Bruce Baechler Writings

These are assorted excerpts from and full e-mail messages on a variety of topics.
Feel free to send any you might have to carol@carolmoore.net.

| On Process Issues  |   On Economics  |  On War Tax Resistance |
 | On Anarchism | On the Libertarian Party  |  On Nonviolence |


ON PROCESS ISSUES

July 1991 on "Libernet"
        Men tend to use a hierarchical model, while women tend to use a networking model. I have noticed this even among groups of anarchist men and of women in powerful positions in hierarchies. Obviously there are exceptions, but it seems to be a cultural phenomenon.
        We also have to remember that "the marketplace" is not culturally neutral. |It has been controlled by h-style players for a long time, primarily men, |and those in control have certainly used violence, government and religion |to maintain their position. The ideal market, upon which the theory of the |market rests, has only been approximated at best in the real world.


ON ECONOMICS

July 1991 on "Libernet"
        I was on [Peacenet internet service] for a while, but didn't find it very useful, and the expense was not worth it after a while.
        One interesting thing I noticed was that Peacenet is a centralized model of electronic conversation, while Fidonet is a decentralized model.
        Peacenet did not seem to improve very much over the year or so I was on, in terms of making it easier to use, etc. There were no offline readers, (like Silver Express) for example, except to capture raw data. The structure and procedures seemed kind of clunky. Fidonet, on the other hand, is constantly improving. It seems like every month there is some new innovation.
        I attribute this to the difference between centralized and decentralized models. Peacenet is an administered system, with a central staff doing the decisionmaking. As a centralized operation, they cannot chance innovation too much, because it would affect everyone on the system. They must be conservative with their experimentation.  This is analogous to the centrally planned economies, and has the same result: the net does not progress very rapidly.
        Fidonet is decentralized, analogous to the market economies. Individual sysops can experiment, and have incentive to do so. The result is innovation and greater overall "wealth" in terms of ease of use, etc. It is also cheaper for the participants, and probably would be even if the users picked up the costs of phone bills, etc. that the sysops now fund.
        One thing Peacenet does that Fidonet doesn't is advertise. They will tell you how to hook up with their service, while getting onto Fidonet is still somewhat of a 'figure it out yourself' venture. So Peacenet probably gets more people who are new to telecommunicating. I get the impression from some participants that it is their _only_ telecommunication activity, which seems like a waste of a modem to me.
        I'd probably go back onto Peacenet if someone got a libertarian and/or anarchist conference going. But I didn't see anything like that kind of thing. The most recent debate, which you mention, is taking place on the 200th anniversary of Vermonts' becoming a state, and is being downplayed by officialdom. I've been informed that a number of Vermonters' have "Republic of Vermont" license plates. Sure, it's a replay of the "Conch Republic" in a way, but secession is not a totally frivolous exercise to everyone, as you would have it. Will aquire as much info as possible, and post if it's interesting.

