Most of the Anarchist movement seems pretty determined to take down capitalism before the State. This is also Chomsky’s position: he claims that the State is somewhat accountable to the people, and that therefore the State can be used by us in a way that capitalism cannot. He also claims that taking down the State before capitalism would create an even worse situation for freedom as a whole, while taking down capitalism would not have any negative effects. But are these propositions correct?
To answer these questions, we need to look at the fundamental nature of these two groups of institutions and these two ideologies. What is the State? The State is more than a specific government, more than an apparatus of war, more than an apparatus of law, more than an apparatus of punishment. Its most fundamental nature is that of a property claim: the State is that which claims property over an arbitrary delimited piece of land, and over all the people residing on it. A law is nothing more than the expression of the property rights of the State (i.e. control over land and people), and punishment is the State’s self-defense. A war is nothing more than the desire to expand one State’s property or influence other States’ rights of property.
What is capitalism? Many things can be used to typify a capitalist system, but its most fundamental definition is that of a private claim of property over whatever it is that people use to make their living. The corporation is merely a make-believe construct, made up to delegate property-ownership responsibility to a non-existing person and letting the actual criminals get away scot free. The worker’s wage is a (subjective, and therefore false) price put on the worker selling his right to his own production.
It should not surprise my readers that I identify property at the foundation of these two institutions, since I’ve already pointed out that all hierarchies are based on some form of property.
So we can now see that the issue of accountability doesn’t even enter the picture. Both institutions proceed from the same basic principle (controlling objects, controlling people). Even very intelligent people like Chomsky can be fooled into believing that the institutions give people some form of choice or freedom, such as representative democracy. But the main feature of representative democracy is that all supposed choices are limited, molded and engineered by its leaders. And when a result does not please them, they simply ignore it or it is overturned by opposing factions when the time is right. Whatever one may believe, no actual positive change has been brought about by voting in a representative democracy, simply because its leaders have no reason to offer people a positive change.
But “dollar voting” offers no more accountability than “ballot voting.” Purchasing patterns cannot influence the internal workings of a corporation, only the nature of the supply. And as long as the money monopoly is maintained and capital remains in a few hands, there is no chance to build alternatives for radicals to flock towards. Like in democracy, we only get the choices they want us to have.
Because of the unbounded nature of hierarchies, there is no accountability to be found in either case. Neither the capitalist system nor the democratic system can be reformed from the inside. In fact, historically, there are few examples of positive changes brought about within these systems, and no example of stable positive changes (if we define stable as being more than a flash in the pan, to be corrected by the authorities over a period of years or decades- the period from US independence to the War of Northern Aggression is a good example of this).
The only solution left is therefore to build from the outside, by establishing and growing safe spaces using mutual aid, replacing the social and economic functions of both the State and capitalism with egalitarian principles and equal liberty.
Chomsky’s position is that it would be easier to eliminate capitalism, and that it is safer to eliminate capitalism. I think both propositions are false. But it does not matter anyway, since the issue is not one of choice. The plan of creating and expanding safe spaces must necessarily incorporate mutual aid of the economic and of the organizational kind. You can’t have one without the other. A reciprocal economics can’t be of authoritarian organization, and a reciprocal organization can’t be economically authoritarian.
Sure, eliminating the State would lead to disastrous consequences. But so would eliminating capitalism. If the means of production became unowned, the State certainly would not let the people take control over them, but would seize them for itself (ostensibly in the name of the people, of course). Indeed, the only form of nation-state government we know that dispenses with capitalism is a dictatorship, and dictatorships do not tend to be benevolent.
I’m sure some may wonder what I think is a good strategy to get rid of the capital-democratic system, and that if I’m going to refute someone else’s position, I should present my own. That’s fair enough, so here is my position on what needs to be done:
1. We need to help people regain the ability to trust and love one another.
2. We need to help people see the truth of our class society, and restore people’s class consciousness.
3. We need to rebuild the sense of community and the functions of society through the principles of mutual aid and self-management, creating safe spaces for people to flourish.
4. Protests should only be used to prevent the occupation of the safe spaces we’ve created.
5. Natural resources and human lives should be protected with directed sabotage against materials (never against people).
6. Perhaps most importantly, we need to understand our opponents: not the systems themselves (we know more than enough in those areas), but the individuals. We need to sit down with policemen and find out why they are oppressing people who fight for their own class interests. We need to sit down with managers and investors, and learn why they support corporations which thrive on child labor and prison slave labor. We need to explain to them where their interests lie. If we can convince people to stop supporting the beast, we can hopefully win the battle without fighting.