An Anarcho-Communist Writes

Note: Unless marked confidential, or reasonably implied to be such by its content, any e-mail sent to me should be regarded as open. SIG


I see you have thoughtfully posted the contents of my private email to you – see below – in the public realm without my consent. Yes, very libertarian.

I am not a member of the ruling class, nor am I one of its clients, and the only one in this correspondence who falls into the category of “useful idiot” in the service of said class is your good self with your naive  pro-market ideology.

How the hell it constitutes “abasing yourself before the ruling class” by criticising the racist claptrap of Ms West  which you conspicuously failed to do, just boggles the mind. I couldn’t  care a tuppence s if you want to take the politicians to court for inflicting  hardship on Ms West but there does seem to be something of an inconsistency between that and your claim to be an anti-statist.

You inept comments about society being held together by either voluntary means or by the coercion of the state, with the clear implication that I inadvertently support the latter by rejecting the market, demonstrates that you know next to nothing about anarcho-communist theory. Socialism or communism – they traditionally meant the same thing  – is a voluntaristic society par excellance.  That is what is meant by “from each according to ability to each according to need”. A market economy in any shape or form and not just a regulated market economy as in the state capitalist Soviet Union is intrinsicially coercive – despite the much vaunted freedom to trade (if youve got something to trade with). Such an economy cannot do without  the state to protect and promote the interest of those who effectively the means of production.  Nor indeed can the relationship between employer and empoyee be anything  other than an assymetrical coercive one and the mutualist wet dream of returning us to some kind of petty commodity producing society in which we all engage in free market transactions on a mythical level playing field is a pious wish incapable of  realisation

You have a lot to learn about revolutionary socialism, a lot.



  • This is clearly by a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party who use the absurd line that the USSR was capitalist (‘state capitalist’), despite the deliberate suppression of all market signals in that economy. They do that because their preferred economic system, communism, is the ultimate in state coercion, and they prefer to claim it is voluntaristic.

  • Goes to show just how little you know about anarcho communism, then. The idea that the SWP is “anarcho communist” is laughably, not to say, lamentably, ignorant. The writer of the peice is not a member of the Trotskyist SWP and opposes Leninisn and all its varieties, including Trotskyism.

    State Capitalist Soviet Union was fundamentally a market based society., albeit a highly regulated market. Labour power was a commodity exchanged for wages. Consumer goods were commodities bought and sold on the market (both official and black) . Producer goods were commodities bought and sold on the basis of legally binding contracts between state enterprises in pursuit of profit (which they were legally obliged to pursue) and with the aid of state agencies like GOSBANK and GOSSNAP acting as intermediaries

    Who said ” The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities,” its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity. ” Thats right – Karl Marx, Das Kapital, chapter 1, first sentence. The Soviet Union was a commodity producing capitalist society

    And finally to cap it all we are told ” their preferred economic system, communism, is the ultimate in state coercion, and they prefer to claim it is voluntaristic”. Do you know anything at all about communism? Seems not, Communism as just about everyone knows – apart from you it seems – is classically defined as a stateless , moneylss wageless society in which you give according to ability and take according to your need. In other words, free access to goods and services and completely voluntary labour

    You can’t get more “voluntaristic” than that and I defy you – or anyone – to show otherwise

  • Ah, I was going to tell you how naughty I’d been in reposting your e-mail. However, you’ve found it for yourself. Before you tell me how bad I was, do bear in mind that I removed your name – and how you’ve got a free run on this country’s most vibrant libertarian blog.

  • Me, I am intrigued to know how one can have any production at all if nobody is allowed to exchange anything. I mean, other than a “you may only have what you make yourself” system. So, is anarcho-communism a synonym for an absolute self-sufficiency? I like cheese. I don’t own a cow. How do I get some cheese, or do I just have to do without, or what?

  • Tut, tut, the farmer will give you milk sufficient for your need to make cheese!

  • anarcho communism is not a synonym for absolute-sufficiency at all. Do some basic reading. People like Kropotkin are good on this. By exchange is meant “quid pro quo” exchange e.g. barter or monetary exchange. Graeber’s new book has a lot to say about that. There wont be quid pro quo economic exchanges – anarchocommunism is what in anthropological terms is called a system of generalised reciprpcity (google it) – and it is not a question of it not “being allowed” – the material circumstances of a free economy in which you voluntarily contribute to, and freely take from, the common store will simply undermine the possibility of market exchanges ever happening. Priced goods can never outcompete free goods. You want cheese? Well, you simply take your cheese from the distribution point at which the farmer had deposited said cheese in just the same way as the farmer, while in town, decides to pick up that pair of stout boots he has been needing for some time. Not that in a free economy, as opposed to a market economy, we will be shoehorned into a particular occupation but will be free to chose whatever and as many jobs as we like. But the jobs will be socially useful jobs directly geared to satisfying human needs. Not like in market capitalism which is arguably the most grotequely inefficient and wasteful economic system there has ever been – despite the enormous productive potential it has built up which communism will inherit – where most of the economic activity undertaken (from banking to pay departments and a thousand and one other jobs) exists simply to prop up and enable the money system to operate and contributes absolutely nothing to human welfare and wellbeing whatsoever

  • Ah yes, this idea of the Common Store dates back to Winstanley’s Christian Communism, and it always hits the same problem, which is the problem of value. One farmer produces more cheese than another, so feels entitled to more boots, beets and burlap from the Common Store. One man feels that boots are worth three wheels of cheese, another thinks they’re only worth two. And some farmers’ cheese is better than other farmers’ cheese, and some cobblers’ boots are superior to other cobblers’ boots. And so on. So what you need to do is invent some kind of system whereby things have different exchange amounts to them.

    So then you put a man in charge of the Common Store, and he has to keep a big ledger of what everyone has brought and taken, and with all the exchange values written in it. Eventually, somebody suggests they have some kind of “token” so that people can be given tokens when they bring something to the store, and hand them back when they take something from the store.

    Then a whole bunch of people think they could run the store better, and set up another store. And then people stop going to the store with their cheese and boots, and trading them personally to save the journey, or taking them to the nearest store. And soon some of the cheese makers’ cheese and cobblers’ boots are so popular that they can’t make enough by themselves, so they ask somebody else to give them a hand making cheese or boots, and in return they’ll give them some store tokens for their time and trouble.

