I.1 Isn't libertarian socialism an oxymoron?

No. As discussed in section A.1.3, the word "libertarian" has been used by anarchist socialists for far longer than the pro-free market right have been using it. This in itself does not, of course, prove that the term is free of contradiction. However, as we will show below, the claim that the term is self-contractory rests on the assumption that socialism requires the state in order to exist and that socialism is incompatible with liberty. This assumption, as is often true of objections to socialism, is based on a misconception of what socialism is, a misconception that many authoritarian socialists and the state capitalism of Soviet Russia have helped to foster. In reality it is the term "state socialism" which is an oxymoron.

The right (and many on the left) consider that, by definition, "socialism" is state ownership and control of the means of production, along with centrally planned determination of the national economy (and so social life). This definition has become common because many Social Democrats, Leninists, and other statists call themselves socialists. However, the fact that certain people call themselves socialists does not imply that the system they advocate is really socialism. We need to analyse and understand the systems in question, by applying critical, scientific thought, in order to determine whether their claims to the socialist label are justified. As we'll see, to accept the above definition one has to ignore the overall history of the socialist movement and consider only certain trends within it as representing the movement as a whole.

Even a quick glance at the history of the socialist movement indicates that the identification of socialism with state ownership and control is not common. For example, Anarchists, many Guild Socialists, council communists, and other libertarian Marxists, as well as followers of Robert Owen, all rejected state ownership. Indeed, anarchists recognised that the means of production did not change their form as capital when the state took over their ownership, and hence that state ownership of capital was a tendency within, not opposed to, capitalism (see section H.2.2 for more on this).

So what does socialism mean? And is it compatible with libertarian ideals? Webster's New International Dictionary defines a libertarian as "One who holds to the doctrine of free will; also, one who upholds the principles of liberty, esp. individual liberty of thought and action." As we discussed earlier, capitalism denies liberty of thought and action within the workplace (unless one is the boss, of course). Therefore, real libertarian ideas mean that workers control the work they do, determining where and how they do it and what happens to the fruit of their labour, which in turn means the elimination of wage labour. It implies a classless and anti-authoritarian (i.e. libertarian) society in which people manage their own affairs, either as individuals or as part of a group (depending on the situation). In other words, it implies self-management in all aspects of life.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary "socialism" is "a social system in which the producers possess both political power and the means of producing and distributing goods." This definition fits neatly with the implications of the word "libertarian" indicated above. In fact, it shows that socialism is necessarily libertarian, not statist. For if the state possesses the workplace, then the producers do not, and so they will not be at liberty to manage their own work but will instead be subject to the state as the boss. Moreover, replacing the capitalist owning class by state officials in no way eliminates wage labour; in fact it makes it worse in many cases. Therefore "socialists" who argue for nationalisation of the means of production are not socialists (which means that the soviet union and the other "socialist" countries and parties are not socialist).

Since it's an essential principle of socialism that inequalities of power between people must be abolished in order to ensure liberty, it makes no sense for a genuine socialist to support any institution based on inequalities of power. And as we discussed in section B, the state and the authoritarian workplace are just such institutions. However, the meaning of "equality" has been so corrupted by capitalist ideologues, with their "ethics of mathematics," that "equality" has come to mean "identical." Given the uniqueness of individuals, any attempt to create a society of people who are "equal" in the sense of identical would, of course, not only be doomed to failure but would also create a slave society in the process.

So, libertarian socialism rejects the idea of state ownership and control of the economy, along with the state as such. Through workers' self-management it proposes to bring an end to authority, exploitation, and hierachy in production. This in itself will increase, not reduce, liberty. Those who argue otherwise rarely claim that political democracy results in less freedom than political dictatorship (although a few "libertarian" capitalist supporters of the "natural law" dogma effectively do so -- see section F.7).

