The ‘Right’ Definition of Socialism?

[NOTE TO READER: Though I personally am an anarchist, the following is a defence of socialism in general.  In particular, while I mention social democracy and anarchism, my focus is on defending communism against right-wing bias.  My criticisms are mostly of neoliberalism, but in general I am writing here against all forms of capitalism.]

Introduction

Several months before the time of this writing, on a Facebook page for debates, a question was asked: what is the definition of socialism?  The answer I gave was that the means of production are to be put into the hands of the workers, as opposed to being owned privately or by the state.  I felt that this was about as objective a definition as one could come up with: I still do.

Then I started getting trolled by someone who is obviously stridently anti-socialist.  (For the sake of discretion, I’ll refrain from revealing his name.)  So much for objectivity in the discussion.  The usual straw-man arguments were used, including the use of force to try to realize the unrealizable: utopia ‘at the point of a gun’.

Apparently, the anti-socialist troll wasn’t aware of the existence of democratic socialism, let alone its remarkable success in such places as Scandinavia (in Sweden, they’re actually experimenting with the idea of a six-hour workday).  Still, imagine his response had I brought that up.  He would probably have responded by saying the capitalists there are being ‘forced’ into paying high taxes–a kind of government robbery.  The notion that overworked, underpaid workers are being robbed of the full fruits of their labour presumably doesn’t exist as a concept to him, nor that the taxes just give back what was taken from the poor.

Anyway, I responded to his cliche critiques by sharing a YouTube video called Why You’re Wrong About Communism.  Perhaps this video, with its rather brief, seven-minute defence of what’s considered a more extreme form of socialism, wasn’t the best choice for a rejoinder.  [The communist speaker, Jesse Myerson, gives a fuller treatment of his argument in this Salon article, Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism).]  Still, to anyone who is reasonably knowledgeable about labour issues, the video was a fair response.

This was my troll friend’s word-for-word response to the video:

First there is a difference between capitalism as it is today and free market capitalism.
The capitalism that we have today is a top down government directed sort, which moves money and power to the elite, same as communism. The proletariat are merely the worker bees for the elite.
“THE TYRANNY OF WORK”, What an ass. You don’t work you don’t eat. If enough people stop working how there will be enough of anything for anybody. They can fire you, you can also quit, I don’t hear anyone raising arms to protect the employer about that.
What a stupid, stupid man, such a dreamer, how do you make it function so that there is enough supply for everyone. Answer a top down, government controlled police state. Orwell was right, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face…FOREVER.
His demeanor belies his belief is nothing more than a dream.
Communism is the dream the eventually becomes the nightmare.

The ironic thing about what the troll said is that, as recent as about two years ago, I would have eagerly agreed with him, more or less 100%.  I have, however, since learned more about labour issues and therefore now understand that whatever is ‘impressive’ about his argument is only superficially so.  Looked at with greater scrutiny, his response shows appalling straw-manning and ignorance, to say nothing of its callousness toward the plight of the poor.

My response to his argument, given below point for point, was not posted on the Facebook page for him to read (nor do I wish it to be) for several reasons: first, it is too long, and would read like a rant (for indeed, there are so many weaknesses in his logic that such a lengthy response is unavoidable); second, he is obviously so biased against my position that he’ll never listen or open his mind to it (right-wing propaganda will do that); and finally, his kind of opinionated, obnoxious attitude (“what an ass…What a stupid, stupid man…”) is something I have little patience for, and what follows below would assuredly just be answered with more of his aggressive, closed-minded rudeness and straw-man arguments.  Thus, I write this response for those willing to listen and open their minds.

My Response:

I–The Free Market

By contrasting “free market” capitalism against “capitalism as it is today”, namely, “a top down government directed sort”, he is suggesting a number of utterly absurd ideas: the free market isn’t a top-down sort of capitalism, it doesn’t involve government at all (or involves only a minimal amount of government intervention), and what we have today isn’t laissez-faire capitalism.

He also, fantastically, more or less equates the crony capitalism of the Obama administration with communism, showing his obvious ignorance of even the most basic of Marxist ideas (it’s always amusing to know that those most hostile to socialism are those totally ignorant of its most elementary ideas).  Socialist governments do not redistribute wealth and power to the rich, unless they’re so corrupt as no longer to deserve to be called socialist; they redistribute it to the poor–the point should be obvious.  What we have today in America is the exact opposite of communism, in almost every conceivable way.  More on that later.

Communism is a system involving a classless, stateless, and money-less society; socialism, according to the definition given by Marxist theory, is the transition between capitalism and communism, using a socialist state (the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat‘) to effect that transition.  This transition is what socialist states like the USSR and China under Mao tried to achieve.  Anarcho-communists like me, on the other hand, want full communism immediately after the proletarian revolution, with no transitional state in between.

This stateless preference is, as I see it, for two reasons: first, because the state capitalism of socialist states tends to be self-perpetuating rather than effecting a real transition to full communism (the state becomes the new capitalists); either this self-perpetuation occurs, or we have a relapse into capitalism (i.e., Russia in the 1990s, or China from Deng Xiaoping onward).  The second reason for preferring no transitional state is to avoid the kind of totalitarianism my trolling friend is so terrified of, but can’t imagine existing in the free market, which I must examine now.

The so-called ‘free market’ is something fetishized by many Americans (including my American troll friend), more than a few British, and sporadically others (i.e., Stefan Molyneux in Canada), people who either allow themselves to be taken in by right-wing propaganda, or try to con others with it.  These people imagine that an unregulated, or at least minimally regulated, economy will result in prosperity for all.  In their world (as well as that of the conspiracy theorists), government is apparently the only evil to be vanquished.  Capitalism, on the other hand, is perfectly OK and should be left alone.  Minimized taxation, ‘freedom’ to pay lower wages, and reduced benefits for workers will result in maximized profits (of course!), which will in turn result in maximized reinvestment, creating more jobs.  The wealth of the rich will therefore ‘trickle down’ to the poor. (Notice how, apparently, ‘trickle down‘ economics is in no way connected to a “top down” sort of capitalism.)

This idea is not merely ridiculously untrue; it is an outright lie.  Wealth inequality is now reaching levels comparable in many ways to those of the 19th century, largely because of neoliberal policies advocated in the 1970s and begun during the Reagan and Thatcher years.  We aren’t lacking in laissez-faire capitalism: we’ve been drowning in it for over thirty years now.  Only readers of right-wing propaganda would have missed that fact.  I once did, because I used to read conservative agit-prop; I, indeed, was once a right-libertarian, much like my troll friend seems to be–but like Will Moyer, I’m not anymore.

[NOTE TO READER: My use below of a book by economist Ha-Joon Chang–who advocates a ‘reformed’ capitalist economy with extensive government regulation of a sort essentially like the kind advocated by mainstream liberals or social democrats–must not be misconstrued as an endorsement of such suggestions for a solution to our present economic woes.  I want absolutely no compromises with capitalism.  I use Chang’s book only to show the hopeless flaws of free market capitalism, for his book gives a devastating critique of it.  He himself considers capitalism to be “the worst economic system except for all the others.” (his emphasis)  So, like Keynes, who allegedly once said capitalism is, “the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds,” Chang can be seen as an example of how even some capitalists admit that capitalism is a terrible system.]

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, by Ha-Joon Chang (Penguin Books, 2010), is a timely book that thoroughly examines how the free market is not only responsible for all the appalling wealth inequality we’ve been suffering, but is also ineffective in improving the economy–the one rationale for adopting laissez-faire.  The one virtue it supposedly has, which its advocates claim will compensate for wealth inequality, even that virtue is lacking.

To keep the economy going, people need to have money to buy things; they can’t do that if the vast majority are so poor that they can barely subsist.  During the mid-twentieth century, the so-called ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’ (between 1950 and 1973), when the economy enjoyed the highest-ever growth rates in most of the rich capitalist countries (Chang, page 142), unions were strong, there was rapid growth in progressive taxation and social welfare spending, and wages were higher.  The free market had nothing to do with this prosperity.

