The Enemy Of My Enemy Is A Socialist

March 26th, 2014   Submitted by Michael Hendricks

LibSocIf there is ever going to be victory against the State, then anti-Statists will have to work together in common cause. Affinity begins with reciprocal knowledge, it is not based on ideology. Socialism is used in any number of ways by a variety of people. Some socialists support State dominance of the means of production. However, public ownership of the means of production does not have to mean State ownership. I hear the cries of “tragedy of the commons” already.

The tragedy of the commons is known in non-capitalist circles as the “tragedy of the mismanaged commons,” however “managed” is not intended to suggest some sort of hierarchical control of the commons (as is the case with Statism). An alternative to having a manager is to have social sanction regulate behavior of the commons. Like everything else in life, this is not without pros and cons. When the number of people using the commons exceeds the number the human mind can have familiarity with, this gives people a measure of anonymity, which gives them the ability to abuse the commons without social sanction. This leads to the tragedy of the commons and its subsequent destruction. While it is difficult to know the exact number of individuals that the human mind can keep track of, it is generally thought that the number is between 100 and 200 persons. It’s called Dunbar’s Number.

The goal of anarchism is the peaceful coexistence of individuals within society. This implies some sort of ideological unity between people within a given society. The question of whether or not a society can exist without coercion has been asked for centuries and many models have been proposed. Even if we assume an anarchist society that doesn’t exceed the size of Dunbar’s number, and assume that social ostracism the primary means of the community to control its members, this social ostracism is still power. It’s not a question of if a sword is employed it is a simple matter of when and why. Libertarianism is about reducing conflict, but it cannot eliminate the need for violence altogether. Regardless of whether or not libertarianism is considered socialist or capitalist.

Libertarian socialists believe a wide variety of things. Some are collectivists, while others are individualists. Some advocate direct democracy (which is governance), and other’s advocate mutualism. Others are nihilists. It is simply inaccurate to lump left libertarians into one group, just as it is to assume that there is one concept of capitalism.

There are many different schools of thought within libertarian socialism. The platformists aim to make anarchist ideas central to other working class movements. The insurrectionists reject formal organizations such as labor unions, advocating small affinity group based organization. The syndicalists view unions as a strategy for workers in the current system to work toward an an alternative system with more democratic values. More recently, the post-left anarchists critique the traditional schools of thought, and their relationship with left-wing politics. Each has its merits and flaws. Learning from the struggles of others helps inform our decisions.

There are many common threads between the libertarian socialists and the anarcho-capitalists. There are individualists in both groups, and both are anti-State. Some libertarian socialists advocate markets, but distinguish it from capitalism, like the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS). While anarcho-capitalism is ultimately at odds with libertarian socialism, this animosity need not prevent us discussing ways to end the State cooperatively. If we’re ever going to make progress we need to be willing to work with people that we don’t agree with. Before we can work with them we need to understand them.

If “libertarian socialism” is an oxymoron, so is “Libertarian Party.” It’s paradoxical to support politicians like Ron Paul. To the libertarian capitalist workplace hierarchy is tolerated as long as it’s voluntary. To the libertarian socialist “voluntary hierarchy” is an oxymoron. Ultimately “libertarian” is just a word. To some libertarianism is socialist. To others libertarianism is capitalist. The actions people take are more important than what they call themselves. All else being equal, a Voluntaryist who helps the poor is no better or worse than a Mutualist doing the same thing.

At the end of the day, the State is the common enemy. It is foolish to reject left anarchists out of hand without first learning what they advocate, and why they advocate it. Whether or not you agree with the libertarian socialist position, understanding their perspective can give you more tools to accomplish your goals. Instead of focusing on the differences between the two groups, why not focus on what they have in common? The State is the problem. What does either side gain from refusing to work together to bring it down?

And if you do not understand your ally the effectiveness of the team is lowered, or no team is ever formed. The State works through divide and conquer.

To continue progressing we must make an honest effort to understand one another’s perspective. It’s not about agreeing with each other. It’s about working effectively as a team. One thing is absolutely clear. There is a lot of work to be done. We have a very long road ahead of us.

