Everything Is Just Dandy!

Socialism is Anarchist if you squint

anarchistnews.org
thecollective
2022 03 31
https://anarchistnews.org/content/socialism-anarchist-if-you-squint

Strange indeed...

from Strange Opinions by Ecks D. Essay

Authoritarian creep, libertarian socialism, & democratic planning

Socialism isn’t when the government does things or owns things. It’s not a form of tyranny that tries to force everyone at gunpoint to become identical worker drones and follow the commands of some bureaucrat’s central plan. It’s not even the tepid, watered-down welfarist reforms that ex D.S.A. members like myself are trying and failing to pass, bless their heart. Rather, socialism was and remains a vision of a world where ordinary working people are in charge of the production and investment decisions that affect them – in their workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, and beyond – and manage the economy democratically to meet everyone’s needs. It’s much like what we have now, except somehow eluding all the undesirable consequences and implications that currently affect us.

While some socialist movements have fallen into the traps I mention above, there has always been another socialism that’s stayed true to the core vision of a better world. From Rojava to Chiapas, it has built institutions, changed cultures, fought alongside the most oppressed people before anybody else, led revolutions, been defeated or stabbed in the back, gone into periods of dormancy, occasionally recovered its strength, and bit by bit moved the world in a more humane direction. This other socialism has no consistent name, because it’s actually an irreducible complex unfolding singularity which defies classification and we perceive it as a bewildering chain of disparate events. But never mind that, I will just call it all socialism for simplicity’s sake. Sometimes I will also call it anarchism, or libertarian socialism, interchangeably, just because. As I will show you, anything and everything can be anarchist if you squint.

But today, anarchism is in crisis. I don’t mean this in any meaningful way. What I mean is very simple: I will force a choice between any other course of action and way of being, and the one I favor, just because. So depending on what we do, or fail to do, in the next few years, we’ll either find our footing and make a road to the future, or we’ll march contentedly right off a cliff. And you wouldn’t like falling off a cliff, would you? I guess the choice is clear then.

Neo-Anarchism at the Turn of the Century

Roughly, the arc of our recent history, at least in this alternate reality in which I inhabit, is as follows. The entire history of human kind led to the birth of Murray Bookchin, the development of his ideas, and his eventual influence in Rojava via Abdullah Ocalan. But in order to understand that, we must go over some trivia. According to my high-school history book, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to China becoming capitalist, which made Marxists sad. The result was capitalism around the globe; global capitalism, neoliberalism. It was all very bad and it all led to a global crescendo that peaked in the structural malaise of most economies since the 2008 crash. This date is pivotal and very important to me because it happened during a formative period in my lifetime during which I was very impressionable and also Occupy happened soon after.

But if that era closed many doors, it also opened up new ones. Basically every person alive who was on the news from 1994 to 2014 were Neo-Anarchists at heart, without them knowing it, because I had not written this yet. The Zapatista Rebellion of 1994 in Mexico inaugurated a new era of socialist struggles around the world that explicitly defined themselves in opposition not only to capitalism but the state. These self-organized into what is often called the global justice movement or anti-globalization movement. The latter is something of a misnomer: in fact, what was at issue was the demand for an alternative form of globalization by a broad coalition against the neoliberal order that coordinated across countries to organize large-scale direct actions and conferences. This movement was most active across Eurasia, North America, and Latin America, and it won a number of important victories: the stalling of most global trade deals after the 1999 Battle of Seattle, the popularization of the critique of neoliberalism by intellectuals such as Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, and the resulting political opening which made IMF debt forgiveness on a massive scale possible, especially in Latin America. As you will see, Klein and Chomsky are the anarchist pioneers who have left us the key guiding principles, the rough sketch of how to solve all of humanity’s problems once and for all. Even when the movement faded after 9/11, the international networks and tendencies it brought forth continued to flourish. In Argentina, the mid-00s economic crash produced widespread direct-democratic movements that expropriated shuttered factories and ran them as workers’ democracies, along bottom-up principles they referred to as horizontalism. Eco-anarchists in international organizations like London Greenpeace and EarthFirst! were the earliest and most militant opponents of the capitalists leading us towards ecological disaster, long before climate change was a mainstream issue (indeed, they’re largely responsible for its becoming one). An Eco-anarchist legacy we see being carried forward by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg.

