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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.





“Communism and Anarchy” by Peter Kropotkin


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. 


A Rough Draft of the “BioPsychoSocialEco Technological Model of Human Cognition and Behavior”, by Hagbard Celine33

The Biopsychosocialeco technological model of human behavior is a combination between the biopsychosocial model(the model of human cognition and behavior that looks at biology and psychology and social systems as interconnected), social ecology(the theory that our social systems impact the ecosystem making our environmental problems social problems in disguise), and the idea that our biospychosocialeco system(s) impact our technology, and that our technology impacts our biopsychosocialeco system(s).

-Our social systems impact our ecosystems, and our ecosystems effect our social systems (social ecology)

-Our ecosystems ‘carved out’ our biology and are impacted by our biology(basic truism)

-Our biology is an essential component in the development of our psyches, and our psyches impact our biology(for example relations between excess cortisol and ill health effects)

-Our biology is a component in creating social systems, and our social systems are components that impact our biology

-Our biology is a component in the technology(applied knowledge) we create, and our technology is a component in how we adapt biologically

-Our social systems impact our psyches, and our psyches impact our social systems

-Our social systems impact our technology(applied knowledge), and our technology impacts our social systems

-Our psyches impact technology, and our technology impacts our psyches

-Our psyches are components in effecting our ecosystem, and our ecosystem is a component in effecting our psyches

-Our ecosystems are a component in regards to what technology is made, and our technology has an impact on the ecosystems

‘Resource Based Economy’ an essay by Jacque Fresco


Presented here is a straightforward approach to the redesign of a culture, in which the age-old inadequacies of war, poverty, hunger, debt, and unnecessary human suffering are viewed not only as avoidable, but totally unacceptable. This new social and economic design works towards eliminating the underlying causes that are responsible for many of our problems. But, as stated previously, they cannot be eliminated within the framework of the present monetary system and political establishment. Human behavior is subject to the same laws that govern all other physical phenomena. Our customs, behaviors, and values are byproducts of our culture. No one is born with greed, prejudice, bigotry and hatred – they are learned. If the environment is unaltered similar problems will reoccur.

These aspirations cannot be accomplished in a monetary based society of waste and human exploitation. With its planned obsolescence, neglect of the environment, outrageous military expenditures and the outworn methods of attempting to solve problems through the enactment of laws, these methods are bound to fail. Furthermore the belief that advanced technologies would lead to an improvement in the quality of life for most people is not the case in a monetary system. More and more companies are adopting the tremendous benefits of automation, resulting in increased production with fewer employees. Corporations’ short-term concern with profit will ultimately result in the demise of the world monetary based economies. If the monetary system continues to operate, we will be faced with the condition of more technological unemployment, today referred to as downsizing. From 1990 to 1995, companies dismissed a staggering 17.1 million employees, many of these due to automation. Automation will continue to replace people well into the foreseeable future, resulting in the lack of purchasing power for these displaced workers. Despite expanding global markets, the human cost in terms of displaced workers and a disenfranchised populous, will inevitably bring about massive and unmanageable social problems.

During the 1930’s, at the height of the Great Depression, the Roosevelt administration enacted new social legislation designed to minimize revolutionary tendencies and to address the problems of unemployment. Jobs were provided through the Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, National Recovery Act, transient camps, and Federal Arts projects. Ultimately, however, World War II pulled the U.S. out of that worldwide depression. If we permit current conditions to take their natural course, we will soon be faced with another international recession of potentially greater magnitude. At the time of this depression the US had only 600 first class fighting aircraft at the beginning of World War II, we rapidly increased production to 90,000 planes per year. Did we have enough money to pay for the required implements of war? The answer is no. Neither did we have enough gold. But, we did have more than enough resources. It was the available resources and personnel that enabled the U. S. to achieve the production and efficiency required to win the war. Unfortunately, such an all-out effort is only considered in times of war or disaster.

We live in a culture that seems to work collectively only in response to a crisis. Only in times of war do we call upon and assemble interdisciplinary teams to meet a threat from human aggression. Only in times of national emergency do we do the same to resolve a natural or man-made threat. Rarely, if ever, do we employ a concerted effort to help find workable solutions to social problems. If we apply the same efforts of scientific mobilization toward social betterment as we do during a war or disaster, large-scale results could be achieved in a relatively short time.

The Earth is still abundant with resources. Today our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter-productive to the well-being of people. Today’s society has access to highly advanced technologies and can easily provide more than enough for a very high standard of living for all the earth’s people. This is possible through the implementation of a resource-based economy.

Simply stated, within a resource-based Economy we will utilize existing resources rather than money, and provide an equitable method of distribution in the most humane and efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all natural, man-made, machine-made, and synthetic resources would be available without the use of money, credits, barter, or any other form of symbolic exchange. A resource-based economy would utilize existing resources from the land and sea, and the means of production, such as physical equipment and industrial plants, to enhance the lives of the total population. In an economy based on resources rather than money, we could easily produce all of the necessities of life and provide a high standard of living for all.

To further clarify the concept of a resource-based economy consider this example: A group of people is stranded on an island with enormous purchasing power including gold, silver and diamonds. All this wealth would be irrelevant to their survival if the island had few resources such as food, clean air, and water. Only when population exceeds the productive capacity of the land do problems such as greed, crime, and violence emerge. On the other hand, if people were stranded on an island that was abundant with natural resources producing more than the necessities for survival, then a monetary system would be irrelevant. It is only when resources are scarce that money can be used to control their distribution. One could not, for example, sell the air we breathe, the sand on the beach, or the salt water in the ocean to someone else on the island who has equal access to all these things. In a resource-based economy all of the world’s resources would be held as the common heritage of all of the earth’s people, thus eventually outgrowing the need for the artificial boundaries that separate people – this is the unifying imperative.

We must emphasize here that this approach to global governance has nothing whatever in common with the present aims of a corporate elite to form a world government with themselves and large corporations in control, and the vast majority of the world’s population subservient to them. Globalization in a resource-based economy empowers each and every person on the planet to be the very best they can be, not to live in abject subjugation to a corporate governing body.

All socio-economic systems, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, ultimately depend upon available natural resources, e.g. clean air and water, arable land, and the necessary technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living. This can be accomplished through the intelligent and humane application of science and technology. The real wealth of any nation lies in its developed and potential resources and the people who are working toward the elimination of scarcity and the development of a more humane way of life. A resource-based economy would use technology to overcome scarce resources by utilizing renewable sources of energy; computerizing and automating manufacturing, inventory and distribution; designing safe, energy-efficient cities; providing universal health care and relevant education; and most of all, by generating a new incentive system based on human and environmental concern.

Unfortunately, today science and technology have been diverted from these ends for reasons of self-interest and monetary gain through the conscious withdrawal of efficiency, or through planned obsolescence. For example, it is an ironic state of affairs when the U. S. Department of Agriculture, whose function is to conduct research into ways of achieving higher crop yields per acre, pays farmers not to produce at full capacity while many people go hungry. Another example is the choice of some companies to illegally dump solid waste into oceans and rivers to save money, when more ecologically sound disposal methods are available. A third example is the failure of some industries to install electrostatic precipitators in their factories’ smokestacks to prevent particulate matter from being released into the atmosphere, even though the technology has been available for over 75 years. The monetary system does not always apply known methods that would best serve people and the environment.

In a resource-based economy, the human aspect would be of prime concern, and technology would be subordinate to this. This would result in a considerable increase in leisure time. In an economy in which production is accomplished primarily by machines, and products and services are available to all, the concepts of “work” and “earning a living” would become irrelevant. But if the human consequences of automation are unresolved, as they are today, then it renders all the advances of science and technology of much less significance.

