PDF version of Section G.
G.4 Why do social anarchists reject individualist anarchism?
As James J. Martin notes, “paralleling” European social anarchism “chronologically was a kindred but nearly unconnected phenomenon in America, seeking the same ends through individualistic rather than collectivistic dynamics.” [Men Against the State, p. ix]
When the two movements meet in American in the 1880s, the similarities and differences of both came into sharp relief. While both social and individualist anarchists reject capitalism as well as the state and seek an end to the exploitation of labour by capital (i.e. to usury in all its forms), both schools of anarchism rejected each others solutions to the social problem. The vision of the social anarchists was more communally based, urging social ownership of the means of life. In contrast, reflecting the pre-dominantly pre-capitalist nature of post-revolution US society, the Individualist Anarchists urged possession of the means of life and mutual banking to end profit, interest and rent and ensure every worker access to the capital they needed to work for themselves (if they so desired). While social anarchists placed co-operatives (i.e., workers’ self-management) at the centre of their vision of a free society, many individualist anarchists did not as they thought that mutual banking would end exploitation by ensuring that workers received the full product of their labour.
Thus their vision of a free society and the means to achieve it were somewhat different (although, we stress, not mutually exclusive as communist anarchists supported artisan possession of the means of possession for those who rejected communism and the Individualist Anarchists supported voluntary communism). Tucker argued that a communist could not be an anarchist and the communist-anarchists argued that Individualist Anarchism could not end the exploitation of capital by labour. Here we indicate why social anarchists reject individualist anarchism (see section G.2 for a summary of why Individualist Anarchists reject social anarchism).
Malatesta summarises the essential points of difference as well as the source of much of the misunderstandings:
“The individualists assume, or speak as if they assumed, that the (anarchist) communists wish to impose communism, which of course would put them right outside the ranks of anarchism.
“The communists assume, or speak as if they assumed, that the (anarchist) individualists reject every idea of association, want the struggle between men, the domination of the strongest — and this would put them not only outside the anarchist movement but outside humanity.
“In reality those who are communists are such because they see in communism freely accepted the realisation of brotherhood, and the best guarantee for individual freedom. And individualists, those who are really anarchists, are anti-communist because they fear that communism would subject individuals nominally to the tyranny of the collectivity and in fact to that of the party or caste which, with the excuse of administering things, would succeed in taking possession of the power to dispose of material things and thus of the people who need them. Therefore they want each individual, or each group, to be in a position to enjoy freely the product of their labour in conditions of equality with other individuals and groups, with whom they would maintain relations of justice and equity.
“In which case it is clear that there is no basic difference between us. But, according to the communists, justice and equity are, under natural conditions impossible of attainment in an individualistic society, and thus freedom too would not be attained.
“If climatic conditions throughout the world were the same, if the land were everywhere equally fertile, if raw materials were evenly distributed and within reach of all who needed them, if social development were the same everywhere in the world . . . then one could conceive of everyone . . . finding the land, tools and raw materials needed to work and produce independently, without exploiting or being exploited. But natural and historical conditions being what they are, how is it possible to establish equality and justice between he who by chance finds himself with a piece of arid land which demands much labour for small returns with him who has a piece of fertile and well sited land?” Of between the inhabitant of a village lost in the mountains or in the middle of a marshy area, with the inhabitants of a city which hundreds of generations of man have enriched with all the skill of human genius and labour? [Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas, pp. 31-2]
The social anarchist opposition to individualist anarchism, therefore, resolves around the issues of inequality, the limitations and negative impact of markets and whether wage-labour is consistent with anarchist principles (both in general and in terms of individualist anarchism itself). We discuss the issue of wage labour and anarchist principles in the next section and argue in section G.4.2 that Tucker’s support for wage-labour, like any authoritarian social relationship, ensures that this is an inconsistent form of anarchism. Here we concentration on issues of inequality and markets.
First, we must stress that individualist anarchism plays an important role in reminding all socialists that capitalism does not equal the market. Markets have existed before capitalism and may, if we believe market socialists like David Schweickart and free market socialists like Benjamin Tucker and Kevin Carson, even survive it. While some socialists (particularly Leninists echoing, ironically, supporters of capitalism) equate capitalism with the market, this is not the case. Capitalism is a specific form of market economy based on certain kinds of property rights which result in generalised wage labour and non-labour incomes (exploitation). This means that the libertarian communist critique of capitalism is to a large degree independent of its critique of markets and their negative impact. Equally, the libertarian communist critique of markets, while applicable to capitalism, applies to other kinds of economy. It is fair to say, though, that capitalism tends to intensify and worsen the negative effects of markets.
Second, we must also note that social anarchists are a diverse grouping and include the mutualism of Proudhon, Bakunin’s collectivism and Kropotkin’s communism. All share a common hostility to wage labour and recognise, to varying degrees, that markets tend to have negative aspects which can undermine the libertarian nature of a society. While Proudhon was the social anarchist most in favour of competition, he was well aware of the need for self-managed workplaces to federate together to protect themselves from its negative aspects — aspects he discussed at length. His “agro-industrial federation” was seen as a means of socialising the market, of ensuring that competition would not reach such levels as to undermine the freedom and equality of those within it. Individualist anarchists, in contrast, tended not to discuss the negative effects of markets in any great depth (if at all), presumably because they thought that most of the negative effects would disappear along with capitalism and the state. Other anarchists are not so optimistic.
So, two key issues between social and individualist anarchism are the related subjects of property and competition. As Voltairine de Cleyre put it when she was an individualist anarchist:
“She and I hold many differing views on both Economy and Morals . . . Miss Goldmann [sic!] is a communist; I am an individualist. She wishes to destroy the right of property, I wish to assert it. I make my war upon privilege and authority, whereby the right of property, the true right in that which is proper to the individual, is annihilated. She believes that co-operation would entirely supplant competition; I hold that competition in one form or another will always exist, and that it is highly desirable it should.” [The Voltairine de Cleyre Reader, p. 9]
The question of “property” is subject to much confusion and distortion. It should be stressed that both social and individualist anarchists argue that the only true property is that produced by labour (mental and physical) and capitalism results in some of that being diverted to property owners in the form of interest, rent and profits. Where they disagree is whether it is possible and desirable to calculate an individual’s contribution to social production, particularly within a situation of joint labour. For Tucker, it was a case of creating “the economic law by which every man may get the equivalent of his product.” [quoted by George Woodcock and Ivan Avakumovic, The Anarchist Prince, p. 279] Social anarchists, particularly communist ones, question whether it is possible in reality to discover such a thing in any society based on joint labour (“which it would be difficult to imagine could exist in any society where there is the least complexity of production.” [George Woodcock and Ivan Avakumovic, Op. Cit., p. 280]).
This was the crux of Kropotkin’s critique of the various schemes of “labour money” and “labour vouchers” raised by other schools of socialism (like mutualism, collectivism and various state socialist systems). They may abolish wage labour (or, at worse, create state capitalism) but they did not abolish the wages system, i.e., payment according to work done. This meant that a system of individualist distribution was forced upon a fundamentally co-operative system of production and so was illogical and unjust (see Kropotkin’s “The Collectivist Wage System” in The Conquest of Bread). Thus Daniel Guérin:
“This method of remuneration, derived from modified individualism, is in contradiction to collective ownership of the means of production, and cannot bring about a profound revolutionary change in man. It is incompatible with anarchism; a new form of ownership requires a new form of remuneration. Service to the community cannot be measured in units of money. Needs will have to be given precedence over services, and all the products of the labour of all must belong to all, each to take his share of them freely. To each according to his need should be the motto of libertarian communism.” [Anarchism, p. 50]
Simply put, wages rarely reflect the actual contribution of a specific person to social well-being and production nor do they reflect their actual needs. To try and get actual labour income to reflect the actual contribution to society would be, communist-anarchists argued, immensely difficult. How much of a product’s price was the result of better land or more machinery, luck, the willingness to externalise costs, and so on? Voltairine de Cleyre summarised this problem and the obvious solution:
“I concluded that as to the question of exchange and money, it was so exceedingly bewildering, so impossible of settlement among the professors themselves, as to the nature of value, and the representation of value, and the unit of value, and the numberless multiplications and divisions of the subject, that the best thing ordinary workingmen or women could do was to organise their industry so as to get rid of money altogether. I figured it this way: I’m not any more a fool than the rest of ordinary humanity; I’ve figured and figured away on this thing for years, and directly I thought myself middling straight, there came another money reformer and showed me the hole in that scheme, till, at last , it appears that between ‘bills of credit,’ and ‘labour notes’ and ‘time checks,’ and ‘mutual bank issues,’ and ‘the invariable unit of value,’ none of them have any sense. How many thousands of years is it going to get this sort of thing into people’s heads by mere preaching of theories. Let it be this way: Let there be an end of the special monopoly on securities for money issues. Let every community go ahead and try some member’s money scheme if it wants; – let every individual try it if he pleases. But better for the working people let them all go. Let them produce together, co-operatively rather than as employer and employed; let them fraternise group by group, let each use what he needs of his own product, and deposit the rest in the storage-houses, and let those others who need goods have them as occasion arises.” [Exquisite Rebel, p. 62]
And, obviously, it must be stressed that “property” in the sense of personal possessions would still exist in communist-anarchism. As the co-founder of Freedom put it:
“Does Anarchism, then, it may be asked, acknowledge no Meum or Tuum, no personal property? In a society in which every man is free to take what he requires, it is hardly conceivable that personal necessaries and conveniences will not be appropriated, and difficult to imagine why they should not . . . When property is protected by no legal enactments, backed by armed force, and is unable to buy personal service, it resuscitation on such a scale as to be dangerous to society is little to be dreaded. The amount appropriated by each individual, and the manner of his appropriation, must be left to his own conscience, and the pressure exercised upon him by the moral sense and distinct interests of his neighbours.” [Charlotte Wilson, Anarchist Essays, p. 24]
To use an appropriate example, public libraries are open to all local residents and they are free to borrow books from the stock available. When the book is borrowed, others cannot come along and take the books from a person’s home. Similarly, an individual in a communist society can take what they like from the common stocks and use it as they see fit. They do not need permission from others to do so, just as people freely go to public parks without requiring a vote by the local community on whether to allow access or not. Communism, in other words, does not imply community control of personal consumption nor the denial of individuals to appropriate and use the common stock of available goods. Socialised consumption does not mean “society” telling people what to consume but rather ensuring that all individuals have free access to the goods produced by all. As such, the issue is not about “property” in the sense of personal property but rather “property” in the sense of access to the means of life by those who use them. Will owner occupiers be able to exclude others from, say, their land and workplaces unless they agree to be their servants?