What Chang’s book shows (page 145) is how, with the rise of neoliberalism from the 80s to the present, economic growth in the top capitalist economies has actually slowed.  The free market is clearly bad for the economy, and bad all around.  It is clear to all thinking people that laissez faire benefits the rich, and only the rich.  It’s also easy to see that free market advocates, who routinely dupe ‘anarcho’-capitalists with their anti-government (and only anti-government) rhetoric, are not only wrong, they’re outright lying.

It is so sad to know that many people are still deceived by these lies, to this day, even after the 2008 economic crisis (which prompted Chang’s book).  To say that a freer market, or a non-governmental, absolutely free market (of the sort that the ‘anarcho’-capitalists propose), is the solution to the world’s ills makes as much sense as saying that Naziism would have benefitted the world had it been allowed to run its course, with no resistance at all!

There are, of course, some examples of badly planned economies in socialist countries: for example, the Soviet-type planned economy, with its systemic undersupply, anti-innovation bias, and low quality of goods, among many other problems; and the disastrous Great Leap Forward of Maoist China.  Social Democrats in northern European countries, however, have proven much more capable (see Chang, pages 104-105, to learn how Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, and Sweden all had higher per capita incomes, in US dollars, than the US in 2007.  Remember that these countries are largely social democratic).

Just as there are different kinds of capitalism, there are also different kinds of socialism, as opposed to the troll’s straw-man characterization of them by painting them all with the same brush.  Now, which ideology’s differences are more significant, and which more negligible–those of socialism, or those of capitalism?  These differences we will now explore.

The troll’s notion of a “top down government directed sort” of capitalism is crony capitalism, or ‘corporatism’, where certain big, powerful corporations are given preferential treatment over other businesses, such as Mom and Pop ones–in other words, favouritism through government regulation.  I assume he imagines that the ‘free market’ will result in a level playing field in which all businesses compete equally.  Then happiness and harmony will reign.  Speaking of utopian dreaming…

Since capitalism requires a state to protect private property, and since capitalism’s driving motive is always gain–no matter who among the poor gets hurt, then it is easy to see how capitalism quickly degenerates into cronyism.  If the state can benefit certain companies against others–for a price–by regulating in the formers’ favour, then those richer companies will gladly forsake fairness to make even greater profits.  With capitalism, the key word is profit, not freedom.

Also, as Chang explains in his book, there is no such thing as an objectively defined ‘free market’ (pages 1-10).  What some consider necessary regulations, others consider hindrances to the free market.  Some regulations are ‘invisible’, as it were, and taken for granted, but are absolutely necessary to hold a capitalist society together.

Capitalism requires state protection of private property just to exist (I’m sorry to disillusion the ‘anarcho’-capitalists, but if they had their way, the capitalists would become the state, more or less immediately), and where there’s a state, there will always be regulations of one kind or another.  That is part of the state’s raison d’être.

So the question shouldn’t be whether there should be government regulation at all, or none at all, but rather how much–or how little–regulation there should be.  Put another way, how far shall we take deregulation, if government–and government alone–is such an evil bogeyman?  Shall we, for example, legalize child labour, or even child pornography, just for the sake of the free market?  What about slavery, when human trafficking already exists in a huge way, if illegally?  Won’t decriminalizing those moral monstrosities maximize profits and boost the economy?  It is ‘job creation’, after all, isn’t it?

Just to give you an idea of how scary some ‘anarcho’-capitalists envision a stateless capitalist society, remarks were made on a page called ‘AnCap 101’ on Reddit.com: on the comments page answering the questions of ‘Left Anarchist here, can somebody give me some answers?’.  Scroll down to where it says “Are laws different from town to town?”  Thanks to SLANCAP for bringing this to my attention:

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Here we see how the free market is a dream that eventually turns into a nightmare.

When free market advocates promote deregulation, they aren’t talking about ending government oppression (quite the opposite, as we’ll see): they just want to hog as much money to their avaricious selves as they can.  They wish to annihilate only those aspects of government that they find inconvenient, i.e., socialism.

II–The Tyranny of Work

The next thing my free marketeer friend took issue with was the notion of “the tyranny of work”, as described by Jesse Myerson in the YouTube video.  The quintessential trolling tactic for stifling dissent and ‘winning’ an argument cheaply–through rudeness and emotion instead of through a carefully constructed counter-argument–is epitomized in this cocky retort: “What an ass…what a stupid, stupid man, such a dreamer…”

What can I say, but that I love the smell of ad hominem attacks in the morning.  To the troll, I suppose it smells like victory.

When Myerson spoke of involuntary employment and involuntary unemployment, and of the need to liberate ourselves from that, he wasn’t advocating a world where people don’t have to work at all.  He spoke of coupling the idea of a guaranteed minimal income with guaranteed work, so under socialism we wouldn’t have droves of people living in total idleness, while everything is being produced for them like magic.  Myerson’s idea could be compared to what is being experimented with in Sweden, with the six-hour work-day.

Myerson was advocating a more flexible lifestyle where, of course, people work, but they don’t have to find themselves so chained to their job that they can’t even leave it alone on weekends (e.g. the boss calling you on your smartphone over and over again when you’re trying to enjoy a relaxing weekend with your family).

No socialist in his or her right mind imagines that communism will create a perfect society where we never have any problems.  The way I’ve heard some right-libertarians [i.e., Molyneux] speak, on the other hand, of how free market competition–free of government interference–will naturally cause us [via ‘the invisible hand’] to drift away from buying the products of any companies that we suspect are, for example, racist or exploitative, sounds a lot more utopian…and stupid…to me.

As Myerson says in his Salon article: “For me, communism is an aspiration, not an immediately achievable state.”  Most socialists and communists agree that our ideal is ultimately something far off in the future, when better conditions (i.e., better technology, a post-scarcity economy) will finally be available for the society we want.

The troll imagines that if one doesn’t like one’s job, one can simply quit; and since no one is “raising arms to protect the employer about that”, the bosses are presumably the ones to be pitied in such a situation.

Given the miserable state of the economy over the past six years since the 2008 economic crisis, out of which the world is still only slowly crawling, and may crawl back into if we’re unlucky, the troll’s cockiness–about workers simply quitting undesirable jobs–is bizarre in the extreme.  Is he not aware of how difficult it is to find decent work right now…in his own country, America?

One does not simply quit one’s job during a bad economy, when replacement jobs are scarce.  Even during a strong economy, if one has a limited skill set, quitting a job exposes one to the risk of not finding an adequate replacement, and therefore to the risk of homelessness and starvation.  Socialists knew this reality during the 19th century; socialists know this now; we’ve always known this.

Millions of people in such G8 countries as the US, the UK, and Russia–where the free market is in full swing–are living on subsistence wages; if they even can make ends meet (which they frequently can’t), they can only barely eke it out.  These are people, real people, not just “worker bees for the elite”.

These people do not just work eight-hour, five-day-a-week shifts; they are frequently over-worked and underpaid.  Those working for the current sorry excuse for a minimum wage, far below what they need to earn to survive, are forced to take on extra jobs just to make ends meet.  Then there are those working in sweatshops in the Third World, a world I suspect my troll friend doesn’t know even exists.

Many people in the world work ten or twelve-hour days, if not more, and often on weekends, too–without compensation.  I see engineers in Taiwan, where I’ve lived for almost two decades now, who are experiencing this ongoing problem.  Quitting at best leads to another such miserable job; at worst, quitting leads to starvation, homelessness, and death.

My free marketeer friend is probably thinking about straightforward jobs in the First World, like working in a bookstore; he probably never thinks of how the smartphone or computer he uses to type his anti-socialist rants was put together by overworked, underpaid Chinese, or southeast Asians, in sweatshops, those “worker bees” who barely make enough money to feed their families, and are terrified of being fired.

