A reply to Kevin Carson from RAC
Kevin Carson responded to an article in Ideas and Action, the webzine of Workers Solidarity Alliance criticizing C4ss. I am member of WSA and have contributed to Ideas and Action and plan to regularly so I thought I would respond to Carson. I should make clear that I have never been a fan of Carson or C4ss. I have major disagreements with both, some of which I will elaborate on in this article.
It’s honestly hard to know where to start because Carson’s response is barely able to muster up a coherent retort to any of the points made in the Ideas and Action piece. Most of his response is just rambling that has no hope of actually being understandable. I’m just not sure what I am suppose to do with two paragraphs of rambling about “capital outputs”, a term I have only ever heard Carson use even though I regularly study economics and could not find any references to when I googled. The best I can do is separate the actually coherent arguments from the rest and respond to those.
The title of Carson’s response is “In Which Anarcho-Syndicalists Discover C4ss”. This implies that us dinosaur leftists just discovered the cutting edge, libertarian work of the future that is C4ss. This isn’t true. Many of us have known about C4ss for a long time, especially myself (I have read a good portion of Carson’s work and way to many C4ss articles), which lead to some of us wanting to publish a formal critique of their politics.
Carson complains a number of times that the authors of the article misrepresent himself and C4ss. He said that the article’s assertion that he believed that the disintegration of IP laws would lead to the downfall of capitalism was a miscatigorization. He then went on to argue that exact point. He also complains about how the I and A piece says that C4ss attempts to synthesize Tucker-esk libertarian socialism, Marxist critique of political economy, and Austrian economics. He says this is also a miscatigorization. He, however, then later admits that most of the people in C4ss probably believe something in that ball park. This leads me to believe that Carson either doesn’t know what a miscatigorization is, sucks at spotting them, or wrote a knee jerk emotional response to an article that is heavily critical of something he is a part of.
Now am I am going to address some of the more concrete assertions made by Carson.
Long Live The Old Left:
Carson regularly calls WSA the old left, apparently because it’s impossible to be an Anarcho-syndcialist without being an old left relic. He argues that Anarcho-syndicalism is a worker-centric ideology that is content to sit around and wait for 1936 to happen once again. I find it funny that this is how Carson categorizes Anarcho-syndicalist politics and that he riddled his response piece with complaints about misrepresentation at the same time.
To be clear Anarcho-syndcialism is not “worker-centric”. Anarcho-syndicalism was actually created out of a break with the mainstream of the syndicalist movement and it’s idea that workers organizing to defeat capitalism is the central struggle to be waged. Anarcho-syndicalists adapted an Anarchist approach to syndicalism which sought to develop struggles against all forms of oppression, economic or not.
Carson, like the late Murray Bookchin (another relic of the old left), seems to reject worker based organization. He seems to think that this kind of organizing is confined to periods before the technologically endowed 21st century. However, the level of technology that modern capitalism produced does not offset the basic essence of the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism has always been defined by huge bursts of technological innovation because capitalism constantly unleashes the forces of production. Capitalism, however, also needs to dispossess the working class of the means of production and extract the surplus it produces in order to accumulate profits. As such, workers in capitalist society are the oppressed subject of that society, having, as Marx’s old slogan goes, nothing to lose but their chains. If we want to change society part of this is going to be workers organizing for a better world which gives credence to the idea that the kind of economic reformism advocated by Carson just is not going to cut it.
The Nature Of Austrian Anti-Capitalism:
Carson also argues in his response that if the market would be truly freed from state intervention then capitalism would no longer exist. This is the point that many at C4ss regularly emphasize. This was he focal point of Carson’s work “The Iron Fist Behind The Invisible Hand”. The argument essentially goes like this: Capitalism is defined by state intervention into the market economy, without it capitalism would fall apart and would necessarily have to give way to a more free flowing market based system. The problem with this as I see it is that it doesn’t escape the pitfalls of neoclassical and Austrian analysis. The basis of those ideas is that the market is a self correcting agency and by interfering the government stops that natural flow. Markets are not however, by their nature, harmonious and monopoly breaking institutions. Part of the failure of Carson and C4ss to realize this is their analysis of capitalism which makes no effort to look at it’s internal laws such as the law of value, the law of the tenancy of the rate of profit to fall, commodity exchange, accumulation, ect.
Firstly, markets are not self-regulating, they need state institutions that set and enforce property relations in order to function. C4ss proponents may counter by saying that black and grey markets are counter-examples to the rule of markets being regulated by states, however, black markets exist in the state’s shadow, they are not independent of states as without states there would be no regulations for the black market to subvert. Grey markets can still be subject to state regulation because they aren’t black markets. Markets aren’t harmonious either. A usual occurrence within markets is for firms to enter them and then build up monopolies through competition expelling all other firms.
ALL HAIL THE DINO LEFT:
Carson largely failed to respond to the I and A piece in question. Much of what he said was erroneous babbling, crying straw-man, attacking the number of annotations the article provided of all things, and pushing the same lame C4ss Austrian-Anti-capitalism with a touch of misrepresenting Anarcho-syndicalism. To be clear this is not an official WSA response. I wrote this on my own initiative to give my own thoughts.
In conclusion, I’m a proud Dinosaur leftist. If that is Carson’s word for “people with politics that are grounded in a tenable anti-capitalist analysis rather than clumsy mashing of opposing analyses from other schools”.