anarchist communism

Theory Laden Practice by Hagbard Celine33

Theory-Practice

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

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

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

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

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Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview

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

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

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

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

A Civic Ethics

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

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

Means and Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confederalism

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

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

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

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

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

Municipalizing the Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 3, 1991; addendum, October 1, 1991

“There is NO Communism in Russia” by Emma Goldman

Leninism fascism

I.

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.

II.

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.

III.

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.

IV.

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.

V.

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.

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/emma-goldman-there-is-no-communism-in-russia

“The Meaning of Confederalism” by Murray Bookchin

Centralized-Decentralized-And-Distributed-System

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.

“10 Rules for a Liberatory Society” by Hagbard Celine33

The question “should we have rules?” is not the right question to ask. We need a society with rules, in fact a society with rules is inevitable. “What should be the goal of such rules?” and “What rules should we have to achieve such goals?”. Those are some of the questions we need to be asking. Our end goal should be to maximize the wellbeing of all (or as many as possible) which implies concern for our global ecosystem since we are dependent upon our global ecosystem. The rules should be specific enough to allow for correctness, yet broad enough to allow for diversity within that correctness.

1. Free Association

The first rule is free association. Free association has nothing to do with non determinist definitions of free will (the idea that we are free from context), nor does it have to do with the freedom to exploit other people. Free association has three components. Freedom of association (freedom to associate), freedom within the association (decision making power based on equal votes for all people within an association), and freedom from association(freedom to disassociate without harming the free association of others).  Freedom from association does not mean the ability to dissent and then violate the free association of others. For example free association does not permit you to get up and say “I’m free from the association” and punch someone in the face. Nor does freedom from association grant you the right to start a violent top down organization (such as a capitalist business or a state). Free association is a psychosocial need.

 

Free association is bounded by the free association of other people. Freedom within an association also means the ability to opt out of activities while remaining within an association. Free intentional volition is intentional volition freed from hierarchy and artificial scarcity. A “guaranteed minimum” enables people to have access to the means of life, enabling people to associate where they want to instead of where they are forced to.

2. Participatory Democracy

The second rule is participatory democracy. This term is problematic but the train of thought is essential. The term is problematic because of the common association of democracy with a representative form of democracy, or a majority rules democracy without free association. However participatory democracy advocates none of the above. Participatory democracy is defined by decision making power being held by the people within an association, as well as equal votes for people within an association. Participatory democracy has a built in defense mechanism against authoritarian relations. One can make a decision that effects the decisions other people make, but no one has the right to inhibit anyone else’s decision making power over decisions that effect them (nor does one member of an association have the right to more votes than another). Participatory democracy can and should exist within and between municipal assemblies, in workforces, in households, and in informal relations. Participatory democracy often takes the form of majority and minority preference within free associations. This is not the majority being authoritarian, nor does it allow the minority to oppress the majority. And the ability for people to dissent from a collective is meaningful in a gift and need based economy, unlike capitalism where one’s options are often “work for a boss or starve/suffer” conditions. Work for a boss or suffer is a threat more than it is a choice. Since one’s needs are met in a gift and need based economy, there is no economic coercion to join collectives one doesn’t want to join. Majority rule is only problematic outside of freedom of/from/within associations and a general set of rules that inhibit authoritarian social relations. The majority of a group expressing a rational preference is not the majority of a group being authoritarian towards the minority(similar to how two out of three people in an association wanting to see a concert that one person does not want to see is not harming the decision making power of the one person who doesnt want to see the concert). Another form of democracy is consensus. Procedural forms of Consensus have issues. Procedural consensus can often be the lowest common denominator rather than what people want to do, especially in groups of many people. However consensus can sometimes be by far the most ideal when it is achieved ORGANICALLY rather than procedurally. Procedural consensus should be differentiated from a ‘meta consensus’, which I’m defining as agreement on rules and/or platforms that we associate within. Then there is the process of deliberation(the process of thoughtfully weighing opinions prior to voting) as a mechanism for arriving at decisions. This process could be COMPLIMENTED well by experts in fields of knowledge as well as interactive digital interfaces that have available evidence for different proposals. This would allow for a more informed deliberation process. Different appeals can be made towards different preferences and synthesis can happen if people prefer such a synthesis between different preferences. Minority preferences can dissent, deliberate, or choose the majority preference. This gives minority groups more freedom than procedural consensus for minority groups can make preferences as long as they do not harm the decision making power of others. When minority preferences and majority preferences cannot coexist due to incompatibility, the majority decision passes and people retain self management. However, through a management of resources based on logic, empathy, and liberatory technology, many of these incompatibilities between different preferences can be resolved. Majority preference bounded by a liberatory set of rules produces more freedom than procedural consensus, for people can make decisions as long as they do not harm the decision making power of others without everyone agreeing every time anyone does anything. Procedural consensus gives individuals unlimited power over every decision made by groups. Even if ALL(or most all) industry was COMPLETELY(or almost completely) automated, we would still need and want participatory democracy within free associations when we associate with each other socially and politically, as well as to determine what is produced when there are and when there aren’t incompatible preferences. Participatory democracy is needed to determine if there is an organic consensus, and to determine what we can do when there are different preferences. (((If participatory democracy  appears foreign to you in regards to lived experience, the chances are that you already utilize participatory democracy amongst friends when arriving at preferences))). The biggest problem with participatory democracy within a free association is not the fact that people are making preferences.  Problems arise when the preferences are irrational or malevolent. To minimize irrational and malevolent preferences we ought to use dialogue, compassion, logic, and the scientific method.

