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<html>
<head>
<title>B.2 Why are anarchists against the state?</title>
</head>
<body>
<h2>B.2 Why are anarchists against the state?</h2>
<p>
As previously noted (see <a href="secB1.html">section B.1</a>), anarchists oppose all forms of 
hierarchical authority. Historically, however, the they have spent most of 
their time and energy opposing two main forms in particular. One is 
capitalism, the other, the state. These two forms of authority have a 
symbiotic relationship and cannot be easily separated. In this section, as 
well as explaining why anarchists oppose the state, we will necessarily 
have to analyse the relationship between it and capitalism. 
<p>
So what is the state? As Malatesta put it, anarchists <i>""have used the word 
State . . . to mean the sum total of the political, legislative, judiciary,
military and financial institutions through which the management of their
own affairs, the control over their personal behaviour, the responsibility
for their personal safety, are taken away from the people and entrusted
to others who, by usurpation or delegation, are vested with the power to
make laws for everything and everybody, and to oblige the people to observe
them, if need be, by the use of collective force."</i> [<b>Anarchy</b>, p. 13]
<p>
He continues:
<p><blockquote><i>
"For us, governments [or the state]is  up of all governors . . . those who 
have the power to make <b>laws</b> regulating inter-human relations and to see 
that they are carried out . . . [and] who have the power, to a greater
or lesser degree, to make use of the social power, that is of the physical, intellectual and economic power of the whole community, in order to oblige 
everybody to carry out their wishes."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 15-16 -- see also Kropotkin's <b>The State: 
Its Historic Role</b>, p. 10]
</blockquote><p>
This means that many, if not most, anarchists would agree with Randolph 
Bourne's characterisation of the state as the politico-military domination 
of a certain geographical territory by a ruling elite (see his <i>"Unfinished 
Fragment on the State,"</i> in <b>Untimely Papers</b>). On this subject Murray 
Bookchin writes:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Minimally, the State is a professional system of social coercion . . .
It is only when coercion is institutionalised into a professional,
systematic and organised form of social control - . . . with the backing 
of a monopoly of violence - that we can properly speak of a State."</i> 
[<b>Remaking Society</b>, p. 66]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, we can say that, for anarchists, the state is marked by three
things:
<p><ol>
	1) A "monopoly of violence" in a given territorial area;<br>
	2) This violence having a "professional," institutional 
	   nature; and<br>
	3) A hierarchical nature, centralisation of power and 
	   initiative into the hands of a few.
</ol><p>
Of these three aspects, the last one (its centralised, hierarchical
nature) is the most important simply because the concentration of
power into the hands of the few ensures a division of society into
government and governed (which necessitates the creation of a 
professional body to enforce that division). Without such a 
division, we would not need a monopoly of violence and so would 
simply have an association of equals, unmarked by power and 
hierarchy (such as exists in many stateless "primitive" tribes).
<p>
Some types of states, e.g. Communist and social-democratic ones, are
directly involved not only in politico-military domination but also in
economic domination via state ownership of the means of production;
whereas in liberal democratic capitalist states, such ownership is in the
hands of private individuals. In liberal democratic states, however, the
mechanisms of politico-military domination are controlled by and for a
corporate elite, and hence the large corporations are often considered to
belong to a wider "state-complex." 
<p>
As the state is the delegation of power into the hands of the few, it 
is obviously based on hierarchy. This delegation of power results in 
the elected people becoming isolated from the mass of people who elected 
them and outside of their control. In addition, as those elected are 
given power over a host of different issues and told to decide upon 
them, a bureaucracy soon develops around them to aid in their 
decision-making. However, this bureaucracy, due to its control of 
information and its permanency, soon has more power than the elected 
officials. This means that those who serve the people's (so-called) 
servant have 
more power than those they serve, just as the politician has more power 
than those who elected him. All forms of state-like (i.e. hierarchical) 
organisations inevitably spawn a bureaucracy about them. This bureaucracy 
soon becomes the de facto focal point of power in the structure, 
regardless of the official rules. 
<p>
This marginalisation and disempowerment of ordinary people (and so the 
empowerment of a bureaucracy) is the key reason for anarchist opposition 
to the state. Such an arrangement ensures that the individual is disempowered,
subject to bureaucratic, authoritarian rule which reduces the person to a 
object or a number, <b>not</b> a unique individual with hopes, dreams, thoughts
and feelings. As Proudhon forcefully argued:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed,
law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled,
estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the
right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so... To be GOVERNED is to
be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled,
taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorised, 
admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the 
pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be 
placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolised, 
extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the 
first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked,
abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot,
deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown it all, mocked, 
ridiculed, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice;
that is its morality."</i> [<b>General Idea of the Revolution</b>, p. 294]
</blockquote><p>
Anarchists see the state, with its vast scope and control of deadly force,
as the "ultimate" hierarchical structure, suffering from all the negative 
characteristics associated with authority described in the <a href="secB1.html">last section</a>. 
