Una FAQ Anarchica - Gli anarchici individualisti sono anti-capitalisti?
[modifica] G.1 Are individualist anarchists anti-capitalist?
Yes, for two reasons.
Firstly, the Individualist Anarchists opposed profits, interest and rent as forms of exploitation (they termed these non-labour incomes "usury"). To use the words of Ezra Heywood, the Individualist Anarchists thought "Interest is theft, Rent Robbery, and Profit Only Another Name for Plunder." [quoted by Martin Blatt, Benjamin R. Tucker and the Champions of Liberty, Coughlin, Hamilton and Sullivan (eds.), p. 29] Their vision of the good society was one in which "the usurer, the receiver of interest, rent and profit" would not exist and labour would "secure its natural wage, its entire product." [Benjamin Tucker, The Individualist Anarchists, p. 82 and p. 85] As communist-anarchist Alexander Berkman noted, "[i]f labour owned the wealth it produced, there would be no capitalism." [What is Communist Anarchism?, p. 37] Thus the Individualist Anarchists, like the social anarchists, opposed the exploitation of labour and desired to see the end of capitalism by ensuring that labour would own what it produced.
Secondly, the individualist anarchists desired a society in which there would no longer be capitalists and workers, only workers. The worker would receive the full product of his/her labour, so ending the exploitation of labour by capital. In Tucker's words, a free society would see "each man reaping the fruits of his labour and no man able to live in idleness on an income from capital" and so society would "become a great hive of Anarchistic workers, prosperous and free individuals" combining "to carry on their production and distribution on the cost principle." [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 276] Moreover, such an aim logically implies a society based upon artisan, not wage, labour and workers would, therefore, not be separated from the ownership and control of the means of production they used and so sell the product of their labour, not the labour power itself.
For these two, interrelated, reasons, the Individualist Anarchists are clearly anti-capitalist. While an Individualist Anarchy would be a market system, it would not be a capitalist one. As Tucker argued, the anarchists realised "the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labour, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labour by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labour. . . . And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege. . . every man will be a labourer exchanging with fellow-labourers . . . What Anarchistic-Socialism aims to abolish is usury . . . it wants to deprive capital of its reward." [Benjamin Tucker, Instead of a Book, p. 404] As noted above, the term "usury," for Tucker, was a synonym for "the exploitation of labour" [Ibid., p. 396] and included capitalist profits as well as interest, rent, and royalties. Little wonder Tucker translated Proudhon's What is Property? and subscribed to its conclusion that "property is robbery" (or theft).
Such opposition to exploitation of labour was a common thread in Individualist Anarchist thought, as it was in the social anarchist movement. Moreover, as in the writings of Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin opposition to wage slavery was also a common thread within the individualist anarchist tradition -- indeed, given its regular appearance, we can say it is almost a defining aspect of the tradition (and, as we argue in the next section, it has to be for Individualist Anarchism to be logically consistent). For example, taking Josiah Warren (the "father" of individualist anarchism) we find that "[t]o men like [him] . . . chattel slavery was merely one side of a brutal situation, and although sympathetic with its opponents, refused to take part in the struggle [against slavery] unless it was extended to a wholesale attack on what they termed 'wage slavery' in the states where Negro slavery no longer existed." [James J. Martin, Men Against the State, p. 81] Such a view, we may add, was commonplace in radical working class journals and movements of the time. Thus we find George Henry Evans (who heavily influence Individualist Anarchists like Warren and Ingalls with the ideas of land reform based on "occupancy and use") writing:
