On Nation-States and Federalism

I am reading Oscar Jaszi’s book, The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1929. It is interesting for me from several perspectives. Jaszi’s thesis is that Austria should have been divided along its ethnic or national units into a federated State like that of Switzerland. He enumerates and discusses the various tensions between the various nationalities and “irredentist” aspirations. [An “irredentist” aspiration is one of wanting to unite with one’s ethnic group in an adjoining State (Country).)

Below is a map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with its various ethnic groups in 1910:

As a result of the First World War, Austria was defeated, and by the Treaty of Versailles its territory was divided more equitably (but not enough) along ethnic groupings as illustrated by the map below:
I am in agreement with Jaszi about federalism — i.e., that a State should be organized on the basis of autonomous smaller units. I take it that he would be satisfied with the example of the United States, and more so with that of Switzerland. Let us call the former, Large Federalism; the latter, Moderate Federalism. However, I advocate a more radical federalism — call it Small or Radical Federalism. Radical Federalism requires the local unit of government to represent about 150 families. Radical Federalism is equivalent to Anarchism. This is why Proudhon’s tract “The Principle of Federation” (1863) is synonymous with anarchism (contrary to those who think otherwise).

The federalism of the United States consists of 50 States. The whole country of over 300 million people elects a President. Each State elects two Senators to Congress — by thousands and millions of people. The number of Representatives to Congress is relative to the population of the State. But this too is by thousands and millions of people voting. As far as the government of a State is concerned, the Governor and the Representative to the State Legislature are also elected by thousands and millions of people.

This huge number of voters is also present on the municipal level. I live in Chicago which has a Mayor elected by the nearly 3 million citizens. There is also a City Council of 50 Alderman, each elected at 50 Wards by some 40,000 voters each.

I describe the federalism of Switzerland as Moderate as contrasted with that of the United States. Its territory is much smaller than that of the United States, and its population of nearly 9 million approximates the population of Greater Chicago (i.e., including the surrounding suburbs of Chicago). It consists of 26 Cantons, grouped by languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh).

Here is a video explaining the Swiss political system: Video

My objection to both the government of the United States as well as to the government of Switzerland is that they base themselves on, what I call, Mass or Macro-Democracy in which thousands and millions of people vote either for politicians or laws. Instead I favor Micro-Democracy as a unit of government of roughly 150 voters. This is my ideal of anarchism. Lately it has been called Participatory Democracy, Municipal Confederalism, Strong Democracy, and a system of Nested Councils. I found the following article clearly explaining this point of view [it also has relevant links!]: Sveinung Legard, Scaling Up: Ideas about Participatory Democracy

The Conquered Earth

I am interested primarily in understanding how our social world operates. By “social” I mean how humans interact with one another. And to do this I will rely on the vocabulary and explanations used by Franz Oppenheimer in his book The State (which is part of the second volume of his four volume Systems of Sociology [never completely translated into English]).

In the past (19th century) there was a constant concern with “the Social Problem.” Although this problem was seen from a symptomatic perspective as poverty, I think this problem can be expresses fundamentally and succinctly in the following way: some people by force prevent other people from taking up and occupying subsistence land. Put thus, all this means pre-historically is that groups of people delimited a territory as their property. This results in a scattering of tribes. Anthropologists study such “stateless people” especially indigenous people which were referred to as “savages” and “barbarians”, as contrasted with “civilized people.” The vocabulary comes from Lewis Morgan’s, Ancient Society (1877), which distinguished people by their tools, and “civilized people” by having a written script.

Now, because, as Oppenheimer calculated, there is and was enough land to go around, the prevention of someone taking up subsistence land can occur only by force. Presently this force is exercised by governments in States.

Oppenheimer believed that such governments and States can occur only by conquest of one external group by another. Some anthropologists quibble about this, contending that States can be formed through internal class divisions. Without entering into this quibble, let me offer the following two claims:
1. a sufficient condition for the formation of States is conquest by an external group.
2. the empirical data in recorded history is of warfare, strife, and conquest.

