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I.3 What could the economic structure of anarchy look like?


Here we will examine possible frameworks of a libertarian-socialist economy. We stress that it is frameworks rather than framework because it is likely that any anarchist society will see a diverse number of economic systems co-existing in different areas, depending on what people in those areas want. "In each locality," argued Spanish anarchist Diego Abad de Santillan, "the degree of communism, collectivism or mutualism will depend on the conditions prevailing. Why dictate rules? We who make freedom our banner, cannot deny it in economy. Therefore there must be free experimentation, free show of initiative and suggestions, as well as the freedom of organisation." [After the Revolution, p. 97]

In general we will highlight and discuss the four major schools of anarchist economic thought: Individualist anarchism, mutualism, collectivism and communism. It is up to the reader to evaluate which school best maximises individual liberty and the good life. There may, of course, be other economic practices but these may not be libertarian. In Malatesta's words:

"Admitted the basic principle of anarchism -- which is that no-one should wish or have the opportunity to reduce others to a state of subjection and oblige them to work for him -- it is clear that all, and only, those ways of life which respect freedom, and recognise that each individual has an equal right to the means of production and to the full enjoyment of the product of his own labour, have anything in common with anarchism." [Life and Ideas, p. 33]

In addition, it should be kept in mind that in practice it is impossible to separate the economic realm from the social and political realms, as there are numerous interconnections between them. Indeed, as we well see, anarchist thinkers like Bakunin argued that the "political" institutions of a free society would be based upon workplace associations while Kropotkin placed the commune at the heart of his vision of a communist-anarchist economy and society. Thus the division between social and economic forms is not clear cut in anarchist theory -- as it should be as society is not, and cannot be, considered as separate from or inferior to the economy. An anarchist society will try to integrate the social and economic, embedding the latter in the former in order to stop any harmful externalities associated economic activity being passed onto society. As Karl Polanyi argued, capitalism "means no less than the running of society as an adjunct to the market. Instead of the economy being being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system." [The Great Transformation, p. 57] Given the negative effects of such an arrangement, little wonder that anarchism seeks to reverse it.

Also, by discussing the economy first we are not implying that dealing with economic domination or exploitation is more important than dealing with other aspects of the total system of domination, e.g. social hierarchies, patriarchal values, racism, etc. We follow this order of exposition because of the need to present one thing at a time, but it would have been equally easy to start with the social and political structure of anarchy. However, Rudolf Rocker is correct to argue that an economic transformation in the economy is an essential aspect of a social revolution. In his words:

"[A] social development in this direction [i.e. a stateless society] was not possible without a fundamental revolution in existing economic arrangements; for tyranny and exploitation grow on the same tree and are inseparably bound together. The freedom of the individual is secure only when it rests on the economic and social well-being of all . . . The personality of the individual stands the higher, the more deeply it is rooted in the community, from which arise the richest sources of its moral strength. Only in freedom does there arise in man the consciousness of responsibility for his acts and regard for the rights of others; only in freedom can there unfold in its full strength that most precious of social instinct: man's sympathy for the joys and sorrows of his fellow men and the resultant impulse toward mutual aid and in which are rooted all social ethics, all ideas of social justice." [Nationalism and Culture, pp. 147-8]

The aim of any anarchist society would be to maximise freedom and so creative work. In the words of Noam Chomsky:

"If it is correct, as I believe it is, that a fundamental element of human nature is the need for creative work or creative inquiry, for free creation without the arbitrary limiting effects of coercive institutions, then of course it will follow that a decent society should maximise the possibilities for this fundamental human characteristic to be realised. Now, a federated, decentralised system of free associations incorporating economic as well as social institutions would be what I refer to as anarcho-syndicalism. And it seems to me that it is the appropriate form of social organisation for an advanced technological society, in which human beings do not have to be forced into the position of tools, of cogs in a machine."

So, as one might expect, since the essence of anarchism is opposition to hierarchical authority, anarchists totally oppose the way the current economy is organised. This is because authority in the economic sphere is embodied in centralised, hierarchical workplaces that give an elite class (capitalists) dictatorial control over privately owned means of production, turning the majority of the population into order takers (i.e. wage slaves). In contrast, the libertarian-socialist "economy" will be based on decentralised, egalitarian workplaces ("syndicates") in which workers democratically self-manage socially owned means of production. Let us begin with the concept of syndicates.

The key principles of libertarian socialism are decentralisation, self-management by direct democracy, voluntary association, and federation. These principles determine the form and function of both the economic and political systems. In this section we will consider just the economic system. Bakunin gives an excellent overview of such an economy when he writes:

"The land belongs to only those who cultivate it with their own hands; to the agricultural communes. The capital and all the tools of production belong to the workers; to the workers' associations . . . The future political organisation should be a free federation of workers." [Bakunin on Anarchy, p. 247]

The essential economic concept for libertarian socialists is workers' self-management (sometimes termed workers' control). This is essential to ensure "a society of equals, who will not be compelled to sell their hands and their brains to those who choose to employ them . . . but who will be able to apply their knowledge and capacities to production, in an organism so constructed as to combine all the efforts for procuring the greatest possible well-being for all, while full, free scope will be left for every individual initiative." [Kropotkin, Kropotkin: Selections from his Writings, pp. 113-4]

However, this concept of self-management needs careful explanation, because, like the terms "anarchist" and "libertarian," "workers' control" is also is being co-opted by capitalists to describe schemes in which workers' have more say in how their workplaces are run while maintaining wage slavery (i.e. capitalist ownership, power and ultimate control). Needless to say, such schemes are phoney as they never place real power in the hands of workers. In the end, the owners and their managers have the final say (and so hierarchy remains) and, of course, profits are still extracted from the workforce.

As anarchists use the term, workers' self-management/control means collective worker ownership, control and self-management of all aspects of production and distribution. This is achieved through participatory-democratic workers' assemblies, councils and federations, in both agriculture and industry. These bodies would perform all the functions formerly reserved for capitalist owners, managers. executives and financiers where these activities actually related to productive activity rather than the needs to maximise minority profits and power. These workplace assemblies will be complemented by people's financial institutions or federations of syndicates which perform all functions formerly reserved for capitalist owners, executives, and financiers in terms of allocating investment funds or resources.

This means that an anarchist society is based on "workers' ownership" of the means of production.

"Workers' ownership" in its most limited sense refers merely to the ownership of individual firms by their workers. In such firms, surpluses (profits) would be either equally divided between all full-time members of the co-operative or divided unequally on the basis of the type of work done, with the percentages allotted to each type being decided by democratic vote, on the principle of one worker, one vote. However, such a limited form of workers' ownership is rejected by most anarchists. Social anarchists argue that this is but a step in the right direction and the ultimate aim is social ownership of all the means of life. This is because of the limitations of firms being owned solely by their workers (as in a modern co-operative).

Worker co-operatives of this type do have the virtue of preventing the exploitation and oppression of labour by capital, since workers are not hired for wages but, in effect, become partners in the firm. This means that the workers control both the product of their labour (so that the value-added that they produce is not appropriated by a privileged elite) and the work process itself (and so they no longer sell their liberty to others). However, this does not mean that all forms of economic domination and exploitation would be eliminated if worker ownership were confined merely to individual firms. In fact, most social anarchists believe this type of system would degenerate into a kind of "petit-bourgeois co-operativism" in which worker-owned firms would act as collective "capitalists" and compete against each other in the market as ferociously as the real capitalists used to. This would also lead to a situation where market forces ensured that the workers involved made irrational decisions (from both a social and individual point of view) in order to survive in the market. As these problems were highlighted in section I.1.3 ("What's wrong with markets anyway?"), we will not repeat ourselves here.

For individualist anarchists, this "irrationality of rationality" is the price to be paid for a free market and any attempt to overcome this problem holds numerous dangers to freedom. Social anarchists disagree. They think co-operation between workplaces can increase, not reduce, freedom. Social anarchists' proposed solution is society-wide ownership of the major means of production and distribution, based on the anarchist principle of voluntary federation, with confederal bodies or co-ordinating councils at two levels: first, between all firms in a particular industry; and second, between all industries, agricultural syndicates, and people's financial institutions throughout the society. As Berkman put it:

"Actual use will be considered the only title [in communist anarchism] -- not to ownership but to possession. The organisation of the coal miners, for example, will be in charge of the coal mines, not as owners but as the operating agency. Similarly will the railroad brotherhoods run the railroads, and so on. Collective possession, co-operatively managed in the interests of the community, will take the place of personal ownership privately conducted for profit." [ABC of Anarchism, p. 69]

While, for many anarcho-syndicalists, this structure is seen as enough, most communist-anarchists consider that the economic federation should be held accountable to society as a whole (i.e. the economy must be communalised). This is because not everyone in society is a worker (e.g. the young, the old and infirm) nor will everyone belong to a syndicate (e.g. the self-employed), but as they also have to live with the results of economic decisions, they should have a say in what happens. In other words, in communist-anarchism, workers make the day-to-day decisions concerning their work and workplaces, while the social criteria behind these decisions are made by everyone.

In this type of economic system, workers' assemblies and councils would be the focal point, formulating policies for their individual workplaces and deliberating on industry-wide or economy-wide issues through general meetings of the whole workforce in which everyone would participate in decision making. Voting in the councils would be direct, whereas in larger confederal bodies, voting would be carried out by temporary, unpaid, mandated, and instantly recallable delegates, who would resume their status as ordinary workers as soon as their mandate had been carried out.

"Mandated" here means that the delegates from workers' assemblies and councils to meetings of higher confederal bodies would be instructed, at every level of confederation, by the workers who elected them on how to deal with any issue. The delegates would be given imperative mandates (binding instructions) that committed them to a framework of policies within which they would have to act, and they could be recalled and their decisions revoked at any time for failing to carry out the mandates they were given (this support for mandated delegates has existed in anarchist theory since at least 1848, when Proudhon argued that it was "a consequence of universal suffrage" to ensure that "the people . . . do not . . . abjure their sovereignty." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 63]). Because of this right of mandating and recalling their delegates, workers' councils would be the source of and final authority over policy for all higher levels of confederal co-ordination of the economy.

A society-wide economic federation of this sort is clearly not the same thing as a centralised state agency, as in the concept of nationalised or state-owned industry. As Emma Goldman argued, there is a clear difference between socialisation and nationalisation. "The first requirement of Communism," she argued, "is the socialisation of the land and of the machinery of production and distribution. Socialised land and machinery belong to the people, to be settled upon and used by individuals and groups according to their needs." Nationalisation, on the other hand, means that a resource "belongs to the state; that is, the government has control of it and may dispose of it according to its wishes and views." She stressed that "when a thing is socialised, every individual has free access to it and may use it without interference from anyone." When the state owned property, "[s]uch a state of affairs may be called state capitalism, but it would be fantastic to consider it in any sense communistic." [Red Emma Speaks, pp.360-1]

Clearly, an anarchist society is based on free access and a resource is controlled by those who use it. It is a decentralised, participatory-democratic (i.e. self-managed) organisation whose members can secede at any time and in which all power and initiative arises from and flows back to the grassroots level (see section I.6 for a discussion on how social ownership would work in practice). Anarchists reject the Leninist idea that state property means the end of capitalism as simplistic and confused. Ownership is a juridical relationship. The real issue is one of management. Do the users of a resource manage it? If so, then we have a real (i.e. libertarian) socialist society. If not, we have some form of class society (for example, in the Soviet Union the state replaced the capitalist class but workers still had no official control over their labour or the product of that labour).

A social anarchist society combines free association, federalism and self-management with communalised ownership. Free labour is its basis and socialisation exists to complement and protect it.

Regardless of the kind of anarchy desired, anarchists all agree on the importance of decentralisation, free agreement and free association. Kropotkin's summary of what anarchy would look like gives an excellent feel of what sort of society anarchists desire:

"harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being.

"In a society developed on these lines . . . voluntary associations . . . would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international temporary or more or less permanent -- for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs.

"Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary -- as is seen in organic life at large - harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the State." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 284]

If this type of system sounds "utopian" it should be kept in mind that it was actually implemented and worked quite well in the collectivist economy organised during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, despite the enormous obstacles presented by an ongoing civil war as well as the relentless (and eventually successful) efforts of Republicans, Stalinists and Fascists to crush it (see Sam Dolgoff's The Anarchist Collectives: Workers' Self-management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939 for an excellent introduction).

As well as this (and other) examples of "anarchy in action" there have been other libertarian socialist economic systems described in writing. All share the common features of workers' self-management, co-operation and so on we discuss here and in section I.4. These texts include Syndicalism by Tom Brown, The Program of Anarcho-Syndicalism by G.P. Maximoff, Guild Socialism Restated by G.D.H. Cole, After the Revolution by Diago Abad de Santillan, Anarchist Economics and Principles of Libertarian Economy by Abraham Guillen, Workers Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society by Cornelius Castoriadis among others. A short summary of Spanish Anarchist visions of the free society can be found in chapter 3 of Robert Alexander's The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War (vol. 1). Also worth reading are The Political Economy of Participatory Economics and Looking Forward: Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel which contain some useful ideas.

