Help save Laughing Horse books

7 05 2011

Without your help, the collective-run Laughing Horse books in Portland, Oregan may soon be forced to close its doors.

Laughing Horse books is a independent bookstore, music venue and meeting space for radicals and activists with a history that goes back a quarter of a century.  To lose Laughing Horse Books would be the equivalent of losing a limb for the activists in the area.

Shawn Wilbur, Anarchist and Mutualist who has worked hard to translate and research early Mutualist thought writes:

The people and projects who stand to lose, in terms of finances, time, morale, etc., are primarily allied, radical projects who can’t afford losses and activists in exactly the same position.

It doesn’t matter where you are in this crazy world, if you count yourself an Anarchist, this is your chance to act in solidarity and live up to all the talk of mutual aid that goes on within these circles.

Whether it’s a 10, 5 or a few dollars, anything will help keep the creditors from the door.

Donate by heading over to Shawn’s blog and using the “ChipIn” widget in the far-right column or head directly to the ChipIn website and
spread the word on Facebook, on Blogs, on Forums, on Twitter.

Check out Laughing Horse books on Facebook and Myspace.





My current heading

8 09 2009

Totality, self-sacrifice and demand that the individual conform to the stereotype associated with the arbitrary concept of the nation has been, and will remain the rallying call of politicians who wield the power granted to them by the state.  They seek a freedom to remake society in their vision, one which respects no individual and one which is to be obtained upon theft, murder and a illusion of dependency.  This is the state and this is what I oppose.

The words of Mussolini are the words of the authoritarian and sum up, in their entirety, the philosophy that surrounds the state and all authoritarian ideologies;

Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity. It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts[sic]

The rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual. And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values – interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people.

No individuals or groups (political parties, cultural associations, economic unions, social classes) outside the State. Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism to which unity within the State (which amalgamates classes into a single economic and ethical reality) is unknown, and which sees in history nothing but the class struggle. Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State.”

In the words of Mussolini himself, the state demands the power, the freedom to coerce which manifests itself in such actions as murder and theft.  They demand total obedience, total subjugation and total unity.  My Anarchism, is a reaction against this, against the absurdity of the modern state in its desire to achieve totality, where value is recognised but then denied as the modern state pursues its utopia.

The state envisions a formation of society where each of us diligently obeys the law as made by parliament, where there is no crime as a result of our diligence, no aggression and where we each accept our place in our society.  It is the dream of the statist to remake society under their particular vision, and for this reason every so often groups and organisations get together in an attempt to take control of the power granted by the state; to become a government.  They wish to play God and the pillars of the state provide these people with a platform from where they can propel their particular vision onto the rest of society.  If they win, them and their strongest supporters are awarded with privilege, while the holy land promised to the rest of us as a trade off is always just out of sight.  More hospitals, safer streets, better healthcare, lower taxes, a cleaner environment, greener economy — it never arrives and instead we are greeted with further problems.

Absolutes are the domain of the statist, and the pursuit of them, their domain which defines the statist and sets them apart.  Their authority, once they attain it, is unquestionable — divine.  The institution that grants them their authority is the will of the people and we are told that our will which supports their authority has only one choice and that one choice is never to be question.  But it is never our will that puts these others into office.  We are never consulted.  We are given a form that may or may not influence the outcome in order to placate us.  The vision of the statist is equally set in stone, entirely because they are correct.  They have power; they must be right.  They are the way, the truth and the light.

Nationalism, statism, corporatism, hierarchy, wage, war and welfare slavery all produce the most devastating results upon each of us, every day.  This is because they are used to justify the very existence of the state, its supporters and the utopian vision that drives them.  We tell ourselves fibs and tall tales to convince ourselves that this man or group of men shall bring the moon to the earth and give us that utopia that we are promised.  But it never happens.  These people seek to create this utopian world through destruction, as their concepts recognise, fundamentally, no value in human life because they can’t.  The state bombs and maims, the state creates dependencies where none has to be, the state robs and plunders and the state pollutes.  We exist to assist, and to sacrifice ourselves if necessary.  We are a cog in the machine, a means to an end that are only valuable so long as we are supporting their vision.  Any ideology that ceases to recognise value in human life can no longer justify itself.  This is what we know from thousands of years of experimentation.  This is what we know to be nihilism.

