G.2 Why does individualist anarchism imply socialism?

Here we present a short summary of why individualist anarchism implies socialism and not capitalism. While it is true that people like Tucker and Warren placed "property" at the heart of their vision of anarchy, this does not make them supporters of capitalism (see sections G.2.1 and G.2.2). Unlike capitalists, the individualist anarchists identified "property" with simple "possession," or "occupancy and use" and considered profit, rent and interest as exploitation. Indeed, Tucker explicitly stated that "all property rests on a labour title, and no other property do I favour." [Instead of a Book, p. 400] Because of this and their explicit opposition to usury (profits, rent and interest) and capitalist property, they could and did consider themselves as part of the wider socialist movement, the libertarian wing as opposed to the statist Marxist wing.

Individualist anarchists like Tucker strongly believed that a truly free (i.e. non-capitalist) market would ensure that the worker would receive the "full product" of his or her labour. Nevertheless, in order to claim Tucker as a proto-"anarcho"-capitalist, "anarcho"-capitalists may argue that capitalism pays the "market price" of labour power, and that this price does reflect the "full product" (or value) of the worker's labour.

As Tucker supported the Labour Theory of Value we doubt that he would have agreed with the "anarcho"-capitalist argument that market price of labour reflected the value it produced (see Section C). He, like the other individualist anarchists, was well aware that labour produces the "surplus wealth" which was appropriated in the name of interest, rent and profit. In other words, he very forcible rejected the idea that the market price of labour reflects the value of that labour, considering "the natural wage of labour is its product" and "that this wage, or product, is the only just source of income." [Instead of a Book, p. 6]

However, assuming that we accept the capitalist economic apologetics at their face value, such an argument fails to place Individualist Anarchism in the capitalist tradition. This is because the argument ignores the need to replace and improve upon existing capital. In the context of a market economy, the replacement and improvement of capital is important, as accumulation allows the reduction of labour costs (either directly or indirectly) by investing in new machinery or processes and so improving market position. In addition, capital investments are required in order to offer new services to the customer (for example, in banking, a network of auto-tellers). Either way, new capital is required. But new capital comes from value created by labour and realised as profits. And this means that in order to ensure that labour receives its due, companies must be co-operatives so that workers will have a say in how the profits they create are used, otherwise they do not get their "natural wage." In addition, the ability to influence one's own destiny by having a voice in investment decisions is certainly another "value" that one's labour can produce beyond the exchange value to be invested. We might call it "self-determination value," which individualist anarchists certainly regarded as a benefit of the artisan/co-operative labour they favoured (and their system implies). But workers will not be able to realise the full self-determination value of their labour nor receive its "full product" if investment decisions are not in their hands. Logically, therefore, individualist anarchism must tend towards co-operative, not capitalist, labour in order for them to receive the full value of their labour.

In addition, while it is true that in an economy with a very low degree of monopoly within industries prices do tend towards the production cost of a commodity, this cannot be said to occur instantaneously. This means that in an economy without oligopolies and without interest or rent, prices would tend, in the long run, towards Tucker's their "labour cost of production" this cannot be said to occur in the short run. Given that in the long run "we are all dead" (to use Keynes' words) -- i.e. that we may never see it -- any form of wage labour can lead to usury being recreated as workers would not receive their entire product back. That is, due to short term changes in price workers market wage may not equal what they produce. They only solution to this problem is workers' ownership and control as this ensures workers remain control of the product of their labour at all times (as well as the labour itself). If, as Tucker argued, "the object of Anarchism . . . [is] to let every man [or woman] 'control self and the results of self-exertion'" then this is only possible under workers' self-management and ownership. [Occupancy and Use versus the Single Tax] This, we must note, was Proudhon's argument and part of the reason he supported workers' co-operatives (we will discuss the problem of natural barriers to competition in section G.4 along with the dangers associated with a lack of workers' control in a free society).

