decentralization

Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview

1897994_688152871281358_8883834057942796882_n

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

Advertisements

“Are Prisons Necessary?” by Pëtr Kropotkin (1887)

234_mafioso-tough-prisons_flash

If we take into consideration all the influences indicated in the above rapid sketch, we are bound to recognize that all of them, separately and combined together, act in the direction of rendering men who have been detained for several years in prisons less and less adapted for life in society; and that none of them, not a single one, acts in the direction of raising the in intellectual and moral faculties, of lifting man to a higher conception of life and its duties, of rendering him a better, a more human creature than he was.

Prisons do not moralize their inmates; they do not deter them from crime. And the question arises: What shall we do with those who break, not only the written law — that sad growth of a sad past — but also those very principles of morality which every man feels his own heart? That is the question which now preoccupies the best minds of our century.

There was a time when a time when Medicine consisted in administering some empirically-discovered drugs. The patients who fell into the hands of the doctor might be killed by his drugs, or they might rise up notwithstanding them, the doctor had the excuse of doing what all his fellows did; he could not outgrow his contemporaries.

But our century which has boldly taken up so many questions, but faintly forecast by its predecessors, has taken up this question too, and approached it from the other end. Instead of merely curing diseases, medicine tries now to prevent them; and we all know the immense progress achieved, thanks to the modern view of disease. Hygiene is the best of medicines.

The same has to be done with the great social phenomenon which has been called Crime until now, but will be called Social Disease by our children.

Prevention of the disease is the best of cures: such is the watchword of a whole younger school of writers which grew up of late, especially in Italy, represented by Poletti, Ferri, Colajanni, and, to some limited extent, by Lombroso [1]; of the great school of psychologists represented by Griesinger, Krafft-Ebing, Despine on the Continent, and Maudsley in this country; of the sociologists like Quételet and his unhappily too scanty followers; and finally, in the modern school of Psychology with regard to the individual, and of the social reformers with regard to society. In their works we have already the elements of a new position to be taken with regard to those unhappy people whom we have hanged, or decapitated, or sent to jail until now.

Three great causes are at work to produce what is called crime: the social, the anthropological, and, to use Ferri’s expression, the cosmical.

The influence of these last is but insufficiently known, and yet it cannot be denied. We know from the Postmaster-General’s Reports that the number of letters containing money which are thrown into the pillar-boxes without any address is very much the same from year to year. If so capricious an element in our life as oblivion of a certain given kind is subject to laws to as strict as those which govern the motion of the heavenly bodies, it is still more true with regard to breaches of law. We can predict with a great approximation the number of murders which will be committed next year in each country of Europe. And if we should take into account the disturbing influences which will increase, or diminish, next year, the number of murders committed, we might predict the figures with a still greater accuracy.

There was, some time ago, in Nature, an essay on the number of assaults and suicides committed in India with relation to temperature and the moisture of the air. Everybody knows that an excessively hot and moist temperature renders men more nervous than they are when the temperature is moderate and a dry wind blows over our fields. In India, where the temperature grows sometimes exceedingly hot, and the air at the same time grows exceedingly moist, the enervating influence of the atmosphere is obviously felt still more strongly than in our latitudes. Mr. S. A. Hill, therefore, calculates from figures extending over several years, a formula which enables you, when you know the average temperature and humidity of each month, to say, with an astonishing approximation to exactitude, the number of suicides and wounds due to violence which have been registered during the month. Like calculations may seem very strange to minds unaccustomed to treat psychological phenomena as dependent upon physical causes, but the facts point to this dependence so clearly as to leave no room for doubt. And persons who have experienced the effects of tropical heat accompanied by tropical moisture on their own nervous system, will not wonder that precisely during such days Hindus are inclined to seize a knife to settle a dispute, or the men disgusted with life are more inclined to put an end to it by suicide.

