The Anarchist Township

Fight the war, fuck the norm!

Month: September 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Reaffirming the Non-Emphasis on Politics and Government: A Second Reply to Mr. Stolyarov

Re-Introduction

Mr. Stolyarov has written his response and I aim to respond to it here. All appropriate links for catching up with the debate can be found on his blog.

Let’s not waste any time and dive right into it:

 

First, I’d like to counter (if possible) Mr. Stolarov’s main similarities:


(1) The repeal of unjustified interventions was achieved by working through the extant political process.

 

Well the repeal should be noted as it was historically…that is temporarily. Clearly the British empire is still around and the government has not gotten much smaller. So for whatever good this change did it was not long lasting or at least as long lasting as needed to influenced the empire further. Contrary to this however more direct action type movements like the women’s rights movements, the civil libeteries movements, the anti-slavery movement (via hiding slaves and the Underground Railroad, etc.) have been much more long lasting and effective.

Now I want to make it clear that I do not hold in any dogmatic fashion that political change is simply impossible to happen to the benefit of libertarians. I wish to make this clear as to assure Mr. Stolarov that I don’t lack complete faith in the political system doing some benefit for us as libertarians. But the overall feeling I get from history and my own knowledge of the system as it is is that we’d be far better off at the least diminishing political action in most cases and focusing on outside the system things.

 

(2) The individuals spearheading the Anti-Corn Law League – Cobden and Bright – pursued political office in Parliament in order to achieve the repeal of the unjustified interventions.

 

Sure, but the political office was nothing of the sort like Ron Paul is currently seeking. Furthermore, the empires are of completely different countries and times as you have admitted not to mention cultures and histories. Ron Paul is seeking to demolish many different oppressive laws (I’ll discuss this more in depth later on) while Coben and Bright merely wanted to do away with one. While they have the much more practical idea of only dealing with one oppressive law and only doing it through one political channel that isn’t too hard to get to with some public support what Ron Paul needs to get to the political office to begin with is huge. Bright and Cobden used up most of their lives to accomplish their goals and I’m afaid that Paul’s chances of replicating this same thing is not likely to me. Not only because he’s already in his late 70s and this being his last run at office but also because he’s never succeeded before (which doesn’t necessarily preclude him from winning but just make it less likely in my eyes).

 

(3) At the beginning of its efforts, the Anti-Corn Law League was out of favor with the political and economic elites. Yet, through persistence and rational argumentation over the course of nearly a decade, it was able to sway both elite and public opinion.

 

Ron Paul doesn’t have that time nor has he swayed many of the elites (to my knowledge) and he’s only swayed some of public opinion and not nearly enough to be elected (again to my knowledge).

(4) A well-coordinated political organization, aiming at mass enrollment, was essential to the success of the Anti-Corn Law League’s efforts. This organized effort used the most sophisticated technology and tactics of its time in innovative ways.

 

Using the internate to coordinate events is not inventive or new nor is using Twitter or anything else that RP has used for his campaigns. This stuff has been going on for years in different contexts and has proven its worth each time. This isn’t to say that Ron Paul can’t make use of it just that I think it’s insufficent in of itself to make me convinced he’ll be able to become president. And the people who have used it in non-political ways have seemed to have gotten the biggest boost in things. Such people like those in Egypt and other countries got fed up with their system of government and instead of participating in the system they took to the streets. Granted, of course the US and these other places are certainly not similar in any way but I suppose just like you hold there’s enough similarities to help you believe in the validity of political action this is one reason for my belief in direct action.

(5) The Anti-Corn Law League focused on stepwise liberalization by identifying the most ruinous intervention and targeting it first. (I shall discuss laterhow this approach is similar to both the effects of Ron Paul’s campaign and what Ron Paul would do if he were elected President.)

 

Well since you’re gonna discuss it later there’s not much I feel that is necessary to comment on but I do want to say that Ron Paul isn’t taking steps he’s just trying to bring a bunch of oppressive laws down probably as fast and quickly as possible. Why? Well because public and governmental perception is key and if he has it even for a few months he’ll need to capitalize on that and he can’t wait decades or even years to do that like Cobden and Bright could in their position. Paul has got to use his leverage when he has got it and if he gets elected he better have a pretty good plan.

 

Now some of those things (like ending the wars, etc.) he may have the power to do immediately but I doubt the process is as easy as “bring them all home now”. I mean I hope it is but it may not be that simple due to all of the corporate and lobbyist interest invested in these wars. And the backlash of the Middle Eastern community, etc. etc. could prove problematic and so on. But I hope it’s that simple for sure…I just doubt it actually is.

 

Anyways, more on this later.

 

(6) The Anti-Corn Law League was an ecumenical movement that welcomed individuals from a variety of backgrounds and worldviews, as long as those individuals shared the League’s essential objective. It has also been widely observed that Ron Paul’s campaign has drawn an incredibly diverse following from numerous subcultures and areas of the conventional “political spectrum”.

 

Sure, this is more of a fair analogy, but again this does not mean RP will be successful or that I should vote for him because of the many other multiple problems at play that I as an anarchist see and will discuss as I go along in this response.

 

(7) The Anti-Corn Law League, like Ron Paul, maintained impeccable civility in the face of vitriol and foul play by its opponents.

 

No argument here.

 

(8) The Anti-Corn Law League, like Ron Paul, remained steadfast to its principles even when compromising those principles would have been politically easier.

 

As I pointed out in my response to you if RP is supporting voluntaryism as his ultimately favored system then immigration is definitely something that is not being “steadfast” to his principles, to say the least.

 

Also, even if all of these similarities are true (and I don’t think they are by and large to begin with) none of that is enough to convince me that RP could be president just because one short term success (that ended not long after due to the nature of government that I see as an anarchist) has historically come from political action. So keep this in mind.

 

Now on to your first response:

 

“I do not find this argument persuasive, as both movements have actually worked simultaneously within and outside the political process. While heading the Anti-Corn Law League, both Cobden and Bright were members of Parliament and attempted to exert influence over the governance of the British Empire by affecting how Parliament voted on the issue of trade. Ron Paul, during his tenure as a United States Representative, also led the Campaign for Liberty – a nonprofit organization aimed at pro-freedom political and economic reforms, but not itself a part of any government.”

 

But it’s not enough to simply state that they have both done this. What were the results? I’ve seen Campaign for Liberty before (was never impressed to be honest but then I’m an anarchist so what do you expect?) and I’m unsure of what they have accomplished as an outside entity so please inform me.

 

“So both Paul and Cobden worked simultaneously within and outside governmental positions.”

 

That’s nice I suppose but it doesn’t mean that either one was as successful as you’d want it to be or even successful to the point where more successes could happen afterwards.

 

“It is true that Cobden never wanted to be Prime Minister (the closest position in terms of executive power to what the US President would have today) – but in 19th-century Britain, the power of the Legislative branch was much stronger than it is in the United States today; indeed, the Prime Minister was of Parliament and did Parliament’s bidding. In the 21st-century, it is unfortunately the case that astonishing amounts of power have become concentrated in the person of the President – so, to roll back unfreedom in a significant way, Presidential cooperation and even initiative are needed in many situations.”

 

This doesn’t necessarily follow at all. When racial segregation, slavery, the lack of freedom for women, the lack of rights for workers and so on were big deals what happened when government stepped in? The segregation of blacks and whites was mostly government enforced, as was the system of property relations between men and women.

 

The lack of rights for workers was beneficial for both big corporations and governments so that the corporate bosses could more easily extract profits from a more broken working man.

 

But how were these things earned back?

For segregation there were the protests, the boycotts, the sitins and what political legislation exactly happened or the black man asked for? I don’t recall too much of that being the focus. I’m not denying it happened of course but you never so MLK or Malcolm X (especially the latter) calling for political action. For slavery there was the Underground Railroad as well as hoarding slaves, slaves banding together and trying to escape and so on that heavily led to slavery becoming impractical if not the least bit terribly more difficult.

What did Lincoln do for the slaves? Oh right, he forced them back into the nation whether they liked it or not and then said “slavery was abolished” except it never really was due to the KKK then emerging, racial segregation and blacks being treated as sub-human to the whites. There’s not much that political actions did here. None of this is to defend the South of course, as Lysander Spooner was trying to say, if people can secede from their governments and establish new ones then not only was the South legitimate in doing so (even if it did it for the wrong reasons, namely to uphold slavery) but the slaves could secede from the masters and so on.

So too for the workers rights. One of the leading groups that helped out weren’t The Knights of Labor or any other politically orientated union but the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) which relied on direct action.

As Voltairine de Cleyre said in her essay, “Direct Action”:

“These workers have, in one form or another, mutually joined their forces to see what betterment of their condition they could get; primarily by direct action, secondarily by political action. We have had the Grange, the Farmer’s Alliance, Co-operative Associations, Colonization Experiments, Knights of Labor, Trade Unions, and Industrial Workers of the World. All of them have been organized for the purpose of wringing from the masters in the economic field a little better price, a little better conditions, a little shorter hours; or on the other hand to resist a reduction in price, worse conditions, or longer hours. None of them has attempted a final solution of the social war. None of them, except the Industrial Workers, has recognized that there is a social war, inevitable so long as present legal- social conditions endure. They accepted property institutions as they found them. They were made up of average men, with average desires, and they undertook to do what appeared to them possible and very reasonable things. They were not committed to any particular political policy when they were organized, but were associated for direct action of their own initiation, either positive or defensive.”

de Cleyre was alive at the time and was able to witness what good the IWW was doing for the workers. Especially in so far as their wages, living conditions, bargaining power with the boss and their overall livelihood in their lives were concerned. They didn’t care about political action, or at least not nearly as much as the ones did and it shows. The IWW is still around and The Knights of Labor, et. al. are not. I don’t think makes it necessarily follow that political action is necessarily less advantageous for the worker or for us as libertarians but it’s certainly indicative of a trend that *may* point us that way.

I don’t know how interested in worker rights, unions, etc. you are but rest assured I’m not calling for government intervention in industry and by and large neither did de Clyere or the IWW (which was at the time mostly made up of anarchists and still is).

Also my point is in line with de Cleyre when she says in “Direct Action”:

“Well, I have already stated that some good is occasionally accomplished by political action — not necessarily working-class party action either. But I am abundantly convinced that the occasional good accomplished is more than counterbalanced by the evil; just as I am convinced that though there are occasional evils resulting through direct action, they are more than counterbalanced by the good.”

So take all of that for whatever it’s worth to you I suppose.

I would also like to illustrate that the strategy of direct action is something I’ve discussed before and it’s been discussed elsewhere besides de Cleyre such as here and shown it’s efficiency there as well.

Moving on…

“Politically, the Britain of Cobden’s day was much freer than the United States today – in terms of the sheer number of interventions in existence – though, perhaps, it can be argued that the effects of individual interventions like the Corn Laws on human suffering might have been greater in a time when many more people lived on the edge of subsistence. When the major infringements on liberty can be readily enumerated – and each infringement can be attributed to just a few laws, as opposed to a vast, interrelated network of them – it is more feasible to achieve major gains for freedom by just targeting one law or group of laws. In this sense, it is true that Ron Paul would have much more to repeal than Cobden and Bright did, since our political system is much farther gone down the road to serfdom than theirs had been. In that respect, it could be said that his agenda is more ambitious than that of Cobden and Bright – but it still does not mean that there would be no selective focus on the worst interventions.”

Alright this is all fair enough and that’s a good point about him focusing on this…but this assumes he’ll be elected to begin with, a prospect I do not find too likely due to his previous records, the way the system works (especially in so far as we’re talking special interests) and the historical failure (for the most part) of political action.

“For instance, Ron Paul’s emphasis on the economic wreckage created by the Federal Reserve is on par in terms of focus to Cobden and Bright’s emphasis on the harms of the Corn Laws. Certainly, the phrases “Audit the Fed” and “End the Fed” have become inextricably identified with the Ron Paul movement.”

Sure, that’s true but that doesn’t mean that ending the Fed or likewise ending the wars solves the problem that the system creates itself. Ron Paul is focusing on the most oppressive branches and that’s an admirable thing but he’s not going to the root of the problem which for me is the government itself. If he can cut the branches and make it easier to get to the root I’m all for that I suppose but not through political action or at least not to the degree he pursues it. And if he does that and makes my job as an anarchist more power to him but I don’t think this will happen.

And I don’t think there’s much proof that my vote matters to begin with or that voters are largely rational either. That’s a lot of things against me voting. Plus there’s no duty for me to vote and most people probably shouldn’t either way not only because they’re largely ignorant of things but because there are better options for change out there.

“Ron Paul also has a clear understanding of the need to focus on specific areas of US federal interventions – namely, monetary policy and foreign policy – first. As President, Ron Paul would have the authority to unilaterally, immediately withdraw the US military from tens of foreign occupations, greatly reducing the waste of lives and taxpayer money.”

But this is a narrow looking at things and you’re missing the fact that many corporate interests have a great deal of well…interest in whether these wars continue or not. By not trying to convince big wartime industries Ron Paul (and you) are failing to notice that simply calling back the troops doesn’t fix the problems of wars happening. It’s still very much in the favor of the upper class and to much of the chagrin of the lower class if wars are still to happen because of all of the increase in governmental power, corporate power, increased taxation based on things like patriotism and so on. It’s a win-win for the government and a lose-lose for the ruled class and until we start focusing on the upper class itself and the ideas they hold instead of the physical institutions through highly outdated tactics such as political action then I’m afraid it’s not going to do much.

Ending the wars and the Fed are wonderful things…but only if they can be followed up on and only if more progress is to come after that. You’ve yet to show me a case where such an event actually happened. Where the political action didn’t seem to just take whatever was left for the person to do in a liberty orientated way and settle for that. And after that the system just eventually picks up where some lone person in the political system said no.

“At the same time, he would pursue a thorough audit of the Federal Reserve and would thereby galvanize public opinion to take more radical steps to limit the power of that secretive institution. (In this respect, he would be similar to another political figure, US President Andrew Jackson, whose determined actions successfully put an end to the Second Bank of the United States in 1836 and left the US without a central bank for the next 77 years. Jackson’s battle against the central bank of his time is another excellent example of successful pro-liberty political action.)”

Again, short term benefit is great…but only if you can follow up on it. Jackson could not and unsurprisingly it was reestablished eventually because of the root of the problem itself which is government…so I guess it’s just always gonna come down to a minarchist vs. anarchist debate huh? 😛

“It is clear from the above that, as President, Ron Paul would need to pursue some simultaneous action in multiple areas – even if such basic areas as domestic economic policy and foreign military policy are considered. And while his movement is not limited to targeting just one set of laws, it nonetheless can target strong public opposition at highly specific interventions in a variety of areas. Today, it is necessary to do this, because unfreedom currently advances on multiple fronts as well – and the best defense against such encroachments is a good offense in the form of rolling back and repealing harmful interventions wherever this is feasible.”

1. “Unfreedom” is *definitely not a word. 😛

2. A lot of oppressive laws and other harmful social environments and cultural ones have been changed from the bottom up much to the chagrin of the ruling class via direct action and education and not political change. In fact these events are generally much more longer lasting than political ones. I think de Cleyre’s essay on direct action bears me out on this historical fact.

3. We can attack a lack of freedom many different ways without putting such a huge amount of emphasis on politics. My preferred strategies have already been outlined elsewhere and if you care to read them I invite you to. They are agorism, direct action, dual power and education

Onwards and upwards! (Or something)

“Mr. Ford’s words here seem strongly to imply that the differences in culture, historical development, politics, economic development and so on” between 19th-century Britain and the 21st-century United States somehow preclude the ability to amass great amounts of political change by influencing public and elite opinion. If this is so, Mr. Ford has not yet provided any concrete evidence to show that doing this is more difficult today than it would have been in Cobden’s Britain.”

Well I thought it was pretty explanatory that you just can’t use one method and expect it to accomplish the same results in the same way in a very different environment. Do I need to provide evidence for such a basic fact that the mere idea that thinking about similar actions in different contexts would provide? You seem pretty smart Mr. Stolaryov and I don’t mean to demean you but I think you should know that there’s no one method that works for all scenarios or equally applies as much as it does in one scenario as one that is in many ways very different from the other.

Now if you still think I’m giving you the short end of the stick on “concrete evidence” then please explain why this explanation is not good enough for you. It’s not enough to just say I haven’t given “concrete” reasons when you haven’t given me a standard of what concrete is to you to begin with or why that definition makes sense.