No one rushes to protect the rights of the employer who must replace workers who quit because, often enough, there are others from the reserve army of labour, eager to take the quitters’ place (an eagerness that comes only out of desperation to find a job).  My parents owned a pancake restaurant back in the 80s, and whenever an employee quit (which was not infrequent), getting a replacement was admittedly a pain.  But to compare that inconvenience to the plight of workers under capitalism is a sick joke.

That plight, as I described above, is essentially what Myerson meant by “the tyranny of work”, or what other socialists call wage slavery.  Capitalists like the troll only scoff at that tyranny, though: they care more about the tyranny of Stalinism and Maoism (more accurately, they gleefully point it out to make straw man arguments and generalizations about all socialism, in order to invalidate it).  Now I must come to my next point.

III–The Sins of State Socialism

Anyone who has done at least a cursory learning of the history of communism has read about the atrocities of the various socialist governments, especially those of Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot.  Estimates of the total death toll range from 85 million to 100 million, as the political right portrays it.

It is beyond the scope of this article to do a detailed analysis of what happened during, for example, the collectivization of the USSR during the late 20s and early 30s, and such events as the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the Killing Fields.  For Maoist and Stalinist perspectives on these events (largely not my views), you can look at Raymond Lotta Takes on Lies about Mao’s Great Leap Forward.  Also, you can read this article in the Monthly Review: Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?  A video by Jason Unruhe (Maoist Rebel News) deals with Stalinism: On The Alleged Deaths in Stalin’s USSR.  Here’s Unruhe’s perspective on the Cultural Revolution.  Here’s more on the Cultural Revolution.  Finally, there’s Unruhe’s video, Truth about Pol Pot and Maoism.

Back to my main argument.

It is not at all my wish to whitewash, trivialize, or rationalize away the deaths that did occur during the above-mentioned regimes, which make up the bulk of the death toll attributed to communism.  For me, socialism is about human rights and justice, the opposite of totalitarianism. Still, there was a lot of ugliness that occurred during those years.

Victims were executed, overworked in labour camps (a chilling irony for a movement dedicated to ending the tyranny of work), or starved to death (though generally as a result of unintended consequences).  These sad chapters in the history of socialism will always embarrass the Left, with the added feature of right-wing propaganda and its Schadenfreude over that embarrassment.

While admitting that terrible things happened, we must nonetheless put these tragedies in perspective, not to excuse them in the least, but to give them a context for better understanding what happened and knowing the world they came from.  Such an understanding will not only show that such evil is neither exclusive nor essential to socialism, it will also, I believe, improve our chances of not repeating those horrors.

First, we must consider the perpetrators; let’s start with Stalin.  He was hardly a garden variety communist: he was a paranoid psychopath, not much different from the despots who preceded him in feudal history.  Many of his victims, by the way, were dedicated communists; Stalin had whole communist parties executed during the Great Purge.  A lack of psychopathy in him would have been a huge improvement, undoubtedly.

Stalin grew up in a Russia inured to tsarist tyranny; autocratic authoritarianism was a norm against which there was hardly an egalitarian alternative to emulate.  Knowing this, we shouldn’t be too surprised that his rule would be gripped with the same fear of losing power as the tsars of the past had.  Any suspicion of treason or counter-revolution would thus inevitably lead to many killings.  The problem is that Stalin, in killing communists as well as wealthy kulaks, took his suspicions way too far.

Furthermore, he deviated from Marxism/Leninism in such striking ways that, in the opinion of many on the Left, he wasn’t a real communist.  (In anticipation of being accused of the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy, I will say that yes, I do believe real socialism did exist at one time at least: among the Catalonian anarcho-syndicalists of the Spanish Revolution of 1936; incidentally, Stalin–in his paranoia of the spread of Trotskyism, as well as in his belief that Spain had first to go through a capitalist phase before embracing socialism–betrayed the Spanish communists, hence their defeat by Franco and the forces of Fascism.)

Among the non-communist elements of Stalinism were his use of American private enterprises (such as the Ford Motor Company) to industrialize Russia, under strict state supervision; once the firms had finished their stints, they left, and the USSR took over.  In the opinion of many on the Left, what Stalin and, earlier, Lenin were doing wasn’t real communism–it was a kind of state capitalism.

The most notably non-communist element of Stalinism, however, was the notion of ‘Socialism in One Country‘.  This idea–involving focusing on socialism only in the Soviet Union, while the rest of the world had first to be industrialized and subjected to a capitalist phase before embracing socialism–runs totally against the socialist idea of promoting proletarian revolutions around the world.

Small wonder that the much more genuinely communist Leon Trotsky (the lesser of the Bolshevik evils, in my opinion)–with his notion of ‘Permanent Revolution’ contrasting with Stalinism, as well as Trotskyism’s somewhat more democratic nature–was defeated and even murdered with a blow to the head from an ice ax, held in the hand of a Soviet agent.

Whether Stalinism is genuinely communist or not is a major point of contention among the various factions of the Left: what is of little doubt is that psychopaths’ jealous love of power, a Machiavellian trait, is far from being an exclusively socialist vice.

It is interesting to note that, despite Hitler’s fanatical hatred of communists, he considered the Stalinist Russia of the 1930s to be strikingly similar to the Nazi way of doing things (thanks in no small part to Stalin’s purging the Communist Party of Jews like Trotsky, of course).  Mussolini, too, spoke well of Stalin’s ‘Slavic Fascism’.  The similarity to Naziism is not hard to see: totalitarianism, state capitalism, focusing on one’s own country rather than on internationalism, and the purging of political dissidents and Jews were all hallmarks of Naziism.

Contrary to what some right-libertarians like to believe, though, Naziism and Fascism were not socialist–certainly not in practice.  (Years back, I read Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism, and even then wasn’t convinced of his arguments, back when I was sympathetic to conservative ideas.)  The National Socialist German Workers Party may have had left-leaning members in Joseph Goebbels, Ernst Roehm, and Otto and Gregor Strasser, but all left-wing elements were purged from the Nazi Party as soon as Hitler came to power.  With the backing of big business in Germany, Hitler naturally moved the Nazis to the far right; indeed, the first people to be put in the concentration camps were communists, social democrats, anarchists, and other leftists.  National Socialism was capitalist in practice, and that’s what really matters.  Indeed, capitalists on many occasions in history have used Fascism to further their agenda.

And who played a crucial role in defeating Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, thus ending the rising death toll in the concentration camps (which included the deaths of 3.3 million Soviet POWs)?  Stalin’s Red Army, strengthened by the rapid industrialization of his three Five Year Plans!

This leads us to another indispensable point: the good that Stalin did.  His modernization of Russia helped bring the country from a backward, agrarian one to a superpower in a matter of decades (so much for the stereotype of communists who never work).  America, in contrast, took much longer to grow as strong as it did.  Naziism similarly strengthened Germany economically, industrially, and even environmentally, but Hitler’s reckless pursuit of lebensraum, which caused WWII, made this strengthening so short-lived as to be negligible in the face of Nazi atrocities.  Stalin’s successes offset his evils far better, if imperfectly.

As for Chairman Mao, much of the failures and deaths that resulted from his rule can be explained by bad harvests in the late 1950s and early 60s, and by power struggles between his leftist faction and the rightist faction led by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, who made the implementation of Mao’s plans very difficult to say the least.  The death toll, though probably exaggerated by right-wing propaganda, was surely in the tens of millions at least.  That said, we must ask: were the catastrophes of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution the fault of communism per se, or of the particular rule of one idealistic but failed leader?

Regardless of whether one chooses to judge these failures as harshly as the Right does, or to mitigate them as many on the Left do, one thing cannot, and must not, be denied (though conservatives always deny it): capitalism’s death toll, by the most conservative of estimates, is at least ten times higher than the highest estimates of the communist death toll.

Now for some real perspective.