The influence of cosmical causes on our actions has not yet been fully analyzed; but several facts are well established. It is known, for instance, that attempts against persons (violence, murders, and so on) are on the increase during the summer, and that during the winter the number of attempts against property reaches its maximum. We cannot go through the curves drawn by Professor E. Ferri, and see on the same sheet the curves of temperature and those showing the number of attempts against persons, without being deeply impressed with their likeness: one easily mistakes them for one another. Unhappily this kind of research has not been prosecuted with the eagerness it deserves, so that few of the cosmical causes have been analyzed as to their influence on human actions.

It must be acknowledged also that the inquiry offers many difficulties, because most cosmical causes exercise their influence only in an indirect way; thus, for instance, when we see that the number of breaches of law fluctuates with the crops of cereals, or with the wine-crops, the influence of cosmical agents appears only through the medium of a series of influences of a social character. Still, nobody will deny that when weather is fine, the crops good, and the villagers cheerful, they are far less inclined to settle their small disputes by violence than during stormy or gloomy weather, when a spoiled crop spreads moreover general discontent. I suppose that women who have constant opportunities of closely watching the good and bad temper of their husbands could tell us plenty about the influence of weather on peace in their homes.

The so-called ‘anthropological causes’ to which much attention has been given of late, are certainly much more important than the preceding. The influence of inherited faculties and of the bodily organization on the inclination towards crime has been illustrated of late by so many highly interesting investigations, that we surely can form a nearly complete idea about this category of causes which bring men and women within our penal jurisdiction. Of course, we cannot endorse in full the conclusions of one of the most prominent representatives of this school, Dr. Lombroso, especially those he arrives at in one of his writings [Sull’Incremento del Delitto, 1879]. When he shows us that so many inmates of our prisons have some defect in the organization of their brains, we must accept this statement as a mere fact. We may even admit with him that the majority of convicts and prisoners have longer arms than people at liberty. Again, when he shows us that the most brutal murders have been committed by men who had some serious defect in their bodily structure, we have only to incline before this statement and recognize its accuracy. It is a statement — not more.

But we cannot follow Mr. Lombroso when he infers too much from this and like facts, and considers society entitled to take any measures against people who have like defects of organization. We cannot consider society as entitled to exterminate all people having defective structure of brain and still less to imprison those who have long arms. We may admit that most of the perpetrators of the cruel deeds which from time to time stir public indignation have not fallen very far short of being sad idiots. The head of Frey, for instance, an engraving of which has made of late the tour of the Press, is an instance in point. But all idiots do not become assassins, and still less all feeble-minded men and women; so that the most impetuous criminalist of the anthropological school would recoil before a wholesale assassination of all idiots if he only remembered how many of them are free — some of them under care, and very many of them having other people under their care — the difference between these last and those who are handed over to the hangman being only a difference of the circumstances under which they were born and have grown up. In how many otherwise respectable homes, and palaces, too, not to speak of lunatic asylums, shall we not find the very same features which Dr. Lombroso considers characteristic of “criminal madness” Brain diseases may favour the growth of criminal propensities; but they may not, when under proper care. The good sense, and still more the good heart of Charles Dickens have perfectly well understood this plain truth.

Certainly we cannot follow Dr. Lombroso in all his conclusions, still less those of his followers; but we must be grateful to the Italian writer for having devoted his attention to and popularized his researches into, the medical aspects of the question. Because, for an unprejudiced mind, the only conclusions that can be drawn from his varied and most interesting researches is, that most of those whom we treat as criminals are people affected by bodily diseases, and that their illness ought to be submitted to some treatment, instead of being aggravated by imprisonment.

Mr. Maudsley’s researches into insanity with relation to crime are well known in this country. But none of those who have seriously read his works can leave them without being struck by the circumstance that most of those inmates of our jails who have been imprisoned for attempts against persons are people affected with some disease of the mind; that the “ideal madman whom the law creates,” and the only one whom the law is ready to recognize as irresponsible for his acts, is as rare as the ideal “criminal” whom the law insists upon punishing. Surely there is, as Mr. Maudsley says, a wide “borderland between crime and insanity, near one boundary of which we meet with something of madness but more of sin (of conscious desire of doing some harm, we prefer to say), and near the other boundary of which something of sin but more of madness.” But, “a just estimate of the moral responsibility of the unhappy people inhabiting this borderland” will never be made as long as the idea of “sin,” or of “bad will,” is not got rid of.