"I was formally, like yourself, sir, a very warm advocate of the abolition of (black) slavery. This was before I saw that there was white slavery. Since I saw this, I have materially changed my views as to the means of abolishing Negro slavery. I now see clearly, I think, that to give the landless black the privilege of changing masters now possessed by the landless white, would hardly be a benefit to him in exchange for his surety of support in sickness and old age, although he is in a favourable climate." [quoted by Kenneth R. Gegg, Jr., Benjamin R. Tucker and the Champions of Liberty, Coughlin, Hamilton and Sullivan (eds.), p. 113]
Similarly, William Greene (whose pamphlet Mutual Banking had a great impact on Tucker) pronounced that "[t]here is no device of the political economists so infernal as the one which ranks labour as a commodity, varying in value according to supply and demand." [Mutual Banking quoted by Martin, Op. Cit., p. 130] In the same work he also noted that "[t]o speak of labour as merchandise is treason; for such speech denies the true dignity of man. . . Where labour is merchandise in fact . . . there man is merchandise also, whether in England or South Carolina." [quoted by Rudolf Rocker, Pioneers of American Freedom, p. 112] Here we see a similar opposition to the commodification of labour (and so labourers) within capitalism that also marks social anarchist thought (as Rocker notes, Greene "rejected . . . the designation of labour as a commodity." [Op. Cit., pp. 111-2]). Moreover, we discover Greene had a "strong sympathy for the principle of association. In fact, the theory of Mutualism is nothing less that co-operative labour based on the cost principle." [Rudolf Rocker, Op. Cit., p. 109] Martin also indicates Greene's support for co-operation and associative labour:
"Coming at a time when the labour and consumer groups were experimenting with 'associated workshops' and 'protective union stores,' Greene suggested that the mutual bank be incorporated into the movement, forming what he called 'complementary units of production, consumption, and exchange . . . the triple formula of practical mutualism.'" [Op. Cit., pp. 134-5]
This support for producers' associations alongside mutual banks is identical to Proudhon's ideas -- which is unsurprising as Greene was a declared follower of the French anarchist's ideas.
Looking at Lysander Spooner, we discover a similar opposition to wage labour. Spooner argued that it was state restrictions on credit and money (the "money monopoly" based on banks requiring specie to operate) as the reason why people sell themselves to others on the labour market. As he put it, "a monopoly of money . . . .put[s] it wholly out of the power of the great body of wealth-producers to hire the capital needed for their industries; and thus compel them . . . -- by the alternative of starvation -- to sell their labour to the monopolists of money . . . [who] plunder all the producing classes in the prices of their labour." [A Letter to Grover Cleveland, p. 20] Spooner was well aware that it was capitalists who ran the state ("the employers of wage labour . . . are also the monopolists of money." [Op. Cit., p. 48]). In his ideal society, the "amount of money capable of being furnished . . . is so great that every man, woman, and child. . . could get it, and go into business for himself, or herself -- either singly, or in partnerships -- and be under no necessity to act as a servant, or sell his or her labour to others. All the great establishments, of every kind, now in the hands of a few proprietors, but employing a great number of wage labourers, would be broken up; for few, or no persons, who could hire capital, and do business for themselves, would consent to labour for wages for another." [Op. Cit., p. 41] In other words, a society without wage labour and, instead, based upon peasant, artisan and associated/co-operative labour (as in Proudhon's vision). In other words, a non-capitalist society or, more positively, a (libertarian) socialist one as the workers' own and control the means of production they use.
The individualist anarchists opposed capitalism (like social anarchists) because they saw that profit, rent and interest were all forms of exploitation. They thought that liberty meant that the worker was entitled to "all the fruits of his own labour" (Spooner) and recognised that working for a boss makes this impossible as a portion is diverted into the employer's pockets. [Martin, Op. Cit., p. 172] Like social anarchists they opposed usury, to have to pay purely for access/use for a resource (a "slice of their daily labour us taken from them [the workers] for the privilege of using these factories" [Alexander Berkman, What is Communist Anarchism?, p. 6]).
