Best examples of anarchist economic theory and proposals

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klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
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Jul 29 2018 22:57

This is from SPGB/WSM type perspective but I actually think these folks have really put good work and time into trying to think things through in some cases more than contemporary anarchists have:

http://mailstrom.blogspot.com/2012/02/socialist-blueprint-part-1.html
http://mailstrom.blogspot.com/2012/02/socialist-blueprint-part-2.html

Quote:
The above is a re-edited collection of posts on the discussion website RevLeft from Robin Cox of the World In Common group.
Talisa
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Jul 22 2018 03:56

Good thread. I've noticed in past libcom discussions, a couple people saying that anarchism (at least in its communist form) cannot have an economic system, because economics is about managing scarce resources and communism is the abolition of scarcity. Therefore, if coming from an anarcho-communist perspective, we should never speak of anarchist economics.

To me it seems like a bad idea. It's already hard enough to communicate anarchist views to people who don't yet agree. If someone is curious about anarchist economics and we have to say "Actually there will be no economics" we just will confuse them, and we make anarchism seem unrealistic.

Also, I don't even know if I agree with the premise. Scarce resources is just a fact of life, communism or not.

Talisa
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Jul 22 2018 03:57

double post

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
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Jul 23 2018 15:42

my whole point in this thread is helping us develop a more complete understanding of what was attempted in the past, and why it may have failed, and of basic models / vision to explain to everyday people. thanks for your comments Talisa.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 24 2018 06:27

"... is helping us develop a more complete understanding of what was attempted in the past, and why it may have failed..."

On my regular internet travels to various American 'progressive' websites i frequently come across articles and comments that are very sympathetic to co-operatives.

I find any criticism of them falls on deaf ears although i keep reminding them that they are not some sort of abstract theoretical critiques but we have near-on 300 years of empirical evidence to study on why they have either failed to bring socialism any closer or supplant the prevailing version of capitalism and remain on the fringes of capitalism, supplying a niche market.

Advocates of coops appear blind because within us all there is the desire to be our own boss, even though it means that the hardest task-masters will be ourselves. ( Also the most demanding employer is frequently the self-made person)

Nevertheless, there exists this romantic emotional attachment to creating and running a co-op that defies any challenge. There may be other reasons for the defensive attitudes but no matter how comradely i counter the enthusiasm for co-ops, in many cases, it becomes treated as a personal affront to their integrity.

Mike Harman
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Jul 24 2018 07:33

Quite old now but we did a long exchange with one of the proponents of 'parecon' nearly a decade ago: http://libcom.org/library/participatory-society-or-libertarian-communism

I think parecon is an example of a bad (almost dystopian) approach to imagining a future society.

The more interesting thing for me is people trying to think through the first six weeks or six months of an insurrection and how existing infrastructure could or could not be used. This is what a lot of Kropotkin's writing was about at the time - questions like how to feed revolutionary Paris in 1905 or whatever.

OOTW on logistics:

https://libcom.org/blog/disaster-communism-part-3-logistics-repurposing-bricolage-22052014

AWW's Insurrection and Production: https://libcom.org/blog/insurrection-production-29082016

ajjohnstone
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Jul 24 2018 07:51

Michael Albert of Parecon has a new book out
Practical Utopia

I'll let him blow his own horn

https://zcomm.org/zblogs/practical-utopia/

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Jul 25 2018 18:18
ajjohnstone wrote:
I find any criticism of them falls on deaf ears although i keep reminding them that they are not some sort of abstract theoretical critiques but we have near-on 300 years of empirical evidence to study on why they have either failed to bring socialism any closer or supplant the prevailing version of capitalism and remain on the fringes of capitalism, supplying a niche market.

I find that when folks on the Left (or in general) defend firmly entrenched beliefs - such as those advocates of co-operatives - it is often because they have invested so much into it, whether doing research and being convinced that it provides the best path to socialism, or being involved with it on a practical level, or some combination of both. That's how they develop an emotional attachment to such things, which as you say, "defies any challenge". They haven't invested in nearly as much into the history of the labor and socialist movement. Unfortunately, it's not enough to simply remind them of the nearly "300 years of empirical evidence". What I don't see enough from anarchist/libertarian socialists are attempts to develop new ways to encourage people to engage with that history. I mean, it's nice to have critiques of such things, but in addition to that, there is a need to find ways to connect people to that history, and in which how that history is presented isn't an afterthought.

Other defenses of co-ops I've come across involves accusations of sectarianism and "we can do both" type arguments that totally misses the point.

ajjohnstone wrote:
Michael Albert of Parecon has a new book out
Practical Utopia

I'll let him blow his own horn

Ever since that debate with libcom, I've almost completely forgotten about him and there's rarely a day when the "practical utopia" of parecon have crossed my mind.

