The trouble with Anarchist “Syndicalists” or Communists

I had someone follow me on twitter who called herself an anarchist and I followed back. A short while later there was an avalanche of tweets about how the Austrian School of Economics was totally wrong, laisez-faire leads to enslavement and so forth. The boat load of tweets were typical of socialistic myths that were debunked in the 20th century by theorists like von Mises, and by real world examples of communism in action. Think USSR, East Germany, Mao’s China, North Korea, or Cuba. So, I though I would give her my thoughts on communism and things that sound like they are different from communism but, in fact, reduce down to communism when inspected closely. If you don’t like my use of “communism” then substitute “collectivism” instead as they amount to pretty much the same thing in practice.

There can be no doubt that humanity needs to run an advanced industrial society if we expect to support the over seven billion souls that are on this planet as I write this and if we plan on keeping the living standard we enjoy today. There are three major proposals for running an advanced industrial society. There is some variant of socialism, free-market capitalism, and syndicalism. Some might say, “what about the US system we have now”. The US has a crony-capitalist system that is essentially corporatism. (Mussolini’s term for fascism) Corporatism is just fascism and hence a close cousin of socialism. The U.S.A. did practice a semi laissez-faire system at times early in its history but at least since 1850 there has been heavy intervention into the market by the various levels of government.

We live with scarcity as a fact of life. There are never enough resources to meet every want and need. In any society, there must be a rational mechanism for allocating resources efficiently. There must be some mechanism to signal how much land, labor, and capital equipment is to be used and used in what ways to best satisfy the wants and needs of the society. Over and over, history has demonstrated that free market capitalism most smoothly and efficiently does this while being based solely on voluntary inducements and incentives. Many books and essays have been written on how mankind could run an anarchy using laissez-faire capitalism, and some even prefer the term market anarchy to the term capitalism.

Socialism itself, in any of its various flavors, demands the armed intervention of a government to force people to do as the government demands since voluntary cooperation is not a feature of the system. Without a price feedback mechanism no one knows how much of what needs to be produced and who should do the producing, and so a government bureaucracy backed by guns issues the orders telling the slaves what to do. Ludwig von Mises showed how a socialist economy could not work back in the 20s of last century. The examples of socialism abound and socialism is a demonstrated failure. Given the record of socialism in the 20th century, we must reject socialism as it is the path to tyranny and deprivation.

The syndicalist “anarchists” claim to believe in full worker ownership of their industries. Each plant would be owned by the workers and some sort of plant government would have to arise to force John to clean the restrooms while Bill sits in the air-conditioned front office. Even worse they do not even attempt to achieve a rational allocation of total societal resources since they claim to rule out the voluntary cooperation of the laissez-faire free market and the coercion of the socialist central planing bureaucracy also. So we have the rational and voluntary allocation of resources of the free-market, or we have the tyrannical force of the socialist central planning boards, or we have … what? We have the total chaos of the various syndicated plants all demanding whatever resources they wanted with no mechanism for allocation. Out of the chaos of the syndicalist system would arise planning boards to settle the disputes and allocate resources among the industrial plants. In effect, syndicalism is just one more path to central planning and all that entails.

In conversations with these left-anarchists one finds that they are eaten up with envy, fear, and loathing. They detest the idea that some individuals might form a business, have it become well loved by the public, and see it grow into a very large corporation. Many seem to hate the idea that in a free society some men will grow rich honestly while other men will remain ordinary guys with a job. I was told by the syndicalist on Twitter that the free market was ok “up to a point“. What point? Like the USSR letting people trade a bit of their personal wares for profit as long as they obeyed the government and did their government assigned job? It is also true that left-anarchists hate the idea of private property more than they hate the state.

Rothbard once observed:

And when the left-anarchists can be pressed for an answer, the response is disturbing indeed. Take for example one of our most distinguished socialist-anarchists, Professor Noam Chomsky. Professor Chomsky has recently expressed a great deal of worry about the recent rise of our “right-wing” libertarian movement; apparently he is – I am afraid unrealistically – concerned that we might succeed in abolishing the State before the State has succeeded in abolishing private property! Secondly, Chomsky has written that the anarcho-capitalist society would constitute “the greatest tyranny the world has ever known.” (What, Noam? Greater than Hitler? Than Genghis Khan?)

Whether or not anarcho-capitalism would be tyrannical is here irrelevant; the problem is that, in so expressing his horror at the possible results of complete freedom, Professor Chomsky reveals that he is not really an “anarchist” at all, indeed that he prefers statism to an anarcho-capitalist world. That of course is his prerogative, and scarcely unusual, but what is illegitimate is for this distinguished linguist to call himself an “anarchist.”

