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Don’t Alter; Abolish!

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 14 years ago, in 2010, on the World Wide Web.

An Open Letter to Glenn Beck from the AK Press Collective. news.infoshop.org (2010-05-15):

An Open Letter to Glenn Beck from the AK Press Collective Hi Glenn. How's it going? Since Forbes magazine says your annual earnings are in the ballpark of $32 million, we're guessing that it's going pretty well. You can't put a price on defending the little guy, right? We are…

A fantastic piece from AK Press in response to anti-government Glenn Beck’s latest on-screen antics.

Shorter AK: The name of our movement may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: Why do you use the word Anarchist to denote a struggle for total freedom and social peace, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean? To those who ask it, my answer is: For the reason that makes you afraid of it.

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    We believe that without the coercive relations and competition imposed by governments and markets, people would be free to create a more just society in which resources are controlled collectively and decisions are made by the people who are affected by them.


  2. Rad Geek

    1. Praising a piece that I link to doesn’t entail agreeing with absolutely everything in it.

    2. That said, you might also keep in mind that the folks at AK may not be referring to the same thing by market as you are when they complain about the kind of social relations that markets impose. Since, among other things, what they’re referring to the deformed markets that exist under state capitalism, not to mutual markets operating in a space of freedom. I’m perfectly happy to agree with them that the former — which include virtually all of the largest and most centrally-positioned firms in this world of ours, produce a lot of sucky social dynamics, including depriving people of effective control over the decisions that most affect their everyday lives.

    It’s a real shame that no-one’s ever taken the time to try and clarify different meanings of market that might be in play or to elaborate on the kind of social implications that government-deformed rigged markets can have. Oh, wait.


    OK I getcha. Capitalist says he supports the market = really speaking out in support of corporate oligarchy. Anticapitalist says he opposes the market = really speaking out in support of freely exchanged property.

    This comment has been edited to take advantage of the invention of Carolingian Minuscule. –Editor

  4. Rad Geek


    Well, that’s not what I said. There are plenty of things about property and exchange where I disagree with the folks at AK. (That’s why I’m a mutualist, not a communist, collectivist, or other kind of anti-propertarian.) What I did say is that in that specific paragraph that you quote in the specific letter I linked to, what they’re talking about is something other than just freely exchanged property. They’re talking about the concrete rigged-market institutions that we deal with every day in the here and now. If you want to criticize their position, it would help to start out by understanding what they said, on their terms, not on yours.

    For what it’s worth, I would also argue that what they advocate is actually compatible with a formal framework of freely exchanged property. It involves consensual limitations on the ways that property is held and the contexts in which it’s exchanged. As a free marketeer I have no problem on principle with people adopting consensual limitations. (I do think that the specific limitations that anti-propertarians propose are shortsighted, foolish, or dogmatically inflexible. But I’ll be happy to live in a free society where we can each try the experiment and find out who’s right.)

    Also, I think it’s obviously true that many capitalists claiming to speak out in favor of free markets or private enterprise do just mean apologetics for corporate oligarchy and pro-business government policies. But my reason for introducing the distinction wasn’t to accuse them of that. The issue with them isn’t that they’re picking on the wrong meaning of market. (The narrower, cash nexus sense of market also includes a lot of non-capitalistic arrangements.) The problem is just that they’re conflating markets, in whatever sense, with something different — specifically, corporate-capitalist forms for market activity. That conflation can be exposed and dissolved without referring to the multiple senses of market. The distinction about markets becomes useful when trying to understand some other, different things. (Like what AK is complaining about in the passage that you quote.)


    RadGeek denies accusations, responds by validating said accusations.

    ProTip of the day: I cannot type any other way because I am illiterate. Carolingian minuscule = horse hockey invented by Zionists and miscreants.

    No worries, mate. I’ll keep on editing out the shouting. On the Internet, nobody wants to hear you scream. –Editor.

  6. martin

    The people of AK Press take offense at Beck calling them communists, so they write an open letter explaining that they are actually… communists. What’s so fantastic about it?

  7. Rad Geek


    Well, did you read the letter?

    Outside of the pull-quote discussed above, there’s not a lot of critical commentary about markets in it. In fact, the pull-quote is the only place the word markets appears in the letter. It’s not hard to tell, from even a quick reading, that the letter is mainly about anarchy, and about consistent anti-statism.[*]

    What I like about the letter is stuff like this:

    As you made clear earlier in your show, you know the difference between Communism and Anarchism. […] But, as you must know, anarchism has always opposed state Communism. State Communism is the ultimate big government. You won’t find an anarchist on this planet in favor of that. Not to mention that, historically, when Communists get in the driver’s seat, anarchists are usually the first to face the firing squad. The capitalists usually get cushy managerial positions.