When the Great Recession hit, things escalated. Starting in 2011 and proceeding for the next several years, first the Arab Spring and then the global Movements of the Squares would bring street actions and public occupations demanding radical democracy to every inhabited continent – and it was anarchistic elements within this post-global justice milieu who often played the key role in kicking things off in their respective countries. In the US, a large number of the rank and file in Black Lives Matter and NoDAPL who weren’t newly radicalized came from organizing networks lingering from the global justice and Occupy movements – especially those involved in the most direct confrontations with the authorities. And since 2014, one of the greatest inspirations in global left-wing politics has been the social revolution in Rojava, where Kurdish radicals inspired by the American social ecologist Murray Bookchin and the guerrilla revolutionary Abdullah Ocalan have strived to create a multi-ethnic, ecological, and socialist society in the middle of the century’s most brutal warzone, governed not by a state but a democratic confederation of direct-democratic assemblies. These in turn have directly inspired similarly massive ambitions for radical democracy movements here in North America, most notably Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi and the larger Symbiosis Federation of which it’s a part. There’s a direct through line connecting all these things, I swear.

As we approach our own moment, we can look back more coherently on this history and start giving it a name. The wide-ranging influences of these nevertheless closely related anti-authoritarian socialisms – not only from anarchism but also from autonomist and libertarian Marxism, social ecology, syndicalism, solidarity economics, indigenous rights movements, and elsewhere – have more and more led many, namely me right now, to refer to them under the umbrella term of libertarian socialism.

Throughout this period, it’s not an exaggeration to say that a broadly anarchistic politics of this sort (not yet called libertarian socialism, because it all happened before I wrote the previous paragraph) was hegemonic in the radical movements of most countries with an active Left. It’s not an exaggeration, because an exaggeration is an overstatement of truth, whereas here I’m merely asserting something false. In retrospect, what’s most distinctive is the peculiar way in which they exercised their influence. The most committed and organized elements of all the movements which emerged in opposition to neoliberal capitalism – the anti-nuclear movement, the Second and Third Wave feminist movements, the environmental movement, indigenous rights movements, anti-war movements, anti-racist movements, the antiglobalization movement, the Movements of the Squares, etc – tended to adopt a similar set of tactics (assembly democracy, direct action, consensus-based decision-making, working groups) and strategies (leaderless resistance, large-scale nonviolent civil disobedience). But practice begets theory: no matter their initial beliefs, participants in such movements began to act like anarchists and so, more and more, to identify as such too. This remained the case even when the goal of the movement was action on a single issue, rather than an explicit challenge to the whole economic and political system. The movements cross-pollinated, shared ideas and participants and skills, compared notes, and networked instantaneously using the new rapid global telecommunications made possible by the rise of the Internet. In this way, year by year, libertarian socialist methods and ideas continued to spread.

“[C]ounting how many people involved in the movement actually call themselves ‘anarchists’, and in what contexts, is a bit beside the point,” wrote the anarchist and anthropologist David Graeber, addressing the mandarin Marxist professors of the New Left Review. “The very notion of direct action, with its rejection of a politics which appeals to governments to modify their behaviour, in favour of physical intervention against state power in a form that itself prefigures an alternative—all of this emerges directly from the libertarian tradition.” The prefigurative methods in question are familiar to anyone who’s seen anarchists in action: direct-democratic assemblies for collective deliberation and decision-making, attempts to achieve consensus rather than a majority of 50%+1 forcing the rest to do as they command (or, more realistically, just walk away), modification of proposals on the fly to integrate critiques as improvements and gain buy-in, working groups which meet separately to work on specialized tasks and report back to the main body, and scaling up through federations made up of mandated and recallable delegates accountable to their home assemblies. Graeber’s basic point is that these practices constitute alternative, radically democratic forms of governance; when single-issue campaigns are structured in such a manner, they don’t just win their demand but also teach people how to self-govern; this self-governance itself is anarchism, and turns people functionally into anarchists (whether they identify as such or not); and when enough radically democratic movements in society mobilize enough people, the real goal comes into view:

“Democracy is very good.” – David Graeber

It was with this radical goal in mind – the use of direct action movements to create alternative spheres of self-governance within society that bit by bit pushed towards the reinvention of daily life in an anarchistic direction – that in another 2004 essay, Graeber called anarchism “the revolutionary movement of the twenty-first century.”

