Authoritarian vs. Libertarian Socialism



Many on the left feel that authoritarian socialism is the most practical and/or feasible approach to establishing worker control ,albeit somewhat indirect, over the means of production, while many also feel that libertarian socialism is the or one of the only ways to ensure that oppressive hierarchy is not reinstated once the workers have taken control of the means of production.

What are your thoughts on this issue?


I’m not a huge fan of socialism overall, but libertarian socialism (preferably initiated by means of a peaceful revolution) is definitely preferable to authoritarian socialism, which just turns into communism. Let’s compare examples of each. CNT-FAI, a libertarian, socialist, anarcho-syndicalist city-state, which was extremely successful despite its short lifespan. Now compare that to the Soviet Union, an oppressive, totalitarian, statist regime (even under Lenin, tho this was obviously amped up to 11 under Papa Stalin). Communism has very, VERY rarely worked whereas libertarian socialism has actually become functional in the few instances of its implementation, thus the latter, unlike the former, isn’t political suicide


I’m one of these authoritarian socialists. The unfortunate reality is that many right wingers and liberals have been propagandised so much into believing socialism is either Stalinist gulaging or Bernie sanders taxing them that an authoritarian approach is the only viable option. These people need to have it shown directly to them. When people think Venezuela is a socialist society and a relevant argument against a Marxist like myself, there really isn’t any choice. It takes an obscene amount of time to even get a politically illiterate right winger to see the basic views of socialists accurately. It’s not like we have time on our side either, we face extinction from climate change (something capitalists don’t seem to want to seriously stop) and automation. Automation will remove the worker from the equation of production, meaning capitalists will have god like political power. Do you want your descendants to live under that? I don’t.


I totally disagree. Automation can be solved by instituting a UBI, and climate change denial isn’t an issue inherent to capitalism. State socialism has almost always failed, and thus isn’t viable IMO. But social democracies, and even libertarian socialism HAVE seen success in the past, and thus are far more viable. The issue with Authoritarian Socialism is that it becomes very easy to turn it into an autocratic dictatorship.


While I agree libertarian socialism is better, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will achieved my completely peaceful means, although i would say peaceful means are preferable, it’s not always the most realistic way to achieve such.

I wouldn’t necessarily say state socialism is a complete failure, as it actually tends to lead to quite high physical quality of life if you look at the progress it makes, and with the PQL of capitalist countries with very similar economic development, although the crux of the issues with state socialism is corruption which eventually leads to stagnation and a decline in the economy and the quality of many of the beneficial public health and welfare programs that are its most redeeming qualities. While I do consider myself a libertarian socialist, I don’t necessarily think abolition of the state and all hierarchy is preferable, as I think even a libertarian socialist society could benefit from state provided welfare institutions.


While I don’t believe the USSR stayed state socialist for long, and did become a stagnating state capitalist, and while I do believe that the state has a place in reaching the desirable outcomes of socialism, and at least indirect worker ownership of the means of production, I believe that try to progress towards a libertarian socialist (not necessarily anarchism) ideal is optimal because I think giving the state too much power will perpetually end up reinstating oppressive hierarchy.

I just fear that giving the state too much power will lead to hierarchy that leads to the degradation of worker control in addition to crucial public services. Do you believe this is a legitimate concern, or am I being too cautious in the pursuit of a better society?


Perhaps, but that quality of life came at the cost of personal freedoms, millions of dead, and ended in an economic collapse. I’m not suggesting the abolition of state, but there do need to be significant checks and balances in place. Marx’s idea of socialism is far from perfect, and lacking checks and balances (or not enforcing existing ones) puts you on the road to dictatorship and tyranny. As for revolution, no, violent revolution should only be an absolute last resort. It makes it far too easy for a tyrannical regime to rise. Progressive evolution allows for tweaks to be made to the system and checks and balances to be put in place, but a violent and sudden revolution makes that MUCH harder (though admittedly not impossible)


Most Places that had Marxist leninist regimes pop up didn’t have these to begin with. Russia was a feudal regime shortly before the rise of the Bolsheviks.

In Russia the Bolshevik Revolution was going to happen because millions were gonna die in both WW1 and famine, many people blame the famines on the regime when in reality they were a near constant issue in the region until they industrialised, early liberalism has similiar kill counts , capitalism in the 3rd world dwarfs these regimes. Mao basically being an idiot over estimated their ability to produce food and took too many people off farming which was why so many died to the Great Leap Forward.