3. Use of compassion, logic, and the scientific method as mechanisms for arriving at decisions

The third rule is the use of compassion, logic(deductive, inductive, abductive, systemic, processual), and the scientific method as mechanisms for arriving at decisions. The intent of compassion is necessary but insufficient in and of itself for maximizing the wellbeing of all. If we have the ought statement of we “ought to maximize wellbeing” but we use incorrect is statements then our ought statements can be flawed and even dangerous. If we want to be serious about compassion then it cant just be an intention, we need to actually arrive at the consequences we are intending for. And the scientific method is an important rudder that allows us to aim our compassion.

4. Decentralization of decision making power

The fourth rule is decentralization of decision making power. Merriam Webster defines decentralization as “the dispersion or distribution of functions and powers”. Central planning (like irrational planning) is incapable of meeting human needs because it is disconnected from free association which is a psychosocial need. Decentralized planning on the other hand does not suffer from the ignorance of irrational planning nor the violence of central planning. Decentralization of power also creates resiliency. Centralization of power leaves society vulnerable. For the society is forced to be dependent on a centralized power structure. However decentralization of power makes societies less effected by errors. One decentralized component fails and there are others ready to take over the function of the failed system and/or contribute with mutual aid to help the failed system. However even if decentralization of power was less resilient than centralization of power(which it isn’t) we should still advocate for decentralization of power because it is based on egalitarian principles. Its important to stress that advocates of decentralization of power are not against legitimate authority(such as a doctor, a shoemaker, a solar panel engineer, or a teacher). Legitimate authority is different from authoritarian social relations. Delegation of tasks to certain experts is inevitable and desirable, but we ought to delegate such power in non authoritarian ways. Planning, plans and implementations of plans ought to be based on dynamic liberatory community/collective/self management.

5. Confederalism

It is important that decentralized societies associate with one another in order to help each other out in regards to meeting everyone’s needs and teaching one another. This is why the fifth rule is confederation. The term confederation (like democracy) is a tricky term to explain because of various connotations (for example connotations relating to the confederate states of America). However, what a confederation means within anti authoritarian circles is a decentralized federation, or non authoritarian associations between non authoritarian associations.  There is a common theme between free association/participatory democracy/decentralization/confederation.  They all aim towards harmonizing the individual with the community and the ecosystems they are dependent upon. Free association and meeting people’s needs makes sure that democratic institutions allow for meaningful dissent, and decentralization of power makes sure that the federated associations don’t have any political power to be oppressive. Delegates of associations only have communicative and administrative power, not decision making power. Delegates are mandated and can be recalled by the people who they are delegated by. The delegation process can be assisted by electronics, allowing different associations to communicate more directly. However, lack of face to face relations within the delegate process can lead to miscommunication. Face to face democracy is essential on the most local level.

  1. Restraint as opposed to punishment

Although preventative medicine via education, meeting people’s needs, minimizing abuse etc is essential to a better society, there is going to be symptom suppression that eventually needs to occur. And there are better and worse ways to deal with symptom suppression. The sixth rule is restraint as opposed to punishment when it comes to symptom suppression and conflict resolution. Restraint is about preventing someone from causing harm, whereas punishment is about revenge upon the wrong doer. There are a few levels as to why punishment systems are wrong. On one level, no individual is to blame for their reactions to environmental stimuli (for freedom from causality/context is illusory). To blame/shame someone is to ignore context. On another level punishment doesnt work as symptom suppression, in fact it is mere symptom aggravation in disguise.  Somewhere around 2/3s of prisoners in the US re-offend within three years. Punishment systems try to treat abuse/unmet needs/ignorance/malevolence with more abuse/unmet needs, adding fuel to the fire of authoritarian relations and systems. People who are suffering from abuse and unmet needs to the point where they are intentionally harming others need to be restrained from harming other. They don’t need punishment. All oppressors were carved into oppressors by their environment(s). We can’t blame components for reactions to systems regardless of how good it may feel to reduce an oppressor to an existence without a context to the point where they are blame worthy for learning their behavior. Given the goal of human wellbeing, we ought to use a consequentialist model of responsibility(where we only hold people responsible to the degree that it achieves the consequences we are looking for such as the wellbeing of all), rather than a model based on blame/shame/retribution. Abolishing hierarchy, transformative Justice, restorative justice, self/collective/community defense, and support/rehabilitation centers would replace retribution and caging people.

