December 28, 2021 at 7:14 pm #225313
Quite a few references to the SPGB in this book by free marketeer, Justin Trask Haskins, purporting to put the “moral case against socialism”.
Perhaps setting up a debate with this guy would not be a bad idea. Maybe it could be organised by the WSPUSDecember 28, 2021 at 11:47 pm #225314
First things first – a web rebuttal of his critique and our defence of his direct references to the SPGB in his book.
But it has made me curious. How an American right-wing libertarian has come to learn about the SPGB and believes it is deserving of being singled out for his criticism.December 29, 2021 at 3:07 am #225315twcParticipant
Apparently he has argued with us over the web.
He’s from The Henry Dearborn Institute for Liberty, “an association of pro-liberty professionals” and also a “research scholar” at a “leading free-market think tank”. In 2017, Newsmax TV named him one the nation’s “top 30 Republicans Under 30”.
His moral case against socialism — as proclaimed in our Object and Declaration of Principles — is that common ownership and democratic control of the world’s means and instruments of production will allow a world majority to impose its democratic decision against the will, morality, conscience and individual rights of “minorities”.
Here are his seven specific instances that “Socialism is Evil”.
Socialism’s Seven Deadly Sins
Socialism is evil because it forces socialists to commit the following “immoralities”.
- Meat — either ban killing animals or encourage (force) Hindus to kill cows, and Muslims and Jews to eat pork against “religious teaching”.
- Contraception and abortion — either force nuns to violate their “holy vows” or force feminists to violate their “secular beliefs”.
- Gambling — either criminalise gambling or force Mormons (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to act against their “conscience”.
- Alcohol — either go dry (and lose [state] revenue!) or force assorted Muslim, Protestant, Seventh Day Adventist sects to drop their prohibition.
- Arms — either support the right of “citizens to bear arms” or violate the individual liberty of [US] gun owners.
- Parenting — either violate the right of hard-line religious parents to instill “Christian, Jewish or Muslim” values into their kids” or push their kids into socially necessary jobs against their “unique desires and dreams”.
- Racism — “For Americans and Europeans, [socialism] should be a particularly troubling thought since they are far outnumbered by the rest of the world … Asia would alone have the power to decide how the world’s resources are used”.
He is willing to lay down his (or a working-class proxy of his own) life to defend the “individual freedom” instilled in him by his “morality instilling” parents to protect his ruling class’s monopoly of the world’s means and instruments of production.
The working class seeks no war between capitalists and their nations. The working class has no nation. It has a world to win!December 29, 2021 at 9:08 am #225316ALBKeymaster
That could be Democracy’s Seven Deadly Sins.
But if he mentions us we need to take up the challenge even though the book has been out since 2018. We have a tradition and reputation for being anti-socialist killers going back to the pre-WWI Anti-Socialist Union. This one seems easy meat.
I imagine he singled us out as we are the only group calling themselves socialists who present a coherent alternative to capitalism. The anarchist-capitalists did the same in the 1980s because we were the only group arguing for a non-market, non-money society.December 29, 2021 at 9:14 am #225317twcParticipant
Adam, he quotes you directly multiple times.
I downloaded the Kindle version (US $3.99)December 29, 2021 at 1:01 pm #225318
Socialism is evil because it forces socialists to commit the following “immoralities”.
I find Haskin’s argument curious for in what sense does, or can, socialism “force” people to commit the various immoralities he cites? If anything the exact opposite is the case. Socialism provides the optimum circumstances in which a truly “free” society can flourish.
To argue from the example of traditional nomadic hunter-gatherer (or “segmentary lineage”) societies. Part of the reason for their fundamentally egalitarian character lies in the ability of bands to “fission” at any point in time, and vote with their feet, should undesirable hierarchical tendencies and personal animosities build up within the band itself.
Analogously speaking, the structural features of a socialist society – notably, free access and voluntaristic labour – would similarly work to undermine any coercive-cum-hierarchical tendencies that might otherwise emerge in such a society. Quite simply, there would be no leverage – economic or political – that could enable any individual or group to exercise power over any other group in socialism – as there certainly is under capitalism (which Haskins defends).
Then there is this whole argument about “morality” that I find intriguing. Haskins seems to counterpose “morality” to “coercion” as indicated by his use of the word, “force”. Classical sociologists like Durkheim tended to argue to the contrary that “society is a moral order” and that morality itself is essentially coercive or imperative by its very nature. It instructs us as to what we ought or ought not to do.