The utilization of today’s high speed and large capacity computer systems, otherwise known as the “Information Superhighway” or Internet, could assist us in defining the variables and parameters required for the operation of a resource-based economy that conforms to environmental needs. Over-exploitation of resources would be unnecessary and surpassed.

Many people believe that there is too much technology in the world today, and that technology is the major cause of our environmental pollution. This is not the case. Rather, it is the abuse and misuse of technology that should be our major concern. In very simple terms, a hammer can be used to construct a building, or to kill another person. It is not the hammer that is the issue, but how it is used.

Cybernation, or the application of computers and automation to the social system, could be regarded as an emancipation proclamation for humankind if used humanely and intelligently. Its thorough application could eventually enable people to have the highest conceivable standard of living with practically no labor. It could free people for the first time in human history from a highly structured and outwardly imposed routine of repetitive and mundane activity. It could enable one to return to the Greek concept of leisure, where slaves did most of the work and men had time to cultivate their minds. The essential difference is that in the future, each of us will command more than a million slaves – but they will be mechanical and electrical slaves, not fellow human beings. This will end forever the degrading exploitation of any human being by another so that he or she lives an abundant, productive, and less stressful life. Perhaps the greatest aid in enhancing the survival of the human race is the introduction of cybernation, the electronic computer, and artificial intelligence, which may very well save the human race from its own inadequacies.

A resource-based economy includes the redesign of our cities, transportation systems, and industrial plants so that they are energy efficient, clean, and conveniently provide the needs of all people both materially and spiritually. These new cybernated cities would have their electrical sensors’ autonomic nervous system extended into all areas of the social complex. Their function would be to coordinate a balance between production and distribution and to operate a balance-load economy. Decisions would be arrived at on the basis of feedback from the environment. Despite today’s mania for national security, and subsequent intrusions into everyone’s personal affairs, in a world-wide resource-based economy where no one need take from another, it will be considered socially offensive and counterproductive for machines to monitor the activities of individuals. In fact, such intrusion would serve no useful purpose.

To further understand the operation of cybernation in the city system, for example, in the agricultural belt the electronic probes imbedded in the soil would automatically keep a constant inventory of the water table, soil conditions, nutrients, etc. and act appropriately without the need for human intervention. This method of industrial electronic feedback could be applied to the entire management of a global economy.

All raw materials used to manufacture products can be transported directly to the manufacturing facilities by automated transportation “sequences” such as ships, monorails, trains, pipelines, and pneumatic tubes, and the like. All transportation systems are fully utilized in both directions. There would be no empty trucks, trains, or transport units on return trips. There would be no freight trains stored in yards, awaiting a business cycle for their use. An automated inventory system would be connected to both the distribution centers and the manufacturing facilities, thus coordinating production to meet demand and providing a constant evaluation of preferences and consumption statistics. In this way a balanced-load economy can be assured and shortages, over-runs, and waste could be eliminated.

The method for the distribution of goods and services in a resource-based economy without the use of money or tokens could be accomplished through the establishment of distribution centers. These distribution centers would be similar to a public library or an exposition, where the advantages of new products can be explained and demonstrated. For example, if one were to visit Yellowstone National Park, one could check out a still or video camera on-site, use the camera, and if they do not want to keep it, return it to another readily accessible distribution center or drop-off point, thus eliminating the individual’s need to store and maintain the equipment.

In addition to computerized centers, which would be located throughout the various communities, there would be 3-D, flat-screen televised imaging capabilities right in the convenience of one’s own home. If an item is desired, an order would be placed, and the item could be automatically delivered directly to a person’s place of residence.

With the infusion of a resource-based, world economy and an all-out effort to develop new, clean, renewable sources of energy, (such as geothermal, controlled fusion, solar heat concentrators, photovoltaics, wind, wave, tidal power, and fuel from the oceans), we will eventually be able to have energy in unlimited quantity that could serve civilization for thousands of years.

To better understand the meaning of a resource-based economy consider this: If all the money in the world were to suddenly disappear, as long as topsoil, factories, and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we chose to build and fulfill any human need. It is not money that people need, but rather it is freedom of access to most of their necessities without ever having to appeal to a government bureaucracy or any other agency. In a resource-based economy money would become irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources, manufacturing, and distribution of the products.

Take the automobile. In order to service conventional automobiles today we have to remove a great deal of hardware before we can get to the engine. Why are they made so complicated? This reason is simply because ease of repair is not the concern of the manufacturers. They do not have to pay to service the car. If they did, I can assure you, they would design automobiles that consist of modular components that could be easily disengaged, thus facilitating easier access to the engine. Such construction would be typical in a resource-based economy. Many of the components in the automobile would be easily detachable to save time and energy in the rare case of repair, because no one would profit by servicing automobiles or any other products. Consequentially all products would be of the highest quality, and they would be simplified for convenience of service. Automotive transport units engineered in this way can easily be designed to be service-free for many years. All the components within the car could be easily replaced when needed with improved technologies. Eventually, with the development of magnetically suspended bearings, lubrication and wear would be relegated to the past. Proximity sensors in the vehicles would prevent collisions, further reducing servicing and repair requirements.

This same process would be carried out for all other products. All industrial devices would be designed for recycling. However, the life span of products would be significantly increased through intelligent and efficient design, thereby reducing waste. There would be no “planned obsolescence,” where products are deliberately designed to wear out or break down. In a resource-based economy technology intelligently and efficiently applied will conserve energy, reduce waste, and provide more leisure time. During the transition, the workweek could be staggered thus eliminating traffic jams or crowding in all areas of human activity, including beaches and recreation areas.

Most packaging systems would be standardized, requiring less storage space and facilitating easy handling. To eliminate waste such as newsprint, books, and other publications, these could be replaced, for example, by an electronic process in which a light-sensitive film is placed over a monitor or TV, producing a temporary printout. This material would be capable of storing the information until it is deleted. This would conserve our forests and millions of pounds of paper, which is a major part of the recycling process. Eventually, most paperwork would no longer be required, i.e. advertising, money, mail, newspaper, phonebook.

As we outgrow the need for professions that are based on the monetary system, such as lawyers, accountants, bankers, insurance companies, advertising, sales personnel, and stockbrokers, a considerable amount of waste and non productive personnel could be eliminated. Enormous amounts of time and energy would also be saved by eliminating the duplication of competing products. Instead of having hundreds of different manufacturing plants and all the paperwork and personnel that are required to turn out similar products, only very few of the highest quality would be needed to serve the entire population. In a resource-base economy planned obsolescence would not exist.


“There is NO Communism in Russia” by Emma Goldman

Leninism fascism


Communism is now on everybody’s lips. Some talk of it with the exaggerated enthusiasm of a new convert, others fear and condemn it as a social menace. But I venture to say that neither its admirers—the great majority of them—nor those who denounce it have a very clear idea of what Bolshevik Communism really is.

Speaking generally, Communism is the ideal of human equality and brotherhood. It considers the exploitation of man by man as the source of all slavery and oppression. It holds that economic inequality leads to social injustice and is the enemy of moral and intellectual progress. Communism aims at a society where classes have been abolished as a result of common ownership of the means of production and distribution. It teaches that only in a classless, solidaric commonwealth can man enjoy liberty, peace and well-being.

My purpose is to compare Communism with its application in Soviet Russia, but on closer examination I find it an impossible task. As a matter of fact, there is no Communism in the U.S.S.R. Not a single Communist principle, not a single item of its teaching is being applied by the Communist party there.

