Somehow a pair of right-wing libertarians, calling themselves “Brothers in Anarchy”, managed to get themselves a column in Victoria University’s student newspaper Salient. My response:

Dear “Brothers in Anarchy”,

By some feat of luck it appears you have managed to gain a regular column in Salient – I only wish you would make better use of it.

I should play my cards up front: I am an anarchist, but of a variety quite opposed to the vulgar politics you two profess. As far as I can tell, you seem to advocate an anti-State right-wing libertarianism, a neo-liberalism of the most extreme kind. You reject the State and democracy but seem to entertain a misplaced belief that the all-too-obvious evils of capitalism will right themselves through some sort of unabated market mechanism.

This anti-State right-wing libertarianism of yours developed a small, short-lived, but vocal following in the mid-90s in the U.S., a following that also used the label “anarcho-capitalist”. This, of course, was to distinguish them from the vast majority of anarchists at the time who – of both the social and individualist varieties – located themselves firmly in an anti-capitalist politics. This anarchism, which has strangely gone unacknowledged in your column thus far, had its roots in the development of socialism in mid-19th Century Europe (notably Russia). It underwent an historic split in the last part of the 19th Century with the Statist socialisms (Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.) that would eventually result in the predictable events of the Long Twentieth Century. It was also this anarchism which utterly eclipsed the proponents of “anarcho-capitalism” in 1999 in the now-infamous Seattle riots and the onset of the anti-globalisation movement.

But these semantic debates between anarchists and the “anarcho-capitalist” variety are now well-worn and tiresome. Rather than arguing who represents the most legitimate variety, perhaps it is best to go back to roots upon which we can both agree.

For me, anarchism is based upon an ethics and a desire which aims towards the maximisation of freedom. This is not simply the freedom of the tyrant to do what they wish, but instead a generalised social freedom that aims towards enabling individuals the ability to “grow naturally and simply, flower-like, or as a tree grows” (to quote Oscar Wilde). That is, it is a ‘freedom-to’, rather than just the liberal ‘freedom from’.

Compare these root values with your “anarcho-capitalist” system. While you seek the abolition of the State, you seem to quite happily transfer its repressive functions (namely its police and military forces, and their enforcement of law and especially property relations) to be managed through profit-seeking security companies. You advocate State court systems being run by businesses and using some sort of price mechanism as the basis for law. In fact, in an Orwellian twist, the pigs appear as men and the men appear as pigs. The functions of the State appear to have been retained in full and delivered through the mechanisms of the market and pseudo-State corporate forms. This vision seems more like a dystopian nightmare than anything worth fighting for.

More to the point, you seem to completely miss the oppressive capitalist relations involved in the employee/employer relationship – otherwise known as wage slavery. For 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week (or more if there are no labour laws), people will continue to endure the micro-dictatorship of the workplace. And so long as private property is staunchly defended by your corporate security lackeys, a combination of poverty and no access to productive capital makes wage slavery unavoidable (unless we retreat to sea-floating platforms as you advised us in your last column??). With profit the only basis for law, I would imagine a “race to the bottom” of working conditions and wages unparalleled by even the worse exigencies of economic globalisation today.

Anarchism must be anti-Statist and anti-nationalist, but it must also be anti-capitalist.

Nothing of your political vision seems to me to be anything that might approximate the “maximisation of freedom”. Orwell wrote that “if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face – forever” and I wonder if this might have been perfected in your politics?

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