarian municipalism is a politics that can excite the public imagination, appropriate for a movement that is direly in need of a sense of direction and purpose. The papers that appear in this collection offer ideas, ways, and means not only to undo the present social order but to remake it drastically — expanding its residual democratic traditions into a rational and ecological society.

Addendum

This addendum seems to be necessary because some of the opponents of libertarian municipalism — and, regrettably, some of its acolyte — misunderstand what libertarian municipalism seeks to achieve indeed, misunderstand its very nature.

For some of its instrumental acolytes, libertarian municipalism is becoming a tactical device to gain entry into so called independent movements and new third parties that call for “grassroots politics,” such as those proposed by NOW and certain Labor leaders In the name of “libertarian municipalism,” some radical acolytes of the view are prepared to blur the tension that they should cultivate between the civic realm and the state — presumably to gain greater public attention in electoral campaigns for gubernatorial, congressional, and other state offices. These radicals regrettably warp libertarian municipalism into a mere “tactic” or “strategy” and drain it of its revolutionary content.

But those who propose to use tenets of libertarian municipalism for “tactical” reasons as a means to enter another reformist party or function as its “left wing” have little in common with the idea. Libertarian municipalism is not a product of the formal logic that has such deep roots in left-wing “analyses” and “strategies” today, despite the claims of many radicals that “dialectics” is their “method.” The struggle toward creating new civic institutions out of old ones (or replacing the old ones altogether) and creating civic confederations is a self formative one, a creative dynamic formed from the tension of social conflict. The effort to work along these lines is as much a part of the end as the process of maturing from the child to the adult — from the relatively undifferentiated to the fully differentiated — with all its difficulties. The very fight for a municipal confederation, for municipal control of “property,” and for the actual achievement of worldwide municipal confederation is directed toward achieving a new ethos of citizenship and community, not simply to gain victories in largely reformist conflicts.

Thus, libertarian municipalism is not merely an effort simply to “take over” city councils to construct a more “environmentally friendly” city government. These adherents or opponents of libertarian municipalism, in effect, look at the civic structures that exist before their eyes now and essentially (all rhetoric to the contrary aside) take them as they exist. Libertarian municipalism, by contrast, is an effort to transform and democratize city governments, to root them in popular assemblies, to knit them together along confederal lines, to appropriate a regional economy along confederal and municipal lines.

In fact, libertarian municipalism gains its life and its integrity precisely from the dialectical tension it proposes between the nation-state and the municipal confederation. Its “law of life,” to use an old Marxian term, consists precisely in its struggle with the state. The tension between municipal confederations and the state must be clear and uncompromising. Since these confederations would exist primarily in opposition to statecraft, they cannot be compromised by state, provincial, or national elections, much less achieved by these means. Libertarian municipalism is formed by its struggle with the state, strengthened by this struggle, indeed defined by this struggle. Divested of this dialectical tension with the state, of this duality of power that must ultimately be actualized in a free “Commune of communes,” libertarian municipalism becomes little more than “sewer socialism.”

Many heroic comrades who are prepared to do battle (one day) with the cosmic forces of capitalism find that libertarian municipalism is too thorny, irrelevant, or vague to deal with and opt for what is basically a form of political particularism. Our spray-can or ’ alternative cafe” radicals may choose to brush libertarian municipalism aside as “a ludicrous tactic,” but it never ceases to amaze me that well-meaning radicals who are committed to the “overthrow” of capitalism (no less!) find it too difficult to function politically — and, yes, electorally — in their own neighborhoods for a new politics based on a genuine democracy. If they cannot provide a transformative politics for their own neighborhood relatively modest task — or diligently work at doing so with the constancy that used to mark the more mature left movements of the past, I find it very hard to believe that they will ever do much harm to the present social system. Indeed, by creating cultural centers, parks, and good housing, they may well be improving the system by giving capitalism a human face without diminishing its under lying unfreedom as a hierarchical and class society.

A bouquet of struggles for “identity” has often fractured rising radical movements since SDS in the 1960s, ranging from foreign to domestic nationalisms. Because these identity struggles are so popular today, some of the critics of libertarian municipalism invoke “public opinion” against it. But when has it been the task of revolutionaries to surrender to “public opinion” not even the “public opinion” of the oppressed, whose views can often be very reactionary? Truth has its own life — regardless of whether the oppressed masses perceive or agree on what is true. Nor is it “elitist” to invoke truth, in contradiction to even radical public opinion, when that opinion essentially seeks a march backward into the politics of particularism and even racism. It is very easy to drop to all fours these days, but as radicals our most important need is to stand on two feet — that is, to be as fully human as possible — and to challenge the existing society in behalf of our shared common humanity, not on the basis of gender, race, age, and the like.

Critics of libertarian municipalism even dispute the very possibility of a “general interest.” If, for such critics, the face-to-face democracy advocated by libertarian municipalism and the need to extend the premises of democracy beyond mere justice to complete freedom do not suffice as a “general interest,” it would seem to me that the need to repair our relationship with the natural world is certainly a “general interest” that is beyond dispute — and, indeed, it remains the “general interest” advanced by social ecology. It may be possible to coopt many dissatisfied elements in the present society, but nature is not cooptable. Indeed, the only politics that remains for the Left is one based on the premise that there is a “general interest” in democratizing society and preserving the planet Now that traditional forces such as the workers’ movement have ebbed from the historical scene, it can be said with almost complete certainty that without libertarian municipalism, the left will have no politics whatever.

A dialectical view of the relationship of confederalism to the nation-state, an understanding of the narrowness, introverted character, and parochialism of identity-movements. and a recognition that the workers’ movement is essentially dead all illustrate that if a new politics is going to develop today, it must be unflinchingly public, in contrast to the alternative-cafe “politics” advanced by many radicals today. It must be electoral on a municipal basis, confederal in its vision, and revolutionary in its character.

Indeed, in my view, libertarian municipalism, with its emphasis on confederalism, is precisely the “Commune of communes” for which anarchists have fought over the past two centuries. Today, it is the “red button” that must be pushed if a radical movement is to open the door to the public sphere. To leave that red button untouched and slip back into the worst habits of the post-1968 New Left, when the notion of “power” was divested of utopian or imaginative qualities, is to reduce radicalism to yet another subculture that will probably live more on heroic memories than on the hopes of a rational future.

April 3, 1991; addendum, October 1, 1991

“Reflections on The Framework/Form/Content/Means of Murray Bookchin’s Political Views” by Hagbard Celine33

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The book “Post Scarcity Anarchism” by Murray Bookchin outlines an adaptation of anarchism to a new technological context. It has been over four decades since the essay  “towards  liberatory technology” was written, meaning our potential for liberatory technology is far greater than it was when he wrote that essay in 1968.  Bookchin’s train of thought can be summed up by gift/need/ability based Decentralism/Confederalism with participatory democratic processes within rules prohibiting authoritarianism, social ecology, liberatory technology, and the means and ends of libertarian municipalism.