<i>"Any logical and straightforward theory of the State,"</i> argued Bakunin,
<i>"is essentially founded upon the principle of <b>authority</b>, that is the
eminently theological, metaphysical, and political idea that the masses,
<b>always</b> incapable of governing themselves, must at all times submit
to the beneficent yoke of a wisdom and a justice imposed upon them,
in some way or other, from above."</i> [<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p. 142]
Such a system of authority cannot help being centralised, hierarchical
and bureaucratic in nature. And because of its centralised, hierarchical, 
and bureaucratic nature, the state becomes a great weight over society, 
restricting its growth and development and making popular control 
impossible. As Bakunin puts it:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"the so-called general interests of society supposedly represented by the
State . . . [are] in reality . . . the general and permanent negation of the 
positive interests of the regions, communes, and associations, and a 
vast number of individuals subordinated to the State . . . [in which] 
all the best aspirations, all the living forces of a country, are 
sanctimoniously immolated and interred."</i> [<b>The Political 
Philosophy of Bakunin</b>, p. 207]
</blockquote><p>
In the rest of this section we will discuss the state, its role, its impact
on a society's freedom and who benefits from its existence. Kropotkin's
classic essay, <b>The State: It's Historic Role</b> is recommended for further
reading on this subject.
<p>
<a name="secb21"><h2>B.2.1 What is main function of the state?</h2>
<p>
The main function of the state is to enable the ruling elite to exploit 
lower social strata, i.e. derive an economic surplus from them. The state,
to use Malatesta's words, is basically <i>"the property owners' <b>gendarme</b>"</i>
[<b>Anarchy</b>, p. 19] (compare to the maxim of the Founding Fathers of 
American "democracy" -- <i>"the people who own the country ought to govern
it"</i> (John Jay)). Those in the upper-middle levels of the social pyramid 
also frequently use the state to obtain income without working, as from 
investments, but the elite gain by far the most economic advantages, which 
is why in the US, one percent of the population controls over 40 percent 
of total wealth. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the state is 
the extractive apparatus of society's parasites. 
<p>
The state ensures the exploitative privileges of its ruling elite by
protecting certain economic monopolies from which its members derive their
wealth (see <a href="secB3.html#secb32">section B.3.2</a>). This service is referred to as "protecting
private property" and is said to be one of the two main functions of the
state, the other being to ensure that individuals are "secure in their
persons." However, although this second aim is professed, in reality most
state laws and institutions are concerned with the protection of property
(for the anarchist definition of "property" see <a href="secB3.html#secb31">
section B.3.1.</a>). 
<p>
From this fact we may infer that references to the "security of persons,"
"crime prevention," etc. are mostly rationalisations of the state's
existence and smokescreens for its perpetuation of elite power and
privileges. Moreover, even though the state does take a secondary interest
in protecting the security of persons (particularly elite persons), the
vast majority of crimes against persons are motivated by poverty and
alienation due to state-supported exploitation and also by the
desensitisation to violence created by the state's own violent methods of
protecting private property. 
<p>
Hence, anarchists maintain that without the state and the crime-engendering 
conditions to which it gives rise, it would be possible for decentralised,
voluntary community associations to deal compassionately (not punitively)
with the few incorrigibly violent people who might remain (see 
<a href="secI5.html#seci58">section I.5.8</a>). 
<p>
It is clear that the state represents the essential coercive mechanisms by
which capitalism and the authority relations associated with private property 
are sustained. The protection of property is fundamentally the means of
assuring the social domination of owners over non-owners, both in society
as a whole and in the particular case of a specific boss over a specific
group of workers. Class domination is the authority of 
property owners over those who use that property and it is the primary 
function of the state to uphold that domination (and the social
relationships that generate it). In Kropotkin's words, <i>"the rich
perfectly well know that if the machinery of the State ceased to
protect them, their power over the labouring classes would be gone
immediately."</i> [<b>Evolution and Environment</b>, p. 98]
<p>
In other words, protecting private property and upholding class
domination are the same thing. Yet this primary function of the state is
disguised by the "democratic" facade of the representative electoral
system, through which it is made to appear that the people rule
themselves. Thus Bakunin writes that the modern state <i>"unites in itself
the two conditions necessary for the prosperity of the capitalistic
economy: State centralisation and the actual subjection of . . . the
people . . . to the minority allegedly representing it but actually
governing it."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]
<p> 
The historian Charles Beard makes a similar point: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Inasmuch as the
primary object of a government, beyond mere repression of physical
violence, is the making of the rules which determine the property
relations of members of society, the dominant classes whose rights are
thus to be protected must perforce obtain from the government such rules
as are consonant with the larger interests necessary to the continuance of
their economic processes, or they must themselves control the organs of
government"</i> [<b>An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution</b>, quoted
by Howard Zinn, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 89].
</blockquote><p>
This role of the state -- to protect capitalism and the property,
power and authority of the property owner -- was also noticed by 
Adam Smith: 
<p><blockquote><i>
"[T]he inequality of fortune . . . introduces among men a degree 
of authority and subordination which could not possibly exist 
before. It thereby introduces some degree of that civil government 
which is indispensably necessary for its own preservation . . . 