Which brings us to a key issue between certain forms of individualist anarchism and social anarchism, namely the issue of wage labour. As capitalism has progressed, the size of workplaces and firms have increased. This has lead to a situation were ownership and use has divorced, with property being used by a group of individuals distinct from the few who are legally proclaimed to be its owners. The key problem arises in the case of workplaces and how do non-possessors gain access to them. Under social anarchism, any new members of the collective automatically become part of it, with the same rights and ability to participate in decision making as the existing ones. In other words, socialised production does not mean that “society” will allocate individuals work tasks but rather it ensures that all individuals have free access to the means of life. Under individualist anarchism, however, the situation is not as clear with some (like Tucker) supporting wage labour. This suggests that the holders of workplaces can exclude others from the means of life they possess and only allow them access only under conditions which create hierarchical social relationships between them. Thus we could have a situation in which the owners who actually manage their own workplaces are, in effect, working capitalists who hire others to do specific tasks in return for a wage.
The problem is highlighted in Tucker’s description of what would replace the current system of statism (and note he calls it “scientific socialism” thus squarely placing his ideas in the anti-capitalist camp):
“we have something very tangible to offer , . . We offer non-compulsive organisation. We offer associative combination. We offer every possible method of voluntary social union by which men and women may act together for the furtherance of well-being. In short, we offer voluntary scientific socialism in place of the present compulsory, unscientific organisation which characterises the State and all of its ramifications.” [quoted by Martin, Op. Cit., p. 218]
Yet it is more than possible for voluntary social unions to be authoritarian and exploitative (we see this every day under capitalism). In other words, not every form of non-compulsive organisation is consistent with libertarian principles. Given Tucker’s egoism, it is not hard to conclude that those in stronger positions on the market will seek to maximise their advantages and exploit those who are subject to their will. As he put it, “[s]o far as inherent right is concerned, might is the only measure. Any man . . . and any set of men . . . have the right, if they have the power, to kill or coerce other men and to make the entire world subservient to their ends. Society’s right to enslave the individual and the individual’s right to enslave society are only unequal because their powers are unequal.” In the market, all contracts are based ownership of resources which exist before any specific contracts is made. If one side of the contract has more economic power than the other (say, because of their ownership of capital) then it staggers belief that egoists will not seek to maximise said advantage and so the market will tend to increase inequalities over time rather than reduce them. If, as Tucker argued, “Anarchic associations would recognise the right of individual occupants to combine their holdings and work them under any system they might agree upon, the arrangement being always terminable at will, with reversion to original rights” then we have the unfortunate situation where inequalities will undermine anarchism and defence associations arising which will defend them against attempts by those subject to them to use direct action to rectify the situation. [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 25 and p. 162]
Kropotkin saw the danger, arguing that such an idea “runs against the feelings of equality of most of us” and “brings the would-be ‘Individualists’ dangerously near to those who imagine themselves to represent a ‘superior breed’ — those to whom we owe the State . . . and all other forms of oppression.” [Evolution and Environment, p. 84] As we discuss in the next section, it is clear that wage labour (like any hierarchical organisation) is not consistent with general anarchist principles and, furthermore, in direct contradiction to individualist anarchist principles of “occupancy and use.” Only if “occupancy and use” is consistently applied and so wage labour replaced by workers associations can the inequalities associated with market exchanges not become so great as to destroy the equal freedom of all required for anarchism to work.
Individualist anarchists reply to this criticism by arguing that this is derived from a narrow reading of Stirner’s ideas and that they are in favour of universal egoism. This universal egoism and the increase in competition made possible by mutual banking will ensure that workers will have the upper-hand in the market, with the possibility of setting up in business themselves always available. In this way the ability of bosses to become autocrats is limited, as is their power to exploit their workers as a result. Social anarchists argue, in response, that the individualists tend to underestimate the problems associated with natural barriers to entry in an industry. This could help generate generalised wage labour (and so a new class of exploiters) as workers face the unpleasant choice of working for a successful firm, being unemployed or working for low wages in an industry with lower barriers to entry. This process can be seen under capitalism when co-operatives hire wage workers and not include them as members of the association (i.e. they exercise their ownership rights to exclude others). As Proudhon argued:
“I have shown the contractor, at the birth of industry, negotiating on equal terms with his comrades, who have since become his workmen. It is plain, in fact, that this original equality was bound to disappear through the advantageous position of the master and the dependent position of the wage-workers. In vain does the law assure the right of each to enterprise . . . When an establishment has had leisure to develop itself, enlarge its foundations, ballast itself with capital, and assure itself a body of patrons, what can a workman do against a power so superior?” [System of Economical Contradictions, p. 202]
Voltairine de Cleyre also came to this conclusion. Discussing the limitations of the Single Tax land reform, she noted that “the stubborn fact always came up that no man would employ another to work for him unless he could get more for his product than he had to pay for it, and that being the case, the inevitable course of exchange and re-exchange would be that the man having received less than the full amount, could buy back less than the full amount, so that eventually the unsold products must again accumulate in the capitalist’s hands; and again the period of non-employment arrives.” This obviously applied to individualist anarchism. In response to objections like this, individualists tend to argue that competition for labour would force wages to equal output. Yet this ignores natural barriers to competition: “it is well enough to talk of his buying hand tools, or small machinery which can be moved about; but what about the gigantic machinery necessary to the operation of a mine, or a mill? It requires many to work it. If one owns it, will he not make the others pay tribute for using it?” [Op. Cit., p. 60 and p. 61]
As such, a free market based on wage labour would be extremely unlikely to produce a non-exploitative society and, consequently, it would not be socialist and so not anarchist. Moreover, the successful business person would seek to secure his or her property and power and so employ police to do so. “I confess that I am not in love with all these little states,” proclaimed de Cleyre, “and it is . . . the thought of the anarchist policeman that has driven me out of the individualist’s camp, wherein I for some time resided.” [quoted by Eugenia C. Delamotte, Gates of Freedom, p. 25] This outcome can only be avoided by consistently applying “occupancy and use” in such as way as to eliminate wage labour totally. Only this can achieve a society based on freedom of association as well as freedom within association.
As we noted in section G.2, one of the worries of individualist anarchists is that social anarchism would subject individuals to group pressures and concerns, violating individual autonomy in the name of collective interests. Thus, it is argued, the individual will become of slave of the group in practice if not in theory under social anarchism. However, an inherent part of our humanity is that we associate with others, that we form groups and communities. To suggest that there are no group issues within anarchism seems at odds with reality. Taken literally, of course, this implies that such a version of “anarchy” there would be no forms of association at all. No groups, no families, no clubs: nothing bar the isolated individual. It implies no economic activity beyond the level of peasant farming and one-person artisan workplaces. Why? Simply because any form of organisation implies “group issues.” Two people deciding to live together or one hundred people working together becomes a group, twenty people forming a football club becomes a group. And these people have joint interests and so group issues. In other words, to deny group issues is implying a social situation that has never existed nor ever will. Thus Kropotkin:
“to reason in this way is to pay . . . too large a tribute to metaphysical dialectics, and to ignore the facts of life. It is impossible to conceive a society in which the affairs of any one of its members would not concern many other members, if not all; still less a society in which a continual contact between its members would not have established an interest of every one towards all others, which would render it impossible to act without thinking of the effects which our actions may have on others.” [Evolution and Environment, p. 85]
Once the reality of “group issues” is acknowledged, as most individualist anarchists do, then the issue of collective decision making automatically arises. There are two ways of having a group. You can be an association of equals, governing yourselves collectively as regards collective issues. Or you can have capitalists and wage slaves, bosses and servants, government and governed. Only the first, for obvious reasons, is compatible with anarchist principles. Freedom, in other words, is a product of how we interact with each other, not of isolation. Simply put, anarchism is based on self-management of group issues, not in their denial. Free association is, in this perspective, a necessary but not sufficient to guarantee freedom. Therefore, social anarchists reject the individualists’ conception of anarchy, simply because it can, unfortunately, allow hierarchy (i.e. government) back into a free society in the name of “liberty” and “free contracts.” Freedom is fundamentally a social product, created in and by community. It is a fragile flower and does not fare well when bought and sold on the market.
Moreover, without communal institutions, social anarchists argue, it would be impossible to specify or supply group or public goods. In addition, occupancy and use would, on the face of it, preclude such amenities which are utilised by members of a community such as parks, roads or bridges — anything which is used but not occupied continually. In terms of roads and bridges, who actually occupies and uses them? The drivers? Those who maintain it? The occupiers of the houses which it passes? Those who funded it construction? If the last, then why does this not apply to housing and other buildings left on land? And how are the owners to collect a return on their investment unless by employing police to bar access to non-payers? And would such absentee owners not also seek to extend their appropriations to other forms of property? Would it not be far easier to simply communalise such forms of commonly used “property” rather than seek to burden individuals and society with the costs of policing and restricting access to them?
After all, social anarchists note, for Proudhon there was a series of industries and services that he had no qualms about calling “public works” and which he considered best handled by communes and their federations. Thus “the control undertaking such works will belong to the municipalities, and to districts within their jurisdiction” while “the control of carrying them out will rest with the workmen’s associations.” This was due to both their nature and libertarian values and so the “direct, sovereign initiative of localities, in arranging for public works that belong to them, is a consequence of the democratic principle and the free contract: their subordination to the State is . . . a return to feudalism.” Workers’ self-management of such public workers was, again, a matter of libertarian principles for “it becomes necessary for the workers to form themselves into democratic societies, with equal conditions for all members, on pain of a relapse into feudalism.” [The General Idea of the Revolution, p. 276 and p. 277]
In the case of a park, either it is open to all or it is fenced off and police used to bar access. Taking “occupancy and use” as our starting point then it becomes clear that, over time, either the community organises itself communally or a park becomes private property. If a group of people frequent a common area then they will have to discuss how to maintain it — for example, arrange for labour to be done on it, whether to have a play-ground for children or to have a duck pond, whether to increase the numbers and types of trees, and so forth. That implies the development of communal structures. In the case of new people using the amenity, either they are excluded from it (and have to pay for access) or they automatically join the users group and so the park is, in effect, common property and socialised. In such circumstances, it would be far easier simply to ignore the issue of individual contributions and base access on need (i.e., communistic principles). However, as already indicated in section G.2, social anarchists reject attempts to coerce other workers into joining a co-operative or commune. Freedom cannot be given, it must be taken and social anarchism, like all forms of anarchy, cannot be imposed. How those who reject social anarchism will gain access to common property will depend, undoubtedly, on specific circumstances and who exactly is involved and how they wish to utilise it. As such, it will be difficult to generalise as each commune will determine what is best and reach the appropriate contracts with any individualist anarchists in their midst or vicinity.
It should also be pointed out (and this may seem ironic), wage labour does have the advantage that people can move to new locations and work without having to sell their old means of living. Often moving somewhere can be a hassle if one has to sell a shop or home. Many people prefer not to be tied down to one place. This is a problem in a system based on “occupancy and use” as permanently leaving a property means that it automatically becomes abandoned and so its users may be forced to stay in one location until they find a buyer for it. This is not an issue in social anarchism as access to the means of life is guaranteed to all members of the free society.
