Posts by rechelon

THE NEW LEVELLER: Volume 1, Issue 3.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REAL
This post is the release of the The New Leveller‘s third issue. Full PDF here. Also, immediately below this sentence, you can find links to each individual article in HTML form (albeit without the snazzy design).

Table of Contents:

Page 1 –  A Matter of Life & Death
Page 2 – Anarchists United, by Uriel Alexis
Page 4 – Identity & Individuals, by Elizabeth Tate
Page 5 – Prisons: The Case for Abolition, by Nathan Goodman
Page 6 – All Wars Are Unjust, by Jason Lee Byas

[Note: This issue is (obviously) pretty late, given our original plan of doing the newsletter on a monthly basis. We’re considering switching to a quarterly periodical format, but haven’t settled on anything yet.]

From the back page:

Are you interested in individualist anarchism, or at least so frightened by it that you want to keep an eye on its progress? Are you frustrated by capitalism’s love for central planning and communism’s conservative view of human potential? Do you suspect that abolishing the institution responsible for war, police brutality, and mass incarceration might not be so dangerous after all?

Then The New Leveller is for you!

We aim for this newsletter to be a running discussion devoted to radical libertarian and individualist anarchist thought, drawing from nineteenth-century periodicals like Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty and Moses Harmon’s Lucifer, the Lightbearer. Taking that influence seriously, we try to feature plenty of fire. The primary purpose of The New Leveller is to provide another voice for the most radical and unfiltered impulses in market anarchism.

Anyone interested in feeding the flames by contributing, or in subscribing to the newsletter so that they can watch them go higher and higher, is more than welcome to contact us at the.new.leveller@gmail.com. (People interested in receiving physical copies in addition to PDFs should include a mailing address in their email.)

Written submissions should range from (roughly) 500-1000 words, focused on content that would either help introduce people to the ideas of individualist anarchism, develop and explore the ideas of individualist anarchism for those already familiar with it, or analyze an issue from within the framework of individualist anarchism. Basically, we welcome anything that might have fit with the aforementioned periodicals, or in the earlier issues of Murray Rothbard’s Libertarian Forum.

We are also always looking for art to add to our pages. Those submissions should be thematically relevant, and worth viewing in black and white.

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From NL1.3: “A Matter of Life & Death”

The following is the opening article of the third issue of The New LevellerFor a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REALA MATTER OF LIFE & DEATH

At this moment, governments have stockpiled at least 17,300 nuclear weapons, for leverage in disputes with other governments. Powerful men in suits calmly talk things over while memories of mushroom clouds and mass-murder stand in the back of the room like a silent muscleman. In the words of ethicist Germain Grisez, those who own these weapons have “already have committed nuclear extermination in their hearts, even if the buttons are never pressed.”

At this moment, children across the world are blown apart by flying killer robots because they’re too close to the wrong cell phone at the wrong time. This practice is funded by the taxes we are told “are the price we pay for a civilized society.” It is carried out by government, which we are told is “just the name we give to the things we do together.”

At this moment, the United States prides itself on being the most advanced nation in the world, while still performing ritual sacrifices. Men and women wait on death row to satisfy what remains of our primal instinct toward revenge. Many of them are even innocent.

At this moment, countless minor drug offenders are having their lives snuffed out early from guards and fellow prisoners. Those who don’t die often start to wish for death.

At this moment, police are being trained to always remember that “when you walk out of the car for any kind of stop, you must be mentally prepared to kill the citizen.”

Because anarchism is the battle of the individual against the State, it is the battle of life against death.

At this moment, queer youth face homelessness and suicide at dramatically higher rates. This is not a product of their sexuality, but of the heteronormative culture around them.

At this moment, assault and battery against those who are transgender goes on in broad daylight. For these individuals, existence itself is an act of bravery.

At this moment, police in the United States are murdering countless people of color, and those murders are going ignored. Those deaths are just one of many brutal reminders that white supremacy did not end with Jim Crow.

At this moment, violence against women remains pervasive. It is propped up by a patriarchal culture that blames survivors, leads perpetrators to believe they’re just doing what everyone does, and refuses to call rape by its name.

At this moment, the systematic privileging of capital over labor has so depleted the dignity of workers around the world that they are leaping off factories.

Because anarchism is the battle of the individual against domination, it is the battle of life against death.

All this may be obvious, but there is still another reason why anarchism is the battle of life against death.

Since aggression and domination are methods for using other people and their resources, they can never be the true source of creation. Roads, schools, and everything else built by the State are built by flesh and blood people who could just as easily build things worth having on their own. The resources used to build them came from taxation – in other words, stolen wealth, previously created by others.

All that the State does is re-direct these people and resources, away from whatever they would have been doing otherwise. This is not a benefit. Given the incentives and knowledge problems faced by States, the projects they build are more geared towards making themselves look necessary than actually serving the interests of the general public.

The interstate highway system, public schools, and whatever other large projects that government defenders point to, are not signs of life. They stand in place of whatever solutions free people working together through free action could have built on their own.

By preventing alternatives, these large State projects represent stagnation. They are giant, stillborn corpses of what could have been. Corpses of fresh flesh for the Carrion class, who always stand to profit from the fifty-eighth rate solutions we end up being given.

Even more fundamentally, both aggression and domination beat back the thing that makes us distinct from the dead. In so far as we are living, breathing human beings, we act according to our own will. Our choices are our own, and what we create are products of our own minds.

By falling under the control of someone else, that breath of life leaves us. We become instruments no more alive than the tools we ourselves work with.

Of course, because only life can create life, and only to the extent that people are free can any growth occur, we are never fully under the control of others. Nor could we be. Our Schrödinger society is a patchwork of periods where we live, die, and live again.

We spend our truly waking days in gardens among graveyards. Gardens that have either grown for the future harvests of our masters, or (more often) in everyday resistance to their demands.