[and] to maintain and secure that authority and subordination. The 
rich, in particular, are necessarily interested to support that order 
of things which can alone secure them in the possession of their own 
advantages. Men of inferior wealth combine to defend those of superior 
wealth in the possession of their property, in order that men of 
superior wealth may combine to defend them in the possession of 
theirs . . .  [T]he maintenance of their lesser authority depends 
upon that of his greater authority, and that upon their subordination 
to him depends his power of keeping their inferiors in subordination 
to them. They constitute a sort of little nobility, who feel themselves 
interested to defend the property and to support the authority of 
their own little sovereign in order that he may be able to defend 
their property and to support their authority. Civil government, so 
far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality 
instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those 
who have some property against those who have none at all." </i> [Adam Smith, <b>The Wealth of Nations</b>, book 5]
</blockquote><p>
In a nutshell, the state is the means by which the ruling class rules. Hence Bakunin:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"the State is the organised authority, domination and power of
the possessing classes over the masses."</i> [quoted by David Deleon,
<b>Reinventing Anarchy</b>, p. 71]
<p></blockquote>
<p>
However, while recognising that the state protects the power and
position of the economically dominant class within a society anarchists
also argue that the state has, due to its hierarchical nature, 
interests of its own. Thus it cannot be considered as simply the
tool of the economically dominant class in society. States have
their own dynamics, due to their structure, which generate their 
own classes and class interests and privileges (and which allows 
them to escape from the control of the economic ruling class and 
pursue their own interests, to a greater or lesser degree). As
Malatesta put it <i>"the government, though springing from the 
bourgeoisie and its servant and protector, tends, as with every 
servant and every protector, to achieve its own emancipation
and to dominate whoever it protects."</i> [<b>Anarchy</b>, p. 22]
<p>
This means that the state machine (and structure), while its modern 
form is intrinsically linked to capitalism, cannot be seen as
being a tool usable by the majority. This is because the <i>"State,
any State -- even when it dresses-up in the most liberal and
democratic form -- is essentially based on domination, and
upon violence, that is upon despotism -- a concealed but no
less dangerous despotism."</i> The State <i>"denotes force, authority, 
predominance; it presupposes inequality in fact."</i> [<b>The 
Political Philosophy of Michael Bakunin</b>, p. 211 and p. 223]
<p>
This is due to its hierarchical and centralised nature, which
empowers the few who control the state machine -- <i>"[e]very
state power, every government, by its nature places itself
outside and over the people and inevitably subordinates
them to an organisation and to aims which are foreign to
and opposed to the real needs and aspirations of the people."</i> 
[<b>Bakunin on Anarchism</b>, p. 328] If <i>"the whole proletariat . . . 
[are] members of the government . . . there will be no government, 
no state, but, if there is to be a state there will be those 
who are ruled and those who are slaves."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 330]
<p>
In other words, the state bureaucracy is itself directly an 
oppressor and can exist independently of an economically
dominant class. In Bakunin's prophetic words:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"What have we seen throughout history? The State has always
been the patrimony of some privileged class: the sacerdotal
class, the nobility, the bourgeoisie -- and finally, when
all other classes have exhausted themselves, the class of
the bureaucracy enters the stage and then the State falls,
or rises, if you please, to the position of a machine."</i>
[<b>The Political Philosophy of Michael Bakunin</b>, p. 208]
<p></blockquote>
The experience of Soviet Russian indicates the validity of
his analysis (the working class was exploited and dominated
by the state bureaucracy rather than by an economic class).
<p>
Thus the role of the state is to repress the individual and the
working class as a whole in the interests of the capitalist class
and in its own interests. This means that <i>"the State organisation
. . . [is] the force to which minorities resorted for establishing 
and organising their power over the masses."</i> Little wonder, then, 
that Kropotkin argued that <i>"[i]n the struggle between the individual 
and the State, anarchism . . . takes the side of the individual as 
against the State, of society against the authority which oppresses 
it."</i> While the state is a <i>"superstructure in the interests of 
capitalism,"</i> it is a <i>"power which was created for the purpose of 
welding together the interests of the landlord, the judge, the 
warrior, and the priest"</i> and, we must add, cannot be considered 
purely as being a tool for the capitalist/landlord class. The
state structure (<i>"the judge, the warrior"</i> etc.) has interests
of its own. [<b>Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets</b>, p. 170 and 
pp. 192-3]
<p>
<a name="secb22"><h2>B.2.2 Does the state have subsidiary functions?</h2>
<p>
Besides its primary function of protecting private property, the state
operates in other ways as an economic instrument of the ruling class. 
<p>
First, the state intervenes in the modern economy to solve problems that
arise in the course of capitalist development. These interventions have
taken different forms in different times and include state funding for
industry (e.g. military spending); the creation of social infrastructure
too expensive for private capital to provide (railways, motorways); 
tariffs to protect developing industries from more efficient international
competition (the key to successful industrialisation as it allows capitalists
to rip-off consumers, making them rich and increasing funds available for
investment); imperialist ventures to create colonies (or protect citizen's 
capital invested abroad) in order to create markets or get access to raw
materials and cheap labour; government spending to stimulate consumer demand 
in the face of underconsumption and stagnation; maintaining a "natural" level 
of unemployment that can be used to discipline the working class, so ensuring 
they produce more, for less; manipulating the interest
rate in order to try and reduce the effects of the business cycle and 
undermine workers' gains in the class struggle. 
<p>
Second, because of the inordinate political power deriving from wealth 
(see <a href="secB2.html#secb23">next section</a>), capitalists use the state directly to benefit their 
class, as from subsidies, tax breaks, government contracts, protective 
tariffs, bailouts of corporations judged by state bureaucrats as too 
important to let fail, and so on. 
<p>
And third, the state may be used to 
grant concessions to the working class in cases where not doing so 
would threaten the integrity of the system as a whole.