    And then you find it’s turned back into capitalism. Dang.

  • Right at the very start you have exposed your own complete misunderstanding of anarcho communism: “One farmer produces more cheese than another, so feels entitled to more boots, beets and burlap from the Common Store”

    I repeat anarcho communism is not based on any notion of quid pro quo exchange. Go back and think it through again. Your objection is an irrelevance

  • Well, that’s where you run straight into a big problem, because human nature is based squarely on a notion of quid pro quo exchange. As such, anarcho-communism is as reality-based as a proposed economic system based on telepathy.

  • Really? So how come for most of our existence as a species we lived in egalitarian communistic food-sharing hunter-gatherer band societies? If anything might be expected to form part of our “human nature” it would be the behaviour pattern associated with this form of social organisation. Human nature does not evolve so rapidly as to account for the relatively recent appearance of property-based class-divided societies.

    There are several different forms of reciprocity, anthroplogically speaking. I would assert that “generalised reciprocity” captures the essence of anarchocommunism. It is in fact a pretty widespread “reality- based” form of human interaction – even under capitalism – despite your uninformed comments to the contrary.. What, for example, you are doing now on the internet is in fact an expression of generalised reciprocity. You are basically sharing ideas freely and voluntarily with others without (presumably) any expectation of payment. I would have thought this would right up the street of any advocate of a voluntaristic. society. But it turns out you anarcho capitalists/ classical liberals are not quite so enamoured of the principle of voluntarism as you like to make out. That doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  • Hood1
    Who will enforce your system?

    The freeloaders perhaps?

  • Free access to the means of living, when you think about, actually undermines the very basis of political power – the state. It deprives any individual or group of the ability to execise leverage over others which is precisely why the idea implied in your question of society being divided into two groups – the enforcers and the enforced – makes no sense. Anarcho-communism is the very acme of a voluntaristic economy and, hence, is the one certain way in which we can rid ourselves of the state. . Your never-to-be-realised free market utopia cannot touch it in that respect. There’s simply no comparison.

    And freeloaders? There might be some but it is most unlikely to be a significant problem. Most of the work that is done in capitalism – at least in the formal paid sector – is utterly socially useless, wastes enormous amounts of resources (think of all those buildings housing banks and whatnot) and contributes absolutely nothing to human welfare or well being whatsoever. It is just required to keep the money economy ticking over. All this will go, meaning there will be a vast reduction in the overall workload, meaning your average working week will shrink significantly – perhaps to a two day week,. Thats bound to change the way you look at work , yes? And this is to say nothing of the possibilities of automation, unencumbered by the profit motive, or the potential to transform work itself into a pleasant creative pursuit by radically changing the terms and conditions under which we work. So, yeah, we could easily carry a few freelaoders. They would soon enough get bored of it anyway and want to join. Thats the the thing about us human beings – we are social animals

    This is the point, isnt it? . You cannot just project onto an anarcho communist society what happens in capitalism. In capitalism, for instance, your freeloading billionaires who enrich themselves through the labour of others are precisely those who are looked up to and admired. The insidious celebrity culture puts non entities – those dreary “socialites” who constantly crop up in the tittle tattle press – on a pedestal and for no other reason than that they oooze wealth. Most likely wealth given to them by mummy and daddy. In anarcho communism, by complete constrast, conspicuous consumption of wealth as the route to social status will be rendered utterly meaningless. The only way in which we could earn the respect and esteem of our fellows would be through our contribution to society, not what we take out of it. And, lets face it, the need for esteem and a sense of belonging is very much a fundamental human need.

    Besides, our relationship with one another will be radically transformed in an anarcho-comunist society. Our mutual interdependence will be made much more transperant and obvious. This will actually serve to foster a sense of responsibility and initiative unlike what happens under the capitalist “nanny state”. It will also help to strengthen the sense of moral obligation towards one another. Anarcho communism will provide the material condiutions in which our altruistic inclinations will be able to flourish

    If anyone entertains doubts about the feasibilitty of all this, might I just point out that even under capitalism most work is actually unpaid and I am not just referring what is called the “household economy”. Without this massive subsidy from the non market sector, capitalism would collapse within days, if not hours. Numerous stiudies have confirmed that so called monetary incentives, far from motivating individuals have a demotivating effect.. They foster cycnicism and instriumentalist attitudes. The best worker is invariably the volunteer worker.

    You guys need to pack all this silly nonsense about the so called free market. It aint gonna happen anyway – you aint gonna get rid of the state this way – and its a mugs game to be brutally frank. Anarcho communism is the wave of the future and its coming to a town near you. Just you watch….

  • @Hood1 that’s a fine theory in a tribe of approx 30 consanguineous individuals but back here in the real world where there’s some passing appreciation of human nature…

  • Hood 1
    Words are very important, capitalism is not a noun remember that well, even under the most rigid State socialist systems voluntary exchange, for mutual profit, thrives. You also use another word Altruism.

    ” Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.” Ayn Rand.

    I personally have no problem with your Tsunami of Anarcho-Communism sweeping the nation, filled to the rafters with selfless humanity worshipers, provided you respect my right to not be part of it and respect the non initiation of violence axiom I live by and my legally obtained property.

    What I have come to think though, about people from your persuasion, is that competition is the real issue, you want to remove it.

    Have you ever wondered why so many of our position write science fiction and love inventions and privately funded space programmes and cool stuff?

    Who are the real progressives?

  • You are not really addressing the arguments – either of you. You are both resorting to kneejerkisms, banalities, cliches, Im sorry to say

    Johnny- what is human nature? If we have some kind of fixed human nature then, if anything, it should favour anarcho communism and capitalism would be deemed an abberration. 95+ per cent of our time as a species on this planet has been in small scale, communistic food sharing hunter gather bands . If our behaviour patterns were truly shaped by our genetic endowment to the extent that you seem to think , capitalism itself would not have happened. Society is a nested phenomenon. It exists at different levels. Anarcho communism will not be some kind of massive undifferentiated homogenised monolithic blob. But I maintain that the relationships of such a society will flourish at every level and are fully capable of so doing. Read what I said earlier about generalised reciprocity. You dont know me and I dont know you but we are cooperating in a joint endeavour of exchanging ideas. And to think – I am not even charging you for my brilliant pearls of wisdom. Im offering them to you for free. It doesnt get much better than that.