Framework:

Social ecology is a framework for viewing human and ecological relationships that describes a dialogue between societies and ecosystems (or as Bookchin called them ecocommunities). Social ecology proposes the notion that our ecological problems are social problems in disguise. As Bookchin said “What literally defines social ecology as “social” is its recognition of the often overlooked fact that nearly all our present ecological problems arise from deep-seated social problems. Conversely, present ecological problems cannot be clearly understood, much less resolved, without resolutely dealing with problems within society”. By changing how we relate to each other, we can change how we relate to our environment. Market principles use profit as a mechanism to ration finite resources. Market principles will help the ecosystem to the degree that helping the ecosystem will maximize profit, and they will harm the ecosystem to the degree that harming the ecosystem maximizes profit. This translates to the transformation of life into non life to the degree that it maximizes profit and centralizes power. The market creates an economic hierarchy. The best way to maximize profit is through authoritarian relations(privately owning the means of production and using the state as a mechanism to maximize profit and enforce the private ownership of that which others use). A huge source of ecological problems is also ignorance(of available technology, available resources, and our interdependence to each other and our ecosystems, of alternative social systems, etc). Ignorance may never disappear, but we can certainly minimize ignorance in regards to certain areas of knowledge(and by extension minimize harm done to each other and to our environment). Our ecocommunities shape our relationships to each other, and our relations to eachother shape our ecocommunities, which then shapes our relations to each other and so on and so forth in a seemingly never-ending dialogue between society and the environment(similar to the dialogue between individuals and collectives).

This framework for viewing the human and ecological problems, leads to the conclusion that we need non authoritarian social forms(or forms of freedom) in order to care for the wellbeing of humans and the ecosystems we are dependent upon. The market and the state turn the organic into the non organic to the extent that power is centralized and profit is maximized. This inevitably has ecocidal consequences. To get rid of ecocide, we must get rid of the market, the state, patriarchy, white supremacy, and all forms of hierarchy, and minimize behavioral authoritarianism.

Form:

Anarcho communism advocates using decentralization of power as a mechanism to create a stateless/classless/moneyless society without authoritarian systems nor behaviors. In such a system, resources would be distributed according to abilities and needs.  Anarcho communists advocate personal property, anti authoritarian collective property, and common property as well as gift(from individual to collective, collective to individual, individual to individual, and collective to collective) as a mechanism for distributing resources. Anarcho communism provides us with an excellent analysis of the forms that we should NOT have, and aspects of the forms that we should have. Even if we had the most free forms possible, the content within such forms can theoretically be antithetical to the aims of anarcho communism. The content we ought have should to be based on liberatory technology in the aims of achieving a post scarcity society.

The form of institutions that Bookchin advocated were municipal assemblies based on  participatory democracy within free associations(freedom of/from and within associations checked and balanced by freedom of/from/and within associations of others). Individuals would retain rights to leave associations(without harming free association of others), and stay within an association while disagreeing and opting out of participating in that which they disagree with. Bookchin did not think we could magically abolish power. Instead, Bookchin advocated decentralization of decision making power and confederations, which are associations of free associations. Bookchin was for governance without statecraft. “Confederalism is…a way of perpetuating the interdependence that should exist among communities and regions — indeed, it is a way of democratizing that interdependence without surrendering the principle of local control.” – Bookchin. Decentralization of decision making power was necessary but not sufficient for Bookchin. For many associations to associate without authoritarian relations, confederalism needs to be implemented.

Bookchin called his views towards the end of his life communalism. Bookchin said “As an ideology, Communalism draws on the best of the older Left ideologies—Marxism and anarchism, more properly the libertarian socialist tradition—while offering a wider and more relevant scope for our time. From Marxism, it draws the basic project of formulating a rationally systematic and coherent socialism that integrates philosophy, history, economics, and politics. Avowedly dialectical, it attempts to infuse theory with practice. From anarchism, it draws its commitment to antistatism and confederalism, as well as its recognition that hierarchy is a basic problem that can be overcome only by a libertarian socialist society.” Bookchin felt even anarcho communism, in describing that it was against the state and for communism, did not fully express what kinds of organization/rules/institutions would exist.

Bookchin realized towards the end of his life that anarchism, although defining what it was AGAINST(private property and the state and in its more mature forms hierarchy in any form), did not sufficiently state what it was FOR. For Bookchin, even anarcho communists were too  vague in regards to the forms of freedom they advocated for. Bookchin was insistent upon participatory democracy as a mechanism during and after we transition to a society without states and markets. Bookchin advocated a democracy that is direct, inclusive, and based equality of decision making power. Bookchin advocated for a constitution with non hierarchical obligations and rights, and deliberative participatory democracy within the limits of the constitution. Bookchin advocated majority preference within a set of rules that prohibit hierarchical and authoritarian relations. Bookchin also advocated for the rights of minority preferences to dissent and do what they want within the rules of society. In this sense majority and minority preferences would be respected, the individual and society harmonizing as much as possible due to these boundaries, creating social freedom. When different preferences are compatible they can all occur, and when there is an incompatibility between various preferences, the majority decides. The content of liberatory technology and reason minimizes such incompatibilities between various preferences.

Content:

Liberatory technology is the art of applied science with an empathetic/anti authoritarian ethic.  Liberatory technology is technology used in an ethical way to maximize wellbeing of all. Logic without compassion can lead to more efficient ways to perform slavery, war, and genocide. Compassion without logic can lead to people supporting the market and the state by being ignorant of what they support. Logic is necessary but insufficient for maximizing the wellbeing of all. Compassion is necessary but insufficient for maximizing the wellbeing of all.  The chapter “Towards a Liberatory Technology” is one of the most important 20th century anarchist essays as far as ideals are concerned. Bookchin adapts the dreams and aspirations of anarchism to a post 1960’s technological context. This technological context includes the automation of labor, geothermal/solar/wind/wave/tidal energy, thousands of resources through hemp(including plastics, paper, and much more), aeroponic gardening, vertical gardening, permaculture, rain water collection and purification systems, etc etc etc. However, Bookchin is not a technophile(nor a technophobe). Bookchin recognizes the capabilities for authoritarian and liberatory technology(and by extension how we can be in harmony with the global ecosystem and how we can destroy it). If Bookchin was a pure technophile(like some of his critics claim he was) there would have been no need to add the term liberatory to technology(for it would be superfluous). Liberatory technology implies reason guided by an empathetic/anti authoritarian rudder.

“It is easy to foresee a time, by no means remote, when a rationally organized economy could automatically manufacture small “packaged” factories without human labor; parts could be produced with so little effort that most maintenance tasks would be reduced to the simple act of removing a defective unit from a machine and replacing it by another—a job no more difficult than pulling out and putting in a tray. Machines would make and repair most of the machines required to maintain such a highly industrialized economy. Such a technology, oriented entirely toward human needs and freed from all consideration of profit and loss, would eliminate the pain of want and toil—the penalty, inflicted in the form of denial, suffering and inhumanity, exacted by a society based on scarcity and labor.” -Bookchin

“Necessary” Liberatory Technology is the liberatory technology necessary to maintain the forms of freedom. The Surplus Liberatory Technology is Liberatory technology that isn’t necessary for anti authoritarian social relations, but is desirable for greater wellbeing of all and the environment we are dependent upon.