January 2000 Essay for circulation to left anarchists
        In those days [the Nineteenth Century] there were "capitalists" who owned their own companies and had a major hand in running them. That is generally not the case today. "Capital" is owned by a much broader segment of the population, and is not the direct cause of exploitation. "Capitalism" has turned into "Managerism" in that the managers of the corporations control the capital and run the corporations but usually do not own the capital.
        Next, we have to sort out the two kinds of things that managers get paid for. One is the work of managing. This is a legitimate work task, and someone needs to do it in all but the smallest companies. It is a power function, of course, and so there need to be limits on it. For example, in some of the employee owned plywood factories the boss was the only non-owner who worked there. Or some democratic places move people through the manager positions and back to the shop floor after a few years. Some of the traditional management functions can be moved from the manager to the broader set of workers. For example, hiring and firing can be done by a committee of workers instead of the boss.
        But managing the companies processes is a legitimate type of work, and the boss needs to be paid for it. (I will leave aside the question of how much they should be paid.)
        The other portion of money paid them is a part of the company's surplus value. Any (or most) viable company produces surplus value. It is a type of synergy, which means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You have workers, and consumers, and savers all contributing and getting their wages, prices and interest in amounts that satisfy them. What's left is the surplus value.
        Usually the surplus value is divided between the management and the workers, although in consumer coops the consumers get a piece of it and in capitalistic enterprises the savers get a piece. Surplus value is somewhat hard to pin down for a company in specific terms, because for example a company may focus on keeping prices low and so give part of it back to the consumer, or on paying good wages and give it to the workers, and neither of these will actually hit the company's books.
        So, in the companies that I see for the future, management will be just a specialized form of worker, the company's surplus value will be dealt with by the workers with attention paid to the consumers and to a less extent the savers.
        Generally the same rap goes for landlords. A landlord is generally a combination saver and worker. Generally I want the saver amounts paid to be close to the general interest rate, and the worker rates to be roughly equal to what they do. I don't really want to be a landlord -- I want to be able to call someone else to fix my roof or whatever. I wouldn't mind putting up money to share a housing coop as long as I didn't have to do a lot of work with it.
        Possessions -- non capital items -- belong to people. You get stuff like envy and theft, but generally I've found anarchists to be better than others about respect for possessions. This surprises the hell out of right-wing libertarians, but it is true from what I've seen.


ON WAR TAX RESISTANCE

November 1997 on War Tax Resistance list
          Right now we are in a relatively slack period, but eventually there will probably be another war. At that point we can expect the number of war tax resisters to increase, and our work in promoting, educating and networking to increase too. If I am trying to encourage people to not pay for war, I do not want to distract people from that by basically saying "war and all this other stuff that we have decided is bad/moral equivalent to war."
         If some racist is pissed because his son is going to be drafted, and wants to stop paying taxes to protest, I want to welcome him as a war tax resister. I do not want to debate his racism with him. Most people have not gotten into macro-analysis of the causes of war and this stuff is going to be brand new to them. And quite possibly more than they can deal with. I want to encourage direct action, not analysis. The real difference as I see it, I guess, is that NWRTCC is at present somewhat of a support committee or affinity group, rather than (or in addition to) being an organization to promote war tax resistance. We like each other and we get along, and partly that is because of the much broader shared perspective we have. It is tempting to define ourselves in part along that perspective, but I think it weakens the organization for future times.

November 1999 in a personal e-mail
      Is your conscience's leading to resist war taxes more important and/or mutually exclusive to family and health  concerns?  That is to say, if you ever had to choose between your war tax resistance and your or a family member's health, what would you choose?
     That has not come up for me. Partly this is because I don't have any family members to which I have responsibilities, but partly because I have never had wages garnished. I have had the IRS find an employer only once, and that was after I had just finished a job (with a temp agency) at which I had been working off and on for five years or so (different jobs, same temp agency employer). Other folks have had other experiences with the IRS.
     Just wondering, because I may find myself working for money over the taxable limit just to survive in Dallas (or Austin) and then some, money which I couldn't afford to have garnished in order to be able support my brother through a major health crisis and possible job and insurance loss, or perhaps a similar situation for my mother.  At some point, finding yet another job to avoid garnishment will be a problem for some employers.
     This is too bad. If I had a situation where I had to work a straight job and couldn't get around paying the taxes and my brother or mother depended on me, then I would probably take the job and accept that I had been placed in a bad situation.
      But life is generally not full of those kinds of choices. A lot of this is seeing alternatives. For example, if you went to work with someone, perhaps you could arrange things so you were technically a contractor, responsible for your own taxes. Or find jobs you don't mind quitting on two weeks notice. There are plenty of jobs out there.
      Am I the only one who on some days finds that the WTR lifestyle seems quite unsustainable?  I have to be honest and question my drive to lead others to it.
      Well, either way will open for you or way will not. There are many people who have quit WTR, but there are a number who sustain it. I've sort of built it into my lifestyle, and I know a number of other folks have also, but many folks either can't do that or are very worried about the IRS. The IRS is not really something to be worried about that much. Especially if you don't have much money.
      Also, I will soon be at a young adult gathering doing this very thing and faced with the question, "How do you resist while going to school/grad school and keeping financial aid?", and have no idea how to answer it.
      This should not be a real question. There is no link-up between the schools or the FAFSA and the IRS. There is one between FAFSA and the Selective Service, so draft resistance could be a problem. But I don't think you have to worry about the IRS in school. People in school don't make enough for the IRS to worry about them.


