A CRITIQUE OF COMMUNISM AND THE INDIVIDUALIST ALTERNATIVE

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Before one can get into an intelligent criticism of anything, one must begin by defining one’s terms. “Anarchism”, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica dictionary, is “the theory that all forms of government are incompatible with individual and social liberty and should be abolished.” It further says that it comes from the Greek roots “an” (without) and “archos” (leader).

 

As for “communism”, it is “any social theory that calls for the abolition of private property and control by the community over economic affairs.” To elaborate on that definition, communists of all varieties hold that all wealth should be produced and distributed according to the formula “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” and that the administrative mechanism to control such production and distribution should be democratically organised by the workers themselves (i.e. “workers’ control”). They further insist that there should be no private ownership of the means of production and no trading of goods except through the official channels agreed upon by the majority. With rare exceptions, communists of all varieties propose to realise this ideal through violent revolution and the expropriation of all private property.

 

That no one should accuse me of building up straw men in order to knock them down, allow me to quote Kropotkin

 

Historically, it was Proudhon who first used the word to mean something other than disorder and chaos: “Although a firm friend of order, I am (in the full force of the term) an anarchist.” [5]

 

Here Marx uses the masculine pronoun to denote the generic “one”. In deference to easy flowing English grammar, I’ll stick to his precedent and hope that Women’s Lib people will forgive me when I, too, write “his” instead of “one’s”.

 

I have chosen Kropotkin as a “typical” communist- anarchist here and elsewhere in this article for a number of reasons. First, he was a particularly prolific writer, doing much of his original work in English. Secondly, he is generally regarded as “probably the greatest anarchist thinker and writer” by many communist- anarchists, including at least one editor of “Freedom”.

Finally, he was the founder of Freedom Press, the publisher of the magazine you are now reading.

 

 

 

to show that communist-anarchism fits in well with the above definition of communism:

 

    “We have to put an end to the iniquities, the vices, the crimes which result from the idle existence of some and the economic, intellectual, and moral servitude of others…. We are no longer obliged to grope in the dark for the solution…. It is Expropriation…. If all accumulated treasure…does not immediately go back to the collectivity – since all have contributed to produce it; if the insurgent people do not take possession of all the goods and provisions amassed in the great cities and do not organise to put them within the reach of all who need them…the insurrection will not be a revolution, and everything will have to be begun over again….Expropriation, – that then, is the watchword which is imposed upon the next revolution, under penalty of failing in its historic mission.

 

The complete expropriation of all who have the means of exploiting human beings. The return to common ownership by the nation of all that can serve in the hands of any one for the exploitation of others.”

 

Now let us take our definitions of communism and anarchism and see where they lead us. The first part of the definition of communism calls for the abolition of private property. “Abolition” is itself a rather authoritarian concept – unless, of course, you’re talking about abolishing something which is inherently authoritarian and invasive itself (like slavery or government, for example).

 

So the question boils down to “Is private property authoritarian and invasive?” The communists answer “yes”; the individualists disagree. Who is right? Which is the more “anarchistic” answer? The communists argue that “private property has become a hindrance to the evolution of mankind towards happiness”, that “private property offends against justice”  and that it “has developed parasitically amidst the free institutions of our earliest ancestors.”

 

The individualists, far from denying these assertions, reaffirm them. After all wasn’t it Proudhon who first declared property “theft”? But when the communist

 

By property Proudhon means property as it exists under government privilege, i.e. property gained not through labour or the exchange of the products of labour (which he favours), but through the legal privileges bestowed by government on idle capital.

 

 

 

says, “Be done, then, with this vile institution; abolish private property once and for all; expropriate and collectivise all property for the common good,” the individualist must part company with him. What’s wrong with private property today is that it rests primarily in the hands of a legally privileged elite.

 

The resolution of this injustice is not to perpetrate an even greater one, but rather to devise a social and economic system which will distribute property in such a manner that everyone is guaranteed the product of his labour by natural economic laws. I propose to demonstrate just such a system at the end of this article. If this can be done, it will have been shown that private property is not intrinsically invasive after all, and that the communists in expropriating it would be committing a most unanarchistic act. It is, therefore, incumbent upon all communists who call themselves anarchists to read carefully that section and either find a flaw in its reasoning or admit that they are not anarchists after all.

 

The second part of the definition of communism says that economic affairs should be controlled by the community. Individualists say they should be controlled by the market place and that the only law should be the natural law of supply and demand. Which of these two propositions is the more consistent with anarchism? Herbert Spencer wrote in 1884, “The great political superstition of the past was the divine right of kings. The great political superstition of the present is the divine right of parliaments.”

 

The communists seem to have carried Spencer’s observation one step further: the great political superstition of the future shall be the divine right of workers’ majorities. “Workers’ control” is their ideology; “Power to the People” their battle cry. What communist-anarchists apparently forget is that workers’ control means control. Marxists, let it be said to their credit, at least are honest about this point. They openly and unashamedly demand the dictatorship of the proletariat. Communist-anarchists seem to be afraid of that phrase, perhaps subconsciously realising the inherent contradiction in their position. But communism, by its very nature, is dictatorial. The communist-anarchists may christen their governing bodies “workers’ councils” or “soviets”, but they remain governments just the same.

 

Abraham Lincoln was supposed to have asked, “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No! Calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.” The same is true about governments and laws. Calling a law a “social habit”  or an “unwritten custom” as Kropotkin does, doesn’t change its nature. To paraphrase Shakespeare, that which we call a law by any other name would smell as foul

 

 

 

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