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28 Responses to “The Enemy Of My Enemy Is A Socialist”

  1. AlanNo Gravatar says:

    “it’s subsequent destruction”: remember, “it’s” = “it is”

  2. StatelessNo Gravatar says:

    I completely agree. The problem is that we do not agree on what the common cause is. I think we should work towards fair trials. I think I am the only one that thinks this.

  3. Pablo WolfeNo Gravatar says:

    My experience has been that leftist anarchists are, like Chomsky, not apposed to the state per se, as much as they are apposed to the current state. In other words, if the state were focused on achieving collectivism they would have no problem with its existence. That is why so many red anarchos vote. Many in fact have expressed to me the superiority of political mobilization. This seems to suggest by sound reason that they are not anarchists, since the always and ever nature of the state is not their primary concern. Whereas right anarchists seem to be genuinely pursuing a society devoid of central powers. I do not see the congruency there. I have no problem with voluntary syndicalism and with those libertarian socialists who pursue that in earnest I have no beef. Trouble is, there seems to be very, very few who are actually that detached from the political means.

    • JonNo Gravatar says:

      I’d like to see sources on the notion that left anarchists believe in voting/vote more than so-called “anarcho-capitalists.” Anecdotal evidence isn’t really evidence.

      Also, Chomsky is an anarchist. He isn’t just against this State. He’s against them all. He just happens to appeal to a broader audience because he focuses on the foreign policy of the current State, which he believes is an important hindrance to mobilizing globally interconnected revolutions. You really ought to do your homework before you bring things up you haven’t the slightest idea about.

      • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

        Anecdotal evidence most certainly is the only thing the Pablo Wolf avatar needs to form an opinion about it all. Hell, that posted comment literally began with the words “My experience has been…”

        Fortunately, no avatar ever deserves an apology, because nothing real takes place online.

        • Pablo WolfeNo Gravatar says:

          I have no idea what you mean by “avatar.” Probably your failed attempt at sounding smart or funny. Left “anarchist” statism is ubiquitous and fairly blatant. Only a troglodyte doofus like your self could find a rock large enough to hide under that would shield him from the red “anarchists” constant attempts to agitate in favor of democratic career politicos (Obama is actually a good example). Obviously there are exceptions, but they are a minority (neither seen nor heard because they have taken up hippie commune residence in the Yucatan Peninsula), and anyone who has ever interfaced with campus “anarchos” or occupy Pétroleuses knows this only too well. Your search for solidarity with these veiled governmentalists is as puerile as it is ineffectual.

      • Pablo WolfeNo Gravatar says:

        Chomsky is not an anarchist in any way. He has repeatedly encouraged and even championed state welfare initiatives and other supplemental central distribution programs and sought to agitate political acrimony in favor of democratic politicians, even including Obama. There are hundreds of examples of this kind of state humping on the part of Chomsky to choose from. He is a thoroughgoing fraud and that is a plain and highly discernable fact.

  4. Dave BoydNo Gravatar says:

    I believe we are overlooking the obvious . There are agreements to work on . We all agree to the fact we all want to survive . We need to start at the most basic and common chord ; survive intelligently . When we can accomplish this goal of basic human survival , the task of rebuilding society will flow naturally . Without the need to fight and compete for life , our energies and actions will be able to be pure . It will take agreement of basic human rights to food , shelter , water and the tools necessary to contribute to their communities . When that is accomplished , the issues discussed now will take new shape . A bright future awaits our courage , it need wait no longer .

  5. MattNo Gravatar says:

    Go after the cow, THEN fight over the scraps.

  6. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Michael for identifying the Dunbar Number. I’ve often said when encouraging graduates to invite friends to follow them into the Freedom Academy (tolfa.us) that everyone knows about 200 people (of whom at any one time the overwhelming majority will of course decline) but never knew it had a scholarly basis.

    Thanks too for confirming that “Libertarian Party” and “libertarian socialism” are both oxymorons. Indeed they are.

