Libertarian Socialism: A Practical Outline : Chapter 1: Replacing the State

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(1895 - 1978) ~ CNT Radical, Anarcho-Syndicalist, and Spanish Civil War Historian : He was a French anarchist during the Spanish Civil War and was the son of a French Communard. Leval, himself was a French anarcho-syndicalist militant and a participant in the foundation congress of the Red International of Labor Unions from June-August 1921. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "...the Spanish Libertarian workers co-ordinate and rationalize production in a much more satisfactory way than Capitalism had done. And I lay special stress on the disappearance of small unhealthy and costly workshops and factories, besides the correct use of machinery for the work most suited to it." (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)
• "The methodical police terror, the [Bolshevik] Party's tightening grip upon the whole of social life, the systematic annihilation of all non-Bolshevik currents, the no less systematic extermination of all revolutionaries who thought along lines different from those of the new masters, and indeed the eradication of every hint of dissent within the Party all proved that we were on the road to a new despotism that was not merely political but also intellectual, mental and moral, reminiscent of the darkest days of the Middle Ages." (From : "Anarchists Behind Bars," by Gaston Leval, Summer,....)
• "...the means of production remained unused in the barns of the rich, whilst the poor peasants worked the land with roman plows drawn by worn out donkeys and mules!" (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)


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Chapter 1: Replacing the State


For many people the biggest problem of all is how to build Socialism with an organic national structure that would replace the state and the government. For them, these two different institutions—one is the crown of the other—only play a harmful and anti-social role. But they also perform a useful function, and not to acknowledge this is to display an unfortunate ignorance and an irrational or blind prejudice.

Those who think in this way are, to a certain extent, correct. The state and the government have committed incomparable evils in various human societies, by way of war, taxation, political oppression, support for the exploiters of the masses, a hypertrophied bureaucracy, tyranny of every kind and the apparatus of repression funded and maintained by the latter.

Often, however, they also performed or were the origin of useful activities: such was the case of Louis XIV and Napoleon, under whom the state nonetheless committed so many atrocities, with regard to the construction of highways, roads, and bridges, connecting regions and cities; the construction of canals and irrigation projects; the organization of public sanitation services, primary, secondary and higher education, which had arisen without their help, but which they reinforced; reforestation; aid to the poorest regions—all thanks to tax revenues. All of these things represent a positive role of the state, one that is relatively reduced under the impact of the its negative role, since one year of war destroys more than was built in twenty years of peace, and the state’s role in the economy is becoming so expensive that if all domestic activities were nationalized, bankruptcy would soon ensue.

And this is not taking into account, besides, the ruinous devaluations, or the fraudulent bankruptcies that have taken place throughout history. The example of the franc reduced to less than two centimes in value after 1914, is proof enough. If France, after 1914—and the same thing happened in the other nations—was capable of overcoming its difficulties and amassing wealth once again, it was because of the labor of its peasants and agriculture as a whole, of the workers and industry as a whole, of the technicians and engineers, because of the labor of those who built factories, workshops and laboratories, toiling, often in obscurity, but effectively, and endlessly creating; and also because of those who organized the exchange and the circulation of commodities and monetary values.

In this country, after 1945, fifteen million producers—we shall exclude the five million parasites—have spearheaded economic progress, assuring the population’s existence. Nor was the state idle in the meantime. It intervened, especially in order to extract, by means of an often crippling tax policy, thirty, forty or even fifty percent of the national income, and in exchange has given the nation no more than ten percent of the useful things it possesses.

The period of prodigious development of Europe and North America was that of the liberal economy. The “laissez faire, laissez passer” of the first school of economics formed in France—that of the Physiocrats—was directed at the state, which was encouraged to abolish customs barriers, restrictions, regulations and a large part of the tax burden that so inhibited the development of agriculture, industry and commerce. The state collaborated by abstaining from intervention. Today, the reconstruction of the German economy, which is undoubtedly the most spectacular phenomenon of the postwar era,[2] has been made possible thanks to the liberal economy, in which the state does not intervene.

And throughout the history of the European nations, and that of Republican Rome, ancient China, the Middle East, the Persian, Roman or Byzantine Empires, the periods of prosperity have corresponded with periods when the state refrained from intervening in the economy as much as possible, and those which collapsed fell as a consequence of the stagnation or the paralyzes caused by the ruinous triumph of statism.