It may not come soon, but unless we’re wiped out by enough of those 17,300 nuclear warheads, anarchy is inevitable. Because life self-replicates, while death stays silent and unmoving, a system that relies on death is a system that is unsustainable.

Our lives are our own to live. They do not require the permission of cops, bosses, or even our surrounding communities.

We are individualist anarchists because we are alive. We are individualist anarchists because we love our lives. We are individualist anarchists because we wish to live in the truly fullest sense.

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From NL 1.3: “Anarchists United” (Uriel Alexis)

The following was written by Uriel Alexis, and included in the third issue of The New LevellerFor a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REALANARCHISTS UNITED
Alexis Uriel

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the diverse anarchist strategies could combine against our current class society. How every variation on the theme of “assert your freedom now,” from the anarcho-syndicalist direct action to Sam Konkin’s agorism, could combine in order to make the existing order ever less interesting and more impracticable. How we might eliminate political, economic and social privileges, while also promoting mutual aid among human beings.

It might look a little complicated to reconcile the specific goals of anarcho-syndicalists, collectivist anarchists, anarcho-communists and individualist anarchists – especially with those last two. However, I believe there’s more common ground than conflict between these schools, and the institutions they wish to develop can be complementary to one another. I will seek to outline here how anarchists can form a coherent coalition to overthrow the current statist-capitalist system.

I will begin with the institutions proposed by individualist anarchists in the mutualist tradition, since they are the ones I am most intimately familiar with. The central idea of mutualism is to establish the control of the productive process by workers through the widespread dispersion of capital in society. Proudhon held that every individual should own a means of production, individually or collectively with others by contract, and Kevin Carson outlined in Homebrew Industrial Revolution some of the ways in which current desktop production technologies and hobby material can help accomplish this ideal.

It’s not hard to imagine how the current monopoly capitalism, – increasingly bureaucratic, hierarchical and centralized, relying on state intervention to keep competitors out of the market, – creates serious incentives for people to look for more and more ways to get out of the crushing routine of wage slavery. A brief investigation of the lifestyles of the average metropolitan inhabitant will show people want something more.

Thus, one can imagine that more and more people will seek to acquire some personal means of production. In the beginning this may be individualist anarchists committed to the cause, but then others without any ideological affiliation will follow, only seeking more independence. Technologies such as the personal computer, 3D printers and CNC tools, increasingly more accessible, can help a lot, but a good old garden in any piece of land one can get is enough to begin with.

These independent workers will initially produce to the general market, for sure. But the general market is subject to government taxation, a spoliation of their work just as much as the monopolist profit, and it is in the interest of these revolutionaries to subvert this state of affairs. An ingenious recent crypto-anarchist contribution, virtual crypto-currencies, can come to their aid in this regard. These independent producers can form mutual aid and commerce networks, exchanging their products through bitcoins (or any other currency, who knows, maybe a labor bitnote?), that are resistant to regulation. As long as all transactions be made inside the network and with virtual currencies, it is impossible to track them, regulate them or even tax them.

Such a network of independent producers establishes yet another incentive: bringing more producers into the network. The more products and services can be offered inside the network, the less dependent on the state-dominated formal economy (in Konkin’s terms, the “white” and “pink” markets) producers are. How to do this? Once again mutualist ideas come to our aid: the establishment of a mutual bank, as proposed by Proudhon and William Greene, which lends capital with almost zero interest (or at least infinitely smaller than those of the current bank cartel) through virtual currencies. Such a bank would be able to finance the acquisition of means of production by an even greater share of the population disgruntled with the current economic system.

With the growth of the producer’s network and the mutual trust relations promoted by the mutual bank, a truly revolutionary potential is unleashed. Increasingly more complex production processes can be organized through cooperatives, P2P projects, and other kinds of collaboration. This makes the network more and more independent from the state-dominated formal economy we live under today. As this network gets stronger and more resilient, more goods may be created inside of it, such as schools, aid to people in hardship, medical treatment and collective transportation.

So far I have described a way to begin a parallel economy inside the current economy, as defended by mutualists and agorists. Let’s now add a little spice from other anarchist schools.

Anarcho-syndicalists defend the establishment of a worker’s democratic self-managed workplace, to be achieved through direct action and solidarity among the working classes. We can see clearly how the independent producers’ network described above would have a huge space for the establishment of trade unions and decentralized federations through cooperatives. But let’s examine the possibility of, through trade unions in the formal economy, bring the current corporations to worker’s control of production.

Following the Wobblies’ direct action tactics, in their classic pamphlet How to Fire Your Boss, workers in the most diverse industries can use direct and decentralized organizations, gain a huge bargaining power in the face of these industries’ management. The greater such bargaining power, the closer to the democratic self-management ideal they are. The constant disruptions in these industries’ productivity will systematically hurt the capitalist profit, and if they are sufficiently unpredictable and concerted, they will have little effect on workers, even taking into consideration the probable state intervention on behalf of the capitalist by the police.

An effect of this disruption in production (and the consequent decrease in the market value of the company) may be the gradual take over, by workers individually or as a collective, of the involved companies’ shares in stock exchanges. Such a stock purchase would provide more and more control over the workplace, and could be funded through the mutual banks described above.

Once a certain workplace had completely come under worker’s direct self-management, its products can be exchanged inside the network of independent producers on a mutual basis. This would greatly add to the stability and to the welfare of all inside the network, since a large quantity of people are now connected. We can see now that mutualist and anarcho-syndicalists can work together against the state and capitalism, achieving not only the goals they share, but also their more specific aims. Let’s try to expand this to include some more anarchist schools.

