Laurance Labadie’s “Objections to Communism”

Objections to Communism

  1. It places the inefficient on par with the efficient, the lazy with the industrious, and the thrifty with the extravagant.
  2. Therefore it places a premium on idleness and lacks spur to industry and thrift.
  3. It makes the celebate contribute for the support of the children of his procreative brother.
  4. It divides responsibility and dampens individual initiative.
  5. It disregards the fact that self interest is the paramount urge in life.
  6. It has failed in practice numerous times.
  7. It necessitates majority rule if not dictatorship.
  8. It fails to give play to difference of opinion.
  9. The ultimate effect of raising the wellbeing of the inferior at the cost of the superior is a gradual deterioration of the race.
  10. To have superior abilities will not result in any advantage but the disadvantage of waste of body and brain with remuneration.
  11. Communism is therefore based on sacrifice.
  12. What is the sympathetic attitude of the less able when they accept life by doles from the able?
  13. Where is the feeling of generosity upon which communism rests, in those who continually let his fellow rob themselves for their support?
  14. So while communism is based on sacrifice of self how does this sacrifice apply to those recipients of alms?
  15. It is fail to assume that communism appeals to the inefficient, lazy, and wasteful, and to those exploited under the present system of industry and also to the man whose heart runs away with his head; but generally speaking, communism may be called a “slave” morality.
  16. Communism disregards the natural relation between effort and benefit and the natural relation between parents and the welfare of their progeny—the two great laws in the absense of either of which organic evolution would have been impossible [1].
  17. It is against all the observed tendencies of men about us.
  18. While men are sociable, generous, and kind, they prefer to be so from purely voluntary motives not enforced to be so from a sense of duty.
  19. What kind of sleight of hand administration will change the generally observed self interest of men to one of altruism and fellow-feeling?
  20. If communism denies each man an equal opportunity to use natural resources for his benefit, it is necessarily authoritarian.
  21. Communism is a retrogression because to the general tendency of progress toward individual freedom it is a step backward toward a condition of status with the community as a master.
  22. Communism necessitates a bureaucracy tending toward centralization.
  23. Efficiency and lack of extravagance must be prevented by authority.
  24. A zealous man cannot see the inadequacies and impossibilities of a system to which he is an adherent.
  25. The question is how far can a man be prevented from using his faculties for his own advantage and be compelled to use them for the advantage of others [2]?
  26. The social question may be attacked in two ways: By considering the individual to have positive duties to society and compelling him to perform these duties; and by considering the individual to be not obliged to society except he refrain from invasive acts.
  27. The last attitude grants the maximum amount of freedom to each individual compatible with like freedom to all others, each individual may cooperate with any he sees fit but will not be compelled to cooperate, all his acts are to be performed at his own cost and his mistakes and the results are not to be shared by society at large.
  28. Most communist-anarchists are those who desire security and still not lose their freedom and not understanding economies and economic processes and realizing that liberty solves the economic problem for everyone capable of supporting himself, subscribe to an authoritarian scheme without realizing it. Communism appeals to simple minds.
  29. Most communist-anarchists are followers of Kropotkine, who showed that mutual aid was a factor in evolution and who tried, like Marx, to conceive a society in which mutual aid was the sole factor in its maintenance, but whereas Marx saw that authority was necessary Kropotkine thought that men could iron out their differences by voluntarily agreeing to maintain a standard of “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs.” Kropotkine’s kindness and humanity ran away with his head [3]. Kropotkine, not being an economist and not understanding that liberty does solve the economic problem necessarily resorted to his evolutionary finding for conceiving a society where all, even the unfit, would be taken care of, but instead of leaving this as a voluntary deed of men he esteemed it to be a duty. 
  • 1. The em dash is written as “,- -” in the original document.
  • 2. The original end punctuation is a period. A question mark seems to make more sense.
  • 3. “Kropotkine”—Labadie’s unique take on Kropotkin (Кропо́ткин)—is mistakenly spelled as non-possessive.

Commentary – Eric Fleischmann

I’ve said it before and will say again that “this is not about me,” but in this archival project I was bound to find something to which I greatly objected. I therefore choose to make it known that this piece—probably written in the early to mid 1930s and archived in the Joseph A. Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan Library—is probably my least favorite thing Labadie has written, at least that I’ve read so far. I myself am a critic, albeit a friendly one, of communism—particularly in terms of collective action & economic calculation problems—and might agree with Labadie’s complaints that it often “necessitates a bureaucracy tending toward centralization” and that it is, at least in some forms, “a retrogression because to the general tendency of progress toward individual freedom it is a step backward toward a condition of status with the community as a master.” I don’t even take major issue—at least on the surface—with Labadie’s complaints about how, under communism, the celebate must support the procreative, the productive must support the unproductive, and individuals are “stopped from using his faculties for his own advantage” and are “compelled to use them for the advantage of others,” as I believe that the essential networks of mutual aid (à la “Kroptokine”) and gift giving—what David Graeber calls the “communism of everyday life”—must emerge from, as Labadie says, “voluntary motives.” No, it is the rhetoric (both implicit and explicit) of superiors and inferiors that I complain reveals a deeply ugly side to Labadie’s thought.

This language would seem to emerge from Labadie’s Nietzchean influence, rendered fairly explicitly with his statement “communism may be called a ‘slave’ morality.” Friedrich Nietzsche hopes to overcome such slave morality (specifically that of Christianity) and bring about the existence of the Übermensch—a being that neither follows nor leads but rather stands above the previous human race in their ability to define their own meaning and morality. I believe it is this sort of thinking that is at the core of statements by Labadie like:“The ultimate effect of raising the wellbeing of the inferior at the cost of the superior is a gradual deterioration of the race” and “To have superior abilities [under communism] will not result in any advantage but the disadvantage of waste of body and brain with remuneration.” Unfortunately what this ends up coming out as is more like something from Ayn Rand—who Chris Matthew Sciabarra argues was indeed inspired by Nietzsche (and Labadie disliked greatly) [1].

One of Rand’s central critiques of collective ideologies like communism is that they force ‘better men’—usually capitalists, sometimes artists—to squash their individuality and become hosts to supposedly parasitic humans without skill or capital of their own. She writes how “[t]hroughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision” [2]. And in Atlas Shrugged this can be seen taken to its extreme in John Galt and other capitalists exiting (with a nice amount of money and capital) the economy instead of sharing it (albeit forcibly); the underlying idea being that they are the betters of humanity and progress does not come from the collective effort of workers but rather springs from the minds and pockets of the owning class. This economic ‘great man theory’ is usually the rhetoric of corporate capitalism and descendant from that of aristocracy and monarchism, but Labadie tosses something similar to it into his anti-capitalist criticisms of communism with disturbing ease. In another piece that can be found in the Laurance Labadie Archival Project, Labadie accuses Rand of a “complete filching of the ideas of [Max] Stirner re self-interest” and points out that “if one subtracts this ‘pure’ Stirnerism from her philosophy, little remains except the reactionary economics of the erstwhile status quo.” I would not go so far as to say that Labadie filches the ideas of Nietzche, but it does seem to me that if one subtracts the Nietzschean elements from this piece, the “reactionary” rhetoric “of the erstwhile status quo” can be glimpsed.

  1. See Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.
  2. See For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.
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