IV–Capitalist Crimes

If socialist governments have caused famines, so has capitalism–ultimately, on a much larger scale, in spite of what Steven Rosefielde, author of Red Holocaust, thinks.  An important aspect of capitalism is imperialism; Lenin pointed this out in his essay, “Imperialism: the Final Stage of Capitalism”, as well as in his efforts to get socialists to oppose WWI.  In order to find fresh, new markets, the capitalist must go out to other countries, plunder their resources, and exploit local labour.  America has always done this, as did the British and other European empires in the last few centuries.

In Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis shows how laissez faire and Malthusianism exacerbated food shortages caused by El Nino in the Third World, resulting in famines that killed 30 million to 60 million locals in such countries as India, China, Brazil, Ethiopia, Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines, back in the late 19th century.  Capitalists gave food only to those with money.  Here’s the free market: a dream for the rich, which turned into a nightmare for the poor.

Also, there was the Bengal Famine of 1943, in which 1.5 to 4 million people died of starvation, malnutrition, or disease.  This happened during the last years of the British Raj, when British authorities refused to help, assuming hoarding was the cause.  Churchill had food diverted from the locals to British troops and Greek civilians.

On top of these and other famines caused by imperialism, millions die of starvation every year, when enough food can be produced to feed the whole world.  This starvation is preventable, and has been preventable, for decades at least; yet food producers don’t want to reduce profits, so the food goes only to people with money.  Ergo, capitalism causes starvation.

(It has been noted in several online sources that there’s enough food produced to feed the whole world, but instead it just gets wasted in the First World.  Here is a Wikipedia source: scroll down to where it says ‘Starvation Statistics’; here’s another source; as I said, there are many other online sources confirming this fact.  This should answer my troll’s question of how it is possible to provide for everybody.  He thinks socialism will result in scarcity, through people living in idleness; but it’s actually capitalism, with its private property, that creates an artificial scarcity.  He says, “You don’t work you don’t eat”, but many work, or try to work, and still don’t eat…or don’t eat enough, anyway.  He may think only a government controlled socialist police state can provide for everybody, and that, apparently, only socialist governments are police states; but many of us on the Left realize that many laissez faire governments have been authoritarian police states: the Pinochet government, the Franco regime, and the US under Bush [with his tax cuts for the rich], and Obama, who may have talked the socialist talk, but is anything but a socialist.  Anyone who thinks Obama is a communist or socialist is clearly, visibly stupid.)

If one calculated the preventable deaths of starvation of the past twenty or thirty years alone, one would already have a death toll much higher than the highest estimates of those who died under communist rule, be they of famine or of execution.  According to this site, over 7.5 million people died of hunger in 2013.  The total number of hungry people gets lower year by year, so in other words, the total number of deaths would have only been higher before 2013.  Check this link (scroll to the bottom) to see how many children have died of hunger over the 1990s.

These are not, however, the only deaths directly or indirectly attributable to capitalism.

We have to consider the many imperialist wars fought over the years, wars exploited by capitalists through various forms of war profiteering.  These profiteers include international arms dealers, scientific researchers (corporations and the state profit from the demand for military technology modernization), commodity dealers (who take advantage of shortages, thereby setting higher prices and getting higher revenues), politicians (who take bribes from corporations involved with war production), civilian contractors (think of Bechtel, KBR, Blackwater, and Haliburton, who’ve supplied coalition forces in the Iraq War and were accused of overcharging for their services), and black marketeers, among others.

Indeed, in his book War Is a Racket (1935), Major General Smedley D. Butler drew on his experiences as a career military officer to explain how business interests commercially benefit from war through war profiteering.  This problem is an old one that’s lasted for decades and decades, thus indicting capitalism further.

With that knowledge, let’s look at some more statistics.  In World War Two, 50 million to 85 million people died.  The number of Iraqi deaths due to the 2003 US invasion are over 1.4 million.  Add to these all the other capitalist imperialist wars after the Russian Revolution, as well as all the deaths from starvation mentioned above, and you already have a much higher total than the 100 million estimate for the victims of communism.

Let’s add to this all the deaths from tobacco; according to the WHO, 100 million people died of tobacco over the course of the 20th century, and 5.4 million deaths in 2004.  Also, according to the Surgeon General’s report of 2014, 20 million people died of smoking over the past 50 years.  This is after a clear link was made between smoking and cancer in 1950 in the UK.  Unfortunately, the tobacco industry seems to think too much about its own profits to care about those addicted to their products.

In other health-related news, since the creation of anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS, the drugs have been denied to millions of AIDS sufferers in Africa, because Big Pharma cares more about profits than people.  10 million Africans died between 1997 and 2003 because they did not get the needed drugs.

We must also consider the cost of capitalism on the environment, something for which there are sources all over the internet and in volumes of books to back up this dire fact (and remember the consensus in the scientific community on global warming); but alas, capitalists experience nothing but cognitive dissonance and denial about these facts.  Despicable.

If executions disturb my troll friend’s sense of morality, he might want to consider how the CIA-backed Suharto regime killed 500,000 to 1 million communists in the mid 1960s.

Now these are only a selection of the many millions of deaths attributable either directly or indirectly to capitalism.  There are also millions more, prior to the 20th century.  I’ve already mentioned the ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’.  There was also the Atlantic slave trade, in which about 10 million blacks died over the course of four centuries; they died of disease on the boat ride across the ocean.  This was all so the plantation owners of the South could profit off of blacks’ totally unpaid, backbreaking labour.

Then there was the killing off (through disease or massacres) of as many as 100 million aboriginals due to European settlement of North and South America between 1492 and 1900.  Capitalism has to expand in order to develop new markets.  Anyone who gets in the way, dies.

Finally, there have been all the strikers and unionists who have suffered violence and deaths over the years (remember how strong unions strengthen productivity, a fact the free marketeers ignore).  One example was the Banana Massacre of 1928 in Colombia, in which 2,000 to 3,000 workers were killed.  Anti-union violence in general can be read about here.   Here we see capitalism growing out of the barrel of a gun.  If socialism uses force, capitalism does so even more.

(Now, any capitalist reading this may doubt whether these deaths I’ve described can justifiably be all attributed solely to capitalism, as opposed to other factors.  Such critics may want to remember that while they can make excuses for these deaths, and in attributing non-capitalist factors to many of the deaths, they can thus reduce the total, Leftists can play the exact same reduction game with the 85 million to 100 million death count blamed on communism.)

V–Ignorance Is Strength

Of course, no anti-socialist diatribe can be complete without quoting George Orwell out of context.  (It is indeed nauseating how the Right misuses Orwell to advance their agenda.)  Since the anti-socialist troll wasn’t letter perfect in his quote, I’ll correct it here: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.”

Yes, I’ve read Nineteen Eighty-four, too (twice, actually; I’ve even lectured on the novel).  I’ve read (and lectured on) Animal Farm more than once, too.  I’ve also read another of Orwell’s works: Homage to Catalonia.  In that non-fiction book, Orwell recounts his experiences fighting against the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War.  When he got to Spain, he was quite impressed by what he saw–a town where socialism was being practiced:

“It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle.  Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists…Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivized…There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.”

When Orwell wrote Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four, he wasn’t attacking socialism per se, which he ardently supported.  He was attacking Stalinism, Fascism, and totalitarianism in general, which he had just experienced in a big way not only during the Spanish Civil War (see above for Stalin’s betrayal of the Spanish leftists), but also saw during World War Two, with the onslaught of Nazi Germany.  Orwell was a believer in democratic socialism, which has always existed alongside communism.  Yes, my free marketeer friends, there actually is something called democratic socialism.  Now I’m no supporter of social democracy any more than I am of state communism; but the very existence of social democracy should ultimately show how wrong-headed my right-wing friend’s understanding of socialist ‘totalitarianism’ is.

Furthermore, if it’s government that is the real evil, and if that troll insists that socialism always equals government, then I have one word to say to him: anarchism.  This form of socialism is the one I espouse, and like Orwell, I too am impressed with the anarcho-syndicalist socialism I’ve read about during the Spanish Revolution.

