Curious About Anarchism?
Below is an excerpt of a revised and expanded essay in my book. If you already own my book,
send me an email, and I will send you the new version of "Ownership is Freedom" today!
The new version is three times longer —split into two parts, followed by an afterword. Part one dives into the true nature of private property and capitalism, and part two can be read below.
The afterword covers Covid-19, what it means to be an Essential Worker, and Direct Action.
Ownership is Freedom,
Part Two: Class Consciousness & Anarcho-Syndicalism
The average American lives under the assumption that they’re a capitalist by default simply because they exist within the framework of a capitalist plutocracy, but they couldn’t be more wrong. As I’ve demonstrated, actual capitalists, for instance, invest their private capital —meaning material wealth and/or valuable resources that they privately own— to extract even greater wealth from the labor power of people they employ. This being said, would you identify as a capitalist? If so, I want you to take a moment to run a quick inventory of the private capital you own, some of the various ways you may be investing it, and how you’re using these investments to extract a personal profit from one or more businesses you’ve successfully established… If this description doesn’t resemble how you make your living, then you probably can’t call yourself a capitalist. If you’re anything like me —and the vast majority of Americans just in general— then it’s far more likely that you belong to a precarious class of wage laborers, working paycheck to paycheck, just trying to make ends meet. I hate to break it to you, but wage laborers are not capitalists —we merely serve them as subordinates. I find it oddly fascinating just how difficult it is for much of the general public to understand why they’re not capitalists, despite their obvious inability to identify with the above description. They may imagine that they’re somehow allied with capitalists in the same way a dominated servant with Stockholm Syndrome might sympathize with his corporate master —but a slave cannot be both a slave and a slave master.
The majority of my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who self-identify as capitalists are neither investors, business owners, nor employers. In fact, many of them would be dismayed to learn that business managers aren’t capitalists either, because most operations managers don’t own businesses —reducing managers and supervisors to mere wage laborers as well. Despite what you may think, there’s no real difference between a salaried employee and one earning an hourly wage. Being involved in a company’s hiring process doesn’t make you an employer, because it isn’t your company! Sure, as a manager, you may conduct interviews, hire employees, and be held accountable for their performance, but that doesn’t mean you employ them. Managers and supervisors are just sycophants serving as a layer of bureaucratic insulation between those who own capital and those who perform labor. As a wage laborer, you may adore your employer, cherish the corporation you work for, and aspire to run a company of your own one day —but groveling at the feet of capitalists won’t make you one of them. At best, it’ll earn you the title of “manager” or “supervisor” —but to be fair, these titles do grant you the illusion of progress. You’ll get an office or a cubicle, access to a fancier restroom, and you’ll get to sit in on meetings and conference calls with higher-ups who might just take a liking to you if you play your cards right. Also, that increase in pay might have placed you on new tier among those who actually earn a living wage —above the rest of us who don’t. You’re living the dream now, as they say! With this new financial status, you might just walk into the bank and take out a mortgage loan on a house! Why not? You love this company —they’re good to you, and you can see yourself working for them until the day you retire… but that still won’t make you a capitalist. You’ll still be working paycheck to paycheck, just like the rest of us, in attempt to pay off that house. Moving up the ladder doesn’t make you any less subordinate to your employer, it just puts you in that awkward administrative position between those who control access to the means of production and those who actually provide goods and services.
While I’m sure many of you work meaningful and fulfilling jobs, where you are valued, respected, and compensated fairly —I’m also fairly certain that most of us don’t. I would wager that most of us feel as though we're wasting the best hours of our days, performing menial tasks to achieve virtually meaningless outcomes for people who view us as expendable machines. This is the part where a lot of the aforementioned sycophants get frustrated and come to the defense of their employers —making assertions that low-paying jobs are just entry-level positions intended for young people who need to learn the value of a dollar. Commentary that might sound compelling to anyone who has blinders on —but is largely nonsense due to the fact that the vast majority of “career opportunities” available here in The United States are lower rung service jobs. It’s also an argument that refuses to acknowledge the immense number of skilled labor professions that are being sent overseas, or across the nation, because corporations are constantly on the prowl for cheaper labor, bigger tax breaks, and fewer regulations in order to maximize profits —leaving large communities of over-qualified laborers to compete for minimum wage retail positions, because they can’t afford to uproot their families and follow suit. It’s a widely disregarded fact that the average person earning minimum wage in The United States is over the age of thirty-five, and that sooner or later, these low-level service jobs will be the only ones available. Whether you’re a service worker, or someone who manages service workers, neither really amounts to skilled labor in this country —resulting in increased difficulty when trying to earn a decent wage in the age of inflation.