ON ANARCHISM

February 1991 on "Libernet" [Replying to assertion an “anarchist” started WWI]
        Oh? How did that happen? I thought WWI was between *states* and I know of no state run by anarchists. Or do you mean that the assasination that was used as an excuse for the politicians to start WWI was committed by an anarchist? I don't know the facts in that case, but the point remains. *Politicians*, not anarchists, start wars. I do know, from personal experience, that virtually every 'bad' trait that is prevalent in the general population is also present among anarchists. But so what?

January 1999 on the War Tax Resistance list
        Someone wondered why the NWTRCC [national war tax resistance group] should "welcome" anarchists.
        I, and I imagine most anarchists here, am an anarchopacifist. I am an anarchist because I am a pacifist. I will not support an institution that has at its base the claimed right to kill people, as does the state. Whether it kills people in wars, or kills people in the gas chamber, or guns them down on the streets is of very little consequence to me. The essence of the state is that it claims the right to kill people. I do not believe that a morally legitimate institution has the right to kill, and so I do not believe the state is a morally legitimate institution. I am, therefore, an anarchist.
        Anything the state does has violence to back it up. If a law is passed, it is enforced by people with guns. They may or may not bring out the guns at first, especially when the offenders are middle or upper class folks who will be scared into obeying with other tactics. But they are there, and they will be used if it becomes, in their opinion, necessary. (One of the advantages that pacifists have that some others do not is developing an attitude of not being afraid of the guns, or at least not so afraid as to keep us from acting. King and the firehoses, the Freedom Riders who got beaten, etc.)
        I live my life in such a way as to not support the state with my money or my adherence or my labor. This seems to me to just be the most very basic thing to do, to not support such an evil institution. Its sort of like the doctors oath, "first, do no harm". The main reason I have for not paying is war, because it is the biggest form in which state violence is used today. But the other types of state violence are there too, and I won't support them either, if somehow war was eliminated while the state still killed people in other ways.
        By far, most anarchists in the world are not pacifists, in my experience anyway. They will not renounce killing people. They don't want the state doing it, and many if not all of them pretty much renounce first use of violence,  but they will accept the idea of defensive violence and perhaps other types as well. They do not belong in NWTRCC, and the statement of principles should not be written in such a way to let them join. But those of us who are both anarchists and pacifists should not be dumped on by others in the movement and, essentially, "black-baited".



On the Libertarian Party

        February 1996 e-mail on the Texas Libertarian Party getting involved with Republic of Texas group.  [When its members seemed rational, before they kidnapped some neighbors and got in a standoff battle with police  over a warrant related to charges of finanical fraud against some members.  Several of them are doing long or life terms in prison now.]

        This is, potentially anyway, a highly significant event in Texas political history. At this point we are just getting information and giving our members and convention attenders information about it. We are already on record in the platform as calling for a plebescite on the question of Texas' relation to the US, and this is certainly relevant to that.
        It is a strategic and political issue, in that an independent Texas may be easier to keep on libertarian principles than a continental government. However, we will still need a Libertarian Party of Texas to promote libertarian principles in Texas, at least as long as we have a state.
        We are giving these folks a forum to present their views, not endorsing their cause or them. Specifically, we have invited a recent past chair of our organization, Roger Gary, to speak to us in convention. Roger is not a nut or a crank -- he is or was recently an elected commissioner of the San Antonio River Authority. So I'm not concenred with negative publicity. OTOH showing support at a time when they are apparently getting little elsewhere is a friendly act and should give us benefits from those who support their efforts.
        I will point out that while the party is neutral on the subject of independence, (calling for a plebescite but not favoring either side) there is a lot of pro-independence sentiment in the LPT. One year we could not find a speaker in the party who would take the anti- side in a debate on the subject, and had to bring in a college professor from outside the party.
        I have heard no proposals to do anything other than invite a former chair to speak at convention. Any other actions would be up to the convention itself, or possibly the Executive Committee. To my knowledge none have been proposed. Come to the convention as a delegate if you are concerned.