Collectivist anarchism, heavily connected with the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin, defends a form of social organization much like a society organized around the trade unions described above. If these unions adopted a wage policy (or, more properly speaking, a division of production) based on the quantity of labor performed by each of its members, possibly through the labor bitnotes accepted by the whole network of independent producers, it would be simple to organize collectivist anarchist communes. I imagine that such communes would decentralized societies, located around the unionized industries, with the relevant social organizations being all of collective nature. Several of these communes, also connected to the market through the network of independent producers, could coordinate to supply their members with products and services that were not available locally.

Another possible organization for these communes would be around the principles of anarcho-communism, whose main theorist Peter Kropotkin defended the end of wages and a division of the products of labor according to the individual necessities instead of the quantity of labor[1]. For this, it would suffice that the unions abolished payments and the use of any currency, and that communal distribution systems were created.

In the economic sense, the anarcho-communist societies would be outside the network of independent producers, since there would be no exchanges even in crypto-currencies. But certainly they would be connected by ties of trust and mutual aid. For example, the network could supply products and services for free through those members that so wished.

Other models for integrating anarchist institutions and communities, similar to those just described, can be developed in order to harmonize with the specific interests of green anarchists, anarcho-naturists and, who knows, maybe even anarcho-primitivists!

In conclusion, I would like to include one last thought, from a classical liberal with serious anarchist tendencies, Gustave de Molinari. As this intricate network of producers and independent communities were simultaneously developed by the anarchists’ direct actions, it would ever more be at the capitalist state’s gunpoint and at odds with its armed forces. The 20th century has shown us what states are capable of when promoting horror and violence. It’s not hard to imagine that this revolutionary network would need protection. Molinari proposed that the services of protections and conflict resolution be provided by independent producers, and not by a monopolist institution like the state. Surely our network of independent producers could include people interested in providing these services. Also, several kinds of decentralized and community organizations of protections and conflict resolution could emerge in the collectivist anarchist and anarcho-communist communes. This collaboration between the communes and the market of independent producers would create a powerful bulwark against the lethal dangers of the state.

In conclusion, my central point here was that anarchists from every school can unite into a coherent coalition. Through concrete actions derived from their own traditions, they can advance both their common causes of overthrowing statist-capitalist domination and their specific causes, in the most genuine spirit of mutual aid.

I myself am preparing a sustainable community project, and mining some bitcoins,. I look forward to collaborating with you all!


[1] a great description of such a society is the book The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin

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From NL1.3: “Identity & Individuals” (Elizabeth Tate)

The following was written by Elizabeth Tate, and included in the third issue of The New LevellerFor a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REAL
IDENTITY AND INDIVIDUALS: CONNECTIONS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE TO ANARCHISM AND THE LIBERTY MOVEMENT
Elizabeth Tate

Social justice activism isn’t a new concept. All throughout human history, groups of people have stood up for their rights and the rights of others when those rights are denied based on some factor of identity. From the Stonewall riots to the Vietnam protesters, Martin Luther King Jr. to Malcolm X, there have been people fighting for equality, safety, and respect. However, in many liberty-minded spaces the idea of social justice, or indeed intersectionality,[1] is often met with derision, malice, or is simply ignored. Reasons for the distaste seem to range from “the State screws us all, so why does it matter?” to “identity politics are just distractions from the real issues.” There are many reasons an awareness of social justice issues is of the utmost importance to anarchism and/or libertarianism, which I will attempt to detail.

First of all, the abolition of the State may be a hard concept for those who rely on the State for protection. If it hasn’t already been explained how anarchist ideas help to end your oppression, it’s hard to jump right in with anti-State sentiment. Imagine you were poor, your prospects were low, you were from some sort of marginalized group that was not afforded many open doors. (Or maybe you don’t have to imagine.) Your bare survival is based on what you are given by some system above you. You might not like it that way, but it comes down to taking that and putting food in your stomach or not. Now imagine someone who has never lived your life, never experienced your suffering barges in and tells you that the system you’ve been relying on to survive needs to be eradicated because it is inherently evil. If we anarchists are to advocate for the abolition of the State, we must understand and listen to those who tell us that they depend on it to live. We must search for alternatives and explain how a free market, a commune, whatever economic and social system we advocate, will protect them.

Furthermore, there are many places that have, historically, been difficult for the liberty movement to enter. A stereotype exists of libertarianism as being middle-class, white, straight, cisgender, and male (all of which are identities that come with privilege.) In oppressed groups, libertarianism can seem similar to ideas that have oppressed them over time. The idea of a liberty movement may even be laughable to groups who have already been fighting for their rights from the State for a long time. Since those who are now fighting for liberty may have ignored the struggles of marginalized groups, those groups may be reluctant to join the new movement. It is therefore important to demonstrate an understanding of these differences of experience, to acknowledge that our experiences may be worlds away from those of others. As a white woman, it’s unlikely I will ever be in jail for drug possession. As a cisgender person, I will likely never be fired based on how I express my gender. There are other people who live through those trials (and worse) every day. If we as anarchists and/or libertarians act like the State oppresses us all exactly the same, we ignore realities.

Liberty and liberation are also natural allies. Alliances can be made – especially for libertarian student groups – with queer and women’s student groups, transgender advocacy groups, human rights groups, racial, ethnic, and cultural associations. These are people with lived experiences that may be new and different. They may have experiences with the State that you have only read about. They may already be fighting power through grassroots activism in your town or on your college campus. Ask if you can join these groups, – listen and learn, offer them your support in their activism. (A big part of being an ally to any group is simply to offer support. Don’t dominate the conversation, don’t make yourself and your ideas the center of debate, but show up and listen. You may be the first in a while who has done so.) If there are any like-minded, radical, and libertarian-inclined individuals they will offer you and your group the same support.