Reason being used for the wellbeing of all (or liberatory reason) is the desired content for liberatory forms. The forms of freedom give people a lot of power over their own lives, and it is important to use this responsibly. A free decision making process does not necessitate decisions that lead to freedom.

The relations between framework, form, and content:

The framework of social ecology and the content of liberatory technologyand reason make the forms of freedom more resillent. Form and content, although distinct, are interconnected. Different forms are more conducive to liberatory content. However, as Bookchin points out, the most liberatory form can bring about authoritarian content(although liberatory forms do minimize such authoritarian content compared to authoritarian forms). This can happen through lack of logic and/or lack of compassion. This is why liberatory forms are necessary but insufficient in regards to bringing about the end goals that they aspire towards. Education is more than essential, not just for why to have an anti authoritarian society, and how to get to an anti authoritarian society, but also for after such a society exists. Such education is necessary to provide liberatory content in order to maintain the forms of freedom and contribute to the wellbeing of all. More accurate frameworks of how we view the relationships of humans to the environment are essential to help arrive at such form and content, and also to nurture such form and content(both so the form and content can become more liberatory, and also to prevent such liberatory forms from perverting into authoritarian forms). With the content of liberatory technology and reason, the form of libertarian municipalism, as well as a framework of social ecology, a post scarcity society could exist and maintain itself.

The content is in dialogue with the form. The form effects the content, and the content effects the form. Ignorant content within a society based on freedom can lead to artificial scarcity and the transformation from freedom into a hierarchical society. Anarchism as a form is not in and of itself sufficient. We must look beyond anarchism into the field of liberatory technology and reason(empathetic applied logic) during and after the transformation of society from authoritarian to anti authoritarian.

The more we understand society and ecology, the more we understand the relationships between humans and humans and humans and ecosystems. In order to understand human cognition/behavior, I think we ought to look at the biopsychosocialecotechnological model of human behavior, which sees biology, our psyches, social systems and behaviors, ecocommunities, and technology in a  dialogue, each component directly and indirectly interdependent upon one another in shaping who we are. Through greater knowledge of human cognition and behavior(nature/nurture), we will arrive at better techniques to change our relations to each other and to the environment we are dependent upon in desirable ways. If our viewpoints of the world don’t recognize our interdependence upon each other and our environment, we can arrive at violent decisions through ignorance alone.

Means:

Libertarian municipalism is a tactic and end goal invented by Murray Bookchin. It has a holistic full community analysis. Libertarian municipalism has different end goals and different tactics than traditional community organizing. Municipalism is a way of institutionalizing non hierarchical, constitutional, confederated, directly democratic forms of freedom through the means and ends of community assemblies. Like anarcho  syndicalism, libertarian municipalism is an approach that 1. meets humans needs in the present 2. decentralizes power from hierarchical institutions 3. aims at showing a different way people can organize(building the new world within the shell of the old) during and after a transition to a stateless/marketless society. At a time where labor has little power (due to technological unemployment), it is essential that we find new ways to build the new world within the shell of the old. The democratic assemblies would bring people together organizing without rulers(showing a new way people can organize), meet people’s immediate needs within the communities, and take faith and power away from the state and the market.

It is essential that these the assemblies created through libertarian municipalism are made out of the general community and not only the activist community. This must be a movement of commoners, by commoners, and for commoners. Anti authoritarian activists are essential catalysts for such organization(in regards to education), but municipalism must extend to community members to be effective at building the new world in the shell of the old.

Municipal assembles can cooperate with worker and community owned co-ops and form a worker/community union. In a mutually beneficial association, worker and community owned co-ops and municipal assemblies can support one another. This third sector, the community sector, would then live alongside the market and the state, while confronting the market and the state and expropriating private and state property. The community sector would protect the people during and after the transition to a liberatory society. If municipal assembles do not confederate with other municipal assemblies, then they merely serves as mechanisms to make communities more free. However, if there are many municipal assemblies that confederate, it becomes a strategy for abolishing socioeconomic hierarchy that contains within it the forms of freedom that can be implemented after socioeconomic hierarchy has been abolished.

Libertarian municipalism can organize all forms of commoners (from workers, to the youth, to the elderly, and to the unemployed, and beyond). People ought to organize on behalf of common humanity and care for others rather than purely selfish reasons. These organizations can pool together resources from those willing and able to give towards community projects(such as fighting against landlordism and building community gardens out of the unused land throughout the neighborhoods, and setting up skill shares and free freedom schools and tool libraries, etc). The forms of organization will be organic, for outside of the market and the state people already organize in participatory ways amongst friends. It is just a matter of carrying this participatory organization into a more formal setting and uniting underneath non hierarchical principles.

Without the inefficiency of bureaucracy, and with mutual aid from individuals and confederated municipalities, these organizations would be able to do a lot with a little. There needs to be a holistic outlook on the wellbeing of all of humanity, and by extension the ecosystem we are dependent upon. This could unite people across classes/cultures to create a better world for all (meaning doing the most to help well being of all as possible with the limited resources at our disposal). To achieve the end goal of is a dynamic confederated society based on participatory democracy, libertarian municipalism proposes a process of decentralizing power and confederating associations that use participatory democracy.

Bookchin makes very accurate critiques of market socialism(as well as worker owned co-ops within a market context). In visions of a new society, Bookchin points out that worker owned co-ops will often become profit seeking and assimilate into capitalism, or perish. “Libertarian municipalism proposes a radically different form of economy one that is neither nationalized nor collectivized according to syndicalist precepts. It proposes that land and enterprises be placed increasingly in the custody of the community more precisely, the custody of citizens in free assemblies and their deputies in confederal councils. How work should be planned, what technologies should be used, how goods should be distributed are questions that can only be resolved in practice. The maxim “from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her needs” would seem a bedrock guide for an economically rational society, provided to be sure that goods are of the highest durability and quality, that needs are guided by rational and ecological standards, and that the ancient notions of limit and balance replace the bourgeois marketplace imperative of “grow or die.”” -Bookchin. Bookchin is advocating communalization of property as opposed to collectivization that syndicalism advocates. Non-authoritarian collective property would exist within the framework and within the limits of the rules of the commons.

Libertarian Municiplism allows, “means and ends meet in a rational unity”, where “The word politics…expresses direct popular control of society by its citizens through achieving and sustaining a true democracy in municipal assemblies — this, as distinguished from republican systems of representation that preempt the right of the citizen to formulate community and regional policies. Such politics is radically distinct from statecraft and the state a professional body composed of bureaucrats, police, military, legislators, and the like, that exists as a coercive apparatus, clearly distinct from and above the people,”. Before/during/after the fall of states and markets, there needs to be institutions that institutionalize the forms of freedom so we don’t fall into the tyranny of structurelessness and/or the lowest common denominator. For this to happen we need to be 1. educated in regards to logic 2. empathetic in regards to emotions 3. willing and able to do the initial work to get an anti authoritarian economy off the ground 4. educated in regards to the forms of freedom, the content of freedom, and the framework of freedom (participatory democracy, liberatory technology and reason, and social ecology).  The confederated municipal councils will build the new world within the shell of the old.

http://www.social-ecology.org/2002/09/harbinger-vol-3-no-1-the-communalist-project/

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bookchin/tolibtechpart2.html

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/murray-bookchin-libertarian-municipalism-an-overview

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bookchin/socecol.html

“Communism and Anarchy” by Peter Kropotkin

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Communism and Anarchy

Many Anarchists and thinkers in general, whilst recognising the immense advantages which Communism may offer to society, yet consider this form of social organisation a danger to the liberty and free development of the individual. This danger is also recognised by many Communists, and, taken as a whole, the question is merged in that other vast problem which our century has laid bare to its fullest extent: the relation of the individual to society. The importance of this question need hardly be insisted upon.