7. Automation of mechanical labor

The seventh rule is the automation of mechanical labor in accord with the needs and rational preferences of communities and individuals. We have the technology to automate the vast majority of mechanical labor to the point where people can be free from it. This would allow people to contribute to science and art rather than be forced to perform avoidable drudgery. The freedom from avoidable mechanical labor through automation is in many ways one of the freedoms that post scarcity economics provides that distinguishes it from traditional anti authoritarian strains of economics. Before the technology exists to automate an undesirable but necessary chore, the chore can be see as “a necessary evil”. However when the technology exists to automate such a chore, the chore becomes an unnecessary evil. Given that we have the technical potential to automate anything simpler than the complete production and distribution of an automobile, we can minimize the vast majority of undesired labor and have rotating volunteers do the mechanical labor that we cannot automate.

8. Freedom from structural violence

The eighth rule is freedom from systems that generate avoidable unmet needs or freedom from structural violence. Why? because structural violence creates avoidable suffering. And avoidable suffering is by definition something we want to avoid(otherwise it wouldn’t be suffering).  Freedom from structural violence has very liberatory implications including a change in property relations. Private Property is based authoritarian hierarchies rather than needs/use. The inequality of purchasing power created by private property and market systems makes it so people can have irrational wants met while other people don’t have their basic needs met. The consequences of private property(not to be confused with personal property) allow some people are more entitled to shelter than others. Private property relations allow absentee owners and private individuals can own the means of production and profit off of the labor of workers. Private Property and market systems lead towards buying and selling the necessities of life and by extension buying and selling of people. And of course private property requires a state to enforce the extreme wealth inequality that private property creates. State property is a form of private property, for private owners/managers control it not the people the state claims to represent. What we need is a usership system that puts meeting human needs as a priority with library esque access centers rather than an ownership system based on the amount of money one has.  We ought to replace private property with community ownership of the means of production, as well as anti authoritarian collective property, and personal property(or possession) without conspicuous consumption. Freedom from avoidable unmet needs also implies freedom from attitudinal/behavioral/ideological/institutional sexism/racism etc. It is essential that we do not just abolish systems of authoritarianism, we also must minimize authoritarian behavior/attitudes/ideology.

9. Gift based economy

The ninth rule is a gift economy rather than a monetary system. Merriam Webster defines gift as “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation” . However through the nurture/nature of gifting people feel obligated to give back. Gift can occur from community to individual, from the individual to the community, from individual to individual, and from community to community. Economic rewards and punishments only have the ability to motivate work for PURELY mechanical labor. However the vast majority of that labor can and should be automated. Making there no reason for economic rewards/punishments given that economic rewards/punishments inhibit work that isn’t purely mechanical.

10. Ecological rudder for our technology

The tenth rule is that Our technical efficiency should be used for human wellbeing and integrated with ecological principles. We need to manage our finite resources in a way that meets human needs(and by extension we need to have concern for the environment we are dependent upon). This means we can’t afford to take cost efficiency and profit into consideration when it comes to production and distribution. We need to take human needs/preferences and ecological principles into consideration. The market and the state limit our liberatory technical potential through turning the means of production into means of destruction.

These rules in isolation are not sufficient, but when they harmonize with each other they are able to create liberatory conditions. If our goal is to maximize wellbeing, the scientific method can allow us to achieve compassionate results(rather than mere compassionate intentions…). If our goal is maximizing the wellbeing of all, logic steered by compassion leads us towards meeting human needs(both finding out what these human needs are, and how to best meet them with the current technology available) and the scientific method leads us to an ecological focus by extension(and our ecological problems are social problems in disguise). And if we are trying to meet human needs, we need an access system based on needs/use rather than a system based on private property(and centralization of power).  Free association is by definition a preference we have in regards to how we want to be treated. From free association bounded by the free association of others (or social freedom) we get Participatory democracy and decentralized yet confederated associations. Our current technology allows us to automate mechanical labor freeing us from avoidable suffering. Due to the potential for the automation of mechanical labor aimed at meeting human needs with concern for the environment, there are no longer any meaningful arguments for a deeds based economy outside of transitioning to a gift and need based economy. And when it comes to suppressing symptoms, restorative justice and non hierarchical restraint based defense is less harmful and more effective than punishment models.