Markets Not Capitalism: the Book to Define a New United Front?

  • Posted on: 9 August 2016
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

From Counterpunch - by Andrew Stewart

For the last several months, I have been reading the 2011 anthology Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty, edited by Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson. It is unique in that it effectively figures out how one can engage in united front from below with Libertarians by offering the coordinates of struggle. No less than Alexander Cockburn said “We on the left need a good shake to get us thinking, and these arguments for market anarchism do the job in lively and thoughtful fashion.”

It should be pointed out that the Libertarians right now are roughly in the same space ideologically that the Democrats were on the day Franklin Roosevelt died. There is a far right element that could be called fascist in the same way that the Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats were. Yet the left wing of the party is, for all intents and purposes, a direct action anarchist group that is occupying the same space that American Communists were in seven decades ago but with one key difference, an emphasis on decentralization as opposed to Soviet-styled centralization of power. It is important to emphasize here that, when Roosevelt died, the old CPUSA had dissolved itself and become the Communist Political Association. They intended in the postwar world to be a left-progressive caucus at the grassroots level that would, according to their Constitution:

[A]ssure to its membership adequate information, education and organized participation in the political life of our country in cooperation with other Americans for the advancement and protection of the interests of the nation and its people.

Their Preamble was a collection of Popular Front slogans about Washington and Jefferson that are so innocuous they would be at home in a Democratic fundraising email. Yet while that Popular Front period was ultimately built on foundations of sand that Harry Truman was able to collapse with ease when he began the Red Scare, due in no small part to their umbilical to Moscow, such a hindrance is not present here. I would go as far as saying that this left element of the Libertarians is in reality farther to the left of the Green Party, particularly on the key issue of sex worker rights. Charles W. Johnson puts it best:

[T]he libertarian Left is the real Left…because libertarianism, rightly understood, calls on the workers of the world to unite, and to solve the problems of social and economic regulation not by appealing to any external authority or privileged managerial planner, but rather by taking matters into their own hands and working together through grassroots community organizing to build the kind of world that we want to live in.

This is a striking claim for me because it presents a future for politics that is both tenable and actionable. Could a Green-Libertarian united front from below develop out of this book and its coordinates to challenge neoliberalism, perhaps in the form of a boycott of Wal-Mart and other big box stores? The simple fact is that neoclassical marketsnoteconomics, whether under the auspices of neoliberal Democrats or neoconservative Republicans, has fundamentally redesigned the contours of class struggle in a fashion that dictates a thorough updating of the Marxist canon for the new millennium. Naysayers would do well to recall that Lenin’s corpus fundamentally overturned basic axioms of Marx and Engels, particularly in regards to imperialism, and so a century later we likewise need such a recreation of socialist politics.

“The notion that Markets Not Capitalism could help to energize a cross-ideological coalition challenging corporate privilege and the political policies that flow from it is exciting,” says Chartier. “It would be great to think that our work might help energize that.”

It is worthwhile here to note that, over the past sixteen years, we have seen grassroots populist entryists groups, progressives and libertarians, attempt to take control of both parties from the bottom up. Which has had more success? Trump is a vile bigot and narcissist but he also seems to create entire speeches that string together headlines from Reason magazine and AntiWar.com. By contrast, the elite corporatists at the Philadelphia Soviet not only scuttled the Michael Harrington-branded of Democratic Socialists of America project, they got their Lenin to deliver the insurgents to the White Armies when Bernie Sanders cancelled the floor vote at the Convention to nominate the Tsarina!

Divided into eight parts, the book is located in a uniquely American section of socialist history that is oftentimes forgotten. Benjamin R. Tucker and Voltairine de Cleyre, among many others during the Second Internationale epoch, were individualist anarchists and mutualists, meaning they believed in class warfare and socialism but also in a notion of property in terms of home ownership or a share of a cooperatized workplace run by a union. From these coordinates the contemporary authors develop a coherent set of essays that articulate a vision of the state’s withering that is not just striking but more seemingly tenable than a parliamentary or revolutionary socialist movement.

Some of the figures who appear along the way are surprising. Karl Hess, the Goldwater speechwriter turned New Left anarchist and tax resistor, has several contributions that are as radical as Noam Chomsky’s best writings while also providing stunning inversions of typical anti-racist critiques of the movement. For example, he says in one essay:

Libertarians hold that the South should have been permitted to secede so that the slaves themselves, along with their Northern friends, could have built a revolutionary liberation movement, overthrown the masters, and thus shaped the reparations of revolution.