The core ideas of social justice are the core ideas of individualist anarchism. No one knows how better to live my life than me, and I’m the only one who has lived my life. No one else gets to make the calls on my behalf. Likewise, I as a white woman will never know what a black man experiences. A straight, male friend of mine will never know how I live as a queer woman. Acknowledging these differences only strengthens my rejection of the State., They cannot effectively provide for and protect us, and neither can any other inherently overarching and generalizing entity. We are all so different, with such different lives, that a single solution cannot and will not fit us all. Anarchism will bring us the freedom to make our own lives according to what we need.


[1]Intersectionality is the idea that our many identities inform and affect each other and how we exist in society, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw.

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From NL 1.3: “Prisons: The Case for Abolition” (Nathan Goodman)

The following was written by Nathan Goodman, and included in the third issue of The New LevellerFor a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REALPRISONS: THE CASE FOR ABOLITION
Nathan Goodman

The American state incarcerates over 2 million people. According to Veronique de Rugy[1], “nonviolent offenders make up more than 60 percent of the prison and jail population. Nonviolent drug offenders now account for about one-fourth of all inmates, up from less than 10 percent in 1980.” The state is locking peaceful people in cages on a mass scale.

Inside these cages, abuse is rampant. According to David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow[2], “in 2011 and 2012, 3.2 percent of all people in jail, 4.0 percent of state and federal prisoners, and 9.5 percent of those held in juvenile detention reported having been sexually abused in their current facility during the preceding year.” Most of this sexual abuse is committed by guards rather than inmates. A 2007 study found that LGBT inmates were sexually assaulted at a rate 15 times higher than that of the general inmate population.

Moreover, these numbers only tell the story of sexual abuse that the state recognizes as illegal. In prisons and jails all across the country, inmates are forced to strip, expose their genitals, and sometimes even allow guards to digitally penetrate their most private orifices. When penetration is involved, these searches meet the FBI’s definition of rape: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Even when penetration is not involved, strip searches are humiliating and degrading. They routinely trigger flashbacks and trauma for sexual assault survivors. Yet they are standard procedure in prisons and jails. If you are booked into a jail even for something as minor as a traffic stop, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional for guards to subject you to an invasive strip search. There’s a reason Angela Davis calls strip searches “the routinization of sexual abuse.”

Prisons can also kill inmates. Homeless veteran Jerome Murdough was baked to death by over 100-degree temperatures in a Rikers Island jail cell in New York earlier this year. This is not an isolated incident. “A report issued last month by the University of Texas School of Law’s Human Rights Clinic found that at least 14 inmates have died from exposure to extreme heat since 2007 in state correctional facilities,” writes Jake Pearson[3].

People often ask what we would do about rapists and murderers without prisons. But as Dean Spade puts it, “The prison is the serial killer; the prison is the serial rapist.” Prisons produce conditions where rape and premature death are rampant, even inevitable. Prisons grant guards total power over prisoners, so that they can intimidate and threaten inmates who dare to report rape. They lock inmates in cramped conditions where they are vulnerable to violence and heat death, and lack access to healthcare. Mass incarceration means mass violence.

In the wake of America’s mass incarceration crisis, politicians and activists across the spectrum are calling for prison reform. But reform may make the problem worse. It’s important to remember that prisons themselves were first developed by social reformers who wanted an alternative to corporal punishment and capital punishment. Solitary confinement, which is now recognized as a traumatizing form of psychological torture, was first proposed by Quakers as a form of introspection that could be more humane than the whip. Since then, we have seen well intentioned reforms help expand the prison system’s power. Women’s prisons were opened in response to campaigns to end sexual assaults against women in men’s prisons. The construction of these prisons paved the way for dramatic increases in incarceration of women. Victoria Law writes[4] that in the decade following the opening of the first women’s prison in Illinois in 1859, “the total number of women sentenced to prison tripled.” Recently we have seen similar processes in the development of transgender wings in prisons and jails in response to abuses of transgender inmates in the general prison population.

The Smarter Sentencing Act, which is currently being debated in Congress, exemplifies this “one step forward, two steps back” approach to prison reform. The bill would eliminate some harsh mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses. However, thanks to the logrolling and bundling that is necessary to pass bills, the bill also threatens to add new mandatory minimums for violent crimes.

Attempts to reform the prison system are likely to fuel the prison system because of the perverse incentives that structure our political system. Prison guards, private prison companies like the Corrections Corporation of America, contractors that provide services in prisons, and firms that profit off prison labor are all concentrated interest groups that benefit from incarceration. Meanwhile, the costs of operating prisons are widely dispersed across a population that has little incentive to research prisons and largely thinks prisons are necessary for their protection. Those most substantially harmed by the prison system are prisoners, who are not able to vote or go lobby their representatives. Felon disenfranchisement limits their political power even after they are released from prison. Their family members and neighbors have their political power limited, because prisoners are often counted on the census for the area they are incarcerated, not the area they were forcibly taken from. This means that regions that profit from prisons have increased political representation, while regions that are scarred by mass incarceration are disenfranchised. This phenomenon is called “prison based gerrymandering.”

Political incentives have given us a prison system that may be immune to humane reform. Given the violence and harm caused by the prison system, the goal should be something more radical: prison abolition. We should use every tool at our disposal to help keep people out of the state’s brutal prison system. This can mean filming cops, helping people encrypt possibly incriminating communications and transactions, or urging juries to nullify unjust laws. We should support those caged by this system. This can mean writing them letters or donating to their legal defense fund or commissary.