The communal ownership advocated by collectivist and communist anarchists is not the same as state ownership. This is because it is based on horizontal relationships between the actual workers and the "owners" of social capital (i.e. the federated communities as a whole), not vertical ones as in nationalisation. In addition, all the members of a participatory anarchist community fall into one of three categories: (1) producers (i.e. members of a collective or self-employed artisans), (2) those unable to work (i.e. the old, sick and so on, who were producers), or (3) the young (i.e. those who will be producers). Therefore, workers' self-management within a framework of communal ownership is entirely compatible with libertarian and socialist ideas concering the possession of the means of producing and distributing goods by the producers themselves. Hence, far from there being any contradiction between libertarianism and sociaism, libertarian ideals imply socialist ones, and vice versa. As Bakunin argued in 1867, "We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality" [Bakunin on Anarchism]. History has proven him correct.

I.1.1 Didn't Ludwig von Mises's "calculation argument" prove that socialism can't work?

In 1920, von Mises declared socialism to be impossible on the grounds that without private ownership of the means of production, there cannot be a competitive market for production goods; that without a market for production goods, it is impossible to determine their values; and that without knowing their values, economic rationality is impossible. This is his "calculation argument," which "anarcho"-capitalists are fond of claiming is a "proof" that libertarian (or any other kind of) socialism is impossible in principle.

As David Schweickart observes in Against Capitalism, however, it has long been recognized that von Mises's argument is logically defective, because even without a market in production goods, their monetary values can be determined. In other words, economic calculation based on prices is possible in a libertarian socialist system. In addition, the Mondragon cooperatives indicate that a libertarian socialist economy can exist and flourish. There is no need for capital markets in a system based on mutual banks and networks of cooperatives. Unfortunately, the state socialists who replied to Mises did not have such a libertarian economy in mind.

In response to von Mises initial challenge, a number of economists pointed out that Pareto's disciple, Enrico Barone, had already, 13 years earlier, demonstrated the theoretical possibility of a "market-simulated socialism." However, the principal attack on von Mises's argument came from Fred Taylor and Oscar Lange. (For a collection of their main papers, see On the Economic Theory of Socialism, ed. by Benjamin Lippincott, Univ. of Minnesota, 1938.) In light of their work, Frederick Hayek shifted the question from theoretical impossibility to whether the theoretical solution could be approximated in practice. Thus even Hayek, a major free-market capitalist guru, seemed to think that von Mises's argument could not be defended.

Moreover, it should be noted that both sides of the argument accepted the idea of central planning of some kind or another. This means that von Mises's and Hayek's arguments did not apply to libertarian socialism, which rejects central planning along with every other form of centralisation. This is a key point, as most members of the right seem to assume that "socialists" all agree with each other in supporting a centralised economic system. In other words, they ignore a large segment of socialist thought and history in order to concentrate on Social Democracy and Leninism. The idea of a network of "people's banks" and cooperatives working together to meet their common interests is ignored, although it has been a common feature in socialist thought since the time of Robert Owen.

Thus the economic crises of the 1980s in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe do not provide evidence that Mises and Hayek were correct in maintaining that "socialism" cannot be made to work in practice. For as indicated in the previous section, these countries were not socialist at all. Obviously the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries had authoritarian "command economies" with central bureaucratic planning, and so their failure cannot be taken as proof that a decentralized, libertarian socialism cannot work. The latter kind of socialism did in fact work remarkably well during the Spanish Revolution in the face of amazing difficulties, with increased productivity and output in many workplaces (see Sam Dolgoff, The Anarchist Collectives and section I.8 of this FAQ).

Finally, let us note that the theoretical work of Schweickart, Engler and others on market socialism shows that von Mises was wrong in asserting that "a socialist system with a market and market prices is as self-contradictory as is the notion of a triangular square." So far, most models of market socialism have not been fully libertarian, but instead involve the idea of workers' control within a framework of state ownership of capital (Engler is an exception to this, supporting community ownership). However, as we argue in G.4, libertarian forms of market socialism are indeed possible and would be similar to Proudhon's mutualism (as some Leninist Marxists recognise, see Against the Market in which the author argues that Proudhon was precuser of the current market socialists).