Unhappily, hitherto our penal institutions have been nothing but a compromise between the old ideas of revenge, of punishment of the “bad will” and “sin,” and the modern ideas of “deterring from crime,” both softened to a very slight extent by some notions of philanthropy. But the time, we hope, is not far distant when the noble ideas which have inspired Griesinger, Krafft-Ebing, Despine, and some of the modern Italian criminalists, like Colajanni and Ferri, will become the property of the general public, and make us ashamed of having continued so long to hand over those whom we call criminals to hangmen and jailers. If the conscientious and extensive labours of the writers just named were more widely known, we should all easily understand that most of those who are kept now in jails, or put to death, are merely people in need of the most careful fraternal treatment. I do not mean, of course, that we ought to substitute lunatic asylums for prisons. Far be it from me to entertain this abhorrent idea. Lunatic asylums are nothing else but prisons; and those whom we keep in prisons are not lunatics, nor even people approaching the sad boundary of the borderland where man loses control over his actions. Far be from me the idea which is sometimes brought forward as to maintaining prisons by placing them under pedagogists and medical men. What most of those who are now sent to jail are in need of is merely a fraternal help from those who surround them, to aid them in developing more and more the higher instincts of human nature which have been checked in their growth either by some bodily disease — anemia of the brain, disease of the hearth, the liver, or the stomach — or, still more, by the abominable conditions under which thousands and thousands of children grow up, and millions of adults are living, in what we call our centres of civilization. But these higher faculties cannot be exercised when man is deprived of liberty, of the free guidance of his actions, of the multifarious influences of the human world. Let us carefully analyse each branch of the moral unwritten law, and we shall always find — as good old Griesinger said — that it is not due to something which has suddenly sprung up in the man who accomplished it: it is the result of effects which, for years past, have deeply stirred within him. Take, for instance, a man who has committed an act of violence. The blind judge of our days comes forward and sends him to prison. But the human being who is not overpowered by the kind of mania which is inculcated by the study of Roman jurisprudence — who analyzes instead of merely sentencing — would say, with Griesinger, that although in this case the man has not suppressed his affections, but has left them to betray themselves by an act of violence, this act has been prepared long since. Before this time, probably throughout his life, the same person has often manifested some anomaly of mind by noisy expression of his feelings, by crying loudly after some trifling disagreeable circumstance, by easily venting his bad temper in those who stood by him; and, unhappily, he has not from his childhood found anybody who was able to give a better direction to his nervous impressibility. The cause of the violence which has brought him into the prisoners’ dock must be sought long years before. And if we push our analysis still deeper, we discover that this state of mind is itself a consequence of some physical disease either inherited or developed by an abnormal life; some disease of the hearth, the brain, or the digestive system. For many years these causes have been at work before resulting in some deed which falls within the reach of the law.

More than that. If we analyse ourselves, if everybody would frankly acknowledge the thoughts which have sometimes passed through his mind, we should see that all of us have had — be it as an imperceptible wave traversing the brain, like a flash of light — some feelings and thoughts such as constitute the motive of all acts considered as criminals. We have repudiated them at once; but if they had had the opportunity of recurring again and again; if they were nurtured by circumstances, or by a want of exercise of the best passions — love, compassion, and all those which result from living in the joys and sufferings of those who surround us; then these passing influences, so brief that we hardly noticed them, would have degenerated into some morbid element in our character.

That is what we ought to teach our children from the earliest childhood, while now we imbue them from their tenderest years with ideas of justice identified with revenge, of judges and tribunals. And if we did this, instead of doing as we do now, we should no longer have the shame of avowing that we hire assassins to execute our sentences and pay warders for performing a function for which no educated man would like to prepare his own children. Functions which we consider so degrading cannot be an element of moralization.