But perhaps most importantly, we should act to end the state’s monopoly on law, security, and justice. As Bruce Benson documents in The Enterprise of Law, prisons and criminal law displaced a system of customary tort law. A customary legal system based on restitution for victims was replaced by an authoritarian system that diverted resources towards the state’s rulers and their cronies. That authoritarian plunder is precisely how our current justice system operates, and it has disastrous consequences. Police have incentives to focus on victimless “crimes” like drug dealing and sex work, because investigating such crimes allows them to profit from civil asset forfeiture in a way they cannot in rape or murder cases. This emphasis on vice crimes leads to discriminatory enforcement and the criminalization of entrepreneurship that is essential for some people’s survival, particularly those who are excluded from the formal economy. Moreover, criminal law is not based on demonstrating harm, but on state edict. Therefore, a litany of crimes can be created on the whims of rent seeking special interest groups and moralist busybodies alike. So we see a long parade of bootleggers and Baptists producing authoritarian law after authoritarian law, filling the state’s cages.

Ultimately, this leaves many people unable to rely on the state’s system of law enforcement. Communities of color see police as an occupying army rather than their protectors. Drug dealers and sex workers are surely unable to trust police, as their professions are treated as crimes. Immigrants fear that contact with police means they will be swept up by the federal government’s Secure Communities program and deported. Surveys show that a majority of transgender individuals are uncomfortable seeking police assistance. Sexual assault survivors correctly fear that police will dismiss them and victim blame them. If a rape kit is taken, it will likely join a massive backlog of untested rape kits while police resource are funneled towards militarization and vice enforcement’s lucrative legal plunder.

Prison abolitionists should create entrepreneurial alternatives to the state’s monopoly on law, security, and justice. The Audre Lorde Project in New York City runs the Safe OUTside the System Collective[5] to help combat hate violence without calling the police. Such community projects are one way to fill the void. Private security firms are another. Cryptography and other innovations have potential to help us build the new law in the shell of the old faster than we ever could before.

The state’s legal system is a predatory system. It is a system of plunder and violence that exacerbates inequality, ruins lives, and enables the very crimes it claims to punish. It’s time to abolish prisons. And to abolish prisons, we must abolish the state.


[1] http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/08/prison-math

[2] http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/oct/24/shame-our-prisons-new-evidence/

[3] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/death-hot-jail-cell-highlights-national-issue

[4] Law, Victoria. Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women.

[5] http://alp.org/community/sos

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From NL 1.3: “All Wars Are Unjust” (Jason Lee Byas)

The following was written by Jason Lee Byas, and included in the third issue of The New LevellerFor a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REAL

ALL WARS ARE UNJUST
Jason Lee Byas

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have now decided to send at least 750 soldiers back into Iraq, to counteract forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. That these two men both ran Presidential campaigns heavily revolving around opposition to the 2003 Iraq War is all that ever needs to be said about electoral politics.

There are plenty of reasons why this particular military intervention is a bad idea. Yet what I want to make clear in this article is not only why this war or that war is unjust, but why all wars – in so far as they are wars – are necessarily unjust.

There are no good wars. World War II did crush Hitler and Tojo, but it also propped up Stalin and involved the deliberate targeting of civilians in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and elsewhere. The American Civil War did crush the Confederate slave empire, but it also involved unspeakable acts of total war in Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the caging (without Habeas Corpus) of northern war resisters. The American Revolution did overthrow British imperialism, but it also involved the brutal tarring and feathering of perfectly peaceful British loyalists.

Defenders of these wars almost always acknowledge that these atrocities happened, and sometimes even agree that they were unacceptable. When pressed, they typically just respond “well, that’s war.”

They’re right.

All wars are unjust because they all involve the creation of a space where normal moral standards do not apply. Where people are immediately taken as legitimate targets purely on account of their uniform, which may have even been forced on them. Where, at best, the deaths of unarmed civilians are avoided, but shrugged off as inevitable whenever they actually happen.

The conclusion that all wars are unjust (or even that this or that particular war is unjust) is often resisted because people do not want to accept that veterans such as their loved ones (or themselves) were used for injustice. After all, they know them, and they know they are good people. This is an understandable emotion. However, it should be remembered that people on the other side of a given conflict are people, too. They also have friends, families, and communities that they believe they are fighting for. They have hopes, dreams, and memories just like those of the veterans you know. Of course, if people consistently remembered this, war would be impossible.

All wars are unjust because they all require the mass dehumanization of whomever one’s government judges to be “on the other side.” Racism, religious intolerance, and the most belligerent forms of nationalism, are all necessary to convince ordinary people to kill large numbers of other, equally ordinary people. Any and all pro-social instincts to respect the basic dignity of other people must be turned off.

Along with that racism, wars bring with them a culture of a macho hypermasculinity, homophobia, and general conformity toward violence. The disrespect for the dignity of those “on the other side” leaks over to disrespect for the dignity of even those “on our side” who aren’t judged to be sufficiently committed. The entire country starts seeing red, and that jingoistic fervor creates a pretext for waging a war at home to maintain the war abroad. Because war creates a moral vacuum where everything is permitted as long as it helps the cause, no one is safe.

All wars are unjust because they all involve the regimentation of the entire populace, not just the military. As mentioned before, British loyalists were brutally attacked by mobs in the American Revolution, and war resisters were locked up without Habeas Corpus in the American Civil War. In World War II, over a hundred and ten thousand Japanese-Americans were forcibly relocated into internment camps – a decision that even J. Edgar Hoover felt was cruelty without reason. Our current war without end, the Global War on Terror, has ushered in mass-surveillance, the PATRIOT Act, and the targeting of Muslims (both by the government and by racist thugs.)

Even those who refuse to support the war despite that regimentation will be forced to support it with the products of their labor. Because wars are paid for by taxation, they conscript the resources of everyone living within the borders of the warring state. And there is no conscientious objector status that will get you out of paying taxes.

All wars are unjust because they all depend upon mass-theft. Money that free people acting in free association could have used on education, healthcare, food, or any other number of things that actually make life better is taken from them by force and given to the military. That money is then instead used on killing children before they reach the age of four, using weapons that cause birth defects long after wars actually end, starving out the “other side” to break their will, and other acts of destruction. The fortune this creates for military contractors, arms dealers, and other war profiteers is one of the main forces that keeps the cycle of violence going.

