What do you think of libcom's introduction to the state?

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Steven.
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Sep 1 2012 11:46
Comrade Motopu wrote:
I like the article. I see that you don't want it to be too long. Maybe you could do another article on how states interact, or how their respective ruling classes interact and how this affects the working class in each state. One of the state's major functions is projecting its economic power globally, and this has been intertwined with military might, imperialism, and the extension of capitalist imperatives globally. Cooperation between ruling classes in different nation states, or competition between them can lead either to "comprador" classes controlling their own population for the benefit of themselves and a foreign capitalist class, or wars respectively (or other outcomes). Powerful states can use the WTO, IMF, World Bank to their advantage to open up states for firesales of public assets and so on.

I know this is a huge topic, but even just thinking about what role the U.S. and other countries play in stifling or distorting uprisings in the middle east that are in part against austerity and about class struggle, made me wonder if an intro to the state could not use a companion piece about the interaction of states.

hi, yes these are all good points. We are planning on adding future introductions covering in some way things like war/nationalism/geopolitics, but haven't figured out the best way of dividing things up yet.

Diggerlover wrote:
As of today, Fri 31 Aug 2012, I wouldn't change a thing. The writing explains things very clearly and coherently. I am continually amazed how difficult it is to write things that will be understood by "normal" people, but I think this is about the best durn'd handling of Anarchism you'll find anywhere. It is very succinct--brief, in fact--considering the amount of ground you've managed to cover in so few words. Usually, works of this kind are spoiled by endless rants, radical jargon, or just the author's sheer passion for the subject matter, but I think practically any reasonable reader could read and understand this "draft."

thanks very much for your kind words!

We will be incorporating some of the very helpful comments we have received here, but hopefully in a way which doesn't make it any longer or less cohesive, so the final version should read in pretty much the same way.

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Sep 1 2012 16:11

A couple of things have come to my mind, some of which other people have already touched on, to incorporate:
- the key defining feature of the state is the body of organised violence, not the lawmaking institutions, and importantly it is a body of organised violence controlled by a small number of people. We need to make this clear, if we are to say that a stateless world is possible, and what we propose as a model is not a statist model.
- We should make clear in the end when we talk about the new type of society, that in a society where the haves do not have to be protected from the have-nots that the state is unnecessary.

Kaze no Kae
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Sep 1 2012 17:38

Some bits are badly worded (the references to "the economy" are too ambiguous, a liberal reader would assume they were referring to the balanced economic interests of everyone in society rather than just those of the ruling class) and the bits on electoralism and "workers' states" are a bit simplified, but overall this is pretty good smile

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Sep 2 2012 18:30

I think this reads very well. The links for extended reading to expand points is good rather than being integrated into the main text. My only concern is the paragraph under State welfare:

‘This does not mean we oppose reforms as 'counter-revolutionary'. It just means that the state is not the engine for reform; we, the working class – and more specifically, our struggles – are.’

I think this reads like a later insertion to clarify the point. The same point however is well made as the piece progresses and I think the paragraph redundant and poorly expressed. (First ‘we’ means libcom, second ‘we, the working class’ means the working class - or playing devil’s advocate - libcom=the working class!)

I’d suggest deleting the above and in the next paragraph start with ‘So when our protests get to a point…’

Tulipan
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Sep 2 2012 18:37

We like your article. Unfortunately we were not able to read through all the comments here but we would like to put some additional information to this.

First of all, the state is a hierarchical and (in the modern ages) bureaucratic system of institutions. The government is only a (relatively small but important) part of the state. The state is disjointed from the population, which means that the average person is not a member of the state apparatus. Within the state, there is a strict division of labor. It is determined that which organ of the state and which person can do something and have to do something in different cases. Ordinary persons who do not belong to the state apparatus usually cannot do anything e.g. to solve social problems. For example, if there is a person, who is well-known gangster, you cannot stop or punish him; only the police can arrest him, only the judge can send him to prison and so on. Each person is alienated from the state, and the individuals, even the masses cannot directly influence the state, except maybe the case of high-level and widespread organization. The power of the state is the alienated power of the people. Similarly, politics of today is managing social issues in an alienated way, partly because they can be managed through the state. This hierarchical system makes the people passive and egocentric (or family-centric). This system seems to be the most effective, but only if the conscious level of the working class is low. The passivity of people is not only the result but also the condition of the proper operation of state. For example, when the Bolsheviks consolidated their power after the revolution in Russia, the party wanted to seize all initiation, and thus it suppressed the people’s initiative and their revolutionary feelings, see for example: The Unknown Revolution by Voline. We note that it was a historical process that the state gradually grabbed and centralized the social functions, see for example: Mutual Aid by Kropotkin. (This process was reversed by the revolution in Russia but then reintroduced and accelerated by the Bolsheviks’ state party).

In an anarcho-communist society, everyone could participate in the organization of social life, and because of the higher level of activity and consciousness, this society should be much more effective. Unlike in the current capitalist society, people would take the responsibility for each other, not just in the sense of sheer life but the general material and psychological well-being.