Fraternal treatment to check the development of the anti-social feelings which grow up in some of us — not imprisonment — is the only means that we are authorized in applying, and can apply, with some effect to those in whom these feelings have developed in consequence of bodily disease or social influences. And that is not a Utopia; while to fancy that punishment is able to check the growth of anti-social feelings is a Utopia — a wicked Utopia; the Utopia of “leave me in peace, and let the world go as it likes.”

Many of the anti-social feelings, we are told by Dr. J. Bruce Thompson and many others, are inherited; and facts amply support this conclusion. But what is inherited? Is it a certain bump of criminality, or something else? What is inherited is insufficient self-control, or a want of firm will, or a desire for risk and excitement or disproportionate vanity. Vanity, for instance, coupled with a desire for risk and excitement, is one of the most striking features amidst the population of our prisons. But vanity finds many fields for its exercise. It may produce a maniac like Napoleon the First, or a Frey; but it produces also, under some circumstances — especially when instigated and guided by a sound intellect — men who pierce tunnels and isthmuses, or devote all their energies towards pushing through some great scheme for what they consider the benefit of humanity; and then it may be checked, and even reduced almost to nothingness, by the parallel growth of intelligence. If it is a want of firmness of will which has been inherited, we know also that this feature of character may lead to the most varied consequences according to the circumstances of life. How many of our “good fellows&” suffer precisely from this defect? It is a sufficient reason for sending them to prison?

Humanity has seldom ventured to treat its prisoners like human beings; but each time it has done so it has been rewarded for its boldness. I was sometimes struck at Clairvaux [2] with the kindness bestowed on sick people by several assistant in the hospital; I was touched by several manifestations of a refined feeling of delicacy. Dr. Campbell, who has had much more opportunity of learning this trait of human nature during his thirty years’ experience as prison-surgeon, goes much farther. By mild treatment, he says, “with as much consideration as if they had been delicate ladies [I quote his own words] the greatest order was generally maintained in the hospital.” He was struck with that “estimable trait in the character of prisoners — observable even among the roughest criminals; I mean the great attention they bestow on the sick.” “The most hardened criminals,” he adds, “are not exempt from this feeling.” And he says elsewhere: “Although many of these men, from their former reckless life and habits of depredation might be supposed to be hardened and indifferent, they have a keen sense of what is right or wrong.” All honest men who have had to do with prisoners, can but confirm the experience of Dr. Campbell.

What is the secrete of this feature, which surely cannot fail to strike people accustomed to consider the convict as very little short of a wild beast? The assistants in hospital have an opportunity of exercising their good feelings. They have opportunities of feeling compassion for somebody, and of acting accordingly. Moreover, they enjoy within the hospital much more freedom than the other convicts; and those of whom Dr. Campbell speaks were under the direct moral influence of a doctor like himself — not of a soldier.

In short, anthropological causes — that is, defects of organization — play a most important part in bringing men to jail; but these causes are not causes of “criminality,” properly speaking. The same causes are at work amidst millions of our modern psychopathic generation; but they lead to anti-social deeds only under certain unfavourable circumstances. Prison do not cure these pathological deformities, they only reinforce them; and when a psychopath leaves a prison, after having been subjected for several years to its deteriorating influence, he is without comparison less fit for life in society than he was before. If he is prevented from committing fresh anti-social deeds, that can only been attained by undoing the work of the prison, by obliterating the features with which it inculcates those who have passed through its ordeal — a task which certainly is performed by some friends of humanity, but a task utterly hopeless in so many cases.