“Indeed, much evidence would point the other way. Technologies such as the Internet and mobile devices enable information to be spread much more efficiently and cheaply than even Cobden’s penny postage could manage.”

Where has that gotten RP over the years? To my knowledge it’s only gotten him a senate house and a lot of money that he spent on political campaigns that didn’t get him elected. It may have spread the word about libertarianism and that’s definitely good thing but it hasn’t gotten him to be president yet and I don’t see it happening now. And furthermore nor have you explained why it will make a difference now. If the paper you link does then please quote the relevant passages because I already took the time to read most of your paper on the Anti-Corn Law League and I’m not about to respond to another paper of yours when we’re trying to focus on the previous one as is and still getting into big side issues like minarchism vs. anarchism as it is.

Really the question is, how will RP beat the rest of the GOP and more importantly how would he beat Obama? I’m interested to hear that because I’ve yet to hear *any* case for how he would.

“Furthermore, today’s technologies allow anyone who wants it the unprecedented opportunity to attain a self-education in politics, economics, and philosophy – as well as to cross-check the validity of information that emanates from “mainstream” or other sources. My 2008 essay “Liberation by Internet: How Technology Destroys Tyranny” discussed this empowering effect of the Internet even before some of its greatest manifestations occurred. If, even in the face of recent developments such as the Arab Spring, Mr. Ford does not believe that today’s technological proliferation increases the chances of a mass political movement succeeding in removing deleterious top-down interventions, I would like to know the reasons behind his skepticism.”

That’s ridiculous to say because I never once said that today’s technology would never do anything for anyone or even mentioned technology to begin with in my original passage that you quoted. If you want to bring it up Mr. Stolyarov I advise you to say, “You missed this thing, what do you think about it?” Not draw strawmans from assertions that never implied what were you stating.

And furthermore I think technology has certainly helped his campaign and gives him and all of us better chances to help liberate ourselves. I just do not think that it’s gonna happen through political action. But instead of relying on political action I think instead we should rely on the tactics that has helped us as libertarian and help people in general. Those tactics that do so I’ve already linked above and you’re more than welcome to read them and give me your thoughts.

As for your words on partisanship that was my mistake on definitions and I concede that there is certainly some fair analogies to be made there.

To the discussion of gradualism and immidiatism:

“Immediate repeal of numerous bad laws is compatible with maintaining the existing system of government (while, of course, reducing what it can do to its citizens).”

Well again I think on your part this is just being naive. There are many more factors at play for these things to come into effect and the whole of congress is not very much in favor of many of Ron Pauls’ ideas…so how is he going to get past that? Or all of the lobbyists and corporate interests? And other special interests? None of this has been explained to me or if it’s been discussed it’s just been brushed off and for me this is something that highly damages the credibility of this strategy for me.

If you can’t explain how he’s going to get past a very non-libertarian congress and mostly non-libertarian public and non-libertarian private sector then I don’t see the chances of him getting elected in the first place. And even if by some miracle he did I question what good he could do if the world is still largely in that way.

“More generally, I do not see anything morally problematic with becoming an officeholder or even the leader of a government, provided that one’s purpose is to remove deleterious impositions on people’s lives. Why is it un-libertarian in any way to get rid of an un-libertarian policy?”

Well for one because not *everyone* is a libertarian or thinks in such ways. And it just seems wrong for me to ask someone to force my own opinion on others instead of being convinced by it and supporting it. Taking down the laws while they may do more good than harm and that’s certainly a good thing seem questionable in the way they are enacted for me as an anarchist. It seems to put the position of power over what people’s lives will be in other people’s hands. And whether that’s through putting up new and better policies or taking them down unless people have agreed to the decision it seems like it’s being done against their will or at best it shouldn’t be forced on them.

I’m willing to be persuaded another way, but taking power over other people and especially through political office just doesn’t sit right with me either way.

“So why should it be seen as productive to discourage libertarians from seeking the most direct way in which they could actually repeal un-libertarian policies in the real world?”

Because the choice isn’t between either political supporters or non-supporters but people in of themselves and how they want things to be. The most direct path is enacting this change *without* the permission of the politicians which many people already do through things like direct action and agorism and the current rising informal economy reflects that fact.

“Libertarians of all stripes would do well to also recognize that, as President, Ron Paul would be a placeholder of an office that could be used for great evil if occupied by a person who does not adhere to the principles of liberty. If Ron Paul is President, it means that, for four to eight years, nobody else can be. The “somebody else” – be he Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, or any other establishment politician – would most likely greatly increase the scope of unfreedom. At least Ron Paul would not have that kind of effect.”

You’ve yet to prove he *can* be elected and I’ve yet to be convinced that any of the gains he makes will be much more than the short term ones that have been done before in history. Again to repeat myself, the historical examples you have given have only had short term benefits and any of these short term benefits are then taken away by the same entity that produced them. So why should I have any faith in Ron Paul whether he gets elected or not?

“Lastly on this point, I am curious as to why Mr. Ford appears to have no particular reservations toward liberty-minded people like Cobden, Bright, and Ron Paul serving as legislators, but he finds it particularly problematic for them to be heads of state. What, if any, ethical difference is there between those functions in his mind, when both by definition influence the political process? “

Oh no, there’s none for me. But I wasn’t trying to make that distinction and furthermore wasn’t paying attention to the fact that they were in the legislation office. I actually forgot that they took those spots to take down the laws to begin with. But I certainly support the education part of it and the overall good it did it’s just that I question the tactics of legislation, etc.

“(Of course, my stance on this matter is that there is nothing morally wrong with being either a libertarian legislator or a libertarian executive, and I hope that this where further consideration of this question will also lead Mr. Ford.)”

For me there’s nothing in line with libertarian principles with becoming artificially higher up than others on the basis of wealth, connections, corporate buddies, etc. I’m not saying this is all the case for Cobden, Paul, et. al. but it doesn’t seem in line with the respect of property rights, the NAP and so on that libertarians are well known for defending if we see government as a territorial monopoly on violence that has had a history of getting it’s way through violence to begin with. Rothbard’s [http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard62.html] and Franz Oppenheimer’s [http://www.franz-oppenheimer.de/state0.htm] are particularly relavant here.

Again, it goes back to me being an anarchist and you bring a minarchist.

On to the media:

“With decentralized technology, it is likelier than ever that the general public will be able to bypass the influence of special interests in deciding how to cast its votes – since the special interests (such as the large, politically connected media corporations) no longer hold a near-monopoly on the dissemination of information.”

Sure but they still hold a stranglehold on what people think to a large extent, or so it seems to me. The mainstream media is still the media that is most often heard, watched and so on. I’m not saying that these are insurmountable problems just that people haven’t shown me viable solutions yet. I implore you to show me yours.

“Furthermore, the influence of certain concentrated economic interests on the political process is nothing new. Recall that Cobden and Bright had to contend with the support for the Corn Laws of the immensely wealthy and powerful British aristocratic landowners, who tended to align themselves with the Tory Party. By diligent activism, persuasion, and economic education, they managed to greatly weaken the political power of that economic bloc and to convince many wealthy landowners to switch sides in the debate.”

Again, the economic elite in the US is not the same elite that Cobden and company had to deal with back in Britain. Nor is it an entirely analogous for the simple reason that to my knowledge not many corporations or big businesses seem to like Ron Paul or support his campaign or sponser him. Nor has he seemed to convince many of them. If I am incorrect on any of these things though please let me know.

“If lobbyists and donations from economically powerful interests were truly an insurmountable obstacle to achieving pro-liberty political change, then there would never be any such change at any time in history.”

Well sure, but then I never said it was insurmountable you again just assumed that’s what I was implying. This assumption is incorrect and I feel mostly unfounded though I suppose I don’t fault you entirely because it could’ve been bad phrasing or wording on my part. Or perhaps it’s the fact of me being an anarchist that contributed to this assumption. In any case the assumption is incorrect.

“It is true that it takes persistence, principle, and tactical cleverness to overcome a system that invites such influence. But there is nothing to suggest that Ron Paul is not up to this task.”

Well see this for why RP seems to lack some tactics on some issues and why it points to me that he may not be up to the task on some things. Also the booing about him bringing about the basic fact of blowback during the GOP debates to me suggests that some of the public may not be willing to hear those things or vote for someone who is. Neither of these things point towards an RP win at any rate. I’m not suggesting they alone disprove you or prove my case but just that they don’t aid your case and for me at best help prove the opposite could be more likely.

On to some questions of morality:

“While, again, I find these positions to be at least partially problematic, I do not think that killing people will ever be a part of the approach a Paul administration uses.”

Skipping to this part, it doesn’t matter what you think it matters how government operates by and that’s by force. And nothing you “think” is going to change that basic fact. Ron Paul said it himself, “There’s no nation without borders” and if he wants those borders to exist he’s going to have to hire people to defend them with the use of deadly force if necessary. But of course in my opinion there’s no legitimacy to the borders to begin with. And even if we don’t agree on this there’s certainly ideas that point to the fact that it makes economic sense at the least.

“If one takes even the least charitable interpretation of what Ron Paul would do as President – there could be some forcible deportations, which have already been happening in mass under Obama. Deportation (requiring a person to leave the country – perhaps even escorting a person to the border) is wrong to inflict, in my view, on those who did not commit violent crime. But it is a far cry from killing.”

But it doesn’t matter. You’re still using force on people who have done nothing wrong by my moral standards. They just want a better life, a better job, they want to be able to freely move! No one, not even Ron Paul, should have the right to say otherwise. If he wishes to do so then that’s something that should be considered when asking an anarchist (or anyone) to vote for him.

“I hope that this reductio ad absurdum exercise has shown the need to recognize the merits of approaches that take us unambiguously in the right direction, even if they do not entirely get us to the condition of freedom we would desire.”

Your reductio (sounds like a Harry Potter spell when I say think about it…) is actually in of itself absurd. I was never suggesting,

“…there should be no moral issue with reducing the scope of certain problematic laws and interventions.”

I don’t support political action in general really and at best wish to just deemphasize it and use it where it must be used and it seems actually attainable to me. But this,

“Failing to bring about a perfect libertarian society does not by itself qualify one for moral condemnation – for, if it did, we would all be guilty.”

Has absolutely nothing to do with my arguments. I’m not morally condemning politicians because they don’t do total reforms towards the way I’d like to see people go or people in general and I’m confused where you got this from. But rather, I’m more upset that they’re forcing their own opinion on others through the use of government instead of direct action, education, agorism, etc.

“To remove the ability of certain other people to coerce still other people does not involve “forcing” anyone – except perhaps in retaliation for aggression.”There is a clear difference, for instance, between a criminal pointing a gun to someone’s head and a passer-by knocking that gun out of the criminal’s hand. To remove the impact of a harmful, liberty-violating program does not by itself impose harm or violate the rights of anyone.”

Hmm…this is a good point. The coercion going on through the law (for example the drug laws that are part of the war on drugs) would be abolished by abolishing the law itself and could possibly be called some sort of defense. Well I told you I was willing to be persuaded I’ve just never heard anyone present the case like this. Regardless, I think it’s a certainly much more defendable reason than what I’ve heard (or not been hearing) so far.

“It is important to remember that rights and wishes are not the same. Another person’s wish to draft you into the military or force you to provide free health care to strangers would not, for instance, give him the right to do so. A regime that rigorously adheres to individual rights is surely going to displease some people, who will consider the prohibitions against violations of rights to be “imposition” or “force” by their incorrect understanding. But, if there are indeed objective, universal natural rights that exist by virtue of what human beings are rather than by whatever happen to be people’s subjective opinions – then it is those objective rights, not the wishes of anyone and everyone, that governments ought to respect and enforce. If rights were subjective and defined by opinion instead of natural law, then government-provided health care, protectionist tariffs, and agricultural subsidies could be seen as “rights”. Some quite vocal constituencies do want them, after all.”

This goes into way too many side issues that I won’t even bother touching. Suffice it to say even if government *was* better at doing it (and I deny that as an anarchist still) this does not follow that it should be able to claim a monopoly on said services or abilities. Nor have you proven how government is special. And why it should be able to have the abilities it does. These are important questions to think about.

Also, I’m only throwing all of these links at you because within the context of the debate I don’t consider it worth my time to thoroughly debate with you the merits of government. Instead, I’d rather give you thought provoking writings that can probably do a better job than I can anyways. And if they can’t convince you then I don’t see the point in me trying right now anyways.

“In practice there is no gun involved in much of the political process, and the agencies that enforce many laws have no guns among their staff. (This is, unfortunately, becoming less common at the federal level.)”

I’m almost afraid to ask lest this conversation be bogged down more but…how? How is there no guns backing the the say so of the laws? Are they just there? Do the police not come to your house if you refuse to pay taxes? Am I to believe that jury orders are now not backed with fines or putting people in cages (jail cells) if they don’t comply? Am I missing something? For the anarchist our foe is, “Our Enemy, The State” and I don’t think that Ron Paul is really recognizing that to any significant degree (or not enough of one) and neither are you as a minarchist.

“Furthermore, to the extent that laws are enforced through voluntary compliance (without any reliance on punishment), “the gun” is not necessary; this is one reason why respect for the rule of law is so important in a free society.”

Well you’re begging the question of how you exactly now laws are enforced through “voluntary compliance”. Suffice it to say Lysander Spooner has already demolished any such arguments.

Not only that but the whole idea of the rule of law is a myth that has no credibility.

“But, beyond that, if one accepts the minarchist premise (I know that Mr. Ford does not) that a legitimate function of governments is to protect individuals against physical aggression, then it may be entirely appropriate for a government to use guns in defense of its subjects, within a rigorously defined sphere. I see this as a highly limited power that should be aimed primarily at preventing violence – and, if that fails, at retribution and restitution against the violent offender. (Unlike many minarchists, I do not think that war can be legitimate – so the power I describe is much more limited and would be targeted against individual criminals rather than entire peoples.) But the government that can do this best would never need to fire a gun at all – even though guns (or their future equivalents) would most likely need to be kept around as deterrents to any random thug who happens to come by and who would otherwise easily overpower a society of peaceful, unarmed individuals.”

Well we’re certainly not on the same train in the end but I certainly favor this over what we have. But again it’s a matter of striking the root and not merely the branches. The reason why I don’t think RP’s reforms or Cobden’s or Jackson’s reforms lasted is based on the root of the problem…government. But we disagree and perhaps we should leave it at that for now?

I’m just afraid that we will get bogged down into countless side-arguments that, while certainly relevant aren’t necessarily conducive to our limits of time and patience with this debate. Is this understandable?

On the points about education I admit to being mistaken what you were saying.

Lastly:

“I hope that this discussion has illustrated in greater detail the relevance of the Anti-Corn Law League’s success as at least a partial model for how liberty might be achieved in our time. I would welcome a further response from Mr. Ford on any of the matters addressed here.”

A little here and there but you’ve yet to address:

1. Why or how Ron Paul would get elected

2. How he would bypass the other candidates or the special interests

3. How Cobden, et. al. bypassing the special interests towards one law means that somehow RP can do it on a much bigger scale in a very different enviornment.

4. Why I should be (as an anarchist) investing my time in an entity I don’t have much faith in to begin with and do not think is legitimate?

And there’s probably other things to but those are some of the big things.

Some other important things that should be pointed out is that Ron Paul has never been elected before and even if he is winning in some good ways it’s not enough.

Is there hope for liberty in our lifetime? I’m unsure at best, I don’t think it will happen but I definitely don’t think voting is the right option for us as libertarians right now and I’m sticking to that until someone else can give me good reasons to think otherwise. You’ve made decent points but definitely not enough to convince me that Ron Paul is going to win, be enough or even be helpful if he got elected.

But for the record Mr. Stolyarov I still maintain that political action is for the most part ridiculous for a libertarian of any stripe to get involved with and that Ron Paul will not win let alone enact these changes. However, I doubt my words here have done much to convince you of that but I hope it will at least make you think twice about some of your positions as you have done for me. I thank you for your response and if you should decide to make another one I shall do my best to make another response to that if I find that this discussion is still worth my time. By the point of you making another response however the chances of us going off on to other topics (which seems to be the tendency here) may grow larger and the main issues may change.

Now that’s fine for a regular conversation but as my title suggests the area that this discussion falls under is much broader than just Cobden and Ron Paul and I don’t think I have the time or want to spend the time necessary to keep going back and forth on that when it hides the original purpose of this back and forth.

Regardless this doesn’t necessarily preclude me from responding to you I just want you to keep that in mind that we are slowly drifting away from the original main topic to deal with side issues without necessarily resolving the original main topic itself. If this conversation is to be more fruitful we may want to find a way to resolve that before we discuss the ideas of minarchsim vs. anarchism and such.