I had someone say to me on Twitter that the large corporations would “dominate” us and become our masters in the absence of government. Does she not know of how many corporations have lost out in the competitive race due to the customer’s whims? Where the hell is the A&P grocery chain that was the largest and most powerful in the nation when I was born? Were is Florida’s dominate drug store chain that was called Eckerds? Heck, I am not sure of the spelling any more they have been gone so long. Dominate us? Walmart has no army to make me buy from them. I have not been inside one of their stores in years and they can’t do a thing about it. I prefer Target. And at one time IBM was the only maker of computers that any business would buy from and there was even a saying back then, “no one ever got fired because they bought IBM”. Do they even make computers any more? What happened to them? Does anyone still use a Zerox copy machine?

In a free society without government where free-market competition rules, there would be competing firms or voluntary organizations that offer me insurance, protection, and legal services. In other words, in a free society I would not be forced to do as others demand as long as I was innocent of aggression against others. No monopoly is possible under these circumstances as von Mises demonstrated decades ago.

Ludwig von Mises once observed:

Under capitalism, material success depends on the appreciation of a man’s achievements on the part of the sovereign consumers. In this regard there is no difference between the services rendered by a manufacturer and those rendered by a producer, an actor or a playwright.

In the ‘workers paradise’ proposed by the syndicalists, who would decide if some workers in a plant wanted a four day week while others wanted a five day week? Silly question, but who decides? In a market economy the management appointed by the stock holders would decide. In a syndical system there would have to be force or threat of force to make decisions stick. The same can be said for all the varieties of left-anarchists no matter what they call themselves these days. Communal, syndical, left-anarchists or whatever, we see that there is libertarian rhetoric hiding compulsory and coercive collectivism of the socialist system. A system of coercive egalitarian despots in other words.

I often call all variants of collectivism by the term communism. “Commie” for short on Twitter. For once you allow a small group to make all the decisions and do away with private property rights you are on the road to the hell that was the old USSR. Collectivism is the original sin of mankind. Once you leave the idea of men and women cooperating in a voluntary manner without any coercion then you have strayed into the realm of violence and slavery.

The market anarchists have one main starting point — the non-aggression principle. No individual or group may legitimately use fraud, force, or threat against someone who has not committed aggression himself. A great writer once observed that the whole system evolved from the simple observation that slavery was always wrong. One may support slavery and violence, or one may advocate anarchy with absolutely no monopolies on the use of force. One may not legitimately propose a system that requires changing human nature as the old USSR did when they claimed to be “building the new Soviet Man” as that is just a utopian fantasy.

I can imagine some people buying or building a factory and running is as a “worker co-op” in a market anarchy. There would be nothing wrong with that, let them have at it. As long as they respect the property rights of the rest of us and they don’t try to use force or intimidation on us, then market anarchists would not mind the attempt at all. In fact, I would love to live long enough to enjoy the spectacular sight of some people trying that experiment.

Force and violence; or peace and prosperity — which will you advocate? For myself, I will go with voluntary cooperation that leads to peace and prosperity. I greatly detest systems that require the use of force and I detest the avocation of systems that are based on the rule by a minority using force. Syndicalism is just another path to rule by the few.

aa_live_and_let_live

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11 thoughts on “The trouble with Anarchist “Syndicalists” or Communists

  1. Some quick answers:
    1) There was no avalanche of tweets criticising the Austrian School, there were two maybe three tweets suggesting that laissez faire creates a recipe for a form of corporate authority, which you cannot and did not deny, but in fact defended by saying it was ‘free trade’ and to stop conglomeration would mean using force, which there is really no need for.

    2) You attach my suggested ideas to dictatorial communism and you try to absolutely define marxism (who was an anti statist, anyone who has read Marx knows this) as some preacher of tyranny. Which is nonsense. Stalinism is not marxism, a mistake many naive people make who are too ignorant to actually read Marx. Maoism, cubas castro, and all the examples of brutal dictatorships which you state are absolutely nothing to do with marxism, and are rather a paranoid transitionary period left in limbo. Just as von Hayek promoted the idea of dictatorship in Chile with pinochet, any transition can be hijacked. Stalinism and its subsequent copycat states are of course a hijacking, so to sort of suggest that socialism is motivated to use military force to remove various freedoms is a very shallow and ill-informed reaction, leading me to read your words as a sort of paranoid, maccarthyist insecurity essay, which i’m sure you will admit is true to a degree.