As an anarchist, I’m opposed to all forms of authoritarianism.  I oppose the authoritarianism of government (the tyrannical sort, or the pampering sort social democrats offer, often at the expense of the Third World).  I oppose the authority of vanguardism (hence, even if the Right is correct to damn Stalinist and Maoist communism as harshly as they do, it makes little difference to me).  I oppose the illegitimate authority of one sex or racial group over another, and that of any privileged group over another, especially that of bosses!

I believe that the means of production should be held firmly in the hands of the workers, neither in those of private owners, nor in those of the state.  And that brings me back to my definition of socialism: it isn’t totalitarian tyranny, it isn’t about extensive government intrusion in our lives, and it isn’t any more about forcing one’s agenda on the populace than capitalism is.  It’s about social justice.  It’s about sharing.  It isn’t the right-wing definition of socialism, but it is, by any reasonable standard of objectivity, the right definition of socialism.

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Bring It On

We all want a just society, and disaffection with the increasingly fascist nature of the world is reaching epidemic–nay, pandemic–proportions.  There have been demonstrations in the streets of America, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Egypt, and elsewhere.  More and more people are getting fed up.  Some call our oppressors ‘The Illuminati’; others, like me, simply call them the ruling class.  Many of us want revolution, and find the usual political, ‘democratic’ solutions no longer valid.  We certainly don’t want things to get worse.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t include myself in that last sentence…at least not fully.  I’d hate to have to put up with even worse injustice, but at the same time, I’d also hate it if things got ‘comfortable’ again, and we all got used to the situation, and were no longer agitating.  The ruling class thrives on our apathy and laziness, and if we become content with a ‘tolerable’ level of oppression, they can continue getting away with their crimes against us.

Imagine a full economic recovery…until the next crisis, say, five or ten years later.  By that time, most of our present anger will have probably subsided, and we’ll have to build up the revolutionary spirit all over again.  The ruling class would love that.

Imagine we re-elected some kinder, moderately left-wing parties, and they brought back social programs for the poor, and everyone was happy again, except the conservatives, of course.  But after a decade or so of socialism, what if the leftist parties were to suffer scandals, and right-wing parties got re-elected?  And what if they were to take away those social programs, and the poor were right back to where they are now.  Again, the ruling class would win another ten years or so of no real threat to their power.

Now let’s imagine another possible scenario: the ruling class, instead of temporarily backing off, gets even more arrogant, and continues trampling on our rights, paying the cops extra well to give us the beatings even more ruthlessly when we try to protest; they ratchet up the internet surveillance to nab more dangerous agitators; wages continue to go down for workers; union activity is crushed; we’re increasingly poisoned by Monsanto ‘food’; more foreclosures increase the number of the homeless; and the mainstream media continue to lie and distract, even though most of us finally know they’re lying.  What then?

In our hopelessness, knowing we have nothing to lose, we, after careful planning, finally rise in worldwide revolution.  Part of me is scared at the thought, for indeed, it would be bloody, chaotic, and violent.  But part of me would love that courageous fight for liberation, too.  Before that can really happen, though, we anarchists have to deal with an annoying group who has bastardized the words ‘anarchist’, ‘libertarian’, and now, even, ‘exploitation’.

This problematical group, one that either fancies themselves as, or pretends to be, revolutionaries, call themselves ‘anarcho-capitalists’ (an-caps).  They euphemistically call capitalism the ‘free market’, imagining that consumer preference will magically steer businesses away from corruption by choosing not to buy products from exploitative companies, as if most consumers are motivated primarily by anything other than the desirability of the product, or are even aware of exploitation in its various forms.

Worse than that, many an-caps are trying to invalidate the Marxist idea that bosses exploit workers by keeping the surplus value (profits) instead of sharing it with workers.  An-caps, in what amounts to nothing more than a word game (and a clumsy one at that), try to turn the Marxist argument upside-down and claim that, when a business suffers a loss and workers continue to be paid the same wages, the workers must be exploiting the boss!  Since even an-caps know this to be a ridiculous assertion, the Marxist inverse, apparently, is equally absurd.

It shouldn’t be necessary to disprove this laughable an-cap idea, but what is not so laughable is how this disingenuous assertion is not only being taken seriously by many, it’s also being used to justify keeping workers’ wages low.  So I’ll debunk the argument now.

An-caps are essentially denying the hierarchical, power-based relationship between boss and worker, imagining instead that being hired to work for wages is ‘voluntary’ (an-caps love that word) and therefore fair.  Workers, apparently, are free to accept or reject any job offers they are given.

The problem with this argument is that workers, when ‘freely’ rejecting bad job offers, put themselves at risk of poverty or starvation, a problem that gets more pressing during harsh economic times.  In other words, workers have little choice, whereas bosses can freely choose from potentially many other people ‘willing’ to work for less pay, and bosses can obviously take advantage of, or exploit, this situation.  Workers’ ‘willingness’ to work for less comes from nothing other than their desperate need to survive, not from a lack of greed.  Greed is far more often the boss’s vice than it is the worker’s.

The boss, being the one with the power, has much more choice than the workers: he or she makes the decision as to how much to pay the workers–the workers have no such choice.  Accordingly, he pays them as little as he can get away with.  If the business succeeds or fails, he’s the one who makes the decisions as to the company’s direction, not his workers.  If the business suffers losses, his incompetence or bad luck is what’s at fault.  As for incompetence or laziness in his workers, he’s free to fire them.  They have no choice.

Profit or loss does not determine the direction for exploitation to go in: power does.  The closest workers have ever come to having power is when in strong unions; the strongest they ever get is when companies are collectivized, when everyone’s equal–even in such an optimal situation, individual workers still don’t have ascendancy over individual managers, because worker and manager are one and the same thing.

One cannot debunk the idea that the profit-making boss exploits workers by turning it upside-down and saying workers exploit the boss in a company that’s losing money, but not lowering wages.  Workers gain no financial advantage just because the boss isn’t making profits.  In such bad times, he isn’t the only one at risk of losing something; they are also at risk of losing something–their jobs.

When profits, especially big profits, are being made, that the boss is exploiting his workers–by continuing to pay them a paltry wage–is so obvious that the argument shouldn’t need to be spelled out to the an-cap.  It’s not that an-caps cannot see this reality (Why else would they want to preserve capitalism?  They either are bosses, or hope to be filthy-rich bosses in the future.); it’s that they are in deep denial.

All we need to see is the wealth and opulence super-successful businessmen enjoy–wearing Armani suits, buying jewelry and fur coats for their wives, driving in Porsches, etc.–and to know that this wealth comes from the sweat of their inadequately remunerated employees, to see the obvious exploitation.  Then we see the squalor so many of those workers live in, and the exploitation is even more obvious.

There is no parallel exploitation, nor is there a parallel non-exploitation, between profit-making and loss-suffering in companies.  When a company is suffering losses, it’s not like the workers are getting wages for nothing–they’re still working.  That an-caps would see paying workers, while not making profits, as ‘exploitation’ shows what worth capitalists see in their employees: we are nothing more than profit-making machines to them; we’re not even human.

Of course, an-caps will throw the rationalization at us that, since the boss puts up the money to start the business, the profits made are rightfully his.  But here’s a crucial question: where did the boss get the money to start the business?  Did he or she get a bank loan?  Did he get it from his rich Mom and Dad, the profits from their business having come from underpaying their employees?

In the case of the bank loan, the money owed can be reimbursed through the profits of the company, properly understood as money rightfully owned by the workers collectively, as a product of their labour; then the business can be seen as collectively owned, rather than privately so.  If there is to be compensation for the rich Mom’s and Dad’s money, the money should be repaid to the workers that Mom and Dad ripped off, not to Mom and Dad.

If it’s proven that the boss actually paid for the means of production from money he scrimped and saved, every cent being earned by the sweat of his own brow, and not somebody else’s, an appropriate portion of the profits can be given to him to reimburse him, then the business can be collectively owned; for any profits after that compensated amount should be considered collectively owned.  When we consider how difficult it is to scrounge up the money to start up a business without assistance from anyone, it is safe to assume that the great majority of businesses are initially financed through either bank loans or help from one’s wealthy family; this is why the poor usually stay poor, and the rich tend to stay where they are, too.

