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A critical examination of Kevin Carson’s Mutualism (Part Three)

June 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Even when it was laissez, it wasn’t faire

If it were merely a historical question of the material role the State played in the emergence of Capital, and the role it continues to play in Capital’s own development even now, Kevin Carson and Karl Marx would be in complete agreement on the facts. Even if we extended Carson’s argument to include the idea that every step in the development of Capital has required State coercion and violence, Carson would get no argument from Marx. Finally, Marx would entirely agree with Carson’s argument that the present system is exploitative; and that its exploitation depends solely on the state.

The disagreement between Marx and Carson is not with these historical and material facts, but with the question raised by them of, which, the State or Capital, is the driving force in this development. While Carson believes the State is the autonomous actor in the development of capitalist exploitation, Marx believed the State’s absolutely essential role in the development of Capital results from inherent internal barriers created by the capitalist mode of production itself. In support of my assertion on these points, I offer no other evidence than Marx’s own words as written in Capital, Volume 3, Chapter 15:

“If, as shown, a falling rate of profit is bound up with an increase in the mass of profit, a larger portion of the annual product of labour is appropriated by the capitalist under the category of capital (as a replacement for consumed capital) and a relatively smaller portion under the category of profit… Furthermore, the mass of profit increases in spite of its slower rate with the growth of the invested capital. However, this requires a simultaneous concentration of capital, since the conditions of production then demand employment of capital on a larger scale. It also requires its centralisation, i.e. , the swallowing up of the small capitalists by the big and their deprivation of capital… It is this same severance of the conditions of production, on the one hand, from the producers, on the other, that forms the conception of capital. It begins with primitive accumulation…, appears as a permanent process in the accumulation and concentration of capital, and expresses itself finally as centralisation of existing capitals in a few hands and a deprivation of many of their capital (to which expropriation is now changed). This process would soon bring about the collapse of capitalist production if it were not for counteracting tendencies, which have a continuous decentralising effect alongside the centripetal one.”

In this sketch of the contradictions inherent in Wage Slavery, Marx demonstrates why continuous state intervention is necessary not merely at the earliest periods of the emergence of the social relation, during the period of primitive accumulation, and in its latest period of development, a period of absolute over-accumulation of capital, but why state intervention in the social process of production is required during the whole of the capitalist epoch. On its own, the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production itself would drive it to rapid extinction.

As with Carson’s Mutualist analysis, there is in Marx’s theory no period of laissez-faire political relations in which “the… character of the system was largely… a “neutral” legal framework…” This much should already be obvious, since, in 1848 — six years before Benjamin Tucker was born, more than two decades before he became an Anarchist, and nearly three decades before his first published work  — Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

Precisely when the mainstream historian, the Anarcho-Capitalist and the Marxist propose the State operated as a neutral legal framework, and not to enforce the system of Wage Slavery — and, precisely when each proposes Capital was in its alleged “competitive”, as opposed to its alleged “monopoly”, phase — Marx was describing the State in exactly these terms. Historical materialism has never proposed any other relation between the State and the total social capital than the one cited above — that the State, insofar as it can be considered a distinct entity in capitalist society, acts as the general social manager of the mode of production.

However, even if we go beyond the merely formal distinction between Capital as a form of private property and the State as the general manager of the interests of these private capitals — i.e., as the general manager of the system of Wage Slavery — and assume the State has acted throughout history directly on its own behalf as the social capitalist, it is still obvious that the inherent contradictions of the capitalist mode of production impose on the State-Capital entity precisely the same laws as are imposed on the total social capital when it is formally operating independent of the State. The entirely formal distinction between the State, on the one hand, and the total social capital, on the other, has absolutely no impact on the influence of the relations of production on political relations generally, but only on the ways this influence is expressed in actual political events.