Moreover, these violences are almost invariably associated with particular individuals who are called emperors, kings, princes, rulers, conquerors, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and such. It is the deeds of these individuals which constitutes the history of States.

The Social Problem of forceful barring people from a free use of subsistence land is called by Oppenheimer the “political means” as contrasted with a free exchange of goods and services called by him the “economic means.”

Oppenheimer contrasted two ways of getting “honey.” (Honey is his metaphor for economic subsistence.) One is the method of the bear: attack the hive regardless of what happens to the bees and take the honey. The other method is that of the bee-keeper: take some honey, but leave enough so that the bees thrive and produce more honey for further taking.

Oppenheimer distinguished six stages (or ways) of how conquerors deal with the conquered people. The first stage in like that of the bear: kill the people and take the loot. This is illustrated in the Bible as the extermination of the Canaanites by Israelites, early Viking raids and pillages, and generally historic and modern ethnic cleansings and genocides. The second and subsequent stages or ways is that of the bee-keeper: make the conquered people slaves, or demand tribute, or settle among them as in feudalism and require goods and services, and later also payments (taxes), or just fees, licenses, and taxes. The so-called constitutional states attempt to give this class division legitimacy through such myths as the will of the people or a social contract, and finally as mass democracy (where thousands and millions vote for so-called “representatives”).

The essence of capitalism — which predated industrialization — is the continued barring of people from a free access to subsistence land. And since all the earth is now divided into States, the only places to go in order to escape a State is to go to a war zone, to border lands, to a frontier, to mountains, to swamps and to jungles where pursuit is difficult or unprofitable.

Why I am for entrepreneurs, but not for capitalism

Does this sound like a contradiction? This is due to a linguistic ambiguity. On the one hand, there is a usage in which the owner of a business, i.e., the employer, is referred to as a “capitalist.” But, on the other hand, capitalism is considered as an economic market system. Let us distinguish between a business owner and someone who ideologically supports the capitalist system. Thus, let us refer to the owner of a business as “capitalist1” and the supporter of a capitalist system as “capitalist2.” Once this distinction is made, it is clear that a capitalist1 may not be a capitalist2, i.e., a business owner may not support the capitalist system.


But to properly understand this distinction, it is necessary to understand the nature of capitalism. And the easiest and clearest way is to note the difference as to how “primitive” or “stateless” people live and the rest of the modern world. And the difference is that primitive and stateless people have a free access to subsistence land, and the rest of us do not.

The consequence of this deprivation of access to free subsistence land is that we have to enter into a market economy. This is the essence of capitalism, and its proper name should be, as George Bernard Shaw advocated, “proletarianism.” It is a system which creates a class of people dispossessed of access to free subsistence land and forces them to be workers for others.

Given this predicament of having to enter the market, one can do so by becoming an entrepreneur, an owner of some business, rather than as an employee. A business owner may or may not like the capitalist system, but he, as everyone else, is forced into the market economy.

I think the complaint of employees is not against employers in general, but against employers who “exploit” them, meaning that they mistreat them. And what does this mean? It means that the employer can make their lives better, but deliberately does not because he can have a greater profit for himself.

Let us remember that the employer himself is caught up in the capitalist system and his business must be successful so that he can hire workers.

Some employers are very kind to their workers. One famous example of this is the textile factory at New Lenark in Scotland run by Robert Owen at about 1817. Let us call him a philantropist.

Some employers, on the other hand, are ruthless. A famous example of this is George Pullman. He owned a company town near Chicago for workers at his Pullman sleeping railroad car company. Unlike Owen who tried to provide welfare programs for the workers, Pullman tried to squeeze as much as he could out of the workers, which led to a strike in 1894 which had a national impact.

Social Diseases and their Symptoms: Reform and/or Revolution

I watch and read what are called “progressive” items. And I tend to cheer for so-called “progressive” politicians. But on reflection they all are — what Eduard Bernstein called — Reformists rather than Revolutionists, as were, for example, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

What is the difference? To use the analogy with diseases, there are causes of a disease and there are symptoms. A reformist is, in my view, someone who treats the symptoms; a revolutionist is someone who treats the causes.

