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General / Is individualist anarchism capitalistic?
« on: October 15, 2008, 10:59:33 PM »

The short answer is, no, it is not. While a diverse tendency, the individualist anarchists were opposed to the exploitation of labour, all forms of non-labour income (such as profits, interest and rent) as well as capitalist property rights (particularly in land). While aiming for a free market system, they considered laissez-faire capitalism to be based on various kinds of state enforced class monopoly which ensured that labour was subjected to rule, domination and exploitation by capital. As such it is deeply anti-capitalist and many individualist anarchists, including its leading figure Benjamin Tucker, explicitly called themselves socialists (indeed, Tucker often referred to his theory as "Anarchistic-Socialism").

So, in this section of our anarchist FAQ we indicate why the individualist anarchists cannot be classified as "ancestors" of the bogus libertarians of the "anarcho"-capitalist school. Rather, they must be classified as libertarian socialists due to their opposition to exploitation, critique of capitalist property rights and concern for equality, albeit being on the liberal wing of anarchist thought. Moreover, while all wanted to have an economy in which all incomes were based on labour, many also opposed wage labour, i.e. the situation where one person sells their labour to another rather than the product of that labour (a position which, we argue, their ideas logically imply). So while some of their ideas do overlap with those of the "anarcho"-capitalist school they are not capitalistic, no more than the overlap between their ideas and anarcho-communism makes them communistic.

In this context, the creation of "anarcho"-capitalism may be regarded as yet another tactic by capitalists to reinforce the public's perception that there are no viable alternatives to capitalism, i.e. by claiming that "even anarchism implies capitalism." In order to justify this claim, they have searched the history of anarchism in an effort to find some thread in the movement that can be used for this purpose. They think that with the individualist anarchists they have found such a thread. However, such an appropriation requires the systematic ignoring or dismissal of key aspects of individualist-anarchism (which, of course, the right-"libertarian" does). Somewhat ironically, this attempt by right-"libertarians" to exclude individualist anarchism from socialism parallels an earlier attempt by state socialists to do the same. Tucker furiously refuted such attempts in an article entitled "Socialism and the Lexicographers", arguing that "the Anarchistic Socialists are not to be stripped of one half of their title by the mere dictum of the last lexicographer." [Instead of a Book, p. 365]

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