    Kevin – one bit of advice . Drop Ayn Rand like a ton of bricks. She comes out with the most appoing crap at times. I truly wonder why anyone takes this woman seriously – she is grossly overrated as a thinker. Look , state socialism is a contradiction in terms. What you are talking about is state run capitalism (see my earlier post). I oppose that probably more vehemently and bitterly than you have ever done and with more reasons – these state capitalist tyrannies have dragged the good name of communism through the mud and Im sick of it. . What i want is a society in which altruistic values will indeed flourish. But that does not mean that the matter of self interest will, or should , be neglected. Not at all. Its a question of balance. No society can properly function on purely altruistic lines or purely self interested lines. That much is obvious. And, n,o Im not saying I want to remove “competition” per se in some vague generalised sense. I explained – did I not? – that in any kind of society people need to feel esteemed, valued. In capitalism, the status isystem is closely linked to materiall consumption – wealth. In anarcho communism this will be pointless and meaningless. “Competition” for status in that sense will fundamentally be about your contribution to society. Consider what goes on in the kind of primitive communistic set up of a hunter gatherer band society. Someone particualtly skilled at hunting is particularly valued within the band. Yet the kill iis brought back and shared amongst everyone. The reward that goes to that hunter is not a tangible but an intangible, one – the esteem and respect of his fellows (or her fellows since its a myth to suppose that females – al least in some HG groups were not also hunters). This is what really grabs me about an anarcho communist society. It less to do with the material or tangible advantages it has to offer. It is much more to do with things like the quality of life and the elimination of the constant nagging sense of insecurity that is part and parcel of being a wage slave under capitalism – the rent , the mortgage, whether or not you will have a job at the end of the month to pay the bills. This is the sort of crap we want to get rid of. And we dont need much to live decent and fulfilling lives. Is that too much to ask?

  • Oh, let’s have a look at this.

    Your claim that we have been sharers for much of our history seems to be true. However, it also seems that we were small family groups of hunter-gatherers. Family groups can be socialistic – perhaps they ought to be. In the Gabb household, there is little of mine or thine, and most things are practically held in common. But enlarge such a group, and it usually becomes rather hierarchical. Take away the norms of bourgeois law and religion, and it will behave badly to weaker members of the group and horrible to outsiders.

    There is no evidence to suggest that your socialist utopia is possible across large and settled territories that require any degree of division of labour – territories filled with people who mostly don’t know each other and who often speak different languages and have different colour faces.

    Ian B’s assertion, that your communistic system would be a short-lived orgy of free riding and theft from the common stock, sounds wholly likely on the basis of human nature as it now is. Your counter-assertion, that socialist man would be very different, needs an act of faith that most of us are unwilling to make. We are unwilling to make it because it seems a waste of time in any event. We are also unwilling because, the last time large numbers of people made it, there was a three generation cataract of blood.

    Your other claim, that the Soviet Union was capitalist, makes sense – though only on a definition of capitalism that robs the world of most descriptive value. By libertarians, capitalism is usually defined as a set of relationships in which the factors of production are privately owned, and production decisions are made on the basis of anticipated private profit. There is some dispute among libertarians about whether corporate property is really private, and an agreement that every instance of capitalism so far known has involved structural advantages to the ruling class. But this definition does not apply to the Soviet Union – where control of the means of production and distribution was politically determined, and in which production decisions and prices were also determined politically.

    I, for one, accept that you don’t want to murder anyone by collectivising agriculture or whatever. So long as you would leave others alone in a stateless world, I am willing to accept you as a fellow libertarian. But your utopian socialism for the masses strikes me as ludicrous. The whole burden of proof is on you to argue that a world is viable in which there are neither markets nor a coordinating state.

  • @Hood1 you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him think. I despair when I read stuff like that written by people like you… you can’t even see you’ve contradicted yourself with your own statements and it’s right there on the page! (Mixed in with BS assertions that are simply factually incorrect, as usual.)

  • Unless you care to elaborate – and substantiate – I havent the foggiest notion what you are on about. Seems to me like another bit of evasion rather than dealing with the argument….

  • Well, I think the point is this. On the small scale, humans tend to arrange themselves as some kind of collaborative group, dominated by a hierarchy. That is the family model, and the tribe model. It is not “altruistic sharing” as Hood1 seems to define it. But it is collectivist. That is true.

    But before we move on, we should remember that this is not a recipe for an idyllic life. There is a reason that young people yearn to leave home and get some independence. There is a reason people like to leave small villages and move to the big city. These collectives are frequently stifling, because there is somethig that Hood and his ilk overlook. And that is, that humans are individuals with diverse desires.

    A collective has to have a unified desire, and that is what the dominance hierarchy (in a family, a parent or the parents) impose. The lower ranks of the hierarchy (the children) may have very different desires to the declared will of the group. And so, we leave these collectives in search of voluntary association in the wider world. The tribe offers security, and togetherness. It also offers restraint and frustration.

    But even so, such systems do work, that is true. Families and tribes. The problem is, they don’t scale. Human civilisation numbers in the billions. An ordinary human is capable, at the maximum, of maintaining at most a couple of hundred personal associations, ranging from close to acquaintance. Beyond that, the numbers overwhelm them. And the problem for Hood and all such collectivists is that personal relations are essentail for maintaining any such system, because each individual needs to keep a running tally of their previous interactions. Who is trustworthy, who pulls their weight, who they did a favour for last year.

    The problem for all political idealists is the question of scale. Not what works for a small, local society, but what works for the mass scale on the thousands or millions. And that is the scale upon which humans naturally switch to a trade system.

    The reason for that is that trades do not require history. I do not need to know anything about the greengrocer, or have a past or future with her. All I need to know is that she has a nice cabbage, I have something she will take in exchange for it (money) and that is all. We trade the money and the cabbage, and our brief relationship is over. Such a system scales to the thousands, and the millions. It is why it is the only system that works on a grand scale.

    So collectivists invariably start dreaming of a return to tiny isolated village life, with everything “local” so you need nothing from outside a collective small enough to peer moderate. Well, you could force people to live that way, and it would work after a fashion. But here in Northampton, I would have no coal or oil, no bananas, no ocean fish. I would not have access to numerous products that can be produced locally but which others can produce far more efficiently elsewhere. No advanced medical care. No computers. An impoverished life indeed.