I.1.2 Does Mises' argument mean libertarian communism is impossible?

No. While the "calculation argument" is often used by right-libertarian's as the "scientific" basis for the argument that communism (a moneyless society) is impossible, it is based on certain false ideas of what money does and how an anarchist society would function without it. This is hardly surprising, as Mises based his theory on the "subjective" theory of value and marxian social-democratic ideas of what a "socialist" "economy" would look like. However, it is useful here to indicate exactly why a moneyless "economy" would work and why the "calculation argument" is flawed as an objection to it.

Mises argued that without money there was no way a socialist economy would make "rational" production decisions. Not even von Mises denied that a moneyless society could estimate what is likely to be needed over a given period of time (as expressed as physical quantities of definite types and sorts of objects). As he argued, "calculation in natura in an economy without exchange can embrace consumption-goods only." [Collectivist Economic Planning, ed. F.A. Von Hayek, p. 104] Mises' argument is that the next step, working out which productive methods to employ, would not be possible, or at least would not be able to be done "rationally," i.e. avoiding waste and inefficiency. As he argues, the evaluation of producer goods "can only be done with some kind of economic calculation. The human mind cannot orient itself properly among the bewildering mass of intermediate products and potentialities without such aid. It would simply stand perlexed before the problems of management and location" [Op. Cit. , 103]. Mises' claimed that monetary calculation based on market prices is the only solution.

This argument is not without its force. How can a producer be expected to know if tin is a better use of resources than iron when creating a product? However, Mises' argument is based on a number of flawed assumptions. Firstly, he assumes a centralised, planned economy. While this was a common idea in Marxian social democracy, it is rejected by anarchism. No small body of men can be expected to know what happens in society. As Bakunin argued, it would lead to "an extremely complex government. This government will not content itself with administering and governing the masses politically. . .it will also administer the masses economically, concentrating in the hands of the State [all economic activity]. . .All that will demand an immense knowledge and many heads `overflowing with brains' in this government. It will be the reign of scientific intelligence, the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant, and elitist of all regimes. There will be a new class, a new hierarchy. . . Such a reigme will not fail to arouse very considerable discontent in the masses of the people, and in order to keep them in check. . .[a] considerable armed force [would be required]." [Bakunin on Anarchism, p.319] Hence anarchists can agree with Mises: central planning cannot work in practice. However, socialist ideas are not limited to Marxian Social Democracy, and so Mises ignores far more socialistic ideas than he attacks.

His next assumption is equally flawed. This is that without the market, no information is passed between producers beyond the final outcome of production. In other words, he assumes that the final product is all that counts in evaluating its use. Needless to say, it is true that without more information than the name of a given product, it is impossible to determine whether using it would be an efficient utilization of resources. But Mises misunderstands the basic concept of use-value, namely the utility of a good to the consumer of it. As Adam Buick and John Crump point out, "at the level of the individual production unit or industry, the only calculations that would be necessary in socialism would be calculations in kind. On the one side would be recorded the resources (materials, energy, equipment, labour) used up in production and on the other the amount of good produced, together with any by-products. . . . Socialist production is simply the production of use values from use values, and nothing more" [State Capitalism: The Wages System Under New Management, p. 137].

The generation and communication of such information implies a decentralised, horizontal network between producers and consumers. Therefore, as John O'Neil notes, "the market may be one way in which dispersed knowledge can be put to good effect. It is not... the only way" [Ecology, Policy and Politics, p. 118]

So, in order to determine if a specific good is useful to a person, that person needs to know its "cost." Under capitalism, the notion of cost has been so associated with price that we have to put the word "cost" in quotation marks. However, the real cost of, say, writing a book, is not a sum of money but so much paper, so much energy, so much ink, so much human labour. In order to make a rational decision on whether a given good is better for meeting a given need than another, the would-be consumer requires this information. However, under capitalism this information is hidden by the price.

