The Anarchist FAQ
Liberty is the mother, not the daugher, of order.
- What is the nature of rulership?
- Why do people obey rulers?
- Is capitalism rulership?
- Is socialism rulership?
- What is the psychological basis
of political authority?
- What is the State?
- Do classes or castes
exist in modern society?
- What are the myths of statism?
- How do States maintain their rule?
- Why do anarchists oppose
- Have anarchists always opposed
- What are the main economic
flaws of statist socialism?
- Why do anarchists oppose
corporatism, aka fascism?
II. Why are anarchists against the State?
This section of the FAQ presents an analysis of how political authority operates in a modern society, and the psychological and institutional factors which sustain the State.
Anarchism is, essentially, a revolt against statism. As a political theory it was born during the industrial revolution, and in opposition to government & special interest collusion - what they called "capitalism" before the 20th century, but what we call "corporatism" today. Anarchism, as we have seen, has always been opposed to political authority - “the State” - and the oppression the rulers create. Such diverse thinkers as Benjamin Tucker and Peter Kropotkin both agreed that “Anarchism is for liberty, and neither for nor against anything else.” [Benjamin Tucker, Armies that Overlap, Instead of a Book]
In other words, anarchism as it exists today is the product of the transformation of society by the modern corporate state, brought on by the industrial age, and is essentially the movement and body of thought opposing this institution of sustainable plunder.
Anarchists realise that the power of rulers depends upon the acquiescence of the ruled. No ruling class could survive unless the institutions which empower it are generally accepted by those subject to them. This is achieved by various means — by propaganda, the so-called education system, by tradition, by the media, by the general cultural assumptions of a society. We begin with this.
II.A - What is the nature of rulership?
O good Lord! What strange phenomenon is this? What name shall we give it? What is the nature of this misfortune? What vice is it, or, rather, what degradation? To see an endless multitude of people not merely obeying, but driven to servility? Not ruled, but tyrannized over? These wretches have no wealth, no kin, nor wife nor children, not even life itself that they can call their own. They suffer plundering, wantonness, cruelty, not from an army, not from a barbarian horde, on account of whom they must shed their blood and sacrifice their lives, but from a single man; not from a Hercules nor from a Samson, but from a single little man. Too frequently this same little man is the most cowardly and effeminate in the nation, a stranger to the powder of battle and hesitant on the sands of the tournament; not only without energy to direct men by force, but with hardly enough virility to bed with a common woman! … When a thousand, a million men, a thousand cities, fail to protect themselves against the domination of one man, this cannot be called cowardly, for cowardice does not sink to such a depth, any more than valor can be termed the effort of one individual to scale a fortress, to attack an army, or to conquer a kingdom. What monstrous vice, then, is this which does not even deserve to be called cowardice, a vice for which no term can be found vile enough, which nature herself disavows and our tongues refuse to name?
— Étienne de la Boétie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude
II.A.1 - Why do people obey rulers?
La Boétie's 1548 answer sounds remarkably modern:
- Custom - people become habituated to servitude
- Manufactured consent
- Bread - Return a portion of the spoils to the public.
- Circuses - Entertain the public with patriotic sports and diversions.
- Ideology - Convince the public that the rulers are wise, just, and benevolent; that the state promotes the common good; and is certainly inevitable, alternatives unthinkable.
- Retainers - Rulers develop hierarchies of subordinate rulers and hierarchies of privilege, both with strong incentive to keep the public servile.
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfil this role requires systematic propaganda.There have been several failed attempts to limit the State. One was 'the divine right of kings.' That doctrine was to limit the monarch's power by subjecting him to "God's law." It failed miserable, since kings merely decreed that they were the voice of God - or in some cases God himself. Another failed "nobel experiment" was constitutionalism. In theory, constitutions were supposed to limit the State. However, there was an obvious flaw that the State judged its own case in any conflict. Thus, the State routinely "interpreted" its constitution as granting more and more power.
— Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
The State has ... transformed judicial review itself from a limiting device to yet another instrument for furnishing ideological legitimacy to the government's actions. For if a judicial decree of "unconstitutional" is a mighty check to government power, an implicit or explicit verdict of "constitutional" is a mighty weapon for fostering public acceptance of ever-greater government power. — Murray Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State
II.A.2 - Is capitalism rulership?
Not necessarily. Using "capitalism" to mean the legal fiction of private ownership, we see there are two types - libertarian capitalism and statist capitalism. Libertarian capitalism has other names: Laissez faire, property anarchism, market anarchism, free market capitalism, and even (among left-speakers) free market anti-capitalism. Statist capitalism also has other labels: corporatism, economic fascism, neo-mercantilism, and (among left-speakers) capitalism. (This last unfortunate label is the cause of so many semantic arguments in online forums.)
While one can argue with the precise locations of the plots in the graphic above, it is clear that David Friedman and Murray Rothbard are poles apart from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The former are anarchists - libertarian capitalists - while the latter are corporatists. Mussolini's fascism was the opposite of laissez faire no-government-at-all capitalism.
The bottom line is: We need to be careful to distinguish libertarian capitalism from statist capitalism. It is the difference between liberty and slavery. Libertarian capitalism is not rulership, but statist capitalism is.
II.A.3 - Is socialism rulership?
Not necessarily. Using "socialism" to mean opposition to private property, we see there are two types - libertarian socialism and statist socialism. Libertarian socialism has other names, such as anarcho-socialism, socialist anarchism, anti-property anarchism, social anarchism, and (for socialist sectarians) simply "anarchism." Statist socialism also has other labels: Marxism, authoritarian socialism, and (among Marxists) "state capitalism" since externally the State acts as if it were a firm, and the rulers act like owners. Note the difference between "statist capitalism" which means fascism, and "state capitalism" which means the policies that socialist States pursue.
Looking at the graphic again, it is clear that Peter Kropotkin and Michael Bakunin are poles apart from Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. The former are anarchists - libertarian socialists - while the latter are statist socialists. Stalin's Marxist-Leninism was the opposite of Bakunin's no-government-at-all socialism.
Again, we need to be careful to distinguish libertarian socialism from statist socialism. It is the difference between liberty and slavery. Libertarian socialism is not rulership, but statist socialism is. There is a cognitive bias which makes us want to portray opponents as statist. Thus sectarian socialists err in thinking that all capitalists are statists, while sectarian capitalists err by thinking socialism is necessarily statist. Even prominent thinkers like Hayek and Mises considered socialism to be statist. We must try to avoid this type of straw man.
II.A.4 - What is the psychological basis of political authority?