Fictional accounts include William Morris' News from Nowhere, The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy and The Last Capitalist by Steve Cullen.

I.3.1 Qu'est ce qu'un "syndicat"?

Dans le sens où nous employons ce terme, un "syndicat" (aussi appelé "coopérative de producteur", "coopérative" tout court, "collectif", ou "commune de producteurs", "association de producteurs", "guilde d’usine", "guilde d’atelier") est une entreprise de production auto-gérée démocrativement, dont les moyens de production sont soit possédés par les travailleurs ou par la communauté au sens plus large. C’est un terme générique assez utile pour décrire la situation souhaitée par les anarchistes, où "des associations de femmes et d’hommes qui [...] travaillent la terre, dans les usines, dans les mines, etc. [sont] eux-même les gérants de la production." [Peter Kropotkin, Evolution et Environnement, p. 78]

Il est important de noter que des individus ne souhaitant pas se joindre Ă  des syndicats pourront tout Ă  fait travailler pour eux-mĂŞme. Il nÂ’y a pas de "collectivisation forcĂ©e", sous aucune forme de socialisme libertaire, parce que forcer les gens est incompatible avec les principes de base de lÂ’anarchie. Ceux qui dĂ©sirent ĂŞtre indĂ©pendants (self-employed) devront avoir accès libre aux moyens de production dont ils ont besoin, Ă  condition toutefois quÂ’ils ne tentent pas de monopoliser plus de moyens quÂ’eux et leur familles peuvent utiliser par eux-mĂŞme, et quÂ’ils ne tentent pas dÂ’employer dÂ’autres personnes contre salaire.(Voir section I.3.7) (NDT : cÂ’est-Ă -dire, de se livrer Ă  de lÂ’exploitation dÂ’autres personnes. A priori, il faudrait ĂŞtre assez mal inspirĂ© de devenir salariĂ© quand la solution de lÂ’indĂ©pendance sÂ’offre aussi facilement, sans parler de la solution de la coopĂ©rative. Mais sait-on jamais, par ignorance...)

Un syndicat ressemble à une coopérative sous un régime capitaliste en de nombreux points. En fait, Bakounine a expliqué que les anarchistes sont "convaincus que la coopérative sera la forme prépondérante d’organisation sociale dans le futur, dans toutes les secteurs de la science et de l’industrie." [Basic Bakunin, p. 153] Ainsi, même dans le cas d’exemples de coopératives fonctionnant sur le marché capitaliste, les fonctions essentielles d’une économie socialiste libertaire peuvent être observées. L’élément économique de base, l’atelier, est une libre association d’individus, qui organiseront leur travail commun de manière coopérative. Pour citer Bakounine à nouveau, "[S]eul le travail associatif, c’est-à-dire, le travail organisé selon les principes de la réciprocité et de la coopération est adapté à la tâche de maintenir [...] une société civilisée." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 341]

CoopĂ©ration, dans ce contexte, signifie que les dĂ©cisions politiques en relation avec lÂ’association seront basĂ©es sur le principe "un membre, un vote", et que les "dirigeants" et autres membres administratifs seront Ă©lus et tenus responsables devant le syndicat dans son ensemble. LÂ’auto-gestion des usines ne signifie pas, comme les tenants du capitalisme le suggèrent, que les connaissances et les compĂ©tences techniques seront ignorĂ©es et que toutes les dĂ©cisions seront prise par tout le monde. CÂ’est un argument fallacieux, car il est Ă©vident que les ingĂ©nieurs, par exemple, ont une bien meilleure comprĂ©hension de leur propre travail que les non-ingĂ©nieurs, et dans une optique dÂ’auto-gestion, le contrĂ´leraient directement. Comme lÂ’a prĂ©cisĂ© G.D.H. Cole :

« Nous devons comprendre exactement en consiste la dĂ©mocratie des guildes, et tout spĂ©cialement, quel est son impact sur les relations entre les diffĂ©rentes classe dÂ’employĂ©s Ă  lÂ’intĂ©rieur dÂ’une mĂŞme guilde. Parce que comme la guilde inclue tous les travailleurs, quÂ’ils soient manuels ou intellectuel, engagĂ©s dans un service commun, il est claire quÂ’il y aura parmi les membres une grande hĂ©tĂ©rogĂ©nĂ©itĂ©, en terme de fonction, de compĂ©tence technique, oĂą dÂ’autoritĂ© administrative. Ni la guilde dans son ensemble, ni la guilde dÂ’une usine en particulier ne peut prendre position sur tous les sujets par le truchement du vote, pas plus que la democratie dans une guilde ne signifie que, sur toutes les questions, chaque membre devra compter comme un vote et pas un seul de plus. Un vote de lÂ’ensemble sur un sujet technique dont la comprehension nÂ’est Ă  la portĂ©e que de quelques experts est une absurditĂ© manifeste, et mĂŞme en laissant lÂ’aspect technique de cĂ´tĂ©, une usine administrĂ©e par un vote permanent de lÂ’ensemble ne serait ni un appareil efficace, ni un endroit plaisant pour travailler. Il y aura donc des guildes de techniciens occupant des positions particulières en vertu de leur compĂ©tences, et il y aura Ă©galement des administrateurs possĂ©dant une autoritĂ© spĂ©ciale en vertu Ă  la fois de leurs compĂ©tences et de leurs qualifications personnelles. Â» [G.D.H. Cole, Guild Socialism Restated, pp. 50-51]

Le fait que la prise de dĂ©cision soit dĂ©lĂ©guĂ©e de cette manière conduit parfois les gens Ă  se demander si les syndicats ne deviendraient pas alors une autre forme de hiĂ©rarchie. La rĂ©ponse est que ce ne serait pas une hiĂ©rarchie, car en fait, lÂ’assemblĂ©e des travailleurs, et leurs conseils ouverts Ă  tous les travailleurs, dĂ©ciderait des dĂ©cisions Ă  dĂ©lĂ©guer, sÂ’assurant que le gros du pouvoir continue de leur appartenir. Qui plus est, le pouvoir ne serait pas dĂ©lĂ©guĂ©. Malatesta a clairement indiquĂ© la diffĂ©rence entre les dĂ©cisions administrative et les dĂ©cisions politiques :

« Il est Ă©vident que dans chaque grande entreprise collective, la division entre production, direction technique, administration, etc. est nĂ©cessaire. Mais les autoritaires jouent sur les mots de manière maladroite pour trouver des raisons dÂ’ĂŞtre Ă  un gouvernement hors du cadre restreint de lÂ’organisation du travail. Le gouvernement, il est bon de le rĂ©peter, est la rĂ©union dÂ’un ensemble de gens qui ont eu ou se sont emparĂ©s du droit et des moyens de faire des lois et de forcer les gens Ă  y obeir ; lÂ’administrateur, lÂ’ingĂ©nieur, etc., au contraire, sont des gens qui sont chargĂ©s ou qui assument la responsabilitĂ© de mener Ă  bien telle ou telle tache et ainsi de suite. Le gouvernement, lui, est synonyme de dĂ©lĂ©guation du pouvoir, cÂ’est-Ă -dire, lÂ’abandon de la dignitĂ© et de la souverainetĂ© de tous aux mains de quelques uns ; lÂ’administration simplifie uniquement la dĂ©lĂ©guation du pouvoir, cÂ’est-Ă -dire des tâches reçues et donnĂ©es, des Ă©changes libres de services basĂ©s sur des accords libres [...] Ne confondons pas la fonction du gouvernement et celle dÂ’une administration, car elles sont essentiellement diffĂ©rentes, et si aujourdÂ’hui les deux sont souvent confondues, cÂ’est uniquement Ă  cause des privilèges Ă©conomique et politique. Â» [Anarchy, pp. 39-40]

Etant donné que la puissance demeure dans les mains de l’assemblée des ouvriers, il est clair que l’organisation exigée pour chaque effort collectif ne peut pas être confondues avec une forme de gouvernement. En outre, n’oubliez jamais que le personnel administratif est élu par et est responsable devant le reste de l’association. Si, par exemple, il s’avérait qu’un certain type d’activité déléguée de prise de décision était employée de manière abusive, il pourrait être retiré au responsable en question par les travailleurs dans leur ensemble. En raison de ce commandement par le bas, il y a tout lieu de penser que les activités de prise de décision cruciales qui pourrait devenir des sources de puissance (et donc avec le potentiel d’affecter sérieusement les vies de tous les ouvriers) ne seraient pas délégués mais resteraient aux mains des ouvriers. Par exemple, les fonctions qui sont maintenant exercées d’une façon autoritaire par des directeurs dans le capitalisme, comme engager ou mettre à la porte, introduire de nouvelles méthodes de production ou de nouvelle technologies, changer les type de produits, remplacer des équipements de production, déterminer la nature et le rythme de l’activité productive et ainsi de suite demeureraient dans les mains des producteurs associés et non pas délégué à n’importe qui.

De nouveaux syndicats seront créés sur l’initiative des individus au sein des communautés. Ceux-ci peuvent être l’initiative des ouvriers dans un syndicat existant qui désire augmenter la production, ou les membres de la communauté locale qui voient que les syndicats existants ne fournissent pas suffisament tel ou tel produit ou service dans un secteur spécifique de l’activité. Dans les deux ca, le syndicat sera une association volontaire pour produire les marchandises ou services utiles qui prendrait naissance et disparaîtrait au fur et à mesure des besoins. Par conséquent, une société anarchiste verrait des syndicats se développer spontanément comme les individus s’associent librement pour satisfaire leurs besoins, avec des initiatives aussi bien locales que confédérales. (Les critères pour des décisions d’investissement sont discutés dans la section I.4.8).

Comment se passe lÂ’entrĂ©e dans un syndicat ? Selon lÂ’expression de Cole, les syndicats dÂ’ouvriers sont « des associations ouvertes que nÂ’importe quel homme [ ou femme ] peut rejoindre Â» mais « ceci ne signifie pas, naturellement, que toute personne pourra rĂ©clamer lÂ’admission, comme un droit absolu, dans la guilde de son choix. Â» [Op. CIT, P. 75] Ceci signifie quÂ’il peut y avoir des conditions de formation (par exemple) et Ă©videmment « un homme [ ou une femme ] ne peut evidement pas entrer dans une guilde [ c.-Ă -d. un syndicat ] Ă  moins quÂ’il nÂ’y ait besoin de recrues fraĂ®ches pour son travail. [ lÂ’ouvrier ] aura le choix libre, mais seulement parmi les disponibilitĂ©s." [Ibid.] Évidemment, comme dans nÂ’importe quel type de sociĂ©tĂ©, un individu peut ne pas pouvoir poursuivre le travail qui lÂ’intĂ©resse le plus (bien que, etant donnĂ© la nature dÂ’une sociĂ©tĂ© anarchiste, il aurait du temps libre pour le faire comme un passe-temps). Cependant, nous pouvons imaginer quÂ’une sociĂ©tĂ© dÂ’anarchiste aurait intĂ©rĂŞt Ă  assurer une distribution juste du travail et ainsi essayerait de partager le travail, si lÂ’un dÂ’entre eux sÂ’avĂ©rait extraordinairement populaire.

Naturellement il peut y avoir le danger d’un syndicat ou d’une guilde essayant de limiter l’entrée pour un motif secret. Le motif secret, naturellement, serait l’exploitation d’une position de monopole vis-à-vis d’autres groupes dans la société. Cependant, dans une société anarchiste, les individus seraient libres de former leurs propres syndicats et de telles visées seraient mises en échec. En outre, dans un système anarchiste non-mutualiste, les syndicats feraient partie d’une confédération (voir la section I.3.4). Il est de la responsabilité des congrès inter-syndicats de s’assurer que l’adhésion et l’emploi dans les syndicats n’est limitée d’aucune manière antisociale. Si un individu ou un groupe d’individus estimait qu’ils avaient été injustement exclus d’un syndicat, alors une enquête sur le cas serait organisée par ce congrès. De cette façon toutes les tentatives de limiter l’entrée seraient réduites (supposant qu’elles auraient commencer par se produire). Et, naturellement, les individus sont libres de former de nouveaux syndicats ou de quitter la confédération s’ils le désirent (voir la section I.4.13 sur la question de savoir qui effectuera le travail désagréable, et pour plus de détails sur l’attribution de travail en général, dans une société anarchiste).

Pour rĂ©sumer, les syndicats sont des associations volontaires dÂ’ouvriers qui contrĂ´lent leur lieu de travail et leur propre production. Chez le syndicat, les dĂ©cisions qui affectent le developpement du lieu de travail sont aux mains de ceux qui y travaillent. En outre, cela signifie que chaque ensemble de main dÂ’oeuvre contrĂ´le sa propre activitĂ© et sa propre organisation, et que tous les ouvriers placĂ©s dans des tâches dÂ’administration (c.-Ă -d. "de gestion") sont sujets Ă  lÂ’Ă©lection et Ă  la destitution par ceux qui sont affectĂ©s par leurs dĂ©cisions. (lÂ’auto-gestion des ouvriers est abordĂ©e plus loin dans la section I.3.2 — "QuÂ’est-ce que lÂ’auto-gestion des ouvriers ?").

