Posts Tagged ‘‘Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles’’

Kropotkin on How Employment Contracts Are Not the Product of Free Consent

April 26, 2016

In my last post, I quote the great Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, on how capitalism will deliberately limit production and throw people out of work in order to keep profits high. In his essay ‘Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles’, Kropotkin also made this scathing criticism of the idea that employment contracts between employer and worker were made from free choice, when the reality was that the only choice was starvation for the worker. He wrote

First of all, there are two kinds of agreements: there is the free one which is entered upon by free consent, as a free choice between different courses equally open to each of the agreeing parties; and there is the enforced agreement, imposed by one party upon the other, and accepted by the latter from sheer necessity; in fact, it is no agreement at all; it is a mere submission to necessity. Unhappily, the great bulk of what are now described as agreements belong to the latter category. When a workman sells his labour to an employer, and knows perfectly well that some part of the value of his produce will be unjustly taken by the employer; when he sells it without even the slightest guarantee of being employed so much six consecutive months- and he is compelled to do so because he and his family would otherwise starve next week – it is a sad mockery to call that a free contract. Modern economists may call it free, but the father of political economy – Adam Smith – was never guilty of such a misrepresentation. (Peter Kropotkin, ed. Nicolas Walter, Anarchism and Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles (London: Freedom Press 1987) 52).

This has been the basis of Tory unemployment policy ever since Maggie took power in 1979. It was why the Tories introduced delays into benefit payments for workers, who voluntarily made themselves unemployed. And the same reasoning is behind the sanctions systems, and the idiotic contract you are supposed to sign indicating that you are actively looking for work when you sign on at the Jobcentre.

Advertisements

Vox Political On the Bitter Injustice of the BHS Collapse and Philip Green’s Third Yacht

April 26, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up a piece about the most bitter part of the collapse of BHS: its chairman, Philip Green, was a serial tax avoider, who took £400 million out of the company. He bought himself yet another yacht, to add to the two he owned already. The company collapsed, throwing 11,000 people out of their jobs, and with £571 million black hole in its pension funds.

Mike urges its employees who voted Tory to take a long, hard look at what this says about the treatment of employees under David Cameron. It says that corporate bosses can get away with keeping their wealth, while their workers get nothing.

The bitterest part of the BHS collapse: Philip Green’s third yacht

This isn’t the first company that’s collapsed through lack of investment thanks to free trade economics. There have been others, and the economic thinking behind it is the first target in Han-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.

The Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, also had a few choice things to say about the businessmen of his time, who deliberately limited production to keep the profits from their products high, which is similar to Green starving his company of funds for his own enrichment. In his essay, ‘Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles’, Kropotkin wrote:

But the figures just mentioned, while showing the real increase of production, give only a faint idea of what our production might be under a more reasonable economical organisation. We know well that the owners of capital, while trying to produce more wares with fewer ‘hands’, are continually endeavouring at the same time to limit the production, in order to sell at higher prices. When the profits of a concern are going down, the owner of the capital limits the production, or totally suspends it, and prefers to engage his capital in foreign loans or shares in Patagonian gold-mines. Just now there are plenty of pitmen in England who ask for nothing better than to be permitted to extract coal and supply with cheap fuel the households where children are shivering before empty chimneys. There are thousands of weavers who ask for nothing better than to weave stuffs in order to replace the ragged dress of the poor with decent clothing. And so in all branches of industry. How can we talk about a want of means of subsistence when thousands of factories lie idle in Great Britain alone; and when there are, just now, thousands and thousands of unemployed in London alone; thousands of men who would consider themselves happy if they were permitted to transform (under the guidance of experienced agriculturists) the clay of Middlesex into a rich soil, and to cover with cornfields and orchards the acres of meadow land which now yields only a few pounds’ worth of hay? But they are prevented from doing so by the owners of the land, or the weaving factory, and of the coal-mine, because capital finds it more advantageous to supply the Khedive with harems and the Russian Government with ‘strategic railways’ and Krupp guns. Of course the maintenance of harems pays: it gives 10 or 15 per cent on the capital, while the extraction of coal does not pay – that is, it brings 3 or 5 per cent – and that is a sufficient reason for limiting the production and permitting would-be economists to indulge in reproaches to the working classes as to their too rapid multiplication! (Peter Kropotkin, ‘Anarchist Communism’, in Nicolas Walter, ed., Anarchism & Anarchist Communism (London: Freedom Press 1987) 34-5).

Kropotkin was appropriated by Cameron’s ideological mentor, Philip Blonde, in his book, Red Tory. It’s not hard to see why. Kropotkin as an Anarchist favoured the elimination of government, and was impressed by the achievements of private organisations, such as the Lifeboats and the international postage and railway systems, which lay outside of an overarching regulatory body. But Kropotkin was also a communist and a bitter critic of the poverty created by modern industrial capitalism. Blonde used his anarchist ideas to provide some kind of left-ish underpinning to Cameron’s idea of the ‘Big Society’. The latter was really only flimsy disguise for traditional Tory privatisation and laissez-faire capitalism. Whatever you think of his anarchism, Kropotkin deserves better.