This opposition to profits, rent and interest as forms of exploitation, wage labour as a form of slavery and property as a form of theft clearly makes individualist anarchism anti-capitalist and a form of (libertarian) socialism. In addition, it also indicates well the common ground between the two threads of anarchism, in particular their common position to capitalism. The social anarchist Rudolf Rocker indicates well this common position when he argues:
"it is difficult to reconcile personal freedom with the existing economic system. Without doubt the present inequality of economic interests and the ruling class conflicts in society are a continual danger to the freedom of the individual. . . One cannot be free either politically or personally so long as one is in economic servitude of another and cannot escape from this condition. This was recognised by men like Godwin, Warren, Proudhon, Bakunin, [and women like Goldman and de Cleyre, we must add!] and many others who subsequently reached the conviction that the domination of man over man will not disappear until there is an end of the exploitation of man by man." [Nationalism and Culture, p. 167]
In addition to this opposition to capitalist usury, the individualist anarchists also expressed opposition to capitalist ideas on property (particularly property in land). J.K. Ingalls, for example, considered that to reduce land to the status of a commodity was an act of "usurpation." Indeed, "the private domination of the land" originated in "usurpation only, whether of the camp, the court or the market. Whenever such a domination excludes or deprives a single human being of his equal opportunity, it is a violation, not only of the public right, and of the social duty, but of the very principle of law and morals upon which property itself is based. . ." [Social Wealth, quoted by Martin, Op. Cit., p. 148f]
These ideas are identical to Proudhon's and Ingalls continues in this Proudhonian "occupancy and use" vein when he argues that possession "remains possession, and can never become property, in the sense of absolute dominion, except by positive statue [i.e. state action]. Labour can only claim occupancy, and can lay no claim to more than the usufruct." [Ibid., p. 149] In other words, capitalist property was created by "forceful and fraudulent taking" of land, which "could give no justification to the system" [Ibid.] (as we argued in section B.3.4) and was protected by the state. And like Warren and Greene he opposed wage labour, and "considered the only 'intelligent' strike [by workers as] one which would be directed against wage work altogether." [Ibid., p. 153]
Therefore we see that the individualist anarchists, like social anarchists, opposed capitalist exploitation, wage slavery and property rights. Instead of capitalism, they maintained that workers should own what they produced or its equivalent (rather than what they were paid in wages). Such a position necessarily implies that they should own and control the means of production they use, thus ensuring the "abolition of the proletariat" (to use Proudhon's term) and so the end of capitalism as society would no longer be divided into two classes, those who worked and those who owned. In an individualist anarchy, "there should be no more proletaires" as "everybody" would be "proprietor." This would result in "The land to the cultivator. The mine to the miner. The tool to the labourer. The product to the producer." [Ernest Lesigne quoted approvingly by Tucker at the end of his essay "State Socialism and Anarchism" in Instead of a Book, p. 17, p. 18] Ernest Lesigne considered "co-operative production" as "a solution to the great problem of social economy, -- the delivery of products to the consumer at cost" and as a means of producers to "receive the value of your product, of your effort, without having to deal with a mass of hucksters and exploiters." [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 123] As Charles A. Dana put it (in a work published by Tucker and described by him as "a really intelligent, forceful, and sympathetic exposition of mutual banking"), "[b]y introducing mutualism into exchanges and credit we introduce it everywhere, and labour will assume a new aspect and become truly democratic." [Proudhon and His "Bank of the People", p. 45] In other words, a classless socialist society of self-employed workers without exploitation and oppression.As Wm. Gary Kline correctly summarises:
"Their proposals were designed to establish true equality of opportunity . . . and they expected this to result in a society without great wealth or poverty. In the absence of monopolistic factors which would distort competition, they expected a society of largely self-employed workmen with no significant disparity of wealth between any of them since all would be required to live at their own expense and not at the expense of exploited fellow human beings." [The Individualist Anarchists: A Critique of Liberalism, pp. 103-4]Thus Individualist anarchy would "[m]ake capital free by organising credit on a mutual plan, and then these vacant lands will come into use . . . operatives will be able to buy axes and rakes and hoes, and then they will be independent of their employers, and then the labour problem will be solved." This would result in the "emancipation of the workingman from his present slavery to capital." [Tucker, Instead of a Book, p. 321 and p. 323]