I.3.2 What is workers' self-management?

Quite simply, workers' self-management (sometimes called "workers' control") means that all workers affected by a decision have an equal voice in making it, on the principle of "one worker, one vote." That is, workers "ought to be the real managers of industries." [Peter Kropotkin, Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, p. 157] As noted earlier, however, we need to be careful when using the term "workers' control," as the concept is currently being co-opted by the ruling elite, which is to say that it is becoming popular among sociologists, industrial managers, and social-democratic union leaders, and so is taking on an entirely different meaning from the one intended by anarchists (who originated the term).

In the hands of capitalists, "workers' control" is now referred to by such terms as "participation," "democratisation," "co-determination," "consensus," "empowerment", "Japanese-style management," etc. As Sam Dolgoff notes, "[f]or those whose function it is solve the new problems of boredom and alienation in the workplace in advanced industrial capitalism, workers' control is seen as a hopeful solution. . . . a solution in which workers are given a modicum of influence, a strictly limited area of decision-making power, a voice at best secondary in the control of conditions of the workplace. Workers' control, in a limited form sanctioned by the capitalists, is held to be the answer to the growing non-economic demands of the workers." ["Workers' Control" in The Anarchist Collectives, p. 81]

The new managerial fad of "quality circles" -- meetings where workers are encouraged to contribute their ideas on how to improve the company's product and increase the efficiency with which it is made -- is an example of "workers' control" as conceived by capitalists. However, when it comes to questions such as what products to make, where to make them, and (especially) how revenues from sales should be divided among the workforce and invested, capitalists and managers don't ask for or listen to workers' "input." So much for "democratisation," "empowerment," and "participation!" In reality, capitalistic "workers control" is merely an another insidious attempt to make workers more willing and "co-operative" partners in their own exploitation.

Hence we prefer the term "workers' self-management" -- a concept which refers to the exercise of workers' power through collectivisation and federation (see below). Self-management in this sense "is not a new form of mediation between the workers and their capitalist bosses, but instead refers to the very process by which the workers themselves overthrow their managers and take on their own management and the management of production in their own workplace. Self-management means the organisation of all workers . . . into a workers' council or factory committee (or agricultural syndicate), which makes all the decisions formerly made by the owners and managers." [Dolgoff, Op. Cit., p. 81] As such, it means "a transition from private to collective ownership" which, in turn, "call[s] for new relationships among the members of the working community." [Abel Paz, The Spanish Civil War, p. 55] Self-management means the end of hierarchy and authoritarian social relationships in workplace and their replacement by free agreement, collective decision-making, direct democracy, social equality and libertarian social relationships.

Therefore workers' self-management is based around general meetings of the whole workforce, held regularly in every industrial or agricultural syndicate. These are the source of and final authority over decisions affecting policy within the workplace as well as relations with other syndicates. These meeting elect workplace councils whose job is to implement the decisions of these assemblies and to make the day to day administration decisions that will crop up. These councils are directly accountable to the workforce and its members subject to re-election and instant recall. It is also likely that membership of these councils will be rotated between all members of the syndicate to ensure that no one monopolises an administrative position. In addition, smaller councils and assemblies would be organised for divisions, units and work teams as circumstances dictate.

In this way, workers would manage their own collective affairs together, as free and equal individuals. They would associate together to co-operate without subjecting themselves to an authority over themselves. Their collective decisions would remain under their control and power. This means that self-management creates "an organisation so constituted that by affording everyone the fullest enjoyment of his [or her] liberty, it does not permit anyone to rise above the others nor dominate them in any way but through the natural influence of the intellectual and moral qualities which he [or she] possesses, without this influence ever being imposed as a right and without leaning upon any political institution whatever." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 271] Only by convincing your fellow associates of the soundness of your ideas can those ideas become the agreed plan of the syndicate. No one is in a position to impose their ideas simply because of the post they hold or the work they do.

Most anarchists think that it is likely that purely administrative tasks and decisions would be delegated to elected individuals in this way, freeing workers and assemblies to concentrate on important activities and decisions rather than being bogged down in trivial details. As Bakunin put it:

"Is not administrative work just as necessary to production as is manual labour -- if not more so? Of course, production would be badly crippled, if not altogether suspended, without efficient and intelligent management. But from the standpoint of elementary justice and even efficiency, the management of production need not be exclusively monopolised by one or several individuals. And managers are not at all entitled to more pay. The co-operative workers associations have demonstrated that the workers themselves, choosing administrators from their own ranks, receiving the same pay, can efficiency control and operate industry. The monopoly of administration, far from promoting the efficiency of production, on the contrary only enhances the power and privileges of the owners and their managers." [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 424]

What is important is that what is considered as important or trivial, policy or administration rests with the people affected by the decisions and subject to their continual approval. Anarchists do not make a fetish of direct democracy and recognise that there is more important things in life than meetings and voting! While workers' assemblies play the key role in self-management, it is not the focal point of all decisions. Rather it is the place where all the important policy decisions are made, administrative decisions are ratified or rejected and what counts as a major decision determined. Needless to say, what is considered as important issues will be decided upon by the workers themselves in their assemblies.

A self-managed workplace, like a self-managed society in general, does not mean that specialised knowledge (where it is meaningful) will be neglected or not taken into account. Quite the opposite. Specialists (i.e. workers who are interested in a given area of work and gain an extensive understanding of it) are part of the assembly of the workplace, just like other workers. They can and have to be listened to, like anyone else, and their expert advice included in the decision making process. Anarchists do not reject the idea of expertise nor the rational authority associated with it. As we indicated in section B.1, anarchists recognise the difference between being an authority (i.e. having knowledge of a given subject) and being in authority (i.e. having power over someone else). We reject the latter and respect the former:

"Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of architect or engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. . . If I bow before the authority of specialists and avow a readiness to follow, to a certain extent and as long as may seem to me necessary, their indications and even their directions, it is because their authority is imposed upon me by no one, neither men nor by God . . . I bow before the authority of special men [and women] because it is imposed upon me by my own reason." [Bakunin, God and the State, pp. 32-3]

However, specialisation does not imply the end of self-management, but rather the opposite. "The greatest intelligence," Bakunin argued, "would not be equal to a comprehension of the whole. Thence results, for science as well as industry, the necessity of the division and association of labour." [Op. Cit., p. 33] Thus specialised knowledge is part of the associated workers and not placed above them in positions of power. The other workers in a syndicate can compliment the knowledge of the specialists with the knowledge of the work process they have gained by working and so enrich the decision. Knowledge is distributed throughout society and only a society of free individuals associated as equals and managing their own activity can ensure that it is applied effectively (part of the inefficiency of capitalism results from the barriers to knowledge and information flow created by the hierarchical workplace).

A workplace assembly is perfectly able to listen to an engineer, for example, who suggests various ways of reaching various goals (i.e. if you want X, you would have to do A or B. If you do A, then C, D and E is required. If B is decided upon, then F, G, H and I are entailed). But it is the assembly, not the engineer, that decides what goals and methods to be implemented. As Cornelius Castoriadis puts it, "[w]e are not saying: people will have to decide what to do, and then technicians will tell them how to do it. We say: after listening to technicians, people will decide what to do and how to do it. For the how is not neutral -- and the what is not disembodied. What and how are neither identical, nor external to each other. A 'neutral' technique is, of course, an illusion. A conveyor belt is linked to a type of product and a type of producer -- and vice versa." [Social and Political Writings, vol. 3, p. 265]

However, we must stress that while an anarchist society would "inherit" a diverse level of expertise and specialisation from class society, it would not take this as unchangeable. Anarchists argue for "all-round" (or integral) education as a means of ensuring that everyone has a basic knowledge or understanding of science, engineering and other specialised tasks. As Bakunin argued, "in the interests of both labour and science . . . there should no longer be either workers or scholars but only human beings." Education must "prepare every child of each sex for the life of thought as well as for the life of labour." [The Basic Bakunin, p. 116 and p. 119] This does not imply the end of all specialisation (individuals will, of course, express their individuality and know more about certain subjects than others) but it does imply the end of the artificial specialisation developed under capitalism which tries to deskill and disempower the wage worker by concentrating knowledge into hands of management.

And, just to state the obvious, self-management does not imply that the mass of workers decide on the application of specialised tasks. Self-management implies the autonomy of those who do the work as well as collective decision making on collective issues. For example, in a self-managed hospital the cleaning staff would not have a say in the doctors' treatment of patients just as the doctors would not tell the cleaners how to do their work (of course, it is likely that an anarchist society will not have people whose work is simply to clean and nothing else, we just use this as an example people will understand). All members of a syndicate would have a say in what happens in the workplace as it affects them collectively, but individual workers and groups of workers would manage their own activity within that collective.

Needless to say, self-management abolishes the division of labour inherent in capitalism between order takers and order givers. It integrates (to use Kropotkin's words) brain work and manual work by ensuring that those who do the work also manage it and that a workplace is managed by those who use it. Such an integration of labour will, undoubtedly, have a massive impact in terms of productivity, innovation and efficiency. As Kropotkin argued, the capitalist firm has a negative impact on those subject to its hierarchical and alienating structures:

"The worker whose task has been specialised by the permanent division of labour has lost the intellectual interest in his [or her] labour, and it is especially so in the great industries; he has lost his inventive powers. Formerly, he [or she] invented very much . . . But since the great factory has been enthroned, the worker, depressed by the monotony of his [or her] work, invents no more." [Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, p. 171]

Must all the skills, experience and intelligence that very one has be swept away or crushed by hierarchy? Or could it not become a new fertile source of progress under a better organisation of production? Self-management would ensure that the independence, initiative and inventiveness of workers (which disappears under wage slavery) comes to the fore and is applied. Combined with the principles of "all-round" (or integral) education (see section J.5.13) who can deny that working people could transform the current economic system to ensure "well-being for all"? And we must stress that by "well-being" we mean well-being in terms of meaningful, productive activity in humane surroundings and using appropriate technology, in terms of goods of utility and beauty to help create strong, healthy bodies and in terms of surroundings which are inspiring to live in and ecologically integrated.

Little wonder Kropotkin argued that self-management and the "erasing [of] the present distinction between the brain workers and manual worker" would see "social benefits" arising from "the concordance of interest and harmony so much wanted in our times of social struggles" and "the fullness of life which would result for each separate individual, if he [or she] were enabled to enjoy the use of both . . . mental and bodily powers." This is in addition to the "increase of wealth which would result from having . . . educated and well-trained producers." [Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, p. 180]

It is the face-to-face meetings that bring workers directly into the management process and give them power over the economic decisions that affect their lives. In social anarchism, since the means of production are owned by society as a whole, decisions on matters like how to apportion the existing means of production among the syndicates, how to distribute and reinvest the surpluses, etc. will be made by the grassroots social units, i.e. the community assemblies (see section I.5.2), not by the workers' councils. This does not mean that workers will have no voice in decisions about such matters, but only that they will vote on them as "citizens" in their local community assemblies, not as workers in their local syndicates. As mentioned before, this is because not everyone will belong to a syndicate, yet everyone will still be affected by economic decisions of the above type. This is an example of how the social/political and economic structures of social anarchy are intertwined.

Lastly, the introduction of workers' self-management will be a product of two processes.

Firstly, the class struggle will help workers gain experience of managing their own affairs. Struggles to resist oppression and exploitation in the workplace will mean that workers will have to organise themselves to manage those struggles. This will be an important means of accustoming them to make their own decisions. By participating in the structures created to conduct the class war, they will gain the skills and experience needed to go beyond class society. The process of struggle will ensure we can manage our own working time when we take over the means of life and abolish wage slavery.

Secondly, today workers do manage their own working time to a considerable extent. As we have argued before, the capitalist may buy a hour of a workers' time but they have to ensure that the worker follows their orders during that time. Workers resist this imposition and this results in considerable shop-floor conflict. Frederick Talyor, for example, introduced his system of "scientific management" in part to try and stop workers managing their own working activity. As David Noble notes, workers "paced themselves for many reason: to keep time for themselves, to avoid exhaustion, to exercise authority over their work, to avoid killing so-called gravy piece-rate jobs by overproducing and risking a pay cut, to stretch out available work for fear of layoffs, to exercise their creativity, and, last but not least, to express their solidarity and their hostility to management." These were "[c]oupled with collective co-operation with their fellows on the floor" and "labour-prescribed norms of behaviour" to achieve "shop floor control over production." [Forces of Production, p. 33] In other words, workers naturally tend towards self-management anyway and it is this natural movement towards liberty during work hours which is combated by bosses (who wins, of course, depends on objective and subjective pressures which swing the balance of power towards labour or capital).

Self-management will built upon this already existing unofficial workers control over production and, of course, our knowledge of the working process which actually doing it creates. The conflict over who controls the shop floor -- either those who do the work or those who give the orders -- creates two processes that not only show that self-management is possible but also show how it can come about.

I.3.3 What role do syndicates play in the "economy"?

