my criticism of mutualism and it's proponents

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Sep 14 2019 17:31
my criticism of mutualism and it's proponents

This thread is spun off from the June 2016 thread on labor notes started by FS98. I wanted to respond to some comments.

anarcho wrote:
If workers sell/exchange the product of their labour to other workers then it is not capitalism -- as that needs workers to sell the labour itself to an owner. That does not mean it is the best system (I agree with Kropotkin) it is just to be clear that it is a form of socialism.

When re reading this thread and similar ones that have popped up every now and then, it seems as though we are in need of a critique of mutualism presented in the most simplest manner. In An Anarchist FAQ, you'll find a quite generic definition of socialism as meaning the end of exploitation of man by man, and in which producers control the product of their labour. Thus all branches of anarchism, including individualism, fall under the broad umbrella of socialism. I disagree with this definition, as I find it lacking meaningfulness, and as stemming from an inadequate analysis of capitalism.

The fact of the matter is that in a capitalist society, everyone needs something to sell in order to survive. For most of humanity, that something is their labour power, or their ability to work, and the reason for that lies precisely in the fact that most of them lack control of any land or means of production to work with to produce something other than their labour power. Even if someone is in possession of some resource with which they can produce something to sell, if they can't compete with other sellers of the same product, they may still very well resort to selling their labour power. That is the essence of capitalism, and inquiries by defenders of capitalism about what does or does not count as 'means of production' (as an attempt to expose the supposed inconsistency or contradiction of the communist position) is totally irrelevant.

At best, the vision espoused in mutualism is one of political revolution, not a social revolution as in communist anarchism. In the former [mutualism], the popular masses will establish community controlled institutions - replacing the state - which will outlaw the buying and selling of labour power but the essence of capitalism will remain here. It is hard to discern how a mutualist society will constitute a distinct social order from a capitalist one from the writings of anarcho and others who have come to it's defense. There aren't any other details as to how mutualism will negate the capitalist mode of production.

Aside from outlawing the buying and selling of labour power, mutualism will ensure everyone possesses control of some means of production - either through individual ownership or co-operatives. There will somehow be enforcement of use rights over conventional property rights as we have now.

Anarcho wrote:
jef costello wrote:
It seems to me that if you have currency and a market you allow accumulation (and speculation, investment etc) which creates an unequal society very quickly.

Accumulation of what? Means of production? Nope. As for "investment", are you suggesting a communist economy would not invest resources in producing new means of production? As for "unequal", sure, but in terms of some people producing more than others and so having a better income -- hardly the same as living off the unpaid labour of others.

A common response that is evident of a blindspot of mutualists: that means of production are also products of labour. The distinction between 'means of production' and 'products of labour' are irrelevant in communist anarchism. In a communist society, people will commit time and effort making products they have collectively decided is needed for the benefit of all, including new and improved tools and technology. Older resources or means of production will be expended, but there is no continuation of capitalist economics as you will see in mutualism. Quite frankly, the prominence of a hard distinction between the 'means of production' and 'products of labour' in non-communist anarchisms, have led those anarchists to conceive of absurd and contradictory societal arrangements as in mutualism and collectivism.

I will probably come back to this later.