I often complain that both sides of the Anarchist divide are so full of spite for each other that they don’t really take the time to address the semantic confusions. Because Socio-Anarchists come from a leftist background, and Market Anarchists come from a libertarian background, they approach the same issues in very different ways and using very different words.
Market Anarchists emphasize the economic aspect, but are more anti-government than anti-capitalism. Socio-Anarchists emphasize the social aspect, but are more anti-capitalism than anti-government. Market Anarchists despise Socio-Anarchists for being ignorant of basic economic principles and for turning a blind eye to government abuse, and Socio-Anarchists reject Market Anarchists because they think we sanction capitalist exploitation and don’t care about equality.
In most of these disputes, we are in fact talking about the same thing. The shining example of this is the property/possession debate. When Market Anarchists talk about “property,” the Socio-Anarchist understands this as “the State-enforced usurpation of ownership,” and because of this assumes the Market Anarchist is a capitalist stooge.
But the fact of the matter is that what we understand by “property” and what they understand by “possession” is the same thing. Certainly Market Anarchists do not accept the proposition that the State legitimately owns all the land, or that corporations have legitimate ownership, so Market Anarchists do not agree with the concept of property as understood in the democratic-capitalist context. Although they may disagree on the specific mechanisms by which they may be regulated, most Market Anarchists and Socio-Anarchists accept the homesteading/trade principle and the use/occupancy principle. But because Market Anarchists use their word “property” and Socio-Anarchists use the word “possession,” both sides stubbornly refuse to agree.
Of course there are those people who do advocate unbounded property, or who advocate that the concept of ownership as a whole must be rejected. Both positions are gravely illogical, but at least we can refute them from a common ground.
One of the problems is that both sides insist in using terms in their own special way, when 99.99% of people would disagree. All that really does it make people believe that you believe in what they understand by the term, and so they will think you are an asshole. Nowhere has this been made more clear than by Objectivism, which is a largely discredited ideology because of Ayn Rand’s noble but misguided crusade to reclaim words like “selfishness” and “capitalism.”
Note that I do not exclude either side from this fault. The badly-named “Anarcho-Capitalism” and “Anarcho-Socialism” both suffer from it. Of course, both sides insist that their name means something else, talk about the history of the terms, and discuss what this or that prominent thinker said on the subject. This is all flummery designed to trick you into realizing that they are using the term in a different way than is understood by everyone else. Capitalism and socialism are properly understood as two different systems of State exploitation, and thus can have nothing to do with Anarchy. The Anarchist economic system is radically different from capitalism, socialism and communism, especially when we consider that these are all merely extensions of one another, and co-exist as parts of the statist domination strategy.
The use of these words, therefore, says a lot about the ideological past and the approach taken by the individual using them, and says absolutely nothing about Anarchy, apart from the fact that a lot of people do not understand that Anarchy is an economic system in itself, quite distinct from the economic systems we observe today. They fail to grasp the radical nature of the Anarchist proposition.
A word which Socio-Anarchists often use positively is “democracy.” On this we get the same problem than for “capitalism” and “socialism,” in that they use the term in a different way than what is commonly understood. Democracy is a statist form of organization by which a ruling class presents a limited set of options, which are then selected through the mechanism of voting, which means in practice that they are selected by the aggregate beliefs that are strongest amongst the voting pool. Since those aggregate beliefs are also strongly determined by ruling class propaganda, democracy can therefore be said to be a system that exists solely to manufacture consent for the ruling class.
Socio-Anarchists, on the other hand, want to use democracy to mean a system of self-determination, where the people in a given local society take decisions about their resources. But this is Anarchy, not democracy. Democracy is almost the exact opposite of self-determination: it is a relation between ruler and subject, and there is very little about democracy that is generated by the values of the individual subject. In democracy, there is no dialogue, there is no free exchange: like any other system the State sets up, it is a purely confrontational system.
Insofar as decision-making goes, Anarchy proposes that the free market system, free from all coercion, determine the direction of society. Self-determination, both at the individual (through value exchange) and at the social level (through some form of consensus and dialogue) has been, is, and should be, a strong systemic guiding principle for any Anarchist form of organization.
Anarchists need to take a page from the capitalists and stop being ashamed of their brand name. They should stop confusing people by preaching democracy when they should be promoting Anarchism.