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(en) Freedom 6402 25 Jan, 2003 - More on markets and money

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 4 Feb 2003 04:56:04 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Individualists and communist anarchists both want to end 
capitalism and create a society in which people can lead their 
own lives. So Joe Peacott is right to argue that we can't apply 
the drawbacks of actually existing capitalism wholesale to 
mutualism ('Anarchist economics', 11th January). But the 
basic points I raised in my article (same page) apply to any 
system based on the market mechanism. Indeed, Proudhon 
himself raised some of the problems and proposed solutions 
to them. I just tried to show that it's unrealistic merely to say 
that the 'market mechanism' will solve every problem of 
economic decision-making.
Joe says that "some form of exchange is essential to human 
society". But human society existed for thousands of years 
without exchange and without a market. Even if Joe only 
means that exchange is essential for modern human society, I 
disagree. I think human society could be based on sharing. In 
fact I think sharing is more important than exchange in 
making a society fully human.
A libertarian communist society would need alternative 
institutions and attitudes if it was going to work, just like a 
mutualist society would. We must try to create these 
alternatives now, no matter how imperfect they are. In other 
words, Joe is wrong to say I wrote off co-operatives and their 
history. I just said that, by themselves, they won't abolish 
capitalism or the state. Joe's support for occupations suggests 
that he agrees.
When he argues that anarchists should support and encourage 
working class people to occupy their workplaces and farms, I 
concur. But this is at odds with the traditional mutualist 
approach, which stresses competition rather than 
expropriation as the means of abolishing capitalism (the 
communist anarchist position).
To reiterate what I think: anarchists should support 
co-operatives and other alternative economic arrangements. 
But this should be a complement to direct action and the 
building of working class fighting organisations, such as 
community and workplace assemblies and federations.
Joe's right to say that much of the trade union movement is 
hardly revolutionary and supports authoritarian ideologies. 
Perhaps this is because anarchists have usually ignored that 
movement's libertarian potential? In many different countries 
and at different times, anarchists have succeeded in imbuing 
a libertarian spirit in numerous unions. Even many British 
trade unions once favoured workers' self-management over 
nationalisation. And libertarian unions like the Spanish CNT 
and Italian USI created wide scale libertarian experiments 
which still inspire - experiments that have brought us much 
closer to an anarchist society than the much smaller 
mutualist ones.
With the failure of capitalism and authoritarian socialism, 
anarchists should be working to spread their ideas. One of the 
key ways of inspiring people to change society as a whole is 
for them to organise to resist oppression and exploitation 
where they're affected by it. By all means let's support 
co-operatives, but we must never forget that by themselves 
they won't create an anarchist society. Only a mass 
movement which builds the new world while fighting the old 
can do that. This movement must be rooted in direct action 
and solidarity in our communities and workplaces, not at the 
margins of the economy, trying to survive in the capitalist 
Iain McKay

"Market mechanisms are essential to a working system of 
exchange. And some form of exchange is essential to human 
society. Price may be an imperfect basis for decision-making, 
but it sure as hell beats the dictates of committees and 
planners." So says Joe Peacott. But it depends what the 
committees are set up to achieve, by whom and whether 
they're subject to immediate recall under a system of 
self-management. Maybe this is what Joe meant to say.
Planning is absolutely essential to any society, particularly 
one as complex as ours is at present, and will be in the 
'anarchist' future. Who does the planning and under what 
form of mandate is the point. Market mechanisms (a 
euphemistic term beloved of capitalist obscurantists) aren't 
essential, though private barter-type arrangements may be 
made. Planning for equitable provision is.
I'm somewhat surprised that nobody in this discussion has yet 
mentioned the participatory economics project (Parecon). If 
we're trying to convince people of the validity of our 
alternatives - by hell we've been trying long enough with little 
international success - we need to get down to the brass tacks 
of planning, production, remuneration and distribution. The 
tendency to throw the mantra 'libertarian communism' into 
any debate doesn't suffice as an economic argument. It needs 
defining in order to be convincing.
Roy Emery
South West Solidarity - SolFed
Visit www.southwestsolidarity.org.uk

When people talk about anarchist money, are they talking 
about real money which is worth something and has value, or 
just about some sort of pretend money, like the toy money 
children play with? Or do they mean some sort of accounting 
system for materials and the physical production of goods, 
which isn't necessarily money at all? If they're talking about 
real money which is worth something and has value, which in 
the real world is the sort people who want money usually want 
rather than mickey mouse money, then in reality this money 
must be capable of buying things like land, resources and 
goods, and in so doing it must be capable of commanding the 
labour of others.
Money with any value implies the existence of property 
relations. Property relations involve a process of enclosure 
and commodification, mutual coercion and extortion, 
accumulation and monopoly by some, with dispossession of 
others. At the end of the day, these relations involve some 
form of socially imposed scarcity and alienated labour, 
otherwise the money wouldn't be able to buy anything of use.
Real money systems in practice only 'work' on the basis of 
some people accumulating lots of money while the rest don't 
have enough money, or none at all. If, for instance, everyone 
were to have lots of money there'd be hyper-inflation and 
money would end up worthless. The image of German children 
playing with piles of worthless banknotes in the early 1920s 
springs to mind. Wouldn't anarcho-money go the same way? 
Will workers be any less dissatisfied with their wages under 
It's a reality that competitive market economics is in itself a 
form of civil war that ends up with an elite accumulating 
much of the wealth and the majority of the world's population 
being impoverished and dispossessed. It's also a reality that, 
however temporarily preferable they may be to the 
mainstream system, the majority of radical mercantilist 
alternatives, like co-ops and LET schemes, fail.
Of those which survive, many have to cling on desperately or 
they have to become more and more like an ordinary 
commercial business and cease to be any kind of alternative. 
As a libertarian communist, I'd much prefer to struggle for 
alternatives involving free production and distribution, even 
if a bit chaotic, than be stuck in dependence on the misery of 
Paul Petard

Money after the revolution? Who knows? I don't. The 
important thing is to make our relationships as free from 
coercion as possible, and the only time we can do it now. Let 
the free society see to itself ( it will, whether we like it or 
not). Perhaps it'll find money or a market that's compatible 
with liberty. To worry about the subject is a one-way ticket to 
Johnny M.

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