Moreover, like the social anarchists, the Individualist Anarchists were aware that the state was not some neutral machine or one that exploited society purely for its own ends. They were aware that it was a vehicle of class rule, namely the rule of the capitalist class over the working class. As noted above, Spooner thought that that "holders of this monopoly [the money monopoly] now rule and rob this nation; and the government, in all its branches, is simply their tool" and that "the employers of wage labour . . . are also the monopolists of money." [Spooner, Op. Cit., p. 42 and p. 48] Tucker recognised that "capital had so manipulated legislation" that they gained an advantage on the capitalist market which allowed them to exploit labour. [The Individualist Anarchists, pp. 82-3] He was quite clear that the state was a capitalist state, with "Capitalists hav[ing] placed and kept on the statute books all sorts of prohibitions and taxes" to ensure a "free market" skewed in favour of themselves. [quoted by Don Werkheiser, Benjamin R. Tucker and the Champions of Liberty, Coughlin, Hamilton and Sullivan (eds.), p. 218] A.H. Simpson argued that the Individualist Anarchist "knows very well that the present State . . . is simply the tool of the property-owning class." [Op. Cit., p. 92] Thus both wings of the anarchist movement were united in their opposition to capitalist exploitation and their common recognition that the state was a tool of the capitalist class used to allow them to exploit the working class.
In addition, as a means of social change, the individualists suggested that activists start "inducing the people to steadily refuse the payment of rents and taxes." [Instead of a Book pp. 299-300] This non-payment of rent included rented accommodation as "tenants would not be forced to pay [landlords] rent, nor would [landlords] be allowed to seize their [the tenants] property." [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 162] These are hardly statements with which capitalists would agree. Tucker, as noted, also opposed interest, considering it usury (exploitation and a "crime") pure and simple and one of the means by which workers were denied the full fruits of their labour. Indeed, he looked forward to the day when "any person who charges more than cost for any product [will] . . . be regarded very much as we now regard a pickpocket." This "attitude of hostility to usury, in any form" hardly fits into the capitalist mentality or belief system. [Op. Cit., p. 155] Similarly, Ezra Heywood considered profit-taking "an injustice which ranked second only to legalising titles to absolute ownership of land or raw-materials." [James J. Martin, Op. Cit., p. 111] Opposition to profits, rent or interest is hardly capitalistic -- indeed, the reverse.
As regards equality, we discover that the Individualist Anarchist's saw their ideas as resulting in more equality. Thus we find Tucker arguing that that the "happiness possible in any society that does not improve upon the present in the matter of distribution of wealth, can hardly be described as beatific." He was clearly opposed to "the inequitable distribution of wealth" under capitalism and equally clearly saw his proposals as a means of reducing it substantially. ["Why I am an Anarchist", p. 135, contained in Man!, M. Graham (ed.), pp. 132-6] John Beverley Robinson agreed:
"When privilege is abolished, and the worker retains all that he produces, then will come the powerful trend toward equality of material reward for labour that will produce substantial financial and social equality, instead of the mere political equality that now exists." [Patterns of Anarchy, pp. 278-9]
As did Lysander Spooner, who argued that under his system "fortunes could hardly be represented by a wheel; for it would present on such height, no such depth, no such irregularity of motion as now. It should rather be represented by an extended surface, varied somewhat by inequalities, but still exhibiting a general level, affording a safe position for all, and creating no necessity, for either force or fraud, on the part of anyone to secure his standing." Thus Individualist anarchism would create a condition "neither of poverty, nor riches; but of moderate competency -- such as will neither enervate him by luxury, nor disable him by destitution; but which will at once give him and opportunity to labour, (both mentally and physically) and stimulate him by offering him all the fruits of his labours." [quoted by Stephan L. Newman, Liberalism at Wit's End, p. 72 and p. 73]