The problem became obscured in various ways. When speaking of Communism, most people think of the more or less Christian and monastic and always authoritarian Communism advocated in the first half of this century and practised in certain communities. These communities took the family as a model and tried to constitute “the great Communist family” to “reform man”. To this end, in addition to working in common, they imposed the living closely together like a family, as well as the isolation or separation of the colony from present civilisation. This amounted to nothing less than the total interference of all “brothers” and “sisters” with the entire private life of each member.

In addition to this, the difference was not sufficiently noted as between isolated communities, founded on various occasions during the last three or four centuries, and the numerous federated communes which are likely to spring up in a society about to inaugurate the social revolution. Five aspects of the subject thus require to be considered separately:

[1] Production and consumption in common,

[2] Domestic life in common (cohabitation: is it necessary to arrange it after the model of the present family?),

[3] The isolated communities of our times,

[4] The federated communes of the future, and

[5] Does Communism necessarily lessen individuality? In other words, the Individual in a Communist society.

An immense movement of ideas took place during this century under the name of Socialism in general, beginning with Babeuf, St. Simon, Fourier, Robert Owen and Proudhon who formulated the predominating currents of Socialism, and continued by their numerous successors (French) Considerant, Pierre Lerous, Louis Blanc; (German) Marx, Engels; (Russian) Chernychevski, Bakunin; etc, who worked either at popularising the ideas of the founders of modern Socialism or at establishing them on a scientific basis.

These ideas, on taking precise shape, gave birth to two principal currents: Authoritarian Communism and Anarchist Communism; also to a number of intermediary schools bent on finding a way between, such as State Capitalism, Collectivism, Co-operation; among the working masses they created a formidable workers’ movement which strives to organise the whole mass of the workers by trades for the struggle against Capital, and which becomes more international with the frequent intercourse between workers of different nationalities. The following three essential points were gained by this immense movement of ideas and of action, and these have already widely penetrated the public conscience:

[1] The abolition of the wage system, the modern form of ancient serfdom,
[2] The abolition of individual property in the means of production, and
[3] The emancipation of the individual and of society from the political machinery, the State, which helps to maintain economic slavery.

On these three points all are agreed, and even those who advocate “labour notes” or who, like Brousse, wish all “to be functionaries,” that is employees of the State or the commune, admit that if they advocate either of these proposals it is only because they do not see an immediate possibility for Communism. They accept this compromise as an expedient, but their aim always remains Communism. And, as to the State, even the bitterest partisans of the State, of authority, even of dictatorship, recognise that with the disappearance of the classes of today the State will also cease to exist.

Hence we may say without exaggerating the importance of our section of the Socialist movement – the Anarchist section – that in spite of all differences between the various sections of Socialism (which differences are, before all, based upon the more or less revolutionary character of the means of action of each section), we may affirm that all sections, by the voice of their thinkers, recognise the evolution towards Free Communism as the aim of Socialist evolution. All the rest, as they themselves confess, are only stepping-stones towards this end.

It would be idle to discuss these stepping-stones without an examination of the tendencies of development of modern society.


[Production and consumption in common]

Of these different tendencies two, before all, merit our attention. One is the increasing difficulty of determining the share of each individual in modern production. Industry and agriculture have become so complicated, so riveted together, all industries are so dependent one upon the other that payment to the producer by results becomes impossible the more industry is developed, the more we see payment by piece replaced by wages. Wages, on the other hand, become more equal. The division of modern bourgeois society in classes certainly remains and there is a whole class of bourgeois who earn the more, the less they do. The working class itself is divided into four great divisions:

[1] women,
[2] agricultural labourers,
[3] unskilled workers, and
[4] skilled workers.

These divisions represent four degrees of exploitation and are but the result of bourgeois organisation.

In a society of equals, where all can learn a trade and where the exploitation of woman by man, of the peasant by the manufacturer, will cease, these classes will disappear. But, even today, wages within each of these classes tend to become more equal. This led to the statement: “that a navvy’s day’s work is worth that of a jeweller”, and made Robert Owen conceive his “labour notes”, paid to all who worked so many hours in the production of necessary commodities.

But if we look back on all attempts made in this direction, we find that with the exception of a few thousand farmers in the United States, labour notes have not spread since the end of the first quarter of the century when Owen tried to issue them. The reasons for this have been discussed elsewhere (see the chapter: The Wage System, in my book “The Conquest of Bread”).

On the other hand, we see a great number of attempts at partial socialisation, tending in the direction of Communism. Hundreds of Communist communities have been founded during this century almost everywhere and at this very moment we are aware of more than a hundred of them, all being more or less Communistic. It is in the same direction of Communism – partial Communism, we mean to say – that nearly all the numerous attempts at socialisation we see in bourgeois society tend to be made, either between individuals or with regard to the socialisation of municipal matters.

Hotels, steamers, boarding houses, are all experiments in this direction undertaken by the bourgeois. For so much per day you have the choice between ten or fifty dishes placed at your disposal at the hotel or on the steamer, with nobody controlling the amount you have eaten of them. This organisation is even international and before leaving Paris or London you may buy bons (coupons for 10 francs a day) which enable you to stay at will in hundreds of hotels in France, Germany, Switzerland, etc., all belonging to an international society of hotels.

The bourgeois thoroughly understood the advantages of partial Communism combined with the almost unlimited freedom of the individual in respect to consumption, and in all these institutions for a fixed price per month you will be lodged and fed, with the single exception of costly extras (wine, special apartments) which are charged separately.

Fire, theft and accident insurance (especially in villages where equality of conditions permits the charge of an equal premium for all inhabitants), the arrangement by which great English stores will supply for 1s. per week all the fish which a small family may consume, clubs, the innumerable societies of insurance against sickness, etc., etc.. This mass of institutions, created during the 19th century, are an approach towards Communism with regard to part of our total consumption.

Finally, there exists a vast series of municipal institutions – water, gas, electricity, workmen’s dwellings, trains with uniform fares, baths, washing houses, etc. – where similar attempts at socialising consumption are being made on an ever increasing scale.

All this is certainly not yet Communism. Far from it. But the principle of these institutions contains a part of the principle of Communism: for so much per day (in money today, in labour tomorrow) you are entitled to satisfy – luxury excepted – this or the other of your wants.

