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<TITLE>G.5 Benjamin Tucker: Capitalist or Anarchist?</TITLE>
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<p>

<H1>G.5 Benjamin Tucker: Capitalist or Anarchist?</h1>
<p>
Benjamin Tucker was against "capitalism" in the sense in which he defined
it: namely, as a state-supported monopoly of social capital (tools,
machinery, etc.) which allows owners to avoid paying workers the full
value of their labour [see <b>Instead of a Book</b>]. Indeed, he thought that
the <i>"labouring classes are deprived of their earnings by usury in its
three forms, interest, rent and profit."</i> [quoted by James J. Martin,
<b>Men Against the State</b>, p. 210f] This stance puts him squarely in the 
libertarian socialist tradition. 
<p>
Indeed, Tucker referred to himself many times as a socialist. It is true
that he also sometimes railed against "socialism," but in those cases it
is clear that he was referring to <b>state</b> socialism. As he argues himself
there are two kinds of socialism based upon two different principles:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The two principles referred to are Authority and Liberty, and the names 
of the two schools of Socialistic thought which fully and unreservedly
represent one or the other of them are, respectively, State Socialism and
Anarchism. Whoso knows what these two schools want and how they propose to
get it understands the Socialistic movement. For, just as it has been said
that there is no half-way house between Rome and Reason, so it may be said
that there is no half-way house between State Socialism and Anarchism."</i>
[<b>The Anarchist Reader</b>, p. 150]
</blockquote><p>
He also made it clear that he was against private property and so supported 
Proudhon's argument that <i>"property is theft,"</i> and even translated Proudhon's 
<i>"What is Property?"</i>, where that phrase originated. Tucker advocated 
<b>possession</b> but not private property, believing that empty land, houses, 
etc. should be squatted by those who could use them, as labour (i.e. use) 
would be the only title to "property" (Tucker opposed all non-labour
income as usury).
<p>
This was because Tucker did not believe in a <i>"natural right"</i> to property 
nor did he approve of unlimited holdings of scarce goods. He clearly 
recognised that allowing "absolute" rights to private property, when land 
was scarce, would result in the liberty of non-owners being diminished. 
As he put it:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"It should be stated, however, that in the case of land, or of any other 
material the supply of which is so limited that all cannot hold it in 
unlimited quantities, Anarchism undertakes to protect no titles except 
such as are based on actual occupancy and use."</i> [<b>Instead of a Book</b>, p. 61] 
</blockquote><p>
This, he thought, would reduce the evils of capitalism and increase liberty. 
For those who own no property have no room for the soles of their feet unless 
they have the permission of those who do own property, hardly a situation that 
would increase, nevermind protect, freedom for all.
<p>
Therefore, Tucker considered private property in land use (which he called
the <i>"land monopoly"</i>) as one of the four great evils of capitalism.
According to Tucker, <i>"the land monopoly. . . consists in the enforcement
by government of land titles which do not rest upon personal occupancy and
cultivation. . .the individual should no longer be protected by their
fellows in anything but personal occupation and cultivation of land"</i> [<b>The
Anarchist Reader</b>, p. 150]. The other capitalist monopolies were based on
credit, tariffs and patents and all where reflected in (and supported by) 
the law.
<p>
Tucker believed that bankers' monopoly of the power to create credit and
currency is the linchpin of capitalism. Although he thought that all forms
of monopoly are detrimental to society, he maintained that the banking
monopoly is the worst, since it is the root from which both the
industrial-capitalist and landlordist monopolies grow and without which
they would wither and die. For, if credit were not monopolised, its price
(i.e. interest rates) would be much lower, which in turn would drastically
lower the price of capital goods, land, and buildings -- expensive items
that generally cannot be purchased without access to credit. The freedom
to squat empty land and buildings would, in the absence of a state to
protect titles, further contribute to the elimination of rent:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Ground rent exists only because the State stands by to collect it and to
protect land titles rooted in force or fraud. Otherwise land would be free
to all, and no one could control more than he used."</i> [quoted by James J.
Martin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 210]
</blockquote><p>
Following Proudhon, Tucker argued that if any group of people could
legally form a "mutual bank" and issue credit based on any form of
collateral they saw fit to accept, the price of credit would fall to the
labour cost of the paperwork involved in issuing and keeping track of it.
He claimed that banking statistics show this cost to be less than one
percent of principal, and hence, that a one-time service fee which covers
this cost and no more is the only <b>non-usurious</b> charge a bank can make
for extending credit. This charge should not be called "interest," since,
as it represented the labour-cost in providing, it is non-exploitative.
<p>
Tucker believed that under mutual banking, capitalists' ability to extract
surplus value from workers in return for the use of tools, machinery, etc.
would be eliminated because workers would be able to obtain zero-interest
credit and use it to buy their own instruments of production instead of
"renting" them, as it were, from capitalists. Easy access to mutual credit
would result in a huge increase in the purchase of capital goods, creating
a high demand for labour, which in turn would greatly increase workers'
bargaining power and thus raise their wages toward equivalence with the
value their labour produces. 
<p>
It's important to note that because of Tucker's proposal to increase 
the bargaining power of workers through access to mutual credit, his
individualist anarchism is not only compatible with workers' control 
but would in fact <b>promote</b> it (as well as logically requiring it). 