For those who are unclear, such a utopia was also proposed in the form of New Leftist Terry Bisson’s classic alternate history, Fire On The Mountain, wherein John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry was a success and led to a black southern socialist republic of emancipated slaves and their descendants named Nova Africa, not unlike the case that was presented at the time Bisson was writing by the split of East and West Germany.

The basic unit of discourse in this book is around the creation of “freed markets”, which William Gillis explains:

Freed markets don’t have corporations. A freed market naturally equalizes wealth. Social hierarchy is by definition inefficient and this is particularly evident in freed markets. It moves us out of the present tense and into the theoretical realm of “after the revolution,” where like the Reds we can still use present day examples to back theory, but we’re not tied into implicitly defending every horror in today’s market.

From here descends a series of essays that critique neoclassical capitalism on its own turf. Unlike most self-professed leftists of today, who really are closer to religious fundamentalist Manichaeans worshipping a Freudian totem in the garb of Gilded Age or Soviet era socialism, we have presented here perhaps the best critique of political economy in a generation.

Some of the essays, like one suggesting that Murray Rothbard was in reality an anarcho-syndicalist, are audaciously challenging. Others, like one comparing the Soviet collectivization to the English enclosures, take up the challenges of Stalinism posed by humanitarians in a sound and logical way. Kevin Carson’s argument for the “the repeal of Wagner, of the anti-yellow dog provisions of Norris-LaGuardia, of legal protections against punitive firing of union organizers, and of all the workplace safety, overtime, and fair practices legislation” in exchange for “the repeal of Taft-Hartley, of the Railway Labor Relations Act and its counterparts in other industries, of all state right-to-work laws, and of SLAPP lawsuits” in the name of the asymmetrical class warfare that was substantially hindered by the National Labor Relations Act is an essay that would simultaneously infuriate and excite a grassroots organizer.

The book is not perfect. There is really nothing substantial articulating a critique of systemic racism in a fashion going beyond a brief piece by Sheldon Richman that challenges the Libertarian resistance to desegregation. Of course, one might find this sort of material in the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, whose arc of development was towards a Sino-Soviet bloc that, at the time, was believed to operate in a libertarian fashion. Few today remember that important fact, up until the 1956 Khrushchev secret speech it was honestly claimed by Communists worldwide that they were creating a social order roughly akin to what Rothbard argued for also in his essay Confiscation and the Homestead Principle, a piece that sang praises for Tito’s Yugoslavia and their cooperative-based economy. The material regarding ecological issues would be worthy of expansion also, as would that regarding gender and sexuality topics.

As a corollary to this review, I would be remiss if I did not advise those already familiar with this volume to read at least Black Revolutionaries in the United States: Communist Interventions, Volume II by the Communist Research Cluster , a similar anthology that assembles important writings in the black radical tradition in a fashion that is accessible and provocative. Statistically speaking, we know that black and brown voters are the most left-leaning demographic in both the Democratic Party and the United States, favoring in an issue-based spectrum single-payer healthcare, LGBTQQI protections, abortion care rights, and other progressive issues far more than white counterparts. It is therefore imperative for Libertarians, particularly those of a centrist and leftist orientation, to familiarize themselves with this tradition so to actualize a genuine united front from below that does not prove to be exclusionary towards such a key population.

Nevertheless, this is a vital volume. If we hope to build a truly revolutionary movement, it requires a united front from below that includes Libertarians, the actual Liberals in our society, as well as Greens. This volume is the conversation piece around which such efforts can be based and it is therefore to be seen as a blessing.

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Comments

admins trolling readers? i think we all realize already that counterpunch is fucking worthless

Identity categories, and other inanimate objects we must believe in...

WHat? NO NO NO! NOOOOOO! Seriously, no. This is a serious comment, at the level of earnest intellectual engagement appropriate to the above story. NO!

This isn't thecollective trolling you, fellow readers. This is thecollective's actual opinion on things and they wanted to share this opinion with the readers here because they hoped, through snark and derision, this would eventually reach a "but seriously" moment, speaking in favor of market anarchy.

To me, the more voices like this, the more it makes sense to decline the invitation and vote union.

OK, SO YOU'RE A TROLL TOO! BUT YOU CAN'T TRICK ME, BUSTER, I'M NOT FUCKING HAVING IT WITH MARKET GARBAGE! FUCK THOSE PEOPLE, BURN THEIR FUCKING MARKETS, AND FUCK YOU ALL!

Relax and take a few deep breaths, man. You sound a little overwrought.

Market anarchy only makes sense if the businesses that are created by anarchists are all unionized. This gives independence to individuals to express power to make change happen. The overlap of voluntary institutions has strong ground, but needs to be stronger. Anarchist federations in favor of market anarchy and union anarchy in synthesis are the way to go. The IWW already has established infrastructure for this, so any new efforts in this direction can be added. The stronger the union, the easier it is for union members to use alternative currencies and establish credit unions. Let the difference between employer and employee overlap, focus on smaller workplaces for more intimacy and immediacy. We can all win together if we just all realize our shared material interests are stronger in union.

