Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

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Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Thu May 31, 2012 9:46 am

This thread is devoted to highlighting and refuting the many outrageous reactionary statements found online (on forums, blogs, YouTube, etc.) and in books and magazines.

For example,



To just address but one of the many fallacies Milton Friedman commits in this diatribe (e.g., accusing socialism of violating the "non-aggression principle" and equating it with authoritarian étatisme), at 2:03 he actually has the audacity to invoke the Kantian categorical imperative of never treating other human beings as merely a means to an end—"treat your fellow man not as an object, to be manipulated for your purposes"—in defense of capitalism. Unfortunately for Friedman, that is the entire basis of wage labor; capitalists use human beings (workers), which are at a structural disadvantage relative to themselves, as disposable tools to exploit in order to accumulate capital. Consequently, Kantian ethics can never accurately be used to legitimate bourgeois social relations, though the Austro-Marxists in the 20th century correctly viewed them as being fully compatible with socialism.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Confusion on Tue Jun 12, 2012 7:03 am

I think this one fits here:


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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:13 pm



I've critiqued this ridiculously inaccurate video elsewhere, but it's more appropriate for this thread.

1.) Conflating the propertarian "non-aggression principle" with anarchism.

Throughout the video, this imbecile repeatedly denounces the anarchists involved in the May Day demonstrations for violating basic "anarchist principles." This betrays either a fundamental ignorance regarding anarchist philosophy, or it's a deliberate lie. The original anarchist theorists never accepted the validity of private property, except with respect to possessions for active personal use. Capitalism, and the wealth accumulated therein, was considered to be completely illegitimate due to the exploitation and hierarchy it engenders.

"Anarcho"-capitalism is the perverse brainchild of Murray Rothbard, who formulated the theory over a century after anarchism was established as a distinct philosophical tendency. Thus, to accuse the black bloc anarchists of ideological inconsistency is absolutely absurd.

2.) "Anarcho"-capitalism is emergent?

At some point in the video, Kokesh essentially argues that, absent state coercion, "anarcho"-capitalism would inevitably emerge—presumably because bourgeois social relations are 'natural'—further revealing his ignorance. The anthropological record on this matter is quite clear: in a state of nature, mankind gravitates toward egalitarian gift economies (as demonstrated in the research of Marcel Mauss, Marshall Sahlins, and David Graeber). Human beings literally had to be forced into conforming with capitalism's exploitative institutional arrangements, as the violent history of primitive accumulation reveals. In no way does Lockean property theory accord with our natural inclinations as a species. (Lockean property theory cannot be ethically defended regardless, for reasons outlined here.)

3.) Inconsistent even by propertarian standards.

What's most amusing is that Kokesh's denunciation of the actions undertaken by the black bloc cannot even be defended using the very principles he claims to uphold! "Anarcho"-capitalists are quite fond of claiming that the United States is a "statist" society, and that any economic faults observed therein can't be attributed to laissez-faire ideology. So, since property wasn't acquired by a strict adherence to Lockean property theory, and since the state is heavily involved in economic activity, the current distribution of property and wealth cannot logically be claimed to be legitimate by "anarcho"-capitalist standards, and yet here we find one arguing otherwise. This is a rather common phenomenon, so much so that it even compelled the mutualist theorist Kevin Carson to coin the term "vulgar libertarianism" to refer to the views espoused by such people.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Egalitarian on Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:31 pm

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Pantheon Rising on Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:53 pm

Egalitarian wrote:Anti-fascists are the new fascists? scratch

http://www.cesc.net/radicalweb/scholars/rankin/ar2.html

I will agree that the author of this article is a reactionary dope who probably has no idea what he is talking about, but there is a certain validity to the anti-fascist(s) operating in a very fascist manner critique. Mainly a bunch of Social-Democrats and pseudo-Anarchists. This article critiques such nonsense from a National Revolutionary perspective.

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by GF on Sat Jun 16, 2012 2:48 pm

Celtiberian wrote:

I've critiqued this ridiculously inaccurate video elsewhere, but it's more appropriate for this thread.

1.) Conflating the propertarian "non-aggression principle" with anarchism.

Throughout the video, this imbecile repeatedly denounces the anarchists involved in the May Day demonstrations for violating basic "anarchist principles." This betrays either a fundamental ignorance regarding anarchist philosophy, or it's a deliberate lie. The original anarchist theorists never accepted the validity of private property, except with respect to possessions for active personal use. Capitalism, and the wealth accumulated therein, was considered to be completely illegitimate due to the exploitation and hierarchy it engenders.

"Anarcho"-capitalism is the perverse brainchild of Murray Rothbard, who formulated the theory over a century after anarchism was established as a distinct philosophical tendency. Thus, to accuse the black bloc anarchists of ideological inconsistency is absolutely absurd.

2.) "Anarcho"-capitalism is emergent?

At some point in the video, Kokesh essentially argues that, absent state coercion, "anarcho"-capitalism would inevitably emerge—presumably because bourgeois social relations are 'natural'—further revealing his ignorance. The anthropological record on this matter is quite clear: in a state of nature, mankind gravitates toward egalitarian gift economies (as demonstrated in the research of Marcel Mauss, Marshall Sahlins, and David Graeber). Human beings literally had to be forced into conforming with capitalism's exploitative institutional arrangements, as the violent history of primitive accumulation reveals. In no way does Lockean property theory accord with our natural inclinations as a species. (Lockean property theory cannot be ethically defended regardless, for reasons outlined here.)

3.) Inconsistent even by propertarian standards.

What's most amusing is that Kokesh's denunciation of the actions undertaken by the black bloc cannot even be defended using the very principles he claims to uphold! "Anarcho"-capitalists are quite fond of claiming that the United States is a "statist" society, and that any economic faults observed therein can't be attributed to laissez-faire ideology. So, since property wasn't acquired by a strict adherence to Lockean property theory, and since the state is heavily involved in economic activity, the current distribution of property and wealth cannot logically be claimed to be legitimate by "anarcho"-capitalist standards, and yet here we find one arguing otherwise. This is a rather common phenomenon, so much so that it even compelled the mutualist theorist Kevin Carson to coin the term "vulgar libertarianism" to refer to the views espoused by such people.

You obviously don't understand logic Celt. Non-propertarian anarchists are illegitimate because they wish to do away with basic property rights, e.g., the right to own slaves, the right to deprive workers at your factory of food because it suits your needs, etc. Propertarian anarchists understand that the only way to deprive the state of power entirely is to legitimize absolute power over your own property. If you can oppress anything that so much as comes in contact with your property, there would be no reason for the state apparatus, as its job would be taken.

Now go and read some Rothbard before your head gets filled with any more Marxoid crapola. Wink

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Jun 16, 2012 4:22 pm

Egalitarian wrote:Anti-fascists are the new fascists? scratch

http://www.cesc.net/radicalweb/scholars/rankin/ar2.html

That's a very common slogan within the White Nationalist movement, and, like much of that movement's rhetoric, it's deceptive. Predictably, the article you linked to by Aidan Rankin is rife with logical fallacies and blatant disinformation. For example,

Aidan Rankin wrote:This rhetoric of class warfare disguises a critique of parliamentary rule identical to that of the Italian Squadristi, Mussolini's foot soldiers who closed the Italian parliament and installed a fascist state. To Mussolini, parliamentary rule was so corrupt - and, indeed, 'bourgeois', that it could not be patched up.

The Italian Fascists publicly accused the parliamentary system of corruption in order to discredit it and secure support from the masses, but that wasn't their main contention with the system. In reality, the fascists denounced parliamentarism because they believe its very theory is premised on false or destructive assumptions, such as human equality and the general desirability of representative government. Certain fascist philosophers attempted to reinterpret democracy as somehow being consistent with totalitarianism "in spirit," while others were more honest with their advocacy of elitism—Giovanni Gentile belonged to the former category, while Julius Evola belonged to the latter. The views of Alfredo Rocco, however, best capture the standard anti-Enlightenment thought held by most fascists.

"Rocco viewed the entire development of modern history in light of reactionary thought as a process of disintegration of the State's central power and the dissolution of society. Ever since the Lutheran Reformation through the logical and coherent development of society's atomistic evolution according to naturalism, liberalism, and democracy through socialism was, according to Rocco a single uninterrupted path toward anarchy, the victory of individual interests or of entire groups over the superior interests of the State whose fundamental attributes were being questioned: power and absolute sovereignty. . . Basically, according to Rocco, there was a necessary logical development from liberalism to democracy, to socialism and their differences consisted only in the methods and means to reach the common goal, namely the welfare and happiness of single individuals living at a given time.

. . .[Rocco] wanted a maximum expansion of capitalism to serve the State's power and a total regimentation of the masses into the labor organizations that were recognized as the institutions in the service of the State to transmit the will of those in power from above to the lower echelons for a rapid and efficient response. All of social life was to be organized for maximum productivity within the sphere of the State that was to re-conquer its sovereignty, its decision-making power and authority. Fascism came out of the need to react to the disintegration of central power and was destined to fulfill that task
."
Emilio Gentile, The Origins of Fascist Ideology, 1918-1925 (New York: Enigma Books, 2005), pp. 327, 329.

(This analysis, of course, rests on the fascists' own ideological self-reflection, which is separate from fascism's actual historic role as an instrument utilized by the bourgeoisie in the class struggle.)

The fascist ideal of the Corporate State was based on representation by trade. This policy finds strong echoes in the SWP, which seeks to replace Parliament with a series of 'workers councils'.

Nonsense. Corporativism is a technocratic system in which representatives from both labor and capital attempt to negotiate certain aspects of production, in order to achieve 'national harmony' by way of class collaboration. Workers' councils, on the other hand, are institutions used to democratically plan enterprises according to the mandate of the firm's workforce. In other words, the former system is meant to preserve capitalism, whereas the latter forms the basis of an entirely different (syndicalist) mode of production.

These far left groups have based their politics on interpretations of Trotsky's 'permanent revolution', a purist doctrine of continual change akin to that of Mao's Cultural Revolution - and Hitler's Third Reich.

Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution was nothing of the sort. It was merely a political theory which correctly argued that the struggle against capitalism is international in scale, and that no socialist commonwealth can peacefully develop as long as capitalism remains functioning in parts of the developed world.

With that said, there is a shred of truth in Rankin's analysis. If one were to define fascism strictly as an authoritarian doctrine which overemphasizes identity politics, contemporary anti-fascism can be considered analogues. Insofar as anti-fascists agitate to ban certain words, symbols, or political parties, a legitimate parallel can be drawn. But a similar comparison can be drawn to any authoritarian ideology, be it Pol Pot's agrarian socalism or Augusto Pinochet's authoritarian capitalism, and therein lies the problem. Fascism represents more than authoritarianism, and every attempt Rankin made to associate anti-fascists with fascism's defining characteristics (e.g., corporativism) were patently absurd. I suspect that Rankin realizes that the analogy is hollow and he was simply attempting to be provocative by advancing such a thesis, but that's precisely why people shouldn't be persuaded by his reasoning in that article.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by GF on Sun Jun 17, 2012 8:33 pm

Is Karl Marx Irrelevant?

What do you guys think?

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Rev Scare on Mon Jun 18, 2012 2:16 am

GF wrote:Is Karl Marx Irrelevant?

What do you guys think?

Marxist theory is profoundly relevant in the modern world. Not only is Marxism by far the most superior scientific mode of analysis by which to interpret social processes, particularly capitalism, it is vital to working class movements. I will quote the conclusion of Richard Wolff and Stephen Resnick's book, Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical:

"Solutions to long-standing economic problems often require that we try different ways of thinking about those problems. They require grappling with different theories. Marxian theory is different from the neoclassical orthodoxy that prevails in America today. It is a careful, logical, and elaborated way of thinking about capitalist economies. Its critical and revolutionary thrust makes it different in a way that is understandably troubling to many. However, just those qualities allow it to produce analyses of the U.S. economy that are not only different but arrestingly original and eye-opening. Nothing is to be gained and much will be lost if we continue to ignore Marxian theory's interpretation of the structure, dynamics, and problems of capitalist economies."

It does require a considerable degree of critical thinking ability to grasp the intricacies of Marx's potent thought, which is unfortunately found in minuscule proportions amongst the general population, as is evidenced by this libertarian simpleton's stupendous dearth of understanding. His petty diatribe is actually more amusing than anything, as he could not be more wrong in his analysis. It is such a mockery of Marxist thought and entrenched in bourgeois ideology that it only demonstrates his colossal ignorance. It is less difficult to believe that this individual, a "frequent contributor" to The Wall Street Journal, is a disingenuous hack who merely serves his bourgeois patrons. It only underscores the fact that reactionary critics of Marx typically have no actual understanding of his work.


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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by DSN on Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:56 am

GF wrote:Is Karl Marx Irrelevant?

What do you guys think?

I think this guy is trying his best to dance around the task of challenging Marx's work by basically mocking himself over being too thick to even begin to understand any of it. I know the thing about reading Marx at the beach was (hopefully) a joke, but this is my point. I wouldn't really want to read Ayn Rand on the beach either, but that hardly makes for a decent insult. This article shouldn't be taken too seriously.

One will note that Marx prattled incessantly about the great class struggle.

Wow, really? Where?!

This might have had some meaning for 19th-century Europeans, but it means absolutely nothing to Americans of any century. We are a nation of individuals with very little concept of social or economic class.

So if, for example, a person living in Russia can't speak Russian, that makes it irrelevant to their life? This man is an idiot. Maybe it's because no one has any concept of social or economic class that we are where we are today. But hey, we have that beautiful middle class distraction, right? Everyone has the chance to become rich and successful in the land of bunny rabbits and rainbow clouds!

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:51 pm

GF wrote:Is Karl Marx Irrelevant?

What do you guys think?

There is scarcely a more "irrelevant" journal than the propagandistic bourgeois rag which has the audacity to call itself The Freeman, and Donald G. Smith's contribution to economic and social thought won't even amount to a mere footnote in history. Having read the article, I've concluded that Mr. Smith's arguments should be rather simple to dismiss by anyone with a modicum of knowledge in the social sciences.

Donald G. Smith wrote:One will note that Marx prattled incessantly about the great class struggle. This might have had some meaning for 19th-century Europeans, but it means absolutely nothing to Americans of any century.

This is a fascinating assertion, primarily due to how profoundly incorrect it is. Contrary to what Smith may think, the class struggle emerges the moment the state decides to enforce private property rights and a wage-for-labor-time contract is signed. Whenever surplus labor is expropriated, or a decision is made to fire a worker, reduce wages, or relocate an enterprise, an act of class warfare has been committed. All such conditions have existed, and continue to exist, within the United States. When, for example, factory workers in Massachusetts coined the term "wage slavery" in the mid 19th century, it was in reaction to their realization of being members of a structurally disadvantaged social class.

The United States in particular has had one of the most violent labor histories in the industrialized world; the Ludlow Massacre, Haymarket riot, and the Battle of Matewan (to name but a few instances thereof) more than attest to this. So, one is left wondering whether Smith is either completely ignorant of history or intentionally misinforming his readers.

We are a nation of individuals with very little concept of social or economic class.

Whether individuals are consciously aware of their class position or the specific nature of the class struggle is besides the point. Bourgeois ideology has succeeded in obscuring the exploitation of labor, which the capitalist mode of production engenders, thereby rendering the objective reality of exploitation subjectively unacknowledged. Nevertheless, people are fully aware that there is a significant difference between being the employer of an enterprise and being the enterprise's employee—indeed, one would have to be as mentally challenged as a subscriber to The Freeman not to be capable of discerning something so obvious.

Certainly there is no class struggle, and I don’t think that I know anyone who could define the term, or who cares enough to find out.

Writing in 1991, in the midst of the capitalist triumphalism following the demise of the Soviet bloc, and when the American economy was still capable of sustaining a sizable middle class (as a result of the tech and housing bubbles), it was easy to dismiss the class struggle as representing an archaic notion, suitable only for antiquated sociology textbooks—in spite of the fact the struggle was ongoing at the time, and will remain so until the contradictions of capital are solved by humanity advancing to a higher form of production, i.e., socialism. It's no longer tenable to disregard it so casually. But, again, there is a difference between the subjectivity of acknowledging the class struggle and its objective reality. Smith continuously uses the former in a futile attempt to discredit the latter. A hypothetical chattel slave who is paid millions of dollars each year and lives a life of luxury may feel completely indifferent regarding the fact that he is legally owned by another human being, or he may even be glad that he is, but that doesn't somehow render the structural relationship between the slave and his owner fictitious. The entire task of socialist activism is to align the working class's subjectivity with their objective class interests, i.e., to build class consciousness.

Marx uses the words bourgeoisie and proletarian repeatedly, and both are about as relevant to our lives as hoop skirts and butter churns.

What a relief! It's good to know that I can fire my boss at any time and have just as much of an impact on the political process as the upper classes do. Silly me for thinking such terms possessed any meaningful content for all these years.. Rolling Eyes

I would be hard put to label anyone I know as one or the other.

It's well known that certain capitalists engage in the simultaneous class processes of appropriating surplus value (their fundamental class process) and receiving a share of the surplus for their managerial labor (a subsumed class process). So, in that sense, one can accurately refer to individuals occupying different class roles. This, however, is less often the case for workers, as they seldom possess the means by which to own capital and hire wage labor—if they did, it's unlikely they would decide to remain employed by a capitalist whilst also running their own firm.

If a man repairs shoes, for example, he is probably a proletarian, but what if he owns the shop and he is the only employee? This makes him the boss and also the one who does all the work. In the great revolution, Marx would probably have him destroy himself.

The self-employed are not capitalists, since they do not hire and exploit wage laborers. As Karl Marx explained,

"Property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, does not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if the essential complement to these things is missing: the wage-labourer, the other man, who is compelled to sell himself of his own free will . . . Capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons which is mediated by things."
Karl Marx, Capital Vol. I (London: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 932.

Self-employed individuals practice what Marx called the "ancient mode of production," i.e., self-appropriation of surplus labor by a singular direct producer. Throughout history, societies have featured multiple class processes which simultaneously coexist. For example, within capitalist countries, self-employment (the aforementioned ancient class process) and even worker cooperatives (which practice the primitive communist class process) can be observed operating alongside enterprises practicing the capitalist fundamental class process (i.e., the exploitation of wage labor). The relative dominance of one of these class processes is what determines whether a society is pre-capitalist, capitalist, socialist, or communist.

Moreover, had Mr. Smith bothered to study Marx's work a little more closely, he would have seen that Marx predicted that the self-employed and petite bourgeoisie would gradually become proletarianized as a result of being out-competed by larger companies, which history continues to vindicate. (Whether or not corporations have manipulated market and political conditions in order to become more hegemonic is debatable, but largely irrelevant to Marx's thesis.)



The class interests of an increasingly insignificant portion of the population have no impact on the feasibility of an anti-capitalist revolution.

Class loyalty is about one step below loyalty to a bowling team or an alumni association in human intensity.

Be sure to remind the bourgeoisie of this while they're bribing politicians with billions of dollars to enact policies which help to reproduce them as a social class (at the expense of the working class), or when they're investing in technologies with the explicit aim of rendering large segments of the workforce redundant in order to increase short-term profitability.

Certainly no American is going to take to the streets for the honor of the citizens in his salary bracket.

No one with a proficient understanding of Marxism could ever accuse Marx of thinking something so inane. The scientific socialist position has always been that, as a result of the internal contradictions of capital, the relative immiseration of the working class will be the impetuous behind the coming revolution. It has nothing whatever to do with 'class honor' or any such idealist nonsense.

This, I believe, is the reason that Karl Marx has made so little impact on American thought processes. No one is quite sure what the man was talking about, and if they ever found out, they wouldn’t care anyway. He wasn’t evil, he wasn’t insane, and he certainly wasn’t stupid. On our side of the Atlantic, he is merely irrelevant. To put it succinctly, Karl Marx is a man with nothing to say to the American people.