Most social anarchists also are critical of the means which individualists anarchists support to achieve anarchy, namely to abolish capitalism by the creation of mutual banks which would compete exploitation and oppression away. While mutual banks could aid the position of working class people under capitalism (which is why Bakunin and other social anarchists recommended them), they cannot undermine or eliminate it. This is because capitalism, due to its need to accumulate, creates natural barriers to entry into a market (see section C.4). Thus the physical size of the large corporation would make it immune to the influence of mutual banking and so usury could not be abolished. Even if we look at the claimed indirect impact of mutual banking, namely an increase in the demand of labour and so wages, the problem arises that if this happens then capitalism would soon go into a slump (with obvious negative effects on small firms and co-operatives). In such circumstances, the number of labourers seeking work would rise and so wages would fall and profits rise. Then it is a case of whether the workers would simply tolerate the slump and let capitalism continue or whether they would seize their workplaces and practice the kind of expropriation individualist anarchists tended to oppose.
This problem was recognised by many individualist anarchists themselves and it played a significant role in its decline as a movement. By 1911 Tucker had come to the same conclusions as communist-anarchists on whether capitalism could be reformed away. As we noted in section G.1.1, he “had come to believe that free banking and similar measures, even if inaugurated, were no longer adequate to break the monopoly of capitalism or weaken the authority of the state.” [Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices, p. 6] While admitted that political or revolutionary action was required to destroy the concentrations of capital which made anarchy impossible even with free competition, he rejected the suggestion that individualist anarchists should join in such activity. Voltairine de Cleyre came to similar conclusions earlier and started working with Emma Goldman before becoming a communist-anarchist sometime in 1908. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one historian argues that as the “native American variety of anarchism dissolved in the face of increasing State repression and industrialisation, rationalisation, and concentration of capital, American anarchists were forced either to acquiesce or to seek a more militant stain of anarchism: this latter presented itself in the form of Communist Anarchism . . . Faith in peaceful evolution toward an anarchist society seemed archaic and gradually faded.” [Kline, The Individualist Anarchists, p. 83]
So while state action may increase the degree of monopoly in an industry, the natural tendency for any market is to place barriers (natural ones) to new entries in terms of set-up costs and so on. This applies just as much to co-operatives as it does to companies based on wage-labour. It means that if the relation between capital and labour was abolished within the workplace (by their transformation into co-operatives) but they remained the property of their workers, it would only be a matter of time before the separation of the producers from their means of production reproduced itself. This is because, within any market system, some firms fail and others succeed. Those which fail will create a pool of unemployed workers who will need a job. The successful co-operatives, safe behind their natural barriers to entry, would be in a stronger position than the unemployed workers and so may hire them as wage labourers — in effect, the co-operative workers would become “collective capitalists” hiring other workers. This would end workers’ self-management (as not all workers are involved in the decision making process) as well as workers’ ownership, i.e. “occupancy and use,” (as not all workers’ would own the means of production they used). The individual workers involved may “consent” to becoming wage slaves, but that is because it is the best option available rather than what they really want. Which, of course, is the same as under capitalism.
This was why Proudhon argued that “every worker employed in the association” must have “an undivided share in the property of the company” in order to ensure workers’ self-management. [Op. Cit., p. 222] Only this could ensure “occupancy and use” and so self-management in a free society (i.e. keep that society free). Thus in anarchism, as de Cleyre summarised, it is “a settled thing that to be free one must have liberty of access to the sources and means of production” Without socialisation of the means of life, liberty of access could be denied. Little wonder she argued that she had become “convinced that a number of the fundamental propositions of individualistic economy would result in the destruction of equal liberty.” The only logical anarchist position is “that some settlement of the whole labour question was needed which would not split up the people again into land possessors and employed wage-earners.” Hence her movement from individualism towards, first, mutualism and then communism — it was the only logical position to take in a rapidly industrialising America which had made certain concepts of individualism obsolete. It was her love of freedom which made her sensitive to the possibility of any degeneration back into capitalism: “the instinct of liberty naturally revolted not only at economic servitude, but at the outcome of it, class-lines.” [Op. Cit., p. 58, p. 105, p. 61 and p. 55] As we argue in section G.4.2 such a possibility can be avoided only by a consistent application of “occupancy and use” which, in practice, would be nearly identical to the communalisation or socialisation of the means of life.
This issue is related to the question of inequality within a market economy and whether free exchanges tend to reduce or increase any initial inequalities. While Individualist Anarchists argue for the “cost principle” (i.e. cost being the limit of price) the cost of creating the same commodity in different areas or by different people is not equal. Thus the market price of a good cannot really equal the multitude of costs within it (and so price can only equal a workers’ labour in those few cases where that labour was applied in average circumstances). This issue was recognised by Tucker, who argued that “economic rent . . . is one of nature’s inequalities. It will probably remain with us always. Complete liberty will every much lessen it; of that I have no doubt.” [“Why I am an Anarchist”, pp. 132-6, Man!, M. Graham (ed.), pp. 135-6] However, argue social anarchists, the logic of market exchange produces a situation where the stronger party to a contract seeks to maximise their advantage. Given this, free exchange will tend to increase differences in wealth and income over time, not eliminate them. As Daniel Guérin summarised:
“Competition and the so-called market economy inevitably produce inequality and exploitation, and would do so even if one started from complete equality. They could not be combined with workers’ self-management unless it were on a temporary basis, as a necessary evil, until (1) a psychology of ‘honest exchange’ had developed among the workers; (2) most important, society as a whole had passed from conditions of shortage to the stage of abundance, when competition would lose its purpose . . . The libertarian communist would condemn Proudhon’s version of a collective economy as being based on a principle of conflict; competitors would be in a position of equality at the start, only to be hurled into a struggle which would inevitably produce victors and vanquished, and where goods would end up by being exchanged according to the principles of supply and demand.” [Op. Cit., pp. 53-4]
Thus, even a non-capitalist market could evolve towards inequality and away from fair exchange. It was for this reason that Proudhon argued that a portion of income from agricultural produce be paid into a central fund which would be used to make equalisation payments to compensate farmers with less favourably situated or less fertile land. As he put it, economic rent “in agriculture has no other cause than the inequality in the quality of land . . . if anyone has a claim on account of this inequality . . . [it is] the other land workers who hold inferior land. That is why in our scheme for liquidation [of capitalism] we stipulated that every variety of cultivation should pay a proportional contribution, destined to accomplish a balancing of returns among farm workers and an assurance of products.” [Op. Cit., p. 209] His advocacy of federations of workers’ associations was, likewise, seen as a means of abolishing inequalities.
Unlike Proudhon, however, individualist anarchists did not propose any scheme to equalise income. Perhaps Tucker was correct and the differences would be slight, but in a market situation exchanges tend to magnify differences, not reduce them as the actions of self-interested individuals in unequal positions will tend to exacerbate differences. Over time these slight differences would become larger and larger, subjecting the weaker party to relatively increasingly worse contracts. Without equality, individualist anarchism would quickly become hierarchical and non-anarchist. As the communist-anarchist paper Freedom argued in the 1880s:
“Are not the scandalous inequalities in the distribution of wealth today merely the culminate effect of the principle that every man is justified in securing to himself everything that his chances and capacities enable him to lay hands on?
“If the social revolution which we are living means anything, it means the destruction of this detestable economic principle, which delivers over the more social members of the community to the domination of the most unsocial and self-interested.” [Freedom, vol. 2, no. 19]
Freedom, it should be noted, is slightly misrepresenting the position of individualist anarchists. They did not argue that every person could appropriate all the property he or she could. Most obviously, in terms of land they were consistently opposed to a person owning more of it than they actually used. They also tended to apply this to what was on the land as well, arguing that any buildings on it were abandoned when the owner no longer used them. Given this, individualist anarchists have stressed that such a system would be unlikely to produce the inequalities associated with capitalism (as Kropotkin noted, equality was essential and was implicitly acknowledged by individualists themselves who argued that their system “would offer no danger, because the rights of each individual would have been limited by the equal rights of all others.” [Evolution and Environment, p. 85]). Thus contemporary individualist anarchist Joe Peacott:
“Although individualists envision a society based on private property, we oppose the economic relationships of capitalism, whose supporters misuse words like private enterprise and free markets to justify a system of monopoly ownership in land and the means of production which allows some to skim off part or even most of the wealth produced by the labour of others. Such a system exists only because it is protected by the armed power of government, which secures title to unjustly acquired and held land, monopolises the supply of credit and money, and criminalises attempts by workers to take full ownership of the means of production they use to create wealth. This state intervention in economic transactions makes it impossible for most workers to become truly independent of the predation of capitalists, banks, and landlords. Individualists argue that without the state to enforce the rules of the capitalist economy, workers would not allow themselves to be exploited by these thieves and capitalism would not be able to exist . . .
“One of the criticisms of individualist economic proposals raised by other anarchists is that a system based on private ownership would result in some level of difference among people in regard to the quality or quantity of possessions they have. In a society where people are able to realise the full value of their labour, one who works harder or better than another will possess or have the ability to acquire more things than someone who works less or is less skilled at a particular occupation . . .
“The differences in wealth that arise in an individualist community would likely be relatively small. Without the ability to profit from the labour of others, generate interest from providing credit, or extort rent from letting out land or property, individuals would not be capable of generating the huge quantities of assets that people can in a capitalist system. Furthermore, the anarchist with more things does not have them at the expense of another, since they are the result of the owner’s own effort. If someone with less wealth wishes to have more, they can work more, harder, or better. There is no injustice in one person working 12 hours a day and six days a week in order to buy a boat, while another chooses to work three eight hour days a week and is content with a less extravagant lifestyle. If one can generate income only by hard work, there is an upper limit to the number and kind of things one can buy and own.” [Individualism and Inequality]
However, argue social anarchists, market forces may make such an ideal impossible to achieve or maintain. Most would agree with Peter Marshall’s point that “[u]ndoubtedly real difficulties exist with the economic position of the individualists. If occupiers became owners overnight as Benjamin Tucker recommended, it would mean in practice that those with good land or houses would merely become better off than those with bad. Tucker’s advocacy of ‘competition everywhere and always’ among occupying owners, subject to the only moral law of minding your own business might will encourage individual greed rather than fair play for all.” [Demanding the Impossible, p. 653]
Few social anarchists are convinced that all the problems associated with markets and competition are purely the result of state intervention. They argue that it is impossible to have most of the underlying pre-conditions of a competitive economy without the logical consequences of them. It is fair to say that individualist anarchists tend to ignore or downplay the negative effects of markets while stressing their positive ones.