If you choose not to respond at all this is also fine and I’ve enjoyed this debate thus far, I thank you for your time either way.

My Agora I/O Talk: Polyamory and Left-Libertarianism

Here’s the script:

Polyamory and Left Libertarianism

Introduction:

Words are always a tricky thing, we always want to communicate the best we can with the tools that we have but sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes, even though you’ve clarified yourself countless times some people are still scratching their heads. I think this is why it’s good to start out defining the terms in the title of this essay. Even though these terms may be familiar to some, it’s doubtful that they’re in the majority and within this slim minority some may have a distorted view of it or may need a refresher. Similarly combining or trying to get seemingly unrelated ideas together is another problem that runs deep within humans. How do we merge ideas? Are ideas ever worth merging, especially if they’re not necessarily seen as complimentary? How exactly do you go about explaining merged terms? Yet, with all of these questions in mind my task after the two part introduction is to try to see how these two terms interact. Finally, I want to give a brief sketch of what I see a far more loving and free world. This world in my opinion would be much more accepting and tolerant of the differences that make us all individuals and allow human autonomy to flourish more easily.

What is Polyamory?

To break down this word in half, poly is a Greek word that means many or several while amory is Latin for love (think amor or some other variant) so polyamory literally means “many love” or plurally “many loves”. But for me this is not a sufficient definition for explaining what polyamory is in practice or how it might interact with any political philosophy let alone the highly misunderstood one of left-libertarianism. And so beyond meaning “many loves” polyamory means for me: A long term committed and consensual relationship between more than two partners. There are multiple definitions of polyamory for sure and mine may not be the only legitimate one. Therefore I do recommend checking out several different sources and sorting out for yourself what polyamory means to you.

For example you could search “polyamory” on Google and come across the polyamory.org site which has a fairly extensive FAQ on polyamory. Or you could go to the polyamory.com forums and learn from other people there. There are also plenty of articles, Youtube videos, blog sites and even real life people who you can talk to about it that you might at first meet through the internet. An example of one piece in particular I’d recommend is Steve Pavlina’s blog post on January 2nd 2009 simply titled “Polyamory”. It’s a pretty long post but it also gets across a lot of the points and counter-points you’ll see in discussions of polyamory. However my point here is that are many options for those who are curious about what polyamoy is about. And for those who are I encourage you to not stop with only what I’ve suggested so far but go as deep as you feel comfortable with.

Now polyamory is often confused with things like swinging or basic sluttery but the way I’ve defined it here precludes both of those types of sexual preferences. But this is not to say that there is anything wrong with being a swinger or having the disposition that just having sex with anyone is fine. In fact I think being a slut is a wonderful thing for those who can do it right. Some people might say,
“But wait! Isn’t being a slut being a liar and being immoral? Being the mistress of a lonely husband and so forth?”

Not at all, being a slut just means you are sexually adventurous and love to flirt and have sex with as many people as you can. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with something like this so long as the interactions remain consensual and mutually beneficial. Now maybe they are a slut simply for the experience of being a slut or maybe it’s for the pure enjoyment of it or something else. Either way I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what their reasoning for it is unless it is somehow non-consensual, dishonest (i.e. fraudulent) or somehow reinforce inequality in relations. Furthermore insofar as the slut does things consensually, honestly and does it for the mutual benefit of all involved it’s no one’s business what happens.

There are other people who talk about the rise of sluttery as “the decay of traditional society”. And they are in some ways right and wrong about their criticism of free love. Though as an aside (though an important one I may add) perhaps the term “free love” is redundant. Consider what Emma Goldman had to say about it in her essay, “Marriage and Love”:

“Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere.” [1]

I think the same goes for the idea of polyamory. Such relations can only exist in an atmosphere of freeness or if you prefer liberty. And when I talk of sluthood being a good thing I mean being an ethical slut. That is, a person who aware of the context of their actions and does not try to perpetuate dishonesty or other harmful things into relationship through purposeful intent. These things, voluntary cooperation, honesty, commitment, consent and more that go into a truly wonderful and functional polyamorous relationship help promote the atmosphere of freeness Goldman talks about even in a more general. That’s just one reason why I think things like left-libertarianism is especially compatible with polyamorous relations. It is because they both compliment each other’s environment and atmosphere of freedom. I’ll talk more in depth about that later however.

That said, “traditional society” is something that I think has outlived its purpose. There’s no sense in maintaining societies that rely on the use of force, physiological and psychological torture that represses the human sexual drive. Any society that is governed by forces that would ordain such methods of keeping a “stable society” deserve neither the power to do so nor the “stable society” to begin with. If society is to be stable let it be raised from the bottom up, organically with lots and lots of love!
But more to the point, yes “traditional society” would in many ways fall if polyamory was more widely accepted, but why is that a bad thing? The accuser presupposes that traditional society is a necessarily good thing but why? Have they looked at the amount of wars in the world lately? Have they looked at the shape of the world and how there’s still a lot of division between the ones who rule and the ones that are ruled? The way people are repressed in almost every way possible of expressing themselves, not the least of which is sexually? To further that point is sex not taught to be evil or sometimes a necessary evil just for procreation and that too much sex breeds sin? If this be tradition then I say be gone with it! It was dead when it set its foot in the door in my eyes!

But in another sense they’re wrong for the accuser here most likely thinks that “traditional society” is the only society possible. And so when they say that freeing more things would lead to a less traditional society what they’re really trying to say is that society itself is what’s at stake. Really what they’re doing is trying to distort words and meanings. However, the free association of man and women, women and women, man and man etc. has never to my knowledge led to some sort of widespread chaos that could never have been solved even if it ever did happen.

A few examples to substantiate myself are in order of course. So for example in ancient Greece homoerotic relationships we’re quite common.[2] The relations between a boy who wanted to learn more and a man who was willing to teach would in fact sometimes be transacted through voluntary sexual relations between the two. Of course the Greeks are well known for many of their contributions to modern society and making it the way it is, so you can see for yourself how badly sexual freedoms can make society!
I do want to make it clear however that I am not here to advocate for extraneous things like old men dating young boys or the like. Instead, the example was more used for a same-sex relationship more than the age factor and saying that a society that contributed so much to modern society had heavy amounts of homo-eroticism. I also do not think time or space here permits to address the age factor here as I feel that has a lot of gray area as I think it would take far too much time of this essay. Though, suffice it to say, I believe the state currently handles the whole ordeal poorly.

In current day society relations between same sexes have been becoming more and more common. For example, the Mormon religion, one of the most popular in the world was built on the idea that a man having many women was not inherently a bad thing and was originally one of the main tenants of being a Mormon. Now, how the Mormons handled the women is another thing that I am unsure of and do not necessarily endorse. From what I understand they reduce the women to traditional roles and have a lot more say in the marriages than the women do which is certainly not what I support. Still, these examples are not meant to be cited for their perfection but only to illustrate that the conservative’s feelings on this matter are misguided and history has shown this in different ways. I’m sure there are other things I could cite to but I believe my point has been made.

The flaws and detractors aside let’s continue.

Is it possible to be polyamorous? I’d say so. For example, look at the July 2009 article “Only You. And you. And you.” In it, the author Jessica Bennett has a great passage about the movement of polyamory as an idea which I think is worth quoting at length:

“Researchers are just beginning to study the phenomenon, but the few who do estimate that openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city. Over the past year, books like Open, by journalist Jenny Block; Opening Up, by sex columnist Tristan Taormino; and an updated version of The Ethical Slut—widely considered the modern “poly” Bible—have helped publicize the concept. Today there are poly blogs and podcasts, local get-togethers, and an online polyamory magazine called Loving More with 15,000 regular readers. Celebrities like actress Tilda Swinton and Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, have voiced support for nonmonogamy, while Greenan herself has become somewhat of an unofficial spokesperson, as the creator of a comic Web series about the practice—called “Family”—that’s loosely based on her life. “There have always been some loud-mouthed ironclads talking about the labors of monogamy and multiple-partner relationships,” says Ken Haslam, a retired anesthesiologist who curates a polyamory library at the Indiana University-based Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. “But finally, with the Internet, the thing has really come about.”’ (Emphasis added) [3]

I think then it becomes obvious that polyamory at least as an idea has been only growing in success and the 500,000 people just in the US alone more than signifies that. But this was from 2009 and you may say that it could have gone down by then but I think it’s worth noting that last part about the internet. It’s really only gotten more pervasive as time goes on and more and more people seem to be talking about it, even within libertarian circles as a viable alternative to monogamous lifestyles. In fact as that article points out many people currently in the world are polyamorous though you may not know it. This is because the poly community has a double edged tendency to hide themselves from the public eye at times. This is because they are a persecuted minority that the law does not look favorably on. Consider another one of Bennett’s passages in her 2009 article,

“Polys themselves are not visibly crusading for their civil rights. But there is one policy issue rousing concern: legal precedents concerning their ability to parent. Custody battles among poly parents are not uncommon; the most public of them was a 1999 case in which a 22-year-old Tennessee woman lost rights to parent her daughter after outing herself on an MTV documentary.” [4]

Because of things like this some poly groups or people who identify as polyamorus on a personal level do not identify openly as such for fear of the state. But even worse than this is that some may even get sucked into traditional relations because there’s no real state protection or aid for them like there is for the usual monogamous relationships. This leads to an arbitrary and artificial rise in monogamy just because people feel like they have no other choice other than to be monogamous. Thus I see society as a very much a “monogamous by default” looking society in which almost all relationships shown in the media are monogamous ones. Or where there are other people it’s always the “dirty slut” or the “conniving husband” or some other contrived stereotype. In reality many polyamorous relationships can and most likely have been happy and full of love.

It’s not within the scope of this essay to do a complete detailing of the workings of polyamorous relationships or how they’ll work in different scenarios and different people but if you so wishe you could make the wise investment of your time, money and resources to buy the book The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy.[1] As you read, you’ll find so much advice on polyamory, what it’s about, what it looks like, can look like, might look like in the future, relationship advice that they won’t know what to do with at first and more! I cannot highly recommend this book enough for one’s understandings of not only polyamory but for relationships in general, this book is fantastic for monogamous couples as well!

Now I’d like to say that at no point in this essay will I try to assert as some may that polyamory is “more natural” or “inherently better” than monogamy or something like that. I will also not suggest that everyone should be polyamorous or that polyamory is perfect or has never failed. This is because polyamory is like any other human relationship (and perhaps more complicated in some aspects as one might imagine!) and it is prone to failure just like monogamy is. I want as many people as possible to understand now if they do not agree with anything I’ve said thus far to at least keep in mind that most polyamory tending people would allow you to continue your own monogamous relations regardless of whether you like their lifestyle. That’s something important to keep in mind.

Now the question is: Would you do the same for those who want to be polyamrous?

Notes:
[1] Emma Goldman’s “Marriage and Love” can be found here:
http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/goldman/aando/marriageandlove.html
[2] For general information on this phenomenon I recommend the Wikipedia page on homosexuality in Ancient Greece:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_ancient_Greece
[3] This article can be found here:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/07/28/only-you-and-you-and-you.html
[4] Ibid
[5] You can find the book at a pretty great price on Amazon.

What is left-libertarianism?

Bringing the personal back to the political as I think we should be we look at a fringe group within an already existing fringe group. I talk of course of the red spades and black hearts, of the left-libertarians. Now perhaps you don’t want to hear more terms, more definitions, more schisms, more literature, more libertarian nonsense, more defending of the rich; more beating on the poor or something else entirely. But I assure you that left-libertarianism not only has a great tradition but the real tradition that libertarians have been missing ever since Ayn Rand, Mises and company started trying to bring capitalism back into style. There’s certainly a confusion of terms in the world and in the libertarian movement this is no different. Definitions of “capitalism” and “socialism”, “left” and “right”, “state” and “government”, etc. etc. have raged for quite a long time with factions breaking off with their own definitions, terms, usages, historical figures and so forth and then forming their own small groups. But this one group I want to discuss has in my opinion managed to do this and actually build on this perhaps viable tradition in history that so many libertarians have forgotten.

So why left? What purpose does including the “left” in libertarian have for us? After all, as some like Walter Block or more recently Anthony Gregory has stated in “Why the Left Fears Libertarianism”, we are neither on the left or the right! But I fear that both Block and Gregory miss the point of these labels sometimes and so do other liberarians. The labels, like all labels, are not meant to be precise. Words have never been an exact science…well except maybe for that sentence. But nonetheless it seems foolhardy for us as libertarians to just reject not only the current political spectrum but then claim we are neither left nor right but somehow above the whole ordeal. This strikes me poorly for a few reasons. Not only does it scream of intellectual elitism as if we’re somehow better than the other people who call themselves on the left or right but it makes marketing and having alliances with others a little bit harder. Not only this but historically the political spectrum did at one time actually reflect where libertarians would be on the spectrum and it seems silly to me to not bring this up if not just as a legitimate fact of history.

Back during the times of the French Assembly people who sat on the right favored monopolies, a big government, a traditional lifestyle perhaps and many more restrictions on individual liberty. The people further to the left however (people like Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Fredrick Bastiat) were in favor of more libertarian property, gradually less and less government in people’s lives, they were against the monarchies, aristocracies and the land holding class that had gotten it through conquest. The people on the left were called “liberals” and rightly so! They wanted to liberate the people and had a set of beliefs and ideas of how to do so; they were the revolutionaries of their time. They did not buy the wars or the bureaucracy and they had a much wider range of concerns than just private property violations and aggression against the lower ruled class, though this of course was a concern.
And so the libertarian rightly understood was the first liberal, the first leftist if you will.

There’s an excellent article on Mises.org called ”The First Leftist” that talks about this same thing and I recommend it for more info on this particular subject. In this article Dean Russell discusses how the first leftist could be compared to the ones on the right which is another passage I think is worth quoting at length for showing how the differences were between the right and left at the time more clearly.

“[The leftists] … wanted wages, prices, and profits to be determined by competition in a free market, and not by government decree. They were pledged to free their economy from government planning, and to remove the government-guaranteed special privileges of guilds, unions, and associations whose members were banded together to use the law to set the price of their labor or capital or product above what it would be in a free market.[6]

While the right,

“…stood for a highly centralized national government, special laws and privileges for unions and various other groups and classes, government economic monopolies in various necessities of life, and a continuation of government controls over prices, production, and distribution.”[7]

The leftist was therefore not the social democrat, not the Trotskyite, the Stalinist, the Marxist. In fact these are all authoritarians in leftists clothing! In point of fact these sorts of leftists do not support any sort of revolution or support of individual liberties like the people in the French Assembly, people like Bastiat and Proudhon did. If one were to read this article they would notice that there is unfortunately a good deal of a worship of the Founding fathers and government in some sort of oxy-moronic “limited” form. It is certainly not within the scope of this essay to debate such a thing but I bring it up only to say that this part of it is not important. What is important is that the first leftists can be more rightly seen as libertarians and not the authoritarians many libertarians see the current left as. It is in this tradition and then radicalizing it to the form of anarchism that the left-libertarian takes some of their tradition from.
But some people say that this archaic history lessons has nothing to offer modern libertarians. Well surely if you want to discard with the entire current political spectrum you should consult history to see if it was ever on your side should you not? Is it not helpful to be historically accurate? Even if this fact is abstract and seldom known right now does that make it any less right? Does that make it any less usable? I do not think that it’s the case that we cannot use history just because some of it may go unnoticed in the telling of tyrants.

So this is why we use “left”, it is to be historically accurate with the tradition of what being a leftist really meant: supporting individual liberties against oppression in multiple different ways, especially against government oppression but not only that. For instance a left-libertarian may take the tradition of things like feminism, anti-racism and other possible cultural equalizers in order to have a much more balanced society. They may argue that while abolishing the government is important it doesn’t make sense to just stop there. It may be further argued there are many other types of oppression out there that need to be dealt with even once government is gone. In this way left-libertarians are inherently thick or, in other words that they have other concerns besides just the typical concerns for private property and the non-aggression principle, etc.

Another writing I recommend on this subject is Professor Gary Chartier’s “The Left in Left Libertarianism” which gives a whole host of reasons why the libertarian calls themselves left-libertarians. For instance Gary writes,

“An authentically leftist position, I suggest, is marked by opposition to subordination, exclusion, and deprivation.” [8]

He then describes each of these things:

“One person, A, is subordinate to another, B, when B has significant, persistent power over A. The power involved may be physical, but it may also be economic, psychic, social, or cultural. The important thing is that B determines, to some meaningful degree, what A does. A is significantly un-free in relation to B, either because B can impose on A some cost that A is unwilling to bear or because A genuinely (but mistakenly) believes that B is entitled to determine the character of A’s conduct.”