<p>
Hence David Deleon:
<p><blockquote><i>
"Above all, the state remains an institution for the continuance of
dominant socioeconomic relations, whether through such agencies 
as the military, the courts, politics or the police . . . Contemporary
states have acquired . . . less primitive means to reinforce their
property systems [than state violence -- which is always the means
of last, often first, resort]. States can regulate, moderate or
resolve tensions in the economy by preventing the bankruptcies of
key corporations, manipulating the economy through interest rates,
supporting hierarchical ideology through tax benefits for churches
and schools, and other tactics. In essence, it is not a neutral
institution; it is powerfully for the status quo. The capitalist
state, for example, is virtually a gyroscope centred in capital,
balancing the system. If one sector of the economy earns a level
of profit, let us say, that harms the rest of the system -- such
as oil producers' causing public resentment and increased 
manufacturing costs -- the state may redistribute some of that
profit through taxation, or offer encouragement to competitors."</i>
[<b>Reinventing Anarchy</b>, pp. 71-72]
</blockquote><p>
The example of state legislation to set the length of the working day is
an example of both the first and third functions enumerated above. In the
early period of capitalist development, a shortage of labour power led to
the state's ignoring the lengthening working day, thus allowing capitalists 
to appropriate more surplus value from workers and increase the rate of 
profit without interference. Later, however, after workers began to organise,
reducing the length of the working day became a key demand around which
revolutionary socialist fervour was developing. Hence, in order to defuse 
this threat (and socialist revolution is the worst-case scenario for the
capitalist), the state passed legislation to reduce the length of the
working day (which, once workers' struggle calmed down, were happily ignored
and became "dead laws"). Initially, the state was functioning purely as
the protector of the capitalist class, using its powers to solve problems 
that arise in the course of capitalist development (namely repressing the
labour movement to allow the capitalists to do as they liked). In the second
it was granting concessions to the working class to eliminate a threat to 
the integrity of the system as a whole. 
<p>
It should be noted that none of these three subsidiary functions implies
that capitalism can be changed through a series of piecemeal reforms into
a benevolent system that primarily serves working class interests. To the
contrary, these functions grow out of, and supplement, the basic role of
the state as the protector of capitalist property and the social relations 
they generate -- i.e. the foundation of the capitalist's ability to exploit. 
Therefore reforms may modify the functioning of capitalism but they can
never threaten its basis. As Malatesta argued:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The basic function of government . . . is always that of oppressing
and exploiting the masses, of defending the oppressors and the 
exploiters . . . It is true that to these basic functions . . .
other functions have been added in the course of history . . . 
hardly ever has a government existed . . . which did not
combine with its oppressive and plundering activities others
which were useful . . . to social life. But this does not detract
from the fact that government is by nature oppressive . . . and
that it is in origin and by its attitude, inevitably inclined
to defend and strengthen the dominant class; indeed it confirms
and aggravates the position . . . [I]t is enough to understand
how and why it carries out these functions to find the practical
evidence that whatever governments do is always motivated by
the desire to dominate, and is always geared to defending,
extending and perpetuating its privileges and those of the
class of which it is both the representative and defender.
<p>
"A government cannot maintain itself for long without hiding
its true nature behind a pretence of general usefulness; it
cannot impose respect for the lives of the privileged if it
does not appear to demand respect for all human life; it
cannot impose acceptance of the privileges of the few if
it does not pretend to be the guardian of the rights of all."</i>
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 20-1]
<p></blockquote>
Ultimately, what the state concedes, it can also take back (as was 
the case of the laws limiting the working day). Thus the rise
and fall of the welfare state -- granted to stop more revolutionary
change (see <a href="secD1.html#secd13">section D.1.3</a>), it did not fundamentally challenge 
the existence of wage labour and was useful as a means of regulating 
capitalism but was "reformed" (i.e. made worse, rather than better)
when its existence conflicted with the needs of the capitalist
economy.
<p>
In other words, the state acts to protect the long-term interests of the
capitalist class <b>as a whole</b> (and ensure its own survival) by protecting
the system. This role can and does clash with the interests of particular
capitalists or even whole sections of the ruling class 
(see <a href="secB2.html#secb23">next section</a>). 
But this conflict does not change the role of the state as the property 
owners' policeman. Indeed, the state can be considered as a means for 
settling (in a peaceful and apparently independent manner) upper-class 
disputes over what to do to keep the system going.
<p>
<a name="secb23"><h2>B.2.3 How does the ruling class maintain control of the state? </h2>
<p>
For simplicity, let's just consider the capitalist state, whose main
purpose is to protect the exploitative monopolies described below. 
Because their economic monopolies are protected by the state, the elites
whose incomes are derived from them -- namely, finance capitalists,
industrial capitalists, and landlords -- are able to accumulate vast
wealth from those whom they exploit. This stratifies society into a
hierarchy of economic classes, with a huge disparity of wealth between the
small property-owning elite at the top and the non-property-owning
majority at the bottom. 
<p>
Then, because it takes enormous wealth to win elections and lobby or bribe
legislators, the propertied elite are able to control the political
process -- and hence the state -- through the "power of the purse." For
example, it costs well over $20 million to run for President of the USA.
In other words, elite control of politics through huge wealth disparities
insures the continuation of such disparities and thus the continuation of
elite control. In this way the crucial political decisions of those at
the top are insulated from significant influence by those at the bottom. 