As we have seen, private ownership of the means of production is the lynchpin of capitalism, because it is the means by which capitalists are able to exploit workers by appropriating surplus value from them. To eliminate such exploitation, social anarchists propose that social capital -- productive assets such as factories and farmland -- be owned by society as a whole and shared out among syndicates and self-employed individuals by directly democratic methods, through face-to-face voting of the whole community in local neighbourhood and confederal assemblies, which will be linked together through voluntary federations. It does not mean that the state owns the means of production, as under Marxism-Leninism or social democracy, because there is no state under libertarian socialism. (For more on neighbourhood and community assemblies, see sections I.5.1 and I.5.2).

Production for use rather than profit/money is the key concept that distinguishes collectivist and communist forms of anarchism from market socialism or from the competitive forms of mutualism advocated by Proudhon and the Individualist Anarchists. Under mutualism, workers organise themselves into syndicates, but ownership of a syndicate's capital is limited to its workers rather than resting with the whole society. The workers' in each co-operative/syndicate share in the gains and losses of workplace. There is no profit as such, for in "the labour-managed firm there is no profit, only income to be divided among members. Without employees the labour-managed firm does not have a wage bill, and labour costs are not counted among the expenses to the subtracted from profit, as they are in the capitalist firm. . . [T]he labour-managed firm does not hire labour. It is a collective of workers that hires capital and necessary materials." [Christopher Eaton Gunn, Workers' Self-Management in the United States, pp. 41-2]

Thus mutualism eliminates wage labour and unites workers with the means of production they use. Such a system is socialist as it is based on self-management and workers' control/ownership of the means of production. However, social anarchists argue that such a system is little more than "petit-bourgeois co-operativism" in which the worker-owners of the co-operatives compete in the marketplace with other co-operatives for customers, profits, raw materials, etc. -- a situation that could result in many of the same problems that arise under capitalism (see sections I.3 and H.7). Moreover, social anarchists argue, such a system can easily degenerate back into capitalism as any inequalities that exist between co-operatives would be increased by competition, forcing weaker co-operatives to fail and so creating a pool of workers with nothing to sell but their labour. The successful co-operatives could then hire those workers and so re-introduce wage labour.

Some Mutualists recognise this danger. Proudhon, for example, argued for an "ago-industrial federation" which would "provide reciprocal security in commerce and industry" and "protect the citizens . . . from capitalist and financial exploitation." In this way, the "agro-industrial federation. . . will tend to foster increasing equality . . . through mutualism in credit and insurance . . . guaranteeing the right to work and to education, and an organisation of work which allows each labourer to become a skilled worker and an artist, each wage-earner to become his own master." Thus mutualism sees "all industries guaranteeing one another mutually" and "the conditions of common prosperity." [The Principle of Federation, p. 70, p. 71 and p. 72] It seems likely that this agro-industrial federation would be the body which would fix "after amicable discussion of a maximum and minimum profit margin" and "the organising of regulating societies. . . to regulate the market." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 70]

Thus, some Mutualists are aware of the dangers associated with even a self-managed, socialistic market and create support structures to defend workers' self-management. Moreover, it is likely that industrial syndicates would be linked to mutual banks (a credit syndicate). Such syndicates would exist to provide interest-free credit for self-management, new syndicate expansion and so on. And if the experience of capitalism is anything to go by, mutual banks will also reduce the Business cycle as its effects as "[c]ountries like Japan and Germany that are usually classifies as bank-centred -- because banks provide more outside finance than markets, and because more firms have long-term relationships with their banks -- show greater growth in and stability of investment over time than the market-centred ones, like the US and Britain. . . Further, studies comparing German and Japanese firms with tight bank ties to those without them also show that firms with bank ties exhibit greater stability in investment over the business cycle." [Doug Henwood, Wall Street, pp. 174-5]

In addition, supporters of mutualism can point to the fact that existing co-operatives rarely fire their members and are far more egalitarian in nature than corresponding capitalist firms. This they argue will ensure that mutualism will remain socialist, with easy credit available to those who are made unemployed to start their own businesses again.

In contrast, within anarcho-collectivism and anarcho-communism, society as a whole owns the social capital, which allows for the elimination of both competition for survival and the tendency for workers to develop a proprietary interest the enterprises in which they work. As Kropotkin argued, "[t]here is no reason why the factory . . . should not belong to the community. . . It is evident that now, under the capitalist system, the factory is the curse of the village, as it comes to overwork children and to make paupers of its male inhabitants; and it is quite natural that it should be opposed by all means by the workers. . . But under a more rational social organisation, the factory would find no such obstacles; it would be a boon to the village." Needless to say, such a workplace would be based on workers' self-management, as "the workers . . . ought to be the real managers of industries." [Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, p. 152 and p. 157] This "socially organised industrial production" (to use Kropotkin's term) would ensure a decent standard of living without the problems associated with a market, even a non-capitalist one. It would enable goods to be either sold at their production prices (or labour-cost) so as to reduce their cost to consumers or distributed in accordance with communist principles (namely free); it facilitates efficiency gains through the consolidation of formerly competing enterprises; and it eliminates the many problems due to the predatory nature of competition, including the destruction of the environment through the "grow or die" principle, the development of oligopolies from capital concentration and centralisation, and the business cycle, with its periodic recessions and depressions, and the turning of free people into potential wage slaves.

For social anarchists, therefore, libertarian socialism is based on decentralised decision making within the framework of communally-owned but independently-run and worker-self-managed syndicates (or co-operatives):

"[T]he land, the instruments of work and all other capital may become the collective property of the whole of society and be utilised only by the workers, on other words, by the agricultural and industrial associations." [Bakunin, Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 174]

In other words, the economy is communalised, with land and the means of production being turned into communal "property." The community determines the social and ecological framework for production while the workforce makes the day-to-day decisions about what to produce and how to do it. This is because a system based purely on workplace assemblies effectively disenfranchises those individuals who do not work but live with the effects of production (e.g., ecological disruption). In Howard Harkins' words, "the difference between workplace and community assemblies is that the internal dynamic of direct democracy in communities gives a hearing to solutions that bring out the common ground and, when there is not consensus, an equal vote to every member of the community." ["Community Control, Workers' Control and the Co-operative Commonwealth", pp. 55-83, Society and Nature No. 3, p. 69]

This means that when a workplace joins a confederation, that workplace is communalised as well as confederated. In this way, workers' control is placed within the broader context of the community, becoming an aspect of community control. This does not mean that workers' do not control what they do or how they do it. Rather, it means that the framework within which they make their decisions is determined by the community. For example, the local community may decide that production should maximise recycling and minimise pollution, and workers informed of this decision make investment and production decisions accordingly. In addition, consumer groups and co-operatives may be given a voice in the confederal congresses of syndicates or even in the individual workplaces (although it would be up to local communities to decide whether this would be practical or not). In these ways, consumers could have a say in the administration of production and the type and quality of the product, adding their voice and interests in the creation as well as the consumption of a product.

Given the general principle of social ownership and the absence of a state, there is considerable leeway regarding the specific forms that collectivisation might take -- for example, in regard to methods of surplus distribution, the use or non-use of money, etc. -- as can be seen by the different systems worked out in various areas of Spain during the Revolution of 1936-39 (as described, for example, in Sam Dolgoff's The Anarchist Collectives).

Nevertheless, democracy is undermined when some communities are poor while others are wealthy. Therefore the method of surplus distribution must insure that all communities have an adequate share of pooled revenues and resources held at higher levels of confederation as well as guaranteed minimum levels of public services and provisions to meet basic human needs.

I.3.4 What relations would exist between individual syndicates?

Just as individuals associate together to work on and overcome common problems, so would syndicates. Few, if any, workplaces are totally independent of others. They require raw materials as inputs and consumers for their products. Therefore there will be links between different syndicates. These links are twofold: firstly, free agreements between individual syndicates, and secondly, confederations of syndicates (within branches of industry and regionally). Let's consider free agreement first.

Anarchists recognise the importance of letting people organise their own lives. This means that they reject central planning and instead urge direct links between workers' associations. In the words of Kropotkin, "[f]ree workers would require a free organisation, and this cannot have any other basis than free agreement and free co-operation, without sacrificing the autonomy of the individual." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 52] Those directly involved in production (and in consumption) know their needs far better than any bureaucrat. Thus voluntary agreement is the basis of a free economy, such agreements being "entered by free consent, as a free choice between different courses equally open to each of the agreeing parties." [Peter Kropotkin, Anarchism and Anarchist Communism, p. 52] Without the concentration of wealth and power associated with capitalism, free agreement will become real and no longer a mask for hierarchy. So anarchists think that "[i]n the same way that each free individual has associated with his brothers [and sisters!] to produce . . . all that was necessary for life, driven by no other force than his desire for the full enjoyment of life, so each institution is free and self-contained, and co-operates and enters into agreements with others because by so doing it extends its own possibilities." [George Barrett, The Anarchist Revolution, p. 18] An example of one such agreement would be orders for products and services.

This suggests a decentralised economy -- even more decentralised than capitalism (which is "decentralised" only in capitalist mythology, as shown by big business and transnational corporations, for example) -- one "growing ever more closely bound together and interwoven by free and mutual agreements." [Ibid., p. 18] For social anarchists, this would take the form of "free exchange without the medium of money and without profit, on the basis of requirement and the supply at hand." [Alexander Berkman, ABC of Anarchism, p. 69]

Therefore, an anarchist economy would be based on spontaneous order as workers practised mutual aid and free association. The anarchist economy "starts from below, not from above. Like an organism, this free society grows into being from the simple unit up to the complex structure. The need for . . . the individual struggle for life . . . is . . .sufficient to set the whole complex social machinery in motion. Society is the result of the individual struggle for existence; it is not, as many suppose, opposed to it." [George Barrett, Op. Cit., p. 18]

In other words, "[t]his factory of ours is, then, to the fullest extent consistent with the character of its service, a self-governing unit, managing its own productive operations, and free to experiment to the heart's content in new methods, to develop new styles and products. . . This autonomy of the factory is the safeguard. . . against the dead level of mediocrity, the more than adequate substitute for the variety which the competitive motive was once supposed to stimulate, the guarantee of liveliness, and of individual work and workmanship." [G.D.H. Cole, Guild Socialism Restated, p. 59]

This brings us to the second form of relationships between syndicates, namely confederations of syndicates. If individual or syndicate activities spread beyond their initial locality, they would probably reach a scale at which they would need to constitute a confederation. At this scale, industrial confederations of syndicates are necessary to aid communication between workplaces who produce for a large area. No syndicate exists in isolation, and so there is a real need for a means by which syndicates can meet together to discuss common interests and act on them. Thus confederations are complementary to free agreement. Bakunin's comments are very applicable here:

"[A] truly popular organisation begins from below, from the association, from the commune. Thus starting out with the organisation of the lowest nucleus and proceeding upward, federalism becomes a political institution of socialism, the free and spontaneous organisation of popular life." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, pp. 273-4]

Given that Bakunin, like many anarchists, considered that "the federative Alliance of all working men's [sic!] associations . . . [would] constitute the Commune," the political institutions of anarchy would be similar to its economic institutions. Indeed, Bakunin argued for a "free federation of agricultural and industrial associations . . . organised from the bottom upwards" to be the basis of a revolution (in 1905 and in 1917, revolutionary workers and peasants did exactly that, we should note, when they created soviets -- Russian for councils -- during their revolutions). Hence Bakunin's comments on "political" institutions and federalism are applicable to a discussion of economic institutions. [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 170 and p. 172]

A confederation of syndicates (called a "guild" by some libertarian socialists, or "industrial union" by others) works on two levels: within an industry and across industries. The basic operating principle of these confederations is the same as that of the syndicate itself -- voluntary co-operation between equals in order to meet common needs. In other words, each syndicate in the confederation is linked by horizontal agreements with the others, and none owe any obligations to a separate entity above the group (see section A.2.11, "Why are anarchists in favour of direct democracy?" for more on the nature of anarchist confederation).