And yet millions of Americans seemed to consider disciples of Marx (e.g., Eugene V. Debs) as having quite a lot to say about their condition. Regardless, Karl Marx never intended on working class people caring about his economic writings. Marx considered his greatest achievement in life to have been uncovering capital's laws of motion, which, in turn, led to the development of scientific socialism—only the latter of which has any relevance to activism. He left it up to radical political parties and labor organizers to lead the proletariat to victory in the class struggle.

In closing, I must admit that I find it interesting that Smith focused exclusively on Marx's sociological theories in the article, thereby leaving completely unmentioned the accuracy (or lack thereof) of Marx's economic or philosophical writings. I suspect that Smith isn't particularly interested in philosophy, and either isn't competent enough to critique, or simply quietly acknowledges the validity of, Marxian economics.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Egalitarian on Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:32 pm

Neo-cons equating fascism with communism:

http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1223

http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=21599

If these articles can be adequately addressed with a rebuttal, I will appreciate it. study
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:40 am

Egalitarian wrote:Neo-cons equating fascism with communism:

http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1223

http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=21599

If these articles can be adequately addressed with a rebuttal, I will appreciate it.

I shall begin by dissecting the first article, which is basically a review of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism.

DTN wrote:Just as progressives were generally enthusiastic about socialist movements in the Soviet Union and Europe, they were also overwhelmingly supportive of the fascist movements in Italy and Germany during the 1920s and 1930s. “In many respects,” writes journalist Jonah Goldberg, “the founding fathers of modern liberalism, the men and women who laid the intellectual groundwork of the New Deal and the welfare state, thought that fascism sounded like ... a worthwhile 'experiment'”:

Several progressive ideologues in the United States and Great Britain were indeed "enthusiastic" about the 'social experiments' underway in the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany. The American progressives, however, were generally interested in the welfare state aspects of the aforementioned systems, while the Fabian "socialists" in the United Kingdom paid closer attention to the economic planning apparatuses—because figures like George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and Harold Laski were convinced that state socialism was the imminent (and only feasible) successor-system to capitalism. Progressives were therefore clearly not an ideologically homogenous group. Nor were the aforementioned British and American progressives interested in communism, at least as it's conceived of in the Marxist tradition (i.e., a democratic economy whereby people produce according to their abilities and consume on the basis of need).

Also, the fact that certain progressive intellectuals were interested in both fascism and state socialism isn't evidence that the systems were at all similar.

H. G. Wells, one of the most influential progressives of the 20th century, said in 1932 that progressives must become “liberal fascists” and “enlightened Nazis.” Regarding totalitarianism, he stated: “I have never been able to escape altogether from its relentless logic.” Calling for a “‘Phoenix Rebirth’ of Liberalism” under the umbrella of “Liberal Fascism,” Wells said: “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti, for enlightened Nazis.”

In other words, Wells was encouraging young Fabians to be more fanatical in their pursuit of reforms which would bring Britain closer to state socialism. He wasn't arguing that progressivism was inherently fascistic.

The poet Wallace Stevens pronounced himself “pro-Mussolini personally.”

Interesting they should mention this, considering that Wallace Stevens was a conservative member of the Republican Party..

The eminent historian Charles Beard wrote of Mussolini’s efforts: “Beyond question, an amazing experiment is being made [in Italy], an experiment in reconciling individualism and socialism.”

All this proves is that Charles Beard possessed a rather eccentric notion of what constitutes "socialism," for no aspect of Fascist Italy could be considered legitimately socialist.

The rest of the quotes the article features are equally irrelevant, as they in no way prove that fascism shares anything in common with socialism (let alone communism).

According to Goldberg, progressives' affinity for fascism was quite understandable because, contrary to popular misconception: “[F]ascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left.”

Relative to Goldberg's neoliberalism, fascism was certainly to the left, economically. But state intervention in the market, coupled with a few social welfare reforms, does not render a system "socialist." A legitimate parallel between the economic policies typically promoted by social democrats and fascists can be made, but that's the extent of it—and we revolutionary socialists don't consider social democracy (i.e., state interventionism, strategic nationalizations, and social welfare legislation) to be a manifestation of socialism.

fascism can be distilled down to this: It is a totalitarian movement that empowers an omnipotent government to control every nook and cranny of political, economic, social, and private life – generally in the name of “the public good.” Its leadership is commonly spearheaded by a powerful, charismatic, even deified figure who is viewed as uniquely capable – along with his hand-picked advisers – of leading his nation to new-found or restored greatness. Its economics are collectivist, socialist and redistributionist – supremely hostile to free-market capitalism and wealth inequalities. And it tends to promote and exploit the grievances of “the common man,” portraying society as the theater of a ceaseless conflict – a class war – between oppressor and oppressed, victimizer and victim.

That definition was fine, until it listed 'socialism' as an element of fascism's economic program, and further suggested that fascism promotes 'class warfare.' Fascism has always been explicitly opposed to socialism precisely because the latter acknowledges the class struggle. Fascist philosophers rejected the materialist dialectic of Marxism, and instead developed an idealist theory of class collaborationism, from which corporativism logically follows. To quote Slavoj Žižek, "fascism is the mutual recognition of the contending social classes." In other words, fascism sought to resolve the class struggle endemic to capitalism by exposing liberalism's myth of individual equality under the market (which is a sort of legalistic and deceptive theory of classlessness), acknowledging that the proletariat and bourgeoisie do objectively exist and possess divergent interests, and 'reconciling' those interests by way of bureaucratic procedure and national idealism. Marxists, however, understand that no such reconciliation can occur between labor and capital, and that corporativism (to the extent it could ever be implemented) would inevitably fail to serve in the proletariat's interests—since that can only be achieved by property being socialized, management being performed collectively, and production for use superseding production for exchange.

The foregoing traits are also part and parcel of progressivism. Thus it is accurate to say that progressivism is, in effect, an American version of European fascism. Modern progressives recoil in horror at the utterance of this plain reality, chiefly because, for decades, the word “fascism” has been tossed about carelessly by many people who have not understood its actual meaning.

Again, insofar as economic policy is concerned, fascism clearly did share some commonalities with traditional, and even certain currents of contemporary, progressivism. The fundamental difference between the two ideologies has always been related to governance and foreign policy. Though the original progressives occasionally held favorable dispositions toward imperialism (e.g., Theodore Roosevelt's enthusiasm for Manifest Destiny), they largely rejected the explicit imperialism and militarism of fascism. (They typically find the de facto imperialism of the United State's international economic hegemony more palatable.) Progressives have also always been in favor of democracy—even though they would prefer for more authority to be exercised by the federal government—which is not analogues with the fascist preference for dictatorships.

And in America, where hostility to big government is central to the national character, the case for statism must be made in terms of 'pragmatism' and decency. In other words, our fascism must be nice and for your own good.

And herein lies the fundamental problem with Goldberg's analysis: he uses fascism as a synonym for étatisme. Statism is a obviously a necessary element of fascism, but it is not its defining characteristic.

It should be noted, at this point, that fascism is closely related not only to progressivism, but also to communism. The chief difference between fascism and communism is that the former is rooted in nationalism and seeks to create a socialist utopia within the confines of a particular country's borders; thus the Nazis embraced “National Socialism.” Communism, by contrast, seeks to transcend national boundaries and promote a worldwide proletariat revolution, where the foot soldiers are bound together not by a common nationality but by their membership in the same economic class. This was expressed by Karl Marx's famous exhortation in the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world, unite!” Apart from this distinction, communism and fascism are kindred spirits of anti-capitalism.

Literally every statement in this paragraph is incorrect. The "chief difference" between fascism and communism is not that the former is national in scale, whereas the latter is international; the difference is that fascism is not, and has never been, in favor of socializing the means of production or eliminating wage labor. Furthermore, fascism is philosophically based on pre-Enlightenment conservatism, while communism was derived from post-Enlightenment materialism; and, economically, fascism wholly rejects communism and instead advocates corporativism. Fascism's alleged "anti-capitalism" extended no further than its occasional use of populist rhetoric—like propertarians, Fascists also redefined capitalism as merely representing laissez-faire markets (as opposed to private ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of wage labor), which enabled them to label their occasional interventions into the market as "anti-capitalist."

That said, we can see that fascism, communism, and progressivism are all closely related to one another. The progressive U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was a devoted disciple of the German philosopher Georg Hegel, whose ideas – most notably his view of history as an evolutionary, unfolding process where conflicting forces constantly battle in order to bring about change and progress – also had a profound influence on Karl Marx.

...They also had a "profound influence" on Francis Fukuyama, who argued that liberal-democratic capitalism represents the Hegelian "end of history." In philosophy interpretation is critical, and Woodrow Wilson's interpretation of Hegel differed markedly from Giovanni Gentile's, which differed from Karl Marx's.

Mussolini, for his part, carried with him a medallion of Marx.

This is actually true, as Emil Ludwig's interviews with Benito Mussolini—published in Talks with Mussolini (1933)—reveals. When Ludwig specifically asked about Mussolini's medallion and what his views of Marx were at the time, Mussolini replied that "[Marx] had a profound critical intelligence and was in some sense even a prophet" (p. 38). His admiration for Marx was developed by his father, Alessandro Mussolini (a notable early Italian socialist), and it is telling that even as a Fascist Benito Mussolini maintained respect for Marx.

Personally, I regard Mussolini's abandonment of revolutionary socialism as owing more to his personal ambitions than to any epistemological break with Marxism. I'm sure he was fully aware that fascist philosophy was a farce and that corporativism could never be made to work, but he simply valued achieving power and prominence far more than assisting in securing justice for the Italian working class. (Mussolini's baptism into the Catholic Church at the age of 44, after years of advocating radical atheism, illustrates the profound extent by which he was willing to abandon his principles for political expediency.)

Because progressivism embraces the ideal of nationalism and touts the so-called “Third Way” between capitalism and communism, its pedigree is closer to fascism than to communism.