This is because, in historical materialism, the State, whatever its relation to the existing mode of production prevailing in society, is nevertheless only a body composed of members of society carrying out the particular public functions of the State. It is a part of the general division of labor prevailing in society, and not, as mainstream political-economy would have us believe, an entity standing outside this division of labor. It does not matter in the least whether politics forms a sphere separate from the direct exploitation of labor power in the capitalist mode of production — as, for instance, is said to prevail in the United States — or is entirely fused with this direct exploitation of labor power — as might be argued in the case of the People’s Republic of China at present — the contradiction arising from the process of production of surplus value itself gives rise to the same necessities.

Moreover, in every historical epoch known to us, the State is not, and has never been, anything but a given quantity of surplus product of the existing mode of exploitation of labor organized in the form of the State. Since, in all epochs for which historical records are available, it is composed of men and women who are, by definition, unproductive drones within society, wasting the productive capacity of society on efforts, which, under any and all previous epochs, are entirely superfluous to human needs, it follows that its entire constitution depends on the productive labor of the remaining portion of society, and on the actual mode of production of surplus product prevailing in the society, however historically determined. For the State to be otherwise, it would no longer be the State, but a particular element of the productive capacity of society itself.

Finally, it is an obvious conclusion that whatever the social relations under which the surplus product of society is produced in an epoch, these social relations are of paramount importance to the State, precisely because it has bearing not only on private interests bound up with the mode of production, but with the interests of the State itself. If this relation between the State and the prevailing mode of extraction of surplus product had not been already explicitly argued for by centuries of observers, it could be easily deduced from historical experience. Thus, for example, Wikipedia tells us, in the literature of Ancient Greece, the only basis on which utopian society is organized without a slave population is that where labor itself has been abolished:

The Greeks could not comprehend an absence of slaves. Slaves exist even in the “Cloudcuckooland” of Aristophanes’ The Birds as well as in the ideal cities of Plato’s Laws or Republic.[161] The utopian cities of Phaleas of Chalcedon and Hippodamus of Miletus are based on the equal distribution of property, but public slaves are used respectively as craftsmen[162] and land workers.[163] The “reversed cities” placed women in power or even saw the end of private property, as in Lysistrata or Assemblywomen, but could not picture slaves in charge of masters. The only societies without slaves were those of the Golden Age, where all needs were met. In this type of society, as explained by Plato,[164] one reaped generously without sowing. In Telekleides’ Amphictyons[165] barley loaves fight with wheat loaves for the honour of being eaten by men. Moreover, objects move themselves—dough kneads itself, and the jug pours itself. Society without slaves is thus relegated to a different time and space. In a “normal” society, one needs slaves.

What is particularly offensive in this regard, is the implication made by Kevin Carson, that somehow, Marx held to the same conclusion as the ancient Greeks, namely, that the system of Wage Slavery could only be abolished given the abolition of labor itself. Carson argues:

A second failing of Marxism (or at least the vulgar variety) was to treat the evolution of particular social and political forms as natural outgrowths of a given technical mode of production.

No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society. Mankind thus inevitably sets itself such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. (169)

For the Marxists, a “higher” or more progressive form of society could only come about when productive forces under the existing form of society had reached their fullest possible development under that society. To attempt to create a free and non-exploitative society before its technical and productive prerequisites had been achieved would be folly. The proper anarchist position, in contrast, is that exploitation and class rule are not inevitable at any time; they depend upon intervention by the state, which is not at all necessary. Just social and economic relations are compatible with any level of technology; technical progress can be achieved and new technology integrated into production in any society, thorough free work and voluntary cooperation. As G. K. Chesterton pointed out, all the technical prerequisites for steam engines had been achieved by the skilled craftsmen of the High Middle Ages. Had not the expropriation of the peasantry and the crushing of the free cities taken place, a steam powered industrial revolution would still have taken place–but the main source of capital for industrializing would have been in the hands of the democratic craft guilds. The market system would have developed on the basis of producer ownership of the means of production. Had not Mesopotamian and Egyptian elites figured out six thousand years ago that the peasantry produced a surplus and could be milked like cattle, free people would still have exchanged their labor and devised ways, through voluntary cooperation, to make their work easier and more productive. Parasitism is not necessary for progress.