As concerns addressing the public, let’s face it, for such people to live fairly well in the modern world requires an income. This includes teachers, writers, journalists, media hosts and internet personalities, and politicians. One way of doing this is to have some kind of public forum, and attract donations, subscriptions, and advertisers. A book, a piece of writing, a performance, or a movie is — more or less — a one time attraction which will generate an immediate income. But a steadier source of income comes from a newspaper, a journal, a “show” — or movie-wise, a “serial.” [I myself after hoping for donations to this site, have turned to monetizing through advertising.]

To make my point about Reformists as contrasted with Revolutionists, let me concentrate on my favorite news hour: “Democracy Now,” which the host, Amy Goodman, calls a “show.” It starts off with a news summary concerned with war and peace, and then proceeds to concentrate on some specific topic or to conduct an interview. It intersperses a piece of music during transitions.

I have no quarrel with the topics covered. They are all concerned with the major symptoms of the social diseases — so many deaths here and there because of a war, a revolution, a disease; so much poverty, unemployment, homelessness here and there; bad leaders elected and corruption here and there; protests and brutal repressions here and there. The litany of evils continues show after show.

The show proposes anodynes: change this politician and change this law. What is missing from consideration are the causes of these social symptoms. And to deal with the causes there is need to transition to a Revolutionary stance. But dwelling on a revolutionary stance is counter-productive to a political “show” — which aims to entertain while delivering some remedial message. Actually the best form of this approach was practiced by George Carlin, the comedian, who couched his social and political commentary in the guise of comedy.

In my view — as was the view of many revolutionaries — the disease is Capitalism, and its sustainer, the State.

Although I think that Noam Chomsky has the best insights into the Social Problems — it takes will power to listen to his monotone voice. I find Chris Hedges’ preacher-like delivery more focused and succinct.

The main immediate global problem, as Chomsky keeps repeating, is that humans are destroying the ecosystem, and thus themselves. And, in my view, the direct cause of this is human overpopulation.

And the power of doing anything about this and other social problems such as capitalism is the central (federal) government — the State. The clearest understanding of how the State arises and its nature is to be found in the small book by Franz Oppenheimer, The State, 1914.
And there are two revolutionary attitudes toward the State: one is to take control of the State (this was done by Napoleon, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, among others). This is also the Macro-Democratic parliamentary method of electing a President, Prime-Minister, or other single “deciders.” The other method is to dispense with the State in favor of bottom-up micro-democratic communities (anarchism).

But where in a progressive news show like “Democracy Now,” is there a suggestion that the Swiss government is better than that of the United States? Where is the criticism of the U.S. Constitution as was undertaken by Lysander Spooner? And where among the pundits is there an understanding of Capitalism as a denying people free access to subsistence land?

Anarchism, Socialism, and Communism

In a previous blog, I wrote:


“There are three characteristics which such primitive or “savage” societies have. The first is that everyone has a free access to subsistence land (socialism). The second is that they form small egalitarian democratic groups (anarchism). The third is that they share freely, and are prone to gift giving (communism).”


The primitive societies which I have in mind are hunter-gatherers, subsistence gardeners, and subsistence herders. Since all three have a source of subsistence on free land, they satisfy the socialist criterion as expressed by Anton Menger [see Anton Menger, The Right to the Whole Produce of Labour, 1899] which is the right to subsistence. Anarchism, on the other hand, is a political ideal which requires a bottom-up democracy — either by consensus or by majority rule — of small groups of about 100 persons. Primitive societies thus satisfy this anarchist requirement.

Whereas socialism and anarchism can be understood as a form of rule following, communism is different in requiring an attitude or disposition to sharing and gift giving as occurs most commonly in families. It cannot occur by simply bringing together different people with different backgrounds.