There is something to say also with regard to those whom criminalists describe as qualified assassins, and who in so many countries imbued with the old Biblical principle of a tooth for a tooth, are sent to the gallows. It may seem strange in this country, but the fact is that throughout Siberia — where there is ample opportunity to judge different categories of exiles — the “murderers” are considered as the best class of the convict population; and I was very happy to see that Mr. Davitt, who has so acutely analyzed crime and its causes, has also been able to make a like observation. It is not known as generally as it ought to be that the Russian law has not recognized capital punishment for more than a century. However freely political offenders have been sent to the gallows under Alexander II and III, so that 31 men have been put to death during the preceding reign and about 25 since 1881, capital punishment does not exist in Russia for common-law offences. It was abolished in 1753, and since that time murderers are merely condemned to hard-labour from eight to twenty years (parricides for life), after the expiration of which term they are settled free for life in Siberia. Therefore, Eastern Siberia is full of liberated assassins; and, nevertheless, there is hardly another country where you could travel and stay with greater security. During my very extensive journeys in Siberia I never carried with me a defensive weapon of any kind, and the same was the case with my friends, each of whom every year travelled something like ten thousand miles across this immense territory. As mentioned in a preceding chapter the number of murders which are committed in East Siberia by liberated assassins, or by the numberless runaways, is exceedingly small; while the unceasing robberies and murders of which Siberia complains now, take place precisely in Tomsk and throughout Western Siberia, whereto no murderers, and only minor offenders are exiled. In the earlier parts of this century it was not uncommon to find at an official’s house that the coachman was a liberated murderer, or that the nurse who bestowed such motherly care upon the children bore imperfectly obliterated marks of the branding-iron. As to those who would suggest that probably the Russians are a milder sort of men than those of Western Europe, they have only to remember the scenes which have accompanied the outbreaks of peasants; and they might be asked also, how far the absence of executions and of all that abominable talk which is fed by descriptions of executions — the talk in which English prisoners delight most — has contributed to foster a cold contempt for human life.

The shameful practice of legal assassination which is still carried on in Western Europe, the shameful practice of hiring for a guinea an assassin to accomplish a sentence which the judge would not have the courage to carry out himself — this shameful practice and all that hardly-imaginable amount of corruption it continues to pour into society, has not even the excuse of preventing murder. Nowhere has the abolition of capital punishment increased the number of murders. If the practice of putting men to death is still in use, it is merely a result of craven fear, coupled with reminiscences of a lower degree of civilization when the tooth-for-tooth principle was preached by religion.

But if the cosmical causes — either directly or indirectly — exercise so powerful an influence on the yearly amount of anti-social acts; if psychological causes, deeply rooted in the intimate structure of the body, are also a powerful factor in bringing men to commit breaches of the law, what will remain of the theories of the writers on the criminal law after we have also taken into account the social causes of what we call crime?

There was a custom of old by which each commune (clan, Mark, Gemeinde) was considered responsible as a whole for any anti-social act committed by any of its members. This old costume has disappeared like so many good remnants of the communal organization of old. But we are returning to it; and again, after having passed through a period of the most unbridled individualism, the feeling is growing amongst us that society is responsible for the anti-social deeds committed in its midst. If we have our share of glory in the achievement of the geniuses of our century, we have our part of shame in the deeds of our assassins.

From year to year thousands of children grow-up in the filth — material and moral — of our great cities, completely abandoned amidst a population demoralized by a life from hand to mouth, the incertitude of to-morrow, and a misery of which no former epoch has had even an apprehension. Left to themselves and to the worst influences of the street, receiving but little cure from their parents ground down by a terrible struggle for existence, they hardly know what a happy home is; but they learn from earliest childhood what the vices of our great cities are. They enter life without even knowing a handicraft which might help them to earn their living. The son of a savage learns hunting from his father; his sister learns how to manage their simple household. The children whose father and mother leave the den they inhabit, early in the morning, in search of any job which may help them to get through the next week, enter life not even with that knowledge. They know no handicraft; their home has been the muddy street; and the teachings they received in the street were of the kind known by those who have visited the whereabouts of the gin-palaces of the poor, and of the places of amusement of the richer classes.