“Some person, A, is excluded from a group when it is made clear that she does not belong to the group, that she is entitled neither to the material incidents of membership nor to the recognition as a fellow member (and respect) associated with belonging.” (Gary notes that some relationships are necessary exclusionist such as monogamous relationships, intimate friendships, etc. but the position of the leftist is not to reduce the ones that happen naturally but only artificially and arbitrarily)

“Some person A experiences deprivation if she lacks the resources needed for (i) physical survival and health; (ii) clothing and shelter; and (iii) material circumstances that qualify as minimally dignified in accordance with the norms prevailing in her commnity.”[9]

Again, I cannot honestly say it’s within the scope of this essay to give the reader a complete overhaul of what I speak of here and what Gary is saying as well but I hope it has gotten their attention to have them look for more. I’ve spent much more considerable time on describing and defending polyamory because it is my belief that polyamory is far less understood or at the very least known in the libertarian movement. I think of it that at least left-libertarians are at least vaguely known to many libertarians and that this very brief outlook of what being a left-libertarian will give them less of a reason to discredit the term, the history and the meaning behind it outright. I am certainly willing to elaborate on any points I’ve made on polyamory or left-libertarianism during the questions and answers section of this talk.
Within the scope of “looking for more” I must recommend all-left.net which is the Alliance of the Libertarian Left’s official page and hosts many essays on the subject of left-libertarianism. If you’re not sure what to pick some of my personal favorites from that collection are:

• Libertarian Left: Free-market anti-capitalism, the unknown ideal (for an introduction)
• Libertarianism through Thick and Thin (for an application of additional principles)

I’d also highly recommend Kevin Carson’s Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand for a wonderfully accurate account of the rise of actually existing capitalism and many left-libertarian opinions I believe are also in there.
So with the two terms defined and some misconceptions and clarifications out of the way it is now time to see how they interact with each other.

Notes:
[7] This article can be found at:
http://mises.org/daily/3425
[8] This blog post can be found at:
http://liberalaw.blogspot.com/2008/12/left-in-left-libertarian.html
[9] Ibid
[10]

How do Polyamory and Left-Libertarianism Interact?

Now is the time to ask the questions I asked at the beginning of this essay, how do things interact? Why should they interact at all? Is it useful to combine concepts? For one thing, things naturally interact with each other in this world whether we like it or not. Ideas and concepts are always inexorably tied to other ones whether we recognize it or not at first. And so clearly if it can happen naturally it may also happen artificially. For instance if we can instill some outside meaning into the relationship we are trying to establish. This is not to say that doing so will make it false. Just like adding other concerns to libertarianism such as cultural concerns does not mean libertarianism becomes “fake” or something. It just means that it is a supplement with other theories on how to best get a more individually free society. Likewise, here left-libertarianism and polyamory supplement each other as social ideas of how people do and should act.

But is combining concepts useful? I feel this is a heavily contextual question. One that cannot be answered universally but only answered within the confines of the concepts and ideas being discussed. Within the context here I feel that it’s useful to relate ideas of love to left-libertarianism to show that libertarianism is not shy to say what personal relationships ought to look more like in a free society. That’s not to say that force should be used to ensure that things go like this exactly or that everyone should be acting the same way. It’s useful here because polyamory is an idea and a practice to have people create a better life for themselves and it is largely done without the state getting involved and is usually largely done in spite of it. In fact, the poly community would most likely be an excellent cultural and social alternative to reach out to as libertarians. Again, marketing has its place as long as it reflects a genuine interest in other people and their own concerns and is not just a matter of proselytizing other people for the movement you love so much. So yes, I feel as if these two concepts are not only individually useful but together could be even more beneficial for both movements.

Why should they interact though? Why should an idea like polyamory go along with the many ideas of left-libertarianism? For one, I think the idea of sexual liberation and freedom is something that libertarians have forgotten. A dull, sexually repressed culture is not a healthy culture and one that may be prone to become heavily distorted if it was not distorted to begin with. And this is due to the imbalance of feelings in our bodies that naturally occur from repressing who we really are. If we cannot express ourselves freely so long as it harms no one else, what sort of freedom do we have? This extends to sex too. If we cannot be ourselves sexually then who can we be? What will society make us? Are we just creating ourselves and our own meaning through the distorted lens that society has wrought due to perverse incentives from higher up? All of these questions I think are important ones and ones I do not feel like the libertarian movement ever tries to address this in any substantial fashion.

Back in the 60s and 70s the sexual liberation movement was in swing, the second wave of feminism was reaching America, the anti-war, counter-culture and the anti-state movement was trying to find its place. All of these things had to (at some point or another) look for alternatives outside the state or do things in spite of the state or when they did something with the state it was often times with gritted teeth. These people, these movements, the individuals in here may have many different concepts of freedom and liberty but I believe that many of them were on the right train of thought.

All of these correct strands of thought, the idea that war is bad, that the culture was wrong, that the state was a mistake of some sort, that being sexually free was important in several ways. All of these things resonate with each other and I believe supplement one another in many great ways! The problem with most libertarians is that they do not see that this is the case, they’d instead like to worry about the state advocating for same sex marriage (let the oppressive institution of marriage reign equally dammit!) or seeing gays serve in the military so the state organization that goes to other countries and kills other people for usually no good reason can be more inclusive!

The point is that in tying up polyamory and left-libertarianism is the hope is to bring back some traditions libertarians have seemingly long forgot that exist in both left-libertarianism and polyamory and bring to the forefront of their mind the radical notion that the state is not the only problem in the world.

Towards a More Loving World

How can this be done? What could exactly be compatible between these two ideas? For one, the consensual part of these relations is key and so is the open honesty, tolerance of others, acceptance of different people and lifestyles and of course the love. The love is the most important point I think so I do want to stress it quite a bit. That, not only are you loving but you love freely. If you think you cannot love freely, that men with guns will come to your house to take you and your lover away or your customer or client then how free are you? Likewise, if you live in a society in which people discriminate against you for trying to express your sexual preferences insofar as they do not violate moral laws how free are you? Will you feel chained to other people’s preferences and your own body? This is not healthy for a relationship to the world and often this is what the polyamorous person feels, what the sex worker feels, what the prostitute feels, we need to show solidarity to these people. These people not only have difficult enough lives in their own right even without the state but the culture demonizes them, calls them trash, some say they’re all sex slaves (they’re not), and others say they’re sinners. How can we love in such a society? How can we dream of a better world without liberation? How can we love?

We cannot love, that is one thing the state won’t let us do that we need so badly to overcome it. We cannot love, the state’s taken away the dearest thing on this goddamned planet and if that doesn’t make you angry, if that doesn’t make you an anarchist, if that doesn’t make you want to support not only things like polyamory at least in the passive accepting stance, then what will it take?

Will it take a bigger police state for you to realize we are not free? That love is ordained by God and politicians and not the individual’s choices? That the Church decides what is best for your body or else men with pens and big pieces of official paper backed by men with guns decide what’s best for you?

The practices of both the state and religion currently restrict the human spirit and the capacity of love and these are heinous things that the libertarian should look to overcome at as many points as they can. I am not for any sort of abolishment of religion, I, in fact, thinks religion can be a love filled relationship so long as it keeps to itself to the point of not forcing itself on the other as well as other variables. Still, I think it’s another mistake of modern day libertarians to sometimes not demonize modern hugely bureaucratic and hierarchical relations that claim there is someone higher than all of them and they always shall be under. They shall only rise if they give themselves up to this “higher being” and submit their will and mind. Something seems wrong about a society or culture that would fully embrace something like this.

But to get off of this tangent I say we break free of these chains and that this is where left-libertarianism comes from and comes into play with polyamory. The left-libertarian cry is what the person tying to celebrate their sexual lives are seeking and what polyamory is is what the left-libertarian may want to look into if they want to discover other options. We must deempathize the political methods as a mostly failed method and replace them with direct action, education, agorism and building this new more loving society within the shell of this old and unfortunately very loveless society.

Will that most likely lead to polyamory? I don’t know. I’d like to think that if more people actually knew the options, that the playing field was more equal on both sides that people would at least try it or show more affection to their partners. People would not be called “her boyfriend” or “my girlfriend” or treated like property; they’d be best seen as equals in a mutually loving relationship.

From what comes out of all of this I know not but what I do know is that it’ll be beautiful and it’ll be love and liberation like nothing before.

Blog Roll Call for the week of 9/12/11

ALL-oNE’s Offical Blog

Even though it’s just me posting this stuff I figure it’s worth re-posting here as well

Check out the latest update with ALL-oNE!

Anarchoblogs

Typically I don’t do short blog posts that just have a quote or something but I’ll make an exception for this post by Phil Dickens quoting someone who talks about marriage in much the same way I do. I encourage you to read the whole post.

Charles Davis is constantly impressing me with his blogs and his latest on the false choice between a mandate or no mandate is no exception.

An excerpt:

“In other words, Americans are spending ten times as much as they need to for medicine because of government-enforced monopolies. And the same rent-seeking costs are included in the price of medical devices and other life-saving equipment, helping explain why someone would need insurance in the first place. Baker also notes that the costs of visiting a doctor are inflated, not just by licensing, but by restrictions on foreign doctors coming into the U.S. – restrictions that were sought by doctors’ groups to, of course, increase the cost of visiting doctors. Medical costs are as a consequence driven up for citizens at the same time profits skyrocket for corporations, creating a situation where many people can’t afford to benefit from the Greatest Health Care System in the World.”

Another particularly good one,

“Not only is the mandate not the best option, even within the confines of acceptable Beltway discourse, it only adds yet another coercive element to U.S. society that directly benefits private corporations, a practice I think we ought to be minimizing, not increasing. It also burdens every not-a-coma-victim with costs that may not make sense for them, or even for most people who are, again, not coma victims; in many cases, the money spent on insurance might be better spent on healthier food, education or whatever the hell a member of a free society chooses. The mandate also prevents the rise of alternatives to corporate-provided health care; under Obama’s health care reform, you literally have no choice but to go the corporate health care route, further cementing the employer-coverage link – good luck quitting your dead-end job if you want to ever get a check-up again – while securing the insurance industry a legally mandated customer base.”

Speaking of Charles Davis impressing, check this out.

A few passages I particularly liked,

“With little apparent help from the government outside of the original land reform, which ultimately only removed the threat of state violence should local farmers reclaim that which was rightfully theirs, the Finca Magdalena coop has managed to raise the standard of living of not just the families who run it, but the surrounding community. Their livelihood, as far as I can tell, isn’t dependent on the benevolence of politicians or capitalists. While the country is nominally socialist, there are next to no signs of government involvement on the island to begin with; on the south side where the coop is located, there’s not even much in the way of infrastructure.

The life is a simple life – and a largely self-sufficient one. There aren’t any flat-screen TVs. There’s no Internet, outside of a few cafés. And there’s not much if anything to do once the sun goes down. But people seem happy. And why not? They live on some of the most fertile land in Central America on an island made up of two beautiful volcanoes. If you want some food, you grow it or catch it from the lake. If you’re bored you play baseball or go swimming. You watch a sunset. Who the hell needs HBO?”

Maybe the anti-capitalist version of John Taylor Gatto is being explained here. Nonetheless it’s pretty spot on.

Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Matt Zwolinsky talks about the possibility of a libertarian theory on social justice which I think is worth checking out.

“To summarize, for the distribution of holdings to be unjust it would have to be the result either of (a) the unjust distribution of a central distributor, or (b) the unjust actions of dispersed individuals. (a) won’t work because the central distributor doesn’t exist, and (b) won’t work because the ordinary actions of individuals that generate the overall distribution of holdings are obviously not unjust.1 Hence the distribution of holdings cannot possibly be unjust.

There is, nevertheless, a flaw in the argument. That flaw appears in the first premise of the second argument. Yes, the distribution of holdings in a free society is determined partly by the countless ordinary decisions of innumerable individuals. But it is also a product of the social and legal rules that govern and structure those decisions: rules that determine the contours of property rights and contracts, that determine whether there will be a social safety net and what form it will take, that determine the extent, limit, and uses of taxation, and so on. These rules might be just or they might be unjust. If they are unjust, we could (as Judith Shklar pointed out) intervene to change them, even if we did not deliberately create them.”

Lastly (but not least…ly?) Roderick Long has some great points about libertarian rhetoric.

Discourses on Liberty

Kyle Trowbridge has a great tribute to the now late Carl Oglesby.

Special announcements/links

Mr. Stolarov has made his response and I intend to give a response to it sometime in the upcoming week. If not tomorrow then most likely Thursday.

Also my Agora I/O talk Facebook event can be found here.

The last piece of info is that #occupywallstret is going on right now and I wish those people well insofar as their struggles, goals etc. further my own of liberation from oppression.

Final thoughts

I may inch off away from blogging very slowly in the coming months. As it is I’m going to be focusing more on reading when I can instead of debating so much (yeah…as if that’ll happen) and I think I want to focus on one essay or two in particular which is the use of more concretely identifying left-libertarianism and then my own ideology. Look for these two essays to be published on this blog since it’s my own.

Expect (at bare minimum) to usually have at least one post on this blog a week and one video on my Youtube channel a week as well.

That’s all for now! I’m moving out of Grafton NH to Nashua NH in the beginning of November so changes will certainly be happening in the coming months just so you’re all aware. Hope everyone has a pleasant rest of their weekend. 🙂

Gonzo Times Article for 9/15/11

The original article is here

Comparisons and Introductions

Agorism vs. Dual Power

In many ways the ideas of dual power are like the ideas behind agorism. It’s about building alternative structures to the current one to promote more autonomy within society against unjust authority. However similar these two things may be however it is my belief that they certainly have their differences in what they do and do not emphasize. Otherwise I’d think I’d be hearing a lot more right-wing libertarians and so on start talking about dual power instead of talking about agorism without really knowing what it means. A lot of the time the an-caps like to put agorism into practice but only to make a profit. It’s not about building a new society within the shell of the old (and if it is it’s never made clear that this is the ultimate intention) it’s just about making money for a product their selling without getting government (too) involved. Now I do think this is an admirable goal and agorism is certainly a good way of going about it but to focus on the idea of making profit and not pay tribute to the larger great idea of just building new social structures because the current ones are failing seems to me to be missing the point of a lot of Konkin’s ideas.

Instead I think that’s sort of how dual power comes into play, specifically for the more left-leaning libertarians or anarchists (though left-libertarians in general I think can still do and practice agorism). Because dual power isn’t as focused on profit or the “market place of ideas” and other terms such as those it has time to stretch its ideological legs out and see what it can accomplish more in different ways. Another one of the things that seems to be pointing to differences in dual power and agorism is that dual power (and the people who seem to advocate it) seek a much broader change than just the people advocating counter-economics. And while counter-economics are good in changing the economic structures and that’s definitely important, again it seems short sighted to only focus on the economics section when there are other power structures out there that reinforce oppression. That’s not to say that agorism fails as a philosophy or a strategy but only that it should be complimented by these ideas (which is why it’s left-libertarian to begin with in my view, because to some degree or another it accepts such a notion of thickness). And so even though agorism has some things going for them and so does dual power I think it’s safe to say that both have their place in the anarchists repertoire if they so choose to have both. Is only one necessary? Perhaps. But it depends on what your main focuses are.

As LaughingMan0X stated in his video on dual power:

“Any serious anarchist with an intent to alter society for the better seeks radical change in: social attitudes, economic and political arrangements, interpersonal relations and the like. We seek a new social paradigm to alter society and the individuals in it to reflect the values and reality of: voluntarism, free association, mutual aid, cooperation, workers self-management and the freedom to do what one wants with the fruits of his labor. So it is cultural change we desire. And from this change a radical shift in the way society is organized.”

So in some ways agorism focuses more on an economic change with counter-economics though interpersonal relations, political and cultural ones can definitely be also changed I’m unsure of how much of deliberateness goes into such an effort if it happens. Again, this seems to me where dual power can come in to the picture. It can add to those extra sections agorists might not have time to get into or may not want to stress. As an anarchist without adjectives I think there’s room for both tactics within the anarchist philosophy. Neither one is necessarily always going to be better and both seem to have their own unique and individual appeal. But enough differentiating let’s try to better individualize this strategy of dual power and see what we can find.