If the revolution is truly a failure. If civilization is not going to collapse. If insurrections offer no catharsis. If riots are a political tool. If autonomy is still wanted. There is still union and the slow class war to ensure our institutional dominance and methods of mass organizing overcome those of statists and corporatists. A decentered mass society, with voluntary democratic institutions, is not only possible in the future, it is possible now to participate or establish. The maximalist dreamers confuse and distort what kinds of freedom we really want. And by 'we', I mean those anarchists that desire a strong established union to defend our interests in the present while pressing for immediate change.

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"A decentered mass society, with voluntary democratic institutions, is not only possible in the future, it is possible now to participate or establish."
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It may very well be "possible," but why is it *desirable*?

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"The maximalist dreamers confuse and distort what kinds of freedom we really want."
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You mean the kind of freedom where the so-called "Majority" gets to boss around those pesky individualistic pariahs who won't just shut up and do what they're told? Yep, guilty as charged. If that's "freedom," then I think I'll pass.

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"And by 'we', I mean those anarchists that desire a strong established union to defend our interests in the present while pressing for immediate change."
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Otherwise knows as the anarcho-lefty Borg collective. The hive mind shall consume all difference, and in so doing, the hive mind shall make us free!

Unfortunately you are using dated mischaracterizations that are no longer relevant. It is what you'd expect from a maximalist. I made a forum post on anarchist democracy that should appear soon. It explains my views, which are consistent with practicing anarchists that aren't stuck in a black and white world where any disagreement is a total failure and any agreement a total win. This binary world is simplistic and boring. Freedom, for the maximalist, is to stare into the clouds and never have a disagreeable experience from birth to death. The world is not this simple. We are animals and your meat brain needs to get rooted in reality. We can all love, fuck and fight in an anarchist democracy. The rejections of this hardly rise to any sort of real challenge. Mainly just the peanut gallery amplifying their voice through an internet medium.

Take a second to sidestep whatever archetype of who you think your arguing with and deal with the words that are actually there on the screen in front of you. Whatever "binary" you are attributing to me is one of your own invention and not one that I have postulated. "Maximalist" is clearly your pet catchphrase and one that you would likely continue repeat ad nauseam regardless of its relevance to the subject at hand.

P.S.: Why the hold-up? I want to see this forthcoming forum postthat you say will clarify your position. No time like the present.

weirdest troll ever

April Fools already?

Would a more appropriate title not be "Socialism Not Anarchy"?

Fact is, these days a lot of socialscum are hardcore convinced that socialism = anarchism. And stuff.

Feel free to hang out on /r/anarchism... it's riddled with these SA idiots, who also equally make anarchy a synonym for communism.

you are right to make the distinction between anarchy and anarchism.

it is the same distinction as between community and communism.

many would interpret communism as an intelligence-driven scheme authored by 'communists' to construct 'intentional community'.

but 'community' in nature is something that can spontaneously arise by 'mutual support' and the amazingly complex web of relations that arises is without any common intentional authorship scheme.

in nature, organization arises by relational inductance where deficiency draws on surplus. the storm-cell forms for no other reason than to transport thermal energy from thermal energy rich regions to thermal energy poor regions [balance restoring is its animating force]. i.e. variations in the thermal energy flow-field embody epigenetic inductive influence that actualizes genetic expression [storm-cell development]. there is no LOCAL causal agent authoring source. epigenetic influence [the nonlocal authoring source] is outside-inward relational influence where deficiency inductively actualizes surplus. the newly married couple's need for a house inductively actualizes, orchestrates and shapes individual and collective actions of villagers in helping them build it [mutual support]. there is no local author and this dynamic is not intention-driven but relationally induced.

the subject-verb-predicate structures of noun-and-verb Indo-European/scientific language and grammar reduce all dynamics to assertively driven dynamics; i.e. 'the villagers constructed a house for the newly married couple'. what is missing from this imagery is the ongoing web of relations constituting the community dynamic that are transformed by the marriage, opening up a relational need that inductively actualizes the constructive actions of the villagers; i.e. the constructive actions are the secondary, visible manifestation of the non-visible relational deficiency, ... in the same way that the proliferation of germs are the secondary, visible manifestation of a non-visible relational deficiency [insufficient vitamin C etc.].