  7. Jerome BiggeNo Gravatar says:

    The problem is that government 99.9% of the time is not actually representative of the citizens. The only known example of truly representative government existed in Classical Athens for a time when representatives were selected by a lottery which created a true representative government where all the citizens were actually in fact “represented” by those in office. Such a political system is called “demarchy” and you can find more information on the Internet if you care to do so.

    No existing government today is truly “representative” of those it governs. Some of the European parliamentary systems with proportional representation do come closer to being truly “representative”, but they are still not truly “representative” as such even if they are more so than the “oligarchic” form of government here in the USA. Where for all practical purposes the wealthy and big corporations pretty much have everything their own way today. Increasingly so since the Supreme Court decision in “Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission”.

  8. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    Can’t see that imperfections in the mechanics of representation is at all the problem. Suppose there were a demarchy, with random representation, and that The People wanted by a huge majority to enslave all persons with red hair.

    So the government does that, and all with non-red hair are happy. (It may boost the sales of bleach and dye, but that’s another matter.) The central issue, surely, is whether or not anyone has the right to enslave anyone, and hence can rightfully delegate such power to a government however selected.

  9. AgoristTeen1994No Gravatar says:

    I agree Mr. Hendricks. Knowing our potential allies, in this case leftist anarchists, is vital if we are to truly cooperate in “smashing the state”. And if after that things get violent…well knowing one’s enemy is very important. That’s why I read so much about statist political theory, and military strategy/tactics. Know thy enemy and all that.

    Of course one thing that must be considered is that with the leftist anarchists, they could quite easily be enemies OR allies. Perhaps even both. After all I think a lot of the mutualists, and leftist “market anarchists” as some refer to them selves, and even a few libertarian socialists are willing to cooperate with ancaps. The anarcho-communists on the other hand, those who worship at the altar of Bakunin, Goldman, and Kropotkin, tend to be much less interested in cooperating. So we may have some left-anarchists willing to cooperate, and others who see ancaps as false prophets.

  10. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    “Smashing the state” is indeed the key. What method do you have in mind?

  11. MontanarchistNo Gravatar says:

    I have no problem working with AnComs and other left anarchists. Their system can exist within ours so long as they are voluntary. although just how long they would last before almost everyone sees the superiority of capitolism and leaves is debate able we shouldn’t have a problem with people doing what they want with their property. Infact those few who would remain communist no matter what would make a lovely safety net for bums and the just plain unlucky sense they are so willing to share the fruits of their labour without regard for mutual benefit.

    The problem is they don’t want to exist within our system. AnComs seem to think that nature itself is oppressing them by requiring them to do things to survive. And once they are living side by side with Ancap community’s that are significantly stronger economically they will certainly succumb to jealousy, greed, and self richeous idealism and try to exterminate free trade. Some of them think we are WORSE than stateists.

    But right now they are not the enemy, the state is, and we need everyone we can get united behind the cause of a stateless society. On that glorious day (probably long after I am dead) that the state is finaly defeated then we can worry about protecting ourselves from AnCom force, but untill then it is the state not them who opresses us, and that’s the fight we should be worried about.

    Standing for freedom next to a socialist is better than standing alone.

    • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

      I’m almost in agreement! – right up to your comment that AnComs would make a nice safety net.

      At that point though they would discover that their system simply doesn’t work; far more would be paid out than is coming in (same as the present state system, come to that.)

      Then, The Problem. Not, I suggest, that “they don’t want to exist within our system” but rather, that they will use violence to obtain the resources they lack, to sustain their own. Socialism always does that; it cannot otherwise exist. It’s a philosophy based upon violence.

      • MontanarchistNo Gravatar says:

        I agree but unfortunately there are a few inteligent people who are so dedicated to socialism they will retain it whatever the cost, and would be willing to suffer their own quality of life for maintaining communism just so it won’t die, like a holdout who refuses to accept the war is over.

        I would say there are two ways the system would end up. 1. Those few bright misguided communists oversee legions of uneducated poor so tend the land and work the means of production left to them by the origional AnComs who’s decendants have left, and either live as a new Bourgeoise, sell their more valuable labor to capitolists to support the poor who work in the commune, or truly do hold to Marxism and let their ability be wasted as they toil to survive with society’s lazy and addicts. Anyone of the workers who gets back on his feet will leave and their communes will become perpetual homeless shelters. Whether they take the Statist, Quasi capitolist, or true Marxist rout is irrelivant because they all lead to a nightmarish existance and inevitable conflict, which we as free and armed citizens with far greater economic means would win.