Introducing Dual Power

For introducing dual power I could not only rely on LaughingMan’s video that I’ve linked above (which I of course recommend as a great short but well thought out introduction) or I could rely on this introduction to dual power. I think that a combination of using both links will best serve our interest in discovering what dual power is and further along in the post what it can do for us as anarchists.

So what does LaughingMan say?

He says that to answer the question of how such radical cultural change will occur we must understand dual power. Dual power he says is,

“…the carefully calculated and purposeful creation of a new set of institutions in the old society one seeks to change. These institutions are designed for changing the old society. Crafted to erode their power structure by superimposing the new power structure. Dual power seeks to compete with and overtake the preexisting state. It challenges the mono-centric power system of the state by creating an economic, political and cultural power structure of its own. Thus creating a dual power system in a formerly mono-centric power system.”

He says a bit more after that about what sorts of new power structures these would be but I think this will suffice for now. Later on in the post I will get more into these new power structures. But really what’s going on here if I can explain this quote a bit more briefly is this: the old power structure in whatever forms it takes is seen as inadequate for meeting your needs so you erect new ones. These new ones act as an alternative social arrangement that you hope will win out. Basically it’s a battle of ideas and not necessarily one of violence. Which for me makes perfect sense because as I’ve said quite a few times already the real enemies are not the people in the government, et. al. but the ideas they represent. I think it’s telling that even the anarchist Alexander Berkman who I mentioned in the last article changed his mind from his previously pro-violence stance in his 1929 book, “ABC of Anarchism”:

“It is very necessary that you get this straight. Most people have very confused notions about revolution. To them it means just fighting, smashing things, destroying. It is the same as if rolling up your sleeves for work should be considered as the work itself that you have to do. The fighting part of revolution is merely the rolling up of your sleeves. The real, actual task is ahead.

What is that task?

“The destruction of the existing conditions,” you reply.

True. But conditions are not destroyed by breaking and smashing things. You can’t destroy wage slavery by wrecking the machinery in mills and factories, can you? You won’t destroy government by setting fire to the White House.

To think of revolution in terms of violence and destruction is to misinterpret and falsify the whole idea of it. In practical application such a conception is bound to lead to disastrous results.

When a great thinker, like the famous Anarchist Bakunin, speaks of revolution as destruction, he has in mind the ideas of authority and obedience which are to be destroyed. It is for this reason that he said that destruction means construction, for to destroy a false belief is indeed most constructive work.”

(Chapter 9. Preparation, thanks to Scott Forster for bringing that to my attention.)

So I think that my case for being against and working against ideas as a result has quite a bit to do with the strategy of dual power. But how does the article, “An Introduction to Dual Power Strategy” (which is also linked under the “introduction to dual power” section) describe it?

To start, in this article the author Brian Dominick has a bit more of a developed sort of dual power with specific institutions in mind. This article is also probably a fairly more substantial read than LaughingMan’s was. And so while LaughingMan gave us the nutshell Dominick appears to want to give us a big slice of the nut itself if not more…bad metaphor?….I’ll move on then. Anyways, my point is that he comes at this from different angles and perspectives, his definition of dual power goes likes this though,

“The great task of grassroots dual power is to seek out and create social spaces and fill them with liberatory institutions and relationships. Where there is room for us to act for ourselves, we form institutions conducive not only to catalyzing revolution, but also to the present conditions of a fulfilling life, including economic and political self-management to the greatest degree achievable. We seek not to seize power, but to seize opportunity vis a vis the exercise of our power.”

Both of these approaches to defining dual power describe them as strategies which first and foremost promote the autonomy of the person trying it as well as whoever they can influence. However Dominick for himself personally has something more specific in mind than LaughingMan does in his video:

“Here the status quo consists of a market capitalist economy, an authoritarian republic, patriarchy, adultarchy, judeo-christian eurocentricity, white supremacy, etc. These are the ideologies and institutions which make up the oppressive system according to which our society operates. By necessity, then, our oppositional dual power, our alternative infrastructure, must be based on decentralized socialist economics, a participatory democratic polity, feminist and youthist kinship, and a secular yet spiritual, intercommunal culture.”

I don’t think within the context of this post it’s good for me to spend considerable time dedicating to whether I think he’s right or wrong here. Instead, I’d just like to point out that him saying this only reveals that different anarchists will enact the dual power strategy in many different ways. These different ways will often express how one individual who adheres to the anarchist philosophy feels about the current relations in society. Some may focus more on patriarchy than racism or others may focus on economic disparities in wealth that they see as artificially created and so on. There’s no reason to also not try to focus on multiple issues equally if you can do that as well. So versatility not only comes with direct action but also with the strategy of dual power.

So with all of that I think dual power has been defined enough. But there’s another sort of way of expressing similar ideas and it’s called counter-power.

Introducing Counter-Power

The idea of counter-power is not one that’s too widely discussed to my knowledge so I don’t have much to say except quote Darian Worden’s article “Build Counter-Power, Create an Authority Vacuum”,

“The very concept of having no rulers often encounters fears of a power vacuum — an unsustainable, dangerous situation that can only end in the re-establishment of rulers. But the rejection of authority does not mean that power is up for grabs — it means that power is widely distributed, making it harder for tyrants to usurp.

The practice of anarchism fills society with empowered individuals, diffusing power throughout society so that no authority can take it over. Interactions of free individuals — the everyday pursuit of needs and desires combined with the recognition that mutual respect for freedom is the best way to realize needs and desires — build counter-power. Organizations of social cooperation established for the mutual benefit of participants, not for the power of some at the expense of others, help keep power dispersed in a fashion that safeguards individual liberty. Institutions of authority can be subverted or seized for the purpose of dispersing power.”

Is this dual power by just by another name? In some ways it seems to be the case. Building counter-power or the relatons that Worden talks about in his article seem pretty much spot on to the ideas of dual power. I think it’s worth mentioning though that Worden’s ideas of how counter-power relations would exist as opposed to the largely artificial ones that exist today is excellent. I think that this general overview of what they would look like as opposed to Dominick’s more personal and specific view (though I’m sure some share his vision or something close to it no doubt) is a lot more likely to be supported by anarchists.

David S. D’Amato adds to this conversation in his article, “Counter-Power and the Arab Spring”,

“Martin Buber’s thesis, that “[p]ower abdicates only under the stress of counter-power,” is central to the questions raised by the Arab Spring. There can be no doubt now that counter-power has the ability to supplant despots and transform governments, but it need not stop there.

As Buber also observed, Marx and Engels were right that, assuming the state actually represented the whole of society, it would be rendered superfluous and therefore unnecessary; their mistake, however, was to maintain the necessity of a total state helmed by the working class itself — to maintain that such a state was even possible, let alone a necessary step toward a stateless society.

Rather than seeking to capture the machinery of the state from the hands of the elite few for the productive majority in society, market anarchists argue that we should begin to make it obsolete right now. Our means of accomplishing that end need not and should not incorporate violence, instead peacefully protesting and competing with the state.”

Counter-power therefore can certainly take from even recent history to see why it works in certain ways and it certainly is not a reformist or a violent way either necessarily. This holds true as well for dual power. It seems to me that the difference between dual and counter power is that dual power may be acting along side the old society to some degree and competing but counter power is directly working against the current system instead of focusing more on the relationship between the two. However I may be incorrect here and there may be nothing really of substantial difference between the two. As far as I can see the difference between these to (if there are any) are certainly not being expressed. Nevertheless I do think it’s important to empathize that even if counter-power is more or less the same thing as dual power that it’s just as legitimate either way.

Finally I want to quote Worden one last time from his article “Putting the Nation Before the Human”, where he again outlines counter-power in brief:

“The state primarily serves people with political power and those who can deliver more — like prison industry lobbyists, for example. Those without political power can develop counter-power by creating networks of informed individuals that make it easier to live apart from, and eventually in opposition to, state power.

If these networks seek to neutralize all impositions of authority of one person over another — to disperse political power — then they are working toward anarchism. Anarchy empowers peaceable individuals. Incentives toward actual crimes would be reduced by a dynamic economy and social norms that discourage coercion, while victimization could be reduced by systems that don’t instead focus on victimless activity.”

Again, it seems to be very centered on dispersing power as equally as possible among people. Making sure that these counter-power organizations are mutually beneficial and certainly working towards anarchist ends. On that note however we will return to the idea of counter-power later on. I now want to continue with a brief discussion of the history of dual power.

A Brief History of Dual Power

First it should be pointed out what the Wikipedia article points out (and I don’t want to hear anything about how I’m citing them a lot because they’re about as reliable as the Britannica apparently) that Vladimir Lenin first explained. I think this is also probably why many an-caps and other right-libertarians aren’t talking about this as much. I don’t exactly seeing them reading State and Revolution and then going deeper than that to see what else they can find. So I think this also explains the more libertarian-socialist arena that you usually see dual power being discussed in. In this case however it was a government vs. government dual power situation and not acting within the anarchist context. The article reads,

‘”The Dual Power,” (dvoevlastie) which described a situation in the wake of the February Revolution in which two powers, the workers councils (or Soviets, particularly the Petrograd Soviet) and the official state apparatus of the Provisional Government coexisted with each other and competed for legitimacy. Lenin argued that this essentially unstable situation constituted a unique opportunity for the Soviets to seize power by smashing the Provisional Government and establishing themselves as the basis of a new form of state power.”

So the root of dual power (that is competing social systems) has just been adopted by anarchists in a non-state context. Really it makes sense to me because if you can do one alternative social arrangement competing with another but with the same root…what does it matter? It has the same root problems for the anarchist either way so it doesn’t make much of a difference. One might be more preferable than another but either way this strategy seems like a good idea within an anarchist context and it’s not hard to see why with how it’s been used in history.

The article smartly in my opinion notes that,

“Dual power is a strategy, rather than an ideology, and it could plausibly be used to advance a variety of forms of social change. However, the advantages of the strategy make it most compatible with perspectives that emphasize the exercise of power at the community level, that seek to make the revolutionary movement accountable to the people, that see the capability to revision and transform society as common rather than rare, and that seek decentralized forms of power. Call this version of the strategy grassroots dual power, the bottom-up transformation and replacement of the mechanisms of society.”

This is what Dominick was talking about in his article earlier. A much more grassroots, pro-democratic movement that is trying to benefit the community the most. This seems to be compatible for not only the historical emphasis that probably occurred for state-communists (at least in rhetoric) but also how it’s grown in the social-anarchist circles since then. To quote Dominick at length and his explanations of what dual power mean to him and how he sees it manifest is especially relevant to how dual power has historically grown as an idea within anarchists:

“This essay is about basic democracy. I am not introducing a radical new ideology, I am talking about building a social framework, or infrastructure, which is responsive to the actual will of the people.

What I am proposing is a system whereby decisions of social policy and economic relations are made by those affected by them: citizens and workers.

Such is the essence of grassroots dual power. It is foremost a revolutionary strategy, the procedure by which we can sustain radical social change during and after insurrectionary upheavals — even to manage those upheavals; but dual power is also a situation we create for ourselves as communities. Whether the insurrection happens in the next decade or takes 3 more generations to occur, we can create revolutionary circumstances now, and we can exercise power to the greatest possible extent.

Thus, grassroots dual power is a situation wherein a self-defined community has created for itself a political/economic system which is an operating alternative to the dominant state/capitalist establishment. The dual power consists of alternative institutions which provide for the needs of the community, both material and social, including food, clothing, housing, health care, communication, energy, transportation, educational opportunities and political organization. The dual power is necessarily autonomous from, and competitive with, the dominant system, seeking to encroach upon the latter’s domain, and, eventually, to replace it.”

Here Dominick gives a pretty in depth look at how he sees democracy and other things that would presumably require communities and collectives of people to function within a dual power strategy. But again the point of quoting Dominick isn’t whether I agree with him or not (though for what it’s worth I do like quite a bit of what he is saying either way) but to show how the development of the idea of dual power has come about historically. Clearly people like Dominick may have a different idea of it than LaughingMan did in his brief video and it’s definitely more specific than Worden or D’Amato’s case for counter-power. This isn’t to say that this is a good thing or a bad thing but just something to keep in mind when talking about dual power strategy in general.

Historically it’s not only developed in certain ways but manifested in a few as well. Again, citing the Wikipedia page where the Zapatista movement in Mexico is briefly discussed,

“This local democracy has been extended by the creation of autonomous local governments, systems of alternative institutions that effectively replace local structures of power. On February 3, 1994, Manuel Camacho Solís, the conciliator between the government and the Zapatistas, announced the creation of two free zones in which the International Red Cross would operate and the militaries would not, unwittingly providing the Zapatista communities with a bit of national territory. On December 19, 1995, the EZLN broke the Mexican Federal Army’s encirclement and carried out the political and military seizure of dozens of towns, demonstrating that its influence went far beyond the small existing conflict zone. In this expanded area, Zapatista communities formed 38 autonomous municipalities covering more than a third of the state of Chiapas.”

And of course this is just one example and one sort of use of dual power. Certainly the Zapitistas are not necessarily the most peaceful bunch (to say the least) but this is one historical manifestation of the idea of dual power and we can now see how it’s played out and continues to play out. Looking at things like this helps us better determine what we should do when we’re using the strategy of dual power and what not to do. Some may decide that what the Zapatistas did was not right for them and others might, I think this again just proves the versatility and flexibility of dual power in action.

So now that the history has been briefly laid out how do we build on these ideas?

Dual/Counter Power and The Struggle

Building Dual Power

So sure you’ve got all this info…what’cha gonna do with it though? I suppose the only thing to do now is to build upwards and try to put it into practice. To that end I quote from an article titled, “Where they Retreat We Must Advance: Building Dual Power” by Wesley Morgan and I just want to make it clear that I love that title and think it’s pretty awesome…but besides that since I shall only quote this article once I want to do it at length and try to drive home some of the main arguments it has:

“It is not sufficient to create a negative contradiction within society, that is, to create a revolutionary rupture through organized opposition. This is necessary, but not sufficient. It is necessary to move from an insurrectionary strategy, focused on the creation of a negative contradiction (against all forms of social domination), to a revolutionary strategy, the creation of a positive contradiction.

It is difficult to understate the revolutionary effect of organizing to create, and support, self-managed community services. There are even examples of this in North America— the Black Panther Party, at their strongest, ran over 60 social programs, such as schools, meal programs, and shoe programs. While the Black Panthers fell victim to their marginalization in ghetto communities, police repression, and internal power struggles that were partially related to the effects of the FBI’s counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO), this model of community organization is one that still holds a great deal of potential.

By advancing where the state has retreated, by beginning to create a community-based, self-managed, anti-State public sector, anarchists can begin to generate a broad-based movement that has the organizational capacity to create a fully self-managed society.

This is the general strategy, to attempt to create dual power in the public sector, to build autonomous, community-based, self-managed social infrastructure—schools, clinics, mutual aid organizations, perhaps hospitals one day—to help a create a revolutionary process of organizing without hierarchy or domination. Where the state has retreated, we must advance, and begin organizing to fill the gap in a liberatory manner, to build the revolutionary capacity and potential for an end to all forms of domination and hierarchy.”

Now that first one cannot be emphasized enough for me personally. The idea that anarchism wants to destroy and not create anything in its place is one of the central theme anarchists have to deal with it. In the first article of Worden’s I cited, “Build Counter-Power, Create an Authority Vacuum” he had to deal with this exact issue. Likewise for the Berkman quote and the article I just quoted from as well and as well as many anarchists in general. We all have to deal with the perception that anarchists don’t want to do much but destroy most of the current ways people go about their lives and then not replace it with anything. This is where the ideas of counter and dual power explicitly challenge such a notion. Because it is inherent in the theory itself that this cannot be the case. But if it’s not the case, if the organizations like the Black Panther Party have done it, the Zapatistas have done it and so on, what main institutions should be found in a dual power strategy? I again return to LaughingMan’s video on dual power and quote him at length multiple times:

“In dual power there are two kinds of institutions and they each have a set of institutional roles designed for creating a new society. The first kind of institution is an alternative institution. Alternative institutions seek to break the monopoly of the old mono-centric system by giving the general public choice in the kinds of institutions they participate in. These institutions are typically a radically new revision of a kind of institutions that make economic, cultural and political life possible. We can understand what these kinds of proto-institutions are by understanding what state institutions or statist institutions they would seek to offer an alternative to and or replace.