There are a lot of studies from psychology and history concerning the attitudes of rulers and underlings, and the factors that make someone bow to authority. Some of the factors discovered are:
- Some authoritarians argue that anarchism is simply too unconventional, and outside the mainstream of political opinion. According to George Klosko, The belief in political obligations "is a basic feature of our political consciousness". This is, of course, the argumentum ad populum fallacy.
- The Milgram Experiments showed that people could be coaxed into morally questionable acts by authority figures. In the experiment, the subject was directed to "teach" a student by giving electric shocks for incorrect answers to questions.
The predictions of psychiatrists, students, and lay people fell shockingly far from reality. In the actual experiment, 65 percent of subjects complied fully, eventually administering the 450-volt shock three times to a silent and apparently lifeless victim. Most subjects protested and showed obvious signs of anxiety and reluctance - but ultimately, they did what they were told. ... Milgram followed up the experiment with mailed surveys to participants. Despite the stress involved in the experiment, virtually no one regretted participating. Those who hear of the experimental design, without having participated, usually think, 'People will not do it', and then, 'If they do it they will not be able to live with themselves afterward.' But in fact, Milgram reports, obedient subjects have no trouble living with themselves afterward, because these subjects by and large rationalize their behavior, after the fact, in the same way they rationalized it in the course of the experiment: they were just following orders. — Michael Huemer, The Psychology of Authority, The Problem of Political Authority
- Cognitive dissonance causes discomfort when two values conflict. Since people participate in government programs, obey government edicts, and pay tribute through taxes, it is uncomfortable for them to admit that they have been dupes and tax cattle all their lives. Thus there is a natural bias to believe the rulers promises and obey decrees. No one likes to think they are too fearful to disobey, or a sheep that gets regularly shorn. They prefer to think of the State as great, and to love Big Brother. This is the easy way out of cognitive dissonance discomfort
- Social proof and status quo bias. "That's the way it is, and everyone knows it" is not a liberated attitude. If "everyone" thinks anarchism is ridiculous, then people simply refuse to consider it.
- Political asthetics - symbols, rituals, authoritative language
- Stockholm Syndrome, which is the phenomena that prisoners often begin to identify with their captors after a while. The statist version is more aptly called "the Stateholm Syndrome. People have been sheeple of the State for thier whole lives, and identify with it, as shown in phrases like "We bombed Iraq" and "Support Our Troops." No, some ambitious rulers ordered the bombings; you are probably not part of the ruling junto which made the decision. And they are the rulers' troops, not yours. The latter slogan should be changed to "Condemn the Rulers Hired Murders."
- Various historical cases and case studies, such as the My Lai massacre and the Stanford Prison Experiment, demonstrate the authoritarian mindset.
II.B - Why are anarchists against the state?
So what is the state? As Malatesta put it, anarchists “have used the word State, and still do, to mean the sum total of the political, legislative, judiciary, military and financial institutions through which the management of their own affairs, the control over their personal behaviour, the responsibility for their personal safety, are taken away from the people and entrusted to others who, by usurpation or delegation, are vested with the power to make laws for everything and everybody, and to oblige the people to observe them, if need be, by the use of collective force.” [Malatesta, Anarchy, p. 17]
Kropotkin presented a similar analysis, arguing that the State “not only includes the existence of a power situated above society, but also of a territorial concentration as well as the concentration in the hands of a few of many functions in the life of societies … A whole mechanism of legislation and of policing has to be developed in order to subject some classes to the domination of others.” [The State: Its Historic Role, p. 10] For Bakunin, all states “are in essence only machines governing the masses from above, through … a privileged minority, allegedly knowing the genuine interests of the people better than the people themselves.” [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 211] On this subject Murray Bookchin writes:
Minimally, the State is a professional system of social coercion — not merely a system of social administration as it is still naively regarded by the public and by many political theorists. The word ‘professional’ should be emphasised as much as the word ‘coercion.’ … It is only when coercion is institutionalised into a professional, systematic and organised form of social control — that is, when people are plucked out of their everyday lives in a community and expected not only to ‘administer’ it but to do so with the backing of a monopoly of violence — that we can properly speak of a State.
— Murray Bookchin, Remaking Society, p. 66
As Bookchin indicates, anarchists reject the idea that the state is the same as society or that any grouping of human beings living and organised together is a state. Similarly, anarchists reject the idea that simple favoring private property norms constitutes a State. This is a fallacious claim that misunderstands the meaning of both "State" and "monopoly."
Michael Bakunin (1814-1876)
The state, therefore, cannot be “used simply as a synonym for society.” [Op. Cit., p. 17] The state is a particular form of social organisation based on certain key attributes and so, we argue, “the word ‘State’ … should be reserved for those societies with the hierarchical system and centralisation.” [Peter Kropotkin, Ethics, p. 317] As such, the state “is a historic, transitory institution, a temporary form of society” and one whose “utter extinction” is possible as the “State is not society.” [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 151]
The definition of State normally used by anarchists was originally formulated by seminal sociologist Max Weber.
"A state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory." - Max Weber
In addition to its territorial monopoly, there is a second defining characteristic of the State - it sustains itself by stealing from productive people. Lysander Spooner made this point trenchantly:
The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these.
Lysander Spooner (1808-1887)
Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave. — Lysander Spooner, No Treason VI: The Constitution of No Authority
Anarchists also cite Franz Oppenheimer, who emphasized this predation aspect of the State. Oppenhaimer defined the State as the organization of legitimized sustainable plunder. Actually, he formulated this in a roundabout way: He noted that people gain wealth in two ways, by either production and trade, or by predation. The former he called the economic means, the latter he called the political means. Thus the State is "the organization of the political means." [Franz Oppenheimer, The State]
Most modern anarchists combine the territorial monopoly idea of Weber with the sustainable plunder idea of Spooner and Oppenheimer.
The State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion. While other individuals or institutions obtain their income by production of goods and services and by the peaceful and voluntary sale of these goods and services to others, the State obtains its revenue by the use of compulsion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet. — Murray Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State
States vary in many ways, especially in their degree of authoritarianism, in the size and power of their bureaucracy and how they organise themselves. Thus we have monarchies, oligarchies, theocracies, party dictatorships and (more or less) democratic states. We have ancient states, with minimal bureaucracy, and modern ones, with enormous bureaucracy.
The division of society into rulers and ruled is the key to what constitutes a state. Without such a division, we would not need a monopoly of violence and so would simply have an association of moral equals rather than a caste system, where rulers and their agents are "above morality". The “essence of government” is that “it is a thing apart, developing its own interests” and so is “an institution existing for its own sake, preying upon the people, and teaching them whatever will tend to keep it secure in its seat.” [Voltairine de Cleyre, Anarchism & American Traditions]
To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so … To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorised, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolised, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown it all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality. — The General Idea of the Revolution, p. 294
Pierre Proudhon (1809-1865)
Such is the nature of the State that any act, no matter how evil, becomes good if it helps forward the interests of the state and the ruling elites it protects. As Bakunin put it:
The State … is the most flagrant, the most cynical, and the most complete negation of humanity.
It shatters the universal solidarity of all men [and women] on the earth, and brings some of them into association only for the purpose of destroying, conquering, and enslaving all the rest …
This flagrant negation of humanity which constitutes the very essence of the State is, from the standpoint of the State, its supreme duty and its greatest virtue … Thus, to offend, to oppress, to despoil, to plunder, to assassinate or enslave one’s fellowman [or woman] is ordinarily regarded as a crime. In public life, on the other hand, from the standpoint of patriotism, when these things are done for the greater glory of the State, for the preservation or the extension of its power, it is all transformed into duty and virtue. And this virtue, this duty, are obligatory for each patriotic citizen; everyone if supposed to exercise them not against foreigners only but against one’s own fellow citizens … whenever the welfare of the State demands it.This explains why, since the birth of the State, the world of politics has always been and continues to be the stage for unlimited rascality and brigandage … This explains why the entire history of ancient and modern states is merely a series of revolting crimes; why kings and ministers, past and present, of all times and all countries — statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats, and warriors — if judged from the standpoint of simply morality and human justice, have a hundred, a thousand times over earned their sentence to hard labour or to the gallows. There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: ’for reasons of state.’
— Bakunin on Anarchism, pp. 133–4
Governments habitually lie to the people they claim to represent in order to justify wars, reductions (if not the destruction) of civil liberties and human rights, policies which benefit the few over the many, and other crimes. And if its subjects protest, the state will happily use whatever force deemed necessary to bring the rebels back in line (labelling such repression “law and order”). Such repression includes the use of death squads, the institutionalisation of torture, collective punishments, indefinite imprisonment, and other horrors at the worse extremes.
Little wonder the state usually spends so much time ensuring the (mis)education of its population — only by obscuring (when not hiding) its actual practices can it ensure the allegiance of those subject to it. The history of the state could be viewed as nothing more than the attempts of its subjects to control it and bind it to the standards people apply to themselves.
Finally, we must point out that anarchists, while stressing what States have in common, do recognise that some forms are less bad than others.
II.C - Do classes or castes exist in modern society?
Yes, class analysis is sometimes a useful model. Also, the concept of caste comes in handy for talking about classes enjoying special legal privileges. For anarchists, class analysis is a tool for understanding the world and what is going on in it. While the class war model has some utility, it is less prevalent now than it once was, since anarchist ideas can be explained in other ways, by appealing to the non-aggression principle for example.
A class is a set of people. It could be blue-eyed people, or people who play chess at a master level. The type of class that people consider insidious is actually more property called a caste. A caste is a set of people who enjoy special legal privileges that others do not. For anarchist analysis, the pertinent caste is almost always "the rulers."
Mises called these static classes, which labored under legal disabilities, 'castes'. Castes are created when legal barriers are raised to cement people into a class and prevent social mobility. ... In essence, castes are legislated classes which create a static society. — Wendy McElroy, Mises' Legacy to Feminism
The class war model was originally an idea of French anarchists, with the two classes being producers and parasites. Producers included laborers, craftsmen, artisans, farmers, entrepreneurs, and capitalists. The parasite class encompassed all rulers, government functionaries and employees, and the retinue of synchophants and favor-seekers. Karl Marx borrowed the class war idea, but got it very wrong from the anarchist perspective by moving entrepreneurs and capitalists into the parasite class.
To this day, many on the "left" refuse to recognize that, just as there is a distinction between libertarian and statist socialism, and libertarian and statist capitalism, there is also a difference between a market capitalist who makes money from production and trade, and a political capitalist who makes money from subsidies and privileges bestowed by State. This is the difference between, e.g. Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Jobs gave the world "amazingly great" devices that "changed the world," while Musk collects thousands of dollars in subsidies for every car he "sells."
One problem with class analsis is that it assumes (1) that people in the same class have the same interests, and (2) people in the "other" class have opposing interests. Both of the assumptions are dubious. For example, workers are more often competing for jobs and resources with other workers than with employers. Workers and employers cooperate extensively to produce goods and services. Employers compete with each other for workers. All of these observations are at odds with class struggle theory, which means that the model must be used cautiously.
Subjective value theory seems to argue against there being a pre-determined interest of any sort, especially of the sort so divorced from subjective individual evaluation as that of an objective class interest. In short, two people who share identical class characteristics, for example, retiring factory workers at Ford, may have extremely different perceptions of self interest and, so, manifest entirely different behavior.
This reservation about class theory hearkens back to a question raised by Mises' commentary: does it even make sense to talk about class interests existing apart from the self-interests of the members of that class? Does it even make sense - on anything other than an epistemological or cognitive level - to deal with a class as though it were an empirical entity apart from its members?Yet, despite such reservations, the concept of class obviously has value in approaching ideas and understanding certain aspects of social interaction. The 'working class', for example, does describe a certain economic situation and distinguish it from others. The question becomes: does identifying who are the members of a class provide any information about the interests of that class as a whole?
— Wendy McElroy, Mises' Legacy to Feminism
- The State is the “will” of society.
- A "social contract" obliges you to obey.
- Monopoly government is better than
pluralism and local self-governance.
- Rulers are wise & people are dumb.
- Technical experts need to run things.
- Exceptionalism: When we do it, it's okay.
- Imminent catastrophe requires government.
- Enemies would attack.
- Lawlessness would prevail.
- Gangsters would take over.
Without compulsory government …
II.D - What are the myths of statism?
The State is the “will” of society.This is the whopper popularized by the philosopher Jean Jaque Rousseau. How easy it is for a ruler to simply announce that he is the voice of the people, their true will! That's been done by everyone from Louis XIV to Hitler to Obama and Trump and Putin. There is really no reasoning behind it - it is a raw claim that rulers like to make, no more.
A "social contract" obliges you to obey.
But where is this alleged contract? Did you sign anything? The most common claim is that you agreed to the alleged social contract implicitly, but this does not hold up on examination. Michael Huemer gives four conditions of valid agreements:
Valid consent requires a reasonable way of opting out. All parties to any agreement must have the option to reject the agreement without sacrificing anything to which they have a right.
Consider a modification of the boardroom example. The chairman says, ‘Next week’s meeting will be moved to Tuesday at ten o’clock. Those who object will kindly signal this by cutting off their left arms.’ The chairman pauses. No arms come off. ‘Good, it’s agreed!’ he declares. This is not a valid agreement, because the demand that board members give up their left arms as the price of dissenting from the schedule change is unreasonable. On the other hand, in the party example from [earlier], the demand that you leave my party if you do not agree to help clean up is reasonable, because I have the right to determine who may attend my parties.
The important difference between the modified boardroom example and the party example is not a matter of how large the costs are; that is, it is not simply that losing your left arm is much worse than being expelled from a party. The chairman would not be justified even in demanding that board members pay one dollar to express their objection to the schedule change. Rather, it is a matter of who has rights over the good that dissenters are asked to give up. Those who seek your agreement to some proposal may not demand that you give up any of your rights as the cost of rejecting their proposal. I may demand that you give up the use of my property if you do not accept some proposal of mine, but I may not demand that you give up the use of your property.
Explicit dissent trumps alleged implicit consent. A valid implicit agreement does not exist if one explicitly states that one does not agree.
Consider a modification of the restaurant example from Section 2.3. Suppose that, after being seated, you tell the waitress, ‘I will not pay for any food that you bring me. But I would like you to give me a veggie wrap anyway.’ If the waitress then brings you the wrap, you are not obligated to pay for it. Given your statement, she could not plausibly claim that you agreed to pay for the meal.
What about the party example? I announce that anyone who remains at my party must agree to help clean up. Suppose that after my announcement, you reply, ‘I do not agree.’ I then ask you to leave, but you refuse and instead remain until the end of the party. Are you then obligated to help clean up? You did not agree to clean up, since you explicitly stated that you did not agree (how much clearer could you have been?). Nevertheless, it is plausible that you are obligated to help clean up – not because you agreed to do so, but because I have the right to set conditions on the use of my house, including the condition that those who use it help clean it. This derives not from an agreement but from my property right over the house.
An action can be taken as indicating agreement to some scheme, only if one can be assumed to believe that, if one did not take that action, the scheme would not be imposed upon one.
Suppose that in the board meeting example, the chairman announces, ‘Next week’s meeting will be moved to Tuesday at ten o’clock, and I don’t care what any of you have to say about it – the schedule change will happen whether you object to it or not. Now, does anyone want to object?’ He pauses. No one says anything. ‘Good, it’s agreed’, he declares. In this case, there is no valid agreement. Though the board members were given a chance to object, they were also given to understand that if they objected, the schedule change would be imposed anyway. Their failure to express objections therefore cannot be taken to indicate agreement. It may simply indicate that they did not wish to waste their breath protesting something about which they had no choice.
Contractual obligation is mutual and conditional. A contract normally places both parties under an obligation to each other, and one party’s rejection of his contractual obligation releases the other party from her obligation.
Suppose that you order food in a restaurant. There is an implicit agreement between you and the restaurant’s owners: they provide food, and you pay them. If the waitress never brings the food, then you need not pay them; their failure to live up to their end of the deal releases you from the obligation to live up to yours. Furthermore, if one party simply communicates that they don’t intend to live up to the agreement, then the other party is not obligated to live up to it either. Thus, if, after ordering food but before receiving it, you inform the waitress that you recognize no obligation to pay the restaurant, then the restaurant may conclude that you have rejected the agreement, and they need not bring you any food.
— Michael Huemer, The Problem of Political Authority ch 2.
The government fails all four criteria. (i) You can't opt out of a State without losing things you have a right to keep, like family and friends and non-movable property. (ii) Even if you explicitly dissent, as anarchists do, you are still expected to pay taxes and obey the alleged contract. (iii) Government programs are imposed unconditionally, so use of roads, libraries, and other services do not constitute consent. They will tax you whether you use them or not. (iv) And, of course, there is a total absence of mutual obligation. Government police have no obligation to protect you, for example, and government courts have officially ruled on this numerous times.
Monopoly government is better than pluralism and local self-governance.
This is economic ignorance on stilts. Monopolies, for well known reasons, tend to offer low quality and overly expensive products. For bread or wine or phones or any other product, we know that the market has built-in incentives. In general, the best products and service tends to win out. The incompetent producers go out of business, and the competent ones thrive, which is the way it should be. Goverment perverts this, and lets incompetence of its monopoly continue, and often subsidizes it even more when it fails. Consider that US military interventionism and government schools are prime examples. Another example is the monopoly of money, where government fiat money is routinely debased, but protected from competition in various ways.
The seminal anarcho-capitalist manuscript made this key point:
If there is one well-established truth in political economy, it is this:
That in all cases, for all commodities that serve to provide for the tangible or intangible needs of the consumer, it is in the consumer's best interest that labor and trade remain free, because the freedom of labor and of trade have as their necessary and permanent result the maximum reduction of price.
That the interests of the consumer of any commodity whatsoever should always prevail over the interests of the producer.
Now in pursuing these principles, one arrives at this rigorous conclusion:
That the production of security should, in the interests of the consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition.
Whence it follows:
That no government should have the right to prevent another government from going into competition with it, or to require consumers of security to come exclusively to it for this commodity.
Nevertheless, I must admit that, up until the present, one recoiled before this rigorous implication of the principle of free competition. …
But why should there be an exception relative to security? What special reason is there that the production of security cannot be relegated to free competition? Why should it be subjected to a different principle and organized according to a different system?— Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security (1849)
Molinari contrasts free association and competition with statist monopoly and reaches the conclusion, "Under a regime of liberty, the natural organization of the security industry would not be different from that of other industries." In other words, just like any other good or service, a free market beats monopoly. Security is no exception.
Rulers are wise and people are dumb.
Statist apologists do not put it like this, but many of their rationalizations come down to this. If people don't see any reason for foreign military adventures, or support of brutal dictators, or torture of anyone accused of terrorism, then the rulers mouthpieces will cite matters of State and national security - things that lowly citizen-serfs (they say) cannot understand. Only the wise rulers have the intelligence and inside information to make informed decisions, the statist media mouthpieces tell the sheeple.
Technical experts need to run things.
This is similar to the last myth, except that it is only technocrats that can run things, in a supposedly scientific and value-free manner. This appeals to science, but fails to note two important things: 1) that the "science" of running a compulsory State is unsettled, to say the least, if it is to be regarded a science at all, and 2) there is no way to rule or direct top-down in a "value free" manner. Science is a method to discover knowledge. Science can be applied to create or promote something, but how it is applied is a question that is not value free. States tend to apply science to questions like, "What's the most efficient way to kill people we don't like." The bulk of scientific research is done by States to create "better" weapons for their military and police forces, and more efficient tools for surveillance and control of subjects.
Exceptionalism: When we do it, it's okay.This is the motto of superpowers. Every patriot thinks that his country [sic "State"] is doing good when it invades a foreign land, but thinks it is very bad when any other country does that. It is a childish "We are the good guys, and they are the bad guys" attitude, but statists have it. One amusing example is the US/South Korea exercises off the coast of North Korea. US flaghumpers see nothing amiss with this. Would they say the same if China and Mexico were conducting war games off the coast of San Francisco, using Alcatraz for target practice? One thinks not.
Imminent catastrophe requires government.Whether it is "the Reds" or over-population or the collapse of the family or environmental apocalypse, there is always some excuse for Big Brother coming to save the day. But of course, the dangers are often grossly exaggerated, and the non-government solutions ignored, and the fact that the problems are usually caused by government in the first place generally goes unnoticed.
Without compulsory government enemies would attack.This is the militaristic version of the previous point about imminent catastrophe. How often have you heard a supporter Big Military say that, if "we" didn't have a big army, "we'd all be speaking Chinese." There is a flawed non-theory concerning "a vacuum of power." This is really more of an old wives tale than a theory, since it has almost never been studied, let alone supported, yet some people accept it unthinkingly. This myth is particularly popular among people in government murder gangs ("the military") and veterans, likely due to cognitive dissonance.
Without compulsory government lawlessness would prevail.
This myth is very common, since most people today are totally unfamiliar with polycentric law, and do not know that most of human history saw overlapping and competing legal jurisdictions. Explaining market-generated law or how legal norms can be decided by voluntary means rather than by rulers is like telling a medieval serf about electricity.
Most of the good laws that still exist came from competing courts - polycentric legal systems - such as Anglo-Saxon common law, or Celtic law. Governments did not generally interfere with law until 1500 or so, with the rise of the modern corporate State. Earlier, kings were subject to "discovered" law, which was law by community consensus as rendered by judges or arbiters voluntarily chosen by disputants. The notion of "victimless crimes" did not exist, since all disputes were torts - one party allegedly harming the person or property of another. There was no "crime against the State. (There were some laws about religious taboos, but very few compared to statist "victimless crimes.")
Here are a few examples of voluntary emergent (non-statist) legal systems.
- Anglo-Saxon Common Law
- Law Merchant
- Admiralty Law
- Celtic Ireland
- Thing system of classical Iceland
- American not-so-wild west
There is a lot of explanation and theory about how polycentric law might work in a future stateless society. We discuss this in section V.
Defense in the free society (including such defense services to person and property as police protection and judicial findings) would therefore have to be supplied by people or firms who gained their revenue voluntarily rather than by coercion and did not — as the State does — arrogate to themselves a compulsory monopoly of police or judicial protection. Only such libertarian provision of defense service would be consonant with a free market and a free society. Thus, defense firms would have to be as freely competitive and as noncoercive against noninvaders as are all other suppliers of goods and services on the free market. Defense services, like all other services, would be marketable and marketable only. — Murray N. Rothbard, Defense Services on the Free Market
Without compulsory government gangsters would take over.An obvious but wrong concern is that, without a monopoly government, rival gangs would take over. But this is definitely the wrong answer if you take into account how people really act, and the incentives for arbitration and defense associations.
I come home one night and find my television set missing. I immediately call my protection agency, Tannahelp Inc., to report the theft. They send an agent. He checks the automatic camera which Tannahelp, as part of their service, installed in my living room and discovers a picture of one Joe Bock lugging the television set out the door. The Tannahelp agent contacts Joe, informs him that Tannahelp has reason to believe he is in possession of my television set, and suggests he return it, along with an extra ten dollars to pay for Tannahelp's time and trouble in locating Joe. Joe replies that he has never seen my television set in his life and tells the Tannahelp agent to go to hell.
The agent points out that until Tannahelp is convinced there has been a mistake, he must proceed on the assumption that the television set is my property. Six Tannahelp employees, all large and energetic, will be at Joe's door next morning to collect the set. Joe, in response, informs the agent that he also has a protection agency, Dawn Defense, and that his contract with them undoubtedly requires them to protect him if six goons try to break into his house and steal his television set.
The stage seems set for a nice little war between Tannahelp and Dawn Defense. It is precisely such a possibility that has led some libertarians who are not anarchists, most notably Ayn Rand, to reject the possibility of competing free- market protection agencies.
But wars are very expensive, and Tannahelp and Dawn Defense are both profit-making corporations, more interested in saving money than face. I think the rest of the story would be less violent than Miss Rand supposed.
The Tannahelp agent calls up his opposite number at Dawn Defense. 'We've got a problem. . . .' After explaining the situation, he points out that if Tannahelp sends six men and Dawn eight, there will be a fight. Someone might even get hurt. Whoever wins, by the time the conflict is over it will be expensive for both sides. They might even have to start paying their employees higher wages to make up for the risk. Then both firms will be forced to raise their rates. If they do, Murbard Ltd., an aggressive new firm which has been trying to get established in the area, will undercut prices and steal their customers. There must be a better solution.
The man from Tannahelp suggests that the better solution is arbitration. They will take the dispute over my television set to a reputable local arbitration firm. If the arbitrator decides that Joe is innocent, Tannahelp agrees to pay Joe and Dawn Defense an indemnity to make up for their time and trouble. If he is found guilty, Dawn Defense will accept the verdict; since the television set is not Joe's, they have no obligation to protect him when the men from Tannahelp come to seize it.
What I have described is a very makeshift arrangement. In practice, once anarcho-capitalist institutions were well established, protection agencies would anticipate such difficulties and arrange contracts in advance, before specific conflicts occurred, specifying the arbitrator who would settle them. — David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom.
II.E - How do States maintain their rule?
We have covered part of the answer already, when we discussed why people obey rulers in part II.A.1. The State works very hard to maintain a mystique of legitimacy, not only in direct propaganda, but in control of media, and especially control of eduction. When the State can indoctrinate the children, then it has a firm long-term grasp on the minds of the population. When a State can convince people to join a murder gang - to travel to foreign countries and kill strangers on order - then it is indeed powerful.
The State has some key pillars of support that we anarchists need to be aware of, if we are to destroy it.
We are making progress against the Plunder Department. More and more people are into agorism, that is, untaxed unregulated production and trade. As we build more parallel strutures, we gain more untaxed alternatives to State controlled services. Also, some anarchists are using the PT strategy (permanent traveler, perpetual tourist, prior taxpayer) since the information age allows many to work from a laptop from anywhere.
The Cartel Department includes all government cartel enforcement agencies, euphemistically called "regulatory agencies." These are the States tentacles of corporatism, which we discuss in section II.G. The Propaganda Department includes media control, mainly broadcast media, and the government schools and universities.
Once a State has been established, the problem of the ruling group or "caste" is how to maintain their rule. While force is their modus operandi, their basic and long-run problem is ideological. For in order to continue in office, any government (not simply a "democratic" government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects. This support, it must be noted, need not be active enthusiasm; it may well be passive resignation as if to an inevitable law of nature. But support in the sense of acceptance of some sort it must be; else the minority of State rulers would eventually be outweighed by the active resistance of the majority of the public. Since predation must be supported out of the surplus of production, it is necessarily true that the class constituting the State - the full-time bureaucracy (and nobility) - must be a rather small minority in the land, although it may, of course, purchase allies among important groups in the population. Therefore, the chief task of the rulers is always to secure the active or resigned acceptance of the majority of the citizens. — Murray Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State
The Coercion Department keeps the subjects and foreigners "in line" using violence directly. The importance of the military and police in maintaining State power is obvious. In the final analysis, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force." (George Washington) "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." (A quotation of Chairman Mao Zedong.)
Rulers are evil, but they are generally not stupid! They usually know that brute force - the power of prison and bayonet - is only a short term solution. Since passive submission by citizen-serfs is preferable to expensive prisons and police, the Propaganda Department is an indispensible tool for keeping power and running a profitable and sustainable plunder operation. One effective propaganda tool is to paint the State as the voice of Science, in the same way that kings in earlier times would claim to be the voice of God.
In the present more secular age, the divine right of the State has been supplemented by the invocation of a new god, Science. State rule is now proclaimed as being ultrascientific, as constituting planning by experts. But while "reason" is invoked more than in previous centuries, this is not the true reason of the individual and his exercise of free will; it is still collectivist and determinist, still implying holistic aggregates and coercive manipulation of passive subjects by their rulers. The increasing use of scientific jargon has permitted the State's intellectuals to weave obscurantist apologia for State rule that would have only met with derision by the populace of a simpler age. A robber who justified his theft by saying that he really helped his victims, by his spending giving a boost to retail trade, would find few converts; but when this theory is clothed in Keynesian equations and impressive references to the "multiplier effect," it unfortunately carries more conviction. And so the assault on common sense proceeds, each age performing the task in its own ways. — Murray Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State
II.F - Why do anarchists oppose statist socialism?
Anarchism started as mutualism, but in the late 19th century became increasingly socialist. The salient schism was, at that time, between anarchism, represented by Bakunin and others, and Marxist statist socialism, which wanted strict party discipline, believed that an elite "vanguard" would represent the "will of the people," and worst of all, wanted to take over the State rather than abolish it.
The socialist movement has always been divided. The main tendencies of socialism are statist socialism (Social Democracy, Leninism, Maoism and so on) and libertarian socialism (anarchism mostly, but also libertarian Marxists and some others). The conflict and disagreement between anarchists and Marxists is legendary. As Benjamin Tucker noted:
It is a curious fact that the two extremes of the [socialist movement] ... though united ... by the common claim that labour should be put in possession of its own, are more diametrically opposed to each other in their fundamental principles of social action and their methods of reaching the ends aimed at than either is to their common enemy, existing society. They are based on two principles the history of whose conflict is almost equivalent to the history of the world since man came into it ...
The two principles referred to are AUTHORITY and LIBERTY, and the names of the two schools of Socialistic thought which fully and unreservedly represent one or the other are, respectively, statist socialism and Anarchism. Whoso knows that these two schools want and how they propose to get it understands the Socialistic movement. For, just as it has been said that there is no half-way house between Rome and Reason, so it may be said that there is no half-way house between statist socialism and Anarchism. — Benjamin Tucker, State Socialism and Anarchism
Looking at Marxism in terms of its theories and how they worked in practice, we see Marxists point to the success of the Russian Revolution and argue that statism and authoritarianism saved the revolution. In reply, anarchists point out that the revolution did, in fact, fail. The aim of that revolution was to create a free, democratic, classless society of equals. It created a one party dictatorship based around a class system of bureaucrats exploiting and oppressing working class people and a society lacking equality and freedom. As for statism and authoritarianism “saving” the revolution, they saved it for Stalin, not socialism.
No revolution can ever succeed as factor of liberation unless the MEANS used to further it be identical in spirit and tendency with the PURPOSE to be achieved.
— Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia, p. 261
In other words, authoritarian means will result in authoritarian ends. Calling a new state a “workers state” will not change its nature as a form of rule. It has nothing to do with the intentions of those who gain power, it has to do with the nature of the state and the dominance relationships it generates. States have certain properties just because they are states..
If we take the ability of a theory to predict future events as an indication of its power then it soon becomes clear that anarchism is a far more useful tool in self-liberation than Marxism. After all, anarchists predicted with amazing accuracy the future development of Marxism. Bakunin argued that electioneering would corrupt the socialist movement, making it reformist and just another bourgeois party. This is what in fact happened to the social-democratic movement across the world by the turn of the twentieth century (the rhetoric remained radical for a few more years, of course). Bakunin argued that
By popular government they [the Marxists] mean government of the people by a small number of representatives elected by the people ... [That is,] government of the vast majority of the people by a privileged minority. But this minority, the Marxists say, will consist of workers. Yes, perhaps, of former workers, who, as soon as they become rulers or representatives of the people will cease to be workers and will begin to look upon the whole workers’ world from the heights of the state. They will no longer represent the people but themselves and their own pretensions to govern the people. — Michael Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, p. 178
The history of every Marxist revolution proves his critique was correct.
Due to these “workers’ states” socialism has become associated with repressive regimes, with totalitarian statist capitalist systems the total opposite of what socialism purports to be about. Little wonder many socialist anarchists do not use the terms “socialist” or “communist,” calling themselves "social anarchists" as if that fools anyone. This is because such terms are associated with regimes and parties which have nothing in common with anarchist ideas, or, indeed, the ideals of socialism property understood.
II.F.1 Have anarchists always opposed statist socialism?
Yes. Anarchists have always argued that a stateless society cannot be created using a State. Statist socialism requires the delegation of violence power into the hands of a few. As such, it violates a core idea of anarchism.
While both Stirner and Proudhon wrote many pages against the evils and contradictions of statist socialism, anarchists have only really been fighting the Marxist form of statist socialism since Bakunin. This is because, until the First International, Marx and Engels were relatively unknown socialist thinkers. Proudhon was aware of Marx (they had meant in France in the 1840s and had corresponded) but Marxism was unknown in France during his life time and so Proudhon did not directly argue against Marxism (he did, however, critique Louis Blanc and other French statist socialists). Similarly, when Stirner wrote The Ego and Its Own Marxism did not exist bar a few works by Marx and Engels. Indeed, it could be argued that Marxism finally took shape after Marx and Engels had read Stirner’s classic work and produced their notoriously inaccurate diatribe, The German Ideology, against him.
For Stirner, the key issue was that communism (or socialism), like liberalism, looked to the “human” rather than the unique. “To be looked upon as a mere part, part of society,” asserted Stirner, “the individual cannot bear — because he is more; his uniqueness puts from it this limited conception. He, in contrast, stresses that it is for the individual, “To take comfort in himself as the unique.” [The Ego and Its Own] Thus statist socialism does not recognise that the purpose of association is to free the individual and instead subjects the individual to a new tyranny:
It is not another State (such as a ‘people’s State’) that men aim at, but their union, uniting, this ever-fluid uniting of everything standing. A State exists even without my co-operation … The independent establishment of the State founds my lack of independence; its condition as a ‘natural growth,’ its organism, demands that my nature does not grow freely, but be cut to fit it. — The Ego and Its Own
Similarly, Stirner argued that “Communism, by the abolition of all personal property, only presses me back still more into dependence on another, to wit, on the generality or collectivity.” History has definitely confirmed this fear. By nationalising property, the various statist socialist regimes turned the worker from a servant of the capitalist into a serf of the state. In contrast, anarcho-communists strive for free association and workers’ self-management.
Similar arguments to Stirner’s can be found in Proudhon’s works against the various schemes of statist socialism that existing in France in the middle of the nineteenth century. He particularly attacked the ideas of Louis Blanc. Blanc, whose most famous book was Organisation du Travail (Organisation of Work, 1840) argued that social ills resulted from competition and they could be solved by means of eliminating it via government initiated and financed reforms. More specifically, Blanc argued that it was “necessary to use the whole power of the state” to ensure the creation and success of workers’ associations (or “social workshops”). Since that “which the proletarians lack to free themselves are the tools of labour,” the government “must furnish them” with these. “The state,” in short, “should place itself resolutely at the head of industry.” [quoted by K. Steven Vincent, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism] Capitalists would be encouraged to invest with guaranteed interest payments but the workers would keep the remaining profits generated by the workshops. Such state-initiated workshops would soon prove to be more efficient than privately owned industry and, by charging lower prices, force privately owned industry either out of business or to change into social workshops, so eliminating competition.
Proudhon objected to this scheme on many levels. He argued that Blanc’s scheme appealed “to the state for its silent partnership; that is, he gets down on his knees before the capitalists and recognises the sovereignty of monopoly.” Given that Proudhon saw the state as an instrument of the capitalist class, asking that state to abolish capitalism was illogical and impossible. Moreover, by getting the funds for the “social workshop” from capitalists, Blanc’s scheme was hardly undermining their power. “Capital and power,” Proudhon argued, “secondary organs of society, are always the gods whom socialism adores; if capital and power did not exist, it would invent them.” [quoted by Vincent, Op. Cit.]
Equally, Proudhon opposed the “top-down” nature of Blanc’s ideas. As it was run by the state, the system of workshops would hardly be libertarian as “hierarchy would result from the elective principle ... as in constitutional politics. But these social workshops again, regulated by law, — will they be anything but corporations? What is the bond of corporations? The law. Who will make the law? The government.” Such a regime, Proudhon argued, would be unlikely to function well and the net result would be “all reforms ending, now in hierarchical corporation, now in State monopoly, or the tyranny of communism.” [Op. Cit.] This was because of the perspective of statist socialists:
As you cannot conceive of society without [political] hierarchy, you have made yourselves the apostles of authority; worshippers of power, you think only of strengthening it and muzzling liberty; your favourite maxim is that the welfare of the people must be achieved in spite of the people; instead of proceeding to social reform by the extermination of power and politics, you insist on a reconstruction of power and politics.
— Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism
Proudhon continually stressed that state ownership of the means of production was a danger to the liberty of the worker and simply the continuation of capitalism [corporatism] with the state as the new boss. As he put it in 1848, he “did not want to see the State confiscate the mines, canals and railways; that would add to monarchy, and more wage slavery. We want the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organised workers’ associations ... these associations [will] be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies woven into the common cloth of the democratic social Republic.” He contrasted workers’ associations run by and for their members to those “subsidised, commanded and directed by the State,” which would crush “all liberty and all wealth, precisely as the great limited companies are doing.” [Daniel Guerin, No Gods, No Masters vol. 1, p. 62 and p. 105]
Proudhon’s ideas on the management of production by workers’ associations, opposition to nationalisation as statist capitalism, and the need for action from below by the people themselves, all found their place in communist-anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism and in their critique of mainstream Marxism and Leninism. Echoes of these critiques can be found Bakunin’s comments of 1868:
I hate Communism because it is the negation of liberty and because for me humanity is unthinkable without liberty. I am not a Communist, because Communism concentrates and swallows up in itself for the benefit of the State all the forces of society, because it inevitably leads to the concentration of property in the hands of the State ... I want to see society and collective or social property organised from below upwards, by way of free associations, not from above downwards, by means of any kind of authority whatsoever ... That is the sense in which I am a Collectivist and not a Communist.
— quoted by K.J. Kenafick, Michael Bakunin and Karl Marx, pp. 67–8]
It is with Bakunin that Marxism and Anarchism came into direct conflict as it was Bakunin who lead the struggle against Marx in the International Workingmen’s Association between 1868 and 1872. It was in these exchanges that the two schools of socialism (the libertarian and the authoritarian) clarified themselves. With Bakunin, the anarchist critique of Marxism (and statist socialism in general) starts to reach its mature form. We discuss Bakunin’s critique in the next section.
Bakunin and Marx famously clashed in the first International Working Men’s Association between 1868 and 1872. This conflict helped clarify the anarchist opposition to the ideas of Marxism and can be considered as the first major theoretical analysis and critique of Marxism by anarchists. Later critiques followed, of course, particularly after the degeneration of Social Democracy into reformism and the failure of the Russian Revolution (both of which allowed the theoretical critiques to be enriched by empirical evidence) but the Bakunin/Marx conflict laid the ground for what came after. As such, an overview of Bakunin’s critique is essential as anarchists continued to develop and expand upon it (particularly after the experiences of actual Marxist movements and revolutions confirmed it).
Bakunin’s critique of Marxism had six main points. Firstly, there is the question of current activity (i.e. whether the workers’ movement should participate in “politics” and the nature of revolutionary working class organisation). Secondly, there is the issue of the form of the revolution (i.e. whether it should be a political then an economic one, or whether it should be both at the same time). Thirdly, there is the prediction that statist socialism will be exploitative, replacing the capitalist class with the state bureaucracy. Fourthly, there is the issue of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Fifthly, there is the question of whether political power can be seized by the working class as a whole or whether it can only be exercised by a small minority. Sixthly, there was the issue of whether the revolution be centralised or decentralised in nature.
Bakunin argued that while the communists “imagine they can attain their goal by the development and organisation of the political power of the working classes ... aided by bourgeois radicalism” anarchists “believe they can succeed only through the development and organisation of the non-political or anti-political power of the working classes.” The Communists “believe it necessary to organise the workers’ forces in order to seize the political power of the State,” while anarchists “organise for the purpose of destroying it.”
The revolution must set out from the first radically and totally to destroy the State.
— Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings
Ludwig von Mises
II.F.2 What are the main economic flaws of statist socialism?
Besides the obvious problem of creating a ruling caste, there is a serious economic problem with all systems of central planning: the calculation problem. Also called the knowledge problem, it refers to the facts that, 1) without market-generated prices, the costs of capital and factors of production are unknown, and 2) much knowledge is decentralized, and impossible for central planners to discover. Mises brought the calculation problem to the fore in 1920.
Where there is no free market, there is no pricing mechanism: without a pricing mechanism, there is no economic calculation.
— Ludwig von Mises, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (1920)
Even if statist socialists are able to create a mighty army of citizens all eager to do the bidding of their masters, what could the socialist planners tell this army to do? How would they know what products to order minions to produce, how much of the product to produce at each stage, what techniques or raw materials to use in that production, and how much of each, and where specifically to locate all this production? How would they know their costs, or what process of production is or is not efficient? They could not.To Mises the central problem is not knowledge as such. He explicitly points out that even if the socialist planners knew perfectly, and eagerly wished to satisfy, the value priorities of the consumers, and even if they enjoyed a perfect knowledge of all resources and all technologies, they still would not be able to calculate, for lack of a price system of the means of production.
The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate "given" resources—if "given" is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these "data." It is rather a problem of how to secure the best use of resources known to any of the members of society, for ends whose relative importance only these individuals know. Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality. — Friedrich A. Hayek, The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945)
We should note that, in a stateless society, socialists could rely on nearby capitalist and mutualist markets to discover this information, so these objections apply significantly less if at all.
II.G - Why do anarchists oppose corporatism, aka fascism?
Corporatism is the collusion of State and economic elites. It is a quid pro quo - the rulers get wealth and legitimacy out of the deal, and the special interest "cronies" get government favoritism, in the form of protection from competition, subsidies, tariffs and quotas, and direct contracts from government agencies.
In a relatively free market, creating a cartel is very difficult. In US history, there were repeated attempts to create price-fixing cartels by steamboat companies, railroads, and agricultural interests. All these attempts failed until government was brought in to enforce the cartel. Why did they fail to fix prices? Because a cartel is a kind of Prisoners Dilemma Game - it is always rational for members to defect to cheat. For example, if a railroad company in the cartel sees that there are empty boxcars in Topeka, then he is sorely tempted to fill them up, even if it takes a lower price than the cartel "fix." We see today how badly the OPEC oil cartel works, with e.g. Saudi Arabia wanting to limit supply, Venezuela wanting to ramp it up, and Russia wanting who-knows-what else.
Gabriel Kolko’s The Triumph of Conservatism demonstrates that, through the late 1800s and early 1900s, business leaders’ efforts to gain control of their industries through voluntary means failed, not because of anti-trust legislation or government action, but because of the instability of monopolies in the market - even a market warped through intellectual property, tariffs, and subsidies in a way that one would expect to encourage monopolies to form.
Further, the federal government did not act as a servant of the general public. The influence business owners have today over government actions and policy is not new, (even though the problem may have worsened over time.) Even during the “Progressive Era,” supposedly a paradigmatic episode of “good government” acting on behalf of the people to protect them from monopolists and businessmen, the reality is that the government often acted, not only in the interests of those businessmen, but at their request, tailoring legislation, and interpreting legislation that was passed, in the ways financial elites asked them to do.“Government regulation” does not, inherently, harm those at the top of the financial pyramid. Instead, it is often a tool they themselves ask for, and use to their own benefit, at the expense of the rest of us.
— Jacob Peets, Book Review: The Triumph of Conservatism
Corporatocracy doesn't just work on a domestic scale. It is international. The "Anglo-American Empire," basically consisting of winners of WWII, is the dominent international cartel of States. Their enforcement agencies include the UN, the World Bank, and the WTO. This cartel utilizes the US political machine and military is what John Perkins calls "the corporatocracy."
That is what we EHMs [economic hit men] do best: we build a global empire. We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure—electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks. A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices in Washington to engineering offices in New York, Houston, or San Francisco.
Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh. This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources such as oil or the Panama Canal. Of course, the debtor still owes us the money—and another country is added to our global empire.
— John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Perhaps the most infamous of government cartels is the banking cartel - what Benjamin Tucker called "the money monopoly" in the 19th century. The cartelization process proceded like earlier government captures of industry.
During the War of Northern Aggression the issuance of greenbacks, a fiat currency, and enactment of numerous banking regulations paved the way for total nationalization of central banking in 1913. Instead of fixing rail freight rates, “political” banks needed to fix the rate of inflation for the notes they issued. After all, creating money out of thin air by lending was a lucrative business when you could get away with it. Prior to the war, banks that had too low a reserve - or had inflated their notes too much which amounts the same thing - would risk other banks (and customers) demanding redemption in gold (or silver.) Thus, banks that inflated too much were driven out of business. But what if all the banks inflated at about the same rate? Then the problem of redemption would be gone. But of course some banks felt an obligation to serve their customers and not distribute worthless unbacked paper, or take on so much risk. The 1913 Federal Reserve Act took care of that problem by enforcing a banking cartel - “regulating” dangerously low reserves uniformly. Since then, the dollar has lost 98% of its value, and is no longer redeemable in silver or gold or any commodity. What value it has is based on the State’s future ability to plunder its subjects and/or capture resources through military aggression.
— Hogeye Bill, Corporations and Corporatism: A Review of “Unequal Protection”
It should be noted that anarchists are not against corporations as such, since corporations can be voluntary associations. It is simply not true that all corporations are creatures of State. The earliest corporations were churches; people wanted to donate to their church and not to the pastor's family. Nowadays, firms can be incorporated "in cyberspace"" by registering them on public blockchains - giving us truly natural law corporations. Thus, anarchists do not confuse anti-corporatism with anti-corporationism as some "leftists" do. A corporation is simply a legal convention that allows voluntary associations to contract and own property. Corporations are fine so long as governments do not interfere. Anarchists distinguish between market corporations which get their revenue from voluntary trade, and political corporations which get their revenue from government privilege. This is analogous to the difference between market and political entrepreneurs, and market and political capitalists.