        I guess the point of my earlier post was “right now the State is our greatest enemy, one it is gone we should be able to handle the AnComs.”

        • TheInvisibleDictatorshipNo Gravatar says:

          Speaking as a left panarchist who would find an anarcho-syndicalist revolution to be a nice thing to do but would also be happy with an anarchist-capitalist-as-opposed-to-anarcho-capitalist society(basically anarcho-capitalist property rights, free market polycentric law and all that but with all business being voluntary limited to non-hierarchical firms and a cultural tendency of mutual aid reflected in a majority of its institutions), I have to say that with the insane banking methods ancaps would want to use and such a flawed view of human nature(in such cases perhaps fanatical reading of some Kropotkin WOULD be a good idea.,..) social anarchists could probably just lay back and watch the whole thing fall apart on its own accord. Would you be happy with an acknowledged right to found private city-states where you can practice this liberation of capital from the bounds of sanity alone without interference? That might be a realistically achievable demand even without a global revolution and might be the basis for an alliance with mutualists who might desire to create their own autonomous cities where a cooperative market may exist. Most socialists would just dismiss such an idea as a form of utopian socialism though, which is also the criticism about “you can create your system however you want on your own property” ideas ancaps seem so fond of. Perhaps you could convince hardcore socialists that libertarian capitalism is representative of the class interests of the most progressive strata of the bourgeois and so should be given limited support?

          One thing I am curious about though-why are anarcho-capitalists always so willing to defend, in the name of the liberation of all from force and fraud, systems and titles that are based ultimately on nothing but force and fraud? Every single dollar that exists for example is symbolically speaking nothing but the material representation of the value being constantly given to force and fraud. From a libertarian perspective, either of the left or right libertarian viewpoints, every single dollar that exists should be considered to have negative value. This can even in a sense be proven by the fact that for every single dollar burned out of circulation, all other dollars may be considered to increase in value.

          Anarcho-communists are as dedicated to liberation as anyone, even if under a commons property system that differs from that preferred by capitalists(perhaps this has something to do with a desire to avoid starving masses), but many in the libertarian socialist communities are in fact closet leninists and other ‘socialist’ statists who have co-opted the movement for awhile. Anarcho-capitalists is as vulnerable to co-option by ‘libertarian’ corporatists, so we should all as well look to our own houses for infiltrators.

          • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

            I’ll not try to respond to all you wrote here, but am intrigued by your question about why AnCaps “defend… systems and titles that are based ultimately on nothing but force and fraud?”

            First, as one AnCap and as the author of “A Vision of Liberty” (see TakeLifeBack.com/trilib) I don’t defend any existing system, based as it is – and as you say – upon the force and fraud of government. Titles, though (which the book also explores a bit) are a different matter.

            Self-ownership is the bedrock axiom for anarchism (yes?) and that means one’s labor is also owned, therefore so is anything exchanged for that labor; therefore one has just title to honestly acquired property. That title might reasonably be secured by being recorded in a public place. Any problem yet?

            The tricky bit comes, as I see it, with “titles” to _stolen_ property, and in particular to cases where the theft is ancient. After what time does a wrong become uncorrectable? One generation? Two? _Thirty_? I don’t see an easy answer to that, though do insist that the problem does not come from AnCap theory, but rather from the appalling mess created by government. When a free society has been achieved, we’ll just have to do the best we can.

          • MontanarchistNo Gravatar says:

            Well then, sense we both believe the others version of anarchism is doomed to fall out after a panarchist revolution why not work together and find. You think our ideas about currency are insane and we think socialism is an inferior system, but why not work together and get he chance to find out.

            As for “city states” I don’t think any city’s need to be founded, let the people decide themselves by submitting their property to a commune or local governemnt by contract or simply remaining totaly independent of anyone. I have no desire to enter my property under any exterior control like a commune or government, but If Jim down the street does he is free to.

