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So, as one might expect, since the essence of anarchism is opposition to hierarchical authority, anarchists totally oppose the way the current economy is organized. This is because authority in the economic sphere is embodied in centralized, hierarchical workplaces that give an elite class (capitalists) dictatorial control over privately owned means of production, turning the majority of the population into order takers (i.e. wage slaves). In contrast, the libertarian-socialist "economy" will be based on decentralized, egalitarian workplaces ("syndicates") in which workers democratically self-manage socially owned means of production. Let us begin with the concept of syndicates.
The key principles of libertarian socialism are decentralization, self-management by direct democracy, voluntary association, and federation. These principles determine the form and function of both the economic and political systems. In this section we will consider just the economic system. Bakunin gives an excellent overview of such an economy when he writes:
"The land belongs to only those who cultivate it with their own hands; to the agricultural communes. The capital and all the tools of production belong to the workers; to the workers' associations . . . The future political organization should be a free federation of workers." [Bakunin on Anarchy, p. 247]
The essential economic concept for libertarian socialists is workers' self-management (sometimes termed workers' control). This is essential to ensure "a society of equals, who will not be compelled to sell their hands and their brains to those who choose to employ them . . . but who will be able to apply their knowledge and capacities to production, in an organism so constructed as to combine all the efforts for procuring the greatest possible well-being for all, while full, free scope will be left for every individual initiative." [Kropotkin, Kropotkin: Selections from his Writings, pp. 113-4]
However, this concept of self-management needs careful explanation, because, like the terms "anarchist" and "libertarian," "workers' control"</I> is also is being co-opted by capitalists to describe schemes in which workers' have more say in how their workplaces are run while maintaining wage slavery (i.e. capitalist ownership, power and ultimate control). Needless to say, such schemes are phony as they never place real power in the hands of workers. In the end, the owners and their managers have the final say (and so hierarchy remains) and, of course, profits are still extracted from the workforce.
As anarchists use the term, workers' self-management/control means collective worker ownership, control and self-management of all aspects of production and distribution. This is achieved through participatory-democratic workers' assemblies, councils and federations, in both agriculture and industry. These bodies would perform all the functions formerly reserved for capitalist owners, managers. executives and financiers where these activities actually related to productive activity rather than the needs to maximize minority profits and power. These workplace assemblies will be complemented by people's financial institutions or federations of syndicates which perform all functions formerly reserved for capitalist owners, executives, and financiers in terms of allocating investment funds or resources.
This means that an anarchist society is based on "workers' ownership" of the means of production.
"Workers' ownership" in its most limited sense refers merely to the ownership of individual firms by their workers. In such firms, surpluses (profits) would be either equally divided between all full-time members of the co-operative or divided unequally on the basis of the type of work done, with the percentages allotted to each type being decided by democratic vote, on the principle of one worker, one vote. However, such a limited form of workers' ownership is rejected by most anarchists. Social anarchists argue that this is but a step in the right direction and the ultimate aim is social ownership of all the means of life. This is because of the limitations of firms being owned solely by their workers (as in a modern co-operative).
Worker co-operatives of this type do have the virtue of preventing the exploitation and oppression of labor by capital, since workers are not hired for wages but, in effect, become partners in the firm. This means that the workers control both the product of their labor (so that the value-added that they produce is not appropriated by a privileged elite) and the work process itself (and so they no longer sell their liberty to others). However, this does not mean that all forms of economic domination and exploitation would be eliminated if worker ownership were confined merely to individual firms. In fact, most social anarchists believe this type of system would degenerate into a kind of "petit-bourgeois co-operativism" in which worker-owned firms would act as collective "capitalists" and compete against each other in the market as ferociously as the real capitalists used to. This would also lead to a situation where market forces ensured that the workers involved made irrational decisions (from both a social and individual point of view) in order to survive in the market. As these problems were highlighted in section I.1.3 ("What's wrong with markets anyway?"), we will not repeat ourselves here.
For individualist anarchists, this "irrationality of rationality" is the price to be paid for a free market and any attempt to overcome this problem holds numerous dangers to freedom. Social anarchists disagree. They think co-operation between workplaces can increase, not reduce, freedom. Social anarchists' proposed solution is society-wide ownership of the major means of production and distribution, based on the anarchist principle of voluntary federation, with confederal bodies or co-ordinating councils at two levels: first, between all firms in a particular industry; and second, between all industries, agricultural syndicates, and people's financial institutions throughout the society. As Berkman put it:
"Actual use will be considered the only title [in communist anarchism] -- not to ownership but to possession. The organization of the coal miners, for example, will be in charge of the coal mines, not as owners but as the operating agency. Similarly will the railroad brotherhoods run the railroads, and so on. Collective possession, co-operatively managed in the interests of the community, will take the place of personal ownership privately conducted for profit." [ABC of Anarchism, p. 69]
While, for many anarcho-syndicalists, this structure is seen as enough, most communist-anarchists consider that the economic federation should be held accountable to society as a whole (i.e. the economy must be communalized). This is because not everyone in society is a worker (e.g. the young, the old and infirm) nor will everyone belong to a syndicate (e.g. the self-employed), but as they also have to live with the results of economic decisions, they should have a say in what happens. In other words, in communist-anarchism, workers make the day-to-day decisions concerning their work and workplaces, while the social criteria behind these decisions are made by everyone.