    This lack of understanding of the need for a system which works on the impersonal level, between strangers, is baffling. Our lives are enriched beyond comprehension by our capacity via the simple trade system to benefit from stranger interactions. Who would give that up in favour of a stifling, impoverished localised life? Only a fool, surely.

  • Your final point that my “utopian socialism for the masses” strikes you as “ludicrous” and “whole burden of proof” is on me to argue that such a world is viable , is of course not an argument at all. Calling something “ludicorous” doesnt make it so and you have singularly failed to demonstyrate in any way how or why it should be deemed “ludicrous”. You too have a “burden of proof” to take on when you make comments like that.

    For my part I am quite happy to take on the whole burden of proof to demonstrate that anarcho communism is not only viable but highly desirable and above all urgently needed more than ever. I cant exactly point to an anarcho communist society as such to prove its viability but I can infer from the abundant evidence all around me that it is indeed possible. Possibly the nearest thing to it were the Spanish collectives in the 1930s – particularlyu in Aragon – which in some cases implemented the principle from each according to ability to each according to need – with goods results. Of course the war was a distoring influence and the outcome of that war was to put to an end to such experiments. Still there is plenty of other evidence I can draw upon and the so called human nature you seem to rely upon hardly constitutes effective counter evidence

    Oh and since youve felt it necessary to bring into the disucssion the term “ludicrous” might it not be more aprly be applied to the idea of truing to bring about a market economy without a stat.- full on anarho-capitalism? Now that really is “ludicrous”!

  • On your first point Ive already offered an answer – or at any rate, a partial one. Any kind of kind of society is a nested phenomenon. There are societies within societies, groups within groups. A lot of our interactions are with people we already know, our family, our neighbours , our friends, our work colleagues and so on. Thinhs are not going to be that different in an anarcho communist society in that respect, at any rate.

    The thing that you seem to be hung up on – and its based on quite a common misconception – is how one can extrapolate from these small scale face-to-face groups to large scale impersonal societies. The argument seems to go like this. The Gabb household practices a kind of internal communism. The Gabb household is a small scale face-to-face community, There are no large scale face-to-face communities . Therefore there cannot be a large scale communist society.

    The mistake is to think that in order to have a large scale communist society we all have to engage in face-to-face interactions with each other. This is simply not the case. You might say we need to engage in SOME face-to-face interactions and , indeed, there is an argument for saying that the primary mechanism for the transmission of moral values that would bind together a large scale communist society is precisely those face-to-face interactions that take place on a small scale intimate level. But it does not follow at all that we have to interact with everyone on a face-to- face basis in order to have a large scale communist society. This is a complete non sequitur.

    What would a large scale communist society look like. What would be the kind of relationships that would characterise it. Ive given you the answer already but you have seemingly ignored this. It would would be a society based on the principle of generalised reciprocity. Do you understand what this means? Ive already said this but I say it again to drum home the message finally (hopefully). You and I are engaging in an a joint endeavour of enlarging our mutual understanding of the world over the internet. Neither of us are charging for it. There is no quid pro quo set up here. We are doing it completely voluntarily and for free. In precisely the same way , I might add, that a communist society would operate. There are many other examples one could invoke of cooperation and Mutual aid between de facto strangers. Much scientific collaboration happens in this way. The tradition of offering hospitality to unknown travellers among the Beduoin, Inuit and numerous other traditional societies is another example. That makes a lot of sense in the context of an inhospitable environment. The traveller doesnt pay for the hospitality but those offering it know full well that it is good to provide such a service because at some point they might find themselves in a similar situation later on. In this way the cultural norn is reinforced.

    Much the same kind of logic will apply in a communist society. We will cooperate because we all ultimately depend upon and benefit from cooperation including the cooperation of anonymous strangers on the other side of the word.
    Most anarcho caps/ classical liberals in my experience just cannot get their head around the fact that there are other ways in which large scale complex societies can be held togther – coordinated – than by either the market or the state. Its this utterly simplistic black or white view of the world they are constantly pushing. If youre not with the market then you must be a statist. If you are not a statist then that means you favour the market. This undelies so much of their thinking. But is plain rubbish. There are many who reject both the state and the market like myself. For us a communist society will be a largely self regulating and spontaneously ordered society – in some ways rather like the market but obviously without market relationships. A distributed network of moderm telecommuniscations has greatly enhanced our ability to tcominucate information anywhere in the world, to monitor stocks of consumer and producer goods and the facilitate material flows from anywhere to anywhere. Knowing what these stock levels are also incidentally facilitates finetuned economisation of resoruces as and when we need to without the misleading and unreliable information provided by so called market signals – prices

    On your second point, well, you know, whenever one hears the expression “human nature” invoked you can bet your last dollar that some utterly lame and unsubstantiated assertion will shortly follow. The ” human nature” argument is a lazy cop-out of an argument. It explains nothing. It answers nothing. I repeat – if we were really governed by our genetic endowment then this would, if anything, favour anarcho-communism and rule out capitalism. Your assertion that a “communistic system would be a short-lived orgy of free riding and theft from the common stock, sounds wholly likely on the basis of human nature as it now is” is just a colourful way of dramatising your own inability to get with to grips with the argument being presented.

    One of the fundemental things about communism which you entirely forget is that it cannot possibly come about without a substantial majority wanting it , understanding what it means and the implications that flow from that , and collectively and democratically working to achieve such a society. This is core principle for genuine communists. It is summed up in Marx’s phrase that “the emanicipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.” Yet, acccording to you, having worked to achieve such a society these workers will just thow it all away in a “short-lived orgy of free riding” . What sort of argument is that?