To some this statement may appear as entirely false; others may think it vastly exaggerated. Yet I feel sure that an objective examination of conditions in present-day Russia will convince the unprejudiced reader that I speak with entire truth.

It is necessary to consider here, first of all, the fundamental idea underlying the alleged Communism of the Bolsheviki. It is admittedly of a centralized, authoritarian kind. That is, it is based almost exclusively on governmental coercion, on violence. It is not the Communism of voluntary association. It is compulsory State Communism. This must be kept in mind in order to understand the method applied by the Soviet state to carry out such of its plans as may seem to be Communistic.

The first requirement of Communism is the socialization of the land and of the machinery of production and distribution. Socialized land and machinery belong to the people, to be settled upon and used by individuals or groups according to their needs. In Russia land and machinery are not socialized but _nationalized_. The term is a misnomer, of course. In fact, it is entirely devoid of content. In reality there is no such thing as national wealth. A nation is too abstract a term to “own” anything. Ownership may be by an individual, or by a group of individuals; in any case by some quantitatively defined reality. When a certain thing does not belong to an individual or group, it is either nationalized or socialized. If it is nationalized, it belongs to the state; that is, the government has control of it and may dispose of it according to its wishes and views. But when a thing is socialized, every individual has free access to it and use it without interference from anyone.

In Russia there is no socialization either of land or of production and distribution. Everything is nationalized; it belongs to the government, exactly as does the post-office in America or the railroad in Germany and other European countries. There is nothing of Communism about it.

No more Communistic than the land and means of production is any other phase of the Soviet economic structure. All sources of existence are owned by the central government; foreign trade is its absolute monopoly; the printing presses belong to the state, and every book and paper issued is a government publication. In short, the entire country and everything in it is the property of the state, as in ancient days it used to be the property of the crown. The few things not yet nationalized, as some old ramshackle houses in Moscow, for instance, or some dingy little stores with a pitiful stock of cosmetics, exist on sufferance only, with the government having the undisputed right to confiscate them at any moment by simple decree.

Such a condition of affairs may be called state capitalism, but it would be fantastic to consider it in any sense Communistic.


Let us now turn to production and consumption, the levers of all existence. Maybe in them we shall find a degree of Communism that will justify us in calling life in Russia Communistic, to some extent at least.

I have already pointed out that the land and the machinery of production are owned by the state. The methods of production and the amounts to be manufactured by every industry in each and every mill, shop and factory are determined by the state, by the central government—by Moscow—through its various organs.

Now, Russia is a country of vast extent, covering about one sixth of the earth’s surface. It is peopled by a mixed population of 165,000,000. It consists of a number of large republics, of various races and nationalities, each region having its own particular interests and needs. No doubt, industrial and economic planning is vitally necessary for the well-being of a community. True Communism—economic equality as between man and man and between communities—requires the best and most efficient planning by each community, based upon its local requirements and possibilies. The basis of such planning must be the complete freedom of each community to produce according to its needs and to dispose of its products according to its judgment: to change its surplus with other similarly independent communities without let or hindrance by any external authority.

That is the essential politico-economic nature of Communism. It is neither workable nor possible on any other isis. It is necessarily libertarian, Anarchistic.

There is no trace of such Communism—that is to say, of any Communism—in Soviet Russia. In fact, the mere suggestion of such a system is considered criminal there, and any attempt to carry it out is punished by death.

Industrial planning and all the processes of production and distribution are in the hands of the central government. Supreme Economic Council is subject only to the authority of the Communist Party. It is entirely independent of the will or wishes of the people comprising the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Its work is directed by the pollicies and decisions of the Kremlin. This explains why Soviet Russia exported vast amounts of wheat and other grain while wide regions in the south and southeast of Russia were stricken with famine, so that more than two million of its people died of starvation (1932–1933).

There were “reasons of state” for it. The euphonious has from time immemorial masked tyranny, exploitation and the determination of every ruler to prolong and perpetuate his rule. Incidentally, I may mention that—in spite of country-wide hunger and lack of the most elemental necessities of life in Russia—the entire First Five-Year Plan aimed at developing that branch of heavy industry which serves, or can be made to serve, _military_ purposes.

As with production, so with distribution and every other form of activity. Not only individual cities and towns, but the constituent parts of the Soviet Union are entirely deprived of independent existence. Politically mere vassals of Moscow, their whole economic, social and cultural activity is planned, cut out for them and ruthlessly controlled by the “proletarian dictatorship” in Moscow. More: the life of every locality, of every individual even, in the so-called “Socialist” republics is managed in the very last detail by the “general line” laid down by the “center.” In other words, by the Central Committee and Politbureau of the Party, both of them controlled absolutely by one man, Stalin. To call such a dictatorship, this personal autocracy more powerful and absolute than any Czar’s, by the name of Communism seems to me the acme of imbecility.


Let us see now how Bolshevik “Communism” affects the lives of the masses and of the individual.

There are naive people who believe that at least some features of Communism have been introduced into the lives of the Russian people. I wish it were true, for that would be a hopeful sign, a promise of potential development along that line. But the truth is that in no phase of Soviet life, no more in the social than in individual relations, has there ever been any attempt to apply Communist principles in any shape or form. As I have pointed out before, the very suggestion of free, voluntary Communism is taboo in Russia and is regarded as counter-revolutionary and high treason against the infallible Stalin and the holy “Communist” Party.

And here I do not speak of the libertarian, Anarchist Communism. What I assert is that there is not the least sign in Soviet Russia even of authoritarian, State Communism. Let us glance at the actual facts of everyday life there.

The essence of Communism, even of the coercive kind, is the absence of social classes. The introduction of economic equality is its first step. This has been the basis of all Communist philosophies, however they may have differed in other respects. The purpose common to all of them was to secure social justice; and all of them agreed that it was not possible without establishing economic equality. Even Plato, in spite of the intellectual and moral strata in his Republic, provided for absolute economic equality, since the ruling classes were not to enjoy greater rights or privileges than the lowest social unit.

Even at the risk of condemnation for telling the whole truth, I must state unequivocally and unconditionally that the very opposite is the case in Soviet Russia. Bolshevism has not abolished the classes in Russia: it has merely reversed their former relationship. As a matter of fact, it has multiplied the social divisions which existed before the Revolution.

When I arrived in Soviet Russia in January, 1920, I found innumerable economic categories, based on the food rations received from the government. The sailor was getting the best ration, superior in quality, quantity and variety to the food issued to the rest of the population. He was the aristocrat of the Revolution: economically and socially he was universally considered to belong to the new privileged classes. After him came the soldier, the Red Army man, who received a much smaller ration, even less bread. Below the soldier in the scale was the worker in the military industries; then came other workers, subdivided into the skilled, the artisan, the laborer, etc. Each category received a little less bread, fats, sugar, tobacco, and other products (whenever they were to be had at all). Members of the former bourgeoisie, officially abolished as a class and expropriated, were in the last economic category and received practically nothing. Most of them could secure neither work nor lodgings, and it was no one’s business how they were to exist, to keep from stealing or from joining the counter-revolutionary armies and robber bands.

The possession of a red card, proving membership in the Communist Party, placed one above all these categories. It entitled its owner to a special ration, enabled him to eat in the Party stolovaya (mess-room) and produced, particularly if supported by recommendations from party members higher up, warm underwear, leather boots, a fur coat, or other valuable articles. Prominent party men had their own dining-rooms, to which the ordinary members had no access. In the Smolny, for instance, then the headquarters of the Petrograd government, there were two different dining-rooms, one for Communists in high position, the other for the lesser lights. Zinoviev, then chairman of the Petrograd Soviet and virtual autocrat of the Northern District, and other government heads took their meals at home in the Astoria, formerly the best hotel in the city, turned into the first Soviet House, where they lived with their families.