Kropotkin's comments on federalism between communes indicate this (a syndicate can be considered as a producers' commune):

"The Commune of tomorrow will know that it cannot admit any higher authority; above it there can only be the interests of the Federation, freely accepted by itself as well as other communes. . ." [Words of a Rebel, p. 83]

Nor need federalism conflict with autonomy, as each member would have extensive freedom of action within its boundaries:

"The Commune will be absolutely free to adopt all the institutions it wishes and to make all the reforms and revolutions it finds necessary." [Op. Cit., p. 83]

Moreover, these federations would be diverse and functional. Economic federation would a produce a complex inter-networking between associations and federations. In Kropotkin's words:

"Our needs are in fact so various, and they emerge with such rapidity, that soon a single federation will not be sufficient to satisfy them all. The Commune will then feel the need to contract other alliances, to enter into other federations. Belonging to one group for the acquisition of food supplies, it will have to join a second group to obtain other goods, such as metals, and then a third and a fourth group for textiles and works of art." [Op. Cit., p. 87]

As such, the confederations reflect anarchist ideas of free association and decentralised organisation as well as concern for practical needs:

"Anarchists are strenuously opposed to the authoritarian, centralist spirit . . . So they picture a future social life in the basis of federalism, from the individual to the municipality, to the commune, to the region, to the nation, to the international, on the basis of solidarity and free agreement. And it is natural that this ideal should be reflected also in the organisation of production, giving preference as far as possible, to a decentralised sort of organisation; but this does not take the form of an absolute rule to be applied in every instance. A libertarian order would be in itself, on the other hand, rule out the possibility of imposing such a unilateral solution." [Luigi Fabbri, "Anarchy and 'Scientific Communism", pp. 13-49, The Poverty of Statism, Albert Meltzer (ed.), p. 23]

Therefore, a confederation of syndicates would be adaptive to its members needs. As Tom Brown argued, the "syndicalist mode of organisation is extremely elastic, therein is its chief strength, and the regional confederations can be formed, modified, added to or reformed according to local conditions and changing circumstances." [Syndicalism, p. 58]

As would be imagined, these confederations are voluntary associations and "[j]ust as factory autonomy is vital in order to keep the Guild system alive and vigorous, the existence of varying democratic types of factories in independence of the National Guilds may also be a means of valuable experiment and fruitful initiative of individual minds. In insistently refusing to carry their theory to its last 'logical' conclusion, the Guildsmen [and anarchists] are true to their love of freedom and varied social enterprise." [G.D.H. Cole, Op. Cit., p. 65]

As we noted, in the last section, inter-workplace federations are not limited to collectivist, syndicalist and communist anarchists. Proudhon, for example, suggested an "agro-industrial federation" as the structural support organisation for his system of self-managed co-operatives. As the example many isolated co-operatives have shown, support networks are essential for co-operatives to survive under capitalism. It is no co-incidence that the Mondragon co-operative complex in the Basque region of Spain has a credit union and mutual support networks between its co-operatives and is by far the most successful co-operative system in the world.

If a workplace agrees to confederate, then it gets to share in the resources of the confederation and so gains the benefits of mutual aid. In return for the benefits of confederal co-operation, the syndicate's tools of production become the "property" of society, to be used but not owned by those who work in them. This does not mean centralised control from the top, for "when we say that ownership of the tools of production, including the factory itself, should revert to the corporation [i.e. confederation] we do not mean that the workers in the individual workshops will be ruled by any kind of industrial government having power to do what it pleases with [them]. . . . No, the workers. . .[will not] hand over their hard-won control. . . to a superior power. . . . What they will do is. . . to guarantee reciprocal use of their tools of production and accord their fellow workers in other factories the right to share their facilities [and vice versa]. . .with [all] whom they have contracted the pact of solidarity." [James Guillaume, Bakunin on Anarchism, pp. 363-364]

Facilitating this type of co-operation is the major role of inter-industry confederations, which also ensure that when the members of a syndicate change work to another syndicate in another (or the same) branch of industry, they have the same rights as the members of their new syndicate. In other words, by being part of the confederation, a worker ensures that s/he has the same rights and an equal say in whatever workplace is joined. This is essential to ensure that a co-operative society remains co-operative, as the system is based on the principle of "one person, one vote" by all those involved the work process.

So, beyond this reciprocal sharing, what other roles does the confederation play? Basically, there are two. Firstly, the sharing and co-ordination of information produced by the syndicates (as will be discussed in section I.3.5), and, secondly, determining the response to the changes in production and consumption indicated by this information. As the "vertical" links between syndicates are non-hierarchical, each syndicate remains self-governing. This ensures decentralisation of power and direct control, initiative, and experimentation by those involved in doing the work. Hence, "the internal organisation [of one syndicate] . . . need not be identical [to others]: Organisational forms and procedures will vary greatly according to the preferences of the associated workers." [Ibid., p. 361] In practice, this would probably mean that each syndicate gets its own orders and determines the best way to satisfy them (i.e. manages its own work and working conditions).

As indicated above, free agreement will ensure that customers would be able to choose their own suppliers, meaning that production units would know whether they were producing what their customers wanted, i.e., whether they were meeting social need as expressed through demand. If they were not, customers would go elsewhere, to other production units within the same branch of production. We should stress that in addition to this negative check (i.e. "exit" by consumers) it is likely, via consumer groups and co-operatives as well as communes, that workplaces will be subject to positive checks on what they produced. Consumer groups, by formulating and communicating needs to producer groups, will have a key role in ensuring the quality of production and goods and that it satisfies their needs (see section I.4.7 for more details of this).

However, while production will be based on autonomous networking, the investment response to consumer actions would, to some degree, be co-ordinated by a confederation of syndicates in that branch of production. By such means, the confederation can ensure that resources are not wasted by individual syndicates over-producing goods or over-investing in response to changes in production (see the next section).

I.3.5 What would confederations of syndicates do?

Voluntary confederation among syndicates is required in order to decide on the policies governing relations between syndicates and to co-ordinate their activities. There are two basic kinds of confederation: within all workplaces of a certain type, and within the whole economy (the federation of all syndicates). Both would operate at different levels, meaning there would be confederations for both industrial and inter-industrial associations at the local and regional levels and beyond. The basic aim of this inter-industry and cross-industry networking is to ensure that the relevant information is spread across the various elemental parts of the economy so that each can effectively co-ordinate its plans with the others. By communicating across workplaces, people can overcome the barriers to co-ordinating their plans which one finds in market systems (see section C.7.2) and so avoid the economic and social disruptions associated with capitalism.

However, it is essential to remember that each syndicate within the confederation is autonomous. The confederations seek to co-ordinate activities of joint interest (in particular investment decisions for new plant and the rationalisation of existing plant in light of reduced demand). They do not determine what work a syndicate does or how they do it. As Kropotkin argued (based on his firsthand experience of Russia under Lenin):

"No government would be able to organise production if the workers themselves through their unions did not do it in each branch of industry; for in all production there arise daily thousands of difficulties which no government can solve or foresee. It is certainly impossible to foresee everything. Only the efforts of thousands of intelligences working on the problems can co-operate in the development of a new social system and find the best solutions for the thousands of local needs." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, pp. 76-77]

Thus Cole's statement:

"With the factory thus largely conducting its own concerns, the duties of the larger Guild organisations [i.e. confederations] would be mainly those of co-ordination, or regulation, and of representing the Guild in its external relations. They would, where it was necessary, co-ordinate the production of various factories, so as to make supply coincide with demand. . . they would organise research . . . This large Guild organisation. . . must be based directly on the various factories included in the Guild." [Guild Socialism Restated, pp. 59-60]

So it is important to note that the lowest units of confederation -- the workers' councils -- will control the higher levels, through their power to elect mandated and recallable delegates to meetings of higher confederal units. "Mandated" means that the delegates will go to the meeting of the higher confederal body with specific instructions on how to vote on a particular issue, and if they do not vote according to that mandate they will be recalled and the results of the vote nullified. Delegates will be ordinary workers rather than paid representatives or union leaders, and they will return to their usual jobs as soon as the mandate for which they have been elected has been carried out. In this way, decision-making power remains with the workers' councils and does not become concentrated at the top of a bureaucratic hierarchy in an elite class of professional administrators or union leaders. For the workers' councils will have the final say on all policy decisions, being able to revoke policies made by those with delegated decision-making power and to recall those who made them:

"When it comes to the material and technical method of production, anarchists have no preconceived solutions or absolute prescriptions, and bow to what experience and conditions in a free society recommend and prescribe. What matters is that, whatever the type of production adopted, it should be the free choice of the producers themselves, and cannot possibly be imposed, any more than any form is possible of exploitations of another's labour. . . Anarchists do not a priori exclude any practical solution and likewise concede that there may be a number of different solutions at different times." [Luigi Fabbri, "Anarchy and 'Scientific' Communism", pp. 13-49, The Poverty of Statism, Albert Meltzer (ed.), p. 22]

Confederations (negotiated-co-ordination bodies) would, therefore, be responsible for clearly defined branches of production, and in general, production units would operate in only one branch of production. These confederations would have direct links to other confederations and the relevant communal confederations, which supply the syndicates with guidelines for decision making (as will be discussed in section I.4.4) and ensure that common problems can be highlighted and discussed. These confederations exist to ensure that information is spread between workplaces and to ensure that the industry responds to changes in social demand. In other words, these confederations exist to co-ordinate major new investment decisions (i.e. if demand exceeds supply) and to determine how to respond if there is excess capacity (i.e. if supply exceeds demand).

It should be pointed out that these confederated investment decisions will exist along with the investments associated with the creation of new syndicates, plus internal syndicate investment decisions. We are not suggesting that every investment decision is to be made by the confederations. (This would be particularly impossible for new industries, for which a confederation would not exist!) Therefore, in addition to co-ordinated production units, an anarchist society would see numerous small-scale, local activities which would ensure creativity, diversity, and flexibility. Only after these activities had spread across society would confederal co-ordination become necessary.

Thus, major investment decisions would be made at congresses and plenums of the industry's syndicates, by a process of horizontal, negotiated co-ordination. This model combines "planning" with decentralisation. Major investment decisions are co-ordinated at an appropriate level, with each unit in the confederation being autonomous, deciding what to do with its own productive capacity in order to meet social demand. Thus we have self-governing production units co-ordinated by confederations (horizontal negotiation), which ensures local initiative (a vital source of flexibility, creativity, and diversity) and a rational response to changes in social demand.

It should be noted that during the Spanish Revolution syndicates organised themselves very successfully as town-wide industrial confederations of syndicates. These were based on the town-level industrial confederation getting orders for products for its industry and allocating work between individual workplaces (as opposed to each syndicate receiving orders for itself). Gaston Leval noted that this form of organisation (with increased responsibilities for the confederation) did not harm the libertarian nature of anarchist self-management:

"Everything was controlled by the syndicates. But it must not therefore be assumed that everything was decided by a few higher bureaucratic committees without consulting the rank and file members of the union. Here libertarian democracy was practised. As in the C.N.T. there was a reciprocal double structure; from the grass roots at the base . . . upwards, and in the other direction a reciprocal influence from the federation of these same local units at all levels downwards, from the source back to the source." [The Anarchist Collectives, p. 105]

Such a solution, or similar ones, may be more practical in some situations than having each syndicate receive its own orders and so anarchists do not reject such confederal responsibilities out of hand (although the general prejudice is for decentralisation). This is because we "prefer decentralised management; but ultimately, in practical and technical problems, we defer to free experience." [Luigi Fabbri, Op. Cit., p. 24] The specific form of organisation will obviously vary as required from industry to industry, area to area, but the underlying ideas of self-management and free association will be the same. Moreover, in the words of G.D.H Cole, the "essential thing . . . is that its [the confederation or guild] function should be kept down to the minimum possible for each industry." [Op. Cit., p. 61]

In this way, the periodic crises of capitalism based on over-investment and over-production (followed by depression) and their resulting social problems can be avoided and resources efficiently and effectively utilised. In addition, production (and so the producers) can be freed from the centralised control of both capitalist and state hierarchies.

Another important role for inter-syndicate federations is to even out natural inequalities. After all, each commune will not be identical in terms of natural resources, quality of land, situation, accessibility, and so on. Simply put, social anarchists "believe that because of natural differences in fertility, health and location of the soil it would be impossible to ensure that every individual enjoyed equal working conditions." Under such circumstances, it would be "impossible to achieve a state of equality from the beginning" and so "justice and equity are, for natural reasons, impossible to achieve . . . and that freedom would thus also be unachievable." [Malatesta, The Anarchist Revolution, p. 16 and p. 21] By federating together, workers can ensure that "the earth will . . . be an economic domain available to everyone, the riches of which will be enjoyed by all human beings." [Malatesta, Life and Ideas, p. 93] Local deficiencies of raw materials, in the quality of land, and, therefore, supplies would be compensated from outside, by the socialisation of production and consumption. This would allow all of humanity to share and benefit from economic activity, so ensuring that well-being for all is possible.

Federation would eliminate the possibility of rich and poor collectives and syndicates co-existing side by side. As Kropotkin argued, "[c]ommon possession of the necessities for production implies the common enjoyment of the fruits of common production . . . when everybody, contributing for the common well-being to the full extent of his [or her] capacities, shall enjoy also from the common stock of society to the fullest possible extent of his [or her] needs." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 59]

Hence we find the CNT, arguing in its 1936 resolution on libertarian communism, that "[a]s far as the interchange of produce between communes is concerned, the communal councils are to liase with the regional federations of communes and with the confederal council of production and distribution, applying for whatever they may need and [giving] any available surplus stocks." [quoted by Jose Peirats, The CNT in the Spanish Revolution, vol. 1, p. 107] This clearly followed Kropotkin's comments that the "socialising of production, consumption, and exchange" would be based on workplaces "belong[ing] to federated Communes." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 136]

The legacy of capitalism, with its rich and poor areas, its rich and poor workplaces, will be a problem any revolution will face. The inequalities produced by centuries will take time to change. This is one of the tasks of the federation, to ensure the socialisation of both production and consumption so that people are not penalised for the accidents of history and that each commune can develop itself to an adequate level. In the words of the CNT during the Spanish Revolution:

"Many arguments are used against the idea of socialisation; one of these -- the most delightful -- says that by socialising an industry we simply take it over and run it with the consequence that we have flourishing industries where the workers are privileged, and unfortunate industries where the workers get less benefits but have to work harder than workers elsewhere . . . There are differences between the workers in prosperous industries and those which barely survive. . . Such anomalies, which we don't deny exist, are attributed to the attempts at socialisation. We firmly assert that the opposite is true; such anomalies are the logical result of the absence of socialisation.