Those of us who are gainfully employed ought to avoid feeling as though we’ve earned for ourselves some safe, little pocket of economic stability, because there really is no such thing —not for the working class, anyway. As a wage laborer, your position will always be temporary from the perspective of your employer. No matter how essential you think you are, an entrepreneur will eventually outsource your job to a foreign labor market or replace you with a machine. They will never stop searching for cheaper alternatives to replace you with —even when the market is performing better than expected— because your wage stands in direct opposition to their profit margin. Losing your job is merely a matter of inevitability —technological advancements will eventually render the vast majority of human labor obsolete. Automation is already taking over in many aspects of modern industry from manufacturing and distribution, to clerking, and even major surgery —it won’t be long before advanced computer systems are diagnosing illnesses and recommending medical treatment. Automation is not only cheaper than human labor, it’s also more precise and efficient; so whether you like it or not, unemployment is coming for all of us —but this is only terrifying under a scarcity-based market system like capitalism. At this point, I think the question we all ought to be asking ourselves is: Why are we still defending it? All the capitalist propaganda and cultural conditioning aside, isn’t it obvious to us that wealth doesn’t trickle down once the cup runneth over? Your labor isn’t voluntary —it’s mandatory! What other choice do you have? Starvation? Destitution? We’re wage slaves, you and I —victims of exploitation— born into a system of domination and servitude with only the promise of endless drudgery and the illusion of retirement. Work hard, they say… but for what? Pennies?! Accolades?! What’s thirty-six thousand dollars a year, when you made Jeff Bezos twenty-four billion in the first month of the Covid-19 pandemic?! All these billions of dollars belong to the communities of people who perform the work, not those who control access to the means of production! Billionaire capitalists like Jeff Bezos ought to be waking up every night in a cold sweat for fear of being expropriated by their employees —taking the new anxiety medication they just patented, panicking in wait of the encroaching labor insurrections!
As citizens of The United States, one of the biggest problems we have here, is an astounding lack of class consciousness. This cultural amnesia, if you will, is the greatest gift we can give the capitalist class —because our collective indifference and joint inaction are valuable commodities to be bought and sold. This lack of class consciousness often presents itself by way of apathy and disorganization among laborers in the workplace. The division of labor isn’t just about economic efficiency —it also aids capitalists in preventing unionization. Now, obviously, solid arguments can be made in favor of the division of labor being that all individuals have different strengths and interests, lending unique advantages to some people for certain tasks while others are better suited for something else. It can also save money and raw materials by avoiding any wasteful duplication of tools and machinery, etc. —but it also serves to isolate workers, keeping them from organizing. Nothing frightens a capitalist more than an organized workforce —and this is why placing sycophants in administrative positions is a tactical implementation. Your managers and supervisors are in these positions to govern your productivity, but also to keep you from fraternizing with your coworkers. This isn’t because you can’t talk and work at the same time —it’s because if you do talk while performing your job, you might discuss unionizing. This is especially due to the fact that when workers do engage in conversation, they’re often airing grievances and commiserating with one another. This is also why discussing politics at work is often deemed inappropriate —not because it’s divisive and argumentative, but because your employers don’t want to run the risk of someone igniting the fuse of class consciousness! By keeping you divided, monitoring your interactions, and managing your behavior, they foster an illusion of control over you —this authority really is just an illusion due to the simple fact that you outnumber them. Without the explicit threat of violence, they can’t push us to do anything we aren’t willing to —they would be powerless to stop us if we all decided, in unison, to engage in behavior they disapproved of. Unions work, quite literally, because there is strength in numbers! Your employers ought to be the ones who’re horrified at the thought of losing their financial foothold, not you —because together, as organized workers, we hold all the negotiating power!
