Tag Archives: Libertarian Socialism

How I ended up calling myself an Anarchist

Broadsnark recently posted an interesting piece into how she became an Anarchist which is the kind of thing that I always find interesting to read, both from a political perspective but also from a religious (i.e. I like to read interesting deconversions). So since I found this interesting, I’ve decided to write my own story.

As far back as I remember myself, I have always been reactionary. People used to call me “the voice of opposition” just because I used to argue the opposing case, whether I espoused it or not, just so that my opponent would be forced to argue his position solidly instead of relying on the agreement of the “choir”.  I was also inherently anti-authoritarian. I refused to recognize and respect authority just in order to achieve peace. Needless to say this brought me in a lot of friction with my peers (other students mostly) who wished the “alpha-male” position and demanded appropriate respect.

As a result I ended up getting into various fist-fights every few weeks or so, although I never initiated aggression. This didn’t make me a lot of friends as one would expect which further fed my introverted and apolitical personality.

As weird as it is, I never had big problems with institutional authority like my school teachers or my army officials (while in national service) for while I didn’t like it, I also knew I couldn’t change it or fight it and thus simply put my head down and went along with it for its limited time. I don’t know why this is so. I simply always considered myself to be very adaptable. Sure I had the occasional shouting matches with school teachers (one time getting expelled for it and getting the whole school taking one day of absistence from class in my defense) but all-in-all, I was on generally good terms with officials. I mostly had issues with peer authority.

My political views in those teen and post-teen years were non-existent. I didn’t care about any political party or affiliation. Even though much of my family was mostly on the communist side (Marxist-Leninist generally) and even though my mother was a generally a socialist, I never much cared for such stuff as long as I could get my gaming fix. This continued in my early adulthood at the time where most people start solidifying their views. Much like the current youth, I couldn’t care less.

When time came to vote, I generally voted white or black (i.e. canceled vote) because I considered all political parties the same corrupt shit. At 23 I started becoming much more social and much more interested in social issues. This was incidentally the time I started getting interested in GNU/Linux and the Free Software movement and when I discovered that Epicurism was the philosophy that most closely resembled my mindframe.  Still, my political views remained agnostic as I simply supported measures that would increase freedom.

My political views started forming soon after I left Greece and ended up outside of my comfort zone of gaming friends and usual company. This and my increasing interest in blogging made me cut back on games and start reading more and more about social and economical issues. For some reason this in turn led me around that time to throw my support behind the a new Greek libertarian party, mainly because of its manifesto promoting various measures I supported such as drug legalization and anti-copyright measures. Back then I had a very limited understanding of economics so all their free market policies just went over my head. I saw someone supporting “Freedom” and I stood with them. Eventually of course, once I realized what kind of “libertarians” they are, I withdrew my support.

As lame as it may sound, I first started describing myself as LibSoc after taking the political compass test and then somehow ending in the Libertarian Socialism article of Wikipedia. I simply took on the name that described my current social views. I wasn’t however yet an anti-statist nor a revolutionary explicitly. I still believed in some of the common nonsense about human nature and how communism was not yet possible because of it and so on.  So I was still as I was a few years ago, mostly apolitical but simply with a new label and a interest in learning more. And I did.

Believe it or not, what ended up radicalizing me more was when I started participating in Reddit. I first went to it as part of my interaction in the Atheosphere and as an experiment in increasing my readership. While there, I discovered the possibility of subreddits and on an impulse, I joined /r/Socialism. You see, I never really bought into any propaganda, anti-socialist or not. I always considered that Communism was like a perfect society, simply impossible, but I had never really bothered to learn about it and always wanted to, in order to know what I’m talking about. /r/Socialism gave me that chance. Due to the constant arguments in the comments there, I ended up being linked to various articles on the subject of which I can safely say that the two most inspiring where The Origins of the Family by Engels and The Two Souls of Socialism by Draper. These two texts served to both dispel much of the preconceptions of human history that school propaganda had forced into my head and also to clarify for me that Socialism does not have to equal Stalinism or Social Democracies. I had now become a revolutionary.

Unfortunately eventually I got turned off by some of the authoritarian bullies in there. Fortunately by this time I had already discovered /r/Anarchism and realized that this was about Socialism as well! It’s funny to think of this really but I still remember when I first got linked to /r/Anarchism that I felt kind of scared. I had the kind of mentality of “What am I doing here with these elements?”. If I remember, I had to will myself to subscribe to /r/Anarchism the first time.

Fortunately, as I started interacting with the crowd there, all such feeling dispelled very quickly. And this was in fact quite a strong event. I knew before that, that Anarchists were not necessarily violent but I still considered them immature based on personal experience with some Greek ones (as well as the persistent Greek anti-anarchist propaganda of course). This subreddit totally changed my impression of what Anarchism is, which in turn made it easier and in fact imperative for me to delve into Anarchist texts for a change.

And that was it. It didn’t take longer than an Anarchist FAQ and some Kropotkin to make me realize that this is where I belong. This is in fact where I’ve always belonged without knowing it. Once this dawned on me, the rest of the pieces fell in place. All my philosophical base, my distaste for authority, my materialism and my rationalism made finally sense as a complete whole rather than disconnected parts of my personality. I knew I was an Anarchist.

tl;dr: I was always an Anarchist but it took reddit to help me realize it and finally willingly call myself as one.

And now I’m done. I’m actually quite curious to hear how others ended up under the same label so I’m going to make this a meme just to get others to write about it. So the rules are simple. Write how you became an Anarchist and optionally link/notify 5 other Anarchist bloggers to do the same.

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User called from 0060237288
I checked myself on the test laptop (on the DSL connection) and got the same thing. “Unable to connect to the Citrix XenApp server. Protocol Driver Error”. I can open DSS applications from my ECB PC though.
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The 5 stages of "Anarcho"-Capitalist reaction.

.bless uS
Image unrelated by 27147 via Flickr

Every time I argue with Stateless (or minarchist) Propertarians of various degrees of vulgarity, I keep seeing a few types of reaction over and over. Not only are they common but they seem to follow in a very particular progression which made me think of the 5 stages of grief.

With the same lack of scientific accuracy then, I will now present you with the 5 stages of “Anarcho”-Capitalist reaction to Libertarian Socialists. For the lulz.