“this was not because Labor Party members or officials were necessarily bad people but because at the end of the day they were politicians whose principle task was to keep the UK economy competitive in the global market.”

Another reason is that they were in a top-position of a hierarchy, and therefore, similarly to Lenin and the Bolshevik leaders, their way of thinking was distorted.

MorphouBey
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Nov 27 2012 20:16

Steven's comment is, to my mind, key. (Steven. Sep 1 2012 19:11) The distinctive feature of the modern state is its organisation of violence and the creation or adoption of institutions to assist in enhancing the states capacity for meting violence. Other characteristics mentioned in the draft such as borders, defined jurisdiction, and so on are ephemeral and historical. Indeed modern states do not have borders and are not sovereign in the ordinary and traditional meanings of those terms. Insofar as states are some form of extortion racket backed by violence they serve particular interests while presenting themselves as essential public goods.

I would have thought, following this, a basic lib-com analysis and politics would, at minimum, be to endeavour not to reproduce the structuring of society through the organisation of permanent violence. Surely one of the lessons of 'successful' revolutionary movements is that the temporary resort to violence transformed into a permanent adoption of violence. The revolution, like Saturn, eats its own children. See Goya's "Saturn eating his child"

On the whole I agree with those previous posters who note that many of the key ideas are too vague and general and, ironically for an anarchist effort, tend to reproduce classic bourgeois concepts. We need to learn at least one thing from Marx : it is not enough to object to bourgeois political economy, one has to engage in a critique of political economy and transcend its bourgeois expression.

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Nov 29 2012 13:45
MorphouBey wrote:
I would have thought, following this, a basic lib-com analysis and politics would, at minimum, be to endeavour not to reproduce the structuring of society through the organisation of permanent violence. Surely one of the lessons of 'successful' revolutionary movements is that the temporary resort to violence transformed into a permanent adoption of violence. The revolution, like Saturn, eats its own children.

It's debatable whether the revolutionary violence was ever a "temporary resort" on the part of those who later implemented it as permanent. A Robespierre or a Lenin may say that their violence is merely temporary, but when it is organised in the same statified forms as permanent violence, there isn't any obvious reason to believe that this is anything more than rhetoric, or, at best, wishful thinking.

wojtek
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Dec 6 2012 17:19

I have the same reservations about libcom's, Solfed's and now Phil's argument that the welfare state was created solely to prevent revolution as davidbroder:

Quote:
davidborder wrote:

I think the explanation of what the Labour govt did post-1945 is more complicated than a ruling-class strategy .

For a start, that Quintin Hogg quote is wheeled out all the time in such discussions, but... how important was he, really? What threat of revolution was there, in fact?

Even if the welfare state did serve to pacify/integrate potential forces of rebellion, its coming-about is much more complicated than a matter of warding off revolution - e.g. mediated through the hopes of social change aroused by the war, the fact Labour had not 'betrayed' its electorate as spectacularly as it later would (or e.g. the SPD earlier had)...

Really it is a coming together of liberal bourgeois plans like Beveridge etc., who saw some need for a fit, healthy, reasonably quiescent population to keep the economy running and growing, plus the partial, distorted yet real way in which Labour expressed/channelled pressure from its supporters for reforms

http://libcom.org/forums/feedback-content/what-you-think-libcoms-introduction-state-27082012#comment-493210
Rarely does any historical event happen for just one reason.

How widespread was squatting by returning conscripts? Surely squatting would have constituted only a small part of the militant struggles at the time if revolution was on the cards? And if so why the omission of the others - lack of research?

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Dec 6 2012 17:01

Agree with wojtek. First of all, the welfare state did not appear, newborn, in the post-WW2 situation in 1945.

But more importantly, the development of the welfare state - i.e. the provision of health, education, pension and unemployment transfer payments, etc, - can be seen as an unfolding of the capitalist need to reduce living labour to labour power, or the labour commodification process. Capital pushes towards the creation of a labour market, where labour power can be purchased as a pure factor of production, divorced from all the messy needs of its production and reproduction. The cycle of capital's valorisation, seeks to expell the cycle of labour's reproduction from its process. It is more efficient for the costs of education and health to be socialised (in the capitalist sense of transferring to state responsibility) so that individual firms don't have to pay for the upkeep of their individual labour units.

Also, you could argue that the process of labour reproduction is irreducibly more political. Hence it makes sense to expell it from the labour market/wage relation as much as possible, as part of the capitalist separation of the political and economic spheres. With the additional benefit that this can also help the gendered appropriation of unpaid female labour in the reproduction sphere.

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Dec 6 2012 17:24

dp

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Dec 6 2012 17:14

To put it another way, whereas Radical Chains' notion of the prevention of communism, and Negri's notion of the crisis (or suspension) of the law of value, took the development of the welfare state as the political overriding or suppression/limitation of the law of value, I would argue that you could actually see the development of the welfare state as the unfolding development of the autonomy of the law of value. Perhaps counter-inituitive, I know.