More importantly, wage labour violates two key aspects of Individualist Anarchist thought, namely its support for "occupancy and use" and its opposition to the state. We will discuss each in turn.

Obviously wage labour violates the idea that those who use something automatically own it. In the case of land and housing, the Individualist Anarchists argued that the person who lives or works on it (even under lease) would be regarded "as the occupant and user of the land on which the house stands, and as the owner of the house itself," that is they become "the owner of both land and house as soon as he becomes the occupant." [Ibid.] Now, to take a concrete example from Tucker's time, the 3 800 workers locked out by Carnegie at Homestead in 1892 definitely occupied and used the works from which they were barred entry by the owners. The owners, obviously, did not use the workplace themselves -- they hired others to occupy and use it for them. Now, why should "occupancy and use" be acceptable for land and housing but not for workplaces? There is no reason and so wage labour, logically, violates "occupancy and use" -- for under wage labour, those who occupy and use a workplace do not own or control it. Hence "occupancy and use" logically implies workers' control and ownership.

The reason why wage labour violates Individualist Anarchist opposition to the state for a related reason. If the workers who use a workplace do not own it, then someone else will (i.e. the owner). This in turn means that the owner can tell those who use the resource what to do, how to do it and when. That is, they are the sole authority over the workplace and those who use it. However, according to Tucker, the state can be defined (in part) as "the assumption of sole authority over a given area and all within it." Tucker considered this element as "common to all States." [The Individualist Anarchists. p. 24] Thus wage labour creates a situation which is similar to the state, namely the assumption of sole authority over a given area and those who use it. Hence opposition to the state logically implies support for workers' control and ownership for only in this case can people govern themselves during the working day.

Therefore, as far as the employer/employee social relationship goes, it does not fit in well with Tucker's statement that "if the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny." [The Anarchist Reader, p. 151] As we have argued in Section B.4 (How does capitalism affect liberty?), wage labour produces a very specific form of "external government" in the workplace, namely hierarchical management structures. Therefore, logically, Individualist Anarchism (like Social Anarchism) must oppose all forms of wage labour in favour of self-government in production (i.e. co-operative, not wage, labour).

That this the case can be seen from Proudhon's argument in The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century. There he argues that employees are "subordinated, exploited" and their "permanent condition is one of obedience," a "slave." [p. 216] Indeed, capitalist companies "plunder the bodies and souls of wage workers" and they are "an outrage upon human dignity and personality." [p. 218] However, in a co-operative the situation changes and the worker is an "associate" and "forms a part of the producing organisation . . . [and] forms a part of the sovereign power, of which he was before but the subject." [p. 216] Without co-operation and association, "the workers . . . would remain related as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two industrial castes of masters and wage-workers, which is repugnant to a free and democratic society." [p. 216] As Robert Graham notes, "Proudhon's market socialism is indissolubly linked to his notions of industry democracy and workers' self-management." ["Introduction", General Idea of the Revolution, p. xxxii]

And we must add that John Stuart Mill (who agreed with the Warrenite slogan "Individual Sovereignty") faced with the same problem that wage labour made a mockery of individual liberty came to the same conclusion. He thought that if "mankind is to continue to improve" (and it can only improve within liberty, we must add) then in the end one form of association will predominate, "not that which can exist between a capitalist as chief, and workpeople without a voice in management, but the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers elected and removable by themselves." [quoted by Carole Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory, p. 34]

Therefore, logically, individualist anarchism must support co-operatives and self-employment in order to ensure the maximum individual self-government and labour's "natural wage." That this is the case can be seen from Tucker's quoting Ernest Lesigne that anarchistic socialism aims for "The land to the cultivator. The mine to the miner. The tool to the labourer. The product to the producer."

It can also be seen from Tucker's description of what would replace the current system of statism (and note he calls it "scientific socialism" thus squarely placing his ideas in the anti-capitalist camp):

"we have something very tangible to offer , . . We offer non-compulsive organisation. We offer associative combination. We offer every possible method of voluntary social union by which men and women may act together for the furtherance of well-being. In short, we offer voluntary scientific socialism in place of the present compulsory, unscientific organisation which characterises the State and all of its ramifications. . ." [quoted in Martin, Op. Cit., p. 218]

Tucker himself pointed out that "the essence of government is control. . . He who attempts to control another is a governor, an aggressor, an invader." [Instead of a Book, p. 23] However, in places in Instead of a Book Tucker suggests that (non-exploitative, and so non-capitalist) wage labour could exist in individualist anarchy. Unlike wage labour under capitalism, workers would employ other workers and all workers would receive the full product of their labour. As such, this relationship is non-capitalist as it does not involve usury. Be that as it may, such relationships are not libertarian and so contradict Tucker's own theories on individual liberty (as Proudhon and Mill recognised with their own, similar, positions). Wage labour is based on the control of the worker by the employer; hence Tucker's contract theory can lead to a form of "voluntary" and "private" government within the workplace. This means that, while outside of a contract an individual is free, within it he or she is governed. This violates Tucker's concept of "equality of liberty," since the boss has obviously more liberty than the worker during working hours.

This result, as noted in section A.3, could only be avoided by workers' control, which is in fact the logical implication of Tucker's and other individualists' proposals (as we have proven above, and can be seen from Tucker's famous essay "State Socialism and Anarchism" for example). This is hardly a surprising implication, since as we've seen, artisan production was commonplace in 19th-century America and its benefits were extolled by the individualists. Without workers' control, individualist anarchism would soon become a form of capitalism and so statism -- a highly unlikely intention of individualists like Tucker, who hated both.

Therefore, given the assumptions of individualist anarchism in both their economic and political aspects, it is forced along the path of co-operative, not wage, labour. In other words, individualist anarchism is a form of socialism as workers receive the full product of their labour (i.e. there is no non-labour income) and this, in turn, logically implies a society in which self-managed firms compete against each other on the free market, with workers selling the product of their labour and not the labour itself. As this unites workers with the means of production they use, it is not capitalism and instead a form of socialism based upon worker ownership and control of the places they work.

For individualist anarchists not to support co-operatives results in a contradiction, namely that the individualist anarchism which aims to secure the worker's "natural wage" cannot in fact do so, while dividing society into a class of order givers and order takers (which violates individual self-government). It is this contradiction within Tucker's thought which the self-styled "anarcho"-capitalists take advantage of in order to maintain that individualist anarchism in fact implies capitalism (and so private-statism), not workers' control. In order to reach this implausible conclusion, a few individualist anarchist ideas are ripped from their social context and applied in a way that makes a mockery of them. That it was never Tucker's intention to deny workers' control can be inferred from his argument that mutualism would give workers the bargaining power to obtain equality in the workplace, which clearly points to the end of capitalist authority relations, as will be explained further in section G.5.

However, due to problems inherent in the nature of a market economy, even the assumption of workers' control may not be enough to ensure that individualistic anarchism does not become a new form of archy, as will be discussed in section G.4 ("Why do social anarchists reject individualist anarchism ideas?").

G.2.1 What about their support of the free market?

Many, particularly on the libertarian right, would dismiss claims that the Individualist Anarchists were socialists. By their support of the "free market" the Individualist Anarchists, they would claim, show them as really supporters of capitalism. Most, if not all, anarchists would reject this claim. Why is this the case?

This because such claims show an amazing ignorance of socialist ideas and history. The socialist movement has had a many schools, many of which, but not all, opposed the market and private property. Given that the right-libertarians who make such claims are not well informed of the ideas they oppose (i.e. of socialism, particularly libertarian socialism) it is unsurprising they claim that the Individualist Anarchists are not socialists (of course the fact that many Individualist Anarchists argued they were socialists is ignored). Coming from a different tradition, it is unsurprising they are not aware of the fact that socialism is not monolithic. Hence we discover right-libertarian guru von Mises claiming that the "essence of socialism is the entire elimination of the market." [Human Action, p. 702] This would have come as something of a surprise to, say, Proudhon, who argued that "[t]o suppress competition is to suppress liberty itself." [The General Idea of the Revolution, p. 50] Similarly, it would have surprised Tucker, who called himself a socialist while supporting a freer market than von Mises ever dreamt of.

