Charles demonstrates his usual, charitable style, in this interview and takes that extra step to try to communicate exactly where his position is coming from and why.
The topics covered range from the merits and demerits of Austrian Economics through Dialectical Anarchism and Radical Feminism to Charles’s editorial collaboration with fellow C4SS Board Member, Gary Chartier, on the book Markets Not Capitalism.
For your whetted appetite:
Daily Bell: You recently co-edited a book with Gary Chartier (Markets Not Capitalism) – tell us about it.
Charles W. Johnson: Markets Not Capitalism is a collection of essays and articles that Gary and I had been working on for the past couple years, and which Autonomedia (graciously, and courageously) agreed to publish in November of last year. The book is intended as an extended introduction to the left-wing market Anarchist tradition – to the work of writers who defend market relationships, and who envision free markets, individual ownership and voluntary exchange as a central part of peaceful, uncontrolled economic life – but who also reject the common statist claim that market relationships must or should or will be accompanied by capitalistic patterns of ownership – by large-scale concentration of wealth or capital goods or social power in the hands of a select class of employers, landlords, or financial institutions. …
Daily Bell: Explain your views about unions. How do these fit into your leftist perspectives generally?
Charles W. Johnson: I think that unions, properly understood, would be an essential part of a flourishing freed market. This view seems odd, if not downright bizarre, to a lot of conventionally pro-capitalist libertarians. But I think that we need to look carefully at what a union is here and what roles labor associations have historically served. It’s true that unions today are politically privileged in various ways, closely connected with the regulatory state, and usually dependent on the political patronage of welfare state liberals and social-democratic politicians. But that’s because unions have been politically captured over the past century, not because unions per se are dependent on political privilege. People have a right to associate with each other, and they have a right to quit, either individually or en masse, and they have a right to pool their resources with each other in order to drive a harder bargain with the boss, or simply to gain ownership of their own shops, and develop alternative livelihoods that don’t depend on having any employer at all. If you have all that, you have the core activities of a labor union, and I don’t think there’s any reason why a fully freed market would lack, or would punish, people trying to work together with each other in these ways. …
Daily Bell: Are you a Rothbardian anarchist?
Charles W. Johnson: I am not a Rothbardian. I’ve read Rothbard and I think that he has some important insights to contribute. But my anarchism is much more rooted in the work of an earlier generation of individualist Anarchists, like Tucker and Spooner, than it is in 20th century “anarcho-capitalism.” Partly because I am not a pro-capitalist, and I didn’t come to anarchism through pro-capitalist libertarianism, but rather through social anarchism and the radical left. But for other reasons, as well.