Transcribed by Dotty DeCoster. Originally published online at Open Revolutions.
Libertarian Socialism, or if you please, anarcho-socialism, makes as its point of departure from orthodox socialism, its criticism of orthodox socialism as relying too heavily upon centralism, leadership concepts, parliamentarianism; and as depending too heavily upon the experience of socialisms which are striving to emerge in underdeveloped countries where the major economic problem is to carry thru what has already been accomplished in capitalist lands, an industrial revolution. That task requires in those countries a tremendous mobilization of all resources, material and human, with a high degree of discipline to achieve what is after all merely the industrial foundations of socialism. Anarcho-socialism holds that too often those disciplines and regimentations which may be necessary for this purpose, or in a resistance army or in an anti-facist underground are elevated into being a good in themselves – which rather neglects, to say the least, the old socialist ideal of the maximum liberty for every human being.
Therefore anarcho-socialism takes as its special province the re-introduction into the socialist movement the idea of a vast expansion of individual liberty and an unremitting hostility to bureaucratic formations of all kinds. In its approach to contemporary problems anarcho-socialism recognizes that a revolution is a revolution in mind and attitude, as well as institutions and power structures, and it therefore supports such movements as the sexual revolution and the “beat” movement, for, if successful socialism were to result in the suburbanization of the world, it would be a material success, but a spiritual catastrophe. Many persons imagine that anarchism and socialism are opposite, and yet anarchism shares with socialism many of the same progenitors. Before bitter factional strife and strategic differences effectively split the two movements, anarchism was regarded as one of the main tendencies within socialism.
The impact of anarchist thought upon orthodox socialism is illustrated by Marx’s reference in the Communist Manifesto to the withering away of the state, while his co-thinker Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State traces all three repressive institutions to a common foundation, and Lenin in his most optimistic and gentle book, State and Revolution, envisages with the final achievement of communism a state which has withered away, the administration of things having replaced the administration of people, and a society in which minorities do not tyrannize over majorities nor majorities over minorities.
Today, in the bulk of the Marxist-influenced socialist movements these ideas have been forgotten, save for an occasional academic reference, and as these parties move in the direction of a kind of glorified welfare statism – with the notable exception of movements like those of China and Cuba where the revolutionary fervor has not yet been smothered by hordes of place-hungry bureaucrats and careerists – the truly revolutionary Marx has been replaced by a half-shadow of himself, a kind of insurrectionary Sidney Webb. As for the non-Marxist socialists of the parliamentary, loyal opposition type, these parties on the whole are not and have never been revolutionary.
Their goals are the rather modest ones of improving public services, socializing medicine, rationalizing production somewhat, and increasing unemployment and retirement pay. They have about as much sense of identification with the oppressed majorities of the world as does the skilled white northern worker with the Negro sharecropper – and that’s damned little. Many of their objectives are doubtless laudable in a meager, social-workish way, but they are totally lacking in that sense of moral crisis which is inseparable from a truly revolutionary movement. I stress the term “moral crisis”, for every true revolution has been preceded and accompanied by a moral crisis.
A moral crisis is in one sense nothing more than the subjective search for truth and meaning, and a rebellion against the false, the pretentious and the outmoded. The high tide of the Russian revolution is in a way symbolized by the ease with which marriage and divorce was obtained – then a long step towards sexual freedom –(in each case it involves the mere filling out of a short form in a government office)—while the ebbing of the revolutionary flow was accompanied by a tightening up of divorce laws, and official campaigns against divorce and “moral laxity”. As Charles Beard pointed out, this resulted from a certain failure of the revolution – the re-introduction of inheritance, not it is true the old inheritance of property, but the passing on of influence and educational opportunity, which ensured for his father’s son a place in the bureaucratic over-caste, and therefore a new stress upon that singular property and contractural relationship, the family.
In our own country to find that the reactionary almost instinctively rallies to the defense of the family whatever his personal sexual habits may be – even if he is a member of a suburban wife-swapping circle, or regularly goes to cat houses – and this with good reason, for he feels that this anachronistic, often hypocritical and repressive institution is organically connected with and symbolizes his anachronistic, often hypocritical and repressive state and property relationships – and so it does! Today America, or at least a section of the American population, is going thru a moral crisis and that in a way which is often as baffling and disturbing to old-line socialists as it is to arch-reactionaries. This moral crisis is search for the free and meaningful, and involves among other things a sexual revolution. This sexual revolution is specially pervasive among the “beats”, the younger radicals, the university fringe element, and the younger civil rights workers, but is not restricted to these groups and has extended into large groupings which are non-ideological and non-political, and promises as its influence grows to give a shattering blow to rotten Judeo-Christian morality with its sexual shame, its guilt, and its personality-destroying repressions.