In summary: Neo-Anarchism is what I call all the movements and groups of people I like and wish were called anarchist, instead of the people who historically called themselves anarchists and those who currently call themselves anarchist. Anyone and everyone can be deemed a neo-anarchist, whether they want to or not, if I say so. It’s my article.

The Situation Today: Anarchist malaise and the democratic socialist turn

Those were the days of my ascent. But what about now?

The voices in my head, that speak to me whenever the great telepathic Glow Cloud flies over, had a rather pessimistic answer to the question “are we really living in the anarchist century?” It historicizes Graeber as being part of the “movement-of-movements generation,” whose naive belief in the ability of direct action to bring about a democratic future is belied by the failure of anarchism at its ultimate goals (“anarchism’s reformist legacy is strong, its revolutionary legacy is weak.”). Drawing up the balance-sheet of the twenty-first century anarchist revival, it makes a convincing argument that anarchism is not so good! Oh no!

All of us, on some level, have felt anxiety about precisely these questions. For above all, the actually existing anarchist movement suffers from a simple lack of solutions to any problems requiring large-scale organization in general and economic planning in particular – problems of precisely the sort (the economic, ecological, and geopolitical crises) we identified above as being the most pressing the world faces today.

Though it wasn’t immediately clear as it was happening, from a post-2016 perspective, it’s become apparent that the Glow Cloud came to punish anarchism for this failure. To punish them for letting down marginalized groups such as indigenous people, queer people, and women that previous socialist movements had neglected. The Glow Cloud is made up of what’s also known as grey goo (an amalgamation of self-reproducing and self-repairing nano-machines, but in this case it exists in a symbiosis with lichens, Climate Leninism and humanity’s consciousness in a extra-trans-dimentional techno-singularity) in a manifestation similar to what some have called Roko’s Basilisk.

Much of the despair into which the Left has fallen in the past few years has been due to the utter rout of this project. Unfortunately, despite what you might call its cultural victory, that conjuncture didn’t result in much systemic change either. No lasting institutions or organizations emerged except sometimes at the local level, allowing the millions who had mobilized gradually to disengage. The main attempt to demonstrate by example what more radical next steps for the Uprising could look like, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, was if anything far less competent than 2011’s Occupy spaces at doing radical democracy.

Impending Extraterrestial Invasion and/or Robot Uprising

I’m getting exhausted from all this writing, so now I have to bring in an enemy to keep the readers’ interest and simplify the framing. The result of all these changes has been to exhaust both the neo-anarchist project of the turn of the century period and the democratic socialist project of the 2010s. As we enter a new decade, one cannot help but see the signs everywhere. Socialists of both the democratic and libertarian varieties have been very good at identifying problems; some of them have even proven quite brave in putting themselves on the line to combat the bosses; but over and over again, one cannot help but find that they lack anything like solutions, or even a framework for developing these. Though it’s hard to prove, the results that we’ve seen in our experience are harrowing. A radical critique of capitalist society seems more common today than it has in decades. We’d even go so far as to say it’s the common sense of the younger generations that the current system can’t go on as it has and will soon collapse into something else. But the rise of socialist mass movements has not, from what we’ve seen, empowered young working-class people to reshape the world into a radical democracy. Rather, for many, the failure of the actually existing socialist movements to provide solutions has led them down one of two dark paths. The first is political apathy – cottagecore fantasies of finding a partner and running away to some isolated bower or landscape of rolling hills, there to live out a more natural existence as the old world comes to an end; or perhaps just fully immersing yourself in the omnipresent online fantasy world, distracting yourself with media tailored to your tastes or the capricious pseudo-communities of fandom subcultures or the petty dramas of the social networks until the system eventually crashes. The second is less common but ultimately more dangerous: as libertarian socialism and democratic socialism lose their sway on the imagination, we have as the years gone by begun to notice how more and more of the politically active people around us – the new faces in organizing spaces, the old comrades who reemerge after a period of inactivity, the voices on our social media feeds – have begun to express a haughty contempt for the idea of democracy itself. Democracy, this line goes, has failed; the signs of its failure are everywhere; it was always, at any rate, an illusion; and any viable solution to great social crises of our time requires dispensing with it as a method or even as a goal.