1. Surprise and Denial

“Libertarian Socialism? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”; “I can’t believe someone can support communism at this time and age.”; “You’re not a true Anarchist if you don’t support private property!”

Surprise usually occurs to those who have had a fairly sheltered political life and have only just began to radicalize recently by discovering Ayn Rand or Austrian Economics but have only the slightest experience with the wider libertarian movement or conceptions of Socialism outside of McCarthyian propaganda . It is quickly followed by denial as the position of LibSocs quickly assaults their recently acquired radicalism but disentangling the concept of liberty from the concept of property. For someone who has just recently embraced the NAP or the self-ownership principles as  true and inviolable, any direct challenge to those principles is likely to be dismissed out of hand.

2. Misunderstanding and Anger

“Stalin! Mao! Pol Pot!”; “Try to take over my house and I’ll shoot you!”; “You’re just a bunch of hippies dreaming of utopias. Get a job!”; “You’re just hate Capitalism because you’re lazy and jealous.”

This often follows and complements denial when the discussions continue for a any length of time. Occasionally someone may start from this position when he’s had discussions with LibSocs in the recent past as well. The reasons for such a reaction is generally the persistent assault on AnCap principles and the opposition to some basic building blocks such a the “Free Markets”, an opposition which is misunderstood as expression of authoritarianism. Another common cause is the misunderstanding of LibSoc positions, assuming that they support involuntary societal organization, such as forced collectivization or forbidding of trade. In general, As such discussion grows longer, the probability of comparing the LibSocs to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or their corresponding regimes approaches 1. (Db0’s Law?)

3. Bargaining

“Why don’t we put aside our differences and focus on toppling the state?”; “We would never be opposed to communes and co-operatives within Anarcho-Capitalism.”; “We’re all Libertarian socialists at the end of the day.”

The bargaining phase of the AnCap reaction tends to come as one’s understanding of the Anarchist position increases and they realize that they too are suggesting voluntary rather than coerced relations and social organization. Missing the point of Anarchists not considering voluntarism to be enough, they reach the flawed conclusion that the two movements are close enough to ally in opposition to the state. It is at this point that the crucial differences in tactics start to be expanded which can lead the discussion to back into Anger as AnCaps interpret refusals of potential alliance as stubborness or given convincing argument on why Agorism or “Libertarian” Reformism is not good enough to crush the state, they may descend into…

4. Depression

“The state is too powerful to topple.”; “I want to smash the state as much as anyone else but we need to find a way to do it peacefully.”; “I’m only an Anarchist ideologically. Practically we can’t change the system without making things worse.”; “The free market/internet/cryptography will lead to the state’s demise naturally.”; “Vote Ron Paul!”

The end of the road for the “Anarcho”-Capitalism movement remains firmly within the current system. While they have truly numerous criticisms of the state and quite a bit of perfect-society theories and literature, they are sorely lacking in transitional ideas. In short, they have no idea how to get from here to there and as a result they are stuck. There’s a lot of rationalization for this predicament of course, from claiming that they would only support “peaceful revolutions”, to insisting that they are waiting for most humans to turn AnCap due to their superior arguments to my all-time favourite, waiting for the internet to revolutionize society towards the direction they expect.

This is of course nothing but a way of giving up, of raising up their hands in frustration and devolving into wishful thinking. Those who take a more practical approach either turn to Agorism or Reformism as a best-next-solution. Supporting Socialist Revolutions and then trying to convince people to voluntary turn to propertarianism is of course out the question. One guesses because they realize the futility of achieving the later. Silently consenting to the current system is apparently a better option.

5. Acceptance

“Fine. What do you suggest we do?”; “If you don’t want to force me into collectives I have no problem with you doing your own thing.”;

This last step is usually irreversible. At this advanced stage, LibSoc ideas have finally started making sense, usually when coupled with real-life experience of wage-slavery and hierarchical domination. The veteran AnCap now understands the perspective of the LibSocs and knows better than to make egregious strawmen as he’s been in the same discussions too many times already. Rather, he turns far more to lurking as he’s also too tired to try and correct his fellow AnCap’s misunderstandings and thus draw their online ire.

At this stage, one cannot help but see a character of wary tolerance to ideas of Anarchists. The whole “I don’t see it working in practice but I’m willing to be proven wrong and if I do, I’ll join you guys in a heartbeat.” mentality. This stage is characterized by attempts at constructive criticism and attempts to distance oneself from the more extreme elements of their own camp (Block, Kinsella etc).

Of course, Acceptance is not the end of the road. Fortunately quite a few AnCaps are eventually brought over by the very viral ideology they have to argue against and pass through the veil to the opposing site as more open minded mutualists. The Libertarian Socialist Pull claims one more “victim”.

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A Right-Libertarian primer to Libertarian Socialism

RedblackstarflagI’ve been discussing with Right-“Libertarians” lately quite a bit, especially after the Division by Zer0 was linked from a related social network as well as in Reddit. Unfortunately it seems that while most Libertarian Socialists are aware of the positions of such opponents, it’s very rare for propertarians to be familiar with LibSoc positions, leading to the same tired old arguments that one hopes the AFAQ would have prevented by now.

I’ve been arguing against those points so often lately that I’m really getting tired of repeating myself every time some propertarian jumps to the same conclusions just because they don’t know better. As such, I’ve decided to write this primer which will simply be a list of relevant links touching on all such common points raised. I’m hoping it will serve as a handy link to give to those unfamiliar with LibSoc and avoid needless repetition.

Isn’t Libertarian Socialism An Oxymoron?

By far the most common reply once someone first hears about it. It’s also the most telling since it shows that the one asking it is very unfamiliar with LibSoc and thus a perfect candidate for a link to this primer.

Abolishing Private Property

You will certainly be confused about what LibSocs are talking about if you do not realize the way that they use the term “Private Property”, what they mean by the abolition thereof, what Possession is and the fundamental differences between them

Free Markets and Socialism

Private Property is usually presupposed in the existence of the free markets and/or liberty but this is not required. Unfortunately from this presupposition one then makes the straw-man argument that socialists wish to coercively prevent free markets or voluntary exchange. This is false. Not only are there forms of socialism which are compatible with Free Markets such as Mutualism but even communists wouldn’t try to stop it actively.

The Labour Theory of Value

Libertarian Socialists as a rule tend to support the Labour Theory of Value in some form (although that’s not always the case). Right-Libertarians are trigger happy in accusing them of supporting debunked theories based on a argument from authority (the authority of Boehm Bawerk mainly). But the reason why socialists still support the LTV is because we see it as the most scientific way to describe the capitalist mode of production and because the criticisms brought against it are generally weak.

Why can’t we all just get along?

A very common point makde, especially from those calling themselves “Anarcho-Capitalists” is the request to put aside our differences and work together to topple the state. They do not understand why LibSocs want nothing to do with them.

Human Nature

Ah, human nature. The favourite argument of every two-bit authoritarian. There has never been a concept more used from each and every political camp as an ultimate trump-card against all other social theories.

In Closing

I will try to keep this primer up to date with newer or better posts and I’ll be adding more classic questions once I get annoyed at them enough. Please do recommend more such subjects and provide links for them as well. I will be happy to improve this guide as much as possible.

Other than that, link, tweet and share far and wide. Hopefully we might avoid wasting so much time explaining the same concepts over and over again.

As for any right-“libertarian” having reached this point, I hope that by now you have a better understanding of LibSoc concepts and we can avoid rehashing the same stuff with both sides getting increasingly annoyed at the apparent obtuseness of the other. Hopefully this will help the dialogue between us to be constructive rather than an exercise in frustration. I hope you too will share this article to people from your side that you notice are ignorant of the fundamentals.

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Some results from my Political & Social survey

10 days ago or so I created a survey to try and gather some data about how people’s social status affects their political orientation. It was mostly aimed at Anarchists as I was interested to see what combination of ideas and social circumstances correlate to each ideology.

Initially I got a moderate amount of responses but yesterday I decided to post a link to reddit as well and within one day I had already exceeded my allotted amount of responses (PollDaddy allows 100 survey reponses for free accounts) by a 100. However I could still see and analyze those results so I’m not exactly certain when limitations kick in. In any case, now that I’ve got a small sample I think it’s time to do some analysis and see what we find.

The results

I’ve had most answers of course from Libertarian Socialists (i.e. Anarchists) as this is where I was aiming my survey in the first place. However, others also joined in in smaller amounts as well.

(Click on any image for a large view)

Question 1 - What is your political orientationIn the first question, I tried to allow people to select their current political orientation as they see it themselves. I realize this relies of people being a bit solid on their own political beliefs and it would probably have been better if I had decided their orientation for them via questions, but this is an amateur survey and I don’t have the necessary knowledge to ask the correct questions. I am thinking that in version 2 of the survey I should include one question which will ask people to take the political compass test and report back with their quadrant as this will hopefully help them choose more accurately.

If one answered this question as Libertarian Socialist, an extra page was opened to them which allowed them to further define their views within the two camps of Anarchism and also point out what brought them to this result.

How LibSocs splitInteresting Point: As I had the privilege to notice the differences between the LibSocs coming from my initial blogpost and those coming from reddit, I noticed that there were far more individualists coming from here while when reddit started entering the game, the Social Anarchists quickly overtook them as the majority. Still, the split is not that big and it seems to be in the middle between the real life numbers (where Social Anarchists are the vast majority) and the internet tendency towards right-libertarianism.

Individualist Anarchists

As expected, most of this camp came from Classical Liberalism following the liberty path of the LibSoc Pull.

Individualist Anarchist orientationsI was surprised however at how many considered that a balance must be found between liberty and equality.  The explanation I have is that because of the market mechanisms, a market anarchist always expects some levels of inequality to persist but doesn’t consider that they will be (big enough to be) disruptive. As such trying to achieve equality would by expectation interfere with the workings of the market and therefore liberty. For all of you Individualists who answered this way, is this analysis correct or did you have a different perpective on this choice?

The movement of the individualists was mainly form the liberal side athough it had a fairly large amount which came from the State Socialism path.

Individualist LibSoc Pull

Continuing on to their social status…

Individualist Anarchist social statusCompared to the overall Social Status, the Individualists seem to have a higher percentage of Company Owners and Academics and lower wage workers and unemployed but not excessively so. Unfortunately I believe that the question I asked on the social status were not enough to point out more fine differences that I think would have been useful. For example, I would be quite interested to see in which sector they are wage workers at as there is a big difference in the environment between an sysadmin wage-worker and a carpenter. This is certainly something for the next survey.

On the social status, it’s interesting that they have a higher percentage of people who consider themselves to be on the lower class.I wonder what kind of connection there is here.

Social Anarchists

These were the greatest group taking part in the survey, only late in the game overcoming the individualists. Interestingly, most of them seemed to start from their current position which makes me wonder what kind of upbringing they had and how their early environment affected their life. Did they get raised by LibSoc parents or did they just happen to be in a tolerant neighborhood? These are certainly questions that I will try to include in my next version of the survey.

Social Anarchists Orientation

As expected, Social Anarchists came mostly from the State Socialism side, following the libertarian socialist pull. Still, there were still quite a bunch of them that identified as propertarians for most of their life. Certainly, It must have been quite a trip from someone to move from stateless capitalism to communism or syndicalism.

Social Anarchist movement

Finally, there were also quite a few who consider equality and liberty to be on a scale rather than complementary to each other. While I can understand that from individualists, I can’t grasp it from socials so I would be interested to know some perspectives on this.

On the Social Status of the Social Anarchists, the result were more of what was expected.

Social Anarchist social statusThere is a far stronger presence of the working class which points nicely to the idea that wage-slavery radicalizes people to a degree. However while the percentage of wage-workers increased slightly, it was the student percentage that took a big jump. It seems that most of the Social Anarchists are or have mostly been still in education which can point us to two possibilities which of course don’t exclude each other. 1) Schools, colleges and universities can be a powerful breeding ground for socialism. Of course it’s difficult to figure out which is the correlation, which is why I think I should be requesting the ages of people in the future as well. 2) Social Anarchists might be as a rule younger and less experienced in life.  This is of course not necessarily bad as it’s most likely that wage-slavery will radicalize them even more, however it might also serve as a platform for other schools of thought to shallowly renounce us as immature or somesuch.

As for the social position, the Social Anarchists are as a group at the lowest rungs of the social ladder and we did not manage to have any of the rich within our ranks. Still I believe a greater sample would be more telling here.

