Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Resurrecting the past: Agrarianism and Guild Socialism attempt #2

I wrote the first attempt six years ago, did a really huge, extensive post, didn't save it, and of course my computer ate it and it was totally gone. Now, after all this time, I'm still reflecting on the issues, although I don't agree with some of the premises of agrarianism or of guild socialism. So this post is an attempt to extract what I thought was valuable from those ideas from the ideologies that they were based on.

Primarily, the idea was an alliance between agricultural communities and towns and cities, where the rural character of the agricultural communities was preserved and where anarcho-syndicalist like guild socialism provided a form of social organization that was an alternative to capitalism. I thought that rural life, whatever we may think of the values that some rural people have occasionally, deserves to continue to exist as a distinct cultural entity, something that is threatened by capitalism. But the economic underpinnings of it were extremely important as well, actually the framework that I think makes the idea work. Capitalist agriculture destroys communities, ushering in agribusiness, as does the concentration of farm land into fewer and fewer hands. What would be better would be to have the land communally administered by the communities themselves. Not collectively administered like in the sense of Collective Farms in the Stalinist era but instead administered as a sort of commune where everyone has their plot of land, and where everyone contributes to community land use, but where normal capitalist small holding principles governing the buying and selling of land didn't apply. Neither would the idea prevalent in Anglo-American countries of people being able to do whatever they wanted with the land with minimal interference from the outside apply.

That would have been the first prong.

The second, guild socialism, has similar aims. The reason that guilds were attractive as opposed to straight anarcho-syndicalism was that the guild system as presented by the guild socialists incorporated resistance to the proletarianization of labor. By that I mean the tendency to deskill jobs and crafts and make people more or less cogs in complex manufacturing processes. Guilds would resurrect trades and would provide a sort of self management for the industries that they oversaw. I don't believe in guilds anymore, but I think that the basic ideas, reskilling and self management, can be incorporated into anarcho-syndicalism with not a lot of problem. Even within a complex manufacturing economy work can be retooled to give workers more initiative and self control over their jobs and what they do, to make what they do more meaningful and fulfilling.

An alliance of country and city, of communal agriculture and anarcho-syndicalist self management, would be ideal. There would be some participatory process that would govern what is now decided by municipal and city government, maybe involving neighborhood councils and general funds contributed by folks. Gunnar Myrdal's idea of consumer cooperatives existing as well as councils having to do with housing, would also be good.

That's a thumb nail of some of the ideas that the agrarian/guild socialist post embodied, albeit expressed in a different way.

*on edit: a manifestation of guild socialism in the restatement would be a transformation of the job itself into a profession instead of being generic work. And having confederations in the trade to regulate it.

1 comment:

The Last Guildsman said...

Great post. Interesting point about the key difference betweem Guild Socialism and anarcho-syndicalism being the guilds role to prevent the deskilling of labour. I think guilds are also ment to play a political funciton, in that they act as a counter power against the the politcal power of the commune and what is left of the state. They also have resgulatory funtion. A system of pure idenpendent workplaces leaves a lot of room for choas and stacks power at the feet of other political formations. I am saying this without having ready any anarcho-syndicalism literature, so you may have excuse my misunderstaning.