Setting aside the fact that the progressive's civic nationalism shares nothing in common with the Nazi's extreme racial nationalism or the Italian Fascist's palingenetic ultranationalism, I agree.

Progressivism and fascism share the totalitarian belief that with the proper amount of tinkering, social engineers will be able to realize the utopian dream of establishing a nation where perfect equality reigns.

The fascists considered "perfectly equality" neither feasible nor desirable. In their opinion, egalitarianism violated the "laws of nature." And only the most idealistic of progressives ever sought "perfect equality."

This mindset accounts for the support that the early progressives gave to eugenics, whose ultimate aim was the creation of a pure race, a “New Man” – not unlike the Nazi “Aryan” ideal. Such a project, of course, could only be overseen and carried out by a wise and omniscient leadership, an intellectual elite endowed with judgment superior to that of the unwashed masses.

The Nazis were the only ones obsessed with achieving racial purity. Progressive, socialist, and communist eugenicists were more concerned with improving mankind's genetic endowment in general. Also, unlike the Nazis, the latter group (especially the communists) were adamantly opposed to negative eugenics, choosing to instead advocate positive (i.e., voluntary) forms of eugenic enhancement.

In its original sense, the word “totalitarian” did not have the negative connotations it has acquired over time. Mussolini himself coined the term to describe a society where everyone belonged, where no one was abandoned socially or economically. This ideal dovetailed neatly with the progressive (and fascist) desire to eliminate class differences among the populace. In many of his speeches, Hitler clearly stated his intent to erase all lines of division between rich and poor. Robert Ley, who headed the Nazis’ German Labor Front, boasted: “We are the first country in Europe to overcome the class struggle.”

The nonsensical fascist and progressive idea of 'overcoming the class struggle' by combining mild economic reforms with idealistic platitudes has long been noted by the revolutionary left.

The degree to which progressive and fascist values complemented and echoed one another was on clear display in the work of the progressive writer and New Republic founder Herbert Croly (1869-1930), one of the most important voices in American intellectual history and a leftist icon for more than a century. Specifically, Croly embraced economic socialism; promoted febrile nationalism; said that a “great” and heroic revolutionary leader was needed in order to restore American pride; rejected the concept of parliamentary democracy; believed that society could be guided to enlightenment by an intellectual elite – a cast of “social engineers” whose “beneficent activities” could bring about a “better future”; and rejected individualism, saying that “an individual has no meaning apart from the society in which his individuality has been formed.”

Croly's "socialism" consisted of strategic nationalizations and a few redistributive programs; in other words, it was standard social democracy. And while he favored empowering the federal government and replacing certain democratic institutions with a progressive technocratic elite, he never favored a complete abolition of parliamentary democracy, nor did he endorse fascistic concepts, such as the Führerprinzip.

The rest of the article consists of other trivial comparisons of fascism and progressivism, which should be of no interest to revolutionary socialists or communists.

As for the other essay you linked to, it concedes that fascism rejects Marxism and is distinct from communism. The author merely attempts to associate a few of Mussolini's policies with contemporary progressivism, much like the last article did. It also contains several quotes from Mussolini's time as a young socialist activist, but that's most likely to shock readers. Thus, I will only address the few points I take issue with in the paper.

John J. Ray wrote:One major "socialist" reform of the economy that is still a misty ideal to modern-day Leftists Mussolini actually carried out. He attempted to centralize control of industry by declaring a "Corporate State" which divided all Italian industry up into 22 "corporations". In these corporations both workers and managers were supposed to co-operate to run industry together — but under Fascist guidance, of course. The Corporate State was supposed to ensure social justice and give the workers substantial control of industry.

This is listed under the subsection, "Socialist Deeds." Ray should know that the class collaborationist scheme outlined above is a manifestation of corporativism, not "socialism." He later admits that corporativism was never fully implemented in Fascist Italy, and that the state invariably took "the side of the management" (i.e., capitalists) within the Chamber of Corporations. However, even if faithfully practiced, corporativism itself is little more than a form of capitalism which institutionalizes collective bargaining.

And socialist parties such as the British Labour Party were patriotic parties in World War II as well.

As this quote demonstrates, Ray's definition of "socialism" is broad enough to incorporate virtually any policy to the left propertarianism.

There's nothing else I really disagree with in Ray's thesis.

_________________
"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:10 am

LearnLiberty.org is the latest organized attempt by bourgeois ideologues to defend capitalism from justifiable criticism. Take, for example, their insistence that the exploitation of labor under capitalism is illusory:



Setting aside the fact that Mr. Zwoliniski erroneously dismissed Marx's labor theory of value early in the video, anyone familiar with moral philosophy and its utilization in the field of economics should quickly realize that he has intentionally chosen to narrowly restrict "exploitation" to its Lockean and neoclassical uses, i.e., in terms of interference with voluntary exchange and uncompetitive markets. Thus, according to this view, labor can never be exploited under conditions of laissez-faire since exchanges are voluntarily and contractually entered into (2:30-3:12), and competitive markets ensure that laborers are remunerated "close to the value of what [their work] produce[s]" (1:04-2:05). The latter claim, however, assumes that markets can be made perfectly competitive and that capitalists are remunerated only according to what their managerial labor contributes to the final product (in other words, the capitalist qua capitalist is nonexistent), which is demonstrably false, and the former presupposes that the wage-for-labor-time contract and private ownership of the means of production are ethically unobjectionable, which is nonsense.

Zwoliniski fails to note that the entire source of profit is unpaid labor; capitalism simply couldn't exist if workers were paid anywhere near the full value of their labor. Implicit in the very notion that capitalist remuneration is fair is the idea that the passive role occupied by landlords and capitalists are not only just, but indispensable for an economy to function optimally. Successful examples of workers' self-management in collectively-owned firms, and the many instances of publicly-owned land throughout history, empirically disprove the necessity of such occupations, but what of their ethical status? After all, it's one thing to claim such tasks are unnecessary, but it's quite another to claim that wage labor and private ownership of land or the means of production are inherently ethically contemptible. Marxists respond by correctly arguing that, in addition to their role being unnecessary, capitalists systematically take advantage of the structural inequality which the mode of production engenders (e.g., the proletariat and bourgeoisie are endowed with unequal assets, thereby enabling the bourgeoisie to dictate the terms of the wage-for-labor-time contract). Thus, the expropriation of surplus labor by the bourgeoisie represents a social theft—which is why in Socialism Made Easy James Connolly argued that the "Socialist movement is indeed worthy to be entitled The Great Anti-Theft Movement of the Twentieth Century." More importantly, we additionally argue, contra the Lockean "just acquisition" myth, that the private ownership of land (and, by logical extension, property in all external things—since all manner of material objects originate from natural resources) is not self-evident. The bourgeois conception of property is ultimately arbitrary, thereby rendering a more democratic and egalitarian system of managing resources just as legitimate (if not more so).

Not to diverge too far from the subject at hand, but notice what other abominations follow from an unqualified defense of all manifestations of "mutually beneficial" exchange: voluntary slavery and sexual abuse. The Austrian school economist Walter Block highlighted just how far this principle can go, when he described the following hypothetical situation:

"Suppose that there is a starvation situation, and the parent of the four year old child (who is not an adult) does not have enough money to keep him alive. A wealthy NAMBLA man offers this parent enough money to keep him and his family alive—if he will consent to his having sex with the child. We assume, further, that this is the only way to preserve the life of this four year old boy. Would it be criminal child abuse for the parent to accept this offer?

Not on libertarian grounds. For surely it is better for the child to be a live victim of sexual abuse rather than unsullied and dead. Rather, it is the parent who consents to the death of his child, when he could have kept him alive by such extreme measures, who is the real abuser
."
Walter Block (2003), “Libertarianism: A Reply to Peter Schwartz,” Reason Papers, Vol. 26, p. 58 (bold emphasis added).

And yet Block fully accepts these outcomes, as one would have to in order to be a logically consistent propertarian. Mr. Zwoliniski would have to as well, for, as he reminds us, such "mutually beneficial exchanges" are ever so "important for the growth and development of society as a whole" (3:14-3:21). In order to prevent such horrendous scenarios from arising (e.g., by providing needy families with a program of guaranteed food assistance), society would necessarily have to infringe upon the bourgeois "rights" which propertarians like Zwoliniski and Block consider sacrosanct.

We can further criticize the capitalist allocation of resources on the grounds of distributive justice. The luck egalitarian ethic—which, I would argue, is intuitively obvious to all but the sociopathic among us—argues the following: human beings possess control over only one attribute in the process of production, namely the effort they expend in its execution. Mere ownership of capital or land isn't worthy of reward for reasons elucidated above, and people have very little control over the technology or workmates they labor with, and no control whatsoever over their genetic endowment. Therefore, individuals shouldn't be remunerated according to what those resources yield in the market; only effort and the onerousness of the conditions of one's labor are worthy of consideration. This principle is unrelated to those articulated earlier, but supplements them acceptably and provide a more clearly defined normative ethic from which socialists and communists can expand.

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"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:06 pm

Ludwig von Mises's critique of centralized economic planning is well known on the Left. (To those unfamiliar with the history of the "socialist calculation debate," I recommend reading W. Paul Cockshott and Allin Cottrell's 1993 paper, “Calculation, Complexity, and Planning: The Socialist Calculation Debate, Once Again,” Review of Political Economy, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 73-112. It provides a concise history of the debate, as well as a contemporary defense of socialist planning.) Lesser known, however, is a critique he wrote of syndicalism in chapter 33 of his magnum opus, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. In this post, I shall address the myriad fallacies contained within that chapter.

In the first section of the chapter, Mises correctly identifies the two uses of the term 'syndicalism': the first representing a socialist tactic of industrial unionism and direct action (in contrast to the traditional social democratic method of parliamentary reformism); and the second representing an economic model based upon workers' control of the means of production (as opposed to the government control advocated by state socialists). After describing these uses of the term, he claims that, in addition to being neither capitalist nor a program of state interventionism, syndicalist economic philosophy cannot be regarded as socialist either. This merely underscores the depth of Mises's ignorance regarding the history of socialist thought, for syndicalism is but one current belonging to the wider socialist tradition. He closes this section by ensuring his readers that "one cannot take the syndicalist program seriously, and nobody ever has" (p. 809), and intends to explain why in four short pages.