October 1996
        Went to the [1996 Third Party Presidential] debates last night. About 500 or so people altogether between Nader, Perot, Phillips and Browne. We had about 50, from Mass, Conn, Texas and Arizona. Usual chanting and whatnot.
        I was a little embarrassed because the LP kind of horned in on a lefty coalition's organized rally, and didn't make any effort to relate Harry's issues to theirs. The thrust of the rally was military spending, with other issues like Cuba embargo, gay marriages, and harrassment of immigrants, that we could have supported. Instead many LPers made a point of finding areas of *dis*agreement and arguing with the lefties.
        I know a number of the people involved in the rally, including the chief organizer (who is a Quaker and did some support for me in the past) and I know I have always hated it when my rallies have been horned in on by the Trots etc. So I was embarrased.
        Fortunately there were only a dozen or so LPers at that point, and we wandered over toward the Perot rally, which involved quite a hike since the streets were all fenced off. The lefties then marched over, so there was a big mob of various persuasions.
        Then the Perot people (including Verney and Fulani -- what an opportunist!) left for their party at the Polish Club and we started wandering around to the other side. There were the Howard Phillips people with their dead fetus signs. Eventually the Boston contingent of LPers showed up, which bolstered our ranks. We got into chanting contests with the Perot folks who were there -- "Clinton's gotta go, vote for Perot" vs "Clinton's going down, vote for Browne".
        As far as I can tell there was zero media coverage of the protests. Not surprising -- Hartford's "civic leaders" have been salivating like a crazy over the debates and probably had the TV stations convinced not to cover anything that would mar their spectacle. National media was all safely tucked away inside.
        I got into an argument with one guy (a Browne supporter) who was defending Ross Perot because he is rich, and thought that it didn't matter how he had made his money. I haven't seen that kind of attitude in the LP in recent years, so it kind of floored me.
        Overall the experience made me realize that we definitely need an organized left presence in the LP, to be able to relate to and cooperate with the organized left as possible, to educate the LP about some of the issues and counteract the kneejerk conservativism that sometimes is evident, and to raise consciousness about the differences in culture that are compatible with a libertarian society. Things like voluntary communalism and the gift economy are totally foreign to most Libertarians, from what I can see, and are actively opposed by some of the Randians.

April 1999 in personal message
        Basically, I am two things in this situation. I am a WTR/peace activist, and I am a LP member. I am very slightly involved in the WTR stuff, and not at all involved (yet) in the LP stuff. Actually I'm also an IWW, and have been involved in peace stuff on that basis, too.
        So, basically, when I go to a general purpose demonstration (such as the peace demonstrations) I go as an individual. I care about what the LP does, but I am not willing to hold a leadership position in the local party at this time (and that is what representing the LP would be).
        Frankly, I am interested in developing some of my other connections, so I would probably be more interested in going as the IWW rep. That isn't because my interest in the party has diminished at all, but I want to keep my hands in on other groups, too.