The difference, I suppose, is that morality, or our acceptance of moral norms, is something that is internalised within the individual in the process of socialisation as we are progressively inducted into society from an early age. External coercion, notably in the form of the state, is something quite different and may or may not align with the moral outlook of individuals
Haskin’s argument that socialism is evil “because it forces people to commit certain immoralities” seems to hinge on this “external” concept of force or coercion as represented by some social institution, such as state, rather than an internalised concept of force which is implicit in the very idea of morality itself. However, he completely fails to demonstrate what this externalised social mechanism could be in a stateless (because classless) socialist society that would force individuals to commit immoral acts or how this mechanism could arise and maintain itself in a social environment in which individuals enjoy free access to their own means of subsistence and voluntarily cooperate with their fellows to produce these means.
One last thing – socialism has sometimes been characterised as a system of a generalised reciprocity or what is called a “gift economy”. I question the idea that socialism can be called an economy at all. The idea that there is such a thing as a separate realm of reality called “the economy” is peculiar to capitalism alone, Adam Smith probably being the first serious commentator to conceptualise the economy in this way.
In pre-capitalist societies, it was difficult if not impossible, to disentangle the moral, political, religious etc aspects of life from the economic aspects. So it will be in a post-capitalist society as well.
Unlike the “balanced reciprocity” of the market which requires equivalence in exchange almost by definition (and hence also a focus on quantification expressed through money), generalised reciprocity essentially entails a moral transaction in the sense of an ongoing obligation to contribute to society and not just to take from it.
Again, this completely undermines the entire thrust of Haskin’s argument because what it suggests is that, in a socialist society, without the kind of class conflict we find in capitalism that reduces the force of morality to a kind of hypocritical humbug or mere moralizing, the power of moral persuasion will, if anything, be greatly enhanced. If morality has hitherto been mere class morality, in a classless society of the future, it will be the much clearer expression of what is in the common interest of everyone. As such, it will have a much more significant and effective role to play in the life of a socialist society, compared to capitalismDecember 29, 2021 at 4:26 pm #225351Matthew CulbertKeymaster
Their view of ‘immoral’ behaviour blithely skates past the two world conflagrations and immumerable smaller ones of the last century rising out of competition as well as the actual birth pangs of capitalism and its emulation in the statist variations of last century.
It is no surprise that those excesses Gulags and all, were similar to those of earlier developments of capitalism, writ large in attempts to catch up with developed capitalism elsewhere.
“If money, according to Augier,  “comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek,” capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.  The Genesis of Industrial Capitalism.”December 29, 2021 at 4:57 pm #225352Bijou DrainsParticipant
we get a few mentions on his website as well.
He clearly has no concept of what Socialism is and has a very limited understanding of Marxian thought, but no publicity is bad publicity!
December 29, 2021 at 7:12 pm #225353Mike FosterParticipant
- This reply was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by Matthew Culbert.
I agree with that we/the WSPUS should try to arrange a debate, as well as publishing a response.
It’s good that our views are getting critiqued wider afield, but not so good that the criticism is based on a misinterpretation!December 29, 2021 at 11:34 pm #225355Matthew CulbertKeymaster
But it has made me curious. How an American right-wing libertarian has come to learn about the SPGB and believes it is deserving of being singled out for his criticism.December 29, 2021 at 11:39 pm #225359
Haskins says “Marxist socialists have built their entire system on several deeply flawed assumptions, but perhaps the most critical is in Marx’s socialism it is assumed that it is possible to convince virtually everyone to abandon their natural tendency to embrace competition and ambition.”
So his best argument against socialism is what we have called the lazy greedy selfish person hypothesis.
Plus I think a misunderstanding of what is meant by capitalist competition and wanting to compete in games and sports.December 30, 2021 at 12:27 am #225360
Seems the stoppingsocialism site has an audiovisual facility. Perhaps they could invite a party member to debate Haskins on the subject of socialism and the latter’s references to the SPGB. It will be interesting to see if they chicken out at the prospect of a debateDecember 30, 2021 at 9:11 am #225361ALBKeymaster
I think any invitation or challenge should be done “officially” by the EC. Are they meeting on Saturday 8 January? Mike, can you put it in the agenda?December 30, 2021 at 6:32 pm #225404Mike FosterParticipant
I’ve asked for this to be added to the January EC meeting’s agenda. Thanks for the suggestion.January 2, 2022 at 11:58 pm #225434
There has been suggested to me by an ex-member another debate we could be having
“If the spgb are looking for worthwhile opponents to tackle maybe don’t bother with Justin T Hastins and try Peter Harrison (posting on libcom as Tom Henry) and his book ‘The Freedom of Things’ etc, but you need to delve into ‘Pre-History’. It is a case for reformism of sorts rather than a straight defence of capitalism since he is still against any global extension of capitalism to the remnants of earlier social systems.”
The link to Libcom and the topic is a long conflated one is
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