Sunday, November 16, 2008

Replies and revisions

News too good to be buried in the comments: Rafael Hotz has been at work translating another section of Proudhon's System of Economic Contradictions.

And I'll take this opportunity to make and note a small revision in my last post, where I let myself be hurried a bit towards the wrap-up. I'm starting to poke at some questions about "freedom" and "justice," and the extent to which they are synonymous, or even compatible, with the reduction of conflict. The trick, ultimately, is to fill out a balanced account of relations in a free society, a task made difficult by Proudhon's uneven development of his own analysis.

Here's the rewritten paragraph:
It appears, in a strange turn, that the danger inherent in a free market, built on systems which reduce conflict, might well be "communism"--not the communism of goods-in-common, not the systems of Marx or Kropotkin (except to the extent that they fail in non-economic ways), but the "community of interests" that Proudhon and Josiah Warren both warned against. Dejacque suggested anarchist-communism as a logical product of individual egoisms. Indeed, most of the attempts to downplay the individualist element in communist anarchism are ignorant smears. So the suggestion is not so far from ones made by "communists" of one sort or another. But there's a tough knot to be unraveled here, one that tangles up communism and free markets, pits despotism against anarchism, in the interest, ultimately, of the latter.
In the original, of course, it is followed (perhaps a little abruptly), by speculation on the questions that Proudhon might have for present-day anarchists. Untangling the indicated knot is a task for other days, but perhaps it is useful today to point it out, highlight it as one of those places to which it will be necessary to return shortly.


Anonymous said...

"Indeed, most of the attempts to downplay the individualist element in communist anarchism are ignorant smears."

Very true. As I noted in my essay in reply to a Trotskyist attack on Emma Goldman:

'While Selfa acknowledges that Emma "called herself a small-c communist," he insists that "she was above all else, an individualist."

'His counterpoising of communism to "individualism" is significant. The aim of communism is, after all, to increase individual liberty (to use Marx's expression, the full development of each individual). As such, authentic communism is "individualist" in its aspirations. Given this, Selfa's comments simply expose the state capitalist nature of Bolshevism.'

I'm glad to see individualist anarchists addressing the issue of unwanted consequences of market forces, which was something Proudhon was aware of (hence his support for an agro-industrial federation)

An Anarchist FAQ

Shawn P. Wilbur said...


Thanks. Just remember that the unwanted consequences of the market seem to be a sort of "communism," and the answer seems to be a sort of "property." Agro-industrial federation, and the masterless anarchist State, seem to be, from 1848 on, understood as the consequences of market forces, which always require a countervailing force.

It would be wonderful to see communists, collectivists and syndicalists who value Proudhon's work tackle these issues from their end, as I am beginning to see new mutualists and agorists wrestle with it from theirs.