Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Libertarian-Socialist blog.

I just came across a blog that represents 'anarchists in exile are analyzing Armenian and global politics'. The purpose is to introduce Libertarian-Socialist ideology to the Armenian audiences.

I am not a big fan of Socialism because we have seen what such policies can lead to in real life. When property belongs to everyone, it does not belong to anyone. The human beings are a little less sophisticated than what the Socialists credit them with. I know only of one example where means of production belong to the community and it actually works. It's the kibbutzism in Israel. Even then, kibbutz communities are a small minority in the Israeli society.

But I am a big fan of Libertarianism. Libertarianism does not exclude the formation of a socialist or communist society. I am against anarchy - one should keep an eye on the government but constantly opposing it is not a realistic goal.

Anyway. What does Libertarianism have to do with Armenia? If anyone has lived there, s/he has probably come across the state structure in daily life. It seems, at least to me it did, that half of the urban population is somehow employed by the government. The government acts like a big welfare system by hiring all these people and paying them salaries.

These people, of course, have to justify their existence. So you have a situation where most of what you want to do it regulated. The state creates issues for the citizens to resolve, and when one attempts to resolve them, s/he has to run around from one department to another, from one room to the other, and so on. 'Notes from hayrenik' blog has a number of such Kafkaesque stories.

The newly formed 'Aylntrank' ('The Alternative') movement in Armenia (disclaimer, some of my friends are members of it), also mentions the problems created by the bloated government system. The Armenian population has to be weened off of the tit of the government (I was going to say 'weened off of the tit of the taxpayer' but that sounds a little disturbing). The taxpayers' money should be utilized more efficiently - good education system that is available and affordable to every single citizen, strong defense force pretty much like the American Marines, modern communications infrastructure such as a railroad to Zangezur or fast internet pipelines through fiber optics and satellite systems, etc. People have to have a sense that they are responsible for their livelihoods - a major portion of the population has this sense but a lot of people expect government handouts, and a lot of them are employed by the state to basically create problems for the ones who don't.


Onnik Krikorian said...

I noticed the email address for the site looks to be Nikol Pashinian's (Haykakan Zhamanak) so this is really a political movement with sympathies for LTP and hhsh?

Regardless, because of the coming elections and your knowledge on this movement, I'd welcome an indepth post on this movement as I'm sure would others.

nazarian said...

Onnik, Nikol Pashinian is a member of the organizing committee. There are a handful of HHSh represenatatives in the movement, too. But as far as I know, the majority of people in Aylntrank are not in any party.

I don't know about the sympathies of some members about Levon Ter-Petrosian, but I think that the former president would be a credible challenge to such intellectual giants as Dodi Gago, Sej Sargsian or Robert Kocharian.

kronstadt said...

Few days ago you posted on our blog the following interesting comment:
"Isn’t adding the concept of ’socialism’ contradictory to the concept of libertarianism? Community based initiatives can only be voluntary. One cannot impose socialist system upon people and call it libertarianism."
But that's precisely the point: True Socialism cannot be imposed (look at the failure of Soviet-style SovKhoz), it can only be built from bottom up (like anarchists proposed a century ago - an insight that many contemporary theorists of democracy in the West finaly start to value). Throughout decades of Communist epistemological monopoly we have been led to believe that Bolshevik-style communism is the only actualisation of Socialism. In fact, from were I stand, those Communists are closer to Fascists (they still refuse to understand what I mean by that). A true socialism cannot live without Liberty and Democracy. Now... There are strong tendencies within the Armenian culture that are Socialistic and which are outside of governemntal support (in fact peasants' efforts to form collectivist farms are being crushed by local oligarkhs and government laws). It is these tendencies that must be given green light, while they are being crushed by capitalism. After all, Socialism is encoded in our culture: throughout centuries and millennia we managed to survive and even thrive (culturally and economically) not because we are a "superior nation" (as Tseghakrons would argue), but because it was in our cultural codes to stick together and practice Mutual Aid. Prosperity of the Armenian Diaspora and the immigrant communities in general, are explained by the dominant theories of Labour Economics precisely in these terms. Look even at Onnik Krikorian's comment on about linking to each other (look at how well developed and rapidly growing the Armenian blogophese is). We can temporarily run from it toward Racism and Fascism and Big Militarised State machinery, but the simple truth is Armenians are natural born socialists.
To explain my point better about what many may see as an oximoron contradiction between Socialism and Libertarianism, I have designed a political map, which is very simple as if usually taught at universities about politicat theory.