Is this right? Is Marx making the absurd statement that Wage Slavery could not be abolished until the productive forces founded on Wage Slavery “had reached their fullest possible development under that society.” Carson offers not one bit of evidence to support this outrageous claim, and is demonstrably wrong on it.

I will examine this absolutely incomprehensible charge in my next post.

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A critical examination of Kevin Carson’s Mutualism (Part Two)

June 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Our friend, Moneybags, must be so lucky…

I apologize to readers for the mind-numbingly extensive quotes in the previous post, but I wanted it to be absolutely clear that the historical record demonstrates Carson is entirely on firm footing when he asserts Capital — that is, Wage Slavery — would be impossible without the State — not just presently, but in the earliest moments of its emergence as well. I now want to be equally clear that Marx himself acknowledges this to be a fact, when he writes:

For the conversion of his money into capital, therefore, the owner of money must meet in the market with the free labourer, free in the double sense, that as a free man he can dispose of his labour-power as his own commodity, and that on the other hand he has no other commodity for sale, is short of everything necessary for the realisation of his labour-power.

The question why this free labourer confronts him in the market, has no interest for the owner of money, who regards the labour-market as a branch of the general market for commodities. And for the present it interests us just as little. We cling to the fact theoretically, as he does practically. One thing, however, is clear — Nature does not produce on the one side owners of money or commodities, and on the other men possessing nothing but their own labour-power. This relation has no natural basis, neither is its social basis one that is common to all historical periods. It is clearly the result of a past historical development, the product of many economic revolutions, of the extinction of a whole series of older forms of social production.

So, too, the economic categories, already discussed by us, bear the stamp of history. Definite historical conditions are necessary that a product may become a commodity. It must not be produced as the immediate means of subsistence of the producer himself. Had we gone further, and inquired under what circumstances all, or even the majority of products take the form of commodities, we should have found that this can only happen with production of a very specific kind, capitalist production. Such an inquiry, however, would have been foreign to the analysis of commodities. Production and circulation of commodities can take place, although the great mass of the objects produced are intended for the immediate requirements of their producers, are not turned into commodities, and consequently social production is not yet by a long way dominated in its length and breadth by exchange-value. The appearance of products as commodities pre-supposes such a development of the social division of labour, that the separation of use-value from exchange-value, a separation which first begins with barter, must already have been completed. But such a degree of development is common to many forms of society, which in other respects present the most varying historical features. On the other hand, if we consider money, its existence implies a definite stage in the exchange of commodities. The particular functions of money which it performs, either as the mere equivalent of commodities, or as means of circulation, or means of payment, as hoard or as universal money, point, according to the extent and relative preponderance of the one function or the other, to very different stages in the process of social production. Yet we know by experience that a circulation of commodities relatively primitive, suffices for the production of all these forms. Otherwise with capital. The historical conditions of its existence are by no means given with the mere circulation of money and commodities. It can spring into life, only when the owner of the means of production and subsistence meets in the market with the free labourer selling his labour-power. And this one historical condition comprises a world’s history. Capital, therefore, announces from its first appearance a new epoch in the process of social production.

From this passage we can see that Capital, that is, Wage Slavery was, in Marx’s opinion, not a result of nature, nor was it the mere product of preexisting social development. Rather, it was a rupture — a world historical occurrence — in pre-capitalist social relations. Even with the appearance of commodities, trade, money, etc. the emergence of capitalist social relations is not a necessary outcome. It occurs in history only when the owner of the means of production and subsistence enters into a specific relationship with another who has the “freedom” to sell her capacity to labor and is, moreover, compelled by circumstances, on pain of starvation, to sell this capacity. However, as was shown in the previous post, even facing starvation, it still took relentless state violence over many decades — centuries — for this mass of pitiful sub-humans to be broken to a life of wage slavery.