Therefore, a purely market-based system leaves out information on which to base rational resource allocations (or, at the very least, hides it). The reason for this is that a market system measures, at best, preferences of individual buyers among the available options. This assumes that all pertinent use-values that are to be outcomes of production are things that are to be consumed by the individual, rather than use-values that are collectively enjoyed (like clean air). In other words, prices hide the actual costs that production involved for the individual, society, and the environment, and instead boils everything down into one factor, namely price. There is a lack of dialogue and information between producer and consumer. As John O'Neil argues, "the market distributes a little information and. . . blocks the distribution of a great deal [more]. . .The educative dialogue exists not through the market, but alongside of it" [Ecology, Policy and Politics, p. 143].

Lastly, Mises assumes that the market is a rational system. As O'Neil points out, "Von Mises' earlier arguments against socialist planning turned on an assumption about commensurability. His central argument was that rational economic decision-making required a single measure on the basis of which the worth of alternative states of affairs could be calculated and compared" [Op. Cit., p. 115]. This central assumption was unchallenged by Talyor and Lange in their defense of socialism, meaning that from the start the debate against Von Mises was defensive and based on the argument that socialist planning could mimic the market and produce results which were efficient from a capitalist point of view. Thus, no one challenged Mises' assumptions either about the centrally planned nature of socialism or about the market being a rational system. Little wonder that the debate put the state socialists on the defensive. As their system was little more than state capitalism, it is unlikely they would attack the fundamentals of capitalism (namely wage labour and centralisation).

So, is capitalism rational? Well, it does exist, but that does not prove that it is rational. The Catholic Church exists, but that shows nothing about the rationality of the institution. To answer the question, we must return to our earlier point that using price means basing all decision making on one criterion and ignoring all others. This has seriously irrational effects, because the managers of capitalist enterprises are obliged to choose technical means of production which produce the cheapest results. All other considerations are subordinate, in particular the health and welfare of the producers and the effects on the environment. The harmful effects resulting from "rational" capitalist production methods have long been pointed out. For example, speed-ups, pain, stress, accidents, boredom, overwork, long hours and so on all harm the physical and mental health of those involved, while pollution, the destruction of the environment, and the exhaustion of non-renewable resources all have serious effects on both the planet and those who live on it.

To claim that prices include all these "externalities" is nonsense. If they did, we would not see capital moving to third-world countries with few or any anti-pollution or labour laws. At best, the "cost" of pollution would only be included in price if the company was sued successfully in court for damages -- in other words, once the damage is done. Ultimately, companies have a strong interest in buying inputs with the lowest prices, regardless of how they are produced. As Noam Chomsky points out, "[i]n a true capitalist society, . . . socially responsible behavior would be penalized quickly in that competitors, lacking such social responsibility, would supplant anyone so misguided as to be concerned with something other than private benefit" [Language and Politics, pp. 300-1]. It is reductionist accounting and its accompanying "ethics of mathematics" that produces the "irrationality of rationality" which plagues capitalism's exclusive reliance on prices to measure "efficiency." Moreover, the critique we have just sketched ignores the periodic crises that hit capitalist industry and economies to produce massive unemployment and social distruption -- crises that are due to subjective and objective pressures on the operation of the price mechanism.

Under communist-anarchism, the decision-making system used to determine the best use of resources is not more or less "efficient" than market allocation, because it goes beyond the market-based concept of "efficiency." It does not seek to replace the market but to do what the market fails to do. This is important, because the market is not the rational system its defenders often claim. While reducing all decisions to one common factor is, without a doubt, an easy method of decision making, it also has serious side-effects because of its reductionistic basis (as discussed further in the next section). As Einstein once pointed out, things should be made as simple as possible but not simplistic. The market makes decision making simplistic and generates a host of irrationalities and dehumanising effects.