It could be argued that these self-proclaimed socialists did not, in fact, understand what socialism "really meant." For this to be the case, other, more obviously socialist, writers and thinkers would dismiss them as socialists. This, however, is not the case. Thus we find Karl Marx, for example, writing of "the socialism of Proudhon." [Capital, vol. 1, p. 161f] Engels talked about Proudhon being "the Socialist of the small peasant and master-craftsman" and of "the Proudhon school of Socialism." [Marx and Engels, Selected Works, p. 254 and p. 255] Bakunin talked about Proudhon's "socialism, based on individual and collective liberty and upon the spontaneous action of free associations." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 100] These renown socialists did not consider Proudhon's position to be in any way anti-socialist.

Looking at Tucker and the Individualist anarchists we discover that other socialists considered them socialists. Looking at Rudolf Rocker we discover him arguing that "it is not difficult to discover certain fundamental principles which are common to all of them and which divide them from all other varieties of socialism. They all agree on the point that man be given the full reward of his labour and recognise in this right the economic basis of all personal liberty. They all regard the free competition of individual and social forces as something inherent in human nature . . . They answered the socialists of other schools who saw in free competition one of the destructive elements of capitalist society that the evil lies in the fact we have too little rather than too much competition, since the power of monopoly has made competition impossible." [Pioneers of American Freedom, p. 160]

Adolph Fischer, one of the Haymarket Martyrs and contemporary of Tucker, argued that "every anarchist is a socialist, but every socialist is not necessarily an anarchist. The anarchists are divided into two factions: the communistic anarchists and the Proudhon or middle-class anarchists . . ." The former "advocate the communistic or co-operative method of production" while the latter "do not advocate the co-operative system of production [i.e. communism], and the common ownership of the means of production, the products and the land." [The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs, p. 81] However, while not being communists (i.e. aiming to eliminate the market), he obviously recognised the Individualists Anarchists as fellow socialists (we should point out that Proudhon did support co-operatives, as did the Individualist Anarchists, but they did not carry this to communism as do most social anarchists -- as is clear, Fischer means communism by the term "co-operative system of production" rather than co-operatives as they exist today and Proudhon supported).

Thus claims that the Individualist Anarchists were not "really" socialists because they support competition are false. The simple fact is that those who make this claim are ignorant of the socialist movement, its ideas and its history (or desire, like many Marxists, to write out of history competing socialist theories). As Tucker argued, "the fact that State Socialism . . . has overshadowed other forms of Socialism gives it no right to a monopoly of the Socialistic idea." [Instead of a Book, pp. 363-4] It is no surprise that the authoritarian left and "libertarian" right have united to define socialism in such a way as to eliminate anarchism from its ranks -- they both have an interest in removing a theory which exposes the inadequacies of their dogmas, which explains how we can have both liberty and equality, have freedom in work and outside it and have a decent, free and just society.

So why is Individualist Anarchism and Proudhon's mutualism socialist? Simply because they opposed the exploitation of labour by capital and proposed a means of ending it. Therefore, if socialism is, to quote Kropotkin, "understood in its wide, generic, and true sense" as "an effort to abolish the exploitation of labour by capital" [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 169] then the Individualist Anarchists and Proudhon must be considered socialists (of course libertarian socialists) due to their opposition to usury. It is for this reason we discover Rudolf Rocker arguing that Stephan P. Andrews was "one of the most versatile and significant exponents of libertarian socialism" in the USA in spite of his belief that "the specific cause of the economic evil [of capitalism] is founded not on the existence of the wage system" but, rather, on the exploitation of labour, "on the unjust compensation of the worker" and the usury that "deprives him of a part of his labour." [Pioneers of American Freedom, p. 85 and pp. 77-8] His opposition to exploitation meant he was a socialist.