Establishing class consciousness in the age of anti-intellectualism will have its fair share of difficulties, but it needs to be taken seriously if we hope to build a stronger platform than the radical right in 2020. As Americans, we’ve been conditioned to find a sense of honor in serving our masters by working hard for them, because working hard is how we demonstrate our value —our employers will soon recognize that value, and offer us better wages, positions, benefits, and so on… but this is never really the case. Sure, if you kiss a lot of ass, and break your back for them like an obsequious minion, they might view you as a potential candidate to join their bureaucracy of so called “leadership” —but history shows us that workers only get better wages, benefits, hours, and conditions when they organize themselves in militant fashion to gain leverage over these capitalist profiteers. As American worker ants, many of us have been programmed to believe that unions are just relics of the past that now stand in the way of us achieving better relationships with the CEOs who sign our checks. That unions stagnate wages by protecting the lazy grasshoppers who drive down productivity —making us reflect poorly, overall, to a master who would rather do right by us if we could all just behave ourselves and do as we’re told… But this servile attitude is the result of decades of union busting and capitalist propaganda. I don’t care how nice or friendly you think your boss is, your relationship is never mutually beneficial —it’s exploitative. Capitalism is a pyramid scheme. Whether your workplace is union or not, it isn’t hard to imagine your CEO or board of directors up at the top, followed by layer upon layer of bureaucratic administration, with workers down at the bottom. As previously stated, these layers of bureaucratic insulation serve to protect wealthy capitalists from the likes of you and I. As an alternative to unionizing, capitalist propaganda encourages us to express our concerns to management directly —this way they can placate you by making you feel heard while ignoring you altogether, or allowing any valid criticisms or concerns you have to get lost in all their administrative red tape as it moves up the chain of command. Bureaucracies are effective, and the only way to defeat them is by forming revolutionary unions to combat them with direct action initiatives —known by the early twentieth century, as revolutionary Syndicalism.
Syndicalism is a radical current in the organized labor movement that advocates for workers rights, self-management, and direct democracy over bureaucratic organization, while seeking the abolition of capitalist exploitation by expropriating the means of production and distribution, and replacing private ownership with locally owned cooperatives under community control. Now, I’m certain that for some of you, this sounds as though we’re treading a little too close to socialism —and that’s because we are. If it weren’t for all that capitalist propaganda resulting in the average American worker’s cultural amnesia and lack of class consciousness, you would likely remember that the international socialist labor organizations of the early 1900s were largely responsible for ending child labor, achieving safer conditions, and winning the eight-hour work day in addition to sick pay and benefits. Unbeknownst to many Americans, this is actually where the word “libertarian” originates from; upsetting as that may be to those who were politicized by the likes of Ron Paul, Milton Friedman, or Murray Rothbard —who appropriated the word to serve neoliberal purposes. Neoliberalism is simply liberalism modified to meet the needs of free-market fundamentalism. Libertarianism, however, as a political ideology, was born in the debates between Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx during the congresses of The First International Workingmen’s Association. The First International was a left-wing organization that sought to unite a variety of socialist, communist, and anarchist trade unions engaged in the working class struggle. Marx and his comrades advocated for the seizure of state power in order to bring socialism into being. In practice, this resulted in what’s been commonly referred to as “state socialism” —because contrary to Marx’s theory, state power hadn’t voluntarily dissolved itself after “communism” was established. Now, in Marx’s defense, communism never was established —and this is where Mikhail Bakunin steps in. Bakunin and his associates were anarchists who made up the “libertarian wing” of The IWA. Being libertarian socialists, they argued against Marx’s “Dictatorship of The Proletariat” —asserting that in order to bring forth socialism, you would have to abolish capitalism and the state simultaneously. They had no reason to believe that bureaucratic state power would ever choose to dissolve itself after communism had been established —and thus, communism never was… If American anti-intellectuals ever bothered to read libertarian literature, they would soon discover that so-called “Communist Russia” was not a working example of socialism at all. Many anarchists would argue that The Bolshevik Revolution was a failure from the beginning —being that the real revolutionary movement in Russia had been suppressed by the time The Bolsheviki rose to prominence. What ensued in The Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin was a new model of totalitarian state capitalism, because after the revolution, the working class was never given collective ownership of the means of production —thus demonstrating Bakunin’s point. “The freedom of all is essential to my freedom. Freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice. Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality. In antiquity, slaves were, in all honesty, called slaves. In the middle ages, they took the name serfs. Nowadays, they are called wage earners.” To this day, Bakunin’s critiques hold up exceptionally well.