<p>
Moreover, the ability of capital to disinvest (capital flight) and
otherwise adversely impact the economy is a powerful weapon to keep the
state as its servant. As Noam Chomsky notes:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In capitalist democracy, the interests that must be satisfied are those of
capitalists; otherwise, there is no investment, no production, no work, no
resources to be devoted, however marginally, to the needs of the general 
population"</i> [<b>Turning the Tide</b>, p. 233] 
</blockquote><p>
Hence, even allegedly "democratic" capitalist states are in effect
dictatorships of the propertariat. Errico Malatesta put it this way: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Even with universal suffrage - we could well say even more so with universal
suffrage - the government remained the bourgeoisie's servant and <b>gendarme.</b> 
For were it to be otherwise with the government hinting that it might
take up a hostile attitude, or that democracy could ever be anything but 
a pretence to deceive the people, the bourgeoisie, feeling its interests 
threatened, would by quick to react, and would use all the influence and 
force at its disposal, by reason of its wealth, to recall the government
to its proper place as the bourgeoisie's <b>gendarme.</b>"</i> [<b>Anarchy</b>, p. 20]
</blockquote><p>
The existence of a state bureaucracy is a key feature in ensuring that the 
state remains the ruling class's "policeman" and will be discussed in 
greater detail in section J.2.2 (<a href="secJ2.html#secj22.html">Why do anarchists reject voting as 
a means for change?</a>). As far as economic forces go, we see their power 
implied when 
the news report that changes in government, policies and law have been 
"welcomed by the markets." As the richest 1% of households in America
(about 2 million adults) owned 35% of the stock owned by individuals in
1992 - with the top 10% owning over 81% - we can see that the "opinion"
of the markets actually means the power of the richest 1-5% of a
countries population (and their finance experts), power derived from
their control over investment and production. Given that the bottom 90% 
of the US population has a smaller share (23%) of all kinds of investable 
capital that the richest 1/2% (who own 29%), with stock ownership being 
even more concentrated (the top 5% holding 95% of all shares), its obvious
why Doug Henwood (author of <b>Wall Street</b>) argues that stock markets
are <i>"a way for the very rich as a class to own an economy's productive
capital stock as a whole,"</i> are a source of <i>"political power"</i> 
and a way to have influence over government policy (see 
<a href="secD2.html">section D.2</a>). [<b>Wall Street: Class Racket</b>]
<p>
Of course, this does not mean that the state and the capitalist class
always see "eye to eye." Top politicians, for example, are part of the
ruling elite, but they are in competition with other parts of it. In
addition, different sectors of the capitalist class are competing against
each other for profits, political influence, privileges, etc. The 
bourgeoisie, argued Malatesta, <i>"are always at war among themselves . . . 
and . . .  the government, though springing from the bourgeoisie and its 
protector, tends . . . to dominate whoever it protects. Thus the games 
of the swings, the manoeuvres, the concessions and withdrawals, the 
attempts to find allies among the people against the conservatives, 
and among the conservatives against the people."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 22] As 
such, the state is often in conflict with sections of the capitalist class, 
just as sections of that class use the state to advance their own interests
within the general framework of protecting the capitalist system (i.e.
the interests of the ruling class <b>as a class</b>). Such conflicts sometimes
give the impression of the state being a "neutral" body, but this is an
illusion -- it exists to defend class power and privilege, and to resolve
disputes within that class peacefully via the "democratic" process (within
which we get the chance of picking the representatives of the elite who
will oppress us least).
<p>
Nevertheless, without the tax money from successful businesses, the state
would be weakened. Hence the role of the state is to ensure the best
conditions for capital <b>as a whole,</b> which means that, when necessary,
it can and does work against the interests of certain parts of the
capitalist class. This is what can give the state the appearance of
independence and can fool people into thinking that it represents the
interests of society as a whole. (For more on the ruling elite and its
relation to the state, see C. Wright Mills, <b>The Power Elite</b> [Oxford,
1956]; cf. Ralph Miliband, <b>The State in Capitalist Society</b> [Basic Books,
1969] and <b>Divided Societies</b> [Oxford, 1989]; G. William Domhoff, <b>Who
Rules America?</b> [Prentice Hall, 1967]; <b>Who Rules America Now? A View
for the '80s</b> [Touchstone, 1983] and <b>Toxic Sludge is Good For You! Lies, Damn
Lies and the Public Relations Industry</b> by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton 
[Common Courage Press, 1995]). 
<p>
<a name="secb24"><h2>B.2.4 How does state centralisation affect freedom?</h2>
<p>
It's a common but false idea that voting every four or so years to elect
the public face of a highly centralised and bureaucratic machine means
that ordinary people control the state. Obviously, to say that this idea
is false does not imply that there is no difference between a liberal
republic and a fascistic or monarchical state. Far from it. 
<p>
The vote is an important victory wrested from the powers that be. It is one 
small step on the road to libertarian socialism. Nevertheless, all forms of
hierarchy, even those in which the top officers are elected are marked by
authoritarianism and centralism. Power is concentrated in the centre (or
at the "top"), which means that society becomes <i>"a heap of dust animated
from without by a subordinating, centralist idea."</i> [P.J. Proudhon, quoted 
by Martin Buber, <b>Paths in Utopia</b>, p. 29] For, once elected, top officers
can do as they please, and in all political bureaucracies, many important
decisions are made by non-elected staff. 
<p>
The nature of centralisation places power into the hands of the few.