Sections I.4.4 and I.4.5 discusses one possible framework for a communist economic decision-making process. Such a framework is necessary because "an appeal to a necessary role for practical judgements in decision making is not to deny any role to general principles. Neither...does it deny any place for the use of technical rules and algorithmic procedures...Moreover, there is a necessary role for rules of thumb, standard procedures, the default procedures and institutional arrangements that can be followed unreflectively and which reduce the scope for explicit judgements comparing different states of affairs. There are limits in time, efficient use of resources and the dispersal of knowledge which require rules and institutions. Such rules and institutions can fee us for space and time for reflective judgements where they matter most" [John O'Neil, Op. Cit., pp.117-118].

As two libertarian socialists point out, "socialist society still has to be concerned with using resources efficiently and rationally, but the criteria of 'efficiency' and 'rationality' are not the same as they are under capitalism." [Buick and Crump, Op. Cit., p. 137] So, to claim that communism will be "more" efficient than capitalism misses the point. It will be "efficient" in a totally different way and people will act in ways considered "irrational" only under the logic of capitalism.

I.1.3 What is wrong with markets anyway?

A lot. Markets soon result in what are termed "market forces," "impersonal" forces which ensure that the people in the economy do what is required of them in order for society to function. The market system, in capitalist apologetics, is presented to appear as a regime of freedom where no one forces anyone to do anything, where we "freely" exchange with others as we see fit. However, the facts of the matter are somewhat different, since the market often ensures that people act in ways opposite to what they desire or forces them to accept "free agreements" which they may not actually desire. Wage labour is the most obvious example of this, for, as we indicated in section B.4, most people have little option but to agree to work for others.

However, even if we assume a mutualist or market-socialist system of competing self-managed workplaces, it's clear that market forces would soon result in many irrationalities occurring. Most obviously, operating in a market means submitting to the profit criterion. This means that however much workers might want to employ social criteria, they cannot. To ignore profitability would cause their firm to go bankrupt. Markets therefore create conditions that compel workers and consumers to decide things which are not be in their interest, for example introducing deskilling or polluting technology, longer hours, and so on. We could also point to the numerous industrial deaths which are due to market forces making it unprofitable to introduce adequate safety equipment or working conditions, (conservative estimates for industrial deaths in the USA are between 14, 000 and 25, 000 per year plus over 2 million disabled), or to increased pollution and stress levels which shorten lifespans.

In addition, a market-based system can result in what we have termed "the ethics of mathematics," where things (particularly money) become more important than people. This can have a de-humanising effect, with people becoming cold-hearted working calculators who put profits before people. This can be seen in capitalism, where economic decisions are far more important than ethical ones. Merit does not "necessarily" breed success, and the successful do not "necessarily" have merit. The truth is that, in the words of Noam Chomsky, "wealth and power tend to accrue to those who are ruthless, cunning, avaricious, self-seeking, lacking in sympathy and compassion, subservient to authority and willing to abandon principle for material gain, and so on." (Thorstein Veblen elaborated at length on this theme in The Leisure Class, a classic analysis of capitalist psychology.) A system which elevates making money to the position of the most important individual activity will obviously result in the degrading of human values and an increase in neurotic and pyschotic behaviour.

Any market system is also marked by a continuing need to expand production and consumption. This means that market forces ensure that work continually has to expand, causing potentially destructive results for both people and the planet. Competition ensures that we can never take it easy, for as Max Stirner argued, "Restless acquistion does not let us take breath, take a calm enjoyment. We do not get the comfort of our possessions. . . . Hence it is at any rate helpful that we come to an agreement about human labours that they may not, as under competition, claim all our time and toil" [The Ego and Its Own]

Value needs to be created, and that can only be done by labour. It is ironic that supporters of capitalism, while usually saying that "work" is and always will be hell, support an economic system which must continually expand that "work" (i.e. labour) while deskilling and automating it and those who do it. Anarchists, in contrast, argue that work need not be hell, and indeed, that when enriched by skills and self-management, can be enjoyable. We go further and argue that work need not take all our time and that labour (i.e. unwanted and boring work) can and must be minimised. Hence, while the "anti-work" capitalist submits humanity to more and more labour, the anarchist desires the liberation of "work" and the end of "labour" as a way of life.