While we discuss the limitations of markets in section I.1.3, suffice to say here that competition results in economic forces developing which those within the market have to adjust to. In other words, the market may be free but those within it are not. To survive on the market, firms would seek to reduce costs and so implement a host of dehumanising working practices in order to compete successfully on the market, things which they would resist if bosses did it. Work hours could get longer and longer, for example, in order to secure and maintain market position. This, in turn, affects our quality of life and our relationship with our partners, children, parents, friends, neighbours and so on. That the profits do not go to the executives and owners of businesses may be a benefit, it matters little if people are working longer and harder in order to invest in machinery to ensure market survival. Hence survival, not living, would be the norm within such a society, just as it is, unfortunately, in capitalism.
Ultimately, Individualist Anarchists lose sight of the fact that success and competition are not the same thing. One can set and reach goals without competing. That we may loose more by competing than by co-operating is an insight which social anarchists base their ideas on. In the end, a person can become a success in terms of business but lose sight of their humanity and individuality in the process. In contrast, social anarchists stress community and co-operation in order to develop us as fully rounded individuals. As Kropotkin put it, “the individualisation they so highly praise is not attainable by individual efforts.” [Anarchism, p. 297]
As we noted in section D.1, the capitalist state intervenes into the economy and society to counteract the negative impact of market forces on social life and the environment as well as, of course, protecting and enhancing the position of itself and the capitalist class. As individualist anarchism is based on markets (to some degree), it seems likely that market forces would have similar negative impacts (albeit to a lesser degree due to the reduced levels of inequality implied by the elimination of non-labour incomes). Without communal institutions, social anarchists argue, individualist anarchism has no means of counteracting the impact of such forces except, perhaps, by means of continual court cases and juries. Thus social issues would not be discussed by all affected but rather by small sub-groups retroactively addressing individual cases.
Moreover, while state action may have given the modern capitalist an initial advantage on the market, it does not follow that a truly free market will not create similar advantages naturally over time. And if it did, then surely a similar system would develop? As such, it does not follow that a non-capitalist market system would remain such. In other words, it is true that extensive state intervention was required to create capitalism but after a time economic forces can usually be relied upon to allow wage workers to be exploited. The key factor is that while markets have existed long before capitalism, that system has placed them at the centre of economic activity. In the past, artisans and farmers produced for local consumers, with the former taking their surplus to markets. In contrast, capitalism has produced a system where producers are primarily geared to exchanging all goods they create on an extensive market rather simply a surplus locally. This implies that the dynamics of a predominantly market system may be different from those in the past in which the market played a much smaller role and where self-sufficiency was always a possibility. It is difficult to see how, for example, car workers or IT programmers could produce for their own consumption using their own tools.
So in a market economy with a well developed division of labour it is possible for a separation of workers from their means of production to occur. This is particularly the case when the predominant economic activity is not farming. Thus the net effect of market transactions could be to re-introduce class society simply by their negative long-term consequences. That such a system developed without state aid would make it no less unfree and unjust. It is of little use to point out that such a situation is not what the Individualist Anarchists desired for it is a question of whether their ideas would actually result in what they wanted. Social anarchists have fears that it will not. Significantly, as we noted in section G.3, Tucker was sensible enough to argue that those subject to such developments should rebel against it.
In response, individualist anarchists could argue that the alternative to markets would be authoritarian (i.e., some form of central planning) and/or inefficient as without markets to reward effort most people would not bother to work well and provide for the consumer. So while markets do have problems with them, the alternatives are worse. Moreover, when social anarchists note that there is a remarkable correlation between competitiveness in a society and the presence of clearly defined “have” and “have-not” groups individualist anarchists would answer that the causation flows not from competitiveness to inequality but from inequality to competitiveness. In a more equal society people would be less inclined to compete as ruthlessly as under capitalism and so the market would not generate as many problems as it does today. Moreover, eliminating the artificial barriers erected by the state would allow a universal competition to develop rather than the one sided form associated with capitalism. With a balance of market power, competition would no longer take the form it currently does.
Yet, as noted above, this position ignores natural barriers to competition The accumulation needs of a competitive market economy do not disappear just because capitalism has been replaced by co-operatives and mutual credit banks. In any market economy, firms will try to improve their market position by investing in new machinery, reducing prices by improving productivity and so on. This creates barriers to new competitors who have to expend more money in order to match the advantages of existing firms. Such amounts of money may not be forthcoming from even the biggest mutual bank and so certain firms would enjoy a privileged position on the market. Given that Tucker defined a monopolist as “any person, corporation, or institution whose right to engage in any given pursuit of life is secured, either wholly or partially, by any agency whatsoever — whether the nature of things or the force of events or the decree of arbitrary power — against the influence of competition” we may suggest that due to natural barriers, an individualist anarchist society would not be free of monopolists and so of usury. [quoted by James J. Martin, Men Against the State, p. 210]
For this reason, even in a mutualist market certain companies would receive a bigger slice of profits than (and at the expense of) others. This means that exploitation would still exist as larger companies could charge more than cost for their products. It could be argued that the ethos of an anarchist society would prevent such developments happening but, as Kropotkin noted, this has problems, firstly because of “the difficulty if estimating the market value” of a product based on “average time” or cost necessary to produce it and, secondly, if that could be done then to get people “to agree upon such an estimation of their work would already require a deep penetration of the Communist principles into their ideas.” [Environment and Evolution, p. 84] In addition, the free market in banking would also result in its market being dominated by a few big banks, with similar results. As such, it is all fine and well to argue that with rising interest rates more competitors would be drawn into the market and so the increased competition would automatically reduce them but that is only possible if there are no serious natural barriers to entry.
This obviously impacts on how we get from capitalism to anarchism. Natural barriers to competition limit the ability to compete exploitation away. So as to its means of activism, individualist anarchism exaggerates the potential of mutual banks to fund co-operatives. While the creation of community-owned and -managed mutual credit banks would help in the struggle for a free society, such banks are not enough in themselves. Unless created as part of the social struggle against capitalism and the state, and unless combined with community and strike assemblies, mutual banks would quickly die, because the necessary social support required to nurture them would not exist. Mutual banks must be part of a network of other new socio-economic and political structures and cannot be sustained in isolation from them. This is simply to repeat our earlier point that, for most social anarchists, capitalism cannot be reformed away. As such, social anarchists would tend to agree with the summary provided by this historian:
“If [individualist anarchists] rejected private ownership of property, they destroyed their individualism and ‘levelled’ mankind. If they accepted it, they had the problem of offering a solution whereby the inequalities [of wealth] would not amount to a tyranny over the individual. They meet the same dilemma in ‘method.’ If they were consistent libertarian individualists they could not force from ‘those who had’ what they had acquired justly or unjustly, but if they did not force it from them, they perpetuated inequalities. They met a stone wall.” [Eunice Minette Schuster, Native American Anarchism, p. 158]
So while Tucker believed in direct action, he opposed the “forceful” expropriation of social capital by the working class, instead favouring the creation of a mutualist banking system to replace capitalism with a non-exploitative system. Tucker was therefore fundamentally a reformist, thinking that anarchy would evolve from capitalism as mutual banks spread across society, increasing the bargaining power of labour. And reforming capitalism over time, by implication, always means tolerating boss’s control during that time. So, at its worse, this is a reformist position which becomes little more than an excuse for tolerating landlord and capitalist domination.
Also, we may note, in the slow transition towards anarchism, we would see the rise of pro-capitalist “defence associations” which would collect rent from land, break strikes, attempt to crush unions and so on. Tucker seemed to have assumed that the anarchist vision of “occupancy-and-use” would become universal. Unfortunately, landlords and capitalists would resist it and so, ultimately, an Individualist Anarchist society would have to either force the minority to accept the majority wishes on land use (hence his comments on there being “no legal power to collect rent”) or the majority are dictated to by the minority who are in favour of collecting rent and hire “defence associations” to enforce those wishes. With the head start big business and the wealthy have in terms of resources, conflicts between pro- and anti-capitalist “defence associations” would usually work against the anti-capitalist ones (as trade unions often find out). In other words, reforming capitalism would not be as non-violent or as simple as Tucker maintained. The vested powers which the state defends will find other means to protect themselves when required (for example, when capitalists and landlords backed fascism and fascist squads in Italy after workers “occupied and used” their workplaces and land workers and peasants “occupied and used” the land in 1920). We are sure that economists will then rush to argue that the resulting law system that defended the collection of rent and capitalist property against “occupancy and use” was the most “economically efficient” result for “society.”
In addition, even if individualist mutualism did result in an increase in wages by developing artisan and co-operative ventures that decreased the supply of labour in relation to its demand, this would not eliminate the subjective and objective pressures on profits that produce the business cycle within capitalism (see section C.7). In fact, it was increase the subjective pressures considerably as was the case under the social Keynesian of the post-war period. Unsurprisingly, business interests sought the necessary “reforms” and ruthlessly fought the subsequent strikes and protests to achieve a labour market more to their liking (see section C.8.2 for more on this). This means that an increase in the bargaining power of labour would soon see capital moving to non-anarchist areas and so deepening any recession caused by a lowering of profits and other non-labour income. This could mean that during an economic slump, when workers’ savings and bargaining position were weak, the gains associated with mutualism could be lost as co-operative firms go bust and mutual banks find it hard to survive in a hostile environment.
Mutual banks would not, therefore, undermine modern capitalism, as recognised by social anarchists from Bakunin onward. They placed their hopes in a social revolution organised by workplace and community organisations, arguing that the ruling class would be as unlikely to tolerate being competed away as they would be voted away. The collapse of social Keynesianism into neo-liberalism shows that even a moderately reformed capitalism which increased working class power will not be tolerated for too long. In other words, there was a need for social revolution which mutual banks do not, and could not, eliminate.