    3) You seem to have me down as some militant socialist, che guevara type because i criticised the sacred von mises, who still did not answer the questions about where laissez faire would start, how it would start (without pinochet force) and what it would eventually lead to (as i see it we may see Stienbeck’s grapes of wrath becoming a reality where labour is only sold by the hungry) in terms of a new social structure, and how the prevention of cartels would occur from the absurd idea that more competition would lead to easier survival, which i believe would ultimately lead to much more dangerous risks. Also the struggle to survive within laissez faire cannot be ignored, since the only benefit it brings is to business, the struggle of survival from those who do not save or utilise capital increases and if the do not play ball they starve, so in the end are forced to conform to the functions of the market. I should say at this point again that i do not criticise markets or basic natural capital process such as saving and simple transactions. My point and concern with laissez faire was that in order to survive within it, any business must lessen risks and seek more income via increasing abilities within the market and gain large market shares in order to expand, the natural way to do this is corporatism, conglomerates, unified business absorbing consumer spending. This in turn, inevitably, creates authority, hierarchy and the sort of problems that anarchists set out to reduce. So to claim that you are an anarchist who, knowingly or not, is suggesting that the seeds of authority are actually seeds of freedom, seems like a contradiction. That was mainly what i was getting at. Somehow from my tweets you have established that i am a militant communist disguised as an anarchist, i am somehow in love with chomsky and that i am possibly some communist mole (mccarthy again) simply because i see a flaw in mises. Also you write this response on this blog which is mostly presumption and a shallow generalisation of the varying ideas of socialism and i don’t think it does anything to convince anyone to be as paranoid as you. I may come back and comment in more detail on certain presumptuous aspects of your post, the results if which are thus, you are paranoid about socialism, you believe stalinism is socialism, you are unable to be sceptical about certain economic movements (dogmatic belief) and that you have an agenda which is to accuse people of being militants before actually understanding the motivation behind their criticisms. Anyway. Peace out.

    • Thanks for your comment.

      #1 There were a lot of tweets and if you read my sentence you will see I said, “…how the Austrian School of Economics was totally wrong, laisez-faire leads to enslavement and so forth.”

      #2 I have read Marx, and Marxism has led to brutal dictatorships every time it has been tried. Do you have a counter example? As I plainly stated, you don’t have to be in favor of tyranny to advocate systems that always lead to tyranny.

      #3 Apparently you don’t know anything about examples of laissez-faire that have worked in the past. You are preaching the standard “I Hate Private Property” mantra of the socialists. You continue to criticized von Mises without ever mentioning where you think he is wrong. Do you understand the Austrian theory of value? The Austrian theory of the business cycle? The post was prompted by you but is not only aimed at yourself. I have read many like yourself you think that value comes from only labor.

      By the way, your sweeping generalizations of business gaining more and more market share till they control the world is the opposite of history and theory. It is the single biggest example of your economic ignorance in the word salad that you have posted.

  2. I hate private property? No i don’t. Also, examples of Marxism, are like examples of laissez faire, they have never been attempted post transition. Lenin failed to move towards statelessness because of his paranoia, Pinochet could not fulfil laissez faire because the people revolted. These theories remain utopian until someone somewhere actually sets them beyond the hijacking period, and dissolves the state. Also, to answer a point you made about the theory of value, i agree that it is not entirely from labour, however much of the value of an economy is directly or indirectly affected by production overall. But this is not what i am getting at. You still seem paranoid that i want to promote stalinism, far from it. What i am getting at is the methods of survival within a free market. You say massive companies are born and fail, but the massive company is not directly the authority, the authority is the the fluidity of the capital that is orchestrated by few individuals, eg shareholders, who can pressure a market, pressure demand, pressure the producers etc all for the sake of profit. The shareholders of what was once IBM may well be the same major shareholders of what is now Apple. The authority is not just in the name, it is in who controls the decisions of capital movement. Laissez faire cannot eradicate this, it would increase it. If certain powers show that they aid in making a profit (increasing survival ability of shareholders/capital orchestrators) then those powers are seen as beneficial to freedoms of business, even though they are authoritarian powers. The notion that all the big cartels will suddenly be dismantled and all the investments made within them suddenly get dispersed is utter nonsense, nobody would allow that. And that makes absolute laissez faire seem even more of an utopian idea, despite its partial existence attached to powerful states.