In addition, market decisions are crucially conditioned by the purchasing power of those income groups that can back their demands with money. The market is a continuous bidding for goods, resources, and services, with those who have the most purchasing power the winners. This means that the market system is the worst one for allocating resources when purchasing power is unequally distributed. This is why orthodox economists make the connvenient assumption of a 'given distribution of income' when they try to show that a market-based allocation of resources is the best one (for example, "Pareto optimality").

With the means of life monopolised by one class, the effects of market forces and unequal purchasing power can be terrible. As Allan Engler points out, "[w]hen people are denied access to the means of livelihood, the invisible hand of market forces does not intervene on their behalf. Equilibrium between supply and demand has no necessary connection with human need. For example, assume a country of one million people in which 900,000 are without means of livelihood. One million bushels of wheat are produced. The entire crop is sold to 100,000 people at $10 a bushel. Supply and demand are in equilibrium, yet 900,000 people will face starvation" [Apostles of Greed, pp. 50-51]. In case anyone thinks that this just happens in theory, the example of African countries hit by famine gives a classic example of this occuring in practice. There, rich landowners grow cash crops and export food to the developed nations while millions starve in their own.

Lastly, there are the distributional consequences of the market system. As markets inform by 'exit' only -- some products find a market, others do not -- 'voice' is absent. The operation of 'exit' rather than 'voice' leaves behind those without power in the marketplace. For example, the wealthy do not buy food poisoned with additives, the poor consume it. This means a division grows between two environments: one inhabited by those with wealth and one inhabited by those without it. As can be seen from the current capitalist practice of "exporting pollution" to developing countries, this problem can have serious ecological and social effects. Far from the market being a "democracy" based on "one dollar, one vote," it is an oligarchy in which (e.g) the 79,000 Americans who earned the minimum wage in 1987 have the same "influence" or "vote" as Michael Milken, who "earned" as much as all of them combined.

So, for all its talk of "invisible hands" and "individual freedom," capitalism ignores the actual living individual in the economy and society. The "individual rights" on which capitalists' base their "free" system are said to be "man's rights," on what "man needs." But "man," after all, is only an abstraction, not a real living being. By talking about "man" and basing "rights" on what this abstraction is said to need, capitalism and statism ignore the uniqueness of each person and the conditions required to develop that uniqueness. As Max Stirner pointed out, "[h]e who is infatuated with Man leaves persons out of account so far as that infatuation exists, and floats in an ideal, sacred interest. Man, you see, is not a person, but an ideal, a spook." [The Ego and Its Own, p. 79] And like all spooks, it requires sacrifice -- the sacrifice of individuality to hierarchy and authority.

This anti-individual biases in capitalism can be seen by its top-down nature and the newspeak used to disguise its reality. For example, there is what is called "increasing flexibility of the labor market." "Flexibility" sounds great: rigid structures are unappealing and hardly suitable for human growth. In reality, as Noam Chomsky points out, "[f]lexibility means insecurity. It means you go to bed at night and don't know if you have a job tomorrow morning. That's called flexibility of the labor market, and any economist can explain that's a good thing for the economy, where by 'the economy' now we understand profit-making. We don't mean by 'the economy' the way people live. That's good for the economy, and temporary jobs increase flexibility. Low wages also increase job insecurity. They keep inflation low. That's good for people who have money, say, bondholders. So these all contribute to what's called a 'healthy economy,' meaning one with very high profits. Profits are doing fine. Corporate profits are zooming. But for most of the population, very grim circumstances. And grim circumstances, without much prospect of a future, may lead to constructive social action, but where that's lacking they express themselves in violence" [Keeping the Rabble in Line].

This does not mean that social anarchists propose to "ban" the market -- far from it. This would be impossible. What we do propose is to convince people that a profit-based market system has distinctly bad effects on individuals, society and the planet's ecology, and that we can organise our common activity to replace it with libertarian communism. As Max Stirner argued, "competition. . .has a continued existence. . . [because] all do not attend to their affair and come to an understanding with each other about it. . . .Abolishing competition is not equivalent to favouring the guild. The difference is this: In the guild baking, etc., is the affair of the guild-brothers; in competition, the affair of chance competitors; in the union, of those who require baked goods, and therefore my affair, yours, the affair of neither guildic nor the concessionary baker, but the affair of the united" [Ego and Its Own, p. 275].

