no third solution

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On Class Theory, Revolution

December 17th, 2009

The “Statist” instantiations of Capitalism aren’t really free markets—a subtlety of which many on the Left are (curiously) totally ignorant, given their propensity to argue that the Statist incarnations of Marxism/Communism aren’t really Communism. Conceded; maybe Mao wasn’t really a communist, but even if true, this proves exactly nothing!

It’s absurd to define an ideology as pure on paper and refusing to acknowledge the consequences it brings in real life. If “true” socialism is so hard to achieve, or if it most times ends up becoming a paranoid genocidal system of tyranny, that pretty much speaks for itself.

Now the same goes for “capitalism”. It’s equally unconvincing to argue, “Well, we’ve never had really free markets, either.” No, we haven’t ever had “really free markets” and we haven’t ever had “true communism.” Like it, or not, what we’ve got is an institution, or system of institutions the historical roots of which all trace back to violent conquests and usurpations[1]; not, as the communists suggest, to property (even though much property is the result of conquest and usupration).[2]

And yet, all incarnations of “communism” (true, or not) have ushered in evils the likes of which we must admit are equally offensive to any which might happen under a “free market” (true, or not). The results have been as bad, or worse, than those perversions they were intended to cure.

  1. Oppression and subjugation? Check.
  2. Exploitation? Check.
  3. Parasitic Ruling Class? Check.

Discussing the “ruling class“, Sean Gabb differentiates:

The main difference between Marxist and libertarian theories of class is in where each side locates the source of class power. For the Marxists, class power derives from ownership of the means of production…

[T]herefore, the source of class power lies in wealth, and political power follows from wealth. This explains the Marxist belief that a communist revolution, by abolishing class domination, will rid the State of its oppressive nature. The State may then be dispensed from the liberal requirements of limitation and due process, and can be safely used as an instrument for ending such class power as remained. It will then, of itself, wither away.

Neat and tidy, right? Gabb notes that the anti-Marxist “class theory” is less palatable precisely because it is not nearly as black-and-white[3], to the non-Marxist libertarians, the State is a bit more nebulous:

[T]he State is not something created by the already powerful. It is, instead, something captured by those who want to become powerful – and who cannot become powerful by any other means. Without a state, there can be no exploitation.

I’ve always felt that Marx’s theory is overly simplistic. Its simplicity makes it palatable—your opponents easy to identify: they’re the ones who have the stuff. Unfortunately, this theory of class revolution is a dead letter, as numerous real-world examples attest to the impracticability of using the State to eliminate itself (cf. every instance of State Communism in recorded history).

But the very same core problem which renders communist revolutionary theory impotent, plagues much of American libertarianism: we cannot topple the system by working within its accepted rules and boundaries (cf. “minarchism”). We cannot use the State to destroy the State. It doesn’t work that way.

Agorism—individuals creating a counter-economy, by establishing communities and  relationships based on mutual aid, value creation, trust, understanding and compassion—has a chance to succeed where other revolutionary theories have failed. Agorism does not aim to reform the system, or to fix it, or even for the impossible task of toppling it from within; rather it aims to make the system obsolete, to destroy it by circumvention.


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Notes:

  1. Oppenheimer, Franz. — The State. “[T]he State, as a class-state, can have originated in no other way than through conquest and subjugation…”
  2. Oppenheimer. “This assumed proof is based upon the concept of a ‘primitive accumulation,’ or an original store of wealth, in lands and in movable property, brought about by means of purely economic forces; a doctrine justly derided by Karl Marx as a ‘fairy tale.'”
  3. Curiously, the parasite/productive dichotomy is more pronounced in State communist regimes (i.e., nomenklatura) than it is in State capitalist regimes.

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no third solution

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