Wage slavery is no natural state for any human being. Despite the violence of the State and the efforts to starve them into submission, domesticating human beings to the routine of modern wage slavery was nowhere near as clean and elegant as is implied by the supply/demand curve of the simple-minded economist. It was — and remains today — an arena of constant violent aggression within society against the worker, in which every means available — political, military and economic — are brought to bear to compel her submission. The neglect of this fact is all the more to be denounced, since, in the Fascist State, the wage slave is routinely portrayed as the willing partner in an otherwise unremarkable market transaction — the Fascist State is all too ready to deny the paternity of its bastard offspring, and swear them all to be the product of Virgin Birth.

Kevin Carson may be polite, and keep this discussion on an intellectual plane, but I am not so polite; I am willing to thrust the face of the Anarcho-Capitalist in the shit that is the history of Capital. As the Anarcho-Capitalist drones on and on about the “Rights of Englishmen”, and “Taxation as a form of Involuntary Servitude”, this nonsense can be brought to a sudden halt merely by asking him to consider how long the wealth of one would be safe, if the State could not be called upon to protect his property rights from the anger of the remaining 9,999 living on the edge of existence. Nothing converts a Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalist into a model Fascist Citizen so quickly as the possibility of Voluntary Association of the laborers and the eradication of Wage Slavery.

On the other hand, we have the Marxist, who, despite his self-identification, could not pick Karl Marx out of a crowd of well shaven Keynesian economists. Unlike the Anarcho-Capitalist — who, reflecting his social base, decries the imposts of the Fascist State on the meager wealth of the petty capitalists, marginalized from productive employment of their capital by the progress of Capital itself, and forced to scurry about in various speculative enterprises to protect it from inflation — the Marxist is a poseur, who advocates on behalf of the wage slave — but only so far as she remains a slave of the State. Reduction of hours of labor to end unemployment forever? The Marxist has never heard of such nonsense, despite having read Capital, where Marx explicitly referred to it as the “modest Magna Carta” of the working class. In any case, the Marxist explains, we need the Fascist State to “invest” in “infrastructure” and “green jobs”, so the active laboring population must be worked to its absolute limit and the unemployed left to starve, so that the Fascist State may have the resources it needs to accomplish this. (Taking a page from the talking points memo of Fascist economists like Paul Krugman, the Marxist has taken to referring to wasteful Fascist State expenditures as “investments”.) If, by some fantastic chance, working people should overthrow this Fascist State, the Marxist explains, even then compulsory labor cannot be done away with. The workers is not prepared intellectually to manage her own affairs without the despotism of the party-state, which alone has the foresight and vision to manage society on her behalf until such time as she is deemed capable. When might this be? The party-state will know it, when the time arrives, of course.

Carson is not only right to take both Anarcho-Capitalists and Marxists to task on this point, he has the entirety of the bloody history of Wage Slavery on his side — a history both the Anarcho-Capitalist and the Marxist wish to ignore; which they wish to prettify by blaming its results either on the State, as the Anarcho-Capitalist does, or on Capital, as the Marxist does. The true facts are these: the Wage Slave was bludgeoned by decades of State violence, even as she was starved out by the monopoly owners of Capital, in an efforts to make her submit to the very conditions of life we now take as the natural state of society. If, Kevin Carson is to be criticized for anything in this regard, it is that he did not treat these critical communist trends with the contempt they deserve — that he did not call them out on their nonsense, and expose their muddle-headed arguments as such. I think there is a reason for this; and, I believe that reason lies in the flaws of Carson’s own argument regarding both Capital and the State — a flaw he shares with both communist trends.

I will turn to this in my next post.

A critical examination of Kevin Carson’s Mutualism (Part One)

June 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Punishment in a forced labor camp II, 1930s, Georgia (www.slaverybyanothername.com)

Capital, or Slavery by Another Name

Kevin Carson’s Austrian & Marxist Theories of Monopoly Capital: A Mutualist Synthesis” states his Mutualist position in opposition to both the anarcho-capitalist Libertarian and Marxist theories of monopoly capitalism. The theories of the Anarcho-Capitalist camp and the Marxist camp are, in turn, set in opposition to mainstream liberal and conservative arguments.

According to Carson, mainstream liberals and conservatives argue the Fascist State acts as a constraint on Capital. Though differing on whether this constraint operates in favor of society or against, both wings of the dominant consensus hold to this view:

Both mainline “conservatives” and “liberals” share the same mirror-imaged view of the world (but with “good guys” and “bad guys” reversed), in which the growth of the welfare and regulatory state reflected a desire to restrain the power of big business. According to this commonly accepted version of history, the Progressive and New Deal programs were forced on corporate interests from outside, and against their will. In this picture of the world, big government is a populist “countervailing power” against the “economic royalists.” This picture of the world is shared by Randroids and Chicago boys on the right, who fulminate against “looting” by “anti-capitalist” collectivists; and by NPR liberals who confuse the New Deal with the Second Advent. It is the official ideology of the publick skool establishment, whose history texts recount heroic legends of “trust buster” TR combating the “malefactors of great wealth,” and Upton Sinclair’s crusade against the meat packers. It is expressed in almost identical terms in right-wing home school texts by Clarence Carson and the like, who bemoan the defeat of business at the hands of the collectivist state.

The conventional understanding of government regulation was succinctly stated by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the foremost spokesman for corporate liberalism: “Liberalism in America has ordinarily been the movement on the part of the other sections of society to restrain the power of the business community.” Mainstream liberals and conservatives may disagree on who the “bad guy” is in this scenario, but they are largely in agreement on the anti-business motivation. For example, Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business Review lamented in 1968: “Business has not really won or had its way in connection with even a single piece of proposed regulatory or social legislation in the last three-quarters of a century.”

Carson has this to say of the critical communist theories of Anarcho-Capitalism and Marxism:

Stromberg’s argument is based on Murray Rothbard’s Austrian theory of regulatory cartelization. Economists of the Austrian school, especially Ludwig von Mises and his disciple Rothbard, have taken a view of state capitalism in many respects resembling that of the New Left. That is, both groups portray it as a movement of large-scale, organized capital to obtain its profits through state intervention into the economy, although the regulations entailed in this project are usually sold to the public as “progressive” restraints on big business. This parallelism between the analyses of the New Left and the libertarian Right was capitalized upon by Rothbard in his own overtures to the Left. In such projects as his journal Left and Right, and in the anthology A New History of Leviathan (coedited with New Leftist Ronald Radosh), he sought an alliance of the libertarian Left and Right against the corporate state.

Rothbard treated the “war collectivism” of World War I as a prototype for twentieth century state capitalism. He described it as

a new order marked by strong government, and extensive and pervasive government intervention and planning, for the purpose of providing a network of subsidies and monopolistic privileges to business, and especially to large business, interests. In particular, the economy could be cartelized under the aegis of government, with prices raised and production fixed and restricted, in the classic pattern of monopoly; and military and other government contracts could be channeled into the hands of favored corporate producers. Labor, which had been becoming increasingly rambunctious, could be tamed and bridled into the service of this new, state monopoly-capitalist order, through the device of promoting a suitably cooperative trade unionism, and by bringing the willing union leaders into the planning system as junior partners.

In this article, which is a review of the literature, Kevin Carson attempts to synthesize the view of the two critical communism theories. Carson takes on both the opportunism of Anarcho-Capitalism and Marxism, with regards to capitalist property and the State, respectively. He attempts to demonstrate what these critical communist theories have in common, but also how their differences leads them into errors.

He argues, rather persuasively, that capitalist social relations are impossible without the State. His argument refers not just to present day Capital — during this period of over-accumulation — but also to the very beginning. So, he is making the argument that Capital itself arose on the basis of violence and state-sponsored primitive accumulation. He is, therefore, not making a hypothetical argument, but a historical one – which argument can be actually confirmed by historical records.

