Rahul Kanwar (TCRN)
This essay will focus on the two largest philosophical movements, American libertarianism (or the libertarian right) and European libertarianism (or the libertarian left). This essay will not address any movement to centralize power further, such as Maoism or minarchist capitalism. The importance of solidarity between these movements cannot be emphasized enough. Aside from both philosophies logically necessitating unity, the pragmatic potential for further ensuring the liberty of future generations is also too great to ignore. Panarchism is the movement that seeks to combine all anarchist movements, as the one true anarchist movement. Panarchism seeks to prove to anarchists that both camps are better off uniting rather than shrugging and accepting statist allies.
The first step to decent and civilized discussion between the camps is always proper communication. Consider the following example, suppose an ordinary citizen encounters someone in support of the drug war. Which of the following options would you say is more likely to bring positive results in changing the opinion of the drug war supporter?
Option 1: “The drug war is the modern day holocaust. People don’t do drugs because they are undisciplined, it’s because they come for horrid childhoods living in impoverished conditions that often leads to them seeking escape in the form of drugs when they’re older. Kids suffering from child abuse, neglect, and living in constant fear rather than nourishment become mentally scarred as adults, never trusting or letting their guard down. As a result, drugs are their only escape from reality. To punish a heroin addict is to brutalize someone who as already been brutalized all their life. It’s time we use compassion instead of punishment to heal these people. These people are sick, not criminals.”
Option 2: “You have no idea what you’re talking about. The drug war is the modern day holocaust. If you had an ounce of compassion you’d realize the drug war does nothing to help addicts and is only there to help cops kidnap people for the prison-industrial complex. TV is making you a mindless Fox News drone, how about reading some alternative media sometime?”
Obviously, option 1 was nonviolent communication, and option 2 was violent, aggressive communication. Using aggressive communication immediately creates the wrong sort of reaction in the listener’s mind, causing them to get defensive and making the debate personal rather than allowing their mind to become open and trusting of the speaker. Before philosophy can even begin, the speaker must use nonviolent communication as specified by Marshall Rosenberg, as detailed here (please take the time to watch, it’s short and vital to understanding the essay):
Of course, speaking this way all the time requires the speaker to understand people in a different way. We are not shills, drones, robots, or puppets of anyone. We are simply beings with needs, and every expression in aggressive communication is a tragic expression of an unmet need (in the first example, it would be a need for compassion to drug addicts). Details concerning what is a real need and what specifically constitutes violent communication can be found easily here and on his website.
“ I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”
– Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Secondly, there are several misconceptions about various anarchistic philosophies that must be cleared in order to prove the case for panarchism, and a philosopher by the name of Kevin Carson has already covered this topic in depth. In the following quotation, he uses the word capitalism to mean the system which the United States and most of western world uses currently. Most right libertarians would call this crony-capitalism. He writes:
“…industrial capitalism, to the same extent as manorialism or slavery, was founded on force. Like its predecessors, (crony) capitalism could not have survived at any point in its history without state intervention. Coercive state measures at every step have denied workers access to capital, forced them to sell their labor in a buyer’s market, and protected the centers of economic power from the dangers of the free market. To quote Benjamin Tucker again, landlords and capitalists cannot extract surplus value from labor without help of the state. The modern worker, like the slave or the serf, is the victim of ongoing robbery; he works in an enterprise built from past stolen labor.”
The state has indisputably been guaranteeing privilege for those with enough wealth to bribe it, as humorously shown by South Park. This leads to centralized producers, which has the effect of higher prices for consumers and forcing wages for all down for all workers by creating a market with an artificially low number of employers. This phenomena of market behavior that occurs when the number of buyers (for labor) are small and the number of sellers (workers) are large is called oligopsony. Given the shocking state of most Prussian style state monopolized education, it would not even be controversial to say the entire system is set up to try to create obedient and helpless workers which are the product, and not the consumer of this system. The corporate-state society survives on breaking the souls of individuals, herding them into controlled environments like cattle and then pretends their poverty is an unfortunate accident caused by the free market, and their only option is generally to rent away their lifespan for subsistence so that at least their children have a remote chance at middle class success through college (which often involves enormous debt for many). Many libertarians though (and particularly objectivists) express support for the economic model and business leaders created by a government that auctions away rights and privileges, as well as deride many of the chronically unemployed poor as lazy. There is no such thing as lazy though. People only react to their perceived incentives.