First, let me say that what occurred in the Soviet Union was not communism. Yes, the Bolshevik Party rechristened itself as the Communist Party. And the rest of the world acquiesced in calling their system “communistic.” But it wasn’t even socialistic since there was no free access to subsistence, unless you want to call a prison a socialist system because the inmates are provided with subsistence (having deprived them of free meandering, and forcing them to work). The Soviet Union had state-run factories and state-run agricultural collectives. The products of these factories and collectives were sold in the domestic and international markets, just like private enterprises do in other countries. The proper name for such a system is “state-capitalism.”

Socialism on a small scale would occur if these enterprises were owned and run by the workers themselves; thus determining their rate of pay by themselves. But how this is to occur has been a subject of controversy.

As I see it, communism is possible only on a small scale where everyone knows everyone else (about 150 persons) and where there prevails mutual trust and respect. It cannot occur by bringing together a bunch of 900 strangers as happened in the experiment of Robert Owen at New Harmony, Indiana, in 1824.

When discussing this experiment, what is always skipped is the fact that the town of New Harmony was successfully built by a flourishing colony of communist Rappites. This was a group of German immigrants who fled from religious persecution in Germany. They were devout Christian celibates, as are the Catholic nuns and monks who live in monasteries. They had the communistic disposition of sharing and gift giving.

If we are to examine whether communism is possible, we have to look for examples in religious communities such as the Mennonites, the Amish, the Dukhobors, as well as other denominations.

The Owen experiment was to bring together strangers into a secular environment and have communism be practiced by decree. This is impossible. If we look at the example of primitive tribes — they form an extended family by birth and custom. Strangers have nothing in common except an external bond of agreement (a social contract), which they may not be inclined to honor.

The closest a colony or a village of strangers can flourish together is when the land is owned in common but used separately. The Russian “mir” (a village) has been used as an example of a workable socialism. It is called “communism” only in the respect that the land is communal property which is shared. But it is not a sharing of work or the products of labor. The Russian mir did not have the Amish trait of, for example, communal barn raising. Individual families coped on their own.

I found the histories of American group settlements to be enlightening, especially the following three books (available on the internet):

John Humphrey Noyes, History of American Socialisms, 1870;
Charles Nordhoff, The Communistic Societies of the United States, 1875;
William Alfred Hinds, American Communities, 1878, revised 1902

Nordhoff concluded his research thus:

The societies which may thus be properly used as illustrations of successful communism in this country are the SHAKERS, established in the Eastern States in 1794, and in the West about 1808; the RAPPISTS, established in 1805; the BÄUMELERS, or ZOARITES, established in 1817; the EBEN-EZERs, or AMANA Communists, established in 1844; the BETHEL Commune, established in 1844; the ONEIDA PERFECTIONISTS, established in 1848; the ICARIANS, who date from 1849; and the AURORA Commune, from 1852.

Though in name there are thus but eight societies, these consist in fact of not less than seventy-two communes: the Shakers having fifty-eight of these; the Amana Society seven; and the Perfectionists two. The remaining societies consist of but a single commune for each.


Some of my favorite Protest Songs

Mireille Mathieu singing: La Marseillaise

Mykhailo Khoma (Dzidzio) sings: Ukrainian National Anthem

The Turtles sing: Eve of Destruction

Paul Robeson sings: Joe Hill

Joe Glazer sings: Pie in the Sky

Hazel Dickens sings: The Rebel Girl

Al Jolson sings: Brother can you spare a Dime

Buffalo Springfield sings: For What It’s Worth

Pete Seeger sings: We Shall Overcome

Bob Marley sings: Get Up, Stand Up

Billie Holiday sings: Strange Fruit

Johnny Paycheck sings: Take This Job and Shove It

Green Day sing: American Idiot

John Lennon sings: Imagine

The Danger of Disgruntled Employees and a Lame Duck President

Julian Carlton, on Aug. 14, 1914, set fire to Frank Lloyd Wright’s house, Teliesen, in Wisconsin, and killed seven people, this included killing with an axe.
“Carlton’s motive for the attack was never conclusively determined, as he pled not guilty and refused to explain himself to the authorities before passing away. However, it is most likely that Carlton snapped after learning he would be let go from his job at Taliesin. Witnesses claimed he had been in several disputes with both employees and Borthwick, and that Wright had begun advertising for another worker. Carlton’s wife Gertrude, who also lived and worked on the grounds, further testified that her husband had recently grown agitated and paranoid, and that the two of them were even supposed to travel to Chicago in search of work on the day of the rampage.”TALIESIN MASSACRE (FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT)

It has become a policy when firing an employee to have the employee pack-up his personal belongings under supervision and be escorted out of the building immediately. This is to prevent any time for brooding and performing acts of retaliation, as what seems to have occurred at Teliesen.