While we can make hypothetical arguments against his position, the real question is: “Does his argument hold water as history?” The answer to this can only be, “Yes.” So, that being the case, my own review begins with acknowledging this historical fact. So far as I can see, Marx and Carson agree on this point. Even though Carson asserts Marx disagrees with him in the German Ideology. Marx does not. He writes of the bloody violence unleashed on the floating population of England under Henry VIII, and, moreover, the history of plunder and colonization, and intensified inter-state conflict that accompanied the rise of Capital:

With guild-free manufacture, property relations also quickly changed. The first advance beyond naturally derived estate capital was provided by the rise of merchants whose capital was from the beginning movable, capital in the modern sense as far as one can speak of it, given the circumstances of those times. The second advance came with manufacture, which again made mobile a mass of natural capital, and altogether increased the mass of movable capital as against that of natural capital.

At the same time, manufacture became a refuge of the peasants from the guilds which excluded them or paid them badly, just as earlier the guild-towns had [served] as a refuge for the peasants from [the oppressive landed nobility].

Simultaneously with the beginning of manufactures there was a period of vagabondage caused by the abolition of the feudal bodies of retainers, the disbanding of the swollen armies which had flocked to serve the kings against their vassals, the improvement of agriculture, and the transformation of great strips of tillage into pasture land. From this alone it is clear how this vagabondage is strictly connected with the disintegration of the feudal system. As early as the thirteenth century we find isolated epochs of this kind, but only at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth does this vagabondage make a general and permanent appearance. These vagabonds, who were so numerous that, for instance, Henry VIII of England had 72,000 of them hanged, were only prevailed upon to work with the greatest difficulty and through the most extreme necessity, and then only after long resistance. The rapid rise of manufactures, particularly in England, absorbed them gradually.

With the advent of manufactures, the various nations entered into a competitive relationship, the struggle for trade, which was fought out in wars, protective duties and prohibitions, whereas earlier the nations, insofar as they were connected at all, had carried on an inoffensive exchange with each other. Trade had from now on a political significance.

With the advent of manufacture the relationship between worker and employer changed. In the guilds the patriarchal relationship between journeyman and master continued to exist; in manufacture its place was taken by the monetary relation between worker and capitalist — a relationship which in the countryside and in small towns retained a patriarchal tinge, but in the larger, the real manufacturing towns, quite early lost almost all patriarchal complexion.

Manufacture and the movement of production in general received an enormous impetus through the extension of commerce which came with the discovery of America and the sea-route to the East Indies. The new products imported thence, particularly the masses of gold and silver which came into circulation and totally changed the position of the classes towards one another, dealing a hard blow to feudal landed property and to the workers; the expeditions of adventurers, colonisation; and above all the extension of markets into a world market, which had now become possible and was daily becoming more and more a fact, called forth a new phase of historical development, into which in general we cannot here enter further. Through the colonisation of the newly discovered countries the commercial struggle of the nations amongst one another was given new fuel and accordingly greater extension and animosity.

Beyond Marx himself, further support for Carson’s position is found on the website, Spartacus Educational, regarding the bloody history of the emergence of wage slavery:

Poverty in Tudor Times

In Tudor England about a third of the population lived in poverty. Their suffering always increased after bad harvests. A shortage of food resulted in higher prices. This meant that poorer families could not afford to buy enough food for their needs.

Wealthy people were expected to give help (alms) to local people suffering from poverty because they were old, blind, crippled or sick. Some wealthy people were generous while others were mean. This meant that poor people in some villages were fairly well cared for while others died of starvation.

Unemployment was a major cause of poverty. When large landowners changed from arable to sheep farming, unemployment increased rapidly. The closing down of the monasteries in the 1530s created even more unemployment. As monasteries had also helped provide food for the poor, this created further problems.

Unemployed people were sometimes tempted to leave their villages to look for work. This was illegal and people who did this were classified as vagabonds.

A law passed in 1536 stated that people caught outside their parish without work were to be punished by being whipped through the streets. For a second offence the vagabond was to lose part of an ear. If a vagabond was caught a third time he or she was executed.

In 1550 Parliament passed a law stating that every parish had to build a workhouse for the poor. Edward VI set an example by giving permission for Bridewell Palace in London to be used as a workhouse. In exchange for food and shelter, the people who lived in the workhouse worked without wages. If people without work refused to go to the workhouse they were to be treated as vagabonds.