    In truth, if you get down to bottom of what you are trying to say its just the same old predictable “human nature” argument. People are inherently lazy. Therefore they will free ride. Never mind that even under capitalism most work is unremunerated and takes place outside the cash nexus. Youve made up your mind that people won’t work for nothing. Never mind, the fact that the only in which people can gain the respect and esteem of their fellows under free access communism is through their contribution to society and not what they take out of it. Never mind, that a huge chunk of the work that is done today in the formal sector of the capitalist economy which is entirely useless from the standpoint of meeting human needs and serves only to keep the money system ticking over, will be el9iminated meaning there will be a lot less work on average for us to do anyway. Nevermind that the very terms and conditions of work will be radically different and vastly improved when we no longer work for an employer so that will become a much pleasurable and satisfying activity, the expression of our very human need to express ourselves

    All these arguments and more seemed to have compleyely passed you by. They do not with register wiuth you at all. In short you ignore them becuase it does not suit your free market prejudices to consider them . Insread of seriuous argument from you we get ex cathedra type statemenet pronoucing piously on the subject of human nature as a christian might on the subject of original sin

    You imply the last time large numbers of people tried to introduce a communist society, “there was a three generation cataract of blood.”. Really? Hows that then? Pray do tell. Name me a single instance where a majority of the popluation wanted a moneyless wageless stateless society in which individuals would have free and unmediated access to goods produced by their voluntary effort. If what you are saying is, as I suspect, an allusion to the period of so called war communism (1918-21) in Russia then you are way off beam, sunshine. Communism cannot be implemented in an economically backward economy and particularly one which in this case was devasted and crippled by war , famine and civil strife . Howe can you prpdiuce enough under those circumstances to enable people to feel secure about having free access? Its obvious you can’t. Not only that it is obvious that communism cannot be implemented without a majority wanting and understanding it which was certainly not the case in Russia then which was an overwhelmingly agarian peasant economy. Lenin himself was quite candid in admitting that that the vast majority of the population were not socialist and had no understanding of socialism (aka communism). “War communism” so called essentially involved the nationalisation of all enterprises employing more than 10 people and the partial substitution of payment in money wages by payment in kind. It had sod all to do with realcommunism as we are using the term here. Ironically payment in kind is mushroomed once again after the fall of the so called communist Soviet Union when Russia embraced corporate capitalism

    On the question of the Soviet Union being state capitalist, look, the fundemental thing about capitalism is that it is a system of generalised commodity poroduction in which crucially labour power predominately takes the form of a commodity sold for a wage . As Marx said, wage labour presupposes capital and capital presupposes wage labour. He was right. All else follows from this essential defining characteristic of capitalism

    Yes there were differentces between the state capitalist model of capitalism pusued by the Soviet Union and the kind of mixed capitalist economy practiced in the west. The state capitalist class – the nomenklatrua – did not have de jure individual ownership of capital but rather collective ownerhsip as a class via there de facto control of the economic machinery. But these are secondary differences and by no means as great as some people like to think. Economic decisionmnaking was far more decentralised in the Soviet Union than is commonly supposed. State enterprises which were legally bound to pursue profit had quite a lot of room for manuovre and plans imposed downwards by GOSPLAN (after consultation and material balancing) were very largely a facade, a front. They were constantly subject to modification and instead of guiding the economy were little more than the summation of the ever changing wishes of state enterprise managers as Paul Craig Roberts put it. You need to read people like a Buick and Crump whose book “State Capitalism: The Wages System under New Management ” is very insightful on this. Modern day state capitalisms such as Chinese model are rather different to the old Soviet model but according to Ian Bremmer present a hugve problem for the advocates of the free market. Bremmer attributes China/s rapid growth in recent years precisely to its adoption of this particular form of state capitalism

  • Hood1. I consider what you write to be utopian wishfull thinking. There is a German term for the society you believe achievable and it is called Schlaraffenland and it is the stuff of children’s fairy tales.

    Having said that I’d like to ask a question, say your utopia existed and I desired a particularly beautiful material good – say a Monet painting. There may be a Monet living somewhere in society and say by some miracle I find out that he posesses a artistic talent for painting. I approach him and ask him to paint a picture for me. Why should he do so? He may respond that he’d like to but that he preferred to paint houses because he believes this brings more happiness to those living in the houses. I try to convince him that my desire is strong and that I am willing to work to prove it. However, I happen to be a hat maker and Monet doesn’t particularly value hats personally and frankly, he doesn’t see the value of hats for others either. He deems my work to be somewhat unworthy of him leaving his day job painting houses to work on a painting for myself. I’m not much of a painter myself so I can’t offer to exchange work he finds useful for that painting I desire so ultimately I have to give up my hope of ever having such a painting.

    Without a marketplace are we not a culturally less enriching place?

  • …Yet another question. Given that your desired society is one of a to each according to need from each according to ability, why can you not establish it in parrallel to our existing society? After all, you would not need to pay taxes on products produced but not sold and therefore you would not be at a disadvantage. Your society could, it seems to me, be established as a charity where each member could contribute and withdraw as he needed. Within your society you could, as you have stated, gain esteem and social standing by your acts of selflessness.

    You yourself state that anarcho-communism is a natural social model and yet despite this, no attempts seem to be made to even trial such a society in parallel despite its seeming ease to do. Given a lack of money, you would also have the advantage of removing yourself and your fellow anarcho-communist sympathisers from one of principle aggressions of the state – taxation – whilst at the same time dealing a blow to the state itself. And yet, no such trial exists or, it seems, has ever existed.

    Could it be that your convictions are not as strong as you pretend them to be or perhaps you are too few in number or is it simply more likely that such an experiment is folly?

  • MichaelC, at the risk of going off topic, that dovetails into something I’ve often said to those who are fiercely anti-copyright. There is no need to abolish copyright- if there is a great pool of creativity who don’t want it, they are free to entirely ignore it, just releasing their work into the public domain and freely collaborating. And yet, they never do.

  • Without price signals, how would economic calculation work? And without economic calculation, how would your system ever rise above abject poverty?

  • Im afraid my last contribution might have come across as a bit strange. The last section was sliced off and posted first then I had to repost the main body of the text again.. Does this blog permit links? I tried to post a link to Ian Bremmers comments on state capitalism in China which might have been what messed things up.. Anyway Ill try again. Here it is:


    Julius B – Here’s a model of how non market economic calculation would work very well in an anarcho communist economy


    There is a massive amount of data around which conclusively demonstrate just how grotesequely inefficient and wasteful the capitalist market economy actually is despite its pretensions to the contrary

    Check out the database on this site, for example
    On that note, Im sorry folks but I am going to have to scale back on my activity here. Im fully stretched in all sorts of directions – personal, poltical and with writing a book. It takes it toll. I never actually intended to venture onto this blog. Its just that Sean published my email to him unbeknown to me at the time and this brought me here. I hope you will follow up some of the ideas Ive suggested. Cheers


    Ok so this blog doesnt seem to accept links and has refused my post So you ll have to google for the links

    for the first one try ” ian bremmer china state capitalism”

    for the second try “common voice economic calculation”

    for the third try “andy cox point of view”

    Good luck

  • Hood1, in anarcho-communitopia will I be able to avail of your patronising cant for free or will I have to barter with some potatoes?

