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Why Not Anarchist Socialism?

An Open Letter to the Constitution Society by Punkerslut

Photograph by Daquella Manera, CC BY 2.0 License
Image: Photograph by Daquella Manera, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 License

Date: August 12, 2011

Info: Constitution.org

"At the time I did not perceive that the various ideals which were set before us canceled out. I merely saw that they were all, or nearly all, unattainable, so far as I was concerned, since they all depended not only on what you did but on what you were."
          --George Orwell, 1947
          "Such Such Were the Joys," Part 5


     Long ago, a younger me discovered your Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics. Over several years, I've been able to read more than just a handful of these, including some of the exceptionally longer ones. The Second Treatise by John Locke, the Republic by Plato, the Essays of Hume, the Essays of Bacon, the Essays of Thomas Paine, Beccaria's Treatise on Crime, Utopia by Moore, etc., etc.. By reading through all of these, though, I've come to very different conclusions. All of these works, taken together, seem to point in the direction of Anarchist-Communism, or at least some type of Anarchist Collectivism.

     For instance, take John Locke. "I think it will be but a very modest computation to say, that of the products of the earth useful to the life of man, nine-tenths are the effects of labour," from Chapter 5 of his Second Treatise. You're reading it right there: the most important, essential component to the material well-being of society are the laborers themselves. It's not a great distance from there to say that the few who own land, and make money simply by owning land or capital, are therefore thieves, robbers of the laborers. He repeated this point multiple times: "...labour makes the far greatest part of the value of things we enjoy in this world," and "It is labour, then, which puts the greatest part of value upon land, without which it would scarcely be worth anything."

     You have posted the biographies of Solon and Lycurgus, as well as the Athenian Constitution by Aristotle which details these two politicians of the ancient world. You do realize that Solon was the first socialist, who abolished all debt? And you realize, like a typical politician, as even Aristotle notes, that he was able to make a great deal off the law through financial speculation? He was still praised for his actions, though: the class struggle, between the haves and the have-nots, had reached a peak, and everyone was cheering when some well-respected Athenian abolished the control of the rich over the poor.

     You didn't post the entire "Parallel Lives," by Plutarch, which is where these biographies come from. If you did, you'd find that every single politician since Solon always reviews the economic situation: do we need to abolish the debt again? They rarely say yes, but each time they ask the question, they admit that since last time they reviewed the situation, the poor have gotten poorer, and the rich have gotten richer. The poor, who do all of the labour, who produce all of the good things in society, who are responsible for all wealth -- yes, they are in a worse situation because they contribute their labor to society.

     "In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period." -- Thomas Paine, from "Agrarian Justice." This appears on your website, as well, where he said that "landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance..." The class struggle recognized by the ancient Greeks is the same as the one recognized by Paine.

     Thomas Jefferson was no friend to Capitalism. In a letter to a friend, he said he favored an economy of "the small land owner." Today, that is only possible through Socialization of the economy: a factory or a mine or even a store is too big for one person to run the entire thing, so obviously there needs to be a Democracy of the workshop. A society of small-owners isn't possible within the confines of today's modernized Capitalist system.

     You even posted "An Essay on the History of Civil Society" by Adam Ferguson, who is described by Wikipedia as "the forefather of Sociology." (Hint: Sociology is extremely unfriendly to Capitalism.) As far as Capitalism goes, "The toils and possessions of many are destined to assuage the passions of one or a few; and the only parties that remain among mankind, are the oppressor who demands, and the oppressed who dare not refuse." (Part 6, Section 1.)

     Even Rousseau can't help but admit the truth. In the very beginning of "The Social Contract," he defines the terms of Capitalist slavery: "...a man who becomes the slave of another does not give himself; he sells himself, at the least for his subsistence..." (Chapter 4.) Or, perhaps more explicitly, "...it is impossible to make any man a slave, unless he be first reduced to a situation in which he cannot do without the help of others..." ("Discourse on the Origin of Inequality," First Part.)

     David Hume had a very practical method for understanding economics within a moral framework: "It is a violent method, and in most cases impracticable, to oblige the labourer to toil, in order to raise from the land more than what subsists himself and family." (Part II, Essay I.)

     As far as Anarchism, that seems fairly standard throughout all of the works. One book pushes against absolute monarchy, the next pushes against constitutional monarchy, and the next pushes against mixed constitutional monarchy and republicanism. Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and David Hume. You keep chopping away at authority, piece by piece, and the deformed monster you leave behind is still just as awful and ugly. Why not abolish all governments and establish a collectively-organized society? It's seems almost intuitive. After all, Jean-Jacques Rousseau didn't believe in Representative government, and his idea of democracy resembles Anarchist Delegation. Or, as he said himself:

"Sovereignty, for the same reason as makes it inalienable, cannot be represented; it lies essentially in the general will, and will does not admit of representation: it is either the same, or other; there is no intermediate possibility. The deputies of the people, therefore, are not and cannot be its representatives: they are merely its stewards, and can carry through no definitive acts. Every law the people has not ratified in person is null and void is, in fact, not a law. The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing. The use it makes of the short moments of liberty it enjoys shows indeed that it deserves to lose them." (Chapter 15, Book 3, "Social Contract.")

     For all of these reasons, it seems simply, directly and completely obvious: abolition of Capitalism and government should go side by side. You cannot limit political authority without limiting economic authority -- you cannot slay the king and leave the plantation-owner untouched. I even giggled when you listed "The Communist Manifesto" in the list of "Know Your Enemy" Reading-Material. No offense, but Marx was more conservative than Thomas Paine's "Agrarian Justice." You think Marx was radical? He even tried to use Capitalist-dominated government to create reforms. Compare that with Thomas More's Utopia, which you posted yourself:

"... I can have no other notion of all the other governments that I see or know, than that they are a conspiracy of the rich, who on pretence of managing the public only pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out; first, that they may, without danger, preserve all that they have so ill acquired, and then that they may engage the poor to toil and labor for them at as low rates as possible, and oppress them as much as they please." (Thomas More, 1516, "Utopia," Book 2, Section: Of the Religions of the Utopians.)

     I've spent only a few years reading these books. It would only take a minute or two to give me a brief response. Thank you...

Andy Carloff

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