However, while social anarchists disagree with the proposals of individualist anarchists, we do still consider them to be a form of anarchism — one with many flaws and one perhaps more suited to an earlier age when capitalism was less developed and its impact upon society far less than it is now (see section G.1.4). Individualist and social anarchism could co-exist happily in a free society and neither believes in forcing the other to subscribe to their system. As Paul Nursey-Bray notes “linking all of these approaches . . . is not just the belief in individual liberty and its corollary, the opposition to central or state authority, but also a belief in community, and an equality of community members.” The “discussion over forms of property . . . should not be allowed to obscure the commonality of the idea of the free community of self-regulating individuals.” And so “there are meeting points in the crucial ideas of individual autonomy and community that suggest, at least, a basis for the discussion of equality and property relations.” [Anarchist Thinkers and Thought, p. xvi]
No, it is not. This can be seen from social anarchism, where opposition to wage labour as hierarchical and exploitative is taken as an obvious and logical aspect of anarchist principles. However, ironically, this conclusion must also be drawn from the principles expounded by individualist anarchism. However, as noted in section G.1.3, while many individualist anarchists opposed wage labour and sought it end not all did. Benjamin Tucker was one of the latter. To requote him:
“Wages is not slavery. Wages is a form of voluntary exchange, and voluntary exchange is a form of Liberty.” [Liberty, no. 3, p. 1]
The question of wage labour was one of the key differences between Tucker and communist-anarchist Johann Most. For Most, it signified that Tucker supported the exploitation of labour. For Tucker, Most’s opposition to it signified that he was not a real anarchist, seeking to end freedom by imposing communism onto all. In response to Most highlighting the fact that Tucker supported wage labour, Tucker argued as followed:
“If the men who oppose wages — that is, the purchase and sale of labour — were capable of analysing their thought and feelings, they would see that what really excites their anger is not the fact that labour is bought and sold, but the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labour, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labour by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labour, and that, but for the privilege, would be enjoyed by all gratuitously. And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege, the class that now enjoy it will be forced to sell their labour, and then, when there will be nothing but labour with which to buy labour, the distinction between wage-payers and wage-receivers will be wiped out, and every man will be a labourer exchanging with fellow-labourers. Not to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and secure to every man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism. What Anarchistic Socialism aims to abolish is usury. It does not want to deprive labour of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not hold that labour should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired at usury.” [Liberty, no. 123, p. 4]
Social anarchists, in reply, would argue that Tucker is missing the point. The reason why almost all anarchists are against wage labour is because it generates social relationships based on authority and, as such, it sets the necessary conditions for the exploitation of labour to occur. If we take the creation of employer-employee relationships within an anarchy, we see the danger of private statism arising (as in “anarcho”-capitalism) and so the end of anarchy. Such a development can be seen when Tucker argued that if, in an anarchy, “any labourers shall interfere with the rights of their employers, or shall use force upon inoffensive ‘scabs,’ or shall attack their employers’ watchmen . . . I pledge myself that, as an Anarchist and in consequence of my Anarchistic faith, I will be among the first to volunteer as a member of a force to repress these disturbers of order, and, if necessary, sweep them from the earth.” [Op. Cit., p. 455] Tucker’s comments were provoked by the Homestead strike of 1892, where the striking steelworkers fought with, and defeated, their employer’s Pinkerton thugs sent to break the strike (Tucker, it should be stressed supported the strikers but not their methods and considered the capitalist class as responsible for the strike by denying workers a free market).
In such a situation, these defence associations would be indeed “private states” and here Tucker’s ideas unfortunately do parallel those of the “anarcho”-capitalists (although, as Tucker thought that the employees would not be exploited by the employer, this does not suggest that Tucker can be considered a forefather of “anarcho”-capitalism). As Kropotkin warned, “[f]or their self-defence, both the citizen and group have a right to any violence [within individualist anarchy] . . . Violence is also justified for enforcing the duty of keeping an agreement. Tucker . . . opens . . . the way for reconstructing under the heading of the ‘defence’ all the functions of the State.” [Anarchism, p. 297]
Such an outcome is easy to avoid, however, by simply consistently applying individualist anarchist principles and analysis to wage labour. To see why, it is necessary simply to compare private property with Tucker’s definition of the state.
How did Tucker define the state? All states have two common elements, “aggression” and “the assumption of sole authority over a given area and all within it, exercised generally for the double purpose of more complete oppression of its subjects and extension of its boundaries.” This monopoly of authority is important, as “I am not aware that any State has ever tolerated a rival State within its borders.” So the state, Tucker stated, is “the embodiment of the principle of invasion in an individual, or a band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area.” The “essence of government is control, or the attempt to control. He who attempts to control another is a governor, an aggressor, an invader . . . he who resists another’s attempt to control is not an aggressor, an invader, a governor, but simply a defender, a protector.” In short, “the Anarchistic definition of government: the subjection of the non-invasive individual to an external will.” [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 24]
The similarities with capitalist property (i.e., one based on wage labour) is obvious. The employer assumes and exercises “sole authority over a given area and all within it,” they are the boss after all and so capitalists are the “masters of the entire people within a given area.” That authority is used to control the employees in order to maximise the difference between what they produce and what they get paid (i.e., to ensure exploitation). As August Spies, one of the Haymarket Martyrs, noted:
“I was amazed and was shocked when I became acquainted with the condition of the wage-workers in the New World.
“The factory: the ignominious regulations, the surveillance, the spy system, the servility and lack of manhood among the workers and the arrogant arbitrary behaviour of the boss and his associates — all this made an impression upon me that I have never been able to divest myself of. At first I could not understand why the workers, among them many old men with bent backs, silently and without a sign of protest bore every insult the caprice of the foreman or boss would heap upon them. I was not then aware of the fact that the opportunity to work was a privilege, a favour, and that it was in the power of those who were in the possession of the factories and instruments of labour to deny or grant this privilege. I did not then understand how difficult it was to find a purchaser for ones labour, I did not know then that there were thousands and thousands of idle human bodies in the market, ready to hire out upon most any conditions, actually begging for employment. I became conscious of this, very soon, however, and I knew then why these people were so servile, whey suffered the humiliating dictates and capricious whims of their employers.” [The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs, pp. 66-7]
That this is a kind of state-like authority becomes clear when we consider company towns. As Ward Churchill notes, the “extent of company power over workers included outright ownership of the towns in which they lived, a matter enabling employers to garner additional profits by imposing exorbitant rates of rent, prices for subsistence commodities, tools, and such health care as was available. Conditions in these ‘company towns’ were such that, by 1915, the Commission on Industrial Relations was led to observe that they displayed ‘every aspect of feudalism except the recognition of special duties on the part of the employer.’ The job of the Pinkertons — first for the railroads, then more generally — was to prevent workers from organising in a manner that might enable them to improve their own circumstances, thus reducing corporate profits.” [“From the Pinkertons to the PATRIOT Act: The Trajectory of Political Policing in the United States, 1870 to the Present”, pp. 1-72, CR: The New Centennial Review, vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 11-2] In the words of one historian of the Pinkerton Agency “[b]y the mid-1850s a few businessmen saw the need for greater control over their employees; their solution was to sponsor a private detective system. In February 1855, Allan Pinkerton, after consulting with six midwestern railroads, created such an agency in Chicago.” [Frank Morn, quoted by Churchill, Op. Cit., p. 4] As we have noted in section F.7.1, such regimes remained into the 1930s, with corporations having their own well armed private police to enforce the propertarian hierarchy (see also section F.6.2).
So, in terms of monopoly of authority over a given area the capitalist company and the state share a common feature. The reason why wage labour violates Individualist Anarchist principles is clear. If the workers who use a workplace do not own it, then someone else will (i.e. the owner, the boss). This in turn means that the owner can tell those who use the resource what to do, how to do it and when. That is, they are the sole authority over the workplace and those who use it. However, according to Tucker, the state can be defined (in part) as “the assumption of sole authority over a given area and all within it.” Tucker considered this element as “common to all States” and so opposition to the state logically implies support for workers’ self-management for only in this case can people govern themselves during the working day (see section B.4 for more discussion). Even with Tucker’s other aspect, “aggression”, there are issues. Competition is inherently aggressive, with companies seeking to expand their market share, go into new markets, drive their competitors out of business, and so forth. Within the firm itself, bosses always seek to make workers do more work for less, threatening them with the sack if they object.
Tucker’s comments on strikers brings to light an interesting contradiction in his ideas. After all, he favoured a system of “property” generally defined by use and occupancy, that is whoever uses and possesses is to be consider the owner. As we indicated in section G.1.2, this applied to both the land and what was on it. In particular, Tucker pointed to the example of housing and argued that rent would not be collected from tenants nor would they be evicted for not paying it. Why should this position change when it is a workplace rather than a house? Both are products of labour, so that cannot be the criteria. Nor can it be because one is used for work as Tucker explicitly includes the possibility that a house could be used as a workplace.
Thus we have a massive contradiction between Tucker’s “occupancy and use” perspective on land use and his support for wage labour. One letter to Liberty (by “Egoist”) pointed out this contradiction. As the letter put it, “if production is carried on in groups, as it now is, who is the legal occupier of the land? The employer, the manager, or the ensemble of those engaged in the co-operative work? The latter appearing the only rational answer.” [Op. Cit., no. 143, p. 4] Sadly, Tucker’s reply did not address this particular question and so we are left with an unresolved contradiction.
Looking at the Homestead strike which provoked Tucker’s rant against strikers, the similarities between wage labour and statism become even clearer. The 3,800 workers locked out by Carnegie at Homestead in 1892 definitely occupied and used the works from which they were barred entry by the owners. The owners, obviously, did not use the workplace themselves — they hired others to occupy and use it for them. Now, why should “occupancy and use” be acceptable for land and housing but not for workplaces? There is no reason and so wage labour, logically, violates “occupancy and use” — for under wage labour, those who occupy and use a workplace do not own or control it. Hence “occupancy and use” logically implies workers’ control and ownership.