Put another way, the problem of poverty will be solved not through the poor working harder–that only helps the rich.  The problem will be solved in a meaningful way only through the abolition of private property.  Yet, if the capitalists and their friends in government still have a problem with this radical solution, then I say to them, “Bring it on!  Hit us with as much exploitation as you like.”  For one day, we workers will all get fed up with them, and losing our chains at last, we’ll gain the world.  The ruling class’s arrogance being more outrageous will only accelerate the inevitable revolution.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!!!

Fascism Has Two Wings

It is popularly understood that Fascism, the political ideology of, for example, Mussolini’s Italy or of Nazi Germany, is at the extreme right of the political spectrum.  By ‘extreme right’, we tend to mean an advocacy of capitalism, nationalism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism.  While most of this is largely correct, I’m going to question the assumption that Fascism is solely right-wing.  Furthermore, state communism’s tendency towards authoritarianism makes it similar to Fascism, therefore not completely left-wing.  Ideologically, Fascism has always pretended to be a species of centrism, combining elements of left and right; and herein lies the danger.  Fascism pretends to be a movement for the people; then, when they come into power, they move completely to the right.

Fascist economics are actually far from being those of a purely free market.  There is much government regulation in such regimes, the sort that right-libertarians (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/Right-libertarianism) would cringe at.  Fascists favour a mixed economy (see http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism, second paragraph in introduction), somewhat regulated and somewhat free.  Indeed, demagogues like Mussolini and Hitler attacked capitalism as much as they attacked communism (see http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler%27s_political_views#German_Workers.E2.80.99_Party, under ‘German Workers Party’, paragraph 4; see also http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_position#Italy), Hitler calling both ideologies ‘Jewish’.  (By communism, I am here referring to the Marxist-statist version, not the anarchist version I’ve espoused earlier in my post ‘Anarchist Communism’.http://www.mawrgorshin.com/2013/07/30/anarchist-communism/)

Indeed, Mussolini had started out as an ardent socialist before developing nationalist feelings for Italy during World War I, for which he got expelled from the Italian Socialist Party; he never completely lost his disdain for capitalism, though, and merged his socialism with his nationalism.  We must also remember the full name of the Nazi party (The National Socialist German Workers Party, or NSDAP).

Fascists, many of the first ones having come from Italian national syndicalism (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_syndicalism), pervert socialism by identifying the bourgeoisie with foreigners, something the Nazis could easily do by exploiting the stereotype of the ‘rich Jew’, and by identifying the proletariat with the ‘Volk’, or the people of the nation.  http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proletarian_nation    It’s clever demagoguery, able to seduce socialists to the fascist cause during troubled economic times, like our own.  They say to us, ‘Join our cause, it’s similar to yours.’  Then, when they come to power, they show their true colours.

It is assumed that the bigotry and anti-egalitarianism of Fascism makes it not at all socialist.  But historically, socialism’s focus was on workers’ rights, and on establishing a classless society, not necessarily on putting an end to bigotry.  Consider Soviet antisemitism. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_Soviet_Union)  Consider also the antisemitic and Russophobic taunts Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx, respectively, hurled at each other during their bitter debates.  (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Bakunin#Anti-Semitism)  Finally, there was criminalization of homosexuality in the USSR under Stalin and afterwards until 1993, after communism’s fall.  So we can’t always rely on socialism being egalitarian in every respect.

In any case, Hitler spoke in his speeches of the Nazi ideal of a classless ‘Aryan’ society.  (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GWuoud11Fg.  Please ignore, though, the ridiculous nonsense in the title or the comments of DDLjawoll [that user name should tell you what he’s really all about]; what is said at about 3:10 and at about 4:45 in the video, and later, that is what’s pertinent to my argument.)  Goebbels was another left-leaning Nazi (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels.  See paragraph 7 in ‘Propagandist in Berlin’, towards the bottom).

1930s Fascists saw their ideology as a Third Position between the–to them–extremes of capitalism and communism: hence their advocacy of a mixed economy,  of which state capitalism and state socialism, by the way, can be seen as species.  Put another way, Fascism was seen by its defenders as, if you will, without wings–neither left, nor right.

Now, the extent to which a country’s economy can be called socialist or communist is the extent to which it can be called non-capitalist, or anti-capitalist.  The same applies vice versa.  So, if Fascists claim to be neither capitalist nor communist, but in between, or ‘without wings’, then one can equally argue that Fascism, with its mixed economy, is actually both capitalist and socialist, or moderately both, hence my assertion that Fascism has two wings.

Many readers, of course, will object to my thesis for several reasons.  They will say that Fascism’s use of the word socialism has nothing to do with real socialism, for the Fascists either weakened or eliminated trade unions in their countries.  Also, with their authoritarianism, xenophobia, militarism, and anti-egalitarianism, they are more than just somewhat to the right of the political scale, but completely to the right.  Examples of this are easily seen in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, and Chile under Pinochet.  Then, of course, there’s the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn, which is plaguing Greece right now.

The original Italian Fascism of Mussolini back around WWI combined elements of left and right-wing thinking (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism, third paragraph); there we see a connection with socialism.  Much of the Nazis’ original 25-Point Program was clearly pro-labour.  (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socalist_Program#German_Party_program, second paragraph)  Many of these leftist ideas were abandoned, of course, when Mussolini and Hitler came to power, as were the ideas of the Spanish Fascist Falange party, who’d helped Franco come to power (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francoist_Spain#Francoism); and with the disappearance of these socialist ideas went the power of the unions.

So, when the Fascists came to power, they, in going over to the right, abandoned many of their original, ‘centrist’ ideas.  We can see this kind of betrayal of the principles of a political movement on the left, too, though.  The Bolsheviks, in creating a dictatorship of the state instead of one of the proletariat, caused Susan Sontag to make her famous and controversial statement that Soviet Communism was a kind of Fascism.  (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Sontag#Criticism, fifth paragraph)  Still, we call the USSR a communist state, and we still use the Fascist label for  Mussolini and the Nazis; yet we call the Fascists right-wing, and not the Soviets.  Shall we start calling state communism ‘right-wing’, too?

During the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s Nationalists were aided by the Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists.  Significantly, the Nationalists also got some forms of financial help from American businesses, while the US government refused to help the leftist Republicans. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_involvement_in_the_Spanish_Civil_War#United_States)  Finally, As George Orwell bitterly observed, the USSR under Stalin also betrayed the Spanish leftists, obscenely accusing them of being ‘Fascists’, and no longer helping them.  (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell#The_Spanish_Civil_War, last two paragraphs)  So the Nationalists won the war, crushing all the leftists, including the anarcho-syndicalists of Catalonia and the Trotskyist POUM that Orwell fought with.  Now Franco’s rule was unequivocally right-wing; but, as noted above, the agenda of his Falangist supporters was abandoned when he came to power.  In any case, with the USSR’s betrayal of the Spanish socialists– since Stalin considered a right-wing Spanish government a lesser evil than a Trotskyist one–we see again how those who oppose freedom and real equality can be found on both sides of the political fence.  Fascism has two wings.

Similarly, though Pinochet’s right-wing regime, which ousted the democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende on September 11th, 1973 (with America’s help), has been called Fascist, it was really just a military dictatorship.  (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Pinochet#Ideology_and_public_image, second paragraph)  Fascism is in part military dictatorship, but it’s also that middle way between capitalism and communism; Chile’s economy under Pinochet was laissez-faire neo-liberalism–totally right-wing.

So we see a pattern here: the perverse ‘centrism’ of Fascists moves to the far right when they come to power.  They seduce the minds of the people with ‘socialist’ talk by perverting it with nationalism, as the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn is doing now in Greece (http://politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=150193, scroll down to ‘Otebo’ [with Assad as an avatar, Sun 02 June 2013, 05:32, where it says ‘Golden Dawn wrote’]).  Then they come to power (as we hope Golden Dawn never will), and take everyone’s rights away, bullying the people with their army and militarized police, and terrorizing foreigners.