How then, must we oppose this state of affairs?  Revolution and rebellion provide us with the avenue for change; to recognise that the status quo is not static, but subject to change just as society is fluid and dynamic.  The pursuit of power, of rulership, cannot be justified because it refuses to acknowledge value in human existence.  Legislation may outlaw murder, but murder itself is not evil when employed in the service of the state, when it is organised, legalised and projected in the service of the state under the term we know as ‘war’.  However, if we are to assert that there is value in human life then the freedom to murder claimed by the state cannot exist.  There is a limit; murder is impossible.  If an individual, conscious that value exists, commits murder, they must in turn accept that their own lives are forfeit.  To refuse the sacrifice is to asser that the murders actions were justified, that they should be free to murder.  It asserts that there is no value in life.  An Anarchist revolution cannot be based on the premise that murder — aggression — is justifiable or we make a transition from rebellious revolutionary, to the oppressor — the very thing we are attempting to resist.  Of course there is self-defence, but even self defence is proportionate to the level of aggression we are confronted with or we in turn become murders and are guilty of aggression; we do not respond to a harmless drunk throwing punches by shooting him dead with a shotgun.  Likewise, in the context of revolutionary action, the state is in a constant state of aggression against its people in one manner or another — the different schools of Anarchism recognise different elements off this aggression and expound its effects among society.

Logically, it may be said that the existence of this aggression may justify an Anarchist to self defence, but it does not justify any action as it is subject to the principle of proportionality as well as other considerations which must be taken into account.  If a government by an act of state declares war on a area populated with Anarchist communities; they have every right to resist.  If a government declares war on Anarchists within its cities such as what has occurred in Athens, it is reasonable that they have a right to resist.  And in the past they have.  But what about the mundane, daily operations of government and state that, though undoubtedly work to coerce each and every one of us in our own lives?  This is aggression and wouldn’t it justify violence?

Assuming for a moment that such a problem is not subject to tactical necessity, a violent uprising, tilts upon the edge of the nihilism as it rests upon its own aggression to ‘push back’ against that which occurs in every day lives.  People are fallible, introducing an element of violence to seek change is no different to trusting a small group of fallible people with managing the affairs and achieving a utopian vision for all the other equally fallible people — absurd.  Violent revolutionary action in response to nothing more than the daily aggression we experience from the state cannot be a workable option for change and is the same motivation that lead the early Anarchists to terrorism.  Violence, inevitably invalidates everything the revolution stands to protect, it is forced to negate its core principles in order to successfully achieves its goals.  Whereas violence in response to a positive act by the government of the day may be just, violence in response to the everyday aggression can not be legitimatised as an equilibrium is upset and means are subjugated to ends in a utilitarian measure that will work to ensure a final victory.  But then given the nature of time and society, ends are not absolutes in themselves; there will always been new, unforeseen agitations that arise after a revolution simply because we can not know what world will be created once a revolution has run its course.  Violence will in turn be employed against these agitations because it is convenient and we will spiral into ever increasing amounts of violence.  We have slipped and fallen well beyond the point where violence is employed in self defence to where violence as a means for change that recognises no value.  Violent revolutions therefore sacrifice everything for expediency on nothing but faith.  We would take up the nihilism of our masters, inevitably becoming what we despise.

Then we approach a second consideration that must be made and while it is considerably weaker, it is still relevant.  This considerations concerns whether those who constitute the ranks of the political class are all guilty of the same crime.  True enough, they are all equally evil for parasitically profiting from the systematic violence and coercion permitted by the state at the expense of everyone who is productive in society, but many oppressors are simply going through the motions of a life they were prepared for by centuries of tradition.  Intent must play a role.  The crime of many statists is being born into a methodology that does not recognise the liberty to be found in value.  Not every statist in the world is a Cheney or Rumsfield who sought to bring death to thousands of people outside America’s borders and even, some may argue, domestically.  Many, I would assert, are like Obama, whose own actions betray a certain level hypocrisy, who set out with the best intentions and instead arrive at the gates of hell.  All too often it is in their official capacity that these people are criminal — even those who outright lobby for government issued subsidies to their industries are guilty.  As a person, they are empathetic, have concerns that probably mirror those of most people and who recycle.  Yet this does not alleviate the fact that Obama is a politician, seeks out rulership over others and will inevitably commit atrocities in his time as president, as all those at the helm of the state do.  But doesn’t the difference between motive and intent renders his crimes distinct from those of Cheney and Rumsfield?