G.2.2 What about their support of "private property"?

The notion that because the Individualist Anarchists supported "property" they supported capitalism is distinctly wrong. This is for two reasons. Firstly, private property is not the distinctive aspect of capitalism -- exploitation and wage labour is. Thus support of private property does not indicate a support for capitalism. Even use of John Locke's arguments in favour of private property could be used against capitalism. As Murray Bookchin makes clear regarding early American society:

"Unknown in the 1640s, the non-bourgeois aspects of Locke's theories were very much in the air a century and a half later . . . [In an artisan/peasant society] a Lockean argument could be used as effectively against the merchants . . .to whom the farmers were indebted, as it could against the King [or the State]. Nor did the small proprietors of America ever quite lose sight of the view that attempts to seize their farmsteads and possessions for unpaid debts were a violation of their 'natural rights,' and from the 1770s until as late as the 1930s they took up arms to keep merchants and bankers from dispossessing them from land they or their ancestors had wrestled from 'nature' by virtue of their own labour. The notion that property was sacred was thus highly elastic: it could be used as effectively by pre-capitalist strata to hold on to their property as it could by capitalists strata to expand their holdings." [The Third Revolution, vol. 1, pp. 187-8]

What right-libertarians do is to confuse two very different kinds of "property," one of which rests on the labour of the producer themselves and the other on the exploitation of the labour of others. They do not analyse the social relationships between people which the property generates and, instead, concentrate on things (i.e. property). Thus, rather than being interested in people and the relationships they create between themselves, the right-libertarian focuses on property (and, more often than not, just the word rather than what the word describes). This is a strange position for someone seeking liberty to take, as liberty is a product of social interaction (i.e. the relations we have and create with others) and not a product of things (property is not freedom as freedom is a relationship between people, not things). In effect, they confuse property with possession (and vice versa).

And if quoting Karl Marx is not too out of place, we discover that he did not consider property as being identical with capitalism. "The historical conditions of [Capital's] existence are by no means given with the mere circulation of money and commodities. It arises only when the owner of the means of production and subsistence finds the free worker available on the market, as the seller of his own labour-power." This wage-labour is the necessary pre-condition for capitalism, not "private property" as such. Thus artisan/peasant production is not capitalism as "the means of production and subsistence, while they remain the property of the immediate producer, are not capital. They only become capital under circumstances in which they serve at the same time as means of exploitation of, and domination over, the worker." [Capital, vol. 1, p. 264 and p. 938] We quote Marx simply because as authorities on socialism go, he is one that right-libertarians (or Marxists, for that matter) cannot ignore or dismiss. Needless to say, he is essentially repeating Proudhon's distinction between property and possession. The former is theft and despotism, the latter is liberty.

Thus artisan production is not capitalist. It does not generate relationships of exploitation and domination as the worker owns and controls their own means of production. It is, in effect, a form of socialism (a "petit bourgeois" form of socialism, to use the typical Marxist phrase). Thus support for "private property" need not mean support for capitalism (as shown, for example, by the Individualist Anarchists). To claim otherwise is to ignore the essential insight of socialism and totally distort the socialist case against capitalism.

Secondly, and more importantly, what the Individualist Anarchists meant by "private property" (or "property") was distinctly different than what is meant by theorists on the libertarian right. Basically, the libertarian right exploit, for their own ends, the confusion generated by the use of the word "property" by the likes of Tucker to describe a situation of "possession." Proudhon recognised this danger. He argued that "it is proper to call different things by different names, if we keep the name 'property' for the former [individual possession], we must call the latter [the domain of property] robbery, repine, brigandage. If, on the contrary, we reserve the name 'property' for the latter, we must designate the former by the term possession or some other equivalent; otherwise we should be troubled with an unpleasant synonym." [What is Property?, p. 373] Unfortunately Tucker, who translated this work, did not heed Proudhon's words of wisdom and called possession in an anarchist society by the word "property."

