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+2 votes
Help I’m starting a business as a blacksmith, for the sake of profit I need to employ sum people. I am trapped between the illusion of wealth that the “system” has taught me and my principles of non-abuse. Money brings a degree of freedom, which I desire and fuck, I don’t know what to do….
As you go along, try to remember that you aren't bound to any one model or plan - you can adjust or compensate or ditch the friggin' thing as the situation and your circumstances and experiences change.  This can be harder than it sounds when we're emotionally invested in a project.

Money is a shitty reason to do anything!  If you cared only about wealth you'd be a stock speculator not a blacksmith.  Given the meagre returns of that trade, i will speculate that you are actually doing something you love and trying to figure out how to do it and not starve to death in the meantime - this is not the same mindset as the mill owners who worked men to death (and women and then children).
This leads me to think you're using mainstream language to ask a non-mainstream question (and getting downvoted in the process [seriously??]).  So I would suggest you consider taking all the pragmatic bullshit necessary to interact with the capitalist/corporate system that currently runs our world - and molding it into a psychic/psychopathic masque, one that you can put on to talk to the bankers and city planners, then drop back into the drawer before you talk to real people - your friends, co-workers, and (maybe) clients.  The world we live in is fucked up, to live in it you have to either be fucked up or pretend to be.

Anarchy (and anarchism) to me isn't about purity - ideologically, or otherwise.  Unless we adopt a posture of complete Illegalism (bless their black little hearts), we are all exposed to the protection rackets of the state (taxation, etc.), we all have to engage in hypocrasy to see tomorrow, and i don't expect _you_ to sacrifice yourself so the rest of us can pretend we're pure of wool.  So while we may have disagreements about practice, i don't expect you to build your own cross and nail yourself to it (though you are expected to forge your own spikes :D ).
clodbuster: Looks like an answer to me.
I forgot to add that anything we do "above ground" is basically held hostage by the powers-that-be; if we take any direct action, these hostages will be threatened.  
That leaves us the choice between abandoning our principles to protect what we've built (which would be madness, and scant protection); or to accept that everything we have worked for could be destroyed out of spite, and we mourn it before it is born and carry on in the hope it might survive.
(I know that sounds discouraging - sorry.  But once i accept that, i can set it aside in my mind; and if/when it happens, the shock is lessened because it is not unexpected.)

1 Answer

+2 votes
This is something anarchists may wish to consider and/or reconsider. The issue of deferment, of putting off the destruction of the present order, is perhaps the highest problem for anarchists to tackle. On one hand there are all of these practices that reify struggle, that represent and act out a struggle that should be coming from people without a middle institutional agent directing them (activist groups, community organizations, unions, etc.). What could be considered an authentic battle of active agents against the forces of the social order is often intervened by and then controlled by institutions, some of which feel they are a necessary element to destroy the present order (revolution, insurrection, overthrow, etc.).

On the other hand, anarchists in most places fear taking authentic action individually. Often shot down by rivals (leftists, liberals) as adventurists, voluntarists, substitionists and so on, anarchists let themselves be demoralized by these forces, perhaps because even taking the first steps to bringing destruction to our enemies is a scary proposition. If they made it past the reifying practices, taking individual or collective action with others to wage personal war against individual elements within the social order (elements being institutions, individuals, infrastructures, materials, forces, etc.) has few allies among those that hold sway over the definition of struggle (demagogues).

So the solution to these issues would be to perhaps re-examine some approaches and in this case (to answer your question) open ourselves up to defining ethical business ownership. We already can say all businesses should be destroyed and those that support them have a tendency to defend their business and more readily accept the recuperation of struggle (healing present grievances by those disempowered by the social order with the social order and ending struggle instead of pushing it beyond a mere challenge to domination).

However, we do have "friendly" businesses, one of which hosts this website, as an example. There may be no ethical way to manage businesses other than irrational ways, emotional ways. Saying these are my friends and they support me, so I support them is irrational. An ethical approach would attempt to apply shared standards based on the theory and activity desired by anarchists.

Some forms of anarchism have attempted this, such as mutualism and some forms of market anarchism. Their attempts have largely been dismissed as pro-capitalist or only a possible practice for a minority of people. Also, as complete systems of thought, as ideologies, there methods are tied with a progression towards an end. Mutualists feel they are working towards an anarchist society by using and building ethical business practices. I would disagree, but perhaps there is something here. A cultural norm perhaps that crosses outside of ideology where we reject the premises of mutualism, but accept its practices despite their inherent flaws and lack of purity.

I am a poor working class person, so I can identify with your problem, especially when some anti-capitalists hold jobs that propel them into the middle class or beyond. If not that, many also come from wealth and they can afford ethics in business practices or to demand a rejection of all business ownership. If I and perhaps you start a business, the risk is to lose everything and become homeless. Investing in a business is also very expensive and trusting ownership outside of ones' self is difficult to give. However, with the right kinds of associations, an ethical practice can occur without risking your self and perhaps your family's well being.

Business associations exist now that propose ethical business practices. What is ethical to them is probably not an anarchist view of ethics, but it does provide a model for the possibility to do so. So while we might not be able to achieve a 100% worker cooperative business model, we can help each other stay friendly to the cause of destruction.

Your problem with exploiting workers is indeed a very real problem to be considered by any anarchist seeking to start a business and an answer is to create a support network for friendly businesses and define business standards according to your associations. And since even with worker cooperative models we are merely managing our own exploitation, it isn't necessarily the strongest criteria for friendly business creation.
by (3.9k points)
I think hpwombat raises some interesting points.  Rereading it, i'm struck by the similarity to the recurring advice against allowing _any_ organization or structure to exist for any significant length of time - once the bureaucracy sets in, then the continued existence of the structure becomes the primary goal of everyone and everything within that structure.  I wonder if the business/workshop/storefront/etc should all be viewed as another sort of ...(don't know the term i want)... affinity group?  Perhaps a useful tool in certain places and times, but not a goal in itself, and certainly not something we'd feel bound to protect (in its current form) "after the revolution" (or whenever).  
I'd use the analogy of the barricade - thrown up today because it suits the need of the day, but torn down next week to be rebuilt in another place, or rebuilt as shanties only to be torn down to build garden beds, and then torn up to...

And one day, we won't call ourselves anarchists, because the term will be redundant.