            After our panarchist revolution everyone is free to decide what they want to do, and if they join a group which the grow not to like they can vote with heir feet. Let the power of the free market decide who’s system is best by allowing people to enter and leave freely. That right there is already an AnCap society.

            • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

              Why not, indeed; let the best system win. That’s the panarchist idea, yes?

              It would work, _provided_ that people in each system or enclave agreed up front to leave the others in peace. Let there be porous borders, so that anyone not satisfied with his initial choice can migrate to one more promising. Splendid! – and since socialism has been extensively tried and uniformly failed, I have no doubt that the AnCap enclave would be the winner. Freedom works.

              But that proviso is not available. Any enclave whose founding principles rely on the force of a governing body will, especially after it has failed to produce the prosperity of its neighbors, raid them. If one of them were to issue such a promise, I would not believe it; for such a system is founded on force.

              So I am not interested in a “panarchist revolution.” My interest is to bring about an anarchist one; that is, to terminate all traces of the apparatus of government. Once people are each back in control of their own lives, I think they will choose to interact in a capitalist way (_not_, of course, _State_ capitalist, which is a wholly different animal) but if not, so be it.

              • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

                All systems use force at some point.

                A sword always comes down on a neck the questions are: Who dies, why, and who is swinging the sword?

                In life nothing is guaranteed, except maybe the sword. I don’t share in notion that ansocs will fail, they’ve succeeded before to limited degrees.

                • MontanarchistNo Gravatar says:

                  In an Ancap system there is no “monopoly on swinging the sword” held by a state though, which makes us different from everyone else, even communist anarchists who believe in dictatorship of the proletariat through direct democracy.

                  While AnSocs can certainly work in a tribal setting most AnSocs and Liberals in general scoff at the idea of accepting a lower standard of living. Tell them any person in a Ancap society is free to walk off into the woods and build a life for himself on the 98% of the earth that is uninhabited and they will laugh as though that’s impossible. They don’t consider homesteading an option, most don’t want to live a fully self sufficient lifestyle because that’s tough to grow your own food and make everything, even in a small commune.

                  If they want to maintain a modern standard of living with a small commune system (as opposed to the nationalized communism we have seen historically) they will need to trade what they produce surplus of for what they cannot produce. This alone dooms their system to fail. Noone will want to live a Ahmish level existance or likely even worse, and that is all that is possible without large scale economic interactions and trade. How is a commune in Nebraska going to aquire Iron? What if they want Bananas? Other Communes won’t just give them stuff they will expect product (like corn) in return and then you get arguements over what’s worth what and suddenly its not Marxism it a bunch of micro-socialist direct democracies stuck on the barter system. Recipe for desaster, and eventually, war for resources. Someone not giving you something is considered oppression to AnComs, and when they look around at the AnCaps living modern consumer lives and say “look at those pigs hoarding the goods and requiring us to trade with them for things, we need to destroy this oppression.”

                  • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

                    At that point, if those things happen, then they’ll be an enemy. Until such time they’re just trying to survive like us.

  12. LaszloZapacikNo Gravatar says:

    As someone coming from the ‘other side’, so to speak, I don’t think this will work from either side’s perspective.

    We’re talking about two relatively different viewpoints (not opposites by a long way, but by no means natural allies either) that give each other undue attention due to having chosen similar language to define themselves.

    The two sides take very different views of the state. What anarcho-communists see as existing because of the state, ancaps see as existing despite the state and vice versa. There’s also quite a big difference in the way human interaction in general is viewed (though the difference is smaller with utilitarian ancaps than with ‘natural rights’ ancaps).

    These differing views fan out into different priorities and strategies between the two movements, making co-operation difficult on most issues.

    NB: I appreciate I could (and possibly should) have elaborated a bit more on some of the above points, but I was trying to keep a neutral line and I struggled to think of non-biased explanations.

    • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

      “What anarcho-communists see as existing because of the state, ancaps see as existing despite the state and vice versa.”

      Thanks for that perception! I’ve filed that phrase away for future use.

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