These features are not unique to Viet Nam, the first and second Gulf Wars, World War I, or any other especially unpopular war. They are the necessary features of all wars waged by all governments in all places. Each one of these factors is more than enough to unequivocally oppose any given war. It is for this reason that we must be prepared to say that we are “already against the next war,” not as a statement of probability, but one of certainty.

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THE NEW LEVELLER: Volume 1, Issue 2.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REALThis post is the (late! sorry about that) release of the The New Leveller‘s second issue. Full PDF here. Also, immediately below this sentence, you can find links to each individual article in HTML form (albeit without the snazzy design).

Table of Contents:

Page 1 – Who Is the Government?
Page 2 – No Loyalty on May 1st, by Benjamin Blowe
Page 4 – Liberty by Design, by Andy Bratton
Page 5 – The Planet vs. The State, by Zoe Little
Page 6 – A General Idea of Revolution, by Gabriel Amadej
Page 8 – Toward an Anarchy of Production (Part II), by Jason Lee Byas
Page 9 – The Individualist Anarchist & Work, by Nick Ford

From the back page:

Are you interested in individualist anarchism, or at least so frightened by it that you want to keep an eye on its progress? Are you frustrated by capitalism’s love for central planning and communism’s conservative view of human potential? Do you suspect that abolishing the institution responsible for war, police brutality, and mass incarceration might not be so dangerous after all?

Then The New Leveller is for you!

We aim for this newsletter to be a running discussion devoted to radical libertarian and individualist anarchist thought, drawing from nineteenth-century periodicals like Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty and Moses Harmon’s Lucifer, the Lightbearer. Taking that influence seriously, we try to feature plenty of fire. The primary purpose of The New Leveller is to provide another voice for the most radical and unfiltered impulses in market anarchism.

Anyone interested in feeding the flames by contributing, or in subscribing to the newsletter so that they can watch them go higher and higher, is more than welcome to contact us at the.new.leveller@gmail.com. (People interested in receiving physical copies in addition to PDFs should include a mailing address in their email.)

Written submissions should range from (roughly) 500-1000 words, focused on content that would either help introduce people to the ideas of individualist anarchism, develop and explore the ideas of individualist anarchism for those already familiar with it, or analyze an issue from within the framework of individualist anarchism. Basically, we welcome anything that might have fit with the aforementioned periodicals, or in the earlier issues of Murray Rothbard’s Libertarian Forum.

We are also always looking for art to add to our pages. Those submissions should be thematically relevant, and worth viewing in black and white.

 

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From NL 1.2: “Who Is the Government?”

The following is the opening article of the second issue of The New LevellerFor a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REALWHO IS THE GOVERNMENT?

Last July, President Barack Obama chided those who spent their time criticizing government, saying “in this democracy, we the people recognize that the government belongs to us.” For that reason, he argued that “we all have a stake in government’s success, because the government is us.”

Even among those who disagree with him on other political matters, that sentiment is ubiquitous. When we push it to its logical conclusions, though, it starts to look a little odd.

Should we believe that when the National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State, those students committed suicide? Are the over 2.3 million inmates in American prisons just checking in for a vacation? On this month 29 years ago, the Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on a row house in order to attack the black liberation organization MOVE. The fire raged on, destroying 61 houses and killing 11 people. Was that just a standard demolition planned by and for the neighborhood to get rid of some houses they didn’t really want anymore?

Of course not.

That these people all held the right to vote clearly did not guarantee to them any meaningful control over how the government’s resources would be used. They were not the government, and they were kidnapped, shot, or burned alive by someone whose interests were not their own.

These are especially clear cases, and few (if any) State-defenders are willing to go as far as to say that democracies, by definition, can’t murder their own citizens. Even so, this logic is often applied to silence other complaints against the government.

For example, the idea that taxation is theft is often scoffed at as ridiculous. When taxation comes “with representation,” it’s understood as a perfectly normal service fee for uses already approved by those being taxed. Similarly, those who break laws are taken to be breaking rules we’ve already agreed upon as a society. Draft-dodgers are condemned for failing to sufficiently contribute to “their side” in a conflict. Resistance is seen not only as childish, but incoherent.

This is why the most advanced governments have come to accept democracy: it serves as a powerful ideological tool. Victims take on a false sense of control in the decision-making process, and thereby come to identify with their own oppression.

Taxation becomes your payment for projects you helped design. Fines and even prison time become the penalty for backing out of an agreement you yourself made. You’re taken half-way across the world to risk your life killing people who pose no actual threat to you or your loved ones – and this is understood as a duty of self-defense.

You learn to celebrate your own enslavement. After all, “we all have a stake in the government’s success, because the government is us.”

So, just who actually is the government?

It’s not you, it’s not me, and it’s not “we the people.” Some person or group of persons is clearly imposing their will on the rest of us and passing it off as a shared pursuit of the common good.

There are some obvious answers – in the United States, it definitely includes the President, the Senators, the Governors, the Generals, the Sheriffs, the Chiefs of Police, the Wardens, etc. It definitely does not include the common citizenry, whose votes serve only to give them a false sense of power.

Yet there are less obvious answers as well. Just because someone is or is not employed by the government does not settle the issue of whether they are or are not a part of the government in any meaningful sense.

Groundskeepers at the White House may receive a paycheck from the State, but they neither participate in its crimes against the public, nor have a voice in the planning of those crimes. They are no more a part of the government than those of us who drive on public roads.

In that same vein, there are plenty of nominally private individuals and organizations who use their power and influence to shape the government’s actions. When this influence is used to exploit the public, it is called “rent-seeking.” Due to their role in initiating the State’s aggression for their own benefit, consistent rent-seekers are best understood as a part of the government.