    I like how you haughtily excuse all historical examples of hellish socialist experiments on the grounds that they weren’t REALLY socialist, but in fact, of course, capitalistic! That’s a new one…

    “Much the same kind of logic will apply in a communist society. We will cooperate because we all ultimately depend upon and benefit from cooperation including the cooperation of anonymous strangers on the other side of the word.”

    This is the main problem with your prescription for a better world: it consists, at bottom, of the bald assertion that “we” will cooperate because it’s good to do so. It’s akin to that vacuous moral exhortation of “can’t we all just get along?”, only somehow less useful. It’s not as if you merely wish people would cooperate, they simply WILL do so. It’s inevitable, somehow. No-one is allowed to cite the nature of human behaviour in response to your daydreams, but you, of course, are. You know all about the real drivers of human action – obtaining respect and esteem from your comrades! Forget the petty, celebrity culture of empty-headed pop starlets which necessarily comes about when the means of production are privately owned……or did I misunderstand that bit…..

    You need to pack all this silly nonsense about so-called anarcho-communism. It aint gonna happen anyway – you aint gonna get rid of the state this way – and its a mugs game to be brutally frank. Libertarianism is the wave of the future and its coming to a town near you. Just you watch….sunshine.

  • Frankly, Mr Hoods utopian society isn’t particularly utopian after all since its inevitable consequence, were it ever to be implemented, would be a return to hunter gatherer societies comprising of small, impoverished, faced with starvation, animal skin wearing extended families. No thanks.

  • This anarcho-communist idea was tried by the first European settlers in the US. They ended up starving, but fortunately for them, the local Indians were anarcho-communists too and fed them according to their needs.

    To be self-sufficient adults though, the settlers had to adopt capitalism:

  • This is a reply mainly to Mr Hood, a statist who thinks he is an anarchist.

    It is mere chance that consistent pristine liberalism is anarchy, it is the liberalism rather than the incidental anarchy that matters but it is also a mere fact that men like Bakunin were de facto statists.

    I think Sean is a bit over the top in this class idea, though it is true that there is a class that gains from taxation and the actual taxpayers lose out by taxation but this is not by a struggle or even by a clash of interests but by most taxpayers agreeing, more or less, to aid some of the gainers like the unemployed or the sick whilst not even realizing that all who work for the state are also gainers, but then nor do those who do gain that way. In other words this is all a matter of enlightenment rather than one of Romantic class struggle.

    A free trade liberal outlook is not one whit naïve but Tories usually think so and Karl Marx was basically a Tory, as was the other statists who call themselves anarchists. The Tory, William Godwin, was at least clear on that. But other Tories around 1800, like Coleridge, also had communistic ideas.

    The main thing about the ruling class is that they are ignorant. So the best paradigm for anarcho-liberals is the Enlightenment rather than Romance.

    Courts do not need to be in the hands of the state. Ditto with anything else in the hands of the state but note that war exists only owing to taxation. Anyway, everything socially used that is now held by the state can be privatized completely.

    It is true that we need to have something to trade with to indulge in trade. But we all find it easy to get a start unless we err by pricing ourselves out by asking too much in wages but only the state dole supports that sort of folly today.

    Society is exchange, as Riegel rightly says. But the free access fans want to overlook that fact. They seek to wish away the economic problem, as the economic calculation argument [eca] against the ignorant idea of free access indicates.

    Socialists do not yet comprehend the economic calculation argument [eca] or, indeed, the economic problem that it indicates. If we have no economically efficient way of doing things, then any society will soon drift into famine. In the mass urban society with an advanced division of labour a social criterion of cost will be needed so that we can cost what is taken from the stores, cost any materials that we use in any investment and see what any job we do pays us. Free access rules out any such social costing so it is not a viable option.

    Socialists tend to think the economic problem is a myth imposed by the capitalist class, or the rich. They imagine null set class struggle. They imagine clashing economic interest groups that lack any existential import. This all might seem a bit stark but it is in their confused and ignorant way roughly what they tend to think. They would dress their ideas up a bit. But they basically think that the market is just so very wasteful that to do better than it in the new free access society of socialism is no problem. They feel that socialism could hardly do worse but they have allowed their hyperbole, their lack of realistic perspective and the agreement of other socialists to carry them into very unreal ideas. For once they have created their anti-capitalist ideas they tend to hang onto them as valued ends, or dogmas, rather than as the truth, which is usually just a mere means to some end. Their ideas are usually not so good but they are, nevertheless, very pleased with them.

    Money is the social criterion of social cost today and we use it to sort out effective demand. Deciding what we want to buy is calculating what we can afford by the use of money. On the face of it, we cannot do that, at all, with free access. That rules out any viable means of costing what we take.

    Mises mainly writes, in Socialism (1922) and elsewhere, about how we cost new investments, such as building a new bridge or a new road, but there is also the third aspect of the eca, where we choose where to work and at what sort of work pays off best for us. I am not sure this ever could be done collectively, as costs are finally subjective as they, finally, relate only to the personal values that we happen to have at any one time but money what allows a price, a social cost, to emerge that is common to all but can be of different value to different people but that works for all, objectively, just as the names for colours does, despite differing subjective experiences of the phenomenon. The colour blind soon learn what to say with the common words that we have for colours. The eca relates to the social need for prices, or some substitute, rather than directly to personal opportunity costs.

    The best book to read on all this is From Marx To Mises (1992) D.R. Steele.