Representative democracy is based on this delegation of power, with
voters electing others to govern them. This cannot help but create
a situation in which freedom is endangered -- universal suffrage 
<i>"does not prevent the formation of a body of politicians, privileged 
in fact though not in law, who, devoting themselves exclusively to 
the administration of the nation's public affairs, end by becoming 
a sort of political aristocracy or oligarchy."</i> [Bakunin, <b>The Political 
Philosophy of Bakunin</b>, p. 240]
<p>
Centralism makes democracy meaningless, as political decision-making is
given over to professional politicians in remote capitals. Lacking local
autonomy, people are isolated from each other (atomised) by having no
political forum where they can come together to discuss, debate, and
decide among themselves the issues they consider important. Elections
are not based on natural, decentralised groupings and thus cease to be
relevant. The individual is just another "voter" in the mass, a political
"constituent" and nothing more. The amorphous basis of modern, statist
elections <i>"aims at nothing less than to abolish political life in towns,
communes and departments, and through this destruction of all municipal
and regional autonomy to arrest the development of universal suffrage"</i>
[Proudhon, <b>Ibid.</b>] Thus people are disempowered by the very structures 
that claim to allow them to express themselves. To quote Proudhon
again, in the centralised state <i>"the citizen divests himself of 
sovereignty, the town and the Department and province above it, 
absorbed by central authority, are no longer anything but agencies 
under direct ministerial control."</i> He continues:
<p><blockquote><i>
"The Consequences soon make themselves felt: the citizen and the
town are deprived of all dignity, the state's depredations multiply,
and the burden on the taxpayer increases in proportion. It is no
longer the government that is made for the people; it is the people
who are made for the government. Power invades everything, dominates
everything, absorbs everything. . ."</i> [<b>The Principle of 
Federation</b>, p. 59]
</blockquote><p>
As intended, isolated people are no threat to the powers that be. This
process of marginalisation can be seen from American history, for example,
when town meetings were replaced by elected bodies, with the citizens
being placed in passive, spectator roles as mere "voters" (see section B.5
<a href="secB5.html">"Is capitalism empowering and based on human action?"</a>). Being an atomised
voter is hardly an ideal notion of "freedom," despite the rhetoric of
politicians about the virtues of a "free society" and "The Free World" --
as if voting once every four or five years could ever be classed as
"liberty" or even "democracy."
<p>
In this way, social concern and power are taken away from ordinary
citizens and centralised in the hands of the few. Marginalisation of the
people is the key control mechanism in the state and authoritarian
organisations in general. Considering the European Community (EC), for
example, we find that the <i>"mechanism for decision-making between EC states
leaves power in the hands of officials (from Interior ministries, police,
immigration, customs and security services) through a myriad of working
groups. Senior officials . . . play a critical role in ensuring agreements
between the different state officials. The EC Summit meetings, comprising
the 12 Prime Ministers, simply rubber-stamp the conclusions agreed by the
Interior and Justice Ministers. It is only then, in this intergovernmental 
process, that parliaments and people are informed (and them only with the 
barest details)."</i> [Tony Bunyon, <b>Statewatching the New Europe</b>, p. 39]
<p>
As well as economic pressures from elites, governments also face pressures 
within the state itself due to the bureaucracy that comes with centralism. 
There is a difference between the state and government. The state is the 
permanent collection of institutions that have entrenched power structures 
and interests. The government is made up of various politicians. It's the 
institutions that have power in the state due to their permanence, not the 
representatives who come and go. As Clive Ponting (an ex-civil servant 
himself) indicates, <i>"the function of a political system in any country... 
is to regulate, but not to alter radically, the existing economic structure 
and its linked power relationships. The great illusion of politics is that 
politicians have the ability to make whatever changes they like . . ."</i>
[quoted in <b>Alternatives</b>, no.5, p. 19].
<p> 
Therefore, as well as marginalising the people, the state also ends up
marginalising "our" representatives. As power rests not in the elected
bodies, but in a bureaucracy, popular control becomes increasingly
meaningless. As Bakunin pointed out, <i>"liberty can be valid only
when . . . [popular] control [of the state] is valid. On the contrary, where
such control is fictitious, this freedom of the people likewise becomes a
mere fiction"</i> [<b>The Political Philosophy of Bakunin</b>, p. 212]. 
<p>
This means that state centralism can become a serious source of danger to
the liberty and well-being of most of the people under it. However, <b>some</b>
people do benefit from state centralisation, namely those with power who
desire to be "left alone" to use it: that is, the two sections of the
ruling elite, bureaucrats of capital and state (as will be discussed
further in the <a href="secB2.html#secb25">next section</a>). 
<p>
<a name="secb25"><h2>B.2.5 Who benefits from centralisation?</h2>
<p>
No social system would exist unless it benefited someone or some group.
Centralisation, be it in the state or the company, is no different. In
all cases, centralisation directly benefits those at the top, because it
shelters them from those who are below, allowing the latter to be
controlled and governed more effectively. Therefore, it is in the direct
interests of bureaucrats and politicians to support centralism. 
<p>
Under capitalism, however, various sections of the business class also
support state centralism. This is the symbiotic relationship between
capital and the state. As will be discussed later, (in 
<a href="secF8.html">section F.8</a>) the state played
an important role in "nationalising" the market, i.e. forcing the "free
market" onto society. By centralising power in the hands of
representatives and so creating a state bureaucracy, ordinary people were
disempowered and thus became less likely to interfere with the interests
of the wealthy. <i>"In a republic,"</i> writes Bakunin, <i>"the so-called people,
the legal people, allegedly represented by the State, stifle and will keep
on stifling the actual and living people"</i> by <i>"the bureaucratic world"</i> for
<i>"the greater benefit of the privileged propertied classes as well as for
its own benefit"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 211]. 
<p>
Examples of increased political centralisation being promoted by
wealthy business interests by can be seen throughout the history of
capitalism. <i>"In revolutionary America, 'the nature of city government
came in for heated discussion,' observes Merril Jensen . . . Town meetings .