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Jul 25 2018 19:04

After reviewing this thread, I've noticed no one has provided 'Ideas on Social Organisation', a pamphlet written by James Guillaume. It is definitely not the "best", far from it, but it is one of the earliest economic proposals. I think Guillaume later abandoned this - even collectivism altogether - probably because of how certain aspects of it clearly didn't make sense as well as critiques from anarchist communists.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 26 2018 01:31

"...there is a need to find ways to connect people to that history, and in which how that history is presented isn't an afterthought..."

On my exchanges on those US "progressive" websites, i usually offer a link to Eugene Debs, simply to recall a bit of historical perspective for liberals and leftists since he has been moreorless deleted from history, as has most labour events with the exception of the occasional book by Zinn and others.

Yesterday in a comment I linked to https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/s7h546 since it was a new bit of info for me.

Mike Harman
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Jul 26 2018 05:07

With co-ops I think the discussion gets held up on a couple of things.

Co-ops, for some particular types of industry, can be a way for particular groups of workers to improve their conditions under capitalism (either more control over organisation of work, or higher wages, or both). Similarly housing co-ops work for some people to lower the cost of housing compared to private renting or the often inaccessible routes of social housing or getting an individual mortgage.

But they're not always that, here's the Economist of all places singing the praises of co-ops as a way to avoid class conflict: http://libcom.org/library/co-operatives-all-together noting that there are plenty of co-ops with high wage differentials, temporary staff with no stake in the co-op etc.

Then there's co-ops as a way to transform the economy in some kind of socialist direction, I think this comes out of seeing capital as something which involves individual capitalists (who are not present in a co-op) rather than a social relation based on wage labour, the commodity form, private property. Co-ops do nothing to disrupt the latter - the firm is the private property of the co-op members, it pays wages, produces commodities, competes with other firms, same as any other firm.

At a similar time to the Parecon exchange, we also did this one on co-ops, haven't re-read it for a long time, but fwiw: https://libcom.org/library/co-ops-or-conflicts

The Labour Party is floating co-ops recently, so this is becoming a current discussion again in a way. The New Socialist is pro-Corbyn but tends to be a bit more critical than other places. I think the fact that the Labour Party is floating top-down implementation of co-ops to rescue the economy ought to be cautionary for people pushing them as somehow revolutionary:

https://newsocialist.org.uk/labours-alternative-models-of-ownership-report/

ajjohnstone
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Jul 26 2018 07:41

We forgot to mention former Conservative prime minister David Cameron's promotion of the co-op.

https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/cameron-announces-bill-consolidate-cooperatives-law/policy-and-politics/article/1113066

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Jul 30 2018 15:57

My own sketch of a vision:

Anarchists fight for a world where the community and workers manage social and economic life. We fight for this now but ultimately believe it will take a social revolution to win.

We propose working class neighbors and tenants create community unions to hold neighborhood meetings and fight for their needs. Neighborhood meetings should be open to every working class person who lives in the neighborhood. As struggle grows they would select delegates by lottery to community councils. This system of neighborhood meetings and community councils would propose solutions to current community issues and in the future would be the source of all policy and economic planning in each community. Each community would coordinate with every other community on a regional and global scale.

We believe groups of a cultural and social nature should similarly fight for their needs by forming unions to defend their interests. Women, people of color, LGBTQ, students and youth could also select delegates by lottery to community councils.

We propose working people create labor unions to fight for their interests. Workers can create committees that win coworkers over to fighting for their needs as a union. When strong, labor unions can call mass meetings of workers to decide on pressing issues in the struggle against their exploitation by bosses. As struggle grows workers in similar industries will see the need to form workers councils with each other in order to coordinate strikes but also seizing the means of production. We think such councils of workers unions in each industry should form cooperatives to ultimately manage production of public and consumer goods in accordance to the needs of community councils.

Each workers cooperative would be run democratically and operate according to a balanced division of labor. Workers cooperatives in productive, mixed, and service industries would select delegates by lottery to their respective councils. Production would be for direct use and distribution would be according to need. Centers for processing needs of the community and community stores would be run as service establishments. Such centers would prepare budgets for investment based on necessary vs optional plans in concert with workers and community councils.

During the transition to such a society there would be rationing according to what is socially possible but the goal would be to move to distribution according to needs as quickly as possible. Allocation of public and consumer goods would operate according to calculation in kind, that is measurement in real quantities. Markets and money prices would be replaced by a system of stock buffering and control to ensure against shortages of consumer goods. Needs would be calculated by direct records of demand from community stores and workers would supply according to pull production responding to consumption. Community councils could prioritize needs when goods are scare by needs testing, lottery, or a points system. All basic needs would be met through universal social services.