"The socialisation which we propose will resolve these problems which are used to attack it. Were Catalan industry socialised, everything would be organically linked -- industry, agriculture, and the trade union organisations, in accordance with the council for the economy. They would become normalised, the working day would become more equal or what comes to the same thing, the differences between workers of different activities would end . . .

"Socialisation is -- and let its detractors hear it -- the genuine authentic organisation of the economy. Undoubtedly the economy has to be organised; but not according to the old methods, which are precisely those which we are destroying, but in accordance with new norms which will make our people become an example to the world proletariat." [Solidaridad Obrera, 30 April 1937, p. l2]

However, it could again be argued that these confederations are still centralised and that workers would still be following orders coming from above. This is incorrect, for any decisions concerning an industry or plant are under the direct control of those involved. For example, the steel industry confederation may decide to rationalise itself at one of its congresses. Murray Bookchin sketches the response to this situation as follows:

"[L]et us suppose that a board of highly qualified technicians is established [by this congress] to propose changes in the steel industry. This board. . . advances proposals to rationalise the industry by closing down some plants and expanding the operation of others . . . Is this a 'centralised' body or not? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, only in the sense that the board is dealing with problems that concern the country as a whole; no, because it can make no decision that must be executed for the country as a whole. The board's plan must be examined by all the workers in the plants [that are affected]. . . . The board itself has no power to enforce 'decisions'; it merely makes recommendations. Additionally, its personnel are controlled by the plant in which they work and the locality in which they live." [Post Scarcity Anarchism, p. 267]

Therefore, confederations would not be in positions of power over the individual syndicates. As Bookchin points out, "[t]hey would have no decision-making powers. The adoption, modification or rejection of their plans would rest entirely with the communities involved." [Op. Cit., p. 267] No attempt is made to determine which plants produce which steel for which customers in which manner. Thus, the confederations of syndicates ensure a decentralised, spontaneous economic order without the negative side-effects of capitalism (namely power concentrations within firms and in the market, periodic crises, etc.).

It should be pointed out that these confederated investment decisions will exist along with the investments associated with the creation of new syndicates, plus internal syndicate investment decisions. We are not suggesting that every investment decision is to be made by the confederations. (This would be particularly impossible for new industries, for which a confederation would not exist!) Therefore, in addition to co-ordinated production units, an anarchist society would see numerous small-scale, local activities which would ensure creativity, diversity, and flexibility. Only after these activities had spread across society would confederal co-ordination become necessary.

As one can imagine, an essential feature of these confederations will be the collection and processing of information in order to determine how an industry is developing. This does not imply bureaucracy or centralised control at the top. Taking the issue of centralisation first, the confederation is run by delegate assemblies, meaning that any officers elected at a congress only implement the decisions made by the delegates of the relevant syndicates. It is in the congresses and plenums of the confederation that new investment decisions, for example, are made. The key point to remember is that the confederation exists purely to co-ordinate joint activity and share information, it does not take an interest in how a workplace is run or what orders from consumers it fills. (Of course, if a given workplace introduces policies which other syndicates disapprove of, it can be expelled). As the delegates to these congresses and plenums are mandated and their decisions subject to rejection and modification by each productive unit, the confederation is not centralised.

As far as bureaucracy goes, the collecting and processing of information does necessitate an administrative staff to do the work. However, this problem affects capitalist firms as well; and since syndicates are based on bottom-up decision making, its clear that, unlike a centralised capitalist corporation, administration would be smaller.

In fact, it is likely that a fixed administration staff for the confederation would not exist in the first place! At the regular congresses, a particular syndicate may be selected to do the confederation's information processing, with this job being rotated regularly around different syndicates. In this way, a specific administrative body and equipment can be avoided and the task of collating information placed directly in the hands of ordinary workers. Further, it prevents the development of a bureaucratic elite by ensuring that all participants are versed in information-processing procedures.

Lastly, what information would be collected? That depends on the context. Individual syndicates would record inputs and outputs, producing summary sheets of information. For example, total energy input, in kilowatts and by type, raw material inputs, labour hours spent, orders received, orders accepted, output, and so forth. This information can be processed into energy use and labour time per product (for example), in order to give an idea of how efficient production is and how it is changing over time. For confederations, the output of individual syndicates can be aggregated and local and other averages can be calculated. In addition, changes in demand can be identified by this aggregation process and used to identify when investment will be needed or plants closed down. In this way the chronic slumps and booms of capitalism can be avoided without creating a system which is even more centralised than capitalism.

I.3.6 What about competition between syndicates?

This is a common question, particularly from defenders of capitalism. They argue that syndicates will not co-operate together unless forced to do so, but will compete against each other for raw materials, skilled workers, and so on. The result of this process, it is claimed, will be rich and poor syndicates, inequality within society and within the workplace, and (possibly) a class of unemployed workers from unsuccessful syndicates who are hired by successful ones. In other words, they argue that libertarian socialism will need to become authoritarian to prevent competition, and that if it does not do so it will become capitalist very quickly.

For individualist anarchists and mutualists, competition is not viewed as a problem. They think that competition, based around co-operatives and mutual banks, would minimise economic inequality, as the new economic structure based around free credit and co-operation would eliminate non-labour (i.e. unearned) income such as profit, interest and rent and give workers enough bargaining power to eliminate exploitation. For these anarchists it is a case of capitalism perverting competition and so are not against competition itself (see Proudhon's General Idea of the Revolution, pages 50-1 for example). Other anarchists think that whatever gains might accrue from competition (assuming there are, in fact, any) would be more than offset by its negative effects, which are outlined in section I.1.3. It is to these anarchists that the question is usually asked.

Before continuing, we would like to point out that individuals trying to improve their lot in life is not against anarchist principles. How could it be? What is against anarchist principles is centralised power, oppression, and exploitation, all of which flow from large inequalities of income. This is the source of anarchist concern about equality -- concern that is not based on some sort of "politics of envy." Anarchists oppose inequality because it soon leads to the few oppressing the many (a relationship which distorts the individuality and liberty of all involved as well as the health and very lives of the oppressed).

Anarchists desire to create a society in which such relationships are impossible, believing that the most effective way to do this is by empowering all, by creating an egoistic concern for liberty and equality among the oppressed, and by developing social organisations which encourage self-management. As for individuals' trying to improve their lot, anarchists maintain that co-operation is the best means to do so, not competition. And there is substantial evidence to support this claim (see, for example, Alfie Kohn's No Contest: The Case Against Competition).

Robert Axelrod, in his book, The Evolution of Co-operation agrees and presents abundant evidence that co-operation is in our long term interests (i.e. it provides better results than short term competition). This suggests that, as Kropotkin argued, mutual aid, not mutual struggle, will be in an individual's self-interest and so competition in a free, sane society would be minimised and reduced to sports and other individual pastimes. As Stirner argued, co-operation is just as egoistic as competition (a fact sometimes lost on many due to the obvious ethical superiority of co-operation):

"But should competition some day disappear, because concerted effort will have been acknowledged as more beneficial than isolation, then will not every single individual inside the associations be equally egoistic and out for his own interests?" [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 22]

Now to the "competition" objection, which we'll begin to answer by noting that it ignores a few key points. Firstly, the assumption that libertarian socialism would "become capitalist" in the absence of a state is obviously false. If competition did occur between collectives and did lead to massive wealth inequalities, then the newly rich would have to create a state to protect their private property (means of production) against the dispossessed. So inequality, not equality, leads to the creation of states. It is no co-incidence that the anarchic communities that existed for millennia were also egalitarian.

Secondly, as noted in section A.2.5, anarchists do not consider "equal" to mean "identical." Therefore, to claim that wage differences mean inequality makes sense only if one thinks that "equality" means everyone getting exactly equal shares. As anarchists do not hold such an idea, wage differences in an otherwise anarchistically organised syndicate do not indicate a lack of equality. How the syndicate is run is of far more importance, because the most pernicious type of inequality from the anarchist standpoint is inequality of power, i.e. unequal influence on political and economic decision making.

Under capitalism, wealth inequality translates into such an inequality of power, and vice versa, because wealth can buy private property (and state protection of it), which gives owners authority over that property and those hired to produce with it; but under libertarian socialism, minor or even moderate differences in income among otherwise equal workers would not lead to this kind of power inequality, because direct democracy, social ownership of capital, and the absence of a state severs the link between wealth and power (see further below). Empirical evidence supports anarchist claims as co-operatives have a more egalitarian wage structure than corresponding capitalist firms.

Thirdly, anarchists do not pretend that an anarchist society will be "perfect." Hence there may be periods, particularly just after capitalism has been replaced by self-management, when differences in skill, etc., leads to a few people exploiting their fellow workers and getting more wages, better hours and conditions, and so forth. This problem existed in the industrial collectives in the Spanish Revolution. As Kropotkin pointed out, "[b]ut, when all is said and done, some inequalities, some inevitable injustice, undoubtedly will remain. There are individuals in our societies whom no great crisis can lift out of the deep mire of egoism in which they are sunk. The question, however, is not whether there will be injustices or no, but rather how to limit the number of them." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 94]

In other words, these problems will exist, but there are a number of things that anarchists can do to minimise their impact. Primarily there must be a "gestation period" before the birth of an anarchist society, in which social struggle, new forms of education and child-rearing, and other methods of consciousness-raising increase the number of anarchists and decrease the number of authoritarians.

The most important element in this gestation period is social struggle. Such self-activity will have a major impact on those involved in it (see section J.2). By direct action and solidarity, those involved develop bounds of friendship and support with others, develop new forms of ethics and new ideas and ideal. This radicalisation process will help to ensure that any differences in education and skill do not develop into differences in power in an anarchist society.

In addition, education within the anarchist movement should aim, among other things, to give its members familiarity with technological skills so that they are not dependent on "experts" and can thus increase the pool of skilled workers who will be happy working in conditions of liberty and equality. This will ensure that differentials between workers can be minimised.

In the long run, however, popularisation of non-authoritarian methods of child-rearing and education are particularly important because, as we have seen, secondary drives such as greed and the desire the exercise power over others are products of authoritarian upbringing based on punishments and fear (See sections B.1.5, "What is the mass-psychological basis for authoritarian civilisation?" and J.6, "What methods of child rearing do anarchists advocate?"). Only if the prevalence of such drives is reduced among the general population can we be sure that an anarchist revolution will not degenerate into some new form of domination and exploitation.

However, there are other reasons why economic inequality -- say, in differences of income levels or working conditions, which may arise from competition for "better" workers -- would be far less severe under any form of anarchist society than it is under capitalism. Firstly, the syndicates would be democratically managed. This would result in much smaller wage differentials, because there is no board of wealthy directors setting wage levels for their own gain and who think nothing of hierarchy and having elites. The decentralisation of power in an anarchist society will ensure that there would no longer be wealthy elites paying each other vast amounts of money. This can be seen from the experience of the Mondragon co-operatives, where the wage difference between the highest paid and lowest paid worker was 4 to 1. This was only increased recently when they had to compete with large capitalist companies, and even then the new ratio of 9 to 1 is far smaller than those in American or British companies (in America, for example, the ratio is even as high at 200 to 1 and beyond!). Thus, even under capitalism "[t]here is evidence that the methods of distribution chosen by worker-controlled or self-managed firms are more egalitarian than distribution according to market precepts." [Christopher Eaton Gunn, Workers' Self-Management in the United States, p. 45] Given that market precepts fail to take into account power differences, this is unsurprising. Thus we can predict that a fully self-managed economy would be just, if not, more egalitarian as differences in power would be eliminated, as would unemployment (James K. Galbraith, in his book Created Unequal, has presented extensive evidence that unemployment increases inequality, as would be expected).

It is a common myth that managers, executives and so on are "rugged individuals" and are paid so highly because of their unique abilities. Actually, they are so highly paid because they are bureaucrats in command of large hierarchical institutions. It is the hierarchical nature of the capitalist firm that ensures inequality, not exceptional skills. Even enthusiastic supporters of capitalism provide evidence to support this claim. Peter Drucker (in Concept of the Corporation) brushed away the claim that corporate organisation brings managers with exceptional ability to the top when he noted that "[n]o institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organised in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership of average human beings." [p. 35] For Drucker, "the things that really count are not the individual members but the relations of command and responsibility among them." [p. 34]

Anarchists argue that high wage differences are the result of how capitalism is organised and that capitalist economics exists to justify these results by assuming company hierarchy and capitalist ownership evolved naturally (as opposed to being created by state action and protection). The end of capitalist hierarchy would also see the end of vast differences of income because decision making power would be decentralised back into the hands of those affected by those decisions.

Secondly, corporations would not exist. A network of workplaces co-ordinated by confederal committees would not have the resources available to pay exorbitant wages. Unlike a capitalist company, power is decentralised in a confederation of syndicates and wealth does not flow to the top. This means that there is no elite of executives who control the surplus made from the company's workers and can use that surplus to pay themselves high wages while ensuring that the major shareholders receive high enough dividends not to question their activities (or their pay).

Thirdly, management positions would be rotated, ensuring that everyone gets experience of the work, thus reducing the artificial scarcity created by the division of labour. Also, education would be extensive, ensuring that engineers, doctors, and other skilled workers would do the work because they enjoyed doing it and not for financial reward. And lastly, we should like to point out that people work for many reasons, not just for high wages. Feelings of solidarity, empathy, friendship with their fellow workers would also help reduce competition between syndicates for workers. Of course, having no means of unearned income (such as rent and interest), social anarchism will reduce income differentials even more.

Of course, the "competition" objection assumes that syndicates and members of syndicates will place financial considerations above all else. This is not the case, and few individuals are the economic robots assumed in capitalist dogma. Indeed, the evidence from co-operatives refutes such claims (ignoring, for the moment, the vast evidence of our own senses and experiences with real people rather than the insane "economic man" of capitalist economic ideology). Neo-classical economic theory, deducting from its basic assumptions, argues that members of co-operatives will aim to maximise profit per worker and so, perversely, fire their members during good times. Reality contradicts these claims, with the "empirical evidence" showing that there "has been no tendency for workers to lay-off co-workers when times are good, neither in Mondragon nor in [the former] Yugoslavia. Even in bad times, layoffs are rare." [David Schweickart, Against Capitalism, p. 92] The experience of self-managed collectives during the Spanish Revolution also confirms this, with collectives sharing work equitably in order to avoid laying people off during the harsh economic conditions caused by the Civil War. In other words, the underlying assumption that people are economic robots cannot be maintained -- there is extensive evidence pointing to the fact that different forms of social organisation produce different considerations and people who are motivated by different considerations.

Also, we must remember that the syndicates are not competing for market share, and so it is likely that new techniques would be shared between workplaces and skilled workers might decide to rotate their work between syndicates in order to maximise the effectiveness of their working time until such time as the general skill level in society increases.

So, while recognising that competition for skilled workers could exist, anarchists think there are plenty of reasons not to worry about massive economic inequality being created, which in turn would re-create the state. The apologists for capitalism who put forward this argument forget that the pursuit of self-interest is universal, meaning that everyone would be interested in maximising his or her liberty, and so would be unlikely to allow inequalities to develop which threatened that liberty.

As for competition for scarce resources, it is clear that it would be in the interests of communes and syndicates which have them to share them with others instead of charging high prices for them. This is for two reasons. Firstly, they may find themselves boycotted by others, and so they would be denied the advantages of social co-operation. Secondly, they may be subject to such activities themselves at a future date and so it would wise for them to remember to "treat others as you would like them to treat you under similar circumstances." As anarchism will never come about unless people desire it and start to organise their own lives, it's clear that an anarchist society would be inhabited by individuals who followed that ethical principle.

So it is doubtful that people inspired by anarchist ideas would start to charge each other high prices, particularly since the syndicates and community assemblies are likely to vote for a wide basis of surplus distribution, precisely to avoid this problem and to ensure that production will be for use rather than profit (see section I.4.10, "What would be the advantage of a wide basis of surplus distribution?"). In addition, as other communities and syndicates would likely boycott any syndicate or commune that was acting in non-co-operative ways, it is likely that social pressure would soon result in those willing to exploit others rethinking their position. Co-operation does not imply a willingness to tolerate those who desire to take advantage of you.

Moreover, given the experience of the period between the 1960s and 1990s (with rising inequality marked by falling growth, lower wage growth, rising unemployment and increased economic instability) the impact of increased competition and inequality harms the vast majority. It is doubtful that people aware of these tendencies (and that, as we argued in section F.3, "free exchange" in an unequal society tends to increase, not decrease, inequality) would create such a regime.

Examples of anarchism in action show that there is frequently a spontaneous tendency towards charging cost prices for goods, as well as attempts to work together to reduce the dangers of isolation and competition. One thing to remember is that anarchy will not be created "overnight," and so potential problems will be worked out over time. Underlying all these kinds of objections is the assumption that co-operation will not be more beneficial to all involved than competition. However, in terms of quality of life, co-operation will soon be seen to be the better system, even by the most highly paid workers. There is far more to life than the size of one's pay packet, and anarchism exists in order to ensure that life is far more than the weekly grind of boring work and the few hours of hectic consumption in which people attempt to fill the "spiritual hole" created by a way of life which places profits above people.

I.3.7 What about people who do not want to join a syndicate?

In this case, they are free to work alone, by their own labour. Anarchists have no desire to force people to join a syndicate. As Kropotkin argued:

"Communist organisations . . . must be the work of all, a natural growth, a product of the constructive genius of the great mass. Communism cannot be imposed from above; it could not live even for a few months if the constant and daily co-operation of all did not uphold it. It must be free." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 140]

Therefore, the decision to join a commune will be a free one, with the potential for living outside it guaranteed for non-exploitative and non-oppressive individuals and groups. Malatesta stressed this when he argued that in an anarchist revolution "what has to be destroyed at once . . . is capitalistic property, that is, the fact that a few control the natural wealth and the instruments of production and can thus oblige others to work for them . . . [but one must have a] right and the possibility to live in a different regime, collectivist, mutualist, individualist -- as one wishes, always on the condition that there is no oppression or exploitation of others." [Malatesta: Life and Ideas, p. 102]

In other words, different forms of social life will be experimented with, depending on what people desire. Of course some people (particularly right-wing "libertarians") ask how anarchists can reconcile individual freedom with expropriation of capital. All we can say is that these critics subscribe to the idea that one should not interfere with the "individual freedom" of those in positions of authority to oppress others, and that this premise turns the concept of individual freedom on its head, making oppression a "right" and the denial of freedom a form of it!

However, right-wing "libertarians" do raise a valid question when they ask if anarchism would result in self-employed people being forced into co-operatives, syndicates or collectives as the result of a popular movement. The answer is no. This is because the destruction of title deeds would not harm the independent worker, whose real title is possession and the work done. What anarchists want to eliminate is not possessions but capitalist property.

As Peter Kropotkin made clear:

"when we see a peasant, who is in possession of just amount of land he can cultivate, we do not think it reasonable to turn him off his little farm. He exploits nobody, and nobody would have the right to interfere with his work. . . [W]hen we see a family inhabiting a house which affords them just as much space as . . . are considered necessary for that number of people, why should we interfere with that family and turn them out their house? . . . And finally, when we see a . . . cutler, or a . . . clothier working with their own tools or handloom, we see no use in taking the tools or handloom to give to another workers. The clothier or cutler exploit nobody." [Act for Yourselves, pp. 104-5]

This means that independent producers will still exist within an anarchist society, and some workplaces -- perhaps whole areas -- will not be part of a confederation. This is natural in a free society, for different people have different ideas and ideals. Nor does such independent producers imply a contradiction with libertarian socialism, for "[w]hat we concerned with is the destruction of the titles of proprietors who exploit the labour of others and, above all, of expropriating them in fact in order to put . . . all the means of production at the disposal of those who do the work." [Malatesta, Op. Cit., p. 103]

Of course, some people may desire to become capitalists, and they may offer to employ people and pay them wages. However, such a situation would be unlikely. Simply put, why would anyone desire to work for the would-be employer? Malatesta makes this point as follows:

"It remains to be seen whether not being able to obtain assistance or people to exploit -- and he [the would-be capitalist] would find none because nobody, having a right to the means of production and being free to work on his own or as an equal with others in the large organisations of production would want to be exploited by a small employer -- . . . it remains to be seen whether these isolated workers would not find it more convenient to combine with others and voluntarily join one of the existing communities." [Op. Cit., pp. 102-103]

So where would the capitalist wannabe find people to work for him? As Kropotkin argued:

"Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor. That is why an anarchist society need not fear the advent of a Rothschild [or any other millionaire] who would settle in its midst. If every member of the community knows that after a few hours of productive toil he [or she] will have a right to all the pleasures that civilisation procures, and to those deeper sources of enjoyment which art and science offer to all who seek them, he [or she] will not sell his strength . . . No one will volunteer to work for the enrichment of your Rothschild." [Op. Cit., p. 61]

And, assuming that he did find someone willing to work for him (and so be governed by him), the would-be capitalist would have to provide such excellent conditions and pay such good wages as to reduce his profits to near zero. Moreover, he would have to face workers whose neighbours would be encouraging them to form a union and strike for even better conditions and pay, including workers' control and so on. Such a militant workforce would be the last thing a capitalist would desire.

However, let us suppose there is a self-employed inventor, Ferguson, who comes up with a new innovation without the help of the co-operative sector. Would anarchists steal his idea? Not at all. The co-operatives, which by hypothesis have been organised by people who believe in giving producers the full value of their product, would pay Ferguson an equitable amount for his idea, which would then become common across society. However, if he refused to sell his invention and instead tried to claim a patent monopoly on it in order to gather a group of wage slaves to exploit, no one would agree to work for him unless they got the full control over both the product of their labour and the labour process itself.

In addition, we would imagine they would also refuse to work for someone unless they also got the capital they used at the end of their contract (i.e. a system of "hire-purchase" on the means of production used). In other words, by removing the statist supports of capitalism, would-be capitalists would find it hard to "compete" with the co-operative sector and would not be in a position to exploit others' labour.

With a system of communal production (in social anarchism) and mutual banks (in individualist anarchism), "usury" -- i.e. charging a use-fee for a monopolised item, of which patents are an instance -- would no longer be possible and the inventor would be like any other worker, exchanging the product of his or her labour. As Ben Tucker argued, "the patent monopoly . . . consists in protecting inventors and authors against competition for a period of time long enough for them to extort from the people a reward enormously in excess of the labour measure of their services -- in other words, in giving certain people a right of property for a term of years in laws and facts of nature, and the power to extract tribute from others for the use of this natural wealth, which should be open to all. The abolition of this monopoly would fill its beneficiaries with a wholesome fear of competition which should cause them to be satisfied with pay for their services equal to that which other labourers get for theirs, and secure it by placing their products and works on the market at the outset at prices so low that their lines of business would be no more tempting to competitors than any other lines." [The Anarchist Reader, pp. 150-1]

So, if someone has labour to sell then they deserve a free society to do it in -- as Tucker once pointed out. Such an environment would make the numbers seeking employment so low as to ensure that the rate of exploitation would be zero. Little wonder that, when faced with a self-employed, artisan workforce, capitalists have continually turned to the state to create the "correct" market forces (see section F.8).

Thus while the idea that people will happily become wage slaves may be somewhat common place (particularly with supporters of capitalism) the evidence of history is that people, given a choice, will prefer self-employment and resist wage labour (often to the death). As E. P. Thompson notes, for workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the "gap in status between a 'servant,' a hired wage-labourer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might 'come and go' as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right." [The Making of the English Working Class, p. 599] Over one hundred years later, the rural working class of Aragon showed the same dislike of wage slavery. After Communist troops destroyed their self-managed collectives, the "[d]ispossessed peasants, intransigent collectivists, refused to work in a system of private property, and were even less willing to rent out their labour." [Jose Peirats, Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution, p. 258] The rural economy collapsed (see section I.8.7 for more details).

Therefore, any perception that people will become wage-labourers through choice in a free society is based on the assumption what people accept through necessity under capitalism will pass over, without change, into a free one. This assumption is unfounded and anarchists expect that once people struggle for freedom and taste the pleasures of freedom they will not freely accept a degradation back to having a master -- and as history shows, we have some evidence to support our argument.

In other words, with the end of capitalism and statism, a free society has no fear of capitalist firms being created or growing again because it rejects the idea that everyone must be in a syndicate. Few, if any, people would desire to have bosses when they have the choice of being free (to use an analogy, few people prefer dictatorship to democracy once the former has been overthrown). Also, without statism to back up various class-based monopolies of capitalist privilege, capitalism could not become dominant. In addition, the advantages of co-operation between syndicates would exceed whatever temporary advantages existed for syndicates to practice commodity exchange in a mutualist market.

I.3.8 Do anarchists seek "small autonomous communities, devoted to small scale production"?

As we indicated at the start of this section, anarchists see a free society's productive activity centred around federations of syndicates. This showes that anarchism rejects the idea of isolated communes. Rather, we argue that communes and syndicates would work together in a federal structure. This would, as we argue in section I.3.5, necessitate confederations to help co-ordinate economic activity and, as indicated in section I.3.4, involve extensive links between productive syndicates and the communes they are part of.