We shall not overlook all the other aspects of the liberal economy: the division of society into hostile social classes, the shameless exploitation of the disinherited by the privileged, terrible economic crises, wars. These same evils, however, have always been caused by the state as well, and at least the liberal economy has succeeded, as we pointed out, in developing the wealth of nations. The most important problem is that of an improved distribution of the goods produced; the social justice that statism can by no means assure. We shall merely recall at this point that, apart from the public services that have been, on a local scale, the work of the municipalities, the state has not been necessary in ninety percent of the creative activities of society.

Why, then, should everything go off the rails if it disappears? Why cannot the ten percent about which we spoke above be organized without the state?

We must therefore destroy this deeply rooted illusion that maintains that economic relations are, in their totality, organized, regulated, and coordinated by the government and the state and that the disappearance of the latter will lead to general paralyzes or chaos in the production and distribution of consumption and production goods; in short, in everything that is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of life.

Whoever examines the functioning of the economy in capitalist society will observe that the major industrial sectors regulate their mutual relations in accordance with voluntarily established practice, and have often done so for centuries. A mine or a mining corporation provides, thanks to the capital that it has been able to generate, and thanks to the engineers and the miners, the iron ore to the steel companies that were formed a long time ago, without the state’s interference, now or the in the past. These huge forges, these furnaces, these cable or rolled steel factories, ship sheet metal, tubes, ingots or bars of iron, all the prepared raw materials, to hundreds of enterprises, warehouses, and workshops that comprise their regular customer base. These factories and workshops manufacture or assemble machinery, utensils, equipment and other finished products that are distributed to multiple retailers in a certain territory. An enormous sector of activity has thus been constituted, together with many others, and like them it is a living, active whole in full expansion.

In all of this the state—as always—has only intervened in order to collect taxes.

The same picture can be replicated for all industrial activities. From the acquisition of the raw material to its preparation and transformation into articles of use, it is by means of the coordinated activity of men and groups of men that the production and distribution of the most important goods and services have been carried out unremittingly.

The same situation, even more characteristically, prevails in agriculture, which was born long before industry, and which has developed in accordance with its own efforts. It is true that now, in a country like France, the farmers request state assistance in the face of the need for the rapid progress that is required to keep pace with the rhythm of the modern economy. In countries like those of Northern Europe, however, and especially as a result of the activities of the cooperatives, the peasants, thanks to their concerted efforts, have achieved admirable progress. And experience proves that the state intervention that generally leads to protectionism is, in the final accounting, by no means a real factor that contributed to this progress. Is state intervention such a factor, for example, in the United States, where the stocks of accumulated wheat, thanks to government subsidies, are estimated to amount to hundreds of millions of bushels and represent a value of three billion dollars, from which no one benefits?

It is true that with regard to economic activities, the state has sometimes intervened to ensure the quality of commodities (this is what the corporations of the Middle Ages did, in another era). In a socialized society, however, fraud will no longer have any reason to exist, and specialized organizations will be responsible for assuring the quality of the products of labor.

Contrary, then, to what is generally believed, and for the purpose of preparing henceforth for the relations of the future, far from provoking economic collapse and chaos, libertarian socialization will lead to the establishment of a hitherto-unprecedented order. Even though liberal capitalism and the bourgeois economy have created the world as it is by themselves, with the results we have summarized, we are still far distant from the rational organization that common sense would assume is necessary to avoid waste and misuse of resources, to satisfy the needs of all.

We therefore foresee a Society in which all activities will be coordinated, a structure that has, at the same time, sufficient flexibility to permit the greatest possible autonomy for social life, or for the life of each enterprise, and enough cohesiveness to prevent all disorder. However, and we must insist on this point, this new creation will not be a substitute for the state, except insofar as it assumes responsibility for certain public services. For it was not the state that made possible the mining of sand, of rock, of limestone, that manufactured of plaster and cement, bricks, tiles, or that cut down trees and transported lumber, or the metal framing, glass, lead pipes, locks, or that framed, installed doors and windows to build houses.

In a well-organized society, all of these things must be systematically accomplished by means of parallel federations, vertically united at the highest levels, constituting one vast organism in which all economic functions will be performed in solidarity with all others and that will permanently preserve the necessary cohesion.

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November 30, 1958 :
Chapter 1: Replacing the State -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:56:20 :
Chapter 1: Replacing the State -- Added to


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