Therefore, social anarchists do not appeal to "altruism" in their struggle against the de-humanising effects of the market, but rather, to egoism: the simple fact that cooperation and mutual aid is in our best interests as individuals. By cooperating and controlling "the affairs of the united," we can ensure a free society which is worth living in, one in which the individual is not crushed by market forces and has time to fully develop his or her individuality and uniqueness. "Solidarity is therefore the state of being in which Man attains the greatest degree of security and wellbeing; and therefore egoism itself, that is the exclusive consideration of one's own interests, impels Man and human society towards solidarity" [Errico Malatesta, Anarchy, p. 28].

I.1.4 If capitalism is exploitative, then isn't socialism as well?

Some "Libertarian" capitalists say yes to this question, arguing that the labour theory of value (LTV) does not imply socialism but what they call "self-managed" capitalism. This, however, is not a valid inference. The LTV can imply both socialism (selling the product of ones labour) and communism (distribution according to needs). The theory is a critique of capitalism, not necessarily the basis of a socialist economy, although it can be considered this as well. For example, Proudhon used the LTV as the foundation of his proposals for mutual banking and cooperatives, while Robert Owen used it as the basis of his system of labour notes. Though a system of cooperative selling on the market or exchanging labour-time values would not be communism, it is not capitalism, because the workers are not separated from the means of production. Therefore, right libertarians' attempts to claim that it is capitalism are false, an example of misinformed insistence that virtually every economic system, bar state socialism and feudalism, is capitalist. Some libertarian Marxists claim, similarly, that non-communist forms of socialism are just "self-managed" capitalism. Why libertarian Marxists desire to reduce the choices facing humanity to either communism some form of capitalism is frankly strange, but also understandable because of the potential dehumanising effects of market systems seen under capitalism.

However, it could be argued that communism (based on free access and communal ownership of resources) would mean that workers are exploited by non-workers (the young, the sick, the elderly and so on). While this may reflect the sad lack of personal empathy (and so ethics) of the pro-capitalist defenders of this argument, it totally misses the point as far as communist anarchism goes. This is because "anarchist communism . . . means voluntary communism, communism from free choice" [A. Berkman, ABC of Anarchism, p. 11], which means it is not imposed on anyone but is created and practiced only by those who believe in it. Therefore it would be up to the communities and syndicates to decide how they wish to distribute the products of their labour. Some may decide on equal pay, others on payment in terms of labour time, yet others on communistic associations. We have indicated elsewhere why communism would be in people's self-interest, so we will not repeat ourselves here. The important thing to realise is that cooperatives will decide what to do with their output, whether to exchange it or to distribute it freely. Hence, because it is based on free agreement, anarchist communism cannot be exploitative. Members of a cooperative which is communistic are free to leave, after all. Needless to say, the cooperatives will usually distribute their product to others within their confederation and exchange with the non-communist ones in a different manner. We say "usually," for in the case of emergencies like earthquakes and so forth the situation would call for mutual aid.

The reason why capitalism is exploitative is that workers have to agree to give the product of their labour to another (the boss) in order to be employed in the first place (see section B.4). Capitalists would not remain capitalists if their capital did not produce a profit. In libertarian communism, by contrast, the workers themselves agree to distribute part of their product to others (i.e. society as a whole, their neightbours, friends, and so forth). It is based on free agreement, while capitalism is marked by power, authority, and the firm hand of market forces. Similiarly, capitalism by its very nature, needs to expand into new areas, meaning that unlike socialism, it will attempt to undermine and replace other social systems (usually by force, if history is any guide). As freedom cannot be given, there is no reason for a libertarian-socialist system to expand beyond the effect of a "good example" on the oppressed of capitalist regimes.