There are also nominally private individuals and organizations who not only direct and profit off the government’s crimes, but help commit them. These include military contractors like Blackwater (now known as “Academi”) and the operators of private prisons like Corrections Corporation of America.

What is shared by all those groups that are truly a part of the government (and what distinguishes them as such) is their role in committing systematic aggression against the public. The government is that institution in society which claims political authority over a given citizenry. What this means is that it maintains the right to unilaterally and unaccountably decide what is or is not aggression, and predictably gives itself a rubber stamp of approval fairly often.

At all times, it maintains a monopoly on the right to authorize violence and settle legal disputes. Even when it contracts that violence out to other firms, or allows some competition in legal services, it’s understood that this is done only to the extent that it pleases the State.

These qualities are found in all States in all places. They are found in both monarchies and in democratic republics. They describe the colonial authorities of an empire, and the governments installed by whatever revolutionaries overthrow them. They are present in not only overt dictatorships, but also in nations who pride themselves on their respect for the rule of law.

Always and everywhere, the State is the enemy of the public. It is their aggressor, and it is their exploiter.

Once recognized, this typically provokes a sense of outrage. It should. Yet it should also be a cause for relief.

You have not caged millions of people and robbed them of their humanity. You have not kept entire classes of people in poverty. You did not drop the atomic bomb.

Their borders are not your borders, and their wars are not your wars. Their crimes are not your crimes, and their guilt is not your guilt. The violence they commit in your name does not come from your hands.

No longer will we let them say otherwise.

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From NL 1.2: “No Loyalty on May 1st” (Benjamin Blowe)

The following was written by Benjamin Blowe, and included in the second issue of The New Leveller. For a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REALNO LOYALTY ON MAY 1ST
Benjamin Blowe

The beginning of this month marked yet another May Day, a day that has represented many political sentiments throughout history. First and foremost, May Day is a global celebration for the achievements of workers in their struggles for organized labor. Chosen by the Chicago workers to commemorate the show trial and execution of the martyred Haymarket anarchists in 1886, May Day, or International Worker’s Day, is a day that “belongs to the working class and is dedicated to the revolution,” as Eugene Debs put it in his 1907 May Day editorial.

For those unfamiliar, the labor significance of May Day originates from the efforts of the Eight Hour Movement campaigns in the 19th century Chicago labor movement. Through their work, much of what today’s workers now appreciate came to be. Now we continue their fight for global worker autonomy, hoping to spur that same ongoing determination.

May Day has historically embodied the concerns of those of us on the Left, and more particularly, the libertarian left. With that said, we must not only take note of the many directions that others have attempted to assimilate our day, but ask ourselves what we can do to permanently assign it to the ideology behind full worker emancipation, which is undoubtedly anarchism. I believe the answer is found within the liberated market, by freeing all notions of what is currently viewed as the state’s hold on the “rule of law.”

Since 1886, there have been many attacks on the celebratory significance of May Day. President Grover Cleveland and his cabinet set out to divide the international working class with the construction of Labor Day in 1887. Marxist-Leninists also tainted May Day in the early 20th century by tying it to establish their beloved “workers’ states,” ruled for the benefit of their fellow Bolsheviks. Here I wish to focus on a far more subtle event that subverted May Day just as harshly as the previous aims by pro-government colonizers.

On May 1st, 1961, under President Eisenhower’s backing, Congress’ passed a joint resolution that established that day as Law Day – a day the American Bar Association describes as “a national day set aside to celebrate the [United States’] rule of law.” Also called “Loyalty Day” or “Law and Order Day,” Law Day is an offense to not just the global working class, but those who take laws and government accountability most earnestly – anarchists.

In the words of F.A. Hayek, “law is too important a matter to be left in the hands of government.” Readers of The New Leveller are likely to not only subscribe to Hayek’s point, but take it further, with our support of markets in law and combating the state’s use of its monopoly product. Of course, I would expect neither the conservative nor the liberal in 1960s America to possess sympathy with any part of the market anarchist position of reducing law to the freed marketplace. But the bipartisan support of Law Day couldn’t even stipulate the intricacies regarding their own collectively celebrated law became no holiday for lawyers, anyone of the legal apparatus, or the police.

Instead, Law Day was used to tout the virtues of the United States, as presented in 1960 by politicos like Senator Wiley, who reminded Americans of the words carved on the Worcester, Massachusetts courthouse: “Obedience to Law is Liberty.” The same tactic was used in 1964, when the President of Connecticut Bar wrote against civil rights demonstrators, labor unions, “juvenile delinquency,” and Liz Taylor – all of which were more than likely to be supporters of May Day.

This should all be no surprise from the elites. As anybody critical of the state understands, governments will justify their existence by any means necessary in maintaining ideological hegemony, with tools they’ll argue were created by the art of their own hand. These tools are in desperate need of dissolution, but this does not mean anti-statists should pressure state law by smashing government windows on their way to their local May Day assembly. (Let alone irrelevant goose-chases like hassling Uber drivers.)

Rather, our protestations should take the form of establishing our own tenets within counter-institutions that could create the competitive dual-power relation between distributed “safe zones,” pockets of social counter-power, and the state’s own stolen territory. What I’m suggesting is that which was much familiar among Benjamin Tucker, Dyer Lum, William Greene, and others of the 19th century free-market anti-capitalist radical labor sect. Their rhetoric was in harmony with the IWW, in looking to produce a “new society within the shell of the old.” The desire to generate consensual law syndicates of free association should not be seen as something out of touch with the contemporary efforts of May Day, which finds the majority of its politics in promoting social justice and contesting greater attacks of professionalized theft on us, the working class. While the politics of the youth, women, immigrants, human rights organizations, the LGBTQ, and fellow workers will surely be shown within today’s global marches, it’s just as important to ensure that our prefigurative politics are openly advocated within these demonstrations also.