    The USSR showed us that the market could be free of the state as the late USSR outlawed the market but that merely painted it black. It was abolished only de jure and not de facto. So it is with the black market in drugs in the UK today, which shows that the drug trade cannot even be controlled within the state run gaols. One of Marx’s few insights was that the market is anarchic; another is that the state is based on private property rather than the reverse and a third is that production for profit has to thereby be production for use too, but he was silly enough to think that we could have production directly for use in the mass urban society but the eca shows that is not possible. We need a costing feedback mechanism from the wider society, like the price system, to sort the economic problem out.

    Marx was also silly enough to think he could make out a sound case against profit but he failed badly in that utterly futile attempt. He lacked the wit to realise that his attempt was intrinsically futile and that his writings were incoherent but he did notice certain problems that he rather hoped to solve later on. The fact that he had admitted that production for profit was for thereby use too ensured that any attempt that he tried to show that it was, in some way not for use, would be actually intrinsically incoherent. No wonder Engels had to bully him to get volume one of Capital out in 1867.

    Meaning does not matter. As the old Roman, Martial put it, he means well is no good unless he does well. No Marxist has ever done well in realistically explaining free access nor in criticising the market system. It is the facts or external reality that matters, not mere meaning. The statists who think they are anarchists go way too much on mere meaning and agreement amongst themselves and far too little on the facts, especially in their falsehoods about the market. They seek to overlook that politics is intrinsically coercive and an attack on other people, especially in the form of their crass ideal of democracy. That dirty ideal introduces proactive coercion against others. From a liberal point of view it is usually quite immoral but it may be the least evil way of privatisation.

    That the USSR was basically a market society was best explained in the book USSR Economics (1936) Michael Polanyi.

    It is not the case that the employer, or the firm, has power over the worker. The sacking of a worker carries no more power than the leaving of any firm by the worker. Only the confused would think otherwise. J.S. Mill called for an end to the inept master and servant jargon in 1848 and he expected co-operative firms to arise but, like so many in the backward colleges today, he did not comprehend that most workers hate participation, and that is why they hate democracy. Robert Michels in Political Parties (1911) explains more of the faults of the dirty crass idea of democracy.

    A level playing field would cut down on the gains of trade greatly. Anyone who wants that is a fool.

    It is a waste of time learning about the dead end outlook of Romantic Tory revolutionary socialism.

    There never was anything real called labour power, still less surplus value. Marx failed as a thinker but not as a book reader and note-taker. As Tawney rightly said: “Karl Marx was the last of the schoolmen”. What little bit Marx added of his own to the many notes that he took was clearly false. The two cited ideas above, of labour power and surplus value, tend to exhaust what he added.

    The very idea that there can be a choice of economic systems is silly. It was not too silly for Mises, sadly. Mises thought that it was wise to admit to a choice but to repeatedly say there was no third way. The eca that he made his own suggested there was no second way either. But I think it was for Marx. I think Marx would hold that when the possibility of the new society emerged, it would be so superior that the choice would be a no-brainer in that we could hardly imagine the public not opting for it. Then the market would cease to be an option. Communism would be the system we basically had to have. Orwell once explained this “choice” as between washing our socks by hand when there was a washing machine in the next room.

    However, Marx erred completely in what is often called his materialist conception of history. There never was the slightest hint of a new society developing in the womb of the current society and the whole idea concerning the null set meme of revolution was always pure Romance. In particular, the extent of monopoly in society is no more advanced today than it was before Marx was born.

    When we get an increasing number of possibilities as we make technological and economic progress, the reliance on money becomes ever greater, as there are more uneconomic options to reject. Complex technology threatens the mass urban society with no end of very wasteful white elephants that current society might like but can still not yet afford. But this lack of affordability is not clear until we cost the options before us. The money system today sorts most of that out without anyone even realising it but a few technocrats see money as the barrier to progress. They thereby get it exactly wrong. Marx thought that progress would throw up giant firms that would work out a non-money economy to manage their internal affairs as they developed into virtual cities and that society could just adopt this new economy for planning from what was thrown up by the giant firms their own internal [off market] economies, but no giant firms like that ever emerged.

    What happened instead is that diseconomies of scale were not overcome so the giant firms that Marx expected did not arise and so no new economic system ever emerged that the people might later adopt for socialism. Instead the firms reached a limit. They remained stable or contracted but never became the large off market giants that Marx expected, owing to those underestimated diseconomies of scale. To repeat, things are no more advanced on the expected road towards monopoly and giant firms than before Marx was born. Indeed, it looks like there never was any such road ahead.

    The big firms have certainly not discovered a new way of making central planning work that can replace money as a means of economic calculation. However, the eca is not about central planning, as the ex-SPGBer, Robin Cox, tends to think in his near total incomprehension of economics. It is about costing options not planning. But, contra Robin Cox and also most of the people who remain SPGBers, Marx was a central planner. He did fall for the tyro idea that planning just must be superior to anarchy. He is truly distinct from Bakunin but both are de facto statists. And as collectivists, they are Tories. Thus they are right wingers in the pristine sense.

    Even Bakunin thought that Marx was a statist and thus that he was not in favour of liberty. If we have to conform to a central plan then we are clearly not free. Marx’s truly daft idea that the state is to do with classes rather than with a coercive central administration is something that Bakunin rightly scoffed at.

    Why should anyone waste time reading buffoons like Prince Peter Kropotkin? He never did have anything realistic to say, be that in natural history or in sociology or politics.

    There will not be any communism so there will be no free access. No inputs to pay for what we take then no social economy, if no social economy then no mass urban society.

    Priced goods often out-complete freely given goods today. Almost any free lecture will attract way less to listen than a pop’ concert that costs over £50 to attend for example.

    How realistic is this:

    “You want cheese? Well, you simply take your cheese from the distribution point at which the farmer had deposited said cheese in just the same way as the farmer, while in town, decides to pick up that pair of stout boots he has been needing for some time”

    If free access worked as the SPGBers of the 1960s thought of it, and I think most of them did think in terms of a real end of scarcity, which none of them ever quite understood, but in which they were right to think that then there would then be no economic problem at all, then why would a farmer need to wait for some time for his boots. Why not right away? That Mr Hood is utterly confused seems to be fairly clear. Scarcity does not go away with progress but instead advancing technology just makes the economic problem in society more complex, as saidabove.