Later on I found the same situation in Moscow, Kharkov, Kiev, Odessa—everywhere in Soviet Russia.

It was the Bolshevik system of “Communism.” What dire effects it had in causing dissatisfaction, resentment and antagonism throughout the country, resulting in industrial and agrarian sabotage, in strikes and revolts—of this further on. It is said that man does not live by bread alone. True, but he cannot live at all without it. To the average man, to the masses in Russia, the different rations established in the country for the liberation of which they had bled, was the symbol of the new regime. It signified to them the great lie of Bolshevism, the broken promises of freedom, for freedom meant to them social justice, economic equality. The instinct of the masses seldom goes wrong; in this case it proved prophetic. What wonder, then, that the universal enthusiasm over the Revolution soon turned into disillusionment and bitterness, to opposition and hatred. How often Russian workers complained to me: “We don’t mind working hard and going hungry. It’s the injustice which we mind. If the country is poor, if there is little bread, then let us all share that little, but let us share equally. As things are now, it’s the same as it used to be; some get more, others less, and some get nothing at all.”

The Bolshevik system of privilege and inequality was not long in producing its inevitable results. It created and fostered social antagonisms; it alienated the masses from the Revolution, paralysed their interest in it and their energies, and thus defeated all the purposes of the Revolution.

The same system of privilege and inequality, strengthened and perfected, is in force today.

The Russian Revolution was in the deepest sense a social upheaval: its fundamental tendency was libertarian, its essential aim economic and social equality. Long before the October-November days (1917) the city proletariat began taking possession of the mills, shops and factories, while the peasants expropriated the big estates and turned the land to communal use. The continued development of the Revolution in its Communist direction depended on the unity of the revolutionary forces and the direct, creative initiative of the laboring masses. The people were enthusiastic in the great object before them; they eagerly applied their energies to the work of social reconstruction. Only they who had for centuries borne the heaviest burdens could, through free and systematic effort, find the road to a new, regenerated society.

But Bolshevik dogmas and “Communist” statism proved a fatal handicap to the creative activities of the people. The fundamental characteristic of Bolshevik psychology is distrust of the masses. Their Marxist theories, centering all power in the exclusive hands of their party, quickly resulted in the destruction of revolutionary cooperation, in the arbitrary and ruthless suppression of all other political parties and movements. Bolshevik tactics encompassed the systematic eradication of every sign of dissatisfaction, stifled all criticism and crushed independent opinion, popular initiative and effort. Communist dictatorship, with its extreme mechanical centralization, frustrated the economic and industrial activities of the country. The great masses were deprived of the opportunity to shape the policies of the Revolution or to take part in the administration of their own affairs. The labor unions were governmentalized and turned into mere transmitters of the orders of the state. The people’s cooperatives—that vital nerve of active solidarity and mutual help between city and country—were liquidated. The Soviets of peasants and workers were castrated and transformed into obedient committees. The government monopolized every phase of life. A bureaucratic machine was created, appalling in its inefficiency, corruption, brutality. The Revolution was divorced from the people and thus doomed to perish; and over all hung the dreaded sword of Bolshevik terrorism.

That was the “Communism” of the Bolsheviki in the first stages of the Revolution. Everyone knows that it brought the complete paralysis of industry, agriculture and transport. It was the period of “military Communism,” of agrarian and industrial conscription, of the razing of peasant villages by Bolshevik artillery—those “constructive” social and economic policies of Bolshevik Communism which resulted in the fearful famine in 1921.


And today? Has that “Communism” changed its nature? Is it actually different from the “Communism” of 1921? To my regret I must state that, in spite of all widely advertised changes and new economic policies, Bolshevik “Communism” is essentially the same as it was in 1921. Today the peasantry in Soviet Russia is entirely dispossessed of the land. The _sovkhozi_ are government farms on which the peasant works as a hired man, just as the man in the factory. This is known as “industrialization” of agriculture, “transforming the peasant into a proletarian.” In the _kolkhoz_ the land only nominally belongs to the villaoe. Actually it is owned by the government. The latter can at any moment—and often does—commandeer the _kolkhoz_ members for work in other parts of the country or exile whole villages for disobedience. The _kolkhozi_ are worked collectively, but the government control of them amounts to expropriation. It taxes them at its own will; it sets whatever price it chooses to pay for grain and other products, and neither the individual peasant nor the village Soviet has any say in the matter. Under the mask of numerous levies and compulsory government loans, it appropriates the products of the _kolkhoii_, and for some actual or pretended offenses punishes them by taking away all their grain.

The fearful famine of 1921 was admittedly due chiefly to the _razverstka_, the ruthless expropriation practiced at the time. It was because of it, and of the rebellion that resulted, that Lenin decided to introduce the NEP—the New Economic Policy which limited state expropriation and enabled the peasant to dispose of some of his surplus for his own benefit. The NEP immediately improved economic conditions throughout the land. The famine of 1932–1933 was due to similar “Communist” methods of the Bolsheviki: to enforced collectivization.

The same result as in 1921 followed. It compelled Stalin to revise his policy somewhat. He realised that the welfare of a country, particularly of one predominantly agricultural as Russia is, depends primarily on the peasantry. The motto was proclaimed: the peasant must be given opportunity togreater “well-being.” This “new” policy is admittedly only a breathing spell for the peasant. It has no more of Communism in it than the previous agrarian policies. From the beginning of Bolshevik rule to this day, it has been nothing but expropriation in one form or another, now and then differing in degree but always the same in kind—a continuous process of state robbery of the peasantry, of prohibitions, violence, chicanery and reprisals, exactly as in the worst days of Czarism and the World War. The present policy is but a variation of the “military Communism” of 1920–1921, with more of the military and less of the Communist element in it. Its “equality” is that of a penitentiary; its “freedom” that of a chain gang. No wonder the Bolsheviki declare that liberty is a bourgeois prejudice.

Soviet apologists insist that the old “military Communism” was justified in the initial period of the Revolution in the days of the blockade and military fronts. But more than sixteen years have passed since. There are no more blockades, no more fighting fronts, no more counter-revolution. Soviet Russia has secured the recognition of all the great governments of the world. It emphasizes its good will toward the bourgeois states, solicits their cooperation and is doing a large business with them. In fact, the Soviet government is on terms of friendship even with Mussolini and Hitler, those famous champions of liberty. It is helping capitalism to weather its economic storms by buying millions of dollars’ worth of products and opening new markets to it.

This is, in the main, what Soviet Russia has accomplished during seventeen years since the Revolution. But as to Communism—that is another matter. In this regard, the Bolshevik government has followed exactly the same course as before, and worse. It has made some superficial changes politically and economically, but fundamentally it has remained exactly the same state, based on the same principle of violence and coercion and using the same methods of tenor and compulsion as in the period of 1920–1921.