These forays into Communism differ from real Communism in many ways; and essentially in the two following; [1] payment in money instead of payment by labour; [2] the consumers have no voice in the administration of the business. If, however, the idea, the tendency of these institutions were well understood, it would not be difficult even today to start by private or public initiative a community carrying out the first principle mentioned. Let us suppose a territory of 500 hectares on which are built 200 cottages, each surrounded by a garden or an orchard of a quarter hectare. The management allows each family occupying a cottage, to choose out of fifty dishes per day what is desired, or it supplies bread, vegetables, meat, coffee as demanded for preparation at home. In return they demand either so much per annum in money or a certain number of hours of work given, at the consumers’ choice, to one of the departments of the establishment: agriculture, cattle raising, cooking, cleaning. This may be put in practice tomorrow if required, and we must wonder that such a farm/hotel/garden has not yet been founded by an enterprising hotel proprietor.

It will be objected, no doubt, that it is just here, the introduction of labour in common, that Communists have generally experienced failure. Yet this objection cannot stand. The causes of failure have always to be sought elsewhere.

Firstly, nearly all communities were founded by an almost religious wave of enthusiasm. People were asked to become “pioneers of humanity;” to submit to the dictates of a punctilious morality, to become quite regenerated by Communist life, to give all their time, hours of work and of leisure, to the community, to live entirely for the community.

This meant acting simply like monks and to demand – without any necessity – men to be what they are not. It is only in quite recent days that communities have been founded by Anarchist working men without any such pretensions, for purely economic purposes – to free themselves from capitalist exploitation.


[Domestic life in common]

The second mistake lay in the desire to manage the community after the model of a family, to make it “the great family” They lived all in the same house and were thus forced to continuously meet the same “brethren and sisters.” It is already difficult often for two real brothers to live together in the same house, and family life is not always harmonious; so it was a fundamental error to impose on all the “great family” instead of trying, on the contrary, to guarantee as much freedom and home life to each individual.

Besides, a small community cannot live long; “brethren and sisters” forced to meet continuously, amid a scarcity of new impressions, end by detesting each other. And if two persons through becoming rivals or simply not liking each other are able by their disagreement to bring about the dissolution of a community, the prolonged life of such communities would be a strange thing, especially since all communities founded up to now have isolated themselves. It is a foregone conclusion that a close association of 10, 20, or 100 persons cannot last longer than three or four years. It would be even regrettable if it lasted longer, because this would only prove either that all were brought under the influence of a single individual or that all lost their individuality. Well, since it is certain that in three, four or five years part of the members of a community would wish to leave, there ought to exist at least a dozen or more federated communities in order that those who, for one reason or other, wish to leave a community may enter another community, being replaced by new comers from other places. Otherwise, the Communist beehive must necessarily perish or (which nearly always happens) fall into the hands of one individual – generally the most cunning of the “brethren”.


[Isolated communities of our times & the federated communes of the future]

Finally, all communities founded up till now isolated themselves from society; but struggle, a life of struggle, is far more urgently needed by an active man than a well supplied table. This desire to see the world, to mix with its currents, to fight its battles is the imperative call to the young generation. Hence it comes (as Chaikovski remarked from his experience) that young people, at the age of 18 or 20, necessarily leave a community which does not comprehend the whole of society

We need not add that governments of all descriptions have always been the most serious stumbling blocks for all communities. Those which have seen least of this or none at all (like Young Icaria) succeed best. This is easily understood Political hatred is one of the most violent in character. We can live in the same town with our political adversaries if we are not forced to see them every moment. But how is life possible in a small community where we meet each other at every turn. Political dissent enters the study, the workshop, the place of rest, and life becomes impossible.

On the other hand, it has been proved to conviction that work in common, Communist production, succeeds marvellously. In no commercial enterprise has so much value been added to land by labor as in each of the communities founded in America and in Europe. Faults of calculation may occur everywhere as they occur in all capitalist undertakings, but since it is known that during the first five years after their institution four out of every commercial undertakings become bankrupt, it must be admitted that nothing similar or even coming near to this has occurred in Communist communities. So, when the bourgeois press, wanting to be ingenious, speaks of offering an island to Anarchists on which to establish their community, relying on our experience we are ready to accept this proposal, provided only that this island be, for instance, the Isle de France (Paris) and that upon the valuation of the social wealth we receive our share of it. Only, since we know that neither Paris nor our share of social wealth will be given to us, we shall some day take one and the other ourselves by means of the Social Revolution. Paris and Barcelona in 1871 were not very far from doing so – and ideas have made headway since that time.

Progress permits us to see above all, that an isolated town, proclaiming the Commune, would have great difficulty to subsist. The experiment ought, therefore, to be made on a territory – eg, one of the Western States, Idaho or Ohio – as American Socialists suggest, and they are right. On a sufficiently large territory, not within the bounds of a single town we must someday begin to put in practice the Communism of the future.

We have so often demonstrated that State Communism is impossible, that it is useless to dwell on this subject. A proof of this, furthermore, lies in the fad that the believers in the State, the upholders of a Socialist State do not themselves believe in State Communism. A portion of them occupy themselves with the conquest of a share of the power in the State of today – the bourgeois State – and do not trouble themselves at all to explain that their idea of a Socialist State is different from a system of State capitalism under which everybody would be a functionary of the State. If we tell them that it is this they aim at, they are annoyed; yet they do not explain what other system of society they wish to establish. As they do not believe in the possibility of a social revolution in the near future, their aim is to become part of the government in the bourgeois State of today and they leave it to the future to decide where this will end.

As to those who have tried to sketch the outlines of a future Socialist State, they met our criticism by asserting that all they want are bureaus of statistics. But this is mere juggling with words. Besides, it is averred today that the only statistics of value are those recorded by each individual himself, giving age, occupation, social position, or the lists of what he sold or bought, produced and consumed.

The questions to be put are usually of voluntary elaboration (by scientists, statistical societies), and the work of statistical bureaus consists today in Distributing the questions, in arranging and mechanically summing up the replies. To reduce the State, the governments to this function and to say that, by “government”, only this will be understood, means nothing else (if said sincerely) but an honourable retreat. And me must indeed admit that the Jacobins of thirty years ago have immensely gone back from their ideals of dictatorship and Socialist centralisation. No one would dare to say today that the production or consumption of potatoes or rice must be regulated by the parliament of the German People’s State (Volksstaat) at Berlin. These insipid things are no longer said.


[The Individual in a Communist society]

The Communist state is an Utopia given up already by its own adherents and it is time to proceed further. A far more important question to be examined, indeed, is this: whether Anarchist or Free Communism does not also imply a diminution of individual freedom?

As a matter of fact, in all discussions on freedom our ideas are obscured by the surviving influence of past centuries of serfdom and religious oppression.

Economists represented the enforced contract (under the threat of hunger) between master and workingman as a state of freedom. Politicians, again, so called the present state of the citizen who has become a serf and a taxpayer of the State. The most advanced moralists, like Mill and his numerous disciples, defined liberty as the right to do everything with the exception of encroachments on the equal liberty of all others. Apart from the fact that the word “right” is a very confused term handed down from past ages, meaning nothing at all or too much, the definition of Mill enabled the philosopher Spencer, numerous authors and even some Individualist Anarchists to reconstruct tribunals and legal punishments, even to the penalty of death – that is, to reintroduce, necessarily, in the end the State itself which they had admirably criticised themselves. The idea of free will is also hidden behind all these reasonings.

