Libertarian Socialism: A Practical Outline : Chapter 6: Public Services

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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 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.)
• "...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.)


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Chapter 6: Public Services


Public services play a major, and constantly expanding, role in the life of civilized nations. One need only consider the scale of the entire educational establishment (primary, secondary, and higher technical instruction), sanitation and health care, public welfare, railroads, and highways, to get an idea of how large a role they play. So, all of these services are performed and must not cease to be performed. How should we approach the problem of replacing their current forms of administration and direction with a new kind of administrative and directive system?

Let us once again take a few examples. Today, the primary schools and all preschool organizations are either in the hands of the state, or else in those of the municipalities. The Ministry of Public Education supplies, thanks to direct and indirect tax revenues, the money necessary for their functioning. The municipalities only provide a smaller share of their funding requirements.

The first and most important problem that will be posed during the revolutionary period is that of keeping all the members of the teaching profession at their posts.

Teachers, professors, teaching assistants, proctors, etc.; we know that all of them are paid, whether with money that comes from the state budget, or with money from the municipalities. We must also consider the private schools which, in France, go by the inaccurate name of “free” schools, most of which are financed by the Catholic Church, which obtains the money for these schools by all sorts of means.

So, first of all, the preservation of the teaching profession requires that all of its members and all auxiliary personnel must be regularly paid.

This payment will be made in accordance with the methods we have already outlined for the distribution of the “wage fund”, or “purchasing power”, to all the inhabitants of the country. The professors, teachers, assistants, etc., will be paid during the first stage of the revolution by what will remain of the state apparatus, which will have to be used at least provisionally.

It is true that a social revolution entails, among its most immediate consequences, the nonpayment of taxes. This financial problem can only be resolved by the monetary currency issued by the revolution, and by the issue of “fiat money”, so often practiced in capitalist society. This enforced channeling of money will be applied thanks to official and compulsory prices for commodities.

Paper money will therefore have value, because this value will be backed up by the goods produced by society.

The organization of education will be, above all, the work of the professors and teachers. There are numerous teachers associations. The Ministry of Public Education also possesses all, or almost all, the statistics and data necessary to coordinate both secondary as well as higher education. On the other hand, more than half the technical education in France is carried out in private institutions, which proves that it is by no means necessary to call upon the state to organize it.[11] The same thing is true with regard to twenty percent of the primary schools, currently in the hands of the Catholic Church, which shows us that it is possible to organize this kind of education, as well, without the state.

This fact was also proved, prior to the French Revolution, when the lower clergy organized the primary schools.

Now, the National Trade Union of Teachers, and the powerful National Federation of Education, which has two hundred thirty thousand members in the teaching profession, constitute, throughout the country, a more than sufficient framework to assure the continued functioning of all the schools, and especially as a means to coordinate this continued functioning. Here, once again with regard to practical organization, a fundamental problem is posed, that of decentralization. In France there are thirty-eight thousand municipalities, of which thirty-seven thousand five hundred have less than ten thousand inhabitants.

Even if it takes place within the framework of a certain accepted general plan, to the extent that such a plan is necessary, the organization of the schools can and must be decentralized, in accordance with local and regional needs.

This will be all the more easily accomplished once education no longer relies on the state budget. Above all, this is why it had allowed itself to be placed under government control in the first place. The municipalities often do not possess, and were even less likely to do so in the past, the means to pay for the construction of schools, teachers’ salaries, and the purchase and replacement of teaching materials. The state took their place. It also did so when the local initiative was lacking, as was so often the case. Today, the initiative is not lacking. And it will be even less likely to be lacking when the revolution takes place, because revolutions have always been preoccupied with the development of education.

The teachers having been paid, the books having been supplied by the presses of the Printers Federation, the equipment having been supplied by the specialized workshops, linked by their respective federations, the latter will organize the operation of the schools throughout the land, with the participation of the teachers, the municipal delegates, the representatives of the parents and the former students. In the big cities, this system could be administered on a neighborhood scale. Education will therefore be transformed into a real public service.

As for the universities, we must first recall that, for many centuries, in France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Bohemia, Spain, England, the Netherlands, etc., they were founded and operated as private enterprises, and that their incorporation into the state apparatus is a relatively recent phenomenon. Currently, in the United States, more than half of the universities are funded and operated by private enterprise, compete with the state universities and show that it is possible to maintain and develop institutions of higher learning without the state, institutions that society and humanity needs so badly.

Let us now consider hospital services, with reference to the question of public health. We shall first of all point out that, in countries like Russia—which we refer to without taking as a model—and England, health care is nationalized. This trend towards nationalization is constantly expanding, since it has been understood, due to the development of civilization, that health is an individual right and a collective duty, and that it must be guaranteed by a collective organization, one that is as coordinated as effectively as possible.

On the one hand, this impulse can come from above, from a Health Care Federation, for example, that includes doctors, professors, bacteriologists, radiologists, specialists of all kinds and various categories of paraprofessionals. Each specialty could constitute a section, just as in the industrial federations each trade constitutes its own section and the Federation embraces the entire territory and the whole population in order to effectively allocate the respective services and respond to general needs, with the greatest possible economy.