Then there is the question about reformism; if murder cannot be justified and so violent revolution therefore off the table, then what about the prospects for the overtaking of the government by a party seeking to destroy the state from the inside? Figures that advocated this approach come to immediately, particularly Marx.  Marx rightly spoke out with ferocity against privilege and reminded elites that their privilege was not divine yet his proposition of revolution failed because it relied on faith and the state.  As it is impossible to know what will eventuate after a revolution runs its course, Marxism had nothing left but to take a leap of faith and incorporated the belief that government will merely disappear when a classless society has been achieved.  Government and the state, then became a tool to wrestle from the hands of the upper class and instead be employed towards the interests of the working class.  It is authoritarian in concept and recognises no value as the oppression that arrives with the state is then employed against the enemies of the revolution and so the whole venture hinges upon the existence of the state.  The Libertarian Party of America comes to mind as another group that has hinged on the same belief and while it is philosophically dissimilar to Marxism, advocates of either share the goal to reform away the state.  Legislation is supposedly to defeat legislation.  Again, a third philosophy whose proponents are often attracted to such thinking are the Anarcho-Capitalists which a strange overlap for two philosophies whose proponents loathe each other.  Rothbard, after all, did call for a militant party to take over the government and bring about the change desired. But nevertheless, the whole strategy falls prey to the inevitable fact that the state is of such bureaucratic girth that by the time one law has been fought against or introduced to limit the state, a number of others which strengthen the institution of the state have already been enacted.  And then, the whole attempt is at risk of falling prey to the same faults as revolution characterised by violence; if it is successful, then no doubt, momentum will be coopted by the individual in control of the party and, by extension, the government who then use the coercive power of the state to crush their opposition, solidify their position and justify it all in the name of change that never arrives.

The state exists to give a government power founded upon violence, in turn used to make and mould society to their vision, benefiting their friends and leaving the rest at a disadvantage.  Yet the perfect society they seek is an impossible ends.  The result is nothing short of absurd and we are left with no other option but to rebel.  However, our options are limited; we do not wish to become our masters who are reprehensible to us because of their lust for power and their profit at our expense.  Therefore the strategy of revolution as attempted in the past can no longer be accepted.  We cannot condone coercive violence to achieve our aims and neither can we tolerate reformism which wastes our time and resources.  Our only option is then the process of building our society within the shell of the old, an aged Anarchist concept that has sat, quietly, in the background while pragmatic violence and mundane reformism fall in an out of favour.  Such a concept is motivated, primarily, by creation.  The creation of infrastructure nurtures us and wrests control away from the state without violence, but through the simple act of existence.  We go about our daily lives, we trade, we organise according to our politics and understanding of the world and each day we live, we deprive the state of support and income because we show ourselves, our neighbours and the world that we can do it ourselves.  This infrastructure exists as everything from practices such as tax dodging and producing goods in a direct violation of every regulatory scheme invented, to community gardens, trade unions and antifa actions.  They serve purposes of each providing goods or services from security to repair work.  Each betters the world, but more importantly, they all in some way better our own lives.  After all, it is inevitable that any subsequent change, any revolution that topples the state and allows each of us to live out our lives free from another’s freedom to rob and murder us, will fail to do away with injustice.  Children will still be abused, people will still murder and thieve and we will still grapple with the questions on how to protect against these infringements upon our lives, even if overall injustice is reduced.  But the goal of seeking a just world, free of these evils, free of the inherent oppression that comes with the state and the inherent authoritarianism in such things as racism, nationalism and corporatism is what defines us as Anarchists.

We may not succeed, any alternative infrastructure we create may fail to drive support away from the state and authoritarian groups bent on obtaining power from themselves, but in our attempts we create lasting benefits in our communities.  We create a network founded upon mutuality and reciprocity, a counter-economy which provides a safety net, something which we and our friends can rely upon.  By doing so, we reject the freedom of the political class to kill and thieve and we recognise value in the world.  We cement the values of individualism and the passion for life that comes with existence in spite of the attempts by statist to impose themselves and their utopian visions upon us.  We laugh, we learn, we love and we rebel, for we are not them and should not permit ourselves to become the oppressors.  We do not seek absolutes, but we seek moderation, an equilibrium where each individual self is respected without molestation.  We are Anarchists.





“Capitalism”

6 07 2009

Capitalism, one of the last great sacred cows for many.  For some its a god, placed upon a pedestal and revered as the saviour of man.  To others it is the epitome of evil, to be combated at all costs.

‘Capitalism’ means different things to different people, depending on context and each person’s theoretical background.  Some people use it to mean a series of free exchanges between individuals uninfluenced by state or force, while other people refer to it as a system of workers exploitation and privilege for the few.

Mike Gogulski relates his thoughts on the subject:

With a single exception, attendees responded with words evoking free markets, individualism, free association, self-determination, respect for property, the ability to create and retain wealth, no interference in peaceful trade, ideological consistency, and so on.

I then told them that they are all absolutely right. And at the same time absolutely wrong.

I said: Capitalism is an exploitative system of privileges granted to wealthy interests to the detriment of the poor.

And that definition is also right, because it lives in the minds of billions.

Likewise, in the comments of the ‘About me’ section of my blog, Geoffrey Transom wrote:

You can dislike anarcho-capitalism all you like, but if you’re genuinely an anarchist, and the world progressesto[sic] anarchy, it will be anarcho-capitalist.

Markets are the only coercion-free way to enable mutually-beneficial exchange: there is no other mechanism. I think you are conflatingtheeffects[sic] of crony-capitalism (the US model since the mid-1800s) with actual, free, markets.