There are more classes in Soviet Russia today than in 1917, more than in most other countries in the world. The Bolsheviki have created a vast Soviet bureaucracy, enjoying special privileges and almost unlimited authority over the masses, industrial and agricultural. Above that bureaucracy is the still more privileged class of “responsible comrades,” the new Soviet aristocracy. The industrial class is divided and subdivided into numerous gradations. There are the _udarniki_, the shock troops of labor, entitled to various privileges; the “specialists,” the artisans, the ordinary workers and laborers. There are the factory “cells,” the shop committees, the pioneers, the _komsomoltsi_, the party members, all enjoying material advantages and authority. There is the large class of _lishentsi_, persons deprived of civil rights, the greater number of them also of chance to work, of the right to live in certain places, practically cut off from all means of existence. The notorious “pale” of the Czarist times, which forbade Jews to live in certain parts of the country, has been revived for the entire population by the introduction of the new Soviet passport system. Over and above all these classes is the dreaded G.P.U., secret, powerful and arbitrary, a government within the government. The G.P.U., in its turn, has its own class divisions. It has its own armed forces, its own commercial and industrial establishments, its own laws and regulations, and a vast slave army of convict labor. Aye, even in the Soviet prisons and concentration camps there are various classes with special privileges.

In the field of industry the same kind of “Communism” prevails as in agriculture. A sovietized Taylor system is in vogue throughout Russia, combining a minimum standard of production and piece work—the highest degree of exploitation and human degradation, involving also endless differences in wages and salaries. Payment is made in money, in rations, in reduced charges for rent, lighting, etc., not to speak of the special rewards and premiums for _udarniki_. In short, it is the _wage system_ which is in operation in Russia.

Need I emphasize that an economic arrangement based on the wage system cannot be considered as in any way related to Communism? It is its antithesis.


All these features are to be found in the present Soviet system. It is unpardonable naivete, or still more unpardonable hypocrisy, to pretend—as the Bolshevik apologists do—that the compulsory labor service in Russia is “the self-organization of the masses for purposes of production.”

Strange to say, I have met seemingly intelligent persons who claim that by such methods the Bolsheviki “are building Communism.” Apparently they believe that building consists in ruthless destruction, physically and morally, of the best values of mankind. There are others who pretend to think that the road to freedom and cooperation leads through labor slavery and intellectual suppression. According to them, to instill the poison of hatred and envy, of universal espionage and terror, is the best preparation for manhood and the fraternal spirit of Communism.

I do not think so. I think that there is nothing more pernicious than to degrade a human being into a cog of a soulless machine, turn him into a serf, into a spy or the victim of a spy. There is nothing more corrupting than slavery and despotism.

There is a psychology of political absolutism and dictatorship, common to all forms: the means and methods used to achieve a certain end in the course of time themselves become the end. The ideal of Communism, of Socialism, has long ago ceased to inspire the Bolshevik leaders as a class. Power and the strengthening of power has become their sole object. But abject subjection, exploitation and degradation are developing a new psychology in the great mass of the people also.

The young generation in Russia is the product of Bolshevik principles and methods. It is the result of sixteen years of official opinions, the only opinions permitted in the land. Having grown up under the deadly monopoly of ideas and values, the youth in the U.S.S.R. knows hardly anything about Russia itself. Much less does it know of the world outside. It consists of blind fanatics, narrow and intolerant, it lacks all ethical perception, it is devoid of the sense of justice and fairness. To this element is added a class of climbers and careerists, of self-seekers reared on the Bolshevik dogma: “The end justifies the means.” Yet it were wrong to deny the exceptions in the ranks of Russia’s youth. There are a goodly number who are deeply sincere, heroic, idealistic. They see and feel the force of the loudly professed party ideals. They realize the betrayal of the masses. They suffer deeply under the cynicism and callousness towards every human emotion. The presence of _komsomolszi_ in the Soviet political prisons, concentration camps and exile, and the escapes under most harrowing difficulties prove that the young generation does not consist entirely of cringing adherents. No, not all of Russia’s youth has been turned into puppets, obsessed bigots, or worshippers at Stalin’s shrine and Lenin’s tomb.

Already the dictatorship has become an absolute necessity for the continuation of the regime. For where there are classes and social inequality, there the state must resort to force and suppression. The ruthlessness of such a situation is always in proportion to the bitterness and resentment imbuing the masses. That is why there is more governmental terrorism in Soviet Russia than anywhere else in the civilized world today, for Stalin has to conquer and enslave a stubborn peasantry of a hundred millions. It is popular hatred of the regime which explains the stupendous industrial sabotage in Russia, the disorganization of the transport after sixteen years of virtual military management; the terrific famine in the South and Southeast, notwithstanding favorable natural conditions and in spite of the severest measures to compel the peasants to sow and reap, in spite even of wholesale extermination and of the deportation of more than a million peasants to forced labor camps.

Bolshevik dictatorship is an absolutism which must constantly be made more relentless in order to survive, calling for the complete suppression of independent opinion and criticism within the party, within even its highest and most exclusive circles. It is a significant feature of this situation that official Bolshevism and its paid and unpaid agents are constantly assuring the world that “all is well in Soviet Russia and getting better.” It is of the same quality as Hitler’s constant emphasis of how greatly he loves peace while he is feverishly increasing his military strength.

Far from getting better the dictatorship is daily growing more relentless. The latest decree against so-called counter-revolutionists, or traitors to the Soviet State, should convince even some of the most ardent apologists of the wonders performed in Russia. The decree adds strength to the already existing laws against everyone who cannot or will not reverence the infallibility of the holy trinity, Marx, Lenin and Stalin. And it is more drastic and cruel in its effect upon every one deemed a culprit. To be sure, hostages are nothing new in the U.S.S.R. They were already part of the terror when I came to Russia. Peter Kropotkin and Vera Figner had protested in vain against this black spot on the escutcheon of the Russian Revolution. Now, after seventeen years of Bolshevik rule, a new decree was thought necessary. It not only revives the taking of hostages; it even aims at cruel punishment for every adult member of the real or imaginary offender’s family. The new decree defines treason to the state as

“any acts committed by citizens of the U.S.S.R. detrimental to the military forces of the U.S.S.R., its independence or the inviolability of its territory, such as espionage, betrayal of military or state secrets, going over to the side of the enemy, fleeing to a foreign country or flight [this time the word used means airplane flight] to a foreign country.”

Traitors have, of course, always been shot. What makes the new decree more terrifying is the remorseless punishment it demands for everyone living with or supporting the hapless victim, whether he knows of the crime or not. He may be imprisoned, or exiled, or even shot. He may lose his civil rights, and he may forfeit everything he owns. In other words, the new decree sets a premium on informers who, to save their own skins, will ingratiate themselves with the G.P.U., will readily turn over the unfortunate kin of the offenders to the Soviet henchmen.

This new decree must forever put to rest any remaining doubts as to the existence of true Communism in Russia. It departs from even the pretense of internationalism and proletarian class interest. The old tune is now changed to a paean song of the Fatherland, with the ever servile Soviet press loudest in the chorus:

“Defense of the Fatherland is the supreme law of life, and he who raises his hand against the Fatherland, who betrays it, must be destroyed.”

Soviet Russia, it must now be obvious, is an absolute despotism politically and the crassest form of state capitalism economically.


“The Meaning of Confederalism” by Murray Bookchin


Few arguments have been used more effectively to challenge the case for face-to-face participatory democracy than the claim that we live in a “complex society.” Modern population centers, we are told, are too large and too concentrated to allow for direct decision-making at a grassroots level. And our economy is too “global,” presumably, to unravel the intricacies of production and commerce. In our present transnational, often highly centralized social system, it is better to enhance representation in the state, to increase the efficiency of bureaucratic institutions, we are advised, than to advance utopian “localist” schemes of popular control over political and economic life.

After all, such arguments often run, centralists are all really “localists” in the sense that they believe in “more power to the people” – or at least, to their representatives. And surely a good representative is always eager to know the wishes of his or her “constituents” (to use another of those arrogant substitutes for “citizens”).

