The poor, misunderstood anarchists just can't seem to get a break. When you point out the absurdity of the "market anarchism" preached by some, such as those at the Center For a Stateless Society, as I did in my previous piece, the response -- even from "market anarchists" themselves -- is to shift the discussion away from their own arguments and onto another strand of anarchy! In this case it's the "libertarian/socialist" school of thought.
Just what is a "libertarian/socialist" and isn't that a clear oxymoron? Have not all "socialist" experiments become larger and more powerful centralized states that eventually eraseed the "libertarian" side of the equation in pretty short order? That would certainly be the knee-jerk response of much of the population of the United States today.
Over at "Infoshop," a longstanding "libertarian/socialist" and "libertarian/communist" proselytizer, one can read for days emotional histories (chock full of psychobabble) and series of proposals for replacing the "state" with "collectives" and "syndicates" and other "free" arrangements. I highly recommend their FAQ to masochists who wish to drown in an ocean of Marxist-styled babble mostly at odds with the Marxists themselves. You'll be treated to discussions like this:
"For Henry Appleton, there was 'a class of ranting enthusiasts who falsely call themselves Anarchists' who advocated both violence and 'levelling'. 'All Communism,' he asserted, 'under whatever guise, is the natural enemy of Anarchism and a Communist sailing under the flag of Anarchism is as false a figure as could be invented.' Yet, ironically, A. H. Simpson disproved that particular claim for while attacking communism he ended by stating his 'argument applies only to aggressive Communists' and that '[v]oluntary Communism can exist and, if successful, flourish under Anarchy.' So, apparently, some kinds of communism are compatible with anarchism after all!" --Infoshop FAQThese are the ideas prompting people to smash police cars and windows? It's difficult to swallow, but here we are. Well if A.H. Simpson "proved" it, then it must be true. Hmm, I wonder what O.J. Simpson's opinion on the matter is?
The anarcho/libertarian/socialist's alleged huge success story was in Spain in the mid 1930s. Parts of Spain converted to a loosely organized confederation of trade unions and militias. This will be presented as proof of concept, the final word on the matter: anarchism works, don't you know? They did it in Spain.
But let's rewind the tape, and have a look at what happened in Spain before pronouncing it such a sweeping victory, shall we? The anarchist "libertarian/socialist" non-state state lasted for about 32 months, according to Infoshop, not exactly an historical bedrock achievement. It was defeated by Franco and the fascists, with aid from Hitler and Mussolini (among others) on one side, and aided by all manner of international anarchist militiamen on the other side. The military conclusion tells us little about the validity of the philosophy itself, except for one thing: it prompted a right-wing backlash.
Anarchist collectives, we learn from Infoshop, had been burgeoning for some 70 years in Spain prior to the military conflict. These were worker-owned farms and factories, but also worker-appropriated or stolen businesses. Yes, workers revolted and seized the "means of production," the Marxist term. This seizure approach was a definite factor when considering the backlash of the extreme right. Seizing for one's faction provides propaganda and "injustice" for the other side to exploit and to oppose by ever-increasing levels of hostility. Anarchism cannot exist in a vacuum.
Here we can separate the idea of a worker-owned business from a "stateless society." The two conditions are not necessary. A worker-owned business can be built, and can compete, in a democracratic republic. This is proven, and worker-owned arrangements exist today in abundance around the world. The "libertarian/socialist" overthrow of the "state" is clearly not a precondition for a workers' collective to exist. This was shown in Spain, one hundred years ago, and it remains true today. The dissolution of the state is not required, and is certainly not desirable.
The "libertarian/socialist" experiment in Spain is a controversial subject. As militias formed, and the situation became more militarized, more and more of the public became part of the collective arrangements. Was this coerced? Was the the presence of armed militias unrestrained by the central government a factor in "recruiting" more and more of the population to support their movement, as with any other armed takeover of a region? The Infoshop piece attempts to examine this question, with a bias to disprove claims of coercion and to bolster the "libertarian" idea. They still admit that coercion did occur and executions of traitors and fascists served as examples to the general population.
"'...the coercive climate, in which 'fascists' were being shot, was sufficient. 'Spontaneous' and 'forced' collectives existed, as did willing and unwilling collectivists within them.'...
...Therefore, his suggestion that the Aragon collectives were imposed upon the rural population is based upon the insight that there was a 'coercive climate' in Aragon at the time. Of course a civil war against fascism would produce a 'coercive climate,' particularly at the front line...
...In addition, in a life and death struggle against fascism, in which the fascists were systematically murdering vast numbers of anarchists, socialists and republicans in the areas under their control, it is hardly surprising that some anarchist troops took the law into their own hands and murdered some of those who supported and would help the fascists...
...The question does arise, however, of whether the climate was made so coercive by the war and the nearness of the anarchist militia that individual choice was impossible...
...it cannot be overemphasised that notwithstanding the many instances of coercion and violence, the revolution of July 1936 distinguished itself from all others by the generally spontaneous and far-reaching character of its collectivist movement... " -Infoshop FAQ (emphasis added)
So who is a traitor and who is a fascist and who is deserving of the death penalty? What legal protections exist in a "collective," and what rights of the accused? What standards of evidence? Who is judge? Who is executioner? Is the jury simply a popularity contest, up or down with the thumbs of those in the room who voluntarily showed up on that day?
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