    If we fail to cost our options then there will very soon be no cheese and no boots too but rather a famine that would take the race to under six million well within a year. No nuclear war could be more of a menace to society. But it would take Almighty God in His full might to trick the human race to go as backward as Morris or Kropotkin were. Marx was just as thoughtless as those two but then so was many other nineteenth intellectuals, like John Henry Newman, who were equally unrealistic in their main ideas.

    Economy requires inputs to pay for what we take from society: free access is anti-economics. Anti-economics leads to famine. But this is no danger as most people can see that we do need to make ends meet. We can only do that by costing our social options by using a criterion like money.

    The idea that the money society is wasteful shows a complete lack of judgement. We need sound money free of the current state monopoly issue to get rid of the things that the Marxists think flows from the market such as the credit cycle, or trade cycle. It does not flow from mere anarchy, as Marx and Engels thought but rather it flows from state monopoly money, and the problem of war from crass politics. Politics is always hostile cold war towards other people as it always threatens violence. With rival states this can break out in open war.

    It is folly to say that money contributes nothing today even if we grant that we could have free access tomorrow. Clearly money has aided this great output that the Marxists say that we can all collectively inherit tomorrow. But being realistic about that, or about anything else, is lost on those statists who think they are anarchists.

    I see that Mr Hood is in hubris whereby he simply does not see the force of many common sense objections to his ideas. He ironically thinks it is his critics that need to do some thinking. He feels it is his critics than need to comprehend his empty ideas whereas in fact it is he who needs to realise that they are empty.

    The recommended book by David Ramsay Steele should do the job for him, but it oddly failed on Robin Cox, so it is not sure to enlighten fully him but it will enlighten him in part as it did so in part even with Robin Cox.

    It is not the case that we lived in communism for most of the past. The late John Crump smashed that idea back in 1969. Primitive communism was a myth, as he rightly wrote in World Socialism’69. Property is haply older than modern man is. So is some form of trade.

    Yes, we do not need money to interact freely but we do if we want to practise social economy in the wider world society. We have no exact idea what anything costs us just by inspection but money allows us to see that we can at least roughly afford it. It costs nothing to attend a monthly LA meeting money-wise, but in such money-free access, our opportunity cost is enough to allow us to gauge if we can afford to, or if we truly want to, attend. The fact that we can see the meetings later on the Internet gets the attendance down somewhat. But the LA has usually been a matter of this limited free access but this has no chance of ever being society wide throughout the world, as the eca explains.

    If free access was an option, which most people know already will never be the case, even if they cannot explain why not, then it would not, as Mr Hood imagines get rid of politics but rather quite the contrary. His critics are right that it is money that frees society from crass wasteful dysfunctional politics and the internecine warfare state. Money is anarchy, as Marx rightly saw. He wanted to end money just to allow the state control that he thought was desirable. It was anarchy, not exploitation, that Marx hated. In The Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) Marx makes it clear enough that he is not against exploitation.

    Free access means that people will not be free of the state but dependent on it. Of course, here we can expect the silly idea that there will be no state in communism as there are no classes but the very plain fact is that there never were any classes such as Marx wrote about at any time. Not in his time, nor is there today. At no time has there ever been an economic interest relating to the factors of production, still less the imaginary fusion of the null set economic interests of capital and land.

    Well, I will continue this later.

  • It seems to me that Mr Hood depends on the assumption that man is born good and that the structures of our modern society corrupt him. If you took those away he would revert to being good again. I believe it is more plausible to go with the Christian view that man is born evil and need the structures of society to restrain him as much as the blood of Christ to redeem him. Introducing a theological argument may not be to everyone’s taste on this blog, but since Dr Gabb kindly sent me the link to it, I felt I ought to respond along those lines.

  • While I was musing on this posting, it seemed to me that Stephen Green’s comment above hits on what I had been thinking about. Virtually every political movement makes some assumption about “man” and his goodness or otherwise. If we take the two wings in the Anglosphere- the Marxists and the Anglosocialists, we find these two basic attitudes.

    Marxism presumes that man is “good” and corrupted by circumstance- specifically capitalism. Anglosocialism and other Calvinist descended doctrines (includiong much of Angloconservatism) presumes that man is Evil, and thus needs a State to restrain him.

    Neither is actually true. Man is a collection of individuals who sometimes do nice things and sometimes do nasty things and often the definition of what is nice or nasty is rather plastic and dependent on point of view. So the anarchocommunist assumption that fundamentally good man will be “freed to be good” won’t work, because he won’t be good. But likewise Statist assumptions that mankind will coallpse into depravity and evil without the stern master of the State, that doesn’t work either.

    It seems to me that a primary attraction of libertarianism/liberalism is that it takes us as we really are, which is just ordinary, rather than other political philosophies which require us to be paragons of virtue or, treats us as scum that must be led by paragons of virtue. I sometimes feel as if most of my fellow humans have never actually met a human being, they believe such strange things.

    In specific response to Stephen, it is worth noting that if man is “born evil” then it is quite obvious that the structures of society would not be able to improve him, since they would themselves be the product of “born evil” men.

  • Mr. Hood1 is a little bit of a dreamer. He believes in a world in which the workers will be able to perform their activities voluntarily out of a sense of duty and in which everything they need for living a prosperous lives will be freely accessible to them, a world of plenty and of consumer self-moderation without the need for a Market.

    That is the nature of the perfect world he dreams about, though everyone understands that no perfect world can ever exist: there always going to be problems in every society ranging from natural disasters, accidents, murders, rape, abuse, discrimination, indolence, etc.

    I know Mr. Hood1 from a yahoo forum, he says he has no problem with the idea than in such society there will be a central authority (although geographically dis-centralized) who will be in charge or resolving social disputes, although it is not clear, how that structure for authority is built or what mechanisms for resolving those disputes consists of, perhaps he may want to elaborate on that.

    Even less clear is how will be the transition from this society to that.

    He thinks that the nature of the State rests on private property, money, wealth, land. That if we only find a way “abolish” these that humans will wither away with the State.

    He overlooks the fact that the State rests on Authority, on the desire to dominate others and on the thought that the coercive power of the state is a valid vehicle for resolving complex social problems.

    He holds two contradictory beliefs: on one side he believes that an anarcho-communism is possible while at the same time he believes that the problems of that society will be resolved by a State who rests on democratic authority.

    His idea is anti-economical and worse than taxing 100% of the profits.

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