But face-to-face democracy? Forget the dream that in our “complex” modern world we can have any democratic alternative to the nation-state! Many pragmatic people, including socialists, often dismiss arguments for that kind of “localism” as otherworldly – with good-natured condescension at best and outright derision at worst. Indeed, some years back, in 1972, I was challenged in the periodical Root and Branch by Jeremy Brecher, a democratic socialist, to explain how the decentralist views I expressed in Post-Scarcity Anarchism would prevent, say, Troy, New York, from dumping its untreated wastes into the Hudson River, from which downstream cities like Perth Amboy draw their drinking water.

On the surface of things, arguments like Brecher’s for centralized government seem rather compelling. A structure that is “democratic,” to be sure, but still largely top-down is assumed as necessary to prevent one locality from afflicting another ecologically. But conventional economic and political arguments against decentralization, ranging from the fate of Perth Amboy’s drinking water to our alleged “addiction” to petroleum, rest on a number of very problematical assumptions. Most disturbingly, they rest on an unconscious acceptance of the economic status quo.

Decentralism and Self-Sustainability

The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking (as witness the recent tendency of radicals to espouse “market socialism” rather than deal with the failings of the market economy as well as state socialism). Doubtless we will have to import coffee for those people who need a morning fix at the breakfast table or exotic metals for people who want their wares to be more lasting than the junk produced by a consciously engineered throwaway economy. But aside from the utter irrationality of crowding tens of millions of people into congested, indeed suffocating urban belts, must the present-day extravagant international division of labor necessarily exist in order to satisfy human needs? Or has it been created to provide extravagant profits for multinational corporations? Are we to ignore the ecological consequences of plundering the Third World of its resources, insanely interlocking modern economic life with petroleum-rich areas whose ultimate products include air pollutants and petroleum-derived carcinogens? To ignore the fact that our “global economy” is the result of burgeoning industrial bureaucracies and a competitive grow-or-die market economy is incredibly myopic.

It is hardly necessary to explore the sound ecological reasons for achieving a certain measure of self-sustainability. Most environmentally oriented people are aware that a massive national and international division of labor is extremly wasteful in the literal sense of that term. Not only does an excessive division of labor make for overorganization in the form of huge bureaucracies and tremendous expenditures of resources in transporting materials over great distances; it reduces the possibilities of effectively recycling wastes, avoiding pollution that may have its source in highly concentrated industrial and population centers, and making sound use of local or regional raw materials.

On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that relatively self-sustaining communities in which crafts, agriculture, and industries serve definable networks of confederally organized communities enrich the opportunities and stimuli to which individuals are exposed and make for more rounded personalities with a rich sense of selfhood and competence. The Greek ideal of the rounded citizen in a rounded environment – one that reappeared in Charles Fourier’s utopian works – was long cherished by the anarchists and socialists of the last century.

The opportunity of the individual to devote his or her productive activity to many different tasks over an attenuated work week (or in Fourier’s ideal society, over a given day) was seen as a vital factor in overcoming the division between manual and intellectual activity, in transcending status differences that this major division of work created, and in enhancing the wealth of experiences that came with a free movement from industry through crafts to food cultivation. Hence self-sustainability made for a richer self, one strengthened by variegated experiences, competencies, and assurances. Alas, this vision has been lost by leftists and many environmentalists today, with their shift toward a pragmatic liberalism and the radical movement’s tragic ignorance of its own visionary past.

We should not, I believe, lose sight of what it means to live an ecological way of life, not merely follow sound ecological practices. The multitude of handbooks that teach us how to conserve, invest, eat, and buy in an “ecologically responsible” manner are a travesty of the more basic need to reflect on what it means to think – yes, to reason – and to live ecologically in the full meaning of the term. Thus, I would hold that to garden organically is more than a good form of husbandry and a good source of nutrients; it is above all a way to place oneself directly in the food web by personally cultivating the very substances one consumes to live and by returning to one’s environment what one elicits from it.

Food thus becomes more than a form of material nutririent. The soil one tills, the living things one cultivates and consumes, the compost one prepares all unite in an ecological continuum to feed the spirit as well as the body, sharpening one’s sensitivity to the nonhuman and human world around us. I am often amused by zealous “spiritualists,” many of whom are either passive viewers of seemingly “natural” landscapes or devotees of rituals, magic, and pagan deities (or all of these) who fail to realize that one of the most eminently human activities – namely, food cultivation – can do more to foster an ecological sensibility (and spirituality, if you please) than all the incantations and mantras devised in the name of ecological spiritualism.

Such monumental changes as the dissolution of the nation-state and its substitution by a participatory democracy, then, do not occur in a psychological vacuum where the political structure alone is changed. I argued against Jeremy Brecher that in a society that was radically veering toward decentralistic, participatory democracy, guided by communitarian and ecological principles, it is only reasonable to suppose that people would not choose such an irresponsible social dispensation as would allow the waters of the Hudson to be so polluted. Decentralism, a face-to-face participatory democracy, and a localist emphasis on community values should be viewed as all of one piece – they most assuredly have been so in the vision I have been advocating for more than thirty years. This “one piece” involves not only a new politics but a new political culture that embraces new ways of thinking and feeling, and new human interrelationships, including the ways we experience the natural world. Words like”politics” and “citizenship” would be redefined by the rich meanings they acquired in the past, and enlarged for the present.

It is not very difficult to show – item by item – how the international division of labor can be greatly attenuated by using local and regional resources, implementing ecotechnologies, resealing human consumption along rational (indeed, healthful) lines, and emphasizing quality production that provides lasting (instead of throwaway) means of life. It is unfortunate that the very considerable inventory of these possibilities, which I partly assembled and evaluated in my 1965 essay “Toward a Liberatory Technology,” suffers from the burden of having been written too long ago to be accessible to the present generation of ecologically oriented people. Indeed, in that essay I also argued for regional integration and the need to interlink resources among ecocommunities. For decentralized communities are inevitably interdependent upon one another.

Problems of Decentralism

If many pragmatic people are blind to the importance of decentralism, many in the ecology movement tend to ignore very real problems with “localism” – problems that are no less troubling than the problems raised by a globalism that fosters a total interlocking of economic and political life on a worldwide basis. Without such wholistic cultural and political changes as I have advocated, notions of decentralism that emphasize localist isolation and a degree of self- sufficiency may lead to cultural parochialism and chauvinism. Parochialism can lead to problems that are as serious as a “global” mentality that overlooks the uniqueness of cultures, the peculiarities of ecosystems and ecoregions, and the need for a humanly scaled community life that makes a participatory democracy possible. This is no minor issue today, in an ecology movement that tends to swing toward very well-meaning but rather naive extremes. I cannot repeat too emphatically that we must find a way of sharing the world with other humans and with nonhuman forms of life, a view that is often difficult to attain in overly “self-sufficient” communities.

Much as I respect the intentions of those who advocate local self-reliance and self-sustainabilty, these concepts can be highly misleading. I can certainly agree with David Morris of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, for example, that if a community can produce the things it needs, it should probably do so. But self-sustaining communities cannot produce all the things they need – unless it involves a return to a back-breaking way of village life that historically often prematurely aged its men and women with hard work and allowed them very little time for political life beyond the immediate confines of the community itself.

I regret to say that there are people in the ecology movement who do, in fact, advocate a return to a highly labor-intensive economy, not to speak of Stone Age deities. Clearly, we must give the ideals of localism, decentralism, and self-sustainability greater and fuller meaning.

