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Director’s Report: August 2014

August has been wonderfully productive month for C4SS. We have published more commentaries, features, book reviews, blog posts, and translations, across the board and by a wide margin, than previous months. And we even, finally, published our version of Colin Ward’s edited Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow by Pyotr Kropotkin – complete with an original introduction by Kevin Carson.

All of this output is the result of our love for the ideas and our desire to see them realized, but this level of output can only be attributed to the generosity and support of our donors. We are thankful for every penny and bitcoin decimal. Your enthusiasm and support is our proof that anarchism is not only possible and practical, but humbling and emboldening.

If C4SS, as an organization and an idea, is something you like having around or you would like to see it do more things (like funding more studies, publishing more books, helping with travel expenses for writers to speak at events, updating the youtube graphics, etc), then please donate $5 today.

What will $5 a month get you from C4SS? Well let’s see,

For the month of August, C4SS published:

29 Commentaries (5 more than July)
14 Features (4 more than July),
Weekly Abolitionists (1 more than July),
Life, Love and Liberty (2 more than July),
Weekly Libertarian Leftist Reviews (1 more than July),
Missing Commas,
1 Republished Book: Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow,
3 Book Reviews (2 more than July), and
19 C4SS Media uploads (7 more than July) to the C4SS youtube channel.

And, thanks to the dedication of our Media Coordinators, C4SS translated and published:

Italian translations,
Spanish translations,
26 Portuguese translations!

I would also like to take a moment to point of that Brazil really likes C4SS. Supporters in Brazil visit our site more than supporters any other country, besides the US, and, in only two months since we reported the C4SS Portuguese facebook reaching 1,000 “likes”, it has already surpassed 2,000!

Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow

It took more than a couple of months, but we were finally able to complete the C4SS Edition of Kropotkin’s Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow. This is a special edition that includes an introduction by Kevin Carson, a running extended commentary by Colin Ward and rounded out with Murray Bookchin’s essay Towards a Liberatory Technology.

Pyotr Kropotkin and Colin Ward have long been important figures to the C4SS approach and articulation of a stateless society. Showcasing the ability of individuals to work together in such a way as to provide abundance and autonomy, without the connected nightmares of centralized governance or centralized production, is at the heart of both their work and our very own Kevin Carson. As Carson describes,

I read Kropotkin’s original version, the Ward commentaries, and Bookchin’s essay all around roughly the same time, along with other writings by Ward on neighborhood workshops as a means of communal self-provisioning by the unemployed and underemployed, and similar ideas by Karl Hess in his and Morris’s book Neighborhood Government. Their ideas all clicked together for me and produced the conceptual framework that I expressed first in Chapter 14 of my book Organization Theory, and then grew into a book of its own with the publication of The Homebrew Industrial Revolution.

Autonomy is regarded as possible within all anarchist conversations, but, for some, this possibility is at the expense of technologically produced abundance. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to make the sacrificial concession that reduced autonomy is the price of industrial capacity and capital abundance. Freed Market Anti-capitalists or Laissez-faire Socialists see no necessary conflict between autonomy or abundance; both, in the absence of a state, can be mutually determining, supporting or enhancing. It is this spirit of universal autonomy and abundance that we are proud to offer you Kropotkin’s Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow.

Please Welcome Our Newest Intern

We are four months into our test of a paid internship program. Cory Massimino has been doing amazing things with C4SS and we look forward to helping his career along. Since we began talking about an intern program for C4SS we have received notes from interested supporters curious about how they might apply. We are still figuring out what such a program requires, how best to support and prepare our interns for the curious world of writing about anarchism for a general audience. To help us answer these questions we have included Daniel Pryor to our roster of interns. Pryor’s internship officially begins September 1, but he has already begun writing for C4SS. His “The Culture of Anarchism” gives a taste of what we can expect form his work,

The anarchist culture of scepticism towards power structures is key to human flourishing. On an individual level, this manifests in critically examining our everyday habits. Samuel Beckett reminds us that “the pernicious devotion of habit paralyses our attention, drugs those handmaidens of perception whose co-operation is not absolutely essential”. Our unwavering collective devotion to entrenched power structures paralyses society, and blinds us to the evils that plague it. Embrace change and the possibility it provides.

It is our hope that we will have the bugs worked out and the rubrics in place to make our internship program supportive, challenging and fruitful. We are currently limited by funding, but we feel confident that we can sustain, at current donation levels, two interns a year. We hope to begin deciding on our next intern December 1, 2014. But you don’t have to wait, you can always start writing for C4SS now. If you are interested in participating in this program, please contact us:

  • General inquiries: admin@c4ss.org
  • Media inquiries: media@c4ss.org

Book Reviews

August was a great month for books; we were able to publish three original reviews:

1. Joel Schlosberg reviewed Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book just in time for Guardians of the Galaxy. Schlosberg has a slow-burn writing style like a fuse attached to a powder keg. It takes its time, bringing all the background details into focus, before concluding with lines like,

The shift of power back towards artists paralleled the shift towards viable post-mass-market economic alternatives. When in the 1980s the main point of sale of comics moved from newsstands to specialty stores, the decreasing capital-intensiveness of distribution opened the field for creator-controlled independents, many formed by Marvel walkouts who took their experience with them.

and,

The reverberations from Lee’s quickly-forgotten Comix Book, a fleeting effort treating underground comix just like any other fad to be co-opted, shows the disruptive power of alternatives. The contributing underground artists demanded and got rights to their work as a condition of their participation, leading artists at Marvel to agitate for creator rights as well.

2. Cory Massimino, C4SS’s first intern, offered a review of Markets Not Capitalism. Massimino’s review uses selections with themes that challenge libertarian preconceptions about what is or is not possible with a freed market critique of political economy.

For example:

  • Massimino begins with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s “General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century” and his discussion of the liberatory effects of universal competition.
  • Next is Gary Chartier’s “Advocates of Freed Markets Should Oppose Capitalism”. Chartier disentangles the three dominate referents of the term “Capitalism” and offers a case for why advocates of freed markets are, or ought to be, thorough anti-capitalists.
  • Roderick Long’s “A Plea for Public Property” considers the validity and necessity of public property for the defense of individual autonomy and community development.
  • Kevin Carson’s classic “Economic Calculation in the Corporate Commonwealth” applies the classic Austrian calculation argument, with withering effect, against the “corporate commonwealth”.
  • Murray Rothbard’s challenging “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” asks the question, “what is to be done with all this stolen property known as state complex industry and compromised education?” Rothbard answers, in the absence of clear and identifiable beneficiaries, “it belongs to the workers and the students – the first or discernible homesteaders of the property.”
  • Jeremy Weiland’s radical “Let the Free Market Eat the Rich: Economic Entropy as Revolutionary Redistribution” thesis is that mass accumulation of wealth can be described as a byproduct of centralized monopoly authority which subsidizes its maintenance, liability and protection against the centrifugal tendencies of freed markets or the spontaneous institutional arrangements possible in a stateless society.
  • Charles Johnson’s “Scratching By” calls into question the state-based progressive plans designed to ameliorate poverty while maintaining the very barriers to subsistence and raised access to capital that created the poverty in the first place.
  • Massimino concludes with Roderick Long’s “Platonic Productivity”. Long challenges some of the accepted notions within certain circles of Austrian economic theory regarding “marginal revenue product” and the power of social change given a passive social context.

Massimino’s parthian shot is a quote by Long,

Once we see why the productivity theory of wages, though correct as far as it goes, goes less far than its proponents often suppose, it does not seem implausible to suppose that this sexism plays some role in explaining the wage gap, and such sexism needs to be combated… But that’s no reason to gripe about “market failure.” Such failure is merely our failure. Instead, we need to fight the power – peacefully, but not quietly.