If we put aside all unconscious actions and consider only premeditated actions (being those which the law, religious and penal systems alone try to influence) we find that each action of this kind is preceded by some discussion in the human brain; for instance, “I shall go out and take a walk,” somebody thinks, “No, I have an appointment with a friend,” or “I promised to finish some work” or “My wife and children will I be sorry to remain at home,” or “I shall lose my employment if I do not go to work.”

The last reflection implies the fear of punishment. In the first three instances this man has to face only himself, his habit of loyalty, his sympathies. And there lies all the difference. We say that a man forced to reason that he must give up such and such an engagement from fear of punishment, is not a free man. And we affirm that humanity can and must free itself from the fear of punishment, and that it can constitute an Anarchist society in which the fear of punishment and even the unwillingness to be blamed shall disappear. Towards this ideal we march. But we know that we can free ourselves neither from our habit of loyalty (keeping our word) nor from our sympathies (fear of giving pain to those whom we love and whom we do not wish to afflict on or even to disappoint). In this last respect man is never free. Crusoe, on his island, was not free. The moment he began to construct his ship, to cultivate his garden or to lay in provisions for the winter, he was already captured, absorbed by his work. If he felt lazy and would have preferred to remain lying at ease in his cave, he hesitated for a moment and nevertheless went forth to his work. The moment he had the company of a dog, of two or three goats and, above all, after he had met with Friday, he was no longer absolutely free in the sense in which these words are sometimes used in discussions. He had obligations, he had to think of the interests of others, he was no longer the perfect individualist whom we are sometimes expected to see in him. The moment he has a wife or children, educated by himself or confided to others (society), the moment he has a domestic animal, or even only an orchard which requires to be watered at certain hours – from that moment he is no longer the “care for nothing,” the “egoist”, the individualist” who is sometimes represented as the type of a free man. Neither on Crusoe’s island, far less in society of whatever kind it be, does this type exist. Man takes, and will always take into consideration the interests of other men in proportion to the establishment of relations of mutual interest between them, and the more so the more these others affirm their own sentiments and desires.

Thus we find no other definition of liberty than the following one: the possibility of action without being influenced in those actions by the fear of punishment by society (bodily constraint, the threat of hunger or even censure, except when it comes from a friend).

Understanding liberty in this sense – and we doubt whether a larger and at the same time a more real definition of it can be found – we may say that Communism can diminish, even annihilate, all individual liberty and in many Communist communities this was attempted; but it can also enhance this liberty to its utmost limits.

All depends on the fundamental ideas on which the association is based. It is not the form of an association which involves slavery; it is the ideas of individual liberty which we bring with us to an association which determine the more or less libertarian character of that association.

This applies to all forms of association. Cohabitation of two individuals under the same roof may lead to the enslavement of one by the will of the other, as it may also lead to liberty for both. The same applies to the family or to the co-operation of two persons in gardening or in bringing out a paper. The same with regard to large or small associations, to each social institution. Thus, in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries, we find communes of equals, men equally free – and four centuries later we see the same commune calling for the dictatorship of a priest. Judges and laws had remained; the idea of the Roman law, of the State had become dominant, whilst those of freedom, of settling disputes by arbitration and of applying federalism to its fullest extent had disappeared; hence arose slavery. Well, of all institutions or forms of social organisation that have been tried until this day, Communism is the one which guarantees the greatest amount of individual liberty – provided that the idea that begets the community be Liberty, Anarchy.

Communism is capable of assuming all forms of freedom or of oppression which other institutions are unable to do. It may produce a monastery where all implicitly obey the orders of their superior, and it may produce an absolutely free organisation, leaving his full freedom to the individual, existing only as long as the associates wish to remain together, imposing nothing on anybody, being anxious rather to defend, enlarge, extend in all directions the liberty of the individual. Communism may be authoritarian (in which case the community will soon decay) or it may be Anarchist. The State, on the contrary, cannot be this. It is authoritarian or it ceases to be the State.

Communism guarantees economic freedom better than any other form of association, because it can guarantee wellbeing, even luxury, in return for a few hours of work instead of a day’s work. Now, to give ten or eleven hours of leisure per day out of the sixteen during which we lead a conscious life (sleeping eight hours), means to enlarge individual liberty to a point which for thousands of years has been one of the ideals of humanity.

This can be done today in a Communist society man can dispose of at least ten hours of leisure. This means emancipation from one of the heaviest burdens of slavery on man. It is an increase of liberty.

To recognise all men as equal and to renounce government of man by man is another increase of individual liberty in a degree which no other form of association has ever admitted even as a dream. It becomes possible only after the first step has been taken: when man has his means of existence guaranteed and is not forced to sell his muscle and his brain to those who condescend to exploit him.

Lastly, to recognise a variety of occupations as the basis of all progress and to organise in such a way that man may be absolutely free during his leisure time, whilst he may also vary his work, a change for which his early education and instruction will have prepared him – this can easily be put in practice in a Communist society – this, again, means the emancipation of the individual, who will find doors open in every direction for his complete development.

As for the rest, all depends upon the ideas on which the community is founded. We know a religious community in which members who felt unhappy, and showed signs of this on their faces, used to be addressed by a “brother”: “You are sad. Nevertheless, put on a happy look, otherwise you will afflict our brethren and sisters.” And we know of communities of seven members, one of whom moved the nomination of four committees: gardening, ways and means, housekeeping, and exportation, with absolute rights for the chairman of each committee. There certainly existed communities founded or invaded by “criminals of authority” (a special type recommended to the attention of Mr. Lombrose) and quite a number of communities were founded by mad upholders of the absorption of the individual by society. But these men were not the product of Communism, but of Christianity (eminently authoritarian in its essence) and of Roman law, the State.

The fundamental idea of these men who hold that society cannot exist without police and judges, the idea of the State, is a permanent danger to all liberty, and not the fundamental idea of Communism – which consists in consuming and producing without calculating the exact share of each individual. This idea, on the contrary, is an idea of freedom, of emancipation.


Thus we have arrived at the following conclusions: Attempts at Communism have hitherto failed because:

[1] They were based on an impetus of a religious character instead of considering a community simply as a means of economic consumption and production,
[2] They isolated themselves from society,
[3] They were imbued with an authoritarian spirit,
[41 They were isolated instead of federated,
[5] They required of their members so much labour as to leave them no leisure time, and
[6] They were modelled on the form of the patriarchal family instead of having for an aim the fullest possible emancipation of the individual.

Communism, being an eminently economic institution, does not in any way prejudice the amount of liberty guaranteed to the individual, the initiator, the rebel against crystallising customs. It may be authoritarian, which necessarily leads to the death of the community, and it may be libertarian, which in the twelfth century even under the partial communism of the young cities of that age, led to the creation of a young civilisation full of vigour, a new springtide of Europe.