President Trump has been given roughly 70 days for brooding and retaliation, until his replacement on Jan. 20, 2021.

Alexander Gray’s classification of socialisms

This is a further commentary on Alexander Gray’s The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin, 1946.

At the outset of the book, Gray expresses skepticism about a neat definition of “socialism.” He is, of course, correct in his skepticism. Most words suffer from ambiguity and vagueness; much more so abstract words which end in “-ism.”

He is probably right to begin with a survey of individuals who were called socialists, and reserve any attempt at classification and definition to the end of the book — as he does.

Although explicitly he classifies socialists into four categories, he actually uses five. The fifth category is whether the socialist was a Revolutionary Socialist or an Evolutionary (or Reformist, or Revisionary) Socialist. In this broad sense, socialism is simply a dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs. That is a necessary condition; it is not sufficient. It has to do with the nature of this dissatisfaction.

Well what can you do with the State? Incidentally, asking this question without saying anything about the nature of a particular State, is totally unproductive. When people talk about a “State” they are really talking about a particularly constituted government. It is entirely misleading to equate the State with government. The genus here is “government” and “State” is a species. Government exists when rules exist. And without rules, we have a Hobbesian brute state of nature.

As to the dissatisfaction with the status quo, from a historical perspective society is divided between masters and slaves, lords and serfs, and presently employers and employees. This is the perspective of Karl Marx, and constitutes what Marx called a “class struggle.” Well, certainly such a classifications can be made. But, as Gray asks, do these classes actually struggle? Well, there were various rebellions — but were they between classes? They were local and limited. And currently, when there are strikes, it is for improving wages of a narrow sector of this working class; and not for the improvement of workers in general, and certainly not to get rid of wages as such.

Gray is right to point out that there is no “solidarity” among workers in even one factory, or one country; no less than a solidarity between workers of different countries. And the solidarity which does exist is usually not greater than the strike of one trade union. We cannot ignore the fact that many workers are, indeed, satisfied with their wages, and do not want any radical changes.

And those that are unemployed or underemployed seem to place their hope in an opportunity to vote. This was the case with women and now this is the case with blacks. They think they can elect a candidate who will represent their interests, but the more likely scenario is that they will elect a candidate who will seek his own interests. Even if a true representative is elected, he or she will be in a minority.

But I stray from Gray.

In the concluding chapter 18 of his book, Gray classifies socialists into four types. I have tried to place his classification into a chart below. In order for the category of Anarchism to fit as I have placed it, people must be granted a free access to subsistence land. Although Gray discusses the Agrarians in chapter 11, who advocated a free access to subsistence land, he seems to forget them when discussing anarchism in general. Well, I put them on the chart where they seem to belong.

Alexander Gray’s classification of socialisms

Political Orientation

In the Wikipedia article, Poltical Spectrum, there are described different ways of placing a person’s political orientation.

An early one was presented by the psychologist Hans Eysenck “Chapter 7: Politics and Personality,” in Sense and Nonsense in Psychology (1957).

I found a quiz on the internet — allegedly based on Eysenck’s work — which can be taken by anyone to see where they are placed on his scale. Here is the quiz, and below is my own result after taking the quiz:

There is also a similar chart, called the Nolan chart, which looks like this:
My own approach to political charts is more limited. Since I reject all non-democratic forms of government, that leaves me with two questions:

1. Are you in favor of giving each person a right to free subsistence land? Yes No

2. Are you in favor of micro-democracy? Yes No

I also associate macro-democracy with a centralized government, there are thus four possible alternatives.

Andrew Chrucky’s Politico-Economic Democratic Chart