the subject-jumpstarted semantics of noun-and-verb language-and-grammar make it seem as if the authorship of the house was intention-driven when it was, in reality, need/deficiency-induced. the relational dynamics of community include epigenetic inductive influence that actualizes genetic expression [construction]. as nietzsche points out, noun-and-verb language users have the habit of dividing out each change in a relational dynamic [e.g. the new house in the community dynamic] and attributing its authorship to intention-driven behaviours,]. the proliferating of germs in a vitamin-deficient body, we similarly attribute to the local internal drive and direction of the germs, forgetting that the body is the incubator whose conditions can stifle or amplify the proliferating of microbes; "le microbe n'est rien, le terrain est tout' -- Louis Pasteur, acknowledging on his deathbed, the conjecture of Antoine Béchamp]

This language induced reduction which subjectively homes in on relational forms in a transforming relational continuum, and explains them in terms of locally driven and directed authorship, obscuring the physically real sourcing role of the relational continuum, is pervasive in noun-and-verb Indo-European/scientific language-and-grammar usage. As Nietzsche says;

"Our judgement has us conclude that every change must have an author”;–but this conclusion is already mythology: it separates that which effects from the effecting. If I say “lightning flashes,” I have posited the flash once as an activity and a second time as a subject, and thus added to the event a being that is not one with the event but is rather fixed, “is” and does not “become.”–To regard an event as an “effecting,” and this as being, that is the double error, or interpretation, of which we are guilty.” – Nietzsche, ‘Will to Power’, 531

Bottom line:

'community' is a relational activity rather than a 'thing' that is constructed by 'communists' with 'communism'-informed intentions.

'anarchy' is a relational activity rather than a 'thing' that is constructed by 'anarchists' with 'anarchism'-informed intentions.

with this clarification, we can refer to those participating in anarchy as 'anARchists', NOT in the sense of 'authors of anarchy' but as those who find themselves included in 'anarchy' as a relational activity greater than themselves. and we can speak of 'anARchism' as the ethic of mutual support which opens the way to relational complexity that is beyond the scope of intention-driven construction, .. rather than as theory that equips anarchists for intention driven construction of 'anarchy'.

of course, we can't communicate without a common language, which makes life difficult for those [of us] trying to deconstruct the hidden assumptions loaded into familiar words like 'anarchism'. as david bohm pointed out, we need a more relationally competent language ["rheomode"] to capture relational nuances because, as nietzsche illustrates in the above quote, relational nuances get dropped out in the simplistic subject-verb-predicate constructs of noun-and-verb language-and-grammar that reduce relational activity to subject-verb 'things and what things do' combinations.

while 'community' and 'anarchy' are non-intention-driven relational activities that are not constrained to human organizing, humans [noun-and-verb using humans] are unique in constructing 'semantic realities' wherein 'community' and 'anarchy' are envisioned as theory-informed, intention-driven replicas that 'drop out' [obfuscate, deny] the non-local, non-visible, non-material epigenetic field influence that some call 'the great spirit'. this reduction of the community dynamic to a purely mechanical dynamic, as Mach points out, stems from the mistaken misappropriation, by biologists, of pure mechanics [impossible abstraction] in explaining human physiology, imputing independent machine status to man and thus bypassing the need to acknowledge the over-riding influence of outside-inward epigenetic inductive influence that is the actualizing source of genetic expression [material form].

Community and anarchy need no elective position or proposed solution to exist or persist. As I have repeated many times, a modified appropriation of Junger's anarch(influenced by Stirner and I think Nietzsche also) makes perfect sense for anarchy. Anarch/anarchy as opposed to anarchist/anarchism. It is also makes all this existentialist, nihilist, post left ect definition hyphening unnecessary.

Also I think it was Claude Bernard that the Pasteur quote refers to and there's no direct verification that he actually uttered those words. It doesn't matter though, Pasteurian theory is trash either way and the quote is closer to reality then current microbiological assumptions which are more and more coming to accept terrain analysis anyway whether they like it or not. Ditto for Lamarckist epigenetics replacing Darwinist genetics.

as opposed to the obscure little shit puddle in the online sewer of irrelevant egoist trolls with delusions of grandeur?

this was a reply to: anon 08/11/2016 - 07:37 although emile certainly fits the bill too.

Gimme the Flikr/Fednook/Reddit social anarchist dupes Vs the sewer egoists, and I'll pick neither coz they both equally suck and more importantly do nothing of relevance in terms of IRL anarchy. AS a matter of fact they should get married and have lotsa punk rock unionist babies.

That would be a terrible atmosphere to raise a child but yes, IRL FTW!

markets are a sign that something is seriously wrong with people

anything that people need can easily be made and gifted

trade is a by-product of debt, not the other way around

graeber, for all his faults, pointed this out well

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