In the wake of the twentieth century labor insurrections, Murray Rothbard appropriated the word libertarian to bastardize the cultural impact of Anarchism in The United States. Despite accusations of being a fringe movement, Anarchism established long lasting roots all over the world, and posed a significant threat to the capitalist establishment. “The Red Scare” was a widespread fear campaign throughout the United States after the first World War used to thwart anarchist influence. As a political movement, it was dutifully vilified by the capitalist plutocracy as a philosophy of chaos, destruction, and violence. Due to the revolutionary actions anarchists often engaged in, they were targeted for unwarranted police raids at their newspapers, arrested without cause, assassinated, and publicly executed. The Red Squads were specialized intelligence units deployed to infiltrate the labor movement in the bigger cities like New York and Chicago, preying on socialists, communists, and dissidents of all kinds —but particularly anarchists. Years of police brutality and capitalist propaganda effectively crushed the average American’s class consciousness, making it possible for the likes of Murray Rothbard to attempt the rebranding of Anarchism as a pro-capitalist, yet anti-state endeavor. He was somewhat successful, giving birth to the “right-wing libertarian” ideology. These faux libertarians are anything but anarchists. They’re quite simply neoliberals who don’t like the word liberal, because its classic meaning doesn’t accommodate for their shift to the far right. Even more comical than the Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman interpretations of what being a libertarian is, would be the further appropriation of Anarchism by so-called “voluntarists” and “anarcho-capitalists”. These bastardized subcultures are tantamount to the “bait and switch” tactics used by the Republican and Democratic parties of The United States when offering you their illusion of choice. There isn’t any more difference between a voluntarist and a neoliberal, than there is a Republican and a Democrat —and there is literally no such thing as an anarcho-capitalist! Anyone self-identifying as an anarchist or a libertarian who also advocates for capitalism is either confused and/or misinformed, because they lack the initiative to read the associated literature. Any well-read anarchist will tell you that all anarchists, without exception, are against both private capital and the state. Not all socialists are anarchists, but all anarchists are socialists —libertarian socialists!
For his monolithic contributions, Marx is justifiably synonymous with socialism, just as libertarian is to anarchist —but rest assured that Karl Marx is not the father of socialism any more than Milton Friedman is the father of neoliberalism. If you trace back the influences of Ron Paul, Robert Nozick, Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand, you would find that Ludwig Von Mises —a free market fundamentalist and white supremacist from the Austrian School of Economics— is one of the true founding fathers of neoliberalism. In Mises’ book, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, this fascist economist argues that all of nature —both the land and its inhabitants, up to and including other human beings— exists merely to serve man as objects of consumption. He also alleges that Earth’s natural resources are so abundant that they are nearly inexhaustible —an argument that might actually sound convincing if weren’t for all the evidence we have to the contrary today. Mises and his minions insist that our environment is not to be preserved —it is meant to be consumed. He goes into further detail, explaining that land and wildlife conservation acts impede the entrepreneur’s freedom to capitalize on its resources. He informs us that man’s appreciation for nature is a relatively new phenomenon —that it’s merely the product of bourgeois privilege afforded to us by a life of leisure that only capitalism could have provided. Mises asserts that before capitalism carried primitive man out of the wilderness and into the cities, we saw land and wildlife as little more than threatening obstacles and treacherous wastelands —clearly he thought nothing of the indigenous cultures we plundered and massacred in order to achieve