At the start of section 2, entitled "Syndicalist Fallacies," Mises attempts to counter the syndicalist contention that capitalism is autocratic, but succeeds only in committing various fallacies of his own in the process. He begins by informing us that, far from being dictatorial, capitalists are "unconditionally subject to the sovereignty of the consumers." Furthermore, the people are not in need of the economic democracy promoted by syndicalists, since the market economy of capitalism is already a heavenly "consumers' democracy" (ibid). The sheer absurdity of this line of reasoning should already be apparent to all. Syndicalists argue that the autocracy of capitalism occurs within the enterprise itself, which no intellectually honest person can deny. Capitalists (or their managerial representatives) unilaterally determine what to produce, how and where to produce it, and what to do with whatever profit is accumulated. The bourgeoisie possess this ability due to their ownership of capital and the fact that workers have little to no bargaining power in the wage-for-labor-time contract as a result of the structural inequality which the system engenders. Appealing to the market pressures which capitalists are forced to respond to doesn't alter this reality. Moreover, since the commodities which consumers demand are themselves chosen and marketed by private enterprises, it's not as though consumers are exercising a significant degree of autonomy when deciding what to purchase either. Also, the problems inherent in equating a capitalist market economy with a "democracy" are well articulated in the following video:



Mises goes on to remind us that the "sole end and purpose of production is consumption" (ibid), perhaps in an attempt to extinguish the righteous indignation which people typically exhibit when confronted with authoritarianism—which is ubiquitous within his beloved capitalism, as he well knew. But this too is a non sequitur. Production needn't only fulfill consumer demand, as it can also represent the primary manner by which people attain self-actualization. Capitalism obviously prevents this from occurring for most individuals, but that's one of the main criticisms we Marxists level against the system.

After blaming consumers for capitalism's autocracy, Mises explains that "[u]nder the competitive conditions of the unhampered market economy the entrepreneurs are forced to improve technological methods of production without regard to the vested interests of the workers" (ibid). Indeed, and while this produces the technological dynamism commonly attributed to capitalism (including by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the Communist Manifesto), it also results in the structural unemployment which unplanned economies have great difficulty accommodating. He never attempts to provide a justification regarding why people should tolerate having no input whatsoever in these decisions which intimately affect their lives, but perhaps such complaints are illogical in the wondrous consumers' paradise we inhabit..

Curiously, Mises later claims that "[t]he employer is forced never to pay workers more than what corresponds to the consumers' appraisal of their achievements" (ibid). In one sense, this is obviously true—as consumers scrutinize the commodities available in the market, and base their choices on whatever subjective criteria they happen to value—but in a deeper sense, the statement is profoundly misleading. People have never been given an opportunity to determine whether or not the ownership of capital, for example, should endow individuals with the ability to appropriate the surplus value produced by the working class. Capitalist remuneration is hardly something which thinking people consider unquestionably legitimate.

When analyzing the syndicalist aim of abolishing absentee ownership and debt payment, Mises argues that "[t]his mode of confiscation and redistribution will not bring about equality within the nation or the world" (p. 810), which is absolutely correct, but those who espouse market syndicalism have never suggested otherwise, and we who advocate a planned syndicalist economy are fully aware that workers' self-management alone is incapable of generating equity in remuneration—which is why we favor the further implementation of participatory planning and remuneration on the basis of duration, intensity, and onerousness.

"[T]he syndicalist ignores the essential problems of entrepreneurship: providing the capital for new industries and the expansion of already existing industries, restricting branches for the products of which demand drops, [and] technological improvement," says Mises. "It is not unfair to call syndicalism the economic philosophy of short-sighted people" (ibid). Mises was clearly misinformed, for, contrary to what he thought, syndicalists have never ignored these issues, we simply found non-exploitative methods by which to solve them. Neoclassical and Austrian economists specialize in deceiving students by obscuring the distinctions between entrepreneurs and capitalists. The former group are engaged in a productive activity, which syndicalists fully acknowledge will need to be emulated in some manner in order to maintain a functioning economy. The latter category, however, fulfills a purely passive function. "Deferring consumption" is not a productive act, nor are an individuals' relative "time preferences" worthy of reward or legitimate justifications for exploitation. One's time preference is profoundly influenced by exogenous forces. For example, capitalists (with the exception of unsuccessful petit-bourgeois individuals) do not suffer abstention when they put their capital into production, whereas workers who save undoubtedly do. John Roemer further explains that,

"First, the initial conditions of differential ownership were established, in all capitalist societies, by processes of theft and brute power. Second, to the extent that people do have different rates of time preference, and succeed differentially in capitalist society on that account, those differences are largely due to the process by which they are formed, namely, as a reaction to conditions of inequality and oppression. It is incorrect to argue that differential rates of time preference are the primal cause of unequal wealths if the genesis of those differences is due to a prior history of inequality. Third, even if there are some genetic or innate differences in rates of time preference, why should people benefit or lose on that account? If having a high rate of time preference is a handicap in a society with minimal social insurance, then should not those with that handicap receive social compensation?"
John E. Roemer, Free to Lose: An Introduction to Marxist Economic Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 63.

Section 3 is merely a critique of labor unions, and the influence syndicalist theory was having in the demands for profit sharing which a few unions were employing at the time of his writing (1949). His only argument against the notion was essentially that it would be unfair for workers in prosperous firms to receive profit shares while their counterparts in less successful enterprises had no such opportunity, which is a rather heartwarming way of rationalizing capital's unjust expropriation of surplus value.

In the final section, entitled "Guild Socialism and Corporativism" (two very different economic models), Mises briefly discusses the history of the guild socialist movement, beginning with its origins in the craft guilds of medieval Europe and ending in its theoretical development by a radical segment of the Fabian Society, led by G. D. H. Cole. Unfortunately, in Mises's impeccable judgement, "[t]he plan was contradictory and blatantly impracticable" (p. 813). He never explains exactly how it was contradictory or impracticable, but his word is undoubtedly sufficient enough for the average disciple of the Austrian school of economics. Then, Mises makes the bold claim that Italian Fascist corporativism represented nothing less than a resurrection of the guild socialist doctrine! "[T]he stato corporativo was nothing but a rebaptized edition of guild socialism. The differences concerned only unimportant details" (ibid). Fascinating.. So the reactionary, class collaboration encapsulated in corporativism differed from the workers' control of the means of production advocated by guild socialism only in "unimportant details"? Anyone who has ever taken the time to actually juxtapose guild socialism with Fascist corporativism would surely take issue with such a comparison. To his credit, Mises was honest enough to admit that the Fascists never implemented their corporativist doctrine, but even from a purely theoretical perspective, corporativism shares virtually nothing in common with guild socialism. For whatever reason, Mises decided that "it is of no importance whether within the guild the workers alone rule or whether and to what extent the capitalists and former entrepreneurs cooperate in the management of affairs" (p. 815), in spite of the fact that it obviously makes a significant difference—a democratic system of workers' councils, economic planning, and collective ownership of the means of production is simply not analogues to the fascist theory of allowing property to remain privately owned, retaining a market allocation of resources, and organizing bureaucratic institutions which enable representatives of labor to negotiate nothing more than wages and certain working conditions with capitalists (which is merely an institutionalization of standard trade union practices observable within most capitalist societies).

In describing the guild socialist model, Mises warns "the monopolistic guild does not need to fear competition. It enjoys the inalienable right of exclusively covering its field of production." Worse still, "if left alone and autonomous. . . it is. . . not the servant of the consumers, but their master. It is free to resort to practices which favor its members at the expense of the rest of the people" (ibid). I suppose it's a good thing, then, that both syndicalists and guild socialists have always advocated for the establishment of institutions of consumer representation to exercise authority in negotiations with workers' councils. It has typically been argued in syndicalist literature that any self-managed firms which fail to efficiently produce the goods and services agreed upon during the draft of the annual economic plan will lose their social license of operation, thereby forcing their workers to find jobs elsewhere and having their capital redistributed to new workers' collectives.

Thus, the concluding remarks which Mises chose to close the chapter with, that guild socialism and syndicalism are "nonsense," are themselves nonsensical since his entire critique was fundamentally based on a ridiculously inadequate knowledge of syndicalists economic theory. Literally all of his complaints, from the inability of consumers' needs being given adequate priority to the alleged "problem of saving and capital accumulation," were entirely without merit. And lest you think that this chapter of Human Action represents an aberration from what otherwise might be a decent book, I assure you that the rest of that work is equally daft.

_________________
"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:51 am

I was surprised to learn that Richard Wolff recently accepted an invitation to subject himself to a 20 minute debate with the nauseating Austrian school propagandist Peter Schiff. Maybe he was unaware that he was agreeing to appear on a radio show hosted by a man renown for his incessant filibustering of individuals with opposing views, fanatical belief in indefensible economic and philosophical dogmas (e.g., the Austrian business cycle theory, propertarianism, and the gold standard), and generally detestable personality. Whatever the case may be, it happened and this was the result:



From the outset, I have to express my disappointment in Wolff's willingness to concede so many points to Schiff. Perhaps he did so in the interest of time—after all, it's extraordinarily time consuming to articulate the extent to which Wolff's epistemological, economic, and ethical views differ from those of the Austrian school—or in a conscious attempt to refrain from alienating Schiff's right-wing audience too much from his perspective. Nevertheless, he took this approach much too far, because when Peter Schiff can accuse you of not really being a socialist, but rather of being a "closet capitalist" (20:42-20:45), it's obvious that something has gone terribly wrong. That aside, let's begin the analysis.