To pay for these workhouses, vicars were given permission to ask everyone in the parish to give money. If people refused, the vicar had to report them to his bishop. Workhouses did not solve the problem. It has been estimated that in 1570 about 10% of the population were still wandering around the country looking for work.

In 1576 a new Poor Law was introduced. Each parish had to keep a store of “wool, hemp, flax, iron or other stuff that was to be handed out to the unemployed. In exchange for the goods that they produced, the parish gave them money. In this way, the poor could continue living in their own homes. This new law also introduced fines for those who refused to pay money to help the poor.

This was followed in 1601 by another Poor Law. Workhouses now had to be provided for people who were too old or ill to work. People who refused to contribute money to help the poor could now be sent to prison.

The website offers the following documentation of its assertions:

Thomas More, Utopia (1516): “The landowners enclose all land into pastures (for sheep)… the peasants must depart away…. And when they have wandered… what else can they do but steal or go about begging.”

In 1566 Thomas Harman wrote a book about vagabonds: “They are punished by whippings. Yet they like this life so much that their punishment is soon forgotten. They never think of changing until they climb the gallows.”

In 1594 William Lambarde made a speech about poverty in England: “There were always poor lepers, aged poor, sick poor, poor widows, poor orphans, and such like, but poor soldiers were either rarely or never heard of till now… They lead their lives in begging and end them by hanging… They fight our wars… enduring cold and hunger when we live at ease, lying in the open field when we are in our beds.”

Letter sent by the citizens of London to Edward VI (1553): “It was obvious to all men that beggars and thieves were everywhere. And we found the cause was that they were idle; and the cure must be to make them work… by providing work ourselves, so that the strong and sturdy vagabond may be made to earn his living. For this we need a house of work… And so, we ask for the king’s house of Bridewell.”

Law passed by Parliament in 1576: “So that youth may be accustomed and brought up in labour and work, and so they do not grow to be idle rogues… it is ordered… that in every city and town within this realm a large stock of wool, hemp, flax, iron… shall be provided.”

Report on a survey carried out in Norwich in 1571: “Many of the citizens were annoyed that the city was so full with poor people, both men women and children, to the number of 2,300 persons, who went from door to door begging, pretending they wanted work, but did very little.”

Law passed by Parliament in 1597: “Every vagabond or beggar… shall be stripped naked from the middle upwards and publicly whipped until his or her body be bloody, and forth with sent to the parish where he was born… If any vagabond or beggar return again, he shall suffer death by hanging.”

Wage slavery was born of violence, and violence has accompanied it during its entire reign. Capital is the mother, the State is its father. The wage slave is the bastard offspring of both. And, this antihuman union has been quite fertile. The connection between the state and compulsory labor is so seamless that even the Workers’ Paradise had laws against “flitters, loafers, absentees, and grabbers”:

In the Soviet Union, the workers work not for capitalists, but for themselves, for their socialist state, for the good of all humanity. The overwhelming majority of laborers and office workers honorably and conscientiously work in enterprises, transport, and establishments, take a professional attitude toward work, offering models of Stakhanovite valor, strengthening the might and defense capabilities of the motherland..

But side-by-side with honest and conscientious workers, there are still scattered unmotivated, backward, or dishonorable people — flitters, loafers, absentees, and grabbers.

With their second-rate work, absenteeism, lateness to work, aimless wandering about the factory during work-time, and other violations of the rules of internal work organization, and likewise with individual capricious migrations from one establishment to another, these people disrupt labor discipline, and bring great losses to industry, transport, and all of the national economy.

They try to give as little work as possible to the state, and grab as much money as possible for themselves. They abuse Soviet labor laws and reles, using them for their selfish interests. They do not work fully even druing the established hours of the working day; often they work only 4 or 5 hours in all, wasting the remaining 2-3 hours of working time. With this, the people and the state lose every year millions of work days and billions of rubles.

When flitters and loafers are fired, they start filing lawsuits, and, not working, win payments for supposedly involuntary unemployment. Dismissal from an establishment for violating labor discipline, as a rule, is no sort of punishment at all for truants, since in the majority of cases they quickly find work in other establishments.