such capital gains. As he candidly states, “It is not the prerogative of economists to sloppily adhere any sense of moral value to the behavior of human action —any attempts to do so would be nothing short of psychotic.” Alongside his defense of chattel slavery and child labor, Mises unabashedly boasts about the ethnic and racial superiority of the anglo-saxon entrepreneur —alleging that the capital seized by white colonists through coercion and subjugation is justified by the material goods it produced. In glorious contradiction to this edict, voluntarists and neoliberals alike, both agree with Mises when he states that the role of government —or better yet, privately owned militaries and police agencies— ought to be fiercely limited to the protection of propertied individuals and their right to entrepreneurialism. It’s no wonder why “Human Action” is considered required reading for aspiring Wall Street bankers. Free market fundamentalists hold true that poverty and inequality is man’s natural state, and that only capitalism can provide the means for a life worth living —but no real libertarian would ever entertain such an outlandish claim! All those in favor of free market enterprise wholeheartedly agree that no human being is born with rightful access to arable land or potable water —i.e. the right to live. Instead, they insist that all human beings have the freedom to pursue opportunities to earn subsistence from those who have arbitrarily claimed the right to permit or deny access to the means of production —all anarchists agree that this is totalitarianism! Despite Ludwig Von Mises’ labyrinthian theory of praxeology and catallactics, anarchists understand that capitalism is unforgivable due to the fact that all private property stands on violence and subjugation.
Scarcity-based market systems and the governments created to protect them are all designed to establish a vast chasm of economic inequality —this inequality is the foundation of their power structure. The assumption that any one person could have earned the right to hoard a gluttonous surplus of resources while abandoning others to fend for themselves clearly runs contrary to maintaining ecological balance —it is an arrogant belief that entitles one class to believe that others are inferior to them, and are therefore, somehow less deserving of nature’s offerings. As demonstrated throughout this essay, I believe it’s profoundly obvious that free market fundamentalism has thrown us wildly out of balance —both amongst ourselves, and in accordance with nature. Such behavior is violent and unsustainable —it’s time to outgrow and abandon these scarcity-based economic systems and the plutocrats who regulate them! Regardless of where you stand on this topic, the time will certainly come when we are all marching down the unemployment line due to technological advances that rendered our labor obsolete. The time will come when our purchasing power has been completely dissolved, and everything we think we own could be seized and auctioned off to help offset the insurmountable debts we’ve accrued over the years —and when that happens, debtors prisons and forced labor camps won’t be a far stretch. The future looks grim under capitalism. We need something different. We need something sustainable that can afford all human beings an equitable coexistence amongst ourselves and nature. The same technology that will steal our jobs and dissolve our purchasing power can be our salvation —but not under capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t want a free and equitable coexistence —it wants exploitation up until the day the system crashes, leaving a minority of opulent slave owners with absolute power over our planet and its resources! It’s up to us, the working class, to take the liberty upon ourselves to seize the means of production and expropriate the expropriators! On this day, we have all the technology, ability, and resources we need to start creating a more equitable world for all of Earth’s inhabitants —we'll just have to abandon these outdated sociopolitical constructs in order to do so. We need to leave the wastefulness of the twentieth century consumer culture behind —trading in these barbarous, bygone market economies for decentralized open-source collaboration and ecologically responsible resource-based economies.
