The following was written by Uriel Alexis, and included in the third issue of The New Leveller. For a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the diverse anarchist strategies could combine against our current class society. How every variation on the theme of “assert your freedom now,” from the anarcho-syndicalist direct action to Sam Konkin’s agorism, could combine in order to make the existing order ever less interesting and more impracticable. How we might eliminate political, economic and social privileges, while also promoting mutual aid among human beings.
It might look a little complicated to reconcile the specific goals of anarcho-syndicalists, collectivist anarchists, anarcho-communists and individualist anarchists – especially with those last two. However, I believe there’s more common ground than conflict between these schools, and the institutions they wish to develop can be complementary to one another. I will seek to outline here how anarchists can form a coherent coalition to overthrow the current statist-capitalist system.
I will begin with the institutions proposed by individualist anarchists in the mutualist tradition, since they are the ones I am most intimately familiar with. The central idea of mutualism is to establish the control of the productive process by workers through the widespread dispersion of capital in society. Proudhon held that every individual should own a means of production, individually or collectively with others by contract, and Kevin Carson outlined in Homebrew Industrial Revolution some of the ways in which current desktop production technologies and hobby material can help accomplish this ideal.
It’s not hard to imagine how the current monopoly capitalism, – increasingly bureaucratic, hierarchical and centralized, relying on state intervention to keep competitors out of the market, – creates serious incentives for people to look for more and more ways to get out of the crushing routine of wage slavery. A brief investigation of the lifestyles of the average metropolitan inhabitant will show people want something more.
Thus, one can imagine that more and more people will seek to acquire some personal means of production. In the beginning this may be individualist anarchists committed to the cause, but then others without any ideological affiliation will follow, only seeking more independence. Technologies such as the personal computer, 3D printers and CNC tools, increasingly more accessible, can help a lot, but a good old garden in any piece of land one can get is enough to begin with.
These independent workers will initially produce to the general market, for sure. But the general market is subject to government taxation, a spoliation of their work just as much as the monopolist profit, and it is in the interest of these revolutionaries to subvert this state of affairs. An ingenious recent crypto-anarchist contribution, virtual crypto-currencies, can come to their aid in this regard. These independent producers can form mutual aid and commerce networks, exchanging their products through bitcoins (or any other currency, who knows, maybe a labor bitnote?), that are resistant to regulation. As long as all transactions be made inside the network and with virtual currencies, it is impossible to track them, regulate them or even tax them.
Such a network of independent producers establishes yet another incentive: bringing more producers into the network. The more products and services can be offered inside the network, the less dependent on the state-dominated formal economy (in Konkin’s terms, the “white” and “pink” markets) producers are. How to do this? Once again mutualist ideas come to our aid: the establishment of a mutual bank, as proposed by Proudhon and William Greene, which lends capital with almost zero interest (or at least infinitely smaller than those of the current bank cartel) through virtual currencies. Such a bank would be able to finance the acquisition of means of production by an even greater share of the population disgruntled with the current economic system.
With the growth of the producer’s network and the mutual trust relations promoted by the mutual bank, a truly revolutionary potential is unleashed. Increasingly more complex production processes can be organized through cooperatives, P2P projects, and other kinds of collaboration. This makes the network more and more independent from the state-dominated formal economy we live under today. As this network gets stronger and more resilient, more goods may be created inside of it, such as schools, aid to people in hardship, medical treatment and collective transportation.
So far I have described a way to begin a parallel economy inside the current economy, as defended by mutualists and agorists. Let’s now add a little spice from other anarchist schools.
Anarcho-syndicalists defend the establishment of a worker’s democratic self-managed workplace, to be achieved through direct action and solidarity among the working classes. We can see clearly how the independent producers’ network described above would have a huge space for the establishment of trade unions and decentralized federations through cooperatives. But let’s examine the possibility of, through trade unions in the formal economy, bring the current corporations to worker’s control of production.
Following the Wobblies’ direct action tactics, in their classic pamphlet How to Fire Your Boss, workers in the most diverse industries can use direct and decentralized organizations, gain a huge bargaining power in the face of these industries’ management. The greater such bargaining power, the closer to the democratic self-management ideal they are. The constant disruptions in these industries’ productivity will systematically hurt the capitalist profit, and if they are sufficiently unpredictable and concerted, they will have little effect on workers, even taking into consideration the probable state intervention on behalf of the capitalist by the police.
An effect of this disruption in production (and the consequent decrease in the market value of the company) may be the gradual take over, by workers individually or as a collective, of the involved companies’ shares in stock exchanges. Such a stock purchase would provide more and more control over the workplace, and could be funded through the mutual banks described above.
Once a certain workplace had completely come under worker’s direct self-management, its products can be exchanged inside the network of independent producers on a mutual basis. This would greatly add to the stability and to the welfare of all inside the network, since a large quantity of people are now connected. We can see now that mutualist and anarcho-syndicalists can work together against the state and capitalism, achieving not only the goals they share, but also their more specific aims. Let’s try to expand this to include some more anarchist schools.
Collectivist anarchism, heavily connected with the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin, defends a form of social organization much like a society organized around the trade unions described above. If these unions adopted a wage policy (or, more properly speaking, a division of production) based on the quantity of labor performed by each of its members, possibly through the labor bitnotes accepted by the whole network of independent producers, it would be simple to organize collectivist anarchist communes. I imagine that such communes would decentralized societies, located around the unionized industries, with the relevant social organizations being all of collective nature. Several of these communes, also connected to the market through the network of independent producers, could coordinate to supply their members with products and services that were not available locally.
Another possible organization for these communes would be around the principles of anarcho-communism, whose main theorist Peter Kropotkin defended the end of wages and a division of the products of labor according to the individual necessities instead of the quantity of labor. For this, it would suffice that the unions abolished payments and the use of any currency, and that communal distribution systems were created.
In the economic sense, the anarcho-communist societies would be outside the network of independent producers, since there would be no exchanges even in crypto-currencies. But certainly they would be connected by ties of trust and mutual aid. For example, the network could supply products and services for free through those members that so wished.
Other models for integrating anarchist institutions and communities, similar to those just described, can be developed in order to harmonize with the specific interests of green anarchists, anarcho-naturists and, who knows, maybe even anarcho-primitivists!
In conclusion, I would like to include one last thought, from a classical liberal with serious anarchist tendencies, Gustave de Molinari. As this intricate network of producers and independent communities were simultaneously developed by the anarchists’ direct actions, it would ever more be at the capitalist state’s gunpoint and at odds with its armed forces. The 20th century has shown us what states are capable of when promoting horror and violence. It’s not hard to imagine that this revolutionary network would need protection. Molinari proposed that the services of protections and conflict resolution be provided by independent producers, and not by a monopolist institution like the state. Surely our network of independent producers could include people interested in providing these services. Also, several kinds of decentralized and community organizations of protections and conflict resolution could emerge in the collectivist anarchist and anarcho-communist communes. This collaboration between the communes and the market of independent producers would create a powerful bulwark against the lethal dangers of the state.
In conclusion, my central point here was that anarchists from every school can unite into a coherent coalition. Through concrete actions derived from their own traditions, they can advance both their common causes of overthrowing statist-capitalist domination and their specific causes, in the most genuine spirit of mutual aid.
I myself am preparing a sustainable community project, and mining some bitcoins,. I look forward to collaborating with you all!
 a great description of such a society is the book The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin