Friday, February 2, 2018

Reflection Upon the Use of Forced Labor Camps by Anarchists and Communists

     It is said, and accurately, that “people starved under Communism”.
     What is typically meant by “Communism”, of course, is the ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), which was founded by Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia in 1917 and collapsed in 1991. [Note: soviet means “council”, and Bolshevik means “majority”].
     The ideology of the U.S.S.R. was predominantly influenced by Marxism-Leninism, Lenin having been instrumental in developing Marxist theory, and in leading and organizing the October Revolution. In Marxist theory, socializing control of the means of production (“socialism”, for short) can empower workers and associations between them sufficiently, such that the state is no longer needed, and withers away, giving way to moneyless, classless, stateless communism, while at the same time a new kind of “state”; a “dictatorship of the proletariat”.
     Marxism-Leninism combined the idea of a revolutionary vanguard party with democratic centralism and council communism; while Stalinism ran with vanguardism practically to the point of ignoring the risks of imperialism and of stifling international attempts at communism that did not wish to stay in communion with the U.S.S.R.. However, Russia and the other former members of the U.S.S.R. are not the only countries that have tried communism. Additionally, Bolshevik socialism, with communism as its stated end goal, is not the only form of communism that has ever been proposed.
     Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Luxemburgism, Juche, libertarian and anarcho-communism, the utopian communalism of Owen, Fourier, and Mill... Not only are there are many varieties of communism, but there are many kinds of socialism, and they don't all have communism as their end goal (whether we mean Bolshevism or anarcho-communism).
     Whomever makes such a broad statement as “people starved under communism” should be cautious as to which form of communism he means. Sometimes it ought to be enough to differentiate theorized stateless communism from Bolshevik Communism with a simple difference in capitalization, but that difference cannot be understood voice-to-voice without explanation. Using capitalization to make a distinction is just like capitalism: it only works on paper.

     Communism can and does work. Regimes that were communist in intent and/or name have made extraordinary achievements in fields such as agriculture, industry, literacy, social justice, and aeronautics. Communist militias have been formed. Anarchist communes have been founded, settled, and lived in. Nations have been formed out of the voluntary associations of communes with one another. Paris was a commune twice in the 19th century. The autonomous republic of Transnistria is arguably still communist or Soviet. There are regional and national federations of anarchists and communists, that have associations with one another, all around the globe.
     Communism can exist, has existed, and does exist. Some people have starved under communism, and some people did not starve while under communism. When communism fails, and when people starve under communism, it is usually the result of attack, sabotage, or natural calamity. The Paris Commune ended when the French aristocracy took control back from the Communards. Communists' attempts to control Vietnam and South Korea - and socialists' attempts to control various Latin American and South American countries (even via democratic election) – were sabotaged by the capitalistic American Empire. The Ukraine suffered a famine in the 1930s, called the Holodomor.
     Other causes of the collapse of communist societies ought not be blamed solely on communism, but on those self-described communists who ignored the principle of autonomy in the organization of workers, and who chose centralization over decentralization as a way to ensure the needs of the populace were met (namely, Marxists). Nationalization and centralization of industries, over-bureaucratization of management, micro-management, strict discipline of workers; these practices neglect all impulses to guard against the bourgeoisie spirit, and against the treatment of the working class as a “reserve army of labor”, both of which workers should despise.

     But the Left is not prone to authoritarianism just because its members are sometimes hypocritical. Nor is collapsed communism the only system prone to hypocrisy. For instance, the modern-day Russian Federation criticizes Western imperialism while arguably acting just as imperialistic as either the United States or as the U.S.S.R. under Stalin. Readers also ought to note the irony of the fact that Stalinists and American imperialists both conspired to crush international attempts at communism during the 20th century. Although they appeared to do that for different reasons, it makes one wonder whether the old rumor that American banking interests financed the October Revolution.
     It's entirely possible that Jacob Schiff and other Western banking interests helped finance the Vanguard of the October Revolution (which included Lenin and Trotsky) – and if they did, then British and German banking interests were likely involved as well. That the same three imperialist nations all later fought the U.S.S.R. and Soviet influence, should be no surprise. Western imperialist nations have profited off of the desperation of the second and third world in such a manner; America for at least two centuries now, the others for much longer. This will continue to happen as long as nations desirous of communism keep “trading” with capitalist enterprises and governments representing capitalist interests.
     What this is, is a scheme to undermine successive regimes, by sowing the seeds of discord and revolutionary activity in the public; the goal being to cause regime after regime to fall, no matter its ideology, intent, or goals. This is done in order to pressure fledgling regimes to sell their assets to the U.S. government and American businesses, to seize assets from their citizens in order to find more to sell, and to open up their countries' land and labor to foreign interests who want to export nearly everything of value out of the country in question.
     While it may seem hypocritical to help destroy the regime you just helped put into power - to bait all countries and governments against each other for your profit – it is actually a very consistent method of seizing power. Through differential interest rates on lending, and through cartelization and fixing of monetary exchange rates, the banking elite make bets on which nation will best be able to exploit its citizens and their property, and force them to join militaries to murder foreigners for their property, so they can give it to the banks to repay the debts which the government and/or public owe the banks.
     This system is innate to capitalism, mercantilism, fascism, and indeed any purported “free”-market system that tolerates any degree of state interference. This is so for the simple reason that militaries and banking monopolies do not behave like normal actors engaging in voluntary exchange. By their nature, their very presence in markets destroys the freedom of markets. True choice cannot take place under conditions of monopoly or coercion.

     If communism is defeated or sabotaged by an outside force, we should not blame the victims, nor encourage them to feel ashamed on account of it. Just as it is in the nature of militaristic, belligerent imperialist nations to crush attempts to live outside of their purview, it is in the nature of trading capitalist nations to legally exploit the natural resources and work-power of the countries agreeing (or reluctantly assenting) to trade with them.
     Trade itself poses a dangerous question, and threat, to communist regimes. That is, the danger is the issue of whether a communist nation is supposed to trade, or whether it should be entirely self-sufficient. What's so dangerous about trade is that the “freedom to trade” usually has force to back it up, rendering trade a “force” in and of itself (that is, at least in “market” economies that tolerate any degree of state influence). The “freedom” to pressure, leverage, manipulate, isolate, and intimidate a government into confiscate its people's lands and selling their jobs, futures, and homes out from underneath them, is not a freedom, because it destroys the liberties of others. Nor is it a natural “freedom”, because it requires coercion to enforce.
     That is why it is so unfortunate that spreading truly free-market systems has proven difficult, and has sometimes failed. Perhaps that's because proponents of this idea have always hoped that a central government, in whatever form, can ensure that trade stays free. Federations of council republics, and systems of common markets and free interstate commerce, are difficult to craft, because they require some level of military and managerial will-power to organize whole communities and nations of people, to try new systems of political and economic self-governance.

     When critics of Soviet “Communism” (if indeed it really was Communism; many Leftists will argue that it was not because it did not achieve statelessness) blame the economic ideology that led it, and also blame all other vaguely associated and vaguely similar ideologies, it usually seems to be motivated by the desires to find a scapegoat, and simplify things to fit their preconceived narrative and confirmation bias.
     Turning nationalist movements into territorial nation-states is not something that happens without some bloodshed, and people in uniforms telling other people what to do. Furthermore, if any society exists for long enough, anarchist or not, it will eventually suffer from some sort of famine or other natural disaster. Are we to blame communism for even the weather? Should we blame the Governor of California every time there is a wildfire in his state?
     Every time we pretend that more control and fire-power, or better government management, could have prevented a national tragedy or a natural calamity, we give in to the Statist idea that government is like a God, that it can stop evil at-will, that it can save people from natural disasters. It's true that government agencies have rescued people from natural disasters, and that government employees put fires out; but it's also true that government mismanagement has resulted in lots of people living in flood-prone areas, exposing them to the risk of natural disasters. It does liberty no service to attempt to criticize communism and statism while ascribing godlike powers to those who practice them.
     In Jamestown colony, John Smith echoed the words of Paul the Apostle: “If a man does not work, then neither shall he eat.” Yet the Jamestown settlers resorted to cannibalism. Lenin espoused the same idea, and some people starved under the U.S.S.R.. Why should we try to blame the failure of a colony in America, or the failure of the U.S.S.R., on either communism or Christianity, when we could blame the drought that afflicted the settlers, or the famines that afflicted the Communists?
     The Marxian material conception of history tells us that the material conditions of those community-building attempts determined their destiny much more than any political or economic system ever could have.

     In the early 20th century, before fascism swept Europe - with its ultra-nationalism, nationalization of property under the pretense of privatization, and command-and-control economics measures such as rationing and price controls – tens of millions died of Spanish influenza following the conclusion of World War I. Between ten and twenty years after that, in the United States, agricultural mismanagement exacerbated the already severe financial conditions. Next, for Europe and America alike, it was that perfect storm - severe natural and material conditions, combined with the pressure to choose between the fascists and the communists - which caused liberal democracy after socialist republic to fall victim to the pressure to impose rigorous controls on the economy and society.
     The result was what some call “socialists acting like fascists”. Events like the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentropp treaty showed that the Stalinists were just as expansionist as the Nazis, and just as much without regard for the fate of Poles, Jews, and other people living in the giant World War II hot spot known as the Russian Pale. Socialists and Communists caved into military, natural, and economic pressure, and started focusing on centralizing control and consolidating power to guard against outside threats (namely, fascism). And anarchists and Communists alike built work camps, and worked people to death.
     The tactics employed by both the anarcho-communists and the fascists – namely, economic controls and coerced labor - were similar. However, to suggest that those facts alone makes them the same, is almost to say that a fascist militant, once captured, doesn't deserve to be treated with the torturous methods which his ilk invented. There is a time for justice, and a time for mercy; but mercy is by definition something which is undeserved.
     Even if anarcho-communists and fascists did share some of the same goals in maintaining their forced labor prisons (or justice and rehabilitation systems, whatever you want to call them), that does not mean that all anarcho-communists “become what they despised”, or “became authoritarian” or became Nazis. Whether they deprived anyone of liberty wrongfully or not, their actions should not discredit all anarchists, nor all socialists, communists, nor “Leftists” (however you wish to define that term).
     I could blame any crimes of the anarchists of the Spanish social republic on the U.S. Republican Party if I wanted to, but I wouldn't make such a ridiculous claim. It may take a little extra time to criticize different types of communist regimes for different activities, but it's worth it compared to the non-existent benefits of oversimplifying things by lumping-together everyone with a slightly similar philosophy or name.

     In the 1930s, as nationalism swept Europe and imperialism swept the world, the need to unify in a solid front against the fascists grew; specifically against the Francoist Falangists in Spain, the Mussolinian fascists in Italy, and Hitler's National Socialist Nazis in Germany.
     In 1936, to contain the spread of Franco's sphere of influence, mechanic and revolutionary Buenaventura Durruti erected the Durruti Column, a militant organization comprised of thousands of anarchists from all over the world. The Durruti Column worked in close coordination with the C.N.T. and F.A.I. to organize resistance to the Falangists. The C.N.T. (Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo) is an anarcho-syndicalist union, and the FAI (Federacion Anarquista Iberica) is a group of militant anarcho-communists who are active within affinity groups inside the C.N.T..
     Solidarity between anarchists, syndicalists, communists, and other anti-fascists was essential, given the small numbers of radical anti-fascists, considered against the magnitude of the threat posed by Franco (and, later, the Axis Powers). [Note: At times throughout this essay, I may refer to the entire anti-fascist front as either “anarchist” or “communist”, or both.]
     Beginning in 1937, the leadership of the C.N.T.-F.A.I. began imprisoning people in coerced labor camps; including fascist sympathizers, clergymen, members of the bourgeoisie, and “reactionaries” and “subversives”, as well as thieves, drunkards, and delinquents, and even C.N.T.-F.A.I. officers who abused their power. According to the C.N.T.-F.A.I.'s defenders, these prisoners were not held in as brutal conditions as those in Stalin's gulags, as they still had contact with the outside world.
     Some of the anarcho-communists' decisions at this time – in particular, the decision to maintain work camps – were framed in the context that the only alternative was fascism. If one did not work hard enough, one was treated with suspicion of sabotage. It is said that this is because if military activities lag behind, and if the civilian work which gives the military its support structure lags behind, then the fascists will take advantage of the communists' vulnerability, and take over.
     The anarchists' treatment of their prisoners of war may seem cruel; however, they deemed it necessary to face the fascist threat. In order to fight against the fascists, one had to join forces with whomever was fighting them, in order to overcome overwhelming odds. If one wanted to fight with the anarchists, one had to tolerate fighting alongside communists, and obeying the officers of the military unit. If you had to fight fascists and Nazis, your willingness to tolerate a little “authoritarianism” within your own ranks might prove advantageous in the long term.
     Enemies at the gates breed desperation inside, and desperation and pressure breed coercion and control. And whomever puts in the most initiative to organize people, organize their labor, and organize the military and its support structure - and whomever is the best at directing resources, in a way that balances the needs of those needing protection and incapable of defending themselves, versus the militants doing the protecting – is going to look authoritarian by contrast to the people they are empowering.

     The fact that Spanish anarchism eventually lost-out to Franco, or that the U.S.S.R. eventually collapsed, should not be mistaken so as to prove that all political and economic systems will fail if they are to any extent “radical”, “extremist”, “Leftist”, or “collectivist”.
     Nor should they be construed to prove that only private property rights and market systems guard against starvation or authoritarianism. Nor should they be taken to prove that all of these systems require corruption into Statism, nor that they cannot survive without imposing extreme economic controls (such as rationing, or collectivization or nationalization of resources).
     Anarchism certainly seems to embrace liberty, and not all communism opposes liberty. If anarchism and communism do not succeed often, it is not necessarily because there is something intrinsically wrong with them, nor with their name, nor even because they did not embrace liberty enough. Actually, at times, some anarchists and libertarians have been too tolerant of people who are not willing to tolerate them, and their mercy and benefit of the doubt betrayed them.
     But the reasons that anarchists and communists didn't often succeed in the 20th century, as I have hinted at already, are that there are military, commercial, and rhetorical forces mounted against them from secure places of power and influence. Additionally, because the inferior agricultural technology and medicinal science, coupled with poor agricultural conditions, compounded the already enormous politicoeconomic pressures of the time, which caused poverty conditions and starvation. Aside from that, it also came down to how efficient the distribution system was, whether it focused on government management or market-based pricing mechanisms, whether there were multiple supply lines, and how much the black market thrived.
     Wars, famines, droughts, natural disasters, health epidemics, deficiencies and inefficiencies in transportation and distribution infrastructure: any one of these things alone could bring a nation - even a whole continent - to its knees. The early 20th century was fraught with those problems, and it had to solve them with early 20th century technology, industry, and science.
     In light of all these difficulties, and the dire domestic material conditions of the time – alongside the extraordinary threat posed by authoritarian controls coming from outside the country – it should be easy to understand why the anti-authoritarian anarchists of the C.N.T.-F.A.I. were willing to tolerate these controls; seemingly authoritarian, though designed to keep communities safe from fascist military advances.

     It should be even easier when one considers that no particular political nor economic system ought to be blamed for imposing command-and-control measures upon the economy, such as rationing and price controls. Minimum wage laws are price floors on the value of labor, yet they continue to exist in nearly every country in the world, with hardly anyone calling them controls on price. More directly to the point, even the staunchly market-oriented liberal democracy of the United Kingdom nearly succumbed to fascism.
     That is to say, even if the British regime in London didn't fall due to continuous Nazi bombings, Chamberlain tried to appease Hitler several years prior, Churchill had admired Hitler early-on in his reign, and Churchill oversaw rationing, and made racist comments about the people of India. But then again, Gandhi wrote a letter to Hitler as well. It is true, as they say, “politics breed strange bedfellows”, and “desperate times call for desperate measures”. It's just too bad that “all our national heroes were psychopathic, murderous, racist sexual predators” isn't a snappy enough phrase to catch on. In the grand historical scheme of things, hopefully we've made it past the worst of that. Taking baggage with us from the 20th century isn't going to help us; not anywhere nearly as much as making sure we're all on the same page.
     The way we can make sure we're all on the same page is by talking to each other - specifically, to people with different economic and political views from us, and different backgrounds - making sure we're understood when we use particularly loaded political terms, and making more questions fair and open.
     One particular question which it might help us to ask is whether people who make private property claims are depending on the state to enforce that claim, while putting minimal or no effort into protecting the property themselves. Additionally, whether this expectation predisposes propertarian market systems to value the protection property and control, instead of the protection people and their freedoms; by welcoming coercive governments to intrude upon the market for the protection of property, and then to seize and sell that property.
     For as we have seen throughout history, governments wielding a monopoly on protecting the people, all too often neglect their duties, fail to even assume those duties through any form of legal obligation, or simply confiscate and sell the land (and the people on it) which they were charged with the task of protecting.

     I don't know whether, nor how, any particular one of my readers might distinguish work camps, internment camps, concentration camps, and gulags from one another; nor whether they would differentiate slavery, involuntary servitude, or coerced or forced labor, from “mandatory volunteering”. But whatever you call the facility and the practice, it should be easy to see why, under
any political or economic system suffering from production and distribution difficulties (and/or any number of other major problems), command-and-control measures are natural and predictable responses to dire military and economic circumstances.
     But that is not to suggest that we ought to tolerate authoritarian economic nor social controls, nor that command-and-control measures nor work camps are unavoidable whenever there is a major problem. Not only are those measures avoidable, the supposed solution to those problems (forced labor) does nothing to solve the problem, nor even to alleviate it. Imposing long hours of coerced labor for little or no compensation, - whether done by Nazis, Bolsheviks, anarchists, or even liberal democracies – causes the hoarding of labor-hours in the hands of the workers (really, in the hands of those who make them work).
     When the bulk of necessary tasks in a society are performed by people in chains - living in camps and ghettos and other densely populated centers - the distribution of labor-hours becomes uneven, and all areas outside of the most densely populated areas are drained of laborers. That is why the use of work camps - although they promised the destitute that they could “work themselves free” or “buy their freedom” - breeds concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. That's because it concentrates wealth into small areas (namely, urban areas, and densely-populated areas, where the most people are working), and it brings with it vast inequality of income and opportunity. And not just due to the poverty of unemployment, and depending on one's location; being employed was obviously no picnic either.
     Fortunately, today, the risks of natural disasters and bad farming weather have become easier to alleviate with modern technology, and extreme poverty is nowhere near as much of a problem now as it was in the early 20th century. Today, though, we have new industrial and scientific technologies.

     We also have new developments in political and economic science; as technologies like improved protection of the rights to speak and communicate will help us guard against the risks of control and authoritarianism in the 21st century. Hopefully, too, will the freedoms of, to, and from political association will become better protected; unfortunately, the issue of who we expect to do that protection is beyond the scope of this essay.
     Decentralizing power away from cities and central governments could help distribute wealth and power geographically in a more equitable way. Moreover, it could help reverse the flow of workers and jobs from rural communities to dense population centers, and undo a lot of the damage caused by the territorial enclosure of the Commons.
     Additionally, eliminating all subsidies and bailouts, reducing or eliminating unnecessary taxes on sales and imports, and drastically reducing the durations of the terms of patent protection (or else the complete abolition of government protection of intellectual property) could all help accelerate the process of making goods easier to afford. These measures would diminish most of the ill effects of the concentration of military and economic power, as well as the inordinate powers of governments - and the “innovators” and “developers” they protect – to determine prices, and to control production and distribution.
     With pirating and peer-to-peer file-sharing, the free and open collaborative commons, the “sharing economy” and “gift trade barter share” economies, and technological innovations such as the rise of automation and 3-D printing, obtaining resources (especially information) without going through governments and monopolists has gotten easier. With the rise of the internet, the black market of underground voluntary exchange has grown, and has been conducive to freedom, but so too has the red market (the market for violent exchange). The difference between them is the difference between “piracy” (sharing) and theft.
     The benefits of owning rather than sharing notwithstanding, the easier it becomes to share resources, and to use substitutes or unlicensed versions of those resources, the more affordable those resources become. Even if those counter-economic measures only succeed in increasing the affordability of the substitute, then there is, at least, still some pressure on the monopolist to lower his price, at least prospectively.
     The more affordable resources become, the easier and cheaper it becomes to transport and distribute them. That is why avoiding government and its beneficiaries in “private” industry like the plague - and crafting market-oriented liberal-democratic policies that respect the civil liberties and social freedoms of the people, as well as the autonomy of the citizen, worker, and governmental jurisdiction - are the best ways to ease the strains which result from inefficient and insufficient distribution infrastructure. Coincidentally, and conveniently, they are also the best ways to create equal justice under the law, and equality of opportunity, and to erect a unified front against fascism.
     Freedom-loving supporters of the markets can criticize “left-authoritarianism”, “social-authoritarianism”, or “feelings-fascism” as much as they please; but if libertarians, classical liberals, modern liberals, progressives - and, yes, even socialists or syndicalists, communists anarchists alike, do not fight against fascism together - then there might not be enough anti-fascists to save the people, their communities, and their property from being seized by authoritarian regimes. And if there is no respect of even the most basic property rights, then there can be no free market system, because you can't make a trade if you don't have anything to trade with.

     The “authoritarianism” that was characteristic of early 20th century anarcho-communists and fascists alike, was motivated by a desire to provide for the needs of the most trustworthy members of the given communities (or nations, as the case may have been).
     Fascist or anti-fascist, the people who contributed the most to the cause reaped the most rewards, while those who could but didn't were treated as if they were aiding the enemy. But it's hard not to wonder, had the early twentieth century been a time of extraordinary sustained growth and prosperity for nearly all sectors of society, rather than the mess it was, would the Nazis and Bolsheviks have ever even resorted to economic controls?
     If they certainly still would have, then perhaps they would only have expected the political enemies they imprisoned to follow them? After all, nobody who runs a prison system should be expected to treat their prisoners better than civilians (save for a few modern Scandinavian countries that arguably come close). Naturally, such “equal treatment” does not happen without some public criticism, and any people would have every right to be concerned about such a policy. People like to think that the people who are in prison, are in there because they did something wrong, and they're there because they're being punished – not rewarded – for it.
     When you have to decide between killing large numbers of active, attacking, militant fascists, versus trying to put them all in prison - so you can give each of them a fair trial, letting them plead their cases in front of juries of their peers - you have to consider which choice conserves your effort, which choice is less likely to get you killed, and which is more realistic. And handcuffing people on the battlefield is hardly a realistic military strategy.
     Unfortunately, neither is allowing cronies, monopolists, usurers, racketeers, profiteering land hoarders, and hawkish and imperialist military generals, run amok, and try to control the flow of resources, controlling society and labor in the process.

     Anarchist, Communist, or fascist, they all did what they did, and imprisoned whom they imprisoned, because they wanted to wreak vengeance upon those they thought responsible for causing, or contributing to, the inequality of just rewards to those they considered “parasites”. Or, in the fascists' case, they at least said they did.
     Anarchists, Communists, and fascists all seem to agree on at least a few things, like that usury is bad, that getting defeated in a war is bad... and that's about as far as their agreements go. The difference, however, is that the anarchists and Communists prioritized ending inequality, while the fascists focused on scapegoating Jews and other minorities as such parasites.
     This is not to say that there have never been Judeophobic communists; of course there have been. The contributions of the U.S.S.R. to liberating Auschwitz and to helping win World War II notwithstanding, after the October Revolution, there were anti-Jewish pogroms in the Soviet Union, and Jewish revolutionaries were purged from Communist Party ranks.
     However, anarchists and communists in Spain, unlike the Soviets during the later years of Stalin's regime, did not arrest people solely for being foreigners, nor for being Jewish. Nor did they characterize parasitism as a character of a particular race or religion. On the contrary; their ideology was specifically anti-racist and internationalist, and as such, they accepted fighters from around the world.
     This is not to say that zero of the Spanish anarchists were Judeophobic; many of the anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists who fought Franco indeed were atheists and agnostics (while atheism was considered the “state religion” of Communism), and many may have even hated all religions, Judaism not excepted. However, the anarchists' aversion towards religions is easier to understand in light of many Spanish Catholic priests sympathizing with the Franco regime and papism, and the Catholic Church's later complicity in aiding the Nazis (albeit while giving aid to Holocaust victims, while on the other hand, the Church has also apologized for not having done more to help the victims of Nazism).

     Ownership of private property (as Proudhon and Marx defined that term) arguably requires either unanimous public support, or else protection by a state. Bureaucratic controls on pricing and distribution, too, require a certain level of coercion and discipline in order to enforce. Whether it's private ownership or participatory democratic planning, any semblance of coercion or state influence, or diminution of choices, has only ever served to exacerbate any existing inefficiencies and insufficiencies in distribution.
     But, then, without enforcement, discipline, or strict management, how may we ensure a good distribution, which is both fair and free? The best response seems to be to simply allow people to take what is freely to given to them and shared with them, and allow them to freely give and share, without imposing any taxes upon them (which have sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, punitive effects upon the behavior being taxed).
     Additionally, to allow each person to take their fair share of natural resources, including land, so that they may do on that land whatever they please with their own product and property. Also, that they may keep all they make on that land, and retain possession of the parcel, and trade properties with one another, and pool their properties together (whether contiguously or not). But if you did not make the land, then you may not destroy the land; the parcel's being in your possession does not give you the right to destroy nor burn down any part of it which you did not create.
     Although it could be argued that this might result in a distribution which is still uneven, it cannot be said that it would be insufficient to meet any particular person's needs. To declare the slightest inequality unacceptable is almost to argue that it is unacceptable to give something away without expecting anything in return. Ensuring reciprocity of voluntary exchange is one thing, but it should never excuse coercing a person into making a transaction they do not wish to make. Nor should it excuse taking away a person's right to be charitable, nor their right to do something that needs to be done, but which nobody is willing to pay for it to be done.
     If people are free to give, then they are free to have slightly less than others. If a person voluntarily renounced all possessions, and claims to rent and tenancy and property, then to continue to burden him with licensing agreements, rental contracts, furniture, and the material trappings of which he is trying to rid himself. Just as well as the need for reciprocity, the freedom to give away our things should also not be used to excuse intentionally putting people into a state of inequality.
     Having less currency, or a different or less numerous set of possessions, does not determine your wealth, nor does it determine your class. Your wealth is determined not by your riches, but by your subjective definition of what wealth means to you. And your class is determined by your relationship to the means of production (factories, assembly plants, large machines), and also your relationship to the land (i.e., whether and under what circumstances you may own and attend it).

     Whether ownership of land or factories is free or prohibited, if everyone with good standing in society at least has access to these things, then class conflict becomes less pronounced. But then again, access only guarantees the “freedom” to rent and borrow; while on the other hand, the risks of absolute domination in ownership risks exploitation and destruction.
     But whether with property - or whether with only access, use, and occupation – free and open common access (or anything better) should still be sufficient to ensure that a person be free to perform any task; without it being overly taxed and regulated, and without it necessarily being treated like work or like a profession; and these diverse life-sustaining labors would be sufficient to sustain any person with minimal physical effort. Technological achievements, in the way of automated production and distribution - along with economic and political liberalization reforms – will help ensure that this occurs.
     Equal access to land, and mass individual and collective ownership of automatons, will help ensure that anyone can own as much as he wishes - and as much as he can build, grow, and transform - using his share of land. That's because any kind of labor and any kind of capital can be combined upon any type of terrain. Land, not the pistol, is the true Great Equalizer. Indeed, land is freedom; free land breeds a free people. That's why the land issue is so important. And that's why autonomous communities, voluntarily associating in federations, should be free to decide what degree of private property rights in land they shall allow; additionally, in order to balance the needs of human beings with that of the ecosystem that sustains us.

     While it pains me to admit that sometimes a binary choice may be necessary, or even voluntary, the posing of choices between fascism and communism, fascism and chaos, and fascism and democracy in the 20th century, happened so often because it was a reality. Twice in that century, the whole continent of Europe was framed by two long battle fronts, and in World War II the theaters of conflict spanned entire oceans.
     It's natural for anti-fascists, anti-authoritarians, and just plain freedom lovers to want to advocate maximizing choice when it comes to democracy (who we're voting for, or what we're running for) and markets (what we're buying and selling). But when you're caught near a war, and governments and anarchists and terrorists are coming from all over the world to fight each other, the “only choices” that nature and the circumstances “dictate” be given to you, are “fight or flight”.
     At that point, the only real choices you'll find, lie in your decisions concerning where to flee to, by what methods you wish to defend yourself, and whom else you wish to protect. Those may not be enough choices for you, but those are the choices you have left. We must also accept that some choices are irreversible; and that as such, making them constraints the future sets of choices we are able to make. Most importantly, as John F. Kennedy cautioned, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
     If only it were as easy to know when you are really consenting to what your peers goad you into doing (or if you are just going along to make them happy) as it is to know whether you are starving.

     Note: I would like to thank author and I.W.W. historian Peter Cole for bringing the history of the C.N.T.-F.A.I. to my attention.

To learn more about C.N.T.-F.A.I., please visit:

To learn about Peter Cole, please visit:

To learn about the communists' betrayal of anarchists in Catalonia in May 1937, please visit:
or read "Homage to Catalonia" by George Orwell

Written on February 1st and 2nd, 2018
Based on a post written on January 30th, 2018
Originally Published on February 2nd, 2018
Additional source note added on February 28th, 2018

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