A healthy, equitable future for all mankind calls for a modern-day adaptation of anarcho-syndicalism as demonstrated by The CNT and The FAI during The Spanish Civil War. The CNT —The National Confederation of Labor— were a militant syndicalist labor union. Although not exclusively anarchist, they were closely affiliated with the FAI —The Iberian Anarchist Federation— to ensure that the union remained primarily anarchist by way of education and guidance. The CNT and The FAI had organized for over two decades prior to the war, and were well acquainted with the methods of direct action —in fact, they were on the forefront of organizing resistance to Franco and his fascist forces. On the eve of the coup, The CNT and The FAI were relentless, launching waves of militant strikes, occupations, and insurrections that rendered the state powerless to protect the landed aristocracy from expropriation. Now, anarcho-syndicalism runs parallel to the syndicalism previously described, but I might emphasize that The Spanish Anarchists collectivized the means of production during the outbreak of the war for the purpose of creating egalitarian communes devoted to meeting human needs. Anarchism, finally, is a political philosophy that calls for the abolition of church and state, while advocating for self-governing societies based on voluntary association and mutual aid. Anarchists favor a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by manmade law —arguing that crime is little more than misdirected energy, and that prisons are an abomination. Anarchists hold true that all forms of centralized authority are as undesirable as they are utterly violent and unnecessary, while acknowledging that free associations of individuals cooperating voluntarily can bring about a cohesive and necessary social and ecological balance. Anarchism urges man to think, to investigate, and to analyze the world around him —it seeks to make him conscious of himself, not subservient to the external power structures of government and religious faith. Anarchism calls for direct action and open resistance to anything that hinders human growth. To paraphrase Emma Goldman: “The abolition of economic inequality can only be brought about by a careful consideration for every aspect of human life —both individually and collectively. Our individual and social instincts are not intended to conflict with one another —but rather to strengthen both for the good health and unity of all living things. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life —society is the lungs, which are distributing the element to keep the life essence, that is the individual, pure and strong. Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms who hold him captive! It has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social instincts —the individual and society. Anarchism seeks to lift a crime-ridden army of human prey from its prostrate position, to finally claim its rightful place in abundance with nature —so that it can no longer be robbed of its labor, intelligence, free initiative, or originality. Anarchists believe that all human beings should have the freedom to choose and manage their own methods and conditions for labor —it is meant to be an inspiring and creative effort organized by a solidarity of interests, recreation, and hope. Anarchism advocates that real wealth is a social wealth, that can only be found in the utility and beauty of good health in equilibrium with nature.”
Neoliberals would certainly argue that without market-based incentives, human civilization would collapse into lethargy and disrepair —they assert that free market enterprise is the sole basis for mankind’s achievements on Earth, and without it, there would be absolute chaos— but anarchists know that all human beings dream of laboring for purpose-driven causes they identify with. Human beings are not lazy creatures by nature —far from it. Rather, idleness is the result of uninspired labor that serves outcomes we’d never invest in —such as making wealthy men even more opulent while others are made to go hungry in polluted environments. Despite all the hollow proclamations from politicians and acclaimed economists that laissez-faire capitalism is an undeniable law of nature, there is absolutely no evidence to be found, in history or the present, to substantiate such claims. Anarcho-syndicalism, however, has a working history of experimentation that we can study and build from. Now that we have the technology and the means to assign much of our tedious labor to machines, humanity can now have the freedom to pursue what actually matters —such as reconfiguring our social construct. Human beings are born with an insatiable desire to learn and experiment —we don’t have to accept any claims that our fate on this planet is predetermined or unchangeable. We have the intelligence and the capacity to start taking corrective action toward healing the damage we’ve done to ourselves and our environments. It is not arrogance to recognize our ability to reshape the world as we see fit. We all come into this world as explorers, adventurers, scientists, engineers, artists, writers, and philosophers —it’s our outdated social and political structures that seek to break us down and reduce us to vapid consumers and expendable machines! All our lives, we’ve been conditioned to believe that their ultimatum to either serve or starve is a choice we make —as if actually building a life of our own accord is even possible under the present circumstances. It clearly isn’t —and unless we do something about it, the children of tomorrow are surely beholden to a future of wage slavery and work-away debt schemes. We need to reignite the international class consciousness of the early twentieth century —we need to organize militant syndicalist unions, and by way of direct action, seize the means of production, and expropriate the one percent! The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world who essential workers truly are, and what constitutes as essential goods and services —among them, you won’t find any landlords, politicians, Wall Street bankers, or CEOs! Their time is over! It’s time for the real producers and service providers —the workers of the world— to rise in solidarity and take the futures we deserve! With all the advanced technology we have today, the abundance of information, global connectivity, and mechanized production, there has never been a better time than now!
Feel free to contact me!
Travis J Gibbs