Socialism is not merely Anti-Capitalism

Brad Spangler tries to merge Agorism with the greater Libertarian Socialist movement. I show how this is based on simple redefinitions and missing the point.

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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Libertarians and Intellectual Property

The only thing more inconsistent than a libertarian who supports Intellectual Property (IP) is a libertarian that doesn’t but continues to support Private Property (PP).

Intellectual Property Zone
Image by gurdonark via Flickr

The only thing more inconsistent than a libertarian who supports Intellectual Property (IP) is a libertarian that doesn’t but continues to support Private Property (PP).

Renunciation of IP is actually a very trendy thing to do by fledging right-libertarians. I would venture to suggest that it might be the very first dip many take in libertarian waters.

Some will do it on a purely practical grounds, such as the devolution of the Free Software concept that is Open Source, by taking out all the ethical base in order to make it more “business friendly”. Others, on the other hand will renounce it on ideological reasons, namely by claiming that the concept of IP is nothing more than a state sponsored monopoly and thus illegitimate. I’ve actually been stumbling on this type of reasoning quite a bit lately and something about sounded inconsistent.

And the other day it struck me as I was arguing with an Agorist, who was at that point defending private property. The argument he had made in another passing comment against IP was the same as above (IP is state-sanctioned monopoly blah-de-blah) so as  I was pressuring him to explain how PP would remain in a stateless society where the workers would be capable of seizing the factories without fearing state reprecursions he gave me a most underwhelming answer: “Any sensible free market court would rule against workers who tried to violently seize the factory they worked in.”

But why would any such “sensible court” side with PP? Because it is self-evident? But obviously it is not, for the workers attempting the seizure of the means of production. don’t see it. Because it is a Natural Law? Don’t make me laugh.

But lets for a moment consider that indeed the courts side with the Capital instead of labour. The question then arises of why such a “sensible free market court” would not in a similar way side with IP as well? Any possible argument one can make in defence of PP can most likely or with slight modifications be made in defence of IP as well.

The thing is, that here the anti-statists ((No, they aren’t Anarchists. That’s much more than simple anti-statism)) are blinded to the fact that PP claims are state-sanctioned in exactly the same was as IP. They assume that in a post-state world, the federation of courts (or what have-you in Agorist Libertopia) will protect private property in exactly the same way as before but for some reason refrain from doing so in regards to intellectual property.

And since their dismissal of IP is not based on an ethical argument but rather on the infantile “It’s not legitimate because the state does it”, in a stateless future where IP is still supported by the courts and enforced by those private insurance/security forces, they can only stay silent.

Of course there are the few libertarians who do dismiss IP on purely utilitarian grounds. But then they go on to support PP on ideological reasons, which is a clear sign of ideological bankrypcy. This is because from a utilitarian perspective, the abolition of PP is superior (for reasons I shan’t go through here).

And because of this, such libertarians will forever remain inconsistent, for to avoid that, they would have to look at both types of property on ideological grounds and therefore support both or to look at them from utilitarian grounds and thus reject both.

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