First of all, Schiff's insistence that "the principle reason that American wages went up was because of the investment in plants and equipment that raised the productivity of American workers. So it was the ability of Americans to utilize the tools of capitalism that made them productive and enabled their wages to rise" (3:53-4:10), is, at best, a half-truth. Wolff did an excellent job explaining the historical contingencies which also contributed significantly to the rise in American real wages over the last century (e.g., a chronic labor shortage, unique opportunities citizens possessed for a life of agrarian self-sufficiency, and unions), but he failed to rebut Schiff's inaccurate statement that the so-called "tools of capitalism" were a contributing factor. The fact of the matter is that private investment accounted for only a portion of the research and development which led to the invention of productivity enhancing tools and machinery. Publicly funded research was, and remains, a vital factor as well. Moreover, such inventions are themselves the product of labor, albeit of the cognitive variety. And the source of those inventors' expertise, which they utilized in the process of their work, was/is social. For example, the culture these inventors were born into provided them with the means by which to access the sum total of all human knowledge (in the form of libraries, schools, etc.). Absent that vast wealth of information, and a publicly provided infrastructure which enabled them to function with relative ease, no such marvels of modern industry would have been developed. (For those further interested in the social sources of wealth, I suggest Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly's Unjust Desserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance.)

Secondly, Schiff's minimization of the impact that globalization has had in putting downward pressure on American wages (7:36-8:45) is remarkable. His argument that cheap foreign labor was available in the 1950s and yet capital flight wasn't resorted to ignores the fact that it was comparably more expensive for companies to offshore at that time, and the geopolitical climate in the Third World was far less hospitable than it is now (due in part to the constant threat of revolutions occurring—which the Soviet Union was always prepared to support). Then he cites Germany and Japan as two examples of countries with higher wage scales than the United States that aren't experiencing outsourcing. What he conveniently omits, however, is that Japan's keiretsu economic model has resulted in creating conditions wherein an inordinate percentage of the labor force are employed in positions which are designated as "part time," and that permits companies to pay them very low wages and provide them with none of the benefits which the small, privileged "full time" sector enjoys. And the only reason Germany's capital is fairly stationary is because the co-determination (Mitbestimmung) laws render it extremely difficult and expensive for companies to relocate. He instead blames corporate taxation and regulations for the phenomenon, as one would expect from this dimwit.

Thirdly, the propertarian notion that the government is the antithesis of the market, forwarded by Peter Schiff throughout the interview, is ludicrous. Economic anthropologists, such as David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins, have demonstrated that no evidence for markets exists in any of the research conducted on pre-state societies, thereby proving that the state and market are mutually dependent entities. Furthermore, to claim that "capitalism doesn't exist" today, since businesses aren't operating under the laissez-faire conditions Austrian school economists consider idyllic, is essentially to argue that it has never existed. Propertarians like Schiff try to have it both ways: all of the technological dynamism found within contemporary societies is invariably attributed to "capitalism," but whatever shortcomings exist are because we aren't actually living under capitalism.

Fourthly, blaming democracy for the instability of capitalism is the height of dishonesty. Admittedly, I don't deny that democracy hinders the functionality of capitalism to an extent, but not to the degree or for the reasons Schiff believes it does. Nor is the United States an example of a functioning democracy anyway. It actually took Richard Wolff to stress the profound influence corporations wield in the drafting of public policy before Schiff finally ceased blaming the welfare state for the crisis, and then his only response was to cry 'crony capitalism is bad!' And, just as a side observation, the fact that Schiff can so blatantly denounce democracy is a clear indication of the petit-bourgeois class background and ideologically fascistic disposition of the listeners of his program.

Finally, Schiff's incredulity at the very notion of workers' self-management toward the end of the debate was predictable. His quaint description of the bourgeoisie as benevolent 'risk takers,' selflessly performing the entrepreneurial tasks which workers simply haven't the inclination or ability to collectively do themselves—as opposed to being the exploitative expropriators of surplus labor, which they actually are—undoubtedly went over well with whatever servile, masochistic working class listeners he happens to have. (There is nothing I loathe more than reactionary ideologues who portray capitalists as paternalistic figures that are indispensable to an efficient economy.) Furthermore, Schiff's contention that there's 'nothing stopping workers from organizing self-managed firms now' is demonstrably false. As Theodore Burczak explains in his critique of Isreal Kirzner's "finders-keepers" defense of capitalist profit, private lending institutions systematically discriminate against asset-poor individuals (i.e., the working class) in society, thereby preventing them from being capable of taking advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities. This is particularly detrimental to the possibility of organizing labor-managed firms because,

"Asset-poor workers face two difficulties when they attempt to form a labor-managed firm. First, in capital-intensive enterprises, poor workers would have to seek external funds to finance their activities, making the firm vulnerable to bankruptcy in the case of disruption to the firm's cash flow. Jacques Drèze (1993) illustrates this difficulty with the example of using a supertanker to transport oil. An oil supertanker requires only a few people to operate but costs millions of dollars to purchase. Most people could not collectively self-finance the purchase of the tanker. They would have to rent it or borrow money to purchase it. If anything interfered with the regular and timely delivery of oil, perhaps political turmoil in the Middle East, the self-managed collective of tanker workers would not be able to meet their rent or mortgage obligations, forcing it into bankruptcy. This problem makes worker self-management an unstable organizational form in capital-intensive industries. Second, a collective of risk-averse, asset-poor workers might be reluctant to sink any of their limited wealth into their worker-managed enterprise because both their labor and capital income would be hostage to the performance of the firm. For the risk averse, worker self-management would be an undesirable organizational form, if self-management entailed worker ownership of capital."
Theodore A. Burczak, Socialism after Hayek (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006), p. 123.

Simply put, only a system of socialized finance would enable workers' self-management to be a viable option. (For other factors contributing to the scarcity of labor-managed firms within capitalist economies, see Justin Schwartz's “Where Did Mill Go Wrong?: Why the Capital Managed Firm Rather than the Labor Managed Enterprise is the Predominant Organizational Form in Market Economies.”) It would also be undesirable for workers to operate firms under current market conditions, because they would be forced to emulate many of the worst characteristics of contemporary capitalism (e.g., managerial hegemony and constantly lowering their income in order to remain competitive with exploitative companies); the implementation of tariffs and a generalization of the model across the economy would be required to make the effort worth while. The reason why workers aren't demanding this at the moment is basically the same reason they aren't demanding socialism in general, namely, false consciousness. However, workers are slowly becoming more aware of their class interests as a result of material conditions progressively undermining bourgeois ideology. Once radical activists finally succeed in informing the proletariat that alternatives to the status quo exist, Schiff will notice a marked change in the attitude of his workers, who were once so grateful to receive his pittances.

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Libertarian Idiocy: "Healthcare is NOT a Human Right"

Post by DSN on Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:27 pm

I remain convinced that libertarians are an intellectually inferior division of the human species.


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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:09 pm

DSN wrote:I remain convinced that libertarians are an intellectually inferior division of the human species.


Yet another Objectivist twit attempting to persuade undiscerning individuals on YouTube that their vacuous bourgeois values are intellectually creditable.

Underlying her entire argument is the notion that the only fundamental human right is the pursuit of property. To defend this ideal without recourse to consequentalism (which wouldn't enable one to judge policy proposals in the a priori manner she does), the principle of self-ownership needs to be invoked. The problem for propertarians like this girl, however, is that their reactionary political philosophy doesn't necessarily follow from accepting that normative premise. Lockean property acquisition theory would need to be conjoined with self-ownership for there to be a chance, but even then it wouldn't guarantee capitalism as the logical deduction since one could proceed to supplement Locke's labor theory of property with the juridical principle of imputation and wind up with market socialism—all without jeopardizing the self-ownership thesis.

But self-ownership is an ethically indefensible principle regardless. Those who adhere to it implicitly endorse the view that the outcomes of brute luck are morally acceptable. That would, for instance, mean that if someone was born with a debilitating health condition, say cerebral palsy, and consequently weren't physically able to perform the labor necessary to acquire the means of subsistence, they ought to be left to perish if they're unable to locate people willing to support them via voluntary charitable donations. Anyone who isn't a sociopath would find this intuitively unacceptable. However, the girl who produced this video would likely respond by saying: 'that's the price you pay for freedom. Taxation is non-contractual and therefore tantamount to slavery.' But there is an enormous normative difference between redistributive taxation and slavery. Slavery is a permanent status wherein one lacks autonomy over virtually every facet of their life. Redistirbutive taxation, by contrast, is determined by a democratic process and only forcibly appropriates a modest portion of one's income. Moreover, desperate circumstances can compel individuals into voluntarily entering into actual chattel slavery contracts—which tax subsidized social insurance could prevent. So it isn't at all clear whether embracing the self-ownership principle mitigates or exacerbates servitude towards others.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Altair on Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:22 pm

DSN wrote:I remain convinced that libertarians are an intellectually inferior division of the human species.


Oh. My. God.


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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by RedBrasil on Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:17 pm

Libertarians are the most stupid people on earth, they are way worse than fascists, seriously
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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by DSN on Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:45 pm

Yet again, the libertarians trip over their own words. Reducing the question of private property down to irrelevant items like computers to justify their property worship. Am I just looking for ways to pick at them by pointing out the hilarity of their comments at the end? "But, you really did wait until we were a little bit mentally handicapped." Aren't libertarians and anarcho-capitalists like that all the time? I hope to see some further discussion between the three of them once the propertarians have Google searched their responses.


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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Rev Scare on Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:38 pm

What sheer nonsense. Locke's theory of property has been quite thoroughly refuted. The mutualist in the video rather poorly challenged the presumptions of those reactionary twits.

Most amusing was the assertion toward the end that accepting self-ownership while rejecting Lockean property acquisition is "arbitrary." The co-host apparently perceives no irony in the fact that she herself arbitrarily accepts private property. Without Lockean property theory, the concept of "self-ownership" (and the non-aggression principle as well for that matter) is economically irrelevant.

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:59 am

DSN wrote:Yet again, the libertarians trip over their own words. Reducing the question of private property down to irrelevant items like computers to justify their property worship. Am I just looking for ways to pick at them by pointing out the hilarity of their comments at the end? "But, you really did wait until we were a little bit mentally handicapped." Aren't libertarians and anarcho-capitalists like that all the time? I hope to see some further discussion between the three of them once the propertarians have Google searched their responses.