The Homestead lockout of 1892, ironically enough, occurred when the owners of the steel mill provoked the union in order to break its influence in the works. In other words, the property owners practised “aggression” to ensure their “sole authority over a given area and all within it” (to use Tucker’s words). As such, the actions of the capitalist property owners meets Tucker’s definition of the state exactly. According to the Carnegie Steel Company, it had “a legal right to the enjoyment of our property, and to operate it as we please . . . But for years our works have been managed . . . by men who do not own a dollar in them. This will stop right here. The Carnegie Steel Company will hereafter control their works in the employment of labour.” Secretary Lovejoy of the corporation was clear on this, and its wider impact, arguing that “[t]his outbreak will settle one matter forever, and that is that the Homestead mill hereafter will be run non-union . . . other mills heretofore union [will] become non-union and thus free their owners from the arbitrary dictation of labour unions.” [quoted by Peter Krause, The Battle for Homestead 1880-1892, p. 12 and pp. 39-40]
In other words, the workers will henceforth be submit to the arbitrary dictation of the owners, who would be free to exercise their authority without hindrance of those subject to it. Unsurprisingly, for the workers, the strike was over their freedom and independence, of their ability to control their own labour. As one historian notes, the “lockout crushed the largest trade union in America . . . the victory at Homestead gave Carnegie and his fellow steelmasters carte blanche in the administration of their works. The lockout put ‘the employers in the saddle’ — precisely where they would remain, without union interference, for four decades.” The Pinkerton agents “were preparing to enforce the authority putatively designated to them by Henry Clay Frick” (although Frick “had been counting on the ultimate authority of the state from the outset.”). [Peter Krause, Op. Cit., p. 13, p. 14 and p. 25]
Nor was the 1892 lockout an isolated event. There had been a long history of labour disputes at Homestead. In 1882, for example, a strike occurred over the “question of complete and absolute submission on the part of manufacturers to the demands of their men,” in the words of one ironmaster. [quoted by Krause, Op. Cit., p. 178] It was a question of power, whether bosses would have sole and total authority over a given area and all within it. The workers won that strike, considering it “a fight for freedom.” As such, the 1892 lockout was the end result of years of management attempts to break the union and so “in creating and fortifying the system that had, over the years, produced the conditions for this violence, Carnegie’s role cannot be denied. What provoked the apparently ‘barbaric’ and ‘thankless’ workers of Homestead was not, as an account limited to that day might indicate, the sudden intrusion of Pinkerton agents into their dispute but the slow and steady erosion of their rights and their power, over which Carnegie and his associates in steel and politics had presided for years, invisibly but no less violently.” [Krause, Op. Cit., p. 181 and p. 43]
The conflict at Homestead was thus directly related to the issue of ensuring that the “sole authority over a given area and all within it” rested in the hands of the capitalists. This required smashing the union for, as Tucker noted, no state “has ever tolerated a rival State within its borders.” The union was a democratic organisation, whose “basic organisation . . . was the lodge, which elected its own president and also appointed a mill committee to enforce union rules within a given department of the steelworks. The union maintained a joint committee of the entire works.” Elected union officials who “act[ed] without the committee’s authorisation” were “replaced. Over and above the Advisory Committee stood the mass meeting” which was “often open to all workers,” not just union members. This union democracy was the key to the strike, as Carnegie and his associates “were deeply troubled by its effects in the workplace. So troubled, in fact, that beyond the issue of wages or any issues related to it, it was unionism itself that was the primary target of Carnegie’s concern.” [Krause, Op. Cit., p. 293]
Instead of a relatively libertarian regime, in which those who did the work managed it, the lockout resulted in the imposition of a totalitarian regime for the “purpose of more complete oppression of its subjects” and by its competitive advantage on the market, the “extension of its boundaries” (to use Tucker’s description of the state). “Without the encumbrance of the union,” notes Krause, “Carnegie was able to slash wages, impose twelve-hour workdays, eliminate five hundred jobs, and suitably assuage his republican conscience with the endowment of a library.” And so “the labour difficulties that precipitated the Homestead Lockout had less to do with quantifiable matter such as wages and wage scales than with the politics of the workers’ claim to a franchise within the mill — that is, the legitimacy, authority, and power of the union.” [Op. Cit., p. 361 and p. 294]
The contradictions in wage labour become clear when Secretary Lovejoy stated that with the lockout the owners had declared that “we have decided to run our Homestead Mill ourselves.” [quoted by Krause, Op. Cit., p. 294] Except, of course, they did no such thing. The workers who occupied and used the steel mills still did the work, but without even the smallest say in their labour. A clearer example of why wage labour violates the individualist anarchist principle of “occupancy and use” would be harder to find. As labour historian David Montgomery put it, the Homestead lockout was a “crisp and firm declaration that workers’ control was illegal — that the group discipline in the workplace and community by which workers enforced their code of mutualism in opposition to the authority and power of the mill owners was tantamount to insurrection against the republic — clearly illuminated the ideological and political dimensions of workplace struggles.” [The Fall of the House of Labour, p. 39] This defeat of America’s most powerful trade union was achieved by means of a private police, supported by the State militia.
Thus we have numerous contradictions in Tucker’s position. On the one hand, occupancy and use precludes landlords renting land and housing but includes capitalists hiring workers to “occupancy and use” their land and workplaces; the state is attacked for being a monopoly of power over a given area while the boss can have the same authority; opposing voluntary wage labour shows that you are an authoritarian, but opposing voluntary landlordism is libertarian. Yet, there is no logical reason for workplaces to be excluded from “occupancy and use.” As Tucker put it:
“Occupancy and use is the only title to land in which we will protect you; if you attempt to use land which another is occupying and using, we will protect him against you; if another attempts to use land to which you lay claim, but which you are not occupying and using, we will not interfere with him; but of such land as you occupy and use you are the sole master, and we will not ourselves take from you, or allow anyone else to take from you, whatever you may get out of such land.” [Liberty, no. 252, p. 3]
Needless to say, neither Carnegie nor Frick were occupying and using the Homestead steel-mills nor were any of the other shareholders. It was precisely the autocratic authority of the owners which their private army and the state militia sought to impose on those who used, but did not own, the steel-mills (as the commander of the state troops noted, others “can hardly believe the actual communism of these people. They believe the works are theirs quite as much as Carnegie’s.” [quoted by Jeremy Brecher, Strike!, p. 60] As we discuss in the next section, this is precisely why most anarchists have opposed wage labour as being incompatible with general anarchist principles. In other words, a consistent anarchism precludes all forms of authoritarian social relationships.
There is another reason why wage labour is at odds with anarchist principles. This is to do with our opposition to exploitation and usury. Simply put, there are the problems in determining what are the “whole wages” of the employer and the employee. The employer, of course, does not simply get his “share” of the collectively produced output, they get the whole amount. This would mean that the employer’s “wages” are simply the difference between the cost of inputs and the price the goods were sold on the market. This would imply that the market wage of the labour has to be considered as equalling the workers’ “whole wage” and any profits equalling the bosses “whole wage” (some early defences of profit did argue precisely this, although the rise of shareholding made such arguments obviously false). The problem arises in that the employer’s income is not determined independently of their ownership of capital and their monopoly of power in the workplace. This means that the boss can appropriate for themselves all the advantages of co-operation and self-activity within the workplace simply because they owned it. Thus, “profits” do not reflect the labour (“wages”) of the employer.
It was this aspect of ownership which made Proudhon such a firm supporter of workers associations. As he put it, a “hundred men, uniting or combining their forces, produce, in certain cases, not a hundred times, but two hundred, three hundred, a thousand times as much. This is what I have called collective force. I even drew from this an argument, which, like so many others, remains unanswered, against certain forms of appropriation: that it is not sufficient to pay merely the wages of a given number of workmen, in order to acquire their product legitimately; that they must be paid twice, thrice or ten times their wages, or an equivalent service rendered to each one of them.” Thus, “all workers must associate, inasmuch as collective force and division of labour exist everywhere, to however slight a degree.” Industrial democracy, in which “all positions are elective, and the by-laws subject to the approval of the members, would ensure that “the collective force, which is a product of the community, ceases to be a source of profit to a small number of managers” and becomes “the property of all the workers.” [The General Idea of the Revolution, pp. 81-2, p. 217, p. 222 and p. 223]
Proudhon had first expounded this analysis in What is Property? in 1840 and, as K. Steven Wright notes, this was “[o]one of the reasons Proudhon gave for rejecting ‘property’ [and] was to become an important motif of subsequent socialist thought.” Thus “collective endeavours produced an additional value” which was “unjustly appropriated by the proprietaire.“ [Pierre-Joseph Proudhon the Rise of French Republican Socialism p. 64 and p. 65] Marx, it should be noted, concurred. Without mentioning Proudhon, he stressed how a capitalist buys the labour-power of 100 men and “can set the 100 men to work. He pays them the value of 100 independent labour-powers, but does not pay them for the combined labour power of the 100.” [Capital, Vol. 1, p. 451] Only co-operative workplaces can ensure that the benefits of co-operative labour are not monopolised by the few who happen to own, and so control, the means of production.
If this is not done, then it becomes a case of simply renaming “profits” to “wages” and saying that they are the result of the employers work rather than their ownership of capital. However, this is not the case as some part of the “wages” of the employer is derived purely from their owning capital (and is usury, charging to allow use) while, for the workers, it is unlikely to equal their product in the short run. Given that the major rationale for the Homestead strike of 1892 was to secure the despotism of the property owner, the results of breaking the union should be obvious. According to David Brody in his work The Steel Workers, after the union was broken “the steel workers output doubled in exchange for an income rise of one-fifth . . . The accomplishment was possible only with a labour force powerless to oppose the decisions of the steel men.” [quoted by Jeremy Brecher, Op. Cit., p. 62] At Homestead, between 1892 and 1907 the daily earnings of highly-skilled plate-mill workers fell by a fifth while their hours increased from eight to twelve. [Brecher, Op. Cit., p. 63] Who would dare claim that the profits this increased exploitation created somehow reflected the labour of the managers rather than their total monopoly of authority within the workplace?
The logic is simple — which boss would employ a worker unless they expected to get more out of their labour than they pay in wages? And why does the capitalist get this reward? They own “capital” and, consequently, their “labour” partly involves excluding others from using it and ordering about those whom they do allow in — in exchange for keeping the product of their labour. As Marx put it, “the worker works under the control of the capitalist to whom his labour belongs” and “the product is the property of the capitalist and not that of the worker, its immediate producer.” And so “[f]rom the instant he steps into the workshop, the use-value of his labour-power and therefore its use, which is labour, belongs to the capitalist.” [Op. Cit., p. 291 and p. 292] This suggests that exploitation takes place within production and so a contract for wages made beforehand simply cannot be expected to anticipate the use-value extracted by the boss from the workers subjected to his authority. Thus wage labour and exploitation would go hand-in-hand — and so Most’s horror at Tucker’s support for it.
As best, it could be argued that such “wages” would be minimal as workers would be able to swap jobs to get higher wages and, possibly, set up co-operatives in competition. However, this amounts to saying that, in the long run, labour gets its full product and to say that is to admit in the short term that labour is exploited. Yet nowhere did Tucker argue that labour would get its full product eventually in a free society, rather he stressed that liberty would result in the end of exploitation. Nor should we be blind to the fact that a market economy is a dynamic one, making the long run unlikely to ever appear (“in the long run we are all dead” as Keynes memorably put it). Combine this with the natural barriers to competition we indicated in section G.4 and we are left with problems of usury/exploitation in an individualist anarchist system.