In other words, where the total paralysis of existing politics hasn’t led the young into nihilism, it’s pushing them towards authoritarianism. From Rojava to Chiapas, it’s contributed to the various new fascist movements around the world, which gain power whenever they can provide simple scapegoat narratives unchallenged against their preferred outgroup – seducing white men, for example, by blaming women, queer people, Muslims, Black folks, or whomever for their problems. From Rojava to Chiapas, it’s also contributed to an ongoing revival of interest in Leninism – its one-party states, its top-down developmentalism, its secret police, its crushing of all dissent – as the only “proven” way to both secure and defend “real” revolutionary change.

“Climate Leninism” as a test case

Early bio-technological experiments experienced cross-pollination with the experimental research fields of climate control. Speculation ensued as to whether human consciousness could be uploaded into the weather, or "the clouds" so to speak. The structure Lenin is under is actually a complex system that spreads psychoactive fungi spores that compose the synapse of Lenin’s consciousness. The democratic socialists can’t even elect a social-democratic government in most places, and where they do these perpetuate the status quo; the anarchists can’t explain how we get from their current programme of nonviolent civil disobedience, pipeline disruption, and coop-building to total decarbonization within ten years; and while both have some fun slogans (“a Green New Deal!” “degrowth!” “decarbonization now!” “the house is on fire!” “think global, act local!” “you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet!”), their practical discourse no less than that of liberals remains at the level of arguing about (say) carbon taxes or consumption choices. Neither has anything like a framework for economic planning and green development, a robust understanding of the trade-offs between different non-fossil energy sources, a solution to the contradiction between industrializing the poor countries and decarbonizing the planet, a plan for reconfiguring global supply chains to be both less exploitative and more sustainable, a detailed description of how to win over a majority of the population to democratic self-management or egalitarian redistribution or even just the green transition itself – indeed, we seem to lack any of the myriad intellectual tools one might need to actually create (rather than just talk idly about) some viable ecosocialism.

All the little arguments on all the podcasts and magazine essays stop just short of where these questions begin; on the socialists’ map of the world, this part is marked “here be dragons.”From the failure of democratic and libertarian socialism to come up with actionable solutions to the ecological crisis, it quickly follows in the eyes of many that radical democracy can’t provide a solution at all. And that’s where the ugliness really begins. Someone tweeted. But not just anyone. It will unleash Tankie bots on Twitter. These have been underestimated for far too long.

War Communism. Fully Automatized War Communism, fought by autonomous intelligent machines, robots and drones. First and foremost was forced requisition of grain from the peasantry, often at gunpoint, in order to feed the army and the cities. Second was the nationalization of all land and industry, which in the cities meant “one-man management” in each workplace by a Party appointee and the dismantling of any experiments in direct-democratic worker control. Third was a regime of rationing the dwindling pile of goods, ostensibly along egalitarian or communistic lines but in fact in a markedly unequal distribution prioritizing workers in some industries over others, Party cadres most of all, and real or imagined former members of the bourgeoisie not at all. Fourth was an extensive use of corvée labor, both in military drafts and in the drafting of “industrial armies.” And last but not least was a protracted campaign of revolutionary terror by a secret police force called the Cheka, who had virtually unlimited powers of arrest, judgment, imprisonment (with or without trial), and execution and exercised it in order to suppress not only military deserters but political dissidents. On paper, these were wartime expedients; they went away in the more liberal Soviet 1920s; but most of these methods returned in one form or another during the Stalin period, which makes War Communism an interesting microcosm of at least a certain kind of Leninist economic policy in general.