The only durable form of Communism, however, is one under which, seeing the close contact between fellow men it brings about, every effort would be made to extend the liberty of the individual in all directions.

Under such conditions, under the influence of this idea, the liberty of the individual, increased already by the amount of leisure secured to him, will be curtailed in no other way than occurs today by municipal gas, the house to house delivery of food by great stores, modern hotels, or by the fact that during working hours we work side by side with thousands of fellow labourers.

With Anarchy as an aim and as a means, Communism becomes possible. Without it, it necessarily becomes slavery and cannot exist.


Written: July, 1901
First Published: Freedom: July (p30)/August (p38) 1901
Source: Anarchy Archives

Transcription/Markup: Dana Ward/Brian Baggins
Online Version: Peter Kropotkin Reference Archive (marxists.org) 2001; editorial changes made to structure the document in 4 sections. The original does not have any section breaks nor section headers, these have been introduced to make reading/referencing the document easier.


“Anti Authoritarian Property Relations” by HagbardCeline33

common property

Different conceptions of property attempt to answer the question “what ought to belong to who?”. A property right is a relationship between a person, another person(or persons), and a thing(or things). Assuming an empathetic framework where we value the wellbeing of all, what forms of property relations should we value as legitimate? And what forms of property should be considered illegitimate? The question isn’t “should we have boundaries?” but “what forms of boundaries should we have?”  Property relations should NOT be based on what one can “secure and protect” IF one’s goal is the wellbeing of all. One should advocate Property relations based on USE and NEEDS IF one’s goal is maximizing the wellbeing of all(IF it is true that free association is a component that is essential to our wellbeing).
Private Property is defined as the private ownership of the means of production. Private property is not a person owning the toothbrush they use, but private property could be private owners owning the toothbrush factory that others use. Private property allows for exploitation of laborers, which is the extraction of surplus value from workers. Private property inhibits freedom within associations through hierarchical relationships and central planning within workforces where decisions made by workers can be vetoed at any time by the owners. The associations built by private property inhibit our psychological and social needs for decision making power over decisions that effect us. Private property relations are enforced by states. And the states that enforce private property have the same power consolidation issue that private property has. For states are defined by centralization of power. States by definition do not allow for decision making power to be held by the people the state governs over.
Personal Property is Personal usership over Items intended for personal use. This includes one’s house. Landlordism allows for someone to own the house another person uses and extract money from the tenant. Since relevant shelter is a human need, this turns life into something that needs to be earned, making humans for rent in the workforce. Given that we can automate construction of houses, there is no meaningful argument as to why houses can’t be free for all. The only argument against unconditional free relevant houses for all comes from an authoritarian individualist viewpoint that giving people stuff is bad, often for reasons of motivation. They say this after they have been given their language by their environment, given their technology by their environment, etc. When it comes to human motivation the only jobs that thrive off of economic rewards/punishments are mechanical labor jobs that people don’t enjoy. And the vast majority of such jobs can be automated. Our abilities to do creative jobs are harmed by economic reward/punishment systems. Given the current technical ability to automate the vast majority of mechanical labor(anything less complicated than the automation and distribution of an automobile), and the evidence behind human motivation under the influence of economic reward/punishment models, motivation would not be effected negatively if we automated mechanical labor in accord with the needs and preferences of communities and individuals and gave them all the means of existence without a pricetag.
Personal property does not include one’s right to conspicuously consume at the expense of others and the environment. Your right to hoard ends at the point where other people are being harmed. There are grey areas(and better and worse ways to resolve them), but if we focus resolving the clear cases where harm to others is taking place due to hoarding, we wouldn’t need to focus as much on the grey areas because the issue of people being harmed from absolute deprivation of resources would be solved through an access abundance of resources in the common resource pool.
(Anti Authoritarian) Collective Property refers to the collective usership of items intended for use by a collective(such as a worker owned co-op). Anti Authoritarian Collective Property is a way of collectively managing that which is used by a collective in an non authoritarian way. An authority can be a teacher, a parent, an or an expert in a given field, whereas authoritarianism refers to a relationship where decision making power is controlled by those on the top of the social ladder and decisions within the association made by the bottom of the social ladder can be vetoed by those at the top(there are different degrees of authoritarianism). Anti Authoritarian collective property is an essential transition mechanism to an automated economy. And after an automated economy is established, collectives will want to manage that which they use whether the collective is in the form of a communal house or an art project. Collectives remain non authoritarian by practicing participatory democracy. Participatory democracy can often(and should often) take the format of majority preference(although ORGANIC consensus through participatory democracy has its place). Majority preference allows for freedom of/from/within associations. Majority preference is not authoritarian, for everyone retains self management within the association and is free to leave the association at any time. Majority preference is like 2/3 people choosing to do an activity, and should not be confused with 2/3 people forcing the 1 person to do an activity. Anti authoritarian collective management(if consistent) would not only be non authoritarian in regards to internal affairs, but external affairs as well. In other words, if anti authoritarian principles are applied consistently, then the collectives would not be at the expense of the community. For this to happen, the means of production needed for the community must be controlled by the community, and used by collectives assisted by automation. The community would control what gets produced for the community, and collectives would manage the process of production.
Common Property is communal management of resources intended for use by the community. This includes the major productive forces that everyone relies upon out of both necessity as well as the pursuit of their various preferences. Nobel Prize Winning economist Elinor Ostrom has 8 rules she has arrived at that we ought to use for managing the commons. Here are her 8 rules adapted to the framework of social ecology:

  1. The first rule is defining clear boundaries: There need to be rules for how we relate to each other, and by extension how we relate to things. One of the rules ought to be no rulers(which doesnt mean no authorities). Given the goal of meeting biopsychosocialeco needs, no one would have the right to inhibit decision making power of those who aren’t harming any person(or persons). There need to be boundaries within the community(to ensure that individuals have decision making power over decisions that effect them) and in regards to resources and how they are accessed(to ensure sustainability). A simplification of resource rules can be a certain degree of technical efficiency checked and balanced by a certain degree of resource efficiency aimed at meeting needs and preferences through dynamic decentralized planning ( liberatory technical potential). This would need to take into consideration everything from technology, resources, recyclability, durability, energy availability, etc.
  1. The second rule is to match rules for managing common goods to local needs and conditions: In the same way animals adapt to their environments, our associations will need to adapt to our environments. This means taking into consideration the varied preferences of those within the associations, as well as using different technology to create access abundance in different places. For example in one time/space location an emphasis on solar panels will be the optimum way to meet energy and resource needs, and in another area an emphasis on geothermal might make more sense.
  1. The third rule is to ensure those affected  by the rules can participate in modifying those rules. Creating rules to meet needs is a process that will need to constantly adapt to new conditions. This means it is essential that rules evolve to achieve the end goal of wellbeing as resources/technology/preferences/the environment change. And because of that, it is essential that people affected by the rules have the ability to help in the process of making better rules. Adapting current technology to a non authoritarian society is a process that will require new rules in regards to what we should and shouldn’t do as time goes on. This must be done in a cautious way to make sure such an adaptation is not co-opted by authoritarians or rules that lead to authoritarianism. In order to ensure that those being effected by rules can participate in the modification of rules, there needs to decentralized planning within free associations.
  1. The fourth rule is developing a system carried out by community members for monitoring resources and looking our for each other. We need to protect ourselves from those harming others and look out for each other. This does not mean we need some authoritarian institution like the police.  ////// We need environmental monitoring to find out availability of resources in order to manage finite resources in a way that creates relative abundance. Most of the resource monitoring can be automated.
  1. The fifth rule is to use graduated sanctions for rule violators(based on restraint rather than punishment). Punishment is revenge based. Punishment allows for one to restrain someone from harming others, and then proceed to harm the person who has been restrained.  Punishment aggravates abuse/unmet needs in the long term, making us less safe. Restraint is about stopping a person(or persons) from causing harm. Can harm be caused through restraint? Yes, but  there are many scenarios real and hypothetical where refusal to use restraint causes more harm. The less abuse/unmet needs within the community the less need to focus on sanctions(and the more inequality the less trust throughout society). And between legalizing drugs, having an automated driving system, wiping out absolute deprivation of resources, and relative deprivation of resources, most ‘crimes’ would vanish or be minimized. As Jacque Fresco has pointed out, it is much cheaper to give someone an expensive watch than to punish someone for stealing an expensive watch.