Acknowledging that there is a running disagreement about the meaning of the term capitalism is just the start.  What needs to be taken into account is the fact that billions of people regard the label ‘capitalism’ as exploitation and oppression.  Meanwhile there are thousands of proponents of  Capitalism out there who elaborate on their system as a corporate wonderland.  This group labels themselves ‘Capitalist’ and, even if ‘capitalism’ originally meant something else, it now applies to their ideology.

To all intents and purposes, the crony-capitalism described by Geoffrey Transom is Capitalism.

Some may argue that this also applies to the term ‘Anarchist’, in that many who like the idea of indiscriminate violence like to label themselves anarchists, so we must give up the term for some other derivative.  The fact that we do not give up the term ‘Anarchist’ to thugs, according to some, supports the argument that we should not give up the term ‘capitalist’ either.  Yet ‘Anarchist’ has been used as a chosen label for movements world-wide filled with passionate and intelligent individuals working for a better society.  Misuse of the term abounds only when it is applied as part description, part label to a group by a third party.  It’s intended to provoke an audience.

The difference lies in how the label is applied and for what purpose; the first group identify as Anarchist, while the second group have been identified by others as anarchist in rhetoric.  Such rhetoric has unfortunately continued in popular culture, meaning advocates of Anarchism are routinely forced to deal with a common cliché — but this cliché still this works in favour of Anarchists.  The word is exciting and fun.  It forces all kinds of responses from all kinds of people, ranging from shock horror to curiosity.  It has connotations with passion, humanism, the promise of revolt and even the promise of salvation, freedom and justice.  It is a rallying call.  In short, it is radical.

Ignoring the specific meaning of the term for a moment ‘capitalism’, or any replacement for the label ‘Anarchist’ for that manner, is boring.

It is also worth mentioning that the same argument that some would apply to Anarchist’ would apply more aptly to the term ‘free market’, which has been appropriated and misused as rhetoric by those arguing in favour of the current capitalist economic system.  The words are a description that encapsulate an idea.  With little clarification one can easily use the term ‘free market’ (or even ‘freed market’ as has become the fashion among some scenes) to mean the everyday interactions of individuals, unfettered by interference from an external third party.  Unlike the term ‘capitalism’, ‘free market’ implies more than one concept and has been misused as rhetoric rather than as a label or a noun given to a set of ideals concerning the realm of statist party-politics and economics.  In this sphere, it has been misapplied as oh so many ‘free markets’ are never, actually ‘free’.  ‘Capitalism’ does not contain the ‘free from external influence’ imputation that ‘free market’ does using the plain and ordinary meaning of the words.  As the current state of world economies show, economic systems that ascribe to the Capitalist label seem to depend on the state for existence.  In this the Marxists appear to be right.

This is the way in which I use these terms.  It is hardly a conflation, but more an emphasis in the distinction between ‘capitalism’ and the ‘free market’ as distinct and different concepts.  Conversely, I would submit to my critics that the use of ‘capitalism’ as synonymous with the ‘free market’ is the true conflation in terms.  When Konkin wrote that Anarcho-Capitalists conflate the productive class and the apathetic, apolitical capitalist class, he failed to notice that the problem can be traced back to the fundamental misuse of basic language.  After all, in the course of everyday life it would be the height of arrogance to redefine a word to mean something other than what it does, simply to fit my agenda, and to then insist upon all whom I come across that it is the world who truly operates on an incorrect premise.  Most people would ignore me, or call me crazy if I suddenly redefined the word ‘clam’ to mean ‘sandwich’, so why shouldn’t the same apply to ‘capitalism’?  It is arrogant to redefine ‘capitalism’ to mean the ‘free market’, incorporate it into a particular ideology and then insist that it is the rest of the world who is wrong — especially when in the minds of individuals everywhere, Capitalism is synonymous with a coercive system of privilege and exploitation.

And yet, in these times of economic uncertainty, there are those sounding the alarm that many of the world’s economies may give up on Capitalism, with America leading the way.  It may be a little crazy (even a little radical) of me to suggest the following, but maybe Capitalism should be cast off, slaughtered and thrown on the pit to be left to rot along with other dead, statist ideologies such as Stalinist Communism.  As radicals, we cannot advocate Capitalism.  We should be pouring scorn upon it along with the best scourn-pourers and offering our audiences the free market as a true alternative.  We must cast off Capitalism entirely; not merely cover it up and hide it away in what amounts to a superficial change, by slapping a new label on an old product.

Kevin Caron’s phrase “Free Market, Anti-Capitalism”  has become the battlecry for the new generation of Agorists, Mutualists and Individualist Anarchists for a reason.

Special thanks to Neverfox of Instead of  a Blog.