Finally, I’m going to take a look at the two other camps of survey takers as a more generalized group or Left vs  Right so as to save some time. Of course you’ll be be getting the data yourselves so you can take a look yourself if you wish.

The Right (Minarchist & Stateless Capitalism)

There was quite a large number of such taking part in the survey, almost 1/4 of the total number of participants which tells a bit about my audience (hi guys & gals!) and the political consistency of /r/anarchism. Between them, their numbers were almost split in half.

The Right's Political Orientation

While many of those two groups either started from their respective positions or moved between them, there were a few that came from more egalitarian positions. I would be especially interested to see what convinced LibSocs to turn propertarian.

As for the choice between equality and liberty, the results are not surprising although I’m surprised about those who believe  that liberty requires equality. Since Capitalism is always a system which breeds inequality since it present the capacity for accumulation (indeed, it depends upon it), how can you both believe in such an idea but also support the Capitalist mode of production? I think that most who selected this option, perhaps were confused on either their choice of orientation or their choice in this question. Still, if someone consciously selected those two options, I’d like to hear the perspective behind this.

On the social status, the Liberals also have its largest percentage in wage-slavery but here it makes even more sense to know which sector dominates. I can’t get it out of my head that most will be in the Computer Industry.

The Right's social statusThe Liberals generally also seem to have been mostly students which also points to the possibility that intellectual pursuits are also conductive to liberalism. This makes me believe that I should also be inquiring on possibly both the sector one is studying in and also if the sector one currently works is the same one they’ve studied. I wonder is there is a correlation between liberalist feelings and someone managing to find work in their chosen field.

Finally the social status shows a marked move towards the upper strata. While they do not have any rich amongst them, both the middle and lower class percentages have dropped while the Upper-Middle class has increased by 8%.

The Left (Social Democrats and State Socialists)

First I’d like to say that I think I may have not been clear enough on the choices here (Curse you skewed US terminology). By “Social Democrats” I meant what the US Republicans call a “Liberal” while with “State Socialist” I mean mostly the variants of Marxist-Leninism which depend on the existence of a state to (temporarily) sustain the revolution/socialism. This might have been clear for governmental communists and the like but it might have confused Trotskyists. I had someone write to me that he didn’t know what to choose as a Marxist-Leninist so obviously this needs more work. Ideas on this appreciated.

Now on to the stats. As expected from being in the Anarchist subreddit, there were not a lot of Statists around so the sample if very small even between them.

The Left's political OrientationIt seems that isn’t extensive change in their viewpoints really but I was again surprised at how many people selected that you can’t have equality without freedom. If this is your viewpoint, then why do you support the existence of a state which is a profoundly authoritarian institution? Personally I expected far more people to select the “Balance” option in this case.

On the social status, things seem more or less standard. More collection on workers and students but greater concentration in the middle class. Unfortunately with such a small sample, it’s difficult to make a lot of conclusions as even the 1 rich person shows as a whole 4% of the total.

Epilogue

So that was it for now. I hope you’ve found the results interesting and my analysis insightful and of course, I will work on improving it more so that some more interesting information might be gleaned. At the moment, these are the kind of questions I’m thinking of adding.

  • Job or Study Sector.
  • Family type.
  • Early life environment.
  • Change question on “Which social position have you been mostly in your life” to “Which social position have you been mostly in your adult life”
  • Age.
  • Sex.
  • Private Property or Possession?
  • Political Compass quadrant.
  • Do you work on the sector you’ve studied?
  • Options for “co-op” and “Boss” social positions.
  • Labour theory of Value, Marginalism or some synthesis of the two?
  • School of Economics (Neoclassical, Austrian, Marxian etc)

I would really appreciate feedback and ideas of course. Especially on the questions you would like to see and how the survey should be paced.

There has been quite a lot of feedback from people who took the survey as well, some giving me some good ideas while others explaining what confused them. Below I’ll respond to some of them and you’ll be able to see the rest yourselves in the full export.

Feedback

Each quote represents a different submitter.

Attitudes towards different things (how valuable are things – things are more valuable to the poor; attitudes to poverty verses excess); social class growing up verses social class held now.

I’ve already included this as a question for the future and comparing those two will certainly be interesting. It might also point out how much a perspective changes as one grows up.

I also like the idea of seeing one’s attitude towards excess or luxury. I need to think how to phrase this though.

Ask more specific ideas on social issues, and methods of organization. For instance, if someone identifies as a social democrat yet, constantly agrees with Libertarian socialist ideas, it would seem they may not know what either term means.

I think that is too detailed for this survey. I’ll add however the Political Compass as an option and ask people to figure and submit on which quadrant they belong.

The options for “political orientation” are terrible, I don’t really fit within any of them.

Although I’ve added the general groupings as I see them, it’s likely that either you understand them differently or you think of yourself as something completely different. If any of you felt this way, please let me know what you would like to see (keep in mind that it needs to be something generic that a sufficient large sample might select) or how you identify yourself.

I’ve been a student and a wage worker since I could legally work, your questions need to have more options to choose from

You mean like an option for someone to choose worker & student together? Hmm. Perhaps I should make this a multiple choice vote? So that someone might choose Student + Wage Worker or Academic + Wage Worker.

Ask about politics and class of parents. Ask about type of occupation (management, finance, health care, etc). Ask about where they’ve lived.

Very good idea. Already added.

Religiousness — religious, deist, agnostic, atheist, anti-theist, etc.

Although interesting I do not know how relevant it is. What does everyone think?

What attracted you to your political point of view?

What information or insight lead you to your current political orientation?

I’m thinking of adding such open-ended questions, but they will have to be inputed as text instead of multiple choice, which will mean it will require manual reading and more time (and thus possibility to cancel the survey) on behalf of the survey taker. I may add it as an optional field and try to analyze it for general trends.

I mainly identify with the Green party philosophy, and was not sure which of your categories most closely represented it. I came to political awakening from an environmental/anti-nuclear path, and expanded it to anti-imperialism and disgust with the corporate plutocracy we have in the U.S. I think questions or an expanded answer set to cover those concepts would be useful.

I never even thought of this path. No idea how common it is but it looks to me that the environmental path closely relates to the egalitarianism path (ie, why do we need to protect the environment? To sustain general human life). Will think about this.