Hence, like social anarchists, the Individualist Anarchists saw their ideas as a means towards equality. By eliminating exploitation, inequality would soon decrease as wealth would no longer accumulate in the hands of the few (the owners). Rather, it would flow back into the hands of those who produced it (i.e. the workers). Until this occurred, society would see "[o]n one side a dependent class of wage-workers and on the other a privileged class of wealth-monopolisers, each become more and more distinct from the other as capitalism advances." This has "resulted in a grouping and consolidation of wealth which grows apace by attracting all property, no matter by whom produced, into the hands of the privileged, and hence property becomes a social power, an economic force destructive of rights, a fertile source of injustice, a means of enslaving the dispossessed." [William Ballie, The Individualist Anarchists, p. 121]
Tucker, like other individualist anarchists, also supported labour unions, and although he opposed violence during strikes, he recognised that it was caused by frustration due to an unjust system. Indeed, like social anarchists, he considered "the labourer in these days [as] a soldier. . . His employer is . . . a member of an opposing army. The whole industrial and commercial world is in a state of internecine war, in which the proletaires are massed on one side and the proprietors on the other." [Instead of a Book, p. 460] The cause of strikes rested in the fact that "before. . . strikers violated the equal liberty of others, their own right to equality of liberty had been wantonly and continuously violated" by the capitalists using the state, for the "capitalists . . . in denying [a free market] to [the workers] are guilty of criminal invasion." [Ibid., p. 454] He agreed with Ezra Heywood when he "scoffed at supporters of the status quo, who saw no evidence of the tyranny on the part of capital, and who brought up the matter of free contract with reference to labourers. This argument was no longer valid. Capital controlled land, machinery, steam power, waterfalls, ships, railways, and above all, money and public opinion, and was in a position to wait out recalcitrancy at its leisure." [James J. Martin, Men Against the State, p. 107] Likewise, Tucker advocated and supported many other forms of non-violent direct action such as boycotts and rent strikes, seeing them as important means of radicalising the working class and creating an anarchist society. However, like social anarchists the Individualist Anarchists did not consider labour struggle as an end in itself -- they considered reforms (and discussion of a "fair wage" and "harmony between capital and labour") as essentially "conservative" and would be satisfied with no less than "the abolition of the monopoly privileges of capital and interest-taking, and the return to labour of the full value of its production." [Victor Yarros, quoted by James J. Martin, Op. Cit., p. 206f]
However, while Tucker believed in direct action, he opposed the "forceful" expropriation of social capital by the working class, instead favouring the creation of a mutualist system to replace capitalist companies with co-operative ones. Tucker was therefore fundamentally a reformist, thinking that anarchy would evolve from capitalism as mutual banks spread across society, increasing the bargaining power of labour. This idea of reforming capitalism over time (and, by implication, tolerating boss's control during that time) was primarily due to the influence of Herbert Spencer and not Max Stirner. Little wonder that Peter Kropotkin termed Tucker's doctrine "no force" and considered such a reformist position to be similar to Spencer's and so little more than "an excuse for supporting landlord and capitalist domination." [Act For Yourselves, p. 98]
Be that as it may, it is clear that both social and Individualist Anarchists share much in common, including an opposition to capitalism. In other words, Individualist Anarchism is, indeed, opposed to capitalism. As Carole Pateman points out, "[t]here has always been a strong radical individualist tradition in the USA. Its adherents have been divided between those who drew anarchist, egalitarian conclusions, and those who reduced political life to the capitalist economy writ large, to a series of exchanges between unequally situated individuals." [The Problem of Political Obligation, p. 205] As can be seen, what right-libertarians do is to confuse these two traditions. The Individualist Anarchists may have been in favour of free exchange but between equally situated individuals. Only given a context of equality can free exchange benefit both parties equally and not generate growing inequalities which benefit the stronger of the parties involved which, in turn, skews the bargaining position of those involved in favour of the stronger (also see section F.3).
[modifica] G.1.1 Why is the social context important in evaluating Individualist Anarchism?