A few examples? State police could be replaced with a community defensive network. State central banks could be replaced with mutualist banking. State subsidized super-stores like Wal-Mart could be replaced with anarchist grocery story co-ops. … In this way the alternative institutions that are part of a dual power strategy form a kind of dialectical relation with the status quo. Their role is one of negation and synthesis. They seek to void the old institutions by out-competing them. Offering the public a more preferable and pragmatic means to achieve their own self-interest.”

LaughingMan goes on to describe how this is and why but I won’t quote him anymore than this because I think the reader has gotten the idea. And if you haven’t you can always watch the video itself. Still, there is one more institution that remains to be talked about. LaughingMan again on counter-institutions,

“Counter-institutions are institutions that are designed to protect alternative institutions from the status quo while simultaneously promoting their growth. The purpose of counter-institutions is to grant alternative institutions functional space to carry out their day to day business operations without being subject to the coercion of the state or the lies of its propaganda machine. The real world instantiation of counter-institutions may take the form of people’s law collectives i.e. groups of lawyers who support the anarchist movement and seek to protect them from state intervention. Political protest, civil disobedience, leafleting or distribution of anarchist literature or, in a possible circumstance, armed resistance to state violence and direct appropriation of illegitimate state institutions.”

And finally the relation between the two:

“It should be noted that there is no strict dichotomy between the alternative institutions and counter-institutions. These categories are merely useful distinctions not rules of classification. Indeed, many alternative institutions may be able to defend and promote themselves. However, both kinds of institutions work together in order to initiate a social revolution to replace the old authoritarian society with the libertarian one.”

I think LaughingMan really did a wonderful job summing up what the dual power strategy would be made of. Furthermore it’s my belief that any dual power strategy must necessarily have these two components or else it is not dual power at all. If all you’re doing is promoting alternatives but have no way to defend them or actually institute them then it’s not dual power. Furthermore the relation between the old society and the new one is spot on here as well as the relation within the new dual power system itself. I really don’t have much to add to what LaughingMan has said in his video besides that I agree with him. All of these points he makes help us get an idea of how to further build upon things in the spirit of things like the Black Panther Party with their social programs, the IWW with their direct action, the Zapatistas for their ideas on resistance and some may argue the Spanish revolution that the anarchists had as well. And despite the flaws with all of these things (and I’ll definitely admit they exist) the point is that we can learn from them so we don’t have to repeat them and keep building up dual power in an incorrect way.

But through what manner do we exactly build it? I think Dominick has some well thought out ideas on the matter:

“The problem of scale is a simple one, but one without easy solutions: we want to radically reorganize all of society, but in a decentralized manner. This means there can be no central committee on the national or continental or global level which dictates or directs the development of individual communities. The revolution must come about from the bottom up, from the outside in. If there are to be institutions and associations which extend beyond the neighborhood and community, they must be put together after the autonomous units (ie, neighborhoods, municipalities, etc) are defined.

Should we decide to set up an elaborate system of strata (eg, neighborhood, municipality, county, state, region, nation, etc), each unit must come about, from smallest and most intimate, first. And then we can affiliate with other so-developed units to form networks. For example, we organize our neighborhood into a dual power network, and that neighborhood association seeks out nearby neighborhoods and develops another network to form a municipal network, which networks with other local municipalities to form a city or county dual power, and on up the list.”

The key to all of this is of course do it in such a way that doesn’t violate our principles. And not only that but is also pragmatic and can benefit the most people possible. By doing things through bottom up decentralized, voluntary and mutually-beneficial ways we ensure that this can be the case or at the least make it much more likely. Dominick points out that we also need communities to grow alongside each other and this is another important point because if we want the most benefit for the most people possible we don’t want dual power acting in a vacuum. Instead, dual power should be built upon the successes of education and other tactics that show solidarity with a struggling community and the like. We should arouse people’s interest through informing them either through our own actions or through showing them that something is wrong with how they live. And of course we should go much further than the state but starting at one of the most explicit structures of oppression may be a good starting point.

Dominick also suggests as much about not starting from scratch when he says,

“When we talk about forming dual power institutions, we don’t simply mean organizing them from scratch, or radicalizing existing AIs. Especially where economic institutions are concerned, we are talking in many cases about transforming existing firms and entire industries. Labor organizations are good, general examples of XIs. Their job, when they carry it out properly, is to represent labor in opposition to management/ownership. A radical union seeks not only cosmetic and quality-of-life gains for workers, but also more power structurally. As bosses’ control of the workplace decreases, workers’ power increase. And when this can be done structurally, such as through the formation of various kinds of workers’ councils, a radical change has occured. A firm undergoing such structural alteration may be well on its way to becoming a workers’ cooperative, collectively managed and thus eligible for membership in the dual power community.”

Dominick indeed has many things to say about how the community is best organized from a dual power strategy and I feel to quote him any more would start to take a lot from what reading the article will do for the reader. It’s important to note however that while we’re discussing how to build dual power it should be built on already recognized and loved structures but just done more along anarchist lines. This not only inures better results for the anarchist not the least of which philosophically but presumably also in practice for everyone. To get a better idea of this however I do recommend the reader continues to check out Dominick’s article, it’s pretty lengthy and in depth but worth the time.

Now to move on to counter-power.

Building Counter Power

Again, there’s not too much to discuss here but what I find interesting is that Darian Worden discusses some of the same bottom up things in “Building Liberty From the Ground Up”. And while not explicitly advocating counter-power the in the whole article I do find it a good fit of how to build it up. At one point however Worden does discuss the ideas of counter-power again.

“Withdraw allegiance and support from authoritarian structures. Build the new world in the shell of the old.

Build “counter-power” – that which helps empower people to resist outside authority and live free. This could mean a radical union, a trade or gifting network, a group of people holding cops accountable with video cameras, a community militia, or any other consensual organization that makes it easier for individuals to resist people trying to control their lives.

Subvert the messages, organizations, and institutions of would-be oppressors. Turn authoritarian things into libertarian things.

Engineer mass defections from authoritarian structures. That which is pulled from authority combines with the free world built from below.

Keep individual freedom, equal liberty, and consensual relations primary goals. Work against anything that restricts the freedom of any individual who did not interfere with another’s liberty. Help individuals liberate themselves so they may find their own way to flourish, find their own relation to the rest of the universe, and create the best world possible by living the best lives possible.”

Again, this all has to do with keeping in principle with your ideas and acting on them as best as you can. It’s also about having a diversity of tactics and especially being able to apply them in many different ways. Keeping in mind other people’s wants and needs, as well as making sure the organizations are for the mutual benefit of all and not just your own interest. It’s also worth noticing that Worden actually gives examples of counter-power this time around, he said,

“This could mean a radical union, a trade or gifting network, a group of people holding cops accountable with video cameras, a community militia, or any other consensual organization that makes it easier for individuals to resist people trying to control their lives.” (emphasis mine)

It seems like counter-power is just a more slim version of dual power but it’s clear to me that at the same time it’s also taking a lot of cues from it as well which I think is a good thing.

Final Thoughts

I have to say that while education and direct action may be a bit easier to set up than agorism or dual power both agorism and dual power to me both seem satisfying in their own ways. For agorism it seems more of a good way to promote better trading and profits actually going to the people who put in the labor to their business. It’s also a good way of promoting a counter institution (in this case a market place) to the state. For dual power it’s much more broad but usually more to do with specific social arrangements rather than one dominated by a market place. I think each have their strengths and weaknesses but I won’t get into either at this point. I do want to try to make clear though that I think there’s room for both strategies in the anarchist movement.

Where one succeeds the other can help bolster that success in another way and where another fails the other can help pick up the slack.

And finally where the state withdraws we must advance and for that we have things like dual power.

Youtube Video for 9/13/11: My Left Libertarianism

Blog Roll Call for the Week of 9/5/11

Anarcho Blogs

FSK has some things that are somewhat similar to my ideas on 9/11 and the “truther” ideas about it.

Can scientists be a revolutionary class? I’ve yet to be convinced but I can’t say the arguments aren’t intriguing or worth looking at. An example,

“To reiterate just to be absolutely clear: Scientists are not a profoundly oppressed class. Sure, IP law impedes their livelihoods and empowers parasitic academic hierarchies. Corporate and political powers stomp on results they don’t like. Huge numbers of would-be scientists around the world are refused access and opportunities. And of course for thousands of years scientists have faced systemic and constant threats of murder from the religious wings of social power.

But revolutionary potential does not follow a 1:1 relationship with the degree of oppression faced. A starving person is not inherently aligned against power relations wholesale, all they can at face value be relied on opposing is the context that keeps them in starvation. Along many if not most class lines the motivating grievance is not inherent but contextual. This can of course be quite potent just as it can develop into an enlightened empathic rejection of power relations but such development is in no way assured. Once those defined solely by their dispossession cease being dispossessed they cease having any fundamental tension with power.

True scientists on the other hand can never cease being scientists. Their defining desire is both contingent upon liberty and insatiable. As such they will never stop being in conflict with power. That the tension of this conflict has been minimized in the modern era is actually the whole point.”

Arm Your Mind for Liberty

If violence worth paying attention to as an anarchist or is non-violence instead what we should focus our efforts and attention on?

Bleeding Heart Libertarians

This week hasn’t been quite as busy but there’s still some stuff to discuss.

The only thing I’ll mention since I didn’t find the post on “A Possible BHL Humanitarian Position” to be that informative or even interestingly argued is Matt Zwolinski’s wonderful idea that you can find here about posting other essays from journals in the last three months. Plenty of essays there alone to keep you busy for a bit for those that you can read.

Discourses on Liberty

A fantastic piece on objectification can be found here.

An excerpt,

“So the question now is, “What is an ‘object’, and thus what does it mean to be treated ‘like an object’?” This is a two-part question, and the first part of the question can be given a simple literal answer: an object is that which is observed. But of course, this isn’t the only thing which is meant by an “object”, as then objectification would be absurdly all-inclusive–any presence of a perceiver logically entails observation, and thus an object; hence, all things that perceive “objectify”. Rather than sacrifice the credibility of objectification, it’s best to assume the least absurd definition. With that task, the term “object” in the context of objectification must refer to a more humanistic definition–“objectification” is visibly spoken of concerning inter-relationships between humans, i.e. subjects. Intersubjective interaction. It must therefore be the case that “objectification” refers to a subject-directed phenomena, within an intersubjective context.”

Free Association

This is interesting (as FSK would say), it seems that Ron Paul for being so widely hailed as someone who’s open about what he says and what he means conflicts on the open borders ideas.

Sheldon also has posted ten lessons plus one on the events of 9/11. One in particular I like:

“8. Terrorism is not an enemy. It’s a tactic, one used by many different kinds of people in causes of varying moral hues, often against far stronger imperial powers. Declaring all those people one’s enemy is criminally reckless. But it’s a damn good way for a government to achieve potentially total power over its subjects.”

Special Announcements/Links

Nothing too much to announce, though I’m still working on getting more people for the LLYTC and will hopefully get more people to talk at it as time goes on. You can catch the interview with Kevin Carson at Carson’s corner here. And though I’ve seen some complaints I think overall this interview is a great one.

Closing Words

So apart from all of that stuff I’ve gotten back my Voltairine de Cleyre books, the VDC Reader and Exquisite Rebel. I’m excited to re-read Voltairine’s work and hopefully share her and her work at the upcoming Liberty Forum.

Lastly, Mr. Stolyarov has said his response to my response of his video (which you can find in that post) on Ron Paul is due sometime mid-next week. Expect me then to respond to that response sometime before next week is over, perhaps Saturday or something on my Youtube channel.

I’ll have more content as a blog post tomorrow of course so watch out for that!

Youtube videos for 9/7/11 + 9/9/11

Gonzo Times Article for 9/8/11

My original article at Gonzo Times can be found here

If Not Politics, what?: A Mini-Introduction to Direct Action

Most people that support the political system in any fashion (and even some who don’t) will tell you (even as an anarchist) that voting or working within the system is the way to go. Whether it’s the tired old line that it’s a “civic duty” (even though as Jason Brennan has argued we don’t need politics to be civilly virtuous) or that it would move “more towards liberty”. They make these two claims even though, to my knowledge, they’ve never done the sort of work people will say they did. And even when they do it’s not for long. Not only that but the system has only gotten worse since any good examples they may find. It’s become more inclusive and more centralized in its scope of power since then. So I question what use working within the system will do and at best say that it could in the short-term help some things but in the long term is of no real use to anarchists. Historical examples and Ron Paul be damned.

But with politics and the inside channels of the system not viable where does that leave us? Well as I’ve said before agorism is an approach that could work for some. But what if you’re into a more non-market approach that’s been done not only by the anarchist movement but has a pretty wide ranging history and has been applied in many different contexts? Direct action is such a strategy I believe. One of my main citations for this article will be Voltairine de Cleyre’s wonderful essay “Direct Action” as well as the Wikipedia article on it and sources therein, etc.

Explaining Direct Action

First off, what is direct action? I’ve previously discussed it and I’ve said de Cleyre is right in saying that in her essay “Direct Action” that,

“Every person who ever thought he had a right to assert, and went boldly and asserted it, himself, or jointly with others that shared his convictions, was a direct actionist. … Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. … Every person who ever in his life had a difference with anyone to settle, and went straight to the other persons involved to settle it, either by a peaceable plan or otherwise, was a direct actionist.”’

Wikiepedia also has a pretty useful definition which I made reference to in the first two paragraphs of this post:

Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. Direct action can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participant. Examples of nonviolent direct action (often called nonviolent resistance or civil resistance) include strikes, workplace occupations, sit-ins, sabotage, graffiti, and hacktivism. Violent direct actions include property destruction, assault and murder.

By contrast, electoral politics, diplomacy and negotiation or arbitration do not constitute direct action. Direct actions are sometimes a form of civil disobedience, but some (such as strikes) do not always violate criminal law.”

I think the above definitions and examples are (for the most part) fair and I think the thing to take away from both quotes is that direct action is a type of action that one does of their own accord either by themselves or with others. They can do this action violently or peacefully and they can do it against persons or property and so on. The main thing to keep in mind however is that there is no asking of authorities whether it’s right and it’s outside of the usual political channels. The direct actionist relies on their consciousness, intuitive moral sense or perhaps just what is most preferable in a practical sense for the situation at hand. They do not consult the local mayor about whether giving food for free in a public park to people who may be starving is legal or nor. Nor do they ask their bosses if it’s alright if they go on strike or try to disinterest other people from buying their product like SeaSol does. And so on and so on.

Now where does direct action apply? Again, as I’ve discussed before ,

“…we should see quite quickly that almost all action is direct action and that life would be quite dull without it. Based on the definitions above provided by de Cleyre we can see that this is probably one of the main activities of the anarchist in his or her daily activities. For instance, workers may get at the heart of an issue through boycotting a business whose boss is thinking about firing them in an unfair way. Or a politician who supports a measure may receive tons of calls to their own office or letters to them, jailed people may get friendlier letters or financial support (which can also be mutual aid if the jailed repays them once they get out) and so on. All of these things have been done in the community of anarchists and it can continue to be done.”

 Not only of course within the communities of anarchists that currently and historically have existed but also within the larger history of labor unions, workers, the anti-nuclear movement, anti-abortion movement and so on. I’m not saying that just because direct action has taken place in the movements they are always fair just to be clear. My point is merely to explain that direct action can be and has served the cause of many different movements in many different situations making it a versatile strategy. And of course direct action such as things like Food Not Bombs can be started  as well as direct action against the boss can be discovered and the general reason why unions can be used in a libertarian context can be explained. All of this so as we can feel comfortable as libertarians doing these things and more perhaps.

But what sorts of actions are valid morally and tactically? In other words: which sorts of direct action will help the anarchist the most in their struggle against the state, the boss, the landlord and other sorts of hierarchies that they may oppose? Is it better to be violent? Non-Violent? What about a mix of both?

To me, this must be the next question we address.

Direct Action and The Struggle

So how does direct action apply to the struggle against unjust social relations, power, hierarchy and more? Well it depends on what sort of force one is opposing and how one is going to oppose it.

First, I’d like to start to discuss and suggest from my own limited experience and readings what targets may be worth choosing and which may not. From there the choice of doing it violently or non-violently remains. In those sections I will get not only into the practicality of  using violence with direct action but also the morals behind it.  I then want to conclude after those three things with some final thoughts on the usability of direct action and more.

With that explanation out of the way let’s discuss which targets direct actionists should focus on and which they should not.

Preferred Targets of Direct Action vs. Non-Preferred

As I’ve already mentioned the history of direct action applies to many different contexts but which one should be the most preferred of them? Well first to limit the scope of action a bit I think we should start with goals that while perhaps legitimate in of themselves, may not be worth investing too much energy on.