On the other side of the political continuum, we see state communism, which never really was communism, but just totalitarianism dressed up in socialist language.  Sound familiar?  The point George Orwell was making at the end of Animal Farm, about the pigs (read Bolsheviks) and the men (read capitalists) looking the same was that the Soviet Union under Stalin (state socialism) was just a variation (state capitalism) on what had been before the Russian Revolution.http://www.anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secH3.html#sech313

Interestingly, Maoism has been called “an attempt to combine Confucianism and Socialism – what one such called ‘a third way between communism and capitalism’.” (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maoism#Criticisms_and_interpretations, see second paragraph) Mao also had strong nationalist impulses, which played a crucial role in Chinese communism.  (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maoism#Nationalism)  Again, not too far away from Fascism.

There is a yin and yang in politics; we don’t have one opposite without the other.  Even with unequivocally extreme right-wing and far-left ideologies, there is much held in common, as the horseshoe theory points out. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_theory, second paragraph)  Both extremes are authoritarian, and both favour a government taking control of economic life; they are both also opposed to clean elections, free speech, and the democratic institutions one finds in the political centre.  These similarities tend to outweigh the ideological differences of the extremes of the left/right dichotomy.

My purpose in doing this analysis is to stop people from assuming that, as long as they vote ‘left-liberal’, politics should be safe from Fascism.  The ‘right-wing’ political parties, supposedly, are the only ones to be afraid of.  I beg to differ.

Look at American politics for the past…thirty years?  Fifty years?  One hundred?  Many, including Americans such as Noam Chomsky, have observed that there’s no real substantive difference between the Republicans and Democrats: they work for the same corporate masters.  Many realize that the Two-party system simply doesn’t work.

What we often see in contemporary American politics can in some ways be compared with when the Nazis came to power in the early 30s.  Hitler largely abandoned the socialist elements of the Nazi agenda that he’d preached in his speeches, upsetting members like Goebbels and Ernst Rohm (leader of the SA); Hitler did this to ingratiate the Nazi party with its big business supporters.  In American politics, there is endless fundraising, rather than real political progress.  As with the opportunistic Nazis and Mussolini, it isn’t about ideology, it’s about money…and the pursuit of power.

The right-wing aspects of George W. Bush’s ideology are so obvious that they needn’t be mentioned; on the other side of the coin, however, one must remember how he called himself a ‘compassionate conservative’.  Another attempt to win the confidence of the people.  Then there was his program to give millions of dollars to Africa to combat AIDS, something one might associate with socialism, except that preference was given to those who abstained from sex and prostitution.

Bush’s regulation of businesses also angered right-libertarians and conservatives, and TARP (the bank bailout) angered people on both sides of the political spectrum.  http://www.humblelibertarian.com/2009/01/george-w-bushs-sorry-record-in-office.html  I’m not crying for the conservatives and right-libertarians, of course, but my point is to show the left-wing side of Bush’s Fascism, and thus to illustrate it more completely.  The Bush administration had two wings.

Obama is, supposedly, the most left-wing president America has ever had.  His campaign in 2008 was all about ‘change’, something corporate media propaganda played to the hilt.  The first African-American president.  He said he would ‘spread the wealth around’.  http://www.abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2008/10/spread-the-weal/  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with the rationalization that it would inspire him to promote peace…did it?

The TARP bailouts have, of course, continued under Obama, as has this dubious ‘War on Terror’ http://www.perdidostreetschool.blogspot.tw/2010/08/criticism-from-left-getting-to-white.html  How much warring and killing through drone strikes has Obama’s administration been responsible for, while the US media distracts the masses with ‘twerking’?  Goebbels would have been impressed.

America has a mixed economy, the most powerful military in the world, with bases worldwide, many of which further its imperialistic ambitions.  America has identified a foreign enemy, obscenely called ‘Islamofascists’ by neo-cons, who again are not real conservatives in the traditional sense, but liberals who went from left to right.  Neo-cons clearly deserve the Fascist epithet much more than Muslims, who resort to terror more from family members being killed in drone strikes than from being seduced by Islamic fundamentalism.  Fascism has two wings.

Interestingly, the not-so-charming Vladimir Putin, of all people, put a halt (or, I suspect, just a pause) on Obama’s plan to invade Syria, and Putin wrote an open letter to America, some of which was hypocritical on his part, but much of which was valid; then, a childishly jingoistic, Russophobic response, claiming to be humour, was published on, of all websites, Americans Against the Tea Party.  (It seems to have been withdrawn–gee, I wonder why?, but here’s the link, anyway.  http://www.aattp.org/open-letter-putin-maoistrebel-united-states-fk

So what should we believe about our world today?  Are we all Fascists?  Is there a meaningful way to define left and right in our current, impoverished political discourse?  I believe there is, and I’d like to try to create a brand new, if somewhat unorthodox, definition.  Here it is.  The extent to which a society’s statist and capitalist–therefore authoritarian and militaristic–is the extent to which it is conservative, or right-wing.  By this new, idiosyncratic definition, I’d include all Fascists, state communists, and, I’m sorry to say, both mainstream parties in the US.

And to the extent that a society is free of the state and of capitalism–therefore libertarian socialist, or anarchist–is the extent to which it is truly liberal, or left-wing.  For examples, look to Anarchist Catalonia in 1936, or the Free Territory in south-east Ukraine from 1917 to 1921.

When the people, fed up with the lies of politicians and their corporate friends, finally rise up in revolution, I hope they won’t replace old tyrants with new ones, but instead will choose to run their own affairs as they want to.

Adding As Many Anarchists As We Can

It’s great to talk about anarchism with people who already agree with us, but how about persuading all those people out there who don’t agree?  With all the government and corporate corruption, which is spreading like an infection all over the world in various forms, causing so much disaffection among the people, there seems, paradoxically, no better a time than now to convert as many people as possible to the anarchist cause…and not just to agree, but to take action.

So how do we do that?

I don’t have anywhere close to all the answers to that question, but I’d like to suggest a number of ideas we can use.

1.  Appeal to the workers.  A no-brainer, of course.  Still, I’ve noticed some ‘anarchists’ on the Facebook discussion groups who seem more interested in ‘theory’ and politically correct orthodoxy than in dealing with this all-too-obvious concept.

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith says, “If there is hope…it lies in the proles.” (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, New York: Penguin Group, 1981, p. 61)  The proletarians have the sheer numbers to overpower the elites.  They need to “become conscious of their own strength.” (ibid.)  The rich and powerful know how to control them, with distractions: “films, football, beer…filled up the horizon of their minds.” (ibid., p. 63)  You can get the people all worked up about nonsense like that, but how is it “…they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?” (ibid., p. 62)

Unionism has been flagging recently, in no small part due to corrupt union bosses.  We need a resurgence in legitimate syndicalism.  If we can swell up the membership of the IWW (to my understanding, a much better organization), that would help in a big way.  We need to pluck up the workers’ courage (especially in Asian countries, where there’s far less unionism of any kind), and get them to strike more, including in the offices.  We all must remember that the ultimate goal is to seize control of the means of production, not just put pressure on bosses, and certainly not suck up to the State, even if the government is left-wing.  The workers must become the bosses.

2. Avoid divisiveness.  Anarchism is about equality for everyone, without exception.  No one gets preferential treatment of any kind.  It’s contrary to the principles of anarchism to say that one sex should have privileges over the other, or that certain racial or ethnic groups should have entitlements over others, or that there should be any special treatment based on age, sexual preference (of consenting adults), religion, or physical or mental disability.  (The examples I’ve given are not meant to be exhaustive, so please forgive any oversights here.)

Not only is such favouritism obviously unfair (regardless of whether rationalized by supposed superiority, which no anarchist believes in; or by a bogus compensating for past grievances, for the establishment of total political and economic equality for all should be sufficient to redress wrongs), but it will cause resentment and division in the anarchist community.