3. Kevin Carson, while doing research for his latest book The Desktop Regulatory State, received a review copy of New Forms of Worker Organization from PM Press. New Forms… begins by detailing the historical and radical differences between domesticated “Wagner-style business unions” and the horizontal direct action union “descendants of the socialist and anarchist labor formations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” Carson comments,

Since then, employers have decided the New Deal labor accord no longer serves their interests. They have instead shifted to a labor model based on union-busting, offshoring and precarious labor (part-timers and temporary workers). Outside of a handful of dying industries, the New Deal model is increasingly irrelevant to today’s workers.

But the pre-Wagner model is becoming quite relevant. It includes such things as minority unionism (in which a minority of workers acts as a union without certification, as the Jimmy Johns workers did), which former IWW Secretary-Treasurer Alexis Buss wrote extensively about in her “Minority Report” columns. It includes the forms of on-the-job direct action described in the pamphlet “How to Fire Your Boss [PDF]” (all of which are prohibited during the duration of union contracts under the Wagner model): slowdowns, sick-ins, random unannounced one-day wildcat strikes, working to rule, “good work” strikes and (perhaps most relevant) “open mouth sabotage,” which is simply public whistleblowing about internal working conditions and the kinds of shoddy goods and services that result from management policy.

Krugman on Libertarianism?

Paul Krugman, rightly, regards the various strands of libertarianism as a challenge worthy of comment. Unfortunately his ready response is dismissal; libertarianism is fanciful or utopian. Joel Schlosberg and David D’Amato both responded to Krugman for C4SS.

Schlosberg points out Krugman’s unfamiliarity not only of libertarian literature on various subjects like pollution, but of allied corporate reformers as well:

Krugman waves a single word at libertarian economics like a vampire hunter’s crucifix: “phosphorous”. (Not “phlogiston“?) The chemical’s contamination of Lake Erie is treated as a prime example of a problem which self-evidently can be fixed only by the regulatory apparatus of a benevolent government. … No mention is made of the decades of substantial libertarian literature dealing with pollution, much of it specifically about water pollution. … Krugman’s entire rejoinder to Milton Friedman’s proposal that tort law could effectively replace the regulatory state as a check on corporate power (only one of enough such examples to fill a book) — and his only actual attempt at addressing free-market proposals at all — is: “Really?” Really. Never mind that exactly that approach has been championed by no less of a foe of corporate power than Ralph Nader, much to the chagrin of more statist leftists like Doug Henwood, who chides Nader that tort “[l]itigation is an individualized solution to broad economic and social conflicts whose proper arena is politics, not the courtroom.”

D’Amato focuses on Krugman’s unbalanced suspicion of business yet resilient faith in bureaucrats. Suspicion, perhaps even uncharitable suspicion, is appropriate towards all with access to power:

Paul Krugman, unconsciously I’m sure, makes an interesting move whenever he articulates his view of what it is that drives the acts of government agents as opposed to market actors. When he’s talking about the latter group, he assumes, perhaps quite rightly, that they are motivated by unalloyed self-interest, by greed and the bottom line, regardless of who gets trampled on, whether it means polluting cherished, shared natural resources or hawking unsafe products to consumers. Well, all right, so when we’re considering the motivations of DC bureaucrats, the same assumptions ought to hold, right? Not exactly. You see, in the Krugman worldview, there is just no reason to fear that the public choice scholars actually made a meaningful contribution to our understanding of political machinations, that we should look at politics “without romance” and consider the motivations of the powerful in government just as we do the powerful in business. Never mind the work of people like Butler Shaffer, who has shown that big business has long agitated for regulation as a way “to obtain benefits it has been unable to secure by its own efforts.” For a firm or any other market actor, lack of flexibility and responsiveness to changing conditions means entropy.