When reading the work of people like Tucker and Warren, we must remember the social context of their ideas, namely the transformation of America from a pre-capitalist to a capitalist society (see Eunice Minette Schuster, Native American Anarchism, pp. 135-137). The individualist anarchists viewed with horror the rise of capitalism and its imposition on an unsuspecting American population, supported and encouraged by state action (in the form of protection of private property in land, restricting money issuing to state approved banks using specie, government orders supporting capitalist industry, tariffs and so on).
The non-capitalist nature of the early USA can be seen from the early dominance of self-employment (artisan production). At the beginning of the 19th century, around 80% of the occupied population were self-employed. The great majority of Americans during this time were farmers working their own land, primarily for their own needs. Most of the rest were self-employed artisans, merchants, traders, and professionals. Other classes -- employees/wage workers and employers/capitalists in the North, slaves and planters in the South -- were relatively small. The great majority of Americans were independent and free from anybody's command. They controlled they owned and controlled their means of production. Thus early America was, essentially, a pre-capitalist society. However, by 1880, the year before Tucker started Liberty, the number of self-employed had fallen to approximately 33% of the working population. Now it is less than 10% [Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America, p. 59]. It is only in this context that we can understand individualist anarchism, namely as a revolt against the destruction of working-class independence and the growth of wage-labour, accompanied by the growth of two opposing classes, capitalists and proletarians.
Given the commonplace awareness in the population of artisan production and its advantages, it is hardly surprising that the individualists supported "free market" solutions to social problems. For, given the era, this solution implied workers' control and the selling of the product of labour, not the labourer him/herself. As Tucker argues, individualist anarchism desires "[n]ot to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and to secure every man his whole wages" [Instead of a Book, p. 404] and this, logically, can only occur under workers control (i.e. when the tool belonged to the worker, etc. -- see section G.2).
Indeed, the Individualist Anarchists were part of a wider movement seeking to stop the transformation of America. As Bowles and Ginitis note, this "process has been far from placid. Rather, it has involved extended struggles with sections of U.S. labour trying to counter and temper the effects of their reduction to the status of wage labour." They continue by noting that "with the rise of entrepreneurial capital, groups of formerly independent workers were increasingly drawn into the wage-labour system. Working people's organisations advocated alternatives to this system; land reform, thought to allow all to become an independent producer, was a common demand. Worker co-operatives were a widespread and influential part of the labour movement as early as the 1840s . . . but failed because sufficient capital could not be raised. . ." [Op. Cit., p. 59 and p. 62] It is no coincidence that the issues raised by the Individualist Anarchists (land reform via "occupancy-and-use", increasing the supply of money via mutual banks and so on) reflect these alternatives raised by working class people and their organisations. Little wonder Tucker argued that:
"Make capital free by organising credit on a mutual plan, and then these vacant lands will come into use . . . operatives will be able to buy axes and rakes and hoes, and then they will be independent of their employers, and then the labour problem will solved." [Instead of a Book, p. 321]
Thus the Individualist Anarchists reflect the aspirations of working people facing the transformation of an society from a pre-capitalist state into a capitalist one. As Morgan Edwards notes:
"The greatest part [of Liberty's readers] proves to be of the professional/intellectual class: the remainder includes independent manufacturers and merchants, artisans and skilled workers . . . The anarchists' hard-core supporters were the socio-economic equivalents of Jefferson's yeoman-farmers and craftsworkers: a freeholder-artisan-independent merchant class allied with freethinking professionals and intellectuals. These groups -- in Europe as well as in America -- had socio-economic independence, and through their desire to maintain and improve their relatively free positions, had also the incentive to oppose the growing encroachments of the capitalist State." [Benjamin R. Tucker and the Champions of Liberty, Coughlin, Hamilton and Sullivan (eds.), p. 85]
This transformation of society by the rise of capitalism explains the development of both schools of anarchism, social and individualist. "American anarchism," Frank H. Brooks argues, "like its European counterpart, is best seen as a nineteenth century development, an ideology that, like socialism generally, responded to the growth of industrial capitalism, republican government, and nationalism. Although this is clearest in the more collectivistic anarchist theories and movements of the late nineteenth century (Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, communist anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism), it also helps to explain anarchists of early- to midcentury such as Proudhon, Stirner and, in America, Warren. For all of these theorists, a primary concern was the 'labour problem' -- the increasing dependence and immiseration of manual workers in industrialising economies." [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 4]Changing social conditions also explains why Individualist Anarchism must be considered socialistic. As Murray Bookchin notes:
"Th[e] growing shift from artisanal to an industrial economy gave rise to a gradual but major shift in socialism itself. For the artisan, socialism meant producers' co-operatives composed of men who worked together in small shared collectivist associations, although for master craftsmen it meant mutual aid societies that acknowledged their autonomy as private producers. For the industrial proletarian, by contrast, socialism came to mean the formation of a mass organisation that gave factory workers the collective power to expropriate a plant that no single worker could properly own. These distinctions led to two different interpretations of the 'social question' . . . The more progressive craftsmen of the nineteenth century had tried to form networks of co-operatives, based on individually or collectively owned shops, and a market knitted together by a moral agreement to sell commodities according to a 'just price' or the amount of labour that was necessary to produce them. Presumable such small-scale ownership and shared moral precepts would abolish exploitation and greedy profit-taking. The class-conscious proletarian . . . thought in terms of the complete socialisation of the means of production, including land, and even of abolishing the market as such, distributing goods according to needs rather than labour . . . They advocated public ownership of the means of production, whether by the state or by the working class organised in trade unions." [The Third Revolution, vol. 2, p. 262]
So, in this evolution of socialism we can place the various brands of anarchism. Individualist anarchism is clearly a form of artisanal socialism (which reflects its American roots) while communist anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism are forms of industrial (or proletarian) socialism (which reflects its roots in Europe). Proudhon's mutualism bridges these extremes, advocating as it does artisan socialism for small-scale industry and agriculture and co-operative associations for large-scale industry (which reflects the state of the French economy in the 1840s to 1860s). Hence Individualist Anarchist support for "the cost principle" (or "cost the limit of price") and artisanal production ("The land to the cultivator. The mine to the miner. The tool to the labourer. The product to the producer"), complemented by "the principle of association" and mutual banking.
In other words, there have been many schools of socialism, all influenced by the changing society around them. In the words of Proudhon "[m]odern Socialism was not founded as a sect or church; it has seen a number of different schools." [Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 177] As Frank H. Brooks notes, "before Marxists monopolised the term, socialism, was a broad concept, as indeed Marx's critique of the 'unscientific' varieties of socialism in the Communist Manifesto indicated. Thus, when Tucker claimed that the individualist anarchism advocated in the pages of Liberty was socialist, he was not engaged in obfuscation or rhetorical bravado." [The Individualist Anarchists, p. 75] Looking at the society in which their ideas developed (rather than a-historically projecting modern ideas backward) we can see the socialist core of Individualist Anarchism. It was, in other words, an un-Marxian form of socialism (as was communist-anarchism).
Thus, to look at the Individualist Anarchists from the perspective of "modern socialism" (say, communist-anarchism or Marxism) means to miss the point. The social conditions which produced Individualist Anarchism were substantially different from those existing today and what was a possible solution to the "social problem" then may not be one suitable now (and, indeed, point to a different kind of socialism than that which developed later). Moreover, Europe in the 1870s was distinctly different than America (although, of course, the USA was catching up). For example, there was still vast tracks of unclaimed land (once the Native Americans had been removed, of course) available to workers (which explains the various acts the US state to control land access -- see section F.8.5). In the towns and cities, artisan production "remained important . . . into the 1880s" [David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labour, p. 52] Until the 1880s, the possibility of self-employment was a real one for many workers, a possibility being hindered by state action (for example, by forcing people to buy land via Homestead Acts, restricting banking to those with specie, and so on). Little wonder that Individualist Anarchism was considered a real solution to the problems generated by the creation of capitalism in the USA and that, by the 1880s, Communist Anarchist (and later anarcho-syndicalism) became the dominant forms of anarchism. By the 1880s, the transformation of America was nearing completion and self-employment was no longer a real solution for the majority of workers.