For example, the construction of more sanatoria than the country needs should be prevented; and in every city, it will be necessary to organize the various requisite clinics, equitably distributing them throughout the city, but no more than are necessary.

The network of hospitals and miscellaneous health care facilities must also respond to an indispensable process of planning, which will rule out improvization and isolated initiatives.

Nor will this coordination be a form of centralization. Here as well we will have to decentralize, as much as possible. Health care, and the hospital services, must be, to a great extent, organized, controlled and directed by local initiative. They already are. They could be much more decentralized. First, because their reason for existence is to safeguard the public health, drinking water, domestic hygiene, the sewage system, and general cleanliness. Secondly, because it is with reference to the local living conditions that the public health services must be organized. Vaccines could be shipped from Paris from the Pasteur Institute. It is impossible to foresee what measures will be imposed, depending on how polluted the local water supply is, the heredity of the inhabitants, or the accidental emergence of one or another focal point of infectious disease. And even with regard to the treatment of epidemics, which must be very strictly coordinated, the practical measures to be applied have a purely local character.

An overall plan and decentralization can therefore go perfectly hand in hand and can be fuzed together in federalist planning. This recalls the public health organization that the Spanish libertarian revolution—in which municipally based public education spread everywhere—had begun to construct. In the Spanish Revolution, small hospitals or clinics were prudently distributed throughout the countryside, so that each one served a certain number of small villages, and none of the latter were without the necessary means to care for the sick, even in the most isolated hamlets. In addition to doctors, to whom very strictly demarcated sectors were assigned, these institutions assured the provision of necessary treatments for those patients who were transported to them in vehicles from the local collectives.

At the next level there is the cantonal (a political-geographical term) hospital. Each Canton will have its own hospital, which will be better organized and larger than the institutions at the first level, possessing technical equipment and often the most highly skilled specialists, doctors and surgeons. When a “Canton” has too many towns, naturally, two such hospitals will be built.

Finally, each provincial capital will contain, depending on its size, one or more hospitals where not only the local patients will be treated, but also those who require special care from a leading doctor or an outstanding surgeon.

In France there is an organization that is in part comparable to our conception, but only in part. It is far from embracing the entire population. It was in Spain, above all, that this activity was socialized, without the state, and in its entirety formed a solidaric whole, from the illustrious professor to the most humble invalid, along with the midwives and the dentists. A great deal is therefore possible with regard to this question. It would be sufficient for the members of the medical professions to agree to participate in such an enterprise and, faithful to their mission and to the Hippocratic oath, put their social and human mission above all other considerations. Those who are not profiteers will then see that this mission can be much more effectively pursued in a society that is completely organized for the good of its members, than in a society where the defense of health is only assured to people in accordance with the amount of money they have.

If we consider the railroads, they have already been fully organized, and we need only assure this organization’s continuity and functioning. Certain modifications will undoubtedly be necessary, but this will not pose serious problems like those of the industries that need raw materials, often on a daily basis, which come from distant regions, and which must ship their finished products to all the geographical regions of the country.

The problem that will have to be addressed is that of the coordination of the means of transportation, particularly the coordination of the railroads, the highways, the river and canal networks and aviation.

In capitalist society, these elements not only compete with one another, but also duplicate services, with a senseless waste of human effort, materials and energy. It is imperative that these four means of transportation should be rationally organized in accordance with the needs of the travelers and the shipping requirements for commodities, so that they complement one another. Today, the canal system, which plays an enormous role in the economy of the north of France, is neglected by the state, in favor of the railroads, because the latter have been nationalized, and the business of the state is, above all, to feather its own nest. In the future transformation, the measures that will be implemented will be determined in accordance with necessities that will emerge from careful studies.

As of this moment, however, we can see that the necessary scheduling implies a centralized organization of the federative type. It is not the base, it is not each rail station, each rail hub, that must direct the organization of the trains, the transport priorities and the freight schedules.

Likewise, river and canal navigation as well, determined by the commodities that must be transported and sent to various destinations, depending on the needs of the country’s economy, require a general managerial center, based on the data that comes from the base—and we may, in this respect, speak of a federalist centralism.

Motorized transport, which has acquired such importance, will have more autonomy. The range of trucks is often local or relatively short, as is that of buses. In these cases, the scheduling will often be locally determined, but will also be indispensable, and will naturally be imposed as well, on urban transport. Railroads, river and canal navigation, highway transportation, and aviation show us how four parallel and complementary activities form a single whole that, united in a general Federation of transport, will coordinate their efforts in conformance with the general interest of the entire population.

(Chart 4. The Organization of the National Economy.)

General Confederation of the Economy

Confederation of Agriculture

Federal Committees of Agriculture

Confederation of Industry

Federal Committees of Industry

Public Services



Education(Chart omitted)

From :


November 30, 1958 :
Chapter 6: Public Services -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:59:19 :
Chapter 6: Public Services -- Added to

January 09, 2020 12:59:29 :
Chapter 6: Public Services -- Last Updated on


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