libertarian socialism

JessEcoh at JessEcoh at
Sun Oct 1 12:06:20 PDT 2000

In a message dated 9/30/00 4:57:59 PM Central Daylight Time, JKSCHW at writes:

> You say we need
> to think beyond a situation where domination exists, to where there will
> no subordinate and dominant groupsm and Ia gree there too. But none of
> means that in the world as we know it we should not fight for the state to
> give us more of a welfare state, better antidiscrimination laws, etc. That
> was my point. Calling for the state to just back off here and now is
> counterproductive. We want the state to do things _for the oppressed_.
> is only part of fighting for a day when there are no more oppressed for
> state to help.

as long as states are around, they ought to be made not only to "do [more] things for the oppressed" but to be made more responsive and accountable to the populace, to everyone; that is, they ought to be made more democratic, more open to intervention by ordinary people on their own behalf, rather than indirectly via their "representatives." attempts to do the one (getting the state to deliver more goods to those in need) without doing the other (giving people more direct control over the state) are arguably not very useful, since they can always be reversed by whoever is the next to take command of the apparatus. as murray bookchin says, a typical maneuver of politicians (as the practicioners of "Statecraft," the art of running a state, as opposed to "politics," the art whereby a polis manages itself) is to deflect popular demands for "freedom" (self-management) into demands for "justice" (redistribution of goods).

obviously both freedom and justice are needed, but bookchin's point stands. without advances in freedom, advances in justice are a.) harder to achieve in the first place and b.) impossible to maintain and defend. at the same time, perversely, the managers of the state will always prefer, when challenged by an angry populace, to offer redistributive justice rather than open the state to the least popular intervention, for direct democracy would ultimately mean abolishing the function of the managers as supposed "representatives" of the popular will.

some would say that this suggests a twofold strategy for making social change. as i think howard zinn put it, we can try "grab the levers of power" whenever possible, and force the state both to do justice and to open itself to further intervention (providing more "levers" for people to "grab," and preventing the state from suppressing peoples' attempts at self-organization outside the state, e.g. progressively scaling back military and police forces); at the same time, we can build forms of popular power which are organized outside the state, e.g. neighborhood assemblies and workplace-based councils, in which people can make (and eventually enforce) decisions in a more truly democratic manner. we might even, as bookchin has urged, find ways to force the state to cede more and more power *to* these organs of popular power, until popular power grows strong enough to challenge the power of the state. at that point, a confrontation will ensue... hopefully by then we will have succeeded in defanging the state of its means of violence enough to ensure that whatever army and police forces are left give in (defect, surrender) without putting up too much of a fight...

that's the only sort of revolution i see much hope for.


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