Ferguson: The Tactics of Occupation

As a participant in the Occupy movement, I was able to experience, up close and personal, the default positions of the American Police State: deference and zero-discretion. This is what Kevin Carson refers to as “the Prussianization of American Culture,”

One of the peculiarities of the increasingly militarized culture of Prussia/Germany under Bismarck’s reich was that civilians became second-class citizens. It was common practice for citizens to step off the sidewalk and into the gutter to make way for anyone in uniform. We’re seeing the same tendency in the United States, as the respective rights of officials and ordinary citizens becomes increasingly a matter of status or caste rather than universal law.

In Tulsa, OK, November 2, 2011, the Tulsa PD pepper-sprayed and arrested 10 Occupiers after 1. being made aware that this measured and strategic act of disobedience was civil, 2. making the Occupiers, attendant Media and on-lookers aware that the Officers had two options available to them: citation or arrest, and 3. deploying over 50 Officers to make it abundantly clear what the rules of the game were. Where did they get all of these Officers to accomplish such a task? The training academy. They looked upon that event as a training opportunity in how to deal with a disaffected population.

This was my experience, but it doesn’t even register when compared to Ferguson. Needless to say, we at C4SS have a lot to say on the situation specifically and in general:

Grant Mincy offer a good summation of the situation,

No more can we look to vertical power structures. We need a polycentric approach. How liberating it will be to embrace the idea that we can manage ourselves! Is this not the very essence of the “hands up, don’t shoot!” movement? Is it not the idea that social power is the answer to police violence, racism within the justice system and class warfare? I think it is, we are looking at systems of power, noting how they are all related and seeking our individual and collective liberation. As we walk into this period of revolution, once we really start talking to one another, we will scale these problems up to all institutions — damn right a change is going to come!

Left Wing Individualism

David D’Amato wrote a wonderful feature detailing the historical tradition he calls Left Wing Individualism and its importance to us now,

The individualist anarchists were sticklers about consistency; if labor was made to come under the law of competition, of supply and demand, then so too should capital. As Schuster points out, the “scientific anarchism” of people like Benjamin Tucker thus “did not appeal to the Capitalist because it demanded not ‘rugged individualism’ but universal individualism” (emphasis added). Because the individualists regarded them as the proximate results of coercive privilege, rent, interest, and profit — the “trinity of usury” — were treated as akin to taxes, allowing the owners of capital the stolen difference between prices under a regime of privilege and prices as they would be under true, open competition.

Agri-terrorism

Kevin Carson’s “Agri-Terrorists Accuse Seed Bank of Agri-Terrorism” has done very well at calling attention to yet another method of the state for the defense of privileged Big Agibusiness,

Since their beginnings, the USDA and state departments of agriculture have heavily subsidized, and acted as the enforcement arm of, the corporate agribusiness crime syndicate, terrorizing people who presume to feed themselves without paying tribute to their corporate crime lords. If, as the late Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler said, the US Marines were the overseas strongarm operation for the big US banks, then the USDA and Pennsylvania DA are strongarm operations for Monsanto, Cargill and ADM.

Carson followed up his op-ed with a feature, “Seed Libraries: Treat Law as Damage, Route Around It,” where he discusses what can be done to route around this damage now that it has been identified,

Lobbying against draconian copyright laws like the IP chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and ACTA has done a lot of good, but encryption, proxies and improvements in file-sharing technology have done far more. Before ACTA had even come to a vote, several Firefox extensions became available that can simply bypass domain names seized by the federal government and go straight to their numeric IP address. That’s how people access Wikileaks’ various national sites and mirrors around the world.

In other words, to paraphrase a famous quote, treat the law as damage and route around it.

We Haven’t Forgotten

We still have our David Graeber Symposium on Debt: the first 5,000 years. There is only one article to be finished; it should be ready soon. Thank you for your patience.

Please Support Today!

All of this work is only sustainable through your support. If you think the various political and economic debates around the world are enhanced by the addition of left libertarian market anarchist, freed market anti-capitalist or laissez faire socialist solutions, challenges, provocations or participation, please donate $5, today. Keep C4SS going and growing.

ALL the best!

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist