Can Anarchism and “Anarcho”-Capitalism co-exist?

Q:
Okay, so I’ve spent the weekend educating myself on what people are calling Left Wing or Classical Anarchism. It’s been an interesting ride on Youtube, and I’ve been enjoying it. But what I’m not seeing here, and correct me if I’m wrong, is a reason that Right leaning Anarcho Capitalism couldn’t co-exist within the classical anarchist schema or vice versa. I think for the most part, these competing philosophies reconcile themselves pretty well with each other. What am I missing?

A:
There are a few good videos on YouTube about this. I recommend Anarchopac’s channel, anything with Chomsky…but other than that it seems to mainly be horrible robotic sounding audiobooks read by Microsoft SAM and people who have opposing beliefs, explaining what they think they know about our views. A lot of what I’ve seen on YouTube about it is loaded with misconceptions and a lot of them have an agenda to present anything to do with Communism in a bad light. If you can tolerate the robotic audiobooks, listen to some Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman and Rudolf Rocker books. Or just actually read books by those people, like in the olden days when people read books.

Anarchism is opposed to certain things that “Anarcho”-Capitalists are not opposed to. For example, we’re against rulers, against hierarchy – but Capitalists are in favour. They seem to want society to be structured like a pyramid and for it to be necessary for people to try to climb over each other to reach the top. Maybe they don’t want it to be like that, but they believe that human interaction must necessarily, naturally happen like that. We have a different view inspired by Kropotkin, that actually cooperation is more of a defining characteristic of humanity than competition.

“Anarcho”-Capitalists also seem to believe, strangely, that Capitalism is the driving force of human progress and innovation. They believe that competition is the harbinger of technological advancement. We think it’s more about sharing knowledge ideas and that if a high standard of education was accessible by all, and if those people put their heads together, there would be even more technological advancement and innovation.

They believe that resources are scarce and that there’s a need for us to compete for them, like animals seem to compete for resources. But we believe that resources are not really scarce, they just seem scarce because the money you need to gain access to things in a Capitalist economy is concentrated into the hands of a relatively few people. There are more houses than there are people who need houses and a fuck tonne of food is just thrown away.

Money is power and it seems like the Capitalist drive for profit and accumulation will always lead to a centralization of power. But Anarchism is opposed to the centralization of power. We want power dissolved, collectivized! With everyone becoming master of their own destiny.

Obviously An-ARCH-ism is opposed to hierarchy, to rulers, to illegitimate claims to authority. But Capitalists advocate hierarchy. They want private owners of property to be able to dictate the pecking order of the people who actually make use of it. But we’re also against private property, although that’s not as scary as it sounds!

We understand private property to refer generally to an ownership claim to something you didn’t create, you don’t use and you don’t need – in a lot of cases, people own private property without ever actually going to it. It’s something that you claim to own and you either exclude others from using it or you let others access it for a price. For example, somebody who owns 3 houses rents two of them out or leaves them empty and sleeps well at night because they have the security of having those property assets. The houses might be in different locations and they might not even ever visit the buildings they “own”, as other people can be paid to deal with maintenance etc.

Somebody who owns a factory or two can either employ people to make money for them or close it down and leave it on their books as a property asset. But they don’t work in the factory, they don’t even ever have to go to the factory as everything can be done by employees. That’s the kind of property we oppose, rather than say your home or possessions that you use, the things you work to produce or the things you actually need. But “Anarcho”-Capitalists don’t oppose these absent property claims.

I mentioned that we oppose illegitimate claims to authority – implying that some claims to authority could be legitimate. Bakunin said something along the lines of, for problems with your boots you consult the boot maker. That just seems obvious, if somebody is AN authority on a topic, you’re probably going to want to do what they say. But if somebody claims to be IN authority and expects you to do what they say, and they can’t demonstrate that they’re AN authority on what they’re talking about, you’ll probably reject their claim to authority. I think everyone has probably at some time encountered a manager or supervisor who has no idea what they’re talking about.

A Capitalist economic system of any kind is always going to have private property, which inevitably leads to this hierarchy with the owners at the top and the management chain becoming like a de facto state, veryone else scrambling for the highest places below that. There will always be inequality in Capitalism. You have to ‘capitalize’ on any advantages you might have over other people.

I don’t see how Anarchism as we understand it is at all reconcilable with “Anarcho”-Capitalism. If they were anti-statists that would be necessary but not enough to call them Anarchists. But they’re not even anti-statists as they just want the bosses to replace the state.

When talking about the good things they mistakenly attribute to Capitalism, like food and the internet, they say “look at what capitalism has given us”. But when talking about all the really bad shit that comes along with Capitalism they say “but we’ve never had REAL capitalism!” They say that for Capitalism to REALLY be Capitalism, it has to be unrestricted by state interference.

If I don’t like Capitalism when it is restricted, surely I’m going to like it less, not more, if it were to be unrestricted!?

The Anarchist FAQ on http://www.infosop.org is brilliant and does have a whole section on this, you should check it out: http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQSectionF

[JF]

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The state is not the problem. The state is a problem.

Q
So are you guys not fans of any forms of anarchism?

A
We’re all Anarchists. We’re fans of all forms of Anarchism I think. But “Anarcho”-Capitalism is not a form of Anarchism.

Q
The state is really the problem though. How do you see an anarchist society combatting issues like murder, robbery, etc? Also, what do you think is fundamentally wrong with an-cap?

A
I think the state is a problem…
Organized religion, the state and capitalism all involve people deferring responsibility for their fate to an imagined “higher” being instead of looking to themselves and each other. If we dismantled the state and capitalism could continue, the capitalists would just take the place of the state. And when the state and private sector become the same thing, owned by the same group – that’s fascism. I actually don’t think capitalism could continue to exist without the state though. Capitalism is private ownership for profit and private ownership is when you claim property rights over something you didn’t produce and don’t need to use. It involves excluding others from access to what they need and even to what they produce.

Private ownership is also sometimes called absent ownership, because a factory owner rarely even goes to the factories he owns, if ever. It’s the same for a landlord who owns multiple houses and charges others rent to live in them. Without the state, would you keep paying rent to someone who needs one more house like a beach needs more sand? Would you keep working and allowing someone else to take a chunk of the value of the product of your labour, just because they think they own your workplace, having bought it with what they’ve taken from others? I wouldn’t. I think most people wouldn’t. Without the threat of state violence to protect an absent property claim, I just don’t see how that would work.

An Anarchist society would encounter issues like murder and robbery, of course. There are always going to be people like that in the world unfortunately. It’s a cliche but the simple answer is that some people do like to steal or even to kill and that’s exactly why we need Anarchism – so we can stop giving those people the power and money to carry out those desires.

Anarchism would address the economic and structural issues that lead people to acts of desperation. Robbery is more prevalent the more unequal the society, so addressing inequality by opening up more opportunities for people and allowing them to retain the full value of the product of their work collectively would be a sensible approach. By this I mean that the workers in a factory should own the factory and own all that they produce between them. They shouldn’t have to pay tax if they don’t want to and they shouldn’t receive just a portion of what they make as a wage, they should get all of it. If you and I work to produce something, we both own it. If there were 500 other people involved in manufacturing a fuck tonne of something delicious, then we all own it.

It makes no difference to me whether things are owned by the state or a capitalist private owner, because neither represent or include me. Either way I don’t own shit. But with collective ownership, everybody in the collective has a stake in the ownership. Even better would be common ownership, everybody has a stake because everybody contributes something to society. This makes theft slightly more difficult – how do you steal what already belongs to you or what would be freely given to you if you needed it?

We wouldn’t want to force everybody into equal poverty like in Soviet Russia…we’d just like to create a society with a healthier balance between competition and cooperation – people working cooperatively/communally because they see the benefit of it, not because they’re told or forced to. In a capitalist economy, the point is kind of to capitalize on others, to take advantage of whatever and whoever you can to get ahead. It works because people don’t feel like they need each other, they just need to be able to pay each other. The fantasy is that I can be rude to the waiter because I’m a paying customer and he needs to keep his job. The reality is that while I still get my food, it might have spit in it. So in Capitalism but not in reality is it of benefit for some to view themselves as being above others.

[JF]