. .' had been a focal point of revolutionary activity'. The anti-democratic
reaction that set in after the American revolution was marked by efforts
to do away with town meeting government . . . Attempts by conservative
elements were made to establish a 'corporate form (of municipal
government) whereby the towns would be governed by mayors and councils'
elected from urban wards . . .[T]he merchants 'backed incorporation
consistently in their efforts to escape town meetings' . . ."</i> [Murray
Bookchin, <b>Towards an Ecological Society</b>, p. 182]
<p>
Here we see local policy making being taken out of the hands of the many 
and centralised in the hands of the few (who are always the wealthy). 
France provides 
another example:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The Government found . . . the folkmotes [of all households] 
'too noisy', too disobedient, and in 1787, elected councils, composed of a
mayor and three to six syndics, chosen among the wealthier peasants, were
introduced instead"</i> [Peter Kropotkin, <b>Mutual Aid</b>, pp. 185-186]. 
</blockquote><p>
This was part of a general movement to disempower the working class
by centralising decision making power into the hands of the few (as
in the American revolution). Kropotkin indicates the process at work:
<p><blockquote><i>
"[T]he middle classes, who had until then had sought the support of
the people, in order to obtain constitutional laws and to dominate
the higher nobility, were going, now that they had seen and felt
the strength of the people, to do all they could to dominate the
people, to disarm them and to drive them back into subjection.
<p>
[. . .]
<p>
"[T]hey made haste to legislate in such a way that the political
power which was slipping out of the hand of the Court should
not fall into the hands of the people. Thus . . . [it was]
proposed . . . to divide the French into two classes, of which
one only, the <b>active</b> citizens, should take part in the
government, whilst the other, comprising the great mass of the
people under the name of <b>passive</b> citizens, should be deprived
of all political rights . . . [T]he [National] Assembly divided 
France into departments . . . always maintaining the principle of 
excluding the poorer classes from the Government . . . [T]hey 
excluded from the primary assemblies the mass of the people . . . 
who could no longer take part in the primary assemblies, and
accordingly had no right to nominate the electors [who chose 
representatives to the National Assembly], or the municipality,
or any of the local authorities . . .
<p>
"And finally, the <b>permanence</b> of the electoral assemblies was
interdicted. Once the middle-class governors were appointed,
these assemblies were not to meet again. Once the middle-class
governors were appointed, they must not be controlled too
strictly. Soon the right even of petitioning and of passing
resolutions was taken away -- 'Vote and hold your tongue!'

"As to the villages . . . the general assembly of the 
inhabitants . . . [to which] belonged the administration
of the affairs of the commune . . . were forbidden by the
. . . law. Henceforth only the well-to-do peasants, the
<b>active</b> citizens, had the right to meet, <b>once a year</b>,
to nominate the mayor and the municipality, composed of
three or four middle-class men of the village.
<p>
"A similar municipal organisation was given to the towns. . .
<p>
"[Thus] the middle classes surrounded themselves with every precaution
in order to keep the municipal power in the hands of the
well-to-do members of the community."</i> [<b>The Great French
Revolution</b>, vol. 1, pp. 179-186]
<p></blockquote>
Thus centralisation aimed to take power away from the mass of
the people and give it to the wealthy. The power of the people
rested in popular assemblies, such as the <i><b>"Sections"</i></b> 
and <i><b>"Districts"</i></b>
of Paris (expressing, in Kropotkin's words, <i>"the principles of
anarchism"</i> and <i>"practising . . . Direct Self-Government"</i> [<b>Op. 
Cit.</b>, p. 204 and p. 203]) and village assemblies. However,
the National Assembly <i>"tried all it could to lessen the power
of the districts . . . [and] put an end to those hotbeds of
Revolution . . . [by allowing] <b>active</b> citizens only . . . 
to take part in the electoral and administrative
assemblies."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 211] 
Thus the <i>"central government 
was steadily endeavouring to subject the sections to its 
authority"</i> with the state <i>"seeking to centralise everything in 
its own hands . . . [I]ts depriving the popular organisations 
. . . all . . . administrative functions . . . its subjecting
them to its bureaucracy in police matters, meant the death
of the sections."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, vol. 2, p. 549 and p. 552]
<p>
As can be seen, in both the French and American revolutions saw
a similar process by which the wealthy centralised power into
their own hands. This ensured that working class people (i.e.
the majority) were excluded from the decision making process
and subject to the laws and power of others. Which, of course,
benefits the minority class whose representatives have that
power. (Volume one of Murray Bookchin's <b>The Third Revolution</b> 
discusses the French and American revolutions in some detail).
<p>
On the federal and state levels in the US after the Revolution,
centralisation of power was encouraged, since <i>"most of the makers of the
Constitution had some direct economic interest in establishing a strong
federal government . . . there was . . . a positive need for strong central
government to protect the large economic interests."</i> [Howard Zinn, <b>A
People's History of the United States</b>, p. 90] In particular, state
centralisation was essential to mould US society into one dominated by
capitalism:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In the thirty years leading up to the Civil War, the law
was increasingly interpreted in the courts to suit capitalist development.
Studying this, Morton Horwitz (<b>The Transformation of American Law</b>)
points out that the English common-law was no longer holy when it stood in
the way of business growth . . . Judgements for damages against businessmen
were taken out of the hands of juries, which were unpredictable, and given
to judges . . . The ancient idea of a fair price for goods gave way in the
courts to the idea of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) . . . contract
law was intended to discriminate against working people and for business . . .
The pretence of the law was that a worker and a railroad made a contract
with equal bargaining power . . . 'The circle was completed; the law had
come simply to ratify those forms of inequality that the market system
had produced.'"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 234]
</blockquote><p>
The US state was created on elitist liberal doctrine and actively aimed
to reduce democratic tendencies (in the name of "individual liberty"). 