[…]So, while I may have said I’m a social anarchist, I was leaving out a lot of important information. I think it would be worthwhile to add questions about specific overlaps and compatibility between ideologies. Questions about the role of government (as a protector of rights, as a mutual-aid organization, as a leader, etc.), about private property, personal property, and common property (e.g. which one should be the predominant kind of property? Should any of them be removed from society?) and other items which make the ideologies what they are should be asked. Then, there could be a multiple-choice for which ideologies you could support, if they had the ability to replace the existing political and economic system.

This is certainly interesting and I’ve already decided to add some questions of this extent as well. Will need to think how many others I can cram into a multiple-question.

I suggest attempting to make a clear distinction between advocates of big government and advocates of *this* big government.

Hmm, how many such advocates are there? AFAIK both conservatives and social democrats always push governments towards an idealized status. I don’t think many are happy with the current one. Furthermore, since this is a test that I mostly target at Anarchists, I think most will simply skip this question.

– The political choices are very US-focused.

This is a weird feedback. How do you mean?

Consider adding “I don’t know” as a possible answer.

To some questions, that defeats their purpose. I am considering adding “Apolitical” though, although I guess such would simply not take the survey in the first place?

Asking about labels is not necessarily a good idea. That is, people can call themselves whatever they want but not really have a clue as to what that entails.

True, but for an amateur survey I do not have much choice. Hopefully, the addition of the Political Compass might help.

Asterisks exist for some questions without the footnote that should be there.

There are more types of Conservatives than you allow in your questions. I’m a Libertarian Conservative, not a Libertarian Socialist, but that’s not an option in your poll.

Asterisks denote mandatory questions, not footnotes.

As for Conservatives, I thought about adding such an option but I’m not certain what their significant difference from Liberals and Social Democrats is. I have even less an idea what a Libertarian Conservative is.

Also, the question about recent change in ideology should be modified. Recent change is subjective, so I’m not really sure how to answer. You should either simply ask if I have changed, and if so, what I was before, or you should ask if I’ve changed, and then, if so, how long ago did I change?

Hmm, yes, this does sound a bit more clear. Other opinions?

Have definition links embedded within the political assignments. ie, define libertarian socialist, etc.

Not certain if that is possible but it sounds like a good idea. Wikipedia?

I once postulated that you might be able to tell the difference between a republican and a democrat using functional MRI. Let me explain.

In this model, democrats are those who primarily see the world in terms of cooperation and republicans see it primarily in terms of competition. Of course, each of us knows that many parts of the world work according to each model, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that one couldn’t easily classify people by their predilection to presume that most of the world should be viewed as either one or the other.

“Cooperation or Competition” does not sound like a bad question. I think I’ll add it.

I started out as state soc leaning at ansoc, converted to the Libertarian Party, spun into ancap, and then found myself a libsoc… this quiz doesn’t allow me to say how crooked my path has been!

You’re killing me here 🙂 But I think you’re such a small minority in your political changes that it wouldn’t make much of a difference if you answered it as an approximation.

Data

Phew, so this is the end. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this analysis and I hope I’ll see you all in version 2 of this survey (no ETA yet). Below you’ll find a link to the raw exported data I’ve pulled today with which you can play in a spreadsheet. I release all of it under the same CC licence as the rest of this site so knock yourself out and just let me know if you write about it so I can link to you.

Raw Data: CSV, XML

Cheers!

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Socialism is not merely Anti-Capitalism

FFS! Why are the propertarians so hell-bent in appropriating all the concepts of socialists for their own ends? Libertarianism was twisted to mean Capitalist Minarchism. Anarchism has been pulled over by the AnCaps trying to make it mean Private State Capitalism. And now Libertarian Socialism? Will it ever end? Will you leave us no term untainted? What next? Communism?

No wait, that one has only been taken over by the statists instead…

Ok, enough ranting, lets look at why Brad Spangler believes that Agorism is a valid LibSoc movement.

His confusion seems to emanate from misunderstanding what Socialism entails. He is under the impression that socialism means simply anti-currently-existing-capitalism which is patently false. Socialists were never merely interested in shallow opposition to the current status quo but rather against all the building blocks of what makes capitalism. Socialists recognise that the exploitation coming from Capitalism, the wage-slavery, rent and usury that is rampart in our society stems from Private Property and the possibility of accumulation it repressents.

Of course Socialists spend the most energy criticizing the current system rather than any fantasy laissez-faire utopia Liberals could think of but it’s a great jump to consider that this was their only opposition and therefore as long as someone proposes a non-contemporary capitalist system, they are also “socialists.”

Basically, the point that Brad confuses is this

* Labor-based ownership rights? Check.

Socialism is not simply labour-based ownership rights. It is persistent labour-based ownership rights. That is,  the ownership of any capital or land is held by whoever is currently working it. In other words: via Possession. This is a profoundly anti-propertarian proposition as it would prevent the basic concepts that make capitalism capitalist: The Capitalist mode of production Or more specifically Wage-labour (and also Rent.)

While under Agorism the theoretical initial redistribution of ownership rights made after a revolutionary effort might be based on labour (although I fail to see how their theory aims to achieve this), they would not change the system so as to prevent wage-labour or rent. This means that very soon, the inequalities would start to amass, people will be turned into proletarians en masse and de-facto states (those private defense companies) will be required to prevent the class struggle from escalating once more. Enter democratization of the states to pacify the proletariat and you’re back where you started.

So unless your main purpose is to manage to allow all workers to own the capital and land they are working on, you are no socialist. And to extend that, unless your main purpose also includes the abolition of all hierarchy and domination of human over human, you’re neither an Anarchist or a Libertarian. A system therefore which will not systematically prevent wage-slavery (a mode of production encompassing both non-worker-onwership of capital and hierarchy) cannot be Libertarian Socialist.

And if you’re such a Libertarian Socialist who still wishes to have free markets as well. Then you’re a Mutualist, not an “Anarcho”-Capitalist.

A clarifying question might be this: Do you embrace the free markets because you believe they will achieve egalitarianism (ie allow the workers to own the means of production?) If so, you’re indeed socialist but such a perspective would require that you reject the free markets if you discover that they cannot, in fact, achieve this goal. However, if you’re for free markets and private property in principle whether wage-slavery, rent, usury and vast inequality will persist or not (but just think they won’t) then you are no socialist.