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Dec 6 2012 17:54

Yeah, those are valid points. If you can think of a good way we can include that in our text please suggest some wording!

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Dec 6 2012 20:16

Hmm. Sorry, that just came off the top of my head. I'm still figuring out the implications tbh. Couldn't fix a textual presentation at this stage.

In terms of implications tho, if the social wage is not external to the labour commodity wage, but develops out of it, then any contradiction between the wage and the social wage is an internal, rather than external contradiction. Which means that the question of which between the capitalist and communist advocates of "basic income" are right, is settled definitively in favour of the former.

wojtek
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Dec 11 2012 18:40

The level of militancy at the time was very low in comparison to say '26, the 70s and 80s, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a reaction to nullify/ co-opt workers. According to Jim Frank's history of squatting From Frestonia to Belgravia and Dialect the occupation of disused military bases received widespread support and was tolerated by the government. It was only when squatting became explicity political with the Communist Party squatting the homes of rich people who had moved elsewhere during the war that Labour began to clamp down. I can't find any good reading material on the subject tbh.

wojtek
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Dec 12 2012 12:32

Here's a transcript of a great talk given by Paul Burnham on the squatting post-WW2:

The squatters of 1946 - Tenants’ History Conference, 17/10/2009

Some really interesting resources for further research as well!

Howard Webber - A domestic rebellion: The squatters' movement of 1946

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Jul 21 2016 22:35

admin: nonsensical post removed. Banned returning user re-banned

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Oct 1 2016 22:25

[not native english speaker here]

Hello everyone,

As I am making a video introduction to capitalism (ergo, state), I’m looking for the source of the Adam Smith quote, in plain text.

Quote:
Laws and government may be considered in this and indeed in every case as a combination of the rich to oppress the poor, and preserve to themselves the inequality of the goods which would otherwise be soon destroyed by the attacks of the poor, who if not hindered by the government would soon reduce the others to an equality with themselves by open violence.

It is also quoted by Howard Zinn.

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Zinn/BigGovernWhom_Zinn.html

It seems to came from his Lectures on Jurisprudence (aka Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arm) (1763)

The quotes with sources I stambled upon redirect to an 404 at oll.libertyfund.org.

http://www.solfed.org.uk/brighton/notes-on-the-violent-minority
https://freedomthistime.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/equality-of-opportunity-is-not-enough/

However, I don't find the quote in the versions of archive.org (1896 version) and oll.libertyfund.org (1869)

https://archive.org/stream/lecturesonjustic00smituoft#page/n7/mode/2up
http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/smith-lectures-on-justice-police-revenue-and-arms-1763/simple

So do anyone here know where this quote in context could be found?

Jara Handala
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Oct 9 2016 06:04

Jamie, the source of the quote is:
Adam Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence, R L Meek, D G Raphael & P G Stein (eds.), Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1978, p.208 [Glasgow Edition of the Works & Correspondence of Adam Smith, volume V]

Quote:
Laws and government may be considered in this and indeed in every case as a combination of the rich to oppress the poor, and preserve to themselves the inequality of the goods which would otherwise be soon destroyed by the attacks of the poor, who if not hindered by the government would soon reduce the others to an equality with themselves by open violence.

Those writers who don't give references, eh?

The front flap of the book explains that in 1958 a new set of student's notes of the lectures was discovered, augmenting the set published in 1896. (The Liberty Fund online edition you cite has a typo: publication wasn't "1869" - see pp.xv-xvi for how the notes were passed to the publisher in 1895.)

Problem solved. Hope the video making goes well.

seahorse
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Oct 9 2016 07:47
jamieguillaume wrote:
[not native english speaker here]

Hello everyone,

As I am making a video introduction to capitalism (ergo, state),

Will you post it to libcom when you're done? I'd love to see it. Unless you're doing it in a language I don't speak.

If it's not a hassle to remember, PM me the link when you're done. If you just post it I might miss it.

Best of luck!

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Oct 12 2016 21:22
Quote:
Will you post it to libcom when you're done?

I’m not familiar with libcom content creation, but yeah, why not.

Quote:
Unless you're doing it in a language I don't speak.

The video will be in french, probably with english subtitles.

Quote:
I'd love to see it. […] If it's not a hassle to remember, PM me the link when you're done. If you just post it I might miss it. Best of luck!

Thank you!

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Oct 12 2016 21:24
Jara Handala wrote:
Jamie, the source of the quote is:
Adam Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence, R L Meek, D G Raphael & P G Stein (eds.), Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1978, p.208 [Glasgow Edition of the Works & Correspondence of Adam Smith, volume V]

[…]

Those writers who don't give references, eh?

The front flap of the book explains that in 1958 a new set of student's notes of the lectures was discovered, augmenting the set published in 1896. (The Liberty Fund online edition you cite has a typo: publication wasn't "1869" - see pp.xv-xvi for how the notes were passed to the publisher in 1895.)

Wow thanks!