    So we asked ourselves: What could account for this guy waving around a book written and published by anarchists, while never quoting a single word from it, and then going on to associate the book with political groups—like the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Workers World Party—that no one in the book, or associated with the book, would endorse? How could he miss something so obvious?

    Then it dawned on us: you’re afraid of anarchists. You’re not afraid of the fake media portrayal of anarchists as bomb-throwing maniacs: that’s your bread and butter. You’re afraid of real anarchists, the actual ideas they espouse, the real work they do.


    When we sift through your rants, we realize that there’s a lot of overlap between you and anarchists. The difference is that anarchists are more honest, aren’t part of the same elites they criticize, and they make a lot more sense. They see you, and raise you one.

    (If that reminds you of this passage from Tucker, well, it should.)


    Like you, we believe that people’s lives would be much better off without government intervention. Centralized power suppresses individual and community initiative and keeps people from achieving their full potential. Like you, we don’t think the solution to our current economic crisis lies in socialized industry or new layers of well-paid government bureaucrats. And, like you and many of your tea party pals, we agree that bankers and fat-cat corporate elites aren’t exactly concerned with our best interests. As you put it, it’s time to take down the folks who “line their pockets with wealth gained from enslaving a whole group of people.” And, although you seemed a bit confused on this point, that means putting “people before profits,” which is pretty much the central concern of the protestors in Greece right now. And we mean all people, regardless of income, race, gender, sexuality, or immigration status.

    Or the immediate context of the pull-quote, which is the following. I don’t like the swipe at markets (although I understand what they mean), but with that caveat, I don’t have much trouble finding things to be fond of all around it:

    You’re right: we’re revolutionaries. But aren’t you? Remember the part of the Declaration of Independence that says that when a government starts screwing with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it? As anarchists, we’re dedicated to the idea of abolishing the state and capitalism altogether. We believe that without the coercive relations and competition imposed by governments and markets, people would be free to create a more just society in which resources are controlled collectively and decisions are made by the people who are affected by them. We don’t want a government (revolutionary or otherwise); we want a society based on cooperation and common sense instead of arbitrary power and exploitation.

    From what sense we can make of your show, you seem happy with altering rather than abolishing a screwed-up system. For you, replacing the old boss with a new one (Sarah Palin?) is good enough. We understand that you’re confused–these are confusing times. But, deep down, you and the tea partiers know that you can’t trust any politician, or banker, or corporate hack, or union bureaucrat…or anyone who makes their living sucking power and profit from ordinary people. Which, unfortunately, probably includes multi-millionaires like you.

    Hope this helps.

    [*] Also, as a sidebar, for reference, the folks at AK didn’t say they were communists; they said that they’re for abolishing capitalism, and they said that they want to do without the coercive relations and competition imposed by government and markets. Well, so am I; and so do I. Of course, the wording suggests that, unlike me, they may also have a beef with markets as such, even when market structures aren’t deformed by subsidized corporatism and government violence. But being an Anarchist who’s against markets is not the same thing as being a communist Anarchist. There are lots of positions on offer that have some kind of beef with market exchange but don’t advocate communism as the alternative. Those positions aren’t mine; but they are there. Anyway, it’s also quite clear from Beck’s own statements that he means state communism when he says communism, so it might be appropriate to reply to him in something like his own language.

  8. The Contemplationist

    I guess I’m a ‘propertarian’ though I’m sympathetic to all strains of libertarianism whether left or right. I guess i just don’t like collectivist rhetoric. It turns on my BS detector. Also ‘anarchist’ has a bad reputation due to the stupid trust fund kids who destroy property at G-(n) and WTO meetings. If you are ready to junk capitalism for the ridiculous ‘socialism’ (as Rod Long put it) which creates further confusion, why not find a new label instead of anarchist? Capitalism, after all, was not a word coined by capitalists in the same way Hinduism was not coined by Hindus.

  9. Darian

    Why do you use the term “trust fund kids” to describe those who destroy property at summits?

  10. martin

    Rad Geek,

    Yes, I read the letter (before I posted my previous post). The fragments you qoute would be great if they weren’t part of one big build up to the sentence also quoted above:

    We believe that without the coercive relations and competition imposed by governments and markets, people would be free to create a more just society in which resources are controlled collectively and decisions are made by the people who are affected by them.

    It seems pretty clear to me: they want to do away with markets, not (just) “rigged-market institutions that we deal with every day in the here and now”, but markets, period. That’s what it says. I see no reason to interpret it otherwise. And not only do they want to get rid of markets, they want to control resources collectively. That’s what we call communism, isn’t it?

    So I can’t say I find it fantastic. Like I wrote in my first post: they take offense at Beck calling them communists, so they write an open letter explaining that they are actually communists.

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