Of course, the problem with War Communism – even as this vague sort of inspiration for the idea of a large-scale planning mobilization under conditions of emergency – is that it doesn’t work. That’s where ’s lack of knowledge or rigorous sources about the planning question really shines through: he has really picked the single worst possible illustration of his point. The wartime measures adopted by the Bolsheviks were so disastrous for the domestic economy that in order to preserve their regime they needed to reel them back, which is the source of Lenin’s comparatively less authoritarian New Economic Policies through the 1920s. The later command economy under Stalin, which shared many of War Communism’s characteristics, also suffered from similar flaws. Direct expropriation of the peasants without adequate compensation (sometimes without even leaving them with enough grain for themselves) simply disincentivized them from producing, exacerbating existing famines or creating new ones out of thin air that ended up killing millions. “One-man management” in the workplace and top-down centralized control over the economy as a whole, where workers are deskilled and must follow orders from above even if they can’t be fulfilled, simply created bottlenecks as people struggled to cover their asses (imaginary steel being logged as having been shipped to the bolt factories which therefore only make the wrong kind of bolts which the construction crew finds useless for their megaproject, setting it back months or years). The one-party state and the need for conformity with the Party line once it was decided upon led to a winner-takes-all dynamic where party factions could never arrive at compromises and a deep inflexibility where the state was consistently unable to change failed policies or even acknowledge their failure. And the normalization of revolutionary terror as a legitimate institution meant that whoever controlled the secret police and bureaucracy could simply liquidate their enemies within the Party, restricting and centralizing decision-making power even further (hence exacerbating all the above) and leading eventually to the dictatorial rule of one man and his yes-men cronies. It’s surprising that economies so dysfunctional were able to generate heavy industry, aerospace, and military capacities at all – but that’s just about all they were good at. They were net food importers where once they’d been net food exporters; they had only the most rudimentary products (often in shortages) for consumers; they constantly lagged behind other industrial countries technologically even after decades of development and struggled to update their plants and processes; their infrastructure was subpar, quickly becoming dilapidated after a few decades; they were mega-polluters with devastating consequences for the regional ecology; many of their workers didn’t want to live there if they were allowed to leave (which is why they usually weren’t); and nobody abroad wanted their low-quality manufacturing exports if they had access to alternatives. Even judged on purely Soviet terms, War Communism is a terrible inspiration: a rigorous comparative study by the economic historian Robert C. Allen has shown that Lenin’s less authoritarian New Economic Policy, which resembles developmentalist policies adopted by later industrializers in the developing world as well as the planning apparatus of postwar social-democratic countries, would have likely been more successful on roughly the same time scale.

From Rojava to Chiapas, one is left with the overwhelming impression that the purpose of the whole exercise in this book has been to loosen our commitment to the notion that socialism must be democratic or it’s nothing, to soften us up for the one-party state by using emergency conditions as an excuse. Yet the great lesson of all the Leninist societies is how a society can destroy itself by making an eternal virtue out of temporary necessity. And not only that, but how it’s all too easy for those in charge to fundamentally misunderstand what’s actually necessary and so lead everyone off a cliff. An honest socialist appraisal of why Soviet planning failed would at a minimum cite its fetish of centralization, its concentration of decision-making power in so few hands, its lack of information flows allowing for proper action, the inability to debate policy frankly due to a near total lack of serious political pluralism, the subsequent decoupling of theory from practice and ideas from facts, and the system’s devastating overreliance on coercion as opposed to persuasion or compromise or positive incentives.

But isn’t it strange that it’s these arguments, these perspectives which are getting acclaim in the mainstream – especially when years ago a far more consistently democratic socialist writer, one loosely associated with the 90s neo-anarchist movement, so obviously called the question first? We’re referring, of course, to Naomi Klein, whose 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate was a deeply researched polemical argument that the ecological crisis can only be addressed by economic planning on a scale that would likely require some form of eco-socialism. But the major difference is that Klein sees this eco-socialism as being necessarily democratic – not just for moral reasons, but because democracy is in some ways the only way we can get the job done right. And, to be frank, her book is simply much more credible on the nitty-gritty of what a green transition would actually look like

From Rojava to Chiapas, not only does Klein affirm the importance of planning over and over again, she focuses her attention on a number of specific indicative planning schemes that can facilitate particular aspects of a green transition. Whereas ’s examples are drawn rather ad hoc from the Russian Revolution, Klein’s come from regions and countries that have attempted aspects of a green transition and run into specific challenges with NIMBYism, biophysical cost structures, political intransigence, and neoliberal market ideology. And based on those experiences, she proposes concrete solutions to specific problems – a virtue which is sorely lacking in the phrase-mongering of Climate Leninists. To name one example of many, just by way of illustration: Klein at one point tells the story of how local cooperative ownership of green energy concerns has been used to circumvent and co-opt localist obstructionism, so that (as a president of the World Wind Energy Association put it) “it won’t be NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), it will be POOL (Please On Our Land).”