Law Day’s prideful claim on valuing the American people in their liberties under the state’s empty strive for “equality and justice under law” is an absolute strategic deception. Anybody worth the nerve to call themselves an anarchist and an unforgiving supporter of May Day should surmise that the United States’ absolute constitutionalism is best dissolved in place of our own “legislative capture.” Such a vision can be described as localized market liberal panarchies, where all goods and services are exchanged within voluntary associations of jurisdictional arbitrage. The beginnings of these relations can be built today by trading our present relations in for communitarian ones. These relations manifest when we’re carrying our signs next to our brothers and sisters, looking out for one another, and continuing our stride for a better tomorrow. Here, the Lockean “consent of the governed” can become an honest phrase insofar as the choice in which where one will live and who one will associate with within an open, stateless society is by all means up to their own unbridled volition. So in honor of May Day, let’s look to the end of global militarism, corporate power, borders, and all statist hegemony. Let’s strive toward individual worker empowerment by remembering fallen workers, and yearning to free all markets to continue fighting like hell for the betterment of workers who are still alive today. And lastly, let’s forever contest Law Day and government loyalty with establishing jurisprudence outside of the state. With that said, workers of the world, unite!

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From NL 1.2: “Liberty by Design” (Andy Bratton)

The following was written by Andy Bratton, and included in the second issue of The New Leveller. For a PDF of the entire issue, click here. For HTML versions of each individual article, click here.

THE NEW LEVELLER MASTHEAD REALLIBERTY BY DESIGN

Andy Bratton

I’ve been heavily involved in the student movement for liberty for about three years now, so I’ve inevitably been to a lot of socials. They usually follow some big event and take place in a crowded, noisy lounge or bar, where everyone gathers to drink, laugh, and otherwise be merry. After everyone’s had their go at cornering celebretarians and/or trying to get Jeffrey Tucker’s autograph, conversations settle predictably into answering questions regarding one’s place in the liberty movement and plans for the future. It is during these conversations that I tend to experience the fleeting, but not insignificant, “what the hell am I doing here?” panic.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the people I meet as an activist for liberty. Some of the most interesting individuals and fastest friends with whom I’ve had the pleasure of associating come from this group. No, the problem, such as it is, always lies in finding common ground in academic and career pursuits. See, these conversations usually start out with “What’s your major?” to which the answers typically are “Philosophy, Economics, Public Policy, Journalism, Public Relations, etc.” While I have a great degree of interest in (most) all of these fields, I can’t help but feel slightly out of my element as an Industrial Design student. With an answer like that, the majority of people inquire further only to discover that our day-to-day activities have little to nothing in common, leaving, us without much to discuss beyond the day’s events and the weather.

I sometimes feel the need to justify my presence at these events and draw a specific connection between the work I do and the libertarian and anarchist philosophies I hold so dear. That’s what I will attempt to do here, not so much because for the purpose of validating my interest in activism, but to lay out an argument for what I think ought to be the next step for liberty activism: to break out of the box of academia and pursue the endeavors of the market as a career or, at the very least, as extra-curricular interests.

At its core, I find that the heart of the liberty-minded worldview and the primary motivating factor of anarchism lies in allowing and encouraging of individuals to structure their lives such that they can produce the most social and economic value. This means granting those individuals the freedom to determine what value to pursue and how to go about pursuing it. Libertarians almost every variety seem to understand this, but there’s an underlying principle here that I think has yet to be broadly understood: The very act of creating value increases the freedom and ability for the original producer and for everyone else to create more.

Design can be defined as the application of thought and planning to the creative process in order to maximize the value produced and minimize the time necessary to produce it. This lies and the core of a vast range of fields and activities including invention, engineering, architecture, and even pure artistic expression. When one applies a design mindset to production, they are actively working to discover the best ways by which a task can be completed. This process involves a study of aesthetics, ergonomics, mechanics, physics, engineering, and a variety of other disciplines all aimed how best to improve our lives and the lives of those for whom we’re designing. With this in mind, we come to understand that every product that’s produced actively increases our freedom to act, and a well-designed product greatly increases our freedom to act. A backhoe and a shovel are both designed to accomplish the same task: to move earth from one place to another. However, depending on the situation, the use of one will certainly be more appropriate than the other and an inappropriate application of machinery may even serve to hinder one’s ability to accomplish the goal rather than advancing it. This task, accomplished quickly and well, serves to free up time that could be dedicated to other tasks or used for leisure. In either case, using a backhoe to move two tons of dirt will allow you significantly more freedom of action than using a shovel.

Libertarians and anarchists seek to liberate society and economy from the bonds of State power and regulation. We can do this by analyzing the way State power hinders us and by arguing against it in the public sphere. However, this route has its limitations and cannot replace actually practicing what we preach. If liberty is a product, we have to sell it and it’s hard to do that without active demonstration of that product’s use. Simply discussing the value of liberated markets and free enterprise with the broader population (or even worse, discussing only amongst ourselves) doesn’t mean much if we don’t actually go out and participate in these things. The acts of creation and invention seem to be subjects which we merely talk about, not actively invest in.

It’s not as if understanding the ideas of liberty and applying those ideas are mutually exclusive activities. In fact, I find that having an understanding of economics and a passion for advancing freedom academically informs and motivates me to create products that advance freedom physically. I encourage liberty-minded thinkers who have the desire to get their hands dirty to participate in design, creativity, and invention. The creation of new products and businesses, by its nature, promotes human liberty. Put down the pen and pick up a paintbrush. Set your mind toward building a freer world rather than envisioning the minutia of what it might look like. As an activist, reach out to engineers, designers, scientists, and inventors, and encourage them to explore and understand the philosophy of liberty so that it might inform their work. In doing so, we will build a coalition of doers and a foundation from which our ideas can experience new growth and make the world a freer place!

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