The obvious solution to these problems is to be found in Proudhon, namely the use of co-operatives for any workplace which cannot be operated by an individual. This was the also the position of the Haymarket anarchists, with August Spies (for example) arguing that “large factories and mines, and the machinery of exchange and transportation . . . have become too vast for private control. Individuals can no longer monopolise them.” [contained in Albert Parsons, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis, pp. 60-1] Proudhon denounced property as “despotism”, for Albert Parsons the “wage system of labour is a despotism.” [Op. Cit., p. 21]
As Frank H. Brooks notes, “producer and consumer co-operatives were a staple of American labour reform (and of Proudhonian anarchism).” This was because they “promised the full reward of labour to the producer, and commodities at cost to the consumer.” [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 110] This was the position of Voltairine de Cleyre (during her individualist phase) as well as her mentor Dyer Lum:
“Lum drew from the French anarchist Proudhon . . . a radical critique of classical political economy and . . . a set of positive reforms in land tenure and banking . . . Proudhon paralleled the native labour reform tradition in several ways. Besides suggesting reforms in land and money, Proudhon urged producer co-operation.” [Frank H. Brooks, “Ideology, Strategy, and Organization: Dyer Lum and the American Anarchist Movement”, pp. 57-83, Labor History, Vol. 34, No. 1, p. 72]
So, somewhat ironically given his love of Proudhon, it was, in fact, Most who was closer to the French anarchist’s position on this issue than Tucker. Kropotkin echoed Proudhon’s analysis when he noted that “the only guarantee not to be robbed of the fruits of your labour is to possess the instruments of labour.” [The Conquest of Bread, p. 145] In other words, for a self-proclaimed follower of Proudhon, Tucker ignored the French anarchist’s libertarian arguments against wage labour. The key difference between the communist-anarchists and Proudhon was on the desirability of making the product of labour communal or not (although both recognised the right of people to share as they desired). However, it must be stressed that Proudhon’s analysis was not an alien one to the individualist anarchist tradition. Joshua King Ingalls, for example, presented a similar analysis to Proudhon on the issue of joint production as well as its solution in the form of co-operatives (see section G.1.3 for details) and Dyer Lum was a firm advocator of the abolition of wage labour. So integrating the insights of social anarchism on this issue with individualist anarchism would not be difficult and would build upon existing tendencies within it.
In summary, social anarchists argue that individualist anarchism does not solve the social question. If it did, then they would be individualists. They argue that in spite of Tucker’s claims, workers would still be exploited in any form of individualist anarchism which retained significant amounts of wage labour as well as being a predominantly hierarchical, rather than libertarian, society. As we argue in the next section, this is why most anarchists consider individualist anarchism as being an inconsistent form of anarchism.
>From our discussion of wage labour in the last section, some may consider that Tucker’s support for wage labour would place him outside the ranks of anarchism. After all, this is one of the key reasons why most anarchists reject “anarcho”-capitalism as a form of anarchism. Surely, it could be argued, if Murray Rothbard is not an anarchist, then why is Tucker?
That is not the case and the reason is obvious — Tucker’s support for wage labour is inconsistent with his ideas on “occupancy and use” while Rothbard’s are in line with his capitalist property rights. Given the key place self-management holds in almost all anarchist thought, unsurprisingly we find Chomsky summarising the anarchist position thusly:
“A consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production and the wage slavery which is a component of this system, as incompatible with the principle that labour must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer . . . A consistent anarchist must oppose not only alienated labour but also the stupefying specialisation of labour that takes place when the means for developing production.” [“Notes on Anarchism”, Chomsky on Anarchism, p. 123]
Thus the “consistent anarchist, then, will be a socialist, but a socialist of a particular sort.” [Op. Cit., p. 125] Which suggests that Tucker’s position is one of inconsistent anarchism. While a socialist, he did not take his libertarian positions to their logical conclusions — the abolition of wage labour. There is, of course, a certain irony in this. In response to Johann Most calling his ideas “Manchesterism”, Tucker wrote “what better can a man who professes Anarchism want than that? For the principle of Manchesterism is liberty, and consistent Manchesterism is consistent adherence to liberty. The only inconsistency of the Manchester men lies in their infidelity to liberty in some of its phases. And these infidelity to liberty in some of its phases is precisely the fatal inconsistency of the ‘Freiheit’ school . . . Yes, genuine A narchism is consistent Manchesterism, and Communistic or pseudo-Anarchism is inconsistent Manchesterism.” [Liberty, no. 123, p. 4]
In other words, if individualist anarchism is, as Tucker claimed, “consistent Manchesterism” then, argue social anarchists, individualist anarchism is “inconsistent” anarchism. This means that some of Tucker’s arguments contradict some of his own fundamental principles, most obviously his indifference to wage labour. This, as argued, violates “occupancy and use”, his opposition to exploitation and, as it is a form of hierarchy, his anarchism.
To see what we mean we must point out that certain individualist anarchists are not the only “inconsistent” ones that have existed. The most obvious example is Proudhon, whose sexism is well known, utterly disgraceful and is in direct contradiction to his other ideas and principles. While Proudhon attacked hierarchy in politics and economics, he fully supported patriarchy in the home. This support for a form of archy does not refute claims that Proudhon was an anarchist, it just means that certain of his ideas were inconsistent with his key principles. As one French anarcha-feminist critic of Proudhon put it in 1869: “These so-called lovers of liberty, if they are unable to take part in the direction of the state, at least they will be able to have a little monarchy for their personal use, each in his own home . . . Order in the family seems impossible to them — well then, what about in the state?” [André Léo, quoted by Carolyn J. Eichner, “‘Vive La Commune!’ Feminism, Socialism, and Revolutionary Revival in the Aftermath of the 1871 Paris Commune,”, pp. 68-98, Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 15, No.2, p. 75] Rejecting monarchy and hierarchy on the state level and within the workplace while supporting it — in the form of rule by the father — on the family level was simply illogical and inconsistent. Subsequent anarchists (from Bakunin onwards) solved this obvious contradiction by consistently applying anarchist principles and opposing sexism and patriarchy. In other words, by critiquing Proudhon’s sexism by means of the very principles he himself used to critique the state and capitalism.
Much the same applies to individualist anarchists. The key issue is that, given their own principles, individualist anarchism can easily become consistent anarchism. That is why it is a school of anarchism, unlike “anarcho”-capitalism. All that is required is to consistently apply “occupancy and use” to workplaces (as Proudhon advocated). By consistently applying this principle they can finally end exploitation along with hierarchy, so bringing all their ideas into line.
Tucker’s position is also in direct opposition to Proudhon’s arguments, which is somewhat ironic since Tucker stressed being inspired by and following the French anarchist and his ideas (Tucker referred to Proudhon as being both “the father of the Anarchistic school of socialism” as well as “being the Anarchist par excellence“ [Tucker, Instead of a Book, p. 391]). Tucker is distinctly at odds with Proudhon who consistently opposed wage-labour and so, presumably, was also an advocate of “pseudo-Anarchism” alongside Kropotkin and Most. For Proudhon, the worker has “sold and surrendered his liberty” to the proprietor, with the proprietor being “a man, who, having absolute control of an instrument of production, claims the right to enjoy the product of the instrument without using it himself.” This leads to exploitation and if “the labourer is proprietor of the value which he creates, it follows” that “all production being necessarily collective, the labourer is entitled to a share of the products and profits commensurate with his labour” and that, “all accumulated capital being social property, no one can be its exclusive proprietor.” [What is Property?, p. 130, p. 293 and p. 130] With “machinery and the workshop, divine right — that is, the principle of authority — makes its entrance into political economy. Capital . . . Property . . . are, in economic language, the various names of . . . Power, Authority.” Thus, under capitalism, the workplace has a “hierarchical organisation.” There are three alternatives, capitalism (“that is, monopoly and what follows”), state socialism (“exploitation by the State”) “or else . . . a solution based on equality, — in other words, the organisation of labour, which involves the negation of political economy and the end of property.” [System of Economical Contradictions, pp. 203-4 and p. 253]
For Proudhon, employees are “subordinated, exploited” and their “permanent condition is one of obedience.” The wage worker is, therefore, a “slave.” Indeed, capitalist companies “plunder the bodies and souls of wage workers” and they are “an outrage upon human dignity and personality.” However, in a co-operative the situation changes and the worker is an “associate” and “forms a part of the producing organisation” and “forms a part of the sovereign power, of which he was before but the subject.” Without co-operation and association, “the workers . . . would remain related as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two industrial castes of masters and wage-workers, which is repugnant to a free and democratic society.” [The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, p. 216, p. 219 and p. 216] As Robert Graham notes, “Proudhon’s market socialism is indissolubly linked to his notions of industry democracy and workers’ self-management.” [“Introduction”, Op. Cit.,, p. xxxii]
This analysis lead Proudhon to call for co-operatives to end wage labour. This was most consistently advocated in his The General Idea of the Revolution but appears repeatedly in his work. Thus we find him arguing in 1851 that socialism is “the elimination of misery, the abolition of capitalism and of wage-labour, the transformation of property, . . . the effective and direct sovereignty of the workers, . . . the substitution of the contractual regime for the legal regime.” [quoted by John Ehrenberg, Proudhon and his Age, p. 111] Fourteen years later, he argued the same, with the aim of his mutualist ideas being “the complete emancipation of the workers . . . the abolition of the wage worker.” Thus a key idea of Proudhon’s politics is the abolition of wage labour: “Industrial Democracy must. . . succeed Industrial Feudalism.” [quoted by K. Steven Vincent, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism p. 222 and p. 167] “In democratising us,” Proudhon argued, “revolution has launched us on the path of industrial democracy.” [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 63]
(As an aside, it is deeply significant how different Proudhon’s analysis of hierarchy and wage-labour is to Murray Rothbard’s. For Rothbard, both “hierarchy” and “wage-work” were part of “a whole slew of institutions necessary to the triumph of liberty” (others included “granting of funds by libertarian millionaires, and a libertarian political party”). He strenuously objected to those “indicting” such institutions “as non-libertarian or non-market”. [Konkin on Libertarian Strategy] For Proudhon — as well as Bakunin, Kropotkin, and others — both wage-labour and hierarchy were anti-libertarian by their very nature. How could hier-archy be “necessary” for the triumph of an-archy? Logically, it makes no sense. An-archy, by definition, means no-archy rather than wholehearted support for a specific form of archy, namely hier-archy! At best, Rothbard was a “voluntary archist” not an anarchist.)
As Charles A. Dana put it (in a work published by Tucker and described by him as “a really intelligent, forceful, and sympathetic exposition of mutual banking”), “[b]y introducing mutualism into exchanges and credit we introduce it everywhere, and labour will assume a new aspect and become truly democratic.” Labour “must be reformed by means of association as well as banking” for “if labour be not organised, the labourers will be made to toil for others to receive the fruit thereof as heretofore.” These co-operatives “to a great extent abolish the exploitation of the employed worker by the employing capitalist, and make the worker his own employer; but, in order to completely gain that end, the associations must be associated, united in one body for mutual aid.” This is “the Syndicate of Production.” [Proudhon and His “Bank of the People”, p. 45, p. 50 and p. 54] Tucker, however, asserted that Proudhon included the syndicate of production “to humour those of his associated who placed stress on these features. He did not consider them of any value.” [Op. Cit., pp. 51-2] However, he was simply incorrect. Industrial democracy was a key aspect of Proudhon’s ideas, as was the creation of an “agro-industrial federation” based on these self-managed associations. This can be seen from Tucker’s own comparison of Marx and Proudhon made on the formers death:
“For Karl Marx, the ‘egalitaire’, we feel the profoundest respect; as for Karl Marx, the ‘authoritaire’, we must consider him an enemy. . . . Proudhon was years before Marx [in discussing the struggle of the classes and the privileges and monopolies of capital]. . . . The vital difference between Proudhon and Marx [was] to be found in their respective remedies which they proposed. Man would nationalise the productive and distributive forces; Proudhon would individualise and associate them. Marx would make the labourers political masters; Proudhon would abolish political mastership entirely . . . Man believed in compulsory majority rule; Proudhon believed in the voluntary principle. In short, Marx was an ‘authoritaire’; Proudhon was a champion of Liberty.” [Liberty, no. 35, p. 2]
Ironically, therefore, by Tucker placing so much stress in opposing capitalist exploitation, instead of capitalist oppression, he was actually closer to the “authoritaire” Marx than Proudhon and, like Marx, opened the door to various kinds of domination and restrictions on individual self-government within anarchism. Again we see a support for contract theory creating authoritarian, not libertarian, relationships between people. Simply out, the social relationships produced by wage labour shares far too much in common with those created by the state not to be of concern to any genuine libertarian. Arguing that it is based on consent is as unconvincing as those who defend the state in similar terms.