There would be three significant ways that anti authoritarian protection would differ from the authoritarian rackets such as the police1> The rules would be different. For example Right now it is legal to hoard billions of dollars while people starve unnecessarily, and it is illegal to perform many victimless crimes. We need rules that are based on anti authoritarian principles that lead towards the wellbeing of all(which means no rules that allow private property). 2> The mechanism of enforcement would be different. Rather than using punishment to enforce rules, preventative approaches, communication, and restraint would be used. 3> There would be no centralization of power(as one of the rules of course).

 

  1. The sixth rule is to provide accessible low cost means for dispute resolution: This means everything from,  non authoritarian therapy, to non authoritarian communication  experts, to restitution, to restorative justice, to arbitration/mediation, group conferencing, voluntary rehabilitative centers, restraint of those harming others etc. With access to the necessities of life and to the means of existence and production, conflicts in society would be minimized. The goal isn’t some perfect circle where there is no exploitative conflict, the goal is to minimize exploitative conflict to the greatest degree possible. This would mean preventative approaches to conflicts that are less resource intensive than constantly patching up conflicts. And when it comes to patching conflicts there are better and worse ways to do so. A lot of symptom suppression is mere symptom aggravation in disguise, such as revenge based conflict resolution systems.

 

  1. The seventh rule is to make sure the rule making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities. Unless we have a global non hierarchical society, outside of the pocket of freedom created there will be socioeconomic hierarchy. This outside authoritarianism needs to be defended against and there are better and worse ways to do so. And considering that there is gradualism in social evolution before punctuated equilibriums, there will be pockets of non authoritarian societies before there will be a global non authoritarian society. And as long as such authoritarianism exists, the commons need to be protected by the commoners in order to remain resilient.
  1. The eighth rule is to build responsibility for managing the common pool resources in nested tiers from the lowest level, up to the entire interconnected system: This implies decentralization of power and confederations as mechanisms for managing common pool resources.

Decentralization of power is done for many reasons. It allows for individuals and communities to have decision making power over decisions that effect them, as well as equality of votes for people within an association. It gives a person or persons the freedom to do what they want without harming the freedom of another person or other persons. And at the end of the day that is the goal of a property system aimed at the wellbeing of all: Individuals having freedom, within a context of social freedom, in a way that minimizes harm. The more abuse, the more unmet needs, the less trust and the more incentive to harm the commons and by extension harm others.This doesn’t mean there wont be conflicts. They will be minimized, and dealt with in ways more conducive to the end goal of meeting needs/preferences. Only through a context of decentralized planning and participatory decision making can varied human desires be taken into consideration. Common property would be managed by community assemblies based on non hierarchical constitutions and direct democracy.
Social ecology is the viewpoint that our ecological problems are social problems in disguise. It is through relating to each other in authoritarian ways that resources are mismanaged. We see this in capitalism where bosses are able to legally extract the surplus value from the workers. We see this in the market where profit is the proxy for resource management. And we see this in the state where hierarchical power consolidation and the will of the rulers takes precedence over  human needs and preferences. From a social ecology viewpoint, management of resources through decentralization of power is the optimum form of power relations for managing the commons, maintaining a thriving biodiverse ecosystem, and meeting human needs and preferences. Scarcity, ecocide, abuse, and unmet needs are protected and enforced by socioeconomic hierarchy.
Confederations are associations of free associations. This would ideally link up to the global level where we have a global commons and regional commons made out of interlocked societies based on decentralization of power that share with each other to maximize the amount of needs and preferences being met. And with no profit incentive, and with no centralized power structures the ability and incentive to harm the commons would be minimized. Abuse and unmet needs would also be minimized, meaning that there would be less need for conflict resolution.
Modern technology and property rights:
If the common pool resources were managed well enough, people would  prefer to not own certain items personally or collectively. This would mean we need library esque access centers that are efficient and convenient enough for people to prefer to not own certain things, as well as a general ethic throughout society based on preservation of resources. Personal and collective usership of certain items would actually be a burden compared to such library esque access centers.
Automated mechanical labor would help alleviate freeloader problems that might occur. Sensors and interactive computers based on free software and decentralized planning can take into consideration available resources, available technology, sustainability protocols, and human needs and preferences. Through combining ecological, technological, and anti authoritarian principles we can manage resources communally more effectively than markets and states. All labor more simple than the complete automation and distribution of an automobile can be automated. The only forms of labor that are motivated  by economic reward/punishment systems are purely mechanical labor. Labor that involves more than rudimentary cognitive ability are inhibited by economic rewards/punishments. Given that context we ought to have a needs/gift based economic system.
In conclusion: The Private ownership of the means of production(like any other form of centralization of power) ensures that there is an inequality of decision making power, which violates our psychosocial needs for non authoritarian relations. State ownership of property has the exact same organizational problem. Landlordism allows for people to make money off of owning that which other people need to use. Personal property allows for persons to use that which they use without harming others. Anti Authoritarian collective property allows collectives the same right. And through using liberatory technology, rules without rulers, authorities without authoritarianism, sanctions without punishment, and federations without centralization of power, the commoners can manage the commons.

 
*For Further clarification: landed property (as opposed to movable property) ought to be communalized, and dwellings of persons, and infrastructure for collectives ought to be appropriated in a nested usufruct model from the communes to persons and collectives, persons having the right to dwellings and the means of production, art and science.  All property ought to be bound by usufruct, distributed bottom upwardly, according to needs and abilities, towards freedom, luxury, and post scarcity for all. 
http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/art38/main.html

https://archive.org/stream/dictionaryofpoli03palguoft/dictionaryofpoli03palguoft_djvu.txt
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/pierre-joseph-proudhon-what-is-property-an-inquiry-into-the-principle-of-right-and-of-governmen
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/petr-kropotkin-communism-and-anarchy
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/murray-bookchin-the-meaning-of-confederalism