Agorism fails this test. If does not worry about whether labour-based ownership will remain after their revolutionary change but only that past aggression is reneged according to propertarian principles and afterwards, come what may. But those propertarian principles are also a result of the past aggression and unless they are abolished as well, the fix will be impotent.

This kind of confusion seems to be very common in those who do not seem to understand Anarchist or Socialist thought. The same way that Anarchism is mistakenly conflated with Anti-Statism, now we see Socialism being mistakenly conflated with Anti-Capitalism and ending up with absurd propositions such as a “Socialist” system which would have the capitalist mode of production as dominant or an “Anarchist” society where people enter voluntary slavery or simply sell their liberty piecemeal. People refuse to understand the political history behind these two concepts and use their own definitions.

So yeah, if you simply define Socialism as merely Anti-Capitalism, then all sorts of things become “Socialist”.  Feudalism for example. However defining yourself into Libertarian Socialism would still not make you a LibSoc as the greater LibSoc movement defines itself. Much like Socialism, so does Libertarian Socialism not apply via self-description either and to pursue such a path is to unnecessary muddle the waters and provide the appearance of infighting to outsiders.

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The Libertarian Socialist Pull survey

I’ve written a while ago about the political path of the freethinker and since then I’ve been getting a few responses from individualist anarchists of how they’ve personally followed the political movement I was talking about. This triggered me to put my ideas to the test and see how close to reality my ideas have fallen.

To this end, I’ve created a short survey that I’d like you all to take which should tell us how much social position correlates to ideology. Unfortunately PollDaddy only allows 100 answers for free accounts so the survey sample is not going to be very large. I generally don’t get more than a dozen answers per poll anyway though so I don’t think it’s a big issue. If the survey is filled, I’ll see if another solution can be found.

Of course I will post the results once no more answers are forthcoming for all to see. So please be so kind to take the survey below (javascript required so please turn it on first if it’s disabled). Alternatively, follow this link.



Free Markets are libertarian but libertarianism is not the Free Markets

Carrots and other vegetables for sale at Balla...
Image via Wikipedia

Just thought I’d throw this out there since this idea, that the only way to have libertarianism is to have a free market economy, keeps popping up from people coming from the right. It’s even more annoying when the same people also insist that the only way to have free markets is in a propertarian system where hierarchies of landlords and bosses wouldn’t affect the “libertarianism” of the society at all. Oh no.

Yes, a truly free market is a libertarian concept as it is based on the condition that people freely trade with each other, but then you still have to define what a truly free market is. Not all markets are free and the existence of a market is not enough or even necessary for liberty. A free society might choose voluntarily to avoid money and markets if the individuals within it so wish thankyouverymuch.

This confusion imho arises from the common misconceptions of people on the right about “human nature” and “natural human societies.” Specifically there is the impression that humans societies will naturally default to a market economy and thus some kind of coercion will be necessary to stop people from “freely trading with each other.” From this assumption spring all the automatic accusations against libertarian socialists of being “statists”, “authoritarians” etc which when directed against Anarchists can be just a tad annoying.

In fact, this argument is ridiculously common. From my experience, it’s so common that in discussions you’ll have with a free market proponent (anarchist or minarchist) where you mention that your idea of a future society will not include free markets, there a very high probability that their next response will be something like this:

How are you going to stop people from trading then? Are you going to forbit it forcefully? Will you use your “people’s army?”. Authoritarian! Statist!

Seriously people. We don’t care if you trade to your heart’s content in your own free societies, but just because we can visualise one where people have decided not to subject themselves to social darwinism does not automatically make it less libertarian. Markets will not be even explicitly forbidden in a communist society in the first place, people within it will be free to trade just as well, make up their own paper currency or whatever other such nonsense. We simply expect that nobody will wish to do so as it will be wholly unnecessary and alienating for the participants.

The only thing LibSocs would ever actively oppose is attempts to re-introduce hierarchies once more into human existence. It is not oppressive to oppose all oppression.

So can you please cut it out already with the misguided accusations? I’d be really appreciated and I can guarantee it will help your dialogue with us be constructive rather than devolving into a flamewar.

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The political path of a freethinker

The end of the path along Redhill/Storeton
Image by jimmedia via Flickr

I’ve written in the past on what the obvious trend for freethinker’s political orientation is but the more I talk and interact with libertarians online, the more I notice a second, more passive trend which seems to be present in the political history of those people. The Libertarian Socialist Pull.

This means the general tendency to move towards the left or, to put it a bit more practically, start giving more weight to concepts of justice, mutual aid and equality, as well as the tendency to move towards liberty which means to start demanding the right to manage all aspects of your own life without a higher authority and prioritize direct action. The first part then expresses the empathy all humans possess for others, while the second expresses the individualism which allows each human to naturally distinguish themselves.

It is no wonder then that the more someone experiences, the more they start to notice all the aspects of our current existence which limit those expressions and if this is coupled with thinking freely about them, that is, when someone does not have any irrational beliefs which would prevent them from looking at and judging the underlying causes, (eg “Goddidit”) then it is only natural that the truth will be found and lead to some uncomfortable conclusions about all the things we’ve considered normal until now.

This is by no means an easy process and can be as difficult as a deconversion if one is to start from a point of heavy indoctrination1. As such, it is a gradual progression, with people slowly discovering the puzzle pieces which just don’t seem to fit right, no matter how you turn them and then discarding them, only to discover that a whole chunk of the puzzle has now become disconnected and can be discarded as well.

From what I’ve observed, it seems that there are generally two paths towards Libertarian Socialism, one from Socialism and one from Libertarianism and which one people start walking depends on their upbringing and general circumstances and experiences. But in broad strokes, I would say that we can talk about two types of human personality which are more susceptible to either pull: Empathetic  – which is positive towards Socialism and Individualist which prioritizes Libertarianism. Why? Because the personality one has will define which difficult questions the freethinker will choose to investigate first.

Where one starts in the current political spectrum is not so important but it generally also correlates to one’s personality as well (although of course irrational beliefs one has not yet discarded play a large role). However as one asks the pointed questions and discovers that the easy answers are unfulfilling or just do not stand the light of reason so do the answers one discovers pull them more towards the Libertarian or Socialist pathways. You’ll notice I’ve split these two for now because it may very well be the case that one may initially move away from the other side as the initial answers which make sense, feel like a breath of cool air among stagnating fumes, and as a result are accepted with less rigor as one strives to investigate the whole spectrum of thought these ideas originate. In fact, I would say it’s rare for one to move simultaneously towards socialism and libertarianism at the same time.

