Peter Santenello, an American from San Francisco with limited Russian language skills, moves in with a local family in the village of Osypenko near the city of Berdyansk near the Sea of Azov in Ukraine. From one perspective, this shows how one can live on a homestead as an alternative to living on welfare, as in the United States.
Transcript of Andrew Chrucky’s speech:
First of all, as I was riding here … anyway, I became an anarchist somewhere in 2000. The rest of my life I have been in philosophy, studying epistemology and logic … until it hit me in 2000, roughly. . . . Anyway, as I was biking over here I was thinking about what is the significance of this? … Well, when I woke up this morning I said, shit it’s May 1st, its the labor day for the whole world, and this is the greatest monument … this is the Mecca of the laboring people of the world. This is it, its like the Muslim Mecca. So, I said, what does this mean? I felt like it was like Easter for Christians. Why Easter? Well, I was talking with a fellow here and he said it was like Christmas for him. Well I said, Christmas was when Christ was born, and there is a promise of things to come. But Easter is the big event. Easter is the promise of heaven, of resurrection. Well, perhaps these people are buried here and they are dead, but their spirit has resurrected . . . it spread all over the world, so in a sense this to me is Easter.
Here we are. I was listening to you talking about and thinking about workers. And I want to talk to you about capitalism. What is the definition of capitalism? There is a movement called anarcho-capitalism. It is bullshit. I’ll tell you why its bullshit. They think that capitalism is free trade. Well, free trade is just barter. It always existed. It existed under slavery, it existed under feudalism. What is unique to capitalism is what came after the French Revolution. It came after the end of feudalism, at the end of slavery. But what happened? Well, you had wage workers, you had wage-slaves. You had to work because what was the alternative? The alternative was starvation, or being homeless, going around looking in garbage for food. Now, why is that? Why if you don’t work you don’t have food, you don’t have shelter? Well, it’s a simple thing: you don’t have access to land. You cannot grow your own food. All land is privatized. You cannot be a free man if you do not have access to land. This has been recognized throughout history. It was recognized in Roman times…you have a problem of people not having access to land. You had the Mexican Revolution … what was their slogan? Tierra y libertad. Tierra is land. After that you had the Russian Revolution in 1917. What do you think their slogan was? Zemlia y volia, which translates into land and freedom. They were fighting for land. Then in 1936 to 1939 you had the Spanish Civil War. What do you think their slogan was? [Someone in the audience says “Tierra y libertad”] Tierra y libertad! It’s all about land. Capitalism cannot exist if people have access to free land. All these other definitions of capitalism make so sense. They say its free trade. No. Free trade has always existed. If you don’t have free access to land, then you have to sell yourself. All right. Glory to the anarchist Easter!
Philosophers often use thought-experiments for the clarification and testing of theories. For example, to clarify and justify the present political institutions, philosophers appeal to a Social Contract. This is an imaginary agreement among an imaginary group of people with imaginary traits. Several years ago John Rawls wrote A Theory of Justice appealing to such a Social Contract.
A thought experiment is a species of hypothetical reasoning. It is the testing of a hypothesis under imaginary circumstances.
I propose to use a thought experiment concerning two individuals on an island, whom I will call Robinson Crusoe and Friday. And my task is to characterize the economic-political systems of slavery, feudalism, and capitalism as a relation between two individuals.
Slavery will exist if Crusoe forces Friday to do anything he wants him to do. Friday will fish, hunt, and gather plants. Bring them to Crusoe and prepare and cook these things for him. He will build for Crusoe a hut, he will fetch water, and he will wipe Crusoe butt. Crusoe, in turn will allow Friday to feed on the scraps which are left over. If Friday misbehaves, he will be punished by the whim of Crusoe.
Feudalism will exist if Crusoe lets Friday fend for himself on the island, i.e., Friday may build himself a shelter and keep a store of food for himself, provided that Friday brings to Crusoe a certain quantity of food, and does a certain amount of labor. Crusoe will set up some form of punishment for non-compliance.
The creation of a capitalist situation on the island is initially puzzling to formulate because of mistaken definitions of what capitalism is. A useful way of giving a definition is through the method of genus and difference. Capitalism is in the genus of trade: it is a market economy. But trade is just barter with or without money, and is well nigh universal. It existed under slavery and under feudalism.