A lot of people seem to think ‘avoid divisiveness’ is a cleverly-worded excuse to tolerate or even encourage such unacceptable nonsense as ‘manarchy’ or ‘anarcho-capitalism’.  Though some supporters of that rubbish use those kind of honeyed words, I’m not doing anything of the sort here.  I assure the reader that I am not one of those slick-talking phoneys.  I understand that anarchy means no ‘archy’ or any kind: no patriarchy (or theoretically possible ‘archies’, like matriarchy, for that matter), no capitalist exploitation, no hierarchies of boss/employee, nor of any based on race, ethnicity, religion, creed, or sexual orientation.

That said, we must eliminate our enemies or rivals through reasoned argument and persuasion, getting them to give up their irrational attachment to capitalism, sexism, racism, or any other form of bigotry.  Hostility, personal attacks, four-letter words, and name-calling will be counter-productive, as it will harden their hearts against us, and make our job more difficult.  We want to convert them to our cause, not strengthen and ossify their resolution against us.

The mainstream media are masters in manipulating public opinion and stirring up divisiveness to distract us from the more pressing matters in the world.  The Zimmerman trial, for example, deftly swayed people’s attention from the trial of Bradley Manning , whose conviction was the elite’s retaliation against him for exposing their war crimes in the Iraq War, etc.  I don’t like verdicts that are biased in favour of whites over blacks any more than any other anarchist; but we’ll do a better job of helping the black community by focusing on bringing down the whole system, government and corporate, that hurts African Americans, than we will by letting the media get the masses mad at each other.  The elite is the enemy; they conquer us by dividing us.

Similarly, the media used the gay marriage issue to distract millions of people from noticing the passing of the Monsanto Protection Act several months ago.  Again, I want gays to have the freedom to love their partners in every way straights do, as does every other reasonable person, but we mustn’t let the media distract us and polarize us.  Gay rights will be best protected after–not before–the anarchist revolution finally happens, when we won’t need a government to give gays, or anyone else, permission to marry.

One other thing: don’t feed the internet trolls on anarchist Facebook pages, etc., when they say bigoted things.  A lot of them work for the governments and corporations to undermine us and  the work we do.  We mustn’t let them bait us, as I’ve seen them do many times online.  They thrive on our indignation and anger.  Ignore them, delete their posts/comments, and ban them from our discussion groups.

3. Plan the revolution.  We must learn from the mistakes of anarchists in the past, and also plan how best to prevent the misfortunes that befell the revolutionaries of the Paris Commune, the Free Territory of Ukraine, and anarchist Catalonia.

The points I wish to make here are by no means exhaustive, and for many readers, this will be little more than review of what they’ve already read many times before; but it isn’t enough merely to know of these cautions–we must always be mindful of them.  May my repetition thus be a helpful push in that mindful direction.

Plentiful food and supplies must always be available, to satisfy the needs of all when the revolution disrupts normal daily business for an extended time, as Kropotkin discussed in The Conquest of Bread.  (Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread, New York: Dover Publications, 2011, pp. 61-95)

The revolution must be global in reach, and it must be permanent, until worldwide anarchy is attained.  The anarchist Catalonians and Ukrainians were defeated in large part because they didn’t go far beyond their domains.  Also, their attempts to associate with Bolsheviks, Stalinists, and other state socialists led to their downfall.  Compromise with their left-wing rivals, paradoxically, led to more divisiveness, and to their defeat.

Seize not only the means of production and the government buildings, but seize the banks, too.  The Paris Commune didn’t do that.

Get the police on our side.  If we can somehow convince them that the authority they’re loyal to is illegitimate, we can get at least some of them on our side, and reduce their ability to brutalize us when we protest.

OK, these are just a few thoughts of mine.  I’ll understand if you don’t agree with some of what I say, but in any case, I hope this can help in the fight against capitalism, the State, and all forms of inequality.  Peace and love, comrades.

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Anarchist Communism

I am an anarchist: recently, I’ve come under the influence of the anarcho-communist ideas of Peter Kropotkin.  I consider the State and capitalism to be the two great evils of society, and greed is the worst of the deadly sins.

A truly good society, and a good world, would be made up of federations of freely associating communities that rule themselves.  Thus no one would have power over others.  No hierarchies or power systems would exist: in other words, there would be no boss/employee, royalty/peasant, bourgeois/proletarian, or leader/follower relationships.  Businesses would be collectively owned.  As far as religion is concerned, though all religions would be tolerated, there would be no coerced belief in a monotheistic God who would rule over us or judge us.  No gods, no masters.

With the end of capitalism would also come the end of the wage system and of money: a gift economy would replace it.  With the end of private property would also come the end of a need to pay rent to landlords.  A society of competition would be replaced by one of cooperation and mutual aid.

By eliminating money and its seductive power over mankind, there’d be little incentive to start wars, since war is essentially a racket anyway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_is_a_Racket), a plundering of foreign lands for oil, etc., to fill the pockets of the rich with money.  With the end of hostilities against foreigners would come the end of racism, or at least a drastic reduction of xenophobic feeling.  Indeed, with the end of all hierarchies, fully realized in every conceivable way, one could quite possibly see the gradual withering away of patriarchy, since the political and monetary basis of male domination (the State and capitalism) would be annihilated.  But even if some inequalities were to linger, I’m confident that eliminating them would become much easier without the divisive propaganda of the media, which is controlled by the State and the corporations.

Instead of monotheistic religion, perhaps people might find pantheistic mysticism more appealing, its monism more catering to an egalitarian mindset.  Still, conventional religions would be tolerated, as long as they don’t try to impose themselves on those who don’t share their beliefs.  Atheism and agnosticism would also be fully respected.  People’s beliefs would be no one’s business but their own.

The evils of capitalism and government continue to exist because their minions have learned clever techniques to keep the people in line.  Unhealthy food and time-wasting online nonsense saps the people of their energy and sense of purpose in life.  Charismatic leaders lull the masses into submission, making them love and hate whomever Big Brother wants them to love or hate.  The media selectively presents world events in a way to make the people believe what it is required of them to believe.  Heroes are vilified, and scoundrels are celebrated.

And when the people rebel?  Militarized police, those bullies with their bullets and batons, thrash the masses.  Innocent people are incarcerated for the smallest of misdemeanours, or for habits, such as the recreational use of marijuana, that shouldn’t even be deemed crimes.  It’s all a depressing spectacle to see on the news.

For these reasons, I see no hope in any future government or in any reform of capitalism.  Those two villains have been lovers throughout history: they’ll never be separated.  State socialism is no answer–the failure of the Soviet Union, as well as that of the European State-generated social programs, many of which have crumbled in the present economic crisis, proves that Bolshevism, in whatever guise it comes, moderate or extreme, is a fool’s idol.  But neither is so-called ‘anarchist capitalism’ an acceptable alternative.  Its supporters imagine a cleaning up of corruption in the free market, but under such a contradictory way of doing things, I predict the speedy build-up of a plutocracy, a government to protect the nouveaux riches and their coveted privileges.

No, one can’t have the one power structure without the other: capitalism and the State are like conjoined twins, sharing one avaricious heart.  If one wants the one to stay alive, the other must live, too.  If one truly wants one of them to die, one must accept the death of the other.

These beliefs of mine come from years and years of watching one corrupt government after another, on both the Left and the Right, as well as everywhere in between on the ideological continuum.  I’ve never seen a government, or a corporation, or a church, sufficiently without fault that I could wholeheartedly stand behind it.

Anarchist communism, brought about by the trade unions seizing control of the means of production, is the only answer.  May a repeat of the 1936 Spanish Revolution come, and soon; and may it not be crushed by the forces of Fascism, as it so tragically was in the Spanish Civil War.  Let us unite, comrades, and free ourselves.  As Marx and Engels said years ago, ‘You have nothing to lose but your chains.  You have a world to win.  WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!’

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