But to begin with I don’t think it’s fair to either make or take these ideas universally or try to really, because there are so many different circumstances for different people.

For example, it may be more beneficial in some people’s lives to oppose what more directly affects them then some more abstract things like other people’s needs. What I mean by that is that if you’re living in a pretty bad situation economically then whether the protest down the street brings justice for the recent victim in police brutality goes right or not might not matter as much as how you’re gonna pay for your next meal. If you’re ever to get out of a situation like this you can reflect on that and think, “maybe people’s basic needs should be better met on a larger scale before we start asking for political change from within.” For example things like starting Food Not Bomb chapters, free schools to give kids a better education, practice better parenting so you can not only improve yourself but your family and so on.

Really what I’m trying to drive home here is that direct action could be a great way to target the basic needs instead of the more abstract needs that agorism might aim for or even if it aims at those needs it may charge money or something else that makes it more restrictive to the poor. Obviously the hope for me as an agorist is that if this is the case to use direct action so people’s basic needs are better met and then we can expand upon that through education, agorism and more.

What examples are there of direct action achieving basic needs though? Well I’ve already pointed out that Food Not Bombs does a lot of work for feeding people who need it. Other examples such as the IWW have done good work historically, as de Cleyre noted,

“Every person who ever thought he had a right to assert, and went boldly and asserted it, himself, or jointly with others that shared his convictions, was a direct actionist. … The Industrial Workers are now conducting the same fight, and have, in a number of cases, compelled the officials to let them alone by the same direct tactics.”

“These workers have, in one form or another, mutually joined their forces to see what betterment of their condition they could get; primarily by direct action, secondarily by political action. … All of them have been organized for the purpose of wringing from the masters in the economic field a little better price, a little better conditions, a little shorter hours; or on the other hand to resist a reduction in price, worse conditions, or longer hours. None of them has attempted a final solution of the social war. None of them, except the Industrial Workers, has recognized that there is a social war, inevitable so long as present legal- social conditions endure. They accepted property institutions as they found them. They were made up of average men, with average desires, and they undertook to do what appeared to them possible and very reasonable things. They were not committed to any particular political policy when they were organized, but were associated for direct action of their own initiation, either positive or defensive.”

Another example of direct action that helps the basic needs is shown by de Cleyre through the IWW. It’s increasing the worker’s life and their life expectancy on the factory floor with better wages and working conditions proportional to their true costs of labor. It is these things that help the working class see the benefits of anarchism. Where the state fails the anarchist is there to better provide the service and do it in such a way that is mutually beneficial. This sort of direct action not only helps show the practical side of anarchism to those that claim it is made of utopians but also its moral side. It shows that the anarchists are not the twirly mustached bomb throwing hooligan but human beings like them with compassion. It gives a stark contrast between the anarchist and the prevailing system of state-capitalism.

Such is the power of effective direct action when it focuses in on the right targets.

And the right targets I think are those most explicitly desired or needed by the communities that you’re around. Whether it be food, a union, security in the form of a neighborhood watch group that doesn’t actively collude with the police but acts within its own community I think direct action is most effective when it’s seeking to end a certain existing and clear problem. This isn’t to say that direct action is incapable from going further but that at present this may be one of the ideal places to try and as I’ve pointed out things like Food Not Bombs, the IWW and other things have historically taken advantage of this fact.

Should we use Violent Tactics?

The next question though is that if we’re trying to achieve basic needs first so we can get further along how do we do so? Should we be aggressive? Agitate in a physical manner? A bit of pushing? Should we kill someone for our beliefs? The question of violence I think is one of gradualism. It may be a bit of pushing or roughing up of scabs or verbal or physical threats (something de Cleyre opposed in her essay and I do as well for the record) or perhaps it’s the attempted or successful assassination of a popular industrialist/politician who has done terrible things or has had a part in them. Whatever it is, all of this has to do with violence in one way or another so how do we deal with the idea of using violence to further direct action?

Well first we should concern ourselves with where the violence is being enacted, what sort of violence and whether it’s people or property certain people claim to own. So, for example the Wikipedia article talks about,

“Groups opposing the introduction of cruise missiles into the United Kingdom employed tactics such as breaking into and occupying United States air bases, and blocking roads to prevent the movement of military convoys and disrupt military projects.”

Here, in this case the “violence” was supposedly against the property that the British military claims to own. But then, how legitimate is this claim? As anarchists we can’t see any sort of state-military site to be anything except open for use and occupancy, homesteading, whatever you want to call it. The military is using the site to use violence against others and is a direct sub-class of the state’s existence and is one of it’s biggest arm in destroying cultures and people. Thus I see no reason to treat this so called “violence” or occupancy of the military site as immoral in any fashion.

But things that are clearly moral may still be practically questionable. I’m unsure whether the protest was meant to be long lasting or not but if it was meant to be  I doubt it attained that goal due to the superior arms of the British military and the British government in general. It wouldn’t lead to a long term protest or anything really meaningful perhaps except some arrests. It’s possible of course you could get some press from this but as Rob Sparrow says in “Anarchist Politics & Direct Action“,

“As I suggested earlier any protest where protester’s are acting entirely for the sake of media attention or – as actually often occurs – are even being directed in their activities by the media is not a case of direct action. Such “media stunts” do not themselves seek to address the problems which they highlight and are instead directed to getting other people (usually the government) to solve them. Thus in as far as we are concerned to be practicing direct action we should shun this sort of involvement with the media. We should not “perform” for the cameras or reporters.”

Indeed this is the problem with what a lot of the folks in Keene NH and what they call call civil-disobedience…though that’s a topic for another time I suppose. To further the point that Sparrow is making however, this act seems to just be inviting media attention rather than actually solving anyone’s problems. And if anything attacking the military site while perhaps praiseworthy on some level is foolhardy on another and leads to more legal and physical problems then it solves it seems to me.

So obviously not all property damage or occupation is immoral from an anarchist position and it heavily depends on what the property is used for and where it came from and what the opinion of the direct actionist is on property to begin with. But what about people? This seems less conditional really but let’s examine a well known case among anarchists, namely the attempted assassination of the industrialist Henry Frick by Alexander Berkman. But what would cause Berkman to want this?

As Emma Goldman wrote,

“A few days after our return to New York, the news was flashed across the country of the slaughter of steel-workers by Pinkertons. Frick had fortified the Homestead mills, built a high fence around them. Then, in the dead of night, a barge packed with strike-breakers, under protection of heavily armed Pinkerton thugs, quietly stole up the Monongahela River. The steel-men had learned of Frick’s move. They stationed themselves along the shore, determined to drive back Frick’s hirelings. When the barge got within range, the Pinkertons had opened fire, without warning, killing a number of Homestead men on the shore, among them a little boy, and wounding scores of others.”

It was clear then that Frick was responsible for the slaughter of workers and others. Anarchists, as being part of the workers movement were of course outraged. Alexander Berkman personally sought to end Frick’s life for his deed,

“The question of moral right in such matters often agitated the revolutionary circles I used to frequent. I had always taken the extreme view. The more radical the treatment, I held, the quicker the cure. Society is a patient; sick constitutionally and functionally. Surgical treatment is often imperative. The removal of a tyrant is not merely justifiable; it is the highest duty of every true revolutionist. Human life is, indeed, sacred and inviolate. But the killing of a tyrant, of an enemy of the People, is in no way to be considered as the taking of a life. A revolutionist would rather perish a thousand times than be guilty of what is ordinarily called murder. In truth, murder and Attentat [a political killing] are to me opposite terms. To remove a tyrant is an act of liberation, the giving of life and opportunity to an oppressed people. True, the Cause often calls upon the revolutionist to commit an unpleasant act; but it is the test of a true revolutionist—nay, more, his pride—to sacrifice all merely human feeling at the call of the People’s Cause. If the latter demand his life, so much the better.

Could anything be nobler than to die for a grand, a sublime Cause? Why, the very life of a true revolutionist has no other purpose, no significance whatever, save to sacrifice it on the altar of the beloved People. And what could be higher in life than to be a true revolutionist? It is to be a man, a complete man. A being who has neither personal interests nor desires above the necessities of the Cause; one who has emancipated himself from being merely human, and has risen above that, even to the height of conviction which excludes all doubt, all regret; in short, one who in the very inmost of his soul feels himself revolutionist first, human afterwards. ”

Now I sympathize with Berkman in this case and I’m not going to try to demonize him too much but either way let’s look at the effects of these actions,

“Berkman’s attempt upon Frick’s life did not succeed on any level. Frick made a full recovery. Neither the Homestead strikers nor any other segment of American labor saw the assassination as “propaganda of the deed.” Quite the opposite. Berkman recorded his dismay in Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist at discovering that the strikers reviled him for having, in their eyes, given their opponents a weapon to use against them. Aside from Goldman and a few other radicals, no one supported Berkman’s deed. Nor did it cause others to rally around the strikers’ cause. By November even the most determined members of the Amalgamated gave up. A few hundred got their old jobs back. Many of the others were blacklisted and had to find other kinds of work.” (All of these quotes by the way come from here .)

To add to this Wikipedia notes that wages were actually halved in addition to the fact that people had died, Berkman failed the attempt and did not even die “a true revolutionary” but instead lost 14 years of his life and many of his resources to the legal system. To me while the practicality of damaging unjustly owned property may not be too high sometimes it seems, especially in this case, that the tactic known as “propaganda of the deed” is not one to be performed back then nor now.

Again, I’m not unsympathetic to Berkman or what he thought was the right thing to do here. Clearly Frick was not a good person for the things he did and did not associate with movements of a moral sort if the brief accounts I’ve read thus far are assumed to be true. But nonetheless I must admit that I don’t see much hope in stopping the prevailing oppressive system just by killing the powerful people who are in charge of it or in this case benefit from it.

This is because the system is mostly assisted by the people under it having the idea of it. As I’ve discussing in my two parter of “What’s the Enemy” (here and here) it”s the idea of the state and the other social systems that directly and indirectly enforce and reinforce oppression on other people that is the problem.

As Bob Black says in “My Anarchism Problem”,

“The real enemy” is the totality of physical and mental constraints by which capital, or class society, or statism, or the society of the spectacle expropriates everyday life, the time of our lives. The real enemy is not an object apart from life. It is the organization of life by powers detached from it and turned against it. The apparatus, not its personnel, is the real enemy.”

We need to be outcompeting these ideas and social-systems with better ones as anarchists. Killing the people at the top of them doesn’t do much when we’re trying to make ourselves look as good as possible and more fundamentally it doesn’t do much when the people in the rest of the group still think the idea that motivates the group itself is still legitimate. It’ll just have a different boss but it’ll still be reinforcing the same system you hate. In the end you’ll be rotting with your hate in a jail cell for who knows how long (Berkman actually only got out when he did because of pressures from labor forces, etc.) and wasting tons of time and resources.

Clearly then I don’t think such actions are conducive towards attaining a free society or direct action. While at best they may be moral sometimes, I usually see violence unnecessary towards achieving a freer society.

Should we use Non-Violent Tactics?

I think the answer then becomes clear that non-violent tactics are the best ways of more likely having both the moral and the practical higher ground against the state. I think to show that non-violent action works or at least has a propensity to work I shall simply quote de Cleyre at length in a few of her passages.

“The case which everyone instantly recalls is that of the early Quakers who came to Massachusetts. The Puritans had accused the Quakers of “troubling the world by preaching peace to it.” They refused to pay church taxes; they refused to bear arms; they refused to swear allegiance to any government. (In so doing they were direct actionists, what we may call negative direct actionists.) So the Puritans, being political actionists, passed laws to keep them out, to deport, to fine, to imprison, to mutilate, and finally, to hang them. And the Quakers just kept on coming (which was positive direct action); and history records that after the hanging of four Quakers, and the flogging of Margaret Brewster at the cart’s tail through the streets of Boston, “the Puritans gave up trying to silence the new missionaries”; that “Quaker persistence and Quaker non-resistance had won the day.”‘

“Some thirty years ago I recall that the Salvation Army was vigorously practising direct action in the maintenance of the freedom of its members to speak, assemble, and pray. Over and over they were arrested, fined, and imprisoned; but they kept right on singing, praying, and marching, till they finally compelled their persecutors to let them alone. The Industrial Workers are now conducting the same fight, and have, in a number of cases, compelled the officials to let them alone by the same direct tactics.”

“Among the peaceable moves made, were the non-importation agreements, the leagues for wearing homespun clothing and the “committees of correspondence.” ‘

There’s a few others too, such as the Underground Rail Road and more but I think MLK summed it up when he said,

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Thus the goal of the non-violent direct actionist should be to arouse suspicion and questioning within a community of whether their getting what’s best for them currently. Whether that’s through showing what the alternatives are, blocking the ones that exist or just trying to start up like the Salvation Army was it can be a wide variety of actions in many different contexts and as de Cleyre points out above they’ve worked and on a massive scale as well.

Final Thoughts

I am certainly willing to expand on my thoughts on non-violent direct action for those curious but I think I’ve done enough for now to explain the advantages of direct action in general as is. Of course there are negatives too depending on how you apply it or where but I think as de Cleyre said,

“It is by and because of the direct acts of the forerunners of social change, whether they be of peaceful or warlike nature, that the Human Conscience, the conscience of the mass, becomes aroused to the need for change. It would be very stupid to say that no good results are ever brought about by political action; sometimes good things do come about that way. But never until individual rebellion, followed by mass rebellion, has forced it. Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable.”

And,

“Well, I have already stated that some good is occasionally accomplished by political action — not necessarily working-class party action either. But I am abundantly convinced that the occasional good accomplished is more than counterbalanced by the evil; just as I am convinced that though there are occasional evils resulting through direct action, they are more than counterbalanced by the good.”

Clearly direct action is one of the many things anarchists like.

Refuting The Anti-Corn Laws League and the Ron Paul Appeal

Introduction

I don’t think I could count the times I’ve had to debate, discuss, refute or otherwise demonstrate why pro-voting arguments either largely miss the point at best or are just flat out wrong most of the time. I guess if someone was somehow keeping a count of this this blog post would be another one to chalk up.

Let me be clear however, I do think the work that the Anti-Corn Law League did was definitely a good thing. Much in the same way as I think Ron Paul is not without his good things insofar as education is concerned and some of his effects of helping radicalize more and more people towards anarchism in the long run. There’s decent enough evidence I suppose to say that Ron Paul himself could even be a voluntaryist so I can’t see him necessarily opposing this particular outcome. Though either way I’m highly skeptical to down right cynical about many of the voluntaryists approaches to human relations and think they need to be much more thickin about their analysis of power and social relations in general…and that’s just to start with.

But this isn’t to be a critique of voluntaryism as a political philosophy (plus Alex Strekal has already done that here and here just to name two in particular) but more of a response to this video by G. Stolyarov II. Namely, the idea that the “victory” (if one wises to term it as such) of the Anti-Corn Laws League shows that Ron Paul could be successful in the election.

First I shall endeavour to do a critique of this suggestion and the phenomenon that was the Anti-Corn Law League in a general sense. I do not claim to be an expert by any standard and I am simply going on what I’ve learned from this paper and my current anti-voting position and other tidbits of info I already had on it.

Second I shall criticize the suggestion made in the video that the two phenomenons of Paul and the Anti-Corn Laws League’s “victory” are similar.

Lastly I shall conclude by summarizing other reasons why I I still do not support voting even if I granted that Mr. Stolyarov’s arguments were valid. I shall do this by making some statements about the act of voting itself.

If you wish to see more of my thoughts on voting I encourage you to check out this post and this post on the matter. You can also look at my “Practicality and Morality” series on voting on my Youtube channel.

I of course welcome a response from Mr. Stolyarov.

Refuting The Anti-Corn Laws League

First, I’ve chosen a written format because, while I’m responding to Mr. Stolyarov’s video in the larger sense in the more specific case here I’m responding to his own written words on this. Another factor of that is that Monday is the day that I do blog posts on my blog and I thought this was a good subject to put on here.

With that out of the way, what are the corn laws? Mr. Stolyarov says,

“Simply put, the Corn Laws prohibited any foreign corn from being imported into Britain unless domestic corn cost more than80 shillings per quarter-hundredweight.”