Using current regulations about granting vacations, according to which the right to vacation is granted after 5 1/2 months of work in a factory or institution, flitters and loafers, running from one establishment to another, contrive to get two vacations in one year, ending up in a preferred position over conscientious laborers and office-workers.

In housing projects, built by factories for their laborers and office workers, apartments are often occupied by persons who either voluntarily quit work in these establishments or were fired for violating labor discipline; because of this laborers and office workers, who have worked long and honorably in one establishment, are entirely deprived of necessary living-space.

In distribution of trips to rest homes and sanatoriums, flitters and truants enjoy the same rights as honestly working laborers and office-workers. In the same way, both in payment of insurance awards for temporary infirmity, and in the awarding of pensions, the necessary sharp distinction is not made between conscientious workers with long uninterrupted terms of service in a given factory or institution, and violators of labor discipline — flitters, running from some factories and institutions to others.

Some trade-union, managerial, and even judicial organs show an inadmissible, antisocial, complaisance toward violators of labor discipline and even connive with them — against the interests of the people and the state, — often deciding questions about reinstatement at work, about payment of insurance for temporary inability to work, about eviction from factory apartments, etc. in favor of flitters and truants.

All this leads to a situation, where dishonorable workers, laboring little, can live at the expense of the state, at the expense of the people. This evokes just protests from the majority of laborers and office workers. It demands the introduction of various changes in current rules of internal labor administration and in the norms of social insurance, so that in the future there will no longer be the same treatment for conscientious workers as for loafers and flitters; so that encouragement will be offered only to honestly working laborers and office workers, and not to those who subvert labor discipline and skip easily from one establishment to another.

Major abuses are found also in the practice of using leave for pregnancy and birth. It often happens that some women, seeking by deceitful means to live at the expense of the state, go to work in factories or institutions soon before giving birth only in order to receive the 4-month paid leave, and never return to work. The interests of the state demand an immediate end to this abuse..

Moreover, laws against vagabonds are still on the books in the United States today. According to one writer, it was not unusual for these laws to be used against Black men even into the 1950s in Birmingham. Police would sweep up all men who appeared to be without jobs. Once convicted, they would be hired out the mining companies. Carl V. Harris writes of this practice in his 1972 book, “Reforms in Government Control of Negroes in Birmingham, Alabama, 1890-1990”

“When the newspapers announce that the ever alert Sheriff and his trusted deputies rounded up some twenty or thirty negroes in the woods, wounded two or three and landed the balance in the county jail for crap shooting, does anybody believe that the peace of the county is being conserved, or does every man know that the syndicate is trying to reimburse itself for its campaign expenditures?” Thus did Walker Perry, chief attorney for the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company, denounce in 1912 the oppressive fee system, under which the Sheriff’s “syndicate” in Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama, allegedly earned $50,000 per year in fees by energetically arresting Negroes on petty gambling charges. Perry, as chairman of a reform crusade to abolish the fee system in Jefferson County, was one of many reform movement leaders who between 1890 and 1920 sought to remedy defects in the local government’s methods of controlling Negroes.

Most Birmingham whites believed that their local government should exercise vigilant control over the Negroes who composed approximately 40 percent of the population of their city. In 1889 the editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald declared: ‘The negro is a good laborer when his labor can be controlled and directed, but he is a very undesirable citizen.” In 1906 the editor of the Birmingham News said: ‘Anyone visiting a Southern city or town must be impressed at witnessing the large number of loafing negroes… They can all get work, but they don’t want to work. The result is that they sooner or later get into mischief or commit crimes.” The editor believed that such Negroes were “not only a menace to the public safety” but also “to some extent a financial burden upon the taxpayers.”

The Constitution actually allows this practice in the very amendment that outlawed slavery:

Thirteenth Amendment – Slavery And Involuntary Servitude

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

For decades this amendment was used to justify state action that in essence, reproduced all the vilest practices of slavery. How soon will it be before these laws are applied to the 99er population?