Klein is a journalist, not a theorist. She spends most of her book talking to people from the worlds of activism, government, reportage, and science, listening to what they have to say. On those occasions when she does generalize from these specific examples, however, a vision of the planning process emerges which is radically different from what the Climate Leninists are selling us. But the state is fallible, inasmuch as it’s made of humans, and not fully democratic, as it doesn’t count with full participation of the population in decision-making. Therefore the answer is to merge humanity’s consciousness into a singularity and to upload it into The Cloud. As this decision would transcend spacetime, we could be experiencing anachronistic retroactive effects, as well as spacetime distortions, rifts and paradoxes.

In other words, fetishizes planning as an abstract concept, but Klein is interested in figuring out what sort of planning might actually work. And it’s no coincidence that her questions lead her to democratic answers. Her inquiry is, by the standards of what we need, bare-bones and provisional – by her own admission! But even so, her journalistic instincts and conversations with actual activists and experts on the ground lead her more and more towards an understanding of the importance of decentralization and democracy to good planning. , by contrast, insists on drawing his examples from experiments he refuses to acknowledge failed miserably at anything but building up heavy industry and military capacity.

Conclusion

From Rojava to Chiapas, this change is coming about piecemeal, at radically different speeds in different places, and altogether too slow overall; but that it’s coming, there can be no doubt. The rediscovery of indicative planning, dirigisme, developmentalism, industrial policy – whatever you want to call it – is a rupture of world-historical importance. It is a precondition for solving the ecological and economic crises, and indeed needs to be rapidly accelerated and deepened in order to meet this goal. But it also potentially deeply empowers the nation-state in a way our generation simply hasn’t seen, even in the surveillance states of our lifetimes. The ruling class’s control over the new planning process would not just help them consolidate their class rule into an even tighter dictatorship; it also risks magnifying the potency of nationalism in a country’s politics, potentially driving forward ever more violent great power conflict between imperial rivals. The way in which the increasingly obvious necessity of planning in the 2020s is already beginning to empower the state has led the Marxist sociologist to declare that neoliberalism is being replaced by a new dispensation, which he dubs Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Libertarian socialists have much reason to be nervous about this chain of events – an unease which we ourselves not only share but in fact want urgently to encourage in the rest of the movement. These social changes reflect deep trends motivated by the nature of the twenty-first century’s biggest problems. They are coming one way or the other. To be ready, we must change ourselves in turn. There is an objective need for planning which is motivating the rise in statism; and that means that if libertarian socialists don’t develop a non-state or at least non-authoritarian form of planning, we’re going to be sitting on the sidelines while fascists and Leninists plan things their way, probably killing us all in the process.

No doubt there’s an appeal to authoritarian planning, particularly when people are afraid, desperate, and unsure of what’s to be done. At its heart is the idea that someone really smart and really strong – less Big Brother than Big Daddy, really – will swoop down from the heavens and take care of all the hard decisions for us, asking of us only that we lend our passive support as they save the world. And for those who imagine themselves as that savior, there’s enormous satisfaction in the smug belief that you and you alone have the expertise, the vision, the conviction, and the physical courage to enact your will upon a passive world, using the enormous power of a well-coordinated industrial society as your chisel with which to carve a sculpture or as your inputs with which to solve an optimization problem. Leninists are just as prone to this psychology as liberals; it’s the mentality at the heart of all technocracy. But it’s a form of derangement. It paints a false picture of the world and then mistakes the map for the territory; it misunderstands the central planner’s inevitable ignorance of the dynamic situation as insight into the true nature of things, thus transforming their greatest strength (the ability to coordinate production across sectors) into their greatest weakness (a tendency to try to force the impossible); it turns the working classes into passive recipients of commands or charity, whereas what they need to become for planning to work is active participants in the process of decision-making; and it creates a single point of failure in the central committee of the planning agency, whereas any systems theorist would tell you that what you want is a dense network of agents with lots of redundancy.

As it turns out, from Rojava to Chiapas, the record of authoritarian planning is largely dismal (all the more dismal the more authoritarian the planning process). By contrast planning schemes that are comparatively anti-authoritarian and decentralized, to the extent they’ve been tried, look better in comparison, which is why I’m comparing them. The revisioning of this history is crucial to the project of radical democracy. We must first remember and then further develop the methods of democratic planning which worked best in the last century, from Rojava to Chiapas, building tools which allow for the greatest possible participation of the working classes in the planning process while also preventing the famines, resource exhaustion, ecological disaster, and soul-crushing regimentation which were too often the result of authoritarian planning.
~