EDIT: I realize that there is something I probably should have mentioned2 as it is quite important: What is it that causes some people to be empathetic while others to be individualistic? The answer to this is the material conditions one lives in. For example, wage-workers are quite unlikely to be individualists as the constant interaction with fellow human workers and the actual experience of the dreadfulness of wage-slavery is sure to fan the flames of empathy and mutual aid as they seek to collectively improve their lot and resist against the bosses. On the other hand, those lucky few who get to be entrepreneurs have the uncommon chance to experience liberty of action and control of one’s own destiny which make all interventions by a state seem as a horrible violation of rights. For them then, individualism becomes the primary basis of ethics. It is in fact for this reason that the individualists are always so outnumbered compared to socialists as there’s far more wage-slaves than there’s entrepreneurs or rich people.

As a general observation, the Socialist path will usually lead one towards Social Democracy while the Libertarian path will lead someone towards Liberalism (“Liberalism” and “Libertarianism” respectively for all you Yanks) but sooner or later one will discover the inability of the state apparatus to perform the tasks one expects from it (Protect public interests or Protect private property respectively for each path) and will take anti-reformist turn to revolution or anti-statism.

Thus we end up with something like this (Where “|>” symbolizes the break with reformism) :

Empathetic: Apolitical > Social Democrat |> Socialist > Vulgar Marxist (eg Stalinist, Maoist etc).

Individualistic: Apolitical >  Free Market Minarchist |> Liberal > Vulgar Libertarian (eg “Anarcho”-Capitalist).

Now it is very possible that someone will progress all the way to the far side of this path and stay there, or be brought up with such a ideology in the first place and just stay there3. But what I’ve noticed happening more often than not, is that after the break with reformism, freethinkers reach a dead-end and start noticing the impassable barrier posed by the following fact:

You can’t have equality without liberty and you can’t have liberty without equality.

The reasons for this have been explained many times by lots of anarchists so I won’t go into much detail other than to say that the practical implications of it make themselves known by the actual experience of everyone who has had their rights trampled by the state (even the “worker’s state) or their lives disrupted or ruined by the capitalist bosses.

Once this is noticed, then the second part of the freethinker’s journey begins as Libertarians and Socialists move towards their converging point. Anarchism.

My own experience of course has not been much different. I started profoundly apolitical but very empathetic. As soon as I linked the huge societal and environmental issues of our time to the economic system we live in I started moving towards a State Socialist direction, taking a break with reformism once I read the arguments against the failure of the parliamentary process and finally rejecting the need for a state in socialism as something counter-productive.

On the other side, I’ve seen and heard of many examples of Individualists, even at the extreme end of “Anarcho”-Capitalism coming to reject that ideology and start espousing more leftist concepts to the point of passing into the anti-capitalist camp altogether. The best historical example of this is of course Voltairine de Cleyre while in own online circles I’ve noticed (among others) Francois Tremblay and just yesterday Sean from the Skeptical Eye, both of which started from Objectivism no less.

In fact, the latter was what triggered me to write this post as it’s something that I seem to notice almost monthly lately. This was because we had quite clash a while back when both of us were more in our respective polar ends so when he explained that he’s almost abandoned his pro-capitalist ideas, it was just a very powerful real-world example of what I was thinking already.

None of this of course is meant to imply that one is not a freethinker unless the progress towards Libertarian Socialism anymore than one can expect a freethinker is always right. Of course I think people who have not yet embraced Anarchism are wrong but this is only logical, this does not mean that they are close minded. However I do have the impression, backed by experience, that the Libertarian Socialist Pull is in fact real for freethought.

And that is a cause for hope.

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  1. In fact, deconverting from a patriarchal or otherwise authoritarian religion would be rightly considered just one step in the greater process of the Libertarian Socialist Pull as the causes of such a deconversion are most likely the free thinking about the differences between the theory of faith and the experience of reality []
  2. h/t to redditr commernie []
  3. Which I attribute to them investing too much of their life to accept that they might be wrong, or on groupthink []

Why Anarchists and "Anarcho"-Capitalists can't be allies

Protester throwing Molotov Cocktail at a polic...
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One things that crops up over and over when someone on the libertarian right notices the outright hostility of anarchists when he appropriates the “Anarchist” label for himself is the accusation of “harming the movement” by not being willing to look past differences and work with each other for a stateless society. The argument goes that since both Anarchist and “Anarcho”-Capitalists wish a stateless society but simply with a different mode of production (Socialism VS Capitalism respectively) we have at least one common goal we should be working together for: The abolition of the State.

On first view, this makes a modicum of sense, if we both want a stateless society, and if we are willing to tolerate each others productive organization within their respective areas, then why are we fighting, arguing and criticizing each other when united we could be more formidable in both convincing people and undermining the state?

The answer is simple: Tactics.

It is true that Anarchists wouldn’t try to violently enforce libertarian socialism on other areas and other people. This is simply contrary to the whole theory behind it. As such, it is only to be expected that after a possible revolution, in some parts of the world capitalist relations would remain and some of them might even approach the “Anarcho”-Capitalist model. However a revolution will not happen by itself. The areas which turn Anarchist or “Anarcho”-Capitalist will do so – will move to either stateless direction, by the methods that were used to bring the general populace to the boiling point of revolt.

And these methods are inherently opposite.

Libertarian Socialist of all types (yes, including individualist anti-capitalist anarchists) generally promote all tactics of Direct Action and Mutual Aid. This means that they will be positive to Unions, Strikes, Takeovers, Cooperatives, Mutual Banks, Communes and the like. They will even be the least hostile on state acts giving more power to the working class1 Their arguments on the other hand, will be based on the things which support such paths. That would include stuff like the fact human evolutionary psychology is conductive to Mutual Aid, the validity of the Labour Theory of Value and the consequent exploitation theory, the moral imperative for self-determination and self-management, a hostility against all types of domination and hierarchy and so on.

