Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dieselpunk Politics – Part 3

Now that we’ve addressed mainstream politics of that era we’re in a position to explore what might be considered dieselpunk politics. In this entry I’m honored to introduce as a guest writer Hayen Mill who I had the good fortune to meet through the forum, which is at the forefront of dieselpunk and is playing an important role in the ongoing development of the genre and subculture of dieselpunk. Mr. Mill describes himself as a “young male from Europe, enthusiast about dieselpunk and left-libertarianism.” In this blog entry Mr. Mill honors us with an essay on Mutualism and its roots in the diesel era. ~ Larry

One of the less known hypothetical varieties in dieselpunk politics could very well be the mutualist anarchist school of thought, which can be included in the broader term of Individualist Anarchism. It can also sometimes be referred to as Free-market Anti-Capitalism.

Mutualism, originally coined by Joseph-Pierre Proudhon, envisions a society where each person might possess a means of production, either individually or collectively, with trade representing equivalent amounts of labor in the free-market.

Joseph-Pierre Proudhon

In contrast with other anarchist theories, mutualism can either base itself on the labor theory of value or on the marginal utility theory, allowing for greater diversification of arguments. A very recent mutualism revival, by Kevin Carson, focuses exactly on the later, while trying to reconcile Austrian economics with Marxist Theories (a very uncommon mix indeed!).

One of the most closely related historical events was the Spanish Revolution, a worker’s social revolution that began during the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Much of Spain’s economy was put under worker control; Factories were run through worker committees, agrarian areas became collectivized and run as libertarian communes. Even places like hotels, barber shops, and restaurants were collectivized and managed by their workers.

Doctrinal magazine depicting the worker’s revolution

Mutualists have distinguished mutualism from state socialism, and don't advocate state control over the means of production. Benjamin Tucker said of Proudhon, that "though opposed to socializing the ownership of capital, [Proudhon] aimed nevertheless to socialize its effects by making its use beneficial to all instead of a means of impoverishing the many to enrich the subjecting capital to the natural law of competition, thus bringing the price of its own use down to cost”. So while the Spanish Revolution is not a prime example, it retains some elements of Mutualism.

Integral to mutualism is the establishment of mutual credit institutions, which allow for equality of opportunity in accessing resources and allow for greater entrepreneurship as well as competition in business enterprises.

More contemporary forms of mutualism include the internet (with its free association liberties and free software projects, like Linux), cooperative enterprises (like Mondragón’s federation of coops) and some fair trade movements.

As written in the introduction to dieselpunk politics, there are three general elements necessary for one to be able to use the label dieselpunk:

1)contemporary in that it can be found today, 2) decodence in that we can identify it as existing in some form during the 20s through 40s, and 3) ‘punk’ in that it emphasizes independence and exists primarily outside the mainstream of politics of that time as well as today.

Mutualism fits these three by being contemporary (especially with Kevin Carson’s revival) while at the same time paying tribute to the era of 1920s-1940s, when the idea of revolution was believed as achievable and necessary (something that most mutualists still believe today). It also emphasizes independence in that it rejects central authority and prefers a more spontaneous bottom-up approach to society’s organization. It also exists primarily outside of the mainstream of politics, both during the 1920s-1940s as well as today.


Tome Wilson said...

Where do the unproductive fit in a Mutualist society?

Hayen Mill said...

@Tome: If by unproductive you mean the elderly (which would have some sort of voluntary private/collective retirement fund), the poor, the sick, the blind, etc, there woould be institutions set up to care of them, such as cooperatives, charities. The "mutualist community" might even set up a small entry fee (aka tax) to cover some of these unproductive expenses.