Out of curiosity how many models of Marxian socialism are you aware of or read into


Well yes, the USSR was no doubt an authoritarian regime, however it often did function fairly well as an economic system, at least in terms of serving people’s needs. AS I have cited before, a study has demonstrated that socialist systems with a command economy do tend to meet the needs of the people better (there are more public health services, more education services, and generally socialist countries have a higher caloric intake in relation to caloric need than capitalist countries of comparable economic development) but as you said, it does tend towards oppressive hierarchy, which is really the antithesis of socialism. Stalin chose to pursue industrialization at the cost of exporting crucial grain, which was a large factor of the Holodomor. Ultimately, it was not state socialism, but devolution into state capitalism that caused stagnation and deterioration of public services. This is why I ultimately reject authoritarian socialism, but recognize that the state does have a place in instituting beneficial public services to the public, however, to preserve liberty, I believe it is ultimately incumbent on the workers to directly control the means of production.


As a libertarian socialist,I find that authoritarian socialism rather than being an alternative to neoliberal capitalism in the truest sense merely reinforces the very patriarchal,ableistic,racist,nationalistic feudalist norms it claims to oppose.Examples being the Soviet pogroms which were an extension of Czarist policy in a nominally anti-Czarist,anti-imperialist regime.Furthermore,the fact that worker control of the means of production is just as antithetical to state control of the means of production as market control of the same would be intuitively obvious were it not for years of Cold War propaganda creating a false dichotomy between the market and The State when the reality is that both are unjustified hierarchical institutions of power that crush the people`s creative and rebellious spirit under the weight of outdated feudal-era,religious,moralistic dogmas and consumer culture.


I’d disagree with you there.

I would say the expanding digital market, plus a growing need for college-type jobs (carpenters, electricians, etc.) will cause many of those previously existing as factory workers to simply switch their specialization.


The rate at which technology and artificial intelligence/automation are improving will eventually mean that most work is unneeded, ergo, most workers will not have a role in production per se. While this may take quite some time, that is definitely the trend, and if socialism is not instated by that point, we may face a very dark future.


I think you are underplaying specialization quite a fair bit.

Consider this, at the Taj Mahal, it is more cost effective to have hundreds of labourers who cut the grass by hand than to have a singular machine that does the task instead.

Automation is not always the cheapest option.


While I do agree that propaganda and dogmatism have led people to associate socialism with failed instances of state socialism that rapidly deteriorate into state capitalism, I don’t believe that markets and worker ownership are necessarily contradictory outright, and I don’t believe that state control is as antithetical to worker control as it is to private control, although I certainly believe worker control, at least for the most part, as I am a libertarian socialist as well. However, I do believe that the state, so long as it is constructed upon democratic ideals and limited in scope, does have a role to play in a libertarian socialist society.


Specialization certainly has a role to play, however, artificial intelligence and machines have the capacity to grow and learn, outdoing people at tasks that would have otherwise been deemed untouchable my machines. I believe that the point in which automation overtakes workers is far off, it is still something to consider, greatly so, as really it is an inevitability rather than a mere possibility.


But then you are getting into some real advanced AI that would be smart enough to overthrow us.

I do not think humanity would let AI get to such a point that it would have that capacity for human-like intelligence.


We don’t even need to instate full socialism. A livable UBI alone with proper pricing regulations will do just fine


Ehhhhh, I have always been incredibly hesitant of the concept of UBI, as when it was tried in Canada, it failed overall. Additionally, with a growing population, and necessary cuts needed to create spare funds, I feel like the concept of UBI would fail in the long run, and simply result in inflation and fewer social services.


Perhaps. It all depends on how you get the money. Cutting more bureaucy-heavy welfare programs would make room for a UBI, which is arguably more effective. At the very least, it’s an excellent replacement for unemployment, kinda like how Finland is currently testing it. The concept shows great promise, but you’re right, we need to give it more time. I jumped on the boat too soon


AIs don’t have to have human level intelligence if they are just working and improving upon single or a few tasks. Automation has and continues to replace workers, lessening the bargaining and political power of the worker commensurately.