In essence, libertarian capitalist philosophy itself dictates that injustice has been done upon working people in the United States and abroad by states and their partners. Restitution has to be done by the ruling class to the people that have been under relentless attack by the state for centuries, yet capitalist libertarians contradict their own philosophy by not advocating corporate equity be handed back to the working people. This attitude of defending the crony capitalist ruling class indicates to other movements that capitalist libertarians are mislead or not serious about changing society. Restoring justice by examining many of the Fortune 500 companies for attempting to employ the state to use violence to attempt to make competition more difficult or alter markets through coercive means in any other way is the same as saying the mob must be prosecuted for racketeering. Each large corporation deserves to be examined in a case-by-case basis, and where it is deemed that the controlling interests are owners of criminal property, the equity should be restored to the workers. Without a time machine, it is impossible to know exactly who should be controlling what property after all of this coercion. However in the absence of a verifiable true owner of the capital, turning the capital over to the workers will likely be the best course of action in the interests of efficiency and incentive for growing the company.
Without establishing justice prior to establishing a free market, the ruling class has been effectively been encouraged to do it again, and there is no reason to believe the same corporate ruling class wouldn’t. Cries for competition to save the day will land on deaf ears if the corporate cronies ally themselves with a new mafia, and the cycle starts again.
American libertarianism is not a philosophy offering a get-out-of-jail free card to corporate cronies.
The libertarian left also suffers from misconceptions of their own philosophy. Despite bearing the label of anarchism, many anarchists on the left feel comfortable making demands from the state along with liberals for universal healthcare, economic controls, and state-mandated education. The left is misinformed though, on where the state gets its wealth from. The common intent behind all of the left’s demands is to shift wealth and economic power from the ultra wealthy ruling class to the proletariat, but this never happens. All government pressure the left attempts to apply on the ruling class is always used against other members of the proletariat, and hence the wealth gap continues to grow despite many liberal reform successes.
By advocating reform through the state, all of the left appears to the libertarian right as Obama’s puppets clamoring for redistribution in a zero-sum game in exchange for all of their liberties. For there to be true progress for the proletariat, the anarchists must recognize that the state and ruling elite would never truly yield any substantial reform and that instead they should join the libertarian right in condemning the entire ruling class.
The last major objection to panarchism involves the following theoretical example: A group of anarcho-socialists are travelling down a road in the woods, and it’s getting dark. The socialists spot a building with light, and find that it’s a motel. The motel owner demands $1,000 (or any arbitrary sum) and the anarcho-socialists are broke. If the anarcho-socialists attempt to occupy the empty room, something similar to this would happen, as the anarcho-socialists don’t recognize ownership of means of production and the anarcho-capitalist views occupation as aggression.
The core problem with this scenario isn’t that there isn’t a solution which is immediately obvious, but that both camps have already implicitly agreed that the other camp is utterly devoid of empathy and wants to do the other side harm. When we assume that the majority of people are good and want to peacefully contribute to the well-being of others, the need for labels one way or the other disappear. If the anarcho-socialists had no where else to go, it isn’t likely that an ordinary person would turn them away to be eaten by wolves. On the other hand, it also isn’t fair to the motel owner for the socialists to be able to use a room for the night, use amenities like lights, TV, and bathrooms, and not have to contribute back in some way. For the socialists, if they are unable to pay, can still potentially repay the motel owner through work or some identification or electronic means to contact their commune to settle the balance.
The driving force behind the argument for panarchy is that for a society based on honesty and empathy, anything is possible and a society in which people believe the others are trying to harm them naturally causes disorder. The common thought between all brands of anarchism though, is that societies in which people are free naturally tend to produce more virtuous, happy people.
These misconceptions are just a few examples of how in reality, the practical difference between both philosophies aren’t that dissimilar, and that all forms of anarchism (including resource-based economies, or any other arbitrary “formula” for people to self-govern with) would actually enhance the total health of society by counter-balancing each other’s weaknesses. For example, if an anarcho-socialist community were taken over by a Stalin figure, people could escape to the capitalist societies and easily find jobs there. If the capitalist society were taken over by oligopolies that were somehow enslaving everyone, people could seek help from the anarcho-socialist communities. In the end, competition would ensure that people have maximum choice and liberty.
This sort of society would have no reason for war, and the next problems to face humanity in this paradigm will likely be issues that occur from over-production and planetary health. However, it will be up to the people living in such a utopia to ensure that space travel and terraforming are made possible before any ecological calamity occurs. If it is actually in the interests of all anarchists to work towards a society in which all philosophies are welcome to compete, why do the anarchists remain divided? Why do the anarchists ally themselves with the inconsistent statists? It’s time for anarchists to find a new, higher grade of comrades to assist them in making a society possible that obsoletes the current power structures. The statist libertarians will inevitably betray the anarchists on both sides, as the Bolshieviks betrayed the Russian anarchists. Let us remember, true freedom is always illegal.