To: "National Platform Committee"
Biography  April 2000 for July National Convention
        Here's a little bio info on me. I joined the party in (I think) 1984. I had been doing anti-draft work in Dayton OH and had had some contact with the LP on that. I am an pacifist (a Quaker) and that seems to me to lead consistently to libertarianism. I did a little volunteer work for the party in Ohio and did a booth at their convention (among other things selling anti-draft buttons for 50 cents cheaper than the official party booth).
        I dropped out, and eventually moved to Texas. I got the LP going in the Rio Grande Valley (very south Texas) and then moved to Austin. I attended the local convention in 1984, and in 1986 took part in the ballot access drive which won Texas ballot status we have never given up. I was elected state chair in 1988, and held a variety of vice chair positions in 1990-96. In 1996 I went petitioning in the east, working NC, VA, DC and NY.
        In 1998 I managed Barbara Howe's campaign for US Senator from NC. That showed me how much I didn't know about campaigning in a real world, professional, win-rather-than-convince mode. So I enrolled in an MA program at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. I'm about half way through the program now. It is teaching me a lot about real world campaigning and how to apply it to LP campaigns -- and what things can't be applied.
        I was on the Platform Committee in 1991 in Chicago, and volunteered as an alternate this year. I wanted to be an alternate because I am also on the Bylaws Committee and feel that is my primary responsibility. I have served on the Bylaws Committee in 1998, and as an alternate to the Credentials Committee in 1998. I have also been elected a member of the Judicial Committee for about the past 5 conventions but we have not, fortunately, had to meet.
        I am a member of the Poverty Caucus, and of the Quaker Libertarians. I run the newsgroup for the LP of Texas and for a Libertarian proportional representation group.

See Bruce Baechler letters on an important Libertarian Party Bylaws Debate at
http://www.jacobghornberger.com/bylaws.htm

Should We Nominate by Primary or Convention? by Bruce Baechler
We have a choice about the proper method for the Libertarian Party to nominate candidates in the year 2000. Some say that a primary is mandated. Others say that we can nominate by convention. What is our situation? How will our situation change? How will the situation change the mechanics of nomination?
See whole article at: http://www.lpnc.org/pubs/tarheel/articles/april_1999/baechler.html



ON VIOLENCE AND NONVIOLENCE

July 1991 on "Libernet"
        Societal pressure is going to exist. The question for libertarians is, will it involve the initiation of physical coercion or not? There are many kinds of social pressure that do not involve the initiation of physical coercion, such as strikes, boycotts, shunning, etc.
        I don't know of any contemporary anarchists, particularly in the United States, who advocate violence, except possibly in a very theoretical setting, or in, eg, a colonial or authoritarian society. Can you name me one?
         The ways we relate to each other on the individual level help shape the ways we relate to each other on the larger scale. If we tend to relate to each other in authoritarian ways, we will tend to accept authoritarianism more in general. If we get used to "obeying our superiors" in the hierarchy, we will be more prone to obey the government.

January 1996 on LPUS
        [H]andguns should be treated like any other thing that is contraband for prisoners but not for visitors. If and only if they make visitors give up their cash, tobacco, etc before visiting should they be allowed to force visitors to give up guns. Should make the hacks more respectful of visitors, if nothing else.
        For that matter, I can make a case for allowing prisoners to be armed. Weapon control in prison does the same thing as on the street: it means only the bad guys have them, and the others are their victims. IMO a very high percentage, if not a majority, of prisoners are morally the victims of  kidnapping, (ie, in for drugs, etc) and this means they have, IMO, all the same rights as anyone else.
        I support efforts to teach prisoners methods of nonviolent conflict resolution, although I think that those efforts are better aimed at the elementary and secondary schools if we want long term reductions in violence.
        Prisoner rights is kind of a hot button for me. Last night I saw a very good HBO special "Prisoners of the Drug War" which showed all these folks in prison talking about what they did and how they got there and what life was like for them. I think it helps put a human face on the 15-life, etc sentences. A good piece for a "fiscal conservative" anti-drug-law campaign (ie, "we can't afford the drug war").
        Soapbox off

 February 1998, to LPUS
        I am not sure that all libertarians support civil disobedience, particularly "of all sorts". I can think of some civil disobedience demonstrations that I would not support, although I am and have been a practitioner of civil disobedience for several decades.
        Of course there are different types of civil disobedience. Most libertarians would be supportive of people not paying taxes or not registering for the draft, for example, because those are laws that should not exist in the first place.
        I think there would be differences within the party over people trespassing on private land, as happened with some anti-nuclear protests. There the laws that are being broken are not in themselves wrong, but breaking them is a tactic that has been decided on by the demonstrators for some other purpose.

