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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Friday, March 24, 2006

In Solidarity With the Students and Workers of France

An open letter from Brad Spangler, in solidarity with demonstrators against the CPE in France:

Students and Workers of France,

Professor Roderick Long once wrote:

“When Marx called the French government ‘a joint-stock company for the exploitation of France’s national wealth’ on behalf of the bourgeois elite and at the expense of production and commerce (’Class Struggles in France’), he was only echoing what libertarians had been saying for decades.”

France and all other nation-states remain so today. You and we live in a world where freedom and economic opportunity exist only at the sufferance of a political class that allows us only some small amount of them for sake of their own convenience and take the rest from us by force and coercion for sake of their own parasitism.

Under such circumstances, state-sponsored market liberalization is a cruel joke. The legislation you protest and rebel against seeks only to increase the latitude given your overseers, while maintaining the overall restrictions on your own liberty that, if abolished, would empower you to seek your own prosperity. We believe you and we would be very good at that, mixing both cooperation and peaceful competition, if we were not slaves.

For those reasons, the signers of this letter offer their solidarity to you and present themselves as a sample of a small tendency known as the Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL), advocates of revolutionary market anarchism or “agorism”.

It is not the place of others to tell you how to wage your own revolution against tyranny. We have some suggestions, though — a version of dual power strategy called “counter-economics”. We humbly recommend MLL founder Samuel Edward Konkin III’s small book on agorism, counter-economics, and revolution “The New Libertarian Manifesto” in hopes you may find it useful or inspirational. It is available free online at:
http://agorism.info/NewLibertarianManifesto.pdf http://agorism.info/NewLibertarianManifesto.pdf

The Movement of the Libertarian Left
Agora! Anarchy! Action!

Brad Spangler
Diane Warth
Thomas L. Knapp
Adem Kupi
Wally Conger
J. Freeman Smith
[Kevin Carson]

I direct your attention especially to the passage calling "state-sponsored market liberalization" a "cruel joke," intended only "to increase the latitude given your overseers..." The context of that remark, the legislation against which the French are rioting, is the CPE, a new law which allows employers to fire workers under 26 during a two-year trial period, without giving cause. As Brad says, it's something no free market anarchist would object to in principle.

The French are fighting mad about it, though, and with good reason. The overall economic environment in France is so thoroughly statist that they quite reasonably expect no tangible benefit from this one small so-called market reform — and quite probably a fair amount of pain.

That phrase "to increase the latitude given your overseers" says it all. Start with a massively corporatist framework. Then tinker around the edges of the system to give more discretion to the usual suspects: landlords, employers, etc. And finally, call it "free market reform." You know, the kind they like at ASI. Benjamin Tucker had something to say about that kind of "free market reformer," over a century ago:

[Herbert Spencer] is making a wholesale onslaught on Socialism as the incarnation of the doctrine of State omnipotence carried to its highest power. And I am not sure he is quite honest in this. I begin to be a little suspicious of him. It seems as if he had forgotten the teachings of his earlier writings, and had become a champion of the capitalistic class... amid his multitudinous illustrations... of the evils of legislation, he in every instance cites some law passed ostensibly at least to protect labor, alleviating suffering, or promote the people's welfare. But never once does he call attention to the far more deadly and deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly (Liberty, May 17, 1884).

If you want to sign the letter, just go to Brad's original post and leave your name in the comments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your "solidarity" sounds suspicious. In a free-market workers can be fired at any time, or can quit anytime. You derisively refer to the CPE as a "free market reform", but that's exactly what it is: A tiny free-market reform in a sea of statism. That you express support, however muted, for these masses of statist student protesters is very telling.

March 24, 2006 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Refer to my comment here, particularly the last two paragraphs.

March 25, 2006 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I confess that I'm a bit confused on the French labor thing. I had thought it was a REPEAL of a law, not an ENACTMENT of a new one. An across the board ending of any state interference with labor relations would be a positive, but not a new law I suppose. (Then again don't some new laws effectively negate earlier ones?)
But does anyone here really think the French students are protesting against too much state intrusion? Ask the students, and the French population at large what they think about free market labor/employer relations, and they will probably scoff at the idea. They are proud of their paternalistic state.
Ya know, now that I think about it, employers having the RIGHT to fire employees for any reason could be abused, used to effectively override any previously agreed upon employment contract. After all, for ANY reason? Is "I changed my mind" good enough?
Ok, this NEW LEGISLATION is probably not a good idea. I'm not dead set against the enactment of a new law, if what it does is simply undo an earlier unjust law. (A new law ending mandatory minimums in drug conviction sentences is one example.) But this legislation does indeed sound awfully favorable to employers on second thought.
However, even if we can all agree that this is just a capitalist class inspired "free market reform", the continued existence of the status quo is only going to exacerbate Muslim minority tensions and prolong unemployment.


March 25, 2006 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Stefan and disagree with Carson and Spengler on this one. Those rioting students aren't the masses of young people locked out of the labour market. We saw those riots late last year in the cités of L'Hexagone.

The people rioting are the young élite. They are the next generation of the ruling class of France. They are the graduates of the Sorbonne, IEP, and so on. They are the next generation of state bureaucrats or bureaucrats in the service of state-coddled companies. The oppressed masses are the people of colour in the banlieues. These are just self-absorbed brats.

- Josh

March 25, 2006 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure if Josh is correct that all of the young people protesting are the next generation of the ruling class of France, though some may be. It seems to me that if are destined for the ruling class already, either because you come from a family of great wealth or great connections, you may not be particularly concerned about a law that allows an employer to fire you without cause. As a practicing union side labor lawyer, I am acutely aware of the extent to which labor laws supposedly designed to protect workers fail to do so. On the other hand, I like the notion that an employer has to show cause why an employee should be fired. In my personal experience this principle, even more than wages and benefits, is the prime benefit from unionization. I see value in the free market notions that seem to underlie libertarian thought, but where is the plan to deal with market power that operates on a global scale? And, if we are going to have a global free market, are you going to rely on the market to retrain and find work for American auto workers in their forties and fifties who are clearly not going to make it to retirement in that industry? I understand the analysis that says these problems were created in the first place by government intervention and support for corporations. But, assuming you could do it, how do you transition?

April 23, 2006 10:53 AM  

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