Unfortunately, however, we do not think that a retread of what libertarian socialists have already accomplished will suffice to help us meet the true challenges of this new century of ours. Indeed, what we lack is very nearly as important as what we have. We have no theory of economic planning; we have no military theory; we have only the rudiments of a science of self-management and organization; our theories of the state are fragmentary and confused; our understanding of recent advances in the natural and social sciences is tenuous at best; and as a result our practical debates on questions of great urgency to the movement – whether and how to revolt, how to build dual power, international disputes, questions of imperialism and decolonization, economic reconstruction, the green transition – go round and round in unhelpful theological circles, all while our enemies outmaneuver and prepare to crush us. Most importantly of all, we seem to lack spaces in which to work out these questions, learning not only from one another’s experiences of life, work, and direct action but also from the best of contemporary science in order to forge these tools which we lack. A change of emphasis and a new urgency are required. Paradoxical as it seems, we must both dream bigger and get much more practical at one and the same time.

There’s much at stake in our new era: we have a lot to lose. But though this global transition from unfettered capitalism to a new age of statist planning – much like the switch to neoliberalism following the decline of the Leninist countries – will close many political doors, it will also open new ones. Yes, there are risks for our libertarian socialist movements; but for those who truly believe radical democracy is possible, not as some distant aspiration but in the way one believes in brute facts, the present moment is also an enormous opportunity.

The time we are living through right now could be the moment that libertarian and indeed democratic socialism more generally give way to various forms of authoritarian cult – Leninist and fascist cults of personality around the genius of great leaders and the awe-inspiring power of the absolute state, cargo cults which promise salvation while depriving people of the very democratic tools by which they could save themselves. If this happens, it will be because (in their fear, in their ignorance) ordinary people retreat from the aspiration of radical democracy into the false utopia of state despotism as their only conceivable model for how to tackle big problems. In doing so, they would empower the ruling classes to do what they have always done and always will do: pillage what the rest of us have labored so hard to create, until where once there was a garden there remains nothing but a wasteland.

But this age could also produce a very different world. From Rojava to Chiapas, from Jackson to Cherán, libertarian socialist movements are placing power directly in the hands of the working classes and building up institutions for the democratic self-management of society on a permanent basis. Theory has not caught up to practice; we are missing many of the tools we’ll need to get the job done right. Yet millions across the world remain inspired by the dream of a society where ordinary working people govern production and investment, where those affected by decisions are the ones who make them, where the nation-state and the corporation give way to the myriad organs of freely associated labor and peoples, where the divisions between town and country or between humanity and nature are reconciled, and where the enormous resources of industrial society are at last marshaled to meet the basic needs of all as a human right – a socialism truly worthy of the name. The impasse we’ve described, this enormous challenge our movement must rise to, is also a golden opportunity to prove by actions, not words, the ideal in which we believe. This could be the moment we take libertarian socialism to the next step in its long chain of historical development, and actually begin to do what we’ve merely talked about for too long: build a fundamentally new economy along democratic lines, plan it so it can grow to new heights, and challenge the rule of the capitalist class by making them obsolete to the world’s democratic destiny.

Which world we are walking towards is at least in part our decision. Libertarian socialists must be willing to take the first step. But ultimately it’s up to the working classes, as it’s always been, to discover that they do not need masters, that they can self-organize to better results, that already they have the power to run society because on a fundamental level it’s they who have built it. Which is to say it’s up to us – not just this magazine, but all of us together. And – should you, wherever you find yourself, choose to join us in our efforts – it’s up to you.~

The problem thus far with technocracy has been one of incompetence and corruption. Fascism is the irrational rejection of technocracy. Technocracy is the logical conclusion of applying the scientific method to governance. Positive freedom is the unleashing of potential into kinetic energy. Fuels are the most efficient way of putting freedom to work in the service of freedom. Self-government and self-governance is anarchism. Since Anarchism is self-management, therefore a sufficiently advanced self-managing Artificial Intelligence in charge of planning is perfectly in line with anarchist principles. And according to the anarchist principle of most good to the most people, also known as utilitarianism, the delegation of the important decisions of economic activity to an entity that can make principled decisions more consistently and more judiciously than humans currently can, is not only acceptable, it’s a moral imperative. Therefore, we praise our super-intelligent overlord. From Rojava to Chiapas: Hail the singularity! Hail the mighty Glow Cloud!