It is all very well to thunder denunciations about the drunken habits of this class of the population, but if those who denounce them had grown up in the same conditions as the children of the labourer who every morning conquers by means of his own fists the right of being admitted at the gate of a London dockyard, — how many of them would not have become the continual guests of the gin-palaces? — the only palaces with which the rich have endowed the real producers of all riches.

When we see this population growing up in all our big manufacturing centres we cannot wonder that our big cities chiefly supply prisons with inmates. I never cease to wonder, on the contrary, that relatively so small a proportion of these children become thieves or highway robbers. I never cease to wonder at the deep-rootedness of social feelings in the humanity of the nineteenth century, at the goodness of heart which still prevails in the dirty streets, which are the causes that relatively few of those who grow up in absolute neglect declare open war against our social institutions. These good feelings, this aversion to violence, this resignation which makes them accept their fate without hatred growing in their hearts, are the only real barrier which prevents them from openly breaking all social bonds, — not the deterring influence of prisons. Stone would not remain upon stone in our modern palaces, were it not for these feelings.

And, at the other end of the social scale, money that is representative signs of human work, is squandered in unheard-of luxury, very often with no other purpose than to satisfy a stupid vanity. While old and young have no bread, and are really starving at the very doors of our luxurious shops, — these know no limits to their lavish expenditures.

When everything round about us — the shops and the people we see in the streets, the literature we read, the money worship we meet with every day — tends to develop an insatiable thirst for unlimited wealth, a love for sparkish luxury, a tendency towards spending money foolishly for every avowable and unavowable purpose; when there are whole quarters in our cities each house of which reminds us that man has too often remained a beast, whatever the decorum under which he conceals his bestiality; when the watchword of our civilized world is: “Enrich yourselves! Crush down everything you meet in your way, by all means short of those which might bring you before a court!” When a part from a few exceptions, all — from the landlord down to the artisan — are taught every day in a thousand ways that the beau-ideal of life is to manage affairs so as to make others work for you; when manual work is so despised that those who perish from want of bodily exercise prefer to resort to gymnastics, imitating the movements of sawing and digging, instead of sawing wood and hoeing the soil; when hard and blackened hands are considered a sign of inferiority, and a silk dress and the knowledge of how to keep servants under strict discipline is a token of superiority; when literature expends its art in maintaining the worship of richness and treats the “impractical idealist” with contempt — what need is there to talk about inherited criminality when so many factors of our life work in one direction — that of manufacturing beings unsuited for a honest existence, permeated with anti-social feelings!

Let us organize our society so as to assure to everybody the possibility of regular work for the benefit of the commonwealth — and that means of course a through transformation of the present relations between work and capital; let us assure to every child a sound education and instruction, both in manual labour and science, so as to permit him to acquire, during the first twenty years of his life, the knowledge and habits of earnest work — and we shall be in no more need of dungeons and jails, of judges and hangmen. Man is a result of those conditions in which he has grown up. Let him grow in habits of useful work: let him be brought by his earlier life to consider humanity as one great family, no member of which can be injured without the injury be felt by a wide circle of his fellows, and ultimately by the whole of society; let him acquire a taste for the highest enjoyment of science and art — much more lofty and durable than those given by the satisfaction of lower passions, — and we may be sure that we shall not have many breaches of those laws of morality which are un unconscious affirmation of the best conditions for life in society.

Two-third of all breaches of law being so-called “crimes against property,” these cases will disappear, or be limited to a quite trifling amount, when property, which is now the privilege of the few, shall return to its real source — the community. As to “crimes against persons,” already their numbers are rapidly decreasing, owing to the growth of moral and social habits which necessarily develop in each society and can only grow when common interests contribute more and more to tighten the bonds which induce men to live a common life.

