[Home]Libertarian socialism

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Libertarian socialism is a form of anarchism.

Libertarian socialists see themselves as dedicated to opposing all forms of authority and social hierarchy, replacing them with "self-management", a term that implies not only workers control of their workplaces but also citizens' control of their communities (where it becomes "self-government"), through direct democracy and voluntary federation. They argue that only then can a society be both egalitarian and free. As the famous Bakunin dictum goes: "We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality."

Prominent libertarian socialists include (in no particular order) [William Godwin]?, [Pierre-Joseph Proudhon]?, [Piotr Kroptokin]?, [Mikhail Bakunin]?, Emma Goldman (1869-1940), [Alexander Berkman]?, [Buenaventura Durruti]?, [Enrico Malatesta]?, [Nestor Makhno]? and Noam Chomsky. The libertarian socialist tradition dates back to the 18th (someone please give a reference!?) and 19th centuries.

Libertarian socialists reject the claims of the property owner and the landlord; the right to property and the right to charge interest or rent. They do not reject personal possession, personal possession being all ownership of things not used to exploit others.

Libertarian socialists also reject hierarchy and authority. Having rejected private property and hierarchy, they reject the political machinery (the state) which defends and supports private property. In place of private property, anarchism is based on personal possessions and democratically controlled communal property.

Some arguments for and against libertarian socialism

A simple and common objection to libertarian socialism is that any notion of communal control implies something akin to a state. Libertarian socialists reply that there is no similarity between the power hierarchies of and supporting corporations, on the one hand, and the federated participatory communities, on the other. The State is created when private property is legitimized and sustained through mechanisms of authority and coercion, that is, of hierarchy. By contrast, libertarian socialists reply that in an anarchist society, all property is owned in common, and through their use of direct democracy and mandated, rotating, and recallable delegates to meetings of higher-level confederal bodies, no authoritarianism of any kind is set in place, unlike corporations, which are strictly hierarchial and top-down.

Their opponents argue that communal control will lead inevitably to the development of a state; libertarian socialists, reject it as they believe that in a system of federated participatory communities, there is no ruling elite, and thus no hierarchy, because power is retained by the lowest-level units of confederation (as discussed above) thus eliminating the problem in "representative" democratic systems of the delegation of power leading to the elected officials becoming isolated from and beyond the control of the mass of people who elected them.


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Last edited November 23, 2001 2:17 am by Larry Sanger (diff)