Anarcho-Communism

Originally Published: June 4th, 2016

Anarcho-Communism, to summarize, is the direct application of communist theory. It proposes that the state is so intertwined into the ruling class that it itself is an evil, and the inherent existence of the state decays under all systems, and therefore must be removed so as to uphold the rights of the proletariat under socialism. This essay serves to explain the theory and, in parallel, provide a critique.
Anarchist communism, as it is most advocated, is based around the central theory of the separation of the individual from society which develops under capitalism. This idea asserts that the individual, when shrouded by the concept of competition under market systems, is alienated from society under the pretense of society being a sort of enemy to his own interest. That is, as long as society acts contrary to the individual, the individual cannot accept society. The destruction of this phenomenon is done, primarily, through the introduction of the gift economy.

The gift economy is predicated upon the idea of consensual mutual-aid.  It rejects the idea of currency in place of a barter system in which commodities are directly traded for other commodities which have been consensually assumed as equivalent in value. Labour under this system is performed based upon the aforementioned idea of mutual aid. The labourer carries out his labour, and is compensated through the transaction of commodities deemed consensually equivalent. Return upon labour, however, is not always immediate, as it is considered an investment into society, which would be returned through the action of society’s greater productive force.

The aforementioned theory, however, is sometimes considered primitive in anarchist circles. Most have shifted to a more Kropotkinist view of the economic system, which, while still based on the gift economy, revises the theory to abolish private property in exchange for transferring property into the hands of the commons and therefore redistributing goods through horizontal voluntary associations based upon the needs of an individual, the base axiom of this system being “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Through limiting production by bosses and restrictions upon the producer and limiting consumption through the quantification of price, Kropotkin asserted, that the true power of the labour force was being limited. By unrestricting them, an abundance of goods would be created, and this abundance would be used to supply all people of the community with the goods they need. This reforms the consensual barter system into a consensual agreement system, where a transaction is based upon contribution to society being repaid through assurance of goods provided through other contributions to society, a much purer idea of mutual-aid.

My main criticism of this system is based on its lack of transitionary state in place of immediate abolition of the state. The gift economy is a very idealistic view of economics, based around the idea that people will be looking out for the economy and society as a whole rather than themselves. The rejection of the market economy on the anarchist’s part rejects any sort of guiding force under the market. Competition is replaced by a symbiotic consumer-producer relationship which is simply unproven to provide any sort of organic productive incentive. And that is where the largest fall lays: incentive. Entrusting producers to work for the greater good is as large a trust as capitalism holds in the consumer to act for the good of the market. There is no incentive to produce good work, there is only incentive to produce work, considering anarcho-communism rejects the labour theory of value’s emphasis upon social forces in exchange for qualitative forces. Any one person can reap the societal production, and alienation is scrutinized as discriminatory in anarchist circles. The system is based on a hope in the good of humanity, a hope which just may be stretching too far. The only way this system could possibly be normalized is through the existence of a transitionary state, and a cultural revolution alongside that state. Humanity’s nature must be reformed in order to fit the guidelines of the anarcho-communist economy, but this reform would never possibly occur organically. Without a transitionary state, the idea of anarcho-communism is little more than farcical idealism.
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2 thoughts on “Anarcho-Communism

  1. I agree with your criticism of anarchal communist transition to an organic gift economy, might I suggest a system in which workers are compensated both through their wages (which could democratically fluctuate according to company needs), and a percentage of their surplus value above 50% (though ownership of the company would still be valued equally at full). This provides a flexible company structure that provides workers with incentives to work harder.

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    • I see where you are coming from and, to start, I should note that I think my criticism was oversimplified (this is an old essay). Your alternative is akin to social democratic styles of workplace compensation and, while respectable when compared to more right-wing models, it kind of ignores exploitation theory. Surplus value is a construction that comes about *through* exploitation. It is the value that is not returned to the worker through the wage, and by extending it to the worker as a component of the wage you’re simply cutting the returns the capitalist receives from his or her exploitation. Really the idea boils down to smaller profits for the owner and a mildly less exploited worker, which is a model that has worked well in creating a more egalitarian workplace in capitalist societies themselves, but would be just that (capitalism) when a Marxist or communist lens is applied to it. Not to mention, I have my own views on the concept of a “wage” anyhow, but that’s for another time. Interesting idea though, I’m glad you brought it up!

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