The idea that anarchism aims for small, self-sufficient, communes is a Leninist slander. They misrepresent anarchist ideas on this matter, suggesting that anarchists seriously want society based on "small autonomous communities, devoted to small scale production." In particular, they point to Kropotkin, arguing that he "looked backwards for change" and "witnessed such communities among Siberian peasants and watchmakers in the Swiss mountains." [Pat Stack, "Anarchy in the UK?", Socialist Review, no. 246, November 2000]

While it may be better to cover this issue in section H.2 ("What parts of anarchist theory do Marxists particularly misrepresent?") we discuss it here simply because, firstly, it seems to be a depressingly common assertion and, secondly, it relates directly to what an anarchist society could look like. Hence our discussion of these assertions in this section of the FAQ. Also, it allows us to fill in more of the picture of what a free society could look like.

So what do anarchists make of the assertion that we aim for "small autonomous communities, devoted to small scale production"? Simply put, we think it is nonsense (as would be quickly obvious from reading anarchist theory). Indeed, it is hard to know where this particular anarchist "vision" comes from. As Luigi Fabbri noted, in his reply to an identical assertion by the leading Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin, "[i]t would be interesting to learn in what anarchist book, pamphlet or programme such an 'ideal' is set out, or even such a hard and fast rule!" ["Anarchy and 'Scientific' Communism", pp. 13-49, The Poverty of Statism, Albert Meltzer (ed.), p. 21]

If we look at, say, Proudhon, we soon see no such argument for "small scale" production. He argued for "the mines, canals, railways [to be] handed over to democratically organised workers' associations . . . We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies woven into the common cloth of the democratic social Republic." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 62] Similarly, rather than dismiss the idea of large-scale industry Proudhon argued that "[l]arge industry . . . come to us by big monopoly and big property: it is necessary in the future to make them rise from the [labour] association." [quoted by K. Steven Vincent, Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism, p. 156] As Vincent correctly summarises:

"On this issue, it is necessary to emphasise that, contrary to the general image given on the secondary literature, Proudhon was not hostile to large industry. Clearly, he objected to many aspects of what these large enterprises had introduced into society. For example, Proudhon strenuously opposed the degrading character of . . . work which required an individual to repeat one minor function continuously. But he was not opposed in principle to large-scale production. What he desired was to humanise such production, to socialise it so that the worker would not be the mere appendage to a machine. Such a humanisation of large industries would result, according to Proudhon, from the introduction of strong workers' associations. These associations would enable the workers to determine jointly by election how the enterprise was to be directed and operated on a day-to-day basis." [Op. Cit., p. 156]

Moreover, Proudhon did not see an anarchist society as one of isolated communities or workplaces. Instead, he saw the need for workplace and community federations to co-ordinate joint activities and interests. Economically, there would be an "agro-industrial federation" would "tend to foster increasing equality, by organising all public services in an economical fashion and in hands other than the state's, through mutualism in credit and insurance . . . guaranteeing the right to work and to education, and an organisation of work which allows each labourer to become a skilled worker and an artist, each wage-earner to become his own master." This would end "industrial and financial feudalism" and "wage-labour or economic servitude." [The Principle of Federation, pp. 70-1]

The need for economic federation was also required due to differences in raw materials, quality of land and so on. Proudhon argued that a portion of income from agricultural produce be paid into a central fund which would be used to make equalisation payments to compensate farmers with less favourably situated or less fertile land. As he put it, economic rent "in agriculture has no other cause than the inequality in the quality of land . . . if anyone has a claim on account of this inequality . . . [it is] the other land workers who hold inferior land. That is why in our scheme for liquidation [of capitalism] we stipulated that every variety of cultivation should pay a proportional contribution, destined to accomplish a balancing of returns among farm workers and an assurance of products." [The General Idea of the Revolution, p. 209]

This vision of a federation of workplaces can also be found in Bakunin's writings. As he put it, the "future organisation of society must proceed from the bottom up only, through free association or federations of the workers, into their associations to begin with, then into communes, regions, nations and, finally, into a great international and universal federation." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 176] Bakunin, like Proudhon, considered that "[i]ntelligent free labour will necessarily be associated labour" as under capitalism the worker "works for others" and her labour is "bereft of liberty, leisure and intelligence." Under anarchism, "the free productive associations" would become "their own masters and the owners of the necessary capital" and "amalgamate among themselves" and "sooner or later" will "expand beyond national frontiers" and "form one vast economic federation." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, pp. 81-3]

Neither can such a vision be attributed to Kropotkin. While, of course, supporting decentralisation of power and decision making as did Proudhon and Bakunin, he did not reject the necessity of federations to co-ordinate activity. As he put it, the "commune of tomorrow will know that it cannot admit any higher authority; above it there can only be the interests of the Federation, freely accepted by itself as well as the other communes . . . The Commune will know that it must break the State and replace it by the Federation." For anarchists the commune "no longer means a territorial agglomeration; it is rather a generic name, a synonym for the grouping of equals which knows neither frontiers nor walls . . . Each group in the Commune will necessarily be drawn towards similar groups in other communes; they will come together and the links that federate them will be as solid as those that attach them to their fellow citizens." [Words of a Rebel, p. 83 and p. 88]

Nor did he see an anarchist society as one with an economy based purely around the small commune or community. He took the basic unit of a free society as one "large enough to dispose of a certain variety of natural resources -- it may be a nation, or rather a region -- produces and itself consumes most of its own agricultural and manufactured produce." Such a region would "find the best means of combining agriculture with manufacture -- the work in the field with a decentralised industry." Moreover, he recognised that the "geographical distribution of industries in a given country depends . . . to a great extent upon a complexus of natural conditions; it is obvious that there are spots which are best suited for the development of certain industries . . . The[se] industries always find some advantages in being grouped, to some extent, according to the natural features of separate regions." [Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, p. 26, p. 27 and pp. 154-5]

Kropotkin stressed that agriculture "cannot develop without the aid of machinery and the use of a perfect machinery cannot be generalised without industrial surroundings. . . . The village smith would not do." Thus he supported the integration of agriculture and industry, with "the factory and workshop at the gates of your fields and gardens." These factories would be "airy and hygienic, and consequently economical, factories in which human life is of more account than machinery and the making of extra profits." A "variety of agricultural, industrial and intellectual pursuits are combined in each community" to ensure "the greatest sum total of well-being." He thought that "large establishments" would still exist, but these would be "better placed at certain spots indicated by Nature." He stressed that it "would be a great mistake to imagine industry ought to return to its hand-work stage in order to be combined with agriculture. Whenever a saving of human labour can be obtained by means of a machine, the machine is welcome and will be resorted to; and there is hardly one single branch of industry into which machinery work could not be introduced with great advantage, at least at some of the stages of the manufacture . . . The machine will supersede hand-work in the manufacture of plain goods. But at the same time, hand-work very probably will extend its domain in the artistic finishing of many things which are now made entirely in the factory." [Op. Cit., p. 156, p. 197, p. 18, pp. 154-5 and pp. 151-2]

Clearly Kropotkin was not opposed to large-scale industry as such. As he put it, "if we analyse the modern industries, we soon discover that for some of them the co-operation of hundred, even thousands, of workers gathered at the same spot is really necessary. The great iron works and mining enterprises decidedly belong to that category; oceanic steamers cannot be built in village factories." However, he stressed that this is objective necessity was not the case in many other industries and centralised production existed in these purely to allow capitalists "to hold command of the market." Once we consider the "moral and physical advantages which man would derive from dividing his work between field and the workshop" we must automatically evaluate the structure of modern industry with the criteria of what is best for the worker (and society and the environment) rather than what was best for capitalist profits and power. [Op. Cit., p. 153]

Clearly, Leninist summaries of Kropotkin's ideas on this subject are nonsense. Rather than seeing "small-scale" production as the basis of his vision of a free society, he saw production as being geared around the economic unit of a nation or region ("Each region will become its own producer and its own consumer of manufactured goods . . . [and] its own producer and consumer of agricultural produce." [Op. Cit., p. 40]). Industry would come to the village "not in its present shape of a capitalist factory" but "in the shape of a socially organised industrial production, with the full aid of machinery and technical knowledge." [Op. Cit., p. 151]

Industry would be decentralised and integrated with agriculture and based around communes, but these communes would be part of a federation and so production would be based around meeting the needs of these federations. A system of rational decentralisation would be the basis of Kropotkin's communist-anarchism, with productive activity and a free society's workplaces geared to the appropriate level. For those forms of industry which would be best organised on a large-scale would continue to be so organised, but for those whose current (i.e. capitalist) structure had no objective need to be centralised would be broken up to allow the transformation of work for the benefit of both workers and society.

Thus we would see a system of workplaces geared to local and district needs complementing larger factories which would meet regional and wider needs. Kropotkin was at pains to show that such a system would be economical, stressing that "[t]his is why the 'concentration' so much spoken of is often nothing but an amalgamation of capitalists for the purpose of dominating the market, not for cheapening the technical process." [Op. Cit., p. 154] In other words, that the structure of modern industry was skewed by the needs of capitalist profit and power and so it cannot be assumed that what is "efficient" under a capitalist criteria is necessarily the best for a free society.

Kropotkin was well aware that modern industry was shaped "to suit the temporary interests of the few -- by no means those of the nation." [Op. Cit., p. 147] Therefore he made a clear division between economic tendencies which existed to aid the capitalist to dominate the market and enhance their profits and power and those which indicated a different kind of future. He placed the tendency of industry to spread across the world, to decentralise itself into all nations and regions, as a tendency of the second kind (one often swallowed up by the first, of course). As such, he looked at and analysed existing society and its tendencies. Therefore it cannot be said that Kropotkin based this analysis on "look[ing] backwards for change." Indeed, the opposite was obviously the case. He continually stressed that "the present tendency of humanity is to have the greatest possible variety of industries gathering in each country." [Op. Cit., pp. 25-6]

Kropotkin backed this claim, as all the claims in his work, with extensive empirical evidence and research. In other words, he clearly looked to the present for change, charting tendencies within modern society which pointed in a libertarian direction and backing up his arguments with extensive and recent research. To state otherwise simply shows an unfamiliarity with Kropotkin's work.

The obvious implication of Leninist comments arguments against anarchist ideas on industrial transformation after a revolution is that they think that a socialist society will basically be the same as capitalism, using the technology, industrial structure and industry developed under class society without change. After all, did Lenin not argue that "Socialism is nothing but the next step forward from state capitalist monopoly . . . Socialism is merely state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the whole people"? [The Threatening Catastrophe and how to avoid it, p. 37] Needless to say, capitalist industry, as Kropotkin was aware, has not developed neutrally nor purely because of technical needs. Rather it has been distorted by the twin requirements to maintain capitalist profits and power. The one of the first tasks of a social revolution will be to transform the industrial structure, not keep it as it is. You cannot use capitalist means for socialist ends. As Alexander Berkman correctly argued:

"The role of industrial decentralisation in the revolution is unfortunately too little appreciated. . . Most people are still in the thraldom of the Marxian dogma that centralisation is 'more efficient and economical.' They close their eyes to the fact that the alleged 'economy' is achieved at the cost of the workers' limb and life, that the 'efficiency' degrades him to a mere industrial cog, deadens his soul, kills his body. Furthermore, in a system of centralisation the administration of industry becomes constantly merged in fewer hands, producing a powerful bureaucracy of industrial overlords. It would indeed be the sheerest irony if the revolution were to aim at such a result. It would mean the creation of a new master class." [The ABC of Anarchism, pp. 80-1]

In other words, it would be a new bureaucracy exploiting and oppressing those who do the actual work -- as in private capitalism -- simply because capitalist economic structures are designed to empower the few over the many. Like the capitalist state, they cannot be used by the working class to achieve their liberation (they are not created for the mass participation that real socialism requires, quite the reverse in fact!). While we will "inherent" an industrial structure from capitalism it would be the greatest possible error to leave it unchanged and an even worse one to accelerate the processes by which capitalists maintain and increase their power (i.e. centralisation and concentration) in the name of "socialism."

One last factor should be mentioned with regards to the issue of decentralising production. Kropotkin, as well as thinking that "a country with no large factories to bring steel to a finished condition is doomed to be backward in all other industries," also saw that a society in revolution would be thrust back on its own resources as "[i]nternational commerce will come to a standstill" and the economy would be "paralysed." This would force a revolutionary people if "cut off from the world for a year or two by the supporters of middle-class rule" to "provide for itself, and to reorganise its production, so as satisfy its own needs. If it fails to do so, it is death. If it succeeds, it will revolutionise the economic life of the country." This would involve "the necessity of cultivating the soil, of combining agricultural production with industrial production in the suburbs of [cities] and its environs." Thus the danger of the initial isolation of a revolution was a factor in Kropotkin's ideas on this issue. [The Conquest of Bread, p. 190, p. 191, p. 192 and p. 191]

We are sorry to have laboured this point, but this issue is one which arises with depressing frequency in Marxist accounts of anarchism. It is best that we indicate that those who make the claim that anarchists seek "small scale" production geared for "small autonomous communities" simply show their ignorance of the source material. In actually, anarchists see production as being geared to whatever makes most social, economic and ecological sense. Some production and workplaces will be geared to the local commune, some will be geared to the district federation, some to the regional federation, and so on. It is for this reason anarchists support the federation of workers' associations as the means of combining local autonomy with the needs for co-ordination and joint activity. To claim otherwise is simply to misrepresent anarchist theory.

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