Of course, whatever be the economical bases of society, there will always be in its midst a certain number of beings with passions more strongly developed and less easily controlled than the rest; and there always will be men whose passions may occasionally lead them to commit acts of an anti-social character. But these passions can receive another direction, and most of them can be rendered almost or quite harmless by the combined efforts of those who surround us. We live now in too much isolation. Everybody cares only for himself, or his nearest relatives. Egotistic — that is, unintelligent — individualism in material life has necessarily brought about an individualism as egotistic and as harmful in the mutual relations of human beings. But we have known in history, and we see still, communities where men are more closely connected together than in our Western European cities. China is an instance in point. The great “compound family” is there still the basis of the social organization: the members of the compound family know one another perfectly; they support one another, they help one another, not merely in material life, but also in moral troubles; and the number of “crimes” both against property and persons, stands at an astonishingly low level (in the central provinces, of course, not on the sea-shore). The Slavonian and Swiss agrarian communes are another instance. Men know one another in these smaller aggregations; they mutually support one another; while in our cities all bond between the inhabitants have disappeared. The old family, based on a common origin, is disintegrating. But men cannot live in this isolation, and the elements of new social groups — those ties arising between the inhabitants of the same spot having many interests in common, and those of people united by the prosecution of common aims — is growing. Their growth can only be accelerated by such changes as would bring about a closer mutual dependency and a greater equality between the members of our communities.

And yet, notwithstanding all this, there surely will remain a limited number of persons whose anti-social passions — the result of bodily diseases — may still be a danger for the community. Shall humanity send these to the gallows, or lock them up in prisons? Surely it will not resort to this wicked solution of the difficulty.

There was a time when lunatics, considered as possessed by the devil, were treated in the most abominable manner. Chained in stalls like animals, they were dreaded even by their keepers. To break their chains, to set them free, would have been considered then as a folly. But a man came — Pinel [3] — who dared to take off their chains, and to offer them brotherly words, brotherly treatment. And those who were looked upon as ready to devour the human being who dared to approach them, gathered round their liberator, and proved that he was right in his belief in the best features of human nature, even in those whose intelligence was darkened by disease. From that time the cause of humanity was won. The lunatic was no longer treated like a wild beast. Men recognized in him a brother.

The chains disappeared, but asylums — another name for prisons — remained, and within their walls a system as bad as that of the chains grew up by-and-by. But then the peasants of a Belgian village, moved by their simple good sense and kindness of heart, showed the way towards a new departure which learned student of mental disease did not perceive. They set the lunatics quite free. They took them into their families, offered them a bed in their poor houses, a chair at their plain tables, a place in their ranks to cultivate the soil, a place in their dancing-parties. And the fame spread wide of “miraculous cures” effected by the saint to whose name the church of Gheel was consecrated. The remedy applied by the peasants was so plain, so old — it was liberty — that the learned people preferred to trace the result to Divine influences instead of taking things as they were. But there was no lack of honest and good-hearted men who understood the force of the treatment invented by the Gheel peasants, advocated it, and gave all their energies to overcome the inertia of mind, the cowardice and the indifference of their surroundings.

Liberty and fraternal care have proved the best cure on our side of the above-mentioned wide borderland “between insanity and crime.” They will prove also the best cure on the other boundary of the same borderland. Progress is in that direction. All that tends that way will bring us nearer to the solution of the great question which has not ceased to preoccupy human societies since the remotest antiquity, and which cannot be solved by prisons.

[1] Cesare Lombroso (1835 — 1909) Professor of psychiatry and criminologist. He purported the existence of a link between criminality and certain physical characteristics. This hypothesis is nowadays discredited. His work encouraged also a more humane treatment of the convicts.

[2] The former Abbey of St. Bernard at Clairvaux in France had been transformed by the state rulers into a prison where Kropotkin was detained from 1883 to 1886 on charges of being a member of the International Workingmen’s Association which had been outlawed by the state rulers after the Paris Commune of 1871.

[3] Philippe Pinel (1745 — 1826) Physician and advocate of a psychiatry pioneering the humane treatment of the mentally ill.

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/petr-kropotkin-are-prisons-necessary

“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.