So called anarcho-capitalists say that capitalism is free trade under conditions of private property. How will that be modeled in the Crusoe-Friday scenario? We can suppose that Crusoe and Friday have divided between themselves the island in half. They do not trespass on each other, and periodically trade. Crusoe is good at fishing, while Friday is good at gathering coconuts. There is an agreed division of labor and trade. This satisfies the anarcho-capitalist’s definition, but it is not the capitalism which socialists were objecting to. What is missing? Wage-labor. So if there is to be “voluntary” labor by Friday for Crusoe, what possibly can induce Friday to work for Crusoe, given that they possess equal shares of the island?
One scenario is this. Crusoe has a rifle and there are feral pigs on the island. Using the rifle, it is easy to kill pigs. So, Crusoe makes a deal with Friday, allowing Friday to do all the pig hunting for the two of them. As a result, Crusoe has leisure, while Friday does the work of hunting.
This, however, does not model historical capitalism. Why? Because under present day conditions of capitalism, if Friday does not enter into this agreement as a worker, he will become homeless and risk starvation. How can such a situation be modeled on the island? I can think of only one scenario. Crusoe claims the whole island as his private possession, and Friday is welcome on the island on the condition that he will work for Crusoe. What is the alternative for Friday if he refuses? He is compelled to leave the island in whatever way he can manage, and risk the perils of the sea. Alternatively, Friday can, of course, trespass without Crusoe’s permission; but if caught, there will be punishment.
So, Friday is forced into working for Crusoe because he does not have free access to subsistence land on the island. This, as I see it, is the difference which must be added to the genus of trade in order to define capitalism per genus and differentia.
I have now read most of Peter Joseph’s book, The New Human Rights Movement, 2017. It can be summarized as a condemnation of capitalism because capitalism creates all the maladies arising from poverty, capitalism uses war for economic gain, and capitalism has created our present ecological disaster because it disregards collateral damage. Peter Joseph proposes that we should create a consumer economy by using all the advances we have made in science and technology.
My reaction is like that of Noam Chomsky: it is a nice proposal. Chomsky, when asked for an alternative, said that he has been offering alternatives for years, which is libertarian socialism — based on worker controlled enterprises of small democratic communities federated into larger unit.
Peter Joseph seems to have missed the Marxist thesis that the necessary condition for capitalism is the existence of a proletariat. Proletarians are people who have been deprived of access to subsistence land. In view of this, my proposal is — in terms of priority — to first give each person free access to subsistence land. Afterwards we can talk about the use of science and technology for mutual aid.
Joseph, Chomsky, and I have these ideals, but how do we realize them? The three of us say that it must originate with the people through a grassroots movement. However I have more specific proposals for grassroots movements. 1. Nations have to be decentralized. All groups should have the right of secession. 2. Governments should be based on the autonomy of small communities. 3. No individual should hold decisional power; all powers should belong to councils.
If this sounds utopian, then my realistic proposal is: imitate Switzerland.
Just now I came across a video by Thomas diLorenzo, whom I admire about his expose of Abraham Lincoln. In this video he talks about his new book , The Problem with Socialism (2016), which criticizes socialism. I think his criticisms are worth considering — and I am going to get a copy of his book. Jokingly, he says that his talk could be about how to argue with your Bernie Sanders roommate in college. He defines “socialism”, roughly, as “state managed means of production.” This includes both state controlled industries, as in the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Venezuela; and what is called Social Democracy, which we have in the United States and Europe. These kinds of Socialisms are to be contrasted with, what in the United States is called, Libertarianism.
Watch this video, but make sure you also watch the next video by Cameron Watt, who contrasts these kinds of state or authoritarian socialisms with “libertarian socialism” or “anarchism.” ‘”Socialism” here does not mean state owned or managed industries, but worker-owned and managed industries; and “libertarian” does not mean private ownership of industries, but refers to a political structure rooted in direct democracy in small scale communities, federated into larger units.
Finally, watch Noam Chomsky’s explanation of how the word “socialism” traditionally has been used to refer to worker-controlled work-places, which is the view of “libertarian socialism.”
Here is the video of the debate. My commentary is below.
Libertarian Socialism is not an oxymoron
The Zeitgeist Movement – A Libertarian Socialist Critique