I don't wish to impose my ideas on anyone, just like I don't wish to impose socialism on people who just simply don't want it. After all, our movement is not about telling the world what the ultimate truth is, but about a kind of restructuring of governance so that each community and individual would be able to pursue his/her own search and determine his/her life as he wishes. But I don't want people to underestimate our ideas by seeing us through previously established misrepresentations (by Communists and the Capitalists).

For instance, you site Kibbutzim (whereby people choose a lifestyle without private property) movemnt, which, has contributed disproportionately to Israely culture in 20th century (numerous intellectuals, poets, artists, scientists etc). 1/7th of Isaeli population was born in Kibbitsim. And Kibbutz is essentially a Libertarian-Socialist invention. The first Kibbutz Degania was established in 1910 by 12 crazy anarchist friends - look where they are now. The point is not to suffer together, but to thrive together, and if necessary to live through hardship together (which is why I'm facinated by the people of Kashatagh).

In short, if an organizational formation is imposed on people from top down, it is doomed to failure (a lesson from 20th century). But if a voluntary initiative springs from peoples' grass-roots, and given liberty to grow, then that political formation has a future.

But, appart from these minor cases as Kibbutzim and Communes, Libertarian-Socialism has something much more profound to offer in 21 century. We are living in a age when we realise that technology and capitalist-liberalism does not give us more happiness, more balance, more certainty, more culture. Neither does it give us long term answers about environment or security on global scale. Capitalist Statism can proceed in this mindless game-paln of human decadence, environmental degradation and teachologised barbarism only by pretence. But sooner or later we will have to face the fact. (it's better sooner then later)

nazarian said...

kronstadt, as a big believer in capitalist system, I will always have problems with the term 'socialism'. What appeals to me more is 'community based initiatives' where the means of production and property are individually owned, and the community members pool their resources for economies of scale. A clear illustration would be the ancient wisdom that one twig is much easier to break than a bunch of them.

I realize that a capitalist system can have its own degraded forms like exploitation of the weak but with strong community oversight these negatives can be avoided.

kronstadt said...

hello :) you say "What appeals to me more is 'community based initiatives' where the means of production and property are individually owned, and the community members pool their resources for economies of scale". But how is this different from anarcho-syndicalist proposals for Co-operatives??? - People have been forming cooperalives since ancient times, and it was Kropotkin who put forward a systemized economical, philosophical and psychological arguement for it. Cooperatives helped jump-start the Soviet industrialisation at the earliest stage with NEP, and then was abolished and violently crushed when it proved to be more efficient and competitive then State-planned production. The Bolsheviks especially hated these "petty-bourgeois" anarchist cooperatives when soon, once in charge of their own production, they started practicing Direct Democracy and refused to take orders from central authority in Moscow.
But that was in the previous century. As for 21st century, I don't think Cooperatives or community based small-scale initiatives can be as competitive and fast growing as big corporate formations -- and I think the economy would be generally slower then under jungle-capitalist regime. BUT... it would be more Socially Just and the individual growth rate of ordinary peoples' wealth would actually be faster! (though the growth rate of the big oligarkhs might actualy :( slow down). Ultimately, Corporate Capitalism has no long-term answers in terms of environment, resources and even economy. We are already begining to realise that we cannot go on at such pace, leading this Life Out of Balance forever.
But, your beliefs are your beliefs and it is in my code of ethics to respect diversity of opinions -- otherwise it would be quite boring if we took turns agreeing with each other.

kronstadt said...

by the way, I really like your blog. :) I try to read it regularly.