It is probably safe to say that in every major campus in the United States there are men and women living together, shacking up for a night and engaging in other even more interesting sexual combinations – and all of this openly and with the approval of their contemporaries – upon a scale never before realized. It is a conspiracy of youth against age, of the generous spirit of developing life in combat with the narrowing, conservative influence of decay and slow death which is, sadly, the most common single characteristic of the adult world, of parents, teachers, bureaucrats, the official governors of society who lack the raw spiritual energy to expand themselves recklessly and, sunk in the sloth of narrow personal aims and routines, fear and resent the explosive energy of rebellious youth. They resent the brave youth, they who lack the capacity for rebellion, just as they lack the capacity for true passion, for the shadow of death already lies lightly upon them and they have lost that part of life which belongs to children, and poets, and other growing things, and never to bankers, and generals, and establishment politicians. Anarchy, the least codified and least institutionalized of ideologies – hardly even an ideology – supports with enthusiasm the sexual revolution as it supports with zeal all movements tending to increase every man’s personal freedom – this in counter-distinction to the cash-register crusaders of the far right whose yammerings about freedom often turn out upon examination to be the bellyache rumblings of shuck artists who feel that their legalized piracies are subject to too much state restraint. The sexual revolution is more than simply good because in its result it will add much to human pleasure.
It is necessary, if the generality of women are to be free, and by being freed have their brains and energies liberated in what may be one of the greatest cultural revolutions in human history. The professed friends of women no less than avowed male chauvinists (and some of these wear skirts) are recalcitrant and hostile when confronted by the declaration that the liberation of women will only be achieved when there is widespread and socially-accepted promiscuity – when what we call promiscuity is the norm. While the open and blunt male supremacist regards woman as an inherent inferior whose function is to be a combination body-servant and erotic object to him, and becomes bitter and angry when his preconceptions are violated by life, and while his more sophisticated brother will say that men and women are equal but different (anyone can see that their plumbing is different Ha Ha), that women are passive and men are active, that the greatest satisfaction is gained by each doing what each is best at – woman was created with one hand for a baby carriage and the other for a broom – the more liberal friend of woman, and this includes many advanced socialists, admits her equality in all areas of activity but asserts a sentimental monogamy which is just as repressive and just as false as the religious and legal monogamy of church and state.
This sentimental monogamist will often pledge in the flowering of his ardor full fidelity to its object and extract from her a similar pledge – and can any extraction be more cruel. But love for one does not exclude love for others, not all sex is love, and there does exist a simple lust or horniness which involves sex that is more impersonal than a handshake with a stranger in a bus depot. The oppression of women is based upon the vagina just as the oppression of the Negro is based upon skin color, and the freedom of one depends upon vaginal freedom just as the freedom of the other means the absence of color discrimination. This is a truth which cuts deeply at the embryo and unevenly-developed socialist world as it does at the decaying and palsied capitalist areas.
My Marxist-Leninist friends will tell me that the liberation of women depends upon equal wages for equal work, and that the unleashing of woman’s creative and intellectual potential depends upon making it possible for her to freely enter all areas of physical and intellectual effort. And this in its way is true – and in a way false. But part of the reason it is true is that woman must be economically independent in order to be liberated from that vestigial property relationship in which she, at least historically, was chattel, and from which our moral codes and restrictive sexual laws and attitudes derive. However, I find that the “socialist” countries are much more successful at liberating women for all kind of labor than they are from archaic sexual restraints. Hardly full freedom! Would it be cynical to suggest that in countries where capital reserves are very meager that the greatest possible use must be made of the available labor and that this is why women are rather more liberated in this sphere than in the other.
Probably no human liberation will be accompanied by more self-appraisal, more agonizing, more ego conflict, more emotional hurt and pain that his liberation, for it cuts across some of the most sensitive areas of human existence; ego, vanity, virility feelings, emotional security, the desire for stability are all involved, yet it must be. That intelligence and education are no guarantees against subjectivity in this field is illustrated by recent reviews of Simone de Beauvoir’s latest book, Force of Circumstances. Without exception the reviews I have read – including Nelson Algren’s sour grapes review – were hardly reviews of the book at all but were attacks by sneer and snigger upon de Beauvoir, not because she is promiscuous, for many broads both well-known and obscure are promiscuous and this can be passed off as an amiable or even an admirable weakness in an otherwise good person, but because she has made such a powerful theoretical defense of her position that the critics are left gape-jawed, and because this defense is an attack upon their value system which because they cannot reply to with good reason they are driven to snide and yahooish attacks upon her. But there are far more women who acquiesce in and even defend their own oppression. They are trained in these attitudes from earliest childhood and accept them, even as primitives do fire, flood, and famine, as part of the natural order of the world. Just as a girl learns at an early age to control her legs so that she will not expose her crotch, so she learns a little later that she has one great marketable asset which she sho9uld sit upon, guard carefully, and not release except in return for a sound long-term contract.
With the development of modern birth-control methods this disgusting commercialism has lost even the slightest rational excuse. Far more women oppose their repression by their living acts than do in theory, and I have known highly promiscuous chicks who were theoretically monogamous; but happily not only is this changing as more young men and women engage in a common and accepted promiscuity, but the tide of sexual freedom is reaching into the high schools and junior high schools at such a rate that possibly Bertrand Russell’s desire that students should gratify their sexual desire to the point that they can concentrate on such comparatively dull subjects as mathematics and history, will be resolved.