    • Laisssez-faire in an anarchy (or in some very limited government) is simply the private market. It is millions or billions of people buying and selling as they see fit. This seems to offend you so you must be seeking a world where there is no freedom to do so. You give the impression that you hate private property.

      There has been laissez-faire and Pinochet has nothing to do with it. Let us not conflate a dictator with anarchy.

      There have been many examples of left-wing ideology that has been tried, and the 20th century shows it is death to the common man. The “workers paradise” is a hell on earth. By the way, I have personally known East Germans. Communism is tyranny on steroids.

  3. I just want to ask another point. What exactly is the method of eradicating collective power between participants of a free market? To give an example, you decide to open a coffee stand, i decide to open open a coffee stand along the street, we compete beneficially and both increase income, providing us both with the next cycle of ‘capital’ so to speak. Another two people open coffee stands on the same street, they both feel there is still demand and a potential to take some of the market away from you, me, and the other new comer. This reduces our ease of survival on the street and so we must do what we can to survive. What is the mechanism, or where is the ‘natural disempowerment’ if you and i decided to combine our capitals and increase the means of drawing customers away from the newcomers? We combine to increase the chances of seeing our own liberties realised. What if this happened on a scale involving billions of dollars worth of investment in a grand project, where the force and power from the ability to gather capital collectively is the goal? Sure the newcomer may have come up with a ‘bill gates’ scale breakthrough in the benefit to the customer and we have no chance, but on a level playing field, what exactly prevents us from being collective and thus becoming a power and ultimately an authority? I am not challenging but i am sincerely looking for a coherent answer to the danger of collective power over the freedoms and liberties of the individual.

    • “What exactly is the method of eradicating collective power between participants?”

      You say you are sincerely looking for answers and I will accept that, but you apparently know so little economic theory that one does not know where to begin. I suppose that asking you to read a book on economics is my best method of helping you. I would recommend reading Bob Murphy. His book “Lessons for the Young Economist” is working well at a school near me. It is free here:

      http://mises.org/document/5706/Lessons-for-the-Young-Economist

      but I bought it at Amazon for my kindle to help out the author. You do as you please. At least try to understand economics before becoming totally lost in socialist ideology. You see, it leads to violence, poverty, and slavery. If you get really interested I could recommend other readings but I think that Bob’s book is well worth your time. Don’t let the fact it is written for the young economist fool you into thinking it is just for kids. It is a very good first book on economics.

      On to the original question. You ask, “What exactly is the method of eradicating collective power between participants of a free market?”

      A truly free market has no monopoly on power. If you violate my property rights then I or a firm I hire will sue you in a libertarian court. I would ask you read my post on common law but there are many others that are much better. If everyone is protected against aggression then I need not worry about 12 outfits selling coffee on one street — the market (remember, the market is people making choices) will decide who wins that competition and not you or I.

      I do hope that you take my advice on reading economics. It was not meant as an insult at all, but as advice. The advice is worth what you paid for it but I hope you will take it.

  4. So in essence the court decides who is using corrupt methods of infringing on your liberty to do business? An established and trusted institution, with a jury, decides by a set of laws and guidelines (which will be altering depending on specific cases) on the limits of competition wherever unfair or even violent (physical, mental) methods are used? Would this be a centralised court, would it be a very localised institution, and would there need to be a state or ‘mini-state’ where laws come into play under a certain jurisdiction?

    On the point you made about Pinochet, Hayek backed a transitionary period in Chile, Milton Friedman and Hayek visited Pinochet and effectively patted him on the back. They saw the force as a means to some experimental laissez faire. I watched an interview where Hayek says that force was necessary. Of course after the atrocities were revealed both Friedman and Hayek were quick to say they were unaware of the extent of the barbarism. So the Pinochet dictatorship was, in a way, a hijacking. Not that it ever claimed to be anarchistic, but it still has very many comparisons with the hijacking of the bolshevik transition, obv on a much smaller scale.

    • There is no need for a government to have courts. Private law systems are much better. Please read my thoughts here:

      https://markstoval.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/common-law-systems/

      On Pinochet, I hope you know that I am a Rothbardian market anarchist. We were yelling at Hayek when all that happened. Where where you? Besides, he gave advice and did not run the show. He made mistakes thinking he could deal with a dictator. So? That proves exactly what?

      There have been a lot of communist examples and they all went to dictatorship. There have been zero examples that did not. There have been many examples of anarchy that worked. So your left-wing “anarchy” is just a cover for more domination of the many by the few.

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