Mar 2000 12:32:39 -0500
From: Bruce Baechler <baechler@mindspring.com
        I hope people aren't into doing stupid stuff like randomly trashing windows. Personally I think that even trashing name-brand corporate windows is not a good thing to do, for various reasons, but I accept that this may indeed happen.
        But as I understand it in Seattle ONLY name brand windows were smashed,  and windows that belonged to small shops were consciously left alone.  One person who was there mentioned a souvenier shop that had all sorts  of pro-WTO crap in the window, but which was not smashed (as were  corporate windows around it) because it was obviously a one or two  person operation. I hope folks here will have at least that much respect for ordinary people's stuff.

June 2000
        You have two groups of people. One is committed to satyagraha, and the other is just committed to demonstrating their disgust with <whatever>. (Actually there will be a lot of folks in the middle, too). The satyagraha group is disciplined in nonviolence, but the other group sees nonviolence as only a tactic, not an underlying principle.
        How do you get the two groups to interact so that an action can come off that is seen as pretty much united, not two small groups each doing their own thing, while respecting the strategic and tactical orientation of each?
        You can't really just say "No violence" because that just ticks off the ones who believe it is ok to, for example, confront the police with violence when violence is done to them. They may decide to leave and set up their own operation, which will tend to be even more prone to violence. At the same time, the satyagraha folks don't want to be associated with the violence of the other folks.
        There are larger considerations, such as transport, housing, group interaction when the action is over/in recess. These kinds of things are better done as a single large group than as a set of smaller groups. Overall the whole action will be seen as one on the TV, which is where most Americans will get their entire knowledge of it.
        I think it is better to set things up as a larger group, and to have different and distinct demonstrations for the various types of groups, with the understanding that not everyone agrees with each other's tactics.
        I'll note that similar situations existed in the early 70's, with the get arrested /don't provoke them as the two poles. That seemed to work out ok, though I was pretty new at the time.

June 2000 Response to Comment to Criticism Working with Violent People Means You Condone Their Violence
        I am sorry you have declared me a violent person. I have not used violence since junior high school, and have no intention of starting now. But, I do believe that it is important to work with a broad spectrum of people who share my goals, not just people who have a belief in nonviolence.
        I will note that at least one group you work with, the Libertarian Party, does not have a nonviolence position and has many people in it who would not have a theoretical problem with fighting back if attacked by the police. The LP does not believe in the initiation (first use) of force, but they do not take a position on defensive violence.
        I also work with the LP. I work with other groups, in particular, in the DC situation, the IWW. The IWW has an old policy that violence is not in the workers interest, but many in the union are willing to hit back (not me). People I work with in the IWW were involved in the Black Block, and had had problems with some of the nonviolence folks, including you.
        My attitude is to maintain friendly relations with all, and try to convince all that the nonviolence method works best, but if they disagree to continue to work with them as far as I am able. This has not been a problem for me with any libertarian or anarchist group I have dealt with -- they respect my views as a pacifist.

August 2000 on War Tax Resistance List
        I agree that there did not seem to be a sense of satyagraha [in August 2000 protests where several hundred youth went on a rampage] in Philadelphia. Rather, it seemed to me that there was not-violence rather than nonviolence. That is, nonviolence was a tactic, but the concepts of nonviolent struggle did not seem to be there.
        Now, I was sick for most of the time, and in bed for most of the convention. But this is what I felt from the stuff I participated in and from talking with others.
        I'm not sure of the cause for this. Perhaps the training has gotten too much into the mechanics of nonviolence and has not been also giving the philosophical foundations? You need both.