On the other hand, the “Anarcho”-Capitalist, even though distinctly lacking in tactics, are ideologically opposed to most such measures which would bring a society to a libertarian socialist revolt. They are against unions (at least, most of them are), against expropriation of land and capital by those who work it, consider Cooperatives “ineffective”, vehemently oppose all state acts which increase social security (while being least hostile to state acts which simply protect private property more) etc. Their ideological bases furthermore compels them to acts as apologists to the system through their dismissal of the LTV, the ethical support for the right to Private Property, accumulation and usury, the allowance or even support of hierarchy and domination as long as it’s “voluntary” and so on.

Even what tactics they do have end up being opposite to anarchist principles since they advocate the consolidation of force and judgement to third parties which is a distinctly anti-direct action idea.

All of this should make it obvious that there is an impassable rift between these two movements2 which prevents both of them from working together to change the system, since they would be simply pulling in opposite directions, countering each other. Much like the practical gap between Private Property and Possession, so does the difference of tactics and theory make co-operation of these two camps impossible.

Sure, if by simply willing it strong it enough, lots of people could magically pop-out a stateless society, then “joining forces” might make sense. But the world is not the magical la-la land. It’s the paths we tread, the methods we espouse and the tactics we use that defines which kind of stateless society we will have in the end.

So please “Anarcho”-Capitalists, Right Libertarians and all other assorted Propertarians, don’t ask us to co-operate and accept your as “fellow Anarchists”. Our possible co-existence in a stateless future is irrelevant when in the real world your whole worldview is counter-productive to what we suggest.

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  1. Anarchists do not support using the state to push forth regulations but do not oppose regulations which benefit the working class out of principle. Such regulation, even though flawed, can be the result of direct action or can give some breathing space for the workers to request more and get their hopes up. []
  2. Well one movement and one ideology, as there’s not really any actual movement behind AnCaps []

Why choose Libertarian Socialism?

I’ve been having a lengthy discussion with an Anarchist on Facebook which was triggered by my criticism of a link he made on one of Molyneux‘s videos. The argument has been mainly around the issue of whether we should be promoting “Anarcho”-Capitalist ideas since they are also considered libertarian, promote freedom/liberty and might thus bring someone close to Anarchism, even if through a different path. Needless to say I disagree.

Nevertheless, the discussion took an unexpected direction when he demanded “proof”

I just want something more substantial than rhetoric (no offense) but the more I look for these kinds of quantitative examples, the more I realize that, so far, there are none in existence. Rather than encourage, I find that discouraging; even disturbing. […] I won’t be satisfied until I see real, measurable progress[…]I’m open to new information if it’s quantifiable; it’s generalized rhetoric that fails to persuade me.

The quote above is referring to my pointing out the success of anarchist movements from the takeovers of Argentina to the Spanish Revolution. It seems then, that because the world is at the state it is now, ie not in Anarchy, all anarchist theory has been empirically disproven. That is, none of the methods suggested – syndicalism, collectivism, direct action etc, have made the world a better place. This reasoning might look valid on the surface but unfortunately is quite fallacious.

The problem here is that one ignores the reality of human politics. There has never been a human society which managed to totally change their sociopolitical system within a generation or hell, even within a 100 years. In fact, there has never been a radical sociopolitical change of such scale outside of socialist revolutions. Both Feudalism and Capitalism came about through hundreds of years of evolution, struggle and pressure which slowly made the environment fertile for their spread. In fact the form of those systems never reached a “final form” of any sort and simply continued to change according to the way the environment around them allowed. One could even go further and say that Capitalism is in fact the natural continuation of Feudalism as it provided a way for the Landed aristocracy to retain their elite status without having to base it on metaphysical rights.

As such, to request “proof” of going closer to the Libertarian Socialist ideal is entirely the wrong way to look at this, as this is rather a gradual progress which is based on many different aspects such as popular understanding and/or support, betterment of human life, liberalization, democratization etc. And this process can even be reversed when the class struggle goes toward the benefit of the ruling class, as is what has been happening in the last 30 years.

So to ask for “quantitative examples” is to miss the forest for the trees. The process is all around us and we can see it whenever we see betterment of human life, greater satisfaction from work, increased social safety etc. If one is simply looking for the “signals of revolution” in order to be convinced who to support, they’ll be waiting forever.

The question to ask rather is: What is causing all these beneficial events? What makes human lives better, work more fulfilling and increases social safety? The answer can easily be seen: Direct Action & Mutual Aid. In short, the Libertarian Socialist principles. Whenever these have been applied, a noticeable improvement can be observed while when these are missing, when Authoritarianism (the opposite of Direct Action) and Crass Individualism (the opposite of Mutual Aid) take over, we notice the exact opposite, even though superficial improvements might be observed, like an increase in GDP or some other irrelevant statistic.

So if these principles work and if the improve the lives of humans, why are we not in Anarchy yet? The answer to this is class struggle. For every attempt by those at the bottom to self-manage and help each other directly, there is a push in the opposite direction by the ruling class through any means possible, from propaganda to violent suppression. You cannot simply ignore the opposing force and claim that nothing works because the result is not here yet! Rather one needs to look at the gradual progress and the many different movements that progress. Once there’s a relatively large amount of such anarchistic instances, then a revolution can’t but follow as the capitalist system will be too undermined to work. Such was the case in the Spanish Revolution for example.

Then there is the other aspect of the demand for “proof” put to me. The question I need to ask, proof of what? That an anarchist society can work? There’s more than enough historical proof of that already. Or is it proof that anarchist principles will bring about Anarchy? If so, then I have to point out that it’s impossible to prove the future. But you don’t have to anyway, we do know that even outside Anarchy, libertarian socialist principles make our lives better and give us incentive to do more of them. This is why Anarchism is a hopeful theory, not a Utopian or nihilistic one.

Or perhaps it’s proof that anarchist principles are better than Reformism, State Socialism or Neoliberalism? In that case, one only has to point out at the inherent flaws in each of these theories. Thus when they were attempted, their failure only validated the predictions that anarchists made. Along all of them, only Libertarian Socialism actually did what it predicted when put into practice, even if it was later crushed military before it had a chance to ignite people’s feelings elsewhere.

So there’s really no rhetoric needed to make the case for Libertarian Socialism. History and personal experience are more than enough. This is in fact why so much rhetoric is needed by everyone else, for they need something to cover the abject failure of their practice.

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