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.