Looking at Tucker's arguments, it is clear that the last thing Tucker supported was capitalist property rights. For example, he argued that "property, in the sense of individual possession, is liberty" and contrasted this with capitalist property. [Instead of a Book, p. 394] That his ideas on "property" were somewhat different than that associated with right-libertarian thinkers is most clearly seen with regards to land. Here we discover him advocating "occupancy and use" and rejecting the "right" of land owners to bar the landless from any land they owned but did not personally use. Rent was "due to that denial of liberty which takes the shape of land monopoly, vesting titles to land in individuals and associations which do not use it, and thereby compelling the non-owning users to pay tribute to the non-using owners as a condition of admission to the competitive market." Anarchist opposition of rent did "not mean simply the freeing of unoccupied land. It means the freeing of all land not occupied by the owner. In other words, it means land ownership limited by occupancy and use." [Tucker, The Individualist Anarchists, p. 130 and p. 155] This would result in a "system of occupying ownership . . . accompanied by no legal power to collect rent." [Instead of a Book, p. 325]

A similar position was held by John Beverley Robinson. He argued that there "are two kinds of land ownership, proprietorship or property, by which the owner is absolute lord of the land, to use it or to hold it out of use, as it may please him; and possession, by which he is secure in the tenure of land which he uses and occupies, but has no claim upon it at all of he ceases to use it." Moreover, "[a]ll that is necessary to do away with Rent is to away with absolute property in land." [Patterns of Anarchy, p. 272]

Thus the Individualist Anarchists definition of "property" differed considerably from that of the capitalist definition. As they themselves acknowledge. Robinson argued that "the only real remedy is a change of heart, through which land using will be recognised as proper and legitimate, but land holding will be regarded as robbery and piracy." [Op. Cit., p. 273] Tucker, likewise, indicated that his ideas on "property" were not the same as existing ones when he argued that "the present system of land tenure should be changed to one of occupancy and use" and that "no advocate of occupancy-and-use tenure of land believes that it can be put in force, until as a theory it has been as generally . . . seen and accepted as is the prevailing theory of ordinary private property." [Occupancy and Use verses the Single Tax]

Hence to claim that the Individualist Anarchists supported capitalist property rights is false. As can be seen, they advocated a system which differed significantly to the current system, indeed they urged the restriction of property rights to a form of possession. Unfortunately, by generally using the term "property" to describe this new system of possession they generated exactly the confusion that Proudhon foretold. Sadly, right-libertarians use this confusion to promote the idea that the likes of Tucker supported capitalist property rights and so capitalism.

For these two reasons it is clear that just because the Individualist Anarchists supported (a form of) "property" does not mean they are capitalists. Indeed, Kropotkin argued that a communist-anarchist revolution would not expropriate the tools of self-employed workers who exploited no-one (see his Act for Yourselves pp. 104-5). Malatesta argued that in a free society "the peasant [is free] to cultivate his piece of land, alone if he wishes; free is the shoe maker to remain at his last or the blacksmith in his small forge." Thus these two very famous communist-anarchists also "supported" "property" but they are recognised as obviously socialists. This apparent contradiction is resolved when it is understood that for communist-anarchists (like all anarchists) the abolition of property does not mean the end of possession and so "would not harm the independent worker whose real title is possession and the work done" unlike capitalist property. [Malatesta, Life and Ideas, p. 103] In other words, all anarchists (as we argue in section B.3) oppose private property but support possession.

That many of the Individualist Anarchists used the term "property" to describe a system of possession (or "occupancy-and-use") should not blind us to the anti-capitalist nature of that "property." Once we move beyond looking at the words they used to want they meant by those words we clearly see that their ideas are distinctly different from those of supporters of capitalism.