What happened in practice (unsurprisingly enough) was that the wealthy 
elite used the state to undermine popular culture and common right in 
favour of protecting and extending their own interests and power. In 
the process, US society was reformed in their own image:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"By the middle of the nineteenth century the legal system had been 
reshaped to the advantage of men of commerce and industry at the 
expense of farmers, workers, consumers, and other less powerful groups 
in society . . . it actively promoted a legal distribution of wealth 
against the weakest groups in society."</i> [Horwitz, quoted by Zinn, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 235]
</blockquote><p>
In more modern times, state centralisation and expansion has gone hand in
glove with rapid industrialisation and the growth of business. As Edward
Herman points out, <i>"[t]o a great extent, it was the growth in business
size and power that elicited the countervailing emergence of unions and the
growth of government. Bigness <b>beyond</b> business was to a large extent
a response to bigness <b>in</b> business."</i> [<b>Corporate Control, Corporate 
Power</b>, p. 188 -- see also, Stephen Skowronek, <b>Building A New American 
State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877-1920</b>]
State centralisation was required to produce bigger, well-defined markets 
and was supported by business when it acted in their interests (i.e. as
markets expanded, so did the state in order to standardise and enforce
property laws and so on). On the other hand, this development towards
"big government" created an environment in which big business could grow 
(often encouraged by the state by subsidies and protectionism - as would be 
expected when the state is run by the wealthy) as well as further removing
state power from influence by the masses and placing it more firmly in
the hands of the wealthy. It is little wonder we see such developments, 
for <i>"[s]tructures of governance tend to coalesce around domestic power, 
in the last few centuries, economic power."</i> [Noam Chomsky, 
<b>World Orders, Old and New</b>, p. 178]
<p>
State centralisation makes it easier for business to control government,
ensuring that it remains their puppet and to influence the political
process. For example, the European Round Table (ERT) <i>"an elite lobby group
of. . .chairmen or chief executives of large multi-nationals based mainly
in the EU... [with] 11 of the 20 largest European companies [with]
combined sales [in 1991] . . . exceeding $500 billion, . . . approximately
60 per cent of EU industrial production,"</i> makes much use of the EU. As
two researchers who have studied this body note, the ERT <i>"is adept at
lobbying . . . so that many ERT proposals and 'visions' are mysteriously
regurgitated in Commission summit documents."</i> The ERT
<i>"claims that the labour market should be more 'flexible,' arguing for more
flexible hours, seasonal contracts, job sharing and part time work. In
December 1993, seven years after the ERT made its suggestions [and after
most states had agreed to the Maastricht Treaty and its "social
chapter"], the European Commission published a white paper . . .
[proposing] making labour markets in Europe more flexible."</i> [Doherty and
Hoedeman, <i>"Knights of the Road,"</i> <b>New Statesman</b>, 4/11/94, p. 27]
<p>
The current talk of globalisation, NAFTA, and the Single European Market
indicates an underlying transformation in which state growth follows the
path cut by economic growth. Simply put, with the growth of transnational
corporations and global finance markets, the bounds of the nation-state
have been made economically redundant. As companies have expanded into
multi-nationals, so the pressure has mounted for states to follow suit and
rationalise their markets across "nations" by creating multi-state
agreements and unions.
<p>
As Noam Chomsky notes, G7, the IMF, the World Bank and so forth are a <i>"de
facto world government,"</i> and <i>"the institutions of the transnational state
largely serve other masters [than the people], as state power typically
does; in this case the rising transnational corporations in the domains of
finance and other services, manufacturing, media and communications."</i> 
[<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 179]
<p>
As multi-nationals grow and develop, breaking through national boundaries, 
a corresponding growth in statism is required. Moreover, a <i>"particularly 
valuable feature of the rising de facto governing institutions is their 
immunity from popular influence, even awareness. They operate in secret, 
creating a world subordinated to the needs of investors, with the public 
'put in its place', the threat of democracy reduced."</i> [Chomsky, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 178]
<p>
This does not mean that capitalists desire state centralisation for
everything. Often, particularly for social issues, relative
decentralisation is often preferred (i.e. power is given to local
bureaucrats) in order to increase business control over them. By devolving
control to local areas, the power which large corporations, investment 
firms and the like have over the local government increases proportionally.
In addition, even middle-sized enterprise can join in and influence, 
constrain or directly control local policies and set one workforce against
another. Private power can ensure that "freedom" is safe, <b>their</b> freedom.
<p>
No matter which set of bureaucrats are selected, the need to centralise
social power, thus marginalising the population, is of prime
importance to the business class. It is also important to remember that
capitalist opposition to "big government" is often financial, as the state
feeds off the available social surplus, so reducing the amount left for
the market to distribute to the various capitals in competition. 
<p>
In reality, what capitalists object to about "big government" is its spending
on social programs designed to benefit the poor and working class, an
"illegitimate" function which "wastes" part of the surplus that might go
to capital (and also makes people less desperate and so less willing to
work cheaply). Hence the constant push to reduce the state to its
"classical" role as protector of private property and the system, and little 
else. Other than their specious quarrel with the welfare state, capitalists
are the staunchest supports of government (and the "correct" form of state 
intervention, such as defence spending), as evidenced by the fact that funds 
can always be found to build more prisons and send troops abroad to advance 
ruling-class interests, even as politicians are crying that there is "no 
money" in the treasury for scholarships, national health care, or welfare 
for the poor. 
<p>
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