And further,

“The Corn Laws were in force for a total of 31 years, from 1815 to 1846. The laws were put into operation via the Importation Act of 1815, after the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars resulted in a precipitous drop in the price of “corn” – verbal shorthand at the time for any grain, but particularly wheat. Prices for grain had been exorbitantly high during the wars, and the lawwere intended not “to save a tottering sector of the economy, but rather to preserve the abnormally high profits of the Napoleonic war-years, and to safeguard farmers from theLessons from consequences of their wartime euphoria, when farms had changed hands at the fanciest prices, loans and mortgages had been accepted on impossible terms.”

So I for one clearly oppose it as much as I oppose any other law that government passes and especially insofar as these laws as Cobden pointed out,

“…the condition of the great body of her Majesty’s labouring subjects had deteriorated wofully within the last ten years, and more especially so within the three years last past; and furthermore, that in proportion as the price of the food of the people had increased, just so had their comforts been diminished.”

As well as how it benefited the ruling class as Cobden said,

“I am sure there is not an hon. Member in the House who would dare to bring in a bill to levy an income-tax on all grades of society upon a scale similar to this, and yet I maintain that the bread-tax is such a tax, and is levied not for the purposes of the State, but for the benefit of the richest portion of the community.”

To add to this he remarked that,

“…the land-valuers and auctioneers—who represent the landlord in his very worst aspect; they are persons that have an interest in this system which causes perpetual change and a constant rise in rent; for the more changes there are, or the more failures there are, the more valuing there is for the valuer, and the more selling there is for the auctioneer.”

So clearly Cobden had some great critiques of the law and you can check out all of the arguments he made against the arguments others made against repealing it and his arguments for repealing it, etc. That wasn’t my main subject of study here so I only read a little over a handful of the ones for the repeal that he responded to and a few of those that were against. I am more interested in the strategies that Mr. Stolyarov has outlined that Cobden and company (a good name for sitcom perhaps?) used against the corn laws.

Similarities and Dissimilarities

First off it’s just flat out humorous to me that Mr. Stolyarov has not seen that some of the tactics Cobden and Bright (two of the main people of the Anti-Corn Law League) are in direct opposition to what Ron Paul is doing as a matter of tactics. For example the very act of making this organization in of itself is doing something entirely different than what Ron Paul is doing and trying to do. While Ron Paul wants himself on the tip top of a 21st century, modern, state-capitalist empire Bright and Cobden instead just wanted to reverse one single policy from the Britain empire in the mid to late 19th century on the basis of mass public support. Which sounds more practical to you?

Now, this isn’t to diminish what they did, but it is an important point to make regardless because it highlights some of the inherent differences between these two phenomenons of Ron Paul’s quest for becoming a candidate and subsequently a president and the much more modest goal of trying to repeal one law. Ron Paul doesn’t want to just repeal one law but he wants to repeal an entire system of domination, coercion, class warfare, and more by limiting the governments interference in our lives. How does Mr. Stolyarov think that these two cases are in the least analogous even apart from the strategies used that he brings up?

I know Mr. Stolyarov’s basic point was that political action can amass great amounts of political change for the better sometimes but even if this is the case…so what? That was then (the 19th century in Britain) and this is now (the 21st century in the US) to compare the two is to ignore the differences in culture, historical development, politics, economic development and so on. In other words, to compare these two is not even the same as apples and oranges. We’re talking about apples and pears man…apples and pears!

…Ok joking aside what I mean by that is that while it’s a similar context (their both fruits aka their both political actions seemingly aimed towards a better world) the strategies employed and the similarity of any sort really end there (the time period of Paul’s campaign as opposed to the League’s time, the cultural and historical differences and different political systems and so on). The shape, the weight, the color, the texture are all different. The cores are similar enough and they have the stem but…oh you get the point!

Anyways I want to continue to hammer this point? Why? Well why am I making this blog post to begin with?

It is my belief that Mr. Stolyarov and others are heralding the example of the Anti-Corn Law League’s victory as some indicator that somehow Ron Paul can also achieve political greatness. And that if I can knock that argument down one more major pro-voting argument will follow as well. Hopefully this will also mean more people embrace the ideas of counter-economics as welll.

The last part isn’t especially necessary but would just be a nice addition to what I’d like to see come out of posts like this. But with this in mind how do Bright and Cobden differ besides that only insofar as strategies are concerned?

Dissimilarities in Strategies

First off one of the big strategies Cobden and Bright had was refusal to affiliate with parties wait…what’s that? Why would they do something like that? Well as Mr. Stolyarov points out himself,

“Cobden steadfastly refused to get bogged down in partisan politics. His objective was the repeal of the Corn Laws, and he would not compromise to ingratiate himself with either of the major political parties of his day: “I call myself neither Whig nor Tory; I am a free-trader, and such I shall always be ready to avow myself” This is not a party move, to serve any existing political organisation; we care nothing for political parties. As they at present stand, there is very little indeed to choose between the When Cobden could have support from members of either party, he welcomed it, but he refused to give his allegiance to any political group.”

Well it looks to me like Mr. Stolyarov sees “partisan politics” as a hamper to political opportunities in a political system if I’m reading him correctly and so does Cobden for that matter. So what’s the difference for Paul exactly? Isn’t Paul not only acting within “partisan politics” constantly as a senator but even more so as someone who’s running for president? What exaclty is the difference?

The only difference I see here is one that doesn’t bode well for Mr. Stolyarov’s argument. That difference being one of magnitude. If Cobden thought it was pointless at this much smaller level to do such a thing and Mr. Stolyarov agrees (again, if I am reading both correctly) why would it entail victory at a much larger and complex level that Ron Paul is acting within?

Further, I wonder what Cobden himself would think of Ron Paul. I bet he’d quip something like, “Ah, the gentlemen is wise beyond much imagination in his deas but what he has in ideas he lacks in practice!”

Of course I’m just historically speculating and poking fun at all of this but I do think there’s a serious point to be made about this as well. Such that I think even Cobden would realize this.

All of that aside, let’s move on to the next one that seems particularly against what Paul is doing with his presidential campaign which is how Cobden and company went about their approach. It wasn’t with mere calls for reform or anything like that it was a call for immediate repeal of the Corn Laws.

As Cobden himself said,

“If it is unreasonable to ‘totally and immediately’ abolish the duty on corn, why has [the Conservatives’] own Prime Minister and Government ‘totally and immediately’ abolished the protection on wool? We find encouragement and good argument in favour of our principles by every step that is taken, even by our professed opponents.”

But if Ron Paul is actually a voluntaryist (at least in the long term and there’s some evidence for that as I’ve pointed out above) then it seems like he cannot do such a thing within the current culture, political or economic structure that exists. Especially insofar as he wants to join it and try to change it from within. Now to be fair, it’s not necessarily his fault that this is the case but it certainly changes the sort of message involved. After all Ron Paul is the one who is calling for reoformism here and not the repeal of government in its totality. But again, to be fair to Paul and I think this point is valid either way irrespective of Paul, the US (and more generally the world) is not ready for anarchism and we need to therefore make transitional or revolutionarily gradual steps towards it in my opinion. Politics doesn’t fit that bill for me.

Education is a great way to do it and as Kevin Carson has pointed out there’s even some legitimacy to be said for a political program for anarchists. But actually becoming president over others and instituting laws or tearing down old ones seems practically and morally problematic to me. I just want to sketch out a few things on the practical and moral side though as I’ve already done an entire series on my moral and practical objections to voting on Youtube already as I mentioned above it will just be a sketching.

A little bit of sidetracking

One of the things that comes to my mind (and that convinced SecularNumanist on Youtube against voting in our debate) is that the structure of the political and economic system are inherently against him (Ron Paul). There are structural problems or obstacles that are too big from within the system for Paul to have much of a chance. This is especially the case because paradoxically while Ron Paul doesn’t have corporate support and this mote likely means he’s probably more likely to want to do change it means he probably won’t be able to. Why? Well the corporations are a big factor in donations to political campaigns (especially due to the court ruling about it).

Also, Ron Paul, last I checked doesn’t care much for lobbyists or many of the major powers inside the political and economic systems of the day. And if it’s correct that large amounts of wealth is still concentrated in a small number of hands up top then I doubt his grassroots attempt will do much.

The moral problem I want to bring up is whether electing people, asking them to implement certain policies (or wishing them to) unilaterally on a populace is moral on libertarian grounds. After all, how can you have laws without enforcement especially insofar as a state is concerned?

For example: If Ron Paul enacts border control he or his armed guards for the border are going to have to enforce this belief by killing some “troublesome” brown people who want to cross the borders. How would Ron Paul deal with this obvious contradiction if aggression is so wrong in his view except in defense?

That’s just one big problem I see, in general how is it right to do this? If we take down laws from presidential action or approve new ones that are better are we not just forcing our opinions on the majority of people? Even if our opinions are right does this give us the right to force it on others through the political process?

I wonder if Mr. Stolyarov would deny that the political process in general relies on the gun because even if he identifies as a minarchists even some minarchists still recognize that or recognize it to a point. But then they just try to reason that it’s “necessary force” to keep society together. It’s outside of the scope of this blog post to criticize this notion but take notice that I don’t find this very compelling.

Moving on to the next strategy after getting slightly side tracked…

Dissimilarities in Strategies Take Two

I’ve got two other strategies in mind that only further prove that Ron Paul’s campaign is not really reflective of much with the League. The next one up was their “mass enrollment” strategy which Mr. Stolyarov says that,

“Cobden endeavored to enroll hundreds of thousands of members of the general public in his free-trade movement. He believed that it was vital to have the support of the public on his side before anything would be done in Parliament to repeal the Corn Laws: “I have always found, on looking back to the history of past events, that public opinion, when well expressed, could carry its end in this country, even when the constituency was not one-hundredth part so favourable to the expression of public opinion as it is now.”’

So how exactly do I see Ron Paul differing? Well for one thing have presidential candidates ever done a candidacy based on whether the general public thinks they should or not? Now I know this begs the questions what the “general public” may mean to some. But all I mean by that is the majority of people want them to run or not. I think clearly if they actually polled people beforehand a lot of politicians may not or may run instead of running just on the basis of having a “team” together and a bunch of money ready. I doubt what Ron Paul has done to prepare for his candidacy is much different.

Now if this is just for educational purposes then I don’t have as many problems with it (though I still have some but I’ll reserve them for another time perhaps) but clearly Paul and many of his supporters want him to go a lot farther than that.

Moving on, apparently “focus” (or as he titles it “a single object”) was the important thing for Cobden, Bright and others…so what sort of focus does Paul have? Well sure he has some main focuses for sure…but that’s the problem he has many different main focuses and unlike the League (no not the justice league…) he also has to do them on a much larger scale than what the League did. I’ve mentioned the problems of scale a few times now I think so I don’t think I’ll say much more about this.

I think that’ll really do it for my arguments against the dissimilarities between the League and Paul’s campaign. I think I’ve made plenty of arguments for Mr. Stolyarov to deal with if he chooses to. Moving on I’d like to discuss some last remarks against voting in general.

Conclusion: Cementing my Anti-Voting Position

By cementing I do not mean I’m dogmatically tied to these ideas in such a way that I’d never move (after all cement isn’t impervious to damage anyways) but I’d like to make it more clear why I oppose voting as useful action for libertarians.

A few reasons off the top of my head:

1. It seems against the spirit of libertarianism itself if you’re going to beg politicians for political change instead of directly doing it yourself. And what would doing it yourself be called? It’s called direct action.

2. I’m unsure of the morals of enforcing your opinions or selected candidate’s ideas on people. Not only do they have to deal with the calculation problem insofar as the social relations they’ve gotten themselves into are on a massive scale (which is a practical problem) but then they have to resolve these issues and then do it in some sort of moral way. I’m unsure how a libertarian of any stripe can consent to the current system doling out their own ideas and unilaterally forcing them on a populace through the threat of violence.

3. Lastly, the act of voting itself has never in its history done much to progress liberty. Giving women the vote did not seem to do much and as Emma Goldman suggested in fact,

“Woman’s demand for equal suffrage is based largely on the contention that woman must have the equal right in all affairs of society. No one could, possibly, refute that, if suffrage were a right. Alas, for the ignorance of the human mind, which can see a right in an imposition. Or is it not the most brutal imposition for one set of people to make laws that another set is coerced by force to obey? Yet woman clamors for that “golden opportunity” that has wrought so much misery in the world, and robbed man of his integrity and self-reliance; an imposition which has thoroughly corrupted the people, and made them absolute prey in the hands of unscrupulous politicians.”

And of course as Emma Goldman famously said, “If voting did anything they’d make it illegal.” “they” of course referring to the ruling class. After all why would the ruling class want the ruled class to start ruling themselves instead of each other through some supposedly “democratic” state?

To wrap things up, I’m not going to respond to Mr. Stolyarov’s other arguments as I’ve addressed many of them before from other people in my posts and Youtube videos. There’s also many things he addresses Stefan on (specifically criticizing RP of being a Christian, ostracizing non-anarchists, etc.) that don’t necessarily apply to me either. And so that doesn’t leave a lot for me to deal with anyways so I’ll stop here.

As a final note though I encourage Mr. Stolyarov to respond to me if he finds the time but either way I’m just glad I could review his evidence and still make good counter-arguments in my mind.

Blog Roll Call for the week of 8/29/11

Anarchoblogs

DB0 has a post about a strange phenomenon that’s going on that I don’t find funny at all either. What say you?

Check out what books AK Press has half off if you’re interested. It’s looks like an interesting collection and I figure they could use the monetary support either way.

FSK has a great post on the wonders of state-capitalism…well for the capitalists that is.

And oh…dear…just look at another one of DB0’s posts about idiots trying to pretend they know anything about sexism.

An excerpt,

“Remember, slaves were protected as well, because they were a valuable commodity. But this protection only existed inasmuch as it didn’t harm the slaveholder. Were the slaves to think and act for themselves, they would be put in their place quickly and decisively by their owner or society at large. Their protection existed only as long as they were not allowed to protect themselves.”

Even if many peopl aren’t fans of Francois Tremblay, I did find this post very interesting and fairly well argued at certain points. Check it out here.

An excerpt,

“The underlying belief that people should be “free to live in accordance with their conviction” is false. When your “convictions” involve hurting other people, they are wrong and should be suppressed, not encouraged. They are sick in the head.”

NeverFox has some choice words (many of them) about some bad definitions of government and anarchy.

One things for sure, you can rely on Phil Dickens for your info on how the class war in England is goin’.

A good post on the social relations between women and man and a bit of commentary on the article that spawned the discussion can be found here.

FSK has even more on how state-capitalism first and foremost benefits the ruling class first.

Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Many different interesting and insightful posts from BHL this week, here’s the ones in particular I liked:

A great question from Matt Zwolinski blogs post is, “What are you going to do with your gun?”. This post is great for it’s pointing out of minorities (especially blacks) wanting less gun control and bringing up the Black Panther Party as an example.

An important excerpt:

“For me, this article provides a dramatic illustration of a fundamental theme of bleeding heart libertarianism: the special importance of liberty for oppressed and marginalized groups. Today, we see opposition to gun control as a primarily white, male, Republican issue. But it was exactly that white, male, Republican group that was the most vociferous in supporting gun control when the people carrying the guns were young, black, militant men and women. The suppression of liberty in the case of guns – much like the suppression of liberty in the case of drugs – was largely motivated by racist fears about the abuse of that liberty by the “other.” And even if the suppression of liberty is perfectly general in form, it is almost always the marginalized “other” who suffers most by its loss.”

All power to the people!

Roderick Long has a rebuttal to Michael Lind’s article about criticizing libertarians and so on.

Finally, Gary Chartier has a big post about war and the state, and as Roderick “insightfully” quips, “he seems to be against them”.

Discourses on Liberty

I wrote a defense of thicker libertarianism that you can find here

Free Association

Shedlon Richman had two posts (found here and here) to what he sees as Michael Lind’s unfair look at what constitutes libertarianism.

Rad Geek People’s Daily

Lastly, Charles has some exciting news about the pamphlets he’s been distributing .

Special announcements, links, etc.

I’d like to bring it to everyone’s attention that Kevin Carson was on/is on (depending on when you’re reading this” Carson’s Corner…er Bob Carson’s corner, an “underground progressive” radio show. I can’t maintain a connection myself but hopefully others will find it a good listen. You can find it on Bob’s podcasts.

At the moment I can’t think of much more to log or really to announce, though I should have a blog up tomorrow at my usual date of Monday for those of you who care.

Closing words

Well I hope everyone is doing well and my blog tomorrow will most likely be a response to this video on whether the Anti-Corn Law movement was effective as a political movement and whether it’s comparable to Ron Paul or not and him getting elected.

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