Today we can produce the basic means of life – and a good deal more – in an ecological society that is focused on the production of high-quality useful goods. Yet still others in the ecology movement too often end up advocating a kind of “collective” capitalism, in which one community functions like a single entrepreneur, with a sense of proprietorship toward its resources. Such a system of cooperatives once again marks the beginnings of a market system of distribution, as cooperatives become entangled in the web of “bourgeois rights” – that is, in contracts and bookkeeping that focus on the exact amounts a community will receive in “exchange” for what it delivers to others. This deterioration occurred among some of the worker-controlled enterprises that functioned like capitalistic enterprises in Barcelona after the workers expropriated them in July 1936 – a practice that the anarcho-syndicalist CNT fought early in the Spanish Revolution.

It is a troubling fact that neither decentralization nor self-sufficiency in itself is necessarily democratic. Plato’s ideal city in the Republic was indeed designed to be self-sufficient, but its self-sufficiency was meant to maintain a warrior as well as a philosophical elite. Indeed, its capacity to preserve its self-sufficiency depended upon its ability, like Sparta, to resist the seemingly “corruptive” influence of outside cultures (a characteristic, I may say, that still appears in many closed societies in the East). Similarly, decentralization in itself provides no assurance that we will have an ecological society. A decentralized society can easily co-exist with extremely rigid hierarchies. A striking example is European and Oriental feudalism, a social order in which princely, ducal, and baronial hierarchies were based on highly decentralized communities. With all due respect to Fritz Schumacher, small is not necessarily beautiful.

Nor does it follow that humanly scaled communities and “appropriate technologies” in themselves constitute guarantees against domineering societies. In fact, for centuries humanity lived in villages and small towns, often with tightly organized social ties and even communistic forms of property. But these provided the material basis for highly despotic imperial states. Considered on economic and property terms, they might earn a high place in the “no-growth” outlook of economists like Herman Daly, but they were the hard bricks that were used to build the most awesome Oriental despotisms in India and China. What these self-sufficient, decentralized communities feared almost as much as the armies that ravaged them were the imperial tax-gatherers that plundered them.

If we extol such communities because of the extent to which they were decentralized, self-sufficient, or small, or employed “appropriate technologies,” we would be obliged to ignore the extent to which they were also culturally stagnant and easily dominated by exogenous elites. Their seemingly organic but tradition-bound division of labor may very well have formed the bases for highly oppressive and degrading caste systems in different parts of the world-caste systems that plague the social life of India to this very day.

At the risk of seeming contrary, I feel obliged to emphasize that decentralization, localism, self-sufficiency, and even confederation each taken singly – do not constitute a guarantee that we will achieve a rational ecological society. In fact, all of them have at one time or another supported parochial communities, oligarchies, and even despotic regimes. To be sure, without the institutional structures that cluster around our use of these terms and without taking them in combination with each other, we cannot hope to achieve a free ecologically oriented society.

Confederalism and Interdependence

Decentralism and self-sustainability must involve a much broader principle of social organization than mere localism. Together with decentralization, approximations to self-sufficiency, humanly scaled communities, ecotechnologies, and the like, there is a compelling need for democratic and truly communitarian forms of interdependence – in short, for libertarian forms of confederalism.

I have detailed at length in many articles and books (particularly The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship) the history of confederal structures from ancient and medieval to modern confederations such as the Comuneros in Spain during the early sixteenth century through the Parisian sectional movement of 1793 and more recent attempts at confederation, particularly by the Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution of the 1930s. Today, what often leads to serious misunderstandings among decentralists is their failure in all too many cases to see the need for confederation – which at least tends to counteract the tendency of decentralized communities to drift toward exclusivity and parochialism. If we lack a clear understanding of what confederalism means – indeed, the fact that it forms a key principle and gives fuller meaning to decentralism – the agenda of a libertarian municipalism can easily become vacuous at best or be used for highly parochial ends at worst.

What, then, is confederalism? It is above all a network of administrative councils whose members or delegates are elected from popular face-to-face democratic assemblies, in the various villages, towns, and even neighborhoods of large cities. The members of these confederal councils are strictly mandated, recallable, and responsible to the assemblies that choose them for the purpose of coordinating and administering the policies formulated by the assemblies themselves. Their function is thus a purely administrative and practical one, not a policy making one like the function of representatives in republican systems of government.

A confederalist view involves a clear distinction between policymaking and the coordination and execution of adopted policies. Policymaking is exclusively the right of popular community assemblies based on the practices of participatory democracy. Administratiom and coordination are the responsibility of confederal councils, which become the means for interlinking villages, towns, neighborhoods, and cities into confederal networks. Power thus flows from the bottom up instead of from the top down, and in confederations, the flow of power from the bottom up diminishes with the scope of the federal council ranging territorially from localities to regions and from regions to ever-broader territorial areas.

A crucial element in giving reality to confederalism is the interdependence of communities for an authentic mutualism based on shared resources, produce, and policymaking. If one community is not obliged to count on another or others generally to satisfy important material needs and realize common political goals in such a way that it is interlinked to a greater whole, exclusivity and parochialism are genuine possibilities. Only insofar as we recognize that confederation must be conceived as an extension of a form of participatory administration – by means of confederal networks – can decentralization and localism prevent the communities that compose larger bodies of association from parochially withdrawing into themselves at the expense of wider areas of human consociation.

Confederalism is thus 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. While a reasonable measure of self-sufficiency is desirable for every locality and region, confederalism is a means for avoiding local parochialism on the one hand and an extravagant national and global division of labor on the other. In short, it is a way in which a community can retain its identity and roundedness while participating in a sharing way with the larger whole that makes up a balanced ecological society.

Confederalism as a principle of social organization reaches its fullest development when the economy itself is confederalized by placing local farms, factories, and other needed enterprises in local municipal hands – that is, when a community, however large or small, begins to manage its own economic resources in an interlinked network with other communities. To force a choice between either self-sufficiency on the one hand or a market system of exchange on the other is a simplistic and unnecessary dichotomy. I would like to think that a confederal ecological society would be a sharing one, one based on the pleasure that is felt in distributing among communities according to their needs, not one in which “cooperative” capitalistic communities mire themselves in the quid pro quo of exchange relationships.

Impossible? Unless we are to believe that nationalized property (which reinforces the political power of the centralized state with economic power) or a private market economy (whose law of “grow or die” threatens to undermine the ecological stability of the entire planet) is more workable, I fail to see what viable altemative we have to the confederated municipalization of the economy. At any rate, for once it will no longer be privileged state bureaucrats or grasping bourgeois entrepreneurs – or even “collective” capitalists in so-called workers-controlled enterprises – all with their special to promote who are faced with a community’s problems, but citizens, irrespective of their occupations or workplaces. For once, it will be necessary to transcend the traditional special interests of work, workplace, status, and property relations, and create a general interest based on shared community problems.

Confederation is thus the ensemble of decentralization, localism, self-sufficiency, interdependence – and more. This more is the indispensable moral education and character building – what the Greeks called paideia – that makes for rational active citizenship in a participatory democracy, unlike the passive constituents and consumers that we have today. In the end, there is no substitute for a conscious reconstruction of our relationship to each other and the natural world.

To argue that the remaking of society and our relationship with the natural world can be achieved only by decentralization or localism or self-sustainabilty leaves us with an incomplete collection of solutions. Whatever we omit among these presuppositions for a society based on confederated municipalities, to be sure, would leave a yawning hole in the entire social fabric we hope to create. That hole would grow and eventually destroy the fabric itself – just as a market economy, cojoined with “socialism,” “anarchism,” or whatever concept one has of the good society, would eventually dominate the society as a whole. Nor can we omit the distinction between policy making and administration, for once policy making slips from the hands of the people, it is devoured by its delegates, who quickly become bureaucrats.