It's astonishing that someone as dense as Adam Kokesh continues to have access to public airwaves. But then, there is no shortage of petit-bourgeois dolts and misled workers willing to entertain Austrian school drivel these days—especially given the spectacular manner by which neoclassical economics and mainstream political parties have deligitmized themselves since the Great Recession began—so I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised. This is just further evidence of the Left's failure to adequately respond to the crisis. Nevertheless, I did find it rather amusing how such an incoherent neo-mutualist could stymie Kokesh so effortlessly.

As many of you are doubtless aware, Kokesh had the honor of being one of the earliest reactionary nitwits featured on this thread, and it's clear from this video that he still hasn't managed to transcend that inane political philosophy known as "anarcho"-capitalism. This particular video touches on many of the themes we've addressed elsewhere, but I would like to take it as an occasion to expand a bit on John Locke's absurd theory of land acquisition.

To Kokesh's credit, he now concedes that the current distribution of wealth in society is in violation of the non-proviso Lockeanism which constitutes the natural rights basis of deontological propertarianism, and consequently poses a dilemma for individuals who adhere to that doctrine. But Kokesh could have accused the Tuckerian mutualist he debated of facing a similar philosophical dilemma since, as a result of espousing a political theory which is fundamentally based upon the notion that workmen are entitled to the undiminished proceeds of their labor, he unwittingly affirms the self-ownership principle which underlies Locke's labor theory of property.

So why is Locke's theory deficient? Simply put, it's predicated on the view that the sole source of use-value is labor. In the Two Treatises of Government Locke unambiguously states that, absent an infusion of labor, unowned natural resources are entirely valueless. From this premise, Locke concludes that individual appropriation of virgin land is legitimate and whatever inequality in distribution obtains therefrom is completely justifiable since it merely reflects the unequal value-creating applications of labor. G. A. Cohen, however, illustrated why this is an erroneous premise by way of the following example:

"suppose that just one hour of digging creates a well which yields a thousand gallons of water a year, where before there was only a measly annual ten-gallon trickle. It would surely be wrong to infer, from the fact that the digging raised the water yield from ten to a thousand gallons, that the digging is responsible for 99 per cent of the water yielded by, and, hence, of the use-value produced by, the dug land, while the land itself is responsible for only 1 per cent of it."
G. A. Cohen, Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 182.

It's obvious, then, that natural resources can contribute to the creation of use-values. Yet, when applied to infertile land, it's possible that labor can yield no use-value whatsoever. This seemingly trivial point is actually detrimental to Locke's case, and, ipso facto, undermines the entire edifice of private property derived from his theory. But even if Locke's premise was correct, his conclusion wouldn't follow since "that inference ignores the consideration that not everyone might have had an equivalent opportunity to labour on land, because there was no land left to labour on, or because the land left to labour on was less good than what the more fortunate laboured on" [Ibid., p. 186].

Incidentally, unlike many socialists in his day, Karl Marx acknowledged nature and labor's mutual dependence when he wrote:

"Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour power. . . . The bourgeois have very good grounds for falsely ascribing supernatural creative power to labour; since from the fact that labour depends on nature it follows precisely that the man who possesses no other property than his labour power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labour. He can only work with their permission, and hence live only with their permission."
Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program (Rockville: Wildside Press, 2008), p. 18.

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Rev Scare on Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:30 pm

Self-ownership seems to be the last bastion for the defense of property. Consider this review of G.A. Cohen's book, Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, by the pompous Misean groupie David Gordon. I will not bother to defend Cohen from Gordon's inflated critique. (While I find much value in Cohen's work, as an analytical Marxist, he explicitly rejected much of traditional Marxist thought and embraced a bourgeois conceptual framework that left him exposed to the sort of reactionary challenges found in the above review, just one of several by that particularly author.) Instead, I would simply like to offer some additional criticism of this mystified concept termed "self-ownership."

For one, it is clear that propertarians do not have in mind individual autonomy when referring to self-ownership. Theirs is an alienable "right" to one's person, capable of being bought and sold in the "free" (and naturally emerging) market. Obviously, there is a glaring contradiction in upholding a principle which stresses the right of an individual's sovereignty in his or her own person but allows said individual to voluntarily forfeit this same right. It almost seems as though this philosophical quagmire was expressly designed in order to justify private property and wage labor. Coincidence? Of course not. That was John Locke's intent all along.

"Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. [But a person can sell] for a certain time, the Service he undertakes to do, in exchange for Wages he is to receive." Thus we have that "the Grass my Horse has bit; the Turfs my Servant has cut; and the Ore I have digg'd in any place where I have a right to them in common with others, becomes my Property, without the assignation or consent of any body. The labour that was mine . . . hath fixed my Property in them."
Second Treatise on Government, Section 27, Section 85 and Section 28

David Ellerman's principle of imputation is designed to overcome this deficit, but that is beside the point. (His ethical precept is too narrow to legitimize anything other than workplace democracy. It allows for the perpetuation of private property, markets, and tiresome protestations against taxation.)

It is perhaps intellectually stimulating to devise sophisticated arguments against basic propertarian tenets and the rejoinders which ensue, but I ask why we should accept self-ownership in the first place? It is a neat contrivance, but it does not strike me as intuitively plausible at all that we are born with ownership of ourselves. It is not self-evident to me that a large group of people (i.e., society) has no right to impose certain rules, codes of conduct, and burdens upon individuals, thereby restricting their negative liberty—especially considering that individuals are, in large part, the products of their social environment. Ownership is a social concept, arising out of social relationships that are reproduced every day. It does not exist in a vacuum, ready to be "discovered" by some clever bourgeois philosopher. The very premise that we should ask who "rightfully" owns our person is one I repudiate. Why should we acknowledge any inherent ownership stake in anything, including ourselves? Furthermore, the entire notion of "natural rights," independent of specific cultural, legal, and social arrangements, is farcical. Humans subjectively define rights, categories of thought, ethical statements, etc. Surely, the more refined propertarians understand this, which is why they merely resort, in the last instance, to repeating the validity of their stance via circular argumentation, irregardless of the implications (though not before bloated claims to logical consistency, intuitive appeal, utilitarianism, human nature, etc.).

Does it follow from my rejection of self-ownership that slavery becomes inevitable? Not at all. If anything, "self-ownership," as defined by propertarians, allows for the latter. There is no reason why we as individuals should assent to either form of social control. Slavery no more follows from a categorical denial of self-ownership than chaos is ushered in on the heels of rejecting the divine right of kings. We can consciously and collectively decide how to organize ourselves as a social formation, according to the principle that each individual influence decisions to the degree that he or she is affected by them. The sort of antiquated thinking that leads to concepts such as "self-ownership" arises out of class society, with its rigid obligations and expectations. Bourgeois liberal philosophers conceived of it in order to provide universal legitimacy for nascent capitalism. It seems to me that an enlightened society would not concern itself with unearthing and sanctifying eternal "truths" but would instead focus upon rationally evaluating and meeting the needs and desires of freely associated individuals.


Last edited by Rev Scare on Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:24 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Reactionaries Say the Darndest Things

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:30 am

Rev Scare wrote:Self-ownership seems to be the last bastion for the defense of property. Consider this review of G.A. Cohen's book, Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, by the pompous Misean groupie David Gordon.

Unfortunately, I'm familiar with Gordon's asinine criticisms of Cohen's work. I had the misfortune of reading a significant portion of his book Resurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists On Freedom, Exploitation, and Justice a year ago, and the sophomoric level of his analysis is identical to that featured in the review you linked. Witnessing Gordon's inferior mind attempt to grapple with the sophistication of Cohen's philosophical work was, quite frankly, embarrassing; it's analogues to the experience one has reading Eugen Böhm-Bawerk attempt to refute Marx's labor theory of value. Propertarians trust that the arrogance with which they write will be enough to compensate for their lack of intellectual rigor and compelling argumentation, but tactics of that pitiful nature are only truly effective among the feeble-minded. With that said, I intend on writing a thorough review of Gordon's daft book when time permits.

I will not bother to defend Cohen from Gordon's inflated critique. (While I find much value in Cohen's work, as an analytical Marxist, he explicitly rejected much of traditional Marxist thought and embraced a bourgeois conceptual framework that left him exposed to the sort of reactionary challenges found in the above review, just one of several by the author in question.)

While I share your general appraisal of the analytical Marxist project, I believe it's mistaken to view it as representing a singular paradigm. For example, though accepting of John Roemer's erroneous criticisms of orthodox Marxist economics, G. A. Cohen nevertheless rejected the methodological individualism employed by Jon Elster, Alan Carling, and others, in their effort to amend Marxist sociology with rational choice theory. Cohen's functionalist approach to sociology may have been decidedly more mechanistic than Marx's dialectical method, but it was still consistent with Marx's materialistic basis and conclusions.

Instead, I would simply like to offer some additional criticism of this mystified concept termed "self-ownership."

For one, it is clear that propertarians do not have in mind individual autonomy when referring to self-ownership. Theirs is an alienable "right" to one's person, capable of being bought and sold in the "free" (and naturally emerging) market. Obviously, there is a glaring contradiction in upholding a principle which stresses the right of an individual's sovereignty in his or her own person but allows said individual to voluntarily forfeit this same right.

That's precisely why most rational individuals, upon close examination, would reject the self-ownership thesis and instead adopt a more appealing principle of personal autonomy—presumably one which doesn't generate the same inhumane consequences as Rothbardian or Nozickean self-ownership. A worthy candidate, in my opinion, is luck egalitarianism, which is characterized by autonomy over one's body (sans the bourgeois notion that people are entitled to the undiminished proceeds their labor can yield in a market setting) and compensation for the victims of cosmic misfortune (a poor genetic endowment, unfortunate childhood, etc.).

It almost seems as though this philosophical quagmire was expressly designed in order to justify private property and wage labor. Coincidence? Of course not. That was John Locke's intent all along.

"Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. [But a person can sell] for a certain time, the Service he undertakes to do, in exchange for Wages he is to receive." Thus we have that "the Grass my Horse has bit; the Turfs my Servant has cut; and the Ore I have digg'd in any place where I have a right to them in common with others, becomes my Property, without the assignation or consent of any body. The labour that was mine . . . hath fixed my Property in them."
Second Treatise on Government, Section 27, Section 85 and Section 28

Indeed. Locke's class interest was ever the impetus behind his political philosophy. Allan Engler recounts this history in the following lengthy, but illuminating passage:

"Locke was a product of the momentous social upheavals in seventeenth-century Britain. He began his political career—after the Restoration of Charles II (1660-85)—as secretary of the Board of Trade, a position he acquired through his patron and employer, Lord Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury was Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the Whigs—the party of merchant and finance capital. When James II came to the throne in 1685, Locke, who like his patron was identified with the Protestant opposition, fled to Holland where he remained until the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Locke was a leader of a struggle that had been fought throughout the century. In the 1640s, the king's right unilaterally to raise taxes and declare war had been challenged by Parliament. A civil war followed. Charles I lost and in 1649 was beheaded. With the king gone, the parliamentary forces divided into Independents and Levellers. The Independents were led by Oliver Cromwell and represented 'independent' men—merchants and landowners. They believed that all men who owned sufficient capital to free them from the necessity of personal labour had a fundamental right to take part in making laws. The insisted that the right to vote for Parliament should be restricted to such men.

The Levellers—so called because they were accused of supporting the leveling of hedges constructed to enclose what had been communal fields—represented the small-holders and self-employed artisans who had provided the parliamentary army with most o its soldiers. They conceded that any man who worked for another had thereby forfeited his political independence. They demanded voting rights for all men who were self-employed; who owned the products of their own labour. Cromwell, who had the support of the officers and cavalry—including John Locke's father, a captain of horse—settled the issue by arresting and hanging Leveller leaders. Cromwell had himself proclaimed Lord Protector and during the Long Parliament (1640-60) nobody voted.

...When Cromwell died in 1658, few objected to the restoration of the monarchy. Charles II, who had taken up his father's cause and had been defeated in Scotland, was invited to return. His subsequent 25 year reign was not controversial. The same could not be said of his brother, James II, who became king in 1685. A Catholic and an absolutist in a Protestant and constitutional country, James held the thrown for just three years. In 1688 he was overthrown by William of Orange who crossed the Channel from Holland with 15,000 troops. William and Mary (James's daughter) were welcomed as liberators by the merchant classes.

From the perspective of wealthowners, the revolution of 1688 was glorious not only because the king accepted the rights of private wealthowners but also because the revolution had not involved the people. The leaders of the revolution having come to power on the shoulders of foreign troops, did not have to contend with an armed people clamouring for political rights, as had been the case in Cromwell's time. The new monarchy restricted the right to vote to capital-owning men—much as had been proposed by Cromwell. A parliament of wealthowners shared power with the Crown and the courts, leaving the majority without a voice or vote in public affairs.

John Locke returned home from Holland to work for the new government. He and his friend Isaac Newton—who had quietly opposed James II from within England—were 'the backroom boys' of the new government. Locke became Commissioner of Trade and Plantations. Newton, as warden of the Mint, established the gold standard that would make the British pound the leading world currency.

A few years after returning from Holland, Locke took time off to write
An Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government. He held that the sole purpose of government is to protect the interests of individuals who made the compact to form the government. These individuals were property-owners. When their will was in dispute it could best be expressed by a majority vote. Locke rejected monarchy—a view that had gained ascendancy after the rediscovery in the early Renaissance of the Corpus Juris Civilus, a law code of late imperial Rome. Property, Locke said, is not bestowed by the monarch, it is a natural right.

Locke then aimed his conception of a natural right to property against common rights. The ancient belief in common rights had been fortified by the pre-Renaissance view that God had created the land, the sea and all its creatures for the enjoyment and use of all his children. In opposing common rights, Locke wrote,

'Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person; this nobody has any right to but himself. The labour of his body and the work of his hands we may say are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with and joined to it something that is his own and thereby makes it his property.'

Superficially, this seems a defence of the rights of labour. It was not. It was a defence of capitalist rights against common rights. Locke's point is easier to see if 'capitalist' is read where he writes 'man,' and 'the labour he has hired' where he writes 'his labour.' Altering his text this way also eliminates what would otherwise be a blatant contradiction in Locke's theory and practice. Although he wrote, 'The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent,' Locke was a leader of a government that was actively involved in driving rural people from land their ancestors had possessed and worked for generations.

Locke did not see a contradiction here because the right to property meant the right to revenue-earning capital. The working classes who were supposed to occupy themselves working for others could hardly expect to have such rights
. In this view, he was not alone. R. H. Tawney wrote that for most wealthowners of the time 'the possession of landed property by a poor man seemed in itself a surprising impertinence which it was the duty of Parliament to correct.'

Before capitalism, property meant a right to things—land, waterways, buildings, tools, stocks—which one used and possessed as one's own or shared with designated others. This conception of property was held by common people and by the great thirteenth-century church scholar Thomas Aquinas. Property rights were established by legal documents, memory and custom:

'In spite of the fiction under which feudalism operated—that all land in England belonged to the king, who granted it to his barons, who in turn grated it to lessor lords, who granted it to the peasants—a pervasive sense of hereditary rights prevailed among the peasants, as among the barons.'

In
Women in the Middle Ages Frances and Joseph Gies go on to explain that inheritance rules were precise, A peasant family's holding was normally inherited by the eldest son. If a family had no sons, a daughter inherited. Her husband would act as the landholder during his lifetime. The land would then pass on to a child who would be 'regarded as his wife's heir rather than his own.'

Ancient customary rights were destroyed by capitalism. By making legal title the only claim to property and then creating market in titles to property, capitalism broke the tie between use and property. People who could not produce title documents were evicted. Property became capital. Rights to it were bought and sold. The right of producers to their means of livelihood was transformed into the right of wealthowners to own others' means of livelihood and to revenue from others' labour. In Locke's time thousands of families were being driven from the land and pushed into the growing urban slums. Locke supported these dispossessions and insisted that rising unemployment was a result of 'nothing else but the relaxation of discipline and corruption of manners.'

Rising unemployment was actually in the interest of wealthowners. It drove down the price of labour. Like Mandeville, Locke believed in the utility of poverty. He argued that wages should be kept low so that Britain would have a competitive edge in international trade. Where money could be made, Locke did not hesitate to urge the exploitation of children. In his treatise on government, he had written that the powers of parents should be limited to what was in the interests of children. However, when speaking for the Commission on Trade, he recommended that the children of the unemployed be taken from them at the age of three and put into workhouses to labour for their own keep and for the profit of their overseers.

Locke, now respected as one of the greatest early modern philosophers, was in daily life a transnational corporate executive
.

...Can we assume Locke—the advocate of individual rights—at least opposed slavery? He did say 'every man has a property in his own person; this nobody has any right to but himself.' In fact he was up to his neck in the slave trade. His employer Lord Shaftesbury was a leading investor in the Royal Africa Company as well as Lord Proprietor of the Carolinas. Locke himself had substantial personal investments in slaving and was appointed Commissioner of the Trade and Plantations at a time when the British dominated the slave trade.

In accepting the dispossession of common people, poverty for labour, the exploitation of little children and the enslavement of Africans, Locke was representing the interests of his class. He was doing the same when he campaigned for the right of individuals to choose their government by majority vote. His peers would have taken it for granted that individual rights applied only to the heads of capital-owning households. Such households contained domestic servants, labourers, apprentices and journeymen, as well as female relatives. The law of the time presumed that the male head of the household represented all these people; only he had the right to vote; only he had full citizenship
."
Allan Engler, Apostles of Greed: Capitalism and the Myth of the Individual in the Market (London: Pluto Press, 1995), pp. 6-11 (bold emphasis added).

David Ellerman's principle of imputation is designed to overcome this deficit, but that is beside the point. (His ethical precept is too narrow to legitimize anything other than workplace democracy. It allows for the perpetuation of private property, markets, and tiresome protestations against taxation.)

In addition to Ellerman, there are a number of philosophers (e.g., Michael Otsuka) who have sought to exorcise some of the inegalitarian consequences of Lockean self-ownership by conjoining it with the principle of common ownership of the world. I was briefly convinced that this enterprise might prove worthwhile, but concluded that it's riddled with far too many internal inconsistencies and accepts premises which I simply find objectionable.

It is perhaps intellectually stimulating to devise sophisticated arguments against basic propertarian tenets and the rejoinders which ensue, but I ask why we should accept self-ownership in the first place? It does not strike me as intuitively plausible at all that we are born with ownership of ourselves. It is not self-evident to me that a large group of people (i.e., society) has no right to impose certain rules, codes of conduct, and burdens upon individuals, thereby restricting their negative liberty—especially considering that individuals are, in large part, the products of their social environment.

Your last line is especially crucial to this discussion because the self-ownership thesis presupposes a unified subject. The reality, however, is that every organism is in a state of simultaneously being and becoming. This dialectical fact of biology obtains even more so for higher-order, social species like human beings. The self, absent its social context, is alienated and incomplete. Hence it's ludicrous to ascribe complete ownership over oneself when who we are is constantly in flux and profoundly influenced by the environment we're situated in. Moreover, it isn't even self-evident that our genetic endowment should be regarded as our personal property, as most of our ancestors were only capable of surviving long enough to procreate because of the cooperative social relations they entered into with their contemporaries. Surely taking that into consideration should alter the manner by which we view our obligations to one another.

It seems to me that an enlightened society would not concern itself with unearthing and sanctifying eternal "truths" but would instead focus upon rationally evaluating and meeting the needs and desires of freely associated individuals.

I agree, but I believe that political philosophy is a worthy endeavor nonetheless. Vision is a critically important part of revolutionary activism, and political philosophy can assist us in conceiving of the values we should uphold and goals we should pursue. Material forces will ultimately determine when the social revolution occurs, but an attractive vision is a requisite element for overcoming the proletariat's narrow time-horizon and amassing popular support for socialism.

_________________
"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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