In this type of economic system, workers' assemblies and councils would be the focal point, formulating policies for their individual workplaces and deliberating on industry-wide or economy-wide issues through general meetings of the whole workforce in which everyone would participate in decision making. Voting in the councils would be direct, whereas in larger confederal bodies, voting would be carried out by temporary, unpaid, mandated, and instantly recallable delegates, who would resume their status as ordinary workers as soon as their mandate had been carried out.
"Mandated" here means that the delegates from workers' assemblies and councils to meetings of higher confederal bodies would be instructed, at every level of confederation, by the workers who elected them on how to deal with any issue. The delegates would be given imperative mandates (binding instructions) that committed them to a framework of policies within which they would have to act, and they could be recalled and their decisions revoked at any time for failing to carry out the mandates they were given (this support for mandated delegates has existed in anarchist theory since at least 1848, when Proudhon argued that it was "a consequence of universal suffrage" to ensure that "the people . . . do not . . . abjure their sovereignty." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 63]). Because of this right of mandating and recalling their delegates, workers' councils would be the source of and final authority over policy for all higher levels of confederal co-ordination of the economy.
A society-wide economic federation of this sort is clearly not the same thing as a centralized state agency, as in the concept of nationalized or state-owned industry. As Emma Goldman argued, there is a clear difference between socialization and nationalization. "The first requirement of Communism," she argued, "is the socialization of the land and of the machinery of production and distribution. Socialized land and machinery belong to the people, to be settled upon and used by individuals and groups according to their needs." Nationalization, on the other hand, means that a resource "belongs to the state; that is, the government has control of it and may dispose of it according to its wishes and views." She stressed that "when a thing is socialized, every individual has free access to it and may use it without interference from anyone." When the state owned property, "[s]uch a state of affairs may be called state capitalism, but it would be fantastic to consider it in any sense communistic." [Red Emma Speaks, pp.360-1]
Clearly, an anarchist society is based on free access and a resource is controlled by those who use it. It is a decentralized, participatory-democratic (i.e. self-managed) organization whose members can secede at any time and in which all power and initiative arises from and flows back to the grassroots level (see section I.6 for a discussion on how social ownership would work in practice). Anarchists reject the Leninist idea that state property means the end of capitalism as simplistic and confused. Ownership is a juridical relationship. The real issue is one of management. Do the users of a resource manage it? If so, then we have a real (i.e. libertarian) socialist society. If not, we have some form of class society (for example, in the Soviet Union the state replaced the capitalist class but workers still had no official control over their labor or the product of that labor).
A social anarchist society combines free association, federalism and self-management with communalized ownership. Free labor is its basis and socialization exists to complement and protect it.
Regardless of the kind of anarchy desired, anarchists all agree on the importance of decentralization, free agreement and free association. Kropotkin's summary of what anarchy would look like gives an excellent feel of what sort of society anarchists desire:
"harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.
"In a society developed on these lines . . . voluntary associations . . . would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international temporary or more or less permanent -- for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defense of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs. "Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary -- as is seen in organic life at large - harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the State." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 284]
If this type of system sounds "utopian" it should be kept in mind that it was actually implemented and worked quite well in the collectivist economy organised during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, despite the enormous obstacles presented by an ongoing civil war as well as the relentless (and eventually successful) efforts of Republicans, Stalinists and Fascists to crush it (see Sam Dolgoff's The Anarchist Collectives: Workers' Self-management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939 for an excellent introduction).
As well as this (and other) examples of "anarchy in action" there have been other libertarian socialist economic systems described in writing. All share the common features of workers' self-management, co-operation and so on we discuss here and in section I.4. These texts include Syndicalism by Tom Brown, The Program of Anarcho-Syndicalism by G.P. Maximoff, Guild Socialism Restated by G.D.H. Cole, After the Revolution by Diago Abad de Santillan, Anarchist Economics and Principles of Libertarian Economy by Abraham Guillen, Workers Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society by Cornelius Castoriadis among others. A short summary of Spanish Anarchist visions of the free society can be found in chapter 3 of Robert Alexander's The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War (vol. 1). Also worth reading are The Political Economy of Participatory Economics and Looking Forward: Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel which contain some useful ideas. Fictional accounts include William Morris' News from Nowhere, The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy and The Last Capitalist by Steve Cullen.
Quoted from http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1931/secI3.html
""The New Law of Righteousness," that there "shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man," and "there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself.""
Last edited by kolte; September 16th, 2006 at 10:37 PM.