For if access to mutual credit were to increase the bargaining power of 
workers to the extent that Tucker claimed it would, they would then 
be able to: (1) demand and get workplace democracy; and (2) pool their 
credit to buy and own companies collectively. This would eliminate the 
top-down structure of the firm and the ability of owners to pay themselves 
unfairly large salaries as well as reducing capitalist profits to zero by 
ensuring that workers received the full value of their labour. Tucker
himself pointed this out when he argued that Proudhon (like himself) <i>"would 
individualise and associate"</i> workplaces by mutualism, which would <i>"place the 
means of production within the reach of all."</i> [quoted by Martin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, 
p. 228] Proudhon used the word <i>"associate"</i> to denote co-operative (i.e. 
directly democratic) workplaces (and given Proudhon's comments  - quoted 
in section <a href="secG2.html">G.2</a> - on capitalist firms we can dismiss any attempt to suggest 
that the term <i>"individualise"</i> indicates support for capitalist rather than artisan/peasant production, which is the classic example of individualised 
production). 
<p>
Thus the logical consequence of Tucker's proposals would be a system 
equivalent in most important respects to the kind of system advocated 
by other left libertarians - a system without wage slavery (and so 
exploitation) and with <i>"the greatest amount of liberty compatible 
with equality of liberty."</i> [Tucker, <b>Instead of a Book</b>, p. 131]
<p>
Tucker's ideal society was one of small entrepreneurs, farmers,
artisans, independent contractors and co-operative associations based
around a network of mutual banks. He looked to alternative institutions
such as co-operative banks and firms, schools and trade unions, combined
with civil disobedience in the form of strikes, general strikes, tax and 
rent strikes and boycotts to bring anarchism closer - <i>"strikes, whenever
and wherever inaugurated, deserve encouragement from all the friends of
labour. . . They show that people are beginning to know their rights, and
knowing, dare to maintain them."</i> [Tucker, <b>Liberty</b>, 15/4/1881] Echoing
Bakunin's thoughts on the subject, Tucker maintained that strikes should
be supported and encouraged because <i>"as an awakening agent, as an agitating 
force, the beneficent influence of a strike is immeasurable. . . with our 
present economic system almost every strike is just. For what is justice in 
production and distribution? That labour, which creates all, shall have 
<b>all.</b>"</i> [Tucker, <b>Liberty</b>, #19, 1882]
<p>
Like the anarcho-syndicalists and many other social anarchists, Tucker
considered Labour unions as a positive development, being a <i>"crude step 
in the direction of supplanting the State"</i> and involved a tendency <i>"for 
self-government on the part of the people, the logical outcome of which 
is ultimate revolt against those usurping political conspiracies"</i> and so
<i>"a potent sign of emancipation."</i> Indeed, he called the rise of the unions
<i>"trades-union socialism,"</i> saw in it <i>"an intelligent and self-governing
socialism"</i> and indicated that they <i>"promise the coming substitution of 
industrial socialism for usurping legislative mobism."</i> [<b>The Individualist 
Anarchists</b>, pp. 283-284] Hence we see the co-operative nature of the 
voluntary organisations supported by Tucker and a vision of socialism
being based on self-governing associations of working people.
<p>
In this way working people would reform capitalism away by non-violent 
social protest combined with an increase in workers' bargaining power by 
alternative voluntary institutions and free credit. Exploitation would be 
eliminated and workers would gain economic liberty (i.e. the full value 
of their labour and workers' control). He firmly believed that the <i>"most 
perfect Socialism is possible only on the condition of the most perfect 
individualism."</i> [cited by Peter Marshall, <b>Demanding the Impossible</b>, 
p. 390] In other words, Tucker <i>"remained a left rather than a right-wing 
libertarian."</i> [Peter Marshall, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 391]
<p>
There are, of course, many differences between the anarchism of, say, 
Bakunin and Kropotkin and that of Tucker. Tucker's system, for example, 
does retain some features usually associated with capitalism, such as 
competition between firms in a free market. However, the fundamental 
anarchist objection to capitalism is not that it involves markets but 
that it involves private property and wage slavery. Tucker's system was 
intended to eliminate both, which is why he called himself a socialist. 
This fact is overlooked by "anarcho"-capitalists who, in seeking to make 
Tucker one of their "founding fathers," point to the fact that he spoke 
of the advantages of owning "property." But it is apparent that by 
"property" he was referring to simple "possession" of land, tools, 
etc. by independent artisans, farmers, and co-operating workers (he 
used the word property <i>"as denoting the labourer's individual possession
of his product or his share of the joint product of himself and
others."</i> [Tucker, <b>Instead of a Book</b>, p. 394]. For, since Tucker 
saw his system as eliminating the ability of capitalists to maintain 
exploitative monopolies over the means of production, it is therefore 
true <b>by definition</b> that he advocated the elimination of "private 
property" in the capitalist sense.
<p>
Therefore, as can be seen, his views are directly opposed to those of right 
libertarians like Murray Rothbard, who advocate "absolute" property rights 
which are protected by laws enforced either by private security forces or 
a "night watchman state." This clearly indicates that Rothbard's claim to
have "modernised" Tucker's thought is <b>false</b> -- "ignored" or "changed" 
would be more appropriate. 
<p>
Thus, Tucker is clearly a left libertarian rather than a forefather of
right libertarianism. In this he comes close to what today would be called
a market socialist, albeit a non-statist variety. 
<p>
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