Confederalism, in effect, must be conceived as a whole: a consciously formed body of interdependencies that unites participatory democracy in municipalities with a scrupulously supervised system of coordination. It involves the dialectical development of independence and dependence into a more richly articulated form of interdependence, just as the individual in a free society grows from dependence in childhood to independence in youth, only to sublate the two into a conscious form of interdependence between individuals and between the individual and society.

Confederalism is thus a fluid and ever-developing kind of social metabolism in which the identity of an ecological society is preserved through its differences and by virtue of its potential for ever-greater differentiation. Confederalism, in fact, does not mark a closure of social history (as the “end of history” ideologists of recent years would have us believe about liberal capitalism) but rather the point of departure for a new eco-social history marked by a participatory evolution within society and between society and the natural world.

Confederation as Dual Power

Above all, I have tried to show in my previous writings how confederation on a municipal basis has existed in sharp tension with the centralized state generally, and the nation-state of recent times. Confederalism, I have tried to emphasize, is not simply a unique societal, particularly civic or municipal, form of administration. It is a vibrant tradition in the affairs of humanity, one that has a centuries-long history behind it. Confederations for generations tried to countervail a nearly equally long historical tendency toward centralization and the creation of the nation-state.

If the two – confederalism and statism – are not seen as being in tension with each other, a tension in which the nation-state has used a variety of intermediaries like provincial governments in Canada and state governments in the United States to create the illusion of “local control,” then the concept of confederation loses all meaning. Provincial autonomy in Canada and states’ rights in the United States are no more confederal than “soviets” or councils were the medium for popular control that existed in tension with Stalin’s totalitarian state. The Russian soviets were taken over by the Bolsheviks, who supplanted them with their party within a year or two of the October Revolution. To weaken the role of confederal municipalities as a countervailing power to the nation-state by opportunistically running “confederalist” candidates for state govemment – or, more nightmarishly, for governorship in seemingly democratic states (as some U.S. Greens have proposed) is to blur the importance of the need for tension between confederations and nation-states – indeed, they obscure the fact that the two cannot co-exist over the long term.

In describing confederalism as a whole – as a structure for decentralization, participatory democracy, and localism – and as a potentiality for an ever- greater differentiation along new lines of development, I would like to emphasize that this same concept of wholeness that applies to the interdependencies between municipalities also applies to the muncipality itself. The municipality, as I pointed out in earlier writings, is the most immediate political arena of the individual, the world that is literally a doorstep beyond the privacy of the family and the intimacy of personal friendships. In that primary political arena, where politics should be conceived in the Hellenic sense of literally managing the polls or community, the individual can be transformed from a mere person into an active citizen, from a private being into a public being. Given this crucial arena that literally renders the citizen a functional being who can participate directly in the future of society, we are dealing with a level of human interaction that is more basic (apart from the family itself) than any level that is expressed in representative forms of governance, where collective power is literally transmuted into power embodied by one or a few individuals. The municipality is thus the most authentic arena of public life, however much it may have been distorted over the course of history.

By contrast, delegated or authoritarian levels of “politics” presuppose the abdication of municipal and citizen power to one degree or another. The municipality must always be understood as this truly authentic public world. To compare even executive positions like a mayor with a govemor in representative realms of power is to grossly misunderstand the basic political nature of civic life itself, all its malformations notwithstanding. Thus, for Greens to contend in a purely formal and analytical manner – as modern logic instructs that terms like “executive” make the two positions interchangeable is to totally remove the notion of executive power from its context, to reify it, to make it into a mere lifeless category because of the extemal trappings we attach to the word. If the city is to be seen as a whole, and its potentialities for creating a participatory democracy are to be fully recognized, so provincial governments and state governments in Canada and the United States must be seen as clearly established small republics organized entirely around representation at best and oligarchical rule at worst. They provide the channels of expression for the nation-state – and constitute obstacles to the development of a genuine public realm.

To run a Green for a mayor on a libertarian municipalist program, in short, is qualitatively different from running a provincial or state governor on a presumably libertarian muncipalist program. It amounts to decontextualizing the institutions that exist in a municipality, in a province or state, and in the nation-state itself, thereby placing all three of these executive positions under a purely formal rubric. One might with equal imprecision say that because human beings and dinosaurs both have spinal cords, that they belong to the same species or even to the same genus. In each such case, an institution – be it a mayoral, councillor, or selectperson – must be seen in a municipal context as a whole, just as a president, prime minister, congressperson, or member of parliament, in turn, must be seen in the state context as a whole. From this standpoint, for Greens to run mayors is fundamentally different from running provincial and state offices. One can go into endless detailed reasons why the powers of a mayor are far more controlled and under closer public purview than those of state and provincial office-holders.

At the risk of repetition, let me say that to ignore this fact is to simply abandon any sense of contextuality and the environment in which issues like policy, administration, participation, and representation must be placed. Simply, a city hall in a town or city is not a capital in a province, state, or nation-state.

Unquestionably, there are now cities that are so large that they verge on being quasi-republics in their own right. One thinks for example of such megalopolitan areas as New York City and Los Angeles. In such cases, the minimal program of a Green movement can demand that confederations be established within the urban area – namely, among neighborhoods or definable districts – not only among the urban areas themselves. In a very real sense, these highly populated, sprawling, and oversized entities must ultimately be broken down institutionally into authentic muncipalities that are scaled to human dimensions and that lend themselves to participatory democracy. These entities are not yet fully formed state powers, either institutionally or in reality, such as we find even in sparsely populated American states. The mayor is not yet a governor, with the enormous coercive powers that a govemor has, nor is the city council a parliament or statehouse that can literally legislate the death penalty into existence, such as is occurring in the United States today.

In cities that are transforming themselves into quasi-states, there is still a good deal of leeway in which politics can be conducted along libertarian lines. Already, the executive branches of these urban entities constitute a highly precarious ground – burdened by enormous bureaucracies, police powers, tax powers, and juridical systems that raise serious problems for a libertarian municipal approach. We must always ask ourselves in all frankness what form the concrete situation takes. Where city councils and mayoral offices in large cities provide an arena for battling the concentration of power in an increasingly s trong state or provincial executive, and even worse, in regional jurisdictions that may cut across many such cities (Los Angeles is a notable example), to run candidates for the city council may be the only recourse we have, in fact, for arresting the development of increasingly authoritarian state institutions and helping to restore an institutionally decentralized democracy.

It will no doubt take a long time to physically decentralize an urban entity such as New York City into authentic municipalities and ultimately communes. Such an effort is part of the maximum program of a Green movement. But there is no reason why an urban entity of such a huge magnitude cannot be slowly decentralized institutionally. The distinction between physical decentralization and institutional decentralization must always be kept in mind. Time and again excellent proposals have been advanced by radicals and even city planners to localize democracy in such huge urban entities and literally give greater power to the people, only to be cynically shot down by centralists who invoke physical impediments to such an endeavor.

It confuses the arguments of advocates for decentralization to make institutional decentralization congruent with the physical breakup of such a large entity. There is a certain treachery on the part of centralists in making these two very distinct lines of development identical or entangling them with each other. Libertarian municipalists must always keep the distinction between institutional and physical decentralization clearly in mind, and recognize that the former is entirely achievable even while the latter may take years to attain.