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Capitalist anarchism is a real problem. It has its coherent central theory as set out by Nozick, Hayek and others, and a doctrine of market freedoms. It has turned out not only to be the most successful form of decentralized decision making ever invented – as Marx so elegantly demonstrated in Capital – but also a force for an immense centralization of wealth and power in the hands of an increasingly powerful oligarchy. This dialectic between decentralization and centralization is one of the most important contradictions within capital (see my Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism) and I wish all those, like Springer, who advocate decentralization as if it is an unalloyed good would look more closely at its consequences and contradictions. As I argued in Rebel Cities (2013a), decentralization and autonomy are primary vehicles for producing greater inequality and centralization of power. Once again, Bookchin sort of agrees: “at the risk of seeming contrary, I feel obliged to emphasize that decentralization, localism, self-sufficiency, and even confederation, each taken singly, do not constitute a guarantee that we will achieve a rational ecological society. In fact all of them have at one time or another supported parochial communities, oligarchies, and even despotic regimes” (2014: 73-74). This was, by the way, my main problem with the stance taken by Gibson-Graham in their pursuit of totally decentralized anti- capitalist alternatives.

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There are two broad lines of critique of the conventional anarchist position in Ealham’s account that are relevant to my argument. Firstly there is the failure to shape and mobilize political power into a sufficiently effective configuration to press home a revolutionary transformation in society as a whole. If, as seems to be the case, the world cannot be changed without taking power then what is the point of a movement that refuses to build and take that power? Secondly, there is an inability to stretch the vision of political activism from local to far broader geographical scales at which the planning of major infrastructures and the management of environmental conditions and long distance trade relations becomes a collective responsibility for millions of people. Who will manage the transport and communications network is the question. The anarchist town planners (including Bookchin) understood this problem but their work is largely ignored within the anarchist movement. These dimensions define terrains upon which anarchists but not Marxists are fearful of operating (which is not to say the Marxists have no failures to their credit). And it is here that the whole history of anarchist influences in centralized urban planning deserves to be resurrected. This is a complicated topic that I cannot possibly probe into more deeply here. But this is clearly the most obvious point where anarchist concerns for the qualities of daily life and Marxist perspectives on global capital flows and the construction of physical infrastructures through long-term investments could come together with constructive results.

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But to go from this recognition to suggest that Marx plagiarized everything from Proudhon in particular is indeed totally absurd. The idea of the exploitation of labour by capital, for example, was far more strongly articulated by Blanqui than by Proudhon and was completely accepted by the socialist Ricardians. It was obvious to pretty much everyone and Marx made no claims of originality in pointing to it. What Marx did was to show how that exploitation could be accomplished without violating laws of market exchange that theoretically (and in the utopian universe of classical political economy) rested upon equality, freedom and reciprocity. To promote those laws of exchange as the foundation of equality was to create the conditions for the centralization of capitalist class power. This was what Proudhon missed. When Marx pointed to the importance of the commodification of labor power he may well have been drawing on Blanqui without acknowledgement but even here it was Marx and not Blanqui who recognized its significance for the theory of capital. Marx’s critique in the Grundrisse of the Proudhonian conception of money and of the idea that all that was needed for a peaceful transition to socialism was a reform of the monetary system was accurate (and of course Proudhon’s free credit bank was an instantaneous disaster though it may have been bourgeois sabotage that made it so). Marx’s critique of Proudhon’s theories of eternal justice is also penetrating. It is here precisely that Marx points out how theories of justice are not universal but specific, and in the bourgeois case specific to the rise of liberal capitalism. To pursue the aim of universal justice as a revolutionary strategy ran the danger of simply instanciating bourgeois law within socialism. This is a familiar problem, as everyone working critically with notions of human rights recognizes. When Marx appealed, as he often did, to ideas of association he was almost certainly drawing more on Saint-Simon than Proudhon.

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For this reason anarchists are often drawn to adopt indigenous communities as one of their favored forms of association because of their ability to pursue communal forms of action without creating anything that resembles a state. This underpins Chomsky’s embrace of the Mapuche in Southern Chile (the Mapuche kept the Spanish invaders and the Chilean government at bay for hundreds of years) and James Scott’s characterization of the indigenous populations of Highland Southeast Asia as prototypical anarchist in form. In some ways this is an odd coupling because for most indigenous populations the radical individualism that underpins much of Western anarchism is meaningless given their relational collectivism and their general appreciation of harmony and spiritual membership as core cultural values. Unfortunately in the case of the Mapuche, the penetrations of commodification, money and merchant capitalism are currently doing far more damage than either Spanish colonialism or the Chilean state ever did to their core cultural values. As Marx puts it, “when money dissolves the community it becomes the community” and what is happening to many indigenous societies is exactly that. While these social orders and their value systems are of great merit, I fear that a political program that argued for the populations of North America and Europe to live like the Mapuche, the highland tribes of Asia or the Zapatistas would not go very far and in any case would do little or nothing to curb the avaricious practices of capital accumulation through dispossession that are currently at work in Amazonia and other hitherto relatively untouched regions of the world. And in some instances, such as Otavalo in Ecuador or even more spectacularly in El Alto in Bolivia (with more than a million people mostly indigenous Almara), the embrace of the market produces a vibrant indigenous culture with entrepreneurial merchant capitalist characteristics.

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If, as Springer (2014: 252) says, anarchism is primarily “about actively reinventing the everyday through a desire to create new forms of organization”, then I am all for it. If it does not separate working, living, creating, acting, thinking, and cultural activities, but keeps them together within the seamless web of daily life (as a totality) and tries to re-shape that life then I am totally with it. The search to re- shape daily life around different “structures of feeling” (as Raymond Williams might have put it) is as critical for me as it is for Springer and the autonomistas who have taken up biopolitics.

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So what are the main differences and difficulties that separate my supposed (but often suspect) Marxism from Springer’s anarchism? On this I find Springer’s discussion less than helpful. He caricatures all Marxists as functionalist historians peddling a stages theory of history, besotted with a crude concept of a global proletarian class who believe in the teleology of a vanguard party that will inevitably establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of a communist state that will supposedly wither away as communism approaches its steady state to end history. Now it is undeniable that some communists and in some instances communist parties at certain historical periods have asserted something along those lines as party dogma (though rarely in so crude a form). But I have not personally encountered any geographer with Marxist leanings who thinks that way and there are a mass of authors in the Marxist tradition who come nowhere near representing anything of this sort (start with Lukacs, Gramsci and then go to E. P. Thompson, Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton). And much of contemporary Marxist political economy is so busy trying to figure out what is going on with the crisis tendencies of contemporary capital to bother with such nonsense. But all we Marxists do, Springer asserts, is re-hash tired old themes which he (rather than any geographer with Marxist inclinations) has selectively identified and which have been so obviously disproven by historical events. Furthermore, when we Marxists look at anarchists the only thing we apparently see are people who are against the state as the unique and only enemy, thus denying that anarchists are anti-capitalist too. All of this is pure caricature if not paranoid nonsense. It crams all the actual and intricate complexity of the relation between the two traditions into an ideological framework defined at best by the fight between Marx and Bakunin in 1872, which occurred at a time when the bitter defeat of the Paris Commune poisoned the political atmosphere. Strange that Springer, the open-minded freedom-loving anarchist, should seek to foreclose on the intellectual and political possibilities open to us at this time in this way.