And we must add that John Stuart Mill (who agreed with the Warrenite slogan “Individual Sovereignty”) faced with the same problem that wage labour made a mockery of individual liberty came to the same conclusion as Proudhon. He thought that if “mankind is to continue to improve” (and it can only improve within liberty, we must add) then in the end one form of association will predominate, “not that which can exist between a capitalist as chief, and workpeople without a voice in management, but the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers elected and removable by themselves.” [quoted by Carole Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory, p. 34]
Tucker himself pointed out that “the essence of government is control. . . He who attempts to control another is a governor, an aggressor, an invader.” [Instead of a Book, p. 23] So when Tucker suggests that (non-exploitative, and so non-capitalist) wage labour could exist in individualist anarchy there is a distinct contradiction. Unlike wage labour under capitalism, workers would employ other workers and all would (in theory) receive the full product of their labour. Be that as it may, such relationships are not libertarian and so contradict Tucker’s own theories on individual liberty (as Proudhon and Mill recognised with their own, similar, positions). Wage labour is based on the control of the worker by the employer; hence Tucker’s contract theory can lead to a form of “voluntary” and “private” government within the workplace. This means that, while outside of a contract an individual is free, within it he or she is governed. This violates Tucker’s concept of “equality of liberty,” since the boss has obviously more liberty than the worker during working hours.
Therefore, logically, individualist anarchism must follow Proudhon and support co-operatives and self-employment in order to ensure the maximum individual self-government and labour’s “natural wage.” So Tucker’s comments about strikers and wage labour show a basic inconsistency in his basic ideas. This conclusion is not surprising. As Malatesta argued:
“The individualists give the greatest importance to an abstract concept of freedom and fail to take into account, or dwell on the fact, that real, concrete freedom is the outcome of solidarity and voluntary co-operation . . . They certainly believe that to work in isolation is fruitless and that an individual, to ensure a living as a human being and to materially and morally enjoy all the benefits of civilisation, must either exploit — directly or indirectly — the labour of others . . . or associate with his [or her] fellows and share their pains and the joys of life. And since, being anarchists, they cannot allow the exploitation of one by another, they must necessarily agree that to be free and live as human beings they have to accept some degree and form of voluntary communism.” [The Anarchist Revolution, p. 16]
Occupancy and use, therefore, implies the collective ownership of resources used by groups which, in turn, implies associative labour and self-management. In other words, “some degree and form of voluntary communism.” Ultimately, as John P. Clark summarised, opposition to authority which is limited to just the state hardly makes much sense from a libertarian perspective:
“Neither . . . is there any reason to consider such a position a very consistent or convincing form of anarchism . . . A view of anarchism which seeks to eliminate coercion and the state, but which overlooks other ways in which people dominate other people, is very incomplete and quite contradictory type of anarchism. The most thorough-going and perceptive anarchist theories have shown that all types of domination are interrelated, all are destructive, and all must be eliminated . . . Anarchism may begin as a revolt against political authority, but if followed to its logical conclusion it becomes an all-encompassing critique of the will to dominate and all its manifestations.” [Max Stirner’s Egoism, pp. 92-3]
Certain individualist anarchists were keenly aware of the fact that even free association need not be based on freedom for both parties. Take, for example, marriage. Marriage, correctly argued John Beverley Robinson, is based on “the promise to obey” and this results in “a very real subordination.” As part of “the general progress toward freedom in all things,” marriage will “become the union of those who are both equal and both free.” [Liberty, no. 287, p. 2] Why should property associated subordination be any better than patriarchal subordination? Does the fact that one only lasts 8 or 12 hours rather than 24 hours a day really make one consistent with libertarian principles and the other not?
Thus Tucker’s comments on wage labour indicates a distinct contradiction in his ideas. It violates his support for “occupancy and use” as well as his opposition to the state and usury. It could, of course, be argued that the contradiction is resolved because the worker consents to the authority of the boss by taking the job. However, it can be replied that, by this logic, the citizen consents to the authority of the state as a democratic state allows people to leave its borders and join another one — that the citizen does not leave indicates they consent to the state (this flows from Locke). When it came to the state, anarchists are well aware of the limited nature of this argument (as one individualist anarchist put it: “As well say that the government of New York or even of the United States is voluntary, and, if you don’t like New York Sunday laws, etc., you can secede and go to — South Carolina.” [A. H. Simpson, The Individualist Anarchists, p. 287]). In other words, consent of and by itself does not justify hierarchy for if it did, the current state system would be anarchistic. This indicates the weakness of contract theory as a means of guaranteeing liberty and its potential to generate, and justify, authoritarian social relationships rather than libertarian and liberty enhancing ones.
This explains anarchist opposition to wage labour, it undermines liberty and, as a result, allows exploitation to happen. Albert Parsons put it well. Under capitalism labour “is a commodity and wages is the price paid for it. The owner of this commodity — of labour — sells it, that is himself, to the owner of capital in order to live . . . The reward of the wage labourer’s activity is not the product of his labour — far from it.” This implies exploitation and so class struggle as there is a “irreconcilable conflict between wage labourers and capitalists, between those who buy labour or sell its products, and the wage worker who sells labour (himself) in order to live.” This is because the boss will seek to use their authority over the worker to make them produce more for the agreed wage. Given this, during a social revolution the workers “first act will, of necessity, be the application of communistic principles. They will expropriate all wealth; they will take possession of all foundries, workshops, factories, mines, etc., for in no other way could they be able to continue to produce what they require on a basis of equality, and be, at the same time, independent of any authority.” [Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis, p. 99, p. 104 and p. 166] Hence Kropotkin’s comment that “anarchism . . . refuses all hierarchical organisation and preaches free agreement.” [Anarchism, p. 137] To do otherwise is to contradict the basic ideas of anarchism.
Peter Kropotkin recognised the statist implications of some aspects of anarchist individualism which Tucker’s strike example highlights. Tucker’s anarchism, due to its uncritical support for contract theory, could result in a few people dominating economic life, because “no force” would result in the perpetuation of authority structures, with freedom simply becoming the “right to full development” of “privileged minorities.” But, Kropotkin argued, “as such monopolies cannot be maintained otherwise than under the protection of a monopolist legislation and an organised coercion by the State, the claims of these individualists necessarily end up in a return to the State idea and to that same coercion which they so fiercely attack themselves. Their position is thus the same as that of Spencer and of the so-called ‘Manchester school’ of economists, who also begin by a severe criticism of the State and end up in its full recognition in order to maintain the property monopolies, of which the State is the necessary stronghold.” [Op. Cit., p. 162]
Such would be the possible (perhaps probable) result of the individualists’ contract theory of freedom without a social background of communal self-management and ownership. As can be seen from capitalism, a society based on the abstract individualism associated with contract theory would, in practice, produce social relationships based on power and authority (and so force — which would be needed to back up that authority), not liberty. As we argued in section A.2.14, voluntarism is not enough in itself to preserve freedom. This result, as noted in section A.3, could only be avoided by workers’ control, which is in fact the logical implication of Tucker’s and other individualists’ proposals. This is hardly a surprising implication, since as we’ve seen, artisan production was commonplace in 19th-century America and its benefits were extolled by many individualists. Without workers’ control, individualist anarchism would soon become a form of capitalism and so statism — a highly unlikely intention of individualists like Tucker, who hated both.
Therefore, given the assumptions of individualist anarchism in both their economic and political aspects, it is forced along the path of co-operative, not wage, labour. In other words, individualist anarchism is a form of socialism as workers receive the full product of their labour (i.e. there is no non-labour income) and this, in turn, logically implies a society in which self-managed firms compete against each other on the free market, with workers selling the product of their labour and not the labour itself. As this unites workers with the means of production they use, it is not capitalism and instead a form of socialism based upon worker ownership and control of the places they work.
For individualist anarchists not to support co-operatives results in a contradiction, namely that the individualist anarchism which aims to secure the worker’s “natural wage” cannot in fact do so, while dividing society into a class of order givers and order takers which violates individual self-government. It is this contradiction within Tucker’s thought which the self-styled “anarcho”-capitalists take advantage of in order to maintain that individualist anarchism in fact implies capitalism (and so private-statism), not workers’ control. In order to reach this implausible conclusion, a few individualist anarchist ideas are ripped from their social context and applied in a way that makes a mockery of them.
Given this analysis, it becomes clear why few social anarchists exclude individualist anarchism from the anarchist tradition while almost all do so for “anarcho”-capitalism. The reason is simple and lies in the analysis that any individualist anarchism which supports wage labour is inconsistent anarchism. It can easily be made consistent anarchism by applying its own principles consistently. In contrast, “anarcho”-capitalism rejects so many of the basic, underlying, principles of anarchism and has consistently followed the logical conclusions of such a rejection into private statism and support for hierarchical authority associated with private property that it cannot be made consistent with the ideals of anarchism. In constrast, given its own principles, individualist anarchism can easily become consistent anarchism. That is why it is a school of anarchism, unlike “anarcho”-capitalism. All that is required is to consistently apply “occupancy and use” to workplaces (as Proudhon advocated as did many individualist anarchists). By consistently applying this principle it finally ends exploitation along with hierarchy, so bringing all its ideals into line.
As Malatesta argued, “anarchy, as understood by the anarchists and as only they can interpret it, is based on socialism. Indeed were it not for those schools of socialism which artificially divide the natural unity of the social question, and consider some aspects out of context . . . we could say straight out that anarchy is synonymous with socialism, for both stand for the abolition of the domination and exploitation of man by man, whether exercised at bayonet point or by a monopoly of the means of life.” Without socialism, liberty is purely “liberty . . . for the strong and the property owners to oppress and exploit the weak, those who have nothing . . . [so] lead[ing] to exploitation and domination, in other words, to authority . . . for freedom is not possible without equality, and real anarchy cannot exist without solidarity, without socialism.” [Anarchy, p. 48 and p. 47]