As Peter Sabatini points out:
"The chronology of anarchism within the United States corresponds to what transpired in Europe and other locations. An organised anarchist movement imbued with a revolutionary collectivist, then communist, orientation came to fruition in the late 1870s. At that time, Chicago was a primary centre of anarchist activity within the USA, due in part to its large immigrant population. . . The Proudhonist anarchy that Tucker represented was largely superseded in Europe by revolutionary collectivism and anarcho-communism. The same changeover occurred in the US, although mainly among subgroups of working class immigrants who were settling in urban areas. For these recent immigrants caught up in tenuous circumstances within the vortex of emerging corporate capitalism, a revolutionary anarchy had greater relevancy than go slow mutualism." [Libertarianism: Bogus Anarchy]
Murray Bookchin argues that the development of communist-anarchism "made it possible for anarchists to adapt themselves to the new working class, the industrial proletariat, . . . This adaptation was all the more necessary because capitalism was now transforming not only European [and American] society but the very nature of the European [and American] labour movement itself." [Op. Cit., p. 259] With the changing social conditions in the US, the anarchist movement changed to. Hence the rise of communist-anarchism in addition to the more native individualist tradition and the change in Individualist Anarchism itself:
"Green emphasised more strongly the principle of association than did Josiah Warren and more so than Spooner had done. Here too Proudhon's influence asserts itself. . . In principle there is essentially no difference between Warren and Proudhon. The difference between them arises from a dissimilarity of their respective environments. Proudhon lived in a country where the sub-division of labour made co-operation in social production essential, while Warren had to deal with predominantly small individual producers. For this reason Proudhon emphasised the principle of association far more than Warren and his followers did, although Warren was by no means opposed to this view." [Rudolf Rocker, Pioneers of American Freedom, p. 108]
This social context is essential for understanding the thought of people like Greene, Spooner and Tucker. For example, as Stephen L. Newman points out, Spooner "argues that every man ought to be his own employer, and he envisions a world of yeoman farmers and independent entrepreneurs." [Liberalism at Wit's End, p. 72] This sort of society was in the process of being destroyed when Spooner was writing. However, the Individualist Anarchists did not think this transformation was unstoppable and proposed, like other sections of US labour, various solutions to problems society faced. Moreover, they adjusted their own ideas to changing social circumstances as well, as can be seen by Greene's support for co-operatives ("the principle of association") as the only means of ending exploitation of labour by capital.
Therefore Rocker was correct when he argued that Individualist Anarchism was "above all . . . rooted in the peculiar social conditions of America which differed fundamentally from those of Europe." [Op. Cit., p. 155] As these conditions changed, the viability of Individualist Anarchism's solution to the social problem decreased. Individualist Anarchism, argues Morgan Edwards, "appears to have dwindled into political insignificance largely because of the erosion of its political-economic base, rather than from a simple failure of strategy. With the impetus of the Civil War, capitalism and the State had too great a head start on the centralisation of economic and political life for the anarchists to catch up. This centralisation reduced the independence of the intellectual/professional and merchant artisan group that were the mainstay of the Liberty circle." [Op. Cit., pp. 85-6]
By not taking into account these conditions, the ideas of the likes of Tucker and Spooner will be distorted beyond recognition. Similarly, by ignoring the changing nature of socialism in the face of a changing society and economy, the obvious socialistic aspects of their ideas will be lost. Ultimately, to analyse the Individualist Anarchists in an a-historic manner means to distort their ideas and ideals. Moreover, to apply those ideas in a non-artisan economy without the intention of radically transforming the socio-economic nature of that society towards one based on artisan production one would mean to create a society distinctly different than one they envisioned (see section G.3).